Category: Major Systems

Kickspace Heaters 101

This winter, bring warmth to your coldest rooms by installing space-smart heaters that will make their presence felt—though not necessarily seen.

Kickspace Heaters - White Bathroom Unit


Every home has one—a room that never feels quite comfortable in the winter, no matter the set temperature. To supply extra heat to these chilly areas, some homeowners use space heaters, reasoning that warmer, habitable spaces justify the likelihood of higher utility bills. Others choose to install baseboard units instead, taking on an up-front expense in hopes of saving energy costs down the line. The catch? Baseboards are bulky; a lot of times, they simply don’t fit.

Fortunately, there’s another option to consider—namely, kickspace heaters. Also known as toe-kick heaters, these often-overlooked components deliver the best of both worlds, cost-effective heating in a compact package. Their modest size means that in a room with a challenging layout, one that would not accommodate a baseboard unit, a kickspace heater may be able to fit in seamlessly, installed at floor level beneath cabinetry or even inside the wall or floor.

According to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with, “Kickspace heaters are designed to be inconspicuous.” In fact, their name refers to the hidden spot where they are frequently installed—that is, the inset cavity along the bottom edge of bathroom vanities and kitchen base cabinets. Here, kickspace heaters remain largely out of sight, working virtually invisibly to supplement the warmth provided by the main HVAC system.

Kickspace Heaters - Wood Kitchen Unit


There are two types of kickspace heaters in common use today. Though alike in many ways, they are separated by a single yet crucial design variation. Both draw in cool air from the surrounding area and gradually return it to the room after raising its temperature to a preset level. Both types of heater warm the captured air by exposing it to a set of heated coils. Here’s the point of distinction: A hydronic unit heats up those coils by pumping in water from the boiler or hot water heater. In the other type, the coils are heated by means of electricity. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart by their performance, but when it comes to installation, each has different basic requirements.

Hardware and wiring typically accompany new kickspace heaters in tidy, prepackaged bundles. So, at first blush, it may all seem easy enough to set up. That’s not really the case, though, according to Daniel O’Brian of He warns, “Installation isn’t something to take lightly.” Rather, it requires the services of a qualified pro, no matter whether you choose a hydronic unit or an electric one. Of the two, hydronic units are pricier to install, because they call not only for electrical work, but for plumbing modifications as well. “If you don’t have a good handle on the skills involved,” O’Brian emphasizes, “don’t attempt to do it yourself. There are just too many risks.”

O’Brian also offers the reminder that even in mild climates, kickspace heaters are not suitable as whole-home heaters, if only because they offer limited coverage. “They are designed as, and work best when used as, complements to the central heating,” he says. It is important to note, however, that a kickspace heater doesn’t need to operate in lockstep with the main HVAC system. On the contrary, kickspace heaters are typically set up to be independent and separately configured. That arrangement gives the homeowner precision control over the temperature of the room in question, particularly when the installed kickspace heater is a model that offers multiple fan speeds.

For many, heating can be as much a source of frustration as comfort. If chilly rooms are undermining your enjoyment of your home, reclaim your spaces with a cost-effective, inconspicuous kickspace heater. Need help making your selection? Visit the experts at A leading vendor in the category, the company offers products from all major manufacturers, including Beacon/Morris, Cadet, Broan, and King. Have a happy, warm winter!

Kickspace Heaters - Components Isolated


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Bob Vila Radio: Is It a Three-Way Lamp Socket?

The next time you return home from the flea market with a lamp under your arm, here's how to tell whether or not its socket can take a three-way bulb.

How can you distinguish between a standard lamp socket and a three-way? It’s simple! Standard sockets have only two electrical contacts. The hot contact, a small metal tab, sits at the bottom of the socket, while the negative contact is the threaded metal shell (the one the bulb screws into).

Three-Way Lamp Sockets


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Listen to BOB VILA ON STANDARD SOCKETS or read the text below:

Three-way sockets look very similar. The difference is that next to the metal tab at the bottom, there’s a third contact—a bit smaller than the metal tab and set slightly off center. That extra contact matches a small ring-shaped contact on the bottom of a three-way fluorescent bulb. Such bulbs are characterized by having two filaments, not one. When you twist the switch on a three-way lamp, the first click illuminates a single filament. The next click deactivates the first and illuminates the second, this one with a somewhat higher wattage. The final, third click illuminates both filaments at once, giving you the brightest light.

