summer

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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Should You Turn Your Pilot Light Off This Summer?

pilot lightAs the weather warms up, it is time to put your gas fireplaces and furnaces to rest for the summer. Since it will be several months before you need to fire up the heat again, it is worth considering turning off your system’s pilot light.

Deciding to Turn it Off or Keep it On

Turning off the pilot lights on gas fireplaces and furnaces when not in regular use can save energy and money. First, your pilot light burns gas, costing you money and potentially eating up the surrounding area. If you switch your pilot light off, your air conditioner won’t have to work as hard to reverse the heating effect of the pilot light.

Your furnace only uses a small amount of gas to power the pilot light. Turning the pilot light off, only saves a few dollars each month. If you don’t mind spending a few cents a day, don’t mess with it. However, as utility costs continue to rise, you may decide every dollar saved is worth it.

Reasons to Leave Your Pilot Light On

Trying to decide whether it is worth turning your pilot light off for summer can be difficult. Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself.

  1. Does my gas company charge a minimum service fee? If the gas company has a minimum monthly charge, it may be better to keep your pilot light on. Keeping your pilot light running is unlikely to burn enough fuel for you to exceed the minimum charge. You probably won’t see any savings on your summer gas bills if you don’t meet the minimum charge.
  2. Do I know how to relight my pilot light? Cold weather often returns unexpectedly. If this happens, you will want to relight your pilot light immediately so you have access to heat. During cold weather, it may take a few days for a technician to make it to your house to professionally relight the pilot.
  3. Is my furnace located where insects could easily move in? If your furnace is located in a basement or other dark secluded spot, turning off your pilot light could seem like an invitation for them to set up house in your furnace. In this case, leaving the pilot light burning is probably in your best interest.
  4. Do I plan on scheduling regular fall maintenance? If you are committed to scheduling fall maintenance, so that a professional can check the state of your equipment, including your pilot light, you may consider switching it off.

Other Ways to Save on Utilities

If you decide turning of your pilot light isn’t worth the hassle, there are still other ways to save energy during the summer. Here are a few ideas to save money this summer.

  1. Turn your thermostat up a few degrees. Energy.gov reports that adjusting your thermostat by only a few degrees will allow you to see an energy usage reduction of 5 to 15 percent on your annual bill.
  2. Use blinds and curtains. By covering your windows, especially south-facing windows, to block out hot sunlight, you can lessen the amount of heat that enters your home.
  3. Install a smart thermostat. You can program a smart thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature to be cooler during the hours that you are home. Customize the settings to keep temperatures comfortable for sleeping or watching television with a higher setting for when you aren’t home. This will offer you significant savings over the course of the summer.
  4. Schedule spring maintenance with a qualified technician. Professional maintenance will ensure your entire unit is functioning properly and efficiently. Call your local technician to schedule an AC tune-up before the heat gets extreme.

Turning Off Your Pilot Light

If you decide you still want to switch off your pilot light for the summer, it is a fairly simple process.

  1. Determine whether your fireplace or furnace actually has a pilot light. Some systems don’t have a pilot light that constantly burns.
  2. Locate the flame. Before you switch off the pilot light, be sure to locate the flame. This will make relighting it much easier when the time comes.
  3. Turn off the light. Often, turning off the pilot light is as simple as turning a knob to “off.” For other systems, you may have to push a small lever out of the way in order to turn the knob. Whatever you do, don’t force the knob. This could result in costly repairs. If you have trouble switching it of, leave the light alone or call a qualified technician for assistance.

 

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6 Proven Ways to Reduce Your Summer Cooling Bill

As summer temperatures start to rise, so does the typical utility bill. The often expensive cost of cooling your home leaves a lot of people feeling burned. However, there are many proactive measures you can take to reduce your summer cooling bill. Here are 6 proven low-cost ways to slash your bill and keep your cool.

 

Tips for Lowering Your Summer A/C Costs

Turn on a Fan.

