Heating & Cooling

How To Prepare Your Heating Radiators for Winter Use

Radiators have been used to heat homes for hundreds of years, although they’re rarely used in new homes these days. But, many older homes still use radiators as their main heating system. One of the great advantages of radiators is that they need very little work to keep the hot water system maintained.

However, there are a few things that need to be done to keep your radiators providing the most heat possible for your home or apartment. Before you start using your radiators for the winter, you should check them to make sure that they’re working properly.

When your homes radiators sit all summer, air can leak into the system. The air will take up extra space inside the radiators and prevent the hot water from circulating properly. With less room for the water to circulate through the system, the radiator will produce less heat.

Much like you do brakes on a car, you need to bleed your radiator to remove he excess air. Turn the heat on and allow the system to build up some heat. If you have more than one floor in your home, start with the radiators that are in the upstairs rooms first. You want to start with the radiators that are located in the furthest room from the boiler.

There is a small air vent or bleeding valve located on the top end, it is made specifically for releasing trapped air. Depending on your radiators, you’ll need either a radiator key or a screwdriver to open the valve. Some will be equipped with a handle.

Be very careful when you open the valve, not only will the trapped air come out, some of the hot water will to. Hold something underneath the valve to catch any of the water that leaks out. The air will make a hissing noise as it leaves the radiator, after the hissing stops and water starts to come out, close the valve.

The radiators pipe connections should also be checked each season. The packing that is used around them can wear out and over time the connections can become loose. If you notice any signs of dampness and moisture around the connections, try to tighten them with a wrench.

If they still get damp after you’ve tightened them, you will need to replace the old packing. Pipe packing resembles string, it’s wrapped around the pipe threads and can be purchases at more home centers or hardware stores. Turn the supply valve off and loosen the nut and remove the old packing. Wrap new packing around the threads tightly and then tighten the nut back up.

Those old well known bangs and clangs from radiators is caused by loose pipes. The water will cause the pipe to contract and expand as the water is constantly heating and cooling. This causes slight movement in the pipes and will eventually cause them to become loose.

These noises can often be stopped by making sure that all of the pipes are securely attached. You can also use insulation to pack any slack or holes around the pipes where they enter the wall or floor. Another cause of radiator banging is walls, moulding, framing and other materials being placed too close to the heater.

Each radiator should be on a slight slope. The slope should be leaning towards the inlet pipe that is coming up from the floor or our of the wall. If your radiators don’t have a gentle slope, place a small 1/4 inch wood wedge under the end of the radiator where the vent is located.

Check all of your vents to make sure that there aren’t any blockages. Corrosion, rust, paint and dirt can keep the hot air from escaping from the vents. If you find that your vent is blocked, it’s easy to replace and can be purchases at most hardware stores. Let the radiator cool down and unscrew the old vent and replace it.

You should also check the position of your inlet valve. The valve should be all the way open for the winter months, or all the way closed during the summer. One that is just partially open can cause noises and can’t regulate the heat. All you have to do is turn the valve to either position you want.

Advantages Of Electric Fireplaces Over Gas

It’s that time of year when many homeowners are thinking about how they’re going to keep their homes warm through the winter. If you’re considering adding a fireplace to your home, you really should think about all the advantages that electric fireplaces provide.

Fireplaces add so much to the beauty of a room and with all the designs available today, you can choose from rustic to elegant. Traditional fireplaces leak much of the heat they generate and although they will keep your home warm, much of the wood or other substance that you use is just wasted into the outside air.

Conventional fireplaces are also messy, you have to deal with soot and keep them cleaned out. You also have to clean the chimney regularly and inspect it for any damaged or blockages. With an electric fireplace you don’t have to worry about a chimney, soot, ashes or smoke.

With an electric fireplace, you won’t have to have some where to store firewood. And, you won’t have to go out in the snow to bring in more firewood. And, unlike gas fireplaces, you’ll never have to worry about carbon monoxide fumes being released into your home. Electric is not only much cleaner than gas, it’s also much cheaper.

