Category: Major Systems


Yes, It’s the Humidity: How to Control It and Lower Your AC Bills

For the comfort, energy efficiency, and health of your home during the dog days of summer, humidity matters more than you might think. Read on to learn why your current AC may be letting you down, and what you can do in the future to slash costs and live better.

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One of the great, game-changing inventions of the 20th century, air conditioning has become so firmly entrenched in our lives that we now wonder how we ever lived without it. Of course, in the same way that any technology tends to improve over time, cooling systems have come a long way since their earliest incarnations. Even today, though, as effective as AC can be, the average system still underwhelms in at least one important regard—humidity control. Everyone’s heard the saying, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” But you may not have considered that the expression pertains as much to indoor comfort as it does to the weather outdoors. If your air conditioning fails to remove sufficient moisture from the air in your home, there are consequences—and not only for your comfort, but also for your bottom line and potentially for your health. The good news: advanced options like the Unico System control humidity much more effectively than traditional HVAC. Read on to learn why that really matters.

 

COMFORT

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No matter its age or sophistication, any functionally sound AC system can maintain the temperature set by the homeowner. However, if the same system does little to mitigate humidity, you’ll have to set the thermostat at a low temperature to feel comfortable. The Unico System works against both sweltering heat and sticky humidity. In fact, compared to conventional setups, Unico proves 30 percent more adept at eliminating moisture. That ability enables it to combine cool temperatures with low humidity levels. Further, Unico stands out for its ability to ensure a uniform environment throughout the whole home, from wall to wall and one room to the next. Traditional systems are notorious for the opposite—for turbulent, staccato-style operation characterized by hot and cool spots. Unico sidesteps the problem in an ingenious way, by channeling cool air into living areas using a method called “aspiration” so that it draws the ambient air into its stream, achieving consistent conditions of the utmost comfort.

 

SAVINGS

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In the summer, lower humidity means greater comfort, but it also means more savings. With air conditioning being one of the biggest household energy hogs in summer, humidity can influence your monthly utility bills more than you might think. It’s simple: Because air-conditioned homes with lower humidity feel cooler, you can set the thermostat several degrees higher and still achieve comfort. Each one-degree increase in the target temperature translates to a three percent reduction in energy use. So with the Unico System, thanks to its exceptional humidity control, you can trim costs a little bit every hour, every day. Over the long term, those savings add up. Another reason Unico helps you save: Its ducts are not prone to the inefficient air leakage commonly associated with standard, rigid metal ductwork. Encased in dual-layer insulation, Unico System tubular, flexible ducts minimize air leakage, maximize efficiency, and in so doing, ensure you end up paying only for cooling that you and your family actually felt.

 

HEALTH

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Mold: You know its musty smell and its off-putting appearance. And you’re probably aware that for asthma and allergy sufferers, mold can be a trigger for severe symptoms. But you may not have considered the role played by HVAC. Mold can crop up virtually anywhere, but only with access to a food source and—this is critical—moisture. Because mold feeds off the sort of particulate matter that is found in virtually every home (e.g., wallboard, books, cardboard and other paper sources), controlling it becomes mainly a matter of controlling moisture. For that reason, the Unico System goes further than average technology, not only to limit mold, but to prevent it from blooming in the first place. Plus, since humidity invites the proliferation of dust mites, Unico actually protects indoor air in more ways than one.

Don’t forget that a healthy home environment also requires adequate ventilation. Here too, Unico excels. With a programmable control board at its core, the system calculates how much fresh air to bring indoors at any given time. Then, according to those calculations, the system works to ventilate the home, precisely according to need, ensuring fresh air and a further layer of protection against mold growth.

 

While conventional air conditioning can cool your home on even the hottest days, only systems like Unico are equally effective against both high temperatures and high humidity levels. That’s important, because after all, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” If you’re relying on technology capable of managing one but not the other, then, unless you live in a particularly dry climate, you’ll have to spend a fortune on utility bills to feel fully at ease in your home during the dog days of summer. Indeed, HVAC directly impacts not only your personal comfort, but also your financial comfort. It can even impact the health of your home, owing to its ability either to suppress mold or leave the door open to its proliferation. There’s a lot on the line, in other words, when you choose an air-conditioning technology for your home, and the market offers no shortage of options. In the end, though, remember the negative impact of humidity in your home, and the many benefits that humidity control brings.

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


Save Water, Energy, and Money with This One Swap

Installing a low-flow shower head can yield buckets of savings. Read on to learn more about this quick, budget-conscious DIY.

Save Water and Money with a Change in Showerhead

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Believe it or not, showers use (and waste) more water indoors than any other single household activity or chore. In fact, showers account for nearly 17 percent of the total amount of water used inside the home. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that translates to about 40 gallons per day for the average family; factor in the number of households in the United States and this routine hygiene uses up a whopping 4.9 billion gallons of water by day’s end. Whether your focus is on decreasing your water bill or conserving our planet’s scarce resources, you can take a big step toward your goal with one small change: replacing your shower head. Swapping out an old, gallon-guzzling shower head for an EPA-certified model can save your family an average of 2,900 gallons per year.

Wasting less water during each daily shower means you’ll spend less money on the water bill—a increasingly vital concern for the typical household. Indeed, the average monthly water bill has climbed 41 percent since 2010, according to Circle of Blue, a water-monitoring organization. But beyond simply saving H2O, a low-flow shower head can also shrink a second utility bill—your energy bill. “Less water out of the shower head is less water that you need to heat up,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer SupplyHouse.com. And O’Brian isn’t just talking about chump change: According to EPA figures, the average family switching to an especially low-flow shower head could save more than 370 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power a house for 13 days.