When indoor air is stagnant it can feel much warmer than it really is. The solution to this problem can be as simple as flipping on a switch. Turning on a ceiling fan or other circulating fan can make the temperature in any room feel as much as seven degrees cooler. Often referred to as  “The Wind Chill Effect,” turning on a fan works to make the air seem cooler in much the same way outdoor temperatures seem colder when winter winds are gusting. In the summer, we can make it work to our advantage by using a fan to get the indoor air moving.

It may seem like overkill to run a fan while your air conditioner is running, but it may actually save you money. When your air conditioner is running, a ceiling fan will help disperse the cooled air more efficiently. This means you can raise the thermostat several degrees without feeling uncomfortably warm. Over time, that can save you some cold hard cash on your utility bills.

Just remember to switch off the fan when the room is empty. Otherwise, You’re wasting electricity and just blowing cash out the window,

 

Use a Programmable Thermostat.

A lot of your summer utility bill probably goes toward cooling an empty house. Not many people remember to raise the temperature on their thermostat when they leave for work or school, so many hours of the day your A/C could be running just to keep your houseplants cool.

A programmable thermostat will help you solve this problem. By setting a higher temperature for times when your house is vacant, or when you may be sleeping, can bring you significant savings on your cooling bill. You can still program the thermostat to change to a cooler temperature before you usually arrive home so your house will be comfortable when you arrive. This will help keep your unit from running unnecessarily without compromising your personal comfort. Once you program it, you won’t have to remember to adjust the thermostat on your way out the door.

 

Turn Up the Thermostat.

Aside from using a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the indoor temperature of your home, you should also bump that thermostat up a few degrees when you’re at home. Christina Kielich, spokesperson for the United States Department of Energy says, “Setting your A/C as high as is comfortably possible and using a programmable thermostat to increase the temperature when you’re out, or asleep, could easily decrease your summer cooling bill by ten percent.”

Also, when coming into a warm house, especially if you are feeling heated from outdoor physical activity, don’t be tempted to turn the thermostat down. Turning a thermostat down won’t cool rooms any faster. If your A/C is running, it is working to cool your house. When you turn down your thermostat you risk forgetting that you turned it down, which could result in an inflated electric bill.

 

Take Care of Your System.

It won’t matter if you install an energy efficient system and a programmable thermostat if you fail to properly maintain your A/C system. Keep your filters clean and make sure your floor registers aren’t blocked with dust or furniture. Dirty filters and ducts can restrict airflow and cause your unit to work harder to cool your home.

Your unit’s evaporator and condenser coils should also be kept clear debris and dirt. Before the summer heat hits your area, schedule an appointment for a check-up and regular maintenance with your local HVAC company. This could actually prevent costly midsummer repairs. Just like a tune-up on your car can help improve fuel efficiency, a tune-up on your A/C unit can help increase efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

Avoid the Heat of the Day.

Try not to generate extra heat when the outdoor temperature exceeds the indoor temperature of your home. Avoid running the oven, dishwasher, or dryer until after the sun has gone down and the outside temperature starts to drop. The heat of summer is a great time to fix dinner in the microwave or on the grill. Also, try hanging laundry on a clothesline to dry and wash the dinner dishes by hand. This will keep these appliances from contributing to heat build-up in your home as they run.

 

Draw the Blinds.

While it might be tempting to open up curtains to let in the bright summer sunshine, it’s only going to cost you once your utility bill comes in. When the sun shines through windows, it actually hits the interior of your home causing your A/C to work over time. However, if you draw your curtains and lower your blinds, you’ll prevent solar heat gain inside of your home.

When possible, try to use lighter colored curtains or reflective blinds to help deflect the sun’s rays. Also, hang blinds as close to your window panes as your windows will allow. This will help block the outdoor heat, preventing it from radiating inside and raising indoor temperatures.

 

When you follow these cool tips you’ll be well on your way to reducing your summer cooling bill. Not only will you feel more comfortable in your home, but you might even find you have some extra cash at the end of the season. Just make sure you do something cool with it.

