Category Archives: HVAC

The Weather is Warming Up – Schedule Your Spring HVAC Maintenance Today!

flower toolboxIt’s that time of year again! We’ve had our first string of sunny, mild days in months, which means that Spring has officially hit the Willamette Valley. So break out those shorts and sundresses, get that summer garden started, and call your mechanical contractor!

Wait – mechanical contractor? But who cares about that when there is so much yard work to do, so many walks to take, and so much sunlight to soak up?

That’s the funny thing about Spring. The weather is great, but not so extreme that we give much thought to our heat pumps and air conditioners – after all, many of us won’t even need to kick them into full gear until Memorial Day Weekend. But ask yourself this: when was the last time you had your heat pump, air conditioner, or furnace serviced?

Don’t remember? If it’s been awhile since your system had a tune-up, this is the perfect time of year to consider having Home Comfort come out for a routine maintenance service. We’ll clean and adjust the moving parts of your system, check that everything’s operating properly, and replace your air filter to ensure that your heating and cooling equipment is operating optimally before it has to start working hard during the summer months.

When the weather is mild, we may not give much thought to our HVAC systems. But the milder months of the year – March through May, and September through October – are probably the best windows of opportunity a homeowner has to devote some time to care for their systems. If any part of your system isn’t operating properly or optimally, a licensed mechanical contractor can spot and fix the issue before it becomes a bigger, costlier problem. If you have an HVAC maintenance appointment now, while the weather is mild, you may be able to prevent your system from breaking down at the moment when you need it the most.

Need a Spring HVAC maintenance? Call Home Comfort today so you won’t worry tomorrow!

Interested in learning more about HVAC, electrical, plumbing, or insulation? Like our Facebook page for more helpful information and tips from Home Comfort.

Installing a New System? Take Advantage of Those Tax Credits in 2014!

tax-5January isn’t just the start of a new year – it’s also the start of tax season. While tax season fills some of us with excitement (who doesn’t love refunds?) and others with dread of all the paperwork, it helps to keep on top of new measures and tax credit programs that may help you save money when you file. Here at Home Comfort, we love to help our customers save money, and we’re here to keep you informed whenever we hear about new measures and changes to tax credit programs that apply to energy efficient heating and cooling systems.

First, the bad news: the federal Department of Energy (DOE) has some incentive programs that have changed with the start of the new year. Homeowners should take note that the Residential Energy Efficiency tax credit expired on January 1st, 2014. Homeowners had previously been able to claim a tax credit of up to $500 for installing qualifying energy efficient equipment, which included energy efficient furnaces, ductless heat pumps, water heaters, insulation materials, and windows.

If the expiration of this credit put a damper on your plans to upgrade your heating and cooling equipment this year, don’t give up yet! There are still lots of incentives available for Oregon homeowners who wish to purchase a more efficient HVAC system in 2014. The Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) recently released their new tax credit rates on energy efficient heating and cooling equipment for the new year, and many of the systems that no longer qualify for the federal credit are still available at the state level. Check out this chart outlining the new rates here – with the installation of the right equipment, you can see some serious savings down the road!

And don’t forget that there are still some tax credits available at the federal level, even if you can’t claim it for all forms of HVAC equipment. The DOE’s Residential Renewable Energy tax credit program is still in effect this year, and you can take advantage of this credit if you install equipment powered by renewable energy sources, such as geothermal heat pump systems and solar water heaters. This incentive allows you to claim a credit worth up to 30% of the cost of the project, and remains in effect through December 31st, 2016. Geothermal systems tend to cost more than traditional HVAC systems, but the long term energy savings are significant, and with another three years to claim the credit, you still have plenty of time to decide if a renewable energy system is right for you!

Home Comfort is always keeping track of tax credit incentives for heating and cooling equipment. If you’re thinking of installing a new system, contact us and ask us what incentives are available. We’re here to help you get rewarded for going green!

