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How Nighttime Temperature Affects Sleep Quality

For many of us, getting a good night’s sleep is rare. Instead of drifting off to dreamland, we instead find ourselves tossing and turning all night. Restful sleep is important for health, mood, and productivity. If we don’t get sufficient sleep. It literally affects every area of our lives.

Symptoms of Insomnia

How much sleep is enough varies from person to person. Most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. However, some individuals feel well rested after only six hours, while others have difficulty functioning on less than nine.

With so many individual sleep needs, determining how many hours of uninterrupted sleep you need can be confusing.

  • Common symptoms of insomnia include:
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking too early
  • Not feeling rested in the morning
  • Lack of energy during daytime hours
  • Anxiety, irritability, and depression
  • Difficulty remembering or focusing on common tasks

Causes of Insomnia

Recent advances in sleep research have helped identify many of the root causes of modern insomnia. Here is a list of some common reasons modern Americans aren’t getting enough sleep.

Caffeine. Coffee, tea, soda, and other caffeinated beverages are stimulants. Consuming large amounts of caffeine during the day, or consuming caffeinated beverages late in the day, can interrupt your sleep at night.

Nicotine. Tobacco products contain nicotine which acts as a stimulant much like caffeine.  

Alcohol. While alcohol may seem to help you fall asleep, it actually inhibits deeper stages of sleep, causing frequent waking at night.

Light Pollution. Lights from televisions, night lights, and outdoor street lights can interrupt natural sleep patterns.

Screen Time. Cell phones, computers, televisions, and other electronic devices emit blue light. Recent studies have found that exposure to this blue light in the two hours before bed can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.  

Room Temperature. If your bedroom is too hot or too cold, it can disrupt your ability to fall and stay asleep. Many sleep experts agree sleep temperature can have a huge impact on sleep quality.

The Best Temperature for Sleep

Many people are surprised at how much the temperature affects sleeplessness. However, it can have a huge impact on sleep quality.

During sleep hours, our body’s internal thermostat is naturally lowered by the brain. Basically, your brain creates a slight drop in core temperature which induces sleep. If your bedroom temperature is too hot or cold, your body will struggle to achieve its perfect internal sleep temperature. This can result in night sweats, hot flashes, and poor sleep quality.

Sleep experts recommend a bedroom temperature between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. When your room is cool, not only is it easier to fall asleep, it is also easier to stay asleep.

Thermostat settings lower or higher than the recommended temperature results in restlessness. Extreme temperatures can also affect the quality of REM (rapid eye movement), the stage of sleep with the highest brain activity. This stage of sleep is crucial to a good night’s sleep.

Maintaining the Perfect Nighttime Temperature

To maintain the optimal sleeping temperature, set your indoor temps ahead of time using a programmable or Wi-Fi thermostat. This ensures your bedroom temperature will always be perfect, even if you forget to adjust your thermostat before bedtime.

These modern thermostats allow you to set a higher temperature for daytime hours, reducing the amount of energy consumed and saving you money on your utility bill. A Wi-Fi thermostat also gives you the freedom to adjust your thermostat settings even when you aren’t at home.

If you have questions about how a programmable or Wi-Fi thermostat or would like to upgrade your current model, contact your local HVAC technician for more details.

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How Repainting Your Home Can Affect Energy Costs

One of the perks of being a homeowner is getting to picking out paint colors However, it may be more complicated than simply selecting colors that catch your eye, especially if your eye is drawn to dark, deep colors.

It may be thrilling to think about letting your inner angsty teenager to paint your bedroom walls solid black, but there is a reason your mom never turned the teenage you lose with a paint roller. The colors you choose for your home’s interior and exterior can have a serious impact on your heating and cooling bills.

How Colors Affect Heating and Cooling

Some colors absorb radiant energy, while others reflect it. When the sun hits a dark surface, like a black bedroom wall or a deep brown home exterior, some of the sun’s energy is absorbed. The absorbed energy is transferred into the home through conduction. The result is ambient heat gain.

Black and other dark colors absorb 70 to 90 percent of the radiant energy. In contrast, light colored surfaces, including whites, beige, and pastels, reflect most of the heat away from the surface. This reduces the amount of heat transferred into your home.

