Archive for April, 2012

Boiler Basics for Tacoma Residents: Know the Components of Your Hot Water Heating System

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Hydronic boiler systems in Tacoma, or otherwise known as water heating systems, are becoming very popular. They make use of water’s excellent efficiency for transferring heat. Hot water circulates through the house in a  network of pipes that connect to radiators or baseboard convectors that transfer the heat to the air. Return pipes cycle the water back to the boiler to be heated again.

The heart of the system is the hot water boiler.  As you might expect, boilers get their name because they are boiling water to produce heat. That doesn’t mean there’s a cauldron of water bubbling away inside the boiler’s walls. Water inside the boiler is contained entirely within coils of pipes. Burners beneath the pipes heat the water as it circulates through the pipes. The burners can be gas or oil fired, or electric.

When a pot of water boils on a stove, it sends a lot of heat and steam into the air. Put a lid on the pot and the pressure from the boiling water lifts the lid to allow the steam to escape. Now imagine water being heated inside the coils above the burner.  As the pressure builds it has nowhere to go so it drives the water out of the coils and into the network of pipes connecting to the radiators. As it circulates, the hot water pushes the cooler water through the pipes and back down to the boiler. The movement of the water through the system may be assisted by a motor-driven circulating pump connected to the return pipe where it enters the boiler. The pump creates negative pressure that helps cycle the water away from the boiler, through the pipes and radiators, and back to the boiler.

The basic operation of hydronic systems may sound simple, but safely and efficiently controlling it requires a series of sophisticated components. As the water is piped away from the burners and out of the boiler it flows through a valve connected to an expansion tank, which allows the water to expand as it heats. The expansion tank is a large, cylindrical object that hangs off the pipe exiting the boiler.

The large pipe heading away from the expansion tank is divided into a series of smaller pipes, each of which is connected to a zone valve, a small metal box with electrical wires attached to it. The zone valves are wired to the thermostats in the house. When the thermometer in the thermostat drops below the set temperature, it sends a signal to open the zone valve. The hot water from the boiler flows through the valve and into the series of pipes and radiators that service that zone. There may be one, two, or several zone valves depending on the number of zones in the house.

The boiler is also connected to the house water supply so it can be refilled if it loses water. The water supply is usually a small diameter copper pipe exiting the boiler and connected to a shut off valve. The shut off valve also has a pipe leading away from the boiler and connecting to the house’s cold water supply. There is also a pressure relief valve attached to another small diameter copper pipe running out of the boiler. The valve relieves excessive water pressure that builds up inside the boiler.

Oil heat boilers have an electric burner motor that pumps fuel oil out of the tank and into the boiler. The burner motor is attached to the boiler and should have a red reset button that pops up when the boiler shuts down from a malfunction. Gas powered boilers have a smaller gas valve that regulates the flow of gas into the boiler.

Exhaust gases from the burned fuel are vented through a large diameter stack rising up from the center of the boiler and into the chimney. The exhaust stack may be sealed or it may run into an even larger diameter vent with a cone-shaped skirt.

The aquastat is the electrical switching device that ignites the burners when a zone control sends a signal to the boiler calling for heat. The aquastat may be housed in a small metal box attached to the boiler, or it may be inside the boiler. In either case, it will have thick electric cables leading into it. The last critical component on the boiler is the pressure/temperature gauge. If a problem arises with the heating system, it allows the homeowner or the HVAC technician to determine if the boiler is overheating, losing pressure, or not functioning.

Please contact Sound Heating if you have any questions about this.

Indoor Air Quality Tips: Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Homes if Des Moines can develop microbial volatile organic compounds, which are chemical agents produced by organic materials like mold that can have a potentially dangerous effect on your nervous system. In fact, some MVOCs have an equal or even worse effect on the human body as petroleum based VOCs which have long been labeled as dangerous to inhale by the EPA.

The problem of course is that there are too many talking heads out there telling you that MVOCs will kill you or that they can be ignored. The truth is in between, and for your family to remain safe and healthy you need to keep a close eye on the effects of potential black mold patches in your home.

Handling MVOCs

The first step to reducing MVOCs in your home is mold abatement. Proper removal will reduce the volume of mold that can off gas these chemicals. Additionally, you should reduce your use of such chemicals as aerosol sprays, paints and paint thinners, hobby supplies, air fresheners and other chemicals compounds that produce manmade or petroleum based chemicals that feed mold.  Make sure that your home has proper ventilation and air filtration.

Finally, make sure you have your home inspected as soon as you suspect the presence of mold. Regardless of the mold’s color and the smell you notice, it should be checked by a professional in the mold detection and abatement field. It might be nothing, but if it is something, you want someone you can trust to take care of it immediately.  Ask a professional what type of air purification appliances you should utilize.

Toxicity in Many Molds

The most commonly cited “toxic” mold is black mold or stachybotrys. This mold produces a mycotoxin that can quite literally poison anyone who breathes or ingests it. However, other forms of mold which might appear as red, white, green or grey produce MVOCs that are equally dangerous. Many people with mold have these dangerous chemicals in their home and don’t even realize it.

Typically, MVOCs can be smelled as a musty, organic gas that develops from the mold as it matures. Mold produces a variety of chemicals including benzene, aldehyde, tulolene, more. These chemicals create that musty scent and are all quite dangerous to the human body. Just because a chemical is organic doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous to your health. Imagine if man made formaldehyde or benzene were in the air near your children – what would you do?

Please contact Sound Heating if you have any questions.

AC Problems You Need A Professional to Fix in Puget Sound

Monday, April 16th, 2012

In a hot climate, it’s great to be cool.  Air conditioning in Puget Sound makes life possible for some people.  It lets us sleep and helps us be our best through the hottest days.

