Archive for August, 2011

Key Components for Annual Maintenance of Your HVAC System: A Guide From Aripeka

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Annual service checkups are an important component of your Aripeka home HVAC system’s ongoing operation. Without these checkups, the system may not run properly when the hottest days of the summer are upon you. While there are some tasks you can perform yourself, most of the vital maintenance tasks need to be performed by a professional annually.

As you look for a contractor to perform your annual maintenance, make sure you find someone who will perform each of the most important tasks listed below for your system each year:

  • Electrical Connections: These should be tightened, tested and replaced as necessary.
  • Thermostat: A professional thermostat calibration ensures the system runs at the right temperature throughout the summer.
  • Control Panel: The control panel is checked for error codes and recalibrated to ensure it continues running as intended for another year.
  • Blower Parts: The fan and motor are checked and serviced as needed. Replacement parts are installed.
  • Condenser Coils and Evaporator: Both are cleaned and checked for signs of wear. Any bent coils are repaired.
  • Gas Connections: An inspection of your gas lines, if applicable, is made. Additionally, if you have electrical components, they will be checked for damage.
  • Exchanger and Combustion Components: If you have a packaged system, these are checked for the entire system.
  • Refrigerant Check: If you have a refrigerant filled air conditioning system, it will be checked to ensure levels are high enough for another summer.
  • Air Filters: While you can do this yourself each month, a professional will check permanent and replaceable filters for wear and tear.
  • Moving Parts: All moving parts are inspected, oiled, and checked for damage. If a part needs replacement it is done now to avoid future problems.

Good annual maintenance is necessary to keep your system running smoothly year round. While there are plenty of cleaning tasks you can perform each month, the most important tasks are those performed by your contractor.

If you are interested in learning more about how maintenance will be performed on your system, call your local contractor today.

Your HVAC System and Electricity: Some Tips From Pinellas Park

Monday, August 29th, 2011

While not every HVAC system in your Pinellas Park home requires electricity, many of them do. Your air conditioner, electric furnace and ventilation system all need access to the central power line. So what does that mean for your system and what problems should be you beware of?

How Your HVAC System Uses Electricity

How your HVAC system works depends largely on which components need electricity to operate. Here is a quick summary of how each system uses electricity:

  • Air Conditioning – Most air conditioners are electric and therefore use electricity based on the number of BTUs produced. For example, if your air conditioner produces 25,000 BTUs and has a SEER of 16, it can produce 16 BTUs for every watt of electricity consumed per hour. As a result, it consumes 1,562.5 watts per hour when the system is running at maximum capacity. If it runs at full capacity for 8 hours per day, 30 days a month in the summer, that’s 375 kilowatt hours – which is the measurement unit you’ll see on your electric bill.
  • Heating – Your heating system may not use electricity, as many homes today use gas or oil combustion furnaces or boilers to produce heat. However, if you have an electric furnace, that electric power is used to heat the filament in the furnace. Electricity also powers the blower fan motor which pushes air across the filament and into the air handler. An electric furnace sized to heat a 1500 square foot home can use up to 8,000 watts per hour to produce enough heat for your home. That converts to roughly 5,000 kilowatt hours per month. The current price of electricity will determine how much this actually costs, you but it can really add up quickly.
  • Ventilation – Your ventilation system is almost always going to use electricity to circulate and filter air. While mechanical filters rely on the movement of air to remove certain particles, ventilation systems have a variety of components including fans and possibly even condenser coils to conserve energy as air is exchanged between the inside and outside.

Electricity plays an important role in your HVAC system no matter how your system works. To ensure yours continues to operate as intended, have your power system checked on a regular basis when the rest of your HVAC system is serviced.

Steps to Take When Your HVAC System Breaks Down: A Guide From Wimauma

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Imagine this: it’s a sweltering summer day in Wimauma. The humidity outside is obscene, hitting you like a wall when you open the door. So, the only place you want to be is on the couch with the cool air conditioned air being blown across your face. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Now, imagine what happens when your air conditioner stops working.

A breakdown in your HVAC system is the absolute last thing you want to experience on a day where the mercury dings 90+ but it can happen, and the only way to ensure things don’t get out of hand is to take the following steps.

