Category: Major Systems


When’s the Right Time to Install Radiant Heating?

There are a few key moments in the life of a house when it makes particularly good sense to consider radiant heating. Read on to find out if now might be the best time for you.

Installing Radiant Heat

Photo: fotosearch.com

Energy efficiency and radiant heating are mentioned together so often that you might reasonably assume one had precipitated the other—that the drive for greater sustainability in home building gave rise to radiant heating as an innovative engineering solution. Actually, radiant heating has been around, in one form or another, for thousands of years. Its origins stretch all the way back into the mists of history. What’s new is that, after decades of continuous refinement, radiant technology has become viable—not as a supplemental luxury in, say, a chilly bathroom, but as an option for heating the entire home. Though Europe and Asia have already embraced radiant heating, it remains relatively rare in the United States. That’s all changing, however, as more and more people become aware of what sets radiant heating apart and how it surpasses the performance of traditional forced-air systems in myriad ways that really matter to the average homeowner.

Who doesn’t want lower energy bills? Certainly, energy efficiency factors into the growing popularity of radiant heating. But for many homeowners who are making the switch from baseboard, radiator, or forced-air heating, comfort trumps savings. So, even though radiant systems run at lower cost, that’s not their most compelling draw. Instead, it’s the caliber of the heating experience. With heat delivered from the floor, you get a qualitatively different experience than traditional systems provide. Take forced-air, for example. By cycling on and off, forced-air heating creates not only noise, but also uncomfortable swings in temperature. Radiant heat, by contrast, operates silently, delivering steady, all-encompassing, “everywhere” warmth. Plus, because radiant involves neither dust-collecting ductwork nor intermittent blasts of heated air, it does nothing to exacerbate indoor air quality. That makes it a breath of fresh air for those accustomed to dry, sometimes stifling home heating setups.

There’s one way in which radiant heating resembles the other options out there. Because HVAC components are so integral to the basic infrastructure of a home, they don’t usually lend themselves very easily to retrofit applications. With forced-air, the biggest hurdle lies in accommodating in the elaborate network of ducts needed to channel air from the furnace to the different spaces throughout the home. With radiant heat, the main impediment tends to be flooring. Often, owners of existing homes balk at the idea of removing their floors to make way for the radiant panels that slot in beneath. That said, there are at least three key transitional moments when homeowners enjoy a blank slate, when they are free to decide how their spaces ought to look and, more important, feel. Those are the times when it makes the most sense to put in a radiant heating system that can ensure comfort for years to come. Read on for details on these “hot” opportunities.

NEW CONSTRUCTION

Installing Radiant Heat - New Construction System

Photo: warmboard.com

Perhaps the best time to install radiant heating comes when you are building a new home from scratch. In this scenario, the radiant system factors into the design plans, and the installation process can follow a logical order of operations. The radiant floor panels go in first, and the flooring material follows only after they are in place. Note that there are construction efficiencies designed into some radiant heating products on the market. For instance, industry leader Warmboard offers a series of radiant panels geared primarily toward new home construction. With 1-1/8-inch-thick plywood at their base, these panels do double duty, serving not only as the backbone of a successful whole-home radiant system, but also as the subfloor. Combining the two cleverly saves both labor and building material costs.

 

GUT RENOVATION

Installing Radiant Heat - Renovation System

Photo: warmboard.com

If you’re planning a major renovation, either of one section of your home or of the entire structure, it’s well worth considering a radiant system. In the end, though, the decision may depend on the scope of your project and whether or not you’re going to rip out the flooring. If you opt in favor of radiant, bear in mind that there may be a slight height variation between a regular floor and a floor with radiant panels. For that reason, Warmboard manufactures a series of radiant panels specifically intended for remodels. At only 13/16 inch thick, these panels minimize floor height variations and facilitate installation within the confines of any existing structure. Of course, no matter how unobtrusively the panels slot in, you’ll need to make certain your boiler can service the hydronic tubes needed to channel hot water throughout the installed system.

 

BUILDING AN ADDITION

Installing Radiant Heat - Home Addition System

Photo: warmboard.com

Radiant heating isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. If you’re putting an addition onto your home, you can always continue to heat the older structure with your existing system while choosing radiant for the new space. Practically speaking, working a radiant system into a home addition combines the benefits of new construction with some of the concerns that accompany renovation projects. On the one hand, you’re building from scratch, so, to an extent, the circumstances are ideal. There’s no flooring in the way, and tying the panels back to the boiler will probably not pose a problem. On the other hand, depending on the nature of your existing HVAC system, you may not have a boiler—and purchasing one and paying for its installation would add considerably to the overall project cost.

 

Despite the cost of installation, radiant heating translates into real savings over the long haul. From the moment you begin relying on radiant heating, your monthly utility bills are going to go down and stay down. As those savings accumulate, you will slowly recoup what you paid to put the efficient system into place. Ultimately, the question may not be whether to install radiant heat. The only question is when.


Building Your Dream House? Choose Unobtrusive and Efficient HVAC

Most of us must to learn to live with the heating and cooling that a previous homeowner chose. But if you're building a home from the ground up, you get the rare opportunity to select that system that not only provides the year-round comfort you need, but also meets or exceeds your design and efficiency goals. Read on to learn more about the next generation of HVAC.

