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

Pittsburgh AC Question: What Are Thermostatic Expansion Valves?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The thermostatic expansion valve, sometimes known as a TEX, TEV or TXV, is a critical piece to influence the efficiency of all air conditioning and refrigeration units, including the AC system in your Pittsburgh home.  A tiny sensor controlling the evaporating phase of process, the valve can have a big effect.

Cool air is manufactured by a re rapid movement of a refrigerant between liquid and gaseous states.  Compound chemicals that are able to do this at a low temperature are compressed and expanded, absorbing and releasing heat at different points along the way.  The TEV controls the flow of the refrigerant into the evaporator coils according to the temperatures of the various ingredients.

Cool Air 101

To condition air, the refrigerant, most often freon or another fast acting, low temp compound, evaporates into a gas that runs through a coil and absorbs heat.  Passing through a compressor, the freon condenses under pressure back into a liquid again and releases the heat, becoming cool enough to chill a party.

Too much freon in the evaporator tube and the pressure is not low enough to expand to gas and absorb heat, working inefficiently for no gain.  Too little freon and the conversion is also ineffective by not reaching the density needed to condense.

There are four types of valves with different benefits for different types of cooling environments.  With its ability to adjust minutely to changing conditions, the thermal expansion valve creates the perfect mixture of pressure and freon for more complicated systems.

At the Starting Gate

An interactive device, the valve senses the evaporator pressure and temperature and adjusts the flow of the refrigerant so as to maintain a given “superheat”, the differ­ence between the refrigerant vapor temperature and its sat­uration temperature.  By controlling superheat, the TEV keeps nearly the entire evaporator surface active while not permit­ting liquid refrigerant to return to the compressor.

Some valves operate on an electrical impulse from sensors that can measure the temperatures.  Others are open all the time.  The thermostatic expansion valve actually utilizes the pressure between the two sections to open or close itself, regulating flow based on the very same pressure it is designed to moderate.

Like the buildings they comfort, large central air conditioning systems in Pittsburgh are varied and diverse.  There are nearly as many thermostatic expansion valves as there are units to receive them.

For more information about how to help your AC work effectively, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling a call!

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McKeesport HVAC Tip: History of Heat Pumps

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Thermal energy is the natural movement from warm temperatures to colder temperatures creating energy in the change of temperature to the mass.  A heat pump typically is a device that moves the air (or other matter) in the opposite direction from its natural flow.

Your McKeesport heat pump uses an intermediate fluid called a refrigerant which absorbs heat as it vaporizes and releases the heat when it is condensed,  using an evaporator to absorb the heat (or energy) from inside an occupied space and forcing this heat to the outside through the condenser. The key component that makes a heat pump different from an air conditioner is the reversing valve which allows for the flow direction of the refrigerant to be changed, allowing the heat to be pumped in either direction.

Timeless Technology

While mechanical movement of this energy, what we can actually call a pump,  has been a relatively recent invention,  the concept of this principal of physics has been in use since ancient times. Harnessing the power of geothermal energy (produced from the heat of the earth itself), natural hot springs “pumped” warm air into cool spaces in China and Europe thousands of years ago.

By 1852, Lord Kelvin had theorized the heat pump, but it took nearly 100 years to actually build one.  In the last half century, the technological advances have made heat pumps part of our lives in many ways.

First Pump

In the 1940s a man named Robert Webber was motivated to build the first known heat pump while tinkering with his refrigerator.  Accidently burning his hand on the outlet pipes of the cooling system, he was quite painfully awakened to an idea about the transference of heat.

Recognizing the freezer was constantly producing heat to cool its interior, he connected the outlet pipe to the storage tank of his hot water heater, extended that into a flow through pipes which heated air nearby, and  then used a fan to blow the warmth into another room.

The first heat pump was a crude, but effective method to provide comfort.  Creating a full-size version soon after, Wagner could heat his entire home.

Heat and Electricity

Today McKeesport heat pumps are built in many ways and shapes to heat or cool buildings of many sizes. As technological improvements are refined, heat pumps promise to play an important part in our futures.

 

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Mt Lebanon Heating Installation Question: What Exactly Are High Efficiency Boilers?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

You have already read plenty about how energy costs are rising. You know plenty well that heating your Mt Lebanon home is a substantial expense, and that the cost of running a boiler is constantly on the rise.

But as technology has gotten better, so have boilers become more efficient at providing heat. It stands to reason that a more efficient boiler is one that costs less to run…but what does “efficient” really mean in the context of boilers? What makes a boiler “high efficiency”?

