Lancaster County Home Improvement Professionals
Magazine: Ask the Experts » HVAC / Heating / Plumbing / Energy Efficiency
|[ Click each Question for the Answer ]
We are looking to install
a central air system in our
home. How do I determine
if this is the right solution
for us and, if so, when is
the best time to install the
Answer provided by: Chad Texter, Sales Manager, Haller Enterprises, Inc.
Installing a central air system is
a proven way to heat or cool your
home. Many times at Haller, we
get questions about the difference between an A/C system
and a heat pump. Both systems
are similar: an A/C system only
cools your home, while a heat
pump cools your home but also
heats it in the winter. A heat
pump works by transferring
warm air in or out of your home–in the summer it transfers warm
air out of your home to keep you
cool, and in the winter it transfers warm air into your home to
keep you comfortable. A central
air system uses hidden duct
work to distribute warm or cool
air evenly throughout your home,
providing comfortable temperatures in all the rooms year-round.
By transferring heat in and out of
your home, a central air system
is one of the most energy–effcient ways to provide heating or
A central air system is a good
option for homes that have an
unfnished basement or an attic
that has at least 36-48 inches
of clearance. Central air systems
usually take 3-4 days to install,
but this can vary depending
on the number of rooms or the
design of the home. Many times
we receive questions about the
ductwork being visible. The duct
work will not be visible; the only
things that would be seen are
the vents inside your home and
the unit outside - central air
systems blend in nicely.
A central air system installation
usually costs around $12,000;
however, price can vary depending on the design and number
of rooms in your home. The
best time to install a central air
system is in the winter months
when the cost is lower by
5-10%. During the spring and
summer months, pricing can
be signifcantly more expensive
and scheduling is limited. If
price is a problem, Haller offers
great fnancing options. Many
customers ask what's the best
brand to install. The answer is
to have one of our HVAC Design
and Sales Specialists visit your
home for a free in-home consultation. Call our offce to schedule: 888.625.1500.
We just bought a home that's approximately 3-years old and already
the freplace is leaking cold air? We like the idea of having a freplace
so what can you tell us about replacing it? We know very little on the
topic, so any advice would be helpful.
Answer provided by: Sam Jay Stoltzfus, Owner, LanChester Grill & Hearth, LLC
First off, I think it was a wise decision to choose a home with a freplace. Fireplaces consistently rank as one of the top features home shoppers are looking for. They are a design
asset, allowing homeowners to stage sitting areas nearby—providing extra warmth in the
colder months without having to crank up the heat throughout the whole house. Unfortunately, many homeowners like you soon fnd out that the freplace provided by the builder
was more for looks than for functionality. A freplace that is leaking cold air not only makes
the room uncomfortable, it makes the house very energy ineffcient.
As for replacement options you could completely remove the existing surround, façade,
and freplace and completely start over with a beautiful new freplace and facade to ft your
décor and style. Another option is to remove the freplace through the rear wall without
disturbing the existing surround and façade at all. This usually costs considerably less, however it does limit the size and style of your new freplace as you must work with the opening
size of your existing freplace.
As for what type of freplace to choose—gas, wood, or pellet—gas is by far the most popular.
Gas freplaces are extremely versatile to locate and can be installed almost anywhere. For
those that would like to convert a wood burning freplace to gas, a gas freplace insert could
be installed. Most new gas freplaces these days use some version of the Burn Green Remote system. This system allows you to control not only on and off, but also control the heat
output, ﬂame height, blower speed, light intensity, turn the pilot on and off, and can even
be used as your thermostat. And yes, most gas freplaces now come with a battery backup
system which allows them to operate even during a power outage. Although the blowers
and accessories such as lights will not work without power, you will be able to stay warm in
your home and not have to worry about the house freezing until power is restored.
And where to start? I'd suggest a local freplace showroom that has many freplaces and
options on display. Although a lot of research can be done online, when you want to make
your fnal selections, nothing can take the place of being able to see the freplaces in
operation. Your options will range from Traditional, Full View, Linear, and many others. The
options are almost endless with various log styles, river rocks, driftwood, glass beads for
the burner media kits along with various interior backgrounds, and many face options to
dress up the freplace to ft your styles. One option that is gaining in popularity is the new
cool touch DaVinci Fireplace (see our ad on the left). The DaVinci Fireplace is a completely
customizable, from 3’ up to 25’ long in many shapes such as single-sided, 2-sided, 3-sided,
4-sided island, pier, both L- and U-shaped and more. They are sleek and contemporary and
make a dramatic focal point in any room. With a spectacular presentation, they are great for
any entertaining space. They are designed so you can use them year round—with or without
heat output. With the patented Cool Touch Glass, you never need to worry about guests and
children getting burned. It is a MUST SEE before you make a decision!
Here at LanChester Grill & Hearth, you can browse through our showroom where you can
see the largest working Mendota freplace display in America. All told, we have over 50
working freplaces and stoves for you to see. Equally important, if not more, we have a
knowledgeable staff that will be happy to answer any questions and help guide you through
your decision in choosing the right freplace for your home and your style. Stop in and visit
and let us help you!
What options do I have with an old fireplace installed by my builder that seems to let more cold air in than the heat it produces? It's obviously a lower end fireplace. Also, given the world of everchanging fireplace technology, can you bring me up to date on what's popular these days and why?
Answer provided by: Sam Jay Stoltzfus, Owner, LanChester Grill & Hearth, LLC
In response to your question as to what can be done about your old inefficient fireplace, you'll be happy to hear that we have a system in place where we replace builder–grade
fireplaces with a beautiful energy–efficient Mendota fireplace that will solve your problem.
We can remove your existing fireplace without removing the stone or tile around it
and usually do it in one day. There's no mess and you have a beautiful new fireplace at
the end of the day!
As for the changing technology, as with most things, there have been major technological
advances in the world of fireplaces. As for popularity, propane and natural gas fireplaces
are by far the most popular. Not only are they easy to use, they have also become very
beautiful. Today's top fireplaces like Mendota and Fireplace Xtrordinair come in a wide
range of styles with multiple logs and interior liners along with very attractive flames and
a wide range of heat levels.
Fireplace Evolution–Today's Options.
When I installed my first gas fireplace over 20
years ago they were very basic with a simple flame between a few logs controlled by a
switch or a basic remote. Simple logs, simple to install with a very basic pattern. Today
some of the very simple ones are still available, however the industry leaders in fireplaces
have very unique designs with a wide range of media available from oak, white
birch, spruce, and driftwood logs to river rocks, glass beads, and crushed glass to give
very unique fire designs we never imagined 20 years ago. Most of the fireplaces now
come with accent lights inside to enhance your fireplace when it is not being used. They
also have various interiors available as in red brick, gray brick, herringbone brick, stucco,
ledgestone, mosaic tile, milano tile, various reflective panels and more. Most of them
also come with a GreenSmart remote system which allows you to control the complete
fireplace, raise and lower the flame, turn the rear burner on and off, turn the accent
lights bright or dim, adjust the blower speed, and even turn your pilot on. The days of
pushing buttons under the fireplace or reaching in with a lighter to light them are over!
Power Outages and Safety.
While these fireplaces need power at all times to keep the
pilot lit, they do come with a battery backup pack in case of a power outage and work
great as an emergency backup system. You will not be able to use the blower or the accent
lights in a power outage but you will remain warm. Because they are a sealed direct
vent fireplace they are very safe. Unlike the older natural vent systems that depended on
a natural draft and room air for combustion, the sealed direct vent system draws outside
air into a sealed firebox–eliminating the concern for carbon monoxide. The manufacturers
do place a limit on how long they may burn without the blower–it may be 2 hours on,
30 minutes off, etc, depending on the instructions in the units' Owner's Manual.
Design Options–Traditional, Full–View, Linear
. A traditional fireplace will be more
rectangle in design with louvres at bottom for access to the controls and blowers with
louvres on the top for the air to blow out. A full-view fireplace has the controls tucked in
the side allowing for full glass from the bottom to top with a small slot in the top for the
blower to blow air out. A linear fireplace will be long and narrow creating a contemporary
To help you decide which fireplace is right for you, please stop by our showroom where ou will see over 50 fireplaces and
stoves on display with over 40 in operation.
As the TV insurance spokesman
would say...we know a thing or
two...because we've seen a thing or
two. We've been around since 1996
and like the insurance company,
we've seen quite a few things. Who
would have guessed, for instance,
how popular our contemporary line
of fireplaces would become here in
good old traditional southeast PA?
We installed our first contemporary
fireplace in 2006 and now they
are immensely popular. We even
installed one in a log home! Regardless
of your specific style, a quality
fireplace that is properly installed
will not only warm your house...it'll
also help you get that warm feeling
With winter's cold just around the corner, I find myself daydreaming about a cozy fireplace. With so many
different types being advertised, how do I choose?
Answer provided by: Sam Jay Stoltzfus, Owner, LanChester Grill & Hearth, LLC
Well, you're right about having many
options—there are plenty to choose
from. Both fireplaces and stoves can
be excellent heat sources. Then there's
the more fundamental consideration of
your fuel source–gas, pellet, or wood?
Yes, there's a lot to think about.
GAS FIREPLACES AND STOVES
become very efficient and beautiful
in the last decade. When it comes
to efficiency, Empire has the Mantis
93%, Mendota ranges from 82%–
86.4%, while the Travis line "Fireplace
Xtraordinaire and Lopi" range from
80%-84% efficiencies. With the price
of natural and propane gas today they
have become a low–cost auxiliary heat
for that hard to heat area or just to sit
and enjoy the ambiance of a fire.
As far as looks are concerned, you get
to choose from a traditional look with
beautiful logs, a modern look with
twigs, river rocks, or reflective glass
beads, or you can choose a popular
linear look for the more modern home.
There are many ways to design them to
fit your dècor. Dream outside the box!
As for controls, many operate with a
GreenSmart remote. A GreenSmart
remote enables you to control the
flame height, turn the rear burner off,
control the blower speed, control the
brightness of the interior light, turn the
pilot on and off, and can be used as a
thermostat! The days of bending down
and pushing ignitor buttons to light the
fireplace are over!
Another feature that's worth considering
is that a gas fireplace or stove can
still work in a power outage by the use
of a small battery pack. Although the
blowers and lights will not work without
110V, they are approved to be used
without the blower turned on and will
still radiate heat through the ceramic
One type that I'd recommend that you
stay away from are those that are ventfree.
We replaced so many with direct
vent that I can't even count them! Also,
I have seen many houses that needed
to be repainted because of the by product
from a vent free stove or fireplace.
And to think that you are breathing the
are a great supplementary
heat if you get the right one.
Compared to a gas unit, there is more
work involved with a pellet stove and
the blower is noisier. On the upside,
they are very cost-effective and they
put out cozy, consistent heat.
I'd recommend staying away from a
stove with a burn pot. Instead, choose
one with a burn shelf with a horizontal
feed, as it will mean a lot less maintenance
and greater tolerability for lower
quality pellets. Travis has one called
the All Grade Pellet stove "AGP" which
we have deliberately tried to clog with
poor pellets and have yet to be able to
As for maintenance, it varies with different
brands. Any stove with a burn
pot will require you to shut it off completely
once a week to clean it. Those
with a burn shelf do not need to be
turned off to do weekly service unless
you are using really poor quality pellets.
