Month: September 2013

Heat Pump Water Heaters: Using Heat Your Already Have

Conventional water heaters have units that create heat to warm the water in the tank. Whereas, heat pump water heaters use heat you already have to warm the water in your home. These water heaters are far more efficient at conserving and using electricity than your conventional water heater. In fact, heat pump water heatersgenerate about twice as much hot waterfrom the same amount of electricity as conventional water heaters.

How They Work:

The common metaphor is that they are a refrigerator in reverse. Where refrigerators pulls out warm air and try to cool the space inside, heat pump water heaters bring in heat you already have in your HVAC system to heat water. Just as its easier to tailor a pair of pants than to make some from scratch, moving heat is much, much easier than generating it. So why not work with what you have?

Our friends atGreen Building Advisor can explain the technical terms pretty well:

“[A] heat-pump water heater uses electricity to move heat from one place to another–in this case, from the surrounding air where the unit is located into the water.This is done by circulating a special “refrigerant” fluid that can be alternately evaporated into a gas and condensed into a liquid by changing its pressure.

Surrounding air is drawn into the heat pump where the heat in that air vaporizes refrigerant in the “evaporator,” releasing cooler air into the room. The refrigerant vapor is then pumped through a “compressor” where it condenses back into liquid form and releases its stored heat into the water.”

In other words, the system sucks heat from a warm room and uses it to heat water. The downside? The heat pump system needs to be near a heat source to actually help you save energy and money. Yet, if you have a furnace that radiates heat or you use a wood stove to heat your home, a heat pump water heater can use some of that extra energy to warm up your water rather than using electricity or other expensive sources like conventional water heaters.

Meanwhile, if you live in a comfortable climate like we do here in Sacramento, heat pump water heaters are great partial air-conditioning units, because they suck in warm air as well as moisture!

The downside is that you need a sufficient amount of heat in the environment to warm the water. Placement of the system here is key, and whether or you can store them outdoors or indoors will vary on your model. California is an ideal climate for outdoor storage, meaning you can harness the free energy from the sun to warm a containment cell that will create warm air for the unit to use. Kind of like walking into a hot shed in the summer. Otherwise, an HVAC specialist will be able to advise you on how and if a heat pump water heater can work for you.

When upgrading your water heating system, or looking for additional alternatives to reduce your utility bill, it’s important to weigh all your options. Heat pump water heaters can be a great option to California residents and we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions.

Home Solar Power System: Net Metering

The benefits of having a solar power system in your home are huge. Although the initial investment can be a bit pricey, it’s well worth it for the amount you’ll save in the long run. Since electricity rates are only going to increase over time, the amount you keep in your pocket after the initial investment in solar can be substantial. After the system is installed, it could theoretically pay for itself by the end of its first year of service.

Beyond just the money saved there is a system called net metering that will allow you to save energy credits for when you generate more than you use.

How does this work? Well, your utility meter will read both energy coming into your system from the grid and energy you put back into the system. Whenever your system generates energy you don’t use it can be put back into the system. If you run a surplus the utility company can either pay you for the energy or add a credit to your account. So, if the next month you use more energy than you expect, like on powering a huge party, the credit will be put toward your utility bill.

Some companies offer net metering and others just pay out yearly.Check out your utility contract to find out if you can use net metering, and if so see if your credits will roll into the next year or if you are paid out for bonus energy at the end of the year.

Monetary Payouts

  • You receive either monthly payouts or a yearly check for the amount of extra energy your system generates
  • You can see incremental or lump sum results of your system powering the grid
  • Not a reliable, consistent source of income
  • Doesn’t pay at a premium

Utility Credits

  • Automatically creditied to your account and can be applied to your future utility bills
  • You must know how your contract is setup to see what you can expect in credits or payouts
  • Likely to get a better price because crediting reduces utility company overhead

If the benefits for both your bank account and the environment sound tempting, you don’t have to work out the details of installing the system or setting up contracts on your own. You can hire a company to assist with the entire process, from choosing the size of the system that best meets your needs to performing the installation process. Additionally, solar services companies have experience setting up net metering contracts so they can guide you in the process and recommed what is best for you. With their assistance, the transition will go much more smoothly for you than if you tried to tackle it alone.

