• 5 Benefits of a Ductless Air Conditioner System

    5 Benefits of a Ductless Air Conditioner System

    A ductless air conditioner is part of an air conditioning system that circulates cool air without ductwork. These systems are an affordable alternative to central heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC ) systems, which need a network of ducts to move air. Ductless air conditioners are generally considered to be more efficient and easier to maintain than window air conditioners.

    If you live in an old house that has no ducts, or a newer house that does not use forced air heat (and does not need ducts), it can be a big expense to install a central air conditioning system. In this case ductless air conditioners would be the best solution.

  • 5 Ways to Hide That Big Air Conditioner in Your Yard

    5 Ways to Hide That Big Air Conditioner in Your Yard

    Don’t sweat that boxy A/C unit. Here’s how to put it out of sight and out of mind

    In the summer heat, your air conditioner is probably your favorite major appliance. However, it can quickly become a major party crasher in the middle of your backyard summer barbecue. That same hulking, boxy piece of machinery that cools your house can be an eyesore in your garden. But don’t sweat it. There are plenty of ways you can hide, mask, conceal and block your air conditioning unit so you won’t even know it’s there. Here’s how to keep your cool.

    First keep in mind how your air conditioner works and what keeps it happy and efficient. An A/C unit needs space to breathe. Because it works so hard to make the inside of your house cool, it needs to vent a bunch of generated heat. The reason that the metal casings of air conditioning units are perforated is to do just that. Keep this in mind when adding any sort of cover or obstruction near your machine. To be safe, check the manufacturer’s recommended distances for any sort of enclosure.

    When designing your new house or retrofitting for a new system, remember that a happy air conditioner is one that doesn’t have to work so hard. One way to ensure this is to use energy-efficient methods of home design that can reduce your reliance on air conditioning and keep as much cool air inside your home as possible.

    Another way to design an efficient system is to make sure that your unit has a cool, shady spot in which to work. Place it on the side of the house with the most protection from the sun, so that it doesn’t heat up too much. This will keep it running more efficiently (which is great for the wallet) and can help avoid noises and malfunctioning associated with overheating.

  • 7 Ways to Improve Bathroom Air Quality for Better Health

    7 Ways to Improve Bathroom Air Quality for Better Health

    Clear the air for good — the right bathroom ventilation can purify what you breathe and prevent those nasty smells

    Air pollution, mold and moisture are all things you don't want in your home — especially in your bathroom. The quality of the air inside a home is often worse than the quality outside, and much of this is due to poor home ventilation.

    If you suffer from red, itchy eyes when you're at home, you could have poor ventilation. If your bathroom window is always covered in condensation, you could have poor ventilation. Mold and mildew on bathroom ceilings and strong lingering odors are other common signs. A musty-smelling shower is often a sign that the shower was not built and waterproofed properly.

    Try these professional tips to help improve the quality of air in your bathroom.


    1.      Get a great fan.A top-quality fan is a must in the quest for better Indoor Air Quality. If you have a noisy fan, no one will want to use it.


    2.      Have multiple ways to dry out your bathroom. This shower has two things that can improve its air quality: a small window for fresh air and a fan. You can also take shorter showers to help reduce mold and mildew, since less moisture will need to be removed.



    About Central Air Conditioners

    Central Air Conditioners circulate cool air through a system of supply and return ducts. Supply ducts and registers (i.e., openings in the walls, floors, or ceilings covered by grills) carry cooled air from the air conditioner to the home. This cooled air becomes warmer as it circulates through the home; then it flows back to the central air conditioner through return ducts and registers.

    Air conditioners help to dehumidify the incoming air, but in extremely humid climates or in cases where the air conditioner is oversized, it may not achieve a low humidity. Running a dehumidifier in your air conditioned home will increase your energy use, both for the dehumidifier itself and because the air conditioner will require more energy to cool your house.

    Types of Central Air Conditioners

    A central air conditioner is either a split-system unit or a packaged unit.

    In a split-system central air conditioner, an outdoor metal cabinet contains the condenser and compressor, and an indoor cabinet contains the evaporator. In many split-system air conditioners, this indoor cabinet also contains a furnace or the indoor part of a heat pump. The air conditioner's evaporator coil is installed in the cabinet or main supply duct of this furnace or heat pump. If your home already has a furnace but no air conditioner, a split-system is the most economical central air conditioner to install.

