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April 23, 2017
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April 22, 2017
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Saturday, April 29



Deck Construction Materials

Timber Tech

While most manufacturers cut corners and neglect the bottom of the deck board and groove, Timber Tech goes the extra mile, making your deck strong enough to resist scratches, stains, and fading.

Website for more info


Windows

Independent Window Repair

The alternative to costly replacement windows and siding. Vinyl & wood clad replacement windows. All types of wood rot and glass repair. Interior and exterior painting. Master dealer of Kolbe & Kolbe windows & doors.

Website for more info


Organization

Closets by Design

Custom closets, garages, pantries, laundry rooms and offices. We design, build and install custom storage solutions for all areas of your home or office.

Website for more info


Hardwood Floor Care book

Nothing matches the warmth and style of a real wood floor.  You can keep it looking great with Glenn Haege's Complete Hardwood Floor Care Guide.  this book covers it all , from caring for new floors to cleaning, maintaining, and solving problems with your existing wood floors. It’s free!

Download the guide here

Hot Topics:

The Energy Crisis!

The latest facts/ What you can do/ How to get more information

What & Why

Heating, cooling and electric bills are going up 60% to 100% over 2000 rates. Depending on who you talk to the huge rate increases are because we are using too much energy, rates had been held to unrealistically low levels, and there is a short fall in production because rates were not high enough to warrant the investment and/or environmental groups have made it almost impossible to put new power plants on line.

April Energy Topic:
Geothermal Report

What & Why
Energy Saving Options

Geothermal Report
Programmable Thermostats
Increasing insulation
Humidification
Heating Systems Review
Cooling
Solar Power
-----------
(Coming Soon:
Insulation Report)

Now that the ax has fallen everyone is looking for a fall guy or gal. You know who is going to pay the penalty for all this because you look at him or her in the mirror every morning.

The demand for electric power has skyrocketed as we have shifted from a mechanical to an electronic and computer controlled economy. You, being able to read this on your computer, are part of the problem. Your cable, home entertainment system, your hot tub, air conditioning, even all those Christmas Tree lights you put up, all add to the constantly increasing strain on the power grid.

According to television reports large companies like Cisco Systems, devour vast amounts of electric power yet work to block power plants from being erected near them. States like California unrealistically base their economies on ever increasing power consumption yet build few power plants. Those they build use scarce natural gas rather than coal or atomic power.

Cisco Systems and California are not alone, almost all of us engage in "power prostitution." It is human nature to want the pleasure and the power but not want to take responsibility and pay the consequences.

Most new power plants being built today use natural gas because they produce power with relatively low emissions. Unfortunately natural gas is in increasingly short supply. We are drilling in environmentally delicate areas, and even adding processing capacity will be very difficult, time consuming and costly.

Coal is our most abundant, technologically feasible, source of energy. The United States has vast amounts of this mineral readily available. Coal fired power plants are not being built because they produce relatively high emissions and are considered "dirty."

Atomic power plants are no longer being built and existing atomic plants are being decommissioned because they are considered dangerous.

Esoteric sources of power such as wind farms and solar fields have so far not proven economically feasible or attracted the necessary capital for wide spread use.

If we are going to limit electric production to natural gas plants we have to restrict our use of electric power. If we want the freedom for unlimited use of electric power we have to come to terms with the use of coal or atomic power in the short term. Long term we have to develop clean, sustainable energy sources.

This does not mean that we should accept lowered air quality standards or added radiation risk. It does mean that we have to make the capital and scientific investment necessary to bring more power on line while reducing power usage until it is available.

Until this happens we will all be trapped in an ever increasing spiral of higher energy prices, and increasing brown outs and black outs because supply cannot keep up with demand.

Energy Saving Options

In the short term we, as consumers, have to do everything we can to increase the efficiency and lower the cost of the energy we use. Even with its relative scarcity, natural gas is still the lowest cost fuel available for most in-home heating. In many parts of the country, heating oil, is the fuel of choice.

