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Is a High Ceiling in a Home an HVAC Factor?

Vaulted ceilings can improve the look of a home or business in Plainfield, IL. Plus, the room feels grander when you walk into it and has increased overhead space. However, you may wonder how ceiling height impacts your home's heating and air conditioning system.

Why Are Vaulted Ceilings More Expensive to Heat and Cool?

There are three key reasons why heating and cooling a home or business with high ceilings is more expensive. First, the higher top increases the home's volume or cubic footage. Second, a high ceiling, especially vaulted ceilings, is more difficult to insulate. Third, hot air rises and collects in vaulted ceilings. This last factor significantly impacts how hard your furnace or air conditioner needs to work to bring your home to a comfortable temperature.

Why Cubic Footage Is More Important Than Square Footage When Discussing HVAC Function

Homes are typically measured by square footage. Square footage is the amount of floor space in a home. A 2,000-square-foot home with a flat ceiling and a 2,000-square-foot home with a vaulted ceiling have the same floor space. However, the house with the vaulted ceiling has an extra area that needs to be cooled during the winter and heated during the summer.

For example, a 50,000 BTU furnace is rated to heat a home of 2,000 square feet. However, this rating is based on the idea that the house has 8-foot ceilings. A furnace's square-foot rating is based on the average ceiling height in most homes. If you have a vaulted ceiling, your furnace will need to heat all the air in the house.

That air is measured not as square feet but as cubic feet. If a home or office has vaulted ceilings, the ceilings could be 10 feet or taller. A 20,000-square-foot home with a 10-foot ceiling may need a furnace that produces between 60,000 and 70,000 BTUs. The more powerful the furnace, the more energy it will consume and the more expensive it will be to run.

Using a 50,000 BTU furnace in a home of 20,000 square feet with 10-foot ceilings means the furnace will not produce sufficient energy to heat the home adequately. It will constantly cycle to keep up with the house's heating needs. This equates to a higher bill, wasted energy, and frequent maintenance as the furnace will likely break down sooner.

The Challenge of Insulating Vaulted Ceilings

A vaulted ceiling in a home will cut into its attic space. In modern homes, most attics are full of several feet of insulation with an R-value of 49 or higher.

However, with a vaulted ceiling, the interior ceiling drywall sits just a few inches from the exterior home cladding. With this limited space, the insulation R-value is much lower, at around 40.

R-value describes the resistance value of the insulation. A higher R-value means that it is harder for temperatures from one side of the structure to travel through the insulation and move to the other side.

A low R-value during the summer months means that it is going to be easier for the outdoor heat to penetrate the insulation and affect the indoor temperature. This means that your AC unit will have to work a lot harder to keep your home cool. Conversely, during the wintertime, a low R-value means that it is easier for the heat produced by your furnace to escape your home through your roof. Your furnace will have to work harder to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature.

Hot Air Rises

Vaulted ceilings increase HVAC costs because heat naturally rises since hot air is lighter than cool air. During the winter, the heat produced by your furnace will fill the void created by your vaulted ceiling.

This is problematic because although a vaulted ceiling looks nice, you are not going to spend any time up there. All the hot air produced by your furnace is sitting up against the ceiling with a low insulation level, so the hot air is losing its temperature quickly.

You might think having a vaulted ceiling is detrimental during the winter but positive during the summer because all of the hot air from the house is stuck against the ceiling. But you must remember that your AC unit will continue to work until it can cool every cubic foot of air in your home. This includes the hot air collected in your vaulted ceiling.

How Much More Expensive Is It to Heat or Cool a Building With High Ceilings?

It will cost more money to heat or cool a larger space than heat a smaller one. Some factors within the building will determine how much the cost increase will be.

For example, a new and energy-efficient home with a vaulted ceiling will not have the same heat or cooling loss as an older home of the same size and design. Additionally, the number of windows and the location of the windows relative to the ceiling will impact heating and cooling costs.

Older structures with tall ceilings will usually also have drafty doors and windows. The ductwork may be insufficient and the installation inadequate. Modern energy-efficient homes are designed to handle cooling and heating loads progressively.

Another factor is whether or not your home has direct exposure to the sun. A north-south home will have different light exposure than those with an east-west orientation.

