ACI Northwest Blog : Archive for May, 2012

Geothermal Heating for Homes in Mead

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

It’s no secret that use of alternative energy sources is on the rise. Solar panels, windmills and hybrid cars have been heavily publicized over the past several years as people and governments try to employ energy strategies that are more efficient, friendlier to the environment and more cost effective.

One alternative energy option that you may have overlooked amid the press that the above topics have received is geothermal heating for homes in Mead. That is, using the existing energy of the Earth as a means to heat and cool your home.

If you have in fact been unaware of geothermal heating and energy thus far, it is rapidly growing in popularity as an alternative energy source. According to an article in GOOD Magazine, there are projects currently underway that would double the United States’ capacity to produce electricity from geothermal energy. In the summer of 2011, the U.S. Congress approved $70 million in funding to research geothermal energy.

It’s not just the government getting in on the act, either. Some contractors report anecdotally that over the past five years or so, demand from customers for geothermal heating installations has risen noticeably.

What’s all the fuss about? Well, for starters, geothermal heating can lower heating costs dramatically by reducing reliance on electric or fuel-based heat. Anyone that has received a staggeringly high home heating bill knows that any relief would be welcome.

Additionally, geothermal heating has the advantage of being hidden from sight. Unlike solar panels that have to be mounted on your home or a towering windmill that dominates your property, geothermal pipes run underground. Once they’re installed, no one even knows they’re there.

It’s not all great news about geothermal. You’ll need some extra land to house the underground coils, and the cost of installation is usually higher than other heating systems.

So, geothermal may not be for everyone, but if you are looking for an alternative energy solution, you have some land and you can invest some money upfront to see savings each month, then it might just be for you.

For more information, give COMPANY NAME a call today!

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Things to Consider When Installing Geothermal Heating

Monday, May 21st, 2012

With energy costs rising and supplies dwindling, people are taking much more serious looks at alternatives that in the past have seemed unfeasible and too “weird” to realistically contemplate.  Available since the formation of the Earth, geothermal heating is one such resource.

Plentiful beyond imagination just ten feet below the surface, geothermal is being used to provide more than 30% of Iceland’s electrical needs and it is fast becoming a viable option to provide heat and electricity for your home as well.  Before digging straight down, however, it is important to look around and consider some important points.

Geothermal 101

Thermal energy is a force that is produced from the movement of warm temperature to cooler.  The term “geo” is from the Greek word for Earth.  Geothermal energy is the unlimited resource of power that is the result of the formation of the Earth billions of years ago (20%) and the on-going process of melting rocks nearing the core of that heat (80%).

From harnessing the energy of hot springs in ancient times to technological advances to create electricity today, geothermal has long been considered, but often was ruled out as an expensive and unnecessary alternative to other cheaper forms of energy.  Now that those are harming the environment, more expensive and harder to get, geothermal has grown attractive.

Location, Location, Location

Difficult to retrieve from deep within the Earth, geothermal is most often considered for large production where natural breaks in the crust such as volcanoes, hot springs and faults are close to the surface.  Just ten feet below the surface, however, there is enough temperature difference to make available enough to efficiently supply a home.

Still, it’s not a guarantee of success, however.  The density of the bedrock, the water table and the balance between extreme hot and cold temperatures with the temperatures of the thermal energy are all factors to be considered.

Dollar for Dollar

For new construction, geothermal is a great alternative because after the more expensive installation, the cost from month to month can produce enough savings to quickly pay for the system.  The savings are potentially so significant, there are situations where the cost of replacing an old inefficient conventional heating system can be neutralized by the savings in just two to ten years.

Beyond cost and feasibility, the comfort level is a major consideration.  One of geothermal energy’s major attractions is that to help save the Earth, it offers a better way to tap into the Earth.

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The Importance of Proper Ventilation to Prevent Methylene Chloride Inhalation for Homes in Mead

Monday, May 14th, 2012

There are a lot of chemicals affecting the indoor air quality in Mead  and each of them poses a unique risk to your health if not treated properly. One such chemical that you can probably guess to be unsafe is methylene chloride. Found in paint strippers, methylene chloride is usually accompanied by an incredibly strong solvent smell and can be overwhelming to the senses if not properly ventilated from the room in which it is being used. Moreover, the EPA has listed it as a toxic substance with clinically studied links to higher rates of lung and liver cancer in animals (and a strong correlation in human beings).

Your Exposure to Methylene Chloride

Because it is used largely in industrial applications, most people are not exposed to this chemical at home, unless they decide to use chemicals to strip paint, wax or other substances from walls or floors. It has also been used as a propellant in certain aerosols and insect sprays and in some cases is used to fumigate grains and strawberries.

If you spray paint indoors, use other aerosols containing the chemical or work in an environment with a high degree of chemical access, the risk of exposure increases dramatically.

