Category: Major Systems

Which Type of Dehumidifier Is Right for You?

Savvy homeowners dread high humidity, not only because it causes discomfort, but also because over time, excess moisture can be severely damaging to the home. Often, dehumidifiers are the answer, but choosing the right model can be tricky business. Continue to get advice from an industry pro.

Types of Dehumidifiers


Does this sound familiar? You step outside on a hot day, and though the weather may not be ideal, you can certainly tolerate it. The next day, however, the same heat combines with a higher level of humidity, and you’re left fantasizing about taking the next plane to a kinder climate. Though many people focus primarily on their own sticky discomfort, veteran homeowners know the darker side of humidity: When the moisture content of air rises above a safe threshold indoors, there can be a battery of negative consequences, from musty odors and mold growth to warped wood and cracked or peeling paint. In other words, your house hates humidity as much as you do!

The solution? It’s simple—install a dehumidifier. Doing so not only boosts the efficiency and effectiveness of air conditioning, but also protects against damage due to excess moisture. The technology always works the same way, no matter if the dehumidifier is a portable model or a whole-home unit tied into the household HVAC. Air is pulled into the dehumidifier and exposed to a cold coil inside the unit, which causes water contained in the humid air to condense into liquid water that is then stored or drained. The now-dry air then exits the unit after passing over a warm coil. For all their fundamental similarities, however, dehumidifiers often differ dramatically in terms of capacity and design.

Types of Dehumidifiers - Portable Unit


For a dehumidifier to serve its intended function, its capacity must match the demand. In other words, according to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with, “You need to make sure you get the right size dehumidifier for the job.” Much depends on two variables—the size of the space and the conditions within it. For instance, in a large, damp, closed-in basement, you would need a higher-capacity dehumidifier than in a relatively compact living space with sufficient airflow. If you’re considering whole-home dehumidification, it’s wise to consult with a contractor to make sure your unit will be compatible with your HVAC system and powerful enough for your needs. For portable units, however, you can generally rely on the coverage area specified by the manufacturer.

In terms of design, homeowners are probably most familiar with portable dehumidifiers that can be wheeled from one room to another in order to remove moisture from the immediately surrounding air. Such units are popular because they are user-friendly—as O’Brian puts it, “Installing one is as easy as installing a toaster.” They’re appealing also because these “plug and play” dehumidifiers tend to be the least expensive option, though not necessarily the least powerful. The downside: Portable units don’t run for very long on their own; many “need to be checked and emptied fairly regularly,” O’Brian notes. That said, in the wake of a moisture-related event—for instance, a flooded basement—O’Brian maintains that there’s no better option.

Some homeowners are fortunate enough to face perilously high humidity only on occasion and in certain parts of the house. For others, though, it’s a persistent problem, and not just in one or a few rooms, but throughout the home. In the latter situation, “your best bet may be an in-line dehumidifier,” O’Brian says. Specially designed to integrate with the existing forced-air HVAC system, whole-home dehumidifiers are more sophisticated than their stand-alone cousins and for that reason usually cost more—”if only because their installation requires a pro,” O’Brian adds. Yet the added cost gets you at least a couple of virtues not found in portables. For one, whole-home units do their job behind the scenes, without ever becoming an eyesore. Plus, “set it and forget it” in-line units rarely require homeowner intervention.

Retailers like offer both portable and whole-home dehumidifiers in a wide range of capacities, from a suite of industry-leading manufacturers. To get a head start on selecting a unit, first monitor the moisture level in different areas of your home and use a hygrometer to take some humidity measurements. Then, when you’re ready to discuss specific requirements, don’t hesitate to contact customer service, either online or by phone at (888) 757-4774. O’Brian concludes, “Whether you’re looking for a little extra comfort or a lot of protection against moisture damage, there’s a dehumidifier perfectly suited to match your needs and budget.”

Types of Dehumidifiers - Inline Unit


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Solved! What to Do About a Sewage Smell in the Bathroom

Bathroom odors are a dime a dozen, but when you’ve got one that lingers for days, you should try for a DIY repair. Follow these steps to stamp out the sewer smell—and breathe easy.



Q: I’ve noticed a rotten smell coming from my bathroom lately and can’t figure out the source. Do you have any idea what could be causing this lingering odor and how I can get rid of it?

A: Sewer smells in your bathroom can result from a few different issues, so you’ll need to spend a bit of time in the room to sniff out the source. Once you’ve identified where the odor is coming from, the fix will probably be easy for you to tackle on your own. It’s smart of you to address the offensive odor sooner rather than later, though: In some cases, inhalation of high levels of sewer gas can lead to a host of health problems. Prolonged exposure to sewer gases can cause nausea, dizziness, and, in the case of hydrogen sulfide poisoning, even fatality, and extreme buildup can trigger an explosion. What’s more, airborne pathogens can creep in when the seal that keeps out sewer gases has been breached, leaving you vulnerable to sewer-dwelling germs. Before you start sniffing around, slip on a painter’s mask so you don’t breathe in toxic fumes, and then take things step by step.



First, check for clogs. This is the fastest problem to fix, because all you’ll need is a bottle of drain cleaner from the supermarket or hardware store. Pour it down the shower and sink drains to eliminate any gunk that may have built up in the pipes and caused the stink. Carefully follow the instructions on the packaging, and make sure you wait the requisite amount of time before you flush the drains with water. If the odor disappears after a day or two, then congrats! You’re good to go.

If the problem persists, look for leaks in your sink plumbing. Check for standing water on the floor or cabinet base beneath the U-shaped pipe (the P-trap) under the sink. Also, run your hand along the length of the pipe to detect any moisture. Dampness in either location is a sure sign of a leak.

Normally, a small amount of water collects inside the P-trap, even when it’s not in use, capturing sewer gases that would otherwise sneak up through the drain opening. But if the water in the P-trap dribbles out and leaves the interior of the pipe dry, those gases will escape and linger in the air. When that happens, it’s probably because the washers have corroded and created a small breach. If that’s the case, you should be able to replace them and reinforce your work with caulk or plumber’s tape to ensure a good seal.

