Archive for the ‘Water Heaters / Hot Water’ Category

It’s vacation time!

June 24, 2014

If you have plans to travel this summer, ensure your home will be in good shape when you go. The sun is out and you should be too, but keeping your home safe and energy costs down is important. Vacation Here are a few tips:

  • Use a programmable thermostat.  Depending on where you live, programmable thermostats can help regulate the temperature and humidity in your home.  When programming it, remember you don’t need to cool your home as much when you are away and no one is home.
  • Check your insulation.  Believe it or not, having enough insulation and duct work that works properly can help reduce your energy costs.  Let us explain, watch this short video.
  • Leave a light on, but only if it’s a CFL or LED.  It’s good to leave a light on or two maintain the appearance of being home.   Save money and energy by using CFL’s or LED’s.  Changing your lightbulbs is an easy thing to do.  More facts about lightbulbs can be found here.
  • If no one’s using hot water, turn it off.  If you plan on being gone for a while, think twice about leaving your electric water heater on.  Turning it off at the breaker will help you reduce energy costs.  Your water heater might even have a vacation setting too.

Have a safe trip!

 

Photo from MrJack  on http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sonnenaufgang_Frankreich.JPG

The Things you Find out in the Garage

April 28, 2014

While visiting one of our locations, Young’s Air conditioning in Los Banos, I had the pleasure of joining their auditor on the discovery of a unique furnace venting arrangement. As you might imagine with combustion equipment, unique is not really a good thing.P1060853
To the untrained eye, this arrangement might look fine, everything’s connected after all. But even from a distance, this furnace and water heater set up, to even the slightly trained eye, looked wrong because…well it was.
Two exhausts into one may be ok if it is sized right and pitched correctly, but here is a natural draft water heater and a power vented “sealed combustion” into the same flue.
Power vented appliances are also called direct vent, implying they are directly vented to the outside, and should be, on their own.
IP1060852’m in awe over the connection where the PVC (used for lower temperature exhaust) is TAPED into the metal connector (high temperature exhaust) of the 6” flue.
Making sure combustion equipment is set up properly is only the beginning. Having certified and trained people to install and assess that equipment is important. Our advisors are BPI-certified for this reason.
I’ve got more to share, till next time.
Stay safe!

Jason.

Bird’s Nests and Broken Flues

December 6, 2013

We are well into the heating season for many areas of the country.  And recently we talked about

bird nesta clean and tune; the annual servicing of your heating equipment.    This can be done at any point in the year but some of us wait to the last minute to do it.  Some sign on with a service agreement so they don’t have to think about it.

Efficiency is a big part of getting your furnace or boiler running in top shape, but it’s important to check equipment attached to flues or chimneys to ensure that they are actually drafting properly.  The bird nest built over the summer in this home in Allentown Pa  caused a lot of problems for the residents, in particular potentially lethal levels of Carbon Monoxide.

Consider a BPI certified contractor capable of doing testing needed to ensure the worst case doesn’t happen.   Make nesting for the winter comfortable and safe!

Thanks,

Jason

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Seggerde_Storchennest.JPG

Helping out the Orphans?

November 12, 2013

I’m not talking about the Oliver Twists of the world, but the orphans I’m referring may be in your home, in closets, basements and garages.

orphans

 

What I’m referring to is something our advisors come across in an energy audit on a regular basis, an orphaned appliance; usually it’s a naturally drafting water heater.   It means that the small flue that comes off of the orphaned appliance runs to a larger chimney that used to share another combustion appliance with.  Without the larger one to help, the orphaned appliance can struggle to draw properly.

P1060275

In fact it may not draw at all, which means the unhealthy combustion gasses will enter your home instead of exit it, that can be dangerous.

This is why it is so important to have a professional test the health and safety of equipment in your home as well as test the home itself and how it can influence the equipment.   Not every heating technician does this on a regular seasonal tune up.  Our energy advisors check for carbon monoxide in the equipment and throughout the home.  We check how fans and doors in the home interact with the area combustion appliances live. We keep an eye out for orphans every day do every day as BPI certified auditors.  There’s much more to a comprehensive energy audit than energy!

Help these orphans and help make your home a safer one!

Thanks,

Jason

 

Orphan flyer picture:  http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOrphan_train_flyer.jpg

Better late than later! It’s time again to think about a furnace tune-up!

October 22, 2013

You should get your furnace (or boiler) checked at least once a year (more if you burn oil) to make sure that it is operating safely and efficiently.

snowflakes

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as they say.  Preventive maintenance can help ensure that your furnace runs when it needs to.  You would be surprised how many service calls we get in the northeast on the first cold days of the year.  There is a spike in calls when we experience a deep cold snap too. This of course is not the time you want your furnace to go down!

