Barron Heating AC Electrical & Plumbing Blog: Archive for the ‘Energy Efficiency’ Category

The Right Ventillation Keeps the Home (and you!) Healthy

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

A Heat Recovery Ventilator efficiently sends fresh, healthy air into a tightly sealed home, while removing stale air that can cause a slew of health problems. And it does all this while capturing the heat of the discharged air and warming the fresh clean air at the same time. This article from 360Chestnut accurately describes the importance of this device and how ventilation is crucial in the overall health of a home.

Energy Efficient buildings are not making you ill, it’s bad ventilation

There has been coverage in the press recently about how Energy Efficient buildings may be making us ill. Is ‘sick building syndrome‘ is rampant in energy efficient buildings? Here at 360Chestnut we are as passionate about healthy homes as we are about energy efficiency. We would like to inform you, our readers, about what you may have been hearing on the news.

Mold growth and dampness in buildings are indeed major concerns, but this is nothing new in the building industry and it is certainly not isolated to ‘energy efficient’ buildings. Let’s start by what can cause mold in any building; warm, moist air, from people showering, cooking or just occupying a room, coming in contact with a cooler surface.

The warm, moist air condenses, the dampness soaks into your porous surfaces (such as your drywall), and creates a condition where mold will grow. Regardless of whether this happens in a poorly insulated building or a highly energy efficient building there will typically be one factor in common, poor ventilation. In a building with poor insulation the chances that this warm air will hit a cold surface is considerably higher though, so chances of mold growth are higher (insulation is very important)…. Continue reading

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The Real Deal on Energy Saving Gadgets

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

This is probably the best article I’ve read for an overview on all those heavily pushed gadgets and doodads that get sold as “home energy solutions.”

From ACHR News

Do Energy-saving Products Actually Save Customers Energy?

HVAC Contractors Need to Educate Consumers

By Joanna R. Turpin

August 18, 2014

All homeowners want to save money on their energy bills, which is why they are often intrigued by gadgets, additives, and one-off products that claim to offer significant methods to cutting energy usage. These products are appealing because they usually cost significantly less than taking the whole-house approach to saving energy, which may involve adding insulation, sealing ductwork, and upgrading heating and cooling equipment.
But HVAC professionals warn that, in many cases, these products do nothing more than separate homeowners from their hard-earned money. As Jordan Goldman, LEED AP/CPHC, engineering principal, ZeroEnergy Design, Boston, noted, “The focus needs to be on upgrading the building envelope — that’s where the biggest benefits are going to be. There is no singular fix. Homeowners shouldn’t fall for magic bullets and anything that seems too good to be true…
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Home Performance: More Than an Energy Audit

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Forward thinkers understand Energy Auditing.  An energy auditor looks at your energy useage, your house and prescribes behaviors and equipment that will help bring down your total energy consumption.  What most people are confused on is what makes Home Performance different. A recent video by Corbett Lunsford of the Chicago Green Dream Group spells it out beautifully.

He gives his 4-3-2-1 of Home Performance.  He says there are 4 Elements to Home Performance:

  1. Heat Flow: What can I use to make my building more energy efficient or higher performing?
  2. Airflow & Pressure: Both can cause a myriad of problems in the house including indoor air quality, comfort and energy efficiency.
  3. Moisture: This will damage a building’s durability faster than anything else, is a major component in poor indoor air quality and can greatly affect comfort as well.
  4. Indoor Air Quality: If you have respiratory problems caused by poor indoor air, we need to take a step back from energy efficiency until we’ve ensured that the air in your home is safe to breathe.

3 Recommendations:

  1. Air Sealing (Air Ducts and Home): It is cheap, effective, doesn’t need to be maintained or replaced and uses no energy (zero operating cost!)
  2. Insulation: Largely ineffective without air sealing first!
  3. HVAC: Without the first two, replacing a furnace with a more efficient model is akin to driving a Prius on flat tires!