Mini Duct HVAC

Photo: zillow.com

When you step into a beautiful custom-built home, nothing ruins the effect quite like the sights and sounds of a traditional HVAC system. In addition, due to the space-hogging bulk of their ductwork, run-of-the-mill climate control setups actually place limits on architectural and interior design possibilities. It’s true: More than you may realize, the appearance of any given home, inside and out, often depends at least to a degree on the type of heating and cooling components used.

If you’re working with a team of professionals to build your dream home from scratch, don’t make the mistake of leaving HVAC as an afterthought. Not all systems are created equal, and your choice really makes a difference, not only for comfort, but also for aesthetics. Plus, with rising energy costs, the efficiency of your HVAC must be considered too—for environmental reasons but also for your bottom line. With the right system, you can minimize your energy expenses, whereas with an inefficient choice, you’re more or less dooming yourself to pay a small fortune in bills each and every month. On the market today, surprisingly few HVAC options combine efficiency with an unobtrusive installation that allows for total design freedom. Perhaps the best of the bunch is the Unico System. Compact enough to stay out of sight—and out of the way of your builder or architect—Unico boasts silent, efficient operation, even while it delivers unparalleled comfort.

Mini Duct HVAC - Unico System Glass House

Photo: unicosystem.com

Less Is More
Picture the average air duct: It’s metal, rigid, and though sizes vary, HVAC ducts are often quite large in comparison to the room dimensions they service. It’s on account of their bulk that builders and remodelers often hide ducts in soffits, drop ceilings, chases and other special accommodations that steal square footage from other otherwise usable living space. If you specify the need for a first-floor bathroom, that will obviously influence the design and approach of your architect or builder. The same goes for conventional ductwork; it’s a factor that you’ve got to work around.

The Unico System places no such restrictions on home design, because its ducts are remarkably small, measuring only three-and-a-half or four inches in diameter. Not only are they mini, but they are also flexible. Capable of bending around impediments like studs and joists, these flexible mini ducts introduce versatility to heating and cooling. So whatever your design priorities, chances are that, along with the system’s small-scale air handler, Unico ducts can be configured in a way to make your design vision a reality. The same cannot be said for full-size ducts, which are rigid and inflexible.

Creative Outlets
Even where the ducts terminate in the conditioned space of the home, the Unico System always remains unobtrusive, thanks to its low-key, hardly noticeable outlet vents. Unlike conventional HVAC vents, with their unsightly grillwork, the Unico System comes with small, circular, discreet vents that can be installed wherever would be least conspicuous—on the ceiling, floor, or wall. Those outlets come in a wide of variety of styles, a broad enough spectrum of colors and visual textures to ensure a perfect match for the surrounding finishes in the room. Alternatively, outlets can be custom painted or stained precisely to suit your tastes. That’s a far cry from HVAC systems, which often force homeowners to make sacrifices in style to gain comfort. With Unico, you don’t need to make any sacrifices when it comes to aesthetics: Your home can look great and feel comfortable all at once.

Sound of Silence
Do you want peace and quiet in your dream home? Thought so. With Unico heating and cooling, as much as you don’t see evidence of the technology at work, you don’t hear much of it, either. Whereas conventional HVAC creates a considerable amount of background noise, the Unico System operates at a whisper-quiet level. That’s because the ducts feature an outer layer of sound-dampening insulation, and the air handler has been specially designed to keep noise transmission to a bare minimum. Let music, laughter, and conversation fill your home—not the roar of conventional heating and cooling components.

Efficient Performance
Most HVAC systems send blasts of air into the room, creating turbulent conditions in which one part of the space might be perfectly comfortable, while others would feel too warm or cool. The Unico System ensures even indoor temperatures by introducing conditioned air to the home in such a way that it draws the ambient air into its stream. The result? A draft-free dream home with consistent, uniform temperatures in every part of the room—top to bottom, wall to wall.

Best of all, though the Unico System provides unparalleled comfort, its efficient design means you won’t be paying an arm and leg to enjoy its performance. On the contrary, because its mini ducts are insulated, the Unico System sidesteps the main problem that takes away from the efficiency of conventional heating and cooling—that is, leaky ductwork. Believe it or not, leaky ducts can decrease the overall efficiency of a traditional system by as much as 50 percent. But with the insulated ducts that play a central role in the Unico System, there’s no wasted energy. In other words, you get precisely the climate control that you’re paying for.

A new offering from Unico, the iSeries outdoor heat pump (used for both heating and cooling), allows you to achieve even greater savings because of its high efficiency. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) of this unit ranges from 16.5 to 20, far exceeding traditional heat pumps.

In the summer, the Unico System further outpaces older technologies. With its advanced cooling coil, Unico proves 30 percent more adept at removing moisture from the air in the home. Of course, lower humidity translates to a higher degree of comfort, but it can also bring extra savings. How? It’s simple. Homes with low humidity feel cooler. For that reason, you can set the thermostat a few degrees higher than you normally would. With every degree you raise the target temperature, you conserve about three percent in terms of energy consumption. Capitalize on the opportunity, and savings are bound to add up from year to year.

What all this engineering adds up to is an invisible, whisper-quiet, efficient HVAC system that can save you significant energy costs. And if that’s not cool, what is?

