Category: Major Systems


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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


Home Zoning: The End to All Your Thermostat Wars

Over the decades, HVAC technology has rarely made it easy for people to save money without compromising comfort. That's all changing, with the advent of new concepts and improved technologies that, especially when combined, truly serve the interests of the average homeowner.

Zoned Radiant Floor Heating

Photo: warmboard.com

When you stop and think about it, doesn’t it seem strange that, in the typical residence, a single thermostat controls the temperature of the entire house? After all, no matter the size of your family, its members cannot possibly occupy every room at every moment of the day. And yet, in order for the upstairs bedrooms to feel comfortable on a winter night, you must heat not only the bedrooms, but every other room too. Flash-forward to noon the following day: Though no one has visited the second floor for hours, the heating system has kept the vacant spaces at 70 degrees. It’s a waste of energy and, for the budget-minded homeowner, the stuff of nightmares. Plus, it’s impractical, as it ignores the simple fact that different people prefer different temperatures. If your spouse likes it warmer, and you like it cooler, then, in a one-zone system, no matter the set temperature, there’s always going to be someone who feels not quite at ease.

For whatever reason, Americans take it for granted that home heating has to be an expensive hit-and-miss affair—better than no heating at all, to be sure, but miles from perfectly comfortable. What many don’t realize is that, just as other technologies have seen incredible progress in recent years, so too has the heating world. Take radiant heating, for example. Though it’s been around for millennia, it hadn’t always been a technology that could rival forced-air as a viable whole-home heating option. But now, thanks to contemporary manufacturers like Warmboard, many would argue that radiant heat actually surpasses conventional forced-air heating for a host of reasons. Chief among them: Radiant floor heating lends itself much better to zoning. A multi-zone radiant system provides the alternative to heating an entire home to one temperature. Here, it’s possible to designate zones (individual rooms or sets of rooms), each capable of being independently controlled.

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Zoning Benefits
If traditional heating provides a one-size-fits-all solution, then zoning offers a tailored fit. Zoning gives the homeowner an unprecedented level of control, making it possible to save money and be more comfortable than ever. Just imagine owning a home whose sunny, south-facing portion always felt a few degrees too warm. Without zoning, there would be no way to dial back the heat here without making the other parts of the house too cool. Only with zoning is there a rational solution for such a seemingly simple problem: Lower the temperature setting for the sunny-side zone but maintain a higher temperature elsewhere. By allowing heating on an as-needed basis, zoning saves the average household up to 30% on monthly utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. But it’s not solely about savings. Zoning also gives a tremendous boost to comfort: Finally, family members with different temperature preferences can be comfortable under the same roof.

Managing Zones
Not so long ago, manual, non-programmable thermostats were the norm. Whether yours was a mercury or mechanical-contact model, you had three options: You could turn the thermostat up, down, or off. Identifying and acting upon money-saving opportunities required diligence, and many people simply didn’t have the patience. Now, thanks to programmable thermostats, you don’t have to remember to adjust the temperature setting on your way out the door. The thermostat remembers for you. In the context of zoned heating, programmable thermostats mean that you can set a different schedule for each different zone. Then, if you want, you can forget about climate control altogether, trusting that each zone would operate strictly according to the program you set for it. Indeed, programmable thermostats eliminate the potential hassle of coordinating different zones, while making it easy to capitalize on the savings that zoned HVAC makes possible.

Heating Zones
Technically, you can establish zoning with any type of heating system, even forced-air. But would you want to? Opting for conventional forced-air heating could undermine whatever savings or comfort you were able to achieve through zoning. After all, forced-air systems are notoriously inefficient, largely on account of their leak-prone ducts. Particularly when traveling through un-insulated spaces, traditional ductwork can lose enough energy to hinder overall efficiency by around 25%. That’s one reason why forced-air heating tends to cost a small fortune every month. At a fundamental level, there are weaknesses in the system design. What’s more: Forced-air heating has never been especially comfortable, because it creates uneven temperatures. As hot air rises in a typical two story home, the upstairs becomes too hot while the downstairs remains cool. Often, one’s comfort depends on his location relative to the nearest vent. Plus, because of the cyclical, stop-and-start operation of forced-air systems, temperatures end up fluctuating along an up-and-down, rollercoaster-like pattern. And if someone leaves a window open, all that heat being generated is wasted.