At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we have seen firsthand the impact that high ceilings, coupled with poor insulation, can have on our client's energy bills. Our technicians will be happy to visit your home, evaluate your HVAC needs, and recommend products, repairs, or maintenance that can help you cool or warm your home efficiently.

Mitigating the Effects High Ceilings Have on Your HVAC System

Some simple strategies can resolve comfort issues in a home or office with a high ceiling. The first would be beneficial to install a ceiling fan. A ceiling fan can be set to blow warm air down during the winter and then reversed to pull cool air upward during the summer, thereby improving air circulation and optimizing comfort.

Run the HVAC fan continuously, even when the AC or furnace cycles off. Continually circulating the air through your home helps mix cool and warm air, keeping temperatures in rooms with higher ceilings more consistent.

Enjoying the Best of HVAC Services in Plainfield

Efficiently conditioning the air in your home or office with high ceilings can be challenging. TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing has effectively helped residents in the Chicago area address this and many other HVAC issues since 2008. We are a family-owned business with more than three generations of experience. We are proud to offer seamless service, upfront pricing, and work done right the first time and every time.

Our services include HVAC maintenance, repair, and installation. We do general plumbing maintenance, installation, and repair in new and existing construction. We are proud to offer emergency services backed by straightforward pricing. Contact TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today and learn more about what makes our products and services unique.

How to Winterize Your Plumbing in Illinois

The winters in Illinois can be freezing, and these freezing temperatures can easily damage your home's plumbing system. Frozen pipes are a frequent problem in the winter. If your water lines freeze, you obviously won't be able to use your plumbing fixtures until they thaw out. Water expands as it freezes, and therefore frozen pipes often rupture. If this happens, you'll be facing potentially expensive repairs. A burst pipe can also flood your home, which can cause severe water damage. For these reasons and more, you must winterize your plumbing before the freezing temperatures set in, and here is how to do just that.

Shut Off and Drain Outdoor Faucets and Water Lines

Your hose bibs, sprinkler system, and other outdoor plumbing are much more susceptible to freezing and breaking. To prevent this, you will need to shut off the water to any outdoor fixtures and make sure to drain the lines fully.

You can start by disconnecting and draining any outdoor hoses. If you leave the hose connected, water can freeze inside it. This can lead to pressure building up in the water line that feeds the hose bib, which can cause the water line to leak or break.

Once you've disconnected the hoses, you'll want to shut off the water supply to the hose bibs. Each hose bib should have a shut-off valve inside the home near the water line that feeds and exits the building.

After shutting off the water to the bib, go back outside and open it up to drain any remaining water out of the line. If you don't do this, any water left inside the pipe outside the building will freeze.

The last step is to cover all the hose bibs with an outdoor faucet sock. This insulates the bib to ensure that if any water is still inside, it cannot freeze.

If you have a sprinkler system, you will need to shut off the water and drain the lines. Draining the pipes requires using a powerful compressor to blow any remaining water out of the system, and this is typically something you will need to hire a professional to do to prevent damage to the system.

Make Sure Your Pipes Are Well-Insulated

Any pipes that run through uninsulated areas like an attic or crawl space or inside exterior walls need additional protection to ensure they don't freeze. To prevent freezing, ensure all these pipes are wrapped in foam insulation. This slides directly over the side of the pipe and only takes a few seconds to install. Ensure that the insulation covers the entire pipe and that there are no gaps.

Check for Air Leaks Inside and Outside

If your home has a crawl space, it is essential that it is well insulated. However, even if your pipes are well insulated, they may still freeze if the crawlspace isn't as well. In addition, most crawlspaces have air vents that lead outside. If so, you must also block these up to prevent cold air from getting inside.

It would be best if you then inspected the entire exterior of the building around the foundation. If you see any cracks, make sure to seal them well using spray foam insulation or caulk. Even small cracks can let lots of frigid air inside, increasing the risk of your pipes freezing.

Once this is done, go back inside and check for air leaks around your windows and doors. Check that the caulking and weatherstripping are in good shape and replace or reseal as needed. You should also feel for leaks around any electrical outlets or switches located on exterior walls. Sometimes there isn't enough insulation around these to prevent air from leaking inside and potentially causing any pipes in that wall to freeze.