Mini Duct HVAC - Unico System Modern Interior

Photo: unicosystem.com

This post has been brought to you by Unico System. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Genius! The Clean, Green DIY Washing Machine

Buying a new washing machine can really wring out your savings. While making your own machine may seem like a drastic step, it will not only help the environment, but also leave your clothes—and your conscience—squeaky clean!

DIY Washing Machine - Washing a Load

Photo: makezine.com

When a new washing machine can cost up to $1,000, there are plenty of reasons to consider a cheaper alternative before trekking to the appliance store. Well, you can’t get much cheaper than this: If you’re doing laundry for only one or aren’t ready to spend so much on a brand-new model, you can always build your own. Industrial designer Michael Perdriel was far from home when he first dreamed up his design for a DIY washing machine—7,586 miles away, to be exact, in Hyanja, Nepal. Here, Perdriel collaborated on a plan for local families that couldn’t afford a washer and dryer. But the benefits of this $50 version extend well beyond the small town in Nepal: Perdriel’s DIY conserves both water and energy and, because it’s entirely human-powered, provides a good workout too—minus the cost of a gym membership.

The washer consists of three main parts: a five-gallon bucket shell, a net bag to hold the dirty clothing, and a lever-driven shaft mechanism that sets the entire contraption in motion. Two cones made from short cuts of plastic tubing, which sit at either end of the net bag, achieve the agitation necessary for an effective wash by squeezing and releasing the clothing with every pump. When the handle of the lever is pushed down, clothes are lifted out of the water and wrung out between the tubing; release the handle, and the laundry gets dunked back into the water. The long pump handle offers ample leverage, so operating the machine is a breeze.

True, the small capacity isn’t for everyone. Lighter loads work best—ideally no more than five pounds of clothes at a time. But if you’re doing laundry for one or two people, this eco-conscious machine may be the easiest way to tackle smaller daily loads or delicates. And if you don’t have a washing machine at all, you’ll be able to avoid the crowded laundromat altogether. Whether you long to live off the grid or you’re just trying to beef up your savings account, there’s a laundry list of reasons to give this DIY a spin!

FOR MORE: Makezine 

DIY Washing Machine - Top View

Photo: makezine.com


The Best Alternative to a Window Air Conditioner

Get that bulky, view-obstructing, noisy AC unit out of your window for good! A ductless mini-split system offers a sleeker appearance, remarkable efficiency, and unparalleled comfort.

Ductless Mini Splits vs Window Air Conditioners

Photo: Mike Crews Photography

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

In the market for a window air conditioner? Before you make any purchases, be sure to weigh all your options. Seen against the rich background of today’s cooling and heating technologies, window units are becoming increasingly outmoded. For all their enticing pros—low initial cost, portability, ease of installation—these appliances come with a host of off-putting cons. For one, even the most energy-efficient models are expensive to run over the course of the cooling season. Plus, because of their bulk and in-window position, portable air conditioners obstruct the view to the outdoors and block out the natural light that would otherwise stream into the home. When you also consider that window units are noisy and that they severely undermine home security, it’s easy to comprehend why so many people have gone looking for a better method of cooling one or more rooms. Countless budget-conscious, comfort-craving homeowners are discovering cost-effective, high-performance ductless cooling and heating systems from industry leader Mitsubishi Electric.

By design, window air conditioners are temporary solutions. Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems, on the other hand, are permanent installations handled by qualified contractors. That’s not to say the technology takes up a lot of space or requires extensive remodeling work. On the contrary, ductless systems are streamlined and compact, consisting of two discrete components—an outdoor condenser and an indoor unit. Connecting the two is a pair of refrigerant pipes that run through a three-inch-diameter hole in an exterior wall. A three-inch hole: That’s the extent of the changes necessary to accommodate the system. Because it’s so nonintrusive, the installation process usually takes less than a day. And once it’s up and running, a Mitsubishi Electric ductless system lasts much longer than the average, expendable window AC. Having already earned widespread popularity in Europe and Asia, ductless cooling and heating may represent the future of climate control in this country too. Continue reading to learn more about why more and more American homeowners are choosing to go ductless.

Ductless Mini Splits vs Window Air Conditioners - Wall Mount Installation

Photo: Michael Lee

EFFICIENCY
True, a ductless system costs more up front than a window unit. Over the long term, however, Mitsubishi Electric pays you back with the system’s remarkable energy efficiency. Compared with the average window unit, a Mitsubishi Electric system consumes 40 percent less energy, allowing you to enjoy lower monthly utility bills during the cooling season. Those savings wouldn’t mean much if you were uncomfortable, though. So, what truly sets apart Mitsubishi Electric is that, even though the operation costs are relatively low, the system still provides unparalleled comfort. Thanks to a variable-speed compressor—and accurate monitoring of conditions in the room—the system continuously adjusts its output to match the demand. That way, the technology steadily maintains your target temperature. The average window AC either keeps running until the room gets too cold, or it cycles on and off, creating unpleasant, sometimes extreme temperature variations. That’s not the case with Mitsubishi Electric. Here, the temperature you set is the temperature you get.

