What Is a Thermocouple?

November 19th, 2014 by Roger Thompson

Have you ever wondered about how your pilot light actually works? Ever had it refuse to stay lit for some strange reason? One of the most vital parts of your furnace or boiler is the pilot light, but one of the most vital parts of that is the thermocouple. It is this small part that allows the pilot light to do its job, while simultaneously keeping you safe. Let’s examine the thermocouple more closely.

Construction

A thermocouple is actually a rod or wire made of two different metal conductors. One end of this wire is close to the pilot light, so it can absorb its heat. The other end is hooked up to the gas valve that controls the flow of gas to the pilot light, keeping it lit.

Because of a principle called the “Seebeck Effect,” any conductor will produce an electric charge when submitted to varying levels of heat. The thermocouple is made of two different conductors to both increase the heat gradient and allow more precise tuning. Essentially, this wire acts as a sort of electric thermometer.

Operation

When the thermocouple senses heat from the pilot light, it generates an electric charge that is relayed to the gas valve. The gas valve opens, providing a steady stream of fuel to keep the pilot light going after it has been lit. This is how the pilot light stays burning 24/7. As long as the thermocouple is absorbing heat from the pilot light, the pilot light will keep going.

So what happens when the pilot light blows out? When the thermocouple no longer senses the heat from the pilot light, it loses its electrical charge and the gas valve shuts. This is a safety feature to prevent the home from filling with gas when the pilot light is out.

A bad thermocouple will have trouble keeping a pilot light lit, because for whatever reason it is unable to sense the heat from the flame and produce a charge. If your pilot light won’t stay lit, you likely need to replace the thermocouple.

If you are having problems with your pilot light, call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc. Our heating professionals cover all of Everett.

How to Spot an Electrical Hazard in Your Home

November 14th, 2014 by Roger Thompson

What would our lives be like without electricity? Electricity is a necessary utility in today’s world, required for a variety of work and entertainment tasks and to power the appliances used throughout the home. However, if your wiring is not set up properly, you may be facing an electrical hazard that could cause a family member to become injured or start an electrical fire.

In general, you should follow standard safety procedures around the home to prevent problems, like shutting off the power from the service panel before attempting any electrical repairs and making sure not to overload electrical outlets. Furthermore, any unusual power surge or unusual behavior from your lights and appliances indicates a problem that requires immediate attention from an electrician. The following guide contains just a few indications that your home may be at risk for a major electrical issue.

No GFCI Outlet in the Kitchen or Bathroom

The GFCI outlet helps protect you and your family members from electrical shocks. You may recognize this type of outlet—equipped with both a “test” and “reset” button—from the inside of many kitchens. These are located in the kitchen because, as we all know, water and electricity do not mix. Water interrupts the regular flow of electrical current so that it may flow through you instead. When the GFCI outlet senses that the electrical current is not flowing as it should, it immediately shuts off. If this type of outlet is missing from your bathroom or kitchen, you should call an electrician as soon as possible.

Hot Dimmer Switches

Another cause for immediate electrical repair is excessively hot dimmer switches. If you have dimmer switches in your home and one or more feels very hot to the touch, this is not normal. It most likely means that the dimmer switch is overloaded, exceeding the maximum allowable wattage.

Circuit Breaker Trips Frequently

If the circuit breaker seems to frequently trip for no reason, it could indicate an overloaded circuit or a short circuit. This can be caused by something plugged into an outlet or by the wiring itself.

When you suspect an electrical emergency, call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc. for electrical repairs in Marysville.

The Benefits of Ductless Heating

November 13th, 2014 by Roger Thompson

Looking for a new home heating solution that won’t require major renovations? Ductless heating may be the right choice for you. In fact, there are many benefits that go along with an absence. Let’s take a look at a few of these benefits and how these unique systems work.

How Ductless Works

Ductless systems don’t need ducts because individual air handlers are mounted throughout the home with their own blower fans. Ductless systems use a refrigeration process to heat and cool the home. Refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoors in the summer in order to release it outside. In the winter, refrigerant pulls heat from the outdoors to move it inside. The indoor air handler contains a coil and a blower fan. Generally, you need multiple units to cool or heat the entire home.

