Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Archive for September, 2011

Is Geothermal for Me? A Guide From Sewickley

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Geothermal heating is a great alternative to other types of home heating systems in Sewickley. It is safe and efficient, costs very little to operate and makes use of a great renewable resource right below our feet. But is it right for you? Well, geothermal heating may be the right choice for many people, but there are many things to take into account before you can determine whether or not it is the best choice for your home.

The first important thing to understand when you are trying to decide whether or not to go with geothermal heating is how one of these systems actually works. A geothermal system heats your home by extracting heat from the ground and then transferring that heat into your indoor air. This happens when liquid, usually water or antifreeze, passes through a loop of pipes installed several feet below the ground.

The liquid absorbs heat from the ground, which in the winter is always warmer than the air, and carries is back up to an air handler inside your home where that heat is allowed to disperse into the air. Once the air is heated, the air handler blows the air through a system of ducts throughout your house, providing a constant stream of heated air to all areas of your home. The liquid, on the other hand, simply cycles back through the ground loop to pick up more heat and repeat the same cycle over again.

Because a geothermal heating system does not actually generate heat, it requires very little energy to operate. This means that it is both very cheap for you to run and environmentally friendly. But since installing a geothermal heating system involves putting pipes in underground, it can be pretty expensive initially. However, as long as the amount you save every month on your heating costs is enough to offset the high initial price of installation, it is worth it to put down the money up front.

Another alternative, of course, is a more traditional air source heat pump. These are much cheaper to install and nearly as cheap to run. However, air source heat pumps are not as efficient when the air temperature gets below freezing as a geothermal system can be. If you live in an area with harsh winters, the geothermal heat pump is a better option than an air source unit.

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What Happens if You Put Your Air Filter in the Wrong Way? A Tip From Oakmont

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Air filters are important pieces in your overall Oakmont home’s comfort system. They keep unwanted debris and sediment out of your indoor air and they help your system run smoothly for years to come. However, if you’re not careful, an air filter put in backwards can lead to quite a few problems with your heating and cooling system.

The Most Common Problems

The most common problem you will face with a backwards facing filter is simple inefficiency. If your furnace is forced to blow air through the non-porous end of a filter, it will take more energy to do so. The blower will be overworked and you will pay more money for your heating. The same is doubly true for an air conditioner which has multiple filters in place to keep outdoor contaminants out of your indoor air.

Beyond the cost of improper filtering, you will likely suffer from a decrease in indoor air quality. The filter is designed to remove a lot of unwanted debris, but only when installed in a certain direction. If you set your filter up backwards, the normally collective end of the device will not face the air supply. In effect, your filter will help keep debris in the air.

This results in a clogged filter and improperly cleaned air when it reaches your lungs. If you have a home indoor air quality system it will help to supplement this problem for a while, but the clog will eventually become too much for your system.

Avoiding the Problem

There are two ways to avoid improper installation. First, you can have a professional install the system for you. Whenever you need a new filter ask someone to come and take care of it. When they do, though, pay close attention to how they set the filter and any other steps they take. By carefully watching you can ideally learn what it takes to do this step yourself and hopefully keep your system running smoothly for years to come.

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Is Geothermal Energy Renewable? A Question From Finleyville

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Geothermal heating systems take heat from the ground and transfer it to your Finleyville home. But how does this heat get into the ground in the first place? Conventional heating systems like furnaces use energy sources like oil or natural gas to generate heat. These energy sources are not renewable, and neither is electricity which is typically generated by burning coal or another non-renewable resource.

The renewable resources we usually think of first are solar and wind power. The sun, of course, will continue to shine and provide heat year in and year out whether we make use of it or not. Similarly, we cannot use up the wind. It will continue to blow no matter how many times it has blown before.

But what category does geothermal energy fit into exactly? Well, it is actually a renewable resource just like solar or wind energy. In fact, geothermal energy is a direct result of the sun’s heat relentlessly pounding the ground. The ground actually absorbs a considerable amount of the heat from the sun that reaches the earth every day, and that is the heat that your geothermal heating system is using to heat your home.

Of course, a geothermal heating system cannot run on geothermal energy alone. The indoor components of this heating system that keep the air flowing throughout your house must be powered by electricity. But the amount of energy needed to do this is much less than what you would need to use to run a furnace or other type of more conventional home heating system.

