Thermal Services-NO LONGER IN USE
Go to: www.thermalservices.com/blog for our updated blog posts!

Jan
09

If you are used to following the Thermal Services HVAC and Plumbing blog, we have moved, again. In an effort to streamline things, we have moved the blog to the following website:

http://www.thermalservices.com/blog/

We will continue to provide you with the same useful content on HVAC and Plumbing items. As always, please contact me if you have any questions. I would encourage you to click on the link above, and follow us there. I appreciate your patience through the blog transition.

Regards,

Thermal Services

Jan
04
By Mark Tweedy, Residential Service Manager, Thermal Services

Every heating season, we answer the same question many times: “What is the correct setting for our home’s humidistat?” It can, undeniably, be confusing. When you consider that there are many different brands and styles, and that they have changed in design so much in the last few years, it’s no wonder there are questions.

Midwestern winters are very dry. Without humidifiers, our home’s humidity level can dip to levels that aren’t healthy for us, and can be damaging to our house and furniture. Many of us add the water back into the air with some sort of central humidifier that is attached to our HVAC system.

The goal of the humidistat is to keep the humidity in a comfortable range by turning the central humidifier “ON” as the humidity in the home falls, and then “OFF” as the humidity in the home rises. Some humidistats have an additional level of control which will protect the home from over-humidification during colder weather. When the temperature outside falls below 20 degrees, there is a risk of the moisture, in the home’s air, condensing on the cold surface of windows, and even walls and ceilings. For that reason, whether there is an automatic control or a manual control, we need to back our humidifiers down when it gets this cold.

#1HumidistatConventional humidistats will likely have a series of numbers surrounding a dial. The numbers will often read from 0% (OFF) to 60% (fully ON). For most people a comfortable setting will be between 35% and 45%. However, running on the higher end comes with some caution. When the outdoor temperature drops, and the level of humidity in the air is still high, water can condense on the windows, leaving the possibility of water building up and running down to the sill, thus doing damage. For this reason, most of these conventional humidistats have a temperature scale that has us turning the dial lower as the temperature drops. By this scale, the humidistat is set to only 25 degrees when the outdoor temperature dips to 0 degrees. Setting it even lower is necessary when we get into subzero temps. When outdoor temps climb back above 20 it is again safe to add humidity. This scale is really a guessing scale. It presumes a normal, or loosely, insulated house with single pane windows. With better windows and better insulation, you can keep a more comfortable level of humidity at lower outdoor temps.

Another style of humidistat features a series of numbers from 1 to 10 surrounding a dial. This type of humidistat is designed to use an #2Humidistatoutdoor temperature sensor to do the job of the guessing scale. As the outdoor temperature drops, the humidistat will automatically reduce it’s setting to prevent damage and maintain comfort. The humidity target is preset for 35%. The 1 to 10 settings allow us to set our home’s insulation level. Better insulated homes are less likely to condense and do damage. For these well-insulated homes, we can turn the dial higher. For the “looser” homes, the dial should be set lower. It can take some time, and adjustment, to find the right setting. However, when you do, it’s done; just leave it at the setting where water doesn’t condense on the windows, and you should have a reasonable level of comfort.

FrostProtectionHumidistat-PrestigeDigital humidistats will have yet another level of control that Honeywell calls “Window Frost Protection Setting”. It combines the two previous features into one digital control. The level of humidity can be adjusted, and the insulation factor can be set with the frost setting. This type of humidity control is most often built into the home thermostat.

The graphic above is from Honeywell’s Prestige IAQ Thermostat. There are various digital control displays from Honeywell and others. The idea, however, is the same.

As always, please feel free to call Thermal Services at 402.397.8100 to get further clarification on your humidity questions. We are more than happy to assist you in making your home more comfortable.

Jan
02

We get calls, quite consistently, from customers asking how they can increase their home’s energy efficiency and comfort. Oftentimes these two subjects are mutually exclusive. However, in the case of high-efficiency furnaces, they overlap in a few ways.