Call in a pro for inspection. Unfortunately, if your drains are clear and your P-trap isn’t in need of repair, you’ll probably have to hire a plumber. It could be that there’s a broken wax ring where the toilet meets the floor—a situation that you can detect by observing how much water remains in the bowl between uses. If there isn’t sufficient water for a flush, you could very well have a leaky seal that has unsettled your commode and let sewer gas seep into the room—both unsanitary and unsafe. Alternatively, clogged or incorrectly installed vent pipes could be the culprits. These pipes conduct sewer gases out of your home, and fixing them would require specialized equipment and a trip up to the roof. If the vent pipes are involved, tracking down the source of the odor and remedying the problem is a job best left to a professional.

Meet the Cost-Effective and Customizable Alternative to Central AC

Are you ready for the hot times ahead? This year, beat the heat and keep your home cool all summer long with a versatile, unobtrusive system that doesn't require bulky ductwork—or the extensive renovation it typically entails.


Summer never fails to usher in higher temperatures. And, unfortunately for the typical homeowner, the season also tends to bring higher energy bills. After all, homeowners across the country rely on air conditioning to maintain a comfortable indoor environment, and as conventional cooling options are infamous energy hogs, their operation usually incurs a considerable cost. Year in, year out, you may face a familiar, frustrating choice: Unable to have both at once, you must trade comfort for savings, or savings for comfort.

Only one innovative technology enables homeowners to enjoy both. Mini-split systems from leaders like Fujitsu General minimize energy consumption and running costs without sacrificing performance. Whereas older, increasingly outmoded systems typically score Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings between 4 and 10, the Fujitsu mini-split operates at a jaw-dropping 33 SEER. Indeed, many Fujitsu mini-splits are certified by Energy Star for their ability to deliver cooling at a savings of up to 25 percent over less efficient systems.


Another reason for the growing popularity of mini-splits—easy installation. Traditional central air can be challenging to retrofit or extend, in large part because it depends on elaborate networks of ducts. Mini-split systems, by contrast, can be completely ductless, if desired. For this reason, they are often much more compact, taking up only a fraction of the space ducted systems occupy. Because they’re so compact, mini-splits lend themselves to unobtrusive installation that entails neither the hassle nor expense of remodeling.

A basic mini-split consists of nothing more than an outdoor condenser and an indoor unit. (Here, in contrast with traditional AC, there’s no need to make room in the basement or attic for an evaporator.) Thin copper tubes, narrow enough to fit through a discreet, three- to four-inch opening in the home exterior, run between the condenser and indoor unit. Those tubes carry refrigerant from the outdoor unit to the indoor unit, so it can distribute conditioned air into the space.

A single outdoor condenser can power multiple indoor units. With Fujitsu, in fact, a single condenser can run as many as eight indoor units positioned throughout the home. To help homeowners incorporate all those indoor units discreetly, manufacturers like Fujitsu offer a range of designs. Wall-mounted units install above eye level, while floor-mounted units work best in rooms with minimal wall space, such as kitchens. Slim-duct units, yet another option, can be recessed into the ceiling, where they remain virtually hidden.

Want even more evidence of mini-splits’ versatility? Look no further than their ability to target temperatures on a room-by-room basis. With traditional central air, if you want to cool any room, you must cool all rooms. Besides being unnecessarily expensive, all-or-nothing cooling ignores the fact that different family members often prefer different temperatures. With a mini-split, you can not only save by cutting back on cooling in rarely used rooms, but you can also put a stop to feuds over the thermostat setting.

Perhaps best of all, homeowners can depend on mini-split systems for comfort, not only in summer, but in each and every season, year-round. Take the Fujitsu Halcyon, for example. Here, the push of a button switches the system from cooling to heating mode. In cooling mode, the condenser draws heat from inside the home and expels it outdoors. In heating mode, the operation reverses, harvesting heat from the outdoor air and channeling it indoors.

More attractive than window units, more compact than central air-conditioning systems, and more efficient than either one, mini-splits offer a compelling climate-control alternative that, while already popular in Europe and Asia, hasn’t yet gone mainstream here at home. That’s all changing, though, as more and more homeowners discover the features and benefits of versatile mini-splits. Ready to take the next step? To find a Fujitsu General contractor near you, call 888-888-3424 or go online right now to visit


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How the Historic Hemingway Home Beats the Florida Heat and Humidity

How do you seamlessly and unobtrusively install air conditioning in a home built before the technology was even invented? It's a dilemma faced by old-house owners and preservationists alike. Keep reading to discover the solution employed by the curators at The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West.

Photo: Rob O'Neal Photography

Fans of Ernest Hemingway remember him not only for his classic books, but also for his larger-than-life persona and his legendary adventures around the globe. International cities like Havana, Pamplona, and Paris figure prominently in any biography of the author, but in the United States he remains perhaps most closely associated with Key West. Here, he lived off and on in an 1851 Spanish Colonial-style house that, following renovations made by Hemingway and his wife, would be ahead of its time in many ways. For example, it was among the first homes in Key West with indoor plumbing and the very first to boast an in-ground pool. Air conditioning, however, which would eventually become a vital component of any South Florida home, was—in 1931, when Hemingway first moved in—still decades away from going mainstream.

Certainly, the local weather didn’t keep Hemingway from writing. It was in Key West where he completed some of his most enduring works. That’s part of the reason why every year, thousands of tourists flock to the home, which is now a National Historic Landmark open to the public as the The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Though the house and its grounds offer a great deal of insight into Hemingway and his home life, longtime curator Dave Gonzales reports that until recently, the lack of air conditioning detracted from the experience. It was so uncomfortable on tours during the busy and extremely hot summer months, at least one visitor would faint each week.

