ACI Northwest Blog : Archive for January, 2012

Electric Furnace Maintenance Tips

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Electric furnaces are clean – but homeowners pay for that cleanliness with high utility bills. Depending on the area of the country, electric bills can rival those of gas, oil, or propane. So it is only natural to assume that an efficiently running electric furnace is a must for homeowners who are looking to keep their energy costs down.

Electric furnaces are fairly simple machines. They use heating elements to warm the air, which is then distributed through the ventilation system via a fan or blower. The heating element is made up of a metal wire that is heated by normal electrical current. The element is used to warm or heat something, much like the function of an oven or toaster. Their operation is fairly simple – either they work or they don’t.

When a heating element fails it is usually because it is broken, bend, or misshapen. When that happens, it is time to replace it. You can do some preventive maintenance with a visual inspection of your heating elements. If your inspection does not reveal any problems, you can test the element for continuity. You should know how to use an ohmmeter to test it or ask a professional heating technician to check the elements for you.

Speaking of visual inspection, you can do a quick check for any frayed or damaged wires, which can be a source for wasted electricity, too. Another way to ensure that your electric furnace is running efficiently is to replace or clean your furnace filters on a regular basis. A clogged filter can make a furnace work harder and lead to premature mechanical failure.

And obviously, if the furnace is not working it is best to check for any blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers in the main electrical panel box. If you find one, make sure you replace it with another of the correct amperage.

Lastly, check to make sure the blower motor is operating correctly. You can have perfectly working elements but if the blower can’t push the warm air through your ventilation system, then all of the steps to ensure the electricity is working are for naught. You can usually hear a noisy motor or smell one that isn’t working improperly. Check it on a regular basis and check the fan belt for any damage or slippage, too.

As you have read, an electric furnace is a very simple machine with simple working parts. Maintaining it is just as simple.

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Bayview Heating Tip: Most Energy Efficient Upgrades for Your Home

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Before you decide which upgrades will make your Bayview home more efficient, it would be best to get a home energy audit. You can do this yourself with a few simple tests, or you can hire a professional auditor. The auditor will use advanced equipment and techniques, such as blower doors and infrared cameras, to detect air leaks and places that need more insulation.

When your home is properly insulated and sealed, here are some upgrades you’ll want to think about to make your home more efficient.

High-Efficiency Furnaces & Heat Pumps

If you have an old single-stage furnace, it is time to upgrade. These furnaces were designed to run on two settings—either off or on, and when they are on, they run at full speed. Not only do they lose heat this way, but they also take longer to warm up your home. The new two-speed and multispeed models run at lower speeds to maintain a constant temperature. You can also buy ones with variable-speed blowers that operate on various speeds, which are the most efficient. Heat pumps are a good option if you need both heat and A/C in your home. While most heat pumps are manufactured to be efficient by design, the newer models are the most efficient way to heat and cool your home. If you have a heat pump older than 15 years, talk to an HVAC technician about a heat pump replacement.

Tankless Water Heaters

Tankless water heaters heat your water with individual units located near hot water applications. You also have the option of installing a single, whole-home tankless water heater, or for appliances that use more hot water, such as dishwashers and washing machines, you can install tankless models just for their use.

Water-Saving Toilets & Low-flow Plumbing Fixtures

Duel flush, or water-saving toilets are an excellent choice for an upgrade if you want to save water. These toilets use less water overall, and you have the option of using more or less water each time you flush. Installing low flow faucets and fixtures can also provide up to 60% in utility savings. Low flow plumbing fixtures reduce the flow rate for each fixture or application, which reduces the overall amount water used in the home. These are a good option if you’ve installed a tankless water heating system. Your tankless water heaters will be more efficient if the sum of the flow rate total for every fixture in the home is lower.

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Hope Heating Installation Guide: How to Install a Programmable Thermostat

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Programmable thermostats are one of the best ways to save on heating costs, especially if you have a hard time remembering to turn down the heat in your Hope home. Installing a programmable thermostat will allow you to set the times you want the heat turned up or down. Not only will this make heating your home more consistent and save energy, but it will also allow you to tailor your heating needs to your schedule.

For instance, you can set the thermostat to turn on before you get up in the morning so that the house is already warm when you get out of bed, and conversely, set it to turn down after you go to bed or leave the house for work. Depending on the brand and setting options, programmable thermostats are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

Although all styles are slightly different, here are some basic instructions that show you how easy it is to install a programmable thermostat.  Remember, this is only a general guide; always check the instructions inside the packaging of your new thermostat before you install it, or check with an electrician.