Keeping it Cool with Dark Paint

If your goal is to reduce summer cooling costs, the decision is an easy one. Pick light paint colors for both your home’s interior and exterior surfaces. However, if you just don’t like light colors, there are ways you still enjoy the darker side of the color spectrum without increasing your energy bill.

If dark colors speak to you, consider using them on the walls of an interior room with few windows. In this case, the color choice may make no difference since the room will have limited sun exposure.

Also, choose your window treatments wisely. Heavy curtains or drapes that cover the entire window will do the best job of blocking radiant heat. If you choose dark colored window treatments to match the room’s walls, make sure the window-facing side is a lighter color. This will help reflect light away from the room and minimize heat absorption.

If your heart’s desire is a dark color on your home’s exterior, consider using the power of sade trees to keep energy costs in check. Well-placed deciduous trees like oak, elm, and maple will provide a leafy shaded canopy in the bright summer months. This will help reduce the amount of sunlight that hits your home’s exterior surface.

In the fall, these trees shed their leaves allowing your home to be exposed to more warm sunlight. This is a way to passively heat your home and could potentially save you on heating costs.

Consider the Accents

If you are concerned about dark paint colors increasing heat transfer, there are other options. You can still enjoy dark colors as a contrasting accent.

Dark colors make a bold statement as accents in rooms with lighter colored walls. Building elements like door and window frames can be striking when painted a dark color to contrast the lighter color of their surroundings.

An accent wall painted a single bold color also makes a bold design element. Choose a wall that doesn’t face any windows to reduce the amount of heat the dark wall absorbs.

Check Your Paint’s LRV

Before deciding on a new color for your home, be sure to check the paint’s Light Reflectance Value, or LRV. LRV is measured on a scale that ranges from zero to 100 percent. Measuring the percentage of light a paint color reflects, the higher the LRV the more light it reflects.

Darker colors have a low LRV and lighter colors, like white, have the highest. To save on cooling costs, be sure to choose a paint with a high LRV.

Most household paints have the color’s LRV printed on the swatch cards or pint cans. This makes it easy to know how much radiant heat will be absorbed or reflected with any specific color.

Check with the Professionals

Your local HVAC professionals aren’t likely to help you with painting or other home remodeling tasks. However, if you have large remodeling plans in mind, it is always a good idea to check with the experts to determine the impact your renovations may have on your HVAC system’s efficiency and effectiveness.

 

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Landscaping Around Your Outdoor HVAC Unit

Cultivating plants around your outdoor central air conditioning unit serve two purposes. First, it helps block the unattractive unit, helping it blend into your landscaping. Second, green, leafy plants provide a source of shade, keeping the cool and helping it run more efficiently.

Which Plants Work Best

The best plants to plant around your outdoor HVAC unit varies. Plants that flourish in the mild and moist climate of the Northwest, won’t survive the hot dry summer of Arizona. Whenever possible, choose plants that are native to your region. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Vines and Trellises

For a quick solution to that ugly outdoor unit, consider a simple trellis with fast-growing annual vines. Plant sweet pea, jasmine, morning glory, or bougainvillea at the base of a trellis installed at least two feet in front of your HVAC unit. The space ensures the vines don’t grow up onto the unit, restricting airflow and potentially causing damage.

These attractive, flowering vines will grow quickly, climbing the trellis and providing shade for your outdoor system unit. Because most annual vines grow at such a fast rate, be sure to cut them back regularly, especially if they begin to grow toward your air conditioner.

Tall Perennials and Ornamental Grasses

Unlike annual vines, which have to be replanted yearly, perennials and ornamental grasses only have to be planted once. Although some varieties will turn brown or lose leaves in the late fall, they will grow back each spring. Both are a simple and attractive solution for disguising that outdoor equipment, especially where year-round screening isn’t necessary.

Some options to consider are black-eyed Susan, giant knotweed, and hollyhock. If your unit is already in a shady area, ferns are an attractive option. Tall cacti like the Mexican Fence Post cactus offer a low-maintenance solution for drier Southwestern climates. If you enjoy utility as well as attractive embellishment, consider planting edible asparagus. Its beautiful fern like growth is a beautiful addition to any yard, and offer a delicious harvest in the spring.

