Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Gibsonia’

Pittsburgh HVAC Guide: How to Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

Monday, May 21st, 2012

When we think of air pollution we often think of outdoor “smog”, but the air in your home or office may also be polluted, even if it looks clean. Sources of indoor pollution include

  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Household cleaners
  • Household décor and furnishings (like rugs and paint)
  • Household pesticides (like rodent or ant-killers, or plant sprays)
  • Radon
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Building materials (like asbestos and lead)

Indoor air quality is of particular concern in newer, better-insulated homes, or in older homes that have been recently weatherized. The “tightness” of modern houses means that any pollutants that get into the home stay there – and perhaps even increase in concentration over time if the source of the pollution is inside the house.

Indoor air quality problems can cause discomfort and even serious disease, especially in children. The good news, though, is that there are many effective ways to improve indoor air quality in your Pittsburgh home.

There are three basic strategies for improving indoor air quality:

  • Air purification. Air cleaners range from small tabletop models to full-house models that are part of the central heating and cooling system. Small air purifiers are typically not very useful, but central air filters can be very effective at removing airborne contaminants. If your heating and cooling system does not include central air filtration, you should consider an upgrade to a new system.
    • It is important to note that air purification will not remove gases like carbon monoxide or radon from your home. Gas pollution must be remedied by professionals.
  • Ventilation. Many forced-air heating and cooling systems do not bring outdoor air into the home. Kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans and attic ventilation fans (when weather permits) can be very important in promoting the circulation of air. Also, opening windows is very important, especially when doing short-term activities such as painting that increase the number of pollutants in the air.
    • You should also consider upgrading to one of the newer central heating and cooling systems that bring outdoor air into the home.
  • Source control. This is the most important indoor air quality strategy, and in many cases, the simplest one. Source control is definitely the most cost-effective strategy for improving indoor air quality, because purification and ventilation both require a constant use of energy.
    • Switch to all-natural household cleaners, buy household furnishings made of natural fibers (instead of synthetic fibers that can “off-gas” volatile organic compounds). When painting, use VOC-free paint. Quit smoking, if you haven’t already.
  • And, don’t forget to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home, ideally next to the sleeping areas.
For more information about how to improve your indoor air quality in Pittsburgh, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling!

 

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O’Hara Heating Repair Question: What Causes Cracks in a Heat Exchanger?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Furnaces are designed so that the heat – and the combustion byproduct produced inside – doesn’t interact directly with the outside air. This design is to ensure you have a safer furnace in your O’Hara home that won’t inadvertently affect your family’s health.

The metal piece that separates the furnace heat from the outside air stream is called the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger performs a very important function, and if it is broken or cracked, it can’t work properly.

A cracked heat exchanger is very common problem with heating systems, as well as one that should be repaired as soon as possible. But what causes a heat exchanger to crack? Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • A long period of normal use. A furnace heat exchanger naturally expands and contracts with the heat of the furnace, over and over again as the furnace is turned off and on to heat the home. Over several years, this stress can crack the metal.
  • Poor air flow, often caused by dirty or obstructed vents, can result in poor air flow through the furnace. This overworks the furnace, which can crack the heat exchanger prematurely.
  • Poor, incomplete or improper combustion can also cause a heat exchanger to crack. When the combustion process is less efficient – which can also be a result of poor air flow — your furnace’s burners have to run hotter and longer to heat your home, which means extra stress on the heat exchanger.

Essentially, if a furnace is running at less than optimal efficiency for an extended period of time, the heat exchanger is put under additional stress beyond the usual and can crack prematurely. Therefore, the best way to prevent a cracked heat exchanger is proper maintenance, particularly keeping all vents clean and unobstructed and getting an annual maintenance inspection.

If your heat exchanger does crack, do not hesitate to call an O’Hara professional and get it repaired. The crack can allow potentially dangerous combustion gases to seep into your home, which can have a negative impact on your family’s health.

