Archive for the ‘Comfort’ Category

For Health And Wealth, A Tune Up Is A Worthwhile Investment

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

( North Carolina, Pisgah Forest), March 20, 2013–Air, whether indoor or outdoor, contains pollutants such as dust, dirt, pollen, grease, mold, bacteria or moisture.  As the air moves through your cooling equipment the pollutants adhere to surfaces, greatly impacting your comfort system.  A priority of your Spring To Do List, should be cleaning or replacing your air filters.    However, it is also strongly recommended that you consider having your cooling system professionally tuned up.

According to a study conducted by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E,) a dirty outside unit can increase your monthly electric bill as much as 30%. The unit’s cooling performance is also decreased because it limits the coils ability to transfer heat.  This causes your compressor to work harder, and that generates heat.  On the hottest days, the PG&E study revealed you can lose up to 30% of your cooling capacity as well—leaving you feeling clammy and uncomfortable.

This extra work that the compressor is doing can actually create conditions that reduce the life expectancy of your unit.  Running hot continually affects internal lubrication, leading to acid formation that will eventually compromise the compressor.  And that is a very expensive repair that can be avoided with a little maintenance.

Another significant benefit of maintenance on your cooling system is ensuring your indoor coil and fan are clean and refrigerant levels are optimal.  All three can restrict air flow, causing similar concerns as stated with dirty condenser coils.  Since your indoor coil is a perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria, there’s a health impact too.

Studies by both a Vermont Utility and the California Energy Commission stated that incorrect or improper refrigerant levels were found in 66-75% of systems surveyed.  Refrigerant levels should not be adjusted unless the indoor/outdoor coils and the fan are clean.

Your savings from proper maintenance through lower utility costs, peak equipment efficiency, enhanced reliability, longer system life and improved indoor air quality will exceed the cost of a professional tune up in as little as two months according to a US Department of Energy Study.

When you do your part for yourself, society benefits too.  Summer air conditioning accounts for 60% of peak electricity load.  Power from peak generation typically costs a multiple of base load generation.  When more people keep their cooling equipment in good condition, peak power needs are slashed.  This benefits the environment as well as our wallets.

Comfort Central, Inc. provides Heating, Cooling, Indoor Environmental and Energy Services as well as installations and maintenance for the Western North Carolina Region.  To find out more, or to receive cited sources, please visit www.comfort-central.com.

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It was a picture on an industry magazine that summed it up for me.

Friday, March 1st, 2013
IE3 Quality Contractors

IE3 Quality Contractors

Comfort Delivery Problem #4:  The Heating or Cooling Equipment was Installed Incorrectly sounds like a problem you should never experience right?

Well hopefully, as I discuss the Solutions to Comfort Delivery Problem #4 you will feel confident not only in your installation but your choice of contractor.

Usually Heating and Cooling Equipment are part of a system.  It has several components but the two big ones you would normally think about are the Indoor Unit (Furnace, Air Handler or Evaporator Coils) and the outdoor unit, the condenser (straight air conditioning or heat pump.)  Only equipment that were designed to work together should be installed.  This very well could mean you may be facing replacing both the indoor unit and the outdoor unit.  In our industry we have a name for it, it is called Manual S.  We rely upon engineering data from the manufacturer so that we can ensure the performance and longevity of the equipment we select for you.  There are several factors that can cause a system mismatch.  As part of a Solution for Comfort Delivery #4, we need to confirm compatibility with the various components of your comfort system.

Once that wonderfully matched system is installed, there are a couple of other things that go a long way to ensuring you do not experience Comfort Delivery Problem #4.  For air conditioners and heat pumps, we must go through a start up procedure.  It actually starts during installation, but I won’t bore you with those details but if you would like a more comprehensive list, do not hesitate to contact us at mailto:customercare@comfort-central.com or (828) 483-4040.  But the part of the start up procedure that should become part of your permanent record is the Quality Installation Start Up Sheet.  Now many of us contractors work in differing climates, regions, have differing regulations, so ours could very well look very different than one from Buffalo, New York.  Ask to see your completed start up sheet.

However, even with existing systems you should expect to see that the refrigerant charge was measured and adjusted if needed to ensure peak performance.  And sometimes, a note stating we need to come back when weather is more cooperative to ensure it is at peak levels.  Yes, it is very true, when the weather is mild or cold—because of the properties of refrigerant, we will need to return to make minor adjustments.

This is one reason why we include a Comfort Club Membership with every one of our installs—there are actually some great benefits to this approach.  First, you know we coming out as soon as the weather warms up and we will definitely make the adjustments as needed.  Second, it gives us the opportunity to not only talk about proper maintenance of your system, but to show you what to expect.  And third, we simply like to visit our equipment and watch them run, they are almost like children to us.

But, I got off topic.  Another solution included in addressing Comfort Delivery Problem #4, is testing for carbon monoxide and proper operation for all oil and gas appliances.  This is one that your life could depend upon, so do expect it each and every time you have your equipment inspected.

Third:  Fix all chimney venting problems.  I know that checking for carbon monoxide and testing proper operation of your combustion appliances seems to address this one.  There are some exterior forces that could affect chimney venting.  This could be wind forces upon the home, negative pressure in the house creating back drafts.  These should be identified and corrected.

Finally, do a final control check to be sure the equipment is operating at peak efficiency.

Hopefully, you feel comfortable discussing the Solutions to Comfort Delivery Problem#4:  The Heating or Cooling Equipment was Installed Incorrectly with any of your service providers.  If not, do not hesitate to give us a call, we here at Comfort Central are always happy to help.

