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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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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Are you neglecting your furnace filter?
Noticing a foul smell in the air? Air conditioner not blowing enough cool air? Look to your furnace filter. Not only is a furnace filter critical for your indoor air, but a dirty filter can affect the performance of your heating and air conditioning equipment.
A dirty filter can…
- Lower indoor air quality
- Restrict airflow
- Shorten the lifespan of your air distribution equipment and/or outdoor air conditioner or heat pump
- Cause unpleasant odors in your home
Changing your furnace filter doesn’t have to be difficult. The trick is simply REMEMBERING to do it. You can control the amount you spend on a filter by choosing different filtration power. There are even services that will send you a furnace filter as often as you need it so that you don’t forget.
Most people don’t change their filter often enough to even meet the bare minimum recommendation – once a season. For some homeowners, even once a season is not enough. Here are some factors that could influence how often you should change your furnace filter.
Have pets? Consider changing your filter once a month. Homes with a dog or cat that sheds will go through filters more quickly due to Fido’s fur floating in the air. Plus, you want your pets to be seen and loved – not smelled. Accumulation of pet furn on your filter can lead to unpleasant animal odors.
Suffer from allergies? You may also want to consider changing your filter up to once a month. Or, you can invest in a more powerful filter. Just remember, there can be such a thing as too much filtration. Don’t get a filter that is too restrictive on your airflow. Talk to your contractor about the best filtration level for your home.
Smell something funny? It could be an odor trapped in your furnace filter. It never hurts to change it out. If that doesn’t resolve the smell, and you still think it is part of your air distribution system, ask your contractor to come out and inspect your ductwork.
If you don’t identify with one of these three conditions, it still doesn’t hurt to change your furnace filter once a month. However, if you don’t think that is necessary, we recommend changing your filter AT LEAST once a season. Make a little note near your thermostat. This way, when you go to change your thermostat settings for a season, you also remember to give your furnace filter a look.
Want more advice on indoor air quality? Give your local heating and air conditioning contractor a call.
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What to do when there’s no air conditioning
There’s nothing more aggravating than turning on your air conditioner and discovering that it is not working. You make sure the thermostat is set to the right settings. You make sure the unit is receiving power. And, it’s still not turning on.
Do you want to know the worst thing you can do for your air conditioner? Attempt to fix it yourself. Too often, a contractor will come across a problem that could have been prevented with proper maintenance, repair or installation by a well-trained hand.
If you discover your air conditioner isn’t turning on, here are the next steps you should take:
Pick up the phone and call a reputable contractor. It’s important that the professional you hire is ready to do a great job on your air conditioning repair. If you think it’s expensive to pay for a quality contractor, just try hiring a hack. You may end up paying a bunch for diagnosis and never receiving an adequate repair.
DO NOT attempt to fix your air conditioner yourself. DIY air conditioner maintenance, repairs and installations can result in significant problems for your air conditioner. Not to mention it can be downright dangerous to go poking around in your unit.
Remember, patience is a virtue. Contractors become very busy during the summer. It can take a while for a contractor to make it to your home, or you may have to pay more for expedited emergency service. A good contractor will always be worth the wait.
Find ways to keep cool while waiting for your contractor. Use fans to your advantage. Avoid using the stove or oven – crockpots and grills are great alternatives! Do not go in and out of the house too much. Keep windows closed, unless it gets cooler at night. There are many ways to keep cool. After all, central air conditioning in homes did not become widespread until the ’60s!
Need a place to start the contractor search? You can check out the Maytag HVAC contractor locator.
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Do you have a disposable or permanent filter in your home?
Your HVAC air filter is an important aspect of your HVAC system. Here’s a scary fact…your indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air! Indoors, you have to contend with chemicals from cleaners, pet dander, dust, allergens and more! You want to make sure that the filter you have in your home is going to filter out those particles without restricting airflow.
There are two basic filter categories in the heating and cooling industry – disposable and permanent.
