HVAC Experts Inc. Blog

The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

December 25th, 2014

“No two snowflakes are alike.”

This is a statement nearly every schoolchild has heard at least once, either while crafting unique snowflakes with a sheet of folded paper and some scissors or while learning a lesson on the science of snow. While even most scientists don’t quite understand what causes a snowflake to form such complex and beautiful columns and points and branches, one thing is for certain, the composition of snowflakes guarantees that no two will ever be identical.  However, it is possible for two snowflakes to appear to be nearly exactly alike.

A snowflake begins to form when a piece of dust catches water vapor out of the air. Water is created when two hydrogen molecules attach to an oxygen molecule. The two hydrogen molecules are angled from one another in such a way that they form a hexagonal shape when they come together during the freezing process; thus, a snowflake begins as a simple hexagonal shape or as layers of hexagons called diamond dust. The emergent properties that follow from the original hexagon are what differentiate one snowflake from another, as the humidity, the temperature in the air, and many other factors (some of which remain unclear to scientists) allow each snowflake to form in an entirely unique way with a seemingly endless variety of shapes.

However, in 1988, a scientist named Nancy Knight claimed to have located two that were the same while studying snowflakes as part of an atmospheric research project. And it appeared to be so; when put under a microscope, the emergent properties looked nearly identical. But while it is feasible that two snowflakes can appear to be exactly alike on the outside, they are never identical on an atomic level. Deuterium is an atom that appears attached to about one in every 3000 hydrogen molecules in the air. Because there are millions of atoms that make up a snowflake, the random assortment of deuterium in any two snowflakes—even in two that so very closely resemble one another—simply cannot be the same.

Here at HVAC Experts Heating and Cooling Systems, we’d like to remind you to grab a cup of cocoa and relax with your family this holiday, perhaps by crafting some unique snowflake creations of your own. We wish you a very happy holiday season, from our family to yours!

Is Fireplace Cleaning Really Necessary?

December 17th, 2014

If you have a traditional fireplace instead of central heating, you may think you’ve got a more low-maintenance heating solution. In many ways, you’re right. Fireplaces are far more simple systems than furnaces or boilers, and thus are easier to fix and maintain. However, that does not mean that they are completely maintenance-free. Let’s take a look at why your fireplace needs to be cleaned regularly, and what can happen if it isn’t.

Incomplete Combustion

A fireplace, like all combustion-based home heating systems, uses a technique called “incomplete combustion.” Incomplete combustion is when a fuel is burned and leaves behind waste products in addition to producing heat. This is not really an intentional thing, as much as an unavoidable fact of physics. In the case of fireplaces, these waste products include ash, smoke, and a substance called “creosote.” It is this last one that is the main reason for fireplace cleaning.

Why Fireplace Cleaning is Necessary

Creosote is a tar like substance produced in various quantities when wood is burned. The amount produced depends slightly on the type of wood used. Regardless, all wood-burning fires will produce some amount of creosote. When creosote is produced by a fire, it drifts upwards with the smoke and the rest of the production byproducts. As the creosote drifts up the chimney, however, it becomes lodged on the inner walls of the chimney itself. Over time, so much creosote can build up that it restricts the flow of air through the chimney.

This can be extremely dangerous, as it can force the other combustion byproducts back down the chimney and into the home. Many combustion byproducts are toxic to humans in large enough amounts, and are not things you want to be breathing. If your fire is on and your flue is open, but smoke is still wafting into the room with the fireplace, you may have a lot of creosote built up on the inside of your chimney. Creosote can also start chimney fires, which can endanger the whole house.

This is why you should have a professional regularly inspect and clean your entire fireplace, from the hearth to the flue and up through the chimney. If you haven’t had your fireplace cleaned in a while, call HVAC Experts Inc. and speak to one of our technicians regarding our professional fireplace services in the Framingham area.

Advantages of a Heat Pump System

December 10th, 2014

A heating system that doesn’t generate heat? This is one way to think of a heat pump system. But how does a system that doesn’t generate heat provide heat?

This is a question asked frequently about heat pumps systems, and while it may seem like you are going to get a very confusing answer, it really is pretty simple. Heat pumps have been around a long time, and with continued advancements in the heating and cooling industry, they have become very popular heating systems in Ashland, MA. But first, let’s take a look at how they work.

The Key Words? Heat Transfer

It’s correct that heat pumps don’t generate heat like combustion systems do. What they do instead is transfer heat from one location to another with the help of refrigerant. There is always heat in the air, even when it’s cold out. What your heat pump does is simple: with the help of the system’s refrigerant, your heat pump absorbs the heat in the surrounding air. Once the right amount of heat has been absorbed, the heat pump concentrates the heat and then disperses it to your living spaces.

