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

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!

Continue Reading

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!

Continue Reading

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!

Continue Reading

Oakdale Heating Maintenance Question: What Are the Different Types of Furnace Maintenance?

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Everyone in Oakdale knows that there are different types of maintenance tasks associated with keeping your automobile in tip top shape. Did you also know there are tasks that can be performed at various intervals to keep your home’s furnace in peak running condition?

For example, the most frequent maintenance task is checking the filters in your air handling unit. These are often called furnace filters but in reality, they serve the same function to filter air to and from your air conditioner, too. It might be easiest to just call them air filters. The frequency of replacing or cleaning air filters usually depends on the type of indoor environment you live in – like humidity levels, number of household pets or occupants, etc. In general, filter maintenance should occur every one to three months.

A less frequent maintenance task is cleaning the moving parts of the internal mechanism. You may only need to have your furnace cleaned every six months to a year, depending on its use. In some cases you can perform the cleaning yourself or it is included in an annual cleaning as part of a service agreement with a qualified heating and cooling contractor. A furnace can typically run at peak efficiency when it is cleaned on an annual basis.

You can also make it a regular habit of checking the motor bearings and fan belt, too. You can lubricate the bearings and tighten or replace the fan belt on a same schedule as cleaning the moving parts.

Other maintenance tasks related to your furnace, which may require longer interval times include ventilation system cleaning, or more commonly known as duct cleaning. Some homes don’t require this type of maintenance more than every five to ten years – perhaps longer. Unless there are unusually high levels of dust, allergens, or contaminants in the air, most ventilation systems can remain clean for several years.

Of course, you can turn all of your maintenance tasks over to a heating and cooling contractor like  Boehmer Heating & Cooling Company – and have the most peace of mind.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

O’Hara Heating Repair Question: What Causes Cracks in a Heat Exchanger?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Furnaces are designed so that the heat – and the combustion byproduct produced inside – doesn’t interact directly with the outside air. This design is to ensure you have a safer furnace in your O’Hara home that won’t inadvertently affect your family’s health.

The metal piece that separates the furnace heat from the outside air stream is called the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger performs a very important function, and if it is broken or cracked, it can’t work properly.

A cracked heat exchanger is very common problem with heating systems, as well as one that should be repaired as soon as possible. But what causes a heat exchanger to crack? Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • A long period of normal use. A furnace heat exchanger naturally expands and contracts with the heat of the furnace, over and over again as the furnace is turned off and on to heat the home. Over several years, this stress can crack the metal.
  • Poor air flow, often caused by dirty or obstructed vents, can result in poor air flow through the furnace. This overworks the furnace, which can crack the heat exchanger prematurely.
  • Poor, incomplete or improper combustion can also cause a heat exchanger to crack. When the combustion process is less efficient – which can also be a result of poor air flow — your furnace’s burners have to run hotter and longer to heat your home, which means extra stress on the heat exchanger.

Essentially, if a furnace is running at less than optimal efficiency for an extended period of time, the heat exchanger is put under additional stress beyond the usual and can crack prematurely. Therefore, the best way to prevent a cracked heat exchanger is proper maintenance, particularly keeping all vents clean and unobstructed and getting an annual maintenance inspection.

If your heat exchanger does crack, do not hesitate to call an O’Hara professional and get it repaired. The crack can allow potentially dangerous combustion gases to seep into your home, which can have a negative impact on your family’s health.

Continue Reading

Gibsonia HVAC Tip: Seasonal Air Quality Control

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

For people who suffer from seasonal allergies in Gibsonia, air quality is a key concern. Allergens in the air cause brutal bouts of sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and even sinus headaches. Even taking refuge indoors will often not assuage these symptoms, as indoor air is often comparable to outdoor air in terms of allergens and overall quality.

That is, unless you take care to control the seasonal air quality in your home, which can not only help ease the suffering of allergies, but also soothe asthmatics, keep out pollutants and generally promote better overall health.