Unlike forced-air, radiant heating does not work counter to the benefits of zoning. On the contrary, the two work technologies work in concert to bring superior comfort, even while minimizing monthly energy bills. Because radiant heating panels install beneath flooring, warmth is delivered, not through a finite number of vents, but across virtually every square inch of space. So as you move to different parts of a room, or from one room to the next, the temperature never varies. Comfort reaches you silently, invisibly, and in a steady, even, enveloping way. Though radiant systems offer significant performance advantages, be aware that not all radiant systems are alike. Different radiant systems include different components, and those components can make a big difference. Focus on systems like Warmboard, which boast a high conductivity. Greater conductivity means less energy consumption, lower energy costs, and a quicker rate of responsiveness.

Fewer than ten percent of homes in the United States today are heated by a radiant system, but that’s changing. More and more homeowners are choosing radiant heating, not least because of its favorable relationship with zoning. For homeowners seeking efficiency and comfort—who isn’t?—zoning has meant a great step forward in home comfort. Together, radiant heating systems and zoning capabilities bring out the best in one another, and for once, it’s the homeowner who really benefits.

Zoned Radiant Floor Heating - Installation Closeup

Photo: warmboard.com

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


Ditch the Ducts: Choose Ductless HVAC for Savings and Comfort

As technological advancements have reshaped so many other avenues of life, so too have they transformed the HVAC landscape. For years, homeowners put up with the pitfalls of traditional ducted heating and cooling. Now, thanks to newer ductless alternatives, cost-effective and customizable comfort have finally come within reach.

Ductless HVAC

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

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

If you were to visit a handful of American homes built within the past 50 years, you would discover a variety of architectural styles and floor plans, but probably only one type of HVAC system. Indeed, among the mechanical components at the heart of the average home, there’s one ubiquitous sight—ductwork. Despite being so common, ducts are infamously imperfect: Their tendency to leak creates significant inefficiencies that force the heating or cooling appliance to work harder than necessary. And of course it’s the homeowner who ends up paying more in monthly utilities to make up for the fundamental flaws of the system design. Though traditional forced-air systems remain prevalent, heating and cooling technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in the years since ductwork came to the forefront. Today’s homeowners may choose from a suite of other, newer options, the most fascinating of which involve no ductwork whatsoever. Already popular in Europe and Asia, ductless heating and cooling provides year-round temperature control with unparalleled efficiency. That’s largely because, true to its name, ductless HVAC does not rely on ducts to circulate air throughout the home. A leader in the category, Mitsubishi Electric, offers a range of ductless systems that, relative to traditional forced-air, cost considerably less to run, even while delivering superior temperature control and comfort. So if you’re reassessing the HVAC in your existing home—or if you’re building a new home or an addition—consider the ductless alternative both for low operating cost and high performance.

Ductless HVAC - System Illustration

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

OPERATION
In contrast to the massive, elaborate conventional HVAC configurations to which we’re most accustomed, ductless systems are considerably more compact and straightforward. The most basic setup consists of two elements: There’s an outdoor condenser and an indoor unit, with a thin refrigerant pipe connecting the two. Whether recessed or mounted, the indoor unit contains a heat exchanger and fan with variable vanes, the latter to distribute warm or cool air throughout the space. In the warm months, the system collects heat from the home and sends it outside. In cold weather, the system operates in the opposite way: Even in the coldest temperatures, it gets heat from outside and brings it in. Mitsubishi Electric technology finds heat in below zero temperatures to heat your home.

COMFORT
Homeowners know the frustration and discomfort of HVAC systems that function intermittently and incompletely, leaving some rooms too hot or too cold. Rather than subject the environment to temperature swings, the Mitsubishi Electric ductless system actively adjusts its output to match the heating or cooling demand. In this way, it avoids the cyclical, start-and-stop operation that creates often unpleasant, sometimes extreme indoor temperature variations. By continuously regulating itself, the Mitsubishi Electric system maintains a steady, comfortable indoor climate. The temperature you set is the temperature you get.

Another advantage: In many homes, a single thermostat controls the temperature of the entire house. Mitsubishi Electric rejects the one-thermostat-for-all-rooms solution. Instead, the system enables you to establish different zones, each with its own indoor unit and thermostat. In a multi-zone home, different family members with different preferences can all be comfortable at the same time. In addition, whereas in the past you may have used a space heater or window air conditioner to normalize the temperature in a peripheral room, such as a media room, zoning makes it so that comfortable temperatures pervade every corner of the home.

