If your home heating system is on its last leg, now’s the time to consider a replacement. How do you choose from a furnace, heat pump or a hybrid system? Here are some basic facts about each one to help you figure out which is best for your home.
Boilers are a common way to heat homes in Massachusetts, but an old, inefficient boiler can be a real fuel hog. Upgrading a boiler at the right time can save you a ton of money with lower energy costs in the future.
Are you afraid of what the financial future holds as temperatures drop in your Massachusetts home? There is an obvious need for concern, but there are plenty of ways you can lower heating bills this season. In fact, we’ve gathered together some of our favorites right here:
- Tune up the system – An annual tune-up of the furnace by a licensed HVAC contractor will not only improve its efficiency, but also extend its operating life.
- Upgrade the thermostat – If the heating and cooling of your Massachusetts home is still controlled by a manual thermostat, you’re behind the times and most likely wasting money. A programmable thermostat will allow you to designate when the equipment is in operation, which can help you gain control over costs.
- Purchase a space heater – The cost of running a furnace to heat your home is a significant portion of your heating bill. Space heaters use less energy to operate and can keep you warm, especially when everyone is in the same room.
- Replace weatherstripping – The application of weatherstripping around the edges of doors and windows is a great way to keep air leaks at bay. Of course, these strips don’t last forever. If they’re beginning to show wear, you should replace them.
- Eliminate drafts around outlets – Many household outlets don’t have the proper insulation behind them. While this may not seem like a big deal, the loss of air can increase heating costs. To fix this, first remove the plate. Then apply either acrylic latex caulk for small gaps or foam sealant for larger ones. And before you replace the plate, place a foam gasket over the outlet for further protection.
- Use sweaters and blankets – When it gets cold inside, many of us immediately reach for the thermostat to turn up the heat. Staying warm with sweaters and blankets is a more cost-effective option.
For more expert advice on how to lower heating bills, or for any other questions related to home comfort, please contact the friendly professionals at Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning. We proudly serve the Route 495/128 area of Massachusetts.
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How concerned should you be if your heat pump freezes over? Maybe not very—at least, not just yet. If a light coating of frost appears on the heat pump’s external coils, as well as the refrigerant lines that run into the house, it probably just means the outdoor temperature’s dropped to 40 degrees or below and the amount of water vapor in the air is above 70 percent. Since the heat pump coil typically runs about 20 degrees lower than the outdoor temperature, dew forming on the cold coil and refrigerant conduit freezes into a dusty layer of frost.
- Frost should be a temporary issue. Heat pumps incorporate defrosting technology to automatically eliminate frost on the coils. A reversing valve in the system redirects warm refrigerant flow back the outdoor coil and melts the frost. These systems may be actuated at regular intervals by a timer or controlled by a microprocessor that senses frost conditions.In any case, the appearance of frost on the heat pump shouldn’t linger for more than a couple of hours. If frost continues to accumulate beyond that time frame, a defect in the defrost cycle may have occurred.
- Ice is another matter. A thick coating of ice on the coil differs from a layer of frost. Ice forming on a heat pump may eventually encase the entire unit and obstruct airflow through the coil. Usually, the system will either run non-stop or automatically shut down.If obvious causes such as falling sleet or freezing rain are ruled out, thick ice accumulation on a heat pump indicates potential malfunctions such as a low refrigerant charge, which is usually indicative of a leak, a defective defrost timer or sensor, or a stuck reversing valve.
For anything more than light frost accumulation that melts within a few hours, contact a qualified HVAC service provider.
If the heat pump freezes over in your Boston area home, call Rodenhiser Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning.
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Home heating systems can stop working for a wide range of reasons, and none of them are welcome on a cold winter’s night. Some system breakdowns may be relatively easy to fix yourself. When you can’t fix it, any additional information you can pass on to a qualified service technician may help speed repairs. Start troubleshooting heating in these three primary areas.
Inspect Air Filters
Air filters frequently get dirty or clogged, and not just the filter inside the furnace. Check the furnace filter every month, and change it at least once or twice a year.
The cold air intakes and heat vents generally also have filters. Look at each individual filter; remove any large debris that may be caught in them, and change the filters if they’re clogged with dust. Ensure that all registers are fully open.
