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Posts Tagged: home performance

Combo boilers: splotlight on the navien condensing combination boilers

Posted On: Filed Under: Tank water heaters No Comments on Combo boilers: splotlight on the navien condensing combination boilers

Combination boilers, also called combi boilers, offer a space-saving solution for homes that incorporate boiler-based heating systems. A combi boiler is a compact tankless appliance that handles both home heating and water heating for higher energy efficiency and space efficiency, replacing the separate—and large—boilers and tank water heaters used in the past.

Today, combi boilers are quickly growing in popularity for several reasons; keep reading for a closer look at the Navien brand of condensing combination boilers and their benefits.

Major benefits of Navien Combi boilers for Seattle home owners

Maintaining a separate boiler and water heating system is costly in many ways, from the cost of maintaining and repairing these systems separately to the costs of producing heat and hot water for your home. Additionally, both traditional boilers and storage tank water systems take up space, reducing the amount of available square footage for other purposes in your home. Navien combi boilers eliminate the need for a separate boiler and water heating system, replacing both of these large units with a single compact system capable of delivering hydronic heating and hot water for all of your daily needs. These systems occupy up to 80% less space than your previous appliances and use cutting-edge heating technology to reduce wasted heat for more efficient home and hot water heating. Navien systems can use your existing 1/2” gas piping and require low gas pressure for easy retrofitting and conversion from natural to LP gas, reducing installation costs and time as well.

Top reasons to choose Navien products from Washington Energy Services

Navien is considered one of the industry leaders in condensing tankless water heating technology, as well as a worldwide leader in green technology. This Korea-based company specializes in residential boilers and water heaters, developing high-quality products with features that have both convenience and energy savings in mind. Not only are Navien combi boilers effective, but they are also easy to use, featuring clear instructions and a simple control panel. Navien products are highly desirable and often recommended because of their consistent performance, longevity, low maintenance requirements, and unique features that provide sophisticated control and maximum energy savings without sacrificing comfort. These combination boilers qualify for the ENERGY STAR label in terms of both home heating and water heating; Navien also offers a 10-year warranty on each unit’s long-lasting and corrosion-resistant dual stainless steel heat exchangers, which outperform aluminum and copper heat exchangers in terms of longevity and reliability.

If you are considering upgrading your boiler or water heater, our experienced technicians can help you evaluate your options and determine if a Navien combi boiler is right for your home. Contact us today and we’ll get your appointment scheduled as soon as possible.

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Improving your home’s performance

Posted On: Filed Under: Heating, Furnace, Home energy audit No Comments on Improving your home’s performance

 

Undertaking a home energy audit creates a baseline for your home’s performance. Our Home Performance Specialists will seek out drafts or leaking ductwork. Once found, Washington Energy Services is able to seal your home so that you aren’t wasting expensive heating or cooling energy. By insulating and air sealing first, you will make your home more comfortable and reduce your utility bills for years to come. Plus, you’ll be able to install a smaller furnace or air conditioner when it’s time to replace that equipment, saving you even more. A comprehensive home energy audit will scientifically determine how much air leakage exists in your home and the current insulation levels and quality of installation–and how you can improve.

Duct sealing & replacement

Duct work repair seattle washington energy services

Our certified technicians are experts in sealing your home’s ducts to optimize air flow. Duct work must be well sealed, insulated, and balanced to ensure your home’s heating and cooling systems work as efficiently as possible. Most homes have leaky duct work and insufficient air flow, which results in an uncomfortable living environment — regardless of the thermostat setting. A duct system that is properly sealed can make your home more comfortable, energy efficient, and deliver cleaner air.

Indoor air quality (IAQ)

Poor ventilation increases pollutant levels. Sources that emit gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of IAQ problems in homes. Poor ventilation can increase levels of these pollutant levels by not directing them outside and by not bringing in enough “fresh” outdoor air to dilute indoor pollutants. High temperature and humidity can also play a role. Indoor air pollutants can cause a variety of health problems including irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, asthma, and even eventually respiratory disease, cancer, and heart disease. Our Home Energy Specialists have been trained to diagnose the indoor air quality of your home and properly treat it.

If you are concerned about your home’s performance, give us a call at 800-398-4663 or contact us online to get started with a home energy audit.

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What happens during an HVAC tune-up?

Posted On: Filed Under: Heating, Cooling 2 Comments on What happens during an HVAC tune-up?

