Design Comfort Blog: Posts Tagged ‘UT’

Are Your Air Ducts in Salt Lake City Able to Handle a Heat Pump?

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Between the concerns about climate change and the rising costs of energy production and consumption, there is a lot of experimentation with new technology.  Standard choices are being re-evaluated and new designs are changing the requirements for various parts.

In homes and other buildings where systems were designed and installed according to the cheaper energy parameters prevalent in the day, it may be time to consider drastic changes to increase the efficiency and decrease impact on the carbon footprint.  Room for improvement can be found in many corners.

Heat Pump Technology

One appliance that is getting a lot of attention in Salt Lake City is heat pumps, a device that transfers thermal energy from one location to another, usually in the direction of from a colder temperature to higher and generally the opposite of the natural flow.  While compressor-driven air conditioners and freezers are technically heat pumps, heat pump is the term that usually implies one of the less-common devices in the class that are not dedicated to refrigeration-only.

A heat pump installation maintains a thermally conditioned-space can be used to provide either heating or cooling, depending upon whether the environment is cooler or warmer than the conditioned-space.  Typically pumps utilize some thermal energy from the environment itself, such as the natural heat beneath the Earth’s surface.

By simply transferring the energy rather than producing it, heat pumps are being more seriously considered as attractive alternatives to provide an efficient and clean system for conditioning public and living spaces.

Change of Use

In considering a change from an existing system to a heat pump, there are many details to compare to see if it makes any sense at all.  The overall local climate (cool or hot) in general, and the availability of geothermal heat, in particular,  are two major factors.

Since a heat pump typically moves conditioned air through ductwork, the advantages of the change are much more realistic with a system of pre-existing ducts such as a forced air furnace or central air-conditioning unit.  While a heat pump often requires a larger volume of ducts, the old network of metal tunnels was often over-sized for inefficient furnaces and should do fine in a conversion to a heat pump.

The Right Data

Since the required formulas are dependent upon variables such as size, distance, volume and oomph, the design is strategic and makes all the difference.  Consulting with a trained and experienced professional such as (Your Company) is critical to the success of the conversion.

Do the homework to get the best recommendation for your home, and if you need help just call Design Comfort.

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Handy Ways to Remember Your Filter Changing Schedule for Salt Lake City Residents

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Changing the air filters in your Salt Lake City heating system and air conditioner is an essential maintenance task. The benefits of having a fresh filter for the air circulating in your home are numerous. The better air quality is good for your respiratory health, fewer allergens permeate the air, your system runs more efficiently and you save money. So why is it so difficult to remember to replace those filters? To help prevent those issues, try some of these tips to remember your replacement schedule.

Set Reminders for Later

Think of the last time you inspected and replaced your air filter. Was it more than three months ago? Replace it now. Can’t remember? Replace it anyway. Go ahead; this post will wait. Now that you’ve taken care of that, set a reminder for three months from now. Try one of these systems to remind yourself:

  • Put it into your cell phone calendar.
  • Use a calendar application that sends email alerts to remind you.
  • Circle the day on your wall or desk calendar.

Whatever method works best for you, make sure to use it and stick to it. While you are at it, set monthly reminders to inspect the filters. The EPA recommends making the switch every three months, or whenever the filter is visibly dirty.

Make a Connection

If you don’t like to have reminders, or perhaps find yourself forgetting to even set the reminders, hope is not lost. Try scheduling filter changes to coincide with something you will remember, or putting it on the same day as other routine maintenance tasks. Here are some examples:

  • Make the day of the month the same as that of your birthday or anniversary. Bonus points if your birthday is June 25, since that combines with Christmas to take care of two replacements a year. Just remember March and September and you are all set!
  • Three months is about as often as cars need oil changes, so do both on the same day. Drove 3000 miles already? Time to change the furnace filter.
  • Schedule on a holiday. In the U.S., for example, Martin Luther King Day, Easter Sunday, the Fourth of July and Columbus Day are all approximately three months from one another.

