Get A Head Start With The Electronically Commutated Motor

February 19, 2013
Fifteen years ago, blower-fan motors in most furnaces were inherently inefficient. These permanent-split capacitor motors are now largely a thing of the past, thanks to the electronically commutated motor. If you’re looking for an HVAC upgrade, an ECM will give you a good start. How ECMs boost efficiency The PSC motor was always somewhat inefficient because the motor’s magnetic field was never fully synchronized with the rotor. The motor was even less efficient at low speeds. Most had only an “on” and “off” mode, with no way to adjust power and heat output. The direct-current DC electronically commutated motor, a type of brushless DC motor, resolves these problems. ECMs are efficient at all speeds. They are also capable of varying their speed to more precisely meet your home’s heating and cooling demands at any given moment, which further improves efficiency. ECM benefits
  • Lower energy expenses — A high-efficiency furnace or heat pump with an electronically commutated motor can reduce your energy expenses by 25 to 75 percent over a system with a PSC motor.
  • More consistent temperatures — ECMs are two-stage motors that start at a low speed and kick into a higher speed only if the required room temperature isn’t reached within a certain time. This prevents temperature swings and drafts PSC motors can create.
  • Improved A/C efficiency — PSC motors generate so much heat that an air conditioning system with one of these motors is forced to expend extra energy on cooling just to overcome the motor’s heat. ECMs run cool.
ECMs also run more quietly and last longer than PSC motors. If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, consider upgrading to a new system with an ECM motor. For more information on ECM motors and their benefits, contact Balance Point Heating & Cooling. We provide timely, cost-effective HVAC care throughout the Fort Collins area. Continue Reading

Why A Dual-Fuel Heating System Outperforms Other Equipment

February 14, 2013

If you’re less than satisfied with your heating system, consider the advantages a dual-fuel system. A dual-fuel system is like a hybrid car, able to access two fuel sources. The system is intelligent enough to know when to access each fuel source to maximize efficiency. Here’s how the system outperforms other equipment.

A dual-fuel system is composed of an air-source heat pump and a secondary heating source, most often a gas-powered furnace or an oil or propane heating system. Instead of generating heat from scratch, the heat pump transfers heat. In the winter, it sources heat in the outdoor air and moves it into the home. Because it simply moves heat energy and because there’s heat to be sourced even in colder weather, a heat pump can have a very high heating efficiency in temperatures above 32 degrees. In fact, many homeowners see a return of $4 of heat for every $1 spent on energy to power the pump.

So what happens when the temperature drops below freezing? Many heat pumps can’t adequately source heat in the outdoor air, and as a result, they switch to a backup heating element that consumes large amounts of energy. That’s why manufacturers came up with dual-fuel technology so that homeowners could optimize the efficiency of the heat pump over most of the season and use another system, like a gas-powered furnace, when it’s colder. During installation, your HVAC contractor will set a balance point, or the ideal temperature at which the backup furnace cycles on. As a bonus, the heat pump also acts as a cooling system.

Why not take advantage of technological advancements that led to the creation of dual-fuel heating systems? Contact Balance Point Heating & Air Conditioning to talk to one of our experts about using a dual-fuel system in your home. We serve greater Fort Collins homeowners with quality HVAC services.

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Choosing The Energy Star Most-Efficient Label

February 12, 2013

Most homeowners know the value of choosing products with the Energy Star logo. Since 1992, it has been the go-to beacon, helping homeowners differentiate more-efficient home heating and cooling equipment, electronics and appliances from less-efficient products. But the Energy Star program is evolving. Motivated by multiple factors, the program has unveiled its Most-Efficient label, a designation that changes every year, giving manufacturers the opportunity to have their products earn this new coveted label. Here’s what’s different about the Energy Star Most-Efficient label, and how it benefits homeowners.

To earn the Energy Star Most-Efficient label for 2012, appliances must meet certain criteria. Right now, products in just a few categories can earn the new label. Namely, only refrigerators, clothes washers, heating and cooling equipment and televisions can be awarded Most-Efficient status. To learn the value of this coveted designation, it’s helpful to understand the differences in federal efficiency standards, Energy Star criteria and how a product earns Most-Efficient status.

