Articles about Heating and Cooling in the Algarve

Energy-efficient Ventilation ...

Today's buildings are air-tight to help maintain heat and conserve energy, although ventilation is still necessary for healthy air flow. Yet most ventilation still works in the same way as opening a window – losing warmth.

The latest systems overcome this by extracting heat from the stale/outgoing air and using it to warm the fresh/incoming air. This is energy-efficient because, by retaining the air's warmth, less demand is made of any heating system.

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Efficient ventilation...

The Algarve's humid climate causes many homes to suffer from damp and mould. Humidity can create an uncomfortable indoor ambience - and an unhealthy one. Dehumidifiers are commonly used but the best solution is better ventilation. There are various ways to achieve this, varying in sophistication -

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Don't sacrifice your water tank!

anode_algarve_solar_hot_water.jpgWhether your water is from mains supply or a borehole it contains minerals and chemicals that, over time, corrode unprotected metal areas and components in your solar system's water tank.

Read more: Don't sacrifice your water tank!

Prepare for summer cooling!

All air conditioning systems need annual maintenance. Spring is the ideal time, in readiness for the long summer ahead, and particularly in rental properties to prepare systems for rigorous use by holiday clients.

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Ozone Friendly Air-Con ...

The 1987 Montreal Protocol established the global phasing-out of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), which damage the Earth's ozone layer. In 1992 the phasing-out of HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) was also set.

Read more: Ozone Friendly Air-Con...

Pumping up the warmth...

Heat pumps are usually associated with pool heating in the Algarve, but they can also provide highly cost-efficient warm water for radiator or underfloor heating.

Read more: Pumping up the warmth...

Maintain a sunny disposition...

Solar hot water systems need annual maintenance to remain in good order and operate at best efficiency. A neglected system operates less effectively and in extreme cases will switch permanently to its electrical back-up, therefore using no solar energy at all. This may require a thorough flushing of solar panels and water tank, removal of calcium deposits and replacement of the tank's sacrificial anode.

Read more: Maintain a sunny disposition...

Cloud Control!

The latest generation of air-conditioning can be controlled remotely via a range of pc/laptop, tablet or smartphone devices. No servers, adaptors or wires are necessary – only a small receiver connected to the fan unit in the room. If you're at home, your existing WiFi connection can be used: simply start the App from your chosen device. If you're away, just launch the App and manage your system via the 'Cloud'. The App is free, user-friendly and designed to correspond to your system's hand-held remote. Easy!

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What's a BTU??

btu_algarve_air_conditioning.jpgBTU stands for British Thermal Unit - a measure of heat energy. It is 'British' because it uses 'Imperial Gallons' in its calculation. An Imperial Gallon of water weighs 10 pounds. A BTU heats one pound of water to one degree Fahrenheit.

Read more: What's a BTU??

Bugs, bats & beasts!

External air-con machines offer a hideaway for all manner of small creatures. Insects are unlikely to cause serious problems to machines, but it's not uncommon for bugs to block the narrow condensate drainage pipes, which can cause units to drip indoors and/or damage interior walls. Geckos are frequent visitors, seeking safety and warmth. Usually they pose little problem (and eat the insects!) but they can sometimes crawl across a live circuit, not only meeting a sudden end but also causing an electrical failure in the process.

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Origins of Air Conditioning ...

In the 1800s rudimentary attempts at lowering air temperature were made in hospitals, with fans blowing across tubs of ice. As refrigeration technology advanced, large central plants were established in some US cities to pipe cool air into meat warehouses, beer cellars, bank vaults and archives.

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GOOD Cop, BAD Cop!

cop_heatpump_algarve_heating_cooling.JPGA heat pump takes the ambient / outside air temperature and 'upgrades' or increases it, to heat air or water. The measurement of a heat pump's efficiency is its 'Coefficient Of Performance' or 'COP value'. The higher this number, the more efficient the system.

Read more: GOOD Cop, BAD Cop!

