Archive for November, 2011

How Often Should I Replace My Furnace Filter? A Question from Tukwila

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Just like the filter in your air conditioner, replacing your furnace filter is the key to keeping your Tukwila home healthy and comfortable. By keeping a good filter replacement schedule, you will reduce wear and tear to the furnace and keep your home warm, while keeping your family healthy and controlling energy costs all winter.

But when does your furnace filter need to be changed? Well, each system is different, but there are some general guidelines and recommendations to follow that can help you keep it all straight and stay on top of your furnace filter situation.

Conventional Wisdom

The long-standing rule of thumb on furnace filters is to change them every month. This is good practice if you are using older fiberglass filters, but for newer, more efficient filters, you should do it a little differently. These should be inspected and cleaned at least once a month, but you may need to replace them that frequently also.

Sometimes it is a little more complicated than these general guidelines, so it pays to be aware of some factors and conditions in your home that may affect how frequently you need to change your filter.

Things to Consider

As mentioned above, the first thing to consider is the efficiency of the filter. Because new filters are so efficient, when they get dirty or clogged with dust and debris, they actually restrict airflow, making your furnace bog down and work harder. So, it is important to stay on top of a monthly inspection and cleaning schedule with these filters.

Also take into account air quality and sources of allergens both inside and outside your home. If you live in an area with a lot of pollutants in the air, you’ll want to replace your filters often to keep those out of your home. If you own a lot of pets, the dander and hair will wind up in your furnace filter and you may have to replace it more often.

Complicated enough for you? It doesn’t have to be. Simplify the whole process by doing the following: check your filter monthly and be prepared to change it that often, clean high-efficiency filters regularly, replace the filter at least every three months and again at the start of heating season.

If you do those things at a minimum, you will be in pretty good shape.

Is Your Kent Home More Valuable with Energy Efficient Appliances?

Monday, November 28th, 2011

It’s impressive the things people do to improve the value of their Kent home. We’re talking about crown molding, new floors, new siding, upgrades to the landscaping and much more. The cost of upgrading these things can grow out of hand quickly and if the boost to your home’s value isn’t equally exponential, it’s hard to justify the expense.

So, it’s always nice to find a simple upgrade that can be performed for a few hundred dollars that will save you money immediately and improve the value of your home in the future. Your appliances are one such upgrade.

The Value of Energy Efficiency

An energy efficient washing machine can save upwards of $150 per year on water costs. An energy efficient toilet cuts consumption by as much as 150%. Low flow shower heads cut water costs by one third to one half and your heating and air conditioning systems can be improved by 10-35% depending on the upgrades available to you.

When you add up all those savings, the result is a tremendous amount of money that can be saved each year on everything from your water bill to your cooling needs. Imagine what happens when someone looks to buy your home. They see that there are all new appliances with energy efficient ratings that will save them money.

It’s not just lower bills; it’s a decrease in upfront investment. On the surface, it’s unlikely that your energy efficient appliances will directly increase the value of your home, but they can increase the likelihood of someone paying what you’re asking for the home. They add value to the livability of the home, if not the property itself and in today’s housing market, that’s a major plus.

Best Upgrades

The best upgrades to your home’s appliances are the ones that save money without additional work. Water saving appliances should top your list since they are used throughout the year. A new toilet, a new washing machine, a new shower head and sink faucets all designed to cut down on water use are valuable upgrades. Major upgrades to your heating and cooling are good if you need an upgrade anyway or you plan on staying in your home for a few years.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!  We have a lot to be thankful for this year, especially all of our great customers! Have a very happy holiday with your family, friends, and loved ones. And don’t forget that Thanksgiving is also about amazing food; here is a recipe from allrecipes.com for some Sugar Coated Pecans that will add a little something extra to your day:

Sugar Coated Pecans

“These slow-roasted whole pecans coated in an egg white and sugar glaze spiced with cinnamon make a wonderful snack for any occasion.”

