The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

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 Ultimate Air, 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!

Does a Heat Pump Installation Require New Ductwork?

December 10th, 2014

If you’ve never had a heat pump in your home, you may be curious about the installation process. Heat pumps provide both heating and cooling in a home, which may make it seem as though a heat pump uses a different process for heating and cooling than more traditional HVAC units. Some common questions for technician involve the types of renovations that may be necessary for this installation. Will I need to install new ductwork to get this unique technology in my home? And what’s this I’ve heard about ductless heat pumps?

We’ll answer these questions in today’s guide. If you decide that professional heat pump installation in Lakewood Ranch is right for you, or if you want to learn about the many other efficient heating and AC systems available for installation, call Ultimate Air Conditioning today.

Heat Pump Installation

Heat pumps are extremely efficient for heating and cooling because they do not actually create or generate heat. Instead, they move heat from one place to another, using refrigerant, a chemical blend that is also an effective heat transfer medium. As it continuously converts from a liquid to a gas and back again, it absorbs heat from your home in the summer and disperses this heat back outdoors.

This is actually the exact same technology that an air conditioner uses—which is why you won’t need to replace your ductwork. The only difference between a heat pump and a standard AC is that it has a reversing valve for heating so that it can absorb heat from the outside in the winter and bring it into your home. While you won’t generally need to install new ducts, you should have your ducts inspected to make sure there are no air leaks that could inhibit efficiency.

Ductless Heat Pumps

If you don’t have any ducts at all, don’t worry! You can still get heat pump technology without any ducts at all. Instead, you can get a ductless mini-split heat pump with a single outdoor compressor unit and one or more indoor air handlers. The only “construction” that must be done is drilling a small hole in the wall to accommodate the refrigerant line. And you get the added benefit of zone control, meaning you can control the temperature in each room separately from the others.

Call Ultimate Air Conditioning to learn more about ducted or ductless heat pump installation in Lakewood Ranch.

Is a Heat Pump a Better Choice Than a Furnace?

December 3rd, 2014

With so many choices available to homeowners for heating systems, it can be difficult to decide if one system is better than another. If you are deciding between two types of heating systems, it’s important to understand how each system works and what it can offer you and your home. Additionally, working with a trained professional can help you determine what size system you will need for your home. Today we’re going to look at two very different systems: furnaces and heat pumps. But remember that for all your heating needs, the trained and certified technicians of Ultimate Air Conditioning are here to help you. If you are ready to install a heat pump or furnace in in your Lakewood Ranch home, call us today!

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps work by transferring heat from one location to another. Heat pumps use refrigerant to help facilitate this transfer. During the summer, heat pumps absorb the heat in your home and transfer it to the outside. In winter, the heat pump absorbs the available heat in the air, concentrates it, then distributes the heat to your living spaces. Heat pumps do not generate heat as combustion systems do, so there is no need to use fossil fuels, and they use very little electricity. Heat pumps can distribute air through ductwork, flexible tube ductwork or ductless blowers.

Furnaces

There are main two choices when it comes to installing furnaces: electric or natural gas (propane and oil can also be used). Furnaces generate heat via combustion or, in an electric furnace, by tightly-wound coils that are electrified. A large blower pushes the generated heat into your home through ductwork. Both electric and gas furnaces heat quickly, and both types of furnaces have access to a continual source of energy, eliminating the need for fuel deliveries. These systems need ductwork, so if you have existing ductwork, a furnace may be a better choice.

Which Is a Better Choice?

Deciding which system will be best for you depends largely on your needs. Heat pumps are 2-in-1 devices, offering both heating and cooling; however, this means the system will run all year, and as such, may need more repair. Furnaces will heat your home quickly and efficiently, but if you want air conditioning, you’ll need to add a separate air conditioning unit. This is why reviewing your needs and seeing which system best matches them is a critical part of choosing a new heating system.

If you are having a hard time deciding on a new heating system, contact Ultimate Air Conditioning today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

10 Facts You Should Know about Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2014

Thanksgiving has been celebrated as an official holiday in the United States for over 150 years, so you may think you understand all there is to know about this family feast. Most of us have heard the story of the pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in 1621 after arriving in North America on the Mayflower. But did you know that only about half of the people on this ship were actually pilgrims? This fact is one of ten things that may actually surprise you about the Thanksgiving tradition!

