Are Gas Furnaces Safe for Installation?

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

A very long time ago, furnaces used outdated technology that made them a somewhat scary addition to a home. While whole-home heating was once considered a luxury, it came along with another price: the risk of fire and health concerns over gas leaks. This is because there were no safety devices in place to shut the gas valve should the pilot light suddenly stop burning, which could sometimes lead to potentially hazardous effects.

Luckily, this technology was improved, and standing pilot furnaces manufactured in recent decades contain a safety mechanism that prevents this from happening, the thermocouple. If your home has a standing gas pilot furnace, it’s likely that it also contains a thermocouple, a small safety device that simply detects whether or not there is a flame. If there is not, it sends a signal out to shut off the gas valve.

Even though the safety of standing pilots is now much more secure, standing gas pilots are largely inefficient. The pilot light has to remain on throughout the day, burning gas even though you’ll only need it whenever the furnace must cycle on to raise the temperature in the house. That’s part of the reason for the development of new ignition systems, which also include several additional safety features.

Intermittent pilot ignition system furnaces and hot surface ignition system furnaces, two of the most common modern ignition systems, only use the gas when it is needed for the heating cycle. A flame sensor continues to monitor the presence of a flame and shut off the gas in its absence. But it also contains a limit switch which keeps the furnace plenum chamber from overheating. If this switch senses that the temperature in the chamber is too high, it also stops the flow of gas. One of the other key safety switches is the air pressure switch, which turns off the gas when there is not enough air pressure in the flue pipe to properly vent combustion gases.

While today’s gas furnaces are now seen as very safe, efficient, and effective, this may not be true if you don’t choose an experienced professional for installation. Amateurs may not know the safest modes and tools to use to install a modern furnace and ventilation system. Call Cool Air Mechanical to make sure your heating installation in Atlanta, GA goes as smoothly as possible and that your system runs safely throughout its lifespan.

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The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

Thursday, 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 Cool Air Mechanical, 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!

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How to Choose the Best Water Heater for Your Home

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Water heaters are not a one-size-fits-all kind of appliance. Installing one that is too small won’t provide your home and family with enough hot water, and one that’s too big may waste energy and result in higher monthly energy bills. Additionally, you need to consider what type of water heater you’d like and what kind of energy it will use. If you need help choosing and installing a water heater for your home in Alpharetta, GA, call Cool Air Mechanical today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

Types of Water Heaters

There are a few types of water heaters for you to choose from:

  • Conventional water heaters – the most popular and well-known type of water heater, conventional water heaters have a storage tank in which the heated water is held for usage. The average lifespan of a conventional water heater is 10-15 years.
  • Tankless water heaters – tankless water heaters, also known as heat-on-demand, do not use a storage tank to provide your home with water. Instead, when you open your hot water tap on a faucet, your cold water is run through a heat exchanger that quickly heats the water and pushes it through your faucet. Tankless systems have an average lifespan of 20+ years.
  • Heat pump water heaters – just as heat pumps for your home transfer heat from one location to another to both heat and cool, so, too, do heat pump water heaters – they just transfer the heat into a storage tank to heat your water. Heat pumps home heating and cooling systems can also heat water, or you can have a stand-alone heat pump water heater. Heat pump water heaters are very energy efficient and have a lifespan of 10-15 years.

Fuel Types

There are 4 main fuel types by which to heat your water:

  • Gas
  • Oil
  • Propane
  • Electricity

Deciding which fuel type to use for your water heater will depend largely on what’s available in your home and your personal preferences.

Sizing

Properly sizing your water heater requires a small calculation.  First, you have to determine your home’s first hour rating, known as FHR. This is the amount of water used during the busiest water-using time of day, such as a weekday morning. To do this, allot 12 gallons of water per person; then add up the number of bedrooms and add 1. Take the number of bedrooms plus 1 and multiply it by the 12 gallons; this gives you your home’s FHR value.

Taking the time to choose the right water heater is critical. Let the trained technicians at Cool Air Mechanical help you install a water heater for your home in Alpharetta, GA.

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How a Faulty Air Handler Will Affect Your Heating

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

If you have a furnace, you also have an air handler to push the warm air through your ductwork and into your living spaces. The air handler, also known as the blower, has multiple components and its own motor that allow the fan to help warm your home. When problems arise with the blower or any of its parts, it can have a direct affect your home’s heating. Blower assemblies can be complicated, so it’s important to hire a professional for any kind of repair your blower and heating system need. The trained experts at Cool Air Mechanical are available day or night, so if you are experiencing issues, call us today.

Common Air Handler Problems

Here are some of the more common problems that can develop with air handlers:

  • Bent/loose fan blades – the fan in your heating system is large, and with use, the fan blades and loosen; they can also become bent. Bent or loose fan blades can cause additional damage to other parts by coming into contact with other parts while the fan rotates. Typically, this will be evident by a banging sound each time the fan runs. It’s best to have fan blades repaired as soon as possible in order to avoid supplemental problems.
  • Bad capacitor – the motor on your blower has a component attached to it called a split capacitor. This component provides the boost of energy the motor needs to start and also keeps the electrical flow steady and even once the motor is running. Capacitors can age, wear and malfunction just as any other component, and when the split capacitor does so, it can affect the operation of your blower’s motor, which in turn can affect your heating.
  • Worn fan belts – fan belts can stretch, which can cause your blower to turn too slowly. This can result in decreased air flow and a decrease in heating. Replacing a worn fan belt can alleviate this issue.