First of all, an introduction to high-efficiency furnaces is warranted.

grassfootprintFurnaces are measured by their AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization). High-efficiency furnaces are those furnaces that are rated at 90% AFUE, or above. These furnaces differ from their 80% (or lower) AFUE counterparts in that they have a secondary heat exchanger. This heat exchanger pulls up to 10% more heat out of the furnaces by gathering as much of the excess heat from the condensation and combustion processes, and utilizing that extra heat to condition your home. This process makes these furnaces more efficient, thus saving you money, and helping the environment by minimizing the use of fossil fuels.

As mentioned in a previous blog post, the United States Department of Energy has mandated that after May 1, 2013, all furnaces sold north of the established line must install 90% AFUE, or greater, in all retrofit, and new construction applications. This makes this topic even more important than before.

What other advantages do high-efficiency furnaces bring to the table?

In addition to saving you money, high-efficiency furnaces can bring additional comfort to your home. Let’s discuss three ways that these pieces of equipment can make you more comfortable:

  1. Variable Speed Blowers: These blowers run at a lower output speed than the older furnaces. Imagine a light switch (either on or off) vs. a dimmer switch (customized to the appropriate setting, based on need). The ability to use a variable speed blower will minimize the amount of cooling down that takes place in the room, while the furnace is in the standby cycle. This saves energy that would’ve been used, when the furnace fires up again, and begins to warm the home up. Variable speed blowers also allow for a constant mixing of the air, so that the amount of stale air is reduced.
  2. Multi-stage burners: When you cook mac n cheese on your stove, do you turn on all of the stove burners to do so? Why would you do the same when heating your home? Multi-stage burners allow the furnace to determine how much gas is needed to provide the amount of heat that your home is calling for. This provides more even comfort than the older furnaces that ran at 100% all the time, every time, regardless of how much heat was needed.
  3. Indoor Air Quality: High-efficiency furnaces can actually improve the air in your home as well. Humidity control becomes easier with high-efficiency furnaces because they draw combustion air from outdoors only, which eliminates the drying effect that standard furnaces have on the indoor air that they use. When standard units pull combustion air from inside the home, the water vapor that exists in all air is reduced to lower levels than usually desired. The presence of high-efficiency furnaces helps solve this problem.

The comfort advantages that high-efficiency furnaces bring are often overlooked because of the energy efficiency solutions that are brought to the table at the same time. It becomes very important to keep all of the advantages in mind when considering a new furnace installation.

Please don’t hesitate to call Thermal Services, at 402.397.8100, to ask any other questions that you might have in regards to this, or any other heating, cooling, and plumbing needs you might have.

Dec
28

ducttape

Last year, my daughters asked for duct tape for Christmas. This was a highly unusual request, as all I knew about duct tape was that it was silver, and it held pretty much everything together. Besides that, I had never considered it to be a useful toy, or something that an 8-year-old, or 10-year-old girl would be interested in. Come to find out, there are now hundreds of options for duct tape colors, designs, and characters. This is all in an effort to provide young people with the means to create their own purses, wallets, hair bows, ink pen add-ons, and even clothing.

Now, to most grown people, one use for duct tape is to apply it to air ducts in order to hold it together, or to reduce the amount of air leaking from the ducts. This is also the case for many heating and cooling contractors.

However, in an ideal world, there should be no duct tape used on an installation of a furnace. Sealant of some sort should be expected (or required), but this can often be found in the form of a caulk. This type of sealant can be applied in a small line, rather than the seemingly obnoxious application of the aforementioned duct tape. Check out this website to see more about why duct tape shouldn’t be used to seal air ducts.

How many times have you seen old duct tape hanging from the duct, because it had lost its effectiveness? How many times have you thought that the duct tape hanging from your duct work looked like a fly-catcher, rather than what it was supposed to be utilized for?

