Posts Tagged ‘Woodburn’

The History of Heat Pumps

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Thermal energy is the natural movement from warm temperatures to colder temperatures creating energy in the change of temperature to the mass.  A heat pump typically is a device that moves the air (or other matter) in the opposite direction from its natural flow.

A heat pump often uses an intermediate fluid called a refrigerant which absorbs heat as it vaporizes and releases the heat when it is condensed,  using an evaporator to absorb the heat (or energy) from inside an occupied space and forcing this heat to the outside through the condenser. The key component that makes a heat pump different from an air conditioner is the reversing valve which allows for the flow direction of the refrigerant to be changed, allowing the heat to be pumped in either direction.

Timeless Technology

While mechanical movement of this energy, what we can actually call a pump,  has been a relatively recent invention,  the concept of this principal of physics has been in use since ancient times. Harnessing the power of geothermal energy (produced from the heat of the earth itself), natural hot springs “pumped” warm air into cool spaces in China and Europe thousands of years ago.

By 1852, Lord Kelvin had theorized the heat pump, but it took nearly 100 years to actually build one.  In the last half century, the technological advances have made heat pumps part of our lives in many ways.

First Pump

In the 1940s a man named Robert Webber was motivated to build the first known heat pump while tinkering with his refrigerator.  Accidently burning his hand on the outlet pipes of the cooling system, he was quite painfully awakened to an idea about the transference of heat.

Recognizing the freezer was constantly producing heat to cool its interior, he connected the outlet pipe to the storage tank of his hot water heater, extended that into a flow through pipes which heated air nearby, and  then used a fan to blow the warmth into another room.

The first heat pump was a crude, but effective method to provide comfort.  Creating a full-size version soon after, Wagner could heat his entire home.

Heat and Electricity

Today Portland heat pumps are built in many ways and shapes to heat or cool buildings of many sizes.  Combined with geothermal forces close to the Earth’s surface or potentially  deep within its fiery core, heat pumps are able to energize the turbines that can produce huge amounts of electricity

As technological improvements are refined during this time of climate change and dwindling fossil fuels, heat pumps promise to play an important part in our futures.

If you are interested in having a heat pump installed in your home, call Porland HVAC professionals Clean Air Act Inc.!


Preventative Maintenance For Your Home Heating System

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” His famous quotation can apply to many things in life, including the heating system in your home. While heating systems in Ben Franklin’s time consisted of wood burning stove and fireplaces requiring little maintenance, today’s sophisticated furnaces and building controls require a good dose of preventative maintenance in order to avoid mechanical failures and inefficient operation.

For example, a furnace runs better and lasts longer when you maintain a regular schedule of filter cleaning or replacing. A dirty or clogged filter can restrict airflow from the furnace into your home’s ventilation system and cause the furnace to work harder, putting more wear and tear on it and taking months, if not years, off of its useful life. If your furnace uses disposable filters, check them every month and replace them if necessary. If your furnace uses an electronic filter that requires cleaning, check it on a monthly or semi-monthly basis and clean it with soapy water and a hose. Be aware of the change of seasons which could add extra pollutants into the air like pollens, ragweed, and cottonwood. This debris easily finds its way into the filters and creates an unhealthy indoor environment.

You can also perform a simple visual inspection of working components inside your furnace by removing the access cover and checking – with a flashlight – for loose fan belts, frayed electrical wires, or a build-up of dirt and dust. Simple solutions include tightening or replacing belts, repairing wiring, and vacuuming out dirt and dust with a hose attachment. All of these actions will keep your furnace working better and prevent future failures.

You can also do a visual check of your home’s ventilation system, paying close attention to any cracks in duct seams or holes in flex ductwork. Using sealing cement or duct tape can usually fix these problems and allow for better, unrestricted air flow. Again, these actions will help your furnace work more efficiently and avoid premature failures.

Maybe the best advice for preventing heating system breakdowns is to have a regular maintenance schedule with a local qualified heating contractor. Most contractors can set you up with annual furnace and ventilation system inspections. Having a service agreement – as a rule – gives you priority emergency repairs and discounts on parts and services. Besides that, planned maintenance is also preventative maintenance, something that will give you peace of mind in the long run.  Please contact your HVAC experts at Clean Air Act if you have any questions about these preventative maintenance ideas.

Troubleshooting Your Problematic Heat Pump

Friday, January 6th, 2012

If your Gladstone home’s heat pump isn’t working properly, there are a number of things that might be wrong. But, where do you start and how do you solve these problems quickly and inexpensively? Here are some tips for common heat pump problems.

Low Air Flow

Your heat pump is designed to provide steady air flow to the entire house. When it was originally installed, the technician sized it to do so. If it suddenly stops providing enough air flow to your entire house or if the air flow it provides isn’t as comfortable as you’re used to, something is probably wrong.

