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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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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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Staying Safe in the Summer Heat

hydrationWith summer in full swing and temperatures heating up, many people want to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. While it can be fun to get out and enjoy the summer sunshine, it is important to take precautions before being too active in the heat.

Each year, extreme heat is one of the leading causes of weather-related fatalities. Thousands of people are hospitalized in the U.S. each year due to heat-related illness. That is why it is important to observe these simple safety tips to keep you and your family safe, healthy, and cool all summer long.

Staying Cool at Home

If the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory, it is a good idea to limit outdoor activity. Here are some measures you can take to make sure your home stays cool, safe, and comfortable during a major heat wave.

Start With Your Air Conditioner

Air conditioning is one of the great inventions of the modern world. During the extreme temperatures of midsummer, your air conditioner can be your best friend.

While it is best to schedule an AC tuneup in the spring, before temperatures become extreme, sometimes it is better late than never. Regular AC maintenance will help you avoid inconvenient breakdowns and help detect small problems before they become big ones.

Annual maintenance will also keep your AC unit running efficiently, saving you money on your summer cooling bills. Plus, it will extend the life of your system. This is not a service you want to skip. If your air conditioner hasn’t had a check-up recently, bow is the time to contact your local HVAC professionals to schedule a maintenance visit.

Have an Emergency Plan

If the electricity goes out or your air conditioner stops working, the temperature inside your home can rise rather quickly. Have a list of local places you can visit for relief from the heat, especially during the hottest part of the day. These places may include the public library, shopping malls, and movie theaters. If a power outage is widespread and lengthy, you may even consider your community emergency shelter or a local hotel where the power may still be working.

Easing the Burden on Your Air Conditioner

During peak heat, your air  conditioner works hard to keep the inside of your home at a comfortable temperature. There are a few things you can do to help it cool more efficiently.

Cover your windows. Pull blinds and drapes, especially over windows that receive the afternoon sun. If your windows receive excessive sun exposure, consider installing awnings or louvers. This simple measure can reduce the heat entering your home by up to 80 percent.

Use fans strategically. A well-placed fan can help circulate air and make your home seem cooler. If your living space has a ceiling fan, be sure it is set to rotate to push air down. The breeze it creates will help you feel more comfortable. According to the U. S. Department of Energy, “If you use air conditioning, a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort.“

Avoid using appliances during the heat of the day. If you must use your oven, stove, or clothes dryer, wait until the sun goes down and temperatures begin to cool before turning them on. If possible, avoid using them altogether. Consider drying your clothes on a clothesline. FOr cooking, try using a slow cooker or table top grill.

Dress for Success

Even if you plan to stay indoors, you should still dress or the weather. When outdoor temperatures are extreme, shorts, skirts, short sleeves, and loose fitting clothing will help you keep your cool.

Also, choose natural fabrics that breathe in light colored hues. Darker colors absorb heat, making it more difficult for your body to stay cool.

Stay Hydrated

Summer heat will make you sweat, making it important to drink plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to rehydrate. Instead, drink plenty of fluids throughout the course of the day. Adults should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, although more may be necessary if you are active or the heat and humidity are intense.

If you are concerned about the heat, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated drinks. These beverages can contribute to dehydration, increasing your risk of heat-related illness.

Learn to Recognize the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

Heat-related illnesses can be serious. It is important to know the warning signs of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other dangerous heat-related illnesses.

If you, or someone around you experiences any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fast or shallow breathing
  • Clammy skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Severe headache
  • Loss of consciousness

 

While summer weather is the perfect setting for fun and recreation, don’t take chances with your health, hydration, or your air conditioner. Stay cool and drink plenty of water. If you need help with your AC, call your local HVAC experts to schedule emergency repairs or overdue routine maintenance.

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The Benefits of Proper Attic Ventilation

attic fanIf you’ve spent any time in an unfinished attic during the summer, you know just how hot that space can get. Because attics rarely have air conditioning vents, temperatures rise quickly, especially with the hot summer sun beating down directly on the roof right overhead. It isn’t uncommon for attic temperatures to reach 150 degrees or more in the middle of summer.

What are the Benefits of Good Attic Ventilation?

The benefits of proper attic ventilation extend beyond cooler attic temperatures. Here are just a few of the surprising advantages to having good ventilation.

Cooling Efficiency and Lower Utility Bills

Properly balanced attic ventilation will help your HVAC system run more efficiently all year long.

