Problems Air Conditioning Maintenance Addresses

April 11th, 2014

Here in Washington DC, air conditioning maintenance is more than just a luxury. Considering the amount of heat and humidity we get in an average summer, your A/C unit needs to function at peak capacity in order to keep your home comfortable. A regular maintenance session from a trained professional can be a key part of making that happen. Air conditioning maintenance addresses a lot of little issues such as dirty components and loose fittings, while checking for any potential problems that might pop up down the road.

  • High costs. Dirt and dust on the interior of your air conditioner will increase friction and clog air flow. That forces the air conditioner to work harder to do its job, which not only increases wear and tear but raises your monthly bills in the bargain. Air conditioning maintenance improves your system’s efficiency, helping you save money on cooling costs this summer.
  • Too little cooling. When refrigerant levels aren’t at a certain point, your air conditioner can’t do its job like it’s supposed to. Frost will form of the evaporator coils and the cooling capacity will be reduced. Not only will that force the air conditioner to work harder, but you won’t feel the cool air as much as you should: reducing overall comfort levels and making your home a less pleasant place to be.
  • Problems to come. Big problems usually start out as small issues, which can come in any one of a variety of forms. A maintenance visit is a chance for an expert to spot them when they’re still manageable and schedule a repair session to deal with them properly. This can save you a great deal of money as well as reducing the risk of a breakdown.

The experts at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc., know all about the problems air conditioning maintenance addresses, and for customers in Washington DC, maintenance services don’t come any more thorough and professional than ours. Pick up the phone and give us a call today to schedule an appointment!

What Happens During AC Maintenance?

April 4th, 2014

Here in Alexandria VA, air conditioning maintenance should take place at least once a year, after the snows of winter have left but before air conditioning season begins in earnest. This is an important step in keeping your air conditioner functioning and reducing the risk of a serious repair issue in the bargain. A tune-up lets the technician clean dirty components, recharge refrigerant levels and look for any potential issues that require a more in-depth repair session. On a more specific level, what happens during AC maintenance? We’ve outlined the basic steps below.

  • The technician arrives and shuts off power to the air conditioner, then opens it and examines the components.
  • The technician cleans the condenser coils and the evaporator coils, which are key to the air conditioner working as it should. (The condenser coils are on the outdoor part of the unit, so they tend to get a little dirtier.)
  • The technician checks the refrigerant levels, which needs to be at set amount determined by the precise nature of your air conditioner.
  • The technician checks the drain pans and lines to make sure they aren’t clogged or misaligned.
  • The technician checks all of the components, including the fan, fan motor, tubing, compressor and electronic components to see if any of them are damaged.
  • The technician adds oil to lubricate any moving parts that require it.
  • The technician turns on the air conditioner and lets it run, then looks for any unusual stains, odors, noises and leaks. He or she will also check the system pressure and the coolness of the air being generated, as well as examining the ducts for any leaks.
  • The technician shuts off the air conditioner and closes up the system. If any serious repairs are needed, he or she can then schedule it with you.

If you know what happens during AC maintenance, the next step is to contact a representative who can perform the operation with courtesy and care. In Alexandria VA, air conditioning maintenance can be performed by Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. Give us a call today and let us show you what we can do!

Is a Heat Pump Sufficient Year Round?

March 28th, 2014

Here in Arlington, VA, heat pumps are a viable alternative to forced-air furnaces and similar traditional forms of heating. They work as both a heater and an air conditioner year round, sending refrigerant gas through a series of coils that first heat the surrounding air and then cool it. In cooling mode, the heat pump asborbs heat from your home and transfers it outside, and in heating mode, it absorbs heat from the outside and transfers it into your home. They’re an effective and cost-friendly way to keep your home comfortable no matter what the season, but is a heat pump sufficient year round? Further south, they usually are. Here, however, they sometimes need a little help.

A heat pump’s big advantage is its efficiency. It doesn’t actually create heat or cold temperatures, it merely facilitates a heat exchange with the refrigerant running through its system. That means it uses much less energy than some other forms of heating and air conditioning, keeping your monthly costs down while providing an all-in-one option for conditioning the air in your home. There’s just one catch: that efficiency drops off considerably when temperatures approach freezing levels. Here in Virginia, we don’t get as many cold days as they do in, say, New England, but we certainly have our share of snow and ice in the winter, and a heat pump may not be sufficient during those periods.

