You are seeing this message because we have detected you are using Internet Explorer 10 (or older) to browse our site. Unfortunately, this means that your browser is too old to display our site properly and that certain areas of the site may display incorrectly or not at all. Please upgrade to the latest version of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, or Apple Safari in order to view this site.
Need service now?
Call Barron Heating AC Electrical & Plumbing at 360-676-1131
Sure, in the short walk from your heated car to your heated office the cold winter air may be refreshing, but I’m sure there are few among us who don’t appreciate the comfort of a well-heated house at the end of the day. I’ll also bet there are few among us whose energy bills don’t see some kind of spike in these winter months either. That part’s not so comforting.
But before you scramble to take up residence someplace more tropical, we’ve put together 6 tips to help keep your house warm and wallet happy this winter.
1. Go smart (with a smart/programmable thermostat)
Automatically control the temperature of your house when you’re working, sleeping, or otherwise occupied with a programmable thermostat, and you can save from 5 to 20% on your heating bill. No need to worry about remembering to turn your heat down when you leave the house–programmable thermostats take the hassle out of heating.
Only if you believe that a “leaky home” can waste money
And you should! Whether you are heating or cooling your home, leaky homes can waste your hard-earned dollars!
The best way to evaluate your home is to have it professionally tested. Home energy assessments, home energy audits and home energy check-ups are all pretty much the same thing. The important element is to choose the right type of professional contractor to perform any one of these evaluations of your home.
As explained in this video from the U.S. Department of Energy, a home energy checkup is a series of tests and inspections to help determine how your home can be more efficient. Finding the source of inefficiencies in the home will help you understand how you could be wasting money. It is common to find problems in most homes like:
trap doors/access doors to attics
leaky duct work
airflow and sources of air leakage in the home
The good news is that all of these problems areas can be fixed! Many times, homeowners are tricked into purchasing new heating or cooling systems that can cost thousands of dollars. But it is quite common that a new system is not what the homeowner needs. What’s worse is that the new system will not operate as efficiently as expected because the true source of inefficiencies in the home have not been addressed. It is common that homeowners can save more money in the long run by doing a little bit of investigative work on the front end.
So why wait until those energy bills start adding up?
A little bit of useful knowledge can go a long way for homeowners.
The average suburban family home has become a much more complicated and sophisticate system than ever before! Long gone are the days of wood-burning stoves and cracking a window open to feel the cool summer breeze. Today’s home commonly has forced-air ductwork, higher efficiency HVAC systems, geothermal systems, and electronic control systems. Many of these systems are new to contractors so it is no wonder that the average U.S. homeowner does not understand how to keep their home performing well. Homeowners must rely on a hired expert – but choosing the right one and one you can trust can be a tricky path.
So, how can homeowners protect themselves? Get to know your home! There are three basic categories of knowledge every owner should have about their home:
What kinds of things fall into the category of required knowledge? We recommend the following:
Water source: where does your home’s water come from (municipal water, well water, spring water)?
Waste water: where does your home’s waste water go (septic tank, municipal sewer pipe)?
Water main location: where is the water main for the home?
What type of water heater does your home have?
What type of appliance heats your home and where is it located?
What type of fuel is used to heat your home?
Does your home have an emergency on/off switch for the heating system and where is it located?
What is the location of your home’s fire extinguisher?
Does your home have air conditioning and where is it located?
Does your home have a thermostat control and where is it located?
Where are the locations for the main electrical panel and circuit breakers?
What kinds of things are useful and good to know about your home? We recommend the following:
What type of roofing is on your home’s roof?
What type of plumbing supply pipes are used in your home (copper, PVC)?
How is your home insulated (attic, roof, walls, how much, what type)?
Are your windows single-glazed, double-glazed or triple-glazed?
Does your home have removable storm windows?
Does your home have a mechanical ventilation system, if so, what type?
Gathering answers to these questions will better prepare you for work that might be performed in your home and will help prevent you from being swindled by crooked contractors.
If homeowners take a little extra time to learn a few building science principles and consider their home as a “whole system” it will be easier to select the appropriate contractor to perform repairs, maintenance or conduct testing on your home. Some of the things that would fall into this category include:
Why does infiltration and exfiltration matter?
Where are air leaks most often located?
How air movement can undermine the performance of fluffy insulation.
How can positive and/or negative pressure affect your home?
What kinds of conditions can lead to condensation within your home?
What are the most cost-effective energy retrofit measures?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of different types of heating fuel?
We are not suggesting that homeowners become home performance experts, but by getting to know your home a little better you can protect yourself and save money in the long run by choosing a contractor with knowledge and confidence in home performance service work. By gathering some basic knowledge about your home, you can work with your contractor to decide how to make your home the best total system it can be for you and for your family.
