Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Furnaces’

How Often Are You Calling for Furnace Repair?

Monday, February 8th, 2021

We’re never going to tell someone not to call us. We love hearing from our customers, we enjoy helping out our friends and neighbors, and it’s important to have a team you can trust to help when you need it. That being said, there is definitely a time and a place for furnace repairs, and if that time and place is all the time for your home, then something is clearly wrong.

The problem isn’t you or us, it’s your furnace. Sometimes systems that are on their way out, or need more comprehensive furnace repair in Arlington, VA could show multiple signs of failure throughout the year. This isn’t normal, and it’s important to remember that. Only a trained professional who knows about the lifespan and repair needs of a furnace system can provide targeted repairs that work. And unfortunately, it might be time to look into heater replacement services.

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Why Choose Natural Gas Over Heating Oil?

Monday, December 5th, 2016

The heaters in our area have already been fired up and running for a few weeks now. It’s set to be a long, cold winter, so we hope that you’ve scheduled routine heating maintenance already. There is another consideration to make. Are you going to continue using oil to heat your home?

Because oil prices have fallen substantially, some homeowners who have considered converting to natural gas are rethinking their stance. Those doing so may want to rethink that rethinking, though. We encourage homeowners to go ahead with their oil to gas conversion in Arlington, VA.

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How Is Heating Efficiency Measured?

Monday, November 14th, 2016

These days, everyone is looking for more efficient ways in which to heat their homes during the coldest times of the year. Cutting down on fuel consumption is good for the planet and good for the wallet. Whatever your inspiration may be, the first step in improving efficiency when heating your home is to understand how the efficiency of heaters is measured to begin with.

We’ll give you the information that you need to gain a bit more understanding of the topic. If you have any questions, or if you are ready to schedule professional heating services in Capitol Hill, we’re the company to call. Let us help you to heat your home more efficiently.

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Radiant vs. Forced Air Heating: Pros and Cons

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

While we are not at the point in the year when we’ll need our heating systems regularly just yet, you’ve no doubt begun to notice our cooler nighttime temperatures. You may have turned your heater on to take the chill out of the air already, and it won’t be long before your system is up and running throughout the day. If you need a new heater installed in your home, this is definitely the time to get the process started. 

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Is it Time for Furnace Replacement in Washington, DC?

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Investing in a furnace replacement in Washington, DC is a major decision. It requires not only researching for the best new furnace for your home, but also knowing when furnace replacement is necessary. If you’re thinking about replacing the furnace in your Washington, DC home, call the experts at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating. We can help you to weigh your options and your budget so that you can make an informed and confident decision. We know how hard it can be to go through this process so we put together a short guide that might be able to help.

Signs You Need Furnace Replacement

So how do you know if it’s time for furnace replacement? Here are some things to consider:

  • Frequent repairs. If you regularly repair your existing furnace and it seems like there is no end to the amount of money you spend on it, it may be time to invest in a replacement. When an old furnace becomes a money pit, sometimes it’s better to start anew, than to try to salvage the old.
  • Old age. If your furnace is old and has started requiring repairs, then you may want to consider replacement. The repair costs on older units are often more than it would cost to get a new model.
  • Energy efficiency. Today’s gas furnaces boast AFUE ratings of up to 97%, which means that only a small fraction of the energy drawn from the fuel is lost. This can mean big savings for you in the long-term. In fact, it might make more sense to replace your furnace, even if your old one has not yet stopped working. The technology is rapidly advancing, and it may be worthwhile to talk to a furnace expert soon about your energy efficiency options.

Remember that when you consider furnace replacement, you need to look for an installation company that provides exceptional service at great value. Look no further than Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating for all of your furnace replacement needs in Washington, DC. Call us today. 

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Hurricane Sandy, Power Outages and No Heat: What to Do?

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Fierce winds from Hurricane Sandy are approaching the Washington DC area, and we are told we may sustain power outages for several days.  Our temperatures are predicted to stay in the 40’s.  Most central heating systems including furnaces and boilers use electricity and will not operate during a power outage.  As far as hot water, most electric water heaters will keep water warm for 6-12 hours after a power outage.  What do you need to know to be prepared?

1. Do not use portable or camping kerosene heaters indoors; there is no ventilation for dangerous fumes.

2. Do not use your gas stove or burners for heat, there is a substantial risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.

3. Portable generators need to be run outside, and read instructions for proper ventilation.  Do not plug a generator into an electrical outlet to attempt to power your home, this could send power back through the utility lines and electrocute a utility worker trying to restore your power.

4. Do not leave candles unattended.

5. Do use your fireplace, making sure the floo is open.  If you have a vented gas fireplace, understand it was designed to be decorative but may be useful to heat one room.

6. Congregate in one or two rooms, and keep the doors closed to maintain heat.

7. Test your flashlights and battery powered radio, and know the location of your spare batteries and emergency kit.

8. Know where your utility shut off valves are located in case you are instructed to do so.

9. Check your water supply.  You should have 1 gallon per person, per day.  If you find you are short, fill up plastic water bottles now from the tap, before the power outage.

10. Check out www.ready.gov for more information on preparing for Hurricane Sandy.

All of us at Polar Bear Air Conditioning and Heating, Inc. are hoping that these tips are helpful to you, and that you and your family will be safe during this storm.  Our emergency number is posted at the top of our website, and you can stay informed by following us on Twitter @PolarBearAC or liking us on Facebook.

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Capitol Hill Heating Repair Question: What Are Flue Gas Spill Switches?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

While some components of a heating system make sense to the average homeowner in Capitol Hill – think blower fan, thermostat and air ducts – others are more esoteric and prone to bouts of head scratching.

So, you may find yourself asking “what the heck is a flue gas spill switch?”

As you know, gas heating appliances produce heat by means of combustion. The gas line feeds gas into the appliance, the gas is ignited, and the burning gas produces heat. It’s a simple concept that goes all the way back to our caveman ancestors building fires to keep warm, and it is the same process in gas furnaces, boilers and water heaters.

In addition to producing the cozy heat we love in the winter time, this combustion process also releases gases. Known collectively as “flue gases,” some of these – carbon monoxide being the most notorious – can be very toxic. This why we have flues or chimneys in our homes– to give these gases a means of egress.

A flue gas spill switch is designed to shut down the furnace if these gases start seeping out. It is made up of a sensor or series of sensors that detect heat outside the flue, not unlike the flame sensor in your furnace. If flue gases start to escape and pass by the sensor, the sensor heats up and signals the furnace to shut down. This cuts off the power and gas, so that no more flue gases can leak into the home and create a health concern.

If your furnace has been abruptly shutting down, it could be your flue gas spill switch trying to tell you that you have a leaky or cracked flue. If this is the case, you want to have it repaired right away. The constant off and on is not good for the furnace, and more importantly, those flue gases can be exceptionally hazardous to your family’s health.

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Pros and Cons of Various Heating Systems in Washington DC

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

When it comes time to install a new heating system in your Washington DC home, there are a lot of options to consider. Many people get overwhelmed when confronted with all of the furnaces, boilers and heat pumps on the market these days. So, to help you get a handle on what each has to offer and which will offer you the best benefits, here is an overview of the modern heating system market.


Furnaces are the core of a forced air heating system and use gas, oil or electricity to heat air which is then circulated through your home by a blower in your air handler. Furnaces are among the most fuel efficient heating systems on the market today with options available at up to 95% AFUE (meaning it uses up to 95% of the fuel consumed to produce heat). They are also inexpensive to install and while they don’t last quite as long as boilers, they are highly efficient when well cared for.


Boilers use gas, oil or electricity to heat water or steam which is then circulated through your home into radiators or baseboard heaters. The heated water or steam releases heat into your home and heats it in turn. While not quite as energy efficient as a high efficiency furnace, boiler heat is perfect for homes with existing radiators and no room for vents and ductwork. It also has less of an impact on indoor air quality since there is no air movement and boilers tend to last a very long time when well maintained.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular, especially in milder climates where it rarely gets below 40 degrees F. A heat pump uses the same technology as an air conditioner to extract heat from outside using a compressor, evaporator coils, and condenser coils with refrigerant.

