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  • Save Energy with an Energy Star Certified Thermostat

    Although Energy Star has been a marker for efficient televisions and other appliances for years, it has not been applied to thermostats until this year. This is interesting because setting the thermostat properly may be the biggest energy saver in a home. Commonwealth Edison estimated that 30-35% of cooling energy use could be reduced by choosing efficient thermostat set points. Consumer Reports notes that a thermostat has the most potential of any energy-saving device to save homeowners money. So, why wasn't there a certified thermostat until this year?

    Programmable thermostats have had a learning curve in recent years. Many homeowners didn't use them properly. This made it difficult to develop a standard for the thermostat itself because it was not used according to the specifications. Manufacturers have responded by making recent models more intuitive and easier to program. Based on these improvements, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency was able to issue a new standard for wifi-enabled thermostats at the end of 2016.

    The Nest thermostat was the first Energy Star certified thermostat under the new rules. Like other wifi-connected thermostats, the Nest offers the ability to access the thermostat from your smartphone. The system "learns" your preferred temperatures and starts to adapt the system for maximum efficiency. It also tracks energy usage, so homeowners can adjust preferences to save money and energy.

    The EPA estimates that using a certified thermostat, like Nest, can save homeowners up to 8% in energy costs per year. This amounts to at least a $50 savings per year. While that doesn't seem like a lot, the energy savings add up as more people embrace the Energy Star certified thermostats. If every thermostat worked as efficiently, the savings could reach 56 trillion BTU and offset 13 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. That's the equivalent of taking 1.2 million motor vehicles off of the road. Although it may take some time to pay off the cost of a new thermostat, the increased efficiency eventually benefits home and business owners.

    As part of a heating, air conditioning and ventilation remodel or new purchase, homeowners should consider an Energy Star certified thermostat. Even using the new thermostat with old equipment will lead to savings. Combining the new thermostat with a properly sized HVAC system is even better. That 8% savings will likely increase with the purchase of an appropriate HVAC system because older equipment is sometimes the wrong size or less efficient than newer models. For those not ready to purchase a new HVAC, buying an Energy Star certified thermostat is a good step in the direction of greater efficiency and cost savings.

  • How Energy Efficient Upgrades Impact your HVAC System

    Many homeowners and business owners have added energy efficient upgrades to reduce their environmental impact. Double-paned windows and high quality insulation can decrease the amount that owners spend on heating and cooling costs. These efforts are also more environmentally friendly because energy is not lost due to leaks. However, many owners don't take into consideration the impact that these improvement have on the HVAC system of the home or business.

    Energy efficient improvements change the heat load of the house. In fact, the US Department of Energy calculated how much the heat load of a 2000 square foot house in North Carolina would change with energy efficient improvements. The hypothetical house improved the insulation in the ceiling and walls, upgraded to double-paned glass, increased the window overhangs and eliminated duct leakage by moving the ducts into the conditioned space. Before the updates, the house's heat load would have been 46,100 Btu/hr by the Manual J calculation. After the updates, it would have been only 21,300 Btu/hr. The energy efficient upgrades cut the heat load in half!

    Unfortunately, many people don't realize the impact that this heat load reduction has on the HVAC system. In the original home, a 4 - 5 ton HVAC system would have been installed. This large HVAC system would have been appropriately sized for the home. However, HVACs are sized based on the heat load. Therefore, after improvements, the proper HVAC sizing would be 2 tons. If the HVAC system is not upgraded with the rest of the house, it will not be properly sized for maximum efficiency.

    The Department of Energy evaluated how much energy savings would result if the HVAC system was upgraded with the rest of the house. With a new 2 ton HVAC system, the homeowners would save 63 percent on heating energy and 53 percent on cooling energy. If the homeowners did the rest of the upgrades but did not upgrade the HVAC system, they would save 54 percent on heating and 47 percent on cooling. It does save energy to do the other upgrades, but homeowners that match the HVAC system to the current heat load gain an extra 10 percent increase in energy efficiency.

    Long lasting HVAC systems are often not included in home and business energy efficiency upgrades. However, they should be. As the heat load of the home or business changes, the HVAC system should be matched to the needs. A right-sized HVAC system could boost the energy efficiency of the home by 10 percent.

  • A Checklist for Heat Load Calculations

    To have an HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system run at optimal efficiency, homeowners and business owners need to know the heat load of the building. This metric, measured in tonnage, determines which size of HVAC system to purchase. Selecting the right size system is important for efficiency. For example, over-sized systems don't properly de-humidify the air during the summer. Under-sized systems may not be able to effectively heat or cool a building. Homeowners and business owners want the right size to have efficient heating and cooling.

