Olive Explains the Reversing Valve, A Heat Pump’s Secret Trick!

February 8th, 2021
cold-and-hot-homes

One of the topics I enjoy writing about the most is heat pumps. This is because heat pumps can pull a nifty trick: provide both heating and cooling to a home. And, like the best magic tricks (such as pulling a poodle out of a hat), once you know the secret behind it, it feels both obvious and sorta genius that you have to admire the folks who came up with it. I’d love to take credit, but that would be dishonest and even counting in dog years I can’t stretch my lifetime back that far to the late 1940s. (The actual inventor was Robert C. Webber. Yep, I know that much about HVAC.)

I could go on for a long time about the workings of heat pumps, but I want to look at one special part that makes all the difference—the part that is essential in allowing a heat pump to work as an air conditioner and a forced-air heater. It’s called the reversing valve.

The Reversing Valve Basics

A reversing valve is a metal component that looks like a copper bar with multiple copper tubes intersecting it. In technical terms, this device is an electro-magnetic four-way valve that guides the direction of the refrigerant that comes out of the compressor in the outdoor cabinet of the heat pump. 

Inside the valve is a slider; when it shifts position, it changes the direction of the incoming refrigerant to either move it first toward the indoor coil (which would put it in heating mode) or first to the outdoor coil (which would put it in cooling mode). The slider is moved by connecting electricity to the valve, energizing it. When the valve is de-energized, the slider returns to its first position. In most heat pumps, energized is cooling mode and de-energized is heating mode. 

When you manipulate the thermostat to adjust the heat pump, the thermostat will either send an electrical signal to the reversing valve or de-energize it, which determines which mode it will be in. 

Reversing Valve Troubles

There are plenty more details about the operation of the reversing valve, but I’m not going to go full “Electro-Engineer Olive” on you. What’s important for you to know is what can go wrong with the reversing valve that can lead to heat pump trouble. 

For one, the slider can become stuck, which is what you might expect from any mechanical device with enough wear. It can get stuck either in heating mode or cooling mode.

The other common trouble is when the thermostat loses its connection to the reversing valve. If the thermostat cannot energize the reversing valve, the heat pump will remain in its default de-energeized mode, which in most cases means a heat pump that’s stuck in cooling mode.

Fixing problems with a reversing valve is a standard repair for our great team. Sometimes we can repair the thermostat connection, and other times we’ll need to remove the reversing valve and replace it. No matter what type of heat pump repair in Maryville, TN you need to stay warm/stay cool, you can trust us to do the job.

Stay warm,

Olive

Russell & Abbott serves Blount, Knox, and Loudon Counties and surrounding areas. Just whistle and we’ll come running!

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Olive Explains: Why Your Furnace’s Burners Aren’t Lighting

January 25th, 2021
gas-jets-in-furnace

Here’s an irritating problem: you set your thermostat for something comfy during winter. I recommend 68°F, even though my nice fur coat lets me set it lower than you would. It’s a cold day, so that means setting the thermostat to that temperature will cause the furnace to come on. But it doesn’t. The fan might turn on, but not warm air. When you go to the furnace, you discover that the customary blue glow from the burners isn’t there—they haven’t ignited. What’s going on?

Well, I can list a few possibilities…

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A Few Things to Know Running Your Heat Pump in Winter

January 11th, 2021
dog-enjoying-cool-ice

Did you welcome a new addition to your house during the last year—a heat pump? Congratulations! We’re all fans of heat pumps around here, especially the Onyx models we install, which are ideally suited for the winters in East Tennessee. 

But if this is your first winter with a heat pump, there are a couple of things I’d like you to know. If you’ve already run it during the summer, you noticed it didn’t act any different than an AC. That’s just as it should be! But as you change the heat pump over to heating mode for winter, there are a few differences to get used to. After all, a heat pump isn’t a furnace and doesn’t provide heat the same way. Here’s “Olive’s List of Useful Things to Know” about your heat pump in winter.

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Can a Heat Pump Possibly Match a Furnace’s Performance?

December 28th, 2020
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Let me first make an important statement about comparing a heat pump to a furnace: Home heating is not a race. When you’re searching for a heating system for home comfort, the goal isn’t to get the “swifter, faster, stronger” unit, the world-record holder, Earth’s Mightiest Heating System, the One Heating System to Rule Them All. No, you’re looking for … here it comes … the heating system that makes your family comfortable without wasting energy. Or, put even simpler, you’re looking for the heater that is the right match for your house

The question of a heat pump vs. furnace comes down to whether a correctly sized and installed heat pump can provide your house with energy-efficient comfort that would match a correctly sized and installed furnace. 

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Trying to Heat Your Home “Faster” With the Thermostat? That Won’t Work

December 14th, 2020
cold-man-and-woman-in-parkas

We’ve all been there on a winter night: The house feels awfully cold, and you want to get the rooms warmed up as fast as you can. You look at the thermostat on the wall and see that it can go as high a 90°F. That’s far too hot, of course, but if you crank the thermostat up that high, it will at least mean the house will warm up faster. The heat will come roaring out of the vents!