The Failsafe

If all else fails, hire a professional to inspect and change the filters for you, and rely on his appointment keeping skills to make up for any memory lapses you may have. It will cost a bit more than DIY, but at least it will get done, and the maintenance will save you on the costs of wasted energy.  To schedule these visits please call Design Comfort.

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Green Building Trends for Salt Lake City Homes

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Residents of Salt Lake city have an increasing eye on reducing waste and creating energy-efficient heating systems, so it might not be as surprising to know that the green building market has been steadily increasing over the past few years, and in years to come is expected to triple from what it is now.  The variety of green building trends for new homes which are in place today are staggering and exciting, and will ultimately change the way we build homes and business facilities, permanently.  According to the Earth Advantage Institute, below are the latest green building trends for new homes to watch for in the near future.

 

  • Urban Density:  Homeowners are opting to build in the empty space between existing homes or buildings.  These lots are desired by those who want to be closer to city-centers and hotspots.
  • Green Multi-Family Homes:  An increased interest in energy-saving building options and an increase in the number of multi-family homes being built mean an increase in green multi-family homes.
  • Energy Upgrades Drive Home Remodels:  Consumer preference has switched to remodeling in order to save energy in their upgrades.  Thus contractors have begun to offer these types of services as a standard option in remodeling projects.
  • Development and Testing of New Materials: National labs and research departments are working with construction firms in order to produce test facilities and sensor-filled buildings which track real-time energy performance of new materials and equipment.
  • Consumer-Friendly Home Energy Tracking Devices:  Sensor-based energy and water monitoring systems are being used to track new heating system replacements to save money all throughout their homes and the number of companies creating these tracking devices is increasing, making them easier to come by.
  • Energy Education for Commercial Tenants:  Commercial building energy disclosure is pushing building owners to be more energy efficient, this in addition to educating tenants on ways for them to contribute to saving energy means that more commercial buildings are going green.
  • Transparency in Home Marketing:  Consumers who have instant access to information are more educated and can see through housing scams more easily. Real estate agents who are forthright and educate clients even further on the benefits of having energy efficient home features means more confidence in the green housing market.
  • More Accurate Appraisals:  With more educated consumers looking for Certified Residential Green Appraisers, the lending community is beginning to follow suit and pay attention even further to the added value and return on investment for green homes and green remodels.
  • Broader Adoption of Residential Energy Ratings for Homes:  Energy labeling systems are being put into place nationally, thus causing homeowners to be more educated regarding energy savings possibilities.  More extensive usage of residential energy ratings for homes means homeowners are undertaking more energy upgrade work.
  • Smart Grid-Compatible High-Performance Homes:  More new homes are utilizing “grid-aware” appliances which monitor and report their own usage with the ability to increase or decrease electric usage remotely, thus saving energy.

Call Design Comfort if you have any questions about these improvements.

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Green Your Salt Lake City HVAC

Monday, April 16th, 2012

“Air conditioning accounts for nearly 50% of the energy use in the United States during peak summer months, and air conditioning is responsible for nearly 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year,” says the Rocky Mountain Institute in one of its White Papers.  In the winter, while northern cities, like Salt Lake City, change over to the production of heat, southern states continue to rely on cooling their climate, raising America’s reliance on HVAC systems despite rising energy costs and the impact to the environment.

We know this trend can lead to irreversible damage to our climate and style of life, but are just beginning to learn the little steps that can be taken to minimize the impact.  From house to house, one by one, we can make a difference.

Regular Maintenance Avoids High Costs

No matter the energy rating of a heating appliance, a schedule of simple heating maintenance and replacement of filters can make a significant difference in its longevity.  Most heating systems in Salt Lake City rated at 95% efficient will burn nowhere near that great a rating if the air is blocked and unable to pass through the filter without effort.

Fan belts on the blower motor can loosen over time and become ineffective, forcing the heater to burn longer and hotter to distribute air that should normally breeze through the ductwork.  Working so hard, parts break and the furnace might need replacement.

