Archive for April, 2011

What to Do if Your Ceiling Fan Does Not Work

Friday, April 29th, 2011

A ceiling fan is a great addition to your home. It can keep you cool all on its own on moderately warm days and it will help to take on some of the cooling load even on days when you do need to use the air conditioner as well. Plus, you can even use your ceiling fan in the winter to keep the warm air from your heating system circulating properly.

But just like anything else, your ceiling fan will encounter some sort of problem from time to time. While there are certainly some things that you cannot fix on your own, it is a good idea to check on a few items before you call in a professional repair person.

For instance, if you switch on the fan and nothing happens, make sure that all of the controls are in the place they should be. Most ceiling fans have a chain or dial on the body of the fan itself that controls the direction that the fan turns and can even turn it off. However, there is usually also a power switch on the wall. If you flip the switch and the fan does not turn on, there is a good chance that the setting on the fan itself is in the off position.

After ensuring that all of these switches and controls are calibrated properly, you can also take a look at the fuse and the breaker that the fan is connected to. If the breaker is thrown or the fuse is blown, the fan is not getting power and you will have to replace the fuse or reset the breaker to restore power to that circuit.

If that does not solve the mystery either, you may want to test the blades themselves to see if they seem to be stuck on a physical impediment. Ceiling fans do occasionally need to have their bearings lubricated and this is a relatively simple task that you can carry out on your own as well.

However, if none of these actions seems to solve the problem, then you will probably need to call in a professional to assess the situation and make the necessary repairs. There may be a mechanical problem within the fan itself or the wiring could be frayed or fused and these are not repairs you should attempt to make on your own.

Can I Choose Environmentally Friendly Coolants?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Air conditioners are indispensable in many parts of the country, but their environmental impact has long been a source of controversy. In particular, the coolants that were used in the earliest air conditioners, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have done quite a bit of damage to the Earth?s protective ozone layer.

When this affect was discovered, countries all over the world acted to have them phased out of production and use in air conditioning. While CFCs have not been produced since 1995, there are still many air conditioning units functioning today that use CFCs. As these units wear out, of course, the CFCs will gradually disappear from use altogether.

Another type of coolant that is commonly used in air conditioners is hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These have a slightly lower environmental impact than their cousin CFCs, but they are still not ideal in terms of preserving the ozone layer and impeding the progress of global warming. HCFCs are gradually being phased out as well, and they will no longer be produced at all by 2030.

However, it is still possible to buy air conditioners that use HCFCs as a coolant, and if you can avoid this, you should. HCFCs are not nearly as environmentally friendly as some of the other options on the market, and if you are concerned about the effect that these types of chemicals can have on our environment, it is best to steer clear of air conditioners that use HCFCs.

So what coolants are considered environmentally friendly? Well, there are actually two options in this regard. The first are hydroflourocarbons (HFCs). Although they are quite similar to CFCs and HCFCs, HFCs do not contain chlorine and so do not do the type of damage that their predecessors were capable of. You can find air conditioners that use HFCs relatively easily by looking for an ?ozone friendly? label on the box.

Refrigerant blends are also becoming a more and more popular environmentally friendly coolant solution for air conditioners as well. Although these types of coolants typically cost more to produce and so can drive up the cost of the air conditioners that use them, they should begin to come down in price as they are more widely adopted across the industry. Just as with HFCs, look for the ?ozone friendly? label to identify air conditioners that use refrigerant blends as coolants.

Unlicensed Contractors – Never a Good Choice

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

It’s good to know that you can call on quality professionals at Air National to do the job right. Here’s hoping these guys have learned a lesson:

What Are the Benefits of Having a Ceiling Fan?

Monday, April 25th, 2011

There are definitely some days every year that would be pretty miserable to get through without the benefit of a central air conditioning system in your home. And since you have a central air conditioning system in place, it may seem silly and unnecessary to think about having ceiling fans put in as well. There are actually quite a few benefits of having ceiling fans, however, regardless of what kind of central air conditioning system you have or how powerful it is.

