Posts Tagged ‘Covington’

HVAC Tips: What is an Electric Furnace?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

There are many types of furnaces for Covington homes that use a variety of energy sources to operate. Gas furnaces use natural or propane gas, boilers and radiators use water, heated by electricity. And then there are electric furnaces, which may have an advantage over other energy sources based on energy costs.

Simply put, electric furnaces function through the use of electricity. They do not require the use of any type of fuel – but function through wires and chords. An electric furnace uses heating coils, sometimes referred to as “resistance calrods” to create heat directly in the air flow. Inside the furnace cabinet are controls, a blower, and the circuit breakers for the heating elements. Some furnaces have the breakers accessible from the outside of the cabinet.

Other add-on accessories may include an electronic air cleaner, air filter, humidifier, high performance media filter, and air conditioning evaporator coil.

The heating process begins with the home’s thermostat. A drop in temperature is sensed by the thermostat, which alerts the electric furnace. The coil then warms up, thanks to the electric current that passes through it. The heated coil in turn heats the temperature of the air around it, which is then blown into the house through a blower. The pressure that is exerted by the blower on the heated air, warms it further. The blower is able to overcome the resistance of the duct work and replace unheated, colder air with the heated air. In most homes there are various return air ducts that are used to bring in the colder air to the furnace. This cold air travels through the furnace, through an air filter, the blower, and finally through the heat exchanger. After this it will then be pushed back into the house as warm air.

To maintain a supply of fresh air in the house, some furnaces also suck air from the atmosphere outside. After the air in the house reaches a particular temperature, the thermostat automatically shuts off the electric furnace.

An electric furnace may be less costly to run, depending on the price of electricity versus other sources like natural gas, propane gas, or oil. Gas and oil are fossil fuels and burning them leaves a “carbon footprint” – the release of carbon compounds and gases into the atmosphere. An electric furnace does not burn fuel and thus does not leave a carbon footprint. This electric warming process results in fewer particulates and contaminants in the air, too.  If you have any questions about this topic please call Sound Heating.

Guide from Sammamish: How to Maintain High Efficiency Filters to Reduce Stress on Your Heat Pump

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

The filter on your heat pump is an integral part of your Sammamish home’s comfort system. Without that filter, the device will quickly be subjected to an influx of debris and contaminants that can get into the machinery and the air being filtered into your home. As a result, you need to make sure you properly maintain the filters to reduce stress on your heat pump.

Change Your Filters

High efficiency filters are designed to remove as much of the airborne contaminants in the air as possible. This is fantastic for keeping your indoor air clean. But if you don’t properly maintain the filter, air quality can worsen and your heat pump is put under unnecessary stress. Specifically, the extremely tight knit filter, designed to stop nearly anything from getting through, gets clogged.

Now your heat pump is forced to work much harder to draw the air it needs from outside and heat or cool your home. On top of that, the filter is filled with contaminants that can start to leak back into the air supply, actually making your indoor air quality worse than it would be otherwise. That’s why it is so important to clean your filters on a regular basis (for permanent filters) and replace them if they are one time use.

Recommended Filters

You have options as to which types of filters you use for your heat pump. Filters come in multiple options, from super high MERV rated filters that trap up to 99% of all contaminants as small as 0.3 microns.

Electrostatic filters are especially efficient because they extract contaminants of all types – from dust and mold to smoke and gas fumes. A good filtration system should effectively remove anything from the air without needing replacement too often.

Permanent filters tend to offer the best protection against airborne contaminants and generally need to be cleaned once a month. HEPA filters are often permanent and while each filter is different, these are often extremely effective at minimizing contaminants in the air without putting stress on your heat pump.

How Heating Zone Control Can Save You Money: Some Advice from Covington

Monday, October 10th, 2011

The costs of heating your Covington home have risen dramatically over the past couple of decades, thanks to higher energy costs and price increases for heating equipment. Despite the strides made in energy efficiency, there seems to be no end in sight for the steady rise in heating equipment operating costs.

Now add in the cost of heating unoccupied areas of your home, such as basements, hallways, or extra bedrooms, and the energy costs go even higher. Most of these costs are unnecessary and avoidable if you have the time and a small investment in a well-planned heating “strategy” for your home. This strategy involves using heating zone controls to make the most efficient use of your heating system.

