Posts Tagged ‘Issaquah’

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.

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.

Heat Pump Tips: Common Questions

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Even if you installed a heat pump in your Issaquah home years ago, you may still have questions about the normal operation of your indoor and outdoor units. Here are answers to a few of the more common questions about heat pumps.

Do I need to schedule a heat pump maintenance visit before each season, or just once a year?

Scheduling a yearly maintenance visit is necessary to the proper upkeep and safe operation of your heat pump. This also extends the life of the system and helps it run more efficiently. However, scheduling a visit before the heating and cooling seasons isn’t necessary, unless you’ve had any concerns or issues with your heat pump.

Should I be concerned about the steam coming from my outdoor unit?

All heat pumps have a defrost cycle that melts the frost off of the outdoor coils in the winter. The steam rising from the outdoor unit results from the defrost cycle. If you notice that the defrost cycle lasts longer than ten to fifteen minutes, or if it cycles on and off frequently, you should call a service technician to look at your heat pump. There could be an issue with airflow that is affecting the compressor.

I just installed a heat pump. Why is my furnace running?

Many heat pump systems use the furnace fan blower to help distribute the heat throughout the house. Unless you’ve installed a geothermal heat pump, your furnace is most likely your backup heater, so it will kick on when the outside temperature drops below 20° F.

Is it really that important to clean my outdoor unit? It’s impossible to keep it clean all the time.

Yes, cleaning the outdoor unit is an especially important maintenance task. Not only does a routine cleaning of all the outdoor components maintain your heat pump’s efficiency and performance levels, it also prevents safety hazards. When you schedule a yearly maintenance visit with one of our technicians, cleaning the coils and outdoor unit is part of the service; however, if you want to clean the coils yourself, have one of our technicians show you how to do this before you attempt it on your own. You could suffer from electric shock if you are not familiar with the proper cleaning procedure. You can also help by making sure that the debris is cleared from around the outdoor unit.

If you have any questions about the heat pump in your Issaquah home, or if you’d like to schedule a maintenance appointment, give us a call any time.

Sources of Carbon Monoxide: A Guide from Issaquah

Monday, November 14th, 2011

The risks of carbon monoxide have been well documented for years, and everyone in Issaquah knows how dangerous it can be. CO can be fatal at high concentrations, but even in low levels it can be poisonous enough to make you sick.

What you may not know is that there are many sources of carbon monoxide, also known as CO. This poisonous gas is formed by any incomplete combustion process. Since combustion is not 100% efficient, that means carbon monoxide is released any time something burns.

To be more specific, here are some examples of carbon monoxide sources you might encounter around your house:

  • A furnace or chimney can leak exhaust gases, including CO, into the home if it has been improperly sealed or vented. For example, if the chimney has a small crack in the flue that goes unnoticed, CO from the fireplace can be vented back into the house.
  • A furnace supplied by an under-sized gas line will often burn the gas at a sub-optimum temperature. The result is incomplete combustion of the gas, which means a source of CO.
  • Old, dilapidated or poorly maintained heating systems are a big culprit. Often the seals or fittings are loose on these units, causing CO to leak out of them and into your house. Or they may not burn fuel as efficiently as they used to, so carbon monoxide is more readily released.
  • Using machinery, like a propane generator or a gas-powered saw, in a poorly vented garage can be very dangerous. Sometimes people don’t think about this one because the garage is large enough that it seems to be ventilated better than it is.
  • There’s a reason that barbeque grills are labeled for outdoor use only: they release a lot of carbon monoxide. Both charcoal and propane grills should only be used outdoors, and you should avoid the smoke from charcoal in particular as much as possible.
  • Smoking tobacco releases carbon monoxide into the air, along with other potentially dangerous gases.

There are plenty of other sources, as well, but those are some common ones. To protect yourself and your family, make sure any areas where combustion occurs are well-ventilated, keep your HVAC equipment well-maintained and in good repair and invest in a home CO detector. They are inexpensive, and many are combined with a smoke detector, so you only need to buy one unit.

How Indoor Air Quality Controls Can Help People with Asthma: Some Pointers from Olympia

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

If you, your child or anyone else in your family suffers from asthma, you know that it can be brutal. The shortness of breath, the wheezing, and the chest tightness—it’s not just uncomfortable; it can be downright scary.

There is evidence to suggest that higher quality air can help keep asthma symptoms in check. While you can’t control air quality everywhere you go, you can be in charge of the quality of the air in your own Olympia home. Take a look at how controlling indoor air quality can help ease the suffering of asthma symptoms.

One study at Johns Hopkins found that indoor air pollution plays a large role in increasing asthma symptoms, especially among children. Without getting too technical, essentially the study explains that there are particles in the air we breathe, including indoors. Aside from the standard mixture of oxygen, carbon dioxide and other gases, air contains these solid and liquid particles, which are essentially pollutants. Common household tasks like dusting and cooking can generate more of these particles.

