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

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Happy Halloween! Candy and costumes make any day fun; we hope you have a fantastic time trick or treating! Remember to be safe this holiday, and don’t forget it is time to start thinking seriously about fall maintenance for inside and outside your house. A quick tune up of your heating system will save you some trouble during this upcoming holiday season!

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Will My Air Cleaners Reduce Health Risks? A Question from Monroe

Friday, October 28th, 2011

There is a lot of talk these days about how important it is to have a good air cleaner in your Monroe home. If you don’t have one, you’re putting yourself at risk, or so says common knowledge. But, do air cleaners really reduce health risks, and if so, by how much?

What Air Cleaners Do

Before we can say whether an air cleaner has any positive health effects, we must first look at what they do. Air cleaners are designed to remove certain particles from the air inside your home. Different air cleaners are designed for different levels of removal.

Ratings like the MERV of an air cleaner measure how small of particles the device can remove. Additionally, the type of cleaner will determine what it is best at removing. Mechanical filters are the most efficient at removing dust, pollen, and dander while electronic filters are best for smoke, bacteria and mold spores.

So, What Impact Does this Have on Health?

The big question then is what kind of health benefits you will gain from a high end air cleaning system. If your home isn’t prone to a large number of contaminants and you have good ventilation, the difference may not be that big, but for those with a well-sealed home, pets, humidity problems or any number of other indoor air contaminant sources, an air cleaner has a tremendous impact on your health.

The problem is that when the house gets sealed up so tightly, we put our bodies at risk of contamination from gasses and pollutants that would otherwise dissipate into the air. Those with asthma are put at an increased risk as they breathe in a variety of different triggers like dust, mold and dander.

An air cleaner removes these threats and while they don’t have a proactive effect on your health – you won’t suddenly lose weight or never again get the flu – they can remove many of the negative effects that poor air quality has on your body.

So, should you get an air cleaner for your home? In most cases, the answer is yes, but if you’re still not sure, consider getting your air quality tested. This way you’ll know exactly what you’re breathing and what kind of impact it’s having on the health of you and your family.

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How to Calibrate Your Thermostat: A Guide from Kirkland

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Have you ever set the thermostat in your Kirkland home to a desired temperature and “hoped for the best?” Maybe it’s because the temperature setting you expected this finely tuned instrument to maintain just isn’t right. You may see 70 degrees on the thermostat but the home feels more like 65 degrees. In fact, if you used a hand-held thermostat, you might get real proof that your thermostat is not working like it should.

There are reasons for a malfunctioning thermostat and solutions to correct them, namely calibration. First, let’s look at some reasons why a thermostat can be out of kilter.

The first thing to note is that thermostats are very sensitive instruments and change to the slightest changes in temperature. An incorrectly installed thermostat or one that is accidentally bumped or jarred can malfunction. It may wind up out of level, causing it to operate incorrectly. Possibly the most common problem affecting accuracy is a build-up of dirt, which can affect the calibration of the thermostat. Other problems may be caused by loose wiring.

Here are some steps you can take to check your thermostat for accuracy and recommended actions.

  1. Use a standard glass thermometer to check the room temperature. You should mount it on the wall nearby your thermostat and use some padding to keep it from actually coming in contact with the wall, which could affect the readings.
  2. Wait 15-30 minutes for the thermometer to adjust to the temperature and enable it to give the most accurate reading. Once the time has elapsed, compare its temperature reading to that on your thermostat.
  3. If there is more than a one degree variation, your thermostat may be dirty. Remove its faceplate and examine it. If there is dirt or dust inside, blow it out. If you can reach the contact points, you can clean them with a new dollar bill (and speaking of dollars, a clean and accurate thermostat will make your furnace run more efficiently and save you money on your utility bill).
  4. Some thermostats use a mercury vial which can indicate if the thermostat is level or not. If it is not level, a simple adjustment using a screwdriver may do the trick. In the worst case, you may have to remove the thermostat and drill a new hole to reinstall the mounting screw in a different location.
  5. Now that you have made these corrections, check both thermostats to see if the temperatures match. If they don’t, try steps 3 and 4 again. If that still doesn’t work, your problem may be more than just a dirty, lopsided thermostat. You may need to replace the thermostat – or even look at the heating system in its entirety. It could be time to call a professional heating contractor to check out your entire system.