Over all, geothermal energy is an excellent and renewable source of energy. And once you have the heating system in place, you will need to spend very little to keep it up and running. It is an excellent option for many people, and can help to keep your home cool in the summer as well.

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IAQ – To Zone or Not to Zone my Home Comfort: Some Pointers From Elizabeth

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

There are a lot of decisions to make related to your Elizabeth home’s comfort system. You must decide what type of heating you want, how you’ll implement air conditioning, and then how to keep all of that heated and cooled air clean and healthy in your home.

On top of everything else, you have the option to implement zone control in your house to provide multiple comfort levels for each member of your family. Zone control systems are growing rapidly in popularity because they allow home owners to enjoy an enhanced level of comfort throughout the day, while not negatively impacting any one person.

For example, if it’s chilly outside and you need to turn your heater on, that doesn’t mean everyone in the house wants the thermostat set to 72°F. There are a few reasons for this. You may be in the kitchen, working over the stove or doing dishes where there is plenty of heat to keep you warm. More warm air coming through vents or radiators isn’t going to make you comfortable.

The second floor of a home traditionally needs less heat because warm air on the first floor rises and fills that space. The same is true in the summer when cool air settles in lower floors. Having a zone control system allows you to set specific temperatures in each room which are then controlled by your home heating system. You can even turn off the heating and cooling in a specific room like your office or the attic if it will be empty for long periods of time.

Other Considerations

A zone control system is good for comfort, but also for the overall air quality of your home. Too much conditioned air moving through your ducts carries more allergens and contaminants into your home and causes your air quality system to work harder. Your ventilation system will be asked to work harder as well.

Ideally, a good home air quality system is designed to use as little conditioned air as possible to keep everyone comfortable. A zone control system does this very effectively. When talking to a professional about a new installation, check to find out about programmable thermostats as well. These can make it easier to set and forget the temperature in rooms that are only used for a few hours each day.

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Top 9 Mistakes People Make When They Buy HVAC Equipment: Guide From Castle Shannon

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Every year millions of homeowners buy a new HVAC system for their home, some of them in Castle Shannon. And whether for heating, cooling or air quality, they make a huge investment in a new system that will be with them for years to come. Unfortunately, many of those people make big mistakes when buying their next system, so to help you avoid doing so, here are some simple things you should not do.

  1. Ignoring Air Quality – Air quality is about more than comfort. It affects the health of everyone in your home equally. Consider it carefully when installing a new system.
  2. Not Upgrading Your AFUE or SEER – New systems are highly efficient. Take advantage of that by buying one with a higher AFUE or SEER rating.
  3. Not Vetting Your Contractor – Always spend time checking up on your contractor, reading reviews and asking other customers how their experience was.
  4. Skipping the Service Agreement – Service agreements save money and help your system last longer. Don’t skip them.
  5. Buying the Cheapest Option Available – It may be tempting, but a cheap HVAC system is a bad idea if you want it to last and save you money in heating and cooling. Even a midrange system will save you money in only a few years with higher efficiency ratings.
  6. Picking the Same Model You Already Had – New models are stronger and more efficient. When possible, get an upgrade and your bills will reflect the difference.
  7. Waiting too Long to Buy – The longer you wait, the more you pay in heating and cooling bills for an old, worn down system. If you know you’re going to buy a new system, act fast to save the most possible money.
  8. Not Asking Questions – If you have a question, ask it. There is no such thing as a stupid question when looking for a new HVAC system.
  9. Ignoring Maintenance Recommendations – Maintenance recommendations are optional but almost always to your benefit. Research on your own before committing to anything, but don’t ignore the necessity either.

If you do things just right, your new HVAC system will last for years to come and provide steady, comfortable heating or cooling throughout that time. But, if you rush through things, make a hasty decision and neglect to do any research, you may have issues with your system in far less time than you’d like. Be smart and you’ll be rewarded.

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Is My Home as Comfortable as It Could Be? A Question From Carnegie

Monday, September 19th, 2011

When it comes to indoor comfort, there are a surprising number of things you need to take into account for your Carnegie home. Of course, you need to have a good heating and cooling system in place so that you can easily maintain a comfortable indoor temperature all year round. But that really isn’t enough when you’re trying to create the optimal indoor environment. So what else do you need to consider?

