What do you do to get ready for summer?
Who is ready for warmer weather, sunny skies and overall summer fun? Luckily, we’re all one step closer to summer. This week marks the first week of spring! This is the time of year that you should give your cooling system some attention. Not only will your air conditioner be in full swing in a few months, but you also want to make sure that your indoor air quality is as high as it can be.
Here are some things you should do around your home to improve the efficiency and performance of your HVAC system, and improve indoor air quality.
Change your furnace filter.
If you have a programmable thermostat, adjust your schedule.
Hang blinds and curtains on south-facing windows to block out sunlight.
Plant a tree to shade areas of your home that receive direct sunlight.
Have your ductwork cleaned.
Schedule air conditioner maintenance with your local heating and cooling contractor.
In fact, scheduling air conditioner maintenance with a reputable local contractor is the most important thing you can do for your heating and cooling equipment.
Have you scheduled an appointment yet? If not, you can start here.
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Do you know your split-system options?
Is it time to switch your heating and cooling equipment out for something more efficient? There’s no doubt about it, switching to high efficiency is one of the best things you can do to maximize home comfort AND lower utility bills. But, which new system should you choose?
This post will focus on split-system HVAC system in particular. A split system differs from a packaged system. It is comprised of one unit (called the condenser) that sits outside of your home and one heating and coil/air handling component that is located inside of your home. If you are looking for a unit that has all components outside of your home, check out our information about packaged systems.
Here are the different split-system configurations that you may want to consider when you go to replace your old HVAC equipment.
Air Conditioner with Air Handler. If you live in an area that rarely sees the temperature dip below 60F, like portions of Florida or Texas, you can address all of your central cooling needs with an air conditioner paired with an air handler. These units often include back-up heat strips that create original heat using electricity. This is used for those rare, cooler days.
Heat Pump with Air Handler. For other residents of the South, a heat pump paired with an air handler is the right way to go. With this setup, you get all-electric heating and cooling power. When it comes to different electric heating methods, a heat pump is the way to go. Instead of using electricity to CREATE heat (a process used in heating equipment like heat strips or space heaters) it uses heat TRANSFER – a process that consumes less energy.
Air Conditioner with Gas Furnace and Coil. If you are asked to describe a heating and cooling system, chances are this is the one that immediately comes to mind. It is an air conditioner (provides electric cooling capabilities) paired with a gas furnace (provides powerful gas heating power). This can help you address year-round heating and cooling needs – keeping you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Heat Pump with Gas Furnace and Coil. However, is this a better alternative to the air conditioner/gas furnace setup? Well, it all depends on where you live. If you experience a whole range on seasons, a heat pump paired with a gas furnace could be the route you should take. In addition to electric cooling and gas heating, you get the added perk of electric heating that uses heat transfer instead of heat creation – the much more efficient option when it comes to electric heating. This can help you address your heating needs during seasonal transitions more effectively and efficiently.
Does this address all of your split-system heating and cooling questions? If you need additional guidance, don’t hesitate to call your local, qualified heating and air conditioning professional. They can provide a wealth of useful information that can make selecting the right HVAC equipment for your home a breeze.
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Do you know what to take into consideration before you make an HVAC system upgrade?
Buying a new heating and cooling system is not something you do every day. Heck, it’s not even something you are likely to do once every decade! There are so many options to choose from, AND it is a big investment – making choosing the right one seem like a daunting task.
By arming yourself with a little bit of information before you begin your search, you are already a step ahead. That way, when you go to consult with your local heating and air conditioning contractor, you will know exactly what you expect from your new home comfort system.
If you are buying a new system, you are going to enjoy many benefits offered by modern heating and cooling equipment. Heating and cooling systems installed 10 to 15 years ago were lower in efficiency, didn’t contain much of the comfort technology that is now available AND were not as eco-friendly. Systems designed and manufactured today, even a standard-efficiency model, can be a significant upgrade to your old unit.
Here are some things you should take into consideration before you settle on a system. Each will impact how comfortable your home is and how much you pay in utilities. Remember, any new system is going to be an upgrade from an old one – you can’t lose!
Efficiency. We always recommend buying the most efficient system you can afford. Higher efficiency translates to more money saved each month! So, while it may be a larger initial investment, you won’t regret that as your utility bills roll in each month. Remember, cooling efficiency is measured in SEER for air conditioners and heat pumps, heating efficiency for gas furnaces is measured by AFUE, and heating efficiency for heat pumps is measured using HSPF.
Eco friendliness. Are you looking to lower your impact on the environment? Older units use refrigerant call R-22, CFC that has been shown to have ozone-depleting properties. Cooling systems produced today use a refrigerant called R-410A. This refrigerant is shown to be better for the environment.
Indoor air quality. While you are addressing your new comfort control system, it is important to take a look at what you are using to keep your air fresh. Do you want to reduce odors? Are you looking to have a high-power whole-home filter? Make sure you remember to ask your contractor about your options to help you and your family breathe easier.
Fuel type. Do you need gas, electric or oil heat? This will influence the type of unit that you look into buying. For example, if you do not have natural gas in your home, you may want to consider a heat pump for your home.
