Category Archives: Uncategorized

Motion-Activated Lighting: A Simple Home Upgrade for Greater Peace of Mind

outdoor-lightingThe transition from summer to fall has a way of sneaking up on us. Barely a month ago, we were enjoying temperatures in the 80s here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley – today, raincoats and scarves are hanging on the backs of office doors. But the temperature isn’t the only thing that has changed; sunrise is happening later in the morning, and night is coming faster as October wears on.

For some people with early morning commutes, that time of year is fast approaching when it will be just as dark when they get home from work as it was when they left at the crack of dawn! For many, it is simply an annoyance to fumble for their keys in the dark, but for others, those periods of darkness before and after a commute can be a bit creepy. Luckily, a trusted electrician can make this time of year a bit less wearisome by installing a basic home security and safety device: outdoor motion lights.

Having motion-activated lights installed over your porch or driveway is a smart idea at any time of year, but they can be especially helpful during the wintertime and around the holidays. Besides having a reliable source of light in the early morning or late evenings, a motion-activated light is a helpful tool to have in your anti-burglary arsenal. Reports have shown that thieves and intruders are less likely to approach and break into a well-lit home, since they don’t want to risk being seen and described to police after a break-in.

Motion-activated lights can also help you save energy! Motion lights are helpful for those of us who want to save energy, but have trouble remembering small details, like turning the porch light off after everyone is home for the night. Since motion lights only turn on when the house is approached, and automatically turn off after a short period of time, homeowners can remove a frequently-overlooked item from their bedtime checklists.

Whether your life could use more convenience, conservation, or security, motion-activated lights are a practical and simple home solution. Fall is the perfect time to install a security light and reap the benefits of a well-lit home, inside and out.

Do you think it’s time to add a motion-activated light to your home? Home Comfort’s electricians can help with your outdoor lighting needs. Schedule an appointment today!

Works cited:

http://thesouthern.com/news/local/article_91e4c878-f0ee-11df-8382-001cc4c03286.html

Easy Use, Easy Maintenance: Electronic Air Cleaners at Work

Here at Home Comfort, we take indoor air quality seriously. These days most people in the United States spend up to 90% of their time indoors, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental health risks we face today. With energy-efficient homes insulated and sealed tighter than ever against fresh outside air, the quality of the air inside a person’s home is often filled with far more pollutants than the air outside, even if you’re using a high-quality air filter and changing it regularly. For those who are concerned about allergens and indoor air pollutants, and would like to take an extra measure to ensure the cleanliness of the air in their homes, installing a whole-home electronic air cleaner may help.

Electronic air cleaners take the job of a normal air filter for a ducted heating and cooling system and take it to the next level. Rather than simply trapping particles in a tightly-knitted, mesh-like media, electronic air cleaners trap particles by giving them an electrostatic charge them as they pass through the filter, causing them to stick to a collection surface rather than passing through the your duct system and into your home. To see an electronic air cleaner in action, check out the video below. It will show you a demonstration of American Standard’s Accuclean™ Whole-Home Air Filtration system at work.

Besides their efficiency, electronic air cleaners have a simple cleaning process. And, since the filters are washable, you can save money in the long run rather than purchasing disposable filters every few months. If you click on the video below, you’ll see a demonstration for cleaning the Accuclean™ system:

Basically, if you can vacuum your carpets, drapes, and furniture, you can clean this air cleaner regularly with no trouble!

If you have a ducted heating and cooling system and like the idea of an efficient, easy-to-maintain air filtration system, give our estimators at Home Comfort a call. We can match the right electronic air cleaner model with your home or business.

Works Cited:

http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airclean.html

Decoding HVAC Jargon: HSPF Ratings Explained

hspf

Welcome back to our series on common terms in the HVAC industry! Last week, we discussed the meaning and importance of SEER ratings. We mentioned that an air conditioner’s SEER rating is especially important for naturally hot climates like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. But if you live in a mild climate like states in the Northwest, you should know the meaning of an equally-important HVAC term: the “Heating Season Performance Factor,” otherwise known as a unit’s HSPF rating.

When it comes to weather, places like Western Oregon and Western Washington tend to sit right in the middle of things. This area’s periods of hot summer weather are less intense and usually won’t last as long as the Southwest’s, where air conditioning may even be needed year-round. And unlike the Midwest, whose winters last longer and are very cold, Northwest winters are relatively mild. This makes the Northwest an ideal location to install and utilize heat pumps, which perform heating and cooling operations within a single unit depending upon the demands of the weather.

