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Building A New Home? Consider These Pros And Cons Before Defaulting To Forced Air Heating

Posted by on Mar 24, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Building A New Home? Consider These Pros And Cons Before Defaulting To Forced Air Heating

Forced air heating is incredibly common. In fact, about 35 million American homes are fitted with this style of heating system. Due to this incredible popularity, a lot of new home owners choose to have forced air installed in the homes they’re having built without even giving it a second thought. While forced air heating is an excellent choice for many homeowners, it does have a few intricacies that make it a less ideal choice for others. Before you default to forced air, take the time to weigh the pros and cons of this style of heating system. Pro: Furnaces are cheaper to replace than boilers. Not only will your first forced-air furnace cost less than a boiler would, but when it comes time to replace your furnace, the cost will be lower than if you were to have a boiler system. A new, high-efficiency furnace should cost you between $2,500 and $6,000 including installation, whereas a new high-efficiency boiler will cost between $6,000 and $9,000 including installation. Pro: It’s easy to find an installation and repair company. Because forced air systems are so common, you’ll have your choice of contractors whenever it comes to installing, replacing or repairing a forced air furnace. You can get several estimates and go with the company you like the best. Alternatively, you may have a bit harder of a time finding a contractor who works with boiler systems or another less common style of heating system, and you might be forced to go with a less-than-ideal company simply because they’re the only one that services your area. Pro: Forced air heating makes the space feel warm quickly. When you come home and the house feels cold, turning on the heat makes it feel warm rather quickly since the air is forced through the house. Other systems, like steam radiators, take a bit longer to make a house feel warm since you must wait for the heat to radiate off the radiators and permeate the surrounding air. Con: Forced air heating blows a lot of dust around. Every time the heat kicks on, not only is dust from the ducts blown into your home, but dust on surfaces gets dislodged should the blowing air hit it. This can lead to issues for people with allergies and asthma. It also makes it a bit harder to keep your home clean, since each time the heat kicks on, the dust gets displaced. Con: Forced air systems always make some noise. The furnace will make a noise when it kicks on, and then there’s the blowing noise from the air traveling through the ducts. While this is not an issue for most people, it can be a problem for those who work at home and require silence to concentrate. Some parents also find that the noises from forced air heating disrupt their sleeping babies. If you fall into either of these categories, you might prefer boiler-style heating, which is silent when it’s working properly. Con: With forced air heating, you have to leave space in the wall for ductwork. The ducts that carry air from your furnace in the basement up to the main floors of your home can be a foot or more in diameter. When designing your home, your architect will have to leave...

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Keep Your AC in Top Shape by Cleaning Your Evaporator Coil

Posted by on Mar 24, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Keep Your AC in Top Shape by Cleaning Your Evaporator Coil

A little spring cleaning can go a long way toward keeping your air conditioner in great shape. Unfortunately, too many homeowners overlook the things they can’t readily see. Hidden away within the AC plenum, your evaporator coil often ends up being missed. The following shows why and how you should give your AC system’s evaporator coil the TLC it needs to help it survive another sweltering summer. Why Coil Cleaning Is Often Necessary Although your AC air filter catches the vast majority of dust and debris floating around, there’s still some that manages to escape. This is the sort of stuff that winds up being stuck between the evaporator coil’s thin aluminum fins. Blockages can make it difficult or even impossible for air to flow through the coil. Without steady airflow, the coil can’t absorb latent heat from the surrounding air. That means your AC system won’t work properly unless the coil’s cleaned. There’s another good reason why you should keep your evaporator coil clean. As mold spores and mildew bacteria settle on the coil, the damp, dark, and relatively cool conditions inside the plenum can easily allow mold and mildew to grow on the coil unchallenged. This doesn’t just put a dent in your AC system’s performance or energy efficiency—it can also drag down the overall quality of your home’s indoor air when the spores are blown into your home. Certain types of mold and mildew have also been known to trigger allergy and severe asthma in children and older adults. How to Clean the Coil As mentioned before, the evaporator coil is located within the AC cabinet’s plenum, which usually sits on top of the cabinet (this part of the AC unit is inside the home). Once you’ve opened up the plenum, you have a couple of common approaches to consider when cleaning the coils. You can manually scrub the coils with a soft-bristle brush. You’ll need to use a 50/50 mixture of warm water and mild dish detergent inside of a plastic spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the coil and gently scrub away any dirt and debris you see. Be mindful not to bend the fragile aluminum fins lining the coil, as it could take a lot of time and effort to undo the damage. There’s also a noncontact method of cleaning the evaporator coil. All you need is a foaming, no-rinse cleaner specifically formulated for use on HVAC coils. Spray the foaming cleaner on the evaporator coil according to the instructions listed on the can. This product will eventually work its way through any debris or mold buildup it encounters. After a few minutes, much of the residue will drain harmlessly off the evaporator coil and into the drip pan below. While you’re at it, it’s also a good idea to clean the condensate drip pan and drain line. It’ll help keep the debris from your evaporator coil cleaning from clogging up the drain. Drain clogs can cause the drip pan to overflow with condensate and create flooding problems. As with the evaporator coil, you can use mild detergent and warm water to clean the pan. Drain clogs can be easily removed with a small plumber’s snake or the suction from a wet/dry shop vacuum. How Often It Should Be Cleaned There’s no definite...

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Buying a New Furnace? 2 Great Features You Should Look For

Posted by on Jan 7, 2016 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Buying a New Furnace? 2 Great Features You Should Look For

The instant your furnace sputters to a halt, you might start searching for the cheapest heater on the market. However, while most furnaces might seem pretty similar, some manufacturers offer varieties that can help you to solve some age-old homeowner complaints. Here are two great features you should look for when you shop for a new furnace, and why you won’t regret the extra investment: 1: Variable Speed Controls During the winter, you already have to deal with shorter days and a frigid commute, so why make things worse by investing in another furnace that will interrupt your sleep? Traditional furnaces have two basic settings: on and off. Whenever your thermostat notices that your indoor temperature is dipping, your furnace will go from completely off to running full blast in an instant. Unfortunately, this process tends to make a lot of noise—which can interrupt your sleep or startle children and pets. Fortunately, some newer furnaces are fitted with a motor that offers variable speed controls, which means that your furnace can run in increments instead of the standard full-blast-or-nothing operation. Your system will start slowly, gradually increasing the output until your desired temperature is reached. In addition to running quietly in the background, variable speed furnaces also offer these benefits: A More Comfortable Environment: When traditional furnaces switch off, the air movement stops too. This means that your home can develop pockets of hot or cold air, depending on where windows, doors, drafts, and kitchen areas are around your place. However, since variable speed furnaces are designed to run at part capacity throughout the day, they constantly circulate air to keep your indoor temperature even and comfortable. Save Money on Gas and Power: Although you might assume that a constantly running furnace would waste power, variable speed furnaces actually save money and energy because they are designed to efficiently control the temperature. Although your individual cost savings will depend on the power rate in your area, variable speed motors only use 75 watts of power an hour, as opposed to the 400 watts per hour traditional furnaces use. To top it off, some variable speed furnaces are designed with special housings that limit noise transmission. These types of furnaces are especially helpful for people who have their furnaces in attics or basements that are close to bedrooms or main living areas. 2: Ultra Violet Light Sanitization Systems Wouldn’t it be nice if your furnace could zap away airborne pathogens before they were circulated throughout your home? Although it might seem like a technology reserved for state-of-the-art laboratories or government agencies, some furnaces are equipped with ultra violet lights that can destroy bacteria and mold spores by simply illuminating the inside of your air handler. These UV light systems are incredibly effective. In fact, one 2012 study conducted at the Duke University Medical Center found that these systems were capable of eliminating as much as 97% of drug-resistant bacteria from hospital rooms. In addition to keeping your family safe by destroying germs on contact, furnaces fitted with UV sanitizing systems can also help you to control odors. Because mold and mildew emits volatile organic compounds that create odor, zapping these microscopic airborne organisms can make your home smell cleaner and fresher. This also means that you might not have to...