To answer your question, “Why is there duct tape on my air ducts?” I would say that there shouldn’t be. There are exceptions to this statement, but, for the most part, your heating and cooling contractor should be able to provide an installation crew with the knowledge of sheet metal extensive enough to eliminate the need for the silver tape that we, unfortunately, have grown accustomed to.

The advantages of NOT using the duct tape include:

  • Better airflow, provided by a smoother transition from duct to duct.
  • Aesthetics: No one likes the look of duct tape that has been sloppily applied.
  • Permanence: Duct tape’s stickiness wears out over time. Metal work doesn’t.

There are other, unique, reasons that the use of duct tape should be minimized. Many HVAC technicians, installation crews, or sales people can help you with these reasons.

If you have any other questions about this topic, please don’t hesitate to call Thermal Services, at 402.397.8100.

Dec
26

One of the fallacies that exist in a homeowner’s world is that their home’s plumbing system doesn’t need checked out on a yearly basis. In nearly all homes, this assumption can be presumed false. It is very advantageous to have your home’s plumbing system checked on a yearly basis!

In addition to ensuring that all of your fixtures are clean, and tight, it is extremely important for you to make sure that all of the components of your plumbing system are checked, in an effort to catch something before it causes heartache.

One such component is your home’s water heater. The average life span of a tank type water heater is between 10-15 years. Many homeowners out there still have the “original” one installed in their home in 1970! It may appear to be working ok, but the problem with having such an old water heater in your home, is the risk associated with it.

The old saying is that your water heater will give out at some point in time. The question is whether you want it to do it on its terms, or YOUR terms.

Water Heater 3There are many components to the tank type water heaters that can come into play when it comes to your home’s plumbing system. One such part is the sacrificial anode rod. This part is the metal rod that is installed in all new tanks. It is designed, as the name implies, to be sacrificed to prolong the life of the heater. The main duties of the anode rod is to attract all of the “stuff” in your water that can deteriorate the rest of the inside of the tank, and instead, have those things focus on the anode rod. This, of course, means that the anode rod’s lifespan is limited. Many people don’t realize that this part exists, which means that they don’t know that it needs replaced every few years. Once the anode rod is completely dissolved, the “stuff” that destroyed it, will go to work on the inside of the tank.

In the picture to the left, you will see an old water heater that has had the side cut away, in an effort to see the inside of the unit. The anode rod is protruding down from the top. As you can tell, it is highly eroded, and didn’t have much life left in it when this tank was removed. You will also notice all of the material that has built up on the inside of the water heater, over the years.

That is just one example of what a whole house plumbing check can evaluate. Here is Thermal Services’ Plumbing Checklist for their annual plumbing check up. Take a look to see if there are any areas of your home that you had overlooked, in regards to your plumbing systems.

Another advantage of having a whole house plumbing check done is to allow a professional plumber to make some recommendations on what your home may need to get caught back up. For example, one of Thermal Services’ plumbers may present you with three proposals: 1) What should be done to ensure your safety, and prevent damage, 2) What could be done to add some life to some of the existing plumbing components in your home, and 3) A “wishlist” of sorts, that would be what you hope to have in your home.

This is an important part of the plumbing check, in that it provides the customers an opportunity to see what their options are, and what they can expect in the future.

At the end of the day, an annual whole house plumbing check should be looked at like a physical. More often than not, we come out of our annual physical with nothing to report. But, it gives us peace of mind knowing that we are ok for another year.

Take some time to look at the Thermal Services plumbing website, and please feel free to call us at 402.397.8100 with any questions that you might have regarding our whole home plumbing services. You can also check out our Copper Maintenance Agreements that provide an annual check, as well as some great discounts on any plumbing repairs that you may need.

Dec
21

Merry Christmas from Thermal Services! May God Bless you and your family!

