Open Loop vs. Closed Loop Geothermal Systems

Geothermal Heat Pump Installation

Ground source geothermal heat pumps have become highly popular in recent years for home comfort and other benefits. In fact, each year more homes in the U.S. switch from standard air source heat pumps to ground source geothermal systems. At Haley Mechanical, we understand why so many homeowners are making the switch, and the exceptional benefits of geothermal systems – reduction in harmful emissions, long lifespan, outstanding performance and energy savings, and efficient heating even during the most frigid winter temperatures in Michigan.

What is the difference between open loop and closed loop geothermal systems?

An open loop system consists of a pipe that is buried beneath the ground using nearby groundwater for the heat exchange process. Unlike a closed loop system that circulates a mixture of anti-freeze and water, the water does not circulate but instead is directed into drainage after use.

With a closed loop system, a pipe is also buried beneath the ground. However, a mixture of water and anti-freeze is circulated to cool and heat your home. Essentially, the water/anti-freeze solution either deposits or absorbs heat from the ground, depending on the season. The solution enters a heat exchanger located inside your home that transfers heat via the refrigerant in the heat pump. With a closed loop system, loops are placed according to the space available, and depending on your situation will be laid either as vertical loops after drilling or in a horizontal configuration.

While the type of geothermal system that’s right for you depends on some factors including groundwater availability, closed-loop systems are the most common. Not only is a water source essential for an open loop system, these loops may collect debris inside the piping system that can result in repair issues and costs. Your installation professional can guide you regarding the differences between an open or closed loop geothermal heat pump system, and which is best in your situation.

At Haley Mechanical, we realize that geothermal heating and cooling systems are something still relatively new to southeast Michigan homeowners. Have questions regarding home comfort, energy savings, and the benefits of this type of system to the environment? Give us a call today!

Corrosion Caused by Water and Your Hot Water Tank

Hot water from faucet

Water is a precious natural resource, yet it can be so damaging. Water erodes away bits of rock, corrodes metal, and is the most damaging element of all when it comes to your home. While there are some breathtaking sights in our country that we can thank erosion for such as the Grand Canyon, when it comes to your hot water tank, corrosion equals ruin.

Essentially, water particles can corrode or “eat away” at the inside of your water heater in as little as five years, resulting in substantial replacement costs over the years. In fact, over your lifetime the money you spend to replace your hot water tank because of corrosion can be up in the thousands. Considering the technologically advanced world we live in today, is there not a way to slow down or stop the damaging effects of water on the inside of our tanks? Of course, there is.

Could a simple aluminum or magnesium rod that exists in your hot water heater be the solution?

For more than 60 years, a simple rod crafted of magnesium or aluminum has been used in hot water heaters to attract malicious water particles responsible for corroding the inside of the water tank. These rods, or “sacrificial anodes,” are submerged in the water and held in place by screws. These anodes’ purpose is to prevent your hot water tank from corroding by attracting the particles to itself. Instead of replacing your entire water tank and spending hundreds of dollars, you can simply replace the anode – a relatively cheap component!

When is it time to replace your anode?

There is no specific time period in which to judge whether an anode has reached its lifespan. Generally speaking, most do their job for about three to five years. Factors that determine how long your sacrificial anode will last include the water quality in the area where you live, and the quality of the anode you purchase. To make it as easy as possible, inspect your anode rod on the third year after it has been installed, and every year after the initial inspection. This can be accomplished simply by opening up the tank and visually inspecting the rod after shutting off your water supply.

  • A perfectly clean anode is not a good thing. If your anode still looks clean after two or three years, it is not attracting the corrosive water particles. Replace your sacrificial anode immediately.
  • Does the anode look as though it has been chewed up? While you may think this a bad sign, this is exactly what you want. The rod is working and will continue to work effectively until you begin to see a thin metal wire (the core).
  • Can you see the core of your rod? If a thin metal wire is visible and the anode is chewed up, time to replace. Your anode has reached the end of its useful life.
  • No chewed up rod – in fact, no rod at all? If all you can see is the core and no rod, it’s time to replace the anode now. When the rod disappears, it is no longer useful or effective.

