Posts Tagged ‘Eatonville’

Heating Question: Is Your Furnace Not Blowing Enough Air?

Monday, September 17th, 2012

Have you ever been in your house in the winter, listening to your Puyallup furnace churn away trying to heat the house, but noticed that the whole place is still cold? If you checked the heating vents in this situation, you would probably find that there is not much air flow coming out of them, which is why you are still freezing.

It is entirely possible for the furnace to be burning away, producing hot air, without enough of that warm air ever actually being distributed through your home. So it continues to run and run, resulting in excess wear and tear on the heating system that will probably shorten its productive life, as well as keeping your whole home too chilly.

Why does that happen? There are a several common culprits for insufficient air flow from a furnace. Below is a list of the most frequent offenders, along with solutions for each:

  • Cause: Dirty or broken air filter. An air filter that has accumulated too much build up or is damaged will slow down air flow in a hurry.
    Solution: Clean or replace the air filter as necessary. This should be part of routine furnace maintenance in order to ensure efficient operation. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations to see how often you should check your air filter(s).
  • Cause: Damaged, corroded, broken or collapsed ductwork. Your ducts are like the road that warm air travels on. If the road is out, then no one can get through. Simple as that.
    Solution: Have a professional inspect and repair your ductwork. A routine ductwork check is also part of a professional’s annual maintenance inspection.
  • Cause: Blower fan not blowing enough. This can be caused by a loose fan belt, or a dirty motor.
    Solution: First, clean the blower fan and the area around it. It has to deal with a lot of air, so it naturally becomes dirty over time. If that doesn’t fix it, the fan belt probably needs to be replaced.

There are some other causes of improper furnace air flow, but those are the most common and easiest to detect and repair. If your heat registers are not returning any warm air at all, that is likely a different problem and you should call a Puyallup furnace technician at Sound Heating to look at the system right away.

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.

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.

Heat Pump Maintenance in Renton

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Heating and cooling your Renton home is a priority. You need your home and family to be comfortable all year round, so you either got or are considering a heat pump. These machines are great because under the right circumstances, they are essentially all-inclusive and incredibly efficient solutions for all your home heating and cooling needs.

Notice the “under the right circumstances” part. A number of things have to be considered when choosing a heat pump, such as the climate and the size of your home. But these are not the only circumstances that influence how well your heat pump works for you. Proper heat system maintenance is a vital component of heat pump ownership, ensuring that you get the best performance out of your heat pump for the longest time possible.

A major part of properly maintaining any machine is to keep it clean. A heat pump is no exception. Dirt and dust can affect the efficiency of your heat pump, as well as speed up corrosion problems. Keep the compressor and coils clean. Check them monthly or so and remove any accumulated dirt. Also, consistently check and change filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Simple cleaning is an easy and effective first step to heat pump maintenance, but there are some things that you just won’t be able to do on your own. For more intensive maintenance, it is best to call in a professional for an annual inspection.

During a routine maintenance check of your heat pump, a technician will inspect the whole heat pump system for problems. He will clean the compressor and coils, tighten any connections that may have loosened up and change the filters as needed. In addition, a skilled technician will be able to detect any early signs of trouble and make necessary repairs to prevent break downs. These small repairs can prevent big problems later on, thereby preventing some serious discomfort and a possible big expense.

If you are considering a heat pump as a heating and cooling solution for your home, great. If you have already decided on one and had it installed, congratulations on making a smart decision. Now, make another smart decision to protect that investment by keeping your new heat pump properly maintained.  Please call Sound Heating & Air Conditioning with any questions.

Question from Eatonville: What is a Gas Furnace Draft Hood?

Friday, December 16th, 2011

As every Eatonville HVAC contractor knows, a draft hood is a necessary part of any gas burning appliance. For a gas furnace in particular it ensures steady air flow to the burners to avoid flares or the pilot light being put out by fluctuation in temperature and air flow.

What the Draft Hood Does

The draft will change in the chimney as exhaust vents towards it – especially when going from cold air to hot. A draft hood is placed above the upper most part of the gas furnace to draw air into the chimney and makes it possible to draw more or less air through the chimney as necessary to create a constant flow.

This makes it possible for the burner to enjoy consistent air flow without any wind gusts or sudden temperature spikes or drops. Hot air, if not put through a draft hood would create a strong air flow through the burners.

A draft hood cools the air as it is released by the burners from 500 degrees F to between 300 degrees F and 350 degrees F. The cooling needs to be carefully calibrated to avoid condensation build up in the chimney however – a problem that occurs when the temperature gets too low.

