Winter Weather Projections for the Puget Sound

Though fall has just arrived, it is never too early to begin preparing yourself and your home for winter in the Puget Sound. Looking at the winter weather projections for 2016 will help you better understand what type of weather you need to prepare for. Below, we will take a look at what types of weather and winter temperatures you can expect as well as what measures you can take to prepare your family and your home for the winter weather that is expected in the Puget Sound.

Preparing for Winter in the Puget Sound

Winter will be here sooner than you realize. It is important to look at projections for what temperatures and weather will be like in the Puget Sound, so that we can begin to prepare ourselves for the winter season. The best way to avoid being left out in the cold is to make sure that your home and HVAC system is ready for winter.

Winter Weather Projections for the Puget Sound

According to AccuWeather, in the beginning of winter, average highs will be between 44 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit with average low temperatures between 32 and 36 degrees. As we move into January and February, average high temperatures will be in the high 40s, lower 50s with average low temperatures around 36 or 37 degrees.

Tips for Preparing Your Home for Winter

Now that you have a better idea of what to expect this winter in the Puget Sound, it is time to discuss how you can go about preparing your home for the winter season. Here are just a few ways that you can stay warm this winter by prepping your home in fall:

  • Make sure your heating system is working properly. It’s important to test your heating system before the weather starts getting colder. Turn on the heat to ensure that the system is working properly. It should not be vibrating heavily, making loud noises, or emit any burning smells. If it does, turn the system off and call an HVAC technician for an inspection.
  • Get an HVAC tune-up before winter. Much like a car or truck, your HVAC system needs regular maintenance to continue running smoothly and efficiently. Many homeowners choose to get their annual tune-up right before winter when they know that their system will be working hard. During the tune-up, your HVAC technician will make sure the system is clean and well-oiled while looking for potential issues.
  • Repair any poor insulation in your home. Inspect your doors and windows for cracks, leaks, and gaps. Make sure these are sealed before winter gets here. Poor insulation allows the heat to escape from your home, which increases energy usage and your electricity bill. It can also make your HVAC system work harder than necessary to keep your home warm, causing wear and tear to the system’s parts.

If you need help preparing your heating system for the winter season, call us today. We can help make sure that you are not left in the cold this season by inspecting your unit and performing an annual tune-up.

Smart Thermostats – Yes, Another Smart Device is a Good Thing

 

Essentially the thermostat, whether it is smart or not, has one function: to control the temperature in your home. Whether it’s a mechanical one, or a new smart thermostat, that is its one job. How and when it performs that job though is what can have a large impact on your electric bill.

Traditional Thermostats

Originally thermostats were mechanical, non-programmable, devices that relied on a mercury bulb to tell the HVAC system when to operate. While they do work perfectly well, mercury is a health and environmental hazard and the thermostats had to be adjusted whenever you wanted a change in temperature. Later models of mechanical thermostat did develop rudimentary programmability and did away with the mercury but their performance is rather poor.

Advantages of Digital Thermostats

Since then HVAC industry equipment manufacturers has sought to improve the thermostat. Digital thermostats were much better at regulating temperature than their mechanical counterparts and with a programmable function they became very good at controlling the temperature in a home or building. For a long time people were content with their programmable digital thermostats and that was pretty much the end of innovation.

Then in 2011 the first smart thermostat was introduced, the Nest. This thermostat was ‘smart’ in that it not only had sophisticated algorithms that would learn from your habits at home but could also link to your computer and smart phone. This ability to adjust the temperature based on your activity added up to significant savings on electric bills.

NEST Thermostats

Since the Nest came out, there have been a number of smart thermostats to hit the market, each one adding more features to the last. There are now smart thermostats available that don’t even require any input from you other than an initial set up of temperatures for home and away. Using geolocation through an app on your smart phone it will know when you are away and adjust the temperature, then adjust it again when you are within a certain range of home that you set. Other thermostats are Wi-Fi enabled and can link to your homes security system, using the motion sensors to detect when you are home or awake.

The technology for smart thermostats is constantly evolving and new and more energy efficient features are continually being developed. Smart thermostats are a great way to save on your energy bill and make your home more comfortable. At Cardinal Heating & A/C we can install a smart thermostat for you and offer the Carrier Cor smart thermostat. For all your questions about or installations of smart thermostats, give us a call today.