Air Filtration to Reduce the Risk of Exposure

While methylene chloride is not yet a listed carcinogen, it is considered a “probable carcinogen” based on clinical studies and therefore is not something you want in your lungs. Immediate responses to the chemical range from headaches and dizziness to reduced visual and motor functions and long term effects are even worse, resulting in central nervous damage and potential damage to the liver, kidneys and cardiovascular system.

The easy solution is if you must use a substance containing methylene chloride to ventilate properly. Proper ventilation should increase the total air flow in the space significantly. Support the ventilation with a breathing mask and take frequent breaks. The best rule of thumb is if you can smell it, you’re breathing it. And if you can feel it, you’re breathing too much of it. Stay safe and the effects of methylene chloride can be reduced and hopefully negated.

Please call ACI Northwest if you have any questions about indoor air quality in Mead.

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How to Clean Your Outdoor HVAC Unit in Kootenai

Monday, May 7th, 2012

That big metal box in your backyard or on the side next to your home plays a vital role to your air conditioning in Kootenai and keeping you comfortable. That box is called the outdoor condensing unit, the key component in your home’s central air conditioning system. The condensing unit houses the compressor, which converts gas into fluid before sending it to the condenser coil, where it is cooled and sent to an indoor evaporator coil.

What you need to know is that the entire outdoor operation runs smoothly when the area inside and around the condensing unit is clean and free of debris. In some cases, the outdoor unit will fail to work if there is too much debris or dirt build-up. That can cost you a lot of money in repairs or a total replacement. Keeping the condensing unit clean is not a difficult chore – and here are some steps you can take.

First air conditioning maintenance tip is try and avoid blowing leaves or grass clippings near the unit. And regularly cut down or remove any weeds or grass that may grow up around the base of the unit.

To clean the inside of the unit, first turn off the electrical power to it. Check for an on-off switch on the unit or on a separate box nearby. Remove the grille from the unit and carefully remove the fan in order to gain access to the coil and other moving parts. At this point, you should be able to clean out any debris from inside the unit using your hands. You can also use a vacuum hose to remove debris. A soft brush or cloth rag can be used to other areas of the unit.

The fins on the coil require a gentler approach as they can be easily bent or damaged. If you notice a bent fin you can straighten it out by using a simple dull knife or a special fin “comb” which you can buy at your local hardware store. While you are in the unit, check the fan belt on the motor to ensure it is not damaged or cracked. You can also add extra oil to lubrication ports on the condensing unit, if any are available.

Use a garden hose to clean the coil and the grilles on the condensing unit. Do not use highly-pressurized water as it may cause some damage to the fins. Once this last task has been completed, reinstall the grille, switch on the condensing unit, and start up your air conditioning. You should notice if your house is cooling down quicker. If not, you may want to do some more cleaning.

If you have any doubts about cleaning your outdoor condensing unit or if you find any damaged parts that may need repair or replacement, call ACI Northwest and schedule a service call.

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Cinco de Mayo Fun!

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Take an opportunity this Cinco de Mayo to have some family fun making paper lunch bag maracas! Easy activity for ages 6 and up.

What you’ll need:

  • Four paper lunch bags
  • One handful of dried rice
  • 12″ square piece of foil
  • Rubber band
  • Paint: red, green, white, yellow
  • 8″ x 1″ strip of red felt
  • Tape

How to make it:

  1. Nest three of the four paper bags inside each other. The last bag will be used to make the handle. (See photo.)
  2. Place your hand in the center of the foil square and loosely gather it up and around your wrist. Insert your hand inside the bags and place the foil at the bottom. (See photo.)
  3. Spread the sides of the foil up and around the sides so that they are flush with the edges of the inside of the bag. The foil will give a little more strength and body to the bag and will provide a better noise for the shaker!
  4. Place a handful of rice inside the bag and then fold the edges of the tin foil closed (See photos 1, 2.)
  5. Take the remaining paper bag and cut up one of the sides and then around the perimeter of the bottom of the bag. Lay the bag flat on the table.
  6. Fold the bottom flap in, then starting at one end, roll up the bag to create the handle. Roll it up tight and tape closed. (See photos 1, 2.)
  7. Put a piece of tape across the center of the handle. Place the handle into the bag with the rice and press the tape to the side of the bag. The handle should be half in and half out of the bag. (See photo.)
  8. Gather the top of the open bag around the handle and secure with a rubber band. (See photo.)
  9. Decorate the maraca with paint using stripes, dots and curved lines. Let dry completely. (See photo.)
  10. Tie the red felt strip around the rubber band to conceal it.

Tips:

  1. You can use brown or white lunch bags for this project.
  2. If you prefer, have children decorate the bag first, let dry, and then proceed with assembly.
  3. Be sure that children shake gently to allow their maracas to last!

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