My advice is to ALWAYS buy the
best pellets available—it's worth the
extra cost. As for the yearly maintenance,
spring is the best time to get all
the ashes and fly ash cleaned out. Not
doing so, you will run the risk of having
moister drawn in that can cause the
inside of your stove to rust.
While pellet stoves are a great source
of heat, you should ALWAYS have a
backup heat source available. These
stoves will not run without electricity
and there could be some significant
down time during a power outage or if
parts need to be ordered.
have also come a long
way in the last 10 years. Efficiency
ratings are much higher, they burn
much cleaner, and some even have
a GreenStart system which allows you (with the kindling placed in the
proper position) to start them with
the push of a button. They come in
various types and styles, some are
catalytic and some are non–catalytic
with an Everburn system and some
use both called a HybridFyre. Lopi
leads the pack with their Cape Cod
HybridFyre which is the cleanest
burning, highest efficiency stove on
the market today. It's also available
with the push button GreenStart
A wood stove will burn with or without
electric and if you happen to
have free wood available it can be
a great way to go. It does however
require dedication and some hard
work to cut and split the wood—but
at least you are off the grid!
On a safety note, always make sure
your chimney is clean and properly
insulated so there is a little heat going
up the chimney to keep it warm
and the draft going. Also, make sure your insurance company is aware of
your stove installation in case you
would ever have a chimney fire.
As always, visit a local showroom
and speak with an expert to discuss
your plans and ask them to guide
you to the product that is right for
you and fits your style.
I would invite you to visit our showroom
where you can see more than
50 stoves and fireplaces on display — many of them hooked up and operating.
My experienced staff and I would
be happy to answer your questions
and help you in your decision making.
Don't fret the upcoming cold...let
us help you get and stay cozy.
After yet another brutal winter, what advice do you have to help reduce our utility
Answer provided by: Vincent Youndt, President, Vertex Mechanical Inc.
High utility bills get a lot of people
scrambling for cost-saving advice but
it's not limited to the cold weather
months–summer bills can be just
as painful. What can you do? Here's
some advice you will hear–even
from the pro's—but be careful!
Use a programmable thermostat. Well maybe. Here's the thing. If you
have a fossil fuel system such as
gas or oil, you can do this, but you
should never set back more than 5-6
degrees. The recovery period when
it comes back on will make the unit
run harder and it can take quite a bit
of time to bring all your walls, floors,
furniture, etc, back up to temp. Also
never set back unless you are leaving
for an extended period of 6 hours
or more. For you heat pump owners,
DON'T SET BACK in heating mode.
You risk the chance that you will
need the expensive electric banks
to help with the recovery. That will
quickly blow any savings you gained
by setting back. In AC mode for any
system, you should never set back
more than 2-3 degrees. Any more
will allow humidity to rebuild and
that can result in higher utility costs.
Install a better filter. Be careful
here. If you have a filter that is 1"
thick, do not use anything that is
rated higher than a Merv 10. The
higher the Merv rating the more
dense it is so that it can catch more
of the dirt in the air. The problem
here is that the higher density filters
are very restrictive and can kill the
performance of your system. If you
are trying to go with a better filter to
help with allergies or want a better
indoor air quality, you should consult
with a heating professional to help
with this. There are really great filters
out there that can do some really
amazing things for you and your
family, but it needs to be properly
selected and installed to match your
system and ensure the highest performance
Professionally maintain your system. That's right. This is the simplest
most cost effective way to make sure
that your system is performing to
its highest potential. It doesn't matter
if your system is brand new or
15-years old, having a professional
maintain this system is critical for
maximizing efficiency and longevity
of the system. This means more than
just a simple filter change. That is
just a start. A professional technician
will check coils, refrigerant charges,
airflow, and many other things. Any
variances in any of these areas can
mean big savings in your utility bill.
Consider more insulation in your
attic. Adding attic insulation is easy
and very inexpensive. You can quickly
reduce your heating bill at a very
low cost. In fact, for those of you who
are the real do–it–yourselfers, you
can go to Lowe's and buy a couple of
bags of insulation and in some cases
they will give you the blower for free.
Update your current system. Your
heating and cooling system consume
70-80% of your energy bill. If
your system is more than 12–years
old, you may want to consider getting
a quote from your local HVAC
company. Most companies give
these quotes free of charge, and
you might be surprised at the savings
of a new system. Also look for a
company that offers you financing.
Many will offer you same as cash
deals which can really help spread
out the payment to something that
is much more manageable.
Soon we will be into the dog days
of summer and before you know it,
the heat will be oppressive. Don't
wait until the last minute—call us
today at 717.335.2633 to schedule
an appointment. We'll make sure
that your AC system is ready to go
to work and running in its most efficient
state. In most cases it will cost
you nothing because of the savings you will see on your utility bill. At
the very least you will have the assurance
that your system is ready
to take on the heat of the summer.
It happened again! I've
replaced my water heater
twice in the past 8 years. My
wife and I debated about
adding 'water heater replacement'
to our envelope
budget because it happens
so frequently. We even
added a water softener because
we were told it would
help, but that seems to have
made it worse! I need some
advice on extending the life
of my water heater without
adding another envelope to
my budget. I can't afford another
costly expense, help!
Answer provided by: J. Evan Graybill, Service Manager, J.G. Graybill Plumbing, Inc.
Many of us can relate to this problem
and share your frustration! Replacing
your water heater when it starts
to leak will only solve the immediate
problem. Fortunately, there are additional
measures that can be taken
to help extend the life of your new
water heater and are overall more
cost effective. A little known secret
to having a long and happy life with
your water heater is the health of its
Anode rods have been part of water
heater production for many years
and they play an enormous role in
the life expectancy of your unit. The
purpose of an anode rod is to protect
the exposed metal inside your
water heater tank. Due to a process
called electrolysis, the anode rod
slowly, sacrificially breaks down to
ensure the tank stays healthy and
strong. There are many factors that
can speed up the rate at which the
anode rod depletes, such as hotter
than normal water temperatures, a
high volume of hot water usage, and
water softeners. There are a few different
types of anode rods and I can
find the one that best suits your application.
An annual anode rod inspection will
save you a lot of money and reduce
the chance of an emergency service
call in the future. Another option is to
install an anode rod depletion detection
device that monitors the condition
of the anode rod. The device notifies
you when the anode rod needs
replaced, before it causes interior
damage to the water heater. My
mom, our office manager, encountered
a similar scenario last year
when her water heater had to be replaced
after only six years. I installed
the monitoring device on her water
heater and it's giving her peace of
mind knowing her water heater isn't
corroding from the inside out. As long as her anode rod is healthy, her
water heater won't be compromised
Your anode rod is the first line of
defense when it comes to protecting
your home from water damage
caused by a leaking water heater.
Unfortunately, water heaters won't
scream for help when water is oozing
from the tank. This is very unsettling
for many individuals, including
myself. We offer a flood/leak stop
detection device that will shut off
the supply valve to the water heater
automatically if it senses water. I
rarely go down in my basement, and
this device gives me the peace of
mind that if a leak occurs in my water
heater, the device would shut the
water off automatically. As a plumber
I've seen first hand what water can
do to a home and it's not a fun experience.
In addition to your anode rod, locate
the water heater owner's manual to
read and learn about routine maintenance
tasks that you can perform
as a homeowner to ensure the highest
efficiency and life for your water
heater. Most water heater manufacturers
have an on-line manual. If
you can't find it, email me the water
heater manufacturer, model number
and serial number and I'll see what I
can find for you.
J.G. Graybill Plumbing, Inc., offers
a unique outlook; we would like to
help you maintain your existing water
heater, rather than sell you a new
one when the underlying problem
still exists. J.G. Graybill Plumbing
is family owned and operated, so
plumbing is in our DNA. Learn more
about us on our website jggraybill.
com or call us at 717.768.3276 so
we can help extend the life of your
My water heater will soon
need replacing and I've heard about the new heat pump water heater technology available. It claims to be more energy efficient and cost effective than standard water heaters on the market. Is this true? Can you explain how it
Answer provided by: John Michel, President, Haller Enterprises, Inc.
The answer is yes, it is true. There
are several types of energy–efficient
water heaters available that are
more cost–effective than standard
water heaters. The heat pump water
heater system works by using
the heat out of the ambient air in
your house to help heat the water
in your tank rather than using standard
elements to heat the water;
a far less expensive process than
The heat pump water heater
works similar to an air conditioner
in reverse in that it uses
and pulls heat from outside
the storage tank to heat the water.
Back up heating processes are
also available for times of high
The Voltex Heat pump water
heater is Energy Star qualified and
has a higher Energy Factor (EF)
rating than not only standard water
heaters but also all other Heat
Pump water heaters in its class.
For even more annual savings,
this water heater provides multiple
operating modes (Efficiency,
Hybrid, Electric) to maximize
efficiency and performance all
while matching the user's heating
requirements. The Efficiency
mode is the most efficient setting,
utilizing only the heat pump to
heat your home's water while the
Hybrid mode utilizes both the heat
pump and the standard electric
elements. The Hybrid setting
helps to provide more hot water
faster for those high demand situations.
All three modes are easily
accessible on the unit's electronic
interface and can be adjusted by
the homeowner to your current
hot water needs.
Another advantage of the hybrid
heat pump water heater is its ability
to dehumidify the air surrounding
the unit, making it favorable
for basement installations. For
many homes, a dehumidifier is
needed to remove excess moisture
from the basement air. As
a byproduct of the Heat Pump
process, this water heater helps to
reduce the amount of basement
Haller offers homeowners a
unique advantage over other
companies; we specialize in the
service and installation of virtually
every system that affects your
home's performance including
HVAC, plumbing and electrical
systems. For over 30 years, our
experts have been helping you
find the perfect home comfort
solution for your needs. Call us at
717.625.1500, or visit hallerent.
com to schedule a free consultation
and find out how beneficial a
heat pump water heater can be
for your home and lifestyle.
Last year I purchased a new high–efficiency air conditioner and gas
furnace for my home. I assumed I would save a ton of money, but instead,
my electric and gas bills have gone up. I have had the installation
company out many times to look at it but they can't figure out what's
wrong. Do you have any ideas?
Answer provided by: Vincent Youndt, President, Vertex Mechanical Inc.
Your situation is not unique. We find many systems that are under performing and are
not reaching the efficiency levels that are expected all the time. And in almost every
case we find that the culprit is not the equipment but the duct system.
The duct system is a series of conduits that carry the warm and cool air from your
air conditioning and heating equipment into your home and then take it back to the
equipment. The comparison we use the most is to the circulatory system in your body.
Your equipment is like your heart, the duct system like your veins, and the air moving
through them is like your blood. We all know that if your blood is not able to move
around your body like it should then you have big problems. It's the same with the
system in your home. If air can't move it is not going to perform correctly or even fail.
The ducts also control how much air is delivered to each room. The right amount of
air will keep the room temperatures where they need to be. If ducts are damaged, improperly
installed or the wrong size, they can cut your system's ability to heat or cool
by more than half on hot or cold days, when you need it the most.
