How clean is your indoor air?
We hear all sorts of things about outdoor air quality – the pollen count, pollution levels, allergens – you name it! But, what about the air you are breathing indoors? Yes, we spend a lot of time outdoors, but chances are we spend even more time in our home – especially during the winter.
The fall and spring are peak allergy seasons. They are also the time of year when it is the most tempting to open the windows and let in a cool breeze. If you are an allergy sufferer, this can spell trouble. Yes, those allergens will get filtered out eventually, but not before you have the opportunity to inhale them.
In addition to allergies, here are some other indoor air concerns during the fall…
Poor Air Circulation and Humidity
It’s hard to avoid all of the things that can affect indoor air during the fall. However, there are things you can do to counter the effects of fall.
- Check your furnace filter. We recommend changing your furnace filter frequently – once a season, if not more! Some households, like those with pets, can benefit from a filter change once a month.
- Look at natural air fresheners and cleaning solutions. Often, a mess won’t require a heavy-duty cleaner – lemon juice, baking soda, water or some combo may be all that you need. Odor elimination may be as simple as changing your furnace filter or taking out the trash.
- Control the humidity of your home. We are so focused on temperature when it comes to home comfort, but did you know that humidity can be as big of a factor as temperature when it comes to comfort. In fact, did you know that a home with a higher humidity level is going to feel warmer than a home at the same temperature with a lower humidity level? During mild seasons, like the spring and fall, your heating and air system is not going to run as often. This will cause the humidity in your home to rise. Your air is not being circulated as often, so it is not being filtered as often. If you are concerned about air quality, it may be a good idea to switch your thermostat’s fan setting from “AUTO” to “ON.”
Ultimately, the best way to take control of your indoor air quality is to talk to your heating and air contractor about having an indoor air quality system installed in your home – like a whole home air cleaner.
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Do you know what you’re looking for in a new furnace?
Shopping for new heating equipment can seem like a daunting task. The life of the average furnace can span multiple decades – chances are you’ve never had to replace your system in the past. A new heating system is an investment financially and comfort-wise; you want to make sure you make the right decision.
Here are some things you should know about your furnace replacement options to help you make a better decision.
Heating and cooling equipment comes in a range of efficiencies – from minimum efficiency to high efficiency, condensing models. There are a couple of things to take into consideration when you are comparing efficiency ratings. If you live in an area that experiences mild winters, chances are you may not see the returns you’d like from an investment in an ultra-efficient model. On the other hand, if you live in an area that experiences brutally cold winters, high efficiency is the way to go. You’ll be shocked at the difference a high-efficiency gas furnace can make on your utility bills during the peak heating season.
- Money Back.
There are many incentives available to homeowners who purchase new heating and cooling equipment. Many manufacturers offer rebates on high-efficiency models that can offset initial costs. There are also local utility rebates that may be available in your area for high-efficiency equipment. Make sure you ask your contractor about the money-back options available to you.
- Energy Savings.
A high-efficiency furnace can help you save money each month on utilities. This can be beneficial for those who live in the North, where winters can be unforgiving. And, even minimum-efficiency gas furnaces manufactured today can be significantly more efficient than those manufactured 10 or 15 years ago. So, even if you do invest in a standard-efficiency system, you could still see savings.
- Performance Features.
How loud is your furnace when it kicks on? If it sounds like a jet engine taking off, it may be time to explore your new system options. Modern furnaces contain many noise reduction features that weren’t as prevalent during the era your old furnace was manufactured. If you’re looking for extremely quiet operation, look for a unit that features an insulated cabinet and a variable-speed blower motor.
The hunt for the perfect gas furnace is a lot easier if you have a knowledgeable, professional contractor by your side. Make sure you do some research before you hire the contractor who is going to guide you through the purchasing process.
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Do you think it’s time to replace your old furnace?
Making the decision to replace your heating equipment isn’t an easy one. Heating equipment is essential to your home comfort during the winter, but it is also expensive. You don’t want to end up replacing your unit unnecessarily, but you don’t want to be without heat during the coldest parts of the year. After all, Murphy’s Law suggests that your furnace is most likely to quit when you need it most.