Keeping a check on your hot water tank’s sacrificial anode can help you avoid costly replacement. At Haley Mechanical, we are happy to inspect your anode to see if it’s in good working order, or if it may be time to replace. If your hot water tank is already corroded or has other issues that prevent it from working properly, our highly skilled technicians can repair or replace. Serving the southeast Michigan areas of Howell, Ann Arbor, Dexter, Ypsilanti, Chelsea, and Livonia for more than 15 years, we are happy to assist you with your hot water or other plumbing needs.

Is Your HVAC System Unhealthy? Indications Trouble Could be Lurking

Woman relaxing in her comfortable home

Every Ann Arbor homeowner knows that without an HVAC system, you would be very uncomfortable during summer and winter months! While it is the most important system in your home, it could potentially put your family in danger. Could trouble be lurking with your heating & cooling system? Here are a few indications it may be time to call in our Southeast Michigan furnace repair experts.

Smell that distinct electrical burning odor? When you notice this smell, it could mean your system is overheating, or that wiring is damaged. Even when you do not think it is serious, never ignore this smell as it could indicate damage or burning in the system, even resulting in a fire if the situation goes unchecked.

Is your nose detecting a sulfur or a rotten egg smell? This could indicate a natural gas leak which is extremely dangerous. Remove yourself and your family from your home immediately, and never try to figure out what the problem is yourself. Call the professionals, as a gas leak could result in a fire or explosion.

Slight burning odor when running your furnace. Upon switching the furnace on for the first time during the heating season, a slight burning smell is not unusual. This is an indication your furnace is burning oil, which may be leaking near the system’s heat output. If you notice a burning odor, switch the furnace off and shut the oil off before contacting our HVAC technicians to diagnose the issue.

Musty or moldy smell caught your attention? Bacteria may be growing when you notice an odor that’s musty, earthy, or moldy. Cooling systems can be the perfect breeding ground for mold due to the fact condensation often builds up on the inside. If this condensation or moisture travels to the ductwork, you may notice a musty smell – and mold can be a health risk. The solution? Have your ductwork and HVAC system cleaned by professionals.

Inspecting your HVAC system occasionally is recommended, as you discover your system is leaking if you notice a puddle beginning to form, which could result in mold or even a slipping hazard. Determine where the leak originates if possible, then contact our HVAC experts.

Any time you notice the above symptoms, it is a good idea to contact our SE Michigan HVAC professionals. At Haley Mechanical, we help Ann Arbor, and Dexter homeowners get small issues under control before they become costly or more dangerous problems! Give us a call today, and enjoy peace of mind.

A Brief History of Residential Heating

Roman Castle Figure

After Learning the History of Home Heating, You’ll Be Thankful for Today’s Home Comfort Systems

When cold weather strikes in southeast Michigan, all we have to do to stay warm and toasty is adjust the thermostat – but it wasn’t always that easy! In fact, staying warm prior to the invention of the home furnace required a lot of effort and hard work. Be thankful that you don’t have to gather wood (unless you just enjoy a fire) or coal today, and that all it takes is a flick of the wrist to enjoy a warm home!

Here’s the history of home heating through the ages:

Ancient Greeks and Roman Engineers

In the early days, enclosed wood-burning was the method used to heat homes. While it is believed central heating was invented by the ancient Greeks, Roman engineers invented the hypocaust system and are given credit for central heating advances. According to the BBC, homes, villas, and other buildings in the Roman Empire were heated using hypocaust systems, which essentially conducted furnace-heated air within the walls and under floors of these buildings.

German Monks Resurrect Central Heating

German monks relied on a simpler system in early medieval times; this system involved a furnace room which pumped warm air into their abbeys through under-floor channels. In the 13th century, the Roman hypocaust system was revived by Cistercian monks who used a combination of indoor wood burning furnaces and river diversions to provide heat according to Wikipedia.

Russians and Swedes Design Heating Systems Based on Water and Steam

The early 1700s brought about a different way of heating greenhouses and warming palaces, as the Russians and Swedes designed central heating systems which used water to distribute heat. In 1832, U.S. born Angier March Perkins invented a steam heating system, doing the majority of his work in the UK. The steam heating system was developed primarily for the Governor of the Bank of England who desired the ability to grow grapes in the cold climate.