In order to know if your system is working correctly a trained duct work specialist
needs to measure the pressure, temperatures and airflow in the system and compare
that to the manufacturer's specifications and a design standard. We conform to the
National Comfort Institutes (NCI) standards for duct work design.
By measuring, we can determine the overall system efficiency of your whole system
and provide recommendations on how to improve the system's efficiency.
According the National Comfort Institute (NCI) the average efficiency of a heating and
cooling system in a house is 57%. The goal of any NCI–certified contractor is to get
your system to 93% System Performance.
Fixing duct issues won't only lower the energy costs to heat and cool your home, it
can also make your home safer, more comfortable and in most cases prolong the life
of the system which will save you even more money.
"When you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers,
you know something about it. But when you cannot measure it or when
cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory
kind." — Lord Kelvin, 1883
If you have any questions or would like more information on this or on our vast
array of other home comfort solutions, please don't hesitate to give us a call at
717.335.2633 or visit our website at vertex–mechanical.com
Why should I consider purchasing a generator
for my home?
Answer provided by: Duane A. Heisey, Owner, Nolt Electric, Inc.
The past couple of years, we have seen an increase in natural
disasters. Locally, we have been affected by hurricanes, ice
and snow storms. In any of these situations, wide spread
power outages can occur. Therefore, power companies work
hard to restore power to their many customers as quickly as
possible. However, restoring power takes time. Depending on
the severity of the outage, restoring power
could take days. If you live in an area that
exclusively depends on electricity for water,
sewer, heat, sump pump etc., the time
spent without power can be uncomfortable.
In some cases property damage from flooding
or freezing will occur. If a power outage
for several hours or days would be stressful
to your health or wallet, installing a generator
may give you an added peace of mind.
What type of generator is right for me?
There are three types of generators available:
PTO driven, portable, and standby.
Your choice of generator depends on: your
comfort level with gas engines and electricity,
financial means, and how much labor
power you're willing to put in to manage
If you have a tractor equipped with a PTO,
there are PTO driven generators that can
be connected directly to your tractor. With
this type of generator you would need to
manage the tractors accelerator to acquire
the correct voltage. These generators are
most often connected to a whole house
double throw switch. The advantage to a
PTO driven generator is that you will not
add another gas engine to maintain. However,
there are several disadvantages, including needing the
tractor for other tasks, the noise level, the quality of voltage
output, and having to constantly check fuel availability during
a power outage.
If you are looking for a more compact and inexpensive generator,
there is a large selection of portable generators to choose
from. These portable generators vary in their output from
1500 watt up to 15,000 watt. They also come with a wide
range of power quality. These generators are easily stored and
are the most inexpensive solution. The disadvantages are they
can be difficult to start, (especially if using a pull cord) they can
be noisy, they need to be re–fueled every 5–8 hours, and most
are not large enough to power the entire home.
Standby generators, are permanently fixed to your home
system, much like an outdoor unit for air conditioning. These
generators are permanently connected to a home fuel source,
(such as propane or natural gas), and operate using an automatic
transfer switch (ATS). They are designed to automatically
start after a power outage is detected and automatically turn
off when utility power has been restored. The ATS controls the
power to the whole house or to critical circuits, which are chosen
depending on the size of the generator. The advantages
of having a standby generator include: automatic set up for
emergency, quiet design, and they give peace of mind, whether
home or away that your home systems are running. However,
standby generators can be expensive to install and they must
be maintained annually.
How do I connect my generator to the electrical system?
generator is connected through a permanently installed switch.
A standby generator switch automatically connects to your
power. PTO drive or portable generators have a manual switch
and the connection is normally through an extension cord and
a specialized outlet. For a smaller, portable generator, a panel
is installed to focus on the critical circuits that need to be
powered. This generator panel may have a switch installed in it
or may utilize a breaker interlock to change power sources. For
a larger generator, a manual switch, designed to control the power to your main panel, can be used to ensure that voltage
will not be fed back into the utility power grid. A generator
switch should be sized and installed by a qualified electrician.
Location—where should I install my generator?
several issues to think about when considering where to
install your generator. First, one must consider proximity to
the electric and fuel source. For a PTO driven or portable
generator, the location must be easily accessible in inclimate
weather and near a readily available fuel source. In a storm
or power outage, you may not be concerned about how the
generator looks from the street or neighbors house. However,
during normal operations, (especially for a standby generator)
asthetics may influence location. Finally, even though stand by
generators are designed to reduce noise, noise plays a part in
location consideration. You may not want to install a generator
close to a bedroom or living room if power is out for several
days. It's also recommended to place your generator 5 feet
away from any window or vent and 18 inches away from the
house to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and fire hazards.
If you feel that having a generator would bring peace of mind
but unsure of which direction to go or if you
have any questions in general, please feel
free to contact us for more information at
firstname.lastname@example.org or call
Without getting political,
it seems like the weather is getting wackier and wackier. With the huge fluctuations in temperatures that we've seen
the past several years, what can I do to ensure that my heating and air conditioning is there when I need it and operating efficiently?
Answer provided by: Joe Ranck, Partner, Robert H. Ranck Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning
Several years ago, I addressed in
this column a question very similar
to yours. It was actually March 14th,
2007, and the temperature was a
near-record 78 degrees. Today as I
write this we're getting fairly seasonable
weather for late December. On
the otherhand, it got up to 67 degrees
a few days ago! Regardless of the wild
swings in temperature, one thing has
not changed. When we need heat or
air conditioning for our homes, we
need it! And we need it right then and
there It is interesting that people panic
more with the hot weather then they
do with the cold weather. Thirty years
ago few homes had central AC, but
today we demand comfort year round.
The delivery of AC has leap frogged
ahead in its technology. Not only is
the equipment light years ahead of
the existing units, but the science of
delivering the conditioned air to the
desired space has been perfected.
Today there is no excuse for having an
And, it's not just about comfort. Humidity
control has reduced mold concerns
to nil, systems are so efficient
they can cut your utility bills in half. In
addition, dust, dust mites, and spores
that cause allergies can be removed
from the air.
One such air purification product that
we've been recommending to our
customers is the "Air Scrubber". It
helps to purify as well as disinfect the
air you breathe by reducing approximately 90% of airborne micro-organisms.
The Air Scrubber comes from
technology based on NASA research
developed for the International Space
Station to reduce exposure of harmful
contaminants to the astronauts
living for long periods of time on the
Space Station. And even though their
research probably didn't test for it, the
Air Scrubber does a heck of a job on
those knock-your-socks-off smells we
are frequently blessed with here in
The bottom line is, regardless of the
outside temperature or air quality, you
can maintain your family's comfort
and health by taking preventative
measures. Heating and air conditioning
systems should be checked and
serviced regularly. Part of that check
should include an inspection of your
system (equipment and ductwork) to
make sure it was installed and sealed
properly. On the other hand, if the
best equipment is installed by an untrained
professional, that same house
can become a victim of sick building
syndrome and be a detriment to your
Choose carefully the contractor that
services, installs, and creates your indoor
living environment. The make of
the equipment is the least important
factor to consider. The contractor you
choose is the key. Make all the right
moves and surviving whatever Mother
Nature throws at you will be a piece
For more information, please
don't hesitate to give us a call at
717.397.2577 or visit us online at
In your last edition, there was a very interesting plug for an air
purification system called the Air Scrubber. Quite frankly, the claims of this system seem too good to be true. Are they?
Answer provided by: Vincent Youndt, President, Vertex Mechanical Inc.
About a year and a half ago when I was first contacted by a company selling the Air
Scrubber, I too was thinking that this system was too good to be true. They claimed
they had a product that would deodorize, sanitize and clean the bad air in my home
and make it smell fresh and clean while killing harmful bacteria and viruses. As a
husband with four children, I can tell you I was pretty skeptical.
I agreed to a meeting with the company, mainly just to prove them wrong. They
agreed to allow me to test the unit in my home and try it out. I installed the unit and
decided not to tell my wife to see if she noticed any difference in the air quality of
our home. One day she asked me if I had done something to our heating and cooling
system because she thought the house smelled like "fresh sheets."
Okay, so the Air Scrubber passed the freshness test. But what about the other
Anyone who has multiple children in school knows when one gets a cold or some
sort of bug, the rest are almost guaranteed to follow suit. After installing the Air
Scrubber, I noticed when one of them became sick it generally stayed with them and
didn't spread to the rest of the family. Coincidence? Maybe.
So what about the elimination of odors? One day I made fish on the stove instead
of the outside grill knowing my wife does not like me bringing that fishy smell into
the house. Within an hour of making it the fish smell was gone. Unwilling to admit
defeat, I said "Let's burn bacon!" so I could test both the smell and the smoke. It
took about 20 minutes to create a nice blue haze in the kitchen. Incredibly, within
30 minutes there was no smell or smoke residue to be found. Another point for Air
The final test was my son, who has asthma and occasionally requires breathing
treatments after an attack. To date, he hasn't needed a breathing treatment since
the Air Scrubber was installed. While the first two tests provided impressive results,
this one turned me into a believer.
The reason the Air Scrubber works so well is because it is built with the same technology
developed and used for the International Space Station and is recognized as
the exclusive Certified Space Technology by the Space Foundation in its category.
In simple terms, it utilizes a cell to energize the air molecules as they pass through
your HVAC duct system. The energized molecules, which have a lot of the same
characteristics of hydrogen peroxide, go throughout the entire home via your duct
system. As these energized molecules come in contact with airborne dust or viruses
it zaps and sterilizes them and they fall to the floor for your sweeper. It also sanitizes
all surface areas using the same process.
It's been a little over a year since I have been offering the Air Scrubber to my customers.
Some are looking to get rid of smoke or pet odor. Others have allergies or asthma. Some just want to protect
their families from colds and viruses.
The feedback I received from them on
the positive results has convinced me
this product delivers on its promises.
Because I am so confident in the system
and feel strongly it will improve
the air quality of your home, I offer a
complete refund plus the cost of installation
to customers who don't see
an improvement within 90 days. The
Air Scrubber made me a believer, and
I'm one of the toughest critics you'll
find. To learn more, contact me at
Vertex Mechanical at 717.335.2633.
We just bought a BIG old fixer upper with many, many rooms. Needless to say, the cost
of heating scares me. We're very interested in installing/updating fireplaces, maybe even inserts, but don't know too much about them including whether they are energy efficient.
What can you tell us?
Answer provided by: Sam Jay Stoltzfus,
LanChester Grill &
We get a lot of these types of general questions — especially
this time of year. With energy costs as unpredictable
as they are, many homeowners are looking for efficient
heating alternatives. Since your question is so general,
perhaps it's best that I address it by going over specific
questions that we hear the most.
I'm looking for a new fireplace insert for my
existing masonry fireplace which is very inefficient.
What is out there and how do I choose?
There are basically 3 options available––wood, wood pellets, or gas.
WOOD. If you are looking for independence
from the grid and don't mind working
you may want to install an efficient
wood-burning insert with a blower. The
downside is you need to keep split wood
on hand and will need to remove ashes
etc. If the work doesn't bother you, this
can be a very low cost way to heat.