Ceiling fans are not too expensive to put in and they take very little energy to run. But the breeze they produce can have a powerful cooling effect on a room. In fact, running a ceiling fan can make you feel up to eight degrees cooler than you would otherwise.

While this certainly is not enough on a really hot day, it can actually be plenty when the weather is not all that hot. But even if you have your central air conditioning turned on, you can still benefit from running your ceiling fan. That is because the cooling effect of the ceiling fan can allow you to turn up the thermostat for your air conditioner, resulting in a considerable savings on your cooling bill.

Because ceiling fans are so cheap to run, they can complement central air conditioning systems nicely and will provide significant savings over time. Running an air conditioning system alone can certainly keep you cool and comfortable all summer long, but it will also cost you considerably more than if you were to throw a ceiling fan into the mix as well.

And that is not all a ceiling fan can do to help you stay comfortable all year long. In fact, ceiling fans can also be of use in the winter because they help to return the warmer air to the lower parts of your rooms. Warmer air will naturally rise, meaning that your heating system will have to work harder and harder to keep the air in the lower part of your room warm. But with a ceiling fan in place, that warmer air will be re-circulated throughout the house to keep you warmer and help keep your energy bills down at the same time.

How a Thermostat Works

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Your thermostat is designed to closely monitor and maintain the temperature in your home. When you flip the switch, you want your furnace or air conditioner to respond immediately. So, it’s a good idea to learn how it works so that if there is a problem, not only will you know better what needs to be fixed – you can decide whether to call a professional in for help.

Thermostats shouldn’t need input from you other than to set the initial temperature. From there, they are automatic switches. A thermometer inside the thermostat measures the indoor air temperature. When it gets above or below the limit you’ve specified, it triggers the thermostat to send a message to your home comfort system and keep things nice and comfortable.

Types of Thermostat

Thermostats come in two forms – electromechanical and electronic. An electromechanical thermostat is the simplest and has been used for decades to regulate temperature in homes. It has a simple strip or coil of metal that expands as the temperature rises and contract as it lowers. A mercury thermometer is placed on top of the strip. The coil’s movements cause the vial to tip as the temperature changes. There is a pair of electrical contacts on either end of the vial. The mercury can absorb that electrical current when the electrical contacts touch the thermometer. The mercury then acts as a switch to turn on your comfort system.

An electronic thermostat simply has an electronic sensor that measures the indoor air temperature. You set a temperature for your room and when it changes significantly, the switch inside your electronic thermostat is triggered, causing it to turn on your comfort system.

Ways to Upgrade Your Thermostat

Most homes only need the bare minimum in their thermostats. However, there is some very exciting technology on the market these days that can add quite a bit of value to your system. Not only can you install a programmable thermostat, you can opt for zone control systems that allow multiple thermostats in different rooms of your home.

Programming allows you to set temperatures for certain times of the day. This is especially great if you are gone from the house for long periods of time each day. Why heat or cool a home when it is empty? And if you have multiple people with different temperature needs, zone control temperature control allows you to set specific temperatures for specific rooms in your home – a very enticing option for large families or multi-story homes.

The Benefits of a Well-Insulated Home

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Insulation is a vitally important part of your home. While it is not something you look at or probably even think about much, the amount and quality of the insulation in your home can have a dramatic impact on many aspects of your quality of life while you are living there.

The most basic reason that insulation is important is that it keeps the cold air out in the winter and the heat out in the summer. Without proper insulation at these times of year, your house will be much less comfortable than it would if you had high quality insulation in the right places.

Going hand in hand with this, of course, is the fact that proper insulation will help you get more out of your home heating and cooling system. By preventing outdoor conditions from affecting the temperature indoors, insulation makes it easier for your HVAC system to keep your home comfortable all year round. That means that the HVAC system uses less energy and is subjected to less wear and tear.

And because proper insulation aids in temperature control, it also helps to keep moisture problems from developing. When there is too much or too little moisture in your indoor air, it can have serious consequences, both for you and for your wood furniture and fixtures. Too little moisture will quickly dry out your skin and can make cold and allergy symptoms worse.

