Archive for November, 2011

What Size Heat Pump is Right for My Home?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

One of the most important questions to answer when purchasing and installing any new heating or cooling system, no matter what type, is what size is best for your Sherwood home. You need something that has enough capacity to heat or cool your whole home comfortably; otherwise your house will consistently be at an undesirable temperature.

Some people might think that the quickest solution to this problem is to just buy a system that they are sure has a capacity larger than the size of their home. You may even be tempted to get the biggest model out there, under the logic that the biggest is the best and it will be sure to be able to cover your whole house.

While this line of thinking might make sense to you, it’s actually not a good idea. The problem with this “solution” is that you can wind up with a heat pump that is considerably too large for your needs, which means your home will consistently be either too cool or too hot, and your energy bills will be unnecessarily high.

The best way to choose a new heat pump is to have a professional do a load calculation in your home. This can be a highly technical process, so it is best to leave it to the pros. However, here are some quick tips and other things to consider on the subject:

  • There are a lot of variable to consider in doing a calculation like this. A contractor doing a load calculation will consider the type of construction, what kind of insulation you have installed, what kind of windows you have, whether there is an attic, how many people live there and many more factors.
  • It never hurts to shop around. Get a few estimates from different area contractors, rather than just going with the first opinion.
  • Also, since heat pumps are used for both heating and cooling, different contractors may opt to do the calculation in different ways. Some will estimate capacity based on heating, while others will base it on cooling. Ask to see which is the case for each estimate you receive.
  • If you are getting a new heat pump as a replacement for an existing one, or even a different heating/cooling system, check the capacity of the unit you are replacing. That can be a good place to start. You will at least be in the right ballpark.

All of this means doing some extra leg work up front, but getting the proper sized heat pump is well worth the effort.

Most Commonly Asked Questions About Heat Pumps

Monday, November 28th, 2011

If you’re thinking about buying a new heat pump for your Gresham home, chances are you have some questions about these types of products and how they work. In fact, because these types of home comfort systems are relatively new to a lot of people, there are a quite a few misconceptions out there about how effective and efficient they can be.

Recently we’ve gotten some good questions from our readers, so we thought we’d like to pass along the answers so that others can benefit from the information as well.

If I Buy a Heat Pump, Do I Have to Buy an Air Conditioner Too?

That heat pumps are only able to heat your home is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about this type of equipment. Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air in one place and transferring it to another. That means that in the winter, your heat pump is able to heat your home by taking heat from the outdoor air and moving it inside.

However, in the summer, the heat pump is able to do the same thing only in reverse. When you switch on your heat pump’s cooling function, it will be able to take the heat out of your indoor air and transfer it outside. In this way, the same heat pump system can keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer without you needing to purchase an air conditioner or other supplemental comfort systems.

If I Choose a Heat Pump System, Will I Also Need to Install Supplemental Heat?

That depends on what the climate is like where you live and how warm you like to keep your home. In general, heat pumps can keep any home comfortable as long as the outdoor temperature is above 32°F or so. If the temperature outside drops below that, you may want to have some type of supplemental heating system just in case. However, a heat pump will still be able to provide some warmth at these lower temperatures and you may be able to keep yourself comfortable with a simple space heater or two.

Also, remember that these colder temperatures are most common at night when you would probably have turned your heat down anyway. As long as you live in a relatively moderate climate, heat pumps can do a great job of keeping your home comfortable all year long.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! We plan to celebrate by eating lots of turkey and enjoying some time with our loved ones, and we hope you do the same! Thanks for choosing us as your contractor. Here is a recipe from for Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake, a treat that will get your holiday started off right!

Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake

“Cheesecake lovers will applaud this addition to the holiday dessert selection. A layer of traditional cheesecake is topped with a layer of pumpkin pie flavored cheesecake and baked. ”


  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside.
  3. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping before serving.

For more details, click here.

Things to Look for When Buying a Heating System

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

If you are in the market for a new or replacement heating system and don’t know much about heating systems, you are not alone. Many Newberg homeowners are in the same boat as you. And many of that number put their trust in their 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

What to Do if Your Heating System Breaks

Monday, November 21st, 2011

What if the heart of your Oregon City home’s heating system – the furnace – stops working? The warm air that used to flow from your vents has been replaced by a chilly draft. It isn’t time to panic, but it is time to take action. Before you do anything, determine why the furnace stopped working. It may be something as simple as a tripped circuit breaker in your electrical panel. Check the circuit breakers first.

The pilot light in your furnace may have blown out. It can be re-lit if you follow the directions in your furnace owner’s manual. You can find answers on how to re-light a pilot light on the Internet, too.

If the shutdown has not been caused by an electrical or pilot light failure, there is still no need to panic. But another obvious question is: did you pay your last gas bill? Maybe you had a shutoff notice and either ignored it or forgot about it.