    In a packaged central air conditioner, the evaporator, condenser, and compressor are all located in one cabinet, which usually is placed on a roof or on a concrete slab next to the house's foundation. This type of air conditioner also is used in small commercial buildings. Air supply and return ducts come from indoors through the home's exterior wall or roof to connect with the packaged air conditioner, which is usually located outdoors. Packaged air conditioners often include electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace. This combination of air conditioner and central heater eliminates the need for a separate furnace indoors.

    Choosing or Upgrading Your Central Air Conditioner

    Central air conditioners are more efficient than room air conditioners. In addition, they are out of the way, quiet, and convenient to operate. To save energy and money, you should try to buy an energy-efficient air conditioner and reduce your central air conditioner's energy use. In an average air-conditioned home, air conditioning consumes more than 2,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, causing power plants to emit about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide and 31 pounds of sulfur dioxide.

    If you are considering adding central air conditioning to your home, the deciding factor may be the need for ductwork.

    If you have an older central air conditioner, you might choose to replace the outdoor compressor with a modern, high-efficiency unit. If you do so, consult a local heating and cooling contractor to assure that the new compressor is properly matched to the indoor unit. However, considering recent changes in refrigerants and air conditioning designs, it might be wiser to replace the entire system.

    Today's best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid 1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.

    Proper sizing and installation are key elements in determining air conditioner efficiency. Too large a unit will not adequately remove humidity. Too small a unit will not be able to attain a comfortable temperature on the hottest days. Improper unit location, lack of insulation, and improper duct installation can greatly diminish efficiency.

    When buying an air conditioner, look for a model with a high efficiency. Central air conditioners are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less.

    When purchasing a central air conditioner, look for the ENERGY STAR label. 

    Other features to look for when buying an air conditioner include:

    • A thermal expansion valve and a high-temperature rating (EER) greater than 11.6, for high-efficiency operation when the weather is at its hottest
    • A variable speed air handler for new ventilation systems
    • A unit that operates quietly
    • A fan-only switch, so you can use the unit for nighttime ventilation to substantially reduce air-conditioning costs
    • A filter check light to remind you to check the filter after a predetermined number of operating hours
    • An automatic-delay fan switch to turn off the fan a few minutes after the compressor turns off.

    Installation and Location of Air Conditioners

    If your air conditioner is installed correctly, or if major installation problems are found and fixed, it will perform efficiently for years with only minor routine maintenance. However, many air conditioners are not installed correctly. As an unfortunate result, modern energy-efficient air conditioners can perform almost as poorly as older inefficient models.

    When installing a new central air conditioning system, be sure that your contractor:

    • Allows adequate indoor space for the installation, maintenance, and repair of the new system, and installs an access door in the furnace or duct to provide a way to clean the evaporator coil
    • Uses a duct-sizing methodology
    • Ensures there are enough supply registers to deliver cool air and enough return air registers to carry warm house air back to the air conditioner
    • Installs duct work within the conditioned space, not in the attic, wherever possible
    • Seals all ducts with duct mastic and heavily insulates attic ducts
    • Locates the condensing unit where its noise will not keep you or your neighbors awake at night, if possible
    • Locates the condensing unit where no nearby objects will block airflow to it
    • Verifies that the newly installed air conditioner has the exact refrigerant charge and airflow rate specified by the manufacturer
    • Locates the thermostat away from heat sources, such as windows or supply registers.

    If you are replacing an older or failed split system, be sure that the evaporator coil is replaced with a new one that exactly matches the condenser coil in the new condensing unit. (The air conditioner's efficiency will likely not improve if the existing evaporator coil is left in place; in fact, the old coil could cause the new compressor to fail prematurely.)




  • Around the house: Fireplace trends

    Around the house: Fireplace trends

    The ice storm that struck parts of the U.S. and Ontario in December 2013 caused massive damage and left over a million homes without power (and heat) for days. As many people were forced to find shelter in hotels or with friends and relatives, those who had a gas or wood burning fireplace benefited from the ability to keep their homes warm and were able to comfortably stay put.

    Terry Hicks, National Sales Director at Barrie, Ont.-based Fireplace Manufacturer says they’ve seen an increase in fireplace sales since the ice storm.

