Category : energy

The Benefits of an HVAC Zoning System

HVAC repair service

If you haven’t heard of an HVAC zoning system, the experts at Oliver would like to enlighten you a little bit about its benefits: If you’re interested in saving money while increasing the comfort of your home, we suggest a zoning solution. Not only will you be able to turn the thermostat up or down in various areas in the house, you’ll also enjoy being constantly comfortable. For a few points on why so many homeowners have invested in the system, read below:

Convenience

Being able to control the temperature in each area of your home is extremely convenient. Not only can you adjust the thermostat according to each room’s size, but you’ll never have to go out of your way to do it. (Think about the convenience of waking up in the middle of the night and not having to go all the way downstairs to adjust the temperature.)

Savings

By choosing a comfort system with zoning, you’ll only use energy when you need it, which can save you money on your monthly energy bills. You’ll also reduce your carbon footprint and be a bigger part of the “green” movement.

Comfort

When people think of home, they think of comfort, and having a thermostat in each part of your home means you’ll always be comfortable. If your kitchen is always hotter than your bedroom, or your basement is much colder than the rest of the house, you’ll be able to adjust their temperatures accordingly and never be too hot or too cold.

HVAC Lifespan

Zoning systems work best when they are installed with your heating and cooling system. Units with a compatible communicating system will be able to run at maximum efficiency. By not working your unit as hard, you’ll prolong its lifespan and won’t have to worry about wearing it out (or relying on our HVAC repair service).

If you’re interested in turning your home into a comfortable, efficient space, give us a call to set up a free, no-obligation in-home estimate.


Why a Home Generator Is a Good Idea This Winter

home electrical service

If you’ve been thinking about a backup generator for your home, our home electrical service experts can say that the idea is a great investment – especially during the winter. While the upfront costs of a generator may seem high, keep in mind that there are many benefits to installing one for you and your family:

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7 Ways to Save Energy During Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s that time of year, which means it’s time to fire up the oven, turn on the burners, and get to cooking that Thanksgiving dinner. It also means that you’ll be using a lot of energy to cook your meal. Follow these easy tips from our HVAC service experts to reduce your energy consumption while you make your delicious family dinner:

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An Outlook on Pennsylvania’s Renewable Energy Future

While we’re working to increase renewable energy as a country, the future of renewable energy also varies by state. Some (like West Virginia and New Mexico) are just beginning to produce solar, wind, or hydro power while others (like Idaho and Maine) are already running entirely on them.

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Could Renewables Be a Threat to Natural Gas?

Many homeowners use electricity as their primary source of power, however, there are some who turn to natural gas. Whether this choice is due to a preference or an availability, there are both pros and cons to using natural gas. Recently, our HVAC installation experts came across an article by Paulo Santos that discusses the rise of natural gas and the effect renewables could have on it. We thought we’d share:

“Commonly, I’d say most of us expect U.S. natural gas (UNG) to see increased usage over time. Coal is on its deathbed, nuclear power is seeing blowback since the Fukushima disaster, and U.S. natural gas seems perennially cheap. Adding these things together seems to indicate that, over time, we’ll see increased natural gas usage. This might/should push natural gas prices upward. To this, I would add that the development of LNG export facilities, like those built by Cheniere Energy (LNG), provide potential for increased natural gas demand.

Well, this all sounds good, but I am about to describe a risk that’s not as often considered. It’s a risk that looms pretty large, and whose materialization has already been seen elsewhere.

What Is This Risk?

The risk has a name: renewables. Renewable sources of energy, which are most often used to produce electricity, include things such as solar generation or wind generation. Why are renewables a risk? Let me explain:

Approximately 38.3% of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. is used to produce electricity. Residential plus commercial users consume ~30.1% of the natural gas, and their consumption has been rather stable over time. Industrial users consume ~31.5% of the natural gas, and while their usage has been growing recently due to cheap natural gas, it can be said to be stable over a longer time frame. As a result, demand for electricity generation has been responsible for all natural gas consumption growth in the U.S.

