Posts Tagged ‘Thurston County’

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.

Your AC and Your Energy Recovery Ventilator

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

As a Tacoma homeowner with an air conditioning system, you know that it costs plenty to keep your home cool and comfortable in the summer. It is an expense you are willing to pay for the comfort and overall health of your family, but if you are like most homeowners, you would do anything to lower your monthly electric bills where possible.

One way to make your air conditioning system a little more efficient is to install an energy recovery ventilator. Read on to learn what energy recovery ventilator is and how it works alongside your AC system to reduce energy loss and improve indoor comfort control.

What Is an energy recovery ventilator?

Not to be confused with a heat recovery ventilator, an energy recovery ventilator is a mechanical device that transfers heat and water vapor between the incoming (i.e. outside) air and outgoing air being moved by your ventilation system.

The main difference between an energy recovery ventilator and a heat recovery ventilator is that the former transfers both heat and moisture, while the latter transfers only heat.

What Does an energy recovery ventilator Do?

What does that transfer mean for your Tacoma air conditioning system? Well, in the hot summer months, your air conditioner pulls in warm air from the outside, cools it and then blasts it into your home, while exhausting warm air to the outside.

What an energy recovery ventilator does is make that process a little easier for the air conditioner to handle by transferring heat from the warm air coming in to the exhaust air that the AC is blowing out of the house. The incoming air therefore has to be cooled less, which means your AC doesn’t have to work as hard, which means less electricity is used.

Many users of energy recovery ventilator systems report that the moisture exchange also makes the air in their homes feel “fresher,” rather than the stale feel that air conditioning can sometimes produce.

So, if you would like to increase efficiency and reduce the cost of running your Tacoma AC system, consider an energy recovery ventilator as one possible solution. Call Sound Heating & Air Conditioning today to learn more!

Heat Pump Tip: SEER vs. HSPF

Monday, August 20th, 2012

When it comes to Bellevue heat pumps, there are two different ratings you’ll often see – the SEER and the HSPF. So, what does each of them mean and which rating is more important when purchasing your new device? Here are a few things to consider:

 SEER

The acronym SEER is short for “seasonal energy efficiency rating” and is used most commonly to measure air conditioner efficiency or in this case, the cooling capacity of your heat pump.

 HSPF

The HSPF is short for “heating seasonal performance factor” and is a measurement of how efficient the heat pump is in producing heat during the cooler months of the year.

 The Difference Between the Two

Every heat pump will have both of these ratings, allowing you to see how efficient each is. This is important because you need to know for certain how well your heat pump will perform under certain situations – both in the winter and summer.

However, if you live in a colder climate where the summer rarely calls for air conditioner, your focus should be on the HSPF first. And if you live in a warmer climate where your heating needs are minimal, the SEER is most important. Another thing to consider is your supplemental heat. If the cost of your supplemental heating system is high, you’ll want an HSPF that is as low as possible to balance it out.

 Choosing an Efficient Heat Pump

Heat pump efficiency directly impacts the price of the device you purchase but is almost always worth the difference. The key is to find a device that provides what you need based on where you live. Keep in mind as well that, like most HVAC upgrades, you won’t immediately recoup the cost of the device in your energy savings, so if you plan on moving soon, you should purchase a more affordable device now and upgrade later.

Purchasing a new heat pump for your Bellevue home is an important step in making it more energy efficient. If you are unsure which rating you need or how to analyze their meanings, contact a professional to learn more.

Air Conditioning Guide: Things You Should Never Do To Your Air Conditioner

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Whether it’s a large central system on the side of the house or a small unit in the window, with proper care and maintenance, your Olympia air conditioner should last for a decade or two.  Sometimes, however, people can do simple things which, in retrospect, should have obviously been avoided.

Some examples:

  • Don’t block the air intake–air is vital to the process, so laying anything over the unit (a towel or clothes to dry) will significantly strain the motor.  Always make sure there is enough clearance.
  • Don’t block the vents–likewise in a home, it is easy to move a sofa or lay an area rug over a grate in the floor or cover an unsightly vent in the wall with a pretty painting.
  • Don’t just set a unit in the window and trust the sash to hold it in place–make sure it is fastened properly according to the directions;
  • Don’t think it will run forever without cleaning the fins, vents and changing the filter at least once a cooling season;
  • Don’t bury the condensate drain in the ground–in central units it is vital that the drain is left with a clear flow away from the house;
  • Don’t install the central unit on the ground–there are pre-made pads or mix up a little concrete
  • Don’t steam clean or use hot water to clean the fins–damage and corrosion can easily be caused by the heat; flush with warm water or spray.
  • Don’t remove the overload relay to force continuous running–VERY dangerous and a guarantee of damage.

