Archive for February, 2012

Why Are Clean Filters So Important to AC Efficiency?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Air conditioners cost a lot of money to operate in Seattle – even more when they don’t work at 100% efficiency. So, it is important to perform the various regular air conditioning maintenance tasks that ensure the system uses as little electricity as possible. The first thing on your list (and the easiest) is cleaning those filters.

Keeping Filters Clean

The Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website states that you can reduce your air conditioner’s energy consumption by as much as 15% simply by keeping the air filters clean. Why do they matter so much? Consider the nature of a filter.

The filter on your AC unit is designed to capture any dust, debris and sediment in the air supply. If that dust and sediment was allowed in, not only would it gum up the mechanical workings of the device, it would get into your ductwork and reduce the air quality of your home. So, filters are used to capture such things. However, when a filter gets clogged, the system must work harder to draw the air in. As it works harder, the motor turns faster and more electricity is used.

It takes very little to clog the filter of an AC unit, especially if it is running 24 hours a day for two or three months out of the year. So, it’s best to check your filters once every 30 days regardless of what type of filter you are using.

Which Filters to Check

The main filter on your AC unit should be checked along with any air handler filters and any air cleaner filters you have installed in your system. Another thing to consider is the condition of your home and the area around your outdoor condenser. If you have pets, lots of plants or your condenser is located in a dusty area, you may need to check and change those filters even more often.

Most filters are located along the return length of the ductwork – sometimes in ceiling ducts and walls, though they may also be located in your furnace’s air handler or inside the air conditioning unit. If you have window units or mini splits, the filters are frequently in the unit.

Clean air filters are important for your health, your wallet and the longevity of your AC system. Stay on top of them and you will save money in more ways than you might expect.  Please contact Sound Heating if you have any questions.

Heating Q/A: Can Your Heating System Warn You of a CO Leak?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Carbon monoxide is a serious health risk, even in Tacoma. It is an odorless gas that is produced as a natural byproduct of combustion. So, any time something burns, carbon monoxide (CO) is released into the air.

As long as heating installation is properly ventilated, the carbon monoxide cannot build up in the air to a dangerous level of concentration. For example, if you are around a campfire or charcoal that is burning outside, you are generally safe.

In the home, the danger arises when combustion is not properly ventilated and this toxic gas is allowed to seep into our living spaces. If you use any gas, fuel or wood burning appliances in your home, you are at risk for exposure to carbon monoxide. To help mitigate that risk, it is important to know some warning signs. Your heating system gives off some warnings that can tip you off to danger, so be on the lookout for these three signals:

  1. Carbon monoxide detector goes off. Some heating systems these days have built-in carbon monoxide detectors, which can provide an extra measure of safety. Whether you have one of these systems or not, your home should still be equipped with a CO detector. If it begins sounding the alarm, get everyone out of the house immediately.
  1. A fume vent is leaking. Fuel-burning furnaces have vents to move combustion gases out of the house safely. If you notice this vent is leaking on your heating system, CO may be seeping into your house. Shut down the furnace, open windows for ventilation and have the fume vent repaired immediately.
  1. Smoke backing up from the fireplace. If you have a fireplace and you notice smoke in the room while using it, stop using it immediately. Your chimney may be blocked or leaking, preventing the smoke from rising and venting properly, which means CO can e getting into your house. Do not use the fireplace again until you have had the chimney inspected.

Please take care and note this is just a simple guide. There are other risks and warnings of carbon monoxide. If you have any suspicion that there is CO in your home, immediately call Sound Heating to look into the situation.

HVAC Tips: What is an Electric Furnace?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

There are many types of furnaces for Covington homes that use a variety of energy sources to operate. Gas furnaces use natural or propane gas, boilers and radiators use water, heated by electricity. And then there are electric furnaces, which may have an advantage over other energy sources based on energy costs.

Simply put, electric furnaces function through the use of electricity. They do not require the use of any type of fuel – but function through wires and chords. An electric furnace uses heating coils, sometimes referred to as “resistance calrods” to create heat directly in the air flow. Inside the furnace cabinet are controls, a blower, and the circuit breakers for the heating elements. Some furnaces have the breakers accessible from the outside of the cabinet.

Other add-on accessories may include an electronic air cleaner, air filter, humidifier, high performance media filter, and air conditioning evaporator coil.

The heating process begins with the home’s thermostat. A drop in temperature is sensed by the thermostat, which alerts the electric furnace. The coil then warms up, thanks to the electric current that passes through it. The heated coil in turn heats the temperature of the air around it, which is then blown into the house through a blower. The pressure that is exerted by the blower on the heated air, warms it further. The blower is able to overcome the resistance of the duct work and replace unheated, colder air with the heated air. In most homes there are various return air ducts that are used to bring in the colder air to the furnace. This cold air travels through the furnace, through an air filter, the blower, and finally through the heat exchanger. After this it will then be pushed back into the house as warm air.

