Frequently Asked Questions


Boilers


How do I clean a cast iron hot water boiler?To clean a cast iron boiler, a heating professional can:

  • Use one pound of trisodium phosphate for every 50 gallons of water content.
  • Fill, vent and circulate the system with above mixture, allowing it to reach design or operating temperature if possible.
  • After circulating a few hours, drain the system completely and refill with fresh water. Usually, enough of the cleaner will adhere to the piping to give an alkaline solution satisfactory for operation: a pH reading between 7 and 8.5. Sodium carbonate (up to one pound for every 30 gallons of water content) or sodium hydroxide (lye) (up to one pound for every 50 gallons) may be used.
  • Check pH level after cleaning. It should be between 7 and 8.5. A small amount of cleaner maybe added to adjust the pH up to the proper range.
  • DO NOT use petroleum-based products in the boiler.

How do I clean a steam boiler?To clean a steam boiler, a heating professional can:

  • Use one pound of trisodium phosphate for every 50 gallons of water content.
  • Heat the boiler to 180°F; hold at 180°F for two hours.
  • Do not allow the boiler to make steam.
  • After two hours, drain the boiler and fill with fresh makeup water. Water treatment chemicals should be reviewed before they are introduced into the boiler. Foaming agents that will interfere with steam action are of particular concern. Sodium carbonate (up to one pound for every 30 gallons) or sodium hydroxide (lye) (up to one pound for every 50 gallons) may be used.
  • Check pH level after cleaning. It should be between 7 and 8.5. A small amount of cleaner may be added to adjust the pH up to the proper range.
  • DO NOT use petroleum-based products in the boiler.

What size boiler is appropriate for my house or business? Your local heating professional should perform a heat-loss estimate based upon the size and construction of your home before recommending a boiler size and model.

Water Heaters


Why does my relief valve keep popping out? Recently, more housing developments are being constructed in areas where the local water utility is supplying these projects with extremely high water main distribution pressure. Contractors are installing water pressure reducing valves in the service.  These reducing valves are available with or without a back flow check.
In cases where pressure-reducing valves, backflow preventors, or check valves are installed; water pressure is easily able to build to levels which will activate the T&P valve.
To remedy this, install a pressure reducing valve with a back flow bypass built into it, and/or install a thermal expansion tank that is properly sized to your water heater.

Why does my pilot light keep going out? Sometimes the pilot light simply gets blown out. Ensure that all covers are in place. Check the resetable thermal switch, venting, air supply, gas valve magnet, gas pressure, and for dirt in the pilot orifice.

What is the energy factor of my water heater? The water heater Energy Factor (EF) is a measure of the overall efficiency of the water heater. This is determined by comparing the energy in the heated water used daily to the total daily energy consumption of the water heater. The higher the EF, the lower the annual operating costs.

Where is the anode rod on my water heater? For most water heaters, the anode rod is attached to the hot water outlet of the water heater. If you are facing the front of the water heater (where the labels are), the hot water outlet is on the left-hand side. The anode rod is often referred to as a “sacrificial rod” or “mag rod”.

What carbon monoxide readings are acceptable? Water heaters are tested/certified to emit less than 400ppm. Generally less than 50ppm will be measured.
Note: Firing time and location of measurement will have a dramatic effect on readings.

I smell gas/combustion products, what should I do? Do not try to light any appliance.
Do not touch any electrical switch; do not use any phone in your building.
Immediately call your gas supplier from a neighbor’s phone. Follow the gas supplier’s instructions.
If you cannot reach your gas supplier, call the fire department.

Why is my flame yellow? Your pilot‘s flame should be about mostly blue. If it is mostly yellow the combustion system may require adjustment or servicing. Consult a technician immediately to check for problems.

Can I put an insulation blanket on my water heater? During times of energy crises and rising fuel costs, property owners tend to be more energy conscious. Water heater blankets are often considered for heat loss and conservation purposes.
Blankets for older fiberglass insulated electric water heaters make sense, especially since electricity is a much more expensive method to heat water than gas. Most electric water heaters insulated with foam (R 8.33 or higher) meet ASHRAE standards for performance (efficiency and standby loss) when tested according to Department of Energy procedures.
Many experts argue that heat loss in a gas water heater goes up the flue and therefore a blanket accomplishes no purpose.
Some local codes and utility company regulations may prohibit insulation blankets.

Too often, the Do-It-Yourselfer has good intentions but unknowingly creates hazards by:
Covering safety warnings and operating instructions. (These labels are not to be removed from the heater and placed on the blanket or elsewhere.)
Covering controls, access areas, shut off devices, temperature and pressure relief valves, etc.
Blocking air passages required for combustion or draft resulting in unsafe operation.
Consequently, the water heater manufacturer does disclaim any liability for problems associated with the use of insulated blankets.

HVAC


Why is it important for an air conditioner to dehumidify? Air conditioners keep you comfortable by removing heat and moisture from the air. To do both effectively, the unit must be properly sized for your space. If the capacity is too low, you may never feel quite cool enough. When the capacity is too high, the unit produces so much cold air so quickly that the room reaches the desired temperature before the unit has adequate run time to dehumidify. The result is a cool but clammy room that can feel just as uncomfortable as one that is not cool enough.

What is a heat pump? A heat pump is an air conditioner that can run in reverse to provide heat. In air conditioning mode it removes heat from the indoor air and expels it outside. In heating mode it extracts heat from the outdoor air and uses it to heat your indoor space. At peak efficiency heat pumps use 1/3 of the electricity used by an electric heat unit. However, heat pumps heat most comfortably and efficiently when the temperature is above 45º F. They are not well suited to colder climates with extreme winter temperatures but can be an energy efficient solution in shoulder seasons. Some heat pumps offer supplemental electric heat, which will provide heat in colder temperatures.

How often should I change my air conditioner filter? For your typical 1"-3" air filters, the manufacturer specs basically say to change them bi-monthly, which is in fact a great rule of thumb. However, general guidelines are not applicable to all. If you have to tolerate light to moderate allergies, you may need to upgrade the air filter or change them even more regularly than OEM specifications. On the other hand, if you're in a remote area, own a infrequently occupied home (like a vacation home) or an area where there are fewer cars around, replacing your air filters each year may be quite sufficient. Why do pets matter so much? They have a tendency to shed, which can clog your air filter fast. Clearly, the air filter is just doing its job by capturing pet hair and dander, but tremendously dirty filters can cause weak HVAC performance.
In summary:

  • Seldom used home or single occupant homes without pets or allergies: Change 6-12 months
  • Typical suburban home without pets: Change every 90 days
  • Add a dog or cat: Change every 60 days
  • Multiple pets or have allergies: Change every 30-45 days

What is the difference between a mini-split system and central air conditioner? A mini-split system typically supplies air conditioned and heated air to a single or a few rooms of a building. Mutli-zone systems are a common application of ductless systems and allow up to 8 rooms (zones) to be conditioned from a single outdoor unit. Multi-zone systems typically offer a variety of indoor unit styles including wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted, ceiling recessed, and horizontal ducted. Mini-split systems typically produce 9,000 to 36,000 Btu (9,500–38,000 kJ) per hour of cooling. Multi-zone systems provide extended cooling and heating capacity up to 60,000 Btu's.

Central (ducted) air conditioning offers whole-house or large-commercial-space cooling, and often offers moderate multi-zone temperature control capability by the addition of air-louver-control boxes. In central air conditioning, the inside heat-exchanger is typically placed inside the central furnace/AC unit of the forced air heating system which is then used in the summer to distribute chilled air throughout a residence or commercial building.

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