Thinking of Living Off-Grid? 3 Heating & Cooling Tips for Homesteaders


More and more American families are choosing to live off-grid or at least adopt some of the practices of homesteaders in order to make a more positive impact on their environment. Even if you are not planning to live completely off the grid, these alternative heating and cooling options can help you reduce energy consumption and may even be able to help you save some money in the long run.

Tips for Off-Grid Heating and Cooling

Here are some tips for heating and cooling for those who want to live off-grid:

  1. Make sure that your home is well-insulated.

One of the most important first steps in transitioning to off-grid heating and cooling is making sure that your home is well-insulated. A significant amount of energy is wasted when poor insulation allows warm or cool air inside the home to escape. By checking that your home is well-insulated and fixes any problem areas, you can help increase energy efficiency.

It is important to note that this is vital for any homeowner, not just those who are living off-grid. Making sure that your home is well-insulated will help you reduce the amount of energy needed to heat your home in cooler months and cool it down during warmer seasons. If you have an older home with an attic, make sure that you check this insulation. Any cracks or leaks in doors and windows should also be sealed as these areas often let air escape.

  1. Harness the power of the sun.

Solar energy is not only great for producing electricity, but it can also be used to heat your home. With passive solar heating, you can heat your home by designing your property to allow sufficient amounts of sunlight in. This type of solar heating requires special modifications such as dark colored floors, many windows, and insulation. Active solar heating involves using solar collectors to heat water that is used to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the home.

There are also solar air conditioning options which allow you to harness the power of the sun in order to cool your home down. A DC air conditioner runs on solar power during the day and solar-powered battery by night. These air conditioners sometimes require a larger up-front investment. However, there is often a quick return on investment given that they do not use electricity to run.

  1. Heat your home the old-fashioned way.

One of the most common off-grid heating options is the use of fire. Throughout history, this has been one of the most popular heating methods because it is fairly simple and quick to implement. This is also one of the more cost-effective options for those who are not able to implement solar technology right away.

Though heating with fire can be effective, it can only cover so much of an area. Back when fire was the main source of heat, families would heat the main living areas, allowing the bedrooms to become heated through convection and using blankets and layers of clothing to keep warm during the night. If you want to heat the entire house, you would need to have a fireplace or wood-burning stove in each room of your home. Due to the fact that most homes do not have these accommodations, this off-grid heating option requires some lifestyle changes.

Do you want to find ways to save energy without going completely off-grid? We would love to talk to you about your energy efficient heating and cooling options. Give us a call today.

Radiant Floor Heating Systems

For many thousands of years, harkening back to the days of ancient Manchuria, Korea – even the Romans – in homes and villas across time, the favored method of providing heat has been radiant floor heating.

While not exactly a new method of heating new technology in providing that heat has made it safer, more convenient and much, much, safer.

Modern Radiant Floor Heating

In modern systems there are a few ways of installing them:

  • Inside concrete slabs as they’re poured
  • On top of the concrete, but underneath the floor covering
  • Directly underneath or on top of the wooden subfloor

Laying of the heating elements inside concrete is often the preferred method due to it being able to act as a heat sink, charged up during off-peak and slowly radiating heat in times of peak-power usage. However, if retrofitting radiant floor heating to a home, this not usually an option.

Installing the elements on top of the concrete foundation but underneath the floor covering of your choice, ideally ceramic tile, stone, or laminated wood, is the best option if you don’t want to bust out the jackhammers.

But what types of systems are available?

Available Floor Heating Systems

While hot air can still be used to heat a floor it is rarely done these days as it is terribly inefficient. There are two much more efficient, and by far more common, methods of heating floors:

  • Electric resistance
  • Hydronic

Electric heating is pretty much what it sounds like: using electricity to heat special wiring under the floors and transferring its heat to the floor. In houses without a capable boiler, or for homeowners only want the heated floors in one or two rooms, this is an economical solution. And while a whole house can be heated this way, it is usually not as efficient as they hydronic systems.

Using either hot water or a mixture of propylene glycol and water, hydronic systems make use of plastic tubing that loops under the floor like the electric wiring does, but requires a more involved setup. The tubing will need to be connected to the homes boiler and a pump used to circulate the water, which increases installation costs and complexity. However the system is sometimes as much as 30% more efficient than an electric system.

Electric floor heating provides a touch of luxury and helps to keep the house free of dust and allergens by not necessitating the circulation of hot air. If you would like to discuss your options for electric floor heating, then give us a call Amber Air Conditioning today!

