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Home Power Monitors Ward Away “Energy Vampires”

Guest Post Written by Beth Kelly

As a conscientious homeowner, it’s useful to know when and how electricity is being used throughout your home, and if your property is becoming more or less energy-efficient over time. Monitors can help you discover which devices are power hogs, and where else around the home you can tighten down on energy usage. Using an energy monitoring device to measure your home’s energy consumption is the first step to reducing it. With one of these handy tools, you can drastically diminish both the amount of energy you use and the amount of CO2 you produce each year.

If you’re also interested in cutting back on energy costs, energy use monitors can make a big impact on your wallet as well. Installations usually require an electrician, since the base unit connects to a home’s circuit-breaker box and nearby wiring. But once they’re in place, the monitors are easy to use. Ultimately, the goal of these devices is allow you to control and manage your energy use, and prevent “energy vampires” from sucking unneeded power from the outlets in your home. Read on to learn about different monitoring products and the services they can provide for your family:

 

Smart Power Strip
“Smart” Power Strips: Promising to automatically power down peripheral electronics when they are not in use, these products are proven to pay for themselves in as little as six weeks. Smart power strips can help keep common electronic accessories from absorbing unneeded electricity.  Traditional power strips are an easy and affordable way to increase the number of electrical outlets in your home, but their convenience can result in many devices being plugged in at the same time – allowing all the electronics to continue draining power even when they’re not in use. Smart power strips, however, strive to reduce your power usage by cutting off power to devices in standby mode.

TED Power Detective

TED Energy Detective: Capable of measuring your home in totality, the TED Energy Detective is a highly comprehensive energy monitoring system. Featuring a real-time display showing how many watts your house is using at any given time, along with the equivalent hourly cost, the TED systems provide continuous feedback about your energy use. The product has detailed installation instructors, and the creators hope that users will be able install TED Energy Detectives inside their own homes without much difficulty – but with electricity it’s best to err on the site of caution and consider having it put it professionally. There are several different models of the TED home system, all of which accurately tell you what your energy bill will be before it arrives. The TED 5000-C works with Google PowerMeter and comes with all the components necessary to monitor energy usage, plus a wireless display that serves as a reminder to keep you aware of your household energy usage. In addition, you can still use your computer or mobile device to track your energy data.

Kill – A – Watt

Kill-A-Watt: With its large LCD display, the Kill-A-Watt measures the energy used by devices plugged directly into its meter. It displays voltage, current, reactive and apparent power, power factor, energy consumed in kWh and hours connected. Some Kill-A-Watt models also display the estimated cost for the energy used. A “beginner” tool for measuring your electrical usage, it is capable of measuring how much power your cable boxes, cell phone chargers, TV, and other electrical devices are using.

OWL Energy Monitor

Owl Energy Monitor: Another monitor designed to help households realize just how much electricity and money is wasted on “energy vampire” products and other electrical devices using unnecessary amounts of power. Despite being one of the least expensive monitors on the market, the Owl still gives you all the vital information you’ll need to monitor energy use. The readout shown on the monitor updates itself every 5 to 60 seconds, allowing you to easily figure out how much juice an appliance or light is drawing by turning it off and on and noting the difference in power use.  The monitor will show energy use in real time, either in cost or kilowatt interval.

Today, technology has been fine-tuned to the point that a good energy monitoring system can keep you informed and in control of your home’s energy usage. The accurate digital displays of the products listed above (and others) will give you new insight into where your power and money is going each month.

Along with buying your energy from renewable sources, which is easier than ever for homeowners to find through websites like albertaenergyproviders.com in Canada or epa.gov/greenpower/pubs/gplocator.htm in the US, tracking and monitoring your energy consumption and reducing it accordingly is also hugely beneficial for the environment. These monitors “should be as widespread as TV sets,” said Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the American Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in a recent interview. Wellinghoff has an energy monitor in his home, and says he cut his home power consumption and his electricity bill by 3% to 5% in the first few months.

Energy vampire” devices and power companies may lead you to think you have no control over the amount of energy your home uses, but with smart power strips and energy monitoring systems, you can lessen both the financial and environmental cost of your home.

