Cool Touch Blog: Archive for the ‘Indoor Air Quality’ Category

Differences Between Furnaces & Heat Pumps

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

From the point-of-view of a person standing in a room where a vent is sending out warm air, there seems to be little difference between a heat pump and a furnace. The end result is the same: heated air. The two units, wherever they are housed, may make different sounds, but otherwise nothing else is.

There is an illusion however, that almost all furnaces and heat pumps are vastly different devices that operate on separate principles. We’ll go into a bit more details about the differences between the two comfort systems. We hope this will help you if you’re trying to make a choice between the two for your home. But to make a final decision, you should have expert guidance: Cool Touch Air & Heating. Our experience will help you decide if a furnace or heat pump is right for you.

Furnaces create heat and then transfer it to the air. In a general sense, they are similar to ovens in which they heat up the air using their fuel source. Most furnaces either use electricity or natural gas to create this heat. The heat is transferred to the air, and then fans blow that air into the ducts that send it through your home. Natural gas furnaces have to vent away the exhaust from combustion. All this occurs inside a single indoor cabinet.

Heat pumps do not create heat at all, however, they move heat from one place to another, using separate units: one indoors and one outdoors. The outdoor unit draws heat from the air, then transfers it indoors using refrigerant. The inside unit then releases the heat to the indoors, which blowers send through vents. Heat pumps use electrical power to run and do not create any emissions from burning fuel.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is that the heat pump can also serve as an air conditioner: if it reverses the direction of heat exchange, drawing heat from indoors and putting it outdoors, it will cool down the inside of a home. Furnaces will only heat, heat pumps can heat and cool.

They sound a bit too good to be true, don’t they? But heat pumps are not ideal for every home or every climate. Sometimes they have trouble providing enough heat, something at which furnaces excel. However, the easiest way to know which system will work the best for you is to consult with experts, such as those at Cool Touch Air and Heating (623-584-3762). Our specialists are devoted to bringing you the best comfort they can, and they’ll help you decide which one is best for your Phoenix, AZ home.

 

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Why a Little More Humidity in Your Home Can Help

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

If your throat feels a bit dry or your skin feels itchy, scratchy and uncomfortable, it may have a lot to do with your indoor air – or what’s missing from it. Efforts to keep your home warm throughout the winter months may also remove much of the water vapor present in your home’s indoor air, effectively drying it out. Heavy use of your furnace can cause your home’s humidity to fall well below the 40 to 50 percent threshold needed to maintain a comfortable environment.

Home Air Quality

Home Air Quality

While too much moisture in your home can be a bad thing, the same goes for having too little moisture in your indoor air. A low-humidity environment not only causes dry and itchy skin, but it can also make you more susceptible to infections, as well as viruses that cause colds and flu.

Woodwork, hardwood flooring and walls can also crack, warp and shrink due to the lack of moisture in the air. The dry air also can cause an increase in static electricity, putting your electronics in danger, as well as giving you a nasty shock now and again.

Restoring your home’s humidity levels is simply a matter of adding more moisture to the air. Although everyday activities such as showering and cooking create additional moisture, installing a whole-house humidifier to your heating and cooling system is one of the best ways of managing your home’s relative humidity.

A whole-house humidifier accurately provides balanced indoor relative humidity levels based on outside temperature and indoor, allowing for just the right amount of moisture in the air for improved indoor air quality. These systems require only minimal maintenance and are relatively inexpensive to operate. If you just want to control moisture levels in a single room, a portable room humidifier is also up to the task.

For more tips on how you can improve your homes indoor air quality please visit www.cooltouch.us or call us 623-584-3762.

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Poorly Sized Ducts Can Lead to Heating Repair

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

You probably haven’t considered how important your ductwork is for your heating system. If it’s a gas furnace or a heat pump the reason people often forget about ductwork is because most of the ducts remain out of sight, hidden in walls, floors, ceilings, and rooms you rarely go in.  Ductwork that suffers from leaks, bad connections, or poor construction, can have a large negative impact on your heater, possibly leading to it requiring repair.

Another problem with ductwork that can affect your heater is improper sizing. If the installers who put in your ducts in the first place picked the wrong size, too large or too small, your heater will struggle. Here are some of the heating repairs that we often encounter because of poorly sized ductwork.

If your ducts are too large, you’ll probably notice the issue right away, because the system will make noise from the restriction on the air flow. The reduced air flow from the constriction will build up pressure inside the ductwork.

