Is Your Skylight an Energy Waster?

Is Your Skylight an Energy Waster?A skylight is a practical way to get a little extra sunshine in Portland’s rainy climate. By making sure your skylights are properly weatherized, you can enjoy the light without drafts and energy loss.

How Your Skylight Can Cost You

Windows account for around 10–15 percent of your home’s heat loss in winter and 30 percent of your heat gain in summer. Skylights are even more problematic because they’re hit with more direct sunlight in summer than windows in the wall receive. In winter, they lose around 40 percent more heat than windows because warm air rises, heading straight for the skylights.

To make matters worse, it’s easy to overlook deteriorating caulk and weatherstripping when it’s up on the ceiling. That increases the chance your skylights will develop air leaks that waste your conditioned air, cause drafts, and let in air contaminants.

Improve a Skylight’s Efficiency

In late autumn and late spring, thoroughly clean your skylights. Cleaning before winter ensures you’ll get the maximum amount of sunlight. Get up on a ladder and inspect the caulk and weatherstripping around your skylights. If you notice the weatherization material is deteriorating, remove it completely and apply new caulk or weatherstripping.

Have your skylights professionally inspected once a year. Some issues, such as damaged flashing, might be obvious, but others take an experienced eye to spot.

Install blinds. These let you control how much light you get on hot days and act as insulation in winter. In fact, blinds increase a skylight’s energy efficiency by nearly 40 percent. Blackout blinds used on a fixed skylight can boost energy efficiency by up to 45 percent.

Applying a low-emissivity film is another option for controlling excess heat coming in. On the down side, these films also reduce heat gain in winter when you might actually want it, cut the amount of light you get, and they aren’t adjustable like blinds.

If you’d like some help improving your home’s weatherization, contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling in the Portland area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Dealing With Cloudy Tap Water

Dealing With Cloudy Tap WaterWhen you turn on a faucet and milky-white water comes out, you may be justifiably concerned about what’s going on and whether the water is safe to drink. There are a couple of possible reasons why you have cloudy tap water, but the good news is, it doesn’t usually pose a health risk.

What Causes Cloudy Tap Water?

Most often, tap water that looks cloudy or milky contains air. If it’s coming from the pressurized municipal system, you’ll notice cloudiness at all of your cold water taps. Cloudy water from a single fixture usually points to an issue with the aerator or faucet. White, cloudy hot water can indicate a problem with your water heater. Here’s how to troubleshoot cloudy hot and cold water so you can deal with the underlying cause.

Cold Water Cloudiness

To check where the problem originates, run each cold water tap in your home for a few seconds then fill a clean glass.

  • If the water from most or all of your fixtures is cloudy, it’s likely caused by air in the municipal supply. Let each glass sit for a few minutes and the water should clear from the bottom up. If you’re still seeing a cloudy flow after 24 hours, call the water bureau to ask if there’s maintenance being done, or a possible leak in the system.
  • If cloudiness is only occurring at one faucet, take off the aerator, clean it with a 50-50 water/vinegar solution then rinse it thoroughly and reinstall it.

Hot Water Cloudiness

To find out why your hot water looks milky, let it run briefly then fill a glass. If the cloudiness dissipates from the bottom upwards within a few minutes, it’s simply due to pressurized air being released. However, if the water clears at the top first and particles settle to the bottom, have the water heater checked. A professional plumber may tell you it needs flushing to remove sediment, or the dip tube needs replacing.

If cloudy tap water is a concern in your Portland home and you need expert advice, contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Here’s How to Understand HVAC Air Filter Ratings

Here's How to Understand HVAC Air Filter RatingsChoosing the right filter for your HVAC system can be a time-consuming and confusing task if you’re not well versed in industry acronyms and filter ratings. This brief primer can help clarify what they mean, so you can select the best HVAC air filter for your needs.

MERV — The Key to HVAC Filter Efficiency

HVAC air filters are rated using the minimum efficiency reporting value or MERV scale. This numerical rating goes from 1 to 20, and it measures a filter’s ability to capture particles in a certain size range. The higher the number, the better a filter performs.

HEPA — What Does it Mean?

Another frequently-heard air filter term is HEPA, which is an acronym for high-efficiency particulate arrestance. These filters top the MERV scale with ratings from 17–20. They’re capable of capturing as much as 99.97 percent of undesirable particles as small as 0.3 microns. However, they’re not used in residential HVAC systems because they also severely restrict airflow.