Today’s thermostats have few working components but are very sensitive, advanced instruments. It takes little to throw off a thermostat but luckily, it takes little effort to correct the resulting problems.

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Five Important HVAC Maintenance Tips from North Seattle

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Do you have a “mental checklist” of chores that need to be done a regular basis around your North Seattle home, such as cleaning the window treatments, washing windows, shampooing rugs, etc.? There are various areas of your home that need regular maintenance and cleaning – and that list includes your heating and cooling (HVAC) equipment. Do you know a poorly operating furnace can cost you in increased energy usage and higher utility bills? That same poorly operating furnace can be discharging harmful carbon monoxide gas into your home, creating a health risk.

So, it is important to keep your furnace in peak operating condition and the best way to do that is by making a checklist of HVAC maintenance tasks. Let’s look at five of them.

Check your filters. Routine replacement of your furnace filters should be every 1-3 months, depending on the indoor air quality of your home, number of occupants, size, etc. You can purchase disposable filters online, at a local “big box’ retailer, or from your local HVAC contractor. A visual inspection of your filter is the best way to determine if it needs replacing. If you have a removable electronic filter, it should be cleaned every few months using soapy water and a hose. Any restrictions to air flow through the filters can lead to poor indoor air quality and will cause your furnace to work even harder to circulate warm air through your duct system.

  1. Clean and insect the blower assembly and motor. You can do this with a vacuum. Also check the fan belt to make sure it is not too loose or if it has any cracks or splits.
  2. Look for any obstructions in vents and returns. Believe it or not, your furnace needs “help” to operate. Any build-up of dirt or debris around the grilles of your ventilation system will just make your furnace work a lot harder. Do a visual check inside and outside and pay special attention to flues and chimneys, where indoor air is exhausted. Any blockage can result in an accumulation of poisonous carbon monoxide gas.
  3. Keep the area clean and clear around your furnace and water heater. Never store flammable liquids near your heating equipment. Your furnace room is not a storage closet.
  4. Revisit your home’s insulation. When was the last time you checked out the insulation in your attic or crawlspace? Is it securely in place or drooping down? Are there bald spots where the insulation has deteriorated? Is the insulation sufficient or should it be upgrade?

Tips 1 and 2 relate directly to furnace maintenance but tips 3 to 5 are equally important, having a direct bearing on how your furnace performs and its ultimate efficiency. If you follow all five tips and have an annual inspection from a qualified HVAC contractor, you should enjoy a fall season of comfort, warmth, and safety.

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How Effective is Geothermal Heating? A Question from Fall City

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Geothermal heating is an efficient way to use the Earth’s natural resources to heat a building’s interior. But is it an effective way to heat your Fall City home? The simple answer is yes.

Consider the cost of geothermal heating. Once you get past the initial installation costs of a geothermal heating system, which are higher than other conventional heating systems, its operating costs are much lower because of its use of a natural, renewable heat source – the Earth. If you plan to stay in your home for many years, a geothermal heating system will likely pay for itself because according to International Ground Source Heat Pump Association, geothermal operating efficiencies are 50-70% higher than other heating systems, which represents a substantial lowering of energy costs.

And according to a leading electric utility company, the cost of electricity for operating a geothermal heat pump is lower than any other heating system which includes natural gas, propane, and oil.

Beyond lower energy costs, geothermal heating leaves a smaller carbon footprint than other heating systems. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the average U.S. home is 17%, most of which comes from burning fossil fuels for electricity. Geothermal uses natural heat from the ground and therefore uses 30-60% less energy than more conventional heating and cooling systems. Using less energy equals less carbon dioxide production.

A geothermal heating system is only as effective as the equipment used to deliver it throughout the building. The most common delivery method is through a ground source heat pump. This pump pulls the heat from the earth and distributes it. When properly installed and maintained, a ground source heat pump can last 15-20 years and provide an excellent source for heating – and cooling.

The components of a geothermal system also include a compressor, air handling unit, and duct system. When all are installed and maintained correctly, a geothermal heating system will be just as effective in heating a building’s interior as any other heating system. Just be sure you hire a qualified heating and cooling professional to install and service your geothermal heating system.