Maintaining Pressure

The draft hood is a part of a larger system designed to maintain air flow to the chimney. For every cubic foot of gas burned, the furnace needs to have 15 cubic feet of air for combustion and another 15 cubic feet of air for dilution. A draft hood and the rest of the ventilation system make it possible to put a furnace that has many thousands of BTUs in the basement of your home and still supply it with enough air to burn gas and dilute the exhaust before it enters the chimney.

For all of these reasons, if you see your pilot light flickering irregularly, notice a backflow of exhaust or a burning smell in your furnace room, it’s important to call a professional who can inspect and repair the problem before it becomes any worse. Not only can gas burner exhaust contain high levels of carbon monoxide, it can be bad for the device and the chimney if it doesn’t vent properly.

The Top 8 Mistakes Homeowners Make with Home Maintenance: Some Advice From Eatonville

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Maintaining your Eatonville home is important, but it must be done properly. Learn these common maintenance mistakes so you can avoid making them yourself.

  1. Forgoing an Annual HVAC Inspection -Your home’s heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system should be thoroughly inspected each year. This is vital to keeping your house comfortable and energy efficient.
  2. Improper smoke and/or carbon monoxide detector maintenance – Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors should not just be installed properly, but also maintained properly. Test them monthly and replace drained batteries immediately.
  3. Ignoring manufacturer instructions – Not only instruction manuals are they important for proper installation of important equipment in your home, they also contain maintenance recommendations and schedules. Adhering to these instructions protects your investment in your home.
  4. Not replacing filters regularly – Speaking of regular maintenance, remember that the air filters in your furnace and air conditioning units need to be replaced regularly according to manufacturer recommendations.
  5. Not keeping gutters clean – Speaking of water damage, clogged gutters can overflow and cause problems in a hurry. Clean gutters and downspouts at the start of spring and regularly as needed.
  6. Insufficient cleaning (filters, ducts, vents, carpets, furnace room) – Keeping filters, vents and ductwork clean extends the life of your ventilation equipment and keeps energy costs down, as does vacuuming regularly and keeping your furnace room free of debris.
  7. Hasty measuring during repairs and renovations – The old saying goes, “measure twice, cut once.” Failing to measure twice when you are making repairs or renovations in your home can lead to a lot of frustration and waste of costly materials.
  8. Skimping on labor costs – Paying cheap rates for poor labor will cost more down the road when you have to hire another contractor to fix the first one’s mistakes.

There are other ways to err in home maintenance, but this list covers some of the more common doozies. In general, as long as you are careful, diligent and not afraid to call in professional help when needed, you will be just fine.

When Should You Check Your AC Filters: Some Pointers From Eatonville

Friday, September 9th, 2011

The filters on your air conditioning unit are vital for keeping out the dust and debris that make things like illness, allergies and air quality worse in your Eatonville home. And it’s important that you take personal responsibility for checking those filters. Sure, you have a professional visit your home once a year to check the air conditioning, but you should also check the system yourself on a semi-regular basis for possible filter degradation.

Monthly Checks

So, how often should you check? Think of it this way. There is no such thing as checking too much, but you can easily not check often enough. So, we recommend checking your filter at least once every 4 weeks. It may not always need to be changed during that four week checkup (sometimes it can last 6 weeks or longer), but it’s good to take a peek.

Why is this so important? Because filters that haven’t been checked and changed as needed have a habit of building up excess sediment and debris. Not a problem when it comes to actually working, but a huge problem when it comes to your energy bill. The harder a system has to work to keep you house cool, the more energy it draws and the more you pay to have cool air in your home. And it will break down much faster as a result of overwork and dirty filters.

Changing an AC Filter

If your filter is ready for a swap, here are some quick tips to get the job done:

  • Find Your Filters – If you don’t know where your filters are, ask your contractor on the next visit or look near the return grills by the thermostat.
  • Remove the Filters – Open the latches and pull the old filter out to check it. You should be able to see clearly through a permanent filter and a disposable one should still be white. If this isn’t the case, it’s time for a cleaning/replacement.
  • Clean the Area – Clear the grill and area of any debris and sediment that might make the filter worse after replacement.

Proper filter maintenance only takes five minutes and it will save you money every month you run your AC – not a bad deal for a few minutes’ work.

Freon and Load Capacity – How Are They Linked?

Monday, July 18th, 2011

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think too much about how your air conditioning system works. All you really need to know is that when you switch on the system, your house gets cooler. But if you’re looking to purchase a new air conditioner for your home, it’s a good idea to know how to select the right one to fit the space you’re trying to cool.

