Major Systems - Bob Vila

Category: Major Systems


Replacing Your Water Heater? Don’t Overlook This One Key Factor

If you're in the market for a new water heater, installation will be easier if you stick to a water heater that vents the same way as your old one. But there are considerations beyond ease of installation. Read on to learn more.

Water Heater Venting - Faucet Closeup

Photo: istockphoto.com

When a home’s plumbing system is operating problem-free, homeowners rarely give any thought to the water heater. It’s a much different story when this vital appliance malfunctions, interfering with all those essential daily activities that require a ready supply of hot water. When that happens—being forced to take cold showers or clean dinner dishes by hand—you’re probably going to find yourself thinking about the water heater quite a bit!

If your water heater seems like it’s on its last legs, or if it’s stopped working altogether, there’s every temptation to install a replacement as soon as possible. Rushing this decision would be a mistake, though. First of all, there are many different types of water heaters, and they boast a wide range of energy-efficiency profiles. How much you’ll wind up paying to heat water on an ongoing basis depends to a great extent on the type of water heater you choose.

There’s also another, subtler reason to take your time: “Choosing a replacement water heater wisely often means avoiding unnecessary installation costs,” according to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com. If your current water heater requires venting, and most do, then it’s usually cheapest to go with a replacement unit that vents the same way. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up paying more than strictly necessary for installation.

That’s not to say there’s never any justification for switching to a water heater that vents differently than the old unit. As O’Brian points out, “A replacement that saves you a lot on your energy bills may be well worth the added installation cost.” In assessing your water heater options, it’s wise to consider the question of ventilation, but when it finally comes time to make a purchase, O’Brian says, “Be sure to weigh both the upfront and ongoing costs.”

Water Heater Venting Types

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Does every water heater need ventilation? No—but as much as water heater technology has changed in recent years, combustion water heaters remain the most common. That is, the average water heater still burns fuel—be it natural gas, oil, or propane—and that fuel burning releases byproducts like carbon monoxide. Without proper ventilation of the noxious gases created by combustion, modern water heating would be a dangerous proposition.

If you’re shopping for a solar- or electric-powered water heater, or if you live in a warm climate and plan on locating your water heater outdoors, then you don’t have to think about ventilation. Virtually all other installations, however, require some sort of exterior venting, but not every venting system functions the same way, and as a result, installation requirements can vary widely.

Atmospheric venting refers to a system in which exhaust from the water heater naturally rises out of the appliance’s combustion chamber, then travels up through a standard, chimney-style flue that terminates on the roof. Unlike some other types of ventilation, the atmospheric variety doesn’t call for the inclusion of a motorized fan, but it does require an exhaust pipe that stretches all the way from the water heater to the roof without interruption.

Direct venting and power venting systems offer greater flexibility, because neither requires a direct line to the roof. Instead, both systems typically expel exhaust through a pipe that runs outside through an exterior wall. The difference is that a power vent water heater pulls in combustion air from the space around the appliance, then uses a fan to propel the exhaust through the vent. A direct vent system pulls in air from outside and then vents the exhaust through a horizontal pipe. This difference in operation means that you can install a direct vent system almost anywhere, but a power vented water heater must be placed in a room with adequate airflow.

“Choosing between powered and non-powered venting can often come down to simply how the house is laid out and where there is room for the venting,” notes O’Brian of Supply House.

Water Heating Venting - Direct vs. Power

Photo: supplyhouse.com

O’Brian recommends consulting with a contractor even if you plan to upgrade to a water heater that vents no differently than your old unit. It may seem like a straightforward swap, but when you’re dealing with potentially lethal gases, O’Brian cautions, “It’s very bad to have even minor leaks.” In other words, take no chances. Do your research, choose an efficient unit with a capacity that meets your family’s needs, then leave all the rest to your installer.

SupplyHouse.com offers water heaters and accessories from top manufacturers—Takagi, Bradford White, A.O. Smith, and others—across a broad selection that spans all common fuel types, sizes, and ventilation options. Need help selecting the most suitable water heater for your needs and budget? Remember: The SupplyHouse.com team is always on hand to help. Visit the website or call 1-888-757-4774 to speak with customer service today!

Water Heater Venting - Atmospheric Example

Photo: supplyhouse.com

This article has been brought to you by SupplyHouse.com.


The Best Heating System You’ve Never Heard Of

For virtually every common homeowner complaint about traditional home heating, there's a solution that already exists. Embarking on a major building or remodeling project? Consider hydronic radiant heat.

Photo: warmboard.com

We’re just days away from the start of the holiday season. That means now is the time for good cheer and glad tidings. But if you’re like a lot of people, you’re greeting the coming winter with a grudge. Why? Because the apples ripening and the leaves changing color and the air turning crisp—they all add up to say the same thing: heating season is here again. Oh, joy.

Few things infuriate homeowners as much as paying too much for home heating that provides too little in the way of comfort. Yet relatively few actually go so far as to address the situation head-on by replacing the heating system responsible for their frustration year after year. You replace the furnace, sure, but not the central forced-air heating system the furnace belongs to.

Of course, it’s no small undertaking to replace a heating system. It’s likely for that reason that homeowners often end up sticking with the aging technology—starting over would be too costly and disruptive. Still, there are at least a few times when homeowners get the chance to choose their own heating system rather than inherit someone else’s choice.

If you’re gut-renovating, putting on a home addition, or building a brand-new house, a range of heating options await you in the market. The emerging favorite among industry pros? Radiant floor heating. Read on to learn how it stacks up against forced air…

 

HOT AIR VS. RADIANT HEAT

Photo: warmboard.com

You know how a traditional forced-air system works: Warm air blasts through a vent somewhere in the room. Next to the vent, it’s plenty warm—probably too warm. But as you move farther away from the vent, it gets cooler and cooler. So, your comfort at any given time depends on your location relative to the nearest vent. You don’t get consistent comfort from wall to wall, room to room. Why? Because forced air HVAC traffics in warm air, and that warm air rises to the ceiling disperses upon entering the room, inevitably resulting in uneven temperatures.

Radiant floor heating operates in an entirely different way. Boiler-heated water travels through tubing set into radiant panels under the floor. The water heats the panels, the panels heat the floor, and the floor heats the room.

What does it feel like? With heat concentrated at floor level, evenly distributed across the entire square footage, radiant heating offers its own unique, qualitatively different experience. Instead of spotty, intermittent warmth, you get constant, enveloping comfort, no matter where you happen to be standing or sitting, no matter what you’re room you’re in, or what floor you’re on.

