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WiFi Thermostats: A “SMART” Choice for Your Home

Home thermostats have come a long way since the simple, dial-style models of our childhood. Those ancient dinosaurs were not only imprecise, but also difficult to adjust. Everything was done manually, and while adjustment was a simple turn of the dial, it was easy to forget to adjust the thermostat up or down to save energy while you were away at work or on vacation.

Programmable thermostats came on the scene over a decade ago. Revolutionizing the way we heat and cool our homes, programmable thermostats allowed us to set and forget, providing a great way to customize or heating and cooling to fit our daily lifestyle and routine. These innovative gems increased our comfort levels and our energy savings.

The latest technological development in the world of thermostats goes above and beyond simple programming capabilities. New thermostat technology connects to your home’s wireless internet service. With WiFi connectivity, you can use your smartphone or tablet to remotely check and change the temperature in your home. Many models can also integrate with SMART home hubs like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, making it easy to adjust your temperature settings with just your voice. This new SMART thermostat technology is convenient, and enhances energy savings and personal comfort.

Thermostats and SMART Technology

SMART home technology is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States. According to Statista, approximately 28 percent of American households were using smart home technology in 2018. This is number is expected to increase to 54 percent by the year 2023.

SMART stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology. Originally developed by IBM, SMART home technology allows consumers monitor and control connected home devices from their smartphone or other networked devices. These voice-activated systems allow users to control home lighting, security systems, music, shopping, and more.

Many new thermostat models easily  integrate into SMART home systems. These SMART thermostats allow you to easily adjust temperature settings in your home without the need to get up, walk across the house, and adjust a manual dial. Instead, you can initiate the system with a simple voice command like, “make it warmer.” The system will automatically alert your heating system and raise the temperature inside your living space.

Other Voice-Activated Options

While SMART technology is becoming more common, many homeowners have not yet integrated a smart home hub in their homes. For those households, there are several stand-alone voice-activated WiFi thermostats available. These innovative thermostats offer voice command technology with WiFi integration without the need for a central SMART home hub.

How the HVAC Industry is Using SMART Technology

SMART thermostats are just one way this new technology is revolutionizing the comfort level in our homes. Consumer demand is constantly driving the HVAC industry to create products that enhance comfort and convenience through voice control and home connectivity. However, SMART technology can also make your family safer. 

SMART technology can also allow thermostats and carbon monoxide detectors to communicate with one another. When the CO2 detector senses high carbon monoxide levels, it can communicate with the thermostat and shut down HVAC systems. SMART can also send a message to your smartphone, alerting you of the situation. This can save you and your family from a potentially hazardous situation.

Ask Your Local HVAC Professionals

SMART technology can add a whole new level of convenience, safety, and savings to the way you heat and cool your home. Therefore, if you are considering integrating your thermostat to your home’s SMART hub, or if you have questions about other voice-controlled or WiFi compatible models, contact your local HVAC professionals for more information.

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What to Do With an Icy Heat Pump

coolant

As cold weather sets in this winter, your home’s heat pump will be working on overdrive keeping you and your family cozy and warm. When temperatures drop, it is not uncommon for your heat pump to ice up. In fact, it is perfectly normal for the unit’s coil to become covered in white frost. During certain extreme weather conditions, it may even become coated in ice.

However, it is not normal for the entire unit to be completely encased in ice, especially for an extended period of time. If your heat pump is coated in ice, it is an indication that there is something seriously wrong. To avoid serious damage to your heating equipment, the problem should be quickly resolved.

What is a Heat Pump?

In technical terms, a heat pump is a mechanical compression cycle refrigeration system. This system can be reversed to heat or cool a specified space. In this specialized system, a compressor works to circulate a refrigerant that absorbs heat from the surrounding area. The heat is then released to another area, either heating or cooling the specified space.

What is Normal?

During the cold winter months, your heat pump will naturally ice up, periodically initiating a cycle to defrost the coils. This process ensures unit continues to run efficiently.

If the coils become frozen over and blocked with ice, proper heat transfer between the refrigerant and outside air is inhibited. With excessive ice build-up damage to the fan blades can occur. Also, heavy ice can crush the outdoor coils, leading to potential refrigerant leaks.