  • The present Department of Energy minimum standard for gas-powered furnaces is an annual fuel utilization efficiency of 78 percent. This means that the furnace will use only 78 percent of the fuel it consumes. The rest will go up the chimney.
  • Energy Star-qualified furnaces must rate higher than the minimum standards set by the government. Gas-powered furnaces purchased in the North (including Colorado) must have an AFUE of 95 percent or better, while furnaces in the South must have an AFUE of 90 percent or better.
  • The Energy Star Most-Efficient label can be awarded only to gas-powered furnaces that have an AFUE of 97 percent or better.

As you can see, the differences in criteria among the three differ greatly, with the new label clearly highlighting the best of the best. It’s important to remember one other important distinction in the new label’s criteria: Independent third-party testing is now required in order to qualify. To qualify for the Energy Star label, manufacturers can test their own products.

Balance Point Heating & Air Conditioning is happy to help you navigate the new Energy Star Most-Efficient label. Contact us with your questions. We serve homeowners in greater Fort Collins.

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Ensuring Fresh Air With Heat Recovery Ventilation

February 7, 2013

One of the more common problems associated with winter heating is a lack of ventilation. When you close your home against the cold temperatures, you also block out fresh air. This can lower indoor air quality and lead to conditions such as increased amounts of airborne particulates, stuffy rooms and odors. To provide wintertime air circulation while also recovering as much indoor heat energy as possible, consider heat recovery ventilation.

A heat recovery ventilator, also known as an HRV, or air-to-air heat exchanger, provides effective whole-house ventilation that keeps your indoor air fresh and clean. At the same time, it recovers and reuses as much as 80 percent of the heat in the stale expended air that is being vented out of your home. This allows you to have plenty of fresh air without the worry of wasting too much heat energy and driving up your monthly utility bills.

An HRV is designed to run constantly, providing an ongoing exchange of air for ventilation. The system pulls expended but still-warm air into the heat exchanger. A stream of fresh but cooler air is simultaneously brought into the HRV from the outdoors. Inside the heat exchanger, the two streams of air pass but do not mix. The heat in the outgoing air is transferred to the incoming air, warming it and reducing the need for your heating system to compensate for cool air coming into your home. Heat energy in the vented air is recovered rather than wasted, which makes your heating system more efficient.

Heat recovery ventilation also works well in the summer. During warmer months, the HRV uses outgoing air to cool off incoming fresh air, which conserves cooling energy and lowers air conditioning expenses.

Balance Point Heating & Air Conditioning provides professional HVAC services to homeowners in Fort Collins and surrounding Colorado communities. Contact us for more information on heat recovery ventilation and how it can make your home warmer in the winter and more comfortable.

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Buying A Heat Pump? Here’s How To Cover All The Bases

February 5, 2013

To maximize your investment when you’re buying a heat pump, it’s necessary to take more than just the price into consideration. Multiple factors, such as the various features on a heat pump, dictate the price. In addition, expert sizing and installation ensure that your heat pump will perform and deliver a high return on investment. Here’s how to cover all the bases when you’re buying a heat pump:

  • Select an efficiency rating – Because heat pumps both heat and cool, you’ll need to investigate two efficiency ratings. The seasonal energy efficiency ratio specifies the unit’s cooling efficiency. The Department of Energy has set a minimum SEER standard of 13. The heating seasonal performance factor is the rating for heating efficiency. The minimum HSPF standard is 7.7. Manufacturers use advanced features in higher-efficiency models, like variable-speed air handlers and two-stage compressors, which maximize longevity, energy savings and comfort. They’re often worth the extra cost upfront.
  • Size it right – Even the most efficient heat pump won’t perform to expectations — or capacity — if it’s not sized correctly. To size a heat pump, your contractor should first conduct a Manual J load calculation, which takes into account how much heating and cooling your home requires, based on insulation, how tight your home is and more. Only then can your contractor select a heat pump with the capacity to meet the load.
  • Install it well – Installation also affects heat pump performance. Your contractor should take care to properly locate the outdoor unit, ensure balanced airflow, seal ducts, check the refrigerant charge, and more.

Ultimately, buying a heat pump requires that you work with an expert HVAC contractor, one who follows industry-recognized sizing and installation methods. The contractor should also take the time to lay out your options and help you select a heat pump that fits your budget while meeting your needs.

