Will High-Efficiency Filters or High-MERV Filters Harm My HVAC System?

High-efficiency and high-MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating filters seem beneficial because they filter out very small particulates, such as pollen, dander, and other allergens. Yet these types of filters have some negative consequences too. Here are some benefits and drawbacks of high-efficiency and high-MERV rating filters.

The Role of the Filter in HVAC

The primary purpose of a heating and air conditioning filter is to prevent dust and debris from clogging the unit. Many homeowners also purchase filters for their air quality enhancing properties, making them a must-have purchase for allergy sufferers. High-efficiency or high-MERV rating filters may capture more particulates, but their construction may not benefit the HVAC system. Filtering smaller particulates may lead to decreased airflow.

Do These Filters Harm HVAC Systems?

Most systems use either PSC (permanent split capacitor) or ECM (electronically commutated motors) technology. PSC motors have two settings: “on” and “off.” ECM motors are variable speed motors that adjust according to the needs of the environment and thermostat.

In most cases, high-efficiency filters (i.e., restrictive filters) won’t harm HVAC equipment, but they don’t offer as many benefits as a homeowner might believe. A PSC motor can only provide a certain level of air output, regardless of filter conditions. If the filter is too restrictive or too dirty, it will slightly reduce airflow through the system and into the home. An ECM motor, on the other hand, always tries to compensate for differences between its running capacity and the home environment. A dirty or restrictive filter may cause an ECM motor to use more energy to force more air through the system. Instead of saving energy, this type of reaction can significantly reduce HVAC efficiency.

How Different MERV Ratings Affect HVAC Systems

Some of the most common MERV ratings for high-efficiency filters range from 8-14. The higher the MERV rating, the more a filter can capture. Some filters may even capture certain viruses. Most systems expect a pressure drop of up to 0.5 inches, but high-MERV rating filters may cause a pressure drop higher than 0.18 inches, rendering the system even more inefficient.

To account for these pressure-related differences, talk to a professional HVAC technician about compensating for a high-efficiency or high-MERV filter. A trained professional can recommend accommodations to offset the airflow and pressure consequences of a high-efficiency filter and to keep the heating and air conditioning system running efficiently over time.

Choosing an Air Filter

The next time you purchase an air filter at a big box store or online, take a moment to look at the specifications. Look for the MERV rating and any information about air flow speeds. A thicker filter may not always provide better filtration results. A high industry rating, such as a MERV rating, may not always tell the entire story.

If you have any questions about what filter will improve efficiency, contact Palo Alto Plumbing for a recommendation.

 

Carbon Monoxide: What You Don’t Know is Putting Your Family at Risk

“It started as a nagging headache,” Diane said. “And then it became worse before turning into a horror show.”

It was around 9 pm on a cold December night and both of them were sitting in front of their fireplace, decompressing from the hard day’s work. The baby June was in her crib. Suddenly, Liam, Diane’s husband, became sick – headache, vomiting, the works. That made Diane concerned for her husband’s health but she chalked it up to the bug that was going around the neighborhood. “Must be the flu.”

Two hours later, Diane felt her heart thudding in her chest, wanting to come out. She became nauseous and lightheaded, and her whole body went cold. She panicked and rushed to “Google” the symptoms – finding it just might be Carbon Monoxide poisoning. She called 911 after finding out that they were indeed being poisoned by the stealthiest killer: Carbon Monoxide.

Her family was saved thanks to Diane’s quick reaction and pure timing but, everyone is not so lucky.

What is Carbon Monoxide?

CO is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas. That means between 1999 to 2010 most of the 5,149 Americans that ended up in graves because of non-fire-related Carbon Monoxide poisoning had no idea what hit them. No bad odor, no horrible taste, nothing – except for the untimely death.

Although, like all accidents you can minimize the chances of dying from CO, most people avoid taking the right precautionary measures until it happens to them. When, unfortunately, it is already too late. And the damage is done.

CO is produced any time you burn fossil fuels like in cars, trucks, fireplaces, and good old furnaces. Everyone is at risk regardless of gender or age, but children and elderly and those with preexisting diseases of heart or lungs are at higher risk of developing complications such as permanent brain damage, life-threatening heart complications, and death.

How Does Carbon Monoxide Affect Our Health?

Once inhaled, it goes into the blood stream and displaces oxygen from hemoglobin, that results in a deficiency of oxygen which leads to hypoxia and eventually death.
The symptoms of CO are non-specific and often don’t tell anything by themselves. Most common symptoms include altered mental status, headache, nausea, weakness and chest pain.

