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Black Hills Blog

When It Comes to Air Conditioning, Size Matters

Don’t Fall into the Trap of Buying an Oversized Unit: Beware of Cut-Rate Contractors Pushing One Particular Model!

Homeowners tend to keep their air conditioning units for a long time. Yet, if saving money is your goal, it could pay to weight the operating costs of your aging, less-efficient unit against the savings of upgrading to a new, efficient unit.

When you upgrade, avoid the common mistake of oversizing. Many people who have been struggling with an unreliable, older model, think getting a larger-capacity unit will make everything cooler. They believe since the unit will not be stressed, they will save operating costs. Not so.

A system that is too large not only costs more, and costs more to install, it operates inefficiently. A unit that is too large will breakdown more often and cost more to operate. Oversized-heating equipment often creates uncomfortable temperatures swings in the home. And oversize-air conditioners do not run long enough to dehumidify the air. This gives rooms a clammy fell and even permits unhealthy mold growth in humid areas.

Often, when replacing their system, homeowners simply but the same size they had before. Many older units were sized before the era of tightly constructed homes. It was not uncommon to install systems that we two to four times beyond the necessary capacity. If you have added new windows, caulking, weather stripping, or insulation over the years, you might be better served by a smaller system than the one you are replacing.

A popular formula to use for correct sizing used, it required measuring walls, ceiling, floor space, and windows to determine room volumes. It considers your insulations resistance to heat flow and estimates air leakage with a blower door test.

A good estimate also includes inspection of ducting and placement of the supply and return registers. Even the orientation of the house affects heat gain ad loss. Shortcut methods of sizing are only useful to get a ballpark estimate. Sizing based on gross square footage is NOT a good way to size for a final choice. This doesn’t take into account design, construction, insulation, and other factors.

Replacing your air-conditioning unit with a new, more efficient model can lead to a windfall of energy savings. However, if you choose the wrong company to size your home and install your system, it can lead to a long list of headaches. Too many contractors will give you an estimate on a new system simply because it’s the system they have taking up space in their warehouse or it’s the cheapest system for them to sell!

We take your comfort, energy savings, and satisfaction to heart. If you know you need a new A/C, but have been putting it off, give me a call at 866-885-7885. We’re happy to give you a free estimate!
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Earning Efficiency Honors

PSE Awards Select Contractors for Outstanding Work with Customers

BELLEVUE, Wash. (June 29, 2015) – Seventeen local contractors have been recognized as Puget Sound Energy’s 2014 Energy Efficiency Leader Award recipients for their outstanding performance in helping residential, commercial and multifamily customers save electricity and natural gas through the replacement of inefficient equipment.

“PSE’s trade partners are integral to the success of our energy efficiency programs,” said Bob Stolarski, director of PSE’s Energy Efficiency department. “It’s an honor to recognize these contractors for their commitment to helping customers make safe, dependable and efficient energy choices for their homes and businesses while lowering their energy bills.”

Together, the contractors conducted energy efficient installations and services throughout our service area. The energy savings accomplished by their efforts is equivalent to serving the energy needs of 1,440 electric and 445 natural gas homes for an entire year. Additionally, these contractors helped PSE customers access more than $4.7 million in PSE energy efficiency incentives.

PSE’s Contractor Alliance Network connects customers with pre-screened, independent contractors -- like those recognized through this award -- who are committed to helping customers make safe, dependable and efficient energy choices to ensure their home or business improvement projects are successful.

