Hot Box History

Are you sitting in your home or office, shivering, waiting for summer to return so that you can stop cursing your faulty thermostat under your frosted breath? Do you hate wrapping yourself up like a burrito and trying to type with gloves on every day? Sometimes the struggle is just too real. Now imagine a time where heating was a concept only dreamed of. Imagine rubbing two sticks together to survive. Over the years, humans had to become inventive in order to combat the frigid weather. This is where radiators, as we know them today, come in. Let us start from the beginning, with a look at primal heating techniques.

Hearth Heating

When we think of building fires today, we think of camping and getting back to nature. We do not necessarily think of heat as a means of survival. For the Neanderthals, building hearths was imperative for eating and staying alive. However, these hearths brought with them their own dangers due to the sparks being created. These sparks could easily fly up and ignite the vegetation present in the caves.

Roman Hypocausts & Bronze Age Ondol

Many years later, the Romans and Koreans began simultaneously experimenting with an early form of central heating. A Roman engineer by the name of Sergius Orata invented hypocausts, which circulated hot air and smoke generated by furnace flames underneath home floorboards. The Ondol from Korea used a similar, albeit more efficient system, that directed the heat more quickly throughout the house.

Benjamin Franklin

In 1741, Benjamin Franklin further improved these methods by lining his fireplace with metal and creating a hollow baffle with a duct attached. This duct led to an upside down tube-like structure, which directed furnace fumes up and restricted where the fumes could travel, forcing them to take a longer route. The metal lining conducted the heat more readily and the longer travel path meant that fumes were circulating longer, heating the home for an extended period of time before they escaped.

Industrial Steam Heating

Later in the 18th century, two Englishmen by the names of Matthew Boulton and James Watt, understanding the importance of materials used, began experimenting with soldered copper sheeting to steam heat mills and factories in England. A few decades later, in the USA, high pressure steam engines were used to heat prominent buildings like the White House and the Capitol Building.

Residential Steam Heating

It was not until 1854, when stone maker, Stephen Gold, created the “mattress radiator,” that radiators became a residential commercial success. He addressed concerns regarding steam heaters being too complicated and unsafe, by creating a patent that mitigated a lot of the danger created by earlier models. Essentially, he riveted two indented sheets of iron together, allowing for a safe passage of hot air to circulate within.

Franz San Galli

Although it is widely disputed as to who actually invented the first radiator, Polish-born Russian businessman, Franz San Galli, is credited for its creation. In the midst of the harsh temperatures of St. Petersburg, Russia during the mid 19th century, Franz invented what he dubbed as the “hotbox.” This invention transformed the world of central heating we know today. Hooray for no more bulky bear skin fur coats!

Radiators Today

The use of radiators is still alive today, as the ornate Victorian style and metalwork is gaining in popularity. It is seen re-emerging in modern interior decor designs across the world. Talk about a blast from the past! Do you have a radiator that isn’t working to its full capacity? Are you moving and thinking about what HVAC system would be most suitable for your home? Contact us —we have the answers and professional services you need to get the job done right!

6 Furnace Fail Warning Signs

When it comes to HVAC systems, the changing weather of autumn can bring some unexpected problems. At the first sign of chilly fall winds, homeowners find themselves turning on furnaces that haven’t been used for several months. Have you ever turned on your furnace to discover that it’s not heating your home the way you expected? There are a few potential reasons why your furnace could be failing you:

Older Unit

Your furnace could simply be running on its last legs. Have you moved into an older home recently, or simply haven’t replaced your furnace in a while? It may be time to do so. Furnaces usually only last between 15-20 years, so if you are not feeling the warmth, your furnace may be telling you it’s time for an upgrade. You can check information about its age on the serial label posted on your furnace.

Cold Air Flow

Cold air flowing through your furnace could be another warning signthat your system is due for a revamp. If you find cold spots in your home, it’s time to contact a professional, as your blower fan may be malfunctioning!

