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Great American Homes FAQ
Q: Why should I have Great American Homes build my new home?
A: We offer a COMPLETE building package. We take care of everything from the building permits to the interior completion of your new home. We include everything in our bid, including excavation, driveway, concrete, electrical, plumbing, heating, well, septic, etc., and there are never hidden or extra charges.
Q: How do your prices compare to other builders?
A: We have very competitive pricing, which we think is why we are the largest homebuilders in the Chippewa Valley area. With the component-built walls and floors, there is never any waste or cost overruns. We guarantee our pricing so the price quoted is the price you pay.
Q: What exactly is a Component-built home?
A: A Component-built home is a method of construction whereby each wall and truss of the house is built in a climate-controlled setting, using tools that provide square and plumb walls, and exact truss configurations every time. Once constructed, the components are delivered to the job site (still as individual wall sections and individual trusses) where they are secured into place. Building your walls and trusses in a climate-controlled facility enables us to enclose the home much faster than conventional construction, protecting your investment from weather as well as theft.
Q: Who do you use for Sub-Contractors?
A: We use local sub-contractors for some of the construction. In fact, a lot of the sub-contractors we use have been with us since we started in 1990. We continue to use the same sub-contractors because we have a "team", who knows what is expected from the beginning to the end of the project. Because we use the same contractors, they offer us very competitive pricing.
Q: How long does it take from the start of the home to completion?
A: Typically, the time from ordering the house to completion is 3 to 4 months, depending on the complexity and size of the home. After submitting the order to Amwood, our component supplier, we get the construction prints back in two to three weeks. We then carefully review the prints with the homeowners, making any final changes to the plan. We then submit the final plan to Amwood. While Amwood is engineering the house and building the components, Great American Homes is doing the excavation, foundation walls, etc. From the time the house is set, the completion process is typically 45 to 60 days. Each Sub-Contractor and homeowner is given a "Calendar of Completion", so you know what is being done on your new home on a day-to-day basis.
Q: Can we do some of the work ourselves to cut some costs?
A: Yes, we can breakdown the quote to let you know how much can be saved if you do the painting, straining, finishing, flooring, or anything else you may want to do.
Q: What does it cost per square foot to build?
A: This question has more than one answer because each home specifications and style vary too widely and the design can impact the actual cost too much to provide a fair answer. That is why we bid all of our homes on an individual basis, which insures a more accurate price quote.
Q: Do we have to build one of the homes from your plans?
A: No. We have hundreds of plans for you to look and alter, but we know that it is virtually impossible for our plans to always be the perfect layout for you. If you have your own idea or custom plan, we will work with that as well. We have the software and the ability to custom draw plans for you.
Q: Can I convert my wood-burning fireplace to a Gas fireplace?
A: Yes, we have many gas, wood, or pellet inserts designed for both factory-built or masonry wood-burning fireplaces. It is a great way to seal up a inefficient wood fireplace, to a very efficient fireplace to substantially reduce your heating bills.
Q: How do I know if I need an insert or a fireplace?
A: If you already have a brick or stone fireplace, or a factory-built fireplace, and you want to convert it to a gas fireplace, then the most cost effective solution is a gas insert. If you are remodeling a part of your home that has never had any kind of built-in fireplace, you then need a direct vent fireplace that does not require an existing fireplace or chimney.
Q: Can I burn wood in my gas fireplace or stove?
A: No. Gas fireplaces or stoves are specifically engineered to burn gas, and cannot be used to burn wood.
Q: I don't want to see too much of stove pipe inside my home, what options do I have?
A: You can install a rear vent, direct vent stove which vents directly out the back of your stove. You will not see a vertical pipe at all with this type of installation. If you are unable to vent out the rear of the unit, you can minimize the amount of visible pipe with a 2' or 4' "snorkel cap" horizontal termination kit for direct vent stoves. These kits use the minimum required height for the stoves, then turn 90 degrees to go out your wall instead of up through the ceiling.
Q: What is the difference between "Steady State" efficiency and AFUE?
A: Steady State efficiency means only the efficiency of the fireplace or stove when it's burning is tested. AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) means that both the on cycle and off cycle are calculated in the efficiency rating. By including the off cycle, (when the unit is turned off), a more accurate yearly operational cost can be estimated.
Q: What is a BTU?
A: A BTU, (British Thermal Unit), refers to the heating power of a gas appliance as measured by the amount of energy it produces in one hour. Technically, it is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.
Q: How do I estimate how much my gas fireplace costs to operate?
A: There are 100,000 BTU's in a Therm of Natural Gas. A 25,000 BTU gas fireplace will use approximately one Therm of Natural Gas per four hours of operation. There are 87,500 BTU's in one gallon of L.P. gas. A 25,000 BTU L.P. gas fireplace will use approx. 1 gallon LP gas per 3.5 hours of operation. The cost of operating your fireplace will depend on the current price of gas.
Q: How often should I have my fireplace serviced?
A: Your fireplace should be serviced yearly by a professional service technician to maintain it running at peak performance.
