Resources for Bay Area Heat Waves

Stay Cool

There are many ways to stay cool during a heat wave. Photo: The Pool Doctor ©2020

How to Stay Cool During a Bay Area Heat Wave

Heat waves are a major disruption when they hit the Bay Area. This region is known for mild, foggy summers, and many people lack air conditioning. Nevertheless, each summer is sure to have a few sweltering days. Learn what you can do to make it through the next Bay Area heat wave.

Use the resources on this page to:

  • Get Started: Wondering where to get started right now? This is what you need to know.
  • Find: Find a professional who can help you beat the heat.
  • Explore: Take a deep dive into heat wave and other weather-related resources.
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Get Started

While extreme heat isn’t normal for the Bay Area, you don’t want to be caught off guard when a heat wave hits. Photo: The Pool Doctor ©2020

Tips for Weathering a Bay Area Heat Wave

If you aren’t accustomed to living in hot weather, you’re less likely to be ready when it hits. That’s why we’ve provided the following tips on weathering a Bay Area heat wave:

Be in the know. The first step in preparing for a heat wave is to know when one is coming. Make a routine of checking local weather forecasts, noting not just the temperature but the heat index, which quantifies the combined effects of heat and humidity as perceived by the human body…

Keep reading for more tips on staying cool during a heat wave.

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Read Heat Wave Preparation Tips

  • All Systems Cold: A Checklist for Your Air Conditioning System

    Time to rev up the A/C

    You don’t want to be one of dozens of desperate customers contacting HVAC technicians when the first heat wave of the season hits.

  • Creating a Heat-Resistant Home in the Bay Area

    Redesign

    Many home improvement projects can help lower indoor temperatures.

  • Heat Wave: A Cheat Sheet

    Stay safe

    Check out our infographic detailing how to stay safe and cool during a heat wave.

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Research

READ EXPERT TIPS ABOUT PREPARING FOR A HEAT WAVE

Ricardo Valderrama

Bayhill Heat & Air

Tim Lindelli

Herb’s Pool Service, Inc.

John Pittman

Roger’s Pool & Spa Service Inc.

John Gorman

Save Energy Company

Joe Calvey

Calvey Heating & Air

Tim Hassler

Hassler Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.

Kenny Johnson

Delta Pacific Builders Inc

Lior Zeevi

Insulation Guru Inc. dba HVAC Guru

Pat Martinez

West Coast Mechanical

Kyle Unciano

American Window and Door Systems, Inc.

Getting Your Air Conditioner Ready for Summer

Getting Your Air Conditioner Ready for Summer

SAN MATEO — As we head into summer, it’s a good time to check your air conditioning equipment and make sure it’s running as cleanly and efficiently as possible. Start by checking your air filter; if it’s dirty, replace it before you turn on your system for the season. A new air filter will not only promote healthy system performance, it’ll also ensure fresher, cleaner indoor air.

Next, go outside and clean your air conditioner’s condenser unit by sweeping off leaves and debris (to get it really clean, spray it with a garden hose). Next, inspect the blower motor. When an air conditioner’s blower motor isn’t operating at full speed, it can inhibit the entire system’s performance, so check the electrical current and make sure your system is optimized for maximum efficiency.

While a handy homeowner can do all of these tasks independently, if you don’t feel comfortable inspecting and maintaining your own air conditioning equipment, call a professional HVAC technician to handle it for you. By getting your air conditioner primed to perform, you’ll enjoy sheer comfort in your home all summer long.

Planning Ahead for a New Swimming Pool

Planning Ahead for a New Swimming Pool

SAN RAFAEL — When a homeowner decides to install a swimming pool, the goal is typically for it to be ready in time for the upcoming summer season. However, many people fail to realize that building a new pool is a lengthy process, which is why it’s necessary to plan several months in advance to meet your summer deadline.

The construction of a new swimming pool entails many phases, from the initial design and engineering to obtaining building permits to the construction itself. The permit process alone can take several weeks and potentially hold up the entire project. Add to that allowances for unexpected issues and it’s easy to see just how time-intensive a pool project can be.

If you want to ensure your pool is ready for the summer, contact a pool contractor no later than the beginning of the year. By getting the ball rolling in January, you’ll be sitting cool in your new pool by June.

Preparing your Pool for Summer

Preparing your Pool for Summer

SEBASTOPOL — Following its winter dormancy, you’ll need to spend a little time getting your swimming pool ready for summer use. Preparing your pool primarily consists of two aspects: cleaning and sanitation.

