G & S Heating Cooling & Electric Blog: Archive for September, 2011

A Question From Silvana: Why Avoid The Lowest Bidder?

Friday, September 30th, 2011

They are often called “garage mechanics” or “Johnny one-trucks.” In layman’s terms, these are the men who moonlight from their regular jobs in the mechanical services trades or who set up their own businesses with little or no overhead – to keep costs down.

They are the perfect people to call if you want a job done cheaply. True, many are qualified and do good work. But many more are simply looking for work and will do almost anything to underbid or “lowball” their competition. And why not? They can afford lower prices because they don’t have the fixed costs like larger, more established contractors. Unfortunately, some of these fixed costs include training and licensing, which are a necessity for any contractor.

Here are some things to look for when bidding out a service/replacement job or a new installation. The bidder you hire will answer yes to most of these questions (except the obvious). The lowball bidder likely will not.

  • Can the bidders give you references from former customers and show details of work they have done?
  • Can the bidders verify if they are licensed to do their work or have any certifications?
  • Do the bidders include the cost of pulling permits and paying for inspections for their work?
  • Are the bidders members of any professional organizations and can they show credentials?
  • Do the bidders belong to any local Chambers or other civic organizations?
  • Are the bidders rated favorably by the local Better Business Bureau?
  • Do the bidders offer an option of products and services to choose from, rather than just one choice they say “is best for you?”
  • Do the bidders take measurements and do mathematical equations to determine what size equipment you need (called load calculations or heat loss/heat gain measurements to determine the proper sized furnace or air conditioner, for example).
  • Do the bidders listen and ask questions?
  • Do the bidders require a large deposit or all of the money up front?
  • Do the bidders have a neat appearance, i.e. well-groomed and clean clothes?
  • Are the bidders’ vehicles clean and free from obvious rust or body damage?

There are likely several other considerations but the point is, the bidders should be professional and businesslike. They should “act like they’ve done this before.” The low bidders may appear to put on a good face, but dig below the surface and ask a lot of questions. The low bidders may quickly lose their happy disposition.

A low bid can sometimes work but the odds are not in your favor. The main things are – you want piece of mind and fewer callbacks because of service or installation problems.

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How to I Decide What Size Generator to Buy? A Question From Seattle

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

No one likes to be without power, espeically in Seattle. A storm or disruption to local electrical service can have a major impact on people’s lives and well-being. Fortunately, there are safeguards in place to prevent loss of electric power in the event of an emergency. There are no better examples than hospitals that utilize back-up generators to run their electrical systems in the event of a power failure. Electricity is a necessity for these emergency facilities.

Electricity is also a necessity for you in your homes. Many of you can “wait out” a power failure because experience shows that power failures can be as short as a few seconds or minutes. Even ones lasting several hours are tolerable, albeit disruptive and uncomfortable.

If you’d prefer to have back-up power there are some things to consider when shopping around for a generator. Many people would like to have this important appliance but simply cannot afford to make the expenditure. The question then is: Can you afford not to have electricity? Will you have to replace a refrigerator or freezer full of food? Are you entertaining guests and can’t reschedule the event? Does someone in your home require electrical medical equipment? If you answer yes to any of these you are an ideal candidate for a generator.

But what size and type?

First of all, how much energy does you home consume? Do you run your air conditioner and furnace a lot? Are your refrigerator and/or freezer set on very cold temperatures? Do you run a lot of computers and televisions?

Typically, the right size generator for a 2,000 square foot home is around 7,000 watts. If you are on a budget and don’t need to constantly run every appliance, you might consider a 1,400 watt generator which is less expensive.

When buying a generator, also determine if you want major appliances plugged directly into the generator or to simply run the main power circuit from your home into the generator. If you choose the later, it is advisable to hire a qualified electrician to tie in the generator to your home.

A power supply loss doesn’t mean the end of the world – if you plan ahead.

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First Time Homeowners Checklist: A Tip From Brier

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Buying your first home, in Brier or Seattle, is an exciting time. You may feel a rush brought on by the immense independence of owning a home that is all yours. But a home is also an enormous amount of responsibility. As the owner, you are responsible for your own maintenance and repairs, as well as keeping the building up to code.

To make the whole undertaking a little easier, below is a checklist of tasks for the first time homeowner to use as a reference. It is not fully comprehensive, but it is a good start and a solid guideline of responsibilities to keep your home in tip-top shape. It is broken down by frequency of tasks to make it easy to refer to later.

Annually

Make sure you do each of the following every year. For tasks that should be done in the same season, try to combine in the same week or day so that you are on a consistent schedule that is easy to remember.

  • At the start of winter, check the caulking, weather stripping and other sealants around the house. Also check and clear your gutters and downspouts.
  • In spring, check the basement and attic for signs of water leakage or damage.
  • In the summer time, have your home and property checked for termites and other pest infestations.
  • When fall starts, get ready for the heating season by having your heating and ventilation system inspected. Have any repairs or routine maintenance done as needed.

