Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Butler County’

Pittsburgh Heat Pump Question: Why Do Heat Pumps Need Refrigerant?

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Despite its name, your Pittsburgh heat pump is not designed solely for heating. In fact, the technology in your heat pump was originally designed for air conditioning and is used today in air conditioners, refrigerators and cooling units in vehicles and airplanes. And the entire process relies on refrigerant – a chemical compound that is compressed and expanded to move energy from one environment to another.

 How Refrigerant Makes Heating and Cooling Possible

Your heat pump has multiple components designed to transfer refrigerant from one state to another. The compressor, for example, compresses the refrigerant into a liquid. The liquid is then moved through the expansion valve to the evaporator coils where it expands into a gas. Because refrigerant evaporates at much lower temperatures than water, it does this rapidly and in the process draws heat from the surrounding environment.

That’s how an air conditioner or your refrigerator cool a space. However, in the case of a heat pump, the process can work in both directions. In cooling mode, your heat pump extracts heat from the air going into your home. In the case of heating mode, the heat pump extracts heat from the outside air. Because the heat is transferred into the refrigerant, it can then be recompressed by the compressor. The heat is then is then released in the condenser coils, where the gas returns to liquid state. A blower then distributes air blown across the condenser coils into your home as heat.

 Troubleshooting the Process

Your Pittsburgh heat pump is a complex piece of machinery, but once you know how it works, you can perform quite a bit of troubleshooting should anything go wrong with the device. For example, if you notice cold air coming from your vents, you can check to make sure it isn’t in cooling mode and that there is enough refrigerant in the device.

Keep in mind that if any service needs to be performed on the heat pump involving refrigerant, you should call a Pittsburgh HVAC professional due to the volatile nature of the chemical. In most municipalities, you must have a license to distribute or dispose of refrigerant and even if not, it can be dangerous to both you and the environment. Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling today for any help with your heating or cooling system!

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Pittsburgh Air Conditioning Tips: How to Troubleshoot a Failed AC Unit

Monday, June 11th, 2012

In most cases, a failed air conditioning system may be fixed by going through some troubleshooting guidelines. If you would like one of our Pittsburgh air conditioning technicians to help you get your AC unit running again, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling a call. We can also send someone to your home if we can’t get your system working again.

Here are some basic steps to try before you call for a repair.

Check All Controls and Fuses

When your Pittsburgh air conditioner won’t cool your home properly, always check the thermostat to see if it is on “cool” and set for the right temperature. If the air conditioner has shut down, check to make sure that the unit is receiving power by looking in the fuse box for a flipped circuit breaker and also making sure it is plugged in properly. You can also inspect the visible wires and electrical components for obvious damages. Call a TOWN NAME air conditioning technician if you see physical damage to the electrical components. Never try to fix this yourself.

Sometimes when there’s extreme weather conditions in the summer, such as very high temperatures or high humidity levels, the high-pressure switch can get flipped and turn off the air conditioner. You can easily find the switch on most AC models in the compressor’s access panel. Check your owner’s manual or call us if you don’t know how to locate or reset the limit switch.

Check for Refrigerant Problems or Condensate Pan Leaks

Refrigerant problems caused by the wrong amount of refrigerant can keep the AC unit from cooling your home properly, and you can usually tell if there’s a refrigerant issue by looking for frost or icing on the evaporator coil. When there’s excess coil icing, it means that there isn’t enough cool air being delivered to your home. If you see thick frost on the evaporator coil, a technician will most likely need to charge the refrigerant, or there could be a leak in the refrigerant line.

Condensate leaks into the condensate pan can also cause an air conditioner to fail. The condensate drip pan is installed underneath the air handler to catch condensate leaks if the drain system gets clogged. Most of the time, a small clog in the drain line can be easily cleared. Also check the condensate switch for issues; sometimes these can be defective and cause your air conditioner to shut down.

At Boehmer Heating & Cooling, we want to be the only Pittsburgh air conditioning contractor you’ll ever need. Call us any time to get troubleshooting advice for your AC system.

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Pittsburgh Geothermal Guide: Types of Loop Systems

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Energy resources are changing rapidly.  The conventional oil, gas and coal fuels are giving way to alternative sources like wind, solar and hydro.  Geothermal energy is less understood by consumers, but potentially the most abundant source available, nearly as huge a supply as the Earth itself. Many people are considering installing geothermal heating and cooling in Pittsburgh.

From the Greek word “geo” for “earth”, geothermal energy is generated by the natural process of heat gravitating toward cooler temperatures.  The by-product can be captured and utilized simply as heat or converted to electricity. In small, self-contained residential or large commercial applications, this typically happens in either closed or open looped systems.