More specifically, there is likely an issue with the heat pump itself since the device will compensate for most external problems by running longer and harder. A quick inspection will often rule out serious problems, so you should have someone inspect your device as soon as you notice a problem.

Leaky Duct

If there is an external problem, such as leaky ductwork, it tends not to be as noticeable right away. Often, when ducts are leaking, air flow problems will occur only in certain rooms of your home. Even then, the heat pump might be able to maintain the right temperature in those rooms – you’ll just have a higher energy bill because of the energy loss in the ductwork.

The best way to determine what is happening and how best to tackle the problem is to have someone test your ductwork for leaks, a relatively quick process.

High Energy Bill

If your energy bill suddenly increases dramatically, it is usually due to energy loss somewhere in the transfer between the heat pump and the rooms of your home. Leaky ducts can be the culprit, but so too can the air handler or the heat pump itself. If you notice a sudden increase in your energy bill, look for other symptoms like uneven heating or cooling in certain parts of your home or noises coming from the ductwork or your air handler.

No matter what other symptoms accompany the increase, you probably need repairs. Your home may still be comfortable now, but the heat pump can only make up for the problem for so long and in the interim, it is being put under excessive stress that reduces its lifespan.

What Happens if My Heat Pump Loses Power?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

One of the advantages of having a heat pump in Canby is that they operate on electricity, so you don’t need to worry about having maintaining a supply of fuel to keep yours running. Where a furnace call for you to purchase supplies of oil or natural gas, and a wood stove means keeping potentially messy firewood around, a heat pump runs cleanly on electricity.

Heat pumps are good at using electricity, too. They are often able to produce heat energy that can be as much as three times the electricity they draw to produce it. This means not just convenience, but also a big savings, just by virtue of using electrical power.

The risk there, of course, is that if and when the power goes out, so does the heat pump. That means when a big winter storm drops a tree on the local power line, things can get cold inside mighty quickly. For these situations, you should have a backup heating solution on hand to keep everyone comfortable in the short term. And, as a responsible homeowner, you likely already have this taken care of.

But what happens when the power comes back on? Can you just fire your heat pump right back up without missing a beat?

The short answer is “no.” You should not do that, for at least two reasons. First of all, after any power outage, you should always take care to turn on appliances gradually over a period of time rather than all at once in order to avoid a spike in demand at the power company, which can blow a grid. That’s just a general tip.

Specific to heat pumps, though, there is a unique concern. If the heat pump loses power for more than 30 minutes, the refrigerant can get too cold to flow properly, so turning it right back on can cause the whole thing to conk right out. Instead, do the following:

  1. Make sure the heat pump is off. You can do this during the power outage.
  2. Once power comes back on, turn the heat pump to the “Emergency Heat” setting. This will allow the compressor to warm up slowly and get the refrigerant warm enough to start flow freely again.
  3. Wait. The time you need to wait varies depending on the size and manufacturer of your heat pump, so refer to the manual. In general, you should wait at least 6 hours.

After this process, your heat pump should be ready to resume normal operation without issue.

Is Your Heat Pump Malfunctioning? (and Happy Halloween Weekend!)

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Happy Halloween weekend from everyone at Clean Air Act Inc.! We hope you have a fantastically spooky time! And since there is nothing more frightening than a broken heating system, here are some warning signs that your heat pump is malfunctioning.

In a perfect world, you would never have to worry about things like malfunctions or repairs. Everything would just work without ever needing to be maintained or fixed, and you could spend your time on energy on more enjoyable pursuits.

Unfortunately, no such perfect world exists. Things wear out and break down, often at the least opportune time. And of course, your heat pump is not immune. Despite being a great all around machine, a heat pump can malfunction, just like anything else.

But how can you know whether your heat pump is not working right? Here are some signs and symptoms that are often indicative of common heat pump problems:

  1. Too Much Noise – Whether emanating from your car or your usually quiet heat pump, noises are often the first sign that something is amiss. You should expect your heat pump to make some noise; the compressor and air handler are two culprits. However, if it starts making more noise than it did before, something may be up. Sometimes this is as simple as some loose fittings, but it’s still something that should be checked out.
  2. The House Is Too Cold – Obviously, if you get a heat pump to heat your house, you expect it to do just that. So, if your home is too chilly, you know something is amiss. If it’s way too cold, the heat pump may not be running at all, which can be the result of a serious malfunction. If it is only a few degrees below where you set it, it may be a different problem. It could be that something is malfunctioning in the heat pump, but it could also be that the outside air is too cold for the heat pump to keep the house warm. In that case, the best solution is supplemental heating.
  3. The Heat Pump Turns Off Too Soon – If your heat pump seems to be shutting off too quickly, it may be short cycling. That means that it is turning off before getting through its entire heating or cooling cycle. Frequently this is simply caused by dirt or debris around the outdoor coil, in the air handler or in the filter. Check these areas out and clean them. In general, you will want to keep the various components of your heat pump clean in order to ensure the best performance.