Now Enter the Radiator and Furnace

Franz San Galli, a Polish-born Russian, changed the face of central heating forever in the 1850s when the heating radiator was born. By the late 1800s, many American homes enjoyed heat generated by cast iron radiators which relied on coal-fired boilers usually located in a basement which heated various rooms of a home via steam or hot water directed to individual room radiators.

Eventually, Dave Lennox – a name you’re likely familiar with – invented the first riveted-steel coal furnace in 1885. Since that time, the Iowa-based Lennox manufacturing company has evolved into Lennox International, a recognized brand around the world for heat and air systems.

Haley Mechanical takes pride in offering our southeast Michigan customers in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Dexter, and surrounding communities the highest quality home comfort systems. When it comes to keeping your home toasty and warm this winter, call the experts! We offer high efficiency, environmentally friendly home comfort solutions.

Batten Down the Attic Hatch to Prevent Wasted Energy Dollars

House Attic in Ann Arbor Michigan

If you’re an Ann Arbor area homeowner with an attic hatch, some of your energy dollars may be going right up into your attic if the hatch isn’t insulated and sealed. Now that the Christmas decorations have been put away, it’s a good time to make your attic hatch airtight, keeping your home more comfortable while saving you money.

If your attic space is unfinished and/or not insulated, even more energy is being lost; heat rises, and when it escapes around your attic hatch and then out of the attic itself, you will spend more on energy and find it more difficult to keep your home warm.

So, how can you check to see if your attic hatch is sucking energy from your home, and how much? Easy.

  • Turn off any sources in your home which will create air drafts, such as furnaces or air conditioners.
  • Using a smoke pencil or “smoke puffer” like professionals use, or an incense stick that has been lighted and produces a thin stream of smoke, hold it near the attic hatch. As you observe you will be able to tell if you have an air leak, as the smoke will either bend toward the leak if air is entering the attic or away from the attic if air is coming out.

Between finishing your attic and closing the hatch, you can save as much as 30% on heating bills!

If you discover air leaks around your attic hatch, what to do? If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, consider applying foam tape or weatherstripping around edges; there are also insulated hatch covers available at many home supply stores. Additionally, you may want to attach manufactured fabric housing to the stairs to further block air leakage.

If your attic is unfinished and/or not sufficiently insulated, consider completing both. Between this and sealing up your attic hatch, you can save as much as 30% on your heating costs – and enjoy a more comfortable home.

Haley Mechanical is committed to providing Michigan homeowners in the Dexter, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and surrounding areas with expert advice on heating and cooling your home. Call us today with any questions you may have about saving on energy costs this winter.

Make an appointment with us today!

Ann Arbor Residents – a Checklist for Outdoor Plumbing

Outdoor Garden Hose

When you think of plumbing, what likely comes to mind are the pipes, drains, and other components you see in the bathroom and kitchen of your SE Michigan home such as in the bathtub, shower, toilet, or sink. There’s really a lot more to it than that, and considering spring has “sprung” it is important to give your outdoor plumbing a little thought and attention.

Our Ann Arbor expert plumbers are often called out to address outdoor plumbing issues. To help you ensure the outdoor plumbing functions properly, we have provided a checklist below.

Sprinkler Heads

Be sure to inspect your sprinkler system for leaks or other issues on a regular basis, as malfunctioning can result not only in over-watering which is damaging to the grass but higher water bills.

Outdoor Faucets

Considering it can be freezing cold in southeast Michigan one day and warm the next, it is really no surprise that outdoor plumbing fixtures such as faucets may burst, warp, or freeze due to fluctuations in temperature. When temperatures have dropped substantially, or a snowstorm comes through, be sure to check the outdoor plumbing fixtures for any signs of damage or deterioration.

Exposed Pipes

Exposed pipes have no protection from cold temperatures, ice, snow, and other elements. Add to this the fact that the majority of pipes supply water and the constant pressure they are under, damage can occur. This is particularly true in regions where temperatures drop to bone-chilling levels during winter months such as is the case in our area. Exposed pipes can put your entire plumbing system at risk, so be sure to check them regularly.