    The most common way to determine the heat load of a building is a Manual J calculation. A licensed HVAC contractor can complete this calculation for a fee. However, there are some online Manual J calculators that allow home and business owners to complete their own calculations. The key piece is not the calculation, however, but the inputs. Owners must know many details about the building in order to complete a Manual J calculation. The checklist below contains the inputs required to do a Manual J heat load calculation.

    Materials for Walls, Ceiling and Floors

    A heat load calculation takes into account the insulation properties of the house. For this reason, it's not enough to know that a home is “brick.” Homes with brick walls also may or may not have insulation. The insulation can be various types. The same principle applies to ceilings and floors. A building plan or an HVAC contractor may be required to find out this information.

    Window Type

    The insulating properties of windows can also vary, depending on whether the window is single or double paned. Even the frame type (usually metal, wood or vinyl) has an impact on the heat load calculation.

    Door Type

    Surprisingly, there are differences in insulation properties between wood doors. In fact, there are multiple types of wooden doors in the heat load calculation. The insulation depends on whether the door is hollow or solid. Metal doors also have drastically different heat properties.

    Ceiling and Window Height

    The ceiling height helps to determine how much air needs to be warmed or cooled. Window height also has an impact on the heat load calculation.

    Length x Width x Height of Walls, Windows and Doors

    This information helps determine the size of the home or business and how much air needs to flow through the building for proper heating and cooling.

    Orientation of the Building

    The orientation of the front door and windows can be north, south, east or west. Southern exposure tends to be warmer in the northern hemisphere, since the sun hits that surface year-round.

    With this checklist, home and business owners can begin to complete a heat load calculation. There are online resources available to assist. However, it's important to note whether the calculation assumes the house is a “block” or it asks for the inputs for “room-by-room.” Block calculations are simpler to complete, but they don't tell owners how much heating and cooling is required for each room. To properly size ductwork and maximize efficiency, a room-by-room heat load calculation is preferred.

  • Use a Heat Pump for Air Conditioning and Heating

    One way to think of a heat pump is as a reversible air conditioner, which means that one device can provide both heating and cooling. Heat pumps capture heat from the outdoors and compress it. The compressed heated air is then pumped around the home or business. The heat pump doesn't actually generate heat. The principle by which heat pumps work is the same as air conditioners. However, air conditioners cycle the opposite way, expelling heat to the outdoors, instead of drawing it in. While heat pumps are typically reversible and can function as air conditioners, not all air conditioners can be reversed to function as heat pumps.

    Although heat pumps have the advantage of both cooling and heating, their functionality is limited to a moderate climate. An example of an appropriate climate for a heat pump only system would be Washington, DC. As an air conditioner, a heat pump can provide cooling air during hot temperatures. When temperatures drop below freezing though, it becomes harder for a heat pump to work as a heater. Since it functions by drawing heat from the air, it struggles to draw heat from freezing air. One solution is to add electric resistance coils to the heat pump. These coils function as a furnace and provide heat when it's too cold to draw warmth from outdoor air.

    Above freezing temperatures, heat pumps can be up to 40% more efficient than gas furnaces. Heating air requires a great deal of energy. Gas furnaces physically heat the air with a flame. However, heat pumps transition the warmth outdoors into the indoors (though compressing the air can be energy intensive). Heat pumps are more efficient than furnaces until additional electrical resistance coils need to be used to heat the air, which usually occurs around freezing temperature. At this point, the electrical or gas resistance coils are not as efficient as a gas furnace.

    If a heat pump promises to meet your heating and cooling needs, there are a few options to consider. Heat pumps come in a variety of sizes, measured in tonnage. To properly size a heat pump, home and business owners should complete a heat load calculation. This calculation takes insulation, square footage and climate factors into account and then recommends a tonnage. Heat pumps are usually electric, but some resistance coils can be gas-powered, depending on your preferences. SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency rating, is another way to determine the best heat pump for a home or business. Higher ratings translate to a more efficient heat pump. With these options in mind, it's easy to select the appropriate heat pump for your home or business.

  • Do I need an air handler?

    Sometimes the number of components that make up an HVAC (heat, ventilation and air conditioning) system can seem overwhelming. Part of the reason is that HVAC systems are extremely flexible. You can pick only the components you need to heat and cool your business or home as efficiently as possible. In some cases, this involves buying an air handler.