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Things to Look For When Buying a Heating System in Issaquah

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

If you are in the market for a new or replacement heating system in Issaquah and don’t know much about heating systems, you are not alone. Many homeowners are in the same boat as you. And many of that number put their trust in their local, professional, and qualified heating and cooling contractor to find the right furnace for their homes.

Before calling for an estimate, there are some things you can do to “prepare” yourself for one of the most important purchase you can make. Here is a checklist of things you should look for when buying a heating system.

Know your energy alternatives. There are lots of options today when it comes to heating your home. Gone are the days when the choices were so cut and dried.  Check with your heating and cooling contractor for suggestions.

  1. Know what size your furnace should be. Furnaces are not “one size fits all.” The size of the furnace is determined by its Btu (British thermal unit) rating. For example, a one-story ranch home on a crawl space requires less heating capacity than a two-story colonial with a basement, thus it would require a furnace with a smaller numbered Btu rating. A home with a great deal of heat loss through windows and doors may require various furnace sizes. And don’t forget about insulation. Insulation can affect the furnace size, too. Again, check with your heating and cooling contractor for recommendations.
  2. How much room do you need for your furnace? Some homes have mechanical rooms for furnaces and water heaters while others utilize attics, basements, or crawlspaces for furnaces. If you think you need a big furnace to heat a big home, think again. Furnace manufacturers have been downsizing their heating equipment for years, while maintaining the same heating capacities. One example are wall hung boilers, which utilize water and electric as heating sources and are installed on a wall, making the unit easy to locate and easy to service – while at the same time being off the floor and out of the way.
  3. Will your heating system be “plug and play?” New furnaces can take the place of the ones they are replacing by using the same space. But sometimes a replacement unit may need some altering to fit into an existing duct system. It is almost a given that a new plenum (the part attaching the furnace to the ductwork) will have to be fabricated. But the new furnace may also require some other modifications to an existing duct system. You should understand this ahead of time and be prepared to pay additional costs.
  4. A box is a box is a box. As a rule, most heating systems are made the same. In some cases, one furnace manufacturer may produce several different brand names. The best “brand” is the heating and cooling contractor who installs and services your heating equipment. Do your homework ahead of time and find a qualified and professional contractor. Ask friends and family for recommendations. This is may be the most important thing to look for when buying a heating system

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How to Get My Furnace Ready for Winter: A Guide from Preston

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Being cold in the winter is normal – as long as you are outside. But you shouldn’t be cold inside your Preston home. If that happens, the first place to look to is your furnace, which may not be working correctly. Furnaces are like any other piece of mechanical equipment. They need to be maintained and serviced on a regular basis to ensure they are working at peak efficiency and warming your entire home at your desired comfort level.

The best time to get your furnace ready for winter is not during the cold winter months – it is before the winter season even begins. There are several way to get your furnace ready for winter and let’s explore some of them.

First of all, check and see when you last had your furnace serviced. If it has been over one year ago, you should schedule and maintenance inspection from your local qualified heating and cooling professional. And when you make that appointment, ask about service agreements and getting on a regular maintenance schedule. Most heating and cooling contractors offer service agreement plans which include furnace and air conditioning check-ups on an annual basis.

Okay, so you know who to call for maintenance but what can you do yourself? First of all, give your furnace a little “help” by checking the vents and returns throughout the house. Ensure that there are no obstructions or blockages such as rugs, clothing, furniture, etc. You need to have unobstructed paths for your heated and return air to flow. The more congested the path, the harder your furnace will have to work. And while you’re at it, make sure your vents are open or closed, depending on how much you use your rooms. For example, if you have an extra bedroom that doesn’t need to be heated, closed off the vent or close the damper in the ductwork. The heated air will be diverted to other parts of your home where it is needed.

You can also help the airflow by vacuuming the vent cover or removing it and vacuuming any of the ductwork that you can easily get to. For a more thorough job consider calling a qualified and professional duct cleaning contractor. Many heating and cooling contractors also offer duct cleaning service, too.

Another maintenance function that you can perform is cleaning or replacing the furnace filter. Depending on the size of your home and its air quality (occupants, pets, etc.), you may want to clean or replace your air filter every one to three months. A dirty filter can restrict airflow and can put contaminants like dirt and dust right back into your air system. If you don’t know how to replace your air filter, consult the furnace owner’s manual or go online to learn more. If your furnace uses an electrostatic air filter, it will need to be removed and cleaned, either by using a hose or with soapy water and a hose. Make sure you let it dry before re-installing it.