Photo: The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

Something clearly needed to be done, not only for the comfort of museum visitors, but also for the preservation of the Hemingway furniture and memorabilia contained inside. Of course, today, unlike in the 1930s, there’s nothing extraordinary about air conditioning, but museum officials worried that a modern AC solution would compromise the historic integrity of the building. Window air conditioners were ruled out for their anticipated negative aesthetic effect on the exterior. Traditional central air wouldn’t cut it either, because in order to accommodate the necessary ductwork, installers would need to build soffits, drop ceilings, and open up walls, effectively remodeling the building. Gonzales and his fellow stewards did not want to see the home changed in any outward, visible way. It wasn’t only a matter of the curators’ preference, though. It was also a practical matter, as the Hemingway Home team knew that, in order to gain approval from the Key West Historic Architectural Review Commission and the National Park Service (which oversees National Historic Landmark properties), any proposed plans would need to satisfy the stringent requirements set forth by each agency.

Photo: The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

Finally, in 2015, they struck upon the only truly workable solution—the innovative Unico System. The aha moment came when the Hemingway museum learned that at a similar property nearby—the Harry S. Truman Little White House—conservators had managed to implement central air conditioning unobtrusively, without harming the features that made the winter residence of the former president so special. Unico stands apart from other HVAC options as one of the few systems designed to integrate into the home seamlessly and more or less invisibly. Unico’s flexible, small-diameter ducts can snake behind or through walls, crawl spaces, and ceiling cavities, eliminating the need for invasive changes.

Photo: The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

Indeed, the Unico System has been carefully engineered to require as few building alterations and attract as little attention as possible. One example: The air handler is so compact that in the Hemingway Home it could be slotted into the master bedroom closet, completely out of sight—a clever outcome not only by its size but also its unique, vertical orientation. Likewise, the intake air box fit into a bathroom closet, and the return air box was hidden in existing cabinetry (here, louvers were added to allow for airflow, as shown in the above-right photo, to the right). What about vents? In stark contrast to the prominent grilled vents seen in homes with conventional forced air, Unico instead provides circular or slotted wooden outlets, which can be finished to match the surrounding decor. At the Hemingway Home, for example, the outlets are hardly noticeable, because their stain color perfectly matches the red oak flooring.

Photo: Rob O'Neal Photography

Guided tours at the Hemingway Home start every 20 minutes, with as many as 25 visitors per tour. Noise generated by the air conditioning system was a foremost concern. According to Gonzales, though, noise isn’t an issue. “We can hardly hear it,” he reports. Unico owes its whisper-quiet operation in large measure to insulation. Not only do the insulated ducts absorb sound, but they also create efficiency. In conventional forced air, ductwork can be leaky enough to compromise system efficiency by 25 percent or more. By encasing its ducts in dual-layer insulation, Unico promotes savings by virtually eliminating air leaks and wasted energy. Gonzales said their utility bill hasn’t gone up nearly as much as they thought it would.

Photo: The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

Another energy-saver is the built-in humidity control of the Unico System. It removes 30 percent more moisture from the air than a conventional HVAC system, allowing homeowners to set the thermostat a few degrees higher and still feel quite comfortable. In the high-humidity climate of Key West, the Hemingway Home is kept cool at a lower cost. Humidity control also helps preserve the home and its contents for the enjoyment of visitors in the future. The Unico System helps maintain a low-moisture environment that prevents the growth of mold and mildew.

As the story of the Hemingway Home attests, no matter the age of your house, you can catapult its indoor environment into the present day with high-performance, all-but-invisible small-duct HVAC. But even if you don’t live in an old home and are planning to build a brand-new residence, there are compelling reasons to consider a climate-control solution that does not dictate design, but instead adapts to the design you envision, no matter how bold or creative. Perhaps like no other system, Unico makes it possible to live in a home where HVAC adds energy-efficient comfort but subtracts neither square footage nor design integrity.


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How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last?

Air-conditioning systems keep getting better with each passing year, but of course not even the best can last forever. Continue now to learn how long cooling technologies typically last—and why, if your old system fails, you may view it as a new opportunity.

How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last?


Many who belong to the current crop of homeowners weren’t alive during the days before air conditioning became commonplace. That may be why so many take the technology for granted today, regarding AC almost in the same vein as running water—as a fundamental feature of any home, modest or grand. Indeed, in some regions, homeowners consider air conditioning not as a comfort luxury, but as a bona fide necessity for daily survival. However, despite the vital role air conditioning plays in the modern home, we tend to see it as a source not only of cooling, but also of mystery and frustration. Air conditioning systems are complex, after all, leaving the average homeowner without a clear perspective on seemingly simple yet undeniably important issues of performance and longevity.

Simply put: How long does an air conditioner last? Like so many other questions in home improvement and repair, the answer depends on a host of variables. David Kenyon, a product manager with Sears Home Services, points out that different variables determine long-term performance to different degrees. Usage matters perhaps most of all. ”The more often you use the system, the more wear-and-tear it withstands,” Kenyon says, noting that systems can endure for decades in a temperate region like New England, while lasting not nearly as long in the desert of the Southwest. In and of itself, heavy usage does not doom a cooling system, but if the homeowner relies on it daily, for months on end, while ignoring its maintenance, Kenyon says, “it’s only a matter of time before system fatigue sets in.”

For peak performance, now and into the future, Kenyon advises homeowners with AC to seek professional system maintenance on a regular, annual schedule. It’s the best thing you can do to prolong the life of your air conditioning, Kenyon says, while clarifying that it’s not always an elective measure, as “many manufacture warranties require it.” Note that care of a cooling system calls for not only regular maintenance, but comprehensive maintenance. To service a system properly, according to Kenyon, technicians must go well beyond “a quick, visual inspection” to address all “key components,” from the compressor-condenser to the fan and blower (and sometimes even ducts). The fact is that, like cars in the driveway, the AC system typically cannot fulfill its expected lifespan without adequate service.

How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last? - Side View


A well-made, well-maintained central air-conditioning system under average demand typically lasts 12 to 17 years, Kenyon estimates. If yours was installed recently, it may be a decade before you start considering an upgrade. But if you suspect your system may be nearing failure, set aside a few minutes to monitor performance. Does the system grate, grind, rattle or whine? Does your home feel humid (or does the thermostat report a relative humidity over 50%)? Do you notice an unusually large amount of dust on household surfaces? Such warning signs “indicate the possible need for repair, if not replacement,” Kenyon says.