You can still be involved in this process as much as you like, but that kind of help will allow you to spend more time enjoying your clean, efficient energy and less time fussing with legal language or payout system rules.

With modern technology just a phone call away, why wait to install and setup solar power systems with net metering? These could be the key to your energy future.

Carmichael HVAC Testimonial Letter

Sierra Pacific Home & Comfort

To Whom It May Concern,

This note is an endorsement of the fine work and service we received last Friday by a team of three very courteous gentlemen who installed our new AC system.They were efficient,tidy, very accommodating and hard working.Joe,Rex and Phil did a great job and our system is working beautifully.

Thank you Sierra Pacific. We have been very Pleased with the service through the years.



Geothermal Heat Pumps

Have you ever visited or seen famed thermal hot springs? Ever wonder how it is that pools of water can be heated completely on their own. These pools are fueled by dense pockets of geothermal energy. Yet, these aren’t the only places that produce geothermal energy. The supply is everywhere and green energy specialists have figured out innovative ways to harness this energy to heat your home.

Geothermal Heating:

Do you remember when you would buy a fish from the pet store and need to submerge its bag of water in the tank before you let him get into the water? That’s because the temperature of the tank’s water needed to adjust the water in the bag so the fish wouldn’t die of shock.

Geothermal operates under a very similar principle. The ground remains a fairly consistent temperature all year round, about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. After being snaked through the ground, the ends of long pipes of liquid are attached to a geothermal heat pump. The pump works two ways:

When you want to warm your house, the system will warm the liquid understand and then cycle it into the pump. The heat will be delivered to refrigerant coils that distribute the heat into your home through a type of blower.

When you want to cool your space, the system will suck in warm air and transfer the heat from that to the liquid. The liquid will then be moved to the pipes in the ground, which will diffuse the heat out until the liquid is cool again. When it is coo, it will cycle back into the pump to receive more heat and repeat the process.

The Major Benefits:

  • Geothermal is completely renewable because the Earth will never run out of energy.
  • The temperature consistency means the system is dual-functioning, saving on purchasing or using other equipment.
  • Geothermal heating uses 25-50% less electricity than traditional heating systems.
  • The system is quiet and very durable; common estimates states that these systems operation will last at least 25 years.
  • Very few moving parts so it requires very little maintenance.
  • Can be installed in relatively small amounts of land because the pipes can be manipulated. Unlike solar panels which all take up a finite amount of space, the underground piping can take on a variety of different shapes from long narrow lines to curls that look like springs. As long as you can dig deep enough and your designer is creative, you can install geothermal in nearly any configuration.

The Drawbacks:

  • Significantly more expensive than traditional heating. The average cost is about 3-4 times that of a conventional heating system.
  • Unlike some solar systems which you could setup yourself, geothermal must be installed by a professional. Because the coils need to be a certain depth in the ground and the system is setup with a specialized coolant, professional services are required.
  • Easier to setup on new homes because you can install modern ductwork. Otherwise, ductwork may need to be overhauled to be compatible with these types of systems.

Geothermal is one of many great energy-efficient, renewable options on the market today. If you are interested in if a geothermal heat pump if right for you, contact a an HVAC specialist to learn more.

Furnace Tune-ups Save Energy and Money

If you believe your furnace is not functioning properly, it is definitely time for a tune-up. But how can you tell if your furnace is acting strangely? There are many signs of a defective system, such as uneven heating from room to room, an erratic thermostat, odd noises coming from the furnace itself, unusually high heating bills, and extremely dry air. Sacramento HVAC specialists can locate and resolve any problems with home heating and cooling systems.

