It is hard to believe, but the first day of spring will be here in no time. And as we transition from winter to spring, we should start thinking about what that means for your HVAC system.
During the spring rain season in Houston, the combination of warm temperatures and increased moisture from the rain can lead to high humidity levels inside houses. When the air outside is humid, it can infiltrate homes, especially if there are any leaks or poor insulation. Additionally, activities such as cooking, showering, and doing laundry can also contribute to indoor humidity.
What can high humidity levels do to my home?
Mold and mildew growth: High humidity can lead to the growth of mold and mildew, particularly in areas prone to moisture buildup such as bathrooms and kitchens. This can lead to health concerns and damage to the structure of the home.
Condensation issues: Excessive indoor humidity can result in condensation on windows, walls, and other surfaces. Over time, this can lead to water damage, peeling paint, and even structural issues.
Allergen and dust mite problems: Dust mites and other allergens thrive in humid environments. High indoor humidity can cause allergies and respiratory issues for everyone inside the home, especially older adults and children.
Discomfort: High humidity levels can cause feelings of discomfort, stickiness, and a generally harsh indoor environment.
Pest problems: Certain pests, such as cockroaches, thrive in humid conditions. Controlling indoor humidity can help deter these pests.
How do I control the humidity inside my home?
A home dehumidifier is a device designed to reduce and maintain the humidity levels in an indoor space. It works by drawing in moist air, removing the excess moisture, and then releasing the air back into the room at a lower humidity level.
There are two main types of home dehumidifiers:
Refrigerative dehumidifiers: These dehumidifiers use refrigeration technology to condense moisture from the air. The moist air passes over cold coils, where the moisture condenses and drips into a collection tank. The drier air is then released back into the room.
Desiccant dehumidifiers: Desiccant dehumidifiers use a drying agent, often silica gel, to absorb moisture from the air. These dehumidifiers are effective in colder temperatures and are generally quieter than refrigerative models.
Home dehumidifiers come in various sizes and capacities to accommodate different room sizes and levels of humidity. They can be portable units that are moved from room to room or whole-house systems that integrate with the home’s HVAC system.
What are the benefits of home dehumidifiers?
Improved comfort: Removing excess moisture from the air can help create a more comfortable indoor environment. High humidity can lead to that sticky, clammy feeling, which can be alleviated with proper dehumidification.
Health benefits: Lowering humidity levels can help reduce the growth of mold, mildew, and dust mites. This can help decrease the risk of respiratory illnesses and allergy symptoms.
Preservation of the home and contents: Excessive moisture in the air can lead to damage to wood furniture, electronics, and other susceptible materials. Dehumidification can help protect these items from moisture-related issues.
Energy efficiency: By reducing humidity levels, you may be able to enhance the efficiency of your air conditioning system. This can lead to energy savings and lower utility costs.
Odor control: High humidity levels can contribute to musty odors in the home. Dehumidification helps to control these odors and maintain a fresh indoor environment.
At JW East, we understand that every home is different and every homeowner has unique needs. Our experts will work with you to figure out the best solution for humidity control in your home. Schedule an appointment today!
Did you know there is a way to heat or cool your home that will save energy and keep more money in your pocket?
No? Well, let us fill you in!! Heat pumps offer an energy-efficient alternative to furnaces and air conditioners, and should be taken into serious consideration. Energy efficiency is the key to everything. It’s what homeowners want. With heat pumps, electricity is used to move heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. Because they move heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps provide equivalent space conditioning at as little as one quarter of the cost of operating conventional heating or cooling appliances.
According to the experts, heat pumps are greatly beneficial to houses that have an electrical heating system. When the system calls for heat, the cooling system turns into reverse. The compressor outside now acts as a heater so instead of taking the hot air out of your home, it puts it in by compressing the heat and pushing it back inside.
There are several different types of heat pumps. Certain types work better in certain climates, so finding the right one for you should be the first step.
Types of Heat Pumps
Air-Source Heat Pump
An air-source heat pump transfers heat between your house and the outside air using electricity. It is also the most common type of heat pump. If you heat with electricity, a heat pump can reduce the amount of electricity you use by as much as 30% to 40%. High-efficiency heat pumps also dehumidify better than standard central air conditioners, resulting in less energy usage and more cooling comfort in summer months. However, the efficiency of most air-source heat pumps as a heat source drops dramatically at low temperatures, generally making them unsuitable for cold climates, making this kind of heat pump a great option for Houston homes!