Furnace Inspection Checklist

Inspecting a Furnace

Furnace inspections should be carried out at least once every two years and in the fall. Parts of the furnace are prone to wearing out and should be inspected thoroughly to ensure safe and efficient operation in the clients home.

  • The first step to inspection is to examine the furnace body itself for any signs of damage or corrosion. Assuming that there is no damage or corrosion you can then move on to inspecting the rest of the furnace.
  • Examine the flue pipe for damage and a tight fit.
  • The gas line should be in good shape and be free of any leaks. Use a gas detector to check for leaks around all connections on the gas line.
  • Next, remove the cover from the furnace and inspect the interior for signs of corrosion.
  • Examine all of the wiring and their connections. Replace any wiring that shows heat damage or insulation that is cracking.
  • Locate the burners and clean them if need be. They may have a small amount of corrosion on them and that’s acceptable. Heavy corrosion is not.
  • If the fan blades are covered in dust be sure to clean them as that can cause an imbalance at operating speed.
  • Start up the furnace and observe its operation. Starts and ignition should be smooth and complete. Are the belts or pulleys making noise? If so, adjust and lubricate htem as per operator’s manual or replace parts if need be.
  • Using a CO probe, examine both the heat exchanger and the flue pipe. When examining he heat exchanger, there should be no CO being registered on the meter. If there is, the heat exchanger is cracked. The levels of CO in the flue gasses is 25-50 ppm.
  • Examine all safety controls and ensure proper operation and check and calibrate the thermostat..
  • To help diagnose any potential issue, measure the voltage and amp draw.
  • Lastly, be sure to replace the air filter if it is needed and that the owner understands filter placement scheduling.

With regular maintenance a furnace will provide many years of efficient, worry-free operation. Be sure to follow the Amber Air Conditioning & Heating blog to learn how to properly maintain your HVAC equipment.

Tips to prevent Frozen Pipes this Winter

AmberAir-Feburary-2-25-2016Don’t let your pipes freeze and end up costing you more then pocket change. Take some steps to prevent this from happening, for additional help please feel free to call us ASAP!

3 Frequently Asked Questions On Water Heaters, Ventilation And Home Heating

Below are 3 frequently asked questions concerning home heating, ventilation and water heaters.

Question 1: Why Does My Heater Keep Shutting Off?

Your furnace is programmed to cycle on when your air is too cold. When it senses that the air is comfortable, the furnace will usually shut down. In most cases, you won’t even realize when this process is taking place. However, if your furnace is constantly turning on and off, this could indicate a problem that requires immediate attention. Before rushing to the phone to call a professional, try these troubleshooting tips.

Short cycling is the term used to refer to problems in your furnace that cause it to shut down unexpectedly. Short cycling can be cause by various factors such as; dirty or worn out air filters, improperly set or placed thermostat, corroded flame sensors, and presence of foreign objects in air vents and chimneys. Fixing these problems before contacting a technician can save you a lot of money and trouble.

Question 2: How are Heaters Rated?

Heaters, boilers and furnaces are rated using a thermal efficiency measure known as AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. Basically, the higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient the heater will be. For instance, if your heater comes with an 80% AFUE rating, this means it gives out 80 British Thermal Units (BTUs) of properly used heating for every 100 BTUs. The remaining 20 BTUs will usually be wasted heat. If you are to save money on energy cost, then going for higher ratings will be the best idea.

Question 3: Why is my Heat Pump Not Shutting Off?

It is quite normal for a heat pump to run continuously during extremely cold seasons. However, if the weather outside is warm, and your heat pump continues running, then this could indeed be an indication of a problem. Before calling a professional, you can try these troubleshooting tips; ensure the outdoor unit is operational, close all doors and windows, clean or replace the air filter, plug in the condensate pump, set the thermostat properly and check for tripped or turned off breakers. Feel free to call us to learn more about efficient heating, air conditioning and Water Heater options.

What Is The Difference Between A Furnace And A Heat Pump?

A heat pump generally refers to a device that is used to transfer heat in freezers, air conditioners and refrigerators among others. Mechanical energy is converted into thermal energy as a function of the heat pump in these machines. Refrigerants, which are fluids that are also used in the process, aid the heat pump to carry out this task. Carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbon are popular examples of these fluids.

