.In the dead of winter or the heat of summer, it’s second nature for us to walk over to the thermostat and adjust the temperature to make our homes comfortable.
Because this routine is so habitual, you probably don’t think much about the system’s technical processes. Like the one that works to ensure humidity levels in your home are optimal, or the one that filters and cleans indoor air to keep you healthy.
This comprehensive system of heating, cooling, and ventilation is also known as HVAC.
If you’re a new homeowner or haven’t worked with an HVAC company, let’s discuss what HVAC is, how it works in your home, and where to go if your HVAC system needs repairs.
The acronym HVAC stands for:
Think of HVAC as multiple systems that:
HVAC systems consist of different layers and methods of output. Meaning, HVAC isn’t only about central air conditioning or central heating, though these are two of the most common systems.
Let’s explore each part of the system.
You have several system options for heating your home, including furnaces, heat pumps, boilers, and ductless systems. For each system, there are different methods of heat delivery:
Without the ventilation component of HVAC, homeowners might notice a fluctuation in inside temperatures, and risk too much (or too little) humidity in the home, and unhealthy air quality. The most common types of ventilation systems are:
Homeowners also have a few choices when it comes to cooling their homes. The most common is using central air conditioning in conjunction with central heating, but that’s not the only solution. There are also split or ductless, window and portable units.
All AC options operate in the same way, using energy to move heat from homes and buildings to the outside.
Most air conditioning systems use:
Refrigerant moves between a liquid and gas state, and as it changes, refrigerant can absorb and release the heat outside of your home.
Because there are so many working parts and methods of operation in HVAC systems, it’s wise to give them an annual tune-up by the experts.
Preventive care of your HVAC systems can extend the life equipment and reduce costly and untimely repairs. When your HVAC systems are operating well, you can save on energy bills and keep your home’s air quality safe.
On those cold winter mornings, there’s nothing better than pulling up the covers and feeling the furnace turn on, keeping you cozy and warm.
But, did you know that heating your home uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home? Energy Saver – an office of the U.S. Department of Energy – notes that heating your house makes “up about 42% of your utility bill.”
While factors like home size and gas rates can affect your utility bill, so can the efficiency and age of your gas furnace.
In this article, we’re going to break down what you need to know about furnaces and more importantly, why your furnace could be losing efficiency.
At its most basic, furnaces heat air and distribute the heated air throughout the house using air ducts.
The efficiency of your furnace is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which must be displayed on all new units. AFUE measures how efficiently the furnace converts energy in its fuel to heat over a year.
More specifically, a furnace with an AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy in its fuel becomes heat, while the other 10% escapes from chimneys and elsewhere.
Keep in mind, that the AFUE does not include the heat loss that commonly occurs via the ducting or piping, which according to Energy Saver can be as much as 35% of the energy output.
While electric heaters have higher AFUE ratings of 95-100%, they are often the least economic choice for homeowners given the higher cost of electricity.
Over time, it’s common for a furnace to lose efficiency, due to age, as well as wear and tear. But, there are several things you can do to improve efficiency in your furnace, which will improve heating and result in lower bills.
The most common reason for an inefficient furnace is a dirty filter. Most people don’t realize their filter needs to be routinely changed, so they leave the same one in for months, or even years. If you don’t change your heating system’s filter on a regular basis, it not only hinders the unit’s energy efficiency, it can cause long-term damage and reduce the air quality in your home. Check the unit for specifications, but the filter should be changed every few months, if not at least once a year.
It’s not uncommon for even the most sound homes to have air leaks that cause the heated air to escape the house. If your house isn’t properly insulated, your hot air (and your money) could be going out the window – literally. Heat can be lost through drafty windows and doors, through the ceilings, and even your walls
Be sure and keep all baseboard heaters and radiators clear of furniture or other objects to ensure the heat is distributed evenly and as able to reach the entire house.
Loose parts and fittings can create enough space to reduce airflow and cause rattling. Don’t forget to also check the blower fan, which can break or bend. Also, the fan belt is a good place to look for fraying. Lastly, check the combustion chamber for cracks.
In addition to ensuring your furnace is running properly, you should also be weatherizing your home each year. This means reinsulating areas that you know to be leaky or drafty. Use weather-stripping to block air leaks around doors and windows.