While you won’t have to replant perennials each year, many will take a few years to develop into large plants, so be patient. You can always plant some annuals between them to help provide cover until your perennials become established.

Shrubs and Hedges

There is nothing more classic to hide your unsightly air conditioner than healthy hedge or shrubs. Choose varieties that will match your needs once they reach maturity. Most homeowners choose to begin with younger bushes since it can be costly to start with mature plants. It may take several years for your new shrubs to fully hide your unit. Consider utilizing an attractive temporary screen between the new bushes and the unit. You can easily remove it once the hedge begins to reach maturity.

It is hard to beat the classic look of a boxwood hedge. These hardy plants flourish in most North American climates. However, if boxwoods don’t fit your landscaping tastes, consider planting  English laurel, yew, holly, or common beech.

Basic Planting Tips

Make sure to leave enough space between your new plants and your air conditioner for ample air circulation. Two feet is usually sufficient, although you should check the manufacturer’s specifications to be sure. Also, be sure to leave a gap in the plants to allow easy access to the unit for regular maintenance and repair. Your HVAC professional will thank you.

As the plants grow around your air conditioner, they may shed leaves, seeds, and branches. Be sure to clean up debris regularly to prevent any plant debris from accidentally entering the coils of your HVAC unit. Many plants will also need to pruned and trimmed to maintain the appropriate spacing between your unit and your vegetative barrier.

Consult a Specialist

If you aren’t sure which plants will work best to hide your unsightly outdoor unit, ask a professional. Check with your local nursery to determine which plants will flourish in your area and how much care and attention they require.

If you have any questions about your HVAC unit, or if you need additional tips for landscaping around your air conditioner, contact your local HVAC professional.

 

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Essential HVAC Tips for Pet Owners

pet ownersIf you are a pet owner, you understand how an animal companion can enrich your life. You probably also understand how much work a pet can be. Keeping a pet healthy and happy will help you both live longer.

When you adopt a pet as a family member, it can out a strain on your HVAC system. If you have a furry friend, whether canine or feline, indoors or outdoors, there are certain steps you should take to keep your pet safe and your system running smoothly.

Groom Your Pet Regularly

Not only is routine grooming good for your pet, it is also good for your HVAC system. The hair your pet sheds can get sucked into your system, settle in your ductwork, and get blown back into your living spaces.

Grooming will significantly reduce the amount of airborne fur in your home. But regular bathing and brushing can also make you healthier. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, frequently bathing your furry friend helps eliminate microscopic pet dander, dust, and pollen, all leading causes of pet allergies.

Change Filters Often

Cleaning or replacing air filters is an essential part of HVAC maintenance. It helps keep dust and hair from bogging down your system. A clean filter is necessary to keep your system running efficiently and effectively.

How often you need to change your filters depends of the size of your HVAC system, the filter it requires, and how much dirt and debris needs to be filtered from the air in your home.

If you share your home with a pet, you will probably need to change your filters more often as pet hair and dander can quickly accumulate in your filters. Pet owners, especially those with multiple pets or pets that regularly shed, may need to change filters monthly to keep their system running at peak efficiency.

Consider upgrading to a HEPA filter.

For some homeowners, especially those suffering from allergies, frequent filter changes may not be enough. By upgrading to a HEPA filter, you can reduce airborne allergens by up to 99 percent. Drastically improving the indoor air quality of your home, a HEPA filter will more efficiently trap microscopic dust and dander and keep it from be recirculated into your home.

Vacuum Regularly

Vacuuming your home will also help reduce the amount of pet hair and dander that gets sucked into your vents. It is just one more step you can take to reduce the amount of hair that floats around your home and makes its way into your HVAC system.

If you suffer from pet allergies, consider purchasing a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. Vacuum cleaner models with a built-in HEPA air filter clean the tiniest allergy-causing particulates from your home’s surfaces. This extra filtration is highly important for pet owners with allergies, asthma, or other breathing difficulties since pet dander irritates those conditions.

Protect Your Outdoor Unit and Your Pet

If your pets have free rein outdoors, you will want to take measures to protect your pet and your outdoor unit from each other.

Fido may think your outdoor unit looks like a great place to lift his leg, but pet urine can cause corrosion and other damage to the unit.

Pets may also dig or claw at the fins in your air conditioning condenser. This can cause expensive damage to the unit and could cause your pet unnecessary injury.