The good news is that most heat pumps have electric resistance coils that kick on when the temperature outside gets too cold. They provide that extra bit of help the heat pump needs. You can also choose to combine your heat pump system with a back up furnace to use on very cold days.

If you’re wondering whether a heat pump is sufficient year round for your Arlington, VA home, and need some expert advice, then give us a call here at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. We’re ready to help so don’t be afraid to contact us today!

Some Common Misunderstandings about Heat Pumps

March 20th, 2014

Heat pumps are an increasingly popular choice for home comfort today, principally because they offer a two-in-one deal: heating and cooling. However, some customers feel reluctant to consider a heat pump for their Northern Virginia heating and cooling, and instead gravitate toward older systems like furnaces and air conditioners. This reticence comes from common misunderstandings about heat pumps that we would like to address.

Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. has seen firsthand how effective heat pumps are at providing families with comfort and savings. Although a heat pump isn’t the ideal choice for every home, you should still consider one when it’s time for your new heating and cooling installation.

Here are some of the myths about heat pumps:

Myth: Heat pumps are just a heater and air conditioner packaged together

Because heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling, people often think that they are two separate units put together in the same container. Actually, a heat pump is one mechanism that uses the same process—heat exchange—to perform its two functions. Essentially, a heat pump is an air conditioner that can change the direction it moves heat: while in AC mode, it moves heat from inside a home and puts it outside; in heating mode, it moves heat from outside and puts it inside.

Myth: Heat pumps are essentially useless in cold weather

During heating mode, the action of heat exchange moves heat from the outside to the inside. This makes it easy to imagine that during cold weather, the heat pump won’t work as a heater: where is it getting warmth from the outdoor air? However, as long as there is molecular motion in the air, there is heat available for heat exchange. Heat pumps can lose efficiency when the temperature drops below freezing, but they are far from useless; and in milder cold weather they are very effective. Most heat pumps have a back up heat system to make sure your home is warm no matter the weather.

Myth: Heat pumps won’t pay off their installation costs

First, as far as air conditioning goes, heat pumps are the same efficiency as a standalone air conditioner of comparable size. Second, heat pumps are a very efficient way to heat your home. Especially when compared to electric furnaces, heat pumps are extremely energy-efficient. Most heat pumps will pay back their installation costs in three years.

Our trained technicians at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. have brought quality cooling and heating to Northern Virginia since 2001. You can trust us to find the heat pump that will keep you and your family comfortable all year long.

What Qualifies a Boiler for the ENERGY STAR Label?

March 12th, 2014

When shopping for a heating system for your home, one of the main criteria you should use to help you select a unit is efficiency. The more efficient a furnace or boiler, the more you can expect to save on your energy bills. You will also help with energy conservation and protecting the environment.

One of the easiest ways to tell that a heater is energy-efficient is to look for the ENERGY STAR label. (And yes, it is trademarked in ALL CAPS; we’re not yelling at you.) In this post we’ll explain what the ENERGY STAR label means and how a boiler in Washington, DC can qualify for one.

To find great installation on an efficient ENERGY STAR boiler, contact Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. We’ve kept the nation’s capital warm since 2001.

The ENERGY STAR label and boilers

In 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy instituted the ENERGY STAR standard for products created in the U.S.A. Appliances, ranging from HVAC systems to computer peripherals, that use on average 20–30% less energy than the federal requirement earn the ENERGY STAR label to show they go beyond the minimum in an effort to conserve energy and save consumer dollars.

According to the ENERGY STAR website, for a boiler to qualify for the label it must have an AFUE rating of 85% or greater. This means that the boiler burns at least 85% of the fuel available to it and converts it into heat. So for every 100 units of fuel, the boiler must generate 85 BTUs of heating, wasting only 15% of its fuel. Features of ENERGY STAR boilers that help them reach this level include: electronic ignition, which means no standing pilot light drains extra power; advanced combustion technology that draws more energy from the fuel supply; and sealed combustion that reduces drafts.

Some boilers are even more efficient

Keep in mind that 85% is the minimum to receive the ENERGY STAR labels. There are models with even greater efficiency. When you are searching for a boiler in Washington, D.C. to keep you warm through the winters and other cold days of the year, look first for the ENERGY STAR label, but also check on the AFUE rating and consult with an installation professional to make sure you are getting the right boiler for your needs.

