Steps Involved with Solar Panel Installation

January 30th, 2015

Installing a solar panel is a great way to save money on your home’s energy costs from month to month. However, it also happens to involve a pretty complex series of steps in order to be installed correctly. This is definitely not something you want to be doing yourself, though there are some benefits to knowing what exactly is involved with the process. Let’s take a look at the steps involved with solar panel installation, and why you want a professional to take care of it for you.

Preparation

Before anything else, the site has to be properly prepared for the solar panel to be installed. Space has to be considered. Do you have enough room on your roof for the solar panel, or would it be best to install it elsewhere? Will it be easy to access the panels in case of a problem? If you are installing it on your house, is that area strong enough to support the added weight? What about sunlight exposure? Do is the location you’ve chosen exposed to enough sunlight throughout the day? If those seem like a lot of questions, they are. In fact, they’re just the tip of the iceberg as far as preparation goes. You do not want to be navigating this kind of stuff by yourself, especially if you don’t have any experience in the matter.

Installation

After everything has been laid out, and the proper calculations made, the actual installation starts. It begins with a rack, which the solar panels will sit on. Next, the panels have to be wired together and connected to the rest of the system. As with all electrical work, this can get dangerous if you don’t take the proper precautions. That’s one more reason to let a professional do it for you. After the panels are all properly wired, the whole thing has to be connected to the home’s electrical grid. The whole process involves dealing with a lot of electricity, and if done incorrectly can cause a whole host of problems. With a professional covering each step, however, the whole thing can be done safely and efficiently.

If you need a solar panel installed, call Sound Heating and make an appointment with us. We offer solar installation service throughout Auburn, WA.

How Much Can Solar Energy Save You?

January 23rd, 2015

We’ve been hearing about how much money and resources solar energy can save for a long time now. A lot of numbers get thrown around on the national scale and in government buildings, but you rarely hear specifics about how much solar energy can benefit the average homeowner. Considering that average homeowners are the ones with the most power to implement solar energy on a wide scale, we feel that this lack of information is a major oversight. With that in mind, let’s examine how much money solar energy can save you if utilized in your home.

Operating Cost Savings

As you are well aware, each home has an operating cost, which is comprised of the total cost of things like electricity, plumbing, and all other utilities that are required for the home to function. Electricity is usually the most expensive of these utilities, as it is used for so many different things in the home. Electricity also happens to be the area that solar energy is designed to supply, making it one of the most cost-efficient improvements that you can make to your home.

This cost efficiency is illustrated by comparing the inflation rates of the two resources. Solar energy is free and renewable, as long as you have the equipment installed which can make use of it. Electricity, on the other hand, costs money to produce and deliver. According to a recent study from the Edison Electric Institute, the price of electricity rose around 2.5% each year between the years of 2000 and 2006. That’s a significant jump in price, which only increases the value that solar energy provides by saving you a percentage of your electricity bill.

The average home consumes around 900 kilowatt hours per month. That’s the total power consumed by all the different electricity-using devices in your home. An average solar system, assuming that it is receiving an average amount of sunlight, can provide approximately 450 kilowatt hours per month. That’s around half of your total electricity bill, which will only increase in value as the cost of electricity rises. So you see, a solar energy system can save you a great deal of money, and will pay for itself in fairly short order.

To schedule an appointment or if you’d like to know more, call Sound Heating today. We provide quality solar installation service in the Gig Harbor area.

What Are The Benefits Of Installing A Solar Energy System?

January 14th, 2015

Even in cloudy or foggy weather or on a very cold day, the sun gives off enough radiant energy to sufficiently power all of the electronics in your home. If you’ve been thinking about switching to solar energy, why not start by powering some of the appliances that use up the most energy? You can use solar panels to power your heater, air conditioner, and water heater if you don’t want to convert your entire home just yet, and in any case, you’ll be helping out the environment and saving a lot of money over time. Learn more about how people benefit from solar installation in Olympia in today’s guide.

