The Fashion of Wearing White and Labor Day

September 1st, 2014

You may have heard about the fashion faux pas of wearing white after Labor Day. In the present, this tradition is usually treated as old fashioned and a joke. Few people will criticize you for wearing white articles of clothing after the first Monday in September, or even take notice of it except to wonder why it was ever a major concern at all.

Where did this tradition of white clothing going out of fashion after Labor Day come from, and why did it fade away like colorful fabric washed in a hot load in the washing machine?

In general, white makes sense for the heat of summer. Light-colored clothing reflects away the radiant heat of the sun, instead of absorbing it the way dark colors do, so for thousands of years of human history people have preferred to wear white clothing during the hotter months.

However, the idea of white as strictly fashionable during the summer season only emerged in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—the time when the very concept of “fashion” began to spread across the Western Hemisphere.

It was only the highest level of post-Civil War society in the U.S. that strict and often bizarre rules for fashion controlled whether someone was in with the “in” crowd. Compared to our ideas of what’s fashionable today, the Czars of Style in the 1880s were true despots. Things as trivial as sleeve length could determine whether a woman in high society—no matter her level of wealth—was fashionable or a pariah.

Wearing white during the only summer, when it was common for weddings and outdoor parties, was only of these restrictive society rules. When the U.S. government made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894, the Fashion Czars gained a definite cut-off point for when wearing white was no longer “acceptable” in the upper echelons of wealthy society.

For many decades, this rule only applied to a small number of millionaire socialites in a few big cities, but in the 1950s it reached general fashion magazines that were read around the country and started to affect more people.

But time eventually broke apart this odd rule, and during the 1970s fashion became more individual. Some fashion legends, like Coco Chanel, also purposely rejected the restriction and wore white throughout the year. Today, the “no white after Labor Day rule” is little more than an amusing gag to tease friends, and almost nobody takes it seriously.

Whatever you choose to wear after Labor Day (and if it’s white, we won’t tease!), everyone here at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc. hopes you have a happy end of the summer and great plans for the fall!

How Technicians Size a New Air Conditioner for Installation

August 18th, 2014

Although it may seem logical, the answer isn’t “As large as can fit.” A more powerful an air conditioner doesn’t mean necessarily mean a better air conditioner. Professionals must size a new AC to accommodate a home so that it 1) provides sufficient cooling load for comfort, and 2) works efficiently without energy waste. An air conditioner that is too small will not deliver enough cooling, and one that is too large will start to “short-cycle,” turning on and off rapidly and draining energy.

The process of sizing an air conditioner is a complicated one that requires the professionals to perform a heat load calculation. We’ll explain this process to show you the importance of having AC installation experts on the job.

Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. has more than a dozen years of experience sizing ACs. You can trust us with your air conditioning installation in Washington, DC.

The heat load calculation

A heat load calculation combines information about how a home traps and keeps out heat to determine the cooling load necessary to keep it comfortable. Numerous criteria go into the calculation; here are some of the most important ones:

  • House volume: Square footage of a home isn’t helpful for determining its cooling needs; it’s the volume of space inside that matters.
  • Insulation: How well-insulated is the house to keep excess heat from entering? How well-insulated is the attic?
  • Number of windows and their facing: Windows allow in radiant heat from the sun, so the number of windows in a home and the direction they face is important for understanding how hot the house can get.
  • Appliances and lights: The calculation takes into account the amount of heat-producing appliances and how much heat they add to a home.
  • Number of residents: The human body creates a significant amount of heat, so the calculation must include the number of people regularly reside in the house.

Once all this data is collected, the technicians plug them into the calculation and determine how much cooling in tons an air conditioner must supply to overcome the warmth in a house without overworking. This way, they will know the ideal AC to install.

The consequences of putting in an AC that’s the wrong size are extreme, and usually the only solution to the problem is to replace completely the improperly-sized unit.

Make sure this error doesn’t occur with your new air conditioning installation in Washington, DC:

Call on the professionals at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. and let us handle the work, starting with correctly sizing your new AC unit.

Air Cleaners vs. Air Purifiers: The Best Choice for Your Home

August 11th, 2014

The terms “air cleaner” and “air purifier” can bewilder first-time customers who are looking for a way to cleanse out the unhealthy particles from their home’s air. There is actually a wide range of different names for these indoor air quality systems that can mean a variety of things, so we understand why people often feel confused. We’ll try to cut through some of that cloud of confusion in this post to help you focus on what you may need when it comes to getting the healthiest air possible for your house.

For air purifiers and air cleaners in Washington, DC, you can count on Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. to help you navigate through the different models and choices. We will also handle the installation to make sure that the new device does the job it should for many years to come. Contact us today to set up an appointment.

