Bartels Heating & Cooling Blog : Archive for December, 2014

The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

Thursday, 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 Bartels Heating & Cooling, 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!

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Why Consider a Dual Fuel Hybrid Heat Pump Installation

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

There can be a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to any kind of home product or whole-home system. In specific to heat pumps, a common piece of misinformation is that a heat pump won’t work during the winter; this isn’t true. It is true that there can concerns about a heat pump working as it should during very cold weather – those days that are under 32 degrees – but it isn’t true that a heat pump can’t work at all. Additionally, with a hybrid heating system, you can avoid any heating capability issues with your heat pump and very cold weather. First, let’s take a look at why there’s concern around heat pumps during the winter.

It’s Chilly Out There

Air-source heat pumps provide heating by absorbing the available heat in the air, concentrating it and blowing the warm air into your home. As the temperature outside falls, the available heat in the air decreases; this can force your heat pump to work harder, making it less energy efficient and more challenged to meet your heating needs. A great solution to this is the hybrid heating system.

What Is a Hybrid Heating System?

With a hybrid heating system, you get the best of both worlds: a heat pump as the main source of heating (and cooling) your home with a back-up gas furnace. This allows you to have a secondary system to heat your home when the outside air temperature falls below 32 degrees.

How Does a Hybrid System Work?

With a hybrid system, your heat pump is furnished with an outdoor temperature sensor that works in conjunction with a dual-fuel thermostat. A set-point temperature is programmed into the sensor that tells your heating system when to switch from the heat pump to the gas furnace for heating; typically this temperature is a few degrees above the freezing mark. When the outside temperature reaches the set-point temperature, the heating system automatically switches from using the heat pump to heat your home to the back-up gas furnace. There is also a set-point temperature at which the gas furnace will switch back to the heat pump.

Benefits of a Hybrid System

With a hybrid system, you get the benefit of using a heat pump as your main source of heating and cooling. This gives you great energy efficiency, the longer lifespan of a heat pump and the gentle heating and cooling of a heat pump. The back-up heating of the system means you’ll never be cold, even on the chilliest of days.

For quality heating installation of a hybrid heating system in your West Chester home, call Bartels Heating & Cooling today to schedule a service appointment!

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How a Furnace Limit Switch Helps Keep You Safe

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Your furnace is manufactured with a number of safety mechanisms to help keep you, your home and your heating system safe. One of these safety mechanisms is the limit switch. The limit switch is part of your blower assembly, but is also part of your overall control system. This is why, should a problem develop with your limit switch, your furnace may experience operational issues. To understand more about the limit switch on your furnace in Hamilton, it’s important to learn what it is and how it works.

What Does a Limit Switch Do?

The limit switch is a device that has two functions: first, it won’t allow the fan to turn on until the air generated inside your furnace is warm enough and second, it acts as a kill switch to the burner should the air temperature around the heat exchanger become too hot. The reason the limit switch can turn off the burner is that when the temperature around the heat exchanger becomes too high, the heat exchanger can crack, allowing the toxic byproducts of combustion into your home.

Common Problems with Limit Switches

Like other components in your heating system, the limit switch can malfunction. The most common sign of a malfunctioning limit switch is the continuous operation of your furnace’s blower. Just as the limit switch won’t allow the fan to turn on until the warm air has reached the right temperature, the limit switch also shuts down when the air cools to a certain temperature. However, when a limit switch starts to go bad, it may not turn off at the end of a cycle; the result is a continuously-running blower.

A second problem is common with a limit switch is that won’t allow the furnace to operate. For example, if the air flow in your system is significantly reduced by a clogged air filter, there won’t be enough air circulating through the system; this can cause the heat exchanger to get too hot. Once the limit switch senses this, it turns off the burner.

It is very important that all the safety mechanisms on your furnace in Hamilton work correctly in order to keep you, your family and your home safe. If you suspect your limit switch may be experiencing problems, call Bartels Heating & Cooling today and schedule an appointment with one of our professional furnace repair and maintenance experts.

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Combustion Furnace Components: Electronic Igniters

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Furnaces have a process by which they ignite; this ensures safety and correct combustion. Older furnaces have a standing pilot light, but today’s furnaces come equipped with an electronic igniter. There are two types of electronic igniters and each works a little differently, as we’ll explain below. If you are experiencing problems getting your furnace to ignite or stay lit after ignition, schedule an appointment with your Bartels Heating & Cooling specialist today for quality furnace services in Hamilton.

Types of Electronic Ignition

The two types of electronic ignition are:

  • Hot Surface Ignition
  • Intermittent Ignition

Hot Surface Ignition

A hot surface igniter is a metal probe that heats up when the thermostat cues the ignition process. When the igniter becomes hot enough (it will glow like a light bulb), the main gas valve opens, allowing the gas to flow. Once the gas comes into contact with the heat from the igniter, the gas ignites and lights the burner.

The most common problem that develops with a hot surface igniter is cracking. The metal heats and cools constantly, causing the metal to expand and contract; eventually, the metal will wear and crack. A cracked igniter can’t heat up properly, so your system will have trouble igniting.

Intermittent Ignition

With an intermittent igniter, gas flows through a small pilot line when the thermostat cues for ignition to begin. Once the gas flows, a small electronic device creates a spark that lights the pilot. A flame sensor checks to see if the pilot is lit and if the flame is viable; once the flame is found to be viable, the main gas valve opens and the pilot lights the burner.

A few things can cause the intermittent ignition to fail: incorrect positioning of the pilot gas pipe, problems with the electrical supply, and issues with the flame sensor.

Why Electronic Igniters?

With a standing pilot light, a small amount of gas has to flow all the time; this is not the case with either type of electronic igniter. This not only saves you energy, it can also be safer.

Ignition problems with your furnace in Hamilton should always be handled by an expert. Having ignition problems with your furnace? Contact us today!

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