Of course, air conditioning systems are also vulnerable to plenty of problems that the average homeowner wouldn’t necessarily notice. For instance, most cooling systems are designed to run in a cyclical pattern, intermittently delivering conditioned air to the living spaces. If the length of those cycles are uncommonly short or long, a system component may be compromised. Depending on the issue (“and what it would cost to fix,” Kenyon adds), you may choose to forego repair in favor of an upgrade. In fact, far from being a sunk cost, a “new high-efficiency air-conditioning system can save you money in the long run,” according to Kenyon.

In recent years, with rising energy costs and mounting environmental concerns, manufacturers have launched fleets of HVAC equipment that boast superior energy efficiency. Between the latest technology and that of even 10 years ago, “there’s a night-and-day difference,” in terms of running costs, Kenyon says. In fact, for its ability to run up the monthly utility bill, Kenyon says, “often the most expensive system a homeowner can choose is the one already in the home.” Eventually, in other words, continued reliance on an older inefficient system becomes more expensive than upgrading to a new high-efficiency one.

Even while requiring less energy (and less money) to power their normal output, the best AC systems today still manage to achieve all-around better results. For one thing, “you get less obtrusive air conditioning” with more recently manufactured models, thanks to a broad push in the industry toward quieter functioning. For another, HVAC filtration has advanced by leaps and bounds over the years, helping climate control systems work not against, but in defense of indoor air quality and healthy living. Finally, there’s the fact that, with systems engineered to combat humidity more effectively, spaces air-conditioned by newer technology often feel more comfortable.

In short, there are good reasons not to dread the prospect of a breakdown in your air conditioning, but rather to embrace the opportunity. Before doing anything, though, you need to determine the status of your existing system. For an evaluation, seek out a local HVAC contractor or go online to schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Besides reporting on the condition of your system, Sears project consultants can discuss your options and, if desired, guide you from start to finish through the repair or replacement process. Another advantage: Sears backs up all its work with a Satisfaction Guarantee—a commitment to your project success that remains intact even after technicians leave. When it’s the comfort of your family on the line, there’s no substitute for peace of mind.

How Long Does an Air Conditioner Last? - Thermostat Bottom


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The Pros and Cons of Radiant Heat

Experts agree that for comfort in winter, no other technology comes close to matching the performance of radiant floor heating. But is it the right choice for your home? Like so many other questions in building and home improvement, the answer depends. Learn the pros and cons, and decide for yourself.

Radiant Heat Pros and Cons


It’s no surprise if home heating doesn’t rank high on your list of priorities right now, but let’s face it: If you were uncomfortable at home last winter, you are going to be uncomfortable again in only a matter of months—that is, unless you make a change. Particularly if it’s been years since you last surveyed your options, you might be surprised by how much the landscape has changed. No, a 100% perfect climate control system hasn’t been invented yet, but many of the most exciting options today excel where forced air fell short. The leading heating technology of the past several decades, forced air isn’t without virtues, but on the whole accounts for the perception that home heating must be hit-and-miss in performance yet consistently expensive. By contrast, innovative options like radiant heating prove that homeowners can now enjoy total comfort at a lower cost.

Radiant heat isn’t new. In one form or another, it’s been around since before the days of the Roman Empire, but it wasn’t until relatively recently that it became a viable option for average homeowners. Today, many would argue that it outperforms its peers, delivering a qualitatively home heating experience than forced air ever did. Not only does it operate silently to create even, all-encompassing, “everywhere” warmth, but it does so at least 25% more efficiently than conventional HVAC. That said, radiant heat may not be the perfect climate control solution for every homeowner, in every situation. Much depends on the precise nature of the project you are planning. Keep reading now for details on the biggest considerations that come into play.

Radiant Heating Pros and Cons - Cutaway Shot


PRO: Uniform heating
Homeowners are eschewing traditional forced air in favor of radiant heat, largely because there’s simply no question as to which provides a higher level of comfort. Installed beneath the floor, radiant heat panels deliver warmth across virtually every square inch of the home. That way, no matter where you travel in the home, you always get the temperature you want. With forced air, it’s a different story. Designed to operate in a stop-and-start pattern, conventional HVAC dumps hot air into the home, then stops. Minutes later, once the temperature has dipped below a threshold point, the system snaps on again, and the cycle repeats. The result? Dramatic, uncomfortable temperature swings, only enhanced by the fact that hot air quickly rises to the ceiling after arriving. Radiant heat, meanwhile, concentrates comfort not above your head, but at floor level where you actually feel it.

CON: Challenging to Retrofit
Heating and cooling components are often integral to the basic infrastructure of the home in which they are installed. That being the case, most do not lend themselves painlessly to retrofit applications. With forced air, ducts are the foremost impediment to installation. With radiant, the complicating factor is that panels must be set beneath the floor. If you love the flooring in your home and had no intention of removing it, even if only temporarily, then the installation requirements of a radiant system may give you pause (though a wall or ceiling installation may be a good alternative). But of course there are plenty of occasions when homeowners enjoy a blank slate. Custom home building may present the out-and-out ideal opportunity to install radiant heat, but you can also capitalize on the technology during a renovation. In fact, manufacturers like Warmboard offer ultra-thin radiant panels specially designed to fit seamlessly into existing homes.

PRO: Quiet and clean
Walk into any home heated by forced air, and the system soon announces itself to you, one way or another. The first thing you notice might be the unsightly metal grille of an air vent, or it might be the sound of conditioned air roaring through the ductwork. There’s also the issue of dust. Though intended to channel warm air through your home, ductwork also often ends up collecting and distributing dust and other impurities. Over the years, having become so accustomed to forced air, many homeowners may assume that home heating has to be ugly, noisy, and dusty, but it doesn’t. With panels slotted out of view beneath the floor, hydronic radiant systems are invisible, and in the absence of blowers and rushing air, they operate not quietly, but silently. Plus, for allergy sufferers and others concerned about indoor air quality, radiant heat can be like a breath of fresh air, as the ductless system does nothing to diminish indoor air quality.

