ACI Northwest Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Cocolalla’

Heating Q/A: Why is my Air Handler Squealing?

Friday, March 16th, 2012

As a Sandpoint resident, do unusual noises ever come from your expensive heating system?  Do they make you worry that something is wrong?

It’s true that an unusual noise does often mean that you need heating system maintenance; however, a noise emanating from your HVAC system does not necessarily mean a major repair. You should always have a technician check out if you suspect a problem with your system, but not all problems are going to be expensive to fix.

One common noise that homeowners notice and complain about is a squealing noise originating in the air handler. Usually, this noise is coming from the fan belt that connects the blower fan and the motor. Over time, the belt can stretch out and become worn or misaligned, which makes it slip and generate that aggravating squealing noise.

So, while the squealing can be annoying and unpleasant, a slipping belt is by no means major. A belt is an inexpensive part and a technician can install it in just a matter of minutes.

As long as the noise is a squealing and not a grinding, this simple fix wil often take care of the problem. If you hear a grinding noise, however, immediately shut the unit down and call a technician. This may mean that your motor bearings are worn out and need to be replaced ASAP before further damage is inflicted on the motor itself.  Call ACI Northwest with any questions about your heating system.

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Kellogg Heating Q/A: What Exactly Are High Efficiency Boilers?

Monday, February 13th, 2012

As a Kellogg resident you have already read plenty about how energy costs are rising. You know plenty well that heating your home is a substantial expense, and that the cost of running a boiler is constantly on the rise. That whole array of topics has been more than adequately covered.

So rather than spend more time telling you what you already know, this post is about one of the solutions to combat the high costs of home heating: high efficiency boilers. As technology has gotten better, so have boilers become more efficient at providing heat. It stands to reason that a more efficient boiler is one that costs less to run…but what does “efficient” really mean in the context of boilers? What makes a boiler “high efficiency”?

What Is a High Efficiency Boiler?

All boilers are rated according to a standardized system of rating efficiency, called the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). Essentially, this rating tells you how much heat energy is produced by a boiler compared to how much energy it draws. The higher a boiler’s AFUE rating, the more efficient it is.

For a boiler to be called high efficiency, it must carry an AFUE of at least 90%. For basis of comparison, older systems carry an AFUE of about 70%, while mid-efficiency systems run at about 82%.

In addition, a high efficiency system has a second heat exchanger for capturing and condensing flue gases, as well as a closed combustion system.

These three things — an AFUE of 90% or above, condensing flue gases and closed combustion – define a so-called “high efficiency” boiler.

Getting More Efficient

To go the high efficiency route, the most obvious option is to replace your current boiler with a high efficiency unit. But what if you have a fairly new boiler that is not ready to be replaced yet?

In that case, you can retrofit your existing boiler with high efficiency equipment. It won’t be quite the same as getting a top-of-the-line high efficiency boiler, but it will produce high efficiency results without costing as much.

The initial investment in a high efficiency boiler can be costly, but the savings over time in heating bills make it well worth the expense.  Call ACI NW with any questions about boilers.

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Question from Cocolalla: What Makes a Furnace High Efficiency?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

You’ve probably heard in Cocolalla about the new lines of high efficiency furnaces being released by popular home heating companies, but what exactly is different about these high efficiency devices from your current furnace? Let’s take a closer look at what a high efficiency furnace offers and why it can save you money.

Added Features

A high efficiency furnace uses familiar technology in a new way to reduce the amount of energy lost when combustion takes place. This means:

  • Sealed Combustion – Instead of open combustion which allows heat to escape during and after the combustion process, a high efficiency furnace uses a sealed chamber with carefully measured and fed airflow to burn fuel and produce heat. Exhaust heat can then be recaptured and used to heat air transferred to your air vents.
  • Two Stage Gas Valves – With a two stage gas valve, your furnace can respond to the temperature outside. There isn’t just one “on” switch. The furnace will regulate gas flow based on how much energy is needed to produce heat for your home. So, if there is a sudden burst of cold outside, the furnace will respond accordingly, but for most days when heating needs are low, it will use only the minimum amount of needed gas.
  • Programmable – High efficiency furnaces are now programmable, meaning you can set specific time limits for operation, change thermostat settings digitally and inspect the device through an electronic read out. The level of control given to you by a programmable high efficiency furnace can greatly reduce gas or electricity consumption.

Cost Benefit

The real reason many people are interested in high efficiency furnaces is that they are so much less expensive to operate. Instead of costing hundreds of dollars to run through the winter, they operate the bare minimum needed to heat your home. Using up to 95% of the fuel they consume to produce heat and regulating gas to cut how much is consumed during milder days, these furnaces are built to save you money.

If you have an old furnace that chews through energy like nobody’s business, now might be the time to consider the benefits of a brand new, high efficiency model.

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A Question from Worley: What Does a Furnace Fan Limit Switch Do?

