Where is All the Energy Going?

Sometimes you look at your electricity bill (especially recently) and wonder how you used that many Kilowatts (a thousand watts) in just one month.   Where is all the energy going?And how can you know for sure if you’re wasting energy or really using it?

One of the best ways to find out is to get a professional energy audit by someone who does them all the time and has the right tools and experience.   Luckily, they are offered free by local utility companies so all you need to do is call them and sign up for an appointment.

Energy use chart

A professional auditor will inspect your home, either with you or alone, and then tell you where you are losing energy.  Often they provide a visual image from a thermal camera showing especially hot or cold spots around windows and doors where energy leakage is occurring.  They will give you advice on how to stop it from happening, and will usually also give you a variety of free items such as outlet gaskets and low-energy light bulbs.   It is up to you whether to use these items or not, but they will save energy if you decide to install them.

The chart above from the US Energy Information Administration shows that the average home uses almost 50% of the energy it consumes in heating and cooling the air.  The biggest improvements you can make in this area are (1) stop air leakage, (2) have energy-efficient equipment performing these functions, and (3) keep the equipment maintained in peak operating condition.  Most utility company energy auditors can help you find the air leaks, but are not technically proficient enough to inspect your heating and cooling system.   Lucky for you - we are!

If you are wondering “Where is All the Energy Going?” or your HVAC system is starting to get gray hair, contact us for an inspection.  We’ll thoroughly check it, tell you what we find, and then you can decide what to do.  If you need a replacement or a tuneup, we’ll be glad to talk to you about maintenance plans, or purchase and installation options.   We proudly sell Bryant high-efficiency HVAC systems, including geothermal systems, and we know the new systems can help save money on your energy bills!

Be Wiser — Call Kaiser!

 

 

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What is Auxiliary Heat?

auxiliary heatingThe term Auxiliary Heat is not well understood, as shown by this recent contact from a customer: “Our system thermostat is reading Aux Heat when the heat turns on as of today.  Just started this morning. What is the issue?”  

Notice in this image that was attached to the contact form, the outside temperature is -13 degrees and the thermostat is set for 68 degrees in the house, which is an 81 degree difference that the heat pump needs to make up.

When you see the terms Auxiliary Heat and/or Emergency Heat, you can think of both of them as extra heating capability for your home on very cold days.   They are also called “supplemental heat” because they provide heat in addition to your main source, the heat pump.

Heat pumps are designed to transfer heat by removing thermal energy from the air or the ground and adding it to the air being supplied into your home.  They work fine down to a certain temperature, and then they need some extra help to maintain the temperature in the building.   This temperature is based on average local weather conditions and can be set by the installer of your HVAC system.   When you see the AUX notification on your thermostat, it is alerting you that both the heat pump and the auxiliary electric heating strips are working at the same time, so you are using more energy than normal.   The temperature in the home should increase shortly and the AUX alert should go out.  This is normal.

However, if it is extremely cold it could still be normal for the AUX strips to remain on longer to warm your home.   If the auxiliary heat comes on and goes off to supplement your heat pump, there is nothing to worry about.   The time for concern would be when it is not especially cold outside and the auxiliary light comes on, or when the AUX light simply stays on all the time.   If you see that happen, call for professional assistance.

TA Kaiser Heating and Air technicians are well-trained and knowledgeable in all HVAC systems.   We can handle any issues you have and we guarantee satisfaction.   We’ve been a family owned business since 1987, and we have had thousands of happy customers.  Please join them by calling us today and letting us take care of all your heating and cooling needs.

Be Wiser — Call Kaiser!

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Does Closing Vents Save Money?

Lots of people believe that closing vents in unused rooms will save money on their utility bill.  The truth is that closing vents might cause harm to your system that will cost you more in the long run.

closing vents

Although many of the diffusers or vents have a sliding lever that opens and closes the vent, it is never a good idea to completely close off vents.  You can adjust them if a room is too hot or too cold, but they should always have some air flow coming out into the room.

The fan (blower) in your HVAC system is designed to pull air from the house (using air return ducts) and then push it out to the rooms (using supply ducts.)   High-efficiency systems use a variable speed fan which automatically adjusts to the situation, but most systems still use a fixed speed motor.  Both of them are built to work against a certain air pressure, usually a half inch of water column.  As time passes, environmental changes, wear on the system, dirt in the filters, duct leakage, and other factors cause the typical system to be working against a higher pressure than it was designed to do.

closing vents 2When you close vents, you restrict the air flow causing an even higher pressure to build up in the supply ducting.  This new higher pressure causes a variable speed blower to run faster, and reduces the ability of a fixed speed motor to supply as much air as it should.  This higher pressure can also cause more of the supply air to leak out through small openings in the duct work so it doesn’t all get to the rooms where you need it.  The more vents you close, the higher the pressure builds and the more strain you put on the whole system.