If the ducts are too large for your heating system, they will cause low airflow, and this will result in uneven heating throughout your home, since the air will not reach all the vents.

Recent studies have shown that improper ductwork design can cause as much as a 60% loss in heating efficiency. This is not only bad news for your pocketbook, it’s also bad news for your heater, which will struggle to reach the temperature set for it and begin to degrade and age rapidly. This means more repairs to things such as motors, fan belts, and compressors. And it can also end up with a need for an early retirement for your heater and the expense of purchasing a new one.

You should never let any heating repair go without proper attention. Cool Touch knows both your heater and your duct work. Our professionally trained staff can provide repairs for your heating system and the correct cleaning and sealing services to take care of your ducts. Give us a call for your heating repair, serving Phoenix and the entire valley. Let us take a look at your ductwork so we can advise you on what you should do. You can reach us at 623-584-3762

 

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Capitalize on the Efficiency of Your Home’s Energy

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Imagine your home as a giant storage space with connected ducts, which are highly effective tools for accomplishing consistent energy efficiency.  Just as a business is only as strong as their employees, no overall energy system is more efficient than its most inefficient component.

Your home comfort system comprises about half of the full amount of your total residential energy usage.  It’s only logical and quite obvious that maximizing energy efficiency must also begin at the biggest source of waste – HVAC.

Below is a basic overview of the best ways to harmonize all systems in order to optimize overall energy efficiency.

Peak energy efficiency cannot possibly exist where inner air constantly seeps outside.  As long as warm air can escape during colder weather and enter throughout sizzling summers, your heating/air conditioning equipment must work overtime to compensate in order to maintain programmed interior temperatures.

Take a long stroll through the inside and outside of your house at least once a year to look for potentially air leaks, such as:

– Worn/damaged weather stripping around windows and door casings

–  Gaps between windows and/or doors and surrounding framework

– Cracking or gaps between exterior siding and underlying foundation

– Open spaces around holes bored into walls to provide entry points for pipes or wiring

Replace  Insulation

Insulation is designed to decrease heat entrapped within interior wall spaces.  Verify whether existing insulation complies with current Zone 1 and Zone 2 R-value specifications.  Start in the attic and work your way down into smaller areas and exterior wall insulation.

Duct Work

Schedule a professional duct inspection to ensure sufficient insulation, sealing, and absence of any blockage in your duct work. Cool Touch specializes in duct testing and will run a thorough test to determine where leaks and blocks may be coming from.

HVAC Machinery

If your HVAC system was installed more than fifteen years ago or requires excessive repair, consider replacing it.  Consider switching to an energy star unit and are easily identifiable by a bright yellow sticker on the side.  A large black number printed on its surface reveals the relative energy efficiency of the equipment it is attached to.   That number is far more important than the digits displayed on the price tag.

Cool Touch has been serving the valley for almost 10 years. We have a very strong reputation and have a team of professional technicians that will assist with any heating or cooling issue. Call us today to schedule an appointment 623-584-3762

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Leaky Duct Tests Are a Waste of Money

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Ducts carry air from the central heater or air conditioner to each part of the home and back again. In a typical house, up to 33% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost because of leaks or improper installation. Fixing duct leaks can save you $200 or more in annual energy costs and improve the comfort of your home.

“Typical duct systems lose 25 to 40 percent of the heating or cooling energy put out by the central furnace, heat pump or air handler. Duct repairs could be the most important energy improvement measure you can do” –US Department of Energy Consumer Reports

Household Duct Tests

Household Duct Tests

“The ducts that are part of central heating and cooling systems are the best opportunities to increase your energy and your comfort. Studies indicate that up to 30% of the heated or cooled air is lost along with the money spent to heat or cool that air through leaky ducts.” – Pacific Gas and Electric Utility

 

 

If you are like most homeowners, as long as you’re cooling and heating system is keeping you comfortable, you usually don’t give it much thought. But what you don’t see could be costing you a lot of money each year. Most duct systems are installed in attics or building cavities where they are rarely seen or inspected. They may have been poorly sealed when installed, fittings may have come loose, and duct runs may have become disconnected. All of this leads to a lot of lost air!

