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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Four things you should never do with your air conditioner
Your air conditioner is one of your most important (and expensive) appliances in your home. It’s hard to imagine life without these in our cars, offices, homes…you name it! With that said, it is important that we do all we can to make sure our air conditioners last a long time and perform efficiently. Of course there are things you should do, but what SHOULDN’T you do?
Here are four things you should never do if you want your air conditioner to keep running smoothly and efficiently.
- Never plant within two feet of your condenser. Blocked airflow is horrible for your air conditioner’s efficiency. Always allow proper clearance between your condenser and your plants.
- Never use registers, vents or doors for room-by-room temperature control. Your air conditioner is sized to cool a certain square footage. If you want room-by-room control, consider a zoning system.
- Never power wash your air conditioner. Although there are ways you can clean your air conditioner, a power washer should never be one of them. These can cause damage to your coil and result in a system breakdown. Schedule a condenser cleaning appointment with your local HVAC guy.
- Never attempt to diagnose problems with your air conditioner yourself. Air conditioners are never suitable for DIY solutions, NEVER. Always call a contractor.
One thing you should always do for your air conditioner is schedule spring preventative maintenance with your local heating and air conditioning contractor.
What are some of your air conditioning tips? Are there other things you would like to know about air conditioners?
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It’s National Home Improvement month! Consider adding these things to your list.
Did you know that May is National Home Improvement month? It’s a great time of year to roll up the sleeves and knock some of those things off your to-do list. The weather is mild, the flowers are blooming and summer is right around the corner.
Here are some things you should consider either doing (or scheduling) during the month of May. Of course, not everything is going to have a DIY solution. For those things, turn to your local contractor.
And that’s only the beginning. There are many other projects you can do around the house that can add to overall hominess and (in some cases) add value.
One of the most important things on that list is to schedule maintenance with your local HVAC contractor before the summer arrives. Don’t forget!
What are some of the home improvement projects you’re taking on this spring/summer? We want to know.
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Your HVAC Spring Cleaning Checklist
It’s time to dust off the grime from winter and get ready for summer! We all know that during the spring it is a good idea to do some heavy-duty cleaning, but how does this impact your HVAC system and indoor air quality. here are the things you should do around your house to prepare your HVAC equipment for summer.
Dust and mop. This is a chore that you should do more often, but it is very important during the spring (especially if you have been keeping the windows open a bit more often than usual). Dust, dirt and allergens can accumulate on your surfaces when you keep windows and doors open. You don’t want them laying around unfiltered ready to be released into your indoor air if they are disturbed.
Clean windows. Cleaning your windows and letting in some sunshine during the spring can actually make it feel warmer during those cooler spring days. Besides, a dirty window isn’t a pleasant sight. You don’t want a layer of dirt and grime acting as drapes for your windows, EW!
Change furnace filter. A dirty filter is an ineffective filter. It’s always a good idea to change your filter, at a minimum, once before the heating season (fall) and again at the start of the cooling season (spring). Just make sure you briefly turn off your equipment before you change your filters and/or hire a professional if it is in a tough-to-access place.
Get system cleaned by a professional. You want your cooling system entering the summer in fighting condition. That’s why it is a good idea to have your system cleaned by a professional to maximize airflow and performance.
Duct cleaning. There are a lot of gross things that can be lurking in your ductwork. Call a duct cleaning professional to get those ducts shiny so you’re not breathing in anything that’s been trapped in your ductowork. And, as an added bonus, a duct cleaning appointment can alert you to other problems your home may be having that you may not have been previously aware of – like mold.
Clear clutter around your home. Clutter around your house can accumulate dust and other substances that can aggravate allergies and lower indoor air quality. Having more things around = having more places for unpleasant things to hide. Just remember, if you are cleaning an area that hasn’t been touched in years, it can be a good idea to wear a mask.
Remove plants or weeds that could be encroaching on your air conditioner. Again, you want to maximize airflow around your air conditioner (or heat pump) to prepare for the summer cooling season. Weeds or other plants could be slowly creeping up on your system and violating that 2-foot clearance we’ve talked about previously.
Also, don’t forget to schedule preventative maintenance with your local heating and air conditioning contractor.
What else do you have on your spring cleaning checklist?
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Spring cleaning tips for healthier indoor air.
It’s spring cleaning time! I know, I know…not the most exciting thing about spring. BUT, it can do wonders for creating that homey feeling and can improve your indoor air quality. But, you want to be careful. There are actually a couple of things you can do while spring cleaning that can lower indoor air quality.
