Archive for the ‘Air Quality’ Category

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much of a Good Thing?

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

When I think of things that bring me comfort, I would have to say the answer would be no. I truly enjoy and get much comfort from my family, friends, my job. The list could go on. But then I think of those wonderful family dinners. You know like the Thanksgiving Feast, with all its comfort foods, and I can remember a time or two where I was not feeling too comfortable afterwards. But that discomfort is temporary and the memories for years later of being with my friends and family—not that discomfort—is what I think of.

Unfortunately, Comfort Delivery Problem #3 is not temporary. Well, it doesn’t last forever, but you will be forced to live with it daily for many years. You see, in the world of home or building comfort, Bigger is Usually Not Better. So lets kick off our discussion of Comfort Delivery Problem #3: The Wrong Sized Heating and Cooling Equipment was installed.

Heating and Cooling Equipment is only a portion of a well designed, well installed, well serviced comfort system. Hopefully the discussion about Comfort Delivery Problems #1 and #2 helped to expand how you look at your system. But some things you may not be aware of:

  • Many heating and cooling systems are installed without first determining the proper size unit needed for the house.
  • Some contractors use simple rules of thumb to size replacement equipment, or worse, they always recommend getting something a little bigger—just in case!
  • Some contractors may choose to install a larger system because you report your current system isn’t providing you with proper comfort.
  • Sometimes they choose to install the same size equipment that was already in the home, without taking into consideration changes to home since its original construction (and assuming the original installation contractor did their homework back when.)
  • Equipment sizing should be based on an evaluation of the home’s insulation levels, air leakage rate, windows, solar orientation and humidity control needs.

FACT: Oversized equipment causes problems

  • Oversized air conditioners and heat pumps do not run long enough to remove moisture from the air. Result: Your home feels damp and muggy.
  • A June 1998 Consumer Reports Magazine article cautions about being sold an oversized unit: While an oversized air conditioner may cool a space more rapidly…oversized machines might not reduce humidity very well.
  • Oversized units also tend to cycle on and off more frequently. This results in:
    • Large temperature swings
    • More wear on the equipment

Are you comfortable? This is simple. Proper sizing is the bottom line.

Unlike that family feast, if your system isn’t sized properly, there is a good chance it will not work properly for the life of the equipment. If you aren’t comfortable, you will think about it each and every time it runs. In cases where an existing system isn’t providing proper comfort, simply installing a bigger system without diagnosing the cause of the problem will often make matters worse. Fixing the cause of the comfort problem (poor insulation, duct leaks, restricted air flow or excessive house air leaks) is almost always a better solution than installing a bigger heating or cooling system. What’s better—these are a fix it once, little or no maintenance items, unlike that oversized equipment that will experience more frequent break downs (increasing your cost of ownership in both repairs and higher utility bills.)

Now…. I am starting to feel uncomfortable. In our next blog, I will address the Solution to Comfort Delivery Problem #3. Stay tuned. Please do not hesitate to contact us at (828) 483-4040, or via our website. We also have some articles on our website at www.comfort-central.com that can help.

Patient: “But Doctor, it only hurts when I do this…”

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Doctor:  “Then don’t do that.”

Unfortunately, we do have to open our utility bills…OUCH! And I am afraid there is no magic pill on the market to miraculously cure Comfort Delivery Problem #2: The Duct System is Restricting Air Flow. But we do have a prescription, guaranteed to cure the disease and alleviate some of the pain of opening your utility bill each month.

But just like a doctor we do need to run some tests to best prescribe your treatment plan. Afterall, “prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.”

First we will measure your lung capacity. Just kidding. We will measure total system airflow. There are several tools in our tool bag we utilize to do this. One you may be familiar with—the Magnahelic and Flow Hood. The other is the Duct Blaster mentioned in earlier blog.

We will also measure your system’s “blood pressure”—or its static pressure. At this time we will also visually inspect your duct system for restrictions.

So what is the Solution to Comfort Delivery Problem #2?

  • Remove the duct restrictions.
  • If the return ductwork is too small, increase it’s size to a properly sized return.
  • If there are too many bends and changes, redesign or add turning vanes to help the air move more efficiently through the ductwork. Every time there is a bend or change in direction of ductwork, the “Length” of the ductwork increases greatly. A great example would be a snorkel. It is about 5/8” in diameter, approximately 2 feet long. It works great allowing you to breathe underwater. But what if it were 100 feet long? Would you think it would work so well then? Remember the Smoothie and the Crazy Straw?
  • If ducts have been collapsed, replace them.
  • Install a new filtration system designed for your house and duct system. Believe it or not, our choice of filters can impact your system greatly. (Yes, your filters are extremely important to your comfort and health, as well as your equipment’s. We will visit this in a later blog.)
  • Inspect and replace registers and grilles that are installed in wrong application—or is not rated for your system’s air flow. (We will visit Register and Grille Choices in a later blog.)

