What Are the Best Kinds of Flooring for a Radiant Heating System?

December 12th, 2014

Radiant heating systems are a great option for heating your home, especially if you’re looking for a more energy efficient option than traditional forced air systems. Unlike forced air systems, however, radiant heating forces some considerations beyond the heating system itself. Let’s examine how radiant heating is affected by flooring, and what you should do about it.

Why Does Flooring Matter?

Before we get into the best flooring options for radiant heating systems, it might help to discuss why flooring matters in the first place. Unlike forced air systems, radiant heating systems utilize a network of hot water pipes to transport heat throughout the house. These pipes are mainly installed in the subfloor of a room, though other areas like walls are possible as well.

The type of flooring matters because the heat from the system is transmitted through the floor to get into the room. This means that if the flooring is more or less conducive to heat, the system itself will be more or less effective.

What Kinds of Flooring Work Best?

Technically, any kind of flooring could work with a radiant heating system. That doesn’t mean that all flooring types work equally well, however. Generally, you’ll want to pick flooring that is more conducive to heat, making it more able to transmit the heat from the pipes to the room. Stone is a good choice, as is ceramic and even concrete. All of these materials conduct heat quite well, although they will take longer to warm up than lighter materials.

Hardwood can work, as can LVT or LVP (Luxury Vinyl Tile and Luxury Vinyl Plank). The problem with those last three is that they will contract and expand with the heat from the pipes, which can warp your floor. There are ways to mitigate this problem, but it will take some extra steps from whoever is installing your floors. Carpet is just about the only flooring option that really shouldn’t be considered with radiant heating. Carpet is designed to insulate a room, repelling heat instead of absorbing it. This makes it a particularly bad choice for radiant heating, as it will work at cross-purposes.

If you’d like to know more about radiant heating, call ACI Northwest. Our heating experts cover all of Spokane.

Common Problems with Furnace Air Handlers

December 5th, 2014

All furnaces have air handlers, also known as blowers, which push the warm air into your home. These large fans have several moving parts, so at some point during your ownership, you may have to repair your blower. A number of problems can develop with your furnace air handler, so it’s best to allow a trained technician handle any problem that may develop with your blower. The experts at ACI Northwest can handle any heating repair you may have, so if you are experiencing a problem with your heating, call us today!

Common Blower Problems

Here are some of the more common problems our technicians see regarding furnace air handlers:

  • Worn/broken belts – it is important that your blower rotate at the rate is was made to in order to maintain proper air flow; the fan belt is a critical part of this process. When the belt becomes loose, wears out or breaks, it needs to be replaced. Wearing belts may make a screeching noise, so if you hear this sound, call for a technician.
  • Problems with fan blades – fan blades can become loose or even break during use. While your fan can still operate with a bent or broken blade, they can cause damage to other parts of your system.
  • Motor issues – your motor can overheat, experience electrical problems or loose lubrication, which can cause the moving parts to grind. Sometimes fan motors can be repaired, but other times replacement may be required.
  • Electrical problems – relays, frayed or corroded wiring or a stuck limit switch can cause electrical problems that affect the operation of the fan and motor. It can be challenging to locate an electrical issue, so it’s best to allow a trained expert to detect the problem and repair it.

If your furnace is turning on but you find yourself without heat or with a serious decrease in the volume of heat coming into your home, you may have an issue with your air handler. It’s always best to have a professional handle any repairs you have. Call ACI Northwest to schedule heating repair service in Spokane today!

When Should I Replace My Heating System?

November 28th, 2014

As a homeowner, you know a time will come when you will have to replace your heating system. Though you may have an approximate estimation of when that time will be, however, it is sometimes difficult to be sure. How can you tell whether you need to replace your heater, or simply repair it? Let’s take a look at some of the most obvious signs.


Any time something goes wrong with your heater, the easiest way to tell if it needs repair or replacement is to consider its age. Generally speaking, heating systems that are younger than 15 years old can probably last for a few more years. Systems over 15 years old can likely be replaced for the same amount of money it would cost to keep repairing them, which brings us to our next point.

Frequency of Repairs

All heating systems experience the need for repairs every once in a while. However, one thing you’ll need to pay attention to is the frequency with which your system breaks down. One or two repairs a year is a fairly common occurrence for most heating systems. Any more than that is a good indication that your heating system is, quite frankly, wearing out. This is especially true when taken with the advanced age of the system.

