In the majority of homes, the ductwork is largely concealed inside walls, ceilings, attics and crawl spaces. This network of pipes connects the furnace and air conditioner to the various rooms of the house. The duct system is responsible for delivering heated and cooled air while also pulling the stale air out of the rooms. The integrity of the pipes directly affects the efficiency, capacity and reliability of the furnace and air conditioner. The average home collects approximately forty pounds of dust every year. Living in dust are microscopic bugs, such as dust mites, that multiply rapidly and can become a health issue. While continual dusting and vacuuming helps to rid the living environment of pollutants, the dust work is often neglected. Debris gradually builds up within the pipes. This accumulation blocks airflow.
When the maximum amount of conditioned air is restricted from reaching the intended destination, the furnace or air conditioner is required to run more often and use more energy to reach thermostat settings. Along with higher running costs, the added wear and tear increases the risk of malfunction and shortens service life. In addition to dust, the ductwork commonly conceals mold growth, mildew, pollen, lint, pet dander, bugs, webs, decomposing rodents and construction debris.
Heated and cooled air passes through the duct system multiple times. These harmful toxins can easily become airborne and spread into every room of the house. When occupants breathe the contaminants into their lungs, they are at risk of respiratory infections and everything from headaches to asthma attacks. It’s a good idea to have the ductwork professionally inspected and tested every couple of years. Ductwork cleaning is a non-invasive procedure that optimizes the airflow and efficiency of the system. It can help to reduce the workload on the furnace and air conditioner and save a great deal of money on utility bills and repairs.
If you keep up with my blog, you know that my husband and I rely on hydronic heating in the winter and summer with our swimming pool. I have already gone over the good points in my blog titled The benefits of owning hydronic heating. For this post I just want to talk about life after with heated flooring.
As a couple, having hydronic heating was awesome for energy saving matters and comfort. Now that the two of us have young kids, I can’t imagine another heater. Hydronic heating is having warm floors. I have a baby that is crawling around like a little champion. I love that in the winter he is toasty warm since he is literally on the heating system. Sometimes he flops right down and naps on the floor next to our dog.
I don’t have to worry about the heated flooring waking the baby or my toddler due to the silent operation. The heating system stays on all winter long at a reasonable temperature. There is no distinct click turning on and off or operational noises. It is so nice knowing that nothing is going to disturb the kids and wreck the free hours I managed to snag when they are asleep.
With the piping being trapped, and relying on hot water, the indoor air quality is clean. Why is clean indoor air conditions a big deal? Little kids are susceptible to any sort of dust or debris. Their immune systems are still developing and can easily get sick. My kids hardly feel ill in the winter time due to no dirty, stale air circulating in the home through vents or ductwork. I don’t even need to invest in an air cleaner or humidifier since the air quality isn’t dry or polluted.
Heated flooring is also very safe for having young kids. I used to live in a home with a gas fireplace. That front glass plate would get lava hot. I even burned my pants on one occasion. I can’t imagine having kids running around that unsafe heating system. I have a child that is still unsteady on his feet. He could easily fall over and catch himself on the gas fireplace. Then he has burned hands or even could have burned his face. Heated flooring stays trapped under the floors and the boiler in the basement certainly is not a threat. Any parent should consider the safety features on their heater when they have young kids.
Did you know that hydronic heating is not limited to your house flooring? My husband and I joke that we want to coat our entire property in heated flooring and will someday. The two of us started out making every room in our house have hydronic heating. Taking a shower and stepping on warm tile was amazing. The living room was so cozy at night with a heated carpet. I even liked having heated flooring in my work out room and doing my own version of hot yoga.
After a few years of enjoying the house heated flooring, I started looking at what else could be done. I found that some people use their boiler system to heat their swimming pool. It is the same idea as the flooring. You stretch pipes to the pool and use it to heat the water. I then heard about people putting down the piping, cement over top of it and having a heated, indoor garage. Men used it as a workspace or as a playroom for the kids.
People with outdoor blacktop actually use heated flooring as a snow melt system. They have the system placed, blacktop over top of it, and it heats during the winter to melt the snow. The cars on the heating system don’t have any ice on the windshields due to the heat. There is no snow to push off the car or shovel around. It makes the whole house look classier and is better for your vehicle. The snow melt system was something my husband and I immediately purchased.