  1. Although we often consider Thanksgiving a holiday unique to the United States, many other countries and cultures celebrate their own set of harvest-time and thanksgiving traditions. In Korea, Chu-Sok (or “fall evening”) is put on in remembrance of forefathers on August 15th of every year. Brazil celebrates a contemporary version of the U.S. holiday. Chinese, Roman, and Jewish cultures all have a history of harvest celebrations as well.
  2. President Harry S. Truman began the tradition of a ceremony held before Thanksgiving during which the president receives a turkey. George H.W. Bush was the first to pardon the turkey instead of eating it.
  3. In Minnesota alone, farmers raise over 40 million turkeys a year. In fact, U.S. farmers produce about one turkey for every one person in the country.
  4. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American will gain about one to two pounds every year during the holiday season.
  5. On the other hand, turkey is naturally high in protein and has been known to support and boost immune systems to protect against illness and speed up healing. So feast on!
  6. Abraham Lincoln issued a “Thanksgiving Proclamation” in 1863, but a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale can be credited with the idea. While Thanksgiving had been celebrated at different times of year in many areas of the U.S. for years, it was Hale, prominent magazine editor and author of the rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” who urged Lincoln to finally establish the national event.
  7. President Franklin D Roosevelt once tried to change the date of Thanksgiving to the second-to-last Thursday of the month in order to extend the holiday shopping season and boost the economy.
  8. Only about half of the people on the Mayflower were what we would consider today as “Pilgrims.” The other (approximately) 50 people were simply trying to find a way over to the New World.
  9. Gobble, gobble! Click, click? While male turkeys make a gobbling noise, females (hens) do not; it’s often described as a clicking.
  10. Even though we celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, the month of June has been declared National Turkey Lovers’ Month by the National Turkey Federation so you can continue the celebration in the summer as well!

From our family here at Ultimate Air Conditioning and Heating, we’d like to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Reasons Ice Might Start to Develop on Your Air Conditioning System

November 19th, 2014

Sure, you want your air conditioner to be cool. That’s its job, after all: to keep you and your house cool. Even so, having your air conditioning system literally freeze up isn’t really a good thing at all. It seems like a pretty crazy thing to happen, especially during hot weather. It’s actually quite common, though, and stems from a few possible issues. Let’s examine what causes this phenomenon.

How Air Conditioners Actually Work

Many people think that air conditioners blow cold air into their homes. This is actually only half-true. What an air conditioner actually does starts with what’s called an “evaporator coil.” When the air conditioning system is turned on, refrigerant runs through the evaporator coil and is evaporated into a gaseous state. This process acts as a heat sink, pulling thermal energy from the air around it and into the refrigerant. The refrigerant then takes that heat outside and releases it into the air, while the now-cold air is circulated back into the house. So, the air conditioner is actually sucking heat out of your house, rather than blowing cold air in. Another side effect of this process is condensation, which collects on the evaporator coil. This is where things can become problematic.

Restricted Air Flow

If the air flow to the evaporator coil is restricted, it will lose access to the supply of warm air that it needs to work properly. Fan problems can cause this kind of air flow restriction, as well as debris in the evaporator itself. This will cause the surrounding temperature to keep dropping as the evaporator coil keeps working. It can actually get below freezing if it’s on long enough. When that happens, the condensation on the coil freezes and you end up with an ice block for an air conditioner.

Low Refrigerant Level

A leak in your refrigerant line will cause there to be much less refrigerant in the evaporator coil than there needs to be. This will cause the temperature of the coil to be much lower, again causing the condensation on it to freeze and form ice.

If your air conditioning system has ice building up on it, call Ultimate Air Conditioning to schedule a service appointment with us. We offer quality air conditioning repair in the Sarasota, FL area.