WOOD PELLETS. If you are looking for a
low cost way to heat without the work of
a wood stove you may wish to install a
wood pellets insert. This offers a lot less
dirt, less ashes to deal with than a wood
insert, and convenient 40 lb. bags to pour
into the hopper. Avalon has an ALL GRADE
FUEL pellet stove that is very user friendly and low maintenance.
It can be equipped with a wireless wall thermostat
for maximum comfort.
GAS. The most popular choice is a beautiful, high efficiency
Propane or Natural gas insert which will give you a beautiful
fire, high efficiency, and the convenience of a remote
for operation. Mendota and Avalon have a GreenSmart
remote that will turn the pilot on, main flame up and down,
rear burner turn off, blower speed, accent light, and a
GreenSmart thermostat. These units have many different
face options to choose from.
What would you recommend for a new sunroom that does not have
A free standing direct vent stove would be an
excellent choice. They can be vented out
a side wall or straight up thru the roof and
are quite easy to install in both new and
existing rooms. The Mantis by Empire is a
super high-efficient unit that utilizes PVC
pipe for the exhaust and can be vented in
any direction and installed virtually anywhere.
What can you tell me about the new modern
fireplaces I hear about?
Fireplaces today are
designed to meet many different tastes
and styles. Some have river rocks, drift
wood, reflective beads, reflective glass,
and decorative shapes. Some are linear
in shape, some vertical, and some are
your traditional configuration. They also
offer various reflective interiors in copper,
stainless, and black backgrounds. Most of
the modern models will be a slightly lower
heat output so you can enjoy the flame for a longer period of time while keeping the high efficiency
intact. For a taste of what is available you may want to visit
some websites. Mendota, Avalon, Empire, and Napoleon
would be a great place to start.
I have a great room with a cathedral ceiling and would like a
fireplace as the central focus and also for heat, what would you
I would definitely recommend a direct vent gas
fireplace which can be vent thru the wall or up thru the roof
with a fake chimney up the inside of the room for an impressive
look. You could encase it with faux stone to give a rustic
look. You can also use marble and a wood mantle surround
or a faux limestone surround in very elaborate designs. If you
can dream it, chances are very good we can design it.
Will I need to hire a separate contractor to install the framing and
Typically that decision is up to you the consumer.
At LanChester Grill & Hearth we offer the whole package. We
will do the frame work, install the fireplace and gas line, and
have our own subcontractor to do the stonework.
Can I install a fireplace in my master bedroom?
Yes, you can put a
fireplace in virtually any room in your home as long as it is a
direct vent or electric fireplace. We have installed fireplaces
in bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, bathrooms, and studios,
just to name a few of the possibilities.
You have mentioned direct vent quite a bit, can you describe that system?
Yes, a direct vent system is usually a coaxial system
with your exhaust pipe inside the intake pipe. For example: a
4" pipe inside a 7" pipe, the 4" pipe is the exhaust and the
7" pipe on the outside is the fresh air intake. The fireplace is
a sealed unit that will not remove any air from your home or
put any fumes back into the home. The systems are not dependant
on atmospheric pressures and they can be vented
almost anywhere. This type of system will not suck your room
air as a wood burning or a natural vent gas unit would.
What can you tell me about a vent free fireplace?
they are very clean burning it is still a fossil fuel that will put
off some residue. They are not permitted in bedrooms and
sleeping areas. One thing most people do not realize is that
the owner's manual tells you to open a window slightly when
you use them. Nobody wants to do that every time they light
the fireplace. I have seen houses that have needed to be
totally repainted from misuse or malfunction of a vent free
unit. Remember, you will breath whatever this unit emits.
For more information, I invite you to call
me or come visit us and experience our
spectacular NEW showroom display!
My wife and I live in a rural area of Lancaster County. Sometimes the air quality is not the best, and even though we keep our windows shut,
the smells sometimes are present in the home. What are our options to remove odors in our home?
Answer provided by: Joe Ranck, Partner, Robert H. Ranck Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning
The most effective product that we
have found to work for our customers
is the "Air Scrubber". It helps to purify
and disinfect the air you breathe
by reducing approximately 90% of
airborne micro-organisms. It is technology
based on NASA research that
was developed for the International
Space Station to reduce exposure of
harmful contaminants to the astronauts
living for long periods of time
on the Space Station.
Will that also work on cooking
odors? What about the musty
smells in our basement?
Yes! It will
eliminate cooking odors and musty
smells in the basement. If you are
noticing that your basement has a
musty smell, especially during the
hot and humid days of summer that
is a good indication that the humidity
level in the basement is staying
above 50%. You should also consider
installing a de–humidifier to remove
the excess moisture from your basement.
Along with the odors, our children
are always struggling with allergies;
can this same system help
control their allergy symptoms? If
so, how? Is there a prescribed time
that it needs to work before we can
see improvement with their allergies?
Several of our customers, who
have installed the "Air Scrubber" in
their homes, have all but eliminated
the effects of allergies allowing them
to breathe more easily and enjoy a
good night's sleep. The "Air Scrubber"
does this by reducing bacteria,
viruses, and airborne germs. You will
notice improved indoor air quality
in the first few days after the "Air
Scrubber" is installed.
I'm interested in a product like
this. What are some of the other
things it will do for the air quality
in my home? Will it remove contaminants
from our duct work or
even the surfaces in our home?
It will eliminate tobacco smoke,
household and cooking odors,
including vapors from gas appliances.
It will destroy up to 99% of
all surface bacteria, viruses, and
germs, whether in your duct work
or your household surfaces. It does
this by releasing molecules when
it is activated that will attract air
particulates and airborne organisms
like a magnet. It will kill them and
clump them together to be trapped
in your unit's air filter. Depending
on your living environment, you may
need to change your air filter more
Is this a system that requires a
It is a
system that works most effectively
when installed in a forced air system
(heat pump, central a/c, or gas or oil
warm air). This allows you to "scrub" the air as it is circulated throughout
the house throughout the entire
year. There is also a standalone unit
that is available, if you do not have a
forced air system.
What is involved to get this installed
in my home?
The "Air Scrubber"
gets mounted in the "supply"
side of your ductwork just above the
furnace and evaporator coil and operates
off of the furnace power. This
means that when the HVAC systems
fan is running the "Air Scrubber" is
activated. Feel free to give us a call
if you have additional questions
regarding this product or about
scheduling a unit to be installed in
For more information, please
don't hesitate to give us a call at
We were talking with our friends about a remodeling project on our house, and they said a federal energy savings tax credit from the installation of a geothermal heating system paid for them to vacation in Honolulu, Hawaii.If this is true, how can we benefit from such energy saving tax credits when we
Answer provided by: Robin L. Bodine, CPA/Partner and Donald Sauder,
Accountant, Trout, Ebersole & Groff LLP
Residential energy–efficient property
credits can achieve substantial tax
savings for you when you remodel.
Today, remodeling can pay–off for
you with significant tax credit savings
available for energy-efficient property.
Yes, the perplexities of the Internal Revenue Code can work in your favor.
For instance, if you elect to invest in a
new geothermal heat pump system for
your property, you can obtain a 30%
tax credit. The credit is unlimited on
costs and effective until December 31,
2016. Therefore, if you pay $28,000
for your new geothermal heat pump
system, your tax credit you could use
for a vacation when filing in a tax year
before 2017, would be $8,400; or if
you elect to save the tax refund, your
cost of the project would be reduced to
This energy–efficient tax credit is available
for the installation of qualified
geothermal heat pump systems on
existing homes, new homes, and second
homes, but not rentals. A qualified
geothermal heat pump system is geothermal
equipment with the following features: Uses the ground or ground
water as a thermal energy source to
heat the dwelling unit or as a thermal
energy sink to cool the dwelling unit,
and meets the requirements of the Energy
Star program which are in effect
at the time the equipment is installed.
Labor costs associated with the installation
of the geothermal heat pump
system and any associated materials
such as piping or wiring to interconnect
to the home are also included for
computation of the tax credit.
The credit is obtained on Form 5695
"Residential Energy Credits". The cost
of the geothermal heat pump does add
to your home's cost basis, so if you sell
your property, you don't pay more capital
gains tax for the value increase, but
this basis increase must be reduced by
the amount of the tax credit received.
The residential energy efficient property
credit can be used to offset both
regular income taxes and the alternative
minimum income tax (AMT); if
the tax credit exceeds your income
tax liability for the year, the remaining
credit balance is carried forward into
Qualified energy property such as
small wind turbines and solar energy
systems also has the 30% tax credit
available, unlimited on costs and effective
until December 31, 2016. So,
should you decide to install solar panels
or a photovoltaic system to power
your homes electrical outlets, you can
benefit from additional tax credits too.
Should you have any additional
questions, don't hesitate to call us at
We have been hearing the term "automation"
a lot recently and it seems to always
be associated with turning household items
on or off with an iPhone. Can you shed
some light on this "automation" technology
and explain the benefits of such a system?
Answer provided by: John Michel,
Haller Enterprises, Inc.
Let me start by explaining what a home automation system
can do. It is a term used for systems that can open a
line of communication between different components in
your home such as lights, thermostats, security, music,
pool/spa, etc. It allows these components to talk to each
other and create a home that can, in a sense, think for
itself. For example, if you would like your lights to flash
when your security system is activated by an intruder
or fire, the security system would automatically tell the
lights what to do. An automation system is also very convenient
when you're getting ready for bed; your security
system could tell your thermostats "I have been armed
in night mode, please change your settings to bedtime
temperature." It could also communicate with all of your
TV's, music, and lights and instruct them to turn off. Different
"house modes" can also be set up for the ultimate
convenience which would allow thermostats, lights, music
and pool/spa settings to change just by touching a
button on your iPhone.
There are many energy–saving benefits when you decide
to incorporate an automation system in your home.
Lights, thermostats, and shades can be set on schedules
based on your specific needs or based on sunrise and
sunset. "Green modes" can be set to override schedules
when you are not home so that less energy is being
used. Some automation systems such as the Elan g! can
even track your heating and cooling usage and help you
adjust your thermostat schedules to be as efficient as
possible. This allows you to reduce energy costs and remain
budget friendly when utilizing these features.
Another huge benefit of today's automation systems is
the ability to access and monitor equipment from anywhere
in the world via various devices, such as a smart
phone, PC, or iPad. The touch of a button enables you to
turn off lights you may have forgotten about, disarm your
security system to let a neighbor in while on vacation,
check your security cameras, or even get the hot tub
warmed up before you get home.
Not all automation systems are created equal. When
selecting a company that specializes in automation,
research the companies and their offers in advance. Be
prepared to ask questions about their experience, ask
how their services can benefit your home, and always
ask for job references.
At Haller, we offer a unique advantage over other automation
companies because we specialize in virtually
every field that automation systems encompass, including
lighting control systems and HVAC systems. For over
30 years, our experts have been helping you find the
perfect home comfort solution for your needs. Give us
a call at 717-625-1500 or visit www.HallerEnterprises.com to schedule a free consultation and demonstration
from our home automation specialists. Haller will show
you just how beneficial home automation can be for
your home and lifestyle.