Regular maintenance and tune-ups hold many benefits, including better performance, greater longevity, and a reduced risk of problems or breakdowns when you need your HVAC system the most. Your Seattle HVAC service can help you enjoy the improved home comfort that comes with a well-tuned system by offering regular tune-up services for both your home heating and cooling systems. Keep reading to discover what to expect from a professional HVAC tune-up and why your home can benefit so much from this simple service.

Inspection

HVAC tune-up services begin with a thorough inspection of your entire heating and cooling system, including your appliances and your thermostat. This inspection checks the condition of the electrical and mechanical components inside each appliance to look for dirt, wear, or damage that may affect heating and cooling performance. Your flue and ductwork will also be inspected for damage, corrosion, or buildup. During the inspection, your HVAC service technician will closely examine any and all safety measures to ensure your system is operating within safe and optimal parameters. The batteries in your thermostat will also be checked and replaced if necessary, and any minor adjustments your system may require will be made as part of your tune-up service, such as straightening your air conditioner coil fins and checking the schedule set in your thermostat.

Cleaning

HVAC tune-up services also include a full system cleaning. Dirt and dust buildup are a common cause of increased energy bills and poor HVAC performance, as airflow and efficiency are both hindered by these conditions. Your HVAC technician will take care to clean away any buildup and corrosion inside your heating and cooling appliances, paying attention to every area, including electrical components for safety. During this portion of the HVAC tune-up service, your technician will also check and replace your air filter if necessary for cleaner indoor air and improved airflow through your heating and cooling system. If your system includes a condensate tray or drip line, these components will also be emptied and cleaned to prevent leaks and backups.

Recommendations

Once the system check and any cleaning services have been completed, your HVAC technician will brief you on the status of your heating and cooling system. He will also make recommendations based on his overall findings, such as whether components of your heating and cooling system require repair or replacement, and whether you may want to consider an additional service such as duct cleaning for a healthier home and better HVAC performance. You will also be able to ask your HVAC technician any questions you may have about your system, such as its age, general condition, and whether he might recommend upgrading or replacing the system in the future for better performance and monthly savings. If you opt to make any necessary repairs immediately, your technician will complete this service before your tune-up is considered complete.

Is your HVAC system overdue for a tune-up to improve its performance? Our experienced heating and cooling technicians in Seattle offer precision tune-ups for indoor and outdoor home comfort systems, as well as for fireplaces, generators, and water heaters. You can find out more about this service and our other home comfort solutions when you visit us on the web, or read more about how to keep your HVAC system in great shape on our monthly blog.

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The health and economic benefits of air duct cleaning

Posted On: Filed Under: Heating, Cooling 6 Comments on The health and economic benefits of air duct cleaning

 

Stay healthy.

According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), a typical six-room home can accumulate up to 40 pounds of dust annually through everyday living. Yes, 40 pounds. These contaminants are pulled in through the system and re-circulated up to seven times a day. This re-circulation causes a build-up of contaminants in the ducts, so that dirty air continuously flows as the heating and cooling system operates.

While you may feel fine, this contaminated air may lead to health issues down the road (especially for children), and are particularly harmful for those with respiratory conditions, autoimmune disorders, and allergies. Duct cleaning by Washington Energy removes the pollutants, and by extension, some of the underlying causes for these health conditions.

Stay economical.

Not only are dirty air ducts potentially hazardous to your health, they can be hazardous to your wallet as well. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 25 to 40 percent of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted. That’s money being thrown away with every turn of the thermostat. Plus, the build-up of dust, dirt, dander, and allergens in your heating and cooling system causes it to work harder than it needs to, thus shortening its lifespan.

Stay on schedule.

In the Puget Sound area, many homeowners opt to have their ducts cleaned every two years, as our climate serves as a perfect host for mold, mildew, fungus, and bacteria, in addition to the contaminants mentioned previously. Fall is an ideal time to have this service completed, before you kick your furnace into high gear for winter.

If you’re concerned with the air quality of your home, have a family member suffering from respiratory issues or allergies, or simply want a fresh start with clean ducts and a renewed peace of mind, contact Washington Energy. When it comes to your physical (and financial) health, we can help you breathe easy.

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Are there now federal energy tax credits for 2014?

Posted On: Filed Under: Ductless heat pump, Furnace 6 Comments on Are there now federal energy tax credits for 2014?

 

If you did some energy upgrades like high efficiency heating, cooling, insulation, windows, doors, a boiler or a tankless water heater in 2014, this free money could be for you!

Only the most energy efficient products can quality for federal tax credits. Here’s a short list, and the full details can be found at EnergyStar.gov. Contact your tax preparer or the IRS to determine your complete eligibility.