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 pound pecan halves
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Grease one baking sheet.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whip together the egg white and water until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. Add pecans to egg whites, stir to coat the nuts evenly. Remove the nuts, and toss them in the sugar mixture until coated. Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 250 degrees F (120 degrees C) for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes.

For more details, click here.

Why is My Furnace Turning On and Off? A Question from Seatac

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

One of the most annoying things your furnace can do is to constantly keep turning on and off. This on-off cycling keeps your Seatac home from heating up properly. This action – called short cycling – also requires more electricity and drives up utility bills.

Short cycling is caused by an overheated furnace, which triggers safety mechanisms and shuts down the furnace. After a brief interval and cooling down, the furnace starts up again the cycle keeps repeating itself. Not only is it an annoyance, it can also signal more serious problems. A leaking heat exchanger can cause a furnace to overheat – and produce deadly carbon monoxide gas.

If a furnace is working too hard and overheating, it is usually because of airflow in and out. Your home’s ventilation system needs to be clear of dirt, dust, and debris. The more blockage in your ductwork and vents, the more friction is created, slowing down airflow and ultimately ending with an overworked furnace that continues to cycle on and off. And a blocked exhaust vent, such as a chimney or dedicated exhaust vent, can also cause a furnace to work harder. Check for things like leaves or bird’s nests.

The blockage may also be coming from a clogged furnace filter. You should clean or replace your furnace filter after a visual inspection reveals any type of build-up of dust or dirt. Do this at least every three-six months.

If you have a two-speed fan on your furnace, it is recommended that you run the fan in low speed during the cold months and high speed in the warm months. The reason? Warm air is lighter and takes less force to move.

There are other measures to take to prevent short cycling but these usually require a  heating and cooling service technician to correct the problem. If in doubt, call your local qualified heating and cooling contractor and schedule a furnace inspection. Don’t make your furnace work any harder than it was designed for – and keep your home’s occupants comfortable and safe.

Testimonial – C. Stewart from Tacoma

Monday, November 21st, 2011

C. Stewarts had a great experience with our furnace installation team; here is what she wrote to us:

I want to thank you for everything you’ve done to help me get a working furnace (and air conditioner) into my home. I couldn’t be more pleased. The crew that came to my house yesterday were wonderful! I was very impressed by their work ethic, professionalism, and sincerity. Plus… they were just nice. And… they left the area cleaner than when they found it. I can’t wait to spread the word about the terrific service I received from Sound Heating. Thank you so much!!

– C. Stewart

How Much Maintenance Do Solar Panels Require? A Question from Des Moines

Friday, November 18th, 2011

The most commonly cited benefits of solar panels are that they are eco-friendly and cost effective. Many resources on the subject are quick to point out that despite high upfront costs, solar panels pay for themselves over time by being durable enough to provide cheap energy for a long time. You know all this, but as a Des Moines homeowner, you also need to know what kind of maintenance is involved in a solar system. In short, after investing your cash, how much work will you put in?

The amount of maintenance required by solar panels is fairly low, as they are quite durable and the only truly vulnerable component is the glass face. There are some steps that you can take to maintain and extend the life of your solar system, though. Below are some routine maintenance tips.

Cleaning

There are quite a few things you can do to keep your solar panels in tip top shape. For example, you should clean your solar panels regularly with water and dish soap to remove any surface grime. There are also surface sprayers available which allow you to clean your panels effectively from the ground.

You should avoid installing panels in a location where they will attract dust, grime and bird droppings, such as near trees, branches, or other growth. Remember that your solar panels are only as good as the energy they can capture, so keeping them clean is much more than a simple cosmetic measure.

Inspecting

To ensure they continue to work properly, you should examine your solar panels regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Clean away any dirt or debris and tighten any loose connections. Should your panel become damaged in any way, for example by severe weather or blown down branches, have it repaired immediately.