 

BIG BILLS VS. BIG SAVINGS

Photo: warmboard.com

Many homeowners take it for granted that heating costs a small fortune. But while heating your home may never be as cheap as lighting your home, it’s eminently possible to achieve savings. Look no further than radiant heating. Studies conclude that in comparison to conventional forced air, radiant heat systems operate with much greater efficiency—25% greater, at least.

How come? For one thing, chronic leaking in ductwork forces the furnace and its energy-guzzling blower to work overtime to achieve the target temperature setting. The house itself leaks too, with conditioned air often escaping through the gaps around windows and doors. After all, warm air isn’t easily controlled. Those who live in homes heated by forced air often don’t even feel significant portions of the warmth that their energy dollars pay for. In turn, homeowners crank the thermostat up ever higher, only exacerbating the problem.

An important point: It’s true that on the fundamental level of design and technology, radiant heating offers efficiency advantages over forced air. But from one radiant heating to the next, there are enormous differences in construction and materials. Those enable some manufacturers to offer exceptional, better-than-rest savings on monthly energy bills. Case in point: Warmboard.

Warmboard faces its radiant panels with aluminum—a material many, many times more conductive than other systems that rely on gypsum concrete or wood to transfer the heat. What’s efficient about high conductivity? It enables Warmboard to heat the home to the target temperature more quickly while using less energy than would be necessary otherwise. For that homeowner, that means, quite simply, lower month-to-month utility bills.

 

LOUD AND DUSTY VS. QUIET AND CLEAN

Photo: istockphoto.com

Besides better heating delivered more efficiently, radiant also offers day to day quality-of-life benefits. For starters, the technology operates in all but total silence. You don’t hear the system running. (You don’t see it either, because whether installed beneath flooring or set up in the utility room, all system components hide out of view). Try saying that about forced air!

Just as important is that radiant heating technology promotes home health, while to a great extent, forced air does the opposite. Because forced air has been so ubiquitous for so long, it’s like we’ve forgotten it’s even possible to be comfortable indoors during winter without having to endure dusty, dry air. But such conditions aren’t inevitable; forced-air heating basically creates them.

Think about it: Over time, as dust collects in the home, it gradually makes way into the ducts. From there, the dust enters the HVAC system and recirculates through he home, over and over. Maintaining the furnace and its filter helps matters, but only to a degree. Meanwhile, with warm air intermittently blasting into each and every room, the humidity level goes low and stays low.

For allergy sufferers—indeed, for anyone concerned with the issue of indoor air quality—radiant heating represents a breath of fresh air. That’s not because the technology comes with a raft of fancy, newfangled health features, but rather simply because its smart design sidesteps ductwork and blown air, two fixtures of forced air that have been causing winter discomfort for years.

 

We didn’t always have better performing, higher efficiency, quieter running and cleaner alternatives to forced air. In fact, 20 years ago, many pros didn’t even consider radiant to be viable for whole-home heating. Since then, in the hands of industry innovators, the technology has only advanced, slowly but surely altering the HVAC landscape for the better, and for good.

 

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


Now You See It, Now You Don’t: Designing Around Your HVAC

Homeowner fact: We have to “live around” certain home necessities—like electrical cords, utility meters, and ugly, loud HVAC components—right? Wrong! Read on to learn how you can achieve comfort at home with design-smart cooling and heating options.

How to Design Around Your HVAC

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Comfort and convenience don’t have to compromise your home’s design aesthetic. Innovative and viable alternatives to conventional heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling and Heating (Mitsubishi Electric) are so compact and subtle that the delivery of conditioned air goes practically undetected. A combination of ducted and ductless components offers nearly invisible comfort, from installation through operation.

How to Design Around Your HVAC

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

SIMPLE, SPEEDY INSTALLATION
A conventional system utilizes an extensive amount of ductwork which runs a higher risk of being installed improperly. Looping and dipping in long duct runs can lead to compromised airflow. The more ductwork throughout the home, the more likely you are wasting energy through leaks and inefficiencies.

Zoned Comfort Solutions™ from Mitsubishi Electric are turning these conventional methods on their heads. In fact, depending on the configuration recommended to heat and cool any space in your home, the system can often be installed in less than a day by a qualified Diamond Contractor™ (a certified Mitsubishi Electric installer). If it sounds too good to be true, it’s not. Ductless options, for example, need only a three-inch opening in the outside wall to run two small pipes between the outdoor condenser and an indoor air-handler. No extensive remodeling or renovations required!

UNOBTRUSIVE DESIGN
What sets Mitsubishi Electric apart from the rest? Their cooling and heating systems are equipped with variable speed heat pump technology, meaning it can save homeowners up to 40 percent on energy costs. Now most homeowners who have heard of mini-splits, or variable speed technology, immediately think of an indoor unit sitting prominently on the wall, but Mitsubishi Electric provides many more options than the wall-mounted product. Indoor unit options are dependant on the configuration of the system, style needs, and engineering design, and even include ducted versions. Ducted systems typically utilize shorter duct runs but can be utilized to condition small or large spaces depending on the requirements and function like a traditional air conditioning system. Added bonus: Installation is so painless that you may hardly see the contractors, let alone the new HVAC components!

“Mitsubishi Electric has always prioritized the needs of homeowners, which are often comfort, indoor air quality, and energy savings,” says Michelle Robb, director of residential marketing at Mitsubishi Electric, “but now we can also reach those who want a beautiful room.” That’s right: On top of the advanced comfort control, dependable service, and innovative technology (for instance, the heat pumps’ Hyper-Heating INVERTER technology can deliver heat even when outdoor temperatures drop to -13 degrees Fahrenheit), Zoned Comfort Solutions are also easy on the eyes.

Even ducted units from Mitsubishi Electric tuck neatly into wall and ceiling cavities, with their short-run, low-profile ductwork fully concealed and, as already mentioned, the flexible multi-position air handler can be strategically positioned nearby. For rooms without enough space behind the walls, Mitsubishi Electric offers its Designer Series, attractive wall-mounted mini-split units that allow your HVAC system to complement your design scheme rather than fight it. These appliances boast a sleek and modern design that comes in three finishes: a glossy black that exudes luxury; a silver that pairs well with stainless steel appliances; and a white that effortlessly integrates with light, modern interiors.

And, thanks to the unique compatibility among most Mitsubishi Electric products, homeowners don’t have to choose just one style for the whole house—they can mix and match! Any home can feature both slim ductless units and ducted styles. In the same way that Zoned Comfort Solutions offer more control by splitting a home into zones that can be cooled or heated by separate temperature controllers, so too can the system offer greater design customization from zone to zone.

