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Air Flow: How Pet Doors Affect HVAC Efficiency

Air Flow: How Pet Doors Affect HVAC EfficiencyIf you have a furry family member, a dedicated pet entry can make outdoor trips less of a hassle for everyone. If your pet door isn’t efficient, though, it can have a negative effect on your heating and cooling budget. Whether you’re considering adding a pet door, or you have one already in place, it’s good to know how it impacts energy efficiency.

How a Pet Door Correlates to Heating and Cooling

Heating and cooling your home represents almost half the energy your family uses annually. Air leaks through the exterior envelope can drive up your consumption and monthly utility bills, and waste your energy dollars. A pet door creates a large opening through the envelope, so making it as energy efficient as possible is vital to keep heated air inside during the winter, and hot air out in the summer.

Aim for Efficiency When Choosing a Pet Door

If you’re shopping for a new pet door, you’ll find a wide array of choices available, from basic ones with plastic frames and flaps, to durable ribbed-steel units with built-in electronic sensors. Regardless of a model’s bells and whistles, only consider energy efficient pet doors that :

  • Feature rigid materials and ample insulation.
  • Seal securely against the elements.
  • Function smoothly regardless of the outdoor temperature.

Reduce Air Leaks Around Your Existing Door

If you have a pet door that’s a source of air leakage, here’s how to make it more efficient and airtight:

  • Remove the pet door’s frame and add adhesive-backed weatherstripping around the cut-out in your entry door. Then, put the unit back in place and seal around it with a bead of caulking.
  • Measure and cut a piece of flexible rubber insulation to fit each flap and install it on the door’s interior side. To boost the door’s wind resistance further, add magnets on the flap’s interior corners and sides if possible.
  • Install self-adhesive brush strips all the way around the door’s opening to help limit air leakage even more.

To learn more effective ways to improve energy efficiency around your Portland-area home, contact us today 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). 

HVAC Alarms: How to Remember to Change the Air Filter

HVAC Alarms: How to Remember to Change the Air FilterAs simple as it is, the air filter plays a big role in the efficient and durable functioning of your HVAC system. It safeguards the air handler from dust, which harms all things mechanical and electrical. If you want lower cooling bills and low maintenance costs, make checking the filter a priority.

Going High-Tech

Upgrade the thermostat. Programmable and Wi-Fi thermostats may have a feature that tracks the amount of time the HVAC system runs and turns a light on, sends you an alert, or beeps when it’s time to check it.

Install an air pressure sensor. Pressure sensors that fit between the air handler and the filter measure the air pressure. When it falls too low, it will send a signal to the monitor to let you know it’s time to change the filter. These are the most convenient, although not commonly used, devices if you want to keep your HVAC system running smoothly and efficiently.

Use your smartphone or computer. Use the calendar function to notify you when to check the filter.

Using Low-Tech Methods

  • Check the condition of the filter when you get your electricity bill. Since the amount of the bill is tied to the HVAC system, it makes sense to relate one to the other. Since HVAC system usage is seasonal, you won’t need to check it when your HVAC system hasn’t been used during months of little to no usage.
  • Write the filter check date on a wall calendar. Cross it off afterwards and note whether you changed it. The dust load in your home dictates how often it needs changing. Homes with pets, carpeting, or heavy fabrics tend to generate more airborne particulates the filter captures.

    If you want to reduce the level of dust and particulates, vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter instead of sweeping, and replace carpeting with hard surface floors.

To learn more about easy and convenient ways to check the air filter using high-tech devices, contact Roth Heating & Cooling. We provide 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). 

3 Signs Your A/C’s Condensate Drain Line Needs to be Cleaned

3 Signs Your A/C's Condensate Drain Line Needs to be CleanedThe condensate drain line in your central air conditioner safely conveys water out of your house. Lots of it. On a humid summer day, the evaporator coil in a residential A/C can extract over 25 gallons of water vapor from the air. If everything works right, as condensate collects in the drip pan beneath the indoor air handler, the drain line conveys it to a household drain connection or discharges it outside.

If something goes awry, however—like a clog in the condensate drain line—the drip pan overflows and continues overflowing every time the A/C cycles on. Because the air handler is typically enclosed inside a closet, many gallons may be spilled before it’s noticed. By then, expensive water damage to the house—and possibly to valuable possessions, too—has already occurred.