Friday, December 9th, 2011

When researching your Worley home’s furnace and potential problems it might have, you’ve probably run across a few references to the fan limit switch. And while you know that it can break in a number of ways, do you know what the switch does and what you should look for when checking your furnace its air handler for problems?

What the Limit Switch Does

To put it very simply, the furnace fan limit switch is a control that tells your furnace’s fan when to turn on and off. So, when the furnace isn’t on, it tells the blower not to operate (and send cold air into your home) and when the furnace is on, it tells the blower to turn on and start circulating the warm air.

While the primary function of the limit switch is to turn the blower fan on and off, it also has a safety role. When the temperature in the air supply plenum gets too hot, the limit switch turns off the furnace boiler to keep there from being any damage from overheating. This is handy if there is a blockage in the air vents or the controls are messed up due to water damage or improper adjustments to the settings.

Looking for Problems

Most of the time, when there is an issue with your furnace turning off or on frequently, the limit switch is one of the first things you will check. Because the switch is electronic and is attached to a thermostat which measures temperature in the air supply plenum, a small problem can result in it not working properly. So, you can easily check it by temporarily bypassing the switch and seeing if your device turns on or off properly.

In many cases, if the limit switch is the problem, you will still need to call a professional for replacement, but you can avoid a lot of headaches related to tracking down the source of the problem. If you suspect a limit switch problem, make sure to call someone immediately, because it does provide an important safety function and because without it your furnace won’t cycle on and off properly.

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How Effective is Geothermal Heating? A Question From Cocolalla

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Geothermal heating is an efficient way to use the Earth’s natural resources to heat a building’s interior in Cocolalla. But is it an effective way? Of course.

Consider the cost of geothermal heating. Once you get past the initial installation costs of a geothermal heating system, which are higher than other conventional heating systems, its operating costs are much lower because of its use of a natural, renewable heat source – the Earth. If you plan to stay in your home for many years, a geothermal heating system will likely pay for itself because according to International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, geothermal operating efficiencies are 50-70% higher than other heating systems, which represents a substantial lowering of energy costs.

And according to a leading electric utility company, the cost of electricity for operating a geothermal heat pump is lower than any other heating system which includes natural gas, propane, and oil.

Beyond lower energy costs, geothermal heating leaves a smaller carbon footprint than other heating systems. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the average U.S. home is 17%, most of which comes from burning fossil fuels for electricity. Geothermal uses natural heat from the ground and therefore uses 30-60% less energy than more conventional heating and cooling systems. Using less energy equals less carbon dioxide production.

A geothermal heating system is only as effective as the equipment used to deliver it throughout the building. The most common delivery method is through a ground source heat pump. This pump pulls the heat from the earth and distributes it. When properly installed and maintained, a ground source heat pump can last 15-20 years and provide an excellent source for heating – and cooling.

The components of a geothermal system also include a compressor, air handling unit, and duct system. When all are installed and maintained correctly, a geothermal heating system will be just as effective in heating a building’s interior as any other heating system. Just be sure you hire a qualified heating and cooling professional to install and service your geothermal heating system.

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What Is Forced Air Heating? A Question From Cocolalla

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Chances are that you’ve heard the term forced air heating in Cocolalla before, particularly if you’re in the market for a new home heating system. But what does that actually mean? The truth is that if you’re asking this question, you’re not alone. There are so many types of home heating systems out there that it’s common to be a bit confused and overwhelmed by it all.

The truth is that a forced air heating system is simply a heating system that distributes heat throughout your house using air to carry it. In this type of system, heated air travels through a system of ducts and is expelled through vents into the different rooms and areas of your home in order to maintain a particular temperature. That temperature, of course, is whatever you set your thermostat to, and when the desired temperature is reached, the heat will shut off until the temperature drops down again.

The main difference between the different types of forced air heating systems is the type of equipment that heats the air. For instance, you could have a gas furnace or a heat pump. Both of these are capable of heating air, and when paired with a fan, blower or air handler, can distribute heated air throughout your home.

Many forced air heating systems are remarkably energy efficient and can effectively keep you home comfortable all winter long. Additionally, they are generally made to be incorporated with central air conditioning systems for year round temperature control. Heat pumps are especially convenient in this way, as they’re able to both heat and cool your home depending on the season and your home comfort needs.

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How to I Decide What Size Generator to Buy? A Question From Cocolalla

Monday, September 5th, 2011

No one likes to be without power. A storm or disruption to local electrical service can have a major impact on people’s lives and well-being, whether you live in Cocolalla or Priest River. Fortunately, there are safeguards in place to prevent loss of electric power in the event of an emergency. There are no better examples than hospitals that utilize back-up generators to run their electrical systems in the event of a power failure. Electricity is a necessity for these emergency facilities.

Electricity is also a necessity for you in your homes. Many of you can “wait out” a power failure because experience shows that power failures can be as short as a few seconds or minutes. Even ones lasting several hours are tolerable, albeit disruptive and uncomfortable.