Without a properly-working fan, your heating system can’t work as it should. If you suspect you are experiencing a problem with your air handler, call Cool Air Mechanical today and schedule an appointment for heating repair for your home in Kennesaw, GA.

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AFUE and Selecting a Furnace for Installation

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

There are a few choices to make when it comes to selecting a furnace:

  • Type of furnace – combustion or electric
  • Type of fuel – oil, gas, propane or electricity

And: efficiency level.

The best way to assess how efficient a particular furnace will be is to review its AFUE rating. AFUE stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency, and it measures a gas furnace’s efficiency in converting fuel to energy. As an example, a furnace with an AFUE of 90% means that that particular furnace will generate 90 BTUs of heat for every unit of fuel that it burns. In other words, when this particular furnace operates, 10% of your fuel is lost to exhaust. Comparatively speaking, this is a pretty good AFUE rating. AFUE can range from the low 50s to the high 90s, so this is why it’s important to understand how AFUE works.

What AFUE Doesn’t Mean

Sometimes energy efficiency ratings like AFUE can be misinterpreted as being an indication that a certain type of furnace with a certain AFUE rating will heat your home better; this isn’t true. What AFUE tells you is that a furnace with an AFUE of 95% will heat your home the same as a furnace with an AFUE of 90% – the difference is that the furnace with the higher AFUE rating will heat your home for less money because it uses less fuel to accomplish the job.

So why not just purchase the furnace with the higher AFUE? With improved energy efficiency can come higher purchase cost: typically, the higher a furnace’s energy efficiency, the higher the cost of the unit. Working with a trained expert can help you determine how long it will take to recover the installation costs of a unit, based on its energy efficiency level. He/she does this by calculating how much you can save in energy costs based on the AFUE rating and comparing that to your installation costs. Taking the time to work on this calculation with your technician can help you save money in energy costs for the long-term.

If you need a new furnace installation in Roswell, don’t go it alone: call Cool Air Mechanical today and schedule an appointment with one of our installation experts!

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How Furnace Repair Maintains Safety

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Furnaces are manufactured with a number of safety controls that make them very safe to operate. However, allowing a malfunctioning furnace to continue operating can create dangerous situations that can’t be remedied by safety switches alone. Depending on the type of furnace you have, different scenarios can develop that may potentially compromise the safety of your family and your home. Making needed repairs to your furnace as soon as possible allows your furnace to run not just optimally, but safely. Following are some reasons why waiting to make repairs to your furnace can be a potentially dangerous situation.

Electric Furnaces

Electric furnaces do not generate combustion byproducts, but this doesn’t mean that certain risks can’t develop when issues with your electric furnace aren’t remedied. One of the more common problems that can develop with an electric furnace is an issue with the system’s circuit breaker. Electric furnaces draw enough power to warrant having their own circuit breaker in your home’s electrical box. If the breaker trips, this usually indicates that the furnace is drawing too much power and as a safety precaution, the breaker turns off. You can try to turn the breaker back on, but should you encounter resistance or the breaker trips again, don’t keep resetting it; instead, call for repair.

Combustion Furnaces

Combustion furnaces generate toxic fumes and gases, the most noteworthy being carbon monoxide. The heat exchanger is responsible for separating these toxic byproducts and venting them safely to the outside via the flue. However, should the heat exchanger or the flue develop cracks or serious corrosion, these fumes and gases can escape and circulate into your living spaces.

There are also a number of safety switches that cut off the fuel supply should unsafe conditions develop. Limit switches, flame sensors and thermocouples are all examples of safety mechanisms that are installed into your furnace to ensure that fuel supply is both monitored and managed. Operating your furnace knowing that certain safety switches and mechanisms aren’t working properly can put you, your home and your system at risk.

Your furnace helps keep you comfortable all winter. If you know that furnace in Duluth is in need of repair don’t wait. Call Cool Air Mechanical today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

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How Long Does Furnace Installation Take?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Replacing your furnace is a great opportunity to increase your energy efficiency and comfort levels. Many times our technicians will ask how long it will take to install a new furnace. As long as your existing ductwork is intact and works correctly, it normally takes less than a day to replace an outdated furnace. However, there are decisions to be made before installation that can and should take some time.

Factors to Consider Before Installation

Combustion furnaces have an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years, so it’s important to make sure that you install a furnace that fits your needs and your home perfectly:

Size

Your home has specific heating needs, and these needs won’t be met if you install a system that is either too big or too small for your home. So how do properly size your furnace? By working with a trained professional on a heat load calculation. This calculation is comprised of things like:

  • Your home’s orientation
  • Levels of insulation
  • Floor plan
  • Number of occupants
  • Number and type of windows and doors
  • Square footage

Once the heat load calculation is done, you’ll know exactly what size furnace you’ll need to comfortable heat your home.

Type of Furnace

There are 2 main types of furnaces: electric and combustion. Combustion furnaces commonly use natural gas, but they can also use propane and oil. Electric furnaces can be good choices for homes that do not have immediate access to fossil fuels, or that don’t want to use a combustion system.

Energy Efficiency

Furnaces have become very energy efficient. The best way to check a furnace’s efficiency is to review its AFUE rating. The AFUE rating stands for annual fuel utilization efficiency, and it measures a furnace’s efficiency in converting fuel to energy. The higher AFUE rating, the greater energy efficiency of the furnace.

The installation of your furnace in Roswell should be the last step of a process conducted with a trained expert. Taking these steps helps ensure that you’ll install a new furnace that will heat your home as you need it to for years to come. Call Cool Air Mechanical today and schedule an appointment with one of our installation experts!

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