If you currently do not have, or are building in an area where natural gas or oil is not a realistic option, electric or propane (liquid gas) are the standard alternative fuels. If this is the case for you, you should investigate geothermal. Geothermal is a relatively new technology that uses heat from the ground to heat and cool your house and also often provides an almost inexhaustible supply of hot water.

Geothermal Report

Geothermal heating uses mother nature to heat (and cool) your house. She also pays 40 or 50% of the heating bill. Up to four times more efficient than natural gas, Geothermal doesn't create heat. It just shifts heat from the ground to your house, or to the ground from your house, depending upon whether the system is being used to heat or cool.

The heart of the geothermal heating and cooling system is the earth loop. Loops of high strength plastic pipe are buried either horizontally, or vertically in the ground (or in a lake or pond). A heat pump is used to direct heat from, or to, the ground.

Conventional furnaces must create heat by burning a fuel — typically natural gas, propane, or fuel oil. With a geothermal system, no heat is created so there is no need for combustion. The only power used is the electricity needed to run the pumps and fans needed to transport the heat from the earth and distribute it through the house.

During the winter heat is collected through the loop. Fluid circulating in the loop carries the heat back to an indoor electrically driven compressor and heat exchanger. The heat is concentrated, then released in the home at the temperature required to heat the house. Duct fans distribute the heat throughout the house.

In summer, the process is reversed to cool the home. The geothermal system works like a refrigerator. Excess heat is drawn from the home and expelled to the loop where it is absorbed by the Earth.

Many electric power companies have a program promoting Geothermal use at this time. Units are being installed in individual homes, condominiums, and apartment and commercial complexes all the way from Australia and Canada, internationally, to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas and California in the US.

The Department of Energy favors Geothermal heating and cooling because it is efficient and restricts pollution to a single source, the electric power company, rather than a hundred million homes. This makes the effort to reduce emissions more efficient and easier to monitor.

Homeowners like Geothermal because it is cost efficient, clean, and draft free. The addition of a device called the Desuper Heater option, also can provide a virtually limitless supply of hot water very economically.

Obtaining More Information

The best source of information on geothermal heating and cooling is The Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium, Inc. (GHPC)

Their toll free phone number is: 1-888-ALL-4-GEO (1-888-255-4436).

GHPC’s Web Site is: http://www.geoexchange.org.

The Consortium recommends that the consumer’s most valuable information source are the professionals with GeoExchange experience in their own area. The case studies developed by GHPC as well as those prepared by GeoExchange manufacturers and utilities identify the architects, engineers, and installers responsible for actual GeoExchange installations. Check out the ones in your area.

Some electric utilities have ongoing projects that you can visit and talk to owners, occupants, and facility maintenance staff. Not all electric utilities are presently promoting Geothermal. If they are the utility will be happy to tell the consumer about any incentive programs that may be available.

Many utilities also offer technical assistance to support potential GeoExchange projects. Utility staff are often available to meet with clients interested in exploring potential projects.

More about GHPC

The Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium is a non-profit organization with participation and support from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Nation’s utilities. GHPC’s mission is to promote the use of GeoExchange — the most energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly heating and cooling systems available anywhere.

1. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency, Space Conditioning: The Next Frontier (Office of Air and Radiation, 430-R-93-004), found that GeoExchange systems are much more efficient than competing fuel technologies when ALL losses in the fuel cycle, including waste heat at the power plants during the generation of electricity, are accounted for. High-efficiency GeoExchange systems are on average 48 percent more efficient than the best gas furnaces and more than 75 percent more efficient than oil furnaces. The best GeoExchange systems even outperformed the best gas technology, gas heat pumps, by an average of 36 percent in the heating mode and 43 percent in the cooling mode.