Different machines have different output requirement and the heat pump functions to lower temperatures or heat atmosphere as required in each case. The only purpose of a furnace on the other hand, is to provide heating. A furnace does not provide cooling. Some examples of the several sources that the furnace uses to produce heat include wood, fuel oil, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), coal and oil. A furnace is often found to generate heat for boilers, kilns and ovens.

The heat pump is the better choice in the winter when compared to chimneys as the likelihood of choking is eliminated. In addition, built-in air purifier that comes with modern versions of heat pumps increase the opportunity for users to breathe in fresh air. A great feature of the heat pump is that it is practical yet does not require a lot of space. They can maintain their usefulness for a very long time and is generally the least costly of heating devices. There are also options of eco-friendly heat pumps available.

A furnace will require more space than the heat pump as it uses other components such as blowers, burners and thermostat. However, the furnace is quite handy and makes use of a variety of sources such as coal, electricity, wood, gas or oil to provide heat. In addition, burners and blowers serve to increase the lifespan of the furnace. A digital system accompany modern thermostat which increases its ability of efficiently controlling temperatures. This in turn serves to significantly cut cost on fuel and electricity bills.

As outlined, the benefits of the heat pump tend to outweigh those of a furnace.

Call us for all your air conditioning and heating system needs.

Furnace Warning Signs Mean It’s Time For Professional HVAC Service

Many homeowners are concerned about the performance of their furnace. They know that a furnace that isn’t operating properly can be both dangerous as well as expensive. A poorly functioning furnace is not energy efficient, which leads to higher heating costs and expensive repair bills. Fortunately, some easy furnace warning signs can help you determine if your furnace needs professional repairs. Additionally, an annual furnace inspection is an excellent way to ensure your furnace gets the maintenance and service it needs in order to continue functioning at its best.

A common problem many homeowners face is a furnace that just isn’t able to keep their home warm. You might notice the furnace turning on and off, but there is never enough heat to keep your home comfortable. The problem is likely caused by a faulty thermostat in your furnace. A HVAC contractor will be able to replace the thermostat and leave your furnace operating efficiently.

Another rather common problem with a gas furnace is an improper mix of gas and oxygen. This can be an extremely dangerous situation and one that should be addressed immediately. If you notice the flame in your furnace burning orange or yellow, a heating technician should be called in immediately. A flame with the right mixture will burn blue and steady.

A furnace requires sufficient air flow in order to bring in fresh air and move out the heated air into your home. Air comes into your heating system through intake vents and passes through the air ducts to return to various rooms in your home; however, if vents are blocked or there is something in your duct system, obstructed airflow could create a situation where your furnace has to work harder than necessary. This can lead to mechanical breakdowns, overheating the system or poor performance. Dirty air filters can also obstruct the necessary airflow and should be replaced on a regular basis.

Keeping your furnace working at its best requires annual maintenance and a professional furnace inspection. When you need furnace or heating system repairs or service, be sure to call your local HVAC contractor.

From Belts To Filters: A Heating System Checklist For Winter Safety

The gas furnace is designed to be a low-maintenance piece of equipment. However, this does not mean that homeowners should simply set and forget. It still requires some attention to ensure safety and reliability for years to come. Periodic maintenance must be conducted each year by a licensed and certified technician, like Amber Air Conditioning of Lake Elsinore, CA. It is not wise to try to save a few dollars by going DIY on this procedure as only trained experts truly understand the complexities of a heating system. Ordinary people may miss signs of impending failure. Technicians can spot problems at once and make the necessary repairs.

The first step is to turn the power off so that the internal components can be checked without danger. This can be bothersome during the height of winter which is why inspections should be done prior to the season. Of course, it is better late than never. If the chill has already set in, then the appointment can be arranged at a convenient time when there are few people at home. The whole procedure should last about an hour or more depending on the system configuration and issues encountered. Technicians charge for their time and add the cost of the parts that need replacement.

The gas valve will also be closed for the duration of the maintenance check. Technicians will then work systematically to clean up the furnace from the inside out. Dirt and dust naturally builds up around the unit over time. These can interfere with the normal operations if ignore so they will make the area spotless and dirt-free. They will then inspect the wires for any rust and signs of wear. The controls will be analyzed. The furnace components will not escape thorough scrutiny. If any of them are found to be defective, then they may be replaced on the spot since parts are available inside the service vehicle.

Priority will be given to the built-in safety mechanisms. These deserve particular attention as any malfunction could lead to dire consequences. Technicians will see to it that each is functioning properly and that vital signs like gas pressure are within an acceptable range. Others that will have to be scrutinized include the air filter, which could become clogged with dirt; the belt tension, as it may get stretched and come loose; and the fan belt, which can exhibit cracks.

