Archive for August, 2011

AC As a Safety Feature in the Home: A Suggestion From Bee Ridge

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Ask a hundred people in Bee Ridge what the primary role of air conditioning is and I’ll bet you they say “comfort”. We seek out AC to stay cool and beat the summer heat, but did you know your air conditioning is a lot more than just a convenience – it is a safety feature in the midst of heavy heat waves.

Heat Is More than Just Uncomfortable

We tend to think of heat as an uncomfortable inconvenience. In reality, it is quite dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control, heat waves killed 8,015 people between 1979-2003, more than hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning, earthquakes and floods combined in that time period.

Why is heat illness so dangerous? It comes on quickly and it’s easy to ignore the warning signs, especially when you are already uncomfortable. While hydration is important, the real risk occurs after you’ve become dehydrated – when your body can no longer keep itself cool. This is known as heat stroke and can lead to a number of life threatening conditions, especially for the elderly, infants and those with chronic conditions.

That’s where air conditioning comes in. On the CDC’s extreme heat preparedness webpage, air conditioning is listed as the number one preventative factor against heat related illness. Simply put – if you have an air conditioner, there is a much smaller chance you will get sick from the heat. Dehydration happens less frequently when you’re in an air conditioned environment, meaning that your body can regulate temperature internally and you feel comfortable – not a bad deal for a simple installation.

Staying Cool Is a Medical Necessity

Heat is more than just a direct threat. It addles the mind and makes your reaction times slower. In effect, by allowing your body to overheat, you put yourself at risk. Simple tasks like climbing a ladder or taking out the trash could result in an injury because you don’t have the energy or the mental clarity to perform them as you would on a normal day.

So, air conditioning is about a lot more than just staying comfortable – it’s a health issue. Especially if you have small children or elderly adults in the house or if anyone in your family has a medical condition like obesity, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, an air conditioning system is an absolute must during heat waves.

Different Types of Refrigerants Used in HVAC: A Guide From Shell Key

Monday, August 29th, 2011

We have all heard phrases in Shell Key like “save the planet” or “save the ozone layer.” Up until the 1960s there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to the disintegrating protective ozone layer around the Earth’s surface. Since then, ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) have been seen as the ozone-depleting culprit and new laws regulating the use of CFCs have had a direct impact on heating and cooling (HVAC) systems.

The “lifeblood” of any air conditioning and heat pump system is its refrigerants – a chemical used in the refrigeration cycle. For several decades, the “refrigerant of choice” in HVAC systems has been HCFC-22, also known as R-22. The problem is, HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) are harmful to the ozone layer because they contain ozone-destroying chlorine.

Because of this, the use of R-22 is being slowly phased out from usage in HVAC systems. The Clean Air Act of 1970 has provisions in it to phase out HCFC refrigerants. As a result, chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce, and companies will no longer be able to import, R-22 for use in new air conditioning equipment (effective this year),  but they can continue production and import of R-22 until 2020 for use in servicing existing equipment. So, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing for many years to come.

But the “new kid on the block” replacing R-22 has been getting up a head of steam for several years now. Among the new alternative refrigerants recommended by the U.S. EPA is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, but, like R-22, contributes to global warming. R-410A is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®.

There are several other substitute refrigerants going by the names of R-407C, HFC-134A, and R-422C. A complete list can be found at www.epa.gov.

According to the U.S. EPA, homeowners with existing units using R-22 can continue to use R-22 since there is “no requirement to change or convert R-22 units for use with a non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerant.” And it is important to note that R-407C is allowed for retrofits but R-410A is not, due to its higher working pressures. Substitute refrigerants would not work well with existing components unless a retrofit was made or in the case of using R-410A, a complete system changeout.

One of the leading causes for air conditioner and heat pump failure are lower levels of refrigerant. If you are working on your own equipment, it is important to note that replacing refrigerants like R-22 and R-410A should only be done by certified HVAC professionals. You must show EPA certification to purchase these refrigerants.

If you are interested in “saving the planet” you might do well to give the boot to your HCFC-consuming appliance.

Your HVAC System’s Condensate Drain Line: Some Pointers From Desoto Lakes

Friday, August 26th, 2011

There are a lot of components involved in a properly working Desoto Lakes home HVAC system. One component that many people overlook is the drain line for the air conditioning system. Your air conditioning system has condenser coils that sweat the water drawn from the air in your home as it is cooled by your AC unit. These coils produce a significant volume of water, especially when it humidity is high, so a condensate drain pan is installed to capture the moisture and keep it from damaging your home.

A drain line from the drain pain out of your home is required to transfer all that extra water, but it can easily become clogged by debris in the area or simply from heavy condensation. If this happens, the drain line might need to be cleared or even replaced.