Your HVAC system is also heating (or cooling) the air prior to sending it back out into the rooms, so the air has to go through a coil or heat exchanger.  Most systems have a fixed amount of cooling or heating that can be added, but when air flow goes down the system cannot exchange as much heat or cooling as with normal air flow.  This might result in a damaged coil, pressure leaks, a blown compressor, or an overheated heat exchanger. When the overheated metal cracks, you can have carbon monoxide spread throughout your home, a very dangerous situation.

The best course of action is to keep your vents open.  It is fine to modify the vent settings to change the direction of flow, or to reduce the volume of air coming out, but it is not OK to close the vents.  If you keep your filters clean, your system tuned up, and your vents open, your HVAC system will give you years of comfortable, conditioned air in your home.

Please contact us with any questions about your HVAC system.   Since 1987 we’ve been a trusted family-owned business, and we guarantee your satisfaction.   Give us the opportunity to earn your business and provide you with an annual maintenance agreement so you don’t have to worry about your system – leave it to us!

 

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Furnace Odor May Mean Trouble

nose-3With the house closed up and the heating system running a lot, you might be smelling an unusual furnace odor in your home.  Some odors can indicate specific issues with your system, so you should check into the cause if you are sensing them.  Here are some common furnace odors and the problems that might cause them.

Dusty and Burnt Odors

These smells can be generated normally after the system has been unused for 7-8 months, and it is usually comes from dust or a little lubrication that is consumed when the system is started up again.  It will often stop within a few days,  but if it continues, it may well be a larger problem so you should have it checked by a professional.

Natural Gas or Fuel Odor

If you smell the odor of rotten eggs, you probably have a gas leak in the house.  If the odor is strong, leave your house and notify the utility company or fire department.   They’ll be able to turn off the incoming gas supply and find the source of the leak.   If they determine the leak is inside your furnace, not in the incoming supply line, you will need a professional HVAC contractor to check it before you use it again to make sure it is safe.

If smell oil near your oil burning furnace, that also indicates a likely leak.  This is not as immediately explosive as a natural gas leak, but it is still a serious issue.  The oil that has leaked out could catch fire, so stop using the furnace until a qualified person checks it.

Damp or Musty Odors

Mold and bacteria can grow in a home and give off a musty odor or a sensation of moistness.   Homes can experience a buildup inside heating ducts or equipment and gradually give off this scent more and more.  If the smells appear to be strongest at your heating vents, you should have furnace and ducts checked.   You might have ducts that are leaking, and sucking in these odors from a crawl space or attic.  That would make it appear to be a furnace smell even though it is not.

Burnt Wiring Odor

You might sense the acrid smell of electrical wire melting, or sometimes even a fishy smell.  Certain HVAC components may give off an odor like this when they break or stop operating correctly.   If you detect electrical odors coming from your furnace, have your equipment inspected soon to prevent further issues.

The best way to prevent odors before they happen is to change your air filters regularly and to conduct preventative maintenance twice a year.  If you’d like our help, contact us and our team of skilled technicians will find the source of the odors and service your system so that it runs safely and efficiently.

 

Be Wiser — Call Kaiser!

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Radiant Floor Heating Systems

Radiant floor heating has been used for centuries. The Romans channeled hot air under the floors of their villas which warmed the floors; the Koreans channeled hot flue gases under their floors before venting them up the chimney; and in the 1930’s architect Frank Lloyd Wright piped hot water through the floors of many of his buildings.  Some home builder’s surveys have shown that when given a choice, most new home owners prefer radiant floor heat over other types of systems.

Advantages of Radiant Floor Heating

radiant floor heatingMost people who own radiant floor heating feel that the most important advantages are comfort and quiet operation.  Radiant floor systems allow even heating throughout the whole floor, not just in warm spots around wood stoves, hot air systems, and radiators. The rooms heat from the bottom up, warming the feet and body first and it feels great! Radiant floor heating also eliminates the draft and dust problems associated with forced-air heating systems which blow air (and dust) into each room.

When you have even heat distribution you also have lower heating bills.   Radiant floor heating allows you to set the thermostat several degrees lower.  The entire surface of the floor radiates about the same amount of heat that the human body does, making the occupant feel warm even though the air temperature might be only 65°F (18°C). It also radiates this heat for a longer period of time than a forced air system.

