Archive for July, 2012

HVAC Guide: Pollen’s Effects on Indoor Air Quality

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Unsure what’s got you feeling down? It might be the air quality in your Kirkland home that’s been compromised by high pollen levels. But, how do you know when pollen is the culprit as opposed to something like pet dander or simple dust? Luckily, there is a clear difference in the symptoms you might suffer from as a result of being exposed to pollen as opposed to another allergen.

Symptoms of Pollen in Your Home

Pollen is most often associated with seasonal allergies, though even perfectly healthy people without allergies are susceptible to pollen reactions if there is enough of it in the air. The most common symptoms of a pollen allergy include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Eye and Nose Irritation
  • Cough
  • Asthma (made worse)
  • Allergic Reactions

Other symptoms, like throat irritation or skin rash tend to be caused by other pollutants like tobacco smoke or bacteria build up. So, if this sounds like what you’re facing, what is the next step? There are a few things you can do to tackle pollen in your indoor air.

Getting Rid of High Pollen Levels

Step one when the pollen levels in your home are too high is to find the source of the pollen. If it’s an indoor plant, air cleaning upgrades may not get the job done. But, if it’s an outdoor source or a single room in your house, solutions abound.

The first step is to install filtration in your Kirkland house. Pollen is relatively big so a simple MERV 10+ filter will usually remove it from the air. However, if you have other pollutants that need to be removed, consider getting a HEPA filter. Designed to capture particles as small as 0.3 microns, HEPA filters are a fantastic solution to the pollen problem.

Once you have a good air filter in place, supplement with proper ventilation to remove pollen filled air from your house. Ventilation with energy saving technology allows you to retain any heat or cooled air in your home. Sound Heating & Air Conditioning  can help you select the best system to tackle your pollen problem.

AC Tip: Cooling Coil or Evaporator Coil Diagnosis & Repair for Air Conditioners

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Inside the air handler of your Seattle air conditioning system is a cooling coil or evaporator coil. From a home cooling perspective, this is where the magic happens: where the actual cooling occurs. So, if there is a problem with the cooling or evaporator coil, you will notice a decrease in the performance of your AC system.

You may notice that the air flow has slowed significantly or even stopped, even though you can hear the air handler running. You may also notice that the air isn’t as cool as it used to be or should be. Aside from having a house that is not cool enough, this can also cause problems like high electricity bills or damage to other parts of the air conditioner. Use this quick guide to start diagnosing and repairing the problem.

Diagnosis

For starters, just try to get a good look at the cooling coil. Some problems are obvious enough upon visual inspection that no further diagnostics or major repair is necessary.

If you are able to see the cooling coil, look for things like:

  • Dirt and debris
  • Mold
  • Staining that indicates a refrigerant leak
  • Ice or frost
  • Damaged fins on the coil

Repair

Any of these could be the culprit that is degrading the performance of your Seattle AC system. Some of these you can take care of pretty simply on your own – if there is obvious debris that you can remove safely, do so – but for most repairs you will want to call in a licensed technician. Especially if the problem is something potentially hazardous like mold growth or a refrigerant leak, you don’t want to take the risk. Let a professional from Sound Heating & Air Conditioning who is trained in safely and effectively repairing the problem take care of it, so that your home can be comfortable again.

AC Question: Can I Choose Environmentally Friendly Coolants?

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Air conditioners are indispensable in many parts of the country, but their environmental impact has long been a source of controversy. In particular, the coolants that were used in the earliest air conditioners, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have done quite a bit of damage to the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

When this affect was discovered, countries all over the world acted to have them phased out of production and use in air conditioning. While CFCs have not been produced since 1995, there are still many air conditioning units functioning today that use CFCs. As these units wear out, of course, the CFCs will gradually disappear from use altogether.

Another type of coolant that is commonly used in air conditioners is hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These have a slightly lower environmental impact than their cousin CFCs, but they are still not ideal in terms of preserving the ozone layer and impeding the progress of global warming. HCFCs are gradually being phased out as well, and they will no longer be produced at all by 2030.

However, it is still possible to buy air conditioners that use HCFCs as a coolant, and if you can avoid this, you should. HCFCs are not nearly as environmentally friendly as some of the other options on the market, and if you are concerned about the effect that these types of chemicals can have on our environment, it is best to steer clear of air conditioners that use HCFCs.

