Is a Standard Storage Tank Water Heater Sometimes a Better Choice?

April 18th, 2014

If you know about tankless water heaters, then you’ve probably learned about their numerous virtues and why many so many homeowners prefer them. Tankless water heaters never run out of hot water, take up less space in a home, and run much more energy-efficiently than standard storage water heaters because they lose less heat and do not require steady energy to keep water in a tank warm.

However, not everyone has called up their local plumbing company to install a tankless heater. Traditional storage tanks still sit in many homes, and new ones are installed every day. The reason for this is that some homes won’t receive the full benefits of a tankless water heater, and a storage water heater makes better economic sense for them.

Whether a traditional or tankless system will work for your house is something that requires a Southern Vermont plumbing professional to help answer. HB Energy Solutions has kept homeowners in Vermont warm and comfortable for more than 20 years; you can place your trust in us to guide you to your home’s best option for hot water.

Why a storage water heater is sometimes better

Tankless water heaters are more expensive systems to install: anyone considering one for a home needs to balance the upfront costs with the long-term savings. Sometimes, a storage water heater will save more money than a tankless one.

Here’s something to consider: tankless system do not tend to endure as long as storage systems. This means that the amount of money you’ll save from a tankless system depends more on how much hot water your household uses on average rather than how long the system stays around. If you do not use a large amount of hot water, you may not receive significant savings from a tankless system before it needs replacement. Consult with an installer, who can check on your household hot water use to see if a storage water heater may be a superior choice.

Another factor to consider: although tankless water heaters don’t “run out” of hot water, they have trouble keeping up with high volume hot water demands. Proper sizing can help minimize this problem, but larger households might be better served by a high capacity tank water heater.

Professional installation

When factoring the pros and cons of the two systems, they come up about equal: tankless water heaters have high efficiency and unlimited hot water; storage water heaters have convenience and lower installation costs. Your own water use and your budget plans will be the deciding factors, but professional installers will help you feel certain of your choice. And, of course, they’ll install it as well.

Call HB Energy Solutions, your Southern Vermont plumbing experts, to talk about water heater installation today.

Why Frost on an Air Conditioner is a Problem

April 10th, 2014

Here’s something you might notice on your air conditioner one day: on the indoor unit, an accumulation of ice and frost starting to develop across the coils. People who spot this condition on ACs often dismiss it. The air conditioner is supposed to send out cold air, and it uses refrigerant, just like a refrigerator does. So… shouldn’t a little ice be normal?

It’s not, however. Ice forming along an air conditioner is a sign that it needs professional repairs. The air conditioner has a major fault, and the longer the ice remains on the system, the more in danger the system is of failing to provide any cool air at all to a home.

This problem requires the work of a trained repair technician to remedy it. For the work necessary to get your air conditioning in New Hampshire working again, call HB Energy Solutions today.

The Problem with Frost

The development of icing along the coils of an air conditioner usually warns of one of two problems: a loss of refrigerant or dirt along the coils.

The refrigerant in an air conditioning system is a blend of chemicals that shifts between liquid and gas as it cycles through the system, absorbing heat from the indoors and then releasing heat to the outdoors. Refrigerant is necessary for the heat exchange that makes an air conditioner cool down a space. Refrigerant does not dissipate during normal operation, but leaks can cause its level (known as its “charge”) to drop, which jeopardizes heat exchange.

The reason this causes ice to form along the indoor (evaporator) coil is that low refrigerant leads to low pressure, which causes the refrigerant to cool down too much when it evaporates. The extra cold from the refrigerant causes the water vapor along the coil to freeze. This further restricts heat exchange, and the ice growth continues. If the problem isn’t fixed (a repair technician can seal the leak and recharge the refrigerant), eventually a solid ice block will cover the coils and no heat exchange can take place at all.

Dirt developing along the coils will also make it harder for the coil to absorb sufficient heat, and frost will start to form, leading to the same chain reaction concluding in heat exchange loss.

In neither case will scraping the ice from the coils solve the problem. The ice isn’t the initial problem, but a symptom of it. Trust the work to repair experts who are familiar with this issue.