    An air handler has a simple task, to take in air and send it around the home or business. Air handlers often include blowers, heating and cooling systems and filters. It handles much of the “ventilation” port of the HVAC system. Air handlers are commonly used in conjunction with air conditioners. The evaporator coil in the air handler can remove additional heat before sending the air throughout the house.

    Am I in the right climate for an air handler?

    An electric split system for air conditioning in a warm climate, like Florida, will benefit from an air handler. Working in tandem with the air conditioner, the air handler keeps the air cold and blowing.

    However, air handlers can also be beneficial in slightly cooler climates. They can contain both heating and cooling elements. The cooling element would be the evaporator coil, which removes excess heat from the air. Heating elements, like electric heating strips, can also be included in an air handler. In this case, the air handler adds additional heat to the air before blowing it around the home or business.

    While beneficial in cooler climates, air handlers are not as commonly found in cold truly climates, like Minnesota. A gas or electric furnace is commonly used in place instead. Pairing a heat pump with an air handler is typically not sufficient to warm a home or business in a climate that repeatedly drops below zero. A gas or electric furnace is a more effective way to heat the location.

    How do I select an air handler?

    If you live in a warm climate, where the combination of an air handler and air conditioner or heat pump provides sufficient heating and cooling, it's time to look at air handlers. The first step is to do a load calculation, which determines how much heating or cooling is required for the home or business. A Manual J calculation is standard and the most accurate, but rules of thumb can also be applied. The resulting number is the tonnage size of the HVAC system that you ought to purchase for the best efficiency.

    The next item to evaluate is what type of refrigerant the air handler uses. The most common types are R-22 and R410-A. Newer HVAC systems typically use the R-410A refrigerant, which is generally accepted as the more environmentally friendly and efficient refrigerant.

    Air handlers can also be sold with heating elements. This may or may not be necessary in your climate. If your home does not already have heat pump, the heating elements may be a good choice to warm the air in your home when it gets a bit chillier. The heating elements can also work in tandem with a heat pump for greater efficiency. It depends on the system you select for your climate.

    If you need any help determining if your home or business would benefit from an air handler, you can check with an expert or call National Air Warehouse at (888) 997-5160 for assistance.

  • The Best Methods of Air Duct Cleaning

    Air duct cleaning Air duct cleaning

    Most of the residential and commercial buildings these days are usually erected with ventilation, HVAC, heating or air conditioning ducts. Since these are tightly assembled, it is rare that stale air or fresh air will circulate at the same time. If this occurs, then there may be accumulated pollutants in the air ducts. This will typically create air that is unhealthy for everyone living in the home. Subsequently, these same pollutants will become irritants, negatively impacting the health of the occupants of the building. In many cases, people will suffer from respiratory conditions and in other cases, the pollutants could likely cause damage to the home.

    Reducing or Eliminating Pollutants

    When you clean the HVAC air ducts, it will drastically eliminate or reduce the pollutants, creating healthier air and improving the health of the occupants. There are several suggestions for air duct cleaning. However, it is best to hire a HVAC contractor with more knowledge about the best practices for air duct cleaning. In so doing, the project will be done more properly and it will reduce the appearance of annoying rodents.

    The Disadvantage

    The disadvantage of air duct cleaning if you do this yourself is that you could ultimately damage the air ducts. So, to improve the air quality in your home, it is strongly recommended to get professional assistance. The HVAC technician will be able to tell when your next duct cleaning will be necessary. It is especially important, though, to know as much as you can about air duct cleaning so as to establish the one that is ideal for you. While you will be relying on a professional HVAC contractor, you will still have personal knowledge about what is involved and the methods used.

    Common Methods

    The most common methods used for air duct cleaning over the years is industry standard. As time goes on, advancements are being made to continue improving the methods involved in the process. However, for now, the methods employed are as such:

    • Power Vacuum or Air Sweep – this is a meticulous method of duct cleaning, although, more expensive. It does the best job of removing dirt in an extremely careful manner.
    • Point of Contact – while this may not be as thorough as the air sweep method, it is safer for the vents and air ducts. It is also less expensive, but still uses a vacuum, and spinning brush as the best cleaning tools
    • Removing the Source – this is the most common of all three methods for air duct cleaning. Mechanical agitation loosens the dirt and debris and extraction helps to remove everything entirely in a safe manner.