During the summer months, the opposite happens: the heat pump absorbs the heat from your indoors and, with the help of the refrigerant, transfers it outside. But how does a heat pump offer both heating and cooling? A specialized component called a reversing valve. This valve allows your heat pump to change the directional flow of the refrigerant so that the system can offer you two modes: heating and cooling.

Benefits of a Heat Pump System

  • Very energy efficient – heat pumps are very energy efficient because they don’t use any fossil fuels and only about 25% of the electricity of a whole-home air conditioning system.
  • Very versatile – heat pumps can be used with ducted systems, ductless systems and geothermal systems, making them very versatile devices.
  • Long lifespan – the average lifespan of a heat pump is about 20-25 years; the average lifespan of a combustion heating system is about 15-20 years.
  • Very comfortable heating – heat pump system blow air in a low-volume, continuous manner, which can be very comfortable to many people.

If you think a heat pump system may be the heating system for you in Ashland, MA, call HVAC Experts, Inc., today and schedule an appointment with one of our installation experts!

Ashland, MA Heating Guide: Standing Pilots vs. Intermittent Pilots

December 3rd, 2014

Combustion heating systems use pilot lights to ignite the burner that helps create the heat that gets distributed to your home. There are two main types of pilot lights that a heater can have: a standing pilot or an intermittent pilot. Standing pilots were the only type of pilot heaters had for a long time, but today’s heaters are made with electronic ignition, of which there are two types; one of these is the intermittent pilot. Each works a little differently and can experience different kinds of repairs, but both can cause problems with needed ignition, as we’ll explain below.

Standing Pilot

Standing pilots are pilot lights that are on constantly. To remain on constantly, they have their own small gas line that allows gas to flow continually. A safety device monitors the pilot light to make sure that there is a viable flame at all times; this safety device is called a thermocouple. The thermocouple has a sensor that sits right in the middle of the flame; by measuring the flame’s temperature, the thermocouple is able to tell the rest of the system whether or not there is a flame and if that flame is the size and temperature it needs to be to ignite the heater, and also keep the gas flowing through the pilot gas line. When the thermostat cues ignition, the thermocouple is the device that allows the main gas valve to open and the pilot to light the gas; should the pilot light be too weak or completely out, the thermocouple will close the pilot gas valve and the main valve, preventing a potentially dangerous gas build-up from occurring.

Intermittent Pilot

Intermittent pilot, as its name indicates, is not a pilot that runs constantly. Instead, it is ignited when your furnace calls for heat. When your thermostat cues your heater to begin the heating cycle, a small gas line for the pilot opens up; an electronic device creates a spark that lights the gas, providing a pilot light. A flame sensor that acts very similarly to a thermocouple monitors the flame, and when the flame is viable, the flame sensor allows the main gas valve to open so that the burner can be lit. If the intermittent pilot doesn’t light or has a weak flame, the flame sensor shuts down all gas flow, preventing a build-up.

Each type of pilot can ignite your system, but intermittent pilots can save you money as they do not use extra gas, as a standing pilot can. If you are interested in finding out more about how a certain kind of pilot affects your heating in Ashland, MA, call HVAC Experts Inc. today to schedule an appointment.

10 Facts You Should Know about Thanksgiving

November 26th, 2014

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as an official holiday in the United States for over 150 years, so you may think you understand all there is to know about this family feast. Most of us have heard the story of the pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in 1621 after arriving in North America on the Mayflower. But did you know that only about half of the people on this ship were actually pilgrims? This fact is one of ten things that may actually surprise you about the Thanksgiving tradition!

  1. Although we often consider Thanksgiving a holiday unique to the United States, many other countries and cultures celebrate their own set of harvest-time and thanksgiving traditions. In Korea, Chu-Sok (or “fall evening”) is put on in remembrance of forefathers on August 15th of every year. Brazil celebrates a contemporary version of the U.S. holiday. Chinese, Roman, and Jewish cultures all have a history of harvest celebrations as well.
  2. President Harry S. Truman began the tradition of a ceremony held before Thanksgiving during which the president receives a turkey. George H.W. Bush was the first to pardon the turkey instead of eating it.
  3. In Minnesota alone, farmers raise over 40 million turkeys a year. In fact, U.S. farmers produce about one turkey for every one person in the country.
  4. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American will gain about one to two pounds every year during the holiday season.
  5. On the other hand, turkey is naturally high in protein and has been known to support and boost immune systems to protect against illness and speed up healing. So feast on!
  6. Abraham Lincoln issued a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” in 1863, but a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale can be credited with the idea. While Thanksgiving had been celebrated at different times of year in many areas of the U.S. for years, it was Hale, prominent magazine editor and author of the rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” who urged Lincoln to finally establish the national event.
  7. President Franklin D Roosevelt once tried to change the date of Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday of the month in order to extend the holiday shopping season and boost the economy.
  8. Only about half of the people on the Mayflower were what we would consider today as “Pilgrims.” The other (approximately) 50 people were simply trying to find a way over to the New World.
  9. Gobble, gobble! Click, click? While male turkeys make a gobbling noise, females (hens) do not; it’s often described as a clicking.
  10. Even though we celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, the month of June has been declared National Turkey Lovers’ Month by the National Turkey Federation so you can continue the celebration in the summer as well!