In the hot summer months, attic ventilation helps your home to breathe. Without proper air circulation, the air inside your attic rises like an oven, causing your air conditioner to work harder to remove the hot air that accumulates there.

Circulating air will lower attic temperatures by cooling your roof deck (the underside or base of your roof). This simple act will allow your air conditioner to cool the inside of your home more quickly and efficiently.

During the cold winter months, a balanced ventilation system in the attic will keep humidity levels in check. By minimizing condensation in the attic spaces, you also reduce the risk of developing potentially dangerous mold and mildew.

Condensation in the attic will also dampen your insulation and cause it to compress. This reduces the efficiency of the insulation and can cause your heating system to work harder to heat the inside of your home and raising your utility costs.

Preserving Structural Integrity

As proper attic air flow reduces the accumulation of condensation and maintains proper humidity levels, it helps prevent wood rot and moisture damage.

How to Achieve Proper Attic Ventilation

Unless you plan to turn your home’s attic into a usable living space, it isn’t cost effective to install HVAC vents. If your attic is only used for storage, installing an attic fan is the more practical solution.

Attic fans work continuously to circulate air, replacing stagnant air with fresh air from outside. This help keep your attic space from turning into an oven.

There are two types of attic fans you can have installed to ensure proper attic ventilation.

Rooftop Attic Fans

Rooftop fans are installed right on top of your home’s roof. Solar powered rooftop fans are a popular choice. The sun is already there, beating down on your roof. Harnessing that power to help ventilate your attic space just makes sense. And since these fans run on solar power, they won’t add to your energy bills.

Gable Fans

Gable fans are also designed to circulate air. Unlike rooftop fans, this ventilation system is composed of two separate fans. They are mounted on the gables of your home, each on opposite sides. One fan works to blow out stagnant attic air, while the other blows in fresh air from outside.

Make Sure to Seal It

In order for an attic fan to work properly, it is important have a tight seal between your attic space and living space. If this tight seal doesn’t exist, your attic fan could actually have a detrimental effect on energy efficiency. The circulation created by your newly installed attic fans could suck the cooler air from your living space through small cracks and gaps in your ceiling.

Have your home properly inspected before your attic fans are installed. If there are any significant cracks in the barrier between these spaces, have them properly sealed. This will prevent the air conditioned air in your home’s upper level from escaping through your attic.

 

If you have any questions about attic ventilation or how to make your home more energy efficient, contact your local HVAC professionals.

 

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How to Protect Your Air Conditioner From Being Stolen

Air conditioner theft is not uncommon, even in the heat of summer. However, criminals who steal AC units aren’t taking them to keep cool and comfortable. They don’t even want the whole unit. They are more likely to vandalize your system, taking any valuable scrap metal to liquidate for quick cash.

The copper and aluminum coils, fins, and other miscellaneous parts in your AC’s condenser unit are only a small portion of your system. Thieves looking to make a quick buck will often destroy the entire condenser to harvest the these valuable metals. They may only makes a few dollars off the parts, but it could cost you thousands of dollars to repair the damage.

Ways to Prevent AC Theft

It only takes minutes for an experienced thief to ravage a multi-thousand dollar air conditioner to gather a small amount of copper and aluminum. However, there are steps you can take to deter criminals and preserve your AC unit so you can keep cool all summer long.

Make it Visible

It is tempting to completely hide your outdoor AC unit with bushes, shrubs, fences, and other landscaping elements. However, most criminals don’t like to be seen when committing a crime. Keep in mind anything that obstructs the view from neighbors allows criminals to do damage without any witnesses. Make sure your landscaping doesn’t hinder security.

Because criminals like to work in secret, many air conditioning thefts occur after the sun goes down because darkness helps to obscure their crime. Consider adding some outdoor security lighting to deter theft.

If you don’t enjoy lights shining through your windows, try installing motion activated lighting. This type of security lighting only turns on when there is movement around the sensor.

Home Security

If your home has a security system, there are several products that help you monitor tampering with your outdoor AC unit. Aside from obvious security cameras to record activity outside, there are simple products that monitor electricity and coolant flow. If there is a sudden interruption to the system, like when a thief cuts the electrical lines, the security system sounds an alarm. Some systems will even notify the police, sending immediate help to your home.