Inspecting your Condensate Drain Line

Full inspection of your drain line involves checking quite a few components, so I will point you to Inspectapedia for a thorough rundown of what you should look for (and some pictures to show you what you don’t want to see). But, in short, you want to look for evidence that your condensate drain is overflowing or that the liquid in your drain pan is backing up into the air handler.

You may also notice that there is no liquid coming out of the condenser – a sign that there may be a major problem in the system that needs immediate inspection. If this happens, make sure you check for blockages and if nothing is present, call a contractor.

Cleaning Your Drain Line

Each year, it is recommended that you clean your drain line to make sure it is clear and ready for the summer’s heavy cooling and high humidity. The simplest way to do this is to disconnect the drain line and attach a hose to blow the line clear. This can get a little messy, so make sure you dress for the occasion. Another option if you have a wet/dry vac is to attach the hose to the end of the drain line and suck free any moisture still in there. Most wet/dry systems have attachments for drain line clearing or you can order one.

If your drain line is not clearing properly, call a professional for a more thorough inspection. If you have regular maintenance done on your AC system each spring, this should be part of the process so make sure you write down any questions you have for when the contractor visits your home.

Common Problem Areas for HVAC Systems in Bird Island

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

No one wants to have to call a contractor in to inspect their HVAC system in their Bird Island home. Problems in heating or air conditioning tend to be costly and time consuming to fix. But, the longer you wait, the bigger the problem is likely to get. So, it’s important to act quickly when you suspect a problem with any of the following common sources in an HVAC system:

  • Power Lines – Your HVAC system uses a lot of electricity so if it stops working, turns off suddenly or frequently shuts down, it may be a power issue. If the system stops working at any point, check your breaker box for a blown fuse or tripped breaker. You should also check the electrical line to your HVAC system. If you see any damage from animals, weather or otherwise, call a professional immediately.
  • Gas Lines – if you have gas furnaces and appliances, gas supply problems can be a major issue for your HVAC system. There are a number of safety measures in place in a gas line system. The gas valve connecting the gas line to your furnace has as safety shutoff switch. Your home has a carbon monoxide detector. A pressure drop in the system will also cause a shutoff. So, the most common problem you would face with a gas line is that is stops providing gas, usually because there is a problem in a component. If this happens, call the gas company immediately to check your system, and of course if you smell a leak, leave the house and call the emergency line for your gas company.
  • Drains – Air conditioners have drain pipes that release the condensed water that builds up inside as they run. However, over time, that drain can clog up if it’s not properly maintained. If you have a central air conditioning unit, check the drain pan once every week or so to make sure it is draining properly. Frequently, this drain pipe will be located higher in your home so that it can drain properly away from the property. Call a professional if it continues to clog or fails to drain at all.
  • Venting – Vent problems can result in more than just stuffy air. Clogged or dirty vents are fire hazards and they can decrease indoor air quality, making it both uncomfortable and unhealthy inside. Vents and ductwork should be cleaned annually to avoid the buildup of debris and sediment. Additionally, you should do a visual inspection once a month to check for debris and vacuum the space where possible.

Most of the problems commonly associated with your HVAC system need to be checked and repaired by a professional. However, by remaining vigilant and checking them regularly, you can avoid a much bigger problem and subsequent repairs.

Save Money in the Long Haul with AC Maintenance: A Tip From Perico Island

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Every year, it’s recommended that you have an HVAC contractor visit your Perico Island home and tune up your air conditioner. This visit will ensure the system is ready for the intense, regular use it will receive during the hottest months of the year. How much money can this visit save you, though? Let’s take a closer look.

Cost of Operating Your Air Conditioning

An air conditioning system on average costs a homeowner between $500 and $1500 per year to operate depending on the length of the cooling season and the efficiency of that air conditioner. That number represents top efficiency for the unit, however. When a system has dirty filters, hasn’t been cleaned properly or the thermostat is no longer calibrated accurately, the cost increases – sometimes dramatically.

Just how much more could you be spending on cooling each month when this happens? The EPA’s Energy Star website estimates an increase in cost of between 10-30% resulting from poorly maintained systems, and it can be even higher if your system is old and is severely affected by a drop in energy efficiency.

Annual Tune Up Necessities

So, what should be at the top of your tune up list? If you call a contractor, they will perform a variety of tasks including:

  • Inspect Coolant and Pressure Systems
  • Calibrate the Thermostat
  • Tighten Wiring, Capacitors, Relays and Contacts
  • Clean the Evaporator Coil
  • Clear and Clean the Condenser and Condensate Drain
  • Inspect the Condenser Fan and Motor
  • Check Compressor Efficiency

This is just a starter list for standard tune up of a central air conditioning unit. You can supplement this tune up by checking your filters once every 30 days and clearing away debris from around any outdoor units. You should also check your thermostat monthly to ensure it is working properly. If not, call for an inspection to avoid heavy increases in operating costs.

