Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Archive for April, 2011

Why Insulate a Basement

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Especially if your basement is unfinished, you probably do not spend much time down there. And if that is the case, it can be hard to see why you would want to expend the time and money to put in quality insulation in an area of your house that you do not use for much other than storage. But your basement can be costing you a lot if it is not insulated and you probably do not even realize it.

The simple fact is that closing the door to your basement does not summarily cut it off from the rest of your house. The entire floor surface of the first floor of your house is directly connected to the basement and there is a great deal of heat lost through there in the winter. That means that your central heating system will have to work harder to keep the living spaces of your house warm. Plus, the floor will just always be cold.

But putting insulation in your basement can dramatically cut down on the amount of heat you are losing in the winter. Rather than channeling that heat right through your floor and out into the cold soil beyond, an insulated basement will hold the heat and help to keep your first floor warmer. This will reduce your heating costs and it can also cut back on many of the moisture retention problems that basements are so prone to developing.

There are several different ways to insulate a basement and the appropriate one for your situation will depend on a variety of factors. Some insulation needs to be installed on the exterior of the basement walls, but this can be difficult and costly if you are trying to do it on an existing home. Exterior basement insulation usually makes the most sense when you are building a new home.

However, you can still insulate your basement thoroughly with insulation that is installed on the interior of your basement walls. While this may take a few inches of useable space away from you, it will be well worth it in the end.

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Green Thinking for Green Thinkers

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

There are a lot of media stories about exciting new green buildings: LEED-certified buildings, net-zero buildings, buildings made out of recycled shipping containers, homes in New Urbanist communities, even “ultra-small” homes. But a new home can be pricey. Fortunately, though, all these innovative green ideas can be applied where you live right now. In fact, going green in your existing home might even be better for the environment than building a brand-new home.

If you wish your home could be LEED-accredited, focus on energy conservation and indoor air quality in your existing home. Upgrade to a high-efficiency furnace and air conditioner and consider adding central air filtration to your heating and cooling system. Install Energy Star appliances and WaterSense plumbing fixtures. For remodeling projects, use VOC-free paints and natural materials.

If you wish you had a “net-zero” home, consider geothermal – and insulate. Geothermal systems use 70% renewable energy and protect you against spikes in oil and utility prices. To increase your energy savings still more, tighten the “thermal envelope” of your home by identifying and sealing hidden air leaks and adding insulation.

If you wish you lived in a “recycled” home, get to know your local salvage yard. Many communities have “architectural salvage” shops and recycle/reuse areas in their landfills. When you do your next home improvement project, go shopping at your landfill first. This is not only great for the environment; it’s also great for your budget. Plus, you’ll end up with a creative, unique home. (Of course, make sure that you don’t re-use items containing lead, asbestos, or other contaminants.)

If you wish you lived in a New Urbanist community, start walking and biking in your own community. Experiment with replacing some of your car trips with walking or biking trips. If you find that your community isn’t pedestrian- or bike-friendly, work with local politicians to change this. Learn about your local public transportation options to see if you can fit them into your lifestyle. If you’re in the market for a new home, make location and proximity to work and shops a primary consideration.

If an “ultra-small” home looks like fun but seems impractical as a long-term residence, consider reducing the size of your own living space. If your kids are grown, it may be time to downsize to a smaller home that uses less energy. If you’re building a new home or an addition to your current home, build only what you need. Sometimes the greenest building decision you make can be deciding to build less.

(The “Not So Big House” website (http://www.notsobig.com) is a great resource for those interested in downsizing while maintaining a high quality of life.)

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Maintenance: Cleaning Your Conditioner Coil Will Save You Headaches Later

Monday, April 25th, 2011

You have plenty of things to clean all over your house. But do you really have to clean your air conditioner too? Well, if you want it to keep working well, you do. In fact, cleaning the coil of your air conditioner is a quick and easy process, especially if you do it on a regular basis, and it can save you a great deal of frustration later on.

Like any machine, your air conditioner needs a tune up from time to time in order to continue to function properly. While a lot of this is taken care of if you have an annual maintenance service performed by a professional, your air conditioning coil will benefit greatly by being cleaned more often than that.

In fact, during your annual maintenance visit, your air conditioning technician can easily demonstrate for you how to get to the coil and clean it. This is a relatively easy task that you can carry out every month or so when your system is in use to help ensure optimal health and functioning for your system.

