Monthly Archives: June 2011

What Features Should I Look for When Buying an Air Conditioner?

This entry was posted in Air Conditioning and tagged , , , on by .

There are so many different types and styles of air conditioners on the market these days, it can be difficult to figure out what features are worth paying attention to when it comes time to buy one for yourself.

Of course, the most important thing to do is make sure you get an air conditioner that’s appropriately sized for the space you’re trying to cool. But what should you look for beyond that? Here are a few features you might like to have on the unit you purchase:

  • Energy Efficiency – The more energy efficient your air conditioner is, the less your cooling costs will be. It’s as simple as that. So when you’re evaluating devices, remember that it’s worth paying a little bit more up front for a more energy efficient unit. It will save you money in the long run and you’ll be doing your part to help the environment.
  • Dehumidification – Just about every air conditioner controls humidity to a certain extent in addition to cooling. But some do this better than others. There are also air conditioners with separate dehumidification settings for those days that are more humid than hot. Even when you need both cooling and dehumidification, it’s nice to have control of each of these independently.
  • Timer – Being able to program your air conditioner to switch on and off at different times of day is more than just convenient; it will save you money. You don’t want to leave your air conditioner running all day when you’re not home, but it sure is nice to come home to the comfort of an air conditioned space. If your air conditioner has a timer, you can have both. Just set the unit to come on a half hour or so before you get home and you’ll enjoy cool, refreshing indoor comfort right when you get home without paying through the nose to keep your home cool when no one is there.
  • Easy-to-Use Controls – As simple as this one seems, you might be surprised at how inconvenient the controls on some air conditioners can be. So when you’re evaluating your options, make sure you research how easy each unit is to operate. This can definitely save you from plenty of frustration in the long run.

Air conditioners come in many different shapes and sizes. To make sure your decision works best in your home, do your research well in advance. When the summer heat kicks in, you’ll be glad you did.

Do I Need Surge Protection for My HVAC?

You probably know that to keep your HVAC system in good working order you need to keep up with regular maintenance. This includes things like changing air filters, cleaning out air ducts and clearing debris from both inside and outside the system. Surge protection for your system may not be something you think of immediately, but like those maintenance tasks, it’s an important part of keeping your equipment functioning properly over time.

How Surge Protection Works

Surge protection essentially shuts off your system in the event that power levels in the system rise suddenly and unacceptably. When a sudden increase in electricity occurs, any electronic device is at risk. But, unlike your stereo, your HVAC system costs thousands of dollars – no one wants to lose something so valuable to a surge that could have been prevented. That’s why a surge protector is so vital for your system.

The surge protector monitors the levels of electricity coming into your HVAC system. In the event that a surge occurs for any reason (faulty wiring, a lightning strike, etc.), the surge protector will immediately cut off power to the HVAC unit and shut all of the equipment down.

A Sizeable Investment

Your HVAC system was not an impulse buy. This is a collection of equipment that you probably spent a good deal of money on and that you rely on to keep your family comfortable throughout the year. When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see why it’s worth doing anything you can to protect your investment. Installing a surge protector is a relatively minor expense compared to the money and inconvenience it could save you by preventing serious damage to your HVAC equipment.

Proper Restart

Once a surge protector shuts off your HVAC system, you’ll need to restart it properly. The best thing to do is talk to the contractor who installs your system. They can walk you through the restart process step by step to ensure you know exactly what to do. After going through all that trouble installing a surge protector, the last thing you want is to make a mistake when turning it back on.

If you don’t already have a surge protector in place, call an HVAC professional today and learn what your system needs to be fully protected. It’s a small expense and a quick installation, so there’s no reason to put it off any longer.

What Is SEER?

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If you’ve been looking at air conditioners, you’ve probably noticed that they all seem to have a SEER rating. But what does this actually mean?

The SEER, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a measure of how energy efficient a particular air conditioning model is. So when you’re shopping around for the best deal on an air conditioner for your home, this is something you’ll absolutely want to pay attention to.