Trust to Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. when it comes to putting a new boiler in your home. We offer a wide range of services for boilers and other heating systems.

Air Duct Problems and Furnace Repair

March 2nd, 2014

Furnace repair is sometimes not a simple process. Your home contains numerous elements that can help or hinder proper heating, but a good technician can usually deal with any component in the process that isn’t functioning as it should.  Take for example, the duct system that carries heated air from your furnace to the various rooms of your house. Air duct problems and furnace repair go hand in hand: when issues crop up in your air ducts, they invariably affect the way your furnace functions.

Air ducts carry the heated air form your furnace, which means they can affect your air en route if there are problems. The most obvious is a breach in the duct system which allows the heated air to escape and/or cooler air to enter into the ducts. Both conditions have the same effect: lowering the temperature of the heated air and forcing your furnace to work harder to compensate.

Similar issues can arise if the ducts become dented or build-up inside them reduces the air flow. Furnaces depend on a regular flow of air to raise the temperature in your house. When a blockage in the ducts reduces the flow, the furnace must again work harder: raising monthly costs and increasing the chances of a more serious breakdown in the future.

In addition, the environment around the ducts can cause problems. Say, for example, that a stretch of ducts lies in the crawlspace next to an outside wall. The cold surrounding air will cool the sides of the ducts, which will in turn cool the air inside. You can alleviate this problem by adding more insulation to the crawlspace, or by insulating the ducts directly.

Reliable heating repair services like Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. can help with these issues. Call us today to set up an appointment!

How Electric Ignition Works on a Gas Furnace

February 25th, 2014

If you installed a gas furnace for your heating in Washington, DC, instead of an electric one, it was probably because of the savings you receive using natural gas, a more economical power source than electricity. However, if you have a modern gas furnace, it still needs a small amount of electricity to run. The key electrical system in a gas furnace is the electric ignition, which we’ll examine in detail.

The two types of electronic ignition systems

Gas furnaces originally used standing pilot lights to ignite gas burners (and you’ll still find older models that use pilot lights). However, because standing pilot lights consume extra power to stay lit, they reduce furnace efficiency. The new electric ignition systems require only a small amount of electricity and do run continually. This is one of the reasons that new furnaces have higher efficiency ratings.

There are two types of electric ignition systems in gas furnaces:

  1. Furnace intermittent pilots – This system does use a pilot light; however, the pilot light comes on only when needed and an electric spark activates it. When the thermostat calls for heat, high voltage sent through the igniter causes a spark that ignites the pilot, and it supplies sufficient heat to turn on the burners. The pilot light shuts off when the burners do.
  2. Hot surface igniters  This is the more common system, and requires no pilot light at all because the ignition generates enough heat to ignite the burners. They are made from silicon nitride or silicon carbide and operate similar to light bulbs: current passes through them and causes their surface to turn hot. A sensor detects this heat, and then opens the gas valve to send natural gas to the burners. The heat from the igniter activates the gas jets. These igniters are durable and dependable, although they will need replacement at some point during the furnace’s lifetime. Make sure you have regular maintenance for your gas furnace so your technician will know when to change the igniter.

Maintenance Is Key

Gas furnaces are safer today than ever before, and it is partially thanks to electric igniters. But don’t let your furnace go without yearly maintenance: keeping those igniters working their best is how you know your furnace is working its best. Contact Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. to sign up for our maintenance program for your heating in Washington, DC.

What is a Boiler Expansion Tank?

February 17th, 2014

Boilers in Washington DC are as common as forced-air furnaces: one of the pre-eminent ways we keep our homes cozy and warm in the nation’s capital. Boilers use heated water running through a series of pipes and radiators to provide heating for your home. They work extremely well in older houses which don’t have a duct system for forced-air furnaces, and also in newer houses which benefit from the comparatively simple heating process they use. The boiler’s expansion tank is a key part of that process, and it helps homeowners if they understand how it works.

In simplest terms, the boiler expansion tank helps control the pressure in the system. A boiler with too much pressure can cause a lot of problems, which makes the expansion tank an important safety feature. As the water heats up in the boiler, it expands which increases the pressure in the system. The expansion tank contains air, which unlike water, can be compressed. The air in the expansion tank thus acts as a kind of spring, absorbing the increasing pressure of the hot water without placing too much strain on the system.