If you’d prefer to have back-up power there are some things to consider when shopping around for a gas generator. Many people would like to have this important appliance but simply cannot afford to make the expenditure. The question then is: Can you afford not to have electricity? Will you have to replace a refrigerator or freezer full of food? Are you entertaining guests and can’t reschedule the event? Does someone in your home require electrical medical equipment? If you answer yes to any of these you are an ideal candidate for a generator.

But what size and type?

First of all, how much energy does you home consume? Do you run your air conditioner and furnace a lot? Are your refrigerator and/or freezer set on very cold temperatures? Do you run a lot of computers and televisions?

Typically, the right size generator for a 2,000 square foot home is around 7,000 watts. This generator will power up most appliances and cost in the $900-$1,000 range. If you are on a budget and don’t need to constantly run every appliance, you might consider a 1,400 watt gas generator which retails for around $200. Other gas generators with various wattage ratings run the gamut of pricing between these two examples.

When buying a generator, also determine if you want major appliances plugged directly into the generator or to simply run the main power circuit from your home into the generator. If you choose the later, it is advisable to hire a qualified electrician to tie in the generator to your home.

If you really want instant piece of mind and don’t mind paying for the expense, you can buy a generator that activates immediately after a power failure and runs on natural gas. But now we are talking about big dollars.

If you decide to go the gas generator route, keep one more thing in mind. They don’t run forever. Keep an ample supply of gas on hand to feed the generator, based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.

A power supply loss doesn’t mean the end of the world – if you plan ahead.

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How to Reduce Indoor Allergens: A Tip From Cocolalla

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Indoor allergens range from the obnoxious like pet dander, pollen and dust to the downright dangerous like mold, smoke and dust mites. Typically, you won’t even realize you have allergens in your Cocolalla home until one or more members of your family develop symptoms of discomfort or illness with no clear reason. Long term respiratory or allergic issues when inside the house are usually a clear sign of an indoor allergen problem – usually something you can fix.

Identify the Allergen

Step one is to identify the source of the discomfort. Most allergens are related to something you have in or around your home. For example, if you have a cat or dog, you very likely have high levels of pet dander. A flower garden outside or lots of plants inside can result in high pollen levels. Excess moisture in your basement or attic can result in dust mite and mold growth.

If you are unsure of what allergens are causing your discomfort, there are companies that can test the air in your home for specific allergens. These tests look for all allergens as well as potentially dangerous contaminants like radon and MVOC toxins from mold and mildew. Whether you need such testing depends on the severity of your health concerns and the initial inspection performed by your contractor.

Getting Rid of Allergens

Once you know for sure what your problem is, it’s time to cut back on the allergens. Mechanical fixes are available in the form of air filters and advanced ventilation systems. You can supplement those solutions by implementing a series of simple upgrades to your insulation to keep out the pollutants that are outside.

The key is to make sure the air flows freely through your home and filters remove and ventilate the air properly to keep it from growing too stale and making you sick. You can also cut back on the use of certain chemicals and materials that cause allergens to build up. For example, aerosols, paints and glues produce a number of irritating gases that tend to stick around inside.

Additionally, make sure your pets are cleaned often and that your upholstery and carpet is vacuumed daily by a HEPA quality vacuum cleaner. This will severely reduce the presence of dust, dust mites and dander.

By focusing heavily on the reduction of pollutants and allergens like dander, pollen and dust, most of your indoor air quality problems will be solved. It just takes awareness and action.

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Maintenance: Cleaning Your Conditioner Coil Will Save You Headaches Later

Monday, July 25th, 2011

You have plenty of things to clean all over your house. But do you really have to clean your air conditioner too? Well, if you want it to keep working well, you do. In fact, cleaning the coil of your air conditioner is a quick and easy process, especially if you do it on a regular basis, and it can save you a great deal of frustration later on.

Like any machine, your air conditioner needs a tune up from time to time in order to continue to function properly. While a lot of this is taken care of if you have an annual maintenance service performed by a professional, your air conditioning coil will benefit greatly by being cleaned more often than that.

In fact, during your annual maintenance visit, your air conditioning technician can easily demonstrate for you how to get to the coil and clean it. This is a relatively easy task that you can carry out every month or so when your system is in use to help ensure optimal health and functioning for your system.

Of course, your air conditioning system will still run whether you clean the coils on a regular basis or not. For now, that is. Allowing more and more debris to build up on the coil, however, can have a big impact on the overall energy efficiency of your unit. An air conditioner with a dirty coil will have to work harder to keep your house cool, and that will be reflected by an increase in energy consumption.

Also, an air conditioner with a dirty coil that is having to work harder to keep your house cool will wear out more quickly than one that is working properly without added impediments. The added wear and tear that this causes to various other parts within your air conditioner can cause them to malfunction and need to be replaced sooner than they should.

This means more costly repairs, even if they are minor ones. It also means that your entire air conditioning system will probably not last as long as it may have with proper care. You will have to replace it sooner, adding even more to the cost of having and running the equipment.

Cleaning your air conditioner coil regularly is a simple and effective way of helping to keep the entire system running smoothly and efficiently for many years to come.

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