A properly maintained HVAC system can provide energy savings and a comfortable home on that hot summer day or chilly winter evening. The importance of proper HVAC maintenance goes beyond comfort as well. Dust and pollen from external air can be problematic for allergy sufferers. Improper internal humidity can create the perfect environment for mold as well. Keep your HVAC running smooth for health and comfort each year by using the following tips.
Regular Maintenance Schedules
You HVAC system is a delicate piece of machinery that makes the home comfortable when working properly. A series of maintenance protocols should be followed for the best performance. Air intakes should be inspected twice annually at the same time condenser or evaporator coils are cleaned. Clean coils provide efficiency in an air conditioning unit or heat pump. A gas furnace should have the pilot or electric ignition unit inspected during this annual check to ensure proper combustion is taking place.
Parts prone to dust or water damage should be inspected twice a year or as often as needed. This includes the blower unit and fan pulleys. Pulleys should be tight and fan blades should be free from dust for optimal movement. Excessive dust may indicate a problematic filter or the need for a home HEPA unit.
Fight the Dust
Dust is a constant enemy for home cleanliness. It’s also the worst enemy for an HVAC system. It can damage internal components and coat bearings without proper filtration. Consider cleaning your air ducts every two years and using filter with a MERV high rating. However, a filter with too high of a rating can restrict airflow and reduce the heating and cooling affect in the home. Use a standard HEPA filter in the home in addition to the furnace filter to add extra protection against pollen that may find its way in ductwork. A filter should be changed ever few months.
Jotting down memos and keeping a chart of monthly information on the HVAC system can help lower costs down the road and prevent damage before it occurs. A regular record should keep track of maintenance schedules and when a technician performs a repair. A good HVAC record should also include ongoing information on how well a comfortable temperature is achieved and any strange noises or vibrations in the unit heard.
HVAC equipment requires a regular cycling period to ensure proper operation. Each appliance should run for 30 minutes prior to the opening season. For example, the air conditioner unit should run 30 minutes in the spring after frost to check components. The furnace will need to run in early fall as well. However, cycling equipment too rapidly can cause early wear and tear on your components.
Part of the equipment cycling schedule should include testing return air and supply temperatures. Most HVAC technicians will follow this procedure if you subscribe to a regular maintenance package. Gas furnaces should be tested for leaks as well during this cycling period. For other HVAC Ideas check out Modernize.
HVAC systems are just a common part of our modern world. We leave our air-conditioned homes to go to work in our climate controlled offices. In the winter months, we do not need to worry about building a fire for warmth. Many of us might not even notice this system that makes our lives so comfortable. Here is some interesting trivia about air conditioners and heating systems.
1 )Summer blockbuster movies owe their start to air conditioners. When air conditioning first became available, movie theaters were one place people could count on to stay cool in the heat of the summer. For that reason, ticket sales were highest during the summer, leading production studios to put out the best movies during this period.
2) The first air conditioners were designed for publishing companies. Without climate-controlled air, the paper would contract and expand throughout the year. William Carries created the first air conditioner to help publishers keep the air cooled and the humidity low to protect the paper in 1902.
3) Before buildings had HVAC systems, they were heated with radiators made from cast iron in each room or office. Cast iron radiators weighed 450 pounds per square foot.
4) Our modern economy flourishes because of air conditioning. In the 1960s when air conditioners became standard in office buildings, manufacturing plants and warehouses, most of the economic power was in the Northern states that were cooler in the summer. Since then, the South and West have seen 60% percent of the economic growth.
5) In the days before air conditioning, most businesses and government offices took a month off each summer because it was simply too hot to work. Workers were slower, less productive and depending on the temperatures outside it could be a health risk. Europe continues to give workers a month off each summer since many of their buildings do not have central air.If your home does not have heating, it will take your water pipes three days to freeze, when the temperatures drop below freezing.
HVAC History Infographic Courtesy of Estes Services
In today’s world, we take our climate controlled lives for granted. Like everything else though, HVAC systems have a history and have affected the way our lives work. At National Air Warehouse, we are committed to helping you get the most efficient systems for your money. Feel free to contact us for more information.
