Category: Major Systems

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.


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

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

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

Wireless Zoned HVAC


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

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

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

Wireless Zoned HVAC - Redlink App


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

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

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

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

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

Wireless Zoned HVAC - Redlink How It Works


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A Cheap and Easy Way to Slash Your Water Bill

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

How to Choose a Faucet Aerator


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

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

How to Choose a Faucet Aerator - Sink Kitchen


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

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

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

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

How to Choose a Faucet Aerator - SupplyHouse Array


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So, You Want to… Install Radiant Heating

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

Radiant Heat Installation 2


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

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

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

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



Radiant Heat Installation - New House


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

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



Radiant Heat Installation - Conductivity


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

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

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



Radiant Heat Installation - Under Hardwood


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

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

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


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

Radiant Heat Installation - Dog Snooze


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Bob Vila Radio: How to Cut PVC Pipe

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


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

How to Cut PVC Pipe


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

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

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

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

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

Streamline Cooling and Heating with One System for Year-Round Comfort

Ductless cooling and heating systems offer energy-efficient and responsive climate control in a compact, unobtrusive package. Read on to learn more about the benefits of this increasingly popular technology.

Ductless Mini Split Systems

Photo: Josh Pabst

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

The average homeowner typically doesn’t get to select his own HVAC system. Instead, he or she usually inherits the components decided upon by a previous owner or the original builder. That said, many common scenarios give you the freedom to choose your own climate-control technology. Making your choice, however, can be difficult. After all—compared with, say, picking a paint color—picking an HVAC system raises some intimidatingly complex questions. On the one hand, given rising energy costs, it’s hard to overstate the importance of efficiency. On the other hand, because climate control so greatly influences home comfort, there are key considerations beyond operating cost alone. Complicating matters even further is that, in many parts of the country, extreme conditions call for both wintertime heating and summertime cooling. In short, there’s a lot to think about.

In search of a simple, highly effective solution, increasing numbers of homeowners are choosing to forgo traditional options in favor of the extreme energy-saving, comfort-creating, compact ductless systems from Mitsubishi Electric.



Ductless Mini Split Systems - How It Works


Americans are accustomed to large-scale HVAC systems that are made even more unwieldy by elaborate networks of ducts. True to their name, ductless systems from Mitsubishi Electric do not require ductwork (though they can be integrated with existing ducts, if desired). The company’s ductless systems are considerably more compact than conventional forced-air configurations. In fact, the most basic Mitsubishi Electric system includes only three components—an outdoor condenser, an indoor unit and a handheld remote controller. The outdoor and indoor units are connected by a pair of refrigerant pipes small enough to fit through a three-inch hole in the exterior wall. A large home with ductless cooling and heating would require multiple indoor units, and maybe even multiple condensers, but no matter the square footage of the conditioned space, Mitsubishi Electric never veers from its fundamentally streamlined design. Precisely because they’re so nonintrusive, Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems lend themselves to straightforward, labor-saving installation. A conventional ducted HVAC system might take weeks to set up, but a Mitsubishi Electric system can often be installed in one day.



Ductless Mini Split Systems - HVAC Efficiency


Enter any residence built in the years following World War II, and regardless of the neighborhood, house size, or architectural style, you’re likely to see ductwork. Though ubiquitous, ducts are infamous for their poor energy efficiency. Particularly when traveling through uninsulated space, ducts lose enough energy to compromise the overall system efficiency by around 25 percent. The furnace or air conditioner must then work overtime to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, and at the end of the month the homeowner has to pay more to the energy company, all because forced-air HVAC is hampered by a serious design flaw. Consider that Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems come with none of the air-leak, dirty-duct problems that cause older cooling and heating options to run up such high costs. In fact, many products belonging to the Mitsubishi Electric line are rated by ENERGY STAR®, indicating that they operate on dramatically less energy than their peers. In fact, if you opt for a ductless system from Mitsubishi Electric, you can expect bills that are 30-40 percent lower than what you may be accustomed to paying.