From our family here at HVAC Experts Inc., we’d like to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

How Hydro Jetting Cleans Your Drains Thoroughly

November 19th, 2014

When it comes to cleaning drains, what is the best method? If the first thought that comes to your mind is a bottle of chemicals found on the shelf of a grocery store near the mops and detergents, then you should know that no professional plumber recommends using these so-called “drain cleaners.” Not only are they highly toxic and capable of burning your skin and eyes, their acidic action can harm your drains.

The best method for drain cleaning is a process called hydro jetting, which you can only receive through the service of trained professional plumbers. If you require drain cleaning in Westborough, MA or other parts of the MetroWest area to eliminate clogs, or as part of regular plumbing maintenance, contact HVAC Experts Inc. today. We can arrange for hydro jetting to take care of your problem.

The Basics of Hydro Jetting

A hydro jetter is a machine that uses motors to place water under extremely high pressure, starting at a minimum of 7,000 psi. (Some equipment can generate much higher pressure than this.) A long hose with a nozzle attachment at the end goes down inside pipes and sends out blasts of the high-pressure water to scour the insides of the drain pipes. There are interchangeable nozzles that can direct the water spray in many different directions to provide a 360° cleaning power to fit the needs of the job.

Hydro jetting is thorough: it eliminates organic and inorganic build-up along drain interiors and can blast through almost any sort of clogging. The scouring action is so complete and leaves the drains so clean that it helps prevent the return of debris; the build-up will have nothing to attach to, and this leads to drains that will remain clean and trouble-free for a long time afterwards.

Hydro jetting is potentially hazardous because of the immense pressure of the water that comes out of the nozzles. For this reason, only professionals should perform this service for residential plumbing. Professional hydro-jetters wear special protective gear and are familiar with the procedure for cleaning drains safely.

Contact Us to Schedule Hydro Jetting Drain Cleaning in Westborough, MA

Do you have drains that constantly clog up? Do your drains seem to take forever to remove all the water from a sink, shower, or bathtub? Have you experienced issues due to high water pressure? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” give us a call at HVAC Experts Inc. today and arrange with our technicians for hydro jetting services that will blast your troubles away.

Steps to Take in Case of a Plumbing Emergency

November 12th, 2014

There is nothing quite like a plumbing emergency to send a homeowner rushing to an online search engine in order to determine the appropriate steps to take next. A plumbing emergency can happen even in the middle of the night, so you may feel as though there is nothing you can do until morning. Luckily, many plumbing contractors keep the phone lines open 24 hours a day in case a customer is forced to deal with a plumbing disaster at an inconvenient hour.

What Qualifies as a Plumbing Emergency?

In general, you should call for emergency plumbing services if you feel that your home is at risk of flooding or serious damage. The best thing you can do in case of a plumbing emergency is call a plumber for 24-hour emergency services—like the professionals at HVAC Experts Inc. However, there are a few things you should know about the proper steps to take for some common specific problems, and we discuss a few of these below.

  • Gas Leaks: Many plumbers are also qualified to work on gas lines, and some of the appliances in your home that utilize water also rely on a gas hookup. While some plumbers may be able to repair or replace these lines later on, if you suspect a gas leak you should always vacate the premises and contact your utility company immediately.
  • Toilet Leaks: For a toilet leak, try shutting off the water using the valve located near the bottom of the toilet bowl or by lifting the float assembly in the tank.
  • Pipe Leaks: For a pipe leak, the best thing you can do is contact a professional plumber. There are so many different types of leaks that could occur in any portion of your pipes, so a plumber will need to assess the problem before deciding on what to do first.

Why Choose an Experienced Contractor

If you attempt to fix a leak yourself, you may end up damaging the pipes even more. It’s always best to choose an experienced plumbing contractor for any emergency pipe repair. Call the friendly technicians at HVAC Experts Inc. for 24-hour emergency plumbing repair in Worcester, MA at the first indication of a leak.

Why Is My Boiler Rumbling?

November 5th, 2014

Banging and rumbling coming from your boiler is a common issue, especially in older boilers. The common term for this phenomenon is “kettling,” and indicates a number of possible problems that need to be rectified. Read on for an in-depth explanation of why this occurs, and what to do about it.

What Causes Kettling?

A boiler heats and distributes water through the use of a heat exchanger, in much the same way as a furnace does for a forced air system. Over time, however, mineral deposits from the water can build up in the heat exchanger. Eventually, these can become large enough to restrict and block the flow of water through the heat exchanger. This causes a pressure buildup in the heat exchanger by producing steam, causing it to make that rumbling sound. This is why it’s called “kettling” because it is caused by the same principle that makes a boiling kettle whistle.