Monthly

To keep your home comfortable and pleasant, there are some tasks that should be performed every month. These are generally simple, but still important.

  • Inspect AC and furnace filters. Clean or replace dirty filters.
  • Test smoke detectors and replace any drained batteries.
  • Vacuum carpets and make sure there is no debris in your furnace room.
  • Pour boiling water or white vinegar in drains to dislodge buildup.

In General

Lastly, there are some things you will want to do as a matter of good practice. Ask around to find good contractors. When you use one you like, keep track of his information in a dedicated file. Be organized. Keeping this checklist handy is a good first step on that front.

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Will Switching to Geothermal Save Me Money? Some Pointers From Stanwood

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

There are simply a ton of different types of heating systems in Stanwood today and they are each more appropriate in different situations. However, some are certainly always going to be cheaper to operate than others, although that alone may not make one or the other right for you.

In the case of geothermal heating systems, the operating costs are definitely quite low. But those are not the only costs you will have to think about when you are considering what type of heating system to put in your home to keep your heating bills down.

Geothermal heating systems do not actually generate heat – they absorb it from the ground. Because of this, they actually use very little energy when they are running. All you are really paying to power is the fan that blows the heated air around your house. Also, because geothermal heating systems are more efficient at extracting heat in below freezing conditions than traditional heat pumps, they can continue to keep you warm on their own in more extreme conditions.

Traditional heat pumps, while they also cost very little to operate, do sometimes need to be supplemented by more conventional forms of indoor heating like a furnace when temperatures outdoors get too low. This is not the case with geothermal heat pumps, so if you live somewhere that has colder winters, a geothermal heat pump may be just what you are looking for. Of course, you can always opt for a furnace instead, but these will definitely cost more to run than either type of heat pump.

When you are trying to assess whether or not switching to a geothermal heating system will save you money, you first have to start with the heating bills you currently have. Then, factor in the cost of the geothermal heat pump installation as opposed to the installation of a more conventional system.

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What Is Geothermal Heating? A Question From Bothell

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Having a geothermal heating system installed in your Bothell home means that you will actually be able to heat your home with heat extracted from the ground. If this sounds a bit preposterous to you, you are certainly not alone. But this type of home heating does actually work and the technology is not actually that much different from what is used in a standard heat pump system.

Regular heat pumps are able to remove heat from the outdoor air and transfer it into your house to maintain a comfortable temperature in the winter. You may think that there is no heat in the outdoor air in the winter, but that is not actually the case.

Air contains a substantial amount of heat even at very cold temperatures, and heat pumps are able to work quite well, particularly when the outdoor temperature is above freezing. Conveniently, the same process used to heat your house in the winter can be reversed in the summer to extract heat from the indoor air, providing you with a year round home comfort solution.

Geothermal heating works in much the same way, except that geothermal heat pumps extract heat from the ground rather than the air. In order to accomplish this, a loop of pipes is installed in the ground near your house and your geothermal heating system will pump a liquid, generally either antifreeze or water, through those pipes.

As it passes through the pipes, the liquid will absorb heat from the ground and carry it back to a heat exchanger within your house. At that point, the heat from the liquid will be released into air, which is then blown throughout your house.

And just as conventional heat pumps can cool your house in the summer by removing heat and pumping it outside, so too can geothermal heating systems. They do this simply by letting the liquid flowing through the pipes absorb the heat from inside air and then release it into the ground as it travels through the pipe loop below your house.

Because the ground is never as cold in the winter or as hot in the summer as the air, geothermal heat pumps are actually able to work effectively in more extreme conditions than many traditional heat pumps.

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Regular Duct Cleaning Will Reduce Allergens: Some Pointers From Woodinville

Monday, September 19th, 2011

One of the biggest problems many families face with indoor air quality in Woodinville 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 cleaning system.

Whatever your concerns, it is possible to live comfortably in your home despite allergies.

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Maintenance Really Does Save Money: Some Pointers From Startup

Friday, September 16th, 2011

When it comes to your Startup home heating and cooling systems, you really cannot go wrong with proper annual maintenance. While it may seem like an unnecessary expense, especially if your systems are relatively new, you will save a lot in the long run if you pay that small fee once a year for each system.

During a maintenance visit, a technician can thoroughly clean out your heating or cooling system and check all parts to make sure they are not showing signs of excessive wear and tear. If they do find a problem or a part that needs to be replaced, they will be able to make the necessary repairs quickly and you will not have to worry about calling someone out later for an emergency visit.

Also, catching problems early like this means that repairs will likely involve fewer parts and cost much less than they would if you let the problem go and it became more widespread. The truth is that your heating or cooling system can continue to work when one or another of its parts is not working correctly, but that means that other parts of the system have to work overtime to create the same result.

Your heating or cooling system will also be much more energy efficient if it receives regular tune ups and attention from a professional. Even the best new systems lose a small percentage of their efficiency each year that they are in operation. While this is not much from year to year, the cumulative effect will soon cause your energy bills to climb higher than necessary.