Costs of Home Heating with Electricity, Gas, & Oil

But for some isolated pockets of rural areas in the US, heating your home will be done in one of three ways, by gas, electricity, or oil. Each of these heating energy sources have their own costs, method efficiencies, and equipment costs.

Heating Costs: Electricity, Gas, & Oil.

There are a huge number of variables that can influence the answer to this question. Everything from home size, insulation rating and application, climate, market whims, and efficiencies of the heating equipment. So in order to answer this we’re going to have to make some concessions to limit the variables. We’ll assume the costs are for a moderately-sized home, with standard levels and ratings of insulation, and the average efficiencies of the heating equipment and examine the cost in terms of price per 100,00 BTUs.

Electricity – $2.93/100,000 BTU

Gas – $1.10/100,000 BTU

Oil – $2.50/100,00 BTU

We will also be using the costs for a home in a climate with cold – but not harsh – winters, that will take about 60,000,000 BTU of energy to heat per year.

Electricity – $703 – $1,875/yr

Electricity has such a cost range because of the large efficiency range of the available heating equipment. When dealing with electric-resistance heating, such as wall and baseboard heating, the efficiencies will be 100% (Sounds great, but it’s not.) If measuring for heat pumps, the efficiency range will be – at least – 100% but more commonly in the 200%-300% range. Heat pumps can achieve such efficiencies because they don’t actually generate heat, but simply move it from one place to another.

Gas – $733/yr

Gas is a fairly inexpensive utility and the available equipment has efficiency ratings from 90-97%.

Oil – $1,758/yr

Easily the energy source with the least-efficient equipment available, the costs of heating with oil can quickly add up. However, the market is rather variable so this figure can drop, or rise, quite normally. Oil furnaces used to have around a 70% efficiency rating but newer models can attain 80-85% efficiency ratings.

When deciding on a method of heating your home, or attempting to calculate costs, these figures should give you a rough idea of what to expect. Follow the Cardinal Heating & A/C blog for more informative HVAC posts.

A Brief History of Air Conditioning

Did you know that people have been coming up with novel ways to keep cool for millennia? Your current whole-home air conditioner may be a modern convenience, but it is just the latest in a long line of cooling innovations. How did our ancestors stay cool in the summer and in hot climates? Take a quick tour of the brief history of air conditioning.

It All Started with Cavemen

Humans’ first homes were natural formations: caves. They not only provided protection from the elements and predators; they also provided a cool place to get out of the sun. These ancient ancestors not only understood that being underground was cooler; they took full advantage of it by living in caves and digging tunnels and burrows to beat the heat.

Egyptians Used Water to Get Cool

We know today that water can have a cooling effect, and some modern HVAC systems still use that principle. The Egyptians discovered this fact thousands of years ago and used it to cool their homes. They hung water-soaked reeds in windows to cool incoming breezes.

Ducts Were Invented in Ancient Greece

Today all of our HVAC systems use ducts to move warm and cool air through a building to heat or cool it. The ancient Greeks were the first to discover that this would be a good way to control temperature. They used water piped in to buildings to change cool rooms. The Romans took that idea and improved on it with air ducts under floors to move warm and cool air through bath houses and other buildings.

Thank China for Fans

We still use fans today because these simple devices are effective at cooling you down in the heat. It was in ancient China that people first realized that moving air cools and the fan was invented. Today we use fans in place of air conditioning systems, but also within them to move air around rooms and buildings.

Our methods for getting cool have changed over the millennia, but not as much as you may have realized. We still use fans, ducts, and even geothermal cooling, first discovered by our cave-dwelling ancestors.

To learn more about your modern air conditioning options, check in with a Cardinal Heating and A/C professional today.

Do Programmable Thermostats Really Benefit Me?

When used wisely, programmable thermostats can save you both hassle and money. Compared with manual thermostats, the programmable variety lets you preset options, so you don’t have to be present in order to change the level of heating and cooling.

Benefits of Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats have a variety of features and functions, all of which can aid in streamlined heating and cooling.