Humidity 101

Well, for starters, it’s a good idea to check the humidity levels in your home. Improper humidity can lead to all sorts of problems, and it can also make it harder for your home heating and cooling systems to maintain a comfortable temperature. Air that’s too dry doesn’t hold heat as well as properly humidified air, so in the winter, your heating system will have to work harder to keep your family comfortable. Too little humidity can also dry out your skin and cause the symptoms of colds, allergies and asthma to last longer and be more severe.

On the other hand, if there is too much humidity in your home, you’re more likely to develop problems with mold and dust mites. And your home cooling system will have a harder time keeping you comfortable indoors. Luckily, there are plenty of great humidification systems on the market right now that can take care of all of these types of problems for you, and they’re definitely worth looking into if you’re concerned about the overall comfort level in your home.

Indoor Air Quality

Along these same lines, you should take the time to have your indoor air quality upgraded by a professional. Indoor air pollutants are a growing problem, particularly in newer homes that are sealed up tight against the elements. These seals prevent all of your temperature conditioned air from escaping and make your home more energy efficient, but they also lead to inadequate ventilation and a buildup of things like gasses, dust mites, bacteria, mold spores and pet dander in your indoor air.

These are obviously not the types of things you want to breathe on a regular basis, so it’s a good idea to invest in ventilation and an indoor air quality system that can bring in a steady supply of fresh air from outside and remove any harmful contaminants from the air circulating through your home.

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Is Your Home More Valuable with Energy Efficient Appliances? A Question From Sewickley

Friday, September 16th, 2011

It’s impressive the things people do to improve the value of their Sewickley home. We’re talking about crown molding, new floors, new siding, upgrades to the landscaping and much more. The cost of upgrading these things can grow out of hand quickly and if the boost to your home’s value isn’t equally exponential, it’s hard to justify the expense.

So, it’s always nice to find a simple upgrade that can be performed for a few hundred dollars that will save you money immediately and improve the value of your home in the future. Your appliances are one such upgrade.

The Value of Energy Efficiency

An energy efficient washing machine can save upwards of $150 per year on water costs. An energy efficient toilet cuts consumption by as much as 150%. Low flow shower heads cut water costs by one third to one half and your heating and air conditioning systems can be improved by 10-35% depending on the upgrades available to you.

When you add up all those savings, the result is a tremendous amount of money that can be saved each year on everything from your water bill to your cooling needs. Imagine what happens when someone looks to buy your home. They see that there are all new appliances with energy efficient ratings that will save them money.

It’s not just lower bills; it’s a decrease in upfront investment. On the surface, it’s unlikely that your energy efficient appliances will directly increase the value of your home, but they can increase the likelihood of someone paying what you’re asking for the home. They add value to the livability of the home, if not the property itself and in today’s housing market, that’s a major plus.

Best Upgrades

The best upgrades to your home’s appliances are the ones that save money without additional work. Major upgrades to your heating and cooling are good if you need an upgrade anyway or you plan on staying in your home for a few years.

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IAQ – Ultra Violet Lighting: A Guide From Glenshaw

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

With a state of the art home comfort system in place, complimented by a high tech indoor air cleaner, you may think you’re set to take on climate and contaminant related challenges in your Glenshaw home. But you’re probably missing one thing, and that’s the ability to remove living contaminants like bacteria and viruses from your indoor air.

Unlike non-living particulate indoor air contaminants, bacteria and viruses are not easily caught by indoor air filters or ionizers. They often slip through and continue to circulate again and again through your home, greatly increasing the likelihood that you and your family will get sick. They also tend to reproduce, so the longer you go without eliminating these germs, the more of them there will be.

Killing those Germs for Good

Fortunately there is a technological solution to this indoor air quality problem. The inclusion of ultra violet lights into your air purification system not only specifically targets bacteria and viruses; it helps to slow the spread of disease when someone in your home gets sick.

UV germicidal lights are extremely effective at removing all types of living contaminants from your indoor air. Unlike HEPA filters and air ionizers, UV germicidal lights don’t try to remove these contaminants by trapping them. Instead, they kill them outright, making sure that the germs can’t stick around to reproduce or work their way free of the containment system.