Save Money with a Water-Saving Showerhead - Stylish Options Today

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So, does your current shower head offer room for improvement and the possibility of savings? “Shower heads installed prior to 1994 could have flow rates of upwards of 5 gallons per minute (GPM), which can be excessive,” O’Brian says. For comparison, all models made and sold in the United States after January 1 of that year were required to have flow rates that max out at 2.5 GPM—half the previous output—and some stand-out shower heads perform even better. Models labeled ‘WaterSense’ have flow rates of 2 GPM or lower, and are considered ultra high efficiency. To find out if you’re one of the many homeowners or renters whose bills could benefit from a switch, try this easy one-minute experiment: Place a bucket marked with gallon increments underneath your shower head, and turn on the water at whatever pressure you typically set for a shower. Time how long it takes the water to fill the bucket to the one-gallon mark. If water reaches that mark in fewer than 24 seconds, your shower head is putting out more water than necessary for a comfortable shower. This means that you could save water by switching out your shower head.

While early models of water-saving shower heads were plagued with problems, from weak flow to sudden temperature variations, there’s not much of a downside now. Updated designs corrected many of these past deficiencies, and today’s low-flow models offer satisfying shower experiences that are equal to, or in some cases better than, those offered by conventional shower heads. Low-flow models sport a selection of finishes as well as adjustable spray patterns and modes, with settings that range from a gentle mist to an invigorating massage. Better still: Water-saving shower heads are comparable to their standard counterparts in cost, and offer basic, mid-range, and luxury styles to choose from to suit any budget. While a modestly priced model can certainly get the job done, higher-priced shower heads generally include extras, such as a radio, rainfall settings, and handheld options.

“As with many products, do your homework before buying a low-flow shower head,” advises O’Brian. First, familiarize yourself with the two main types of water-saving shower heads. Aerating models mix water with air, creating a misty spray that gives the illusion of increased flow, while laminar-flow shower heads emit dozens of parallel streams. Because these don’t mix air into the water, they tend to retain heat a little better than aerating models. Once you’ve settled on a model to suit your household’s needs, installation is generally a breeze. “In most instances, you simply shut off the water, unscrew the old head, and screw on the new one,” O’Brian says. “You might find an adjustable wrench comes in handy to remove the old head, and a little bit of plumber’s tape wrapped around the threads can help prevent leaks.” In less than an hour, you can have a new shower head in place. Your DIY project will start paying for itself almost immediately.

For help sifting through the variety of water-saving options available today, including models from industry-leading brands like Jones Stephens, Wal-Rich, and Zurn, contact the experts at SupplyHouse.com.

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


The New Cool: 3 Ways Air Conditioning Has Changed for the Better

Like so many other technologies, central air conditioning has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years. Delivering enhanced efficiency, unprecedented performance, and "stays out of your way" unobtrusiveness, the latest cooling systems are very cool indeed.

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How did we live before air conditioning? In some regions, it’s not even a nice-to-have amenity, but a virtual necessity for survival. Everywhere else, homeowners rely on AC for much-needed mid-summer heat relief, and they have done so for decades. Of course, central air conditioning hasn’t always been the fine-tuned yet affordable convenience we know today. Even recently, over the last dozen or so years, we’ve seen the technology advance, like so many others, by leaps and bounds. If it’s been ages since you last surveyed the air conditioner market, therefore, “You might be very pleasantly surprised,” says David Kenyon, a product manager with Sears Home Services. With energy costs on the rise and concern mounting for the environment, HVAC equipment manufacturers have responded by launching lines that boast, not only exemplary efficiency, but much-improved performance all around. In the past, you may have resisted the temptation to install central air, or you may now be considering an upgrade your current system. Either way, you already know there’s nothing better than AC this time of year. But to find out why the latest AC equipment outperforms what came before, continue reading now.

 

1. MORE COMFORTABLE

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It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity: There’s a lot of truth to that old aphorism. Go out on a high-humidity day, and you feel discomfort right away. Retreat back into the air conditioning, though, and you may not always get relief. It depends on the age of your system. According to Kenyon of Sears Home Services, previous generations of AC technology can maintain the set temperature but often fail to mitigate humidity. That’s why, in a room cooled by an older system, you may feel clammy and “never fully at ease,” as Kenyon puts it. Nowadays, it’s a much different story. The latest systems are considerably more adept at controlling the moisture content of air, largely thanks to a new type of HVAC component, the modulating condenser. Kenyon explains, “Modulating condensers monitor conditions in the home and self-adjust to keep humidity within a comfortable range.” In other words, many of the latest air conditioners now works against, not only sweltering heat, but discomfiting moisture as well. “That’s a big step up in terms in comfort,” Kenyon points out. An added bonus: Lower humidity usually means you can set the thermostat a bit higher, cutting consumption and saving energy dollars in the process.

 

2. MORE EFFICIENT

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“There’s a night-and-day difference between the average efficiency of air conditioners today versus the average twenty or even ten years ago,” Kenyon says. In fact, efficiency has improved so much and so quickly that the traditional rating system has struggled to keep pace. Pros and consumers alike have long relied on the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating to understand the efficiency of a given HVAC component, relative to others. “It wasn’t so long ago that you would see SEER ratings between 4 and 10,” Kenyon remarks. Flash forward: Today, many air conditioners boast markedly higher SEER ratings, from around 14 up to as high as 26—numbers that Kenyon deems “off the charts!” Even so, it’s key to remember that home energy efficiency depends, not only on the SEER rating of the cooling appliance, but on a host of interconnected factors. Be sure to work with HVAC specialists that look at the bigger picture. For instance, before Sears Home Services considers a job complete, its experts study and make recommendations on an array of factors, from the condition of ductwork to the amount and quality of insulation. “For maximum efficiency, everything needs to work together,” Kenyon concludes.