What's a fan coil?

A fan coil is like a hybrid between air conditioning and radiators. Air-con pipes contain refrigerant gas for cooling or heating, whereas water-circulating radiators can only be used for heating. However, in a fan coil system a fan takes room air and passes it over a coil of pipes circulating water, then gently returns it to the room. This can be driven by an energy-efficient heat pump (looks like an external air-con unit), and switched to heating or cooling. It is also effective for dehumidifying.

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Origins of Thermal Solar

In the 1760s the Swiss inventor Horace-Bénédict de Saussure made an open wooden box with another inside, put insulation between the two, covered the top with glass, then placed it in the sun. Because glass allows light to pass easily but impedes heat from doing so, the heat was trapped and the box warmed up.

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Solar systems: Thermal vs. Photovoltaic (PV)

solar_panels_pv_algarve.jpgA commonly-asked question is: “What kind of solar system is best for supplying domestic hot water? One with thermal solar panels, which heat the water directly? Or one using photovoltaic panels, which generate electricity to power a heating system?”

To consider this, the following comparison is useful - If a standard 3kw electric immersion heater takes around 5 hours to heat a 130-litre water tank from 10°C to 60°C then a THERMAL solar system needs two panels to achieve the same, requiring 4m² roof space and logically a PHOTOVOLTAIC system needs around twelve 230W PV panels (2.76 peak output) to achieve the same, requiring around 24m² roof space.

Read more: Solar systems: Thermal vs. Photovoltaic (PV)

Catch your energy thieves!

Penguin now offer a new service to determine your main 'energy thieves' and identify possible money-saving solutions. For a period of 1-7 days a monitor is connected to your mains supply, with similar devices connected to appliances likely to be high energy consumers, e.g. radiators, boilers, water pumps etc. A graph is then produced to show the pattern and amount of power consumption.

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Read more: Catch your energy thieves!

Origins of Underfloor Heating ...

Underfloor heating is nothing new. Roman public baths and villas used 'hypocaust' systems, whereby hot air from an outside furnace was drawn through underfloor voids, heating the building's floor or bath tiles. The Korean 'ondol' ('warm stone') system pre-dated the Romans by 500 years, whereby a sunken kitchen stove passed wood-smoke under the raised floor of an adjoining room, then expelled it from a chimney on the opposite side of the dwelling.

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Thermal vs. Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panels

thermal_photovoltaic_solar_panels_algarve.jpgIt's a common misunderstanding, but the term 'solar panel' is used for TWO completely different types of technology, with distinct applications -

Read more: Thermal vs. Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panels

Cool choices!

For most domestic situations there are 3 main types of air conditioning system -

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Origins of PV...

In 1873 Willoughby Smith (pictured) found that electricity travels through selenium when placed in light (photoconductivity). In 1877 William Adams and Richard Day discovered that sunlight actually generates electricity in selenium. In 1883 Charles Fritts made the first primitive PV cell, mounting selenium on a metal plate and coated in gold.

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Solar Style in the Algarve

solcrafte-200_algarve_solar.jpgSolar systems of the 'thermosiphon'-type, where the water tank is mounted horizontally above 1 or 2 solar panels, have become a familiar sight on many Algarve rooftops. They are a time-proven technology, but in some situations can look unsightly.

Read more: Solar Style in the Algarve

Air-con in Spore Condition!

Penguin received a call from a lady who felt sick whenever she ran the air-conditioning in her bedroom, believing it to be giving off toxic fumes. The system was old and hadn't been receiving a regular maintenance service for several years.

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Read more: Air-con in Spore Condition!

Plug in Photovoltaic!

Plug-in photovoltaic (PV) solar kits are as simple as they sound – just mount the panels, connect them to an DC/AC inverter box that comes with the system, then run a power cable to any domestic socket to receive FREE power.

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Pump-up your home heating!