Another advantage is that radiant systems do not increase the infiltration of outside air into the house structure as forced air systems generally do.  Also, radiant floor heating  allows lower boiler temperatures which leads to longer service life (45 years is not unusual).  Radiant floors operate between 85-140° F, compared to other heating systems’ range of 130°-160° F, so fuel savings of 15%-20% over a forced air system is common.

To some, the greatest advantage of radiant floor heating is aesthetic. The system is invisible and silent.  There are no heat registers or radiators to obstruct furniture arrangements and interior design plans; and no fan noise that comes with forced hot air systems.

Types of Radiant Floor Heating

There are three types of radiant floor heat: radiant air floors (air is the heat carrying medium), electric radiant floors, and hydronic radiant floors (hot water.) All three types can be further subdivided by the type of installation: those that make use of the large thermal mass of a concrete slab floor or lightweight concrete over a wooden sub-floor (these are called “wet” installations); and those in which the installer “sandwiches” the radiant floor tubing between two layers of plywood, or attaches the tubing under the sub-floor (dry installations).

  • Because air cannot hold large amounts of heat energy, radiant air floors are not cost-effective in residential applications, and are seldom installed.
  • Electric radiant floors are usually only cost-effective if your electric utility company offers time-of-use rates. Time-of-use rates allow you to “charge” the concrete floor with heat during off-peak hours (approximately 9 pm to 6 am). If the floor’s thermal mass is large enough, the heat stored in it will keep the house comfortable for eight to ten hours, without any further electrical input. This saves a considerable number of kilowatt-hours compared to heating at peak electric rates during the day.
  • Hydronic systems are the most popular and cost-effective systems for heating-dominated climates. They have been used extensively in Europe for decades. Hydronic radiant floor systems pump heated water from a boiler/water heater through tubing laid in a pattern underneath the floor. The temperature in each room is controlled by regulating the flow of hot water through each tubing loop. This is done by a system of zoning valves or pumps and thermostats.

In a “wet” installation, the tubing is embedded in the concrete foundation slab, or in a lightweight concrete slab on top of a sub-floor, or over a previously poured slab. If the new floor is not on solid earth, additional floor support may be necessary because of the added weight.

Some “dry” installations involve suspending the tubing underneath the sub-floor between the joists. This method usually requires drilling through the floor joists in order to install the tubing. Reflective insulation must also be installed under the tubes to direct the heat upward. Tubing may also be installed from above the floor, between an old and new sub-floor.  In these instances, the tubes are often in reflective aluminum sleeves that spread the heat to the sides, away from the tubing, and direct it upwards. The tubing and its reflectors are secured between furring strips (sleepers) which carry the weight of the new sub-floor and finished floor surface.

Although ceramic tile is the most common floor covering for radiant floor heating, a variety of finished floor surfaces can be used. The choices include vinyl flooring, carpeting, and wood. Carpeting and padding, however, insulate the floor and reduce some of the benefits of radiant floor systems. If you want carpeting, use a lower nap carpet and thin, denser padding. You will also need to increase the system water temperature to compensate for the insulating properties of the floor covering. Most installers and some wood floor manufacturers also recommend using laminated wood flooring instead of solid wood. This reduces the possibility of the floor shrinking and cracking from the drying effects of the heat.

Older radiant floor systems used either copper or steel tubing embedded in the concrete floors. Unless the builder coated the tubing with a protective compound, a chemical reaction between the metal and the concrete led to corrosion of the tubing, and to eventual leaks. Major manufacturers of hydronic radiant floor systems now use cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) or rubber tubing with an oxygen diffusion barrier. This material is much more durable and slows the effects of corrosion in the system. Additives and filtration systems also help protect hydronic heating systems from corrosion, but PEX tubing has performed very reliably for many decades.

Controlling the System

A radiant floor that uses a concrete slab may take several hours to heat up if it is allowed to become cold. This can make the home uncomfortable as the slab heats up. Because of this, most radiant floor systems are controlled by a floor thermostat instead of a wall thermostat as in a forced air heating system. The floor thermostat usually allows the circulation pump(s) to run continuously and only controls the burner. Other, more sophisticated, types of controls sense the floor temperature, outdoor temperature, and room temperature to keep the home comfortable. Such a system can use less fuel because it adjusts the water temperature to meet the needs of the home.  Radiant floor systems can be heated by a boiler, a geothermal heat pump or a water heater.