NOTICEABILTY
Whereas there’s only one way to install a window air conditioner, the twin components of a ductless system can be configured in any number of ways, leaving you free to seek the most inconspicuous solution. For starters, within a set radius that depends on your chosen system, the outdoor unit can be placed on the portion of your property where it’s least likely to draw attention. You may also conceal its presence with strategic landscaping or even a curtaining structure, such as a trellis. Meanwhile, sleek, low-profile indoor units can mount either high on the wall, near the floor or within the ceiling, wherever you think it would look the best. No matter what you decide, the windows in the room would remain completely unobstructed. That’s right: You no longer have to sacrifice daylight and your view to the outdoors, as you would with a window unit, for the full duration of the summer.

Another factor to consider is noise. Even the quietest window air conditioners tend to make a racket. Not only in comparison, but objectively speaking, Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems are ultra-quiet. When running, indoor units reach volumes as low as 19 decibels—quieter than a whisper!

Ductless Mini Splits vs Window Air Conditioners - Bedroom Wall Mount

Photo: Mike Crews Photography

VERSATILITY
Though many homeowners rely on Mitsubishi Electric for cooling one or a couple of rooms, others employ the technology for whole-home climate control. In such a setup, multiple indoor units work in concert to maintain a comfortable temperature across the full square footage. For the time being, you may be interested only in, say, cooling down the bedroom. But if in the future you decided to extend your ductless system beyond the bedroom, you wouldn’t need to scrap what you’ve got and start over from scratch. Being that some outdoor units are capable of accommodating multiple indoor units, you would need to add only the latter into any room or rooms you wanted to make more comfortable. You might even look at your initial, single-room-focused ductless system as a first step toward piecing together a comprehensive solution for all the space under your roof.

One final aspect of Mitsubishi Electric technology proves its all-around versatility. These ductless systems provide, not only cooling, but heating as well. In cooling mode, the indoor and outdoor unit work to draw heat from inside the home and deposit it safely outside. The flip of a switch reverses the action, causing the system to collect heat from outside and bring it indoors. In effect, the same ductless system you count on for effective and efficient summertime cooling can also provide comfort-giving heat in the winter. Try saying that about a window AC!

Photo: Josh Pabst

This post has been brought to you by Mitsubishi Electric. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Bob Vila Radio: Removing the Knockouts in Electrical Boxes

Knockouts are partially stamped, quarter-size openings in the electrical boxes that service such things as outlets and switches. Once removed, a knockout allows electrical wires to be run in and out of the box.

How to Remove Knockouts from Electrical Boxes

Photo: homedepot.com

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON REMOVING KNOCKOUTS or read the text below:

In the average electrical box, there are several knockouts, each with one or two attachment points resembling small bumps. Remove the knockout that would give the wires the straightest shot—that is, the knockout that would require the least amount of bending on the part of the wires.

To remove a knockout, position the tip of a regular, blade-tip screwdriver just inside the edge, on the side opposite the attachment points. That ought to partially dislodge the knockout, allowing you to remove it the rest of the way by twisting back and forth until the attachment points snap.

When you’re running wire in or out of a knockout, be sure to install a strain-relief clamp, an add-on that not only holds wires in place, but also keeps them from chafing against the edges of the electrical box. Multiple strain-relief options exist; check your local home improvement center.

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!


Save Money and Live Better with Multizone HVAC

Of all the advantages offered by ductless heating and cooling systems, zoned control may be the most meaningful to both your energy expenses and home comfort.

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

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

The typical HVAC system takes a one-size-fits-all approach to heating and cooling. That is, a single, centrally located thermostat controls the temperature of the entire house. So, if you want to enjoy climate control in any room, you must run the system (and pay for the energy consumed) in all rooms, even the ones you’re not occupying. Imagine if the same principle applied to your plumbing system, and turning on the faucet in the kitchen would activate every other faucet in the home. Chances are that you would regard that sort of setup as exceedingly strange and wasteful. And yet for decades, homeowners have put up with all-or-nothing heating and cooling, accepting not only the limitations in comfort, but also the difficulty in saving money on utility bills.

Newer technologies have brought tremendous advancements to HVAC and have given homeowners some appealing alternatives. Today’s options respond much better to what homeowners want: both comfort and savings. Many of the most exciting next-generation alternatives are dramatically different from the familiar forced-air HVAC systems that rely on elaborate networks of ducts. Case in point: Mitsubishi Electric makes a full line of heating and cooling equipment that can operate without any ductwork whatsoever. Of course, ductless systems have enjoyed longstanding popularity in Europe and Asia, and there are many reasons to make the switch. That said, if you’re determined to gain more control over the climate in your home, one particularly compelling feature of ductless systems may cinch the deal for you: With a whole-home Mitsubishi Electric ductless system, you can establish multiple HVAC zones. Whether the zone comprises one room, a set of rooms, or an entire floor, it can be controlled independently from the other zones in the home. That means you can set a different target temperature for each zone, seizing opportunities for greater comfort and energy savings. If daytime household activity centers on the ground floor, you can adjust (or even turn off) the HVAC system for the zone or zones upstairs. At night, you can keep the bedrooms comfortable while cutting back on the temperatures in rooms that will remain empty until morning. Whereas traditional one-size-fits-all HVAC assumes all rooms are either occupied or vacant at the same time, multizone systems are able to adapt to how people actually live.