Except … that’s not how home heating works. And trying to get “faster” heating by pushing the thermostat up so high can be bad news for an HVAC system in Knoxville, TN

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The Heat Load Calculation With a New Furnace—It’s Super Important

November 30th, 2020
calendar-scheduling-book

This is the time to start bundling up. I have my permanent fur coat and don’t need to worry much about that, but I know that humans have it much harder when temperatures start dropping. You might be in the situation where you know you need new heating in Knoxville, TN and you’re ready to schedule a furnace installation.

That’s great—just make sure you call our team because we take all the vital steps to ensure you have a furnace that works effectively and safely. 

There’s one part about our installations that I like to point out, because it’s what sets us apart. It’s the heat load calculation. We take this part of installing a furnace seriously, because if it’s done wrong, you’ll end up with a furnace that either doesn’t heat the home enough or wears down rapidly from strain.

What’s a heat load, Olive?

It’s the HVAC term for the amount of heat a space needs to create a comfortable temperature. When we know the heat load of a house, we know how powerful a furnace to put in. 

A heat load calculation can be done several ways. Many of those ways are bad, I won’t sugarcoat it. Plenty of contractors do a heat calculation quickly and leave in guesswork. There should never be guesstimates when it comes to heat load calculations! There are multiple factors that must be figured, and if a contractor makes a guess at most of them, the chance of getting the final result wrong is high. 

Just to give you an idea of what goes into this calculation, here are some factors we need to know: the size of the house, number of windows and the direction they face, the insulation amount, number of people who live in the house, number of heat-producing appliances, number of lights, and more. We make sure to do this precisely so you’ll have a heater that’s the right size for your home.

What happens if the calculation is done wrong?

You get a furnace that is either too small for your house or too large. I think you can figure out why a furnace that’s too small is trouble: you won’t have the amount of heat you need to stay warm, and the furnace will run and run and run as it tries to reach the temperature you have set on the thermostat.

What about one that’s too big? That can’t be that awful a problem to have. Well, yes it is. An oversized furnace will short-cycle, which means it will shut down early, then turn back on, then shut down early, and on and on. This can lead to early repairs and an early replacement. It can also create uneven heating because the furnace doesn’t run for long enough.

We don’t “guesstimate,” we do it right!

You deserve a furnace that does the exact job you need it to do, and our Russell & Abbott team will see that you get it. Call us for heating options for a new installation, and we’ll do our best work to make sure you have the right heating system for this winter and many more.

Stay warm,

Olive

Russell & Abbott serves Blunt, Knox, and Loudon Counties and surrounding areas. Contact us today if you’re looking for better home heating.

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The Furnace Filter: If Left in Place, Your Furnace May Malfunction!

November 16th, 2020
air-fliter-cu

One of the big jobs I take on as an HVAC blogger dog is to fight the misinformation and misconceptions out there about residential heating and cooling. I know I’m only one dog in a big world of the internet, but I think I can make an impact in helping people with the best info so they get the performance they deserve from their HVAC equipment.

And that’s why it’s once again time for me to talk about the furnace filter. The lowdown: You need to change the furnace filter yourself during the coming months at regular intervals, or it will cause trouble for the furnace!

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Olive’s Biggest and Best Recommendation: Heating Maintenance!

November 2nd, 2020
dont-forget-post-it

I put in the hours to make sure my readers know what they need for great comfort. But each fall, I get a bit of a break: a post that’s easy for me to write because it’s about our most important service. The one we know does the most good for our customers. I have plenty of facts at my paw-tips when it comes to talking about this service, which is regular seasonal HVAC maintenance. Or, in the case of the fall, regular heating maintenance

If you haven’t considered maintenance for your home’s furnace or other heating system, now is the time to call us and sign up for our Comfort Club. We’ll get you on the schedule for a convenient appointment for your heater to get it’s annual inspection and service.

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We Have Ways to Solve Your IAQ Problems

October 19th, 2020
woman-with-sinus-troubles

In my last post, I wrote about indoor air quality problems you may have in your home during fall. But I know my readers don’t show up just to listen to me give them bad news. They’re looking for help from a smart dog who knows her heating and air conditioning. “I’ve got air quality issues, Olive, but what can you and the Russell & Abbott team do about them?”

Plenty, it turns out. And not just in the obvious ways—we understand that great indoor air quality in a house is connected to having a great HVAC system in prime shape. A few pricey gizmos that make big promises aren’t enough to turn around IAQ troubles. Let’s talk about real solutions!

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Indoor Air Quality Troubles You May Have in Fall

October 5th, 2020
cardboard-house-sky

Fall is a pretty season—but I’ll admit most of my bias toward the fall is that I love running into big piles of leaves! So much fun.

But I’m talking about being indoors during the fall right now, and when you’re inside your home in the fall, you may run into some indoor air quality issues that can make everything a bit more, well, sneezy. I’m going to look at some of what might be in store for your home’s air this autumn and what you can do about it.

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