How to Find the Ideal Air Purifier for Your Home

January 20th, 2015

Though it may seem clear, the air quality in your home is not as pristine as you would think. There are hundreds of different types of particulates floating through your home’s air at any given moment. Most of these particulates are harmless. Some of them, however, are not. Viruses, bacteria, dust, pollen, mold, insect dander, and all sorts of other contaminants can reduce your quality of life by provoking allergic reactions or making you sick. In order to combat these contaminants, a number of air purifiers have been invented over the decades. There are many different kinds of these, as well, each suited to take care of a different kind of airborne pollutant. Let’s take a look at the different kinds of air purifiers available, and which one would be best for your needs.

Electronic Purifiers

Electronic air purifiers work by creating an electromagnetic field around themselves during operation. As particles pass through this field, they receive a negative charge. These negatively charged particles are then attracted to any surface that has a positive charge. To prevent the particles from merely sticking to the walls and floor, most electronic purifiers contain a number of metal plates inside the unit. The particles will stick to these metal plates, which can then be removed and washed. Electronic purifiers are effective at catching all kinds of particulates in the air. They do nothing to impede the progress of the air itself, though, so gaseous contaminants like cigarette smoke will not be affected.

UV Germicidal Lights

There are many kinds of viruses, bacteria, mold, and other biological organisms that are sterilized or even completely destroyed by too much exposure to ultra-violet light. The UV germicidal air purifier takes advantage of this by bathing the area around it in ultraviolet light. This is great for those people who have weaker immune systems, as it kills a lot of otherwise-minor germs that might make them sick. It only focuses on biological contaminants, however, which means that things like dust are not affected.

To schedule a service or if you’d like to know more about air purifiers, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling. We provide professional air purifier services in the Canonsburg area.

What is an Aquastat?

January 13th, 2015

Furnaces have been around for a very long time, and have been one of the most popular heating systems available for most of that time. This has led homeowners to gain at least a little bit of basic knowledge about the various parts of the furnace and their roles. Hydronic systems, however, are only recently becoming popular among homeowners. This means that much of their inner workings are not common knowledge quite yet. In an effort to educate homeowners about some of the ways in which hydronic systems operate, let’s examine the aquastat.

The Aquastat

An aquastat is a device installed in hydronic water systems for the purpose of controlling temperature within the boiler. An aquastat is similar to the furnace limit switch in operation, maintaining a safe operating temperature for the central heating unit. There are two settings in every aquastat, a high setting and a low setting.

Despite the name, most boilers are not actually meant to boil water. Doing so would result in steam, and a dangerous buildup of pressure in a system that is not designed for it. For this reason, the aquastat shuts off the boiler when it reaches the high temperature limit. This keeps the water hot, but below boiling temperature.

The low temperature limit is meant to keep the water supply temperature from dropping too low. When the boiler shuts off after reaching the high limit, the system will continue to circulate water for as long as the thermostat is asking for heat. Eventually, however, the water will begin to cool. When the water temperature reaches the low limit, the aquastat starts the boiler up again to raise the water temperature.

These two limits allow the aquastat to keep a tight control over the water temperature in the system, making sure that it is neither too hot nor too cold. Without the aquastat, the boiler would run the risk of overheating or not heating enough to meet the home’s needs.

If you’d like to know more about the aquastat, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling. We offer professional boiler installation service in the North Hills area.

How a Furnace Limit Switch Helps Keep Your Home Safe

January 7th, 2015

Through urban legend and other unreliable means, furnaces have garnered a level of concern around their ability to be safe. While safety should always be taken with any type of combustion system, today’s heating systems are equipped with a number of safety mechanisms and devices, many which are redundant, that ensure your personalized safety. If you have a furnace, one of these safety mechanisms is a component known as the limit switch.

What Is a Limit Switch?

The limit switch is part of your blower assembly and helps with the operation of the blower while also keeping your system safe from overheating. In regard to blower operation, the limit switch is the device that doesn’t allow your blower to start pushing air through your ductwork until the generated heat has reached the correct temperature; this keeps your furnace’s fan from blowing chilly air into your home. The second job of the limit switch has to do with your safety. This is because the limit switch is also equipped to sense when the air around the heat exchanger becomes too hot, and if the switch senses this, it can instantly kill the burner and extinguish all combustion.

Common Problems with the Limit Switch

Should your limit switch malfunction, you may see the following:

  • Constant running of the blower
  • Blower won’t turn on
  • Burner won’t stay lit

Operating your furnace, or attempting to operate the furnace, with a safety mechanism malfunctioning is not advisable as your safety and the safe operation of your system may be at risk. It is also not advisable to try and repair the problem yourself; instead, call an expert for assistance.

