Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Washington County’

Pittsburgh AC Tip: Why Are Cleans Filters So Important to AC Efficiency?

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Air conditioners cost money to operate – even more when they don’t work at 100% efficiency. So, it is important to perform the various regular maintenance tasks on your Pittsburgh AC that ensure the system uses as little electricity as possible. The first thing on your list (and the easiest) is cleaning those filters.

Keeping Filters Clean

The Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website states that you can reduce your air conditioner’s energy consumption by as much as 15% simply by keeping the air filters clean. Why do they matter so much? Consider the nature of a filter.

The filter on your AC unit is designed to capture any dust, debris and sediment in the air supply. If that dust and sediment was allowed in, not only would it gum up the mechanical workings of the device, it would get into your ductwork and reduce the air quality of your home. So, filters are used to capture such things. However, when a filter gets clogged, the system must work harder to draw the air in. As it works harder, the motor turns faster and more electricity is used.

It takes very little to clog the filter of an AC unit, especially if it is running 24 hours a day for two or three months out of the year. So, it’s best to check your filters once every 30 days regardless of what type of filter you are using.

Which Filters to Check

The main filter on your AC unit should be checked along with any air handler filters and any air cleaner filters you have installed in your system. Another thing to consider is the condition of your home and the area around your outdoor condenser. If you have pets, lots of plants or your condenser is located in a dusty area, you may need to check and change those filters even more often.

Most filters are located along the return length of the ductwork – sometimes in ceiling ducts and walls, though they may also be located in your furnace’s air handler or inside the air conditioning unit. If you have window units or mini splits, the filters are frequently in the unit.

Clean air filters are important for your health, your wallet and the longevity of your Pittsburgh AC system. Stay on top of them and you will save money in more ways than you might expect. To schedule your annual maintenance visit today, give Boehmer Heating & Cooling a call!

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Pittsburgh Air Conditioning Installation Tip: Why it Is Important to Examine Your Ducts

Monday, June 18th, 2012

For most homeowners the day a new air conditioner gets installed is a great one. It means you can look forward to plenty of days of cool comfort, sheltered from the blistering summer heat that would otherwise make you feel sticky and sluggish.

Before that installation can take place, however, there are many smaller tasks that must be performed. You have to do some research, shop around, consult with a Pittsburgh air conditioning contractor and finally decide on the best system for your home. Finally, you should have your ducts examined.

Your ducts are the pathway by which cooled air will be distributed through your home. Without regular maintenance, ducts are less efficient in transferring air and can cost you money, not only in electricity but in air quality control. Like any major component of your HVAC system, they need to be properly maintained to work properly.

So, you want your ducts to be in tip top shape for your new Pittsburgh AC system. Having a professional inspect them thoroughly prior to installation will identify any damage, dirt, debris, leaks, corrosion or other trouble spots that could impede your air conditioning.

This gives you the opportunity to get any of those problems fixed before the new system is installed. Plus, a professional inspection is an important part of routine duct maintenance anyway. Having it done at this juncture is easier and ensures you know will have a smooth running air conditioner for some time to come.

Having duct work in good repair is vital to the operation of your HVAC system, including the new AC system you want to install. If you are contemplating having a new air conditioning system installed or even if you are not, now is the time to call a professional for full inspection of your ductwork. Especially if you have a forced air heating system and those ducts are used year round, you want to know for a fact that they will work properly in the future, no matter what is hooked up to them. Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling to schedule your appointment today!

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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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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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West Mifflin Heating Tip: Simple Steps to Prevent Heat Loss

Friday, February 24th, 2012

There are two fundamental ways to make your West Mifflin house warmer. One is to generate heat, which is the job of your furnace or boiler. The second is to keep the warm air in — and thereby keep cold air out — which is the job of your system of insulation.

The idea that the physical structure of a home can be a component of the HVAC system is one that is often overlooked, but when you think about it, it makes sense. The insulation, windows, doors and building materials that comprise your home are designed to keep the place warm against the cold and vice versa.