2. Surveys by utility companies indicate a higher level of consumer satisfaction for GeoExchange systems than for conventional systems. Polls consistently show that more than 95 percent of all GeoExchange customers would recommend such systems to a family member or friend

Detroit Edison Listed Geothermal Manufacturers and Distributors actively engaged in Southeast Michigan

GPH
Contact: Mark Cummings
57 Ward Street, Croswell, MI 48422
Phone: 810.679.2251 Fax: 810.679.2733
Email: gph@greatlakes.net

Moore Mechanical
Contact: Gary Moore
4145 Davison Road, Lapeer, MI 48446
Phone: 810.667.7546 Fax: 810.667.7545

TR Heating
Contact: Lee Shifflett
17136 Ecorse Rd, Allen Park, Michigan 48101
Phone: 313.386.1150 Fax: 313.386.1186

Command Aire
Contact: Tony Volante
Volante Heat Transfer
3609 Lake George Road, Dryden, MI 48428
Phone: 810.796.3313

WaterFurnace
Contact: Art Thayer
WaterFurnace International, Inc.
217 Eastlawn Ave., Parma, MI 49269
Phone: 800.934.5667, ext. 830
Phone: 517.531.7140; Fax: 517.531.8145
Email: Art_thayer@waterfurnace.com
Web: http://www.waterfurnace.com

Detroit Edison Energy Partners

Insulation Manufacturer
Nu Wool
Contact: Steve Earley
2472 Port Sheldon Rd, Jenison, MI 49428
Phone: 616.669.0100; Fax: 616.669.2370
Web: http://www.nuwool.com

Basement Contractors
Reddi-Wall, Inc
Contact: Bob Martin
1075 Rochester Rd, Oakland, MI 48363
Phone: 810.752.9161; Fax: 810.752.0333
Web: http://www.reddi-wall.com

Benchmark
Contact: Gary Hendrickson
70 S. Grey Road, Auburn Hills MI 48326
Phone: 248.853.9400
Web: http://www.benchmarkwalls.com

Energy Consultants
Cass River Enterprises
Contact: Tim Hardesty
429 Muntaquf Ave, Caro MI 48723
Phone: 517.673.4121; Fax: 517.673.2031

Michigan Energy Services
Contact: Rob Derksen
4165 Westbrook Drive, Ann Arbor MI 48108
Phone: 313.859.0542; Fax: 734.741.1504
Email: rderksen@ismi.net

Window Partners

Hurd Windows
Contact: Ken Norris
290 Norris Drive, Ortonville MI 48462
Phone: 248.628.9785 ; Fax: 248.628.8837
Web: http://www.hurd.com

The Geothermal Consortium has a multi page list of manufacturers on their web site: http://www.geoexchange.org

The Department of Energy (DOE) says that the single easiest way most people can cut their heating and air conditioning bill is by getting rid of their old fashioned wall thermostat and installing a programmable model. It is also painless. With a programmable thermostat a computer chip dials down the temperature in the house during the winter when you and the rest of the family are sleeping or outside of the house. Just before you get up or come on, the thermostat automatically dials up the temperature. Most people never notice the difference, but everyone notices the difference on their monthly fuel bill.

During the summer the programmable thermostat works just the reverse. It dials up the temperature slightly while you are away or sleeping and brings the temperature down to your comfort level just before you get up or come home.

Modern programmable thermostats are very easy to program and lets you vary the heating and cooling schedule almost infinitely.

Most do-it-yourselfers can install and program a simple programmable thermostat themselves. You can also call your heating and cooling contractor and have him do it for you.

Major makers are Honeywell/Magistat, White Rogers and Hunter.

Increasing insulation

Adding insulation brings the fastest payback of any major home remodeling project. The national energy code calls for R-49 insulation in attics and R-39 in cathedral ceilings. If depth of insulation is a problem, all the major companies, Certainteed, (888) 541-5252, Johns Manville, (800) 654-3102, and Owens Corning, (800) 438-7465, now have super batts of condensed, higher R-rated insulation available.