How to Choose the Right Filter

If you’re unsure about which filter to use, it’s best to follow your manufacturer’s guidelines on the MERV rating range for your equipment, or ask your HVAC technician. As a general guide, here’s how different types of filters rate:

  • Flat fiberglass — These inexpensive filters have MERV ratings from 1–4. They’re best used to keep harmful particles out of the HVAC system. They can only trap about 80 percent of particles 10 microns and larger so they don’t really boost air quality.
  • Pleated — Considered “medium-density” because of their greater surface area, these filters go from MERV 5–13. The higher-rated versions are better at improving air quality because they can trap up to 95 percent of particles down to 3.0 microns in size.
  • Higher-efficiency — These fiberglass filters range from MERV 14–16, but if you want to use one, you’ll need to discuss modifying your HVAC system with a knowledgeable contractor because they can hinder vital airflow and cause significant equipment damage.

For expert advice about which HVAC air filter is ideal for the system in your Portland-area home, contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Understanding DIY or Professional HVAC Maintenance Tasks

Understanding DIY or Professional HVAC Maintenance TasksYour home’s HVAC system needs regular maintenance to operate well for its lifespan. Much of that needs to be performed by a qualified professional. Heating and cooling systems have sensitive components that need expert handling for both your safety and the safety of the machinery. Here are some guidelines regarding tasks you can take care of and what jobs are best left to your technician.

Changing the Filter

You should change filters whenever they are dirty because grimy filters lead to problems such as stressed fan motors, dirty evaporator coils, dirty air ducts, and dust in the air you breathe. This is an easy task requiring little time and effort and most homeowners prefer to handle it without help.

If dirty filters have caused problems for the system, that is another story. Make sure you call your HVAC technician if your coils have frozen, if you suspect your ductwork is dirty, or if the fan motor keeps shutting off.

Cleaning

Seasonal HVAC maintenance visits usually include some cleaning tasks specific to the machinery. Your contractor can take care of cleaning the coils and cleaning interior parts that have gathered dust.

Some cleaning projects are DIY and will make your system run better as well as make any maintenance task easier. This includes keeping the area around the furnace and other interior HVAC components neatly swept and free of clutter. Outdoors, keep trees and bushes trimmed back from the compressor and don’t let brush or grass clippings build up nearby. The technician will appreciate clear access to the units. It also reduces the amount of debris being trapped inside.

Repairs

It can be tempting to explore your HVAC equipment when something is malfunctioning. Clearing a clog in the drainage pan or tightening a bolt is fine, but avoid doing anything more than that. Call your technician to make repairs such as loose wiring, broken belts, or stalled fans. This is the safest and smartest way to handle these issues.

For more about HVAC maintenance and your Portland home, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Prepare for Solar Installation With These Tips

Prepare for Solar Installation With These TipsIf you’re going solar, you’re in good company: more and more Americans are choosing to lower their energy bills and carbon footprint with solar panels. But before you schedule a solar installation, there are a few things you should do to prepare.

  • Read up on your local utility policy on energy pricing and solar installation. Some areas actually allow homeowners to sell solar energy back to the grid when their solar production exceeds their consumption. Others do not.
  • Find out what rebates are available in your area, and what you need to do in order to get these rebates. Also look into group or neighborhood buys of solar panels, which may negotiate lower rates for installation.
  • Decide whether you want to go completely off-grid, or just cut down on your power usage. Batteries are expensive, and often not necessary — many homes with solar panels continue to receive grid energy during the night.
  • Have your roof inspected for structural stability, and take a close look at the roofing or tiling. Some roofing materials, such as Spanish tile, are more difficult to install solar panels over without damaging them.
  • Compare solar quotes from different installation companies, and get testimonials. Make sure the solar installation company you’re looking at is properly insured.
  • Take a critical look at your landscaping. If you have trees which shade your roof where the panels are to be installed, trim the limbs which block the sun. Your solar panels will actually serve to shade the space directly under them, intercepting the direct rays of the sun and cutting down on passive solar heat gain.
  • Move attic vents, antenna, weather vanes, and other roof features which may be in the way of the new solar panels.

