Air Mechanical, Inc. Blog : Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Park’

Geothermal Contractor Tip: The Growing Popularity of Geothermal Heating and Energy

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

It’s no secret that use of alternative energy sources is on the rise in Blaine. Solar panels, windmills and hybrid cars have been heavily publicized over the past several years as people and governments try to employ energy strategies that are more efficient, friendlier to the environment and more cost effective.

One alternative energy option that you may have overlooked amid the press that the above topics have received is geothermal heating and cooling. That is, using the existing energy of the Earth as a means to heat and cool your Blaine home.

If you have in fact been unaware of geothermal heating and energy thus far, it is rapidly growing in popularity as an alternative energy source. According to an article in GOOD Magazine, there are projects currently underway that would double the United States’ capacity to produce electricity from geothermal energy. In the summer of 2011, the U.S. Congress approved $70 million in funding to research geothermal energy.

It’s not just the government getting in on the act, either. Some contractors report anecdotally that over the past five years or so, demand from customers for geothermal heating installations has risen noticeably.

What’s all the fuss about? Well, for starters, geothermal heating can lower heating costs dramatically by reducing reliance on electric or fuel-based heat. Anyone that has received a staggeringly high home heating bill knows that any relief would be welcome.

Additionally, geothermal heating has the advantage of being hidden from sight. Unlike solar panels that have to be mounted on your home or a towering windmill that dominates your property, geothermal pipes run underground. Once they’re installed, no one even knows they’re there.

It’s not all great news about geothermal. You’ll need some extra land to house the underground coils, and the cost of installation is usually higher than other Blaine heating systems.

So, geothermal may not be for everyone, but if you are looking for an alternative energy solution, you have some land and you can invest some money upfront to see savings each month, then it might just be for you.

For more information, give Air Mechanical a call today!

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How Do I Check a Gas Furnace Draft Pressure Switch? A Question from Shoreview

Friday, November 18th, 2011

There are many reasons why a furnace stops working and in many cases, a Shoreview homeowner can perform some simple diagnostics to pinpoint the problem. Finding the problem is one thing – fixing it is another. When in doubt, don’t try it yourself. Call a qualified professional.

But let’s look at one possible problem and solution you may be able to perform yourself – testing the draft pressure switch. The draft pressure switch on a gas furnace allows an electrical current to pass through to ignite the furnace. The pressure switch monitors the draft conditions and won’t allow the furnace’s gas valve to open unless draft is correct.

If the switch is malfunctioning, so too will (or will not) the furnace.

The best way to locate the switch is by consulting with your owner’s manual or by going online and simply typing in the words “gas furnace draft switch.” It is identifiable by its round size and is bolted to the outside of the furnace. It should be nearby the draft inducer motor because the two are connected by a metal tube. The tube may sometimes be the culprit, too. A tube that is blocked with condensation may cause the switch to go bad.

To check for proper function, first turn off power to the furnace, either by shutting down the “on’ switch at the furnace or shutting off the circuit breaker.

Use a volt ohm meter to check if the switch is opening and closing properly. Start by zeroing out the meter’s probes by touching the tips together. Using the dial (could be analog or digital), set the meter to 24 volts. Ground the black probe by attaching it to any metal part of the furnace. Then place the end of the red probe on the metal tube connecting the draft pressure switch to the draft inducer motor.

If the switch is working properly the meter should read at least 24 volts, or very near that. If the reading is short of 24 volts, the switch is not working correctly. At that point you may decide to replace it or call a professional to do the task (recommended).

Always remember that there are many sources which will help you diagnose and repair a problem, especially those available through the Internet. If you search YouTube.com you will find many videos advising you on how to repair certain components. Use all of the resources available to you and keep the phone number of a qualified and professional heating and cooling contractor nearby.

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What Is the Most Efficient Way to Heat My Home? A Question from Wazata

Monday, November 7th, 2011

When it comes to Wazata home heating, efficiency is one of the main factors most people take into consideration. There are quite a few different options in terms of home heating, including oil, gas and electric furnaces, heat pumps, and boilers, and each of these have their own set of advantages and disadvantages depending on your own particular situation.