Yellow Pilot Light

Behind the front panel of your furnace, you can find your pilot light. Check the colour; is it yellow? If so, this could be a sign that your heat exchange is leaking carbon monoxide, which poses a huge risk for you and your family. Seek professional service immediately, if there’s any potential for a carbon monoxide leak. Just remember, BLUE means GO, YELLOW means Oh NO!

Unusual Noises

Although furnaces do tend to generate sounds when running, pay attention to any sound that’s out of the ordinary for your furnace. In particular loud and high pitched pops and squeaks could indicate that there is something loose in your unit.

Dust

Finding an unusual amount of dust buildup in your furnace could mean that your furnace is not able to clean your air properly. If you are experiencing this issue, call one of our technicians for assistance – your family will be happy you did!  

Increased Heating Bill

Are you experiencing a spike in your heating bill lately? Inspect your furnace to ensure that all of the above furnace fail signs are not occurring. No matter what the problem with your furnace might be, we can find it!  Contact us to reach one of our friendly, experienced technicians.

Duct Discoveries: Surprising Finds and How to Safeguard Your Home

Have you ever been confused and frustrated by the lack of airflow in your house, despite your gruesomely high energy bills? Or, have you experienced foul, unexplainable odors in your home? There may be a reason… and it may not have crossed your mind before. HVAC contractors across the country have the distinct pleasure of adding “treasure hunters” to their list of credentials due to the discoveries they sometimes uncover while on the job. You may be surprised to learn that dirt, dust, and grime are not the only things that can be found hiding in your ducts.

For instance, one contractor from Miami, Florida, reported finding an array of peculiar items throughout his career. This included recreational drugs and other contraband, remnants of food and beverage wrappers, and even human feces! Was it a nightwalking mishap, a messy party foul, or a toddler that just didn’t know any better? Your guess is as good as ours…

Several contractors living locally and abroad have reported finding dead critters and other animals; including, cats, mice, a tarantula, an iguana, and even a small fox and possum. Can you imagine the stench of decay wafting throughout your home? It is what nightmares are made of.

Some of the strangest items found in heating and cooling ducts were reported by contractors in both Scarborough, Toronto and the UK. When a family complained about the lack of airflow being generated from their HVAC units, the contractors they hired discovered the unusual reason for this blockage. Hidden in their ducts they found a total of 45 VHS tapes and 19 books. It was discovered that their child had been safeguarding his treasures for some time.

In the UK, a construction company was hired to work on a house. Little did they know they would experience a spooky awakening when they discovered a vintage Ouija board stuffed into the home’s heating vent!

Although most of these duct discoveries are not common findings, it serves as an important reminder: have your ducts inspected and serviced regularly! This will improve the quality of air you breathe, will reduce the energy your home consumes and helps you save money in the long run. Afterglow can help give you the peace of mind you need. Contact us today.

FALL ALLERGIES: What They Are & How to Cope

The end of summer often brings those pesky fall allergens that we detest. They pollute the air that we breathe, causing irritating symptoms like a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, dark under-eye circles, and itchy sinuses. These symptoms can last from mid-August well into October, so it is very important to understand what allergies are prevalent in the fall months so that we can reduce their strain.

RAGWEED

The worst fall allergy culprit is ragweed. The pollen from this invasive plant can travel airborne for hundreds of miles, and the dryer the air, the higher the concentration of pollen. Roughly 75% of people with spring allergies also suffer from reactions to ragweed in the fall due to the change in temperatures and winds. Symptoms from ragweed allergies peak at midday when many people are at work, and can be incredibly disruptive to your health!

MOLD

Mold is another trigger for allergic reactions in the fall months, and thrives in moist environments both outdoors and indoors. Keep an eye on damp areas of your home like the washroom, kitchen, or basement to make sure no mold is developing. Damp walls, leaky foundations, improper insulation and carpeting all provide the perfect breeding ground for musty mold.

DUST MITES

Dust mites prefer warm, damp climates; however, that does not stop them from thriving well into the fall. Turning on your furnace can stir up dust into the air, propelling dust mites into the sinuses and causing the allergic reactions suffers dread most.

