3 Reasons to Install a Humidifier

January 22nd, 2015

You’ve probably heard plenty of people complain about high levels of moisture in the air, known as humidity. High humidity levels can make people feel uncomfortable, as they are unable to sweat easily which makes the body temperature feel warmer than the outside air. But did you know that not enough moisture can be just as problematic? In today’s list, read about a few of the reasons homeowners choose to install humidifiers so you can decide whether your home is affected by dry air.

  • Dry Skin: Perhaps the most noticeable symptom of dry air is dried-out skin. It may seem as though no matter how much water you drink and how much lotion you apply, you skin never seems to stop feeling itchy, flaky, and stiff. Chapped lips are no fun either, nor is the potential for a dry scratchy feeling in the nose and throat. The most common reason people choose to install humidifiers is for relief, as some level of humidity is necessary in the air for it to feel comfortable.
  • Illness: When the air in your home is dry, it actually takes you and your family members a longer time to recover from illness. If your nasal passages and other membranes are dried out, it only irritates the illness, even if it seems like dry air may be able to clear up a stuffy nose. Even in the movies and on T.V. shows, you often see characters feigning illness by sitting in bed with a cup of soup, tissues, and a standalone humidifier. But a whole-home model allows moisture to move throughout the home so that everyone in your family can fight illness faster.
  • Cracked Paint: While chipped paint, cracked walls, and peeling furniture are rare side effects of dry air, it has been known to occur in extreme situations. If your home seems to suffer from the other symptoms of dry air as well, you may consider installing a humidifier even if the wood floors and furniture have not yet incurred damage. Waiting for this type of destruction means dealing with time-consuming renovations and putting up with uncomfortable dry air in the meantime.

At Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc., we know all there is to know about installing whole-house humidifiers in Arlington. Call now!

What Does the AFUE Rating Mean for a Boiler?

January 15th, 2015

The energy efficiency of any heating system should be an important consideration for your home. Why? Energy efficiency relates directly to fuel usage, and fuel usage can impact your home’s budget. Just as whole-home air conditioning systems have their energy efficiency rated by SEER numbers, so, too, do combustion heating systems: AFUE. Understanding what AFUE means can go a long way toward ensuring that your boiler installation in Northern Virginia is an energy efficient one.


The acronym AFUE stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency. AFUE measures the efficiency of a combustion heating system’s ability to convert fuel into energy. AFUE is presented as a percentage, and this percentage will tell you exactly what percentage of your fuel is being used as energy and what part is lost to byproduct exhaust. For example, a boiler with an AFUE of 85% means that 85% of the fuel used becomes energy that heats your home and the other 15% is exhausted through your flue as combustion byproduct. Having this kind of specific information can help you choose a boiler that meets both your heating needs and your energy efficiency needs.

AFUE Standards for Boilers

Each type of combustion heating system has minimum AFUE standards as set by the Federal Trade Commission. When it comes to boilers, the type of fuel used to power the boiler helps to determine what the minimum AFUE number will be:

  • Natural gas hot water boiler – minimum AFUE of 82%
  • Natural gas steam boiler – minimum AFUE of 80%
  • Oil hot water boiler – minimum AFUE of 84%
  • Oil steam boiler – minimum AFUE of 82%

Condensing boilers, which are boilers that use the latent heat from combustion vapors, have AFUE’s well over 90%.

While AFUE should not be the only factor you consider for your boiler installation in Northern Virginia, it should be one of the top factors of the installation process.

Ready for a new boiler? Call the experts at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc., and schedule an appointment today!

Why Cleaning and Adjusting Boiler Components Each Year is Necessary

January 8th, 2015

As the cold and snow set in for the season, your boiler is working hard to keep you, your family and your home warm. There is a way you can give back to your boiler, though: schedule it for maintenance. A maintenance appointment isn’t a quick review of your system; instead, it is a thorough inspection and full tune-up, during which the components are reviewed, cleaned and adjusted as needed. Boiler maintenance in Northern Virginia allows your boiler to work optimally. And while it’s always good to get ahead of winter with fall maintenance, the truth is if your boiler hasn’t been maintained in over 12 months, any time is a good time for maintenance.

