Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Homestead’

Pittsburg Air Conditioning Tip: How to Fix Wrong Sized Air Filters in HVAC Systems

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

If you moved into a new home or had someone change the filters on your Pittsburg heating or air conditioning system for you, you may notice that whoever did the job put on the wrong size filter. This is not uncommon and is usually the result of an effort to save either time or money. However, in the long run it actually costs both. Here is how you can fix the problem of a wrong size filter.

The WRONG Way

If you have a filter that is too big for your system, it may seem like an easy enough fix– just fold it over or trim it down, right? Not so fast. 

Folding the filter over makes for an imperfect seal. Air will leak through and around the bend, bypassing the filter entirely. This causes dirt and debris to build up on the fan, slows down air flow, degrades performance, decreases air quality and overall makes a big mess that you will have to pay to fix or clean up later.

Bending or cutting the filter also decreases its structural integrity. The whole filter can collapse while installed, creating not just a performance issue and a potentially costly repair, but also possibly creating unsafe conditions.

Furthermore, don’t give into the temptation to run your Pittsburg HVAC system without a filter for the time being. The debris will quickly build up in your AC system, as well as being blown into your home. Heating and cooling systems should always be operated with the proper filter installed.

The RIGHT Way

So, what do you do when you have an air filter that is the wrong size? The only solution is to find the right size. If you are having trouble finding the right air filter for your system, try these tips:

  • Refer to your owner’s manual for the filter model number.
  • Have a Pittsburg air conditioning professional inspect your system and replace the filter. (You should have a professional inspection once a year, anyway.)
  • For HVAC systems that are large or have special dimensions, special order custom filters to fit.

Above all, never operate your HVAC system without a clean, correctly sized filter properly installed. Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling today if you need any help with your HVAC system!

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Pittsburgh Heating Quesiton: What Are Flue Gas Spill Switches?

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

While some components of their Pittsburgh heating system make sense to the average homeowner – think blower fan, thermostat and air ducts – others are more esoteric and prone to bouts of head scratching.

So, you may find yourself asking “what the heck is a flue gas spill switch?”

As you know, gas heating appliances produce heat by means of combustion. The gas line feeds gas into the appliance, the gas is ignited, and the burning gas produces heat. It’s a simple concept that goes all the way back to our caveman ancestors building fires to keep warm, and it is the same process in gas furnaces, boilers and water heaters.

In addition to producing the cozy heat we love in the winter time, this combustion process also releases gases. Known collectively as “flue gases,” some of these – carbon monoxide being the most notorious – can be very toxic. This why we have flues or chimneys in our homes– to give these gases a means of egress.

A flue gas spill switch is designed to shut down the furnace if these gases start seeping out. It is made up of a sensor or series of sensors that detect heat outside the flue, not unlike the flame sensor in your furnace. If flue gases start to escape and pass by the sensor, the sensor heats up and signals the furnace to shut down. This cuts off the power and gas, so that no more flue gases can leak into the home and create a health concern.

If your Pittsburgh furnace has been abruptly shutting down, it could be your flue gas spill switch trying to tell you that you have a leaky or cracked flue. If this is the case, you want to have it repaired right away. The constant off and on is not good for the furnace, and more importantly, those flue gases can be exceptionally hazardous to your family’s health.

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Allison Park-Hampton Geothermal Installation Question: How is Geothermal Different than Other Heating Systems?

Monday, February 6th, 2012

There are many methods to heating a building in Allison Park-Hampton. Early methods included burning coal and wood. Today, sophisticated building controls call for more efficient means of heat – and a method gaining in popularity is geothermal heating.

Many use air handling units to deliver heat – and that method has remained constant over the years. But air handling units are only designed to move air from one space to another. How that air is heated from the source is what differentiates geothermal from other energy sources.

To understand some of the differences, let’s look at the definition of geothermal heat. By definition, geothermal heating comes from its direct use of geothermal energy, which comes from below the Earth’s surface. And the Earth is known as the greatest conductor of heat. The constant, renewable temperature of the Earth (56-58 degrees on average below 10 feet) provides a heat source requiring no energy conversion, which adds to heating efficiency and ultimately, the cost to heat a building.