How the Defrost Cycle Works

The unit will automatically switch to a defrost cycle to prevent the unit from developing a dangerously thick layer of ice. In defrost mode, a reversing valve is engaged that switches the system into air conditioning mode. In air conditioning mode, the outdoor evaporator becomes the condenser and the outdoor fan shuts off. Then the high pressure refrigerant circulating through the outdoor coil gets warm, causing the ice build-up to melt. Simultaneously, back-up heat powers up, offsetting cold air blowing through the vents in your home.

Different systems have different methods for engaging in defrost mode. Some use mechanical timers that work in combination with a defrost thermostat. Other systems use solid-state control modules with temperature sensors. The most sophisticated systems a Demand Defrost system. This technology makes calculations based on the temperature outside, the refrigerant temperature in the coil, and the system run time.

What Causes a Heat Pump to Ice Up?

There are several reasons a heat pump may develop excessive ice build-up. Understanding what exactly is causing your system to freeze up is essential to getting the proper service for your system.

Refrigerant Levels

Every HVAC system needs refrigerant to operate properly. Refrigerant is what transfers heat into or out of your home, depending on whether your system is set to heat or cool the space. In summer, the heat pump moves heat outside. During cold weather, the heat pump moves the heat inside keeping your living spaces comfortably warm.

If your system lacks the proper level of refrigerant, it cannot properly transport heat. A heat pump does not use up refrigerant. Instead, it circulates continuously. If your system is running low on refrigerant, it is most likely due to a leak.

If you suspect your system is low on refrigerant, it will need to be serviced by a certified technician. He or she can check for leaks, repair any that are found, and refill your system with refrigerant.

Things You Can Fix Yourself

If your heat pump is icing up, it doesn’t necessarily mean costly repairs. Sometimes ice is caused by common problems that are easily fixed by the homeowner. These situations include:

A blocked outdoor coil. If your coils are blocked by leaves, debris, or snow drifts it could disrupt air flow and cause ice to build up on the unit. Clear all blockages to ensure proper air flow.

Leaking gutters. If your home has blocked gutters, it could cause water to drip onto your heat pump. In cold weather this could produce undue ice build up. Make sure to keep your gutters free form debris to protect your unit from dripping water.

Freezing rain. Wintry mixes, sleet, and freezing rain can cause the top of unit to freeze over. Once the top freezes, it is more likely to develop an icy coating over the rest of the heat pump. This situation may not need professional attention. However, if the ice builds up on the unit, it could damage your system. You might consider turning off the system until the ice melts.

Things That Require Professional Attention

Some causes of heat pump ice build-up require a service call. If these occur, don’t hesitate to call your local HVAC professional for help. These situations include:

  • Damaged defrost timer
  • Broken defrost thermostat or sensor
  • Bad defrost relay
  • Stuck reversing valve
  • Busted outdoor fan motor
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Electric Blanket Safety

Sometimes it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep if the temperature in your bedroom is too cold. However, setting the thermostat to a cooler setting while you sleep can help save money on your winter heating bills. An electric blanket can help bridge the gap, allowing you to lower the thermostat without sacrificing sleeping comfort.

Because electric blankets generate heat, they need to be used with caution, just like any heating appliance. There are risks, especially if your electric blanket is damaged or misused. If you follow a few simple safety measures, you can save money, stay warm, and enjoy a safe and comfortable night’s sleep.

How An Electric Blanket Works

There are several different types of electric blankets.

An underblanket is designed to above the mattress and below the bottom bed sheet. It warms the bed from the bottom up.

Another type of electric blanket is the overblanket. This type of electric blanket is usually placed above the top sheet, but underneath other blankets.

While there are many different brands and models, all electric blankets work the same. Like a heating pad, electric blankets feature a heating element, often a coiled wire or carbon fiber, inserted into the blanket’s fabric. When plugged in and switched on, this heating element uses electricity to generate heat.

Inspecting Your Electric Blanket for Safety

Because the integrated heating element is designed to be flexible, it is also susceptible to damage and wear through regular use. Make sure you handle your electric blanket gently to prevent accidental damage. Follow all manufacturer’s care instructions.

Even if you follow directions and handle your blanket with care, damage to the element in your blanket is still possible. Inspect your blanket carefully before every use. If you detect any tears, exposed wires or elements, burn marks, or any other signs of damage, discard your blanket. Using a damaged blanket is a fire hazard and increases the risk of electric shock.

Never fold your electric blanket as this can cause damage to the internal heating element. Roll your blanket loosely and never stack heavy objects on top of your blanket.

