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

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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How Thermostat Trouble Can Lead to Heating Repair

Monday, October 27th, 2014

The thermostat is an essential part of your heating system: this small, usually unobtrusive device that sits on the wall near the center of a home is responsible for sending instructions to a heater (and air conditioner as well) to turn it on and off and control how long to will continue to run. Without a working thermostat, you don’t have a working heating system.

The thermostat can also malfunction in ways that will causes trouble inside the heater that may lead to it requiring repairs. This is one of the reasons you must not allow a broken thermostat—even one showing only minor miscalibrations—to remain that way for long. Call the excellent technicians at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. whenever you need heating repair in Northern Virginia to restore your thermostat and heater. We have more than a decade of experience with keeping home warm throughout the winter.

The thermostat and heating repair

One of the major troubles you want to avoid from a thermostat is a miscalibration that causes the unit to misread the temperatures in a home. This can cause the heating system to start running too long, and will in turn lead to wear and tear and probably repair needs that wouldn’t have been necessary otherwise.

A thermostat miscalibration can also cause a situation known as “short-cycling.” This is when the thermostat prematurely shuts down a heater’s heating cycle before it can complete because it falsely reads that the heater has reached the target temperature. The thermostat will soon switch the heater back on again… only to have it shut off quickly once more… and on and on. This is a huge waste of power, but it also puts an incredible strain on the heater’s mechanical components. This will lead to issues such as burned-out blower motors in furnaces and heat pump and broken circulator pumps in boilers.

Another common problem with thermostats is when they lose their connection that shuts off the heater’s fan. Thermostats have separate wires to turn on and turn off the blower fan for a furnace or heat pump; if the thermostat loses its link with the wire that turns off the blower fan, the fan will run continuously, leading to it suffering from damage that will require repair needs.

Any time you notice a decline in heating power or detect the heating system turning on and off at strange times, you may have an issue in the thermostat.

Call for repairs fat the first sign of trouble. Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. is here to service all your needs for heating repair in Northern Virginia.

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What is the Condensate Pan in My Air Conditioner?

Monday, 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!

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Problems with the Condensate Drain in an Air Conditioner

Monday, April 21st, 2014

If you listen to the indoor cabinet of your air conditioning system while it is operating this spring and summer, you will occasionally hear the sound of water dripping and then draining away. This happens because of the condensation of water vapor along the indoor coil during the evaporation stage. The moisture from the coil drips down into a shallow pan, and then a pump moves the water through a condensate drain and away from the air conditioner. This prevents the excess water moisture from overflowing out of the pan and entering your house where it can cause damage and raise humidity levels, or possibly harm the operation of other parts of your HVAC system. (If you have a furnace positioned below your AC, leaking can cause potentially harmful corrosion across the heater.) If you notice water leaking out of your air conditioner, or if you see water damage around the cabinet, call for repairs right away.

For fast and accurate work on air conditioning systems in Northern Virginia, contact the team at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc.

What might go wrong with the condensate drain

The leading cause of leaking from the condensate pan is trouble that occurs with the drain or the drain line. There are two principle issues that can afflict the drain and lead to water leakage:

  • Organic clogging: Humid climates encourage the growth of a number of organisms that can clog or close off the condensate drain. These include mold, fungus, algae, and even small plants and weeds. (There’s also a small chance of non-organic debris, such as rocks and grit, entering the drain.) Even a slow drain will cause leaking to occur quickly because of how shallow the condensate pan is. To repair this, a technician will need to remove the pan from the unit, disconnect the drain, inspect it and the pipeline to find and remove the contamination using special wet/dry vacuum equipment.
  • Drain or drain line breaks: The drain might break off from the pan entirely, which will cause the water condensation to leak directly out of the pan. A break along the connection between the drain and the line will also start leaking. Usually, this problem will require a technician to completely replace the drain and/or line.

Water leaking from an AC is something you should stop as soon as you notice it—especially if you have a furnace beneath it. Although leaking will rarely harm the air conditioner itself, it will lead to damage to your house and discomfort from humidity. Don’t try to tamper with the drain line on your own. Call the Northern Virginia air conditioning specialists at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc., and we’ll solve your troubles.

