Air Mechanical, Inc. Blog: Archive for January, 2012

Rosemount HVAC Experts Q/A: What Is Geothermal Heating?

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Having a geothermal heating system installed in your Rosemount residence 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.

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Heating Replacement Tip: Signs You Need a New Furnace

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Replacing your Brooklyn Center home’s furnace is probably not something you want to think about. After all, a new furnace is a big investment and not something you probably have too much experience with. And sometimes having your current system fixed or tuned up is all you need to get your home heating situation back on track. But there are certain situations in which it makes more sense to just go ahead and get a new furnace rather than simply patching up the old one.

For instance, if you have to call for either minor or major repairs to your furnace on a regular basis, it’s probably time to consider investing in a replacement. All of those repairs cost money and chances are that the furnace you’re paying repeatedly to replace isn’t going to last that much longer anyway.

Rather than continuing to dump money into a furnace that just isn’t cutting it anymore, you’ll be better off making the investment in a new unit. The truth is, you’re going to have to do it sooner or later and by buying a new furnace now, you’re actually saving all of the money you would have spent on repairing the old one for another year or so.

Also, a furnace that requires such frequent repairs is probably not functioning all that efficiently either. When you replace it with a newer model, you won’t just save money on repairs. You’ll also likely notice a considerable savings on your monthly energy bills because of how much more efficient your new model is.

Even if you haven’t been repairing your furnace often, you may be able to notice some signs that the old unit isn’t quite up to the task anymore. If you’re suddenly having some significant humidity problems in your house or if your home isn’t being heated evenly, there’s a good chance your furnace is on its way out.

And, in fact, even if your furnace is functioning just fine but is more than 10 years old or so, it’s very likely you’d benefit by replacing it. That’s because the newer furnaces available now are so much more energy efficient than their predecessors that the savings you’ll incur monthly will quickly make up for the initial installation investment.

Of course, you don’t want to get rid of a good furnace if you don’t have to. But if your Brooklyn Center home’s furnace is getting close to the end of its expected lifespan, you may very well benefit by putting out the money for a new one now so you can start saving right away on your monthly energy bills.

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Saint Michael Heating Repair Service: Inspecting Your Furnace Heat Exchanger for Leaks

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Like all the heating and cooling components in your Saint Michael home, your furnace needs regular maintenance and annual checkups performed by certified HVAC technicians. Here are some things that a professional heating maintenance technician can do to make sure your furnace is functioning safely.

One of the main concerns with any type of furnace is the potential for carbon monoxide gas leaks, which can be fatal if not detected. The heat exchanger is designed to prevent dangerous flue products from leaking into the home; therefore, it is important to inspect the heat exchanger for any cracks or excessive corrosion.

There are a few methods for introspecting a furnace heat exchanger for leaks and potential repairs (again, best performed by a professional HVAC technician):

  • Visual Inspection of the Furnace Heat Exchanger. Use a strong flashlight to visually check the heat exchanger thoroughly for cracks or open seams, particularly in areas that are susceptible heat or mechanical stress. Some seams may have been joined improperly during manufacturing, so be sure to check all joints. Also check for rust or corrosion in areas exposed to any type of moisture. Make sure you can gain access to all the parts of the heat exchanger. If you see any cracks, holes, or severe deterioration, your heat exchanger needs a professional repair. Ultimately, you may not be able to see all the parts of your heat exchanger, so further testing is recommended in addition to a visual inspection.
  • Flame Test. You can also observe the flame after the furnace is first turned on to detect potential damage to the heat exchanger. Turn off the furnace for at least five minutes, and sit close enough to the furnace to observe the burner flame. Have someone turn up the thermostat, and watch the flame for any changes in color or irregular patterns in the flame. If the flame makes any sudden changes, this could mean that the heat exchanger is damaged. Keep in mind that like the visual test, the flame test cannot determine damage to your heat exchanger alone.

In addition to increasing efficiency and lowering your heating bills, inspecting your furnace will ensure that your heating system operates safely throughout the winter. Along with having your heat exchanger inspected,  we recommend that you test all the carbon monoxide detectors in your home on a regular basis, as well as changing the filter every month and cleaning out the ventilation system.

If you need further assistance, or suspect any leaks in your furnace, you will need to schedule an appointment with a Saint Michael HVAC technician. Keep your home warm and safe this winter.

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Circle Pines Heating Repair Question: What is a Gas Furnace Draft Hood?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

As every Circle Pines HVAC contractor knows, a draft hood is a necessary part of any gas burning appliance. For a gas furnace in particular it ensures steady air flow to the burners to avoid flares or the pilot light being put out by fluctuation in temperature and air flow.

What the Draft Hood Does

The draft will change in the chimney as exhaust vents towards it – especially when going from cold air to hot. A draft hood is placed above the upper most part of the gas furnace to draw air into the chimney and makes it possible to draw more or less air through the chimney as necessary to create a constant flow.

