5 Things To Do When Your AC Goes Out

5 Things To Do When Your AC Goes Out

That summer heat is now in full effect and it seems like it won’t be stopping anytime soon. Now would be the perfect time to make sure that your AC is performing at the top of it’s game. Check out the following tips to see if you can do something to get the most out of your AC this summer.

Thermostat error
  1. Check Your Air Filter

Air filters are what separates the hot, dusty air, from clean, cool bliss. It’s very important that you keep track of when you last replaced your air filter so you can coordinate getting a new one to keep your system clean. Having a clogged filter can block air flow and cause your system to malfunction, some studies have shown that this block in air flow can lower your AC’s efficiency by up to 10%.

  1. Check Thermostat Batteries

We know, it can’t be that simple right? You’d be surprised! Sometimes the simplest solutions get overlooked, but this one can have a huge impact on your system’s performance.

  1. Check The Circuit Breaker

It’s common for circuits to get tripped or messed up, so this can be an easy fix if you know what to look for. Simply find you circuit breaker in the breaker box and flip the switch in the opposite position. If you don’t notice any changes you might need to call an electrician as this would be a much more serious issue.

  1. Check The Coil On The Outside Of Your Machine

First, know where to find your condenser coil. Once you’ve found it, make sure that it’s not covered in debris or dust. If you find that it is, grab your hose and gently spray it down with water. A clean condenser coil is key to having an efficient AC unit.

  1. Call Your Local TemperaturePro!

We’re here to help! Our certified technicians are always help to lend a helping hand and our services are fast, effective, and affordable. We’re proud of the work we do and hope to keep all of our customers cool and comfortable this Summer!

Don’t Be Fooled! Let’s Decode HVAC Terminology.

Don’t Be Fooled! Let’s Decode HVAC Terminology.

Have you ever had an HVAC technician in your home and they use terms you don’t understand at all? Or you call an HVAC company to describe a problem you’re having and their response includes confusing words? What are they talking about?!

You’re not an experienced HVAC technician and you don’t have the background knowledge to understand these advanced terms. But it’s important to know what your technician is talking about when it comes to YOUR heating and cooling systems.

We are committed to making sure our customers are well-informed about HVAC systems. That’s why we wrote this blog post!

Let’s decode some HVAC terminology you hear but might not recognize or understand…

Airflow volume: the amount of air circulated in a space measured by cubic feet per minute.

Condenser: the hot side of an air conditioner or heat pump that can transfer heat to air.

Coil: performs heat transfer to air when mounted inside an air unit or ductwork.

Damper: sheet metal plates that can be opened or closed to control the flow of air into a zone.

Compressor:  A pump that increases the pressure of refrigerant gas.

Drip pan: a container for catching material that drips from above.

Freon: the cooling agent used in most air conditioning systems that actually creates cool air.

Gas heater: space heater used to heat by burning natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, propane or butane.

Electric heater: electrical energy is converted to heat.

Heating coil: part of system that allows electricity to act as fire.

Intermediate fluid: a liquid or gas used to transfer heat between two heat exchangers.

SEER: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio; the rating of a unit for the cooling output during a typical cooling-season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. The higher the unit’s SEER rating the more energy efficient it is.

Congrats, you’re an expert on everything HVAC now! Ok, not really, but you know more than you did before! Now that you are familiar with these terms, you are one step closer to understanding your HVAC technician and your HVAC issues.

Share this article to keep your friends well-versed in HVAC terms!

5 Steps to Better Air Quality

5 Steps to Better Air Quality

The Environmental Protection Agency shocked homeowners a few years ago by reporting that indoor air in most homes is on average two to five times more polluted than outdoor air — and in many cases, is even scores of times worse. If you’re skeptical and think your home might be an exception because you work at keeping it clean to the max — well, sorry to disappoint, but a rigorous cleaning regimen alone will not provide good indoor air quality.

Most modern residential construction results in an airtight structure so that the home is more efficient, keeping conditioned air in and unconditioned air out. And while that’s good for your pocketbook, it’s not great for your breathing.

An airtight home isn’t just keeping in conditioned air; it’s also retaining all those airborne pollutants you’ve brought in, let in or generated by allowing certain conditions to exist. Among the major sources of pollution in most homes are these:

  • Volatile organic chemicals, or VOCs, off-gassed by household chemicals, textiles, dry cleaning and pressed wood
  • Dust
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Insect particles (dust mites)

These pollutants can cause a number of health problems, ranging from triggering asthma attacks, to aggravating allergies and bronchial infections, and causing headaches, dizziness and eye and skin irritations.

Fortunately, there are a number of tactics you can adopt to improve your indoor air quality. Here are five that will help you ensure that your home’s air is fresher, cleaner and less likely to exacerbate any health problems suffered by you or your family.

1. Attack pollutants at the source.

Your best defense against poor indoor air quality is to attack air pollutants at the source: don’t let them in, or else work to contain them. Some ways to do that are:

  • Air out products with VOCs before you bring them indoors. Whenever possible, buy natural products. Keep a tight lid on chemicals, or store them in the garage.
  • Take off shoes at the door.
  • Brush pets outdoors; bathe them at least once a week.
  • Brush pollen off clothing, or change clothes quickly upon entering the home and put the clothing in a laundry bag till you can wash it.
  • Maintain lower relative humidity (under 50 percent) in the home to control mold. If you find mold, take steps immediately to get rid of it. Be advised that chlorine bleach is not always effective, and it cannot be used on porous surfaces such as wood or drywall. Vinegar and water may be a better solution, but do consult with a professional for advice if you find mold in your home.
  • Vacuum rugs and upholstered furniture frequently to control dust mites; wash linens weekly in hot water.

2. Improve your home’s ventilation.

Most modern homes are so airtight that very little fresh air seeps in, the way it used to with older homes of looser construction. You can open a window now and then to let in fresh air, but a better solution is to install some sort of ventilation. There are four basic types:

  • Exhaust — Exhaust ventilation is usually installed in rooms where moisture collects, such as the kitchen or bathroom. The ventilation system removes polluted air from the home.
  • Supply — Fresh air is pulled inside the home, typically through the ducts.
  • Balanced — This type of system adds fresh air equal to the amount of stale air removed.
  • Heat or energy recovery — These ventilation systems recover energy or heat while adding fresh air, to reduce heating and cooling costs.

3. Control humidity.

You may not think of humidity as a pollutant, but it can be. High humidity can cause a number of problems in your home, from making occupants feel warmer than they need to in the summer, which means you’ll need to set the thermostat down to feel comfortable, to increasing the likelihood of mold, mildew and fungus in your home. What’s more, high humidity can cause dust mites to flourish in carpets and textiles.

If your home’s humidity is higher than 50-55 percent, you should take steps to reduce it. Exhaust ventilation in damp areas will help. Fix leaks in the plumbing or roof or ceiling as soon as you discover them.

4. Use a good quality air filter.

If you’ve been using a cheap fiberglass filter in your HVAC system, you’re probably keeping your system free of larger dirt particles. But don’t expect these filters to contribute to better air quality in your home, as they are not effective in trapping very small particles that travel into the system with the return air.

Installing a good quality, pleated air filter will do wonders for your indoor air quality. The higher the MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value), the better job the air filter will do. For best results, install an air filter with MERV 8-12. Denser filters will not only remove small particles of dirt, but will also capture pollen, pet dander, mold and viruses. Filters rated higher than MERV 12 will slow down the air flow and cause your system to work harder than it should to condition the air, so should not be installed in most homes.

But if someone in your home has respiratory problems, such as asthma or chronic bronchial issues, you may want to look into having your HVAC system modified so that it can handle a filter with a higher MERV.

5. Install an air cleaner.

Air cleaners go a step beyond air filtration. Mechanical air filters catch particles as they pass through with the HVAC system’s return air supply. Air cleaners, also known as air purifiers, clean in different ways so you will need to decide which type best meets your needs.

For instance, if you have a mold issue, or you’re concerned about other living organisms such as fungus, viruses or bacteria, you may want to look into installing UVGI, or ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, lights in your HVAC system. These devices make use of the ultraviolet end of the light spectrum to kill organisms as they pass through your HVAC system in the air supply. They are usually installed near the evaporator coils, where conditions are likely to be damp, or in the ducts. The bulbs must be changed every year or so, as they are only effective when the light is strong.

If you’re concerned about other types of pollutants, such as pet dander or pollen, an electrostatic air filter, which is installed in the HVAC system, may do the trick. These work by trapping particles with a negative charge as the air passes through the system. The plates must be cleaned periodically to be effective, but these air cleaners last a long time and are considered permanent.

Activated charcoal filtration is a type of air cleaning that helps to remove cigarette smoke and other gas particles from the air.

Air cleaners may come in portable or whole-house models. Generally, whole-house models — that is, those that are installed in your HVAC system — are more effective.

Conclusion

The road to improving your indoor air quality lies not in applying just one of the tactics detailed above, but in crafting an overall, whole-house strategy. If you’d like more information on how to improve the air quality in your home, contact us today.

