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The unpredictability of Mother Nature can cut electrical power off at any time. Severe storms, high winds, earthquakes, wildfires and flooding can play havoc with the electrical grid. Once it goes off, we're left with the question of when will it come back on. Sitting in the dark without lights, air conditioning and your security system is bad enough for a few hours. Severe problems can linger for days. The best way to deal with such problems is to have a back-up plan in the form of a standby generator. Small, portable generators can be a problem at the least and a hazard at the worst. Getting them started after sitting for a while can be a problem. They release dangerous gases into the air and any wires plugged into an outside portable have to be run through a door or window. There's always the problem of refueling them after only a few hours. A permanently installed standby generator is made for just such residential use. It is wired in already so there's no need to manually plug up anything. They can be fitted with a sensor that detects when power is lost and automatically start themselves in less than 30 seconds. Even if your home is empty at the time, the standby generator can keep refrigerators, freezers, security systems and air conditioning running while you're away. The fuel source for these residential generators your natural gas or propane lines. And, as long as there is a fuel supply, whether the power is out for hours or days, you will continue to have electricity. The technology and popularity of standby generators have made them more affordable than ever. Sizes can range from powering basic home functions to running the whole house. If you would like additional information on the reliability, security and affordability of standby generators, contact us at Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical. Visit our websitefor 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 about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information, click here to download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. To get started, check out our website or see our current promotions.Read More
Just like you, your home is unique. Yes, there may be another home in your neighborhood with the same floor plan, same siding and same number of windows and doors. But, yours is still unique. Consider the front of the home. In what direction does it face? How about insulation, landscaping (trees, bushes), the color of the roof? For this reason air-conditioning systems should be tailored to a particular home. There is a specific way that professional heating and air contractors use to fit an A/C unit to a home. It's called the Manual J method. It uses scientific formulas to determine a heat load. An installer should always use this method to size air conditioning to the home. Unfortunately, many don't. If you're getting a new A/C system, here are just a few of the things that should be taken into consideration to determine the system size you need:
- Orientation. If the home faces south, it can increase solar exposure and heat penetration.
- Windows. The size and number of windows must be factored.
- Insulation. Type, amount and location must also be factored.
- Appliances. Refrigerators, televisions, water heaters and other appliances all give off heat.
- Number and ages of occupants. We all give off body heat. All this must be estimated.
- Air infiltration. How well-sealed is the home?
The weather has a significant impact on your home’s energy use from day to day. Using your meter readings to calculate how much energy you’re going through is helpful, but because the variable of changing weather isn’t included in your calculations, you’ll get a less clear picture of your home’s efficiency. Learning to use heating and cooling degree days can help. Let’s go through an example to learn how to calculate cooling degree days, which are used during the summer. Basically, the temperature changes that take place during a single day will be gauged against a base temperature. Base temperatures vary, but we’ll use the example of 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Adding the highest and lowest temperatures of the day, and then dividing that sum by 2, we arrive at the day’s temperature average. Let’s say the temperature average is 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, we’ll subtract our base temperature from our average, to arrive at 15. This particular day would have 15 cooling degree days. How can this help homeowners in South Bay, peninsula and Santa Cruz? Look at the calculations from your last electric meter reading, found on your utility bill. Now, calculate how many cooling degree days occurred during that span of time. You can go to the Degree Days website for help with base temperatures and the general process. If you monitor your home’s meter readings and the cooling days from month to month, you get a clearer idea of your home’s efficiency. This way, when you take on home improvements or equipment upgrades, you’ll be able to see how your efforts raise your efficiency. Actions that can help include:
- Sealing and insulating your ductwork