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Tailored zoning also better responds to the fact that, when it comes to heating and cooling demand, no two homes are identical. Any number of variables come into play. For instance, if you live on a hill, solar gain may substantially influence the temperature of your home—but only on one side of the structure. Likewise, if you converted your attic or finished the basement, the temperature of the renovated space may vary, sometimes wildly, from the temperature elsewhere in the home. In such idiosyncratic cases, a one-zone system would give you no recourse but to be uncomfortable or use temporary stopgap measures, such as space heaters or window air conditioners. Only zoning affords the targeted temperature control necessary to overcome any challenges that are specific to your home.

Finally, zoning accommodates the reality that different people prefer different temperatures. In homes with one-zone HVAC systems, only some people will be truly, completely comfortable at any given time. Over the years, who knows how many disagreements have arisen out of our basic, primal desire to be comfortable? Now, thanks to zoning, every member of the household can enjoy his or her ideal environment. While working away in your home office, you can keep the room at the relatively chilly temperature you like best. At the same time, your spouse can enjoy warmer temperatures in the zone where he or she spends the most time. That’s right: With a zoned ductless system from Mitsubishi Electric, you can put an end to thermostat wars!

Since HVAC contributes more than any other mechanical system to household utility costs, it’s imperative for the budget-conscious homeowner to choose a solution that facilitates savings from one month to the next. That’s what zoning does—makes it easier than ever to eliminate frivolous, excess climate control and unnecessarily inflated energy bills. Still, you wouldn’t enjoy spending less if it meant shivering, sweating, or feeling otherwise uncomfortable in your own home. Here’s what sets apart the line of ductless systems from Mitsubishi Electric: Even while it gives you the ability to lower your expenses, the technology still manages to deliver unparalleled comfort. Heating and cooling always used to entail some sort of trade-off between comfort and savings, but not anymore.

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

This post has been brought to you by Mitsubishi Electric. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Prevent Runaway Mold in Your Vacation Home with Innovative HVAC

Second-home owners are no strangers to mold and its hazards. If your weekend getaways are dogged by the seemingly relentless growth of foul-smelling, allergy-inducing mold, find out how the latest HVAC technology can rid you of those problems for good.

Prevent Mold with HVAC

Photo: fotosearch.com

If you are fortunate enough to own a vacation home, you know what a treat it can be to spend time away from the stresses and hassles of everyday life. But you also know that, for all the rest and relaxation a second home affords, it usually requires just as much attention and upkeep as your primary residence. In fact, maintaining a vacation home can be even more challenging, since you’re not always there to deal with problems as they arise. One problem in particular actually thrives under the conditions created by your absence: mold. Indeed, the owners of vacation homes are all too familiar with the unpleasant odor of mold. The mustiness greets you upon your arrival, and it worsens again when you lock up the house at the end of your stay. Most of the issues homeowners have to deal with can be solved by a one-time intervention. Mold is different: You can contain it, but you can’t fix it like you can a leaky faucet.

Believe it or not, mold exists pretty much everywhere. It proliferates only when it has access to both moisture and a food source (wood, for example, or drywall). In a primary residence, accumulated moisture attracts notice. But things are different with a vacation home: Close it up when you leave, and you’re effectively trapping in moisture, giving mold precisely what it wants. On your next visit to the house, you can fight back against the mold by turning on the air conditioner. Indeed, air conditioning helps a great deal to reduce humidity. It’s a temporary solution, though, lasting only as long as you run the AC. Turn it off when you leave, and the mold inevitably returns.

Prevent Mold with HVAC - Open Window

Photo: fotosearch.com

Given that controlling mold is largely a matter of controlling moisture, success partly depends on preventing rain from entering the home through vulnerabilities in the roof, gaps around the chimney, or cracks at the foundation level. Minimizing humidity levels is equally important. In the summer months, you can count on your air conditioning to reduce humidity, but not every system does so with equal effectiveness. Plus, no matter the system, few would be willing to shoulder the expense of running the system all season long.

Fortunately, newer HVAC technologies promise to make mold prevention a great deal easier—and a lot less costly. Take, for instance, the air handler from Unico. Thanks to a unique cooling coil, it manages to eliminate 30 percent more humidity than the average air conditioning system. Plus, unlike typical setups that cycle on and off, the Unico iSeries inverter unit allows the air conditioning system to run continuously, often at very low speeds and with extraordinary energy efficiency, so mold never gets a chance to take hold.

“The constant on-and-off cycling of most HVAC systems requires a great deal of power and leads to the sort of utility bills that make you want to cringe,” says Scott Intagliata of Unico. Through a steady process of incrementally adjusting itself, the Unico inverter runs in a way that minimizes energy consumption, maximizes savings, and, for the first time, makes it possible for you to keep the air conditioning running while you’re gone—without paying a small fortune along the way.

Though air conditioning goes a long way toward preventing mold in the summer months, it cannot replace the need for ventilation. For a home to remain free of mold, it needs a steady influx of fresh air from the outdoors. That’s why Unico developed a ventilation system with a programmable control board at its core. The control board calculates, based on the size of your home, how much fresh air to bring indoors at any given time. Based on those calculations, the system opens and closes its dampers as needed to maintain the appropriate ventilation level, adding a further layer of protection against mold.