Q: Should I leave my pilot light on in the Summer when I am not using it?
A: It's not necessary, but it's a good idea to leave it on. Running the pilot light year-round will extend the lifespan of the generator by not allowing condensation and corrosion to build up inside. It also helps keep the firebox dry, rust resistant, and prevents spiders and bugs infiltrating the unit.
Q: Do gas fireplaces or stoves require electricity?
A: No, the fireplaces and stoves we carry have a standing pilot ignition system, much like a water heater. This system operates with a pilot light so there is always a flame to ignite the gas. The pilot light also generates the power needed to operate the valve. If the pilot light gets blown out accidentally, the valve shuts off and the gas flow stops. The pilot light feature makes operation both easy and safe. (Note: Models require AC-power for the blower to work, but do not need AC-power for the fire.)
Q: What does "EPA-Certified" mean?
A: An EPA-certified appliance complies with strict emissions and efficiency regulations designed to reduce pollution and control energy costs. In an increasing number of jurisdictions, only EPA-certified units are allowed to be installed. The EPA-certification is your guarantee that the stove you are buying will burn cleanly and efficiently, reducing your heating costs and protect the air we breathe. Non-certified units are less efficient and more expensive to operate in the long run, and who wants that?
Q: What is the difference between catalytic converters and secondary combustion?
A: A catalytic converter is a device through which wood smoke is channeled. It lowers the combustion temperature of the gases, allowing them to be consumed at lower firing. Secondary combustion mixes the air with the exhaust gases, causing them to reignite and burn before going up the chimney. Secondary combustion creates a beautiful flame. Makes you tingle.
Q: Will the glass door of my fireplace/insert stay clean?
A: Most models are designed with a unique airwash system that forces the air in front of the glass to keep the flames and exhaust away. This keeps the door looking clean a lot longer. Over a period of time, or if you underfire your appliance, you might need to clean the glass. You can use a fireplace cleaner, available in our store.
Q: Do I need a blower?
A: A blower is a great way to spread the heat throughout your home more quickly. It does not affect the combustion rate of the fire, since they move the air around the outside of the firebox. We highly recommend a blower if you are trying to heat a large room or several rooms.
Q: Can I convert my wood stove to gas?
A: No, wood stoves are specifically set to burn wood.
Q: How much can I expect to save on my heating bills with a pellet/corn burning stove?
A: It all depends on the price of gas. Wood pellets are fairly stable in pricing, and if there is a price increase, it is small. Gas and Oil prices are constantly fluctuating, and can jump considerably overnight. Pellet- and Corn-burning stoves usually heat for less than gas, oil, or electric. Pellet- and Corn-burning stoves use renewable energy, with no pollution.
Q: Where should I position my Pellet stove?
A: Your family room, great room, or living area, wherever your family spends the most time, is an ideal place for your pellet stove. A room which provides heat flow to other areas is also a good place for your stove. Venting requirements may hinder your options. Additionally, outside air for the combustion has to be drawn from an approved location. Remember, too, that your stove should be near a properly wired outlet, and must meet minumum clearance between the stove and combustibles. These things must all be considered in order to locate a place that provides optimal operation and service. We pre-visit your home to help in the decision as to the best and most cost-effective area to place your stove.
Q: What are my choices for floor protection?
A: The floor must be protected according to the manufacturer's specifications. The minimum size of the non-combustible floor-protector is clearly specified in the installation manual. The choice of suitable material usually requires professional assistance, unless heath is already available in the home. Some choices include tile, slate, stone, etc., in many color choices and designs. We can custom make hearth pads to meet any needs or your home decor.
Q: What are the routine maintenance tasks I need to perform to keep the stove working properly?
A: Check the burn pot daily and clean it periodically to keep the air inlets open. Frequency of cleaning depends on the fuel type, grade, and ash content. They can vary greatly. Emptying the ash drawer is recommended before starting a new fire. If burning the stove 24-7, periodically check to see if there is any ash build-up in the pot. If build-up is readily observed, shut the stove down, and clean after the unit has cooled. Frequency depends on fuel, quality of fuel, and stove design. Typically once or twice a week is suggested, but monthly may be all that's needed in some new designs.
Cleaning the heat exchanger is simply a matter of moving a rod that scrapes the tubes inside the stove. You may require professional service on other models. Ash traps are easily accessed for the removal of ashes in some designs; on others, professional service is required. Clean the glass with a glass cleaner when the glass is completely cooled down. An economical trick is to wipe the glass off with a paper towel, dampen another paper towel, dip it in the ash, clean any stubborn areas, and wipe with a clean dry paper towel.
Most stoves have effective air wash systems which keep the glass clean. Other stoves may require more vigorous cleaning methods. Check the hopper periodically for accumulated sawdust materials. Fuel in the hopper and auger tube should be emptied occasionally to prevent auger blockage by fines.
Q: What professional maintenance and repair services may I need?
A: We can annually perform these cleaning and maintenance services: