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Easy to Solve Common Water Pressure Problems

Easy to Solve Common Water Pressure ProblemsDealing with poor water pressure is an inconvenience, but many homeowners simply live with the annoyance because they don’t realize there are some relatively simple fixes that might restore an ample flow. Here’s how to solve some common water pressure problems that occur in Portland homes.

Individual Plumbing Fixtures With Low Pressure

If water pressure has decreased at just one faucet or showerhead, you may be able to correct the underlying cause yourself if it’s clogged with sediment or scale deposits. To attempt a faucet fix, unscrew the aerator and rinse the screen thoroughly to clear out any tiny sediment particles. If the problem is a scale buildup, mix a 50/50 water/vinegar solution and soak the aerator for 20 minutes or longer until the minerals dissolve. With a showerhead, remove the nozzle end and follow the same steps. If the problem persists, it’s time to replace the aerator or showerhead.

Poor Hot Water Pressure

If you notice a lack of pressure on the hot water supply at all of your plumbing fixtures, the likely issue is a significant sediment buildup in your water heater tank. If you haven’t had the tank flushed in a while, a serious accumulation can clog up the water lines and block the tank’s drain and pressure relief valves. To avoid any potential safety hazards, it’s wise to get the appliance inspected, drained and flushed by a professional plumber.

Low Pressure Throughout Your Home

If your entire plumbing system suffers from insufficient cold water pressure, make certain that the home’s main water valve is open all the way. If the valve is fully open, it’s best to have a licensed plumber assess your system. A pro may discover that pressure is low in your neighborhood, and suggest installing a pressure booster. There may be a leak that requires repair in your home’s main supply line. A malfunctioning reducing valve on the system is another possibility, or aging galvanized plumbing pipes that are corroded and due for replacement.

For expert help solving water pressure problems in your Metro Portland home, contact us today at Roth Heating & Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical.

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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Find Out How a Variable-Speed Furnace Works in Your Home

Find Out How a Variable-Speed Furnace Works in Your HomeA variable-speed furnace offers quiet, energy efficient comfort using advanced motor technology. Instead of only running on top speed, a furnace equipped with an electronically-commutated motor (ECM) will adjust its running speeds based on your home’s need for heat. They save energy because ECMs use much less electricity than the standard motor, and its slower running speed helps distribute the heat more evenly.

What a Variable-Speed Furnace Does

Conventional blower motors, known as permanent split capacitor motors (PSCs) use alternating current (AC) while an ECM uses direct current (DC). Since our power supply is AC, the variable-speed furnace motor has an inverter that changes the power flow to DC, which is a more efficient use of electricity.

These motors also include high tech components that work with the HVAC system to sense how much heated air your home needs, and adjust their running speeds accordingly. If it’s just a few degrees, the motor will run at a slower speed. The ECM is also capable of sensing the airflow through the blower, making adjustments for constricted airflow from dirt filters or blocked return registers.

Variable-Speed Advantages

  • Cleaner air. Since a variable-speed furnace runs more slowly, it removes more airborne particulates, which creates a healthier home. Anyone who suffers from allergies to pollen, dander or mold may breathe easier.
  • Less electrical consumption. Although combustion furnace efficiency isn’t measured by its electrical use alone, your monthly energy bills will drop. If the furnace is equipped with an air conditioning system, your summer cooling costs will also decline. These systems also remove more humidity in the cooling mode since the air handler runs longer.
  • Quiet operation. These systems start and stop their cycles slowly. Even at top speeds, these motors are quieter than PSC motors.
  • Durability. HVAC systems with variable-speed motors tend to last longer since they avoid the stress and wear that frequent starts cause.

To learn more about a variable-speed furnace, contact Roth Heating & Cooling, providing trusted HVAC services for Portland-area homeowners since 1976.

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

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Want to Do an Energy Evaluation on Your Home? Use this Checklist

Want to Do an Energy Evaluation on Your Home? Use this ChecklistEven though American homes are becoming increasingly energy efficient these days, there’s still lots of room for improvement in most households. Most homeowners are more than willing to invest in improving energy efficiency, both for altruistic and financial reasons. The main obstacle isn’t a lack of will but rather knowledge about what needs to be done. That’s where a home energy audit comes into play. A professional energy evaluation will reveal where energy is being lost in the home, and then tell you how to stop it.

What’s Involved in a Home Energy Evaluation?

  • The energy auditor(s) will inspect your home, checking out likely spots for energy waste, such as windows, doors, and the attic. He or she will inspect your heating and cooling system, including the ductwork. He or she will likely ask to look at previous years’ utility bills to better understand energy usage in your home and detect any patterns over time.
  • Diagnostic tests are undertaken to confirm where energy is being lost. The most common is the blower-door test. A powerful fan and housing is installed in a main exterior door frame, after all windows, doors, and vents have been closed. As the fan blows outward, it depressurizes the house. A gauge measures how quickly air rushes back into the home via air leaks. This measures your home’s airtightness.
  • During the blower-door test, the auditor, using thermographic scanning equipment, will detect where air is leaking, plus locate where insulation is insufficient.
  • A test similar to the blower door also may be done inside your ductwork, to determine how much air is leaking during the heating and cooling process.

After the evaluation, you’ll receive a detailed report listing areas of improvement. While some of the recommendations will be tasks that you can do yourself, other recommendations, such as replacing windows, repairing ducts or upgrading HVAC equipment, will require professional help.

To discuss scheduling a professional home energy evaluation for your Portland area home, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.

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

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How to Decide Between Air Filtration and Air Cleaning

How to Decide Between Air Filtration and Air CleaningIf you’re concerned about maintaining indoor air quality in your Portland area home, it’s important to understand the difference between air filtration and air cleaning. While all forced-air heating and cooling systems have some form of air filtration, not all households have dedicated air cleaning systems. If you have family members who are susceptible to allergies or respiratory ailments, you’ll want to consider an air cleaning system.

First it helps to understand how basic air filtration works in an HVAC system. In most households, this involves a cheap, flat-panel fiberglass (or other synthetic) filter that goes into a slot in your furnace compartment, usually where the ductwork attaches. Before air is drawn into the furnace or A/C for conditioning, the filter removes some proportion of the solid particulates in that air. However, the main purpose of a low- or standard-efficiency air filter is to protect HVAC components rather than clean indoor air.

This doesn’t mean that higher-efficiency air filtration can’t achieve cleaner and healthier air. High-efficiency HVAC filters can remove the vast majority of airborne particulates. This is accomplished with denser (or more) filtration media removing a wide range of contaminants, large and small. However, the denser filtration media also may restrict airflow. Adverse effects may include wasted energy, stressed system components, and uneven heating and cooling. A forced-air system can be modified to work with a high-efficiency filter, though this may be costly. Consider a whole-house air cleaning system instead.

A whole-house air cleaner is connected directly to your HVAC system, and like an air filter treats all of the air that circulates through that system. But rather than simply capturing airborne particulates with fiberglass or some other filtration medium, an air cleaner typically employs a combination of technologies to clean the air. These might include ultraviolet light, electrostatic attraction or HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filtration. A quality air cleaner can remove more than 99 percent of the particulates in your indoor air.

To talk to a trained technician about cleaning or filtering the air in your Portland area home, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.

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

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Dealing with Common Furnace Problems in Your Home

Dealing with Common Furnace Problems in Your HomeDuring the winter, there’s always a chance your home’s heating system will act up or stop working entirely. Either way — the sudden loss of heat or a furnace that’s not heating adequately — this is something to avoid. Try learning some basic furnace troubleshooting steps. With that knowledge, you’ll have a better shot at figuring out what’s wrong and either fixing it yourself or knowing what to tell the HVAC service technician you call.

If Your Furnace is Struggling to Heat Your Home

This could the result of any of numerous issues. The air filter may need to be change; ductwork might be dirty or leaking air; the burners in your combustion heating system might be clogged; the blower motor might need to be cleaned and lubricated; or your heating system might be so old that it no longer can keep up with the challenge of heating your home. Each of these issues has a different solution, from the easy (changing the air filter) to the most difficult and expensive, replacing your heating system.

If the Heating isn’t Working at All

  • Check that your HVAC system is getting power. Do this at the circuit-breaker box or at the on-off switch if your heating system has one. Is the thermostat set to “heat” and that the setting is above the temperature in your home? If the thermostat is battery operated, check the batteries.
  • Ignition might be the problem, especially if you have an older furnace with a pilot light. Re-lighting the pilot might be all that’s necessary, though if the light keeps going out, or the electronic ignition (in a newer heating system) is malfunctioning, you’ll need a professional service call.
  • If you hear banging or rattling in the furnace compartment before the system goes dead, it might be loose or detached parts in the blower motor, or a slipped belt. While you might be able to put the belt back on, you’ll need professional help for a faulty motor.

For help fixing your Portland area heating system problems this winter, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.