Nighttime Use

Many homeowners wonder if it is safe to use an electric blanket for the entire night. A well-maintained electric blanket is unlikely to cause problems with proper use. However, overnight use is not recommended.

Many high end electric blankets feature timers. A timer allows you to safely fall asleep under your electric blanket. Then once you are comfortably warm, the timer automatically switches off the blanket’s heating element.

If your blanket does not feature an automatic switch-off timer, consider using your blanket to warm your bed before you retire. Then switch off your blanket before crawling into bed. This eliminates the risk of your blanket dangerously malfunctioning while you are asleep.

Other Safety Measures

  • Here several more tips for using your electric blanket safely.
  • Do not use your electric blanket if you are intoxicated.
  • Electric blankets pose different risks for children, infants, and the disabled and should be used with extreme caution.
  • Never run the electric cord between the mattress and box springs. This could cause the cord to overheat or become damaged by friction.
  • Keep pets away from your electric blanket. It could be easily damaged by teeth or claws.
  • Do not use an electric blanket on a waterbed.
  • Never dry clean or iron your electric blanket.
  • Always turn off your electric blanket when not in use.

Staying Warm All Winter

Electric blankets can be an effective way to stay warm during the cold winter months. When used with an efficient and effective HVAC unit, it is one tool to help you cut your heating costs. If you are looking for other methods to lower your home heating bills, contact your local HVAC technician.

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Guide to Energy Efficient Window Labels

A house with old, single-paned windows can be a source of drafty air, especially in the wintertime. Even worse, they can be rough on a home’s energy efficiency, making your wallet take a hard hit when it comes to winter utility costs.

Replacing old, outdated windows is one of the most effective ways to invest in long-term energy savings. While the initial investment in replacement windows may feel overwhelming, modern energy efficient windows are well worth the price, and offer significant month-to-month savings.

Choosing the right replacement windows can feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t understand all the information, numbers, and acronyms on the labels. Whether you plan to purchase your new windows online or in the store, window labels are a key source of information, making it easy to compare different models. Deciphering the label information will enable you to make an informed decision and make a wise window investment.

Understanding Window Labels

Use this information to help you analyze window label info with this handy guide.

Manufacturer’s Labels

One section of the window label contains specs from the manufacturer. It will usually include the model number of the specific window design. Other features the manufacturer’s label might include are:

The material used in frame construction. Common frame materials include aluminum, wood, vinyl, and fiberglass.

Number of panes. The manufacturer’s label should specify if the windows are single, double, or triple paned. The more panes a model has, the more protected your home is from the cold air outside.

Multi-pane windows contain gas in the spaces between the panes. The type of gas used should be listed on the label. Argon and krypton are common gases used in modern energy efficient windows.

Some models feature panes treated to protect your furniture, carpet, and drapes from harmful UV rays. Over time, UV exposure can cause fading. Low-E is a common glass treatment that helps filter harmful ultraviolet light.

The NFRC Label

Modern windows also contain a 4-5 digit NFRC rating. The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) calculates this rating. This independent organization evaluates windows and skylights. The HFRC number allows you to easily compare key characteristics of different window models. These characteristics include:

Visible Transmittance. This is a measurement of how much light a specific window allows to pass through. Higher visual transmittance means more light will enter your home. This could help save on electrical costs for artificial lighting and can also help your home feel more comfortable and inviting.

Solar Heat Gain Coefficient. This number indicates how effectively the window blocks outside heat. The lower the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, the more the new windows will save you on your summer cooling bills.

U Factor. The U Factor indicates how effectively the window traps heat inside your home. Lower U Factors are desirable, indicating greater energy efficiency during cold winter months.

Air Leakage.  This number measures how tightly the windows are sealed.  A lower number means the window will let in less air from outside.

Energy Star Label

Windows that meet certain performance criteria will feature the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star label. These windows meet specific levels of energy efficiency for specific regions of the United States.

Because homeowners in cold climates need different window properties than those in warmer climates, there is no one-size-fits-all window model. Energy Star criteria also differ for different climates, reflecting the specific energy needs of homeowners in the area. The EPA divides the country into four distinct regions, Northern, North-Central, South-Central and Southern, and windows are rated according to each region based on NFRC measurements for U Factor and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient.

Consult the Professionals

If you want more information about how you can make your home more energy efficient and lower your utility bills, contact a local professional. A local HVAC technician can evaluate your home’s energy efficiency and suggest steps to help increase efficiency.

