Air Mechanical, Inc. Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Stillwater’

Common Heat Pump Performance Problems: A Troubleshooting Guide from Maple Grove

Monday, August 27th, 2012

The heat pump in your Maple Grove 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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Plumbing Guide: Garbage Disposals Are A Kitchen Necessity

Monday, August 20th, 2012

For most Andover homeowners, the garbage disposal is an essential kitchen convenience.  Food preparation and cooking become much easier when peelings and scraps can just be whisked into the sink and down the drain.  Most municipal water treatments plants now have the technology to extract the pulverized food debris from waste water and turn it into sludge that can be sterilized and disposed in a landfill or used for fertilizer.

 When to Replace a Garbage Disposal

Obviously, when your garbage disposal stops working it’s time to either fix or replace it. While it’s possible to service a garbage disposal, it would probably be cheaper to replace it. But if your disposal is still operating, how do you know when it’s time to for a new one?

Garbage disposals don’t last forever. No matter how well it’s made, any appliance exposed to thousands of gallons of running water, detergent, food scraps, bones, and the occasional spoon accidentally dropped into the drain is going to wear out. A disposal in good condition should be able to dispatch a few potato or apple peels in a matter of seconds. If your unit seems to take forever to accomplish a simple grinding task, it may be time for a new one.

A foul odor emanating from the disposal that won’t go away after a thorough rinsing may also be a sign that it’s time to replace it. As the components in the grinding chamber wear out, food can get trapped inside and rot. You may adapt to the smell, but guests will probably not appreciate it.

Even if your disposal is in good shape, you may want to look into replacing it. Garbage disposals are rated in horsepower. Basic models are usually rated in the 1/5 to 1/3 horsepower range, while top of the line models are in the 3/4 to 1 horsepower range. The difference may seem small, but it has a major impact on performance. If you have a smaller unit in the 1/5 to 1/3 range that is a few years old, and you like to cook, it may be worth your while to consider replacing it.

 Size Matters

Most manufacturers offer a range of models with increasing power ratings. If you do a lot of cooking and use your disposal a lot, the few extra dollars investment in a 3/4 or 1 horsepower disposal is worth the money. Not only do more powerful units dispatch food scraps more easily, but they can handle tougher jobs like bones and meat scraps that might jam a smaller disposal. More powerful disposals are less noisy and they tend to break down less. The only drawback of larger disposals is that they tend to be larger and take up more space. It’s best to consult a Andover plumbing contractor like Air Mechanical Heating, Cooling & Plumbing before buying a new disposal to make sure it will fit under your sink.

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Air Conditioning Guide: The Ins and Outs of Ductless Splits Air Conditioning

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

So, it’s time to install a new air conditioner in your Stillwater home and you’re pretty sure there just isn’t enough room in the walls or ceilings to place the necessary ductwork. No problem. There is a rapidly evolving technology that allows you to have air conditioning without ductwork. It’s called mini-split ductless air conditioning and it relies on individual units placed in key locations around your house. Here’s how they work.

Multi-Zone Cooling

The first step is to install a central unit. This is your compressor and condenser and is usually placed outside like the core of a central AC system. These units range between 15,000 and 40,000 BTUs depending on how much cooling your home needs and will support up to 4 zones within your house.

Once the central unit is installed, smaller room-sized units are placed throughout your house. These units are designed for between 9,000 and 18,000 BTU spaces and are usually placed high on the wall of your room to distribute cooled air. The smaller units are connected to the main unit by refrigerant lines that are run up the side of your house (or inside if you want them out of the elements).

Because each indoor unit is individual and has its own thermostat, you save electricity by having direct control over each part of your home. In fact, the average ductless split system uses something like 30% less electricity than a standard air conditioning system.

Is it Right for You?

This is the most common question we hear and to be honest, it really depends on your needs. If you have a large house – we’re talking 3,000 square feet or bigger, a multi-zone ductless system may not provide enough cooling on its own. Most systems only support up to 4 individual units and therefore cannot cool massive spaces. However, if you have a smaller home, or more importantly have no space for ductwork, these systems are much more efficient than installing multiple window units.

For more information about which air conditioning system to install in your Stillwater home, give Air Mechanical Heating, Cooling & Plumbing a call!

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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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Common Furnace Problems: Some Pointers from Chaska

Friday, November 4th, 2011

When it comes to the furnace in your Chaska home, you simply want it to work all of the time. But just like any other piece of equipment, your furnace will have problems from time to time. A few of these are relatively simple to fix on your own, but for the most part you’ll need to call in someone to take care of the repairs for you.

However, before you can do that, you’ll need to recognize that a problem exists at all. And the earlier you notice the warning signs, the better off you’ll be. It’s always better to get a furnace problem taken care of right away than to wait until your furnace stops working completely.

It’s also good to remember that quite often the problems you’re having with your furnace are really originating with your thermostat. This is usually welcome news, as thermostats are much cheaper and easier to repair and replace than many other parts of your furnace. In fact, even if your furnace isn’t working at all, it may only be the result of a faulty thermostat.