“Studies have shown that an average duct system loses 10 to 40 percent of the cool air through gaps in the duct joints. While sealing the ducts is a common practice now, few homes have had this done.”- Readers Digest Family Handyman Magazine

“For an average home, leaky ducts can waste hundreds of dollars each year. Duct leakage also lowers the heating and cooling capacity and can lessen equipment life.” – Southface Energy Institute

The results of a recent utility company study on duct leakage found:

  • Up to 33% of a heating/cooling system’s airflow could be leaking through the ducts, causing a loss of comfort and cooling capacity.
  • The impact is most severe in ducts installed in attics where temperatures can exceed 140 degrees in the summer.
  • On average, almost 15 percent of cooling energy is wasted due to duct leakage.
  • While there will always be some duct leakage, homes with properly sealed ducts can often have leakage reduced from 3 to 5 percent.
Duct Air Flow

Duct Air Flow

“We have done a lot of work in looking at how ducts impact air conditioning systems. Typically a leaky duct system can lose 20% to 40% of the energy you pay for to heat and cool your house,” – Dr, Max Sherman, Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab

Does your home need to be tested? Here’s a few questions that if you answer yes to, you should probably have the test performed.

Does your furniture seem to get dusty within a few days after house cleaning?

Are any areas in your home colder in the winter?

Are any areas in your home hotter in the Summer?

Do you ever feel uncomfortable even though the A/C is on? ( wake up sweating or clammy feeling)

Does your system ever run non-stop and still not keep you comfortable?

Does your house ever smell musty or unpleseant?

Does anyone in your home :

Ever go to bed with a clear head and wake up stuffy the next morning?

Get frequent headaches, flu like symptoms, or feel tired all the time?

Have asthma, or allergies to dust, pollen or molds?

If any of these symptoms are experienced by any of your family members or you would like to see if a duct test will save you money in energy costs, then call Cool Touch today and schedule your test. 623-584-3762.

 

 

 

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Clean Out Household Duct Contaminants

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Air moves from your central HVAC unit through the ducts into the rest of your house, exiting through the vents and warming or cooling your home in the process. In a perfect world, that wouldn’t be affected by anything else. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. Leaks and contaminants spring up, reducing your system’s efficiency and lowering the quality of air in the process. You can address these problems with professional duct cleaning. Cool Touch has qualified technicians that can perform such operations, but it helps if you know what common duct contaminants to look for, and how they might affect your ducts’ ability to function.

  • Dust. The bulk of duct contaminants is dust, which gathers as air moves through the ducts. Over time, it builds up: passing into your home whenever you turn on your HVAC unit and lowering the quality of your air in the process. Dust can come from any number of places, and might include pet dander, tracked-in dirt and dust from your HVAC unit in particular. In Arizona, the sand and dust of the desert are a constant presence, and will invariably find their way into your ducts by hook or by crook.
  • Pollen. We don’t have as much of a problem with pollen here in Arizona as other parts of the country do, but local gardens can still produce pollen, and similar allergens can be found in duct systems as well. Check the conditions in your local neighborhood if this is a concern, and note the kinds or plants or trees likely to product airborne allergens.
  • Insect droppings. Bugs often thrive in out-of-the-way places in your homes, which includes the duct work. Over time, droppings from roaches, dust mites and other pests can accumulate in your ducts, then move through your household when the air blows.

Regardless of the source of contaminant, the Phoenix duct cleaning experts at Cool Touch can get rid of it with a solid cleaning. Once you know the common duct contaminants to look for, give us a call and let us get rid of them for you properly.

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Heating System Maintenance Saves

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Just when you get through one hot summer and start thinking “thank God that’s over”….BAM, the cold winter nights hit you right between the eyes and your heater system fails.

Here at Cool Touch, there’s not one little thing we can do to brighten a cold Phoenix forecast.  We can, however, make all the extra time you spend indoors that much more relaxing and stress free:  and that’s with our home heating tune-up and inspection service.

Why You Need Cool Touch Home Heating Maintenance?

Since the average heating system lifespan is about 10-12 years, it needs all the help it can get  to perform at its best.

Even if your system is relatively new, it still needs its annual check-up to continue to perform at the top of its game.

What Benefits Does a Cool Touch System Tune-up Provide?

With our multi-point heating system tune-up and inspection, you’ll benefit in four major ways:

  • Fewer repairs
  • Improved safety
  • Longer system lifespan
  • Lower utility costs

During our tune-up checks, we’ll clean or, most likely, replace the filter and that means cleaner indoor air.  When the system fan is blowing against a dirty filter, dust, bacteria, mold, chemicals, and other contaminants are forced through your air ducts, into your living space, and into your lungs

We have other indoor air quality solutions we can tell you about, as well.

What Does a Cool Touch Heating System Tune-up Consist of?