In order to heat a building, natural heat from the ground absorbs a colder refrigerant, which is circulated throughout the ground by a series of polyethelene tubing, which is generally positioned five to ten feet below the surface. This heat is transported via the refrigerant to a compressor inside a heat pump, where it is compressed and the lower temperatures are transformed from around 50 degrees to temperatures much higher, as high as 100 degrees of more. This hotter refrigerant is circulated through the tubing within an air handling unit, where colder return interior air absorbs the heat. The heated air is then carried to a building’s interior via fans. The refrigerant, with the heat removed, now becomes colder as is re-circulated into the ground to absorb the natural, renewable heat. In essence, the ground provides free heat.

Other methods of heating include forced air natural gas, oil, solar, propane, electric, radiant, and steam. Each heat source requires mechanical means to heat up the supply air. For example, natural gas – which is used to heat about half of all U.S. homes – is heated via a heat exchanger in a mechanical furnace, which runs on electricity. Radiant or steam heat is generated by mechanically raising the temperature of water or refrigerant via electricity. These methods differ from geothermal because the natural heat of the Earth provides the means for raising the temperature of the refrigerant used to transport heat to the air handling unit.

One drawback to using geothermal heat compared to other energy sources is the cost to bring this natural heating method into a building. The initial installation of a geothermal heating system is much higher than conventional natural gas heating – for example – because of the cost to install the tubing called a ground loop beneath the Earth’s surface. No other heat source, other than radiant heat, requires a series of tubing to deliver heat. But then again, radiant heat does not require a ductwork system to transport heated air or remove colder air. Geothermal requires a series of metals tubes to heat the refrigerant and the ductwork to move the heated air throughout the building.

On the flip side, its energy efficiency – using the Earth’s natural heat – is much greater than other heating sources resulting in lower utility costs, often fractions of the cost to use other heat sources. Energy savings could pay for the cost of installing the geothermal system over several years – another characteristic of geothermal heating.

 

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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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Benefits of Replacing Your Furnace in Baldwin-Whitehall

Monday, November 28th, 2011

You are about to make one of the largest purchases in your life – a new furnace for your Baldwin-Whitehall home. Maybe your old furnace is on life support and needs immediate replacement or you are looking for a better, more efficient furnace that will raise the comfort level of your home while reducing utility bills and carbon emissions.

If the furnace in your basement, crawl space, or attic is 15-20 years old, it may be a single-stage 80% percent efficient model, which doesn’t meet the higher efficiency standards of today’s models. It uses more energy, i.e. gas, oil, or electricity, to operate. And a single-stage furnace does not always provide even heating to all rooms in the home, based on the varying winter weather conditions. There may be large temperature variations from room to room.

Your new furnace will likely be more efficient and environmentally friendly than the one it is replacing – which are the two biggest benefits to replacing an old furnace. So, let’s take a closer look at these benefits, which link energy efficiency to the latest technology – namely two-stage furnaces and variable speed motors.

Two-stage furnaces start out by running in a first stage, which uses less than 70% of its capacity. This stage works well on moderate winter days. On colder days, the furnace will meet your extra heating demand by adjusting to the second stage in the heating cycle. Since the furnace spends most of its time operating in its lower capacity (first or single stage), it burns less fuel than a traditional furnace that always runs at full capacity and then shuts off when heating demand is met. You will see lower utility bills and a shorter payback period on your new furnace investment.

Variable-speed motors can actually save you money on your energy bill as they consume less electricity than standard motors. Variable speed furnaces save you money by having a higher SEER rating. SEER is the abbreviation for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. The higher the SEER, the more energy efficient the unit. The low operating costs of a variable speed furnace can allow you to run your furnace blower. With the low operating costs of the variable-speed furnace you can constantly run your blower without the worry of driving up your utility bill, allowing for continuously filtered air.

And when you shop for a new furnace, look for add-on equipment such as electronic air filters, humidifers, and programmable thermostats. Each will raise the comfort level you will be enjoying from your new furnace.

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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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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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How Do I Find the Right Size Unit for My Room? A Question From Ross

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

When buying an air conditioner in Ross, there are a lot of things you need to take into account. One of the most important is the size and power of the unit you choose. Air conditioners come in many different sizes, so if you really want to get the most out of your purchase, you need to do your research and pick one that fits your home like a glove.

Square Feet and BTUs

The best way to determine how large of an air conditioner you need is to match the number of BTUs the unit has to the square footage of the room you want to use it in. That means you need to know what room you’re buying it for before you make your purchase.