Specifics of the terms “air cleaners” and “air purifiers”

Confusingly, these two terms mean that same thing technically—electronic air cleaners—but in common use, an “air cleaner” refers to a mechanical air filter, and an “air purifier” refers to an electronic device with ionization technology.

Air cleaners, i.e. air filters

Air filters use a mesh of fibers, usually made from fiberglass, to attract and trap particles in the air that flows through them. They do not require any power to run, although they must occasionally be replaced when they become too clogged with trapped contaminants. Powerful air filters, such as HEPA filters, are capable of trapping 99.97% of the particles that pass through them that are 0.3 microns or larger; they can catch smaller particles as well, although not at so effective a level.

For many homes, an air filter is sufficient to reduce the dangerous allergens and asthma triggers from the air. A professional will need to select and install the unit to make sure that it will not interfere with airflow.

Air purifiers, i.e. electronic air cleaners

Air purifiers do not use filtration technology at all to clean the air. Instead they create an electronic ionization field inside the ventilation system. This ionizes contaminating particles, which are then drawn to a set of collector plates in the cleaner, where they are trapped. Air purifiers can affect particles down to 0.1 microns, and they can trap gaseous and odor molecules—something that air filters cannot. If you have issues with odors, smoke, pesticides, carbon monoxide, etc., then an electronic air cleaner is probably your best option.

When you call on the indoor air quality experts at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc., you’ll find out exactly what is in your air and what system you need installed to counteract it.

Whether you need air purifiers or air cleaners in Washington, DC installed for your home, you can count on Polar Bear Air Conditioning to do the job right. Call us today. 

Air Conditioning Repair Question: Is My Compressor Damaged?

August 4th, 2014

The compressor is one of the most important components of your air conditioning system, but it’s also one of the parts that is most likely to fail when your air conditioner runs into problems. If you believe your compressor is faulty, you may hesitate to call an AC technician for fear of costly repairs. However, it is better to get the problem fixed with professional air conditioning repair soon than to risk irreparable damage.

The compressor is responsible for compressing, or adding pressure to, the refrigerant in its gaseous state. Refrigerant must continuously change from a gas to a liquid and back again in order to absorb and release heat from your home, so the compressor allows this process to begin before it changes to a liquid at the condenser.

Compressor problems may be caused by a number of different issues. In general, the best way to keep your compressor free of damage is by calling a maintenance technician at least once a year to inspect your system. But there are many reasons the compressor fails, and the effects may be sudden.

One of the reasons a compressor may become damaged is if there is a refrigerant leak. The components of your system are designed and sized to hold only a certain level of refrigerant. The compressor in particular suffers when refrigerant levels drop due to leaks or incorrect installation, and it may fail if not enough refrigerant can pass through.

Overheating is another common cause of compressor damage. Overheating may result from electrical damage. In general, however, if any component of your AC is damaged, your compressor has to run longer and work harder to compensate, which could cause it to wear out. Of course, a compressor will also become damaged over time, and may simply fail because it is too old to function.

So how can you tell if the air conditioning problem you’re having is compressor damage or not? This is something you should leave up to the experts. While banging noises, hard starting, and a system that won’t turn on are all good indicators of damage, these can point to other problems as well, and you may only need a small repair.

For air conditioning repair in Arlington, trust the trained and certified technicians at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. Give us a call today!

Reasons to Upgrade Your Thermostat in Alexandria

July 28th, 2014

Your thermostat cues your air conditioner to turn on and off, and if it malfunctions or is operating poorly, you can experience constant problems with your air conditioning. Simple things like cleaning dust and dirt from the inside of your thermostat doesn’t mandate an upgrade, but if you find that you are calling for frequent repairs or are constantly fiddling with it to produce the results you want, it may be time to consider thermostat replacement in Alexandria.

Why Upgrade?

There are several reasons to consider upgrading your thermostat:

  • It’s old – older thermostats, particularly sliding or mercury-based models, simply aren’t as precise as current digital ones. In addition, age may have worn down the components inside them, making them prone to malfunction.
  • Better energy efficiency – not only does the precise nature of digital thermostats help reduce your use of energy, but programmable digital thermostats take things one step further by giving you the ability to program for a wide range of needs, including for those times when no one is home.
  • Easier to use – not only are the temperature displays easier to read on digital thermostats: they have easier controls and buttons to better manage your comfort.
  • No need to recalibrate – digital thermostats do not have internal moving parts like older thermostats, so once your new digital thermostat is setup, you don’t need to worry about recalibrating it.

Types of Thermostats

There are a number of thermostats available, but these are ones to consider when upgrading:

  • Digital
  • Digital programmable
  • Wifi

Why Hire a Professional When Upgrading?