- Installing high-efficiency HVAC equipment
- Using ceiling fans, and raising your thermostat settings
- Plugging air leaks throughout your home
- Decreasing solar gain during the day by keeping blinds and curtains closed
Homeowners in the South Bay, peninsula and Santa Cruz area can save energy and money by upgrading to high-efficiency HVAC equipment. Compared to their conventional counterparts, high-efficiency systems use less fuel, produce more usable warm or cool energy, and are more environmentally sustainable. Some high-efficiency systems, such as home PV solar systems, use an entirely renewable fuel source like the sun, allowing homeowners to generate their own fuel independently of the utility companies. The benefits of upgrading to high-efficiency HVAC equipment are clear, but some homeowners are still reluctant to make the initial investment. However, federal tax credits and rebates from Lennox can mitigate the cost, meaning right now is the perfect time to upgrade. Depending on which equipment you purchase, you could save $1,900 or more. If you purchase a high-efficiency Home Comfort System from Lennox, you could receive as much as $1,100 from the manufacturer. This offer includes:
- Heat pump system or air conditioner
- Oil or gas furnace
- Indoor air enhancer, such as an air cleaner
Before you replace an old or failing water heater, give yourself a little time to determine exactly what size you'll need. You can end up with either more water heater than you need or less than you should have. Conventional Tanked Heaters Storage or tanked heaters have a fixed capacity. To determine what size fits your home best, you need to determine the water demand at any one time. The FHR or First Hour Rating on these units are the best way to determine the size needed. The number of gallons needed, number of persons in the home and amounts of heated water needed for various activities will need to be considered. A professional technician should be consulted to determine the best size for installation. Change Fuel Sources Maybe your old unit was electric. Now, you've weighed the options and think that gas may be more energy efficient for you. If choosing to switch fuels, consider the costs to change over and compare that to your long-term savings in efficiency. If the costs of installation are prohibitive, you may want to stay with an electrical unit. On the other hand, if you already have gas heat or other gas appliances, adding a water heater may be the most inexpensive choice. Tankless Water Heaters Tankless or on-demand water heaters supply water only as needed. The best way to size these is to determine how much water will be used at any one time and how high the temperature should be. Temperature rise is the difference between incoming water to the tankless unit and the temperature when it's delivered to your faucet. For example, if you want water at 120 degrees and you use a shower and clothes washer simultaneously, the needed flow and temperature will determine the size. Tankless units are great energy savers. Your costs for energy are only related to how much hot water you use. For help determining the best size for your home, contact the professionals at Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical. We can give you information to help you make an informed decision. Call us at (408) 294-6290. We're always happy to help. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information, click here to download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. To get started, check out our website or see our current promotions.Read More
Whether you are looking for someone to conduct a service check or install a heating, cooling or ventilating system, you need to count on that contractor to do the job right. As far as those of us at Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical are concerned, that means hiring a contractor with NATE-certified technicians. These technicians have a reputation for being the best in the heating, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration industry. They are efficient, dependable and knowledgeable and will guarantee peace of mind when it comes to your HVAC equipment. How do you know if the contractor you hire is the real deal? Here are some ways to help you verify that your contractor or technician is NATE-certified.
- Ask your contractor if he has NATE-certified technicians. Simply being licensed will not do. NATE-certified technicians are trained, tested and certified in air conditioning and distribution, oil and gas furnaces, light and commercial refrigeration, heat pumps and HVAC efficiency. NATE certification also means the technician can install and perform maintenance in those areas.
- Ask to see the credentials. A NATE-certified technician usually carries a NATE-issued card that proves he has passed the necessary tests. Many also proudly wear the NATE patch on their uniforms.
- Check out the NATE contractor locator to find technicians in your postal or ZIP code. If you hire a contractor who employs both certified and uncertified technicians, make sure a NATE-certified worker does your job. The HVAC Contractors Network also will match you up with prescreened and licensed contractors in your area.