Why is it a Problem?

Aside from being rather alarming when coming from something as large as a boiler, kettling is a problem because it indicates that certain parts are under more pressure than they should be. Eventually, those mineral deposits can block the flow of water completely, which will essentially stop the boiler from distributing water at all. The boiler will continue to heat the water trapped in the heat exchanger, however, causing a massive buildup in steam pressure. In the absolute worst case scenario, your boiler may explode if left in this condition. Not to worry, though. Almost all boilers have a myriad of safety measures in place to prevent this from happening. It is far more likely that your boiler will turn itself off until the problem is fixed. Either way, though, if you hear kettling coming from your boiler you should have it checked immediately.

There are other possible causes for kettling, including an incorrect installation or a bad thermostat causing overheating. A professional will need to examine your system to know for sure.

If strange sounds are coming from your boiler, call HVAC Experts Inc. We conduct professional heating repair service throughout the Framingham area.

Plumbing Repairs Your Shower May Need

October 29th, 2014

The shower is where you prepare for a busy day of work, relax after a long weekday, or cool down after exercising outdoors. In any case, you want a shower that not only works but works well, with adequate water pressure and proper drainage so that your daily shower is a pleasant experience. When any part of your shower plumbing is not satisfactory, plumbing experts in Shrewsbury, MA can help get your shower to the condition you’d prefer. Here are some of the reasons you may need to call a plumber for shower repair today.

  • Fixing Leaks: Shower leaks can pose many different problems for your home. For one, leaks reduce the water pressure so that your shower is no longer as comfortable and effective as you need it to be. Leaks can also raise your water bills. And if there is a leak in the wall behind your shower, it can seriously damage the structure of your home. Plumbers have the right tools and expertise to determine whether your pipes can be fixed or if they need replacement.
  • Replacing Old Pipes: Unfortunately, some pipes are beyond repair. If you notice discoloration from your water, it could be due to rusty pipes that risk corroding through without speedy replacement. Experts may also recommend replacing pipes if they are poorly designed or assembled to maximize the efficiency of your new shower and reduce the risk of leaks.
  • Unclogging Drains: If your drain is clogged and a plunger won’t eliminate the problem, you need a plumber who won’t use harmful chemicals to clear your drains. Professional plumbers use drain augers and hydro jetting to clear clogs completely and blast away any remaining residue in the pipes.
  • Replacing the Shower: Finally you may choose to call a professional shower plumbing installation and replacement expert simply because you want a new design for your shower.

Keep in mind that shower repair is not a job for amateurs. Pipes and fixtures that are not installed properly are prone to leaks and amateur drain cleaning can damage the pipes. Call the skilled professionals at HVAC Experts Inc. if you need thorough repairs for your shower plumbing in Shrewsbury, MA.

Common Heating Repairs a Furnace May Need

October 22nd, 2014

Your furnace is a feat of engineering, but that doesn’t mean it won’t need repair at some point. It is important to hired qualified, trained technicians to make repairs to your furnace, as it is the main source of heating for your home. As such, if you are in need of a professional heating repair service in Natick, call the company you can trust: HVAC Experts Inc.

Common Furnace Repairs

Here are some of the common furnace repairs our technicians see:

  • Issues with the blower – every forced air system has a large blower (fan) that pushes the heated air through the ductwork and into your living spaces. Several types of problems can develop with a blower, including motor issues, worn or broken fan belts, and loosening of fan components.
  • No heat – there are a few scenarios that can create a situation where there is no heat coming from your furnace. In the case of gas or oil furnace, there may be a problem with the burner assembly or thermocouple. With an electric furnace, the coils may not heat to the correct temperature. Both types of furnaces can experience issues with the blower. There are several possibilities, which is why it’s important to call for a professional.
  • Short-cycling – if your thermostat is dirty and dusty, or malfunctioning due to faulty wiring, you could have problems with short-cycling, where the system constantly clicks on and off. Short-cycling can wear down components, so it’s important to have the problem fixed.
  • Problems with air flow – air flow is critical to proper heating and the operation of your system. A few things can affect the air flow in your system, including blockages in the ductwork, faulty ductwork, fan issues and dirty air filters.
  • Condensate problems – combustion furnaces have a condensate drain pipe, and some models have condensate pumps. These components remove the excess moisture that can build with your furnace in a cool space, like a cellar. Should the pump break or the drain develop a clog, the water can back up in the condensate reservoir and a safety switch will keep the furnace from operating.

Heating repair in Natick is not a DIY job. If you are experiencing problems with your furnace, call HVAC Experts Inc., and let one of our certified and trained specialists get your system running again.