A modulating furnace is the perfect gas furnace for our climate in the Willamette Valley. A modulating furnace has the ability to run at a very low heat setting, a high heat setting, or anywhere in between. By running at a lower heat setting the modulating furnace can use less gas and electricity to heat your home, and deliver a higher level of comfort. The heat setting that a modulating furnace operates at is determined by factors like outdoor temperature, and the set point of the thermostat. The colder it is outside, the more heat the furnace will need to put out to maintain the desired temperature in the home. On a more mild day, the furnace can run at a lower heat setting to achieve the desired indoor temperature. This ability to ramp up and down makes for a very comfortable home, because the furnace will not heat the home too fast under lighter operating conditions. How often do you find your furnace turning on and off? If it is happening constantly, that’s because it is putting too much heat into the home too rapidly. The set point of the thermostat is achieved before the home is able to be heated evenly. This makes for hot and cold spots in the home, causes excess wear and tear on the furnace, and costs you more money to heat your home. We also discussed the advantages of a two stage furnace in the post, What is a Two Stage Furnace?. The two stage furnace offers a lot of the same advantages as a modulating furnace, but the modulating furnace takes it to another level. It offers a greater range of operation, therefore a greater comfort level, and better energy efficiency. If you would like to learn more, feel free to Contact Us to set up a free comfort consultation.
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From March 15th to June 15th, 2013, homeowners can take advantage of a Rheem Instant Rebate that offers savings up to $1,200 with the purchase and installation of a Rheem heating and cooling system.
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Rheem gives you the value, performance and features you want, and they offer top-rated air conditioners and furnaces to satisfy the budgets and lifestyles of every customer.
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Most people aren’t aware of just how many different accessory products are available for a heating and cooling system, whether it be related to safety and health, comfort, energy savings, or just ease of operation. Let’s touch on a few of these products.
Health & Safety Products
Carbon monoxide detectors are becoming more and more popular. On April 1 of 2011 in Oregon, ORS 476.725 went into effect stating that carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in any home that contains a Carbon Monoxide (CO) producing appliance, or that has an attached garage where CO may enter the home from a car running in the garage. What appliances produce CO? Pretty much any gas or oil burning appliance, a furnace, water heater, gas range, or even a wood burning fireplace. The law states that single family residences are required to have a working CO detector in, or within 15′ of any bedroom at the time of sale or rental. Unintentional CO exposure accounts for an estimated 15,000 ER visits, and approximately 500 deaths each year in the US. – Center for Disease Control. This is a very important product to help keep your family safe from this silent killer.
Duct mounted smoke detectors can be easily installed on your ductwork, and include a tube that enters the duct, and will sense smoke being pulled through the ductwork. Once smoke is sensed by the detector, it will turn your furnace off to avoid circulating the smoke throughout the entire home. You can incorporate an alarm into this setup, but the biggest benefit of this product is the avoided smoke damage that even the smallest of kitchen fires could cause if allowed to be circulated through the ductwork with the force of the furnace fan.
Ultra violet light can be installed on your heating and cooling system, and is very effective at maintaining healthy air in the home. There are many good air filtration systems available, but the downfall with most of them is their inability to kill the particles they trap, and therefore those particles may be disbursed into the duct system again. The UV light will kill mold spores and bacteria, and stop them from reproducing. Ductwork is a breeding ground for these organisms, and the UV light will keep your lungs from taking the abuse.
Energy Savings and Comfort
Now that we’re through all the boring safety stuff, we can focus on the cool gadgets that are available. The most exciting control system available right now is the Prestige HD thermostat from Honeywell. Honeywell has developed a thermostat that will open eyes, and broaden your abilities to control your heating and cooling system. This thermostat has a full color display, and when equipped with the optional wireless outdoor temperature sensor, will also display outdoor temperature and humidity. The stat incorporates an interview based programming method, and will ask you questions about your schedule for each day of the week, to determine optimum programming settings for increased comfort and energy savings. Filter change and maintenance reminders can also be easily set up, so that you don’t let that all too easy to forget, and yet so important, furnace be neglected. That is the basic operation of the stat, but the really cool part is the options available.
There is an optional Portable Comfort Control, which is a remote that you can take with you anywhere in the house, and you can not only control the system from there, but if you want, you can even have the temperature sensed from there. For example, if you are spending the day in a TV room watching movies, and you want that room to maintain 70 degrees, you simply take the remote with you, push the button to sense from the remote, and your heating and cooling system will work to achieve 70 degrees in that room.