We maintain and repair all makes and models of home heating systems.  During our annual tune-up and inspection, these are just a few of the critical steps in the process:

– We will check and clean the burners and heat exchanger, replace any dirty filters, lubricate the blower fan motor bearings and check the electrical connections throughout the system.

– We will check the ductwork and closely inspect the air handler and chimney flue to make sure they are working properly as well.

– Test for carbon monoxide leaks

– Check furnace filter

– Check ignition and firing

– Test for gas leaks

The entire process takes no more than 2–3 hours, but when done properly on an annual basis, it ensures that your system is in good working order for a long time to come and that you will get your money’s worth whenever you turn on that furnace each winter.

For a nice and steady winter season, instead of one with lots of ups and downs, contact Cool Touch today to schedule annual heating system maintenance.

 

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The First Air Conditioner and What People Did Before Air Conditioning

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Could you imagine if air condition had not yet been invented, especially living here in the Phoenix heat during the middle of summer? It would be unbearable! I’m not one that sleeps well at night if I don’t have cool air blowing over the top of me and I certainly couldn’t stand trying to sleep in temps that exceed 80 degrees. I, and I imagine a lot of others, would be miserable.

The image below shows a home that was built in the late 1800’s. Back then people did not have the luxury of  nice cold air circulating through their homes like we do today. They had to resort to other tricks to stay cool. Some homes were built with more windows and higher ceilings to allow air to flow through the house more freely and to avoid moisture from settling in rooms with no windows or low ceilings making household temps a bit sticky and warm.

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A Modern Home of the 19th Century

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Others, who did not have the luxury of owning a home with an abundance of windows and high ceilings resorted to building larger porches outside their front doors that wrapped around the house. The reason for porches, or bigger porches, was if it was a hot day, the family could spend the day in the shade on the porch and avoid their hot home until the sun set. Sometimes families would even set up cots on their porches and everyone would sleep out on the porch to keep cool.

People who had homes with no porches had other tricks up their sleeves in order to stay cool! Some did the obvious and went swimming all day to keep their body temperatures down while others decided to sleep the days heat away. They would wake up in the evening after the unbearable heat had given way to the cooler night air and be able to relax more. Many kept man made fans with them at all times trying to wave cooler air int heir faces with a flick of their wrist.

It wasn’t until around 1902 when the first machine resembling an air conditioning unit was built. The man responsible for this first version of an A/C unit was Willis Carrier. Born in Angola,NY in 1876, Carrier eventually moved to Buffalo,NY after graduating from Cornell University in 1901. As you can see Mr. Carrier dove right into his goals, and a year later, this first unit was created.

Willis Carrier Invented the Air Conditioner

Willis Carrier Invented the Air Conditioner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon afterwards, industrial buildings and hospitals started to adopt this technology in an effort to cool their works spaces and environments. The first person to air condition his private home was Charles Gates, son of industrialist and profligate gambler John Gates, who set up a cumbersome system at his house in Minneapolis in 1914.

During the 1920’s, specifically during the depression years, technology allowed A/C units to be made in smaller and safer versions. Even though this was a lot more convenient at the time, most places could not afford to have air conditioning. However, there was one type of business that saw a potential and rewarding investment in these new lines of A/C systems and that was movie theaters. Theaters across America thought since most places and people could not afford these cooling systems, if they made their theaters nice and cool, people would spend their money just to sit and watch movies all day long in the nice cool air. It was a huge success for the movie theaters.

It was during the postwar period that air conditioning arrived in American homes, with more than one million units sold in 1953. The machines were heavily promoted by two key industries. Air conditioning served the needs of homebuilders eager to build huge numbers of cheap houses and utilities were only too happy to keep ramping up electricity sales to the burgeoning suburbs. AC for cars became a status symbol, too, so much so that some people without it supposedly drove around with their windows up in 100 degree heat to give an impression otherwise. The suburban American dream was built on the sweat of air conditioners.

Many of the central changes in our society since World War II would not have been possible were air conditioning not keeping our homes and workplaces cool. States like Florida, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, and Southern California all experienced significant growth during the later half of the 2oth century. It’s hard to imagine life without air conditioning.

The advent of air conditioning has shaped our homes and family lives. Houses are designed not for ventilation but for central cooling systems. Porches, where they exist, are relics of another age, and few new homes include them. Families gather inside, in the comfort of 72-degree living rooms, to watch TV. Would television have even gained its central place in American family life if the rooms from which we watch it were not so enjoyably cool?

