Posts Tagged ‘Kirkland’

HVAC Question: What Type of Air Cleaner Is Best for People with Pets?

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Lots of people have pets, and they are a great addition to your family. However, pet ownership has one very obvious drawback: dander. The fur, dry skin cells and other debris that pets carry around flakes off their bodies and onto your furniture and rugs. The also means they inevitably wind up in your air, recirculated through your Kirkland house via your HVAC system.

Or at least, that’s what happens if you don’t have an air cleaner or some sort of air filtration system. This leads many pet owners to ask, “what is the best air cleaner for me?”

With all the choices in air cleaners, the choice can seem daunting. If the goal is specifically to filter out pet dander, it becomes somewhat easier.

Pet dander is quite large in size relation to other indoor air pollutants, so many air cleaners are equipped to do the job. You can use an air cleaner with a standard pleated HEPA filter, or one that uses electrostatic technology. You will want to make sure that the HEPA filter is rated to handle pet dander. A MERV rating of 8 or more is recommended.

Once you have an air cleaner installed, make sure to change or clean the air filter frequently, in accordance with manufacturer instructions. A clogged air filter won’t help eliminate pet dander from your household air and can actually degrade the operation of your HVAC system’s air handler.

In addition to installing a high quality air cleaner with a HEPA filter, you can also help reduce the amount of pet dander floating around your home by keeping the place clean. Vacuuming often and dusting hard surfaces weekly keeps pet hair and dander from being drawn up into the HVAC system, which reduces wear on the air cleaner. For more tips on upgrades you can make to your Kirkland HVAC system, give Sound Heating & Air Conditioning a call!

Air Conditioning Question: What Are Thermostatic Expansion Valves?

Monday, August 13th, 2012

The thermostatic expansion valve, sometimes known as a TEX, TEV or TXV, is a critical piece to influence the efficiency of air conditioning and refrigeration units.  A tiny sensor controlling the evaporating phase of process, the valve can have a big effect.

Cool air is manufactured by a rapid movement of a refrigerant between liquid and gaseous states.  Compound chemicals that are able to do this at a low temperature are compressed and expanded, absorbing and releasing heat at different points along the way.  The TEV controls the flow of the refrigerant into the evaporator coils according to the temperatures of the various ingredients.

Cool Air 101

To condition air, the refrigerant, most often freon or another fast acting, low temp compound, evaporates into a gas that runs through a coil and absorbs heat.  Passing through a compressor, the freon condenses under pressure back into a liquid again and releases the heat, becoming cool enough to chill a party.

Too much freon in the evaporator tube and the pressure is not low enough to expand to gas and absorb heat, working inefficiently for no gain.  Too little freon and the conversion is also ineffective by not reaching the density needed to condense.

There are four types of valves with different benefits for different types of cooling environments.  With its ability to adjust minutely to changing conditions, the thermal expansion valve creates the perfect mixture of pressure and freon for more complicated systems.

At the Starting Gate

An interactive device, the valve senses the evaporator pressure and temperature and adjusts the flow of the refrigerant so as to maintain a given “superheat”, the differ­ence between the refrigerant vapor temperature and its sat­uration temperature.  By controlling superheat, the TEV keeps nearly the entire evaporator surface active while not permit­ting liquid refrigerant to return to the compressor.

Some valves operate on an electrical impulse from sensors that can measure the temperatures.  Others are open all the time.  The thermostatic expansion valve actually utilizes the pressure between the two sections to open or close itself, regulating flow based on the very same pressure it is designed to moderate.

Like the buildings they comfort, central air conditioning systems in Tacoma are varied and diverse.  For more information about air conditioning or to schedule a service call, contact Sound Heating & Air Conditioning today!

 

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.

How Can Heat Pump Reversing Valves Help Heat Homes in Kirkland?

Monday, June 11th, 2012

As conventional energy resources dwindle and become more expensive, alternatives increase in popularity.  Heat pumps in Kirkland, like the natural heat they harness, are fast rising to the surface.

Tapping the stored energy of the greatest solar collector in existence, ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) are electrically powered systems that tap the earth’s relatively constant temperature to provide cooling, heating, and hot water for homes and commercial buildings. Simple, efficient and abundant, heat pumps are best used in moderate to hot climates where the differential of temperatures is not extreme.

In General

Functioning on the same principle as refrigerators, the heat pump uses a liquid to absorb heat as it turns into a gas and release heat as it returns to a liquid state. During the summer, the heat pump operates as a standard central air conditioner, removing heat from the house and venting it to the outside.

In the winter, the heat pump reverses this process, extracting heat from the cold air outside and releasing it inside the house. The heat pump is very efficient when the outside temperature is around 45 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but it becomes less efficient as the temperature drops.