    Conclusion

    Methods of air duct cleaning have been around since the 1900s. However, the techniques have evolved since that time due to the work done by knowledgeable and experienced HVAC contractors. When you hire a professional HVAC technician, you stand a better chance to have improved air quality in your home.

    Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/airductcleaning/3054209713/

  • Common HVAC Problems to Look For

    HVAC System HVAC System

    When homeowners experience problems with their air conditioning unit and heating systems, it calls for finances to make the repairs. It also involves the time it takes to fix the problem. However, when there is experienced and knowledgeable assistance, the result is improved efficiency. It is very critical to seek the help of a reputable HVAC contractor with the expertise necessary to resolve the issue in a fast, affordable and effective manner. When your HVAC system needs to be repaired, it can truly create havoc in the home. Below are some common problems that you may encounter, which will need professional help.

    Air Conditioning Unit

    A central air conditioning unit is the ideal option to keep the entire house much cooler and more comfortable. The common problem associated with an AC unit is the compressor’s failure to turn on. In addition, you may not feel cool air coming from the AC, which may be caused by insufficient air flow. If your AC unit is leaking water, it is also time to call a HVAC contractor.

    Furnaces

    All homeowners should be aware that a furnace should be serviced on an annual basis, if you want to have it properly functioning. If not, you may encounter problems. If parts need to be replaced, it is best to obtain the assistance of a qualified HVAC technician to install a new one, maintaining efficient operation of your furnace.

    Heat Pumps

    For your heat pumps, you should have a regular maintenance system, which can be provided by a HVAC contractor or HVAC company. In doing so, the heat pump will function at a higher comfort level.

    Air Handler

    The air handler is an important component of the HVAC system where it moves air efficiently and easily around the home. When this part is not working, your system will malfunction.

    Boiler System

    To keep your water heater operating at its peak, the boiler system also has to be properly and frequently maintained.

    Thermostat Control

    Your thermostat is essential to circulating heat and cool air within the home. You must know how to set the temperature to get the most energy efficiency. If your thermostat malfunctions, this objective won’t be met. So, make sure that it is good working condition. If flawed, you may need to call a HVAC contracting company.

    Conclusion

    Other problems that you may encounter are the leaking of your refrigerant, dirty air filters or clogging of your drain pipe clogged. Many of the common problems with your heating system and air conditioning unit are as a result of faulty installation, and poor or no maintenance. You can easily have your HVAC system working throughout the year by having regular maintenance from an HVAC service professional.

     

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  • What is the best Central Air Conditioner brand?

    Central Air Conditioner Unit Central Air Conditioner Unit

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    If you are an HVAC contractor or specialist, you should have all the products in your inventory necessary to do a heating and cooling system installation. The only time the manufacturer should be involved is when they are creating and testing the product. Air conditioners and furnaces take thousands of dollars in tools to repair or replace. This means that the contractor has to invest in tools to get the job done right. Now, an experienced contractor who has done installations over and over again will know the ins and outs of the HVAC system and what brands are the best and which ones aren’t. Do you agree? It makes sense! It would be safe to say then that the contractor is the middle man when it comes to HVAC parts and products.

    The Recommendation

    What if your central air conditioner broke down or wasn’t performing? You would call on a HVAC contractor to advise you if replacement is necessary and if it is, which brand is best to purchase. That would be the wise thing to do since you don’t know yourself. The contractor is the expert since you may not be able to reach the manufacturer directly for the appropriate solution. In that case, the recommendation should come from the middle man who is the HVAC contractor. You could rely on reviews and testimonials from customers who have purchased the product, but they don’t have hands-on experience and knowledge of the makeup of the air conditioner unit and what it takes to operate it.

    The Most Popular

    While several brands of air conditioner units exist, most of them are manufactured by a handful of well known companies and not necessarily a wide range of companies. The most popular brands of air conditioner units are:

    • Carrier
    • Trane
    • Lennox
    • Goodman
    • Rheem
    • York
    • Maytag and Westinghouse

    The Stand Outs

    Most people would recommend the Maytag because of its years on the market and its selling points such as how quietly it runs and its efficiency. Its SEER ratings are up to a 25.5 level and its EER ratings are up to a level of 15 if you take the cooling capacity into consideration. Lennox, Trane and Carrier are all regarded fairly well by HVAC contractors and many consumers. It may have to do with the reputation of the company and its policies as it relates to qualified and quality installation. All three of these companies are very particular about their product installation, being selective as to which HVAC contractor does the installation. Lennox boasts an efficiency rating level of up to 26 SEER. Carrier does the same thing at a rating of 21 SEER. Trane is a hot competitor with also a 21 SEER rating.

