Options for Hydronic Heating Systems

December 12th, 2014

People have kept themselves warm with hot water for a millennia, but it wasn’t until about a 100 years ago that use of hot water was harnessed to heat entire homes. What are we talking about? Hydronic heating systems: systems that use hot water, or its byproduct, steam, to heat your home. Lots of innovations have happened over the last century in the heating industry, giving homeowners lots of choices when it comes to home heating.

If you’ve decided that hot water is the way you’d like to heat your home, you have a few choices for outlets:


Radiators have been the staple outlet for hydronic systems since boilers were first produced. Radiators are still great for providing heat, and these days you can choose from a wide variety of styles to fit just about any home. Conventional radiators are the types with “ribs” – tubes that carry the hot water or steam through the radiator and release the heat. Radiators heat effectively and do so gently. Air bubbles can develop in radiator so it’s important to release the air once a year to ensure air lock doesn’t occur.

Baseboard Heating

Baseboard heating works similarly to radiators, but the configuration of the outlet itself is different from a standing radiator. As the name suggests, baseboard heaters are placed on the floor and are part of the baseboard of the room it’s placed in. The piping has fins attached so that when the hot water or steam flows through the pipe, the fins can radiate heat along with the pipe, similar to the ribs of a conventional radiator. The piping and fins are covered, and there are many types of baseboard covers available to complement your décor.

Radiant Heating

Hot water or steam can also be used in radiant heating. With radiant heating, flexible PEX tubing is installed onto subflooring and the hot water or steam flows through, heating the floor above it. Radiant panels for walls and ceilings can also be hydronic, but electricity is preferred. As with radiators and baseboard heating, circulating pumps push the water through the system.

Hydronic systems offer a gentle, comfortable heat for your home. If you think a hydronic heating system is a fit for your home, call Sound Heating today and schedule your heating installation in Tacoma with one of our HVAC experts!

Types of Gas Furnace Safety Mechanisms

December 5th, 2014

Because a furnace is usually hooked up to the gas line, some homeowners may worry about the safety of their home and family. Unfortunately, gas furnaces are sometimes unfairly written off as unsafe since they deal with combustion gases that could be hazardous. In reality, today’s furnaces are actually incredibly safe and contain key features that help to protect your home. These features should always work properly so long as the unit is properly installed and continuously maintained.

Be sure to call a technician whenever you suspect that a component of your furnace is not working, like the Tacoma heating experts at Sound Heating, or for routine maintenance and inspection every year. For now, take a look at some of these key furnace safety features, so you can rest easy knowing your furnace won’t cause you any harm throughout the night.

  1. Furnace Limit Switch: The furnace fan limit switch, at its most basic function, is a part that tells the fan when to turn on and off. This keeps your fan from continuously blowing after your home has reached the desired temperature. But it is also an important safety mechanism on any furnace that keeps the furnace plenum from overheating so that there is no damage to the unit and so that flames cannot escape.
  2. Thermocouple: The thermocouple is a feature that protects the combustion chamber from filling up with unburned gases.  If the standing pilot light were to go out, the chamber could fill up with these gases which would lead to an explosion in some cases. The thermocouple is a simple component that senses when the pilot light is off and closes the gas valve.
  3. Flame Sensor: In today’s furnaces, the thermocouple is actually no longer necessary for most modern units. Older furnaces required a standing pilot, while most of today’s units use hot surface ignition or an intermittent pilot instead of requiring the pilot to remain on. For these furnaces, a mercury sensor performs a similar job to the thermocouple.

If you’re worried about the safety of your furnace or need a professional to troubleshoot strange sounds or other indications that a furnace is in a state of disrepair, you should talk to the professionals at Sound Heating. We offer repairs, maintenance, and installation for heating systems in Tacoma and the surrounding area.

How Does a New Thermostat Help with Heating?

November 28th, 2014

Although the thermostat is a physically small component of the heating system in a home, it is one of the most important. When a thermostat begins to malfunction, it can have a huge effect on how well your home is heated; and if the thermostat stops working entirely, you won’t have the ability to turn the heater on or off.

However, you can have a perfectly working thermostat but still suffer from inferior heating because the thermostat is out-of-date and in need of an upgrade. If you still have an older manual thermostat or a standard digital thermostat without programmable features, you should call Sound Heating today and talk to our heating experts about updating your heating system with new controls. We install and service a variety of thermostats to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of heating in Tacoma, WA and the surrounding areas.