Inspect your burners and ensure they are free of debris. If your burner flames are blue, that means the burner is clean. If they’re yellow, you have dirty burners. Turn off the power and gas and then vacuum your burners.
Did you know if your furnace has a bad limit switch your blower could be running all the time? This will result in a shorter life for your blower. When they fail, the heat is always on, making it very hot.
If your furnace vents to the outside, you should always make sure nothing is blocking the vents. Clear any leaves or debris in the area. If you have a heat pump, clear any debris from the fins of the outdoor compressor unit.
As heating systems age, they begin to lose energy efficiency. Even with a new filter and proper maintenance, a furnace that is 15-20 years old will not be nearly as efficient as it was when it was brand new. It may be time for a new furnace.
Regularly checking and maintaining your furnace will help prolong the life of your unit and ensure cost-effective and efficient heating of your home. Before the cold grip of winter hits, consider whether or not you need a new furnace.
Heating your home during the cold winter months costs more money and uses more energy than any other system in your house.
Energy Saver – an office of the U.S. Department of Energy – notes that heating your house makes “up about 42% of your utility bill.”
Whether you’re on a tight budget, or simply trying to cut back on home expenses, there’s no need to suffer in a cold home this winter. The following tips can help you keep your house warm through the cold season, at a much lower cost.
The first thing on your list should always be proper maintenance of your heating equipment. Combine regular maintenance with recommended insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, and you could see a 30% savings on your energy bill.
It may seem silly, but adding another layer of clothing and putting on warmer socks can mean you are more willing to lower the thermostat in the winter. Not only will you save money on heating, but you’ll be prepared when you head outdoors.
Remember heat rises. So turn on your ceiling fan and set it to reverse. This will move the warmer air near the ceiling toward the lower level, and the living space. Running fans in reverse could save you around 10% on heating.
There’s no need to heat every single room in your house. Close the doors and vents in rooms you aren’t using. This will save you money and keep the rest of the house warmer.
Be sure the vents are open in the rooms you are using and make sure nothing is blocking the airflow, like furniture, dirty laundry, or other debris.
If you don’t plan on using your chimney, make sure the flue and draft are closed during the winter months. Open chimneys can draw the heat from your home. Fireplace inserts can help reduce heat loss.
Once you’re done using the oven, use the heat it has already produced, and open the door. This heat is normally wasted. Instead, open the oven door and allow the warm air into the rest of your kitchen.
The sun is a great source of light and heat, and best of all – it’s free. During the day, open your shades to allow the UV rays to heat your house.
If you can feel a draft of cold air seeping in from under your home’s doors, make a minimal investment in a draft blocker (usually around $10). They can help prevent the cold air from coming into the home.
Wrap hot water and radiator pipes, as well as ductwork, that runs through the house. Make sure you’re not losing heat as it travels through the house before it gets to the living spaces.
If you have radiators (or baseboard heating pipes) located on an external wall, place a piece of foil behind it to reflect the heat back into the home. You can do the same with ovens, wood stoves, and other sources of heat.
Hanging thicker curtains can protect your house from losing heat through the windows. Curtains with a thermal lining are a cheap investment and can save you in the long run. You can also use a blanket to line your existing curtains.
You can lose as much as 10% of your heat through uninsulated floors. Carpets and area rugs are a great way to reduce heat loss, while also keeping your feet nice and warm in the winter.
Seal any air that may be leaking out through cracks and gaps around windows by using caulk. It’s an inexpensive way to prevent heat loss.
It may be old school, but using a hot water bottle in bed at night can help you stay warm and also help you lower the thermostat.
During cold, winter months, change your sheets to flannel and use a down comforter. Both of these things will help you stay warm at night.
This one-time investment can pay off for years. Installing insulation in your attic or crawl space can help prevent heat loss and lower both your heating and cooling bills.
Investing in a programmable thermostat allows you to preset temperatures for when you’re home and when you’re away. After all, there’s no need to heat the house when you’re at work.
Remember, there are cheap and natural ways to keep your heating costs down during the winter season. Start the season out right and schedule routine maintenance of your heating equipment to ensure you’re maximizing your savings this winter.
Radiant heating is growing in popularity because it’s a clean, quiet, efficient, dependable, and cost-effective way to heat your home in the winter. With radiant heating, heat comes from panels installed in floors, walls or ceilings. Steam or hot-water pipes are placed under the floor material, behind the walls or in the ceilings, delivering heat to the surrounding space, quietly and invisibly, in a constant, uniform way.