If being able to control your system from any room in your home isn’t enough, what about being able to control it from anywhere in the world? The Internet Gateway from Honeywell plugs into your wireless router, and can wirelessly communicate between your laptop, desktop, phone, or iPad. You can control the temperature manually, set up a new program, and also monitor the system. Honeywell monitors the system as well, with no monthly fees. Sensors get installed in the ductwork that read temperature on the supply and return side of your heating and cooling system. If the difference between the two sensors increases or decreases indicating a problem with the heating and cooling system, then emails will get sent to up to 5 emails of your choice. If you have your email in the system along with the email of your heating contractor, then if there is a problem, your heating contractor can be arranging a service call, and contacting you, whereas before you would have to come home to a cold house, and probably pay after hours rates to have it fixed. The Internet Gateway can be especially useful in a vacation home. How nice would it be to bump up the heat when you or a renter are on your way to the home, and oh, if you got half way back home and it clicked with you that you forgot to turn down the thermostat, no problem. Just hop online.
These are just a few of the many products available that can be added to any heating and cooling system at anytime. If you have any questions on these or any other products of interest, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to help.
In the market for a new furnace?
So you’re in the market for a new furnace, but you’re not quite sure what features you should be looking for. To answer this, look within. Within your home that is.
The first, most obvious place to start is with the type of fuel you are using to heat your home. Do you currently have a gas, oil, or electric furnace? Most homes are heated with one of these. Now just because you have one of these types of furnaces, doesn’t mean you need to stick with it. With the cost of heating oil these days, and no real high efficiency options in the oil furnace category, you are probably better off switching to a heat pump system, and either keeping the oil as back up for temperatures below 35, or going heat pump with electric back up.
If you are currently heating your home with natural gas, you have many more options available to you. Gas furnaces of today range anywhere from 80% to 95% efficient, with some furnaces up in the 98% efficient range. What does this mean? An 80% efficient furnace will provide $8 worth of heat for every $10 of natural gas purchased. A 95% efficient furnace will provide $9.50 of heat for every $10 of natural gas. The fuel which is burned, but not converted to heat in the house is expelled as exhaust through a flue pipe. Over time, having a furnace that is providing you with an extra $1.50 worth of heat for every $10 spent will certainly pay off. Now that we’ve established efficiency ranges as far as fuel utilization, let’s focus on the function of the equipment. We provide service throughout the Willamette Valley of Oregon, from Portland to Corvallis. Our climate is fairly mild throughout the year, however we do experience some extreme temperatures in both the Summer and Winter. We have to size a system for these extremes, so that you can remain comfortable when you most need to be, but that means that majority of the time your system will be over sized. This means that the system will satisfy the set point on the thermostat much quicker than it should. That may seem like a good thing, but if the system doesn’t run long enough to evenly heat the home, then the thermostat will quickly be calling for the system to kick right back on. This continuous condition is known as short cycling. Short cycling will lead to unbalanced temperatures, higher utility costs, and a shorter life expectancy for the equipment. Some national surveys have determined that more than half of the systems in homes today are not properly sized, and the majority of those are over sized. So how do we solve this problem? First, we start by performing a load calculation on your home to determine what size system we need to install to heat and cool your home under design temperature load for our area. That is only part of the equation though, because design temperature in the Portland area is 24 degrees, so when the temperatures are more mild, the system would still be over sized. The load calculation though, at least gives us a baseline, and eliminates drastically over or under sizing. So in order to meet demands of the more extreme temperatures, but also maintain consistent temperatures throughout the home on more mild days, without short cycling, we introduce multi-stage equipment. Huh? There are furnaces available today that have two or more stages of heat they can operate at. Most two stage furnaces available can either deliver 100% capacity, or can scale back to around 65% capacity when the full force of the furnace is not needed. To take this a step further, Rheem has been manufacturing a modulating furnace for over ten years now. This furnace can deliver a range from 40% capacity to 100% in increments of 5%. This allows the furnace to always deliver just the right amount of heat to maintain temperature in the home. This makes for a very comfortable home, and a very payable utility bill. The other component to multi-stage furnaces to look for is a variable speed fan. These fans will vary the airflow based on the heat the furnace is delivering. If you run your fan constantly, or have air conditioning, the variable speed fan will drastically cut your electricity bill as well.
