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Posted by on in General

This month, Angie’s List published an article discussed the shortages of skilled labor in many trades, from plumbing to HVAC. According to the article, hiring and retaining highly skilled workers in an industry like ours is becoming increasingly more difficult – something we’ve known for a long time.

 

Angie’s List sites a few reasons for dwindling numbers in this type of work – including the fact that the growing number of skilled workers reaching retirement age are not being equally replaced by young skilled labor workers. Rising material and transportation costs are also said to be factors in the decline in these special labor fields. As consumers look to hire skilled labor work from contractors, it becomes more difficult for them to find quality work and is contributing to rising prices.

 

This skilled labor shortage isn’t a new problem, especially in the HVAC profession. In fact, we wrote about this same topic last May. You can read that post here. Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs) testified in 2011 in front of the US Senate about this growing problem – a problem that is still very much alive today. “The Skills Gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In general, we’re surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn’t be. We’ve pretty much guaranteed it ... In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of 'higher education' to such a lofty perch, that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled 'alternative',” said Rowe.

 

We couldn’t agree more with this statement from Rowe. We’re working hard to make up for this general lack of education opportunity by providing our own training programs for our employees. In fact, we provide 160 hours of initial training to all new technicians and plumbers and then partner with them through a tuition sharing program to enroll them in a local technical program. On top of that, we provide over 100 hours a year of ongoing training to all of our technicians, and require that they get all necessary licenses, as well as industry certifications like NATE. As you can see, we live up to our Core Value of Development. This also allows us to hire more based on the attitudes of our potential employees and then train for any skills they may need.

Posted by on in Heating

While the weather in the Pacific NW has been warmer the last week, winter is far from over, and keeping your furnace running the rest of the heating season should still be on your mind. Here is a quick guide to three of the top ways to keep your furnace running reliably and efficiently all winter long:

 

1. Change your filters as recommended

One of the most commonly overlooked ways to keep your furnace running efficiently is changing your filter. Filters are typically hidden inside the furnace, so they stay out of plain site where homeowners would regularly be reminded to change them. Most filters are recommended to be changed every one to three months – although there are certain high-performance filters that can last longer.

 

A dirty air filter can quickly undermine the efficiency of your heating system, which can lead to wasted energy dollars. One quick way to check your filter is to pull it out and hold it up to a light. As a rule-of-thumb - if you can’t see through the filter, it’s time to change it. It’s important to check the furnace regularly during winter months, as this is the heaviest usage time for the system. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re purchasing filters with higher MERV (Minimum Energy Reporting Value) rating. Higher rated filters go beyond dust and pollen capture and collect finer particles such as mold spores, hair spray, and others.

 

Make sure each filter is installed properly, with the arrow on the side of the filter pointing toward the direction of airflow (generally towards the blower). If you are not sure how to change your filter, the video below will show you how. (Some filters can be located inside the ductwork connected to the furnace, or inside the return air grille. If you are unsure of where your filter is, or have trouble changing it, call Bel Red for assistance.)

 

Finally, if you need filters or don’t know what type or size to get, contact us for help. We can provide you with an annual supply of high quality filters in the right size to match your heating system. 


2. Keep objects away from your furnace

It’s important to keep objects, both large and small, away from the close vicinity of the furnace. There are obvious safety concerns with objects, particularly flammable objects, being close to or touching a furnace. Most commonly, furnaces are at ground level, which could make for a potential fire hazard if papers or other flammable objects are left hear the burner. Certain dangerous objects that are commonly stored in a basement or garage (potentially near the furnace) include paint cans, varnish and cleaning fluids. These items could potentially give off vapors that could be ignited if too close to the burning unit. Also, objects such as furniture or other wood materials can easily become dry and warped if stored too closely to the furnace.

 

Keeping objects away from the furnace can also lead to more efficiency. Because natural gas or propane needs oxygen to burn properly, be sure to keep the area around your furnace and water heater clear of items that could block air circulation. Creating a steady airflow and oxygen availability around the furnace can prevent the HVAC unit from working too hard.

As part of our continuing commitment to staying up to date on the latest and greatest in the home performance industry, we’re currently attending the 2013 ACI (Affordable Comfort, Inc.) Northwest Home Performance Conference.

 

(left) Andrea Petzel of Community Power Works and Jason Lear of Batt & Lear on a panel discussion of Energy Efficiency Programs & Contractors - How to work together.

(right) Andy Wappler from PSE speaking at opening session.

 

Affordable Comfort, Inc. (ACI) is a leading educational resource in the home performance industry. The conference is made up of a number of great sessions, presenters and exhibitors that are gathering to bring attendees education and information that allows companies, like Bel Red, to stay at the top of the industry in terms of technology and knowledge. The conference, sponsored by Puget Sound Energy (PSE), among others, includes sessions on great topics ranging from green building to emerging technologies for an energy efficient future. This year’s conference will focus on the most current and relevant topics in the weatherization and home performance industry, including topics such as:

 

·      The rapidly emerging world of technology and smart devices

·      Connecting diagnostics, physics, and techniques

·      The cost effectiveness issue

·      How ARRA funding impacted the Northwest

Posted by on in General

We recently wrote on our home energy blog about the importance of certifications. The same considerations should be made when you are searching for a contactor to carry out HVAC work in your home. It’s critical for your safety, comfort and energy use that such work is done correctly and professionally, which is why finding a well-trained and certified contractor is a must.

 

The leading certification for HVAC technicians is the NATE (North American Technician Excellence) Certification. Fortunately for our customers, every Bel Red Energy Solutions technician works toward becoming NATE-certified. In fact, over 80% of our technicians hold NATE certification, making Bel Red a NATE Quality Circle Contractor.

 

So, why is this certification so important?

  • NATE-certified technicians bring peace of mind to any installation, service or repair of a homeowner’s heating, ventilation or air conditioning work.
  • NATE-certified technicians are skilled professionals who have proven their knowledge in the HVAC industry by passing specialized NATE certification tests.
  • These tests ensure the certified technicians have the knowledge and skill to help get the job right the first time – which is on every homeowner’s wish list when the time comes for HVAC work.

 

Just as you would trust the expertise of an ASE certified mechanic working on your automobile, an ATP (Accredited Tax Preparer) doing your taxes, or a CFP (Certified Financial Planner) managing your nest-egg, you can trust NATE certified HVAC technicians with the comfort, health and safety of your home when they work on your HVAC system.

Earlier this week, we posted about the Department of Energy (DOE) withdrawing portions of proposed regional energy conservation standards in a settlement resulting from a recent lawsuit set forth by the American Public Gas Association (APGA).  There have been many reactions to the news of the potential settlement.

 

There were many reasons behind the lawsuit challenging the original institution of the regional energy efficiency standards. Responding to the DOE’s withdrawal of the standards, David Schryver, executive vice president of the APGA said “we had a number of concerns with the rule, and the matter in which the DOE proceeded through the rulemaking process. Now, this takes us back to square one, where we’re hopeful that the DOE will consider this again, taking all comments and considerations into account.” The backtrack allows key members of the industry to comment and contribute opinions on future standard discussions, which many, including us, feel should have been done the first time around.

 

There are a number of questions that both consumers and industry members are asking based on this recent news:

  • Many are wondering if the settlement is already a done deal. As we mentioned in the earlier post, the settlement still has to be approved by the Court before these regional standards are officially removed.
  • There have also been a number of questions from consumers regarding the definition of a non-weatherized furnace, which is the only type the settlement addresses. A non-weatherized furnace is one that is designed to be placed indoors and is the most common residential furnace in the United States.