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Gas fireplaces are becoming a popular addition to many people's homes. With fall on its way, many homeowners would love to add a bit of coziness to their living room, without having to turn on the furnace. Gas fireplaces can provide that extra warmth you're looking for, and they come in many models so that you can find what's right for your house. Gas inserts can allow you to convert your regular wood-burning fireplace into a more efficient gas-burning fireplace. This makes it more convenient for the person who has to chop and haul all of that wood. It will convert your fireplace into a cozy attraction in your house, rather that just a pit of ash needing to be cleaned. They also eliminate the possibility of chimney fires due to creosote build-up. Gas log sets come in many models for vented and vent-free gas fireplaces. They can give you the effect of having a real wood-burning fireplace, without all the hassle. With most models, you can adjust the heat and the size of the flame to suit your needs. Most-vent free gas logs will burn with an extra hot blue flame, reducing harmful emissions. Vented models will burn the typical orange flame that you get from real wood. Having a gas fireplace in your house allow you to turn the furnace down, and not get too cold, during relatively moderate outside fall and winter temperatures. They come with different types of glass, allowing for different amounts of heat transfer. With little maintenance, other than a yearly check, this is a great way to cut your heating costs. Gas fireplaces usually burn natural gas or propane. This means fewer harmful emissions being given off to the atmosphere, providing a green-friendly alternative to burning wood. They can produce just as much or more heat than any wood-burning fireplace, and they save you the hassle of splitting, cutting, carrying and lighting wood. Please contact us at Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical for in-depth information on gas fireplaces and other HVAC topics for your South Bay Peninsula or Santa Cruz home.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about gas fireplaces and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.
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An air conditioner uses refrigerant and the heat-exchange process to remove heat from your home's air and release it into the outdoor air. The subtraction of heat from the home results in indoor cooling. The main components of the air conditioner system include:
- The evaporator coil
- A compressor
- The condenser coil
- An expansion device
- An air handler or blower
The heat removal process starts as warm air from your home, delivered via return ducts, is blown across the evaporator coil by a blower fan. The evaporator coil has a large surface area to allow good thermal transfer between the cold refrigerant flowing through it and the warmer air of your home. The refrigerant is warmed by the heat it absorbs, causing it to change from a liquid to a gas.Now that the heat has been removed from your home's air, it must be transferred to the exterior air. To accomplish this, the refrigerant is pumped outside to the compressor, which increases its pressure to raise its temperature significantly above that of the outdoor air. This high temperature refrigerant is then pumped into the condensing coil. Heat is removed from the refrigerant as a fan blows exterior air across the condensing coil. This allows the refrigerant to condense to a liquid and give up the latent heat it had gained from your home's air. To get the refrigerant to return to a cold enough temperature to once again absorb heat from the home, an expansion valve between the outdoor and indoor units lowers its pressure. This step depends on the air conditioner. Some A/Cs simply have a thin section of tubing, but more advanced air conditioners will have a thermal expansion valve. The so-called TVX can change the size of the opening to ensure the evaporator coil is receiving the ideal amount of refrigerant for efficient operation. If you have any questions about how your air conditioner works, please contact us at Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical. We provide exceptional service to Santa Cruz and the South Bay Peninsula. Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about A/C maintenance and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Image courtesy of Shutterstock Read More
A significant portion of most residential energy bills on the South Bay Peninsula is the cost of air conditioning. As such, many people are considering, or better yet, purchasing high-efficiency A/Cs to enable them cut down on these costs. However, there is much more to these highly efficient A/C units than just saving money. Why you should invest in a high-efficiency air conditioner
- Lower your energy bills: High-efficiency air conditioning enables you to reduce your cooling costs and in effect, gives you a quicker return on investment. Efficient A/C units come with advanced features such as automatic-delay fan switches, variable-speed air handlers, and thermal expansion valves that allow the A/C units to utilize less energy, while operating at optimum levels.
- Minimal maintenance required: High-efficiency A/Cs are usually designed and built from superior quality parts. As such, breakdowns are infrequent, resulting in greater cost savings. You are able to save money not only from the reduced energy bills, but also low-maintenance operation.
