Monthly Archives: August 2013

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”

 

Decoding HVAC Jargon: SEER Ratings Demystified

Jackson-7.30.2013

Industry-specific jargon can be rampant in just about any field, and the heating and cooling industry is no exception. Here at Home Comfort, we sometimes even need to catch ourselves and make sure to explain when we tell friends we work within the HVAC industry; after all, not everyone will know off the top of their heads that “HVAC” is shorthand for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. For the next few weeks we’ll be decoding some much-used but infrequently-explained terms that you may hear in a discussion about heating and cooling technology.

When it comes to central air conditioning, one of the most common industry-specific terms you might see in an advertisement will be the unit’s “SEER” rating. It comes up in radio, television, and newspaper advertisements all the time – next to a splashy photo and company logo, you may see something like: “We have 20-SEER air conditioners in stock!” In addition, a savvy friend or neighbor may have told you that it’s not worth your while to buy an air conditioner with a SEER rating of anything less than 13. But what, exactly, does SEER stand for, and what do those numbers really mean? Gaining a greater understanding of SEER ratings and their applications can help you make a more informed decision the next time you go out to shop for a central air conditioning unit.

Let’s start with what the term “SEER” stands for. SEER is an acronym which stands for “seasonal energy efficiency ratio.” This term was defined and developed by the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute, an organization that sets the standards for the heating and cooling industry in the United States. SEER is a mathematical calculation that divides the unit’s entire cooling capacity during normal periods of operation by its entire electric energy input during the same period of time. Simply put, the higher a unit’s SEER rating is, the less electricity the system is using to keep you cool. And if the system is using less electricity to keep you cool, it usually means that the unit is more energy-efficient. A system’s SEER rating is especially important to families living in warmer climates, such as Arizona or Texas, where air conditioning season typically lasts much longer than other parts of the country.

If you’re going to use your knowledge of SEER ratings to your advantage, you should also know some industry and government standards. First, keep in mind that in 2006, the United States government issued a requirement that all air conditioning models manufactured from that point forward have a minimum SEER rating of 13. If you have a unit manufactured before 2006, there is a chance that its SEER rating may not be that high. And while a SEER rating of 13 meets government standards, an air conditioner cannot be labeled an ENERGY STAR® model unless it has a SEER rating of 14 or higher.

Finally, in order to make sure your central air conditioning unit is living up to its full SEER-rating potential, it is important to have a licensed and trained mechanical contractor help you select and install your new HVAC system. A mechanical contractor like Home Comfort will make sure that your air conditioner is matched with the right HVAC components and installed properly, so that you can be sure your air conditioner is operating as efficiently as the advertisements claim it to be.

Shopping for Filters Just Became More Affordable: Introducing Our New Local Pickup Option!

Back in May, everyone at Home Comfort was happy to announce the roll out of the new and improved version of our online filter store, with more brands, styles, and sizes to choose from than ever before. Changing your air filters regularly is an important part of the overall maintenance of your HVAC system, and we believe that stocking up on filters should be easy and affordable.

Last May we wrote an article about the benefits of having a case of filters shipped right to your door, and today we’re happy to announce that we’ve begun to offer our local customers an additional online purchase option. Now, when you add filters to your shopping cart, you have the option to bypass pesky shipping charges by selecting “Local Pickup” at the time of checkout. Simply shop for the filters you need, pay online with “Local Pickup” selected, and pick them up at our office in Eugene, Oregon. We’ll call or email you as soon as your order is ready. Like many retail outlets, our local pickup option simply requires showing a valid photo ID and your order number when you come to our office to pick up your purchase. To see the full details on how our local pickup option works, look for our complete policy under “Local Pick Up” on our terms of use page.

If you live near our Eugene office, consider trying this new option the next time you shop for filters. It’s simple, it’s affordable, and it supports the local economy – now that’s a sustainable way to take charge of the care of your HVAC system!

Solar Power in the Northwest: Possible and Practical

solarandhazeEven if you’re not an environmentalist, rising utility and fossil fuel prices are prompting most of us to change our behaviors, and start looking for practical alternative sources of energy. Some have traded in their SUVs for hybrid and electric vehicles; others have invested in new home technologies like high efficiency washing machines or LED light bulbs. As consumers, these products are certainly useful because they use far less fossil fuels than their older counterparts, and will cost us less on our energy expenses overall; but what about that free source of energy that’s always overhead? How about utilizing the power of the sun?

In the Northwest, especially for those of us that live west of the Cascade Mountains, this proposal is often met with blank looks or scoffs. “Isn’t it too cloudy out there?” is one of the most common protests to utilizing solar energy in the Northwest. It’s true that much of the Northwest really doesn’t see much of the sun before Memorial Day and after Labor Day; in fact, there are even parts of Oregon and Washington that have been classified as rainforests by climatologists.

However, this question represents one of the most common misconceptions about the viability of solar power in regions that experience a lot of cloud cover. We may not be able to see the sun when it is covered by clouds, but that doesn’t mean that the solar radiation the sun is constantly emitting isn’t reaching us here on the Earth’s surface. Whether you have solar panels installed in sunny Phoenix or rainy Seattle, the sun’s radiation can still be collected and used as a free energy source.

It’s true that installing solar panels can be an expensive project. Luckily, Oregon’s Department of Energy (ODOE) is a backer of this renewable source of energy, and offers tax credits and incentives for a variety of solar applications. You may even qualify for additional federal tax credits to help offset the initial cost.

solar_hot_water_If you’re interested in using solar power, but aren’t quite ready to retrofit your roof with solar panels for use throughout the entire house, ask a qualified plumbing contractor like Home Comfort about installing a solar water heater. Solar water heaters use a combination of storage tanks and solar collectors to heat stored water for use throughout the home. There are a variety of different brands and models on the market, and a professional plumber can help you select the best water heater for your climate and your family’s projected water use.

Deciding to convert more of your energy sources to solar power can be a big decision, but there are a lot of incentives, and plenty of professional assistance to help you make the switch and start saving money on your utilities. If you’re ready to learn more about how you can utilize this efficient and abundant energy source, check out the resources below or contact our knowledgeable staff at Home Comfort. We can help you get on your way to lower utility bills and a more sustainable lifestyle.

Works Cited:

http://www.nwwindandsolar.com/solar-power-in-seattle-and-the-northwest/

http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/solar-water-heaters