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

Is Rust a Sign That My Boiler Needs Repairs?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Your boiler uses water to heat your home, but it is made to withstand the effects of rust. For rust to develop, there has to be enough oxygen present in the air in addition to the water; boilers are made to be as air-tight as possible, so rust shouldn’t be an issue. If you are seeing rust and corrosion on your boiler, it is time to call a technician as the rust is most likely the result of a problem somewhere in your system.  The trained and certified technicians at Boehmer Heating & Cooling are available around the clock when you’re in need of quality boiler repair service in South Hills, so if you are seeing significant rust on your boiler, call us today.

Sacrificial Anode

Manufacturers of boilers understand that rust development is a potential issue with any boiler. This is why every boiler comes equipped with a component called a sacrificial anode, also called a sacrificial rod. A sacrificial anode is placed at the top of the water tank. It is made from a highly active metal alloy that corrodes faster than the metal of the tank, so it “sacrifices” itself ahead of the tank. But should the anode completely corrode and not be replaced, the rusting process will move on to the tank itself.

Problems Caused by Rust

Rust and corrosion are never good for any whole-home system; here are a few ways it can be problematic for your boiler:

  • Development of leaks – if rust has developed in an area like your water tank, the expansion tank or on piping, water leaks can develop. This will lower the pressure in your system and cause heating problems in addition to potential water damage.
  • Problems with water temperature – rust acts as an insulator. If significant rust develops on your water tank or heat exchanger, the system can overheat. Additionally, the higher temperature can increase the pressure in your system, which can cause problems.

Maintenance Is Great Prevention

One of the best ways to ensure that your boiler isn’t rusting is to schedule annual maintenance. During a maintenance appointment, you system will be thoroughly inspected and the sacrificial anode will be checked and replaced if needed.

Rust is never a good sign on a heating system. If you are seeing excessive rust on your boiler in South Hills, call Boehmer Heating & Cooling today to schedule a service appointment.

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Monroeville HVAC Tip: How Indoor Air Quality Controls Can Help People with Asthma

Monday, July 30th, 2012

If you, your child or anyone else in your family suffers from asthma, you know that it can be brutal. There is evidence to suggest that higher quality air can help keep asthma symptoms in check. While you can’t control air quality everywhere you go, you can be in charge of the quality of the air in your Monroeville home. Take a look at how controlling indoor air quality can help ease the suffering of asthma symptoms.

One study at Johns Hopkins found that indoor air pollution plays a large role in increasing asthma symptoms, especially among children. Without getting too technical, essentially the study explains that there are particles in the air we breathe, including indoors. Aside from the standard mixture of oxygen, carbon dioxide and other gases, air contains these solid and liquid particles, which are essentially pollutants. Common household tasks like dusting and cooking can generate more of these particles.

When these particles get into the respiratory system, they can irritate the lungs, which triggers asthma symptoms. Since children spend about 80% of their time indoors, this is a very big deal.

To help this problem, there are ways to control and improve the quality of air in your Monroeville home. One simple way to do this is to have filters with high minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings in your heating and cooling system. MERV ratings describe how well filters catch particles of certain sizes and keeping them out of the air—and your lungs.

The particles identified in the Hopkins study were as small as 2.5 microns, which would require a filter with a MERV rating of about 12 to catch. Higher MERV ratings mean more efficient filtration, but they need to be replaced more often. If you or child has asthma, it’s worth it.

For severe asthma or allergies, consider even higher-rated filters, like HEPA filters, which sport a MERV of 17 or higher. These will catch nearly all allergens, irritants and other particles that can make you sick. If you are wondering which system will work best in your home, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling a call today!

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Pittsburgh AC Guide: Things to Look for in a New Central Air Conditioning System

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

When it comes time to buy a new air conditioner in Pittsburgh, there are a lot of factors to consider. Beyond the obvious issues like cost, you need to consider how that system will operate once installed. What factors are most important to you? Control? Comfort? Cost? Here are some things to consider when selecting your new air conditioner.