 

How to Design Around Your HVAC

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

WHISPER-QUIET OPERATION
Given all the effort Mitsubishi Electric has put towards designing Zoned Comfort Solutions that are practically invisible, rest assured that the system won’t disturb your comfortable indoor sanctuary by making lots of noise. Unlike old, outdated cooling and heating systems, ductless and short-run ducted systems deliver cooled and heated air directly to the rooms they serve, with quiet variable-speed fans. Indoor units function as low as 19 dB(A), quieter than a human whisper, while the outdoor units operate as low as 58 dB(A)—about the level of a restaurant conversation or background music.

The secret to the system’s enhanced invisibility? All the components are designed to work in quiet harmony and incorporate sound-limiting features like an insulated compressor compartment and vibration dampeners. You won’t even hear the system start up as you would conventional HVAC equipment, because its highly efficient INVERTER-driven compressor technology lets the system run constantly. When the temperature set point is adjusted, or conditions outside change, the compressors ramp up or down using the minimum energy required. That way, your cherished interior spaces will be free of distraction, whether auditory or visual, and all you’ll experience is calm, quiet comfort.

 

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


Leak Detectors: Your Best Bet to Ward Off Water Woes

Did you know that investing in a simple device—or two—could save you from the headache of water damage from undetected leaks, or even from a burst pipe when you're far from home?

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Your home represents your single greatest investment, and you treat it accordingly by taking precautions to safeguard against any number of worst-case scenarios. You arm the security system on your way out the door, and you also make a habit of testing the smoke alarms every few months. But if you’re anything like countless other homeowners across the country, there’s one potentially devastating risk lurking in your home that you’ve probably ignored until now—water, more specifically, household leaks.

Believe it or not, the Insurance Information Institute recently concluded that between 2010 and 2014, water- and freeze-related damage ranked second on the list of the top causes of property damage. According to the study, more than 2.5 million homeowners have to contend with a leak event each year. What kind of damage are we talking about? The extensive, expensive-to-repair kind. For proof look no further than the fact that the average water damage insurance claim amounts to a whopping $8,000.

Make no mistake: “Water leaks can cause severe property damage,” according to Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com. Of course, it’s one thing if the refrigerator leaks a few ounces of water onto a tiled kitchen floor. But if the water heater ruptures or a plumbing line fails, the sheer volume of water that ends up where it’s not supposed to go can lead to “effects not only in the immediate leak area, but also in nearby rooms or even on the floor or floors below,” O’Brian explains.

Water is constantly flowing through a network of pipes that span the entire home in order to service everything from bathroom and kitchen fixtures to major appliances. With all this water cycling around the house, “it’s simply not possible to fully prevent any leaks of any kind from ever occurring,” O’Brian says. You can, however, go a long way toward minimizing damage simply by identifying and containing a leak as quickly as possible. O’Brian concludes, “There’s a huge difference between a leak that continues for days and one that you address right away.”

What really complicates matters is that leaks often start in areas of the home that don’t get a lot of foot traffic. For instance, if your water heater sits in the basement and you rarely make the trip downstairs, “it might take a while, maybe even a week, before you notice the problem.” Then, as you go about your day-to-day life, oblivious to the leak, the damage gets worse and worse, and the likelihood of mold and mildew growth, wood rot, structural issues, and pest infestation increases by the minute.

In short, when it comes to protecting your home against leak-wrought havoc, “Nothing matters more than your ability to catch the problem pretty much as soon as it starts.” That’s why experts like O’Brian counsel homeowners to view leak detectors the same way they view smoke alarms—as no-brainer, must-have essentials. Similar to their fire-safety cousins, leak detectors come in a handful of different forms, each with its own pros and cons. Continue reading now for details on the most common options.

 

BASIC ALARM

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Inexpensive to purchase and a cinch to set up, a basic leak detector like the Zoeller Aquanot Flood Alert features two key components—a moisture sensor and an alarm. When a leak triggers the sensor, the alarm goes off and continues to emit a loud sound until the sensor no longer detects any moisture. Some basic leak detectors run on batteries while others plug into the wall, but none cost much more than $20. The low price means you can afford to put one in every vulnerable area of your home. There’s just one major drawback. As O’Brian explains, “For this type of leak detector to be effective, someone needs to be at home to hear the alarm.” If you’re not going to hear it until you get home from work hours later—or if there’s no chance that you’ll hear the alarm because you’re away on a week-long vacation—then a basic, audio-only leak detector doesn’t do much good.

 

SMART ALARM

Photo: supplyhouse.com

An internet-enabled leak detector works in much the same way as a basic one, except that in addition to sounding an alarm, a “smart” detector sends an instant notification to your smartphone. Some even sense not only moisture, but freeze conditions as well. For instance, the Honeywell Lyric Water Leak and Freeze Detector triggers when its four-foot sensing cable comes into contact with either the presence of moisture or temperatures below or approaching 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In effect, it’s a safeguard against both actual leaks and leaks that might occur if a frozen pipe bursts. The best part? “No matter where you are at the time, you’ll know there’s a problem in need of attention,” O’Brian explains. What are the cons? Setup requires more time and effort than with a basic device, and smart detectors cost more—typically about three times more.

 

WATER HEATER LEAK DETECTOR

Photo: supplyhouse.com

Given their purpose and historically leak-vulnerable design, water heaters have a reputation for carrying elevated risk. That being so, many decide to install a water heater-specific leak detector. O’Brian notes, “These generally install in the pan that sits right under the tank,” though some models include a cord-like sensor that wraps around the tank itself. When triggered, a water heater leak detector—the Watts FloodSafe Water Detector Shutoff, for example—actually cuts off the water supply to the appliance. As a specific safeguard against a specific vulnerability, “there’s no better way to go,” O’Brian says. Why? Because without automatic shutoff, a leaking water heater would continue leaking indefinitely, making an already bad situation much worse. You’ll have to pay for that protection, though. Such devices typically cost a few hundred dollars and require professional installation.

 

WHOLE-HOUSE WATER SHUTOFF

Photo: supplyhouse.com

A whole-house water shutoff device like the Taco Floodbreaker delivers the most comprehensive protection available. How does it work? Like other leak detectors, the technology relies on sensors—but only up to a point. A whole-house device also actively monitors household water usage, and if it ever detects an extreme spike, it blocks additional water from entering the home through the main line. Bear in mind that models like the Taco Floodbreaker don’t come cheap, not least because installing one isn’t a do-it-yourself project. In fact, you can expect the installation to cost as much as or more than the device itself, for a total project investment in the range of $2,000. On one hand, that’s a lot of money. On the other hand, recovering from a leak event could potentially cost you a whole lot more. Plus, as O’Brian points out, “you can’t put a price on peace of mind.”