HOW TO COPE WITH FALL ALLERGIES

TIP #1: Dusting and Duct Cleaning

If you are allergic to dust mites, ensure that you thoroughly dust your home. If your nose is especially sensitive, wear a mask to protect your sinuses as you clean. Since dust likes to settle on every surface, including clothes and bed sheets, ensure that you wash these items in hot water (at least 130 degrees) and dry them in the dryer. Avoid hanging these items to dry because the moisture present is enough to attract ragweed, mites, and mold. Dust often settles in house ducts, so it is also important to inspect and clean your ducts periodically to limit allergic reactions created from dust and mold.

TIP #2: High-Quality HVAC Systems

Dehumidifiers – Depending on the air quality and temperature in your home, using a dehumidifier can drastically improve the air you breathe, eliminating the pesky allergens found travelling in the air. Dehumidifiers will be your best friend in the fall because they work to extract moisture from the air where mold, dust mites, and ragweed thrive.

Air Cleaners and Filters – Find a purifying filter that is right for you. HEPA air filters in particular are fantastic for trapping tiny particles that make their way into the air. Cleaning and filtering the air you breathe in your home is essential for keeping allergies at bay.

TIP #3: Scheduled Maintenance Appointments
Sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to determine the best options for your home when it comes to eliminating pollutants such as ragweed, dust, and mold. Take the stress out of your day by getting advice from the experts. Schedule a regular maintenance appointments with Afterglow today.

Enjoying the Summer, KW style

As the A/C specialists in Waterloo Region, we think that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with staying inside where it’s cool and comfortable. However, there’s so much to experience in Waterloo Region during the summer months that it would be a shame to miss out. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our favourite events… and encourage you to #getoutside throughout July and August.

The Sun Life Financial Uptown Waterloo Jazz Fest – July 21st – 23rd

The Uptown Waterloo Jazz Fest is back, and it has something for every age. There’s live music, workshops, kids’ events and much more to explore during the festival that runs from July 21st – 23rd. The festival is celebrating 25 years with a stellar line-up, including Canadian all-star singer Matt Dusk. The annual three-day event typically draws a crowd of over 35,000 people, and thanks to Uptown Waterloo Businesess, parking is free uptown after 4:00PM on Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday…which is music to our ears!

Cambridge Arts Festival – July 22nd

Get creative with the whole family with this interactive festival on Saturday July 22nd at Cambridge City Hall. There’s an outdoor arts and crafts zone for kids, an artist street market, live art installations and local talent taking to the music stage. The festival combines art and technology with the opportunity to see Cambridge’s Maker Lab with interactive booths and displays from 3D printers. Also on the agenda: robot battles, a must-attend event.

TD Kitchener Blues Festival – August 10th-13th

Don’t miss the Kitchener Blues Festival, which runs from August 10th-13th in the downtown core. It’s one of the country’s largest free blues fests and kicks off Thursday August 10th with a ticketed fundraiser concert that features The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer followed by THE SHEEPDOGS. There are a number of free shows running on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as well as various workshops and a pancake breakfast – enjoy!

Waterloo Busker Carnival – August 24th – 27th

Cue the circus music…now! The carnival-like atmosphere, combined with live performers and delicious food is the perfect way to spend an afternoon, or four days, in Waterloo. The event dates back to 1989 and is now considered one of the premier carnivals around the world, attracting nearly 80-thousand people annually. This year boasts eight brand new acts that have never before seen in Waterloo Region. This free event runs from August 24th – 27th.

St Jacob’s Farmer’s Market – Thursday and Saturday (7AM-3:30PM) Tuesday Summer Market until August 29th (8AM-3PM)

While this is available year-round, shopping for farm fresh produce outside in the sunlight just can’t be beat. Enjoy sweet fritters or a hot pretzel as you roam through the stalls teeming with colourful fruits and vegetables, just waiting to be grilled on the BBQ next to that juicy steak. Take a minute to listen to the original songs by buskers and enjoy the sights and sounds of the friendly farmyard animals. St Jacob’s also offers horse–drawn tours, a kiddies’ fun track and entertainment at St Jacobs Country Playhouse.