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

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How to Decide if Your Ductwork Needs Replacement

How to Decide if Your Ductwork Needs ReplacementIf you have an older home that’s never had its ductwork replaced, or perhaps a relatively new home with badly designed or manufactured ducts, you may need to consider duct repairs or replacement. Faulty ducts can result in substantial energy loss, higher utility bills, uneven heating and cooling, and overworked HVAC equipment. Leaky ducts also can result in backdrafting, with dirty air infiltrating ducts and contaminating indoor air. So, how can you tell your ducts are malfunctioning?

Signs that ductwork needs to be repaired or replaced include:

  • Heating and cooling bills that are higher than your neighbors’ bills, even though their homes are the same size as yours.
  • A pattern of increased energy costs in recent years that doesn’t seem to have any other explanation.
  • Visual signs such as hanging ducts, or duct sections that obviously are not firmly connected.

Of course, the best way to tell whether duct repair or replacement is necessary is with a professional inspection. The HVAC professional will visually inspect the ducts, plus possibly conduct a blower test to determine the physical integrity of the ductwork. This also will reveal whether a professional duct cleaning is necessary.

The professional may recommend duct sealing and perhaps adding insulation to duct sections running through unconditioned areas such as the crawl space or basement. While a moderately handy homeowner can seal loose duct connections in accessible locations with mastic sealant and metal-backed tape, he or she probably can’t access all of the duct network. A truly comprehensive job will require professional service by experts in duct repair and replacement.

In rare cases, the ductwork may have deteriorated so badly, and is in such poor shape, that replacement is the recommended option. Whatever your course of action, it’s vitally important to have efficient, tight ductwork that delivers conditioned air throughout your home, with minimal waste, and then brings it back to your HVAC equipment to be reheated or re-cooled.

For help deciding whether to replace or repair faulty ducts, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling, providing quality HVAC service to Portland and the surrounding communities.

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

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Be Proactive and Check Your Furnace Filter Quality

Be Proactive and Check Your Furnace Filter QualityYour furnace works hard to heat your home, but it won’t work as well if you are not using the right filter or if you don’t change the filter. Attention to furnace filter quality is one of the best steps toward keeping your furnace running smoothly this season. Here is what you should know about choosing a filter and how often to change it.

How to Choose a Filter

Don’t pick the first and cheapest filter you see. There is a significant difference between those thin, single panel mesh filters and higher quality options. Fiberglass furnace filters will keep some dust out of your furnace, which is important, but will still allow a lot in to pollute the air in your home.

Look instead for disposable pleated air filters. These have a higher MERV rating, which is the minimum efficiency reporting value and means they trap more particles. For home use, buy filters with a rating from 9 to 13. Some sellers might encourage you to choose higher-rated filters, but most residential HVAC systems won’t function well when those are used because high-MERV filters reduce airflow to the system.

High quality pleated filters will help protect your furnace from contaminants and will improve your indoor air quality by reducing allergens. You should not just put the new filter in and forget about it, however. For the best results, you should change them every month.

Changing Your Filter

Here are three reasons why you should change your furnace filter monthly:

  • Reduce allergies. Clogged air filters will not reduce allergens in your home’s air and can even make things worse.
  • Keep your heating bills lower. Dirty filters reduce airflow, which makes your furnace struggle harder to perform. This leads to greater energy consumption.
  • Protect your furnace. The reduced airflow, in addition to particles collecting on inner furnace components, can lead to a furnace breakdown. Changing the filter can prevent costly repairs or complete furnace malfunction.

For more information about furnace filters and your Portland area home, please contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling.

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

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Should You Consider Using Ductless Mini Splits in Your Home?

Should You Consider Using Ductless Mini Splits in Your Home?A ductless mini split offers a solid option for heating and cooling areas in your home that would otherwise pose challenges. Ductless systems work just like central HVAC systems, except they don’t use ductwork for air delivery. They’re one of the most energy efficient and flexible alternatives with a proven record for performance and comfort.

Mini Split Components

The two primary parts of a ductless system are the indoor air handler and the outdoor condenser. A thin conduit that contains refrigerant, power and a drainpipe connect the two. Larger mini splits can support four separate air handlers, making it possible to condition multiple rooms or spaces.

The air handler can sit on the floor or hang from a wall or ceiling. The condenser is more compact than those associated with central systems. Installers drill a small hole in an exterior wall to run the conduit that connects the condenser to the air handler.

