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Ask the Expert

Get answers to common questions and learn when you should call in the professionals.

To schedule an appointment, please call the "Heating Experts" today at 1-250-542-7700, or request a quote online here.

Q: I’ve never had my air conditioner serviced. Is this something that I should be doing, and what do you check for?

A: Absolutely! Like any car or truck, it’s a good idea to have any mechanical equipment checked by a trained professional for abnormalities and signs of wear and tear. Many serious and often costly repairs can be caught early or prevented by having a simple check-up. We recommend having this done every other year, unless your equipment is really old, in which case it may be a good idea to have it checked annually. The most common problem with air conditioners are minor refrigerant leaks that are easy to check; but often lead to inefficient operation, and compressor failures. Most compressors will last about 5 years running on a low refrigerant charge - right about the time your warranty runs out. So get those A/Cs checked out!

For further assitance, please contact Stevenson & Co.

 

Q: Many of my neighbours are replacing their air conditioners with heat pumps. What is a heat pump and how does it work?

A: Heat pumps and air conditioners are two terms used to describe the same process - moving heat energy. Whereas air conditioners move heat energy in one direction (outside), heat pumps can reverse the process, allowing them to move heat energy back into the home during the spring, fall, and even winter. Even though it may seem cold outside to us humans, there is still a lot of heat energy in the air compared to absolute zero at -273 C. With modern electronic controls and compressors, that heat energy can be captured and compressed to a high enough temperature to efficiently heat your home.

For further assitance, please contact Stevenson & Co.

 

Q: My pool guy quoted a heat pump pool heater to replace my 16 year old gas pool heater. Are heat pumps the better way to go now?

A: The most common type of pool heater being installed in Canada is still the natural gas directfired pool boiler. However, about half of new pool installations done in the United States are using Heat Pumps now. Heat pumps work by pulling heat energy out of the warm summer air and transferring it to the pool water. Generally speaking, heat pumps have a much higher efficiency rating than gas-fired pool heaters. For every dollar spent on heating, a heat pump will transfer four to five dollars worth of heat; whereas gas fired pool heaters are typically producing only 80 cents per dollar of gas used. That could add up to a significant savings over the course of a pool season. However, heat pumps are constrained by heating capacity compared to gas-fired pool heaters, and will usually take longer to heat the same water mass - often 2-3 times longer. So, if you are a weekend swimmer that turns down the heat during the week, you will be better off sticking with the gas fired pool heater for that quicker heat recovery time. Another consideration to think about is that heat pumps usually require a 50-60 Amp service out to the heat pump location and possibly even an electrical panel upgrade. Nevertheless, if your pool is used regularly and you keep it at the same temperature from day to day, a heat pump will likely pay for itself in 5-7 years through reduced heating costs. Remember though, whatever type of system you use, it’s important to have it serviced regularly by certified gas or refrigeration technicians.

For further assitance, please contact Stevenson & Co.

 

Q: My furnace is close to 20 years old now. For planning purposes how much more life should I expect out of it, and what should I look for in a new one?

A: Life expectancy for furnaces really depends on how well it has been maintained. Like all mechanical equipment, furnaces require routine maintenance and the filter should be changed frequently to optimize air-flow through the system. A well maintained system will last 20+ years with very few repairs. However, even if your system has been well maintained and is operating fine, modern furnaces are so efficient now, that it may be worth upgrading your furnace if it’s older than 15 years. Gas furnaces today boast effi ciencies as high as 98%. That means for every $1 spent on natural gas, only 2 cents worth is being wasted. Some older furnaces are wasting as much as 40 cents for every dollar spent on gas. Also, if you are thinking about upgrading your furnace, often people fail to ask about the electrical effi ciency. Some furnaces today consume as little as 75 watts during operation, while older furnaces can be in the 200-300 watt range. Considering that your furnace does double duty by operating during the cooling season as well, the hours of electrical operation can really add up over the course of a year. So make sure to ask your heating contractor about electrical efficientcy!

For further assitance, please contact Stevenson & Co.

 

Q: I’ve noticed that FortisBC is offering a $50 gift card if I have my furnace and fireplace serviced. Why is this so important?

A: That’s a great question. I believe FortisBC is recognizing the value of having gas fi red equipment checked for safety and operational effi ciency, and are working with licensed contractors to promote this program. As far as safety goes, our service technicians test carbon monoxide levels in the home when they do a furnace service, and usually have to shut down 2 or 3 older furnaces a year due to carbon monoxide safety issues. As far as operational effi ciency goes, it’s always a good idea to have a trained technician check over your equipment at a minimum every other year. Just like when we bring our cars in for servicing, modern high effi cient equipment often requires a trained technician to verify that your equipment is operating at the proper efficiency, and will often spot minor problems before they become major costly ones.

