Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Saving Energy Tips: Saving Energy Ideas at Home with your Heating and Cooling System

Keeping home heating and cooling system equipment clean, cleaning your duct work, cleaning your filters - In the simplest of terms, your home heating and air system pushes air with fans connected to ductwork. The amount of energy used to push that air can be lessened by making the air flow easier. Clean ducts and clean filters are not only healthier, air moves through them with greater ease.

Use a Programmable Thermostat - Programming your HVAC system to vary the temperature inside your home according to your occupancy needs saves money over having your home heating and cooling system run at a set temperature all of the time. A programmable thermostat is likely the easiest, most cost effective way to save energy in your home. Many people are under the misconception that it takes more energy to bring your home up to temperature than to just maintain it. This has been shown to be incorrect in the vast majority of situations. Program your thermostat to comfortable temperatures when you are typically home and active. For winter, let's say you wake up at 6:30 and the temperature adjusts to 70; you are typically out and about until 4:30 so that temperature can be set to 62 while you were gone and back up to 70 for your return. If bedtime is at 10, let's drop the temperature back down to 62 until the morning comes around when it will jump back up to 70. This provides for comfort, ease of use and energy savings.

HVAC Equipment Upgrades - If your heating and cooling equipment is old you may want to look at the new models on the market. Some of the new energy saving equipment include variable speed fans, very high efficiently heating units and high SEER rating condensing (cooling) units. New models of electric heat pumps can be very energy available. This allows the units to bring heat and cooling to smaller areas of your home providing greater comfort and control, reducing energy waste.

Ceiling Fans - An often overlooked addition to the comfort level of a home are ceiling fans. Ceiling fans set on a low setting push air down in a room; which is how a ceiling fan will help to distribute your warm air. Ceiling fans add to comfort and increases the efficiency of your heating source, saving energy. Ceiling fans are even better in a cooling situation, they often will provide enough comfort to keep you from engaging your air conditioning system.

Wardell Builders | info@wardellbuilders.com  | 858-793-4190 | Solana Beach, CA 92075

Friday, June 14, 2013

Metal Windows, Window Materials

Window frame and sash materials can be divided into three primary types: metal, wood, and vinyl/ester composites. Under the term “window” for this article I am also including glazed exterior door systems. Many windows use a combination of these materials, a metal or vinyl clad wood frame and sash window. Let’s look at residential metal windows, where they are used and their pros and cons.

Metal windows were traditionally steel providing for a very strong frame and sash assembly. With small profiles, steel assemblies allow for larger glass to frame ratio than any other material. Typical sash and frame profiles were simple L and T shapes.
Steel windows suit both industrial/contemporary design and old world design. We have used them in a French farmhouse design, hacienda and post modern homes. They were the typical alternative to wood windows for many years. Almost any metal window you see that was installed prior to World War Two is steel (aluminum was used in the 1930’s but not commonly used). The thin lines and heavy feel of steel are attractive. The use of putty to seal the glass to the frame and the usual attached hardware (with nowhere to hide) lends a handcrafted look the windows. These days there are only a handful of qualified fabricators you can turn to for these products.

While very attractive in certain design applications, steel windows are the most expensive of the typical window materials. Usually steel windows are a painted finish. They are built to last but can have rusting problems in coastal areas. The most common method of operation is casement, awning or hopper. They do not lend themselves to a double hung or sliding configuration. Steels biggest operational drawback is thermal. Steel conducts temperature extremely well and has little insulation value. The profiles are solid and within those simple standard shapes steel cannot achieve high thermal performance.

Most metal windows you see today are aluminum. They have come a long way from the inexpensive windows of the 1970’s. While the inexpensive flimsy aluminum windows we grew up with are still readily available, vinyl windows have captured that market. The aluminum windows and doors that are popular with designers lean towards a heavier duty frame with much better hardware.

Everyone has been frustrated with an aluminum sliding door popping off the track and requiring a broom handle to secure since the lock failed. This does not happen with the newer “Fleetwood” style aluminum doors. Heavier profiles have created very sturdy, long lasting door and window systems. In contemporary architecture you will find aluminum operating windows integrated into commercial storefront units. These systems allow for a relatively affordable way to have large areas of glass with the freedom of selected operable portions. The now popular disappearing or pocketing sliding door systems are easily achievable in these new heavier duty doors.