If you have questions about the safety mechanisms on your furnace in your Brentwood home, or are experiencing heating issues with your furnace, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling today and schedule an appointment with one of our specialists. We offer professional furnace services in the Brentwood area.

12 Grapes for 12 Months: An Unusual New Year’s Tradition

January 1st, 2015

Across the world, many cultures have specific traditions to celebrate the transition from the old year to the new. In the U.S. and Canada, we associate New Year’s with the ball in Times Square, kissing at the stroke of midnight, resolutions, and singing “Old Lang Syne.” But for many Spanish-speaking countries, one of the key traditions has to do with eating grapes as fast as possible.

The “twelve grapes” tradition comes from Spain, where it is called las doce uvas de la suerte (“The Twelve Lucky Grapes”). To ensure good luck for the next year, people eat one green grape for each of the upcoming twelve months. However, you cannot just eat the grapes during the first day of the new year any time you feel like it. You must eat the twelve grapes starting at the first stroke of midnight on Nochevieja (“Old Night,” New Year’s Eve) as one year changes to another. And you have to keep eating: with each toll of midnight, you must eat another grape, giving you about twelve seconds to consume all of them. If you can finish all dozen grapes—you can’t still be chewing on them!—before the last bell toll fades, you will have a luck-filled new year.

Where did this tradition come from? No one is certain, although it appears to be more than a century old. One story about the Twelve Lucky Grapes is that a large crop of grapes in 1909 in Alicante, Spain led to the growers seeking out a creative way to eliminate their surplus. But recent research through old newspapers shows that perhaps the tradition goes back almost thirty years earlier to the 1880s, where eating grapes was meant to mock the upper classes who were imitating the French tradition of dining on grapes and drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve.

It can be difficult to consume grapes this fast, and the lucky grapes of New Year’s Eve have seeds in them, making the job even trickier. (Seedless grapes are not common in Spain the way they are over here.) For people to manage eating all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight requires swallowing the seeds as well and only taking a single bite of each grape.

Oh, there is one more twist to the tradition: you have to be wearing red undergarments, and they have to be given to you as a gift. The origins of this part of the tradition are even more mysterious, and it’s anybody’s guess why this started.

Whether you go for the grape challenge or find another way to ring in New Year’s, all of us at Boehmer Heating & Cooling hope you have a great start to the year and a, uhm, fruitful 2015.

The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

December 25th, 2014

“No two snowflakes are alike.”

This is a statement nearly every schoolchild has heard at least once, either while crafting unique snowflakes with a sheet of folded paper and some scissors or while learning a lesson on the science of snow. While even most scientists don’t quite understand what causes a snowflake to form such complex and beautiful columns and points and branches, one thing is for certain, the composition of snowflakes guarantees that no two will ever be identical.  However, it is possible for two snowflakes to appear to be nearly exactly alike.

A snowflake begins to form when a piece of dust catches water vapor out of the air. Water is created when two hydrogen molecules attach to an oxygen molecule. The two hydrogen molecules are angled from one another in such a way that they form a hexagonal shape when they come together during the freezing process; thus, a snowflake begins as a simple hexagonal shape or as layers of hexagons called diamond dust. The emergent properties that follow from the original hexagon are what differentiate one snowflake from another, as the humidity, the temperature in the air, and many other factors (some of which remain unclear to scientists) allow each snowflake to form in an entirely unique way with a seemingly endless variety of shapes.

However, in 1988, a scientist named Nancy Knight claimed to have located two that were the same while studying snowflakes as part of an atmospheric research project. And it appeared to be so; when put under a microscope, the emergent properties looked nearly identical. But while it is feasible that two snowflakes can appear to be exactly alike on the outside, they are never identical on an atomic level. Deuterium is an atom that appears attached to about one in every 3000 hydrogen molecules in the air. Because there are millions of atoms that make up a snowflake, the random assortment of deuterium in any two snowflakes—even in two that so very closely resemble one another—simply cannot be the same.

Here at Boehmer Heating and Cooling, we’d like to remind you to grab a cup of cocoa and relax with your family this holiday, perhaps by crafting some unique snowflake creations of your own. We wish you a very happy holiday season, from our family to yours!

How the Reversing Valve Works in Your Heat Pump

December 17th, 2014

Have you ever wondered how your heat pump can offer both heating and cooling? It’s because of a special component called a reversing valve. This valve is a bit complex, which is why, should a problem develop with it, it’s best to hire a professional for repair. Without the reversing valve, your heat pump wouldn’t be able to heat and cool. So how does this component work? Let’s take a look.