When we moved into a new home, there were quite a few projects that needed to be completed. We were faced with an ancient roof, windows that leaked air, outdated appliances and an inefficient heating and cooling system. Because of the severe weather in our local area and the cost of temperature control, replacing the furnace and air conditioner were a priority. We considered the new HVAC system as an opportunity to enhance comfort, air quality and the value of our home. A modern central air conditioner can be expected to last around fifteen years with annual maintenance. A new gas furnace often performs reliably for upwards of twenty years. Since we expected to live with our choices for quite some time, we were willing to spend more to benefit from a better quality heating and cooling system. Since we plan to remain in the house long-term, we knew the investment into a high-efficiency system would pay for itself in lower monthly energy costs year after year. My husband and I took some time to research the different manufacturers, models and efficiency ratings on the current market. Air conditioner efficiency is provided by a unit’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating, which is displayed on a yellow Energy Guide sticker. The current federal mandated minimum is a 14 SEER, but there are Energy Star rated options that achieve up to a 26% SEER. The federal minimum AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating for a gas furnace is 78%. There are adaptable-speed models that offer up to a 98% AFUE rating. We chose top-of-the-line heating and cooling equipment that includes features such as wifi connectivity and zone control.
My husband and I purchased an older home that needed to be nearly completely gutted to make it liveable. The roof had leaked for quite some time, causing a great deal of water damage to the ceilings, walls and floors. We were faced with crumbling plaster, warped doors, corroded pipes and an electrical system that wouldn’t pass code. The heating and cooling system was not salvageable. Even the ductwork was in such bad shape that it needed to be entirely torn out. This left us with options. We were starting from scratch and could choose any type of temperature control system we wanted. After a lot of debate, we decided on a VRF system. Variable Refrigerant Flow technology involves an air-cooled and refrigerant-based process that uses an outdoor condenser linked to multiple small air handlers. The air handlers can be individually controlled. The main advantage of VRF is the system’s ability to regulate the amount of refrigerant flowing to each of the air handlers.
The compressor detects the precise requirements of each zone and sends the exact amount of refrigerant necessary to maintain ideal comfort. Because of this, the operation minimizes energy uses and is especially efficient and cost-effective. It also maintains very consistent comfort, optimum humidity levels and avoids hot and cold spots. Plus, a VRF system can heat one room while cooling another. It will even repurpose the heat pulled from the air conditioning process and send it to those areas that need heat. Since the air handlers are especially compact and don’t require ducts, the system is a space-saving alternative to conventional heating and cooling equipment.
I moved south a couple of years ago. I was anxious to get away from the snow and cold of long northern winters. I’d had enough of shoveling snow, scraping ice and relying on the furnace for eight months of the year. I looked forward to the heat and sunshine further south. I didn’t realize that heat and humidity can be as problematic as sub zero temperatures. I now rely on the air conditioner for eight months of the year. I stress over the cost of electricity and am often trapped inside due to the severity of the weather. Within the first six months of living in my new home, I realized that I needed to do something about the humidity. Turning down the thermostat simply put more strain on the air conditioner, over-cooled the space and cost me a fortune in utility bills. The air still felt sticky, and there was condensate running down the window panes. I struggled with mold and mildew growth and found it difficult to sleep at night. Initially, I purchased a portable dehumidifier. That didn’t solve the problem and simply created more work. I needed to empty the reservoir constantly, and I worried about the standing water breeding contaminants. I finally consulted with a local HVAC contractor and invested into a whole-home dehumidifier. The dehumidifier is installed into the cooling system where it pulls moisture out of the air as it passes through. Since adding the dehumidifier, I’ve been able to raise the temperature setting on the thermostat several degrees. The house feels cooler and more comfortable and even smells fresher.
Shopping for a heating and cooling system for a new construction home was a long and stressful project. My husband and I wanted to make the most out of our investment. We were looking for a unit that would provide year round comfort and longevity but also keep our monthly bills reasonable. Energy efficiency was a priority for running costs as well as environmental impact. We researched forced air furnaces and central air conditioners but weren’t thrilled with the idea of giving up space to ductwork. From what we read, the average duct system gives up as much as 30% of energy to leaks. After a lot of debate, we finally chose a geothermal heat pump. Although the price tag to purchase and install a geothermal system is much higher than a conventional alternative, this innovation met all of our requirements. Geothermal systems are considered the most environmentally responsible choice by the EPA, achieving up to 400% efficiency ratings.