1. Remove the Old Thermostat

Before you remove the old thermostat, check to see where it’s mounted. If it’s mounted to an electrical box, the voltage used to power the old thermostat may not be compatible with the new one. Ask a certified electrician or heating technician if you aren’t sure.

CUT THE POWER TO THE HEATING SYSTEM TO AVOID ELECTRIC SHOCK. You should always turn off the main power supply to your heating system before installing any new thermostat. If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask your HVAC contractor. Once you unscrew the mounting plate for the old thermostat, just unhook the wires. Don’t throw an old mercury controlled thermostat. You should ask your local waste management facility how to properly dispose of mercury products.

2. Locate all Wires

Wrap the loose wires around a pencil to keep the wires from falling back into the wall. Identify and label each corresponding wire with a letter (do not use color coding since this is not always accurate). Strip the plastic off the ends of the wires about ¼ inch if you need to.

3. Install and Insulate Wallplate

If the area around the new wallplate is larger than the plate, insulate the hole with non-flammable insulation. Take the wallplate off the programmable thermostat and hold it against the wall to mark the screw holes with a pencil. Pull the wires through the large opening at the bottom and screw the plate to the wall.

4. Wiring

Make sure you are comfortable with wiring before you attempt to do any electrical installations. Check the manual for your programmable thermostat for instructions on wiring that specific model. In general, you’ll want to make sure you match the wire labels with the corresponding terminals on the thermostat. Sometimes there will be extra wires that aren’t needed. Always test it before completing the installation. Don’t forget the battery!

5. Install the Faceplate

Once you have it wired correctly, all you need to do is align the brackets on the faceplate with the corresponding slots on the wallplate and fasten the faceplate to the rest of the mounting. Lastly, tighten the screw at the bottom of the thermostat to hold it in place.

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Greenacres Heating Installation Question: How Does a Heat Pump Work?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

If you’re in the market for a new home heating and cooling system in Greenacres, a heat pump is definitely an option worth considering. However, while the popularity of these systems is growing rapidly, many people still don’t understand what they’re all about. Before you go out and get yourself a new home comfort system, you should make sure you really know what you’re looking at.

As their name suggests, heat pumps move heat from one location to another. However, their name can be misleading as well. Heat pumps are able to both heat your home in the winter and keep it cool in the summer by taking heat from the air in one place and sending it to another.

For example, your heat pump will remove the heat from your indoor air in the summer and pump it outside to keep your home cool. In the winter, the process is reversed, and the heat pump gathers heat from the outdoor air and pumps it inside to keep you house warm.

Of course, it’s not hard to see how the air inside your home in the summer has heat in it. But the outdoor air in the winter is cold. So how does a heat pump heat your house with cold air? Well, the truth is that there is almost always some heat in the air, no matter how cold it seems to you and me.

In fact, the temperature would have to drop well into the negative range before there was absolutely no heat to be found in the air. And heat pumps are specially designed to find that heat and collect it.

Basically all heat pumps work on this principle. However, they can’t keep your house comfortable all on their own. Heat pumps are usually installed as part of a complete home heating and cooling system. This means they’ll be paired with an air handler that can circulate the temperature controlled air throughout your Greenacres house.

There are also some heat pumps that supplement the amount of heat they’re able to pull out of the air by heating it as it passes through. These types of heat pumps are often more effective in cooler areas, but because they require more energy to actually generate heat, they’re not typically as energy efficient as models that rely on their ability to get heat only out of the air.

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Airway Heights Heating Guide: How to Make Your Heating System More Effective

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Everyone wants an effective heating system in Airway Heights– one that will provide steady, reliable heat without you having to spend hundreds of dollars each month on gas, oil or electricity. And while the best way to improve the efficiency of your heating system in most cases is to upgrade it, there are some simple things you can do around the house to boost its effectiveness. Here are some of the best:

  • Rearrange Furniture – Just having the heat on doesn’t necessarily ensure the heat entering your room is being distributed evenly. Move your furniture in such a way that there is a clear, unimpeded path from the registers and radiators to the rest of the room. Done properly, this will make it much easier to and faster to heat every room of your house.
  • Maximize Air Flow – Air flow can be maximized in a number of ways. Make sure you close any windows near a register or radiator and that you remove any large objects that might block air flow. You should also install things that can help move air like fans and always call someone in for changes to the arrangement of your vents or radiators.
  • Clean Registers or Radiators – The cleaner your radiators or dust registers are, the more efficiently they release their heat. Not only have that, but clean radiators and registers resulted in better indoor air quality. Weekly cleaning of each room’s heating source is highly recommended.
  • Install Ceiling Fans – Ceiling fans switched to blow down are incredibly effective for distributing air throughout the room. This will keep push warm air down and keeps cold air up – in effect, reducing the need for constant running of your furnace or boiler.