Closed Loop Geothermal Systems

Systems using water or anti-freeze that run from the pump into the ground and back to the pump continuously are closed looped.  Most efficient for smaller residential systems where land is available, two or three horizontal loops are side by side just a few feet underground.  Sometimes the loops are spiraled underground to extend the overall length in a shorter area.

Where the need for length may be prohibitive to run alongside the building, large commercial buildings and schools often use vertical systems.  A series of holes four inches in diameter are drilled about 20 feet apart and 100–400 feet deep and filled with two pipes connected at the bottom to form a loop. Each loop is connected with a horizontal manifold pipe in a trench which connects to the heat pump in the building. Vertical loops are also the choice when the soil is too shallow for trenching.  This system minimizes the disturbance to existing landscaping.

If the site has an adequate water body, a pond/lake loop may be the lowest cost option where a supply line is run underground directly to the water and coiled into circles at least eight feet under the surface to prevent freezing before looping back to the building.

Open Loop Geothermal Systems

An open loop system takes surface water or a well to use as the heat exchange fluid that circulates directly through the GHP system instead of a piped fluid passing through the surface. Once circulated through the system, the water returns to the ground through the well or a discharge over the surface.

Hybrid systems using a combination of a geothermal loop underground and outdoor air (i.e., a cooling tower), are another technology option, particularly effective when cooling needs are significantly higher than heating needs. Where local geology permits, the “standing column well” is a variation of an open-loop system with one or more deep vertical wells drilled.

Whichever loop is used, it is clear the face of energy is changing and geothermal energy is beginning to play an increasing role of supply to meet the new demand.

For more information about getting geothermal heating and cooling installed in your Pittsburgh home, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling  a call today!

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South Hills Geothermal Tip: Problems Caused by Poor Water Quality in Open Loop Systems

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

As geothermal heating systems go, an open loop configuration can be an excellent choice in South Hills, provided the local geography supports it. Open loop systems work very effectively and efficiently because the deep water is held at an almost constant temperature year round. This property makes it a very good source of heat for the geothermal system.

However, an important factor to consider before choosing an open loop system is the quality of the water coming from the source. Although you won’t drink the water, the quality still matters a great deal, as poor water quality can cause serious problems in your geothermal system.

Let’s take a look at some common water quality problems and the damage they can potentially do to an open loop geothermal system.

 Mineral Deposits

If the water is filled with minerals — frequently called “hard water” — those minerals can be deposited within the geothermal coils. As they build up on the walls over time, they can slow the flow of the water or even clog it completely.

Hard water does not necessarily preclude the use of an open loop system. It just may call for extra maintenance, such as periodically flushing the system with a mild acid solution to remove mineral build-up.

 Impurities

Impurities in water, especially metals like iron, can also cause clogs. Most frequently this occurs in the return well of the geothermal system. Again, these impurities do not necessarily mean an open loop system can’t work for you, but you should consult with the contractor prior to installation for solutions to this problem.

 Particulate and Organic Matter

If you plan to use surface water such as a pond or spring as the source for your open loop system, make sure to test the water composition thoroughly. An excess of sediment or organic matter can clog up your South Hills geothermal system very quickly.

Ideally, these are all situations that your contractor will anticipate and discuss with you ahead of time, so that your open loop system can be installed in such a way as to preempt any problems with water quality. If you have any questions about how a geothermal system will work for your home, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling  a call today!

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Cranberry Geothermal Installation Question: How Effective Is Geothermal Heating?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Geothermal heating is an efficient way to use the Earth’s natural resources to heat a building’s interior in Cranberry. But is it an effective way?

Consider the cost of geothermal heating. Once you get past the initial installation costs of a geothermal heating system, which are higher than other conventional heating systems, its operating costs are much lower because of its use of a natural, renewable heat source – the Earth. If you plan to stay in your home for many years, a geothermal heating system will likely pay for itself because according to International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, geothermal operating efficiencies are 50-70% higher than other heating systems, which represents a substantial lowering of energy costs.

And according to a leading electric utility company, the cost of electricity for operating a geothermal heat pump is lower than any other heating system which includes natural gas, propane, and oil.

Beyond lower energy costs, geothermal heating leaves a smaller carbon footprint than other heating systems. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the average U.S. home is 17%, most of which comes from burning fossil fuels for electricity. Geothermal uses natural heat from the ground and therefore uses 30-60% less energy than more conventional heating and cooling systems. Using less energy equals less carbon dioxide production.