6 Factors in Choosing a Heating/Cooling System Replacement

6 Factors in Choosing a Heating/Cooling System Replacement

Choosing a heating/cooling system replacement is an investment in the future. The combined average service life of a furnace and central air conditioner is over 15 years. So, whatever choice you make now, you’ll be living with the results for some time to come. This includes the heating or cooling performance of the system, which has a definite impact on your day in, day out household comfort. The new unit’s energy efficiency will also directly affect the operating costs you’ll be paying every month for many seasons to come. The conclusion is clear: for optimum comfort and lowest monthly expenses, making an informed choice pays off now and years from now.

Here are six important factors that should be part of the decision-making process when choosing a heating/cooling system:

  • Get The Right Size. We’re not talking about feet and inches. In HVAC terms, “sizing” refers to the BTU capacity of a specific unit. For a furnace, it’s the BTUs of heat per hour the unit can generate. For an air conditioner, it’s the BTUs of heat the unit can extract from indoor air per hour. Each house has very individualized BTU requirements depending on factors such as square footage, the number of windows, the amount and type of insulation and other characteristics such as the air-tightness of the structure. Guesstimates or “rule-of-thumb” generalities aren’t accurate enough to properly size a unit. Utilizing industry-standard sizing software, a qualified HVAC technician can perform a sizing survey to determine the precise BTU requirements of the house, then identify a heating/cooling system with the capacity specs that match these requirements. Getting sizing right is a critical first step: oversized and undersized units waste energy, cost more to operate and tend to provide disappointing comfort performance you’ll be stuck with as long as the system is installed in the house.
  • What About Efficiency? Energy efficiency is built-in to a furnace or air conditioner. Manufacturers are required to determine energy efficiency of a unit by standardized lab tests. A unit’s energy efficiency rating is shown on the yellow EnergyGuide sticker affixed to all new units. For an air conditioner, efficiency is expressed by the SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. The higher the SEER numeral, the more energy-efficient the unit is and the lower monthly operating costs will be. Today, federal regulations require a minimum SEER of 13 or 14, depending on which region of the country you live in. High-efficiency air conditioners deliver SEER ratings over 20 at a higher upfront purchase price. Furnace efficiency is expressed by the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. The higher the AFUE percentage, the more efficient the unit. Standard efficiency furnaces have an AFUE of 80% while more expensive high-efficiency units that capture spare heat from the exhaust stream offer AFUE over 90%.
  • Consider Short Term And Long Term. It’s important to strike a balance between initial expense and future costs. Be cautious about considering only the upfront purchase price when selecting an HVAC system. A lower-efficiency unit from a lesser-known manufacturer may indeed have a lower sticker price. However, higher monthly operating costs year after year will erase that saving and expenses imposed by reduced reliability and more frequent repairs may add up, too. Often, cut-rate units don’t offer warranty terms that are as consumer-friendly as units from recognized, name-brand manufacturers, either. On the other hand, an advanced unit with cutting edge, very high-efficiency technology may come with such a high initial price tag that the payback time from lower operating costs may be unacceptably long for you—particularly if you aren’t planning to remain in the home indefinitely.
  • Replace Both Sides Of A Central AC. A central air conditioner consists of an indoor air handler/evaporator coil and the outdoor condenser/compressor unit. Don’t attempt to save money by replacing only one half of the system or the other. All parts of a central AC are designed and engineered at the factory to operate as a matched set. Attempting to mix brand new components with old parts of the existing system will result in reduced efficiency, higher monthly expenses and, usually, shorter expected service life of the entire system, too.
  • Get A Professional Installation. Proper installation of a new HVAC unit will affect the performance and efficiency of the unit for as long as it’s in the house. Installing a central air conditioner or furnace isn’t a job for a general carpenter or a local “jack-of-all-trades” handyman. It requires specific training and expertise as well as specialized tools. An unprofessional installation that doesn’t meet industry standards can negate all the improvements in monthly expenses and household comfort you expect and deserve from a new HVAC system. Make sure it’s installed by a qualified HVAC contractor with proper certification.
  • Evaluate Other Household Factors. Certain other issues in a home will directly affect the performance and efficiency of your new HVAC system. For example, it’s false economy to connect a brand new HVAC system incorporating the latest technology to old, deteriorating household ductwork. You will lose a large volume of conditioned air through duct leakage before it even reaches the rooms it’s supposed to cool or heat. Have the ductwork tested for leaks at the time the HVAC system is installed (in many areas, local codes now require this.) If the leakage rate exceeds standards, your HVAC contractor can present options to seal the ductwork. Similarly, if you haven’t upgraded the insulation in your home in many years, it’s probably under-insulated by today’s standards. To make sure you get the full efficiency and performance improvements your new HVAC system is designed to deliver, check the level of attic insulation and upgrade if necessary to meet current Department of Energy recommendations for your local climate zone.

For professional assistance in selecting a new HVAC system, as well as qualified installation that meets industry standards, contact the heating and cooling experts at TemperaturePro by contacting us today!

10 Common Furnace Problems and What to Do

10 Common Furnace Problems and What to Do

About half the homes in the United States utilize natural gas-fired furnaces for heating. A gas furnace is a sturdy appliance with a long expected service life—it’s not uncommon to find units over 20 years old still on the job. Because gas heating has a long history, mass production of gas-fired furnaces by established manufacturers also helps keeps the costs of brand new units relatively low and installation simplified.

Not For The Do-It-Yourselfer

As with any heating or cooling system, however, furnace problems may occur over the long natural lifespan of any unit. Some are simple, some are complex and some are signs that its time to upgrade to a new furnace, ASAP. While certain very basic troubleshooting to resolve furnace problems such as changing an air filter and checking thermostat settings are an acceptable DIY project, furnace diagnosis and repair should strictly be left to the skill and expertise of a qualified HVAC technician. Safety is a critical issue here: gas-fired furnaces generate dangerously high temperatures at the open-flame burner as well as produce toxic combustion byproducts including deadly carbon monoxide gas. For the well-being of your home and family, consult a trained, certified professional for furnace repair.

The list of typical furnace problems are familiar to any experienced technician, though symptoms may vary according to individual make and model. Here are ten common furnace problems as well as some of the typical causes a professional HVAC technician will investigate:

1. Neglected Maintenance.

Many furnace problems including malfunctions and breakdowns—as well as chronic issues like poor heating performance—can be avoided in the first place with regular preventive maintenance by a qualified technician. The annual furnace tune-up includes a checklist of manufacturer-recommended preventive maintenance procedures as well as a close-up inspection of all functions to detect any developing issues before they turn into an even bigger expense and inconvenience. If your furnace is still under warranty, annual preventive maintenance by an approved HVAC contractor is usually required under the terms to keep the warranty in effect.

2. Increasing Operating Costs.

If your monthly gas expenses are getting higher every year during the heating season, your furnace may be consuming too much fuel. Declining efficiency can be simply a function of age. A gas furnace is a combustion appliance and, though moving parts are relatively few, wear and tear from repetitive heating and cooling cycles gradually affects critical components. A general formula is that a furnace loses about 1% of its AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating for every year of operation. Therefore, the energy efficiency of a standard AFUE 80% unit will decline to 70% by the time it’s a decade old, accompanied by a commensurate increase in gas consumption and operating costs.

3. Poor Heating Performance.

Running the furnace longer but getting less heat? Often this is an issue of low airflow. Proper supply and return airflow volume is required to circulate the amount of BTUs of heat required for the square footage of your home. If the system air filter hasn’t been changed recently, install a new one and keep changing the filter at least every other month. If performance doesn’t improve, contact your local qualified HVAC contractor. A failing blower motor is another potential airflow issue as well as problems with ancillary systems such as leaky ductwork that’s allowing hot air to escape into the attic, crawl space or other unconditioned zones.

4. Ignition Problems.

If the furnace burner simply doesn’t light when the thermostat signals it, the issue could be a faulty ignition system. Older gas furnaces and some new ones incorporate a standing pilot light to ignite the main burner. If the pilot flame goes out frequently—often caused by a defective thermocouple—the burner won’t ignite. Most newer furnaces have electronic igniters. Over time, these may fail due to defective wiring or circuitry.

5. Defective Thermostat.

Old-school mercury-style thermostats are manual units that incorporate metallic springs that weaken and contact switches that become unreliable over time. This may cause the thermostat to actuate at the wrong temperature—or not at all—and/or to run the furnace for overly long cycles. Consider upgrading now to an electronic programmable thermostat. You’ll save money with more consistent indoor temperature control and free your family from the daily need to change thermostat settings to meet the time of day. Utilized properly, a programmable thermostat can save enough in lower operating costs to pay for itself after the first year.

6. Strange Noises.

Some sounds are common as a furnace cycles on and off. The muffled booms and bangs of metal ductwork expanding and contracting as it heats and cools is normal, though annoying. However, squeaky or screeching sounds when the furnace cycles on usually means a failing blower motor or bearing. Unusually loud roaring sounds when the burners are lit indicates a combustion problem that should be reported to a qualified HVAC contractor immediately.

7. Furnace “Short Cycles”.

If a unit cycles on and off rapidly many times per day, failure of an internal component is one probable cause. A flame sensor incorporated in the unit may not be properly sensing the burner flame and turning the unit off prematurely. Professional service may include cleaning the flame sensor and, if the problem doesn’t resolve, replacing the sensor unit. Another cause of short cycles may be a furnace that is overheating and triggering the high temperature limit switch that shuts the burner off. This is a safety issue that requires professional service.