Fortunately, science has made it really easy to prevent against CO exposure. Take steps to prevent accidental exposure to Carbon Monoxide. Because it is real. And it kills.

How to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Here are just a few ways that you can avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

1. Install and maintain a CO detector: This is the single most important thing you can do to protect your family against the possibility of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Make sure to buy a battery operated detector with a loud enough alarm to wake you up. But that’s not all, replace the battery every year and change the detector once every 5 years.

2. Don’t use portable gas camp stoves indoors. Small appliances like these also contribute to the buildup of Carbon Monoxide and when indoors, the harmful gasses can’t escape and your family can’t escape from them. Get rid of them folks.

3. Get your gas appliances checked by an expert. Make sure that they are working correctly and all the stuff that is supposed to be inside is staying inside and not spilling out to kill you when you’re asleep.

4. Never ignore any unusual odor coming from your refrigerator. CO itself has no odor, but in this case, other gasses mixed with CO have a particular odor that might give it away.

5. Clean your chimney. Debris can clog up your chimney real bad. So, now all the gasses would accumulate inside your living room instead of escaping through the chimney. Get your chimney cleaned before it cleans you.

6. Be smart. Don’t burn charcoal indoors, use generators inside of your home or basement, or patch a vent pipe with chewing gum. We’ve seen it all and it’s always dangerous.

One last thing, if you ever suspect that you or a family member has been exposed to Carbon Monoxide, immediately evacuate the house and call 911. Learn more about how to maintain healthy air quality in your home and to have your HVAC system checked for safety, and contact us to schedule an inspection with us today!

10 Benefits of Living in Your Ideal Home Temperature

We all love a comfortable, secure, stylish home with just the right amount of heat or cold, be it a modest house or a lavish mansion. What constitutes comfort, security, and style varies from person to person and so does the perfect temperature. Below, we will discuss what the ideal room temperature is and the benefits of cooler and hotter home temperatures.

What is The Ideal Room Temperature?

Unfortunately, there is no exact answer to this question. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 18C/64F for healthy individuals, 16C/60.5F for those with respiratory problems, and a minimum of 20C/68F for the very young, sick or aged.

When looking for your perfect thermostat setting, it might be a good idea to consider the following benefits of warm versus cold houses, noting of course, that this does not include extreme temperatures.

5 Benefits of a Warm House

Here are some of the benefits of making your home environment warmer:

1. Makes You Physically Active

A warm house makes you want to be up and about. You are more likely to think about dusting the book shelf and finishing the DIY project you started last summer, rather than cuddling on the couch.

2. Good for Your Memory
The reasoning is simple, with increased blood flow to your head and vital organs, you will be more alert and able to more easily remember things.

3. Reduced Respiratory and Allergic Conditions
Respiratory and allergic conditions are notoriously stubborn, and the last thing you need is a cold house to send you looking for your anti-allergy pills.

4. Heart and Lungs
Due to the need to keep your body at an optimum temperature, your heart and lungs have to work harder in cold surroundings to ensure this goal is achieved. Too much of this for too long could result in higher blood pressure and associated conditions.

5. Makes it Easier for Some to Sleep
It’s last on the list because it may boil down to your preferred bedroom thermostat settings and your sleeping habits. Some love to be under a duvet, while others love sleeping with their t-shirts only.

5 Benefits of a Cold Home

And if you love it when your house has a cold, slightly chilly ambience, you are not alone. Here are the benefits of living in a cooler environment:

1. Burns Calories

This is the realm of cutting-edge science, but it turns out that cold conditions tend to cause certain types of bodily fat to be combusted to keep us warm. Weight-watchers will love it.

2. Disease-Carrying Bugs Hate Cold Conditions
Disease causing insects such as mosquitoes and cockroaches find it inhospitable to be in cold surroundings. This helps keep your family safe and healthy.

3. Reduces Inflammation and Boosts Muscle Recovery
Ever wondered why ice is applied on swollen surfaces? Or why athletes immerse themselves in icy-water? Cold conditions tend to reduce inflammation of muscles and promote muscular recovery.

4. Promotes Better and Longer Sleep

When you lay down to go to sleep, the temperature of your body naturally cools off. Cold temperatures can help you cool down faster, leading to higher quality and long-lasting sleep.

5. Closer Together
One happy family. When it’s colder, we tend to huddle closer like all members of the animal kingdom, the only difference is we would probably be around the kitchen table or in the TV room.

Whether you like it warmer or cooler, it is important that you keep your HVAC system well-maintained so that it can keep you comfortable year-round. If you need help achieving ultimate home comfort, give us a call today.