 

3. MORE DISCREET

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Up to now, home cooling has typically entailed one or another type of sacrifice. In exchange for the benefits of central air conditioning, you would put up with its considerable downsides, including noise and compromised air quality. Here’s the good news: Comfort no longer has to come with a catch. As Kenyon says, “The best of the new breed operate quietly, while promoting the health of the home.” Take the issue of noise. “Once upon a time, if standing near the outdoor unit, you needed to shout to be heard,” Kenyon recalls. But where newer models are concerned, a disruptive level of noise signifies, not normal operation, but a problem in need of repair. By the same token, filtration has come a long way since the days when cooling systems were notorious for distributing dust, pollen, and other airborne impurities. From pleated media-type filters to innovative electrostatic and ultraviolet ones, new options remove such particles—in some cases, even microscopic particles—in the regular course of recirculation. “It all adds up to more enjoyable, less obtrusive air conditioning,” Kenyon says.

 

For all but the most ambitious do-it-yourselfers, putting in or upgrading a central air-conditioning system calls for the involvement of well-qualified contractors with years of experience in HVAC. Don’t just flip open the phone book and settle for the first company listed. Instead, put thought and care into your search for the right pro. There are too many complexities involved to risk doing otherwise. As Kenyon puts it, “Even if you have a top-of-the-line system, you can’t expect peak performance, unless the components are installed properly installed.” Don’t know where to start? Schedule a free in-home consultation with Sears Home Services. Doing so gives you the chance to discuss your needs with an expert, while becoming an expert in your own right on all your different options. At the very least, your project consultant can explain the often quite generous tax credits, incentives, and rebates available in many areas to help defray the upfront cost of energy-smart HVAC. From initial planning to final installation and beyond, Sears remains committed to the lasting success of your project.

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


Solved! What to Do When Your Air Conditioner Is Leaking Water

Too much condensation pooling around your central AC? Follow these steps to keep your cool when your system can’t.

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Central Air Conditioner Leaking Water

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Q: My central air conditioning system is leaking water. Any way I can DIY the repair and avoid an expensive repair bill?

A: Most likely, you’re dealing with one of three things: a damaged drain pan, a clogged air filter, or a blocked condensate line. Left unchecked, these concerns could cause all sorts of unwanted costs, from repair fees and astronomical utility bills to the worst-case scenario: water overflowing from the system and flooding parts of your home. The good news is, if you catch a leak early, you may be able to remedy the situation yourself. So as soon as you notice water around the unit, begin the diagnostic process with these troubleshooting tips.

Air Conditioner Leaking Water

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First, check your drain pan. Located directly underneath your unit, the drain pan catches the condensation that emerges normally from running your air conditioner. If it’s cracked or otherwise damaged, it can’t do its job—soon after, you’ll start to notice your air conditioner leaking water. So, follow along the edges, paying special attention to the corners for breaches. (Tip: Use a flashlight for better visibility, since the cracks may be small.) Any minor damage you find can be repaired with epoxy, but it’s generally wiser to replace the pan altogether.

Assess the air filter. If your pan isn’t the problem, take a look at the air filter, which is placed directly into your unit; the edge is usually visible from outside. When a filter is dirty or full, ice can form on your unit’s evaporator coils and melt into pooled water below. Most filters last for a month or two, but if your system is getting a lot of use (in summer, for instance), replacing it like clockwork every 30 days can prevent problems. If yours looks dirty—or you don’t remember when you changed it—swap it out for a new one now.

Unclog the condensate line. The most common gremlin behind a central air conditioner‘s leakages is a clogged condensate line. Because it’s located outside your house near your condenser, the line is subjected to the elements year-round, and algae can build up inside fairly easily, clogging it and causing a backflow. Though it requires a bit more effort than troubleshooting a cracked drain pan or dirty air filter, you may still be able to fix it yourself.

First, turn your air conditioner unit off. Next, step outside and locate the line (typically a ¾-inch PVC pipe emerging from the ground near your exterior unit). Pull your wet-dry vacuum up to it and choose an attachment fitting that’s ¼-inch smaller than the condensate line opening; this should give you an airtight seal. Once you’ve achieved a snug fit, turn the vacuum on and let it run for three to four minutes. Then turn off the vacuum and check the tank for algae-filled water. If that’s what you see, you’ve likely solved your problem without having to make a service call, saving somewhere in the neighborhood of $100.

In the future, running a bit of chlorine through the line every six months or so should keep the gunk from coming back and wreaking havoc on your system. Likewise, it’s smart to change your air filter every month or two and periodically check your drain pan to stave off potential AC calamities. Schedule due diligence with your system throughout the year to keep things flowing. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cool!


How To: Prevent Drain Clogs

Drain clogs can be a drag, but with simple monthly maintenance, you can keep things free and clear. Check out these quick tips for keeping the plunger tucked away and the plumber at bay.

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How to Prevent Drain Clogs

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Here’s an unpleasant thought: Our household drains see all sorts of horrors on a daily basis—hair, dirt, grime, and food waste, just to name a few. Add up everything that passes through our sinks, bathtubs, and toilets, and clogged drains become an inevitability even for the most careful and conscientious of homeowners. The question isn’t whether the drain might clog; it’s only a question of when it’s going to. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Just a few minutes’ worth of regular maintenance can go a long way toward putting drain problems in the past.

Instead of dealing with multiple cleansers, tools, and elbow grease, there’s one product in your cleaning caddy that can keep clogs at bay with little more than once-a-month use. Known primarily as a tried-and-true solution for clearing up slow drains (and no-drains), Liquid-Plumr® Full Clog Destroyer™ also proves highly effective as a preventive measure. By regularly using this powerful gel, you’re dissolving life’s lingering, undetected leftovers before they turn into problematic buildup—and wiping out accompanying foul odors along the way.

