Archive for the ‘Energy Savings’ Category

10 Creative Ways to Save Money on Heating This Winter

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Although most homeowners are relieved that they can reduce their air conditioner usage once the winter arrives, the utility bill can still be high due to the heater. With the snow falling outside and the temperatures dropping, it can feel cozy to bundle up and turn the heater on during the holiday season. To save money on heating this winter and reduce your energy bill, there are a few creative ways to cut the cost and still feel cozy while spending time indoors.

living-room

Photo Credit: DesignRulz.com

1. Rely on a Fireplace

Instead of spending extra money by using your HVAC system to stay warm, rely on a fireplace to heat the room and reduce the chill in the air.

2. Use Heavy Window Treatments

By installing heavy window treatments in the most common rooms of the home, it will help to insulate the space and prevent heat from escaping through the windows.

3. Bake Meals in the Oven

Kill two birds with one stone by baking dinner in the oven each night for dinner, which will also release heat into the kitchen and surrounding rooms for an easy way to feel cozy while spending time indoors.

4. Add Extra Insulation

To minimize heat transfer that occurs in the attic, blow insulation in the space to control moisture and reduce heat that is lost for an easy way to reduce your energy bill by 20 to 30 percent.

5. Turn on Space Heaters

If only one or two people are home in the winter season, it’s important to rely on portable space heaters to stay warm instead of heating up the whole house.

6. Weatherstrip Windows and Doors

To prevent heat loss, seal windows and doors where leaks may be present and seal any openings where light fixtures or ceiling fans were installed.

7. Open the Blinds

The more sun that is let into your home, the more that each room will increase in temperature. Open the blinds during the mornings for an inexpensive way of heating the space. Close the blinds at dusk to trap the heat.

8. Adjust the Thermostat

When you’re away from the home or sleeping during the night, it’s important to adjust the thermostat by 10 degrees to shed an extra 20 percent off of your energy bill.

9. Add Shag Area Rugs

To warm up the floors and keep more heat in the room, rely on large shag rugs that will offer extra comfort on bare floors.

10. Change the Direction of Ceiling Fan Blades

Changing the direction of your ceiling fan blades can push the heat back down as it rises in the room during the winter season.

For more home ideas including HVAC tips check out Modernize.

Tampa Energy Saving Tip: Common Causes of Drafts in Your Home

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

If you find your Tampa heating and cooling bills are routinely too high, there is a common reason. Most of the time it is due to air leaks and drafts in your home that allow warm air to escape and cold air to enter and visa versa. Here are some common causes of such leaks and what you can do about them.

Sources of Drafts in Your Home

There are obvious drafts and less obvious ones. Let’s start by looking at the drafts that are most obvious:

  • Outlets and Plates
  • Windows
  • Baseboards
  • Attic
  • Air Conditioners
  • Weather Stripping

You can probably do a quick inspection of your home by yourself to check for these potential air leaks and find whatever may be causing the problem. The easiest way to check for drafts is simply to hold your hand up to the space and check for a change in air flow. You can also get a portable thermometer and see if the air temperature is different in those areas than it is in the center of the room or by the thermostat.

Insulation Inspection

Insulation is probably already in your home, but with time it can thin, get leaks or tear. Look for gaps in insulation or drafts coming through. A professional can inspect your insulation as well and make sure that it is still holding as much heat in as it was originally rated for. If you know that your insulation values are too low or that the insulation is particularly old, it may be a good time to have it inspected by a Tampa HVAC professional.

Making Changes

If you notice easy to fix drafts in your home, fix them immediately and you’ll be shocked by how much energy you save. For larger leaks such as your insulation, loose windows or problems with your doors, consider calling someone who is an expert in closing up air drafts and keeping your home both comfortable and affordable to heat and cool.

For more information about how to save energy this year, give Air National a call today!

How to Calibrate Your Thermostat: A Guide from Dade City

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Have you ever set the thermostat in your Dade City home to a desired temperature and ‘hoped for the best’? Maybe it’s because the temperature setting you expected this finely tuned instrument to maintain just isn’t right. You may see 70 degrees on the thermostat but the home feels more like 65 degrees. In fact, if you used a hand-held thermostat, you might get real proof that your thermostat is not working like it should.

There are reasons for a malfunctioning thermostat and solutions to correct them, namely calibration. First, let’s look at some reasons why a thermostat can be out of kilter.

The first thing to note is that thermostats are very sensitive instruments and change to the slightest changes in temperature. An incorrectly installed thermostat or one that is accidentally bumped or jarred can malfunction. It may wind up out of level, causing it to operate incorrectly. Possibly the most common problem affecting accuracy is a build-up of dirt, which can affect the calibration of the thermostat. Other problems may be caused by loose wiring.