You can also have loose fiberglass or cellulose insulation blown into the attic and into the exterior walls of the house. Some cellulose insulation companies like Nu-Wool, (800) 748-0128 http://www.Nu-Wool.com will actually guarantee the amount of energy you will save.

If you have an unheated, undrywalled garage attached to the house, consider dry-walling the ceiling joists and walls. Insulate the walls before dry-walling. Insulate the attic after the ceiling is in place. The insulation will keep cold from the garage from migrating into the house. Place faced batts of insulation so that the paper side faces the garage interior.

DOE Recommended Total R-Values for Existing Houses.

Zone

Natural
Gas

Heat
Pump

Fuel
Cell

Electric
Furnace

Ceiling

Wall

Floor

Crawl
Space

Slab

Basement

Attic

Cathedral

Int.

Ext.

1

x

x

x

R49

R38

R18

R25

R19

R8

R11

R10

x

R49

R60

R28

R25

R19

R8

R19

R15

2

x

x

x

R49

R38

R18

R25

R19

R8

R11

R10

x

R49

R38

R22

R25

R19

R8

R19

R15

3

x

x

x

x

R49

R38

R18

R25

R19

R8

R11

R10

4

x

x

x

R38

R38

R13

R13

R19

R4

R11

R4

x

R49

R38

R18

R25

R19

R8

R11

R10

5

x

R38

R30

R13

R11

R13

R4

R11

R4

x

x

R38

R38

R13

R13

R19

R4

R11

R4

x

R38

R38

R18

R25

R19

R8

R11

R10

6

x

R22

R11

R11

R11

R11

NA

R11

R4

IT ISN'T THE HEAT, IT'S THE HUMIDITY

The desert is downright humid compared to our houses during the winter. The Sahara Desert has a relative humidity of 25% but the average heated home hovers between 6 and 16%.

According to Skuttle Indoor Air Quality Products, when the outdoor temperature is +10 Fahrenheit (F), and the outside relative humidity is 70%, a home heated to 72 degrees F has a humidity level of only 6%. A desert lizard couldn't live comfortably like that, yet we subject our friends, family, pets and house plants to it all winter long.

Skuttle has a chart which will tell you the difference between inside and outside temperature and humidity levels. It is called the "Relative Humidity Conversion Chart". If you want to see how dry your house is, click on http://www.skuttle.com/humid.html.

To solve the problem most homes with forced air central heating systems have drum humidifiers, which look like foam, covered water wheels rotating in a tray of water.

Drum style humidifiers are usually controlled by tiny humidistats located on or near the furnace. They should be adjusted to provide more or less humidity every time the outside temperature changes. Since almost no one goes down to the basement to change settings, most of our homes have the wrong humidity most of the time.

Second, drum humidifiers are a maintenance problem. The drum soon becomes encrusted with minerals and the warm, wet area is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.

Third, they are inefficient technology. The humidification industry has progressed light years ahead of this product and life is too short not to take advantage of it.

The type of humidifier best for your home depends upon your heating system. For humidification purposes, there are two types of heating systems: natural gas, forced air central heating systems and all other. "All others" includes in-floor hydronic, electric or hot water baseboard, fireplaces or stoves, or any radiant heating system.

For cutting edge technology I asked three experts: Jim Williams, Williams Refrigeration and Heating, Warren, (888) 268-5445; Mark Ratliff, Hartford & Ratliff, Farmington, (800) 466-3110; and Mike Shorkey, Detroit Safety Furnace Company, Detroit, (800) 682-1538.

Williams Refrigeration and Heating is a residential and commercial heating company. Hartford & Ratliff are specialists in hydronic and boiler type heating. Detroit Safety Furnace is a major distributor of heating and cooling equipment.

NATURAL GAS FORCED AIR CENTRAL HEATING SYSTEMS

Jim Williams favors the flow through, powered humidifier made by companies like Bryant, (800) 428-4326; Skuttle, (800) 848-9786; Research Products Aprilaire, (608) 257-8801; and Honeywell, (800) 345-6770.

