Archive for the ‘ventilation’ category

Quick Tip #35 – A Ton of Cooling

October 16th, 2014

Ever hear of a two- or three-ton central air conditioner? Does that mean a two-ton air conditioner weighs 4,000 pounds? Is the term related to cooling capacity, or is it a random term that tech folks use to impress us?

When engineer Joe Cool (at least I think “cool” was part of his name ) developed the standards for measuring mechanical cooling, ice was commonly used for cooling. You know, in the old days, food was stored in the ice cooler, and there was no air conditioning. So Joe decided that the cooling capacity measurement should relate to ice.

A standard was set equating one “ton” of cooling to the amount of energy needed to melt one ton (2,000 lbs.) of ice over a 24-hour period. For tech folks: the exact figure is 12,000 btu per hour.

So what is a btu? It stands for British thermal unit, and we will cover that detail in another tip. Just remember: one ton of cooling equals melting one ton of ice in 24 hours – 12,000 btu per hour.

To put it another way, the change of phase from ice to water requires 144 btu per pound or 288,000 btu per 2,000 pounds.

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Quick Tip #34 – Fix That Wobbling Ceiling Fan

October 6th, 2014

Wobbling ceiling fans are not safe to use. If a ceiling fan in your home shows excessive wobble, stop using it until you can get it fixed. Fans are dangerous if not installed and operated properly.

Many fans wobble because they have loose parts or need to be balanced. Find the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific fan.

In many cases, you can solve the problem by tightening bolts that hold fan blades to the motor housing. In some cases, swapping the position of some blades may solve the problem; swap blade for blade and test the operation after each swap.

If wobbling still occurs after tightening and swapping the blades, check whether your manufacturer provides a weight kit to balance the fan. With the balance weight kit, you work from blade to blade, adding and removing weight until the fan is balanced. This is tedious and time-consuming but effective.

Finally, if the mounting to the ceiling box or bracket is loose, the fan might be improperly installed. This condition should be checked by a professional. Ceiling fans are too heavy to be mounted in a standard electrical box; they need a special box and support bracket.

Never operate a fan with excessive movement or a loose mounting.

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Quick Tip #30 – Clothes Dryer Venting – A Hidden Danger

September 8th, 2014

Each year many home fires are caused by improperly maintained clothes dryers. The dryer and vent pipes can overheat and cause a fire. Vents plugged with lint will compound the problem. Don’t let your home become the next casualty.

First, always follow the manufacturer’s requirements for cleaning the dryer lint screen. On most dryers, the screen is easy to find and clean between each load; just pull the screen from your dryer and remove the lint.

Next, make sure the ducting that vents dryer discharge to the outdoors is properly installed. Many dryer manufacturers and local municipalities require a metal vent duct, not a flexible vinyl vent. The metal duct should have as few bends as possible and be routed outside with as short a duct as possible.

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The problem with flexible vinyl and flexible metal ducts is that their rough interior traps lint. Also, these ducts are often installed with excessive loops and tight bends that trap lint.

When in doubt, contact the manufacturer of your dryer for specific requirements. A person who cleans chimneys may also clean and maintain dryer exhaust ducts and will know local code requirements.

Quick Tip #27 – Plumbing Vent? What Plumbing Vent?

August 18th, 2014

All modern plumbing systems in residential construction have a plumbing vent. It doesn’t just vent unwanted odors from the drainage system to the outside; it actually serves an important purpose by supplying air to the system.

The plumbing drainage system in your home is actually called a drainage, waste and vent (DWV) system. When water flows down the piping, an air supply (vent) is needed to allow the water to flow. Think of the vertical pipe as a drinking straw. If you plug the top end of a straw, liquid won’t drain from it.

The DWV system in your home consists of a series of pipes connected to each fixture; they extend above each fixture, and the system terminates at an open pipe that extends through the roof. This piping allows air into the system and prevents unbalanced pressures in the piping.

 

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The vent also prevents the system from drawing water out of a trap at the fixture with the characteristic “glug-glug-glug” as the drain gasps for air. Plumbing traps should drain smoothly and never “glug” or gasp for air.

If your home has a drain that empties slowly or gurgles as it drains, this may indicate a venting problem. If you flush a toilet and the sink gurgles, there’s definitely a vent problem. Have a plumber check this.

Quick Tip #5 – Save Money with a Filter Change

March 10th, 2014

H009Maintaining the filter on your air conditioning and heating equipment isn’t fun or glamorous. So why bother? Because a clean filter allows for proper air flow, and that makes the equipment run efficiently, saving you money. Also, a clean filter helps your system perform better, so your home environment will feel more comfortable.

And because a dirty filter restricts air flow and can make a heating unit overheat or an A/C unit freeze up, maintaining the filter helps you avoid a service call.

Filters come in various types, so take a look at your equipment. If you have a cleanable filter, note on your calendar when cleaning is due. Otherwise, buy an appropriate replacement filter to have on hand when you need it. Filters are inexpensive and should be changed or cleaned when they are visibly dirty. When you do change the filter, note the directional arrows on the side. Place the filter so that the arrows point in the direction of air flow.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Removing Home Odors with Fresh Wave

October 29th, 2013

Question:

My daughter purchased a two-story home that was built in 1968. There is an odor in the house that still remains, even after the walls have been painted, and the carpets professionally cleaned. The four bedrooms have hardwood flooring. It is not a sewer smell; it smells stale. Any ideas, Tom? Thank you!

–Mary

Answer:

For this type of odor, you should also wash all hard surfaces and replace/launder all window coverings. Cleaning, or even replacing the carpet may be necessary. Cleaning the heating ductwork should also be considered.