Another big difference in an electic fireplace and conventional fireplaces is that you have control over the temperature. You can adjust the setting to the temperature that you want for the room and it will save lot’s of money on electricity. Having a thermostat and temperature control let’s you maintain the correct temperature.

Most types of electric fireplaces can be set up and heating your home in just minutes. The set up is pretty much just placing it where you want it and plugging it in! And, if you decide you want to move it to another location in the room or in the home, you can easily put it anywhere that you need it.

With the advancements made today, electric fireplaces can even create realistic flames. Some even come equipped with sound so that you can hear the crackling of the fire. Some models actually look and sound so real, guests might not even realize that it’s not a conventional fireplace!

Another really great advantage of electric fireplaces over gas, is that you can install them in any room of the home. You don’t have to worry about venting them or running gas pipes, all you need is an electrical outlet and you’re fireplace is ready to go. You can also find them in a variety of sizes to fit any room.

There are so many styles of electric fireplaces to choose from. Some even double as entertainment centers, with shelves for all of your media equipment. They also come in many different looks such as stone, wrought iron and wood. They’re a really good way to add charm to your homes decor as well as keeping it warm and cozy.

How To Choose A Gas Fireplace

Gas fireplaces provide a lot of advantages over wood burning fireplaces. With wood you have to have a place for storage, you have to go out in the cold to get more wood and you have to worry about it going out in the middle of the night. And, if you purchase fresh wood, it needs to sit for around a year to get properly seasoned for burning.

You can purchase either propane or natural gas fireplaces that have logs that look just like wood. The logs will be housed inside a firebox and there’s usually a glass front on the stove. You can just turn a switch to start the fire and have instant heat.

Gas is a lot cleaner than wood, there’s no ashes or chips of wood to clean up. Gas is also much more energy efficient than wood. And, you never have to worry about not having heat is the electric goes off like you do with heat pumps or furnaces.

There are several basic types of gas fireplaces to choose from, free standing, factory built and inserts. Free standing fireplaces are the most effective of the three. Since they aren’t placed against a wall, the room receives heat from all sides of the fireplace.

Factory built fireplaces are usually installed when the home is being built or if major renovations are done. And, if you already have an existing fireplace that you want to convert to gas, inserts can be installed. They’re just placed inside the fireplace and no major construction is required inside the home.

If you do choose to install gas burining inserts, you will need to have your chimney relined. You will also need to make sure that you have a approved vent installed so that fumes don’t escape into the home. You can install gas fireplaces yourself, but it’s much safer to have a experienced professional do the job.

Before purchasing a gas fireplace, make sure that you check the government rating labels. Modern fireplaces are much more energy efficient than they once were, but some will still provide you with a much better savings on your gas bill than others.

There are several features to look for to make sure that you get the most energy efficient gas fireplace. Choose one that is direct vented, it will save energy and also be safer. A fireplace that is equipped with an automatic starter will use less gas than one that has a pilot light.

A fireplace that has a circulating fan will force the heat out into the room. It will help the fireplace keep a larger area nice and warm. Try to choose a stove that has a ceramic glass front instead of one that is made of tempered glass. Ceramic transmits heat much better and it’s also shatter resistant.

Fireplace units that are equipped with a secondary heat exchanger provide a lot more heat than units without them. And, one of the most important features for saving energy is a variable control. A fireplace that has a variable control gives you the option of regulating the amount of gas used by adjusting the temperature.

Some variable controls only allow you to adjust to around 70% while others will give you more control in adjusting it to 20%. And, if you’d like to heat more than just one room with the fireplace, make sure that it can be connected into the duct work.

Ventilation, Safety and Efficiency Tips For Using a Gas Fireplace

If you’ve decided that this is the year that you’re going to buy a gas fireplace, the first thing you will need to do is to decide how you want it to be vented. The venting system is very important because it’s what keeps gasses from escaping into your home.

The best choice for both safety and efficiency is a direct vent system. A direct vent uses two pipes, one pipe is used to bring air from the outside into the firebox. The other pipe is used as an exhaust to remove combustion to the outside instead of into the home.

