Archives for Heating

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
Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Tips for Building a Proper Fireplace Fire

fireplace fireWith winter in full swing, many of us are dealing with bitter cold weather and snow accumulation. When the outdoor temperatures are frigid, there is nothing more inviting than a warm and relaxing fireplace fire. The glow of a hearth fire not only helps add some extra warmth to a room, it also makes it feel instantly more cozy and relaxing.

While just about anyone can toss some wood in the fireplace, light up a match, and start a small fire, it takes skill to produce a safe, long-lasting, fire that will help warm a room and its occupants.

How to Build a Safe and Warm Fireplace Fire

Each year, an average of 22,300 home fires are caused by a poorly maintained fireplace fire or chimney structure. Here are a few important tips to help you ensure the safety of your home and family, while enjoying the soft warmth of a proper fireplace fire.

Keep Your Chimney Clean and Free from Obstructions

As you are thinking about basking in the warmth of your fireplace, you probably aren’t considering the condition of your chimney. While your chimney may add attractive architectural interest to the exterior of your home, its real job is to carry dangerous smoke and gases safely out of your home. Before you light those first winter fires, you’ll want check the condition of your chimney, or you may not be enjoying that fireplace fire for long.

It is important to have your chimney professionally cleaned before you light a fire in your home’s fireplace. This is the first and most important step in building a safe fireplace fire.

Chimneys can quickly build up with birds’ nests and windblown debris, as well as tar-like creosote from previous fires. A qualified chimney sweep will clear away any chimney obstructions so you can build your fireplace fire without worry.

Gather the Proper Supplies

There is a recipe for starting a proper fireplace fire, and it is important to have all the ingredients readily at hand before you get started. Here is what you are going to need to build a proper fireplace fire.

  • Seasoned hardwood logs in varying lengths and diameters.(To build a safe fire, you want to choose well-seasoned wood that has been split for a minimum of six months – one year and stored in a covered and elevated location.)
  • Kindling (Smaller branches and twigs)
  • Newspaper (Not the glossy kind common in advertisements)
  • Fireplace grate
  • Fireplace screen
  • Fireplace tools (including poker, tongs, shovel, and brush)
  • Long matches or long-handled lighter

Open the Damper

This is an important step. If you neglect to open the chimney damper before you light your fire, you home will quickly fill with wood smoke. The damper may be difficult to open if it has been sitting unused for several months. However, a proper chimney cleaning should include an inspection of your damper for safety purposes.

Position Your Logs

There are several effective methods for stacking logs, including the log cabin and teepee configurations. However, for a fireplace fire, the simplest method is to use an “upside down” stacking design.

Start by lining a few larger logs across your fireplace grate. Next, add one or more layers of logs that are smaller in diameter. Make sure each layer is stacked perpendicular to the layer below, using progressively smaller logs for each level.

On the top layer, pile small twigs and sticks for kindling and top with some crumpled newspaper.

Start the Fire

After you have finished stacking your materials, use a long match or lighter to light the newspaper and small kindling. Put your fireplace screen in place, and then sit back and enjoy.

One of the advantages of the “upside down” structure is the newspaper and kindling ignite first. As they burn, the hot embers fall down into the structure and catch the larger piece of wood on fire.

This style of structure also works to provide a good flow of oxygen to the lower embers. This allows the fire to burn longer. Once the fire is going, it requires minimal poking, adjusting, or other maintenance. This gives you more time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the warmth of your fireplace fire.

Put the Fire Out

After you are finished enjoying your fireplace fire, you need to make sure that the fire is completely extinguished. If you plan on spending the night at home, you may decide to wait until the fire burns out on its own. However, before you go to bed and leave the fireplace unattended, make sure the fire is completely out. You can place your hand over the ash to feel if there is any residual heat emanating. If you still feel warmth, you will need to further extinguish the ashes. There is always a chance that a smoldering ember could reignite after you’ve gone to bed, causing a fire hazard.

If you don’t have time to wait for the fire in your fireplace to burn out on its own, you can use your fireplace tools to help speed the process. Use your poker and shovel to spread the smoldering embers. Stir up the ash to cover and smother any glowing logs or other embers. If you need to speed up the process even more, you can sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda over the embers to help smother them.

 

A warm roaring fire in your fireplace is a relaxing way to feel toasty on a cold winter’s night. However, a fireplace fire is no substitute for a functioning home heating system. The comfort and convenience of a well-maintained heating system is the best way to keep your home and family warm during the cold months of winter. If you need assistance keeping your home warm, contact your local HVAC professionals for routine or emergency maintenance.

