Barron Heating AC Electrical & Plumbing Blog: Archive for the ‘rebates’ Category

Propane to Ductless – A Case Study

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Here is an interesting case study on a 1980’s Bellingham A-frame home. This is the first of many case-studies we will be creating.

This project was a smashing success, with the homeowners saving around $2,000 per year and they were finally able to heat their entire home. Plus, the interior ductless heads are strategically placed, attractive, and offer independent heating zones.

Take a moment to check out the case study, which highlights the homeowners feelings with the results, and walks you through the whole home performance process.

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Insulate Your Home for the Summer!

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Insulation is important in the winter for obvious reasons, but did you know it also helps to keep your home cool in the summer?

Though insulation may seem obvious in this day and age, older homes often have very little or no insulation.

Because heating and cooling accounts for 50-70% of all energy costs, adding insulation is a critical step for anyone interested in lowering their energy bill.

It can be difficult to invest money in something you can’t even see day-to-day, but in the overall performance of your home, it’s critically important. And it’s becoming less and less hard on your pocketbook to install these much-needed updates. There are rebate programs through Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Natural Gas, and in some cases, rebate matching through the Community Energy Challenge (CEC).

Check out this great article: for a thorough description of the types of insulation, where in your home to put it, and much more!

The article also discusses geeky but useful things like R-Value of insulation. Turns out it stands for Resistance to heat flow. That makes sense! The DOE recommends an R-Value of R-49 for attics. And the better your insulation, the less hard your heating and cooling system will have to work, and therefore the longer before it breaks down. Win-win-win.

So, how do you know how much insulation you have in your home and where? Well, if you are handy and don’t mind wading through it yourself there are DIY ways of checking for insulation. However, if you’d rather leave it to the professionals, a Home Performance Assessment will tell you definitively where the insulation is. An Infrared Camera, used in most assessments, can look right through your walls!

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Home Performance Financing 101

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Is all this talk about Energy Upgrades and Home Performance getting you down because you’d love to make improvements to your home, but lack the finances to make it happen?

Believe it or not, we were in  the same boat (even though we both work in the industry). We were aware of the enormous benefits of a weatherized, insulated, and efficiently heated home for years before we finally pulled the trigger. I always just assumed we couldn’t afford it! I was completely in the dark about just how many financing options were available. That’s our home in the photo above, being tested for all things Home Performance related. That very home is now fully sealed/weatherized/efficiently heated/ventilated/basically every upgrade we could think of, for just under $100/month with the financing we received!

What types of financing are available and how to begin?

There are 4 basic types of financing for Energy/Home Performance/Heating upgrades.

  1. Energy Upgrade-Specific Financing: This is probably your best bet if you qualify, and it is the route we went for financing. Check out Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union’s ENERGY SMART loans. PSCCU is a co-op bank geared toward local, environmental, and energy-savings solutions. And, they have fantastic rates! Must be in WA State to work with them, but check with your local financial institutions to see if your state has a similar program.
  2. A traditional Home Improvement Loan. This will likely be a little more expensive, but still a great option, and usually a better rate than a personal loan. Check with your current bank for their home improvement financing options.
  3. Personal Loan. Again, check with the bank you already do business with. A lot of times, you’ll get your best rate there, because they know you and want to keep your business. Personal loans tend to be a little more costly than other types of loans.
  4. Larger HVAC and Home Performance companies oftentimes have banks they work with, and you can receive significant deals, discounts, and lower rates by going through them. If you live in our area (Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Snohomish counties), check out Barron’s financing. We make available a 7.5% 10 year loan through a local bank, and a 6 mo. same-as-cash deal (if you qualify) through a nation-wide bank. Check with your local HVAC company to see if they have similar programs.
  5. Your local Human Services Organization (Bonus option!), though this is less about financing and more about low-income options. Some folks can receive free or very low-cost Home Performance/Weatherization work through the Human Services organization in their area. Our local agency is the Opportunity Council.

What’s Your Return On Investment (ROI)?

Here’s the nitty-gritty. If you’re ready to make the leap with financing, you’re probably asking just how long will it take to break even (between what you’re paying each month and what you’re saving in energy bills)? The basic formula goes like this:

Total cost of the project (divided by) your estimated annual savings = ROI

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say your project costs $10,000 and that allows you to save $1,000 per year in energy bills. Your ROI will occur in 10 years.

Where does one get these numbers? Your HVAC or Home Performance expert can give them to you.

What About Rebates?

The three main rebate programs for energy upgrades and home performance in our area are through Puget Sound Energy (PSE), Cascade Natural Gas (CNG), and the Community Energy Challenge (CEC). Here are direct links to the Applications for Homeowners: PSE Rebates , CNG Rebates, and CEC Information.

Beyond Finances:

Although finances are of primary importance for most people, there ARE other significant benefits to consider beyond the money saved.

  1. Peace of Mind: A new heating/cooling system and weatherization can set your mind at ease; allowing your family to relax without having to worry about shut-downs and repair costs.
  2. Health & Safety: There is ample evidence that people’s HVAC equipment and home are making them sick. An out-of-date, improperly-installed, or inefficient system can be very unhealthy, causing or contributing to myriad health-issues and diseases. And safety issues, such as carbon-monoxide leaks can be an immediate danger.
  3. Comfort: Most people want to create a warm, cozy, comfortable space for their friends and family. This is an undeniable benefit of investing in your home!

If this article has piqued your interest, I hope you will take a minute to contact your bank or HVAC contractor to get the ball rolling! You might be surprised by how affordable it is to create a cozy, efficient, healthy space!

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Get Your Federal Tax Credits Before 2014!

Friday, October 4th, 2013

When you combine these with local rebates $8000 heat pump systems are going for $4080. Ductless Heat Pumps that are $4500 are going for $1800. There has NEVER been a better time to upgrade and the opportunity

We have a full list of available rebates at that offer even more ways to save on improving the comfort and efficiency of your home.

Press Release Jan. 3rd, 2013:

Fiscal cliff avoidance legislation, signed into law by President Obama on January 2, also retroactively reinstated 25C tax credits for highly efficient HVAC and water heating equipment.

  • The bill – among many other tax provisions – extends the HVAC/water heater tax credits that expired in 2011 from Jan.1, 1012, until Dec. 31, 2013. The tax credits cover qualified equipment included in Section 25C of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) explained that, because the credits were made retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012, they apply to qualified equipment installed any time after Dec. 31, 2011. Qualified equipment includes:

Water heaters ($300 tax credit)

  • electric heat pump water heaters with an energy factor of at least 2.0
  • natural gas, propane, or oil water heaters with an energy factor of at least 0.82 or a thermal efficiency of at least

90% Furnaces ($150 tax credit)

  • natural gas, propane, or oil furnaces with an AFUE of at least 95

Boilers ($150 tax credit)

  • natural gas, propane, or oil boilers with an AFUE of at least 95

Air-conditioners and heat pumps ($300 tax credit)

  • split system central air-conditioners with the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (16 SEER; 13 EER)
  • packaged central air-conditioners with the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (14 SEER; 12 EER)
  •  split system electric heat pumps with the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (8.5 HSPF; 12.5 EER; 15 SEER)
  • packaged electric heat pumps with the highest efficiency CEE tier as of Jan. 1, 2009 (8.0 HSPF; 12.0 EER; 14

Advanced main air circulating fan ($50 tax credit)

  • a fan used in a natural gas, propane, or oil furnace with an annual electricity use of no more than 2% of the total
    energy use of the furnace

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Ductless Exposed: The 8 Types of Ductless Systems

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

NOTE: this article assumes you know what a ductless heat pump is, if you need some pre-education, click here. You can also visit my YouTube Channel for walkthrus on installed systems!

  1. Single Zone Basic (i.e: Lennox MS8)
  2. Single Zone Feature Rich (i.e.: Daikin L Series)
  3. Single Zone Specialty (i.e.: Fujitsu RLS2)
  4. 2-4 Zone Basic (i.e.: Lennox MS8 Multi)
  5. 2-4 Zone Feature Rich (i.e. Daikin MXS)
  6. 2-6/8 Zone Flex (i.e. Fujitsu HFI, Daikin RMXS Super Multi)
  7. 2-8 Zone VRV(F) (i.e Daikin VRV3-S)
  8. Radiant Heating w/ Domestic Water Heating (i.e. Daikin Altherma)

The reason why I am writing this is pretty much the same as all my other posts; too often contractors offer you a ductless system without telling you what other options are available. So, in light of this, I am going to help you understand the 8 ductless residential systems that I have listed above. Settle in, because this is going to take a few minutes!

Each of the eight has it’s own special place in this world, so let’s break them down so you can figure out what will work best in your application.

Single Zone Basic

This system is entry level ductless. You still get all the efficiency and “ductless” benefits, but usually warranty and features (like programming, etc.) are limited. If you hate your TV remote and technology in general, then this is the ductless for you! ON/OFF – HEAT/COOL. That’s it.

