Archive for October, 2013

What is a SEER Rating

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is, simply put, a measuring system for determining the comparative efficiency of an air conditioning unit. It’s a math formula that begins with the cooling output of a unit during a typical cooling season, divided by the total electricity input during the same time frame. The higher rating an AC system has, the lower the amount of energy consumed.

The Department of Energy has established a standard that requires air conditioners built after January 26, 2006 requiring a minimum SEER number of 13. With that baseline determined, manufactures have an idea where they wanted to be, and consumers a better comparison tool. An objective benchmark led to greater innovation for better SEER ratings and made shopping easier.

Why a High Number is Important

A homeowner who installs a three-ton unit with a SEER rating of 16 will see an estimated savings of $2,070 over the life of equipment. Additionally, they will be responsible for emitting 30,000 pounds of greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere, which is equivalent to planting four acres of forest. The environmental impacts mitigated by an efficient cooling system make seeking the highest number possible worthwhile. Add in the money savings and it’s an easy decision.

Not the Only Rating Number

Some feel the SEER is limited by its own formulations. The temperature for determining SEER ratings is constant at 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The EER is an alternative measuring formula that consists of a unit’s Btu’s over wattage consumed. Btu stand for British Thermal Unit, and it represents the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree.

The EER rating is seen as more accurate when it comes to figuring out how an air conditioner will perform when it’s really hot out. The assumption is that the baseline 82 degrees isn’t high enough to measure how a unit will work under heavy load. The DOE recommends an EER number higher than 11.6. The best way for consumers to ensure they are getting the most efficient unit they can is to aim for high numbers in both categories. That will mean spending a little more up front. The money saved over the life of your air conditioner, coupled with the lessened environmental impact, help make it an easy option.

Four Quick Ways to Improve Home Air Quality

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

The quickest way to improve indoor air quality in your home is also the most obvious one: buying an air purifier. The first thing you want to look for when considering this purchase is whether or not it has HEPA filtration. HEPA filtration has been shown to be most effective at removing harmful particles from the air. Other factors to consider are availability of filters and their costs, fan speed options, and how large of an area the air purifier is rated for.

The next way to improve air quality in your home is by keeping it clean of dust. Vacuums, like air purifiers, are now available with HEPA filtration and are a wise purchase for those that need to improve their air quality. Chemicals and allergens are actually stored in dust particles and when disturbed are released back into the air. A good vacuum with a HEPA filter will trap these toxins and leave your home a healthier place. Other tips include regular dusting and mopping as well as asking family members and guests to take their shoes off at the door.

Toning down fragrances and switching over to all-natural or unscented cleaners will also help. Scented air-fresheners, candles, laundry soaps, and fabric softeners are made up of hundreds of chemicals and every time you breathe in their scents, you are breathing in various amounts of low-level toxins. At higher concentrations these compounds are known to cause skin irritation and disrupt hormone levels in animals. You should make it a point to buy candles as well as cleaning and beauty supplies that are organic and scent free or naturally scented. If you cannot find an alternative, open up your windows while cleaning, or doing laundry.

Lastly, buy some plants. In 1989, NASA begun to look for alternative ways to purify air on the Space Station, and they settled on a very simple and effective method: plants. A variety of plants are great at both brightening up your home and making it easier to breathe in. The most effective air purifying house plants include bamboo palms, spider plants, potted mums, and peace lilies, to name a few. A complete list is available from NASA. If you are wondering how many plants you need, the answer is probably 15. Or at least, that was the number the study concluded was necessary to improve the air quality of an average size home.

Questions to Ask Before Purchasing a Heating or Air Conditioning System

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Having a new heating and air conditioning system installed in your home is a major investment. It adds tremendously to property value and contributes to your family’s comfort. That’s why it’s important to ask questions before hiring a contractor to install such a system in your home. Asking questions is the best way to ensure that you’re hiring a reputable service provider who performs quality work and backs that work with a guarantee. Knowing what questions to ask your contractor is an excellent place to start.

It’s important to establish that the contractor is an expert with plenty of training and experience. You may ask how long the company has been in business and what kind of training their technicians undergo. A company of long standing demonstrates a history of good performance while well trained employees tend to be competent and knowledgeable. Ideally, the contractor should say that their technicians receive further training every year since technology advances quickly.