For better or worse, there is no one system that is universally more energy efficient and effective than the others. The one that will turn out to be the best choice for you is the one that fits best with your specific heating needs, the climate you live in and the relative price of the fuel sources available to you.

For instance, if you live in a relatively moderate climate, a heat pump may very well be a good option for you. These systems are able to operate much more efficiently than furnaces because they extract heat from the air rather than generating it themselves. That means that in the winter, a heat pump can take heat from the outdoor air and pump it indoors to heat your home. In the summer, the heat pump can actually do the opposite, taking the excess heat from indoors and transferring it out to provide you with a yearlong temperature control solution.

Heat pumps generally run on electricity which can be expensive, but since they use so much less energy than something like an electric furnace, they can still be a very energy efficient home heating option. However, these systems are not as effective in areas with harsh, long winters, and so would likely require a supplemental heating system as well. Also, the lower the outside temperature, the less efficient a heat pump is going to be.

Furnaces, on the other hand, are quite effective at heating homes no matter how harsh or cold the climate. Gas furnaces are generally the most popular of the models available now, mostly because the cost of natural gas is lower in most areas compared to the cost of other potential fuels.

However, it may be worth considering an oil or electric furnace if these types of energy sources are relatively inexpensive in your area. No matter what type of furnace you get, you’ll be able to choose how energy efficient you want it to be as well, with lower efficiency 80% AFUE furnaces costing substantially less than those with an AFUE of 90% or more.

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Heat Pumps and Energy Efficiency: A Tip from Ramsey

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Heat pumps offer a number of great benefits. For one, they are inclusive heating and cooling solutions, so they can maintain your Ramsey home at a comfortable temperature year round without the need for an additional system.

They run on electricity, so you don’t have to worry about the inconvenience of additional bills and keeping a fuel supply around. They are also quiet and relatively easy to maintain—the list goes on and on. The point is, provided you live in a climate where heat pumps can operate properly, they make for great heating and cooling options.

One other huge advantage of heat pumps is that they are very energy efficient, often much more so than other heating and cooling options. For one, the heating efficiency of heat pumps can range from 150-300%, meaning that the amount of heat energy they are able to produce is 1.5 to 3 times greater than the amount of electricity they draw to do it. That is an incredibly efficient exchange.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency awards the EnergyStar to devices and appliances that surpass energy efficiency guidelines. Heat pumps that have earned the EnergyStar are even more efficient than their brethren, sometimes by as much as 9%, according to the EPA. If you have an older heat pump in your home already, a newer EnergyStar rated model may be as much as 20% more efficient.

While these numbers by themselves may not seem Earth shattering, consider two things. First, in an age of constantly escalating energy costs, any savings are welcome. Second, rewarding energy efficient homes has been a focus of the federal government for a few years. To that end, homes with EnergyStar rated heat pumps installed may be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to 30%. So, not only do these devices help you save on your bills, but on your taxes as well.

The benefits of heat pumps are numerous, but perhaps none is a bigger plus than their extremely efficient use of energy. You can save electricity and save money, all while keeping your home comfortable year round.

If you are considering a heat pump for your home, these benefits are important to keep in mind while making your decision. For more information, talk to your local contractor.

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Home Energy Myths: Some Information From Bloomington

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Measuring and controlling your Bloomington home’s energy consumption is a little tricky. There are plenty of talking heads and information resources on the Internet that tell you how it’s supposed to work, but in most cases you’ll find that so called common knowledge about your home’s energy use isn’t always true. Here are some of the most common myths and how to differentiate from the truth.