Effective heating is important to keep your home comfortable, reduce the cost of heating and prolong the lifespan of your furnace or boiler. You should also make sure your heating system is properly maintained throughout the year. Skipping maintenance visits (which are highly recommended annually) will put unnecessary stress on your system and shorten its lifespan substantially, not to mention the decrease in efficiency when heating your home.

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Sagle Heating Replacement Tip: Signs of an Oversized Furnace

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Most people in Sagle, when they choose a new furnace, think that “bigger is better”. However, an oversized furnace can present just as many if not more problems than an undersized furnace. So, if you feel you may have overdone it in the past or you want to avoid making a mistake in the future, here are some signs that your furnace may be oversized.

Short Cycling

The most common sign of oversizing is short cycling. Short cycling occurs when your furnace turns on and off frequently because it reaches the thermostat setting so fast. Basically, your furnace is so powerful that it can produce what you need rapidly and then shuts off. But, because it does this, the temperature in your home is likely to cool much faster as well since the furnace isn’t on all the time.

Additionally, the on and off short cycling has a negative effect on your furnace, causing excess wear and tear on the system and eventually leading to extra repairs and in some cases early replacement.

High and Low Temperatures

When your furnace is turned on for a comfortable indoor temperature like 70 degrees F, the high and low temperature between cycles should be relatively close to that temperature. In an ideal situation, you shouldn’t even notice a fluctuation.

So, if the high temperature gets close to 75 degrees F and the low temperature is around 66 degrees F, you have a furnace much too large for the size of your home.

Furnace Room Issues

You might find that the space and exhaust given for the furnace are not sufficient either, especially if your previous furnace was replaced with this oversized unit. Backflow of a gas or oil smell or excess heat in and near your furnace room are both common signs that the furnace is much too large.

So, what should you do about your oversized furnace? If you have had that furnace for some time or just moved into a new home, it’s a good idea to have a new one installed. Have a proper load calculation done and then get a new furnace installed so you don’t have to worry about the system cycling on and off so often. If it’s a newer unit, call your Sagle heating technician and discuss possible options to reduce the negative effects of the miscalculation of its size.

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Happy Martin Luther King Day from Your Local HVAC Contractor!

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Happy Martin Luther King Day! This holiday is not just about celebrating civil rights but also about serving your community. If you have the day off today, why not try spending it helping others? From volunteering at an animal shelter to helping the homeless, there are hundreds of ways you can make your community a better place to live. Have a great holiday!

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Bayview HVAC Contractor Guide: Essential Components of a Home Comfort System

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Indoor comfort is defined by several factors: temperature, humidity, and air quality. If any one of the three is out of the “normal” range it can affect the quality of life in your Bayview home.

The ultimate goal of any heating & cooling contractor is to ensure that customers are comfortable – meaning that all three factors are addressed when servicing, replacing, or installing new equipment in a home. This equipment includes furnaces and air conditioners but also extends to humidifiers, dehumidifiers, electronic filters, ultraviolet (UV) lighting, infrared heating, etc.

Obviously, the essential component for most U.S. households is a furnace. Air conditioners may not be essential for all parts of the U.S., namely the northern states, but are still considered an integral part of any home comfort system. Add-ons like de-humidifiers and electronic filters are important for controlling the air quality.

Let’s look at the furnace first. There are several choices but most can be found in two different classifications: single-stage or variable speed two-stage. Your choice depends on the indoor square footage, your own comfort needs, and possibly the cost of energy units (gas or electric for example). Forced air is a common method of moving heated air to all parts of the home via an air handling unit and through a duct system. But gaining in popularity is radiant heat (electric), which does not utilize a duct system.

Air conditioners also come in a variety of sizes, including window/room air conditioners or central air conditioning, which is likely a “split” system including an outdoor unit and indoor coil. The size of the air conditioner is determined by square footage, which is part of a load calculation performed by qualified heating & cooling contractors while planning the equipment replacement or new installation. An oversized air conditioner may produce high humidity levels and an undersized unit may not provide enough cooling to all areas of the home. High humidity levels contribute to higher indoor temperatures in the summer, and can also lead to respiratory problems.

