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.

Common Causes of Heating Problems

September 26th, 2014

Our temperatures are starting to cool, which brings our attention to heating in Coeur d’Alene. Fall is a great time to test your heating system for problems and repair them before the cold weather sets in. There can be a number of reasons your heater experiences problems, and knowing what to look for can help expedite repairs to your system. It’s important to always call a trained specialist for your heating repairs, as a heating system shouldn’t be handled by anyone who doesn’t have training. ACI Northwest has helped customers in Coeur d’Alene with heating repair for over two decades, so if you need heating repair, call us today!

Common Causes of Heating Problems

Here are some common causes of heating problems:

  • Clogged/dirty components – clogged and/or dirty components do not work as they should. Parts that commonly become dirty in a heating system are the burner, the air filter, the coils (in a heat pump system), etc.
  • Faulty ductwork (in forced-air systems) – faulty ductwork can account for uneven heating or hot and cold spots. Common problems with ductwork are obstructions, holes and cracks, broken seals and damaged sections.
  • Ignition problems (for combustible systems) – when your combustible heating system doesn’t light, it can’t provide heat. Several things can require repair with a burner assembly, including a faulty igniter, a malfunctioning or cracked thermocouple or dirt in the burner or pilot area.
  • Thermostat issues – your thermostat controls when your heating system cycles on and off, so if it is malfunctioning, it can cause problems with your whole system. Thermostats can get dirty, wires can loosen or corrode, or the unit can be mounted in a poor location. Thermostat problems can be tricky, so it’s best to call for a professional’s help.

If you are concerned about your heating system, now is a great time to test your system for problems. Even if your system appears to be running fine, fall offers a great time to schedule maintenance, which can help reduce the incidence of repairs. No matter your heating needs, ACI Northwest has the technicians who can help, so call us today and schedule your heating service in Coeur d’Alene!

Signs You Need Outlet Repair for Your Home

September 19th, 2014

The electrical system in your home is a complex network of circuits. However, you don’t see most of this: the primary way you access the electricity is through switches and power outlets. If the outlets in your home malfunction, the situation will develop into a major inconvenience… and it might even become a fire hazard.

Because outlets are one of the more visible parts of the electrical system, you will feel a temptation to grab a screwdriver, remove the outlet cover, and try to solve any problems on your own. Don’t do it! This is a job that you must leave to professional electricians. Amateur work on electrical systems risks high voltage shocks and it could cause a fire. Instead of reaching for the toolkit, reach for the phone and call for electrical repair service in Sandpoint, ID from ACI Northwest. We are available 24/7 for emergency repair service.

Here Are Some Signs of Defective Outlets That Need Repairs

  • Charring and discoloration: If you notice what appears to be burn marks or brownish discoloration on the outlet covers, it is usually a sign that an electrical fire has occurred inside the outlet, probably because of a loss of insulation along the wiring. Don’t ignore this: call for an electrician right away.
  • Warm or hot outlets: An outlet cover should not feel warm to the touch. This can indicate a number of different problems. One of the most likely is that there are loose or damaged wires behind the cover. It could also mean that the outlet is wearing down with age. Whatever the cause behind it, do not use the outlet again until you have had electricians look into the problem.
  • Sparking outlets: When you plug in an appliance to a wall outlet, you may see a momentary blue spark. This is the start of the flow of electrons, and isn’t anything to worry about if it is an occasional occurrence. If and outlet begins sparking frequently, and the sparks are larger than usual, it probably means there is a short in the outlet, and you will need electricians to deal with it.

When you call for professional electrical repair for outlets, you will often have the option to upgrade the outlets to GFCI models if you don’t already have them. For older homes, it is a good idea to have an update to these outlets because they will help protect everyone in your household from electrical shocks. We specialize in GFCI outlet installation at ACI Northwest, so when you contact us for electrical repairs because of faulty outlets, ask us about this service.

