Monday, July 27, 2009

The "Post-It Note" of heating and cooling my home.

The Post-it note is known as a great American invention. Back in 1974 Arthur Fry came up with way to make an experimental glue famous while working for 3M in Minnesota. The Post-it note changed the world of paper. So as I was thinking about this I wondered what major innovation changed the way we heat and cool a home. There are many things that have changed the comfort we feel in a home today.

Early years we had a fireplace in our 1-room house. Now the average home has 2-3 bathrooms. In the early 1900's when coal fired furnaces were used a house could vary in temp 30-40 degrees easily depending on what room you were in because once you got the coal burning hot you couldn't just stop it.

Today people expect to be comfortable when they sleep, keep the babies room warm in the winter, but still save energy. Zoned Heating has been the technology that has allowed this. The average home has one thermostat in the hallway which tells the furnace to turn on or off. First who lives in the hallway, so why do we care what the temperature is there. Imagine if you only had one light switch in your whole house. Well that is what happens when you have one thermostat. Two story homes are a real problem because in the summer the upper level is hot and the basement is cold. The other advantage of zone systems is why do you want to cool your bedrooms to 74 degrees during the day when no one is in there. Or why do you want your living room to be cooled at 3 AM when you are in bed.

Zone systems allow a standard home to have multiple thermostats through out the house. So you can cool the bedrooms at night, but not waste energy cooling the living room. Or in the winter you can heat your basement over 65 degrees unlike the average home. People commonly spend well over $20k finishing a basement to use but then they freeze trying to watch TV down there. To get a better understanding how it works click HERE to see a short video.

Honeywell says you can see up to 30% savings on your heating and cooling bills by zoning your home. One major energy savings people experience, is in the summer. Homeowners will set there thermostat to 70-72 degrees on the main level so they can hopefully get the upstairs to 76-78. When you have zoning in your home you have a thermostat upstairs in your master bedroom for example and you set that thermostat to 75 degrees and you can leave the living room at 78 for example while you sleep.

One thing you have to be concerned about is the installation of a zone system is who is the company designing and installing it. It is important to research who you buy a zone system from because if it is improperly installed you can shorten the life of your furnace and A/C and have a noisy operating system. But a properly installed zone system is like a "Post-It Note" to me.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

How long is the warranty on my air conditioner?

Air Conditioning Warranty... Some of the facts...

Manufactures have made major changes to warranties over the years. Plus there are many untold parts also.

First thing what is covered. Well there is 3 major components to the warranty.
  • Parts, this includes the little things like contactors, capacitors, and fan motors.
  • Compressor, this is the most expensive and important part of the unit. This is the main work horse, kind of like the engine in a car. Typical compressor replacement is $1,200-1,900.
  • Labor, this is the thing a lot of contractors miss lead to homeowners. Pretty much every manufacture of a/c units require the contractor to cover labor warranty on there own unless you purchase an extended warranty to cover labor. So becareful because if the contractor tells you 1 year, hope he is still in business then. Or are they the kind of company that will call you back when you have trouble. It is very common to see the low price contrctor also be the guy who won't return your call if your A/C stops working in 8 months.
One major part of an a/c is the refrigerant. Manufactures don't consider this a part on standard warranty. So if the unit gets a leak they may cover the $25 part that leaked, but you are stuck paying for the possible hundreds of dollars in refrigerant.

2nd Major Issue:

Almost all brands use to be 1 Year parts Warranty. Now as compitition has grown they started to increase warranty. A very common warranty today now is 10 Years on all parts. BUT.... you must register the unit within 60-90 days or else your warranty drops to 5 years. The registered warranty is also only good for the original buyer, not the second owner of the home. Example Trane use to have 10 Year parts warranty on there XL systems. You didn't have to register it and if you sold the home the new buyer got the remander of the warranty. Now the same XL unit will only give the original buyer 10 years and it drops to 5 years if you don't register it.

Guess what, people forget to register things. That isn't a secret to anybody. The problem you will find is most contractors may leave that detail out. Some contractors actually will register the unit for there customers so it doesn't get forgot. This is one difference between a quality installing company and the cheap guy.

All this above is common to different brands. Weather you are buying TRANE, BRYANT, LENNOX, CARRIER, ARMSTRONG, YORK, LUXAIRE, HEIL, PAYNE, AMERICAN STANDARD, COMFORT MAKER, DAY NIGHT, GOODMAN, AMANA, FRIDGIDAIRE, MAYTAG, TAPPAN, KENMORE, TEMPSTAR, NORDYNE, or who ever they all are pretty much the same. Funny thing of the 20 brands I listed above that is actually only 6 different companys. Just like buying a Chevy, GMC, or Buick, same car just different stearing wheel.

Research your contractor before you worry about the warranty or brand.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Upstairs is to hot, I can't sleep.

If I could count how many times I have heard "my upstairs is to hot". Or " I have to set my thermostat to 70 degrees so my upstairs bed room is 77". This is a very common problem in 2-story homes in the midwest. A lot of southern climate homes have a seperate a/c for the upper level but in the midwest typically there is one furnace and a/c for the whole house.