A geothermal heating system is only as effective as the equipment used to deliver it throughout the building. The most common delivery method is through a ground source heat pump. This pump pulls the heat from the earth and distributes it.

The components of a geothermal system also include a compressor, air handling unit, and duct system. When all are installed and maintained correctly, a geothermal heating system will be just as effective in heating a building’s interior as any other heating system. Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling if you have any questions about installation or service for a  geothermal heating system.

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Carnegie Heating Replacement Guide: Heating System Ventilation 101

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Maintaining Proper Ventilation for Combustion Systems

Anytime you maintain, retrofit, or replace a gas heating system in your Carnegie home you also need to be concerned with air quality. Combustion air is needed by all oil and gas heating systems to support the combustion process. This air is provided in some homes by unintentional air leaks, or by air ducts that connect to the outdoors. The combustion process creates several byproducts that are potentially hazardous to human health and can cause deterioration in your home. You can protect yourself from these hazards, as well as maintain energy efficiency, by ensuring that your chimney system functions properly and that your gas heating system is properly ventilated. In some cases, installing a sealed-combustion furnace can also help.

Chimneys

Properly functioning chimney systems will carry combustion byproducts out of the home. Therefore, chimney problems put you at risk of having these byproducts, such as carbon monoxide, spill into your home.

Most older gas furnaces have naturally drafting chimneys. The combustion gases exit the home through the chimney using only their buoyancy combined with the chimney’s height. Naturally drafting chimneys often have problems exhausting the combustion gases because of chimney blockage, wind or pressures inside the home that overcome the buoyancy of the gases.

Atmospheric, open-combustion furnaces, as well as fan-assisted furnaces, should be vented into masonry chimneys, metal double-wall chimneys, or another type of manufactured chimney. Masonry chimneys should have a fireclay, masonry liner or a retrofitted metal flue liner.

Many older chimneys have deteriorated liners or no liners at all and must be relined during furnace replacement. A chimney should be relined when any of the following changes are made to the combustion heating system:

When you replace an older furnace with a newer one that has an AFUE of 80% or more. These mid-efficiency appliances have a greater risk of depositing acidic condensation droplets in chimneys, and the chimneys must be prepared to handle this corrosive threat. The new chimney liner should be sized to accommodate both the new heating appliance and the combustion water heater by the installer.

When you replace an older furnace with a new 90+ AFUE appliance or a heat pump. In this case, the heating appliance will no longer vent into the old chimney, and the combustion water heater will now vent through an oversized chimney. This oversized chimney can lead to condensation and inadequate draft. The new chimney liner should be sized for the water heater alone, or the water heater in some cases can be vented directly through the wall.

Other Ventilation Concerns

Some fan-assisted, non-condensing furnaces, installed between 1987 and 1993, may be vented horizontally through high-temperature plastic vent pipe (not PVC pipe, which is safely used in condensing furnaces). This type of venting has been recalled and should be replaced by stainless steel vent pipe. If horizontal venting was used, an additional draft-inducing fan may be needed near the vent outlet to create adequate draft. Floor furnaces may have special venting problems because their vent connector exits the furnace close to the floor and may travel 10 to 30 feet before reaching a chimney. Check to see if this type of venting or the floor furnace itself needs replacement. If you smell gases, you have a venting problem that could affect your health. Contact your local utility or Carnegie heating contractor to have this venting problem repaired immediately.

Chimneys can be expensive to repair, and may help justify installing new heating equipment that won’t use the existing chimney.

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South Fayette Heating Contractor Guide: Basic Boiler Maintenance

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

The boiler in your South Fayette home is a sensitive piece of equipment that needs routine maintenance and repairs. Regularly maintaining your boiler is especially important for safety reasons. Many boiler malfunctions and accidents are due to neglecting some of these basic tasks.

Even if you’ve just installed a new boiler, the safety valves and settings should be checked by a professional on a regular basis to prevent a breakdown or hazard. We recommend that you schedule a boiler inspection and cleaning at least once a year. Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling if you have any questions about boiler maintenance.

A service technician will measure the pressure, drain and remove sediment buildup, test the efficiency ratings, and make sure your boiler is set at the right temperatures. Regular maintenance can also help you determine whether or not you need a boiler replacement. By keeping track of performance levels, you will be able to tell when it’s time for an upgrade.

Other tasks performed during an annual maintenance visit include cleaning and lubricating all the components, checking for any leaks or clogs, and testing gas boilers for any carbon monoxide intrusion. If you have any gas appliances in your home, you should always have carbon monoxide detectors and test them once a month.