Disposable filters are filters that are placed somewhere within your air distribution system that help filter out harmful particles from the air that is distributed around your home. They come in a variety of filtration levels – the more filtration power a filter has, the smaller the particles that filter can remove from the air. Disposable filters must be changed regularly to avoid restricting airflow. At the very least, you must change your disposable filter once a season. Even better? Once a month.
Permanent/washable filters are the other type of filter. These aren’t the type of filter that you use, replace and throw away. With a permanent filter, you must wash your filter regularly. If you do not wash it, the filter will restrict airflow and make your unit work harder to heat or cool your home. When you do clean your permanent filter, it is important to take it outside – you don’t want to reintroduce those particles into your indoor air.
Regularly changing or cleaning your furnace filter is important for the performance and lifespan of your heating and air conditioning equipment. Without frequent filter changes or cleanings, the particles trapped in your filter can block airflow and force your equipment to work harder to heat or cool your home. This can put a strain on your equipment and result in decreased efficiency and shorter-than-expected lifespans.
Most contractors recommend using disposable filters in heating and air conditioning systems. However, always consult with your contractor before you make a decision.
Do you know which type you have in your home?
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Are your utility bills climbing higher and higher?
Did you know that heating and cooling equipment makes up more than HALF of your utility bill expenses? When it comes to HVAC, investing in high-efficiency means nothing if you aren’t taking steps to ensure your system is working at peak performance levels.
Here are some things that can kill the efficiency of your HVAC system.
Planting too close to your outdoor equipment. Airflow. Airflow. Airflow. You want to make sure that your outdoor equipment experiences proper airflow. Plants placed too close to your outdoor unit interfere with airflow, and their roots can cause damage.
Not changing your furnace filter frequently enough. Most efficiency killers involve blocked airflow. Not only is a dirty furnace bad for your health, but it can be bad for efficiency as well. Make sure you are changing your furnace filter once a season, or (even better) once a month!
Constantly adjusting your non-programmable thermostat. Customized temperature is something that can help improve home comfort. However, if you have a non-programmable thermostat, constant thermostat adjustments may result in more on/off cycles. Your cooling equipment consumes the most energy when its ramping on. If you want customized home comfort, invest in a programmable thermostat that does the adjusting for you.
Opening and closing registers. Your air conditioner is designed to cool a certain amount of air. When you open and close registers, this affects the amount of space your air conditioner is cooling. A better plan is to invest in a zoning system. A zoning system groups your home by rooms (or groups of rooms) each controlled by their OWN thermostat. This way different areas of your home can receive just the right amount of air.
Collapsed or blocked ductwork. Collapsed or blocked ductwork results in many of the same problems of a blocked filter, or an open or closed register. If a portion of your ductwork has collapsed, cool air distribution is prohibited. This can result in longer run times and a higher utility bill (not to mention decreased comfort). Make sure you get your ductwork inspected once a year. Not only will this help check for collapsed or blocked portions, but your contractor can also alert you to unseen problems your home may be having – like rodents or insects.
Opening windows and doors. Opening a window or door during the spring may seem like a good idea. Temperatures are warmer, but still cool enough to be comfortable. However, opening windows and doors is essentially letting your money fly out the window. Remember, it’s not your job to cool the entire neighborhood.
Not scheduling routine maintenance. The best way to keep your air conditioner running at peak efficiency levels is to schedule a clean and check with your contractor every spring. During a maintenance appointment, your contractor inspects the electrical system, cleans the unit and makes sure everything is running properly. Some contractors even have the option of maintenance contracts. That way you never forget to schedule an appointment.
Unfortunately, the age of a system also effects its efficiency. Even the most efficient units must work harder to cool as they get older. If your air conditioner is around 16 years old, it may be time to consider replacing it with a higher efficiency model. Even standard-efficiency units today are significantly more efficient than models manufactured ten years ago. Talk to your local HVAC contractor during your spring preventative maintenance appointment about your high-efficiency cooling options.
Are there things that you do to help improve efficiency?
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Have you switched from heating mode to cooling mode yet?