 What Is a High Efficiency Boiler?

All boilers are rated according to a standardized system of rating efficiency, called the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). Essentially, this rating tells you how much heat energy is produced by a boiler compared to how much energy it draws. The higher a boiler’s AFUE rating, the more efficient it is.

For a boiler to be called high efficiency, it must carry an AFUE of at least 90%. For basis of comparison, older systems carry an AFUE of about 70%, while mid-efficiency systems run at about 82%.

In addition, a high efficiency system has a second heat exchanger for capturing and condensing flue gases, as well as a closed combustion system.

These three things — an AFUE of 90% or above, condensing flue gases and closed combustion – define a high efficiency boiler.

The initial investment in a high efficiency boiler can be costly, but the savings over time in heating bills make it well worth the expense.

If you would like a high efficiency boiler installed in your Mt Lebanon home, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling a call today!

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Things to Try Before Calling a Pittsburgh HVAC Professional

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Your Pittsburgh home’s HVAC system can seem like very daunting and complex equipment, so you might not want to work on by yourself. While it’s true that HVAC equipment can be complicated and needs the attention of a skilled professional more often than most homeowners would like, there are still ways for the DIY-ers out there to work on their HVAC systems before resorting to calling in the pros.

There are some common culprits when it comes to most HVAC problems and malfunctions, so if something goes awry in the operation of your equipment, there are some basic measures you can try to get things back on track.

If any of these work, you have saved the cost of the repair and get the satisfaction of a job well done:

  • Turn all switches – indoors and outdoors – off, then back on again. Do the same thing with the pertinent circuit breakers. Sometimes the system just needs a hard reset to jolt it back to life.
  • Check your thermostat. Is the temperature set where it is supposed to be? If it is too high or too low, the HVAC system will stay on too long or shut itself off too quickly.
  • Make sure your system is in the right mode for the season. It may sound obvious, but for whatever reason, sometimes things wind up in heating mode during cooling season.
  • Check your filters. Clean and/or replace them as necessary. (You do this once a month anyway, right?)
  • Inspect the vents around your home to see if any are blocked, clogged or excessively dirty. Vents that don’t properly circulate the air can cause all kinds of problems within an HVAC system.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the things that can go wrong with an HVAC system, but it is at least the usual suspects for the most simple and common problems that many Pittsburgh homeowners encounter. After trying these out, if you are still experiencing difficulties, then it is probably time to call Boehmer Heating & Cooling to have a look at the problem.

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

Monday, January 9th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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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 Geothermal Energy Renewable? A Question From Finleyville

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Geothermal heating systems take heat from the ground and transfer it to your Finleyville home. But how does this heat get into the ground in the first place? Conventional heating systems like furnaces use energy sources like oil or natural gas to generate heat. These energy sources are not renewable, and neither is electricity which is typically generated by burning coal or another non-renewable resource.

The renewable resources we usually think of first are solar and wind power. The sun, of course, will continue to shine and provide heat year in and year out whether we make use of it or not. Similarly, we cannot use up the wind. It will continue to blow no matter how many times it has blown before.

But what category does geothermal energy fit into exactly? Well, it is actually a renewable resource just like solar or wind energy. In fact, geothermal energy is a direct result of the sun’s heat relentlessly pounding the ground. The ground actually absorbs a considerable amount of the heat from the sun that reaches the earth every day, and that is the heat that your geothermal heating system is using to heat your home.

Of course, a geothermal heating system cannot run on geothermal energy alone. The indoor components of this heating system that keep the air flowing throughout your house must be powered by electricity. But the amount of energy needed to do this is much less than what you would need to use to run a furnace or other type of more conventional home heating system.

Over all, geothermal energy is an excellent and renewable source of energy. And once you have the heating system in place, you will need to spend very little to keep it up and running. It is an excellent option for many people, and can help to keep your home cool in the summer as well.

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Is Your Home More Valuable with Energy Efficient Appliances? A Question From Sewickley

Friday, September 16th, 2011

It’s impressive the things people do to improve the value of their Sewickley home. We’re talking about crown molding, new floors, new siding, upgrades to the landscaping and much more. The cost of upgrading these things can grow out of hand quickly and if the boost to your home’s value isn’t equally exponential, it’s hard to justify the expense.

So, it’s always nice to find a simple upgrade that can be performed for a few hundred dollars that will save you money immediately and improve the value of your home in the future. Your appliances are one such upgrade.

