Posts Tagged ‘Mercer Island’

Federal Energy Efficiency Rebates Explained for Tacoma

Friday, March 16th, 2012

As a Tacoma resident you’ve probably seen the advertisements and heard the sales pitches. Upgrade with a heating system installation, air conditioner, tankless water heater, or insulation and receive a federal rebate on your taxes for a percentage of the installation cost. The government is seriously invested in improving the energy efficiency of the country, cutting electric bills and helping people stay comfortable. Here’s a quick look at some of those rebates and how you can tap into them.

Energy Efficiency Credits

There is a standard tax credit of 10% of the cost up to $500 or a specific amount between $50 and $300 for any upgrade made to your existing home for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, insulation, roofs, or water heaters. These upgrades must be made on an existing home in which you currently live – rentals and new construction homes are not eligible.

Green Energy Credits

Even better credits are available if you plan on installing a geothermal heat pump, wind turbine or solar system – either PV panels or solar heating. The tax credit here is 30% of the cost with no upper limit. This applies to any existing or new homes and can be applied to both primary and secondary residences.

Are the Tax Credits Worth It?

The big question is whether these credits are worth the investment in a brand new system? For the most part, it depends on your particular situation. If you have a 30 year old furnace and are planning on an upgrade anyways, why not take advantage of a nice rebate and get a more energy efficient system to go with it? However, if you just replaced your furnace three years ago and it works very well with a high energy efficiency rating, it might not be worth the investment.

Learn More

The Energy Star program run by the EPA contains detailed breakdowns of the 2011 tax credits, including what systems are eligible and how to go about claiming them on next year’s taxes. Learn more by visiting their official page, or calling Sound Heating

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

Heating Tip: EnergyStar Rated Heat Pumps

Monday, December 12th, 2011

You are almost certainly familiar with EnergyStar ratings. They are those little stars you see on a lot of common household appliances, consumer electronics and other products for your Puyallup home. EnergyStar is a government program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to identify and clearly label products that meet strict efficiency guidelines. Products that carry the EnergyStar logo have been shown to be among the most highly efficient out there.

This labeling is important and arguably becoming more so every day. Homeowners want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the appliances in their homes are running efficiently, helping the environment and saving them money.

But have you ever wondered how a product gets to wear that EnergyStar logo? What are the guidelines it has to meet or exceed in order to be approved?

The short answer is that it varies across product lines, as you might expect. An air conditioner is very different from a personal computer. For heat pumps, though, there are some pretty simple and consistent specifications to meet.

Heat pump ratings are based on two numbers—one for cooling and one for heating. Cooling efficiency is rated on a scale called the seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER. This number simply describes in a nutshell how efficiently a unit can cool the area it’s installed in. Most heat pumps these days have a SEER of at least 10, and the most efficient ones carry a SEER of around 18. To meet EnergyStar requirements, a heat pump must carry a SEER of at least 14.

The second number involved in rating the efficiency of a heat pump is the heating season performance factor, or HSPF. This number describes the heating efficiency of a heat pump by dividing its estimated heating capacity by the amount of electricity it draws. Most new heat pumps have an HSPF of at least 8, which is what is required for EnergyStar approval.

A third rating criterion for heat pumps is the energy efficiency ratio, or EER. This is like SEER, except that it is an instantaneous measurement rather than one over a whole heating season. This rating is less commonly considered by consumers, but it is part of the EnergyStar criteria, so it’s worth mentioning. EnergyStar requires heat pumps to have an EER of at least 11.

Only when a unit meets or exceeds all three of these specifications is it eligible for EnergyStar approval. Keep in mind that the requirements vary for split systems versus single package systems, and that they may change over time. Consult with a professional during the purchase process to be sure the unit you want is EnergyStar approved.

How to Reduce the Load on Your Central Air Conditioner: A Guide From Renton

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Your central air conditioner can handle a lot. It can keep your Renton house cool and comfortable all summer long with only a minimum of maintenance. And if you have a newer, more energy efficient model, you probably are not even paying very much for this luxury. But no matter how good your air conditioning system is, it is always best if you can reduce its cooling load as much as possible.

Cutting down on the amount of work your central air conditioner has to do will save you money both in the short term and in the long term. You will be able to keep your house cool all summer while paying even less than you already do and you will help to extend the life of your system as well.

In general, reducing the cooling load that your air conditioner is responsible for involves keeping your house cooler by some other means. One great option when this is your goal is to have some ceiling fans installed. These help to circulate cool air and also create a breeze that can make it feel cooler even if the actual indoor temperature is the same.

With adequate ceiling fans in place, you will usually be able to turn up the thermostat on your central air conditioner and still be completely comfortable indoors. Turning up the temperature on the thermostat means that your air conditioning system will not have to work so hard because it will not have to get the indoor temperature down so low.

You can also reduce the indoor temperature in your house by blocking the sunlight that comes in and warms up the indoor air. Drawing the blinds, especially in those rooms that receive warmer afternoon sunlight will keep that sun from raising your indoor temperature. This, in turn, means that your air conditioning system will not have to work so hard to get the temperature back down.

You can also help to keep cool air inside and warmer air out by covering any doors and windows you are not likely to use with plastic. Also, check to make sure there are no cracks or drafts anywhere that may be letting in air from the outside or allowing cooler indoor air to escape. All of these things can make it possible for your air conditioner to keep your home cool without working so hard, and that will also mean that you will be paying less each month on your energy bills.