If you have, do you know what to do with your gas furnace during the hotter months? This particular article covers what people should do if their gas furnace has a pilot light.
If you are trying to figure out whether to turn the pilot light off or not, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my gas company charge a base fee?
- Do I know how to easily relight my pilot light when I need heat again?
- Where is my furnace located?
- Are small amounts of heat going to make a big difference?
- Is my furnace in an area that sees a lot of insects that could set up shop in my heating equipment?
- Am I diligent about fall maintenance?
If you do not know how to relight your pilot light, your furnace is located in an area with insects or an area that is susceptible to high moisture, your gas company charges a minimum fee for service, and/or you aren’t diligent about fall maintenance – turning the pilot light off may not be a good idea. However, if you are committed to scheduling fall maintenance (so that your contractor can check the state of your pilot light/equipment each year), and you know how to relight it yourself, then you could consider turning it off.
Keep in mind, your furnace only uses a little bit of gas to power the pilot light. Turning the pilot light off will only add up to a few bucks of savings a month. If you don’t mind spending a few cents a day, don’t mess with it.
While turning off the pilot light will only save pennies a day, there are plenty of other great ways to lower utility costs during the cooling season. Here are a few you may want to try.
- Replace your old equipment with something more efficient.
- Turn the thermostat up a few degrees.
- Use blinds and curtains to block sunlight in south-facing rooms.
- Schedule spring maintenance to make sure everything is running properly and efficiently.
In fact, scheduling spring preventative maintenance is the best thing you can do to make sure that you save money during the summer. This way, your local heating and cooling contractor can catch any minor issues before they have the opportunity to result in a “no cool” call during the peak season.
Have you already scheduled your spring preventative maintenance appointment?
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Do you know your packaged HVAC system options?
Are you looking to make an efficiency upgrade this cooling season? Upgrading to a high-efficiency cooling system is one of the best things you can do to lower utility costs during the summer. This post is going to focus on one particular type of HVAC system setup – the packaged system.
A packaged system is a heating and air conditioning setup where all of the components are located outside in one unit. Heating, cooling – this unit does it all. This is different than a split system, where components are located both indoors and outdoors. If you think you have a split system, check out our other post about your split-system HVAC options. Typically, packaged systems are used in areas that don’t have basements or enough room for indoor equipment. And, if you already have a packaged system, chances are you aren’t going to be switching over to a split system.
So, just what are your packaged system options? Here are the ones you can look into.
Gas/Electric Packaged Systems. Think of a gas pack as an air conditioner and furnace all-in-one. It contains the electric cooling components of an air conditioner AND the gas heating components of a furnace.
Dual-Fuel/iHybrid Packaged Systems. A dual-fuel system is essentially a heat pump and a gas furnace in one. What does that mean? Well, this unit is capable of producing gas heat AND electric heat. Electric heat transfer used by a heat pump is more efficient than other electric heat creation methods. If you experience chilly evenings during the spring and fall, weather that is not quite cold enough for the gas furnace but not warm enough to be comfortable, this can be the ticket to achieve maximum comfort and efficiency.
Packaged air conditioner. A packaged air conditioner contains the parts of an air conditioner and air handler. This is a great options for homeowners who have minimal heating need, meaning an electric heat strip is all of the back-up heating power they are going to need.
Packaged heat pump. This is a great option for homeowners in the South – it combines the components of a heat pump and air handler all-in-one. It provides electric cooling AND heating power. If your demand for heat isn’t strong enough to warrant a powerful gas furnace, but you do see chilly temperatures, this can be the ideal unit.
Does this help in your decision-making process? If you are still not sure of which system is going to be the right solution to your HVAC needs, make sure to contact your local heating and air conditioning contractor – they are your best source of in-depth HVAC information.
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Are you looking to reduce the amount you spend on utilities each month?
We think it is fair to say that no one likes it when the utilities are due each month. The amount that we spend heating and cooling our home at various points throughout the year can actually make up a significant chunk of our budgets.