Now, it is this demand for electricity generation which is at risk. The risk comes from the fact that renewables (ex-hydroelectric) are growing quickly, and have gone from 7.1% of all power generation in 2014 to 9.5% in 2017 (ttm). This happened in the context of stable electricity generation. Electricity generation in the U.S. in 2017 (ttm) is lower than it was back in 2011.

Renewables (ex-hydroelectric) are often what’s called “must run.” That is, if solar or wind is generating power, the grid must take it. Someone else has to shut down. On the other hand, natural gas generation is most often both the “marginal producer” (the last to come in when prices are higher, the first to go out if they drop) and a flexible producer (one with the ability to ramp up and down quickly). As a result, added generation of the kind renewables offer mostly tends to displace natural gas generation. Therein lies the risk.

Compensating for this effect are, at times, political factors, such as a drive toward shutting down coal by subjecting it to more stringent emission rules. However, with the Trump administration this political drive isn’t there, and won’t be there for several years. The result, of course, is that as renewables grow through time, natural gas is, again, the prime victim. Also, in case you think this is fantasy, there is an actual precedent as the exact same thing happened in Europe.

Renewables’ development is further along in Europe compared to the U.S. But it should tend to catch up. As a result, the dynamics above might well be in out full force as we speak. Indeed, natural gas demand (ttm) for power generation has been heading down for a year or so already. There’s obviously the possibility that this was simply due to weather. Still, the inexorable growth in renewables generation is a fact, so even if it wasn’t structural this past year, it can turn structural at any time.

Conclusion

The growth in renewable power generation poses a direct threat to natural gas volumes and prices. As a result, this threat can impact natural gas E&P companies. This is because of the loss of volumes and pricing. It can also impact pipelines, which supply natural gas to the market. This is because of the loss of volumes and the increased risk from possible E&P failures.

This isn’t a merely theoretical threat. We’ve already seen its impact in Europe, where natural gas volumes fell a lot. Ultimately, pricing also fell a lot, and indeed has fallen below the cost of landed U.S. LNG. Right now, Europe is stabilizing on account of political action leading to the closure of nuclear and coal power plants. However, such political action does not seem likely right now in the U.S.”


7 Air Conditioning Tips to Get You Through the Summer

We’ve hit the peak of summertime and at Oliver, we know the temperatures aren’t going down anytime soon. While you’re turning to your air conditioner to cool down your home, you may be putting more stress on it than necessary. Here are some tips from our air conditioning professionals to get you through the rest of the summer:

Fix Your Leaks

If your home is older, chances are there are several areas that are leaking your air conditioning out of your home. Check the seals around your windows and doors and make sure your attic is well-insulated. By replacing the weatherstripping (or the windows or doors themselves), you can create a better barrier between your home and the outside world that keeps your air conditioning inside.

Upgrade Your Model

Is your air conditioner more than 10 years old? If so, it may not be as efficient as it could be and in return, you’re likely paying more to cool your home than you think. The right air conditioner fits the size of your home and your family’s needs, so talk to one of our air conditioning professionals today to learn more about an upgrade.

Use Your Fans

If you have overhead ceiling fans, you can use them in conjunction with your air conditioner to better circulate cold air around your home. Switch each fan to run counterclockwise so it pushes cool air downward. You can also use your fans during days that aren’t as hot so you save energy.

Don’t Keep Your AC Cranked

If it’s hot outside, your first instinct is probably to keep your thermostat low all day – even when you’re not home. Many people believe that by keeping the air conditioner running, it won’t have to work as hard to re-cool the home later. However, keeping your AC low means using energy that you don’t need to use and in return, racking up your electric or gas bill.

Get a Programmable Thermostat

To expand on our previous point, investing in a programmable thermostat can help you keep your home warmer while you’re away and cooler while you’re back. With a programmable thermostat, you can set your ideal temperature for certain times of the day so you only use energy while you and your family are at home.

Replace Your Filters

Spring and summertime pollen have likely built up in your air filters (as well as dust, dirt, dander, and other airborne particles). To maximize your air conditioner’s efficiency, make sure you replace your air filters on a regular basis. Our air conditioning professionals recommend replacing them every 2-3 months.