Increase in Heating Cost

As wear and tear begins to accumulate in your heating system, you will experience a gradual decline in your heater’s ability to do its job. Before parts actually start to break in your system, you will likely experience an increase in your monthly heating bill. Of course, wear and tear occurs any time you start your heating system, regardless of its age or condition. The older your heater is, however, the more likely that the burden of years of use will have a greater effect on the various parts in your system.

If you think you might need to replace your heating system, call ACI Northwest. Our HVAC technicians provide professional heating services throughout the entire Spokane area.

Will Thanksgiving Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

November 26th, 2014

We’ve all heard it before: you feel so sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal because of the main event: the turkey. For years, people have credited extraordinary levels of tryptophan in turkey as the reason we all feel the need to nap after the annual feast. But contrary to this popular mythology, tryptophan is probably not he largest responsible party for your post-meal exhaustion.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means it’s something that our bodies need but do not produce naturally. Your body uses tryptophan to help make vitamin B3 and serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that sends chemicals to the brain to aid in sleep. But in order to get this essential amino acid, we have to eat foods that contain it.

Turkey has somewhat high levels of tryptophan, but so do many other foods, including eggs, peanuts, chocolate, nuts, bananas, and most other meats and dairy products. In fact, ounce-for-ounce cheddar cheese contains a greater amount of tryptophan than turkey. In order for tryptophan to make you feel sleepy, you would have to consume it in excessive amounts, and serotonin is usually only produced by tryptophan on an empty stomach.

The truth is, overeating is largely responsible for the “food coma” many people describe post-Thanksgiving. It takes a lot of energy for your body to process a large meal, and the average Thanksgiving plate contains about twice as many calories as is recommended for daily consumption. If anything, high levels of fat in the turkey cause sleepiness, as they require a lot of energy for your body to digest. Lots of carbohydrates, alcohol, and probably a bit of stress may also be some of the reasons it feels so satisfying to lay down on the couch after the meal and finally get a little bit of shut-eye.

If you feel the need to indulge in a heaping dose of tryptophan this year, go ahead! Turkey also contains healthy proteins and may even provide a boost for your immune system. Here at ACI Northwest, we hope your Thanksgiving is full of joy and contentment this year. Happy feasting!

Why Consider a Geothermal Heating System?

November 14th, 2014

You’ve probably heard about heat pumps, and the extremely energy efficient way in which they provide heat to a home. This is done not by creating heat through combustion, but by moving thermal energy in the surrounding air from one place to the other. This saves a great deal on heating costs, but most heat pumps come with some caveats. All of their heating ability depends on the temperature of the air around the exterior unit. As a lower temperature will by definition lower the amount of available thermal energy, a heat pump’s heating efficiency drops with the temperature. So what do you do when you want to have a heat pump for its myriad advantages, but live in a colder climate? That’s where geothermal heating comes in.

What is Geothermal Heating?

A geothermal heating system is another kind of heat pump, which operates on the same principle of moving thermal energy instead of creating it. The difference between it and other heat pumps, however, is how it obtains this thermal energy. A geothermal system uses a loop of subterranean pipe to siphon heat from the ground. This pipe is usually installed in a backyard, approximately ten feet underground, and filled with either water or some kind of refrigerant. This pipe loop is then linked to the heat pump inside the house.

Once you get a few feet underground, the temperature is a fairly constant 55-60 degrees regardless of season. A geothermal heat pump relies on this constant temperature to help it heat a house. Though 55-60 degrees may not seem like a warm temperature, it is likely higher than the temperature outside on many winter days. The heat pump cycles the water, or refrigerant, into the central unit, taking the underground thermal energy with it. It then uses that thermal energy as a boost to reach the desired indoor air temperature. By relying on this constant underground temperature, a geothermal system avoids the sub-zero climates that can prevent most heat pumps from heating a home. Thus, it provides all of the benefits of a heat pump without one of the biggest drawbacks.

If you’re thinking of installing a geothermal heat pump, call ACI Northwest. We provide heating installation services throughout Coeur d’Alene.

Advantages of Radiant Systems

November 7th, 2014

Radiant heating isn’t new, but with the advent of better radiant heating products, radiant systems have become a popular choice among homeowners. You have a few choices when it comes to radiant heating, including the choice of using hot water or electricity. The installation of a radiant heating system requires knowledge and expertise, so call the experts with over 20 years of experience: ACI Northwest.

Types of Radiant Heating

There are three main types of radiant heating, and two of them are for radiant flooring. The choices for radiant flooring are:

  • Electric radiant floors
  • Hydronic radiant floors (hot water)

Electric Radiant Floors

Electric radiant flooring can be installed in two ways. The first is a wet installation in which electric cables are placed in wet cement; when the cement dries, it becomes a radiant slab. The second option with electric radiant flooring is to install mats of electrically conductive plastic under flooring.