If you’re looking to trim your electric bills, you might want to check out compact fluorescent or LED bulbs, many of which are made expressly to work in conventional three-way fixtures.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Bob Vila Radio: Power Strips vs. Surge Protectors

There's really only one major difference between power strips and surge protectors. But when you're using either to power an expensive or essential device, that sole distinction matters more than you might think. Read on for the details.

Not quite sure of the difference between power strips and surge protectors? You’re not alone. Home improvement centers report that many customers ask the same question. Perhaps it’s time to set the record straight?

Power Strips vs. Surge Protectors


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Power strips are basically extension cords with multiple receptacles. For most purposes, they work fine in supplying electricity to devices located near one another—so long as those devices are not expensive or essential for your daily routine. However, if you’re plugging in a laptop, modem, router or flat-screen TV, you may wish to opt for a surge protector. Because they provide a safeguard against power spikes, the latter makes the best choice for certain prized items. Note, many surge protectors look just like power strips, but you can always tell a surge protector by the specification stamped or printed on the housing (this indicates the level of protection the unit provides). Some newer surge protectors can even help cut your utility bills by temporarily powering down devices not in use—a great option for accessories you don’t use all day, every day.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!

Create Your Best-Ever Holiday Home with Customizable Climate Control

With the holidays approaching, it's time to get ready for friends and family who will no doubt stop by for joyful celebrations or even overnight visits. This year, as part of your preparations, give some thought to your guests' comfort by installing a heating system that can accommodate a wide range of temperature preferences.

Zoned Cooling and Heating - Kitchen Unit

Photo: Josh Pabst

You are reading one installment in a 10-part series devoted to exploring Mitsubishi Electric ductless heating and cooling. See all.

It’s going to be a busy holiday season. Cousins are driving in from out of town, and grandparents are staying for at least a week, possibly longer. You want everyone to have a great time, so you’re going all out: you’re cleaning the house, sprucing up the guest rooms and making your home look beautiful. Additionally, you’re pouring over recipes to ensure that every meal not only tastes delicious, but also appeals to your guests’ diverse tastes. In short, you are doing everything within your control to make sure your guests are comfortable. But there’s one thing you may not have considered yet: With so many people under the same roof, and with each person likely favoring a different temperature, is everyone going to be truly comfortable?

Zoned Cooling and Heating - Dining Room Unit

Photo: Michael Lee

Having pondered just about everything else, why hadn’t you thought about accommodating your guests’ varying temperature preferences? The reason may be, quite simply, that you didn’t know you could. For decades, the average cooling and heating system has taken a one-size-fits-all approach, with one thermostat controlling the temperature of every room in the house. Who knows how many disagreements have arisen in households whose members couldn’t agree on a single temperature—all because of that one limitation? Fortunately, cooling and heating have advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years. Thanks to the zoned systems pioneered by Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc. Cooling & Heating (Mitsubishi Electric), you can put an end to thermostat wars once and for all!

Of all the features Mitsubishi Electric systems deliver, one particular capability could have the greatest impact on the comfort of your holiday guests—zoning. In homes with traditional cooling and heating systems, only some people will be truly comfortable at any given time. Mitsubishi Electric, however, enables you to establish multiple zones. Each zone, whether it comprises of one room, a set of rooms, or an entire floor, can be controlled independently of the others. So, while you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner or a Christmas feast in the oven-warmed kitchen, you can remain cool by keeping the room’s temperature relatively low. Meanwhile, in the living room, where the grandparents are being entertained by your children, you can set the temperature a few degrees higher. Indeed, everyone can enjoy his or her ideal environment.

The ability to select different temperatures in different zones ensures a higher level of comfort, but that’s not all. At a time of year when family finances are often strained, zoning provides another crucial benefit—an energy-saving opportunity. Because traditional systems operate in all-or-nothing fashion, one-zone climate control can’t capitalize on these same opportunities. To have cooling or heating in any room, you must run the system (and pay for the energy consumed) in all rooms, even the unoccupied ones. Imagine if the same principle were applied to a home’s electrical system, and turning on one fixture meant turning on every light in the house. A setup like that would be extremely wasteful, not to mention inconvenient. With zoning, Mitsubishi Electric offers a sensible solution.

The precision afforded by Mitsubishi Electric means that you only pay for the climate comfort you need and use. For instance, on New Year’s Day, as the family sleeps late in the bedrooms upstairs, you can set a lower-than-usual temperature for the spaces on the ground floor. After all, if the living room and kitchen are vacant, why spend the money to make them toasty warm? Later on, when household activity moves downstairs, you can cut back on heating the now-empty bedrooms. In this way, Mitsubishi Electric’s systems empower you to eliminate unnecessary energy consumption and, in the process, reduce your monthly utility bills. Room-by-room system management may seem straightforward and logical, but only zoning makes it possible. In the future, you may wonder how you ever lived without it!

Whereas traditional HVAC is inflexible, Mitsubishi Electric gives you virtually limitless options. If you choose, you can program the system to run on a customized schedule, making savings automatic and manual adjustments unnecessary. Of course, because schedules are prone to change—especially during the holiday season—the Mitsubishi Electric system easily accommodates changes of plan. Thanks to its kumo cloud™ app, you can configure the thermostat in your home from anywhere, via a computer or mobile device. Heading home from a chilly afternoon at the ice rink? Open the kumo cloud app on your smartphone and turn up the heat in advance of your arrival. With Mitsubishi Electric, you’re in complete control of creating a comfortable environment for you and your guests.

Happy holidays!

Zoned Cooling and Heating - Bedroom Unit

Photo: Mike Crews

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Is Your Furnace Going to Survive the Winter?

Your furnace is your home's primary defense against the uncomfortable, potentially damaging effects of frigid weather. Before winter really kicks in, make sure your furnace is up to the task.

Repairing vs. Replacing a Furnace


With snow flurries already flying in parts of the country, now is the time to take a close look at your furnace to assess whether it will be able to reliably serve you through the winter. If the appliance requires repair or replacement, it’s best to address the issue early, before the mercury plummets and frigid temperatures take hold. After all, “you don’t want to wake up to find ice in the dog bowl,” says David Kenyon, a product manager with Sears Home Services. To be on the safe side, Kenyon recommends expert furnace maintenance on a yearly basis, to ensure that the unit both delivers peak performance and lasts through its intended useful lifespan. That said, you don’t have to be a professional to assess, at least in general terms, the health of your furnace. Certain warning signs can be unmistakable. “Your furnace is probably trying to tell you something,” Kenyon says. Read on for some pointers on translating its message.

Lifespan Limitations
How old is your furnace? If you don’t know the answer—or if you believe the furnace to be more than 15 years old—chances are that its best days have come and gone. “The average heating appliance typically lasts for 10 to 14 years,” according to Kenyon. So it’s not out of the ordinary for a decade-old furnace to suffer performance problems. With regular maintenance and perhaps the occasional repair, it’s often possible to delay the inevitable. As Kenyon says, “Hire qualified, experienced technicians, and they may be able to coax your ailing furnace back into service.” But financially speaking, repair isn’t always preferable to replacement. Kenyon points out that in recent years, a lot has changed in furnace design and manufacturing. “The newer units are more efficient than ever before.” And with a furnace that consumes less energy, you can hope for lower monthly bills. Over time, Kenyon says, “those savings really add up.”

Repairing vs. Replacing a Furnace - Older Model


Performance Woes
A furnace in top condition performs at the high end of its efficiency spectrum. As the appliance deteriorates with age, however, so too does its efficiency, with the furnace consuming more energy to do the same job. “If your heating bills are higher than they were last year, it doesn’t necessarily mean your rates are higher this year,” says Kenyon. “It could be that your furnace needs attention.” Besides keeping an eye on the bottom line on your utility bills, Kenyon recommends taking notice of temperature variations from one room to the next. Uneven heating stems from a number of causes, but according to Kenyon, it’s often a signature of poor furnace efficiency. In addition, Kenyon suggests monitoring the operating patterns of your furnace. “Does it cycle on and off very frequently? Or does it seem to run all the time?” Either behavior indicates something may be amiss. A professional can help diagnose the problem, Kenyon concludes, noting that Sears Home Services offers in-home consultations free of charge.

Sights and Sounds
Some signs of furnace malfunction are subtle. Others are obvious, so long as you get close enough to see and hear the appliance at work. In his experience, Kenyon says, “A surprising number of homeowners rarely even go near the furnace.” But, he continues, simply “standing next to it can tell you a lot about its condition.” Check the surface for rust or corrosion. Listen for excessive buzzing, humming, or rattling. And if you observe any such signs of distress—or if the unit emanates an unusual odor—”don’t hesitate to have it looked at,” Kenyon says. “It may be nothing or it may be something, but to prevent a midwinter emergency, it pays to be cautious,” he advises. When arranging a service call, though, be sure to hire a technician who’s qualified to work on your specific furnace. Some pros specialize in only one type. Sears Home Services is different, Kenyon points out, because it performs maintenance on all makes and models—no matter where the unit was purchased.

