Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Posts Tagged ‘North Hills’

What is an Aquastat?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Furnaces have been around for a very long time, and have been one of the most popular heating systems available for most of that time. This has led homeowners to gain at least a little bit of basic knowledge about the various parts of the furnace and their roles. Hydronic systems, however, are only recently becoming popular among homeowners. This means that much of their inner workings are not common knowledge quite yet. In an effort to educate homeowners about some of the ways in which hydronic systems operate, let’s examine the aquastat.

The Aquastat

An aquastat is a device installed in hydronic water systems for the purpose of controlling temperature within the boiler. An aquastat is similar to the furnace limit switch in operation, maintaining a safe operating temperature for the central heating unit. There are two settings in every aquastat, a high setting and a low setting.

Despite the name, most boilers are not actually meant to boil water. Doing so would result in steam, and a dangerous buildup of pressure in a system that is not designed for it. For this reason, the aquastat shuts off the boiler when it reaches the high temperature limit. This keeps the water hot, but below boiling temperature.

The low temperature limit is meant to keep the water supply temperature from dropping too low. When the boiler shuts off after reaching the high limit, the system will continue to circulate water for as long as the thermostat is asking for heat. Eventually, however, the water will begin to cool. When the water temperature reaches the low limit, the aquastat starts the boiler up again to raise the water temperature.

These two limits allow the aquastat to keep a tight control over the water temperature in the system, making sure that it is neither too hot nor too cold. Without the aquastat, the boiler would run the risk of overheating or not heating enough to meet the home’s needs.

If you’d like to know more about the aquastat, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling. We offer professional boiler installation service in the North Hills area.

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What Does Our Home Energy Solutions Involve?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Think of your house as a large energy system, where each smaller system—such as the heater, air conditioner, ventilation, lighting, insulation, washer, dryer, refrigeration—form individual components.

Now…how efficient a system is your house? Is it losing excess energy and costing you money? What repairs can be done to this system to increase its energy efficiency?

Answering these three questions is the purpose of a home energy audit. At Boehmer Heating & Cooling we provide home energy solutions that evaluate energy efficiency and locate where homeowners can improve them to save money and better protect their health and the quality of their homes. Contact our team today to find out more about our home energy solutions and arrange for an energy audit in North Hills, PA.

What Actually Happens During an Energy Audit

An audit will not take up too much of your time or disrupt regular routines; the auditors will usually complete the job in approximately two hours.

After the auditors arrive at your home, they run a series of tests to find places where your home is losing energy. One of the key tests is to use a blower door, which fits over the aperture of your front door, to lower the pressure inside the house. This will cause outside air to infiltrate the home through any available air leaks, and the auditors can locate these spots using smoke pencils. This will show where your home has insufficient insulation and places that will create drafts in cold weather and permit heat to enter during hot weather.

The auditors will perform an infrared scan that will pinpoint spaces within your house, such as leaks in ductwork, that waste energy. The scan will also pick up moisture issues that could be causing damage to building material and raising indoor humidity.

A large part of the audit consists of the technicians doing visual checks on all the important household systems, such as looking over attic insulation, the air conditioner, furnace/boiler, hot water heater, and large appliances like refrigerators and washing machine.

A check over your utility bills will spot places where you can maximize your energy use, as well as identify where poorly operating equipment is causing an unnecessary rise in costs.

The end result of the audit is a report that details what the auditors have discovered, and what steps you can take to reduce the energy waste and consumption in your home, as well as anything that can improve indoor air quality or prevent damage from moisture. You make the choices about which improvements you want.

At Boehmer Heating & Cooling, we offer a comprehensive four-step home energy audit that will move you through the testing stage through the improvements that will help you live more economically and comfortably. Call our certified auditors today and schedule your energy audit in North Hills, PA.

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What to Consider Before a Boiler Installation in Pittsburgh

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Boilers are a terrific heating system for your home in Pittsburgh and are one of the most popular heating systems in the United States. They offer reliable and comfortable heat for your home. When you start to think about getting a boiler installed there are a number of important considerations to take into account. At Boehmer Heating & Cooling we’ve installed countless boiler systems. We thought that it would be helpful if we put together a list of some of the most common considerations before you have a new boiler installed in your home.

