Category: Major Systems

4 Reasons to Ditch Your Furnace for Radiant Heat

Chances are your home uses forced-air heating. While this type of system may be the most common, it has always suffered performance drawbacks. Today, with the availability of better-performing technologies, many homeowners are considering a switch. Find out why so many homeowners are dissatisfied with their forced-air heating—and what they're replacing it with.



Visit any assortment of American homes built in recent years and, though you’ll probably see a range of architectural styles, all are likely to have only one type of HVAC system—forced air. For decades—ever since it first rose to prominence in the wake of the Second World War—forced air has remained a default choice. Indeed, many homeowners are so accustomed to forced air that they mistakenly believe it’s the only way to keep a home comfortable in the cold months of the year.

Given the ubiquity of forced-air heating, it’s often the case that when homeowners complain about their heating—its hit-and-miss performance, its high monthly costs—they are, without necessarily knowing it, criticizing forced air in particular. But throughout Europe and Asia, and increasingly in the United States, homeowners are discovering an alternative in radiant heating. A new technology with ancient roots, radiant heating surpasses forced air in a number of persuasive, important ways.

Keep reading for more information about why so many homeowners are fed up with forced air, and then learn how radiant heating improves upon that increasingly outmoded technology. The bottom line is, radiant heating offers a wholly different—and more comfortable—experience, and operates at least 25 percent more efficiently than its predecessor, representing a dramatic step forward in home heating. It may even change your assumptions about what in-home warmth can be.

A forced-air system works by blowing furnace-heated air into a network of supply ducts, which in turn deliver the air to the various rooms of the house. Once it cools, the air re-enters the ductwork through return registers, finally reaching the furnace, where it will be heated and circulated again. Though this technology is widespread, the notoriously inefficient operation and uneven heating of such systems can be traced back to fundamentally flawed aspects of their design.

Uneven heating. In a room heated by forced air, it’s warmest right near the vent. In fact, it might very well feel a little too warm there. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, you could easily find yourself needing a sweater and a blanket to keep warm. Simply put, hot air is difficult to control. It is not evenly distributed and it will always rise to the ceiling or second floor. So, in the end, your comfort basically depends on your location relative to the nearest vent, or whether you are upstairs or down.

Noisy operation. Traditional forced air calls no small amount of attention to itself. It cycles on and off, creating not only uncomfortable temperature swings, but also a great deal of noise. When the system kicks on, warm air roars into the room and interrupts conversation (or sleep) before, minutes later, grinding to a halt. Then, once the room has cooled down to a threshold point, another loud blast invades—and this annoyance continues all winter long.

Poor air quality. Though intended to channel warm air through your home, ductwork also often ends up collecting and distributing dust and other impurities, including germs. At the same time, the air recirculation that occurs in a forced-air system inevitably leads to stale, dry conditions. You’re probably no stranger to “scratchy” indoor air in the winter. But such unpleasantness is not inevitable. Rather, it stems directly from a heating technology that relies on warm, blown air.

Energy inefficiency. Why does home heating cost those with forced-air systems a small fortune over the winter months? A primary explanation is that ducts are imperfect. Their tendency to leak—even if only through the joints that connect sections—compromises overall system efficiency. To make up for the heat loss, the furnace must work harder and consume more energy to maintain the target indoor temperature. You’re essentially paying extra to correct the flaws of the system.

Technology has improved by leaps and bounds in nearly every avenue of life, including HVAC, and savvy homeowners are beginning to look beyond traditional forced air—a search that has led them to radiant heating. Though it’s been around, in one form or another, since the days of the Roman Empire, radiant heating hasn’t always been a viable whole-home heating option. But today, thanks to contemporary manufacturers like Warmboard, many would argue that radiant heat now outperforms its peers.


While circulating air plays the central role in a forced-air system, water serves a largely similar function in hydronic radiant heat. In a radiant system, after water is raised to a target temperature by a boiler, it’s pumped through a network of tubes that are set into panels beneath the flooring of the home. The water-fed tubes transfer heat to the panels, which then radiate heat outward to materials and objects in the room—first the floor, and then the furniture and people occupying the living space.

Uniform heating. By virtue of the expanse of panels underlying the flooring, radiant heat delivers warmth across virtually every square inch of space. So, no matter where you’re positioned in a room, or even as you’re moving from one room to the next, you can expect the temperature to remain consistent. Plus, in contrast to forced air, there are no uncomfortable swings in radiant heating; the comfort concentrates not in the air above you, but near the floor, at the level you actually inhabit.