When a properly sized, designed renovations are installed (properly sealed and insulated of course.) Retest final system airflow, and test for proper airflow balance to each room in the house.

“So Laurie, We are only up to Comfort Delivery Problem #2—are you saying it may not be my equipment but my ductwork making me uncomfortable, increasing my utility bills, creating repairs to my heating and cooling systems?” Very much so. Please give us a call if you would like to know more. But remember we have Three More Common Comfort Delivery Problems to go.

The Keys to the Kingdom

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

When I got my first car, I literally held the keys to the world in my hands. The places I could travel, the people I could see. Well, let’s just say my mind wandered further than the money in my pockets allowed me to go.

So would it is surprise you so terribly much that your home heating and air conditioning system is a key part of the family home? It is the key to your Comfort, Money and Air Quality (described in earlier blog: My First Car) and contributes greatly to your peace of mind.

With my first car, I had to learn what to expect, learn about things that were costing me money that I didn’t even know about. Really, I am not ashamed to admit it. I recognize today how much further I could have traveled if I checked my tire pressure often; back then, I just held the keys to the kingdom and I wanted to go!

So I would like to kick off our 5 Most Common Problems preventing your heating and cooling system from delivering comfort discussion with defining what you should expect from your heating and cooling system:

 

  • Even Temperatures Throughout the House.
    That’s right, you should not have hot or cold rooms, nor hot and cold spots in a room.
  • Controlled Humidity Levels
    You should not have a damp feeling when the air conditioning is running, nor should you suffer feeling the air is too dry when the heat is running.
  • Reasonable Utility Bills
    You should not have big surprises in hot or cold weather
  • Good Indoor Air Quality
    Your heating and cooling system should contribute to better air quality. It’s important to understand your system needs proper filtration and sealed duct systems. Some houses may need added fresh outdoor air.

These points are not arbitrary, they are so tied to comfort, system longevity, utility savings and whole home health, that the North Carolina State Board of Examiners for Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinklers (our licensing board: nclicensing.org,) have been publishing these items on the front of their Consumer Newsletters for the past two years. Your comfort is that important.

When you buy a new car, you are often rewarded with knowing what to expect and are helped to maintain it for best economy. But like my first car (the clunker,) there was not much guidance or help there. We do offer comprehensive evaluations and tune-ups where we would be happy to discuss the above so you can better know what to expect and receive real guidance on your heating and cooling system, you can sign up here.

Please stay tuned for our next installment of our Series: Five Most Common Problems

My First Car

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

My first car. What a clunker. After realizing the lessons it taught me, I think it should be a LAW that your first car be very used, fail to start a few times, and overheat on occasion. Teaches character.

It did teach me to ‘take care of my stuff’. The feeling of breaking down, coupled with the embarrassment of course, is a feeling you DO NOT want to revisit. I can honestly say that I’d never heard or cared a whit about “preventive maintenance” until that experience.

Now, I do it and preach it. I’ll spare you the fire and brimstone version but I do have a couple points that can help you.

To me, the more expensive it is to replace, the more important it is to maintain. People always think of their home, or cars here, and that’s good. But I have “dividing line” on these items.

If it has an ‘operating cost’, like a car, it’s even more of a priority to maintain it. But if doesn’t, like say a roof (which is REAL expensive) then all you do is fix it quickly if it leaks. I mean, what else can you do?

You expect me to get to this part, but your home’s heating and air conditioning system has HUGE operating costs. For the next several weeks, I will be visiting The 5 MOST COMMON PROBLEMS that keep your heating and cooling system from delivering comfort. Among the “COMFORTS” we will visit will be:

  •  Your Family’s Comfort – Your Family’s Comfort Depends on the Proper Operation of your Heating and Cooling System
  • $$$ (MONEY) – The cost to operate and maintain your heating and cooling system over its lifetime is many times larger than the purchase price of the system.
  • Air Quality — Your heating and cooling system can play a vital role in maintaining good indoor air quality. It can affect your health as well as the health of your home.

As always, if you get curious or need answers while awaiting my further blogs, please visit here to contact us directly.