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Check Your Air Conditioner’s Fins For Summertime Damage To Keep It Running Well

Posted by on Aug 20, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Check Your Air Conditioner’s Fins For Summertime Damage To Keep It Running Well

As summer draws to a close, temperatures will soon drop, and you’ll start to use your air conditioner less. Before the season for using it is completely over, you should check its fins for damage. Air conditioners have many technical components that require the knowledge of a knowledgeable HVAC technician, but the fins aren’t difficult to inspect. In some cases, you may even be able to repair them yourself. Here’s what to look for and how you can repair them if they’re damaged. Your Air Conditioner Has Fins All air conditioning units, including central air conditioners and window models, have fins. These are thin pieces of metal, usually made from aluminum, that improve the air conditioner’s heat exchange. The aluminum fins increase the surface area of cool metal that the air passes over, allowing the unit to extract heat from the air quickly. These fins are much more effective than a single metal coil would be at cooling down air. The Fins May Have Been Damaged During Summer In order to maximize the fins’ surface area, all air conditioner fins are thin. While thin fins maximize your air conditioner’s ability to cool, they’re also susceptible to being damaged. There are two types of damage they might sustain: bending and corrosion. To see if your air conditioner’s fins are bent, you just have to look at them. They’re on the outside of the unit, so it’s easy to tell whether they’re in parallel lines. Any number of accidents, from a stray baseball to a falling branch, may have bent your unit’s fins. To check for rust on your air conditioner’s fins, you’ll need a flashlight. Shine it on them to see if light passes through any fins. If it does, there are pinhole rust spots on your unit’s fins. This type of rust would be a sign that a dog has been marking your air conditioner during the summer. Both types of damage affect your air conditioner’s fins and, therefore, your unit’s efficiency. Bends in its fins slow airflow through your air conditioner, reducing how much air it’s able to cool. Pinhole rust spots reduce the fins’ surface area, thus decreasing the heat exchange. You Can Straighten Bent Fins Bent fins are easy to fix, and you can repair them yourself. All you need is an air conditioner comb, which you’ll find at your local hardware store. Combs come in different sizes, which are determined by the number of fins per inch. To find out what size comb, you can either look up your unit’s fins-per-inch in your owner’s manual or measure how many fins are in one inch. If you have multiple air conditioning units, such as one central air conditioning unit and a window model, SFGate recommends purchasing an adjustable comb. Even if it costs slightly more, an adjustable comb can be calibrated to match any air conditioner’s fins-per-inch. Once you have a properly sized comb, simply run it through your air conditioner’s fins. Aluminum is a soft metal and will bend back into its original shape easily. Continue combing the fins until they’re straight. You Should Have Rusted Fins Professionally Repaired Rusted fins are more difficult to repair and require the knowledge of an HVAC technician. If you have pinhole rust spots on the fins, its possible...

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Can Your Plumbing System Really Cause Legionnaires Disease?

Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Can Your Plumbing System Really Cause Legionnaires Disease?