When to Buy New
Near the end of its life, your furnace may be prone to frequent breakdowns. At this point, you need to decide whether to repair the unit or replace it altogether. As expected, Kenyon says, “a new furnace demands a sizable investment.” But as mentioned above, upgrading to a newer, more efficient unit often leads to lower monthly utility bills. So, Kenyon summarizes, “despite the upfront cost, replacing an old furnace could be cheaper than paying to repair an inefficient unit over and over.” In addition, Kenyon offers the reminder that, “Ultimately, your home is likely to feel more comfortable in winter with a new furnace supplying its heat.” If you decide to upgrade, know that choosing a new furnace can be overwhelming. An important advantage of a company like Sears Home Services is that, from initial selection to final installation, a project coordinator guides you through the process.

When both the comfort of your family and the integrity of your home are at stake, can you afford to take chances? Which brings up yet another reason that so many homeowners enjoy working with Sears Home Services. As a nationwide company with a decades-long history, Sears supports its work with a Satisfaction Guarantee—and your relationship with Sears will continue long after the workers pick up and leave your home. That way, you can enjoy full confidence that just as you are, Sears is committed to the success of your project. Stay warm!

Repairing vs. Replacing a Furnace - House in Winter


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5 Things to Know Before You Buy a New Boiler

If you're worried that a new boiler might be in your future, start your research now, before the cold weather sets in. Read on for some boiler basics.

How to Choose a Boiler


When it comes to safeguarding the comfort and winter readiness of your home, time is of the essence. Don’t wait until the first frost to make sure your heating system is in good working order. Right now is the ideal time to conduct a thorough review of your home heating components. Think back to last year: Did you spend a small fortune to maintain a cozy, livable temperature throughout your home? Did you find yourself setting the thermostat lower than desired in an effort to hold down your sky-high bills? If either one of these problems sounds familiar, you certainly don’t want history to repeat itself. Here’s the good news: So long as you can pinpoint the source of your heating woes, you, in cooperation with trained professionals, can design a solution that will keep your home warm and your costs reasonable.

Determining the root cause of unsatisfactory HVAC performance isn’t always a straightforward task. But if your home features hydronic heating, those high operating costs most likely stem from the hardworking appliance at the heart of your system: the boiler. Simply put, “older boilers tend to waste a lot of energy,” according to David Kenyon, an HVAC specialist with Sears Home Services. In recent years, against a backdrop of rising energy costs and mounting environmental concerns, many of the newer boilers that have come onto the market boast better-than-ever levels of efficiency. Choosing a new boiler can be tricky, though. Continue reading to learn about the key considerations that should factor into any comprehensive selection process.

According to Kenyon, steam boilers are largely a thing of the past. “In modern homes with hydronic heat, you almost always see a hot-water boiler.” Even among hot-water boilers, though, there are fundamental variations; for instance, different units operate on different fuels. The Kenmore brand, for example, offers a range of boilers that includes some that run on oil, some on natural gas, and others on liquid propane. In your search, focus only on boilers intended to run on a fuel to which your home has cost-effective access. Fuel rates and availability are not uniform, so you have to be sure to match your new boiler to the fuels available where you live. If multiple options exist in your neck of the woods, it may be tempting to pick the cheapest. But bear in mind that switching fuel types usually involves establishing a new service line, and this installation can come with a hefty price tag. For that reason, Kenyon usually sees people replacing old boilers with new units of the same type, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Because of all the nuances at play, “it’s essential to work with a certified professional, even in the early stages,” Kenyon says. He notes that in-home consultations with Sears Home Services are free and that working with an established company can help you flesh out your project plan.