Ductless Heating & Air Conditioning

Most people are familiar with forced-air HVAC systems. The type of system that has a central heating and cooling component and ducts to carry the heated or cooled air throughout the house. A lot of homeowners have become frustrated with these systems due to inconsistent performance, expense of operation, and the dust they tend to distribute as evenly as the air they handle. But what other options do you have?

Ductless Systems

Managing the air in a home with a ductless system is advantageous over a forced-air system for a number of reasons. Whether you’re retrofitting a historic home and don’t want to drop the ceilings to house ductwork, are frustrated with the performance of central air, or tired of the allergen-containing dust that is blown around by them, ductless systems offer highly efficient and customizable performance at reasonable pricing.

A ductless system can save you money in a few ways. Firstly, their efficiency ratings are off the charts. A ductless system will operate with at least a 30% efficiency increase over a forced air system. Secondly, it is very easy to do zone-by-zone environment management by setting the thermostats on the ductless units to different temperatures in different rooms, giving you environment management where you need it. They also do away with the losses incurred as air is moved through a duct, making them even more efficient. Every forced-air system will lose some efficiency to the ducts that carry the air through the home.

An often overlooked benefit to the ductless system is a cleaner environment. They will filter the air in your home much better than a central heating system or a radiator system – which does no filtering at all. For allergy sufferers, the ductless system can make a huge difference in the severity of their symptoms by helping to filter out all the allergens from the air.

This method of heating and cooling is among the most, if not the most, efficient methods of environment management for a home. Their myriad benefits make them an attractive option for just about any home.

If you would like to discuss your options in ductless heating, give us at Palo Alto Plumbing, Heating & Air a call today!

What are the True Benefits of Programmable Thermostats?

When you read articles about programmable thermostats promising 10-30 percent reductions in energy usage (a figure that comes from the Environmental Protection Agency), you’re probably skeptical and that’s understandable. It isn’t clear how thermostat technology alone, no matter how responsive and precisely programmable it might be, could cause such a radical reduction in energy consumption.

In fact there have been studies carried out that failed to back up the EPA’s claims. One 2007 research project, for example, found that homeowners who installed ENERGY STAR smart thermostats were only able to reduce their use of natural gas by an average of 6.2 percent per household.

But skepticism about programmable thermostat technology is misdirected. Unfortunately many people who purchase these innovative control devices don’t put enough thought into how they are used, and for this reason their investment doesn’t pay off the way it could or should.

Sound Strategies for Programmable Thermostat Use

If you reduce your thermostat setting by one degree Fahrenheit for eight hours each day in winter, you can cut your total monthly energy usage by one percent. This means a 10 degree reduction for eight hours each day (presumably while you sleep) could reduce your energy consumption by 10 percent, which is in line with the low end of the EPA’s projection.

This is an example of how programmable thermostats can save you money. When you know you’ll be away from home or sleeping you can program your HVAC system to produce lower or higher temperatures than normal, depending on the season. You can also program the system to heat things up or cool them back down again shortly before you wake up or return. This is especially easy to do if you have a thermostat with Wi-Fi capability, since these devices can be remotely programmed from any location (as long as you have a mobile phone or computer access).

The key to successful programmable thermostat use is attention to detail. Set if for one temperature when you’re home, another for when you’re sleeping and another for when you’re away. Plan ahead of time and program your thermostat ahead of time to make sure your time is exact, and don’t start the process of warming up or cooling down the home any earlier than 30 minutes from the time you expect to return home or get up in the morning.

Learn More about Bryant Programmable Thermostats from Palo Alto Plumbing, Heating and Air

If you use your programmable thermostat correctly it will reduce your energy bills, and it will do so consistently and significantly enough to pay off your initial investment many times over.

At Palo Alto Plumbing, Heating and Air we can introduce you to the marvels of Bryant smart thermostat technology, brought to you by the foremost name in the HVAC industry. We are the Bay Area’s premier authorized dealer of Bryant HVAC equipment, and we invite you to contact us today to learn more about their full line of programmable thermostats. Bryant has something for every home and every budget, and when you purchase one of these amazing devices from us quality assurance and perfection in performance are 100 percent guaranteed. We’ll even install your thermostat for you if professional services are required.

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How to Select the Right Size Heat Pump

There are a variety of factor that go into selecting the right HVAC system. You’ll want to consider the efficiency rating, the installation method and your desired features. Once those have been established, you can select the appropriate size heat pump, whether it be a ground source, water source or air source heat pump.

