5 Things to Look at When Buying a House

Buying a house can be stressful. With so many things to consider, it’s hard to know what to prioritize. Aesthetics are important, but don’t let the look of your prospective home overshadow the more vital structural elements. Faulty or outdated electrical components can quickly turn your new home into a headache as you try and bring it up to code and make it safe.

Do you know what to look for when prospecting? Here is a handy list of the top 5 HVAC-related things to look for when buying a home.

Electrical Panel

The electrical panel is one of the most integral parts of the home. It’s important to thoroughly check the electrical panel before buying a home to avoid paying thousands of dollars in unexpected costs.

Many older homes have undersized electrical panels, meaning that the number of amps is too low to accommodate modern demands. The electrical current should be between 100-200 amps in order to heat the home properly and for a home to be considered safe.

Make sure to inspect inside the electrical panel as well before taking the leap into home ownership. It’s a key safety feature when it comes to the electrical current running through your home, so you want to be sure it’s up to the job. Newer homes generally have a circuit breaker installed, but some older homes may still use a fuse box. A circuit breaker is the preferred option as circuits can be reset if they trip because too much current passes through them. But if a fuse blows in a furnace’s fuse box, the fuse will have to be replaced each time and could leave you without heat at an inopportune time. An outdated or faulty fuse box will need to be replaced before it begins to cause you problems.

Proximity to Hospitals

When it comes to the electricity that is supplied to a house, location is everything. Living in close proximity to a hospital is not just beneficial during a health emergency, it is also helpful in the event of an electrical scare as well. When power outages occur, emergency services such as hospitals are the first to get their power back, followed by surrounding areas. For those of you who desperately rely on power, living close to a hospital can help ensure that you are next in line to get your power restored and your HVAC systems back online.

GFCI Outlets

Ground fault circuit interrupter outlets (GFCI) protect people against electrical shocks produced from an electrical system. These are used where water and high concentrations of electricity are present (primarily kitchens, bathrooms and occasionally outdoors). It is important to ensure these outlets are used in these areas of your home to ensure you and your family are safe. If GFCIs are not properly installed, it may be a good indication that there are other electrical or HVAC violations within the home.

Number of Outlets and Extension Cord Use

Placement of electrical outlets is something to consider when looking to buy a home. Outlets are one of the most overlooked features in a home, yet one of the most important. You may be sketching out your dream floor plan only to realize outlets aren’t properly placed to execute your vision. Skip the headache — remember to look at the location and number of outlets before making an offer. Otherwise, you may end up with extension cords snaking around your home to make things work.

Under no circumstances should you connect extension cords to air conditioner units or heaters with fans! Doing so can easily cause the HVAC units to overheat, leading to a hazardous fire.

You should also take note of whether the outlets are two-pronged or three-pronged. While most homes now have the three-prong outlet needed to power up your many devices and appliances, older homes may still have two-prong outlets. These will need to be upgraded to accommodate increased power requirements.

Wiring

Wiring is another large component (and potentially expensive upgrade) of any home. If it’s not up to code it is potentially dangerous. Look out for knob-and-tube wiring when prospecting a home. Usually visible within the basement, knob-and-tube wiring runs through porcelain tubes designed to keep the wires secure. You will also notice that unlike today’s plastic insulated wiring, knob-and-tube wiring is insulated with rubber.

This kind of wiring doesn’t have a ground wire, so is often indicated by two-prong outlets throughout the home. Why does grounding matter? It protects your home and everyone in it from surges of electricity, decreasing the risk of experiencing an electrical shock or fire. If the power were to surge at your home for whatever reason, a non-grounded system cannot handle this increase in voltage and may cause harm.

When looking at a potential home, it’s important to keep an eye out for any of the key issues outlined above. If you do encounter one or more of these problem points, see if you can negotiate and come up with a mutually beneficial solution.

Finding a professional inspector to accurately identify any issues present is key! If you would like to know more about electrical safety, visit Electrical Safety Authority. For all other HVAC related issues — or if you’d like to maintain the services in your new home — contact us!

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!

Is it Time to Replace Your Furnace? Here are the Warning Signs

Yes, it’s that time of year, for some it is the dreaded heating season. The leaves have fallen, the days are shorter and the cold weather is setting in.