If your system has a backup battery, be sure to replace the batteries as they wear down. There will be a noticeable decline in performance when this happens. Also inspect the connections on both the batteries and the inverter to ensure they are tight.

Generally speaking, solar panels themselves don’t require much maintenance. Simply keep them clean and inspect them regularly and they should last a good long while. Other components, such as backup batteries or generators, inverters, and additional arrays will require extra maintenance as well. For the most part, installing a solar system will not add much to your usual household maintenance tasks.

Do I Need Battery Backup For My Solar Panels? A Question from Olympia

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Solar power is a great energy source for your Olympia home – clean, cheap, readily available in near infinite supply. But what happens when the sun doesn’t shine? Sure, UV rays still reach the Earth and provide solar energy on a cloudy day, but not as efficiently as in bright sunshine. What if it rains for a few days? What about the winter months when sunlight is in shorter supply?

These are all logical questions for anyone considering switching to solar energy. After all, without sunlight, your home could be without power and then what do you do? There are a few solutions to these issues, including a battery backup system. Before deciding one way or the other on a battery backup, there are a few things to consider.

Are You Staying On The Grid?

If you plan to keep you home connected to the local utility grid and use the two energy sources to supplement one another, then there is no real reason to have a backup system. Effectively, the electric company serves as your backup system, so if your solar supply runs low, you can use “regular” electricity by buying power as you need it and selling back any excess. If you are getting off the grid, however, and using solar or other alternative energy sources for 100% of your energy needs, then you will need to have some kind of backup system in place.

Battery or Generator?

Aside from battery systems, using a generator as a backup is another option. Generators work well and can produce enough electricity to power a home, but they can also be rather noisy and require you to have a fuel supply (usually propane or gasoline) on hand. They are best suited to short periods of use.

If you want to get completely off the grid, and you plan on needing backup power more frequently that a generator would be convenient for, then a batter backup system may be for you. Such a system requires installation of additional components, including not just the batteries but also an inverter and extra wiring. This means extra cost to you, and extra maintenance down the road. The batteries will also need to be replaced as they become depleted and unable to hold a charge.

These are many issues to be aware of in deciding whether a battery backup system is right for you. Strictly speaking, most home solar energy won’t need a battery backup, but it may be appropriate or necessary depending on your needs.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide: A Guide from Issaquah

Monday, November 14th, 2011

The risks of carbon monoxide have been well documented for years, and everyone in Issaquah knows how dangerous it can be. CO can be fatal at high concentrations, but even in low levels it can be poisonous enough to make you sick.

What you may not know is that there are many sources of carbon monoxide, also known as CO. This poisonous gas is formed by any incomplete combustion process. Since combustion is not 100% efficient, that means carbon monoxide is released any time something burns.

To be more specific, here are some examples of carbon monoxide sources you might encounter around your house:

  • A furnace or chimney can leak exhaust gases, including CO, into the home if it has been improperly sealed or vented. For example, if the chimney has a small crack in the flue that goes unnoticed, CO from the fireplace can be vented back into the house.
  • A furnace supplied by an under-sized gas line will often burn the gas at a sub-optimum temperature. The result is incomplete combustion of the gas, which means a source of CO.
  • Old, dilapidated or poorly maintained heating systems are a big culprit. Often the seals or fittings are loose on these units, causing CO to leak out of them and into your house. Or they may not burn fuel as efficiently as they used to, so carbon monoxide is more readily released.
  • Using machinery, like a propane generator or a gas-powered saw, in a poorly vented garage can be very dangerous. Sometimes people don’t think about this one because the garage is large enough that it seems to be ventilated better than it is.
  • There’s a reason that barbeque grills are labeled for outdoor use only: they release a lot of carbon monoxide. Both charcoal and propane grills should only be used outdoors, and you should avoid the smoke from charcoal in particular as much as possible.
  • Smoking tobacco releases carbon monoxide into the air, along with other potentially dangerous gases.