  1. Check Common Problems: While the system itself could be broken, make sure there are no other issues involved. Frequently, the electricity supply can be interrupted by a power surge or a tripped breaker. In both cases, you can usually get the system back online by yourself. However, you should call an electrician to inspect it as soon as possible.
  2. Does it Turn On: If the air conditioning system turns on and simply doesn’t provide enough cooling for your home, it is likely a problem in the unit. In this case, check other common problems. Clogged filters can severely reduce efficiency and if the system freezes over, it may stop providing enough cooling.
  3. Still Not Working? : If the system refuses to turn on and there are not clear problems that you can fix yourself, it’s time to call a professional. A professional HVAC contractor should be available almost any day of the week for emergency calls like this. Of course, in the middle of a heat wave or cold snap, it’s very likely that they may be booked up for a couple days. To avoid this happening, have routine maintenance done as often as recommended to avoid the possibility of being without cooling or heating indefinitely.

A good HVAC system is the only thing standing between you and discomfort, or worse, danger to your health. Don’t let the system go into such disrepair that you can’t use it at all.

Federal Energy Efficiency Rebates Explained: A Tip From Gulfport

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

You’ve probably seen the advertisements and heard the sales pitches all over Gulfport. Upgrade your furnace, air conditioner, or insulation and receive a federal rebate on your taxes for a percentage of the installation cost. The government is seriously invested in improving the energy efficiency of the country, cutting electric bills and helping people stay comfortable. Here’s a quick look at some of those rebates and how you can tap into them.

Energy Efficiency Credits

There is a standard tax credit of 10% of the cost up to $500 or a specific amount between $50 and $300 for any upgrade made to your existing home for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, insulation, roofs, or water heaters. These upgrades must be made on an existing home in which you currently live – rentals and new construction homes are not eligible.

Are the Tax Credits Worth It?

The big question is whether these credits are worth the investment in a brand new system? For the most part, it depends on your particular situation. If you have a 30 year old furnace and are planning on an upgrade anyways, why not take advantage of a nice rebate and get a more energy efficient system to go with it? However, if you just replaced your furnace three years ago and it works very well with a high energy efficiency rating, it might not be worth the investment.

Learn More

The Energy Star program run by the EPA contains detailed breakdowns of the 2011 tax credits, including what systems are eligible and how to go about claiming them on next year’s taxes. Learn more by visiting their official page.

How Do EER and SEER Work? A Question From St. Pete Beach

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

If you’ve looked for a new air conditioner in St. Pete Beach recently, you probably noticed each unit comes with an EER or SEER rating. The former is for room air conditioners and the latter for central air conditioning units. In both cases, the number is a measure of how efficiently the system uses electricity. Effectively, if you buy a system with a high rating, you spend less on electricity. Of course, there are tradeoffs. The higher rated machines tend to cost much more, so as a homeowner, you’ll have to evaluate how much you can spend now and how long it will take to save money from that investment.

How EER and SEER Are Measured

These numbers are required by the government to tell you, the consumer, how many BTUs per hour the device can use for every watt of electricity drawn. The more BTUs a system can use, the better for your bill.

Let’s say you want to buy a 10,000 BTU system to cool your living room and dining room. A pretty standard number for a single room unit is 11, meaning the 10,000 BTU system would use about 900 watts per hour to run at full capacity. We figure this out by dividing the BTUs (10,000) by the watts (900).

There is a lot of math to do here, so many people simply look for a higher number within their price range. But, at what point is the upgrade really worth your extra money?

Choosing the Right Energy Efficiency Rating

The easiest way to describe this is to compare two similar devices with different EERs:

Air Conditioner 1 Air Conditioner 2
BTUs 12,000 12,000
EER 9 11
Watts 1333 1091
Price $300 $450

In this particular case, we can spend more for a device that is the same size but uses less electricity. The question then is whether that increased expenditure will pay off in the short term. Let’s assume each device would be operated for 10 hours per day for 30 days in a typical summer month. That’s 300 hours of operation. If the average cost per kWh in you are is $0.09, it will take 4 hours for the first air conditioner to consume 1 extra kilowatt of electricity equal to an additional $0.09. If your air conditioner runs for four months out of the year, we know that it will operate for a total of 1200 hours. That means:

[(1200 hrs x 242 watts) / (1000 watts/kw) ] x $0.09/kWh = $26

So, you save roughly $26 per year from that high efficiency unit. With a $150 price difference, you will break even after 6 years (though probably sooner if the price of electricity goes up).

Don’t forget, however, that central systems are a much more efficient option with SEERs of up to 16.5 and much larger BTU areas to cover. The savings there can add up very quickly. If you need more information about energy efficient HVAC products, contact your contractor.

Choosing an Environmentally Friendly Refrigerant for Your Air Conditioner in Brandon

Friday, August 19th, 2011

For years, we heard about how bad air conditioners were for the environment. Specifically, the liquid used in them to remove heat from air in your Brandon home tended to eat holes in the Ozone layer. Today however, air conditioners (along with every other appliance or device that uses refrigerant) have been upgraded to work with newer, better chemicals.