In flow through humidifiers, a broad trickle of water flows over an evaporative pad. Unused water drains out of the system. The two biggest benefits are far greater efficiency than drum style humidifiers and continuous flushing. Bryant's Deluxe Fan-Powered Humidifiers delivers up to 25 gallons of moisture a day. Aprilaire's Model 760 A has an evaporative capacity of .75 gallons an hour or 18 gallons a day.

A minor drawback is that eight to fifteen dollars of water are wasted every year through drainage. I gladly pay this slight premium for increased health and comfort.

Jim Williams estimates that replacing an old humidifier with the flow through kind would cost between $325 and $500. Age of your furnace should not be a consideration because a flow through humidifier can be transferred from furnace to furnace.

Mike Shorkey, of Detroit Safety Furnace, favorite humidifier is the Humid-a-Mist Pulse Humidifier. This humidifier is an improvement upon the atomizing humidifier that sprays a fine mist into the hot air supply.

Usually I am not in favor of this type of humidifier because a clogged misting nozzle can cause rusting.

Shorkey says the Humid-a-Mist solves this problem with a water filter that prevents clogging. In addition, the Humid-a-Mist is 100% effective, no water is wasted and no drain needed. You can by-pass the heating system, permitting humidification with room temperature air.

The Humid-a-Mist is recommended for all forced air systems that do not have zoned heat. The installed cost should be in the $375 to $400 range.

ALL OTHER HEATING SYSTEMS

Folks without forced air thought they needed portable room humidifiers. According to Mark Ratliff there are now two types of humidifiers available for hydronic, baseboard and other systems. The first use hot water like Research Products' Aprilaire 350 and 360.

The 350 is located underneath the floor, attached to the joists. Humidity is provided through a wall duct. The 360 is wall mounted and distributes humidity through a wall grill. Both require 140 degree F water.

The second type of humidifiers are High-Capacity, Steam Powered models like the Skuttle 60 and the Honeywell HE 420/460. They are often used with heat pumps and Space Pak high velocity forced air systems. Since humidification is created through internally produced steam, they can add humidity even at 70 degrees F.

According to Ratliff, both the hot water and steam systems have an average retail installed cost of $800.

HUMIDISTAT

No matter how good the humidifier, it will only produce the moisture needed if controlled by the proper humidistat. Furnace mounted humidistats are ineffective because they are seldom adjusted properly. Honeywell makes the H1008 Automatic Humidity Control and the PC8900 Perfect Climate Control which calibrate both heat and humidity. The Aprilaire Model 760A power humidifier features a truly automatic control that never needs to be set manually. All humidifiers can have humidistats mounted next to the thermostat so that you never have to go downstairs to reset them when the weather changes.

HUMIDISTAT SETTINGS

Outdoor temperature

Indoor humidity

40

45%

30

40%

20

35%

10

30%

0

25%

-10

20%

-20

15%

Below -20

Move to Miami

The furnace humidifier humidistat (control) should be adjusted up and down with changes in the outside temperature. Follow these recommendations for a few days. After several days, if your skin feels too dry, adjust the humidistat upward. If the windows start fogging, lower the humidistat setting slightly.

Heating Systems Review

Forced Air Systems

Hot air systems are usually fueled by natural gas. In the country, or other places that do not have natural gas lines, these same furnaces are often adapted to use propane. Traditionally, natural gas is the most cost efficient method of heating a house. Propane and electric are much more expensive.

If you are like most of us, you presently have a natural gas, forced air heating system and you will replace it with more of the same. If your gas furnace is 20 or more years old, it may be 45 to 50% efficient, probably less. It probably started out life as a 50% efficient furnace, which meant that 50% of the heat created by the furnace went straight up the chimney, and went down hill from there.