That being said, cooler weather is definitely more prevalent in this area, which makes the HSPF rating potentially more important to consider than the unit’s SEER rating when shopping for a heat pump system. After all, if you expect your heat pump to be warming your home far more often than you expect it to be cooling your home, its HSPF rating could make a greater difference on your utility bills than the unit’s SEER rating.

HSPF is also more important than SEER in the Northwest if you plan on claiming tax credits for purchasing and installing a heat pump system in your home. Oregon’s residential energy tax credit applications for both ductless and traditional air-source heat pumps both currently require the system in question to have a minimum HSPF rating of at least 9.0. In contrast, neither of the applications have a minimum SEER requirement. In an area where summer seems to speed by in the blink of an eye, it’s easy to see why focusing on maximizing your system’s heating efficiency would lead to bigger energy savings.

For those who can’t or aren’t interested in claiming tax credits after purchasing a heat pump system, it’s still a good idea to take a look at the system’s HSPF ratings to anticipate how much energy it will use during heating season. Keep in mind that the lowest HSPF rating available on the market is 7.7, but that trusted HVAC sources like energyvanguard.com recommend buying a heat pump with an HSPF rating of 8.0 or higher if you anticipate your system operating in heating mode the majority of the time.

And of course, just like a professionally, properly installed air conditioner will typically perform truer to its advertized SEER rating, your heat pump is more likely to live up to its advertized HSPF rating if it’s installed by a trained and licensed mechanical contractor like Home Comfort. We’ll help you choose and install the perfect heat pump system for your home.

Energyvanguard.com, “Know Your Terms – Heat Pump Efficiency Ratings SEER & HSPF”Works Cited

www.oregon.gov, “Heat Pump Systems”

www.oregon.gov, “2013 Residential Energy Tax Credit Rates”

 

More Than Pink Fluff: The Home Insulation Decision

Pop quiz! What comes to mind when you hear the words “home insulation?”

If the first thing you pictured were huge, fluffy pink rolls of spun fiberglass, you’re not alone. After all, woven fiberglass has been the most popular home insulation method for the better part of the Twentieth Century, and is still a common choice today. But these days there are a lot more options to choose from! Whether you’re building a new home or planning a remodel, doing some research on the variety of home insulation methods on the market is a wise decision. In this post, we’ll discuss a few of the insulation methods used most often by the Home Comfort insulation team.

Knauf Ecobatt Glasswool Insulation

Sustainably-Sourced Insulation: First, if you care not just about the amount of energy your home insulation will save, but also about the sustainability of the insulation material itself, then insulation made from renewable materials is definitely worth looking into. Like traditional woven fiberglass insulation, renewable insulation materials like Knauf’s EcoBatt Glasswool™ products are thick, fluffy sheets of material that are secured in areas like the wall cavities of a home. The only major difference between renewable insulation products and fiberglass insulation are the materials used to create them. Instead of fiberglass, this type of insulation is typically made of materials like sand and recycled glass. Besides the fact that this insulation is made from mostly recycled materials, homeowners who choose this type of insulation often do so because they’re less likely to be made with potentially irritating chemicals like formaldehyde, phenol, or artificial dyes.

loose fillLoose-Fill Insulation: Loose-fill insulation is made from fiberglass like traditional insulation, but it doesn’t come in sheets and rolls. Commonly used in attics and hard-to-reach areas, this material is blown into the space with special equipment. This is a great option for remodels or insulation upgrades! However, those of us who enjoy DIY home improvement projects should take heed: due to the equipment required to apply this material, and the skill needed to install it evenly over the insulated space, this method of insulation is best left to a trained professional installer.

Sprayed-foam-insulation

Spray-Foam: Besides the fact that wall cavities covered in spray-foam look like
they’re coated with snow or marshmallows, spray-foam is also a cool insulation method because of its versatility and efficiency. Since the plastic spray-foam material expands upon application, it can fill tiny spaces that loose-fill, roll, and batt insulations might miss. This creates a tight seal against the air outside and helps to regulate the temperature inside your home.

Keep in mind that the spray is made from plastic-based chemicals and should always be applied by a professional. While the material is perfectly safe when fully dried, the chemicals can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory system while it is still wet. As you can see in the picture above, spray-foam installers use special equipment to apply the insulation and must wear skin and eye protection during the installation. Once the application is finished, however, the insulation barrier is both safe and energy-saving.

The comforting thing to keep in mind is that no matter what form of insulation you decide to use, the methods on the market today are held to strict efficiency standards, and, when installed by professionals, are safe for you and your family. It’s simply a matter of finding the right insulation for your lifestyle and budget.