As a first-time homeowner, I freely admit that
I know little, VERY little about homeownership
and the various household responsibilities
that go along with it. For instance, I know
absolutely nothing about plumbing let alone
heating, cooling and the other mechanical
stuff that can go on the fritz . I don't even
know what I don't know. Do you have any
words of wisdom to share?
Answer provided by: Joe Ranck,
Robert H. Ranck
Plumbing, Heating &
After 35 years in the plumbing and HVAC
service business I guess it's about time for
me to divulge some of our insider closely
held secrets with all of you.
Lancaster County is blessed with an
abundance of superior plumbing and HVAC
service businesses who deliver exceptional
customer service. It takes a lot of effort for
any company to remain in the top tier and
that competition benefits you the consumer.
Websites, Facebook, and Twitter are great
but talking with your neighbor or a friend
is still the best way to choose a company
to work in your home on your mechanical
2. Anode Rods.
Although you may not have
ever heard of an anode rod it is the "sacrificial
lamb" that prevents your water heater
from leaking. Having it checked every 2–3 years and replaced as needed can double the life of your
water heater. Water heater manufacturers don't spend a lot
of marketing dollars promoting the lowly anode rod as they
depend on leaking water heaters to stay in business.
3. Yearly Maintenance.
Having a professional thoroughly
check your heating and cooling system on an annual basis
can lengthen the life of your system, lower your energy bills,
and prevent costly repairs. Although our business has grown
over the years the emergency service calls have drastically
decreased among customers who maintain their equipment.
A small investment can result in huge savings, added comfort,
and peace of mind over the years. A yearly check up for
your plumbing systems can also yield big savings.
4. Low Flush/Comfort Height Toilets.
Low flush toilets finally
flush better than the older ones and use less than half the
water. "Going Green" at its best. Low flush/Comfort height
toilets are 2" higher for greater comfort and are the only way
to go when replacing your existing toilet.
5. Indoor Air Quality.
If your house is not the healthiest place
to live because of high humidity, mold, dust mites, dust, or
dry air in the winter, there are many solutions available. Lancaster
County is one of the worst places to live with allergies.
There are various solutions to make your life healthier and
6. Dry and Itchy Skin.
The hard water that is so prevalent in
our area may be the cause of the problem. A water softener
that removes the calcium in the water will curtail the itching.
7. Preseason Deals.
February through mid May is a SLOW
time in the HVAC service business. If you have the foresight
to get your work done during this time period, you can save a
lot of money. Our goal during this time period is just to keep
our employees working. We have even been known to beg
on occasion. We can skimp on price to get work because we
know that profit will come later when the weather gets hot.
For more information, please don't hesitate to give us a call
In closing, a BIG THANK YOU to our wonderful customer base
in Lancaster County who are for the most part (98%) fair,
appreciative, and loyal.
My husband and I are planning to replace our boiler and
would like to know if a high efficiency gas boiler would
be a good investment?
Answer provided by: Harry Whittaker,
Absolutely. With rising fuel costs and the availability of condensing, high
efficiency gas products, the installation of a Burnham Alpine 95% gas
boiler is a VERY wise choice.
Unlike boilers that have been around for more than 100 years, the new
condensing technology that uses modulating firing can now match the
load requirement based on outdoor air temperature. In the past, a typical
cast iron boiler would come up to the temperature of the high limit control,
which in most cases would be 180 degrees. A waste of fuel and energy to
satisfy the thermostat setting on days when the temperature outside isn't
that cold. Today with modulating step firing, the boiler can now fire in five
stages, using less fuel to satisfy the thermostat.
For instance, a boiler with a 100,000 btu capacity would fire in 20,000 btu
increments, based on the outdoor air temp. For example, on a 40-degree
day, it may only fire at 20,000 btu's to provide a lower water temperature
to satisfy the thermostat. As the temperature drops outside, the water
temperature is increased inside, therefore maximizing the efficiency of the
boiler. This technology is the latest in gas boilers and is proven to reduce
fuel consumption. One thing to keep in mind is the importance of annual
service. This not only keeps the equipment operating at its highest efficiency,
but will also extend the life of the product. In most cases, this is
overlooked and becomes a problem in time with lower efficiency and possibly,
In addition to providing heat at a high rate of efficiency, you can also
include an indirect water heater such as the Burnham Alliance to maximize
efficiency of your domestic water. These indirect tanks provide abundant
water that's stored in an insulated tank that holds the hot water temperature
for a very long time. Most sizes will only lose Y, degree in temperature
per hour, using less fuel to produce your domestic water. In addition, these
tanks come with a ten-year warranty as standard, and Burnham offers an
extended "lifetime" warranty to the homeowner for an additional $100.
Peace of mind for very little additional cost.
Hot water heating with a boiler is very flexible. You can heat multiple areas,
at different temperatures. You could use it for producing domestic water,
radiant heating, and snow melting. If you were having problems heating an
area in your home, such as the kitchen, radiant heat would be a very good
option. If you have access to the floor joists below, you could add radiant
tubing in the joist bay, and circulate hot water through the tubing, warming
the floors above. A great option, especially if you have hard wood or tile
Whatever you decide on, keep in mind that you'll be supporting a local
company by choosing Burnham. A company with a long history of producing
high quality reliable products. Visit their email@example.com.
You can also find a listing there for local contractors in your area.
With fall upon us and the
cold wintery days not far
behind, I am dreading the
thought of my upcoming
heating bills. What alternative,
sources are available?
Answer provided by: Sam Jay Stoltzfus,
LanChester Grill &
This is a timely question—one that
we hear often this time of year. The
fact is, there are several alternatives
that would help cut your home
heating expense while adding a
cozy feel to your home. Here are
some things to consider.
Can a gas stove or fireplace lower
my heating cost?
stoves and fireplaces are easy to
use, appealing to the eyes and can
help lower your energy bills as much
as 25% and are controlled with
either a wall switch or remote. The
Mantis by Empire Comfort Systems
is an outstanding 93% efficient and
uses pvc pipe for the exhaust! Our
Mendota line of gas fire places with
the Burn Green System is the most
realistic and beautiful flame on the
market today and all exceed 86%
efficiency! Our Avalon fireplace with
the Green Smart remote system
come in right with the leading
brands with efficiency ratings up to
86% and many beautiful and unique
styles to choose from. Most of these
gas fireplaces do not require electricity
to operate and will operate
even in power outages.
Why would I choose a pellet stove?
If you are looking for an alternative
source of heat without the hassle
of cutting wood, hauling it into the
house, and needing a full fledged
chimney which limits where you
can install it, then a pellet stove
may be the perfect solution for you.
Wood pellets are made from left
over wood scraps from manufacturing
plants and certain fast growing
trees making them a 100% Green
Product! *Minimal storage space
needed (packed in 40lb bags or
available in bulk) * easy to use
control panel and some even have
an automatic thermostat. * Even
available in a window unit just like
your air conditioner! Stop in and see
it!) With efficiency ratings as high as
85% you may be able to slash your
heating bill in half!
When is a wood stove the right
If you are looking for financial
freedom in heating your home
at a fraction of the cost of oil, gas,
or electric, a wood stove may be the
answer for you. Beyond their cozy
romantic glow and homey crackle,
today's wood stoves produce low
cost heat, burn clean and efficient,
producing minimal ash and smoke.
Today's wood stoves are becoming
increasingly more efficient and
easier to use. Vermont Castings
has a wood stove with an 86% efficiency
rating . In the near future
we expect ratings over 90% and
even having an electronic ignition
system. Stay Tuned! Remember:
when you choose the most efficient
stove available, sized correctly for
your home, it will pay for itself many
times over and provide years of
enjoyment and satisfaction.
For more information, please don't
hesitate to give us a call. Better yet,
come visit us and browse through
our showroom for a first hand look
at the numerous (and beautiful)
We just moved into a new house and I'm
noticing white spots on my dishes when they
come out of the dishwasher, what's a treatment
to fix this home ailment?
Answer provided by: John Michel, President, Haller Enterprises, Inc.
Spotty dishes, low lather and buildup around plumbing
fixtures are typical symptoms of hard water. Hard water is a
common malady in many homes in the Central Pennsylvania
area, however there is an easy remedy—a new water treatment
system. Whether you have municipally treated water or
well water, the first thing you'll want to do is get your water
tested. There are many places in the area that can test your
home's water for pH levels, iron, total dissolved solids and
hardness. The test results will help determine what sort of
treatment will work best in your home.
Because of the minerals found in Central PA, one solution for
many issues is water softening. Water softening counteracts
the hardness in water to prevent a build-up of lime scale.
Not only does hard water make lathering up in the shower
difficult, it also has a tendency to build up around plumbing
fixtures and create hard water stains in your toilet, sinks and
bathtub. Water softening equipment can eliminate the white
build-up on fixtures, prevent hard water stains and soap
scum, as well as extend the life of appliances and your water
heater. In fact, softened water is 20-40% more efficient to
heat, making it one more way to save money through energy
If the taste of your water bothers you, one solution is a
Reverse Osmosis (RO) water system. An RO system provides
fresh, clean and better tasting water by reducing minerals
and contaminants found in tap water. This system works by
forcing water molecules through a semi-permanent membrane,
where the contaminants are rinsed down the drain.
Following this process the refined water is then routed to a
special holding tank. An RO water system is one of the more
convenient and economical methods of purifying water.
Bacteria and microorganisms can be another concern, especially
in well water. An independent laboratory can perform a
test for these organisms, and if they are found, an Ultraviolet
Water Purifier can be installed. This piece of equipment helps eliminate harmful bacteria and organisms in your
water, providing you with better tasting, healthy water. UV
Energy destroys many forms of potentially harmful bacteria
and viruses, such as E. coli, cholera, mold, algae and polio.
By using a UV Purifier you will enjoy water free of toxins and
viruses, leaving your water fresh every time you take a drink.
These are simple steps to ensure that the water you are
drinking is safe and free of harmful bacteria. You and your
family will be enjoying better tasting water in your new home.
You will also notice that you are using less soap, because it's
easier to create lather in the shower and your glassware will
look new each time you take them out of the dishwasher.
Contact Haller Enterprises today to find out what water
conditioning product is ideal for your home to help eliminate
hardness and enjoy refreshing water right from the tap.
Haller Enterprises — One Call... Handles It All! 717.625.1500
or online at www.HallerEnterprises.com.
Help! I want my home to be more energy efficient heading into winter,
particularly after a summer of high cooling bills. When it comes to high efficiency heating and cooling, where do I start?
Answer provided by: Brent Hess, Sales & Marketing
Manager, Groff's Home Comfort Team
approaching energy savings, addressing heating and cooling costs
is the natural
first consideration. When you look at how much homeowners spend on energy
bills each year (on average, around $2,200), nearly half the expense goes toward
maintaining a comfortable, temperate environment.
The first step in creating your energy plan is conducting a home inspection of
your own. Identify rooms that simply aren't comfortable and track your own habits. For
example, are you constantly adjusting the thermostat? Programmable thermostats
can provide significant energy savings by lowering the setting overnight or during
the day while you're at work.