Energy Savings and Peace of Mind

The energy savings from solar alone convince many people to convert. Solar energy systems pay for themselves over time as you’ll notice dramatic cuts to your monthly bills. Although solar-powered appliances are also hooked up to an electrical grid as a backup power source, the meter actually runs backwards as you contribute electricity to the grid due to overproduction. This means money is credited to your bill, for even greater savings. Besides that, there are government incentives in place so that you’ll usually get a tax credit when you go solar.

And you can also have some peace of mind knowing that you’ve done some good for the environment. Generally, electricity is generated from fossil fuels, which emit dangerous toxic gases into the environment, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Solar panels reduce CO2 emissions so that we can all breathe a little easier.

Furthermore, solar panels have no moving parts and require very little maintenance from year to year. Some manufacturers recommend hosing off the unit from time to time, but the rain can also take care of this job for you. Solar panels are built tough so they rarely run into repair needs. And despite some myths to the contrary, panels will not damage the roof, and can actually protect it from harsh weather.

Discover the benefits of solar energy for yourself. Call the experts at Sound Heating for an assessment of your home and budget so that you can decide whether it’s time to upgrade your home with solar installation in Olympia.

Energy Saving Tips for the Winter

January 5th, 2015

If you’re looking for ways to save some energy as the new year begins and the heating season is in full swing, there are a few ways to do so without shutting off your heating system altogether. Sometimes, all a heating system really needs is a brief tune-up. Other times, you’ll need to install a new part, like a thermostat. And while it may be the case that you need a new heating system entirely, there are many affordable options to choose from with efficiency ratings that will far exceed your existing unit’s level of efficiency.

Here are a few of the ways you can upgrade your heating system for maximum savings.

  • Set the thermostat to an energy-efficient temperature. A programmable thermostat allows you the ability to decide the temperature you expect your heating system to reach at different times of the day. Try setting the heater to kick in only when the temperature drops below 68 degrees. When you’re away or asleep, you can set your thermostat ten degrees lower, and program it to begin to heat up again 30 minutes before you wake up or arrive home. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, consider having a technician install one.
  • Schedule heating maintenance every year. Another way to make sure you continue to save energy every year is by scheduling maintenance. As the heating system goes on, parts of your heater are bound to become a bit worn down. And when your heating system goes unused throughout the cooling season, pieces will get dirty and parts may even loosen or fall into a state of disrepair. It’s a good idea to schedule regular maintenance with a heating professional in order to prevent any sudden repair needs and keep your unit in top shape and at peak efficiency.
  • Consider a new heating system. No homeowner wants to hear the bad news about their home heating system, but the fact is that any unit will lose its ability to heat a home efficiently over time. Sometimes, a new heating system is your best option. But new heaters are designed to be far more efficient than those built decades ago thanks to new government standards and advancements in technology.

Call Sound Heating to learn more about maximizing the efficiency of your heating. To schedule heating service in Tacoma, call us today!

When New Year’s Day Was Not on January 1st

January 1st, 2015

Some holidays fall on shifting calendar days for every year, such as Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) and Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon to occur on or after March 21). Other holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween, are fixed. No holiday has a more solid calendar date attached to it than New Year’s Day. It has to fall on January 1st because it celebrates the first day of a new year. That only makes sense…

…except that, like most things that at first appear obvious, there is a bit more to the story. The beginning of the year was not always on the first of January. As with an enormous numbers of traditions in the Western World, the establishment of January 1st as the inaugural day of a new year goes back to the ancient Romans.

The modern solar calendar is derived from the Roman model, but the earliest Roman calendars did not have 365 days in a year spread over 12 months. Instead, there were 304 days spread over 10 months. The Romans believed this calendar originated with the mythical founder of the city, Romulus. If Romulus were a real person, we can credit him with a poor understanding of the seasons, as this abbreviated calendar soon got out of sync with Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Numa, one of the Kings of Rome (probably also fictional) receives credit for creating a longer year with two added months, Ianuarius and Februarius, bringing the number of days in the year to 355. The new month of Ianuarius, named after Ianus (Janus in contemporary spelling), the god of beginnings, would eventually be known in English as January. But when this new calendar was instituted, January was not the first month. March, named after the god of war, remained the first month, and March 1st was New Year’s Day.