If your furnace is 10 years of age, it may be 65% efficient, meaning 35% of the furnace heat went up the chimney without giving you a wisp of warmth. This was a big improvement over the old 50% efficient furnaces, but still was a big energy waster.

Since 1992, federal regulations have required that all gas furnaces be at least 78% efficient. The actual term is Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). Over the past few years the major manufacturers have all competed to make their furnaces more and more fuel efficient, and today, many furnaces have an AFUE rating of 90% or better (or worse, depending on how you like the result).

Ninety percent plus furnaces have a lot going for them. Some carry AFUE ratings as high as 96%. They cost anywhere from $500 to $750 more than the 78% or 80% furnaces, but save enough on fuel bills to pay for themselves over a period of time. The colder the climate, the faster a more efficient furnace will pay for itself. Another incentive to buy a 90 % plus heating system is that many power companies offer rebates when you purchase a more fuel efficient furnace.

What’s the difference between 78%, 80%, and 90% efficient furnaces?

WARNING:

Many heating contractors will tell you that some of the things I am going to say in the next few paragraphs are not true. The evidence of my own senses, plus conversations with hundreds of 90+ furnace owners tells me I am right.

Less efficient furnaces discharge air (the heat you feel coming out of the register) heated to about 125° F (warm and good feeling on a cold winter day). Air discharge temperatures in today's 90% plus models can be as low as 95° F. This lower air temperature makes the humidifier noticeably less efficient. Relatively cool dry air coming from the blower, often feels like a cold draft. Special humidifiers will make the air feel warmer.

Many 90 Plus furnaces are louder and the furnace fan runs for a longer time. 90 Plus furnaces have to be installed a little differently than older models. The increased noise factor in early models of the more efficient furnaces was often partially caused by improper installation. New designs are quieter and installation techniques have improved.

While the old, less efficient, heating plants threw a lot of heat into the house as soon as you dialed up the thermostat, the more efficient furnaces send lower heat over a longer period. This maximizes energy efficiency and cuts heating bills, but means you may stay colder, longer. You will also feel more drafts.

These problems are particularly objectionable to people over sixty. If you are older, you may want to forgo the savings and stick to a 78% or 80% efficient furnace that will give you more of the heat you are used to. Conversely, you can consign yourself to wearing a sweater all winter long and get the savings.

Reporting these negatives may make it sound like I am against 90% plus furnaces. That is not the case. I have one in my home. However, no one else talks about the drawbacks and I get a lot of negative feedback from unhappy listeners.

Ninety plus furnaces are direct vent models. Instead of venting exhaust up the chimney, air intake and venting is accomplished through a vent out of one of the sides of the house. Combustion air comes directly to the furnace from outside.

Which Furnaces Need Chimney Liners?

The 78% and 80% plus efficient furnaces still use the chimney, but require chimney liners. The reason for liners is two fold: 1- most chimneys are too large in diameter for the reduced temperature of the flue gases; 2- they are necessary to reduce temperature induced moisture buildup on the inside of the chimney that could cause an unprotected chimney to fall apart from the inside out.

How Much Should a Chimney Liner Cost?

Smart question. Pay particular attention to the cost of the chimney liner. An average price is $400 to $500 (1997 Prices) for a 35' high chimney. I have seen some replacements cost unsuspecting homeowners from $1,000 to $3,900. Any heating equipment sales person that tries to pull that kind of shenanigan, should be shown the door. Don't buy anything from him and warn your friends.

I get a lot of static from East Coast HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning) contractors when I say this. They claim they can't buy a chimney liner for what I say the consumer should pay for it.

Sorry fellows. Don't pick on me, take it up with your wholesalers. There is no reason you should be paying double the rest of the country. There is also no reason why the consumer should get gouged for rigid stainless steel liner for a gas forced air furnace.

Conventional Electric Heat

Electricity is both a dead end and an exciting fuel of the future. Conventional electric base board heating is a very high priced alternative to natural gas. In areas where both natural gas and electric are available, natural gas may have up to 94% of the market.