Install A Locking Security Cage

The most effective theft deterrent is to enclose your outdoor unit in a special cage or wire fencing. These special security cages can be expensive, often requiring an investment of several hundred dollars, and they usually need to be installed by a professional. However, the enclosure makes stealing the metal from your unit much more complicated. Most criminals will usually move along to find an easier target.

One important factor to keep in mind when purchasing and installing a security cage is air circulation. If the condenser on your air conditioner cannot expel hot air, it will negatively affect your system’s energy efficiency. If your unit struggles to cool your home, it can cause expensive breakdowns and shorten the life of your entire system.

Leave Your Mark

Even if your system is vandalized, there is hope of recovering some of the important components. You can engrave your name, address, or the unit’s serial number on all your system’s parts, including the copper tubing.

Inform the police immediately if your system is vandalized and your marked components stolen. This may help them be recovered, saving you some money in repair and replacement costs.

 

Your air conditioner is an essential piece of summer equipment. In the heat of summer, it is the only thing helping keep you and your family comfortable. Take these steps and you can be sure your system stays right where it belongs, keeping you cool all summer long. If you have questions about howto keep your unit safe from criminals, be sure to contact your local HVAC professionals.

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Cooling Efficiency Guide for Homeowners

As rising summer temperatures begin to make their way across the country, it is time to consider the efficiency of your home’s cooling system. The cooling efficiency of your system is crucial to your family’s comfort this time of year. However, it also affects how much you will spend on utilities this summer.

Factors That Affect Cooling Efficiency

In order to get the most out of your cooling system and keep your summer utility bills under control, it is important to understand the factors affecting your system’s efficiency. Here are just a few things that could have long-reaching effects on cooling efficiency, comfort, and your summer cooling budget.

Setting Your Thermostat

One of the biggest factors in your cooling system’s efficiency is how you set your thermostat. Thankfully, this factor is also the easiest to control.

The closer you set your thermostat to the temperature outdoors, the less stress you put on your cooling system, and the more money you will save on your bill. This may not be practical when the temperatures peak mid-summer. To stay cool during blistering heat waves, find the highest comfortable temperature, and commit to it. Frequently changing the temperature of non-programmable thermostat can make a major impact on your cooling efficiency. If you want to customize temperature settings for different times of day or days of the week, t is best to invest in a programmable thermostat model.

During the hottest weather, experts recommend setting your home’s cooling system at 78 degrees Fahrenheit for those time periods when you and your family are at home. If the house will be empty for more than four hours, consider raising the setting so energy won’t be wasted cooling an unoccupied house.

Check the Airflow

A primary factor in cooling efficiency is airflow. If your system isn’t getting the proper airflow, it will have to work harder to keep the inside of your home comfortably cool.

Check to make sure there is proper clearance around your home’s external unit. Also, make sure the system is clear of debris and your ductwork is clean. Regular filter changes are also necessary to maintain airflow and keep your system operating at peak efficiency.

Air Leaks

Too much airflow can also affect your system’s efficiency. Make sure to seal leaky doors and windows. Winter drafts are uncomfortable, but during the summer heat, they can force your cooling system to work overtime.

Also, be sure to keep all exterior doors and windows shut once you turn on that air conditioner.

Regular Maintenance

Just like your vehicle, your cooling system needs regular maintenance. Schedule a check-up at least once a year with a local HVAC professional. A qualified technician will check for potential problems and make sure your system is up to the task of cooling your home.

The ideal time to schedule maintenance is in the spring before the heat of summer rolls in. The last thing you want is to have your system break down during the sweltering summer heat waves.

Consider an Upgrade

If your cooling bills remain high even after addressing these potential efficiency issues, it may be time to upgrade to a more modern and energy efficient system. Most cooling systems have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

If your system is nearing its 12 birthday, especially if you find it needs frequent repairs, it is a good idea to contact your local HVAC professional to discuss the benefits of upgrading your unit. He or she will help you weigh your options and make an informed decision about the cooling efficiency of your current unit, as well as what benefits a new model will provide.

When deciding whether to purchase a new system, you will need to check the Seasonal Energy-Efficiency Ratio, or SEER rating. In general, the rating should be at least 14.5. The higher the SEER, the more energy-efficient the cooling unit is.

 

Keeping your cool when you have a cooling efficiency problem can be hard, both literally and figuratively. However, if you address the factors listed above, you should stay cool all summer

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your cooling system and its energy efficiency, be sure to contact a qualified cooling expert in your area.

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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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