So, what do we recommend you do? Well, we’ll tell you…
Use Natural Cleaners
We spritz, spray and wipe all sorts of chemical cleaners while spring cleaning. And, all of those chemicals can have a negative effect on the quality of your indoor air. So, explore natural alternatives for those harsh chemicals. For example, did you know that baking soda can be used to remove odors and stains from your upholstered furniture? Just sprinkle a little on and vacuum it up.
Use Natural Air Fresheners
Air fresheners may smell nice, but there is nothing natural about them. Ever stick a candle too close to a light colored wall? You can actually see dark patches from soot climbing up your walls! Imagine the stuff you don’t see that could be entering your lungs? Luckily, you can make your own candles at home by adding safe, essential oils to natural waxes.
Vacuum and Dust Those Hard-to-Reach Places
Don’t just focus on what you can see immediately when you walk in a room. Make sure you are moving things around while dusting and vacuuming so you get to those places that may not be easily accessible on a regular basis. It can be good to wear a mask while doing this so you don’t inhale too much dust and debris.
Airing Our Your Home
On those warm spring days, it can be more than tempting to throw open the windows and air out your home. And, while it can be good to air our your home briefly, you shouldn’t go overboard with the open windows. Yes, an open window can alleviate some of the stuffiness you feel during the winter, but it can also let in pesky allergens and dirt. If you do open the windows, make sure you keep it brief and that your window screens are in good condition.
Don’t Neglect the Outdoors
For your heating and air conditioning equipment, it is a good idea to remove any dirt and debris from your condenser. When stuff builds up on your air conditioner or heat pump, it can reduce airflow. When airflow is reduced, it can lead to a system that has to work harder (translation: consume more energy) to cool your home. So, make sure you aim grass clippings away from your condenser and consider hiring a contractor to come out and clean your system for you.
What do you do during the spring to make sure that your home sparkles for summer?
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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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Why you should keep your non-programmable thermostat’s settings consistent
Spring can be a tricky time when it comes to setting your thermostat. The temptation to switch from heat to cool and back again can be particularly strong. But, is this really a good idea?
When it comes to thermostats, there are both programmable and non-programmable models. With a programmable model, you can set your own comfort schedule so that you maximize energy efficiency. So, it stands to reason that you would manually do this with a non-programmable model, right?
Actually, not at all. The reason programmable models are so great are their scheduling properties. You can set your schedule by hour and day and the thermostat does the rest of the work. Once you set your schedule you are going to keep that schedule consistent (unless you switch over from heating mode to cooling mode or vice versa). You aren’t constantly rescheduling temperature settings from day to day.
With non-programmable models, you don’t have the luxury of that schedule. So, if you want to regulate temperature, you are going to have to manually go to the thermostat whenever you want temperatures to change. Making constant changes that aren’t scheduled can lead to inconsistencies and longer run times (if not timed correctly). This can lead to higher utility bills.
Here are some things to keep in mind about thermostats:
- A higher set temperature during the winter or a lower set temperature in the summer does not mean that your home will reach temperature more quickly. Your system will just run longer to reach the temperature setting.
- Raising the temperature setting a degree or two during the summer can lower your bills at the end of the month. That being said, a good rule of thumb is a setting at around 78°F.
- By the same token, lowering the temperature setting a degree or two during the winter can lower bills. Try to keep that thermostat at around 68°F.
- If you have a heat pump, the emergency heat setting on your thermostat is NOT the same as heating mode.
- Seasonal transitions during fall and spring can be tricky. It is important to not switch between heating and cooling mode frequently during these seasons. Pick a date and permanently make the switch.
- If you are noticing a problem with your equipment, don’t just turn it off at the thermostat. Make sure you also turn your equipment off at the source.
What else do you want to know about thermostats? If you have questions about operating your heating and cooling equipment properly, talk to your local contractor.
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If you’re starting to feel the heat, it’s time to schedule preventative maintenance.
Last Sunday marked the first day of spring! And, while you’re busy planning your garden or scheduling your summer getaway, there is another thing you should be keeping at the forefront of your mind – spring preventative air conditioner or heat pump maintenance. Not as fun as a garden or vacation, but incredibly important.
Like your body, your heating and air conditioning system needs regular check-ups in order to ensure that everything is running smoothly. So, preventative maintenance should be on your mind two times a year – once during the spring and again during the fall. During a fall preventative maintenance appointment, your heating and air conditioning specialist will look at your gas furnace, making sure it is ready to beat the cold during the winter. During the spring, it’s your air conditioner’s turn.
