Posts Tagged ‘Federal Way’

Des Moines Heating Tip: What to Expect in a Low, Medium or High Efficiency Furnace

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

When buying a new furnace in Des Moines, you have many options. You can purchase a low end model to save money up front and you’ll still get exceptional fuel efficiency, but as you go up the scale, more innovative, money saving features become available. Here is a brief look at what you can expect based on which type of furnace you purchase.

Low Efficiency Furnace

This is a bit of a misnomer as even entry level furnaces have efficiency ratings of at least 80%. For comparison, if you’re still using an old gravity furnace, your efficiency rating could be lower than 50%. Modern furnaces are built to conserve, and while you won’t receive all of the bells and whistles that tend to accompany high efficiency models, you will get a durable, affordable furnace that will last for 10-20 years.

Medium Efficiency Furnaces

Furnaces in the mid-efficiency range have AFUE ratings of between 85% and 92% and are therefore significantly better than those in the entry level range. They also have some of the higher end features available in high efficiency models like programmability and the option for zone control. Because they are still mid-range, they are affordable without skimping too much on features too – a must for any homeowner wanting to save money on both ends.

High Efficiency Furnaces

The highest efficiency furnaces on the market are very different from those you would have purchased even just 10 years ago. Top end furnaces can carry AFUE ratings of up to 95% with a boat load of added features to conserve energy. These features include two stage gas valves so you can maintain a low BTU heating system for most of the year but crank up the heat when the temperature outside drops too low. They are also programmable, which allows you to easily change the temperature settings, fan speed and more from anywhere in the house.

And while they cost more to install, high efficiency furnaces use less energy over their lifespan, last longer and are more environmentally friendly than any other furnaces on the market today.

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.

Essential Components of a Home Comfort System: A Tip from Federal Way

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Indoor comfort in your Federal Way home is defined by several factors: temperature, humidity, and air quality. If any one of the three is out of the “normal” range it can affect the quality of life for the building occupants.

The ultimate goal of any heating & cooling contractor is to ensure that customers are comfortable – meaning that all three factors are addressed when servicing, replacing, or installing new equipment in a home. This equipment includes furnaces and air conditioners but also extends to humidifiers, dehumidifiers, electronic filters, ultraviolet (UV) lighting, infrared heating, etc.

Obviously, the essential component for most U.S. households is a furnace. Air conditioners may not be essential for all parts of the U.S., namely the northern states, but are still considered an integral part of any home comfort system.

Let’s look at the furnace first. There are several choices but most can be found in two different classifications: single-stage or variable speed two-stage. Your choice depends on the indoor square footage, your own comfort needs, and possibly the cost of energy units (gas or electric for example). Forced air is a common method of moving heated air to all parts of the home via an air handling unit and through a duct system. But gaining in popularity is radiant heat (electric), which does not utilize a duct system.

Air conditioners also come in a variety of sizes, including window/room air conditioners or central air conditioning, which is likely a “split” system including an outdoor unit and indoor coil. The size of the air conditioner is determined by square footage, which is part of a load calculation performed by qualified heating & cooling contractors while planning the equipment replacement or new installation. An oversized air conditioner may produce high humidity levels and an undersized unit may not provide enough cooling to all areas of the home. High humidity levels contribute to higher indoor temperatures in the summer, and can also lead to respiratory problems.

If someone in your home has allergies or is sensitive to certain pollutants in the air, it may be important to include extra filtration in your heating & cooling system, such as electronic filtration and UV lighting mounted in the buildings duct system, to kill germs and contaminants.

As always, it is best to consult with a qualified and licensed heating and cooling contractor who can offer the best solutions for your home comfort system.

Saving Energy with Air Conditioners: A Tip From Tumwater

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Air conditioners can definitely make it easier to get through a particularly hot and sticky summer in Tumwater. But they are also pretty expensive to run, especially if you live in an area with long, hot summers. Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to help your air conditioner keep your home cool without running up those astronomical energy bills.

  • Think about Your Thermostat – Most people set their thermostat at one temperature and leave it there. But does it really make sense to pay to keep your home cool all day long when no one’s home? Instead, try turning up the temperature when you leave the house and then again at night before you go to bed. It’s likely you won’t notice the difference and even an adjustment of a couple of degrees can make a big difference.
  • Multiple Climate Zones – When you are home, of course, you want to set your thermostat to a temperature you’ll be comfortable with. But that probably still means you’ll be cooling a lot of empty space. Installing a multi-zone system allows you to set different temperatures for different parts of your home. You can keep the spaces you use regularly cool and comfortable without wasting money paying to cool the unoccupied parts of your home.
  • Ceiling Fans – It might seem silly at first glance to use a ceiling fan at the same time as an air conditioner. But the truth is that using a ceiling fan to compliment your air conditioning system can actually save you a lot of money. Ceiling fans use next to no electricity to operate and they can make the house feel a few degrees cooler. With that added help, you can turn your thermostat up a few degrees without sacrificing indoor comfort and save yourself quite a bit of money – more than enough to cover the cost of running the ceiling fan.
  • Keep Things Sealed – Making sure your house is well sealed and insulated is another important way to keep your energy usage down during the summer. The more cool air that escapes, the harder your system has to work and the more energy it will use.
  • Proper Maintenance – Keeping up with the recommended maintenance for your air conditioning system is the best way to make sure it maintains the highest possible level of energy efficiency. Over time, it will ensure your system stays efficient longer as well – well beyond the initial lifespan estimates.