Two States: Excited and Relaxed

The reversing valve is a cylindrical metal tube that has 4 valves; there is a slide inside the tube that moves back and forth when your heat pump changes modes. A small electronic component called a solenoid sits on top, and helps the valve slide back and forth as needed. Every valve has two states: excited and relaxed. The manufacturers decide which state matches which mode; for example, Manufacturer A may make the excited state the cooling mode for their reversing valve, while Manufacturer B makes relaxed the cooling mode. These assignments are permanent, so once they are made for a particular valve, they will stay that way for the life of the valve.

As the homeowner, all you have to do to change modes is press a button on your dual-mode thermostat. When the cue comes from the thermostat to change modes, the solenoid activates and starts to slide the valve in the direction opposite of where it is. As the valve change direction, so does the flow of the refrigerant; this directional change of the refrigerant is what physically changes the modes. But it is the reversing valve that allows for this change to happen.

Common Problems with Reversing Valve

Like other components, the reversing valve can develop some problems. The most common one is a “stuck” valve. Reversing valves can become stuck in a specific mode (i.e., heating or cooling) or in-between modes. A second problem that can develop with reversing valves are refrigerant leaks. Unfortunately, refrigerant leaks can’t be repaired when they are inside a reversing valve, so the valve needs to be replaced.

If your system is having trouble switching modes, there is a good chance something is wrong with the reversing valve. If you are experiencing this kind of trouble with your heat pump in your home in Whitehall, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling today and schedule an appointment for our professional heat pump service.

What Is an Energy Audit?

December 11th, 2014

Looking to save some money on your monthly bills? The first step to take towards a more efficient home is scheduling a home energy audit.

A home energy audit is used to determine which parts of the home are responsible for lost energy. When you run your heating or air conditioning system, heat may escape or enter through the walls, causing your unit to work much harder than it needs to and using a lot of energy in the process. Not only does this hurt your wallet; it also makes the people in your home feel far less comfortable.

Most homes have small holes and cracks in various areas, which may only seem to be a small issue. However, if you were to put all of these holes together, it could create a gaping opening the size of a hula hoop. Furthermore, many homes are poorly insulated, meaning that heat can easily move through the walls and ceilings. In the summer, this means that too much heat enters your home, and in the winter, the heat created by your furnace or radiant system can effortlessly escape.

A home energy audit is used to determine which components of your home are responsible for energy loss and a whole host of other problems. A technician will examine various parts of your home with a series of tests and inspections to determine what parts of the house contribute to energy loss, allergies, illness, poor HVAC performance, stuffiness, humidity, and more. After inspection, the technician will let you know what type of service will help alleviate the issues in your house. They may recommend that you schedule any of the following services:

  • Air Sealing
  • Insulation Services
  • Duct Sealing
  • Ventilation
  • New HVAC Replacement or Repair
  • Mold Remediation
  • Indoor Air Quality Installation

It’s important to know about the state of your home, not only for your utility bills but also for your health. Faulty gas furnaces and stuffy garages can allow poisonous gases to leak into your home. Or, a musty and humid room may give way to mold development, causing family members with asthma and allergies to suffer and sometimes leading to sudden illness.

Our audit includes a visual inspection, utility bill analysis, HVAC inspection, infrared scanning, a blower door test and more, so that you can rest easy knowing you’re saving as much money as possible and that your family remains comfortable and safe.

Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling for a comprehensive energy audit in Pittsburgh.

What Can Happen if Your Heat Pump Loses Refrigerant

December 3rd, 2014

The heat pump is one of the most efficient types of home comfort systems available for both heating and cooling. More and more, people are making the switch to heat pumps since they require little energy to run and may last longer than many other types of AC systems. However, like any type of electro-mechanical unit, a heat pump requires maintenance in order to run properly and offer the best performance. And one of the key steps of heat pump maintenance involves checking the refrigerant levels.

The term “heat pump” is a bit confusing as it leads many people to believe these are mostly used for heating purposes. However, the design of a heat pump is much closer to that of a standard home air conditioner. Heat pumps use refrigerant to cycle throughout the major components of the system in order to carry out heat exchange. In the summer, a heat pump uses refrigerant to absorb heat from the air in your home and move it outdoors. In the winter, it uses refrigerant to absorb heat form outside, even in very cool weather, to bring into the home.

As you can see, refrigerant, a chemical blend with the ability to convert easily from gas to liquid state and vice versa, is vital in heat pump operation. When refrigerant leaks, you simply cannot get the heating and cooling power that you need as the heat exchange process is jeopardized. But sometimes, the diminishing heating or cooling power is still tolerable, which leads many to believe they can continue to run their system on low refrigerant.