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Gibsonia HVAC Tip: Seasonal Air Quality Control

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

For people who suffer from seasonal allergies in Gibsonia, air quality is a key concern. Allergens in the air cause brutal bouts of sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and even sinus headaches. Even taking refuge indoors will often not assuage these symptoms, as indoor air is often comparable to outdoor air in terms of allergens and overall quality.

That is, unless you take care to control the seasonal air quality in your home, which can not only help ease the suffering of allergies, but also soothe asthmatics, keep out pollutants and generally promote better overall health.

How do you go about controlling the air quality in your home? To start, try these 9 tips:

  1. Vacuum carpets regularly. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and invest in some allergen suppressing bags.
  2. Keep your vents clean. This is also a good maintenance practice to lengthen the life of your ventilation equipment.
  3. Dust hard surfaces and wash bed linens weekly.
  4. Install HEPA filters in your ventilation system, such as in air conditioners or other air handler units. Use a higher rated filter to keep out more allergens and pollutants.
  5. Invest in and use an air purifier. Again, make sure to get one with a HEPA filter.
  6. Have your home tested for radon and carbon monoxide. Have smoke, carbon monoxide and radon detectors working properly at all times.
  7. Use a humidifier to keep overly dry air from irritating sinus passages.
  8. Keep doors and windows closed tight, especially during allergy season(s).
  9. Prohibit smoking inside. Banish smokers to the outdoors.

By taking charge of the air quality in your Gibsonia home, you also take control of a measure of your family’s health. Some of these measures require at least a bit of an investment – for example, higher rated HEPA air filters are often more expensive and need to be changed more frequently – but the benefits to your well being and that of your family are clearly well worth it.

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Gibsonia Heating Tip: Signs of an Undersized Furnace

Friday, January 6th, 2012

If you’re purchasing a new furnace for your Gibsonia home, you want to avoid buying one that is undersized for your particular space. To do that, here are some common signs that the furnace isn’t powerful enough for the heating needs of your home. These signs might appear for an older furnace as well, especially as it ages and loses its ability to provide adequate heat for your home.

Maintaining Temperature

The most common (and in many cases only) sign that your furnace is undersized is that the device simply doesn’t maintain the temperature in your home properly. This means that when turned on to full and left for a few hours, your furnace doesn’t heat your home to the thermostat setting.

This can be due to an improper load calculation or a load calculation that wasn’t taken at all. The perfectly sized furnace will heat your home evenly on the coldest day your area is likely to have. So, undersizing should be pretty evident – if it doesn’t heat your home evenly and it’s not exceptionally cold outside, you might not have enough BTUs under the hood.

How to Fix the Problem

The problem is one that varies depending on the severity of the undersizing. Modern furnaces are often available with two stages, meaning they can operate at both a low BTU rating (often around 40K or so) and a higher BTU rating (70K or higher). This is the perfect solution for homeowners worried about undersizing because it ensures that your home always has enough heat in reserve should the weather get exceptionally cold.

For example, most furnaces are sized for extremely low temperatures, but if the temperature jumps up to 50 degrees F outside, your furnace is now oversized for that weather. A two stage furnace offers solutions for both common conditions and extreme conditions and will resolve most of the concern you have about undersizing and not having enough heat to offset outdoor temperatures.

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A Question from Fox Chapel: What Does a Furnace Fan Limit Switch Do?

Monday, December 26th, 2011

When researching your Fox Chapel home’s furnace and potential problems it might have, you’ve probably run across a few references to the fan limit switch. And while you know that it can break in a number of ways, do you know what the switch does and what you should look for when checking your furnace its air handler for problems?

What the Limit Switch Does

To put it very simply, the furnace fan limit switch is a control that tells your furnace’s fan when to turn on and off. So, when the furnace isn’t on, it tells the blower not to operate (and send cold air into your home) and when the furnace is on, it tells the blower to turn on and start circulating the warm air.