You’ll also want to know whether or not you’re covered in case things go wrong. Ask the contractor if they are insured and if they carry worker’s compensation insurance. An insured contractor has coverage that protects you in case of damage to your home. An employer who provides worker’s compensation insurance protects you against an employee’s claim should they be injured while working on your property.

Other kinds of protection are important too. A reputable company stands behind their work and the equipment they install. Ask about warranties on parts and labor, and find out exactly what they cover. The contractor should be able to provide you with a written warranty to give you peace of mind. Additionally, find out when your contractor’s services are available to you. Are they on call 24 hours a day seven days a week? This may be important should anything ever go wrong with the system.

Finally, ask lots of questions about the system itself. A heating and air conditioning system needs to be properly sized to keep your home comfortable no matter the season. Your contractor should be able to offer you a number of options and help you arrive at a sensible choice that fits your needs and your budget.

By asking your contractor several questions and receiving satisfactory answers, you’re much more likely to enjoy a worry free installation and years of comfort thanks to your new heating and air conditioning system.

Prepare Your Heating System Before Winter Arrives

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Winter will soon arrive and this one could be colder than in recent years. Now is the time to get your heating system prepared before the arrival of cold weather. Left unchecked, this could lead to a breakdown of your furnace just when you need it most.

The filter system

Installing new filters in your furnace will help it breath better and burn more efficiently. They should be replaced before the cold season and checked every month to see if it needs another replacement. The money you save with a more efficient burning furnace will pay for the filters.

Looking inside

Check the burners to make sure they are free of any obstruction. A partially clogged burner can keep the furnace from heating your home right. Check the blower to see if it is free of debris. It could also need oiled if it is noisy or is not running up to speed.

The duct system

The heating ducts need to be checked for leaks and fixed if there are any. This could be a big potential loss of heat if they are not repaired. They need to be properly insulated as well. Having the furnace in good shape while losing heat through the duct system is a bad way to go through winter.

Looking at the chimney

The chimney needs to be inspected to prevent a fire hazard. A bird nest or an extreme build up of soot could possibly start a fire. This should be looked at and cleaned by a professional.

Your vents

All vents should be checked in the house to make sure they are fully open and not covered by furniture or plants. Obstruction of these vents can compromise the heating of the room. Also make sure your thermostat is operating properly.

An upgrade

If your heating system is several tears old, it might be worth upgrading to a new, more efficient heating system. These are designed to heat your home more efficiently as well as control the humidity level. They use less energy and are designed to last for many years.

Having your heating system checked over before the arrival of winter can save you from a cold night while trying to find someone to repair your furnace. This is the time to do it with cold weather arriving soon.

5 Common Reasons for AC Trouble

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

It can be a frustrating experience to have your AC stop working when you need it, such as during hot summer days or when you have house guests. Although there are countless reasons why your AC has stopped working, there are also a handful of common AC problems that can explain why your AC has blown out.

1. Poorly Installed
When an AC unit has been improperly installed, it can cause leaking air ducts and poor air flow. It can also cause fires if the wires were incorrectly installed. This is due to poor wiring that prevents the AC from receiving power or a tripped circuit breaker. If you’re unsure about your AC being poorly installed, an indication can be the sound of loud rattling or vibrations when you turn on the AC system.

2. Low Refrigerant Levels
Refrigerant is a chemical used to cool air. If the refrigerant levels are low, this could mean that there’s a refrigerant leak somewhere. When a refrigerant leak occurs, it can cause your AC to not bring cool air into your home. A common sign of a leak is when the AC unit needs to be refueled with refrigerant.

3. Outside Fan Stopped Running
The outside fan in the AC unit is responsible for taking hot air out of your home. When the fan stops working and the heat in your home doesn’t transfer outside properly, the system can overheat and cause damage to the AC compressor.

4. Stalled Condenser Coil
The condenser coil is the area of the AC unit that produces cold air. If your AC turns on normally but doesn’t produce cool air, this can mean that your AC system has a stalled condenser coil. Possible causes of a stalled condenser coil can be a tripped circuit breaker or blown fuse.

5. Air Filters Clog Up
When the AC air filters are clogged, this can cause the system to not cool your home due to obstructed air flow. If you have pets or plants, this can cause your air filters to clog up faster than normal. Depending on your environment, the air filters in your AC unit can be clogged up, and it can require you to replace them every 3-5 months.

Although there are several common AC problems, you can hire a professional to check your AC system for any other issues.