Cleaning
Use a vacuum and/or handheld net to remove stray leaves and any other debris that has accumulated in your pool during the winter. In addition to cleaning the pool itself, you should clean your filter by disassembling it and using a garden hose to wash off the individual parts. Keep in mind that once you start using your pool again, you’ll need to adjust your filter’s runtime from the offseason minimum to about eight hours a day.

Sanitation
One of the main aspects of sanitation is obtaining a proper pH balance, which should fall between 7.2 and 7.4. You’ll also need to add chlorine—aim for a chlorine-to-water ratio of between 1.5 and 3 parts per million (ppm). A good way to determine if your pool’s chemical levels are correct is to take a water sample to your local pool supply store for testing (many stores provide this service for free). Once you have your pH and chlorine levels stabilized, all that’s left to do is enjoy your pool.

How to Choose the Right Window Frames

How to Choose the Right Window Frames

PETALUMA — In the past, homeowners who wanted to replace their windows were somewhat limited in their choices. Today, consumers can choose from a wide variety of window options and find a product that best fits their lifestyle, budget and personal preferences. Here’s some information about the most popular styles of window frames on the market today:

Vinyl Window Frames

Vinyl window frames were originally created to replace aluminum, which were the most common frames installed in houses throughout the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Here are a few attributes of vinyl windows:

  • Improved energy efficiency
  • Virtually maintenance-free
  • Less likely to collect condensation
  • Almost all manufacturers offer lifetime warranties.

Wooden Window Frames

Wood frames are popular with homeowners who prefer the traditional look and feel they provide. Here are a few attributes of wooden window frames:

  • Pleasing look and feel
  • Improved energy-efficiency
  • More expensive than vinyl
  • Require regular maintenance
  • Warranties for wood frames aren’t as strong as those that come with vinyl frames—instead of a lifetime guarantee, it’s usually 10 years for the wood and 20 years for the glass.

Fiberglass and Composite Frames

Fiberglass and composite frames are similar to vinyl frames, but they’re made of much stronger material. Here are a few attributes of fiberglass and composite frames:

  • Unlike wood and vinyl frames, they can be painted on both sides and fitted with a wood veneer that gives the inward appearance of a wood window.
  • Like vinyl frames, they come with a lifetime warranty.

Ultimately, the type of window frame you choose depends on factors such as your personal aesthetic preferences, your budget and your county’s building code. With the right information, you’ll be able to pick the perfect window frame for your home.

Heat Pumps for HVAC

Heat Pumps for HVAC

MENLO PARK — A lot of homeowners are interested in lowering their gas bills, especially when it comes to running their heating and cooling systems. One great option for those who have or are planning to install solar energy systems is switching to a high-efficiency heat pump. While converting an HVAC system’s power source from gas to electric would normally be more expensive, if you’re getting your electrical from solar, you stand to save a lot of money.

If you don’t already have a solar energy system, this may seem like merely swapping one expense (gas) for another (the cost of installing a solar system). However, switching to solar isn’t as expensive as you might think. Currently, there are numerous programs devoted to helping California homeowners finance solar energy systems. There are also various rebates and incentives available, such as a federal tax credit. Talk to an HVAC professional to learn more about how solar power can reduce the cost of running your HVAC system.

Going Above Minimum Standards with Air Filters

Going Above Minimum Standards with Air Filters

EL CERRITO — Some people think air filters are all the same, but this is far from the case. While the heating and cooling systems in many homes have standard, one-inch fiberglass filters, the reality is that these do little to improve indoor air quality—they’re only good for filtering out very large airborne particles. To get better filtration for your HVAC system, consider upgrading to a MERV 13 air filter. This four-inch pleated filter removes particles down to the level of viruses and bacterium, which makes it at least 60 times more effective than a standard filter.

In addition to the quality of the filter you choose, another consideration is how often you replace it. Depending on how frequently you run your HVAC system, your filter may need to be changed anywhere from once a year to every couple of months. To get an idea of an appropriate replacement interval, periodically look at your filter and take note of how fast it gets dirty. By maintaining a clean filter at all times, your home’s air will be cleaner and your HVAC system will operate more efficiently, which will save you money on your utility bills.