Of course, your air conditioning system will still run whether you clean the coils on a regular basis or not. For now, that is. Allowing more and more debris to build up on the coil, however, can have a big impact on the overall energy efficiency of your unit. An air conditioner with a dirty coil will have to work harder to keep your house cool, and that will be reflected by an increase in energy consumption.

Also, an air conditioner with a dirty coil that is having to work harder to keep your house cool will wear out more quickly than one that is working properly without added impediments. The added wear and tear that this causes to various other parts within your air conditioner can cause them to malfunction and need to be replaced sooner than they should.

This means more costly repairs, even if they are minor ones. It also means that your entire air conditioning system will probably not last as long as it may have with proper care. You will have to replace it sooner, adding even more to the cost of having and running the equipment.

Cleaning your air conditioner coil regularly is a simple and effective way of helping to keep the entire system running smoothly and efficiently for many years to come.

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Different Types of Room Air Conditioners

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

If you are like most people, you probably picture the air conditioner hanging out of the window when you think of room air conditioners. However, while these are by far the most popular type of room air conditioners, they are not the only option. When you are shopping for a room air conditioner, it is a good idea to explore all of your options before you make a purchase.

The traditional window mounted air conditioners have plenty of advantages, and that has helped to keep them at the top of the room air conditioner market for a long time. These types of units can be installed in windows of multiple sizes and you can just about always get them in yourself. These units are available in a wide variety of sizes too, so you will be able to match the unit to the size of the space you need to cool.

No matter what type of air conditioner you get, it is very important to make sure it is the right size for the task you have laid out for it. Bigger is not always better and you do not want an air conditioner that is too powerful for the space any more than you want one that is too small. Also, be sure to check the energy efficiency rating of the air conditioner you are considering before making your purchase. That can save you a lot of money over time as well.

Another type of room air conditioner to take a look at is a wall mounted unit. Many of the window mounted units can actually be used in this way as well, but the installation involves actually making a hole in the outer wall of your home so you will most likely need some professional help to get it in place.

Just like window mounted units, wall mounted air conditioners come in all sizes and with all different energy efficiency ratings. Always take care to check out the specifics of the model before you buy it to make sure it is the right choice for your home.

Portable air conditioners are a third option in the room air conditioner category. They typically have wheels so that they can be easily moved from one room to another and they have an exhaust hose that must be hooked up to a window to ensure adequate ventilation. These types of room air conditioners are usually more expensive than wall or window mounted units, but it is definitely convenient to be able to move them from one place to another.

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Changes in Light Bulb Laws and Technology

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which promoted many forms of renewable energy and energy conservation. Its provisions include changes to the minimum standards for light bulb efficiency. Although the new standards haven’t officially gone into effect yet, you many already have seen changes in the kinds of light bulbs on sale in your local hardware store.

According to the law, starting in 2012, most standard general-purpose bulbs must be 30% more energy efficient than current incandescent bulbs. The new requirements will be phased in gradually, but the net result will be that by 2014, most of today’s incandescent bulbs will no longer be available for sale, and will be replaced by compact florescent light bulbs, or CFLs.

Of course, higher-efficiency bulbs are good for the environment. Moving to more efficient lighting is one of the easiest, lowest-cost ways for the U.S. to reduce electricity use and carbon emissions. But the changes will also benefit consumers – some estimates suggest that the average household’s utility bill will be reduced by as much as 12%. Even though CFLs cost more to buy ($3 compared to 50 cents for an incandescent), they use about 75% less energy and last five years instead of a few months. Depending on the cost of electricity, a homeowner that invests $90 to change 30 bulbs to CFLs will save between $440 and $1500 over the five-year life of the bulbs.

CFLs do have their detractors. Many claim that they don’t last anywhere near as long as the five years claimed by manufacturers – and this can in fact be the case you turn the bulbs on and off frequently. Energy Star recommends that all CFLs be left on for at least 15 minutes at a time. (Also, if you are using the bulbs in a dimmer, make sure that you buy bulbs specifically marked “dimmable”.) If you buy Energy Star bulbs, they come with a two-year warranty, so save your receipts and contact the bulb’s manufacturer if it burns out prematurely.

Others dislike the white – sometimes called “harsh” – light of CFLs. This effect can be mitigated by buying cooler-burning CFLs. Bulbs with Kelvin temperatures in the range of 2,700 to 3,000 emit a warmer light than higher-temperature bulbs with Kelvin temperatures of 5,000 or higher, which tend to have a white or bluish light.