Balance Point Heating & Air Conditioning serves homeowners in greater Fort Collins with quality heating and cooling repairs, installation and maintenance. Contact us if you’re buying a heat pump. We’ll walk you through the process from start to finish.

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Using A Whole-House Humidifier To Boost Indoor Air Quality

January 31, 2013

Cold and flu season is getting into full swing, and you’re probably doing everything you can to keep your family healthy. Among the proactive measures that should be on your to-do list is keeping your indoor air quality as optimal as possible. In that regard, you might be interested to know that dry air — which most homes have during heating season — is conducive to the spread of viruses including the flu virus. Using a whole-house humidifier can help you counteract that dry air.

Why is dry air conducive to the spread of viruses? Scientists theorize that dry air pulls the moisture from droplets that you spread when you cough or sneeze. This makes it possible for the virus to linger in the air. In addition, the heated air dries out your nasal passages, making transmission easier.

Scientists also theorize that the flu virus prefers cooler temperatures in the winter and even develops a coating that it doesn’t have when it’s warmer outside. The coating also makes transmission easier.

Using a whole-house humidifier can’t remedy the problem of a tougher virus, but it can make conditions in your home less conducive to transmission. By working alongside your furnace or heat pump, the humidifier releases water vapor into the heated air, which is then distributed through the ductwork and into the rooms in your home. You can control the relative humidity by using a healthy setting that will keep your home properly humidified, day in and day out. This type of system requires very little maintenance, as it connects to your home’s main water supply.

This year, combine flu shots, hand washing and the use of a whole-house humidifier to keep the flu virus in check. For more information about the benefits humidifiers offer, contact Balance Point Heating & Air Conditioning. We serve homeowners in greater Fort Collins.

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1 Reason For Choosing A Condensing Furnace

January 29, 2013

Furnace technology has come a long way over the years. Innovative features available today greatly advance home comfort and savings. Choosing a condensing furnace is one way to take advantage of recent innovations, especially if you’re aiming for lower energy bills. And while lowering utility costs may be your priority, choosing a condensing furnace affords another important benefit: increased home safety.

Whether your primary reason for choosing a condensing furnace is the energy savings or safety, it’s helpful to know how these systems operate. A condensing furnace works much like any other furnace, with two exceptions:

  • It uses a second heat exchanger – In a standard-efficiency furnace, one heat exchanger mixes air with fuel, a process that is subject to large amounts of heat loss. Condensing furnaces employ a second heat exchanger to capture wasted heat. During the heat-generation process, the condensing furnace is able to cool the exhaust gases, which causes water to condense. During vaporization, a significant amount of heat is generated, which the system captures to heat your home.
  • It uses sealed combustion – A standard furnace, like a condensing furnace, requires air for combustion, which it draws from inside your home. As a result, it uses heat you’ve already paid for, reusing it to generate more heat. A condensing furnace uses sealed combustion, drawing all of the air used for combustion from the outdoors. This enhances energy savings. It’s also a much safer process, eliminating the possibility of introducing carbon monoxide into your home — a problem with combustion furnaces that aren’t sealed.

Two other considerations are a must when you’re choosing a condensing furnace. Because the furnace cools the exhaust gases, inexpensive PVC piping can be used through a side-wall vent; however, these types of furnaces create a lot of condensation, so your home will have to accommodate a drainage system to safely and effectively remove condensation.

Balance Point Heating & Air Conditioning serves homeowners in greater Fort Collins with quality HVAC installation, maintenance and repair. For more information about condensing furnaces, contact one of our experts today for a free home consultation.

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3 Tips For Avoiding Frozen Pipes In Your Fort Collins Home

January 24, 2013

A water pipe that freezes and then bursts can cause significant damage to your plumbing system, which is expensive to repair. And then there’s the inconvenience of going without water while the pipe is being repaired. It’s better to keep your pipes from freezing. Here are some preventive measures to consider taking.

The conditions that cause a pipe to freeze are fairly simply: If the temperature in the space where the pipe is located becomes too cold, the water in the pipe will freeze. As the water freezes, it expands, placing greater force on the pipe and eventually causing it to burst. The part of the pipe that isn’t frozen is still holding water, and that water then gushes out of the burst pipe. If you’re not at home when this happens, you could return to significant flooding and damage.