Dry air also can make it harder for your heating system to keep your house warm enough to be comfortable and it can take away from the ability of your indoor air cleaner to remove contaminants from your indoor air. Air that is too moist, on the other hand, will make it more likely that mold will develop in various areas of your house.

Mold needs moisture to grow, and it also often prefers dark, warm areas. For that reason, you can have a significant mold problem and not even realize is if the mold is growing in the walls or in crawlspaces beneath the floor.

Proper insulation, however, can keep excessive humidity from becoming a problem and make it easier to create a comfortable indoor environment all around. Some types of insulation can even keep many potential indoor air contaminants and allergens from getting into your home in the first place.

Is a Heat Pump Right for Your Home?

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Deciding which type of home comfort system to go with can be a difficult process to navigate. There are a ton of factors to take into account including how much you will be using the system, what type of fuel you mainly rely on and what the specific climate is like where you live.

Heat pumps are a great home comfort solution for many people but they aren’t always the appropriate choice. However, there are many benefits to going with a heat pump system, so this is certainly an option you should keep in mind as you evaluate your options.

Heat pumps work by extracting heat from the air in one place and then transferring that heat to another space. For instance, in the winter, heat pumps take heat from the outside air and pump it into your house. In the summer, on the other hand, your heat pump will be able to take heat from your indoor air and pump it back outside, thereby keeping your home cool and comfortable.

Heat pumps are also extremely energy efficient because they don’t actually have to generate the heat they pump. Unlike furnaces, which take in fuel and convert it into heat, heat pumps simply harness the heat that’s already there, making them by far the more energy efficient option.

Another benefit to heat pumps is that they maintain a more constant temperature than many other types of heating systems do. Rather than pumping in a big blast of hot air and then waiting until the temperature indoors falls below a preset level before doing it again, heat pumps provide a relatively constant stream of warm air.

The initial amount of heat is smaller than what you might be used to from a furnace, but the cumulative effect means that you’ll be able to enjoy a much more consistently comfortable indoor environment.

It is important to evaluate the climate in your area before you decide to purchase a heat pump, though. These systems are extremely effective at heating and cooling your home as long as temperatures stay above the mid-thirties.

Below that, you may need to install some type of supplemental heating in order to keep your home warm enough on those really cold days. So if you live in an area where temperatures routinely dip below freezing for large portions of the winter, a heat pump might not be the most sensible solution for you.

Heat Pump Noise Considerations

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Whenever you’re looking into replacing your old home heating system or installing a new one, there are many different factors you’ll have to take into consideration. The amount of noise that the system you choose will make is certainly one of these. And in addition to the amount of noise that this system will make, you’ll also want to make a note of where the unit will be placed and so where the noise will be coming from.

While you may have had to worry a bit about the noise generated by heat pumps in the past, it’s not something you’ll have to take into consideration this time around. That’s because newer heat pumps are designed to be quieter than ever, providing the same heating and cooling power with only a fraction of the noise of some earlier models.

In fact, the only part of a heat pump that really makes any noise at all is the outdoor unit. Unless this needs to be located very close to your home or to a window of a room that you use often, chances are that you won’t even hear it at all.

However, if you live very close to your neighbors or don’t have a lot of outdoor space, you may have to put the outdoor unit close to the walls of your home. Even then, though, you’ll hardly notice the noise your heat pump makes. Years of research and redesigning have produced some of the quietest heat pumps yet and that’s what you’ll be buying if you’re in the market for one of these systems now.

Newer heat pumps have been tweaked and adjusted to minimize the amount of noise-generating vibrations they produce. In fact, you’ll probably find that most of these units make no more noise than your refrigerator. They’re efficient and quiet and can keep your home comfortable all year long.

LEED Accreditation ? What Is It, and How Can I Get It for my Home?