The Benefits of Going Ductless

  • No Ductwork: One huge benefit of ductless heating is the lack of ductwork. Ducts are notorious for poor insulation or for developing cracks and holes, causing warm air to leak out over time. This means you spend a lot more on heating or cooling than is necessary as warm air moves into the attic or other hidden areas instead of directly into your home. Besides, adding ductwork can be costly and time-consuming, while ductless installation only requires drilling a small hole in the wall for the refrigerant line.
  • High Efficiency: Ductless systems may save money because there is no ductwork, but the technology may also be more efficient than other ducted systems. Ductless heating systems have an extremely high SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) for cooling and a high HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor). This is because moving heat around is more efficient than generating heat.
  • Zone Control: A final benefit that comes standard with any ductless system is zone control. Each air handler is wired to its own thermostat, so you can adjust the temperature separately in each area of the home. This keeps your family members comfortable in any part of the house and helps you save on your heating bills; simply turn off the heat in any room you’re not using!

For more on ductless heating in Everett, call the experts at G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc. today!

3 Common Issues with Furnaces

November 7th, 2014 by Roger Thompson

If you own a furnace, it’s important to keep it in top shape in order to make sure it performs at its best throughout the heating season. In fact, now is the best time to schedule furnace maintenance in order to ensure that your unit continues keeping you warm and cozy all season long. During an annual scheduled maintenance visit, a technician will visit your home and inspect your furnace for any problems that may affect performance or efficiency. They will clean and adjust some components ad may also help you determine whether you are at risk for gas leaks.

But if your system is experiencing problems, it’s time to call a technician for repairs right away. Even if the issue seems somewhat bearable, it may cause a lot of extra wear and tear on your system, causing parts to break down, increasing your heating bills, and possibly leading to premature replacement. Call a technician right away when you notice any of the following heating issues.

  • Not Enough Heating: If you feel little heating power from your furnace, it could be due to a number of issues. For example, it could be because of a faulty fan motor, which reduces airflow through the ducts. Or it may mean your thermostat is having wiring issues or trouble with the sensor.
  • Short Cycling: Short cycling is when your system only runs for a short period of time before the cycle is complete, turning on and off too frequently. This could also be due to an issue with the thermostat or fan, or it could even indicate a dirty furnace filter.
  • Noisy Operation: A high-pitched screeching sound could indicate a problem with the blower fan belt. Loud banging noises could indicate loose parts or problems in the ducts. Or you may hear your fan run constantly, which could just be due to an incorrect thermostat setting.

In any case, gas furnace repairs are simply not a job for an amateur. Professional technicians have the tools and expertise to diagnose and repair any problem, or recommend furnace replacement when necessary. Furthermore, prompt professional repairs may make your unit run more efficiently. Remember to schedule maintenance this year, and look out for any repair needs. For more advice about heating services in Snohomish, call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc.

Why Good Insulation Is Important for Heating

November 3rd, 2014 by Roger Thompson

No one enjoys paying for heat that isn’t effectively heating your home, and one of the best ways to make sure you don’t do this is to have good insulation from top to bottom. Why is insulation so important? It blocks the transfer of heat, so during the winter months, it keeps your heat from escaping to the outdoors while also keeping the cold air from infiltrating. While it may be tempting to add insulation to your home yourself, it really is a job best handled by professionals. G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc., has been helping customers since 1977 with all their heating and indoor quality needs, so if you need help with your insulation, call us today.

Understanding Heat Flow

To understand how insulation slows heat transfer, you need to understand the 3 ways that heat can flow in your home:

  • Conduction – the way heat moves through materials
  • Convection – how heat moves through liquids and gases
  • Radiant – heat that travels in a straight line and heats any solid object capable of absorbing the heat

Heat will travel through your home in each of these three ways, and the job of insulation is to slow this transfer. Some types of insulation are better at slowing certain kinds of heat over others, so many homeowners will use a combination of insulation types to properly insulate their homes.

Benefits of Good Insulation

As we’ve discussed, good insulation is critical for energy efficiency. But there are additional benefits that are also important:

  • Better comfort – reducing your heat loss helps make your indoors more comfortable
  • Reduction in noise levels – insulation helps block sound both between rooms and from the outside
  • Good for the environment – using the proper amount of insulation helps reduce your energy usage

As we head toward winter, now is the perfect time to see of your insulation levels are where they need to be for your home and heating system. Call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc., today and schedule heating service in Lynnwood with one of our HVAC installation experts.