Here are some steps you can take to check your thermostat for accuracy and recommended actions.

  1. Use a standard glass thermometer to check the room temperature. You should mount it on the wall nearby your thermostat and use some padding to keep it from actually coming in contact with the wall, which could affect the readings.
  2. Wait 15-30 minutes for the thermometer to adjust to the temperature and enable it to give the most accurate reading. Once the time has elapsed, compare its temperature reading to that on your thermostat.
  3. If there is more than a one degree variation, your thermostat may be dirty. Remove its faceplate and examine it. If there is dirt or dust inside, blow it out. If you can reach the contact points, you can clean them with a new dollar bill (and speaking of dollars, a clean and accurate thermostat will make your furnace run more efficiently and save you money on your utility bill).
  4. Some thermostats use a mercury vial which can indicate if the thermostat is level or not. If it is not level, a simple adjustment using a screwdriver may do the trick. In the worst case, you may have to remove the thermostat and drill a new hole to reinstall the mounting screw in a different location.
  5. Now that you have made these corrections, check both thermostats to see if the temperatures match. If they don’t, try steps 3 and 4 again. If that still doesn’t work, your problem may be more than just a dirty, lopsided thermostat. You may need to replace the thermostat – or even look at the heating system in its entirety. It could be time to call a professional heating contractor to check out your entire system.

Today’s thermostats have few working components but are very sensitive, advanced instruments. It takes little to throw off a thermostat but luckily, it takes little effort to correct the resulting problems.

Things You Can Do To Make Your Home Comfort System More Effective in Dover

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Have you ever wondered why it is too hot or too cold in your Dover home? You can always blame it on the thermostat or an open or closed window. Those are easy targets. But maybe the real culprit is your heating and cooling system, namely your furnace or air conditioner. Maybe these pieces of equipment have to work extra hard because of something as simple as a dirty filter that you should have cleaned or replaced.

Learning how to make your heating and cooling system more ‘effective’ does not require a special degree or an extensive knowledge of the refrigeration cycle. In most cases, it just takes common sense – and a little creativity.

For example, did you know that how your home is insulated can have a direct impact on how well your heating and cooling equipment functions? It sure can. If your walls, crawl spaces, or attic is poorly insulated or not insulated at all, your furnace and air conditioner will have to work harder to keep up – and keep you warm or cool. In some cases, your heating and cooling equipment might never be able to give you the desired temperature on your thermostat setting because the equipment has to work too hard to make up for lost heat or cooling due to poor insulation.

So what should you do? Find out if your home is properly insulated by having a load calculation or energy audit on your home. Any licensed and qualified heating and cooling contractor will be able to perform one of these tasks for you and show you where you might be losing too much of your indoor air to poor insulation. This same test can also detect any leakage through cracks in the foundation or joints or connections in ductwork. Windows and skylights are also an area of heat loss or gain. Installing awnings or trees can cut down on this loss or gain, too.

One way to make a heating and cooling system operate more effectively is to combine insulation and leak sealing. Here’s how that works. Uninsulated metal ductwork can make a heating and cooling system work harder, especially when it is located in poorly insulated areas like crawlspaces and attics. Warm air moving through a cold space slows the heating process and makes a furnace work harder to achieved desired temperature settings. Similarly, cool air passing through hot metal ductwork makes the air conditioner work harder. By wrapping insulation around the metal ductwork, you can stop heating or cooling your attic and crawlspace and send that conditioned air to the rooms that need it.

Another way to ‘assist’ your heating and cooling system is to help with its air flow. In some homes, floor vents are built near outside walls or windows. Warm or cool air is vented up along the walls and windows and never flows evenly in the room. The solution is to buy inexpensive plastic air diverters which attach to the vents using magnets on the diverter. You can adjust the diverter to changing the air flow to the places that need it most – occupied spaces.

Of course, the most effective heating and cooling system is one that is serviced and properly maintained on a regular basis. If you have any questions on system maintenance, call your local qualified professional heating and cooling contractor and schedule a tune-up today.

Will My Air Conditioning Work Better with Dehumidification? A Question From Palmetto

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

There are a number of common misconceptions about humidity and air conditioning and how one affects the other in your Palmetto home. In truth, humidity is a major part of the discomfort we feel when the mercury rises. It can be 78 degrees outside but feel miserable simply because the humidity is high. So, many people wonder whether a dehumidifier is a good solution to moderate heat and how it will work in tandem with an air conditioner.

Humidity and Your Air Conditioner

First, remember that air conditioning naturally lowers humidity because it cycles air through its condenser and evaporator coil. Conditioned air is naturally lower in humidity, regardless of what’s going on outside. So, if it is hot outside and humid, an air conditioner alone is very effective. On the other hand, a dehumidifier is useful is when the temperature isn’t that high but the humidity is.