Tips for Extreme Cold

The previous steps should be sufficient for most of the winter. However, when freezing temperatures are predicted, you should also take additional steps to ensure your plumbing doesn't freeze. One of the best and easiest things you can do is to leave your faucets slightly open whenever the weather is frigid. This ensures that there is always a trickle of water running through the pipes. This is important since the water won't be as easy to freeze when it is running. Also, heed the region's water pressure warnings during this time.

You should also make sure to open the cabinets below all your sinks. This allows warm air to circulate inside the cabinet to help prevent the pipes from freezing.

You will also need to ensure that the house temperature does not drop below 55 degrees. If it gets colder than this inside, there won't be enough heat inside to prevent the cold water flowing into your pipes from freezing.

Fully Winterizing a Home

If you plan on leaving the house vacant for any prolonged time during the winter, you will need to take additional steps to ensure your plumbing is fully drained and winterized. If no water runs through your plumbing for a long time, it increases the chances of the pipes freezing. You also need to ensure that you have a continuous heat source in the building while you're away so that the temperature doesn't drop below 55 degrees.

Fully winterizing a home is always best done by a professional plumber as it will be necessary to blow out all of the pipes. The first step involved is shutting off the main water supply. The plumber will then open all faucets and plumbing fixtures. This is important as any closed faucets can create a vacuum in the plumbing system, which will trap water inside the pipes. Finally, an air compressor blows out the water lines to ensure they are dry.

All toilets must be flushed repeatedly to remove as much water from the tank as possible. Then, antifreeze is added to the tank to prevent any remaining water from freezing. Any sinks or drains that have a P-trap will also need antifreeze. This trap always contains a small amount of water and is responsible for creating a seal that prevents sewer gases from coming back into the home. Putting antifreeze into the drain ensures that the water in the trap won't freeze and break the pipe.

The last step is shutting off the water heater and thoroughly draining the tank. This prevents the water inside the tank from freezing. It also ensures that the heating elements won't get damaged, which can quickly happen if the unit runs while the tank is empty.

Award-Winning Plumbing Services in Plainfield

If you need help ensuring your home's plumbing is fully winterized, you can count on the TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing team. We are a family-owned company and have been providing plumbing services to residents of Plainfield and throughout the Greater Chicago Metro area since 2008. All our plumbers are fully licensed and highly trained, and we always take the time to make sure the job is done right the first time. No matter what plumbing service you need, we always provide honest, upfront pricing with no hidden fees. To schedule an appointment to winterize your plumbing, give us a call today.

Understanding Adjustable-Speed Air Conditioner Fans

When your air conditioner turns on to keep your Plainfield home cool, another critical component works right alongside it: the blower fan. The blower fan in your air conditioner works to move air through the air conditioner and on through the vents. While most blower fans run at a consistent speed, you may wonder if it's possible to adjust the fan's speed to increase the comfort of your home. The best answer is: it depends. To learn the details of when, how, and why to adjust your system's blower fan, keep reading this article from the pros at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing.

More Info on Blower Fans

By itself, your home's air conditioner can't move air. All an air conditioner does is remove heat and humidity from your home's indoor air. You need a blower fan to get the air where it's needed. A blower fan has two main tasks. Its first task is to draw in warm, humid air from inside your home. It pulls this air in through return vents. Depending on the size of your home, you may have one or more return vents. In a multi-story home, there will be at least one return vent on every level. After the blower fan draws in the unconditioned air, it sends it through the evaporator coil in the air conditioner. The blower fan gives the air enough momentum to continue moving through the supply ducts and out through the vents in each room. The blower fan is truly the heart of your HVAC system.

Using the Blower Fan

Many people overlook the fact that they can use their blower fan without using their air conditioner or furnace. By setting your system to run constantly and turning the heating and cooling functions off, your blower fan will circulate air throughout your home. This is one instance when being able to control the speed of the fan is especially helpful. Air circulation is good to help keep your home comfortable on mild days when it's not hot enough to run the air conditioner. It's also helpful if you need to bring in fresh air from the outside. Some people also use the blower fan as a white noise machine when trying to go to sleep. To perform these functions well, TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing recommends dialing in your blower fan's speed.

Why Adjust the Speed?