What is a federal energy tax credit? This is a credit you can take against taxes owed on your 2014 federal income tax form. The IRS previously had a restriction about how many of these credits you can take. We did not see anything published about that this year, so be sure to ask your tax preparer.

What is the amount of the 2014 tax credit? (source: energystar.gov)  

  • Windows/Doors: 10% of material cost up to $500, windows have a max of $200. Excludes installation portion of cost. Must be EnergyStar rated. (All of ours are).
  • Insulation/Sealing: 10% of material cost up to $500, excludes installation cost.

 

HVAC & Water heater system requirements to qualify:
Air Source or Ductless heat pumps $300: HSPF >= 8.5, EER >= 12.5, SEER >= 15
Central Air Conditioning $300: SEER>= 16; EER >= 13
Gas, Propane, or Oil Water Boiler $150: 95% AFUE or higher
Gas, Propane or Oil Furnace: $150: 95% AFUE or higher
Advanced Main Air Circulating Fan* $50: uses 2% or less of furnace’s total energy
Gas, Oil, Propane Water Heater $300: EF >= 0.82 OR a thermal eff. 90%.+
Electric Heat Pump Water Heater $300: EF>=2.0

 

This can be an added bonus on top of the great energy savings and comfort you can expect when you upgrade your heating, cooling, and water heating plus exterior products. If you are a Washington Energy customer, we can provide you with any product information your accountant requires for this tax credit.

*An Advanced Main Air Circulating Fan is an efficient fan, or blower motor which blows the air that your furnace heats up through the duct system. Requirements : Must use no more than 2% of the furnace’s total energy.

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Five stylish ways to green up your holidays

Posted On: Filed Under: Home energy audit No Comments on Five stylish ways to green up your holidays

 

1. LED lights and solar powered light strands. If you haven’t switched over to LED holiday lights, they are now readily available and prices have come down. They use 1/10th the energy of regular mini lights and are just as bright. Take the ouch out of your holiday electric bill and switch to LED. Small lights go from $5.99 for basic strands to around $26 for big impact ones. A blah carport could become a cozy manger for your vehicle (see below and turn on your creativity)! For even more savings get solar-powered lights – eliminating your entire electrical requirement for holiday décor. (Note, the solar receiver takes AA batteries).

energy saving lights

Photo from Amazon.com

2. Your gift can be blowing in the wind. For gift givers who are willing to spend a little more, it’s now possible to give the gift of wind energy with kits that can attach to homes. With a kit you can now mount a windmill on the peak of any home or business and get 1000 to 5000 watt capacity. There are many companies offering this online, however, we are not endorsing or representing them. We do think it’s a cool idea though. We found one company selling horizontal axis wind turbine kits in the $16,000 range.

3. Trade cut flowers for a flowering plant. We’ve mentioned live replantable Christmas trees before in the annual green holiday list, but never addressed flowers. Many people place cut flower bouquets on tables or bring them as hostess gifts. A greener way to go is to bring a flowering plant that can be replanted or kept inside as a house plant (and it’s a bonus if you’re into feng shui). Your local garden center will likely have specials on winter blooming plants and they can dress up plant pots with paper to make them festive (or you can add your own flair).

plant
difficult teen years4. Go for a classic reusable package vs paper boxes. There are many ways to package smaller gifts and baked goods that can reduce the amount of printed paper you use and add an element of style. A great one is the classic holiday tin, which is perfect for your baked goods but can really be used for any gift. These add fun to the presentation and are a gift in themselves. Some are even collectable. Tins are often available second hand at thrift shops, and are available new in stores and online.

 

5. Give reclaimed material gifts a second look. It used to be that you’d find some greeting cards or cutting boards made from “reclaimed” materials like paper, glass and metal. This has greatly expanded. Reclaimed materials are now used in everything from kitchen items, to rugs, to jewelry, even chairs. We loved the recycled gift collection at uncommongoods enough to put their link into our newsletter without them even asking. Photo from uncommongoods.com.

difficult teen years

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Home performance – what is it and why does it matter?

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When we say home performance, we are talking about looking at the home as a system of interconnected airflows, structures and equipment that make up a whole. This sounds more complicated than it is. So to explain it in an easier way than we ever could on paper, we’ve got a short video series for you. We did a whole home remodel in Edmonds, WA this fall, using home performance as the basis for the decisions. In this brief 5 part series you will see the basics of home performance and see a home energy audit in action. (Don’t worry, it’s entertaining and not overly technical). After Video 1, look for Videos 2-5 to see the audit and how the house turned out!