Now that you are convinced that the furnace has pooped out, here are some things you should do. First, find the name of a qualified heating and cooling professional. If you already use a heating contractor, contact them and schedule a service call.

While you are waiting for help to arrive, ensure that everyone is safe and accounted for. Make sure pets are nearby and protected from the cold, too. What you don’t want to do is use any appliance to keep you warm that is not designed to keep you warm, like a stove. If you have electric space heaters or propane heaters, carefully locate them in a well vented room (windows open a bit or portable fans circulating air). You don’t want any build-up of gases from fossil burning appliances, gases which could contain deadly carbon monoxide.

Huddle up everyone into a room and break out lots of blankets. You may even want to make an “adventure” of this – find a movie to watch and pop up a bunch of popcorn.  If your waiting time is more than 24 hours, you might want to call up a friend or relative and make arrangements to spend the night with them.

The main thing to remember is not to panic. Most qualified heating contractors, knowing the circumstances, will send out a repair person in a matter of minutes or within one or two hours. Just remember to avoid keeping warm by using unvented heating devices.

Is Geothermal Energy Renewable?

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Geothermal heating systems take heat from the ground and transfer it to your Gresham 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.

What Is Geothermal Heating?

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Having a geothermal heating system installed in your Hubbard home means that you will actually be able to heat your home with heat extracted from the ground. If this sounds a bit preposterous to you, you are certainly not alone. But this type of home heating does actually work and the technology is not actually that much different from what is used in a standard heat pump system.

Regular heat pumps are able to remove heat from the outdoor air and transfer it into your house to maintain a comfortable temperature in the winter. You may think that there is no heat in the outdoor air in the winter, but that is not actually the case.

Air contains a substantial amount of heat even at very cold temperatures, and heat pumps are able to work quite well, particularly when the outdoor temperature is above freezing. Conveniently, the same process used to heat your house in the winter can be reversed in the summer to extract heat from the indoor air, providing you with a year round home comfort solution.

Geothermal heating works in much the same way, except that geothermal heat pumps extract heat from the ground rather than the air. In order to accomplish this, a loop of pipes is installed in the ground near your house and your geothermal heating system will pump a liquid, generally either antifreeze or water, through those pipes.

As it passes through the pipes, the liquid will absorb heat from the ground and carry it back to a heat exchanger within your house. At that point, the heat from the liquid will be released into air, which is then blown throughout your house.

And just as conventional heat pumps can cool your house in the summer by removing heat and pumping it outside, so too can geothermal heating systems. They do this simply by letting the liquid flowing through the pipes absorb the heat from inside air and then release it into the ground as it travels through the pipe loop below your house.

Because the ground is never as cold in the winter or as hot in the summer as the air, geothermal heat pumps are actually able to work effectively in more extreme conditions than many traditional heat pumps. However, because they require an entire system of pipes to be installed underground, they can be quite a bit more expensive initially as well.

HVAC Maintenance the Whole Family Should Know

Monday, November 14th, 2011

If you think the most important thing a heating and cooling (HVAC) system can do is to provide an comfortable environment in your Cornelius home, you are right. But there is another thing an HVAC system does that is very important and it affects your entire family. It provides a safe indoor environment, too.

Besides warmth in the winter, a finely-tuned HVAC system can clean and filter the air you breathe. That’s important to people who suffer from allergies and is especially important for minimizing the spread of germs that cause colds and the flu. The key phrase in this paragraph is finely-tuned. If your HVAC system is not working correctly – out of tune – it can cost you a great deal in monthly utility bills and can be harmful to your health.

It is important for you and your family members to understand the basics of HVAC system maintenance so you can all understand the symptoms of improper maintenance and its consequences. For example, if anyone in your home is suffering from flu-like symptoms or are constantly drowsy or listless, they may be suffering from the a silent killer: poisonous carbon monoxide gas. This gas is formed during incomplete combustion of fossil oils like natural or propane gas. A malfunctioning furnace can emit carbon monoxide gases and you may never even realize it, until it is too late. Long-term exposure to the gas can cause brain damage and/or chronic sleepiness. It some cases, it can even cause death.

You may be able to diagnose the problem, but you aren’t qualified to test and repair a furnace that is creating deadly carbon monoxide gas. Your best bet is to call a qualified HVAC contractor who can diagnose the furnace and offer repair or replacement suggestions. But there are things you can do to prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide gas.

Check all exhaust vents, like chimneys and flues for any blockages. A blocked or partially blocked vent can cause the build-up of carbon monoxide gas. And never, EVER, use a gas or propane powered heater in an unvented area of your home. These types of heaters create various levels of carbon monoxide gas that needs to be circulated out of each room and replaced with clean, fresh air. So, your family can actively ensure that there is no debris, bird’s nests, animals, leaves, or snow in the ventilation system.