So whether you’re spending your time canoeing on the grand, or taking a dip in one of the region’s many public pools, we hope you have a safe summer! #getoutside and enjoy yourself… and get in touch with Afterglow if you’re looking to beat the heat with central, ductless or rooftop air conditioning.

Spend Less: Energy & Money

As the hot weather begins, you’ve probably started to think about how to keep cool this summer. At Afterglow, we can help you increase efficiency and get the most from your AC unit throughout the summer months. Follow these easy tips to stay cool:

Avoid Using Heat-Generating Appliances

Appliances such as ovens and dryers create additional heat, so try to limit their use, especially during those hot summer days. Why not relax outside as you cook dinner on the BBQ or use the warm air to your advantage by hanging your clothes out to dry? Avoiding large household appliances goes a long way in maximizing the effectiveness of your AC.

Weather-Proof Your Home

Is your home still hot, even with the AC on full blast? That could mean that you have air leaks by your windows or doors. It may also mean further insulation is required. We’re always surprised by just how many older (and even newer houses) haven’t been properly weather-proofed.

Use Blinds to Block Heat

Leaving your blinds covered over the windows isn’t just a good way to save yourself from the sun, it’s also an easy way to keep your house cool when you’re not home. By leaving your blinds down, you’re helping to save on precious energy.

Keep It Cool

Baking in the sun is a great beach activity, but not for an AC unit. Place it in the shade so it has an easier time intaking the warm air from your home – and exporting it back as cool air. Keeping your unit cool means keeping you cool too. It’s also a great excuse to get out and get some gardening done; trees and shrubs can provide much needed cover from the blistering sunlight.

Place Your Thermostat Properly

If your thermostat happens to be placed in direct sunlight, near windows/doors or even in the kitchen you may be getting incorrect readings. Your thermostat should be placed in the direct centre of your house (or as close as it can be) to avoid other elements from influencing the temperature that it’s reading.

Invest in Energy Efficient Units

Investing in a new AC unit can not only save you cooling costs over time, it can also maximize the performance upgrade that it offers. If your AC isn’t aging gracefully, it could be time to retire it for a newer model. Check out our previous blog on Energy Star rated HVAC products for more info, or call an Afterglow technician.

Whether it needs to be cleaned, inspected, upgraded or tuned, we’re available 24/7 and have an emergency response time of four hours in Kitchener Waterloo. Afterglow has been serving the region for over 20 years and we are experts in: air conditioners, air ventilation, boilers, water heaters, radiators and furnaces. Contact us now to get a quote!

Beat The Heat: Go Ductless This Summer

It’s (almost) that time of year again, so make sure you’re ready to beat the heat by choosing an air conditioning system that works for your home. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution and we’re here to help you make the right decision for your lifestyle.

No ducts in your home? No problem! Ductless air conditioners are suitable for homes with boilers, additions or attic spaces that can’t be properly cooled by a central system. Rather than going through the hassle of expanding or installing new ductwork, a ductless system can help you save on money, space and energy.

Go Ductless Now – Top FOUR Reasons Why:

  • Ductless air conditioners are more energy-efficient than other cooling options. While central air conditioning can lose up to 30% of the cooled air in the ductwork, ductless air ensures you get everything you’re paying for.

  • Ductless systems have a reverse pump that also creates heat so it can be used to both heat and cool your home. A win-win situation for everyone, all year round.

  • You can install the indoor part of the ductless system anywhere you want. They’re compact and easy to store, both inside and out. You’re the boss of your cooling system and you decide where it goes!

  • You are the master of your domain and can set a different temperature in different rooms. No more arguing with your cold-blooded family members… or your mother-in-law, who’s always running slightly warmer than average.


