Oasis Heating, A/C & Refrigeration 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 Oasis Heating, A/C & Refrigeration, 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 Most Modern Furnaces Use Electronic Ignition

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

If your furnace uses a standing pilot light, you may not know it, but you’re behind the times. Standing pilot lights are being steadily phased out as more modern electronic ignition systems come into play. There are many reasons for this. Standing pilot lights are notorious for going out at the drop of a hat, mostly due to their being almost completely unprotected from air flow in the house. They are also surprisingly massive energy wasters. Even a small flame can waste quite a bit of fuel if it is on 24/7. Read on to find out how electronic ignition fixes these issues, and why you may want to consider upgrading.

Intermittent Pilot

The first kind of electronic ignition devices we’re going to look at is the intermittent pilot. As the name suggests, this is an ignition system that still uses a pilot light, but not all the time. When the thermostat tells the furnace to turn on, the intermittent pilot opens a gas valve and creates a small spark. This spark is generated by an electrode that is installed close to the burners. It is this spark that ignites the burners and starts the system.

The intermittent pilot solves a lot of the issues that plagued the standing pilot. No more worrying about the pilot light blowing out, or failing because of a bad thermocouple. Its sensors are more accurate, it doesn’t waste nearly as much energy, and it is relatively low maintenance. If something does break, it will be a bit more expensive to fix due to the more complicated nature of the system. However, it is worth it for all the benefits it provides.

Hot Surface Ignition

This type of electronic ignition relies on a heating filament, rather like a light bulb filament, to light the burners. Just like the intermittent pilot, the hot surface ignition system is not on the whole time. When the heating system receives the command to turn on, the hot surface ignitor runs an electric current through the filament installed under the burners. This filament gives off enough heat to ignite the gas and start the system. Just like lightbulbs, heating filaments can burn out over time. They are relatively easy to replace, though.

If you’d like to know more, call OASIS Heating, A/C & Refrigeration, Inc. We provide furnace installation throughout Alexandria.


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