Month: November 2013

Why You Need A Sacramento Home Performance Expert

Sacramento home performance experts provide feedback to homeowners on getting the most out of their energy use. Their advice can help you save quite a bit on your utility bills—something all homeowners would be quite thankful for. For example, one of a few ways to lower your monthly bill is by limiting air movement into and out of your house and wrapping or re-sealing your ducts. One possible source of leakage are scrawl spaces, which can be a major source of heat loss if they aren’t sealed properly. All of these fiddly details, and more, can be caught by home performance personnel examining your home.

These experts help homeowners set specific goals when diagnosing the energy sapping spots in their home. Such as:

  • Poorly installed windows, cracks around doors and poor insulation
  • Deteriorating insulation in your walls and ceilings
  • Energy sapping circuitry
  • Outdated appliances that don’t use energy efficiently

These energy specialists assist homeowners in pinpointing problems in their home that might be corrected, giving them a more comfortable and affordable home. Areas to examine include the furnace, duct insulation, attics and outside walls to ensure none of these are interfering with the performance of your household’s appliances. You may also be advised to replace air conditioners or furnaces for your safety, comfort, and savings. If you want to make these changes, a home performance expert can also help you design and determine what size system is right for your home. I.e. should you get ductless minisplit air conditioners or install a central cooling unit?

Meanwhile, specialists with certain state and local certification can help Sacramento-area homeowners determine if they qualify for rebates and tax credits on energy-efficiency projects… and help you apply for them in the process of remodeling!

These credits are available on ecologically sound technologies such as solar, wind and geothermal energy. You can also earn them through smaller improvement projects, such as upgrading water heaters, insulation and re-sealing windows and doors.

We can also help you develop a longterm plan for energy efficiency, including evaluating how much energy you use and if a solar power system is right for you. Or perhaps a solar or tankless water heater? There are so many options out there that homeowners can be easily overwhelmed, and often scared away by price tags.

Sacramento home performance experts know fuel distribution costs as well as savings offered by upgrading your equipment. Worried about the price of a solar power system? Well, on average they offer monthly savings of $140 dollars for California residents. Think tankless water heating systems won’t be able to provide the hot water you need? In fact, tankless water heaters can deliver 2-5 gallons of water per minute!

A home performance specialist can also help determine details such as the best way to situate solar panels on your roof, what energy efficient appliances are best for your home, and which alternative fuel sources are ideal for your location, climate, and needs. If you want to take advantage of all the renewable energy, high-performance, cost-saving equipment available today, contact a home performance specialist to see what they can do for you.

When To Replace an HVAC System

An HVAC system can help your home maintain a cozy, comfortable temperature no matter what the seasons throw at you. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems are the underbelly of your house, the duct systems, filters, furnace and cooling unit that your make your house a comfy home.

There are simple ways to tell when components of your HVAC system to need to be replaced.

Heating Components: Furnace & Boiler

Many homes are heated using furnaces or boilers, the former merely distributes heat through the home while the latter can also double as a water heater. Both systems have what are called ‘heat exchangers’ which are the core of their heating functions. If you see that exchangers are damaged in any way you should look into replacing your systems as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you spot any other sort of structural damage have your systems checked out immediately to see if you need them replaced. Furnaces are particularly vulnerable to rust damage if they are near sources of moisture, especially if they are tied to your central air conditioning system. One tell-tale sign of excessive damage is a strange smell, which indicates carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous gas. Boilers on the other hand indicate extreme damage by leaking water.

Air Conditioning

The air conditioning aspect of your HVAC system is harder to gauge. Unlike furnaces or boilers, ACs require far more repairs due to the fact that it’s core system is often outside. Since they are exposed to the elements, and will likely suck things such as dirt and leaves into its system, they require more repairs. You should have someone conduct regular maintenance on the unit. However, if there is severe structural damage, it makes an excessive amount of noise or you need to have it repaired more than once a season you should look into replacing the unit.

Ducts & Vents

Upon inspections ducts are fairly easy to tell if they need to be replaced, you can see breaks, rust, or feel leaks, but that means you need to notice a problem to begin with. The most noticeable sign that your ducts and ventilation system aren’t working to capacity is a lack of uniform heating or air conditioning through your house. If you have zoned temperature control set two rooms to be identical and heat them for the same amount of time, try two to three hours, and check their status. If there is serious difference there may be issues with your ventilation system.