  • SEER – The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating measures the efficiency of your cooling system during a typical hour. To calculate this number, we divide the total BTUs of cooling produced by the watt/hours of electricity consumed during that hour. So, the higher your SEER rating, the less electricity is used to produce the same amount of cooling. Standard SEER ratings are between 11 and 15 these days, but some high end units have SEER ratings of up to 20.
  • Controls – How much control do you want of your system? Many air conditioners these days come with multiple speeds, allowing you to control the air flow as well as the amount of energy consumed by the device in cooling. Do you want it to constantly blow at 100% or would you like it to run at 50% to reduce consumption. Another option available in central air conditioners is zone control, allowing you to determine which rooms receive cooling with separate thermostat settings.
  • Dehumidification – Air conditioners are dehumidifiers by default, but not every system offers the same degree of humidity control. Some simply remove moisture as part of their regular operation. Others have more advanced controls to provide specific humidity control throughout the year.
  • Sound Dampening – Newer models have sound dampening features like insulation and vibration isolation to reduce sound. These are also great for weather protection and help to maintain your system for more years.
  • Refrigerants – Most new air conditioners now use the R410-A refrigerant which will be required in all new units starting in 2020, but there are some lower cost units still using R-22. Check to make sure you have the environmentally friendly coolant offered by newer models.

A good central air conditioner will keep your family cool and comfortable for years to come so make sure to do your research and choose a model that fits your needs in advance. If you’re not sure about any one feature, a  Pittsburgh air conditioning professional can help you make your decision.  Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling today if you need any help choosing a new air conditioning system!

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Pittsburgh Heating Tip: How to Check if Your HVAC System Is the Right Size

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Do you ever feel that your Pittsburgh home just doesn’t get cool enough during the warm months or warm enough during the cold months? You have tried to adjust your thermostat to the right comfort level but it just never seems right. And on top of that, you notice that your utility bills keep going up and up. Even when you dial up the thermostat in the summer and dial it down in the winter to saving on energy usage, your bills are still about the same.

You could try adding fans and shedding clothes during the warm months or wearing sweaters and crawling under a pile of blankets in the cold months. But do you really enjoy living that way? There must be another solution as to why your Pittsburgh heating and cooling (HVAC) system is just not keeping you comfortable – and affordable.

That air conditioning condensing unit sitting in your backyard and the furnace in your basement should be making your home as comfortable as possible. But in many cases, they are not.  That’s because whoever installed those HVAC system components didn’t do their homework on your home. The components were sized incorrectly. If a furnace or air conditioner is sized incorrectly, it usually cannot keep up with the demand for heat or cold and often puts such a burden on the equipment. As a result, regular failures and repair bills are commonplace.

And it may not be the fault of the installing Pittsburgh HVAC contractor. Over the years your home may have undergone renovations including additions and new windows, which have increased the square footage or demand for more heating or cooling. Those renovations may not have included upgrades to your home’s HVAC system.

So how do you check for the right size? Call a professional HVAC contractor and ask for evaluation of your home. The audit will include several key checks including a load calculation, which adds in the size of your home’s living space, number of door and windows where heat loss or gain could occur, and a check of heat loss or gain through leakage in cracks, roofs, crawlspaces, etc. An audit will determine what size of furnace or air conditioner is needed to meet the heating or cooling needs of your home and its own individual characteristics. Your HVAC contractor may also factor in the number of building occupants and normal usage patterns, i.e. having a home office or stay-at-home parent versus a working family where your home is occupied mostly at nights or on weekends.

All of these factors are considered when determining the equipment size. In air conditioning jargon, you will hear about tonnage of cooling capacity. An example may be a 2.5 ton air conditioning unit for a 2,000 square foot home. In furnace jargon, you will learn about Btu ratings, which are British thermal units. Most furnaces are sized in 20-25,000 Btu increments. Each is matched to the cooling or heating needs of your home.

Make sure you don’t hire someone who “guesstimates” how much cooling or heating capacity you need for your home. Find a qualified Pittsburgh heating and cooling professional who will make the correct calculations and who will qualify their recommendations.

For any questions about your home’s heating system, please give Boehmer Heating & Cooling a call today!

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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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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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Bridgeville Heating Repair Tip: Furnace Control Boards

Friday, February 17th, 2012

One way to be a truly responsible Bridgeville homeowner is to familiarize yourself with the major systems and appliances in your home. By having at least some understanding of how, say, your refrigerator or toilet work, you gain understanding of how to use them efficiently and detect when something goes wrong.

The same is true of your furnace, which can appear to be a complicated piece of machinery. In order to help you get acquainted with your furnace, we will discuss one of its main control components, the furnace control board.

As the name suggests, furnace control boards are responsible for governing the operation of the furnace. At a minimum, a simple furnace control will control the furnace ignitor (e.g., a spark generator or glow coil), the gas valve and the furnace thermocouple, also called a flame sensor.

More complex furnace control boards will also have control over the blowers and/or the built-in diagnostic system.

To simplify things, you can think of the furnace control board as being a driver and the furnace as its car. Just as the driver oversees all the functions and operation of the car from ignition to shutting off the engine, likewise does the control board for the furnace.