No matter whether your home has older (and, therefore, probably narrow) pipes or if your brand-new house’s plastic pipes flush out all the dirt, soap, body oil, hair, and worse that a family of five can produce, your plumbing needs regular upkeep if you want things to go with the flow. Liquid Plumr® Full Clog Destroyer™ works on all septic systems and pipes, including those made of PVC and plastic as well as old-fashioned materials. So, there’s no need to worry about doing damage to those delicate systems—which, given the rigors they’re put through every day, are probably anything but delicate! Given a choice between a few minutes’ worth of simple maintenance from time to time and the stress (and expense) of dealing with backed-up pipes, prevention is always the better option. So, add these three quick steps once a month to your bathroom or kitchen cleaning regimen to keep the plunger—not to mention the plumber—out of sight.

How to Prevent Drain Clogs - Full Clog Destroyer

Photo: liquidplumr.com

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Liquid-Plumr® Full Clog Destroyer™
- Hot water

STEP 1
Once a month, slowly pour two cups of the clog destroyer down your sink, tub, or shower drain—even into your toilet, if needed. If you’re using a 32-ounce bottle, then one-half of it should do the trick for each drain; if you’ve stocked an 80-ounce bottle, one-fifth of the container is all you need for each job.

STEP 2
Now, let it sit for 15 minutes. If you already have enough buildup that some water is left standing in your sink basin, the gel will cut right through it; just wait a little longer until the drain is clear before proceeding to the next step.

STEP 3
Flush the product away with hot water. (If your sink is equipped with a garbage disposal, turn on the motor for a few seconds while running water the entire time.)

A few minutes spent once a month on this almost zero-effort maintenance task keeps drains running clear, meaning that you can file away the plumber’s card for another day—or, ideally, never.

How to Prevent Drain Clogs - Sink Drain Detail

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This article has been brought to you by Liquid-Plumr®. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


The Cooling and Heating Option You Haven’t Considered—Yet

If you've had it with your inefficient, inconvenient cooling and heating system, maybe it's time to think about an entirely new approach to household comfort. A Zoned Comfort Solution™ incorporating ductless technology offers both cooling and heating in a streamlined, energy-efficient way that might just solve your comfort woes.

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Zoned Comfort Solutions - Library

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It’s astonishing: Technology has revolutionized so many aspects of day-to-day life over the past 50 years, yet home air conditioning systems haven’t changed much at all. Walk into any American home in 2016, and you’re likely to find the same type of central system that probably kept the home comfortable decades earlier. Despite its long run as the dominant mode of indoor climate control, central or forced air has never been perfect—far from it. The main drawback? Ductwork. For homeowners, the only thing more frustrating than those bulky, rigid metal or flexible ducts that hog otherwise usable space is the fact that ductwork tends to leak, often severely enough to compromise overall system efficiency by 20 percent or more. That means, in order to make up for the energy loss, the cooling and heating system must work harder and longer to maintain the target indoor temperature. Homeowners, meanwhile, pay the price for the extra energy consumed because of the system’s imperfect design. No wonder people often complain that it costs a small fortune to cool and heat their home. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

Today’s homeowner can choose from an array of exciting, next-generation climate-control options, many of which eliminate ductwork and deliver unsurpassed efficiency. Of them all, Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating (Mitsubishi Electric) stands out in a class of its own, with a technology that combines energy-smart design with customizable options. Mitsubishi Electric offers the best of both worlds. In the realm of energy efficiency, a Zoned Comfort Solution can save homeowners up to 30 percent or more on monthly utility bills in comparison with traditional forced-air systems. As for household comfort, a system provides an unprecedented high degree of control, enabling homeowners to not only conserve energy, but to enjoy a significantly different experience, one that assures total comfort and practically redefines it. Other systems cause homeowners to sacrifice comfort for savings, or savings for comfort. The technology behind a Zoned Comfort Solution, however, entails no sacrifice at all. And word is getting around: Already popular in Europe and Asia, these systems are swiftly gaining converts here.

 

INSTALLATION AND OPERATION

Zoned Comfort Solutions - System Diagram

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Zoned Comfort Solutions from Mitsubishi Electric take a fundamentally different approach to cooling and heating, and it starts with the basic system design. In contrast with traditional systems, Mitsubishi Electric systems are simple, compact and streamlined. In fact, a Zoned Comfort Solution includes only two major components—an outdoor condenser and an indoor unit (or units). Instead of ducts, a pair of refrigerant pipes narrow enough to fit through a three-inch hole connects the indoor and outdoor units. Whereas the installation of a ducted, central system would entail extensive, time-consuming remodeling, these systems are nonintrusive and, as a result, a great deal easier to put into place. Technicians often complete installation within a single day. Another key point of distinction: Forced-air systems operate intermittently, turning on and off, over and over, in a cycle that consumes a great deal of energy (and makes a lot of noise). Zoned Comfort Solutions, by contrast, conserve energy (and stay quiet) by operating continuously at a low power level.

Besides driving up running costs, the stop-and-start operation of forced air systems also results in unpleasant, rollercoaster-like temperature variations. With Zoned Comfort Solutions, it’s a much different story. The technology can accurately monitor the ambient temperature and modulate output based on the demand because the unit is in the space it is conditioning. At the same time, the indoor unit fan ensures controlled, even air distribution throughout the space, preventing any areas from becoming too hot or too cold. That means, no matter where in the room you sit or stand, you always experience the set temperature. Want to switch from cooling mode to heating mode, or vice versa? It takes only the push of a button.

When cooling, the Mitsubishi Electric system collects heat from the home and expels it outside. When heating, the operation reverses and the INVERTER-driven compressor harvests heat from outdoor air and brings it inside. In any season, even at extreme temperatures (down to -13 degrees Fahrenheit), you can rely on a Mitsubishi Electric Zoned Comfort Solution to provide a comfortable and efficient combination.

 

ZONING AND WI-FI CONTROL

Zoned Comfort solutions - HVAC House Diagram

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Some homeowners choose to install a Zoned Comfort Solution in one room only—typically, a peripheral space that rarely feels comfortable, such as a sunroom or attic bedroom. More common than ever before is for homeowners to select the Mitsubishi Electric system for whole-home climate control since the system allows you to establish different cooling and heating zones within the home. A zone can be one room, a set of rooms, or an entire floor—you decide. Whatever configuration you choose, each zone gets its own thermostat and can be controlled separately from all the other zones. What does that mean? For one, it means that, finally, family members with different temperature preferences can all be comfortable simultaneously. At last, thanks to the Zoned Comfort Solution, you can put an end to thermostat wars.

You can also put an end to wasteful spending on home temperature control. In a single-thermostat home, any adjustment takes effect across the entire house. If you want your bedroom a bit cooler before bedtime, you must pay for the energy consumed to cool not only the bedroom, but every room in the home. Ultimately, all-or-nothing cooling and heating fails to accommodate the reality that different rooms are occupied at different times. By enabling you to target temperatures on a room-by-room basis, zoning ensures that you never again need to pay for cooling or heating an empty room.

Empowering homeowners to save even more, Mitsubishi Electric also offers its kumo cloud™ app for temperature control. Available for any iOS, Android, or Fire OS smartphone or tablet, the kumo cloud app enables homeowners to monitor and adjust settings for their Zoned Comfort Solution anytime, anywhere. Are you worried that you left the system on when you ran out of the house? Simply pull out your smartphone to check. Sure, you can always program a Mitsubishi Electric zoned system to run on a set schedule, but mobile control lets you take charge if there’s a change of plan. Are you heading home early? You can turn on the air conditioning before you get there, so your home will be cool and comfortable the moment you walk in the door!

 

DESIGNER SERIES

Zoned Comfort Solutions - Designer Series Line

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

Finally, by its commitment to design, Mitsubishi Electric suggests a new look for cooling and heating. In years past, systems often were anything but eye-catching. Now, with the release of its brand-new Designer Series, Mitsubishi Electric proves that a climate-control system can be more than a simple utilitarian add-on; it can instead become a sophisticated thread in the fabric of home design. Stand-out performance and sleek aesthetics are not mutually exclusive, after all! Boasting a slim profile, with crisp, beveled edges, and a sharply delineated, rectangular shape, the finely proportioned Designer Series Zoned Comfort Solution comes in a choice of three colors. In light-color interiors, the white model blends in so well that it can almost escape notice. On the other hand, the black finish, meshes best with darker decor, while silver offers a lustrous look, perfectly suited to the clean lines and minimalist sophistication of stylish modern homes—a perfect pairing with stainless steel accents and appliances. The Designer Series makes it easier than ever before to live in harmony with household appliances. In fact, you might even find yourself admiring its aesthetic impact.

 

Cooling and heating isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a good thing. With a system from Mitsubishi Electric, you can experience the most comfortable home climate control of your lifetime, while saving money on utility bills every month. It’s a win-win. And now, with appealing design options and game-changing features like zoning, Mitsubishi Electric’s innovative cooling and heating technology inspire you to view home climate control in a whole new light. In the past, plenty of homeowners have had frustrating, unsatisfying relationships with their space- and energy-wasting systems, but today, with a compact, efficient and customizable Zoned Comfort Solution from Mitsubishi Electric, a much more rewarding option is possible. You no longer need to sacrifice your preferences in deference to the whims and limitations of your increasingly outmoded air conditioning system. Zoned Comfort Solutions are designed to meet your needs–not the other way around—and isn’t that the way it should be?

Zoned Comfort Solutions - Dining Room Installation

Photo: mitsubishicomfort.com

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


The Window AC Alternative You Need to Know About

Are you tired of heaving that heavy old window unit into position every summer? Are you sick of the loud thrumming, endless cycling, and spiking electricity bills? Maybe it's time to switch to a technology that offers efficient, quiet, all-season comfort.

Mini-Split Air Conditioners

Photo: istockphoto.com

It’s the time of year when, if you listen carefully, you can practically hear the sighs of homeowners again facing the prospect of a sizzling summer with relief provided by nothing more than a window air conditioner. Make no mistake: Under certain circumstances, there’s no more sensible option. Because they’re portable and relatively easy to install, window units are perhaps the best temporary cooling solution available. But when viewed over the long haul, window ACs become much less attractive. For one thing, they are expensive to operate. Sure, there’s no beating the low up-front purchase price, but when they’re used frequently, even the latest energy-smart models run up the utility bill. In addition, window units obstruct the view to the outdoors and block natural light from entering the home. They are noisy, too, and on the ground floor at least can pose a security risk. And then there’s that annual ritual of dragging them out of storage, hoisting them into position, securing them safely into the window—and then, come fall, repeating the process in reverse. The list goes on. No wonder so many homeowners seek a different approach.

Increasingly, fed-up homeowners are embracing mini-splits like the iSeries, a new offering from category leader Unico. Already well established in Europe, Asia, and parts of the United States, mini-split technology offers perhaps the best alternative to window ACs, not least because of the system’s compact, streamlined design. In contrast with extensive, elaborate setups that hog space and require renovation for installation, the iSeries consists of just two discrete components. One goes outdoors and the other is mounted on the wall in the room you want to cool. The two units are connected by twin refrigerant tubes small enough to fit through a narrow hole in the exterior of the home. As it’s so unobtrusive, the completely ductless iSeries installs with remarkable ease, usually within a single day. Impressive as that may be, the typical homeowner appreciates the system’s other benefits even more—its exceptional energy efficiency, its top-flight performance, and its versatility.

 

EFFICIENCY

Mini-Split Air Conditioners - iSeries Inverter

Photo: unicosystem.com

The Unico iSeries helps minimize utility bills by sidestepping at least two of the most energy-hungry aspects of traditional HVAC. For starters, mini-splits involve zero ductwork. That’s critical, because ducts are notoriously leaky, often losing enough energy to compromise the efficiency of the overall system by a whopping 25 percent or more. Therefore, simply by virtue of being ductless, the iSeries wastes less energy (and fewer dollars). Plus, instead of turning on and off, over and over, in a cycle that drives up operating costs, the iSeries saves by running continuously at a low power level. You hear it time and time again: Cooling costs a small fortune. But thanks to systems like the iSeries, that no longer needs to be the case.

 

PERFORMANCE

Mini-Split Air Conditioners - iSeries High Wall Unit

Photo: unicosystem.com

To be sure, there are many compelling reasons for a budget-conscious homeowner to remove the window AC and put in a mini-split like the Unico iSeries. Ultimately, the iSeries appeals not only because it’s efficient, but because it combines efficiency with stand-out performance. When you spend time in a room cooled by a window AC, you’ll notice that the farther you move from the unit, the less comfortable you feel. The iSeries, in contrast, maintains a uniform temperature thanks to two of the system’s features. First, because the high-wall unit mounts within the conditioned space, it can monitor the ambient temperature and automatically adjust its output to match the demand at any given time. Second, thanks to an integral fan that promotes even air distribution, hot and cool spots are eliminated. One final key point: Whereas window units are known to make a racket, the iSeries generates no more than 23 decibels of sound in the course of operation. What does that mean? It’s as quiet as a whisper.

 

VERSATILITY

Mini-Split Air Conditioners - Unico Diagram

Photo: unicosystem.com

A single window AC can cool only one room, but the iSeries can do a whole lot more. Certainly, you can use the Unico mini-split to cool one designated space, but you can also employ the technology for whole-home climate control. Configurations vary, but fundamentally, with multiple indoor units working in concert with one or more outdoor inverters, you can extend the efficiency and performance of the iSeries to any number of “zones” within your home. Whether a zone comprises one room or an entire floor, it can be controlled independently from the others. That way, you can target climate control to certain areas so you don’t end up paying for the energy consumed to cool unoccupied spaces—something homeowners with central air often must do. Likewise, if one family member likes things a bit cooler, you can set the thermostat down a couple of degrees in the zone that includes his or her bedroom, while keeping the temperature higher in the rest of the house. In other words, zoning gives you a fine degree of control.

 

As if all these features weren’t enough, the impressively versatile Unico iSeries has one more trick up its sleeve: It offers both cooling and heating. To cool a space, the technology pulls heat from the home and expels it outside. For heating, the system operates in reverse, drawing heat from the air surrounding the home (even at temperatures as low as -35 degrees Fahrenheit) and sending it indoors. This capability makes the iSeries an especially wise choice for cooling spaces in the summer that also tend to feel too chilly in the winter. Just think—one system can keep you comfortable not only at the peak of summer, but year-round!

Mini-Split Air Conditioners - Sunny Window

Photo: istockphoto.com

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


What Type of In-Floor Heating Is Right for You?

If you've been looking for an effective alternative to forced-air heating, radiant heat may be the answer. But should you opt for an electric or hydronic system? Read on to learn more about the best applications for each type.

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Types of Radiant Heat

Photo: warmboard.com

Spring has arrived at last. But don’t let the warmer weather fool you into forgetting all about the challenges of winter. If your heating system failed to keep you comfortable during the coldest months, things aren’t going to be any different next year—that is, unless you proactively make a change. As you assess your HVAC system, you may very well determine that your frustrations stem from the performance limitations and high operating costs of conventional forced air. Indeed, plenty of people have already reached the same conclusion. That may be why increasing numbers of homeowners are choosing, in one form or another, radiant heating.

One type of radiant system relies on a network of cables installed between the floor and subfloor. Electricity heats the cables, and the cables, in turn, heat the floor. Electrical systems are ideal for providing supplemental heat in a small room, such as a chilly master bathroom, not least because they are easy to install and incur relatively low up-front costs. Heating an entire house with electric radiant heat would be exorbitantly expensive, though, given that such setups rely completely on electricity, which—needless to say—doesn’t come cheap. For that reason, electric radiant systems can be considered a comfort luxury perfect for heating the floor, but not the home.

The other type—hydronic radiant heat—works in a completely different way. By circulating boiler-heated water through tubing below the floor, hydronic systems deliver cost-effective heating for the whole home, and offer a qualitatively different experience than forced air. Whereas forced-air systems heat inconsistently and incompletely, hydronic radiant heat provides encompassing warmth and ensures consistent temperatures from one wall to the other and one room to the next. Ultimately, electric radiant heat succeeds as a supplement, but hydronic competes with and surpasses traditional whole-home systems.

Types of Radiant Heat - Cutaway Detail

Photo: warmboard.com

INSTALLATION
Typically, electric radiant systems include three components—heating cables (often woven into plastic mats), a temperature sensor, and a thermostat. Laying the cable can be a do-it-yourself project, as it’s mainly a matter of using thinset to mount the cables on the subfloor. Likewise, the electrical work requires nothing more than basic know-how, but you’re best off hiring an electrician unless you really know what you’re doing. All in all, if you were planning to put in a new floor anyway, perhaps as part of a room remodel, then including an electric radiant mat will probably add just modestly to the overall project budget.

Hydronic systems, in contrast, involve a boiler, pump, and fuel lines as well as panels that slot beneath the floor. In other words, hydronic systems are substantially more complex. For that reason, HVAC technicians must be involved from the early planning stage all the way through to final installation. Yet manufacturers are actively engaged in making hydronic systems more accessible. For instance, Warmboard now offers a line of radiant panels specially designed for retrofit applications. Measuring less than an inch thick, these slimmer panels facilitate installation within the confines of any existing residential structure.