In addition, understanding heating and cooling lingo empowers homeowners when
it comes to making decisions on upgrading or replacing existing systems:
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio):
The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient a
cooling unit will be during a typical season. Residential air conditioners currently being manufactured
must have a SEER rating of at least 13, but to qualify for Federal Tax Credit must be 16 SEER.
EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio):
Measure of how efficiently a cooling system will operate at peak day
operations (95°F). To qualify for tax credits, an AC system needs an EER rating of 13. Heat pumps
must have an EER rating of 12.5. Both SEER and EER are important when choosing a product.
HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor):
Rating used for heat pumps. Again, the higher the
HSPF number, the greater the efficiency and energy savings during a season. While models must
have an HSPF of at least 6.8, an 8.5 is required to qualify for Federal Tax Credits.
AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency):
This percentage/measurement identifies how much fuel
is being used to heat your home, and ultimately, how much is being wasted in the effort. While the
minimum industry standard requires an AFUE of at least 78%, to qualify for Federal Tax Credit gas
furnaces must be 95%, while oil furnaces and gas and oil boilers must be at least 90%.
Why do these ratings matter? If you have an older furnace, for instance, you may be running below
the AFUE industry standard of 78%. Upgrading your system to at least meet the new standard will
improve your savings. Updating to an even higher efficiency system (95%) will increase your savings
Armed with a better understanding of your own home, as well as improvements necessary, it's time
to seek out a reputable, licensed HVAC contractor, who has a good understanding of your community
and will work with you to develop the right plan for improving your home's energy efficiency. They
will provide advice on how to maximize what works and will recommend upgrades that will keep you
comfortable, no matter the season.
Any investment requires some ongoing maintenance, not only to keep it in good working order,
but also to encourage a longer life and greater efficiency. Something as simple as a dirty air filter,
regardless of your SEER rating, will affect performance. Ignored for too long, dirt may build up and
lead to the need for a more costly intervention. Best practices are to maintain a relationship with
your HVAC contractor. Also, consider an annual service and maintenance contract, which covers the
twice-yearly recommended service checks while offering additional benefits and discounts on future
calls and parts.
Finally, the cost. While the initial investment
may be more expensive than
typical models or systems, the savings
in reduced energy bills and long-term
performance make up the difference.
Ultimately, the EPA suggests that
through a combination of the right systems,
proper installation and regular
maintenance, homeowners can expect
to cut their energy bills from 20% to
50%. Also, talk with your HVAC contractor
about potential tax credits (which
are currently set to expire December
31, 2010), as well as possible manufacturer
and utility rebates.
For more than 20 years, Groff's has
been helping families in Lancaster,
Chester and York counties live better
with high efficiency heating and cooling,
plumbing, and electric service and
repair, along with bathroom remodeling.
Call 717-464-9446 or visit www.
groffs.com for more information.
I am planning to replace my
water heater with a more
efficient model, but we have
an all-electric home. I've
been hearing a lot about Heat
Pump Water Heaters. What
are they and will they help
me save money on my electric
Answer provided by: John Michel, Vice President - Service/Remodel, Haller Enterprises, Inc.
It's a great idea to consider efficiency
levels when replacing your home's
mechanical systems. According to
www.energystar.gov, water heating
can account for a whopping 14-25%
of the energy consumed in your home.
The water heater market has been
known over the last several years
for improving efficiencies in gas and
propane models. Many homeowners
have been reaping the benefits with
lower utility bills. But homeowners
without access to natural gas or propane
have had to watch in frustration
while their electric bills rise.
Electric water heaters differ from
their fossil fuel burning counterparts,
because they are already highly efficient.
Fuel burning water heaters gain
efficiency by reducing the amount of
energy lost during the fuel burning
process. Electric water heaters are
closed systems and the only way to
increase their efficiency has been to
increase the amount of insulation...
Introduced into the market in 2009
is the Electric Heat Pump Water
Heater. It looks much like a standard
electric water heater, except for the
small heat pump attached to the top.
It works by extracting heat from the
ambient air in the room, intensifying
it with a condenser and transferring it
to the water. The important part about
this product is that it takes much less
energy (aka money) to run the heat
pump than the direct heating element
in the water heater. So the more the
heat pump portion is used, the lower
the electric bill.
Each unit comes with a control panel
that gives you the ability to decide
what mode fits your lifestyle at any
given time. If you have overnight
guests and have an unusually large
demand for hot water, you have the
ability to change to electric only mode
or a hybrid mode that will use both
heating methods. Energy saver mode
(heat pump only) will give you the biggest
There are other bonuses to a heat
pump water heater. As part of the
heat pump feature, the area around
the water heater will experience a
cooling effect...which may help with
overall cooling costs of your home
in the summer. Dehumidification is
another byproduct which is perfect for
The Department of Energy
estimates that the average household
can save almost $300 per year on its
electric bill compared to a standard
water heater. In addition, the only
electric water heaters that may qualify
for the Federal Tax Credit of 30% up to
$1,500 are solar and the heat pump
water heaters! PECO and PPL Electric
Utilities customers may qualify for additional
here couldn't be a better time—take
advantage of the rebates and tax
credits to start saving today. Don't delay—
the tax credits for energy efficiency
expire at the end of 2010. If you are
interested in more information on this
product or other ways to improve your
home's energy efficiency, call Haller
Enterprises today at 717.625.1500.
I keep hearing about federal
tax credits for energy-efficient
HVAC equipment. Is the financial
payback worth the
up-front investment? Who
can help me make an informed
Answer provided by: Susan Moyer, Owner, Cocalico Plumbing & Heating
There's lots of promotion surrounding
incentives for energy-efficient HVAC
equipment such as furnaces and
heat pumps. The tax credit created
under the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act expires December
31, 2010. Many contractors are pushing
the program as a means to spur
replacement equipment sales before a
year-end rush. But selecting equipment
that qualifies for the credit also means
selecting a product with a higher price
Why? The federal program does
not provide a credit for all energy efficient
HVAC equipment. Instead, it has selected specific SEER/AFUE.
A homeowner with an old unit at the
10 SEER level would see a comfort
and financial benefit from upgrading
to a 12 SEER. Often, these are in the
middle of a price range. They do not,
however, qualify for a federal tax credit.
That means selecting a product with a
higher, up front price point.
So is it worth it? For HVAC equipment,
the tax credit is set at 30% of cost up
to $1,500.00. The equipment must be
installed in an existing home and in
your principal residence. New construction
and rentals do not qualify.
Equipment at 14-SEER or higher range
in price. In Central Pennsylvania, you
may find a qualifying product beginning
at $4,900.00 for a heat pump,
$2,600.00 cost for a furnace and
$4,700.00 for a central air unit. (These
are ranges only.) SEER, the manufacturer's
brand, installation issues and
your selected contractor all may impact
price so you will want to factor these
things into the equation when answering
the question, "Is it worth it?"
When determining if your HVAC replacement
equipment should fall within the
energy-efficiency guidelines in order to
benefit from the tax credit, you can also
consider your monthly energy savings.
Some manufacturers provide energy savings
calculators on their web sites,
which allows you to input variables
related to your equipment and regular
energy usage and then calculate the
projected savings of certain equipment
upgrades. Some contractors can help
you identify savings as well. Also consider
your long-term goals such as how
long you plan to live in the home.
For the second question: Where can
I turn for accurate information about
this type of purchase? There are plenty
of unbiased resources online that can
help. Start with www.energystar.gov for
FAQ's and credit information. As mentioned
before, product manufacturers
have valuable information, but remember
that this may be skewed toward
their own product line.
You should also speak to your accountant
prior to making a purchase. While
some contractors and manufacturers
instruct you on how to apply for the tax
credit, it's always a good idea to seek
professional accounting advice before
making a purchase that will impact
your tax filing.
At Cocalico, we council homeowners to
take their time when selecting an HVAC
contractor. Interview up to three contractors.
Ask your family and friends
for referrals. When buying replacement
HVAC equipment, it's important to
purchase a unit that is right-sized for
your home. A unit that is too large or
too small will not provide the comfort
you need. That means your decision
should be based on more than just the
tax credit and your projected monthly
savings. Now is a good time to upgrade
your HVAC unit. The current program
may not be extended beyond 2010.
But it's important to select a unit that
meets your budget today as much as one that lowers your cost tomorrow.
There has been a lot of publicity lately regarding Federal Tax Credits for the replacement of residential home heating and air conditioning equipment. We are considering upgrading our
older system, but as we read through the tax credit guidelines, we've noticed that there are minimum efficiency requirements
with terms such as AFUE, EER, SEER, and HSPF. What does all this mean?
Answer provided by: Larry Libonati, Branch Manager, Conestoga
That's a great question! If you're going to make the investment in a new heating/
cooling system for your home, understanding this terminology is critical for making
proper equipment comparisons. This way, you'll know exactly what you're buying!
Let's examine the four ratings that commonly apply to air conditioners, air source
heat pumps, and fossil fuel (gas or oil) furnaces and boilers: AFUE, EER, SEER, and
AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) — This is a percentage rating (applicable
to gas or oil fired equipment) that shows the amount of heat that is actually delivered
to the home compared to the amount of fuel that is supplied to the furnace
or boiler. In simple terms, a unit that is rated at 95% AFUE converts 95% of the
supplied fuel into actual heat. The other 5% is lost during the combustion process
(out the vent).The minimum requirement for the Tax Credit is: 90% for gas and oil
boilers, 90% for oil furnaces, and 95% for gas furnaces.
EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) — This number represents a measure of performance
for air conditioning equipment and heat pumps in the cooling mode, but
is often emphasized less than the more commonly known SEER rating. The difference
between EER and SEER is that EER is calculated at maximum air conditioning
load (95 degrees). That's why it is necessary to know both the SEER and EER
ratings when comparing air conditioners or heat pumps. The minimum requirement
for the Tax Credit is 13 EER for split air conditioners and 12.5 EER for split
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) — This is another measure of performance
for air conditioning equipment and heat pumps in the cooling mode. It
is the ratio of the total cooling output divided by the total energy input over the
course of the season. It is important to note that this number is calculated using
an outdoor temperature of 85 degrees. The minimum requirement for the Tax
Credit is 16 SEER for split air conditioners and 15 SEER for split heat pumps.
HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) — This is the measure of performance
for heat pumps in the heating mode. It is calculated in a similar fashion to
SEER and is divided to regions based on winter temperatures (we are considered
Region 4). The minimum requirement for the Tax Credit is 8.5 HSPF for split heat
One factor that all of these ratings have in common: The higher the number, the
more efficiently the equipment operates. Keep this in mind as you compare!
If you have any questions, or would like to be connected with a qualified HVAC professional,
please call us at Conestoga Supply (717) 569-3246.
I have been hearing a lot
about the benefits of geothermal
for heating and cooling
my home, but I am still unsure
if geothermal is right for
me. What's the best way to
evaluate the investment?
Answer provided by: Brent Hess, Sales & Marketing Manager, Groff's Home Comfort Team
Because geothermal systems take
heat from the earth to heat your home
and transfer heat to the earth to cool
your home, the system offers extremely
high levels of efficiency. In fact, the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) calls geothermal the most energy-
efficient, environmentally clean and
cost-effective system available today.