Ductless HVAC - Zoning

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

EFFICIENCY
Compared to the typical forced-air system, Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems consume dramatically less energy, enough to save the homeowner 30 to 40 percent on monthly heating and cooling bills. That’s partly because more compact ductless systems require comparatively less electricity to power their normal operation. But it’s also because ductless systems are, well, ductless. Whereas traditional ductwork can hinder overall HVAC efficiency by around 25 percent, Mitsubishi Electric suffers no similar disadvantage. After all, a ductless system distributes air, not through a network of leak-prone ducts, but directly from the indoor unit into the conditioned space. In effect, Mitsubishi Electric cuts out the middleman—ductwork—an entity that, like most middlemen, takes money out of your pocket without adding value.

Take zoning into account, too, and Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems become an especially energy-wise choice for the budget-conscious homeowner. Strange but true, in a one-thermostat household, it’s all or nothing: If you want heat or cooling in any room or section, you must heat or cool the entire home, even the rooms you’re not occupying. It’s as if your electrical system were configured so that turning on one light meant turning on all the lights. With a zoned system from Mitsubishi Electric, you can enjoy more rational—and yes, much less expensive—temperature control, paying for comfort only in rooms that people are actually occupying. Indeed, on the fundamental level of system design, newer and smarter ductless systems boast an efficiency edge over older, increasingly outmoded technologies.

INSTALLATION
The installation of a new ducted HVAC system would entail a weeks-long, large-scale remodeling effort. It’s no easy feat to fit ductwork into an existing structure. To do so, contractors must open up walls, ceilings, and floors, and in some instances, make alterations to ceiling heights, room dimensions, or even the home exterior. With home additions and new home construction, installation can be accomplished more quickly, with less hassle. Even then, the plans would need to make accommodations for the path and sheer size of the ductwork. It’s a lot of effort to go through in the name of an HVAC system that can so often be counterproductive, detracting from comfort while unnecessarily driving up utility bills. Owing to their compact, non-invasive design, ductless systems are a great deal easier to put into place. For each indoor unit, there only needs to be one refrigerant pipe running out to the condenser through a three-inch opening. Depending on the size of your home, technicians may be able to get your Mitsubishi Electric ductless system up and running within a single day.

In the past, pursuing year-round comfort meant compromise of one form or another. Now, with ductless climate control from Mitsubishi Electric, you don’t have to make any sacrifices. Go ductless and get started with high-performance, customizable climate control designed not only to keep you and your family comfortable year-round, but also to save you serious money each and every month.

Ductless HVAC - Head Unit

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

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


Bob Vila Radio: Why Is the Tap Water Brown?

It's jarring to see brown tap water in your kitchen or bathroom sink. Before you can make the faucet run clear again, you must first understand the cause of the problem.

Does the water coming out of your faucet look a bit like the Mississippi River after a rainstorm? There are at least a few possible explanations of this common problem.

Brown Tap Water

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Listen to BOB VILA ON BROWN TAP WATER or read the text below:

The most likely culprit is rust leeching from an aging galvanized iron pipe. If you mainly notice the discoloration first thing in the morning—or after being away from your home for a while—chances are it’s a supply line. That’s especially true if only one faucet in your home is spewing the brown stuff.

Before you replace any pipes, though, call the local water department to see if anyone else in your neighborhood has reported the same issue. If so, the discoloration may be due to a water-main break (or hydrants being flushed). In either of those cases, you could expect the discoloration to clear in an hour or so.

There are still other possible causes of brown tap water. For instance, if the murky water is coming only from your hot water tap, it would be wise to check the water heater. If it’s more than a decade old, chances are it’s seen better days and needs to be replaced.

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!


Control the Temperature of Your Home—From Anywhere

Thanks to a new generation of internet-enabled thermostats, you can now enjoy an unprecedented level of control over the temperature of your home—and the size of your monthly heating and cooling bills.

