Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc Blog : Archive for January, 2015

Problems That May Occur with the Boiler Circulator Pump

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Hot water boiler systems need a little help pushing the hot water through the piping to heat your home. This help comes from small pumps called circulator pumps that are soldered into the pipes, and thus are part of the piping. Without the help of these pumps, the hot water would never reach your heating outlet.

How Does the Circulator Work?

Circulators use a small amount of electricity and gravity to push the water through your system. Inside the pump is a small motor; this motor turns a small wheel called an impeller. The impeller looks and functions like a miniature water wheel, and it is the component responsible for grabbing the water in the pipe and pushing it through to the other side at a high rate of speed. Rubber seals inside the pump keep water from leaking out of the pump at the points where it has been soldered into the pipe.

Common Circulator Problems

Circulator pumps are hardy little components, but they can break. Common repairs may be:

  • Broken or worn seals – the rubber seals inside the pump can age, crack or split, which can result in leaking from the pump. Water on the outside metal can lead to the development of rust, so if you see that a circulator pump on your boiler system is leaking, have it repaired as soon as possible.
  • Problems with the circulator relay switch – the motor is attached to a relay switch that sends power to it so it can operate; if the switch becomes faulty, the motor may not receive any power or receive power intermittently.
  • Circulator won’t turn on – reasons a circulator won’t turn on include issues with your thermostat, unequal settings between the circulator’s aquastat and the boiler’s thermostat and a dead or frozen pump motor.
  • Circulator runs but heat is low – this can be due to a broken or damaged impeller inside the pump.

Sometimes circulator pumps can be repaired, but other times they may need to be replaced.

The best way to handle any kind of heating repair to your boiler is to call the experts at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc., and schedule an appointment for heating services in Alexandria, VA.

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3 Reasons to Install a Humidifier

Thursday, 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!

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What Does the AFUE Rating Mean for a Boiler?

Thursday, 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!

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Why Cleaning and Adjusting Boiler Components Each Year is Necessary

Thursday, 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.

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Types of Terminal Units Used with Boiler Installation

Friday, 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!

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

Thursday, 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.

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