These are just some of the main symptoms of common problems. Other things can go wrong with your heat pump, although it is not very likely. As a general rule, if you notice your heat pump performing strangely or doing something it hasn’t done before, it’s best to get it checked out by a professional.

Did You Change that Furnace Filter?

Friday, October 21st, 2011

No matter what type of furnace you have in your Cornelius home, it’s important to remember to change or clean the filter on a regular basis. This is a relatively straightforward process and doesn’t require any professional help. However, if you’re not sure how to go about doing it, you can always have your heating technician demonstrate the process for you on their next regular maintenance visit.

Indeed, changing or cleaning out the furnace filter is an important part of regular furnace maintenance. However, it often needs to be done more than once a year. The specific amount of time that you can go between filter changes depends on many things, but typically it’s good to check on it once every three months or so.

If you have a lot of pets or if anyone in your family has severe allergies, it may be worth it to check and change the filter even more often. Check with the manufacturer to see what their recommendations are as well. Some high performance furnace filters can last up to six months or even a year, but you should still check on the filter periodically to make sure that too much hasn’t built up on it in between replacements or cleanings.

You’ll need to make sure you have the right type of filter to install as a replacement as well. You can get this information from the owner’s manual of your furnace, from the manufacturer or by taking out and examining the current filter in your furnace. Some furnaces also have filters that are meant to be cleaned and then put back in and the cleaning instructions are usually located near the filter itself.

Of course, in order to change your filter you’ll first have to be able to find it. Most of the time, the filter will be located near the blower towards the bottom of the furnace. However, if you’re not having much luck finding it, your owner’s manual should be able to tell you quickly where it is and how to remove it. Before you go to open the chamber and take the filter out, however, be sure you’ve turned off the power to the furnace.

Changing your furnace filter can help improve the air quality in your home and it is also very important when it comes to keeping your furnace running efficiently and effectively. The filters are there to trap airborne particles that can get into the blower and clog it up. When that happens, the performance of your furnace will likely drop and you’ll need to have a professional come out and complete the necessary repairs.

How Much Will a High Efficiency Furnace Save Me?

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The furnaces you can buy these days in Woodburn are all much more energy efficient than those available even 10 years ago. However, that doesn’t mean that all of the current models are created equal. There is still a pretty big variation when it comes to energy efficiency and when it comes to price, so you need to really know what you’re looking for if you want to get the best deal out there.

The first thing you should understand when you’re trying to pick out a furnace is how energy efficiency for this type of equipment it measured. All furnaces come with an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating that reflects just exactly how energy efficient they are.

Any furnace you buy today will have an AFUE of at least 80%, but it’s possible to purchase models with AFUEs of 97% or more. Of course, energy efficiency is generally a good thing, but there are some other things to consider when you’re trying to decide just how energy efficient you need your new furnace to be.

What this calculation really comes down to is how much you’ll be able to save monthly and annually with a higher efficiency furnace. While your heating bills will certainly be lower the higher the furnace’s efficiency is, you will also pay more up front for the highest efficiency models.

This higher purchase price may be worth it, however, if you live in an area with particularly harsh winters. If your heating load is very high and you’ll be using your furnace a lot, your monthly savings will make up for the higher initial price of the high efficiency furnace in a reasonable amount of time.

However, if you live in an area with relatively mild winters and you won’t be demanding a whole lot of your furnace, then the amount you’ll save each month with the highest efficiency models really won’t add up to much.

Keep in mind that a furnace with an 80% AFUE is still quite efficient and will almost certainly save you a considerable amount monthly when compared to the unit you’re currently using.

The Top 7 Mistakes Homeowners Make with Home Maintenance

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Maintaining your Gladstone home is important, but it must be done properly. Learn these common maintenance mistakes so you can avoid making them yourself.