Ultimately, there are many reasons to consider installing a leak detector, and depending on your circumstances, it could make sense to invest in more than one. O’Brian asserts, “If you have an old water heater, live in a house with old and unreliable plumbing, or live in an area prone to flooding, you may want to think seriously about leak detectors.” More broadly, consider the fact that though we all live in close proximity to water—we can even summon it with a twist of a handle or a push of a button!—it never ceases to be a threat to our homes and just about everything in them.

Photo: honeywellstore.com

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


7 Important Reasons Never to Skip Your HVAC’s Yearly Checkup

Can't remember your last HVAC tune-up? Mark your calendars now, and read on for why skipping this piece of routine maintenance is risky business.

7 Reasons to Never Skip Your Yearly HVAC Checkup

Photo: istockphoto.com

Out of sight, out of mind: If your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system has recently been operating well, you probably haven’t given a thought to scheduling a professional checkup. Lucky for you, we’re coming up on one of the two best times of the year to do so! Smart homeowners schedule HVAC checkups before seasons of heavy use: in the fall before it’s time to run the furnace to heat your home, and in spring before turning on the AC to cool it. Neglecting to have your HVAC serviced at least once a year, though, could put the system—as well as the comfort and health of your family—at risk. Keep reading to learn why professionals like David Kenyon, a Project Consultant for Sears Home Services HVAC Department, insist upon this essential maintenance. In fact, the experts at Sears recommend preventative maintenance checks in the fall and spring.

1. You Can Help Avoid Breakdowns—and Costly Repairs
The worst time to discover a problem with your furnace is the dead of winter. Not only will you be left in the lurch comfort-wise, but repairs are almost always more costly than preventive measures. Even worse, in the wake of a breakdown, you could be stuck without heated or cooled air until a technician can order parts to repair the broken unit. During a professional checkup through Sears Home Services, however, potential problems are identified and fixed before they can lead to larger problems that could cause a component failure.

“With newer model HVAC systems, our technicians can use plug-in diagnostics, similar to the diagnostics auto mechanics use to find problems with newer cars,” Kenyon says. “It’s a great way to ensure that every component of the system is functioning correctly.”

2. You’ll Help Protect Your Warranty
Those high costs for replacement parts and repair service? Well, if you’re hoping that the manufacturer’s warranty will help cover the expense of an unfortunately timed disaster, don’t neglect your unit’s annual checkup.

“Manufacturer warranties require regular professional maintenance in order to remain in effect,” Kenyon explains. “If the homeowners do not follow the exact terms of their warranty, the manufacturer could void it.”

Study your warranty, adhere to its terms carefully, and keep records of each time you have the system serviced.

7 Reasons to Never Skip Your Yearly HVAC Checkup

Photo: istockphoto.com

3. You Might Extend Your HVAC System’s Useful Life
Checkups include more than just tests to ensure that all HVAC components are running as they should be. In fact, professional cleaning and maintenance of the units are an important part of a checkup. “Removing blockages, replacing filters, cleaning evaporator coils, and lubricating moving parts will all prolong the life of your HVAC system,” Kenyon says. Units that are serviced regularly run smoother and tend to run longer, making an annual checkup vital if you want to enjoy years of uninterrupted service.

4. You’ll Protect Your Family
“Anytime you have fuel and electricity combined, you have a safety risk,” Kenyon says. That’s why with every tune-up a Sears Home Services expert checks for anything that could pose a fire hazard: leaks in oil or gas lines, loose connections in the electrical lines, and problems with the electrical wiring that could cause short circuits. Plus, the technician will test for the presence of hazardous carbon monoxide gas that can escape through a crack in the furnace’s heat exchanger. One single inspection helps ensure that families can breathe easy—and that the air they breathe will be healthy and clean.

5. You Could Improve Energy Efficiency
“Without a yearly inspection and servicing, you’re simply not getting the most out of your furnace or air conditioner,” Kenyon says. A clean HVAC system can operate at peak performance, whereas a neglected system has to work overtime—using more energy and more money—to keep the temperature in your home comfortable. Whether your system’s efficiency is being reduced by a clogged vent system, dirty evaporator or condenser coils, incorrect gas pressure, or a soiled burner, a Sears Home Services technician will clean and service the components to get them back in working order.

Moreover, a checkup offers the opportunity for an energy-efficient upgrade on the spot. Licensed technicians typically carry a variety of thermostats with them and can install a new one during the checkup call, if desired. For instance, adding a programmable thermostat allows you to enter preset heating and cooling cycles to avoid operating the system when it’s not necessary. If you opt for a smart thermostat, it will take out the guesswork by learning your habits and preferences and acting upon them.

6. You’ll Maintain Optimum Comfort Levels
Maybe your HVAC system used to keep all the rooms in your home at a comfortable temperature, but these days it’s leaving some rooms cooler or warmer than others. What you’re feeling could be the result of a blocked or leaking vent system, not just the sign of an aging system. A vent system that’s dirty or blocked has a more difficult time distributing heated or cooled air to every room in your house, which can result in dramatic temperature differences from room to room. “The visiting technician can pinpoint and fix blockages and leaks, so you’ll have better-balanced airflow throughout your home,” Kenyon says.

7. You Can Help Prevent Damage to Other Home Components
That’s right: A fully functional HVAC can mean fewer repairs for your system and also protect other components of the home. During an annual servicing, for example, the Sears technician will check an AC unit’s drain line and condensate pump for signs of trouble. “A poor-functioning pump or a clogged drain line can result in leaks and, ultimately, water damage to the ceiling of the room below,” Kenyon explains. The moist environment in a drain line can lead to algae growth, which might block the line and cause the drain pan to overflow, but a regular inspection can clear drain lines before leaks can occur.

If you haven’t set up this year’s maintenance yet, what are you waiting for? Schedule a house call with Sears Home Services before the first snowfall by calling 1-888-577-4342.

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






Are We Finally Ready for Radiant Heat?

It's not new, but it might as well be. Today, radiant floor heating delivers on its long-held promise of better, more affordable comfort—right when we needed it most.

