Touchstone Heating & Air Inc. Blog: Archive for December, 2014

The Composition of Snowflakes: Are No Two Alike?

Thursday, 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 Touchstone Heating and Air Inc., 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!

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Why Do Heat Pumps Need Refrigerant for Heating?

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

A heat pump is an effective and efficient heating and air conditioning system. In order for any system to provide cool air, it requires a medium to transfer heat out of a space first, usually using a chemical blend called refrigerant. But most heating systems don’t need any refrigerant at all, instead generating heat to heat up the air before it moves into the ducts. So what’s the difference with heat pumps? And why do they still need refrigerant for heating?

When homeowners need installation, repair, or maintenance for heat pumps in Fort White, they know to count on the expertise of the technicians at Touchstone Heating and Air Inc.

Heat Pumps and Refrigerant

We hear it surprisingly often: “Isn’t refrigerant used for cooling and not for heating?” But a heat pump uses refrigerant to pump heat from one area to another, out of the house in the summer and into the house in the colder season.

See, heat pumps are designed much like conventional air conditioning systems. A refrigerant line connects the indoor and outdoor units. The outside unit contains a compressor, while the indoor and outdoor units have a set of coils. In the summer, the indoor coil allows refrigerant to evaporate into a gas and absorb heat while a large fan blows air over the coil. The outside coil allows the refrigerant to condense and give off heat, essentially pumping the heat from one place to another.

In the winter, the heat pump utilizes a component that air conditioners do not have, the reversing valve. A reversing valve allows refrigerant to flow in the opposite direction, absorbing heat from the outside to bring into your house. This can work even in very cold temperatures, which is why heat pumps have become a popular replacement for air conditioning units.

Heat pumps are extremely efficient for heating since refrigerant only has to move heat rather than generate it. This means that if you choose a heat pump for new HVAC installation, you’ll see energy savings in the summer and in the winter.

Contact Touchstone Heating and Air Inc. for your new installation or for any other questions regarding heat pumps in Fort White.

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How Can You Tell Your Ducts Are in Need of Repair?

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Your ductwork is the delivery system for your home’s heating and cooling, and when something is wrong with it, you’ll see the effects in a few ways. It can sometimes be hard to tell when your ductwork has become faulty, so here are some signs to look for if you suspect you may need duct repair in Starke:

  • High energy bills – faulty ductwork can account for up to 30% of your home’s total air loss – a pretty significant amount that can seriously increase your energy bills.
  • Poor indoor air quality – are you noticing large amounts of dust and/or dirt in your home? Particles can enter through cracks and holes in the ductwork and accumulate in your home. If you are seeing a great deal of dust and dirt settling on your furniture, it may be time to have a professional take a look at your ductwork.
  • Strange odors – just as dust and dirt can enter your home through faulty ductwork, so, too, can odors and fumes. Additionally, mold is more likely to grow in faulty ductwork due to extra moisture and contaminants entering the system, so if you smell a stale odor coming from your vents, it may indicate that mold is present.
  • Uneven heating and cooling – ductwork doesn’t corrode or disconnect uniformly; as such, one of the telltale signs that you may have ductwork issues is uneven heating and cooling. Some of your vents may be in good working order while others won’t be, causing uneven heating or cooling in your home.
  • Not enough heating or cooling – depending on the level of air loss, your living spaces may not receive the volume of warm or cool air they need to be comfortable.

Why Hire Professionals for Duct Repair?

Ductwork can be long and complicated, and reach to the deeper parts of your home, including crawl spaces and attic spaces. It is also important to know what to look for and to understand how to repair the ductwork so it lasts a long time. Trained professionals have the expertise and knowledge to be able to repair your ducts in Starke quickly and efficiently.

If you are seeing the signs of faulty ductwork, call Touchstone Heating and Air, Inc., today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

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How Can a New Thermostat Contribute to Heating Efficiency?

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

One of the easiest ways to increase the energy efficiency of your heating system is to upgrade your thermostat. This may seem like too simple a solution, but upgrading your thermostat has a number of benefits that you may not realize. There are 3 main choices when it comes to upgrading your thermostat, as we’ll outline below, and each offers a level of control you can’t get with an outdated thermostat. Professional installation ensures that your thermostat will work properly, so call the people you can count on: Touchstone Heating and Air, Inc.

Types of Thermostats


A digital thermostat has precise temperature-setting and intuitive and easy-to-use buttons. The face is more readable than a dial or slide thermostat, and there’s no need to calibrate a digital thermostat as you have to with a mercury-based thermostat. Digital thermostats can easily replace your existing one, and your technician will properly dispose of your outdated thermostat.


A programmable thermostat allows you to take the benefits of digital precision to the next level by creating a program for your heating. You can set up to 4 different temperature settings per day, and create a full program that lasts for 7 days. If your weekly program is consistent, you can loop your 7-day program so that it runs continuously. Programming allows you to accommodate for times when your home may be unoccupied during the work week, weekends, nighttime and vacation time. You can program your heating system to cycle up and down when needed without having to do it manually.


With a smart thermostat, you can program, monitor and track your energy usage from just about anywhere; all you need is a smart device and access to the internet. You can use your smart thermostat’s app to program your thermostat, make changes and even monitor your energy use.

How Does an Upgraded Thermostat Help with Energy Efficiency?

  • Precision – dial or slide thermostats give a range of degrees rather than allowing you to pinpoint an actual temperature; this can make a difference of 2-3 degrees per setting. Considering each degree higher can equal 3% of your energy costs, being able to set an exact temperature can go a long way toward reducing your energy usage.
  • Programmability – being able to program your thermostat allows you to reduce the amount of heating you use. This kind of control saves you energy and money.
  • Monitoring/energy tracking – if you use a smart thermostat, you can monitor and track your energy usage, which can help inform you as to when and how to further reduce your energy usage.

Today’s thermostats are far more advanced than the outdated mercury or slide type of thermostats.

If you are looking to increase the energy efficiency of your heating in Jacksonville, contact Touchstone Heating and Air, Inc., and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

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