Boiler Efficiency Rating

One of the most important considerations is the efficiency of your new boiler. Difference heating systems receive different efficiency ratings. Boilers are given an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. This rating describes the percentage of fuel that is actually converted into usable heat. For example, some older boilers and furnaces have an AFUE rating of 60%. This means that 60% of the fuel consumed is turned into heat while the other 40% is wasted. Newer systems can have an AFUE rating of 95% and higher. Obviously, you want to get the most efficient system possible. Normally, the efficiency rating is noted on the side of the unit.

Fuel Type

Depending on your home and where you live, you may want to think about the type of fuel that your boiler will use. If you have a natural gas line coming into your, perhaps for a water heater, you can have it piped to your boiler as well. But if you don’t have a gas line, it would probably make more sense to install one that uses oil.

Size of the Boiler

The physical size of the boiler is another thing you should think about before you have it installed. You want to make sure that you have the physical space for the new unit.

Installation

The final thing to think about is who you want to install your new boiler. You should always have a professional heating contractor come to your home to finish the installation. Improper installation is one of the most common sources of problems for our customers in the Pittsburgh area. You want your heating system to start off on the right foot.

If you have any questions about our boiler installation services in Pittsburgh, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling a call. We have experience working with all types and brands of boilers. Contact us 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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Pittsburgh Heating Replacement Tip: Replace vs Repair

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

We all dread an expensive repair in Pittsburgh, whether it is a car that needs a new transmission, a leaky roof that needs new shingles, or electrical wiring that has been chewed up by a wild animal. We often try and put bandages on things that we know should be replaced but we just can’t afford to replace them.

The same can be said about your home’s heating system. When your heat goes out or your home just doesn’t seem to be heating up to the setting on your thermostat, your first inclination is to check and see if it is running. Some people will put their hand over a heating vent to check for hot air while others may go into the basement or mechanical room to listen to hear if the furnace is running. Maybe there is a blockage in the ventilation system or a blown circuit breaker, two relatively easy fixes.

If the furnace isn’t working after checking the obvious symptoms, your next move is to call for service. Any qualified heating professional would be able to diagnose your problem and offer suggested repairs. Something relatively minor like a bad circuit board or blown fan motor are not real expensive repairs and are the best option versus replacing the furnace. And you may keep experiencing the same problem and getting the same repair work done – anything to avoid an expensive replacement.

But at some point the vicious cycle will come to an end. Your repair bills will begin to inch their way past the cost of replacing the furnace. You can only bandage a problem so long before it becomes “unfixable.” You may not want to pay an expensive replacement bill but consider the alternatives.

First is the obvious – it costs too much to keep repairing the furnace. Secondly, you never know when the furnace may break down and its failure to operate could have dangerous effects on the people in your home, especially if someone is sick. Third, your furnace may not be able to keep up with the heating demand due to lifestyle changes, i.e. an addition put on the house, carpeting removed and wood floors exposed, a new window, door, or skylight added, etc. Your old furnace may not have been designed to keep up with these changes and the repairs are only delaying the inevitable.

Ask yourself if everyone in your Pittsburgh home is comfortable during cold weather. If most answer no, it may be time to consider replacing that old furnace with a new, energy efficient model that uses today’s technology – and leaves a smaller carbon footprint – to keep up with the demand for heat, in any sized building or home. Your decision to replace your old heating system could be as simple as the need to use modern technology to solve your indoor comfort problems.

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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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North Hills Heating Tip: Geothermal Myths

Monday, December 19th, 2011

As with any misunderstood technology, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions concerning geothermal heat pumps and how well they work in North Hills. While these types of systems certainly have their limitations, the same is true of just about any type of heating and cooling system you could have installed in your home. But if you are really trying to evaluate whether or not a geothermal heating system is right for your home, you need to know exactly what is true about these systems and what is just not true.

For instance, there is a widely held belief that geothermal energy is not a viable heating option in areas with harsh winters. The fact is, though, that even when the air temperature outside is below freezing, the temperature several feet below ground can be as high as 55°F.

With a ground temperature like that, a geothermal heat pump will have no trouble extracting enough heat to keep your home comfortable even when it is well below freezing outside. And even when the ground freezes, the frost usually only extends three or four feet below the surface. Since the pipes for your geothermal heat pump will be at least four feet down, the frost should not affect them at all.

Also, it is common for people to assume that geothermal heat pumps will always need to have a regular heating system in place to serve as a backup. In fact, a geothermal heat pump is quite capable of providing consistent and adequate heating for your entire house as long as it is properly sized and installed. Make sure you are dealing with an experienced and qualified contractor and you will have no problems along these lines.