Major repairs to your air conditioning system generally take less than a day and when you’re on an annual maintenance plan, they cost significantly less than if you needed someone to fix the device in an emergency situation.

Your HVAC System and Ventilation: A Tip From Charlotte Harbor

Friday, August 19th, 2011

The vent system in your Charlotte Harbor home is vital to the operation of your HVAC system. Without successful ventilation, your home won’t have the necessary clean air to keep you and your family healthy. So, what does proper ventilation require and how can you ensure your home has it? Here are some quick tips.

Install the Right Parts from the Start

Proper ventilation should result in even air pressure in your home to avoid problems with gas pilot lights. It should also be as energy efficient as possible and provide clean air through proper filtration and cleaning of the air that comes in. The best way to ensure your home has the ventilation needed to stay comfortable and safe for your entire family is to check the total size of the home and then measure the concentrations of certain pollutants like dander, pollen and smoke. A contractor can provide these services for you.

Energy Loss

Another major ventilation issue to keep in mind is energy loss. Ventilation tends to remove heated or cooled air from your home, forcing your furnace or air conditioner to work harder to replace it. As a result, you pay more for energy and it’s never quite comfortable inside.

To avoid this problem, ask about an energy recovery ventilator. These devices are designed to transfer heat from one environment into another. So, in the winter, heated air inside is kept inside and in the summer, cooled air is kept inside. The result is a much lower energy bill without a disruption to your ventilation sources.

Supplements to Ventilation

Proper ventilation should not only provide fresh air, but it should also ensure your home has clean air. The air outside may be fresher, but it can be filled with pollutants like pollen, dander and smoke. These should be removed before they get inside and into the lungs of your loved ones. To do this, you need a full sized air cleaning system that removes particles from the air down to 0.3 microns.

HEPA filters can do this, as will electronic air cleaners which can ionize and remove smoke and gas particles. Make sure you discuss filtration and cleaning with your contractor when they visit your home.

Quick Tips From Ellenton on How to Save Money on Air Conditioning

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

You’ve probably heard once or twice that the cost of running your air conditioner is more than that of any other single electrical device in your Ellenton house. That means you’re spending hundreds and possibly even thousands of dollars each and every year to stay cool. It’s well worth the investment as the risk of not having air conditioning is much too high, but there must be ways to cut the costs, right? With careful attention to how your AC operates and when you use, there are some things you can do to slash those costs. Here are a few of the easiest:

  • SEER Matters – What is this magical acronym you hear so much? SEER refers to how many BTUs your air conditioner can produce with a single watt of electricity. A low SEER device therefore uses a LOT more electricity to produce the same volume of cooling as a high SEER device. Since current devices offer SEER of 13 or higher (some are up to 20+), just about any upgrade will save you money relatively quickly if your current air conditioner has a rating of 8 or lower.
  • Program Your AC – If you have a single point analog thermostat, you’re wasting a LOT of electricity. You’re either paying to cool your house while it’s empty or you’re coming home to a roasting hot living space. Purchase a programmable unit and set the system to 85 degrees when you’re not home. With timers in most digital units, you can tell it when you’ll be home so that you walk into a cool, comfortable space without having to keep it cool all day long.
  • Use the Landscape to Your Advantage – Instead of relying solely on your air conditioner to keep the house cool in the summer, plant some trees and shrubs around the house to block the sunlight. Simply adding some shade to your property can directly reduce how much heat your home absorbs throughout the day and reduce how much your AC unit needs to work to keep you cool.
  • Ventilate Your Roof – A good third of the heat in your home is absorbed directly through the roof. To keep this heat from affecting the rest of your home, install a roof fan that ventilates the excess energy and keeps the attic at a steady temperature. Less heat up top means less cooling needed down low.

A good air conditioning system is effective no matter what the temperature does, so it’s easy to forget how big your bill will soon be. To avoid an overblown bill, keep an eye on your cooling and follow these simple tips to cut back on use.

Alternatives to Air Conditioning in Your South Bradenton Home

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Let’s face it – we rely pretty heavily on air conditioning to keep us comfortable during the warmest months of the summer in South Bradenton. So, what do you do when the mercury dings 90+ and your air conditioner is either broken or you are in a place without AC? Luckily, there are alternatives. Here are some of the better options:

  • Move Air through the House – As simple as it sounds, air circulation can have a huge impact on the temperature inside, especially in the late afternoon. Mid-afternoon sun will hit your roof no matter how many trees you have planted. The result is a decent amount of heat pouring into your home. But, if you open the windows and let a cross breeze through, amplifying it with fans, especially ceiling fans, moving air will carry that heat out of the house later in the day when the temperature drops.
  • Block Direct Sunlight – Unless it’s 90+ degrees outside, most of the discomfort in heat comes from direct sunlight. Block that direct sunlight and you severely reduce how warm it might get in your home. Trees planted along western, eastern and southern walls do this very effectively, especially if they are deciduous and will allow in the warming sun in the winter.
  • The Power of Water – Feel warm? Get some cool water and place it on your forehead, arms or legs. A bowl of cool water in front of a fan can be soothing as well, assuming humidity isn’t a problem. If it is, consider getting a dehumidifier to run in lieu of an air conditioner for those days that aren’t too hot. They are less expensive and can reduce discomfort significantly.
  • Evaporative Coolers – Evaporative coolers are extremely popular in Europe and Japan where energy costs are relatively high. They use up to 80% less electricity than air conditioners, don’t require refrigerants linked to global warming, and they work extremely well in dry heat. There are evaporative coolers available that can cool your entire home, though the most common devices are those designed for a single room. They are sometimes called “swamp coolers” as well.

I’m sure we’d all rather have a comfortably air conditioned room to lounge in during the hottest months of summer, but in lieu of electric powered comfort, keep in mind the simple, effective ways people have been staying cool for centuries. If you have more questions about how to stay cool this summer, contact your local HVAC professional.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Ceiling Fan? A Question From Leffis Key

Friday, August 12th, 2011

There are definitely some days every year that would be pretty miserable to get through without the benefit of a central air conditioning system in your home, especially in Leffis Key. And since you have a central air conditioning system in place, it may seem silly and unnecessary to think about having ceiling fans put in as well. There are actually quite a few benefits of having ceiling fans, however, regardless of what kind of central air conditioning system you have or how powerful it is.

Ceiling fans are not too expensive to put in and they take very little energy to run. But the breeze they produce can have a powerful cooling effect on a room. In fact, running a ceiling fan can make you feel up to eight degrees cooler than you would otherwise.

While this certainly is not enough on a really hot day, it can actually be plenty when the weather is not all that hot. But even if you have your central air conditioning turned on, you can still benefit from running your ceiling fan. That is because the cooling effect of the ceiling fan can allow you to turn up the thermostat for your air conditioner, resulting in a considerable savings on your cooling bill.

Because ceiling fans are so cheap to run, they can complement central air conditioning systems nicely and will provide significant savings over time. Running an air conditioning system alone can certainly keep you cool and comfortable all summer long, but it will also cost you considerably more than if you were to throw a ceiling fan into the mix as well.

And that is not all a ceiling fan can do to help you stay comfortable all year long. In fact, ceiling fans can also be of use in the winter because they help to return the warmer air to the lower parts of your rooms. Warmer air will naturally rise, meaning that your heating system will have to work harder and harder to keep the air in the lower part of your room warm. But with a ceiling fan in place, that warmer air will be re-circulated throughout the house to keep you warmer and help keep your energy bills down at the same time.

Considering Remodeling? Tips from Siesta Key To Be Sure It’s Done Right

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Remodeling your Siesta Key home is a great investment and can be a satisfying accomplishment once it’s done. Any remodeling project is a major one, however, and therefore requires some strategizing and careful execution in order to prevent setbacks, added expense, and a great deal of frustration. Here are some tips to help your remodeling project go smoothly, and help you keep your sanity.

Think like a Boy Scout

The best first step in any remodeling project is to prepare yourself by planning ahead. Every little bit of time and energy spent on planning and preparation can greatly reduce the amount you have to spend on tough decisions and corrections later on. Before starting your project, be sure to:

  • Hire a professional, licensed contractor to perform the work, especially if it involves electrical renovation.
  • Make sure the contractor you hire is well-versed on the most recent building codes in the area.
  • Use a detailed design process to develop a plan for the room(s), choose materials and fixtures, and create a realistic budget for the project.
  • Consider staging the work ahead of time to give yourself a realistic idea of the work to be done and cut down on labor costs.

Be Creative

For most of your remodeling goals and objectives, there will usually be more than one option. By considering all your options and discussing them with your contractor, you can save money while still achieving the desired result. Some examples include:

  • Rather than repairing minor blemishes on walls by doing costly structural work, considering using materials to mask the wall, as long as it is still structurally sound. With minor imperfections, discolorations or slight damage, you can use a decorative painting technique or a heavier, textured wallpaper to cover up the area.
  • Likewise, if a room just needs to be livened up, consider repainting first before getting more involved. You may find that the new color is enough to spruce the area up.
  • Rather than creating new space by knocking down walls or building new additions, try instead to create the illusion of more space. Mirrors, skylights, and additional windows are all simple ways to make a small room seem bigger without the trouble of adding square footage.

By keeping some of these tips in mind, you can help to ensure that your house becomes the dream home you have always wanted, without the nightmares of costly or incorrect updates.