  1. Conservation and Efficiency Are Different – Many people think that by getting an energy efficient appliance, they are conserving energy and helping the environment. To some degree this is true. However, in reality, you are merely reducing how much energy it takes to complete a task. Conservation is finding ways to actually stop using energy for common tasks. Taking baths instead of showers, not watering your lawn, and turning off lights completely are all examples of conservation.
  2. Turning Off an Appliance Saves a Lot of Energy – Regardless of whether an appliance is physically on or not, it still consumes power as long as it is plugged in. The only way to completely stop your energy consumption is to unplug an item completely or use a power strip that blocks access to electricity when the switch is turned to off.
  3. Turning on Items Creates a Power Surge – While turning a computer on and off uses a bit more electricity than simply leaving it on all the time, it isn’t a significant difference. In fact, the longer you leave an appliance on, the more it wears down and the faster it starts to use extra power to remain effective.
  4. One Energy Source is Cheaper than Another – This depends largely on the type of energy source you have for heating and cooling, the cost of that source and how much heating and cooling you need. A single portable electric heater is cheaper than running your entire oil heating system. But, electric heaters are rarely cheaper if you use them to heat your entire home.

Myths abound when it comes to energy use around your home. Make sure to get all the facts before making decisions that could end up costing you more money in the long run.

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When to Replace Your Air Conditioning System: A Tip From Oak Grove

Monday, September 5th, 2011

One of the last things you probably want to think about is replacing the current air conditioning system in your Oak Grove home. However, the time will come when you can no longer ignore the fact that your air conditioning system is not getting the job done like it used to. And considering your replacement options early can help save you a lot of money and aggravation in the long run.

Before you can start looking at replacement options, though, you need to be aware that the time has come to replace your current model. But how can you tell that your air conditioner is on its way out? Well, there are actually quite a few warning signs that, if you are attuned to them, will help you determine whether or not it is the right time to replace.

First of all, if you have to call for repairs, even minor ones, on a regular basis, chances are that you would be better off replacing rather than continuing to patch up the air conditioning system you already have. This is true for several reasons including the fact that a system that requires repairs so often is probably not going to last you much longer anyway.

By replacing now rather than continuing to pay for repairs, you will save a lot of money in the long run. After all, you are going have to pay for the new system sooner or later, so you might as well skip the shelling out of extra cash to repair a system you are just going to get rid of anyway.

Problems like inadequate or uneven cooling or mismanaged humidity levels in your home are a good sign that something is not working right in your air conditioning system and that it may be time to replace. At the very least, you should call someone out to take a look and let you know what type of repairs you are looking at.

You should also think about replacing an older system even if it is still working fine because the newer systems available are much more energy efficient than even the top of the line models available ten years ago. While you will have to pay the purchase and installation cost up front, you will immediately begin to save substantial amounts on your monthly cooling bills.

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Green Your Plumbing: A Tip From St. Louis Park

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

These days, “green plumbing” is getting increasing attention in St. Louis Park.

“Green plumbing” helps the environment by doing one or more of the following:

  • Saving water
  • Saving energy
  • Using environmentally-friendly materials

There are a wide range of green plumbing products that can make a big difference in how much water and energy your home uses. They range from simple accessories that cost less than $20 to major home remodels. Here are a few of them, ranging from the simple and immediate to larger investments with a longer-term payback.

  • Low-flow showerheads and faucet accessories (often called “aerators”). Check the side of your current faucet and showerhead to see if they use more than 1.5 GPM and 2.0 GPM, respectively. If they do, you can benefit from an upgrade. Look for the EPA WaterSense label to be sure that your new showerheads and faucet accessories are water-efficient.
  • Hot water heater blankets and pipe insulation.You don’t need to insulate your hot water heater and  pipes to prevent freezing, but doing it will save money, water, and energy, and (as a bonus) you’ll enjoy hotter showers in the winter. This is a simple DIY job and the materials are extremely affordable.
  • Touch-free faucets. When you’re not actively using them, touch-free faucets shut off. According to industry estimates, the result can be a water savings of up to 70%. Touch-free faucet technology has improved greatly in recent years, and sensors are now very reliable. If you like your current faucet and want to keep it, there are also touch-free faucet conversion kits.
  • Dual-flush toilets. As the name suggests, these toilets have two different flushes: a “half-flush” for liquid waste, and a “full flush” for solids. Dual-flush toilets are standard in many European countries and are becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. because of their water-saving potential (up to 68% over conventional toilets) and sleek styling.
  • Sprinkler system upgrades. Much of the water from spray sprinkler systems evaporates. Trickle and drip irrigation systems can improve water efficiency by delivering smaller amounts of water directly to the base of the plant. Other products, such as pressure regulating spray heads and rotors and automatic rain sensors, can also save thousands of gallons a year. Another option is to re-use laundry waste water by diverting it into the garden. This can be a DIY project or can be built directly into your plumbing. Check with your local authorities to find out if this is permitted in your area.