    “Like any natural disaster, the ice storm had a positive impact on the sale of hearth products as hearth units are a primary heat source in a power failure,” says Hicks.

    More people are opting to have a fireplace installed not only for the added comfort, but also for the design aspect one can have in the home.

    Traditional-looking fireplaces are out and fireplaces that offer more glass and less metal are now the ‘in’ thing.

    “Similar to the change that the TV industry experienced, consumers want high definition looks with little or no trim, providing the clearest and largest viewing area possible,” Hicks says.

    With the cleaner designs of modern fireplaces, more people are installing them higher on the wall — like high-def televisions — and also in kitchens and bathrooms.

    Gas fireplaces have become the standard, especially with young people who don’t want to deal with the mess wood burning fireplaces create.

    Hicks says that depending on the look and function to be achieved, gas units can start as low as $2,500 and can reach levels of $15,000 with full installation. Wood units with chimney systems range from a minimum of $3,000 up to around the $15,000 range.

    As more homeowners focus on overhauling their backyards, outdoor fireplaces have become a must-have item.

    No matter what type of fireplace you currently have or plan to install, Hicks says maintaining it is a must.

    “If it is wood fired then you need an annual chimney cleaning and inspection and if it is gas fired, an annual service call and cleaning is highly recommended.”


  • Common Air Conditioner Problems

    Common Air Conditioner Problems


    One of the most common Air Conditioner problems is improper operation. If your air conditioner is on, be sure to close your home's windows and outside doors. For room air conditioners, isolate the room or a group of connected rooms as much as possible from the rest of your home.


    Other common problems with existing air conditioners result from faulty installation, poor service procedures, and inadequate maintenance. Improper installation of a central air conditioner can result in leaky ducts and low airflow. Many times, the refrigerant charge (the amount of refrigerant in the system) does not match the manufacturer's specifications. If proper refrigerant charging is not performed during installation, the performance and efficiency of the unit is impaired. Unqualified service technicians often fail to find refrigerant charging problems or even worsen existing problems by adding refrigerant to a system that is already full.


    Air conditioner manufacturers generally make rugged, high quality products. If your air conditioner fails, begin by checking any fuses or circuit breakers. Let the unit cool down for about five minutes before resetting any breakers. If a central air conditioner's compressor stops on a hot day, the high-pressure limit switch may have tripped; reset it by pushing the button, located in the compressor's access panel.


    Refrigerant Leaks


    If your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, either it was undercharged at installation or it leaks. If it leaks, simply adding refrigerant is not a solution. A trained technician should fix any leak, test the repair, and then charge the system with the correct amount of refrigerant. Remember that the performance and efficiency of your air conditioner is greatest when the refrigerant charge exactly matches the manufacturer's specification, and is neither undercharged nor overcharged. Refrigerant leaks can also be harmful to the environment.


    Inadequate Maintenance


    If you allow filters and air conditioning coils to become dirty, the air conditioner will not work properly, and the compressor or fans are likely to fail prematurely.


    Electric Control Failure


    The compressor and fan controls can wear out, especially when the air conditioner turns on and off frequently, as is common when a system is oversized. Because corrosion of wire and terminals is also a problem in many systems, electrical connections and contacts should be checked during a professional service call.


    Sensor Problems


    Room air conditioners feature a thermostat sensor, located behind the control panel, which measures the temperature of air coming into the evaporative coil. If the sensor is knocked out of position, the air conditioner could cycle constantly or behave erratically. The sensor should be near the coil but not touching it; adjust its position by carefully bending the wire that holds it in place.


    Drainage Problems


    When it's humid outside, check the condensate drain to make sure it isn't clogged and is draining properly. Room air conditioners may not drain properly if not mounted level.





  • Ductless air conditioning—A better way to keep cool

    Ductless air conditioning—A better way to keep cool

    Consider a mini-split system for your home cooling

    If you’ve considered upgrading your existing system or adding air conditioning to your home, you’ve probably realized there’s a large gap in the available options for home cooling. At one end of the spectrum are the small, relatively inexpensive window air conditioners that seem to have moved along noisily with few advances in technology since they entered the mainstream market in the 1940s. At the other end are large, quiet (as long as you’re inside) central systems designed to hook into existing central ventilation ducts.

    What do you do if you want something in between? What’s available for houses that have no ducting? Isn’t there a more efficient way to cool your home?

