Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Archive for June, 2011

I Have a Room that Won’t Stay Warm or Cool

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

When you have a home heating or cooling system installed, you expect it to keep all areas of your home at the same temperature unless you tell it otherwise. But sometimes you’ll find that one of the rooms in your home just won’t stay warm no matter how high you turn up the heat. This can be a very frustrating situation, particularly if that room is one you use a lot.

Insulation and Ductwork Checkups

There are actually several possible reasons that a problem like this can develop. The first thing you should check is if there is adequate, proper insulation in the walls and the floor of the room. Even if you know that insulation is in place, it’s worth it to have a professional come take a look to see if the insulation there is still adequate. Even the best insulation doesn’t last forever, and once it breaks down, you could be losing a lot of heat to the outdoors in the winter.

If insulation isn’t the problem, it’s time to have someone examine your ductwork to see if it’s properly pressurized throughout or if there could be a break in the system somewhere leading to that room. If your home comfort system pumps heated and cooled air towards that room and that air is allowed to leak out along the way, you’ll never be able to maintain the comfort level you want.

Digging Deeper for Causes

Even if there is no break on the way to that particular room, a leak or blockage somewhere else can throw off the balance of the entire system, reducing how much temperature controlled air can reach that part of your home. These are all things that a professional duct tester can find and fix for you relatively easily and inexpensively.

Of course, it’s always possible that uneven heating and cooling is a symptom of a larger problem in your home heating and cooling system. But if that’s the case, you’re better off finding out sooner rather than later because the problem will only get worse when not addressed. No matter what the ultimate underlying cause for your uneven heating and cooling is, you’ll need a professional to come out and investigate before you can have it fixed for good.

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Noise Control for Your HVAC System

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Most people think of HVAC and associate it directly with comfort. They assume that once they are warm or cool in their home that there is nothing else to worry about, but even the smallest HVAC systems can be quite noisy, and if you own a business or live in a multi-family building, they can be downright disruptive.

Luckily, there are tools available to cut the sound level and make it far more comfortable for everyone both inside and outside the building.

Residential Noise Control

The easiest way to reduce noise in your home is to purchase HVAC equipment designed to run quietly. Today, many manufacturers provide air conditioners and furnaces with dampeners and quiet control devices that reduce the sounds these devices traditionally make. Even the classic banging sound of a boiler is now generally history.

But, even with new technology, most HVAC systems still make some noise, so if you want to cut out the noise completely, there are upgrades you can make. First on the list is a sound blanket. A sound blanket wraps around your compressor and blocks out the steady noise that these devices make. Older compressors especially can benefit from these.

Your ductwork can be noisy as well so duct lagging is a popular upgrade to keep the sound of heated or cooled air passing through your home to a minimum.

Industrial Strength Noise Control

If you live in a larger building or own a business, industrial strength devices are necessary to stop the noise. Blankets and lagging are still effective, but you might also consider mufflers and silencers to block out the exhaust noises that are made by larger units. Vibration isolation helps reduce structural noise and sound barriers wrap around an HVAC unit to contain residual noise to a certain area.

Overall, there are quite a few ways to make sure you stay comfortable and blissfully unaware of the operation of your system throughout the year. The key is to make sure you target whatever noise source is most prevalent in your particular HVAC system. Some systems suffer from vibrations while others have noisy compressors. Find the culprit and stop the sound in its tracks with the right noise controller.

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Looking at Moving to a New House – What to Look for in HVAC and Plumbing

Friday, June 24th, 2011

What are the Minimum Efficiency and Maximum Age of a Furnace?

Most homeowners overlook simple things like the maintenance and age of their furnace. However, if you know exactly what your furnace should do and how long it should last, you’ll be better prepared to setup your maintenance visits and start looking for a new model. So, how do you tell what your furnace should provide? Here are some easy tips.

The AFUE Rating

Furnaces built in the last 20 years come with an AFUE rating that tells you how much of the fuel they consume is effectively converted into heat. If your home’s furnace has an AFUE of 80% that means it will effectively convert 80% of the fuel it consumes into heat. However, if your furnace has an AFUE of 98% it will convert 98% of the fuel it consumes into heat.