A big draw of geothermal is the ultimate
cost savings. Nearly half of the
energy used in your home will come
out of the ground for free! In addition
to the energy savings, geothermal
systems are incredibly green. Heating
your home with a geothermal system
is up to 70 percent less expensive
than heating your home with electric,
oil or gas. If you plan on living in your
home for the next 5 to 10 years, the
monthly energy savings will easily pay
for the cost of the system. If a move is
in the near future, you will not realize
a significant return on your investment,
but it may help your resale value.
What's involved in the installation? The geothermal system is made up
of underground pipes and a heat
pump. Installing the pipes involves
drilling wells and digging trenches
underground in your yard. The pipes,
which form a closed loop, are filled
with water that acts as a heat transfer
agent—transferring heat to and from
Because the piping needs to be underground,
digging the trenches are a
must. Before scheduling the installation
consider the following:
• How you use your yard. Plan the
geothermal installation for a time
when you typically spend less time outdoors. For some, the installation
is best mid-fall or during the
warmer winter months.
• Consider your 3-to-5 year plan. If a
landscaping project is planned for
the future, schedule the geothermal
installation to coincide with
• The type and size of your yard. Geothermal
installation is most ideal
for flat or gently sloped lots with
accessibility. Properties with a lot
of trees, severe slopes or limited
space between neighboring homes
make installation difficult due to
the size of the equipment needed
to move in and out of your yard.
Costs and tax credits
While the cost of a geothermal system
can range between $15,000 and
$30,000, government tax credits and
utility rebates are making the investment
much more attractive and affordable.
In fact, over the course of
five years the energy savings realized
make geothermal more affordable
than purchasing a high efficiency gas
furnace or heat pump.
Homeowners who install a geothermal
system qualify for a federal tax credit
of 30 percent of the total installation
cost through the residential renewable
tax credit program, valid on systems
installed before December 31, 2016.
This credit generally offsets the cost
of well drilling, and is separate from
the $1500 tax credit for other high efficiency
upgrades such as water heaters,
windows, doors and roofs.
Groff's has been installing geothermal
systems since 1993. For more information
on geothermal systems or to
learn if geothermal is right for you,
contact Groff's Home Comfort Team at
717-464-9446 or email Brent Hess at brent@Groffs.com.
What is the one thing that a homeowner can do to reduce
energy costs and increase value in their home?
Answer provided by: Tad Shepherd, Regional Remodeling, Representative, Andersen Windows, Inc.
They can replace their patio door. This is usually one area of the home that has
one of the highest traffic uses and can also be one of the homes biggest energy
losers depending on the type of door they have.
After years of use these doors have a tendency to warp, stick, and deteriorate
due to water damage or everyday use. And let's not forget the daily excessive
heat gain or loss caused by early insulating glass panels. If your patio door falls
into this category, replacing it is a sure and simple way to improve your home.
The latest designs deliver both style and performance especially when it comes
to energy efficiency. Choosing the right one will not only save you money in
heating and cooling bills, but also enhance the architecture of your room, let
in natural light, and open the space to any exterior views. If your current door
happens to be unusual in size, that shouldn't be a problem either since most
manufacturers have custom capabilities now as well.
With such a wide range of options out there how does one go about picking “the
right one”? Start by choosing a manufacturer with a brand name you can trust;
one that offers time-tested, quality products and lasting warranty. Since patio
doors are used often and subjected to inclement weather conditions, they experience
a lot more wear and tear compared to other doors in the house. Before
buying, make sure the manufacturer includes a good warranty and service
network in case it's ever needed.
What To Look For
• The type of glass used in a patio door can make an enormous difference in
your energy bill. For example: installing patio doors with low-e glass, a transparent
heat-reflective metal coating on glass, can reduce energy loss by 30 to
50 percent. Low-e glass also blocks UV rays that can fade fabrics and damage
• Invest in products made from quality materials like clad wood panels and
frames that provide strength and low-maintenance, and can resist the worst
Mother Nature can throw at it.
• For an added level of security, choose a hinged patio door that offers a
multiple-point lock system that locks the top, bottom and center of the door in
one motion. Look for manufacturers that feature hardware with adjustable door
hinges, easy locking mechanisms and a wide choice in hardware styles and
finishes including fashion options such as satin nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, bright
brass and polished chrome.
• Ideal for seasonal operation, retractable insect screens installed on the interior
of hinged doors can, when not in use, neatly hide away into a small canister
on the side of the door.
Creating A Look
Next, decide on a design. Regardless of whether you are updating your current doors or going with a completely different
look, a patio door should reflect
the style of the house while addressing
a few practical concerns. It not only
needs to be scaled to its surroundings,
but should also be constructed of
materials that are in keeping with the
overall ambiance of the room.
Types of Doors
Gliding patio doors are a good choice
when a projecting door would interfere
with interior or exterior furnishings.
Unlike the aluminum frames of
yesteryear, today's gliding patio doors
are available in a wide variety of contemporary
styles in sleek thin frames,
or for more traditional homes, space saving
sliding French-styled doors in a
classic wood design. When shopping
for this type of door look for products
with adjustable ball bearing rollers
which help gliding patio doors feel like
they’re floating, not sliding.
Hinged or “French-style” patio doors
are derived from an original 18th
century French design called the
casement door. Manufacturers have
combined traditional craftsmanship
with modern energy efficient technology
to come up with a timeless classic,
designed to fit into a wide range of
These doors have framed panels, with
at least one panel capable of swinging
in or out like a conventional door.
When the door is designed to swing
out of the room, this style can save up
to 28 square feet of interior space. As
with all doors, this design should be
positioned within the natural flow of
traffic in and out of your home.
The Green Factor
With more and more homeowners
concerned about energy, going green
is no longer for old hippies and tree
huggers. That's why before you buy,
it's important to do a little homework
regarding a company's environmental
commitment. Look for products that
have a Green Seal certification, proving
that energy savings can be a beautiful
If you’re in the market for a new patio
door then go to www.andersenwindows.
com where Andersen can help
you choose a door that is right for your
home. You can also contact me at
Everyone is talking about hybrid cars and saving gas. Is there a
hybrid heating and air conditioning system for my home?
Answer provided by: Dave Ressler,
Sales Consultant-Partner, Ressler & Matteer, Inc.
Yes, there is a hybrid system for your home or business. It involves a combination
of an electric heat pump and an alternate heat source like gas or oil. Most
homes built in the last 20 years have a central heating and cooling system that
operates on gas or oil for heat and electric for air conditioning.
An air conditioner absorbs heat from the air in your home and moves it to the
outdoors through a refrigeration cycle. A heat pump can reverse the process and
absorb heat from outside and bring it inside. It's hard to imagine winter air heating
your home, but the refrigerant is very cold as a gas and can absorb heat from
air well into the teens.
Heat pumps have gotten a bad reputation in the past as being uncomfortable
and inefficient. That is no longer the case. For example, at my house I have a
gas/electric hybrid system. The heat pump heats the house until the outdoor air
temperature reaches about 28 degrees. When the temperature outside goes below
28 degrees my thermostat automatically switches over to gas heating without
me doing anything.
When I adjusted the change over temperature to a higher set point (36 degrees)
my wife saw a spike in the gas bill and asked why. I explained the change and
she didn't even know we had a heat pump. Our first home had an old inefficient
heat pump which was not a good experience, so when she was happy with a heat
pump instead of gas that is proof of comfort.
A heat pump can be added to an existing oil or gas hot air furnace in place of the
air conditioner very reasonably. The system will need a new thermostat for dual
fuel change over and will include an outdoor sensor which gives you the outside
temperature at all times.
A completely new system is more expensive but hard to beat for efficiency and
comfort. Carrier offers the Infinity system with a two stage heat pump and a
modulating variable speed gas furnace coupled with an Infinity Control (thermostat)
that operates the equipment in response to indoor and outdoor conditions
to maintain temperature within ½ degree.
If you want to know if a hybrid system is right for your home, call Ressler and
Mateer, Inc. at 627-2627 and ask for Dave and I’ll give you suggestions on hybrid
comfort and a free estimate.
How do I know what is the
right hearth product for my home? With everyone worried about the costs of heating, should I run out and buy something
for supplementary heat?
Answer provided by: Beth Carr, Owner, MBC Gas & Fireplace
I would like to address the second
question first. Everyone is worried, and with some good reasons. The
price of gas and oil is going up, much
more than what we are used to causing
everyone to panic. I have people
coming in almost shaking from their
last heating bill. Does that mean you
should run right out and purchase a
bio-fuelor alternative heat source?
First lets talk about the propane and
natural gas units. Most units are
between 78 - 87% efficient. That
means for every dollar you are spending
in heating fuel, 78 to 87 cents is
coming back into your home as heat.
They can also be thermostatically controlled,
which means you can set the
unit for 70 degrees which will allow
the unit to cycle on and off, maintaining
that temperature. An additional
blower allows you to push the heat
into other rooms, or even installing
flow thru registers in the ceiling above
the unit and into the rooms above
allowing the heat to flow upstairs. A
more controlled heat, especially in
your living area, will allow you to control
your costs, and give you the heat
where you need it. The other benefit
to a natural gas or propane unit is
the fact that you do not have to carry
wood in and out, clean out ash, worry
about keeping it running. There are
storage issues and delivery issues with
alternative fuel that can also cause a
great deal of thinking and planning.
Does this mean I am anti-wood or
pellet? NO! I think pellet is a great
source of heat, and I use a pellet
stove to heat both of my showrooms.
However, this being said pellet is not
for everyone, there is a great deal of
management with pellet, you need
to be mindful of the quality of pellet
product you purchase. Make sure
that it burns as clean as possible in
your home. The lesser amount of
pollutants you put in your air the better.
Also, wood stoves are wonderful,
and I love the smell. Nothing like
the smell of burning wood on a cold
day. Efficient wood burning stoves or
fireplace inserts can add a wonderful
addition to a home that needs
extra heat. The newer wood burning
units, can be dampered to run smoothly and burn up to 8 or more
hours a day. One cord of wood can
provide almost 22,000,000 BTU's!!!
Wow! The BTU's (which stands for
British Thermal Units) is the amount of
heat required to raise the temperature
of 1 lb. of water by 1 degree fahrenheit.
Whew! To make it easier, its a
great way to compare the amount of
heat output you can expect from your
fireplace or stove. I have a worksheet
that is from a government web site,
that I will be glad to send to anyone
that emails me at bcarr@mbcfireplace.
net. It sounds very complicated,
but its not. The amount of heat you
would like to get from any unit, should
also be weighed with the cost of the
fuel, and the time it takes to prepare
the unit or keep it running.
It is very important to research the
products and ask lots of questions
before you make the purchase. This
leads me to the first question, How
do you pick the right product for your
home? There are many things to keep
in mind when purchasing a stove or
fireplace. What are you really expecting
from this product? Are you looking
for a focal point to increase the design
element of your home? Do you
need something that will provide you
with more warmth this winter? How
busy is your lifestyle? Are there small
children in the home? Is there concern with Asthma or other breathing
problems? These are just some questions
I always ask clients when they
first meet with me to help choose their
fireplace. Most people do not know
exactly what they want, and that's ok.