Ways That a New Thermostat Will Mean Better Heating

  • Improved precision: If you are still using a manual thermostat with sliders and dials, you are missing out on precision temperature settings. Digital thermostats are much more accurate, which will help you with comfort as well as energy savings.
  • Programmability and energy savings: Most digital thermostats today come with programming. These programs vary from simple (one setting for the morning, one for the evening) to complex (settings for each day of the week) so you can choose the right kind for your budget. Programmable thermostats allow you to enjoy comfort without wasting energy: if you want the house warmed up before you come home each evening, but you don’t want to drain energy running the heater all day, you can program the thermostat to turn the heating system on a half hour before the time you plan to return.
  • Zone control: To fully update your thermostat, have multiple thermostats installed as part of a new zone control system. Zone control uses dampers inside the ductwork to control the flow of heat to different parts of the house. A network of wireless thermostats manipulates each of the dampers. You can turn heating on and off from a central thermostat, or change the temperature in individual rooms using the local thermostats. Thanks to wireless technology, it is easier than ever to set up a zone control system for a home.

Because there is a large variety of thermostats available, you need trained professionals to help you choose the one that will do the job you need for your home. Call Sound Heating today: we offer many different thermostat models and brands, and our professional installers will see that you receive top quality service that will benefit your heating.

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 Sound Heating, we hope your Thanksgiving is full of joy and contentment this year. Happy feasting!

Common Heating System Repairs to Look Out for

November 14th, 2014

Any type of heating system may have its advantages and drawbacks. A furnace, the most popular choice for home heating in the United States, is a reliable heating system that works in any home with a set of ducts. Though older models were rather inefficient, today’s units use far less energy to heat the air than they once did. Many people choose a heat pump for heating instead, which is an extremely efficient type of system that also allows for air conditioning. These can have a very long lifespan, but you may need an additional source of heating for nights when the temperature drops too low. Finally, the boiler is one of the most durable systems available, requiring fewer repairs because of how little energy is utilized to heat and circulate water.

However, you can buy the best heating system available on the market today, and it will still encounter repairs at some point in its life. And any time you run into a repair need, you should schedule immediate service to make sure the problem doesn’t worsen and hamper efficiency or that you suddenly lose heating in the middle of the night. Be on the lookout for any of the following common repair needs for any type of heating system.

  • Strange Noises: Unusual noises from your heating system usually indicate that something is wrong. In a heat pump, it could signal compressor damage. In any type of forced-air heating system, loud noises can indicate trouble with the motor. And with a boiler, an unusual noise could indicate kittling, pump damage, or a number of other issues.
  • Reduced Heating: Of course, you probably know to call a plumber when your heating system delivers no heat at all. But what if there is simply not enough heat? If it’s tolerable, the repairs can wait, right? Waiting to schedule repairs will only cause parts to become worn down, and your unit may break down in the middle of the night without warning.
  • Short Cycling: Short cycling is when your unit starts up and runs for a short while, only to turn off before the heating cycle is completed. Some of the most important components of a heat pump, furnace, or boiler may be responsible for this problem although it could simply indicate a faulty thermostat.

Don’t wait to schedule heating repairs in Tacoma with a trained professional. Call Sound Heating for friendly, professional service today!

What Is a Hydronic Heating System?

November 7th, 2014

A hydronic heating system is a broad term for any system that uses water to heat a home instead of air. Radiant heating systems are the most common form of hydronic heating. In this post, we’ll discuss the various unique qualities of the radiant heating system, and the advantages it provides.

What is Radiant Heating?

Radiant heating systems begin by installing water pipes in each of the rooms to be heated. Normally, these pipes are installed in the walls or subfloor of a room. Occasionally, you’ll see these pipes terminate in a terminal like a baseboard heater or iron radiator. These terminals are becoming less and less common in the U.S., though.

Once these pipes are installed, they all are linked back to a central boiler. The boiler heats water and pumps it through these pipes throughout the house. As the water flows through the pipes, it transfers its heat to the pipes, then the wall or floor, and from there into the room. This is why the system is called “radiant heating,” because the heat radiates through solid objects. The heat then moves from object to object in the room, transferred by two objects touching each other, until the room is evenly heated.