To maintain a supply of fresh air in the house, some furnaces also suck air from the atmosphere outside. After the air in the house reaches a particular temperature, the thermostat automatically shuts off the electric furnace.

An electric furnace may be less costly to run, depending on the price of electricity versus other sources like natural gas, propane gas, or oil. Gas and oil are fossil fuels and burning them leaves a “carbon footprint” – the release of carbon compounds and gases into the atmosphere. An electric furnace does not burn fuel and thus does not leave a carbon footprint. This electric warming process results in fewer particulates and contaminants in the air, too.  If you have any questions about this topic please call Sound Heating.

Sound Heating and Air Conditioning Wishes Tacoma Residents a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Everyone at Sound Heating and Air Conditioning wishes you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!  We hope your day is full of love and laughter! Valentine’s Day is a time to really appreciate all of the wonderful people in your life, including your significant other, your family, and your friends. Take a moment today to let each of them know how special they are to you. Even something simple, like a handmade card, can really make someone’s whole day!

While your HVAC system might not seem like the most romantic place to start your gift giving, a few simple upgrades can make your house more comfortable, which is something your whole family will appreciate! A HEPA Air Filter can keep dust and allergens out of your air, and a new furnace or heat pump can keep your house at more consistent temperatures and cut down on your energy use. An upgrade to your HVAC system is truly a gift that keeps on giving!

For more information about easy ways to improve your home, give Sound Heating and Airconditioning a call! And to help make your Valentine’s Day as happy as it can be, here is a recipe for Ghirardelli Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Hearts

Ingredients

  • Crust:
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • Cheesecake:
  • 4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • Raspberry puree (recipe below)
  • 2 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Raspberry puree:
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen raspberries
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • Chocolate Ganache (optional):
  • 8 ounces Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Additional Garnishes (optional):
  • Fresh raspberries
  • 8 ounces white chocolate, melted for drizzling

Directions

  1. Preheat over to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. CRUST: In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter. Add the chocolate graham crackers, ground almonds, and sugar and mix until combined. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.
  3. PUREE: In a saucepan, combine raspberries and sugar. Bring to boil, and continue boiling 3-5 minutes, or until sauce is thick. Strain sauce through a mesh strainer to remove seeds and set aside.
  4. CHEESECAKE: In a small pot over low heat, bring the whipping cream to just boiling. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips. Set aside for 5 minutes and then stir until smooth.
  5. In a large bowl, mix together cream cheese and 3/4 cup sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Remove approximately 1 1/2 cup of this batter and place into a smaller bowl and add 1/2 cup raspberry puree. Blend until combined. Add the melted chocolate to the remaining batter and mix until combined. Pour the chocolate cheesecake batter into the pan. Very carefully layer the raspberry cheesecake mixture on top of the chocolate mixture. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool in pan, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold before removing from pan.

For more details, visit allrecipes.com.

The Most Effective Environmentally Friendly Heating Methods

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Protecting the environment is a priority for many Puyallup homeowners these days. The problem is that it can’t be as a high a priority as heating your home. Sure, you want your home to be environmentally friendly, but you need it to be warm.

So, it seems you are forced to run your electric or fuel-powered furnace as much as is necessary and hope that it’s not too much for the environment — or your wallet — to take.

Beyond the traditional heating methods of electricity, gas, oil and what have you, there are some alternatives out on the market these days that can keep your home warm while also being green.

Geothermal

One solution is geothermal heat, which harnesses the natural heat of the Earth to warm your home. Pipes filled with coolant run through the ground outside your home, absorbing the warmth of the Earth. Then, the warm coolant is pumped into your home through a network of pipes that radiate heat.

This method is effective and requires no additional fuel or energy.

Micro Combined Heat and Power (MCHP) Systems

Relatively new to the game are so-called MCHP systems. These heating systems have on-board power generators with high-efficiency computer modules attached. The power module interfaces with the thermostat, calling for heat when necessary. That activates the generator system, which quietly and efficiently generates all the necessary power to run the heater.

These systems are incredibly efficient and can slash the cost of your heating bill. As an added benefit, they continue to work during power outages, which has obvious utility in areas that experience harsh winter storms.

Solar

Then, of course, there is the most obvious and readily available source of heat to the whole planet: the sun. Solar heating systems can be either active or passive, which essentially just depends on whether additional specialized equipment is to be installed.