The expense of electric heat means that it is usually confined to homes that are way down South, a seldom used cabin, or a room addition that cannot be effectively reached by the whole house heating system.

Bring up the name Geothermal and electricity becomes the heating source of the future. Suddenly electricity is able to compete head to head with natural gas and often come out a winner. People interested in electric heat, would be well advised to consider the Geothermal Heating system we'll describe below.

Boilers

Boilers heat water instead of air. They are used as replacements for heat pumps, replacement of old boiler systems, and in new construction. Residential boilers can be oil, gas, or electric powered.

The boilers of today provide the heat for water or steam heating systems. They are most commonly used with baseboard radiant heating. Hot water runs through thin copper pipes surrounded by aluminum fins, covered by the baseboard. To be effective the baseboard should run the circumference of each room.

Hydronic Heating Systems

The best description of this type of heating system is "smooth and steady all the way." Boilers combine with sub-surface (under floor) hydronic (water) heating systems to provide constant, even heat.

They are rapidly becoming the heating system of choice in many upscale new homes. The system could also be installed in a major addition that would require a new heating source.

Hydronic sub floor radiant heating systems, which use hot water circulated through piping loops under flooring, provide draft free, comfort. They completely eliminate cold spots, or rooms that remain too hot or too cool even when the rest of the house is at the preferred temperature.

A big advantage of hydronic heating is that your tootsies never get cold. Hot water continuously circulates through polybutylene tubing keeping heat constant. Because the heat is coming from the floor, maximum heat is at body level, not collecting in ceilings. Since the hot water is circulating through a sealed loop system, there is no loss of heat through holes in duct work. Manufacturers claim a savings of 20% to 40% compared to forced air.

This system can also easily heat the garage, or keep ice and snow off sidewalks and drive ways by extending a loop system under the area you wish to remain cleared before the concrete is poured.

Hydronic Heating does not use one constant loop throughout the entire house. A manifold directs different amounts of heated water to different areas. All are thermostatically controlled. If you want a specific room in the house to be ten or twenty degrees cooler than the rest of the house, so be it. If you would like just enough heat to be directed under the driveway to keep its surface at a nice ice and snow melting 33°, that is exactly what you get.

Sub surface hydronic heating systems can be laid under any floor surface: concrete slab, hardwood, carpeting, vinyl or ceramic tile. Since dust is not continuously blown through the house via forced air, it is far easier on who ever is in charge of the dusting.

A disadvantage of hydronic heating is that, since no ductwork is needed, air conditioning has to be an entirely separate system. If you use conventional air conditioning, a blower system and ductwork will have to be installed, significantly increasing your total equipment investment.

Combination Heat/Hot Water Systems

I am breaking this out as a separate classification because it is a separate way of looking at heating. It costs more than an ordinary forced air system, but results in an almost limitless abundance of inexpensive hot water.

Hot water tanks are very inefficient because stored water cools. Combination heating/hot water systems make a lot more hot water, faster, than conventional water heaters. Therefore less has to be stored and replacement time is shorter.

Combination heating/hot water systems are very uncommon in forced air systems, but very common in modern boiler or Geothermal systems.

Lennox makes a forced air unit called the Complete Heat Combination Heating System which uses a 90% Efficient natural gas furnace to heat both water in the hot water tank and a hot water coil used to heat the furnace systems forced air.

Virtually any boiler system can be used with an indirect fired domestic water heater, providing excellent water heating efficiency. As previously reported, Geothermal heating systems usually provide either hot water heating assist, or hot water heating with the Desuper water heating option.

There are a lot of heating options available today. You the buyer, the perspective new home planner, have an obligation to learn all you can, before you choose.

Cooling

How to Shop for Air Conditioning

When it comes time to shop for air conditioning, the most important thing to check out is not the clorofloro carbons, the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) rating, or even the manufacturer. Don't even bother about buying the newest of the new unless you're lonely and want a lot of service calls

The most important part of the central air conditioning package is the person who installs, services, and stands behind the air conditioner. The air conditioning contractor is the person who is going to make you, and keep you, a happy homeowner.