The outdoor unit also moving parts that pose an injury risk to your four-legged friends.

To protect dogs and cats from the condenser, and vice-versa, consider erecting a fence or planting dense shrubbery around the unit. This can discourage your pets from getting too close and give Fido other options for relieving himself.

Plants and shrubs can also be an attractive addition to your yard. Keep plants and shrubs at least three feet away from the condenser unit to ensure adequate airflow.

Secure Electrical Cords and Wiring

Since many pets, especially puppies, like to chew, be sure to enclose any exposed electrical wires and conduits. This will prevent electrical hazards to both your system and your pet.  Pets like to chew on electrical wires and cords, which is dangerous for them and can cause damage to the wires. Enclose electrical wires in conduits.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

An annual tune up for your HVAC system has many benefits. A well-maintained system will run more efficiently, lowering your monthly bills and saving energy. Also, a system kept in good operating condition will last longer. Regular maintenance will help pinpoint potential problems before they become expensive, emergency repairs.

Pets are a wonderful addition to any household. However, they do put added strain on your HVAC system. Pet hair, dander, and dirt can clog up vents and ducts causing your system to work harder than necessary. If you follow the essential tips above and schedule yearly maintenance, you can keep your system running smoothly and enjoy the company of a fine furry friend.

If you have questions about how your pet affects your HVAC system, or if you need to schedule routine maintenance, be sure to contact your local HVAC experts.

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Should You Turn Your Pilot Light Off This Summer?

pilot lightAs the weather warms up, it is time to put your gas fireplaces and furnaces to rest for the summer. Since it will be several months before you need to fire up the heat again, it is worth considering turning off your system’s pilot light.

Deciding to Turn it Off or Keep it On

Turning off the pilot lights on gas fireplaces and furnaces when not in regular use can save energy and money. First, your pilot light burns gas, costing you money and potentially eating up the surrounding area. If you switch your pilot light off, your air conditioner won’t have to work as hard to reverse the heating effect of the pilot light.

Your furnace only uses a small amount of gas to power the pilot light. Turning the pilot light off, only saves a few dollars each month. If you don’t mind spending a few cents a day, don’t mess with it. However, as utility costs continue to rise, you may decide every dollar saved is worth it.

Reasons to Leave Your Pilot Light On

Trying to decide whether it is worth turning your pilot light off for summer can be difficult. Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself.

  1. Does my gas company charge a minimum service fee? If the gas company has a minimum monthly charge, it may be better to keep your pilot light on. Keeping your pilot light running is unlikely to burn enough fuel for you to exceed the minimum charge. You probably won’t see any savings on your summer gas bills if you don’t meet the minimum charge.
  2. Do I know how to relight my pilot light? Cold weather often returns unexpectedly. If this happens, you will want to relight your pilot light immediately so you have access to heat. During cold weather, it may take a few days for a technician to make it to your house to professionally relight the pilot.
  3. Is my furnace located where insects could easily move in? If your furnace is located in a basement or other dark secluded spot, turning off your pilot light could seem like an invitation for them to set up house in your furnace. In this case, leaving the pilot light burning is probably in your best interest.
  4. Do I plan on scheduling regular fall maintenance? If you are committed to scheduling fall maintenance, so that a professional can check the state of your equipment, including your pilot light, you may consider switching it off.

Other Ways to Save on Utilities

If you decide turning of your pilot light isn’t worth the hassle, there are still other ways to save energy during the summer. Here are a few ideas to save money this summer.

  1. Turn your thermostat up a few degrees. Energy.gov reports that adjusting your thermostat by only a few degrees will allow you to see an energy usage reduction of 5 to 15 percent on your annual bill.
  2. Use blinds and curtains. By covering your windows, especially south-facing windows, to block out hot sunlight, you can lessen the amount of heat that enters your home.
  3. Install a smart thermostat. You can program a smart thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature to be cooler during the hours that you are home. Customize the settings to keep temperatures comfortable for sleeping or watching television with a higher setting for when you aren’t home. This will offer you significant savings over the course of the summer.
  4. Schedule spring maintenance with a qualified technician. Professional maintenance will ensure your entire unit is functioning properly and efficiently. Call your local technician to schedule an AC tune-up before the heat gets extreme.