HB Energy Solutions has assisted New Hampshire with air conditioning repairs and maintenance for over 21 years. When you need help, done fast and right, contact our AC specialists—one call does it all!

Who Invented Modern Solar Power?

April 3rd, 2014

We’ve sometimes heard people ask “Who invented solar power?” The answer is simple: the Sun invented solar power. As long as our solar system has existed, the star at the center of it, a massive engine of hydrogen and helium, has radiated energy to the planets.

However, if we narrow the question down to “Who invented modern solar power?”, the answer grows trickier. No single individual who can take all the credit for the solar cells we use today to capture the energy of the Sun and turn it into electricity.

Nonetheless, there are some key figures in the history of solar cells we can highlight. To receive the benefit of their amazing innovations in your home, call HB Energy Solutions for clean, renewable solar power in Southern Vermont.

A short history of solar energy as a source of electrical power

In 1839, French physicist A. E. Becquerel observed the photovalic effect: voltage or electric current created in material that is exposed to light. The next step came with the chemical element selenium; in 1877 W. G. Adams and R. E. Day published a paper in Britain on the photovalic effect in solid selenium. Eleven years later, Anglo-American chemist Edward Watson patented the “solar cell,” and Russian physicist Aleksandr Stoletov created the first solar cell based on an outside photoelectric effect. More patents followed in the U.S.

In 1904, German physicist Wilhelm Hallwachs used copper to make a semi-conductor solar cell, and it was the “Hallwachs-Effekt” that later became known as the photoelectric effect. The next year, the most famous name in the timeline of solar cells appeared: Albert Einstein published a paper to explain the Hallwach-Effekt as part of quantum physics. The photoelectric effect was at last proved in 1916 by Robert Milikan.

During the 1920s, solar power started to enter homes for the first time, although on a limited basis, when solar water heaters using flat-plate collectors were used in Florida and Southern California. In the 1950s, Bell Labs began to produce solar cells for space exploration using the growth of single-crystal silicon developed over the previous four decades, and they announced in 1954 the “first modern silicon solar cell.” The media started to report on solar power as a major mover in the future of energy.

In the 1960s, Hoffman Electronics increased solar cell efficiency, while spacecraft made use of solar energy for almost all their operation. In 1974, J. Baldwin developed a building in New Mexico that was exclusively heated and powered through solar and wind power. During the 1970s energy crisis, research into solar power as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels increased.

The rise in solar cell research has—so far—reached its peak in 2008 when the U.S. Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Laboratory created the most efficient solar cell yet, with 40.8% efficiency.

No single person can take the credit for modern solar power’s creation, and at a certain point it became too broad field. But one thing is certain: your home can benefit from the free power of the Sun through photovalic cells. Call HB Energy Solutions and talk to our experts in solar power in Southern Vermont today.

The 2 Types of Sump Pumps

March 28th, 2014

A sump pump is often a necessary tool for homes that suffer from moisture entering the basement due to a high water table. They are also invaluable during heavy rains when additional water can flood into the lower parts of a home. An effective sump pump will protect your basement from the growth of mold, mildew, wood rot, and prevent other kinds of damage that water and humidity can cause to building material.

A sump pump must have professional installation to make sure that it works correctly, has an adequate sump (water collection pit) excavated, and connects to a waste line for water removal. You also need to have professionals help you decide on the type and size of sump pump you need. There are two basic sump pump types: the pedestal sump pump and the submersible sump pump. They both have advantages and disadvantages, so you will need the assistance of a plumbing professional to help you choose the right one for your home.

For sump pump installation, repairs, and maintenance, call on the company with 21 years of experience working on plumbing in New Hampshire, HB Energy Solutions.

Pedestal sump pumps

The first type of sump pump sits above the sump on a specially-constructed pedestal. A hose from the pump runs down into the sump, and an impeller motor in the pump draws the water up and removes it. These kinds of sump pumps are easier to repair because they’re exposed, and they also cost less than submersible pumps and endure longer. However, pedestal pumps need to work harder to overcome gravity when drawing water, and they are less effective at dealing with the large amounts of water that can come from rain flooding.