Interpreting SEER Ratings

The SEER rating system is relatively simple – the higher the SEER, the more energy efficient the product. But because a higher price tag typically comes with a higher SEER rating, it’s important to know just how much more efficient a higher rated unit will be. It helps you decide whether paying significantly more for a higher rated unit is worth it in long term savings. Will it actually save you enough each month to make up for the difference in price?

Evaluating Your Energy Usage

A big factor here is how much you will use your air conditioner. If you live in a place with very hot and humid summers where the air conditioning runs constantly, you’re probably best off with the highest SEER you can find. When you consume that much energy to keep your home cool, you want to get as much as possible out of it, and that’s what a high SEER model can do for you.

On the other hand, if you live in an area that doesn’t have the harshest summers, you may be better off with a slightly less efficient (and therefore cheaper) model. Keep in mind, too, that the actual percentage increase in energy efficiency goes up by smaller and smaller increments the higher in SEER ratings you get. For instance, while a 10 SEER unit may be almost 20% more efficient than an 8 SEER model, a 12 SEER is only about 10% more efficient than that 10 SEER.

Finding the Right Balance

The best way to decide what SEER rating is best for you is to determine the annual cooling costs with your current unit and then calculate your savings in dollars based on the percentage each model would improve your efficiency. If you don’t currently have an air conditioner, this can be a bit tricky, but a professional contractor or air conditioning salesman can help you estimate your total monthly cooling costs with the various units.

2011 AC Federal Tax Credits

You’ve probably heard many arguments for why you should purchase an energy efficient air conditioner. They may cost a bit more up front, but they’ll save you money in the long run by cutting down on your monthly energy bills. They’re also better for the environment because their lower energy usage means less fossil fuels are burned to keep them running.

But there’s another reason energy efficient AC units are better buys than your standard alternative. There are Federal tax credits available to consumers who purchase them. This tax credit can more than make up for the higher purchase price of the units, allowing you to enjoy your monthly savings much sooner and know you’re doing your part to protect the environment.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for 2011 air conditioning Federal tax credit, you need to purchase an appropriate energy efficient AC system. Your HVAC contractor or salesperson can tell you which models and units qualify for this program. Just make sure you save all documentation and proof of purchase in case you need them to validate your claim.

The AC units that qualify you for this tax credit include those with a SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) of 16 or greater and an EER (energy efficiency ratio) of at least 13. These two numbers are the best and clearest indicators of the overall energy efficiency of the product and can easily be found on the packaging for any air conditioning unit. While a 16 SEER is very good, it is not the highest rating currently available, either, so you won’t be forced to buy the most expensive model available to get your credit.

Credit Details

The tax credit is good for up to 10% of the purchase price of the unit up to $300. Keep in mind, though, that you can only claim up to $500 lifetime towards this program. So if you’ve previously claimed $250, you can only claim an additional $250 for 2011. That’s still a significant savings, though, and well worth looking into if you’re in the market for a new AC unit or system.

So if you’ve been thinking about upgrading your AC system, but haven’t quiet gotten around to, now may be the time to take advantage of this great tax credit opportunity before it’s too late.

How to Judge the Quality of a Ceiling Fan

Like just about anything else on the market these days, there are good ceiling fans and there are low quality ones. With such a seemingly simple piece of equipment, it can be tempting to just grab the cheapest one you can find. After all, how much of a difference can it really make? In fact, the quality of the ceiling fan you buy can have a significant impact on its performance level and how long it lasts.

Of course, you do not necessarily want to go out and buy the most expensive thing you can find either. There are many good quality ceiling fans that will not cost you an arm and a leg, but you need to know how to find them and separate them from the rest of the pack.

One of the first things to look for when you are evaluating your ceiling fan options is how much of an angle the blades have. This angle usually ranges from eight to 15 degrees and the bigger the angle, the more air the fan can move at once.

However, cheaper fans with a less powerful motor cannot handle the resistance that a higher volume of air generates. What that usually means is that the units with the smaller blade angle are less powerful and will be less effective at circulating air throughout your room. Even when they are running at the same speeds, the blades with the smaller angle will move less air, and so they will not keep you as cool.

You should also check the various ceiling fans you are considering to make sure they are the right size to fit your room. To be safe, a ceiling fan’s blades should be no less than seven feet above the floor. But if you have very high ceilings, you may want to add something that can extend the fan down closer to the floor so that you will still feel all of the cooling effects it produces.