HVAC systems are an extremely important component of your home. These systems circulate fresh air through your house while simultaneously filtering out all the bits you don’t want like pollen and dust. Additionally, HVAC systems maintain a consistent moisture level, not too moist which would cause mold, but not too dry, which could dry out your skin or degrade wood furniture quicker. They are the key to heating and cooling your home and ensuring you and your family are always breathing the fresh California air. You should have your HVAC system inspected every few years and make sure to perform routine maintenance. Replacing the system is much easier on your terms rather than in an emergency.

Ygrene waiving application fees for County residents for the month of November

Ygrene Energy Fund is now offering its financing program for green building upgrades in both Sacramento and Yolo counties. Through the month of November, Ygrene is waiving program application fees in both counties. Visit Ygrene’s Sacramento and Yolo program websites for more information.

When Should You Have Your Air Ducts Checked?

When you buy an appliance you are given an owner’s manual. Vital knowledge includes its proper use, how to tell if something has gone wrong, and when it requires cleaning or maintenance. An air conditioning system, for example, requires a significant amount of attention to ensure it runs properly and efficiently. Sacramento HVAC specialists will help you determine a schedule of cleaning and maintenance on your entire system, including a check on your duct work.

Regular inspection is crucial for appliances such as the air conditioning system. An inspection will provide a wealth of information about the system, such as when it is best to have the ducts cleaned or the units cooled.

Regardless of this schedule, you should have your duct-work checked if there is any visible mold growth inside any component of the air conditioning system, especially on the ducts. It should also be checked by Sacramento HVAC specialists if you suspect that the duct is clogged with dust and particles. This can be determined by a visual inspection of the easily-accessible parts of the system or the filters.

When To Have Your Ducts Checked

  • You might also need to have your system inspected if you have reason to suspect it isn’t working properly. If, for example, you hear strange noise from the air duct, you should have the ducts professionally examined to determine the problem.
  • If your utility bill goes up an unreasonable amount that’s a sign that something isn’t work right.
  • Your home seems visibly dustier than it ever was in the past.
  • If members of your family become ill or their allergies act up very badly when indoors.

Generally speaking, it is best to schedule regular inspections to ensure things are working optimally in order to avoid these problems altogether. A thorough inspection is the only way a contractor can know what problems your ducts or air conditioning system might be hiding from you. Finding a qualified specialist can alleviate many of your worries and answer any questions you may have about maintenance. Before you hire a contractor, you should make sure they are qualified, licensed, certified and insured before accepting their services. What you learn from even one visit by a trained professional will be invaluable in determining what your system requires and how best to provide it.

The inspection will allow your Sacramento HVAC specialist to identify what problems, if any, exist in the ducts and the rest of the system. The course of action might be as simple as a cleaning, but make sure it is done properly otherwise more particles could be released into your house than ever before. If there is a greater problem than simple cleaning perhaps resealing or replacing is in order. It is possible that, on older ducts, cleaning and repairing aren’t enough to ensure appropriate air flow and cleanliness. In fact, replacing ductwork with modernized, efficient equipment can reduce your utility bills. There is nothing as important as breathing in fresh and clean air, and maintaining your ductwork is a small price to pay for that luxury.

What To Do Before Hiring a Home Service Specialist

There are many types of home service specialists in and around the Sacramento area. Anyone who provides services meant to improve the appearance or functioning of a home can be referred to a home service specialist. However, not all of these specialists are armed with the same level of knowledge and experience, since it is quite difficult to find one person with an extensive understanding of all areas of home improvement.

There are several categories of professional service providers, such as plumbers, heating technicians, residential contractors, general contractors, and many more. When choosing a contractor, there are certain important things to learn about the contractor and several important questions to ask them.

The first thing you should look for in a potential contractor are their certifications and credentials. Technically, every contractor should have a certificate or license to show that they underwent some form of training and are therefore allowed to offer their services. There is also a minimum experience timeline requirement to obtain a license, which varies by trade. Licensing requirements will vary from state to state, but a contractor must have a license from his state’s licensing board. They must also be insured to the level appropriate to their work. Furthermore, contractors should be members of the National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA). If possible, it is best to choose one that is also certified by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). These factors will help you determine if the person you are interested in hiring is a dependable contractor.