Wi-Fi Thermostats

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Smart-home technology has been developing for years now, with forward-looking manufacturers pioneering ever more ingenious ways of connecting formerly static household components to the dynamic Web. In our vision of the high-tech future, thermostats, of all the systems and appliances contained within the average home, may not have leapt to mind as the product category most likely to benefit from cutting-edge advancement. Then again, though not very glamorous, thermostats are critically important, and not simply for home comfort. Considering its crucial function against a background of rising energy costs, one might view the humble thermostat as our first line of defense against skyrocketing heating and cooling bills. Aware of its central role in daily life—and of how much room for improvement there was—companies like Honeywell set out to revolutionize the thermostat for the digital age, and they’ve succeeded spectacularly. Today’s models offer an unprecedented degree of fine-tuned, customizable control. Whereas the thermostat was once a liability in the typical family’s fight to spend less on utilities, it has finally become a valuable—even indispensable—asset.

For decades, whether your thermostat was a mercury or mechanical-contact model, you had three options in its operation: You could turn it up, turn it down, or turn it off. With those limitations, manual thermostats made it quite difficult for the average homeowner to save any money. To do so, he needed to make several strategic thermostat adjustments throughout the day, every day. Many people didn’t have the patience or simply didn’t remember to dutifully capitalize on each savings opportunity. That’s why programmable thermostats were such a welcome breakthrough. For the first time, the budget-conscious homeowner could forget about the thermostat altogether, knowing the heating and cooling appliances would run on the precise schedule he had set. In winter, the heat would automatically go down when the homeowner left for work in the morning. In the summer, the air conditioning would click on 10 minutes before he typically arrived home. Taken together, those small advantages made the programmable thermostat not only a vehicle for reduced monthly bills, but also a tremendous convenience in day-to-day life.

Wi-Fi Thermostats - Connect Comfort App

Photo: supplyhouse.com

The next great step forward in thermostat technology has arrived—Wi-Fi compatibility. Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert with online retailer SupplyHouse.com, explains, “Wi-Fi thermostats offer the same functions and features as standard programmable thermostats—with one major difference. They communicate with your home wireless network, allowing you to monitor and control your system remotely.” In other words, it’s now possible to set your thermostat over the Internet. In some cases, you can even do so using a mobile device. For instance, customers may download the free Honeywell Total Connect Comfort app for smartphones or tablets as a companion to Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostats. With the app, you can set the home climate from anywhere, at any time, whether you’re on the couch or on the go. While thermostat programming remains a money-saver and a comfort convenience, family schedules are always prone to sudden alterations. With Wi-Fi thermostats and the unprecedented level of control they afford, you can instantly adjust your thermostat to accommodate all such inevitable changes.

“Perhaps even more important,” O’Brian continues, “is that your Wi-Fi thermostat can alert you to problems with your equipment.” At first glance, that functionality may not sound so impressive, and with luck, you would never have to avail yourself of it. But make no mistake: In HVAC, as in life generally, knowledge is power. Perhaps the value of system monitoring can be best understood by way of example. Picture this: Your home furnace stops working in the dead of winter, while you’re away on a weeklong vacation in Florida. In the past, furnace failure might have spelled disaster—frozen pipes and the extensive, expensive damage they bring. But if your home were equipped with a Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostat, and if your smartphone had the Honeywell app, you would receive a message alerting you to the problem. Certainly, it would not be happy news, but at least you could take action to protect your home from harm. In the end, heating and cooling appliances don’t simply make the home comfortable, they protect it as well. That being the case, it’s in the homeowner’s best interest to understand the system status at all times.

You don’t need to be an expert to install a Wi-Fi thermostat—far from it. As O’Brian explains, “Wi-Fi thermostats are, for the most part, direct replacements for standard thermostats.” Therefore, swapping one for the other falls within the capabilities of most reasonably savvy do-it-yourselfers. If you’re intent on avoiding a call to the electrician, do a little research before making any purchases. First, check the wiring of your existing thermostat to see if it’s serviced by a dedicated common wire. If so, then you can easily put in most Wi-Fi thermostats—that is, assuming you already have a router and wireless network. If the electrical box does not include a common wire, then you might opt to focus on those Wi-Fi thermostats that do not require one. Alternatively, you could hire a pro to update the wiring. The point is that by understanding the wiring you’ve got and the wiring a given Wi-Fi thermostat needs, you can be sure to choose the right product for you.

Visit online retailer SupplyHouse.com for a large selection of Wi-Fi thermostats from leading manufacturer Honeywell.

