Posts Tagged ‘Sumner’

Passive vs. Active Solar Heating

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Solar energy has been used for hundreds of years, but better technology over the last few decades has allowed us to harness and use this energy more effectively. However, there are still two choices in how solar energy is harnessed: passive or active. It’s important to understand the difference between the two solar options before you decide to schedule a solar installation service.

Passive Solar

Passive solar is harnessing solar energy without the use of devices. Examples would be a greenhouse, sun-heated stones and solar water collectors. Correct design is critical to the success of passive solar use; things like southern exposure and consistent exposure to the sun are critical to capturing the solar energy. Thermal mass can also be a factor, depending on how you want to use your passive solar. For example, passive solar water collectors need to be placed on the sunny side or roof of any building; height is also necessary so that the heated water can use gravity to flow downward for use. The key to any passive solar use is convection, which is the main way heat moves with using passive solar. With the right attention to detail, passive solar can help cut energy costs in your home.

Active Solar

As you can probably guess, active solar heating involves mechanics. Solar panels, solar hot water tanks and solar electricity are all considered active solar because they need the help of pumps and a medium in order to work. The two mediums used with active solar are fluid (many times this is water) or air. Both mediums are used to facilitate the transfer of the solar energy (heat or electricity) into energy to be used in some capacity for your home. Typically those using air are referred to as “air collectors” and those using a fluid are called “hydronic collectors”. Once installed, active solar systems can reduce your energy usage significantly.

Finding a solar option that best suits your home is something that should be determined with the help of an expert. Since 1989, Sound Heating has been helping customers with energy decisions for their homes, and we can help you, too. If you need more information regarding your solar options in Sumner, WA, simply give us a call 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.

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

When Is it Time for a Backup Heating System?

Monday, January 30th, 2012

A backup heating system is sometimes necessary for Tacoma homeowners who heat their homes with an air-source heat pump. This style of heat pump transfers the heat from the outside air to your home in the winter, and it pushes the warm air outside the home in the summer. Although some systems are efficient enough to work in colder climates, most heat pump systems require a backup heater when temperatures drop below 20° F.

York Furnaces are commonly used as a backup heater for air-source heat pumps, especially since the furnace fan blower can help distribute the hot air throughout the home. Although they are more expensive to buy and install, geothermal heat pumps typically do not require a backup heating system. These are also called ground-source or water-source heat pumps since they draw in heat from the ground below the house or from a nearby water source. Because they take advantage of the ground or water temperatures, they are also easier to maintain and have lower operating costs.

Getting the most cost-efficiency from a geothermal heat pump will depend on several factors, such as the size of your property, the temps of the subsoil, and access to local water sources. You will most likely not have to install a backup heating system with a ground-source or water-source heat pump; however, it is important to think about the installation costs and the variables that need to be in place before deciding on this type of heat pump.

Absorption heat pumps use a heat source, such as natural gas or solar-heated water, instead of electricity. Natural gas is typically used for absorption heat pumps, so they are also called gas-fired heat pumps. Depending on the source of the heat, you may or may not need a backup heating system. It’s always best to speak to a professional heating and cooling contractor if you are not sure when it’s necessary for a backup heating system.

Call Sound Heating if you have any questions about a backup heater for your Tacoma home.

Heating Guide: Where to Place a Thermostat for Accurate Heating

Monday, December 26th, 2011

It’s easy to forget that with your furnace in the basement churning away all day to keep your Sumner home warm, but your thermostat is the single most important device in ensuring your home is heated to the temperature you want. If it stops working or it misreads the temperature inside your home, your furnace won’t know what temperature it actually is and will turn on and off at the wrong time.