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Some Common Misunderstandings about Heat Pumps

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Heat pumps are an increasingly popular choice for home comfort today, principally because they offer a two-in-one deal: heating and cooling. However, some customers feel reluctant to consider a heat pump for their Northern Virginia heating and cooling, and instead gravitate toward older systems like furnaces and air conditioners. This reticence comes from common misunderstandings about heat pumps that we would like to address.

Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. has seen firsthand how effective heat pumps are at providing families with comfort and savings. Although a heat pump isn’t the ideal choice for every home, you should still consider one when it’s time for your new heating and cooling installation.

Here are some of the myths about heat pumps:

Myth: Heat pumps are just a heater and air conditioner packaged together

Because heat pumps can provide both heating and cooling, people often think that they are two separate units put together in the same container. Actually, a heat pump is one mechanism that uses the same process—heat exchange—to perform its two functions. Essentially, a heat pump is an air conditioner that can change the direction it moves heat: while in AC mode, it moves heat from inside a home and puts it outside; in heating mode, it moves heat from outside and puts it inside.

Myth: Heat pumps are essentially useless in cold weather

During heating mode, the action of heat exchange moves heat from the outside to the inside. This makes it easy to imagine that during cold weather, the heat pump won’t work as a heater: where is it getting warmth from the outdoor air? However, as long as there is molecular motion in the air, there is heat available for heat exchange. Heat pumps can lose efficiency when the temperature drops below freezing, but they are far from useless; and in milder cold weather they are very effective. Most heat pumps have a back up heat system to make sure your home is warm no matter the weather.

Myth: Heat pumps won’t pay off their installation costs

First, as far as air conditioning goes, heat pumps are the same efficiency as a standalone air conditioner of comparable size. Second, heat pumps are a very efficient way to heat your home. Especially when compared to electric furnaces, heat pumps are extremely energy-efficient. Most heat pumps will pay back their installation costs in three years.

Our trained technicians at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. have brought quality cooling and heating to Northern Virginia since 2001. You can trust us to find the heat pump that will keep you and your family comfortable all year long.

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Northern Virginia Boiler FAQ: How Do Boilers Work?

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Here at Polar Bear, we advise our customers to place boilers on their list of potential heating systems to install in their homes. Modern boilers provide some tremendous advantages: low cost installation, energy-efficient performance, even heating, quiet operation, improved air quality, durability, and longevity. In Northern Virginia, a boiler is one of your best options for a comfortable and cozy home all the way through to spring.

But how exactly does a boiler work? Here’s something you probably didn’t know: there are few boilers today that do any “boiling.” Older models operate from steam, but the modern ones use hot water to heat your home. We’ll give you a rundown on how these boilers work, and this information will help you understand better why boilers are good heating options.

Boilers can run off a variety of fuel sources: natural gas, electricity, and oil are the most common. We’re going to focus on the type we see the most often in homes, the gas-powered boiler, in this post.

A boiler uses a tank full of water that it heats up and then sends into your house to raise the temperature in your living space. A pilot light ignites gas jets in a combustion chamber located underneath the water tank. These jets raise the temperature of the water—although not to the point of boiling into steam the way old systems used to do. A pump them moves the hot water through pipes.

The hot water eventually reaches an end point, usually a radiator or a baseboard heater, where heat then radiates into your home. (This is why boilers won’t lower the air quality in your house: they use radiant heat instead of forced air moved through ducts that can become dirty.) The cooled-down water from the terminal point then returns to the tank, where the process of heating it starts again.

We recommend homeowners look into gas-powered boilers—especially if they already have a natural gas supply hooked to their house—because they are among the most efficient and energy-friendly heating options available today. Our heating experts at Polar Bear also perform oil-to-gas conversions to help you get the highest efficiency from your current boiler. When you need help with your boiler, the Northern Virginia specialists at Polar Bear are ready to give you the assistance you need.