The Heart of the Matter

The reversing valve in the heat pump switches the process from absorbing heat from the inside to evacuate outdoors like an air conditioner to extracting heat from cold temperatures outside and redistributing it indoors.  The thermal energy at play is the natural force of heat to move toward cooler temperatures, releasing energy in the shift.  Heat pumps take care of both and the reversing valve controls the direction of the flow.

The reversing valve has two states of operation: relaxed and energized.  In the relaxed state, the heat pump can be programmed to introduce either heated or cooled temperatures into the conditioned space, depending on the direction of the flow of refrigerant through the closed loop.

By applying a 24 volt charge of AC current (a low voltage typically used in HVAC systems), the valve becomes energized and reverses the flow, producing the opposite conditioning.  The reversing valve may be driven by the heat pump through the use of a control board or directly by a thermostat.

As energy resources rapidly change in cost and supply, heat pumps utilizing geothermal energy are looking like a viable alternative in today’s market.  To learn more about this heating option please call Sound Heating

Simple Steps to Prevent Heat Loss in Kirkland

Monday, June 4th, 2012

There are two fundamental ways to make your Kirkland house warmer. One is to generate heat, which is the job of your furnace or boiler. The second is to keep the warm air in — and thereby keep cold air out — which is the job of your system of insulation.

The idea that the physical structure of a home can be a component of the heating system is one that is often overlooked, but when you think about it, it makes sense. The insulation, windows, doors and building materials that comprise your home are designed to keep the place warm against the cold and vice versa.

So, when bolstering your HVAC system to promote efficient heating, it is important to also consider heat loss and how to prevent it. This is a process that can get out of hand if you go overboard, so it is important to prioritize. Let’s look at the top 3 places to start when trying to prevent heat loss.

  1. Doors and Windows:  If you have older doors and windows, they could be a source of heat loss in your house, even if they are always closed. Replacing your windows and door with Energy Star rated ones will make sure that you are not losing heat to the outside AND still getting all the heat energy from the sun. Installing storm windows or putting up heavy curtains in winter can also help cut down on your heat loss.
  1. Seal off drafts. If any opening to your house, such as windows and doors, is improperly sealed, improperly installed or if the surrounding construction is deteriorating, you can lose a lot of heat. Check any drafts that you notice that might indicate a problem, and also if your vents and air ducts are leaky.
  1. Start at the top. If you want to go farther in sealing your house up against the cold, it is time to work on the insulation. When installing new insulation, remember that heat rises, so you get the most bang for your buck by starting at the top. If you only have the budget or time to insulate one space, make it the attic. You can work down from there.

These areas should be your top three priorities on your mission to prevent heat loss in your home. If you start here, you will get the best gains with the least effort.  If you have any questions about additional ways to make you heating your home more efficient please call Sound Heating

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.

Air Conditioning Tips: How to Clean Your Outdoor HVAC Unit

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

That big metal box in your backyard or on the side next to your Kirkland home plays a vital role in air conditioning your home and keeping you comfortable. That box is called the outdoor condensing unit, the key component in your home’s central air conditioning system. The condensing unit houses the compressor, which converts gas into fluid before sending it to the condenser coil, where it is cooled and sent to an indoor evaporator coil.

What you need to know is that the entire outdoor operation runs smoothly when the area inside and around the condensing unit is clean and free of debris. In some cases, the outdoor unit will fail to work if there is too much debris or dirt build-up. That can cost you a lot of money in repairs or a total replacement. Keeping the condensing unit clean is not a difficult chore – and here are some steps you can take.

First of all, try and avoid blowing leaves or grass clippings near the unit. And regularly cut down or remove any weeds or grass that may grow up around the base of the unit.

To clean the inside of the unit, first turn off the electrical power to it. Check for an on-off switch on the unit or on a separate box nearby. Remove the grille from the unit and carefully remove the fan in order to gain access to the coil and other moving parts. At this point, you should be able to clean out any debris from inside the unit using your hands. You can also use a vacuum hose to remove debris. A soft brush or cloth rag can be used to other areas of the HVAC unit.

The fins on the coil require a gentler approach as they can be easily bent or damaged. If you notice a bent fin you can straighten it out by using a simple dull knife or a special fin “comb” which you can buy at your local hardware store. While you are in the unit, check the fan belt on the motor to ensure it is not damaged or cracked. You can also add extra oil to lubrication ports on the condensing unit, if any are available.

Use a garden hose to clean the coil and the grilles on the condensing unit. Do not use highly-pressurized water as it may cause some damage to the fins. Once this last task has been completed, reinstall the grille, switch on the condensing unit, and start up your air conditioning. You should notice if your house is cooling down quicker. If not, you may want to do some more cleaning.

If you have any doubts about cleaning your outdoor condensing unit or if you find any damaged parts that may need repair or replacement, call your local qualified heating and cooling (HVAC) contractor and schedule a service call.

Good luck – and stay cool.