Why switching to a high-efficiency air conditioner is a good idea
Are you feeling the heat? Summer can really hit us where it hurts – our wallets. That’s why it’s important to do all you can to save money on utilities. After all, you want all of your extra cash going towards fun summer activities, not the utility companies.
Not surprisingly, heating and cooling equipment during the peak seasons are going to comprise the majority of your utility bill expenses – sometimes 60% or more! That’s why it’s so important that you do things to make sure your air conditioner or heat pump is running at peak efficiency during the summer.
The best thing you can do for your current cooling system is scheduling preventative maintenance in the spring. But, as we are into July already, that isn’t an option. If utility bill expenses seem high, you can always have a contractor come out and make sure your existing equipment is running as efficiently as possible. But, if your air conditioner is reaching the 10-year mark or beyond, it’s probably time to start looking into a replacement. Old models had to meet lower efficiency standards than even standard-efficiency equipment manufactured today, AND they may suffer from reduced efficiency due to years of operation.
Your best bet when replacing an old air conditioner is to invest in a high-efficiency model. This is going to give you the biggest return on your utility bills. Systems today go into the 20-SEER range. The system you have in your home today may be rated at 10 SEER or lower.
Not only can high-efficiency air conditioners reduce the amount you spend on cooling during the summer, but they also come with additional features that can improve home comfort. These features include: reduced noise levels, more even temperatures and multiple stages of operation. Plus, they are compatible with programmable thermostats and zoning systems that can help you save even more during the summer.
Yes, a high-efficiency air conditioner is going to cost more upfront. But, at the end of the month, it’s an investment that you won’t regret making.
If you want to reduce utility bills, make sure you get in touch with your local HVAC contractor – no DIY here!
If you’ve had a high-efficiency air conditioner installed in your home, have you seen the benefits?
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The best ways to save energy during the summer.
This summer has been a hot one already! Thermometer-busting temperatures mean more than just uncomfortable outdoor temperatures. It can also mean wallet-busting utility bills at the end of the month. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do that can help reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills, while maintaining a comfortable home.
Here are our top 10 summer energy savings tips.
Turn off lights. No-brainer right? Well, you can take it a step further. Make sure you unplug all electronic devices when you are not using them. Things that are plugged into an outlet still use electricity if they aren’t turned on.
Keep windows and doors closed. On hotter days, this isn’t really a temptation. But, when the temperatures drop into the 70s and 80s, opening up the windows and airing out your home can seem like a welcoming prospect. Just remember, it isn’t your job to cool the neighborhood. If your air conditioner is on, your windows and doors should be closed.
Invest in a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can be a real efficiency life-saver during the summer, particularly if no one is in your home during the day. Of course, you can always try to replicate what a programmable thermostat does for you with a non-programmable model. But, you risk affecting comfort and actually spending more money on utilities.
Find out if zoning is right for your home. Uneven temperatures can be a real comfort killer during the summer. Zoning systems help solve these problems by using just the right amount of energy to cool the different zones in your home. No energy wasted cooling rooms that have already reached optimum comfort.
Replace an air conditioner that is 12 years old, or older. If your air conditioner is getting up in age, it may be time to consider a replacement. Air conditioners produced 10+ years ago had to meet lower efficiency standards and have probably lost some of that initial efficiency over years of use. A new air conditioner will be the best way to reduce utility bill spending.
Weatherize for summer. Sealing any air leaks around windows and doors during the summer can help make temperatures feel more even in your home as well as minimizing cool air lost. It also pays off in the winter.
Use fans to help a room feel colder, but turn it off when you aren’t in the room. There is this misconception that fans actually create cold air. That is not the case. Fans actually just circulate the air. But, they can make you feel cooler by displacing the warm air around your body. So, if you want to feel cooler, turn on a fan. But, when you leave the room, make sure you treat it like a light and unplug it.
Set your thermostat to the warmest temperature you are comfortable with and stick to it. A degree or two isn’t going to make a significant difference when it comes to comfort. But, it can make a big difference when it comes to how much you spend a month cooling your home. So, find your ideal temperature and stick with it.
Invest in ENERGY STAR-rated appliances. ENERGY STAR rates everything from washers to air conditioners. So, if you want to make a high-efficiency upgrade, look for the ENERGY STAR label. If you have a complete ENERGY STAR home, you are going to save much more on utilities.
Use blinds and curtains to block the sun in south-facing rooms. Sometimes it’s the small things that make the biggest difference when it comes to home comfort. Using blinds and curtains, especially in a south-facing room, can lower the temperature and reduce the cooling need in a particular room.
Remember, your air conditioner is your biggest energy consumer during the summer. You can make sure it is running as efficiently as possible by performing a home energy audit or having your local HVAC contractor take a look at your system.
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How to save on electricity during the summer cooling season.