Septic Systems

Septic system issues are not as uncommon as you might think, especially those in older homes of 100 or more years ago that were often designed using sewage pipes that are more brittle and susceptible to damage caused by tree roots or leaks. Having a new septic system installed can cost thousands of dollars; be sure to have one of our skilled Ann Arbor plumbers inspect your septic tank on a yearly basis to stave off these substantial costs for as long as possible.

Sump Pumps

The sump pump is probably the last thing on your mind – in fact, you probably never give it a thought. During periods of heavy rain, some homeowners face a real dilemma: flooding that results in foundation issues, rot, and erosion because the sump pump failed to operate as it should and redirect rainwater. Water is the most damaging element for a home, so be sure to put your sump pump on the list when performing your outdoor plumbing check.

Having issues with outdoor plumbing will eventually affect your indoor plumbing. As you now know, a plumbing system involves far more than those pipes you can see beneath the kitchen sink! Be sure to create an outdoor plumbing checklist, and when you encounter issues act immediately. Contact the Southeast Michigan plumbers at Haley Mechanical, and feel confident any problems will be addressed quickly by dedicated, licensed professionals.

What Do All of These Energy Ratings Mean?

Utility Meters

Sorting Out All of Those Numbers

Anyone, whether a home or business owner, has likely seen data related to energy rating listed on a product when shopping for a new cooling/heating system, or even a window unit. What do those numbers mean, and how do you compare one product to another? Understanding these numbers can save you a bundle on energy costs. We’ve provided some information below to help you make a smart, energy-wise choice.

Energy ratings

Energy ratings help you compare cooling and heating equipment to determine how much energy is necessary to keep you comfortable. Essentially, it is comparable to the miles-per-gallon you get in a car. Vehicles that use more gas require more money to get from one place to another. Efficiency numbers make it possible for you to know how much energy is consumed to enjoy the same performance you would get with similar products. When it comes to electric heat pumps or gas furnaces, you cannot compare ratings because these systems rely on different types of fuel. Whether your air conditioning and the heating system relies on electricity, gas, or both, understanding the numbers behind the ratings will give you a good idea of how much it will cost to run your system and enjoy a comfortable home or business.

Electric cooling and SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficient Ratio)

A SEER rating gives you a good idea of what you can expect to spend on energy costs, as this rating system measures the performance of the equipment over an entire season, such as summer months when most people need cooling.

How do you calculate SEER? It’s easy. Take the total cooling output the equipment will generate over the summer (BTUs, the measurement standard also known as British Thermal Units) and divide this number by your total energy expenditure (dollars spent) during this same period. You measure the cost to enjoy a cool home in comparison to the level of cooling power the system provides. Currently, the Lennox R XC25 is the most efficient cooling system available, providing a SEER rating of as much as 26. A minimum SEER of between 13 and 14 is mandated under federal law depending on the country where you reside. Air conditioners with a SEER of more than 14.5 may qualify for ENERGY STAR; when you see this qualification, you know it is a smart investment regarding energy-efficient cooling.

AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency

AFUE numbers deal with systems that use fuels such as oil or natural gas to generate heat during colder months. This is a different method used to measure efficiency and is a comparison of the heat generated over the course of winter months with the amount of fuel burned.

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency numbers are fairly easy to understand. The higher the number, the more heat you will feel for a specific amount of oil or natural gas burned to produce that heat. Furnaces labeled 90% or higher for AFUE are highly efficient, as this means that 90% of the fuel is transformed into useable heat, and only 10% wasted. To go a step further in helping you understand AFUE rating, a furnace rated 80 will use 80% of the oil or natural gas to heat your home/business, wasting 20% of the fuel. The waste is typically caused due to inefficient burners, air leaks, or designs that are not as advanced as others. The Lennox SLP98V furnace currently has an AFUE of 98.7, which means less than 2% of the fuel is wasted – super efficient for winter months!

According to a January 2013 publication by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) the XC25 air conditioner and XP25 heat pump are the most precise and efficient models available today, based on the SEER of similar heating and cooling products. For exact system efficiencies, you can consult with AHRI or a Lennox dealer such as Haley Mechanical.

