Archive for December, 2014

Why Do We Hang Up Mistletoe?

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Of course, you probably know part of the answer to this question already. You hang up mistletoe so that the people standing underneath can share a romantic holiday kiss! But what you may not realize is that the origin of this longstanding ritual predates many of the other holiday traditions we celebrate today. Why would a plant that has many poisonous varieties (most types sold for use in the home have few negative effects, but you can wrap it in netting to prevent children from consuming any fallen berries or leaves) be used as a symbol of holiday affection?

There are a couple of ways to explain the positive associations of (potentially hazardous) mistletoe. For one, this semi-parasitic plant has long been hailed as a treatment for illnesses and pain. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to cure cramps, epilepsy, and more. Even today, mistletoe extracts are one of the leading alternative medicines studied for their effectiveness in killing cancer cells. And because the early Celtic Druids saw it as a sign of healing and life, they may be the first to bestow upon the plant its romantic associations, deeming it worthy of treating the infertile.

But it is Norse mythology that is likely responsible for a majority of the modern traditions associated with this small hanging bunch. One of the powerful Norse god Odin’s sons, named Baldur, was said to be invincible due to an oath his mother took to protect him from harm. But Loki, a god who often set out to make trouble for the gods, set out to find the one thing that could do some damage, and eventually discovered that Baldur’s mother Frigg had never included mistletoe in her invincibility oath. When mistletoe was finally responsible for her son’s demise, the grieving Frigg vowed that the plant would never again be used to hurt another living thing, and that she would plant a peaceful kiss upon anyone who walked underneath it.

And that is one of the reasons that, today, kissing under the mistletoe is viewed as a source of good luck. From our family to yours, we wish you a safe holiday season, and we hope that you and your family are full of joy and good fortune—mistletoe or not! Happy holidays from Sound Heating!

Ground Source vs. Air Source: Which Kind of Heat Pump Is Better?

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Heat pumps are becoming more common, and that has caused a huge jump in demand for accurate information and advice on their selection and operations. The question “which kind of heat pump is better?” has become quite common, and it’s not hard to see why. Homeowners are always careful to make sure that they get the best fit for their needs and their home. They don’t want to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in a system that isn’t going to take good care of them. With that in mind, let’s attempt to answer this question.

Air Source Heat Pumps

The core of this question has to do with where the heat pump gets the thermal energy that it uses to heat the home. First, though, let’s discuss how heat pumps work. A heat pump is not a combustion-based system, like a furnace or a boiler. Those systems create heat by burning some kind of fuel. Instead, a heat pump draws heat from one area and deposits it in another.

Air source heat pumps do this by using two different units, an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The outdoor unit is installed outside the house, while the indoor unit is installed inside. When the heat is turned on, the outdoor unit will siphon thermal energy from the surrounding air and send it inside to heat the house.

Like all heat pumps, an air source heat pump is very energy efficient in most cases and will save money on heating bills. However, in climates that routinely reach sub-zero temperatures there isn’t enough thermal energy to make an air source heat pump worth it.

Ground Source

Ground source, or geothermal, heat pumps draw their heat from the ground instead of the air. They do this by relying on an underground pipe loop filled with refrigerant. When the heater turns on, it cycles this refrigerant through the main unit and siphons heat from it instead of the air. This solves the problem with air source heat pumps because the temperature underground remains fairly constant, regardless of the weather outside. Thus, they always have a renewable heat source to draw on. Unfortunately, they also require more space to install the loop.

If you’d like to know more, call Sound Heating. We provide heating services throughout Tacoma.

Options for Hydronic Heating Systems

Friday, December 12th, 2014

People have kept themselves warm with hot water for a millennia, but it wasn’t until about a 100 years ago that use of hot water was harnessed to heat entire homes. What are we talking about? Hydronic heating systems: systems that use hot water, or its byproduct, steam, to heat your home. Lots of innovations have happened over the last century in the heating industry, giving homeowners lots of choices when it comes to home heating.

If you’ve decided that hot water is the way you’d like to heat your home, you have a few choices for outlets:

Radiators

Radiators have been the staple outlet for hydronic systems since boilers were first produced. Radiators are still great for providing heat, and these days you can choose from a wide variety of styles to fit just about any home. Conventional radiators are the types with “ribs” – tubes that carry the hot water or steam through the radiator and release the heat. Radiators heat effectively and do so gently. Air bubbles can develop in radiator so it’s important to release the air once a year to ensure air lock doesn’t occur.

Baseboard Heating

Baseboard heating works similarly to radiators, but the configuration of the outlet itself is different from a standing radiator. As the name suggests, baseboard heaters are placed on the floor and are part of the baseboard of the room it’s placed in. The piping has fins attached so that when the hot water or steam flows through the pipe, the fins can radiate heat along with the pipe, similar to the ribs of a conventional radiator. The piping and fins are covered, and there are many types of baseboard covers available to complement your décor.

Radiant Heating

Hot water or steam can also be used in radiant heating. With radiant heating, flexible PEX tubing is installed onto subflooring and the hot water or steam flows through, heating the floor above it. Radiant panels for walls and ceilings can also be hydronic, but electricity is preferred. As with radiators and baseboard heating, circulating pumps push the water through the system.

Hydronic systems offer a gentle, comfortable heat for your home. If you think a hydronic heating system is a fit for your home, call Sound Heating today and schedule your heating installation in Tacoma with one of our HVAC experts!

Types of Gas Furnace Safety Mechanisms

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Because a furnace is usually hooked up to the gas line, some homeowners may worry about the safety of their home and family. Unfortunately, gas furnaces are sometimes unfairly written off as unsafe since they deal with combustion gases that could be hazardous. In reality, today’s furnaces are actually incredibly safe and contain key features that help to protect your home. These features should always work properly so long as the unit is properly installed and continuously maintained.

Be sure to call a technician whenever you suspect that a component of your furnace is not working, like the Tacoma heating experts at Sound Heating, or for routine maintenance and inspection every year. For now, take a look at some of these key furnace safety features, so you can rest easy knowing your furnace won’t cause you any harm throughout the night.

  1. Furnace Limit Switch: The furnace fan limit switch, at its most basic function, is a part that tells the fan when to turn on and off. This keeps your fan from continuously blowing after your home has reached the desired temperature. But it is also an important safety mechanism on any furnace that keeps the furnace plenum from overheating so that there is no damage to the unit and so that flames cannot escape.
  2. Thermocouple: The thermocouple is a feature that protects the combustion chamber from filling up with unburned gases.  If the standing pilot light were to go out, the chamber could fill up with these gases which would lead to an explosion in some cases. The thermocouple is a simple component that senses when the pilot light is off and closes the gas valve.
  3. Flame Sensor: In today’s furnaces, the thermocouple is actually no longer necessary for most modern units. Older furnaces required a standing pilot, while most of today’s units use hot surface ignition or an intermittent pilot instead of requiring the pilot to remain on. For these furnaces, a mercury sensor performs a similar job to the thermocouple.

If you’re worried about the safety of your furnace or need a professional to troubleshoot strange sounds or other indications that a furnace is in a state of disrepair, you should talk to the professionals at Sound Heating. We offer repairs, maintenance, and installation for heating systems in Tacoma and the surrounding area.