Radiant Floor Heat Systems

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s a good time for the building and remodeling industry! Just check out the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, which shows that in the last year alone, single-family home starts are up over 10 percent. At the same time, the Residential Remodeling Index has risen for 21 consecutive quarters, so those who already own homes continue to remodel at record rates. OK—what’s happening here? Experts explain that the activity stems at least in part from the millennial generation entering the market for the first time. That’s a big shift that’s reflected in the numbers, but also in professionals’ views of what clients want. Whereas square footage used to spur sales and motivate major renovations, more and more Americans now value technology—not for its own sake, but as a means of increasing the quality of daily life while bringing down fixed monthly costs.

Cutting-edge thermal windows, Energy Star-rated kitchen appliances, solar roof panels—these were all niche products years ago, but they’re all mainstream today, with technology-minded consumers driving demand. So, while builders and remodelers are doing brisk business these days, they’re also building and remodeling differently than before—except in the case of HVAC. The same heating and cooling technology that dominated 50 years ago somehow still dominates, despite its intrinsic flaws and despite the broader, shifting market landscape. Change may be on the horizon, though. That’s not because there’s a new climate-control system on the scene, but rather because manufacturers have finally perfected a system that’s been around for a long time—radiant floor heating. It had always been promising, but only now does it deliver its promise of better, more affordable comfort.

 

EVEN, STEADY

Radiant Floor Heat Systems - Total Comfort

Photo: warmboard.com

What’s the appeal of radiant heat for new construction and retrofit applications? Simple. The technology delivers “everywhere” warmth. With a radiant system, the temperature you set is the temperature you get—period. Of course, that’s the goal of any climate-control system, but few succeed. Take the example of forced air. It’s the most common heating system in America, but one of the least consistent. For instance, when you’re positioned directly next to the vent in a given room, you experience one temperature, but as you move away, the temperature fluctuates. The result: Your comfort level often depends on your location in the home. It depends, too, on where in its cyclical operation the system happens to be. Forced-air systems loudly start and stop over and over again, inevitably leading to “roller coaster” temperature swings.

In contrast, radiant floor heating ensures an even temperature in every part of every room. To understand why, you need to understand how these systems are set up. Whereas forced air depends on the furnace and blower to distribute warm air throughout the home (via ductwork), radiant heat starts with a boiler. From the boiler, heated water travels through tubes set into conductive panels installed beneath every inch of flooring. Heat transfers from the water to the panels, from the panels to the floor, and from the floor to the living space. This design allows radiant heat to provide comfort across the full square footage, at a level that you can really feel. Even better: The comfort never dissipates, because unlike forced air, radiant systems don’t run intermittently. Plus, the technology elegantly sidesteps a chronic problem faced by forced air—the fact that warm air always rises.

 

EFFICIENCY

Radiant Floor Heat Systems - Most Efficiency

Photo: warmboard.com

You might expect to pay much more to run a heating system that delivers not hit-and-miss climate control, but total, encompassing warmth. But that’s not the case. The average radiant heating system operates at least 25 percent more efficiently than forced air, giving homeowners the best of both worlds—comfort and savings. Though many factors enter into the equation, there’s one big reason why radiant costs less to run than forced air—unlike forced air, radiant floor heating configurations don’t involve any ducts. What’s wrong with ducts? A lot, actually. As a result of leakage at the seams where two sections meet—as well as heat loss stemming from lack of insulation—ducts have earned a notorious reputation for compromising HVAC efficiency. Radiant heat suffers from no such efficiency drawbacks, simply because the technology requires no ductwork whatsoever.

But before you jump on bandwagon, know that even within the specific radiant heat category, different products offer very different levels of energy savings. Perhaps least efficient are those that rely on gypsum concrete. There’s more than one problem with gypsum. One is that on account of its sheer mass, gypsum lacks responsiveness—meaning, in a home with a gypsum system, it takes a frustratingly long time for changes in the thermostat setting to be felt. An even bigger problem with gypsum is its low conductivity. Aluminum conducts heat 232 times more effectively than gypsum! That’s why low-mass, high-conductivity aluminum panels typically respond faster and perform more efficiently, saving homeowners up to an additional 10 or 20 percent on heating costs. The reason? Aluminum panels can achieve the target room temperature using comparatively cooler water that’s significantly cheaper for the boiler to produce. Note: Only Warmboard offers such extra-high-efficiency systems.

 

Beyond delivering perhaps the finest possible heating experience, and in addition to its bottom line-boosting energy efficiency, radiant floor heating also offers a range of quality-of-life benefits. Homeowners love, for instance, that the technology runs silently—a relief if you’re accustomed to the concentration-stealing, conversation-interrupting roar of forced air. Another point of appeal: Whereas traditional HVAC systems often create dry, dusty conditions, radiant heating takes nothing away from indoor air quality, creating a healthier home environment. Finally, there’s the fact that as you much as you feel a radiant system at work, you never see it. There are no vents, no radiators, no baseboards—nothing to subvert the visual appeal of the rooms you work hard to decorate and make beautiful. Under the circumstances, is the surging popularity of radiant heat surprising? Not at all.

 

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


5 Ways Purchasing a Zoned Comfort Solution Pays You Back

Are sky-high energy bills driving you to rethink how you achieve comfort in extreme temperatures? Get to know the five ways in which mini-split systems from Mitsubishi Electric can start sparing your wallet as soon as they're installed.

5 Ways a Mini Split Can Save You Money

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Is your existing heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system due for an upgrade, or even approaching the end of its life? (The expected lifespans are, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program, 10 years for air conditioners and heat pumps, and 15 for furnaces and boilers.) Well, chances are that most of the options for simply replacing it will translate into some energy savings. Not every new system, however, will stretch your energy dollar to its fullest potential. For that, you need to look for a system that offers uncomplicated installation, superior efficiency, and flexible settings. Homeowners can expect all these benefits and more with ductless and ducted Zoned Comfort Solutions™ from Mitsubishi Electric. Keep reading to learn what sets these systems apart from the rest of the field—and how each defining feature can mean more money in your pocket.

1. Easy, Efficient Installation

When you’re upgrading your home’s AC system, there are many options to consider. Do you have uncomfortable areas in the home today? If the answer is yes, consider zoning. A Zoned Comfort Solution from Mitsubishi Electric can provide many possibilities for energy efficiency and comfort. You can go completely ductless, utilize existing ductwork, or combine the two. You may choose to simply replace the existing outdoor and indoor system in an ultra-efficient system from Mitsubishi Electric or decide to treat certain areas of the home as separate zones. This allows each zone to be controlled separately for personalized comfort and energy savings. Each of these zones may utilize ducted (short duct runs) or ductless technology. Ductless is a simple installation connecting the outdoor unit to the indoor unit with two small pipes. No need for extensive duct runs throughout the house. These systems have a  wide range of capacity allowing use in small to large applications. Ducted options provide the ability to use existing ductwork or better yet make use of shorter duct runs by splitting the large zone into smaller zones. A Zoned Comfort Solution from Mitsubishi Electric can connect up to eight indoor units to one outdoor unit providing an efficient cost for installation.