    Positioned between the extremes of window-mounted units and central systems is an air-conditioning technology that’s still new to most Canadians. Ductless air-conditioners, also called mini-split systems, are a newer approach to air conditioning developed in Japan, which use a type of heat pump technology to efficiently deliver cooling action to independently controlled zones in your home.


  • Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners

    Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioners

    Ductless, mini split-system air-conditioners (mini splits) have numerous potential applications in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. The most common applications are in multifamily housing or as retrofit add-ons to houses with "non-ducted" heating systems, such as hydronic (hot water heat), radiant panels, and space heaters (wood, kerosene, propane). They can also be a good choice for room additions and small apartments, where extending or installing distribution ductwork (for a central air-conditioner or heating systems) is not feasible.

    Like central systems, mini splits have two main components: an outdoor compressor/condenser, and an indoor air-handling unit. A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain, links the outdoor and indoor units.

    The main advantages of mini splits are their small size and flexibility for zoning or heating and cooling individual rooms. Many models can have as many as four indoor air handling units (for four zones or rooms) connected to one outdoor unit. The number depends on how much heating or cooling is required for the building or each zone (which in turn is affected by how well the building is insulated). Each of the zones will have its own thermostat, so you only need to condition that space when it is occupied, saving energy and money.

  • Efficient furnaces and other heating systems

    Efficient furnaces and other heating systems

    Buying a furnace or boiler can help you save on energy.

    Time to get a new heating system?

    If you’re getting fat utility bills, blame your furnace: home heating and water heating account for a whopping 80 per cent of home energy use in Canada. On the bright side, you can save big by replacing an old furnace with an energy efficient furnace. Upgrading to a top-line, 95 per cent energy-efficient furnace from a 60 per cent efficient older model will save you 35 per cent off your heating costs, or around $200 per year depending on current fuel costs. Your provincial utility may also offer a rebate or tax incentive on the purchase of an efficient furnace. 

    Check your numbers

    Because many factors (cost of energy, weather, occupant behaviour, etc.) will affect your home heating needs, you should have a heating-load or heating-loss calculation performed by a qualified contractor. While there may be a fee of $150 to $300 for this service, the result — to determine the ideal capacity and distribution flows for the new equipment — will be invaluable in choosing the best type and size of heating system for your home. 

    What kind of heat?

    Gas and oil forced-air furnaces
    Most homes in Canada use forced-air furnaces for heating. Newer models are much more energy-efficient than in the past, so replacing your furnace can save you money and energy. Look for an Energy Star–rated furnace with a minimum 95 per cent annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. AFUE is essentially the percentage of fuel turned into heat: higher AFUE means a more efficient furnace (though you’ll always lose some heat to the outside). Since 2010, all new gas furnaces manufactured for Canadian homes must have a minimum 90 per cent fuel efficiency.

    Gas and oil boilers

    Boilers use a fuel (usually gas, propane, oil or electricity) to heat water that circulates to heating units such as baseboard heaters or radiators. Boilers designed for space heating can also provide domestic hot water for residences. Energy efficiency in a boiler is also measured by its AFUE, as described for forced-air furnaces above. Gas- and oil-fired boilers can qualify for Energy Star, but electric boilers cannot.

    Electric furnaces and baseboard systems 

    Electric furnaces are not included in the EnerGuide rating system since there is little difference in energy efficiency between various market models. 

    Integrated mechanical systems (IMS)

    If your furnace has conked out and you need to replace it, consider integrated mechanical systems that heat your house and your water, while also providing ventilation. From an energy efficiency perspective, these "combo" units may be your best choice.

  • Features to Look for in an Energy-Efficient Gas Fireplace

    Features to Look for in an Energy-Efficient Gas Fireplace

    When shopping for an energy-efficient gas fireplace, ask for the EnerGuide Fireplace Efficiency (FE) ratings of the fireplaces you are interested in. Using this information, narrow your choices to the fireplaces that have relatively high efficiencies and can supply the kind of heat output needed for the location you have chosen.