 

Using the Manual J Method

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America have established a standard sizing practice that the HVAC industry follows throughout the country. This methodology, called the Manual J Method, requires the contractor to follow certain steps in selecting the right size heat pump.

The Manual J Method requires taking eight factors into consideration:

  1. The local climate, and the variation in degrees for heating and cooling in the region.
  2. The home’s design, including the shape of the home and the overall square footage.
  3. The home’s insulation and whether it meets the needed efficiency rating for the particular region.
  4. The number and location of all windows.
  5. The occurrence of air infiltration.
  6. How many individuals live in the home.
  7. The residents’ preferences for indoor temperature, and how they use the home.
  8. Other appliances and lighting that generate heat in the home.

The contractor should consider all these factors in order to appropriately follow the Manual J Method.

 

Why the Size of the Heat Pump Matters

Getting the right size heat pump saves you money on energy costs and helps maintain the longevity of your HVAC system. There are a number of problems that can occur when a system is too big or too small, including:

  • Increased on-and-off cycling, which places stress on the blower motor
  • Drastic and uncomfortable differences in temperature inside the home
  • Ineffective control of humidity indoors
  • Higher energy costs
  • Short-cycling

When you hire a contractor to give you an estimate on an HVAC system, make sure he or she uses the Manual J Method to calculate what size heat pump you need. The contractor should input figures into the software program, as well as ask you questions about your preferences and physically look over your home’s setup. Selecting the right size heat pump will help ensure that your system is being used effectively, which saves you money.

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The Basics About Legionnaires Disease And HVAC Systems

All residences and homes have indoor heating and cooling systems have space built in for heating and cooling systems. Once the system is in place, everything can be controlled through a central monitor. Most HVAC firms install the systems according to federal and local regulations. However, problems do happen.

 

Dangers of Poorly-Maintained HVAC Systems

Improperly installed heating and cooling systems do cause problems. For example, on July 13th 2003, doctors were baffled by an outbreak of fever, chills, cough, muscle aches, and headaches. The numbers of patients were so alarming that the CDC was notified. Immediate lab results showed that all patients were suffering from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease. Director of surveillance and investigations for the Virginia Department of Health, Diane Woolard had stated that the sudden rise in the disease was baffling but it could have been due to improperly installed and maintained heating and cooling systems.

This problem can happen in modern day systems as well. HVAC systems use water in the cooling towers and heating systems of large central air-conditioning and heating systems of buildings. The L. Pneumophila bacterium that causes the disease flourishes in wet environments. Improperly maintained and cleaned HVAC systems will cause water stagnation and the bacteria will flourish in the closed environment. The central ventilation system will then carry this bacterium all over the building resulting in multiple infections. As a result, employers do need to be careful about the HVAC systems and installation companies they use.

 

Modern HVAC Standards

You should know though that most modern HVAC system use state-of-the-art automatic controls that control the entire system. Installers use manual and automatic controls to regulate the temperature, modulate airflow, and ensure proper ventilation. Regular maintenance and calibration is not required but it is a good idea to ensure a patent healthy system. Legally, professionals have to follow ASHRAE 62-1989 standards while designing and installing modern heating and cooling systems. HVAC Systems are also tested according to Standard 52-76 in which the ventilation filters are tested for particulate matter and air filtering efficiency. With these standards, a good HVAC system can filter most particulate matter and ensure better building health.

We know that this is a vast topic but you can always write in to us for more information.

Fans Or A/C – Which Is Better?

Fans may not be the most advanced piece of technology but they continue to be in use in our modern world. In fact, it is probably due to their simplicity that they still enjoy such immense popularity. They consist of a plastic or metal blade, a motor, a protective casing, and a few button controls. As long as electricity is applied to the motor, the attached blade will spin rapidly. This movement causes the air around the device flow quickly from the back to the front, thus increasing circulation. The blast of wind does not lower room temperature but it does promote evaporative cooling as sweat dries from skin.

Air conditioners, on the other hand, are more complicated machines that seem to keep on rising in sophistication. They are composed of a compressor, a condenser, condensing coils, evaporative coils, refrigerant, a thermostat, a control panel, air filters, tubing, and many other parts. Sometimes they come as a singular unit and at other times they are separated into interior and exterior units. They use heat transfer primarily through the refrigerant’s movement across the system to lower the temperature in a room or even an entire building. The air truly feels cold wherever you go in the confined space.

Although A/Cs offer superior comfort, their energy consumption leaves much to be desired. Assuming moderate use in a residential setting, people are likely to spend thousands of dollars per year in utility bills just to keep them running. This can be quite a burden for many who have other priorities to attend to. Fans, despite their limited cooling capabilities, consume a comparatively miniscule amount of energy. In fact, their contribution to the annual utility bills may not even reach a hundred dollars with extensive usage patterns.