Its refrigeration system consists of a compressor and two coils (inside and outside) made of copper tubing which are surrounded by aluminum fins to help with the heat transfer. In heating mode, liquid refrigerant in the outside coils extracts heat from the air and evaporates into a gas. The indoor coils then release heat from the refrigerant as it condenses back into a liquid. A reversing valve, near the compressor, can change the direction of the refrigerant flow for both cooling and defrosting the outdoor coils in winter.
When outdoor temperatures fall below 40°F, a less-efficient panel of electric resistance coils, similar to those in your toaster, kicks in to provide indoor heating. This is why air-source heat pumps aren’t always very efficient for heating in areas with cold winters. Some units now have gas-fired backup furnaces instead of electric resistance coils, allowing them to operate more efficiently.
Geothermal Heat Pump
Geothermal heat pumps have been in use since the late 1940s and work in a unique way. With these, the constant temperature of earth is used as the exchange medium instead of the outside air temperature. According to the Department of Energy, this allows the system to reach fairly high efficiencies of 300% to 600% on the coldest winter nights, compared to 175% to 250% for air-source heat pumps on cool days. This means that if you live in a place where temperature drops significantly, this might be the solution for you and your home.
Even though different places have different seasonal temperature extremes, the ground still remains at a relatively constant temperature a few feet below the earth’s surface. This ground temperature is warmer than the air above it during the winter and cooler than the air in the summer. The GHP takes advantage of this by exchanging heat with the earth through a ground heat exchanger. As with any heat pump, geothermal and water-source heat pumps are able to heat, cool, and, if it has the right equipment, can also supply the house with hot water. Some models of geothermal systems are available with two-speed compressors and variable fans for more comfort and energy savings. When compared to air-source heat pumps, they are quieter, last longer, need little maintenance, and do not depend on the temperature of the outside air.
Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump
Ductless mini-split-system heat pumps make good retrofit add-ons to houses with “non-ducted” heating systems, such as hydronic (hot water heat), radiant panels, and space heaters. They can also be a good choice for room additions where extending or installing distribution ductwork is not feasible, and very efficient new homes that require only a small space conditioning system.
Like standard air-source heat pumps, mini splits have two main components: an outdoor compressor and an indoor air-handling unit. A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain, links the outdoor and indoor units together. Two great advantages of mini splits are their small size and flexibility for heating and cooling individual rooms. With this, only occupied rooms need to be conditioned, which saves energy and of course, money! Also, being ductless means that it avoids the energy losses associated with the ductwork of central forced air systems. According to the DOE, duct losses can account for more than 30% of energy consumption for space conditioning, especially if the ducts are in an unconditioned space such as an attic.
Absorption Heat Pump
Absorption heat pumps are essentially air-source heat pumps driven not by electricity, but by a heat source such as natural gas, propane, solar-heated water, or geothermal heated water. Because natural gas is the most common heat source for absorption heat pumps, they are also referred to as gas-fired heat pumps. There are also absorption (or gas-fired) coolers available that work on the same principle. Unlike some absorption heat pumps, however, these are not reversible and cannot serve as a heat source.
Residential absorption heat pumps use an ammonia-water absorption cycle to provide heating and cooling. As in a standard heat pump, the refrigerant (in this case, ammonia) is condensed in one coil to release its heat; its pressure is then reduced and the refrigerant is evaporated to absorb heat. If the system absorbs heat from the interior of your home, it provides cooling; if it releases heat to the interior of your home, it provides heating.
The difference in absorption heat pumps is that the evaporated ammonia is not pumped up in pressure in a compressor, but is instead absorbed into water. A relatively low-power pump can then pump the solution up to a higher pressure. The next task is to remove the ammonia from the water, and that’s where the heat source comes in. The heat basically boils the ammonia out of the water, starting the cycle over again.Although mainly used in industrial or commercial settings, absorption coolers are now available for large residential homes, and absorption heat pumps are under development. The 5-ton residential cooler systems currently available are only designed for use in homes around 4,000 square feet or more.
Absorption coolers and heat pumps usually only make sense in homes without an electricity source, but they have an added advantage in that they can make use of any heat source, including solar energy, geothermal hot water, or other heat sources. They are also amenable to zoned systems, in which different parts of the house are kept at different temperatures.
How to Maintain Your Heat Pump
Like all heating and cooling systems, proper maintenance is imperative if you want your system to continue to work efficiently. The difference between the energy consumption of a well-maintained heat pump and a severely neglected one ranges from 10% to 25% (yikes!).
We recommend that you clean or change the filters once a month or simply as needed. Dirty filters, coils, and fans reduce airflow through the system, which then decreases system performance and can damage your system’s compressor. Make sure to also clean outdoor coils whenever they look dirty. It’s also a good idea to occasionally turn off power to the fan and clean it by removing any clutter from around the outdoor unit.