There are also plenty of myths floating around out there that geothermal heat pumps are just too expensive to make sense as a home heating solution. The truth is that geothermal heating costs almost nothing to operate.

While it is true the geothermal systems are quite a bit more expensive to install than many of the other options, alternative heating systems will still cost a significant amount to install and you will also have to pay much more to operate them on a regular basis. With a geothermal heating system, you pay quite a bit up front, but it is a one-time cost and there will be minimal monthly heating bills after that.

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How to Make Your Heating System More Effective in South Hills

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Everyone in South Hills wants an effective heating system – one that will provide steady, reliable heat without you having to spend hundreds of dollars each month on gas, oil or electricity. And while the best way to improve the efficiency of your heating system in most cases is to upgrade it, there are some simple things you can do around the house to boost its effectiveness. Here are some of the best:

  • Rearrange Furniture – Just having the heat on doesn’t necessarily ensure the heat entering your room is being distributed evenly. Move your furniture in such a way that there is a clear, unimpeded path from the registers and radiators to the rest of the room. Done properly, this will make it much easier to and faster to heat every room of your house.
  • Maximize Air Flow – Air flow can be maximized in a number of ways. Make sure you close any windows near a register or radiator and that you remove any large objects that might block air flow. You should also install things that can help move air like fans and always call someone in for changes to the arrangement of your vents or radiators.
  • Clean Registers or Radiators – The cleaner your radiators or dust registers are, the more efficiently they release their heat. Not only have that, but clean radiators and registers resulted in better indoor air quality. Weekly cleaning of each room’s heating source is highly recommended.
  • Install Ceiling Fans – Ceiling fans switched to blow down are incredibly effective for distributing air throughout the room. This will keep push warm air down and keeps cold air up – in effect, reducing the need for constant running of your furnace or boiler.

Effective heating is important to keep your home comfortable, reduce the cost of heating and prolong the lifespan of your furnace or boiler. You should also make sure your heating system is properly maintained throughout the year. Skipping maintenance visits (which are highly recommended annually) will put unnecessary stress on your system and shorten its lifespan substantially, not to mention the decrease in efficiency when heating your home.

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Possible Causes of Poor Boiler Heating Performance: Some Pointers from Brentwood

Friday, November 11th, 2011

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a mechanical engineer to troubleshoot – and possibly diagnose – the problems with your boiler when its heating performance is erratic or non-existent in your Brentwood home.

The good thing about boilers is that they are typically reliable and long-lasting. There aren’t a lot of working parts that can break down and cause problems, compared to other home heating equipment. When problems do arise, they are usually related to the expansion tank or circulating pumps. But a problem can be much simpler – like a tripped circuit breaker.

The most common problems can be noise, no heat, or poor/erratic heating. Before calling a qualified heating and cooling professional, take a moment to see if you can figure out the what’s wrong.

If you have a noisy boiler it might be because of two things – a faulty circulating pump or water trapped in the return lines. If the pump breaks it will make a loud noise when its motor runs. Water can be trapped in the return lines, which may require “re-pitching” the lines to allow for a flow back to the boiler. You may be able to adjust the flow by positioning hangers on the piping but replacing a pump is better left to a professional.

If your boiler is producing no heat, it could be because of something as simple as a circuit breaker being tripped or a fuse being blown. Check your circuit breakers and fuse and reset or replace if necessary. Is your boiler thermostat in the heat mode? It should be but if it isn’t, make the switch. If your boiler has a standing pilot you should check to see if it is lit and if not, re-light it.

Other problems would take a professional to fix. For example, no heat can be traced to low water levels in the boiler. The boiler should always be half-full of water and if it isn’t, it is likely because of leaks or a faulty pressure reducing valve. Don’t try and fix the problem by yourself.

Low water levels may not cause the boiler to lose its heating capabilities, but may cause fluctuations in its heating capacity. Again, it is advisable to call a professional to diagnose and fix the problem. Poor heating can also be traced to mineral deposits in the boiler. Consult your owner’s manual on instructions how to flush out the boiler.

As always, read the owner guide or operating manual for your boiler. You should get some good tips on proper maintenance and troubleshooting. And have the phone number of a qualified professional taped to your boiler – just in case.

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