- Improved comfort: An efficient A/C unit enables you to create a more cozy living or working environment. The variable-speed air handler eliminates unnecessary temperature fluctuations and ensures the comfort levels are maintained at optimum levels at all times. This feature keeps the operating speed of your air conditioner as low as possible, in accord with your home's cooling demands. It also allows for better humidity control and air filtration.
- Energy Star certification: Highly efficient air conditioners come with the "Energy Star" label to show that they meet strict energy efficiency and environmental guidelines; they also come with higher EER and SEER ratings. These units allow you to actively reduce your carbon footprint.
- Greater convenience: High-efficiency A/C units offer advanced qualities such as quieter operation and a check-filter light.
As the warm weather continues on the South Bay Peninsula, your cooling costs likely have remained high this summer. Running outdated or inefficient air conditioning systems can be like throwing money out the window. Try to keep a cool head because you may be eligible for tax credits for an A/C replacement. Tax credits for an A/C replacement that qualifies under federal guidelines are available for air conditioning systems that were purchased and installed between Jan. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2013. Tax credits are available for 10 percent of the air conditioning system’s cost, up to $300. To be eligible for the 2012-13 tax credits for a central A/C replacement, air conditioners must meet the highest standards as set by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE). The CEE rates air conditioners according to the system’s energy usage in order to produce a specific output. This rating is referred to as its seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The minimum SEER allowed for a residential central air conditioner or heat pump is 13, though to qualify for the federal tax credit, the A/C must have a minimum of SEER 16. While higher efficiency A/Cs cost more, they provide continued operational savings throughout their service life. The most energy efficiency air conditioners on the market today use as much as 30-50 percent less energy to use than their counterparts of the 1970s, which can greatly reduce your monthly energy bill. Even replacing a system that’s only 10 years old could reduce your energy bill by 20-40 percent. When looking for a replacement air conditioning system, consumers can choose from a wide array of options, and at Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical, we'll be happy to explore your options with you. For expert advice on selecting the right air conditioning system for your Santa Cruz area home or office, please contact us today. Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about tax credits and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Image courtesy of ShutterstockRead More
You want reliable cooling that uses energy efficiently, and this is why you don't want to overwork your A/C compressor. It serves an important role in maintaining the health and comfort of your family, and you should take steps to keep it working effectively and reliably. Follow these tips to maximize the lifespan of your A/C and avoid breakdowns and expensive repairs.
- Raise the thermostat temperature when you leave the house. When you're away, your home doesn't need to stay as cool as when you're there. Keep your thermostat several degrees above your comfort level (but not too high) so your home can get cool quickly when you get home.
- Reduce the humidity in the air by running the exhaust fan in your bathroom while you take a shower. This sends the warm, moist air outside and saves your A/C from having to cool it. You can also hold off on tasks that use hot water or give off heat (such as the oven and dishwasher) until the cooler parts of the day. Wash dishes in the morning or later in the evening, for example.
- Keep your A/C filter clean. This is one of the easiest ways to extend the life of your A/C compressor and save money on energy bills at the same time. A clogged filter forces the compressor to work harder and less efficiently. Replacing the filter when it gets dirty allows the air to move freely and easily throughout your home, and also maintains cleaner, healthier air.
- Schedule regular A/C tuneups. Good maintenance practices are critical to extending the life of your A/C compressor. You should have a professional inspect your unit every year to make sure it is running at its best. Doing so can extend the life of the compressor considerably.
