Does a Water Softener Prevent Pipe Bursts?

The Procure Inc. office is a place of weird, exciting, and unexpected debates. Today we’re writing about our most recent thought-experiment: do water softeners prevent icing inside pipes? Let’s lay down some background about chemistry and water.   What Does Hard Water Do? Water straight from the ground is not pure. There’s going to be all sorts of things mixed in with water coming straight out of a well. Ground water contains a whole range of contaminants no matter where you live. There can be bacteria, metals, even run off and toxins in ground water. It all depends on the location. You get hard water when there’s a high mineral content. These minerals are harmless to most people. The World Health Organization has found no adverse health effects. Some researchers believe hard water may even be healthier than regular, purified water. Unfortunately, our plumbing is not so neutral. The mineral content in hard water will often start to build up inside the pipes. Eventually, the mineral build up starts to become more and more like a clogged artery. There will be a point of complete blockage. Blocked plumbing is not good. Blockages can cause damage to valves, pumps, heating equipment, and chillers. The narrowed flow of water increases the pressure and strain on equipment. For furnaces, these blockages are especially problematic. The various coils and heat exchangers used in how water heat often rely on narrow channels to maximize their […]

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How to Pick a Thermostat

We talked about installing a Thermostat and a little bit of the install process. Today, we’re going to look a little deeper into the factors and reasoning behind picking the perfect thermostat for your needs.   The Key Factors What type of HVAC System do you have? Heating, cooling, multizone? What can your existing system support? What do you want out of your new thermostat? Efficiency, ease of use, programmability, automation? If you can answer these questions, you can begin to narrow down what type of thermostats will fit your needs. There is a wide range of options out there, from simple, old fashioned set it and forget it units straight up to smart thermostats that detect and learn the building’s occupancy over time. Let’s dig a little deeper.   The Existing Hardware Your first concern is going to be making the best out of the hardware you’re already using. If you own a multizone system, it would be a tremendous step backwards to install a single, old fashioned thermostat for the whole building. If you own a simple hot water furnace with some radiators in a single zone system, a multi-room thermostat is probably going to be overpriced for the limited returns it can deliver. If there’s a full heating and cooling system, that too needs to be factored in. There are thermostats out there which are heating only. There’s probably even thermostats out there which are cooling only […]

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Gas Furnace Ignition

We’ve talked a lot about the safety systems keeping your furnace from burning down the building or blowing up your building. This all begs the question: how do we get the flame started in the first place? It’s actually not a fully straight forward answer, and it varies by fuel source and furnace design.   The Old Fashioned Pilot Light In days long-gone, a furnace needed a constant flame to light it’s burner. This was called a Pilot Light. It was just a tiny, constant little flame like a lit candle. When the burner started, it simply had to turn the gas on and the pilot would ensure that the whole burner lit afterwards. The solution worked well enough, but by modern standards is an incredibly wasteful way to run a furnace. In systems with an always-on pilot light, fuel would always be getting burned, even if there wasn’t heating anything. Overtime, this adds up to hundreds and thousands of gallons of wasted fuel. It certainly worked for a time when we had no better alternatives but it’s a relic in today’s high-efficiency world.   Intermittent Pilots One of the major hurdles of moving on from a pilot was creating enough energy to light the fuel. It takes more than just a spark for ignition, it can take significant voltage. Between the fuel mixture, spark size, spark temperature, and everything else, it’s a difficult ballet to directly, electrically light a […]

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What is a Flame Sensor?

If a roll out switch is a master “things have gone horribly wrong, stop the show” switch and thermisters are basically limited to measuring temperature, how do we know the burner is actually making a flame? Sure, the thermister will read heat, but that takes time. Imagine the igniter has failed, it takes maybe 10-40 seconds to register enough heat to confirm a flame. The combustion chamber is now pumped full of a potentially explosive fuel mixture and nothing is happening. We need something much, much faster, we need a flame sensor.   How Not to Detect a Flame The way a person knows something is on fire is usually the bright flames and the fact that sticking their hand near it becomes really painful. This approach doesn’t quite work for a furnace. We could measure the light output, that requires more processing power to interpret the data, some incredibly sensitive hardware to detect the tiniest start of a flame, and it doesn’t work on every fuel type. There are systems that work this way, but it’s a little more expensive. We could measure the temperature, but we run into challenges with making a sensor you can shove in the heart of a flame for years on end without failure. It has been done, but it’s expensive. There are however, laws of physics we can exploit to detect a flame without anywhere near so many challenges. We can detect a […]

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