How to Choose a Boiler - Basement Unit


It’s critical to choose a new boiler whose capacity precisely meets the demands of your home. In many cases, a boiler’s poor performance is simply the result of incorrect sizing. A too-large boiler, Kenyon explains, can lead to short-cycling, where the system cycles on and off faster than it should as it satisfies the home’s heating demands. A too-small boiler, however, may end up working too hard while still leaving interior spaces uncomfortably cool. Either situation leads not only to diminished boiler efficiency, but also to a shorter lifespan for the appliance. Despite the vital importance of proper sizing, boilers are often mismatched for their applications—an understandable miscalculation, given the number of variables that are involved in determining appropriate sizing. So many factors must be taken into account, from the number and placement of windows and doors to the amount of insulation installed in the home. Don’t know where to start? Consider contacting Sears Home Services. Sears routinely performs load calculations, and as part of a consulting visit to your home, a technical specialist can do this for free.

In terms of energy consumption, “appliances like televisions and computers pale in comparison to heating and cooling appliances,” Kenyon says. “So choosing an efficient boiler can really help keep down your costs each winter.” To differentiate between boilers of varying efficiency levels, check their Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings. Expressed as a percentage, the AFUE of a given boiler communicates how efficiently it converts fuel into heat energy. The most efficient boilers earn ENERGY STAR certification, with the Kenmore line installed by Sears Home Services including several such units. A high-efficiency boiler “may cost more upfront,” remarks Kenyon, “but remember that you stand to save a lot of money over the long term.”

To perform at peak efficiency and last as long as possible, every boiler requires regular maintenance. A standard maintenance routine includes a comprehensive review of the constituent parts—everything from the electrical connections to the flue piping. In addition, some boiler components may call for periodic cleaning (e.g., the drain line) or replacement (e.g., the air filter). Before you buy a new boiler, Kenyon says, “take the time to fully understand the maintenance requirements of the unit.” Ambitious do-it-yourselfers may able to handle some of it on their own, but once per year, Kenyon strongly recommends engaging a professional. Whether or not you choose Sears Home Services as your boiler installer, you can always hire the company to conduct annual boiler maintenance to catch any issues before the winter sets in.

“Don’t attempt to install a new boiler yourself,” warns Kenyon. “It’s not a do-it-yourself project. It’s really a job for the pros.” Improper installation can result in unequivocally negative consequences, ranging from the high financial cost of inefficient operation to the physical danger of “utterly unsafe” conditions. Give the project the respect it deserves by contracting with a reputable installer who holds sufficient bonding, insurance, and all relevant licenses. While there are likely to be wholly competent outfits in your local area, Kenyon points out that there are compelling reasons to work with a nationwide company like Sears Home Services. For instance, to demonstrate its commitment to customers, the company provides a Satisfaction Guarantee. Plus, whereas some boilers come with disappointing product warranties, Kenmore models are accompanied by a full seven years of Sears Master Protection (view details). In part, that means your relationship with Sears continues well after the installation takes place. Indeed, where your comfort and safety are concerned, there’s peace of mind in having Sears in your corner.


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Complete Control: Set the Temperature at Home No Matter Where You Are

Achieve unparalleled comfort at home with zoned cooling and heating technology that gives you the ability to control your system via the Internet.

Wireless Zoned HVAC


You are reading one installment in a 10-part series devoted to exploring Mitsubishi Electric ductless cooling and heating. See all.

Cooling and heating the home isn’t what it used to be—and that’s a good thing! For decades, forced-air central systems dominated the marketplace, with the majority of homeowners subjected to the limitations of an increasingly outmoded technology. In recent years, however, we’ve seen tremendous advancement across a broad swath of product categories, like home climate control. Today, homeowners enjoy a rich variety of exciting new options for cooling and heating. Of them all, there’s perhaps none more exciting than the zoned systems pioneered by Mitsubishi Electric US, Inc. Cooling & Heating (Mitsubishi Electric). Already popular in Europe and Asia, zoned systems from Mitsubishi Electric boast several compelling features including easy, unobtrusive installation and performance so efficient that homeowners can save 30 to 40 percent on their monthly energy bills.

One feature in particular stands out from the rest: True to their name, zoned systems from Mitsubishi Electric reject the all-or-nothing approach of traditional cooling and heating. In the past, in order to control the temperature of any given room, you would need to run (and pay for) the system to operate in every room, even the empty ones. With Mitsubishi Electric, that’s no longer the case. Now, you can establish multiple zones in your home and, if you like, set a different temperature in each one. That means you’ll no longer need to pay to cool and heat the spaces you’re not occupying. Plus, every member of your household can finally feel at home under the same roof, as zoning accommodates the different temperature preferences of family members.

