Thursday, 27 June 2013

Alternative Cooling Methods for Homes

For most homeowners, switching on the air conditioner means watching their energy bills skyrocket during summer and cringe at the thought of adding to their share of carbon footprints. According to the Energy Department in the US, air conditioners uses up to one sixth of the electricity during really hot summer days, which consumes over 43% of the power load. Cooling systems emit over half a billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, which adds to global warming. These poisonous gases also add up to 24% of sulfur dioxide, a chief ingredient found in acid rain. 

There are so many passive cooling techniques that could cut down on your home’s cooling costs every year without investing in expensive appliances or specialized installations. To keep the indoors cool and comfortable is the absolute aim for everyone at home. If you would like to cut back on your air conditioner usage, save money on energy bills and decrease your carbon footprint, then try out these tips to cool your home with less impact to the environment.
  • Install ceiling fans so that cool air can circulate to every area of your home. Using a ceiling fan can cool the indoors by up to 5 degrees.
  • Check for drafts in windows, doors and crawl spaces so that cool air is not lost outdoors. To help you seal the conditioned air, you can try caulking, weather stripping and insulating to all areas with slight openings.
  • Install solar attic fans to decrease hot air trapped in the attic, making the home easier to cool. This will help in decreasing your energy bill by up to 10%.
  • Install curtains or drapes to keep out harsh sunlight and reduce the temperature as well. If you feel the room is too dark, then you can open windows in the rooms you use for good air circulation.
  • Reduce sources of humidity indoors. This results in less condensation on your air conditioner coils, thereby lowering hidden sources of heat and saving electricity. You can use exhaust fans in the bathroom/kitchen, cover pots while cooking and vent the clothes dryer to the outside.
  • Reduce heat sources like electric bulbs, televisions, kitchen appliances and electric appliances. Don’t place these appliances near the cooling system as they give off heat and make the unit work extra hard to cool the indoors.
  • Find alternative cooking methods like microwaving, barbequing or pressure cooking so that there is very less heat given off while cooking. The microwave generates no heat with very less energy consumption, the barbeque keeps the heat outside and the pressure cooker reduces the cooking time by half.
  • Plant more trees in your garden or yard at strategic spots to keep the heat out and provide shade. Crawling vines planted on the sides of your home will help in insulation.
  • Install solar screens for the windows as they keep the heat out during the hot months and can be removed in the cold months.
  • Paint light colors for your home’s walls and the roof which deflects rather than absorb the heat.
  • Turn off boilers and geysers in your home to stop the hot water flow as most homes don't have insulated water lines. This way you can avoid paying for air conditioning to remove the heat as a result of the hot water circulating within the walls of your home.
  • Seal ducts in attics and crawl spaces using the appropriate materials by a qualified technician.
Shut off gas supply to heaters and fireplaces as the pilot light generates heat. Dampers also need to be shut so that the loss of cool air is minimized.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Should You Replace Your HVAC Blower Motor for Higher RPMs?

During the cold season, every home’s furnace takes a lot of beating and abuse as components like the blower motor is always in constant operation while warming the indoors. This is when the blower motor can become worn down internally due to age, operation and lack of lubrication, which in turn causes a major decline in hot air movement in the home’s ductwork. A practical solution to an inefficient blower motor is obviously replacement. 

Before replacing a HVAC blower motor, you need to make sure that the circuit breaker at the electrical panel which supplies power for the furnace to work needs to be shut off. The motor is normally connected to the home's main electrical supply and touching the components of the furnace with the electricity on can cause electrocution. To determine if the circuit wire is live or off, you can use a non-contact circuit tester directly on the blower motor's wiring. Then the tester should be pressed against the wires to make sure that there is no danger of electrocution in case any work is undertaken on the motor. The motor resembles a small barrel with three wires extending from its housing and is usually lodged behind the furnace's protective outer cover. Before cutting or removing the wires, you should make a note of the motor's wire color connections to the furnace. It’s also important to note that every manufacturer will have a different strategy for wire connection, so it’s imperative that you go through the furnace system’s manual before undertaking any work. 

The blower motor is fastened inside the assembly, so once the motor's wheel is located within the blower, the set screw can be removed and the motor pulled away from the blower assembly. This is the major component that must be replaced. The new motor should be installed in the reverse process before removal of the old part. The most important thing is that the new blower motor should be compatible with the blower assembly in specifications and values related to voltage, speed, horsepower, rotation direction and motor diameter of the old motor in order to function effectively. There are many who question if they can use blower motors with higher RPMs in their furnace to make it work better and more efficiently. However, most modern HVAC systems are properly designed to match the airflow through the heating coils for the expected temperature drop. Changing the CFM without knowing the design point of the coil may prove to be a really bad idea as it can negatively impact the unit's performance. Most technicians say that once you start messing with the CFM of a furnace system then it’s most likely to drop its moisture control capacity, increase noise and power consumption or even cause worse problems for the system’s working condition. 

Some of the main disadvantages of replacing a blower motor with higher RPM are as follows:-
  • The functioning of the system will get too noisy
  • The blower wheel is likely to self destruct
  • Turning the existing wheel of the system with a higher RPM will require more horsepower. It can also draw higher amps or burn itself up.
  • A HVAC blower motor should always operate in a specific CFM range that is designed based on its capacity. More airflow cannot be necessarily better, and may get worse.
Many homeowners feel that increasing the RPM of the motor will increase airflow throughout the house thereby providing a warm environment in less time. However the truth is that replacing an existing blower motor with that of a higher RPM is no big deal as the issue with more air flow can simply be addressed by added insulation and adjusting the dampers of the closer rooms.