Where Not to Place Your Thermostat

To avoid inaccurate readings, avoid placing your thermostat in the following locations:

  • Direct Sunlight – Direct sunlight will almost always increase the perceived temperature of the thermostat. Unless you live in a greenhouse, this will be very uncomfortable for everyone in your home.
  • Windows – Windows can result in direct sunlight and breezes. If the windows are not properly sealed, cold air can blow in and make it seem cooler in your home than it really is. In any of these cases, your thermostat will misread the indoor temperature.
  • Drafts – Drafts from improperly sealed doors, windows, or anything else in your home can negatively impact the thermostat.
  • Heat Vents – Don’t place your thermostat near a radiator or heat vent where it is likely to be warmer than anywhere else in the house.
  • Kitchens – Kitchens tend to be warmer than other rooms in the house, especially when in use. Avoid placing a thermostat here unless you have a zone control system and your kitchen is separate from other rooms.

A properly placed thermostat will ensure your home is heated or cooled to the temperature you desire regardless of outdoor conditions. If you’re unsure whether your thermostat is calibrated properly, check the temperature with a separate thermometer in a different location in the same room. If it is significantly warmer or cooler in one place than another, try to determine which is more indicative of the actual comfort level in your home. When properly located, your thermostat should never be an issue again.

A Guide from Des Moines: Surprising Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Indoor air pollution is a major problem for millions of homeowners throughout the country each year, and some of them even live in Des Moines. In fact, the EPA estimates upwards of 20 million households may have problems caused by mold, radon, humidity, exhaust or any number of other pollutant problems. However, not all of the indoor air pollutants out there are so obvious. Some are things you probably have in your home right now and don’t realize it. Here are some of the more surprising sources of indoor air pollution and what you can do about them:

  • Incense – Incense releases both carbon monoxide and benzene, two chemicals that are potentially harmful to human health. Cancer, skin irritation and asthma risks are all increased in people who spend a lot of time around incense.
  • Laser printers – Laser printers that use toner can release a number of harmful chemicals into the air. That toner is very fine and releases particles into the air that are equal to or in some cases worse than second hand cigarette smoke. If you have a laser printer, consider putting it in a well-ventilated, infrequently used space.
  • Kitchen Stove – If you have a gas stove, it releases Nitrogen Dioxide when on, an unsafe gas that is odorless and fills your home quickly. This gas is bad for respiration and can cause asthma attacks. To solve this problem, simply make sure you stove is ventilated properly when cooking.
  • Spackle – Old spackle – the kind used before the 1980s often contained asbestos which can still be there, waiting to be disturbed. Old asbestos, while not inherently dangerous, will become so if you start doing work in your home or if the spackle starts to wear away. To solve this problem either call an abatement firm or cover the offending wall with a new layer.
  • Drapes – Those drapes are filled with contaminants that cling there, especially if humidity is a problem in your home. Dust mites in particular are bad for your health and can cause asthma and other allergies. Blinds are better than drapes for this reason.

Your home is filled with potentially dangerous problems, but you can avoid them simply by taking care to ventilate, clear away unsafe products and keep things like drapes clean (or remove them). If you’re still concerned about your air quality, call an expert to investigate.

Is Your Kent Home More Valuable with Energy Efficient Appliances?

Monday, November 28th, 2011

It’s impressive the things people do to improve the value of their Kent home. We’re talking about crown molding, new floors, new siding, upgrades to the landscaping and much more. The cost of upgrading these things can grow out of hand quickly and if the boost to your home’s value isn’t equally exponential, it’s hard to justify the expense.

So, it’s always nice to find a simple upgrade that can be performed for a few hundred dollars that will save you money immediately and improve the value of your home in the future. Your appliances are one such upgrade.

The Value of Energy Efficiency

An energy efficient washing machine can save upwards of $150 per year on water costs. An energy efficient toilet cuts consumption by as much as 150%. Low flow shower heads cut water costs by one third to one half and your heating and air conditioning systems can be improved by 10-35% depending on the upgrades available to you.

When you add up all those savings, the result is a tremendous amount of money that can be saved each year on everything from your water bill to your cooling needs. Imagine what happens when someone looks to buy your home. They see that there are all new appliances with energy efficient ratings that will save them money.

