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May The Force (ed Air) Be With You!

Posted by John Sims on Fri, Dec, 18, 2015 @ 16:12 PM

I couldn't resist piggybacking on the who Star Wars movie hype we've seen over the past month or so. I understand it's opening today in theaters to a lot of theforce.pngfanfare. 

"So May The Force(ed Air) Be With You"

Most homes in the U.S. are heated by a forced-air furnace. The typical furnace installed here in the Battle Creek area are connected to ducts that deliver heated air to registers throughout the house. Different types of furnaces are manufactured to burn a variety of fuels like natural gas and propane. The most common furnace fuel in the U.S. is natural gas; and frankly, it's been one of the cheapest sources to use. 

Some homeowners avoid forced-air systems, fearing they will be noisy, create uncomfortable drafts, or spread dust throughout the house. But a well designed and properly installed system should do none of those things. 

Ductwork should be part of home design

The key to an efficient system, and a comfortable house, is careful duct design and installation. The two most common problems are routing ducts through an unconditioned space, such as an unheated attic or crawl space, and failing to provide a return-air pathway from each conditioned room to the furnace or air handler. Poorly designed ductwork can result in pressure imbalances within your home, making it uncomfortable and contributing to moisture problems and high energy bills. Sealing ductwork to prevent air leaks is essential. 

Duct Layout 

Keep supply ducts short and straight. Ducts with lots of twists and turns slow down airflow, increasing energy losses and lowering the performance of the HVAC system. Locating registers on interior walls can dramatically shorten duct lengths. 

Balanced Systems - Provide a pathway for replacement air. 

Many forced-air distribution systems create unwanted pressure imbalances within the building envelope — higher air pressure in some parts of the house, low air pressure in others. This problem can be minimized by providing adequate return ducts to move air back to the air handler or furnace. 

Unbalanced HVAC systems make a house uncomfortable. Rooms with undersized returns become pressurized, forcing air into wall and ceiling cavities. During the winter, warm interior air can carry moisture into the walls where it condenses on cooler surfaces. This may lead to the growth of mold. A room with a large return-air grille but an inadequate supply-air register can become depressurized, drawing outside air into building cavities.

These problems can be avoided when the volume of air supplied by the furnace is balanced by an equal volume of air being drawn into the return ductwork. 

At Sims Heating and Cooling we've seen it all. So if you have questions or need advice don't hesitate to contact us. Help is only a phone call or email away.

 One last thing in the spirit of Star Wars, if you haven't seen this video from the Jimmy Fallon Show and you or your kids are fans, you'll have to check it out. Enjoy!



Topics: Duct Systems, Furnace, Air Flow, Ductwork

Building Science 'Gurus' Point Out Two Mistakes Many HVAC Contractors Make

Posted by John Sims on Tue, Mar, 17, 2015 @ 16:03 PM

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, I thought I'd play on part of Irish mythology and folklore about leprechauns. They were considered to be mischievous and sometimes play 'tricks' on humans.

I wanted to share with homeowners two of the biggest mistakes(tricks) HVAC contractors make, according to a TOP Building Science and HVAC 'guru'. He discusses how they can play a 'trick' on the unsuspecting homeowner. Our goal is to make sure every homeowners get's the best value!

Here's what he says:

1. Focusing on 'the box' and ignoring air flow.

This is the problem that I've probably written more articles about than any other. If the vast majority of HVAC contractors did professional quality work, I wouldn't be able to go into house after house after house and find the kind of duct problem you see at the top of this page. If all HVAC contractors were pros, no one would know what a ductopus (below) is. If HVAC contractors understood air flow, most duct systems would be larger than they are.
Mike MacFarland, an HVAC contractor in California, told me last year at Building Science Summer Camp that he pretty much never does a system changeout without also doing a duct changeout. Why? Because he knows that the existing ductwork, even if it's relatively new, probably wasn't sized right, is too leaky, and would lead to more trouble and expense than just starting over.

2. Trying to be the low bidder.

The race to the bottom results in everyone being a loser. The ones who don't get the contract lose. The one who gets the contract can't do the work properly because they have to scrimp on labor and materials. And the homeowner loses because, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
When contractors try to get low-bid work, they have to keep all their costs as low as possible. They hire poorly trained techs and then don't do enough—or anything—to get them trained properly and keep them updated. They use equipment that won't last. They do the least work they possibly can on the distribution system.
The fear of losing work drives prices down, lack of profit makes the fear of losing work worse. 
This is no way to run a business. Because there are so many companies willing to do this, though, there will always be room for smart contractors to come in and do things right.

At Sims Heating and Cooling, we have always maintained a fair profit margin to guarantee happier and more loyal customers including more referrals; because the they get the work done right the first time with peace of mind. We hope we get the opportunity to make you a customer for life.

Topics: Duct Systems, Done Right, Installation, Common Mistakes

Does closing my vents save on heating and cooling costs?

Posted by John Sims on Tue, Aug, 19, 2014 @ 15:08 PM

These days, homeowners increasingly are seeking out ways to cut costs, including their heating and cooling bills. The title of this article is a very common questions homeowners
have, and they ask of us. They are referring to the vents or registers in the typical forced-air heating and cooling system in the Battle Creek area. 

HVAC Systems Battle Creek

According to building science experts,(and our years of experience) the fact is, these forced-air systems, closing off vents/registers may actually increase your heating bill in the wintertime and your cooling costs during the summer. 

Before you close those vents, consider these 9 unintended:

  1. Increased duct leakage
  2. Lower air flow with PSC blowers
  3. Increased energy use with ECM blowers
  4. Comfort problems because of low air flow
  5. Frozen air conditioner coil
  6. Dead compressor
  7. Cracked heat exchanger, with the potential for getting carbon monoxide in your home
  8. Increased infiltration/exfiltration due to unbalanced leakage , as I described last week
  9. Condensation and mold growth in winter due to lower surface temperatures in rooms with closed vents

Here's a summary from an article by Allison Bailes, PhD. over at Energy Vanguard

The blower in your HVAC system is the heart of the air distribution. It pulls air from the house through the return ducts and then pushes it back into the house through the supply ducts.

A forced-air system is designed for the blower to push against some maximum pressure difference. The important thing to remember here is that, it's not a good thing when it has to push against a higher pressure. 

When you start closing vents in unused rooms, you make the duct system more restrictive. The pressure increases, and that means an (ECM) blower will ramp up to keep air flow up whereas a (PSC) blower will move less air.

In addition to moving air, your air conditioner, or furnace is also cooling or heating that air that flows through the system. The air passes over a coil or heat exchanger and either gives up heat or picks up heat.

In a fixed-capacity system—and most are—the amount of heat the coil or heat exchanger is capable of absorbing or giving up is fixed. When the air flow goes down, less heat exchange happens with the air. As a result, the temperature of the coil or heat exchanger changes.

If air flow is low, it'll dump less heat into the coil in summer, and the coil will get colder. If there's water vapor in the air, the condensation on the coil may start freezing. You might even end up with a block of ice, as shown in the photo below. And ice on the coil is really bad for air flow.

Similarly, low air flow in a furnace can get the heat exchanger hot enough to cause cracks. Those cracks, then, allow exhaust gases to mix with your conditioned air. When that happens, your duct system can become a poison distribution system as it could be sending carbon monoxide into your home.

At Sims Heating and Cooling, we want help homeowners get the best answers to the most common questions. As you can see, the answer to the question isn't quite that simple. The best recommendation is to make sure your complete HVAC system is performing the right way.

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Topics: Duct Systems, energy efficiency, Building Science

What Is The Best Design For A Heating & Cooling System In A New Home?

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Apr, 30, 2014 @ 15:04 PM

Most potential new home buyers don't realize that, while the first considerations when buying a new home are usually the plumbing fixtures, cabinets, countertops or floor treatments; the heating and cooling system is often the feature with which most people are not only frustrated with, but dissatisfied after they've lived in the home for a while.

At Sims Heating & Cooling, we talk to homeowners all the time who have been living with the results for years. We do the best we can to compensate for lack of correct design and installation. Obviuosly, when you build a new home you can plan the right design and installation.