Reasons to Schedule Maintenance

During regular usage, the components of your boiler become worn and dirty; some parts attract dust, making it difficult to operate correctly. Here are some of the benefits of scheduling maintenance:

  • Better energy efficiency – your boiler was made to operate at a specific level of energy efficiency, but it can’t do so when the parts and system are dirty and worn down from the previous season or seasons. The cleaning the system receives during an annual inspection appointment allows the system to work optimally.
  • Prevents repairs – the thorough inspection conducted by the technician allows him/her to detect any developing or existing problems and either make small repairs during the appointment, such as with frayed wiring, or inform you about necessary repairs. Maintenance allows you to get ahead of repairs before they can become a serious problem.
  • Extends life of equipment – maintenance keeps your boiler in good working order; when your system is in good working order, there is no extra stress on it, which helps reduce premature aging.
  • Better comfort – a boiler that is healthy will have no problems achieving the temperature you’ve set on your thermostat, keeping you in better comfort all winter.

Maintenance involves a number of tasks and steps that are all designed to maximize the operation and efficiency of your boiler.

If you haven’t scheduled your boiler in Northern Virginia for maintenance yet, call Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc., today.

Types of Terminal Units Used with Boiler Installation

January 2nd, 2015

A boiler is a large unit often installed in the basement or in its own room or area for heating a home or business.

Boilers are quite effective at providing heat, as they distribute heat more evenly than forced-air units like furnaces and heat pumps and can be modified for zone control. Water is heated at the boiler and then makes its way through a series of pipes to allow convective and conductive heat into a room. But in order to do so, it must reach a terminal unit, which is selected by the homeowner and the technician during boiler installation.

Which type of terminal unit is chosen generally depends on your home and family’s needs and your budget. You should always speak with a technician before setting your sights on a particular type of terminal unit, but as a starting point, the following list contains a guide to a few of the most popular terminal units for hydronic heating systems.

  • Baseboard Units: A baseboard unit is installed at the bottom of the wall in each room or zone in the house. These units are highly effective and can blend into the décor of a room so there is little interference with the interior design. These are some of the most common terminal installations.
  • Radiators: A radiator is a fairly outdated terminal unit for heat transfer, but it’s still in use primarily in industrial settings, particularly where a steam boiler is in use. However, some homeowners appreciated the look and feel of cast-iron radiator, and keep it in the home for heating and to add an industrial or vintage feel to the home.
  • Fan Coil Units: A fan coil unit contains a heat exchanger, blower fan, and filter to circulate air in the home from a boiler and/or a commercial chiller. As water moves through the unit, it sprays onto the heat exchanger, allowing for a set of thermodynamic processes to take place so that a fan can blow conditioned air in the home.
  • Radiant Floor Heating: Finally, many homeowners today choose radiant floor heating, which means a set of pipes runs underneath the floorboards in order to provide even heating, warm feet, and all-around comfort.

The heating professionals at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. know a thing or two about boiler installation in Northern Virginia. For quality installation, give us a call today!

12 Grapes for 12 Months: An Unusual New Year’s Tradition

January 1st, 2015

Across the world, many cultures have specific traditions to celebrate the transition from the old year to the new. In the U.S. and Canada, we associate New Year’s with the ball in Times Square, kissing at the stroke of midnight, resolutions, and singing “Old Lang Syne.” But for many Spanish-speaking countries, one of the key traditions has to do with eating grapes as fast as possible.

The “twelve grapes” tradition comes from Spain, where it is called las doce uvas de la suerte (“The Twelve Lucky Grapes”). To ensure good luck for the next year, people eat one green grape for each of the upcoming twelve months. However, you cannot just eat the grapes during the first day of the new year any time you feel like it. You must eat the twelve grapes starting at the first stroke of midnight on Nochevieja (“Old Night,” New Year’s Eve) as one year changes to another. And you have to keep eating: with each toll of midnight, you must eat another grape, giving you about twelve seconds to consume all of them. If you can finish all dozen grapes—you can’t still be chewing on them!—before the last bell toll fades, you will have a luck-filled new year.

Where did this tradition come from? No one is certain, although it appears to be more than a century old. One story about the Twelve Lucky Grapes is that a large crop of grapes in 1909 in Alicante, Spain led to the growers seeking out a creative way to eliminate their surplus. But recent research through old newspapers shows that perhaps the tradition goes back almost thirty years earlier to the 1880s, where eating grapes was meant to mock the upper classes who were imitating the French tradition of dining on grapes and drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve.

It can be difficult to consume grapes this fast, and the lucky grapes of New Year’s Eve have seeds in them, making the job even trickier. (Seedless grapes are not common in Spain the way they are over here.) For people to manage eating all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight requires swallowing the seeds as well and only taking a single bite of each grape.

Oh, there is one more twist to the tradition: you have to be wearing red undergarments, and they have to be given to you as a gift. The origins of this part of the tradition are even more mysterious, and it’s anybody’s guess why this started.

Whether you go for the grape challenge or find another way to ring in New Year’s, all of us at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. hope you have a great start to the year and a fruitful 2015.