All the major makers of air conditioning, Trane, Lennox, Bryant, Rheem, Carrier, Rudd, York and Heil, have regular and high efficiency units. All are, or can be, competitively priced. Since the contractor is such an important part of the process, his or her work load and the bidding procedure, do much to determine the final selling price.

When you need central air conditioning, most of your time should be spent shopping for the contractor, not the equipment. In addition to being fully satisfied about their sales and service policies, and customer satisfaction levels, you want to learn everything you can about their history with the product line.

Decide what you want from air conditioning before the sales call. Air conditioners are manufactured to be able to maintain a 15° differential between the outside and the inside temperatures. On a day (or night) when the temperature is 90° F outside, the air conditioner should be able to bring the inside temperature down to 75° F. Inside temperature is measured at the thermostat, and is not level throughout the house.

On a 90° F night, the temperature on the ground floor might be 75° F, but the temperature in the upper, back bedroom, might be 85°. That might be unacceptable to you. The contractor can balance the air flow to correct the problem, but he has to know it exists, before he can correct it.

If you require specific characteristics, such as being able to cool down the upper back bedroom to 75° F, when the outside temperature is 90° F, get that performance guaranty written into the contract.

How Big Should It Be?

When getting air conditioning quotes, bigger does not necessarily mean better. You want the air conditioner to work for long periods of time to cool the house. Only when the compressor is working is the unit conditioning (cleaning, dehumidifying) the air. If your compressor is too powerful, the air can feel cold and clammy.

All of today's air conditioner's list their energy efficiency rating, called a SEER Rating. The average air conditioner's SEER Rating is 10 or 11, high efficiency units are 12 - 15. The higher the SEER Rating, the higher the price. Until recently, units with a 12+ SEER Rating have been prohibitively expensive. Now, manufacturers and power companies are giving credits for the purchase of the more efficient equipment.

Check the prices on air conditioning units with SEER Rating of 10 or 11 and 12 or 12+ units. If you can get the price difference, after credits, down to the $150.00 range, go with the higher SEER Rating.

Solar Power

Everyone I know worries about brown outs and power failures, especially during the bad weather. How would you like to make your house energy self-sufficient and maybe even sell power back to the power company? This is the kind of thing we usually read about but still classify as science fiction.

Solar Power has been around forever. It is what makes the inside of a sealed car warm on a bright sunny day. In parts of California they were using solar powered water heaters over 100 years ago. There are many companies in the solar power business, but few offer energy alternatives that are in any way competitive to other energy sources.

Now the company that is responsible for developing the power cells for solar batteries has developed a solar shingle. Bekaert ECD Solar Systems LLC, of Troy, (888) 864-7652 is presently making both Uni-solar PV Shingles and Architectural Metal Panels that contain photovoltaic panels. Terence Parker, Uni-Solar's manager of Sales Engineering, says that the solar panels along with necessary combiner boxes, inverter and wiring convert energy from the sun into useable electricity.

The electric power is used to run home lighting and appliances or stored in a battery until needed. Excess power can be sold to the electric company and channeled into their power grid.

A solar system for a 2,000 square foot house that would supply most electric needs except during peak air conditioning months would cost about $18,000, Parker said.

Bob Martin of Reddi-Wall Foam Insulated Concrete Wall Systems, (810) 752-9161, is using the solar shingles to provide electric power for an energy efficient concrete home he is building in Genesee county. Parker said that solar power technology is most effective when used with Foam Insulated Concrete Wall and other efficient Energy Star building systems.

We will be creating an in depth Energy Crisis Solar Power report in the next several months. In the meantime there is a great deal of information out there. One commercial search site, www.usgovsearch.com lists 102,843 web sites with information on solar power. It’s all just a few clicks away. Good hunting!

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