Its important to sift thru ideas and see
what would work. Exploring all your
ideas and possible designs, helps us to
put you in the right hearth product for
your home. There are so many options
and styles now, luckily the hearth
industry has stopped and listened,
they make a fireplace or stove to fit
almost everyone's budget or style.
I believe that researching, talking, and
planning is going to be the best way to
save this winter. Whatever product you
choose to use, make sure it fits your
lifestyle. Don't purchase something
without thinking it through the next
years. It should be a unit that you enjoy
for the next 10-20 years. The best
place to start is with a local hearth specialty
retailer, one that is willing to work
with you and guide you to the product
that best fits your needs.
How do I know when I
should have my indoor air quality tested? I hear a lot about the value of “cleaner” indoor air. But I don't know if I need a test. And how can I make sure I don't buy equipment i really don't need?
Answer provided by: Susan Moyer, Owner, Cocalico Plumbing & Heating
Good questions. Because you can't really see many of the ugly side effects associated with “contaminated” indoor air, it's hard to know when you need to have a test done. If you or your family members have allergies, get a test. If you take the “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” approach to staying healthy, get a test. But there are other reasons to have your air tested as well.
The quality of your home's air is directly tied to health. It's natural for allergens, pollutants, dust and other particles to enter the air in our homes. And air circulation or heating/cooling systems can do a lot to filter harmful particles out of the air. But there are many factors that dictate taking extra steps toward purifying your home's air, beyond relying on the filtration systems included in your heating/cooling system.
Taking a close look at your personal or family's health is one way to determine whether or not you need an indoor air quality (IAQ) test. Common symptoms of contamination include: fatigue, headaches, nausea, scratchy throat, nasal irritation and some allergies. When these symptoms are ongoing, you may want to examine what's circulating through your home. And if you find your health deteriorating each winter, shortly after you winter proof your home and turn on your heating system, that may be another signal that it's time to analyze your air quality.
There's one other way to know you need your ducts cleaned and your air quality tested. Simply look up at your vents (if you have them). If they are dusty inside and out, it's probably time to take action. This dust is being blasted into your home – and your lungs – each time your home is being heated or cooled!
Improving your family's health is a major reason to ACT NOW and have an IAQ test done. But there are other benefits as well. Improving your IAQ can reduce utility bills by allowing your HVAC systems to work at higher efficiencies. And you’ll experience improved whole-house comfort. Rooms will feel more temper-ate and you’re more likely to resolve humidity issues.
As for the final part of your question: How do you ensure that you don't buy equipment you don't need? Here's what the Cocalico Plumbing and Heating team tells customers who call for this service:
1. Hire a contractor that uses unbiased, third parties to conduct its testing. Independent assessments help guarantee accurate results and trustworthy recommendations. Not a sales pitch for equipment you don't need from the contractor who will handle equipment sales, installation and service. At Cocalico, we use AirAdvice, a leading Indoor Air Quality testing company.
2. If your test results indicate a problem, ask your contractor if servicing existing equipment is a viable option vs. buying new equipment. Some HVAC contractors that specialize in IAQ offer service for existing systems in addition to new system sales.
3. Ask for customer testimonials. How many repeat customers does your contractor have? And how many happy buyers evangelize on their behalf?
Nine out of 10 homes have a problem with their indoor air quality. Chances are, you can make some improvements. If you’re ready to improve your family's health, cut utility bills and just feel more comfortable all year round, schedule an unbiased test today.
My wife and I are adding an addition to our home. For insulation, we want efficiency as well as an environmentally-friendly product. Why is this NuWool product better than the others
and what about its cost?
Answer provided by: Steve Waller, Sales Representative, Lezzer Lumber, Harrisburg
Nu-Wool Engineered Cellulose
Insulation is made from recycled newspapers. This environmentally friendly green insulation provides up to 40% savings on energy bills when compared to conventional insulation materials. According to the Department of Energy, between 50% and 70% of the energy consumed in the typical American home goes toward heating and cooling, accounting for a large chunk of the total energy bill.
Often too much air leakage means that a lot of this energy is being wasted. The density of Nu-Wool Insulation eliminates the voids and air pockets common with conventional insulation. Annual heating and cooling bills will be lower with Nu-Wool. So, while conventional insulation can sometimes cost less initially, Nu-Wool Engineered Cellulose Insulation not only saves on energy costs, it makes your house more comfortable. Walls, ceilings, and floors stay warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, which helps maintain a uniform temperature throughout the house. For more information, call Lezzer Lumber in Lancaster at 717.393.3605 or in Harrisburg at 717.526.4781 or e-mail Steve Waller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With heating and cooling costs increasing, we are looking for ways to save energy in our home. Can window blinds and shades really make a difference?
Answer provided by: Jim Doran, Owner, Phillips Paint & Decorating Center
Although most homeowners don't buy them for this reason, there is no doubt that the use of window coverings can help make your home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Not to mention the substantial reduction in ultraviolet rays which can cause your furnishings to fade.
Let's first consider some arresting numbers: 40% of the heat that escapes from your home leaves through the windows. And 50% of the solar heat that enters a room comes in through—you guessed it—the windows. Obviously, energy efficient treatments can translate into considerable utility bill savings, especially if your windows are on a cold north exposure in the winter or a sun-saturated west wall in the summer.
The most energy efficient treatments feature a honeycomb fabric construction. The cells actually trap the hot or cold air, decreasing the intensity of the temperature as it enters the room. A honeycomb shade with a triple cell construction will increase the energy efficiency of a single pane of glass by five times and more than double the energy efficiency of a double-glazed window.
These super efficient shades can also be specially manufactured for use in skylight windows. They will allow a soft filtered light to enter the room while keeping out the scorching heat all summer long.
Plantation shutters are extremely popular right now and they also do a great job of keeping out cool drafts from windows and sliding doors. Since wood is naturally insulating, they also can help keep rooms much cooler in the summer as well.
If honeycomb shades or plantation shutters don't suit your taste, many other window coverings also protect from the heat and cold. Vertical blinds, woven wood shades, and Silhouette® Window Shadings are some of the many other energy saving products to choose from. And they too can help filter out over 95% of the sun's damaging UV rays which means your furniture and flooring will last much longer without fading. An experienced window coverings dealer can help guide you to the products that will maximize energy efficiency
while beautifying your windows.
I just received information about purchasing an extended
warranty for my new heating/cooling system. Is it really worth the investment or just a scam to get more money out of
Answer provided by: Don Mumma,
Service Manager, Haller Enterprises, Inc.
An extended warranty protects your investment for the long run. It's a small price to pay for your peace of mind. It covers parts and labor for any repairs that you could face as your equipment ages. Major parts are typically covered under the manufacturer's limited warranty, which is packaged with your equipment, but the labor for replacement is not. This is where an extended warranty can more than pay for itself— in fact, it can save you a bundle of money.
Parts can be cheap in relation to the actual time it takes a skilled technician to make the repair. And as you know, these rates will only increase as time marches on, so think long and hard before you pass up the opportunity to purchase an extended warranty.
Please note that routine maintenance is required as a part of any extended warranty program for your heating/cooling system. Repairs that are required due to lack of routine maintenance are not covered and will be rejected by the manufacturer. If you decide to invest in an extended warranty, don't stop short by neglecting the required maintenance to keep the program intact. Check out our Haller Preferred Customer Programs (PCPs) which allow you to select a maintenance agreement that fits your needs. For more information about extended warranty coverage for your home heating/cooling equipment, please call the Haller Service Department or contact us via email at email@example.com.
What can I do to survive
Answer provided by: Joe Ranck,
Partner, Robert H. Ranck Plumbing, Heating & Air
As I write this on March 14th, the temperature is 78 degrees and threatens to be a record high for this date. If it is 78 in March, how will I ever survive
the upcoming summer? Before you go for the Prozac, breathe in deeply
and try to relax. Al Gore has been told by his scientist's friends to back off
a bit, because weather as we know it will remain about the same, plus or
minus a ½ degree. But on the other hand, even if Al Gore is wrong, there
will be many hot and uncomfortable days ahead of us this summer.
It is interesting that people panic more with the hot weather then they
do with the cold weather. Thirty years ago few homes had central AC, but today we demand comfort year round.
The delivery of AC has leap frogged ahead in its technology. Not only is
the equipment light years ahead of the existing units, but the science of
delivering the conditioned air to the desired space has been perfected.
Today there is no excuse for having an uncomfortable room. Humidity control
has reduced mold concerns to nil, systems are so efficient they can cut your
utility bills in half, and dust, dust mites, and spores that cause allergies can be
removed from the air. Your house can be cleaner and healthier then the great
outdoors, if your system (equipment and ductwork) is installed and sealed
properly. On the other hand, if the best equipment is installed by an untrained
professional, that same house can become a victim of sick building syndrome
and be a detriment to your family's health.
Choose carefully the contractor that services, installs, and creates your
indoor living environment. The make of the equipment is the least important
factor to consider. The contractor you choose is the key. Make all the right
moves and surviving this aspect of global warming will be a piece of cake.
I am considering upgrading my HVAC system. With so many options available today, how do I know which system is best for my home?
Answer provided by: Vincent Youndt, President,
When choosing the right HVAC system, you’ll need to consider both the
construction and condition of your home. Even before choosing your
heating and cooling system, you will need to examine two important
factors: insulation and infiltration. If you have a very old home, you
most likely have very little insulation, if any, and your windows may be
very leaky—allowing for outside air infiltration. Adding proper insulation
and replacing windows in your home will greatly improve the heating
and cooling efficiency of any HVAC system and will be worth the investment
in the long run. Now let's consider the different HVAC system
types and the pros and cons of each.
Heat Pumps. The most economical way of heating a home is with a heat pump. However,
these systems have what i consider an unmerited reputation of being cold and drafty. I am
convinced that this ill repute is due to faulty installation and bad duct design. Today, most
contractors perform precise duct design calculations which make a heat pump system feel
just about as comfortable as any other heat. The cost of a Super High Efficiency System such
as 15+ SEER may not be worth the additional expense over a 13 SEER system. Ask your HVAC
salesperson to do a cost of operation comparison between the two systems to see how long
it would take to pay off the additional expense. If the payback is under 8-9 years, you should
consider it. Anything over 10 years is probably not worth the additional cost, considering the
average 12-year life span of most air-to-air heat pump systems.
Fueloilor Gas. Either of these fuel systems are good choices if you have a large home with insulation
and/or infiltration issues. They have potentially fast recovery if you want to use a set
back/programmable thermostat. The cost of operation is about the same between oil and LP
because LP is a bi-product of oil. If you have the availability of natural gas, it is hard to beat.
It is the most economical way to heat and you never need to refuel a tank. Gas furnaces are
also very efficient, very reliable and require very minimal maintenance. Oil furnaces provide
you with a lot of BTU's per gallon, however most fuel burners are only running at 83%-87%
efficiency and require maintenance and cleaning on a regular basis.
Geothermal and Radiant In-Floor Heat. These two heating options are ideal in certain applications.
Since an explanation would require a much lengthier description than this column
allows, I suggest that you consult with your heating and cooling professional for more information.