Air Conditioning Basics

Air conditioners use Freon as a coolant to remove heat from indoor air and transfer that heat outside. To do this, they cycle the Freon through a closed loop of coils. When the cold Freon enters the cooling coil of the air conditioner, it absorbs heat from the air passing by, thereby lowering the temperature of the air. That cooled air can then be transferred into your home and more warm air can be cycled past the cooling coils.

Air Conditioner Sizing

The more air your air conditioner can cool at once, the larger its load capacity. In order to keep a particular space cool, an AC unit has to have a large enough load capacity to accommodate that type of air volume. A unit that’s too small will obviously never be able to keep your room cool enough, but one that’s too big will have a similar problem.

The truth is that when it comes to air conditioner sizing, bigger is not better. It’s best to simply get as good an estimate as you can of what type of load capacity is ideal for the space you’re trying to cool and stick as close to that as you can.

Load Capacity and Freon

Of course, if you want your air conditioner to cool more air at a time, you’ll need more coolant. But simply increasing the amount of Freon in your air conditioner won’t make it cool any better. Freon is simply one of many elements that contribute to effective cooling. And the larger the entire system is, the more Freon is needed.

So more Freon technically contributes to greater cooling capacity, but it’s not enough to accomplish that all on its own. There is really nothing you can do to increase the load capacity of your air conditioner once it’s in place. So for best results, make sure you pick out an appropriately sized unit the first time around.

Maintenance Really Does Save Money

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

When it comes to your home heating and cooling systems, you really cannot go wrong with proper annual maintenance. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, especially if your systems are relatively new, you will save a lot in the long run if you pay that small fee once a year for each system.

During a maintenance visit, a technician can thoroughly clean out your heating or cooling system and check all parts to make sure they are not showing signs of excessive wear and tear. If they do find a problem or a part that needs to be replaced, they will be able to make the necessary repairs quickly and you will not have to worry about calling someone out later for an emergency visit.

Also, catching problems early like this means that repairs will likely involve fewer parts and cost much less than they would if you let the problem go and it became more widespread. The truth is that your heating or cooling system can continue to work when one or another of its parts is not working correctly, but that means that other parts of the system have to work overtime to create the same result.

Your heating or cooling system will also be much more energy efficient if it receives regular tune ups and attention from a professional. Even the best new systems lose a small percentage of their efficiency each year that they are in operation. While this is not much from year to year, the cumulative effect will soon cause your energy bills to climb higher than necessary.

Paying for regular maintenance, then, can actually save you money because it will mean you pay less each month to run your system. And it is never too late to start. Even if your heating or cooling system is not new, it will benefit from a thorough cleaning and tune up. You may be quite surprised how much your energy bills go down after this type of service has been performed.

Annual maintenance can also help you to get more for your money by extending the useful life of the heating or cooling system. Many systems that are properly maintained can last even beyond their expected life span, meaning that you will not have to replace it as soon as you would have otherwise. For all of these reasons, the minimal cost of an annual maintenance visit is well worth paying over the long term.

How Long Does It Take To Install A Solar Power System In A Home?

Monday, May 30th, 2011

As with any major home improvement project, the process of installing solar panels takes a good amount of time. However, most of that time is spent on research, planning, and purchasing leading up to the actual installation. This is important to keep in mind, as investing in solar energy is nothing to rush into, and there is a great deal to be considered first.

Once all this preparation is done, the actual installation is usually brief, depending on how robust your system will be and any additional components needed. Some “extras” that may cause installation to take a little longer may include:

  • System Size and Capacity – Obviously, the time it takes to install a system will vary depending on how many panels need to be installed. Even so, most home systems will use few enough panels that the time difference is not substantial.
  • Ground Mounting – A ground mount is sometimes necessary when there isn’t a good place to install panels on the house itself. This can be due to roof orientation, less than ideal angles, or nearby obstructions. The additional variables and construction of a ground mount may take a few extra days.
  • Backup Systems – For homeowners who opt to have batteries and/or a generator installed as backup, installation will take a bit longer due to the added complexity. Backup systems require additional components and wiring, which takes some extra time.
  • Weather – Often an overlooked variable, the weather is important as installing solar panels involves working outside and at inclined levels. Bad weather can put workers in danger, so the work may be necessarily delayed.

For most simple home systems, installation will take only a few days. Even with more complex systems that incorporate some of the additional elements mentioned above, installation time should not be affected by more than a day or two. As long as the process goes according to plan and the weather holds, you could expect to have your system up and running within a week. For many, that timeframe is even less. Also, since the work is being done outside, you generally will not be disturbed, aside from some sounds of movement on the roof.

Although installation is a big part of the process of switching to solar, the time it takes is not significant when compared to the preparations that should be done beforehand. Installation should be a brief, albeit exciting, culmination of a longer planning process.