Air Mechanical, Inc. Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Scott County’

Common Heat Pump Performance Problems

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The heat pump in your home needs to work year round to provide heat and air conditioning. This is why you want to make sure it’s performing as efficiently as possible to save on energy costs and prevent break downs. You should schedule an annual maintenance check-up and inspection with a certified HVAC technician to test the efficiency levels.

However, there are a few common causes of performance issues to be aware of so that you can be sure your heat pump performs at optimal levels. Call Air Mechanical if you have questions about heat pump performance issues, or to make an appointment for an annual inspection and professional cleaning.

Airflow Issues

There should always be a certain amount of airflow (measured in cubic feet per minute) in your heat pump to maintain proper efficiency levels. If the airflow is less than 350 cfm per ton, it could increase your energy costs. You should make sure your Maple Grove HVAC contractor checks the airflow whenever your heat pump is inspected. Always keep the coils clean. Sometimes the ducts are not the right size, or the fan speed needs to be increased, but often cleaning the coils will help airflow, which is why it is important to clean and maintain the components of your heat pump. A certified technician will know what methods are best, so if you suspect an airflow problem with your heat pump, call a professional heating technician.

Air Leaks in the Duct System

Inefficient or poorly-designed duct systems may not distribute air properly throughout your home because of potential air leaks. There should always be a balance between the intake and return air in a forced air system, which helps maintain a neutral pressure within the house and increase efficiency. Some contractors argue over how tightly a house should be sealed for this reason, but if your heat pump is losing heat through leaks in the air ducts, this will greatly affect its efficiency.

Improper Refrigerant

Refrigerant leaks are another common cause of low performance levels in heat pumps. Most heat pumps already have refrigerant when they leave the factory and shouldn’t have any issues. Heat pumps that are charged with refrigerant when they are installed can sometimes have the wrong amount of refrigerant. Either too much or too little refrigerant will lower the heat pump’s efficiency and performance levels. Always check the recommended refrigerant amount or ask an HVAC technician before you add refrigerant yourself.

If the heat pump in your Maple Grove home isn’t working properly, it is also affecting your heating bills. Call Air Mechanical today to set up an appointment.

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Plumber’s Tip: Common Types of Building Supply & Drain Piping Materials

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Have you ever wondered what the various pipes in your home and other buildings are made of? How come some Bloomington plumbing systems use different materials than others? What are the differences between common types of pipe materials? This brief guide covers all those questions.

Plastic

The newest piping material is plastic. Usually made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), plastic piping has been in use in some form or another for about 50 years. Although many purists tend to shy away from plastic piping, it is popular as a material for both water supply and drain piping because it is cheaper and easier to cut than copper, and doesn’t present the corrosion problems of other metal piping materials.

Sometimes, plastic piping can crack or break because it was installed improperly, especially when done by an installer who is not used to working with ABS or PVC materials. These pipes have to be installed differently than copper would be, so it is important to use a contractor with expertise.

Copper

Despite the relatively recent popularity of PVC and ABS, copper has been and remains the industry standard for most piping jobs, especially building water supply lines. Copper has advantages over other metals in that it is softer and easier to manipulate, doesn’t corrode easily and isn’t toxic to humans and animals.

There are three kinds of copper piping used in plumbing, which are assigned letter types depending on the thickness of the pipe walls. Type M is the thinnest and is used for above ground plumbing, while Type L and Type K copper piping have thicker walls. Occasionally, flexible copper tubing is used for plumbing, but because of the high cost, use is usually limited to spaces where the extra flexibility is essential.

 Steel

Galvanized steel piping is not commonly used for drain piping or building water supplies any more, with both copper and plastics being far more common choices for new construction. The zinc coating on galvanized pipes stalls rust, but doesn’t prevent it completely, which can shorten the life of the pipe and cause flaking on the interior pipe walls.

Cast Iron

Although not often used in new construction, cast iron can still be found in a lot of buildings because it has been used as a plumbing material for more than a hundred years.

For more information about installing new pipes in your Bloomington home, give Air Mechanical Heating, Cooling & Plumbing a call!

