Friday, 27 December 2013

Never be a victim of cheap HVAC services

When you entrust the job of repairing or maintaining your HVAC system to a contractor who offers low cost services, you need to think twice before handing it to him. These so called low cost deals are often underhanded practices of unscrupulous HVAC companies who employ contractors that are not professionally qualified, trained or possess the skill of undertaking repair or replacement on your heating and air conditioning systems. We all know that a great doctor is never cheap, so it goes to say that contractors who offer quality services for your HVAC units are definitely not giving you a very cheap bill.

Most homeowners have been victims of cunning marketing strategies put for by the salesmen of unreliable HVAC service companies. These companies have in fact become gimmicky and dishonest when it comes to offering their services and sales. This is especially prevalent in the residential and commercial service industry. The salesmen are employed intentionally by these HVAC companies. They do not have enough experience in the HVAC trade, but the company believes in them to generate more sales for their HVAC equipment and product line. This according to them makes up for their lack of technical expertise. There are also reports carried out that justify that these HVAC companies train their staff by conducting mock sales interactions that teaches them to hook the customer and avoid technical questions.

If you have been a victim of all these, you are not alone. There are probably thousands of homeowners across the country who have been duped by these conniving salesmen, whose only purpose is to generate profits and not worry about the customer’s requirements. These so called contractors are shrewd enough to catch you at your most vulnerable point, especially when you are in desperate need of repair or replacement of your heating/air conditioning unit.

The point we are trying to make here is that homeowners and businesses need to seriously consider what kind of a service company they bring to their front door. A reliable HVAC company cares about the customer’s requirement and takes extra precaution when it comes to selling their product or when offering any service. Only then will your HVAC unit be guaranteed to a long and efficient working life, free from unnecessary repairs. It is not difficult to find a reputable company in your area who offers quality services. All it takes is a little common sense and the willingness to communicate with the company you are planning to approach. Just as you would get a lawyer’s second opinion in a trial, you need to apply the same strategy in this case. Then you can be assured that your HVAC unit is in good hands.

The same applies to choosing the right product or equipment for your home or office. You can’t just walk into a store, select a unit and then walk out. It takes a lot more time and effort to finding the perfect heating and cooling system that is the right fit for your home and your budget. Make sure that the unit is of the right size. For this, you need to measure the total square footage area of your indoor space. Also, ask your dealer to conduct an energy analysis of the building to determine the operating cost. This process will also help in preventing uneven temperature fluctuations and air stratification indoors by installing products for that particular purpose.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Saving Energy this Winter

To keep your energy bills under control this winter, make sure you properly prepare your home for the cold weather. This will help you save energy, money and keep your family comfortable indoors when the temperature drops. There are no cost and low cost ways to save on your energy bills this winter. Have a look at them below for some helpful tips.

Heating – For optimum heating and warm comfortable conditions, install a programmable thermostat. This way, you can lower the settings when the house is unoccupied and also during the night when everyone is asleep. You can save 10 to 20 percent on your heating bill by lowering the temperature by 10 degrees. You can also save on energy use by upto 3 percent if you wear socks and sweaters indoors to keep warm and then lowering your thermostat settings. However make sure that the thermostat is installed properly, programmed correctly and not situated in a heated area. Only then the thermostat can sense the average temperature indoors. Make sure to inspect your air filters and ducts before the cold season, if you have a forced air furnace. Replace or clean them to prevent dust build up and increase heating efficiency. Indoor heating can make the air inside very dry. For this, you can get a humidifier installed to add moisture to the air. Even if the thermostat is set for a lower temperature, heated air with moisture will make the indoor area feel warmer and more comfortable. If you need supplemental heating, you should never use a traditional fireplace. When the fireplace is not in use, you need to close the damper and seal the opening. That’s because the fireplace sucks warm conditioned air out of your home’s indoors to fuel the fire and then exhausts it through the chimney. Your furnace has to do double work by turning itself on and then replacing that warm air. 

Windows and doors – To prevent cold air from entering and warm air from escaping, you need to keep your windows tightly shut and doors closed as much as possible. Look for drafts, cracks and openings in your windows and doors. Have someone help you in checking the doors by having them stand on the other side and shine a flashlight around the door’s perimeter. If you can see the light through any openings or cracks, then the door definitely needs to be sealed. Another thing you can do is to hold a piece of paper between the door’s frame and then shut it. If you are able to pull the paper out without tearing it, then it needs to be weather-stripped. You can caulk windows as much as needed. Install storm windows, open up south facing drapes and curtains during the day to let in warm sunlight and close them at night to keep the heat in. Other things you can do is to seal off all unused rooms in your house as long as it is not the place your thermostat is located and is less than 100 square footage in area.

Water heater – You can save a lot on energy bills by making sure to set the temperature of your water heater no higher than 125 degrees. To remove sediment that will interfere with the efficient working system of your heater, drain off a bucket of hot water from it annually. If the water heater is older than 5 years, you can install a water heater blanket. Also it makes sense to insulate pipes around the heater as this will be really helpful if it is installed in an unheated space.