Read more

Large and Small Ways to Control your Heating Bill

save moneyAs we hunker down and brace ourselves for the coldest months of the year, conscientious homeowners are probably thinking about how they can reduce their heating bill. The cost of keeping your home cozy and warm can be an expensive endeavor. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways, both large and small, that you can trim some of that expense without sacrificing comfort.

Whether you need a few simple and easy ways to reduce your heating bill or if you want to pull out all the stops and make big changes, you will find something helpful in the action steps listed below.

Baby Steps to Reducing Your Heating Bill

Even if you don’t have the time or money to make big changes to heating system, there are still small changes that will save you money.

  1. Turn down your thermostat setting. This is the easiest and fastest way to start saving money on your heating expenses. By turning your thermostat down just a few degrees, you can save big on your next bill. As a general rule of thumb, for every degree you turn down your thermostat (and leave it there) you save between 1 and 3 percent of your heating bill.

    So throw on a nice warm sweater if you have to, but turn down that thermostat to start saving money.

  2. Use the warmth of the sun. Only a fool would turn down free heat. If you have windows that face the midday sun, open up the blinds and let in the natural warmth of the sun.

  3. Don’t be afraid to use a space heater. Space heaters are designed to heat small spaces. While space heaters have a reputation for being expensive to run, used correctly they can save you money on your heating bill. If you know that you will be in one area of your home, you can add some extra heat to that area with a space heater. Meanwhile, go ahead and turn down the thermostat a few degrees. Unoccupied areas of your home may be cooler, but the room you are in will still be warm and cozy.

    Using a space heater occasionally will keep you from having to maintain a comfortable temperature in the entire home when it isn’t necessary.

  4. Use an electric blanket. By using an energy efficient electric blanket, you will feel more comfortable sleeping at a cooler temperature setting. You may even decide to use the blanket to warm your bed by turning it on 15 minutes before bedtime. Then you can turn it off and still feel warm and comfortable as you fall asleep without raising your electric bill.

Larger Steps to Reduce Your Heating Bill

  1. Seal your home’s drafts. You can easily places where cold winter air enters your home by using a handheld draft detector. If you don’t have access to one of these handy devices, you can use your hand or even a candle.

    Once you’ve located any draft sources, take steps to seal them. Use caulk on leaky windows and weather stripping on gaps around doors.

  2. Get a tune-up for your furnace. Regular cleaning and equipment adjustments can make a huge difference in how your heating system runs. By scheduling a regular annual furnace tune-up, your heating system will run more efficiently. This is also the best way to catch potential problems before they turn into expensive repairs.

  3. Replace your attic insulation. Think of your attic insulation as a cozy blanket that helps hole warmth inside your home. Quality attic insulation is your home’s best defense against unnecessary heat loss.

    Over time, insulation breaks down and compresses, causing a loss in insulation volume. If your insulation is older than 10 years old, it may be time for replacement. If your attic insulation has settled and measures less than 12 inches thick, it is time replace or add to the existing insulation.

  4. Order a home energy audit. A home energy audit is an extensive test that produces a detailed report. Using the latest technology, a home heating professional will search for air leaks as well as any other sources of inefficiency and help you determine steps to maximize your home’s energy efficiency.

  5. Upgrade your heating system. If your furnace is more than 10 years old, it may be time to consider replacement. A newer system is probably the best way to achieve big savings on your heating bill. Be sure to talk to an HVAC professional about which options will work best for you.

 

Winter heating bills don’t have to be frightening. Whether you want to make big changes or take small actions, there are ways you can control your heating bill. If you have questions or need help implementing any of these strategies, contact your local HVAC expert for more information.

Read more

Dealing With Dry Winter Air

dry air As winter sets in and the temperatures fall, so do humidity levels. It is annoying, and probably something we take for granted, but as the weather outside gets colder, the air inside gets drier.

We easily see the effects of dry winter air in irritating static electricity. However, the trouble low humidity levels cause stretch well beyond clinging clothes and the ability for kids to shock each other.

The Effects of Dry Winter Air

One of the major effects of dry winter air is a cooler feel to the indoor temperature. The optimum humidity for comfort is around 40 percent. When the relative humidity is below that level, you may be tempted to turn your thermostat up a few degrees to feel warmer.  And for every degree you bump up the thermostat, you’ll see a 4 percent increase in your heating bill.