CON: Boiler dependent
To supply the water that lends heat to a radiant system, you need a boiler. If you’d need to buy a new boiler, that would add to the final project cost. But of course, in any HVAC system, there are upfront costs and operating costs, and the latter are perhaps the more important. Radiant keeps running costs low, because thanks to its duct-free design, it’s not susceptible to the air leaks and energy loss that compromises forced air. That’s the main reason why radiant has been found to operate at least 25% more efficiently. To save an extra 10 to 20 percent each month, opt for a radiant system with highly conductive panels. Why? The more conductive the panel, the less hard the boiler needs to work. By way of example, Warmboard panels transfer heat so effectively that they can keep the home comfortable using water boiler-fired to a temperature 30 degrees cooler than that required by other, broadly similar systems. From one month to the next, year after year, incremental savings can really add up.

Already widely popular in Europe and Asia, radiant heating has been steadily gaining traction in the United States over the past several years, as homeowners discover its unique and compelling advantages. Able to operate at a whisper-quiet decibel level even while promoting indoor air quality, the “out of sight, out of mind” technology ultimately delivers on a deceptively simple promise: It enables you to enjoy greatly enhanced comfort during the winter months, and often for less per month. Indeed, for the increasing numbers of homeowners who are foregoing traditional HVAC in favor of radiant, the obvious pros of the latter far outweigh any potential cons.

Radiant Heat Pros and Cons


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

A Smarter Way to Keep Your Home Comfortable

The most common HVAC technology, forced air isn't exactly the most popular. If you're on the hunt for a system that suits your needs as a 21st-century homeowner, read below for details on a newer option that may challenge your notions of what cooling and heating can be.



In any neighborhood, in any state, homes built post-World War II typically share at least one thing in common—a traditional forced-air indoor climate control system. As the most common technology for more than 50 years, traditional forced air has become, for many people, synonymous with cooling and heating. In fact, when people complain about cooling and heating in general—its high running costs or its hit-and-miss performance—they are often criticizing, whether they know it or not, traditional cooling and heating. Some in the United States may not even be aware that traditional forced air isn’t the only option. Throughout Europe and Asia—and increasingly here at home—more and more homeowners are discovering an exciting alternative in the Zoned Comfort Solution™ from Mitsubishi Electric. Offering a unique approach to home comfort, Mitsubishi Electric systems are appealing for many reasons, but not least because they excel in precisely those areas where forced-air tends to frustrate. Compact, unobtrusive and even stylish, with customizable control and stand-out energy efficiency, the Zoned Comfort Solution may even change your mind once and for all when it comes to the role of, and possibilities for, cooling and heating in today’s home. Keep reading now to learn more!




Taking up only a fraction of the space occupied by a traditional forced-air system, the compact and streamlined Zoned Comfort Solution installs easily compared to many other cooling and heating systems. In part, that’s because the Mitsubishi Electric system doesn’t have to involve any ductwork, although it’s flexible enough to do so. At its simplest, though, a Zoned Comfort Solution consists of nothing more than an outdoor condenser, an indoor unit and a remote control. In this case, since the main components are joined by a slim pair of refrigerant lines, installation rarely involves extensive, expensive remodeling. That said, the nature of the installation depends on a number of factors, including your choice of indoor unit. There are a handful of different designs, each with its own set of requirements. Wall-mounted units are, true to their name, simply mounted on the wall. Other indoor units, meanwhile, can be recessed into the ceiling, soffit or with a ducted unit, into a crawl space. Depending on the scope of your cooling and heating project, technicians may be able to complete the installation within a single day.




With a traditional forced-air system, one thermostat usually defines the temperature for the entire home. So if you want cooling or heating in one room, you must cool or heat every room—even unoccupied spaces. If the same principle were applied to other major systems, then turning on any faucet would activate all faucets, and flipping on any light would turn on all the lights. Besides being wasteful and unnecessarily expensive, the all-or-nothing operation of traditional air conditioning fails to acknowledge the reality that different people prefer different temperatures. A Zoned Comfort Solution stands out, because unlike the cooling and heating technologies of yesterday, it provides a simple solution for families who often feud over the thermostat setting. The key: Mitsubishi Electric systems enable you to divide your home into a collection of zones. Whether a zone comprises one room or several, each can be controlled by its own thermostat, completely independently from the other zones. That way, every member of the household can be comfortable at the same time—finally. Additionally, being able to target climate control on a room-by-room basis also means that you never again need to pay to cool or heat an unoccupied space. It’s a win-win for your comfort and your bottom line.




Systems from Mitsubishi Electric use dramatically less energy than conventional forced air—often enough to save you up 40 percent on cooling and heating from one month to the next. First, the Zoned Comfort Solution simply requires less electricity. Traditional air-conditioning systems operate in a stop-and-start pattern that devours electricity and drives up bills. The Zoned Comfort Solution, by contrast, shrinks bills by operating continuously instead of cyclically (with its state-of-the art variable-speed compressor modulating its output to match the space requirements, while eliminating the wasteful stop-and-start pattern). Another factor: The Mitsubishi Electric system avoids the inefficiencies that ductwork often creates in forced air. Ducts are notorious for leaking. Even if the leakage only occurs at the points where two ducts connect, it can be enough to compromise overall system efficiency, leaving the homeowner to pay extra to compensate for the wasted energy. The Zoned Comfort Solution avoids the same fate, because in many cases, systems are configured to operate without any ductwork. In others, meanwhile, the system relies only on short runs that do not suffer the vulnerabilities that can compromise the performance of full-size ducts. Indeed, it’s a common complaint that cooling and heating costs an arm and a leg, but with a high-efficiency Zoned Comfort Solution, it doesn’t have to.