With summer just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about preparing for those hotter temperatures. We’ve been blessed with a couple of years of mild summers (in the Midwest at least), but this year isn’t looking like it will further the trend.
What does it mean to be prepared for hotter temperatures? Well, it means doing a few things, including: making sure your air conditioner is in tip-top shape with preventative maintenance, changing furnace filters and reading up on the best ways to save electricity during the summer.
Here are some general rule-of-thumb electricity savings and ones specifically tailored to those of us with air conditioners and heat pumps.
Invest in an efficient air conditioner. Next time you are looking for a cooling system replacement, go with the most efficient system you can afford. You’ll thank yourself when utility bills arrive.
In fact, invest in energy-efficient appliances. From washers to refrigerators, all of your household appliances run on electricity. Switching to energy-efficient products across the board can really make an impact.
Turn off lights and fans when you’re not home. This goes without saying, but a light here and there can really add up when it comes time to read your meter at the end of the month. Make sure to do a quick walkthrough before you leave the house.
Switch from window and portable units to central air. If you are looking for targeted cooling, then you may want to stick with portable or window options. But, for whole-home comfort, central is the way to go. It can get pricey to try and control each room in the house by a portable or window unit.
Take shorter, cooler showers and use a dishwasher. If you have an electric water heater, you want to be conscious of how much hot water you are using. Did you know that a dishwasher actually saves more water than hand washing?
Invest in a programmable thermostat or zoning system. Customized comfort schedules and room-by-room comfort control can really translate to savings on your electricity bills. Just make sure you are doing it with smart HVAC systems and not fiddling too much with your thermostat.
Turn up the thermostat a few degrees. A degree or two difference on your thermostat can translate to savings on your monthly bills, and you won’t be sacrificing too much comfort. But, make sure when you find your temperature…stick to it! Constantly fiddling with your thermostat can result in more frequent on and off cycles, which can really run up the meter.
Turn things off at the power strip, or unplug. A lot of people don’t know this, but a lot of modern-day electronics actually continue using electricity when they are turned off by still plugged in. Think about all of those chargers that you keep plugged in during the day??
If you’re seriously considering upgrading to a high-efficiency HVAC system, make sure you schedule a consultation with your local heating and cooling contractor. They will be able to guide you through the process and help you choose the most efficient air conditioner for your needs.
What else do you do to save electricity during the summer?
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Why air conditioner size really does matter.
We throw advice around a lot about buying heating and air conditioning equipment. It’s all critical for overall system satisfaction and home comfort year round. But, the things to keep in mind don’t stop when you find a contractor and settle on the type of system you want. You want to make sure that the unit installed in your home has been properly sized.
A proper load calculation is critical for performance. We even go to the lengths of saying that closing air vents and doors aren’t good because it messes up the calculated load for your unit. Here are some problems that can arise from an improperly sized air conditioner…
Systems that are too big cool too quickly. This means that your unit never has the chance to properly dehumidify your home. This can make your home feel hotter, and lead to mold and mildew buildup. Plus, short cycling is bad for your system in general. Constant on/off cycles can lead to hair-raising utility bills.
Systems that are too small will run all the time and never properly cool your home. As you can imagine, this can make your utility bills skyrocket without ever achieving the home comfort you expect from your system. The long-term consequences are severe. A system that is constantly running will get worn down more quickly and will most likely have a shorter life than its properly sized counterpart.
Bad practices that can lead to an improperly sized system include getting a quote on the back of a business card or over the phone, hiring a contractor who doesn’t perform a Manual J load calculation and having a contractor who only looks at the size of your current system. At the very minimum, the contractor you hire must perform a Manual J load calculation to make sure your system is the correct size.
Always make sure you hire a quality heating and air conditioning contractor to get the job done right, the first time.
What are your other new system questions?
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Where you place your air conditioner matters.
You may be tempted to stick your air conditioner or heat pump condenser in the most inconspicuous place without really thinking about the operational drawbacks of certain locations. However, you may want to take some time to consider where you have your air conditioner installed for longterm performance and system life.
Air conditioners and heat pumps pull air in so that they can cool your home. When the air outside is hotter, it means your air conditioner has to work harder to get your home to the set temperature. Often, on extremely hot days, it is harder to lower the temperature of the air being delivered to your home, which can lead to longer run times. In the long run, this can lead to higher bills and potentially more repairs.
So, what can you do about this? Well, ideally an air conditioner should be placed in a spot that…
a) Does not see as much direct sunlight.
b) Is on a cooler side of your house.
Where is this exactly? Well, it is generally the north side of the home.
Of course, it may not be economical to simply move your air conditioner if you aren’t in the replacement market. But, there are still things you can do to make your air conditioner’s job as easy as possible. Make sure that you maintain proper airflow – aim grass clippings away from the condenser and schedule a clean and check appointment during the spring.