Hydronic Radiant Floors

A hydronic system uses a boiler to provide hot water or steam. Flexible, durable plastic tubing is installed under your flooring and the hot water or steam flows through it, providing the room with heat.

Radiant Panels

Radiant panels are installed in ceilings and walls. Like flooring, radiant panels can heat via hot water or electricity, but electricity is more commonly used. Radiant panels are usually made of aluminum and have a faster response time than radiant flooring. However, radiant panels have a much lower heat capacity than radiant flooring.

Advantages of Radiant Systems

Because of their unique layout, radiant systems have some benefits other heating systems may not:

  • Even heating – the heat from radiant systems is gradual and even, which can feel more comfortable as compared to forced hot air.
  • No blowing dust – with forced air systems, the blowing air circulates dust and other particles, which can be particularly difficult for allergy sufferers.
  • Quiet operation – except for the firing of the boiler, the heat distribution of a radiant system is silent.
  • Easily zoned – radiant heating is easy to zone, offering you the potential for customized heating.

Imagine being able to keep your feet warm without socks all winter long; with radiant heating, you can do this and more. Call ACI Northwest and schedule the installation of radiant heating in Coeur d’Alene with one of our HVAC experts today.

Upflow vs. Downflow Furnace: What’s the Difference?

October 31st, 2014

There are a lot of choices when it comes to installing a furnace, and one of the choices has to do with how the warm air will flow from your furnace. It may seem like a small detail, but the way the air flows – either up or down – directly affects the placement of your furnace. If you are looking to install a new furnace for this winter’s heating, it’s important to know some basic functions of a furnace so that you can make an informed decision. Working with trained heating professionals in Coeur d’Alene, like the ones at ACI Northwest, helps to ensure that you install a heating system that fits your home and your needs, so call us today.

Upflow Furnace

An upflow furnace takes in air from the bottom of the unit, warms it in the heat exchanger, and then blows it upward into the ductwork of your home. Upflow furnaces need to be placed in a basement or crawlspace to be energy efficient, as they work on the principle that warm air rises. Some of the benefits of an upflow furnace are:

  • Better energy efficiency – because heat rises, upflow furnaces tend to be more energy efficient than downflow ones.
  • Comfort – upflow furnaces heat from the floor up, and many people find this a little more comfortable than from the ceiling down.
  • No need for extra flooring – upflow furnaces can rest directly on the concrete of your basement; with a downflow system, flooring needs to be reinforced, as downflow systems are typically placed in attics.

Downflow Furnace

As you may have guessed, a downflow furnace takes in air at the top of the cabinet, warms it, and then disperses it down into your home’s ductwork. As such, the placement of a downflow furnace is commonly in attic space, although it can also be placed in a garage or on the main level of a home. Some of the challenges with a downflow furnace are that installation can be more complicated, as there are stricter requirements for downflow furnaces (they also need reinforced subflooring), and they fight the natural tendency of hot air to rise. However, not all homes have a basement or crawlspace, so the benefit of a downflow furnace is that it fits with every kind of home.

Understanding your choices can help you choose a heating system that best fits your home. Call ACI Northwest today and schedule an appointment with one of our installation experts.

Gas Furnaces vs. Electric Furnaces: Which Is Better?

October 17th, 2014

A furnace is an efficient, reliable way to heat a home. When choosing a new heater, the first step is deciding which type of system is best for your house: a boiler, furnace, or heat pump. And if you’ve already decided that you want a furnace installed in your home, the next question involves which type of power source to use: gas or electric?

Many homeowners wonder whether a gas furnace or an electric furnace is a “better” choice. Often, however, the question is not this simple. In many homes, a gas furnace may be the best option, but in some cases an electric unit may be a better choice, or possibly the only option available.

Making the Decision

Gas and electric furnaces both distribute heat in the same way. A blower moves the warm air through the ducts and into your home. However, the two generate heat much differently. A gas furnace uses an igniter to create heat in a combustion chamber. An electric model instead generates heat with a current that runs through series of electric heating coils which heat the air as it moves past.

In general, people choose gas furnaces over electric furnaces because they are less expensive to run. In most areas, the cost of electricity is simply too high to justify purchasing an electric model, and operating a gas furnace will save a lot of money over time. However, there are some homeowners who don’t have access to a gas line. And there are a few more advantages to electric models. The initial cost of electric units is usually lower, and they are safer to run since they pose no risk of gas leaks.