EFFICIENCY
Electric radiant systems typically operate on a timer. If not, they operate via a thermostat, which causes them to activate whenever the floor temperature reaches or dips below a certain preset minimum. In limited applications, electric systems tend not to run up the energy bill. But if an electric system were installed throughout the home and relied upon as the primary heat source, it would cost a fortune. Put another way, electric radiant systems are affordable so long as they are used as intended, as a means of warming otherwise uncomfortably cold flooring.

Hydronic radiant systems, meanwhile, can not only heat the entire home, but do so at least 25 percent more efficiently than forced air. That efficiency is due in large part to the fact that radiant heat involves zero ductwork. Notoriously prone to leakage, forced-air ducts often lose enough heat in transit to compromise a system’s overall efficiency by as much as 50 percent. Because it’s ductless, radiant heat maximizes homeowner savings by minimizing, if not completely eliminating, heat loss.

PERFORMANCE
Whether electric or hydronic, radiant heat boasts a number of compelling advantages. For one, in stark contrast with the jet engine-like roar of a forced-air system, radiant heat operates silently. Also, with no in-room vents or bulky, space-hogging ducts, it stays out of the way, invisible, never impeding your decorating scheme. Finally, and perhaps best of all, radiant heat does nothing to diminish indoor air quality. While forced-air ducts collect and then distribute dust throughout the home whenever the system activates, because radiant heat is ductless, it’s also practically dustless, making it particularly appealing to those who suffer from allergies, asthma, or are simply committed to maintaining a healthy home.

Although they share much in common, however, electronic and hydronic radiant systems are as different as apples and oranges. Electric radiant heat can be a welcome addition to a room that the primary heating system (for example, forced air) fails to keep comfortable. Hydronic radiant heat, on the other hand, not only matches but surpasses the performance of traditional whole-home installations. The technology has already taken hold in Europe and Asia, and though it hasn’t yet exploded in the United States, it gets more popular with each passing year. There’s a simple reason why: Hydronic radiant heating systems combine high efficiency and unparalleled comfort.

Types of Radiant Heat - Sleeping Dogs Lie

Photo: fotosearch.com

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


Don’t Run Your Boiler Without This One Key Component

If your steam or hot-water heating system unexpectedly runs low on water, don't let a bad situation get worse. Make sure your boiler, home, and family are kept safe from harm with this indispensable device.

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Photo: supplyhouse.com

The average homeowner rarely gives the boiler a second thought—until there’s a problem. Fortunately, as the engine that drives a steam or hot-water heating system, boilers generally deliver safe, reliable performance. But they’re not problem-free. On the contrary, boilers are prone to a range of issues. The most serious boiler failure also happens to be the most common, according to the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors. It’s a condition known as “dry firing,” and its consequences can be not only damaging but dangerous. In fact, dry firing “can turn your boiler into a ticking time bomb,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with SupplyHouse.com.

Of course, steam and hot-water heating systems are complex in design, but dry firing typically stems from a simple cause—a burst pipe, for example, or a loose fitting. Because boilers require a sufficient volume of water to operate as designed, any interruption in the flow of water to the unit results in overheating. Making matters worse is that without water, a boiler cannot do its job to heat the home. So, unaware of the low-water condition in the boiler, a chilly homeowner might turn up the thermostat, causing the appliance to get even hotter. If the dry firing continues, it can irreversibly damage the boiler, or worse, it can cause the boiler to become a volatile hazard.

Photo: supplyhouse.com

It’s important to note that not every boiler runs the risk of overheating to the point where it can harm itself, the home it’s supposed to heat, or the people who live there. Boilers can be protected by a simple, inexpensive low-water cutoff (LWCO). An LWCO device actively monitors the water level in the boiler, then cuts power and shuts down the system if the level drops below a safety threshold. Experts view the feature as virtually standard. “In the same way that you wouldn’t buy a car without a seat belt,” says O’Brian, “you shouldn’t run a steam or hydronic heating system without a low-water cutoff.” He continues, “If your boiler doesn’t include an LWCO, think seriously about adding one.”

There are two main types of low-water cutoff devices. One, called a “floating” LWCO, features a buoyant ball that rises and falls with the level of the water. If the water gets down to a precariously low level, the device cuts power to the boiler. The alternative, an electric model, monitors the water level by probing its conductivity and shuts off the system when the level gets too low. Both options are worthy of consideration, whether you have a steam or hot-water boiler. But that’s not to say all low-water cutoffs are interchangeable. One function in particular determines whether or not a given LWCO would be suitable for your boiler—the way in which the device resets once water returns to the boiler.

In a steam system, opt for a low-water cutoff with automatic reset. The reason? It’s not uncommon for water levels in a steam boiler to fluctuate in the normal course of operation. An LWCO may shut off the boiler if the water level drops too low, but once the level returns to a safe minimum, automatic reset allows the boiler to start back up again. In a hot-water boiler, on the other hand, a low-water condition is usually a sign that there’s a problem in need of attention. For that reason, the recommendation is to pair a hot-water boiler with a manual-reset LWCO. That way, homeowners are prompted to address the root cause of the interruption before they reactivate the boiler.

Ambitious do-it-yourselfers with plumbing experience may be able to install a low-water cutoff on their own, without the help of a pro, but for everyone else, O’Brian advises hiring a contractor. For help choosing the right device for your specific boiler and heating system, contact the experts at SupplyHouse.com—and don’t delay. After all, given that these devices can head off potentially calamitous consequences, low-water cutoffs may be, as O’Brian says, “the most important home safety feature that you’ve never heard of.” Until now.

Photo: supplyhouse.com

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


Problem Solved: A Cutting-Edge Cure for Household Hassles

Harness the power of smart technology to solve irritations and inefficiencies, both big and small, all around your home.