But your bank account isn’t the only place you’ll feel the negative effects of dry winter air. Low humidity levels can also have a negative impact on your family’s health. Some of the adverse effects of extremely dry indoor air include:

  • Irritation to the body’s mucous membrane. We feel this as dryness and itching of the eyes, nose, and throat.
  • Lowered immunity. The mucous membrane is the body’s first line of defense against infection. When the mucous membrane thins due to dry air exposure, you become more susceptible to colds, the flu, and other illnesses.
  • Asthma. Dry air can make asthma flare-ups more frequent and severe.
  • Skin irritation. Dry and scaly skin, especially on the hands and feet, can become severe, causing them to crack and bleed.

Long-lasting low humidity can also have a negative impact on your home. A few of the effects dry air can have on your home include:

  • Flaking or peeling paint.
  • Cracks in wooden surfaces, including floors, walls, ceilings, cabinets, and furniture.
  • Excessive static electricity can cause damage to sensitive electronic devices.

 

Dealing with Dry Winter Air

Winter air is naturally dry because as outdoor temperatures fall, the air contracts. Because the air molecules are more compact, the air has less capacity to hold moisture. This dry air gets inside your home through open doors and windows and causes your home’s relative humidity to fall.

But dry indoor air doesn’t have to be inevitable. There are steps you can take to restore relative humidity to a comfortable level and help protect your home’s interior and your family’s health.

Sealing Gaps and Cracks

First, seal cracks and gaps around doors and windows. Adding weather stripping to tighten door seals and caulk to seal cracks around windows, will go a long way to keeping dry winter air outdoors.

Other Small Ways to Increase Humidity

You can also add moisture to the air by allowing water to sit and evaporate into the air after you take a bath or shower. You can also leave bowls of water out to provide moisture as the water evaporates. Add a few drops of essential oil to the water to give a nice scent to the air in your home. Cooking on the stove can even help increase indoor humidity levels.

Add a Whole House Humidifier

One of the best ways to maintain comfortable humidity in your home is to have a whole house humidifier. A whole house humidifier works with your existing heating system to add moisture to the air inside your home.

Once installed by a qualified HVAC technician, a whole house humidifier brings water vapor into the duct system through a distribution tray. In this way, it helps adjust the indoor humidity level. You can monitor and control the level of humidity with simple adjustments to your thermostat.

For more information about how a whole house humidifier can work for you, contact your local HVAC professionals.

 

Dry winter air is a serious concern that should not be ignored. However, there are steps you can take to maintain humidity and protect your home and your family. Follow these steps and be comfortable all winter long.

Read more

Snow, Ice, and Your HVAC Unit

coolant

As cold weather begins to set in across the country, we often begin to worry about the threat of snow. When we think of snow, we often think about how it is going to affect the roads. We worry about schools being closed, or how dangerous the roads will be. However, we also need to be concerned about how snow and ice can affect our HVAC units.

Knowing How Much Ice is Normal

First, it is important to understand not all snow and ice build up on your HVAC system is harmful. In fact, if you have a heat pump, some ice on your outdoor unit is a normal part of operation, especially on extremely cold days.

Heat pumps work using a refrigerant that effectively absorbs heat from the surrounding air. As the refrigerant absorbs heat, moisture from the atmosphere builds up on the processing coils. When outdoor temperatures are extremely low, like at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit, that moisture instantly freezes, creating layer of ice.

While this ice may cause your system to run a bit slow during extreme temperatures, it isn’t anything to be concerned with. Everything should return to normal once the temperatures begin to rise.

Ice buildup, while normal, is still rather rare. Most modern units are designed with an automatic defrost feature. When the unit senses ice buildup, most systems will switch to a heat-distribution that works to melt the ice off ht coils. The process takes about half an hour, and  backup heat will keep your house warm during this process.

When Snow and Ice Can Cause a Problem

Some ice buildup on the outside unit is generally no big deal. However, when snow builds up around the outside unit or ice forms on top of the HVAC components, airflow can be restricted. This insufficient airflow causes your unit to work harder, causing stress on the system. It increases your energy use and wears on the system.

As snow builds up and ice crusts your outdoor unit it can trigger an emergency shut-off. While this is designed to save the unit from mechanical damage, it also cuts off heat to your home. During extremely cold weather, this puts your family in danger. It also increases the chance of burst pipes, which can cause extensive property damage and costly repairs.

It is important to remember your HVAC unit is designed to endure extreme temperatures and withstand the elements. However, snow and ice can build up on our system’s aluminum can or the coil fins. The extra weight could potentially bend those components, causing loud sounds and potentially busting them

Protecting Your Unit from Snow and Ice

Properly protecting your unit from harsh winter elements begins when your unit is installed and continues for the life of the unit. Here are some tips to help keep your system working, even when winter weather rages outside.

