Archive for April, 2011

Water-Saving Tips and Tricks

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Here are some of our favorite water-saving tips. They are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle – and can save you hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water a year.

Whole House

  • Check for leaks – you may save thousands of gallons a month! You can find leaks by looking, listening, and monitoring your water bill for unusually high usage. To check for toilet leaks, put food coloring in your tank. If it gets into the bowl without flushing, you have a leak. Don’t forget to look for leaks in your outdoor plumbing too.
  • Know where your master water shut-off valve is located. In the event of a major problem, you’ll save thousands of gallons of water – and maybe your possessions as well.

Outdoors

  • Adjust your sprinklers so that you water only your lawn – not your sidewalk or driveway.
  • Consider adding a patio or “outdoor room” to your home. You’ll have less lawn to water and will add thousands of dollars to your home’s value.
  • Do two chores at once – water the grass by washing your car or your pet on the lawn. Be sure to use natural, biodegradable soaps.
  • Have your plumber re-route your laundry waste water to your lawn (check with local authorities first to be sure this is legal in your town).

In the Bathroom

  • Turn off faucets when you’re not actively using water – such as when you’re lathering your hands, shaving, or brushing your teeth. You’ll save hundreds of gallons each month. New touchless water faucets (or very affordable converters for your existing faucet) make this easy and fun to do, especially for kids.
  • Shorten your shower by only a minute or two, and save 150 gallons of water a month. (You can do this by turning off the shower while you lather your hair.)
  • Replace your old showerhead with a new WaterSense water-saving showerhead. They’re inexpensive and easy to install. You’ll save up to 750 gallons a month (and it’s a great opportunity to get a nice style upgrade too!).
  • Install WaterSense-certified aerators on all your faucets – another inexpensive upgrade that can save hundreds of gallons a month.
  • Insulate hot water pipes so don’t have to run the water as long while you wait for it to heat up.
  • Plug the tub before turning the water on for your bath, then adjust the temperature as the tub fills up.
  • Keep a bucket in the shower to catch water as it heats up. Use this water to flush toilets or water plants.

In the Kitchen and Laundry Room

  • Install a tankless water heater near your kitchen sink so you don’t have to run the water while it warms up.
  • If your dishwasher is new, scrape off excess food, but don’t pre-rinse. Modern dishwashers are built to handle un-rinsed items.
  • Upgrade your old water-cooled refrigerator, air conditioner, or ice-maker to a new air-cooled model for a significant reduction in water use
  • When buying new appliances, look for the EnergyStar label, which guarantees high efficiency. Also, look for models that offer cycle and load size adjustments.
  • Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when they are full – you can save up to 1,000 gallons a month.

What is a Green Building?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

A green building is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout its life-cycle, minimizing the building’s impact on human health and the natural environment.

Some of the criteria that can go into evaluating a green building include:

  • Location
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Operation
  • Maintenance
  • Renovation
  • Demolition

Of course, there are many different kinds of green buildings, each with its own particular strengths. Here are a few:

Buildings located in New Urbanist communities. New Urbanism is an urban design movement that promotes walkable neighborhoods with multi-use buildings so that residents can live, shop, and work within their local area. The goal is to promote community, reduce the amount of energy used for transportation, and reduce emissions from car travel.

Net-zero buildings. A net-zero building produces renewable energy equal to or greater than the energy the home consumes from public utilities. A net-zero building saves energy by being extremely energy efficient, and by generating its own renewable power using solar, wind, micro-hydro, or geothermal systems.

“Ultra-small” homes. Super-small houses (30 square meters and even smaller!) are a growing trend in home design. Tiny spaces dramatically reduce the occupants’ energy use – in some cases, the entire home can be run on the equivalent of a couple of light bulbs.

Buildings constructed with local, natural materials. Homes made of earth, straw bales, stone, stucco, and other natural materials are often cheaper to build and require much less gas for transporting construction materials. They can also be extremely energy-efficient to operate because the building materials are suited to the climate.

Buildings constructed entirely or in part with reclaimed materials. Recycling keeps building materials out of the landfill and reduces the energy needed to manufacture new items. One commonly-used reclaimed material is shipping containers, which are strong, cheap, and can be assembled in a modular fashion to create homes of any size.

R-2000-certified buildings. R-2000 is a voluntary standard administered by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) that evaluates three main areas of construction: energy performance, indoor air quality and use of environmentally preferred materials. Builders are given the freedom to choose the best and most cost-effective way to achieve the R-2000 goals, which means they can incorporate any of the techniques or building styles described above.