The number of BTUs needed goes up proportionately with the room size, so even if you don’t have exact measurements or if your room is oddly shaped, you can get a good idea of how large an air conditioner you need. For instance, a 400 to 550 square foot room is best served by an air conditioner with between 8,000 and 11,000 BTUs, while a room that’s only 250 square feet would probably be fine with a 6,000 BTU unit.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

One of the most common mistakes people make when buying an air conditioner is to assume that the bigger the unit the better it will work. The truth is that buying an air conditioner that’s too big for your room is just as much of a waste as buying one that’s too small.

A larger air conditioner will cost more, and it will probably make the room too cold. It will also cycle on and off more frequently than a properly sized unit and it won’t be able to properly control the humidity level, leaving you with a cold, damp environment. That’s not very comfortable.

Other Factors

The square footage is definitely the most important piece of data you’ll need before buying a new air conditioner for any room in your house. But don’t forget to take some other factors into account as well. For instance, if the room has particularly high ceilings or receives a lot of direct sunlight, you’ll probably need a slightly more powerful unit than the straight square footage would indicate.

If you’re not sure how certain features of your home will impact your buying decision, call a professional who can help you get a more exact idea of what it will take to stay cool.

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New Thermostats – Are they Worth the Investment?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

When you are trying to save money around the house, a new thermostat is definitely worth looking into. Sure, your old thermostat works fine. But there are a lot of features available on newer models that can help you save money on your heating and cooling costs throughout the year.

And you do not need to wait until it is time to replace your home comfort system to upgrade your thermostat. Most thermostats can work with many different types of heating and cooling systems. So no matter what type of HVAC system you have or how old it is, you should be able to integrate some type of new thermostat into it.

But how can a new thermostat save you money? Well, they simply offer a lot of features that you can use to your advantage. For instance, even the most basic programmable thermostat can let you set different temperatures for different times of day. You can program the thermostat to turn the heat down during the day when no one is home and then you can have the heat switch back on just before you get home.

That way, you can come home to a nice, warm house without having to pay to heat it all day long when it is empty. Many newer thermostats also are more accurate and can provide more pinpoint control of your heating and cooling system. That means that you will not be wasting money because your heating system gets the actual temperature in your house up to 75°F when you only really need it to hit 72°F.

Newer thermostats help you to save money in a variety of ways, and that savings will more than pay for the cost of having a new thermostat installed. That is because thermostats are actually quite cheap and easy to install. A relatively basic programmable thermostat should not run you more than $100, and even if you opt for one of the more advanced systems out there, you will not pay more than a few hundred dollars.

That is a small price to pay considering the increased comfort possible with a state of the art thermostat and the potential for savings every month on your heating or cooling bills. Plus, you likely paid a considerable amount to have that state of the art HVAC system put in. It is worth paying just a bit more so that you can get the most possible out of it.

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What Is the Single Biggest Money-Saver Upgrade You Can Make?

Friday, July 15th, 2011

While it would be great if there was a simple answer to this question, the real right answer depends to a great extent on your own particular situation. There are literally dozens of steps you can take to save on your home heating and cooling costs, and which ones are most appropriate for you will have a lot to do with what you already have, how you use it and where you live.

For instance, if you have a well-insulated house but your HVAC system is more than 10 or 15 years old, investing in a new system will almost certainly save you a ton in the long run. Even if your existing system is working well, the newer systems available are simply so much more energy efficient that having one will cut your monthly bills dramatically.

Plus, you will be replacing your system relatively soon anyway if it is that old, so you might as well start saving now on your heating and cooling costs. However, even the best heating and cooling system on the market will not save you that much money if you do not have a properly insulated and sealed house.

Insulation keeps the warm air in during the winter, and it also keeps colder air from seeping in. In the summer, it works the other way around, keeping in the air you are paying to cool and keeping out the hotter outside air. If you do not have thorough insulation or if it is too old, that temperature controlled air that you are paying for will be leaking out and unwanted outdoor air will be finding its way in. You will pay much more than necessary to keep the indoor temperature comfortable as a result.

If you have both good insulation and an energy efficient HVAC system, your thermostat might be the place to look when you want to try and cut your energy costs. A programmable or wireless thermostat might be just the ticket you need to cut back even more on your energy bills because of the added control it gives you to more precisely regulate the temperature inside your home.

Particularly if you have a large house, you might even consider having a zone control system put in so that you can set different temperatures for different areas of the house. After all, there is no need to be paying to regulate the temperature in a part of the house that is unoccupied.

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