Wireless Zoned HVAC - Redlink App


In short, zoning gives you an extraordinarily fine degree of control over the climate of your home. But while targeting temperatures on a room-by-room basis may be revolutionary, it’s not the only way Mitsubishi Electric empowers the homeowner. Thanks to its kumo cloud™ app, the company’s zoned systems can be operated and programmed from any iOS, Android or Fire OS smartphone or tablet. There is even a web browser version, great for laptops or desktops. That doesn’t mean you can’t interact with the thermostat in your home; the point is, you don’t need to. With the kumo cloud app (free to use and download with a Wi-Fi Interface installed), you can modify thermostat settings at any time, from anywhere. Indeed, Mitsubishi Electric zoned systems are unique in that they can actually keep up with the busy modern homeowner who’s constantly on the go.

After you’ve left the house, have you ever worried that the air conditioner is still going at full blast? With the remote system monitoring that kumo cloud makes possible, you can simply pull out your smartphone to check and, if you want, turn the AC down or off. Likewise, if you’re heading home at the end of a long day, you can easily turn up the heat in advance of your arrival, ensuring that your home will be toasty and warm when you get there. Sure, you can always program a Mitsubishi Electric zoned system to run on a set schedule that you’ve specified. But schedules are prone to sudden alterations. Only over-the-Internet control accommodates for those inevitable changes of plan. By putting full control at your fingertips, kumo cloud enables you to handle any situation and capitalize on every opportunity to save money and ensure comfort.

In the future, you may wonder how you ever lived without remote control of your cooling and heating. Remote control isn’t the whole story, though, when it comes to kumo cloud from Mitsubishi Electric. The technology also delivers system monitoring with push notifications and email. That may not sound like much, but make no mistake—knowledge is power.

Imagine what could happen if your home were to experience a climate-control problem in the dead of winter while you’re on vacation in Florida. In a worst-case scenario, you would come home to frozen pipes and extensive, costly damage. If you had system monitoring in place, however, you could easily avoid such a disaster. Never forget that cooling and heating does more than keep your family comfortable—it often protects the home as well. It’s always in a homeowner’s best interest to be aware of the zoning system’s status.

Cumbersome and inefficient, traditional forced-air central cooling and heating tend to frustrate the homeowner seeking consistent, even indoor temperatures at an affordable monthly cost. For a responsive system that can provide the comfort and control that you crave, look no further than Mitsubishi Electric. The company’s kumo cloud Wi-Fi control technology, together with the system’s zoning capability, means you no longer have to sacrifice comfort for savings, or vice versa. With finely tuned, customizable control and monitoring, you can experience the most comfortable home of your life, possibly for less than you’re currently spending each month.

Wireless Zoned HVAC - Redlink How It Works


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A Cheap and Easy Way to Slash Your Water Bill

Adding or replacing a faucet aerator is an amazingly simple fix that can have a big payoff in conserving water and cutting your utility bills.

How to Choose a Faucet Aerator


With a single tiny change to the faucets in your kitchen and bathrooms, you can achieve significant savings on your water bill, even while doing your part to mitigate the global water crisis. The key? A low-tech device known as a faucet aerator. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, adding an aerator to each faucet can save the average family about 700 gallons of water per year. That roughly translates to a savings of $48 each month. Best of all, just about anyone can install a faucet aerator on his or her own, and the modification requires minimal investment, with the cost of individual aerators rarely exceeding $10.

Disc-like in shape, an aerator simply screws onto the tip of a faucet. There, it acts as a sort of filter, mixing air into the water leaving the faucet so that it exits, not in an unrestricted stream, but in a parade of tiny droplets. The aerator also limits the flow of the faucet by narrowing its width (either in a fixed or adjustable way). Working together, the injection of air and the narrowed opening drastically reduce water consumption. Even so, aerators still deliver a steady, even flow, so you likely wouldn’t even notice a difference in performance between a faucet with an aerator and a faucet without one. In other words, there’s really no downside.

How to Choose a Faucet Aerator - Sink Kitchen


Different faucet aerators are designed to enforce different flow rates, says Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with It may be tempting to choose the aerator with the lowest flow rate in order to maximize savings. Bear in mind, however, that for activities such as washing the dishes, homeowners tend to rely on certain gallons-per-minute (GPM) minimums. In the kitchen, O’Brian suggests choosing an aerator with a flow rate between 1 and 1.5 GPM. For bathroom faucets, opt for a flow rate in the .5 to 1 GPM range, he says. Still, despite those specific recommendations, O’Brian points out that “a lot depends on your personal preferences and usage. There are no strict rules here.”