By the end of September in the northern US, many contractors start getting backed up with service calls as you may have discovered if you tried to schedule one in the last few months.  As you head south, that shifts from October to even December (OK, Palm Springs doesn’t get backed up in heating season, which is why I for one, hope to visit!).

Get that furnace tuned-up BEFORE heating season kicks in and if it has in your neck of the woods, before it really gets cold!

Thanks,

Jason

 

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASnowflakesWilsonBentley.jpg

When in Rome….perform combustion safety testing!

October 11, 2013

Heating season is approaching for some parts of the country and while this stove doesn’t heat the place, the College of Cardinals that gathered in the Sistine Chapel last winter, used a stove system that has evolved over many years, and needed some fine tuning to work right.   The_Sistine_Chapel_(5967688938)

Jon Vara, in The Journal of Light Construction wrote, that since at least 1903, ballots from the papal voting have been burned in this system of ductwork and combustion equipment to announce their decision on a new pope.

Many things have been tried to ensure the color of the smoke is correct, but just as important if not more so, is the trouble of getting the smoke to go the right way.  Even in the latest installation from 2005, the stove back-drafted.

Our advisors might pay special attention to how equipment works in your home.  They also pay special attention to how the home and heating equipment interact too.  I’d say they would have to bring a few more (ok, many more) blower doors to test the tightness of such a big place like the Sistine Chapel, but combustion testing is the same big or small.

Smoke needs to leave the house (or chapel) and other gasses should go with it.  Carbon Monoxide is the silent killer we are most often concerned about.  Holy Smokes, no matter what kind of stove furnace or boiler, or building for that matter, we should all be concerned with combustion safety whether you live in Rome, Georgia, or Rome, Pennsylvania or Rome, Ohio, or Rome, Maryland or Rome, New York, or Rome, Oregon… you get the idea.

Thanks,

Jason

photo from Wikicommons

 

Welcome Gundlach’s! New to GreenHomes but 100 years in Business!

January 23, 2013

 

 Gundlachs_tag_JPEG

 

It is an honor and a pleasure to welcome our latest partner Gundlach’s Plumbing & Sheet Metal to the GreenHomes America network where we can truly help fulfill their statement, “today’s technology with good old fashioned integrity.”  It is great to see our network grow in Southern California, with this new location in Bakersfield.

Gundlach’s is a plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning service provider, originating in 1900 as a plumbing repair shop.  They also provide remodeling services for bathrooms and kitchens; becoming a GreenHomes America partner, they will now include home energy retrofits, allowing homeowners to dramatically improve their home’s energy efficiency and comfort levels.

Ken Wonderly, Owner of Gundlach’s says “We feel that the home energy retrofit market is going to grow substantially over the next few years and we are very excited to be part of it”.  Too true, I can see it growing already.  Welcome aboard!

Find out more http://www.gundlachsservice.com/.

Thanks,

Jason

 

 

The Six P’s, and some more!

December 11, 2012

Some may have heard the expression before:  “Proper Planning Prevents Pretty Poor Performance” or possibly a less pleasant version, but I will leave that to your imagination.  Permutations previewed in this photo provide possibilities for a plethora of problems, primarily CO poisoning!

Please provide proper ventilation for atmospheric combustion equipment such as the water heater shown here. VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200This is common configuration for a water heater, drawing combustion air from its surroundings, but it can create problems!

Pressures in a house can change and affect equipment like this.  Our predecessors discovered that it was more pleasant when smoke from the fire went up the chimney.  It’s more than pleasant but imperative! 

This chimney shown is going downhill before it goes up, the primary problem! Our heating equipment needs to be vented properly or those gasses enter our homes.  Consider having your combustion equipment checked as part of a whole house assessment

Please, a plug, poke, or paltry plea, proper planning provides prime performance, and prevents poisoning (CO that is!).

Pthanks,

Jason

 

Where does it all go?

November 28, 2011

   

If you still have a dollar to your name after a rough (at times too rough!) shopping weekend, you might want to take a look at this nifty info-graphic which helps explains an average household’s energy use, and naturally where the rest of the money goes!

High on the list of energy use in a home is, as it might be expected, heating and hot water.  Cooling is up there as well.  It does depend on where you live as to which is a bigger drain on your finances but this is precisely the reason we spend so much time talking about and fixing,  these areas.

Appliances are a much smaller part of the overall picture, but not to be ignored, of course.  If part of your Black Friday battle included fist-fighting (whew, there was some craziness out there—sort of reminds me of that zombie discussion last month!) for a brand new Energy Star dishwasher, more power to you.  It may even have been worth it if what you had was over ten years old.