Utility rates. Is gas more affordable or is electricity more affordable where you live? If gas is less expensive that electricity, you should look into your gas furnace options. And, if electricity is less expensive than gas, you may want to consider a heat pump. Not only does a heat pump heat your home using electricity, but it does so consuming less energy than other electric heating methods. PLUS, you don’t have to add an air conditioner to the mix – it takes care of the cooling as well.
Know your comfort options. Variable speed. Fixed speed. Multi-stage. Modulating. All of these terms indicate a way that your heating or cooling system operates. For example, a variable-speed unit is going to be able to provide more even temperatures, eliminate hot and cold spots, and operate at lower noise levels than its fixed-speed counterpart.
Still feeling overwhelmed? Make sure you ask your local heating and air conditioning contractor for advice. They will be able to guide you through the buying process and recommend some equipment options for your home.
Are you making an HVAC upgrade? Have you explored your high-efficiency equipment options?
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How can a heat pump benefit you during the spring?
We don’t know how the weather has been in your town, but in the Midwest we have already been able to enjoy spring-like temperatures. And, while we all have warmer weather on the brain, it’s a good time to start thinking about preventative maintenance and/or replacing your current HVAC system before the summer cooling season begins.
If you are planning on purchasing a replacement cooling system this year, make sure you explore all of your options. You may know that some cooling systems are more efficient than others, but did you know that there is a completely separate system available for installation in your home? This system is called the heat pump.
Heat pumps are particularly beneficial during weather like the Midwest has been experiencing over the past couple of weeks – frequent swings from cold to hot and back again. That is because heat pumps apply the principles of heat transfer to heat AND cool your home using electricity. This is different from heat creation and can use less energy than other electric heating methods. Seasonal transitions can be hard on home comfort – you don’t want to keep yo-yoing between your gas furnace and air conditioner.
If you are interested in exploring your heat pump options, make sure you contact your local heating and air conditioning contractor. They will be able to look at your particular home and tell you whether a heat pump is the right solution to your HVAC equipment needs.
Are you interested in a heat pump for your home?
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How effective is your indoor air quality equipment?
There are many tings that contribute to indoor air pollution. Cleaners. Air fresheners. Outdoor Air. Plastics. Dust. you name it! It can be a bit overwhelming to think about staying ahead of all of these pollutants. In fact, indoor air quality is often cited as more polluted than outdoor air! Now that’s a scary thought.
Luckily, your heating and air conditioning system is a great tool to help combat poor indoor air quality. Different components can make your home fresh, clean and comfortable. An indoor air quality system may mean better overall health for you and your family.
Is your indoor air quality system up for the job? One key component of your heating and air conditioning system that acts as a guard against poor indoor air is your furnace filter. Unfortunately, many people don’t change their furnace filter nearly enough. While some people may be able to get away with changing it twice a year (once before the heating season and again before the cooling season) most people will be better off changing it more often. For some homeowners, like pet owners, it can be necessary to change your furnace filter once a month!
If you don’t want to bother with a disposable filter, you can always look into your permanent filter options. Just remember, permanent filters still need to be cleared! When you do have to clean it, make sure you take it outside. You don’t want those trapped particles released back into your indoor air.
If you want to make sure your indoor air quality system’s job easier, there are some things you can try to do around your house to reduce indoor air pollutants and keep your family breathing easy.
- Use natural cleaners and air fresheners. Baking soda can be a great tool when it comes to cleaning up around the house.
- Keep up with cleaning. Vacuuming, sweeping, dusting…these are all important ways to keep air pollutants out of the air.
- Schedule a duct cleaning. Once those pollutants make it into your ductwork, they are that much closer to being distributed into the air you breathe.
Is your indoor air quality system up to the challenge? If not, ask your local heating and cooling contractor about your IAQ system options. There are plenty to choose from that can filter your air, eliminate mold and odors, and regulate humidity.
What do you do to keep your indoor air as healthy as possible?
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Do you know how to safely operate your space heater?
Are you using an electric space heater to compensate for cold spots in your home? Cold spots can be a drag for comfort. You invested in a quality heating system, you shouldn’t HAVE to deal with uneven temperatures.
Uneven temperatures can be caused by a lot of things. They could be due to duct placement, drafty windows and doors, number of windows, where the room is located,etc. This is when a space heater may come into play. These can be great TEMPORARY solutions, but you also have to exercise caution. Space heaters can consume a lot of energy, and they can become a danger to your home if left unattended.
While a space heater can be a good temporary fix, there are more permanent, safer solutions that you should look into. If you are using a space heater as a temporary solution, here are some things to keep in mind.
- Make sure you have a least three feet of clearance around the unit.
- Never leave it unattended.
- Keep it out of the reach of children and pets – it gets hot!
- Invest in a newer model that includes safety features.
- Do not leave flammable materials around the heater.
- Plug it directly into the wall.
The best way to deal with uneven temperatures is to invest in energy-efficient windows, a zoning system and/or a variable-speed HVAC system. These are more permanent solutions, AND you won’t have to deal with safety issues mentioned before. If you are interested in upgrading your comfort game, make sure you talk to your local heating and cooling contractor!