Whenever handling important systems in your home, maintenance is something that comes with the territory. You should also have a professional, experienced JW East Mechanical technician service your heat pump at least once a year. Once there, the technician will take care of any and all issues. Some things they will do are:
Inspect ducts, filters, blower, and indoor coil for dirt and other obstructions
Find and seal duct leakage
Measure air flow
Measure refrigerant charge
Check for refrigerant leaks
Inspect electrical terminals, clean and tighten connections, and apply non conductive coating
Lubricate motors and inspect belts for tightness and wear
Check on the electric control, making sure that heating is locked out when the thermostat calls for cooling (and vice versa)
Make sure the thermostat is working properly
With proper maintenance and operation, your heat pump will work efficiently and safely to give you, your family, and guests maximum comfort when in your home. And hey, if you can save energy and money, what else can you ask for?
According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling uses more energy and costs more money than any other system in your home – typically making up about 48% of your utility bill. No matter what kind of heating and cooling system you have in your house, you can save money and increase your comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your equipment. By combining proper equipment maintenance and upgrades with recommended insulation, air sealing, and thermostat settings, you can save up to 30% on your energy bill while reducing environmental emissions.
Here are some tips to help you keep your furnace in top shape so you can save money while keeping your home comfortable at the same time:
Change your air filters. This simple task can end up saving the life of your furnace. Air filters are designed to collect dirt, dust, and other impurities in your indoor air. If you go months without changing them, the debris gets thicker and thicker, causing your system to work that much harder to produce warm air. And the harder your system has to work, the more energy it uses and the more money it will cost you. Also, the dirt and dust will get sucked back into the system causing it to fail – in fact, that’s one of the leading causes of furnace failure.
Make sure the capacitor is running efficiently. The capacitor is located in the fan of the furnace and is responsible for starting up the motor. It is like a car battery and has a charge. When it is below the recommended percentage, which is 5%, it needs to be changed. The motor will still come on if the charge is low, but it will pull more amps and greatly increase your energy usage and monthly bill. And once the charge gets low there is no guarantee of how long it will continue to work.
Make sure your system is shielded. A shielded system is one that has no cracks or leaks. For example, if there are small leaks in your air ducts, then the warm air will seep out and end up heating your attic AND the living portion of your home. This will cost you more money and it will also take a lot longer to reach the desired temperature inside your home.
Adjust the temperature when leaving for work. There is no need to keep your furnace running strong while your house is empty. By setting the temperature to a lower degree, you are still keeping your furnace running, but not as hard, which can amount to savings.
Maintain your system. It is important to have your furnace inspected annually during the fall. A lot of internal problems can only be diagnosed by a licensed HVAC technician, and by having your system inspected right before winter you are being proactive about finding and fixing small problems before they become big and costly.
Utilize your fireplace. Your fireplace is not there just to make your house look good. The flue in your chimney is not airtight, and when it is cold outside it is not uncommon to feel a breeze in your home coming from the fireplace. By lighting a fire you are providing heat in your home and giving a little bit of rest to your furnace because you don’t need to have the temperature set as high.
By paying attention to your thermostat and furnace, and by following the advice listed above, you should be able to maintain a warm and cozy household at an affordable price. But if you have made some changes and still notice no difference in your monthly payments, it’s time to give the expert HVAC technicians at JW East Mechanical a call. We can properly diagnose all furnace-related problems and help get your home comfortable in no time.
The HVAC system inside your home is complex. It’s composed of many different parts that work together to heat or cool your home. Today we want to discuss the different parts of a furnace and how they function. Knowing the parts of your furnace is key to keeping it in good condition.
Read on as we shed some light on identifying the most important parts of your furnace, what their purposes are, and why it’s so important to take good care of them.
Parts of a Furnace
The gas burners are ignited by a pilot flame or electronic ignition that is incorporated in most modern gas furnaces. The main function of the gas burners is to heat up cold air using heat exchangers that are made of stainless steel. Then the warm air is distributed through the ducts by a blower motor.
Run by the blower motor, this is one of the crucial parts of the entire furnace system because it helps set up the air draft that is required for the operation of the furnace itself. The blower’s main purpose is to allow for easier intake of cold air and then channel it through to the heat exchanger chamber.
The heat exchanger is made of heavy gauge metal mixed with alloys that resist temperatures above 2000° F to accommodate the extremely high temperatures that are reached inside the combustion chamber. That’s why it’s important to perform annual inspections and examine the state of the heat exchanger on a regular basis. If not, there could be dangerous consequences.