Why-Fresh-WaveOne great product to try is Fresh Wave. You can find it at hardware stores, and on Amazon. They have a set of odor-eliminator products that are based on natural ingredients. Fresh Wave has a very subtle, pleasant smell that eliminates odors, not masks them. Try the spray for the carpet, and put the gel out in the areas that smell. You will be surprised how well Fresh Wave works!

Frost on One Side of Garage

February 17th, 2013

QUESTION:

We have a new home. With the cold, windy weather, we have noticed frost on the screw heads in the drywall garage ceiling edge. This issue is on the north side; none of the other walls have this problem. The garage is unheated, and the walls/ceiling are insulated. There is also a vapor barrier over the insulation. My husband says cold air is coming through the outside soffit, and there is no way to insulate this. There is also an electrical switch with frost on the screw heads on that wall. What can we do? Should we be concerned?

SHARON

ANSWER:

I014 - Air Bypass at Insulation - OverhangThe problem is caused because the screw heads are colder than the dew point temperature in the garage. In fact, the screw heads are below freezing so the moisture condenses and freezes. You have two solutions – raise the temperature of the screws or reduce the relative humidity in the garage.

Assuming you don’t want to raise the temperature in the garage, you can try to raise the temperature of the screws. I think your husband is correct – cold air is leaking into this wall area, either at penetrations, gaps, or through the roof venting. The cold air blows in and cools the wall.

For the attic venting, you should check above the soffit vents and make sure there are air chutes that direct the ventilation air over the insulation. If it blows into the side of the insulation, it will chill the wall. At times the best solution is to seal the air chute from the top of the wall to the roof deck with spray foam insulation. You want the air flowing over the insulation.

You should also look for any exterior gaps that may need sealing – perhaps around light fixtures, at the lower edge of the siding and around windows and doors. Any penetration in the wall and house wrap is suspect.

You could heat the garage; that would solve the problem, but I don’t suggest that. Lowering the relative humidity in the garage is virtually impossible, however you could sweep out snow and ice that may drop off your car.

MR. FIX-IT

Furnace fan, to distribute heat throughout the house?

January 31st, 2013

Question:

I have a two-story house with a basement, built in 1952. Is it a good idea to turn the furnace fan on, to distribute the heat throughout the house?

– Marian

Answer:

H014 - Warm Air Furnace Fan and MotorYes and no. If you have a problem with a cool area when heating or a warm area when running the air conditioning, operating the fan continuously will even out the temperatures in your home. The downside is this will cost electrical energy to run the fan and cause some wear and tear on the fan. However, you can run a fan on a newer, high efficiency forced air furnace with an ECM or variable speed motor for little cost – about 1/10 the cost of a typical fan motor. Finally, I think your first step is to have a contractor inspect and adjust your system. At times, duct dampers can be adjusted to correct cold spots and air flow problems. Often you need to make a spring and fall damper adjustment for a two story home.

– Mr. Fix-It

Energy Efficiency Improvements – Where to Start?

August 21st, 2010

QUESTION

I have some funds to do energy efficiency improvements to my old (1950’s) home, but I don’t know where to start. The home is well maintained, but has had no energy improvements. It seems that every contractor has the best product, and there are many claims about huge energy savings. The government rebates and tax credits just seem to complicate the issue. Where do I start?

ANSWER

There is no simple answer. I can outline where to logically start, but I think your home deserves an evaluation and some scientific testing before you start spending.

I suggest you contact Focus on Energy. Their goal is to provide information, resources and financial incentives to help improve energy efficiency in Wisconsin. The state program is well known throughout the country.

I used the Focus on Energy program called “Wisconsin Energy Star Home Program” when I built a new home. They gave advice on construction details, and worked with the builder on energy efficiency. The results were fantastic.

For existing homes like yours, they offer a service to scientifically evaluate your home and the systems in your home at a very reasonable price. Their consultants can test for leaks, review your equipment, and use a computer model to identify the best areas to invest.

Overall, you should look at the easy energy improvements and your old equipment. If you have a furnace that is over 25 years old, put that at the top of the list. If the attic insulation has never been improved over the original three to six inches, that should be high on the list as well. Insulating the top of the basement wall, using low-flow plumbing fixtures, fluorescent lamps, and a set-back thermostat are simple changes with a great payback.

An evaluation by the Focus on Energy is the best first step. They also offer a new interactive website at Ask Focus on Energy. They will answer your questions and refer you to a large database of answers. If you have a unique question, one of the experts can respond.

Rules For Stripping Trim and Wood Doors

March 20th, 2010

What is the general rule for stripping wood trim and wood doors? When is it best to use a heat gun or chemical stripper?

Answer:

Stripping? Just don’t do it. Seriously, it is a lot of work to strip and refinish wood. I think you need to evaluate the existing wood and doors for their value. Inexpensive pine molding should just be replaced, along with Luan veneer doors. Older, intricate moldings and doors should be saved. Oak and other hardwoods will be much easier to strip and refinish.

Whenever you strip paint from a surface you need to be aware of possible lead content in paint, so don’t strip lead paint without the proper precautions.

The process is messy and tough to do. Heat guns and scrapers work well in some cases, along with chemical strippers. Success depends on the type of paint, number of layers, physical access, shape, and contours. I would try both methods. There are also many types of paint strippers. For a large project, you should test several types and brands. Any doors or parts that can be removed should be stripped outside on saw horses. You need lots of ventilation to play it safe. Good luck!