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.

Should I Schedule Maintenance For My Furnace?

October 3rd, 2014

You may not have turned on your heating yet, but the cold weather is coming. One of the best ways to make sure you and your heating system are ready for winter is to schedule HVAC maintenance. There are multiple benefits to performing maintenance, and fall offers a perfect time to schedule it. Scheduling fall HVAC maintenance in Tacoma with a NATE-certified technician from Sound Heating will ensure that your system operates at peak performance, even when winter sets in.

Why Should I Schedule Maintenance?

Maintenance offers a few benefits that are important for you and your system: 

  • Increased energy efficiency – after a busy summer season, it’s very likely that your HVAC system is in need of some TLC before it starts working for the winter. It’s hard for your HVAC system to achieve its normal level of energy efficiency when it is dirty and worn. During a maintenance appointment, your system is cleaned and adjusted, and all moving parts are lubricated; this allows your system to work optimally, making it more energy efficient.
  • Prolong life of equipment – premature aging is more likely to occur with equipment that isn’t well-maintained. This is because parts that are dirty or worn out can’t work as they are supposed to, so to achieve the heating you want, the components and system have to work harder. Working harder over a long period of time can age the equipment. When regular maintenance is performed, your system is good working order consistently, which reduces the overall level of wear-and-tear.
  • Helps prevent repairs – no one likes waking up to no heat on a cold winter morning, and fall maintenance can help to greatly reduce the chances of this scenario occurring. During a maintenance appointment, your system is thoroughly inspected for any problems. If anything is found, you will be made aware immediately so that repair can be arranged. Getting ahead of repairs helps prevent breakdown during the winter months.

Scheduling HVAC maintenance now can save you headaches down the road later. Call Sound Heating today and schedule a maintenance appointment with one of our NATE-certified technicians.

What are the Benefits of Fall Maintenance?

September 26th, 2014

With all the other bills, minor repairs, and general upkeep involved with being a homeowner, it can sometimes be tempting to neglect fall heating maintenance. Ultimately, however, such neglect can only hurt you in the long run.

Here are some of the most important benefits of having your heating system serviced every fall.

Convenience

By the time fall arrives, the demand for air conditioning is tapering off, and the need for heat hasn’t reached great heights quite yet. This makes fall the perfect time to schedule service for your heating system. If you wait until winter is fully upon us, however, it will be much more difficult to get prompt service. If something then goes wrong with your heating, you will be doubly sorry that you didn’t have it looked at earlier.

Savings

As the adage goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is far cheaper to conduct preventative maintenance than it is to repair or replace broken heating systems. Logically, the best time to conduct this kind of maintenance is right before you begin heavily using the system in winter. It may seem like an unnecessary bother at the time, but you could be saving yourself thousands of dollars by catching problems before they become severe.

Efficiency

Even if your heating system doesn’t break during heavy use, it will not be performing at peak efficiency if you neglect to give it regular maintenance. Buildup of dirt and other materials can significantly impair your heating system’s ability to actually heat your home. Even simple wear and tear can make your system operate far under normal efficiency before something actually breaks. Aside from making your house far less comfortable in winter, this can also cost you money as your system expends more energy to keep the temperature up.

Overall, the benefits of fall maintenance far outweigh the risks of neglecting it. No matter what kind of heating system you use, it is never a bad idea to have a professional examine it before you begin to use it regularly. If you haven’t scheduled your fall heating system maintenance yet, call Sound Heating. No matter where you are in the Tacoma area, we can take care of your heating maintenance needs. Schedule your HVAC maintenance in Tacoma with Sound Heating today!

Consider a Solar Water Heater for Your Next Water Heater Installation

September 19th, 2014

Although we have access to an enormous amount of natural energy from the sunlight, few people seem to take advantage of the benefits of solar energy. And while choosing to switch your entire home to solar energy may be a big step, you can make some minor changes toward a more efficient home right now. Consider switching to a solar water heater for your new water heater installation. These units are extremely efficient and can be just as effective as your current heater. The two major types of solar water heaters, active and passive, are described below.

Active

The main difference between an active and passive solar water heater is that an active system has controls and pumps while a passive system does not. An active solar water heater may rely on two different types of circulation, direct or indirect. Direct circulation systems pump water through the solar collector, and solar radiation heats the water. Water flows back into the storage tank with a backup heater attached and into a pipe to reach your home. Indirect circulation systems pump refrigerant into the solar collector, which absorbs heat. As the refrigerant flows through a heat exchanger in the tank, the water is heated.