Single Zone Feature Rich

IF you want ductless AND you want the highest level of control, satisfaction and warranty, then a feature rich system suites you well. Things like 3D Airflow, programming, wi-fi, motion sensing, etc., etc. come built in!

Single Zone Specialty

There are 3 types of ductless buyers; those who want just efficiency (Basic), those who want efficiency and comfort (Feature Rich) and those who are disgusted by the idea of a ductless head on their wall….Specialty!!

If you are in this category  you want ductless, but dread it at the same time. The specialty system, like the Fujitsu RLS2, might be for you. Still a feature rich system, but in slick packaging! The one drawback is that the sizing is limited so I would say you are going to get up to 1200 sq ft depending on how well the house was built.

Did I mention that these are also the most efficient ductless on the market? Clocking in at 12 HSPF+, they are very much an option to consider.

2-4 Zone Basic

Remember, a multi-zone system is just one outdoor unit and multiple indoor units. Most 2-4 Zone Basic buyers are just folks who fall into the “basic” category but have a house or specific need that warrants a 2nd, 3rd or 4th head; say, the Master Bedroom needs its own cooling or the basement/upstairs needs a head for heating/cooling. Maybe the 4th head goes in the Bonus Room?

Here is a video to help.

2-4 Zone Feature Rich

Replace “basic” with “feature rich” in the paragraph above. Sorry…I’m lazy.

2-6/8 Zone Flex

This is where things start to get a little different so pay close attention. When you go to my pictures, etc. and look at ductless; do you see how each head has a line that runs from it all the way back to the heat pump? This is how the standard multi zone systems work, if you have 4 heads you have 4 lines. Now, with a Flex system 2 of those run into 1 and the other 2 run into 1 (this is called a branch), then you have only 2 lines that have to run all the way back to the Heat Pump (HP) outside. This is one difference about the Flex. The other is that the HP is a larger 4 Ton and will allow you to, say, have just 2 large 24k heads on it or all the way up to 6 smaller heads.

Another difference is that while a standard 2-4 Zone Ductless has individual control points for each head (remotes/thermostats), the Flex can be operated from a SINGLE control. This allows for better management of a full home system.

Fujitsu’s HFI System falls somewhere in between Basic and Feature Rich, but when Daikin releases the RMXS Super Multi, I have a feeling it is going to be mind-blowing, word is that it will hit 11.3 HSPF on up to 8 heads. I want it NOW!…. tantrum. 🙂

2-8 Zone VRV(F) Light Commercial

Further up and further in! This is getting a bit obscure, but it IS an option. Okay, think of the flex, but those 2 lines that came back to the Heat Pump outside go into 1 and just 1 line goes out to the HP. This is possible because the metering of refrigerant is no longer done at the HP it is done at the indoor.

Again, we do install these, but here is an application. Million Dollar Home. Everything hidden, zoned, perfect and integrated into building management software for commercial buildings…. but its a house. You see where I am going?

Radiant Heating w/ Domestic Water Heating, Cooling and Solar

That guy is obviously European!  This system has been booming in Europe for a while and is now starting to destroy Geothermal here in the northwest. Hands down, this is the system that is the one to beat in custom construction right now. Radiant Heat with Inverter Heat Pump, Cooling to Fan Coil or Head, Domestic Hot Water with Solar Optional. Man oh Man. SUMMARY: IF YOU ARE BUILDING A HOME WITH RADIANT HEATING, YOU HAVE TO ASK ABOUT THIS SYSTEM! Watch video (it starts over at about 6:20…crazy Euros). Sorry, this one just does too much stuff to describe in text.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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Understanding Efficiency Ratings of Furnaces

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

A central furnace or boiler’s efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The Federal Trade Commission requires new furnaces or boilers to display their AFUE so consumers can compare heating efficiencies of various models. AFUE is a measure of how efficient the appliance is in the energy in its fuel over the course of a typical year.

Specifically, AFUE is the ratio of heat output of the furnace or boiler compared to the total energy consumed by a furnace or boiler. An AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and the other 10% escapes up the chimney and elsewhere. AFUE doesn’t include the heat losses of the duct system or piping, which can be as much as 35% of the energy for output of the furnace when ducts are located in the attic.

An all-electric furnace or boiler has no flue loss through a chimney. The AFUE rating for an all-electric furnace or boiler is between 95% and 100%. The lower values are for units installed outdoors because they have greater jacket heat loss. However, despite their high efficiency, the higher cost of electricity in most parts of the country makes all-electric furnaces or boilers an uneconomic choice. If you are interested in electric heating, consider installing a heat pump system.