Have more questions about home insulation? Need to start a project? Our insulation department at Home Comfort is ready to help. Contact us today to get started!

Works Cited:

http://ctsprayfoaminsulation.com/faq%CA%BCs/

http://www.ecobatt.us/eco_batt.html

http://www.knaufinsulation.us/content/jet-stream-ultra-blowing-insulation

Small Changes Can Lead to Big Savings: Cutting Down on Summer Water Use

sprinkler

Does your heart do a little somersault when you open your water bill after a long heat wave? Perhaps you’ve been feeling reluctant to fill up the plastic wading pool for your kids on a hot summer day; or maybe pranksters have been writing “wash me” in the dust on your car’s back window because you just can’t justify turning on the hose one more time this week.

In most parts of the U.S., there’s just no way around it. Between thirsty gardens, dusty cars, and a simultaneous desire to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors and avoid heat stroke, we use more water during the summer months than any other time of year. A lot more, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA estimates that during this peak water use season, a household’s daily water use can nearly quadruple in comparison to an average, off-season day. The good news is that there are plenty of measures you can take to reduce the amount of water you use in your home without sacrificing the beauty of your garden or the fun of an old-fashioned water balloon fight.

Start by assessing your outdoor water use. How frequently do you water your lawn and garden, and what time of day do you usually turn on the hose? Many people will water their lawns on a hot summer day as a preventative measure, even when the grass is at no risk of drying out – which can lead to hundreds of gallons of wasted water. To avoid watering your lawn unnecessarily, the EPA recommends trying the “Step on It” test. The test is easy – before you start to water your lawn, simply walk across the grass. If you see footprints in the grass when you’re finished, your lawn is thirsty and needs to be watered. But if the grass springs back into place, put down the hose – your lawn probably doesn’t need the extra water right now.

To conserve even more water when it comes to your garden, be deliberate about your watering schedule. Instead of watering your garden in the middle of the day, do your watering first thing in the morning or just before sunset. A lot of the water you generously pour on your grass and flowers can be lost to evaporation if it’s done during the hottest part of the day.

To reduce water waste inside your home, take a look around and make a list of plumbing components that need to be repaired or updated. Consider this – your toilet alone can waste around 200 gallons a day if it is operating with a leak! Call a trusted, licensed plumbing contractor like Home Comfort to fix any leaking pipes or fixtures.

If you think it’s time for your plumbing components to be updated, talk to a plumber about installing a WaterSense-labeled toilet or a low-flow showerhead. These components are easy to install, and can use less than half the amount of water older fixtures were designed to use. The initial investment to stop the leaks in your home and update your fixtures can lead to big savings down the road. With small changes in behavior, and an investment in your home’s plumbing, you can take charge of your summer water bill.

Works Cited:

http://www.epa.gov/watersense/our_water/summer2011.html

http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/indoor.html

 

Home Comfort Heating Wishes You a Happy (and Safe) Independence Day!

fireworks

Here at the Home Comfort office, our staff is counting down the hours and eagerly anticipating the relaxation and spectacle of another Independence Day holiday. We’re all about the heating and cooling business, but at such a beautiful time of year we’re making more creative plans to beat the heat than sitting locked up in our homes with the AC on full-blast. Some of us are planning fishing trips or barbecues by the pool; others are taking off for the numerous campgrounds in Oregon’s State Parks to relax by a pristine lake or river. While everyone has different destinations and activities in mind, it is a near-certainty that most of us will be enjoying fireworks in some form or another.

But before you stock up on sparklers at the fireworks stand, it’s a good idea to make an outline of your plans and be aware of some basic firework safety measures, so that you and your family can enjoy the holiday to its fullest extent. The Oregon State Fire Marshal urges residents and visitors to the state to remember the “4 BE’s” of firework safety:

Be Prepared: Read and follow the instructions on the back of your fireworks carefully, and always keep plenty of water handy. If you have pets, keep them indoors while lighting fireworks.

Be Safe: Have a responsible adult light the fireworks and only light fireworks outdoors. Never hold or throw lit fireworks, and make sure children view displays from a safe distance.

Be Responsible: Always soak used fireworks after use, and never try to re-ignite a firework that turned out to be a dud.

Be Aware: Use legal fireworks purchased from an Oregon-permitted firework retailer. Remember that fireworks are not permitted on beaches, State Parks, or State and Federal Forest areas.

(Tip: If you’re camping this weekend, consider driving to a nearby town to catch a local fireworks display instead of spending money on fireworks that can’t be used in the areas mentioned above. It’s a fun and wallet-friendly way to enjoy the beauty of a fireworks display on a grand scale.)