PSE’s 2014 Energy Efficiency Leader Award Winners
Residential HVAC

  • Washington Energy Services* – Lynnwood, 809 Rebates

  • Brennan Heating* – Seattle, 623 Rebates

  • Black Hills* – Olympia, 347 Rebates

Residential Weatherization

  • Clean Crawls* – Marysville, 1,169 Rebates

  • American Crawlspace & Pest Services* – Lynnwood, 356 Rebates

  • Arrow Insulation* – Burlington, 244 Rebates

Residential Windows

  • Washington Energy Services* – Lynnwood, 279 Rebates

  • Signature Window Replacement* – Seattle, 99 Rebates


  • Evergreen Light* – Lynden, 1,760,458 kWh Saved

  • Superior Weatherization* – Marysville, 1,576,632 kWh Saved

  • Neal Lighting Services* – Issaquah, 1,500,850 kWh Saved

Residential HomePrint

  • Eco Consulting* – Redmond, 1,780 HomePrint Assessments

  • Energy Detective* – Lacey, 1,342 HomePrint Assessments

Commercial Lighting

  • Conserve Energy – Seattle, 1,099,494 kWh Saved

  • Lightning Electric* – Bellingham, 1,435,303 kWh Saved

  • McKinstry – Seattle, 1,346,490 kWh Saved

Commercial HVAC

  • Performance Mechanical* – Kent, 25 completed jobs

  • MacDonald Miller* – Seattle, 17 completed jobs

  • McKinstry – Seattle, 16 completed jobs

*Contractor Alliance Network member

To learn more about PSE’s Contractor Alliance Network and program incentives, visitPSE.com/rebates or call a PSE Energy Advisor at 1-800-562-1482, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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7 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Home’s Carbon Footprint This Earth Day (And Every Other Day)

Happy Earth Day! And that means it’s time to think about your home’s carbon footprint. Is your home energy efficient? Are you taking advantage of the latest technology to help the environment? How can you make your home greener this year? Here are seven strategies for reducing your home’s carbon footprint in 2015.

Perform a Home Energy Audit: the best way to determine whether or not your home is energy efficient is to perform a home energy audit, either on your own with or with an energy audit professional. A home energy audit will help determine the energy efficiency of your home and energy-savings techniques you can implement to make your home greener.


Seal gaps around doors and windows: doors and windows are the most likely spots for energy leakage. In order to make your home greener, test the seals around doors and windows to see if your home is losing valuable energy. An easy test: Light a stick of incense and slowly wave it around the seals of the windows and doors. If the smoke is sucked out of your home, you need to either caulk the seals or install weather-stripping like foam or plastic.


Replace the air filter regularly: as the system’s air filter gets clogs up with debris that it’s been designed to stop, air can’t flow as freely. This impedes the efficiency of the system, leading to higher energy bills thanks to wasted energy. The solution is to replace the air filter when it’s dirty, which usually amounts to once every 3 months.


Install an Energy Star Rated Furnaces/Heat Pumps: quality systems are built to stay in operation for a number of years, but they have to give out sometime. The general rule is 10-12 years. If your system is older than a decade, it’s probably time for replacement. You’ll eliminate a system that isn’t performing as well as it used to and replace it with a new model backed by Energy Star, which means it’s much more efficient.


Install an attic fan: The heat inside your home rises. Combine that with a dark-colored roof that absorbs the sun’s rays, and you get an attic that’s much warmer than the rest of your house. If the attic in your home is improperly insulated, extra heat could be making the HVAC system work harder, costing you money. Think about installing an attic fan to push hot air out of your attic and reduce how hard the HVAC system has to work.


Install a Tankless water heater:Traditional water heaters are energy guzzlers. They use gas or electricity to continuously heat the home’s water supply, even when you’re not using it. Tankless water heaters are like the electric car of water heaters. They use electricity to heat only the water that’s needed, when it’s needed. Tankless water heaters keep energy usage under control, saving homeowners hundreds over the lifetime of the unit.


Replace old appliances and equipment with ENERGY STAR equipment: ENERGY STAR rated products reduce energy usage and keep harmful greenhouse gasses out of the environment. The EPA estimates that over the last 20 years, ENERGY STAR products have kept almost two billion metric tons of greenhouse gasses out of our atmosphere. Combine that with the energy savings you receive from installing more efficient equipment in your home, and you’re on your way to a greener home.







Implement these eight strategies to make your home more energy efficient and you’ll be one step closer to a greener life.

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Don't Be Fooled By Your HVAC System

Your home is comfortable most of the time so that means you and your HVAC system are doing just fine, right? Maybe your system is trying to tell you something, but you’re misreading the signs. Don’t misjudge the situation. Find out whether the little things your HVAC system is trying to tell you are minor, major, or no problem at all.

Don’t let these normal HVAC sounds scare you:

  • A quiet hum: Your HVAC system is happy. A steady hum from your indoor or outdoor system indicates proper function.

  • Buzzing: A slight buzzing from your outdoor unit is normal, even if it is not running.

  • Squeals: Brief squeals of excitement during startup are normal. Your compressor may make high-pitched noises during operation as well.

  • Whooshing: This is simply a sign of air moving properly through ductwork and venting.

  • Brief noises at startup and shutdown: Older systems sometimes need a little TLC. Brief squeals and thumps at startup and shutdown aren’t anything to worry about, but do indicate loose belts or dirty fan rotors in need of a professional tune-up.