 

About the Author: Beth Kelly is a freelance writer and blogger. She frequently covers home energy and DIY repair topics. Originally from Michigan, Beth now lives and works in Chicago, IL. Follow her on Twitter at @bkelly_88

7 Advantages of Ductless Split Air Conditioners

Ductless split air conditioning is one of the most comfortable and convenient ways to improve your quality of life. The heat and humidity that a Toronto summer can bring is unbearable for those who don’t have a cooling system. So what’s the big deal with ductless split air conditioners anyway? Well the system has no ductwork hence the name. It also works much different than an external cooling unit. We took our top 7 advantages of owning a ductless split air conditioner in this infographic:

Ductless Split Air Conditioner

 

Leave any comments below if you have questions or call us today for more information on ductless split air conditioning.

Telephone: (647) 931-6155

Email: info@belyeabrothers.com

Know the Different Types of Air Conditioning

There are many types of air conditioning and it can be confusing for many people out there. It’s important to know the different types so that you can make an informed decision on which one is best for you. So here’s an infographic on the different types of air conditioners. You can check out our cooling services page for more information on the different types.

Different Types of Air Conditioners

2014 Enbridge Community Energy Conservation Program

2014 Enbridge Community Energy Conservation Program

 

Enbridge has recently updated the 2014 Community Energy Conservation
Program. For homeowners living the designated postal codes this provides an
opportunity to upgrade older equipment while improving the overall energy
efficiency of your home. Measures as simple as replacing an older furnace or
boiler with a high efficiency system and improving air leakage around the
home can qualify you for a significant rebate. Renting an energystar water
tank or tankless unit along with a new high efficiency furnace or replacing
an old boiler and water heater with a combination boiler also qualifies for
the rebate. For further details visit knowyourenergyscore.ca or call The
Home Inspectors Group at 416-276-2706 to discuss the audit process.

You can also download the pdf here.

Toronto Furnace Report 2013

With Fall coming up (and winter soon after), we’re here to help with our Toronto Furnace Report for 2013! Since 2007, Toronto’s average energy bill has gone up almost 50%. To help with this, we created a helpful infographic about how air-forced furnaces can help lower your bill. Since 60% of your bill comes from your heating/cooling systems, it’ll have the more impact than anything else.

 

Toronto Furnace Report 2013

Toronto Furnace Report 2013

How Do Building Materials Affect My Home’s Energy Efficiency?

Building Materials

Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theentiremikey/4613803278/

This is a guest post by Jason Wall, an HVAC technician with Griffith Energy Services for more than 23 years.

Homes can be designed and customized to allow for all kinds of living needs and preferences, but no element of a home is as nuanced as its indoor climate. In my twenty-something years of working with clients, I’ve talked occasionally with some who were frustrated or disappointed with their energy efficiency. Despite installing cutting-edge systems (and keeping them well-maintained,) their systems fail to meet their efficiency and performance expectations.

This is because there are countless factors that can significantly influence the air quality and temperature inside one’s house. While having an appropriately sized, installed, and maintained system is obviously a substantial part of creating a comfortable indoor environment, there are several more factors mostly outside of our influence: outdoor climate, wind, sunlight, and humidity. Homes can be redesigned to be more efficient – but unless a homeowner has the means or desire to reconstruct their homes brick by brick, it can be implausible to fully redesign a home for ideal materials and passive solar design features.

However, considering how a residence’s architecture and building materials influence indoor climate should absolutely be a priority for energy-conscious home seekers and designers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you’re thinking about house design:

1. Look for where windows are placed

The materials and placement of a house’s windows have an enormous influence the indoor temperature by affecting the amount of sunlight and wind entering the home.  If you’re in a warmer area, leaving windows exposed to the sun without design features like overhangs to create shade can result in enough heat gain to make the indoor environment uncomfortable. Likewise, those in colder climes should consider leaving windows exposed to allow plenty of sunlight. Windows installed to the north and south of a home actually cause a lower cooling load ? and may even result in allowing you to run smaller equipment to achieve your cooling needs. This is due to what is called southern exposure.