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Geothermal Installation Steps for Andover Homes

Monday, May 21st, 2012

If you are interested in a geothermal installation for an Andover home, you are in the right place. If you are looking for natural a way to heat your home with the natural energy of the Earth, you have found the right heating strategy.

You probably have a lot of questions, not the least of which have to do with the installation process. You may assume that it is complicated, but in most cases it is quite simple. Here is a simple summary of the steps involved in installing a geothermal system:

  1. The very first step, before any kind of installation can even be planned, is to evaluate the ground on which your home sits to be sure it can support a geothermal system. The area must be evaluated for soil and rock composition, availability of ground and surface water and availability of land.
  2. Once you have determined that your yard can handle a geothermal system, it is time to choose the type of system you need. This depends a lot on the evaluation from step 1, as well as some other factors. For one example, if you have very little land available, you may need to opt for a vertical loop configuration. For another, if you are fortunate enough to have a small body of water on your property, you can take advantage of a pond loop installation.
  3. Your contractor will dig and/or drill trenches for placement of the geothermal pipes. Try not to be nervous. This only takes a couple of days and they will disrupt your yard as little as possible.
  4. With the trenches prepared, pipes can be placed in accordance with the configuration you chose.
  5. Your contractor will fill the trenches back in to cover the pipes loosely. You may want to work with a landscaper to fully “re-assemble” your yard where the pipes were installed.
  6. Finally, the installation team will hook up the geothermal system to your home, make any necessary final adjustments, and you are good to go!

If you’re interested in geothermal heating for your home, consider contacting Air Mechanical Inc today to discuss the installation process for your home.

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How to Shut Off Your Water Supply in Scott County

Friday, February 17th, 2012

In the case of a plumbing emergency, the last thing you want to do is watch as more water continues to pour into your home through a burst pipe, broken appliance or busted water line. So, the first step should always be to turn off your main water supply valve. Here are some tips for finding that valve and getting the water supply off as soon as possible.

Finding Your Main Water Supply Valve

The valve is almost always located in one of two places. It will either be outside at the entry point for the water supply to your house or it will be located in your basement or garage between the inlet and the main water line. In some cases, it may be even be under an access panel in basement. However, this is less common than the first two options.

Once you find the main water supply valve, turn it off to immediately stop more water from entering your home. If you notice that water is continuing to enter your home, you have a problem before the entry valve and should call the city immediately because one of their pipes might have burst.

Shutting Off Individual Appliances

In many cases, the problem is related to a single appliance. If this is the case, you don’t necessarily need to turn off the entire water supply – just the supply valve for the specific appliance or fixture. Every major water fixture and appliance in your home should have its own shutoff valve in an easy to reach place. This goes for every sink, toilet, shower, dishwasher, and washing machine in your home – not having those valves can be dangerous.

Once you have turned off your water supply, it’s time for plumbing maintenance. Make sure to keep track of everything you do (take notes if you can) and supply that information to the plumber both on the phone and when they arrive. It will help them diagnose and solve the problem much faster.  Call Air Mechanical with any questions.

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What Size Furnace is Right for My Stillwater Home?

Monday, December 12th, 2011

When it comes to your Stillwater home’s heating equipment, the right size is very important. If your furnace is sized correctly, you will enjoy a high level of indoor comfort, which you should. However, an incorrectly sized furnace may result in many cold spots in your home, an overworked furnace, or higher utility bills.

An undersized furnace will turn off and on frequently, which is called short cycling. Short cycling can lead to moisture in the system, causing less efficiency and damage to equipment from accumulating moisture in the heating system. The constant cycling adds to wear and tear on equipment, too. An oversized furnace may not be able to keep up with the demand for heat during the coldest days. The furnace may be constantly running and unable to keep up – adding to higher utility costs. So size really does matter when it comes to selecting the right heating equipment for your home.

But a big furnace does not mean it is right-sized. Have you ever seen a “five-way” gravity furnace? It was manufactured in the mid-1900’s and took up a lot of room – as much as half of a basement – while being extremely inefficient. The key here is efficiency. A furnace that works right is sized to the space it is heating, which does not include attics, crawlspaces, or uninsulated rooms (porches, mud rooms, etc.).

