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Boilers vs. Furnaces: What’s Right for You?

Steam Boiler

Heating your home through the cold Dexter, Michigan winters can be a lot of work sometimes. There are two main options when it comes to home heating, and that’s boilers and furnaces. Both do a good job at providing warmth, but there are some key differences in how they work.

When it comes to choosing boilers vs. furnaces, it helps to have a basic understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of each. You may have to do a little research to find out more about each system in order to decide what’s right for you.

Steam Boiler

The Difference in How They Heat

As the name might suggest, a boiler uses hot water or steam to heat the different areas of your home. This warm air is piped through the building or home until it reaches a radiator, baseboard heater, or radiant floor system. Furnaces on the other hand, heat the air and use a blower system to propel that warm air through the ductwork.

Let’s look at a few more of the similarities and differences between the systems:

  • Both systems can be used in conjunction with the air conditioner in the summer months.
  • Boilers are the more energy efficient of the two choices.
  • Boilers heat more evenly and can provide the same comfortable temperatures throughout the home or building.
  • Boilers typically last 15-20 years, giving them the longer lifespan.
  • Furnaces on the other hand are the more economic option of the two.
  • Both systems will have annual maintenance, cleaning, and repair costs.
  • Furnaces are also easier to install than a boiler system. This is especially true when the ductwork is already in place.

Boilers Vs Furnaces: How They Work

If you’re making a decision in home heating, it helps to have an understanding of how both systems work. Furnaces typically run on natural gas, propane, or electricity. When the fuel is burned the air is heated and pushed through the ductwork into the open room. While the temperature of the air can get hotter, the dryness can sometimes make it less comfortable.

Boiler systems are typically fueled by natural gas, oil, electricity or sometimes even wood pellets. Water is heated and then pumped to heat flooring systems, radiators, or sometimes baseboard radiators. Air heated by a boiler can be the more comfortable of the two choices, because it’s not as dry.

 Go With an HVAC Service Provider That You Can Trust

If you’re debating how to heat your Dexter or Ann Arbor home during the tough Michigan winters, it’s an important decision. Whichever way you decide when it comes to a boiler vs furnace, it’s important to have an experienced HVAC company that you can trust. We sell and repair both boilers and furnaces in the Ann Arbor area of Michigan.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with one of our experts, contact us today!  

Tips to Conserve Heat This Winter

Every year it seems the costs for heating your home go up and up.  And every year, we find ourselves looking for ways to conserve heat and lower our heating bills. After all, heating our home adds up to about half of our monthly energy bills.  

This year the forecast predicts a colder than average winter, along with rising energy costs, which means you can expect your heating bills to increase by hundreds of dollars.

  • Natural Gas – People heating with natural gas can expect their heating costs to rise 30% (on average) due to the increase in gas prices
  • Electricity – People who use electric heat can expect their heating costs to rise 6% (on average)
  • Propane – People who use propane for heating can expect their heating cost to rise 46% (on average)

Now, it is more important than ever to look for ways to conserve heat this winter to reduce these expected rising costs.   Thankfully there are several tips to help; many are low cost or no cost to you.

Couple sitting on couch in warm home

Keep the heat inside your home

One of the best ways to save on your heating bills this winter is to make sure your home is not leaking heat outside. 

An excellent place to start is with our windows and doors.  Both of these places let out close to 30% of our homes heat.  Caulking and using weather stripping can help seal any gaps at your windows and doors, reducing heat loss.  

Sealing around electrical outlets, attic hatches, baseboard heaters, etc., can reduce drafts and save you up to 10 or 20 percent on your heating bill.

Windows

You can do more than just sealing your windows to help with rising heat costs.  

Use a quality window film to seal your windows to minimize the amount of draft coming thru your windows.  

On sunny days, open the curtains and allow the sunshine to help boost the temp inside your home.  Then, at night, be sure you close the curtains to help hold heat inside. 

Turning the thermostat down

We hear turning the thermostat down helps, and it does. For example, if you lower your thermostat by 10 degrees when you are sleeping and are gone during the day, you may save 10% on your overall heating costs.  This can significantly impact the overall costs of heating your home this winter. 

Look up your chimney

Using a fireplace is a great way to help provide heat in your home.  However, it is vital to double-check that the chimney flue is closed when not in use.  An open flue allows warm air to leave your home right up the chimney.  If you have an older chimney that does not have a flue, you can install vents/doors to help seal the airway.  

Another vent to make sure you keep closed when not in use is exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom. 