What it means for your wallet: Minimal renovation requirements mean minimal labor costs (not to mention time!) to install a new system.

2. Individualized Comfort

5 Ways a Mini Split Can Save You Money

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Unlike traditional central HVAC systems that treat the entire home like one area with a bunch of ductwork and just one thermostat, Zoned Comfort Solutions help homeowners achieve greater comfort precisely where they need it. Install a mini-split in a sunroom, bedroom, or basement, and you’ve divided your home into distinct zones that can be controlled by separate controllers and heated or cooled to different temperatures simultaneously. The zones themselves can be individual rooms or larger areas, like an entire floor. Not only does zoning result in greater comfort for everyone in the home, it also ensures that no conditioned air goes to waste. When a zone is not in use, simply turn that zone off. You’re not paying to condition unused spaces, unlike conventional systems. This precise targeting of heating and cooling saves energy and lowers operating costs.

What it means for your wallet: By bucking the idea of cooling or heating an entire house at once, Zoned Comfort Solutions from Mitsubishi Electric enable homeowners to use energy only where it counts and save money by not conditioning unoccupied spaces.

3. No More Hot Spots

By definition, a home treating all spaces the same is a single-zoned home—but the target temperature is determined by the conditions nearest the home’s one thermostat, which can’t account for temperature differences elsewhere in the house. Yet, because different rooms are subject to varying amounts of shade or direct sun, and because people move between rooms, some stay cooler or warm up faster than others. In a single-zoned home, in order to cool off a hot spot, for example, you either have to lower the temperature throughout the whole home (a financial drain) or rely on extra help from unattractive, bulky appliances like window air conditioners and box fans. Mitsubishi Electric’s Zoned Comfort Solutions offer a built-in, unobtrusive remedy for these temperature differences: a ducted or ductless zoned product. The problem spot becomes its own zone, providing control of the space independent of the rest of the home.

What it means for your wallet: By isolating hot or cool spots with Zoned Comfort Solutions, you can condition them without affecting the rest of the house.

4. Higher Energy Efficiency

In addition to its ability to better target cooling or heating where it’s most needed, mini-split technology from Mitsubishi Electric also addresses two other sources of energy inefficiency associated with conventional HVAC equipment: their long runs of ductwork and their constant on-off cycling. For starters, the ductless indoor unit option eliminates possibilities of air leaks, which, in a whole-home forced-air system can account for energy loss of up to 30 percent. With the ductless system, heating and cooling power has to travel only a short distance through refrigerant piping from the outdoor unit to the compact indoor unit, which dispenses cool air directly into the space.

Equally important, the system avoids wasting additional energy through starts and stops, as the noisy cycles of forced-air systems do. Zoned Comfort Solutions from Mitsubishi Electric run continuously and almost silently on very little energy, thanks to its highly efficient inverter-compressor technology. These sophisticated models use sensors to continually respond to changes in outdoor and indoor temperature conditions, and then ramp up or down accordingly rather than wasting energy by turning off and on Together, these improvements can shave an impressive 30 to 40 percent off energy costs for homeowners who switch over from a traditional forced-air system.

What it means for your wallet: Shorter duct lines and consistent, low-power usage saves homeowners on their energy bills month after month.

5 Ways a Mini Split Can Save You Money

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

5. More Usefulness Year-Round

Homeowners in the market for a new air conditioner should also evaluate their boiler to see how much time it has left, as investing in a system that combines the two appliances’ functions means one less thing to worry about. The installation of a Zoned Comfort Solution from Mitsubishi Electric delivers year-round comfort by using a ductless heat pump to both cool and heat. In the summer, the system collects heat from the home and expels it outdoors. Then, in the winter, the operation reverses: Heat from compression is used to warm the air indoors—and, thanks to the advanced Hyper-Heating INVERTER® (H2i®) technology, it does so reliably even when temperatures dip below zero outside, even as cold as -13 degrees Fahrenheit. Even better, homeowners can expect energy savings in the winter similar to those they enjoy in summer!

What it means for your wallet: Because Zoned Comfort Solutions are high-performance heat pumps, you get efficiencies all year long, possibly eliminating the need for the costly heating fuels and auxiliary heating systems.

 

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


500,000 Older Homes Can’t Be Wrong: Get the Lowdown on High-Velocity HVAC

Increasing numbers of owners of older homes are experiencing modern-day comfort now that they've chosen high-velocity air. Are you tempted? Check out these three compelling reasons to make the switch, and you'll realize there's no reason to delay.

3 Reasons Owners of Older Homes Choose High-Velocity HVAC

Photo: unicosystem.com

Gone are the days when those fortunate enough to live in a meticulously preserved historic home have to jam window air-conditioning units into carefully restored sashes or add space heaters just to keep comfortable in extreme temperatures. Today’s homeowners have better options, specifically a cutting-edge heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system that has gained traction around the world over the past 30 years: high-velocity air. Industry leader The Unico System has helped upgrade more than half a million homes—from President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, D.C., to a 200-year-old residence in Upstate New York—to better and less obtrusive comfort.

While this highly efficient heating and cooling system can benefit homes of all styles, sizes, and ages, it’s especially great for navigating the most common challenges in older, architecturally sensitive homes where traditional systems fall short. Chief among the system’s appeals are its noninvasive installation process, near invisibility, and energy efficiency. So, whether you’ve just moved into a fixer-upper with lots of charm that you’re hoping to preserve, or you’re finally decided to outfit your historic home with modern convenience, read on for three key reasons high-velocity HVAC wins out as the best option for comfort.

LESS INTRUSIVE INSTALLATION
Unlike conventional means of achieving whole-house comfort, high-velocity HVAC can be installed without tearing apart the existing architecture, thanks to the unique design of the system. You see, high-velocity HVAC concentrates and pushes treated air quickly wherever it’s needed via a distribution network of slim tubing. In fact, mini ducts from the Unico System measure a mere two or two and a half inches in diameter, which is just a fraction of the size of ordinary ductwork. The narrow size and flexible design allow them to fit just about anywhere, including many places that would not be able to accept bulky ductwork without renovation. Where homeowners were once forced to deconstruct and rebuild walls, ceilings, and soffits—and even give up floor space—flexible supply tubing can now zip through the existing joists, beams, and cavities with ease.