Cost of Radiant Floor Heating

The cost of installing a hydronic radiant floor fluctuates depending on the size of the room, the type of installation (i.e., concrete slab, wood floor, new construction vs. retrofit), the floor covering, remoteness of the site, and the cost of labor.   Please contact us and we can provide you with information about costs and options for your particular situation.

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Breathe Easier with Moist Air

Whole home humidification is important for comfort, allowing you to breathe easier, and for the care of wood surfaces and furnishings.  When the air inside a home is kept at less than 40% humidity, residents will experience more shocks from static electricity, sore throats, dry skin and sinus trouble.   It can also lead to cracking of hardwood flooring, drying out of caulked molding joints, and damage to musical instruments.   All of these problems can be expensive to repair, and it is unlikely that insurance will cover the costs.

There are many types of humidifiers and dehumidifiers available to monitor and maintain the desired level of 40-60% in a home.   For smaller homes , you can buy a stand alone unit that plugs into an outlet and produces steam.  The steam cools quickly and mixes with the dry air to moisturize it.  These units require someone to watch them, keep them filled with water, and turn them on and off as needed.  If you don’t watch over them, the water reservoir can run dry and damage the unit.

humidifier breathe easierA better solution, for both smaller and larger homes, is to install a central whole-home humidifier.  These units attach to your existing duct work and add moisture into the air as it is being blown through the ducts and out to the various rooms.   Some of these are also fan-powered, making them even more effective.

We sell Bryant® brand humidifiers which are available in multiple sizes and for multiple types of systems – furnaces or heat pumps.  They provide added value to your home, allow your family to breathe easier, protect your wooden items from the effects of excessive dryness, and give you peace of mind because the humidity level is automatically controlled all the time.

These units are nearly silent, and you won’t know they are working, except for the improved comfort you feel.   Give us a call today, and we’ll show you the optional choices we have to match your HVAC system.

 Be Wiser, Call Kaiser!

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Win a New Furnace at the Home Show

How would you like to win a new furnace?   Well, you can!  We’ll be giving one away at the 2015 Indianapolis Home Show ( Jan 23 to Feb 1) and it’s simple to enter.

Just visit our booth at the Home Show and provide us with your contact information.   We will announce the winner of the Bryant Furnace on Friday, February 13, 2015 by calling the winning person.   Good Luck — we hope to be calling you!

Win a New Furnace

This is the prize — a brand new high efficiency natural gas furnace manufactured by Bryant. These are some of the features:

  • 92% efficiency, natural gas fired
  • Produces 40,000 BTU
  •  Quiet operation
  • ENERGY STAR rated
  • Fan On Plus technology allows control of continuous fan speed from a compatible thermostat
  • Self diagnostics
  • Adjustable blower speed for cooling, continuous fan, and dehumidification
  • Factory configured ready for upflow applications

We will also be offering a FREE in-home comfort/indoor air quality (IAQ) evaluation.   You may be surprised to find out how much good you can do for your family by adjusting the filtration or providing an add-on whole house air cleaning system to your home.  Our TA Kaiser Heating & Air Home Consultant will come to your home, look at your existing system, and provide you with a range of recommended options from which to choose.  Of course, there is no obligation, this is just a free service given for your information.

So, we hope you stop by to see us an enter to win a new furnace.  If you have any questions about heating or air conditioning, just ask us. We’ll have experts in our booth at all times ready to explain  how things work, or answer any questions you have.

We’ve been a family owned business since 1987 and you can trust us.  We guarantee our work and your satisfaction.   Remember – Be Wiser — Call Kaiser!

 

 

 

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NOW HIRING – Payroll Administrator

payroll administrator

 IMMEDIATE AVAILABILITY –  PAYROLL ADMINISTRATOR !!!

TA Kaiser Heating & Air is NOW HIRING a Payroll Administrator – Accounting Assistant.

Approximately 25-30 hours per week with possibility of future full-time position.

  • Must have average Microsoft Office knowledge with above average Excel skills.
  • Basic understanding (and application) of accrual accounting and GAAP.
  •  Knowledge of Payroll tax filing (federal, state), FICA, FIT and State/local taxes relating to payroll helpful but not required.
  • 401K admin experience, wage and garnishment experience, AIA document basics a plus.

Send resume via email to: hr.dept@takaiser.com or via fax at 317.297.1735.

No phone calls, please.

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Frozen Heat Pump

frozen heat pumpIf you are a homeowner who has seen a frozen heat pump in your yard, here is what you need to know.