If you are faced with the decision to repair or replace your old unit, here are some things to ask yourself:
- How old is my unit? The average gas furnace lasts about 20 years. If your furnace is somewhere in the 15-20 year range, and you are faced with a repair, chances are you’re just delaying the inevitable if you decide not to replace. Plus, furnaces manufactured even 10 years ago don’t include some of the amazing features modern air conditioners include – like quiet operation, more even temperatures and high efficiency. In fact, even a standard-efficiency furnace purchased today may be significantly more efficient than your old system.
- How expensive is the repair? Think of your furnace like your car – if it costs more to fix the unit that it costs to replace it, opt for replacement. Look at the cost of making repairs and weight that against the cost of replacement (don’t forget about the money-saving benefit of added efficiency and potential rebates). If you are struggling to make a replacement fit within your budget, ask your contractor about the financing options they offer.
- How high are my utility bills? If you are experiencing high heating bills during the winter, or bills that are creeping up in cost each month, it is better to replace your system. As gas furnaces age, they may lose efficiency due to regular wear and tear. So, not only will your old unit most likely have started off at a lower efficiency rating brand new, it may have lost that rated efficiency over years of use.
- How loud is my gas furnace? Loud bangs and blanks coming from your unit when it kicks on or is in operation are not a good sign. This can indicate that it is time to call a contractor and discuss a repair. If it’s determined that those noises are coming from one of the main components of your furnace, it’s best to replace.
Whether you decide to repair or replace, the process needs to start with the search for a qualified local contractor. It isn’t going to matter if you replaced your old system with a new, high-efficiency model if the installation was not done correctly. Ask friends and family for recommendations, check online review sites and get several different quotes. The cost of the multiple service calls may seem unnecessary, but if it ends up saving you money or getting a better install, it is worth it.
If you need a jumping off point, check out the Maytag dealer locator.
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Are you ready for fall?
What’s on your home maintenance to-do list? Make sure you don’t forget about your HVAC system! If you live in an area that sees frigid temperatures, it’s important to make sure your furnace is ready for the job ahead.
Here are some things to add to your fall to-do list.
Change your temporary furnace filter or give your permanent filter a good clean. This is an easy, straightforward task you can take care of at any time. Your furnace filter is going to be located near your indoor HVAC equipment – either in your ductowrk, by a register or in the equipment cabinet. If you aren’t sure where your furnace filter is, or access is difficult, enlist the help of your contractor.
Busting out the rake? Don’t forget to rake around your outdoor equipment. Blocked airflow is an efficiency killer. Not only are those leaves bad for your lawn, but they can clog your condenser. In addition to removing the leaves from around your system, it is a good idea to schedule a good condenser cleaning. This will help you maximize the life of your equipment and achieve the greatest efficiency possible.
Feel a cool breeze? Make sure you have sealed any air leaks around your windows and/or doors. This can often be taken care of with some caulk, insulation or weather stripping. Think of the air leaking out of your home as money leaking out of your wallet. The more air escaping outside means more time spent getting your home up to temperature. It also means that your home may cool off faster, resulting in your furnace kicking on more often.
Keep safety in mind. Change the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector and smoke detectors. Do you remember the last time you changed the batteries in either of those lifesaving devices? When it comes to the safety of you and your family, it’s never worth the risk.
The most important thing to do for your HVAC system during the fall is to schedule furnace preventative maintenance with your heating and air conditioning contractor. During a fall furnace clean and check, your contractor will:
- Clean any components that need it.
- Inspect the venting system and confirm that it is operating correctly.
- Check for soot, leaks, corroded electrical contacts and frayed wires.
An inspection once-a-year is critical for the health of your equipment AND the safety of your family. Your furnace must operate correctly to keep your family comfortable and healthy during the winter. You don’t want to take any chances.
When everything is in good, working order, and temperatures have dropped for good for the season, switch your thermostat over to heating mode.
Fall is under way! Schedule an appointment with your local heating and air conditioning contractor.
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Were you affected by any of the recent tropical storms or hurricanes?
The United States has been inundated by devastating tropical storms and hurricanes over the past month. Many communities are going to have to rebuild from the ground up – a daunting task. Maytag HVAC, along with the rest of the nation, extends our sympathies to those communities impacted by these recent events.