Be alert to these signs that your condensate drain line needs to be cleaned:

  1. Unexplained pooling of water around the indoor air handler. The most likely suspect is drip pan overflow due to a clogged or sluggish drain line.
  2. Standing water inside the pan. It’s normal for the drip pan under the air handler to be wet when the system’s running. However, standing water accumulating in the pan indicates a problem such as a clog or a kink in the drain line.
  3. System shuts itself down. If your A/C inexplicably shuts off and won’t start again, the drip pan may be full. Some systems incorporate a safety sensor to prevent drip pan overflow by automatically shutting down the unit if the drain line clogs. This requires a qualified HVAC service tech to clear the clog and restart the system.

Professional service for condensate drain issues includes using air pressure to blow out the entire span of drain line. Since algae or mold growth in the drip pan is the most common cause of clogs, the pan and drain line are cleaned and sterilized. Time-release biocide tablets may also be installed in the pan to prevent recurrence for the rest of the cooling season.

For qualified service to diagnose and resolve condensate drain line issues, contact the pros 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). 

When to Call Your Technician: HVAC Problems

When to Call Your Technician: HVAC ProblemsYour home’s HVAC system contains complicated equipment, so it can be difficult to know for sure if a developing issue is worth a phone call to your HVAC pro. Here’s a look at some common HVAC problems that deserve the attention of an experienced technician.

Unfamiliar Sounds

Some noise is expected when your HVAC equipment is running, like a hum from the outdoor compressor, a whir from the blower fan, or a pop and whoosh as air moves through the ductwork. New or startling sounds like banging, rattling, hissing or high-pitched screeching can be warning signs of serious problems, so they should be investigated immediately.

Elevated Energy Bills

Your energy bills are bound to rise if your household usage increases, or there’s a rate increase by the utility company. If your bills are climbing for no obvious reason, however, there may be a problem with your HVAC system. Some common issues that a pro should check for are an age-related drop in efficiency, dirty cooling coils, ductwork deterioration, and a low refrigerant level.

Water Leaks

During the cooling process, it’s normal for A/Cs and heat pumps to condense water from the air, but it should be sent straight outdoors through the built-in condensate drain. If you discover a puddle under your air handler, a technician needs to inspect the drainage system for obstructions or inadequate slope on the line.

Excessive Humidity

If your home always seems too warm and sticky, and you’re seeing more mold growth in moisture-prone areas like the bathrooms, your HVAC technician needs to find out why. It may be due to short-cycling oversized equipment, or undersized equipment that can’t dehumidify the space effectively.

Unpleasant Smells

Normally, you shouldn’t notice any odor in the air coming from your HVAC registers. If you’re getting a “dirty sock,” acetone-like or acrid burnt smell, call your HVAC pro to identify and correct the underlying cause. Odors like these can be related to mold/mildew growth, a refrigerant leak, or hazardous overheating/arcing of an electrical component.

Contact us at Roth Heating & Cooling for expert help solving HVAC problems in your Portland-area 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). 

Best Ways to Start Spring Storm Preparation for Your HVAC

Best Ways to Start Spring Storm Preparation for Your HVAC

Spring weather can go from balmy to blustery and worse quickly. Strong winds, heavy rain, or ice and snow can take a toll on your HVAC system, which might be completely avoidable with storm preparation in advance of bad weather.

  • Identify the circuit breaker for your HVAC system and label it. Should the power go out, turn the system off at the breaker to prevent electrical damage that may occur as line crews work to restore it.

    It’s not uncommon for the power to spike after an outage, and when the circuit breaker is off, those surges can’t hurt the electronic components inside the heating or cooling equipment. Wait until the power company has stabilized the power supply before turning the system back on.

  • If you’re routinely away, consider installing a whole-house surge protector to keep all of your home’s devices and appliances safe from the damage power spikes can do. Storms aren’t the only cause of power surges. They can happen during grid switching, from car accidents, or during peak usage periods.

    The cost of a whole-house surge protector for year-round storm preparation or normal electrical disruptions is small compared to replacing the appliances or devices damaged from power spikes.

  • Consider anchoring the outdoor condenser to prevent it from tipping during a heavy wind by using tie downs or bolting it to the concrete pad on which it sits. Although they’re heavy, condensers will topple during a strong wind or gust.
  • Set aside a tarp and twine or bungee cords to cover the outdoor condenser when high winds are forecast. The covering can protect the condenser from wind-blown debris that could irretrievably damage the fins or condensing coil inside it.

    If your system is older, a coil may not be available, and you’ll have to replace the entire system, which takes time and could cost you the deductible for your homeowner’s insurance.

Contact the experts at Roth Heating & Cooling for more information about tying down your HVAC system down and adding a surge protector for storm preparation. We provide trusted 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).  