That is why it is extra important to make sure our homes are efficient. And, improving home efficiency involves much more than simply buying a high-efficiency air conditioner or furnace. There are many non-HVAC related improvements you can make to your home that will reduce the amount of money you spend on utilities.
Here are some home upgrades to consider if you are looking to solves one of the below-mentioned problems.
Seal air leaks/avoid heating and cooling loss. If the air you are spending money to heat or cool is being lost to the outdoors, it is going to take longer for your home to get up to your ideal setting – if it ever even makes it. Think of it as your money flying out the window. Here are the upgrades to consider…
- Have high-efficiency windows installed.
- Invest in better insulation AND make sure that all areas of your home have proper insulation. Make sure you remember your attic!
- Invest in weather stripping and caulk to seal and cracks around your windows and/or doors, particularly during the peak heating and cooling seasons.
It’s cooler in the shade. If you live in an area that requires a lot of cooling power during the summer, it can be a good idea to make improvements that help block your home from the sunlight.
- Plant a tree to shade the south-facing areas of your home.
- Invest in light colored shingles. Dark shingles will absorb more heat and warm up your home.
- Buy heavy curtains or shades to block the sun in south-facing rooms.
- Consider having your outdoor HVAC equipment placed in an area that is not exposed to direct sunlight.
And we can’t leave out.. the heating and cooling improvements that you can make. Ultimately, heating and cooling equipment comprises the majority of your utility bills – sometimes over half! Making improvements here can be a large investment, but it will pay off each month.
- Invest in a programmable thermostat for customized home comfort based on your schedule.
- Always buy the most efficient HVAC system you can afford – the higher the efficiency rating, the more you can save!
- Choose multi-stage equipment. Not only can this help you save on heating and cooling costs, but it can also make your home more comfortable.
- Consider a zoning system for your home. A zoning system separates your home by room or groups of rooms – each controlled by their own thermostat. This way you can get even more customization based on how your home is used during the day – delivering warm or cool air to the areas of your home that really need it at a given point.
Are you interested in making a home upgrade? Make sure you get in touch with a local contractor, especially if you are considering an improvement to your heating and cooling equipment. You don’t want that anticipated money-saving investment to turn into a costly headache!
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Is a heat pump right for your home?
Are you in the market for a brand-new cooling system? Winter is slowly winding down, and spring is just around the corner. Now is the time to start thinking about scheduling an appointment if you are looking into a replacement.
When you are looking around for the right system for your home, make sure you explore all of your options. These include high-efficiency and standard-efficiency equipment, packaged units and split units, and heat pumps and air conditioners. To make your decision a little bit easier, we want to talk about heat pumps.
Here are a list of pros and cons that can help you make the decision to buy a heat pump or a gas furnace/air conditioner combo.
Is natural gas less expensive than electricity in your town? Many areas of the United States enjoy low natural gas prices. Well, at least lower than the cost of electricity. If this is the case, a gas furnace may be the more cost effective heating method in your area.
While a heat pump can be effective down to low temperatures, it may have a more difficult time heating your home in colder weather. You may have to invest in a back-up heating method for those really cold days.
How long do you plan on being in your home? While a heat pump has a long lifespan, a gas furnace has a longer lifespan – up to 20 years.
Operates like an air conditioner with the added benefit of heating. On the cooling side of things, air conditioners and heat pumps are essentially the same (with some tweaks of course to allow for heating operation).
Uses heat transfer to heat a home, not heat creation. Other electric heating methods, like heat strips or electric furnaces, must create original heat – using up more electricity in the process.
Heat pumps tend to be cleaner than a gas furnace. The byproduct of heat creation in a gas furnace may lower indoor air quality if not properly vented.
Carbon monoxide. Unlike a gas furnace, a heat pump does not run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Is electricity less expensive than natural gas? If you live in an area where electricity rates are lower than natural gas, then it can be beneficial to use an electric heating method, and a heat pump in particular.
Is a heat pump sounding better and better to you? Make sure you get in touch with your local heating and air conditioning contractor for a consultation. They will be able to tell you if heat pumps are common for homes in your area. You’ll be surprised.