If you’re considering a solar installation in your Portland home, call us up at Roth Heating & Cooling! We can help you make the decisions that are right for your home.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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How to Keep Your Air Conditioner From Freezing

How to Keep Your Air Conditioner From FreezingWe all count on our HVAC system to keep us cool during the heat of the summer. There’s nothing more disappointing than realizing that the A/C we count on has frozen up.

A frozen air conditioner is a symptom of a couple of different problems. The most common cause is an air flow block, often caused by a dirty filter.

When your air conditioner is working as it should, air flows over the evaporator coils and dries up whatever moisture has collected there from the difference in the coolant-chilled components and the warmer surrounding air. When something keeps the air from flowing fast enough, that condensation collects and freezes.

Luckily, there’s a simple way to figure out if your frozen air conditioner was caused by a dirty air filter. As a bonus, you’ll be fixing the problem at the same time. Just follow these simple steps:

  • Completely shut your A/C off. It will begin to defrost once it’s no longer pumping refrigerant through the lines.
  • Clean or replace your air filter.
  • Leave the A/C off but run the fan. Give it at least 60-90 minutes before you try the A/C again.

Once everything has defrosted, keep an eye on the system to make sure it doesn’t freeze up again. In many cases, changing the filter will solve the problem. Just remember to keep replacing or cleaning your filter every 30–90 days to keep your A/C from freezing up again.

If your frozen air conditioner wasn’t solved by changing the filter, you may have a bigger issue: a refrigerant leak. To locate a leak, you’ll have to call a service technician. Once the technician has located the leak, there are two possible outcomes:

  1. If your HVAC system is reasonably new and otherwise in good shape, the leak can be fixed and the refrigerant topped off.
  2. If your system is older and/or has other problems in addition to the leak, you may need to look into replacing it.

For more expert HVAC tips on preventing a frozen air conditioner and more, contact Roth Heating & Cooling. We’re proud to serve the Portland area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Repair or Replace: Consider These Questions

Repair or Replace: Consider These QuestionsSometimes there isn’t a clear cut way to decide whether to repair or replace your current HVAC system. Its age, condition, repair costs, and the degree to which you’re satisfied with the comfort it provides are all part of the final decision.

How old is it?

Most HVAC systems last between 15–20 years. If you’ve kept yours in good condition through routine professional maintenance and filter changes, it may outperform a system that’s been neglected.

How many repairs has it needed?

At some point, keeping an older HVAC system running can start to cost you in parts and labor than it’s worth. It’s hard to estimate what an older system is worth, but when repair bills start to mount each season, it may be time to replace it.

Does it keep you comfortable?

If you have rooms that aren’t as comfortable as they once were, or the system doesn’t provide the comfort you want during extreme weather, you may need a new system.

What are the energy bills like?

Rising energy bills that aren’t weather or based on increasing energy costs often indicate a system that’s nearing the end of its useful life. As HVAC systems age, they tend to use more energy.

Do you have energy usage concerns?

Energy efficiency standards have increased over the last few decades. For some, the issue of repair or replace isn’t as much a consideration as unnecessary energy waste is. New equipment not only offers better efficiency and more options that reduce energy usage and increase overall home comfort.

Does it use R-22?

The cost of R-22 or Freon will continue to rise and by 2020, the only supplies available will be from reclaimed sources. The U.S. EPA-mandated dwindling supply of Freon and R-22 has already increased its price substantially, and it will continue to cost more to replace the refrigerant if your system uses this type.

The answers to the questions about whether to repair or replace may not always be straight-forward. If you’d like more information, contact Roth Heating & Cooling, providing top-notch HVAC services for Portland-area homeowners.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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HVAC 101: Know These Cooling Season Terms

HVAC 101: Know These Cooling Season Terms | RothWhen you are trying to communicate with a service professional, whether your auto mechanic or HVAC technician, it can be confusing if you get lost in trade jargon. If you’re in need of HVAC service, repair or possible installation of a new cooling system, keep these HVAC terms in mind to help you make decisions that best serve your needs.

Air Handler

The indoor part of a split-system air conditioner or heat pump is the air handler. The air handler pulls airflow through return ducts, cools the airflow and then pushes the cooled air back to your home via supply ducts.

Compressor

The compressor is the component that prepares refrigerant to release the heat that was collected from your home. Older compressors are generally piston types that tend to be noisier and less efficient than modern scroll compressors.