Flow rate aside, several other differences exist among faucet aerators, in part to accommodate the rich variety of faucets in common use across the country. Because faucet tips vary in size, so too do the aerators that attach to them. Both standard- and junior-size aerators are available; the former is similar in circumference to a nickel, while the latter is closer to a dime. Meanwhile, aerators also differ in how they screw onto their host faucet. “If there are male threads on the faucet, choose a female-threaded aerator, and vice versa,” O’Brian advises. Finally, aerators vary in their style of output. Some offer the traditional, columnar jet, while others produce a more diffuse spray, somewhat like a small shower head.

Like other hardworking, functional elements of the home, faucet aerators don’t last forever. The device contains three main component parts—mounting runs, a screen, and a flow restrictor. Those last two are likely to become clogged over time, gradually compromising water pressure in the faucet and therefore limiting flow. In fact, if you are having problems with low water pressure in your kitchen or bathroom, check the faucet. “There may already be an aerator you don’t know about,” says O’Brian, “and it may be long past its prime.” Removing an aerator is a simple matter of unscrewing it from the tip of the faucet to which it’s attached. You can also use an adjustable wrench, gently, if necessary.

Installing a new aerator? Note that if your sink features a decades-old faucet, it may not have an existing aerator, and if the faucet lacks the screw threads necessary to secure the attachment, it may simply be incompatible with one. If, however, you have a compatible faucet, O’Brian of explains that “it’s a very easy swap.” Unscrew the existing aerator, if there is one, then screw in the new or replacement model. “Really, it takes no longer than a few minutes,” O’Brian concludes. For today’s homeowner, there’s no quicker, easier, or more cost-effective way to put a dent in your monthly water bills. Plus, there’s comfort in knowing that as drought complicates life for millions of people in the United States and abroad, you’re doing your part to conserve.

How to Choose a Faucet Aerator - SupplyHouse Array


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So, You Want to… Install Radiant Heating

If you're in search of virtually silent, all-encompassing, unobtrusive warmth, radiant heating just might be what you're looking for. If this heating technology has piqued your interest, here are a few considerations to take into account.

Radiant Heat Installation 2


Thinking about installing radiant heat? Well, you’re not alone. The technology has already gained wide acceptance with consumers internationally, and though radiant systems haven’t yet become commonplace in the United States, more and more people are making the switch. Why? Radiant heating offers a range of persuasive, real-life benefits, from dramatic energy savings to unparalleled comfort. If you’re only just now hearing about the technology, make no mistake: Far from being a newfangled idea, radiant heat has existed, in one form or another, for thousands of years. It’s only recently, however, that such systems have profited from advanced engineering to become not only a viable alternative, but also a compelling option with many critical advantages over traditional forced-air.

For one thing, compared with a forced-air system, radiant heat operates at least 25 percent more efficiently, according to a study by Kansas State University and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. There are several reasons why radiant heat consumes less energy (and fewer energy dollars) than the older, increasingly outmoded heating method. A primary explanation is that radiant systems involve zero ductwork. Notoriously prone to losing air in transit, ducts are often leaky enough to compromise the overall efficiency of a forced-air system by as much as 50 percent. This heat loss means that you must pay more per month for an inefficient system to make up for this design flaw. In a home with radiant heat, there’s no such heat loss, so the homeowner enjoys much lower bills.

While money savings certainly figures into the growing popularity of radiant heating, it’s by no means the sole factor at play. In fact, for many who convert, comfort outranks operating cost in terms of importance. So even though radiant boasts high efficiency, homeowners are more attracted to the high-quality heat it provides. Indeed, with warmth delivered at floor level, you get a qualitatively different experience than with a traditional heating method. While forced-air works in a stop-and-start fashion that can lead to uncomfortable temperature swings, radiant systems operate steadily and create even, all-encompassing, “everywhere” warmth. Plus, with no dust-collecting ducts, the technology safeguards indoor air quality. Another humongous difference: Radiant systems are virtually silent!

If you’re sold on the superiority of radiant heating, then read on for a few considerations to bear in mind when it comes to installing the system in your home.