So, why all of the emphasis on preventative maintenance? Well, preventative maintenance is the best way to make sure you don’t wind up calling in an emergency service call during the peak season. During the peak season, contractors can be swamped by the sheer number of service calls – leading to longer wait times (a.k.a. longer time without air conditioning). Yuck!
Plus, a lot of warranty agreements include preventative maintenance in their conditions for continued coverage. Preventative maintenance can extend the life of your system, ensure it is operating at the efficiency levels you want, and save you money on cooling costs during long summer days.
So, are you getting ready to schedule your preventative maintenance appointment? Do you need a head start? Find your local heating and air conditioning contractor with our dealer locator.
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Your complete spring air conditioning guide
Spring is finally, well, springing! This weekend marks the first day of spring, along with a whole slew of new things you should keep in mind when it comes to your heating and cooling equipment. The furnace is out and the heat pumps and air conditioners are coming in! And, with warmer weather, it can actually be more confusing to decide best HVAC practices. Do you turn it on? Do you turn all of your systems off? Do you open the windows?
Well, here is everything you need to keep in mind when it comes to your HVAC equipment during the spring.
- Avoid open windows. Yes, the weather is nicer, the temperatures are friendlier…BUT, spring is also prime allergy season! So, while it may be a nice idea to open up those windows briefly to relieve stagnant, stuffy air – it is not a good idea to make this the norm during the spring.
- Speaking of allergies… Make sure you change your filter and investigate IAQ products (if you don’t already have a quality air filter to keep out those allergens). Your family’s health and home comfort is heavily impacted by the quality of your indoor air – this is not an area to skimp out on.
- For non-programmable thermostat users. Make sure you keep your temperature consistent until you know that the weather is changing for the good. Constantly changing the settings on your thermostat (when you don’t have a programmable model) can actually drive up utility bills.
- For programmable thermostat users. Make sure you switch your programmable temperature setting schedule over to cooling mode when you know the weather is changing for good. Different seasons require different settings if you want to maximize efficiency.
- Should you turn off your system completely? Did you know that it is always a better idea to keep your system running longer at lower levels than to shut it off completely? That is because on/off cycles can be energy-consuming. Also, when you turn off your system it is not circulating your indoor air, which can lead to stagnant air and poor indoor air quality.
- Keep your condenser free of debris. Grass clippings, spring planting, pollen – the list of things that can block the airflow to your air conditioner or heat pump goes on and on. Blocked airflow means less efficient operation and, in extreme cases, can make your unit work so hard that it gives out. Keep grass clippings away from your condenser and consider scheduling a thorough cleaning with your local heating and cooling contractor.
- And, while we are mentioning it… the most important thing you can do for your air conditioner or heat pump during the spring is scheduling a clean and check with your heating and cooling contractor before warm temperatures really have a chance to settle in. This can head-off emergency, no-cooling appointments during the summer – keeping you and your family happy and comfortable.
Have more questions about spring heating and cooling? Leave us a comment below or contact your local heating and air conditioning contractor.
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What does an air handler do?
If you have a split-system air conditioner or heat pump, you’re probably familiar with an air handler – even if you ended up going with a gas furnace. This is one of the indoor systems that can be paired with your heat pump or air conditioner to make a complete HVAC system.
But, what exactly does an air handler do and how does it differ from a gas furnace?
Well, unlike a gas furnace, an air handler doesn’t heat on its own or use natural gas. Instead, it is powered by electricity (often being mistaken for an “electric furnace”). Air handlers also help provide heat when necessary through electric backup heat strips or, can facilitate heat creation when paired with a heat pump. However, backup heat strips should be used sparingly as they use electricity to create original heat (which can be much costlier than the heat transfer process employed by a heat pump or the heat creation process using natural gas).
Basically, an air handler houses your indoor, evaporator coil and parts of your air distribution system. It is generally housed in a closet, attic or basement and connects to your air distribution network (i.e. ductwork). This is also one of the places your filter could be located. These systems can be great options for homeowners who only need the heating and cooling power of a heat pump. Or, if you can meet your year-round HVAC needs with an air conditioner.
Did you know that your air handler and your air conditioner (or heat pump) must be properly matched in order to provide expected efficiency and performance levels? That is why it is critical that you replace both your outdoor and indoor equipment when buying a new system.
As always, if something seems off with your air handler, call a professional heating and air contractor. They will be able to let you know if something is wrong.
Did you already know this about air handlers? What else do you want to know about air handlers?