Do I Need Surge Protection for My HVAC?

Monday, July 25th, 2011

You probably know that to keep your HVAC system in good working order you need to keep up with regular maintenance. This includes things like changing air filters, cleaning out air ducts and clearing debris from both inside and outside the system. Surge protection for your system may not be something you think of immediately, but like those maintenance tasks, it’s an important part of keeping your equipment functioning properly over time.

How Surge Protection Works

Surge protection essentially shuts off your system in the event that power levels in the system rise suddenly and unacceptably. When a sudden increase in electricity occurs, any electronic device is at risk. But, unlike your stereo, your HVAC system costs thousands of dollars – no one wants to lose something so valuable to a surge that could have been prevented. That’s why a surge protector is so vital for your system.

The surge protector monitors the levels of electricity coming into your HVAC system. In the event that a surge occurs for any reason (faulty wiring, a lightning strike, etc.), the surge protector will immediately cut off power to the HVAC unit and shut all of the equipment down.

A Sizeable Investment

Your HVAC system was not an impulse buy. This is a collection of equipment that you probably spent a good deal of money on and that you rely on to keep your family comfortable throughout the year. When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see why it’s worth doing anything you can to protect your investment. Installing a surge protector is a relatively minor expense compared to the money and inconvenience it could save you by preventing serious damage to your HVAC equipment.

Proper Restart

Once a surge protector shuts off your HVAC system, you’ll need to restart it properly. The best thing to do is talk to the contractor who installs your system. They can walk you through the restart process step by step to ensure you know exactly what to do. After going through all that trouble installing a surge protector, the last thing you want is to make a mistake when turning it back on.

If you don’t already have a surge protector in place, call an HVAC professional today and learn what your system needs to be fully protected. It’s a small expense and a quick installation, so there’s no reason to put it off any longer.

Add Ons – Ready to Go or Just Looking Great?

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Add-ons like a jetted tub are fantastic additions to any home. Relaxing, spacious, and luxurious – a jetted tub in your master bathroom can be very appealing when deciding which home on your list meets the right criteria.

But, beware because those jetted tubs are not always ready to use – in fact, in many cases the tub may just be plopped into the master bath to make the home look good and help with the sale. In reality, it’s quite a hassle to have it installed and ready to use when you move in. If you have a second bath or your master bath has a shower to go with the tub, this isn’t as big of a deal. But, if you need that bath to work right away, it can be a major inconvenience.

Checking the Tub and Other Hookups

Any home you look at will have a working furnace, electricity and gas line. It needs to be ready to move into or the selling agent is required to disclose the need for additional work. These require special loans and it can get very messy – so, you can imagine that there are generally not many major issues with gas and electricity hookup when you buy a new home.

But, just because your home has heat, electricity and hot water doesn’t mean it’s completely ready for comfortable living. A jetted tub is only the start. You may not have a proper hookup for your sprinkler system or air conditioner. You may need to replace an old refrigerator or install a new set of cabinets.

Things that appear ready to go when you first look at a home are not always as they seem. That’s why a full inspection of the property is so important. While you will likely have an inspector look at the home before closing, make sure you hire someone you can trust and that will look at everything – even beyond major issues like termite damage and dry rot.

The Pitfalls of Cool Looking Stuff

There are lots of things that simply look cool when you move into a home. Rain shower heads, backyard pools, or hot tubs are all very enticing on paper, but when you move in and find out that they each cost more money to operate and maintain than you expected, the excitement can quickly sour.

Before buying a home just because it has a collection of attractive features, make sure you look into the actual cost of owning and operating those things. Most realtors can help you get a good general idea of the cost of such upgrades, but an independent search is also recommended, especially if you are working with a seller’s agent intent on making a sale.

Label Your Panel Box for an Emergency

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

During an emergency, moving fast is a priority. You need to get your family out of the house fast, but there are certain things you should have done well before the emergency that can help to keep you and your family safe. Specifically, if there is an earthquake, flood, or other major natural disaster that can disrupt your appliances or cause a sudden power surge, you want to turn off your electricity immediately, before anything can go wrong. Emergency workers might also need to access your panel box if you’re not home or if the area is too unsafe to enter.

Specific Instances this Might Matter

Think of what can happen if there is a flood in your basement and you need to go down to save your prized possessions or to stop the flow of water. Walking into a flooded basement with live electricity is incredibly dangerous. So, it’s important to know where your panel box is and what each of the breakers in it is for. This gives you the control necessary to stop the flow of electricity and stay safe, even when knee deep in standing water.

This also makes it possible for someone else to flip those breakers if you’re not home or there is a more urgent disaster like a fire or an earthquake. In the case of an earthquake, you never know when electrical supplies might be tripped or when your appliances will become disconnected from exhaust hoods or vents. Your gas is usually tripped off immediately by an earthquake shutoff valve, but your electricity needs to be manually stopped.

The Risk of Live Electricity

The key to effectively keeping your home operational through an emergency is to take every possible precaution until you can be sure that the space is safe. That means turning off key breakers, checking your home for disconnected appliances or potentially dangerous situations, and if necessary calling in an electrician to take care of any specific problems. In the case of most emergencies, if you’re not totally sure that something is safe, take precautions first by calling a professional and then worry about saving possessions and cleaning up.

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

Monday, July 4th, 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.