Tips and Tricks for Optimal Outdoor Power

Tips and Tricks for Optimal Outdoor PowerThere are lots of reasons why you may need a reliable power source outside your Portland home. Perhaps you want to install a hot tub, power a garden pond water feature, or add lighting in an outbuilding. Maybe you simply need a short-term power supply for an outdoor event, or you want a convenient spot to plug in your electric yard equipment. Whenever you’re dealing with electricity, safety is paramount, so be sure to follow these smart tips for specific types of temporary and permanent outdoor power:

Outdoor Outlets

Strategically-placed outdoor outlets can give you a convenient source of power for all sorts of purposes. To meet the national electrical code standards, ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are required in any area exposed to moisture, including the exterior of your home. Outdoor GFCI outlets have a spring-loaded cover that keeps them weatherproof, and they automatically trip to prevent shocks and electrocution. If your existing outdoor outlets aren’t GFCI, or you need extra ones installed, it’s wise to consult a licensed electrician.

Extension Cords

When you need temporary power anywhere outdoors, an extension cord that’s plugged in to a GFCI outlet is an ideal solution. Extension cords aren’t all created equal, though, so make sure you choose one that’s:

  • Designed for outdoor use. Outdoor extension cords are ruggedly constructed with durable covers and extra insulation to resist moisture, temperature variations, and sun damage.
  • Rated correctly for your equipment. Only use a cord that can easily handle the amp rating of the device or equipment you’ll be operating, based on the wire gauge and length.

Permanent Power

In certain situations, you may want to install a permanent power source remotely, such as lights and outlets in a workshop, or a post lamp to illuminate your driveway. To ensure safety, the electrical wiring for this kind of outdoor power must be integrated into your home’s breaker panel, and run in a conduit that’s buried underground, so it’s a job for an experienced electrician.

For expert assistance with any outdoor power needs for your Portland-area home, contact us today at Roth Heating & Cooling.

Energy Efficiency Room-by-Room Savings

Energy Efficiency Room-by-Room SavingsMost homeowners are regularly on the lookout for ways to save money with more efficient practices in their homes. One way to discover ways to save through energy efficiency is to go through your home, room by room, and see where you can put the following efficient practices into play.

Bedroom

  1. Get rid of the incandescent light bulbs. Replace them with efficient LED bulbs, which use 70-90 percent less energy.
  2. You don’t need lots of general lighting in a bedroom. Focus on spot lighting, such as a table lamp for reading.
  3. Turn all electronics off when it’s time for bed. You’ll sleep better and save money on electricity.
  4. Turn the thermostat back a few degrees when it’s time to sleep. You’ll want to initiate this practice for when the household is away from home as well.

Living Room

  1. Purchase more efficient electronic appliances. TVs, DVD players, routers and other appliances rated by the Department of Energy’s Energy Star program should be your top choice.
  2. Plug all appliances into a power strip. Turn it off when appliances are not in use so that they are not still draining power.
  3. Use a ceiling fan with reversible blades to cool off in the summer, and to push heat down from the ceiling in winter. Flip a switch and run blades counterclockwise in summer and clockwise in winter. This allows you to set your thermostat up in summer and down in winter.

Bathroom

  1. Install exhaust ventilation to the outdoors to move moisture out of the bathroom. This helps prevent mold, and in summer, will keep the relative humidity down. You’ll feel cooler when the humidity is lower.
  2. Install efficient, low water use fixtures, including low-flow toilets and showerheads.
  3. Install an efficient water heater.

Kitchen

  1. Install Energy Star-rated appliances, including refrigerators and dishwashers.
  2. Use the microwave whenever possible to cook.
  3. Keep the lid on pots while cooking and reduce cooking time.

For more on practices promoting energy efficiency in your home, contact Roth Heating and Cooling. We’ve served Portland since 1976.

Spring Cleaning for your Heating and Cooling System

Spring Cleaning for your Heating and Cooling SystemWhen you are making your spring cleaning list to help freshen and organize your home following the winter season, be sure to include your heating and cooling systems. A clean HVAC system makes your home more comfortable and improves energy efficiency. Following are four key areas to include in your spring HVAC checklist this year.

Furnace Filter

Let’s start with one of the simplest, yet most important tasks on your spring HVAC checklist–changing the air filter. If you use a basic throw-away fiberglass filter, pick up some high-efficiency filters from your home store. The air filter is vital to protect HVAC components, drive energy efficiency, and maintain better indoor air quality.

Grilles and Registers

Clean all the grilles and registers in your home. You can do this with the brush extension of the vacuum or simply wipe them down with a cleaning cloth and spray bottle. If you see that the inside of the ductwork is filthy, schedule a duct inspection with your HVAC technician.