Simply shading your air conditioner won’t always work to curb the effects of hot outdoor air because of how much air your unit has to pull in. But, if you plant several trees (keeping proper clearance in mind) it can work to cool the air around your air conditioner and mitigate some of the effects of high summer temperatures.
Is this something you already knew? Make sure you contact your local heating and air conditioning contractor for all of your heating and cooling installation questions.
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What you need to know about air conditioner efficiency
It’s spring preventative maintenance time! It can also be a good time to replace your old air conditioner with something shiny, new and more efficient! Finding a new air conditioner can be tough, and before you go into the purchase process it can be a good idea to get a general idea of what to look for in a new system.
Arguably, the most important indicator of performance and overall system satisfaction over the course of an air conditioner’s life is its efficiency. That is because heating and air conditioning equipment comprises the majority of your utility bill expenses month-to-month – nearly 60% in some cases. So, any way you can cut back on heating and cooling operating costs will mean more money in your pocket.
The main indicator of air conditioner efficiency is SEER. SEER stands for the Seasonal Efficiency Ratio. There are minimum requirements for air conditioner efficiency generally starting at 13 or 14 SEER (depending on the type of air conditioner/system and the area of the country that you live in). The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system, and the more money you can expect to save on cooling costs during the summer.
Now, higher SEER systems typically come with a higher price tag. But, you have to weigh a couple of things before you decide that you don’t want to spend more money up front. The main thing is the savings you can see over the life of your system. Maybe you’re spending more up front, but you may be able to recoup those costs over the life of your system. But, if your budget doesn’t have the room for a high-efficiency air conditioner, you can always make an upgrade to standard efficiency. If your system is over 10 years old, even a standard-efficiency system today is going to be significantly more efficient than an old standard-efficiency unit from the past – maybe 30 to 40% more efficient in some cases! This can still translate to significant savings over your old system.
Always consult with a local heating and air conditioning contractor before you settle on a system. They will be able to give you the best system recommendations for a home in your area with your specific wants.
Do you have a high-efficiency air conditioner? Are you seeing savings?
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Time to start on your spring home maintenance checklist!
Springtime is great for getting out and checking things off of your home maintenance to-do list! The weather is better, you’ve shrugged off the winter blues and are looking forward to summer. Start things off on the right foot by not ignoring those things around your home that need attention during this beautiful season.
Summer will be here before you know it! Here are a few things that you should knock off your to-do list before hot summer temperatures roll in.
- Clean ducts for clean indoor air! If you haven’t already, make sure you schedule a duct cleaning appointment with a local specialist. Your ducts can be the home to all sorts of dust, dirt and debris. Since your ductwork is your primary air distribution network, these particles can hop a ride on your air streams and into your living spaces.
- Seal air leaks. Air leaks may primarily be on your mind during the winter. After all, an unexpected, shockingly cold breeze can quickly alert you to the problem. But, air leaks are just as important to seal during the summer. Invest in weather stripping or caulking for those areas of your home that may be the source of air leaks. Air leaks can dramatically raise your utility bills and lower home comfort.
- Time to clean out those gutters. Whether you hire someone to do it or do it yourself, you want to make sure to get all of the debris out of your gutters. Springtime is the rainy reason! Make sure your gutters are in good enough shape to handle the extra downpour.
- Get a tune-up for your lawnmower. April showers doesn’t just bring May flowers – it also bring higher grass. A luscious, fresh-cut lawn looks great. Just make sure your lawnmower is up to the job. A tune-up is going to cost less in the long run than having to replace your lawnmower sooner rather than later.
- And, last but not least…schedule springtime preventative air conditioner maintenance with your local heating and cooling specialist. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. You don’t want to have to schedule an emergency service call during the peak season and suffer without air conditioning when you could have headed-off any problems with preventative maintenance.
What else do you have on your spring maintenance to-do list? Make sure you don’t forget to schedule annual preventative air conditioner maintenance with your local HVAC contractor.
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Here are five things you should know about your thermostat
Let’s take a little time to talk about the “brains” behind your HVAC system – your thermostat. If bills seem high, if your system isn’t kicking on at the right time, or more, it could very likely be a problem with your thermostat. On the flipside, a properly installed and matched thermostat can have money-saving and comfort benefits.
Do you have questions about thermostats? Here are some of our answers to your thermostat questions.
- Are thermostats universal?
No. Unfortunately, thermostats are not universal. You have to make sure that your thermostat is correctly matched with the type of system you have in your home. For example, if you have a two-stage heating and cooling system, you are going to need a thermostat that is compatible with two-stage equipment.
- What’s the difference between programmable and non-programmable thermostats?