Don’t let mold undermine the magic of your vacation home. Take advantage of the leading-edge HVAC technology that makes it easier than ever to combat mold—and win!

Prevent Mold with HVAC - Unico iSeries

Photo: unicosystem.com

This post has been brought to you by the Unico System. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


The Little-Known Importance of Attic Fans

Want to keep your house comfortable year-round while protecting the attic and roof from a battery of hazards? An attic fan may be just what you're looking for.

Attic Fans

Photo: solatube.com

It’s midsummer, and for hours and days, sun has been beating on the roof of your home. Measurements have shown that, given the right weather conditions, typical roofing materials can reach up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. That heat eventually transfers from the outside of the roof to the sheathing. From there, it penetrates the insulation and roof framing materials, raising the temperature of the attic to a precarious extreme.

But summer isn’t the only season during which the attic faces a threat. In winter, when windows are shut tight, there’s considerably less ventilation for the humidity generated by cooking, laundry, and showers. With nowhere else to go, that moist air accumulates in the attic, where it can bring about a battery of risks.

Indeed, no matter the time of year, there are good reasons to give extra attention to your attic and the stresses that it undergoes.

A blisteringly high attic temperature isn’t uncomfortable only for the unfortunate soul standing in the unfinished space. If it goes high enough, the temperature in the attic can influence other rooms and make them hotter. Such inefficiency forces the air conditioning system to work harder than would otherwise be necessary, and of course, you must pay for that extra effort when the energy bills arrive every month.

Beyond the extra cost, trapped heat and moisture can end up doing real damage to your home by fostering mold growth. In extreme cases, excess moisture can even rot away portions of the key structural framing found in the attic.

Another possible consequence of runaway attic temperatures: The most common types of shingles—asphalt shingles—are plenty capable of withstanding heat when it comes from the sun. But when heat comes into contact with their undersides, those same shingles can fail prematurely.

Fortunately, there’s a straightforward solution to heat and moisture problems on and under the roof. For money savings, a more comfortable home, and reliable protection for your roof (both its structure and shingles), consider installing an attic fan. Designed to reduce both heat and moisture, a roof-mounted attic fan operates by a simple principle. The fan pulls warm air out through a roof vent, drawing in cooler outdoor air through existing vents located along the soffits (on the underside of the roof overhang). That exchange of stale, warm air for fresh, cooler air relieves the added pressure that had been put on the air conditioning. Now, the system can run more efficiently—and you can pay less on your monthly utility bill.

In the past, attic fans were always hardwired into the home and powered by electricity. Many homeowners saw that, while the attic fan may have been saving them some money, those savings were being erased by the cost of installing and operating the fan. Thanks to industry innovators like Solatube International, Inc., that’s no longer an issue. You can now keep all your savings by installing the Solar Star attic fan, which runs not on your home’s electrical system, but on free and abundant natural sunlight.

Attic Fans - Solatube Diagram

Photo: solatube.com

The Solar Alternative
Even as it keeps your attic cool and dry, the Solar Star requires no hands-on operation or maintenance. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll never even notice it’s running. For one thing, Solar Star has been designed and manufactured to resist everything nature might throw its way, from wind and rain to snow and hail. Its power source—a series of small photovoltaic panels—is located right on the exterior cap of the fan. Made of durable composite, the cap reliably shields the more vulnerable components, ensuring powerful ventilation year-round. The brushless motor and lightweight, noncorrosive fan blades work in concert to keep the operating noise level down to a whisper. While you may not be aware of the fan’s operation, you’re very likely to notice the benefits of having chosen Solar Star to regulate your attic temperature.

Solar Star only becomes more effective with its add-ons. One such option is a thermal switch that automatically activates the fan once the attic temperature reaches a certain threshold. A similarly handy extra: If you live on a shady lot and worry that Solar Star won’t get enough sun to operate throughout the day, check out the add-on solar panel. An ingenious solution to the problem of tree cover—and for that matter, cloud cover—the supplemental panel can be placed on the sunniest part of your roof to ensure continuous operation. It’s ironic: Problems caused by the sun—ranging from mere discomfort to devastating damage—can be solved with a Solar Star that relies on the sun!

Attic Fans - Solatube Cutaway

Photo: solatube.com

A Year-Round Solution
While most discussions of attic fans tend to focus on their summertime benefits, ventilation can be critically important in winter too. After all, that’s when the moisture created by the humdrum events of daily life—showering, for instance, or doing the laundry—rises up through cracks and gaps only to wind up in the attic. If trapped and unable to vent, attic moisture can invite the growth of mold, or cause damage to insulation and framing.

There’s also another less obvious but more potentially destructive problem—ice dams. The attic space is usually warmer than the outside, or roof, temperature. This heat transfers through the roof structure and can melt snow accumulated on the roof.

From there, melted snow trickles down until it reaches the eaves. Because the eaves do not come into contact with the attic space, they are colder and cause the melted snow to freeze. This forms an ice dam, a ridge of ice near the edge of a roof, adjacent to the gutters. Later, when more snow melts, the ice dam prevents the water from running off the roof. With nowhere else to go, it can get behind the shingles and cause an extensive, expensive leaking and roof damage. Because Solar Star equalizes indoor and outdoor temperatures, it can counteract the formation of ice dams as well as protect the home in myriad other ways.