The underground loop system is warrantied for 50 years and can be expected to last twice that long. Because the actual heat pump is installed inside the home and protected against the weather, it should operate reliably for over twenty years. There are few moving parts which minimizes maintenance requirements and the chance of malfunction. Geothermal systems are great for dehumidification and won’t dry out the indoor air. They are safe, clean and quiet. Plus, with the addition of a simple switch, we benefit from a virtually free source of hot water. The best perk of the geothermal heat pump is that it keeps our house totally comfortable no matter the season or weather.
Plumbing services are best left up to the professionals. DIY projects can easily go horribly wrong and lead to a great deal of inconvenience, damage and expense. Licensed plumbers have the training, specialized tools and resources to handle unexpected issues and complexities. The help of professional contractors can reduce the amount of disruption and mess caused by repairs, replacements or installation. Rather than grab a water heater off the shelf of a home improvement store, it’s better to consult with a knowledgeable contractor. A plumber knows how to calculate the proper size for household demands. He should be familiar with the make and models and recommend one of better quality. While all tank-style water heaters might appear the same, there are significant differences that add to convenience, value and satisfaction. The heating element affects how quickly the water heats up. The anode rod helps to remove hard water chemicals. Warranty coverage is also important. An experienced plumber can potentially fix the existing water heater, provide life-extending maintenance and helpt to determine if conversion to tankless would be feasible. Tankless water heaters are about the size of a small suitcase, mount to the wall and can be installed indoors or outdoors. The system heats water on-demand and eliminates standby energy losses. Because the water isn’t constantly reheated in a tank, it doesn’t absorb harmful chemicals. Plus, there’s no waiting for water to heat up and no running out of hot water. Tankless water heaters also offer a much longer lifespan. Like all water heaters, maintenance is essential to performance. Having service performed by a licensed plumber every year fulfills the warranty requirements.
One of the best parts about my husband’s job are the perks he receives. His boss enjoys taking care of his employees, so he not only pays them well, but he treats them well. One of the best perks is the season tickets for our hometown baseball team. During the first year my husband started working for this company, they told him that he could attend all the baseball games for free. Before we went to our first game, we made sure to dress as light as we could and we lathered on sunscreen. We were prepared to sit in the heat for all 9 innings, as it was an afternoon game. When we arrived, we went to the ticket box to receive the tickets with our seats. We were shocked when we were handed massive tickets in the box seated section! My husband and I looked at each other with disbelief. As soon as we walked into the box area, we were greeted by the cool air conditioning. Each box room was connected to the central air conditioning system, so the entire room was chilled evenly. My husband and I were able to watch the entire game in the comfort of the air conditioning. Of course we couldn’t control the temperature of the room, so if we got too cold we sat on the outside balcony. When we became overheated from the intense temperatures and humidity, we walked back inside and relaxed in the air conditioning. Since we’re able to sit in the air conditioning, we attend as many home games as possible!
There are pros and cons to purchasing an older home. I appreciate the historic integrity and charm of my house. The construction is extremely sturdy and well done, with everything perfectly square and plumb. The hardwood floors, doors, moldings and staircase are exceptionally beautiful. I love the big windows with stained glass insets, the high ceilings and wide front porch. However, we moved into a house with an extremely outdated electrical and plumbing system. We also had no access to central heating or cooling. There was no way I was willing to struggle with box fans, window air conditioners and electric baseboard heaters. I was very reluctant to tear into the original walls and ceilings to install a duct system. That would have created extensive damage and mess, cost me a fortune and consumed a great deal of space. I started looking into alternatives and found that there’s one type of system designed specifically for older homes. A high velocity heating and cooling system requires very little space and causes no disruption to the existing structure. It utilizes mini-ducts that are flexible and just two inches in diameter. They are small enough to be snaked between studs in the walls or ceiling rafters. The vents are also much smaller. Where conventional vents are usually around six inches tall and twelve inches wide, the high velocity vents are only five inches in diameter. The heated and cooled air is supplied from a compressor to a high-velocity air handler that sends it through the ducts at a very high rate of speed. The air then circulates rapidly and raises or lowers room temperature quickly. The high velocity system doesn’t need to run as long as most types of heating/cooling units and therefore uses less energy.