2. Inspect window materials and glazing

The thickness and amount of glaze on your windows can result in a great difference to your heat gain. More glazing is better for warmer climates, since it blocks out more light. Installing lighter glazed windows in cold regions will result in better heat gain. Your selection of frame also has a big impact on how you retain heat. Metal frames can conduct more heat, making it the clear choice for the cold. However, wooden or vinyl is better at deflecting heat. Additional features to consider adjusting your sunlight exposure are skylights, overhangs, shutters, window films, and shades.

2. Consider alternative flooring materials

Any type of flooring that isn’t airtight risks air leakage ? resulting in poor insulation from the elements. Areas with extreme insulation needs may benefit from larger panels of linoleum or sheet metal. As with any element of your home, any type of material that limits leaks or warping over time is ideal. But most homeowners opt for more inviting wood options, which is an understandable choice. Instead of investing in expensive hardwood selections, consider bamboo flooring. Bamboo is hardy, inexpensive, and easily replaced. Best of all, it doesn’t sacrifice the wood-grain appearance that most homeowners value. While there are some concerns about bamboo flooring, it can be an excellent choice for the right circumstances.

      3. Know what kind of roof works for you

Roofing and HVAC efficiency are closely related, and the right roof can make a difference of several degrees towards comfort. Areas with extreme heat should have reflective roofing (such as metals or polished tile) with light colors to avoid absorbing thermal energy. On the other hand, darker colors with matte finished tiling can store heat very well. The roof’s design can also reflect heat; flat roofing can be very poor at mitigating heat, whereas highly angled roofs are effective.

In addition to these tips, always consider the type and thickness of your insulation, airtightness of all entries, and the reflective properties of the siding of your home. A smartly designed home can make your HVAC system more efficient when you need it the most. For further advice and detailed technical information of how building materials can affect your energy efficiency, see this handy pamphlet.

What is your experience in dealing with energy efficiency in your home? What other tips do you think home designers should consider in making a home better with heating and cooling?

Enbridge Community Energy Conservation Program

Just when you thought there would never be another rebate for your home… Enbridge is currently running a highly targeted rebate program aimed at increasing the energy efficiency of homes in the Beaches, Riverdale and The Junction.

111,745 homes may qualify for rebates of up to $2000 for making a minimum of two energy improvements.  Examples can be replacing old gas heating furnaces or boilers, replacing old gas water heaters, adding draft proofing, and insulation.

The qualifying postal codes are: M4E, M4L, M4M, M4J, M1N, M1E, M1C, M1L, M4B, M1K, M4K, M4J, M5A, M6P & M6S.  Check the website below for updates in case other neighborhoods are added to the list.

The process is very similar to the Ecoenergy rebates that ended in 2012.  You must contact an Enbridge approved energy audit company who will perform a blower test and an in-home assessment of your property, you then make a minimum of two improvements based on the auditor’s recommendations, and lastly you have a follow up visit from the audit company who take care of the paperwork for you.

We recommend you call The Home Inspectors Group as they have extensive experience with these audits and the paperwork.  You may call them at 416.276.2706 or visit www.thehomeinspectorsgroup.com

This program is scheduled to run through to Dec 31, 2013. Visit the Enbridge Program website for more information: http://www.knowyourenergyscore.ca/community-energy-conservation

 

Enbridge Community Energy Conservation Program

Enbridge Community Energy Conservation Program

A Home Owners Guide to Water Heating

There are many different types of water heaters. It depends largely on how much water you use and what your budget is. An interesting fact is that 90% of the energy used to wash clothes goes to heating water. We service everything from air conditioners in Toronto to hot water heaters. So we put together an infographic to help you understand the different type of hot water tanks and some interesting information around it. Hope you like our infographic called a Home Owner’s Guide to Water Heating!

 

Home Owners Guide to Water Heating

Baxi Boiler Problems…Or Issues of Application & Execution

Baxi boilers have earned a dubious reputation in the Toronto area that is largely undeserved.  As one of the first combination boilers available in the Toronto market the brand has suffered from early adoption made worse by both poor application or installation and a lack of understanding on the part of subsequent home owners and service companies.