R-22 Refrigerant

While R-22 refrigerant is still used in devices sold today, it is being gradually phased out. According to the Montreal Protocol, R-22 refrigerant will no longer be allowed in new devices as of January 1, 2020 in the United States (though it can be used to service existing devices via recycled or reused refrigerant). While the most environmentally damaging refrigerants such as HCFC-141b have been removed from the market, R-22 is still considered harmful to the environment if allowed to enter the atmosphere.

R-410A Refrigerant

So, if R-22 will soon not be permitted (and is not an environmentally friendly option), what is? Currently, the most common refrigerant used in new residential air conditioners is R-410A. After the Clean Air Act was passed, the EPA reviewed a number of refrigerants to determine which were the least damaging to the environment (and human health) and which could be used as alternatives to R-22. At the top of the list is R-410A, a blend of different HFCs that don’t deplete the ozone. Sometimes called Puron, Forane, or Genetron AZ-20, R-410A is a good choice if you’re having a new system installed.

Other Alternatives

Of course, because R-410A is a hydrofluorocarbon, it does contribute to global warming and therefore is a risk to the environment, albeit in a much smaller capacity than older refrigerants. Recently, the EPA approved the use of HFO-1234yf  - a chemical that pollutes 99.7% less than the current refrigerant used in car air conditioners. Whether it will be used in homes and commercial spaces remains to be seen, but the technology is advancing rapidly, allowing us to stay cool without sacrificing our planet’s health and future to do so.

Another alternative is to invest in an evaporative cooling system rather than a traditional air conditioner. These systems use no HFCs at all and therefore have zero impact on the ozone layer or global warming (other than the electricity they consume). They also use 80% less energy than traditional air conditioners. If you live in a dry, low humidity climate they are a great option.

The Room by Room Benefits of Ductless Splits AC: A Tip From St. Petersburg

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Ductless splits air conditioners are designed to eliminate the need for ductwork in a house where space is at a premium, as in some St. Petersburg homes. Usually homeowners with older homes – those built before the 1970s – have very little space to work with when it comes to installing the ductwork a traditional central air conditioning system requires. These homes are often heated with radiant boiler systems and have window units to provide cooling in warmer weather. As a result, cooling costs can be extremely high each summer and the house usually isn’t comfortable during these months.

Ductless air conditioning offers a solution to most of these problems. Not only does the technology not require ductwork to be installed; it allows for multiple in-room units on a single compressor and it costs significantly less to operate compared to window AC units.

Ductless System Specifications

Ductless air conditioning systems consist of two major components: a compressor which is placed outside and indoor evaporators. With the use of inverter technology, these systems can support multiple evaporators – usually as many as four to a single condenser. This means you can have a single outdoor unit supporting cooling four separate rooms of your home at the same time.

Each of those indoor evaporators acts as a heat pump, allowing you to both heat and cool the room year round. And because the only connection needed between evaporator and condenser is a single refrigerant line, the cost of installation is significantly lower than it would be for a ductwork based central AC system.

Room by Room Benefits

While the primary benefit of a ductless system is the fact that it allows you to install air conditioning in multiple rooms of your house without the need for ductwork, there are other benefits. Not only do you get a much higher energy efficiency rating than you would with traditional window units (many ductless systems are rated at 16 SEER or higher while window units are frequently as low as 10 or 11), but you can control each unit individually. So if a room upstairs doesn’t need to be cooled during the afternoon hours, simply turn off the thermostat in that part of the house and save money.

There are some factors to consider when installing a ductless system. How many rooms do you need cooled? How warm does it get in the summer? Will the system be used for heating in the winter? These are all things you may want to discuss in greater detail with your contractor when you call for an estimate.

Simple Filter Tips to Keep Your Ducts Clean in Saint Leo

Monday, August 15th, 2011

If there’s one thing you can count on with your Saint Leo home comfort system, it’s that there will be higher energy bills in the summer and an increase in dust and debris in your ductwork. But, luckily, the latter can be fixed with a few simple filtration upgrades in your home.

The Nature of a Forced Air System

When you flip the switch on your thermostat and your air conditioner or furnace turns on, it starts drawing air from inside your house, conditioning it to the right temperature, and then circulating it back into your rooms through an air handler and ductwork. Of course, a good system should have proper ventilation to circulate new air into the house, but let’s face it: no matter how much ventilation you have in your home, there will always be dust and debris from things like pets, plants and other common household items.

So, when the air gets circulated back through the ducts, all sorts of debris and sediment build up. That’s not to mention the possible presence of actual contaminants like bacteria or mold. Luckily, because of how your forced air system is built, these are not tough problems to deal with.