Other ways to lower energy costs – Consider upgrading your home’s insulation if it is less than R-38 in rating, which is the standard requirement for homes. You should also check your attic’s insulation and seal areas which could have leaks like basements, garages and crawlspaces. If you are using special lighting for the holidays, make sure you buy new LED holiday lights. Dispose of older strings of incandescent lights as they can use up to 99 percent more energy than new ones. Switch off holiday lights before going to bed or when you are leaving the house. Make sure you don’t use them for more than six hours in a day to keep energy usage down. For this you can install lighting timers to make them turn on or off automatically.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Heating and Cooling Of Yesteryears

Do you wonder how people kept themselves warm or cool as the case may be in houses of yesteryears? No one can imagine themselves living in conditions with an air conditioner in summer and a furnace/heater in winter. The first thing that flashes through your mind is,How can I live inside my home when it is so hot or so cold? 

About a century ago, people were accustomed to living without heating and air conditioning units. There was no technology or the HVAC systems that we have and are taken for granted during these past few years. Electricity was also not available and yet, people lived comfortably and remained healthy. Houses were designed to keep cool in summer and warm in winter. To know about the way houses were designed and built hundreds of years ago, take a look at some of the essential features that were addressed by architects.
  • Natural resources – For those who lived centuries ago, the absence of electricity did not pose a problem for keeping warm or cool during the changing seasons. Houses were naturally insulated thanks to the structure and materials used to build them. Every home had a fireplace which was religiously lit at dusk to keep warm. The fireplace would always have sufficient amount of logs that lasted the entire night. The warmth which was derived from the fire would be absorbed by the walls made of stones or bricks, which had strong energy retention capacity to keep the warmth inside and the cold out.  
  • Structure – The structures of old houses speaks a lot about keeping the inhabitants comfortable indoors. The walls were very thick which prevented warm air from seeping out and the cold air from entering inside. Some homes had double walls for extra insulation and it was not an uncommon sight to see people building wooden walls inside and concrete walls outside. The double wall served as an excellent insulator for the home.
  • Bricks – Walls that were built by bricks were thick and very large. Another interesting fact is that bricks take a long time to heat and also a long time to cool. That’s why, during winter months when the house is warmed, bricks can retain the heat without losing it too quickly. This of course functions the other way during summer when hot air is prevented from entering inside.
  • Glass – Glasses were placed in homes all around the south side during the construction process. Sunlight enters the house from the south side so the rays would penetrate through the glass and warm the indoors. This is indirect heat energy from the radiation of the sun’s rays used to keep the house warm and cozy. Temperature inside slowly increases as the warmth of the sun’s rays moves indoors to every area. Drapes and thick curtains are also used to retain heat inside without losing it too quickly.
  • Paint – The difference with painting your home with dark colors compared to that of light colors is that dark colors absorb heat more efficiently and quickly. Light colors reflect sunlight and thus cannot retain the heat from the sun’s rays. That’s why old houses are usually painted with dark colors so that the radiation from the sun is absorbed outdoors and the dark color of the paint locks the heat in.
  • Heat retention methods – To reduce heat transfer indoors, windows play an important role. Cement filling was used to seal the gaps between the window frames to keep warm air inside and prevent cold air from seeping in. This helped in heat retention and decreased air flow between the outside and inside. Ancient History says that the Romans used advanced heat retention methods to keep warm. They used hypocausts which was an under floor heating method where floors were raised above the surface of the ground by pillars with a layer of tiles, a layer of concrete and then another layer of tiles on top. Spaces were then left between them so that smoke or hot air from the furnace would pass through these enclosed areas and then out through the roof. This ensured that there was no pollution in any interior areas of the house but only efficient heating.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Significance of maintaining the Air Conditioner during winter

The air conditioning is one of the most overused electronic gadgets in any household. Since it starts running from spring, the machine hardly gets any rest throughout the summer and is switched off only when winter approaches. Seldom people bother about its maintenance until an emergency situation arises. This is turn results in additional expenses and hassles too. Rather than waiting for an emergency to happen, it is advisable to take proper care of the air conditioner during winter so as to ensure its peak performance during the spring or summer months. If this explanation doesn’t sound motivating enough then discussed below are few reasons which should encourage you to maintain the AC unit in spite of the freezing weather.
Ø  Utilize the winter month to carry out a thorough inspection of the cooling unit
If last summer you were troubled with exorbitantly high electric bills, then utilize this resting period to take a close look at what is bugging your cooling unit. Is it because of accumulation of too much debris or a clogged filter which is causing the problem? Do you feel any component of the AC unit is damaged or rusted and hence causing over expenditure? Then it is time to give a call to the HVAC unit so that they can do a detailed inspection of the air conditioning system and suggest necessary measures.
Ø  Regular maintenance of the AC unit ensures prolonged life and round-the-year smooth performance
If you have invested thousands of dollars just a year back to purchase the new air conditioning unit, then it is natural that you would like to retain it for few more years and that too in perfect condition. By following a proper maintenance regime, it is possible to ensure a smooth and extended performance of the AC machine. In fact specialists suggest inspection and tuning of the cooling unit by an HVAC professional, at least once or twice in a year. So why not schedule the winter time for yearly inspection thus ensuring the AC runs uninterrupted during peak seasons!
Ø  Make sure that the air conditioning unit looks its best
While you just can’t avoid having an AC condenser which looks large and bulky, the best you can do to improve its look is by keeping it dirt and rust free. Clean and dry it thoroughly and then cover it up properly before the winter sets in. This way you not only protect the machine from extreme weather and critters but also make sure that the unit looks spotlessly clean when you uncover it to use.
Now that you know why you need to winterize the air conditioner, the next thing to decide is how to do so. While some basic cleaning acts or covering the AC unit can be performed at home, for specialized assistance you should get in touch with an Air Conditioning specialist. One good idea is to look for a certified service provider which has all-round expertise in installation and maintenance of cooling units.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