As you saw in the video, the way to learn about your home’s performance is through a home energy audit. A home energy audit, as distinguished from a visual inspection, uses technology, such as a blower door pressure test and infra-red camera, to test the home. Your home is then compared to regional and national standards for air leakage, air quality, safety, energy efficiency and utility costs, and we model the home’s relative “performance”. The auditor provides a detailed report with a prioritized list of ways you can save energy and make your home more comfy. Washington Energy is proud to provide comprehensive home energy audits. Our BPI certified auditors have the best training in the industry and are ready to do an audit at your home. Contact us at 800-398-4663 to set up your home energy audit today. Special pricing is available now of $199 (regular $399).

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5 basics about air sealing for single family homes

Posted On: Filed Under: Home energy audit 2 Comments on 5 basics about air sealing for single family homes

1. Sneaky leak spots

There are more places where air leaks in and out of your home than you may be aware of. Most people recognize that air leaks around windows and doors, but this illustration from the Department of Energy’s Guide to Air Sealing*, shows 19 areas of the home where measurable air leaks can affect air quality and energy loss. For example, did you know that air leaks around every single electrical outlet and switch plate in your house?

air leakage and sealing

2. Find a balance with fresh air allowance

Every penetration through the sides, roof or underside of your home has the potential to leak if not sealed properly. That includes windows, doors, vents, pipes, electrical cords, hose bibs and more. But before you seal, you must determine how much fresh air is needed to ensure healthy indoor air quality and ventilation of combustion equipment. Without proper ventilation, harmful gases could remain in your house (such as carbon monoxide) and/or water vapor could accumulate presenting a danger from mold and mildew. When we talk about “combustion equipment”, this includes anything that burns a fuel, whether that is natural gas, propane, or wood. Examples are:

  • Furnace
  • Washer /dryer
  • Gas stove
  • Fireplace
  • Water heaters

3. Weather stripping

The easiest Do-it-Yourself leak fixes are weather stripping doors and caulking windows. Materials to do weather stripping and window caulking can be purchased from most hardware stores and applied by the homeowner. Most window companies require caulking to be done in order to maintain warranties for their windows. So it’s a good idea to do it annually, or at least check it for wear annually. Caulking around flues, vents and pipes is recommended to be done by a professional contractor using caulking materials that are safe for the application.

4. The fireplace culprit

Your windows and doors may be closed and sealed, but there may be another big hole open for air to escape. Fireplaces can leak through the flue not closing tightly, through small cracks in the masonry chimney, or from the penetration of the chimney through the roof. During a home energy audit, air leaks from your chimney will be identified, but beyond that, chimney inspection should be performed on a routine basis, if only to make sure animals haven’t nested in it. The National Fire Protection Association says “chimneys, fireplaces and vents should be inspected at least once per year for soundness, freedom from deposits and correct clearances”.

5. Fact check from other experts

According to the US Department of Energy “air sealing is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the comfort and energy efficiency of your home. Hire a certified professional contractor for best results”. We didn’t make that last part up.

Consider a home energy audit

A certified home energy auditor is trained to assess the air sealing and ventilation needs of your home. They use technology such as blower doors tests, infrared cameras and other measures to locate sources of air leakage and ensure adequate ventilation. The auditor is trained to look for safety and health issues, and local building codes. Why does this matter? Because you can actually over seal your house, locking in carbon monoxide from gas appliances.

Washington Energy Services provides BPI certified home energy audits and air sealing services. Learn more and see if your home might benefit from an audit.

 

* Source “Retrofit techniques and technologies: Air Sealing – A guide for contractors to share with homeowners,” Vol 10., Building America Best Practices Series, Prepared by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the US Dept. of Energy (April 12, 2010)

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Energy action starts at home – with the air you breathe

Posted On: Filed Under: Home energy audit No Comments on Energy action starts at home – with the air you breathe

 

During house construction, small holes are drilled to run plumbing, wiring, skylights, TV and other cables as well as heating and air conditioning ductwork. These small holes collectively equal a hole the size of a basketball. Imagine that in your living room wall!

These holes create a direct air exchange between the attic and living space, allowing unwanted pollutants to circulate into the home and at the same time wasting valuable energy. You would never consider breathing the air from your attic or crawl space as your primary air source but that is exactly what is happening.
Using a child’s drawing to illustrate the point, this creates a direct air exchange between the attic (the triangle) and living pace (the square,) allowing unwanted pollutants to circulate through your home and wasting energy.