Installing the Right Filters

Filtration is incredibly important for adding the right level of protection to your home’s ductwork. Usually placed directly within your air handlers, whole house air filters are designed to capture particles as small as 0.3 microns (if you purchase a high quality HEPA filter). That pretty much covers all dust, sediment, pollen, dander and other common allergens.

There are a number of other upgrades you can make to capture just about everything you house spits into those ducts – from bacteria and viruses to smoke and other air pollutants, but at the very least a good filter system will save your lungs, cut back on duct cleaning costs and make it much easier to maintain your home’s air quality throughout the year.

To learn more about HEPA filters and the specific ratings offered in various products, here is a link to the EPA’s guide to home air cleaners. It has a handy breakdown of different types of filtration and what each filter grade can capture.

Old Equipment You Really Shouldn’t Keep: A Tip From Clearwater

Friday, August 12th, 2011

When you move into an existing home, in Clearwater or anywhere else, there are many pieces of equipment that you may not want to keep. Some of them are just old and poor quality, while others cost you a lot of money and others still may be dangerous to you or your children. Before you settle into your space, make sure you have every one of your systems checked thoroughly for potential problems including inefficient heating, dangerous parts or environmentally unfriendly components.

Energy Cost

Number one on your list should be the cost of the energy needed to run your HVAC equipment. Furnaces and air conditioners in particular have become much more energy efficient in the last 10 years so older systems routinely cost much more money to operate than new ones. That doesn’t mean you should immediately rush out to replace your old furnace, but if it isn’t working properly or it’s costing you more money than you’d like, the cost benefit of a new system is often worth checking into.

Other things to check include your insulation, your air quality system, your ventilation system and anything used to heat or cool food in the kitchen – all of which may be less efficient than you might like.

Ozone Depleting Refrigerants

Older appliances like air conditioners may still use ozone depleting refrigerants that are no longer considered safe (or in some cases legal) for home use. If this is the case, not only does your system probably have a very low SEER rating, it likely isn’t good for the environment or your own health. So, have your system replaced as soon as possible to avoid potentially negative side effects.

Dangerous Equipment

Finally, there are those pieces of equipment that are dangerous. If you find that your furnace has rust around the edges, your gas lines are kinked, or you have a dangerously out of date heat pump in your backyard, it may be time for some replacements. In general, these systems will last for years longer than they are considered safe and while you probably cannot buy a house without a working and safe furnace and air conditioner, you should still have them inspected carefully and replaced as soon as possible if you suspect problems.

Good HVAC equipment is hard to come by – if your home has it already, you’re in luck, but if you happen to move into a place with poor quality materials and equipment, have it replaced as soon as possible. Your health and wallet will both benefit greatly.

How Do I Reduce Dust in My Home? A Question From Apollo Beach

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Dust is everywhere. There is no way to stop it from occurring, so instead we turn to cleaning and filtration to keep the amount of dust circulating through the air to a minimum. Luckily, there are quite a few things you can do, even without installing new equipment, to reduce dust levels in your Apollo Beach home.

Duct Cleaning

First on the list is regular duct cleaning. You dust your furniture and your floors, so why not clean out your ductwork? Properly cleaned ductwork is very important because of just how much stuff can build up in there over time. Imagine regular air flow in an enclosed space that never gets cleaned. How much dust and debris do you think could build up over the course of a year? Hint: it’s enough to keep a steady flow of dust in your indoor air.

Professional duct cleaning is important and should be done once every year or two depending on how often you use your home comfort system. However, you should also clean in and around the vents and ducts in your home where you can reach. This can be done weekly and will help immensely to reduce dust.

Filtration

Most air filters equipped with high quality HEPA filters work extremely well to remove dust from the air. Because HEPA filters can capture particles as small as 0.3 microns, they won’t just remove dust, but pollen, pet dander and even mold. Mold especially is a problem that occurs in far greater frequency in homes without filtration.

Simple air filtration is an affordable solution to a lot of different contaminants, so it’s a good fit for any home. However, there are more powerful systems as well that will reduce both dust and pathogens like bacteria – these purifiers use ionization to draw particles from the air electronically.

Humidity

Humidity imbalance can cause dust problems as well. Low humidity leads to more dead skin and dust in the house, while high humidity causes the development of dust mites. Properly regulating your humidity to slightly less than 50% will create a perfect environment in which less dust is created and circulated in your home.

The best way to reduce dust is to take a three pronged approach to indoor air quality. Cleanliness is always first on the list, but after that don’t neglect the value of filtration and proper humidity control. When used properly, these three things will ensure dust never bothers you again.