Does a Geothermal System Need Winter Maintenance?

December 12th, 2014

Geothermal systems can be a bit of a mystery for homeowners who don’t have a lot of HVAC knowledge or experience. This is even true of people who actually have geothermal systems installed in their homes. Not to worry, though, we’re here to answer all of your questions. This week, we’re tackling the subject of winter maintenance with regard to geothermal systems.

Geothermal Maintenance

Geothermal systems do need maintenance at least once or twice a year, just like any other heater. With specific regard to winter maintenance, however, that depends on circumstances. Most other heating systems have their recommended maintenance during the fall season. This is because the best time to conduct maintenance on any system is right before you plan on using it a lot. Maintenance on your heating system right before winter ensures that it will be able to handle the increased strain of frequent use.

In that sense, winter maintenance on your geothermal system is a good idea. You really don’t want your geothermal heater breaking down in the middle of winter. Demand for HVAC repairs tends to rise during the cold season, for obvious reasons. This could lead to a delay of a few days for HVAC service, which means you would be stuck without heat during the coldest months of the year.

As for specific repair needs, geothermal systems are more low-maintenance than most systems. The water in the underground loop can occasionally freeze, but only if the loop isn’t buried far enough down. The actual depth that the loop needs to be buried at depends largely on the region your home is in. In some colder areas of the country, loops can freeze and stop working as deep as 15ft below the surface.

Other than that occasional concern, geothermal systems are much the same as any other heat pump. As long as the reversing valve, refrigerant line, and coils are working, you should have nothing to worry about.

If you would like to schedule maintenance for your geothermal system in Eugene, call Comfort Flow Heating.

Why Won’t My Furnace Start?

December 5th, 2014

It’s a pretty horrible feeling to try to turn on your furnace on a cold day and have it refuse to start. Furnaces tend to be pretty reliable as heating systems, but that doesn’t make them immune to problems. There are a few different factors that may be contributing to your furnace’s inability to start. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.

Malfunctioning Thermostat

The thermostat serves the same purpose in the heating system as your brain does in your body. It is responsible for controlling the furnace, deciding when it comes on and when it doesn’t. A problem with your thermostat, therefore, can stymie even a healthy furnace. Check your thermostat and make sure that everything is set properly. If the thermostat is set to “heat” or “fan” and the temperature seems to be reading correctly, then the problem is likely with your furnace. There is a chance that there is still a problem with your thermostat’s control board, but you’ll need a professional to confirm that.

Pilot Light is out

After the thermostat, the most common cause of a furnace not starting is the pilot light. The pilot light is a flame that burns under most furnaces 24/7, and is responsible for starting the furnace by igniting the burners. Pilot lights have a reputation for blowing out every now and then, rendering the furnace without an ignition source. The easiest way to check if your pilot light is out is by looking under your furnace, or in the small window included on some models to shield the chamber. If you can see the pilot light burning, then it probably isn’t the issue. If the pilot light is out, you’ll need to re-light it or have a professional do it for you.

A separate issue involves the pilot light refusing to stay lit, which is usually caused by a faulty thermocouple. The thermocouple is a sensor that controls the gas valve for the pilot light. A malfunctioning thermocouple can cut off the gas flow and smother the pilot light prematurely.

If you’re having issues with your furnace, call Comfort Flow Heating. We provide heating services throughout Eugene.

When Is Repairing Your Furnace No Longer Worth It?

November 28th, 2014

Furnaces can last a good long time, as long as you conduct regular maintenance on them. There comes a point, however, when all heating systems need replacing. Let’s take a look at when you should replace your furnace, instead of repairing it.

When it’s Old Enough

The easiest way to tell if your furnace is ready to be replaced is to look at its age. Most furnaces last between 15 and 20 years with regular maintenance and normal usage. As such, if your furnace is over 15 years old you may want to consider replacing it with a new system. Of course, if your furnace appears to be working fine then there is little reason to do so. However, when taken along with our other signs, this one is a good indicator.

When it needs Repairs more Often

As your furnace gets older, the individual parts that make up the system will start to wear out. This isn’t an indication that your furnace needs replacing all by itself. Sometimes parts wear out or break for other reasons. When a furnace gets old enough, however, multiple parts will start failing in rapid succession. This is because the parts wear down at different rates. One or two parts breaking every other year is to be expected. Multiple parts breaking within a few months of each other is a good sign that the system as a whole is worn out.

When Your Heating Bills go up consistently

You should expect your heating bills to fluctuate a little from month to month. You utilize your furnace for different lengths of time each month, after all. However, you should pay close attention to whether your heating bill is consistently rising or staying at a higher rate than normal. This is a sign that your furnace isn’t running as well as it should be, and is having to work harder to compensate. This is often caused by all the wear and tear that builds up on older furnaces.

If you think your furnace needs to be replaced, call Comfort Flow Heating. Our technicians replace furnaces throughout the Eugene area.

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 Comfort Flow Heating , we hope your Thanksgiving is full of joy and contentment this year. Happy feasting!

How Does Duct Sealing Help with Heating?