Clearly as the picture suggests, heating and cooling equipment—that is your furnace, air-conditioner, or heat pump—should be in top notch shape performing their best if you are going to avoid burning money.   But what if the attic insulation doesn’t keep the heat in?  What if the duct work leaks and pumps conditioned air into the great outdoors?  What this picture tells me is that the important things in a home are being warm or cool, having hot water when we want it, the creature comforts.

You can buy the best coffee maker in the world to make a great cup of coffee, but a cracked cup with a hole in it won’t keep the coffee around or warm long enough for you to enjoy it.   Homes can just be like that.  Consider a gift for you and your family this season, one without the bruises or pepper spray dangers of holiday shopping, a comprehensive home assessment so you know where it all goes and can do something about it!

Thanks,

Jason

Out of sight, out of mind? Lurking in the depths below, the whole house approach still applies!

September 19, 2011
 
The moon’s surface or a part of the home?

Most of us ignore the spaces under our homes.  What is under there anyway?  For some houses there can be some important stuff such as the heating system or, for every one I’ve been in, the stuff that holds the house up and it’s usually wood, aka “Mold Food”.  Yeah it’s kind of important.

Henry Ford once said “quality means doing it right when no one is looking”.  And for some space in our home this is often a neglected concept.  More likely heard would be “no one is going to see this after I’m done.”  Too often when called in to someone’s home we see things that just weren’t done right the first time.  Duct work is left pinched, restricting flow.  Sometimes it’s left unsealed and un-insulated.   Floor insulation is hastily installed leaving it to droop or fall out.   Un-addressed moisture coming in from the walls or rising up from the ground below attacks metal and wood.  As Mike has mentioned in a previous post, sometimes we know its damp down there because we smell it.   Heating and cooling systems are left to suffer and struggle sent to an early and shallow grave we affectionately call the crawlspace. In one Berkley, California that started with many of this issue, GreenHomes America partner, ABC Cooling, recently worked its magic.

Failing furnace

The heating system in the crawlspace had a long horizontal run which struggling to draft well, ended up rotting away.  The big concern here is that when the venting fails, the flue gasses are left ready to be drawn into the home; exactly where we don’t want them.  This is a typical problem in the Bay area or for that matter anywhere with this kind of configuration.  The big fix here was a super efficient sealed combustion unit.  These units are quite affordable, and the savings from the greater efficiency help to pay for them over time.  

The broader opportunity was a chance to fix the duct work and solve some other underlying weaknesses with the house, from duct work to hot water, to insulation and air-sealing.  It doesn’t make much sense to put a new engine in a car with flat tires, a worn-out starter, and a leaky gas tank.  But fix those problems, and you can have a real gem. Moisture was not a huge issue for this space, but the floor insulation was falling down in some places and in general (as in most homes) we could see there was a need for some air sealing.  With the furnace in the crawl much of the duct work is essentially was left out side.  This is not wrong, it’s just not ideal, and in this scenario it was the only practical place to put it.  (In many homes, we see a similar situation with the equipment up in the attic rather than down in the crawlspace–it’s essentially the same problem just a different location!)

Benjamin Franklin once said something about house guests...

Certainly indoor air quality can be an issue with an unsealed crawlspace.  Soil gasses, contaminated outside air (vented crawlspace in congested traffic area), moisture issues, animal feces, or even animals can raise IAQ concerns.  Dead rats in your furnace return?  Generally considered a problem!

Here are a few pictures to describe what was done:

Space before transformation

Encapsulation material being measured out

Installation in a tight spot
 

barrier installed at perimeter with ductwork insulated and supported

Sprayfoam on the walls

Chris and Kristen, the owners of this charming Berkeley home, have over the years created a wonderful space to raise a family in. Years ago, insulation was added to the home, but still things weren’t quite right.  Part of their discomfort was a poor distribution system for heat.  The new heating and hot water system improvements in the home now not only make it more comfortable but also safer.  

At this point, their home may indeed need new windows. This is not something we often recommend first in many houses since there usually are greater opportunities in other areas that are much less expense.  Their windows are 20 years old and starting to fail, but now the whole house has been treated as cost effectively as possible and windows may make sense next.  Treating the crawlspace really brings it together, adding not only energy savings but just as important, comfort.  As Chris and Kristen noted, “We are thrilled with the results already.  It’s certainly a relief having the dangerous furnace issue fixed.  And we’ve already noticed the floors are more comfortable, and the house quieter.  The guys from ABC Cooling did a great job.”

Start with a home assessment, find out what you really need, and do the job right. It’s as simple as that.  Well, OK, some of you might have to get rid of the rat, first.

“Before” photo credits (including that rat in the ductwork!), to David Hales, Building Systems and Energy Specialist, WSU Extension Energy Program.  


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