Few things are as comforting as relaxing in the warmth of your home on a cold winter evening. Unfortunately, that scenario can come to an abrupt end if your furnace should pick that moment to break down. The good news is that furnaces rarely do that without providing you with some warning signs ahead of time. Knowing those signs can give you the opportunity to bring in an HVAC specialist to address the issues before you are left in the cold.
Obviously, a lack of heat in your home will alert you that your furnace is having issues, but uneven heating is also a warning sign. It can indicate that you may have an airflow obstruction which isn’t allowing the warm air to be evenly distributed through your home. If an area feels either warmer or cooler than what the thermostat is showing, you may also have a faulty thermostat.
Gas furnaces can provide several clues that they aren’t operating properly. A healthy gas flame should burn with a steady blue color. If there are other colors present, that can be a warning sign. If you occasionally notice a slight odor of gas in your home, it may be an indicator of a leaking gas line which will not only prevent the efficient operation of your furnace, it can be a deadly health hazard and should be addressed immediately by professionals.
Unusual sounds can be a tip-off that your furnace is not working as it should. A noticeable “whoosh” when your gas furnace kicks on can indicate that it needs to be adjusted to burn a little leaner. A high-pitched squeal when the furnace starts up can be the sound of a blower motor whose bearings are getting ready to seize up. This can not only prevent the flow of warm air through your home, it can become a fire hazard if the motor overheats.
An obvious indicator that your furnace is not operating efficiently is the bottom line on your utility bills. If you compare your current bills with those from previous heating seasons and notice a marked increase, chances are that your furnace is not giving you the performance it used to.
Age is another consideration when you’re looking at furnace efficiency. If your furnace is approaching or has passed the manufacturer’s warranty age, you probably aren’t getting all of the benefit from it that you could.
One way to deal with furnace efficiency is to have regular maintenance performed on it. That will help your technician spot potential problems, keep the furnace running its best, and may even add a few years to the life of your furnace. You tune up your car; why not your furnace? If you are looking to buy a gas furnace, consider replacing it with a high efficiency furnace instead for optimal performance.
What are Variable Speed Motors?
There are many different types of motors used in heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. A single-speed motor, the most common type in homes, is one that operates in two speeds: on or off. When the temperature drops below the setting, the heat turns on full blast until it reaches the programmed temperature, at which time it turns off completely. A multi-speed motor has a “low” or “high” setting depending on the severity of the temperature drop or rise within the home. While these two motors are functional and get the job done, the best type of motor, especially for large buildings, is the variable speed motor.
What is a Variable Speed Motor?
A variable speed motor is one that is used in furnaces and allows the system to run on a more consistent basis. Instead of having a constant change in temperature as the system turns on and off, you can enjoy the ideal temperature at all times. A variable speed motor regulates the temperature of the room or building in conjunction with the programmed settings and works at different speeds to maintain a comfortable temperature with as little change as possible.
What are the benefits of a Variable Speed Motor?
1) Comfort – A variable speed motor can make the temperature in the home or building more comfortable and consistent. You no longer have to be cold one minute and turn up the heat only to get hot the next minute and want to turn it off.
2) Consistence – With a one-speed motor, the rooms nearest the thermostat are always regulated, but the other rooms might be hotter or colder. A variable speed motor helps regulate the temperature throughout the entire home or building.
3) Energy Efficient – Because a variable speed motor does not have to work so hard to heat the entire building over and over, it is much more efficient than a single- or multi-speed motor. This may seem backwards since the variable speed motor is constantly running, but it is actually doing a lot less work.
4) Air Quality – The air circulating through the vents is also being filtered. A variable speed motor has air circulating constantly rather than intermittently, resulting in a much higher air quality as well as greater humidity control.
5) Less Noise – A single- or multi-speed will be noticeably louder as it turns on and off. A variable speed motor will offer a very low hum that you will not even notice.
As you can see, a furnace system that uses a variable speed motor is something that you should greatly consider for your home or building if you are in need of an upgrade.
Indoor air quality may not be at the top of your mind, but it’s important to know that the very air you’re breathing isn’t making you sick. Even if you’re not currently showing symptoms, poor air quality can lead to poor health as you age.