Tune-up your furnace

Keeping your furnace in tip-top shape is another great way to ensure it is heating your home efficiently.   Schedule an annual furnace tune-up every spring.  The technician will give it a thorough going over, ensuring that it is operating at max efficiency.  The more efficient your furnace is working, the lower your heating costs will be. 

Try these tips

Try any of these handy tips to help keep you warm this winter.

How Often Should Boilers Be Serviced?

How often should boilers be serviced? This is a question many Southeast Michigan homeowners don’t know the answer to. While your boiler should be maintained regularly, does that mean each year, each month, or what exactly? Our boiler and heating professionals have the answers you are looking for.

How Often Should Your Boiler Be Serviced?

Your boiler should be serviced each year, which is sufficient to limit wear and ensure it functions properly. Additionally, having your boiler serviced annually will keep the warranty valid in most cases. Your home insurance may not cover any issues in some cases if you fail to have your boiler serviced every year.

Moving to a New Home?

When you move to a new home, you may not be sure when the previous owner had the boiler serviced. To protect against any potential problems, have the boiler serviced so that you know for a fact it is done and can schedule annual servicing from that point forward.

Is Your Boiler Running Inefficiently?

A boiler that seems inefficient could indicate serious, more costly problems. While this isn’t always the case, at the very least, the lack of efficiency is resulting in higher operating costs. If it’s been longer than a year or your boiler isn’t functioning as it usually does, have it serviced.

Summer and Fall are the Ideal Times to Schedule Service

The cold winter months are when you use your boiler heavily, so the best time to have annual service is during the “off” season when technicians typically have a lighter workload. Boiler repair & maintenance technicians will be able to get to you sooner rather than later, and you will be set for the winter season knowing your home will be warm and toasty. July or August is a good time to schedule a boiler service.

Don’t Put Service Off Until You Experience a Problem

Homeowners often put boiler service off when things seem to be humming along; after all, if it isn’t broke, why fix it? You may think you’re wasting money by having your boiler serviced when it’s operating efficiently, but waiting until it isn’t working as well will likely cost more than just having it maintained each year. Don’t put it off – have your boiler serviced each year.

Schedule Your Yearly Boiler Service Now

Perhaps you aren’t sure when your boiler was last serviced, or you didn’t have it done over the summer months. Now that you know how often boilers should be serviced, make an appointment now, before temperatures get colder in Ann Arbor and surrounding cities in SE Michigan. Call Haley Mechanical today for friendly, fast, reliable service.

3 Important Benefits of In-Floor Radiant Heating

Radiant In-Floor Heating Being Installed

It can be hard to get out of your nice, warm bed on a cold morning, especially when an ice-cold floor greets you. Fortunately, there is a solution: radiant floor heating. It’s a heating system installed under your floor, conducting warmth through your home from the ground up.

How Radiant Floor Heating Works

There are two main types of in-floor heating used in residential buildings.

Hydronic

In a hydronic system, hot water is pumped from a boiler through flexible PEX pipes under the floor. A hydronic heating system can be used to heat an entire house. Hydronic systems cost more to install than electric in-floor heating, but their operating costs are lower.

Electric

An electric heat system contains electrical cables that are installed above the home’s subfloor. Electric radiant heat is less expensive to install than hydronic systems; however, it’s more costly to operate. It is most often used in smaller rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Benefits of In-Floor Heating

Radiant floor heating generally costs more to install than a traditional heating system does. However, the benefits and the energy savings that in-floor heating provides make it a worthwhile investment. Here are some of the reasons to consider adding in-floor heating to your home.

Increased Comfort

In-floor heating takes the chill out of cold floors, so you can comfortably walk barefoot in any room of your house. Plus, radiant floors distribute even, consistent heat through your living space. You won’t need to worry about cold drafts or uneven temperatures.

Cost-Effective

Heat rises. With a traditional heating system, warm air rises to the room’s ceiling, then begins to dissipate. That’s why it can be so challenging to keep your feet warm even if the rest of the room is comfortable. Because radiant heating delivers warmth from the ground up, there’s no heat loss, and the room stays warm for an extended period. This means that your furnace will need to turn on less often. You’ll save energy and save money on your heating bills.

Reduce Allergies

Did you know that traditional forced-air heating systems can contribute to allergy symptoms? As dust, pollen, and debris build up in your air ducts, they can circulate throughout your home. In-floor heating does not use fans or blowers, so it does not release any allergens into the air. You’ll enjoy cleaner, healthier air quality.

It’s easy to see why so many homeowners select in-floor heating. The benefits to your home make it a solid choice.