When these particles get into the respiratory system, they can irritate the lungs, which triggers asthma symptoms. Since children spend about 80% of their time indoors, this is a very big deal.

To help this problem, there are ways to control and improve the quality of air in your home. One simple way to do this is to have filters with high minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) ratings in your heating and cooling system. MERV ratings describe how well filters catch particles of certain sizes and keeping them out of the air—and your lungs.

The particles identified in the Hopkins study were as small as 2.5 microns, which would require a filter with a MERV rating of about 12 to catch. Higher MERV ratings mean more efficient filtration, but they need to be replaced more often. If you or child has asthma, it’s worth it.

For severe asthma or allergies, consider even higher-rated filters, like HEPA filters, which sport a MERV of 17 or higher. These will catch nearly all allergens, irritants and other particles that can make you sick.

Green House Gasses and Air Conditioners: Some Pointers From Issaquah

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

There’s simply no way around it: the air conditioner you probably depend on all summer in Issaquah is emitting a constant stream of greenhouse gasses contributing to the warming of the Earth. While it’s true that the coolants used today, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are much less damaging than the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) initially used in air conditioning, they are still harmful to the environment.

Environmentally Friendly Coolants

Recently, research has led to the development of more environmentally friendly coolants. One in particular, HFO-1234yf, is scheduled to be introduced for use in the air conditioning systems of all GM cars beginning with the 2013 models. This is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to address this growing problem before it’s too late.

Electricity and Carbon Dioxide

The use of environmentally friendly coolants will only go so far towards curbing the environmental impact of air conditioning. That’s because air conditioners are universally powered by electricity, and electricity is almost universally produced by the burning of fossil fuels like coal. When coal is burned, it generates a great deal of carbon dioxide, a substantial pollutant on its own.

An Intensifying Cycle

Of course, the more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses are introduced into the atmosphere, the hotter the planet will become. And as the average temperature rises, air conditioning will be used more and more to combat these effects. This is a cycle that could quickly spiral out of control if something is not done to disrupt it.

What You Can Do

There are several things you can do if you’re concerned about how your air conditioning usage impacts the environment. First of all, make the switch as quickly as possible to HFO-1234yf or a similarly environmentally-friendly coolant when it becomes available. And remember that the air conditioning in your car counts too.

You can also go a long way towards reducing your contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by keeping your overall energy consumption down. Try relying on other, natural methods of cooling your home as much as possible. And when you do turn on your air conditioner, make sure you use all of the energy being consumed as efficiently as possible.

That means keeping your unit in good shape to maintain its energy efficiency and making sure that your home is properly sealed and insulated so your air conditioner doesn’t have to work overtime maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature. If you have more questions about energy efficient air conditioners, contact your local contractor.

How Do I Check for a Dirty Evaporator Coil?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

The evaporator coil is an essential piece of your air conditioning system. It absorbs heat from air that passes over it, and that air then travels into your home to cool it. So if your coil is dirty or isn’t functioning properly, the cooling power of your air conditioning system is diminished. Fortunately, this problem is fixed easily by cleaning the evaporator coil. You can do this on your own or have a professional come in to take care of it.

Signs of a Dirty Evaporator Coil

The most obvious sign of a dirty evaporator coil is an overall drop in system pressure. As long as you know what constitutes a normal pressure for your system, you should be able to tell if the current pressure is below that level. If it is, a dirty evaporator coil is probably your culprit. You can also check the static pressure in your system to see if that is low, but this requires specialized equipment.

Even if you don’t notice any particular signs that your air conditioning system isn’t working properly, it’s a good idea to clean your evaporator coils once a year or so. This can help prevent any larger problems from developing in the future.

Finding Your Coil

Probably the hardest part of cleaning an evaporator coil is reaching it. Unlike your condenser coil, which is located in your outdoor condenser unit, the evaporator coil is found inside near the air handler or furnace. If you have the owner’s manual, there should be detailed instructions telling you where the coil is and how to safely access it.

Alternately, you can have an HVAC technician show you what to do the next time they come out to work on your system. Whatever you do, though, make sure that power to your AC unit is completely shut off before you start working on it. Once you’ve gained access to the coil, use a brush or vacuum attachment to remove any debris or sediment you find there.

The Importance of Maintenance

Cleaning your evaporator coil is only one part of the regular maintenance required to keep your air conditioning system in good working order for the foreseeable future. There are plenty of things you can do on your own, but it pays to have a professional come out once a year or so to check out the entire system and make any necessary repairs.

Allergens: Regular Duct Cleaning Will Reduce Them

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

One of the biggest problems many families face with indoor air quality is the ever persistent presence of allergens. Especially if you have pets or plants, allergens will be in your home from the day you move in. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many ways to reduce them – especially in the case of duct work.