Still other critics point out that CFLs contain mercury. While this is true, incandescent bulbs are not mercury-free in practice either. The increased power used for incandescent likely comes from coal-powered plants that produce mercury and many other types of pollution.

If you do break a CFL in your home, consult the EPA’s website for instructions on how to clean it up safely. http://www.epa.gov/cfl/cflcleanup.html

Of course, manufacturers are preparing for 2012 by developing new kinds of light bulbs that meet the more stringent standards, including high-efficiency incandescent and LED bulbs, so look for these options to arrive in stores over the next year or so.

The good news? A much less-beloved light bulb has already been phased out. The T-12 fluorescent tube – those humming, flickering office lights that give everyone’s skin a miserable greenish cast – has been replaced by T-8 fluorescent tubes, which are quieter, more efficient, don’t flicker, and make colors look much more natural.

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Heat Pump Noise Considerations

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Whenever you’re looking into replacing your old home heating system or installing a new one, there are many different factors you’ll have to take into consideration. The amount of noise that the system you choose will make is certainly one of these. And in addition to the amount of noise that this system will make, you’ll also want to make a note of where the unit will be placed and so where the noise will be coming from.

While you may have had to worry a bit about the noise generated by heat pumps in the past, it’s not something you’ll have to take into consideration this time around. That’s because newer heat pumps are designed to be quieter than ever, providing the same heating and cooling power with only a fraction of the noise of some earlier models.

In fact, the only part of a heat pump that really makes any noise at all is the outdoor unit. Unless this needs to be located very close to your home or to a window of a room that you use often, chances are that you won’t even hear it at all.

However, if you live very close to your neighbors or don’t have a lot of outdoor space, you may have to put the outdoor unit close to the walls of your home. Even then, though, you’ll hardly notice the noise your heat pump makes. Years of research and redesigning have produced some of the quietest heat pumps yet and that’s what you’ll be buying if you’re in the market for one of these systems now.

Newer heat pumps have been tweaked and adjusted to minimize the amount of noise-generating vibrations they produce. In fact, you’ll probably find that most of these units make no more noise than your refrigerator. They’re efficient and quiet and can keep your home comfortable all year long.

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Furnace vs. Heat Pump

Friday, April 15th, 2011

If you’re preparing to replace your existing heating system, you may very well be struggling with the question of whether to go with a furnace or a heat pump for all of your future home heating needs. Each of these systems have their own advantages and drawbacks, and once you’ve narrowed it down to one type or the other, you’ll still have a pretty wide variety of products to choose from.

Furnaces are still the most popular type of home heating equipment on the market. You can get furnaces that run on gas, oil or electricity, although gas furnaces are by far the most common type of furnace around these days. The latest models are extremely energy efficient, with AFUE ratings reaching into the high 90%s.

Like heat pumps, furnaces use ducts to transfer heated air throughout your home. They typically require regular maintenance once every year or two depending on the type of furnace you have, and they can be expected to last anywhere from 15 to 25 years when properly maintained. Most modern furnaces are also made to be compatible with a central air conditioning or cooling system as well.

Heat pumps, on the other hand, don’t generate the heat that they circulate throughout your house. Instead they are able to extract the heat from the air outside and pump it inside. This means that they use much less energy than even the most energy efficient furnaces.

However, heat pumps are only capable of heating your house comfortably when the outside temperature is above freezing. If you live in an area with particularly long and frigid winters, you’ll probably find that you need to supplement your heat pump with another heat source. Because of this, it actually makes little sense to use a heat pump in more extreme climates.

On the other hand, if you live in an area with relatively mild winters, heat pumps can be a great option. They provide a constant flow of warm air to all parts of your home and can also keep you house cool during hot summer months. To cool your home, heat pumps simply reverse the process they use to warm it. They take the heat out of your indoor air and pump it outside. This is a very effective home cooling method and makes heat pumps a great solution for year round comfort.

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Check out our blog for the latest in HVAC technology

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Be sure to bookmark the Boehmer Heating and Cooling blog for updates on the latest advances in HVAC technology.

We’ll feature money saving promotions here as well.

Call Boehmer Heating and Cooling for all your heating, cooling, geothermal and indoor air quality needs.

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Welcome to our new website

Friday, April 8th, 2011

iMarket Solutions has launched Boehmer Heating and Cooling’s new custom website. To learn more about how iMarket Solutions can expand your presence on the web visit:www.imarketwebsitesolutions.com

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