    Conclusion

    So, it is safe to say that Carrier, Lennox and Trane are the better brands and have received national coverage to prove that they are products to contend with. However, when you get ready to change out your air conditioner unit, speak to a qualified HVAC contractor for the best recommendation and solution.

  • Should you repair or replace your AC system?

    Air conditioner Unit Repair Air conditioner Unit Repair

    Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/antre/6365655015/

    If you are having trouble with your heating and cooling system or just ac system, then you may have to consider whether you should repair or replace it. There are several things that go into making that decision. However, first, it will depend on your budget. If you are contemplating on the decision, this means that you may have to check with an HVAC specialist to discuss your best option. In the meantime, though, if your system is not running as efficient as it used to or you have absolutely no A/C or heating capabilities, it may be time to replace it. In the long run, though, repair could be the better choice instead of replacement.

    HVAC Contractor

    When you are ready to make your decision for ac system repair, contact a local HVAC contractor for answers. If the contractor tells you to purchase new equipment without inspecting the old one, you may have to reconsider using their service. If the repair is going to be expensive and the replacement cost is less, then the obvious choice is replacement. If the repair cost is within your budget and once repaired, the equipment can operate effectively for a few years down the road, by all means, repair would be the perfect solution. First, however, let’s explore the replacement option some more.

    The Replacement

    If your air conditioner unit was built prior to 1992 and you own a standing pilot furnace, then you may think about replacing both, whether these need to be replaced or not. With this type of furnace, you are only receiving 65 percent efficiency and 8 SEER or fewer with the air conditioner unit. Replacing these units will save you tons in utility cost. Take some time to conduct a research and make plans on replacing your unit sooner rather than later. If you find that your A/C compressor is failing and you have no warranty, you could replace the compressor instead of the entire unit. This would cost you less.

    The Repair

    If you have to spend thousands of dollars in repair cost on your ac system, it is not wise to replace, but to buy new equipment. If you are unsure of whether to repair or replace, have an experienced technician inspect the equipment.  However, if you have a furnace that is 15 years or older and the repair cost is $750, then it is time to replace the unit. As long as you are receiving 95 percent efficiency out of the equipment, you can keep it after repairing and not replace it.

  • HVAC Systems Last Longer with Regular Maintenance

    HVAC System

    Most homeowners want their HVAC system to last for as long as possible. Not surprisingly, regular maintenance on an HVAC system can help it to stay in good working condition. Take a look at just a few maintenance practices that can contribute to the long life of an HVAC system.

    Changing the Air Filter
    This is a simple maintenance practice that should be done about every 90 days. Over time dirt, dust and pet hair can clog an air filter in an HVAC system. This debris prevents an HVAC system from working at its most efficient. In addition, a clogged air filter isn't able to capture any more dirt and debris. This affects the overall air quality in a home. Maintaining good air quality in a home is especially important for occupants with respiratory conditions such as asthma.

    Clearing the Space around an Outdoor Unit
    Sometimes weeds, vines, brush and other vegetation can grow too close to an outdoor air conditioner. This type of growth can interfere with the efficient operation of the unit. For instance, weeds and vines can push themselves against the coils of the air conditioner causing damage. It's best if there is approximately two feet of space around an outdoor air conditioning unit.

    Cleaning the Evaporator Coils
    Often times, moisture accumulates on the evaporator coils of an HVAC system. This moisture creates an ideal environment for mold to grow. The presence of mold is unhealthy to the occupants of a household. In addition, this mold can damage the coils. The evaporator coils need to be examined and/or cleaned on a regular basis.

    Checking Electrical Connections
    Over time, the electrical connections within an HVAC system may become loose or damaged. A broken electrical connection can prevent an HVAC system from working properly. It's best to check these connections to fix the problem before costly repairs become necessary.

    The Benefits of Calling a Certified Technician
    Finally, there are many reasons to call a certified HVAC technician for regular maintenance services. For one, a certified technician is trained to recognize potential problems in an HVAC system. This can help a homeowner to avoid expensive repair bills in the future. Also, a certified technician knows how to provide maintenance services in a safe way. He or she has the skills and equipment to make sure a system is operating at its highest level of efficiency. In addition, a certified technician can keep track of a maintenance schedule. Consequently, a homeowner doesn't have to remember when it is time to check the air filter, evaporator coils, vents etc. The technician takes care of the maintenance work as well as the schedule!

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