G & S Heating Cooling & Electric Blog: Archive for February, 2012

Open vs. Closed Loop Systems in Geothermal in Edmonds

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Even people in Edmonds who are somewhat familiar with geothermal heating systems may not be aware that there are actually two types – open and closed loop systems. The difference, of course, is that the closed loop systems make use of a completely sealed loop of pipe filled with water, antifreeze or some combination of these that cycles through the pipe absorbing heat and transferring it to your home.

Open loop systems, on the other hand, are linked to a well casting and draw water from there to circulate throughout the system as a heat source. Particularly if you already have an appropriate well casting in place, you can often save a lot on your installation costs by putting in an open loop system rather than a closed loop.

If you do not already have a well, however, the Geothermal installation of an open loop system might still be cheaper but not by as much. Also, the costs of operation after the initial installation are pretty comparable, so the relative costs associated with operating one type of system or the other should not weigh to heavily on your decision.

In fact, the best way to decide which type of geothermal heating system is right for you is to talk to an experienced contractor about your particular situation. They will be able to tell you exactly what the installation of each type of system will entail in your specific case and make informed recommendations about what type of system will work best for you.

No matter what type of geothermal heating system you do go with, though, you will be getting an excellent and inexpensive home comfort solution that will keep your indoor temperature at the right level all year round. That is because geothermal heat pumps, just like air source heat pumps, can be reversed during the warmer summer months to actually remove heat from your home. That way, you can stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter without having to pay for heating or air conditioning.  If you have any questions about these methods please contact G&S Heating Cooling & Electric.

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Furnace Control Boards for Seattle Residents

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

One way to be a truly responsible homeowner in Seattle is to familiarize yourself with the major systems and appliances in your home. By having at least some understanding of how, say, your refrigerator or toilet work, you gain understanding of how to use them efficiently and detect when something goes wrong.

The same is true of your furnace, which can appear to be a complicated piece of machinery. In order to help you get acquainted with your furnace, we will discuss one of its main control components, the furnace control board.

As the name suggests, furnace control boards are responsible for governing the operation of the furnace. At a minimum, a simple furnace control will control the furnace ignitor (e.g., a spark generator or glow coil), the gas valve and the furnace thermocouple, also called a flame sensor.

More complex furnace control boards will also have control over the blowers and/or the built-in diagnostic system.

To simplify things, you can think of the furnace control board as being a driver and the furnace as its car. Just as the driver oversees all the functions and operation of the car from ignition to shutting off the engine, likewise does the control board for the furnace.

A typical operation sequence for a furnace control board goes something like this:

1. The control board receives a signal from the thermostat that the temperature is too low.

2. It starts the ignition system, whether that be a spark generator, glow coil or pilot light.

3. Once the ignitor is hot, the furnace control board initiates the flow of gas through the burners, where it is ignited.

4. The control board keeps the furnace running until it is signaled by the thermostat that the temperature is now high enough, or until it detects something is wrong.

(An example of a malfunction where the control board would get involved is a thermocouple that is not detecting enough heat. In this case, the control board would shut off the gas flow to prevent a leak into the home.  If this shows up you might want to consider minor heating maintenance for your furnace.)

Furnace control boards are an essential part of your home’s HVAC system. And now, as a responsible homeowner, you know just how important.  If you have any questions about this article please contact G & S Heating, Cooling, & Electric.

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Components of Air Conditioners in North Seattle

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Ever wondered how that amazing machine that keeps you cool in North Seattle all summer actually works? How exactly does that air conditioner use electricity to create cool air and dehumidify your home? It’s actually an ingenious bit of technology developed over a century ago using four major components and a thermostat.

How these parts are implemented may change depending on the type of air conditioner you have and how much space it’s tasked with cooling, but the following components are standard in all AC units:

  • Evaporator – There are two sides to an air conditioner – the warm side and the cool side. The Evaporator is on the cool side and is paired with a fan that blows air over the coils. The air then chills and blows into your home to keep you cool.
  • Condenser – The condenser is the device responsible with transferring heat within the air conditioner. An air conditioner doesn’t actually make anything cool – it just removes heat from one environment and places it into another. By removing heat from one set of coils and transferring it to another, it creates the cooling effect that the evaporator then uses to cool your home
  • Expansion Valve – The expansion valve is responsible for regulating how much refrigerant passes into the evaporator coils. This refrigerant immediately expands when it reaches the evaporator coil due to the pressure drop.
  • Compressor – Once the refrigerant has depressurized and turned back into a gas, it is passed to the compressor which is then tasked with converting it back into a liquid and passing it into the warm part of your air conditioner.