How do you go about controlling the air quality in your home? To start, try these 9 tips:

  1. Vacuum carpets regularly. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and invest in some allergen suppressing bags.
  2. Keep your vents clean. This is also a good maintenance practice to lengthen the life of your ventilation equipment.
  3. Dust hard surfaces and wash bed linens weekly.
  4. Install HEPA filters in your ventilation system, such as in air conditioners or other air handler units. Use a higher rated filter to keep out more allergens and pollutants.
  5. Invest in and use an air purifier. Again, make sure to get one with a HEPA filter.
  6. Have your home tested for radon and carbon monoxide. Have smoke, carbon monoxide and radon detectors working properly at all times.
  7. Use a humidifier to keep overly dry air from irritating sinus passages.
  8. Keep doors and windows closed tight, especially during allergy season(s).
  9. Prohibit smoking inside. Banish smokers to the outdoors.

By taking charge of the air quality in your Gibsonia home, you also take control of a measure of your family’s health. Some of these measures require at least a bit of an investment – for example, higher rated HEPA air filters are often more expensive and need to be changed more frequently – but the benefits to your well being and that of your family are clearly well worth it.

Continue Reading

O’Hara Heating Installation Advice: High Efficiency Furnaces and Chimney Concerns

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

When upgrading to a high efficiency gas furnace in your O’Hara home, you may need to make some upgrades to your chimney. Older chimneys built for standard furnaces with normal exhaust needs are not built to the specifications needed by today’s high efficiency models. Not only is it unsafe to leave it as is, but the cost of repairs if you don’t have it upgraded can be substantial.

Down-Sizing

A common concern when upgrading to a high efficiency gas furnace is the issue of condensation and draft. Because the amount of exhaust being vented is reduced by a high efficiency furnace, your current setup is not sufficient for the new model. So, it needs to be reduced in size by a professional to avoid backup of exhaust. Proper chimney sizing is a complex process that requires professional guidelines and careful measurements of all appliances in your home.

Because the chimney often isn’t used at all for a high efficiency furnace (often PVC pipe used instead), the extra airflow in the chimney can become a major issue.

Chimney Condensation

The biggest concern for the chimney when changing the furnace efficiency is condensation. Specifically, acidic condensation droplets can build up in the chimney if not properly stopped. A new chimney liner must be placed in the chimney to avoid excessive corrosion due to the acid droplets. Keep in mind that the efficiency of your new furnace will determine whether you will use the traditional chimney for exhaust or if a new line will be installed to vent your furnace.

When to Take Action

If you have your furnace replaced, your O’Hara technician will likely discuss the chimney situation in your home with you. Keep in mind that this might be necessary and that there might be an added cost involved because of it. Modern furnaces are not designed to accommodate aging chimneys and your safety and the integrity of your house are at risk if you don’t retrofit the chimney if necessary.

Continue Reading

Oakmont Heating Tip: Signs of an Oversized Furnace

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Most people in Oakmont, when they choose a new furnace, think that “bigger is better”. However, an oversized furnace can present just as many if not more problems than an undersized furnace. So, if you feel you may have overdone it in the past or you want to avoid making a mistake in the future, here are some signs that your furnace may be oversized.

Short Cycling

The most common sign of oversizing is short cycling. Short cycling occurs when your furnace turns on and off frequently because it reaches the thermostat setting so fast. Basically, your furnace is so powerful that it can produce what you need rapidly and then shuts off. But, because it does this, the temperature in your home is likely to cool much faster as well since the furnace isn’t on all the time.

Additionally, the on and off short cycling has a negative effect on your furnace, causing excess wear and tear on the system and eventually leading to extra repairs and in some cases early replacement.

High and Low Temperatures

When your furnace is turned on for a comfortable indoor temperature like 70 degrees F, the high and low temperature between cycles should be relatively close to that temperature. In an ideal situation, you shouldn’t even notice a fluctuation.

So, if the high temperature gets close to 75 degrees F and the low temperature is around 66 degrees F, you have a furnace much too large for the size of your home.

Furnace Room Issues

You might find that the space and exhaust given for the furnace are not sufficient either, especially if your previous furnace was replaced with this oversized unit. Backflow of a gas or oil smell or excess heat in and near your furnace room are both common signs that the furnace is much too large.

So, what should you do about your oversized furnace? If you have had that furnace for some time or just moved into a new home, it’s a good idea to have a new one installed. Have a proper load calculation done and then get a new furnace installed so you don’t have to worry about the system cycling on and off so often. If it’s a newer unit, call your Oakmont technician and discuss possible options to reduce the negative effects of the miscalculation of its size.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading