How Do I Know if I Need a New Heater?


With Winter fast approaching, now is the time to make sure your home is ready for the inevitable onslaught of snow, ice, and cold weather. This means battening down the hatches of your windows to help improve energy efficiency as well as ensuring that your roof is in adequate condition to handle snow loads. Most of all however, you want to make sure that your furnace is prepped and ready for another possibly long heating season. 

blogreplaceheaderAutumn is the time to determine if you need a new heater or not. Obviously, it’s better than the alternative of when the mercury drops to single digits and you find yourself in an emergency situation. A question that homeowners must ask themselves this time of year is whether it’s time for a heater replacement. Here is how you determine that answer:

Remember that a Heater Replacement is Inevitable 

Nobody wants to take on the added overhead of a furnace replacement right as most work is heading into a slow season and with the holidays on the horizon. That being said, your heater has a definitive lifespan usually of 12-15 years. You can put a ‘band-aid’ on the unit with repairs, but that’s only prolonging the inevitable. On the plus side, replacing your furnace with a new energy efficient model will lower your utility bills and make your home comfortable – paying for itself in more ways than one.

Were Your Heating Bills Higher Last Year / Was Your Home Less Comfortable 

One thing you’ll inevitably notice as your HVAC system starts to age is that it’s going to start having to work harder to maintain performance – we all do as we get older. The burners don’t fire as easy, the fan and blower motor don’t send air with the force they once did, and old duct systems start to leak air. When this happens the rooms in your house are going to start to feel drafty and you’ll also have higher Winter heating bills. Can you get by without a full replacement right away? Sure, but it’s time to start budgeting for a new heater down the line.

Most of the Time a Heater Crash Doesn’t Happen Out of the Blue 

Whether or not you need a new heater in your house shouldn’t be guesswork. Mainly because you should be having your furnace inspected and maintained before every heating season. This is not only smart homeowner practice, it’s often a requirement to stay in good standing with your manufacturer warranty. By having your heater inspected/cleaned annually, the service techs will identify problems early and thus hopefully avoid catastrophic damages in the middle of Winter. Plus, a good cleansing and lubrication of the heater components will allow them to work easier and thus last longer.

The best way to know if it’s time for a heater replacement is to have it professionally inspected and maintained. There are ways you can combat a failing heater such as installing plastic and sealing up gaps around windows and/or doors. You can also use supplemental warmth such as a space heater to help ease the load on your main furnace. If your heater is starting to near the end of it’s life however (10-15 years), it may be better to replace now and have sound peace of mind rather than having to worry about if you’re going to make it through the brutal Winter.


How to Protect Your AC System During the Hurricane Season Months


There are a number of precautions that are taken during a construction build for homes that are located in potential hurricane areas. For example, garage doors are reinforced with extra bracing, roof trusses are tied to the house with hurricane straps, and impact resistant glass is used on windows and patio doors. These are all crucial steps to protect your home from the strong winds and rain of a hurricane – but they are hardly the only preventative measure.

bloghurricaneacinspection2In many hurricane zones, the AC system is an often overlooked vulnerable feature. The areas that are most vulnerable to hurricanes are also ones that so happen to use their AC the most often; those in the Southern and Coastal states. Since the unpredictability of hurricane season can mean gale force winds one day and 90° temperatures the next, it’s important to make sure your AC system is protected in hurricane season months – and here’s how:

Before the Storm

Luckily there’s generally some pretty fair warning when a big tropical storm is going to make it’s way towards shore. In these instances the M.O is to protect the exterior AC unit as much as possible. At the very least, cover your outdoor AC unit with a tarp to prevent water damage. Going the extra step can include creating a barrier for the unit with plywood or something else heavy and secure to prevent damage from airborne objects. Something you can do even when a storm isn’t on the horizon is make sure your outdoor unit is installed on a concrete pad and bolted down with hurricane straps.