Evaporator Coil and Condensate Pan

The evaporator coil is the component contained in the air handler that removes heat from indoor air. During heat removal, condensation forms on the evaporator coil and fins, which attracts and basically traps mold development and dirt. These contaminants may also form in the condensate pan and drain tube.

The evaporator coil may be cleaned using a self-rinsing foaming coil cleaner. It only takes approximately 20 minutes, and you can follow up by pouring a half-gallon of 50/50 water and bleach into the condensate pan. This will help wash the foam cleaner down the condensate drain and clean the condensate pan and drain line in the process.

Condenser Coil

The condenser coil is contained in the outdoor half of your split-system A/C or heat pump. Spray the unit off with a garden hose to remove leaves and other debris. Before you clean the condenser or the indoor evaporator coil, make sure you turn power off at the circuit breaker.

To hire a professional to perform this spring HVAC checklist and more important HVAC tests, please contact Roth Heating & Cooling today.

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

What are the Most Common HVAC Problems in Spring?

What are the Most Common HVAC Problems in Spring?Now that winter is waning, It won’t be long before you’ll make the change from heating to cooling your home. Since this portion of your HVAC system has been shut off for several months, you might experience a few issues when you make that switch. Here are some common spring HVAC problems and why they occur, along with some advice on solving them quickly:

Too Little Conditioned Air Output

If you’ve put in a fresh air filter and your system comes on but there’s not enough airflow from the registers, it’s wise to have your HVAC pro investigate why. It may be that the evaporator or condenser coil needs cleaning to remove accumulated dust and debris that’s interfering with the heat transfer process, or a leak has developed somewhere in the refrigerant lines. If there’s airflow at the registers, but it doesn’t feel as cool as expected, the outdoor unit may not be cycling on due to a faulty contactor or other problem.

Inconsistent or Uneven Cooling

Does your air conditioner or heat pump start up and run but you find that some rooms stay too warm, while others cool down too much? Uneven cooling in different areas of a home can have several possible causes, including flaws in the ductwork design, unbalanced system airflow, a poorly-placed thermostat, or under- or over-sized equipment. An experienced HVAC technician can determine exactly what’s going on with your system, and then offer effective solutions to improve comfort throughout your home.

Non-Responsive Cooling System

If you’re met with a blank thermostat screen when you go to change from heating to cooling mode, simply replacing the batteries may solve the problem. If the thermostat is working, but you don’t hear or feel a response from your cooling equipment, head to your main electrical panel and reset the system’s breakers by switching them off and back on. If these two fixes don’t work, call your HVAC contractor to thoroughly inspect the system’s various controls and components to determine why.

For expert help solving spring HVAC problems 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). 

The Importance of Water Heater Tune-Ups

The Importance of Water Heater Tune-UpsYour water heater works 24/7, 365 days a year to provide hot water whenever you need it. This demanding work schedule takes its toll on parts and expected service life. If you have noticed hot water issues, such as water discoloration, your water heater needs some TLC. Have you had a water heater tune up recently? Read on to learn why you should!

Why Tune Ups Are Important

Like your refrigerator, HVAC system and plumbing, your water heater provides an essential service to make life more comfortable and productive. Treat your water heater right, and it will pay off.

  • Energy efficiency: Water heating accounts for approximately 17 percent of the average home’s energy usage. When parts wear out or become overly dirty, you lose efficiency and energy dollars.
  • Safety: Water heater parts should be inspected each year to prevent safety issues regarding gas lines, burners, high pressure, water leaks and tank ruptures.
  • Avoid repairs: Regular service and parts replacement saves you an extra service call. Replace parts as manufacturer suggested during water heater tune up time, and save money and time.
  • Service life: Water heaters typically last anywhere from 8 to 15 years. That’s quite a gap. Take care of your appliance to get as many years out of it as possible. Catastrophic water heater failures and replacement are not cheap!

Water Heater Tune Up

Make home maintenance easy. Schedule water heater tune ups in the spring and fall when your A/C and furnace are serviced. Following are the basics of water heater TLC:

  • Inspection: Your technician inspects the flue to insure efficient flow of dangerous gases. Flex hoses and gas lines are inspected. The storage tank is checked for water leaks and rust.
  • Cleaning: The water heater is drained and cleaned to remove sediment.
  • Parts replacement: The anode rod, which is designed to rust instead of your steel water heater, should be replaced every 2 to 4 years.
  • Evaluation: You’ll receive an itemized list of services and the overall health of your water heater.

When is the last time you had a water heater tune up? Contact Roth Heating & Cooling, Plumbing & Electrical to schedule yours!

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