However, you should keep in mind that this is simply not an option. If you continue to run your heat pump at all with leaking refrigerant, you can damage a couple of key components. For one, you may force the indoor coil to freeze over during the evaporation process. But more importantly, you could damage the compressor, one of the most important (and costly) parts of your whole unit.

Only a trained and certified professional can work with refrigerant safely. Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling whenever you experience problems with your heat pump in Brentwood. We know how risky it is to wait for repairs so we’ll get the job done quickly and professionally.

10 Facts You Should Know about Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2014

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as an official holiday in the United States for over 150 years, so you may think you understand all there is to know about this family feast. Most of us have heard the story of the pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in 1621 after arriving in North America on the Mayflower. But did you know that only about half of the people on this ship were actually pilgrims? This fact is one of ten things that may actually surprise you about the Thanksgiving tradition!

  1. Although we often consider Thanksgiving a holiday unique to the United States, many other countries and cultures celebrate their own set of harvest-time and thanksgiving traditions. In Korea, Chu-Sok (or “fall evening”) is put on in remembrance of forefathers on August 15th of every year. Brazil celebrates a contemporary version of the U.S. holiday. Chinese, Roman, and Jewish cultures all have a history of harvest celebrations as well.
  2. President Harry S. Truman began the tradition of a ceremony held before Thanksgiving during which the president receives a turkey. George H.W. Bush was the first to pardon the turkey instead of eating it.
  3. In Minnesota alone, farmers raise over 40 million turkeys a year. In fact, U.S. farmers produce about one turkey for every one person in the country.
  4. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American will gain about one to two pounds every year during the holiday season.
  5. On the other hand, turkey is naturally high in protein and has been known to support and boost immune systems to protect against illness and speed up healing. So feast on!
  6. Abraham Lincoln issued a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” in 1863, but a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale can be credited with the idea. While Thanksgiving had been celebrated at different times of year in many areas of the U.S. for years, it was Hale, prominent magazine editor and author of the rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” who urged Lincoln to finally establish the national event.
  7. President Franklin D Roosevelt once tried to change the date of Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday of the month in order to extend the holiday shopping season and boost the economy.
  8. Only about half of the people on the Mayflower were what we would consider today as “Pilgrims.” The other (approximately) 50 people were simply trying to find a way over to the New World.
  9. Gobble, gobble! Click, click? While male turkeys make a gobbling noise, females (hens) do not; it’s often described as a clicking.
  10. Even though we celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, the month of June has been declared National Turkey Lovers’ Month by the National Turkey Federation so you can continue the celebration in the summer as well!

From our family here at Boehmer Heating and Cooling, we’d like to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Is Rust a Sign That My Boiler Needs Repairs?

November 19th, 2014

Your boiler uses water to heat your home, but it is made to withstand the effects of rust. For rust to develop, there has to be enough oxygen present in the air in addition to the water; boilers are made to be as air-tight as possible, so rust shouldn’t be an issue. If you are seeing rust and corrosion on your boiler, it is time to call a technician as the rust is most likely the result of a problem somewhere in your system.  The trained and certified technicians at Boehmer Heating & Cooling are available around the clock when you’re in need of quality boiler repair service in South Hills, so if you are seeing significant rust on your boiler, call us today.

Sacrificial Anode

Manufacturers of boilers understand that rust development is a potential issue with any boiler. This is why every boiler comes equipped with a component called a sacrificial anode, also called a sacrificial rod. A sacrificial anode is placed at the top of the water tank. It is made from a highly active metal alloy that corrodes faster than the metal of the tank, so it “sacrifices” itself ahead of the tank. But should the anode completely corrode and not be replaced, the rusting process will move on to the tank itself.

Problems Caused by Rust

Rust and corrosion are never good for any whole-home system; here are a few ways it can be problematic for your boiler:

  • Development of leaks – if rust has developed in an area like your water tank, the expansion tank or on piping, water leaks can develop. This will lower the pressure in your system and cause heating problems in addition to potential water damage.
  • Problems with water temperature – rust acts as an insulator. If significant rust develops on your water tank or heat exchanger, the system can overheat. Additionally, the higher temperature can increase the pressure in your system, which can cause problems.

Maintenance Is Great Prevention

One of the best ways to ensure that your boiler isn’t rusting is to schedule annual maintenance. During a maintenance appointment, you system will be thoroughly inspected and the sacrificial anode will be checked and replaced if needed.

Rust is never a good sign on a heating system. If you are seeing excessive rust on your boiler in South Hills, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling today to schedule a service appointment.