    The most energy-efficient gas fireplaces have many of the following features:

    • A high EnerGuide Fireplace Efficiency (FE) rating as tested to CSA P.4.1-02, found in product brochures or on manufacturers’ Web sites

    • Direct-vent design, where appropriate

    • An intermittent electronic ignition system or an easy means of turning off and relighting the pilot light

    • A ceramic glass front

    •  A quiet squirrel-cage-type circulating fan to help transfer convective heat to the room

    • Secondary heat exchanger

    • Insulated outer casing to prevent heat loss through the walls to the outside if located on an exterior wall

    • Good turndown or other means such as ducting to prevent localized overheating

    • Gas vs. Oil: Which Furnace Is Better?

      Gas vs. Oil: Which Furnace Is Better?

      Some people swear by oil heat. Others are equally enthusiastic about natural gas. For those who are considering a new furnace, here are some pros and cons about your options.

      The first thing to look at when shopping for a furnace is the efficiency rating, commonly called Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). The rating measures the efficiency of a machine’s combustion, where a higher rating signals a higher efficiency.

      Most new oil furnaces have AFUE ratings between 80% and 90%, while their gas counterparts boast ratings between 89% and 98%. Although gas furnaces are more efficient than oil furnaces, that efficiency comes at a price—gas units are typically priced 10% to 25% higher than the same size oil furnace. All new furnaces are substantially more efficient than their counterparts of ten or more years ago, some by as much as 30%.

      When it comes to fuel costs, however, the advantage tilts in favor of gas. While oil prices are more volatile and subject to the vagaries of global supply and demand, natural gas production is centered in the U.S. and Canada, securing a more stable supply.

      Here is a look at some of the pros and cons of each type of furnace:

      Oil Furnaces

      · Oil equipment provides more heat per BTU than other heating sources, but an on-site storage tank is required and oil must be delivered

      · Oil furnaces are regularly and easily serviced by the delivery company (a service contract is required), but maintenance is more extensive due to dirt and soot buildup—chimneys must be cleaned and the oil filters changed frequently

      · Oil furnaces cost less than gas furnaces, but efficiency is lower and fuel prices are higher than with gas systems.

      Gas Furnaces

      · Natural gas furnaces have higher heating efficiency and their fuel costs less, but your home must be in an area where a gas supply is available.

      · Furnaces require very little maintenance (no service contract needed), but gas provides less heat per BTU than oil.

      · Furnaces are quieter and cleaner, but they cost more than oil furnaces.

      Regardless of which type of heat source you prefer, use a qualified and reputable HVAC contractor and get several estimates before you make any major investment in your home. There are often public and private rebates or financing incentives available to homeowners who upgrade their systems, so make sure to explore all of your options before you buy.


    • Guide to Buying a Ductless Air Conditioner

      Guide to Buying a Ductless Air Conditioner

      The popularity of ductless air conditioners continues to grow as consumers search for
      alternatives to window units and conventional central air conditioning systems. Sometimes
      referred to as "mini splits," ductless technology provides a cost effective alternative for
      applications where the use of ducted A/C equipment would be impractical.

      The Basics of Ductless Air Conditioning

      ductless air conditioner operates in essentially the same manner as its ducted counterpart.
      The heart of every A/C system includes a compressor that applies force to low pressure
      refrigerant and transforms it into a high pressure gas. The condenser and fan work together to
      dissipate the accumulated heat, and the refrigerant emerges as a high pressure liquid. At the
      evaporator coil, the liquid extracts heat from the indoor air and the resulting low pressure gas is
      pumped back into the compressor to complete the cycle.
      Like a conventional split system, ductless air conditioners include an outdoor condensing unit to
      help minimize interior noise. While central air conditioners employ a single air handler, blower,
      and evaporator coil, mini split systems house all three components together in separate indoor
      units that are strategically placed throughout the building. Stylish enclosures are hung on
      interior walls or placed in the ceiling, which completely eliminates the need for ductwork in the
      air distribution design.
    • Is It Time to Replace Your Furnace?

      Is It Time to Replace Your Furnace?

       The smart time to examine and evaluate your furnace is before the unit fails, not when a problem arises and the mercury outside and even indoors is dipping down to sub-zero levels!

      Start Here. So how do you know when furnace replacement is in order? Since your furnace was probably in place when you moved in, the first thing to do is find out the age of your unit. This may be as simple as looking at the original owner’s manual or calling the manufacturer with the unit’s model number, but with individual cases, some additional sleuthing may be required.

      Average Lifespan. Today’s models operate reliably for 20 to 30 years. If your unit is more than 15 years old, it’s not a bad idea to begin considering furnace replacement options.