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Showerheads that Save Water: A Tip From Mounds View

Friday, August 5th, 2011

If you are looking for ways to save water in your Mounds View home, a low-flow shower head is a great place to start. There are many different types of low-flow shower heads on the market right now, so you should have no trouble finding one that suits both your needs and your budget. However, it can be difficult to determine which one is right for you, so it is best to learn a bit about your plumbing options before you make a purchase.

The goal of low-flow shower heads is to use less water. But you do not want to compromise your shower experience at the same time. So you need to find a low-flow shower head that can provide the same feel as a regular shower head with less water. Thanks to plenty of new technological developments, this is quite possible, but not all low-flow shower heads can accomplish this effectively.

The first thing you want to look for in a low-flow shower head is a pressure compensating system. This allows the shower head to provide a consistent stream of water regardless of your water pressure. One of these shower heads makes sure you always have a powerful enough spray for a comfortable shower even when you do not have a lot of water pressure. They do this without wasting water if your water pressure is very high.

You must also decide whether you want a shower head that aerates the water. An aerating shower head adds air to the water spray to make it feel like there is more water than there actually is. Many low-flow shower heads use this technology to enhance the feel of their spray and it can work quite effectively. But aerating the water also tends to cool down the water, meaning that you will have to turn on more hot water (and use more energy) to maintain a comfortable temperature.

Fortunately, there are some low-flow shower heads that do not aerate the water and are still able to provide a comfortable and complete showering experience. You will have to do a bit of digging to find them, but it will be well worth it to you in the long run. If you want more information, contact your local plumbing professional.

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Whole House Fans vs. Attic Fans

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Air temperature in your home is a big issue in the summer. The cost of maintaining your air conditioner as it runs nonstop for hours at a time can be very high – as much as $4,000 for a single year of cooling. That’s why a lot of families turn to fan solutions to reduce how much they spend on their AC units each year.

How Fans Work

A fan draws in outdoor air to your home. That outdoor air will cool your home when the outside temperature is cooler than the indoor temperature. If the weather outside gets much warmer than 80°F, you will probably still need to use your air conditioner at least a little, but if it’s in the 70°F-80°F range, the temperature inside can be maintained simply by blowing cooler outdoor air into your home.

A whole house fan solves this problem by pumping fresh air into your home through the ductwork you already have in place. When the temperature outside is low enough, you’ll enjoy a much steadier, more comfortable level of cooling and save a lot of money.

However, for those that don’t want to install a completely new system for their entire house, attic fans offer a good chunk of savings as well.

Why Attic Fans Work

The idea behind an attic fan is simple. During the summer, all the heat in your home rises. Even with your air conditioning working at full capacity, heat will build up in the attic, especially if you don’t use that space and therefore don’t have any cooling ducts up there.

In some cases, attic temperatures can rise to 140°F or higher, which then raises the temperature of the rest of your home and forces your AC unit to work that much harder.

An attic fan is good because it takes the air from outside, almost assuredly cooler than 120°F and cycles it into your attic to keep the temperature lower. That simple fan can reduce indoor air temperature by as much as 40°F or 50°F and significantly reduce your air conditioner’s work load.

Which is Better?

Neither of these is better than the other. If you have low cooling costs and want to keep your attic from adding to them, an attic fan is perfect. However, if you want to cut into your cooling costs for all but the warmest months of the summer, a whole house fan may be the right option.

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