The Value of Energy Efficiency

An energy efficient washing machine can save upwards of $150 per year on water costs. An energy efficient toilet cuts consumption by as much as 150%. Low flow shower heads cut water costs by one third to one half and your heating and air conditioning systems can be improved by 10-35% depending on the upgrades available to you.

When you add up all those savings, the result is a tremendous amount of money that can be saved each year on everything from your water bill to your cooling needs. Imagine what happens when someone looks to buy your home. They see that there are all new appliances with energy efficient ratings that will save them money.

It’s not just lower bills; it’s a decrease in upfront investment. On the surface, it’s unlikely that your energy efficient appliances will directly increase the value of your home, but they can increase the likelihood of someone paying what you’re asking for the home. They add value to the livability of the home, if not the property itself and in today’s housing market, that’s a major plus.

Best Upgrades

The best upgrades to your home’s appliances are the ones that save money without additional work. Major upgrades to your heating and cooling are good if you need an upgrade anyway or you plan on staying in your home for a few years.

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What to Look for when a Home is 100 Years Old

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Many people like older homes, but at a certain point, the age of a home can be a bit of a turnoff. It’s not the architecture – old homes are magnificently built and tend to have more character in the woodwork and nooks and crannies than any new home. But, when you move beyond how impressive early 20th century (or earlier) architecture is, you might find a number of maintenance and upkeep issues that have only been made worse by the passage of time.

Common Problems to Watch For

As with a 50 year old home, materials are a big issue. You need to have your home tested for lead paint and asbestos – both things that can be incredibly dangerous for every resident, especially children. These are very likely to be a part of the home if it hasn’t been remodeled in the last 30 years. Retrofitting to cover them up or remove them will be an added expense.

Additionally, older homes have much greater ratios of ventilation. If insulation has not been added in the last 25 years to cover those vents and gaps, your home will be very drafty, which is uncomfortable in the winter and costly year round. Make sure to have your home pressure tested and sealed up as soon as possible.

Upgrades You Can Make

Electricity is another major issue in older homes. While most old homes have been owned multiple times and likely upgraded since they were built, occasionally you will run across a house with extremely old wiring. That might mean a low capacity panel box or single strand wiring. Either way, it’s unsafe and unstable – for modern appliances and electronics you’ll need to upgrade that wiring as soon as possible.

The same may be true for your plumbing. If the house has original plumbing and fixtures, not only will they be inefficient, they may be rusty or prone to leakage. Sewer lines in particular are expensive replacements if they decide to break. Make sure you have these thoroughly inspected before a purchase.

The Joy of an Older Home

Despite all of the potential problems an old home might offer, there are plenty of benefits. Established neighborhoods, solid construction, and the ability to alter your home however you want are all positives you can’t overlook when buying a home. Just make sure you’re fully aware of what you’re getting into. Even a well maintained old home may have some issues that you miss on your initial walkthrough – make sure your inspector is thorough.

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Tips for Upgrading Your Central Air Conditioner

Monday, June 13th, 2011

When the time comes to upgrade your central air conditioner, you will have a lot of things to take into account. If you were generally satisfied with the performance of your old system, it can be very tempting to stick with a similar model. But if you do not examine all of the options out there right now, you may very well be missing out on a great deal.

If you already have a central air conditioner in place, chances are that you also have ductwork throughout your house. In that case, you will probably be better off with a packaged air conditioner as opposed to a split system. If it is a split system you are replacing, however, you should probably keep your search limited to other split systems. Installing a packaged air conditioner when you do not already have ducts in place can dramatically increase the overall cost of the project.

You will also want to make sure that the system you choose is compatible with the heating system and air handler that you already have in place. Most central air conditioning systems can be integrated easily with all types of heating systems, but you should still check to make sure this will not be a problem, particularly if you have an older heating system.

In terms of picking out the right new system for your home, energy efficiency is probably the main factor to consider. While just about every air conditioner on the market right now will be much more efficient than the unit you are replacing, you want to make sure you get a model that will provide you with the optimal savings in the long run.

This does not necessarily mean that you should go out and buy the most energy efficient air conditioner out there. In fact, because the more energy efficient units are also typically more expensive, you may not actually save money by going that route. But you will do well to choose a unit that will save you enough monthly to offset the installation costs and for most people, that means that you will want an air conditioner that is either a SEER 14 or SEER 16.

Of course, the actual amount of money you will save as you move up through the SEER rankings depends on how much you use your air conditioner to begin with. If you live somewhere with very hot weather and you use your unit for a large chunk of the year, it may very well be worth it for you to opt for a very high efficiency model.

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