Submersible sump pumps

As the name implies, submersible sump pumps sit down inside the sump itself beneath the surface of the water. They draw water directly into intake valves. To prevent water damage, the motor is sealed inside a water-proof container. Submersible pumps are less obtrusive and take up less space in your basement, and they operate more quietly because they are submerged underwater. They pump faster than pedestal pumps and will do a better job for basements that encounter more serious flooding. However, they cost more than pedestal pumps and will require more repair work because of their exposure to water.

You will not only need professionals to help you choose and install the proper sump pump for your basement, you will also need them to regularly maintain the pump (especially a submersible pump). Call HB Energy Solutions for the skilled plumbing service in New Hampshire that will keep your basement dry with the right sump pump.

Why Install a Wood Stove

March 19th, 2014

Wood stoves are centuries old and continue to provide reliable heating for communities all over the world. Installation isn’t expensive and can provide an excellent auxiliary form of heating as well as a number of other advantages. Why install a wood stove? We have several answers that we think you’ll agree with.

  • Efficient. Wood stoves provide an excellent and inexpensive form of heat. They require nothing more than wood to run, which means you can use them when the power goes out, and because of their nature, they are much more efficient at distributing heat than traditional fireplaces. That makes them a quick, cheap and easy way to keep warm during the winter.
  • Environmentally friendly. Wood stoves produce up to 70% less particle pollution than fireplaces according to the EPA, as well as dropping CO2 and methane emissions to a minimum. All of that comes on top of the fact that they consume no fossil fuels and don’t require electricity. That makes them a very eco-friendly option to warm your home.
  • Safer. Wood stoves cut down on the build-up of creosote in the chimney, making them a safer option for heating than fireplaces.
  • Cozy and romantic. The aesthetic value of a wood stove cannot be underestimated, especially in a snug cabin or home on a cold winter’s night. Wood stoves provide an easy gathering place for the family, as well as a spot for a romantic dinner. All of that helps improve the resale value of your home, providing an easy selling point when the time comes to sell the house.

For more information on why you should install a wood stove, or to schedule installation in Southern Vermont or New Hampshire, contact the experts at HB Energy Solutions. We have years of experience and we’re dedicated to your complete satisfaction throughout every step of your wood stove installation. Pick up the phone and give us a call to set up a consultation today. You’ll be glad you did!

It’s Not Just Lightning! Causes of Power Surges

March 12th, 2014

Power surges are both inconvenient and potentially damaging to your house and possessions. They can cause a loss of power in your home, and will inflict injury on appliances—particularly complex devices like computers and home entertainment systems. You want to do as much as you can to protect your home and possession from surges along the power lines.

It’s a popular misconception that power surges are only catastrophic events that occur because of storms and downed power lines. These will indeed cause surges—but there are other, more common causes. And power surges don’t have to be major events; they can occur numerous times during a day without you noticing them. To help guard against these surges, contact our technicians in all things electrical in Southern Vermont at HB Energy Solutions.

What causes power surges?

  • Catastrophic events: We’ll start with the most obvious ones. Lightning storms can cause massive overloads when a bolt strikes near a power line. A lightning bolt can boost electrical pressure by millions of volts, and that’s enough to overpower almost any system—as well as local plug-in surge protectors.
  • Electrical demand from high-powered appliances: Lightning is one of the less common causes of power surges. The most common is from sudden demands on your power from a large system like an air conditioner or a refrigerator. When one of these appliances makes a large power demand, it upsets the steady voltage flow of the system. You may barely notice this (a slight dimming of lights), but it will cause cumulative damage to other appliances throughout your home.
  • Faulty wiring: When you experience a more severe power surge (one not due to a storm) leading to an outage, the cause could be trouble with the wiring somewhere in your home. This is a serious problem because of the potential for fire damage, so contact an electrician to see where the faults are and have the necessary re-wiring done.

Whole-house Surge Protection

You should definitely have power strips for your important devices, such as your computer. However, you need to have extra protection from surges, and only whole-house surge protectors in your breaker boxes and circuit panels can do the full job. You will need electricians to install this for you. For electrical services in Southern Vermont, trust to the over two decades of experience at HB Energy Solutions.

What Type of Boiler Is Best for New Hampshire?