The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) has released safety, repair and replacement guidelines in response to the recent storms. If your community was affected by the recent tropical storms and hurricanes, this is a must-read.
AHRI President and CEO Stephen Yurek, advises caution. “We advise homeowners to play it safe and replace, rather than repair flood-damaged heating, cooling and water heating equipment,” says Yurek.
Many things were affected by the winds and the rains of these superstorms. This includes heating and air conditioning systems. Water-damaged HVAC equipment can be hard to detect and could put your family at risk if not treated properly. It’s important to take the proper precautions when it comes to repair and replacement. Even the slightest repositioning can result in leaks, loose electrical connections and more. If your HVAC system has been affected by water, it’s better to replace than attempt to repair. Although it may be costlier, it is the safest and, in the long run, the most cost-conscious choice.
Do not attempt to restart or fix your HVAC equipment yourself! You could end up doing more damage to your unit or hurting yourself in the process. Call your local heating and air conditioning professional. Wait times may be longer than usual considering the widespread damage, but it will be worth it.
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Do you need some heating and air conditioning help?
There’s no two ways about it, when your air conditioner isn’t working properly, you’re not going to be a happy camper. The temptation can be to shake your first at the sky, pick up a wrench and attempt to fix it yourself.
Drop that wrench!
It’s important to know when it is appropriate to do a minor HVAC-related task, and when it is time to call in the “big guns” – A.K.A. your local contractor.
These are minor fixes you can attempt before you call a contractor. Anything beyond this should be handled by a professional.
- Make sure the system is turned on at the breaker and the outlet.
- Make sure the thermostat is set to the appropriate model – heat or cool.
- Make sure the temperature is either above the temperature outdoors (if in heating mode) or below the temperature outdoors (if in cooling mode).
- Replace your furnace filter.
- Open your registers and vents.
When to turn off your equipment and call a contractor…
- There is visual damage to your outdoor or indoor equipment.
- Furnace is on but there is no warm air blowing from your vents.
- There is visual duct damage.
- You are in heating model, but cold air is blowing from your ducts.
- Air conditioner is on, making loud noises and the fan is not blowing.
- Your air conditioner or furnace is constantly running and not reaching temperature.
Basically, when it doubt, call a professional.
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What’s that noise?
Concerned by the noises coming out of your heating and air conditioning equipment? There are some noises that can alert you to issues in your heating and cooling equipment while other noises are just a result of day-to-day operation. Sometimes, it can be hard to discern a normal noise from an abnormal noise. Make sure you keep an ear out. If your system is not brand-new, but you are noticing a brand-new noise, it’s time to call a contractor.
Be aware of the following noises:
- Air moving in your ductwork. This is completely normal. It’s just an indication that your equipment is running. However, if you notice a loud hissing or it seems like there is a change in airflow, it may be time to call a contractor. This could indicate that there is a blockage or leak in your ducts.
- Hum from your outdoor condenser. Even the quietest, most efficient air conditioner will make some noise while it’s operating. Newer units that have noise reduction features may be quieter than an everyday conversation, while an older air conditioner may make its presence known every time it kicks on. Just make note of changes. If your air conditioner starts making loud bangs or thumps, turn it off and call a contractor.
- Squeaks during startup or shutdown. This is entirely dependent on the type of system you have. If your unit is newer, and has never squealed while starting up, this can be an indication that a part is dirty of lose. However, a squeak may be normal for an older air conditioner. Generally, a squeal in any unit is an indication that it is time for a tune up.
- Scurrying, thumps or abnormal noises from your ductwork. It pays to get your ductwork inspected. Household pests may decide to make your ductwork their home. If you hear what sounds like an animal moving behind your walls or vents, have someone come out and inspect your system.
- Popping or crackling inside your ductwork. Metal ductwork expands and contractors as it is heated and cooled. This is completely normal. However, if the pops are interfering with your daily routine, there are possible solutions you can discuss with your local contractor.
If you are looking to replace your old air conditioner with something that makes less noise, ask your heating and air contractor about models that contain noise-reduction features – like swept-wing fan blades or compressor sound blankets.
