Do you know how your air conditioner cools?
Your air conditioner is arguably the most important large appliance in your home during the cooling season. You may not notice it when it is working properly, but you sure notice it when it is not working 100%. Each part of an air conditioner plays a crucial role. If one part isn’t working right, the whole system will not work right.
It’s never a good idea to attempt to fix your air conditioner yourself. However, the below definitions can help you understand what your contractor is talking about when they come to work on your heating and cooling equipment.
Compressor. Any central cooling HVAC system uses a compressor. It compresses the refrigerant in your system to get it to the correct pressure and temperature before the refrigerant moves on to the condenser coil.
Condenser Coil. One of two coils that are a part of your central cooling system. The condenser coil is located outdoors (in a split system) and is where heat is removed from the refrigerant – condensing the refrigerant into a liquid.
Evaporator Coil. This is the second of two coils that are located in your central cooling system. In a split system, the evaporator coil is located indoors and is where refrigerant absorbs heat from the air.
Linset. The linset connects your indoor and outdoor equipment (in a split system) and is responsible for circulating the refrigerant through your cooling system.
IAQ. Indoor air quality components are a crucial part of your cooling system. This category includes products that help purify the air, remove allergens, eliminate odors, etc.
Thermostat. Think of the thermostat as the “brains behind the operation.” This is where you control your comfort. A thermostat can be non-programmable, programmable, Wi-Fi compatible, etc.
Refrigerant. Arguably one of the most important components of your cooling system. Refrigerant is what facilitates the transfer of heat either into or out of the air blowing over one of the coils.
Remember, if you think something isn’t right, contact your local heating and cooling contractor. Never attempt to fix your cooling equipment yourself. In fact, now is the time to schedule spring preventative maintenance. This is the best way to avoid any potential problems that could cause a “no cool” call during the busy season.
Are there other cooling components that you want to learn more about?
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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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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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It’s never too early to start thinking about spring maintenance.
It may still be winter, but spring temperatures have already started popping up all over the country! The groundhog couldn’t have been more wrong. And, while we have spring temperatures on the brain, now is as good a time as any to start talking about spring preventative maintenance.
It is never too early to start thinking about spring preventative maintenance. Not only is it a good idea to schedule preventative maintenance to get your air conditioner or heat pump cleaned for the summer cooling season, but it can also help catch minor issues with your cooling equipment that could potentially turn into big problems down the road.
Here are some things that your contractor will do during a spring preventative maintenance appointment.
- Inspect the indoor evaporator coil for cleanliness. If dirty, they will clean the coil.
- Inspect the furnace or air handler blower assembly for proper operation and cleanliness.
- Inspect all electrical connections.
- Check the system’s refrigerant level. If the outdoor unit’s refrigerant level is low, your servicer should check for leaks. If there is a leak, they should repair the leak or replace the component – not just add more refrigerant.
- Check the operation of the compressor and outdoor fan motor.
Always make sure you research your local heating and air conditioning contractors before you hire the one for your spring maintenance appointment. For hiring advice, check out our previous tips for hiring a contractor.
Did you remember to schedule preventative maintenance last year?
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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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What’s that noise?
Boom! Clank! Creak! Is your furnace making funny noises? There are a few noises associated with operation that are completely normal, but there are others that can be the first indication that something is seriously wrong with your HVAC system.
If you hear one of the following noises, turn off your equipment immediately and get in touch with your local heating and cooling contractor.
Loud clicking. This can be very problematic. It can indicate that your ignition system has failed. Your unit should automatically shut off, but monitor the situation to make sure.
Squealing. This can mean that a component in your unit, like your blower, is loose or malfunctioning.
Metal rubbing metal. This may indicate that a component has come loose and is scraping against another component!
Rattling. This can alert you to loose ductwork or another loose component in your furnace (depending on where the noise is coming from).
Pops and bangs. If it is coming from your ductwork, this may be normal. Temperature changes in your ductwork can cause it to expand and contract, resulting in the popping noises. However, if it is coming from your furnace, this can indicate a failed or dirty component.
Scratching or buzzing. No one wants to think that there may be things lurking in their ductwork. But, if you hear scratching or buzzing, it could mean that an animal or insect has made their home in your air distribution system.
Remember, these noises can mean that there is a MAJOR problem with your heating system. If the sound you hear persists, turn off your equipment and give your local professional a call. DIY maintenance and repairs are NEVER encouraged. DIY solutions can create major problems that affect system performance. Not to mention, it can be dangerous.
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Properly operating your heating equipment during the winter.
There’s nothing better than walking into a warm home on a cold winter day, especially if you get to cozy up in front of a warm fireplace. Your furnace is so important during the colder months – if it’s not working, no one is happy.
Whether it is a gas furnace, radiator or fireplace, you want to make sure that you follow proper safety precautions when heating your home. According to the United States Fire Administration, heating is the SECOND leading cause of house fires (cooking takes first place). Here are some tips to keep you, your home and your family safe during the heating season.
Create a 3-feet safety circle around any heat source. Make sure you keep anything that may burn out of this circle and make it a “kid-free zone.” This may be a no-brainer for something like a fireplace, but equipment, such as space heaters, can get just as hot and cause serious burns.
NEVER use your oven to heat your home.
Make sure you always turn portable heating equipment off when you leave a room or go to sleep at night.
If you have a portable space heater that runs on fuel, make sure you always use the correct fuel.