Once you have confirmed that the contractor has all the credentials and certifications in order, you ought to find out what his clients feel about his services. Going through testimonials will help you learn about their quality of work as well as their work ethic. Research reviews on websites like Angie’s List to learn more about their quality or work and professionalism. Were they timely? Did they do their job to the satisfaction of the client? Did they offer a guarantee for their services? Do any of their previous clients have legitimate complaints? You can also find out if they were reasonably tidy about their work, if they left clients’ driveways and yards a mess when they left, and how their communication was with the client. All of these questions can help you decide if you’ve found the right contractor for you or if you ought to keep looking.

If you find that the testimonials are satisfactory, it’s time for you to call the contractor to set up an appointment. Ideally, you should prepare a list of questions you would like to ask the contractor before you hire them. These questions can confirm their credentials, but there are other things you might want to enquire after, such as:

  • How long have they been in the business?
  • What services do they provide?
  • Do they work alone?
  • Can they provide you with copies of their insurance policy?
  • Can they provide you with a quote for the services you’re seeking?

Although these are all useful things to know, this list is not exhaustive. There may be particular information you need in order to make a decision depending on your needs. It’s always best to research and consult with someone extensively before hiring them to do such a large project. When inviting someone to your home you should be completely comfortable and confident they will meet your needs.

What are the advantages of solar water heating versus tankless water heating?

In the last decade, the green energy industry has revolutionized the way homes heat, store and even use hot water. Rather than suffer the high utility bills of old conventional water heating systems more and more people are switching to solar water heating systems or tankless water heating systems. If you’re considering investing in a new water heating system, how do you know which is right for you? Each come with their own advantages and disadvantages so think carefully about your family’s needs.

Solar Water Heating:

There are two types of solar water heating systems: active and passive.

  • Active systems have circulating pump controls so that water that is collected in tanks is pump-circulated throughout your home.
  • Passive systems store tanks near solar panels and merely rely on convection to move water throughout the system. In essence, cold water is pulled up to the panels to heat and sent down when it reaches an optimal temperature without as much control.

How the Systems Work:

Passive System

Solar panels pull water into tubing around the outside of the panel. Energy collected from the sun is used to heat that water. When the water is warm it is transferred back into the system and cold water is pulled up again. The system will continue to circulate water so long as whatever is the storage tank is colder than the water next to the panels. If you don’t use a lot of hot water it would be in your best interest to get a temperature controller that regulates the system, otherwise your water could overheat.

Because these systems directly heat the water, the tanks need to be stored closer to the solar panels. Either next to or directly beneath the panels. In many cases, unless near a garage, they need to be stored outside, which leads to weathering of the tank faster as well as greater heat loss. These systems tend to be cheaper than active systems.

Active System

Solar panels collect water or a heating fluid in tubing next to the panels. Once whem, the system will circulate that fluid down into the tank and through a heat exchanger in the middle of the tank, which warms the water in the tank. Once the fluid that was transferred up to the panels is warmer than the fluid in the exchanger, the system will circulate again creating a constant movement of fluid for maximum efficiency.

Generally, these systems are far more sophisticated than passive ones because they offer much greater control and flexibility. For example, the tanks can be stored away from the panels in insulated areas, which reduces heat loss, and are managed by a controller. This controller often has the ability to monitor efficiency, temperature readings, differential settings, which determines how often fluid circulates through the system, and even energy saved.

Tankless Systems:

The major difference between tankless water heating and solar water heating systems is that tankless uses energy to power a fast-heating device for on-demand service. They can still be solar powered, but only if you use solar power for your electric supply. Otherwise, they are gas powered.

Solar water heating systems have their own panels and piping that are not connected to your electrical supply.

How They Work:

Essentially, a heating element of some kind, either an electric heat exchanger or piping warmed by gas burners, is connected to a containment unit. When you turn on the faucet or shower water is transferred into the unit and rapid heated. According to Energy.gov, tankless water heaters can provide hot water at a rate of 2-5 gallons per minute, gas burners operate at a slightly higher rate. Unfortunately, since there is not storage tankless water heaters are not ideal for intense simultaneous use, such as operating a dishwasher and someone taking a hot shower. Otherwise, if you are a low-use household, tankless water heaters are a great alternative to conventional heaters. They are 24-34% more efficient than conventional systems. Additionally, if you install tankless heating units at every hot water outlet you can receive energy savings of up to 27-50%.