You can also “help” your HVAC system by keeping vents clean by vacuuming dirty vent grilles and, in general, keeping the home clean. The cleaner the home, the easier it is for your furnace to do its job and the easier it will be for you and your family will breathe. These are a few easy maintenance tips will keep you and your family warm – and safe – this fall and winter.

Common Heat Pump Problems

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Heat pumps are great pieces of machinery to have in your Aurora home, but they are not perfect. They come with their own problems and issues. Usually these can be fixed pretty easily, but it’s good to know what you are looking for.

Below are some common problems encountered by heat pump owners, along with some brief troubleshooting and repair advice. However, for any serious repair job, it is recommended that you call in a professional to fix the problem. This is to ensure the best performance of your heat pump, as well as for your own safety.

  1. No Heat – Obviously, this is a problem. A heat pump should do two things—heat and cool. If it’s not heating at all, something is wrong. Sometimes, this is just a matter of the power supply being interrupted. Press the “Reset” button on the power supply. If that does not fix it, it could be that the power supply has failed or the motor is overloaded.
  2. Incorrect Temperature – For example, you set the thermostat at 72 degrees, but even after several hours, the temperature won’t get over 70 degrees. This can be a problem with the sensor in the thermostat or with the heat pump itself. However, it could also just be the result of very cold temperatures outside. Heat pumps have trouble keeping up when the weather is consistently below 30 degrees Fahrenheit or so, so it may just need help in the form of a supplemental heat supply.
  3. It’s Noisy – Heat pumps are generally designed to run very quietly, so if you notice a lot of noise, there is probably something going on. Common culprits for this type of issue include loose connections, like screws, nuts and bolts. Check for any loose fittings on the heat pump. Also, make sure the contractor who does your annual heat pump inspection tightens these fittings as part of his maintenance routine.
  4. Frozen – This can be indicative of a few underlying problems, but the most common is dirt in the air filter. When filters get clogged, the heat pump can get frosted, ultimately leading to freezing. Check the air filter and make sure to change all air filters regularly.

Heat pumps can experience other issues, but these are some of the more common ones. Generally, though, heat pumps are pretty headache-free machines. Be sure to call a professional repair person is you experience any issues with your heat pump.

Components of a Geothermal Heating System

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

A geothermal heating system has three basic components and some add-on ones as well.

Its most distinguishing feature is the ground loops. The most common is the “closed” ground loop system, which is a series of pipes that are buried underground. These pipes contain a heat transfer fluid, comprised of antifreeze and water. This fluid absorbs heat from the ground and carries it to your Estacada home. This fluid also absorbs heat from the house and sends it into the ground to keep the home cool.

Examples of closed loop systems include the horizontal closed loop, which can be used in larger parcels of land (over an acre for example). The loops are placed typically placed horizontally 6-to-10 feet below the surface. A vertical closed loop design is recommended for smaller parcels of land and loops are often buried vertically approximately 20 feet underground. Other types of ground loop designs use well water to transfer heat in an open loop configuration, or have a closed loop submerged underwater in a pond or lake.

The next component is the heat pump, which draws the fluid from the ground loop. In a heat pump, heat energy is exchanged with the ground to heat or cool the home. In the heating mode, fluid warmed from underground flows through the heat pump. A fan blows across the pipe warmed by the fluid. Because the fluid is much warmer than the air inside the heat pump, heat energy is released into the cooler air. The cool air is warmed and distributed inside the home. The process is reversed for cooling. Cool fluid in the pipe absorbs heat from the warm air inside the home. Once pumped underground, the excess heat in the fluid is absorbed by the cooler earth.

The final component is the air handling or distribution system. Here, a fan in the heat pump’s furnace blows air over a fan coil and the heated cooled air is distributed through the home’s ductwork. Some distribution systems are hydronic, where hot water is circulated through radiators or radiant floor heat tubing. This water absorbs heat from the heat pump and then distributed throughout the home.

In some homes, both a forced air and hydronic system, often referred to as a “hybrid system” work together.

Optional components include a heat pump “desuperheater,” which is used to help with domestic hot water heating. In warm weather, the desuperheater recovers some of the heat – that would otherwise be sent to the ground loop – to help produce hot water. In cold weather, some of the heat pump capacity may be diverted from space heating for the same purpose. Desuperheaters save approximately 25% on domestic water heating costs.

Another component is an auxiliary electric heater, which is built into the geothermal heat pump This auxiliary electric heat is installed to allow heating and cooling technicians to size – or resize – a home’s geothermal heat pump system to assist the system during the few coldest days of the year. Auxiliary electric heat is also an emergency backup heat source if there are any operational issues with the geothermal heat pump system.