Your Olympia  air conditioner is a pretty reliable device, but a little attention goes a long way to ensure years of comfort. To schedule a maintenance appointment today, give Sound Heating & Air Conditioning a call!

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.

AC Question: Can I Choose Environmentally Friendly Coolants?

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Air conditioners are indispensable in many parts of the country, but their environmental impact has long been a source of controversy. In particular, the coolants that were used in the earliest air conditioners, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have done quite a bit of damage to the Earth’s protective ozone layer.

When this affect was discovered, countries all over the world acted to have them phased out of production and use in air conditioning. While CFCs have not been produced since 1995, there are still many air conditioning units functioning today that use CFCs. As these units wear out, of course, the CFCs will gradually disappear from use altogether.

Another type of coolant that is commonly used in air conditioners is hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These have a slightly lower environmental impact than their cousin CFCs, but they are still not ideal in terms of preserving the ozone layer and impeding the progress of global warming. HCFCs are gradually being phased out as well, and they will no longer be produced at all by 2030.

However, it is still possible to buy air conditioners that use HCFCs as a coolant, and if you can avoid this, you should. HCFCs are not nearly as environmentally friendly as some of the other options on the market, and if you are concerned about the effect that these types of chemicals can have on our environment, it is best to steer clear of air conditioners that use HCFCs.

So what coolants are considered environmentally friendly? Well, there are actually two options in this regard. The first are hydroflourocarbons (HFCs). Although they are quite similar to CFCs and HCFCs, HFCs do not contain chlorine and so do not do the type of damage that their predecessors were capable of. You can find air conditioners that use HFCs relatively easily by looking for an “ozone friendly” label on the box.

Refrigerant blends are also becoming a more and more popular environmentally friendly coolant solution for air conditioners as well. Although these types of coolants typically cost more to produce and so can drive up the cost of the air conditioners that use them, they should begin to come down in price as they are more widely adopted across the industry. Just as with HFCs, look for the “ozone friendly” label to identify air conditioners that use refrigerant blends as coolants. For more information about how to choose an air conditioning system in Puyallup, give Sound Heating & Air Conditioning a call today!

AC Question: Do Heat Pumps Work for Air Conditioning?

Monday, July 9th, 2012

It’s possible that in the course of your search for a new air conditioning system in Tacoma, you read or were told about heat pumps. Doesn’t sound right, does it – heat pumps providing cooling for your home? Regardless of the seeming misnomer, heat pumps are actually much older and more reliable cooling technology than you know. And once you understand how these units work, the name makes much more sense.

What Is a Heat Pump?

Technically every refrigerant containing air conditioner is some form of heat pump. A heat pump is a device that removes heat from one area and transfers it to another. So, in the case of your air conditioner, warm air cycles into the condenser, the heat is removed, and the cooled air is circulated back through your home. The actual science behind this is slightly more complicated, but the gist is simple – cold air isn’t produced and then pumped into your home; warm air is removed.

Your refrigerator and freezer operate under the same principle. It works so well that it’s been a standard technology for nearly 100 years, albeit with quite a few upgrades and enhancements. So, if an air conditioner already is a heat pump, why are these devices called something different? Because heat pumps can do so much more.

Heat Producing Heat Pumps

A true heat pump can work in two directions. It can extract heat from your home or it can extract heat from outside and pump it into your home. A true heat pump offers year round climate control because it both heats and cools – not too shabby if you think about the cost of a furnace and central AC system. And with modern green technology, heat pumps can even be connected to geothermal systems that draw their energy from the earth – saving a tremendous amount of money.

So, back to the main question – should you purchase a heat pump for your Tacoma air conditioning needs? The short answer is “it depends”. For the most part, a heat pump is comparable to the same air conditioning model in terms of energy efficiency and capacity. The major difference is its ability to heat your home. So, if you are interested in ditching the furnace or boiler, it may be a great upgrade. If not, a standard air conditioner can get the job done equally well. For help choosing the right system for your home, give Sound Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. a call!

Air Conditioning Tip: AC Condensate Problems

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

The beauty of air conditioning in Tacoma is that we don’t have to do anything to live in a cool climate even when it’s boiling outside.  Programmed to adjust automatically, modern thermostats make it even easier.

It is very inconvenient therefore (not to mention uncomfortable) when our unit is not functioning properly forcing us to pay attention.  Suddenly over-heated, our first inclination may be to call for help, but often the expensive repair can be accomplished easily or avoided completely.

Air Conditioning 101

The process of conditioning air to a cooler temperature involves rapid evaporation and condensation of chemicals called refrigerants.  These are compounds having properties that allow them to change from liquid to gas and back at low temperatures.