While the primary function of the limit switch is to turn the blower fan on and off, it also has a safety role. When the temperature in the air supply plenum gets too hot, the limit switch turns off the furnace boiler to keep there from being any damage from overheating. This is handy if there is a blockage in the air vents or the controls are messed up due to water damage or improper adjustments to the settings.

Looking for Problems

Most of the time, when there is an issue with your furnace turning off or on frequently, the limit switch is one of the first things you will check. Because the switch is electronic and is attached to a thermostat which measures temperature in the air supply plenum, a small problem can result in it not working properly. So, you can easily check it by temporarily bypassing the switch and seeing if your device turns on or off properly.

In many cases, if the limit switch is the problem, you will still need to call a professional for replacement, but you can avoid a lot of headaches related to tracking down the source of the problem. If you suspect a limit switch problem, make sure to call someone immediately, because it does provide an important safety function and because without it your furnace won’t cycle on and off properly.

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How Often Should I Have My Geothermal System Checked? A Tip from Pittsburgh

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

The beauty of a geothermal system is that is requires very little maintenance from  your Pittsburgh contractor. They have fewer mechanical components are than other heating systems – and most of these components are underground or inside, shielded from the outdoor elements. The underground tubing usually is guaranteed to last 25-50 years and inside components are easily accessible for servicing.

Nonetheless, keeping a geothermal system working at peak efficiency is very important. If the geothermal system loses some of its efficiency, it will cost home and building owners money in energy costs, which makes little sense since geothermal system installation costs are higher than most other heating systems.

Its key component is the ground loop system, polyethelene tubing which carries refrigerant from below the Earth’s surface and back to an above-ground compressor. When installed correctly, the buried ground loop can last for decades. A leak in the metal tubing is usually the only problem if the ground loop is not installed correctly. In the case of a leak, it may be necessary to dig up the tubing – often installed at least ten feet below the surface – and repair the leak.

Other geothermal system components include its air handling unit, compressor, and pump. These components require periodic system checks by qualified professional heating and cooling technicians. Maintenance normally requires filter changes and component lubrication, to name the most common. In some cases, building owners can perform their own filter replacement and refill of lubricants. However, it is recommended that an experienced technician perform a multiple-point inspection of the geothermal system components, usually during regularly scheduled service calls.

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Furnace Safety: Some Pointers from Gibsonia

Friday, November 4th, 2011

There are many advantages to a properly operating furnace in your Gibsonia home. The most important are the safety and comfort of a home’s occupants and the cost of running the furnace. There are several things you can do to ensure the safe operation of your furnace.

Here is a checklist of ideas:

  • Clean or change furnace filters on a regular basis. Replace disposable filters and clean permanent filters using water or cleaning solutions. Your owner’s manual or a qualified heating contractor can suggest a regular maintenance schedule.
  • Check the exhaust vent from the furnace. Clear obstructions such as leaves, clothing, or animal nests from the vent pipe or chimney. Keep roof exhaust vents clear of snow. If there is a faulty exhaust system (like a blocked flue), of if there are cracks and leaks in the pipes or improper adjustment of the burner, or if there is lower air pressure indoors than outside, the furnace can create serious indoor air pollution.
  • A clear air intake is important too, since furnaces need fresh air to “breath” and complete the fuel burning cycle. Again, check for debris, snow, or animal nests in intake pipes.
  • If you have an older gas furnace, you may want to install a supplementary induced-draft fan that reduces the possibility of backdrafting. Some furnaces have automatic shutoff devices that turn off the furnace if it begins to backdraft.
  • Check internal components such as the blower motor and vacuum any dirt. Check belts and pulleys for excessive wear. You should consult your owner’s manual for any suggested maintenance tips on internal working components.
  • You may also want to check the pilot light to see if it is working and if it producing an even, blue flame. If the flame is uneven, it may be a sign of incomplete gas combustion, which can result in the creation of dangerous carbon monoxide gas.
  • Ensure that your thermostat is operating correctly by raising or lowering the temperature settings to make sure the furnace cycles on and off.
  • Install and maintain battery or hard-wired smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Externally vented natural gas furnaces, when properly designed and installed, will operate safely for years. But if you detect a problem, use the most common solution – contact a qualified heating professional to check out your furnace.