Most of the time, you'll likely use your blower fan in conjunction with your air conditioner or furnace. Even with these conditioning functions in effect, proper speed calibration of your blower fan is critical. One good reason to adjust your fan speed is to reduce your energy usage. If you slow your fan down, it will consume less energy and experience less wear and tear, meaning you'll save on long-term costs. Another reason to slow down your fan is to help reduce the volume of your system. If your utility closet is adjacent to a common area, reducing your fan's speed can help make it easier to hear other people talking. The most common reason that you might want to increase your fan's speed is to increase its conditioned air output. This will allow your home to reach the desired temperature more quickly.

Adjusting the Belt

For many blower fans, adjusting the speed is as simple as loosening a single screw. On pulley-driven systems, this screw helps hold the pulley in place. By loosening it, you can adjust the pulley by turning it clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on whether you want the fan to turn faster or slower. However, just because the process seems simple doesn't mean it's easy. Each blower fan is different depending on its age, size, and intended use. Therefore, loosening the setscrew that holds the pulley in place could release other parts that could be difficult to put back together without proper training. That's why we recommend asking your HVAC technician about adjusting your blower fan's speed when the technician is at your home for regular system maintenance. This ensures you get the fan speed you desire without accidentally causing expensive damage to your system.

Variable Speed Fans

Understanding that you don't always need a fan's full capacity, HVAC manufacturers offer variable-speed blower fans to add an extra level of efficiency and comfort to your home. These great units can automatically sense the required cooling capacity of your home and slow down or speed up to accommodate these changing needs. Some units also allow you to manually adjust the speed using a switch on your thermostat. Although these units cost more upfront, they can save you money in the long run because they're only ever running as fast as the conditions in your home require. This means they don't use unnecessary electricity or wear out prematurely. Plus, being able to ramp up the fan speed on especially hot days means that you'll never have to suffer in a warm house.

Maintaining Your Blower Fan

The pros at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing are happy to maintain your air conditioner's fan for you during regular maintenance visits. However, if you want to perform some extra maintenance between visits, here are a few things you can do. First, make sure that you regularly replace your system's air filter. While this isn't maintaining the fan directly, a clean filter can help prevent dust from finding its way into your HVAC system. As dust passes through, it will often adhere to the fan blades, decreasing the efficiency of the fan in the process. If you notice that the fan blades are unusually dusty, you can clean them using a damp cloth. Just make sure that the power to the system is turned off so that the fan doesn't start rotating unexpectedly.

Other Ways To Improve Comfort

Adjusting the speed of your air conditioner's fan can do a lot to increase air movement throughout your home. However, if you're noticing inadequate airflow in some rooms in your home, a faulty fan may not be the culprit. Instead, you may be dealing with clogged ducts. Dust-clogged ducts can be a huge problem because they reduce airflow, meaning that your system has to run longer to change your home's temperature. An even bigger problem is that clogged ducts can cause the blower to exert too much air pressure on the sensitive components of your air conditioner, leading to a system failure. To ensure efficient HVAC performance, make sure that your ducts are clean.

Taking Care of Your Home's HVAC System

At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our goal is to help our customers get the most out of their HVAC systems. That's why we're proud to offer maintenance, repair, and installation services for air conditioners and furnaces. We also install water heaters, clean drains, detect and repair leaks, and much more. Since our founding, we have worked hard to maintain a high standard of excellence. This quest is reflected in our five-star customer reviews. Contact us today to learn more about maintaining and adjusting your HVAC system.

How to Flush Sediment Out of Your Water Heater Tank

Did you know that part of maintaining a water heater requires flushing its tank? If not, you may be wondering what’s involved in the process. Discover the steps of how to flush your water heater’s tank in a safe way. Also, find out some of the benefits of this maintenance task.

<h2>Materials Needed to Flush Your Water Heater Tank</h2>
You probably already have many of the materials necessary to flush your water heater. These materials include:

<ul>
<li>A bucket</li>
<li>A rubber hose</li>
<li>Work gloves</li>
</ul>
<h2>Step One: Turn Off the Power</h2>
The first step in the process of flushing your water heater is one of the most important. If your water heater operates on gas, turn its gauge to the pilot setting. If you have an electric water heater, shut off the electrical power to it. You do this by shutting off the appropriate circuit breaker in your breaker box. Shutting off the power to your water heater is a necessary safety precaution for this project.

<h2>Step Two: Turn on a Hot Water Faucet in Your Home</h2>
Turn on the hot water faucet in your bathroom sink. Turning on the hot water helps to remove the air bubbles from your water heater tank. This simple step can help it to fully drain. After a minute or so, turn the faucet off.