November 14th, 2014

Without ductwork, the warm air from your heating system doesn’t reach your living spaces. With faulty ductwork, you run the same risk. Why? Air loss can be significant with faulty ductwork, resulting in heat not reaching your living spaces. Ductwork is pretty durable, with an average lifespan of 30+ years, but your ductwork can sustain damage and corrosion just as any other part of your system. One of the best ways to restore your ductwork and improve heating is to schedule professional duct sealing. Duct sealing involves a lot more than placing a piece of duct tape over a crack or hole; this is why it’s important to hire professionals. For more than 50 years, Comfort Flow Heating has helped customers with their heating systems, so call us today!

What Is Duct Sealing?

When a trained professional performs duct sealing, the first step he/she will take is to fully inspect your ductwork. This helps the technician assess the areas that need sealing. Once the areas are identified, sealing can begin. To seal cracks and holes, a fibrous adhesive called mastic is applied to the damaged area. While the mastic is still wet, a piece of foil or fiberglass tape is put on top of the mastic to help secure the bond. When the mastic dries, a hard seal is formed. Sealing disconnections is a little different. First, the two ends that have become separated are joined and covered in mastic. A metal binding is wrapped around the area and secured with sheet metal nails. Once the mastic dries, the area is re-sealed.

How Does Duct Sealing Help With Heating?

  • Better energy efficiency – significantly reducing the air loss from faulty ductwork helps increase your home’s energy efficiency.
  • Better comfort – uneven heating is one of the telltale signs of faulty ductwork. Sealing your ducts allows your system to heat more evenly, reducing the occurrence of hot and cold spots.
  • Less wear on your system – when your system operates with significant heat loss, your heater compensates for this loss by working harder. This can result in more wear on your system.

Faulty ductwork can be a strain your system and on your wallet. If your heating is being affected by faulty ductwork, call Comfort Flow Heating today and schedule your heating service in Eugene with one of our HVAC experts.

Why Is There Ice on My Heat Pump?

November 7th, 2014

If you’re a heat pump owner in a cold climate, chances are you’ve noticed ice forming on the outside of your heat pump while it’s on. Your first impression may be that something is wrong with the heat pump. After all, how is it supposed to warm your house if it can’t even keep itself from icing over? The truth is that a little ice on your heat pump is nothing to worry about… until it is. Let’s take a look at what actually causes ice on your heat pump, and whether or not you should worry about it.

Where does it come from?

A heat pump has two separate units for distributing heat, an interior unit and an exterior unit. In heating mode, the exterior unit is responsible for siphoning heat from the air and directing inside to be used. It does this by using an evaporator coil to transfer refrigerant from a liquid to a gaseous state. As the refrigerant inside the coils evaporates, it becomes a heat sink for the surrounding air, leeching heat from it. Cold air cannot hold as much water vapor as warm air, so the remaining moisture collects on the coils of the unit. Freezing temperatures being—well—freezing, the moisture soon becomes ice on the pump.

Is it a Problem?

Yes and no. Yes, if enough ice builds up it can cause issues for the heat pump. Being mostly or completely covered with ice will effectively cut off the exterior part of the heat pump from its supply of thermal energy. This will make it unable to siphon any appreciable amount of heat from the surrounding air. Fortunately, most heat pumps were designed with defrost cycles to melt the ice around the exterior unit. If you see some ice on your heat pump, don’t panic quite yet. Wait and see if it goes away in an hour or two. If the ice level isn’t dropping, or more ice is accumulating on the pump, then it is possible that your heat pump’s defrost cycle is broken.

If you’re experiencing problems with your heat pump, call Comfort Flow Heating and schedule your heating services in Eugene with us.

Why Consider Ductless Heating?

October 31st, 2014

Ductless heating may be considered an odd choice by some when it comes to heating a large space like a house. After all, ductless heating is limited to one room per unit. Why prefer such limited scope over the broad coverage that a central air system offers? Well, it turns out that ductless heating can actually provide a number of benefits common to central systems, while avoiding some of their biggest disadvantages. Let’s examine why you should consider ductless heating for your home.

Efficiency

It is estimated that forced air systems lose approximately 20-30% of their heat to leaks in the ductwork. Air is already not that great of a thermal conductor, and ducts are especially prone to developing small holes and tears over time. That translates to a lot of extra cost on your heating bills for absolutely no benefit.

Ductless systems, as suggested by their name, eschew duct work entirely, favoring a direct circulation of air between the heating unit and the room it is heating. By doing this, a ductless system completely avoids that 20-30% loss in heating efficiency. This results in noticeable savings on your heating bill.

Flexibility

Because you need a ductless unit for each room that you plan on heating, it is easy to assume that ductless systems cost more than purchasing just one central heating unit. However, this line of reasoning disregards the fact that ductless systems provide the freedom to only heat one or two rooms at a time. A central system is forced to either heat the entire house or none of it, barring special modifications like zoning. This means the majority of that system’s energy could be spent on heating rooms that are not even occupied.

Ductless systems allow you to dictate precisely which rooms will be heated, and even set different temperatures for each. This means that each occupant of the house will get to choose the temperature which is most comfortable for them, with no energy wasted on heating empty rooms.