March 3rd, 2014

Boilers come in many different model types that can use a variety of fuel sources. Although the boilers most commonly found in homes today use natural gas power, boilers can also use electricity and oil. Even wood-powered boilers are still around, and they aren’t antiques: technological advances can make wood and wood pellet boilers efficient and attractive options for heating in New Hampshire.

If you want to know which choice of boiler will provide you with optimal heating, we can’t give you a basic answer—at least, not yet. Your home has specific needs when it comes to heating, and your plans for saving money and helping the environment and the local economy will also affect how you should heat your home. We can give you a better answer if you schedule an appointment with us to assess your home. Call HB Energy Solutions today and find out about the types of boilers available.

Here’s a short guide to some of the boilers we install:

Natural gas boilers

If you have a natural gas line into your home, a gas-powered boiler makes for a great heating option. Natural gas burns cleanly and efficiently, is domestically produced, and you’ll always have a ready supply of fuel available. Gas boilers can score extremely high AFUE (efficiency) ratings, which means you’ll receive large energy savings.

Oil-fired boilers

If you don’t have a natural gas line, you can have an oil-fired boiler installed. Older oil-burning boilers had lower efficiency ratings and created higher levels of pollution, but modern advances have made oil-fired boilers much more efficient than ever before, and many earn the U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR label for their fuel-efficient performance and clean-burning.

Wood boilers

They sound terribly antiquated, but contemporary wood boilers have the advantage of using a renewable and locally available fuel supply, and they are one of the most environmentally friendly ways to heat a home. Wood gasification combustion technology means wood boilers have competitive efficiency ratings as well.

Pellet boilers

These boilers use compressed wood pellets to increase their efficiency and clean burning. Some models allow for bulk fuel storage so you won’t need to spend as much time maintaining the wood supply.

You have many choices when it comes to boilers, but don’t worry about having a daunting time picking a type. If you contact professionals in home heating, they can help you narrow the field to the boilers that will work best with your home and your available fuel. You will need to have professionals size and install the unit as well, so make sure you have them involved from the start.

To find your best choice for heating in New Hampshire, contact HB Energy Solutions and talk to one of our experienced specialists today.

Is Solar Heating in New Hampshire a Good Investment?

February 24th, 2014

The technology of solar power continues to advance each year, making it easier for homeowners to take advantage of the energy from the Sun—free renewable energy—to run appliances in their house, from water heaters, to air conditioners, to heating systems.

Solar energy carries an upfront cost larger than that for standard heating systems. Our customers often ask us if having installation of solar heating is a worthwhile investment. What sort of returns can they expect from choosing to go solar for their home’s heating?

Let’s look at what solar power can do for you and why you should give it serious consideration. For more in-depth answers, as well as an assessment for your individual home, contact HB Energy Solutions.

Solar Energy Benefits

Yes, the installation of solar panels and a solar heating system comes with a higher price tag than that for a furnace or heat pump. However, there are two factors to consider here:

  1. The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly over the last few years, so the cost isn’t as much as you may think it is.
  2. The energy savings with solar panels can be immense, paying back the cost of installation in as little as 3–7 years according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

How much can you save with solar powered heating? If we consider a payback period of 3–7 years, and a service lifetime well over 20 years (with few moving parts, solar systems do not wear down fast), the return on investment can be enormous. Studies conducted in New York, a state with similar cloud cover patterns to New Hampshire, projected savings over 20 years at $30,000. Savings in Hawaii approached $65,000!

The efficiency of using the free power of the Sun isn’t the only way you can save money with solar heating. These systems require few repairs and have low-cost maintenance. The federal government also offers tax incentives to go solar with the Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit.

Solar energy technology is far more reliable today than it once was, so you should have little concern about having sufficient power stored in your solar cells for your home’s needs.

Solar Installation with HB Energy Solutions

Solar power won’t work for every home, so consult with our New Hampshire heating experts at HB Energy Solutions to find out if you’ll receive all the benefits of installing solar heating. We have licensed electricians on staff so you won’t need to hire subcontractors for your solar installation, which will help us complete your job on time and on budget. We can help you get the most from your investment in solar power.