Wi-Fi Thermostats - Devices

Photo: supplyhouse.com

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


Bob Vila Radio: The Importance of Water Shutoff Valves

When plumbing problems arise, knowledge of water shutoff valves helps to keep the situation under control.

Protect your home with a little added insurance—insurance that doesn’t cost a nickel—by making sure everyone in your household understands at least one thing about plumbing: water shutoff valves.

How to Find Water Shutoff Valves

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Listen to BOB VILA ON LOCATING WATER SHUTOFF VALVES or read the text below:

After all, knowing where the valves are—and knowing how to operate them—can keep a burst pipe or leaky connection from turning into a big, expensive mess.

Valves usually have either spigot-type handles or a lever. In either case, turn clockwise to turn off the water. You’ll find shutoffs under sinks and toilets, behind the washing machine, and at the top of your hot water heater. Valves for tubs and showers are often tucked behind wood or plastic access panels, but sometimes you’ll find them in an adjoining closet or hallway.

Of course, the most important valve everyone should know about is the main shutoff valve that supplies the whole house. It may be located either inside the house or out. Valves that aren’t used frequently can develop mineral deposits that make them hard or even impossible to turn, so check yours periodically to make sure they work. It’s also a good idea to tag them appropriately.

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.


Is Radiant Heat Right for Your Dream Home?

If you're constructing a new home—or even just expanding with an addition—you want only the best for your new space. So why choose a heating system you're not going to love? This is the perfect time to consider a radiant heating system, which costs less to run than a traditional setup, but provides what those old familiar systems can't—total comfort.

Photo: warmboard.com

Are you designing a home from scratch or even building an addition onto an existing home? Either affords a rare opportunity. You get to decide not only how the living space will look, but also how it will feel—drafty or uniformly comfortable, chilly or pleasantly warm. Depending on where you live, the heating system you select might mean the difference between annual dissatisfaction and total contentment. Unlike a wall color that can be altered countless times with relative ease, an HVAC system is a decision homeowners have to live with for decades. So now is the time to ensure your comfort for years to come.

Growing up with, and mainly having been exposed to, one or another traditional heating system, most of us are accustomed to living with the real limitations of radiators, baseboards, and forced-air vents. Unfamiliar with the alternative, it’s as if we take for granted that home heating has to be hit-and-miss. Well, just as other technologies have advanced by leaps and bounds, HVAC has advanced too. And though it’s been around, in one form or another, for thousands of years, radiant heating has improved to the point of becoming a viable whole-home option well worth your consideration.

Increasing numbers of consumers are choosing radiant heating for a host of reasons—its unparalleled energy efficiency, for example, or its indoor air quality benefits. But most important of all is the total comfort that radiant heating affords. Its “everywhere” warmth produces a qualitatively different experience than traditional systems provide. Indeed, radiant heating may change all your ideas about what home heating is and can be.

Photo: warmboard.com

EVEN HEAT
In a room with a radiator, baseboard, or duct register—that is to say, in most rooms in America—it’s warmest right near the heat source and cooler farther away. That’s why you may find yourself needing a sweater when you’re lying on the sofa, then wanting to shed the extra layer when you’re sitting at the desk. Because radiant heating installs beneath the flooring, it delivers warmth across virtually every square inch of  space. So when occupying different parts of a room, or when moving from one room to the next, you can always expect the temperature to remain the same. In the end, you simply stop noticing the heat’s on.

In contrast, traditional systems constantly call attention to themselves. Take, for instance, today’s most common type of heating—forced air. When the system kicks on, heat roars into the room and continues for a period of time before grinding to a halt. Then, some minutes later, when the room has cooled down to a threshold point, another loud blast invades. With radiant, there are no blasts and no variations—simply steady, even, all-encompassing heat. Plus, whereas other systems make enough noise to interrupt conversation or wake you up at night, radiant heating operates in complete silence.

AIR QUALITY
Some people assume home heating has to involve dust and dry air. That’s not the case, although it may be what these people are used to. After all, forced-air systems kick up a lot of dust. Though intended to circulate warm air, ductwork also ends up distributing dust and other allergens, sometimes even spreading germs. In addition, ducted heating tends to lower the humidity level, in effect drying out the indoor air and creating stuffy, scratchy conditions.