Turning Off Your Pilot Light

If you decide you still want to switch off your pilot light for the summer, it is a fairly simple process.

  1. Determine whether your fireplace or furnace actually has a pilot light. Some systems don’t have a pilot light that constantly burns.
  2. Locate the flame. Before you switch off the pilot light, be sure to locate the flame. This will make relighting it much easier when the time comes.
  3. Turn off the light. Often, turning off the pilot light is as simple as turning a knob to “off.” For other systems, you may have to push a small lever out of the way in order to turn the knob. Whatever you do, don’t force the knob. This could result in costly repairs. If you have trouble switching it of, leave the light alone or call a qualified technician for assistance.

 

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Is it Time to Tune Up Your Air Conditioner?

licensed havac technicianIt is a relief when mild springtime temperatures finally arrive after a harsh, cold winter. When we first feel the moderately warm weather of spring, it is hard to resist the urge to throw open windows and air out the stuffiness of winter. However, comfortable spring weather doesn’t last forever. Before you know it, it will be time to crank up the AC.

Before we hit those hot summer highs, you want to make sure your AC is up for the challenge. Spring is the best time to schedule an AC tune up. Ideally, your unit should receive a thorough inspection and routine maintenance at least one a year.

If you avoid an annual tune up by a qualified AC professional, you will eventually pay the price. Regular maintenance is the best way to prevent expensive breakdowns and keep your energy bills from skyrocketing.

Why Spring is the Best Time to Schedule a Tune Up

Scheduling your air conditioner’s regular maintenance during the mild summer months is most practical. It will ensure your AC is ready to tackle the heavy usage necessary during the peak of summer.

It is also the best time to book regular maintenance with your local HVAC technicians. Once the summer heat becomes relentless, repair professionals are busy with emergency breakdowns, probably with homeowners who neglected to schedule maintenance in the spring.

The Benefits of Paying for a Tune Up Now

It may not seem necessary to schedule maintenance if your system was running smoothly at the end of last summer. However, paying for maintenance now will pay you back in the long run. Here are just a few of the ways regular maintenance pays eventually pays for itself.

Cut Utility Bills By Improving Efficiency

A qualified HVAC technician will clean, test, and adjust your whole system to ensure it runs at peak efficiency. As an air conditioner ages, especially if it is not well-maintained, it will lose efficiency. By ensuring your system is operating as efficiently as possible, you will be maximizing the system’s efficiency. An efficient AC is key to saving money on your utility expenses.

Prevent Costly Emergency Repairs

Preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid an unexpected breakdown. Emergency repair visits can be expensive. By scheduling a routine maintenance visit with your local HVAC technician, you’ll keep one step ahead of unexpected repair costs.

Fix Small Problems Before They Become Big Problems

Regular maintenance can help you catch potential problems early. Your air conditioner is a complex machine. Even the simplest, easy-to-fix problem can grow into a major disaster if it isn’t detected early. Even if your system appears to be running fine, a trained technician will be able to spot potential problems before they become big ones.

Extend The Life of Your Air Conditioner

Neglecting routine maintenance can take its toll on your air conditioner over time, shaving years off the life of your unit. If you schedule service annually, you can maximize the life of your system, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in replacement costs.

Plan for Replacement

Even a well-maintained air conditioner doesn’t last forever. By scheduling an annual tune up, you can talk to your HVAC technician about potential replacement. This may give you the time you need to save up or take advantage of time sensitive sales offers.

 

There are simple maintenance tasks you can and should do yourself. Replacing your filters is a good example. However, regular air conditioner tune ups are best left to qualified professionals.

Your air conditioner is a complex machine, and lot can go wrong if you attempt to complete some maintenance tasks by yourself. You could permanently damage your system, or worse you could be severely injured by accidental electric shock.

It is also a great opportunity to take advantage of a technician’s trained eye. He or she will have the training and experience to spot potential problems that you might overlook.

Be sure to contact your local HVAC technician to schedule your routine maintenance visit before the hot summer heat sets in.

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What You Need to Know About SEER Ratings

PA energy rebatesWhen it comes to conserving energy, SEER numbers can be confusing. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and when you boil it down to basics, that’s all SEER is. However, understanding the type of savings you can expect from a new air conditioner isn’t always easy.

What Exactly is SEER?

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is simply a measure of a system’s efficiency. Think of it like you would gas mileage. Most car owners understand the more miles per gallon (MPG) a vehicle gets, the more fuel efficient it is.

SEER ratings are just like MPG ratings. The higher the SEER, the more energy efficient the system.

All newly manufactured units are required to have a minimum SEER rating of 13. However, many of today’s models have efficiency ratings as high as the mid-20s.

How SEER is calculated

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings are calculated by plugging specific numbers into a formula.

This important rating is determined by taking a system’s cooling output during a typical cooling season and dividing that number by the electric energy input during the same period.

Thinking of the rating as a ratio, SEER is the comparison of British thermal unit (BTU) of cooling to watt-hours of energy consumption.

If that sounds like Greek to you, you are not alone. Understanding SEER in terms of mathematics is often best left to the professionals. No one is expecting the typical homeowner to whip out a slide rule and calculate their units rating.

Finding Your Unit’s Rating

Most AC units have a large yellow “Energy Guide” sticker that displays the system’s efficiency rating. The SEER rating will be listed near the top of your unit’s manufacturer’s label.Look for the beginning digits of the model number. For example, an air conditioner with a rating of 13 will typically have a model number that begins with 13AC.

What You Need to Know About SEER

A higher rating equals better energy efficiency.

Better energy efficiency benefits you in two ways. First, you will save money on your monthly cooling bill. With less money spent on utilities, you’ll have more funds to enjoy some summer fun.

The second benefit is a reduction in your carbon footprint. While this benefit won’t help your bank account, it will help the environment. The less energy used to cool your home, the less fossil fuel you consume. And the less fuel you consume, the less carbon emissions make it into the air we breathe.

As of 2006, the minimum requirement for central air conditioners is a SEER rating of 13. The U.S. Department of Energy awards an Energy Star label to systems with higher ratings.

If you have an older cooling system, it may have a rating as low as six. These older systems are extremely inefficient when compared with today’s newer models.

If you want to save money and the planet, make sure any new AC installed in your home has the highest efficiency rating available. Combined with correct unit sizing and professional installation, you should see a great improvement in your energy consumption.

A Note About SEER Ratings

Very controlled laboratory conditions are used to determine Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings. Using high performance measuring equipment, unit efficiency is determined without an air duct system. It is important for the consumer to understand that laboratory conditions do not mirror the actual conditions your HVAC system will be operating under after it is installed in your home.

The SEER is the system’s energy efficiency at one specific operating condition. Actual system performance will vary based on installation procedures and the quality of your home’s duct work.

A new AC unit will undoubtedly save you money on utility bills, however SEER is only one factor in your home’s energy consumption. A professional should test any new system with approved testing methods after installation. This will help ensure you get the maximum savings your new energy efficient system has to offer.

 

If you are interested in learning more about SEER and high-efficiency air conditioning systems, contact your local HVAC professionals. Not only can they help you find the ideal system for your home, they can also help you keep it running efficiently.

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5 Signs That You Need to Replace Your Air Conditioner

licensed havac technicianIt may seem a bit early to be thinking about your air conditioner, but summer and warmer temperatures are just around the corner. Spring is the time to schedule routine maintenance to ensure your air conditioner is peak condition before summer starts heating things up.

If you have an older or inefficient unit, Spring is also the time to think about replacement, otherwise you will find yourself pretty uncomfortable once summer vacation rolls around.

One of the hardest things about being a homeowner is deciding when it’s time to replace your home’s air conditioning unit. A brand new unit is a huge investment. However, the cost of recurring repairs and inefficient operation could end up costing you more in the long run.

Is It Time To Replace Your Air Conditioner?

If you are experiencing any of the following signs, you should consider replacing your current air conditioner.

Sign #1: Your Air Conditioner is more than 10 years old.

According to Consumer Reports and the National Association of Home Builders, the average air conditioning unit can be expected to last about 10-15 years. Regular professional maintenance will help lengthen the life of your air conditioner. However, if your unit has reached double digits and is need of expensive repairs, it is probably time to retire it.