This type of gas fireplace is much safer, the firebox will be sealed. And, it’s much more efficient because it doesn’t use the air in the room for combustion. This way none of the air that is already warm is going to get released outside.

A natural draft vent system requires a vertical chimney to draw combustion out of the fireplace through a flue. To prevent fluctuations from outside air pressure from reaching the burner, a draft hood is needed to isolate the burner.

Though rarely used, power venting is a great choice to use when you don’t have the option of installing a flue. It needs an electric fan to provide venting and doesn’t need a draft hood. Power venting doesn’t hardly use any of the rooms air at all making it very efficient.

You should never intall a fireplace that doesn’t have a vent. Without a vent to direct carbon monoxide and combustion to the outside, all of the gasses are released into the home. Avoid any type of vent free stove or fireplace, the fumes are deadly.

To help improve the efficiency of your fireplace always keep the glass clean. A clean glass will allow the maximum amount of heat to be released into the room. And, if you have a fireplace that has a pilot light, turn it off when you’re not using the fireplace.

Before using any fireplace, make sure that the area surrounding the fireplace is thoroughly clean. Not only can contaminants and debris easily catch fire, it can seriously damage the motor, fan and burner in the fireplace.

If your fireplace has a pilot light and it goes out, make sure to wait at least five minutes for any gas to evaporate before re-lighting it. Never clean the glass on your fireplace until it is completely cool, even shatter resistant glass might break if you try to clean it while it’s hot.

You should have your fireplace inspected by a professional at least once a year. The best time to have this done is right before cool weather arrives. If you have it done in the spring, something could go wrong with it while it’s sitting all summer.

To keep your family extra safe, always install a carbon monoxide detector in the same room where you install the fireplace. If you have more than one fireplace in your home, install a detector in each of the rooms. A detector located in a hallway might not alert you to fumes if the fireplace is behind a closed door!

If you’re using a new fireplace for the first time, carefully read all of the manufacturers instructions. Most companies will have a toll free number and if you have any questions that aren’t answered in the manual either call the company or a heating contractor.

If you smell any odors or gas while using the fireplace, turn it off and have it checked out. Keep all of the air vents cleared of snow, ice or any other debris such as leaves. And, clean the fireplace fan regularly.

A fireplace can add so much to the beauty and warmth of your home, but if not properly maintained your home could go up in flames. Protect your home and your family by doing regular inspections and keeping your fireplace clean.

Tips For Choosing The Best Firewood

The type of firewood that you use in your fireplace or wood burning stove can have a big effect on it’s performance. Knowing which woods to choose can help keep your home warmer and even help keep your family safer from fires.

The best type of wood is of course, high quality, well seasoned wood. Wood that is properly seasoned will burn much cleaner and much more efficiently. All wood contains some water, wood that has just been cut can be as much as 45% water, while well seasoned wood is usually only about 25% water.

Seasoned wood will provide much more heat than freshly cut wood and it will be easier to get your fire started as well. If you cut or purchase your fireplace wood from six months to a year ahead of time, the wind and sun will have time to properly season it.

Water from the roots of a tree travels to the branches and leaves through a series of tiny microscopic tubes. Even once a tree has been dead for years, these tiny tubes can still contain moisture. Cutting  your wood in small lengths ahead of time can promote the evaporation of the water inside the tubes.

There are a few guidelines to follow when purchasing wood to make sure that you’re getting seasoned wood. Check the ends of the planks to see if they have became dark. The wood should be light and make a clunk when you hit two pieces together. Another really good sign that the wood is seasoned is visible splits and cracks in the plank.

Since green or fresh wood is so high in water content it won’t provide as much heat. The majority of the initial heat is actually used to dry the wood out so that it can burn properly! But, while this water is evaporating and going into your chimney so is creosote!

Creosote is an acidic water that clings to the sides of your fireplace and chimney. This buildup can quickly cause fires, aside from giving out less heat, cresote deposits are the main reason you should never burn fresh wood in a fireplace or stove.