Here’s how you can help to avoid the problem:

  • Know which pipes are susceptible to freezing — As a rule, these locations should be considered danger zones: basements, crawl spaces, garages and exterior walls. These spots aren’t heated or don’t get enough heat, and the pipes that run through these places can be prone to freezing.
  • Insulate pipes – You have multiple insulation options. Choose foam tubes or electric heating tape. Even socks wrapped around a vulnerable pipe can help. Installing another layer of insulation between a pipe and the exterior wall can keep the air around the pipe warmer, too.
  • Take extra steps – When the temperature is very cold, opening the taps can keep the water moving through the pipes so that they’re less susceptible to freezing. You can also shut off your home’s main water supply and drain all the pipes.

Avoiding frozen pipes should be the goal of every homeowner in greater Fort Collins. Contact Balance Point Heating & Air Conditioning for help, whether you’re dealing with vulnerable plumbing, thinking about buying a new HVAC system or tending to your annual maintenance.

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Preventing Ice Dams Means Never Having To Deal With Repercussions

January 22, 2013

If you’ve ever had to deal with an ice dam, it won’t take much to convince you of the importance of prevention. Dealing with an ice dam is an inconvenient, sometimes costly endeavor. In a worst-case scenario, you might have to replace your roof, remove mold or replace your gutters. It’s much easier to prevent an ice dam in the first place.

What is an ice dam?

Simply put, an ice dam is a wedge of ice on the edge of a roof. The dam prevents the proper drainage of melting snow and water and causes the water to back up, eventually leaking through the roof and into the attic, where it damages insulation, ceilings and walls.

What conditions cause ice dams to form?

Extreme temperature fluctuations are the primary cause of ice dams. Heat loss from your home is a contributing factor. Here’s what happens. As snow collects on the roof, temperature variations between the (warmer) upper and (cooler) lower portion of the roof cause snow at the top to melt. When that water reaches the cooler lower portions, ice begins to form.

Preventing ice dams

Obviously, you can’t control the outdoor temperature, but it’s possible to manage the temperature fluctuations on the roof, ensuring uniformity throughout the space. Three measures can help you do that:

  • Seal the attic space, preventing warm air in your living area from getting into the attic.
  • Ensure that your attic is properly insulated, creating a uniform temperature on your roof.
  • Make sure your attic is properly ventilated, which can promote a uniform temperature.

It’s best to work with an expert HVAC contractor when you’re taking preventive measures such as these. Balance Point Heating & Air Conditioning is happy to help you and other homeowners in the Fort Collins area with a full range of HVAC-system services. Give us a call, or visit our website for more information.

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Strange Smells Coming From Your Furnace? Here’s What To Do

January 17, 2013

It’s almost never a good sign if your furnace is emitting a strange smell. If you find yourself in that situation, it’s helpful to identify the smell and know how to proceed to avoid a system failure, or worse, a fire hazard. Here is a guide to handling strange smells coming from your furnace.

It’s not uncommon to smell natural gas or oil if you’re close to the furnace, but the odor should be almost undetectable. If you pick up a rotten egg or sulfur smell, you probably have a significant gas leak in the furnace or the main lines, which is a major hazard. If you smell oil, it’s possible that oil is leaking from the furnace. Both scenarios can lead to an explosion. Evacuate your home immediately, and call 9-1-1 from your cell phone once you’re outside.

On occasion, a furnace can give off an electrical odor, similar to an iron burning or metal overheating. This may be a sign that a furnace component is malfunctioning or has already worn out. If you notice an odor like this, shut off the furnace, and call your HVAC contractor for help. The technician will thoroughly inspect the furnace, checking for a burned-out motor, frayed electrical wiring or another problem. In addition, the technician will take the opportunity to inspect the entire system, checking for wear and tear.

There’s no need to fret over a dusty smell when you turn on your furnace at the start of the heating season. Over the year, as the furnace sits idle, it naturally collects dust. When the furnace cycles on, it burns the dust off of the components. If this smell continues, however, it’s cause for concern. Contact your HVAC contractor.

Get in touch with the experts at Balance Point Heating & Air Conditioning whenever a worrisome smell is coming from your furnace. We’re happy to send a technician to your home to make sure you and your loved ones are safe. We serve homeowners in greater Fort Collins.

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