Programmed Thermostat

If left to our own habits, furnaces and air conditioners might run for hours under unnecessary circumstances because we are not thinking to turn our thermostats up or down.  At the change of seasons, in particular, it may feel warm enough to open a window while the heat is still adjusted to come on at those fresher temperatures that now seem so inviting.

In older homes, the replacement of the old dial thermostats with the newer programmable versions can save hundreds of dollars annually on energy costs.  Smart phones allow adjustments to thermostats from anywhere in the world for the instance that a cold snap may threaten frozen pipes while we are away on vacation.

Changing World

Tax incentives, climate change and the economics of energy dictate that we look closely at our habits and find ways to conserve our resources.  Simple steps taken by each of us can lead to a wealth of improvements and create communities of action.  Please call Efficient Systems with any questions.

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Salt Lake City Q/A: What Is an Electronic Ignition?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

When faced with the many options Salt Lake city residents have for heating system installations, many residents chose the complicated gas furnace. Modern ones in particular are designed to use as little gas as possible, and to recapture as much of the heat generated from burning that gas as can be done safely. One of the many safety and energy-efficient advances in furnace technology in the least twenty years is the electronic ignition.

The Purpose of Electronic Ignition

In older furnaces and boilers, a pilot light would stay lit continuously whenever the heating system needed to be available. That meant continuously burning gas throughout the fall, winter and spring months for those times when heat was needed. It was inefficient and unsafe, especially in older devices that didn’t have safety valves.

Today, furnaces are built with electronic ignitions – small devices that only ignite the gas supply when the thermostat is on. there are two types of electronic ignition used in boilers and furnaces today.

  • Intermittent Pilot – An intermittent pilot is unique in that it releases a spark through an electronic component to the gas pilot, lighting the gas burners.
  • Hot Surface Ignition – Hot surface ignition uses an electronic filament (like a lightbulb) to heat up and ignite the burners when the thermostat calls for heat.

Both devices are designed to use a very small amount of electricity and reduce the amount of gas needed for continuous operation of your furnace.

Safety Benefits of an Electronic Ignition

While gas efficiency was a big part of the transition from pilot lights to electronic ignition, safety was an equally big component. Whereas before, the pilot light was continuously lit, meaning gas was continuously flowing into the furnace, today’s furnaces are essentially off when not in use. This means less of a chance that gas will flow unburned or that the pilot will get dirty or burn too soft, releasing carbon monoxide.

If your furnace or boiler still uses a traditional pilot light, consider having it upgraded to electronic ignition, not just to save gas but to keep your home and family safer.  If you have any questions about this process please call Design  Comfort.

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Causes of Delayed Furnace Ignition in Salt Lake City

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Delayed ignition in Salt Lake City is usually accompanied by a loud banging or booming sound that resembles a small explosion in your gas appliance. In a furnace, this can be terrifying and should never be ignored.

What Causes Delayed Ignition

Delayed ignition usually happens when you first turn on your furnace, often after a long delay between use, so usually early in the fall or late in the spring when you don’t necessarily have it on every day of the week.

What happens is moisture builds up over the course of a period of inactivity and begins to corrode the firebox in your furnace. That corrosion builds up to the point that it starts to block the ports that feed gas into the burners. When these ports get blocked, the burners down the line cannot light and when you flip the switch, they won’t light immediately.

Of course, while rust and corrosion are a risk, lint and dust can be equally problematic (and are more common if you don’t heating system maintenance properly each fall). Sulfur build up is also a possibility, as it is left behind by burning natural gas. It will appear as a layer of white on the surface of the burners or the pilot light.

When all of this happens and the ports are not cleaned properly, gas will build up in the chamber after it is turned on and, when it finally ignites, create the small boom sound. It doesn’t just sound like an explosion – it is one – and if ignored, it can become incredibly dangerous.

Solving the Problem

Delayed furnace ignition is an easy problem to avoid. All you need to do is have your furnace cleaned properly before turning it on each fall. A technician will clean the burners and ports and remove any dust, lint, rust or sulfur buildup that might block ignition and cause a delay.