      Energy Efficiency. According to the U.S. Energy Star program, a new Energy Star-qualified gas furnace is typically 15% more efficient than a conventional gas furnace, and an Energy Star-certified oil furnace is up to 4% more efficient than a baseline model. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a new Energy Star gas furnace will save an average of $94 in energy costs per year, while a new Energy Star oil furnace saves an average of $66.

      Telltale Signs. Age aside, there are some obvious (and some more subtle) indications that it may be time for furnace replacement:



      Molds are our friends because they play a fundamental role on earth as they scavenge and renew. Molds can sometimes become enemies when they trigger adverse heath effects. Reported potential health effects range from troublesome allergies, to infections, to frightful sounding toxicity. Allergic reactions from mold are well documented. Infectious mold is clearly documented but seldom found. However, documentation of toxicity problems falls short of proof.

      It is unavoidable that residential air contains some moisture, and moist air is essential for health and comfort. However, there are several problems associated with excess moisture, and one is mold. Mold can grow when there is excess moisture; if moisture is controlled, mold is controlled.

      The four practical steps to avoidance and control of residential mold are:

      1.  Design and build the house properly – as a system. Design and build to keep water out, to avoid condensation, and for easy maintenance. Don’t oversize the air conditioner. Moisture control must dominate design.

      2. Operate the house properly. Operate the heating and air-conditioning system for best dehumidification. Check the refrigerator, washer, dishwasher and other sources.

      3. Design ventilation for good indoor air quality for health, comfort, and moisture control. Choose dependable ventilation equipment and install it with quality ducting and fittings. Vent-free equipment does not ventilate properly. Provide interior circulation paths and appropriate controls.

      4. Operate residential ventilation properly for good indoor air quality and moisture control. Operate the continuous ventilation with weather sensitivity. Use kitchen ventilation while cooking and bathroom ventilation 30 minutes after a shower.



      Ventilation Design and Installation

      Ventilation can control excess moisture. Good residential ventilation has two interdependent and essential components. First, strong sources of moisture, especially the bathroom and kitchen, must be intermittently ventilated. Second, fresh air for breathing must be provided continuously by mechanical ventilation. The two are interdependent – for the continuous ventilation to be effective at a low, energy conserving, mold preventing rate, intermittent strong sources must be mitigated at the source by higher ventilation rates before they spread throughout the entire house.

      Quality installation of ventilation requires that ducting be carefully designed, selected, and installed – lower duct velocity and high quality fittings helps performance and minimizes noise. Terminations (i.e., wall and roof caps) must be of good quality if ventilation equipment is to realize its potential. Duct leakage is almost always a problem, so it is imperative ducting be installed properly.

      Fresh air should be provided mechanically to be sure it is in sufficient quantity to provide good indoor air quality. Depending on infiltration or open window to provide ‘accidental’ fresh air will hardly ever provide the right quantity; one day too much, the next too little.

      There is a variety of ventilation strategies to choose from – each one is more effective and less costly than natural ventilation because extremes caused by temperatures and wind are avoided. The mechanical ventilation strategies are all based on supplying just the right amount of air and avoiding the accidental high moisture loads inevitable with natural ventilation in humid areas. Excess and “accidental” ventilation can increase the risk of mold.

      When the mechanical fresh air system is operating at the proper rate, it optimizes the quality of the indoor air and it requires that intermittent strong sources be controlled locally.

      Bathroom ventilation must intermittently mitigate shower moisture, the single largest strong source of contaminating moisture in the home. The bathroom exhaust must be located so that air from the source (e.g., diffuser or undercut door) sweeps across and over the shower and into the exhaust fan. Exhaust capacity must be adequate for the application; the Home Ventilating Institute (HVI) recommends eight air changes per hour. An easy approximation is to provide one cubic foot per minute (cfm) per square foot of bathroom. Extra large bathrooms and split bathrooms may be adequately served with slightly less if properly located. Although ventilation in a separated toilet room can effectively control odor, control of moisture is the important function in the bathroom.

      Controls are important for bathroom ventilation. Timers and off-delay switches make a bathroom exhaust much more effective; if the bathroom door is opened immediately after a shower the huge moisture load is simply dumped into the rest of the house. Fans with sensors that detect a rapid rise in humidity can sense operation of a shower, and run the fan until the moisture has been expelled. Controls that sense a rapid rise in humidity are available and can even prevent shower stall mildew.