It sounds like a disease you would get after trekking for miles through a jungle. In reality, Legionnaires disease is a serious lung infection that can be passed to you or your family members through the use of infected water. Here’s what you need to know to keep the dangerous bacteria that causes the disease out of your home. Water Heaters, Plumbing, and Legionnaires Disease Legionnaires disease is caused by bacteria called Legionella. Like many of its ilk, it is ever-present in small quantities in soil and water. In fact, most people come in contact with the bacteria on a daily basis. However, it doesn’t turn into a problem until it begins multiplying and becomes aerosolized in water via steam, mist, or droplets. When a person breathes this infected water, the bacteria can take root in the lungs, causing them to suffer a pneumonia-like infection. Legionella typically enters the home via contaminated water. For instance, if contaminated soil falls into your well, the bacteria can leech into the water and get sucked into your water tank when it fills up. It can also live in the biofilm in pipes. So even if you fully empty your water tank, the bacteria can still find its way back into your home if you’re not careful. Flowing water and high temperatures are two things that can prevent Legionella from breeding. The bacteria prefer temperatures ranging between 55 degrees and 133 degrees Fahrenheit. Water that is continuously flowing makes it difficult for the bacteria to establish colonies, which is why you’re more likely to find it in stagnant water. Unfortunately, the plumbing in homes provides the perfect living space for this bacterium. Legionella cannot survive in high temperature water and will die in water set above 133 degrees. However, homeowners typically keep the temperature of their water heaters below 120 degrees Fahrenheit for safety reasons. At 120 degrees, hot water can cause second and third degree burns in 5 minutes. At 140 degrees, water can burn in 5 seconds. Second, household water is not used on a continuous basis. Oftentimes, this causes water in the pipes to sit for hours and sometimes days at a time, giving the bacteria an opportunity to make a home for themselves. Detecting Legionella Bacteria The only way to determine if your water is infected with Legionella is to test it. You can find water testing kits online or at home improvement stores. The testing kit usually contains a meter or test strip similar to a pregnancy test that will turn a different color if it detects Legionella in the sample. Another option is to send a sample of your water to a local testing facility. A third, albeit unfortunate, way to tell if this bacteria is creeping around your pipes is if someone in your home is sickened with Legionnaires disease. The person will begin exhibiting symptoms within two to ten days after being exposed to the bacteria. Symptoms generally mimic those associated with the flu and may include: Chills High fever (over 104 degrees) Muscle pain and headaches Cough Chest pain Gastrointestinal distress (vomiting, diarrhea) Neurological problems such as confusion Legionnaires can be fatal if not treated properly, especially for immunosuppresed individuals. It’s critical to seek medical care as soon as symptoms begin showing. Killing Legionella...

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2 Issues That Will Damage Your Air Conditioner’s Blower Motor

Posted by on Jun 8, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 2 Issues That Will Damage Your Air Conditioner’s Blower Motor

You just installed your new central air conditioning system and want to ensure that it will be capable of providing cool, comforting air to your household for the next several years. However, if you don’t take the steps to properly maintain your unit’s blower motor, the component that produces airflow throughout your system, then you can expect to receive expensive repair bills within the near future. Here are two issues that will damage your blower motor and the steps you must take to prevent them. High Amperage Amps are a measurement unit used to determine the strength of an electrical current. Your blower motor’s capacitors and other various components are only capable of tolerating a certain number of amps. If your blower motor receives a greater number of amps than its components can tolerate, then your motor’s capacitors will explode due to overheating. If your blower motor has blown capacitors, then it won’t be able to activate—which will cause several other problems for your air conditioning system. There are a number of issues that will increase the amperage being sent to your motor. Short circuits are the most prominent cause of increased amperage, but an excessive load causes the majority of high amperage readings. The load on your fan motor is determined by the volume of air being pulled through your motor. Your HVAC blower is a centrifugal fan—which means it uses centrifugal force to propel air throughout your system. If your air ducts are too large for your new system’s blower, then your motor will be forced to ventilate an excessive volume of air through your system. As a result, the load and amperage of your motor will increase. If you didn’t replace your air ducts along with your air conditioner, then the best way to prevent high amperage from destroying your motor’s capacitors is to have your local HVAC technician calculate the proper airflow for your new system. If the ducts are too large, then duct resizing will be necessary. Although duct resizing can be expensive, it will not only lengthen the lifespan of your blower, but improve the efficiency of your system as well. Debris Accumulation Debris that enters your HVAC system will become stuck to the internal sections of your blower motor. As more and more debris continues to settle inside your blower assembly, your motor will become completely coated in pet fur, dust, and other contaminants. Although a small amount of debris won’t cause any problems, a large amount of debris will insulate your motor. As a result, your motor will become prone to overheating. Overheating will both increase the likelihood of blown capacitors and decrease the lifespan of the other components of your motor. Regularly replacing your air filter, cleaning your ducts, and sealing any leaking sections of your HVAC system will reduce the amount of debris that collects inside your blower assembly. If a large amount of debris continues to enter your system after you’ve made these improvements, consider increasing the MERV rating (minimum efficiency reporting value) of your air filter. The MERV rating of a filter determines the size of the filter’s pores. By purchasing a filter with a higher MERV rating, you’ll protect your blower motor by trapping additional debris and slightly reducing the airflow through your system. With a...