Confirm the Thermostat Works
Programmable thermostats need batteries to work properly, and they may not function properly if the battery is low. Check that the display lights properly and doesn’t show any battery warnings. Next, locate the breaker associated with the thermostat and make sure it’s turned on.
If you want to go into advanced thermostat troubleshooting, you can shut off the breaker and cross the two wires that serve the furnace. Flip the breaker back on. If the furnace fires, the thermostat is the problem.
Check the Furnace
The pilot light should be visible inside the heat exchanger on the furnace. If you don’t see a flame when the furnace is off, then you may need to re-light it. Pilots that don’t re-light properly may have a supply issue that a furnace technician needs to assess and fix.
If the pilot is on but doesn’t ignite the burners when the thermostat calls for heat, the ignitor is the likely culprit. Turn off the gas reset valve for at least five minutes, and then turn it on and try again. Call a technician if it still won’t light.
Contact us at Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning for more expert advice on troubleshooting heating concerns in your Route 495/128 area home.
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Before you install a new furnace in your Massachusetts home, you may have to decide between oil or gas as the fuel source, depending on where you live. Both gas and oil furnaces have advantages and disadvantages, and the following guide will help you determine which option may be best for your home.
Gas Furnace Pros and Cons
Natural gas furnaces are more efficient overall than oil furnaces, with AFUE ratings of 89 to 98 percent common today, as compared to modern oil furnaces, which have AFUE ratings of 80 to 90 percent.
Gas furnaces require less maintenance, with only one or two service visits needed annually, depending on the model, while oil furnaces require more frequent maintenance due to soot buildup and oil filter changes.
Gas furnaces also tend to be quieter and cleaner to operate, and natural gas costs as little as a third of the price per heating season.
On the other hand, gas furnaces tend to be more expensive than their oil counterparts, by up to 25 percent for the most efficient models, and your home must be located in an area that has natural gas service installed.
Oil Furnace Pros and Cons
Oil furnaces are convenient because they can be installed in remote areas that aren’t serviced by natural gas lines. The home heating oil is delivered as needed by a fuel company, and typically routine furnace maintenance is included as part of the delivery contract. Oil furnaces are less expensive than comparable gas furnaces, and they often produce more heat per BTU of fuel used.
The major disadvantages of oil furnaces include the requirement for on-site fuel storage and the higher expense of home heating oil per heating season. Oil isn’t as clean-burning as gas, requiring more frequent maintenance, and oil furnaces tend to be louder and less efficient than gas models.
For more information about the differences between gas and oil furnaces, talk to our home heating professionals at Rodenhiser Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning. We’ve served the Route 495/128 area of Massachusetts since 1928.
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A quality heat pump is a great investment that can last for years on end, but even the best system can get a bit long in the tooth after years of reliable service. When it comes time to replace the system, you should take the opportunity to choose a replacement that offers the best in energy efficiency and performance. Read More Heat Pump Getting Up in Years? Why a Replacement Shouldn’t Be Avoided >>
An oversized furnace isn’t a better furnace. Too much heat can actually make your living spaces less comfortable in winter, not more. It’s also wasteful from an energy efficiency standpoint, as well as a from a financial one.
In the past, residential furnaces were often “one-sized” rather than installed on the basis of an accurate load calculation of the actual thermal requirements of the home. To cover for the inevitable errors in this process, builders and contractors simply installed a furnace that was too big for the job. Many homeowners are stuck paying for these past mistakes.
Here are some of the ways an oversized furnace is bigger but not better.
Read More An Oversized Furnace Can Be a Costly Mistake >>
Electric air-source heat pumps can be a practical heating and cooling option for your Massachusetts home. However, they need to have a workable backup heating system to provide comfortable home heating when temperatures outside fall below freezing for extended periods.
Read More How Heat Pumps Heat When It’s Really Cold Outside >>
Your boiler is the central unit in your home’s hydronic heating system, so when it’s on the blink, you can expect a loss of indoor comfort throughout your entire home. If you’re having problems getting enough heat, the following steps can help you narrow down what the problem might be before calling in the HVAC experts.
Read More Boiler on the Blink? Here’s What It Might Be >>