Category : home comfort

Make Sure Your Heater Is Ready for the Cold

West Chester heating

Fall is officially here and while temperatures are still pretty warm, they won’t stay that way for much longer. Once the cool, crisp nights kick in, you’ll want your heater to take the chill off. But if you wait until you’re cold to turn it on for the first time, you may find out that there’s something wrong with it and be stuck waiting for a repair.

At our heating company, we always tell our customers It’s not too early to make sure your heater is working properly. Here are some things you can do to prep it for the cold months:

Replace the filter

Start your heater off with a fresh, clean filter for the winter months and it’ll trap more dirt, dust, and allergens to help you stay healthy.

Inspect the exhaust flue

The exhaust flue is what carries gasses away from your home and outside, so inspect it to make sure it’s clear and that nothing is obstructing it (like leaves, nests, branches, etc.).

Clear away the area

If you have any storage items (boxes, furniture, paints, etc.) near or on top of your heater, make sure you move them away from the unit. You don’t want anything catching on fire.

Check your vents

Check the vents around your home and make sure that nothing is obstructing the path of airflow. It’s also a good idea to give your vents a good dusting; simply remove the vent covers and use a vacuum cleaner to suck up any dust and dirt that may have collected over the summer.

Call Oliver

Our West Chester heating experts will do a seasonal inspection to make sure that your heater is good to go. We’ll check for problems like leaks, cracked belts, motor issues, and more, and if we find anything that needs addressed, we’ll fix it up quickly.


9 Fun Facts About Insulation

Attic insulationMany homeowners don’t realize how important insulation is for their home. Insulation not only reduces the transfer of sounds, but also reduces the transfer of heat to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Because energy costs have risen in the past century, a properly insulated home is a must. Here are some fun facts about insulation from our heating and cooling service company:

1. Dirty homes

The earliest form of insulation was during the Middle Ages, when the walls of homes were stuffed with mud and straw to keep out the cold.

2. Early asbestos

Asbestos insulation originated in Ancient Greece. The term translates to mean “inextinguishable.”

3. A step toward better health

In the mid-1970s, home improvement companies traded asbestos insulation for fiberglass insulation after finding out the harmful effects asbestos has on lungs.

4. Whoops!

Fiberglass was invented when a young researcher named Dale Kleist attempted to create a vacuum-tight seal between two pieces of glass and a high-pressure jet of air shot through and turned them into fibers.

5. Losing energy

Today, an un-insulated home can lose up to 60% of its energy through walls and the attic.

6. R-values

Insulation is measured using an “R-value,” which refers to its resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better it will insulate.

7. Jean insulation?

Some of today’s environmentally friendly insulation materials include recycled cotton denim, paper or plant cellulose, and sheep wool.

8. A name for those blankets

Large blanket pieces of fiberglass insulation are called “batts.”

9. Varieties

There are around 10 different types of insulation that you can use to keep your home comfortable and energy efficient.

At Oliver, we offer home insulation including spray foam, blown fiberglass, blown-in, radiant barrier, rigid foam, injection foam, and cellulose. If you believe your home is under-insulated or improperly insulated, give us a call. We’ll help you figure things out.

Blog BONUS

Do you have rooms over a garage that are constantly cold? Watch how proper insulation and air sealing solved this homeowner’s common problem:

 

If your home has problems with hot and cold spots like this, schedule an appointment for a free in-home analysis performed by one of the Oliver experts.


The Benefits of Remodeling Your Basement

Are you considering turning your basement into a finished living space? If so, our basement remodeling experts can help you design the area and turn it into the game room, living room, laundry room, or spare bedroom you’ve always wanted. In addition to having that extra room, there are several other benefits of remodeling your basement:

Home Value

With a finished basement, you’ll not only add more square footage to your home, you’ll also add overall living space, and both of them can increase your home’s value. If you ever decide to sell your home, you’ll be able to list it as a larger size and at a higher price; plus, a finished basement is a great selling point.

Energy Efficiency

Just like your attic, your basement can be the source of cold drafts and can reduce the overall energy efficiency of your home. By remodeling it and insulating it, you can create a space that maintains a more even temperature and keeps the rest of your home more comfortable.

Creativity

When you see an empty living room or bedroom, you know what those particular rooms are going to be; there’s not much more you can do with them. However, when you see an empty basement, the possibilities are nearly endless. You have the creativity and freedom to turn a basement into whatever you want it to be.

Comfort

Having a large extra space for activities, sleeping, games, relaxation, entertaining, and more can simply add more happiness and comfort to your life. You and your family will be able to enjoy your very own getaway whenever you want and use the space however you’d like to.

Check out some of the beautiful basement remodels we’ve completed:

Let us help you transform your basement and enjoy all of the benefits it has to offer. Give us a call today to learn more about our remodeling service.