In a nutshell, here is how heating zone control works. The rooms in your home are connected to your heating system by a series of ductwork, which carries heated and conditioned area to all corners. But some of these areas may not need to be heated as much – or possibly at all – compared to other rooms in your home. For example, do you need heat in your kitchen but not in your basement? Most people would answer yes. Or they may say they need more heat in the kitchen and some, but not very much heat in the basement.

Or try this: do most people in your house spend more time in one room, such as the family room, and less time in their bedrooms? If so, why would it be necessary to heat the bedrooms all of the time? In order to deliver heat to areas in your home that need it the most, the ductwork to these rooms should always be “open.” Ductwork to other unused areas of your home can be “closed” during various times of the day.

Opening and closing of ductwork and airflow is achieved by zone controls. A zone control is installed in the home which electronically or wirelessly opens and closes “dampers” in the ductwork, depending on the heating demand. You can divert heat to areas of your home using zone control and dampers while decreasing the heating load on your furnace. This type of heating zone control will move heated air to where you want it. Simply put, you are not heating areas of your home that don’t need the heat.

The heating zone controls can be programmed for various times of the day, too. For example, you may not need any heat in your basement while you sleep or when you are away from home. You can program the damper in your basement’s ductwork to remain closed or partially open during these times. In a sense, the heating zone control in your home acts like a programmable thermostat – only it uses a series of dampers to control indoor temperatures.

The next time you walk into an unused part of your home, think about how much money you are spending to heat it. It makes sense to consider heating zone controls. The initial costs of installing zone controls and dampers are minimal and the payback in energy savings and comfort are substantial.

The Effect of Dust Mites on Indoor Air Quality: A Tip From Covington

Friday, October 7th, 2011

There are three types of indoor air pollutants in your Covington home– particles, bioaerosols and gases. Dust mites are a special case because they are nearly invisible to the eye, but represent a substantial bioaerosol that can make it harder to breathe and result in a number of sometimes debilitating symptoms.

What Are Dust Mites?

Dust mites are tiny arachnids related to ticks and spiders that cling to fabric like curtains, carpet and upholstery. They resemble dust in the air and thrive in high humidity conditions. So, the easiest way to treat a dust mite problem is with proper dehumidification. Knowing whether dust mites are a real problem if you simply have a lot of dust and pollen floating around is tough. Here are some common symptoms to look for:

  • Dizziness
  • Nose Irritation
  • Respiratory Irritation
  • Cough
  • Chest Tightness
  • Asthma (made worse)
  • Allergic Reactions

Because dust mites are alive when you breathe them in, they can cause severe irritation to your throat and lungs and result in a number of uncomfortable reactions – ranging from a runny nose to a full blown allergic reaction.

Getting Rid of Dust Mites

So, how do you get rid of these tiny arachnids? The first step is to improve the humidity level in your home. Anything under 50% humidity makes it impossible for dust mites to survive, so air conditioning is the best step to remove the threat of these little bugs.

Tiny dust mites are among the larger air pollutants and can be captured by most MERV 10+ filters on the market. A HEPA filter will absolutely remove them as well, along with any other particulate or bioaerosols in your home.

How a Thermostat Works: A Guide From Covington

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Your thermostat is designed to closely monitor and maintain the temperature in your Covington home. When you flip the switch, you want your furnace or air conditioner to respond immediately. So, it’s a good idea to learn how it works so that if there is a problem, not only will you know better what needs to be fixed – you can decide whether to call a professional in for help.

Thermostats shouldn’t need input from you other than to set the initial temperature. From there, they are automatic switches. A thermometer inside the thermostat measures the indoor air temperature. When it gets above or below the limit you’ve specified, it triggers the thermostat to send a message to your home comfort system and keep things nice and comfortable.

Types of Thermostat

Thermostats come in two forms –electromechanical and electronic. An electromechanical thermostat is the simplest and has been used for decades to regulate temperature in homes. It has a simple strip or coil of metal that expands as the temperature rises and contract as it lowers. A mercury thermometer is placed on top of the strip. The coil’s movements cause the vial to tip as the temperature changes. There is a pair of electrical contacts on either end of the vial. The mercury can absorb that electrical current when the electrical contacts touch the thermometer. The mercury then acts as a switch to turn on your comfort system.