A furnace must make efficient use of its Btu’s, which is abbreviated for British thermal unit. Btu is used to measure a furnace size. Furnaces are often rated by input Btu, which is the amount of energy consumed when running. The output Btu may be different based on the system. And output Btu is the best way to select a furnace, since this is the actual heating capacity.

When sizing a furnace, the first thing to do is to determine the inside space that will be heated. If you are looking to heat your home, you can measure the square footage of each room (multiply width by length). The rooms should include bathrooms and hallways but exclude attics and crawlspaces. Add up the totals and match up the Btu output to the total square footage. If you aren’t sure of your calculations, call a qualified heating and cooling contractor.

There are many factors that go into heating a home and today’s energy efficient furnaces give homeowners many more choices. Whatever furnace you choose to purchase, make sure you do your homework and hire a qualified professional HVAC contractor to determine the best size furnace for your home.

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How to Add Freon to a Central Air Conditioning Unit: A Guide From Isanti

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

An air conditioner cannot cool your Isanti home without an adequate amount of Freon. So if you’ve noticed a drop off in the cooling power of your central air conditioning system, inadequate Freon levels may be the culprit. But before you try to add more Freon to your unit, there are several things you need to know.

Low Freon Means a Leak

The truth is that your central air conditioning system should never need to be “topped off” with Freon. The coolant in your unit is part of a closed loop system and doesn’t get used up like fuel. Instead it continues to circulate through your compressor, absorbing and releasing heat to keep the air passing through it cool and comfortable.

If the level of Freon inside your air conditioner drops below the proper level, it generally means there’s a leak somewhere in your system and you’ll need a qualified professional to find that leak and make the necessary repairs.

Professional Access and Expertise

Even if you’re inclined to add Freon to your unit, you’ll probably have a hard time getting your hands on it. As an EPA regulated substance, Freon can only be purchased by EPA certified technicians. If you’re able to purchase this type of coolant for your air conditioner, you’ll need to make sure you know what type your unit uses. Most air conditioners these days use either R22 or R-134a. It’s important that you only use the type of Freon that your air conditioner is built for.

Potential for Harm

Freon is regulated so strictly because it is an extremely hazardous substance. It can harm you or your family and it can do a lot of damage if accidentally released into the atmosphere. To top everything off, if you do accidentally release it, you could be subject to some hefty EPA fines.

In extreme cases, you can do irreparable damage to your air conditioning system by trying to add Freon inappropriately or without proper training. For all of these reasons, it’s best to let a certified professional check and, if necessary, top off the Freon levels in your AC system. For the minimal cost of this service, you can avoid risking the health and safety of your family as well as that of your AC system.

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Scald Free Showers and Bathtubs: Scald Prevention Methods From Ramsey

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

One of the worst things that can happen to you in a shower is when a sudden blast of scalding hot water strikes you unexpectedly. This is a problem for many people and usually happens when someone turns on the cold water at another tap in your Ramsey house. When that occurs, the cold water that you were using to regulate the temperature in your bathroom becomes temporarily unavailable and the hot water takes over.

This usually does not last long, and even if it does, you will likely jump out of the way quickly. But for the moment you are underneath that scalding hot water, some serious damage can be done, particularly to older people or young children whose skin is not as thick as that of an average adult. Also, in trying to get out of the way of the hot water in a slippery bathtub, many people have accidentally fallen and injured themselves more seriously.

So what can be done about these sudden and unexpected blasts of hot water? Well, recent developments in shower and bathtub technology have made it possible for scald free shower and bathtub fixtures to reach the market. These products are designed to maintain a consistent temperature in your shower no matter what type of water or how much is being used elsewhere in the house.

These scald free showers can compensate for the dip in cold water pressure that occurs when someone flushes a toilet in another bathroom or turns on the water in the kitchen. This is accomplished by the addition of a diaphragm that can immediately adjust to any variations in either hot or cold water pressure. With this technology in place, you will never need to worry about being scalded in the shower again.