      Kitchen ventilation must control the strong sources of excess moisture associated with cooking. Whether boiling, frying or baking, kitchen ventilation mitigates the moisture load that otherwise would disturb the home’s environment, enabling the full-time ventilation system to maintain air quality and optimize its effectiveness against mold. Range hoods capture and exhaust most efficiently; other types of kitchen ventilation are also effective.

      Correct Operation of Residential Ventilation

      The full-time low-level ventilation for breathing should be operated continuously, especially when the dwelling is occupied. In the very humid coastal south, where there may be a concern that ventilation is bringing in excess moisture, the continuous ventilation can be shut down during periods when the dew point of incoming air is above a certain point, say 65º F, or lower. The dew point follows a more or less regular pattern from day to day during a season. The dew point can easily be obtained from television and the internet; once the local pattern is understood a daily operating procedure can be followed.

      Operation of the bathroom exhaust fan must start at the beginning of every shower and continue afterwards for 20 minutes.

      Kitchen ventilation must be used whenever cooking, to control heat and moisture. Although boiling water obviously sends moisture to the air, it is also released when we fry meat and sauté vegetables.

      Kitchen ventilation also plays a role in mold prevention by limiting the amount of bio-nutrients contaminating the surfaces of the house.


    • Operating Tips for Your Residential Furnaces

      Operating Tips for Your Residential Furnaces                                                           

      Follow these best practices for even more energy savings.

      Turn down the heat.
      Lowering the temperature in your home by a degree or two saves energy and money. Plan to do so overnight or when no one is at home. For every one degree Celsius you drop the temperature of your home, you save as much as two percent in annual heating costs.

      Use dampers.
      Dampers installed in your ductwork can help divert warm air to the rooms that need it most and take warm air away from rooms that are largely unoccupied.

      Add cold-air returns.
      High-efficiency furnaces require ample airflow to run effectively. Many older homes may need additional cold-air returns to help ensure a new furnace runs at peak capacity.

      Change the air filter.
      Replace your furnace air filter at least every three months to keep the furnace running efficiently.

      Check the ducts.
      Leaky or blocked ducts can be a significant source of wasted heat energy. Check all ductwork in your home and seal any leaks. If you suspect a blockage, hire a contractor to perform an assessment.

      Check the fan.
      If your furnace has a direct-drive fan, vacuum it occasionally to remove dust that can slow fan speeds and reduce efficiency. If your furnace fan is belt-driven, have the unit serviced often to maintain peak performance.

      Keep grills and vents clear.
      Locate furniture and drapes away from vents and cold-air returns to ensure optimal airflow.



    • Operating tips—boilers, residential

      Operating tips—boilers, residential

      Follow these tips for even more energy savings.

      Read the owner’s manual.
      It will provide tips to keep your system operating as efficiently as possible. It may also include a maintenance schedule—some circulation pumps, for example, need regular oiling.

      Keep things clean.
      Vacuum all radiators to remove dust and other obstructions that can block heat.

      Rearrange the furniture.
      Keep heating units clear of couches, chairs, drapes and other objects that can reduce airflow.

      Work with the weather.
      Install an outdoor reset control to ensure that you are not paying for heat you do not need.

    • Prevent a Furnace Breakdown this Winter

      Tips to Prevent a Furnace Breakdown this Winter

      Nationwide, millions of Canadians will soon be dealing with frigid temperatures and furnaces that will be working overtime keeping homes warm. But what if your furnace stops working during a cold snap?

      Dave Walton, Director of Home Ideas at Direct Energy, said they saw a 24 per cent increase in service calls in 2014 in Ontario alone when the temperature dropped below -15 C. A lot of these emergency calls could have been prevented if homeowners knew the warning signs, he said.

       “Strange noises, frequent cycling, rust, leaks and trouble reaching the set temperature” are all early warnings a bigger problem could be coming Walton said.

      “If you notice any of these signs, call a licensed technician to inspect the furnace before it completely shuts down.”

      One of the most common issues in homes with furnace problems, Walton said, is blocked cold air return vents. These should have a clear space in front of them free from furniture and other items that prevent airflow.

      Vacuuming out your air intake and warm air registers is a good habit to keep your furnace running longer, as is having your ducts professionally cleaned every few years.