The minimum allowed AFUE rating for a non-condensing fossil-fueled, warm-air furnace is 78%; the minimum rating for a fossil-fueled boiler is 80%; and the minimum rating for a gas-fueled steam boiler is 75%. A condensing furnace or boiler condenses the water vapor produced in the combustion process and uses the heat from this condensation. The AFUE rating for a condensing unit can be much higher (by more than 10 percentage points) than a non-condensing furnace. Although condensing units cost more than non-condensing units, the condensing unit can save you money in fuel costs over the 15- to 20-year life of the unit, and is a particularly wise investment in cold climates.

You can identify and compare a system’s efficiency by not only its AFUE but also by its equipment features, listed below.

Old, low-efficiency heating systems:

  • Natural draft that creates a flow of combustion gases
  • Continuous pilot light
  • Heavy heat exchanger
  • 68%–72% AFUE

Mid-efficiency heating systems:

  • Exhaust fan controls the flow of combustion air and combustion gases more precisely
  • Electronic ignition (no pilot light)
  • Compact size and lighter weight to reduce cycling losses
  • Small-diameter flue pipe
  • 80%–83% AFUE

High-efficiency heating systems:

  • Condensing flue gases in a second heat exchanger for extra efficiency
  • Sealed combustion
  • 90%–97% AFUE

Posted by Wes Diskin

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‘Right Sizing’ Heat Pumps for the Pacific Northwest

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Sizing is one of the most important factors determining a heat pump’s efficiency and reliability. In Western Washington, heat pumps are sized according to the heating requirements of your home. If you lived in a climate where heat pumps are primarily used for air conditioning, then you homes cooling needs would determine the size of the heat pump.

In order to determine size, we must do a heat loss for your home as well as analyse your home’s duct sizing to determine air circulation requirements. For a proper installation these calculations must be done. This helps us “balance” the system to ensure that the heat pump delivers the correct amount of air to all rooms in the house.

Heat pumps are sized in two ways; tone and BTUs. Tons do not refer to the weight of the heat but rather are a measure of cooling capacity. Each ton of heat pump capacity produces about 12,000 BTUs of heat. A BTU is a measure of heat output; most heat pumps are in the 24,000 to 60,000 BTU range or 2 to 5 ton range.

As the temperature outside drops, the ability of most heat pump systems (except inverter) to deliver heat also drops somewhat and the heat needs of the house go up. It is possible to install a system large enough to heat the house no matter how low the temperature is outside. But a system which is sized to heat your home during the coldest day of the year will be over sized the rest of the year. This is not only uneconomical, but also places unnecessary stress on the compressor because the heat pump cycles on and off constantly.

In the Pacific NW’s maritime climate, a heat pump should be sized so that it can heat the house when outside temperatures are as low as 30 degrees, below that you will need to invest in a 2-stage or Modulating Heat Pump.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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Introduction to AeroSeal and Duct Repair

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Why are finding Air Duct Leaks important?

You can see a water leak, but an air leak is invisible. Duct leaks can be difficult and costly to find with ductwork hidden between the walls, floors, and ceilings of any residential home or commercial building. The older, traditional use of mastic (a messy caulk-like substance) or taping of leaks not only is less effective than Aeroseal, but also can be very labor-intensive and expensive and can only be applied to ducts with physical access. Other substances break down over time, but the Aeroseal sealant does not and even has a 10 year WARRANTY to back it up.

Do-it-yourselfers might attempt their own fixes, but what about those ducts you or your HVAC specialist can’t see or access? Let Aeroseal handle the entire job and you won’t be tearing up your home or worried about incomplete seals. Aeroseal pinpoints and covers leaks, in roughly an hour, from the inside out with a success rate of up to 98%. Aeroseal is the most effective, affordable, and viable method of sealing air duct leaks on the market.

The measured result of a typical Aeroseal air duct sealing process is shown below:

  • Aeroseal can reduce duct leakage by up to 97%, reduce your energy use by up to 45%.
  • Aeroseal has also been shown to dramatically improve comfort and homeowner satisfaction with their heating and cooling systems.
  • Leaky ducts in a residential home contribute to:
  • Loss of cool and warm conditioned air to the outside or unconditioned spaces of your home resulting in high energy bills
  • Even the most energy-efficient heating and cooling systems not performing at its best
  • Forcing your system to work harder and wear out sooner, costing you yet more money
  • Excess humidity levels that can lead to costly home repairs
  • Hard to heat or cool rooms leading to discomfort
  • Musty odors and other indoor air quality (IAQ) issues

What are the benefits?

