Archives for Air Conditioning

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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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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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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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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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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Is it Time to Tune Up Your Air Conditioner?

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

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

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

Why Spring is the Best Time to Schedule a Tune Up

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

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

The Benefits of Paying for a Tune Up Now

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

Cut Utility Bills By Improving Efficiency

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

Prevent Costly Emergency Repairs

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

Fix Small Problems Before They Become Big Problems

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

Extend The Life of Your Air Conditioner

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

Plan for Replacement

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

 

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

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

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

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

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