How to Tell If Your Heat Pump Is Low on Refrigerant

February 25th, 2015

Refrigerant is the lifeblood of any heat pump system. A heat pump moves heat from one place to another by evaporating and condensing refrigerant to capture and release heat in different areas, depending on the mode it’s using. Without sufficient refrigerant, a heat pump would lose the ability to actually operate as a heating or cooling system. Refrigerant is not consumed during normal heat pump operation, which means if your heat pump is low on refrigerant it was either not charged properly on installation or it has a leak in the system. How can you tell if your heat pump is low on refrigerant? Read on to find out.

Low Output

Heat pumps are capable of both heating and cooling functions, which they accomplish by simply reversing the flow of refrigerant through the system. Therefore, if your heat pump begins to experience a drop in heating or cooling output, you may have a problem with your refrigerant level. This is often the first sign of a refrigerant leak, so be sure not to ignore it if it happens.

Gurgling Sounds

You should always pay attention to any unusual noises that your heat pump is making, but gurgling sounds in particular are an indication that you have a refrigerant leak. As the refrigerant leaks out of the system, more and more air gets into the line. The air bubbles in the refrigerant line are what make the gurgling sounds, like the last few drops of a drink traveling through a straw. This is an almost certain indication that not only do you have a refrigerant leak, but that it has progressed pretty far already.

Pooling Liquid

You should conduct a visual inspection on your heat pump every once in a while, paying special attention to the area around the unit. If you notice any liquid dripping or pooling around the heat pump, you may well have a refrigerant leak.

If you suspect that your heat pump has a refrigerant leak, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling. We provide quality heat pumps and services throughout the Brentwood area.

Potential Problems with a Boiler’s Circulator Pumps

February 16th, 2015

Boilers can heat homes in two ways: with the steam created from the hot water or with the hot water itself. Steam flows on its own through your system’s piping because it is under significant pressure, but hot water systems need a little help pushing the hot water through the piping; this is where circulator pumps come in. As you can probably imagine, problems with a circulator pump or pumps means that the hot water needed to heat your home; should this happen, you’ll need to call for heating repair in Pittsburgh, and you’ll want to call professionals you can count on. Boehmer Heating & Cooling has been helping customers in the Pittsburgh area with heating since 1933, and we bring this experience to every job we do, so call us today!

Types of Circulator Pump Problems

There are a few kinds of problems that can develop with circulator pumps, such as:

  • Leaking – when leaks develop with a circulator pump, they typically develop at the joints where the pump meets the pipe into which it is soldered. The reason leaks are likely to occur here are that the pump has rubber phalanges that act as seals at these joints, but these seals can sometimes dry and crack, which causes leaking.
  • Electrical issues – circulator pumps need a small amount of electricity to turn the wheel inside the pump, known as an impeller. A relay switch is responsible for delivering this electricity, and if the switch becomes faulty, the electricity won’t be delivered as needed.
  • Broken impeller – as mentioned above, the small wheel inside the pump is the impeller, and its job is to push the water forward. Impellers look like miniature water wheels, complete with small blades that help push the water forward. Impellers can crack, which hamper their ability to push the water forward as needed, and the result is usually low heat.

Circulator pumps are critical to the proper operation of your heating system, and as such, should only be repaired by a trained professional. If you are in need of heating repair in Pittsburgh, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling today and schedule an appointment.

Some of the Unusual Movies Released for Valentine’s Day

February 14th, 2015

Hollywood has always tried to match movies up to the seasons to draw droves of viewers to the theaters: October is packed with fright-offerings, while the winter holidays skew toward warm and pleasing family films (as well as Oscar hopefuls). Valentine’s Day falls in an odd spot when it comes to the movie release calendar, however, since February tends to be a slower time for the film industry. The studios are as likely to slot strange movies that don’t fit anywhere else in their annual schedules into the Valentine’s Day weekend as they are films with powerful romantic appeal.