  • Make sure your unit isn’t installed directly on the ground. Instead, it should be at least several inches off the ground, high enough to be above normal snowfall. Northern climates may require units to be installed at higher levels than more temperate southern climates.  Most qualified HVAC technicians make sure this happens at installation. 
  • Use shrubs or fencing to create a wind barrier for your outside unit. Just remember to leave enough space for proper airflow and easy unit maintenance. 
  • To avoid a snow drifting and ensure proper airflow even in snowy conditions, your unit should be at least 18 inches from your home’s exterior wall. 
  • During winter weather, be sure to monitor your outdoor HVAC unit. If snow begins to build up around it, it’s time to shovel it away. 
  • Keep your gutters clean. If gutters are clogged, they may drip on your HVAC unit, causing ice to form as temperatures drop. 
  • Never chip away built-up ice. Using a pick or shovel to chip away at ice that has built up on the exterior of your unit could cause damage. Your best option is to let the defrost cycle run its course. You can always call an HVAC service technician if you have serious concerns.

WInter HVAC maintenance is really pretty simple. Just add inspecting your unit to your list of wintertime tasks, along with shoveling your driveway and salting your sidewalk. If you take care of your HVAC unit, it will take care of you, working hard to keep you and your family comfortably warm all winter long.

Read more

Essential Heating System Maintenance Checklist

checklistAs cold winter weather sweeps across the country, heating systems are turning on in droves. Your heating system works hard to keep your home warm and comfortable when outdoor temperatures become chilly. However, there are some simple steps you can take to make your system’s job a little easier.

Steps to Keep Your Heating System Running

Basic maintenance tasks are crucial to ensuring your heating system in peak condition and your home cozy until temperatures begin to rise in the spring. This heating system maintenance checklist covers all the maintenance jobs you should do now and throughout the cold season to keep your furnace or heat pump in tip top condition.

Change Your Filters.

A fresh filter will ensure your system is receiving adequate airflow. Changing your filter regularly will help your system remove airborne particles that can clog up air ducts and your system’s mechanical components. A clean furnace filter also helps your system function more efficiently, lowering your energy consumption and your utility bills.

Clear the Area Around Your Heating System.

Proper airflow is essential for your system to properly function. When items are stored around your heating unit, air flow can be restricted, forcing your system to work harder to heat your home.

Also, storing flammable substances like cleaners, paint, or gasoline near your heating system is a fire hazard. Be sure to leave a clear, 6-foot perimeter around your furnace or air handler.

If you have a heat pump system, regularly remove all yard debris surrounding your outdoor unit to ensure free air flow.

Clear Air Registers and Vents

Be sure that all registers and vents are unobstructed by furniture, area rugs, or other items. If anything is blocking them, move them to allow air to properly move through your home’s living space. Not only will this keep all areas of your home warm, it also allows your heating system to run more efficiently.

Program Your Thermostat

Once cold weather sets in, you need to reprogram your programmable thermostat. Adjusting the settings for winter temperature schedules will save you money on your heating bill, keep you more comfortable, and keep your system running efficiently.

Schedule Maintenance with a HVAC Professional

The best thing you can do to ensure your heating system continues running efficiently is to schedule maintenance with a local HVAC professional technician. An HVAC technician can cover technical checks most homeowners are not capable of tackling themselves.

A professional technician will inspect the entire system, clean and lubricate critical components. These preventive procedures will prevent inconvenient and uncomfortable system breakdowns. If you want to make sure your furnace or heat pump to runs smoothly and consumes less energy all winter long, a check-up performed by a qualified professional is a necessity.

Check Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Now is a good time to make sure your home’s carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order. During the cold season, fuel-burning heating systems create a carbon monoxide risk. Carbon monoxide is dangerous and a working carbon monoxide detector could save your life.

When an HVAC technician performs maintenance on your heating system, he or she will make sure all your system’s components are in good working order. This should prevent any carbon monoxide from being released into the home. However, carbon monoxide detectors should still be in place as a safety precaution.

If your home is not equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, install them immediately. There should be at least one on each floor of your home. Winter is a good time to check power sources on all carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries if necessary and test hard-wired connections. Test each unit individually using the test function to make sure they are working properly.

Read more

Using Your HVAC Unit to Fight Colds and Flu

flu seasonCold and flu season begins as the days begin to shorten and the temperatures begin to drop. While cold and flu activity peak in the coldest months between December and March, seasonal flu activity starts as early as mid October.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises that getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu, it isn’t a sure fire way to prevent getting sick this flu season. Luckily, you have another ally during cold and flu season: your central air system.