Reasons to Install a Whole-Home Generac Generator

September 12th, 2014

We can lose power for a number of reasons: weather-related events, environmental events like wildfires, road construction or a blown substation. Whatever the reason, it makes our lives exponentially more difficult when we don’t have the power we need to run our homes. One of the best ways to prepare for any event that can result in loss of electrical power is to install a Generac whole-home generator in your home. Since 1959, Generac has been the leader in home generators, and hiring the trained technicians from ACI Northwest for your generator installation means that you won’t have to be without power ever again.

Reasons to Install a Whole Home Generac Generator

Having the best equipment is part of being prepared. Generac generators are designed to seamlessly transition you to your back-up power should you lose yours. Here are some reasons why you will want to consider the installation of a Generac generator:

  • Automatic operation – each Generac whole-home generator is equipped with a sensor that will instantly switch your home’s power to the generator as soon as power is lost, whether or not you are home. The generator will also turn off automatically once power is restored.
  • No manual refueling – Generac whole-home generators are made to work with three fuel types: natural gas, liquid propane (LP) or diesel. For natural gas and LP generators, the fuel is piped directly to the generator. The diesel model has a tank below it that manages the diesel fuel, so there’s no running back and forth with gas cans. Simply have the diesel tank refueled by a fuel company as needed.
  • Connected directly to your electrical panel – Generac whole-home generators are wired directly into your home’s electrical panel, so there’s no need for long extension cords through windows.
  • Overload protection – in the rare case that your Generac generator gets overloaded, it is equipped with overload protection: the generator’s circuit will trip, which disconnects the unit from the load.

Being prepared means having the best tools at your disposal for the worst possible circumstances. Losing power isn’t a usual thing, but when it happens, it can disrupt our lives entirely. With a Generac generator in your home, you won’t have to worry about this kind of disruption. Need more information? Call ACI Northwest and schedule the installation of a Generac generator in Coeur d’Alene with one of our specialists today.

The Very First Labor Day Celebration

August 29th, 2014

Labor Day as a federal holiday, held on the first Monday of September, has been with us now for 120 years. President Grover Cleveland signed the law that made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894. Ever since then, the three-day weekend has provided people in the U.S. with the opportunity for vacations, time with their families, shopping trips, and a general celebration of the conclusion of summer and the beginning of fall.

However, there were twelve years of Labor Day observations in the U.S. before it became an official holiday. The first Labor Day celebration took place in 1882 in New York City on September 5. According to the accounts from the time, it had a rough start and almost didn’t happen.

The main event planned for that first Labor Day was a parade along Broadway that was to start at City Hall. However, the parade ran into a bit of a snag early on. The marchers started to line up for the procession around 9 a.m., with a police escort to make sure the event went peacefully. However, the problem of the day wasn’t rowdy members of the parade—it was that nobody had remembered to bring a band!

With people ready to march, but no music to march to, it started to look like no parade would happen at all, and the first Labor Day would have ended up a failure. But just in time, Matthew Maguire of the Central Labor Union—one of the two men who first proposed the celebration—ran across the City Hall lawn to the Grand Marshal of the parade, William McCabe, to inform him that 200 men from the Jeweler’s Union of Newark were crossing the ferry to Manhattan… and they had a band!

At 10 a.m., only an hour late, the band from Newark walked down Broadway playing a number from a popular Gilbert and Sullivan opera. They passed McCabe and the other 700 marchers, who then fell in line behind them. Soon, the spectators joined in, and an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people marched through Lower Manhattan.

According to the New York Times, “The windows and roofs and even the lamp posts and awning frames were occupied by persons anxious to get a good view of the first parade in New York of workingmen of all trades united in one organization.”

The parade concluded two hours later when the marchers reached Reservoir Park. But the party was only getting started. Until 9 p.m., some 25,000 people celebrated with picnics and speeches and beer kegs. It was an enormous success, and all thanks to the speedy arrival of jewelers carrying band instruments.

If those musicians from Newark hadn’t shown up, perhaps we wouldn’t have the holiday opportunity that we now have every year. However you celebrate your Labor Day, our family at ACI Northwest wishes your family a happy end of summer.