These ratings are designed to show you what to expect from your system from month to month. If the furnace suddenly starts using far more energy and produces the same amount of heat, you know that the AFUE is no longer accurate. It’s either a sign of a problem or that your furnace needs to be replaced.

Maximum Age

No manufacturer likes to give a maximum age for their furnaces because they can last for much longer than originally rated in many cases. However, most furnaces will come with at least a 10 year limited warranty for the heat exchanger and a 10 year limited warranty for the parts. So, if you take good care of your system, they expect it to last at least 10 years.

However, if you maintain your system annually, check the filters throughout the winter and don’t push it too hard when it gets cold out, your system could last even longer than the limited warranty, allowing you to enjoy an efficient furnace for years to come.

Moving In

While you’ll have your new home inspected, a working furnace doesn’t necessarily mean a good furnace. Make sure to learn just how old the furnace is, how much maintenance it needs, and the level of efficiency you can expect. It may be in your best interest to simply have it replaced now and start saving on your energy bill immediately instead of two or three years down the road as it continues to get worse.

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Label Your Panel Box for an Emergency

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

During an emergency, moving fast is a priority. You need to get your family out of the house fast, but there are certain things you should have done well before the emergency that can help to keep you and your family safe. Specifically, if there is an earthquake, flood, or other major natural disaster that can disrupt your appliances or cause a sudden power surge, you want to turn off your electricity immediately, before anything can go wrong. Emergency workers might also need to access your panel box if you’re not home or if the area is too unsafe to enter.

Specific Instances this Might Matter

Think of what can happen if there is a flood in your basement and you need to go down to save your prized possessions or to stop the flow of water. Walking into a flooded basement with live electricity is incredibly dangerous. So, it’s important to know where your panel box is and what each of the breakers in it is for. This gives you the control necessary to stop the flow of electricity and stay safe, even when knee deep in standing water.

This also makes it possible for someone else to flip those breakers if you’re not home or there is a more urgent disaster like a fire or an earthquake. In the case of an earthquake, you never know when electrical supplies might be tripped or when your appliances will become disconnected from exhaust hoods or vents. Your gas is usually tripped off immediately by an earthquake shutoff valve, but your electricity needs to be manually stopped.

The Risk of Live Electricity

The key to effectively keeping your home operational through an emergency is to take every possible precaution until you can be sure that the space is safe. That means turning off key breakers, checking your home for disconnected appliances or potentially dangerous situations, and if necessary calling in an electrician to take care of any specific problems. In the case of most emergencies, if you’re not totally sure that something is safe, take precautions first by calling a professional and then worry about saving possessions and cleaning up.

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What to Look for when a Home is 100 Years Old

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Many people like older homes, but at a certain point, the age of a home can be a bit of a turnoff. It’s not the architecture – old homes are magnificently built and tend to have more character in the woodwork and nooks and crannies than any new home. But, when you move beyond how impressive early 20th century (or earlier) architecture is, you might find a number of maintenance and upkeep issues that have only been made worse by the passage of time.

Common Problems to Watch For

As with a 50 year old home, materials are a big issue. You need to have your home tested for lead paint and asbestos – both things that can be incredibly dangerous for every resident, especially children. These are very likely to be a part of the home if it hasn’t been remodeled in the last 30 years. Retrofitting to cover them up or remove them will be an added expense.

Additionally, older homes have much greater ratios of ventilation. If insulation has not been added in the last 25 years to cover those vents and gaps, your home will be very drafty, which is uncomfortable in the winter and costly year round. Make sure to have your home pressure tested and sealed up as soon as possible.

Upgrades You Can Make

Electricity is another major issue in older homes. While most old homes have been owned multiple times and likely upgraded since they were built, occasionally you will run across a house with extremely old wiring. That might mean a low capacity panel box or single strand wiring. Either way, it’s unsafe and unstable – for modern appliances and electronics you’ll need to upgrade that wiring as soon as possible.

The same may be true for your plumbing. If the house has original plumbing and fixtures, not only will they be inefficient, they may be rusty or prone to leakage. Sewer lines in particular are expensive replacements if they decide to break. Make sure you have these thoroughly inspected before a purchase.