Another problem you may start to notice is that one part of your house is being warmed more than another part. When this happens, it can be a sign that there is something wrong with the furnace, but it may also be that the pressure in your duct system is not balanced properly. A simple rebalancing of this system can have your house heating evenly again in no time.

You may also realize that your furnace seems to be cycling on and off too often. When a furnace is working properly, it will come on for a considerable period of time and then shut off until the temperature in the house drops below the desired level. However, some problems can cause your furnace to complete many short cycles rather than fewer short ones.

If this is happening to your furnace, there are several possible causes. Something might be wrong with the blower on the furnace or the thermostat might not be feeding the furnace the correct information. Another possibility is that your furnace’s air filter is dirty or clogged.

While there are sometimes simple and straightforward solutions to these types of common furnace problems, it’s best to call in a professional to have them take a look if you’re not sure where to start searching for a problem. In most cases you’ll need them to come out and make the necessary repairs anyway.

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Heat Recovery Ventilator – What Is It and When Do You Need It? A Question From Stillwater

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

While the design of modern homes is to retain as much energy as possible while minimizing the cost of heating and cooling, that very design can have a negative impact on your Stillwater home’s indoor air quality. Because air cannot pass freely between indoor and outdoor environments, you are stuck breathing the same air day after day.

Luckily, there are t options that will exchange the heat in your indoor air to the outdoor air as it enters your home. In effect, you can retain all of the heat your home produces each day before it leaves the house. It works equally well in the summer to retain the cooled air your air conditioning units produce.

How Heat Recovery Works

Heat recovery ventilators come in many forms, including simple ventilation, heat exchange, or air exchanging. There are even some indoor heat pumps that will carefully draw heat from the air as it’s removed from your home and recirculate it through your air ducts.

The idea is the same no matter how the system is installed. As air leaves your home through a ventilator, a counter-flow heat exchanger transfers energy between the air leaving and entering your home. So, instead of warm air leaving and cold air entering, the air coming into your home takes the heat from the air leaving your home. Air comes and goes, but heat stays inside.

In the summer, the same system works in reverse to remove heat from the air coming into your home and keep it outside. The one thing to keep in mind with a heat recovery ventilator is that it doesn’t retain the humidity in your home as an energy recovery ventilator would. If you live in an area with very high or very low humidity during summer or winter, an ERV may be a better solution for your needs.

Air Quality Benefits

The goal of a good heat recovery ventilator is not just to retain the heated or cooled air in your home. It is also to ensure you have clean, fresh air to breathe each day. Most people don’t realize, but when you don’t circulate your air and your home is sealed up with enhanced weather-stripping and high quality insulation, unwanted contaminants begin to build up. A heat recovery ventilator makes sure you not only get fresh air, but that it’s properly filtered and the heat or cooling your comfort system produces is retained. No money is lost, energy is saved, and your family stays comfortable and healthy – everyone wins.

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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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Worst Rooms in Your Home to Collect Allergens

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Your home is a haven for allergens, but some rooms in particular are much worse than others. They are damp. They are warm. They often have garbage in them. These are the rooms that need especially close attention when trying to maintain air quality in your home.

Basement

First on the list is your basement. A basement is the biggest problem when it’s either unfinished or not used very often. If you have water leaks in your basement or poor insulation, it’s important to have a moisture barrier put in and have your pipes checked. If the water comes from a drainage pipe or your sewer line, repairs can be made. If it comes from excess ground water or leaks in the foundation, a sump pump or drain tile system will help remove the excess water. Either way, the wetter your basement gets, the higher the risk of mold and other contaminants becomes.

Beyond moisture, a basement tends to collect a lot of dust. After all, it is where we put many of our old and unwanted possessions, and because the furnace is often in your basement, all that damp, allergen filled air gets cycled back into your home.

Bathroom

Bathrooms are allergen havens for two reasons. They are filled with moisture, and without proper ventilation they will soon be filled with mold and mildew. Additionally, when not cleaned regularly they can house buildups of hair, skin, and other dust building residue that tend to trigger allergies.

The easiest way to handle this problem is to clean your bathroom regularly and make sure it is properly ventilated. Short of an exhaust fan in your bathroom, keep the door and windows open to help it dry faster.

Kitchen

Your kitchen produces allergens like mold and mildew due to the presence of garbage and fruit. It can also attract bugs and the dirt that accrues from people passing through constantly. Pets tend to eat in the kitchen, leaving behind dander. Additionally, plants and vegetables in the kitchen release pollen that circulates through your home to trigger additional allergies. Exhaust from cooking and smoke can also be a harmful allergen trigger.

The kitchen should be kept well ventilated and clean at all times. Check for any gaps in your insulation and have your exhaust fan and hood cleaned regularly to avoid backups of smoke or gas.

Allergens are everywhere in your home – with careful attention, however, you can stop them from affecting your family negatively.

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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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