A new look in aluminum is coming out of Europe in a big way. These are door sliding door systems that achieve incredibly small frame sections allowing the glass to visually float with little encasement. While not inexpensive, these units are dramatic allow finishes to flow from interior to exterior with little interruption.

Bi folding exterior door and window units are also available now with hardware and strength that allow them to actually work. Bi fold systems were problematic in the past but the advances in hardware and the rigidity of new material shapes make this an attractive operating method for homes.

Inexpensive aluminum windows are well suited to vertical hung and horizontal sliding operations. The heavier aluminum product can handle those types of operations along with projection methods including casement, awning and hopper. Aluminum crosses many price points. Finish can be mill (natural aluminum), anodized (a metal coating with limited coloration) or painted. If kept clean the material is suitable in coastal areas. Although aluminum is also a conductive material (like steel) aluminums typical section shapes allow for thermal breaks and can be used in achieving high thermal performance window and door systems.

At the outer edge of metal window and door materials are exotics like stainless steel, copper and bronze. While not common they are used (and we have installed them). They are expensive materials and have their own quirks. While Architectural Traditions, along with a few other manufacturers are making solid bronze systems these materials are almost always found as cladding over a wood based sash and frame. The exception is stainless steel. There are a few companies in both the U.S. and Italy that use stainless as a primary window sash and frame material. All of these exotics use a natural finish and handle the elements very well. Bronze and copper patina will age - while stainless steel (with minimum upkeep) stays bright for many years.

Windows Covering Options | window coverings | aluminum window trim | aluminum window installation details | aluminum windows insulation | sash window replacement |window frame repair | vinyl window frame | ester window systems | steel windows | copperplate windows | windows bronze finish | stainless windows

Wardell Builders | info@wardellbuilders.com  | 858-793-4190 | Solana Beach, CA 92075


Friday, March 29, 2013

Aging In Place - Home Remodeling for Seniors

I was recently asked about “Aging in Place” remodeling. What should be planned for, how to make it work and what the heck did it mean?
Your home can adapt to you as you age, allowing you to “age in place”. As eyesight dims a little, core balance begins to fade we may want our home to adjust to fit our new and changing realities. This is no different than being able to “Child Proof” a home when we have toddlers or create the place where the “kids hang out” when we have teens. There is a basic checklist produced by the National Assoc. of Home Builders, you can read it at: http://www.nahb.org/generic.aspx?genericContentID=89801

Summing up its ideas:
Reduced mobility equals opening and turning areas large enough for wheelchairs equaling doors resized to 36” wide, hallways to 42” and turning areas in the home with a 5’ clear circle, free of any obstructions. Add to this flat threshold transitions, flat exterior surfaces, non slip flooring materials, steps converted to ramps where possible, sturdy, and easy to use handrails at all remaining steps and the use of wheel chairs becomes feasible.
Finish material selections, both interior and exterior want to have ease of maintenance as a featured quality. Clad metal or fiberglass windows and doors reduce maintenance greatly on a home. Levers instead of knobs on doors, large handles cranks for window operation, paddle style electric switches and even electric door locks can make the home for easier to use. There is no reason not to lower the height of those switches to 48” to allow easier access from a wheelchair.
In the bath and kitchen thermostatic or pressure balanced faucets and shower fixtures with lever handles are readily available in all types of styles. Showers can be redesigned to allow easy roll in or at least no step ramps. Styled sturdy grab bars are useful in the shower and toilet areas. Cabinets can be designed for wheel chair use at sinks and with roll out shelves to make access easier. Using glass for cabinet fronts or even open shelving can make finding kitchen items simpler. The height of counter tops can be reset. The microwave and oven heights can be reconfigured so they are not too high or too low for access. The advent of raised step washer and dryers has lessened the burden on your back when dealing with wash loads.
As eye sight or coordination begins to falter a bit; think of adding a different color to counter top edges and stair treads. Added windows, in strategic locations in the house will provide greater day lighting to the home. Where too bright of sunlight is an issue, electric window shades and drapes are an option. There are many new lighting fixtures out today. Many feature low energy use LED and color balanced fluorescent bulbs. More lights of greater efficiency will not be adding to your electric bill. Adding lighting to closets and other storage areas can improve a home. Motion detecting lighting controls can also make your home easier to live in.
For multistoried homes getting between the floors can present a challenge. Elevators are not just for estate homes anymore. Think about having stacked closets in your home to make a future elevator an easy installation. Laundry chutes and dumbwaiters are inexpensive ways to get typical work loads through the home without lugging items up and down stairs.