This makes it possible for the burner to enjoy consistent air flow without any wind gusts or sudden temperature spikes or drops. Hot air, if not put through a draft hood would create a strong air flow through the burners.

A draft hood cools the air as it is released by the burners from 500 degrees F to between 300 degrees F and 350 degrees F. The cooling needs to be carefully calibrated to avoid condensation build up in the chimney however – a problem that occurs when the temperature gets too low.

Maintaining Pressure

The draft hood is a part of a larger system designed to maintain air flow to the chimney. For every cubic foot of gas burned, the furnace needs to have 15 cubic feet of air for combustion and another 15 cubic feet of air for dilution. A draft hood and the rest of the ventilation system make it possible to put a furnace that has many thousands of BTUs in the basement of your home and still supply it with enough air to burn gas and dilute the exhaust before it enters the chimney.

For all of these reasons, if you see your pilot light flickering irregularly, notice a backflow of exhaust or a burning smell in your furnace room, it’s important to call a professional who can inspect and repair the problem before it becomes any worse. Not only can gas burner exhaust contain high levels of carbon monoxide, it can be bad for the device and the chimney if it doesn’t vent properly.

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Furnace Repair Guide: Furnace Air Temperature

Friday, January 20th, 2012

When your furnace turns on every day and warms your Chaska home, just how hot is the air being blown through your vents? It’s a common question and while it varies depending on the type of furnace you have and the length of your ductwork, normally, the air is about the same temperature in most homes.

The Heating Process

When you turn on your furnace, it ignites fuel (gas or oil) or heats elements (electricity). A blower fan blows air through the heat exchanger and then into ductwork that distributes the heated air to vents around your home. When the combustion occurs and air is first heated, the temperature is between 140 degrees F and 170 degrees F.

This is extremely warm and could be dangerous to anyone if they got too close to it or it was blown directly into your home. However, as the heated air is distributed into your home it starts to cool. In some cases, it loses a significant amount of its energy in the ductwork.

This is intended, of course, because the temperature would be much too high if it was distributed directly to your rooms. That’s why high velocity ductwork often requires regulation to avoid overheating of the air. Cooling like this is normal and results in a better, more evenly distributed airflow.

When Something’s Wrong

To know something is wrong with your heating system, you must first understand what temperature air normally is when distributed through the vents. This will vary depending on which room you are in and how big your home (and furnace) are. However, if you notice a sharp drop off in comfort level in your home, it takes longer to heat rooms when cold or if that heating is suddenly uneven, it may be time for someone to inspect your furnace and check for potential problems.

A technician will then check to see if the air is being heated to the target 140-170 degrees F or if heat is being lost in the air handler or ductwork. There are a number of issues that can contribute to lost heat in your heating system – the easiest way to be sure the problem is solved properly is to call a Chaska professional when you notice the problem.

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Andover Duct Cleaning -$50 Off!

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

While it might be the last you think about when you do home maintenance, dirty air ducts can make a big difference in how well your heating and air conditioning system works. Not only do dirty air ducts lead to poor indoor air quality, but they can also make your heating much more inefficient. Dirty air ducts can cause your home to be heated unevenly, costing you money and keeping your home from being comfortable for you and your family. Since we know how important clean ducts are, we are offering a special deal: $50 off duct cleaning!  Especially with your house sealed up tight for the winter, you don’t want to have your indoor air quality suffer. Give us a call today to learn more!

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Happy Martin Luther King Day from Your Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul Area HVAC Contractor!

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Happy Martin Luther King Day! This holiday is not just about celebrating civil rights but also about serving your community. If you have the day off today, why not try spending it helping others? From volunteering at an animal shelter to helping the homeless, there are hundreds of ways you can make your community a better place to live. Have a great holiday!

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Plumbing Guide: How to Prevent Bathroom Water Damage

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Water damage. Even the mere mention of potential damage from excess water in your Fridley house is enough to send a chill down your spine. However, there are a number of things you can do to avoid such damage, especially in the bathroom.

The Bathtub

The biggest single contributors to water damage are the shower and bathtub, where gallons upon gallons of water are distributed every day. You can minimize damage by doing the following:

  • Tiles – Check for missing or cracked tiles and replace them immediately. Supplement the tiles with grout that is properly sealed and check for any potential leaks.
  • Keep it Dry – There is a lot of water in your bathroom. Keep it off the floor by drying it up after a shower, hair washing or any other moisture producing activity in the bathroom. Make sure you minimize the risk of excess water by placing bathmats on the floor outside your shower.
  • Exhaust Fan – Water builds up in a bathroom because there is no moving air. Humidity can be just as damaging as actual wetness, especially if it settles in cooler temperatures. To avoid this happening, install an exhaust fan attached to the light switch to draw out any moisture after a shower.