Are you planning on making an HVAC upgrade to eliminate uneven temperatures?
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How clean is your indoor air?
Here’s a scary thought…the quality of our indoor air is often lower than the air quality outside. Every day our home is bombarded with all sorts of things that can lower indoor air quality: dust, dirt, allergens, chemicals in cleaners, etc. AND our houses may be filled with materials that can trap those undesirable particles in our home, like carpet.
There are things you can do to really improve air quality. you can use natural cleaners, avoid air fresheners, vacuum regularly and invest in quality HVAC products.
But, there are also things you may not realize can improve indoor air quality – like house plants. Here are some plants that can spruce up your home AND improve your air quality. Just please make sure, if you have puppies or kitties, to check the pet friendliness of the plant you choose. Improved indoor air quality is no good if it harms our furry friends.
- Aloe Vera
- Garden Mum
- Spider Plant
- Gebera Daisy
- Snake Plant
- Peace Lily
- Bamboo Palm
If you’re looking to take your indoor air quality improvements to the next level, contact your local heating and cooling contractor. They can point you in the direction of the air cleaner or HVAC improvement that can raise the quality of your indoor air.
Do you have any of the plants we listed above? What do you do to maximize indoor air quality?
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Are you planning on going on vacation this winter?
Trips are definitely fun! But, before you get in the car and head to your destination, you need to make sure your heating and air conditioning equipment is programmed appropriately. After all, you want to make sure that you aren’t wasting money heating an empty home.
You might think that the most obvious solution is to turn off your heating and cooling equipment. But, this can pose some serious problems, particularly during the winter. Problems such as:
- Burst water pipes
- No air circulation
- No indoor allergens and air pollutant control
You’ll come home to not only a cold home, but a home with poor indoor air quality as well.
Instead, consider turning the thermostat down a few degrees so that the system runs in intervals (making sure your pipes don’t burst), and you won’t have to spend as much time getting your home back up to the temperature you desire when you return.
Fun fact: You can also invest in a Wi-Fi enabled programmable thermostat to control the temperature of your home away from the box on the wall. This way, you can bump your temperature settings back up to your desired setting before you come home. When you finally arrive, it will be like you never left. If you are interested in upgrading to a better thermostat, make sure you talk to your local HVAC contractor about your options.
Do you own a Wi-Fi enabled programmable thermostat?
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Are you concerned about a smell coming through your ductwork?
Your furnace is critical for comfort during the colder months. And, it’s important that you are aware of the things that could indicate a problem – like certain smells. While many smells may be harmless, there are a few that can indicate a problem that needs immediate attention. It’s important to know when to take action or monitor a situation to make sure it doesn’t persist.
Here are some common smells, what they may indicate and what your next step should be if you smell them coming through your ductwork.
Smoke. Even if smoke isn’t coming from your furnace, you should still leave the house and get help.
Natural Gas. Natural gas does not actually have a smell, but a sulfuric odor is added so you can tell if there’s a leak. If you smell natural gas, get everyone out of the house and call the gas company or 911. Do not fiddle with any electrical equipment and make sure to wait until you are out of the house to call for help. A spark could ignite the gas.
Moldy. This could be a sign that you need to change one of the filters in your equipment. If you have access to the filter, go ahead and change it. If the smell continues, call a contractor so they can diagnose the problem.
Burning Dust. This is the smell that is often associated with first kicking on your gas furnace for the season. As long as it does not last very long, it is not a cause for concern. Like the moldy smell, make sure you call a contractor if it does not go away.
Electrical Burning Smell or Melting Rubber/Plastic. This could be a potential fire hazard and indicate a malfunctioning component of your equipment. The first step you should take is to check your registers (something may have fallen in a register). If you cannot find anything, make sure you call a local heating and cooling contractor for next steps and diagnosis.
The best way to to make sure that none of these problems occur during the heating season is to schedule preventative maintenance in the fall. If you forget, make sure you pencil in a reminder next year.
Have you ever experienced any of these smells? How did you handle it?
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What do you know about home heating?
Do you want to know more about your home heating system? The more you know, the better you are going to be at improving energy efficiency and comfort, and reducing the amount you spend heating your home each winter.
Here are some things you should know about home heating that can improve efficiency, system lifespan and keep you safe.
- Turning up the thermostat just raises your utility bills and won’t make your equipment heat any faster.
- It’s important to make sure that your carbon monoxide detector is working.
- Natural gas is actually odorless. What you smell is actually added so that people can detect leaks.
- If you have pets, you should change your furnace filter more often. Even as often as once a month.
- Opening the blinds or curtains or south-facing windows during sunny days can make your home feel warmer.
- Rearranging your furniture can be a simple way to improve comfort.
- Turning down the thermostat, even a degree or two, can help you save money.
- When you are changing your furnace filter, you have to make sure to turn off the equipment.
- Holiday parties can make you feel warmer because of the oven and the amount of people in your home.
- Fall preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid an emergency “no heat” call during the winter.
Did you schedule fall preventative maintenance? If not, you’ll want to keep an eye on your utility bill spending so you can rest assured your furnace is running properly.