The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

December 25th, 2014

“No two snowflakes are alike.” This is a statement nearly every schoolchild has heard at least once, either while crafting unique snowflakes with a sheet of folded paper and some scissors or while learning a lesson on the science of snow. While even most scientists don’t quite understand what causes a snowflake to form such complex and beautiful columns and points and branches, one thing is for certain, the composition of snowflakes guarantees that no two will ever be identical.  However, it is possible for two snowflakes to appear to be nearly exactly alike.

A snowflake begins to form when a piece of dust catches water vapor out of the air. Water is created when two hydrogen molecules attach to an oxygen molecule. The two hydrogen molecules are angled from one another in such a way that they form a hexagonal shape when they come together during the freezing process; thus, a snowflake begins as a simple hexagonal shape or as layers of hexagons called diamond dust. The emergent properties that follow from the original hexagon are what differentiate one snowflake from another, as the humidity, the temperature in the air, and many other factors (some of which remain unclear to scientists) allow each snowflake to form in an entirely unique way with a seemingly endless variety of shapes.

However, in 1988, a scientist named Nancy Knight claimed to have located two that were the same while studying snowflakes as part of an atmospheric research project. And it appeared to be so; when put under a microscope, the emergent properties looked nearly identical. But while it is feasible that two snowflakes can appear to be exactly alike on the outside, they are never identical on an atomic level. Deuterium is an atom that appears attached to about one in every 3000 hydrogen molecules in the air. Because there are millions of atoms that make up a snowflake, the random assortment of deuterium in any two snowflakes—even in two that so very closely resemble one another—simply cannot be the same.

Here at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc., we’d like to remind you to grab a cup of cocoa and relax with your family this holiday, perhaps by crafting some unique snowflake creations of your own. We wish you a very happy holiday season, from our family to yours!

How to Tell that You Need Commercial Heating Repair

December 18th, 2014

If you own your own business, you know that a business owner has to deal with a whole host of issues that a private citizen never has to think about. One subject on which the two share quite a few qualities, however, is heating repair. Commercial heating repair is not all that different from home heating repair, except in terms of scale and consequences. The last thing you want is customers coming into your building and being uncomfortably hot or cold. With that in mind, let’s take a look at these signs that you need commercial heating repair.


This is a nasty one. Short-cycling is what happens when your heating system keeps turning itself on and off rapidly throughout the day. It is caused by the heating system’s limit switch, which is responsible for regulating the system’s internal temperature. When the limit switch detects that the system is overheating, it shuts the whole thing down to prevent it from damaging itself. Unfortunately, this is only a stop-gap measure. Once the system has cooled off sufficiently, it starts back up and overheats again because the root cause has not been addressed. This can cause an incredible amount of damage to the system. If you notice this happening, call a professional right away.

Odd Noises

One of the classic indications of heating trouble, odd noises are almost never a good sign when they’re coming from your heating system. A squealing sound often indicates that your air handler’s fan belt is close to breaking. If that happens, your air handler will be unable to actually circulate air through the ducts.

A grinding noise is a sign that the bearings on your motor might be wearing out. The bearings are responsible for keeping the motor running smoothly. As they age, however, they can run out of good oil with which to keep the friction down. This causes the motor to fight against more and more friction until it eventually burns out.

If you are experiencing trouble with your commercial heating system, call Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. We provide commercial heating services throughout McLean, VA

How Can You Tell It’s Time for Commercial Heating Replacement?

December 11th, 2014

The proper working of your commercial heating system is critical for your business space. After all, it’s hard to conduct business in a space that isn’t well-heated, or has uneven heating throughout. Just because a heating system continues to work doesn’t mean that it isn’t time for that system to be replaced, particularly when you take certain factors into consideration. If you are having trouble deciding whether or not it’s time for commercial heating replacement for your McLean business, make an appointment with your Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc., expert today.

Factors to Consider for Replacement

Here are some of the more important factors to review when considering the replacement of your commercial heating system:


Commercial heating systems have an average lifespan of 15-20 years, although some systems may last longer. Aging systems can have a problem achieving your set temperature, or providing even heating, mostly because the components begin to break down. Pushing an aging system only exacerbates the possibility of repairs, so if your system is experiencing problems, and is within the lifespan age or older, it may be time to consider an upgrade to a new system.

Energy Efficiency

Every business has a budget to maintain, no matter the season. If you have noticed that your business’s heating bills have risen sharply, yet you haven’t changed how you heat your business space, you may have a system that is not as energy efficient as you need it. Today’s commercial heating systems are highly energy efficient, thus enabling you to save money in energy costs.

