Posted: February 26, 2015 in Conservation, Construction techniques, Energy Efficiency, Heating, HVAC, Plumbing, Water heating
Tags: boiler, condenser, evaporator, furnace, heat gain calculation, heat loss calculation, heat pump, heating systems, indirect tank, indirect water heater, manual-j, tankless coil
She Blinded Me With Science!
One of the toughest things about researching a new heating system is learning the tech talk. Your HVAC company will throw out all sorts of terminology assuming that you understand what they’re talking about. Some might even be happy that you *don’t* understand so they can confuse you and sound like experts. Well, no more!
This post covers the most common terms that you’re likely to run across. I’m sure I’ll miss some or confuse you, so please post questions if there’s anything you’d like clarified.
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I got a great question from a reader asking about replacing a boiler and water heater system. After writing a reply, I realized the information might be useful to others, so here goes!
If you’ve got an old boiler that you’re thinking about replacing, you might find all the terminology and technology a bit intimidating. Fortunately, these days, there are a quite a few safe, high efficiency, hot-water generating systems that can provide plenty of hot water for baths and showers as well as heating your home.
I’ve been using this type of system in my home for years, both oil and gas (actually propane, but for this discussion, they’re the same). They can be excellent and cost effective IF configured and controlled correctly.
Let me get something out of the way right away – I would *not* recommend an oil burning system. Even though oil has come way down in price, it’s simply not a great fuel for home heating systems for a number of reasons
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Proper flashing detail around a window
When I head out around the countryside, I am frequently dismayed by all the examples of improper construction techniques. “There’s another house that’s going to rot out in a few years” I think to myself.
So, when I saw this new construction, I did a double-take. Did the contractor actually properly install the house-wrap (Typar or Tyvek) around the window? Amazing!
Let’s look at what they did right:
- They used Typar house wrap which is generally a better product than Tyvek. But installed correctly, each can do a fine job
- They installed the house wrap horizontally in long, continuous segments. This reduces the number of seams, which are potential failure points.
- They used the Typar tape for the seams. This is a little detail that is often missed. The house wrap is slippery material and using the wrong tape on the seams can lead to failure. Only the factory approved brand should be used whether it be Tyvek or Typar.
- *IMPORTANT* They sliced the wrap above the window and installed the top piece over the window’s nailing flange. This directs water properly. 90% of the installations are done without this detail which leads to water getting under the nailing flange!
- *IMPORTANT* They taped the wrap under the nailing flange and over the bottom sill. Again, this is critical for proper drainage. If water gets behind the window, it drips onto water-impervious Grace Vycor then drains out at the bottom flange. Most installers tape the bottom flange to the house wrap which traps water inside the wall.
So kudos to the builder. This home is much less likely to rot out than 90% of the other new constructions!
Posted: October 21, 2014 in Building Science, Construction techniques, Mold & Moisture, Windows
Tags: house wrap, typar, tyvek, windows
For some time, PECO (our local electric company) has been subsidizing high-efficiency bulbs. The current special is the best I’ve seen. For about $5, you can now get industry leading CREE LED bulbs, as well as the highly rated Philips bulbs at your local Home Depot.
If you’ve been considering trying LED bulbs but have found the price to be prohibitive, now’s the time to try a few. The energy savings can easily pay for the bulbs in under a year and they’re so long lasting that you’ll likely never have to change them.
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In July 2014, I purchased this GE GeoSpring heat pump water heater to replace my existing all-electric water that had sprung a leak. Admittdely, it was an impulse buy because Lowes was having a sale on them – probably to get rid of unwanted inventory because these have horrible reviews!
So why did I buy it? Because it was only a few hundred dollars more than a conventional electric water heater and I’d been wanting to get an integrated HPWH after my previous add-on HPWH died after just a year. Plus, based on the negative reviews, I felt that the people having problems were using earlier versions of the heater. So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that it has a long, happy life.
Almost everything written in this article applies to all heat-pump water heaters. I’ll put the GE specific notes at the end.
What is a heat-pump water heater?
You may not know it but your refrigerator and air conditioner are examples of heat pumps. Through a process of compression, condensation and evaporation, they move heat from one place to another. In your refrigerator, that humming you hear when it runs is the compressor. The inside of the fridge is cold because the “heat” in the fridge is moved to the outside of the insulated box and blown into your kitchen. An air conditioner works exactly the same way – it cools the air inside the house and expels the heat outside.
The HPWH does the same thing except it uses the heat to warm the water in the tank. And the cold? If you feel the output behind the heater, you’ll see that the cold gets blown into the room. Heat the water, chill the room. Keep this in mind, we’ll come back to that later.
Why does a heat-pump water heater save energy?
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Philips 60w Dimmable LED bulb
Woohoo, a high-quality, $10 (now $9 at Amazon), dimmable LED bulb!
Philips has been a leader in LED lighting for some time, and their new SlimStyle bulb securely places them at the front of the pack.
While there are other, sexier dimmable LED bulbs, the SlimStyle has the best price/performance that I’ve seen. If you run the numbers, for a high-usage fixture (I define that as 8-hours a day) then you’ll find that this bulb pays for itself in about half a year in saved electricity costs. In my book, that makes it a “no-brainer.” It’s inexpensive, durable, casts a lot of pleasing light and is the first LED bulb that I’d call *cute* :-) Really, just look at it. What’s not to like? Read the rest of this entry »
Sadly, I can no longer recommend Fujitsu due to their unacceptable support and warranty policies.
Poor product durability eliminates all cost savings gained from efficiency
A home’s heating system is a capital expenditure. That is, it’s considered a long term investment in your home. Typically, you figure that it will last 15-20 years with some cost for maintenance. And generally, that’s conservative. How many of you still have heating systems in your homes from the 1970’s or 80’s? In general, these systems are very durable. Unfortunately, with the Fujitsu mini-split heat pump, this has not been the case. Read the rest of this entry »
After the first article, Matt collected his utility bills and other background information we need to get started. Here it is:
“Colonial 3,300 square feet. 3 adults one child. 2 Electric Heat Pumps: Large one in basement is Payne, Model Number PF1MNB048; Smaller one in mud room for rooms above garage has no name. Just has large number SA11694 and Model Number BCS2M18C00NA1P-1. Thermostat at 72 now and 70 in summer. Consumption Feb 2013 through Jan 2014 – kWh 5800, 4530, 2815, 1684, 1533, 2346, 1334, 1568, 1719, 3023, 5833, 7349″
I don’t even have to make a spreadsheet for this one!
What this tells us
We have a small-medium family in an average sized development home – no red-flags there.
However, the next items contain the keys to solving this mystery.
Posted: January 25, 2014 in Conservation
Tags: energy efficiency, TED
Here’s Ted capturing a thermal image
People keep asking me how I can do this for free. They say I should sell my services (done that) or charge for website access (won’t do that!) But it got me thinking about how people could drop a quarter in my tip jar, so to speak.
For years, I’ve heard about various systems for doing this, and now I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and signed up at Patreon.com. Patreon is a cool site set up to let people support their favorite creators. Whether they’re musicians, journalists or energy Geeks like me, Patreon lets you say “thanks” to those that bring something to your life.
I’m not much of a self promoter, so I’m not going to do this often. If you think I’m doing something useful here and feel like contributing, just head over to Patreon.
p.s. Ted’s Tips will be free for the foreseeable future. Patreon is just a way for you to provide positive feedback any time I do another post. It helps pay for the coffee that fuels this site.