Sources:

www.oregon.gov/energy

http://energy.gov/savings/residential-energy-efficiency-tax-credit

http://energy.gov/savings/residential-renewable-energy-tax-credit

Winter is Here! Are You Ready for a Cold Snap?

icicleIs it really time for the holidays already? It sure feels like it here in the Willamette Valley, where we saw one of our heaviest snowfalls on record over the weekend. In places where the weather is normally mild, a sudden snowstorm can, at the best of times, be pretty inconvenient – and at the worst of times it can be downright dangerous. Since your comfort and safety are our highest priorities here at Home Comfort, we’d like to share a few tips for staying cozy and safe during a sudden cold snap.

  1. Protect your pipes: We’ve talked before of the preventative benefits of insulating your water supply lines, but whether you’ve had them insulated or not, you can help protect them against damage during freezing weather. When the temperature dips below freezing, remember to turn on the faucets in your home ever so slightly, so that only a small, tepid drip is coming from the spout. This keeps water moving through the pipes and protects them against freezing. Simply having to thaw your pipes can be time consuming and pricey, and having to replace a burst pipe can be even spendier than that!
  2. Drive wisely: Carry chains for your tires, and use four-wheel-drive if your vehicle has it. If you don’t have chains or four-wheel drive, ask yourself, “Is this an emergency?” If it isn’t, it may be safer to stay home until the roads are clear. Never drive in adverse weather conditions if you are uncomfortable doing so! Last Friday, when the Eugene/Springfield area saw a record-breaking snowfall, more than two hundred car accidents were reported in a twenty-four hour period. Don’t forget that there are lots of ways to get around without driving while the roads are icy and dangerous. Carpool with a friend or neighbor who owns a snow-ready vehicle. Take advantage of public transportation. If you need groceries or toiletries, consider bundling up and walking to the corner market instead of driving to your favorite supermarket across town. There are plenty of alternative transportation choices available; while it may be inconvenient for a few days, protecting yourself and your vehicle from unnecessary damage will make life easier long after the snow has melted.
  3. Prepare for power-outages:  A heavy snowfall can quickly and easily damage a power line. When the power goes out during a winter storm, it is important to be prepared to be without electricity for an indefinite period of time. Stock your pantry with non-perishable foods and bottled water. Keep a well-stocked first aid kit, flashlights, candles, and extra batteries handy in an easily accessible location. Keeping a battery-powered radio and extra blankets on hand is a good idea, too!
  4. Care for your HVAC system: It’s never good when your heating system breaks down, but it’s especially bad when it breaks down during the coldest part of the year. At Home Comfort, we can’t stress enough just how important it is to have a mechanical contractor perform routine maintenance for your HVAC system. A technician can spot a damaged or worn component during maintenance and perform a minor repair before it becomes a major problem. Remember, your system works its hardest during periods of extreme weather. If you keep your system operating at peak performance, a major breakdown is less likely to occur just when you need it the most.

Here’s to a warm and cozy winter! Happy holidays from all of us at Home Comfort.

Interested in learning more about HVAC, electrical, plumbing, or insulation? Like our Facebook page for more helpful information and tips from Home Comfort.

Fall Freebies at Home Comfort!

gift_certificate_largeFall is a busy time for homeowners. Sure, the summer yard work season is winding down, and you may be putting away the sprinklers, mulch, and pool toys, but it’s more than likely that your work gloves, rakes, and tool boxes are sticking around for a little while longer. Fall is home maintenance season, that milder time of year when homeowners take time for the little-but-necessary home improvement projects and start prepping their houses for winter. Along with the do-it-yourself projects, you may be calling in the experts to start winterizing your home – chimney sweeps, electricians, plumbers, and yes, maybe even an HVAC technician.