One Size Fits All?
For maximum effectiveness, a Solar Star attic fan must sized to supply adequate ventilation for the space. How much ventilation does your house need? That depends on the size of your attic. Solar Star attic fans come in two sizes and can be installed in multiples to meet ventilation demand. The RM 1200 model works best for small attic spaces in moderate to mild climates. The more powerful RM 1600 makes a better choice for large attics and less temperate, more extreme climates.

Either model can be installed on all types of roof materials and mounted in one of three ways:

• The sleek and unobtrusive low-profile mount is ideal for most pitched-roof applications.

• If a roof accumulates a great deal of snow, go with the high-profile mount, which raises the solar panel and fan well above the roof plane.

• The pitched-roof mount orients the solar panel to maximize exposure to the sun.

Indeed, with attics of any size or roofs of any profile, there’s a way for Solar Star technology to provide powerful, effective ventilation. And it’s well worth mentioning that if your attic already happens to be fitted with a passive vent, you can turn it into an active, solar-powered ventilation system with the IM 1200. Unlike the others in the Solar Star line, the IM 1200 mounts indoors, directly behind the passive vent opening. Whatever your needs, Solar Star can match them.

Dollars and Sense
Accurately sized and properly installed Solar Star ventilation can trim your energy bills by as much as 25 percent. Also remember that until 2016, the federal government is offering a 30 percent tax credit for systems that rely on solar photovoltaic technology. Consider those savings alongside what you stand to save from month to month. Right now seems like a fine time to start protecting your attic and roof from year-round stresses, while also enhancing your family’s comfort!

Attic Fans - Roof Mounted

Photo: solatube.com

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


Protect Appliances and Electronics Against Their Silent Killer

Though a power surge might only last a split second, it can easily ruin the sophisticated but delicate circuitry that now exists in everything from computers to refrigerators. While some of your equipment may be protected from damage, chances are that most of your critical appliances are totally vulnerable to devastation. Find out how to protect all those appliances and electronics that you've spent a small fortune to bring under your roof.

Whole House Surge Protection from Intermatic

Photo: intermatic.com

Look around. From the refrigerator in the kitchen to the computer in the den, our homes are chock full of appliances and electronic devices. Who knows? Maybe their prevalence symbolizes something about the central role of technology in today’s world. But for the average homeowner, all of those impressive gadgets and gizmos represent something else, something more personal and immediate: a hefty financial investment. Just think of everything you own that either plugs into an outlet or is hardwired into your electrical system. Now think of how much it all cost! Having put thousands of dollars toward creating a comfortable, convenient, and entertaining place to live, any conscientious homeowner wants to protect what he owns. But maintenance efforts too often focus on the obvious problems, the ones you can plainly see—a dusty TV screen, for example, or a dirty microwave. We forget that, because they run on electricity, our appliances and electronics are vulnerable to an invisible threat: dramatic power fluctuations and surges. Indeed, most people never even think about surge protection—that is, until it’s too late.

“Surges are the silent killer,” explains Kim Durkot of Intermatic, a leading manufacturer of energy management solutions. That’s because while adequate surge protection eliminates the threat, the average homeowner has instituted either no protection or too little protection. After all, power strips can only safeguard what you plug into them. So if you’ve been careful to plug your stereo into a power strip, then it’s safe. But what about your washer and dryer? As Durkot says, “Think about the can lights that cost $50 each, the garage door, the gaming consoles—these are some of what’s typically not plugged into a surge strip.” Sure, you can buy a power strip for every room, but you be overlooking that many critical appliances don’t plug into the wall; they are hardwired directly into the electrical system.

Homeowners who want a comprehensive solution invariably choose a whole-house surge protection. Such devices connect directly to the electrical panel in your home and from there, guard all of your equipment, whether it’s plugged into the wall or hardwired. When surges occur, the surge protector absorbs the excess electricity, never allowing it to reach and cause damage to the belongings you love, rely on, and spent a small fortune to purchase and bring under your roof.

Whole-House Surge Protection from Intermatic - Electrical Illustration

Photo: intermatic.com

Though you can protect your home from power surges, you cannot prevent them. They are virtually inevitable. It’s a common misconception that surges only occur as a result of lightning. To be sure, it’s wise to shield your stuff against damage from lightning, but you might be surprised to learn that lightning plays a role in the minority of cases. 60% to 80% of electrical surges occur, not because of storms, but as a result of everyday activities. According to Durkot, even “turning on the coffee maker” or “running the vacuum cleaner” can upset the steady voltage flow in the electrical system. Outside factors contribute, too. From “power grid switching by the electric company” to a “car accident striking an electrical pole down the street”, any number of seemingly unrelated events can impact your home and its contents. So if you thought the odds of a power surge in your house were on par with a bolt of lighting hitting the roof, it’s time to reassess your exposure to the genuine risks.

