Thermal Services-NO LONGER IN USE
Go to: www.thermalservices.com/blog for our updated blog posts!

Dec
05

Many of our customers, here at Thermal Services, have asked us whether they should cover their outdoor condensing unit (Air Conditioner) during the Winter months.

The explanation that we give, both on our website, and to anyone that asks is this:

These units are designed to be in the elements. You can cover these units to help keep them clean, but it is not necessary

One of the things that most manufacturers talk about is their testing facilities. Trane, for example, has a lab that they call the SEET (Systems Extreme Environmental Test) Lab, that they use as a selling feature for their products. This lab puts their outdoor units through sixteen weeks of torture, in an effort to simulate five years of wear and tear on their units. They don’t put covers on their outdoor units during this testing, because these units are built to be outside. Along the same line, they also test their units to withstand hurricane force winds and driving rains.

Although the units may fade in color, from the wind, sun, snow, or rain, the performance of the units we provide will not be impacted by the weather brought on by the winter months.

Many times, you will see a homeowner that has put a piece of plywood on the cover of their outdoor unit. This can prove to be a problem, come spring-time, when the homeowner forgets to take the plywood off before turning on the AC. If the cover (or plywood) isn’t removed, it can cause a lot of problems with the cooling system. Problems that are 100% avoidable by not putting a cover on the unit.

As always, you can call us, here at Thermal Services, at 402.397.8100, if you have any questions about what you should do to protect your equipment.

 

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Nov
30

The silent killer.

That is the name given to Carbon Monoxide (CO). It fits too. Every year, at about this time, we start hearing about pets, people, or families being found in their home, after having unknowingly inhaled the deadly fumes. It’s nothing to mess around with, and too many people die each year from this cause. A cause that is preventable, and detectable.

The last post in our blog series explained the significance of a cracked heat exchanger in your furnace, and how it can directly impact you.

The Centers for Disease Control have a great resource on the dangers of CO, the symptoms you may see in a CO poisoning case, and the causes for increased CO levels in your home. This site also lists several things that a typical homeowner can do to reduce, or prevent, the chances of having your family exposed to this deadly gas.

Some of the recommendations that we, as an HVAC provider, recommend are as follows:

  • Have your home’s heating system maintained annually. The HVAC service provider should be inspecting your Heat Exchanger every year, regardless of the age of equipment. There are several ways of testing the furnace, all of which have their pros and cons. At Thermal Services, we are able to inspect any type of heat exchanger, in several different manners. 
  • Have a CO Detector installed in your home. There are many different types of detectors available on the market today. Some are able to be plugged in to you wall outlet, while others are battery-powered, and can be hung anywhere you see fit. The important part is to have one in your home.
  • Do not use portable, flameless, heaters indoors. These units burn gas, and can cause CO to build up in your home.
  • Never warm your car up, in your garage, regardless of whether the garage door is open or not. Always back your car out of your garage, if you are going to warm it up.
  • The ideal number of detectors should follow this basic rule of thumb: One detector per floor, with a minimum of one per sleeping floor.

As with any other safety issue, there are countless ways that you can help prevent needless injuries, or deaths. Be sure to check out the CDC website for more information. You can also call Thermal Services at 402.397.8100 and talk to one of our employees about the dangers of CO poisoning, and how we can help you prevent your exposure in your home.

Nov
28
By Mark Tweedy, Residential Service Manager, Thermal Services

Winter is just around the corner and stories on carbon monoxide are already frequenting our local evening news broadcast. Whether it deserves it or not, it seems, to me, that the furnace is always the first suspect. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. With the exception of our wood burning fireplace, our gas burning furnace is the largest producer of carbon monoxide in the house. Carbon monoxide is, of course, a very dangerous gas. It can be deadly. I like how simply, carbon monoxide expert, Thomas H. Greiner states the hazard.

Carbon monoxide hazards only happen when two conditions exist. First, Carbon monoxide must be produced and Second, Combustion gases must be released into the structure.”