Why Choose a Professional to Wire Your Attic Fan

October 31st, 2014 by Roger Thompson

When it’s warm outside, many people turn on fans in order to cool down. However, if you rely on this as your main source of comfort, there’s a reason you may not feel as cool as you should. When a fan blows on your skin, it helps sweat to evaporate from your body so that you feel cooler while the air remains the same temperature. However, with the proper ventilation, a large fan can move warm air out of the house and let cool air come in. This is the theory behind attic fans, which we will go over in today’s guide.

An attic fan is a great addition to any home, but you should always be sure to choose a quality electrician for the job, like the people at G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc.

How Attic Fans Work

In order to understand how an attic fan works, you may first need to understand a couple of things about heat. First heat moves naturally from a warmer area into a cooler area. Second, heat rises, which is why your attic may be the hottest area of your home. When it’s warm outside, heat will move into your home and collect in the attic. If the warm air in the attic has nowhere to vent, it will collect until it seeps into your home, making the whole house feel hotter.

An attic fan moves heat from the attic to the outdoors and lets cooler fresh air enter into the attic. This prevents heat from building up and makes your whole home feel cooler. An attic fan uses only a small fraction of the electricity an air conditioner uses, but it will not be effective if you run both at the same time.

Why You Need an Electrician

Setting up an attic fan is not quite like setting up a standing fan or a window fan. While some models can be plugged in, a better choice is to wire it into the electrical system so that you can program it to turn on at various points throughout the day. Any time you’re working with electrical wiring, you need a certified electrician to follow the proper safety procedures and make sure there is the right amount of voltage.

Call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc. to speak with a superior electrician in Marysville today!

How Does A Geothermal System Provide Heat?

October 30th, 2014 by Roger Thompson

Geothermal heating is one of the most energy efficient ways to heat your home. It relies on a renewable resource, spending only a fraction of the energy that most heating systems use to create and circulate heat throughout the house. How exactly does a geothermal system work, though? Read on to find out.

Installation

Geothermal installation involves digging a trench about ten feet deep in a wide loop. If space is an issue the trench could be dug deeper for a vertical loop. Pipes are laid in this trench, using either anit-freeze or water as a medium. A central unit, essentially a heat pump, is then installed in the house. The pipes are connected to the heat pump, and the heat pump is connected to the ductwork in the house.

How It Works

As the name suggests, a geothermal heating system works by siphoning thermal energy from the ground in much the same way that other heat pumps siphon it from the air. About ten feet under the surface, the temperature remains at approximately 55-60 degrees year-round. That may seem cold, but in most environments the outside air can easily sink well below that temperature. When a geothermal system is in heating mode, it uses the anti-freeze or water in the underground pipes to transport that 54 degree thermal energy to the central unit. There, the central unit uses that extra thermal energy to help it warm the air and circulate it throughout the house.

Benefits

The benefit to using this kind of system is that it doesn’t have to work nearly as hard as a traditional system to achieve the same results. A furnace, for example, will have to start from whatever the surrounding temperature is when it heats a home. A geothermal system, however, provides a much higher starting point of 54 degrees. This means that it won’t have to work nearly as hard or as long to warm air up to the proper temperature. By using a geothermal system, you can save an appreciable amount of money on your heating bills.

If you are interested in installing a geothermal heating system, call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc. We install heating systems throughout Mill Creek, WA.

 

Signs It May Be Time for Furnace Replacement

October 29th, 2014 by Roger Thompson

It is inevitable that your furnace will begin to develop problems as it gets older. The natural state of the universe is from order to chaos, after all. Still, with proper maintenance and timely repairs, your furnace can last a remarkably long time. Still, there are some things that really can’t be fixed. When you start to notice some of these signs, it’s probably time to replace your furnace.

Increase in Breakdowns

Pretty much the only type of damage you can’t stop from happening in any system is wear and tear. Over time, the strain of regular use will start to catch up to your furnace. This will start slow at first, a random part breaking here and there every couple of years. Eventually, though, you will start to see the frequency of these problems skyrocket. Every year, then every few months you will have to call your HVAC technician to mend or replace parts as they start to give out from age. At this point, the cost of repairs is probably worth more than the furnace. It’s reached the end of its life, and it’s time to replace it.

