Ease your winter heating bill with a call to your plumbing and heating contractor - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Ease your winter heating bill with a call to your plumbing and heating contractor

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(ARA) - Winter will soon bring plenty of cold and snowy weather. Families will turn up the thermostat, add an extra blanket to the beds, and hit the local home improvement store for needed supplies to seal windows and doors.

Unfortunately most won't call their local plumbing and heating contractor. While homeowners annually dread seeing those winter utility bills roll in, they don't give their heating system much thought until it needs to be repaired or replaced.

Annual preventative maintenance is always better than dealing with the alternative. One "no heat" call can cost you $300 or more, just to diagnose a problem and if your boiler or furnace has out-lived its warranty, you'll be responsible for the full cost of parts and labor.

"When we do annual maintenance, we clean and inspect the boiler and perform a combustion test to ensure the boiler is operating properly and safely," says Chris Bodek of Bodek Incorporated, Plumbing Heating and Air Conditioning of Johnson City, N.Y.

If your contractor determines that your boiler or furnace needs to be replaced, they will do a heat loss and sizing calculation to determine the size (BTU's) required to heat your home. Your contractor should be able to provide a good, better and best equipment choice to suit your budget and desired efficiency level. Be sure to use a reputable contractor and ask for references.

When you weigh costs, understand that your investment goes well beyond the initial cost of the system. Your old low efficiency heating system could have an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) of 70 percent. That means 70 percent of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and the other 30 percent escapes up the chimney and elsewhere. With the old inefficient heating equipment you have, you could be throwing away up to 30 percent of the money you spend on fuel each year.

If you're in a replacement or new build situation, the Dunkirk Helix VLT Stainless Steel Condensing boiler is rated with a 96 percent AFUE. Homeowners may be interested in the fact that this boiler is lightweight and wall-mounted, which can help prevent it from becoming damaged in case of flooding in the basement like so many East Coast homeowners experienced during Tropical Storm Irene in August. Also, if children or pets play in the basement or utility room, a wall mount boiler frees up valuable floor space and eases ground level safety concerns.

High efficiency condensing boilers entered the U.S. home heating market in the last 15 years and have steadily gained in popularity. The heart of any boiler is the heat exchanger, much like a motor is to a car, and it is what provides a boiler's efficiency. Unlike every other manufacturer, Dunkirk has designed and built boilers and heat exchangers here in the U.S. Dunkirk's newest high efficiency boiler, the Helix VLT, is the result of American ingenuity in the form of an innovative vertical laser tube stainless steel heat exchanger design which maximizes heat transfer from the heat exchanger to the boiler water.

Condensing boilers are sealed combustion boilers, which means they rely on air from the outdoors for combustion versus taking air from inside the home which can cause drafts and waste energy.

A built-in outdoor reset is another fuel economizing feature. An outdoor temperature reset is a sensor that modulates the temperature of the boiler water based on seasonal conditions. In doing so, the boiler uses less fuel to heat the home during mild weather.

A boiler with an efficiency of 96 percent, which includes sealed combustion and outdoor temperature reset, can save the homeowner up to 40 percent in annual heating costs.

Whatever your home heating situation, do your homework and turn to a professional plumbing and heating contractor for information. Your home heating system can be uniquely tailored to meet the needs of your home, your lifestyle and your budget.