Sinks and Fixtures

  • Check Under the Sink – Look under the sink and make sure there are no drips from the faucet and no leaks from the trap. You may simply need to check and clean the trap once every month or so.
  • Seals – Check sink seals on a regular basis for cracks or leaks and replace them when necessary.
  • Speed of Drainage – If the sink drains slowly, the drain may be clogged. Check the trap and if that doesn’t help, pour a mixture of vinegar and baking soda down weekly.
  • Upgrades – Upgrade your fixtures to save water. Toilets eat water to the tune of 40% of your annual consumption and your shower head can be made almost twice as efficient without cutting into your comfort level. If you notice a drip, crack or leak from any of these devices, simply upgrade them and you’ll save a lot of water (and reduce how much of it could leak if a problem occurs in the future).

There are a lot of ways to avoid water leaks in your bathroom. Keep a close eye on things and it will be much easier than if you waited for a full blown problem to develop.

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HVAC Contractor Tip: 5 Reasons to Replace Your Furnace

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Many Blaine homes are heated with furnaces, since they generally provide safe and efficient heat.  Furnaces have also improved dramatically over the years as manufacturers find ways to make them more efficient. Even if your furnace has been reliable for many years, it may be worth the money to replace your old furnace with a newer, more efficient model.

Here are five major benefits to upgrading your furnace.

1. Lowering Your Utility Bills

Whether you realize it or not, your current furnace could be costing you more than it should in heating bills. If your furnace is 15-20 years old, it’s probably not heating your home as efficiently as the newer models with higher AFUE ratings. Even if your heating system has been replaced within the last ten years, the technology has advanced enough to consider an upgrade.

2. Fewer Repairs

Repair costs can add up if you are constantly repairing your furnace. Routine maintenance for your furnace can help reduce the need for repairs, but as furnaces age, they tend to need more repairs and replacement parts. If you need frequent repairs for your furnace, it may be time to replace it with a newer one.

3. More Consistent Heat

While maintaining consistent temperatures throughout your home involves several factors, such as insulation and thermostat control, your furnace could also be the reason you aren’t getting enough heat to all parts of the house. If some rooms are colder than others, or if your heating bills have recently gone up, it may be time for a furnace replacement.

4. Reduce the Chances of a Breakdown

When a furnace breaks down, it not only leaves you without heat, but it is also a major expense. Budgeting for a new furnace before it breaks down will put less financial burden on you than needing an emergency furnace replacement. Newer model furnaces are also more reliable and less likely to give you problems if maintained properly.

5. Safety

There’s higher potential for safety concerns with older or poorly maintained furnaces. In addition to fire hazards, carbon monoxide poisoning is another serious threat. When the heat exchanger stops working because it’s corroded or faulty, carbon monoxide can leak into the home. If you’ve had your furnace for more than 20 years, it could create safety hazards that you may be unaware of.

No matter how long you’ve had the furnace in your home, it’s always wise to speak with a qualified Blaine HVAC technician about furnace upgrades, particularly if you have expensive heating costs. Call Air Mechanical today to talk with one of our heating experts about furnace upgrades.

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Heating Maintenance Guide: Furnace Safety

Monday, January 9th, 2012

There are many advantages to a properly operating furnace, and the most important ones are the safety and comfort of your Chanhassen home’s occupants. There are several things you can do to ensure the safe operation of your furnace.

Here is a checklist of ideas:

  • Clean or change furnace filters on a regular basis. Replace disposable filters and clean permanent filters using water or cleaning solutions. Your owner’s manual or a qualified heating contractor can suggest a regular maintenance schedule.
  • Check the exhaust vent from the furnace. Clear obstructions such as leaves, clothing, or animal nests from the vent pipe or chimney. Keep roof exhaust vents clear of snow. If there is a faulty exhaust system (like a blocked flue), of if there are cracks and leaks in the pipes or improper adjustment of the burner, or if there is lower air pressure indoors than outside, the furnace can create serious indoor air pollution.
  • A clear air intake is important too, since furnaces need fresh air to “breathe” and complete the fuel burning cycle. Again, check for debris, snow, or animal nests in intake pipes.
  • If you have an older gas furnace, you may want to install a supplementary induced-draft fan that reduces the possibility of backdrafting. Some furnaces have automatic shutoff devices that turn off the furnace if it begins to backdraft.
  • Check internal components such as the blower motor and vacuum any dirt. Check belts and pulleys for excessive wear. You should consult your owner’s manual for any suggested maintenance tips on internal working components.
  • You may also want to check the pilot light to see if it is working and if it producing an even, blue flame. If the flame is uneven, it may be a sign of incomplete gas combustion, which can result in the creation of dangerous carbon monoxide gas.
  • Ensure that your thermostat is operating correctly by raising or lowering the temperature settings to make sure the furnace cycles on and off.
  • Install and maintain battery or hard-wired smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Externally vented natural gas furnaces, when properly designed and installed, will operate safely for years. But if you detect a problem, use the most common solution – contact a Chanhassen heating professional to check out your furnace.

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