Signs You Need Electrical Service to Upgrade Your Outlets

August 22nd, 2014

Older outlets can become a source of irritation or even danger. As the electrical demands in your house increase with each year (think about how many more powered appliances you have competing for plug space now compared to only 10 years ago), the outlets will become more out of date and unable to handle the demands placed on them. This can lead to power outages, broken outlets, and even electrical fires and the risk of electrocution.

If you have aging and faulty outlets, you need to call for electricians to upgrade them, and possibly upgrade other parts of your electrical system as well. Look out for the following signs that you need electrical service in Spokane Valley, WA to upgrade your home’s outlets. Contact ACI Northwest for outlet installation and any other services you need for the electrical system in your home. Our years of experience will make sure you receive the best work possible.

Indicators you need outlet upgrades

  • Sparking or warm outlets: One of the major dangers from older outlets is the chance of electrical fires starting because of faulty wiring. A warning that this is happening is when outlets start to feel warm to the touch or spark whenever you plug anything in to them. Also watch for marks of charring on the outside of outlets, which will warn that an electrical fire has already occurred behind the outlet plate.
  • Tripped circuit breakers: If you plug in an appliance to an outlet, and it immediately causes a circuit breaker to trip (or a fuse to blow if you have an older fuse box), then there may be something wrong with the outlet, the electrical system, or both. If this continues to occur, call for repairs right away to see where the problem is.
  • They aren’t GFCI outlets: GFCI outlets (ground fault circuit interrupters) are outlets that have two buttons located between the outlet sets, marked RESET and TEST. If you do not have this type of outlet in your home (or you don’t even have three-pronged grounded outlets) you should schedule an upgrade. GFCI outlets can determine if electricity is flowing through a person and cut off the voltage before causing a severe electrical shock. They are an excellent way to protect the people in your house from receiving high voltage shocks from the outlets or any appliance connected to them.

Please do not attempt to replace outlets on your own! This is potentially hazardous work for non-professionals, and you can risk damaging your electrical system. Call for licensed electricians for all your needs for electrical service in Spokane Valley, WA. ACI Northwest is here to help you upgrade your home’s electrical system, whether you need new outlets, a circuit breaker panel to replace a fuse box, or new wiring.

Signs You Should Replace Your Circuit Breaker Panel

August 15th, 2014

If you have a circuit breaker panel for your home’s electrical system, then you are already ahead of a house that still uses an older fuse box. However, a circuit breaker panel is still subject to the pressures and wear of time, and eventually you may need to have a new unit installed. This job requires professional electricians to handle: don’t try to purchase a circuit breaker panel and put it in yourself, since you will risk high voltage shocks, a poorly functioning panel, and fire hazards from bad wiring.

Call ACI Northwest in Spokane, WA for electrical service that will replace your current circuit breaker panel. We provide a full range of services for home electricity, and we are on call 24 hours a day so we’re always there when you need us.

Warning signs to replace your circuit breaker panel

  • Breakers are tripping more often: Although frequently tripping circuit breakers can indicate a number of electrical problems, such as power surges and bad circuity, they can also warn that the electrical panel is wearing down and no longer functioning correctly. Call an electrician to look into the problem and see if the panel needs replacement.
  • Circuit breakers will not remain reset: This is a more specific warning than the above: if you reset a tripped breaker, but it will not stay that way for more than a few minutes, it most likely indicates that the panel itself is at fault and needs the experienced eyes of a professional electrician.
  • Burning smells from the panel: A major danger from a circuit breaker going bad is that it can cause fires inside the panel. If you notice an acrid smell from the panel, or other signs of burning, such as breakers that are hot to the touch or charring around the breakers, then you need to call for electrical help immediately and have a new panel put it.

Always, always, call on licensed electricians for work on the circuits, outlets, switches, and other components in your electrical system. This will ensure that the job is done right and you and your family is kept safe.

If you notice any of the above signs, or if you simply feel that your panel is too old to safely do its job, call for electrical service in Spokane, WA from ACI Northwest. We work hard every day to bring our customers complete satisfaction.