Increased Energy Savings

The best way to save money with a programmable thermostat is to set the temperature back for at least 8-hour increments. For instance, you can set the thermostat back when you’re at work or asleep. Lowering the temperature during these times by one degree can knock 1 percent off your energy bill. If you lower the temperature 10 degrees, you’ll save at least 10 percent. Many homeowners forget to manually turn down the temperature, so this preset feature can do that for you.

Optimized Comfort

By presetting the thermostat, you can have it begin heating or cooling your home before you enter. This way, by the time you arrive, your home has already reached your desired comfort level, and you won’t have had to leave it at that temperature all day. You can also set it to heat your home before you wake up, in order to avoid a shivering morning hunkered in front of the heater.

Choosing the Right Thermostat for Your Lifestyle

There are a number of programmable thermostats to choose from, each with their own features. Some of these features include:

  • digital displays
  • weekday and weekend programs
  • Wi-Fi capabilities
  • air filter alerts
  • manual override

When Programmable Thermostats Fail to Save You Money

Programmable thermostats can only save a homeowner money when he or she utilizes the features. If your thermostat isn’t set to lower the temperature at certain times of the day, your energy bill probably won’t decrease at all. Additionally, if the temperature is set extremely high in the winter or extremely cool in the summer, you may be missing out on significant savings. If your thermostat is set for a certain temperature and the heating or cooling feels unnecessary, don’t be afraid to override your system instead of letting it run automatically. Programmable thermostats are meant to work for you, fully under your control.

If you’re looking for a way to regulate your heating and cooling without having to remember to manually turn up or down your thermostat, you may want to consider purchasing a programmable one. The initial investment can help you shave money off your energy bill.

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The Top 8 Geothermal Heating and Cooling Myths

Would it surprise you to learn that a geothermal heat pump system could cut your home’s energy bills by as much as 80 percent? Geothermal HVAC technology is relatively simple but highly effective, and those who choose to install a geothermal system to meet their heating and cooling needs seldom if ever come to regret that decision.

Perhaps because geothermal HVAC is still relatively unknown, a number of misconceptions have sprung up about its characteristics and effectiveness. We’d like to dispel these myths, which may be discouraging some from exploring this promising eco-friendly technology.

Myth #1: Geothermal heating and cooling systems are not really renewable because they still use electricity.

For every unit of energy it consumes a geothermal HVAC system creates the equivalent of five units of heating or cooling performance. With conventional technologies all of this work would require the burning of additional fossil fuels, but geothermal uses temperature differentials between surface and ground to make it happen naturally and renewably.

Myth #2: Solar and wind energy are far more efficient than geothermal.

For every extra kilowatt of power that solar and wind systems add to the electrical grid, geothermal systems reduce the grid’s load by four kilowatts (per dollar spent).

Myth #3: Geothermal piping systems require large expanses of outdoor space.

Underground polyethylene pipes used in geothermal systems can often be installed in the ground vertically, which cuts down on their horizontal spread significantly.

Myth #4: Geothermal systems inject refrigerant into the ground, which can cause groundwater contamination if it leaks.

The piping loops used in geothermal heat pump systems use water only, which continuously circulates and would present no danger if it ever leaked (which it seldom does).

Myth #5: Geothermal heat pumps are loud and annoying.

We honestly aren’t sure how this idea originated, but it is completely false. A properly functioning geothermal system is as quiet as a church mouse on a Sunday morning.

Myth #6: Geothermal equipment wears out in a few years’ time.

Underground pipe loops should last indefinitely, provided you don’t live in an earthquake hot spot. As for the compressor and air handler, they are installed indoors and if properly maintained should last for 15-20 years.

Myth #7: Geothermal HVAC technology is relatively feeble, so back-up heating and cooling equipment is always required.

Geothermal HVAC systems installed in extreme environments may be supplemented by back-up equipment, but in most climates this will not be necessary if the geothermal system purchased has been properly sized.

Myth #8: Without federal or local tax breaks geothermal is not cost-competitive.

It’s true, there are tax incentives available that can reduce the price of a geothermal heat pump system by 30 percent or more. But these exist because governments want to encourage energy-efficiency technology, not because geothermal is uncompetitive without them. Geothermal HVAC systems can cut your energy costs by up to four-fifths and that is what makes them a solid financial investment.

Cardinal Heating & A/C: Your Seattle Area Source for Geothermal HVAC Systems

It isn’t always easy to find HVAC contractors that sell and install geothermal heating and cooling systems.