When replacing your furnace, look for a device with corrosion resistant materials. You can learn more about these when it comes time to replace your furnace from a technician. Most importantly, be careful. It may be a small problem now, but if left to build up over time, that small boom can become a much larger one.  For help with this issue please call Design Comfort.

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Happy Valentine’s Day From Your Greater Salt Lake City’s HVAC Contractors!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

Everyone at Design Comfort wishes you a Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentine ’s Day is all about showing your appreciation for your loved ones. Whether it is your significant other, your family, or your friends, today is a great day to let them know how special they are to you. A handmade card, a bouquet of flowers, or even a simple phone call can make someone’s whole day.

If you are thinking about a big gift for your family, an upgrade to your HVAC system might not be the most romantic gift, but it is a gift that keeps on giving! An air filter will keep you indoor air clean, and a new furnace or heat pump will make your home more comfortable and lower your utility bills. Making your home cozier is something your whole family will appreciate!

Call Design Comfort to learn more about how some HVAC system upgrades improve the comfort level in your home. And to make your Valentine’s Day a little sweeter, here is a recipe for Chocolate Covered Strawberries

INGREDIENTS:

16 ounces milk chocolate chips

2 tablespoons shortening

1 pound fresh strawberries with leaves

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Insert toothpicks into the tops of the strawberries.
  2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Holding them by the toothpicks, dip the strawberries into the chocolate mixture.
  3. Turn the strawberries upside down and insert the toothpick into styrofoam for the chocolate to cool.

For more details, visit allrecipes.com.

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How Much Will a High Efficiency Furnace Save Me? A Question from Salt Lake City

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

The furnaces you can buy these days in Salt Lake City are all much more energy efficient than those available even 10 years ago. However, that doesn’t mean that all of the current models are created equal. There is still a pretty big variation when it comes to energy efficiency and when it comes to price, so you need to really know what you’re looking for if you want to get the best deal out there.

The first thing you should understand when you’re trying to pick out a furnace is how energy efficiency for this type of equipment it measured. All furnaces come with an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating that reflects just exactly how energy efficient they are.

Any furnace you buy today will have an AFUE of at least 80%, but it’s possible to purchase models with AFUEs of 97% or more. Of course, energy efficiency is generally a good thing, but there are some other things to consider when you’re trying to decide just how energy efficient you need your new furnace to be.

What this calculation really comes down to is how much you’ll be able to save monthly and annually with a higher efficiency furnace. While your heating bills will certainly be lower the higher the furnace’s efficiency is, you will also pay more up front for the highest efficiency models.

This higher purchase price may be worth it, however, if you live in an area with particularly harsh winters. If your heating load is very high and you’ll be using your furnace a lot, your monthly savings will make up for the higher initial price of the high efficiency furnace in a reasonable amount of time.

However, if you live in an area with relatively mild winters and you won’t be demanding a whole lot of your furnace, then the amount you’ll save each month with the highest efficiency models really won’t add up to much.

Keep in mind that a furnace with an 80% AFUE is still quite efficient and will almost certainly save you a considerable amount monthly when compared to the unit you’re currently using. And because 80% AFUE furnaces are so much cheaper than those with upper 90% AFUE ratings, they often wind up as the more cost effective alternative overall.

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Things to Look for When Buying a Heating System in Cottonwood Heights

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

If you are in the market for a new or replacement heating system and don’t know much about heating systems, you are not alone. Many Cottonwood Heights homeowners are in the same boat as you. And many of that number put their trust in their local, professional, and qualified heating and cooling contractor to find the right furnace for their homes.

Before calling for an estimate, there are some things you can do to “prepare” yourself for one of the most important purchase you can make. Here is a checklist of things you should look for when buying a heating system.