What Are Limit Switches and How Do They Work?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

When you set the thermostat on your air conditioning system, you pretty much take for granted that the system will maintain that temperature throughout your house. But did you ever stop to think about how it’s actually accomplished? The truth is that there are many moving parts that all play a role in keeping your home cool and comfortable, and one of these is the limit switch.

What Is a Limit Switch?

Although you’re probably not aware of it, you’ve encountered plenty of limit switches over the years. A limit switch is anything that stops an electric appliance under certain circumstances. The little switch that turns the light on in the refrigerator when you open the door and then off again when you close it is the perfect example of a limit switch. Another common one is the switch that stops your washer or dryer from running when you open the door. Limit switches are used for a variety of appliances and gadgets to not only save electricity but to keep you and your device safe.

Limit Switches and Air Conditioning

The limit switch on your air conditioning system is the link between the blower on your air handler and the thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the desired indoor temperature has been reached, it stops the air conditioner from producing any more cold air. At that point, it’s important for the blower to stop functioning as well.

If it doesn’t, the blower will continue to move and warm air rather than cold will begin circulating throughout your home. However, if the blower shuts off too soon, the cold air that’s still being generated by the air conditioner won’t be able to circulate. So it’s essential that the blower be switched off at the same time the cold air stops arriving. That’s exactly what the limit switch does.

While it’s only one very small part of a large machine, the limit switch in your air conditioner plays a vital role in keeping your home comfortable and in allowing your air conditioning system to function as efficiently as possible.

If you notice that your air conditioner is shutting off too soon or not soon enough, it may be because of a broken limit switch. Sometimes, the system simply needs to be reset, something you can do with the help of your owner’s manual. However, if your limit switch is broken, you should contact a professional to take a look and determine if it needs to be replaced.

Freon and Load Capacity – How Are They Linked?

Monday, July 18th, 2011

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think too much about how your air conditioning system works. All you really need to know is that when you switch on the system, your house gets cooler. But if you’re looking to purchase a new air conditioner for your home, it’s a good idea to know how to select the right one to fit the space you’re trying to cool.

Air Conditioning Basics

Air conditioners use Freon as a coolant to remove heat from indoor air and transfer that heat outside. To do this, they cycle the Freon through a closed loop of coils. When the cold Freon enters the cooling coil of the air conditioner, it absorbs heat from the air passing by, thereby lowering the temperature of the air. That cooled air can then be transferred into your home and more warm air can be cycled past the cooling coils.

Air Conditioner Sizing

The more air your air conditioner can cool at once, the larger its load capacity. In order to keep a particular space cool, an AC unit has to have a large enough load capacity to accommodate that type of air volume. A unit that’s too small will obviously never be able to keep your room cool enough, but one that’s too big will have a similar problem.

The truth is that when it comes to air conditioner sizing, bigger is not better. It’s best to simply get as good an estimate as you can of what type of load capacity is ideal for the space you’re trying to cool and stick as close to that as you can.

Load Capacity and Freon

Of course, if you want your air conditioner to cool more air at a time, you’ll need more coolant. But simply increasing the amount of Freon in your air conditioner won’t make it cool any better. Freon is simply one of many elements that contribute to effective cooling. And the larger the entire system is, the more Freon is needed.

So more Freon technically contributes to greater cooling capacity, but it’s not enough to accomplish that all on its own. There is really nothing you can do to increase the load capacity of your air conditioner once it’s in place. So for best results, make sure you pick out an appropriately sized unit the first time around.

Energy Recovery Ventilator – What Is It and When Do You Need It?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

It isn’t cheap to heat and cool the air you circulate through your home every day. In fact, heating and cooling can be the most expensive energy related systems you operate. So, the last thing you want is to open a window and pour all of that conditioned air into the great outdoors.

That’s why most modern homes are sealed up so tightly. The heated and cooled air you enjoy so much needs to be retained, both to save money and to reduce your energy use. It’s why the government offers credits for things like insulation upgrades and the purchase of more energy efficient comfort systems.

But, while sealing everything saves you money and reduces your energy use, it can negatively impact your indoor air quality. Without proper circulation and ventilation, the air in your home grows thick with indoor contaminants like pet dander, pollen, dust, and possibly even bacteria or gasses. Normally, these things would be circulated outside through traditional ventilation. But, because of your heating and cooling system, the age old method of cracking a window to let a little fresh air in just doesn’t work anymore.