For further assitance, please contact Stevenson & Co.

 

Q: Why does my home feel cooler in the winter than it does in the summer when I have the temperature set the same?

A: Great question! Cold temperatures in winter also bring dryer air inside our homes unless you have a humidifier to control the humidity level. Dry winter air will make you feel cooler than humid air at the same temperature level, so many people end up bumping up their temperatures in the winter to maintain the same comfort level - forcing furnaces to work a little harder. Dry air can also cause dry or sore throats, dry eyes, nosebleeds, irritated mucous membranes and itchy skin. It can also aggravate allergy and asthma symptoms. Lastly, dry air can also draw the moisture out of porous materials like wood, leading to cracked furniture and woodwork. As a result, many wood floor manufacturers have “humidity clauses” in their warranties requiring the home owner to maintain humidity levels in the 30-40% range to maintain a valid warranty. So there are many practical benefits for controlling humidity in the home. There are also several types of whole-house humidifiers on the market today; but I recommend a steam powered humidifier that has a small built-in water reservoir and a heating element. Whenever there is a call for humidity, the water is boiled and the resulting steam is injected into your ductwork to mix with the heated air from your furnace or heat pump. These humidifiers are currently the most efficient and effective method of controlling the humidity in your home during the winter.

Give me a call or pop into our showroom to see one in action!

 

Q: I am thinking about replacing my hot water tank, but was wondering about these “on‐demand” water heaters. Should I consider that instead?

A: After space heating, water heating costs are the second largest energy expense for the typical household. Standard storage tank water heaters are still the dominant and most cost‐effective water heating appliance being installed today, but the government’s drive to improve efficiency ratings may soon drive up the cost of storage tank water heaters as well. The typical storage tank water heater has an energy factor of .62 to .64 while the newer “on‐demand” systems are typically in the .82 to .97 range ‐ a substantial improvement in energy efficiency savings. These “on‐demand” systems also typically last twice as long as hot water tanks before needing replacement. Tank‐less “on‐demand” water heaters do have their draw backs. They require more maintenance, and may not be the best solution for well water systems; however, their efficiency and long term energy costs can’t be beat by tank water heaters.

For further assitance, please contact Stevenson & Co.

 

Q: I understand that heat pumps provide heating as well as cooling, but will the extra cost of a heat pump over an air conditioner pay for itself?

A: Typically a heat pump will cost around $1,500-$2,000 more than an air conditioner in the same product range. After installing many heat pumps over the past 5 years, what we typically see for most homes is a large reduction in natural gas usage (as much as 65%) as the heat pump takes over the role of primary heat source. On the flip side most home owners will see a 20%-25% increase in electrical consumption, leaving a net savings of approximately 30%-40% in total space heating costs. This savings in energy consumption will typically result in a pay back of that heat pump premium in 3-5 years, whereas an air conditioner will never result in net energy savings to pay for itself.

For further assitance, please contact Stevenson & Co.

Latest News from Stevenson & Co.

Latest News

Okanagan Life "Best of the Okanagan" Finalist 2016

We are honoured that Stevenson & Co. (Stevenson Mechanical) was voted again as BEST PLUMBING CONTRACTOR in the North Okanagan for 2016. As always, we are focused on delivering outstanding customer service, giving back and supporting our community, and over the years our company has grown as a family owned and operated business and we continue to treat our employees and customers as extended members of our family. Thank you once again to everyone who voted for us!

Latest News

Okanagan Life "Best of the Okanagan" Finalist 2015

We're excited to announce that Stevenson Mechanical was voted again as BEST PLUMBING CONTRACTOR in the North Okanagan for 2015. We strive to treat our customers like family and give back to the community, so it's a great feeling to know that the community appreciates that. Thanks to everyone who voted for us!

Latest News

Featured in The Morning Star: Stevenson Mechanical Supports the Salvation Army Food Bank

As featured in The Morning Star, "Polly (front) and Zena join Stevenson Mechanical’s Andrew and Marlene Stevenson, Jordan Mazereeuw and Justin Stevenson with the overflowing buckets full of food the local company collected for the Salvation Army food bank. Customers were offered a discount by donating non-perishables, which the company collected in record time this year." To view full article, click here.

Latest News

Okanagan Life "Best of the Okanagan" Finalist 2014

We were pleasantly surprised to hear that we had been voted second best plumbing and heating contractor in the North Okanagan for 2014. We strive to treat our customers like family and give back to the community, so it's a great feeling to know that the community appreciates that. Thanks to everyone who voted for us!

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