Saddleback Plumbing Heating & Air Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Orange Park Acres’

Why Orange County Residents Should Get a Energy Audit Before Installing a New Heating Upgrade

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Yesterday was the first day of spring, so if you can’t feel it already, warmer temperatures are on their way to Orange County.  When you envision the warm days of summer, do you picture staying cool with an energy efficient cooling system, without any worries about high energy costs?  Or are you concerned that your older air conditioning unit won’t make it through another hot summer?  Well right now is the perfect time for an air conditioning installation, not only because Saddleback Plumbing can save you money on your purchase, but because there have been so many upgrades to the technologies of cooling systems.

Before you take the plunge on new equipment, though, you may want to get a home energy audit. What you find may help you choose the right system.

A home energy audit is essentially an inspection by a professional of the materials used to insulate your home. This includes not just the insulation in the walls, but also the walls themselves, along with windows, doors and so on. The idea is to figure out how much heat is escaping your home to the outside, so an audit may also include looking at ducts, vents or anywhere else where air could flow through.

So what does an energy audit have to do with a heating upgrade?

Think about it like this. There are two ways to make your home warmer: increase heat gain (e.g., get a more efficient heating system) or decrease heat loss. If you are able to do the latter, you may find that the former is unnecessary.

For example, you may get an energy audit and discover that by installing new windows and resealing your doors, you can increase heating efficiency by 10%. This could have big implications for your decision to get a new heating system, as you may decide that you can save money by getting a smaller capacity furnace. Getting the right size furnace is very important; one that is too small will not be able to heat your home to the desired temperature and one that is too large will short-cycle, which leads to uneven heating and wears down your system quickly.

A home energy audit is the first step to getting a new heating system, and one that is sure to save you money. Give Saddleback Plumbing a call to set up an energy audit today!

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A Question from Huntington Beach: What Is a Slab Leak and What Damage Can It Cause?

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Also known as a foundation leak, slab leaks can cause a serious problem in your Huntington Beach home. A typical cause of a slab leak occurs when the foundation for the home is poured. While the cement is still wet and setting, copper pipe is laid in to run wherever it needs to go for the plumbing system of the home. This is a fairly common practice.

The problem occurs when the copper piping is soft. As the cement hardens, any kinks, bends, nicks or other imperfections in the pipe are exacerbated. Over time, these problems can become more and more magnified, eventually resulting in one or more tiny leaks in the pipe. This causes water to leak directly into the concrete foundation.

This causes a number of problems for homeowners, both short-term and long-term. In the short-term, it reduces water pressure and increases water consumption, resulting in higher monthly bills for poorer water delivery. These are inconveniences and annoyances, but nothing compared to the long-term damage that a slab leak can cause.

The moisture in the foundation becomes a breeding ground for mold. This mold can spread throughout the foundation and the house, which is a serious health risk for you and your family. Mold and mildew spores negatively impact air quality and can lead to illness. Plus, the moisture weakens the foundation gradually over time. Eventually, you have a home that is less structurally sound and may succumb to mold, which can cause thousands of dollars to eradicate and repair.

Slab leaks can be repaired, but sometimes after repairing one, another will crop up shortly thereafter. However, they still must be repaired immediately before the problem spreads and becomes too big to handle.

There are a few different methods for repair, including breaking up the foundation with a jackhammer and laying new pipe or lining the existing pipe with epoxy. Consulting with a professional is the best way to figure out which method is right for you.

Common symptoms to detect slab leaks early are reduced water pressure or inexplicably high water bills. If you notice either of these occurring in your home, you may have a slab leak, so call a professional to get it checked out right away before it leads to much bigger problems.

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Alternatives to Air Conditioning in Your Fountain Valley Home

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Let’s face it – we rely pretty heavily on air conditioning to keep us comfortable during the warmest months of the summer in Fountain Valley. So, what do you do when the mercury dings 90+ and your air conditioner is either broken or you are in a place without AC? Luckily, there are alternatives. Here are some of the better options:

  • Move Air through the House – As simple as it sounds, air circulation can have a huge impact on the temperature inside, especially in the late afternoon. Mid-afternoon sun will hit your roof no matter how many trees you have planted. The result is a decent amount of heat pouring into your home. But, if you open the windows and let a cross breeze through, amplifying it with fans, especially ceiling fans, moving air will carry that heat out of the house later in the day when the temperature drops.
  • Block Direct Sunlight – Unless it’s 90+ degrees outside, most of the discomfort in heat comes from direct sunlight. Block that direct sunlight and you severely reduce how warm it might get in your home. Trees planted along western, eastern and southern walls do this very effectively, especially if they are deciduous and will allow in the warming sun in the winter.
  • The Power of Water – Feel warm? Get some cool water and place it on your forehead, arms or legs. A bowl of cool water in front of a fan can be soothing as well, assuming humidity isn’t a problem. If it is, consider getting a dehumidifier to run in lieu of an air conditioner for those days that aren’t too hot. They are less expensive and can reduce discomfort significantly.
  • Evaporative Coolers – Evaporative coolers are extremely popular in Europe and Japan where energy costs are relatively high. They use up to 80% less electricity than air conditioners, don’t require refrigerants linked to global warming, and they work extremely well in dry heat. There are evaporative coolers available that can cool your entire home, though the most common devices are those designed for a single room. They are sometimes called “swamp coolers” as well.

I’m sure we’d all rather have a comfortably air conditioned room to lounge in during the hottest months of summer, but in lieu of electric powered comfort, keep in mind the simple, effective ways people have been staying cool for centuries. For more information about how to keep cool this summer, contact your HVAC contractor.

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Freon and Load Capacity – How Are They Linked?

Monday, June 27th, 2011

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think too much about how your air conditioning system works. All you really need to know is that when you switch on the system, your house gets cooler. But if you’re looking to purchase a new air conditioner for your home, it’s a good idea to know how to select the right one to fit the space you’re trying to cool.

Air Conditioning Basics

Air conditioners use Freon as a coolant to remove heat from indoor air and transfer that heat outside. To do this, they cycle the Freon through a closed loop of coils. When the cold Freon enters the cooling coil of the air conditioner, it absorbs heat from the air passing by, thereby lowering the temperature of the air. That cooled air can then be transferred into your home and more warm air can be cycled past the cooling coils.

Air Conditioner Sizing

The more air your air conditioner can cool at once, the larger its load capacity. In order to keep a particular space cool, an AC unit has to have a large enough load capacity to accommodate that type of air volume. A unit that’s too small will obviously never be able to keep your room cool enough, but one that’s too big will have a similar problem.

The truth is that when it comes to air conditioner sizing, bigger is not better. It’s best to simply get as good an estimate as you can of what type of load capacity is ideal for the space you’re trying to cool and stick as close to that as you can.

Load Capacity and Freon

Of course, if you want your air conditioner to cool more air at a time, you’ll need more coolant. But simply increasing the amount of Freon in your air conditioner won’t make it cool any better. Freon is simply one of many elements that contribute to effective cooling. And the larger the entire system is, the more Freon is needed.

So more Freon technically contributes to greater cooling capacity, but it’s not enough to accomplish that all on its own. There is really nothing you can do to increase the load capacity of your air conditioner once it’s in place. So for best results, make sure you pick out an appropriately sized unit the first time around.

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Just Say No To Termites

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Termites can wreak massive destruction on your home thanks to their teeming numbers and constant feeding habits. The aggregate cost of termite damage in the United States has been estimated to be as high as a billion dollars annually. Although termites are destructive and persistent, there are steps you can take to stop them from damaging your home. Specifically, termites flourish in some very specific conditions, so below will be discussed some ways to control those in your favor.

Starve Them Out

Termites love to eat wood. To be more precise, they love any source of cellulose, which wood happens to be rich in. Once a colony finds a food source, it eats constantly, hence the large potential for damage to your home. Here are some suggestions for keeping cellulose to a minimum:

  • Use treated lumber for your home and for any other ground structures, such as decks or sheds. You can also consider resting such structures on concrete supports, instead of directly on the ground.
  • Keep stored wood away from your house, ideally in a shed. Additionally, do not bury left over wood as a means of disposal.
  • Keep your yard free of fallen limbs, dead trees, stumps or other wooden debris.
  • Do not use wood mulch on plants near your home. Instead, either move the plants further away, or check your local garden supply store for rubber mulch, which does not attract termites.