Sign #2: Your Air Conditioner is Inefficient

With recent advancements in energy efficiency, a new AC unit could save a significant amount on your monthly energy bill. A modern system may use as little as 1,710 watts of electricity per hour. That is an amazing 250-percent increase in operating efficiency over the typical air conditioner of twenty years ago.

If your old air unit has a low SEER rating, it could be a drain on your budget. All newly manufactured AC units are required to have a SEER rating of at least 13. If your current  air conditioner has SEER rating lower than 13, you can save big on annual energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more energy efficient model.

Sign #3: Your Air Conditioner Breaks Down Frequently

Even small, inexpensive repairs add up over time. Also, frequent breakdowns and repairs are inconvenient, often leaving you and your family sweltering while waiting for the repair technician. If you find yourself holding your breath waiting for the next system failure, save yourself the headache and replace your old unit. It will save your sanity and your bank account.

Sign #4: Your Air Conditioner uses R22 Freon

To conserve energy use and lower harmful impact on the environment, the federal government is phasing out use of Freon. This once common refrigerant is gradually being replaced by R-410A, a refrigerant that does not contribute to ozone layer depletion.

If you’re having issues with your AC, and your Freon needs to be replaced, you should consider replacing your unit. 

Sign #5: Your Air Conditioner is Not Doing Its Job

You should expect your air conditioner to keep you and your family cool. That is its job. You should consider replacing your AC unit if it isn’t keeping your home comfortably cool.

 

If you have questions about whether your AC needs to be replaced, contact your local HVAC professionals. They will help you choose the right model for you.

 

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Disposable Versus Reusable Air Filters

filter MERV ratingYour air filter is one of the most important aspects of your HVAC system. A clean, quality filter will improve indoor air quality and improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system.

Since indoor air is generally more polluted than outdoor air, good air filter is essential. Helping remove chemicals from cleaners, pet dander, dust, allergens, an effective air filter can help improve your indoor space and help you breathe easier.

There are two basic categories of HVAC air filters – disposable and reusable. Here are some pros and cons of each category. Use this information to help you choose the type of perfect air filter for your home.

Disposable Air Filters

The most common type of HVAC filter, disposable filters, are designed for one-time use. You will need to replace these filters must regularly to maintain sufficient airflow. Over time, these filters will become clogged with dust, dirt, hair, and other debris.

Disposable air filters come in a variety of filtration levels. The more filtration power a filter has, the smaller the particles it will remove from your indoor air. Filtration is indicated by a MERV rating. MERV stands for “minimum efficiency reporting value.” This number indicates how effectively the filter removes particles from the air as it passes through.

Most professional suggest replacing your disposable air filter monthly. Be sure to check with your system’s owner’s manual or an HVAC professional for specific requirements.

One of the biggest advantages of using a disposable air filter is the convenience. They require no special cleaning or washing. Simply pop out the old one and replace it with a brand new one.

Most disposable filters are typically composed of metal mesh, fiberglass filtration material, and a cardboard frame. Recycling these materials individually is not difficult. However, separating them can be a logistical nightmare for local recycling centers. Also, since fiberglass is non-biodegradable, it will take up space indefinitely in the local landfill.

Another drawback to conventional disposable filters is the cost. You will need to purchase replacement filters several times a year, which becomes expensive over time.

Reusable Air Filters

Reusable HVAC filters, although less common than their disposable counterparts, are growing in popularity. Rather than tossing these filters in the garbage when dirt and dust begins to build up, you simple was reusable filters and reuse them.

Reusable air filters cost more initially than disposable. However, after the upfront cost, the only investment is the time it takes to wash them. A reusable filter, when properly maintained will save you significant money over time.

With a reusable filter, you never have to worry about running to the hardware or home improvement store to buy a replacement. As long as a little dirt and dust doesn’t scare you, maintenance is as simple as flushing the filter with water and then allowing it to dry before replacing it. To ensure your reusable filter is sanitary, you can also a purchase a specialized filter cleaner that you can easily purchase online.

Reusable HVAC filters do require an amount of patience. Replacing the filter before it has had sufficient time to dry attract mold into your HVAC unit. This will affect your air quality, wreak havoc on your system, and could potentially cause health problems.

If you are the impatient sort, consider purchasing two reusable filters. Then simply alternate the filters, replacing with a dry one each time cleaning is required.