Why Pinhole Leaks Are Such a Serious Problem

February 17th, 2014

The term “pinhole leaks” is a bit misleading. Although it does accurately describe the size of these leaks that can appear in your pipes, it tends to minimize them so they sound like minor problems. But nothing could be further from the truth: pinhole leaks are one of the most problematic repair needs that can crop up in plumbing. The U.S. EPA has identified pinhole leaks as a significant danger not only to plumbing systems, but also to homes in general.

Fortunately, pinhole leaks are not a difficult problem for professional plumbers to fix once they know of their existence. If you have leaks of any kind—or suspect that you do—call for assistance from experts in plumbing in Southern Vermont. HB Energy Solutions is ready around the clock and the calendar to help you!

What exactly are pinhole leaks?

Pinhole leaks are tiny holes along pipes. They usually appear close together across a single patch of pipe, and they can occur to modern copper piping. The EPA has studied the causes of pinhole leaks and determined that they are likely the result of a “localized copper corrosion called pitting corrosion.” The EPA isn’t certain, however, what causes pitting corrosion, since copper pipes are highly corrosion-resistant and have become popular as a replacement for galvanized steel pipes.

Why are pinhole leaks something to worry about?

Pinhole leaks only allow a small amount of water to drip out, but because they are tiny enough to at first escape detection, their leaks will soon build up to the point where they will cause damage to building material and promote mold and mildew growth. Water will destroy drywall and warp wood floors, and mold will increase the speed of destruction.

How can I detect pinhole leaks?

This is big obstacle with pinhole leaks: they are difficult for homeowners to detect until they start to cause extensive damage. The best way to find them is to have regular inspections done on your plumbing from a professional. Schedule an inspection once a year; your plumber will use leak detection equipment to locate problems. Keep watch for smaller indications of leaking: a drop in water pressure, an unexplained increased in water bills, or discoloration appearing on the wallpaper.

Call for repairs as soon as you can

Protect your valuable home plumbing in Southern Vermont: turn to expert plumbers for fast repairs the moment you sense anything is wrong. HB Energy Solutions can handle all your plumbing needs, and we have excellent leak detection services to find those troublesome pinhole leaks.

Who Wrote the First Valentine’s Day Poem?

February 14th, 2014

The celebration of Valentine’s Day is often seen as a modern institution, even if the roots of the holiday go back to Late Antiquity and the figures of St. Valentine of Rome and St. Valentine of Terni. It’s difficult to separate our view of February 14th from the more recent phenomenon of greeting cards, comical cupids, and specialty treats from candy companies.

However, not only are some of these traditions older than we might think (mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were an enormous success in early 19th-century England), but the earliest Valentine’s Day love poem comes from none other than the first great English author, Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote in the second half of the 14th-century.

Chaucer’s most famous work is The Canterbury Tales, an enormous collection of linked stories in poetry and prose. But his 700-line poem “Parlement of Foules” has the special distinction of being the first surviving record of a connection between Valentine’s Day and romantic love. Chaucer probably composed the poem in 1381–82. At the time, he was a member of the court of King Richard II, holding an important bureaucratic position in London. The date suggests that Chaucer wrote “Parelment of Foules” to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of the English king to Princess Anne of Bohemia.

The poem follows the dream of the narrator, where he walks through Venus’s temple and discovers a meeting of birds where they all choose their mates. This is where the mention of St. Valentine’s Day appears (English modernized):

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,

When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.

The poem also contains a familiar Valentine’s image, Cupid with his arrows:

Under a tree, beside a well, I saw

Cupid our lord his arrows forge and file;                                                             

And at his feet his bow already lay.

When Chaucer mentions St. Valentine’s Day, is he referring specifically to February 14th? Late winter isn’t a time when birds in England would mate. However, the date for the start of spring—when some birds would have started nesting in England—was on February 23rd in the calendars of the time, certainly close enough for Chaucer to take poetic license and nudge it a bit to match with Valentine’s Day.

Love birds remain a popular symbol of Valentine’s Day even now, and for this we can thank Chaucer. In fact, he may very well have invented the link between love and Valentine’s Day, although we will probably never know for certain.

Whoever started these traditions, all of us here at HB Energy Solutions hope you have a wonderful February 14th!