The heat exchanger is the part of the furnace that takes carbon monoxide out of the house. Because it is usually visible and easy to spot, it needs to be regularly inspected for cracks or rusting. Noticeable damage on the outside can run the risk of causing a carbon monoxide leak inside your home, which can be deadly.
Capacitors store electricity and help compressors and blower motors turn on and operate. Specifically, start capacitors provide motors with a boost in starting torque. Faulty capacitors lead to overheating, intermittent motor operation, humming noises and can even cause blower motor failure.
Vents are one of the only parts that are directly visible to the homeowner. Vents are usually made of stainless steel or PVC, with PVC being most common due to its durability. The vent pipe works by carrying the exhaust gasses that are formed due to combustion outside of the home,
This is one of the key components designed for the safety of the furnace. The flame sensors, pilot, electronic or hot surface igniters monitor the presence of the flame in the combustion chamber. If the flame in the combustion chamber goes out, these sensors stop the flow of gas into the chamber using their link up with the gas control valve.
The control board is the brain of the entire operation. Wires attached to the board run to the motor, gas valve, ignitor, and other necessary components. It controls your furnace by telling it when to kick on the gas and at which point the fan can shut off.
Modern furnaces use integrated circuit boards to monitor the furnace’s operation. It works because of light emitting diodes that show failure codes if the gas furnace is malfunctioning in any way.
Keep Your Ears Open
Most of the parts of the furnace are usually behind a door. According to experts, a person can actually hear certain parts of the furnace working.
The furnace is made up of the blower motor, the heat exchanger, the blowers, and the control board. They are the main components of a furnace, and none of them can be seen with the naked eye. Because you can’t physically see damage, listening for it is the next best thing. If you hear a loud popping sound, or any other sounds that don’t seem right, it’s time to call a professional.
Be Smart: Consult a Pro
We recommend always calling an experienced JW East Mechanical HVAC technician to come to your home and check everything out for you. We aren’t just saying that. There are fragile and expensive parts that need to be removed or moved, and only professionals have the hands-on experience to get it done correctly and safely.
If you are experiencing any issues with your HVAC system give us a call. We also recommend a fall furnace check to keep your system operating year round. We’ll perform regular maintenance to identify any worn parts or leaks. Most breakdowns in HVAC systems happen because of deferred maintenance, so have us perform these important checks every year and avoid the stress and inconvenience of a broken heater in the middle of winter.
Will it work? Is that a strange smell? What was that sound? These are all questions that go through our minds as we turn on the heater for the first time of the year. We might not use our heater as often as those who live in other places, but we do use it. And when we need to turn it on, it’s important to have peace of mind knowing that it will work correctly. The best way to make sure your heater will work is to get an annual furnace check.
Simply stated, an annual check-up ensures that all aspects of your furnace are working correctly. The number of problems that can occur within your HVAC system are endless, which is why it’s important to have a licensed professional thoroughly inspect your unit to catch small problems before they become out of control. By doing this you will not only prolong the life of your unit, you will save money and create a more energy-efficient home.
A comprehensive furnace check should inspect the following:
Blockage in the vent or drainage system- The vent and drain are essential parts of your system. Your furnace will perform at its best and last much longer with proper drainage and vent piping care by a qualified technician.
Accumulation of dust and debris- Over time, dust and other particles will collect in your system and cause blockages and other damage. Air flow is also compromised when dust gets in the way. A professional knows the right way to get around your system and clean it properly.
Rust and corrosion- If a part needs to be replaced, don’t wait long to get it fixed. Waiting a prolonged period of time will cause additional damage to your system like rusting, which is very expensive to fix.
Dirty flame sensors- If your flame sensors are dirty, your burner cannot turn on and your furnace will not produce heat.
Physical condition- Even if the individual parts of your system are working, the physical condition of the furnace is important too. Are there corrosion spots on the outside? Is there debris pushed up against the unit? All of this will keep your system from running as efficiently as it should.
Emission of dangerous, undetectable gasses- HVAC service technicians always check the carbon monoxide levels, as well as other gasses in the system to ensure there are no leaks. Gas leaks can be extremely dangerous. A carbon monoxide leak can go undetected for a long time and can lead to serious health problems, including death.
Deemed the Silent Killer, carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, and kills on average 169 individuals a year according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In a 2012 study by the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 72,000 non-fire carbon monoxide incidents were reported between 2006 and 2010. Of those, 94 percent occurred in a home.
At JW East, we recommend a fall furnace check to keep your system operating year round. We’ll perform regular maintenance to identify any worn parts or leaks. Most breakdowns in HVAC systems happen because of deferred maintenance, so have us perform these important checks every year and avoid the stress and inconvenience of a broken heater in the middle of winter.