The Joy of an Older Home

Despite all of the potential problems an old home might offer, there are plenty of benefits. Established neighborhoods, solid construction, and the ability to alter your home however you want are all positives you can’t overlook when buying a home. Just make sure you’re fully aware of what you’re getting into. Even a well maintained old home may have some issues that you miss on your initial walkthrough – make sure your inspector is thorough.

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When to Replace Your Air Conditioning System

Friday, June 17th, 2011

One of the last things you probably want to think about is replacing your current air conditioning system. However, the time will come when you can no longer ignore the fact that your air conditioning system is not getting the job done like it used to. And considering your replacement options early can help save you a lot of money and aggravation in the long run.

Before you can start looking at replacement options, though, you need to be aware that the time has come to replace your current model. But how can you tell that your air conditioner is on its way out? Well, there are actually quite a few warning signs that, if you are attuned to them, will help you determine whether or not it is the right time to replace.

First of all, if you have to call for repairs, even minor ones, on a regular basis, chances are that you would be better off replacing rather than continuing to patch up the air conditioning system you already have. This is true for several reasons including the fact that a system that requires repairs so often is probably not going to last you much longer anyway.

By replacing now rather than continuing to pay for repairs, you will save a lot of money in the long run. After all, you are going have to pay for the new system sooner or later, so you might as well skip the shelling out of extra cash to repair a system you are just going to get rid of anyway.

Problems like inadequate or uneven cooling or mismanaged humidity levels in your home are a good sign that something is not working right in your air conditioning system and that it may be time to replace. At the very least, you should call someone out to take a look and let you know what type of repairs you are looking at.

You should also think about replacing an older system even if it is still working fine because the newer systems available are much more energy efficient than even the top of the line models available ten years ago. While you will have to pay the purchase and installation cost up front, you will immediately begin to save substantial amounts on your monthly cooling bills.

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Warning Signs: When to Call for an Air Conditioning Service

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

The last thing you want is to be without an air conditioner during the hottest days of the year. Ideally you would never have to call for service to repair your air conditioning system, but just like anything else, your air conditioner will break down once in a while. However, you can dramatically reduce the inconvenience and cost of emergency air conditioning repairs if you are able to spot the warning signs of a problem before it shuts down your system completely.

For instance, all air conditioners make noise, but if your air conditioning system is suddenly making much more noise than it used to, chances are that something in there is not working properly. Calling for repairs when you notice this sudden increase in noise from your system will greatly increase the chances that the repair will be relatively minor and that you will not have to go without air conditioning when you need it most.

Also, it is a good idea to call for service if your air conditioning system does not seem to be doing as good a job as it used to when it comes to cooling your home evenly and effectively. Uneven cooling is a good sign that something is not working right within your system. And even if your air conditioner continues to work, it will probably be using up more energy than necessary for a less than ideal end result.

Along these same lines, a noticeable increase in humidity in all or part of your home is another good indication that something is wrong with your air conditioning system. Air conditioners both cool and dehumidify the air, so if yours stops removing humidity properly, you need to find out why.

In fact, even if you do not notice any difference in the way that your air conditioner is performing, you can still spot a problem if you keep a close eye on your energy bill. If you see a sudden increase in the amount of your bill because of the amount of energy that your air conditioning system is using, it is a good sign that something is not working right.

It may be tempting to put off calling for repairs, particularly if your air conditioner is still able to keep your house comfortable. However, it will likely be much cheaper and more convenient to have the repairs done early rather than waiting until the unit breaks down entirely.

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Tips for Upgrading Your Central Air Conditioner

Monday, June 13th, 2011

When the time comes to upgrade your central air conditioner, you will have a lot of things to take into account. If you were generally satisfied with the performance of your old system, it can be very tempting to stick with a similar model. But if you do not examine all of the options out there right now, you may very well be missing out on a great deal.

If you already have a central air conditioner in place, chances are that you also have ductwork throughout your house. In that case, you will probably be better off with a packaged air conditioner as opposed to a split system. If it is a split system you are replacing, however, you should probably keep your search limited to other split systems. Installing a packaged air conditioner when you do not already have ducts in place can dramatically increase the overall cost of the project.