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3 Tips For Helping Your Air Conditioner Keep You Cool This Summer

Posted by on May 26, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 3 Tips For Helping Your Air Conditioner Keep You Cool This Summer

Did you know that your air conditioner is designed to only drop the temperature in your house by a certain range of degrees? For example, some air conditioners may only be able to cool your home to 20 degrees below the temperature outside. If the high temperatures in your area only reach around 85 degrees, that’s fine – you can easily bring your home down to a nice cool 75 degrees or so. But if you live in a hot climate, with temperatures that routinely exceed 100 degrees in the summer, then you may have trouble cooling your home below 80 degrees or so. This can leave you feeling hot indoors as well as outdoors. Here are a few things you can do to help your air conditioner keep you cool while the temperatures outside climb this summer. Add Some Indoor Wind Running a ceiling fan can help your air conditioner cool you down more efficiently. When you set the ceiling fan to run counter-clockwise, it grabs the cool air in the room and pushes it down toward the floor, making it more accessible to you. The wind from the fan also pushes heat away from your body, the same way that you can cool hot food down by blowing on it. Even though your breath isn’t cold, you push the heat away from the food. Fans do the same thing for your body. If you’re sweating, the fan also cools you by evaporating the sweat on your body. A ceiling fan won’t add much to your electric bill – it costs about $1.20 a month in electricity for each ceiling fan you run in your home. In many cases, running fans can help make the temperature in your home comfortable enough that you can actually turn your thermostat up a few degrees, which can result in an overall savings on your electric bill each month. If ceiling fans aren’t an option in your home, consider investing in a few standing fans or box fans, which can have a comparable cooling effect on your home. Create Some Shade Proper landscaping can help you decrease the heat in your home. If your air conditioner can only lower the temperature by 20 degrees or so, then you’ll be cooler if the outside of your home starts out at a lower temperature. You can achieve a cooler outdoor environment by planting shade trees around your home. Choose semi-evergreen trees to act as shade trees for your property. This category includes Arizona cypress trees and Mexican white oaks, among others. They keep their leaves year round, so you’ll have all the shade you need even if you have particularly long summers. Don’t just shade the house – position trees to shade the outdoor air conditioning unit as well. You’ll need to leave a few feet of clearance so that you don’t hamper airflow around the unit, but the shade will help prevent overheating so that your air conditioner will function more efficiently. Draw the Curtains Your windows are one of the main entry points for heat in your home. The sunshine comes through your open curtains, and it brings the heat along with it. Just closing the curtains or blinds can have a big effect on your air conditioner’s ability to cool the...

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3-Step Guide For Cleaning Your Central Air Conditioner Unit

Posted by on May 18, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on 3-Step Guide For Cleaning Your Central Air Conditioner Unit