Passive

A passive circulation system does not rely on any pumps. Instead, water flows into the solar collector where it gets preheated. The water then moves into the storage tank, where an additional gas or electric heating element helps it reach the proper temperature. While this type of system may still need to use some energy, it will use significantly less as water is already hot before reaching the tank.

What Are The Benefits Of Going Solar?

Choosing a solar water heater is one of the most efficient ways to heat water in your home, and it may reduce your hot water bills by up to one half. Solar water heaters are also very effective and may have long lifespans with proper maintenance.

You should let a professional technician help you choose which type of water heater is right for your home. If you need a new water heater in Tacoma, call the water heater experts at Sound Heating today!

Are There Some Cases Where a Standard Water Heater Is Better than a Tankless Water Heater?

September 12th, 2014

You may have heard that tankless water heaters are an efficient alternative to traditional water heaters, but they may not actually be the best choice for everyone. While tankless water heaters are becoming more and more popular, traditional units, otherwise known as storage tank water heaters, are still the most widely used system in the U.S. And even though tankless water heaters save energy and emit fewer pollutants, many homeowners feel as though they benefit more from sticking with a traditional unit instead.

Both types of systems have their advantages. Tankless units are more efficient because they don’t use energy throughout the day. Storage tank water heaters keep water heated in a large tank so it is readily available for use. But this means energy is used throughout the day to heat water that is only used on occasion. A tankless water heater only activates when a hot water tap is turned on, reducing your gas or electricity usage. Also, tankless water heaters are known to last nearly twice as long as a standard water heater, so you’ll have an efficient system for years to come.

But for some homeowners, efficiency isn’t everything. For one, a tankless water heater is often more costly to install than a storage tank heater. And while an efficient tankless unit may eventually save enough energy to offset the price, it can take many years to do so. Besides, you may have to install multiple tankless units to keep up with high demands for hot water in your family.

A common complaint about tankless water heaters is that they may not be effective at heating multiple sources as once. If someone is doing laundry while someone else is showering, some units will struggle to keep up. In this case, you may need to install two or more units depending on the size of your family. And for some homeowners, this cost is not worth the savings over time.

Whether you want to stick with a storage tank water heater or switch to an efficient tankless water heater in Gig Harbor, talk to one of the experts at Sound Heating today!

Tankless vs. Storage Water Heater: Which Is Right for My Home?

September 5th, 2014

You use hot water for many of the things you need to do every day, such as showering and washing dishes. So when you need a new water heater, you want to make sure that your new system can accommodate your needs. While many homes have water heaters that use large tanks to keep a supply of hot water available, tankless water heaters are rising in popularity recently due to environmental concerns and the money-saving benefits. But is a tankless water heater right for you?

We’ll Compare Both Types of Water Heaters in This Short Guide

Storage Tank Water Heater

A storage tank water heater works under the principle that heat naturally rises. Water enters the tank through a dip tube that feeds all the way to the bottom of the tank. With gas-powered storage tank heaters, there is a gas burner at the bottom of the tank that heats water. In an electric water heater, an electric heating element accomplishes the same. Water then moves naturally from the bottom of your tank to the top as hot water rises over the denser cold water, and flows to your faucet through the pipe that sits at the top of the tank. This type of system may cost more to run as a lot of energy is lost keeping water hot at all times.

Tankless Water Heater

A tankless water heater, on the other hand, does not rely on a tank because water does not need to be heated at all times. Instead, the heating element is activated as soon as a hot water tap is turned on. Water is instantly heated before flowing to your faucet. This eliminates the standby energy loss associated with storage tank heaters. Additionally, many people appreciate the smaller size of the tankless water heater over the bulky storage tank.

So which wins for your home? This all depends on your individual needs. A tankless water heater may use less energy to heat water, but it may not be able to handle demands from multiple taps. You may need to install multiple tankless heaters to make up for this deficiency. However, the energy savings may offset this cost over time. If you want to know which type of unit is best for you, call the experts at Sound Heating and ask about installing tankless water heaters in Gig Harbor.

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 Sound Heating wishes your family a happy end of summer.