If at all possible, firewood should be purchased in the spring and then stored properly to allow it to become seasoned. Wood should always be stored up off of the ground. Sitting on the ground will cause the wood to retain moisture and it will quickly start to rot and become unfit for burning.

The best place to store fire wood is in a wood shed. A structure that has a roof but doesn’t have any walls is ideal. This helps to protect the wood from the wind and snow, but allows good air circulation so that the wood can dry out properly.

If you don’t have a wood shed, place your wood pile in a good sunny area of your yard. You will need to work harder to care for the wood if you don’t have a roof to protect it. It should be covered with plastic or tarps to keep the rain and snow off of it, but don’t forget to uncover it when the it stops raining or snowing. The covering will hold in moisture and ruin the quality of the wood.

You can purchase several cement blocks to stack the wood on and keep it off of the ground. But, any type of foundation that will allow air to circulate under the wood will work fine. Fire wood that is properly stored and cared for can last as much as three or four years!

If you have no choice but to burn fresh wood, have your chimney checked regularly. Pine makes a good choice for kindling, but you shouldn’t burn too much of it. Softwoods are alright to use to, but they burn more easily and can quickly cause a large fire before you realize it.

Sometimes you can pick up wood scraps at construction sites and a lot of the time you can find great kindling pieces for free. However, you should never burn any wood in your fireplace that has been treated or painted. Toxic chemicals such as arsenic, will be released into your home if the wood is treated or painted.

How To Install a Digital or Manual Thermostat

Installing a new digital thermostat in your home can help you conserve energy and help protect the environment. But, it can also save you lot’s of money on your monthly heating and cooling bills. With today’s constantly rising costs of everything, saving money any place that you can only makes sense.

Replacing your old thermostat with a digital one can save you as much as 30 to 35 per cent on your utility bill annually. That can add up to a savings of over one third of what you’re paying out on your monthly bill. It’s a way of benefiting the environment while at the same time benefiting yourself.

Besides all of the money that you’ll save and the gases you’ll prevent from escaping into the air, digital thermostats have big benefits over the old manual type. The timing feature is one of the main benefits of using this type of thermostat.

With a digital thermostat you can set it to different settings around the clock. You can use the settings to turn the heating or cooling system off when no one is home. And, have it kick on by itself half an hour before you get home to have your house comfortable and ready for you.

You can set the thermostat to automatically go to a lower temperature an hour after everyone is cozy and warm in bed. And, have it raise before you get up to have the whole house toasty warm. The ability to choose when you need your home warmer or cooler and not even be there to turn the thermostat up or down yourself is a huge convenience.

Almost anyone can install a digital thermostat and you don’t even need any complicated tools. A screwdriver, drill, masking tape, level and a pair of wire strippers or a sharp knife is all that you need to get the job done.

Make sure that you throw the breaker into the off position before attempting to do any type of work involving electricity. There are several wires in different colors and there won’t be any confusion when hooking them up to the new thermostat if you mark them. Use small pieces of the masking tape to wrap around each wire and mark the letter or number on the tape that is next to the screw.

Remove the faceplate on your old thermostat, loosen the screws and pull it away from the wall so that you can get to the wires. Mark all of the wires with masking tape, loosen the screws that hold the wires in place and remove the wires.

The screw holes may not be the same on the new thermostat. If they’re not then you’ll need to make new ones. Hold the thermostat on the wall and use the level to make sure that it’s completely level. Use a pencil or pen to mark the spot where the new screws need to go.

Take the face plate off of the new thermostat and pull all of the wires through the back of the plate. Now, you can attach the new thermostat to the wall with the screws. Make sure that you use the level to re-check the accuracy of the thermostat.

Both old and new thermostats are very sensitive and need to be perfectly level to function properly. If it’s not level, you may need to re-do the screw holes to line it up. When it’s level go ahead and insert the screws and attach it to the wall. Be careful to not let any of the wires fall inside the wall, or let any of them get caught behind the thermostat.

Check all of the wires and make sure that there’s not any crimped or corroded spots along the wire. The wires should already be stripped, but if they’re not, strip at least 3/4 inch of the outer coating off of the wire. If you get lucky the numbers or letters that you marked on the wires will line up with the ones on the new thermostat.