And of course, this entire mechanism is monitored and regulated by a thermostat which tells the air conditioner when to turn on and what level of cooling is needed by your home. The system can also be setup in one of a couple different ways. Self-contained units, like window units, house the entire mechanism in a single box, while a central air conditioner separates the two units – the hot side with the compressor and condenser are placed outside the house.

Because there are so many parts and they work in harmony to create the cool environment you want, your air conditioner needs to be carefully maintained. Regular maintenance is a must for every component.  To schedule a maintenance appointment please contact G & S Heating, Cooling, & Electric

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Happy Valentine’s Day From Your King County Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

We wish you a very happy Valentine’s Day! Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to show your appreciation to everyone who makes a difference in your life. Even a small gift, like a batch of cookies or a homemade card, can really make someone feel special. Your friends, your family, and your significant other will all have a fantastic Valentine’s Day if you take a moment to let them know how important they are to you.

Calling us for an HVAC upgrade might seem like a usual gift, but it can actually be something that benefits your whole family. An improved indoor air quality system can make air cleaner and healthier, and a new heating system can make your home more comfortable and save you money by lowering your utility bills. Those are improvements that every member of your family can enjoy.

If you have any questions about upgrades for your heating and air conditioning system, give G&S Heating a call today! And to help you celebrate this sweet holiday, here is a recipe for Chocolate Mint Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 36 chocolate mint wafer candies

Directions

  1. In a large pan over low heat, cook butter, sugar and water until butter is melted. Add chocolate chips and stir until partially melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is completely melted. Pour into a large bowl and let stand 10 minutes to cool off slightly.
  2. At high speed, beat in eggs, one at a time into chocolate mixture. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, beating until blended. Chill dough about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  4. Roll dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes. While cookies are baking unwrap mints and divide each in half. When cookies are brought out of the oven, put 1/2 mint on top of each cookie. Let the mint sit for up to 5 minutes until melted, then spread the mint on top of the cookie. Eat and enjoy!

For more details, visit allrecipes.com.

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Why AFUE Ratings Matter When Installing a New Furnace in Your Snohomish County Home

Monday, February 13th, 2012

When you are in the market for a new furnace for your Snohomish County home, there are several reasons you should pay attention to the annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. All newer model furnaces get an AFUE percentage, which measures how much fuel a particular model converts into heat. Furnaces with higher AFUE ratings are more efficient, but the size and type of furnace will also factor into how much you’ll save on energy costs.

Understanding the AFUE Ratio

The minimum AFUE rating for new furnaces is 78%. This means that seventy-eight percent of the fuel is turned into heat, and the remaining percentage is lost either through poor insulation, air leaks, or the ventilation system in the home. Because there’s no heat loss through a chimney flue, some all-electric furnaces can have an AFUE rating as high as 98%. However, if the cost of electricity used to meet your normal heating needs is higher than the efficiency savings, you may want to consider other options. Talk to a qualified HVAC contractor for advice about the most cost-efficient heater for your home.

Furnace Efficiency Features

Furnaces manufactured 15-20 years ago have significantly lower AFUE ratings (between 55%-70% for most older models) because they are typically single-stage, or single-speed systems. Single-stage furnaces are less efficient because they are designed to cycle on at full capacity and shut off when the desired temperature is met.  Newer, two-speed models have a second setting that runs consistently at a lower speed, which saves energy by burning less fuel. Multispeed furnaces that have variable-speed blowers are the most efficient because they operate at various levels and automatically adjust to the thermostat to maintain a constant temperature.

If you look at the AFUE ratings for multispeed and variable-speed furnaces, the ratios should be above 80%. Keep in mind that this only determines the efficiency levels for the furnace itself. You’ll need to factor in whether or not your home has proper insulation and other upgrades, such as double-paned windows and doors.

Call G&S Heating and Cooling to speak with one of our qualified HVAC technicians about a furnace upgrade for your Snohomish County home.

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Geothermal vs. Solar for Stanwood Homes

Friday, February 10th, 2012

If you are looking for a more environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional methods for Stanwood home heating, you will probably consider both solar and geothermal options. Each of these relies on a great renewable resource to function and can be an excellent option depending on your specific circumstances. Of course, both geothermal and solar heating have limitations as well, so it is important to take these into account when you are evaluating your options.