Radiant Heat Installation - New House


Unlike traditional systems typically characterized by radiators, baseboards, and vents, radiant always remains out of the way, its parts removed from sight, slotted unobtrusively beneath the floor. Homeowners tend to appreciate the design possibilities afforded by a heating system with none of the usual bulky, unsightly in-room components. That said, the location of radiant panels implies a certain order of operations—that is, to be concealed by flooring, the panels must be installed before the floor.

For that reason, custom home building offers perhaps the ideal opportunity to install radiant heating. You don’t have to be building from scratch, though, in order to install a radiant system. On the contrary, if you’re renovating an existing home, the transition to radiant can be cost-effective and relatively seamless—so long as, in the course of your remodeling work, you were planning to pull up the floors anyway. In fact, to minimize the possibility of unevenness between the floors in different rooms, industry leader Warmboard manufactures a line of ultra-thin panels that are ideal for retrofit applications.



Radiant Heat Installation - Conductivity


Simply by virtue of its design, radiant heating offers unmistakable advantages over forced-air. Remember, however, that radiant technology has undergone many changes, particularly in recent years. There is a broad range of whole-home systems on the market today, and not all are equally adept in meeting the demands of modern families. Indeed, different systems rely on different components, and those components can greatly affect the performance of a given installation.

As you most likely know, the majority of radiant systems rely on hydronic tubes to channel the boiler-heated water that indirectly warms the home. In some radiant panels, those tubes are embedded in a slab of gypsum concrete—a material that takes a long time to heat up and cool off. Being inherently sluggish, concrete works against the responsiveness of a radiant system. That’s why companies like Warmboard now build panels with aluminum, which is a staggering 232 times more conductive.

Because aluminum transfers heat so effectively, these panels require less energy to achieve the temperature that’s set on the thermostat. In fact, Warmboard requires the least energy of any radiant system. Because the boiler is able to heat the water in the system to a temperature 30 degrees lower than what other systems would require, you save 10 to 20 percent on energy costs—and that’s in addition to the savings you get from having chosen radiant over traditional heat!



Radiant Heat Installation - Under Hardwood


On account of its unique placement, radiant heating implicates flooring in a way that no other system does. That being the case, building industry professionals have spent years debating the question of which flooring types make the most suitable accompaniments. At a certain point, conventional wisdom held that while tile, stone, and concrete were acceptable choices, carpeting and hardwood were not. Fortunately, like other technologies, radiant heating has come a long, long way.

For radiant systems to coexist with hardwood flooring, you once needed a buffer between the two, be it a sheet of plywood or a series of “sleeper” beams. The downside? Added layers can steal height from a room and detract from performance. With the advent of aluminum-clad panels, however, those concerns have largely subsided.

Today, homeowners can even choose wall-to-wall carpeting, a floor covering that, because of its insulating properties, used to be off-limits in homes with radiant heat. Thanks to high-powered conductivity, systems like Warmboard can be paired not only with the thickest-pile carpeting, but also with any flooring material in common use today. In other words, the best in radiant technology places no restrictions on your design preferences, giving you total freedom of choice.


Typically, large-scale projects affect the look of a living space. But when you opt for radiant technology, you’re doing something more important—improving how the home actually feels. Like any similarly integral process, installing a new heating system entails a number of key considerations, many of which may at first seem intimidatingly complex. In the end, though, it couldn’t be much simpler: Radiant heat means high efficiency and unparalleled comfort for years to come.

Radiant Heat Installation - Dog Snooze


This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of

Bob Vila Radio: How to Cut PVC Pipe

Skip the costly specialized tool and achieve the same results—straight, clean cuts through large-diameter PVC pipe—with a couple clamps and your trusty hacksaw.

If you’ve ever tried using nothing but a hacksaw to cut through PVC pipe, you know it can be challenging. Often, particularly for smaller-diameter pipe, it’s easier to use a tool specially designed for the purpose.

How to Cut PVC Pipe


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Listen to BOB VILA ON CUTTING PVC PIPE or read the text below:

But while some PVC cutters are inexpensive (about $15 or so), the models that can handle larger pipes tend to cost considerably more. Fortunately, there’s a do-it-yourself solution that can save you a trip to the home center.

Grab a couple of ordinary ring clamps and place them on the pipe, one on either side of the spot where you want to cut. Leave about an eighth-inch gap between the clamps—just enough room to comfortably accomodate your saw blade. Then, saw away!

To make the job even easier, spritz a little silicone lubricant on the pipe, immediately prior to sawing. No lubricant handy? A little cooking spray will do the trick!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free!