  1. Know your energy alternatives. There are lots of options today when it comes to heating your home. Gone are the days when the choices were so cut and dried.  Check with your heating and cooling contractor for suggestions.
  2. Know what size your furnace should be. Furnaces are not “one size fits all.” The size of the furnace is determined by its Btu (British thermal unit) rating. For example, a one-story ranch home on a crawl space requires less heating capacity than a two-story colonial with a basement, thus it would require a furnace with a smaller numbered Btu rating. A home with a great deal of heat loss through windows and doors may require various furnace sizes. And don’t forget about insulation. Insulation can affect the furnace size, too. Again, check with your heating and cooling contractor for recommendations.
  3. How much room do you need for your furnace? Some homes have mechanical rooms for furnaces and water heaters while others utilize attics, basements, or crawlspaces for furnaces. If you think you need a big furnace to heat a big home, think again. Furnace manufacturers have been downsizing their heating equipment for years, while maintaining the same heating capacities. One example are wall hung boilers, which utilize water and electric as heating sources and are installed on a wall, making the unit easy to locate and easy to service – while at the same time being off the floor and out of the way.
  4. Will your heating system be “plug and play?” New furnaces can take the place of the ones they are replacing by using the same space. But sometimes a replacement unit may need some altering to fit into an existing duct system. It is almost a given that a new plenum (the part attaching the furnace to the ductwork) will have to be fabricated. But the new furnace may also require some other modifications to an existing duct system. You should understand this ahead of time and be prepared to pay additional costs.
  5. A box is a box is a box. As a rule, most heating systems are made the same. In some cases, one furnace manufacturer may produce several different brand names. The best “brand” is the heating and cooling contractor who installs and services your heating equipment. Do your homework ahead of time and find a qualified and professional contractor. Ask friends and family for recommendations. This is may be the most important thing to look for when buying a heating system

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How to Get Your Furnace Ready for Winter: A Tip from Utah

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Being cold in a Utah winter is normal – as long as you are outside. But you shouldn’t be cold inside your own home. If that happens, the first place to look to is your furnace, which may not be working correctly. Furnaces are like any other piece of mechanical equipment. They need to be maintained and serviced on a regular basis to ensure they are working at peak efficiency and warming your entire home at your desired comfort level.

The best time to get your furnace ready for winter is not during the cold winter months – it is before the winter season even begins. There are several way to get your furnace ready for winter and let’s explore some of them.

First of all, check and see when you last had your furnace serviced. If it has been over one year ago, you should schedule and maintenance inspection from your local qualified heating and cooling professional. And when you make that appointment, ask about service agreements and getting on a regular maintenance schedule. Most heating and cooling contractors offer service agreement plans which include furnace and air conditioning check-ups on an annual basis.

Okay, so you know who to call for maintenance but what can you do yourself? First of all, give your furnace a little “help” by checking the vents and returns throughout the house. Ensure that there are no obstructions or blockages such as rugs, clothing, furniture, etc. You need to have unobstructed paths for your heated and return air to flow. The more congested the path, the harder your furnace will have to work. And while you’re at it, make sure your vents are open or closed, depending on how much you use your rooms. For example, if you have an extra bedroom that doesn’t need to be heated, closed off the vent or close the damper in the ductwork. The heated air will be diverted to other parts of your home where it is needed.

You can also help the airflow by vacuuming the vent cover or removing it and vacuuming any of the ductwork that you can easily get to. For a more thorough job consider calling a qualified and professional duct cleaning contractor. Many heating and cooling contractors also offer duct cleaning service, too.

Another maintenance function that you can perform is cleaning or replacing the furnace filter. Depending on the size of your home and its air quality (occupants, pets, etc.), you may want to clean or replace your air filter every one to three months. A dirty filter can restrict airflow and can put contaminants like dirt and dust right back into your air system. If you don’t know how to replace your air filter, consult the furnace owner’s manual or go online to learn more. If your furnace uses an electrostatic air filter, it will need to be removed and cleaned, either by using a hose or with soapy water and a hose. Make sure you let it dry before re-installing it.

You may also want to inspect any electrical wires around your furnace to ensure none are broken or frayed. A visual inspection should be good enough.

Once you have done what you can, let your heating and cooling professional take over from there. They are licensed and trained to inspect your furnace and ensure that it is in peak operating condition. And do it today – while everyone else is waiting.

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