Archive for the ‘Ductwork’ Category

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.

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.