Dehumidification not only lowers the relative humidity in your home, it reduces the need for cooling because you will feel more comfortable. Not only that, but a dehumidifier costs significantly less to run. So, when the temperature outside isn’t that high, there is no need to use thousands of watts per day of electricity just to stay comfortable.

This also reduces the overall wear on your air conditioner. Since it doesn’t need to run 24 hours a day to reduce humidity, wear and tear on the device is reduced and you save a tremendous amount of money on repairs and eventual replacement costs.

When to Use a Dehumidifier Alone

Generally, the Department of Energy recommends setting your air conditioner to 78 degrees and using a combination of a dehumidifier and fans to stay cool while it is off. If the temperature rises above that level, the air conditioner will turn on and supplement your dehumidifier. Consider too that a dehumidifier will reduce the burden placed on your air conditioner to pull humidity from the air. Humid air takes more energy to cool than dry air. Despite the fact that dehumidifiers will often raise the air temperature by 1-2 degrees, they save energy and make you more comfortable.

So, if you’re looking for a way to reduce your energy bill and enhance the longevity of your air conditioner, look no further than a quality dehumidifier.

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.

Home Energy Myths

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Measuring and controlling your home’s energy consumption is a little tricky. There are plenty of talking heads and information resources on the internet that tell you how it’s supposed to work, but in most cases you’ll find that so called common knowledge about your home’s energy use isn’t always true. Here are some of the most common myths and how to differentiate from the truth.

  1. Conservation and Efficiency Are Different: Many people think that by getting an energy efficient appliance, they are conserving energy and helping the environment. To some degree this is true. However, in reality, you are merely reducing how much energy it takes to complete a task. Conservation is finding ways to actually stop using energy for common tasks. Taking baths instead of showers, not watering your lawn, and turning off lights completely are all examples of conservation.
  2. Turning Off an Appliance Saves a Lot of Energy: Regardless of whether an appliance is physically on or not, it still consumes power as long as it is plugged in. The only way to completely stop your energy consumption is to unplug an item completely or use a power strip that blocks access to electricity when the switch is turned to off.
  3. Turning on Items Creates a Power Surge:  While turning a computer on and off uses a bit more electricity than simply leaving it on all the time, it isn’t a significant difference. In fact, the longer you leave an appliance on, the more it wears down and the faster it starts to use extra power to remain effective.
  4. Extra Insulation Creates Pressure: If you insulate a certain area of your home, you don’t need to worry about air leaking out. While it’s a good idea to complete all of your insulation at the same time, if you skip the windows or doors for now, it won’t hurt. All insulation is a good investment, no matter how much you install at any given time.
  5. One Energy Source is Cheaper than Another: This depends largely on the type of energy source you have for heating and cooling, the cost of that source and how much heating and cooling you need. A single portable electric heater is cheaper than running your entire oil heating system. But, electric heaters are rarely cheaper if you use them to heat your entire home.

Myths abound when it comes to energy use around your home. Make sure to get all the facts before making decisions that could end up costing you more money in the long run.

Home Repairs You Don’t Want to Ignore

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

There are a lot of things you need to take care of around your home. But, everything costs money so many homeowners will put off certain home repairs for weeks, months or even years until they can afford them. However, there are certain things around the house you simply should not put off. Not only can they cost you more money in the long run, they can put your home and your family at risk if you wait too long.

Dirty Filters

Dirty filters in your air conditioning, heating, or air quality system are a problem. Not only do they force your HVAC system to work harder to maintain a good temperature, they are frequently a major cause of airborne contaminants and pathogens. Imagine it this way; those filters are meant to remove something from your air. If they get dirty and are not replaced or cleaned, they probably aren’t working any longer and you can get sick. Dirty filters are inexpensive and easy to fix. Both you and your HVAC repairperson should see to them regularly.

Dryer Vents

Clogged dryer vents are more than just an inconvenience – they are dangerous. If your home has dirty dryer vents, the exhaust from your dryer isn’t able to escape. When this happens, heat will build up in the ducts. Not only can exhaust backup into your home, the risk of a fire goes up significantly. Have your dryer vents cleaned at least once a year and if you live in a two or three family house, make sure it is more often – closer to every 6 months.

Flexible Gas Connectors

Gas connectors are used to transfer gas from the supply entering your home to various appliances like your stove, water heater and furnace. So, there is a lot of natural gas passing through them each day. If they are not properly cared for, that natural gas can start to leak from the connectors and eventually build up in your home to an unsafe level. You should have a carbon monoxide detector installed on every floor of your home and you should have someone come out and check your system regularly for problems.

Water Leaks

Water leaks are more than just messy: they can cause damage to fixtures and floorboards and over time can lead to the growth of mold and the weakening of your entire home. Especially in concrete or foundational walls, water leaks need to be seen to immediately. Even just a small leak can cost you money and put your home at an increased risk of damage.