The point of installing a new thermostat is to improve on cooling capability while also becoming more energy efficient. If your new thermostat isn’t installed correctly, you won’t achieve either of these things. Many things can affect the efficiency and operation of a new thermostat, including:

  • Poor placement
  • Incorrect wiring
  • Incorrect setup

You can avoid these problems with the thermostat replacement in Alexandria by using a trained professional you can trust.

Think it’s time for a new thermostat? Call Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating today and schedule an appointment with one of our thermostat installation experts.

How to Tell You Need Ductwork Repair

July 21st, 2014

Ductwork can be easily forgotten because it isn’t very visible, but problems do develop with it. Common ductwork problems can include leaks, holes, cracks, broken seals, pests, debris, and dust and dirt build-up. Clearly, a lot can happen with your air ducts, but just as other parts of your air conditioner will give an indication of developing problems, so, too, does your ductwork in Washington, DC. Here are some of the more common signs our Polar Bear technicians see when it comes to ductwork repair needs:

  • Issues with airflow – decreased air flow can mean a few things, but if all other possibilities are ruled out (such as low refrigerant or fan problems), it may be time to take a look at your ductwork and see what’s happening. Cracks, holes, broken seals, disconnections and obstructions can all constrict the air flow in your system and ultimately affect your indoor air quality.
  • Abnormal sounds – rattling, whistling and humming can all indicate that there are loose components or other issues with your ductwork; scratching and scampering sounds can be indicative of pests. All should be inspected to find the root cause.
  • Higher utility bills – have you noticed a sharp increase in your monthly energy bill but haven’t changed how you’ve been operating your AC? Faulty ductwork can account for up to 30% of air loss, which is a large amount of air to compensate for.
  • Hot and cold spots – inconsistent temperature can be an indication that air is not delivering evenly throughout your home because of issues with the ductwork.
  • Increased humidity – cracks, holes and disconnections can allow humidity and moisture into the ductwork, which then gets delivered into your home.
  • Increased dust – are you seeing more dust in your home than usual? It could be coming directly from the vent work.

Don’t Do Ductwork Repairs Yourself

Ductwork repair is complex and requires the use of certain tools you may not have or may not be familiar with. Instead of trying to repair the ductwork in your Washington DC home yourself, call an expert: Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc. We’ve been fabricating, installing and repairing ductwork in the Washington DC area for almost 15 years.

Don’t let your ductwork compromise the operation of your air conditioning system – call Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc., today.

How Do Packaged Air Conditioning Units Differ from Centralized Units?

July 14th, 2014

There are a lot of choices these days when it comes to choosing a type of air conditioner for your home. Many factors need to be considered, including the size of your home, what kind of energy efficiency you seek and what type of system you feel would work best for your property. One of the types of air conditioners Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc., installs frequently is known as a packaged air conditioning unit, and it may be a good option for your Arlington property.

What Is a Packaged Air Conditioner?

A packaged air conditioner is one in which all the components – the compressor, condenser, evaporator and blower – are all housed in a single unit. This unit is typically placed outdoors, but it can also be placed on a rooftop, in a crawlspace or in an attic space. The ductwork goes directly to the unit.

What Types of Packaged Air Conditioners Are Available?

There are 4 main types of packaged air conditioners:

  • Traditional packaged air conditioner – as described above, has a single cabinet that houses the whole system
  • Packaged heat pump – a packaged heat pump system offers both heating and cooling in the same unit
  • Packaged duel fuel – this type of packaged system offers heat pump cooling in the summer, and heat pump heating for fall and spring. When the temperature goes below freezing, this unit will utilize either gas or propane to heat your home
  • Packaged gas/electric – a packaged gas/electric system uses electricity to cool during the warm months and gas to heat during the cold months

What Are The Benefits of a Packaged System? 

  • Packaged units are self-contained
  • Can cool (and heat) large spaces easily
  • Easier to repair
  • Flexible placement

Is a Packaged Air Conditioner Right for You?

The best way to determine if a packaged air conditioning unit is the best fit for your Arlington property is to work with a trained professional. As we mentioned above, many factors need to be considered when choosing a new air conditioner, and it helps to have the experience and advice of someone who does this kind of work every day.

Call Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc., today and schedule an appointment with one of our trained professionals to see if a packaged air conditioning system is right for your home.

What is the Condensate Pan in My Air Conditioner?

July 7th, 2014

You know that your air conditioning gives you a cool place to escape the summer heat, but did you know it helps dehumidify as it cools? One of the parts that helps remove moisture from the air in your home is the condensate pan. So how does this part work?

To understand the purpose of the condensate pan, you must first know about the indoor components of your AC. An air conditioner cools your home by collecting the heat from indoors and releasing it outside. The indoor unit absorbs heat with the evaporator coil, which is located in the indoor unit of your AC system. Refrigerant reaches the evaporator as a cool, low-pressure liquid. The evaporator changes the liquid into a low-pressure gas, and heat is absorbed when household air blows across the evaporator coil.