In regions where heat never reaches an oppressive level, fans may well be enough to get people through the summer. However, there is a point at which no amount of air circulation will do. Having an air conditioner is still the best bet in most cases. Homeowners can have fans or A/C or both to get the comfort and the savings at the same time. The cooling effect of fans makes it possible to set the A/C temperature higher so that they consume less energy.

Call us for all of your heating and air conditioning needs.

Replacing A Furnace? 5 Things To Think About Before You Do

Yes, replacing a furnace is not an easy task and it costs a pretty penny too, therefore the last thing that homeowners would want is to squander away their money on a poorly planned and researched furnace replacement. Educating yourself in this aspect is definitely a wise move. Here are the top 5 things you need to do before you go for furnace replacement:

1: Find out about the performance of your current furnace

This is a step that most homeowners skip, but it is crucially important. You need to first determine whether your furnace actually requires replacement or not. After all, a unit which is replaced too early would cause you to lose a portion of your investment on it. If your furnace is older than twelve years then it probably needs replacement, therefore you should call in a professional for a thorough checkup.

2: Do Your Research and Go Beyond the Brand

As far as furnace replacement is concerned, it is important to do your research because these are a substantial investment. Don’t just stop at the brands, go beyond them by finding out about their warranties, government codes or permits applicable and various other types of relevant information for customers. A reputable brand wouldn’t mind answering all your queries in this regard.

3: Do it before Winter sets in

As far as possible, try to have the furnace replacement complete before winter because the furnace technicians are usually busy during the winter season since it is the peak time for buying such devices. By opting for a replacement before winter you will not be left waiting for the technician in a cold house.

4: Arrange for a tune up prior to the replacement

There is no harm in having a tune-up conducted prior to the replacement, even when you’re absolutely sure that your furnace needs to be replaced. Who knows, a tune-up by the professional will confirm that you do not need a replacement after all, and this would in turn optimize your investment on the current furnace!

5: Calling in a Professional

After doing the initial examination yourself, it is time to call in a professional to have a proper evaluation of your furnace and HVAC technology. You can clear your doubts and get your queries about the furnace (current one or the new one you’re about to purchase) answered by the professional.

Call us for your furnace replacement or other HVAC needs.

Replacing A Furnace? 3 Things To Think About Before You Do

Introduction

There are many reasons that justify the replacement of a furnace over the continued use an existing, inefficient furnace. A furnace replacement may be triggered by a decreasing efficiency, high and costly fuel usage, regular faults, and routine repairs of your current furnace. Just as you take the time to discern whether or not to replace a furnace, you should take time to assess the suitability of your new furnace. Fuel source, furnace efficiency and heating capacity should comprise things you should think about of your new furnace.

3 things to think about before choosing a replacement furnace

Furnace Efficiency

The efficiency of a furnace is defined as the percentage of output (heating) it (furnace) generates in relation to the fuel it consumes, and it is calculated as a percentage. It is best to choose a furnace with a high efficiency, rather than a low efficiency because a low-efficiency furnace will consume and lose more energy, therefore, incur you high utility bill. Whereas high-efficiency furnaces may cost slightly higher than low-efficiency furnaces, they (high-efficiency) save on energy usage, and, therefore, utility bills.

Fuel Source

Electricity, coal, wood, gas and kerosene comprise conventional fuels that power furnaces. Time may have an effect on the availability and the price/ cost of one fuel over the others. When choosing a replacement furnace, think about the availability and the cost of the fuel that powers that furnace. Do not choose a gas furnace simply because your current furnace uses gas; if the cost of gas has risen, and continues to rise, choose an electrical furnace if electricity costs are more affordable than the cost of gas.

Heating Capacity

You should, above all else, check that your replacement furnace can meet the heating needs of your premises. Furnaces with a small heating capacity might require you to run them longer than necessary, or even force you to purchase additional heating devices. Overly big furnaces simply consume more energy, not to mention indoor overheating is hazardous to human health. The best way to know your heating needs, hence the best heating capacity furnace, is to have an HVAC professional assess your premises and advice you accordingly.

Conclusion

Choosing a replacement furnace should be taken as seriously as deciding whether or not to replace a furnace. Consider the heating capacity, furnace efficiency and fuel source of the replacement furnace before acquiring and installing it. Replacing an inefficient furnace with an efficient furnace can save you unnecessary repairs and fuel bills, while giving you utmost comfort. Call to discuss your furnace replacement options.