Allergens in Your Duct Work

How do so many allergens get into your ductwork? It starts with how the ductwork circulates air in your home. Because air only flows one way and because the ducts are not being used continuously, the air circulated by your air conditioner or furnace leaves behind all sorts of unwanted residue.

In both cases, the air drawn into your comfort system is usually the same air from inside your home. That means it is full of things like dust, pollen, dander and more. Even if the air is drawn from outside, often the case with an air conditioner unit, there are plenty of allergens outside.

How do you stop all of these allergens from working their way into your home and then your lungs? It starts with regular cleaning. You can’t ever truly stop allergens from coming inside or circulating in your air ducts, but you can take big steps in removing many of the contaminants that linger in your ducts.

Annual cleaning of the ducts by a professional will remove excess build up in places you cannot normally reach. Between those cleaning visits, you should supplement the cleaning by dusting and vacuuming vents and the areas of your ducts you can reach.

Going Beyond Cleaning

Cleaning your ducts is a great way to reduce allergens in the house. That alone, along with quality ventilation will take care of the most common allergens. However, if people in your home suffer from asthma or more severe seasonal allergies you may want to upgrade your preventative measures with an air filtration and purification system.

An air filter alone, equipped with a HEPA filter, is capable of removing particles and allergens as small as 0.3 microns – far smaller than dander, pollen or dust. For those with more advanced allergies or too many outdoor contaminants, a purifier works wonders by removing excess gas, smoke, or mold from the air with ionization.

Whatever your concerns, it is possible to live comfortably in your home despite allergies. Stay on top of cleaning and get your air tested to see if filtration will help. From there, you can remove almost anything.

Mold…What if I Have Mold?

Monday, May 16th, 2011

No one wants to find mold. But, even if you’re not aware of it, mold is probably lurking somewhere in the damp, dark crevices of your home. And mold is particularly likely to grow in homes with improperly regulated humidity. Luckily, because we know that, there are quite a few things we can do to stop the growth of mold in its tracks and save your home from unsafe air quality and the damaging effects of those little spores.

The Dangers of Mold

As mold grows, it can do damage to your woodwork and other areas of your home. It also contributes to indoor air quality issues because mold spores are a significant indoor air contaminant. Many people are allergic to mold spores, so if you or someone else in your household has experienced allergy symptoms that you can’t explain, mold spores are a likely culprit.

If you find out there is mold in your home, don’t panic just yet. There are some things you can do to address the problem and get mold out of your house for good. Your main task will be getting rid of the mold that is already there. This isn’t necessarily easy because of the areas mold tends to grow in. But, even with the proper air quality treatment, your home and health is still at risk if you don’t target that existing mold fast.

Stopping Mold in Its Tracks

Just getting rid of existing mold won’t solve the problem, though. Mold keeps coming back as long as there is an environment to support it – and that means moisture. Mold requires water to grow, so the chances are that if you have a mold problem in your home, you also have a humidity problem. Getting your indoor humidity under control will make it much easier to remove and keep mold out of your home for good.

There are plenty of good humidification systems on the market today. They can be easily integrated into your home heating and cooling system and provide great, consistent humidity control. Make sure you get one that’s large enough for your home. An indoor air quality professional can help you make that determination. Once you have a good humidification system in place, you’ll notice a huge difference in your overall indoor air quality, and hopefully the problem won’t return anytime soon.

No Heat in the House? Things to Check and Do

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

In general, when your heating system stops working, you’ll need to call a professional to come out and take a look. However, before you do that, there are likely a couple of things you can check on your own to ensure that there really is a problem with the system itself.

For instance, if it’s cold in your house and your heat isn’t coming on, check to make sure that the thermostat is set to a high enough temperature that the heating system would be triggered. Particularly if this is the first really cold day of the season, it’s entirely possible that your thermostat was turned down at some point and left there. And if the thermostat isn’t turned up high enough, the heat will never come on.

Also, it’s worth just taking a second to check and make sure that the power switch on the heating system itself is actually in the proper on position. For the most part, there would be no reason for you to turn this off, but it’s always possible it could have happened in any number of ways and it only takes a second to check.

Depending on the type of fuel source your heating system uses, it’s probably a good idea to check to make sure the supply is still available as well. If you use natural gas, check to make sure that the gas line is open, but don’t try to repair it yourself if it seems to be compromised. If you find something like that, be sure to call your gas company right away.

However, if you use oil as a heat source, take a quick peek at the levels in your tank. There’s always the possibility that you used more than you thought you did or that a delivery was missed for some reason and so your heating system simply has no fuel to run on. Similarly, if your heating system runs on electricity, make sure that the fuse wasn’t blown or that it’s not just too loose to provide an adequate power supply.

If you’ve covered all of these basic troubleshooting bases, it may be time to take a closer look at the heating system itself. On just about every type of system there should be some type of reset switch or button. Follow the instructions to press this button and engage the reset process, but be sure to only try this once. If that resetting doesn’t work, it’s time to back off and call in some professional help.