8. Furnace Is Improper Size.

In this case, “size” refers to the BTU output of the unit. Furnace output of a given model must be the proper size to accommodate the BTU requirements of the home. Oversized and undersized furnaces waste energy and under-perform in providing indoor comfort. Resolving sizing issues requires upgrading to a new furnace after getting a sizing calculation performed by a qualified HVAC contractor to accurately determine the home’s heating load.

9. Some Rooms Too Cold, Other Rooms Too Hot.

Have you closed heating vents in certain unused rooms to lower heating costs? This can upset the careful airflow balance throughout the entire system, causing rooms nearer to the furnace to be too hot while rooms furthest away may be too chilly. Closing air vents doesn’t save money, in any case, as the furnace frequently runs unnecessarily long cycles and burns more gas to compensate for airflow and heating imbalances.

10. Defective Heat Exchanger.

If an HVAC technician discovers a damaged or deteriorating heat exchanger, that fact alone usually means it’s time for a new furnace. This critical safety component keeps system airflow separate from deadly carbon monoxide gas produced in the combustion chamber. A cracked or corroded heat exchanger usually means the furnace is unsafe to operate and must be shut down. Because the heat exchanger is the most expensive single component in the furnace, replacing it in an older unit is usually not a financially viable option. Upgrading to a new furnace is indicated.

For qualified service to resolve furnace problems that impact your household comfort as well as your monthly expenses, contact the heating professionals at TemperaturePro.

Everything You Need to Know About Smart Thermostats

Everything You Need to Know About Smart Thermostats

When programmable thermostats hit the market some 20 years ago, homeowners who installed them realized energy savings. Their only effort was to program the thermostat to match their occupancy patterns. Anyone coming home unexpectedly had to override the thermostat, which if entered wrong, could wipe out energy savings.

As Wi-Fi apps proliferated, HVAC engineers found that they could combine the best that programmable thermostats offered with the intuitive intelligence of smart technology. Since then, smart thermostats give homeowners the same energy savings, if not more, without the learning curve for both saving energy and staying comfortable.

The technology embedded in smart thermostats now gives you control of your home’s HVAC system from anywhere you can get an internet signal. Besides energy savings, you have complete control over your home’s comfort system. By choosing the right thermostat and apps, you will also have detailed insight into your system’s performance.

Energy Savings

Unlike the learning curve associated with programmable thermostats, smart devices teach themselves. Once placed, the thermostat takes a few days to learn your thermal preferences and occupancy patterns. Sensor technology simplifies changing the temperatures for unexpected occupancy.

If your electric provider uses smart technology, you’ll be able to track your energy use on an hourly basis from anywhere. You can see the relationship between outdoor temperatures and your HVAC system’s energy usage.

The data you access will show you when your HVAC system runs the most. If those time periods occur when your home isn’t occupied, you can easily change the indoor temperature wherever you are to save energy and money. Reducing the amount of work your HVAC system does also reduces the wear and tear, which lowers the cost of repairs and increases its lifetime.

Your utility company may also offer an incentive for you to upgrade to a smart thermostat. Their representatives can also help you find a time-of-use plan (TOU) that will likely save money on your electric bill. Electric providers base their pricing on peak and nonpeak hours. These plans encourage users to use more energy during off-peak hours when the utility company pays less for it. When demand is high, you pay considerably more for each kilowatt you use. Switching to a TOU plan could lower your monthly energy bill.

Integration with Smart Home Systems

Some smart thermostats are compatible with devices like Amazon’s Echo. You can ask Alexa to change the temperature from anywhere in your home, whether it’s in the kitchen as you cook, or from the bedroom on a cold, winter night.

Thermostats that work with smart home hubs can coordinate opening your garage door or exterior doors and changing the temperatures at the same time. This feature works especially well in a well-insulated and leak-free home, since they take less time to heat or cool.

Improved Comfort

Many models of smart thermostats offer remote sensors you can place in all your rooms. Most homes have one thermostat typically placed in a hallway. The temperatures throughout your home will vary considerably because their thermal loads differ from the conditions in the hall.

When you put a remote sensor in a room and it’s uncomfortable to you, you can set the thermostat to cool or heat the air to the temperature you want. Unless you have a zoned HVAC system in your home, this ability is likely to raise your energy costs, but it will increase your comfort and give you control over the thermal conditions in that particular room.

Learning Curves with Smart Thermostats

Unlike programmable thermostats, smart devices learn your habits within a few days time, which eliminates the need to program them based on home occupancy patterns. The Nest, for example, uses a sensor that detects when your home is occupied and when it’s empty. It uses those data to establish the temperature setbacks that save energy.

Sensors on smart thermostats have simplified programming. They can tell when your home is empty, and set the temperature back automatically. Should someone come home unexpectedly, the sensor will turn the system back on.

