How Duct Sealing Saves You Money

January 15th, 2015

Ducts are things that most people don’t really think about very often. Truthfully, that’s not very surprising. Ducts are simple, uninteresting, and often unseen. That doesn’t make them any less important, however. Ducts are the reason that your central air and heating is even possible. In this article, we’ll take a look at why it’s important to take care of your ducts with duct sealing and what can happen if you don’t.

The Vulnerability of Ducts

Though most ducts are comprised of sheet metal, they are surprisingly thin in many areas, especially at the junctions where the different sections meet. This makes ducts quite prone to developing leaks. Though these leaks are usually quite small, if there are enough of them they can cause quite a bit of damage. The US Department of Energy has stated that the average home heating system loses as much as 30% of its heat to leaks in the ductwork. That translates to a staggering amount of money wasted each year, as almost a third of the system’s heat output leaks out of the ducts before reaching its destination. That’s where duct sealing comes in.

Duct Sealing

Duct sealing is a process by which the ducts are inspected and sealed to prevent leaks and other issues. First, the technician will visually inspect each section of the ductwork for leaks and other issues. In addition to wasting quite a bit of heat, leaks in the ducts can let in moisture and dust. This promotes mold growth, which releases spores that can lower indoor air quality and make people sick. Once the leaks are found and closed, a number of different chemicals can be applied as antiseptics. This kills any viruses or bacteria that might be lurking in the ducts. Though you may be tempted to try and seal the ducts yourself, it’s not a good idea. Professional technicians possess the tools and knowledge to find any possible leaks and seal them. If you try it yourself, it is very likely you will miss some of them.

If you’d like to know more, call Cal-West Air Conditioning. We provide duct sealing services throughout San Diego.

What Are the Steps of Air Balancing?

January 8th, 2015

Have you ever wondered if there was a way to make sure that the air coming from each register in your home was equal? There is, and it’s called air balancing. Air balancing isn’t just the simple act of seeing how much air comes from each register. It is a process by which a number of different tests and necessary adjustments help to balance the air in your entire HVAC system while also determining the performance of your system. If this sounds like something you and your HVAC system will benefit from, call Cal-West Air Conditioning today and schedule an appointment for air balancing in San Diego today.

TAB

Air balancing is also known as TAB – testing, adjusting and balancing. The reason air balancing has become important is that HVAC systems have become increasingly more complex over the years; this has made it difficult to know whether or not air is being delivered in a balanced way. Air conducting allows you to know exactly how much air is coming from each register.

How It Works

At the start of an air balancing appointment, a certified air balancing expert will arrive at your home and discuss the issues you may be having, including problems like hot and cold spots and varying temperatures room by room. Then the technician will set up a device known as an air balancing hood at each supply register to accurately measure the volume of air flow coming from that particular register. The air balancing hood helps verify if your ductwork is installed properly, can help pinpoint any issues involving room comfort and will also tell you how many BTUs of energy are being delivered into a particular room. Once testing with the air balancing hood is complete, the technician may also employ use of manometers to measure the pressure throughout the system and hygrometers, which measure the temperature and humidity levels of the air coming through each supply register. Once these tests are complete, the technician will have a clear picture as to what needs adjusting in order to correctly balance the air in your system, and he or she will embark on that work.

Air balancing in San Diego can greatly improve comfort and your energy efficiency. Think your home can benefit from air balancing? Call Cal-West Air Conditioning today!

Types of Safety Devices on a Gas Furnace

January 5th, 2015

Furnaces used to have a poor reputation as they were not only very inefficient for heating, but also posed serious safety threats. The earliest furnaces used a standing gas pilot that was lit at all times—unless some outside circumstance caused the flame to go out. If the homeowner was not home at that moment and couldn’t feel the lack of heat, or if there was no need for heating at the time, there would be no way to tell that the pilot light had gone out. But gas would continue to flow from the gas valve, which meant a gas leak which could prove deadly.

Thankfully, this began to improve many decades ago, with the standard changing to standing pilot ignition systems that also contained a thermocouple, a part that is able to detect when there is no flame present. The thermocouple shuts off the gas and the system would need to be manually reset in most cases. But these days, modern furnaces do not use a standing pilot ignition system, are incredibly efficient and have even more safety features than ever before, some of which are described below.

