Archive for March, 2012

What Exactly Are High Efficiency Boilers?

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

As a Pierce County resident you have already read plenty about how energy costs are rising for most heating systems. You know plenty well that heating your home is a substantial expense, and that the cost of running a boiler is constantly on the rise.

But as technology has gotten better, boilers in Pierce County have also become more efficient at providing heat. It stands to reason that a more efficient boiler is one that costs less to run…but what does “efficient” really mean in the context of boilers? What makes a boiler “high efficiency”?

 What Is a High Efficiency Boiler?

All boilers are rated according to a standardized system of rating efficiency, called the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). Essentially, this rating tells you how much heat energy is produced by a boiler compared to how much energy it draws. The higher a boiler’s AFUE rating, the more efficient it is.

For a boiler to be called high efficiency, it must carry an AFUE of at least 90%. For basis of comparison, older systems carry an AFUE of about 70%, while mid-efficiency systems run at about 82%.

In addition, a high efficiency system has a second heat exchanger for capturing and condensing flue gases, as well as a closed combustion system.

These three things — an AFUE of 90% or above, condensing flue gases and closed combustion – define a high efficiency boiler.

The initial investment in a high efficiency boiler can be costly, but the savings over time in heating bills make it well worth the expense.

If you would like a high efficiency boiler installed in your home, call Sound Heating today!

Different Types of Furnace Filters for Lacey Residents

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

A good filter for your furnace is a must. Because that device heats and blows air throughout your home, you want to be sure that it doesn’t recycle contaminants and bacteria that could easily be captured at the air handler. By choosing the right filter you also contribute to your overall heating system maintenance over time.  That’s why it’s vital to choose the right furnace filter on the first try. Here are some furnace filters to consider and their various benefits to your home and family:

  • Electrostatic – Most electrostatic filters are permanent and must be washed on a regular basis. They are electronically charged to capture particles as they pass through, much like a magnet. These filters are effective because they are both physical and electronic. However, keep in mind that they are only as efficient as the cleaning they receive.
  • HEPA – HEPA is the highest rating available for a filtration system, removing up to 99.9% of all particles as small as 0.3 microns. However, they are also inefficient when used in furnaces as they severely reduce air flow. They are not often recommended for this reason.
  • Pleated – Pleated filters come in both reusable and permanent forms and can be either purely mechanical or electrostatic. There is a very wide range of efficiency ratings for pleated filters so make sure you analyze your home’s specific needs before selecting any one pleated filter.
  • Activated Carbon – Activated carbon is unique from the other three filter types because it effectively removes fumes, odors and chemicals from indoor air along with other larger particles. It is recommended that if you choose an activated carbon filter, you supplement it with a pleated or electrostatic filter (or choose a combination filter) to remove all unwanted components from your home.

There are a lot of options when it comes to furnace filters. To make sure you get only the best air quality, call Sound Heating and we can help you determine which pollutants are the biggest problem in your home.

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

HVAC Q/A: What Is an Electronic Ignition?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Gas furnaces in Tacoma are very complex pieces of equipment. Modern ones in particular are designed to use as little gas as possible, and to recapture as much of the heat generated from burning that gas as can be done safely. One of the many safety and energy-efficient advances in furnace technology in the least twenty years is the electronic ignition.

The Purpose of Electronic Ignition

In older furnaces and boilers, a pilot light would stay lit continuously whenever the heating system needed to be available. That meant continuously burning gas throughout the fall, winter and spring months for those times when heat was needed. It was inefficient and unsafe, especially in older devices that didn’t have safety valves.

Today, furnaces are built with electronic ignitions – small devices that only ignite the gas supply when the thermostat is on. there are two types of electronic ignition used in boilers and furnaces today.

  • Intermittent Pilot – An intermittent pilot is unique in that it releases a spark through an electronic component to the gas pilot, lighting the gas burners.
  • Hot Surface Ignition – Hot surface ignition uses an electronic filament (like a lightbulb) to heat up and ignite the burners when the thermostat calls for heat.

Both devices are designed to use a very small amount of electricity and reduce the amount of gas needed for continuous operation of your furnace.

Safety Benefits of an Electronic Ignition

While gas efficiency was a big part of the transition from pilot lights to electronic ignition, safety was an equally big component. Whereas before, the pilot light was continuously lit, meaning gas was continuously flowing into the furnace, today’s furnaces are essentially off when not in use. This means less of a chance that gas will flow unburned or that the pilot will get dirty or burn too soft, releasing carbon monoxide.

If your furnace or boiler still uses a traditional pilot light, consider having it upgraded to electronic ignition, not just to save gas but to keep your home and family safer.  Call Sound Heating for more information.