To provide some context: the concept of a “combination or combi” boiler capable of heating radiators and domestic hot water was first developed in the early 1900s.  The modern version of wall hung combination boilers have been used in Europe for more than 35 years and have been installed in Toronto since the mid 1990s.

The advantage of combi wall hung boilers is the fuel efficiency of the unit, the space saving of a single unit to fulfill both space and domestic water heating, as well as the versatility to operate with radiator, radiant in floor, and ducted hydronic fan coil systems.

Like any new, exciting, and energy efficient product, when the Baxi first appeared it was jumped on by early adopter Toronto heating contractors who saw the potential applications, as well as energy conscious homeowners who were used to seeing wall hung boilers in Europe and Asia.  As anthropologist, Morgan Gerard points out “early adopters are typically described as curious, adventurous consumers who buy first, talk fast and spread the word to others about the pros and/or cons of what they have purchased”.   Essentially they know they are ahead of the curve, and are more aware that they open themselves to potential issues of cutting edge products.

The growing pains with the Baxi lay in discovering the ideal circumstances in which to install the boiler, and then how well these systems operate over the medium to long term.  Most new equipment is tolerant of a less-than-ideal application for 1-3 years, but then, sometimes persistent, issues may begin.

Unfortunately, this is where subsequent homeowners began to question the quality of the Baxi, rather than seeing the application as the root cause of a breakdown.  In Toronto, these circumstances were exacerbated by service contractors who either did not understand the equipment parameters, or became too focused on the “box” and did not step back to look at the piping, application, or both.  Certain large rental organizations also installed the Baxi boiler with air handlers in circumstances that caused massive short cycling of the boiler – imagine constantly turning your car off at every stop sign and then turning the ignition back on again; multiply by 365 days a year and you get the idea.

It is unfortunate in these situations that the manufacturer is tarred by poor installation practices, a situation made worse by consumers not understanding that the boiler is not actually the root cause of the problem.  Indeed homeowners logically started focusing their frustration at the boiler, instead of stepping back to examine the larger application, and this is largely an issue of perception.

Consumers commonly treat a boiler purchase like shopping for a refrigerator.  They tend to lock in on a particular brand, and perceive themselves to be astute shoppers by phoning several companies to compare pricing, or going online and reading consumer reviews of installation companies as a method of due diligence.

Either method is compromised because it presupposes there is no difference between company A, B, C or, (heaven forbid!) D, or E when it comes to what they will suggest and how they will install the equipment.  Malcolm Gladwell’s observation bears remembering “We have come to confuse information with understanding.”

It is vital to remember that the cost of installing a boiler is not just the cost of installing the “box” on the wall, but is rather the knowledge of the manufacturer’s specified piping practice combined with experience in application, skill in execution, and the depth of resources to support the product over the medium to long term.

Clients who allow themselves to be strongly influenced by consumer review websites are simply yielding their decision making ability because they do not understand how to shop for a boiler.  In the same manner, clients working with general contractors assume the contractor has their best interest in mind when suggesting heating equipment.  A consumer is always better off knowing the mechanical contractor on their project, as they will have to have a relationship with that contractor for maintenance and service for many years to come.

As a tip, focus on three service companies who are well established in your community, and whose trucks you see on a somewhat regular basis – this gives you more indication of who works in homes like your own more than anything you will find online.

In our experience installing high efficiency wall hung boilers, application and piping practices are the predominant cause of boiler breakdowns, followed by a lack of maintenance by homeowners.  In the case of the Baxi, it is clear that the unit is robust.  Recently, this article appeared in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: http://www.newsusa.com/articles/article/wall-hung-boilers-survive-superstorm-sandy.aspx

Even though a homeowner cannot be expected to know how to properly pipe a boiler they certainly know when something looks right.  Below I have included a couple of visual examples of Baxi boiler installations so you can see what I mean.   The first two photos are a Baxi boiler and piping installed by others.