HSPF, or Heating Season Performance Factor

Heat pumps don’t use fossil fuel and work as an air conditioner that’s capable of running in reverse to heat your home or business in winter months. Therefore, they have their comparative efficiency rating as AFUE does not apply in this case. How efficiently a heat pump warms your indoor air over the course of the entire winter is measured by HSPF. A heat pump with an HSPF of more than eight is considered high-efficiency; also, you may qualify for tax credits or utility rebates. How do you calculate HSPF? Divide the system’s heat output over the course of the season by the amount of electricity necessary to produce the heat.

Keep in mind that a heat pump will have an HSPF and SEER rating when shopping for this type of system because it relies on electricity to both cool and heat your premises. The Lennox XP25 heat pump mentioned earlier in this article currently offers an HSPF of as high as 10.20, and a SEER of up to 23.5.

Have questions about all these terms, numbers, and ratings? Give the SE Michigan heating & cooling professionals at Haley Mechanical a call today!

Is Your Air Conditioner Prepared for Spring?

Spring Tree Blossoms

Nothing brings about a good mood quite like spring! Following a long, cold winter, those first few days are invigorating, bringing about desire and readiness to start fresh – doing a little spring cleaning, making repairs, just getting ready for the warmer spring and summer months. As trusted Ann Arbor air conditioning professionals, we have one question: Have you had your air conditioner cleaned and inspected in preparation for spring?

An air conditioner properly maintained and cleaned means:

Improved indoor air quality. Until your air conditioner breaks down, you probably don’t give it much thought. Before we get into the summer season in which your system will likely be used heavily, it is important to schedule an annual checkup. The air that’s distributed through your home goes through a filter, which directly impacts the air your family breathes. A clogged or dirty air filter not only means dusty, dirty air but potentially mildew or mold that has accumulated on the filter. This can result in serious health issues!

Enhanced efficiency. The filter not only affects how clean the air is inside your southeast Michigan home but your air conditioner’s efficiency. When the filter is dirty, your system has to work harder to pump air into your home. This means more wear and tear on your system and a higher energy bill. Of course, the filter is not the only component that may affect efficiency. If your system is older or has been neglected over the years, it may be time to have a new, more energy efficient model installed. Our HVAC contractors can inspect your system, make any necessary repairs, or help you determine whether you would save substantially by having a new system installed.

Cool comfort all spring and summer long. The biggest advantage of having your air conditioning system cleaned and maintained is that you will stay cool all season, and keep cooling costs down. If you wait until the end of spring or until your A/C breaks down, it is likely you’ll have quite a wait for a technician to make repairs as this is the busiest season for air conditioning contractors. By having your system checked and tuned up now, any minor problems or issues can be diagnosed before they become a huge – and costly – headache.

At Haley Mechanical, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting your air conditioner prepared for the spring and summer seasons. It is time for a little spring cleaning, and this includes your cooling system! Call us today and enjoy peace of mind knowing your air conditioner will provide clean, comfortable air all summer long.

Symptoms of a Cracked Toilet – and When it’s Time to Repair or Replace

Toilet in Bathroom

What are the symptoms of a cracked toilet?

If you notice:

  • The toilet bowl isn’t holding water
  • The fill mechanism constantly runs, or the tank isn’t holding water
  • Water pooling on the floor around the toilet. Chances are the toilet is cracked. Before you go any further, check the operation of your toilet including whether it flushes properly, whether the toilet doesn’t fill even when water continues to run, or if it may be clogged. After ruling out other issues, inspect your toilet closely to find where the crack is located. It may be on the inside or outside of the toilet, in the tank or bowl, above or below the water level.

In instances where a crack is smaller than 1/16th of an inch, odds are you can handle it yourself, especially if the crack is above the water level or located on the outside of the toilet.

Here are a few tips for filling a toilet crack

After the crack has been located:

  • Shut off the water, then drain the toilet bowl or tank depending on which area is cracked. Once drained, dry the area thoroughly.
  • Check to ensure there are no additional cracks which may have radiated out from the primary crack.
  • Fill the crack with plumber’s epoxy.
  • Wait for a minimum of 24 hours for the epoxy to set before filling the toilet with water; test to ensure the repair was successful.
  • Cracks that are located below water level whether inside or outside will likely require the attention of a professional.

At Haley Mechanical, we want to help homeowners in Ann Arbor, Dexter, Ypsilanti, and surrounding areas understand how to make their own toilet repairs when possible. If your toilet is cracked and the job is beyond your ability, give us a call today!