That seems like a short pathway to a hazard. Especially if you know that carbon monoxide is produced and present in the combustion gases of nearly every gas burning furnace. So, as long as everything is working perfectly, half of the equation is already there.

I would like to take a moment to clarify a common misconception regarding how the second half of that equation occurs. Having dealt with thousands of HVAC consumers and hundreds of professional technicians, I have heard many theories of how the carbon monoxide, produced from the furnace, may have escaped the furnace and entered the home. The most common theory I have heard is that there is a crack in the heat exchanger. Through that crack, the products of combustion (containing carbon monoxide) have wafted out of the crack and into the home’s air circulation. Due to the physics at work in a forced air furnace, this theory is highly unlikely.

If I think of a heat exchanger like an empty metal container and in that container, I burn a fire; I would have a very hot metal container. If I blow air across the outside of that container, I will have hot air, sufficient to keep me warm. If I know for a fact that I don’t want to breathe the poisonous gases inside that container, it’s only safe for me to breathe the air flowing across the outside, I would be very concerned if there were a crack in that container holding the fire. It is important to know the air pressure on both sides of the container wall. Air leaks from a punctured bicycle tire because the air pressure inside the tube is greater than the air pressure outside. The pressure inside the firebox of a heat exchanger is slightly negative. The air pressure of the air being heated is slightly positive. That makes it very difficult for the combustion products inside the heat exchanger to escape into the stream of air. However, it is just as dangerous for the positive pressure air to enter the firebox. Therein lays the true danger of heat exchanger cracks. The entering air can blow the fire out, disturb the designed combustion pattern and increase carbon monoxide production; it can push the fire from the firebox and cause it to roll out the front of the furnace. So a cracked heat exchanger is nothing to ignore but not for the reason that many think.

So, how does it crack then? It is metal; designed to get hot, right? Well, yes, but not forever. Back in the good old days, furnaces and their heat exchangers were simply designed and sometimes made with really heavy thick iron. They lasted a long time. The only trouble was, most of the heat from the burning fuel went up the chimney instead of heating the home. Most of those old gas hogs have been replaced due to the energy it took to run them and they eventually cracked too. Today’s furnace heat exchanger is computer designed to maximize heat transfer and life expectancy. To gain efficiency, the wall thickness has been reduced greatly. The metal that makes up a heat exchanger is quite resilient when you consider the punishment it takes. Every time the furnace heats up and cools down it expands and contracts just a little. That is very stressful for the metal. I think of it like a paper clip. If I were to straighten out a paper clip and pull as hard as I could, I would not be able to pull it apart into two pieces. However, if I bent the metal back and forth enough times, the paper clip would break in two pieces very easily. The same thing happens to the furnace heat exchanger. Through thousands of on-off cycles the metal expands and contacts just a little bit and the stress from that causes it to eventually break. I have seen this process sped up with furnaces operating incorrectly. For that reason, it is critically important that we tune, clean and inspect furnaces annually. It is always our hope to present our customer with a clean bill of health for their furnace and a reliably warm winter season. However if we do find something that could jeopardize our client’s safety, it is our job to educate them and help them prioritize their choices.

As with any HVAC-R matters, please feel free to contact Thermal Services at 402.397.8100. We are happy to help!

Nov
23

How many times have you touched a door handle, or your refrigerator, only to be shocked? What causes it, and why does it seem to happen more in the Fall or Winter? Most importantly, why does my hair stand on end when I’ve walked across my carpet?

One simple explanation exists for these problems: Humidity.

Oftentimes, in the cold, dry Midwest Winters, we experience discomfort in our homes because of the lack of humidity. This can cause several things including, but not limited to, dry skin, static electricity after walking on carpet, door handle shocks, nose bleeds, and hair that stands up. Many of you have other issues that come about because of low humidity in your home, and I would encourage you to share those in the comment section below.

The Basics

I want to share some of the basics about humidity, in a simplistic way, so you can understand some of the issues that exist, and how they can be resolved.

To start with, the humidity level in your home should be between 40-60%, depending on your comfort level. Anything outside of that can cause problems, on several levels, as is indicated by the chart here.