How to winterize your home

It’s that time of year again. You have pulled out sweaters and mittens from your closet and cranked up the thermostat to increase warmth inside your home. But is your home properly winterized for the cold months ahead? The autumn season is a prelude to falling winter temperatures where the weather might snow, rain and have chilly winds blowing everywhere. Just for trivia’s sake, there is one place in the United States where outdoor temperatures never fall below zero. Have you guessed it? It’s none other than Hawaii!

If you live in any part of the United States, the fall equinox is the right time of year to start girding your home for winter. As temperatures begin to dip, proper planning and maintenance is required to keep your home in tip-top shape. 

Here are sure fire tips to help your home get cracking for Old Man Winter:

1.    Clean the gutters – The rule of thumb for proper drainage is that water should be at least ten feet away from the home. When the leaves starts falling and debris starts collecting, you need to clean out the gutters by removing them by a spatula, scraper or by hand. Then give it a good hose rinse so that all the snow can drain easily. Drains which are clogged will cause ice dams to form. This will in turn cause the water to back up, freeze and then seep indoors. When hosing the gutters, make sure that there are no misaligned pipes or leaks. Also make sure that water is carried away from the foundation through the downspouts, which will prevent water damage and flooding.
2.    Check the ducting system – A lot of homeowners don’t realize that they could be wasting a huge amount of energy and money while heating their house with improper ducting systems. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a home will lose up to 60% of heated air before the conditioned air reaches the vents. This is because the ductwork might travel through unheated spaces or is not well-connected and insulated. Always check the basement, attic and crawlspaces to see if there are leaks, drafts and damaged pipes. Always remember to clean the ducting system every year with a vacuum to get rid of dust, mold, hair and microorganisms that can gather and cause indoor air pollution.
3.    Insulate the house – A way to save money in the long run is to insulate the house thoroughly. Regardless of the climate you live in, you need at least 12 inches of insulation in the attic. It’s not about measuring R values that determine the best possible insulation for your home but it’s about finding areas to seal and prevent the loss of heated or cooled air.
4.    Block leaks – Check for leaks both inside and outside the home. Not many people know that the average American home has leaks that measure up to a nine square foot hole in the wall when combined with all indoor spaces! First, find the leaks. Walk around the house holding an incense stick on a breezy day in drafty areas of home like electric outlets, window/door frames and of course the basement and attic. You can insulate by weather stripping and caulking windows and doors for starters. Put up storm windows to provide better warmth and comfort inside the house.
5.    Check the furnace/heating unit – It’s important to turn on the furnace or heating system and check to see if it functions well before the start of the winter. You can get a maintenance check done before hand to prevent unnecessary problems that could arise later. A HVAC expert will carry out a thorough check up of the furnace/heating system. You also need to get your filters cleaned out regularly or replace worn out ones.
6.    Check the chimney and fireplace – Most people think about cleaning the chimney during spring. This is a common myth and not true as it needs to be inspected and cleaned before use every year. You need a professional to undertake a Level 1 inspection to examine all the accessible portions of the chimney. You can buy a protective cap for your chimney to keep out foreign objects like birds and tennis balls. For the fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when not in use.
7.    Protect the pipes – Before Jack Frost sets his grip on the weather, you need to protect your pipes for the winter. A burst pipe is a real nightmare during the winter freeze, so you need to ensure that the water outlets are shut off and the pipelines drained thoroughly. For pipes that run through basements, garages and crawlspaces, cover them properly with fiber glass insulation or pre molded foam rubber sleeves. If you are worried that your pipe will freeze, wrap it with heating tape which basically is an electrical cord that gives off heat. 

Check your alarms – The smoke detectors should be checked for operation and batteries should also be replaced. Make sure that you replace the detectors every ten years. You can also do a test run inside your home with a little bit of smoke to see if it works. Also make sure that the fire extinguisher is close by for easy access. You can also invest in a carbon monoxide detector for the safety of your family. It’s mandatory that every home has one.