Installation and Maintenance

For most indoor air contaminants, you want to have someone test your air first. However, with bacteria and viruses, you can rest assured that they are always in the air around you. It often only takes a smaller number of pathogens to make someone ill.

Most UV germicidal lights are easy to integrate into your existing indoor air cleaning system. They are usually installed just past the filters so they can catch the germs without other indoor air contaminants getting in the way. And best of all, UV germicidal lights require very little attention or maintenance.

Simply put them in place and let them do their work. You should schedule a routine maintenance visit every so often to make sure that no part of your indoor air cleaning system needs to be repaired or replaced. But other than that, installing UV germicidal lights in your home allows you to relax and enjoy a completely contaminant free living environment.

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Home Energy Myths: A Tip From Cranberry

Monday, September 12th, 2011

Measuring and controlling your Cranberry home’s energy consumption is a little tricky. There are plenty of talking heads and information resources on the Internet that tell you how it’s supposed to work, but in most cases you’ll find that so called common knowledge about your home’s energy use isn’t always true. Here are some of the most common myths and how to differentiate from the truth.

  1. Conservation and Efficiency Are Different – Many people think that by getting an energy efficient appliance, like an Energy Star air conditioner, they are conserving energy and helping the environment. To some degree this is true. However, in reality, you are merely reducing how much energy it takes to complete a task. Conservation is finding ways to actually stop using energy for common tasks. Taking baths instead of showers, not watering your lawn, and turning off lights completely are all examples of conservation.
  2. Turning Off an Appliance Saves a Lot of Energy – Regardless of whether an appliance is physically on or not, it still consumes power as long as it is plugged in. The only way to completely stop your energy consumption is to unplug an item completely or use a power strip that blocks access to electricity when the switch is turned to off.
  3. Turning on Items Creates a Power Surge – While turning a computer on and off uses a bit more electricity than simply leaving it on all the time, it isn’t a significant difference. In fact, the longer you leave an appliance on, the more it wears down and the faster it starts to use extra power to remain effective.
  4. One Energy Source is Cheaper than Another – This depends largely on the type of energy source you have for heating and cooling, the cost of that source and how much heating and cooling you need. A single portable electric heater is cheaper than running your entire oil heating system. But, electric heaters are rarely cheaper if you use them to heat your entire home.

Myths abound when it comes to energy use around your home. But there are some easy ways to conserve energy and if you need more information, contact your local HVAC professional.

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Air Conditioners and Energy Use by Percentage: A Tip From Coraopolis

Friday, September 9th, 2011

It’s no secret that air conditioners use up a lot of electricity and can add substantially to your energy bills during those warm summer months in Coraopolis. But did you know that they actually account for an estimated 11% of the total energy used in all buildings in the US each year? This is a staggering figure and makes it easy to see why it’s best to invest in the most energy efficient system possible.

Keeping Your Consumption Down

There are plenty of reasons to try and keep your energy consumption down. You want to save on your energy bills, and the less energy you use, the better it is for the environment. The best and most straightforward way to go about this is to purchase only highly energy efficient appliances and equipment, and that includes air conditioners.

Because air conditioner usage accounts for such a substantial part of the total energy used in this country, putting more energy efficiency models into use is the best way to cut that usage down.

Supplementary Cooling

However, there are other ways to reduce the workload of your air conditioner. For instance, you can use a ceiling fan to maintain good air circulation and keep your home cool. Using a ceiling fan with an air conditioner, even on the hottest days of the year, allows you to turn up your thermostat a bit to conserve energy while still enjoying a comfortable indoor environment. And because ceiling fans use so little energy to operate, you’ll come out ahead on your energy bill.

Passive Cooling

There are also several passive cooling methods you can employ to keep the temperature in your home down. Blocking out sunlight is the most important of these, so keep your blinds closed on any windows that receive direct sunlight, particularly in the early afternoon. Alternately, you can have awnings put up, which allow you to block the direct sun while still keeping the blinds open.

Shade is another effective passive cooling device. Planting trees around your home to block out the sun at the hottest times of day is a totally energy-free way of keeping your home cool and reducing the workload on your air conditioning system. The less your air conditioner has to work, the less energy it consumes and the lower your energy bills will be.

For more tips on how to keep your home cool during the last days of summer, contact your local HVAC contractor.

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