These same components also collect moisture from inside your home via the process of condensation. Picture a glass of ice water on a hot day. The outside of the glass forms water droplets in the same way your evaporator does. Water from the air collects outside of the evaporator coil as the household air blows across the cool refrigerant line.

As condensation forms on the evaporator coil, it must drain quickly and continuously so that your system won’t overflow. Before draining, the condensation drips into a condensate pan. The condensate pan is a shallow tray located underneath the evaporator coil. Water collects in the tray before making its way into a hole that sends it through a drainage system.

Sometimes, you may run into problems with this particular portion of your AC unit. The condensate line may be blocked, which means water can’t drain and may overflow, damaging parts of your AC system. The condensate tray may also develop a hole, or there may be a leak in the condensate line that can cause water to leak onto the floor or within the air handler itself. If this happens, call a professional for air conditioning repair.

At Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, we can answer any questions you have about air conditioning in Northern Virginia. For repair, maintenance, installation, and replacement, call us today!

The Famous Painting of the Declaration of Independence Isn’t What You Think It Is

July 4th, 2014

If you grew up in the United States, you probably first saw John Trumbull’s painting of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence in an elementary schoolbook. This oil-on-canvas 12’ x 18’ painting hangs in the rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. It is one of the most famous symbols of freedom in the country and almost every citizen can conjure it from memory.

Except… the painting isn’t of the singing of the Declaration of Independence. The actual title of the work is Declaration of Independence, and although it does portray an important moment in the history of the document that announced the Thirteen Colonies’ decision to break away from British rule, the event in the painting occurred on June 28, 1776, not July 4, 1776.

John Trumbull, a Connecticut native who fought in the Revolutionary War and whose father was the state governor, was commissioned to create the painting in 1817. He did painstaking research on the figures in the picture and also visited Independence Hall to see the actual chamber where the Second Continental Congress met. Trumbull only included 42 of the original 56 signers, because he could not find adequate likenesses for 14 or them, and added a few figures who were not present (most of whom declined to sign the actual document). In fact, the men depicted in the painting had never been present in the same room at one time.

So if the painting does not portray the singing of the Declaration of Independence, what is happening in the image? The Trumbull’s scene depicts the presentation of the draft of the declaration to the Continental Congress for editing and approval. The five-man drafting committee (John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin) is handing over their finished work, which congress would then edit carefully over the next few days before voting on it and signing it on the day that we now celebrate as the start of the United States of America.

One last, odd, fact: two of the five-man drafting committee, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both died on the July 4—although many years later.

Our family at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating hopes that your Fourth of July (or Twenty-Eighth of June if you decided to start celebrating early) is a memorable and happy one.

How Does a Geothermal System Cool My Home?

June 27th, 2014

Geothermal systems are as effective at keeping a home cool as they are at keeping it warm: no matter the temperature outside your walls, using a geothermal system will bring you the comfort that you need.

Although people can easily understand why geothermal power provides warmth—the earth generates heat from its core that radiates outward where it can be harnessed—the idea of using that same power to provide cooling requires a bit of more explanation. It isn’t that much different than heating a home using geothermal power, however. We think you’ll see the immense advantages of choosing geothermal cooling in Arlington, VA so you’ll have the full benefits of heating in the winter as well.

Call Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. if you have more questions about going geothermal. We can help you find the solution you need for year-round comfort for your family.

The operation of the geothermal heat pump

The reason that geothermal systems can heat and cool a home is that they are heat pumps. Like standard “air-source” heat pump, they move heat from one location and place it in another using the cycle of refrigerant. Unlike air-source heat pumps, which use the air as the medium for this heat exchange process, geothermal heat pumps use the ground as the medium for exchange, and the stability of underground temperatures (usually around 55°F regardless of surface weather conditions) makes them reliable and efficient.

When you turn a geothermal heat pump to cooling mode, the indoor coil acts as an evaporator: the cool refrigerant (water, in this case) extracts heat from the air and cools it down. Where does this heat go? The refrigerant removes it into a series of ground loops buried at least 6 feet in the ground. The cool 55°F assures that no matter how blisteringly hot the weather is, the heat pump will always have an easy time moving indoor heat to the ground.

When a geothermal system switches to heating mode, the process reverses, and heat come from the earth and into a home. Heat pumps are especially efficient in this mode, since no matter how ice-cold the weather gets above ground, the earth still has sufficient warmth to draw indoors.

We think that geothermal systems are a fantastic way to have the right level of comfort for your home without losing energy efficiency. But you will need to have expert installers check if geothermal cooling in Arlington, VA is a good match for your home—not every property is ideally suited to installation. Schedule an appointment with the experts at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. to discover if your house is right for geothermal installation this summer.