There is a large volume of information available on the web regarding Aging in Place. Feel free to call us, here at Wardell Builders, any time with questions or even a walk through your home to take a look at possible improvements that can make your home continue to suite your lifestyle for many, many years.
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Wardell Builders | info@wardellbuilders.com  | 858-793-4190 | Solana Beach, CA 92075

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Home Heating, Home Ventilation, Home Air Conditioning, HVAC

Most people only think of their home’s heating and cooling system when they need heating, ventilation and air condition help. The test of a great house heating system – is that you never think or know about it. How well your home’s heating or air conditioning system operates, how your house HVAC system sounds, how comfortable you feel is only an issue in your home when it its needed, running and not quite right.  A little planning could mean you never need to think about home heating, home ventilation or your home’s air condition at all.

Easy access - for annual maintenance of your HVAC system (this is really just filter cleaning).

Comfort – having a home with even heating, no hot or cold spots.

Sound – You shouldn’t “hear” you heating system. A quiet whir, maybe, a loud rush of air, no.

The first goal of easy access of your HVAC system is not hard to achieve. Our California building codes mandate minimum sizes for HVAC access doors, and working area at your FAU (forced air unit) in your home. I have seen these installed per code and still be almost impossible to get to but this is rare. A review of your plans prior to installation by any qualified HVAC (Heating and Air Conditioning) Contractor with this question clearly asked will get you the answer you need.

The second goal of comfort is lot tougher to achieve. This requires planning and forethought. First you need to look at your home’s layout and uses. A two story home has two very distinct heating and cooling needs. Bedrooms often want to be cooler at night while common areas want to be warmer in the evening. On a chilly morning you want your home’s kitchen to be warm. Stepping out of a shower on a winter morning deserves a bit of warm air! The answer is effective zoning and distribution of the air system. Properly sized HVAC units, HVAC ducts and even return of the air to the HVAC unit benefits from proper planning. This subject is quite broad and each home has particular needs. The amount of glass, the size of rooms, the depth of your home’s eaves all play a part in determining the homes conditioning loads.  As builders, we have lots of options including, multiple HVAC units, intelligent shunt damper systems, variable speed blowers, small package HVAC systems and ever more intelligent thermostats for your home.

If we have thoughtfully taken care of comfort, our third goal of a quiet efficient system becomes more of an installation issue. All HVAC equipment makes noise from sources including the fan, motor, burner, air velocity through ducts and vibration transfer to surrounding structure. Locating the equipment properly, and installing dampening fasteners between the equipment and surrounding structure will greatly reduce vibration and humming coming from the unit. The return air side of the HVAC unit requires special attention. The HVAC unit’s return air plenum (a box connected to the unit to receive air) should be lined with a sound absorbing material.   Locate the return air grills away from the unit; run in insulated duct with at least two bends or you will still hear the unit running. Correctly sizing the supply duct work and correctly sizing the registers where the air leaves the duct will greatly reduce the whoosh of moving air.

A comfortable and quiet heating and air system just takes a little knowledge and a bit care in both the design and installation.  If done correctly it’s a part of your home you may never think about again.

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Air Infiltration, HVAC installation, HVAC repair, HVAC installers, Air Infiltration, Air pressure, Thermal Comfort, Indoor Air Quality, HVAC Operation and Maintenance, HVAC design, HVAC how to install, air ducts, air ducting, ventilation air ducts, conditioned air, outlet vents, air diffusers, air through, return air, air return, HARDI standards, ASHRAE standards, SMACNA standards, ACCA standards, Uniform Mechanical Code HVAC standards, AMCA standards. Home repair and maintenance.  Home installation of HVAC.
Wardell Builders | info@wardellbuilders.com  | 858-793-4190 | Solana Beach, CA 92075