Ductless Mini Split Systems - Unparalleled Comfort


Even though Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems lead to lower utility bills, they don’t skimp on performance. On the contrary, the inexpensive-to-run technology still manages to deliver cooling and heating of a caliber well above that of forced-air systems. In part, that’s because conventional HVAC usually cycles on and off, creating uncomfortable temperature swings. Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems, on the other hand, maintain even temperatures by constantly monitoring the ambient temperature and adjusting their output accordingly. Mitsubishi Electric departs from tradition in yet another way. In a typical forced-air installation, one thermostat controls the temperature for the entire house. That means if you want the upstairs bedroom to be a bit cozier, you must also heat the kitchen, even if your spouse has already complained that it feels too warm. Mitsubishi Electric enables you to establish different zones, each with its own indoor unit and thermostat. That way, different family members with different climate-control preferences can all be comfortable at the same time—finally.



Ductless Mini Split Systems - Year Round Performance


Even in extreme winter temperatures, you can depend on the most advanced Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems for unflagging comfort. At temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit, systems equipped with Hyper-Heating INVERTER capability ensure that homeowners retain the efficiency and comfort benefits without resorting to supplemental heat that set Mitsubishi Electric apart. Heating mode also incorporates a set of special additional features. For instance, thanks to patented technology, INVERTER systems reach their target temperature in much less time than it would take a traditional furnace to warm up. If you’re used to wearing your scarf and gloves indoors, just wait: With Mitsubishi Electric, total comfort is mere moments away. And it couldn’t be easier to toggle between cooling and heating modes—it takes only the push of a button. When cooling, the ductless system collects heat from the home and sends it outside. In winter, operation reverses. That’s right, Mitsubishi Electric harvests heat in below-zero weather and uses it to keep your home toasty warm through the coldest days of the year!


In the end, many homeowners view HVAC as a source not only of cooling and heating, but also of confusion and mystery. There’s little mystery, however, about the appeal of Mitsubishi Electric ductless systems. With one simple solution, you can achieve total comfort and save money, all year-round.

Ductless Mini Split Systems - Outdoor Unit Isolated


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

Achieve Lower Bills and Cleaner Air with One Simple Replacement

How long has it been since you replaced your system's filter? Changing it regularly can keep your HVAC appliance—and you—healthier.



Believe it or not, in one fell swoop you can lower your energy bills and improve the air quality in your home. The secret? It’s simple: Clean or replace your HVAC filter on a frequent, regular basis. Some savvy homeowners are well aware of the vital role the HVAC filter plays, but many people don’t even know it exists, let alone that it requires attention. Those who neglect their HVAC filter do so to the detriment of their home, as failure to clean or replace the component creates not-so-insignificant problems. For one thing, a clogged filter forces the heating and air conditioning system to work harder than strictly necessary. That means, in the near term, higher monthly energy costs. Over the long term, stressed HVAC equipment doesn’t last as long, reaching the end of its useful lifespan well before it would have under optimal conditions. In addition, a clogged filter potentially leads not only to a dustier home, but to higher concentrations of airborne particulates. Costly in terms of both money and health, these surprisingly common issues can be easily solved, if not totally prevented, through maintenance.

Replacing HVAC filters - Air Filter Pleated


The HVAC filter traps dust, dirt, and miscellaneous debris, but its main purpose isn’t to purify the air. In fact, the filter exists first and foremost to protect your heating and cooling appliances. Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert with, says, “Air filters defend your heating and cooling equipment from all the horrible stuff floating around in your home.” It’s in the process of protecting the system itself that the HVAC filter ends up protecting both you and your bottom line. After all, the same things that hamper indoor air quality also work to hamper the proper operation of a forced-air heating and cooling system. With a fresh filter in place, more dust and other particulates get removed from circulation, benefitting both your climate control appliances and your family. In the absence of debris that would upset its efficiency, your system runs at minimal cost and, according to O’Brian, “doesn’t burn out before it should.” In a sense, the HVAC system rewards you for taking care of it. The trick is to check—and if necessary, clean or replace—the filter not once in a blue moon, but on a consistent schedule.