LEED-accredited buildings. Probably the best-known green building accreditation system, LEED offers third-party verification that a home is above average in the following areas: sustainability of building site, water efficiency, energy use, sustainability of materials, use of resources, indoor environmental quality, location, transportation connections, and innovation in design. LEED-accredited homes are extremely efficient to operate and have a high resale value.

What Is a Water Source Heat Pump?

Monday, April 25th, 2011

A water source heat pump operates much like a traditional air source heat pump except that it extracts and dissipates heat by way of water instead of air. This is certainly not a type of home comfort system that will be available to anyone, but if you live in an area close to a well, lake or other natural water source, it may be an option worth considering.

All types of heat pumps can provide excellent year round home temperature control by pumping heat in during the winter months and removing it during the summer. The main difference between the types of heat pumps is where they get the heat or dispose of it.

Traditional air source heat pumps get their heat from the air outside, as even relatively cold air actually contains a substantial amount of heat. They use this heat to keep your house warm in the winter, but as the outside temperatures go down below freezing, these heat pumps can become less and less effective.

Water source heat pumps, on the other hand, work on basically the same principle as air source heat pumps, but they extract heat from a body of water rather than the air. They do this by cycling water through a system of pipes that is laid out at the bottom of a body of water. As the water cycles through, it gathers heat from the lake or reservoir and then carries it back to your house.

In the summer, the process is reversed and heat is carried out of your house and expelled in the cooler water outside. Like air source heat pumps, water source heat pumps are slightly more efficient at cooling rather than heating, as even deep water will eventually get cold during the winter months. However, the water is still often warmer than the air, and so water source heat pumps can be a good alternative if you live in a slightly cooler climate.

Of course, you do also need to have access to an appropriate body of water to have a water source heat pump installed, which makes it something that is not available to everyone. But if you do live near such a body of water, a water source heat pump is definitely something worth considering.

No Heat in the House? Things to Check and Do

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

In general, when your heating system stops working, you’ll need to call a professional to come out and take a look. However, before you do that, there are likely a couple of things you can check on your own to ensure that there really is a problem with the system itself.

For instance, if it’s cold in your house and your heat isn’t coming on, check to make sure that the thermostat is set to a high enough temperature that the heating system would be triggered. Particularly if this is the first really cold day of the season, it’s entirely possible that your thermostat was turned down at some point and left there. And if the thermostat isn’t turned up high enough, the heat will never come on.

Also, it’s worth just taking a second to check and make sure that the power switch on the heating system itself is actually in the proper on position. For the most part, there would be no reason for you to turn this off, but it’s always possible it could have happened in any number of ways and it only takes a second to check.

Depending on the type of fuel source your heating system uses, it’s probably a good idea to check to make sure the supply is still available as well. If you use natural gas, check to make sure that the gas line is open, but don’t try to repair it yourself if it seems to be compromised. If you find something like that, be sure to call your gas company right away.

However, if you use oil as a heat source, take a quick peek at the levels in your tank. There’s always the possibility that you used more than you thought you did or that a delivery was missed for some reason and so your heating system simply has no fuel to run on. Similarly, if your heating system runs on electricity, make sure that the fuse wasn’t blown or that it’s not just too loose to provide an adequate power supply.

If you’ve covered all of these basic troubleshooting bases, it may be time to take a closer look at the heating system itself. On just about every type of system there should be some type of reset switch or button. Follow the instructions to press this button and engage the reset process, but be sure to only try this once. If that resetting doesn’t work, it’s time to back off and call in some professional help.

What Is the Most Efficient Way to Heat My Home?

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

When it comes to home heating, efficiency is one of the main factors most people take into consideration. There are quite a few different options in terms of home heating, including oil, gas and electric furnaces, heat pumps, and boilers, and each of these have their own set of advantages and disadvantages depending on your own particular situation.

For better or worse, there is no one system that is universally more energy efficient and effective than the others. The one that will turn out to be the best choice for you is the one that fits best with your specific heating needs, the climate you live in and the relative price of the fuel sources available to you.

For instance, if you live in a relatively moderate climate, a heat pump may very well be a good option for you. These systems are able to operate much more efficiently than furnaces because they extract heat from the air rather than generating it themselves. That means that in the winter, a heat pump can take heat from the outdoor air and pump it indoors to heat your home. In the summer, the heat pump can actually do the opposite, taking the excess heat from indoors and transferring it out to provide you with a yearlong temperature control solution.