Sudden Health Changes

Part of the byproducts that every combustion furnace produces are a series of toxic gases, with carbon monoxide being the foremost among them. It is odorless, tasteless, and invisible. Practically the only way to detect it is by using a carbon monoxide detector. If a crack develops in the heat exchanger, or the exhaust flue becomes blocked, these gases can become trapped in your home. Symptoms of exposure to this gas include sudden headaches, nausea, dizziness, unconsciousness, and death. If you turn on your heater and experience any of these symptoms, get out of the house and call emergency services immediately. An HVAC technician will need to examine your furnace to confirm the problem, but in most cases the solution is to replace the entire furnace.

If you think your furnace might be reaching the end of its lifespan, call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc. Our heating experts cover the entire Monroe area.

How Can An Energy Audit Help Heating?

October 27th, 2014 by Roger Thompson

Energy efficiency is always a priority during heating season, and for good reason: it can save you money. But what if you aren’t sure how to improve your energy efficiency? It may be time to consider an energy audit. An energy audit can pinpoint the exact areas in your home where you are losing energy, and how you are losing it. This type of information can be tremendously helpful in making your heating both more efficient this winter, while also potentially saving you some money. Energy audits should only be conducted by certified and trained experts, and the technicians at G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc., are BPI-certified building experts. If you need help determining where you are losing energy in your home, call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc., today.

What Is an Energy Audit?

An energy audit is a series of tests and evaluations done in your home to pinpoint areas where you are losing heating (or cooling). The types of tasks that can be performed during an energy audit are:

  • Full evaluation of equipment
  • Assessment of insulation levels
  • Testing for air leaks
  • Assessment of ductwork, including air flow

The auditor may also review past energy bills to assess the trend of energy usage and cost over the last year.

Benefits of an Energy Audit

Here are some of the benefits you can gain from scheduling an energy audit:

  • Better energy efficiency – as mentioned above, an energy audit helps pinpoint the areas where you are losing the heating in your home. Being able to remediate the exact areas of air loss can help you regain tremendous energy efficiency. In fact, Energy.gov states that the energy efficiency you can regain from an energy audit ranges from 5%-30%.
  • Improved comfort – when you reduce air loss, the heating in your home becomes more even and comfortable.
  • Less stress on your system – when you lose energy anywhere in your home, your heating (or cooling) system has to work harder to achieve your set temperature. This can create excessive wear and tear and contribute to premature aging.

If you are concerned about preserving the energy efficiency of your heating system, call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc., today and schedule an energy audit or heating service in Lynnwood with one of our BPI-certified building experts.

What is a Downflow vs Upflow Furnace?

October 21st, 2014 by Roger Thompson

There are a lot of different factors to weigh when you are picking a new furnace to install. What’s size is right for your home? What kind of fuel does it use? Should you stick with combustion or try an electric unit? What’s the AFUE rating? One important question that most overlook, however, is whether a furnace should be an upflow or a downflow furnace. Read on for a description of each, and which would best fit your needs.

Downflow Furnace

The primary difference between an upflow and a downflow furnace which direction they take in and expel air. A downflow furnace takes in cold air at the top of the unit, and expels air at the bottom. By doing this, the downflow furnace directs heat downwards towards the area that requires it. This makes downflow furnaces naturally suited to being installed in attics. They can also be installed in the upper floors of a house if you don’t have an attic.

This makes them very versatile, able to be installed in almost any type of home. The downside is that a downflow furnace is less efficient than an upflow furnace. Heat naturally rises, so the downflow furnace must constantly fight against the natural tendency of the air it’s circulating.

Upflow

An upflow furnace takes in cold air at the bottom of the unit and expels warm air upwards. This makes them more efficient than downflow furnaces, because they are working with the natural tendency of heat to rise upwards. Upflow furnaces tend to heat spaces more comfortably, since heat moves from the floor of a room upwards. This keeps the actual living area of each room more comfortable than a downflow system, which wastes heat on areas like ceilings.

The downside is that upflow furnaces have more strict installation requirements. Oftentimes you’ll need a basement to get the most out of an upflow furnace. This precludes a lot of homes in areas like the west coast.

If you are having trouble picking the best furnace for your home, call G&S Heating, Cooling & Electrical, Inc. We install and maintain heating systems throughout the Mill Creek, WA area.