My next blog (as I now have guest bloggers you may need to search for) I will discuss Comfort Delivery Problem #5:  The House has Large Hidden Air Leaks which Create Hot or Cold Rooms.  This is actually a fun one.  There have been many books written on the subject, but I will try to keep it simple and straight forward.

Is it a Prescription for the Cure?

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

We visit doctors because we trust that they will diagnose and prescribe the best treatment to keep us healthy and happy. We trust they will run the appropriate tests, and they will follow up to make sure we are responding to their prescribed treatment.

Unfortunately, studies conducted throughout the United States by Utility Companies indicate that is not happening within Heating and Air Conditioning Industry. Which leads us to Comfort Delivery Problem #4: The Heating or Cooling Equipment was Installed Incorrectly.

Here is what we know. Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Systems Need the Proper Amount of Refrigerant. The amount of refrigerant gas installed in an air conditioning or heat pump system is critical to proper operation.

Utility Company Studies have shown that approximately 75% of all installed air conditioning or heat pump systems have either too much or too little refrigerant installed.

This is important because improper refrigerant levels reduce the efficiency and capacity of the equipment and can lead to premature failures. It is imperative that a trained technician should always verify and adjust the refrigerant charge.

But there is also a safety component we need to be aware of. Improperly installed venting systems for gas or oil furnaces and water heaters can let poisonous exhaust gases into your home. Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that even low levels of exposure can impact your health.

But also of concern (remember our discussion about duct leakage, Comfort Delivery Problem #1: http://www.comfortandefficiency.com/2011/07/i-hate-getting-straw-that-is-broken.html?), negative pressures in homes from duct leaks and imbalanced duct system airflows can cause backdrafting and spillage of exhaust gases into your home. So it is imperative for the health and safety of your family that a measurement of chimney draft and carbon monoxide (CO) production should always be done on oil and gas appliances.

backdrafting

Just as a doctor needs to follow up to ensure his treatment plan is addressing our health issues, we need to do our due diligence. I will provide more information in our next blog and provide Solutions for Comfort Delivery Problem #4: Heat and Cooling Equipment Not Installed Properly.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, or would like your system checked and you are here in Western North Carolina, please give us a call (828) 483-4040, customercare@comfort-central.com, or check out our website at comfort-central.com.

 

And Why Did You Buy ‘That’ Car?

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

What do you look for when you shop for a car? I admit it…my first car, was not much to look at or provide much in the way of performance. But…I had keys to the kingdom, and I was happy. As I got older and my finances allowed me to shop more based on features and benefits. I found my purchases were usually practical for my circumstances at the time.

Like when I lived in Maryland and commuted 50 miles each way 5 days a week, fuel economy and reliability topped my list. Or when I lived in Chicago, parking hard to come by, a compact won out. I still opted for budget model, mostly so I wouldn’t get upset about the scrapes and dents that showed up.

When I started to take road trips with my family, I actually did purchase a mini van—it was awesome…we even had the media center and the captain’s chairs were extremely comfortable for the long rides.

And eventually, I was able to purchase my “luxury” vehicle, in addition to my daily driver. Yeah, I admit it, I bought a Honda Shadow 750. I soon replaced it with my Harley Davidson Road King Custom.

Would you shop differently for that car, if every time you stepped on the gas pedal you had full throttle acceleration? Think about the implications. No more easing into parking spaces. Stop and Go traffic would be a white knuckle experience. The question of how many cup holders it has become less important hasn’t it?

So what does all this have to do with the Solution to Comfort Delivery Problem #3: The Wrong Sized Heating and Cooling Equipment was Installed?

Now days, in my heating and cooling world, we have many features bantered about that are available in some of the equipment options we may present you. These include Modulating Gas Valves, Variable Speed Motors, Variable Speed Compressors even. Technology is a great and wonderful thing. But the performance of these equipment choices are no substitute for proper sizing. In fact some of these systems, are so smart they will tell you they are failing and what is causing the failure.

Regardless of these new equipment features and benefits, they are all rated for their performance at “full acceleration.” So having the wrong sized equipment installed in your home is like having a car that goes full speed or is stopped.

See…had I simply opted to add Captain Chairs to my daily driver at the time (a Nissan Sentra) instead of investing in the minivan—well, it would have been silliness #1 and I am betting a lot more uncomfortable than the Nissan was as stock. None of the above mentioned features available in equipment today will forgive improperly sized equipment.

So what can you do about Comfort Delivery Problem #3: The Wrong Sized Heating and Cooling Equipment was installed?

First, we recommend you measure the whole house for air leakage. Utilizing a Blower Door, we can often uncover hidden air leaks causing you discomfort. A Blower Door is a tool that uses a large fan, temporarily installed in a doorway, to pressure test the whole house for air leaks. The air leakage rate is an important factor in determining the correct equipment size.

Second, the house’s insulation levels, windows, solar orientation and humidity control needs need to be carefully surveyed.

Third, with the above provided information, a thorough equipment sizing calculation is conducted. This ensures you will be provided the appropriately matched equipment for your house. Not based on features, benefits, or your neighbor’s home…but properly sized to provide the comfort you deserve.

What are the reasons why to buy “that” car? What ultimately motivated your final choice. For your comfort and safety, we just recommend you ask the professional to show you their homework. See, what good are features and benefits if they cannot be used as intended? Next blog, we will tackle Comfort Problem #4: The Heating or Cooling Equipment was Installed Incorrectly. Until then, please do not hesitate to contact us at customercare@comfort-central.com or call us at (828) 483-4040 with any questions. Again, our website also has some useful information: www.comfort-central.c om.

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.