If you think you may want to have a ductless heating system installed in your home, call Comfort Flow Heating. Our HVAC technicians cover the whole Eugene area.

Signs It’s Time to Replace your Heat Pump

October 24th, 2014

If you own an older heat pump, you may do anything you can to keep it around for a few more years. Admittedly, heat pumps are somewhat costly, as is any large appliance in your home. However, heat pumps can last a few years longer than other forced-air heating and cooling systems, many lasting over 15 years.

If you’re nearing this number, there are a few things you can do to keep your unit around for a little bit longer. Changing the air filter every month keeps unwanted particles from entering your unit, and it ensures the proper airflow. Improper airflow may cause the indoor coil to freeze and forces your unit to work harder, wearing down parts too soon. You can also schedule regular maintenance to ensure all of the parts of your heat pump are working as they should.

However, at some point you will simply need to replace your older unit. A new heat pump can be a great addition to your home, offering better efficiency and keeping your family more comfortable. Look out for any of the following signs that you may need to replace your heat pump.

  • Reduced Heating or Cooling over the Years: Heat pumps are great for any homeowner looking to save some money with an efficient system that also offers high performance heating and cooling. While you can expect your system to lose some power over the years, reduced heating and cooling combined with old age usually simply indicates replacement is the best way to prevent problems from occurring.
  • Frequent Repair Needs: If you seem to call a technician too often for repair services, you may benefit from a new heat pump. You can replace each component of your unit individually, but in the end, this will be far more costly than replacing the entire unit at once. And if several parts of your system have failed, the other components are likely not far behind.
  • Inefficiency: A final indication of a failing system is high energy bills. Maintenance can help keep your system running somewhat more efficiently, but eventually a new system will be the only way to keep costs low. Luckily, you can find a system with a high SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) for efficient cooling as well as a high HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor).

For more information about our heating services in Eugene, call Comfort Flow Heating today!

Some Reasons Why Your Burner Won’t Stay Lit

October 17th, 2014

If your gas-burning heating unit isn’t working, the first thing you probably do is check the pilot light, right? What happens when the pilot light is lit, but the heat still won’t turn on? Chances are, it’s a problem with your burner. Below are some reasons why your burner won’t stay lit.

Malfunctioning Flame Sensor

The flame sensor is responsible for regulating the gas flow to the burner. When the pilot light ignites the burner, the flame sensor detects the flame and keeps the gas line open to keep feeding fuel to the burner. A malfunctioning sensor will not detect the flame, and so will not open the gas line to keep the burner going.

Gas Line Blockage

If your burner lights for a short time but then goes out, you may have a blockage in the gas valve. The gas line is what provides fuel to the burner to keep it lit. A complete blockage often prevents the burner from lighting at all. A partial blockage, however, may allow the burner to light but will not provide enough fuel to keep it lit.

Pressure Switch

A pressure switch is a safety feature installed on more modern systems. If it detects that your system venting pressure is off, it will shut down your heating system to prevent it from venting poisonous gas into your home. This isn’t really a problem with your burners, but from your point of view it can look very much like the burner is having trouble staying lit. Venting problems are often caused by other serious issues, like cracked heat exchangers or a blocked exhaust flue.

No matter what is causing your burners to malfunction, you’ll need a professional to diagnose and fix the problem. If your heating system is experiencing problems, call Comfort Flow Heating. We conduct heating repairs all over the Eugene area.

What Causes Cracks in a Heat Exchanger?

October 10th, 2014

A cracked heat exchanger is one of the most serious issues that your furnace can develop. In furnaces, the heat exchanger is designed to direct combustion byproducts to the exhaust flue on one side and warm air into the house on the other. A cracked heat exchanger can cause combustion byproducts like carbon monoxide to mix with the air being circulated into the house. Practically all of the combustion byproducts from a furnace are toxic, and can cause death in high amounts. In the interest of helping prevent this issue, we’ve assembled a list of causes for cracked heat exchangers.

Overheating

If an air filter becomes too dirty, it can block most of the airflow through the heat exchanger. This causes heat to become trapped in the heat exchanger, where it will put the part under enormous strain. This is one of the most common causes of cracked heat exchangers. It’s also one of the reasons that changing your air filter every month is recommended.

Oversized Furnace

An oversized furnace presents a number of problems for you entire heating system. For the heat exchanger in particular, the constant short-cycling common to oversized furnaces will cause the metal pipes to rapidly expand and contract. Over time, this increased stress can open cracks. An oversized furnace can also cause the heat exchanger to overheat.

Age

Even if you take good care of your heating system, the heat exchanger can simply crack from years of use. The natural cycle of expansion and contraction will cause the metal in your heat exchanger to wear out after enough time. It is far better to have this happen after a couple decades of use, however, than to have to potentially replace your entire furnace after 5 years due to preventable issues.

Regardless of how the problem occurs, the important thing is that you replace a cracked heat exchanger as soon as possible. It might be a pain, but the alternative is much worse. If you think you may have a cracked heat exchanger, call Comfort Flow Heating. We conduct heating repairs throughout the Eugene region.