  1. Forgoing Annual HVAC Maintenance -Your home’s heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system should be thoroughly inspected each year. This is vital to keeping your house comfortable and energy efficient.
  2. Improper smoke and/or carbon monoxide detector maintenance – Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors should not just be installed properly, but also maintained properly. Test them monthly and replace drained batteries immediately.
  3. Ignoring manufacturer instructions – Not only instruction manuals are they important for proper installation of important equipment in your home, they also contain maintenance recommendations and schedules. Adhering to these instructions protects your investment in your home.
  4. Not replacing filters regularly – Speaking of regular maintenance, remember that the air filters in your furnace and air conditioning units need to be replaced regularly according to manufacturer recommendations.
  5. Not keeping gutters clean – Speaking of water damage, clogged gutters can overflow and cause problems in a hurry. Clean gutters and downspouts at the start of spring and regularly as needed.
  6. Insufficient cleaning (filters, ducts, vents, carpets, furnace room) – Keeping filters, vents and ductwork clean extends the life of your ventilation equipment and keeps energy costs down, as does vacuuming regularly and keeping your furnace room free of debris.
  7. Skimping on labor costs – Paying cheap rates for poor labor will cost more down the road when you have to hire another contractor to fix the first one’s mistakes.

There are other ways to err in home maintenance, but this list covers some of the more common doozies. In general, as long as you are careful, diligent and not afraid to call in professional help when needed, you will be just fine.

Simple Household Cleaning Tips on How to Maintain Good Indoor Air Quality

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

There are a lot of reasons to clean your Canby house. Guests, children, pets, simple peace of mind – without the right amount of cleaning, a messy house can quickly get out of control. But, don’t forget the health benefits of removing excess dust and sediment from your home with regular cleaning. Of course, air cleaners are one solution, but there are other ways you can help improve your air quality. To ensure your indoor air quality stays good, here are a few basic cleaning tips you can implement right away.

  • Regular Vacuuming  – Most people vacuum occasionally when it’s obvious that carpets are getting a little messy. Consider increasing the frequency of your vacuuming to at least 3-4 times per week, possibly more, especially if you have pets. Regular vacuuming removes a lot of the airborne particles that can get into your lungs and cause allergies or asthma flare ups.
  • Remove Junk from Floor Spaces – Toys, garbage, clothes, and other random junk sitting on the floor can create air quality problems, especially if they are near or around vents.
  • Bathe and Brush Pets – Pet dander is a top contributor to indoor air quality problems. Bathe and brush your pets once a week to reduce hair loss and get rid of all that excess dander that builds up over time. Consider it an investment in the cleanliness of your home.
  • Shoes Outside – Shoes bring in pollen and other outdoor pollutants. Take them off outside and you will reduce the number of contaminants that make it inside.
  • Remove Moisture from Bathrooms – Bathroom moisture results in mold growth and the development of other allergens. Wipe down the walls of your shower and mop the floor daily to remove excess moisture after showers.
  • Food Waste – Throw away food waste immediately. Food in the sink or garbage can attracts bacteria and bugs and can result in mold growth very quickly. Consider a compost bucket or pile outside where food waste can be disposed or purchase a garbage disposal to get rid of it immediately after eating.

There are dozens more little things you can do that will reduce the amount of allergens and pollutants that build up in and around your home. Consider creating a simple calendar schedule you can follow from day to day to keep your indoor environment clean and healthy.

What Features Should I Look for When Buying an Air Conditioner?

Friday, August 12th, 2011

There are so many different types and styles of air conditioners on the market these days in Gresham, it can be difficult to figure out what features are worth paying attention to when it comes time to buy one for yourself.

Of course, the most important thing to do is make sure you get an air conditioner that’s appropriately sized for the space you’re trying to cool. But what should you look for beyond that? Here are a few features you might like to have on the unit you purchase:

  • Energy Efficiency – The more energy efficient your air conditioner is, the less your cooling costs will be. It’s as simple as that. So when you’re evaluating devices, remember that it’s worth paying a little bit more up front for a more energy efficient unit. It will save you money in the long run and you’ll be doing your part to help the environment.
  • Dehumidification – Just about every air conditioner controls humidity to a certain extent in addition to cooling. But some do this better than others. There are also air conditioners with separate dehumidification settings for those days that are more humid than hot. Even when you need both cooling and dehumidification, it’s nice to have control of each of these independently.
  • Timer – Being able to program your air conditioner to switch on and off at different times of day is more than just convenient; it will save you money. You don’t want to leave your air conditioner running all day when you’re not home, but it sure is nice to come home to the comfort of an air conditioned space. If your air conditioner has a timer, you can have both. Just set the unit to come on a half hour or so before you get home and you’ll enjoy cool, refreshing indoor comfort right when you get home without paying through the nose to keep your home cool when no one is there.
  • Easy-to-Use Controls – As simple as this one seems, you might be surprised at how inconvenient the controls on some air conditioners can be. So when you’re evaluating your options, make sure you research how easy each unit is to operate. This can definitely save you from plenty of frustration in the long run.

Air conditioners come in many different shapes and sizes. To make sure your decision works best in your home, do your research well in advance. When the summer heat kicks in, you’ll be glad you did.