Close Your Blinds

While natural light is great, the sun can also heat up your home more than you’d like. If you have windows that face the sun, be sure to take advantage of blinds or curtains to help block out the heat. You’ll keep your home cooler and put less stress on your air conditioner to provide the cold air.


Air Conditioning and Road Trips

What to Know About Both

At Oliver Heating and Cooling, we’re already thinking about summer vacation plans, and we know you are too. If you’re thinking about taking a road trip, you can save money by knowing when to use your air conditioning and when not to use it.

Car Air Conditioning

Car air conditioners and rolled-down windows can both help you save money while you drive – you just have to know when to use which cooling method. If your road trip consists of highway driving (we’re assuming it does), keep your windows rolled up and your air conditioner on when you’re going above 50 miles per hour. Traveling with your windows down at high speeds will actually reduce the efficiency of your vehicle (by up to 20%), which means you’ll use more gas to maintain your highway speed.

On the other hand, if you’re driving around town (or under 50 miles per hour), opt to roll down your windows instead of use your air conditioning. Because there’s less wind force than when traveling at higher speeds, you won’t decrease your vehicle’s efficiency, and if you do use your air conditioner, you’ll be using more fuel to run it.

As a general note, if you get into your parked car and it’s hot, you may be tempted to cool it down with the air conditioning. If you do this, roll down your windows to let some of the heat out – the car will cool off quicker.

Home Air Conditioning

Summer road trips also mean time away from your home, and you may be wondering whether you should turn your air conditioning off or simply turn it down. The truth is, it doesn’t hurt to turn your air conditioning off – in fact, you’ll save a lot more money than if you keep it at a higher temperature.

In addition, air conditioners actually run more efficiently when they’re running at full power, which means they’re more efficient when cooling a room down from 80 to 75 than when they’re working in short spurts to keep the room at a constant 80 degrees. We know that during winter months, it’s important to keep your home warm to avoid freezing your pipes, but in the summer months, it’s perfectly safe to turn off your air conditioning.

If you’re having trouble with your air conditioner, call our air conditioning repair company before you leave and we’ll have it fixed for you as soon as possible.


4 Technologies That Could Change the Energy Industry

A Look into the Future

From energy storage to vehicles to electricity production and more, the future of energy is ever-growing and ever-changing to become more efficient, more reliable, and more environmentally friendly for people around the world. Here, our HVAC experts share four innovations that could transform the energy world in the next few decades:

Fuel Cells

If you haven’t heard of fuel cell technology yet, it has become a pretty big innovation in the vehicle industry. Instead of relying on gasoline and an internal combustion engine, fuel cell cars rely on the combination of hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, which then powers the car. This type of technology releases only heat and water emissions instead of greenhouse gasses, making them a viable environmental option for the future.

Smart Grids

The electricity grids that were developed in the early 1900s were simple, one-way interactions: utility companies set a price for their electricity and consumers pay it on a monthly basis. With today’s smart grids, however, consumers are able to communicate their electrical demands to utility companies and improve the grid’s efficiency. In addition, traditional electric utility companies can partner with renewable technologies like wind and solar to increase environmental friendliness.

Lithium-Air Batteries

Relying on lithium oxidation to create electricity, the idea of the lithium-air battery is nothing new. While it was suggested back in the 1970s as a way to power electric and hybrid vehicles, it wasn’t until the late 90s that the technology started to form. Today, scientists believe lithium-air batteries could have a promising impact on the vehicles, electronic devices, and more. While the technology is still too unstable to fully develop, more and more breakthroughs are occurring to make these batteries part of the future of energy.

Tidal Turbines

Like wind turbines, tidal turbines use the power of a natural force to produce energy. These structures are shaped like pinwheels and are placed underwater to harvest the movement of the ocean which in turn, creates electricity. Because tidal turbines are a little more complicated than wind turbines or solar panels, they haven’t become as popular. However, they have significant potential. In fact, a recent tidal turbine installation off the coast of Scotland has a power generation capacity of two megawatts.