Dry Them Out

Just like other pests, termites require a source of water to live. Even with bountiful cellulose around, a termite colony cannot take hold without water. Here are some steps you can take to limit the chances that they will find a water source around your home:

  • Fix all leaks promptly, no matter how small they seem at the time.
  • Fill in any dips or depressions in your yard to prevent water from pooling.
  • Likewise, repair any cracks or holes in your driveway. These can promote termite growth by both collecting water, and improperly draining water toward your home, making the trip easier for the termites.
  • Keep the area around your home free of brush and other heavy vegetation, which can cause areas of heavy moisture, acting as a safe harbor for hungry termites.
  • Clean all gutters and other drainage lines and keep them in good repair.

These preventive measures will go a long way toward keeping your home free of destructive termites. Additionally, you should have your home checked by a professional for signs of termites annually.

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Spring Maintenance Tips For Inside the House

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Spring has sprung, and for homeowners that means more than just spring cleaning; it’s also the opportunity to take care of some home maintenance tasks. It may not be a ton of fun, but proper home maintenance is essential to keeping your home attractive and in good repair, as well as retaining its resale value.

Some simple maintenance once a year can also help avoid costly repair bills down the road. Below are a few tips on keeping the inside of your home maintained. Most of these are quick projects that can be done in your spare time over the weekend.

Ventilation, Heating And Cooling Tips:

  • Clean out your stove’s exhaust hood and change the filter. This will help the system to keep running efficiently and prevent damage to the motor, so that your kitchen is always well ventilated. A properly functioning kitchen exhaust system can also help prevent fires.
  • Change the furnace filter. The heating season may be behind you, but it will get chilly again before you know it. Changing your filter now as part of your spring maintenance will ensure that you don’t forget to do it in the interim, so your house will be properly heated when the chill of winter returns.
  • On the flip side, have your air conditioning system inspected by a professional. They can perform routine maintenance on the A/C system and make any necessary repairs. Taking care of this early in the spring will help make the hot summer months much more comfortable in your home.

Electrical Tips:

  • Hire an electrician to inspect the wiring and other components of your home’s electrical system. You can also do this yourself if you’re savvy, but unless you have experience, professional assistance is strongly recommended in order to avoid injury.
  • Have a look at your extension cords and power strips around the house. Replace any that are damaged or worn.
  • Check light fixtures to ensure installed bulbs are of the correct wattage. Using the wrong wattage bulb can cause electrical shorts, or draw more power than you need, making for an unnecessary expense. Consider replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.

Safety Tips:

  • Clean all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace the batteries.
  • Have your fire extinguisher inspected to ensure it works properly. Replace as needed.

By making time to perform these relatively simple tasks in the spring, you can help keep your home safe and comfortable, while also decreasing ownership costs in the long run.

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What Is AFUE and Why Should I Care?

Monday, March 14th, 2011

If you’ve been shopping for a furnace, chances are you’ve noticed that each furnace has its own annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating. These generally range from 80% to the high 90% s and the higher the number, the more fuel efficient that particular furnace is.

But what does this number really mean and just how much should you care? Well, the AFUE rating should actually have a significant impact on your furnace purchasing decision, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll always choose the furnace with the highest efficiency rating either.

For one thing, you’ll have to recognize that not every type of furnace is capable of running at the highest efficiency levels. Oil furnaces, for instance, can’t compete with the super high efficiency gas furnaces on the market today. That’s not to say that an oil furnace might not be the best choice for you under certain circumstances, but it does mean that you should take a close look at your furnace usage before you make a decision.

If you do choose a gas furnace, you will of course have the option of getting one that can reach up to 97% or so efficiency. However, that may not always be the best choice either. If you live in a place where with very harsh, long winters and you’re going to be using your furnace heavily, then it’s definitely worth investing in a higher AFUE furnace that can save you considerable amounts on your monthly heating bills.

But if you don’t use your furnace too often as your area has more mild winters it’s probably not worth it for you to invest in such a high efficiency product. That’s because the higher the AFUE of the furnace, the more expensive it is to purchase and install. Certainly you’ll save money every month because you’ll be getting more heat out of the fuel you’re paying for. But if you don’t use your furnace all that much, the savings really won’t be that substantial.

Don’t forget that a furnace with an 80% AFUE rating is still quite energy efficient. And once you get up that high, you have to use your furnace a lot for the difference between 80% and 90% to really become apparent. So if you don’t use your furnace heavily during the winter, it will take you many, many years to make up for the higher purchase price of the 90+% AFUE models.

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