These thermostats also give you the ability to override any settings the current home occupant has specified from anywhere. You can also find thermostats that are password protected, which gives just the people you choose permission to alter temperature settings.

Major Brands
  • The first smart thermostat on the market was the Nest, and it’s still a market leader. It has a user-friendly interface and is compatible with most HVAC systems.
  • The Ecobee is another major brand with similar features as the Nest.
  • Honeywell, one of the nation’s oldest companies, also offers a smart thermostat at half the price of either the Nest or Ecobee without sacrificing any features. Other smart thermostat brands are available and a professional from TemperaturePro can help you choose which would work best for your home.
System Compatibility

You may have to do some homework to determine whether your HVAC system is compatible with specific types and brands of smart thermostats. Newer systems generally have greater cross-compatibility than older units.

Thermostat wiring is normally the limiting factor with regard to compatibility. An expert from TemperaturePro will help you discover which thermostats will work. Installing a device that’s not electrically compatible could damage your HVAC system’s control board.

Some manufacturers offer their own smart thermostats, and the advantages to these lie in their ability to report to you how the system is operating. You’ll receive alerts about when it needs professional maintenance, if a component isn’t functioning at full capacity, or even when to change the air filter.

Heat Pumps Are Special

During the summer, heat pumps work just like air conditioners, but that all changes in the winter when they switch to heat. Most heat pumps use an auxiliary heating coil to provide emergency back-up heat. This coil uses electricity to supply heat whenever the heat pump can’t warm your home adequately within a given period of time.

Electricity alone is the least efficient way to provide home heat, and unless your thermostat knows how to shut off the emergency heat setting, the cost of heating your home will increase.

When you choose a smart thermostat, be sure that it has the capacity to override the emergency setting. The technical term is an intelligent or adaptive recovery thermostat. You may also see the term “balance point” used with compatible smart thermostats. Your TemperaturePro technician will know the best brands and types of thermostats to use with a heat pump to maximize savings in the heating mode.

Bottom Line

You don’t need a smart phone to enjoy the benefits of a smart thermostat, and they are many, like energy savings, convenience, control and comfort. The technicians from TemperaturePro can help you select the most suitable for your HVAC system, lifestyle, and your energy saving goals. Contact us today!

 

How to Make your Cooling System More Efficient this Summer

How to Make your Cooling System More Efficient this Summer

While you can’t do anything about the heat outside, you can achieve lower air conditioning bills by preparing your cooling system and your home for hot weather. A well-maintained cooling system and a house that resists heat gain will put you on the fast track toward summer energy savings.

Prioritize the Cooling System

Getting your HVAC system into top cooling condition won’t take long. The licensed professionals from TemperaturePro will go through it carefully, cleaning and adjusting the components, testing the electronics, and checking the refrigerant pressure. Each of these elements of a tune-up immediately improves the efficiency of the system.

Beyond cutting your energy bills, a clean system will:
  • Run dependably. All air conditioners use an evaporator coil that houses the refrigerant used to extract the heat. A dirty coil won’t be able to absorb as much heat because the dust insulates it. The coil may start to freeze over, which stops cooling altogether and contributes to compressor failure.
  • Sometimes mold and biofilms grow on evaporator coils, and besides slowing heat removal, its presence can be a health hazard.
  • Run safely. Whenever the electrical contacts and components are overly dirty, they won’t conduct electricity as quickly. Heat builds on the parts, sometimes to the point where they or the wiring starts a fire. An HVAC pro will remove the dust and oxidation and apply nonconductive lubricants to protect these parts.
  • Run efficiently. Improper refrigerant levels aren’t uncommon in cooling systems. A low level may cause the evaporator coil to freeze over and it will drive up energy costs. The technician will look for leaks in the refrigerant lines before adding more to bring the level within the range the manufacturer requires.
  • Run clean. Undetected ductwork leaks can drive up energy costs in proportion to their size. Uncomfortable rooms or dust that collects near the registers often indicate problems with the ducts leading to that room. Unless they’re fixed, leaking ducts will continue to drive up energy costs and degrade indoor air quality.
Homeowner Maintenance Chores

Make it a point to check the air filter throughout the cooling season. A clean filter promotes energy efficiency and protects the parts inside the air handler. Before selecting a new filter, check your owner’s manual to learn the maximum density you can use with your system.

Higher quality filters will trap more airborne particulates, but they could slow the air flowing through the air handler more than the manufacturer recommends. Check with your owner’s manual or your HVAC contractor before upgrading to a better filter.