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Summer Vacation

What to do with Your A/C During Summer Vacation

It isn’t uncommon for families to head off for long vacations during the hot summer months. This means many homes will sit empty while homeowners enjoy long-awaited holidays filled with fun warm weather activities.

It might seem logical to turn off your air conditioner while you are away. It probably seems like a waste to cool an empty house. However, it is probably not the best solution to a high summer energy bill. While it may seem like turning off the A/C while your home or vacation property sits empty will save you some major cash, it might actually cost you more money in the long run.

Why You Shouldn’t Turn off your A/C When You’re on Vacation

Many homeowners make the mistake of thinking they can totally shut off their home’s A/C while they’re gone for vacation and the house sits empty. While it’s true you will save money on your energy bill if the A/C unit isn’t running, there are some other important things to consider before you flip the switch

Remember, your home will be locked up tight while you are away. All your doors and windows will be shut, so the A/C may be the home’s only source of air circulation. You might argue that people lived in the heat of summer before A/C was even invented, but they lived with the windows constantly open to let the outside air in. Also, before A/C became common, homes featured high ceilings that created a natural system of air circulation.

When the temperature outside your home reaches 90 degrees, it doesn’t take long for the inside of your home to reach triple digit temperatures, especially when the A/C isn’t running. Basically the inside of your home turns into a tropical sauna.

With the inside temperatures reaching sweltering levels and air sitting stagnant, the inside of your home becomes the perfect environment for mold and mildew to thrive. These pesky, and often dangerous, forms of fungus can multiply rapidly on your furniture, clothes, drapes, and bedding when humidity levels are high.

The heat and moisture can also warp wood floors and cabinets, peel wallpaper, and wreak havoc on your laptops and other electronic devices.

No matter how tempting it is to save some cash on your cooling bills, it is best to leave your A/C on, even when the home is sitting empty. The best setting best for home maintenance is 85 degrees. A thermostat set on 85 will keep the air circulating and help protect your home from the potential damage of extreme heat and humidity.

Ways to Help You Save

Before you leave your home for exotic vacation destinations, there are some things you can do that will help save you money on your utility bill.

During the summer months, sunlight hits your home with higher intensity than it does during cooler seasons. The sun may actually be the main factor contributing to the rising summer heat inside of your home. Make sure to pull all blinds and curtains before you leave for vacation. This will help reduce the hot sunlight that enters your home and contributes to high energy costs.

If you know you will be away from home for an unusually long time, you might consider installing energy saving storm windows. While the investment is initially high, storm windows will help block out light and insulate the home, protecting it from extreme weather conditions. Storm windows are a wise investment, especially if your home is regularly unoccupied during warm summer months.

Save Money with a Smart Thermostat

A smart thermostat allows you to control your home’s thermostat with a smartphone or tablet from virtually anywhere in the world. With instant access to local weather reports, you can adjust your empty home’s thermostat settings for daily conditions. If the day is cool and dry, you might want to bump up the temperature a few degrees since humidity damage will be unlikely

It’s almost like sticking your thermostat in your pocket and taking it on vacation with you. A smart thermostat can offer peace of mind by offering portable real-time control of one of your home’s most important major appliances. Smart thermostats are especially valuable for properties that may go unoccupied for weeks at a time.

There are several considerations for purchasing and installing a smart thermostat, so check with your local HVAC professional to learn about options and installation.

Service Your HVAC Unit to Save Money

Before summer gets into full swing and the climbing temperatures start taxing your HVAC unit, it is a smart idea to call a technician for regular maintenance. A pre-season inspection will ensure your unit is in top condition for efficient summer performance. A local HVAC professional can clean the coils and fan of your unit, and check your ducts, vents, and filters.

An annual check-up will help save you money whether you intend to go on vacation or if you plan to just relax at home all summer long.

 

You deserve to enjoy your hard-earned summer R and R. Working hard to save money for your vacation shouldn’t be more difficult with the added burden of an expensive energy bill while you’re away. Follow these tips and you’ll be able to protect your home – and your wallet – from the often expensive cost of the hot summer sun. Then all you have to do is enjoy your vacation.

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