Think about the 2nd story. There are 4 outside walls plus a roof. Most attics are 110-125 degrees on a hot summer day. That hot air wants to get into your home. Heat travels towards cold. Now when you only have one thermostat in the main level how does it know the bedrooms are hot? Duct systems are typically very poorly designed today and don't let enough cold air get to the up stairs.

So, now what do I do?

Well just add a second thermostat to the upper level. It isn't as easy as it sounds, but for a professional heating and cooling company it isn't that hard. They can add automatic dampers that will direct the cold air to the places in the home that need it. This allows you to keep you main level at a nice 75 degrees and your upstairs at 75. Or what ever temperature you like. The video on Arzel zoning does a nice job explaining it.

Arzel Zoning (may take a minute to load depending on your interent speed)

Accourding to Honeywell a typical home will save 20-25% on there heating and cooling bills by adding zoning to your home. Plus you can actually sleep good at night.

Oh, I almost forgot, if your basement is to cold in the winter, zoning can fix that also. Just another bonus.

Monday, July 6, 2009

HouseSmarts Road show goes to Tyler, Tx

Trane Brand Featured on Nationally Syndicated Television Show, HouseSmarts™

This video talks about home building products including windows, carpet, and HVAC products. Also shows some nice software by Google to help design homes.

Watch the show online

Contractor and home improvement expert Lou Manfredini traveled to Tyler, TX to film an “On the Road with Lou” segment for his nationally syndicated television show, “HouseSmarts.” The “On the Road with Lou” segment highlights local points of interest and home improvement tips in cities around the country and is a regular part of the 30-minute home improvement program.

The Tyler segment aired Saturday, June 13 around the country and focused on the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden and one of the largest manufacturing facilities of Trane Residential Systems. The program included information on several Trane products and offerings, and Manfredini interviewed Dave Pannier, president, Trane Residential Systems and Dale Green, vice president of sales. The segment highlighted the fact that Trane Residential Systems are the largest employer in Tyler and a leader in the HVAC industry.

In addition to his “HouseSmarts” show, Manfredini is a regular contributor to NBC’s “TODAY Show,” WGN Radio and USA Weekend magazine.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Trane XC95 3-Stage Variable Speed Furnace

Trane XC95 3-Stage Variable Speed Furnace

The XC95 offers a nice feature of only needing 2-wires for communication to the outdoor air conditioner or heatpump. Standard systems require 8-10 wires for controlling heat pump systems which can be difficult seeing most homes only have 2-wires going outside. The ComfortLink II allows the furnace and thermostat to all talk to each other on a 2-wire connection. Plus with the new Energy Tax credit this furnace qualifies for up to $1,500 tax credit.

XC95 Gas Furnace

Communicating technology in the world’s first three-stage furnace
Advanced ComfortLink II communications technology allows the XC95 to configure itself for optimal performance year after year. Add the Telephone Access Module (TAM) to get alerts sent to your phone, and even adjust your settings remotely, whenever you like. With its three stages of heat, an industry first, you can achieve up to a 95% AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency).
Trane XC95 features:

Efficient performance
The XC95 is rated with up to 95% AFUE, annual fuel utilization efficiency.

ComfortLink II Communicating Capability
ComfortLink II communicating technology connects all of your key components so your system automatically charges, configures and calibrates for optimal performance through the lifetime of your products. When the optional Telephone Access Module (TAM) is added, you can conveniently adjust settings and receive system updates by phone wherever you are.

Comfortable, even heating
Variable-speed fan motor adjusts speed to provide a consistent flow of warm, comfortable air with quiet operation.

Cleaner, healthier indoor air
Add Trane CleanEffects™ to your system for advanced air filtration that removes more dust, pollen and other irritants from conditioned air for a cleaner, healthier, more comfortable home. And Trane CleanEffects™ is now proven to remove more than 99% of the common flu virus from your home’s filtered air.
Trane XC95 specifics
Every Trane furnace is packed with high-quality components. Each helps ensure that time after time, your unit will provide total comfort your family can rely on. The XC95 includes: ComfortLink II Communicating Capability
  • Communicating User Interface
  • Variable-speed blower motor
  • Three–stage gas heat provides greater fuel efficiency and better comfort control
  • Heavy gauge, two-tone powder-painted cabinet Increased dehumidification with Comfort-R(™) mode
  • Durable adaptive silicon Nitride hot surface igniter
  • Multi-port, In-shot burners
  • One-piece aluminized steel primary heat exchanger
  • 24-volt Fuse protects Controls
  • Insulated cabinet for quiet operation
  • Convertible to Horizontal left or right
  • AL29-4C Stainless Steel secondary Heat Exchanger
  • Cleanable filter with spring-loaded filter rack
  • ERV, Humidifier, and Air cleaner compatible

Trane Lifetime limited Warranty details

  • Lifetime Limited Warranty on heat exchanger.
  • Five-Year Limited Warranty on internal functional parts.
  • If your XC95 furnace is installed at the same time as a new Trane XLi outdoor condensing unit, it will be covered for ten years on internal functional parts as part of the outdoor unit system warranty.
  • Optional Extended Warranties available. Extended warranties cover labor and other costs not covered by Manufacturer’s Limited Warranty
  • Warranties are for residential use
  • Ask for full warranty information at time of purchase.