It’s important to keep the outdoor condenser clean throughout the summer. It houses the condensing coil that exhausts the heat the refrigerant picks up inside your home. When the coil is clean, the heat dissipates more quickly. You may need to gently hose it off to loosen the dust. Pointing the lawn mower away from the condenser prevents grass clippings from covering the coil that also retard cooling.

It’s also important to keep vegetation away from the condenser and other objects that could slow the airflow through the coil. The condenser has a large fan that pulls air over the coil in order to cool it faster. When the airflow is blocked, cooling slows down.

Lower the Load

Besides the weather, the characteristics of your home that make your HVAC system run more often and longer are called its cooling load. Fortunately, you can lower the cooling load by identifying where your home has weaknesses in its shell that contribute to air leaks and heat gain.

Step 1: Get an Energy Audit

Licensed HVAC contractors and energy auditors can show you how energy efficient your home is and where to improve it. They use tools to find exactly where your home is losing energy.

The blower door test is the centerpiece of an energy audit, along with thermographic imaging. Blower doors use large fans surrounded by an adjustable metal frame that fits inside exterior door frames.

The auditing team gets your home ready by closing all the windows and doors and blocking off fireplaces and furnaces. When ready, they turn the fan on and as it pulls the air from your home, the auditors watch the pressure gauges closely to see how fast the pressure falls.

Homes that lose pressure quickly have few air leaks because the home’s exterior walls are tightly sealed. A building that doesn’t lose much pressure has leaks in its envelope, including the walls, doors, windows, foundation and attic.

As the auditors run the blower door fan, they use thermographic devices to pinpoint the leakage. Variances in temperatures show up as different colors, and if the temperatures are the same indoors and out, the auditing team may ask you to use your HVAC system to either cool or heat your home so that the incoming air temperature shows a stronger contrast with the indoor air.

The thermographic scan will also show you where your home needs more insulation, another quick and affordable effective way to cut cooling costs. The scan will also show the amount of heat entering your home through the windows, which occurs through air leaks, and as heat transfer through the glass and the frames.

Step 2: Adding Insulation

Since heat is always moving to colder temperatures, it’s moving inside your home in the summer and leaving it in the winter, primarily through the attic. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that most homes have from 16 to 20 inches in the attic to slow this heat movement.

The most common types of insulation are fiberglass batts and loose cellulose. Both types have similar insulating values and work well when there’s adequate room. Rigid foam board and sprayed foam insulating products, used primarily in smaller spaces, provide better protection against heat transfer, but they also cost more.

While adding more insulation can be a do-it-yourself project, it does require some knowledge and skill to install. Challenges include:

  • Working in an attic can be difficult and uncomfortable.
  • Protective clothing, eyewear and breathing apparatus should be used.
  • Care needs to be taken to avoid leaving gaps in the insulation that will conduct heat.

Using a contractor who specializes in adding insulation may not be an expensive project. They have access to wholesale pricing that homeowners don’t, as well as the equipment to do an effective job.

Step 3: Seal Air Leaks

Most air leaks are fairly easy to seal with caulk, expanding foam and weatherstripping. When buying the materials, read the labels carefully. Caulk high in silicon can be hard to remove once it cures. Some expanding foam products have a specific use around wiring, flues, or chimneys. If you’re not comfortable sealing around electrical fixtures, especially recessed lights or flues, ask a contractor for help.

In Summary

Lowering cooling bills is a two-step process whose most important element depends heavily on the maintenance you do and the work your HVAC pro provides. The second way you can achieve lower energy bills is to cut the demand for air conditioning by lowering its cooling load. Sealing air leaks and adding insulation are projects that will pay for themselves every day of the year. So contact TemperaturePro today to help lower your cooling bills!

Landscaping and HVAC: How What You Plant Can Help Your HVAC System Become More Efficient

Landscaping and HVAC: How What You Plant Can Help Your HVAC System Become More Efficient

Few homeowners give their HVAC system much thought when it comes to landscaping their properties. That’s really too bad, because the right plants, carefully situated in relation to the outdoor component of the air conditioner, can contribute in a positive way to the operation of your system. Not only can planting well-chosen plants in a strategic location improve efficiency, but a carefully thought-out landscaping scheme can also protect your system. Let’s look at a few of the ways trees and your HVAC system can work together.

How Shade Trees Contribute to Efficiency

You know that shade trees keep your home cooler, just as you feel cooler when you stand under a sheltering tree out of the hot sun. But you may not understand exactly how this works in a home’s interior.

It’s a fact that planting trees so their shading canopies deflect the sun will keep your home from heating up as much as homes without tree canopies do. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that a strategically planned landscape can reduce air conditioning expenses by anywhere from 15 to 50 percent.