Which To Choose:

Both systems offer advantages and disadvantages, so your choice depends on your needs.

  • Tankless systems are a great alternative for a low-use household. However, if you are a family of six who all enjoy taking hot showers every day a tankless system may not work well for you (unless you install multiple units).
  • Solar water heating, on the other hand can be a great solution to all your heating needs. Since the system is solar powered you can sleep easy knowing your are decreasing your carbon footprint and your utility bill as well. Yet, these systems require more maintenance over the long run, but solar panels last on average 25 years, which we all know is much longer than a conventional storage tank system.

Your best bet is to monitor your hot water usage and to consult with a water heating specialists who knows about both systems. They can give you feedback about each system and help you design one that is right for your home.

Tune Up Your Air Conditioner For Peak Performance

Air conditioners are hardworking machines and without proper service and maintenance, their performance deteriorates. This loss of effectiveness results in both a decrease in functioning—leaving you warmer when you’d like to be cool—and an increased appetite for the energy you pay good money for. Fortunately, with just a quick tune up from Sacramento HVAC specialists, your air conditioner can be restored and stay in top condition for much longer.

How Do You Know Your Air Conditioner Needs A Tune Up?

Your air conditioner does not need to be broken before you request a tune up. In fact, just like you have your car’s oil changed and the tires rotated, regular tune-ups are one of the best ways to prevent serious problems that can cause the unit to break down. Scheduled maintenance and inspections are the best way to ensure your air conditioner is running smoothly.

There are, however, a few signs that indicate your air conditioner needs to be serviced immediately. The most common tell tale sign is when the unit starts making unfamiliar noises. Noise could mean a part is loose or something is caught in the system and being tossed around. If you notice strange sounds coming from your cooling system that you do not recognize, it is best to switch it off completely and call an HVAC specialists to inspect it.

Other indicators include leaking, small pools of water underneath the device, an unpleasant smell and unusually warm air when in use. It might also start cooling some parts of the room better than others. If one part of the room is cool and other areas are slightly warmer, you should consult a specialist quickly.

What Is A Tune Up?

A tune up is a professionally administered process where a specialist inspects, cleans and repairs an air conditioning system to restore normal function. The expert is likely to adjust the thermostat to help regulate the air temperature, fix the wiring, ensure that the fan is well-lubricated and inspect compressor amps.

They might also clean the condenser, drain and evaporator coil. After performing these tasks, it is crucial for the expert to conduct thorough checks for safety and performance. There’s more to a tune-up than just cleaning the filter.

Why Is A Tune Up Important?

Through use and time, air conditioners lose their ability to run smoothly. The more they struggle to function, the more energy they use up. Having your system tuned will therefore cut out additional energy costs.

Also, it’s important to note that when an air conditioner begins to show the previously-mentioned signs of damage, continuing to use it will only worsen the damage to the system. The best thing to do is to shut it down and have it tuned to save you the cost and hassle of buying a new system.

Another benefit of tuning is that it improves longevity. Conditioners that receive regular tune ups are likely to last twice as long. Regular cleaning can prevent substances from accumulating and clogging the air system, leading both to cleaner, fresher indoor air and protecting your system from damaging particulate accumulation.

Next time you suspect your air conditioner needs a looking over, call Sacramento HVAC specialists for a professional tune up. Whether you are installing your first cooling system or need an older one repaired,  a professional can help you give your air conditioner the care it needs to give you years of fresh, cool air.

The Right Pool Pump According To Sacramento Pool Specialists

Are you worried your pool pump is using far too much energy? Looking to replace an old pool pump? Is your pump not working up to snuff anymore?

Years ago, when you built a pool you were often given the option of a single or two-speed pool pump. Your technician probably showed you the two settings you’ll use: slow for filtration and fast for vacuuming/pool cleaning. Over the years the pump has served you well, but recently you noticed it’s not working up to the standard it used to or your energy bill seems a bit high. Unfortunately, your pump is likely worn out or you bill really is too high.

Two Speed Pumps

The older pumps were designed to handle the basic functions required to upkeep a pool, not to meet your variable needs as a homeowner. Many of these pumps were also designed before true energy conservation became a buzzword in California.