Portable Generators vs. Standby Generators

 

Generators Blog Header
Have yo
u ever lost power during a storm? If so, you know how frustrating it can be, between not being able to use your lights, worrying about food spoiling in the refrigerator, running out of hot water, and more. That’s why many homeowners opt to invest in a home generator. If you don’t already have one and are considering one, there are two main kinds: portable generators and standby generators. Here are some of their differences:

Movement

The main difference between a standby generator and a portable generator is their ability to be moved. Standby generators are installed permanently outside your home and hook up directly to it. Portable generators, on the other hand, are smaller and can be moved from location to location.

Power Source

Portable generators often run off of gasoline, which means you’ll have to manually fill the generator tank and refill it, if needed. Standby generators, on the other hand, often hook up to existing gas lines and run off of natural gas or propane.

Activation

Since a standby generator is hooked up to your home, it has a transfer switch that monitors your electrical power. Once you lose power, it will automatically click on in order to return power to your home. A portable generator, on the other hand, must be turned on and off manually.

Size & Noise

Because standby generators need to power your entire home, they’re much larger than portable generators (and therefore, cost more). However, they’re also quieter because they’re fully enclosed. Portable generators have exposed areas and are a little louder. Their sizes range between 1,000 watts and 15,000 watts while standby generators range between 8,000 watts and 45,000 watts. Usually, the larger the generator, the more expensive.

What They Power

Standby generators are also called “whole house” generators because when you lose electricity, they can power everything electrical in your home. This can come in handy for elderly individuals, those on oxygen respirators, or if you’re away from your home and can’t turn on a portable generator for backup electricity. Portable generators can power nearly anything electrical (including larger appliances like refrigerators), however, you’ll need to plug them directly into the generator.

Which One Is Right for You?

Which generator you choose depends on your budget, your need for electricity, and your location. If you’re in an area that experiences frequent power outages, you may want to consider installing a standby generator. However, if you’re not too worried about backup electricity, a portable generator should be fine.

Contact Oliver About A Generator For Your Home:

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4 Ways Snow Can Affect Your Heater

snow heater

This past weekend, winter storm Jonas dropped well over two feet of snow in much of the Northeast and at Oliver, we were getting calls left and right because of it. One of the most popular issues in the area was a heater that simply stopped working, which can happen during a snowstorm. Here are four ways the snow can affect your heater:

Block Air Intakes

Our on-call managers fielded many questions about shut-down heaters due to snow that had piled up and blocked their fresh air intakes. When your heater’s intake is blocked due to snow or ice, it causes the unit to shut down.

Block Exhaust

While heaters need to take in fresh air in order to operate properly, they also need to expel air through an exhaust. If their exhaust gets blocked due to snow or ice, it can also cause the unit to shut down.

Corrosion

Gas furnaces and boilers both have controls that can be susceptible to water damage, especially during heavy rains or when snow starts to melt. If these elements experience enough water, they’ll begin to corrode and could cause reliability issues.

Bent Fans/Fins

On some occasions, snow and ice could build up on your unit’s aluminum fan and coil fins. When this happens, the weight of the build-up could cause them to bend and eventually break. If you notice a loud sound while your heater is on, bent fins could be why.

How to Prevent Damage

If you know you’re going to get a snowstorm, be sure to include clearing the air intakes, exhaust, and space around outdoor heat pump units in your snow removal plan. Also make sure that after bad weather, there isn’t snow or ice accumulated on the top of the outdoor unit of your heat pump or air conditioner. If there is, turn off the unit and use warm water to melt it away. After it’s clear, turn it back on.


Last-Minute Ways to Spruce up Your Home for Christmas

mason jar lights

It’s nearly here – or should we say they’re nearly here… If you’re expecting friends or family for Christmas, we know you’ll want your home to look clean, cozy, and most of all, festive for the holiday. If you’ve spent more time shopping and not enough time on the latter, we’re here to help. Our heating and cooling service experts have some easy ways to add a touch of Christmas before company arrives:

Christmas Light Accents

Hanging Christmas lights doesn’t have to be a chore or take up your whole day – just adding a few strands to certain areas of your home will bring on that cozy effect. String a strand around your bathroom vanity, wrap some around your stairway banister, or fill up a line of mason jars with them for a rustic touch.

Pinecones

Not only are pinecones easy to find (whether they’re outside your front door or at your local craft store), they’re also easy to decorate with. Try dropping a handful into a festive bowl or a tall vase for an easy mantle or end table decoration. Or, glue a variety of them onto a metal wreath frame and spatter them with some white paint to create a front door masterpiece. You can even paint them if you have time.