Sounds That Will Alert You to the Need for Heat Pump Repair

November 12th, 2014

Heat pumps are generally very quiet when they operate, so if you hear strange sounds coming from yours, they shouldn’t be ignored. Why? Sounds are one of the ways your heat pump indicates that something may be wrong with your system. Heat pump repair service in Siesta Key, FL should always be left to professionals, but being aware of what certain sounds can mean is important. The technicians at Ultimate Air Conditioning have put together a list to help you understand what some of these sounds may indicate:

  • Buzzing sound from outdoor unit – a buzzing sound coming from your outdoor unit usually indicates an electrical problem has developed. Common problems are stuck relays, a faulty capacitor or a possible electrical problem with one of the motors.
  • Tumbling rocks or pebbles sound – this is the sound you may hear if liquid refrigerant has entered the compressor, commonly known as slugging. The compressor isn’t made to process liquid refrigerant, so if you hear this sound, shut down your system and call for a technician immediately.
  • Squealing sound – squealing sounds can be indicative of a few things, most commonly worn fan belts. A less common but more dangerous problem indicated by a squealing noise is a compressor issue. When the pressure inside your compressor is too high, air can escape, creating a squealing or screeching sound. If you hear this sound coming from the compressor, turn your system off immediately and call for a technician.
  • Banging sounds – it isn’t uncommon for motor mounts or fan blades to loosen in your system, and when they do, they can make a banging sound during operation. The main issue with loose parts is that they can damage others, so they should be attended to right away.
  • Hissing – hissing sounds commonly indicate a refrigerant leak has developed, particularly if a bubbling sound accompanies it.

Every heat pump has normal operational sounds. If you hear sounds that aren’t normal, don’t ignore them. These sounds can indicate that it’s time for heat pump repair in Siesta Key, FL. Have questions? Call Ultimate Air Conditioning and schedule an appointment with one of our trained technicians.

Why Is Sizing Important When It Comes to Installing an Air Conditioner?

November 5th, 2014

If you need a new air conditioner, it’s important to do a little bit of research to find a reliable contractor in your area first. Sometimes, homeowners choose to attempt air conditioning installation on their own or they select a friend or family member with little or no experience to do the job. However, this can result in a couple of disastrous effects, usually leading to premature air conditioning replacement or some costly repair bills.

When you need superior services for air conditioning installation in Lakewood Ranch, we trust you’ll find the technicians at Ultimate Air Conditioning meet your standards for professionalism and quality.

Problem #1: The Air Conditioner is Too Small

Of course, a smaller air conditioner is usually less expensive than a larger unit, but the consequences of this initial savings can be far more costly than it’s worth. Perhaps the most obvious concern with a smaller system is that it will not provide enough cooling for your home. Without the sizing calculations in place first, you may end up with a unit that doesn’t cool your home completely. However, it will continue to run in an attempt to cool the home, costing you far more on your energy bills and wearing down parts, which eventually leads to premature failure.

Problem #2: The Air Conditioner is Too Large

If the air conditioning unit is too large, on the other hand, it may fail even sooner. An air conditioner that is too large cannot properly remove humidity because it does not stay on for long enough periods of time. Instead, the unit may have a problem with short cycling, meaning it only runs for short periods of time and turns on and off frequently which could take its toll on the compressor, one of the most important parts of your air conditioning system.

The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is measured in BTUs (British thermal units), and technicians use complex calculations to determine the proper amount of BTUs needed for your home. They factor in the size of the home, individual rooms, insulation, window placement, number of people, and many other considerations before coming to a conclusion. Choose the professionals at Ultimate Air Conditioning for your new air conditioning installation in Lakewood Ranch for careful and quality installation services. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.

Air Conditioning Problems: Could It Be the Ductwork?

October 29th, 2014

Your ductwork is hidden behind the walls and beneath the flooring of your home, making it easy to overlook. However, faulty ductwork can account for up to 30% of your home’s total air loss, which is significant. There are some definitive signs that it may be time to schedule ductwork repair in Sarasota, FL, and to help you spot these signs, we’ve created a list below. The best way to ensure that your ductwork is properly repaired is to hire professionals – like the ones at Ultimate Air Conditioning. Our technicians have years of experience repairing ducts, so if you need ductwork repair, call us today.

Signs of Faulty Ductwork

Here are some signs you may have faulty ductwork:

  • Decrease in energy efficiency – the biggest tipoff that your energy efficiency has decreased is rising monthly energy bills. Have you noticed that your energy bill has become significantly higher, even though you haven’t changed how you use your air conditioning and there are no other issues occurring? If so, you may have faulty ductwork.
  • Decrease in indoor air quality – not only does faulty ductwork allow air to escape, it also allows contaminants, fumes and odors directly into your airflow. This can have an impact on your indoor air quality.
  • Whistling noises – sometimes when air is escaping from your ductwork, it can make a whistling sound that you’ll hear come through the registers.
  • Signs of stress on your system – when your system loses significant amounts of air due to faulty ductwork, your AC has to compensate for this loss, and does so by working harder. Not only does this increase your energy costs, it also increases the level of stress on your AC. Too much stress can lead to malfunction and potential breakdown.
  • Banging noises – it is normal for metal ductwork to expand and contract during normal usage, but if you hear loud banging noises, it can indicate a disconnection between ductwork sections.