Compelling Reasons for the Switch to Mini-Split Ductless Heating

Mini-Split installation in Ann Arbor, Michigan

“Mini splits” or ductless air conditioners are becoming more popular among homeowners in Southeast Michigan and all across the nation, for a good reason. Whether you have a newer home without a traditional forced-air heating system or live in an older house without existing ductwork, mini-splits offer several advantages over central heating and cooling systems. Why consider a ductless air conditioner? Here are a few important reasons.

No compromising the architecture of your home. Because mini splits are minimally invasive, you do not have to go through the hassle of having ductwork and air vents installed, or having your home torn apart. Mini splits can be installed by drilling a small hole into the wall, and their small size never intrudes on your home’s beauty or decor. Ductless and eco-friendly for heating and cooling your home, enjoy greater control over your family’s comfort.

A cost-effective solution to comfort. We are not just talking about operational costs, but installation and other factors. When you install a traditional HVAC system, there may be considerable renovation to consider if walls have to be torn out for the installation of ductwork. Rebuilding the wall, painting, replacing light switches or receptacles – it is important to keep all of this in mind considering all that’s required with a mini-split is a small hole in the wall.

A mini-split ductless system costs about half of what it costs to install a central unit. While mini-splits cost more than central HVAC systems regarding cooling capacity, it is important to remember that mini-split systems are “zoned” meaning you can cool or heat only the room or rooms someone is occupying rather than the entire house. Unlike ducted systems, mini-splits have no energy loss, so they are more energy efficient and cost less to operate.

Small in size. Ductless air conditioners are ideal for small living spaces such as an apartment, basement or attic room, or smaller home. While large homes are better served by a central HVAC system, a mini-split may be the solution for a new addition or previously unconditioned space that now needs air conditioning or heating. Every situation is different, however mini splits are compact in size and high recommended for cooling smaller spaces or homes without ductwork. Sleek and stylish, these units are mounted on the wall and blend seamlessly into the surroundings. Even the outdoor units are compact and mounted high on the exterior wall where they are connected to the outdoor compressor and refrigerant lines.

An eco-friendly cooling/heating option. Many Michigan homeowners are concerned about the environment and looking for alternatives to not only air conditioning but appliances and other equipment as well. Because mini split systems are designed for use in specific zones, you only cool the area where you need it. This results in substantially reduced energy use – and no conditioned air leaking from ducts as is often the case with central HVAC systems. Additionally, mini splits operate on the most environmentally friendly refrigerant available today, a huge advantage for those concerned about the environment.

Built-in heat pump means warm air during winter months. Ductless air conditioners essentially work in reverse during the winter months, utilizing an integrated heat pump that heats the areas of your home where you need it. Heat from outdoor air is absorbed and brought inside to warm the air, whereas in summer months heat is extracted from the indoor air and taken outside. You enjoy a comfortable home no matter the season.

Save on energy use. The EPA estimates that by switching to a ductless system, homeowners can reduce energy use by 20 to 30 percent each month. Again, no ductwork means no wasted energy, and mini-splits consume only the amount of energy necessary to cool or heat a specific space. Ductless air conditioners maintain the comfort you desire, without constant cycling on and off to maintain comfort as traditional HVAC systems do. What about a window-mounted air conditioner? Even those with high ENERGY STAR ratings are far less efficient than mini splits.

Convenience. What could be easier than installing a window AC unit? While a window air conditioner may not require professional installation, they are simply not an efficient way to cool your home over the long term. Window units blast cold air in the immediate vicinity, while the rest of your home remains too warm or too cool without installing several other window units. They also block the view and natural light and can be unsightly and bulky in terms of decor. Window units only cool, so you do not enjoy the heating benefits during winter months you do with a mini-split system.

As you can see, there are many reasons you may want to consider switching to a ductless air conditioner whether to preserve the architectural integrity of an older home or enjoy comfort where you need it without wasting energy often lost through leaking ductwork. At Haley Mechanical, we provide Ann Arbor homeowners with a variety of cooling and heating solutions, so you are sure to find the one that’s right for your comfort, energy efficiency, and budget needs.