But if you own a home in the greater Seattle area you are in luck. At Cardinal Heating & A/C we have extensive experience with geothermal, and if you’re interested in this groundbreaking (figuratively and literally) technology please contact us at your convenience and we can meet to discuss your options.

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Benefits of Financing Your New Heating and Cooling System

Sometimes heating and cooling systems break down at inconvenient times, and many homeowners haven’t been able to set aside enough money for such an expense. When you finance your heating and cooling system, you can get what you need right away, while being able to make comfortable payments toward your investment.

How Financing Your Heating and Cooling System Can Help You

Financing generally goes through a lending agency that works with the HVAC company. The lending agency handles the financial side of the transaction, while the HVAC company provides the service.

Ease of Mind

Financing can help individuals and families get needed repairs and replacements without having to worry about paying the entire amount up front. Having to make a large purchase can be traumatic and nerve-wracking, especially if the investment means that you’ll fall behind in other important areas. By financing your HVAC needs, you can continue to enjoy livable temperatures without having to break the bank.

Energy Savings

If you buy an energy efficient system, you’ll be saving yourself money each month in utility costs. For instance, replacing an air conditioning unit with a 10 SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) with one with an 18 SEER can save you up to 48 percent in your annual cooling utility costs.

How to Obtain Financing

You don’t need to have perfect credit to qualify for HVAC financing. Gather the following documents so the lending institution can make a fully informed decision:

  • Credit report—A good credit score is an important factor in obtaining quality financing. The amount you’ll receive and the interest rate on the loan will be tied to your credit score.
  • Pay stubs—Gather the last three months’ worth of pay stubs for income verification. If you’re self-employed, bring proof of income through either deposit receipts or your last tax return. If you have others listed on the loan application as well, they will also need to provide proof of income.
  • Letters of reference—Some companies allow letters of reference, which helps them determine the outcome of the loan application. This is especially important if you have poor or minimal credit, as the letters can help show your reliability. If you’re able to provide reference letters from employers or utility companies, you can show that you’re consistent and financially responsible.

If you need to replace or repair your HVAC system and don’t have the funds to hire a contractor on your own, consider speaking with your HVAC company about financing options. Most companies understand their customers’ situations and offer finance applications as part of their regular service.

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Do Your Ducts Really Need Cleaning? Only You Can Decide

A mild bit of controversy surrounds the practice of HVAC ductwork cleaning. The EPA, for example, is relatively non-committal on the subject, but their website makes it clear they are skeptical of its utility in most instances.

No one disputes that contaminated ductwork can spread dust, dirt, pollen and microbial agents through open registers, and when true contamination is suspected duct cleaning does have potential health benefits. But as the EPA stresses there is no hard evidence to prove that duct cleaning in general will prevent outbreaks of illness or reduce the frequency of allergic reactions.

Ductwork will inevitably get somewhat dusty and dirty, that is entirely natural. But this type of accumulation should not generate great concern. On the other hand, if inhabitants of a particular space frequently experience symptoms of allergy or illness, hiring a qualified company to clean your ducts could be a wise decision.

 

When Cleaning Makes Sense

If any of the following apply to your situation, a good duct cleaning may be worth the investment:

  • You’ve just completed a home renovation project and did not seal off all ductwork entrance points.
  • You’ve just finished vacuuming out your registers and noticed a lot of dust, debris or pet hair drifting back into the room.
  • You can see mold growing somewhere inside your ductwork, or have strong reason to believe moisture is present in your duct system (this is highly conducive to mold).
  • You or others in your family have been experiencing chronic allergy symptoms with no obvious identifiable cause.
  • Your ductwork has been infested by rodents or insects (they should be removed before the cleaning).

 

How to Pick a Good Duct Cleaning Contractor

There are plenty of fly-by-night operators offering duct cleaning services, which is why the procedure has gotten somewhat of a bad reputation.

Legitimate companies should be able to provide high-quality customer references, prove they have been certified by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), be willing to inspect and evaluate your ductwork for free, provide written cost estimates if they recommend a cleaning and be able to give you a firm time frame for the completion of the job.