You will notice that things like asthma, allergies, dust mites, bacteria, and viruses can all be affected by the humidity levels in your home. Some of these things thrive in extreme high, or low, humidity environments.

Solutions

So, what can you do about it? What solutions exist to temper the humidity levels in my home, and allow my family, and me, to be healthier? What can be done to allow for the allergies and asthma to be minimized in my home, while reducing the amount of illness causing organisms in my home?

Several solutions exist. The one that many of us already have in our home is the room humidifier. This is the type of unit that my mom used to put in my room when I had a cold, or cough. It, along with the Vicks™ on my chest helped with my cold symptoms. However, that humidifier was never left in my room after I got over my illness. The same thing applies in my home today. Whenever my toddler has a cold, or cough, I put it in her room for a few nights. This is a temporary solution, and only manages one room at a time.

The next solution is the whole home humidifier. There are several models available, but all of them operate, essentially, the same way. There are some advantages of some models, over the others. However, with those advantages, comes an added cost. The value of these added features, and additional ease of use are things to weigh when making the decision to purchase this particular appliance. The whole home humidifier is attached to your existing duct system, at your furnace. It is also attached to your home’s water supply. Put simply, it puts water into your supply air, and allows the heating system to distribute the moisture into your entire home, whenever the fan is blowing. This is the most efficient way to distribute humidity to your entire home.

There are other solutions that exist to your home’s humidity problems. Some are old wives’ tales. Others are expensive options that can add so much humidity to your home, it can feel like a visit to the spa. The whole home humidifier is the most practical solution for many people, and should certainly be considered among the top options to keep your home’s humidity at a comfortable level during the winter months.

Call Thermal Services at 402.397.8100 to talk to one of our Customer Service Specialists about what we can do for your home today!

Nov
21

Thermal Services would like to wish a very Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. We hope that this finds you, and your family, well.

Before putting those turkey leftovers down the drain, be sure to read this blog post on what you should be using your garbage disposal for!

Nov
16

Many heating and cooling companies refer to their technicians as having their “NATE Certification,” and they act as if this is a big deal that their customers should pay attention to. However, most people outside of the HVAC-R industry don’t understand the significance of the NATE organization, and what it actually means to them, the homeowner.

A Brief Review

(Information obtained from the N.A.T.E. website)

NATE (North American Technical Excellence) was founded in 1997, and is a nation’s largest non-profit certification organization for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technicians. NATE is the only technician certification organization governed, owned, operated, developed and supported by the HVAC-R industry.

The NATE organization offers testing for installation and/or service in one, or more, specialty areas.

Why should it matter to a homeowner?

The way that I put it to our customers is this: The NATE Certification is a badge of honor for our Service Technicians, and Installers. It is comparable to a Master’s Degree in Heating and Cooling. However, the NATE Certification has to be maintained, by taking ongoing classes (60 credit hours) to remain certified.

This means that the NATE Certified employees that we send to your home will know what they are talking about, and will have the resources available to solve virtually any concern that you may have regarding your home’s heating and cooling system.

Where can I get more information?

When choosing the next heating and cooling contractor to come into your home, it’s worth looking at these websites for some great  information on the NATE organization. Be sure to check on your current HVAC provider, to see if they have NATE Certified employees on their staff!

www.natex.org

www.hvacradvice.com

Feel free to call Thermal Services at 402.397.8100 with any questions that you might have about the NATE program, and how it can impact you, as a homeowner. 

Nov
14

Many homeowners, today, are experiencing the advantages of having a heat pump installed as a major component of their heating and cooling system. However, with all of the advantages of owning a heat pump, there are several questions that come up every year, when the heating capabilities of those heat pumps is turned on.

For example, the most common question we get when the Fall/Winter season starts showing up is: “Why is my heat pump smoking?”