Peace and quiet. Many homeowners insist that appliances like dishwashers ought to run quietly, but they seem to have lower expectations when it comes to home heating. People may assume that noise and heat go hand in hand, but they do not. Radiant systems deliver steady, all-encompassing warmth, and they do so in complete silence. In other words, you will be aware of your heating system only because you’re so comfortable, not as a result of the noise it’s making.

Superior air quality. For allergy sufferers and others concerned about indoor air quality, radiant heat can be like a breath of fresh air. First of all, the design of the system involves zero ductwork, which results in a dramatic reduction in the amount of dust wafting through the home. Second, radiant heating operates in a way that does nothing to detract from the moisture content of the air. That means you can bid farewell to the dry conditions that cause red eyes, sore throats, and dry sinuses!

Energy savings. Because it’s ductless, radiant heat maximizes energy savings by minimizing heat loss. Not all radiant systems are alike, however. They all offer efficiency, but the right components can make a big difference in your monthly bills. Take Warmboard, for instance. Its panels are made not with sluggish concrete, but rather aluminum. Because aluminum conducts heat so effectively, these panels require the least energy of any radiant system and reach the set temperature more quickly as well.

Though radiant heat is still relatively rare in the United States, that situation is changing. More and more homeowners are ditching forced air and switching to radiant heat, because the newer technology excels where forced air falls short. Whereas home heating used to entail a choice between comfort and savings—and certain negatives were seen as unavoidable—radiant heat proves that you don’t have to settle for anything less than even, “everywhere” warmth that remains silent and dust-free while dramatically lowering energy bills.


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Bob Vila Radio: Safe Outdoor Holiday Lighting

Your uncle's eggnog isn't the only holiday hazard to be wary of. If you're adding strings of holiday lights to the landscaping on your property, don't ignore the following basic precautions.


If you’re planning to add holiday lights, not only to the tree in your living room, but to the trees and bushes outdoors, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

String Holiday Lights Safety


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First, be sure to plug your string lights into an outlet equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), a protection that cuts power to the circuit if voltage spikes to a dangerously high level. That effectively eliminates the chances of an electrical shock causing a house fire. So if you put on a holiday display year after year, you may want to think about installing a permanent GFCI outlet on your property. Though intended for temporary use, portable GFCI outlets are commonly available at hardware stores and home centers. Another good idea: Invest in extension cords with a built-in voltage detectors. Combined with GCFI outlets, such cords further reduce the chance of an overloaded circuit jeopardizing your home and holiday spirit.

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!

Kickspace Heaters 101

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

Kickspace Heaters - White Bathroom Unit


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

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

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

Kickspace Heaters - Wood Kitchen Unit


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

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

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

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

Kickspace Heaters - Components Isolated


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How To: Troubleshoot a Leaky Washing Machine

Sometimes you need to play detective to determine the source of a washing machine malfunction. Use the following clues to help find the cause of your leaky washer, so you can decide if it’s a DIY fix or you need to call in a pro.

Washing Machine Leaking - Overflowing Washing Machine


Did you know the average American family washes eight loads of laundry a week? That translates to more than 400 loads of wear and tear each year! It’s no wonder that our washing machines develop leaks and inefficiencies over time. Fortunately, many symptoms that lead to a waterlogged room can be treated without a visit from a professional. So, if your overworked appliance has left you with a puddle all over your laundry room floor after your last load, check out the following leads to determine if it’s one of these most common problems—in both top- and front- loading washers—that require a DIY fix, not a service call.

Washing Machine Leaking - Loaded Washing Machine


SCENARIO #1: You just built a pedestal for your washer and dryer, and now your newly situated appliance is spilling water out during the cycles.
An unbalanced machine can cause the entire appliance to shake while it spins and agitates your clothes. The result: Some water spills out and accumulates on your laundry room floor. If you catch the leak in time, adjusting your washing machine pedestal or evening out the floor to stabilize the machine could do just the trick. Just be sure to use a level!


SCENARIO #2: Water is leaking from behind the washer, which you recently installed yourself.
Check to see whether you removed the manufacturer’s temporary plastic drain plug from the new purchase—or if you accidentally left it place when attaching the drain hose. A left-behind drain plug is no problem. Simply turn off the waterline, pull out the plug, and reattached the drain hose.