How do contaminants get into your home
When your house was built many small holes were drilled to run all of the pipes, wiring, etc.

The solution is simple, separate the square from the triangle by sealing your holes and ductwork. The result will be a healthier and more energy efficient home.

How to breathe easier?  

Getting started is easy. Choose an audit company, such as Washington Energy, who is committed to providing only the highest quality audits. The first step would be a 26 point home comfort and energy assessment. Also known as a home energy audit, this is not just a walk through with a clip board. Expect the auditor to be there for 3 hours conducting detailed tests and inspections. (It’s fun too.). The assessment they perform gives you the current health and energy use of your home, and provides a clear plan for making improvements, with energy smart suggestions not selling. And depending on the needs of the home, there may be utility rebates and federal tax credits that can apply.

Washington Energy has already made improvements to hundreds of homes and has an A rating on Angies list for Home Energy Auditing. To get your $199 home energy assessment, call Washington Energy Services at 800-398-4663 or click today.

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Tips for safely insulating your home

Posted On: Filed Under: Home energy audit, Insulation 3 Comments on Tips for safely insulating your home

Insulation is an important part of reducing energy bills and increasing comfort. But did you know that you can create safety issues in your home if you do not install insulation correctly? Here are three tips to installing proper insulation so you can avoid:

  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Moisture problems and mold
  • Fire hazards from lighting

1. Be sure to conduct carbon monoxide tests on appliances before insulating and air sealing your home, especially in homes with natural gas. On a recent home energy audit, Washington Energy’s home performance team discovered unseen carbon monoxide coming from an old gas water heater. With a drafty house, and the water heater in the basement, it wasn’t enough gas to trip the CO detector in the main part of the house. However had the homeowner installed full insulation and air sealed the house without knowing, they may have locked in that gas and exposed their family to high levels of carbon monoxide.

2. Prevent moisture problems by letting your house breathe. In the previous article we discussed the relationship between your home and indoor air quality, and we highlighted the need to seal the penetrations bringing unwanted air through your home. But did you know that you can overseal? Most older Seattle homes don’t need to worry about this, but if you have new construction or if you are putting in your own insulation, this is important to consider.

New construction (less than 20 yrs old) has been built tighter – with fewer penetrations than older homes. These homes may actually need added ventilation installed when you insulate, to ensure healthy air inside the home.

To make sure your house is breathing properly, start by ensuring that bath fans are vented directly to the outside. Then when insulating, baffle the soffits! It may sound like pirate-speak but it’s important to keep your vents under the eaves of the roof free and clear for air transfer In layman’s terms: the eave vents are called soffits. Baffles, which are foam or cardboard pieces, fit around the inside of the soffit to keep the insulation from clogging up the vent. If insulation blocks the soffit vents the heat and moisture rising up through your house toward the attic, cannot escape. This will result in condensation forming in the attic and can eventually soak or ruin your insulation plus potentially affect your roof shingles. But most importantly, it can create the environment for mold and mildew to grow.

A licensed insulation contractor will know where and how much venting will be enough, and how to baffle a soffit too.

3. Insulation and can lights may not mix well. If you have recessed “can” lights, those spotlights commonly built into the ceiling, you may not know that some of them are rated to be surrounded by insulation and some are a fire hazard if they are surrounded by insulation. Inside the light fixture look for the rating stamp IC (insulation contact). IC lamps can contact your insulation safely. If you do not see IC, keep insulation 3 inches away from the light fixture and use a wood or metal barrier to ensure they don’t touch. Consult the manufacturer of the lamps or an electrician, if you have questions about safe installation. There are also specialized boxes that can go over non-IC rated cans so you can air seal the cans without making them a fire hazard. To ensure your cable, wiring and insulation are an appropriate match, please research carefully before installing them yourself.

And one final tip. If you are going to invest in adding insulation, for just a small amount more a home performance contractor can add duct sealing and duct insulation. They will carefully seal the joints in exposed portions of your duct system and then insulate around the ducts. This works to ensure that the heat travelling in your ducts gets to the rooms you need it in. When combined with insulation and air sealing, these three measures can improve home comfort and reduce energy costs by up to 30%.

Washington Energy Services provides home comfort solutions including home energy audits, insulation, air sealing and duct sealing. Washington Energy has been serving Western Washington homes with energy efficient home improvement since 1957. Call for an appointment at 800-398-4663 to learn more.

 

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