Selecting a new heating system can be complex. However, if you do your homework and talk to licensed heating/cooling professionals, a new system can make your home more comfortable and reduce energy costs.
- Usually it is more energy- and cost-efficient to replace systems older than about 15 years.
- The system you choose will depend on local climate, home size, amount of insulation, and the heating/cooling usage patterns.
- Look for an ENERGY STAR® label.
- Furnaces are rated by annual fuel-utilization efficiency (AFUE). High-efficiency units are rated above 90 percent.
- If choosing an air-source heat pump, look for one with a SEER of 13 or greater and a heating season performance factor (HSPF) of 7 or more.
Did you know that insulating and weather-stripping your attic access hatch, like that pictured here, can be one of the most cost-effective strategies for significantly improving the thermal efficiency of your home? In fact, I understand that you can lose 30-40% of heated air through hatches that are neither insulated or weather-stripped. Think about that, 30-40%, it’s a HUGE number! For a small investment (less than $20), you can save hundreds of dollars annually. It’s a no brainer. This picture was taken at a recent home inspection in Burlington, Washington.
If you have a Cadet electric wall heater, you should check this link (click HERE) to see if it has been recalled by the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission). This Cadet FX model wall heater was discovered at a recent home inspection in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island. Replacement by a qualified electrician was advised.
According to the InterNACHI Residential Standards of Practice, a home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of a residential dwelling that is designed to identify observed material defects within specific components of that dwelling. Part of the home inspection includes the inspection, identification and description of the heating system, which includes heat pumps.
Now that winter is here and we’ve gotten those first heating bills most of us are looking for ways to reduce our heating costs (again). With so many more options available today than in years past, it is easier than ever to improve the effectiveness of home heating and cut fuel costs. There is a growing trend toward more energy-efficient heating choices for the most cost-effective heating solution possible, as well as enhanced environmentally friendly living. Most local utility companies are offering incentives for moving toward more energy efficient systems. Popular Mechanics has a list of suggestions for reducing energy bills.
Water stoves, also known as outdoor wood-burning stoves and outdoor wood boilers (OWBs), are freestanding heating units used to heat homes and domestic hot water, hot tubs, swimming pools and greenhouses. Situated outside the building envelope, they typically consist of a water reservoir and firebox, appearing together like a small tool shed with a smokestack. Air is heated in the firebox and passed through channels in the water reservoir, which is heated and pumped underground through insulated pipes to the house. A thermostat that monitors the temperature of the water in the reservoir controls the furnace draft.
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There’s nothing like coming home and warming up next to a roaring fire during the long, cold months of winter, or even chilly evenings in any season. Long commutes to work in the cold and the increasingly short hours of daylight in the fall and winter are made more bearable by the comfort and familiarity of family gatherings by the fire. It may be for this reason that some type of wood-burning enclosure has remained a staple of many households, even though open fire is no longer a necessity for cooking and heating. With this in mind, let’s take a look at one of the more modern options available, the factory-built fireplace.
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A kerosene heater, also known as a paraffin heater, is a portable, unvented heating appliance that runs on the controlled burning of kerosene. In the U.S., it is used mainly for supplemental heating and for emergency heat during a power outage. In Japan and other countries, it is used as the primary source for home heating.
Kerosene burners operate in a manner similar to kerosene lamps: a fabric wick draws kerosene from a tank via capillary action into a burning chamber mounted above. Once lit, the wick warms nearby objects through radiation and convection. The user may control the burner’s heat by raising or lowering the wick’s height inside the burning chamber. The heater is turned off by fully withdrawing the exposed wick into a cavity beneath the burner.
Kerosene heaters are favored for their portability, efficiency and lack of reliance on electricity. They also lack a pressure-fed fuel system, which is a significant safety advantage over standard heating systems. However, the following problems plague kerosene heaters:
- odor. While newer kerosene heaters do not present as much of a problem, all such heaters emit a smell when they are being fueled. Odors typically cease after the heater begins burning normally. If the odor does not dissipate, the cause may be because the wick may be too thin for the heating unit, allowing kerosene vapors to pass through the wick gap and vent into the room. Odors and excess smoke might also result from the combustion of low-grade fuel or contaminated kerosene;
- inadequate ventilation. Kerosene heaters, like ventless fireplaces, vent soot, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide directly into the living space. In modern, well-insulated homes, an improperly adjusted, improperly fueled, or poorly maintained kerosene heater can pose a serious health hazard; and
- fire hazard. Highly flammable liquids are burned within the living space, creating vulnerability to mechanical and human-made problems.
The aforementioned safety concerns can be addressed by inspecting for the presence of the following safety design features:
- an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) seal, guaranteeing that it has passed certain safety requirements;
- a push-button, automatic starter, which eliminates the need for matches;
- a low center of gravity, which makes accidentally tipping over the burner less likely;
- an automatic cut-off device to turn the heater off in case it is tipped over. This device also prevents kerosene from spilling during a tip-over;
- a grille attached to the front to prevent contact burns;
- placement of the heater on a large, fireproof surface;
- a model that is equipped with a wick — this makes flooding of the burner impossible;
- all components made from heavy, reliable metal;
- a sturdy fuel tank, sealed and installed beneath the burner; and
- a fuel gauge to prevent inadvertent over-fueling.
- Burn only water-clear, K1 kerosene that is not yellow or contaminated. While other grades of kerosene may look like K1, they will release more pollutants into the home. Never burn gasoline or any other flammable liquids, as they dramatically increase the risk of fire or explosion.
- Do not use a kerosene heater in areas where explosive vapors may be present, such as in a garage.
- Always store kerosene in a container intended for kerosene and marked as such, and never in a can that has previously contained gasoline. Gasoline containers are typically red, while kerosene containers are usually blue. The container should have a tight-fitting lid to avoid spills. Do not store large amounts of kerosene or any other flammable liquid.
- Never bring kerosene into the house other than the fuel in the heater, which should be filled outdoors after the heater has cooled down.
- Maintain a safe clearance between the heater and furniture, drapes and other combustibles.
- Do not place the heater in a high-traffic area or in the way of an exit.
- Instruct children to never touch the controls, and keep children and pets away from the heater at all times.
- Do not let the heater operate while the house is vacant.
- Ventilate the room by opening a door or window.
- Never move or carry the heater in the event of an explosion or flare-up. Activate the manual shut-off switch, if equipped, in emergencies.
In summary, kerosene heaters are attractive alternatives to standard heating systems, although they present certain health and safety concerns when improperly designed or operated.
Fireplaces and wood stoves are designed to burn only one type of fuel. Used as all-purpose incinerators, these devices can pose the following hazards:
- Harmful vapors can vent into the living space. Even the most efficient fireplaces will vent directly into the living space while they’re opened and closed for cleaning and refueling, exposing everyone in the house to potentially dangerous fumes.
- Harmful vapors will vent to the outdoors. Most newer fireplaces and wood stoves do an excellent job of funneling smoke and fumes to the outdoors, but the problem doesn’t end there; this pollution persists, contaminating household and environmental air.
- Burning inappropriate fuel can cause mechanical damage. Chimneys can become lined with residue from inappropriate items, which may lead to a dangerous chimney fire. The fumes from certain items will quickly wear out sensitive components, such as catalytic combustors in wood stoves.
Read the following guidelines to better understand what can and cannot be safely burned in a residential fireplace or wood stove.
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