A typical operation sequence for a furnace control board goes something like this:

  1. The control board receives a signal from the thermostat that the temperature is too low.
  2. It starts the ignition system, whether that be a spark generator, glow coil or pilot light.
  3. Once the ignitor is hot, the furnace control board initiates the flow of gas through the burners, where it is ignited.
  4. The control board keeps the furnace running until it is signaled by the thermostat that the temperature is now high enough, or until it detects something is wrong.

(An example of a malfunction where the control board would get involved is a thermocouple that is not detecting enough heat. In this case, the control board would shut off the gas flow to prevent a leak into the home.)

Furnace control boards are an essential part of your home’s HVAC system. And now, as a responsible homeowner, you know just how important. If suspect you have a problem with your furnace, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling a call!

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O’Hara Heating Repair Question: Why Is My Air Handler Squealing?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Unusual noises coming from your O’Hara home’s HVAC system never a good thing; they make you worry that something is wrong.

It’s true that an unusual noise does often mean that something needs to be fixed; however, a noise emanating from your HVAC system does not necessarily mean a major repair. You should always have a technician check out if you suspect a problem with your system, but not all problems are going to be expensive to fix.

One common noise that homeowners notice and complain about is a squealing noise originating in the air handler. Usually, this noise is coming from the fan belt that connects the blower fan and the motor. Over time, the belt can stretch out and become worn or misaligned, which makes it slip and generate that aggravating squealing noise.

So, while the squealing can be annoying and unpleasant, a slipping belt is by no means major. A belt is an inexpensive part and a O’Hara technician can install it in just a matter of minutes.

As long as the noise is a squealing and not a grinding, this simple fix wil often take care of the problem. If you hear a grinding noise, however, immediately shut the unit down and call Boehmer Heating & Cooling Company. This may mean that your motor bearings are worn out and need to be replaced ASAP before further damage is inflicted on the motor itself.

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Pittsburgh HVAC Installation Guide: How to Install a Programmable Thermostat

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Programmable thermostats are one of the best ways to save on heating costs, especially if you have a hard time remembering to turn down the heat in your Pittsburgh home. Installing a programmable thermostat will allow you to set the times you want the heat turned up or down. Not only will this make heating your home more consistent and save energy, but it will also allow you to tailor your heating needs to your schedule.

For instance, you can set the thermostat to turn on before you get up in the morning so that the house is already warm when you get out of bed, and conversely, set it to turn down after you go to bed or leave the house for work. Depending on the brand and setting options, programmable thermostats are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

Although all styles are slightly different, here are some basic instructions that show you how easy it is to install a programmable thermostat.  Remember, this is only a general guide; always check the instructions inside the packaging of your new thermostat before you install it, or check with an electrician.

1. Remove the Old Thermostat

Before you remove the old thermostat, check to see where it’s mounted. If it’s mounted to an electrical box, the voltage used to power the old thermostat may not be compatible with the new one. Ask a certified electrician or heating technician if you aren’t sure.

CUT THE POWER TO THE HEATING SYSTEM TO AVOID ELECTRIC SHOCK. You should always turn off the main power supply to your heating system before installing any new thermostat. If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask your HVAC contractor. Once you unscrew the mounting plate for the old thermostat, just unhook the wires. Don’t throw an old mercury controlled thermostat. You should ask your local waste management facility how to properly dispose of mercury products.

2. Locate all Wires

Wrap the loose wires around a pencil to keep the wires from falling back into the wall. Identify and label each corresponding wire with a letter (do not use color coding since this is not always accurate). Strip the plastic off the ends of the wires about ¼ inch if you need to.

3. Install and Insulate Wallplate

If the area around the new wallplate is larger than the plate, insulate the hole with non-flammable insulation. Take the wallplate off the programmable thermostat and hold it against the wall to mark the screw holes with a pencil. Pull the wires through the large opening at the bottom and screw the plate to the wall.

4. Wiring

Make sure you are comfortable with wiring before you attempt to do any electrical installations. Check the manual for your programmable thermostat for instructions on wiring that specific model. In general, you’ll want to make sure you match the wire labels with the corresponding terminals on the thermostat. Sometimes there will be extra wires that aren’t needed. Always test it before completing the installation. Don’t forget the battery!

5. Install the Faceplate

Once you have it wired correctly, all you need to do is align the brackets on the faceplate with the corresponding slots on the wallplate and fasten the faceplate to the rest of the mounting. Lastly, tighten the screw at the bottom of the thermostat to hold it in place.

If you have any questions regarding programmable thermostats or would like a professional to install one in your home, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling Company a call.

 

 

 

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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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