The answer to this is quite simple: Your heat pump isn’t actually smoking. It’s steaming. When it gets below freezing outside, a layer of ice can build up on the outside of the heat pump unit. This is perfectly normal. However, in order to keep operating effectively, the heat pump must defrost this layer of ice. This is when the “smoking” takes place. Remember though, it’s not actually smoke coming off your outdoor unit. It’s simply the steam from the defrost cycle of the heat pump.

To keep heat flowing through the home, your back up heat source (usually a gas furnace, or electric air handler) can be set up to turn on during the defrost cycle.

There are many other questions that arise when heat pumps are incorporated into any home’s heating and cooling system:

Question: If I have a heat pump, can I still use my gas furnace to heat my home?

The answer: Yes. Many people prefer the heat that comes from their gas furnace,for one reason or another. When you install a heat pump, you have the option to switch to “Emergency Heat,” or “Backup Heat” from your thermostat. This will switch your heat pump off, and turn your back up heat on. This is another advantage of having a heat pump installed in your home. You get the choice of what kind of heat you want to utilize, based on comfort, or energy costs.

Question: I’ve heard that the heat from heat pumps is colder, so it won’t heat my home as well. Is this true?

The answer: Yes, and No. The air that will come out of your register is, in fact, not as warm as the air that comes from a conventional gas furnace. However, the air from a heat pump system is warm enough to heat your home to the level that you want it (assuming you don’t set your thermostat at 90°). This is actually an advantage, in regards to your comfort. The longer run times of heat pumps will create an environment that provides more even temperatures throughout the home, without the ups and downs that you experience with a gas furnace. We’ve had customers complain about being cold with a heat pump, only to find out that their favorite chair is sitting right next to the register. Once they moved their chair (or shut the register) they are very comfortable.

Many other questions about heat pumps exist, and we would be happy to answer any other concerns that you might have regarding your existing heat pump, or if you are considering purchasing your first one. Either way, Thermal Services is here to help! Call us today at 402.397.8100 to get the answers to your questions.

 

Nov
09

With the weather forecast creeping toward the 20s, it’s time to start considering your whole-home plumbing system, and how you can protect it from the cold weather we are bound to see, living in Nebraska.

To many, the idea of frozen pipes doesn’t set off any alarms, simply because they haven’t experienced the discomfort, and inconvenience of having their pipes burst. The problems that come from this are numerous, and can range in expense from a few hundred dollars to repair, to thousands of dollars for a complete overhaul of your home’s piping system.

I can speak from experience when I say that forgetting to take the hose off my outside faucet is a problem that won’t occur again in my home. In May, 2011 my daughter was in the basement playing and came upstairs, screaming that the room was flooding!!! We had turned on the hose/sprinkler outside, and didn’t consider that the pipes might have frozen that winter, because we had forgotten to remove the hoses. We were sorely mistaken, and now we had half of our basement floor covered in water.

Fortunately, we caught it before we had run the sprinklers for long, but it still caused enough damage to warrant having the carpet cleaner, mildew remover, carpet re-installation crew, and insurance company involved. In addition, we had the inconvenience of having people in our house for a couple of days in a row. In the end, the repairs were over $1,500 out-of-pocket.

All because we didn’t take the hose off our faucet.

It won’t happen again.

So, what can you do to prevent your home’s plumbing system from being affected by the upcoming cold weather? Here are a few tips to help keep you out of trouble this winter:

  • Seal all air leaks that may let an icy blast reach your pipes.
  • Don’t forget outside faucets. Turn off valves to outside faucets, disconnect any hoses, and then drain any water in the faucets. If there are no valves to outside faucets, they may be protected by insulating them and then placing a plastic bag over them to protect the insulation.
  • If your house has a crawl space located under it, close all air vents located in the foundation wall. This will prevent the pipes in the crawl space from being exposed to the cold air.
  • If you plan an extended vacation during cold weather, have the water turned off at the meter. Then, you may drain your water pipes, turn off the water heater and other water using devices, to give your pipes extra protection from freezing.
  • Find your main water shut-off valve. Look for this now! Imagine the panic, if water was pouring through the house from a broken pipe. Locate the main water cut-off valve, mark it, and make sure everyone in the house knows where it is. Most main water cut-off valves are located on the wall where the water enters the house or near the washing machine or water heater.