By making just a few adjustments, you can protect yourself from viruses and other germs, and create an environment that is warmer, more comfortable, and less likely to make you sick.

Change Your Air Filter

Every homeowner knows how air filters help keep dust and other particles out of the air. Air filters also work to protect the home’s HVAC unit and keep it running smoothly and efficiently.  

Air filters protect both your HVAC equipment and your indoor air from dust, dirt, pollen, pet hair and dander, and even bits of decomposed insect. Also, trapped inside the filtration medium are cold and flu contaminants that could pose a threat to your family’s health.

Be sure to change your air filter regularly. Do some research to determine the best filter for your system. If you don’t already use one, consider switching to a  HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) rated filter. A HEPA filter traps microscopic particles, including the germs that cause the flu and common cold.

Check Your Air Ducts

Dirty air ducts can add to poor indoor air quality. Dust and debris in your air ducts will blow through your vents and cause potential health problems. Fall is a good time to schedule a maintenance check with a trained technician. He or she can check to see if your ducts need cleaning.

Consider Ultraviolet Lights

Ultraviolet or UV light is a natural component of sunlight. UV light can eliminate bacteria, virus, odors and allergens by disrupting their DNA, rendering them harmless. By having a UV light incorporated into your HVAC system, you can reduce the amount of cold and flu germs that get recirculated into your home.

Other Ways Your HVAC System Can Help

A clean air filter can’t completely protect you from the flu. When everyone around you at work, school, and even the grocery store, starts to cough, sneeze, and sniffle, you’ll be unable to completely escape exposure.

If you do find yourself feeling under the weather, there are several ways you heating and cooling system can help you feel better faster.

Zone Heating

One of the symptoms of the flu is a feeling of chills. While everyone else in the home feels comfortable, a person suffering from the flu will feel like they are freezing.

If your home has zoned heating, adjusting localized temperature for the sick person is easy.

However, if you do not have the convenience of zoned heating, you can still create a special warm environment for the sick person. By adjusting the registers in a room, you can adjust how much heat enters the room. Adjusting the fins of each register in a room gives you a little more control over the intensity of heat in each room.

Whole House Humidifier

Cold and flu symptoms include coughing and congestion. These symptoms can feel much worse when indoor humidity levels are low. One solution is a whole house humidifier. A whole house humidifier uses a built-in fan to disperse moisture through your homes HVAC system.

Prevent HVAC System Failures

Staying healthy during cold and flu season is easier when your HVAC system is in good running order. Staying warm and comfortable will help keep your body healthy. You don’t want your HVAC system to unexpectedly stop working when the outdoor temperatures are bitter cold.

Before cold and flu season, it is a smart idea to have your local HVAC technician perform a winter safety check. This can help prevent unexpected problems from coming up when they are least convenient. No one wants to lose the ability to heat their home when they are uncomfortable sick.

Read more

Programmable Thermostats in the Lehigh Valley Area

trane programmable thermostatAnyone from the Lehigh Valley area knows that the weather can be difficult to predict at times. We have four distinct seasons including humid summers, cold winters and spring and falls that can go either way. So what can homeowners do to keep their homes comfortable and their heating and cooling bills reasonable? Use programmable thermostats— let’s take a look at some of the benefits.

Increase Home Efficiency

In climates where weather often changes quickly or without warning, programmable thermostats are a great way to keep a home energy efficient. By automatically adjusting based on the weather outside, you can avoid costly and unnecessary energy expenditure. You will also be doing your part to minimize your environmental impact and keep the planet healthy.

Save Money on Heating and Cooling Bills

A programmable thermostat will pay for itself over time by lowering your heating bill. Programmable thermostats allow you to create schedules of when you are home and away that will lower the heat or raise the AC accordingly. Additionally, they can adjust to your sleep schedule to help save you money even while you sleep. Some programmable thermostats even offer remote access so if you decide to stay out late or come home early, you can have your home ready and comfortable.

Ensure Consistently Comfortable Homes

Keeping your home at an ideal temperature is much easier with programmable thermostats. Traditionally, if you were hit with a cold snap or a heat wave you would have to manually turn up the heat or the AC and then remember to re-adjust after. And if a extreme weather showed up overnight, you would wake up freezing or soaked in sweet. Thankfully, programmable thermostats have solved this problem, and will adjust automatically to keep your home at your ideal temperature and save you the time and effort of manually adjusting your old thermostat every time the weather changed.

How to Chose the Right Programmable Thermostat

MBI and the BTU gurus are here to help you make the switch. We have a variety of Trane products that can meet any of your needs. Feel free to contact us with any questions you have or to schedule an appointment at: 610.821.9555

Read more