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an internationally-recognized green building rating system based on standards developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

The LEED system is voluntary and offers homebuyers third-party verification that a home is sustainable, water efficient, and energy-saving; is designed to conserve construction materials and reduce pollution; and has clean indoor air.

Homes that are candidates for LEED accreditation are rated on a 100-point scale. The home must satisfy all minimum requirements and earn a minimum number of total points. Key areas of evaluation include:

  • Sustainability of Building Site. The home’s impact on ecosystems and waterways must be minimized, as must erosion, light pollution, and construction-related pollution.
  • Water Efficiency. The home must have water-efficient appliances and fixtures and regionally appropriate landscaping.
  • Energy and Atmosphere. The home must have energy-efficient design, appliances, systems, and lighting. More points are awarded for use of clean and renewable energy and other innovative strategies.
  • Materials and Resources. The home must use sustainable materials, and construction and operating waste must be minimized.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality. The home must have high indoor air quality, good indoor acoustics, and access to natural daylight and views.
  • Locations and Linkages. The LEED standard promotes building in previously-developed, ‘infill’, or ‘brownfield’ sites and away from undeveloped and/or environmentally-sensitive sites. Points are also awarded for building near existing retail and transit infrastructure and outdoor recreation areas.
  • Awareness and Education. Home builders are encouraged to teach new homeowners about the green features of their home so that they can be maximally utilized.
  • Innovation in Design. Points are awarded for home design that is innovative and goes ‘above and beyond’ existing LEED requirements, and for including a LEED certified professional on the design team.
  • Regional Priority. Bonus points are awarded for taking into account the regional environmental concerns that have been identified by USGBC’s regional councils.

LEED accreditation doesn’t just make sense from an environmental standpoint. It also makes good financial sense:

  • LEED accreditation offers great ROI for new construction – some studies have shown that an upfront investment of 2% in green building design can result in long term savings of 20% on total construction costs.
  • LEED-certified homes generally have lower operating costs.
  • LEED-certified homes are more attractive to buyers and renters (according to studies, commercial LEED-certified buildings have higher occupancy rates, higher rent-per-square foot, and higher per-square-foot sale prices than comparable non-LEED buildings).
  • LEED certification may provide some protection against indoor air quality lawsuits.

LEED accreditation can only be granted to new construction or major remodeling projects. To apply for LEED accreditation, contact a LEED for Homes Provider organization in your area. The LEED for Homes Provider organization will work with your builder to ensure that your home qualifies and will guide you through the accreditation process.

Ductless vs. Duct Air Conditioning Systems

Monday, April 11th, 2011

When it comes time to pick out a new air conditioning system for your home, you will have to make the choice between ductless and duct models. While both of these types of systems have their advantages, the specifics of your situation will go a long way to determining which one is right for you.

Ductless air conditioning systems are becoming more and more popular these days for a number of reasons. For one, they are generally considered more energy efficient than their ducted counterparts. Also, ductless systems are often cheaper and simpler to install, particularly in a house that does not already contain ductwork.

These types of air conditioners use refrigerant lines to connect the indoor unit or units to the outdoor compressor. The refrigerant lines take up much less space than ducts do and they also are much easier to install. Refrigerant lines can also reach into areas of your house that ducts may not be able to, making it possible for you to bring the benefits of air conditioning to places that did not have access to it before.

The indoor unit of a ductless air conditioning system can generally handle the cooling load of one or two rooms, but if you want to cool a larger space, it will be necessary to install multiple indoor units throughout the house. All of these units can connect to the same outdoor compressor and they can also be controlled individually. That means that you can set different temperatures in different parts of your house and you do not have to pay to cool the entire space if no one is occupying certain parts at the moment.

A duct air conditioning system also involves indoor and outdoor components. However, these elements are connected to each other by a system of ducts rather than by refrigerant lines. In a duct system, cooled air is brought inside from the compressor and then circulated through various ducts by the air handler.

The latest duct systems are quite energy efficient as well, and they can also be coupled with zone control systems to create different climate zones within your house. Particularly if you already have some ducts in place, a duct air conditioning system can be a great option for you.