2 Systems in Home:

  1. Envelope: The Envelope is comprised of the Air Barrier (made complete by Air Sealing any holes), which is the windbreaker for your home and the Insulation, the sweater.
  2. HVAC: This stands for the Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems in your home.  Water heating is included.

1 Goal: CONTROL. Energy Efficiency is a result of control.

The kicker here is that the only way to properly demonstrate control of a building is Home Performance Testing.  Things you can expect to gain from taking these 3 recommendations (as tailored to your house, concerns and budget) are increased comfort, lower utility bills, better indoor air quality, and a more durable home.  You also get confidence in your home performance contractor because they are the only ones that can PROVE the results they promise.

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The Most Stringent Building Energy Standard in the World

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Passive House (Passivhaus in German) is the most stringent building energy efficiency standard in the world.  It is not just an energy code or energy design but is integrated with the architectural design of the building to create a wholistic approach to reducing the building’s heating losses and thus decrease the need for expensive mechanical heating equipment.  The end result is a house that has a drastically reduced ecological footprint (low carbon emissions), along with superior comfort and indoor air quality.

According to Passive House Alliance United States, buildings that meet this standard use 80 percent less energy than conventional buildings.  Specifically this is achieved through maximizing your gains and minimizing your losses.  The process begins with strategic design and planning to test “what if” scenarios using certified passive house software.  During this process specific climate, siting and sizing is performed to ensure things like windows being positioned to maximize solar gain.  Passive house construction uses roughly twice the insulation value of modern code and great care to ensure that the building has no breaks in the thermal envelope.  Blower-door air leakage testing is an important component of passive house construction as the standard requires very low leakage to the exterior (0.6 air changes per hour at 50 pascals).  Advanced windows and doors are also used to minimize air leakage.

Now that the house is nice and air tight an Energy Recovery Ventilator is used to provide adequate, filtered fresh air for the home.  An ERV has the advantage of recycling indoor energy by passing that energy to incoming air further decreasing the heating load on the house.  The decreased heating load on the house makes the use of alternative energy to power your building much more attainable and cost effective.

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The Importance of Air Sealing Attic Penetrations

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
Can light sealing by CAZ Energy Services. Photo: Hunter Hassig

Many times when homeowners are looking at home improvement solutions for cold spots or high energy bills they think insulation. While insulating your attic and crawl space sub-floor up to code standards is very important for whole home comfort and energy efficiency it is insufficient on its own. This is because in almost every home there are numerous holes in the ceilings that allow air to move freely between your attic space and the conditioned living space of your home. Insulation is a thermal barrier NOT an air barrier. To further illustrate this think of insulation as a sweatshirt. It will keep you warm on a calm day but on a windy one you will need a wind breaker or rain jacket to stay comfortable. Air sealing those holes in your ceiling that lead to the attic creates a consistent, level air barrier that acts as a wind breaker for your home.

Where exactly are these holes? According to The Homeowners’ and Trades Resource Center the three most common areas are wiring penetrations, plumbing penetrations and where your drywall meets up with the framing. Some other trouble areas include soffits, dropped ceilings, chases, vents, exhausts, bath fans, recessed lighting (ie. can lights), and ductwork in your attic. In order to seal small holes like those around bath fans, use silicone caulk or expandable foam. To seal bigger gaps like those found in dropped ceilings and soffits, use rigid foam or drywall (depending on local code) to bring that area to the same level as the rest of the attic and then seal around it with foam or caulk. Sealing these holes will not only save you money on your utility bills but will lead to a more even temperature in the house and many times improve indoor air quality as well.

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Light Bulb Buying Guide

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Before energy saving light bulbs were so readily available, we would purchase light bulbs based on how many watts or how much energy they used. With newer light bulbs you can achieve the same level of brightness for while using up to 80% less power. When shopping for bulbs today, look for lumens not watts. Light bulbs usually include a label on the packaging.