If someone in your home has allergies or is sensitive to certain pollutants in the air, it may be important to include extra filtration in your heating & cooling system, such as electronic filtration and UV lighting mounted in the buildings duct system, to kill germs and contaminants.

And speaking of an essential component, duct systems are keys to maximizing efficiency and comfort. Properly sized, insulated, and sealed, the duct system is a key to comfortable, healthy indoor air – and energy efficiency. It is also important to keep your duct system clean, too.

As always, it is best to consult with a licensed Bayview heating and cooling contractor who can offer the best solutions for your home comfort system.

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Heating Installation Guide: What to Expect in a Low, Medium or High Efficiency Furnace

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

When buying a new furnace in Deer Park, you have many options. You can purchase a low end model to save money up front and you’ll still get exceptional fuel efficiency, but as you go up the scale, more innovative, money saving features become available. Here is a brief look at what you can expect based on which type of furnace you purchase.

Low Efficiency Furnace

This is a bit of a misnomer as even entry level furnaces have efficiency ratings of at least 80%. For comparison, if you’re still using an old gravity furnace, your efficiency rating could be lower than 50%. Modern furnaces are built to conserve, and while you won’t receive all of the bells and whistles that tend to accompany high efficiency models, you will get a durable, affordable furnace that will last a long time.

Medium Efficiency Furnaces

Furnaces in the mid-efficiency range have AFUE ratings of between 85% and 92% and are therefore significantly better than those in the entry level range. They also have some of the higher end features available in high efficiency models like programmability and the option for zone control. Because they are still mid-range, they are affordable without skimping too much on features too – a must for any homeowner wanting to save money on both ends.

High Efficiency Furnaces

The highest efficiency furnaces on the market are very different from those you would have purchased even just 10 years ago. Top end furnaces can carry AFUE ratings of up to 95% with a boat load of added features to conserve energy. These features include two stage gas valves so you can maintain a low BTU heating system for most of the year but crank up the heat when the temperature outside drops too low. They are also programmable, which allows you to easily change the temperature settings, fan speed and more from anywhere in the house.

And while they cost more to install, high efficiency furnaces use less energy over their lifespan, last longer and are more environmentally friendly than any other furnaces on the market in Deer Park today.

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Tankless Water Heater Tip: How to Get the Right Size

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Tankless water heaters are gaining popularity among Cheney homeowners because of their on demand hot water supply and space-saving design. Although they are more expensive than traditional tank water heaters, on demand water heaters are more efficient, reliable, and easier to install and maintain. Before choosing to install a tankless water heater, however, you will have to decide which size will meet your hot water needs.

Rather than storing hot water in a tank, the tankless models heat the water with individual units located near the application where hot water is needed, such as a shower or washing machine. For larger homes, some of these smaller units cannot heat enough water for several applications running at the same time. You can also install a single tankless water heater for the entire house, or separate ones for appliances that use more hot water.

Finding the proper size and type will depend on the flow rate—measured  by a GPM (gallons per minute) number—that each fixture needs. Every application has a standard flow rate that must be added up in order to calculate the hot water demands for your entire home. For instance, if someone is using a sink with a 1.5 GPM at the same time another person is running a shower with a 2.0 GPM, the flow rate for the tankless unit would need to be at least 3.5 gallons per minute. You will have to add up the flow rate for all the applications in the house to get the minimum GPM figure for your tankless water heater.

In addition to flow rates, tankless hot water heaters are also measured by how much the water temperature needs to rise as it moves through the heating unit. You can determine the temperature rise for each application by subtracting the temperature of water coming in from the desired temperature going out. Once you add those together with the overall flow rates, you will know which tankless water heater can handle your overall hot water needs.

Before you buy an on demand hot water heater, it is best to talk to a professional installer. While the flow rates and temperature rise for most household appliances are fairly standard, these numbers can vary because of several factors that professionals are trained to calculate. Size is not the only factor to consider when shopping for a tankless water heater. Fuel type and efficiency should also be factored in to your purchase.

If you aren’t sure what type or size of tankless water heater is right for your Cheney home, call ACI Northwest to speak with one of our professional technicians. We are always glad to offer our expert advice so that you can meet all of your hot water needs in the most efficient way possible.

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