April 3rd, 2017
It’s spring once again here in Chicago… although that doesn’t mean we start to enjoy warm weather immediately. Warmer weather maybe, but right now isn’t a time when you’ll need to rev up your air conditioner to keep your home cooled down. That will probably start in May.
But wait a minute… May isn’t that far off! Less than a month away. And those warmer temperatures might arrive at the end of April with little warning. Your air conditioning system will start it’s job soon enough, so you can’t afford to let it go without special attention from HVAC professional. And that means it’s time for your AC’s regular spring maintenance inspection and tune-up.
March 20th, 2017
Although Chicago had a far better week of later winter weather than the Northeast, which suffered under the chill and snowfall of Winter Storm Stella, we’re still experiencing temperatures that can dip down into the 20s during the nights and struggle to make it out of the 40s during the day. This isn’t a surprise for March: even though spring starts officially this week, Chicagoland must deal with cold spells through April and sometimes into May.
No matter the weather outside, however, this is the time of the year to consider your heat pump and its annual maintenance. This is both a preparation for the coming summer season and a way to close out the winter.
March 6th, 2017
The idea of a “House of the Future” capable of running itself with minimal input from the homeowner is coming closer to reality. This futuristic vision will likely never come to full realization because people do like to have some sense of control in their houses. But the advances in home automation systems are impressive and allow people today to leave many minor tasks to the system.
But is a home automation system little more than a luxury, a fun gizmo that homeowners can show to their friends when they visit? It’s a good question that arises from confusion about what a home automation system does. No home needs automation, but all homes can benefit from them, and we’re going to take a look at how exactly home automation can offer advantages to your home.
February 20th, 2017
February is ending with a few warm weather surprises here in Chicagoland. Some days have even gotten up into the 60s! But we can’t let this deceive us into believing that it’s already time to shut down our furnaces for the season: March is infamous for the way it can throw harsh cold snaps at us, and even April can turn chilly. Your gas furnace isn’t done with its workload yet—and it’s more important than ever to act fast and call for furnace repairs if you should notice any furnace behavior that doesn’t look right.
And water leaking from the bottom of your furnace? Yeah, that definitely doesn’t look right!
February 6th, 2017
Last week we discussed how the efficiency ratings for furnaces work. The short version: a gas furnace’s efficiency is rated as AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency), a percentage that tells you how much of the furnace’s natural gas fuel supply it converts into heat. The current ENERGY STAR requirement for furnaces is 90% AFUE or above.
“Okay, but what about electric furnaces?” you might ask. “How do they score on AFUE?”
It’s good question. And the answer is a deceptive one: electric furnaces have 100% AFUE.
“So I should always get an electric furnace, right? Even the highest end gas furnace doesn’t get 100% AFUE! An electric furnace has a perfect score!”
Okay… this is one of difficulties in explaining AFUE to people unfamiliar with it. AFUE doesn’t actually tell you how much you’ll pay to run your furnace. “Higher Efficiency” isn’t equal to “Lower Cost.”
January 23rd, 2017
Current home heating systems work better and at higher energy efficiency than ones from 20, 30, even 10 years ago. We can chalk this up to an investment in research to improve the products, as well as the nebulous idea of “progress.” But there are specifics behind why heaters waste less energy today than the models of the not-too-distant past.
For example, look at the natural gas furnace. Gas furnaces once had AFUE ratings between 56% and 70%. That means that even at the most efficient level, a furnace was converting only 70% of its natural gas into heating power and letting 30% go to waste.
Fast-forward to today. The best furnaces available for homes have AFUE ratings of 98.5%, which means only 1.5% of the natural gas goes to waste. Lower-end furnaces can have AFUE ratings between 85% and 90%. The standard for a furnace to earn the ENERGY STAR label from the Department of Energy is 90% AFUE.
So the question is: “What’s changed?” Well, quite a bit!
January 16th, 2017
Nothing can be more frustrating during another icy cold Chicago winter than to have a heating system that simply isn’t delivering the level of heat that a home needs. If you have a heat pump and you’re currently running into problems with cold spots around the house and what seems like a forever wait until people feel warm, you’ll want to know what’s wrong.
Let’s take a look and find out how to get your home pleasant once again:
January 9th, 2017
Your heater receives power from your home’s electrical system (yes, even a gas furnace or boiler—we’ll get to that). That means your heating system could cause a circuit breaker in the electrical panel to trip when it’s running. If this happens once, but doesn’t reoccur after you reset the breaker, then it’s probably not a major problem. But if is happens more than once, you may need heating or electrical repairs to solve the problem.
January 2nd, 2017
With winter here in full force, you can’t afford to have your home’s boiler give out on you. If you arranged for professional maintenance for your boiler before the winter started, it ought to be in excellent shape. But nothing is certain, especially if you have an old boiler that’s getting close to replacement age.
December 26th, 2016
The beginning of a new year is a time when homeowners start to make plans about changes and various improvements they want to make to their house. Sometimes the electrical system slips people’s minds because it is easy to take for granted that it will always work. But an aging electrical system can become unreliable… and possibly even dangerous.
We’ll take the example of one of the key components in any home electrical system, the electrical panel (a.k.a. the circuit breaker box). This is the part of the electrical system that divides the incoming current into its various circuits. It also protects the circuits from overloads by flipping breakers. Electrical panels won’t last forever, and this year might be when you need to have yours replaced.