Try to imagine a room in your house, or if you’re at home, look around you. Somewhere in the space—hulking in a corner or perhaps hiding on the ceiling—you’re likely to find a forced-air vent or a different but similarly visible component of the air-conditioning system. Point being: Whether we like it or not, cooling and heating systems are easily noticeable. Yet, to the exclusion of almost everything else, most major manufacturers have only focused on the functional aspects of indoor climate control. Mitsubishi Electric departs from tradition by emphasizing performance as well as aesthetics. With the release of its new Designer Series—a tantalizingly sleek and refined wall-mounted indoor unit—the company proves that it’s actually possible for climate control technology to be attractive. Available in a choice of three colors (white, silver, and black) and four capacity levels (9,000-, 12,000-, 15,000- and 18,000-BTU), the stylish Designer Series demands attention, but it doesn’t demand space. Remarkably slim, units protrude minimally, measuring no more than 10 inches deep. Much like a work of contemporary art, the Designer Series hugs the wall and acts as an accessory in any room. From there, it works to create an indoor environment with a feeling of comfort matched only by its visual appeal.


In the past, climate control appliances were a source of cooling and heating, but more often than not, also a source of mystery and frustration. Homeowners grew accustomed to imperfect, hit-and-miss systems, because they simply were unfamiliar with the alternatives. Fortunately, innovation didn’t come to a standstill when traditional forced-air systems rose to prominence all those years ago. When you compare the traditional option to a new and efficient option, like the Zoned Comfort Solution, there’s really no other way to go. Traditional forced-air comes with real drawbacks—space-hogging bulk, inflexibility, sky-high running costs—which all signal nothing more than an outdated, outmoded system that no longer meets homeowner needs. Mitsubishi Electric provides a technology for the 21st century. Welcome to the future of cooling and heating.


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AC Is No Sweat with a Mini-Split System

Beat the heat this summer with an energy-efficient and unobtrusive cooling solution.



Every summer, sweltering temperatures prompt homeowners to take a renewed interest in air conditioning, whether it be the lack of a cooling system or the need for an upgrade. In the past, there were only two main options, neither fully satisfying for those seeking permanent, affordable climate control. Portable window units, on one hand, are temporary by definition. Although cheap to purchase (and relatively painless to install), even the high-efficiency models tend to set the energy bill soaring. On the other hand, central air conditioning provides a permanent solution, but installation typically entails the hassle and expense of large-scale remodeling. This results in a maze of ductwork and often hogs otherwise usable square footage. In essence, homeowners tend to view one option as being too little, and the other as too much. Fortunately, there’s an often-overlooked third option that offers an appealing compromise—mini-splits.

Already beloved in many other parts of the world, mini-splits have been gaining more and more traction in the United States in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. Compared with window units, mini-splits are “more permanent and better looking,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with More important, mini-splits are generally considered to boast the greatest energy efficiency of all, helping homeowners keep monthly utility bills as low as possible. Meanwhile, in contrast to an elaborate, ducted central-air system, mini-splits are dramatically more compact, in large part because they do not involve any ductwork whatsoever. Because of their unique and streamlined design, mini-splits can be configured precisely to meet your family’s needs, bringing climate control either to one room or to every room in the house.


A simple mini-split system consists of two components—a compressor (mounted outdoors) and an evaporator (mounted in the space that the unit serves). Connecting the two are refrigerant lines that technicians fit through a small hole in the exterior of the home. Believe it or not, in many cases installation involves nothing more than mounting and connecting the indoor and outdoor units. Though more involved than simply placing a portable AC into the frame of a window, the process couldn’t be much simpler, especially when compared with the intensive, often invasive installation requirements of a central air-conditioning system. Typically, the latter involves a sustained, weeks-long effort, with installers often having to open up walls or build new soffits to accommodate ductwork. Because mini-splits are ductless, the technology installs unobtrusively and relatively quickly, sometimes within the span of single day. Homeowners appreciate the speed and ease of installation, but they particularly love the fact that it can be completed, according to O’Brian, without “damaging or cluttering” the existing home in any significant way.

Mini-splits achieve virtually unparalleled energy efficiency in more ways than one. For starters, their ductless design enables the technology to sidestep the fundamental flaw that often leads central-air systems to rack up a small fortune in energy costs—namely, leaky ductwork. Despite being a vital part of a ubiquitous type of HVAC, ducts are commonly known to be vulnerable to air leaks. As air escapes from the ductwork, often at the joint where two sections meet, the system must work harder and longer. As a result it consumes more energy than strictly necessary to maintain the target temperature. The homeowner, of course, gets stuck with the bill at the end of the month. As well, mini-splits conserve energy by running continuously at a low power level. Although this seems counterintuitive, continuous running draws considerably less electricity than the usual stop-and-start, cyclical operation that characterizes both window units and central AC. Taken all together, the efficiency advantages of a mini-split enable the average homeowner to save up to 40 percent on cooling, and those savings really add up over time.

Some homeowners elect to install a mini-split as a way of delivering supplemental cooling to a room underserved by the primary HVAC system—a basement bedroom, for example. The technology really shines, however, when it’s employed to keep the entire home comfortable. That’s because in such an application mini-splits allow for zoning, something O’Brian sees as “the best feature” of the technology. In the average home, a single, centrally located thermostat controls the temperature for the entire house. With a whole-home mini-split system, however, you can establish multiple zones that can each be set to a different temperature. According to O’Brian, that means you get “targeted temperature control” on a zone-by-zone, or room-by-room, basis. Not only does such a fine degree of control enable homeowners to trim costs by curtailing climate control in unoccupied rooms, but it also ensures comfort. At long last, different family members with different temperature preferences can all be comfortable under the same roof and at the same time.