Air conditioning is a cool blanket that wraps around us like a mother’s arm around a little baby.  It’s such a part of our lives that it’s easy to forget that, like a baby, our own air conditioners must be well fed and maintained.

Some quick fixes are easy for a home owner, but other air conditioning repairs are complicated, and require a professionally certified HVAC company like Sound Heating to accomplish.

Doing the Basics

For window mounts or the big units on the side of the house, regular cleanings and a filter change should be a part of every season.  Even for the most bumbling of hands, it’s not hard to remove the cover and replace the panel of webbing that catches lint and other particles out of your conditioned air.

Some warm water and a good shot of compressed air gently on the exposed fins will help to increase the longevity of the unit.  Be careful not to put pressure on the fragile fins and coils or use hot water that could cause corrosion.

Make sure the drain is clear, always cover the unit or store it away when more naturally cool temperatures take over and you’ve got conditioned air and relative peace of mind in the years ahead.

Big Problems

Without the regular service, however, an air conditioner begins to work much harder to produce the same amount (or less) of cool joy and parts begin to break down.  With total neglect, the unit itself may need replacement much sooner than was promised when you paid for it. These are repairs that could be avoided and require a professional to make.

The key ingredient to cooling is a chemical called a refrigerant (most often Freon) that is capable of transforming rapidly from gas to liquid and back again at low temperatures. This runs through two intricate tubes, a compressor, and a critical expansion valve that controls the process.  It is a delicate and complicated process that calls for expertise and the right tools, especially since the refrigerant is considered hazardous and requires special handling.

When the air gets stuffy, it could be that the fan is the problem.  Belts could be worn, loose or broken.  The motor may be low on oil and is stained to the breaking point.

If mysterious signs of water or mold are showing up on the inside of the house near the unit, there could be a problem with the condensate that is released with the heat when air is cooled.  This could be a simple or complicated fix, but should be checked out professionally to ensure all is well.

With love and care, an air conditioner should provide us with a decade or two of wonderful sleep and cool times.  Schedule regular service with Sound Heating to increase the comfort.

Heating Q and A: What Is a Gravity Furnace?

Monday, April 9th, 2012

A long time ago, gravity furnaces were a very popular means of heating a home in Eatonville. Instead of pressurizing and blowing air through vents to each room of your home, a gravity furnace used gravity to move warm air between rooms.

The operation of these furnaces is pretty simple. When turned on, the furnace, which is located in your basement, burns fuel like gas or oil and produces heat. That heat is vented through ductwork to the top level of your home using the natural properties of gravity (hot air rises). The hot air exits vents as it travels up in the home and releases heat into the room.

Why to Replace a Gravity Furnace

While gravity furnaces can work nearly forever and have very few mechanical problems, they are incredibly expensive to operate and take up a lot of space. Due to the sheer volume of ducts needed to distribute air throughout your home and the cost of heating enough air to ensure it rises properly, you’re dealing with a heating efficiency of 50% or lower.

In fact, about half the energy you consume to heat air in a gravity furnace gets pumped straight out through the chimney. It’s a complete waste of money and a heating system replacement will start saving you money almost immediately.

Newer furnaces have efficiency ratings of up to 95% which makes them nearly twice as efficient as gravity furnaces. Additionally, they take up less space and with modern components, you can install newer devices like zone controls, electronic readout and display and more. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy steady, reliable heat in your home without having to invest a fortune in the fuel needed to operate it.

Comfort Matters

Another thing to consider is the comfort level of your home. Because gravity furnaces release warm air through the middle of the house and cold air comes back down along the walls, homes that have them are rarely comfortable except in the middle of the house. Forced air furnaces with blower fans are much more efficient at distributing heated air and matching the thermostat settings you select.  Please call Sound Heating to get started today.

Heating Repair Question: Why is My Furnace Making Noise?

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

During a bitterly cold night, in the luxury of our homes, we have the ability to adjust the temperatures to comfortably walk barefoot down the hall.  It is easy to take our Tacoma furnaces for granted, but without proper maintenance, they can become noisy and irritable, growling with mysterious sounds of dissatisfaction and ominous groans, warning that slippers and more blankets may soon be necessary.

This does not have to happen to you.

At the beginning of each season, it makes good sense to care for the furnace that is going to take care of you.   Scheduling an annual inspection and filter change with Sound Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. ensures a longer life and more comfort.

Rattles and Bumps in the Night

At the first sound of trouble, checking the filter can often be a quick relief.  As air passes through the furnace, a filter picks out much of the dust and some heavier particles that have come along, gotten snagged and accumulated over time to create a solid blockage.

This filter can become clogged and force your Tacoma furnace to work much harder to push the air through the blocked passage. Located just inside the front panel of the furnace, the filter is very accessible and easily exchanged for a clean one.  This should be the very minimum of regular maintenance and is simple enough to do that it can make anyone feel handy.

Deeper Trouble

Heated air and cold air returning to and from the furnace travel through ductwork which is often metal (those long, silvery boxes tucked up between joists in your basement and covered by a nasty layer of cobwebs).  The vibration of footsteps across the floor overhead or even of just the air movement through the ducts can loosen the fasteners and rattle the metal like a rumble of thunder.

Internally, there are fans and lots of moving parts in the motor.  A noise coming from this area portends a repair of a more complicated nature and should have the inspection of a certified technician, a service easily provided by Sound Heating.

With proper care and maintenance, furnaces are built to last for decades, providing heat and comfort to the home or office and improving the quality of life for the people inside.  Consult with experts to ensure the efficient operation.