<h2>Step Three: Shut Off the Cold-Water Valve</h2>
The cold-water valve on a water heater is usually located at the top of the unit. It may have a label or even a blue handle designating it as the cold-water supply. Turn the valve to the off position.

<h2>Step Four: Secure a Hose to the Water Heater</h2>
The next step is to locate the spigot on your water heater and attach your hose to it. This spigot looks like one you’d find attached to an exterior wall of a home. You can use a traditional garden hose or invest in a shorter rubber hose, so you don’t have so much slack to deal with. Next, put the end of a hose in a bucket so your water can drain into it. 

If your water heater sits on a shelf several feet above the floor, gravity is going to help the water drain out. Alternatively, if your water heater sits on the floor in a basement or elsewhere, it may not be so quick to drain. Some water heaters require a pump to drain them. 

Once you attach the hose, several drips of water may come out of the spigot right away. So, it’s best to have the end of the hose inside your bucket before attaching the other end to the spigot.

<h2>Step Five: Begin Draining the Water Heater’s Tank</h2>
After attaching your hose to the spigot, turn the lever above it to open the valve. Make sure the bucket is secure on the floor, so it doesn’t fall over as the water goes into it.

Look at the water coming out. Is it mostly clear? If so, that’s a good sign. It means there’s not much sediment lingering in your water heater’s tank. However, if you see dark water with lots of sediment, your water heater may be having issues. If this is the case, it’s best to get the condition of your water heater evaluated by a qualified plumber. After draining all of the water out of your water heater tank, shut off the valve.

<h2>Step Six: Flush Out the System</h2>
Now, it’s time to flush the system with cold water. Reach up to turn on the cold-water valve. Cold water will move through the system loosening the remaining sediment. This part of the process is effective at loosening sediment on the bottom of the tank. 

Take five minutes or so to flush your water heater tank with cold water. Then, turn off the cold-water valve and open the valve attached to your hose. Of course, check to see if the end of your hose is still in the bucket. 

Is there still a lot of sediment in the water coming out of your tank? If so, you may need to repeat the process of flushing and draining the tank.

<h2>Detach the Hose and Turn On the Water Heater</h2>
After you finish draining your water heater tank for the last time, close the valve. Then, unhook the hose attached to the spigot. After turning on the cold-water valve, run the bathroom faucet again. Finally, turn on the gas or electrical power to your water heater. Watch your drain valve for a few minutes to ensure there are no drips.

<h2>Why Is It Necessary to Flush a Water Heater?</h2>
Seeing all of that sediment coming out of your tank is an illustration of the importance of flushing your water heater. When you start to accumulate layers of sediment in your tank, this debris prevents your water heater from working efficiently. Over time, layers of sediment can damage the structure of your water heater requiring you to replace it.

Some of the ways you can benefit from regularly flushing your water heater include:

<ul>
<li>Prolongs its life</li>
<li>Heats water more quickly</li>
<li>Reduces noise of the appliance</li>
</ul>
<h2>How Often Does It Need Flushing?</h2>
Generally, a water heater tank should be flushed once a year, but some water heater tanks need flushing more often than others. One way to determine how often to flush your water heater tank is to observe the amount of sediment coming out. If you have a lot of sediment appearing every time you flush the system, then you may need to flush it more often than once per year. Calling in a qualified plumber to evaluate your water heater is another way to determine how often it should be flushed.

<h2>Is It Necessary to Flush a Tankless Water Heater?</h2>
Yes. Though by definition, a tankless water heater has no tank, the system does need flushing. 

Flushing a tankless water heater is a little more complicated than flushing a tank water heater. Specifically, you need to use a pump as part of the process. If you don’t feel confident about flushing your own water heater, it’s a good idea to call in the professionals.

Providing expert water heater maintenance is something we’ve been doing at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Plainfield since 2008. Our plumbers have experience tending to both tank and tankless water heaters. We use the latest equipment to flush your water heater tank in a safe and efficient way. We dispose of the messy water and handle every step in the process, so you don’t have to!

Our family-owned company provides water heater repair and replacement along with toilet repairs, drain cleaning, and sewer line repair. We offer heating and cooling repairs and installation work as well. Contact TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Plainfield to schedule an appointment today!

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