When you see a light coating of frost, that is normal and not a problem, and it should resolve itself soon. It is not normal for the entire unit to be encased in ice; including the top of the unit and the insides of the coil for an extended period of time.  Operating a frozen unit can cause damage to the problem needs to be resolved.  If the pump appears to be covered in ice and frozen over like this image, you should give us a call to check it out.

Some causes can be corrected by a homeowner, and others require an HVAC technician.  Those are explained below.

Frost on the Coils

Heat pumps use refrigerant to absorb heat from the air outside – even when it’s cold out – and transfer it into the house.   Sometimes excess moisture builds up on the outdoor coils as heat from the outside air is transferred to the refrigerant.  When that happens on a cold day, the moisture can freeze, so that is a normal and natural event .

Manufacturers expect that to happen so heat pumps are designed to run a defrost cycle when the system detects ice has formed.   The defrost mode should run for 30 minutes or so and melt the ice away on the coils.  While defrost is running, your backup heat cycle will provide heat into the home and you probably won’t even know it is doing this.  After the ice is gone, the heat pump will cycle back to normal operation.  If  you don’t see any indication that the system is defrosting and then returning to normal, or if the ice continues to build up thicker, call for a technician.

Protecting your Heat Pump

There are a few things a homeowner can check to prevent a frozen heat pump.

  • Change your air filters regularly – good airflow is essential for HVAC systems to operate properly.
  • Don’t let leaves or plants or snow build up around the outside unit – ensure there is 18″ of clearance so that air can flow around it.
  • A dripping gutter can cause a buildup of ice, just like a freezing rain can.  Check to see if you can identify a source of water that can be diverted from the unit.
  • Is the unit still level?  If it has tilted or is sinking into the ground, water might be building up on the top and freezing down along the coils.

Other common causes are a bad defrost control or timer, a bad sensor or relay, a low charge or a bad fan motor.  All of these things are best checked by a professional.  If you have any questions about your frozen heat pump, give us a call and we’ll be glad to help.

Be Wiser, Call Kaiser

 

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Dirty Filters Cause Breakdowns

The air filter in a heating/cooling system is one of the first things we check on a service call, because dirty filters cause breakdowns and loss of efficiency.   A filter change is also one of the quickest and easiest areas in which a homeowner can do the work instead of paying us to do it.   Failure to change filters can lead to mechanical breakdowns, as well as negatively affecting the health of your family.   This is a short listing of the common types of filters available to help you understand them.

Many people use the thin fiberglass filters, and those can be OK if you change them regularly.  They don’t stop a lot of contaminants, but they do meet the minimum standards for filtration and are safe.   If you use that type of filter, consider buying them a few months ahead and marking them by month as shown in this picture to help you remember to change them.

Dirty Filters Cause Breakdowns 1

A better choice is a pleated filter, which can last from 3 to 6 months.  This type of filter ranges from 10% to 60% more efficient than the economical filters.  They cost more, but they will also filter a lot more out, reducing the level of dust in your home and possibly helping to reduce the frequency of colds and sickness.

Dirty Filters Cause Breakdowns 2Electrostatic filters  are both energy-efficient and cost-effective, and a good upgrade from ordinary disposable filters.  You can wash this type of  filter out once a month, let it dry and re-install.   Some brands last for up to 5 years, or 60 times as long as the economical ones.  This image is just a sample of one brand available on-line and in stores.

Dirty Filters Cause Breakdowns 3

 

Electronic filters  use an electrical field to trap charged particles of dust like a magnet, so they catch a higher percentage of them than the filters above.  The particles build up and look dusty quickly, but all you need to do to clean these is remove the metal frame, soak them in cleaner, rinse them off and reuse them over and over.

Dirty Filters Cause Breakdowns 4

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and UV (Ultraviolet) filtration are the most efficient ways to filter.   HEPA filters are designed to block 99.97 percent of all particles 0.3 micron or larger, and most involve multi-stage sequences to capture smaller particles.    Ultraviolet (UV) filters are usually a built-in component of an electronic air cleaner, or can added-on to a whole-house electronic air filter.   The ultraviolet light kills airborne bacteria and viruses so this type of filter is found in many hospitals.

Dirty Filters Cause Breakdowns 5TA Kaiser Heating and Air offers all these types of filters to you.   If you need help in selecting the best filtration for your situation, we’ll be glad to advise you on that.   Our Ultraviolet systems are the best available with the newest technology, so if you want to be sure your family is breathing clean air, give us a call today.    We’ll be glad to show you the options we have that fit on your HVAC system to keep it running in tip-top condition for years to come.

Be Wiser – Call Kaiser!

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