If not, just closely follow the manufacturers instructions that came with the new thermostat. Normally if letters are used, the “Y” will mean the yellow wire, the “R” will be for the red wire and the “G” will of course, be for the green wire.

Once you’ve gotten the wires attached you’re ready to reattach the faceplate to the thermostat body. Almost all models of digital thermostats require a battery to work, there is usually one included in the package. Install the battery and turn the electricity back on.

Now all that’s left to do is to set the time on the thermostat, set your desired temperature and choose the program cycle that you want to use. Digital thermostats are generally inexpensive and can usually pay for themselves on your first utility bill!

The steps to installing a regular, manual thermostat are exactly the same and even replacing an old thermostat with a new more efficient one can still help you save energy. But, with the many advantages of digital ones, there’s really no need in having to adjust the temperature manually all the time!

How to Properly Clean Your Central Air Unit

Having your central air unit cleaned can cost up to $250 or even more. It’s an important maintenance step that can add years of use to your unit. It’s also a process that many believe that they have to call a professional for. But, you can clean your own central air unit and keep the money in your pocket!

We all know that you are suppose to keep the filters in the inside unit changed on a regular basis. But, you also need to clean the fins behind the filters now and then. You can either use a soft brush or the brush attachment for your vacuum to remove lint and grime.

If you have easy access to the blower, remove the cover and vacuum the inside. Now, is also a good time to oil the blower motor, you can purchase electric motor oil at most hardware stores. There should be small ports, these are like little holes to drip the oil into.

Central air units run on 240 volts of electricity, so you want to make sure the first thing you do is turn off the electricity! Usually the shut off box is located outdoors near your unit. If there’s not a box on the outside of your home, then you’ll need to switch the cricuit breaker off inside your home.

Some of these outdoor boxes will have a handle that you can pull down to turn off the electricity. But, some will pull out of the box and others are equipped with a fuse that you will have to remove to shut off the power.

The metal covering should just have a few screws that need to be removed to lift the cover off of the unit. Remove any grass or weeds from the condenser and use the soft brush attachment that came with your vacuum to clean the fins. The fins are made of thin metal so you need to be careful that you don’t bend them.

Next you will need to remove the grille on top of the unit. On most models the fan is attached to the grille. You’ll need to hold the grille up while making sure you don’t stretch or pull on the wires. You may even want to have someone hold it for you while you clean the unit.

Use the spray gun on your water hose to spray the fins. Hold the sprayer on the inside and spray outward, remove any debris, dead grass or insects that you can see. Then replace the grille, be very careful not to let any of the wires get caught underneath the edges.

Now you’re ready to replace the outer covering and screw it back into place. Don’t just turn the central air unit back on if the cleaning has taken four hours or more. Switch the thermostat to off, then turn the electricity back on to the unit and wait for 24 hours.

The compressor contains and internal lubricant, turning the power back on and letting it sit will give the warming element the time it needs to warm the lubricant. Once you’ve waited for 24 hours, set the thermostat to the cool position so that it will kick on.

While the unit is running, go back outside and listen for any strange noises. If there are noises, you can remove the metal cover and check to make sure that nothing has fallen inside it and make sure that nothing is near the fan blades. If you’ve heard any noises and can’t find the cause, then you’ll have to call in a professional to find the problem.

Cleaning a regular window air conditioning unit is just as important. Remove the filter and clean it with warm soap and water and vacuum the fins or use a soft brush to remove the lint and dust.

You will have to remove the air conditioner from the window to properly clean it. Remove the outer covering and make sure that you cover the electric motor and the wiring with plastic. Then use a water hose with a sprayer to spray the condenser coils.

It’s much the same as the cleaning method for a central air unit, except for a window unit you will need to spray from the outside in. Once you’ve cleaned the unit, take a old rag and wipe up as much of the water as you can.

If you have an air compresser use it to blow air into the fins to help in drying. You’re going to need to let the unit sit for several days to dry thoroughly and if there’s too much water sitting in the bottom of the unit it will start to rust.