  • Airtight savings: The money formerly leaking out of your ducts will stay in your pocket longer
  • Airtight comfort: Your hard to heat or cool rooms will have more even temperatures and be more comfortable
  • Improved air quality: You will see a reduction in dust and humidity, along with fumes and other odors
  • Reaches everywhere: Seals leaks nearly impossible to reach using other methods
  • You’ll be a small part of a bigger solution: A reduction of the amount of air pollution created from generating less energySolve your building air flow and ventilation problems

Posted by Wes Diskin

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All About Ductless – An Overview

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Save Energy & Money

A Ductless Heat Pump is a highly efficient heating and cooling system that is easily installed as a new primary heat source for electrically heated homes. Ductless systems heat and cool homes at a fraction of the cost of baseboards and wall heaters.

More Comfortable.

Ductless systems do a better job of distributing warm or cool air around a home, thus making your living areas more comfortable. They are especially well suited to homes with open floor plans, as one indoor unit can heat/cool a large living space quite well.

Easy to Install.

The ductless system design allows you to retain the original aesthetics of a room. They do not require expensive and invasive ductwork; they require only a three-inch opening in the wall or ceiling. Installation is as simple as mounting the indoor and outdoor units, connecting the refrigerant lines, and making a few electrical connections. Most installations can be done in a day or two.


Ductless Heating and Cooling systems can be used to heat and cool a wide variety of spaces. Here are a few popular residential applications:

  • Homes with Electric Heat – Ductless systems can replace or supplement inefficient existing electric baseboard/wall/ceiling units, woodstoves and other space heaters (propane, kerosene). A cost effective electric heat conversion in a small house might consist of a Ductless system serving the main area of the house, while leaving existing electric baseboards in bedrooms and bathrooms for supplementary heat when needed.
  • Remodels and Room Additions – A Ductless system can be used when a room is added to a house or an attic is converted to living space. Rather than extending the home’s existing ductwork or pipes or adding electric resistance heaters, the ductless heat pump can provide efficient heating and cooling.
  • New Construction – New homes can be designed or adapted to take advantage of the characteristics of ductless heat pumps. One or more systems might be installed in various “zones” of the house to simplify installation and minimize refrigerant line length.


Ductless systems have been around for several decades and are manufactured by many of the companies you’re used to buying products from. You can rest assured that your investment is in a proven technology that you will be happy with for many years to come.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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Equipment You Shouldn’t Keep – Knowing When to Cash In

Friday, March 29th, 2013

When you move into an existing home, there are many pieces of equipment that you may not want to keep. Some of them are just old and poor quality, while others cost you a lot of money and others still may be dangerous to you or your children. Before you settle into your space, make sure you have every one of your systems checked thoroughly for potential problems including inefficient heating, dangerous parts or environmentally unfriendly components.

Energy Cost

Number one on your list should be the cost of the energy needed to run your HVAC equipment. Furnaces and air conditioners in particular have become much more energy efficient in the last 10 years so older systems routinely cost much more money to operate than new ones. That doesn’t mean you should immediately rush out to replace your old furnace, but if it isn’t working properly or it’s costing you more money than you’d like, the cost benefit of a new system is often worth checking into.

Other things to check include your insulation, your air quality system, your ventilation system and anything used to heat or cool food in the kitchen – all of which may be less efficient than you might like.

Ozone Depleting Refrigerants

Older appliances like air conditioners may still use ozone depleting refrigerants that are no longer considered safe (or in some cases legal) for home use. If this is the case, not only does your system probably have a very low SEER/HSPF rating, it likely isn’t good for the environment or your own health. So, have your system replaced as soon as possible to avoid potentially negative side effects.

Dangerous Equipment

Finally, there are those pieces of equipment that are dangerous. If you find that your furnace has rust around the edges, your gas lines are kinked, or you have a dangerously out of date heat pump in your backyard, it may be time for some replacements. In general, these systems will last for years longer than they are considered safe and while you probably cannot buy a house without a working and safe furnace and air conditioner, you should still have them inspected carefully and replaced as soon as possible if you suspect problems.

Good HVAC equipment is hard to come by – if your home has it already, you’re in luck, but if you happen to move into a place with poor quality materials and equipment, have it replaced as soon as possible. Your health and wallet will both benefit greatly.

Posted by Wes Diskin

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