How often do you need to inspect the filter? That depends not only on the type of filter you’re using, but also on a host of variables specific to your home. To illustrate this point, O’Brian explains, “If you smoke or have pets, you should be checking the filter more often than your neighbors do.” Barring those factors, manufacturers recommend checking the HVAC filter with each change of season. Remembering to do so may be the most difficult part of all. O’Brian notes that “some thermostats or systems can be programmed to remind you when to check the filter.” But if you happen to forget, certain signs indicate that the filter requires maintenance. For one thing, keep an eye on the dust levels in your home. If you notice an excessive buildup of dust, a clogged HVAC filter may be to blame. Likewise, if your heating or air conditioning system seems to be running non-stop (not cycling on and off), chances are good your filter needs to be cleaned or replaced.

Many filter types are readily available. While some are designed to be disposable, others are meant to be reused. When a disposable filter becomes clogged, you simply throw it away and replace it with a new one. In the case of a reusable filter, you rinse away the clog, then put the filter back into position. Both types do a fine job of protecting the HVAC equipment, but the latter usually capture a wider spectrum of impurities. For their relative ability to boost indoor air quality, filters receive a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value—a MERV rating. “The higher the MERV rating, the tinier the particulates that can be filtered,” O’Brian of summarizes. Average homeowners are well served by any filter with a MERV rating between 10 and 12. Though filters with higher MERV ratings cost more up front, their reusability means they last longer. Plus, reusable filters need less frequent attention—every four months, compared to every month or two.

Whether disposable or reusable, a new filter must be appropriately sized for the HVAC unit. “Sizing is pretty simple,” O’Brian explains. “Basically, just measure what you’ve got and get a replacement with the same dimensions.” For help selecting a filter, contact the professionals at The company offers a wide assortment of replacement filters for industry-leading heating systems, air conditioners, and air cleaners. You can also get advice on installing the new filter, although generally speaking, the task couldn’t be much simpler. Anyone can do it, and in most cases it takes only a couple of minutes. Procedures vary from one appliance to another, but typically the process is as follows: turn off the heating or cooling unit; locate and remove the service panel; slide out the existing filter (located near the intake/outtake blower fan); slide in a new filter; and turn the appliance back on. Indeed, there’s perhaps no quicker, easier way to maximize the efficiency of your HVAC system while helping to improve the air that you and your family breathe day in and day out in the comfort of your home.

Replacing HVAC Filters - Side by Side Pleated Models



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Bob Vila Radio: TLC for Your Window AC

As summer wanes and lower temperatures mercifully return, you may soon say goodbye to your window air conditioner. But prior to putting the appliance away, devote some time to a basic tuneup. That way, you can be sure that when summer rolls around next year, you're primed and ready to go.


Window air conditioners: We turn to them in the dog days of summer, turn them off when the weather cools down, and forget about them the rest of the time.

Window Air Conditioner Maintenance


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To make sure the unit operates correctly the next time you need it, give your AC some much-needed TLC. First, unplug the unit and, with a putty knife, remove the front grill and internal filter. Clean both parts with a mixture of warm water, dish soap, and white vinegar. If your filter happens not to be washable, swap in a replacement.

Next, clean any of the cooling coils you can access, vacuuming them with the brush attachment. Afterward, scrub the coils with a plastic brush. If you encounter any bent fins along the way, consider using a simple fin comb (available at your local home center) to straighten them out, ensuring proper future performance.

Once you’ve let all the different components dry out completely, re-assemble the window air conditioner and let it run for a few minutes. Listen carefully and, if you hear excessive fan noise, tighten the blade’s set screw and fastening bolts. If you suspect that any sealed parts of the appliance need service, contact a repair professional.

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!

When’s the Right Time to Install Radiant Heating?

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

Installing Radiant Heat


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

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

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


Installing Radiant Heat - New Construction System


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



Installing Radiant Heat - Renovation System


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



Installing Radiant Heat - Home Addition System


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


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

Building Your Dream House? Choose Unobtrusive and Efficient HVAC

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

Mini Duct HVAC


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

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

Mini Duct HVAC - Unico System Glass House


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mini Duct HVAC - Unico System Modern Interior


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