  • Flame Sensor: Today’s furnaces generally use an intermittent pilot or a hot surface ignition system, both of which only utilize the gas when the heating cycle begins. Although the pilot light does not need to remain lit at all times, there is still a type of flame sensor that detects when the gas is running but there is no flame so that it can send out a signal to the controls and the gas valve can be closed off.
  • Air Pressure Switch: Modern furnaces contain an important part that older ones did not: the draft inducer. This is a blower that helps to push gases out of the combustion chamber after the heating cycle so that they can fully vent and so that none are left behind that may interfere with the next cycle. As an added feature, an air pressure switch senses when there is not enough pressure moving through the vents due to a draft inducer problem, and it shuts off the gas.
  • Limit Switch: The limit switch essentially keeps the furnace from overheating. If the temperature in the furnace chamber exceeds the set temperature on the limit switch it will also make sure gas stops flowing from the valve.

Call the trained professionals at Cal-West Air Conditioning and ask whether a new efficient furnace may be your best option for heating in San Diego.

When New Year’s Day Was Not on January 1st

January 1st, 2015

Some holidays fall on shifting calendar days for every year, such as Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) and Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon to occur on or after March 21). Other holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Halloween, are fixed. No holiday has a more solid calendar date attached to it than New Year’s Day. It has to fall on January 1st because it celebrates the first day of a new year. That only makes sense…

…except that, like most things that at first appear obvious, there is a bit more to the story. The beginning of the year was not always on the first of January. As with an enormous numbers of traditions in the Western World, the establishment of January 1st as the inaugural day of a new year goes back to the ancient Romans.

The modern solar calendar is derived from the Roman model, but the earliest Roman calendars did not have 365 days in a year spread over 12 months. Instead, there were 304 days spread over 10 months. The Romans believed this calendar originated with the mythical founder of the city, Romulus. If Romulus were a real person, we can credit him with a poor understanding of the seasons, as this abbreviated calendar soon got out of sync with Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Numa, one of the Kings of Rome (probably also fictional) receives credit for creating a longer year with two added months, Ianuarius and Februarius, bringing the number of days in the year to 355. The new month of Ianuarius, named after Ianus (Janus in contemporary spelling), the god of beginnings, would eventually be known in English as January. But when this new calendar was instituted, January was not the first month. March, named after the god of war, remained the first month, and March 1st was New Year’s Day.

This extended calendar still did not keep in synch with the seasons. In 45 BCE, Julius Caesar instituted reforms to align the calendar correctly according to calculations of astronomers, with an additional 10 days distributed across the year. January also became set as the first month, and offerings to the god Janus on this day started the tradition we now know as New Year’s. The date still fluctuated during the ensuing centuries, with a number of Western European holy days treated as the beginning of the year instead. It wasn’t until the next calendar reform in 1582, the Gregorian Calendar, that the date of the New Year was fixed at January 1st.

However you choose to celebrate the beginning of the current calendar, everyone here at Cal-West Air Conditioning hopes you have a wonderful 2015!

Why Do We Hang Up Mistletoe?

December 25th, 2014

Of course, you probably know part of the answer to this question already. You hang up mistletoe so that the people standing underneath can share a romantic holiday kiss! But what you may not realize is that the origin of this longstanding ritual predates many of the other holiday traditions we celebrate today. Why would a plant that has many poisonous varieties (most types sold for use in the home have few negative effects, but you can wrap it in netting to prevent children from consuming any fallen berries or leaves) be used as a symbol of holiday affection?

There are a couple of ways to explain the positive associations of (potentially hazardous) mistletoe. For one, this semi-parasitic plant has long been hailed as a treatment for illnesses and pain. The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to cure cramps, epilepsy, and more. Even today, mistletoe extracts are one of the leading alternative medicines studied for their effectiveness in killing cancer cells. And because the early Celtic Druids saw it as a sign of healing and life, they may be the first to bestow upon the plant its romantic associations, deeming it worthy of treating the infertile.

But it is Norse mythology that is likely responsible for a majority of the modern traditions associated with this small hanging bunch. One of the powerful Norse god Odin’s sons, named Baldur, was said to be invincible due to an oath his mother took to protect him from harm. But Loki, a god who often set out to make trouble for the gods, set out to find the one thing that could do some damage, and eventually discovered that Baldur’s mother Frigg had never included mistletoe in her invincibility oath. When mistletoe was finally responsible for her son’s demise, the grieving Frigg vowed that the plant would never again be used to hurt another living thing, and that she would plant a peaceful kiss upon anyone who walked underneath it.

And that is one of the reasons that, today, kissing under the mistletoe is viewed as a source of good luck. From our family to yours, we wish you a safe holiday season, and we hope that you and your family are full of joy and good fortune—mistletoe or not! Happy holidays from Cal-West Air Conditioning!

What Are My Choices for Installation a New Heating System?

December 19th, 2014

Having choices is great, but sometimes having too many choices can be overwhelming. Such can be the experience of homeowners when needing a new heating installation. One of the best ways to narrow down your search is to review some of the more common types of heating systems available to you. At Cal-West Air Conditioning, we carry the following kinds of heating systems:

Furnaces

Furnaces are one of most commonly installed heating systems around. Furnaces work by blowing heated air through ductwork. There are two types of furnaces you can choose from:

  • Combustion (natural gas, propane, oil)
  • Electric

In a combustion furnace, a burner is lit that heats a component called a heat exchanger. The toxic byproducts of the combustion process are directed to the hollow inside of the heat exchanger where they are vented outdoors by the furnace’s flue. The warm air generated on the outside of the heat exchanger is blown into your home via a large fan called a blower. The process is similar with an electric furnace, but instead of heat being generated by combustion, it’s generated by metal coils that are electrified. These coils are part of a component called the heating element, and when the electricity flows through them, they become red-hot. Once they reach the right temperature, the fan turns on and blows the warm air into your home.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps do not generate heat; instead, they transfer heat from one location to another, using refrigerant to facilitate the process. During the winter months, a heat pump absorbs heat from the surrounding air, concentrates it and distributes it to your living spaces. But a heat pump doesn’t just heat – it cools, too. In the summer months, the heat pump absorbs the heat inside your home and transfers it outside. Heat pumps are very energy efficient and can be used with ducted systems, ductless systems and geothermal systems.

Working with a trained San Diego heating installation expert can help you assess what kind of heating system will be best for your home. If you are ready to install a new heating system, call Cal-West Air Conditioning today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

What Causes Hot and Cold Spots?

December 12th, 2014

Uneven heating has been the bane of homeowners since the advent of heating systems. Hot and cold spots are uncomfortable, often difficult to get rid of, and seem to show up out of nowhere for no reason at all. Though hot and cold spots may seem infuriatingly intractable, there are a few things you can do to address them. First, it helps to understand where they come from.

Causes

Hot and cold spots have a few different causes that often factor into their creation. The first of these is simple forced air system operation. As it turns out, forced air systems are not normally all that efficient at regulating temperature evenly. In the case of heating, the heater will be hampered by warm air’s natural tendency to rise.

When a forced air system pumps heat into a room, the warm air will rise to the ceiling. This prevents the room from heating up quickly, at least in the areas that people are actually going to occupy. As the air cools, it sinks to the floor of the room. The result is a striation of both hot and cold spots in the same room, making it very uncomfortable for the room’s occupants.

Another common cause of hot and cold spots is the combination of thermostat placement and poor insulation. No home can be perfectly insulated, of course. As soon as your system turns off, the home will begin to equalize with the outside world from the outside in. If you have poor insulation, this will happen much faster. That, combined with thermostat placement, can result in wide temperature swings.

Essentially, the thermostat turns your heating system off once it senses the correct temperature. The problem is that the thermostat can only monitor the temperature in the room it is installed in. This is often in an interior area of the house, to keep the climate as consistent as possible. So, the outer rooms will cool off much faster and remain cold until the room with the thermostat begins to cool off.

If you are experiencing hot and cold spots, call Cal-West Air Conditioning to schedule service with our heating professionals in San Diego.

Why Sizing Your Heater Is Important

December 5th, 2014

A lot of homeowners are quite surprised by the sheer scope of options when they first begin shopping for heating systems. There are tons of different heating methods, energy efficient ratings, and fuel types that need to be considered when picking a system that’s right for you. One thing that a lot of homeowners, and even some professionals, don’t consider before installing a system is making sure that it is properly sized for the home. A lot of people fall into the “bigger is better” trap when choosing a heating system, and that can lead to some serious issues. Let’s take a look at why properly sizing your heater is important.

Short-Cycling

If you’ve ever noticed your heating system turning on and off rapidly throughout the day, that’s called short-cycling. It is caused by the heater control circuit shutting the heater down to prevent damage from overheating. When the control circuit registers internal temperatures above the set safety standards, it shuts the heater down. Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the problem that is causing the overheating in the first place. After the heater has cooled a bit, it starts up again, exceeds the safety limit again, and the process keeps repeating. This constant start-stop cycling vastly increases wear and tear on the system, makes it work harder than it is designed to work, and lessens the heating efficiency of the unit.

While this issue can be caused by legitimate overheating, it also happens to oversized heaters. The increased heat output from the larger heater triggers the same response from the control circuit, which has no way of knowing that the heater is not actually overheating.

Poor Heating Ability

On the opposite end of the spectrum, installing a system that is too small for your home results in a whole other set of problems. Heaters that are too small are often incapable of heating your home to the correct temperature. They simply lack the heat output to warm a space that large. This causing the heater to run for much longer than it should, as it constantly tries to reach the target temperature. This is just as bad for the system as short-cycling, and will cause the system to breakdown more often and die prematurely.

If you’re not sure what size heater you need, call Cal-West Air Conditioning. We offer heating installation services throughout San Diego.

Why Hire a Professional to Help with Heating Installation?

December 2nd, 2014

It may seem as though heating installation is a job that anyone can complete with a little studying and hard work. Simply hook up the parts, make a few adjustments, and turn on the thermostat, right? Actually, heating installation does not involve the same type of process as installing just any appliance. When you set up a television, for example, there’s not much risk involved (unless you should accidentally drop it). With heating installation, there’s far more at risk.

First, if your heater is not properly installed, you may not get the heating capacity you need. Any type of heating system, from furnaces to heat pumps and even boilers, must be of a certain size according to the number of people in a home, the amount of windows you have, any insulation in the home, and many other factors as well. If it is not properly sized, it will take too long to heat the home, or it will heat it up too quickly. When a heater is too small, it will have to run for much longer, taking up your energy bills and wearing down parts. A system that is too small will frequently start and stop, which could also take its toll on the motor.

Furthermore, you want to choose a technician who knows the proper procedures for reasons of safety. With a furnace, you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or gas leaks. A trained technician will fully inspect the system after installation to ensure not only proper operation but also the most secure system possible.

A heating professional can also offer you additional features during installation, such as zone control or a new thermostat. If you get zone control for your home during installation, you can adjust the temperature in different areas of the home separately, to keep everyone more comfortable wherever they are in the house. A new programmable thermostat may be more accurate than your older one and can save you a lot of money through the years.

Contact the friendly professionals at Cal-West Air Conditioning to find out about our heating services in San Diego. Give us a call today!

Will Thanksgiving Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

November 26th, 2014

We’ve all heard it before: you feel so sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal because of the main event: the turkey. For years, people have credited extraordinary levels of tryptophan in turkey as the reason we all feel the need to nap after the annual feast. But contrary to this popular mythology, tryptophan is probably not he largest responsible party for your post-meal exhaustion.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means it’s something that our bodies need but do not produce naturally. Your body uses tryptophan to help make vitamin B3 and serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that sends chemicals to the brain to aid in sleep. But in order to get this essential amino acid, we have to eat foods that contain it.

Turkey has somewhat high levels of tryptophan, but so do many other foods, including eggs, peanuts, chocolate, nuts, bananas, and most other meats and dairy products. In fact, ounce-for-ounce cheddar cheese contains a greater amount of tryptophan than turkey. In order for tryptophan to make you feel sleepy, you would have to consume it in excessive amounts, and serotonin is usually only produced by tryptophan on an empty stomach.

The truth is, overeating is largely responsible for the “food coma” many people describe post-Thanksgiving. It takes a lot of energy for your body to process a large meal, and the average Thanksgiving plate contains about twice as many calories as is recommended for daily consumption. If anything, high levels of fat in the turkey cause sleepiness, as they require a lot of energy for your body to digest. Lots of carbohydrates, alcohol, and probably a bit of stress may also be some of the reasons it feels so satisfying to lay down on the couch after the meal and finally get a little bit of shut-eye.

If you feel the need to indulge in a heaping dose of tryptophan this year, go ahead! Turkey also contains healthy proteins and may even provide a boost for your immune system. Here at Cal-West Air Conditioning, we hope your Thanksgiving is full of joy and contentment this year. Happy feasting!