You may also want to inspect any electrical wires around your furnace to ensure none are broken or frayed. A visual inspection should be good enough.

Once you have done what you can, let your heating and cooling professional take over from there. They are licensed and trained to inspect your furnace and ensure that it is in peak operating condition. And do it today – while everyone else is waiting.

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Is Geothermal Energy Renewable? A Question from Startup

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Geothermal heating systems take heat from the ground and transfer it to your Startup home. But how does this heat get into the ground in the first place? Conventional heating systems like furnaces use energy sources like oil or natural gas to generate heat. These energy sources are not renewable, and neither is electricity which is typically generated by burning coal or another non-renewable resource.

The renewable resources we usually think of first are solar and wind power. The sun, of course, will continue to shine and provide heat year in and year out whether we make use of it or not. Similarly, we cannot use up the wind. It will continue to blow no matter how many times it has blown before.

But what category does geothermal energy fit into exactly? Well, it is actually a renewable resource just like solar or wind energy. In fact, geothermal energy is a direct result of the sun’s heat relentlessly pounding the ground. The ground actually absorbs a considerable amount of the heat from the sun that reaches the earth every day, and that is the heat that your geothermal heating system is using to heat your home.

Of course, a geothermal heating system cannot run on geothermal energy alone. The indoor components of this heating system that keep the air flowing throughout your house must be powered by electricity. But the amount of energy needed to do this is much less than what you would need to use to run a furnace or other type of more conventional home heating system.

Over all, geothermal energy is an excellent and renewable source of energy. And once you have the heating system in place, you will need to spend very little to keep it up and running. It is an excellent option for many people, and can help to keep your home cool in the summer as well.

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How a Furnace Works: A Guide from Seattle

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Do you know how your furnace works? Believe it or not, lots of Seattle homeowners probably can’t explain the operation of furnace. It probably isn’t at the top of your “to do” list. It’s only important to know that once you set your thermostat to a desired temperature, the furnace comes on and warms the house.

The most common furnace is fueled by natural gas but there are other examples of heating equipment such as boilers, electric baseboard, or geothermal. But let’s look at how a gas furnace works since natural gas is found in most U.S. households. Gas furnaces use natural gas or propane to provide energy used for generating heat.

When the temperature in your home falls below the level set on the thermostat, an electric pilot light automatically ignites to heat a burner inside the furnace. This burner uses gas to generate heat within a combustion chamber inside the furnace. After the furnace senses that the thermostat has triggered the flame and that it is properly lit, the actual spark (or ignitor) is turned off.

Simultaneously, a motor in the furnace pulls in air from an exchange or return, which could be a grill in the floor, ceiling, or wall of a house. That air flows through ducts into the plenum of the furnace. The plenum is on the opposite side of the heat exchanger from the burner.

Gas will typically burn for at least two minutes before the blower starts to disperse heat throughout your home. This extra time gives the air an adequate period of time to warm up and also so that cold air won’t be pushed through the vents into the rooms in your house at the start. After either the preset time (roughly two minutes) or pre-established temperature is reached, the blower’s motor is turned on and it blows air over the heat exchanger, which usually consists of a series of copper tubes or pipes. When a fan blows air onto the heat exchanger, the air is heated. This heated air is then blown through a series of ducts to heat your home via vents in the floor, walls or ceiling. Exhaust fumes from the combustion process exit the furnace through a gas flue or chimney.

Just as the heat in your home turns on when a certain temperature is reached, it also turns off after the rooms are warm enough, thanks to your thermostat. The thermostat again senses the temperature in the room. When the room warms up to the temperature set by you at the thermostat, the gas valve is switched off, stopping the flow of gas. After the gas is turned off, the blower motor will still run for a few minutes, allowing the heat exchanger to cool off a bit. In some furnaces, the blower motor never shuts off, but operates at low speed to keep air circulating throughout your home.

In a nutshell, your thermostat is the brain in your heating system and your furnace is the brawn, doing most of the work.

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Time is Running Out: Like Us on Facebook for a Chance to Win an iPod Shuffle!

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Time is running out to enter our drawing for an iPod shuffle! All you have do is like our Facebook page, we will hold the drawing on December 1st.

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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