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Energy Efficient Products - What Makes Them Efficient?
Energy efficiency is a hot topic these days.  Everywhere you go you hear about new technology and products that use less energy, work more efficiently and save you money.  Many of these claims are true and even the government is encouraging the switch to energy efficient products with tax credits and rebates. But do you know why these products are more efficient than what you’re used to?  Do you know which might be the best place to start for your specific home?  Well we can help you understand how these products work so you can make the best choices based on your home and your budget.


High Efficiency Boilers
All boilers contain water, which is heated and converted to steam, typically fueled by gas or oil.  The steam is sent through a closed series of pipes, such as radiators or convectors, which give off heat to warm a space.   As a boiler heats the water in the tank, it turns into steam and is vented out the flue, at which point a large amount of heat is lost.  In high-efficiency boilers, also called condensing boilers, the water vapor vented through the flue is several hundred degrees cooler than traditional boilers.  Due to the relatively low temperature of the exiting steam, it “condenses” back into water and then passes over the heat exchanger inside the boiler. The heat exchanger extracts the energy from the remaining heat in that water then drains that water out of the boiler.
The energy a boiler produces comes from the process of removing heat from the steam, so by removing more of the heat from the water vapor, the boiler operates more efficiently.


Boiler Reset Controls
Every boiler should have one of these, but very few are actually installed with one. This is mainly because contractors don’t explain the benefits to their customer and instead go with the standard installation to keep things simple. Here’s how they work:
When the outdoor temperature is warmer, less energy is required from your boiler to heat your water. A boiler reset control uses a heating curve to set the relationship between the outdoor temperature and the supply water temperature.  Essentially it communicates with your boiler when it can run for a shorter period of time and still heat the water to the desired temperature. The Tekmar 260 is a popular model that can be installed to work with both your hydronic heating and domestic hot water systems.

Tankless Water Heaters
Many homes today use tankless water heaters to supply on-demand hot water to their showers and faucets.  These are compact units that save energy by heating water only as it is needed, providing a constant supply of hot water when it is called for (assuming your heater is sized properly). 


On-Demand Water Heating
This system will get your hot water to your fixtures in a snap.  There will always be some cold water in the line between your water heater and the fixture you are using and when you run the sink or shower to drain this out until the hot water reaches it, you are losing money right down the drain. The Taco D’MAND system prevents you from wasting this water by clearing out the line when the fixture is turned on and pushing that water back to your boiler through the cold water line.


Pipe Insulation
Exposed copper pipe loses a significant amount of heat to the air as the hot water passes through and energy is also wasted when frost forms on cold water plumbing, chilled water and air-conditioning lines.  Pipe insulation is a great, affordable way to utilize heat that is being wasted and reduce your energy bills.  It starts at just a few dollars for a 6' length, depending on the diameter. 
Therma-cel and Insul-lock are two popular types of insulation, both designed to limit heat loss, condensation and frost formation.  Therma-cel® is a flexible, polyolefin, thermal insulation.  Therma-cel Pipe Insulation also slows heat loss on hot water plumbing. This insulation may be used with copper or PEX pipe
Insul-lock is another type of pre-slit adhesive insulation that is designed to retard heat flow and prevent pipe condensation. It is non-porous and non-fibrous to resist mold growth and guarantees a strong, durable seal without the risk of messy adhesives. It comes pre-slit, easy to install around any exposed copper pipe.


Variable Speed Pumps
Every hydronic heating system needs a circulator pump to control the circulation of water through the system.  Standard circulator pumps are set to run at a fixed speed so the water consistently moves through your system at the same rate. However, as your system heats up, it is not necessary to heat and move the water through as often. For example, a typical baseboard system works best at about a 20 degree temperature differential, which means the water going into the baseboard should be about 20 degrees hotter than the water leaving the baseboard to return to the boiler. A variable speed pump adjust automatically to maintain the temperature differential as the system heats up, allowing your boiler to fire less frequently as the system heats up.


Digital Programmable Thermostats
You can program your thermostat to heat or cool your home only when you are in the house and then to maintain a lower temperature when you are out for the day or sleeping at night. Some thermostats can be set up for different zones in your house so that you are only heating the areas where you are actually spending time.

Radiant Floor Heat
Radiant heat warms your home evenly and comfortably, without the noise and the harsh ventilation of a forced air system.  By heating the room from the floor up, the heat spreads evenly and actually feels warmer. People can often keep their thermostat set 2-3 degrees lower than they would with a forced air system and feel just as comfortable.
Now that you have a basic knowledge of how some popular energy efficient products work to save you money, take a walk around your home and look for opportunities.  Then you can decide where you may want to make an investment, like a programmable thermostat or a boiler reset control, and see where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Visit www.pexsupply.com for a host of energy efficient products that will improve home comfort, lower your utility bill and help preserve our natural resources.

 

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