But that’s not all trees do. In addition to blocking the sunlight from heating the roof, trees also create a cool aura around the home. Trees pull moisture from the ground, which transpires through the leaves, slowly evaporating and cooling the air around them. This mist-laden air is sometimes six degrees or so cooler than the air further away from the trees. As you can see, you can create something of a cool zone around your home by planting trees.

Some homeowners also plant smaller shade trees to shade the condenser (that’s the outdoor component of your air conditioner). While you don’t want leaf debris and twigs falling into the unit and impairing its performance, some shade will contribute modestly to keeping the condenser cooler as it works hard on hot days.

And don’t forget shrubbery. While you’ll likely keep them trimmed below the roof line, shrubs can help keep sun from penetrating the home through windows.

Choosing the Right Plant Material

It’s important that you choose the right kinds of trees and shrubs for your landscape. If you’re a novice in these matters, you can consult with horticultural professionals from the local extension office, a botanical garden or a good plant nursery about selections for your yard. Better yet, hire a landscaping professional to help you choose and situate your trees to best advantage.

Often, native plants are the best choice. They usually thrive better, with fewer disease and pest problems, than exotic species. Whenever possible, choose drought-tolerant species so that your water bill isn’t out of sight.

Speaking of water, you will have to water generously until your new plants are established, but generally, after a couple of years, you can cut back as the roots grow deeper and can find moisture in the water table.

Here are some points to consider as you select shade trees for your home.
  • Avoid fast-growing trees such as silver maple, mulberry, chinaberry or members of the poplar family. While you’ll get shade faster with fast-growing trees, they are usually brittle and break easily. Silver maple and cottonwood also need a lot of water.
  • Rule out trees that shed. You don’t want fibers such as that from cottonwoods clogging the condenser and preventing your air conditioner from exhausting warm air properly. You may also want to avoid trees such as mulberries that could drop fruit through the protective grating over the condenser.
  • Avoid coniferous trees. Coniferous trees have leaves all year long; deciduous trees drop their leaves in the fall. You’ll want leaves gone so sunlight can reach the house in the winter when it’s colder.

It’s also important to think about how large the plants will grow. Most of us have made the mistake of underestimating the mature size of plants, in terms of how close we plant to the house or in proximity to each other.

Deciding Where Trees or Shrubs Should Go

Once you’ve determined which trees and shrubs you want to use in your landscape, you’ll need to decide where to plant them. Here are a few key rules to adhere to:

  • Don’t plant too close to the house or condenser. Trees planted next to a house can cause problems with the roof. If tree limbs start touching the roof, you’ll need to keep them trimmed back. Also, the roots of trees planted too close to the home may be a problem, undermining the home’s foundation or growing into the plumbing pipes and clogging them. A good rule of thumb is to maintain about 10 to 20 feet between the tree and the home’s exterior.
  • Shrubs obviously can be closer to the house, but do plant them so you can get into the space between the shrubs and the home to trim them. You might want to avoid planting shrubs with thorns or prickly leaves against walls or around the condenser, as you will need to clean windows, and the HVAC tech will need access to the unit.
  • When you plant shade for the condenser, make sure you allow for at least a 2-foot space between the shrubs and the unit. Plants shouldn’t interfere with air flow.
Miscellaneous Considerations

Garden structures. Aside from plants, you should also create a plan for garden structures, such as walls, tool sheds, entertainment areas, furniture and the like. It’s always best, whenever possible, to locate these structures away from the HVAC system so as not to affect air flow. If you want to erect a structure to provide some shade to the condenser or to conceal it, you might consider a trellis or arbor, where you can grow vines or climbing roses. These plants will allow air flow, while concealing the presence of the condenser in an attractive way.

Xeriscaping

If you’re into xeriscaping (the type of landscaping that uses minimal water or irrigation), you may have planned to eliminate grass and put down plastic weed barriers with gravel or pebbles on top of them. If you have these pebble- or stone-strewn landscape areas near the condenser, be sure to weed or cut any grass that grows there by hand. Using a weed whacker can propel pebbles into the condenser and may harm it.

Mowing grass

If grass grows next to the condenser, it should be dispersed away from the condenser during mowing. Grass can clog the unit and affect air intake.

Conclusion

Adding trees and shrubs to your landscape in a pleasing, well-thought-out design is a great way to enhance your property values, while also boosting the efficiency of your home by making it cooler and more comfortable. Your air conditioner will also last longer, since the parts won’t need to work so hard to reach temperature set points in the hot, hot summertime.

Furthermore, trees help reduce your carbon footprint, as large, mature trees actually help remove a significant amount of greenhouse gases: as leaves breathe, they draw the gases into the tree and deposit them into the ground through the roots.

So get going and start planting, and those trees and shrubs will be enhancing your comfort and efficiency before you know it.

For all your HVAC needs, contact TemperaturePro today!