Obviously, solar heating systems are a better choice for areas that get a lot of sunlight year round.

Whichever environmentally friendly heating solution you choose, they have the added benefit of lowering your heating bill, which is always welcome.  If you have any questions about these environmentally friendly heating methods please contact Sound Heat & AC

Get Rid of the Icicles on Your Eaves in Des Moines

Friday, February 10th, 2012

There’s nothing more impressive than a particularly long icicle on the eaves of your Des Moines home. As it reaches toward the ground, dripping cold water, you can’t help but think of starting up your furnace. However, icicles are often unsafe – not only for you and your family but for anyone else that might be near your home. As more water joins the icicle and the structure grows, it gets heavier. That weight heightens the chance that it will fall and hit someone or that it will cause damage to your roof or gutter.

So, it’s important to get rid of icicles on your eaves as they appear. Generally, it is best to remove them before they reach 4 or 5 inches in length. Even shorter icicles can be dangerous if left unchecked and if anything is stored underneath the overhang of your roof, it can be damaged.

Removing Icicles

There are quite a few ways to remove icicles. The easiest way to is to cut or break them down. If your roof is low enough, you can hack them down with a large saw or knife. If the roof is higher, a board or broom can be used to reach up and knock them down. In the winter, you should do your best to avoid going on the roof to remove icicles. The danger involved is too great due to ice and snow.

Another way to remove icicles is with heat. There are a few ways to do this. A blowtorch or heated rod provided by a roofing company can help to remove them from the ground. Or you can install heating panels on your eaves and gutter that will keep those icicles from forming in the first place.

Safe Removal

When removing the icicles from your roof, make sure you carefully rope off the area and don’t allow anyone nearby. You should wear a helmet if you plan on standing below them and try to stand clear of the fall area. Icicles are very sharp and incredibly solid – they can cause horrific injury if you’re not careful.

Ideally, if you act fast, icicle removal is just a minor inconvenience every weekend. However, if the icicles form up too heavily and become a physical danger to people in and around your home, you should contact a professional with tools that can remove them quickly and safely without putting anyone at increased risk.  If you have any questions about this please contact Sound Heating & AC.

Heat Pump Maintenance in Renton

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Heating and cooling your Renton home is a priority. You need your home and family to be comfortable all year round, so you either got or are considering a heat pump. These machines are great because under the right circumstances, they are essentially all-inclusive and incredibly efficient solutions for all your home heating and cooling needs.

Notice the “under the right circumstances” part. A number of things have to be considered when choosing a heat pump, such as the climate and the size of your home. But these are not the only circumstances that influence how well your heat pump works for you. Proper heat system maintenance is a vital component of heat pump ownership, ensuring that you get the best performance out of your heat pump for the longest time possible.

A major part of properly maintaining any machine is to keep it clean. A heat pump is no exception. Dirt and dust can affect the efficiency of your heat pump, as well as speed up corrosion problems. Keep the compressor and coils clean. Check them monthly or so and remove any accumulated dirt. Also, consistently check and change filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Simple cleaning is an easy and effective first step to heat pump maintenance, but there are some things that you just won’t be able to do on your own. For more intensive maintenance, it is best to call in a professional for an annual inspection.

During a routine maintenance check of your heat pump, a technician will inspect the whole heat pump system for problems. He will clean the compressor and coils, tighten any connections that may have loosened up and change the filters as needed. In addition, a skilled technician will be able to detect any early signs of trouble and make necessary repairs to prevent break downs. These small repairs can prevent big problems later on, thereby preventing some serious discomfort and a possible big expense.

If you are considering a heat pump as a heating and cooling solution for your home, great. If you have already decided on one and had it installed, congratulations on making a smart decision. Now, make another smart decision to protect that investment by keeping your new heat pump properly maintained.  Please call Sound Heating & Air Conditioning with any questions.

Indoor Air Quality Tips: How Electronic Air Filter Works

Monday, February 6th, 2012

For a long time, the most frequently used kind of air filter in Tacoma has been the mechanical variety. This is the kind you probably think of when you hear the terms air filter, air cleaner or air purifier. They use pleated fibrous filters in-line with an air handler to trap particles in the air before circulating it back out into the home. Many models of these work very well and have for many years. They have the added benefit of being flexible because you can put in whatever filter you need depending on what size particles you need to trap. However, these traditional devices are not the only option. A second kind of air filter exists for trapping particles in the air– one that does not use a fibrous filter that physically snags them out of the air on the way through. These electrostatic, or electronic air filters work in a different way to produce a similar result. The filtering component is still a fibrous sheet, but the difference is that the fibers are made of plastic, which becomes charged when air passes through it and causes friction. (Think something like when you rub a balloon and stick it to the wall.) These friction-charged fibers carry an electronic charge, which attracts the ions in the air around it. These ions — and the particles that they are a part of — get trapped in the fibers and stay out of your air supply. Electronic air filters are generally very good at trapping particles that are 1 micron in size or higher, putting them about on par with a mechanical air filter that carries a MERV rating of 12. The electrostatic method works well for many common household air pollutants, such as dust, pollen, mold and pet dander. As with many ventilation-related decisions, the choice of what kind of air filter is right for you depends on your needs and those of your family. If you are having trouble deciding, then contact Sound HCVA experts with any questions.