If you would like to view the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s “4 BE’s” flyer for more safety tips, click here. Fireworks-related injuries and property damage occur every year in Oregon, but if you take plenty of precautions you can help to make sure the most memorable part of your Independence Day holiday was the wonderful flashes and colors of a spectacular fireworks show.

From all of us at Home Comfort, have a fun and safe weekend!

Mitsubishi Electric’s Ads May be Playful, but Their Ductless Heat Pumps are Serious About Energy Savings

Recently Home Comfort has been featuring the following Mitsubishi Electric advertisement on our ductless mini-split webpage:

The advertisement, which has seen a lot of air time lately on national television networks, is playful in tone but makes a good point about the frustration that a lot of us face when periods of very hot and very cold weather force us to take a closer look at our thermostats. For many families, especially those with an older or inefficient system, a thermostat adjustment of just a couple degrees can translate to a noticeably higher utility bill at the end of the month.

Mini-split systems, or “ductless” heat pumps, have become the solution that a growing number of families are turning to when they make the decision to retrofit their existing heating and cooling system. When installed and used properly, ductless heat pumps can use between 25 to 50 percent less energy to operate than traditional systems, translating to lower energy bills and a higher level of comfort in summer and winter.¹ When your system operates more efficiently, suddenly a temperature adjustment of “only two degrees” doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

But ductless heat pumps aren’t just efficient; they’re convenient, too! Since no extra construction is needed to create or modify a network of air ducts, which can be quite expensive, this type of system is a good upgrade for homes that were originally built with a form of electric resistance heat, such as baseboard heaters, ceiling heat, or wall heaters.²

Home Comfort is listed as a Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Contractor, which means that our technicians and installation crews have undergone extensive training for the proper installation, repair, and maintenance of Mitsubishi’s ductless systems. More importantly, it also means we stand behind these units as our number one choice for ductless installations due to their efficiency and reliability.

And we’re not the only company or organization that is excited about the rise of ductless technology in the Northwest—for the last few years, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance has been working with regional utilities on the Northwest Ductless Heat Pump Project, which has been campaigning for higher consumer awareness about this alternative heating and cooling system. The Ductless Heat Pump Project works to set interested homeowners up with the resources and incentive programs they need to install this efficient home comfort system.

If you think installing a ductless heat pump system is a good option for your family, check out their website to learn more. And look for Home Comfort on their list of contractors – we’re a participating Master Installer!

Sources:

¹ Northwest Ductless Heat Pump Project, “Frequently Asked Questions,” http://goingductless.com/consumer/about-ductless-heating-and-cooling/FAQ

² Northwest Ductless Heat Pump Project, “Where they are Used,”  http://goingductless.com/consumer/about-ductless-heating-and-cooling/where-used

Programming Your Thermostat: Maximize Your Home Efficiency

Honeywell Prestige Thermostat

Honeywell Prestige Thermostat

It can be easy to overlook that little panel on the wall that controls your home’s heating and air conditioning. Homeowners be warned – that thermostat could be costing you hundreds of dollars every year if it is not properly programmed.

Programmable thermostats can help make your home feel more comfortable and allow you to save energy as well. In order to get the most out of your digital thermostat, it helps to have some advice on how to properly use it.

Programmable thermostats respond to changes in the home’s temperature, so you do not want to install it anywhere near a window or a vent. The air blowing directly on the thermostat could give it a false reading.

When you program your thermostat, be sure to set it to energy-efficient temperatures for extended periods of time. Lower the set point during the eight hours you and your family will be sleeping, as well as the eight hours you are at work and your children are at school. Raise the set point for the times when you and your family are home in the morning and evening. To make your home a little warmer during the day on weekends and holidays, use the manual adjustment to raise the temperature slightly.

Many homeowners also find programmable thermostats convenient for keeping the house comfortable for pets, and warm enough to prevent water pipes from freezing and bursting when they are away on vacation. Your digital thermostat may even have a vacation feature that allows you to create a temperature program for use during these times. If so, be sure to use it to maximize the efficiency of your thermostat.

During a routine maintenance, Home Comfort technicians are happy to take a look at your thermostat’s programming and help set it to be more comfortable and energy efficient. The savings you get from a proper thermostat control system can more than pay for the cost of maintenance. We offer a full line of thermostats with a variety of features. We even have thermostats you can control using your computer or smart phone! We can help you choose the best model for your home and lifestyle. Call us today to schedule a money-saving appointment!