Dec
19

Living in the Midwest can be a drag, sometimes. Fortunately, we’ve had some mild winters through the past couple years. However, there are still many people who leave town at the first sign of a frost, and don’t come back until the water is warm enough to swim in. What do these people do, in regards to their heating, cooling, and plumbing systems when they leave?

Often times, the “security” involves a family member, or friend coming over once or twice a week to check on things. They make sure that the pipes haven’t frozen, or that the water isn’t leaking anywhere that it shouldn’t be. It’s an age-old tradition for the “snowbirds” to have their house sitter in place when they leave town for the winter.

Now, there is another solution available to these travelers!

mobileIf you do a simple search in your smart phone, you will find several options for mobile solutions, regarding your HVAC and plumbing systems. One in particular is the Honeywell RedLink Internet Gateway. This device, when connected to a specific thermostat will allow you to control your thermostat from anywhere in the world, via your smart phone, or an internet connection on a computer. The possibilities for applications with this product (and others like it) are expanding every week, and ultimately will lead to total home control via your mobile device.

Some examples of what you can do with the product:

  • Control heating/cooling settings, including programmable features of the thermostat
  • Control specific zones within a home
  • Receive alerts if the temperature in your home goes outside of a predetermined (by you) threshold
  • Receive alerts if there is a water leak in, or around, a specific area that has a wet switch device installed

There are  more developments released all the time, and there are a lot of exciting changes coming in regards to this topic. Please give Thermal Services a call at 402.397.8100 to ask any questions that you might have about the application of mobile solutions in your home.

 

Dec
14

We, in the HVAC industry, are as impacted by the election as anyone else is. Most HVAC businesses are small business operations, and are directly affected by many changes that are occurring in our nation’s government in recent history.

How so, you might ask….

…anyone that has purchased an air conditioner lately has probably heard one of the following terms: “R-410A, R-22, Refrigerant, Phase out, etc.” This is as a result of the initiatives handed down in the Montreal Protocol in 1987. In layman’s terms, it phased out the use of ozone-depleting items. One such item is the R-22 refrigerant that was used in Air Conditioning units. This phase out was announced many years ago, and every HVAC contractor had plenty of time to move toward the January 1, 2010 phase-out date. Some companies started providing their customers with the more environmentally friendly option (R-410A) as early as 2005. Others, on the other hand, are still finding ways around the phase out, and are essentially cheating the system. The loop-hole is there, and many contractors are exploiting it for as long as they can.

…in 2010 & 2011, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act directly impacted the industry, in that it provided tax credits of up to $1,500 to homeowners, with the purchase of a qualifying system. This gave many contractors the ability to sell high-end equipment, when the customer would’ve normally purchased middle of the road, or entry-level equipment. The tax credit allowed for record sales to occur at many HVAC contractors. Unfortunately, as the past two years have shown us, those record sales couldn’t be sustained, and have actually led to several contractors being forced to sell their company, or worse, go out of business altogether.

…in late 2011, the Department of Energy’s plan was finalized, in an effort to require higher levels of energy efficiency in all HVAC installations, beginning on May 1, 2013. This drop dead date has created a new set of problems for customers, and contractors, alike. It has also created an opportunity for customers to have a higher efficiency furnace installed in their home. Whereas in the past it may have been a second thought, it will now be required in homes that lie in the specific areas. (see the map below)

There are many consequences to the government getting involved in the HVAC industry, and not all of them are bad. It pays for the average homeowner to be educated in these new standards, so that they can avoid any unnecessary problems. Problems that can arise from being uninformed.

As always, you are welcome to call Thermal Services at 402.397.8100 to ask any questions that you might have regarding any of the topics listed above.

Dec
12

How many of you make the dreaded trek up the stairs every night to go to bed, only to find that it is a much different temperature than the floor that you just departed from? I would venture to say that if I asked everyone that has a two-story home to raise their hands if their upstairs is significantly hotter/colder than their main level, I would get approximately 95% of the respondents to agree.