Considerations for a Patio Cover

Considerations for a Patio Cover

BETHEL ISLAND — A patio cover presents a simple, affordable way to bridge the gap between your indoor and outdoor living spaces. While a patio cover isn’t a complex installation, there are a few important things to consider before purchasing one.

First, you’ll need to consider what style of patio cover you want. One option is a solid cover. Manufactured from insulated material, a solid cover doesn’t simply provide shade; it actually decreases solar heat gain to make your patio several degrees cooler than a normal shaded area. Additionally, a solid cover provides shelter from the rain, so you can enjoy your patio in winter as well as summer. Another style to consider is a lattice cover—a louvered structure that provides some shade but also lets in some sunlight. Depending on your patio design and personal preferences, this may be a good option.

You’ll also need to consider supplementary features like cooling, heating and lighting. Ceiling fans and other auxiliary cooling/heating elements give you more control over the temperature in your patio space. You can also add lighting to your patio cover’s ceiling or posts, which will provide a pleasant after-dark ambience and optimize your patio for evening lounging and entertaining.

Given the various options available for patio covers, be sure to consider your needs and preferences and discuss these with your contractor. This will help ensure your new patio cover provides exactly what you’re looking for.

Air Conditioning System Maintenance

Air Conditioning System Maintenance

SAN JOSE — When properly installed, a home air conditioning system should last for at least 20 years. However, in order for the system to reach its expected lifespan, ongoing maintenance must be observed. In addition to prolonging the system’s operating lifespan, maintenance will help prevent problems and sustain energy-efficient performance. Consider the following maintenance steps:

1. Clean out the condensate drain line on a regular basis. This small, plastic pipe conveys condensation created by the air conditioning unit to the outside of the home. Typically, a condensate drain line has an access point that’s located near the unit. Find the access point and pour half a cup of bleach down into the line. This will clean the drain line and prevent clogs or bad odors caused by mold/mildew buildup.

2. Every couple of years, have your air conditioner’s freon level checked by a professional. When freon gets low, the system’s compressor must work harder, which wastes energy.

3. Every two to three years, wash the condenser coils in your air conditioning unit. Since condenser coils work more efficiently when they’re clean, this step can help you save on your electricity bills.

Understanding HVAC Maintenance

Understanding HVAC Maintenance

LIVERMORE — You’ve probably heard that HVAC maintenance is important, but you may not know why it’s important or what exactly it consists of. To provide further insight, here’s some basic information on HVAC maintenance.

Why is HVAC maintenance important?

•  It improves system performance, which lowers utility bills.

•  It extends the system’s operating lifespan.

•  It improves indoor air quality.

•  It decreases the chances of the system breaking down during periods of heavy usage.

What does HVAC maintenance consist of? 

Independent maintenance

This is maintenance the homeowner performs on their own, which mainly consists of changing the system’s air filter on a regular basis. Frequency of air filter changes will depend on your usage. If you only have heating, changing your filter twice a year should suffice; if you have air conditioning as well, you should change your filter every three months. 

Professional maintenance

This is maintenance that only a professional technician can perform, which primarily consists of checking the heating and air conditioning components each year, in season. When performing a maintenance service, a technician will do several things, including:

•  Check and tighten electrical connections 

•  Test the unit to make sure the heat exchanger’s flame is burning properly/has the right color

•  Check the Delta T (the temperature difference between the return air and the supply air)

•  Make sure the blower is clean

•  Check for any airflow issues or dirty components

By keeping up with both independent and professional maintenance, you can keep your HVAC system performing efficiently and avoid costly breakdowns.

How to Shop for Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

How to Shop for Energy-Efficient Windows and Doors

NAPA — As of 2020, California has tightened its Title 24 energy efficiency requirements for residential remodeling. So, when shopping for new windows and doors, it’s important to make sure you’re getting a code-compliant product.

Two major components that determine a window or door’s energy efficiency are low-E and argon. Let’s learn a little bit about these two components:

Low-E is short for “low-emissivity” and refers to a coating applied to new windows that helps reduce heat transmission. By decreasing the amount of heat that’s allowed to pass through the glass, a low-E coating significantly improves a window’s insulating qualities.

Argon is a gas that’s inserted between the glass panes of a window to make it more energy efficient. This gas creates a barrier that reduces window heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer.

In addition to looking for these two components, it’s good to ask plenty of questions when shopping for new windows and doors. What is the product’s U-value? What is its solar heat gain coefficient? Asking these types of questions will help you find a product that provides top-tier energy-efficient performance.