The installation process is simple and requires only a small hole to link the inside and outside units together. Contact Afterglow to meet with one of our experienced HVAC technicians, and be guaranteed an efficiently installed ductless system. We also provide maintenance services for ductless and central AC systems so you can stay cool this summer.

Radiant Floor Heating: Now What?

In-floor heating, also known as radiant floor heating, is a method of heating your home that provides heat through the floors, wall panels, and ceilings of your home. Not only is radiant floor heating more energy-efficient than many other forms of indoor climate control, but it can also be an excellent alternative to other types of forced air heating for those with allergies. If you have radiant floor heating in your home, do you know how to maintain the system and preserve its longevity? If you’re considering a home with radiant floor heating, here are some tips for maintaining your system. When radiant floor systems are well-maintained, they rarely experience breakdowns, and are a fairly hassle-free heating system.

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Pump Maintenance

Radiant floor heating relies on your pump being in good condition, and problems with pumps should be fairly infrequent if maintained properly. However, one sign that the pump may need an HVAC technician’s inspection is if it begins to make noise, as pumps generally operate silently. Keep in mind that equipment more than a few years old may operate at a louder noise level than new pumps. Get acquainted with what your pump sounds like when it’s healthy, so that you can quickly detect changes.

Afterglow offers a yearly maintenance package to keep pumps functioning in peak condition, and if you stay on top of maintenance, you shouldn’t encounter any problems with your radiant floor pump. However, if you do encounter a problem, our technicians at Afterglow are experienced, and can provide service in any emergency.

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Leaks

Radiant floor heating is meant to be a closed system, meaning that leaks should be rare. The best way to prevent leaks is to have an HVAC technician inspect your radiant floor system and make sure it’s functioning at optimal pressure. Low pressure can indicate a leak somewhere in the pipe system, which may not be disastrous at first, but will mean that the system isn’t functioning as efficiently as possible over time. Radiant floor heating can operate 25-40% more efficiently than other heating systems, but these efficiencies won’t be realized if a leak exists somewhere in the system.

We’re always here for you at Afterglow, whether you need routine maintenance or whether you’re facing an HVAC emergency! We offer a four-hour emergency response time, and our certified HVAC technicians are always happy to provide service for all your heating and cooling needs.

Cut Costs by Shrinking Your Carbon Footprint

As most of us know, your “carbon footprint” is a way of measuring how much your daily activities and consumption of energy affect the environment. Since your carbon footprint is calculated in part according to how much energy you use,  when you start to consider the health of the environment by shrinking your carbon footprint, you also end up saving money! Here are our top tips.

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  1. Use a carbon footprint calculator to pinpoint where you can improve:
    Find out which areas of your life (whether it’s gas mileage, electricity use, or your food consumption) are contributing to your carbon footprint. Awareness of your energy usage is the first step to shrinking your carbon footprint, as we often forget that many of our daily activities have an impact on both environment and our own expenses.EcoBee
  2. Control your temperature and energy usage with a programmable thermostat:
    During cold weather, use a programmable thermostat to lower your home’s set temperature at night and during times of the day that you won’t be home. Lowering your set temperature by as little as 2 degrees can add up to huge savings.air filters
  3. Change your HVAC filter regularly:
    Did you know that regularly changing your HVAC air filter can reduce your energy usage by 5-10%? When you don’t change your HVAC’s air filter on a regular basis, the system has to work harder because airflow is restricted. Eliminate wasted energy by getting the filter changed once a month.o
  4. Find a reliable HVAC technician:
    Asking your technician to perform regular maintenance on your HVAC unit, before there’s a problem, can save you tons of money in wasted energy. A technician can inspect and seal your heating and cooling ducts, which can increase your HVAC’s efficiency by up to 20%, and technicians can also perform any necessary maintenance or upgrades that your unit might need.

At Afterglow, our technicians are here to help you get the most of your HVAC unit. We want to keep your HVAC equipment running optimally, so we can all work together to decrease our carbon footprints and keep our costs down. 

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