Boiler pressure is something that you can check often on your own. If you aren’t sure how to read the pressure gauge, or if you aren’t sure what the right pressure should be, just call one of our technicians to walk you through this process.

Always call Boehmer Heating & Cooling if you have any problems with the boiler in your South Fayette home. We are here to help and answer any questions you may have.

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South Fayette Heating Installation Guide:Comparing High-Efficiency and Mid-Efficiency Furnaces

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Whenever you are in the market for a new furnace for your South Fayette home, there are many models to choose from.  Many of the furnaces manufactured within the last few years are high-efficiency furnaces with a high AFUE rating (AFUE measures the amount of fuel the furnace converts into heat). When people refer to a mid-efficiency furnace, they are usually talking about older furnaces.

Single-stage furnaces were considered to be an efficient heating system when they were manufactured, but compared to newer furnaces, they use up a lot more energy than they need to. Single-speed furnaces are designed to run at full capacity until the temperature inside the home reaches the thermostat setting. After they shut off, the home not only loses heat, but the furnace will also take longer and burn more fuel when it cycles on again.

Newer, two-speed and multispeed models run consistently at lower speeds, and the ones with variable-speed blowers are even more efficient because they can operate at various levels. These models will also automatically adjust to the thermostat to maintain a constant temperature, which saves energy by keeping the home at a consistent temperature so that there’s little heat loss.

When shopping for a new furnace, keep in mind that the AFUE ratings for multispeed and variable-speed furnaces only determine the efficiency of the actual furnace. If you are upgrading your old, mid-efficiency furnace to a high-efficiency furnace, you should make sure that your South Fayette home is properly insulated and sealed.  You could also consider upgrading any older doors and windows to more efficient double-paned ones, or you can also install storm doors and windows.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! We would like to thank you all for being loyal customers and helping our business prosper. Have a great holiday; we hope your Thanksgiving is full of friends, family, and delicious food! And to make you day a little sweeter, here is a recipe for Pumpkin Gingerbread from allrecipes.com:

Pumpkin Gingerbread

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans.
  2. In a large mixing, combine sugar, oil and eggs; beat until smooth. Add water and beat until well blended. Stir in pumpkin, ginger, allspice cinnamon, and clove.
  3. In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend just until all ingredients are mixed. Divide batter between prepared pans.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour.

For more details, click here.

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How Heating Zone Control Can Save You Money: A Tip from Homestead

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

The costs of heating your Homestead home have risen dramatically over the past couple of decades, thanks to higher energy costs and price increases for heating equipment. Despite the strides made in energy efficiency, there seems to be no end in sight for the steady rise in heating equipment operating costs.

Now add in the cost of heating unoccupied areas of your home, such as basements, hallways, or extra bedrooms, and the energy costs go even higher. Most of these costs are unnecessary and avoidable if you have the time and a small investment in a well-planned heating “strategy” for your home. This strategy involves using heating zone controls to make the most efficient use of your heating system.

In a nutshell, here is how heating zone control works. The rooms in your home are connected to your heating system by a series of ductwork, which carries heated and conditioned area to all corners. But some of these areas may not need to be heated as much – or possibly at all – compared to other rooms in your home. For example, do you need heat in your kitchen but not in your basement? Most people would answer yes. Or they may say they need more heat in the kitchen and some, but not very much heat in the basement.

Or try this: do most people in your house spend more time in one room, such as the family room, and less time in their bedrooms? If so, why would it be necessary to heat the bedrooms all of the time? In order to deliver heat to areas in your home that need it the most, the ductwork to these rooms should always be “open.” Ductwork to other unused areas of your home can be “closed” during various times of the day.

Opening and closing of ductwork and airflow is achieved by zone controls. A zone control is installed in the home which electronically or wirelessly opens and closes “dampers” in the ductwork, depending on the heating demand. You can divert heat to areas of your home using zone control and dampers while decreasing the heating load on your furnace. This type of heating zone control will move heated air to where you want it. Simply put, you are not heating areas of your home that don’t need the heat.

The heating zone controls can be programmed for various times of the day, too. For example, you may not need any heat in your basement while you sleep or when you are away from home. You can program the damper in your basement’s ductwork to remain closed or partially open during these times. In a sense, the heating zone control in your home acts like a programmable thermostat – only it uses a series of dampers to control indoor temperatures.

The next time you walk into an unused part of your home, think about how much money you are spending to heat it. It makes sense to consider heating zone controls. The initial costs of installing zone controls and dampers are minimal and the payback in energy savings and comfort are substantial.

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