Why Choose Radiant Heating?

In order to understand the benefits of radiant heating, you first need to understand the difference between water and air as thermal mediums. Water is a much better conductor of thermal energy than air is. This makes water a much more energy efficient way to transport heat. Radiant heating systems tend to warm a room faster, and keep it warm longer, with less effort than a forced air system. The delivery system is also part of this.

In forced air systems, warm air is blown through the ducts and into the room to heat it. The problem is that warm air naturally rises to the top of the room, only sinking as it cools. This defeats the purpose of heating the room in the first place. Radiant heating transmits thermal energy through objects instead of the air, avoiding this issue by keeping the heat closer to ground level where it can be appreciated.

If you’d like to know more about radiant heating, call Sound Heating. We install heating systems throughout the Tacoma area.

What Is a Ground-Source Heat Pump?

October 31st, 2014

Geothermal systems are pretty ingenious. Harnessing the steady temperature of the Earth just below the frost line, these systems can heat and cool your home without the use of fossil fuels. One of the key components in the system that allows it to work as it does is the ground-source heat pump. Heat pump technology can be used in several ways, including air-source and water-source, making them very versatile devices. However, it takes expertise to work with a heat pump. If you are planning to use a heat pump for this winter’s heating, make sure you hire experts you can count on: Sound Heating.

How Does a Ground-Source Heat Pump Work?

Heat pumps work by transferring heat from one location to another. With a ground-source heat pump, the heat pump is installed in your home, typically in a basement space if you have one, and is attached directly to the ground loop of your geothermal system. The ground loop has an anti-freeze solution in it that absorbs the stored heat in the ground. This heat is transferred to the heat pump, where it is concentrated in the heat exchanger. Once the heat has been compressed, it is distributed into your living spaces.

In the summer, the opposite happens. The heat pump absorbs the hot air in your home and transfers it to the ground loop, where the surrounding dirt acts as a heat sink and absorbs the heat.

What Are the Benefits of a Ground-Source Heat Pump?

  • Very energy efficient – heat pumps use a small amount of electricity to operate and no fossil fuels at all.
  • Comfortable heating and cooling – heat pumps distribute heating and cooling in a low-volume way, so both heating and cooling are gradual and, for many, more comfortable.
  • Long lifespan – the life of an average heat pump is 20-25 years, as compared with that of a furnace or boiler, which is 15-20 years.

If you are looking for improved efficiency without sacrificing comfort, a ground-source heat pump may be just the heating system you need. Call Sound Heating today and schedule heating service in Tacoma with one of our installation experts.

How Does a Boiler Work?

October 24th, 2014

Boilers were one of the first whole-home heating systems. Today’s boilers are very energy efficient, and can distribute heat through radiators, baseboard heating and radiant heating. How does the system work? We’ll detail more of that below, but what is important is having a reliable heating company to call whenever you experience problems with your heating. For over 20 years, Sound Heating has provided expert heating service in Tacoma and we can help you with any problems you may be experiencing with your boiler. Call us today!

How a Boiler Works

Boilers work by heating water and distributing the heated water, or the steam created from the hot water, through outlets like radiators.  Fuel, such as natural gas or oil, is ignited in a combustion chamber, and this flame heats the water in the system in one of two ways:

  • Firetube – enclosed metal tubes are submerged in the water tank and heated by fire or hot flue gases; this heat transfers to the water.
  • Watertube – instead of gases, water is inside the tubes, and the water is heated via combustion flames that surround the outside of the tubes.

With steam systems, the steam produced is kept in a dome on the top of the water vessel until it is released into the system for heating; the hot water releases when it hits the correct temperature. The water or steam circulates around the system, and when it cools, the cooled water returns to the boiler’s vessel for the next cycle of heating.

Benefits of Boilers

There are a few benefits of boilers worth considering:

  • Energy efficient – boilers have an average energy efficiency of 89% and can go higher than 95%
  • Comfortable heat – the heat coming from a hydronic system (system that uses water) is gradual as it radiates, which can feel more comfortable than forced air
  • No dust – boilers are closed systems, and as such, do not circulate dust the way a forced air system can, which can be very good for allergy sufferers

Boilers are efficient, durable systems, and can be a great choice for heating. If you are in need of a new heating system in Tacoma, call the people you can trust: Sound Heating.

