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HVAC Maintenance Tips for Fall

Fall is in full swing and that means cold weather is right around the corner. On cold winter nights, there are few things you’ll appreciate more than your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system. However, if it isn’t running properly, your HVAC system can be a source of misery rather than comfort. Heating your home is the typically the largest energy expense for homeowners. That is why it is so important to keep your HVAC system running properly.

Fall is the Best Time for Regular HVAC Maintenance

Now is the perfect time to prepare for frigid weather ahead. Complete these fall maintenance tips to keep your HVAC system operating efficiently this winter. Not only will these tips save you money, they will also ensure you spend this winter in warm, cozy comfort.

Change Your Air Filters

Changing your air filters is the most important thing you can do to keep your HVAC system running properly. Thankfully, it is also the easiest thing you can do.

However, don’t wait until fall to change your filters. Some experts recommend replacing your filters monthly, while others suggest every three months. There are several factors that affect how often your filters need to be changed, such as whether you have pets.

Filters should be checked every month and replaced if they are dirty. To help you remember this important chore, you should choose and schedule a regular day each month to inspect your filters. One recommendation is to check your filters on the same day you pay your mortgage or rent.

Clean Your Vents

It is also a good idea to keep your vents clean. This will allow your HVAC system to circulate air properly and help keep your house clean as well.

In most cases, you can simply use your vacuum cleaner to suck up the dust that accumulates in your vents. However, if you vents are particularly dirty or clogged, you may need to call in the professionals.

Schedule Maintenance with a Professional Technician

Your HVAC system should be serviced annually to keep it working effectively and efficiently. Scheduling regular preventive maintenance for your HVAC system can improve its lifetime up to 48 percent.

Fall is the perfect time to schedule a regular maintenance visit with a service technician. He or she will inspect your system and prepare it to meet the demands of winter heating.

Here are some of the things you can expect a technician to do during a regular maintenance visit:

  1. Check and replace your furnace filter
  2. Inspect the exterior of your system for signs of wear
  3. Inspect and clean your system’s interior components
  4. Measure the power consumed by the system’s electrical components to check for unnecessary power usage
  5. Calibrate your home’s thermostat
  6. test for carbon monoxide leaks
  7. If you have a boiler, the controls, safeties, pump, and low water cutoff will be checked.

Is It Time to Replace Your HVAC?

A new HVAC system is an expensive investment. However, if your system is more than 10 years old, replacing it may actually save you money, at least in the long run.

If your system has some age, it may be running inefficiently, and an inefficient system wastes energy and money. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing an old HVAC system with a newer model could reduce your home’s annual energy bill by as much as 40 percent. If you think it might be time to consider replacing your old system, call your local HVAC experts for advice and a price analysis.

Following these fall maintenance tips has numerous benefits for your HVAC system. Regular maintenance will keep you comfortable, improve your system’s efficiency, and save you money on your heating bills this winter.

If you have any questions or need to schedule a maintenance appointment, be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals.

 

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Back-to-School Savings on Heating and Cooling

back to schoolThe start of the school year brings extra expenses for most households. The cost of school supplies, new shoes, and school uniforms quickly adds up, adding strain to the family budget. It is no wonder the back-to-school season leaves many parents looking for new ways to save money.

Thankfully, there is one easy way you can save money on school-year heating and cooling costs, and it won’t even make you uncomfortable. What is this simple money-saving tip? Simply adjust the setting of your thermostat.

How to Adjust Your Thermostat to Save Money on Your Utility Bill

With the kids heading back to school, your home is probably empty for long periods during the day. If you do not adjust your thermostat, you are paying to heat and cool an empty home. However, adjusting your thermostat up or down depending on the season, will bring significant savings. In fact, this small adjustment saves the average American family up to $180 dollars per year.

When Using Your Air Conditioner

When school first starts, the outdoor temperatures are still relatively warm. Because of these high temperatures, most families are still running their air conditioner. However, there is no need to maintain an indoor temperature of 72 degrees when there is no one home to enjoy the comfort. Keeping your thermostat set at a peak comfort temperature is like flushing money down the toilet.

Instead, raise your thermostat setting a few degrees before you leave for the school drop-off line. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests increasing your setting by seven degrees. According to the Energy.gov website, “the smaller the difference between the indoor and outdoor temperatures, the lower your overall cooling bill will be.”

By making this small adjustment, your AC system will run less, saving energy and money. You won’t even feel uncomfortable. Just remember to adjust your thermostat when you get home in the evening.

When You Need to Heat Your Home.

With Fall almost here, we won’t be needing our air conditioners much longer. For the majority of the school year, our homes need to be heated to maintain a comfortable temperature.

You can still save money on your heating bills with this same trick. However, when heating your home, the EPA suggests LOWERING the thermostat setting. An adjustment of 8 degrees should be enough to see significant energy savings.

Adjustable Thermostats Offer Convenience and Savings

Having to manually adjust our thermostat every day before you leave for work/school is difficult to remember. This is especially true on hectic mornings. There is already so much to remember, packing lunches,checking homework, signing permission slips.

Thankfully, there is an easier way.

With a programmable thermostat, you don’t have to remember to make daily adjustments. Programmable thermostats automatically adjust to your desired home temperature, and you can program them based on your family’s unique daily schedule. So, every morning there is one less thing to remember. Your programmable thermostat will remember for you.

A programmable thermostat will also increase the comfort level of your home. Instead of waiting to adjust the thermostat back to a comfortable setting once you get home, your programmable thermostat will make sure you home is comfortable when you arrive. By programming your thermostat to begin heating or cooling a half hour before you expect to arrive, your home will already be at your favorite temperature when you walk through the door.

Other Money-Saving Ideas

Adjusting the setting of your thermostat isn’t the only way to save money on heating and cooling bills this school year. Here are some other simple ways you can cut your utility costs while the kids are in school.

Open Your Windows

As fall temperatures become more mild, consider opening your windows, especially at night. This will help you take advantage of cooler nighttime temperatures and give your air conditioner a much needed break.

If nighttime temperatures are still too warm, or having windows open makes you or your family feel less secure, simply raise the temperature setting a few degrees. You’ll be asleep, after all, and probably won’t even feel the difference.

Close Blinds and Curtains

Covering your windows with quality blinds or curtains offers an extra layer of insulation between your home’s interior and extreme outdoor temperatures. This means your HVAC system won’t have to work as hard to maintain indoor temperatures.

Schedule Regular Maintenance

If you want to save money, you need to make sure your heating and cooling system is running efficiently. Make sure you change your filters regularly. Also, be sure to schedule annual maintenance with your local HVAC professional. During an annual tune-up, a qualified technician will make sure all system components are clean and functioning properly.

If you have questions about programmable thermostats or need to schedule an appointment for regular system maintenance, be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals.

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How to Interpret Energy Efficiency Ratings

AFUEKeeping your home at a comfortable temperature can be expensive. For the average homeowner, heating and cooling costs can total well more than half their monthly utility bills. Finding a system that keeps you and your family comfortable, yet operates efficiently is important for keeping expensive utility bills manageable.

If you are considering upgrading your current heating and cooling system, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the acronyms and numbers. These jumble of letters and numbers represent a system’s energy efficiency ratings.

A little understanding goes a long way in helping you make the most informed decision possible. Purchasing a new HVAC system, air conditioner, or furnace is a huge investment, and it will have a huge impact on your family’s day-to-day comfort.

Understanding the Different Energy Efficiency Ratings

Shopping for a new air conditioner or heat pump can be confusing. Every brand claims to be better than the competition. It is important to understand the different ratings so you can effectively compare your options and choose the best system to meet your needs.

SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration, is the measure of energy efficiency of cooling equipment. This figure is determined by dividing the cooling output of the system (measured in BTU or British Thermal Units) by the system’s electricity usage (measured in kilowatt-hours). Basically. SEER specifies how much electricity is needed to run the air conditioner compared to the cooling capacity.

A higher SEER rating means better energy efficiency. When comparing systems, even a small increase in SEER can greatly reduce your energy consumption, saving a significant amount on your annual utility bills.

The US Department of Energy sets SEER requirements. For northern states with cooler climates, air conditioners must have a  minimum SEER of 13. If you live in a state that has a typically hot summer, you will need a system with a SEER of at least 14.

EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio

Similar to SEER, EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) is measured over higher temperatures and over an extended period. Usually, both SEER and EER ratings will be displayed on a cooling system. These numbers will help you understand exactly what to expect when it comes to performance and energy consumption.

HSPF – Heating Seasonal Performance Factor

Like SEER measures cooling efficiency, HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) measures heating efficiency. This number is calculated in a similar manner to SEER, by dividing the total heating needed by the total electricity used by the system. A higher HSPF indicates better heating efficiency.

AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency

AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. This number indicates the percentage of heat created for every energy dollar consumed. When fuel is converted to heat, a percentage of energy is always lost in the conversion. This number basically measures the efficiency fuel is transformed into heat.

For example, an AFUE of 80 means 80 percent of the fuel consumed is emitted as heat into the home. The remaining 20 percent to heat the home, while 20% is misplaced through venting or consumed in some other way. A higher AFUE signifies greater energy efficiency.

Energy Star

Created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Energy Star is the government-supported symbol for energy efficiency. Products with the Energy Star label have met strict standards of energy efficiency. These products have been tested in a controlled laboratory environment by a neutral third party.

If you have questions about the energy efficiency ratings of your current heating and cooling system, contact your local HVAC professionals for help. If you are considering upgrading your current system, they can also help you determine which products are best suited for your home and your family’s specific needs.

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Choosing Between a Window or Whole House Air Conditioner

licensed havac technicianHaving a some system to keep your home cool feels like an absolute necessity, especially during the hottest time of the year. An air conditioner is the logical solution for keeping your family comfortable and creating a cool refuge from the blistering outdoor temperatures.

Air conditioning didn’t become common until the 1970s. Many older homes were designed for passive cooling, integrating construction features to help keep temperatures bearable naturally. Because central air conditioning is a more recent advancement, many older homes do not have one.

If you want to add air conditioning to an older home, you have two options.

Window Unit Air Conditioner

The easiest, cheapest, and fastest option for cooling your home is a basic window unit. Purchase and installation usually costs at most a few hundred dollars.

A window air conditioner is usually a temporary solution. Since they are not installed permanently, the initial upfront cost is relatively low. However, this is not a whole-home cooling solution. Window units cool only small indoor areas effectively, usually just one or two rooms. For this reason, if you want to keep your entire home cool, you will need several window units to do the job.

Drawbacks to Window Air Conditioners

  1. Window units tend to make excessive operating noise. Because the operating components rest in a window, the equipment’s running noise is more likely to interfere with normal activities like watching television, listening to music, or having conversations.
  2. Window units are temporary and relatively easy to remove from your home’s windows. This also makes your home more susceptible to break ins. A burglar can simply remove the unit from the outside of your home and gain entry through the empty window.
  3. Window units are unattractive. Many people consider the external equipment an eyesore. Many homeowners associations restrict use of AC window units for this reason.
  4. Since window ACs cool only small areas, you may need to run several to maintain a comfortable temperature in all areas of your home. For this reason cooling your home could generate higher utility bills than running a whole house air conditioner.

When to Use a Window Unit

Even though a window AC is often inefficient, noisy, and unsightly, there are still certain situations where they are the best choice.

Window units are best suited for apartments and rental units. If you are renting your home, investing in a central cooling unit is probably not something you are willing to do. However, if you want to stay cool, a window unit is a fast and affordable way to do it. And if you need to move, you can easily take your portable window unit with you.

Many older homes may not have existing ductwork to support home cooling. There may also be design or space constraints that prohibit ductwork from being properly installed. FOr those older homes, window units are a more practical cooling solution.

A window unit is also more practical if you live in a climate with mild or short summers, where cooling is only necessary for short periods during the year.

Whole Home Air Conditioner

A whole home air conditioner is the permanent solution for home cooling. A whole home system provides cooling for every living area, where a window unit only cools a small area.

Installing a whole home air conditioner requires an investment of several thousand dollars. It may also require additional work to facilitate the unit. For example, ductwork installation may be necessary for your unit to properly function. This will add additional cost to your project.  

Installing a whole home cooling system is not a do-it-yourself weekend project. You will need the help of a qualified technician for your safety, to meet local codes, and ensure your unit functions properly.

However, a whole home air conditioner is generally the best cooling solution for most homes. In the long run, a whole home system will use less energy and more effectively and efficiently cool your entire house. They maintain even temperatures throughout your living spaces for optimum comfort.

A whole home air conditioner also offers better air filtration than a standard window AC, as well as help optimize indoor humidity. The result is increased comfort, a reduction in allergens many health issues.

To learn more about window and whole home air conditioner installation, contact your local HVAC experts.

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Keep an Open Door Policy for Energy Efficiency

open doorKeeping your home comfortably cool during the hot summer months can be expensive, especially if you live in a warmer climate. Opening your late summer utility bills can feel about as scary as stepping into a horror movie. Because summer cooling bills can be so frightening, homeowners often share their own theories about how to minimize the financial damage.

Unfortunately, not all accepted theories for cutting costs actually work. One common strategy for saving money on air conditioning, is to shut the doors to the rooms you aren’t using. The idea is that you won’t have to pay to cool unused spaces.

This prevalent strategy, although well-intentioned, will actually end up costing you more money. And it could also contribute to other indoor air problems.

Why You Need to Keep the Doors Open

Modern air conditioning systems are designed to function as a carefully balanced whole. When you close interior doors, you are essentially shutting off part of the system. This doesn’t strengthen the other parts of the system. Instead, it causes the whole system to work harder to keep your home cool.

Shutting doors to unused rooms forces your air conditioner to compensate for the air imbalances. Because closed doors cause your system to run less efficiently, you could actually be causing unnecessary wear-and-tear on your unit.

The Effects of Closed Doors on Your AC

Shutting the doors to unused rooms could actually be one of the worst things you can do. Closing the door to a room does not stop your air conditioner from blowing air into that room. As the air blows from your open vents, it can build up inside the room and affect the air pressure.

Most air conditioning systems incorporate supply vents in every interior room. However, many homes are designed with a single central intake. Closing interior doors blocks the intended air flow, creating an imbalance, reducing the air volume returning to the air conditioner.

As your system continues to intake air to cool the entire house, the pressurized air behind your closed doors is naturally looking for a way out. Often, the easiest escape route is through cracks in walls and gaps around windows. The result is often a negative pressure in the part of the home left open, causing outdoor air to push in through any small space or crack it can find.

Maintaining Air Flow and Personal Privacy

Reducing utility bills isn’t the only motive behind closing doors. For some family members, shutting doors is a matter of privacy. This can be especially true for households with teenagers and extended family members.

If there are rooms that must be closed regularly for issues of privacy, there are measures that can be taken to ensure cooling efficiency. One option is to have airflow grates installed in each interior door. This allows air to flow freely even when the doors are closed.

 

Contact your local HVAC professionals if you have questions or concerns about maintaining proper air circulations while preserving privacy.

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6 Easy Ways to Improve Indoor Air Quality

air qualityWhen we think about air pollution, we usually think about being outside, maybe in some large city. However, According to the Consumer Product Safety Commision, there is a growing body of scientific data indicating that the air inside our homes may be more seriously polluted than the air outdoors, even in the largest and most industrialized cities. Other studies also show the average person spends about 90 percent of their time inside.

Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Exposure to indoor air pollutants can have many adverse health effects. Some of these health effects can be caused by a single exposure to a pollutant. Eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue are a few immediate effects of pollutant exposure.

These immediate effects are generally only short-term and are easily treatable.  However, long-term exposure could lead to several serious conditions, including some respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer. These conditions could be debilitating or even fatal. That is why it is important to take measures to improve indoor air quality even if you and your family do not show any immediate adverse reactions.

6 Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality

Here are few easy steps you can take to immediately improve the quality of the air inside your home. Implement some or all these and you’ll be well on your way to breathing ea

Add Houseplants to Your Living Space

Plants are nature’s natural air purifiers. They help remove carbon dioxide from the air and replace it with fresh oxygen, improving the quality of the air for the people who live inside your home. They also help  remove many toxins and other pollutant from the air, working like a filter to clean your air. As a bonus, plants are also an attractive, visually appealing addition to your living spaces.

Consider adding some of the following plants to your home for cleaner air:

  • Aloe
  • English ivy
  • Peace lilies
  • Snake Plant (also known as Mother-in-law’s Tongue)
  • Red-edged Dracaena
  • Cornstalk Dracaena
  • Barberton Daisy
  • Janet Craig
  • Aloe Vera
  • Weeping Fig
  • Broadleaf Lady Palm
  • Devil’s Ivy
  • Bamboo Palm
  • Boston Fern

Keep the Floor Clean

Dirt and particles that collect on your floors and carpets will eventually end up in the air. Regular sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming will help reduce the amount of dirt on your floor and prevent them from becoming airborne.

Another way to help keep your floors, and therefore your air, clean is to remove your shoes. By immediately taking your shoes off when you enter your home, you will limit the amount of outside dirt and debris that enters your living spaces.

Let In Outside Air

When the outdoor temperatures are mild, open your windows, even if only a crack. This is particularly important if your home is relatively new. Newer homes are constructed to be more air tight and most do not breathe well. When your HVAC system is running, it is just recirculating the same air over and over.

New homes may still have construction materials that are off gassing. Fresh paint, new carpet, laminate flooring, and chemically treated wood all emit toxic particles into the air you are breathing. By opening a window, you can help ventilate your home and reduce the amount of chemicals that become airborne inside your home.

Change Your Air Filters

Air filters are your home’s first line of defense against potentially harmful airborne particles. A typical HVAC system circulates about 1,000 cubic feet of air every minute. As the air circulates through your system, it must pass through your air filters. Those air filters work to remove dust and other potentially dangerous particles from the air inside your home.

During the months your HVAC system is working hardest, you need to change your filters at least once a month. This will help keep dirt and debris from clogging up the filtration  material.

When air filters are clogged, the system handler must work harder to compensate for the blockage of airflow. A clogged filter not only drives up your utility bills, it can also contribute to chronic allergies and negatively impact your overall health.

Use a Dehumidifier to Control Humidity Levels

Humidity levels can rise dramatically due to simple everyday activities like cooking, showering, and even simply breathing. High indoor humidity levels create a breeding ground for many forms of dangerous mold and mildew.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests a humidity level between 30 and 60 percent for indoor living areas. If the humidity in your home is consistently above the recommended level it can cause mold to proliferate, releasing millions of spores into the air. These spores can trigger respiratory problems in many individuals.

You can have a whole house dehumidifier installed inside your duct work to help maintain optimal levels. These dehumidifiers are controlled by wall mounted humidistats. These humidistats work to control the humidity level in your home much the same way a thermostat works to control temperature. As your HVAC system circulates the air in your home, it passes through your duct work and the installed dehumidifier removes excess moisture from the air before it is circulated back into your living space.

Schedule Regular HVAC Maintenance

You should have your HVAC system checked regularly by a qualified HVAC technician. He or she will make sure your system is working properly. During this regular tune up, he or she will clean your system components.

If you have concerns about your indoor air quality, these trained professionals can help you identify problem areas and suggest potential solutions.

I you have questions about indoor air quality or need to schedule regular system maintenance, contact your local HVAC professional.

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Keeping Cool in a Two-Story House

two story houseIf you live in a two-story house, you may have noticed the second floor is often considerably warmer than the first. The difference in temperature is usually most noticeable during the hot summer months, when the weather outside reaches scorching levels.

If you are having trouble keeping your upstairs cool, you probably have one centrally located heating and cooling system. This single system is generally located in the basement or garage. While generally efficient when it comes to heating and cooling a single story structure, second-floor comfort was probably overlooked within the original design in an effort to keep the building cost affordable.

Do You Need a Second HVAC System?

If the temperature difference between the first and second floors is extreme, it could be because your HVAC or ductwork is improperly sized. If you don’t have the right system to do the job, keeping that upstairs comfortable is going to be nearly impossible.

If your HVAC doesn’t seem to cut it in the summer and everyone wants to move downstairs, you may need to add a second system. This is an expensive option, but it will give you better control over the temperature of each floor. It also may the only solution in some extreme cases.

If you think you may need a second HVAC system for your two-story house, have your current system inspected by a local heating and cooling professional for recommendations and a cost analysis.

Quick Solutions for a Hot Second Floor

Cutting into drywall to redesign duct work is pretty extreme and adding an HVAC to the second floor is expensive. Here are a few quick and easy tips you can try to help keep that second story cool.

Close the Curtains and Draw the Blinds

While bright sunshine adds a lot to the atmosphere of a room, it also has a major impact on the temperature. Since most thermostats are located on the bottom floor, the heat coming through upstairs windows can just collect there without triggering your thermostat to turn on the A/C.

Adding thick drapes or heat-reducing blinds to your upstairs windows, the temperature on the second floor should stay noticeable cooler.

Turn on the Fans

Stagnant air feels much warmer. Sometimes the heat upstairs can be alleviated with some simple air circulation. While warm air rises, and you can’t completely beat physics, moving air will make the space more comfortable.

A portable fan can make a warm upstairs room feel much cooler. Even better, a few ceiling fans will help keep the upstairs air moving and even out second story temperatures.

If your home isn’t equipped with ceiling fans, they are fairly affordable and generally easy to install.

Adjust Air Registers on the Ground Floor

Slightly reducing your air conditioner’s airflow to the first floor will effectively increase the amount of cool air that makes it to the second story. You can accomplish this by partially closing the floor registers on the bottom story of your home.

This action will also increase your system’s cycle time, especially if your thermostat is located on the first floor. A longer cycle time will ensure more cool air makes it to the top floor of your home.

Check Your Attic Insulation

If you’ve ever been up to your attic on a hot day, you know that space can feel like an oven. Even on the hottest days, the temperature in your attic space will far exceed the outside temperature. That is why your attic insulation has such a profound impact on how hot the top floor of your home becomes.

With that blanket of hot air sitting on top of your second-story living space, the area heats up quickly. However, with a good insulated barrier between these spaces, you can slow heat transfer between the areas.

Energy Star, a program managed by the Environmental Protection Agency certifying energy efficiency ratings, recommends different R-ratings for different climate areas. You can check the recommended insulation R rating for your area on the Energy Star website. If your attic insulation isn’t up to par, it may be time to consider an insulation upgrade.

Contact your local HVAC experts for more information on how to keep your two-story house cool all summer long.

 

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Important Questions to Ask Your HVAC Professional

Whether you are looking for a company to perform routine maintenance or replace your whole HVAC system, there are some key questions you should ask. It is always a good idea to talk to several companies and weigh your options before making such an important decision.

There is more to hiring a technician than finding who will give you the best price. After all, you don’t want to place your family’s comfort into the hands of just anyone. You want to make sure the job is done right, and therefore you want to make sure you hire someone qualified for the job.

What to Look for When Hiring an HVAC Company

It is best to put in the time to research before you actually hire an HVAC professional. Here are the questions you should ask every technician before hiring them to work on your HVAC system.

Are You Licensed and Certified?

Before hiring any HVAC company, be sure to check to see whether they are licensed and possess all necessary certifications. Most companies will have this information clearly posted on their websites.

You can also ask the company to show you license verification. If they cannot provide you with this information, don’t hire them to work on your system

If in doubt, check your state or local licensing board. Licenses should be public information. Many licensing boards have quick searches on their websites to allow you to check the license status of any company in your local area.

Also, any technicians the company sends to do maintenance or repairs should be properly certified. Check state and local codes to see the specific requirements for your area. When you schedule an appointment, ask the company about the specific technician that will be servicing your system. Make sure each individual is properly qualified for the work you are hiring them to perform.

Are You Insured?

Hiring a properly insured company is important just in case something goes wrong while the technician is working on your home. You don’t want to be sued for injury. Ask the company if they carry worker’s compensation and liability insurance. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

How Much Experience Do You Have?

Knowing how much experience a company has can provide you with peace of mind when hiring them. A company with a history of poor customer service, sketchy business practices, or sloppy work isn’t going to stay in business for very long.

However, just because a company hasn’t been in business for decades, doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified. In the absence of a long local history, consider asking about their education and other credentials.

Do You Have Experience with My Specific Unit?

This question is somewhat related to the previous one. Even though a company may have been in business for decades, if they do not have specific knowledge and experience with your system, they may not be the best company for the job.

Do You Have Customer References?

By hearing what previous customers have to say about the company, you can get a feel for the quality of work and service they offer. Most companies will have customer ratings or reviews on their website or social media pages.

Even the best companies may have an occasional bad review. Be sure to look at specific negative complaints to see if they are justified. While you are at it, check the positive reviews to make sure they are specific and genuine.

What is Your Satisfaction Guarantee?

Ask the company if they will refund your money if the service does not meet your satisfaction. For instance, if the repair only lasts for a short time. While some repairs can’t be completely guaranteed, especially on older systems, it is important exactly what the company is offering before they begin servicing your unit.

Get these guarantees in advance and in writing. Also, if you get a quote on repair costs, get everything in writing prior to the start of repairs.

Whether you’re purchasing your first system or you’re a seasoned homeowner looking for routine maintenance, it’s important to know what to expect. By asking these questions of your local HVAC company, you’ll know you are hiring someone qualified for such an important job.

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What to do When an Animal Dies in Your Air Ducts

It isn’t something most homeowners like to think about, but it is more common than you might think.. From time to time, small animals work their way into your home’s duct work. Attics, basements, and wall spaces are attractive places small animals to hide, and air ducts are perfect pathways for them to move around and even nest.

These animals can wreak all kinds of havoc on your air ducts. They often scratch and chew holes in the duct walls, allowing air to escape. These holes will negatively affect the energy efficiency of your system and drive up your heating and cooling bill.

Many small animals also leave behind feces in your air ducts. This can cause a breeding ground for mold and disease that could negatively impact your family’s health.

When an Animal Dies in Your Ducts

However, if one of these small animals dies inside your duct work, it can be an incredibly unpleasant experience. The smell of the rotting animal will circulate through your home every time the system kicks on.

Decomposition of the body will take about a week for small animals like rats or mice, although it may take even longer for a larger animal like a squirrel or possum, with the smell lingering for up to a month. Not only is the smell of a rotting carcass difficult to bear, it also attracts maggots and insects, and promotes mold, mildew and other fungi that are harmful to your health.

The good news is that the body can be removed and the area affected cleaned and sanitized. While this process is unpleasant, it is often a job you can easily do yourself. If you just can’t stomach it, however, you can hire a professional to take care of the problem for you. Consult your local HVAC professionals and explain the situation. Most companies will send out a technician to help you right away. If the case is serious, however, they may refer you to animal control.

Locating the Carcass

To locate the body of the dead animal, all you really need to do is follow your nose.

First, turn off your HVAC system, open your windows and allow your rooms to air out. Since your HVAC system circulates the air inside your home, it can distribute the rotting smell into every room in the house. By shutting off the system and allowing fresh air in, you can isolate the offensive smell to the area that is generating it.

After you have allowed your home to air out a bit, walk around the house and follow your nose, Find the room or areas of the home where the odor is strongest.

You may have to smell each individual air register and return in the affected area in order to closer pinpoint the location of the dead animal. The carcass will be closest to the vent with the strongest odor.

Removing the Carcass

Once you have located the dead animal, you can either call in the professionals or remove it yourself. If you decide to take matters into your own hands, you’ll need a screwdriver, flashlight, garbage bag, rubber gloves, paper towels, and disinfectant cleaner.

First, use a screwdriver to remove the register cover. Next, use your flashlight to look inside the air duct to see if the carcass is visible. If you are unable to see the body, you may need a telescoping inspection camera to maneuver the twists and turns of your duct work.

If you can see the carcass, but it is outside of your reach, you may need another tool to get to it. This might be as simple as a bent clothes hanger, or you might need a long hose attachment for a shop vacuum cleaner.

If the carcass is out of reach, you will need to hire a professional to assist you with removal. They will have specialized equipment to locate and remove dead animals from awkward, hard-to-reach places in your air ducts.

If the offending animal is within easy reach, carefully use a gloved hand to grab the carcass and place it in a plastic garbage bag. Immediately remove the dead body from your home. If the animal is large, like a raccoon or possum, you should contact your local waste disposal authorities to ask about specific policies regarding disposal of dead animals.

Cleaning Up The Mess

After you have removed the source of the smell, clean the area and all areas the carcass touched with disinfectant cleaner. If the animal was initially out of reach, this process will be slightly more difficult. Use a small mop with a long handle to reach all the affected surfaces of your duct work. This will help prevent the growth of dangerous mold and bacteria.

After the animal has been removed and the area cleaned, there are a few follow up steps to take. To ensure another animal doesn’t crawl up inside and cause more damage, your duct work should be thoroughly inspected.

You can schedule a regular inspection with a HVAC technician to find and seal any holes the animal has made in your air ducts.

You may also consider scheduling a professional duct cleaning. This service will clean any feces or other animal waste from your ducts, as well as further disinfect the surfaces, scrubbing away any lingering odors or bacteria.

While removing a dead animal from your ducts is usually easy, it is never pleasant. If you have any concerns or need help from a professional, contact your local HVAC experts immediately.

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How to Avoid Common Summer HVAC Problems

As the outdoor temperatures steadily rise, so do the number of service calls for air conditioner repairs. One reason for the increase in service calls is due to the fact that homeowners are less likely to put off repairs when the heat is unbearable. However, the sultry summer heat could be indirectly responsible for most common summer HVAC problems.

The hot and humid summer weather can cause your HVAC unit to work extra hard to keep you comfortable. Also, because the temperatures outside can be extreme, you may be more aware of unit cooling inefficiency.

Commonly Reported Summer HVAC Problems

Here are a few of the most common summer HVAC problems, how you can avoid them, and the steps you need to take to fix them.

Poor Air Flow

When your system is running, you should feel cool air coming from your AC registers. If you place your hand over the register and notice little to no air flow, there is obviously something wrong. This is an indication that there is poor air flow to your HVAC unit.

There are several things that can cause poor air flow.

Summer Vegetation

A common summer culprit is summer vegetation. WIth warm temperatures and sunny days, the plants around your outdoor unit grow faster. If left unchecked, these plants could grow up around the unit and create a leafy barrier, trapping the heat inside. This causes a decrease in efficiency and potential overheating.

Air conditioners need intake and exhaust air to operate efficiently. Be sure to keep shrubs, grass, and other outdoor plants trimmed well away from your outdoor HVAC unit to ensure proper air flow. At least a two-foot clearance is recommended around the equipment and at least five feet above it.

Dirty HVAC Filters

Dirty HVAC filters can also cause air flow issues. Because the air conditioner is running more frequently during hot temperatures, it is circulating more air. This can cause the filters to become dirty faster. It is a good idea to change your HVAC filters more frequently during the months your system is working hardest to keep you cool.

Dirty Coils

Again, because your unit is running more frequently, and circulating more air, the coils on your air conditioner can become dirty and clogged. This is particularly true if you haven’t been changing your filters as often as necessary.

Having the system’s coils checked and cleaned by a local HVAC professional before summer begins can help keep air moving freely over them. However, it is better late than never. If you are having poor air flow issues, it may be as simple as a routine maintenance visit.

Low Refrigerant

Contrary to popular belief, your HVAC system does not consume refrigerant as it cools your home. A properly working unit shouldn’t need a regular refill of refrigerant.

Over time, however, your HVAC system may develop tiny leaks that can allow refrigerant to slowly seep out, leading to a low refrigerant charge. An undercharged air conditioner will struggle to cool your home effectively. The result is longer run times, a decrease in energy efficiency, higher utility bills, and possible overheating.

During a routine maintenance visit, your HVAC technician will check refrigerant levels and inspect your coils and refrigerant lines for any leaks. If your unit has a refrigerant leak, the technician will seal the leaks before adding more refrigerant.

If you suspect your system may be suffering from low refrigerant charge, contact your local HVAC professional for help.

Problems with Electrical Lines

The exposed electrical components on your unit may be more susceptible to damage during the summer. Take extra care when trimming grass or other vegetation around your unit. A string trimmer or electric shears can damage the fins on the outside or accidentally clip the electrical wiring.

Since pets often spend more time outdoors during the summer, they can also pose a hazard to your unit’s electrical lines. To keep pets from chewing on electrical wires or urinating on electrical components, you may need to secure the area around your outdoor component to keep it safe from your furry friends.

Compressor Failure

All the common HVAC problems listed above are relatively easy to repair. However, if left unfixed, they could lead to more serious and expensive problems.

Insufficient air flow, poor refrigerant charge, and electrical issues will eventually cause the unit’s  the compressor to overwork, overheat, and ultimately break down. Replacing an HVAC compressor is not only expensive, it is very inconvenient, leaving you and your family to suffer the uncomfortable summer heat.

That is why it is important to call a licensed HVAC technician at the first sign your air conditioner isn’t working properly. Waiting too long could lead to more serious repairs.

It is also important to schedule regular annual maintenance to ensure your system is running smoothly and easily. Like the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

 

If you have any questions or need to schedule maintenance or repairs, be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals.

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