The variable speed fans operate at about 1/3 the cost of a standard, single speed fan. If you are heating your home with an electric furnace, then I would strongly recommend having a heat pump installed. The variable speed fans are available in electric furnaces as well, and when paired with a heat pump, can be the most efficient way to heat and cool a home in the Willamette Valley. The multi-stage technology is available in heat pumps as well. The compressor on a two stage heat pump is capable of operating at two different settings whether in heating or cooling mode. This makes for a very comfortable and efficient home year around. Ductless heat pumps have taken this to a whole other level with variable capacity compressors that have a very wide range of operation. If you currently heat with electric baseboard, cadet heat, or ceiling cable heat, then a ductless heat pump is a very cost effective way to drastically lower your utility costs. Ductless heat pumps have been known to cut utility costs nearly in half for people who heat with the aforementioned types of electric heat. They will also provide air conditioning, and since no ductwork is needed, they can usually be installed in one day.
The process of selecting a new furnace, and a contractor to install it can be a daunting task, so hopefully this information will help you choose. The bottom line is that the contractor should be helping to customize a system based on the features that are important to you. These conclusions can only be made by a series of questions and answers, so start thinking about what you would like to get out of a new system. It is no small investment, but if done right, can truly be an investment, and not just another cost. If you are located within our service territory in the Willamette Valley, please press the “Need Comfort” button below, fill out the online form, and we will contact you for your no cost comfort consultation. Or if you would prefer, just give us a call. Thank you!
Preventative maintenance for a heating and air conditioning system is something that is often times overlooked. Some homeowners choose not to pay any attention to their heating and cooling system until there is a problem with it, or the system is no longer functioning. These problems can be very costly to repair, and can many times necessitate replacement of the heating and/or cooling system. A simple once a year maintenance on your heating and cooling system can greatly increase the life of your heating and cooling system, as well as help to maintain the efficiency of the system over time. These factors will save you money in the long run. Now I’m not saying that if you have a maintenance done every year you’ll never have to replace your system, but I am saying that you can extend the life of the system by at least a couple of years, and the energy that is saved by the system operating at peak efficiency over it’s lifespan will more than pay for the maintenance you are having done.
I like to use cars as a parallel. The auto industry has done a great job of making people aware of the benefits of having an oil change every 3 months or 3,000 miles. If you ask most people out there, they would be able to tell you when they should have their oil changed. Conversely most people don’t know when or why they should service their heating and cooling equipment. If you look at your monthly utility cost, and realize that a heating and cooling system makes up a large portion of that, and then also factor in that a new system can rival the price of a car, it starts to make more sense as to why we should pay more attention to our heating and cooling systems.
What does a maintenance on a heating and cooling system include? The answer to this question will vary based on who you choose to do the maintenance. At Clean Energy Comfort we do a very thorough, very entailed inspection and cleaning. Aside from changing out your air filter, and vacuuming out your furnace, which is the extent of what you’ll get with some of the “$79-$99 tune ups” that you will find advertised, we will really get down to the nitty gritty. On a furnace we will inspect and clean the burners, inspect the heat exchanger and clean if necessary, pull the blower and clean the fins as well as lubricate if necessary, check circuitry, perform safety checks, and run test. With an air conditioning system we rinse and clean debris off the outdoor unit, clean the indoor coil located at the furnace, check refrigerant pressures, check circuitry, perform safety checks, and run test.
To summarize, keeping your heating and cooling equipment maintained and in good working order is very important, and you can be sure that Clean Energy Comfort will make it worth your investment.
It’s that time of year. The temperature is gradually creeping up, and the trees are starting to bloom. With the trees and flowers blooming, allergies become a concern for a lot of people. The itchy, watery eyes, the scratchy throat, the runny noes, these symptoms can put a real damper on what should be an exciting time of year for all of us. After all, Summer is just around the corner. A good filtration system attached to your home’s heating and cooling system, such as an electronic air cleaner, or even a good pleated media filter, can help you to enjoy this time of year the way you should. You can also incorporate UV light treatment which will sterilize the bacteria floating through your duct system. The filter will catch it, while the UV light zaps it.
Having a furnace equipped with a variable speed fan is also a great way to circulate the air through the home. Variable speed, or ECM motors can run continuously at a very low speed. By running a continuous fan you can constantly filter the air, and help balance temperatures throughout the home all while saving money due to the low operating cost of the ECM motor. These motors use about 2/3 the power of a traditional blower motor.
Heat Recovery Ventilators, or HRV’s, can remove stale air from your home and exhaust it to the outside, while bringing fresh air into the home. The HRV removes heat from the air being exhausted, and mixes it with the incoming fresh air to condition it. This allows you to efficiently bring fresh air into the home, without affecting the indoor air temperature. This is also a much safer alternative than leaving windows open.
These are just a few of the ways we can increase the quality of the air you breathe inside your home. Remember also, that this is the perfect time of year to have a system maintenance done. We will get your air conditioner ready for the long Summer ahead, and make sure your furnace is ready to deliver the air throughout your home.
Have a great Spring!