Both single- and multi-zone mini-splits are available from industry leaders like LG, Panasonic, and Comfort-Aire. Capacities range from approximately 9,000 to 30,000 BTUs, with the appropriate size dictated by the project scope. The homeowner also enjoys a wide range of choice when it comes to the design of the indoor unit. In addition to the standard wall-mounted version, some manufacturers offer inconspicuous evaporators that recess into the ceiling. Others take it a step further. LG, for example, offers the Art Cool system, in which the remarkably slim indoor unit doubles as a picture frame. As O’Brian summarizes, “With the single-zone, multi-zoned, recessed, and Art Cool systems, there is sure to be something that will work for any home.” Need help navigating the various possibilities? experts are always on hand to assist you in making the right choice for your home, your needs, and your family. Stay cool!


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The Essential Guide to Summer Home Improvement

Get your house in shape early this summer so you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the season. You can start by reviewing this seasonal guide to home care and maintenance, then finish up with help from Sears Home Services!


Summertime is here! Yet while school is out for the kids, for their home-owning parents, the seasonal job of maintaining and beautifying the home has only begun. Now is the time for warm-weather tasks, such as inspecting and cleaning the siding, assessing the efficiency of HVAC units, and refreshing or replacing windows. To make lighter work of these summer rituals, use this guide as your starting point. Armed with home care and maintenance insights from experts at Sears Home Services, you’ll soon have your home operating at peak performance and still have plenty of time to enjoy those lazy summer days.


Are you (and your neighbors) fed up with your siding? Does it suffer from grime, peeling paint, or simply a lack of aesthetic appeal? Cleaning, accessorizing, and refinishing your siding can not only boost your home’s ability to withstand extreme weather, but also increase its curb appeal and resale value—good news whether you plan to sell or stay put for the rest of your life.

- Inspect and clean: To prolong the life and visual appeal of your siding, give it a semi-annual inspection for structural deformities like chips and cracks, then wash it clean of discoloration, rot, and pests. Before you raid your cleaning supply closet, though, remember that “different siding materials carry different—often very different—care requirements,” says Jim Eldredge, a product manager at Sears Home Services. Bleach and water, for example, may be necessary to tackle coarse brick siding, while a gentler soap-and-water solution is sufficient for wood. Perhaps the simplest type of siding to clean is vinyl. “There’s a reason vinyl has become the most popular type of siding in America,” says Eldredge. It is “virtually maintenance-free” and may require little more than a quick hose-down with water to get it spotless.

- Accessorize: When it comes to beautifying your exterior, small details can make a house shine. Installing exterior accent trim, shingles, or shutters can protect a house from the elements while also giving it a polished appearance. If you’re considering minor upgrades and improvements to your siding, you may wish to request a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Their experts can help you navigate the wealth of options in siding accessories.

- Paint: One of the fastest ways to revive your home’s appearance is to give it a fresh coat of paint. In Eldredge’s view, painting the exterior is of particular value for potential sellers, because it “helps your home stand out from all the others on the block.” Before you begin a paint job, prepare the surface—sand away chipping paint, patch holes, and clean it thoroughly to ensure that the new paint will adhere to the surface and last longer. While exterior painting is a job that a homeowner can certainly tackle, consider how much easier it would be to simply hire the pros at Sears Home Services. Their 10-step process for surface preparation and paint application is designed to produce a paint job that lasts for years and saves you the hassle of doing it yourself.



Those shiny new HVAC units may be blasting cool air now, but whether they continue that tip-top performance will depend on how diligently you maintain them. As the cooling season starts, take time to measure the efficiency of your air-conditioning system and consider installing high-performance auxiliary units that can improve comfort without dramatically increasing the energy bill.

- Measure air conditioner efficiency: Before your air conditioner breaks down in the face of triple-digit temperatures, examine the unit for signs of overworking or underperformance. “Standing next to the appliance can tell you a lot about its condition,” says David Kenyon, a product manager at Sears Home Services. If “things don’t sound right,” or if you experience poor air quality or excessive humidity, call a professional to repair or replace the unit.

- Consider a mini-split air conditioner: Do you notice a difference in temperature when you walk from room to room? Uneven cooling is often a by-product of “old, single-blower setups,” says Kenyon. Today, you can achieve more uniform cooling in individual rooms by installing one or more ductless mini-split air conditioners in your home. Unlike central-cooling units, these compact machines can be installed in locations throughout the house to evenly and efficiently cycle cool air into every room, “top to bottom and wall to wall.”

- Install a programmable thermostat: If your thermostat is malfunctioning, don’t delay in fixing it. “Your best bet is to work with a pro,” says Kenyon, “not simply to solve problems, but to prevent problems from occurring.” If you do need to replace an old thermostat, now is the ideal time to upgrade to a programmable model. These customizable thermostats can be programmed to automatically raise the temperature when you’re sleeping or away from the house, and lower the temperature when you’re home and awake, contributing to a more comfortable living environment as well as lower energy bills.


The same windows that give you a view of the outdoors also offer a view into your home’s structural integrity and security. Your windows serve as a barrier to air, moisture, and intruders. It’s vital to ensure that they’re performing all these functions as efficiently and dependably as possible so you and your family can spend the summer in comfort and safety.

- Evaluate window efficiency: To a longtime homeowner, a persistent draft or a patch of mold or mildew on the windows may seem more like a minor irritant than an urgent problem. But if ignored, escaping air and invading moisture can spike energy costs and wreak havoc on the structural integrity of your home. Issues like these can arise from improper installation, or they could merely be the sign of outdated, inefficient windows. Either way, poor window performance means it may be time to invest in new casings or windows. If replacement is in your future, go for efficient, long-lasting options like Sears Weatherbeater windows, which, by reducing the risk of drafts, moisture damage, and UV glare, can help lower your energy bill. Even better, because they are made of vinyl, they are virtually maintenance-free.

- Ensure security: You no doubt lock the doors before you hit the road for summer vacation, but like many homeowners, you may completely ignore another important entry point: the windows. Even if you don’t think that your home is at risk of a break-in, “security glass is a must,” says Eldredge. When you install Weatherbeater windows from Sears Home Services, you gain the benefits of impact-resistant glass as well as a host of add-ons like dual-cam locks and steel reinforcement, all of which help make your windows a less desirable target for would-be intruders.