Today's inverter air conditioning systems are a highly efficient and cost-effective way to heat and cool your home, typically with a 'Coefficient Of Performance' (COP) value of around 4.0. This means, in effect, that for every euro of electricity a heating unit consumes, it generates four euros' worth of heat energy.

Read more: Pump-up your home heating!

Air-con Sense and Sensor-bility...!

Modern air-conditioning is more energy-efficient than ever, but people are still conscious of unnecessary waste when systems are left running in unoccupied rooms. To combat this, there are several movement-sensor products, of various degrees of sophistication, which turn systems off when no movement is detected after a pre-set period. Yet these have drawbacks, as some are connected direct to the mains supply and simply interrupt this, but most systems do not like being switched off in this way and require several seconds to re-balance their gas/liquid levels. Normal de-activation allows this shut-down process whereas cutting-off at the mains does not.

Read more: Air-con Sense and Sensor-bility...!

PV Facts and Figures

Many homeowners are interested in photovoltaic (PV) solar systems to supply their own domestic electricity. But how many PV panels are needed to achieve what? And how much should you spend on a system for a sensible return-on-investment of 7 years?

Read more: PV Facts and Figures

Controlling the Algarve sun

sun_algarve_solar.jpgSolar hot water: A solar system for domestic hot water is one of the most worthwhile investments for your home. A typical house with gas water heating may incur bills of €60-€70 per month. The cost of a 200-litre thermosiphon-type solar system will be recouped in 3-4 years and provide FREE hot water for many years after.

Read more: Controlling the Algarve sun

Warm Winter Wishes ....

The Algarve's clear skies give us wonderful winter sunshine - but cold nights too. Damp can also be a problem in properties not built with winter insulation in mind, and such conditions can persist for 3-4 months.

And whilst a roaring log fire makes for a seasonal Christmas, it isn't the most efficient way to heat a home. With festive expenses looming large, now may not feel like the ideal time to be investing in home-heating but, if you're feeling the cold, now IS the time to at least plan ahead.

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Efficiency is smart...

Penguin combine the latest systems with smart technology for maximum efficiency and controllability.

A recent example: a 4-bed villa undergoing renovation, where the owner wanted maximum-efficiency heating with minimal energy consumption, plus the capability to monitor his home's energy performance.

Read more: Efficiency is smart...

Properly-sized air conditioning

air_conditioning_sizing_chart_algarve.gifMany people buy an air conditioner that is too powerful, thinking it will provide better cooling. But an over-sized system is actually less effective — and wastes energy! Air conditioners remove both heat and humidity from the air. If the unit is too powerful, it will cool the room quickly but only remove some of the humidity, leaving the room with a damp, clammy feeling. A properly-sized unit will remove humidity more effectively as it cools.

Read more: Properly-sized air conditioning

Christmas penguin ...

It was Christmas Eve and a penguin was walking home in the snow.

He was old and he felt the cold.

Suddenly The Ghost of Yesterday appeared and pointed to the village square where some young penguins were playing snowballs. The old penguin remembered that he used to play like that. But now he felt cold, so he continued on his way home.

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Inverter vs. non-inverter air-conditioners

inverter_split_systems_algarve.gifIt's a common misconception that an 'inverter' system is one that heats as well as cools. But most systems offer both functions - so what's the difference between an inverter and non-inverter?

Read more: Inverter vs. non-inverter air-conditioners

New Energy Resolutions

New Year is traditionally the time to consider the 12 months to come. 'How can I improve my quality of life? My home? How can I economise so as to improve my finances?'

The cost of heating & cooling is a major expenditure for most homes, so an analysis of annual energy bills is a logical undertaking. The Algarve winter is short but nonetheless nights are cold, many properties are not well insulated, so heating can be costly.

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New Mitsubishi A+++ Efficiency

euefficiency_chart_algarve_air_conditioning.jpgAs of 1 Jan, new EC regulations aim to protect the environment by encouraging more energy-efficient air-conditioning, and to steer the market away from inefficient systems.

Read more: New Mitsubishi A+++ Efficiency