As winter fast approaches, now is the time to ensure that your furnace will get you through the season, keeping you nice and toasty! That is why we have put together a list to help determine if it is time for some tune-ups or a new furnace.

Time for a new Furnace

Your Furnace is 16-20 Years Old

Fun fact: The average life expectancy of a central furnace is 16-20 years. If your furnace is close to this age or older, you should start shopping. Even if it is working, it is likely not operating at maximum efficiency and your electricity bills are probably at all time! That’s no good.

Your Maintenance Bills are Increasing

Furnaces are like any piece of technology, as they age they will need more maintenance. If your furnace is older and you have a repair costing more than 15% of a new furnace, you should go ahead and replace it. Why? Because it is more likely to break down again.

It is also important to note whether you had to wait to get replacement parts. As a furnace ages, it gets harder and harder to get replacement parts.

Your Furnace is Noisy

Loud furnace noises come for all kinds of reasons. Furnaces tend to make some noise when they turn on and off, but if those noises start to get louder, it may be time to replace your unit. These sounds may come in the form of whistling, rattling, popping, banging, humming or screeching. This could be a telltale sign your furnace is nearing the end of its life or that some of its may need to be replaced.

If you think it’s time to replace your furnace, contact Afterglow. Our technicians are trained and have experience with every residential furnace make and model in the Waterloo Region. Our expertise will help you make an informed decision and keep you warm throughout a harsh Canadian winter.

Also, if you know someone who needs a new furnace nominate them for our Furnace Giveaway. We want to give the gift of warmth to a deserving family this holiday season.

Afterglow. Water, warmth, well-being.

3 Questions

If you are thinking about buying a new furnace, you probably have a lot of questions. Here at Afterglow, we have 3 questions for you:

1) Will a new furnace save you money?

The initial purchase of a new unit can seem expensive, but there are ways of calculating your energy costs. Sometimes you can save enough on energy bills to make a new furnace a good bargain!

2) Will it make you more comfortable?

How comfortable are you now? Do all the rooms in your house get adequate and even heat? If you and your family are complaining about too much cold or heat, it is worthwhile to invest in a better system so that your home is comfortable for the long winter months ahead.

3) Is there a safety risk with the old one?

Sometimes units need to be replaced because they are outdated. This doesn’t just mean that they are probably eating up more energy, it also means that there may be worn out parts which increase the risk of a breakdown. Just like replacing smoke detectors and other safety equipment, we also need to replace old furnaces.

At Afterglow, we see furnaces that look terrible: rusty, and damaged beyond repair. Those are the kinds of units which need to be replaced. Others look good and just need some tender love and care. That’s also why it’s a good idea to keep your furnace tuned up and in good repair to make it last longer. Yearly tune-ups and changing the air filters monthly, are just some of the ways you can keep your furnace running smoothly.

Call Afterglow to see what shape your furnace is in. We’ll be happy to provide whatever service your old unit needs or help you determine if it’s time for a new one. We can help you find the best furnace to fit your home and your budget.

Stay warm!

Afterglow. Water, warmth, well-being.

Are You Prepared For Heating Season?

Ok, I think it is officially time to accept that heating season is here! After a really warm September, which seemed hotter than the summer, it’s time to get ready for winter!

After digging your winter clothes out of the attic and getting new boots and coats, you need to get your house ready for winter, too. That means:

a) You need to call Afterglow for a furnace or boiler tune-up,
b) If it is time, call Afterglow about a new, more efficient, more comfortable heating system.

If you are due for a new heating system, you may be worried about the cost, but new systems work beautifully and save you money in the long run! They are far more efficient and heat homes evenly and rapidly. Along with saving you money, they also save energy and put less of a load on the energy grids, which is great for the environment. How can you go wrong?

A dependable heating system is crucial to home comfort. With new systems, there are also limited time rebates available – up to $900 in government grants. Give us a call to find out about great deals in heating systems and how your home can be warm and comfortable this winter without hurting your budget!

Afterglow will help you keep your heating system in perfect working order throughout the winter season, giving you peace of mind. So pull out those sweaters and enjoy the rest of fall before winter is upon us!

Fun fact! Ontarian’s use natural gas as their principal energy source for heating.

Afterglow. Water, warmth, well-being.

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