Posts Tagged ‘water heater’

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 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

 

New York State Hurricane Relief Appliance Rebate Program

September 24, 2011

New York residents eligible for cash rebates to replace essential appliances damaged by Hurricanes Irene or Lee –

Parts of upstate New York were devasted by Hurricanes Irene and Lee which significant damage to many residents’ homes and properties – including their necessary appliances and equipment. Effective this week (Monday, September 19, 2011), Governor Andrew Cuomo launched an $8 million appliance rebate program to help those who sustained damages to their appliances and household equipment. This program is one of the many in place to help those affected by the storms recover as quickly as possible.

“Thanks to this program, homeowners in NY can make some good of a bad situation,” said Anthony Johnson, owner of A. Johnson Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, a Saratoga Springs-based company and GreenHomes America partner specializing in home energy assessments and upgrades. “These generous rebates not only save you money now, but with more energy-efficient appliances you’ll continue to save for the life of the appliance.”

New York Hurricane Appliance Rebate - Furnace, Boiler, Water Heater, RefrigeratorCandidates qualify by being a New York state resident and purchasing eligible ENERGY STAR® or high efficiency appliances to replace those damaged by the natural disasters.  Eligible products include refrigerators, clothes washers and dryers, dehumidifiers, furnaces, broilers and some water heaters. Rebates are substantial and range from $100 for a dehumidifier to $2,500 for a boiler. Purchases must be made on or after August 29, 2011 for those impacted by Irene and September 9, 2011 for those impacted by Lee. The U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program (SEP) provided the funds to be used for the program and rebates are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until they are exhausted.

“Many new appliances, like those with an ENERGY STAR® rating, are around 30 percent more efficient than older models,” adds Johnson. “If you replace three or four appliances with these more efficient models, that’s like eliminating an entire appliance from your energy bill.”

Those who wish to apply for the rebate can do so in one of two ways, either by filling out an application form on the rebate program website or calling the program hotline to fill out necessary information over the phone. One rebate per appliance is allowed and purchases must be made before applying.

For more information on this rebate program, please visit http://www.nysappliancerebates.com/ or call the program hotline at 1-877-NY-SMART.  Contact us in Central New York or the Saratoga-Capital District area to see how this might be leveraged as part of a broader home improvement to increase comfort and save energy.  (Doubly important for those who has with oil as oil prices remain very high.)

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.  

Heat pump water heaters–an interesting choice, but not a one-size-fits-all solution

March 19, 2011

An evolving water-heater technology has been moving more mainstream over the past couple of years.  This technology uses a heat pump (think air-conditioner working in reverse), to heat the water.  I’ll focus on GE’s GeoSpring Hybrid water heater for discussion purposes.

GE's "hybrid" water heater

The good news is that this technology is ready to roll.  Heat Pump Water Heaters (HPWH) can be twice as efficient as a standard electric resistance water heater, and that increased efficiency can add up to big savings over time.  This can be a great choice for many homeowners.

It’s not for everyone, however.  In most cases, if you heat you water with natural gas, it won’t make sense to switch to the heat pump.  This does depend on things like the gas and electric utility rates, usage patterns, and climate.

The GE model is only available in a 50-gal tank, and it won’t provide either the capacity nor the efficiency benefits for high-usage situations.  The heat pump is more efficient, but it takes long to recover—that is it takes longer to make the water hot.  To compensate for this there is a standard heating element that you can use to speed things up in “high demand” situations.  In fact, you can set it to standard mode and it will function just like a regular electric resistance heater.  However, the more you heat water using the electric element instead of the heat pump, the less you save.

Because of the compressor and fan, a heat pump water heat does make some noise while it’s running—about the same as a full-size microwave.  Since water heaters are often in basements, garages, or otherwise isolated from the living space, this may not be an issue.  But it’s something to be aware of.

In simple terms, the heat pump uses heat from the air and transfers it to the water.  A secondary effect is that it cools the air around it.  This is actually a nice side benefit in cooling climates.  However, in colder climates where you’re paying to heat your home for much of the year, in some sense you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, and I don’t think this technology makes sense in the northern U.S., snow country.  In the north, where inlet water temps (the temperature of the water is it hits your home from the city lines or your well) can be quite cold, you’ll also be in the “high demand” mode much of the time, again, reducing your savings.

Height can also be issue, and this won’t fit in some shorter crawlspace where a “low-boy” water heater is needed.

Bottom line:  A HPWH can be good choice in cooling climates where you heat your water with electricity—especially where electric rates are high.  Not the best choice if you already heat with gas or see snow for half the year.

Thanks,
Mike

Happy Customers–one of the reasons I love my job

November 9, 2010

A home performance approach allows us to really figure out what’s going on in a house.  This in turn let’s us provide real solutions that actually address people’s problems in their current homes.  The result is better, safer, and more energy-efficient homes.  And happy customers.  This is something we at GreenHomes are proud of and work very hard at to make sure it happens time and time again.  Thanks to the Murphy’s for sharing their story.

Thanks,
Mike

Solar hot water in New York

May 12, 2010

Here’s a solar hot water (solar thermal) that GreenHomes recently installed.  On a chilly and cloudy day in upstate New York, it’s sitting inconspicously on the roof, cranking out the hot water for the homeowners.  With a 30% federal tax credit, these make sense in overcast New York.  And Washington state.  And in sunny California and sunnier Colorado.  Solar hot water is a great way to take a big bite out of the 15% of our total energy bills that we pay to heat water.  (And heat water that we generally let run down the drain–but drainwater heat recovery is another issue.)

Protect yourself and your family from CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning

December 5, 2009

A story in today’s Burlington Free Press again points to the importance of making sure you protect yourself against carbon monoxide poisoning.

As we’ve discussed here before, check out the National Safety Council’s general recommendations.   As mentioned, all homeowners should get at least an annual check-up on their heating and hot-water system to make sure they are operating properly.  And anytime you make changes to your home, from building an addition, to adding air-conditioning, to changing your windows, you should have an expert make sure that all equipment is operating and venting properly. As a secondary measure, all homes should have a CO alarm.

Please, be safe.

Thanks,
Mike

Furnace Tune-Up

August 26, 2009

Even though we haven’t even hit Labor Day, yet, I want to get you thinking about a furnace tune-up now.

First, a reminder that 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.  And preventive maintenance can help ensure that you furnace runs when it needs to—we get a lot of service calls in the first cold days of the year and also during deep cold snaps—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.  As you head South, that shifts from October to even December (OK, Miami and Phoenix don’t get backed up in heating season!).  Avoid the rush, avoid the wait, get that furnace tuned-up BEFORE heating season kicks in.

Thanks,
Mike


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