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Staying Safe with Clean Indoor Air in Gibsonia

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Millions of homeowners are living in polluted air and don’t even know it, and some of them are even in Gibsonia. In fact, the quality of air inside homes is a significant factor influencing the health and wellbeing of millions annually. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.6 million people die every year as a result of poor indoor air quality. That makes it the 8th most common risk factor for death in the world and a huge contributor to cancers and other respiratory health problems.

So why is indoor air quality such an issue? Consider for a moment what a home does. At its core, a home is designed to keep you and your family protected from outside threats. It does that with solid walls, tightly sealed windows and a well-built roof over your heads. But the same technology that has made homes better sealed than ever also contributes to safety and health problems for residents of those homes by trapping air pollutants inside.

What’s at Stake?

The most common indoor air pollutants are mere irritants. Things like pollen, dust and dander are uncomfortable but don’t necessarily make anyone deathly ill. However, when a home is sealed up too tightly and the air isn’t filtered and cleaned regularly, the result can be downright dangerous to the occupants. Those seemingly innocuous pollutants suddenly make up a much larger percentage of the air inside.

In some cases, according to the WHO, the amount of smoke and other particles inside the home can be up to 100 times higher than what is considered safe outside. Now consider the other pollutants that can be inside the house. If pollen and dander cannot get out, what about exhaust from your stove, radon gas in your basement or mold spores in your ductwork.

You’re breathing all of it and the result is a significant increase in health risks for diseases like pneumonia, respiratory disease, and asthma – all of which are highly dangerous to anyone, but especially children and the elderly.

Solutions Abound

Luckily, this is not a problem you must deal with indefinitely. Modern HVAC systems integrate advanced ventilation technology, air filtration and air cleaning systems to remove the vast majority of these pollutants. But, first, you need to have them installed. It’s just a matter of finding the right contractor.

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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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Save with Maintenance on HVAC

Monday, July 18th, 2011

You can never save too much money by making improvements and taking steps around the house. Of course, it is hard sometimes to see exactly where the money saving opportunities are. That’s because you expect to spend a certain amount on various types of services when you own a home. You know you are always going to have heating and cooling bills, for instance. But are they higher than they need to be?

For many people, the answer to that question is “yes.” And it is not because they use their home heating and cooling systems inappropriately or because they have the wrong equipment. It is simply because they neglect to get their HVAC systems the regular care and maintenance that would keep them running at peak effectiveness and energy efficiency.

When your HVAC system is new, it runs well and can be remarkably energy efficient. However, over time that energy efficiency will gradually deteriorate. This drop off in efficiency is often not obvious at first, but if you compare your energy bills from the year you got your system to bills for the same time of year and same usage five years later, you will probably notice that the bill has gone up quite a bit, and not just because energy prices have gone up.

You can do a lot to prevent this loss of energy efficiency, though, if you simply have a professional HVAC technician come out once a year and give your system a tune up. During this type of maintenance service, the technician will check over your entire system looking for worn out parts and buildup that could be interfering with your system’s performance.

They can clean out any areas of your HVAC equipment that require it and they will be able to make any necessary repairs at that time. Often, a technician performing this type of maintenance will be able to catch minor issues before they are able to develop into bigger problems. And while you still have to pay for the maintenance visit, the cost is much less than what you would pay for an emergency repair.

It also represents a substantial savings over what you would be paying on your energy bills every month without it. Regular HVAC maintenance can preserve the vast majority of your system’s energy efficiency loss over time, and it is never too late to start. Even if it has been several years since you had your system installed, you will still be able to get back the vast majority of your original energy efficiency by starting with regular maintenance now.

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