A geothermal heating system works by extracting heat from the ground and transferring that to the air in your house. This occurs when heat is absorbed by a fluid flowing through a closed loop of pipes beneath or next to your home. The fluid then returns to your home, where the heat is extracted by a compressor and distributed throughout the house by an air handler.

This uses very little energy relative to a conventional heating system, as you only have to power the condenser and the air handler. The heat is not generated by the system but merely harvested, so total energy costs are quite low. However, the installation cost of a geothermal heating system can be many times what a conventional heating system would cost.

Solar heating relies on solar collectors to gather the heat from the sun. This heat is then passed into a system of heat pumps and heat exchangers so that it can be adequately distributed throughout your house. The installation of heat collectors, of course, is quite expensive as well, while the cost of running the system is generally low just as with the geothermal heat pump.

One advantage to opting for a solar heating system is that you can lease the equipment rather than buying it in some areas. This means that you do not have to pay the high installation costs and only pay a monthly fee to use the equipment which is usually comparable to what an average heating bill would be if you had a furnace.

But you also have to keep in mind that you need to have enough space to put up an adequate number of solar collectors to keep your house warm all winter. This often means giving up a lot of land, and if you have a lot, that is fine. But it is still something you need to take into consideration. Also, you need to make sure that the area you live in gets enough direct sunlight to make solar heating a viable option. Otherwise, you will be paying to run a backup system much of the time anyway.  If you have any questions about this topic please call G&S Heating, Cooling and Electric.

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Is Geothermal for King County Residents?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Geothermal heating is a great alternative to other types of home heating systems in King County. It is safe and efficient, costs very little to operate and makes use of a great renewable resource right below our feet. But is it right for you? Well, geothermal heating may be the right choice for many people, but there are many things to take into account before you can determine whether or not it is the best choice for your home.

The first important thing to understand when you are trying to decide whether or not to go with geothermal heating is how one of these systems actually works. A geothermal system heats your home by extracting heat from the ground and then transferring that heat into your indoor air. This happens when liquid, usually water or antifreeze, passes through a loop of pipes installed several feet below the ground.

The liquid absorbs heat from the ground, which in the winter is always warmer than the air, and carries is back up to an air handler inside your home where that heat is allowed to disperse into the air. Once the air is heated, the air handler blows the air through a system of ducts throughout your house, providing a constant stream of heated air to all areas of your home. The liquid, on the other hand, simply cycles back through the ground loop to pick up more heat and repeat the same cycle over again.

Because a geothermal heating system does not actually generate heat, it requires very little energy to operate. This means that it is both very cheap for you to run and environmentally friendly. But since installing a geothermal heating system involves putting pipes in underground, it can be pretty expensive initially. However, as long as the amount you save every month on your heating costs is enough to offset the high initial price of installation, it is worth it to put down the money up front.

Another alternative, of course, is a more traditional air source heat pump. These are much cheaper to install and nearly as cheap to run. However, air source heat pumps are not as efficient when the air temperature gets below freezing as a geothermal system can be. If you live in an area with harsh winters, the geothermal heat pump is a better option than an air source unit.  If you have any questions about this great alternative contact G & S Cooling and Heating anytime.

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Spring Maintenance Tips For Your Marysville Home

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Spring is almost here, and for Marysville homeowners that means more than just spring cleaning; it’s also the opportunity to take care of some home maintenance tasks. It may not be a ton of fun, but proper home maintenance is essential to keeping your home attractive and in good repair, as well as retaining its resale value.

Some simple maintenance once a year can also help avoid costly repair bills down the road. Below are a few tips on keeping the inside of your home maintained. Most of these are quick projects that can be done in your spare time over the weekend.

Ventilation, Heating And Cooling Tips:

  • Clean out your stove’s exhaust hood and change the filter. This will help the system to keep running efficiently and prevent damage to the motor, so that your kitchen is always well ventilated. A properly functioning kitchen exhaust system can also help prevent fires.
  • Change the furnace filter. The heating season may be behind you, but it will get chilly again before you know it. Changing your filter now as part of your spring maintenance will ensure that you don’t forget to do it in the interim, so your house will be properly heated when the chill of winter returns.
  • On the flip side, have your air conditioning system inspected by a professional. They can perform routine maintenance on the A/C system and make any necessary repairs. Taking care of this early in the spring will help make the hot summer months much more comfortable in your home.