My HVAC System Has a 10 Year Warranty: Why Do I Need a Maintenance Agreement?

Monday, July 4th, 2011

While every new furnace sold comes with a limited 10 year warranty for the unit and parts, it is a good idea to supplement your warranty with a more complete maintenance agreement with your HVAC provider. Why pay for a secondary maintenance plan when you already have a warranty?

For the most part, the limited warranty provided by the manufacturer is meant to cover things like faulty parts, abnormal breakdowns or recalls. If your system simply needs to get a checkup because you use it a lot or there is a clog that isn’t caused by the actual furnace or air conditioner, you will likely end up paying the maintenance cost. So, by paying for an upgraded service plan, you cover all potential breakdowns and you’ll never again need to worry about your system. It’s like getting the upgraded warranty for a new car that covers everything from a busted crankshaft to old windshield wipers.

Help Your System Last Longer

Another benefit of a maintenance agreement for your HVAC system is that the system lasts longer when it is regularly maintained. The best maintenance agreements come with unlimited checkups and service visits, any day of the week, any time. So, if you think your system is running poorly, call a professional in to check it out and it won’t cost you anything. The ability to do this will ensure your HVAC system lasts significantly longer than if you were forced to wait until you could afford an extra visit from your repair man.

So, not only do you ensure your system keeps working, you add a lot of valuable years to its lifespan. Imagine how much money you’ll save if your furnace or air conditioner lasts for 20+ years instead of just 10. Any breakdowns after the 10 year mark would require hefty repairs or replacement since your warranty is expired. So, it’s in your best interest to keep your system running smoothly throughout its lifespan.

Ultimately, an HVAC system is only as good as what you put into it. If you’re careful about your investments and are willing to spend a little extra now, you’ll stand to benefit far more in the future from a smoothly operating, efficient heating system.

Changes in Light Bulb Laws and Technology

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which promoted many forms of renewable energy and energy conservation. Its provisions include changes to the minimum standards for light bulb efficiency. Although the new standards haven’t officially gone into effect yet, you many already have seen changes in the kinds of light bulbs on sale in your local hardware store.

According to the law, starting in 2012, most standard general-purpose bulbs must be 30% more energy efficient than current incandescent bulbs. The new requirements will be phased in gradually, but the net result will be that by 2014, most of today’s incandescent bulbs will no longer be available for sale, and will be replaced by compact florescent light bulbs, or CFLs.

Of course, higher-efficiency bulbs are good for the environment. Moving to more efficient lighting is one of the easiest, lowest-cost ways for the U.S. to reduce electricity use and carbon emissions. But the changes will also benefit consumers – some estimates suggest that the average household’s utility bill will be reduced by as much as 12%. Even though CFLs cost more to buy ($3 compared to 50 cents for an incandescent), they use about 75% less energy and last five years instead of a few months. Depending on the cost of electricity, a homeowner that invests $90 to change 30 bulbs to CFLs will save between $440 and $1500 over the five-year life of the bulbs.

CFLs do have their detractors. Many claim that they don’t last anywhere near as long as the five years claimed by manufacturers – and this can in fact be the case you turn the bulbs on and off frequently. Energy Star recommends that all CFLs be left on for at least 15 minutes at a time. (Also, if you are using the bulbs in a dimmer, make sure that you buy bulbs specifically marked ‘dimmable’.) If you buy Energy Star bulbs, they come with a two-year warranty, so save your receipts and contact the bulb’s manufacturer if it burns out prematurely.

Others dislike the white -sometimes called ‘harsh’- light of CFLs. This effect can be mitigated by buying cooler-burning CFLs. Bulbs with Kelvin temperatures in the range of 2,700 to 3,000 emit a warmer light than higher-temperature bulbs with Kelvin temperatures of 5,000 or higher, which tend to have a white or bluish light.

Still other critics point out that CFLs contain mercury. While this is true, incandescent bulbs are not mercury-free in practice either. The increased power used for incandescent likely comes from coal-powered plants that produce mercury and many other types of pollution.

If you do break a CFL in your home, consult the EPA’s website for instructions on how to clean it up safely. http://www.epa.gov/cfl/cflcleanup.html

Of course, manufacturers are preparing for 2012 by developing new kinds of light bulbs that meet the more stringent standards, including high-efficiency incandescent and LED bulbs, so look for these options to arrive in stores over the next year or so.

The good news? A much less-beloved light bulb has already been phased out. The T-12 fluorescent tube – those humming, flickering office lights that give everyone’s skin a miserable greenish cast – has been replaced by T-8 fluorescent tubes, which are quieter, more efficient, don’t flicker, and make colors look much more natural.