It is most efficient in the spring and fall when temperatures are mild, but it uses much less energy than either a boiler or furnace and it can be used in the summer to cool your home. When properly maintained, a heat pump will last 10-20 years and save quite a bit of money, though it is recommended that you have an emergency heat source for days when the temperature outside gets below 40 degrees F.

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A Question from Washington DC: What is a Gas Furnace Draft Hood?

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

As every Washington DC heating and air conditioning contractor knows, a draft hood is a necessary part of any gas burning appliance. For a gas furnace in particular it ensures steady air flow to the burners to avoid flares or the pilot light being put out by fluctuation in temperature and air flow.

What the Draft Hood Does

The draft will change in the chimney as exhaust vents towards it – especially when going from cold air to hot. A draft hood is placed above the upper most part of the gas furnace to draw air into the chimney and makes it possible to draw more or less air through the chimney as necessary to create a constant flow.

This makes it possible for the burner to enjoy consistent air flow without any wind gusts or sudden temperature spikes or drops. Hot air, if not put through a draft hood would create a strong air flow through the burners.

A draft hood cools the air as it is released by the burners from 500 degrees F to between 300 degrees F and 350 degrees F. The cooling needs to be carefully calibrated to avoid condensation build up in the chimney however – a problem that occurs when the temperature gets too low.

Maintaining Pressure

The draft hood is a part of a larger system designed to maintain air flow to the chimney. For every cubic foot of gas burned, the furnace needs to have 15 cubic feet of air for combustion and another 15 cubic feet of air for dilution. A draft hood and the rest of the ventilation system make it possible to put a furnace that has many thousands of BTUs in the basement of your home and still supply it with enough air to burn gas and dilute the exhaust before it enters the chimney.

For all of these reasons, if you see your pilot light flickering irregularly, notice a backflow of exhaust or a burning smell in your furnace room, it’s important to call a Washington DC professional who can inspect and repair the problem before it becomes any worse. Not only can gas burner exhaust contain high levels of carbon monoxide, it can be bad for the device and the chimney if it doesn’t vent properly.

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A Question from DC: What’s the Difference Between a Furnace and a Boiler?

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

When it comes time to choose a new heating system for your DC home, there is a good chance your choices are limited. Most homes already have either forced air or radiant heat equipment installed so choosing something different would be costly and unnecessary. But, if you have a choice or are moving into a new home, here are some things to consider regarding the difference between furnaces and boilers.

What a Furnace Does

A furnace uses a fuel like gas, oil or electricity to heat a series of coils in the device. The furnace then uses a blower to push air across the heated coil and into an air handler where it can be distributed throughout your home. This is called a forced air system and requires a combination of ducts and filters to keep air moving smoothly and cleanly throughout your home.

If you have access to gas, a gas furnace with an AFUE of 90% or higher is one of the most efficient and cost effective ways to heat your home. These furnaces can also last upwards of 20-25 years with proper maintenance.

What a Boiler Does

A boiler is different in that it uses water as the heat carrying medium, not air. Boilers still need gas, oil or electricity to heat up the water in the system, though they often use less of it than a traditional furnace – depending on the age of the furnace and the boiler. After water is heated in the boiler, your radiant heating system carries the water to baseboard heaters or radiators throughout your home. This form of heat is preferred by many because it doesn’t require ductwork (which requires extra maintenance) or extra air filtering and it is more humidity friendly in a large home.

In terms of efficiency, both boilers and furnaces are efficient if you’re buying a new model. Capacity is also evenly matched. Boilers take the edge in comfort level and if you have the budget, you can install radiant floor heating which allows you to pipe hot water directly into bathroom floors or your living space so that you never again need to walk on cold floors. Another benefit of radiant heating is that the system will hold heat much longer and then release it over time instead of turning on and off a lot as a furnace tends to do.

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