System Advantages

Since they don’t use ductwork, mini splits are ideal appliances for conditioning spaces where running ductwork would take too much space or be costly. They’re often used in retrofitted spaces or new additions. Each air handler has its own thermostat to ensure individual comfort. If you don’t plan to use a space continuously, you can save energy by turning the system off without affecting comfort levels in the rest of the home.

Ductless systems offer greater energy efficiency because they don’t have any thermal or air losses from ductwork that central systems do. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) mandates that a ductless mini split must meet the same minimum energy efficiency requirements as central forced-air HVAC systems do.

Heating with a Mini Split

In this climate, a ductless heat pump can provide year-round comfort. Look for a HSPF (heating season performance factor) rating that exceeds the current minimum rating of 8.2. One with a scroll compressor or that uses inverter technology will provide comfortable heat even during our coldest weather.

If you’d like more information about a ductless mini split, contact Roth Heating & Cooling, providing Portland-area homeowners with outstanding HVAC services since 1976.

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

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Improve Comfort by Installing a Humidifier in Your Home

Improve Comfort by Installing a Humidifier in Your HomeEven in our humid climate, a furnace can dry out a home’s air and cause a number of problems over the winter. One of the best remedies for an overly dry indoor environment is a humidifier.

Adding humidity to the home eases respiratory problems such as asthma, bronchitis and rhinitis, and other problems such as dry skin and chapped lips. Slightly humid conditions also make a home’s occupants feel warmer, so that the homeowner can turn down the thermostat a few degrees during the winter.

In addition, low humidity in homes damages wooden floors, furnishings, and musical instruments by drying them out and causing cracking.

For best results, aim for balanced humidity between 30 and 50 percent.

Installing a Humidifier

A whole-house humidifier, installed in your HVAC system, is the best way to maintain proper humidity. The appliance emits water vapor into the air through the ductwork, while the system monitors and controls the level of moisture. It uses water from the home’s plumbing system, so there’s no need to buy distilled water. Generally no maintenance is required other than cleaning out the tank a couple of times a year to remove mineral deposits.

Portable Humidifiers

Although a whole-house humidifier does a better, more efficient job of humidifying a home, some homeowners may opt for a portable or console model. These can be moved from room to room. They require refilling and frequent cleaning of filters to guard against mold and bacteria buildup.

Following are some popular types of portable humidifiers:

  • Warm mist: A heating element boils water, releasing it into the air as warm steam. It makes the room feel warmer than a cold mist type.
  • Cool mist: A wick filter absorbs water in the base of the appliance, while a fan blows dry air through the filter, causing the moisture to evaporate into the air.
  • Ultrasonic: These quiet humidifiers employ high-frequency sound waves to vibrate a metal diaphragm at an ultrasonic frequency, breaking water down into a fine vapor mist.

For more on installing a humidifier, contact Roth Heating and Cooling. We’ve served Portland residents since 1976.

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

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Is Radiant Flooring the Best Choice for Your Home?


Is Radiant Flooring the Best Choice for Your Home?
In Portland’s chilly, wet winters, a heating system that infuses your home with an even, draft-free warmth can be a real comfort. While radiant flooring is a good choice if you want this kind of warmth, it’s better suited to some situations than others.

Why Choose Radiant Floor Heating?

A forced-air system, such as a furnace, blows warm air into the room, which quickly rises to the ceiling. A radiant floor system gives off heat that directly warms people and furniture. This type of heat makes you feel warmer overall, allowing you to set a lower thermostat temperature to save energy.

No blowing air also means fewer airborne contaminants such as dust and mold spores, a plus if you experience allergies or asthma. With no motor or air moving through ducts, radiant floors are also quieter than forced-air systems. With no air vents to worry about, you can place your furniture and rugs anywhere.

Consider Your Options

Most homes with radiant flooring use either a hydronic (water) or electric design. A hydronic system uses tubes under the floor to circulate hot water produced by a boiler. The energy-efficiency of boiler heating makes hydronic systems suitable for heating the whole house. If the pipes aren’t installed during the home’s construction, however, the floor must be removed to install them.

In an electric system, pads embedded with electric heating cables are installed under the floor. Considering the relatively high cost of electric heating, these systems are best kept to a limited area, such as the bathroom. Some designs can be installed without removing the floor as long as the floor is accessible from underneath via the basement or crawl space.

Radiant flooring systems require a floor covering that holds and transmits heat well without suffering heat damage. Tile, stone, laminate, some types of vinyl flooring and even concrete are all options. You’ll want to avoid hardwood and thick carpet, though.

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

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