So, when bolstering your HVAC system to promote efficient heating, it is important to also consider heat loss and how to prevent it. This is a process that can get out of hand if you go overboard, so it is important to prioritize. Let’s look at the top 3 places to start when trying to prevent heat loss.

  1. Doors and Windows:  If you have older doors and windows, they could be a source of heat loss in your house, even if they are always closed. Replacing your windows and door with Energy Star rated ones will make sure that you are not losing heat to the outside AND still getting all the heat energy from the sun. Installing storm windows or putting up heavy curtains in winter can also help cut down on your heat loss.
  1. Seal off drafts. If any opening to your house, such as windows and doors, is improperly sealed, improperly installed or if the surrounding construction is deteriorating, you can lose a lot of heat. Check any drafts that you notice that might indicate a problem, and also if your vents and air ducts are leaky.
  1. Start at the top. If you want to go farther in sealing your house up against the cold, it is time to work on the insulation. When installing new insulation, remember that heat rises, so you get the most bang for your buck by starting at the top. If you only have the budget or time to insulate one space, make it the attic. You can work down from there.

These areas should be your top three priorities on your mission to prevent heat loss in your West Mifflin home. If you start here, you will get the best gains with the least effort. For more information on how to improve your home’s heating, 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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Bridgeville Geothermal Installation Guide: Components of a Geothermal Heating System

Friday, January 13th, 2012

A geothermal heating system for your Bridgeville home has three basic components and some add-on ones as well.

Its most distinguishing feature is the ground loops. The most common is the “closed” ground loop system, which is a series of pipes that are buried underground. These pipes contain a heat transfer fluid, comprised of antifreeze and water. This fluid absorbs heat from the ground and carries it to the home. This fluid also absorbs heat from the house and sends it into the ground to keep the home cool.

Examples of closed loop systems include the horizontal closed loop, which can be used in larger parcels of land (over an acre for example). The loops are placed typically placed horizontally 6-to-10 feet below the surface. A vertical closed loop design is recommended for smaller parcels of land and loops are often buried vertically approximately 20 feet underground. Other types of ground loop designs use well water to transfer heat in an open loop configuration, or have a closed loop submerged underwater in a pond or lake.

The next component is the heat pump, which draws the fluid from the ground loop. In a heat pump, heat energy is exchanged with the ground to heat or cool the home. In the heating mode, fluid warmed from underground flows through the heat pump. A fan blows across the pipe warmed by the fluid. Because the fluid is much warmer than the air inside the heat pump, heat energy is released into the cooler air. The cool air is warmed and distributed inside the home. The process is reversed for cooling. Cool fluid in the pipe absorbs heat from the warm air inside the home. Once pumped underground, the excess heat in the fluid is absorbed by the cooler earth.

The final component is the air handling or distribution system. Here, a fan in the heat pump’s furnace blows air over a fan coil and the heated cooled air is distributed through the home’s ductwork. Some distribution systems are hydronic, where hot water is circulated through radiators or radiant floor heat tubing. This water absorbs heat from the heat pump and then distributed throughout the home.

In some homes, both a forced air and hydronic system, often referred to as a “hybrid system” work together.

Optional components include a heat pump “desuperheater,” which is used to help with domestic hot water heating. In warm weather, the desuperheater recovers some of the heat – that would otherwise be sent to the ground loop – to help produce hot water. In cold weather, some of the heat pump capacity may be diverted from space heating for the same purpose. Desuperheaters save approximately 25% on domestic water heating costs.

Another component is an auxiliary electric heater, which is built into the geothermal heat pump This auxiliary electric heat is installed to allow heating and cooling technicians to size – or resize – a home’s geothermal heat pump system to assist the system during the few coldest days of the year. Auxiliary electric heat is also an emergency backup heat source if there are any operational issues with the geothermal heat pump system.

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