This extended calendar still did not keep in synch with the seasons. In 45 BCE, Julius Caesar instituted reforms to align the calendar correctly according to calculations of astronomers, with an additional 10 days distributed across the year. January also became set as the first month, and offerings to the god Janus on this day started the tradition we now know as New Year’s. The date still fluctuated during the ensuing centuries, with a number of Western European holy days treated as the beginning of the year instead. It wasn’t until the next calendar reform in 1582, the Gregorian Calendar, that the date of the New Year was fixed at January 1st.

However you choose to celebrate the beginning of the current calendar, everyone here at Sound Heating you have a wonderful 2015!

Why Do We Hang Up Mistletoe?

December 24th, 2014

Of course, you probably know part of the answer to this question already. You hang up mistletoe so that the people standing underneath can share a romantic holiday kiss! But what you may not realize is that the origin of this longstanding ritual predates many of the other holiday traditions we celebrate today. Why would a plant that has many poisonous varieties (most types sold for use in the home have few negative effects, but you can wrap it in netting to prevent children from consuming any fallen berries or leaves) be used as a symbol of holiday affection?

There are a couple of ways to explain the positive associations of (potentially hazardous) mistletoe. For one, this semi-parasitic plant has long been hailed as a treatment for illnesses and pain. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to cure cramps, epilepsy, and more. Even today, mistletoe extracts are one of the leading alternative medicines studied for their effectiveness in killing cancer cells. And because the early Celtic Druids saw it as a sign of healing and life, they may be the first to bestow upon the plant its romantic associations, deeming it worthy of treating the infertile.

But it is Norse mythology that is likely responsible for a majority of the modern traditions associated with this small hanging bunch. One of the powerful Norse god Odin’s sons, named Baldur, was said to be invincible due to an oath his mother took to protect him from harm. But Loki, a god who often set out to make trouble for the gods, set out to find the one thing that could do some damage, and eventually discovered that Baldur’s mother Frigg had never included mistletoe in her invincibility oath. When mistletoe was finally responsible for her son’s demise, the grieving Frigg vowed that the plant would never again be used to hurt another living thing, and that she would plant a peaceful kiss upon anyone who walked underneath it.

And that is one of the reasons that, today, kissing under the mistletoe is viewed as a source of good luck. From our family to yours, we wish you a safe holiday season, and we hope that you and your family are full of joy and good fortune—mistletoe or not! Happy holidays from Sound Heating!

Ground Source vs. Air Source: Which Kind of Heat Pump Is Better?

December 19th, 2014

Heat pumps are becoming more common, and that has caused a huge jump in demand for accurate information and advice on their selection and operations. The question “which kind of heat pump is better?” has become quite common, and it’s not hard to see why. Homeowners are always careful to make sure that they get the best fit for their needs and their home. They don’t want to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in a system that isn’t going to take good care of them. With that in mind, let’s attempt to answer this question.

Air Source Heat Pumps

The core of this question has to do with where the heat pump gets the thermal energy that it uses to heat the home. First, though, let’s discuss how heat pumps work. A heat pump is not a combustion-based system, like a furnace or a boiler. Those systems create heat by burning some kind of fuel. Instead, a heat pump draws heat from one area and deposits it in another.

Air source heat pumps do this by using two different units, an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The outdoor unit is installed outside the house, while the indoor unit is installed inside. When the heat is turned on, the outdoor unit will siphon thermal energy from the surrounding air and send it inside to heat the house.

Like all heat pumps, an air source heat pump is very energy efficient in most cases and will save money on heating bills. However, in climates that routinely reach sub-zero temperatures there isn’t enough thermal energy to make an air source heat pump worth it.

Ground Source

Ground source, or geothermal, heat pumps draw their heat from the ground instead of the air. They do this by relying on an underground pipe loop filled with refrigerant. When the heater turns on, it cycles this refrigerant through the main unit and siphons heat from it instead of the air. This solves the problem with air source heat pumps because the temperature underground remains fairly constant, regardless of the weather outside. Thus, they always have a renewable heat source to draw on. Unfortunately, they also require more space to install the loop.

If you’d like to know more, call Sound Heating. We provide heating services throughout Tacoma.

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

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.