Well, a non-programmable thermostat is probably what you think of when it comes to thermostats. With these models, you set a temperature that your system will reach – regardless of date or time. Programmable thermostats are becoming more and more popular. with these models, you can set a comfort schedule. So, for example, if you work from 9 to 5 during the weekdays, you can set a temperature lower (during the winder) or higher (during the summer) than your comfort target during those hours and days to maximize energy efficiency and reduce utility bills.
- How can my thermostat save money?
Like we said above, programmable thermostats can be a great way to save money. With these models, you can maximize efficiency energy use by setting a schedule that allows your equipment to run only when you really need the heating or cooling power. If your equipment has to run for less time, you will see lower utility bills.
- How can I tell if my thermostat is working properly?
If you notice changes in operation (like equipment never shutting off, high utility bills, equipment never turning on, etc.) there could be a problem with your thermostat. It could be sending the wrong signals to your equipment or not registering the correct temperature from inside your home. Either way, you should switch off your equipment and call a local heating and air conditioning contractor so they can diagnose the problem.
- How do you properly set a thermostat?
This will depend on the type of thermostat you have. For example, you shouldn’t frequently change the temperature setting of your non-programmable thermostat. By contrast, different temperature settings are common with programmable models because you set your comfort schedule (although you are not manually changing the settings frequently). When your thermostat/equipment is installed, make sure you talk to your contractor about proper thermostat settings and usage. Also, it doesn’t hurt to peak at the user manual.
What else do you want to know about thermostats? Do you have a programmable or non-programmable model? If you have more questions, you can always turn to your local HVAC contractor.
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Three things to avoid while buying an air conditioner
Buying a new air conditioner can seem like a difficult task. After all, a new air conditioner is an expensive investment that affects how much money you spend month-to-month AND your home comfort satisfaction. There is nothing worse than having to spend a ton of money to cool a home in summer and not experiencing an expected payoff in comfort.
A good way to head off any concerns about choosing the right system is doing some preliminary research to know what to (and NOT to) look for in a system. And, more importantly, research the professional you hire to be your guide throughout this process. Here are the top three pitfalls you should avoid to make your air conditioner buying experience a positive one.
- Online purchases from unauthorized sources or auction sites. Like we’ve said before, air conditioners are an expensive investment. It can be tempting to cut corners in a big way by going to online auction sites to get the best deal on a system. However, you always want to go through an authorized dealer. For one, a quality professional contractor is not going to want to go near a system that has been purchased online. This means the contractor who IS willing to install the equipment may not be the best person for the job. Also, your system will not be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty. This is because, when a system is sold through unauthorized channels, quality can no longer be assured.
- HVAC contractor red flags. Quotes over the phone… No sizing performed… Rock bottom prices with shady past reviews… These are all things that may indicate that a contractor may not be the best person to guide you through the buying process and install your system. High-quality contractors may have to charge a bit more for their services because they are responsible for keeping up with training, permits, certifications and maintaining an outstanding business. Look at reviews, get recommendations and make sure that the person you hire is qualified to install the equipment you want.
- Sacrificing energy efficiency and quality for a lower price tag. The cost of an air conditioner doesn’t stop at installation. There are month-to-month utility bill expenses to consider and future maintenance to keep your system running at peak efficiency levels. That’s why it is important that you buy the most efficient system that fits in your budget. Trust me, this is an investment that you won’t regret down the line.
Are there other things you want to know about buying an air conditioner? If so, you should talk to your local air conditioning dealer.
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Are heat pumps worth it?
We’ve been talking a lot about heat pumps lately… particularly the topic of operating a heat pump in winter and the dos and don’ts of doing so. So, if there are all these things to take into consideration – is investing in a heat pump in an area that sees cold winters even worth it?
What about cooling?
Remember, your heat pump operates JUST like your air conditioner (but is able to reverse the flow of refrigerant to provide warm air). So, you aren’t making any cooling sacrifices during the summer.
What about heating?
As we’ve discussed previously, there are things you need to know about heating your home with a heat pump during the winter. It may take longer for your home to reach temperature, you’ll need to be aware of defrost cycles and after a certain point heating your home with your heat pump may not be the most efficient way. BUT, if you’re living in an area where you need frequent, powerful heating in the winter, chances are you’ve already invested in a gas furnace. And, when programmed properly, your gas furnace can kick on when it is no longer efficient to heat your home with a heat pump.
So, what are the big benefits?
Any heating and cooling professional will tell you that when it comes to heat creation vs. heat transfer, heat transfer wins hands down – particularly during the spring and fall. And THIS is why a heat pump can still be worth it, even if you live in an area that sees harsh, cold winters. On those colder nights/evenings during the spring and fall, you can use the heat transfer employed by your heat pump as opposed to your backup heat creation method (the use of which can drive up your bills).
Did you know this already? Are you going to choose a heat pump? Make sure, if you’re thinking about switching systems, you contact your local heating and cooling professional. They will also be able to give you tips for heating and cooling a home in your specific region.