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Is Cleaning Your House Harming Your Health?

Most homeowners spend a considerable amount of time and money keeping their homes clean and fresh. While cleaning is a necessary part of maintaining a healthy home, the products you use could be doing more harm than good.

Many cleaning products contain harmful ingredients. These harmful ingredients can cause headaches, nausea, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems. Long-term exposure can be even more dangerous, causing kidney and liver problems and even cancer.

Part of the problem with indoor air is how efficiently modern homes are built. Designed to reduce heating and cooling costs and increase energy efficiency, modern homes are usually well-insulated. Due to modern construction methods, most houses are air-tight, locking in indoor pollutants and giving them no way to escape. In some cases, the indoor air quality can actually be worse than air pollution levels outside the home.

What are VOCs?

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are emitted as gases from a number of household cleaning products. When inhaled, they can many short-term and long-term adverse effects on the body. Concentrations of VOCs are consistently higher indoors than outdoors. Sometimes as much as ten times higher.

VOCs, Cleaners and Air Quality

These common household products can increase VOC levels in your home.

Candles and Air Fresheners

Many homeowners use air fresheners and scented candles to help their home smell fresh, clean, and more inviting. Americans spend billions of dollars annually on these scented products.

While these products can make your home smell clean, they can do real damage to your home’s air quality. Most scented products contain VOCs and other chemicals that can have serious effects on your family’s health.

Instead of air fresheners or scented candles, choose all-natural products. Consider diffusing essential oils as a replacement of harsh air freshener sprays. There are also non-toxic candles made from natural soy or beeswax that won’t contribute to poor indoor air quality.

All-Purpose Cleaners and Detergent

Many standard household cleaners contain harsh chemicals like ammonia and potassium hydroxide. These chemicals can have nasty effects on your health, contributing to eye and skin irritation and breathing problems.

Detergents can also have high levels of VOCs, especially if they contain added fragrance. Always look for VOC-free alternatives when possible.

Bleach

Although a tough cleaner and disinfectant, bleach is a harsh chemical. Not only does bleach contain harmful VOCs, it also contains sodium hypochlorite. This chemical can cause serious respiratory and circulatory problems.

If you use bleach as a disinfectant, consider a more natural solution like white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.

Aerosol Products

Any cleaner that comes in an aerosol can contribute to indoor air pollution. All aerosol products contain VOCs and other chemicals that help speed up the drying process and increase coverage area.

Paint

While a new coat of paint can make your home more attractive, paint, paint thinner, and oil-based stains all contain VOCs. The problem doesn’t end when the paint dries, either. Paint can continue to off gas VOCs for weeks or even months after application.

To reduce VOCs, always read labels. Choose a non-toxic option or a paint labeled as “low VOC.” When applying any paint or stain, be sure the area is properly ventilated.

Consult the Professionals

If you are concerned about the quality of your indoor air, you can contact a local HVAC professional. These professionals offer a variety of products and services that can help improve  your home’s indoor air quality and keep your family breathing easy.

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Is A Heat Pump Right For You?

When it comes to heating your home, a forced air furnace isn’t your only option. A heat pump may actually be a better option, especially if you live in a moderate climate. First introduced in the 1940s, heat pumps are growing in popularity, and for good reason.

The Benefits of Using a Heat Pump

Quiet, safe, and efficient, heat pumps are an excellent choice for homes located in states with a more moderate climate. Here are just a few reasons to consider a heat pump to keep you cozy and comfortable all winter long.

  • Energy Efficiency. Running on good old fashioned electricity, the average heat pump is significantly more energy efficient than the average gas powered furnace.
  • Save Money on Your Annual Heating Bill. Electric rates tend to be less expensive than natural gas, at least in most areas of the United States. This means that operating a heat pump system will cost less on average than a gas fired furnace.
  • Cheaper Installation Costs. Because a forced air furnace requires an extensive ventilation system, installation can be expensive, especially in a home that isn’t already equipped with one. Installation of a heat pump system will usually cost less than the installation of a furnace in most situations.
  • Quiet Operation. In general, heat pumps do not make as much noise as a furnace. This will cause less disturbance in your daily home life, allowing you to easily enjoy activities like watching television and sleeping without being interfered by a loud heating system.
  • Safer Operation. Since heat pump systems don’t burn fuel to generate heat, there is no risk of dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, since there is no burning fuel, operating a heat pump reduces the risk of fire.
  • Heating and Cooling in One Option. A heat pump can also cool your home in the summer. By simply working in reverse, a heat pump pulls hot air from inside the house and transports in outside. This allows you to heat and cool your home using a single unit

How Heat Pumps Work

Heat pumps don’t actually generate heat. Instead, they work as a sort of heat transporter, constantly moving warm air from one place to another. Heat energy is present in all air, even air that feels cold. When the temperatures outside are frigid, a heat pump extracts even small amounts of heat and transfers it to the interior spaces of your home. When The outdoor temperatures rise, your heat pump reverses direction. Acting like an air conditioner, the heat pump transports the heat in the inside air and transports it outside.

Where Heat Pumps Work Best

There are several factors to consider when choosing between a forced air furnace and a heat pump. However, the most important factor is climate. In areas that typically experience mild winters, a heat pump will be significantly more energy efficient than a furnace.  

In areas that experience harsher winters, a heat pump could struggle to keep up. Many systems include an auxiliary heat source that kicks in when outdoor temperatures plummet. However, if temperatures remain low for extended periods, a heat pump will be far less efficient and effective than a traditional forced air furnace. Basically, the farther north you live, the more likely it is a furnace will do a better job of keeping your home warm and comfortable.

Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps can be more effective in colder climates. A geothermal heat pump draws heat from the relatively stable below-ground temperatures using a circuit of buried pipes. The major drawback to geothermal heating is the installation cost. The initial investment is expensive enough to deter most homeowners. Also, there are some locations where installation is impossible due to ground composition.

Discuss Your Options With a Professional

If you’re not sure which system is right for you, contact a qualified HVAC technician to discuss your options. An experienced professional can offer important insight into which system will work best in your climate and for your home. He or she can also help you better understand up-front investment and long-term operating costs.

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Everything You Need to Know About Carbon Monoxide

CO detectorCarbon monoxide, or CO, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. Often called the “silent killer,” if inhaled, especially in large quantities, carbon monoxide can cause serious illness and even death.

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2010 and 2015 more carbon monoxide poisoning caused more than 2200 deaths in the United States. The largest percentage of these tragic deaths occurred during the cold winter months of December, January, and February.

Common Carbon Monoxide Sources

Carbon monoxide is natural byproduct of any burning material. If you use fuel-burning appliances or have an attached garage, your home is more susceptible to increase levels of CO. Common sources of carbon monoxide in your home include:

Wood stoves and fireplaces

  • Water heaters
  • Gas stoves and ovens
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Space heaters
  • Power tools
  • Lawn equipment
  • Generators
  • Grills
  • Automobiles

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble flu symptoms. Prolonged exposure can cause the initial symptoms to worsen, leading to confusion, loss of consciousness, and even death.

  • Common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning may include:

    Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Fainting
  • Sleepiness

People who are sleeping or intoxicated are often at a higher risk of suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning because they may be unaware of developing symptoms. Irreversible brain damage and death can easily occur before rising CO levels are discovered.

Seek Medical Help

The initial symptoms of CO poisoning can be subtle and often easy to miss. Since carbon monoxide poisoning is a potentially life-threatening situation, if you suspect you are someone else may be at risk, get fresh air immediately and contact emergency medical personnel.
How to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Fortunately, death from carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented. A few simple steps like regular inspections of heating equipment and chimneys, as well as using a carbon monoxide detector will help lower the risks of CO exposure for you and your family.

Install Carbon Monoxide Detectors.

Carbon monoxide detectors are required by law in many states. However, even if they are not mandatory in your state, having them installed could save your life. Place one within 10 feet of rooms used for sleeping. Special CO detectors are also available for boats and motor homes.

Be sure to check the batteries in CO detectors regularly. Most manufacturers recommend replacing batteries twice each year to ensure your detectors are always working properly.

If the alarm on your CO detector goes off, leave the house immediately and call your local fire department. Put one in the hallway near each sleeping area in your house.

Never Start Your Car with the Garage Door Closed

It is dangerous to leave your vehicle running in a closed garage. CO is a natural byproduct of burning gasoline and is emitted through your car’s exhaust system. CO levels can rise rapidly in an unventilated area like a closed garage. Always open the garage door before starting your car.

Follow Safety Guidelines When Using Fuel-Powered Appliances

To ensure your family’s safety, always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when using any fuel-powered appliances. Keep all fuel-burning appliances well vented for safety.

Some other safety precautions to follow include:

  • Never use a stove or oven to heat your living spaces.
  • Always use portable gas camp stoves outside.
  • Never use fuel-burning space heaters when sleeping.
  • Never use a generator in an enclosed space like a basement or garage.

Schedule Regular Maintenance for Your Heating System

Whether you use a fireplace, woodstove, or modern HVAC system to heat your home, regular maintenance is important for efficiency and safety.

If you use a fireplace or stove to heat your home, be sure to clean your fireplace chimney and flue before the first use of the season.

Your local HVAC professional can provide annual inspections of your HVAC system. Regularly scheduled inspection and maintenance are essential for proper and safe function. Also, a qualified technician can answer any questions you may have about the safety of your heating system or appliances.

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Understanding Space Heater Safety

space heaterAs the days become shorter the outdoor temperatures begin to drop. With the cooler weather, many homeowners will be pulling out their space heaters for extra warmth and added comfort.

Using space heaters, whether electric or fuel-burning has some increased risk. However, if you follow a few simple safety rules, space heaters can safely and effectively compliment your whole home heating system.

Are Space Heaters Safe?

All space heaters are required to meet minimum consumer safety standards. When used properly, space heaters are safe to use.

However, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), based on 2011-2015 annual averages, space heaters “accounted for just over two of every five (43%) of home heating fires and four out of five (85%) of home heating fire deaths.”

While space heaters are technically safe to use, safety issues arise when they are not used properly. The primary causes of space heater fires are:

Operating a space heater near flammable items.
Leaving space heaters running unattended.
Operating a fuel-burning space heater with an unclean chimney.

Electric Space Heater Safety

The most common types of space heaters use electricity to warm the surrounding area. Here are some basic safety rules for operating an electric space heater.

Always read the owner’s manual thoroughly before operating an electric space heater.

Follow all operating instructions in the owner’s manual.

Leave at least three feet in all directions. Keep this space free of all flammable material, including toys, blankets, curtains, clothing, paper, etc.

Never leave your space heater on while unattended. A responsible and aware adult should always be present when your space heater is in use.

Use your electric space heater only on a level surface.

Keep children away from your space heater when it is in use. To prevent burns as well as fires, keep children a safe distance away. Consider child safety gates or other equipment to ensure small children do not accidentally touch or knock over your space heater.

Consider purchasing a space heater with added safety features. Many models feature an automatic shut-off system which employs when the unit tips over.

Fuel-Burning Space Heater Safety

A fuel-burning space heater is one that uses burnable fuel like wood pellets, kerosene, propane, or natural gas to heat the surrounding area. Fuel-burning space heaters are very efficient, but can present their own set of risks. With a few simple safety tips and
Precautions, however, a fuel-burning space heater can be a safe and comfortable way to complement your whole-house heating system.

Always use the appropriate fuel in your space heater. Check with the manufacturer or the unit’s user manual if you are uncertain.

Always remember to turn your space heater off before leaving the room or going to sleep.

Maintain a three-foot perimeter around your fuel-burning space heater. Keep all flammable materials outside of this area.

To prevent burns and accidental fires, keep children at least three feet away from your space heater.

Make sure the area has sufficient ventilation. Fuel-burning space heaters emit dangerous carbon monoxide, which can have hazardous effects on your family and pets. Use the space heater with an open window or running ventilation fan.

Refuel your fuel-burning space heater outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

Make sure your home’s carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Change batteries at least once each year.

If your space heater features a pilot light, use caution when lighting it. If the pilot light goes out, do not try to relight it for at least five minutes. This will give enough time for any lingering gas or fumes to safely dissipate before you attempt to relight it.

Consider purchasing a fuel-burning space heater that offers enhanced safety features. Many newer models feature special shutoff mechanisms which engage when ambient oxygen levels are low.

If your unit requires a chimney, have your chimney cleaned before use.

Consider Upgrading your Whole-House Heating System

Many homeowners turn to space heaters to correct bigger comfort issues. If your central heating system is not adequately heating your home, it may be time to upgrade your system. Contact your local HVAC professionals to help you determine the proper size and model to meet your needs. A qualified technician can perform load calculations to determine proper sizing for heating systems and help you decide if upgrading the central heating system is the proper solution.

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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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