You depend on electricity in your home for many things. Keep your family safe from fires and electric shock by knowing how to identify and diagnose the following common electrical wiring problems. If you notice any of these problems, have a professional take a look immediately. Overlamping – Don't use a higher-wattage light bulb than the light fixture is rated; it's unsafe. Replace any such bulbs with lower-wattage ones to reduce the risk of fire or damage to the fixture. Exposed junction box – Without a cover, the uninsulated wires in a junction box pose an electrocution hazard. Make sure the box is protected with the proper cover. Lights flicker when it's windy – This is caused by frayed wires or a faulty connection at the weatherhead where the electricity comes into your house from the overhead cables outside. The utility company may be able to fix this for free. Too few outlets – Relying too heavily on extension cords and power-strips can be unsafe. Consider having an electrician install new outlets where you need them. No GFCIs – Devices built into electrical outlets near water, such as in bathrooms and kitchens, are called Ground-Fault Circuit Interruptors. They prevent electric shock in case the outlet comes in contact with water. Overwired panel – You'll have an overwired panel when your circuit breaker panel has been wired to more circuits than it's rated to handle. Aluminum wire – Some older houses use aluminum wiring. Aluminum is now considered unsafe, and should be replaced with copper by a professional. Backstabbed wires – Wires that are pushed through the back of receptacles and switches are less dependable and not as safe as properly installed ones. Ungrounded receptacles – Receptacles depend on ground wires to safely remove stray current from the circuit. Without them, you risk damage to devices plugged into the receptacles. Plug falls out of receptacle – This is a sign that the contacts in the receptacle are worn out. This receptacle should be replaced to avoid arcing and fires. For additional tips on dealing with electrical wiring problems, please contact us at Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical to talk to a professional. We provide quality services to Santa Cruz and the South Bay Peninsula. Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about electrical wiring problems and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Image courtesy of ShutterstockRead More
If you're looking into installing a new A/C or heat pump in your South Bay Peninsula or Santa Cruz home, selecting a unit that includes a thermal expansion valve is something to seriously consider. A thermal expansion valve, sometimes referred to as a thermostatic expansion valve, TXV or TEV, will allow your cooling system to operate more efficiently, more economically and will likely increase your system's reliability and longevity.
The thermal expansion valve, which is a metering device, controls the flow of refrigerant to the evaporator coils in response to the ever-changing cooling load (or cooling requirements) in your home. The specific cooling load is affected by various factors, including:
- Outdoor temperature
- Sun intensity
- Indoor activity
- Use of heat-generating appliances/fixtures
There is a small, refrigerant-filled bulb between the evaporator coils, which are responsible for absorbing heat from the indoor air, and the TVX. This sensing bulb alerts the expansion valve to rising or falling temperatures (cooling load). Based on this information, the valve then opens or closes, as needed, to allow either more or less refrigerant to flow into the coils, depending on current cooling requirements. It operates similarly to the pupil in your eyeball, which opens and closes in adjustment to the amount of light present at any given moment.
SEER, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration, is the standard by which air conditioners are rated for efficiency. Higher SEER ratings equate to more efficient equipment that require less energy to produce a specific amount of cooling output. With the minimum rating for air conditioners manufactured after January 23, 2006, now being a SEER 13, these systems are 30 percent more efficient than those of just a few years ago with typical SEER rating of 10.
The inclusion of a thermal expansion valve increases an A/C's efficiency, allowing it to achieve a higher SEER rating, while saving energy and lowering your utility bills.
Family owned and operated Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical has been serving Silicon Valley and surrounding areas since 1962. Visit our website for in-depth information on most HVAC topics or just give us a call at 408-294-6290.Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about thermal expansion valves and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Image courtesy of Shutterstock Read More
Ready to check "noise in A/C compressor" off your list of things to do? Those rattles, clanks and hisses are trying to tell you something. The sooner you figure out what it is, the better. Waiting too long can lead to unnecessarily expensive repairs or, worse, a dangerous situation. Here are some examples of noise in the A/C compressor, and what they mean. Bubbling or hissing. These noises often indicate a refrigerant leak. If you hear a loud, dramatic hiss that ceases abruptly, it could mean your refrigerant just evacuated the system. Turn your unit off immediately and call the professionals as refrigerant is toxic. If the sound is more like a bubbling, you probably have a leak that should be addressed ASAP. Bangs and/or clanks. This can mean you have a loose piston, rod, crank shaft, pin or other part that's knocking around. If your compressor is on the newer side, you probably have to replace the whole unit. If it's older, you might be able to repair it. However, if your unit is old enough that these items can be repaired, it's