Baxi Boiler Piping Wrong
Baxi Boiler Piping Done Wrong

Now here are a couple of examples of Baxi and piping installations by Belyea Bros. Heating & Cooling. Consumers need to be aware that large descrepencies in installation estimates should be a warning sign. When it comes to heating and cooling your home, you need to spend more time finding the right company than the “best price” (i.e. the lowest), as you very often get what you pay for.

Baxi Boiler Done Right
Baxi Boiler Piping Done Right
Baxi Boiler Piping Done Right
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Experts in Heating & Cooling Older Toronto Homes ®

Guest Post: Maintaining Safe and Efficient Heating when You Need it Most!

The heating system in your home is vital to your family’s comfort. When temperatures plummet and the snow begins to fall, you need to know that you can rely on that furnace or boiler to work even in the toughest conditions. However, this won’t happen on its own. You need to invest time caring for the system in order to get the most out of it. Maintenance cleanings should be at the top of your list, but there are other steps you can take to ensure the safe and efficient operation of your heating system this winter.

Furnace Repair

Important Maintenance Steps for Your Furnace or Boiler

  • Yearly Clean and Check: Every furnace and boiler manufacturer will require regular maintenance on the system as part of their warranty coverage agreement. Not maintaining the system professionally will lead to voiding of the warranty. This fact alone is proof of the important role that maintenance plays. Having an HVAC professional clean and assess the system for problems on a yearly basis will prevent problems and breakdowns when you need the system most, and it is the first step towards properly caring for your furnace or boiler to ensure total home comfort.
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  • Filter Replacements: If you have a forced air furnace in the home, cleaning the system yearly is not enough to ensure proper function. You need to keep on top of filter replacements as well. The filter not only cleans the air in the home, but it also protects the system from the harmful effects of dust, dirt, and debris build-up in between yearly maintenance checks. Running the system without a filter will quickly lead to a breakdown. On the other hand, not replacing the filter frequently enough will also lead to a breakdown. A filthy filter will restrict airflow through the furnace, and the system will protect itself from damage by shutting down until adequate airflow is restored. The typical filter should be replaced on a monthly basis. Make this habit a regular part of your monthly home maintenance and enjoy a functional furnace and consistently clean air.
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  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Both furnaces and boilers pose a carbon monoxide risk in the home if they are not well cared for year after year. These systems have a heat exchanger that is used to transfer heat throughout the home. When this component becomes cracked from poor maintenance or malfunction, carbon monoxide could leak into the home. Your maintenance technician should check for this during your yearly cleaning, but in between cleanings, you need to have functional carbon monoxide detectors in the house. Test these units and keep them plugged in at all times. They will sound the alarm when carbon monoxide levels are high, and having them in your home could be the difference between an inconvenience and a disaster.
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  • Duct Cleanings: For those furnace owners out there, you also have duct work in the home that should be maintained every 3 to 7 years depending on the conditions in your home. Filthy duct work will impact the health of your family and could impede the energy efficiency of the furnace. Find a local duct cleaning company with an impeccable reputation and have your ducts assessed. You will notice the difference, and the best part is that this maintenance check doesn’t have to be completed every year! Pet owners and those with severe allergies may need it done every 3 years or so, but most homeowners will only need to have the ducts cleaned once every 5-7 years.
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  • Bleeding Your Boiler: The boiler in your home can accumulate pockets of air during the off season that can affect the system’s performance. These pockets can become so bad that they cut of heat to entire room. In order to remove air from the system and improve efficiency and comfort, you need to bleed your boiler. If you have never done this before, have your favorite HVAC technician complete the job the first time around and pay close attention. Most technicians will show you how to do this simple maintenance step.

 

Keep these tips in mind every winter, and get to work. Many of us take home comfort for granted, until it is gone and we experience a breakdown. Have a reliable HVAC contractor on your side to keep your system running well when you need it most.

Author Bio: Kate Miller is a copywriter and web marketing specialist for Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning in the Chicagoland area. Her blog 24 Hour Heating and Cooling News covers everything from heating and air conditioning to home improvement and plumbing. Check out her articles for helpful tips and advice any homeowner can use around the home.