Expansion tanks come in two basic types. The compression tank is a steel-walled model that uses a gauge to measure the overall pressure in the system. A bladder or diaphragm tank has a rubber bladder installed inside that can fill with water as the boiler does its job. There’s air outside the bladder on the inside of the tank to help it do its job.

Obviously whenever there’s problems with the boiler expansion tank, you need an expert to repair the damage. Trouble can come in the form of rust or a similar breach, or a damaged bladder if you’re using a bladder tank. If you own a boiler in Washington DC, then Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. is here to help. We can address your boiler expansion tank issues with courtesy and care, so don’t hesitate to give us a call today!

Who Wrote the First Valentine’s Day Poem?

February 14th, 2014

The celebration of Valentine’s Day is often seen as a modern institution, even if the roots of the holiday go back to Late Antiquity and the figures of St. Valentine of Rome and St. Valentine of Terni. It’s difficult to separate our view of February 14th from the more recent phenomenon of greeting cards, comical cupids, and specialty treats from candy companies.

However, not only are some of these traditions older than we might think (mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were an enormous success in early 19th-century England), but the earliest Valentine’s Day love poem comes from none other than the first great English author, Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote in the second half of the 14th-century.

Chaucer’s most famous work is The Canterbury Tales, an enormous collection of linked stories in poetry and prose. But his 700-line poem “Parlement of Foules” has the special distinction of being the first surviving record of a connection between Valentine’s Day and romantic love. Chaucer probably composed the poem in 1381–82. At the time, he was a member of the court of King Richard II, holding an important bureaucratic position in London. The date suggests that Chaucer wrote “Parelment of Foules” to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of the English king to Princess Anne of Bohemia.

The poem follows the dream of the narrator, where he walks through Venus’s temple and discovers a meeting of birds where they all choose their mates. This is where the mention of St. Valentine’s Day appears (English modernized):

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,                                                                         

When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.                                                                  

The poem also contains a familiar Valentine’s image, Cupid with his arrows:

Under a tree, beside a well, I saw

Cupid our lord his arrows forge and file;                                                             

And at his feet his bow already lay.

When Chaucer mentions St. Valentine’s Day, is he referring specifically to February 14th? Late winter isn’t a time when birds in England would mate. However, the date for the start of spring—when some birds would have started nesting in England—was on February 23rd in the calendars of the time, certainly close enough for Chaucer to take poetic license and nudge it a bit to match with Valentine’s Day.

Love birds remain a popular symbol of Valentine’s Day even now, and for this we can thank Chaucer. In fact, he may very well have invented the link between love and Valentine’s Day, although we will probably never know for certain.

Whoever started these traditions, all of us here at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. hope you have a wonderful February 14th!

Rust on Your Furnace: What It Means

February 6th, 2014

At first glance, it seems like it couldn’t happen. Your furnace generates heat and it doesn’t use water to do it. So how can rust show up on an operating furnace? In point of fact, rusty furnaces are not entirely uncommon. If you have rust on your furnace, it helps to know what it means before you contact your local  McLean, VA furnace repair service.

Rust is caused by the intermingling of water, oxygen and metal in a process called oxidation. In order for that to happen, all three elements need to be involved. Furnaces use oxygen for the burning process and their metal components are self-evident. So the question becomes, how does water enter the system?

If your furnace is in a damp part of the house such as a basement, then water can creep in from an outside source: dripping from a leaking pipe, for example, or gathering from a breach in the wall. But that’s not the only place it can happen. The natural gases used to fuel the furnace can contain trace amounts of water vapor. When the gases burn, the toxic components separate from the rest of the gases in the heat exchanger and are vented safely out of your home.  This includes water vapor, but if the vapor cools before it exits the flue, it can condense and cause rust damage.

The effects can’t be seen right away and may take years to manifest, but when they arise, they are devastating. Rust will corrode and destroy the metal in your furnace, forcing you to replace the affected components at great cost. In the case of the heat exchangers, rust can create actively dangerous circumstances, since a broken heat exchanger could result in toxic gases being released into your home. If you spot rust on your furnace, call Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. to get it fixed. We can replace the rusty component as well as correcting the problems that created the rust n the first place. Give us a call today to set up your McLean, VA furnace repair service.