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When was the last time your ductwork was cleaned?
It’s important to do all you can to make sure your indoor air is as clean as possible. And, clean air starts with your heating and air conditioning equipment. When was the last time your ductwork was cleaned and/or inspected?
What is your ductwork?
Your ductwork is responsible for transporting air to and from your HVAC system. It can be either hard or flex, insulated, located in your floor or ceiling, and more! The important thing to remember about ductwork is that it must be properly designed for your home to achieve optimal airflow.
If you’re noticing uneven temperatures throughout your home, higher utility bills, more frequent headaches or loud noises coming from your floor or ceiling – it could be due to an issue located inside your ductwork.
A good duct cleaning can alert you to several issues…
- Air leaks
- Mold and mildew growth
There are obvious health and monetary concerns associated with these problems. The presence of mold, insects, and/or rodents can reduce indoor air quality and leave your family in poor health. Air leaks can lead to hot and cold spots, inefficient performance, reduced comfort, and higher utility bills. It’s not always easy to see what is going on behind your walls.. But, having your ductwork inspected is a good way to peak behind the drywall “curtain.”
Don’t delay. Talk to your local contractor about scheduling a duct cleaning appointment this fall.
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Do you know how to properly change a furnace filter?
Fall is only a few short weeks away. Do you know when you last changed your furnace filter? Changing your furnace filter regularly and properly is important for indoor air quality, your family’s health, and the life of your heating and cooling equipment. Neglecting to change your furnace filter results in poor airflow and decreased filtration power.
Many homeowners should change their disposable furnace filter once a month, but the bare minimum is once a season. That’s why now is a great time to go ahead and change it out properly. Do you know the correct way to change your furnace filter?
- The first thing you need to do is find out where your furnace filter is located. Is it in your ductwork? Near your furnace? Inside the air handler or furnace cabinet? If you are not sure where your filter is located, make sure you get in touch with a contractor.
- Next, find out what size filter you need along with the proper filtration power. Higher efficiency filters can eliminate dust throughout your home and block all sorts of harmful airborne contaminants.
- Correctly place your furnace filter. This is where knowing which way the arrow is supposed to face is important. Always make sure that the airflow arrow on your furnace filter is pointing towards your furnace or air handler.
If you have questions or concerns about your furnace’s filter, make sure you get in touch with your local heating and cooling specialist. Especially, if you aren’t sure where your filter is located. You don’t want to go poking around in your ductwork or furnace cabinet to try and locate your filter. When in doubt, call a professional.
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Did your contractor preform a Manual J load calculation?
Tons? BTUs? What does it all mean? Sizing matters when it comes to a new heating or air conditioning system. Did your contractor properly size your new equipment before installing it in your home?
Rule-of-thumb measurements or basing the size of your new system on what you already have is not best practice. A contractor should preform a Manual J load calculation to determine the size of your new heating and air equipment.
But, what is a Manual J load calculation?
Simply stated a Manual J load calculation factors in the different characteristics of your home (such as square footage, position of your walls, building materials, etc.) to determine how much heating or cooling capacity your home needs. Air conditioner capacity is measured in tons and BTUs. Tons – in relation to HVAC – is not a measurement of weight. A ton in HVAC is defined as a measurement of capacity in relation to melting one ton of ice over a 24-hour period. One ton is equivalent to 12,000 BTU/h.
But, why does a proper load calculation matter?
An undersized or oversized air conditioner can have an impact on the comfort of your home. Undersized air conditioners never reach temperature settings, run constantly, dry out your air and may have a shorter life. An oversized air conditioner will go through a process known as “short-cycling.” When an air conditioner short cycles, it reaches your desired temperature too quickly. Sound like a good thing? Well, your air conditioner is responsible for more than just temperature. It is also responsible for removing enough humidity from your home’s air. When an air conditioner short cycles, it is not removing enough humidity, and an overabundance of humidity can make your home feel warm and encourage mold growth – yuck!
When your local contractor comes out to give you a quote, make sure they perform a Manual J load calculation before they determine your needed cooling capacity. If they say you don’t need one, this could be a red flag.