Ann Arbor Homeowners – Top Maintenance Tips for a Healthy Boiler

Lady Relaxing on Couch

With winter well underway, you may be thinking of turning on your boiler, or you may have already taken that step. Whether you live in Ann Arbor, Dexter, or other cities in Southeast Michigan, it is important to maintain your boiler properly not only for proper operation, efficiency, and money savings but your family’s safety as well. At Haley Mechanical, we have a few critical maintenance tips you should pay close attention to!

Know the most common issues with radiators

Has the radiator (and perhaps the valve) been painted? Freeing the valve can be a challenge. Before contacting a professional to resolve the issue, try spraying a little WD40 and applying some pressure to free the valve.

Sludge in the radiator can result in it being hot at the top while still cool at the bottom. Power flushing is the solution to this problem; contact the experts to take care of this task.

Is the radiator failing to heat up? This is usually a valve problem. First, look at the valve located at the bottom of the radiator to ensure it is open. Valves turn in a clockwise direction, and if yours is open, but the radiator fails to produce heat, it may mean an issue with the valve. Should you have to get a new valve to replace the old one, you may want to consider a thermostatic radiator valve as this type is more flexible when it comes to heat settings and providing comfort.

Bleed radiators

Allow your radiator to run for a while you initially turn it on; if you notice that some do not heat up quickly, it may be due to air inside the radiator. This is indicated when the radiator is old at the top, and hot at the bottom. If this is the issue, here are our suggestions:

After protecting carpets or flooring with plastic, get an old cloth or rag and radiator key. After putting the key in the valve, turn it gently in a reverse clockwise direction for about a quarter of a turn while capturing any water that may escape with a cloth held underneath. As the air leaves the radiator, you will likely notice a hissing sound.

Water should begin to exit the radiator, and the hissing sound should cease shortly, at which time you can absorb excess water with a rag or cloth. Once this occurs, turn the radiator key in a clockwise direction to ensure the valve is closed. Once finished, check to make certain the radiator is hot from bottom to top.

Check boiler pressure and ventilation

It is important to check the pressure gauge once the boiler is operating to ensure it is functioning per the pressure levels recommended by the manufacturer. When the pressure is lower than recommended, you can top it up – but do so with caution, as the pressure release valve can easily sustain damage. When this happens, you will need to call a professional for repair.

Sufficient space around your boilers is essential as well, so make certain that the area where the boiler is housed is clutter-free. Your boiler needs to breathe, so remove coats, shoes, bags, and other items. If housed in a box, be sure ventilation requirements are met according to manufacturer instructions and that there is an access panel to make your boiler easily accessible for maintenance.

Overflow pipe dripping

It could indicate a problem if you find dripping water coming from the overflow pipe (typically located outside your property). In many cases overfilling or the passage of time causes the pressure release valve to malfunction. If this is the case, you will need to have an engineer diagnose and resolve the issue.

Balancing your radiator system

While this task is a bit complex, it is worth the time and effort you put in. Upon bleeding radiators, you may notice that some are warmer than others. If this is the case, the cooler radiators will likely warm up by carefully adjusting the radiators so that those that are hotter become less hot. It may be necessary to have an expert come in if your house is large, as this can be a difficult task. Simply contact the professionals at Haley Mechanical if you need assistance bleeding and balancing the radiators.

Is the flame of your boiler blue?

It is critical to consult a professional if the flame of your boiler is not blue, but instead an orange or yellow color. This could indicate your boiler is faulty.

Make sure the flue can be accessed

A joint that is leaking could be emitting carbon monoxide, so it is important to make sure your boiler flue is accessible via access panels installed whether the flue exits through a ceiling or void. Access panels help ensure your family’s safety so that yourself or a professional can spot potential carbon monoxide leaks.

Boiler repairs are not for the do-it-yourselfer

Many homeowners try to take care of all household issues themselves to avoid costs. When there is an issue with your boiler, it is never recommended that you open it and attempt to make repairs yourself. Instead, contact an engineer who is experienced and familiar with boiler problems.

Have your boiler serviced annually

Finally, it is imperative that you have your boiler serviced on a yearly basis to ensure it runs in the best possible condition. Our engineers will make certain that your boiler is running at its most efficient, and in a safe manner. By cleaning all accessible areas and checking the primary components of your boiler, you will enjoy peace of mind knowing your boiler is ready for the cold temperatures to fall and winter bring while operating safely to protect your home and family.

At Haley Mechanical, we know the importance of proper care for boiler efficiency, safe operation, and a warm home during the coldest winter months. We invite homeowners in the Ann Arbor, Dexter, and surrounding areas of Southeast Michigan to contact us today to ensure your boiler is healthy!

Learn more about a Lochinvar Boiler for your Ann Arbor area home.

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