So, while the second weekend of February has featured hugely successful romantic comedies like Hitch, The Wedding Singer, and (of course) Valentine’s Day, some truly weird choices have debuted in this weekend as well. And a few have even gone on to tremendous success despite the bizarre match with the holiday. Here are a couple of the odder Valentine’s Day movie releases:

  • Dracula (1931): Yes, this Halloween perennial and the start of Universal Studio’s Classic Monsters actually came out on Valentine’s Day! But perhaps this makes some sense, as the Dracula legend has often received a “doomed lover” approach in the many years since Bela Lugosi made the aristocratic vampire a screen icon.
  • The Silence of the Lambs (1991): Does any film seem less appropriate for Valentine’s Day than this unnerving and sometimes very violent psychological thriller? What’s even more astonishing than the film’s release date is that The Silence of the Lambs eventually nabbed the Oscar for Best Picture, an almost unheard of occurrence for a movie released so early in the year.
  • Daredevil (2003): This Marvel comic adaptation featuring Ben Affleck as a blind superhero does contain a romantic subplot, but the stronger connection to Valentine’s Day may just be that Daredevil wears a bright red costume.
  • A Good Day to Die Hard (2013): The least successful of the Die Hard film franchise, this is an excellent example of a studio dropping a film into a weekend where it doesn’t fit in the hopes that it works as counter-programming. (It didn’t.)
  • Wayne’s World (1992): Now here is an example of counter-programming that clicked with audiences. This comedy based on a Saturday Night Live sketch turned into one of that year’s biggest hits and spawned a sequel.

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day with a trip to the movie theater, or you have your own special plans, everyone here at Boehmer Heating & Cooling hopes you and your loved ones have a wonderful weekend.

Is a HEPA Filter Right for My Home?

February 4th, 2015

For people with allergies, it can sometimes feel as if the very air is out to get them. The air inside the average home is full of all sorts of lung irritants, most of which are too small to even see. Dust mites, pollen, insect and pet dander are just a few of the common airborne pollutants capable of making an allergy sufferer’s life miserable. Though the situation may seem hopeless, there are actually a number of solutions available to improve the air quality in your home. One of those solutions is a HEPA filter. Let’s take a look at what a HEPA filter is, and whether you should consider installing one in your home.

What is a HEPA Filter?

HEPA stands for “High Efficiency Particulate Air.” It is a classification of air filters that are capable of capturing all airborne particles that are .3 microns or larger. For a point of reference, a micron is one millionth of a meter. HEPA filters are comprised of fibers woven so tightly that they are capable of capturing individual viruses and bacteria. Most HEPA filters also include a fan to help move air through the filter.

When Should I Consider a HEPA Filter?

HEPA filters are pretty heavy duty. They are often used in environments that must be kept as sterile as possible, like hospitals and server rooms. That doesn’t mean that they’re overkill for your house, though. Quite a few people make use of HEPA filters to help improve their quality of life. The most common reason for a homeowner to use a HEPA filter is due to severe allergies. Most allergens are simply too small to be taken care of by frequent dusting or vacuuming. They can always find their way back into the air, and from there into your lungs. A HEPA filter is a pretty surefire way to keep your air clear of even the smallest allergens, especially if you install a whole-house model.

If you are interested in installing a HEPA filter in your home, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling to schedule an appointment with us. We provide professional air cleaner services in the Baldwin area.

The Basics of an Electric Boiler

January 30th, 2015

With the massive popularity of natural gas as a fuel source for home heating systems, it’s not surprising that so many people view it as the only option. Though natural gas is a great choice for many reasons, it is thankfully not the only option available. Whether due to limitations on the availability of natural gas, or simply the desire to use a non-combustion system, more and more people are making use of electric heaters in their home. Let’s examine one of the more common electric heaters, the electric boiler, and how it can benefit your home.

How it Works

An electric boiler is actually fairly similar to one powered by natural gas. The only real difference is that an electric boiler eschews any sort of combustion to create heat, instead using several heating elements to warm the water being circulated around the house.

In a gas boiler, the heat exchanger is suspended over the flames of the burner assembly. Water flows through the heat exchanger and is heated by the fire below before flowing into the house. An electric boiler is a little different, with the heating elements actually inside the heat exchanger with the water supply. The heating elements themselves are basically very thick metal wires, coiled and connected to the electricity supply. As the system runs an electrical current through these wires, it meets resistance that causes the coils to heat up. The now-hot heating elements heat the water in the heat exchanger before distribution.

Why Install an Electric Boiler?

There are many reasons to prefer an electric boiler over other heating systems, the first of which being efficiency. Electricity is often more expensive as a fuel type, compared to natural gas. However, natural gas heaters vent a lot of heat out of the house as combustion gases, which are useless to the heating system and dangerous to the homeowner. As an electric boiler does not combust fuel, almost all of its heat goes directly into the water used to heat the house. Electric boilers also require a lot less maintenance, due to their lack of moving parts compared to combustion heaters.

If you are interested in installing an electric boiler, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling to schedule an appointment. We provide quality boiler installation services throughout Bethel Park.

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!