Don’t kick yourself for missing these cheap, easy fixes:

  • Not as comfortable? Your filter probably looks like a giant dust bunny. It should be replaced every 30-90 days. Also check for obstructions to air returns and vents.

  • Slightly higher bills? Have you been neglecting your system of a professional cleaning “to save money?” Coils should be cleaned once or twice a year to prevent the heavy price of inefficient operation.

  • Air not as cold? You might need a refrigerant recharge.

  • System turning off too soon or too late? Your thermostat may be living in the wrong neighborhood. Improper placement in direct sun, near hot appliances, or too close to registers are common culprits.

Don’t overlook these signs that your HVAC system may not be in it for the long haul:

  • You’ve seen dinosaurs that look younger: HVAC systems more than 10 years old are at the end of their life. Being proactive about replacement will save you time, money and inconvenient repairs from your old system going down when you need it most.

  • It needs a lot more attention than it used to: Frequent repairs almost always indicate a system with one foot out the door. If your repair costs add up to half the value of the system, it is generally time for a replacement.

  • It makes you feel highly uncomfortable: If your system is making you sweat from the excess humidity in your home, you may need to consider a replacement before you’re looking at contending with mold and mildew related issues as well.

  • Something smells funny: Unusual odors, such as burning smells emanating from ductwork, are always a cause for concern.

  • Your system sounds rattled: Just like a good argument, the louder it’s complaining, the more serious the situation is. Turn off your system immediately. Loud noises could be loose hardware, a failing motor or a dying compressor pointing you in the direction of a new system.

  • Electric bills are burning a hole in your wallet: Old, inefficient HVAC systems can really put a strain on your budget. Replacing old, inefficient systems could save you 20-40 percent on your energy bills, or more if your system is over 10 years old.

Worrying about your HVAC system keeping you up at night?

Avoiding the issue won’t make it go away. Stop the stress by finding out where your system really stands with the help of a professional checkup from Black Hills, Inc!
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Two Hours of Your Time Could Provide 365 Days of Safety & Comfort

Consider for a moment what you spend a couple of hours doing: two hours watching a movie, more than a few hours going to a sporting event with the family, a couple hours window-shopping at the mall, etc. If you’re like a lot people these days, you spend two hours surfing the Web!


These are all activities that most people don’t think twice about spending a few hours doing. Keeping that in mind, wouldn’t you be willing to spend a few hours walking around your home with a highly trained technician from Black Hills Heating and Air while he evaluates your home and your comfort system—especially if it could enhance your family’s comfort and safety? I’m sure you would agree that would be a good use of your time.


Your home’s comfort system changes so very much over the course of a year. You would be amazed to know how much it can shift, alter, and even begin to breakdown. Sometimes these changes can present safety concerns—concerns you wouldn’t know about… if not for a highly trained technician’s eye.


Knowing how much your home’s comfort system can change in a year, we recommend that you have your home’s comfort system completely inspected and tuned at least once a year. Often it may not even take two hours. But at the end of that short amount of time, you’ll receive a report on how well your comfort system is performing. You’ll learn of any components that should be “watched” and you’ll what parts are working 100% properly.


Right now, at Black Hills, Heating & Air, we’re offering a comprehensive tune-up and safety inspection for only $109. Normally, tune-ups are $189! That’s a big savings! Now, the only thing left is for you to call us at 866-885-7885 to schedule today! We promise it will be a couple of hours well invested. You’ll have peace of mind once you’ve discovered the true status of your home-comfort system.


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"If I need work on my heat pump, etc. I would certainly continue to deal with Black Hills, right down to how they answer their phone!"

– Vicki T.

"Excellent service provided. Staff is verry professional and friendly."

– Afzal S.

"The technician who serviced our furnace was very friendly and professional. He made a point of showing me before and after cleaning our furnace and gave specific test results when recommending that our capacitor be replaced. I highly recommend this company!"

– David B.

"My wife and I can't overstate how good it feels to have a contractor guarantee and deliver above and beyond what they guarantee! The folks are the most professional and caring contractors I've ever worked with! from the apprentice to the Master electricians, plumbers, and HVAC personnel! Thank you and yes I would do it all over again. Thanks Again!!!!"

– Russell C.

"Service tech arrived on time, explained the process thoroughly, and answered all questions respectfully. Highly rate the experience."

– Mark G.

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