Steps to Take Before a New Heating Installation

October 17th, 2014

A new heating system is a great opportunity to improve your energy efficiency and comfort, and to install a system that can better fit your needs. Before moving ahead with a purchase, though, it’s important to complete a few preliminary steps, preferably with the help of a trained professional. Part of our Sound Heating HVAC service involves helping with these steps to ensure that you install a heating system that fits your home perfectly and provides the comfort you need. If you are getting ready to install a new heating system, call us today.

Steps to Take Before Installation

Choosing a Type of System

There are a number of choices available to homeowners when it comes installing a new heating system. Some of these choices are:

  • Furnaces (both gas and electric)
  • Heat pumps (both ducted and ductless systems)
  • Geothermal systems
  • Boilers (gas and oil)

Understanding how each works, whether a system needs ductwork, and knowing both the advantages and disadvantages of each system are important factors that should go into your decision.

Energy Efficiency

Using an energy efficient system is good for both you and the environment. Today’s heating systems are very energy efficient, but there is some variation between systems. To measure the efficiency of combustion systems, you want to review the AFUE rating – the annual fuel utilization efficiency. This rating is the measure of combustion system’s efficiency in converting fuel into energy; the higher the AFUE, the more energy efficient the system. For non-combustion systems, like heat pumps and geothermal systems, you’ll want to review the Energy Star ratings and the HSPF ratings. HSPF stands for heating season performance factor. This rating system ranges from 1 to 10, with the highest efficiency ratings measuring between 8 and 10. HSPF is calculated by dividing the total electrical energy consumed by the heat pump system (in watt-hours) during a specific season by the total space heating required during that same season (in BTUs).

Size Calculation

One of the most important steps you can take before choosing a system is knowing exactly what size system you need for your home. Many people only factor in the square footage of their properties when sizing a heating system – several other factors need to be considered to be accurate. Some of these other factors are:

  • Orientation of your home
  • Amount of daytime heat gain your home has
  • Levels of insulation
  • Number and types of windows and doors
  • Floor plan
  • Number of rooms
  • Number of occupants

Incorrectly calculating your heating load can lead to the installation of a heating system that is not correctly-sized for your home. You can avoid this by working with a trained professional.

A new heating installation can be a great opportunity for you and your home, but using a trained professional is very important to the process, which is why sizing, etc., is part of our HVAC service in Tacoma. If you are ready to take the next steps toward heating installation, call Sound Heating today!

What to Look for in an HVAC Service Company

October 10th, 2014

Having a reliable heating and cooling company is a necessity for homeowners. However, finding one can sometimes be a challenge. There are some specific things you should look for in any HVAC service company in Tacoma, and we’ll outline a few of them below. Sound Heating has been serving the Puget Sound area for over 20 years, and our NATE-certified technicians are available 24/7 for any repairs needs you may have.

HVAC Companies: What to Look For

Here are some things to keep an eye out for when choosing an HVAC service company:

Are they licensed and insured?

Using a company or individual who isn’t licensed and insured puts you and your HVAC system at risk. How? Any problems that occur – injury to the technician, damage to your equipment – will not be covered. The liability will fall on you.

Does the company have an office and physical address?

A real service company should have some kind of physical address, not just a phone number.

Is the company part of any national trade organization?

Organizations like NATE (North American Technician Excellence) and others denote that technicians have the training and knowledge necessary to work on your system.

Are the employees professionally dressed?

Having a uniform with an ID tag indicates that the company takes a professional approach to their jobs.

Does the company carry any name-brand products?

Manufacturers are picky about who carries their products – after all, it’s their name that’s out there. As such, manufacturers vet their vendors before allowing an HVAC company to carry a specific product line.

Does the company offer emergency service?

Unfortunately, heating equipment doesn’t break down at convenient times. You need to be able to get a hold of a repair person, even if it’s 11pm on a Sunday night.

Is the work guaranteed, or is there a refund policy?

You want to have confidence that a company will stand by its work and also put customers first.

It can take some time to find an HVAC service company in Tacoma that will meet your needs, but it’s worth it. If you have questions about HVAC service, or want to know more about how Sound Heating can help you, call us today.