On the ‘Lighting Facts’ you will see how many lumens (the measure of brightness), the estimated yearly cost of energy to use this light bulb, the lifespan, and the color tint of the bulb. Warm is a yellowish color, while cool is more blue. You can see that in this example only 13 watts of energy are used, however, if you are used to using 60 watt bulb then this 800 lumens will provide the same amount of light using only 21.7% as much energy.

For more information on buying the right kind of bulb, or lumens-to-watts conversion, check out this informational video.

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Heating System Replacement Tips

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Space heating is the largest energy expense in most homes, accounting for two-thirds of annual energy bills in cold climates.

Why Buy An Energy Efficient Furnace/Boiler?

Heating is the largest energy expense in most homes, accounting for almost two-thirds of annual energy bills in colder areas of the country. Heating systems in the United States emit a billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and about 12% of the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted by the nation. Reducing energy use for heating is the single most effective way to reduce your home’s contribution to global environmental problems.

Conservation efforts and a new high-efficiency heating system can often cut your pollution output and fuel bills in half. Upgrading your furnace or boiler from an AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) of 56% to 90% in an average cold-climate house will save 1.5 tons of CO2 emissions if you heat with gas or 2.5 tons if you heat with oil and will cut your heating bill by almost 40%.

If your furnace or boiler is old, worn out, inefficient, or significantly oversized, the simplest solution is to replace it with a modern high-efficiency model. Old coal burners that were switched over to oil or gas are prime candidates for replacement, as well as gas furnaces without electronic (pilotless) ignition.

About Furnace/Boiler Efficiency

A central furnace or boiler’s efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). AFUE is a measure of how efficient the appliance is in using fossil fuel (gas or oil) or electricity (for an electric furnace) over a typical year of use.

An all-electric furnace or boiler has no flue loss through a chimney. The AFUE rating for an all-electric furnace or boiler is between 95% and 100%. The lower values are for units installed outdoors because they have greater jacket heat loss.

The efficiency of manufactured furnaces is governed by the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 and regulated by the U.S. Department of Energy. The minimum allowed AFUE rating for a non-condensing, fossil-fueled, warm-air furnace is 78%; the rating for a fossil-fueled boiler is 80%; and the rating for a gas-fueled steam boiler is 75%. A condensing furnace or boiler condenses the water vapor produced in the combustion process and captures the heat released from this condensation. The AFUE rating for a condensing unit can be much higher (by more than 10 percentage points) than a non-condensing furnace. Although a condensing unit costs more than a non-condensing unit, the condensing unit can save you money in fuel costs over the 15 to 20-year life of the unit.

Tips for Buying a New Furnace/Boiler

  • If you live in a cold climate, it usually makes sense to invest in the highest efficiency system available. In milder climates with lower annual heating costs, the extra investment required to go from 80% to 90%-95% efficiency may be hard to justify.
  • When shopping for high-efficiency furnaces and boilers, look for dependability. Buy a system with a good warranty and a reputable company to back it up.
  • When buying gas and oil systems, specify sealed combustion. Sealed-combustion appliances bring outside air directly into the burner and exhaust flue gases (combustion products) directly to the outside, without the need for a draft hood or damper. They generally burn more efficiently and pose no risk of introducing dangerous combustion gases into your house. With nonsealed-combustion appliances, back-drafting of combustion gases can be a big problem, especially in tightly-sealed modern homes.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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Heating Your Home with Radiant Heat

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could somehow have even heat spread out across your home, instead of heat coming out of a vent? There is a way to accomplish this goal, and it is called radiant floor heating. You may have heard of this type of heating but known little about how it works or how it could be of benefit to you. However, this method is gaining in popularity rather quickly.