The Unico System’s determination to think smaller applies to its air handlers as well. The company’s advanced technology delivers the same level of heating and cooling as a conventional system, but uses a unit that’s a third the size. These highly efficient compact units require little more than an opening that’s a few feet tall or wide in order to slide into closets, attics, ceilings, crawl spaces, or basements—and these smaller parts translate into smaller installation needs. While the owner of any type of home can appreciate the fact that less renovation means fewer headaches, those who are intent on preserving the original architecture of an older abode stand to benefit most of all.

3 Reasons Owners of Older Homes Choose High-Velocity HVAC

Photo: unicosystem.com

ZERO DISTRACTIONS FROM THE ORIGINAL DESIGN
The Unico System prides itself on supply outlets that, just like its mini ducts and air handlers, won’t disrupt an older home’s aesthetic. The outlets, which emit streams of high-velocity air, can be placed in the least noticeable areas of a room and are available in two distinct styles: five-inch-diameter round openings or half-inch-by-eight-inch slotted rectangles. Both styles come in a multitude of materials and colors, including wood, chrome, brass, and black and white plastic, and they can even be painted or stained to custom-match any wall or floor. For homeowners who have worked this hard to find a system that won’t compromise the character of their house’s architecture, these details count.

Whether outlets are placed on the ceiling above eye level, along baseboards, or right on the floor, the whisper-quiet operation of high-velocity air will help ensure that they remain discreet. Also helping to maintain the peace, Unico’s supply tubing is designed with a nylon inner core and extra insulation to absorb sound, while closed-cell, sound-deadening insulation around the air handlers mutes noise at the source of the action. Combined, these hardworking elements create an invisible, almost silent comfort that’s especially valuable in homes where preservation of period ambience is key.

AFFORDABLE COMFORT
When serious, disruptive renovations are off the table—as they are for most homeowners who are striving to preserve a building’s original character—that leaves few options for coping with the stifling heat or frigid cold of an older home. Positioning window air-conditioning units and space heaters throughout the home can offer some reprieve, but often at the cost of significant energy consumption, obstructed views, and compromised interior design. Plus, their efforts may not reach occupants seated in the corner farthest from the units! Fortunately, high-velocity HVAC from The Unico System can deliver more comfort all year long with superior efficiency than can be achieved by temporary solutions—better even than systems that would require invasive installation.

The same mini-duct design that allows the system to go anywhere and operate practically under the radar also offers enhanced energy efficiency. For starters, Unico’s insulated mini ducts minimize the air loss that occurs between the air handler and the room—a journey that can experience up to 25 percent air loss with conventional ductwork. The Unico System’s insulation limits loss of heating or cooling energy to less than 5 percent. Beyond that, Unico’s mini ducts have one-third less surface area than conventional ductwork, so they also lose much less heat through their walls. Moreover, Unico System’s air handler pulls its energy-efficiency weight too: Its impressive cooling coils remove up to 30 percent more humidity than conventional systems, which translates into a more comfortable environment, even at a higher thermostat setting. When they opt for Unico System and its energy-sparing design, owners of historic homes can rest assured that the best pick for their old home is also the best for their wallets.

 

 

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


Give Peace a Chance: A Solution to Thermostat Wars at Last

Is the quest for comfort a constant battle in your home? Put an end to cranky complaints and stealth thermostat adjustments by installing a zoned HVAC system that will help keep temperatures—and tempers—on an even keel.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

It seems like every time you look at the thermostat, it’s set to a different temperature. There are two possible explanations. One: Ghosts. Two: You live with at least one other living, breathing human being who insists that it be a few degrees warmer or cooler and blames you for changing the setting. Sound familiar? You’re definitely not alone. In households across America, families have been feuding over the thermostat for what seems like forever, and they continue to do so for one simple reason—different people prefer different temperatures. That’s an inevitable, incontrovertible biological fact, and there’s just no getting around it.

Unfortunately, forced air—the most common HVAC system in America—makes it quite difficult for everyone under the same roof to feel comfortable at the same time. That’s because in many configurations a single thermostat governs the temperature of every room in the entire house. In theory, it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. But in reality, in a home where the HVAC system is trying (typically unsuccessfully) to maintain one uniform temperature, only one person ever gets to feel truly comfortable—and usually, it’s  the last person to have touched the controls! In other words, by ignoring individual preferences, traditional HVAC too often leads to wars over the thermostat.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

Here’s what you may not have known: While heating and cooling technologies went virtually unchanged for decades, recently there’s been an explosion of innovation. Perhaps the most exciting breakthrough? Zoning. Simply put, zoning enables homeowners to target temperatures on a room-by-room basis. Think of the implications! With a zoned system, there’s no longer any need to argue with loved ones over the correct definition of comfort. You can each define comfort for yourself, choosing the temperature you like best for the spaces where you each spend the most time. Think of it as the climate-control equivalent of a happy compromise.

Even better is that, in addition to custom-tailored cooling and heating, the best zoned systems also deliver significant boosts in efficiency. In the past, forced-air systems typically scored Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings between 4 and 10. Modern zoned solutions score significantly higher. In fact, Fujitsu General offers a range of ENERGY STAR-rated systems capable of achieving SEER ratings as high as 33—more than twice the efficiency level mandated by the federal government! Besides benefiting the environment, such efficiency also benefits your bottom line, saving you up to 25 percent on your monthly utility bill.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

How’s that even possible? Remember that traditional HVAC relies on ducts installed throughout the home to transmit conditioned air. Fujitsu takes an entirely different approach. Its “mini-split” design dispenses with ductwork altogether, which makes installation easier and frees up the square footage the ductwork would otherwise hog. But in terms of efficiency, the key point is that ducts are known—even notorious—for leaking air and, in the process, wasting energy. That’s a major reason why traditional HVAC costs more than it should, and why ductless cooling and heating comes with a built-in efficiency advantage.

Another reason homeowners save with zoned, ductless mini-splits: The technology makes it possible to seize savings opportunities. Think of it this way: In a home with traditional HVAC, there’s no way to turn up the AC or heat in one room only. Any thermostat adjustment takes effect in every room—including the ones you’re not occupying. With zoning, you can ease up on the climate control (or turn it off completely) in parts of the home that aren’t in use. For instance, if you’re heading to bed, you can make your bedroom arctic cool or toasty warm, while setting an energy-conserving temperature everywhere else in the home.

