Archive for March, 2012

Myths around Water Heater

Monday, March 19th, 2012

Before understanding what an Energy star high efficiency natural gas hot water tank is - it is important to first establish what is high efficiency. 

Efficiency refers to how well a unit converts energy.   

Fuel (electric, gas or propane) goes in and then gets burned off to heat water.  The more efficient the unit the less fuel it takes to heat the same amount of water. Less fuel also means less waste on the environment.  

Like a fuel efficient car, we want the highest fuel efficiency we can afford so that we get more for our money with less waste.  

A hot water tank that is 60% efficient will use less fuel to heat the same amount of water compared to a hot water tank that is only 50% efficient. This higher efficiency saves you money on every gallon of hot water you heat.   

Natural gas hot water tanks (both natural draft and power vent) all range in energy efficiency at somewhere between 45% and 64%. This efficiency however drops for each year the unit is in use (due to build up of sediments in the tank). 

An energy star high efficiency hot water tank label simply means that the unit is a minimum of 62% efficiency.  This is where the label becomes misleading – 62% is NOT energy efficient, it is simply more efficient than the previously available lower efficiency models.   

Currently there are government energy grants that are available to homeowners in Ontario who replace their old hot water tanks with high efficiency water heating systems. 

WARNING: energy star high efficiency hot water tank models DO NOT qualify for these energy grants simply because they are not considered energy efficient by the government.  What the government requires is 82% efficiency or better.  

If you are looking for high efficiency water heating you do have a few options available to you but it certainly won’t be a high efficiency energy star hot water tank at only 62%.  All of the following water heating systems qualify for government energy grants: 

·         Instantaneous tankless water heater (82% efficiency) 

·         Condensing hot water tank (89% efficiency) 

·         Condensing Instantaneous tankless water heater (93% efficiency) 

Here is the drawback however: This better technology costs more just as a hybrid car costs more.   

The more efficient the unit – the higher the price tag. 

What this means is the average homeowner will not be able to afford the top of the line high efficiency water heating system. Only the rich will be able to afford that kind of technology. 

Right now however there is some good news.  

The average homeowner can upgrade from a power vent gas hot water tank to an instantaneous tankless water heater for close to the same price (after current rebates & grants).   

Most homeowners who switch from a gas fired hot water tank to an instantaneous tankless water heater also average about $200 a year savings on their gas bill. 

This means that the unit will pay for itself in just a few short years while lasting twice as long as a hot water tank. (The average hot water tank lasts 10 years, the new tankless water heaters last 20 years).  When you look at it this way going tankless is much cheaper for the average home owner. 

After your home heating costs the next most expensive utility you pay is for your hot water. If you are renting your hot water tank you could be paying four to five times the price of a new hot water tank just for the privilege of renting an old inefficient hot water tank.

Of course there are a few circumstances that make renting a wise decision (such as you plan on moving out next month) but if you are planning on living in your home for more than 3 years it will pay to take a look at your actual water heating costs.

Basic A/C Maintenance Tips to Beat Heat This Summer

Monday, March 12th, 2012

When our air conditioners start working overtime to keep the inside cool, that strain can wreak havoc on the many moving parts inside the A/C system.  Especially if it isn’t running at peak efficiency. So take the time to do some preventive maintenance. This can be the difference between enjoying cool comfort and sweating a costly service call.

Check and change air filters

While most air filters have an average life of three months, it’s important that you check them monthly during long periods of hot weather. With your A/C system working harder and longer due to the extended heat, filters fill with particles faster. Dirty air filters force your system to work harder to push cool air through your home. This uses more energy and places extra strain on the air conditioning system. Take the filter(s) out and hold it to the light. If the dust on the filter is so think that you can’t see much light shining through the filter, it’s time for new filters. A clean air filter, unobstructed by the dirt and other debris, will save you money on energy costs and prolong the life of your air conditioner. If you do not know where your air filters are or how to replace them, ask your HVAC technician to show you during an inspection.

Keep outdoor unit clean and clear

For safety, always turn the thermostat and outdoor unit’s breaker off before doing any work around that outdoor unit. Once everything’s off, go ahead and check the unit for anything blocking the unit’s sides or top. Remove any plant growth, grass clippings, or debris caught in the coil walls. Cottonwood is a big clogging culprit this time of year.

The coil can be cleaned using a soft-bristle brush to gently sweep the fins. Always brush in line with the fins, and be gentle because the fins can bend easily. Because the fan pulls air through these fins, you can expect to find dust clinging to the fins. Removing this dust and other debris will reduce resistance and increase efficiency.

Prune or remove any shrubs or other growth that is touching or close to the unit. Do not use a weed eater or other powered cutting tool that might damage the fins. Garden shears or some other type of hand clippers are recommended.

Check drain for clogs

Another important thing to check for is a clogged condensate drain. This is the drain that comes from the cooling coil drain opening on the furnace and runs to the floor drain. Clogs are usually caused by bacterial slime that grows in the water. With the A/C running, check where the line drains into the floor drain to see if water is draining. If no water is present, you most likely have a clog. Now check at and around where the drain hooks into the drain pan on the furnace. If there is water visible on the furnace and/or pooling at its base, you definitely have a clog. Turn off the A/C right away to avoid water damaging any furnace components, and have a licensed mechanical contractor inspect and unclog the drain.



Duct Insulation

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Properly insulating air ducts located in unconditioned spaces such as attics, crawl spaces, garages, or unfinished basements can help improve your home’s energy efficiency. Air ducts supply conditioned air from your space heating and cooling equipment to your living spaces. They also return an equal
volume of air back to the equipment to be conditioned again.

Illustration of a person sealing ducts. The duct is being sealed along the joint with duct sealant. A cutout shows a close-up of the joint with the sealant around it.

Ducts are typically made out of thin metal materials that easily conduct heat. Therefore, uninsulated or poorly insulated ducts in unconditioned spaces can lose through conduction 10%–30% of the energy used to heat and cool your home. The heating and cooling equipment then has to compensate for the heat loss and gain by conditioning additional air. This added conditioning raises a homeowner’s energy bills. In addition, when ducts lose heat through conduction, rooms served by long duct runs can experience “cold blow” during the winter because they usually have lower heating-supply temperatures.

Ducts in conditioned spaces experience minimal conductive losses and gains since they are exposed to indoor air temperatures. However, these ducts may also require some insulation to prevent condensation on duct walls and to ensure that conditioned air is delivered at the desired temperature.