Electrical Tips:

  • Hire an electrician to inspect the wiring and other components of your home’s electrical system. You can also do this yourself if you’re savvy, but unless you have experience, professional assistance is strongly recommended in order to avoid injury.
  • Have a look at your extension cords and power strips around the house. Replace any that are damaged or worn.
  • Check light fixtures to ensure installed bulbs are of the correct wattage. Using the wrong wattage bulb can cause electrical shorts, or draw more power than you need, making for an unnecessary expense. Consider replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

Safety Tips:

  • Clean all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace the batteries.
  • Have your fire extinguisher inspected to ensure it works properly. Replace as needed.

By making time to perform these relatively simple tasks in the spring, you can help keep your home safe and comfortable, while also decreasing ownership costs in the long run.  If you have any questions about these Spring cleaning tips contact G and S Heating.

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Stanwood HVAC Question: What Will an Energy Audit Do?

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

With costs constantly on the rise, Stanwood homeowners are looking for new ways to save money on their energy bills, such as conserving electricity, using less heat and exploring alternative energy sources. One great way to see how you and your family can use energy more efficiently is to get a home energy audit.

The goal of an energy audit is determine how energy is being used in the home in order to identify and correct any inefficiency. By finding ways to use energy more efficiently, you can reduce the energy used in your home without sacrificing comfort. Efficient use of energy reduces costs and environmental impact.

How It Works

To conduct an energy audit, a professional will use special instruments to inspect various aspects affecting energy use in your home, including construction, occupancy, appliance use, number of windows and doors, and so on. In this way, you can see how well your home is retaining heat and note any places where inside air may be escaping, making your home cooler or warmer than desired. For example, since a lot of heat can be lost through them, upgrading windows and skylights is an inexpensive way to gain a lot in terms of efficiency. Making sure windows are properly sealed, repairing worn weather stripping, and installing new windows with energy efficient certifications (such as LEED or Energy Star) are simple but effective first steps to making your home more affordable and eco-friendly.

Another aspect of energy audits includes prioritizing energy needs in order of importance, in order to reduce the use of energy on less critical functions. This may include collecting data on the local climate and past energy use. This data can be analyzed in order to identify and predict times when higher usage may be necessary, so that you and your family can prioritize according to your budget. For example, if the results of your energy audit show that July is historically the hottest month of the year and the month when you use the most electricity, you can make up for increased cooling costs by using other electrical appliances less. This way you can stay cool without going outside your utility budget.

Other solutions stemming from your energy audit may include installing insulated curtains, unplugging “vampire devices” like cell phone chargers, and avoiding the use of large appliances during warmer times of the day.

If you are one of the many interested in cutting energy costs, while helping the environment, a home energy audit is the first step.

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Can I Use Geothermal Heat if I Live in a Cold Climate Like Seattle?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Geothermal heat pumps are able to extract heat from the ground, even in Seattle when outdoor temperatures are well below freezing. They use a system of pipes installed in the ground below or around your home to collect this heat and then return it to your home where it can then be used to heat the air. While these types of heating systems are certainly more efficient the warmer the ground is, they can be effective even in very cold climates.

This is true even in areas where the ground freezes from time to time or for parts of the year because the frozen layer does not typically extend more than three or four feet below the surface. As long as the pipes for your geothermal heating system are below this level, they will still be able to gather plenty of heat from the warmer ground below the frozen layer.

In fact, there are two different ways that the pipe loop for a geothermal heating system can be installed. Most geothermal systems have a horizontal pipe system which sits about four feet below the surface and extends out from the house. This type of installation is typically cheaper than the alternative, but it also usually needs to be larger. Plus, you need to have the space for it to stretch across.

On the other hand, a vertical installation goes straight down into the ground below your home. With a vertical installation, you can usually get away with less pipe overall, but you will probably pay more for the installation because it is harder to drill straight down than it is to dig out a relatively shallow trench to lay the pipe in.

However, if you live in an area that has particularly harsh winters when the ground can be frozen for significant periods of time, it may be worth it to opt for the vertical installation. That is because the further below the surface the pipes go, the farther away they will be from the frozen layer of ground.

With a vertical pipe installation, a geothermal heating system can work quite well in a climate in which the ground usually freezes in the winter. While you will always want to have a backup heating system in place in case of emergencies, this type of heat pump should be all you need under normal conditions.

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