Glass Dome Ornaments

You can find packs of plastic ball ornaments in a variety of colors nearly anywhere, so pick up a set and find a nice glass dome to go with them. Fill the dome up with the ornaments, then turn it over and use a ceramic plate as a base. You’ll have a classy, beautiful decoration that you can easily place on your mantle or pair a few together and use them as a centerpiece.

Poinsettias

Nothing says Christmas like a poinsettia plant. These days, poinsettias come in a wide variety of sizes, which makes it easy to use them around the house. Place small plants on window sills to add a pop of color to any room and use larger plants outside your front door for a welcoming entrance. You can line a dish with the flowers and place a pillar candle in the middle for a nice coffee table decoration.

Festive Touches

Some festive touches go a long way when it comes to Christmas cheer. Try replacing your kitchen towels and bathroom towels with holiday-themed towels. You can also swap out your hand soaps and candles for ones with festive scents. Also try hanging some mistletoe over a doorway that gets a lot of traffic.

Garland

Just like Christmas lights, garland can be hung in numerous places to give them a little cheer. Wrap some garland around your stairway banister, drape some across your mantle, or line your front doorway and add some Christmas lights for a festive welcome sign. Spruce the garland up even more by adding some red bows, candy canes, paper snowflakes, and more.

Colored Water Candles

Have some floating candles, food coloring, and several wide-mouthed glasses? You’ve got an easy decoration on your hands. Simply fill the glasses with water and dye each one either red, green, or blue, depending on your preference. Then, drop in your floating candles and line up or cluster the glasses together for a cheery accent to any table.

*Photo courtesy of allthings-jane.com


6 Places to Consider Installing Home Insulation

home insulation

When you live in the Northeast, you learn that home insulation is a very important part of your home. Not only can it keep your home at a comfortable, even temperature, but it can also help you save money on your energy bills. While you may already have a sufficient amount of insulation, there are several areas that our HVAC service company recommends considering for added insulation:

Attic Access Door

Even if your attic has sufficient insulation, you’ll want to make sure your attic door has it too. Attics get cold during the winter months, and whether your door is built into the ceiling or is a walk-in door, it can easily let that cold air out into the rest of your home. Insulate it properly and you’ll eliminate cold drafts and keep surrounding rooms warmer.

Cantilevers

While cantilevered floors are a great way to give your home some character, you have to remember that they sit beyond the exterior wall below. This means they don’t receive any warmth from the room below and can get cold. Installing insulation between the floorboards and the exterior-facing soffit can help protect the floors from cold outside temperatures.

Ceilings/Walls Next to Cold Spaces

Ceilings and walls that are adjacent to a cold space (such as an attic, a garage, or a crawl space) may require extra insulation in order to protect the room from the colder temperatures next to it. Consider extra insulation especially if the room is one you spend a lot of time in.

Joist Spaces

Many older homes don’t have insulation between their first and second levels, which allows air to easily flow from one floor to another. By installing insulation underneath the floorboards between the spaces of your home’s joists, however, you can reduce airflow and regulate the overall temperature of your home more easily.

Concrete Slab Floors

If your home has concrete slab floors that are built directly onto the ground, you know how cold those floors can get. With just 2-by-4 sleepers, strips of rigid insulation, and plywood sheets, you can create a layer of insulation to separate your flooring from the ground below and help it stay warm.

Blog BONUS

Check out this video for more information about how cantilevered architecture can impact the comfort of your home – and what we can do to fix it!

If one or more of the situations we outlined here apply to your home, schedule an appointment with one of our home insulation experts for a free in-home analysis of the impact on your comfort and energy efficiency.


Home Heating Costs: What to Expect This Winter

Slowly but surely, the temperatures have been dropping and it’s finally starting to feel like December weather. While the cold is great for the holiday vibe, it’s not so great for the wallet, and many homeowners are wondering what kind of energy rates they’ll expect to see this winter. Our heating service company dove into some of the most recent energy news (and stats from eia.gov) to find out.

Oil Customers

When it comes to heating, oil is the least popular energy source for homes in the Northeast. Oil prices can fluctuate much more than other energy prices, so it tends to cost a great deal more to heat a home. However, if you’re among the few homes that do use oil, there’s some good news – oil prices have dropped to their lowest in years. Right now, the average price of oil per gallon is about half of what it was last year, so if prices stay down, you can expect to pay a decent amount less.

Electric Customers

As the second-most popular type of heat source for Northeastern homes, electricity costs are usually pretty predictable for the winter months. Over the past four years, the average price of electricity has stayed within a few cents, and this year is predicted to be the same. The good news, though, is that meteorologists are estimating this winter’s temperatures to be warmer than last year’s, so you can expect to pay about the same amount or less for your heat.