The cost of all those little projects can add up quickly, but they’re also necessary to maintain a safe and comfortable home.  Here at Home Comfort, we want to celebrate our customers and the hard work that goes into keeping their homes cozy. Now through November 15th, if you like our page on Facebook your name will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift certificate! The gift certificate can be used toward the cost of any maintenance, service appointment, or air filter purchase.*  We’ll announce the winner on November 15th – leaving plenty of time to schedule that fall HVAC maintenance before winter really starts to set in.

Remember, you can only win if you like our page before November 15th! Check out our profile here and get connected today. Happy Fall!

* For complete gift card drawing rules, please visit our policies page. You’ll find all the details at the bottom of the page.

Get Help Going Green! EWEB Offers Eugene Homeowners New Incentives

On October 17th, the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) had an exciting announcement for homeowners: for the rest of the 2013 heating season, they are offering rebate and loan programs for a variety of energy conservation projects! Among the programs that they offer, Home Comfort is particularly excited about the following programs that are available to Eugene homeowners once again:

Ducted Heat Pumps: If you’ve been looking to install a new ducted heat pump, EWEB can offer homeowners the choice of receiving a $500 rebate off the price of your new system, or the flexibility of a zero interest loan.  Manufactured homes can qualify for loans up to $7,000, while site-built homes may receive a loan up to $9,000!

Ductless Heat Pumps: The savings are just as good for ductless heat pump installations! The available rebate for a new ductless system is now $750.00; some homeowners may also qualify for the option of a zero-interest loan up to $4,000, with the possibility of additional funding (depending on how many indoor units your new ductless system requires).

Insulation: Along with heat pumps, EWEB’s Weatherization program has also returned! By upgrading your insulation, you can cut down on energy bills and take advantage of the option of a rebate or a loan. EWEB offers a rebate of $0.40 per square foot of upgraded insulation, which may cover up to 50% of the price of your project. And of course, they also offer generous zero-interest loans of up to $4,000 for single-family residences.

With the rollout of these new energy conservation programs, there are many opportunities for savings. Besides the financial assistance offered by these programs, many of these heating and cooling systems qualify for state and federal tax credits. And in addition to saving money on your energy bills, upgrading to a more efficient heating and cooling system and updating your insulation can add to the value of your home!

Remember, the project must be performed by a qualified participating contractor like Home Comfort to be eligible for funding from the program. For complete information on EWEB’s current energy conservation programs, please visit www.eweb.org/saveenergy/home.

Surge Protectors: Basic Protection Against Costly Repairs

surge protectorIf you’ve surfed past the Weather Channel lately, you may have noticed forecasts for thunderstorms in several parts of the country. When you hear that a thunderstorm is coming your way, you probably feel relieved knowing that you’ve done your best to protect your television, stereo system, and other major electronics by plugging them into a surge protector first. It makes sense, after all – in the event that your home does experience a rare power surge, replacing a flat screen television, desktop computer, top-of-the-line stereo system (or all of the above) can cost thousands of dollars! However, there may be one crucial appliance in your home that has missed out on this basic form of protection. How about your heat pump, furnace, or central air conditioner?

As we’ve mentioned in the past, a well-designed HVAC system can cost as much as a new car. At the very least, it is an investment of at least a few thousand dollars. And in the event of extreme weather, a blown-out heat pump can be far more inconvenient than a burned-up television.

Obviously, you can’t just plug your HVAC system into a power strip like the rest of your electronics. But fortunately, there are plenty of HVAC surge protectors on the market, and they may be able to provide basic protection against the kind of damage that can occur in electronics during a power surge. An HVAC surge protector works in a similar fashion to the power strips protecting your television and computer. In the event of a power surge, the surge protector can detect dangerous levels of electricity and divert that electricity to a ground wire before it can reach and damage your equipment’s electrical components. No surge protector can protect against the most powerful of surges, but in the event of a normal power surge, the protector can save a great deal of worry. And even if you don’t live in an area that’s prone to thunderstorms, installing a surge protector can be a good precaution. The most common power surges can be caused by a number of issues, including utility work, problems with a generator, or a sudden electrical glitch in an appliance that consumes a lot of power, such as a refrigerator or your HVAC system itself.