Faulty ductwork can decrease your indoor air quality, increase your energy usage and compromise your indoor comfort. If you are in need of ductwork repair in Sarasota, FL, call the people that can you trust: Ultimate Air Conditioning.

Common Electric Problems in an Air Conditioning System

October 22nd, 2014

Electrical problems are some of the most common sources of air conditioning repair. You know that your air conditioner uses a lot of electricity to run; just look at your energy bills in the hot summer months. But scheduling prompt air conditioning repair can lead to better performance and greater efficiency, lowering your bills and getting your system back in top shape—fast. In this guide, we’ve put together a list of some of the major electrical problems that should lead homeowners to call for immediate air conditioning repair in Siesta Key, FL.

  • Improper Voltage: One of the reasons your air conditioner may be acting up is because of improper voltage to the system. Your air conditioner requires a certain amount of power in order to operate as it should, and too little or not enough power can spell trouble for various parts of your air conditioning system. Incorrect voltage can cause your unit to “hard start,” struggling to turn on until your compressor becomes overworked and, eventually, fails. Too much or too little voltage can also cause the fan motors to malfunction, which means your AC will not get the proper amount of airflow. This can cause the coils to freeze up, and you will likely not feel enough cool air in your home.
  • Blown Capacitor: A blown capacitor is one of the most common air conditioning problems. The capacitor stores an electrical current so that it can supply electricity to your unit’s fan or to the compressor motor. A capacitor may break because of a power surge, overheated circuitry, voltage issues, or standard wear and tear over time. Usually, this means the air conditioner will not start up or will struggle to turn on.
  • Faulty Thermostat Wiring: A final electrical problem may have to do with the thermostat. If your unit is hard starting or short cycling, turning off before the cycle is completed, it may be because of a problem with the electrical wiring of a thermostat. A technician can often repair this, though you may consider replacing it with a wireless thermostat instead.

When you suspect an electrical problem with your air conditioner, it’s not a job that can be left to someone with little experience. Trust the air conditioning experts at Ultimate Air Conditioning for any and all professional air conditioning services in Siesta Key, FL. Give a call today to schedule an appointment.

The Consequences of Neglecting Ductwork Repair

October 15th, 2014

While you know that your air conditioning system and furnace are vital to your comfort at home, you may not often think about the importance of the ducts. You need a well-designed, sealed duct system in order for your HVAC unit to be effective. And while you may believe that a few small cracks in the ducts are just fine, these repair needs may actually keep you from getting the performance you want from your heating and cooling system. Here are a few of the reasons you simply cannot neglect ductwork repair for very long.

  • Reduced Air Quality: The ducts run through areas of the home that you never clean, such as the attic or a small crawlspace. This means that dust and pollutants may thrive in these areas, and, if the ductwork is leaking, some of these contaminants may get sucked into the ducts and move into your home. Particles from the insulation may also be drawn into the ducts, which may pose a health risk if inhaled.
  • Frequent HVAC Repairs: These same particles may also get into the air handler of your HVAC system, blocking the fan motor or clogging the evaporator coil. But what’s more likely to damage your HVAC system if your ducts are in need of repair is an overworked system. Leaky ductwork inhibits conditioned air from reaching the home. This means that there may be warm or cool spots around the house, so your HVAC system will work harder to reach the correct temperature. This can cause parts to wear down quickly, and your unit may overheat.
  •  High Energy Costs: Your HVAC system works harder when the ducts are damaged and, as a result of the extra run time, you will pay more every month on energy spending. It simply takes longer to cool down a home when air continuously escapes through the ducts. In fact, typical homes lose about 20-30% of air through leaky or poorly installed ducts.

It can be difficult to tell whether the ductwork in your home needs repairs. That’s why it’s important to have a professional inspect the ducts every year and to schedule repairs as soon as you suspect any problems. To schedule professional ductwork repair in Sarasota, call Ultimate Air Conditioning today!