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Welcome Back to School Safety Tips

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

1219898_75483334Polar Bear Air Conditioning and Heating, Inc. is a proud supporter of Capitol Hill Cluster School, Janney Elementary School, Lafayette Elementary School and Murch Elementary School in Washington, D.C. as well as Jamestown Elementary School, Nottingham Elementary School and Tuckahoe Elementary School in Arlington, VA.  We wish for all of our students in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia an exciting and productive year of learning in the Nation’s Capital.

Now that school is back in session, we can do our part to ensure safety by slowing down, looking around, and obeying speed limits around our schools and bus stops.  We all lead busy lives, but refraining from speeding past a school bus approaching a bus stop may save a child’s life.  Likewise, we can remind our children to wait until the bus has come to a complete stop with the stop sign extended, or until the crossing guard has signaled to them before entering the street or approaching the bus.  For more safety tips concerning walking to school or the bus stop, visit DC Metropolitan Police Department’s School Bus Safety Tips or Arlington County Public Schools’ Tips for Walking to School or the Bus Stop.

Let’s have a safe and rewarding academic year!

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Consequences of Delaying Air Conditioning Repair in Northern Virginia

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Air conditioning repair in Northern Virginia often needs to be sooner rather than later. With our hot, humid summers, even a few hours with an air conditioning system can feel like an eternity. At the same time, however, people often delay consultation with an air conditioning service technician. As long as the AC unit is running, the reasoning goes, why incur the cost of an expensive repair bill? That may help your pocketbook in the short run, but there can be significant consequences to delaying air conditioning repair in the long run.

The possibility of greater damage serves as the most obvious consequence, as does the higher costs involved. As parts wear out or maintenance issues arise, they can create a cascading effect that resulting in more significant damage as time does one. For instance, a loose connection can cause a leak in the refrigerant levels, a relatively straightforward issue to correct. If left unattended, however, your air conditioning system must work harder to cool the air sufficiently. That extra struggle could damage the motors and other components; ice could form on the evaporator coils; and the chances for a serious malfunction go up. That comes on top of the higher monthly energy bills that come with reduced efficiency.

Scheduling a service call early in that process can save a great deal of money. A service tech can isolate and seal the leak, recharge the refrigerant, and return the unit to peak efficiency.. Every month you delay means higher electric bills, as your system has to work harder to keep your home cool.

As with so many things in life, it’s easier to treat a smaller problem than wait for it to become a large one. The trained technicians at Polar Bear can  take care of your Northern Virginia air conditioning repair service. We can help save you money by doing the job right the first time, every time. Schedule an appointment today!

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Does a Faulty Thermostat Call for Professional Air Conditioning Repair in Northern Virginia?

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

The thermostat allows you to control your air conditioning system, setting the temperature to a comfortable level and monitoring your system’s overall effectiveness. Older thermostats were simple devices that used mercury switches. Newer digital thermostats often come with an array of bells and whistles, such as remote settings allowing you to turn on the air conditioner even when you aren’t at home. When the thermostat experiences problems, it can cause big issues with your AC system, which can spell trouble in the hot, humid summers of Northern Virginia. That is why it is so important to call for repair if you think your thermostat is malfunctioning.

You can spot a problematic thermostat by listening for rapid cycling (the AC unit turning on and off quickly), by uncomfortable temperatures in the household despite the listing on the thermostat, and by the simple fact that the air conditioning unit will not turn on. Many of these issues can be caused by other AC problems, however. It takes a professional technician to pinpoint the precise cause and implement the proper solution (which may or may not involve the thermostat).

Furthermore, most thermostats are connected to the house’s electrical system, which requires an expert to successfully approach. Professional technicians can also advise you on possible upgrades to your thermostat that match your particular situation. And in some cases, the issue may be caused by a thermostat that sits too close to a breezeway or a warm area hit by sunlight: necessitating a move to a new location. Such an operation requires a service technician to place, mount and install the thermostat properly.

If your thermostat is causing problems and you need to consider a new one, call the professional air conditioning service techs at Polar Bear. We pride ourselves on customer satisfaction and will go the extra mile to do the job right for you. We offer air conditioning repair services throughout Northern Virginia. We can repair or replace your thermostat quickly and professionally. Contact us today to set up an appointment.


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