HVAC surge protectors aren’t built like your average power strip, and the best way to ensure proper installation and operation is to have it installed by a licensed mechanical contractor. Your technician can select the right surge protector model for your HVAC equipment and can safely and professionally install it, all for a reasonable price. The next time the weatherman forecasts a lightning storm in your area, you can rest easy knowing that all of your major appliances have some protection against damage.

Do you need a surge protector installed in your home? Give the experts at Home Comfort a call to schedule an appointment today!

Is Your Heating and Cooling System Ready for Winter?

Fall-Leaves-beautiful-AutumnFall is fast-approaching in the Pacific Northwest! The leaves on the trees are starting to change colors, cafés are rolling out their lines of pumpkin-flavored drinks and pastries, and, little by little, the weather is definitely getting chillier. Here at Home Comfort, we can always tell that summer is ending when our schedule begins to fill up with HVAC maintenance appointments. At this time of year, the extreme heat of summer is ebbing away, and the cold winter days have yet to set in. The beginning of fall is a great time of year to consider scheduling a routine maintenance visit for your HVAC equipment.

Routine maintenance is a service mechanical contractors perform to clean, lubricate, and adjust the many moving components of your HVAC system, as well as replace air filters and test basic equipment operations. Routine maintenance visits are performed in order to optimize the system’s performance before it has to operate in periods of extreme weather. During a maintenance visit, your HVAC technician can also point out any components that are due for replacement and notify you of issues that need to be addressed. Fixing minor issues between summer and winter can reduce the likelihood of a major breakdown occurring when you need your equipment the most – like a frigid winter day!

Whether the onset of fall or spring prompts you to call your mechanical contractor, or you’re already set up with a prepaid maintenance plan, scheduling routine HVAC maintenance can provide peace of mind and help you keep on top of caring for your heating and cooling system. If you think your equipment is due for a maintenance visit, give Home Comfort a call. Our technicians can help you make sure your family is ready for those long winter nights.

Understanding HVAC Design: Manual J Load Calculations

blueprint

Installing a new HVAC system is a hefty investment; depending on the type of equipment you choose to have installed, as well as the size of your home, some new systems can cost as much as a brand new car or truck! With the price tag in mind, and the comfort of your home hanging in the balance, the overall design of your system can be just as important as the installation process itself. One particularly important component HVAC designers take into consideration is called a Manual J Load Calculation.

A home’s Manual J Load Calculation measures how much conditioned air each room of your home will need to maintain a consistent level of comfort during hotter and cooler periods of the year. It does this by taking into account a number of factors, including the size of the individual rooms, different types of surfaces, the location of your home’s duct system, and even the number of appliances in your home! Manual J Load Calculations help an HVAC designer determine how powerful your HVAC system needs to be to properly heat and cool your home.

Determining which system will have just the right amount of power to maintain the temperature in your home is important, mostly because of our human tendency to overestimate our energy needs. There are plenty of newer homes on the market that have an HVAC system that is simply too powerful for the size and layout of the building. In some cases an over-powered system can be just as bothersome as an under-powered system – over-powered systems may encounter a problem called “short-cycling,” which means that the system is so big that it can heat or cool your home too quickly, causing the system to turn on and off at a frequent rate. Short-cycling can waste energy, and in some cases can shorten the overall lifespan of your system, costing you even more on top of your initial investment. Determining your home’s heating and cooling needs with the Manual J Load Calculation is a smart way to help you choose an efficient and long-lasting system for your home.

Choosing an efficient HVAC system doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. Call Home Comfort today and our team of HVAC estimators and designers will help you make the most of your heating and cooling investment.

Works Cited:

http://www.energyvanguard.com/hvac-load-calculations/

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”