You will also want to make sure that the system you choose is compatible with the heating system and air handler that you already have in place. Most central air conditioning systems can be integrated easily with all types of heating systems, but you should still check to make sure this will not be a problem, particularly if you have an older heating system.

In terms of picking out the right new system for your home, energy efficiency is probably the main factor to consider. While just about every air conditioner on the market right now will be much more efficient than the unit you are replacing, you want to make sure you get a model that will provide you with the optimal savings in the long run.

This does not necessarily mean that you should go out and buy the most energy efficient air conditioner out there. In fact, because the more energy efficient units are also typically more expensive, you may not actually save money by going that route. But you will do well to choose a unit that will save you enough monthly to offset the installation costs and for most people, that means that you will want an air conditioner that is either a SEER 14 or SEER 16.

Of course, the actual amount of money you will save as you move up through the SEER rankings depends on how much you use your air conditioner to begin with. If you live somewhere with very hot weather and you use your unit for a large chunk of the year, it may very well be worth it for you to opt for a very high efficiency model.

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The Energy Efficiency Rating of Central Air Conditioners: What Is it and Why Is it Important?

Friday, June 10th, 2011

When you are shopping for a central air conditioning system, you will have to evaluate your options based on a number of different factors. For instance, you will need to decide which type of system is the best match for your home and for your particular cooling needs. It is also important to make sure that the central air conditioner you choose is the right size for the cooling load it will have to take on.

However, it is also very important to evaluate your central air conditioning options based on how energy efficient they are. This will have a great deal to do with how much you pay in terms of cooling costs each month, which makes it easy to see why you should take it into account before you make a purchase.

The energy efficiency of a central air conditioner is generally expressed as a seasonal energy efficiency rating, or SEER. The SEER numbers you will typically find on the latest air conditioning systems range from eight to 19.5 with the higher numbers signifying a more energy efficient model.

So it is pretty easy to figure out that a central air conditioner with a higher SEER will save you some money monthly because it will use less energy to get the same job done. But central air conditioners with high SEERs also typically have high price tags. So to determine how high of a SEER you need, you will need to know more exactly how much more money you will save as you move up in the rankings.

You can do this by comparing the SEER of the system you currently use with the new system you are considering and compare how much your current energy usage would cost you with each model. Basically, you want to pick a central air conditioner that will save you enough to offset the purchase price of the unit.

Often, this means that you will be best off with a SEER 14 or SEER 16 because these units save you a considerable amount over older models without carrying too high a purchase price. However, the amount you save will be directly related to how much you use your central air conditioning system, so if you live someplace that is extremely hot for a large chunk of the year, it may be worth it for you to buy a very high efficiency air conditioning system.

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What Can You Do Yourself if Your Central AC Unit Does Not Work? When Should You Call a Professional?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

If your air conditioning system suddenly stops working or is not keeping your house as cool as you think it should, the chances are good that you will have to call in a professional to make the necessary repairs and get you back on track. However, there are a few things you can do on your own before you make that call to ensure that this really is something you cannot take care of on your own.

While it may seem obvious, the first thing you should check is the thermostat to make sure that it is set to a temperature that will trigger the air conditioning to come on. If your thermostat for some reason is set too high, then the air conditioner will not receive the signal to start cooling the house. This is an easy fix, of course, and you will be back up and running in no time.

If the thermostat is indeed set where it should be, the next thing to check is the air filter. Most people with central air conditioning know that they should change the filter once every month or so, but this seldom actually happens.

If it has been a while since your air filter was changed, there is a good chance that it is clogged and therefore blocking air from circulating from the air conditioner through the rest of the house. This is an easy enough fix, as all you need to do is replace the current air filter and your system should be able to pick up right where it left of. However, if the blocked air filter has also caused ice to form behind it, you may have to wait for a couple of hours until the ice has a chance to thaw.

Next, you will want to check and make sure that the air conditioning system is actually getting power. Look to see if any of the breakers are tripped or if there may have been a current interruption for any other reason that is within your power to fix. If this is the case, though, it is a good idea to turn the air conditioning system off before you attempt to restore the power.

If none of these measures are able to get your air conditioning system up and running again, you should not hesitate to call a professional. Many air conditioning repairs are quite basic, but they still need to be performed by a licensed professional.

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