Of course, these scald free shower heads and bathtub fixtures can cost a bit more than their conventional counterparts. But they are well worth it, especially if scalding water is a problem in your shower on a regular basis. You need to be able to keep yourself and your family safe in the shower and scald free showers are the best way to do that.

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How Does Geothermal Energy Work? A Question From Stillwater

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Geothermal energy is energy extracted from the ground, in Stillwater or anywhere. This energy is in the ground in the first place because the ground absorbs the heat coming from the sun. This heat is always there, even when it is very cold outside. In fact, even when the ground appears to be frozen, you can actually extract plenty of heat to keep your home nice and toasty.

While this may at first appear to defy logic, the way that geothermal energy can be used for heating your home is actually quite simple. A geothermal heating system typically consists of an indoor air handler with a fan, a series of air ducts for the heated air to travel through and a closed loop of pipe that extends into the ground below and around your home.

This closed loop of pipe is actually where the geothermal heat is collected. Some type of liquid, usually water or antifreeze, will be continuously run through this pipe loop. As the liquid passes through the area of pipe that is below ground, it will absorb the heat from the surrounding soil. Once the liquid makes it back up to the air handler, the heat is able to disperse, heating the air in the chamber.

This heated air is then circulated throughout your house through the ducts by a fan. After it has released its heat into the air in your home, the liquid will cycle back into the ground to absorb more. This allows a geothermal heating system to provide you with a constant supply of warm air.

Unlike a furnace, which mixes in blasts of very hot air with periods of inactivity to try and keep your house at a constant temperature, a geothermal heat pump is able to provide a more consistent flow of air that is just the right temperature to keep your home comfortable. This means that these types of heat pumps are running just about all of the time as opposed to furnaces, but they are designed to work this way and the constant operation does not cause any excessive wear and tear.

Another great benefit of geothermal heat pumps is that they are able to keep your house cool in the summer as well. Just as the ground is warmer than the air in the winter, it is also cooler in the summer. That means that heat removed from your indoor air can be transferred to the ground in the same way that it was transferred in during the winter.

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How Can I Get Better Flow from My Faucets?

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Most of us realize that a drain can get clogged or that the pipes in our home might require extra repairs every now and then, but rarely do we realize that when the faucet is not providing a strong, steady flow of water, it is likely because of a clog in the actual faucet. If you are suffering from low flow in your faucets or worse, sputtering and clogging, here are some tips to help fix the problem.

Why it Happens

The reason that so many faucets now have problems related to clogging is that they have been changed and redesigned over the years to reduce water flow. Older faucets would pour ridiculous amounts of water through the drain – not at all good for the environment. Today, aerators and other technology advancements greatly reduce the amount of water used, but also tend to cause these types of clogs.

Checking Your Aerator

The easiest way to fix a slow flowing faucet is to check the aerator tip for unwanted sediment. Despite filtration of tap water, over time small bits of sand, dirt, and other sediment can and will build up in the aerator. That sediment should be cleaned out of the tip of the aerator at least once a month to keep it from slowing the flow of water.

If a water main breaks somewhere or a problem occurs in the water supply outside of your home, this type of sediment might start to build up more rapidly and cause immediate clogs in your faucet. Other things that might build up include pieces of pipe or flux from plumbing joints that break free and enter the water supply. None of it poses a health problem, but it can be frustrating when it gets into your faucets and blocks the water supply.

Valve Cartridge

If the aerator is not the problem it may be in the valve cartridge. To fix this, you will need to replace the part. Each faucet can be very different, so you should refer to your owner’s manual (many of which are online) for how to take this part out of the faucet assembly. When you go to the hardware store, be sure to take the valve cartridge with you so you can get the exact piece you need for replacement.

The easiest way to avoid a clog in your faucets is to be careful with any repairs you make. While a water main break is not something you can control, you can control how the water supply is affected when someone does repairs on your home’s plumbing. Leave faucets open outside, turn the main valve back on slowly and check your faucet immediately after the repair to ensure no sediment gets clogged in the assembly.

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