As Americans think about reducing their energy consumption, many are considering keeping their air conditioners off. But air conditioners haven’t merely chilled the air around us — they’ve reshaped our infrastructure, our entertainment, and our habits. I don’t know about you, but thank God for Willis Carrier and those who came after him. If it wasn’t for nice, cold air flowing through our homes, I think the world would have gone mad by now.

 

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Ventilation Cleaning Offers Many Benefits

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

During the summers here in Phoenix,AZ, most people spend between 60-90% of their time in-doors trying to keep cool. While spending time in the cool air conditioning, people are breathing air that is being filtered through their vents by their A/C system. Sometimes we forget to take the time and think about cleaning these vents and how important it is to breath in clean air.

Over time, dirt, dust, mold, debris and even animal droppings can begin to build up inside your home’s ventilation system. This in turn can contaminate the air from your heating or cooling system, spreading airborne particles throughout your living area. These pollutants can cause a number of health problems including aggravating allergy and asthma related symptoms. The best way to eliminate this problem is through ventilation cleaning.

Ventilation cleaning should be done on a regular basis as a part of regular maintenance. Signs that your ventilation system may be dirty include visible dirt or mold inside your ductwork, signs of pests or rodents living inside your ducts and unpleasant odors or excessive dust coming out of your heating registers.

By cleaning your vents, this could cut back on these health ailments:

– Sinus Congestion
– Asthma
– Sore Throats
– Coughing
– Fatigue
– Congestion
– Eye, Nose and Throat Irritation
– Nausea

Hiring a professional such as Cool Touch to clean and inspect the ductwork in your home can help improve indoor air quality, allowing you and your loved ones to breathe fresh, clean air. Make sure that the company you hire to handle the ventilation cleaning is fully licensed and insured. Consider asking for references from past clients, as well. The last thing you want is to hire a company that leaves your home a mess, or worse, causes damage to your ventilation system.

Along with cleaning your duct work, you may want to have the company clean and inspect the components of your heating and cooling system. Removing dirt and debris at the source is the best way to prevent it from being spread throughout your home. Blower fans, evaporator coils and air filters are all common trouble-spots for pollutants. Typically, if your vents are dirty enough to require cleaning, the rest of your system will benefit from cleaning as well.

Ventilation cleaning is an important part of making your home a comfortable, safe place to live. Taking the time to improve indoor air quality can help you and your loved ones breathe a little easier all year long.

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Why the Cost of R-22 Refrigerant has Increased this Year

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

The price of R-22 refrigerant has skyrocketed in the last few months. Due to government regulations to phase out the production of ozone depleting chemicals, like Freon, production has continued to decrease and has caused costs to skyrocket. R-22 refrigerant is four times more expensive than it was just six months ago and is expected to continue to increase significantly.

Due to this, A/C contractors have bought it at an alarming rate and supplies have declined greatly. This has forced some vendors across the country to limit the amount of R-22 contractors can purchase in a month.

As the cost of R-22 rises, the cost of the new replacement Freon, R410a continues to drop. It is simple economics of supply and demand.

Federal regulations have called for a 90% reduction of production of R-22 by 2015 and to be completely obsolete by 2020. What this means to consumers is outrages freon related repair costs and eventually no choice but to replace their HVAC equipment.

Most air conditioners manufactured before 2010 uses the old R-22 refrigerant.
While a R-410a unit can just as easily develop a leak as an R-22 unit can, from vibration, rust, stress cracks, etc, the cost to replace R-410a is a fraction of R-22.

As a home owner you need to keep a few things in mind. If you are in the market for an air conditioner do not let any contractor convince you that an R-22 unit is a good idea. They get around the law by shipping them with no refrigerant in them and classify them as a “part”. These “dry charged” units may be cheaper initially, but in a very short time frame you will be forced to upgrade to an R-410a system.
If your unit is 11 years old or older, you should start planning for an upgraded system. You can decide when to replace your system or your system will decide for you by breaking down when you least expect it!

If you have a slow leak in an R-22 system and have to add Freon every year or sooner, consider the cost of continuing to add Freon that is climbing in price. That money could be going towards a new high efficiency unit that will start saving you money on your utility bills the day it’s installed.

Should you need help deciding if it’s time to replace your current A/C unit and want an honest opinion, you can count on Cool Touch to assist you. Our experienced, professionally trained technicians will be able to determine which choice makes sense for you and your home and will go over all options with you. Call us today 623-584-3762.

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