Heat pumps generally run on electricity which can be expensive, but since they use so much less energy than something like an electric furnace, they can still be a very energy efficient home heating option. However, these systems are not as effective in areas with harsh, long winters, and so would likely require a supplemental heating system as well. Also, the lower the outside temperature, the less efficient a heat pump is going to be.

Furnaces, on the other hand, are quite effective at heating homes no matter how harsh or cold the climate. Gas furnaces are generally the most popular of the models available now, mostly because the cost of natural gas is lower in most areas compared to the cost of other potential fuels.

However, it may be worth considering an oil or electric furnace if these types of energy sources are relatively inexpensive in your area. No matter what type of furnace you get, you’ll be able to choose how energy efficient you want it to be as well, with lower efficiency 80% AFUE furnaces costing substantially less than those with an AFUE of 90% or more.

Is a Heat Pump Right for Your Home?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Deciding which type of home comfort system to go with can be a difficult process to navigate. There are a ton of factors to take into account including how much you will be using the system, what type of fuel you mainly rely on and what the specific climate is like where you live.

Heat pumps are a great home comfort solution for many people but they aren’t always the appropriate choice. However, there are many benefits to going with a heat pump system, so this is certainly an option you should keep in mind as you evaluate your options.

Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air in one place and then transferring that heat to another space. For instance, in the winter, heat pumps take heat from the outside air and pump it into your house. In the summer, on the other hand, your heat pump will be able to take heat from your indoor air and pump it back outside, thereby keeping your home cool and comfortable.

Heat pumps are also extremely energy efficient because they don’t actually have to generate the heat they pump. Unlike furnaces, which take in fuel and convert it into heat, heat pumps simply harness the heat that’s already there, making them by far the more energy efficient option.

Another benefit to heat pumps is that they maintain a more constant temperature than many other types of heating systems do. Rather than pumping in a big blast of hot air and then waiting until the temperature indoors falls below a preset level before doing it again, heat pumps provide a relatively constant stream of warm air.

The initial amount of heat is smaller than what you might be used to from a furnace, but the cumulative effect means that you’ll be able to enjoy a much more consistently comfortable indoor environment.

It is important to evaluate the climate in your area before you decide to purchase a heat pump, though. These systems are extremely effective at heating and cooling your home as long as temperatures stay above the mid-thirties.

Below that, you may need to install some type of supplemental heating in order to keep your home warm enough on those really cold days. So if you live in an area where temperatures routinely dip below freezing for large portions of the winter, a heat pump might not be the most sensible solution for you.

If I Choose a Heat Pump System, Will I Also Need to Install Supplemental Heat?

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Most Commonly Asked Questions about Heat Pumps

If you’re thinking about buying a new heat pump for your home, chances are you have some questions about these types of products and how they work. In fact, because these types of home comfort systems are relatively new to a lot of people, there are a quite a few misconceptions out there about how effective and efficient they can be.

Recently we’ve gotten some good questions from our readers, so we thought we’d like to pass along the answers so that others can benefit from the information as well.

If I Buy a Heat Pump, Do I Have to Buy an Air Conditioner Too?

That heat pumps are only able to heat your home is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about this type of equipment. Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air in one place and transferring it to another. That means that in the winter, your heat pump is able to heat your home by taking heat from the outdoor air and moving it inside.

However, in the summer, the heat pump is able to do the same thing only in reverse. When you switch on your heat pump’s cooling function, it will be able to take the heat out of your indoor air and transfer it outside. In this way, the same heat pump system can keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer without you needing to purchase an air conditioner or other supplemental comfort systems.

That depends on what the climate is like where you live and how warm you like to keep your home. In general, heat pumps can keep any home comfortable as long as the outdoor temperature is above 32°F or so. If the temperature outside drops below that, you may want to have some type of supplemental heating system just in case. However, a heat pump will still be able to provide some warmth at these lower temperatures and you may be able to keep yourself comfortable with a simple space heater or too.

Also, remember that these colder temperatures are most common at night when you would probably have turned your heat down anyway. As long as you live in a relatively moderate climate, heat pumps can do a great job of keeping your home comfortable all year long.

Welcome to our new website

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

iMarket Solutions has launched Sound Heating ’s new custom website. To learn more about how iMarket Solutions can expand your presence on the web visit:www.imarketwebsitesolutions.com

Check out our blog for the latest in HVAC technology

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Be sure to bookmark the Sound Heating blog for updates on the latest advances in HVAC technology.

We’ll feature money saving promotions here as well.

Call Sound Heating for all your heating, hydronics, air conditioning & indoor air quality needs.