Make sure you have a safety screen in front of your fireplace and be sure to check your smoke alarms at least once a month.
You should have a contractor come out to clean and inspect your furnace yearly – preferably in the fall. Winter may be in full swing now, but it is never too late to make sure your equipment is running efficiently and safely. While you’re at it, make sure you have someone come and clean out your chimney as well.
If you want to schedule a furnace inspection with a local contractor, remember it’s never too late. You may even want to pencil in a reminder for next fall. Not only can a clean and check during the fall ensure your gas furnace is running safely, but it can also make sure your equipment is running efficiently – saving you money during the peak heating season.
Do you do all of these safety checks during the winter? What else would you add to this list?
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Do you know what to do after you buy a new furnace?
You’ve done your research, contacted a contractor and had a new furnace installed…do you know what to do next? Like other home improvement projects, there are some additional steps you should take after you have a furnace installed. Heating equipment is expensive; you want to make sure you are protecting your investment.
Here are some things that you should look into after you buy a gas furnace.
Ask about your warranty. Is it your responsibility to register it, or does your contractor take care of that? Many homeowners don’t realize that their warranty has to be registered in order to get complete coverage. If you have a Maytag unit, start here.
See if you qualify for local rebates. This can help cut some of those upfront costs. Local rebates can vary from city to city, state to state and country to country. DSIRE is a good place to start searching for local rebates if you are in the United States.
See if you quality for a manufacturer rebate. Oftentimes, manufacturers will offer rebates on high-efficiency equipment. Make sure you check out the manufacturer’s website to see if there are any current rebates or promotions.
Check to see if you qualify for tax credits. If you’ve invested in a high-efficiency furnace, you may qualify for a United States federal tax credit. The ENERGY STAR website has a complete breakdown of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 tax credits.
Sign up for a maintenance agreement with your local contractor. You may not know this, but routine maintenance is often a condition of your warranty. Luckily, many contractors offer ongoing maintenance agreements. This way you won’t forget to schedule an appointment for your furnace when the fall rolls around.
Store your paperwork in a safe place. There is a lot of paperwork that comes with buying a new furnace – warranty information, product information, maintenance agreements, etc. Make sure you keep them in a safe place so you can reference them later.
Remember, your local contractor can also guide you through this process. Follow these steps and your furnace will be protected now and for many years to come.
Think back to the last time you bought a furnace. Did you make sure to do all of these things?
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Are you looking for some simple ways to improve efficiency and comfort?
Make sure you start by improving the airflow of your heating and cooling equipment. Obstructed airflow can signal the death of efficiency and system performance. It makes your equipment work harder to heat or cool your home, putting a strain on critical components, reducing lifespan, raising bills and hindering home comfort.
Improving airflow is not a hard thing to do. The trickiest part is remembering to do all of the things on this list. Here are our suggestions for improving airflow.
Keep registers and vents open at all times. Do you think it’s important to close registers and vents in rooms that don’t necessarily need heating and cooling power? Don’t! Your equipment is designed to heat or cool a certain amount of space. Closing vents and registers alters this load.
Have a contractor come and clean your equipment. You may be able to get away with using a hose to get some debris off of your outdoor equipment. However, you should always have a contractor come out to clean your indoor equipment. A not for outdoor equipment: NEVER use a power washer! This can damage components of your unit, your coil in particular.
Regularly change your furnace filter. Not changing your furnace filter often enough can kill airflow, especially if you have pets. A dirty filter decreases indoor air quality and may affect the health of your family. Make sure you are changing your furnace filter once a season, at the VERY minimum. Under certain conditions, it may be prudent to change your furnace filter once a month.
Have a contractor come out and inspect your ductwork. Once a year, you should have a contractor come out and inspect your ductwork to look for any collapses or blockages. This can not only improve airflow, but indoor air quality as well. Plus, it is a good place to look for any problems that you may not be able to see, like rodents or mold.
Always plant two feet away from your outdoor equipment. This is something you’ll want to keep in mind during the spring planting season! It’s important that you give you outdoor air conditioner or heat pump proper clearance. Plants can invade your unit, affect performance and damage equipment.
Of course, the bets way to improve efficiency and performance is upgrading to a new high-efficiency unit. Make sure you get in touch with a local heating and cooling contractor if you want a new system or are looking to improve airflow.
What do you do to improve airflow?
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Do you have any goals related to your home comfort for 2017?
Next time you hear from us it will be 2017! Do you have any home heating resolutions for the New Year? I know, I know… it’s not your typical “eat healthy” or “go to the gym” goals that we hear flying around at the beginning of each year. But, having some home heating goals can actually free up some money in your pocket and help you achieve those other, more personal goals.
So, what are you hoping to accomplish in 2017? Here are a couple of things we recommend.
- Replace an old furnace with a newer model.
- Make sure to schedule preventative maintenance.
- Keep equipment free from debris that could restrict airflow.
- Change the furnace filter at least once a month.
- Make sure all registers are open to allow proper airflow and circulation.
- Reduce energy consumption by lowering the temperature the thermostat is set at by a few degrees
- Upgrade to a programmable or Wi-Fi enabled thermostat for improved comfort control.
- Invest in energy-efficient windows to avoid heat loss.
- Add insulation to the attic to prevent heat loss.
- Schedule a duct cleaning with a local contractor to make sure the family has the freshest air possible.
So, tell us your efficiency goals! Are you planning on upgrading? Make sure you take the time to find the right local heating and cooling contractor for the job.