Believe it or not, radiant heating is one of the oldest forms of heating known to humankind. While the Romans are often given credit for creating radiant heat, in actuality, both archeology and research into ancient texts have proven that radiant heating came to be thousands of years before the Romans in Asia.
Thousands of years later, underfloor heating has evolved into one of the fastest-growing, most cost-effective and efficient ways to heat your house.
PM Engineer Magazine reports that radiant heating is growing in popularity each year in both new and retrofits across the U.S. And according to Scientific American, radiant systems transmit heat on average some 15 percent more efficiently than conventional radiators.
This article briefly explains what radiant heating is and what benefits it offers.
Radiant heating is a system of tubes that are installed under the floors, behind the walls or ceiling that are capable of warming up an entire house. The heat emitted by the tubing naturally radiates the room, warming all objects in it, including the floor, walls, ceiling, furniture and people. Radiant heating can also be installed outside your home, under the sidewalk or driveway to help melt ice and snow.
With radiant heating, panels are installed under a home’s floors, which heat up on command via electricity, hot water or air.
With electric radiant heating, electric cables are built into the floor, or a system using mats of electrically conductive plastic are installed on the subfloor. While this is a common radiant heating option for homeowners, it isn’t the most cost-effective due to the high cost of electricity.
Electric radiant floor heating only works if used in conjunction with a thick concrete floor to act as a significant thermal mass. This will help store the heat in the floor for a longer period of time.
Hydronic (liquid) radiant heat is the most popular and cost-effective heating system. With this type of radiant heat, tubing is installed in a pattern under the floor, and heated water is pumped from the home’s boiler through the tubing.
Newer hydronic systems allow for zoned heating, which controls the temperature in different parts of the house.
While less efficient than electric or hydronic systems, some radiant heating systems do use air heated panels. This type of radiant heating is usually combined with solar air heating systems. This type of radiant heating is not cost-effective for residential use.
In general, radiant floor heating can be used on any type of floor; hardwood, tile, carpet, and even concrete.
Radiant heating systems offer a ton of benefits to homeowners, including the following:
Radiant heating is more efficient than baseboard and forced-air heating because it eliminates duct losses. And, while traditional heaters are usually cranked to 149-167 Fahrenheit, floor radiant heating runs at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. For that reason, it consumes less energy.
Radiant heating systems are entirely quiet. Unlike forced-air systems, you won’t hear vents turning on and off all day, and no more clinging radiators either — just a silent, warm home.
People who suffer from allergies will appreciate radiant heat. No ductwork means that dust and other allergens won’t spread through air vents in your house, allowing you to breathe cleaner and easier.
Since warm air rises, radiant floor heating is the perfect way to deliver a consistent temperature throughout a home. The heat that the floors emit will travel upwards, thus warming the whole room to an even temperature.
Every time you turn up the thermostat in a forced-air heating system, your furnace sucks humidity out of your house. This can leave you with dry air, dry skin, and painful sinuses. Radiant heat will help humidity levels in your home.
Radiant heat is a flexible heating source as it can run off of: gas, oil, wood, solar and other sources or combinations thereof can feed radiant systems.
You don’t have to jump all in when it comes to adding radiant heat to your house. Instead, if you don’t want to install radiant heat throughout the house, you can choose to heat one or two rooms.
Radiant heating allows you to remove unsightly radiators and return vents on the floors and ceilings. With heated floors or walls, you can remove wall-mounted radiators and open the room up.
There is no need for ductwork for radiant heating to work properly. No ductwork means one less major thing to worry about during annual maintenance.
Radiant floor heating works with almost every single type of floor type: laminate, tile, wood, concrete, stone, and carpet.
Maybe the best perk of all, say goodbye to cold feet. Radiant heating means warm floors and warm feet around-the-clock, which is especially nice on those cold winter days when you’re stepping out of bed or out of the shower.
Households and commercial buildings account for nearly 40% of total U.S. energy use. As long as heating, cooling and lighting remain the single largest energy end-uses in a home, there will be an increased interest in finding and implementing energy-efficient building practices.
Radiant heating systems offer energy-efficient and cost-effective way to heat your home while saving hundreds of dollars on home heating bills.