That’s where the concept of zoning comes in. Imagine, if you will, the refrigerator in your kitchen. When you want something to stay cool, but not frozen, you place that item in the main portion of the unit. This keeps the item at a reasonable temperature, so that it stays cold. However, when you want to freeze something, you place it in the freezer portion of the unit, thus causing it to get much colder. That, in its simplicity, is how zoning works.

If your upstairs temperature is significantly different from your main level, then you may experience relief from zoning. Zoning allows the heating and cooling system to push the hot/cold air where ever you need it, rather than simply putting it out all over, and waiting until the thermostat tells it to stop.

In a zoned system, you have multiple thermostats, in different areas of the home. My house, for example, has two zones. The main level and basement are on Zone#1, while my upstairs is on Zone#2. Each zone has a thermostat that I have programmed to keep us comfortable throughout the various times of the day. The zone system allows me to push more air to the main level when we aren’t in bed, and shifts that focus to upstairs once we settle in for the night.

But, I’m already comfortable (or I don’t have a 2 story house)

There are many advantages of zoning, other than the comfort of the occupants of the home. For example:

  • Upgraded comfort: Even the most simple HVAC system can be upgraded, simply by adding zoning. You can take an entry-level system (many newly constructed homes have this type of set up) and add zoning. This makes a previously uncomfortable setup, comfortable.
  • Energy Efficiency: Zoning allows you to set back thermostats in zones that aren’t being used, thus reducing the amount of energy used to condition the rest of your home.
  • Convenience: Zoned systems allow you to eliminate the walk back downstairs (or down the hall in a ranch home) to adjust the thermostat, when you are uncomfortable in your bedroom at night. By simply installing the Zone#2 thermostat in a location of your choosing, upstairs, you have added convenience in the middle of the night.

Zoning has made a huge difference in our home’s comfort, and has significantly reduced the amount of complaining coming from the kids’ rooms when they are too hot, or cold, at night!

Give Thermal Services a call today at 402.397.8100 to discuss how zoning could work for you.

Dec
07

How many times have you forgotten to change your furnace filter? The following are the suggested life spans of basic filters of varying sizes:

1″ = 1 Month

2″ = 2-3 Months

4″ = 4-6 Months

Of course, this is dependent upon how clean your home is, whether you have kids and pets, and how often you clean your home. Often times it’s not unusual to have a 1″ or 2″ filter that looks brand new after 2 months, simply because the homeowner does such a great job cleaning, thus keeping the amount of dirt being pushed through the filter, to a minimum.

However, if you are like the other 95% of the population, you aren’t that meticulous, and your filter is doing its job, and then some. How many times has a month passed, with you thinking about changing your 1″ filter, and then forgetting it because you don’t feel like going to the store, or to the basement? It happens all the time. Our Service Technicians, here at Thermal Services see it all the time on our maintenance checks. They go to a home for a heat check in October, and discover the same 1″ or 2″ filter that they replaced in April at the cool check.

So what?

If you choose not to change your filter, you can actually do a lot of harm to more than just your lungs:

  • As a filter does its job, it collects things. Things like hair, dirt, pollen, pet dander, and cats (ok, I’m kidding about the cats, but we have seen birds in the filters before!). When the filter gets full of these things, it begins to reduce the performance of the furnace. This is because of simple physics. You can’t push air, when you aren’t getting any air to push.
  • Your energy bills can drastically increase due to the extra energy that it’s taking to heat/cool your home.
  • It will take longer to heat/cool your home, because of the reduction in air flow.
  • Your furnace can actually shut down, when the filter gets too clogged, because of the restrictions.

Oftentimes, people are just too busy to change their filters. There are several options for this type of busy lifestyle, including a Filters to Your Door plan. It’s one of many options available to homeowners, to make their lives easier, and less stressful.

Regardless of whether you choose a plan like the one offered from Thermal Services, or just write yourself a note every month, it’s important to remember to check, and change, your furnace filters on a regular basis, depending upon what size of filter you have.

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