Energy Star

The federal Energy Star program was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). HVAC systems must meet stringent guidelines for energy efficiency and offer advanced features compared to conventional systems to brandish the Energy Star logo.

Evaporator and Condenser Coils

Your central air system contains two coils. The coil that absorbs heat energy from your home is the evaporator. The condenser coil releases the heat energy to the air outside your home.

HVAC

HVAC is an acronym for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. So, when you or your HVAC professional speak of your Portland home’s HVAC system, you may be discussing a central A/C system, a heat pump, a furnace, ductwork, a heat-recovery ventilator or add-on systems, such as a zoning system or a whole-home dehumidifier.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is an energy-efficiency rating for A/Cs and heat pumps. SEER numbers of cooling systems are determined by factoring cooling output to energy input during the course of the cooling months. The higher the SEER number, the greater cooling efficiency a system provides.

Don’t be confused by HVAC terms and jargon. Work with a Portland HVAC contractor that truly cares about customer service. Contact the experts at Roth Heating & Cooling today to learn more.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Aiming and Redirecting Vents for Greater Comfort and Efficiency

Aiming and Redirecting Vents for Greater Comfort and Efficiency | RothIf you have a central air conditioner, then your home comfort relies on well-designed ducts — and well-managed air vents. While these unobtrusive fixtures may not seem like much, they actually play a big part in managing your indoor airflow. Here’s what you need to know about opening, closing, and redirecting vents in your Portland, Oregon, home:

  • Your A/C and furnace probably share the same vents. This can be tricky: remember, cool air sinks, while warm air rises. Vents near your baseboards will be more efficient at warming your home during the winter, while vents higher on the wall or ceiling will be more effective at cooling your home through the summer. You can use a ceiling fan to gently draw air upwards or push it downwards to manage your indoor temperature better.
  • You can close or block off vents to rooms you don’t want to cool or heat — but use this sparingly. Vents often come with their own shutters which can be closed, or you can purchase a set of magnetic covers to form a more airtight seal. This prevents conditioned air from entering rooms you don’t want cooled. But watch out: those unless you seal the return air vents, those rooms will still deliver warm air to your A/C, which can raise your cooling costs. And sealing off too many rooms changes the air pressure through your entire duct system, meaning more wear and tear on your fan motor and duct seams.
  • You’re not stuck with the vents you have. The small grates have some angled fluting which looks like it’s used to direct airflow, but the impact from those small angled pieces is actually minimal. Replacing the vent covers with decorative vent covers can be an inexpensive way to beautify your home environment.

If you have questions about the airflow in your home, about redirecting vents, or about managing your home comfort, don’t hesitate to call us up at Roth Heating & Cooling!

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Should Air Filters be Changed More Frequently During Summer?

Should Air Filters be Changed More Frequently During Summer? | RothEven though Portland’s summers are relatively mild, your air filter has a lot to deal with during the cooling season. Taking care of your filter correctly protects your comfort and your health.

How Summer Affects Your Air Filter

While it’s a good idea to inspect your filter once a month, during milder weather, you may not always need to change it monthly. During the cooling season, when you’re using your A/C almost daily, lower-efficiency filters should be changed every month. There are a few reasons for this.

Higher cooling demand — As your air conditioner runs, it pulls room air through the filter and the filter picks up debris from the air. If you’re running your A/C for hours a day most days, it will fill up quickly.

More air contaminants — Naturally higher summertime humidity encourages the growth of mold and bacteria, which worsens your indoor air quality. Plants that bloom in summer add pollen to your air. All this means more contaminants to clog up your filter.

Higher humidity — Humid indoor air provides ideal growing conditions for the mold spores and bacteria on your filter. Leave the filter in too long and it could develop mold that releases more spores into your air.

Know When to Change Your Air Filter

In summer, 1-inch fiberglass filters should be changed every month. Higher-efficiency filters, which have larger particle-trapping surfaces, can last up to 3 months. They also improve your indoor air quality, unlike lower-efficiency filters. Your air quality affects exactly how long they last. If you smoke, have pets or live near a major road or other source of pollution, the filter will become dirty faster.

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on when to change the filter. To be on the safe side, once a month, remove the filter and hold it up to a light source. If you can’t see light through the filter, it’s time to put in a clean one.

For more guidance on keeping your air quality high, contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling in the Portland area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Metro Portland, Oregon area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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