So what coolants are considered environmentally friendly? Well, there are actually two options in this regard. The first are hydroflourocarbons (HFCs). Although they are quite similar to CFCs and HCFCs, HFCs do not contain chlorine and so do not do the type of damage that their predecessors were capable of. You can find air conditioners that use HFCs relatively easily by looking for an “ozone friendly” label on the box.

Refrigerant blends are also becoming a more and more popular environmentally friendly coolant solution for air conditioners as well. Although these types of coolants typically cost more to produce and so can drive up the cost of the air conditioners that use them, they should begin to come down in price as they are more widely adopted across the industry. Just as with HFCs, look for the “ozone friendly” label to identify air conditioners that use refrigerant blends as coolants. For more information about how to choose an air conditioning system in Puyallup, give Sound Heating & Air Conditioning a call today!

AC Question: Do Heat Pumps Work for Air Conditioning?

Monday, July 9th, 2012

It’s possible that in the course of your search for a new air conditioning system in Tacoma, you read or were told about heat pumps. Doesn’t sound right, does it – heat pumps providing cooling for your home? Regardless of the seeming misnomer, heat pumps are actually much older and more reliable cooling technology than you know. And once you understand how these units work, the name makes much more sense.

What Is a Heat Pump?

Technically every refrigerant containing air conditioner is some form of heat pump. A heat pump is a device that removes heat from one area and transfers it to another. So, in the case of your air conditioner, warm air cycles into the condenser, the heat is removed, and the cooled air is circulated back through your home. The actual science behind this is slightly more complicated, but the gist is simple – cold air isn’t produced and then pumped into your home; warm air is removed.

Your refrigerator and freezer operate under the same principle. It works so well that it’s been a standard technology for nearly 100 years, albeit with quite a few upgrades and enhancements. So, if an air conditioner already is a heat pump, why are these devices called something different? Because heat pumps can do so much more.

Heat Producing Heat Pumps

A true heat pump can work in two directions. It can extract heat from your home or it can extract heat from outside and pump it into your home. A true heat pump offers year round climate control because it both heats and cools – not too shabby if you think about the cost of a furnace and central AC system. And with modern green technology, heat pumps can even be connected to geothermal systems that draw their energy from the earth – saving a tremendous amount of money.

So, back to the main question – should you purchase a heat pump for your Tacoma air conditioning needs? The short answer is “it depends”. For the most part, a heat pump is comparable to the same air conditioning model in terms of energy efficiency and capacity. The major difference is its ability to heat your home. So, if you are interested in ditching the furnace or boiler, it may be a great upgrade. If not, a standard air conditioner can get the job done equally well. For help choosing the right system for your home, give Sound Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. a call!

Air Conditioning Tip: AC Condensate Problems

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

The beauty of air conditioning in Tacoma is that we don’t have to do anything to live in a cool climate even when it’s boiling outside.  Programmed to adjust automatically, modern thermostats make it even easier.

It is very inconvenient therefore (not to mention uncomfortable) when our unit is not functioning properly forcing us to pay attention.  Suddenly over-heated, our first inclination may be to call for help, but often the expensive repair can be accomplished easily or avoided completely.

Air Conditioning 101

The process of conditioning air to a cooler temperature involves rapid evaporation and condensation of chemicals called refrigerants.  These are compounds having properties that allow them to change from liquid to gas and back at low temperatures.

When the liquid evaporates and transforms into gas it absorbs heat.  Compressed tightly together again, the matter condenses back into liquid with a residue of unwanted moist heat that must be released to the outdoors.

Over the course of handling the air to cool it, air conditioners are able to filter dust and dehumidify the air as well.  This release of moisture is why air conditioners have drains.

Condenser Coils

As the heat is removed from the gas, it forms condensation that must be drained from the system.  Tiny particles accumulate along the path, prone to shifting and resettling until they become lodged and can form a significant enough blockage to hamper the efficiency of the unit.  If the drain line becomes blocked, the unit drips or overflows the pan and works its way back into the house, causing damage and potentially mold.

This is when panic is inclined to call for the cavalry.

Easy Fix

A simple act of maintenance performed twice a year and requiring no tools can eliminate the problem. Your Tacoma air conditioning technician will do the following to check and maintain your condensate drain:

On the interior side, they will remove the panel of the unit and find the drain line, usually a plastic tube.  If the pan is full of water, there is a blockage.  On a whole house system, the tech will find where the plastic tube exits the house, making sure that it is above ground and clear to drain away. Then they will flush the line to ensure a clean and free flowing pipe.

To schedule your annual maintenance visit, give Sound Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. a call!