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So, You Want to… Install a Mini-Split

If you're considering switching up your HVAC system, don't ignore the most innovative, flexible, and efficient option—and be sure to seek out the most qualified professionals for the job.

How to Install a Mini Split


In all but the mildest climates, whenever the temperature soars or plummets, the typical homeowner faces a tough choice between saving money and maintaining a comfortable home. After all, any HVAC technology will all but ensure a pleasant, livable indoor environment, but in doing so, most devour energy and drive up the utility bill. As David Kenyon, a product manager with Sears Home Services, says, “There’s no doubt that comfort usually comes at a cost.” That being the case, it’s perhaps no surprise that more and more homeowners are embracing the mini-split—a high-performance cooling and heating option whose efficiency helps keep expenses low.

Efficiency alone, however, doesn’t fully explain the appeal of mini-splits. On the contrary, their popularity is probably also due to the fact that, as Kenyon says, “mini-splits combine efficiency with versatility.” That is, you can employ the technology on your own terms. Some choose to install a mini-split as a way of delivering comfort to a single room. Others rely on mini-splits for climate control throughout the house, in a zoned configuration that actually enables you to target temperatures on a room-by-room basis. In contrast with systems designed for one specific type of application, mini-splits can be an appropriate choice for almost any residential project, no matter the scope.

Mini-splits offer homeowners another major benefit aside from efficiency and flexibility: They’re much easier to install than many traditional options. To a marked extent, that’s because mini-splits don’t involve ductwork. In a traditional ducted forced-air system, an elaborate network of bulky, rigid metal ducts must be fit into the home, a process that may necessitate extensive renovation. Mini-splits are, by comparison, unobtrusive and more or less hassle-free. “Retrofitting a forced-air system would require a large-scale, perhaps weeks-long effort,” Kenyon says. But because “mini-splits typically don’t require anything but modest alterations,” the installation process often goes quite quickly, sometimes taking no more than a day.

Still, there are several important points to bear in mind when you’re planning to add a mini-split. Read on to learn about the most critical considerations.


Money Matters
“Any HVAC update begins with budgeting,” Kenyon says. In your investigation of the project costs, he continues, “don’t make the mistake of concentrating only on the initial outlay.” For a more accurate picture, it’s important to account for the operating costs as well. Over the long term, thanks to their virtually unparalleled efficiency, mini-splits “prove to be among the most affordable options out there,” according to Kenyon. Several innovations enable mini-splits to conserve energy and, by extension, reduce monthly bills. One is that, as they are ductless, mini-splits do not suffer the same air leakage problems that significantly detract from the overall efficiency of many traditional ducted systems. As well, mini-splits simply require less electricity to power their normal operation. All together, the efficiency features of the best mini-splits work in concert to slash climate-control costs in the average home by as much as 40 percent. Of course, you can’t start saving until the equipment has been installed—and this will incur significant costs. Keep in mind that, while your local contractor may not be able to provide financial assistance, established companies like Sears Home Services offer a selection of financing packages that can help you fit the project into your budget.

Project Scope 
At its most basic, a mini-split installation involves nothing more than an outdoor compressor/condenser, an indoor air handler, and running between the two, a pair of refrigerant lines narrow enough to fit through a three-inch hole. A whole-home application would involve multiple indoor units, with lines running to each unit from one or more outdoor units. In other words, configurations vary. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach,” Kenyon summarizes. “The right approach depends entirely on your needs.” At the earliest stages of the project, therefore, you must be sure to clarify its scope. Do you want to supplement an existing HVAC system or replace it? Do you wish to cool the space, heat it, or both? Before being able to make your vision a reality, your contractor first needs to understand it. Particularly when it comes to something as complex as climate control, many homeowners appreciate expert advice and insight gained from years of experience. That’s precisely why Sears Home Services project consultants collaborate with homeowners from the earliest planning stages to the final day of installation. And as demonstrated by its Satisfaction Guarantee, Sears remains committed to your success even after completion of a project.

Aesthetic Concerns
Whatever the scope of a mini-split project, the indoor air handler operates the same way, whether it’s the only one or just one of many in the configuration. The air handler is always mounted within the space it’s conditioning, monitoring the ambient conditions and auto-adjusting its output to match the cooling or heating demand at any given time. The heat exchanger within the component works to modulate the air temperature, while the variable vanes of the built-in fan ensure even distribution. Yet, although the air handler always performs the same role, it can take a number of different forms. Perhaps most common are air handlers that mount on the wall, typically several feet above eye level. There’s only one downside: Wall-mounted air handlers can be conspicuous. Homeowners looking to minimize the visual impact often opt instead for a ceiling-recessed unit. Though they are more challenging to install, ceiling-recessed air handlers easily escape notice, because they’re flush with the plane of the ceiling overhead. Yet another option, horizontal-ducted air handlers install within soffits or under the floor, assuming there’s available crawl space. Ultimately, according to Kenyon of Sears Home Services, “the choice boils down to your budget and aesthetic preferences.”

Contractor Qualifications
Forced-air systems, which rose to prominence in the wake of World War II, have been the leading option in HVAC for more than 50 years. Because it’s so ubiquitous, Kenyon points out, “it’s the technology most technicians know best.” Even today, relatively few professionals can boast a long track record of work with mini-splits. Those with experience fully understand, as Kenyon says, that “from poor system sizing to setting the incorrect refrigerant levels, there are many ways in which the installation can go wrong.” Indeed, Kenyon continues, “installing mini-splits properly is an art form all its own.” As that’s the case—and given that it’s your comfort on the line, after all—it behooves the homeowner to seek out a uniquely well-qualified installer. Sears Home Services stands out, because its network includes technicians trained and certified to install and repair all the most popular climate-control options—and mini-splits are no exception. To discuss your upcoming project with experts who have successfully completed similar projects in the past, call or go online now to schedule a free in-home consultation with a nationwide company that has a decades-long history of serving homeowners like you—Sears Home Services.

How to Install a Mini-Split - Outdoor Unit Detail


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