Radiant heating is a breath of fresh air, by comparison. Because the system heats the home from panels installed beneath flooring, there’s zero ductwork. That means a dramatic reduction in the number of airborne particles potentially exacerbating allergies or causing discomfort. At the same time, radiant heating operates in a way that does nothing to detract from the moisture content of the air, so you can say goodbye to those red eyes and that sore throat!

Photo: warmboard.com

ENERGY EFFICIENCY
Traditional heating systems are notorious for their inefficient design. Forced-air heating offers a prime example: As warm air journeys from the furnace to the conditioned space, there’s ample opportunity for the heat to be lost, even if it’s only through the joints that connect two sections of ductwork. To make up for the lost heat, the furnace must work harder—that is, consume more energy—to maintain the target temperature. So you’re essentially paying for the system to work overtime to correct its own flaws. Radiant heating, on the other hand, maximizes energy savings by minimizing heat loss.

That said, not all radiant systems are alike. Yes, all offer advantages over traditional heating, simply by virtue of their design. But different radiant systems include different components, and those components can make a big difference in your monthly bills. In some radiant panels, hydronic tubes (or electric coils) are embedded in a slab of gypsum concrete. Though it’s not without virtues, concrete is too sluggish, too slow in its response time to be an effective component in a modern heating system. That’s why industry leader Warmboard makes panels not with concrete, but with highly conductive aluminum.

Warmboard panels so effectively transfer heat into the home that the boiler can actually get away with heating the water in the system to a lower temperature than other systems would require—30 degrees lower. In fact, Warmboard requires the least energy of any radiant system on the market. With your boiler not having to work so hard, you save 10 to 20 percent on energy costs from month to month—and that’s in addition to what you’d already be saving by having chosen radiant over traditional heat. With radiant, you always get comfort; with Warmboard, you get comfort at a comfortable cost.

Photo: warmboard.com

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


Add Central AC to Your Old House—Without Erasing Its Charm

Old houses are notoriously difficult to retrofit with central air conditioning, and installation can often compromise the home's space and character. Consider the advantages of a mini-duct system, which can cool—or heat—unobtrusively without the need for extensive remodeling.

Mini Duct Air Conditioning

Photo: unicosystem.com

If your home was built before the advent of air conditioning, you’ve likely bemoaned the fact that, for all its historic charm, the structure can’t accommodate this marvel of modern-day comfort, at least not with ease. Sure, in many homes, central AC wouldn’t be impossible to retrofit, but doing so would entail a sacrifice of space or architectural integrity, or both. So, rather than take drastic measures, you’ve settled for and have been living with a seemingly necessary evil—window units.

Sound familiar? If so, there’s something you need to know: Mini-duct HVAC, such as the Unico System, brings state-of-the-art cooling to virtually any home, no matter its age, without necessitating any sacrifice of space or style on the part of the homeowner. Whereas conventional ductwork typically requires a large amount of demolition and remodeling, flexible mini ducts snake though existing wall cavities and ceiling joists, fitting unobtrusively, almost invisibly, into even the tightest nooks and crannies.

Sure, window units may have sufficed in the short term, but if you’re tired of those window-rattling, expensive-to-run eyesores, it may be time to seek out a permanent solution. Relatively few manufacturers are known for mini-duct HVAC, but with a track record of heating and cooling some of the most prestigious historic homes in the United States—Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, D.C., for instance, or Truman’s Little White House in Key West—the innovative Unico System stakes a strong claim as the very best in the business.

Mini Duct Air Conditioning - Room Vents

Photo: unicosystem.com

Size Matters
The Unico System cools—or for that matter, heats—any home, no matter its age or physical configuration. Where conventional HVAC components simply cannot fit, Unico slides right in, thanks to remarkably compact air handlers and highly versatile, unobtrusive ducts. Measuring only two or two and a half inches in diameter, these supply tubes are specially designed to travel behind walls, between joists, and through cramped spaces of the existing structure. Whereas traditional, full-size ductwork can usually be accommodated in older homes only through remodeling, the Unico System bends to the structure’s nuances, allowing you to hold on to your existing square footage and retain the distinctive characteristics that make your home so special in the first place.