It’s not just lower bills; it’s a decrease in upfront investment. On the surface, it’s unlikely that your energy efficient appliances will directly increase the value of your home, but they can increase the likelihood of someone paying what you’re asking for the home. They add value to the livability of the home, if not the property itself and in today’s housing market, that’s a major plus.

Best Upgrades

The best upgrades to your home’s appliances are the ones that save money without additional work. Water saving appliances should top your list since they are used throughout the year. A new toilet, a new washing machine, a new shower head and sink faucets all designed to cut down on water use are valuable upgrades. Major upgrades to your heating and cooling are good if you need an upgrade anyway or you plan on staying in your home for a few years.

How to Clean the Parts of a Heat Pump? A Question from Yelm

Friday, November 11th, 2011

It is very important to keep your heat pump clean. It improves efficiency, helps performance and prevents malfunctions. Cleaning your heat pump should be part of your Yelm home’s maintenance routine in order to keep the house as comfortable and worry-free as possible.

That is all well and good, but how do you go about cleaning the components of your heat pump. It’s one thing to advise you to clean, clean, clean…but it doesn’t do much good if you do not know how. To correct that, here are some tips to help you clean the different parts of your heat pump.

Caution: before doing any maintenance on your heat pump, including cleaning, be sure to turn off the power to the unit. This is a necessary safety measure.

Filters

  • If you use disposal air filters in your heat pump, skip this part. Just make sure to change them regularly, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • To clean air filters, follow the directions of the manufacturer that were included with the filter. This is also a good time to double check that the filters are installed properly.
  • Clean or replace your filters monthly during heavy use seasons, such as the warm summer months and cold months of late fall and winter.

Coils

  • Remove any debris from the outside of the coils and the surrounding area. Sticks and leaves may have accumulated near the outdoor coils, so just brush them away.
  • Using a soft brush attachment, vacuum the exterior of the coils. Take care not to bend or dent the coils.
  • Using a hose with a spray attachment, flush the coils with water from the inside out. This will remove any stubborn debris. Take care not to spray any electrical components, such as the fan or any nearby wires.
  • While you are inside the unit, vacuum the bottom inside to get rid of any more stray debris.

With that done, put everything back, replace the grille covers and power the heat pump back on. It should run smoothly with a fresh filter and no debris to gum up the works. Clean the coils every few months to keep the heat pump in tip top shape.

What is the Emergency Setting on My Heat Pump? A Question from Lacey

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

While installing or inspecting your Lacey home’s heat pump, you may have noticed that little switch or button labeled something like “Emergency Mode.” And then, you probably scratched your head and thought, “what is that for?”

Hopefully, the emergency setting is not something you will ever have to use. But, it is there for a reason, so it’s possible you may have to resort to it at some point. In that case, it makes sense to know what it is first.

The emergency setting on your heat pump interrupts the normal operation of the device. The compressor shuts off, so the heat pump no longer pumps heat from the outside into the home. Instead, the internal heating element is activated. This backup system is designed to provide a sufficient, albeit minimal, amount of heat when the heat pump is not working properly. The idea is that the element can keep your home warm enough while you get the heat pump fixed.

That’s what the emergency setting is, but when would you use it?

It’s not a trick question. As the name implies, you only want to use this setting in an emergency. For example, if the heat pump has frozen and isn’t operating, the best course of action is to switch on the emergency mode and call a professional to repair it.

You would also want to use the emergency mode when recovering from a power outage. Any time a heat pump is without power for more than thirty minutes the refrigerant can cool and get too thick to properly flow through the coils. Turning the pump back on in this situation can damage it, so instead you would use the emergency mode for a while to warm the refrigerant back up, then return to operating the heat pump normally.

The emergency setting is not to be used in place of a supplemental heating system. If there is an uncharacteristic cold snap, and your heat pump can’t keep up, then it makes sense to use the emergency setting to keep the house warm. However, if you live in a colder northern climate, where temperatures routinely drop below 30 degrees in the winter, you should have a supplemental heating system in addition to the heat pump. Using the emergency heat setting regularly is not a good idea.

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.