Homeowners with conventional whole-house surge protection don’t have to worry—most of the time. The device might work faultlessly for some time, but no matter what type of protection you’ve got, every surge take its toll. Specifically, the main components of a surge protection system, the metal-oxide varistors (MOVs), are rendered ineffective by successive surges. So eventually there would come a point when the homeowner would have no choice but to replace the entire system. And that’s assuming he even noticed a replacement was necessary. Plenty of homeowners think they’re protected, when in fact their systems have, in effect, expired. That’s what sets apart the Intermatic Whole House Surge Protection Device with Consumable Modules. Unlike inferior products, the design of the Intermatic device accounts for the fact that MOVs do not last forever. Cleverly, the company uses consumable modules that the homeowner can quickly and easily replace when necessary. “Because the modules can be replaced by the homeowner,” Durkot points out, “there is no need to purchase another main unit, no costly calls to the electrician, and no lapse in protection.”

It’s dead-simple to replace a module. “Anyone who has ever replaced an ink cartridge in a printer can replace a module in the system,” says Durkot. When the LED status lights on the device indicate that the module must be switched out, the homeowner simply snaps in the new one. The process takes about 30 seconds. It’s not the sort of task you need a professional to do on your behalf. The only time to involve an electrician is when installing the base unit. In a typical home, installation takes 60 to 90 minutes. When the alternative would be to purchase (and pay for installation on) a new surge protection device every time the old one terminates, you can see why the Intermatic option makes so much sense. Though its upfront purchase price may be somewhat higher, it proves its value over the long term.

 

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


Next-Generation Ductless HVAC Brings Home Total Comfort

Homeowners have always been frustrated by the intermittent and uneven heating and cooling of traditional forced-air HVAC. Even in the process of running less expensively, today's cutting-edge ductless systems deliver superior, customizable comfort.

Ductless HVAC Benefits - Kitchen Comfort

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

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

In today’s energy-conscious world, homeowners understand the critical importance of efficient heating and cooling. But if you’re upgrading your HVAC system, though it’s important to understand the yearly operating cost of a given appliance, it’s also critical to understand what it means for your comfort level. After all, lower utility bills are attractive only so long as they do not come at the expense of your ability to enjoy time spent in your home. Of course, we’ve all grown accustomed to imperfect heating and cooling. Traditional forced-air systems have frustrated homeowners for years, being both expensive to run and inconsistent in performance. Next-generation technologies promise superior efficiency, and among those, Mitsubishi Electric stands out for its assurance of total comfort. Thanks in large part to their innovative ductless design, Mitsubishi Electric systems are able to save homeowners 30 to 40 percent on monthly heating and cooling bills compared with forced-air systems. Yet, even with dramatically lower energy consumption, Mitsubishi Electric still manages to deliver unparalleled comfort.

 

UNIFORM HEATING AND COOLING

Ductless HVAC Benefits - Bedroom Comfort

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

In a forced-air system, conditioned air intermittently blasts right into the room, but in a wholly undirected way. By contrast, a Mitsubishi Electric ductless system distributes air through an indoor unit whose fan ensures controlled, even distribution throughout the square footage. Plus, because the indoor unit actually mounts within the space that it’s conditioning, the system accurately monitors the ambient temperature and regulates to match the heating or cooling demand. Working in concert, fan distribution and continuous adjustments succeed in preventing any areas from becoming too hot or too cold. The stop-and-start operation of forced-air systems leads to rollercoaster-like environments, while Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems offer smooth and steady climate control.

 

ROOM-BY-ROOM ZONING

Ductless HVAC Benefits - Room by Room Comfort

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Some homeowners choose a ductless system to provide supplemental climate control in those peripheral rooms that rarely stay comfortable—an attic bedroom, for example. Equally common is for the ductless technology to serve the entire home. Here, rather than designate a single thermostat to control the temperature in all rooms, on all floors, Mitsubishi Electric makes it possible for the homeowner to establish zones. For each zone, there’s a different indoor unit, and for each indoor unit, there’s a different controller. That means that, in a multizone home, the master bedroom can be set to one temperature and the living room to another. Heating and cooling no longer entail the discomfort of a one-size-fits-all approach. Zoning can accommodate the temperature preferences of every member of the household.

 

AIR-QUALITY ENHANCEMENT

Ductless HVAC Benefits - Air Quality Comfort

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution ranks among the top five environmental health risks. Astounding but true: The air in our homes often contains more airborne hazards than the air outdoors. Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems combat contaminants through advanced multistage filtration. Not only do these filters remove irritants and allergens like dust, pollen, and dander, but they also reduce viruses, bacteria, and odors. Remember that in conventional HVAC systems, the ducts often end up collecting and spreading impurities. Mitsubishi Electric offers a breath of fresh air, by comparison. Rather than compromise it, a Mitsubishi ductless system works to improve indoor air quality, providing peace of mind and a healthier, more comfortable living environment.

 

In the average home, heating and cooling contributes more than anything else does to the family’s utility bills, so it’s hard to overstate the importance of choosing an efficient solution. Fortunately, like most other technologies, HVAC has progressed by leaps and bounds in recent years. On the leading edge, options like Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems simply need much less energy than their predecessors. But the best part about a Mitsubishi Electric system is that, even as it runs less expensively, it still manages to outperform older heating and cooling appliances. There’s no longer a need to sacrifice comfort for savings, or vice versa. With a system from Mitsubishi Electric, you can experience the most comfortable climate control of your lifetime, very likely for less money per month than you’re currently paying.

Ductless HVAC Benefits - Open Plan Comfort

Photo: Mike Crews Photography

This post has been brought to you by Mitsubishi Electric. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.