An energy recovery ventilator solves this problem. Instead of just pouring heated or cooled air outside and replacing it with fresh air, an energy recovery ventilator passes the air through a series of chambers. Within those chambers the heat is transferred from the warmer air to the cooler air.

In the winter, this means the indoor air passes its energy to the incoming air, retaining the heat your furnace or boiler generated. In the summer, the air coming in from outside passes its heat energy to the cooled indoor air as it leaves and only cool air enters your home.

In effect, an energy recovery ventilator works to reduce the cost of both heating and cooling. It is true that most indoor air quality systems are designed to remove many of the contaminants you flush outside, but relying solely on your air purifier or filter puts undue stress on the equipment. Not only will you need to replace filters and cartridges more often, you may need to replace the entire system earlier than you would otherwise. If you’re tired of losing all that conditioned air just to get a fresh breath, look into these amazing machines for your indoor air system.

Indoor Air Quality Options

Friday, May 20th, 2011

Maintaining high indoor air quality is always worth investing time and money in. After all, if the air inside your home isn’t healthy, it can cause all kinds of health problems for you and your family. The state of the art home heating and cooling systems we have today make it possible to enjoy a perfectly temperature controlled indoor environment all year long, but they also trap indoor air pollutants and contaminants inside without proper ventilation.

Choosing a System that Works

Luckily there are a number of great products out there designed to remove these pollutants before they cause you and your family discomfort or illness. Before you run out to buy a new system, however, you should first consider what each has to offer and what pollutants you need to remove. You might have some idea about this already, but the best thing to do is talk to a professional who can help assess your indoor air and determine which types of contaminants are most prevalent in your home.

Different types of indoor air cleaners are better at targeting different types of contaminants. For instance, HEPA filters can remove up to 99.97% of particulate contaminants that measure 0.3 microns or larger. This includes things like pollen, pet dander, dust mites and mold spores, so if these are the things you want to target, an indoor air system that uses HEPA filters is probably right for you.

However, if you’re more concerned with getting rid of smoke odors and cooking fumes, you probably want a system that targets even smaller particles. Air ionizers are more appropriate for these types of indoor air quality issues, as they can effectively remove much smaller particles than most HEPA filters. On the flip side, ionizers aren’t as efficient at removing the larger contaminant particles, so if you want to target both small and large contaminants, you need a system that combines both of these technologies.

Bacteria and viruses are also a problem when they find their way into your indoor air and they can be particularly tricky to get rid of. HEPA filters and air ionizers both have trouble completely eradicating these pathogens, but UV germicidal lights can be incorporated into your indoor air cleaning system to tackle biological contaminants effectively.

No matter what type of home air quality problem you have, there is a system on the market that will target and remove the pollutant. The key is to know which pollutants effect you the most and which products will do the best job of removing them from your home.

What is a Green Building?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

A green building is environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout its life-cycle, minimizing the building’s impact on human health and the natural environment.

Some of the criteria that can go into evaluating a green building include:

  • Location
  • Design
  • Construction
  • Operation
  • Maintenance
  • Renovation
  • Demolition

Of course, there are many different kinds of green buildings, each with its own particular strengths. Here are a few:

Buildings located in New Urbanist communities. New Urbanism is an urban design movement that promotes walkable neighborhoods with multi-use buildings so that residents can live, shop, and work within their local area. The goal is to promote community, reduce the amount of energy used for transportation, and reduce emissions from car travel.

Net-zero buildings. A net-zero building produces renewable energy equal to or greater than the energy the home consumes from public utilities. A net-zero building saves energy by being extremely energy efficient, and by generating its own renewable power using solar, wind, micro-hydro, or geothermal systems.

“Ultra-small” homes. Super-small houses (30 square meters and even smaller!) are a growing trend in home design. Tiny spaces dramatically reduce the occupants’ energy use – in some cases, the entire home can be run on the equivalent of a couple of light bulbs.

Buildings constructed with local, natural materials. Homes made of earth, straw bales, stone, stucco, and other natural materials are often cheaper to build and require much less gas for transporting construction materials. They can also be extremely energy-efficient to operate because the building materials are suited to the climate.

Buildings constructed entirely or in part with reclaimed materials. Recycling keeps building materials out of the landfill and reduces the energy needed to manufacture new items. One commonly-used reclaimed material is shipping containers, which are strong, cheap, and can be assembled in a modular fashion to create homes of any size.

R-2000-certified buildings. R-2000 is a voluntary standard administered by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) that evaluates three main areas of construction: energy performance, indoor air quality and use of environmentally preferred materials. Builders are given the freedom to choose the best and most cost-effective way to achieve the R-2000 goals, which means they can incorporate any of the techniques or building styles described above.

LEED-accredited buildings. Probably the best-known green building accreditation system, LEED offers third-party verification that a home is above average in the following areas: sustainability of building site, water efficiency, energy use, sustainability of materials, use of resources, indoor environmental quality, location, transportation connections, and innovation in design. LEED-accredited homes are extremely efficient to operate and have a high resale value.