The Bottom Line

If you have concerns about indoor air quality, you may want to stick with a disposable HEPA filter. Reusable filters do little to combat cigarette smoke, pet dander, or cleaning chemicals. Consumers with allergies, asthma, or chemical sensitivity may want to stay with high-quality disposable filters.

However, if saving money or going green are high on your list of priorities, a reusable HVAC filter may be exactly what you’ve been searching for.

If you have any questions about what type of HVAC filter is right for you, contact your local HVAC specialist for more details.

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Spring Cleaning for Your Air Ducts

Spring cleaning is a tradition shared by many cultures around the globe. When the trees begin to bud and the birds start singing, many people feel an urge to shake off the dreariness of the winter months by clearing cobwebs and giving their home a good scrubbing.

You shouldn’t neglect your heating and cooling system while you are sweeping and dusting and sprucing up your home’s interior. Keeping your air ducts clean can help control airborne dust, reduce seasonal allergies, and help your cooling system run more efficiently.

Signs Your Air Ducts Need Cleaning

The easier it is for air to flow through your home’s ductwork, the easier it is for your cooling system to deliver cool, comfortable air to your living spaces. If there are any major blockages in your air ducts, it could hinder air flow, straining your system and increasing your energy bill.

Air duct cleaning may not be warranted in every home. However, if you see any of these signs, it may be time to give your ductwork a good cleaning.

Rodent Droppings or Insect Carcasses

If you see dead bugs or rodent feces in your air ducts, they probably require immediate attention. Not only will byproducts enter your home, potentially causing health problems for you and your family, they could also be a sign that insects have nested in your ducts. Rodent droppings usually mean there are rodents present, and these critters can cause serious damage to your air ducts if not kept in check. If you see these contaminants, you should call an exterminator first, and then contact a professional to help clean your ductwork.

Mold

Mold can be a serious problem for your health and for your HVAC system. Excess moisture trapped in your air ducts will cause mold to develop and grow. Excessive moisture could be damaging your entire HVAC system. Consider any signs of mold a serious issue. If you detect a musty smell coming from your air vents, contact a professional to inspect your system.

Excessive Allergy Symptoms

If you or a member of your family suffers from excessive allergy-related issues, you may want to consider having your air ducts professionally cleaned, especially if you have taken other steps to decontaminate your home without success.

Dust and Dirt

If you notice significant amounts of dust and debris in your vents, it could be a sign your ducts need to be cleaned.

Will Cleaning My Ducts Make a Difference?

For most homeowners, complete professional duct cleaning is unnecessary. In some cases, the process can loosen packed down dust and debris may cause even more particles to enter your home.

Unless your ducts are contaminated with mold or harmful pests, or your ducts are significantly clogged with dust, negatively affecting the efficiency of your system, you probably don’t need a thorough, professional cleaning. Instead, a few do-it-yourself chores and regular system maintenance should be more practical and effective.

Before you call a company to professionally clean your home’s ductwork, try completing these simple tasks.

  1. Change your air filters. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and guidelines to help you choose the proper filter for your system. Change filters regularly to keep your system clean.
  2. Clean around your condenser unit. Keep the area around your outdoor condenser free from tall grass, trash, and other yard debris. The system needs clear space to maintain proper air flow. Also, a qualified HVAC technician will perform regular maintenance and cleaning of your whole unit, including the condenser.
  3. Keep indoor vents clear. When you are cleaning your home’s interior, be sure to vacuum dust and any debris away from indoor supply vents. Also, make sure your vents are clear of furniture, draperies, and clutter. This will help ensure your system can maintain proper air flow.
  4. Use interior fans and dehumidifiers to reduce humidity. Be sure to use exhaust fans when showering. Also, consider a basic dehumidifier to help keep mold from developing and spreading in your home and HVAC system.
  5. Have your home checked annually by a qualified HVAC technician. He or she will perform regular maintenance to keep your system running smoothly and effectively. Regular maintenance will also detect any potential problems that may be developing.

If you notice poor airflow or excessive dust in your home, you should request an evaluation of your stem by qualified local HVAC technician. Properly installed air ducts seldom need professional cleaning. However, be sure to hire an experienced technician to do the job properly when it becomes necessary.

 

 

 

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