in your best interest to replace it with a more energy-efficient unit. Sometimes, it's something as simple as a shipping bolt that was left inside, a loose spring or a bent refrigerant tube, all of which are easy fixes. Buzzing. Buzzing is often heard on the outside of the fan motor and indicates an electrical issue. Normally these connections are all checked during routine maintenance appointments but things can still go awry. Humming. Modest humming noises can be typical of many compressors, especially during the start-up. That being said, if you're noticing a new hum, it could mean the starting capacitor or a fan motor needs to be replaced. Loud screaming or sustained hissing. If this is the noise you are hearing, cut the power source to your A/C immediately and call an HVAC contractor. It could mean your high-pressure sensor has failed, and the pressure in the system is elevated to dangerous levels. Notice a noise in A/C compressor in your South Bay Area home? Contact Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical. Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about A/C compressors and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Image courtesy of ShutterstockRead More
Most homeowners know a circuit breaker is essential to the smooth and safe operation of your home's electrical system. A circuit breaker stops the flow of electricity when it overloads because too much current runs through an electrical circuit. It protects your home and electrical devices from damage and fire. Following are some tips to keep handy as your guide to circuit breakers. If the breaker shuts off, or “trips,” open the circuit breaker panel and check for a switch in the center position. Switch it to the “off” position, then switch it back on. Sometimes the switch is already in the “off” position and you can simply switch it back on. With the breaker back on, everything should work as normal. If it trips again, unplug or turn off other devices in the same room where power was cut. Keep your circuit breaker from tripping by turning off unused appliances and equipment. Avoid plugging in too many things in one outlet. Check for loose wiring in outlets and appliances, as electrical shorts cause breaker trips. A short occurs when exposed hot wires touch other wires, is more critical than an overload, and should be fixed immediately to avoid fire. Improper wiring also causes breakers to trip, and may cause electrical shock severe enough to cause injury. Seek a professional electrician for a more detailed guide to circuit breakers if the same breaker continues to trip. Each switch in the breaker box represents one electrical circuit. The switches control circuits of various amps, and are labeled with the number. An amp is a measurement of electrical current. Large appliances may have their own 30 amp circuit, while an outlet may have a 20 amp breaker. Noise from the breaker box such as buzzing, crackling or humming usually indicates a problem with the breaker itself and should be promptly inspected by a certified electrician. Contact Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical for help making upgrades to your South Bay Peninsula or Santa Cruz home. Then, visit our website for in-depth information on most HVAC topics, or just give us a call at 408-294-6290. Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about circuit breakers and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Image courtesy of ShutterstockRead More
Although installing energy-efficient weather stripping or caulking around leaky doors and windows are small DIY projects most Santa Cruz and South Bay Peninsula homeowners can accomplish proficiently, installing recessed lighting is a project usually best left to professionals.
Besides the need for an electrical inspection of the lights and wiring before they’re covered, a plethora of problems can occur after installation. They include:
- Inadequate clearance. Although recessed lighting with an Insulation Contact (IC) designation can be covered in insulation, according to the National Electric Code, non-IC rated fixtures should never be installed beneath any item or material that could obstruct air circulation or trap rising heat.
- Loose installation. Many recessed lights are now completely sealed, resulting in significant energy savings. Just one drafty recessed fixture can result in air loss of up to 2.5 million cubic feet per year, wasting up to 1 million BTUs during that same period (BTUs, or British Thermal Units, is the standard by which power is measured). Meanwhile, if the springs that hold the light trims in place are improperly installed, the fixture may not remain flush, which can become a fire hazard and also allow drafts.
- Incompatibility with older electrical systems. Older electrical systems often have different switch layouts, aging wiring and design variations that may require repair or even replacement before installing recessed lighting.
- Ignoring manufacturers’ specifications. Excess heat generated by bulb wattage that’s too high can cause the light fixture to crack and may short out the entire circuit. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding bulb wattage and recommended trims. Combining trims can cause loss of your Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) rating, which is the standard for electrical safety.
Recessed lighting is wonderfully flexible. Besides spotlighting artwork, you can target workspaces, border a room, or mix it with lamps or other lighting methods to create a desired “mood.”
Visit our website for in-depth information on most HVAC topics, or just give us a call at 408-294-6290. We’ll be delighted to assist you.Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about recessed lighting and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Image courtesy of Shutterstock Read More
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