There are plenty of other sources, as well, but those are some common ones. To protect yourself and your family, make sure any areas where combustion occurs are well-ventilated, keep your HVAC equipment well-maintained and in good repair and invest in a home CO detector. They are inexpensive, and many are combined with a smoke detector, so you only need to buy one unit.

How to Clean the Parts of a Heat Pump? A Question from Yelm

Friday, November 11th, 2011

It is very important to keep your heat pump clean. It improves efficiency, helps performance and prevents malfunctions. Cleaning your heat pump should be part of your Yelm home’s maintenance routine in order to keep the house as comfortable and worry-free as possible.

That is all well and good, but how do you go about cleaning the components of your heat pump. It’s one thing to advise you to clean, clean, clean…but it doesn’t do much good if you do not know how. To correct that, here are some tips to help you clean the different parts of your heat pump.

Caution: before doing any maintenance on your heat pump, including cleaning, be sure to turn off the power to the unit. This is a necessary safety measure.

Filters

  • If you use disposal air filters in your heat pump, skip this part. Just make sure to change them regularly, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • To clean air filters, follow the directions of the manufacturer that were included with the filter. This is also a good time to double check that the filters are installed properly.
  • Clean or replace your filters monthly during heavy use seasons, such as the warm summer months and cold months of late fall and winter.

Coils

  • Remove any debris from the outside of the coils and the surrounding area. Sticks and leaves may have accumulated near the outdoor coils, so just brush them away.
  • Using a soft brush attachment, vacuum the exterior of the coils. Take care not to bend or dent the coils.
  • Using a hose with a spray attachment, flush the coils with water from the inside out. This will remove any stubborn debris. Take care not to spray any electrical components, such as the fan or any nearby wires.
  • While you are inside the unit, vacuum the bottom inside to get rid of any more stray debris.

With that done, put everything back, replace the grille covers and power the heat pump back on. It should run smoothly with a fresh filter and no debris to gum up the works. Clean the coils every few months to keep the heat pump in tip top shape.

Pros & Cons of Heat Pumps: A Guide from Bonney Lake

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

When deciding on any major purchase in Bonney Lake, a critical step is to weigh the pros and cons. This helps you to decide on the best option and reach the best decision for your needs and preferences.

Installing a new heating system is a perfect example of a situation in which you would need to weigh pros and cons. There are a lot of options, and not all of them are right for all people. Take heat pumps, for example. They are great devices and serve many people extremely well as home heating solutions, but they are not without their drawbacks. Below are some of the pros and cons of heat pumps to help you decide whether a heat pumps if the way to go for you.

Pros:

  1. Inclusive – A heat pump not only heats your home in the winter but also cools it in the summer, thanks to a reversing valve that changes the flow of the refrigerant. Having one appliance for both heating and cooling can be very convenient.
  2. Energy efficient – Heat pumps are extraordinarily efficient when it comes to energy use. Because they simply move and distribute heat, rather than producing any on their own, they use minimal electricity.
  3. Simple – Operating on the same basic principles as your refrigerator or an air conditioner, heat pumps are relatively simple. More importantly, they simplify your life by putting your heating and cooling solutions in one package and running on electricity, so you don’t need any other fuels on hand.
  4. Inexpensive to operate – In addition to being energy efficient – which lowers your monthly energy bills – many heat pumps are eligible for federal tax credit. You can save a bundle by using a heat pump.

Cons:

  1. May need supplementing in cold climates – In climates where winter temperatures stay below 30 degrees Fahrenheit for a while at a stretch, a heat pump will have trouble keeping up and need to be supplemented.
  2. Don’t work in power outage – Obviously, because they are powered by electricity, a heat pump won’t work in a power outage, unlike some other heating solutions that do not require electricity.

Although the pros clearly outweigh the cons here, the cons are important as well. Carefully consider all these factors and more while deciding whether a heat pump is the solution for you.