Other Considerations

Deciding whether to purchase a gas or electric model is not the only choice you will need to make. You should look into the AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) of your unit to find out how much energy your unit uses to heat your home and how much is lost during operation. Proper sizing is also key to ensuring an efficient system. Talk over your concerns with an expert, like the folks at ACI Northwest. To find out more about professional heating services in Coeur d’Alene, call us today!

What Is the Difference Between a Furnace and a Boiler?

October 10th, 2014

The most common types of heating systems—both of which have warmed homes and businesses for well over a century and a half—are furnaces and boilers. Chances are high that you have one or the other working to keep your home cozy during the winter. The two systems have little in common, however, except that they can use similar energy sources. Otherwise, they have completely different methods of providing heat for a building, and each requires specialists to install, repair, and maintain it.

If you are looking to have new heating system in installation, your choice may come down to a boiler or furnace. The one that will work best for your home heating will depend on many factors, and you should always rely on professionals to handle the installation so you end up with the right heater for your needs. Call ACI Northwest and put your trust in our many years of experience finding heating solutions for the greater Coeur d’Alene and Spokane area.

Furnace: Forced-Air Heating

The principle of a furnace is “forced-air heating,” which means that the system heats up air and then distributes it with a blower through a ventilation system. How the furnace heats up the air in its cabinet depends on its fuel source. The most common furnace type uses natural gas piped into the home. The furnace burns the natural gas to create a hot combustion gas. This gas enters a metal heat exchanger, which then heats the air blown past it and into the ductwork. The cooled-down combustion gas safely vents outside through a flue.

A popular alternative to gas is electricity. In these units, electric coils in a series of heating elements glow hot as current runs through them. The heating elements raise the temperature of the air through resistance heating, and the blower sends the air into the ventilation system.

Boiler: Hydronic Radiant Heating

Boilers do not use forced air or ductwork to provide warmth. Instead, they use heated water—and in some cases, steam—distributed through pipes to various terminal points in a home that then radiate heat waves into rooms. Boilers often use natural gas to create the heat to raise the temperature of the water in their water tanks, although some rely on electrical heating elements within the tank itself. Radiant heating in general is cleaner than forced-air heating because it does not require ductwork that can contain dust and dirt that will mix into the air stream.

Which One Is Best For My Home?

Both systems have advantages and disadvantages: furnaces can achieve high levels of heating, while boilers tend to use energy more efficiently and can last longer. If your home already has a set of ducts, it’s probably easiest to install a furnace. For a newer home without ducts, a boiler is an attractive possibility. The best way to know for certain is to work with a heating professional, who can measure the best way to efficiently and effectively provide comfort for your home.

ACI Northwest has a team ready to help with your needs for heating services in Coeur d’Alene, WA. Call us today to help choose between a furnace and a boiler.

How Does a Gas Furnace Work?

October 3rd, 2014

One of the most popular and common types of heating systems is the furnace. If you use a gas furnace for your heating, you are in good company: approximately 60% of homes have a gas furnace heating system. Understanding how your system works is important, so our ACI Northwest technicians have taken some time to explain below how your gas furnace brings warm air into your home.

How Does a Gas Furnace Work?

In a gas furnace, air is heated and blown into your home through ductwork. The process starts with ignition: the thermostat senses that the temperature in your home has dropped and cues the furnace to begin the ignition cycle. A component called the draft fan inducer motor draws air into the burner assembly; the burners are ignited and the heat from the burners warms the heat exchanger. The air from inside the burner assembly is exhausted to the outside while a second fan, known as the blower fan, turns on. The blower fan is attached to the return duct, and as such, brings in the return air from your living spaces and blows it over the hot heat exchanger. This blown air is warmed, and continues its way into the supply ducts where it is delivered, warmed up, back into your living spaces. This process continues until the set temperature has been achieved.

What Are the Benefits of a Gas Furnace?

Here are some benefits of gas furnaces worth considering:

  • Convenience – natural gas is piped into homes, eliminating the management of deliveries.
  • Clean burning – natural gas burns cleanly, unlike other fossil fuels.
  • Gas heat is very warm – the heat given off by gas-fueled heating systems is anywhere between 25 and 35 degrees warmer than other systems. This means your home will heat up quickly.
  • Good energy efficiency – the average gas furnace has an efficiency rating of 90% , and can go as high as 98%.

If you have questions about your gas furnace heating system, or need repair, call ACI Northwest today and schedule heating service in Coeur d’Alene with one of our HVAC experts.