Also critical to the Unico System is the air handler, whose blower and coil are the source of the conditioned air responsible for establishing and maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature. Here too, Unico has managed to pack energy-efficient, first-rate performance into a remarkably compact housing. Able to squeeze into an opening only a couple of feet tall or wide, Unico’s air handler can deliver up to three times as much cooling power as a conventional unit with a similar spatial footprint.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind
You’ve seen commonplace air conditioning vents before. If you’ve read this far, it’s safe to assume that you wouldn’t be eager to see such ugly grillwork strewn across the interior of your home. Perhaps needless to say, the Unico System—conceived and engineered around the principle of invisibility—doesn’t settle for traditional metal registers. Instead, its mini ducts terminate in unobtrusive outlets, which can be located wherever they would be least noticeable in a given room—on the ceiling, floor, or wall. Plus, those outlets come in a wide variety of styles so you can choose a style that integrates seamlessly with the colors and textures of your decorating scheme. For a custom look, choose unfinished wood outlets, as those can be painted or stained to your precise specifications. In the same way that Unico requires no major remodeling, it similarly requires no sacrifices in your interior design. Indeed, a successful Unico installation is one you barely see.

Performance Art
Central air conditioning typically pushes a high volume of cool air into the conditioned space, creating a sort of turbulence that causes drafts and creates both hot and cool spots. In short, temperatures vary as you travel from room to room or even as you move about one space. The Unico System sidesteps those all-too-common problems by moderating airflow so that, when air enters your living spaces, it draws the ambient air into its stream. The result is a draft-free environment with a wholly consistent temperature. That’s another way in which Unico remains invisible: Because its effects are entirely uniform, you don’t even notice the system is on.

With most air conditioning systems, you know they’re running because, if nothing else, they make noise. That’s not the case with Unico, whose components are carefully insulated not only for efficiency, but also for sound-attenuating purposes. The mini ducts include nylon inner cores that, besides preventing condensation and thermal loss, manage to quiet the movement of air to a whisper. The air handler, too, operates within a sheath of closed-cell, sound-deadening insulation. Taken together, those details mean that you not only don’t see or feel intrusive evidence of an air conditioning system at work, you can’t hear evidence either.

If you’ve been dreading the idea of living through yet another summer in a steamy house with a series of cumbersome, rattling window units as your only source of relief, it may be time to reconsider your assumption that central air conditioning isn’t a possibility in your place. No matter when your home was built, it can be catapulted into the present day with high-performance, virtually invisible, state-of-the-art HVAC from Unico.

Mini Duct Air Conditioning - Coffered Ceiling

Photo: unicosystem.com

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


This Motion-Sensing Dimmer Fully Automates Your Lighting

Finally, a dimmer for all bulb types that automatically turns on for you when you enter a room. Now that's progress!

Motion Sensing Dimmer Switch from Lutron - Before

Photo: lutron.com

If you’ve bought new light bulbs anytime in the last few years, you know the selection has changed dramatically for the better, with traditional incandescents having been mostly replaced by newer CFLs and LEDs. The transition to more energy-efficient bulbs, however, has not been without its share of hiccups. For example, some people initially struggled to find a next-generation bulb whose output resembles the warm incandescent glow that had become so familiar over past decades. In addition, many homeowners discovered that their old dimmers were not compatible with the latest lighting. Industry leader Lutron has solved that problem by creating a line of cutting-edge dimmers specially designed for use with dimmable CFLs and LEDs. But the company didn’t stop there. With its Maestro C.L Dimmer Sensor, Lutron now offers a dimmer that’s even more fully featured and convenient for today’s homeowner. Leveraging innovative motion-sensor technology, the product actually turns the lights on and off for you, automating your home while saving you time and energy.

Motion Sensing Dimmer Switch from Lutron - Product Solo

Photo: lutron.com

Smooth, Reliable Operation
Though dimmers perform a seemingly straightforward role, they are in fact sophisticated electrical components whose proper functioning depends on a variety of factors. When a homeowner uses CFLs or LEDs in combination with a conventional dimmer, the two may work fine in concert, more or less, but the pairing isn’t UL-listed. That means it has not been determined to meet nationally recognized safety standards. Performance issues may also be evident, including:

dropout: when lights turn off before the slider on the dimmer reaches its lowest setting

pop-on: when lights do not turn on at a low level, abd the slider must be raised for the lights to turn on

flickering: when dimmed CFLs or LEDs flicker excessively or turn off when household devices turn on

Lutron eliminates these problems with the company’s advanced, patented technology that provides improved, safe dimmer performance with dimmable LEDs and CFLs. And though the Lutron C•L line works reliably with the latest bulbs, it also boasts compatibility with incandescents and halogens.