Costly Repairs

Are you facing costly repairs, or have you been nursing along a malfunctioning system for a period of time? Repair costs can add up quickly, many times to the cost of a new system. If you are paying for multiple, costly repairs, it may be time to review if your money is better spent on continuing repairs or on a new, reliable heating system.

Your business space needs to be comfortable for all who enter it; don’t let an aging and/or malfunctioning commercial heating system in McLean adversely affect your business.

Call Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc., today and schedule an appointment with one of our commercial heating experts.

The Steps Involved in Routine Boiler Maintenance

December 4th, 2014

We are almost officially in the winter season here in Arlington, but there is still time to schedule maintenance for your boiler. You may wonder why maintenance is so important for your heating in Arlington. There are several reasons as we’ll explain below, but in a nutshell, maintenance is a full tune-up for your boiler; a routine maintenance appointment is an in-depth inspection, cleaning and adjustment of your system, not just a simple once-over of your system. It’s recommended that you schedule your heating system for maintenance every 12 months, so if you are due for a maintenance appointment, contact Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating, Inc., today.

What Happens During Maintenance?

Here is a general overview of what happens during a routine maintenance appointment for your boiler:

  • Inspect equipment for unsafe conditions
  • Visually check equipment for deteriorated wiring and wiring connections
  • Visually inspect electrical controls (contactors, relays, motor starters, phase monitors and timers) for deterioration and proper operation
  • Measure and record equipment operating voltage and current
  • Inspect and/or adjust burners for proper operation and efficiency
  • Check fan belts and adjust belt tension
  • Lubricate all moving parts
  • Verify operation of safety controls
  • Perform safety and performance testing

Benefits of Scheduling Maintenance

The benefits of a professional maintenance appointment can help achieve the following:

  • Better energy efficiency – when a boiler carries the wear and tear from previous seasons into the next season, it can’t operate at the efficiency level it was made to operate at. The tune-up your boiler receives during a routine maintenance appointment allows your boiler to operate at its highest efficiency.
  • Improved comfort – a boiler that isn’t well-maintained may have trouble achieving the temperature you’ve set on your thermostat. With routine maintenance, the system can operate optimally, keeping you warm and comfortable.
  • Prevents repairs – the thorough inspection of the system allows the technician to detect existing and developing problems so you can get ahead of issues before they can blossom.
  • Extends life of equipment – regular maintenance keeps your boiler in good working order, which helps reduce levels of wear and tear and premature aging.

The benefits of maintenance can last the entire winter season, so if you haven’t scheduled maintenance for your heating system yet, call us today!

10 Facts You Should Know about Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2014

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as an official holiday in the United States for over 150 years, so you may think you understand all there is to know about this family feast. Most of us have heard the story of the pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in 1621 after arriving in North America on the Mayflower. But did you know that only about half of the people on this ship were actually pilgrims? This fact is one of ten things that may actually surprise you about the Thanksgiving tradition!

  1. Although we often consider Thanksgiving a holiday unique to the United States, many other countries and cultures celebrate their own set of harvest-time and thanksgiving traditions. In Korea, Chu-Sok (or “fall evening”) is put on in remembrance of forefathers on August 15th of every year. Brazil celebrates a contemporary version of the U.S. holiday. Chinese, Roman, and Jewish cultures all have a history of harvest celebrations as well.
  2. President Harry S. Truman began the tradition of a ceremony held before Thanksgiving during which the president receives a turkey. George H.W. Bush was the first to pardon the turkey instead of eating it.
  3. In Minnesota alone, farmers raise over 40 million turkeys a year. In fact, U.S. farmers produce about one turkey for every one person in the country.
  4. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American will gain about one to two pounds every year during the holiday season.
  5. On the other hand, turkey is naturally high in protein and has been known to support and boost immune systems to protect against illness and speed up healing. So feast on!
  6. Abraham Lincoln issued a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” in 1863, but a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale can be credited with the idea. While Thanksgiving had been celebrated at different times of year in many areas of the U.S. for years, it was Hale, prominent magazine editor and author of the rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” who urged Lincoln to finally establish the national event.
  7. President Franklin D Roosevelt once tried to change the date of Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday of the month in order to extend the holiday shopping season and boost the economy.
  8. Only about half of the people on the Mayflower were what we would consider today as “Pilgrims.” The other (approximately) 50 people were simply trying to find a way over to the New World.
  9. Gobble, gobble! Click, click? While male turkeys make a gobbling noise, females (hens) do not; it’s often described as a clicking.
  10. Even though we celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, the month of June has been declared National Turkey Lovers’ Month by the National Turkey Federation so you can continue the celebration in the summer as well!

From our family here at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc., we’d like to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!