When heating systems fail, a thorough diagnosis is called for, especially if family members are suffering from allergies or experiencing unexplained headaches and flu symptoms. Leaking ducts can bring mold and other impurities into the home, leading to various physical discomforts and illnesses. One of the things a furnace tune-up can do is eliminate leakage in the HVAC system. Sacramento HVAC specialists will conduct a complete diagnosis and tune-up for an ailing furnace. A tune-up will help discover leaky ducts and mechanical problems in the furnace unit.

Health benefits aside, furnace tune-ups also save you money by cutting down on wasted energy. While the average life of home furnaces is between 15 and 20 years, some units fail much earlier if they are not properly maintained. If your furnace is old and requires frequent fixing, it might be time for a replacement. In order to avoid the pains of buying and installing a completely new furnace, be sure to have your current system serviced on a regular basis in order to get the maximum efficiency and life expectancy from your unit.

Smart homeowners will get the most from their furnaces by keeping an eye on utility bills. When monthly charges seem higher than normal, it might be time for a furnace tune-up. This vigilance pays off in more than scheduling regular maintenance, however. Homeowners who set their thermostats up just one degree will typically see a four percent rise in heating costs per month. If you haven’t touched the dial in a bit and your bills are still higher than expected, this is a great time to contact a specialist to examine your HVAC system. When a thermostat does not seem to be doing its job, the problem is often due to a faulty furnace or leaky ducts. This is where a tune-up will have a direct effect on energy bills. An efficient furnace system will deliver uniformly warm air to every room of the house, and respond easily to changes you make with the thermostat.

No homeowner wants to gamble with their own health, much less that of family members and loved ones. Broken or inefficient furnaces can allow carbon monoxide to leak into the home. The gas is invariably hazardous to humans and animals. And because CO is colorless and odorless, its presence can go undetected for long periods. A furnace inspection and tune-up will find these dangerous conditions and restore the heating unit to its proper state of efficiency. And if you haven’t got a CO detector already, invest in one!

Sacramento HVAC specialists know where to find the cause of furnace malfunctions as well as how to fix them. With regular inspections, homeowners will not have to worry about their family’s health or safety. Not only will everyone in the home breathe easier, they will be at a much lower risk for dust allergy attacks.

If you notice any symptoms of a faulty heating unit, have a professional examine the system right away. The longer you wait, the worse the problem will get. A tune-up is the easiest way to prevent some truly serious furnace woes.

Follow Up Questions & Research on an HVAC Specialist

Though once considered a luxury, the ability to control one’s home or business climate has become nothing short of a necessity in modern life. As such, the technicians who maintain and repair heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units are invaluable. Therefore, selecting the right Sacramento HVAC specialists is critical. The undertaking of finding a reliable and reputable service professional, however, can be quite daunting. Having a clear plan and a sense of what to ask and look for will make the process painless and ensure quality results.

Beginning the selection process requires taking some proactive steps as a consumer. The first is to identify, as much as a layman can, exactly what your problem entails. This will help you to communicate effectively with potential providers and enable you to get the most accurate quotes and information. Given that many specialists charge a fee to do an on-site evaluation, this can be an important, money saving step. Next, you will need to ask friends, co-workers, family for their recommendations. This will help generate a list of potential specialists to contact. Moreover, any negative experiences will alert you to specialists you definitely want to avoid. Finally, a search on the internet or in the phone book should round out your set of companies to consider.

Once you have created a list of potential service providers, it is time to begin making calls. There are many important questions to cover when contacting potential Sacramento HVAC specialists. Make certain that the provider you are considering advertises licensed technicians. You may want to request a copy of their license and credentials. Also, ask for a copy of the company’s insurance policy. You may also want to inquire as to the number of years a particular service provider has been in business to gain a sense of their reliability. Ask for quotes from several different vendors (at least three). This will help illuminate any clearly overpriced or suspiciously under priced options.