Motion-Sensing Technology
Besides smooth and reliable dimming, the Maestro Dimmer Sensor includes a motion sensor. By configuring the simple press-and-hold settings, you can set the dimmer to turn on the lights when you enter the room, turn off the lights when you exit, or both. For laundry rooms and storage rooms—spaces you are likely to enter with your arms full—automatic lighting provides a high level of convenience. You no longer need to set down your load, hit the light switch, and then carry on with what you were doing. The lights go on for you.

The Maestro Dimmer Sensor employs passive infrared technology (PIR) with Lutron’s XCT sensing technology to sense true human movement. It also uses patented technology to detect fine motion, such as turning a page. In tests comparing the performance of Maestro sensors with the sensors from three other major companies, researchers concluded the Maestro sensors were two to three times better at detecting fine motion. That level of precision helps to ensure that you’re not left in the dark when, for instance, you are working on the computer at night.

The Maestro can save even more energy by sensing the amount of ambient light in the room. When in “Ambient Light Detection” mode, the dimmer turns on the lights only if there’s not enough ambient light, whether from the windows or a table or floor lamp. You like even more light? Hit the switch and, over time, the sensor learns your preferred light level and adjusts.

Lastly, don’t worry about the Maestro compromising your decor. Sleek and unobtrusive, the dimmer comes in 27 colors to match or complement any scheme.

Motion Sensing Dimmer Switch from Lutron - After

Photo: lutron.com

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


Innovative Pipe Fittings Let You Be Your Own Plumber

No soldering, clamps, or glue? Read on to learn about DIY-friendly pipe fittings that make quick work of the improvements and repairs you used to hire a pro to handle.

Sharkbite Fittings

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Quick-connect, push-fit plumbing has been taking a bite out of local plumbing trades, as homeowners discover the ease, versatility, and quality of SharkBite fittings. Their innovative design “allows anyone to connect copper, PVC, and PEX tubing—in any combination—in seconds,” says Daniel O’Brian, technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com. For that reason, “SharkBite fittings are a homeowner’s best friend and the bane of plumbers everywhere.”

When you insert pipe into one of the corrosion-resistant, solid forged brass fittings offered by SharkBite, its stainless steel teeth bite down and grip tightly, while the specially engineered O-ring compresses to form a perfect seal. That means the homeowner can join pipe without soldering and without using clamps, unions, or glue. All you need to do is make sure the end of the pipe is cut square and stripped of rough edges. As O’Brian says, it’s “cut, push, done!”

Made a mistake? With SharkBite fittings, it’s easy to undo a measuring or installation error—something that cannot be said for soldered connections. Simply use the disassembly tool to press the release collar on the fitting. Doing so retracts the teeth within the grab ring, allowing the pipe to be removed. From there, you can reuse the fitting wherever you please. Another convenience: You can even rotate assembled SharkBite fittings for easier installation in tight places.

SharkBite Fittings - Section Diagram

Photo: supplyhouse.com

In the average home, for the average do-it-yourselfer, there are any number of ways to capitalize on the convenience and dependability of SharkBite fittings. For instance, if a pipe freezes over the winter, small cracks may develop once it thaws. After turning off the water supply and flushing the system, you can remove the damaged section of pipe and re-establish the connection, quickly and easily, with a SharkBite coupling—and save yourself the cost of a plumber’s visit.

For all their benefits, SharkBite fittings do come at a premium price. They are ”significantly more expensive than some other options,” says O’Brian of SupplyHouse.com. But, he points out, working with SharkBite means you don’t have to purchase any special materials or tools—soldering paste, for instance, or a propane torch. So, if you are doing small repairs and improvements on a one-off or occasional basis, SharkBite fittings may be the wisest choice.

The SharkBite system includes couplings, elbows, tee fittings, ball valves, stop valves, male and female adapters, conversion couplings, fitting reducers, and an assortment of faucet, toilet, and water heater connectors, all geared toward simplifying additions to, or modifications of, potable water plumbing and hydronic heating systems. All SharkBite fittings are rated to accommodate pressures up to 200 pounds per square inch and temperatures up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

SupplyHouse.com not only carries a large selection of SharkBite products, but has also put the fittings to the test—watch!

 

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