The various ceiling fans on the market right now all have many different features that can influence your decision as well. For instance, you may want to opt for a fan that has programmable settings or that comes with a remote control for more convenient access. But if these are not features you care about, you can probably save quite a bit by going with a no-frills model.

Does Your Humidifier Have an Odor?

This entry was posted in Indoor Air Quality and tagged on by .

The best way to avoid those dry, uncomfortable winters is to have a high quality humidifier in your home adding much needed moisture to your indoor air. This can help lessen the severity of cold and allergy symptoms and even reduce the risk of asthma attacks. But if you notice a strange or musky smell coming from your humidifier when you turn it on, you probably won’t want to use it as often.

Fortunately, a problem like this is relatively easy to fix. That’s because it’s probably caused by stagnant water or a buildup of mold or mildew inside the humidifier itself. This isn’t a particularly pleasant thought, of course, but it does mean that the smell is pretty easy to get rid of. All it takes is thorough cleaning with the right materials.

Before you clean out your humidifier, always make sure it’s unplugged. The first thing to do is to remove the filter and change it. In some cases, that will take care of the entire problem and you won’t have to invest any more time in this project.

If your humidifier doesn’t have a filter or if the smell persists even after the filter has been changed, a deeper cleaning is probably in order. Begin by getting rid of the water in the reservoir and washing it out thoroughly. Next, scrub out all the interior areas of the humidifier you can reach with bleach and water. Make sure you get the evaporator belt while you are in there – it’s a particularly tricky component that can contribute to the musky smell. Be sure to rinse out the bleach thoroughly afterwards or it will be introduced into your indoor air when you turn humidifier back on.

Once that’s done, reassemble the unit and run it as normal with a fresh supply of water. That should solve the problem, but to keep it from happening again, there are some simple preventative steps you can take. First of all, don’t leave water standing in the reservoir for any length of time.

Whenever you’re not using your humidifier, dump out excess water and dry the interior thoroughly to prevent the growth of mold or mildew. You can also add vinegar or baking soda to the water in your humidifier to help keep any unwanted smells from coming back. Ideally, this will never again be an issue for you. If it is, and you have kept your humidifier clean, you may need to have it more thoroughly cleaned or inspected.

What Is a Whole House Pressurization Test and Should I Get One?

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If you have a forced air heating or cooling system in your home, you also have a system of ducts through which that heated or cooled air circulates. And most people don’t give a second though to those ducts. After all, if your heating and cooling systems are working, the ducts must be doing their job, right?

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. If ducts are not working properly, the whole system will be in trouble, even when you don’t realize there is a problem. That’s why a pressurization test is so important – it provides peace of mind knowing that your home’s ductwork is not only properly installed, but that it doesn’t need any special repairs.

Why Pressure Matters

Your duct system depends on proper pressurization to evenly and efficiently distribute air throughout your home. Leaks, cracks or clogs in the system can disrupt that pressure and lead to uneven or inadequate movement of air through your ducts. This causes problems you may not notice, so if you haven’t had your ducts checked for proper pressure in a while, it’s worth looking into.

Improper pressurization causes symptoms like hot or cold spots in your home or an overall drop in the effectiveness of your home heating and cooling system. When loss of pressure is due to a leak that lets in unfiltered air from outdoors it can also lead to a decrease in indoor air quality. Often these symptoms are easy to ignore. But by doing so, you only allow the situation to get worse.

A whole house pressurization test is the best way to determine the state of your home duct system. By using high tech diagnostic equipment, home HVAC professionals check over your entire system to determine whether you have a pressurization problem. If so they can then quickly pinpoint the source. Once that’s done, the repairs are usually quite simple and you’ll get much more out of your home heating and cooling system than you did before.

Even if no symptoms of improper pressurization in your ducts have presented themselves, it’s worth having one of these tests performed. Especially if you don’t know when the system was last checked, a whole house pressurization test can help uncover small problems before they turn into bigger ones. And the peace of mind this provides is well worth the day it takes to perform the test.