Do you feel like as soon as you finish dusting…the dust seems to come right back?
A good deal of the dust in our homes comes from internal sources such as skin flakes, fabric fibers and pets. However, new research has found that in many homes a significant amount of the dust actually originates from outside the living space. The hot or cold outside air that leaks in through gaps and cracks often brings a lot of dust along with it. The air from outside always contains airborne particles such as mold spores, pollen, soot, tire rubber and agricultural dust. Think how dirty patio furniture can get after just a few days without rain.
However, that outside air leaking in around windows and doors is only a small part of the problem. Windows and doors usually represent less than 20% of a home’s air leaks.The air coming in there is often relatively clean in comparison to where the other 80% comes from. Building scientists have recently discovered that in the typical home, most of the incoming air first passes through dirty areas such as the attic, attached garage, outside walls, crawlspace, basement, or even from underground.
This incoming air is often contaminated with visible dust particles such as insulation fibers, pollen and mold spores. It may also contain invisible pollutants like carbon monoxide, automobile exhaust, carcinogenic radon gas, rodent allergens, pesticides and volatile organic chemicals. These can negatively affect your family’s health and safety. For more info, check out this video from Comfort Institute:
It’s a common complaint. Just a few days after a thorough house cleaning, that unsightly dust is back, settling on every surface in your house. Dust can also contribute to respiratory allergy suffering. What’s the answer?
Contact your home performance trained contractor and ask for an Infiltro meter blower door test to pinpoint where the bad air leaks are. This involves installing a computerized machine with a powerful fan in your front doorway, to temporarily pressure test your house. An air leak detector and infrared camera are then used to find the air leaks. Many are leaks you can repair as weekend projects. Others such as leaks in your air ducts, or through recessed can lights are better left to professionals.
Finding and fixing the leaks that let in bad air will make your home healthier and less dusty. Your home will also be more comfortable and have more controllable indoor humidity levels. Fixing these air leaks will even pay for itself through lower heating and cooling bills. In fact, duct leakage alone has been found to waste 20% to 40% of most system’s heating or air conditioning.
Our Homes Suck – And That’s Why Our Kids Have Sinus Problems
By: Larry Zucker (CEO of the Building Performance Institute)
We all know about how stack effect works in homes, but during presentations, I’m always surprised by how many hands are raised in response to the question: “How many of you think you can make a house too tight and cause problems with indoor air quality?” Generally, at least three-quarters of the room raises their hands. Really? My colleague Joe Kuonen says that getting a house so tight that you need to ventilate is a feat worth celebrating. “Now, we can get fresh air from a place we can trust,” he says. Where do most of our homes get their fresh air? From places we cannot trust, like crawl spaces.
What do we know about crawl spaces? Generally, they are dark and wet. This is a perfect habitat for mold, rodents and insects to thrive – and gain access to the house. Those of you who have spent a lot of time in crawl spaces have horror stories about close encounters with both living and dead creatures. Allison Bailes once published a photo of a dead opossum in a crawl space next to a disconnected return duct!
On the other side of the band joist is the basement where the air handling unit often resides. If there is insulation on the band joist, it is generally discolored by filtering air that passes through the crawl space. Thankfully there is a furnace filter, you might say. If you look at most furnace filters in people’s homes, you’ll generally find them clogged and gross. And with the furnace filter slot at the end of the return duct, the furnace filter is protecting the blower motor from the air that everyone in the house has been breathing. This can’t be good for your health.
Why should we care about the quality of indoor air?
The heat is blowing, the furnace is purring like a kitten, the family is warm wherever they are lounging in the house. Everything seems to be good, as far as the heating system is concerned… or is it?
It seems like whenever that furnace blower comes on, Jim starts sneezing. All winter long you’re dusting every week. Sometimes its hard to sleep at night with the dry throats and all the coughing and refilling glasses of water.
Here’s the kicker: you are not alone.
For decades homeowners have been settling for this relationship with their house, but it doesn’t have to be this way.Thankfully, after decades of research and testing, we now understand the important link between your home’s contents, heating system, construction materials and you. This is an exciting industry to be in when we can honestly say there are new affordable answers to problems that have been plaguing our every day health for as long as we can remember. Indoor air quality is totally within our control.
What is Indoor Air Quality?
Well, its the the contents of the air inside your home.
Its the humidity (moisture content) of that air.
Its the visible and invisible particles floating on the drafts.
Its the specks settling on your DVR and china hutch.
Its all the little living critters that inhabit your home
Its one of the primary causes and exacerbating factors of sinus and respiratory issues.