Keeping your central air conditioning unit clean not only prolongs its life, but can also save you money on your energy bills because air flow is not obstructed. Follow the three-step guide below to give your air conditioner a thorough cleaning twice a year. Step 1: Clear Any Growth Away From The Outside The first step involves clearing away any grass or other plant growth from the outside of the AC unit. This not only keeps the plants from blocking the air vents, but it also reduces the amount dirt and pollen allowed to contaminate the condenser and motor. Dig up any plant life growing around the base of the unit. By removing them from the roots, you can decrease the likelihood of having thick growth around the air conditioner. As a precautionary measure, mulch the area to prevent seeds from sprouting. Mulching will also make it easier to remove anything that does come up, making your job easier the next time. Once you have removed all of the plant growth and mulched the area, go on to step two. Step 2: Wipe Out The Vents In this step, the outer vents of the air conditioner are wiped out to remove any dust, pollen, and debris. You will need a gallon bucket of warm water, grease-cutting dish detergent, two cleaning rags, and white distilled vinegar for this part of the job. Mix a teaspoon of the dish detergent in with the water. Dip one of your rags in the soapy water and wring it out slightly. Wipe around the vents first, then inside the grooves.  If you encounter any stuck-on grime, pour a small amount of vinegar on the other rag and apply it to the area. Let it sit for five minutes, then wipe it with the soapy water. The vinegar will cut through the dirt, enabling you to remove it. After cleaning the outside of the air conditioner unit, go on to step three. Step 3: Clean The Inside Of The Unit Now that you have thoroughly cleaned the outer vents, it is time to work on the inside of the unit. For this step, make sure the power is off so the unit does not accidentally turn on while you are moving the parts inside. For added peace of mind, you may want to turn off the breaker that feeds the unit. Once the power is off, remove the access panel located on the side of the unit. Check for any stray grass or leaves that may have come through the vents and clean them out. Use a hand broom to carefully remove any dirt that has built up on the bottom of the air conditioner. Then, use the soapy water from the previous step to wipe off the fan blades and outer motor casing. Your rag should be wrung out as much as possible to prevent excess water from entering the electrical components of the unit. After wiping the inside, leave the access panel off so the unit can air dry for about 15 minutes. Then, replace the panel and turn the power back on. Once you have cleaned the inside of the unit, run the air conditioner for one cycle. This helps remove any dust or pollen that was stirred up during the cleaning process,...

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Options For Air Conditioning Your Garage

Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Options For Air Conditioning Your Garage

Whether you’re using the garage to work on hobby projects or plan to turn the space into an epic man (or woman) cave, keeping your garage cool when it is blistering hot outside will likely be at the top of your to-do list. There are a couple of ways you can accomplish this feat, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Patch Into an Existing System If your garage is attached to your home and you have a central air conditioning system, you can hire a contractor to extend the system to cover the garage. This would typically consist of adding air ducts to the garage that would divert some of the cold air flowing through the system into the area. Benefits: It’s easy to do. So easy, in fact, that you could probably do it yourself if you wanted to save money on contractor labor. Drawbacks: If your air conditioner is built to only service the interior space of your home, adding another room can reduce the system’s overall efficiency and result in poorer quality air conditioning all around. For instance, if the unit is only designed to cool 1,200 square feet of space and you add a 500 square foot garage, your a/c will struggle to cool down 1,700 feet of space. This can lead to higher energy bills and, if the duct is installed incorrectly, the circulation of toxic fumes into your home. Install a Ductless Mini-Split A/C Unit A mini-split air conditioning unit is like a compact central air conditioning system except there are no ducts to install or maintain. The unit is split into two major components: an interior unit that circulates treated air and an exterior compressor. Tubing links the two parts. Benefits: These units are fairly easy to install and provide quite a bit of flexibility. Depending on the type of system you purchase, one exterior condenser can service multiple interior air circulators. So if one unit is not enough to cool the garage, you can simply add more units until you achieve the environment you want. Since air circulation unit is attached to the wall, you can place it anywhere in the garage. Lastly, because there are no ducts, you don’t have to deal with the energy losses associated with them. Leaks in duct systems waste up to 30 percent of energy. Drawbacks: Mini-split air conditioning units are expensive, costing anywhere from $2,000 to $7,000 depending on the model and the amount of space you’re trying to cool down. You must also be careful and match the size of the unit to the size of the space almost perfectly; otherwise, you risk wasting energy. Lastly, you may have a difficult time finding someone to install the system as many companies prefer to work on larger and more expensive projects. However, these systems aren’t that difficult to put in, and you could do it yourself if you’re a reasonably handy person. Install a Window Unit If your garage has a window, then you could simply install a good old-fashioned window a/c unit. This is, by far, the easiest option of the three. So if you’re looking for something quick and simple, then this is the best choice. Benefits: Window air conditioning units are cheap. You can typically get one for less than...

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