With Fujitsu, it’s especially easy to capitalize on each and every chance to cut back, not least because you don’t even have to be at home to do so. FGLair, a free downloadable app for smartphone or tablet, gives homeowners the power to access, monitor, and control RLS3Y- and RLS3HY-series Fujitsu systems at any time, from just about anywhere. If, for instance, your schedule is often in flux—if it just doesn’t make sense to program your system to run on a set schedule—you can control the temperature in your home remotely, with only a few taps on the screen of your favorite mobile device. Basically, you’re in complete control.

The streamlined simplicity of the Fujitsu solution starts with the system itself—its design and components—and extends to its mode of operation. Case in point: Under normal circumstances, with traditional equipment, achieving year-round comfort would require the installation of two independent systems, one for heating, anchored by a furnace, and the other for cooling, powered by an outdoor compressor. Fujitsu, however, unites both functions into a single system—that is, Fujitsu ductless technology delivers both cooling and heating. Ready to switch from cooling to heating, or heating to cooling? Just push a button. That’s really it. See? Simple.

Already widely popular in Europe and Asia, ductless climate control has been steadily gaining traction in the United States, little by little, as awareness spreads. After all, most people don’t think twice about their HVAC and accept the limitations of an inefficient, one-zone setup. But that may change in the future, as rising energy costs, the stress of unending thermostat wars, or both finally motivate homeowners to seek out alternatives. When it comes to cooling and heating, we’re living in a new world, where options like those from Fujitsu push the limits of versatility, energy efficiency, and customized control. It’s just that not everyone realizes it—not yet, anyway.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

This article has been brought to you by Fujitsu General.


Give Peace a Chance: A Solution to Thermostat Wars at Last

Is the quest for comfort a constant battle in your home? Put an end to cranky complaints and stealth thermostat adjustments by installing a zoned HVAC system that will help keep temperatures—and tempers—on an even keel.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

This article has been brought to you by Fujitsu General.

It seems like every time you look at the thermostat, it’s set to a different temperature. There are two possible explanations. One: Ghosts. Two: You live with at least one other living, breathing human being who insists that it be a few degrees warmer or cooler and blames you for changing the setting. Sound familiar? You’re definitely not alone. In households across America, families have been feuding over the thermostat for what seems like forever, and they continue to do so for one simple reason—different people prefer different temperatures. That’s an inevitable, incontrovertible biological fact, and there’s just no getting around it.

Unfortunately, forced air—the most common HVAC system in America—makes it quite difficult for everyone under the same roof to feel comfortable at the same time. That’s because in many configurations a single thermostat governs the temperature of every room in the entire house. In theory, it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. But in reality, in a home where the HVAC system is trying (typically unsuccessfully) to maintain one uniform temperature, only one person ever gets to feel truly comfortable—and usually, it’s  the last person to have touched the controls! In other words, by ignoring individual preferences, traditional HVAC too often leads to wars over the thermostat.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

Here’s what you may not have known: While heating and cooling technologies went virtually unchanged for decades, recently there’s been an explosion of innovation. Perhaps the most exciting breakthrough? Zoning. Simply put, zoning enables homeowners to target temperatures on a room-by-room basis. Think of the implications! With a zoned system, there’s no longer any need to argue with loved ones over the correct definition of comfort. You can each define comfort for yourself, choosing the temperature you like best for the spaces where you each spend the most time. Think of it as the climate-control equivalent of a happy compromise.

Even better is that, in addition to custom-tailored cooling and heating, the best zoned systems also deliver significant boosts in efficiency. In the past, forced-air systems typically scored Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) ratings between 4 and 10. Modern zoned solutions score significantly higher. In fact, Fujitsu General offers a range of ENERGY STAR-rated systems capable of achieving SEER ratings as high as 33—more than twice the efficiency level mandated by the federal government! Besides benefiting the environment, such efficiency also benefits your bottom line, saving you up to 25 percent on your monthly utility bill.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com

How’s that even possible? Remember that traditional HVAC relies on ducts installed throughout the home to transmit conditioned air. Fujitsu takes an entirely different approach. Its “mini-split” design dispenses with ductwork altogether, which makes installation easier and frees up the square footage the ductwork would otherwise hog. But in terms of efficiency, the key point is that ducts are known—even notorious—for leaking air and, in the process, wasting energy. That’s a major reason why traditional HVAC costs more than it should, and why ductless cooling and heating comes with a built-in efficiency advantage.

Another reason homeowners save with zoned, ductless mini-splits: The technology makes it possible to seize savings opportunities. Think of it this way: In a home with traditional HVAC, there’s no way to turn up the AC or heat in one room only. Any thermostat adjustment takes effect in every room—including the ones you’re not occupying. With zoning, you can ease up on the climate control (or turn it off completely) in parts of the home that aren’t in use. For instance, if you’re heading to bed, you can make your bedroom arctic cool or toasty warm, while setting an energy-conserving temperature everywhere else in the home.

With Fujitsu, it’s especially easy to capitalize on each and every chance to cut back, not least because you don’t even have to be at home to do so. FGLair, a free downloadable app for smartphone or tablet, gives homeowners the power to access, monitor, and control RLS3Y- and RLS3HY-series Fujitsu systems at any time, from just about anywhere. If, for instance, your schedule is often in flux—if it just doesn’t make sense to program your system to run on a set schedule—you can control the temperature in your home remotely, with only a few taps on the screen of your favorite mobile device. Basically, you’re in complete control.

The streamlined simplicity of the Fujitsu solution starts with the system itself—its design and components—and extends to its mode of operation. Case in point: Under normal circumstances, with traditional equipment, achieving year-round comfort would require the installation of two independent systems, one for heating, anchored by a furnace, and the other for cooling, powered by an outdoor compressor. Fujitsu, however, unites both functions into a single system—that is, Fujitsu ductless technology delivers both cooling and heating. Ready to switch from cooling to heating, or heating to cooling? Just push a button. That’s really it. See? Simple.

Already widely popular in Europe and Asia, ductless climate control has been steadily gaining traction in the United States, little by little, as awareness spreads. After all, most people don’t think twice about their HVAC and accept the limitations of an inefficient, one-zone setup. But that may change in the future, as rising energy costs, the stress of unending thermostat wars, or both finally motivate homeowners to seek out alternatives. When it comes to cooling and heating, we’re living in a new world, where options like those from Fujitsu push the limits of versatility, energy efficiency, and customized control. It’s just that not everyone realizes it—not yet, anyway.

Photo: fujitsugeneral.com