Air Conditioning Tips: How to Clean Your Outdoor HVAC Unit

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

That big metal box in your backyard or on the side next to your Kirkland home plays a vital role in air conditioning your home and keeping you comfortable. That box is called the outdoor condensing unit, the key component in your home’s central air conditioning system. The condensing unit houses the compressor, which converts gas into fluid before sending it to the condenser coil, where it is cooled and sent to an indoor evaporator coil.

What you need to know is that the entire outdoor operation runs smoothly when the area inside and around the condensing unit is clean and free of debris. In some cases, the outdoor unit will fail to work if there is too much debris or dirt build-up. That can cost you a lot of money in repairs or a total replacement. Keeping the condensing unit clean is not a difficult chore – and here are some steps you can take.

First of all, try and avoid blowing leaves or grass clippings near the unit. And regularly cut down or remove any weeds or grass that may grow up around the base of the unit.

To clean the inside of the unit, first turn off the electrical power to it. Check for an on-off switch on the unit or on a separate box nearby. Remove the grille from the unit and carefully remove the fan in order to gain access to the coil and other moving parts. At this point, you should be able to clean out any debris from inside the unit using your hands. You can also use a vacuum hose to remove debris. A soft brush or cloth rag can be used to other areas of the HVAC unit.

The fins on the coil require a gentler approach as they can be easily bent or damaged. If you notice a bent fin you can straighten it out by using a simple dull knife or a special fin “comb” which you can buy at your local hardware store. While you are in the unit, check the fan belt on the motor to ensure it is not damaged or cracked. You can also add extra oil to lubrication ports on the condensing unit, if any are available.

Use a garden hose to clean the coil and the grilles on the condensing unit. Do not use highly-pressurized water as it may cause some damage to the fins. Once this last task has been completed, reinstall the grille, switch on the condensing unit, and start up your air conditioning. You should notice if your house is cooling down quicker. If not, you may want to do some more cleaning.

If you have any doubts about cleaning your outdoor condensing unit or if you find any damaged parts that may need repair or replacement, call your local qualified heating and cooling (HVAC) contractor and schedule a service call.

Good luck – and stay cool.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need For An Electric Solar Power System in Tacoma?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Aside from determining cost, knowing how many solar panels you need to potentially power your home in Tacoma helps you picture what the finished product will look like. After all, you want your home to be energy efficient, but you also want it to not be an eye sore. Estimating how many panels you will need involves some research and math, but it can be done simply enough and is worthwhile. Below are some steps to help you estimate how big your array will need to be:

Researching Solar Panels

First up, decide how much of your energy needs you want a solar array to provide. For example, you may choose to keep your home on the utility grid, but plan to have 50% of your home’s energy come from solar. The steps below assume 100% solar energy.

You should also determine your current energy usage. You can do this by looking at old utility bills. It is best to look at usage over a span of 6-12 months in order to get an accurate estimate. You will usually find this figure in kilowatt hours (kWh). Estimated energy use for an average American household is about 740 kWh per month.

Another important step is to find the insolation value for your area. This number reflects the number of hours in a day that a solar panel will perform as rated. You can find reference tables of insolation values online.

Calculations for Your Solar Panels

Now comes the fun part – a little bit of math. First, you need to figure out the desired wattage output of your system. To do this, divide the number of kWh to be produced in one day and divide it by the insolation value. Using the average monthly usage from your research, you can see the daily average usage is about 24 kWh per day. With an insolation value of 4 hours (for example), a solar array needs to generate 6 kilowatts per hour. Because the system is not 100% efficient, raise that value by 30% to account for possible energy loss. This system will need to generate 7.8 kilowatts per hour. Since large solar panels produce about 130 watts per hour each, this system would require about 60 panels.

Note that this is an extreme example, as most homes won’t use solar for 100% of their energy needs. You will almost certainly use fewer panels; these steps are just meant to help walk you through the process. There are also calculators available online to make the estimation process a little simpler.