Experienced contractors have lots of stories about the things (living and nonliving) they have found in ductwork. Most of us don't have to worry too much, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends duct cleaning on an as-needed basis. An expert at Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical can tell you if the problems in your ductwork are sufficient to warrant duct cleaning. Mold can grow in your ducts and on other components of your HVAC system. And it has the potential to cause health problems. If mold is present, the most important thing you can do is to determine the cause of the problem and fix it. Schedule an inspection if you suspect a mold problem. An inspection can determine the source and correct it. You may also want to remove the mold spores in your ducts with a thorough duct cleaning. Small amounts of dust may not be cause for concern, but if large volumes of dust or dirt have clogged your system, the dust could dislodge and be blown into your house. This is often the case if you've completed a major remodeling project or if you have pets that shed. This is another problem that duct cleaning can remedy. A complete duct inspection every two years is a great idea. If holes in your ductwork are large enough, critters can get inside. If insects, rodents or other vermin make their way into your ducts, their nesting material, feces and urine could collect there. Cleaning the ducts will help. If you suspect you have a critter problem or haven’t had your ducts inspected in a long time, start with a duct inspection and cleaning combo. We can eliminate any holes where critters can enter. If you wait, the critters may move in and cause major damage. A duct cleaning won’t fix urine or feces odors, so you could be looking at a large expense if you need to replace your damaged ducts. When choosing a contractor for duct cleaning, be sure the company's familiar with all of your HVAC-system components. Hiring an HVAC professional to do your duct cleaning is the way to ensure the most thorough job. Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical has 50 years of experience in the installation and repair of ductwork and HVAC systems. We offer three duct-cleaning packages: a truck-mounted vacuum cleaning; a furnace cleaning and tune-up with truck-mounted vacuum; and a duct-cleaning scrub. At Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical, we're happy to answer your duct-cleaning questions. Visit our websitefor in-depth information on HVAC topics, or just give us a call at 408-294-6290. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information, click here to download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. To get started, check out our website or see our current promotions.Read More
If you're in the market for a new water heater and are looking for ways to cut down on your home energy consumption, tankless water heaters are an option that may appeal to you. Instead of spending energy to heat water and hold it in a reservoir until it's needed, these units heat water on an as-needed basis at the point of use. Essentially, they consist of a power source connected to a heating unit, which is installed close to the water lines that service your faucets. Then, when you turn on the hot water tap, the power source kicks in and the unit heats water on demand. Tankless water heaters have advantages as well as disadvantages, though, and you need to consider both carefully before making up your mind. Here are some issues to consider: Pros:
- They use far less energy than conventional tank water heaters, and are as much as 35 percent more energy-efficient, depending on your hot water consumption rates
- They are small and compact, making them ideal for use in living environments with limited space
- They have longer life expectancies than conventional water heaters
- These units tend to be more expensive than conventional storage tank models
- Energy efficiency drops off considerably when hot water usage increases, and they may not be the best choice in homes with high simultaneous demands for hot water
- They require professional installation, which increases up-front costs
If your household isn’t tightly sealed, the natural flow of heat from warmer to cooler areas can make consistently heating and cooling your home a challenge. Not only does this unwanted exchange of heat reduce household comfort, it can send your energy costs through the roof. That’s why adequate insulation is such an important factor in maintaining home energy efficiency. One way to accurately determine the appropriate level of insulation for a given job is to understand its R-Value. This rating is indicative of the level of heat resistance offered by the insulation. In other words, a higher R-Value offers a higher level of efficiency. Many factors must be considered in determining the appropriate R-Value for a given job, from the California climate to the construction of your home. In general, however, Silicon Valley homeowners can follow these basic recommendations:
- R-30 to R-60 should be used in un-insulated attics.
- For attics with up approximately 3 to 4 inches of existing insulation, R-25 to R-38 should be used.
- When insulating floors, insulation levels should fall between R-19 and R-25.
- Fiberglass batts prove most effective when used between wall studs and attic floor joists.
- Foam board can serve many purposes including roofs, pipes, foundations and walls.
- Loose fill is useful in wall cavities, unfinished attics and in areas other insulation methods cannot reach.
- Reflective insulation is ideal for use between rafters to prevent heat from seeping in through your roof.
- Sprayed foam is ideal in hard-to-reach areas and can be used to supplement existing insulation.
Carbon-monoxide detectors are essential in your home to help keep you and your family safe. They give you peace of mind that you are protected from a deadly gas that can be hard to detect otherwise. But when choosing a carbon-monoxide detector, it is important to get one with the right features for your home. One important feature is that the detector doesn't just rely on your home's power. There are many units that plug directly into the wall, but if the power goes out, so will your detector. If you are considering a model that plugs into the wall, you want to purchase a unit that also has a battery-powered backup. If you are looking for something a little more discreet that doesn't have to be plugged into a wall, there are models that are solely battery powered. These are more expensive but can be strategically placed anywhere. With units that only run off battery, it is important that they have some sort of warning sign that is activated when the battery is low or the sensor is malfunctioning. This will let you know that it needs to be inspected so that you remain safe from carbon-monoxide. There are also models that work as both carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. You should be careful not to assume that one unit will do both as they are very different gases. These have to be hard-wired into your home's electrical system. Because smoke rises, they must be mounted to the ceiling to be effective. The placement of your detector is very important. Keep them about 5 feet off the floor but within 15 feet of your bedroom door or even in your bedroom. You need them to wake you if there is a gas leak and you are in a deep sleep. For more information on carbon-monoxide detectors, contact Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical today. We proudly serve the South Bay, peninsula and Santa Cruz area. 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 about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information, click here to download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. To get started, check out our website or see our current promotions.Read More
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