As a savvy consumer, it is important to check on the company you are considering with the Better Business Bureau as well as to do an internet search for customer reviews. While reviews should be considered with the proverbial grain of salt, if there is an extraordinary amount of negative responses, it might be best to disregard that particular specialist. Depending on your situation, you may want to check on differences in price for after-hours and/or weekend work. Finally, determine whether or not the company guarantees their work and/or what warranties they offer.  It would be wise to select a provider who also offers a planned maintenance strategy. Such a program includes periodic testing, adjusting, and lubricating. This type of service will lead to optimal functioning and long-life of a HVAC system.

In short: create a list, contact providers and ask probing questions, get quotes, and make an informed decision. Following this procedure will help you select the best HVAC specialist for your needs with confidence, thus assuring air quality and climate control for your home and/or business.


Financial Options For Upgrading Your Home’s Energy System

Do you want to upgrade your heating system but fear the high costs of purchasing and installing a modern system? If so, take a deep breath: there are a variety of funding sources to help offset the cost of installing new, energy-efficient appliances and systems in your home. For many people these tax credits and rebates can help you make important changes to an antiquated system without having to pay the full sticker price of new appliances and home improvements. Here are just a few examples of funding sources that can increase your financing options and allow you to make needed changes to your home.

Tax Credits for Solar Utility by the Federal Government

Having recognized the need to encourage energy-efficiency in American homes, the federal government is offering a thirty percent tax credit to homeowners who install solar power systems on their property. It is possible that the credit will entirely compensate for the cost of the upgrade. In order to make the most of this credit, be sure your taxes are up to date. Also, be sure that the equipment you use in the renovation is approved by the Solar Rating Certification Corporation (SRCC) if you’re planning to make use of this credit. If you’re interested in an upgrade and have questions about the process, contact a solar specialist in the Sacramento area, who can help you make the best decision about a solar-energy upgrade. For more information on upgrades and tax credits, you can check Solar Roofs.

Rebates on New Energy-Saving Appliances at Home

If you decide to install new energy-efficient appliances in your home, you may be eligible for up to $3200 in rebates and savings. About $950 of that comes from rebates, plus a $500 tax credit. This can help offset the purchase and installation cost of a new air conditioner, heater, or furnace. Aside from the initial credits toward acquisition and installation, you can also save quite a bit on your utility bills with newer, less wasteful equipment. More modern systems also add value to your home.

Rebates for an Energy Upgrade in Your Home in California

The state of California also offers incentives for homeowners looking to make energy-efficient upgrades. Useful improvements include new attic insulation, duct sealing, a thermostat shut-off regulator, hot water tube insulation, and installing a carbon monoxide detector. To earn these rebates, contact a contractor who can assess your home and determine a plan to improve it. He can also help you ask for a rebate for the necessary modifications. More information can be found at Energy Savvy.  There are many specialists in the Sacramento area who can help you determine which upgrades are needed and how to get these very useful rebates.

The California state government is dedicated to encouraging its residents towards greener, more energy efficient utilities and appliances. There are many financial options on the city, state and federal level to help you and your family afford safe, efficient upgrades to your home. If you have questions, don’t forget you can always just ask us.

Energy Efficient Loans and Products

While the rising costs of energy are definitely having a negative impact on the average householder, greener power sources and updated, energy-efficient technology is gaining popularity as a sustainable, affordable alternative. Energy efficient loans, or “green loans”, are available to homeowners from Sacramento solar specialists, local authorities and the federal government to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Low rate loans are available from various sources to help install solar panels or make other resource-saving improvements.

Energy Focused Loans

Credit-worthy homeowners should have a very easy time securing such a loan. One example is the FHA Energy-Efficient Mortgages which can be used to add value to the principal of a loan to cover the installation of energy efficient resource. According to the Eco Broker, “An energy-efficient mortgage can add an additional 15% of a home’s appraised value to the principal of a new loan or a refinance, often at no additional cost, no compromise in the loan-to-value ratio for the borrower, and sometimes at a better rate.” So if you are interested in installing solar on a home you are purchasing or building, or want to take out a mortgage for this type of project you should look at EEMs.