    • Residential furnace buying tips

      What should you consider when buying a Residential Systems Furnace?

      Unfortunately, there's no single store you can visit to compare different makes and models of furnaces when you need to replace your furnace. You will be working with a heating contractor, so do your homework.

      Bigger is not always better.
      Most heating systems in older homes are greatly oversized. To maximize energy efficiency, get the size that's right for you. Consider the climate, the size of your home, its orientation, construction material, insulation, protective trees and shrubs, whether it's open concept or compartmentalized, and the comfort habits of the occupants. Ask your contractor.

      Consider the energy source.
      Use our heating cost calculator to compare different energy sources available in your area.

      Consider all the costs.
      The sticker price of the furnace is just the beginning. Installation will also be an immediate cost. Over, the long run, think about operating costs such as maintenance and future fuel.

      Energy Star logo

      Choose ENERGY STAR®
      Look for the ENERGY STAR symbol as proof that you're buying the most energy-efficient furnace.

      Compare EnerGuide ratings.
      Compare the unit's EnerGuide rating to see how its annual fuel utilization efficiency rating with similar models.

      Check also the unit's steady-state efficiency rating—an indicator of the furnace's maximum efficiency after it reaches its peak operating temperature. Take note of both and use them to compare one unit to another.

      Consider a home energy evaluation.
      An EnerGuide home evaluation is a service offered under Natural Resources Canada's EnerGuide Rating System.  A qualified adviser will conduct a detailed assessment of your home to check for air leaks, report on the home's energy performance, and suggest renovations that can help lower your energy costs. The adviser will issue an EnerGuide home evaluations rating that compares your home to similar homes in Canada.

      Make some calls.
      Heating companies are always willing to share information about their products. Call or visit to obtain product brochures.

      Check with your local utility.
      Other entities, such as local utilities, fuel suppliers and provincial or territorial regulatory offices may keep lists of qualified, registered and licensed contractors. Contact them for assistance.

      Hire a pro.
      Choose trained, certified technicians for your furnace installation. Contact us


    • Residential furnaces capacity design

      Residential furnaces work best when they are properly sized. A furnace that is too large will cycle on and off quickly, with some inefficiencies of operation. This can lead to rooms furthest from the furnace remaining cool or to furnace chimneys deteriorating due to excessive condensation. As well, some of the furnace controls or parts may break down sooner than expected due to a high cycling frequency.  Residential furnaces that are undersized may not keep the house at a comfortable temperature in the coldest parts of the winter. 

    • Save money on your air-conditioning

      Save money on your air-conditioning

      Don't wait till summer to pay attention to the Air Conditioner. Follow these 10 tips all year round to save energy and money.

      If you've suffered long enough and decided next summer is the summer you will have AC, consider installing it in fall or winter, when there may be deals out there and shorter wait times for installation. 

      Whether central, window or portable, here are 10 tips to help keep you cool as a cucumber while saving like a smarty-pants. 

      1. Regardless of how much or how little you use the AC, it's going to be more efficient -- and save you money -- if you pay attention to good maintenance. Like most machines, if it's clean it runs better and more efficiently and uses less power to do its job. 

      Just like with a furnace, air is drawn into the air conditioner, and along with that air, dust and debris. This is the first thing that can cause your unit to overwork and thus use more electricity. Keep the filters clean. Check for leaks in the ductwork, too.

      2. Don't already have central air-conditioning? Look into the newest in high-efficiency units. The same Energy Star symbol we look for when shopping for fridges and stoves also applies to AC units -- and choosing an Energy Star-approved unit over one that isn't can save you up to 30 per cent on your cooling bill. 

      Here's a lesser-known rating system specific to air conditioners: EER, or energy efficiency rating; the higher the number, the more efficient the machine. Find an Energy Star unit with a high EER rating and you'll keep cool while keeping more of your cold, hard cash.

      3. Your house is not a walk-in cooler -- keep the thermostat set at 26°C. A dip of even a couple of degrees -- say, to 22°C -- can increase your bill by up to 47 per cent. 

      4. Ceiling fans don't use too much juice to run, but they do make a house feel cooler, whether the AC is running or not; ditto for floor or table fans. Look for a ceiling fan with two rotating directions: one way pushes hot air down (great for winter and the heating bill) and the other pulls cool air up and circulates it.