So what is radiant floor heating? Described in its simplest form, radiant floor heating allows heat to be distributed directly to the floor of a home. This means that heat literally comes up from under the floor in an even fashion. Of course, this is in stark contrast to other heating methods, which may force heat out of vents at different points throughout your home. Homeowners who dislike the uneven nature of heated air flowing from vents will most definitely be intrigued by what radiant floor heating can accomplish. There are three types of radiant heat for floors, which include radiant air floors, electric radiant floors and hot water radiant floors. [1]

A common way for radiant floor heating to work is through piping placed under the floor. This piping brings the heat directly to the rooms and areas where it is needed. The end result is quite surprising for those who have never experienced it before, as the heat provided is far more even than other alternatives.
Not only do most people find radiant floor heating to be more comfortable, but it is also generally seen as a serious energy saver too. [2] Radiant floor heating is more efficient, in part, because heated air is not sent through air ducts. [3] Air ducts represent a major loss of energy efficiency and radiant floor heating bypasses this problem altogether. The end result will be a more efficient home and lower energy bills.

Another significant benefit to radiant floor heating is that the heating system is essentially out of sight and out of the way. This makes it a great option for homeowners who are looking for a clean look.

Adding to the cost benefits of radiant floor heating is the fact that the equipment lasts for a long time and is quite durable. Moreover, radiant floor heating can be integrated into existing systems as well, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to buy a new heating and cooling system.

Experts look on radiant floor heating favorable due to its energy efficiency, but many also feel that it also has some safety benefits as well. Radiant floor heating can contribute to helping wet floors dry faster since the heat is reaching the floors directly. This is something that other forms of heating just can’t accomplish.

If you are looking to get even more out of your heating dollar, it also is important to make sure that you have installed the proper home insulation. ENERGY STAR estimates that up to 20% of heating cost can be saved by adding sealing and insulation.

There are many, diverse benefits to radiant floor heating and, as a result, it is no real surprise that this type of heating is getting more attention. Those looking to make the most out of their energy dollars will want to explore this interesting option that is full of benefits.



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Custom Energy Efficiency Report For Your Home

Friday, December 13th, 2013

At  you can take a free, short survey to help identify ways to save money in your home. The questions inquire about the types and frequency of energy used, kinds of appliance in your home, and the type of unit you live in – all things that you know!

There are only 5 short pages of questions to answer, then you can view your results and have them emailed to you. In the results you will see how energy efficient you are being as compared to your neighbors with similar homes. You will also see a percentage of Potential Savings. These savings are possible if you follow the provided Customized Action Plan. This plan takes into consideration what is causing your home to be less efficient.

The last thing they provide is average statistics for your area. Here you will find the typical energy prices & how efficient people in your area typically are.

Whether you are just curious about how your home stacks up in energy efficiency, or you genuinely want to make changes in your home to save money and improve your life this is a wonderful and free resource that everyone should take advantage of.

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Tips to Lower Your Furnace/Boiler’s Energy Usage

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
  • Set your thermostat as low as is comfortable.
  • Keep the temperature fairly constant, as frequent changes will utilize more energy by causing unnecessary cycling on and off. Setting back the temperature at night, however, is recommended.
  • Clean or replace furnace filters once a month or as needed.
  • Oil-fired boilers should be professionally cleaned and tuned once a year. Gas-fired equipment needs to be checked every other year.

  • Clean warm-air registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators as needed; make sure they are not blocked by furniture, carpeting, or drapes.
  • Keep draperies and shades on south-facing windows open during the heating season to allow sunlight to enter your home; close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
  • Close the door to an unoccupied room or area that is isolated from the rest of the house and turn down the thermostat or turn off the heat for that room or area.
  • Use kitchen, bath, and other ventilating fans wisely. Turn these fans off as soon as they are no longer needed. In about 1 hour, these fans can pull out a house-full of warmed or cooled air. They can also pull dangerous furnace combustion gasses into the house in some situations.
  • Check your ducts for air leaks. First look for sections that should be joined but have separated and then look for obvious holes.
  • Do not use duct tape to repair leaky ducts. Standard duct tape has been shown unreliable in sealing duct leaks. Various mastics or non-cloth-backed tapes are preferable.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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