There are a few basic elements that go into indoor air quality; humidity, allergens, mold, and pollution. These different categories overlap each other quite a bit, but for simplicity’s sake, they are addressed separately here.
The humidity in your home isn’t a problem in and of itself. Instead, the side effects caused by too high or too low of humidity are the issue. Too much moisture in the air can grow mold and maximize the effects of allergens. Too low humidity, on the other hand, will cause dry skin and breathing problems. A good rule of thumb to follow is that your humidity should be above 25% but below 50% in the summer and below 40% in the winter. To test your home’s humidity, simply buy a cheap monitor available at most home improvement stores.
Home allergens include pollen, pet dander, and dust mites; too many allergens equal poor air quality. Excessive dust, owning a pet, or constant sneezing are all good signs that you have an indoor allergen problem. DIY kits can help monitor allergen levels, but sometimes professional testing is necessary. Thankfully, allergens are pretty easy to control. Buying mattress and pillow covers, not wearing shoes inside, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, frequently change HVAC filters, and keeping a cleaner house will all go a long way. For extra improvement, switch carpet out for wood or tile flooring and consider installing an air purifier.
Every home has mold inside. Even with hospital grade air filters, it’s almost impossible to eliminate it completely. The key becomes keeping mold to a controlled level. This is generally done by controlling the humidity level. However, the best indicators of if there is too much mold is generally your eyes and nose; if you see or smell mold, the level is way too high. Otherwise, your home can be tested for mold. This isn’t an easy process and is generally a task to be performed by professionals. If left unattended, the mold can travel through the air return and eventually into the ducts of the HVAC systems of the building, causing the mold to spread.
Pollutants include cigarette smoke, meth, asbestos, lead, radon, and chemicals that come from everyday household products. Some solutions to the problem, like not smoking, are obvious. You can also have your home professionally tested for radon, meth, asbestos, and lead. However, unless you’re undergoing renovations, testing for lead and asbestos generally isn’t considered necessary. To help prevent chemical pollutants, pay attention to any new flooring you install, cleaners you use, and what kind of clothing you buy.
High-efficiency furnaces use 30 percent less energy than traditional furnaces. Most traditional furnaces, however, only function at nearly 75 percent efficiency, which is why so many homeowners purchase high-efficiency furnaces. Natural gas and oil prices are constantly rising, so buying an efficient heating system that will lower your yearly energy consumption is a smart investment.
Although many homes are heated by renewable solar power, numerous houses still depend on fossil fuels, such as fuel oil and natural gas. However, warming a home with fossil fuel is becoming more expensive because fuel costs are not decreasing.
If your furnace is over 15 years old or needs frequent repairs, you should replace it with an energy-efficient unit. A high-efficiency furnace will reduce your energy costs substantially, and you will save hundreds of dollars every year. In addition, your new furnace will reduce air pollution because it does not generate energy from conventional power plants.
Though, before you purchase a new furnace, you should make your home more energy efficient. All leaks in the attic, roof, and walls should be sealed. Then, place insulation throughout your home and install insulated window shades in key locations. These tasks will help you save more money in the long run.
Choosing a Furnace That Offers the Most Benefits
An Energy Star qualified furnace is highly recommended because it provides less greenhouse gas emissions. The furnace commonly has an 85 percent Annual Fuel Utilization rating. If you want the best energy benefits, purchase a unit that has a rating of 90 percent or higher.
A furnace’s energy efficiency is measured by the Annual Fuel Utilization rating, and manufacturers must display the score on every unit they sell. The number determines how much fuel is turned into heat. However, the U.S Department of Energy warns consumers that the rating does not calculate heat loss that occurs in the piping and duct system in a home.
The Department of Energy still recommends that homeowners upgrade their furnaces from 56 percent to 90 percent efficiency. Do doing this, 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be saved in an average cold-climate home each year if the home is heated by gas. Also, the monthly energy bill will reduce by 38 percent.
The Department of Energy also recommends that homeowners replace their old coal burners if the burners were switched to oil or gas.
This post was written by Timothy Smith from Modernize: a site were homeowners can get inspiration and ideas on how to turn their home improvement dreams into a reality.