Every heating zone will have a thermocouple. This component is responsible for creating the desired increase in temperature. Technicians will see to it that the connections are working and producing adequate voltage. Another is the thermostat contacts. If these are faulty, then the boiler will not react to the thermostat setting so the heat produced by the system may not be appropriate. Responsiveness may also be improved by using a new set of thermostat batteries.

How To Save Money On Heating Cost This Winter

The number one priority of any homeowner is to make sure that the entire family is safe, secure and comfortable. Running a household is not the easiest thing and this job is usually left to the mothers. Buying groceries, organizing schedules of school activities and even making sure that all the cooling and heating systems are functioning well are just some of the responsibilities that fall into the hands of mothers. With winter fast approaching, one of their top priorities is to make sure that the HVAC systems are all in place.

Studies show that the number one reason for increasing energy bills during the winter season is malfunctioning heating systems. So how can mothers and homeowners reduce energy cost?

Tips on saving money on heating this winter

1.) Make sure that your heating system is functioning properly.
The best time to have heater maintenance check is towards the middle of fall. Call your professional HVAC service so they can do a thorough check on your system. A heater that continuously breaks down will not only cause you stress you might also end up spending more on it. If your heating service provider suggests that it is time to do a new heater installation, the best thing to do is to heed their advice. Replacing your heater with a new one might feel heavy on the pocket at first but you will end up saving a lot more in the long run.

2.) Lower down the heat at night.
During the evening it tends to get a lot colder. When everybody is about to go to bed just make sure to put heavier blankets around each of your children to keep them warm and cozy.

3.) Insulate your windows and doors.
It is highly important for you to keep the heat indoors during the winter season. You can do this by applying weather stripping on your windows and doors in order to prevent heat and air infiltration. Another suggestion would be to fill the cracks on your windows with caulk that contains silicon. This will help assure you that cold air will not infiltrate through your windows.

4.) Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
The air inside your house tends to become very dry. It is better to have moist air because they hold heat better making you and your family feel more comfortable without turning up the heating system.

5.) Use a programmable thermostat.

Make sure to set your thermostat at a lower temperature at night and during the day when nobody is at home. Experts in energy show that lowering your thermostat by at least ten degrees can help reduce your energy bill by at 10 to 20 percent.

6.) Run your fans in reverse.
There are a lot of ceiling fans that produce warmer air when they are switched to reverse. The air that gathers in the ceiling is circulated back down to your living room thereby cutting your heating cost.

Preventing Winter Headaches: How To Keep Your Heater In Good Condition

Now that the cold season is back, you probably love using your heater all the time. Having a heating system at home is definitely better than manually chopping wood and creating fire to keep you warm. Heaters can give you and your folks a good night’s sleep on a winter night and a warm morning on a snowy day. On the other hand, not all people realize the importance of their heaters and forget that they too are subject to wear and tear. It can be a big hassle to have a broken heater during cold season. For this, it is necessary to keep some things in mind to ensure that your heater works well.

Routine Heating Maintenance

Even if your heater is in good condition, it is necessary to conduct regular maintenance to ensure that your machine works fine during the cold season. Some of the things that you can check are the thermostat, wiring, connections and vents. The thermostat needs to start up and shut down when set to a specific temperature. You can check if your thermostat is accurate by cleaning the air vents regularly. Wiring and connections should also be free from cuts and other damages that can cause malfunction or burns.

Preseason Heater Check

Summer is the best time to check your heater. During this season, you can do as much maintenance as you want so you need to maximize your time to ensure that all goes well during winter. If you do not have experience when it comes to heaters and coolers, you can hire a HVAC technician to have a look at your heater. Some home owners have heating and cooling machines in one, which needs more attention and knowledge. A technician can tell you if there is something that needs to be replaced or repaired before problems escalate during the cold season.

Inspection and Tuneup of Your Heating System

If you are experiencing problems with you heating system, you can call a technician to inspect and tune it up. Make sure that you only consult professionals to have your heating system checked before winter. By doing so, you can be free from worries since some people who offer HVAC repairs are not knowledgeable enough when it comes to complicated machine problems. You can ask for certificates or go to well-known HVAC repair companies to ensure that your heater is in good hands. After all, you would not want your unit to have more problems when handled by uncertified technicians. As you follow these steps, you are sure to have a well-functioning heater during winter.