Check these 8 critical design features of the installation of your HVAC System to avoid the frustration and repeated callbacks. The following is a checklist of the most important features of an HVAC system for a new home. If it saves you even one callback, it's worth the time to read it and remember these points:

1.    Proper sizing of your furnace and air conditioner. The size of the HVAC System depends on: how large your home is and how many windows it has which makes up the bulk of the load. Othe factors include; the amount of shade is on your home's windows, walls, and roof; the amount of insulation in your home's ceiling and walls; how much air leaks into your home from the outside. 

The efficiency, performance, durability, and initial cost depend on matching its size to the above factors. There is software used to do the calculation.

2.    The design and type of ductwork. If the ducts aren’t sized and balanced properly, the home will never be comfortable. Externally insulated round ducts are the most efficient; long runs of flexible duct are the worst.

 3.    Efficiency. As of January 2006, the minimum allowable efficiency for new air conditioners will be 13-SEER. (The minimum limit in 2005 is 10-SEER.) Think of it as miles per gallon: the higher the SEER, the lower the utility bill. In fact, some air conditioners (those rated close to 20-SEER) can cost half as much to run as those with the current minimum limits.

 4.    Location of the outdoor unit. The worst places to locate outdoor (condensing) units are where they can be seen and heard, such as outside a bedroom window; where they can be easily damaged; or under the edge of a roof edge that doens't have a gutter system or has ice build up in winter.

 5.    The refrigerant. Federal law requires R-22 to be phased out in 2015; what little that remains available for servicing after that will be very expensive. I recommend systems that use the environmentally friendly R-410A.

6.    The condenser (outside) coil type. Coils that are made of a single metal (such as aluminum coil and aluminum fins or a copper coil and copper fins) last longer and hold their efficiency better. This becomes especially critical in mildly corrosive environments; specially coated coils should be used where salt spray is encountered.

 7.    Return-air considerations. Remember that in order for conditioned air to enter a room, an equal amount of air must be able to leave the room. Otherwise, there'd be no space for the conditioned air to occupy. 

 8.    Air-filter location. Air filters should be located where they are easy for the homeowner to reach. 

If you are thinking about building a new home and you'd like advice, let us know.

Topics: Duct Systems, Done Right, A/C Systems, Furnace

Home Air Conditioning: The Problem With Oversizing Part #3.

Posted by John Sims on Wed, Jun, 26, 2013 @ 17:06 PM

"My HVAC Is Just Below Our TV Room And When It Comes On It Gets Loud Enough That We Have To Turn Up The TV Volume."

A noisy register from high volumes of air going through them can be be very annoying. All air too loudvents, both supply registers and return grilles make some noise when the system fan is running; this is normal. Some systems are louder than others but some systems are much louder like the quote above from a homeowner having an online discussion trying to find a solution to their problem.

The speed of the air blowing through the supply registers and the air being drawn into the return grille affects an air conditioner's performance. If the air speed is too high, it will be noisy and uncomfortable, and the return grille filter effectiveness will be reduced. The speed through the grilles depends on the size of the air conditioner (a larger unit has more air flow and higher air speed) and the area of the grille (a smaller grille causes higher air speed).
With a properly sized air conditioner, it is easier to have sufficient supply and return grille area to keep the air speed low and the noise at a minimum. Common complaints about oversized air conditioners are that they blast frigid air and that they are noisy. A properly sized air conditioner, with proper ductwork and grilles, will provide longer cycles, more consistent temperatures, and better mixing of the house air.
So, obviously, when you properly plan the replacement of your A/C or Furnace, installing the right size HVAC system, you avoid this situation. At that time, we can evaluate your house to see if there are enough return air including return vents in every room. By the way, that may help your current system operate quieter. By adding more return air, the pressure reduces, the system doesn't have to works as hard and it quiets down.

Every installation of an air conditioner or furnace is an opportunity to have it Planned Right.

Let us know if you are dealing with this situation.

Topics: Duct Systems, HVAC Systems, Planned Right, Registers

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