Paying for regular maintenance, then, can actually save you money because it will mean you pay less each month to run your system. And it is never too late to start. Even if your heating or cooling system is not new, it will benefit from a thorough cleaning and tune up. You may be quite surprised how much your energy bills go down after this type of service has been performed.

Annual maintenance can also help you to get more for your money by extending the useful life of the heating or cooling system. Many systems that are properly maintained can last even beyond their expected life span, meaning that you will not have to replace it as soon as you would have otherwise. For all of these reasons, the minimal cost of an annual maintenance visit is well worth paying over the long term.

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When to Upgrade Your Circuit Box: A Tip From Granite Falls

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

How many people in Granite Falls remember what it was like to go on a “fuse search” when a major appliance stopped working? If you lived in or owned an older home, you know what that meant – a blown fuse was a nuisance.

The first types of electricity control were fuses, installed in a main fuse box (or secondary box) which connected the incoming electrical current to separate circuits. Most major appliances like refrigerators and stoves had their own separate current and fuse.

Eventually these fuse boxes were replaced with panels containing circuit breaker panels, which contained circuit breakers instead of fuses. So instead of replacing a fuse when a major appliance or circuit goes down, all that is needed is a flip of the breaker switch back to the “on” position.

Circuit breakers are considered safer and have greater capacity to control current to many of the newer, electricity-consuming appliances such as microwaves and wireless routers, to name a couple. And flipping a switch is much more cost-effective than having to buy replacement fuses, too.

While it is not mandatory for homeowners to replace fuse boxes with circuit breaker panels, it is often a good idea to make the change, especially during a home remodeling project. Doing it “all at once” is a good idea since walls are usually torn up and appliances are being replaced. Before the dust settles on the project, it is logical to install a breaker panel. Better to disrupt everything at once than to go back later and disrupt everything again.

Another reason to install la new circuit breaker panel is because of necessity. Circuit boxes are rated by amperage (amps) – a measure of electrical capacity. For example, older boxes may be rated for 60 amps and newer homes could have boxes rated 200 amps or higher. This bigger demand for power can overload older circuits. And appliances can constantly be popping a circuit or blowing a fuse. In that case, it might be a good time to consider changing to a new circuit breakers panel.

According to www.acmediy.com, there is a checklist of things to consider when installing a circuit breaker panel, including:

  • Determine your load requirements,
  • There may be a need to add new wiring or circuits,
  • Wires coming into your home may have to be upgraded,
  • Old wiring may need to be replaced.

Should you do it yourself? If you have the experience and skill to do so, installing a circuit breaker panel is doable. If not, a qualified, skilled electrician is the person to call. It will cost extra but consider it “peace of mind.”

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Like us on Facebook to have your name entered to win a FREE iPod Shuffle!

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Just click the “Like” icon at the top of our Fan Page to have a chance to win a free iPod Shuffle! It’s that easy. Drawing will be held on December 1st. We will contact the winner through Facebook – no additional information necessary!

Once you like our page, you will have access to updated promotions, articles, and maintenance tips/reminders to keep your home or business comfortable through the seasons.

Also, if you have received a service from us, we warmly welcome you to share any comments on our Facebook wall. We are always grateful for your feedback!

Good luck to you all!

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What to Look for When a Home is 20 Years Old: A Guide From Redmond

Monday, September 12th, 2011

The older the home you look for, the more careful you need to be in your research, even in Redmond. Of course, if you can avoid any of the major issues that crop up in 20 year old constructions, you can come away with a fantastic home that is comfortable, easy to modify and in an established neighborhood with good schools, plenty of trees, and a solid maintenance history.

The Stuff to Watch Out For

When a home reaches 20 years old, there are quite a few problems you’re likely to run into. Consider the fact that the furnace, air conditioner, and roof are all designed to last at least 20 years. That means that unless they were highly maintained and regularly inspected they may be ready for replacement right about now.

So, when looking at homes, have any prospective purchases fully inspected for things like dry rot, termites, old furnaces and air conditioners and so on. You are also likely to run into older bathrooms and kitchens that need to be updated. For most people this is simply an inconvenience, but for those on a tight budget it can be a deal breaker.

What You Should Want

Of course, there are a lot of benefits of an older home if you can find them. Specifically in the 20 year old timeframe, you’ll find that trees have matured, the yard is well established and if the neighborhood is good, local schools will have plenty of support in the community. These are all factors you should take into consideration when looking for an older home.

Maintenance is something you won’t be able to avoid, especially if the home you’re looking at was not well cared for by the previous owners. However, after a couple of years, even an older home can be worked into tip top shape so that nothing will break or give out unexpectedly. Much like a used car, if you do your research well ahead of time, you can be sure you get a home that won’t have any “breakdowns” for a few years to come.

And for those out there who like to customize, keep in mind that older homes are much easier to change. Newer homes are built on prefabricated slabs that make it nearly impossible to remodel or change them, especially in highly regulated areas. Older homes are easier to remodel and often have plenty of space in which to do so.

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