3 Common Evaporator Unit Problems

August 8th, 2014

The standard “split” central air conditioning system consists of two units: The outdoor unit is known as the condenser, where the AC releases and vents heat to the outside air. The condenser also contains the vital component of the compressor. The indoor unit is called the evaporator, where the evaporator coil absorbs heat from the air, and a blower fan sends it into the ventilation system to the rooms of the house.

The evaporator unit can run into a number of problems that will reduce the cooling ability of the AC and impair its airflow, possibly leading to a full breakdown. Should you notice any trouble with your air conditioner’s operation, contact a company like ACI Northwest immediately and let our trained technicians handle the issue. For more than 85 years, we have delivered excellent air conditioning repairs in Spokane, WA that has kept customers returning to us.

Three of the More Common Evaporator Unit Problems

  1. Ice on the evaporator coil: People often shrug off the appearance of a layer of frost along the indoor coil because they assume it’s a natural part of the cooling process. But any ice on the evaporator coil means serious trouble occurring within the system. It could be a refrigerant leak, a clogged air filter, or grime across the coil. Call for technicians to look into the trouble immediately to discover what is wrong, fix it, and then defrost the coil. If left without repair, the ice will continue to grow until it blocks the coil from performing heat exchange.
  2. Blower motor malfunction: The blower fan is essential both for sending conditioned air into the ventilation system and for running warm air across the evaporator coil to remove its heat. If the blower fan motor starts to fail due to wear, loss of lubrication, or electrical issues, it could cause the blower to stop entirely and prevent the AC from cooling. Major mechanical issues like this always require a technician to fix.
  3. Clogged air filter: The evaporator unit draws air into it through the return vents, and these vents can carry large amounts of dust, dander, and fibers that may damage the interior of the AC. To prevent these contaminants from entering the evaporator, an air filter traps the particles. But unless the air filter is changed regularly, it will become clogged and eventually begin to impede airflow into the system, leading to excess strain and higher AC bills. Make sure to change the filter once a month during air conditioning season, and call for technicians if a clogged filter has triggered a malfunction inside the AC.

Aside from routinely changing the filter, do not attempt to repair an AC on your own. Always call for professionally trained air conditioning repair in Spokane, WA from an experienced company with a long history. ACI Northwest is here for your cooling and heating needs, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Why Consider Ductless Air Conditioning?

July 30th, 2014

Ductless air conditioning is a great cooling option that is often overlooked by homeowners. Many homes come equipped with ducts that join with an air conditioning system to provide cool air. But sometimes, homes don’t have any pre-existing ductwork, or a homeowner may choose to add a new room in which extending the ductwork may be cumbersome.

Ductless air conditioning systems provide homeowners another option for air conditioning in Coeur d’Alene. Instead of using ducts to distribute air, ductless systems use multiple indoor air handlers at various locations throughout the home. The indoor air handlers do the job of the indoor evaporator unit of conventional systems, but also distribute cool air into the rooms directly. While these systems may be more expensive than central air conditioning systems, the benefits may be worth the cost.

  • No Major Renovations Required: Ductwork installation creates an unwanted disturbance for many homeowners. Besides, many homes cannot accommodate ductwork due to the layout of the home. Ductless installation only requires a small hole be drilled into the wall for the refrigerant line.
  • Eliminate Duct Loss: Unfortunately, a lot of energy is often lost in many ducted systems due to leaks, holes, and poorly installed ducts with loose connections. This means that most homeowners lose money cooling an unoccupied area of the house like the attic, a problem you’ll never have when you go ductless.
  • Higher SEER: The SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), which you can find printed on the EnergyGuide label of all air conditioners, can help you determine how efficient your air conditioner is and how much money you’ll save every month. Ductless air conditioners have significantly higher SEERs than many other systems, meaning you’ll pay a lot less than homeowners with central air.
  • Zone Control: Another reason to consider ductless air conditioning is zone control. Each indoor air handler is controlled by its own thermostat, which allows you to vary the temperature throughout the house according to each person’s temperature needs. You can also save money by shutting off the AC in unoccupied areas of the home.

To hear from an expert about the benefits of ductless air conditioning in Coeur d’Alene, call ACI Northwest today!