An electronic thermostat simply has an electronic sensor that measures the indoor air temperature. You set a temperature for your room and when it changes significantly, the switch inside your electronic thermostat is triggered, causing it to turn on your comfort system.

Ways to Upgrade Your Thermostat

Most homes only need the bare minimum in their thermostats. However, there is some very exciting technology on the market these days that can add quite a bit of value to your system. Not only can you install a programmable thermostat, you can opt for zone control systems that allow multiple thermostats in different rooms of your home.

Programming allows you to set temperatures for certain times of the day. This is especially great if you are gone from the house for long periods of time each day. Why heat or cool a home when it is empty? And if you have multiple people with different temperature needs, zone control temperature control allows you to set specific temperatures for specific rooms in your home – a very enticing option for large families or multi-story homes.

Changes in Light Bulb Laws and Technology

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which promoted many forms of renewable energy and energy conservation. Its provisions include changes to the minimum standards for light bulb efficiency. Although the new standards haven’t officially gone into effect yet, you many already have seen changes in the kinds of light bulbs on sale in your local hardware store.

According to the law, starting in 2012, most standard general-purpose bulbs must be 30% more energy efficient than current incandescent bulbs. The new requirements will be phased in gradually, but the net result will be that by 2014, most of today’s incandescent bulbs will no longer be available for sale, and will be replaced by compact florescent light bulbs, or CFLs.

Of course, higher-efficiency bulbs are good for the environment. Moving to more efficient lighting is one of the easiest, lowest-cost ways for the U.S. to reduce electricity use and carbon emissions. But the changes will also benefit consumers – some estimates suggest that the average household’s utility bill will be reduced by as much as 12%. Even though CFLs cost more to buy ($3 compared to 50 cents for an incandescent), they use about 75% less energy and last five years instead of a few months. Depending on the cost of electricity, a homeowner that invests $90 to change 30 bulbs to CFLs will save between $440 and $1500 over the five-year life of the bulbs.

CFLs do have their detractors. Many claim that they don’t last anywhere near as long as the five years claimed by manufacturers – and this can in fact be the case you turn the bulbs on and off frequently. Energy Star recommends that all CFLs be left on for at least 15 minutes at a time. (Also, if you are using the bulbs in a dimmer, make sure that you buy bulbs specifically marked “dimmable”.) If you buy Energy Star bulbs, they come with a two-year warranty, so save your receipts and contact the bulb’s manufacturer if it burns out prematurely.

Others dislike the white – sometimes called “harsh” – light of CFLs. This effect can be mitigated by buying cooler-burning CFLs. Bulbs with Kelvin temperatures in the range of 2,700 to 3,000 emit a warmer light than higher-temperature bulbs with Kelvin temperatures of 5,000 or higher, which tend to have a white or bluish light.

Still other critics point out that CFLs contain mercury. While this is true, incandescent bulbs are not mercury-free in practice either. The increased power used for incandescent likely comes from coal-powered plants that produce mercury and many other types of pollution.

If you do break a CFL in your home, consult the EPA’s website for instructions on how to clean it up safely. http://www.epa.gov/cfl/cflcleanup.html

Of course, manufacturers are preparing for 2012 by developing new kinds of light bulbs that meet the more stringent standards, including high-efficiency incandescent and LED bulbs, so look for these options to arrive in stores over the next year or so.

The good news? A much less-beloved light bulb has already been phased out. The T-12 fluorescent tube – those humming, flickering office lights that give everyone’s skin a miserable greenish cast – has been replaced by T-8 fluorescent tubes, which are quieter, more efficient, don’t flicker, and make colors look much more natural.

How Often Do You Change Your Filters?

Friday, June 17th, 2011

The core component of any good air quality system is the filter. A good air filter removes almost all of the particles that inundate your home every day – from the pet dander that flakes off of your cats or dogs to the pollen released by plants both indoors and out.

But many homeowners are not aware of when they should change the filters in their air quality system. They know it should be done regularly, but how often and when do you ignore the manufacturer’s recommendation to ensure higher quality air?

Know Your Home

The first thing to consider is the size of your home and what types of contaminants you must deal with each day. Air testing helps with this, as does regular cleaning of the areas around your air filter, including your ductwork. If you don’t have any pets and don’t keep any plants inside, your biggest air quality issue is likely dust, and dust will only fill up the filters quickly if you have a large family.