Here’s how they work:

  1. The first setting is for basic filtration regardless of the size of your pool. Many pumps are designed to meet varying pool sizes so there isn’t any customization about overall functioning. What you see is what you get, even if it’s too strong for a pool of your size and is therefore wasting money.
  2. The second setting is for cleaning. Considering you don’t need to do this for very long or that often, it isn’t a huge money waste. However, if you use this setting for other functions like jets you probably aren’t getting the optimal quality or are burning your pump out too quickly since it’s not designed for such heavy use.

Variable Speed Pumps

Recognizing that pumps were burning out too quickly or wasting energy, manufacturers created variable speed pool pumps. Their features include:

  1. A variety of speeds and pressure recognition sensors to adjust for your pool needs. For example, its basic function, filtering pool water, requires a very low setting. Yet, once you attach a vacuum hose, the system recognizes that it must increase speed to vacuum the pool.
  2. You can also pre-program settings for jets to enjoy the gentle or vigorous massage of your sitting areas in your pool.
  3. Some estimates show they can be up to 90% more efficient than single or two speed models.
  4. Because they operate at the most efficient speeds at all times, particularly a lower speed for filtration, they won’t burn out as quickly as two-speed pumps thus extending the life of your equipment.
  5. Since they are so much more efficient, there are a variety of rebates available for upgrading your system.

Which pump you need really depends on the size and use of your equipment. If you size your pump appropriately from the beginning and only want to filter and clean your pool, a two-speed pump may be perfect for you. On the other hand, if you have a larger system and more complicated equipment, like fountain jets and massagers, you should look into variable speed pool pumps. Both offer advantages and disadvantages that any homeowner should take into consideration.

The Most Cost-Efficient Solar Water Heating Systems Available

Solar water heating systems combine several technologies for collecting the sun’s rays, heating the water, and then storing it until it’s ready for use. Since energy from the sun is free, the solar-savvy homeowner only has to pay for the services of HVAC specialists or solar specialists in and near Sacramento and for the water heating system itself.

After the purchase and installation, the functioning system is entirely free to use. A solar heater will work for most of the year, but can slow down in the winter when days are much shorter. If this natural slowing casts hardship on the household, gas or electric water heating can help bridge the gap during these months. If your climate doesn’t have a winter season to speak of, solar heaters might slow a bit on cloudy days. However, these systems store have the option to store surplus energy in rechargeable batteries, which compensates for days with less direct sunlight. Overall though, your solar water heating system should meet all of your solar needs.

How Solar Water Heating Systems Work

Your heating system will consist of two parts: a storage tank for water and solar collectors for the sun’s energy. There are two general types of water heating systems that use solar power, known as direct and indirect systems.

  1.  A direct system will circulate water through solar collectors. The collectors are large panels that collect the energy of the sun.
  2. An indirect system will heat your household water by mixing it first in a reservoir with fluid that has already been heated by the collector. This heat transfer fluid is usually water but can also be a mixture of water and antifreeze mixed together. The antifreeze is propylene glycol which is non-toxic. Because of this process, indirect systems offer protection from freezing in the winter. However, indirect systems tend to be more expensive.

Active and Passive Systems

  • Passive systems cost less because they use naturally occurring heat convection to circulate water through the system. These are great for places with no winter because they can be efficient for long periods without needing maintenance. If your region experiences freezing temperatures, however, the passive system may not be for you, as it can freeze or overheat in extreme weather.
  • The active system uses a pump to circulate water rather than convection. Again, the relative complexity of this system in comparison to a passive one means that they can cost more.

Photovoltaic Solar Panels

Photovoltaic solar panels are used in photovoltaic systems (or PV systems) to collect the sun’s energy to convert to electrical energy. The direct current produced by the PV system can then be used for a variety of applications in addition to heating water. PV systems produce the highest energy yields, but you will need a converter to produce DC power. Several solar panels are often linked together to create a photovoltaic array to be able to collect enough solar energy for use in the household. A panel can produce 100 to 400 watts, depending on cloud cover.

Solar heating is more popular in Europe and Asia than it is in the United States. Israel is the first country to require new homes to install solar powered water heaters and today 85% of households use them, saving the country 3% in total energy costs. Considering the variety of systems available for household use, your local solar specialists would like to help you help Sacramento become a similarly green-powered area.