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Photo: sagebyhughes.com

You live and learn—theoretically. But I’ve lived in my creaky old house for nearly 20 years, and I still haven’t mastered all its frustrating quirks. There is, however, one lesson that I absorbed early in my tenure here: Always turn the light on in the entry hall when going out for the day. Why? For some obscure reason that may have made sense to the builder (or previous owner), or perhaps for no real reason at all, there’s no light switch near the front door. That means that if I return after dark, I have to walk a dozen timid paces through the pitch-black foyer, risking life and limb along the way, before reaching the switch on the far wall. Hence, my simple workaround—just turn the light on before leaving. Unfortunately, experience has proven that, at least for me, it’s not so easy remembering to do that.

Time after time, preoccupied with where I’m going and what I’ll be doing, I get into the car, turn on the engine, exit the driveway, and proceed down the block. Then, as I pull up to the stop sign at the corner, I suddenly seize the steering wheel and ask myself, “Sarah, did you leave the light on?” I occasionally remember having done so, but much more often I’m not really sure. When there’s time, I drive back home to double-check, cursing myself for being so absentminded. If I’m running late, though, I have to drive on, cursing myself for the same reason. Why am I telling you this? Well, if what I’m describing sounds at all familiar, you may be interested to learn how I finally put this problem to rest. Spoiler: It wasn’t by pinning a note-to-self on the door (already tried that).

The solution: Home automation. It’s a hot topic these days, with many calling it the wave of future. Who knows? I’ve always harbored mixed feelings about the rise of digital devices in our lives, and I certainly never envisioned that smart-home technology would be of use to me personally. As I learned more about it, however, I discovered that the phrase “smart home” can mean very different things to different people. Some appreciate technology for its own sake and would embrace home automation whether or not it was truly practical. Others—me, for instance—appreciate technology only for its problem solving. What made me a believer? It wasn’t that automation magically made me remember to leave on the light. It’s that now, thanks to SAGE by Hughes, I no longer need to remember.

Photo: sagebyhughes.com

Brand-new SAGE by Hughes encompasses a suite of easy-to-use home automation and security products. In contrast to many of the expensive, elaborate whole-home systems that are out there, SAGE offers a modular solution, which means that you can choose the components you really want and ignore all the others. The modular system design also means that if in the future you decide to change or add onto the system, SAGE makes it easy to do so. The system can even move with you when you relocate to a new home. SAGE works with you, so you can use the technology to create your own personalized solutions. And that’s just what I did—after opting for the SAGE Automation Kit, I set out to settle my long, highly irritating struggle with the hall light.

Surprisingly, after all those years of cursing that hall light, solving the problem ended up being pretty painless! In any SAGE setup, no matter where you install the components or how you plan to use them, there’s one central piece—the hub. The heart of the system, the hub connects to your TV, which in turn becomes the command center where you configure and monitor the SAGE system. (If you choose to download the free SAGE app to your smartphone or tablet, you can also interface with the system whenever you want, wherever you may be.) Once I had the hub plugged in, I moved on to installing the SAGE Light Switch (the video instructions were nice to have, but not vital). Finally, I swapped out the standard bulb in the hall light fixture and screwed in the Internet-enabled LED Light Bulb. All told, the setup took only about 20 minutes.

With the hub, switch, and bulb taken care of, I sat next to the television and, following the intuitive prompts, used the SAGE remote control to sync up the Light Switch and bulb with the hub. Excited now, and a bit curious, I pulled out my smartphone, opened the SAGE app, and inspected the menu. A tap or two later, and I was turning the bulb on, then off again. A few more taps, and I was adjusting the brightness of the bulb. I walked out to the driveway and tried again—success!

Photo: sagebyhughes.com

Whereas it used to drive me bonkers, I now go days at a time without even thinking about the hall light. If it does happen to cross my mind, it’s only because I’ve pulled into the driveway at night and found that, sure enough, there’s a light on in the foyer, welcoming me home. In addition, I enjoy the comfort of knowing that if there’s ever a change of plan, no matter where I am—under the covers in bed or at my desk at the office—I can always pull out my smartphone to turn the lights on or off remotely, with just a tap. I’m even thinking about expanding my system to include switches and bulbs in every room, and possibly even incorporate the Deadbolt Lock. That way, I could make the lights in, say, the kitchen, den, and bedroom all turn on instantly and automatically the moment I unlock the door. Pretty cool, no?

I haven’t gotten that far yet. For the moment, I’m still experimenting with the SAGE Automation Kit, which, alongside the Light Switch and LED bulb, also includes the Appliance Switch. Any appliance that I plug into this clever device can be remote-controlled via the SAGE app (or through the TV in my living room). At least for now, rather than pairing the switch with a single appliance, I’ve been using it for a range of different purposes. Recently, I connected it to the slow cooker in my kitchen and, after putting in all the ingredients, left for work. If I’d begun cooking right then and there, the meal would have been overcooked by the time I got home. By starting the cooker around noon, from miles away, simply with a tap in the SAGE app, I was able to ensure a delicious dinner, cooked to perfection.

You can view and purchase the full line of home automation and security solutions at SAGEbyHughes.com. Besides being a storefront, the website provides access to customer service, an array of instructional videos, and helpful advice in plain English on how to get the most utility out of the kits or individual components you ultimately choose. The ordering process isn’t complicated—like the products themselves, it’s all very intuitive and seamless. As you browse, go ahead and consider your life at home and the often irritating hassles we all encounter every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Does the new world of automation offer a solution to these annoyances? Maybe, like me, you’re going to find that the little problems and inefficiencies that once seemed inevitable are simply no match for the best of digital technology.

Photo: sagebyhughes.com

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of SAGE by Hughes. The opinions and text are all mine.