When the liquid evaporates and transforms into gas it absorbs heat.  Compressed tightly together again, the matter condenses back into liquid with a residue of unwanted moist heat that must be released to the outdoors.

Over the course of handling the air to cool it, air conditioners are able to filter dust and dehumidify the air as well.  This release of moisture is why air conditioners have drains.

Condenser Coils

As the heat is removed from the gas, it forms condensation that must be drained from the system.  Tiny particles accumulate along the path, prone to shifting and resettling until they become lodged and can form a significant enough blockage to hamper the efficiency of the unit.  If the drain line becomes blocked, the unit drips or overflows the pan and works its way back into the house, causing damage and potentially mold.

This is when panic is inclined to call for the cavalry.

Easy Fix

A simple act of maintenance performed twice a year and requiring no tools can eliminate the problem. Your Tacoma air conditioning technician will do the following to check and maintain your condensate drain:

On the interior side, they will remove the panel of the unit and find the drain line, usually a plastic tube.  If the pan is full of water, there is a blockage.  On a whole house system, the tech will find where the plastic tube exits the house, making sure that it is above ground and clear to drain away. Then they will flush the line to ensure a clean and free flowing pipe.

To schedule your annual maintenance visit, give Sound Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. a call!

HVAC Tip: Seasonal Air Quality Control

Friday, January 27th, 2012

For people who suffer from seasonal allergies in Seattle, air quality is a key concern. Allergens in the air cause brutal bouts of sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and even sinus headaches. Even taking refuge indoors will often not assuage these symptoms, as indoor air is often comparable to outdoor air in terms of allergens and overall quality.

That is, unless you take care to control the seasonal air quality in your home, which can not only help ease the suffering of allergies, but also soothe asthmatics, keep out pollutants and generally promote better overall health.

How do you go about controlling the air quality in your home? To start, try these simple tips:

  1. Vacuum carpets regularly. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and invest in some allergen suppressing bags.
  2. Keep your vents clean. This is also a good maintenance practice to lengthen the life of your ventilation equipment.
  3. Dust hard surfaces and wash bed linens weekly.
  4. Install HEPA filters in your ventilation system, such as in air conditioners or other air handler units. Use a higher rated filter to keep out more allergens and pollutants.
  5. Invest in and use an air purifier. Again, make sure to get one with a HEPA filter.
  6. Have your home tested for radon and carbon monoxide. Have smoke, carbon monoxide and radon detectors working properly at all times.
  7. Use a humidifier to keep overly dry air from irritating sinus passages.
  8. Keep doors and windows closed tight, especially during allergy season(s).

By taking charge of the air quality in your Seattle home, you also take control of a measure of your family’s health. Some of these measures require at least a bit of an investment – for example, higher rated HEPA air filters are often more expensive and need to be changed more frequently – but the benefits to your well being and that of your family are clearly well worth it.

Water Heater Guide: Sizing a Tankless Water Heater

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Tankless water heaters are gaining popularity among Sammamish homeowners because of their on demand hot water supply and space-saving design. Although they are more expensive than traditional tank water heaters, on demand water heaters are more efficient, reliable, and easier to install and maintain. Before choosing to install a tankless water heater, however, you will have to decide which size will meet your hot water needs.

Rather than storing hot water in a tank, the tankless models heat the water with individual units located near the application where hot water is needed, such as a shower or washing machine. For larger homes, some of these smaller units cannot heat enough water for several applications running at the same time. You can also install a single tankless water heater for the entire house, or separate ones for appliances that use more hot water.

Finding the proper size and type will depend on the flow rate—measured  by a GPM (gallons per minute) number—that each fixture needs. Every application has a standard flow rate that must be added up in order to calculate the hot water demands for your entire home. For instance, if someone is using a sink with a 1.5 GPM at the same time another person is running a shower with a 2.0 GPM, the flow rate for the tankless unit would need to be at least 3.5 gallons per minute. You will have to add up the flow rate for all the applications in the house to get the minimum GPM figure for your tankless water heater.

In addition to flow rates, tankless hot water heaters are also measured by how much the water temperature needs to rise as it moves through the heating unit. You can determine the temperature rise for each application by subtracting the temperature of water coming in from the desired temperature going out. Once you add those together with the overall flow rates, you will know which tankless water heater can handle your overall hot water needs.

Before you buy an on demand hot water heater, it is best to talk to a professional installer. While the flow rates and temperature rise for most household appliances are fairly standard, these numbers can vary because of several factors that professionals are trained to calculate. Size is not the only factor to consider when shopping for a tankless water heater. Fuel type and efficiency should also be factored in to your purchase, which is another reason to talk to a licensed Sammamish installer.