A good, thorough duct cleaning should cost you a few hundred dollars, and if a contractor offers to do it for a much smaller sum you’re probably dealing with scammers and you should run, not walk, away as fast as you can.

 

Yes or No?

Even if there is no specific indication of excessive contamination, if you’ve lived in your home for several years and have never once had your ductwork cleaned it would probably be a good idea to at least arrange an inspection.

When you look for a contractor to consult with be sure to check their online reviews and Better Business Bureau profile to see if there is any history of complaints. You need an honest assessment of your situation and you may not get one if you get mixed up with an unscrupulous service provider.

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Why You Should be Cautious about Bargain HVAC Repairs

You love a good bargain and are reluctant to pass one up when you see it.
But the term ‘bargain’ is relative. No matter how cheap the upfront cost nothing is a bargain if you have to pay and pay and pay again farther down the line.
This, unfortunately, is what could very well happen if you hire a cut-rate company to handle your HVAC repairs.

How Do They Cheat Us? Let Us Count the Ways

We frequently hear horror stories from customers who’ve experimented with bargain companies before coming to us. Here’s some of what they’ve experienced …

Phony diagnoses: They tell you they know what’s wrong with your air conditioner or furnace and give you a quote for what it will cost to fix it. But after coming to your home to do the work they claim they’ve uncovered something more serious and that it will cost you an arm and a leg to have it fixed.

Lousy installations: When they install a new part or piece of HVAC equipment you assume they’re doing it right. But when a breakdown occurs and you call in another service provider to fix it, only then do you discover the bargain company technician screwed up the installation and that is the reason why you’re having more trouble.
Unnecessary repairs: Once again, it’s only after you’ve hired honest technicians that you find out the “repairs” the cut-raters performed were a complete waste of time and money (for you, not for them).

Unnecessary part replacements: They tell you a particular part is on death’s door and if you don’t replace it now the result could be catastrophic. Only later do you learn the part they replaced seldom if ever fails and wouldn’t have caused much of an inconvenience even if it did.

Constant and unwelcome return visits: HVAC hacks who don’t have a clue seldom get anything fixed the first time. So even if their initial visit was a bargain the subsequent trips they make to your home will run your costs up to astronomical levels—and there is no guarantee they will ever get it fixed, or even figure out what “it” actually is.

Are You Sure You Want to Hire the Bargain-Raters?

There is of course nothing wrong with comparison shopping, and we would never recommend you automatically select the highest quote for your HVAC repairs. Some companies will overcharge you and that’s another scam you have to watch out for.
Nevertheless when you hunt for bargains you have to be very cautious and careful. Check into the history and the background of any HVAC company you are looking at, and don’t even think about hiring them to do anything unless they have multiple positive reviews, impeccable credentials and an extensive record of achievement in the field.

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Reasons To Replace Your Attic Insulation

DIY home projects have become increasingly popular, however, there are some jobs that must be done by trained professionals. Home insulation is one of those jobs that need to be done by experts in order to get the job done thoroughly and efficiently.

There are various ways to check whether your home insulation needs replacing. A higher than normal electricity bill should be one of those signs that you are looking out for, since the heating and air conditioning uses up the most amount of electricity in the home. If the insulation is causing a spike in the electric bill, replacing it will regulate temperatures inside the home and as a result, lower the electricity bill too. Inconsistent room temperatures are another warning sign that the insulation needs replacing. If one room in the home feels extra warm, while another one feels extra cold, you should have the insulation looked at. An older insulation system will be less effective due to usage and the fact that older insulation systems were not as high quality as the ones used these days. One way of determining whether the insulation is old is to check whether it is crumbly. You can do so by wearing a pair of gloves while feeling the attic insulation. Water damage is another concern as it tends to seep into the insulation, causing mold and even bacteria to grow. If the insulation is not removed and replaced, the mold will spread to the entire home. Pests also enjoy a warm and cozy environment and thus tend to make their home in the insulation. If you suspect an infestation of pests, the attic and basement should be the 2 places that you check first.

Having superior insulation in the home is crucial to the heating and cooling inside the house. If you have an inferior quality or old insulation and do not get it replaced, it may very well lead to a high electricity bill, which will reduce energy savings and you may have a home that feels like a sauna in summer and a meat locker in winter. For more information on how to save money, follow us.