If you think a pipe has already frozen, take the following tips into consideration:

  • Remember: When thawing pipes, slower is better.
  • Thaw the pipe as soon as possible or call Thermal Services plumbing, at 402.397.8100 for help.
  • If you do it yourself, shut off the water or test the shut-off valve. You do not want water suddenly gushing from the pipe when it thaws.
  • A hair dryer at the frozen area of the pipe is appropriate. A blow torch is not. Pipes warmed too fast may break anyway.

As with anything related to your home’s plumbing system, please don’t hesitate to call us at 402.397.8100 to ask questions. We are here to help!

Oct
30

I made a crock pot full of chili last Sunday. It had all the fixin’s in it…onions, garlic, peppers, beans, and, most importantly, chunks of stew meat and ground beef. It might have been the best pot of chili I’ve ever made. I got compliments from the entire family, which doesn’t happen too often! 

However, I made too much, and had to dispose of the extra few bowls that sat in the crock pot, when I went to clean up at 9:00 PM. Without thinking, I dumped the excess chili down the kitchen sink/disposal, and flipped the switch.

Oops…

Therein lies the question: Why can’t I put chili down the disposal?

The answer, from our Master Plumber, Philip Winfrey: The only thing that should go into a disposal is the scraps, or other items, that are rinsed off of your plate, or bowl. The best scenario is to simply throw your excess foods away, in the garbage. If you picture anything that you put down your disposal as needing to take a long trip through your pipes, then into your home’s main pipe, then into the city’s pipes, it becomes a little clearer why it’s important to not put everything down your sink.

According to this article on Angie’s List™ there are several other tips to ensuring that your garbage disposal lasts longer than it’s 5 year warranty:

1. Avoid putting fibrous foods or tough-skinned vegetables into the disposal. The strings of celery, artichokes, asparagus, lettuce, corn husks, carrots, onion skins and potato peels can wrap around the blades, preventing proper operation of the motor. If you feel you must put fibrous foods into your disposal, do so in very small quantities, and run the cold water while you operate the unit.

2. Don’t put extremely hard foods into the garbage disposal. Items such as bones and fruit pits can dull and even break the unit’s blades. In a worst-case scenario, hard foods will jam the disposal, preventing blades from turning and causing the motor to burn out.

3. Keep grease and greasy foods out of the disposal. Greasy foods will distribute a film over the blades, diminishing their effectiveness. Eventually, the grease will begin to decay, causing an unpleasant odor in the kitchen. Pouring grease into a garbage disposal can result in clogged drains when the grease solidifies.

4. Contrary to popular belief, egg shells have no place in the garbage disposal. Some people claim that egg shells sharpen the blades of the unit, but this is not true. The shell’s stringy membrane layer can wrap around the shredder ring, and the shell itself will be ground to a sand-like consistency capable of clogging pipes.

5. Avoid putting expandable foods such as pasta and rice into the garbage disposal. Even small particles of these foods will swell with water and eventually clog the trap.

6. Exercise common sense, and don’t put non-food items into the garbage disposal. Avoid the example of homeowners who have placed rubber bands, twist ties, cigarette butts, pull tabs, fabric, sponges and plant clippings into their disposal units. These items cannot break down enough to wash down the drain.

Oct
26

Effective immediately, I will be moving the content of this blog to my own personal blog site, found here:

http://mcalpin.wordpress.com/

The Thermal Services blog that you have been used to reading will now start consisting of information relevant to the HVAC and Plumbing industries, rather than leadership, like you have grown accustomed to.

If you would be so kind, could you please take 30 seconds to click on the above link, and “follow” me there.

Thank you for taking the time to follow my thoughts over the last several months. I look forward to having you follow me on the other site as well.

Please continue to follow the Thermal Services blog as well, as it will begin to provide several useful tips for your home’s comfort systems!

Thanks,

Lucas McAlpin