Some Myths about dust and air contaminants:
“We bring it inside with us.” – Not usually the case. Most houses generate the majority of their air contaminants by their very construction. Depending on design and the state of your duct system, different parts of a house exist in state of negative or positive pressure. These pressures can drive air out and suck air in to the living space. Whatever this air passes through comes with it: fiberglass insulation, dirt, pest droppings, molds and more.
“My house is leaky, mostly the doors and windows.” – Doors and windows make up about 20% of the air leakage in the average home according to energy experts with the Department of Energy. The majority of the air the house “breathes” is from the crawlspace and attic through mechanical, plumbing and electrical penetrations often hidden from direct view. Furthermore, those leaky doors and windows are generally sources of GOOD fresh air, directly from outside.
“All houses have to be dusted a couple times a month.”- Well, this is a touchy subject because how often someone dusts is related to how much they are bothered by the stuff. If you find you are dusting more often than you would like, you likely have opportunities to improve this situation. A house that’s been sealed up tight and ventilated right should be able to go a month or more without significant dust build up.
Whats the answer?
Our motto at Barron Heating is “Test, don’t guess”, so the first step is to have a Home and Duct Performance Assessment completed on your home. This test will identify where the air, heat and contaminants are moving and what the best methods of controlling them might be.
Common Prescriptive Solutions Include:
Air Sealing the duct system
Insulating the duct system
Air sealing attic floor and crawl space ceiling
Air sealing leaks from inside the home
Adding a fresh air duct to the heating system
Installing whole house ventilation (timer driven exhaust fans)
Installing an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)
Crawl space renovation and clean up
Insulating floors, walls and ceilings
And more… the answer is unique to your home!
Good luck and feel free to ASK AN EXPERT if you have any questions.
One key duct component you’ll hear mentioned regularly in the world of home performance is the venerable “floor-to-boot” connection.
It may sound like some obscure honky-tonk dance, but it is really one of the more important points in your home to investigate and seal when it comes to indoor air quality and efficiency. The floor-to-boot connection is the seam where the metal duct meets the subfloor. The included fittings usually consist of a round duct elbow and a rectangular duct box that fits up into the hole cut in your floor. The registers (aka grilles) you see around your house that deliver heat are fit inside this rectangular duct box. From the floor seam to the elbow, leaks at this point are important to address AND can also be the easiest to DIY.
Often, the material or nails that were installed to secure this piece of duct to the floor have been compromised, worn out or damaged. A gap can form around the edge that is a direct leak from the crawl space (yuk!) into the home. This is a passive leak when the furnace is not running and a forced leak point when it is.
This “broken boot” condition can also be a key indicator that other parts of your system may be compromised and a duct performance test is warranted.
See our articles on crawl spaces and duct leakage to find out more.
To make the process of having a Home and Duct Performance test as smooth as possible, you can follow the steps below. Many of the steps can be done in the days leading up to your test while ‘for safety reasons’, you might want to wait unit we arrive (or just before) to handle others. Hopefully you’re as excited as we are about learning what your house has to tell us about its Health, Comfort & Efficiency.
Watch the video.
Visit BarronHeating.com/service to see the 6 minute video that explains the whole home and duct performance test process. Doing this will save us valuable testing time when we are at your home and may answer questions you have.
Take the Comfort Check-up Survey.
Also at BarronHeating.com/homeperformancesurvey is a quick 3 minute survey regarding how you experience comfort and air quality at home. The answers you give will allow me to dial in to the opportunities that are most valuable to you as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Locate your electric and natural gas utility account numbers.
Your account number may in some cases give us the ability to pre-approve you for certain utility rebates.
Open up all the interior doors.
This allows for the natural air flow of all zones of your home during testing.
Clear access to all the registers (aka grilles).
In order to measure duct leakage I will need to access all the heat and return registers with a piece of equipment that needs about 2.5 feet of vertical clearance. Any that we can’t get to will be masked off and not used for the test. This will not affect the accuracy of the results.
Check to make sure the filters in your return ducts are relatively clean.
These will be located either at the grills in the home or in a box attached to your furnace.
Make sure all windows are closed.
We don’t want to measure your house leakage with a hole like that in your wall.
Make sure any wood fireplaces are cleaned out and closed as much as possible.
This includes closing the flue.
Do not build a fire in the fireplace in the 24 hours before the test.
When the house is under pressure, it is possible to pull a small amount of ash or chimney debris into the home if we haven’t properly sealed its path.
Turn all gas appliances, such as fireplaces and wall heaters, to “OFF”.
I will take care of the furnace and the water heater if necessary, but you know how to operate the appliances in your home better than I do.
We will be double checking that all these conditions have been met before we begin the testing process, but anything that can be done before we arrive will allow for more time sleuthing and discussing solutions.