However, if you have a lot of pets, multiple plants and a large family, the odds are that your filter is being put through the ringer every day – asked to filter out a tremendous number of contaminants. This is when you might need to change the filter more often.

Changing Your Filter

If you have a high quality HEPA filter, it’ll probably work for as long as it’s rated. Only lower quality filters or those not large enough for the space in which they are installed will fail early. However, keep in mind that a HEPA filter, even when it can last longer, should always be changed no later than the manufacturer’s recommended date.

For most homes that timeframe is about 6 months. However, some higher quality filters can last as long as 12 or even 18 months in the right conditions. If you use your air filter in conjunction with an air purifier, you should also have the cartridges changed out at the same time as your filter.

If you think you are changing your filters too often, you can always have your air tested to determine if the contaminants in your home require less filtration. Some home have filters larger than they need installed or lower grade filters that get changed too often unnecessarily. As long as your family is safe and healthy, you might as well try to save some money.

What is a Whole House Fan?

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Cooling your home is a big deal. Especially if the temperature in your home is generally very high in the summer, the cost of air conditioning is tremendous. A central air conditioner can cost between $2,000 and $4,000 to run for an average 2,800 square foot home over the course of six months. That’s a lot of electricity just to stay cool.

That’s why a whole house fan is a great option for those that want to forego the use of direct air conditioning for at least part of the year.

What It Does

A whole house fan is different from a standard air conditioner because it doesn’t use a heat exchanger to remove heat from air before it enters your home. That heat exchanger is the culprit for a large percentage of an air conditioner’s energy consumption. A whole house fan can be used when the temperature outside is lower than inside, a common occurrence on moderate days in the summer.

The whole house fan draws air and then cycles it through your air vents without cooling it. The act of moving air through your home, however, is often enough to cool the space to a comfortable level. The size of your whole house fan depends on quite a few things. First, how big is your home? Large homes that require even cooling need a larger fan to draw in air. However, small homes can often get away with models that use as little as 120 Watts of electricity. That’s less than your computer uses.

Choosing a Fan for Your Home

Keep in mind that a whole house fan only works when the temperature outside is lower than inside. If the air outside is excessively humid or if it is very warm in the hottest months of summer, you will still need an air conditioning unit. But, even if you run your air conditioner for two months out of the year, you’ll save a tremendous amount of money in the other four months by operating a whole house fan.

Whole house fans should be used in conjunction with an effective air purification system to ensure all outdoor contaminants are effectively removed before they are cycled through your house. They also require the same level of maintenance and cleaning as a normal AC system. However, with the right care, they work wonders to cut down on your energy bill.

How Do Solar Cells Work?

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Rising energy costs and concerns over depleted resources have many people seeking out alternative energy sources for their homes. One popular solution is solar cells, which harness clean energy from the radiation of the sun to use as electricity. This technology is not terribly new, of course, having been used in calculators for years. A house is rather different from a calculator, though, so the prospect of using solar cells as a source of electricity lends itself to some questions, especially “how does it work?”

How it Works

As you might imagine, there is some complex science behind how cells really work. Rather than get down to the nitty gritty physics of it all, a brief overview should do. Essentially, the radiation from the sun is a tremendous energy source, emitting up to 1000 watts of energy per square meter of Earth in a single day.

The materials in solar cells make them photovoltaic (PV), meaning they are able to convert light to energy. When light strikes the PV cell, its energy is passed along to a semiconductor, thereby generating a current. There’s a good deal more complexity involved in the process but essentially that’s it.

Making It Work for You

There are a number of issues to consider and obstacles to overcome in installing solar cells that work properly, such as:

  • Angle and Orientation – Ideally PV cells should be directed south, at an angle that is as close to the latitude of their location as possible. All sources of shade and other obstructions must be removed for the sake of efficiency.
  • Storage and Backup – The sun doesn’t shine all the time, so you will need a backup system in place. Some options include connecting your home to the power grid, using deep cycle batteries to store energy for use later, or installing a backup generator.
  • Current Inversion – The current produced by the photovoltaic process is DC, so in order to be used like “regular” electricity from a wall socket, it needs to be converted to AC. This means installing an inverter as part of the system. Some PV cells come with invertors built in.

Installing a solar system can be a clean and budget-friendly idea, but it can also be somewhat complicated. Proper materials and installation are vital to proper functioning, so consult with a professional if you are in doubt.