Natural Gas Customers

Though natural gas and electricity are nearly equal when it comes to overall U.S. consumption, it’s become the number-one energy choice for heat here in the Northeast. Over the past several years, natural gas prices have slowly declined due to increased production and this year, the decline is expected to continue. However, this decline doesn’t necessarily mean a lower average heating price for homeowners, since heating rates can be set a year or more in advance by utilities. But again, the good news is that this winter’s temperatures are said to be lower and in turn, that means a lower consumption of natural gas and a lower cost.


6 Heating Myths, Busted

 

heating myths

Even though we made it through November without snow, that doesn’t mean it’s not right around the corner – and with it, freezing cold temperatures. Our heater installation company has heard plenty of heating myths over the years, so we thought we’d bust some of them:

1. A fire is a good way to warm your home

While we can’t argue that a fire is a great way to stay warm, it’s actually not a very efficient way to warm your whole house. When you open the flue in your fireplace, you essentially open up a vacuum for air to escape. While this escape is great for smoke and gasses, it’s not great for the rest of the warm air in your home. Many people find that when they have a fire, the other rooms in their home are colder, and that’s because the flue is sending all of your heat up and out of the chimney.

2. Ceiling fans are only good in the summer

Ceiling fans are a great way to cool down in the heat of the summer, but they can also be used in the winter to circulate warm air. Warm air rises, and if you have an adjustment switch on your fan that reverses the way the blades spin, you can reverse them in the winter. They’ll push the warm air that’s collected on the ceiling down to the rest of the room.

3. Space heaters are better than a gas heating system

Instead of heating their whole house with a gas heating system, some homeowners opt to heat certain rooms with space heaters instead. While the idea is that heating less space means costing less money, that’s not always the case. Electricity can actually cost anywhere from three to five times more than natural gas, so it’s often more efficient to simply use your gas heating system to warm your home instead of space heaters.

4. Keeping your home the same temperature is better than adjusting it

At Oliver, we love programmable thermostats because they can lower the temperature of your home when you’re not there and raise it back up when you are. Some people don’t believe that this helps save energy, however, and instead, keep their home at one temperature all day. When your heater clicks on less often, you’ll use less energy, which means keeping your home cooler for long periods of time can help save you money.

5. Closing off vents will lower your energy bill

Many homeowners believe that if they close off HVAC vents in rooms they don’t use, they’ll use less heat and lower their energy bill. However, your heater doesn’t adjust the amount of heat it pumps out based on closed vents. If you close off certain “release” areas in your home, you’ll throw the pressure load off balance and actually make your heater work harder. This, in turn, will cost you more money.

6. Cranking the heat will warm your home faster

If you come back from a trip and your home is cold, your first thought may be to crank up the heat to 85 in order to warm it up faster. However, heaters don’t work like that. Instead of having “high” and “low” settings, they really only have an “on” and “off” setting. Once you turn your heat on, it will take just as long to reach 78 if you set it to 85 than it would if you just set it to 78.


5 Fall HVAC Tips for Every Homeowner

fall HVAC tips

Fall is in full swing and the nights have been getting pretty chillly, which means you may have already turned on your heat. Before it gets even colder, though, take a moment to do some quick HVAC maintenance. A well-maintained HVAC system will last longer and will perform better, keeping you warmer.

Install New Filters

HVAC filters should be changed on a regular basis (at Oliver, we recommend every one to three months), so before you get into the full swing of heat season, start your unit with fresh filters and get rid of all the pollen, dust, and dirt that may have collected over the summer.

Evaluate the Weatherstripping

You should evaluate the weatherstripping on your doors and windows. If it’s bad, it can make them drafty and cause an influx of cold air from outside. The cold air will make your HVAC unit work harder than it has to and in turn, you’ll pay more for your energy bill.

Open Your Closed Vents

If you’ve ever heard that you should close air duct vents in rooms you’re not using, don’t heed that advice. When a vent is closed, heat can’t travel correctly through your home, which makes your system to work harder than it has to. Open your closed vents and let your HVAC system do its job to achieve maximum efficiency.

Mind the Landscaping

While you should really mind the landscaping near your HVAC unit all year long, it’s especially important to do so during the fall. If there’s an early snowfall and leaves are still on the trees, the snow can weigh them down and cause the branches to snap. If this happens and your HVAC unit is nearby, it may  undergo some damage. Also, check your unit regularly for dead leaves that may have blown off of a tree and gotten lodged in it.

Do a Thermostat Test

Before you put your heat on full blast, do a test to make sure it’s working well. Use a separate reading to make sure your home is at the temperature your thermostat says it is. If it’s not, call one of our HVAC service experts; we’ll evaluate the unit and figure out what’s causing the problem.