SCENARIO #3: You observe water escaping during the “spin” cycle.
When you’ve ruled out that it’s not an accidental oversight of leaving the plastic plug in after installation, carefully inspect the hoses for other signs of clogs, loose connectors, or other damage.

A clogged drain hose prevents water from properly flowing down the drain pipe resulting in a backup of H2O, which has nowhere to go but onto your laundry room floor. This common problem often looks like a leak, but it’s actually a blockage. Tackle this easily by softening the clog with hot water and fishing it out with a straightened wire hanger, much like you might a clogged shower drain. Then rinse simply by turning the water back on.

Loose connections between the hoses and the valves could also cause water leak back there. First, turn off the water supply. Then pull the appliance away from the wall to check and tighten the connection of the drain hose, the water hose to the washer valves, and the connections of the water hoses to the inlets.

If not clogged or loose, it might be a damaged drain hose leaking from the connection between the pump and the back of the washer. It’s important to keep enough space between the washing machine unit and the back wall; otherwise the hose may rub against the wall, causing damage to the hose due to constant friction. Inspect the hose thoroughly. If you spot a worn out area or a leak, replace the hose and carefully move your appliance back into place.

When you have ruled out all of the above as responsible for your leak, replace the fill hoses—damaged fill hoses can only lead to bigger problems if they don’t receive immediate attention. If a hole small enough to be missed upon visual inspection is the cause, the end result could cause significant water damage when the line gives way.


SCENARIO #4: It’s official: There’s nothing wrong with the drain hoses, but water continues to seep out during the “spin” cycle.
You’ve exhausted inspection of the hoses and it hasn’t solved the problem, so now it’s time to take a look at another potentially faulty part: the pump. A plugged pump occurs when dirt and other bits of debris (including miscellaneous pieces of fabric, like an orphan sock) build up in this appliance part and cause a blockage. If you’re lucky, an easy-to-clean coin trap accessible at the bottom of the machine will have caught the trouble-making debris; if your machine doesn’t have such a trap, simply remove the drain hose from its outlet and inspect back of your machine for a potential clog at this connection. Seals between the pump and the drain hose could also potentially cause leaks if too brittle or loose, so check to see that they’re secure as a preventative measure.


SCENARIO #5: Only a few minutes into the load, and soap bubbles are everywhere.
Oversudsing common occurs in either top- or front-loading machines, and it boils down to this to the amount of soap used. Repeat after us: Extra soap doesn’t mean extra clean. Instead, too much soap causes clogs in the overflow tubes, which could lead to leaks. Using the right detergent—and the right amount of it—is an easy preventative measure.
• Top-load washing machines with a water softening system need simply to use less detergent for future loads  in order to avoid oversudsing.
• Front-load machines, however, take a small amount of a specific high efficiency detergent. If that’s your appliance, check the packaging of your detergent bottle for an “HE” label to make certain you have the right supplies.


If you’ve ruled out all of the aforementioned causes and your washing machine still leaks, the problem is likely even larger and in need of a  professional’s skillset. A leaky pump and faulty basket gasket or worn out tub seal and bearing all require specialized replacement parts and extensive disassembling of the machine, so it’s best to call in a pro to deal with that leaking H2O.

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

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


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

Three-Way Lamp Sockets


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

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

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

Bob Vila Radio: Power Strips vs. Surge Protectors

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


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

Power Strips vs. Surge Protectors


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

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

Create Your Best-Ever Holiday Home with Customizable Climate Control

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

Zoned Cooling and Heating - Kitchen Unit

Photo: Josh Pabst

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

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

Zoned Cooling and Heating - Dining Room Unit

Photo: Michael Lee

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

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

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

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

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

Happy holidays!

Zoned Cooling and Heating - Bedroom Unit

Photo: Mike Crews

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

Is Your Furnace Going to Survive the Winter?

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

Repairing vs. Replacing a Furnace


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

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

Repairing vs. Replacing a Furnace - Older Model


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

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

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

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

Repairing vs. Replacing a Furnace - House in Winter


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

5 Things to Know Before You Buy a New Boiler

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

How to Choose a Boiler


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

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

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

How to Choose a Boiler - Basement Unit


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

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

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

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


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

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

Wireless Zoned HVAC


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

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

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

Wireless Zoned HVAC - Redlink App


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

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

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

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

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

Wireless Zoned HVAC - Redlink How It Works


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