Credit unions and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) are other places to look for loans. Credit unions have a vested interested in providing capital to community members to increase the long-term growth and stability of their service region, and energy indepence is clearly a part of that mission. Whereas, CDFIs are intended to develop communities for a variety of reasons. You should certainly search for CDFIs in California that focus on energy development, particularly through the OnePacific Coast Bank.

Using Home Equity

Another way to fund your home remodeling or repair is through home equity loans or equity based lines of credit. These financial products can help you get the resources you need to make energy and money saving improvements to your home. Because most homes are fairly valuable, it makes a very good asset for securing the money these types of changes require. Home equity loans provide the money upfront in a lump sum, whereas a line of credit based on equity allows you to withdrawal money as needed.

New innovative financial products are supported by excellent customer service teams who are ready to help the consumer. Asking questions is absolutely free and could be the key to your energy independence.

Many of these financial products can be applied for online. After the application is submitted, a team of underwriters will review the application and respond quickly. Monthly payments on the loan total the principle plus the interest rates. Generally, funds from $10,000 to $100,000 are available it just depends on your need. There may also be federal tax credits or rebates for changes made to a home that improve its energy efficiency

Sacramento Residents Get a Special Rebate

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) program can also provide financial incentives for home improvements and appliance replacement that increases energy efficiency. These rebates specifically reward consumers who choose Energy Star products and other resource-decreasing upgrades. These rebates and financial products exist to help encourage homeowners to take an environmentally cautious approach to home improvement and appliance selection. SMUD also offer loans of up to $10,000 for business owners looking to invest in energy efficient technology; applications for such loans are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Although the initial cost of a change may be high, energy-efficient systems like solar power and other home upgrades are cost-effective in the long run, not to mention far better for the health of the planet. There are many financing options available to homeowners and businesses, and your local solar specialist can help you determine which improvements and resources are right for you and your home.

Ductless Minisplit Air Conditioners

Unlike central air conditioning systems, which require extensive ductwork and a core cooling unit, ductless minisplit air conditioners are the solutions to your individual cooling needs. These little systems are perfect for ductless houses, spaces where it could be too costly to upgrade, or smaller space such as apartments, room additions or off-building studios.

What exactly is a ductless minisplit air conditioner?

Instead of installing a large cooling unit in your home and pumping cold air through your ventilation system, ductless minisplit air conditioners are installed in individual rooms to meet your cools needs. The units have two parts: an outdoor compressor/condenser and an indoor unit. There’s a central conduit that ties the two pieces together.

A three-inch hole is drilled through your wall and connected using a conduit. Fortunately, most manufacturers can provide varying lengths of conduits so you can mount the unit inside, and run the conduit cable down to an outdoor unit. No need to worry about hanging the unit off the side of the house and ruining the look of your home.

The major advantage to this system is that it offers you a controlled cooling solutions. Unlike central cooling, which unless setup to zone, will simply cool your entire home. Ductless minisplit air conditioners can be installed in whichever rooms you want to cool and turned on and off at your convenience. For example, if you front room receives a lot of sun but your back den is often cold, you only need to install a ductless minisplit air conditioner in the front space. As a result, you only pay to heat that space rather than all the rooms in your home. Finally, “Duct losses can account for more than 30% of energy consumption for space conditioning, especially if the ducts are in an unconditioned space such as an attic.” ductless minisplit air conditioners don’t have ducts so that loss isn’t an issue at all!

Another example, if you have a studio built on your property, for example a writing or painting studio in your yard, and you want to air condition it in the summer without connecting it to your central heating system. A ductless minisplit air conditioner is the perfect energy efficient solution, rather than those old, loud, clunky air conditioners. Besides, those old air conditioners often leave your windows vulnerable to break-ins, whereas ductless minisplit air conditioners allow to completely cool and lock up your spaces without fear of burglary.

If you want to cool your space during the warmest parts of Sacramento summers without the installation costs of central cooling systems, a ductless minisplit air conditioner may be the solution you are looking for.