Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc Blog : Archive for October, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Happy Halloween! Candy and costumes make any day fun; we hope you have a fantastic time trick or treating! Remember to be safe this holiday, and don’t forget it is time to start thinking seriously about fall maintenance for inside and outside your house. A quick tune up of your heating system will save you some trouble during this upcoming holiday season!

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Do I Need to Supplement My Heat Pump with Another Heating System? A Question from Washington

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

People often turn to heat pumps as a solution for their Washington home heating and cooling needs because they want a single, all-inclusive system that covers all the bases. The convenience and simplicity is part of the allure of choosing a heat pump to begin with.

However, it’s not always that simple. There are situations where a heat pump is not enough to handle the needs of the whole home. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole idea goes out the window, but the heat pump may need some help in the form of a supplementary heating supply.

Here are some reasons/situations that may call for a supplemental heat source in addition to a heat pump:

  1. A Particularly Cold Climate – Although heat pumps can serve as the primary heating system when temperatures drop as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit, they have trouble keeping up when the cold snap lasts longer than a few days. In any climate where temperatures dip below this mark for a length of time, a supplemental heating system is recommended.
  2. A Large Home – Heat pumps come in many different sizes, but if yours does not have the capacity to match the size of your home, then it won’t be able to heat the whole house. It’s as simple as that. If you are installing a new heat pump, be sure to get one that is properly sized. But, if you have an existing heat pump that is overmatched by your home’s size, simply supplementing it may be the easiest solution.
  3. The Power Goes Out – A heat pumps’ use of electricity is a benefit in most situations, but unfortunately it means they are helpless when the power goes out. To avoid suffering in the winter chill when a blizzard takes out a local power line, have a backup/supplemental heat source on hand to use until the power comes back on.

Those are a few situations you may encounter in which supplementing a heat pump is a good idea. Remember, though, that each situation is different. When installing a new heat pump, consult with the professional installer beforehand to see if you should also have a supplemental heat system in addition to the heat pump. This is especially important if you live a cold climate.

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How to Get Your DC House Ready for Fall

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Now that you have put the lawnmower away for the year and pulled the leaf rakes and blowers out of your garage, you know it is also time to make plans to get your DC house ready for the colder temperatures, too. Getting ready for the fall means sealing up your home a little tighter (but not too tight) and making sure all of your heating equipment is in peak working order.

It’s a good idea to make a mental or physical checklist of everything that needs to be done – and why it needs to be done. Here are some basic tips on how to get your house ready for fall. Let’s first look at ways to assist your heating system to do its job and then look at ways to keep your heating system working efficiently.

First, check all areas of the home where there may be heat loss. Replacing screen windows and screened doors with glass windows and storm doors is the first logical step. Keep all of your screens together and store them in an area that’s convenient to access next spring. Check all of the caulking and weather stripping around windows, doors, roof vents, chimney stacks, etc. You may need to remove older caulk and weather stripping and replace it if it is chipped, cracked, or missing.

  • Make a visual inspection of the ductwork in your house. Ensure there are no openings between joints. Keep a roll of duct tape with you to seal off any obvious gaps, even after you have closed or repaired them. It never hurts to use a little duct tape.
  • Check all of your vents and returns for any obstructions or debris. Move furniture or carpeting away from the vents and returns.

Okay, you’ve done a good job of checking your house for leakage. Now let’s check your furnace for ways to keep it running efficiently. Besides providing warmth and comfort to people in your home, a properly tuned furnace will run more efficiently and use less energy – keeping your utility bills down.

Inspect your furnace filter. Since you will be turning your furnace on for the first time in a few months, you may want to replace the filter in the air handling unit which is connected to your furnace through a plenum. Chances are, the filter will need to be replaced and the timing would be right to do it while getting your house ready for fall. If you have a removable electronic filter, give a thorough washing with a soapy solution and rinse it out. Make sure it is dry before putting it back in the air handling unit.

  • Visually inspect the pilot flame in your furnace. The flame should be a bright blue with a slight shade of yellow on the tip. If it is not, there may be incomplete combustion inside your furnace, which should be checked immediately. Call a heating contractor to schedule an inspection.
  • Ensure there is easy access to your heating system by removing any clothes, boxes, furniture which may have accumulated around it.

The best way to get your heating system ready for the fall is to schedule routine service and maintenance visits from your local heating contractor.  Be safe, warm, and comfortable this fall by taking these easy steps.

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What Is Forced Air Heating? A Question from Washington DC

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Chances are that you’ve heard the term forced air heating in Washington before, particularly if you’re in the market for a new home heating system. But what does that actually mean? The truth is that if you’re asking this question, you’re not alone. There are so many types of home heating systems out there that it’s common to be a bit confused and overwhelmed by it all.

The truth is that a forced air heating system is simply a heating system that distributes heat throughout your house using air to carry it. In this type of system, heated air travels through a system of ducts and is expelled through vents into the different rooms and areas of your home in order to maintain a particular temperature. That temperature, of course, is whatever you set your thermostat to, and when the desired temperature is reached, the heat will shut off until the temperature drops down again.

The main difference between the different types of forced air heating systems is the type of equipment that heats the air. For instance, you could have a furnace or a heat pump. All of these are capable of heating air, and when paired with a fan, blower or air handler, can distribute heated air throughout your home.

Many forced air heating systems are remarkably energy efficient and can effectively keep you home comfortable all winter long. Additionally, they are generally made to be incorporated with central air conditioning systems for year round temperature control. Heat pumps are especially convenient in this way, as they’re able to both heat and cool your home depending on the season and your home comfort needs.

Particularly if you already have ductwork in place or if you’re choosing a heating system for a new construction home, it can make a lot of sense to opt for some type of forced air heating. However, if you’re looking to replace an existing heating system in a house that doesn’t already have ductwork in place, the need to put it in can add a lot to the overall installation costs of the system.

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Furnace vs. Heat Pump: A Tip From DC

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

If you’re preparing to replace your existing heating system in Washington DC, you may very well be struggling with the question of whether to go with a furnace or a heat pump for all of your future home heating needs. Each of these systems have their own advantages and drawbacks, and once you’ve narrowed it down to one type or the other, you’ll still have a pretty wide variety of products to choose from.

Furnaces are still the most popular type of home heating equipment on the market. You can get furnaces that run on gas, oil or electricity, although gas furnaces are by far the most common type of furnace around these days. The latest models are extremely energy efficient, with AFUE ratings reaching into the high 90%s.

Like heat pumps, furnaces use ducts to transfer heated air throughout your home. They typically require regular maintenance once every year or two depending on the type of furnace you have, and they can be expected to last anywhere from 15 to 25 years when properly maintained. Most modern furnaces are also made to be compatible with a central air conditioning or cooling system as well.

Heat pumps, on the other hand, don’t generate the heat that they circulate throughout your house. Instead they are able to extract the heat from the air outside and pump it inside. This means that they use much less energy than even the most energy efficient furnaces.

However, heat pumps are only capable of heating your house comfortably when the outside temperature is above freezing. If you live in an area with particularly long and frigid winters, you’ll probably find that you need to supplement your heat pump with another heat source. Because of this, it actually makes little sense to use a heat pump in more extreme climates.

On the other hand, if you live in an area with relatively mild winters, heat pumps can be a great option. They provide a constant flow of warm air to all parts of your home and can also keep you house cool during hot summer months. To cool your home, heat pumps simply reverse the process they use to warm it. They take the heat out of your indoor air and pump it outside. This is a very effective home cooling method and makes heat pumps a great solution for year round comfort.

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