During the Hurricane

Personal safety is of your utmost concern during hurricane season so if you have to leave your home make sure the AC is turned off. You’ll want to prevent surges through the AC electrical system from lightning so unplug the air-conditioner or at the very least have outlet protection installed. Even if you are hunkering down in your home, avoid running the air-conditioner to prevent any issues either internally or externally.

After the Storm Has Passed 

As we said, it can get pretty steamy after a tropical storm has passed in many of the familiar hurricane regions. That being said, you’ll want to abstain from the temptation to turn on your AC to cool down right after the front has left the area. Turning on a damaged AC can be dangerous but can also cause significant issues to the unit itself. After you have removed all the protective covering, clear any debris that may have made its way around vents or inside the AC unit. Next, inspect lines and wiring to make sure they haven’t become frayed or torn. You might even want to wait up to 24-48 hours to turn the system on so it has a chance to dry out. Finally, tentatively turn on your air-conditioner and look for any smoke or weird sounds coming from outside or inside the home.

Hopefully a preventative and safe approach before and during the storm will make it so that no troubleshooting or repairs are needed to your AC after the hurricane. If so however, make sure to consult a professional service tech to pinpoint the exact problem areas and to find the most efficient fix.


Benefits of Getting Your Furnace and Boiler Inspected Before Winter


When ‘winter is coming’, we have a tendency to mimic the squirrels in our yard that busily gather nuts in preparation for the long cold months ahead. Humans kind of go in panic mode this time of year as well, digging out coats and long underwear, putting snow tires on the car, and swapping in storm windows in the home for an extra barrier against the cold temperatures.

blogboilerinspectionIn the Winter bustle, it’s imperative not to overlook recommended furnace and boiler maintenance. Some homeowners may wait until the cold weather arrives and simply start up their furnace like it’s a normal day in January. Failure to have your furnace and boiler inspected before the first cycle of the season however is not recommended due to the following reasons:

To Make Sure The Furnace / Boiler are Working

The last thing you want to do is wait until a chilly night to find out that your furnace or boiler need repairs. When HVAC professionals do an inspection before the Winter they start up the system and do a number of safety and function checks. If repairs or tune-ups are needed, the time to perform them is when the temperatures are 65-70°, not 6° or 7°.  You want to make sure that the system not only operates, but that it does so safely without any risks to your family.

For a Good Cleaning 

The annual inspection (or bi-annual for an air-conditioner/furnace combo) is not only performed to make sure the HVAC system is fully-functional, it also includes a thorough cleaning and lubrication of moving parts. In fact the inspection is more like a fall maintenance service that will identify failing parts (before they become problematic) but also lead to a more efficient furnace that blows a cleaner air throughout the home.

It Really Will Save You Money 

Far too many people are under the impression that servicing a fall maintenance inspection is tedious and unnecessary overhead added to their household budget. Forget the fact that your boiler or furnace manufacturer may actually require a documented annual inspection from a certified tech for you to maintain your warranty. More importantly, annual maintenance and inspection can legitimately save you money in a number of areas.

First off, clean HVAC components operate easier which reduces furnace cycle time. When your boiler or furnace is running less frequently yet still maintaining comfortable interior temperatures you save on utility bills. An inspection before Winter will also help to identify problem areas when they are a simple fix and not an expensive overhaul. Finally, running a well-cleaned and lubricated furnace or boiler with inspected parts and components will help to increase the unit’s life span – perhaps prolonging entire system replacement costs for 5 to 10 years or more.


Importance of Changing Your Air Filters


It’s recommended that homeowners have a professional furnace inspection before the mercury drops into long underwear season for good. In fact, many manufacturers require this as a prerequisite to stay complacent in your warranty agreement. A furnace that isn’t cleaned of debris on a regular basis, doesn’t have its moving parts lubricated annually, or isn’t inspected for wiring or component damage before it becomes a major issue is obviously going to have a lower-than-expected life span.

While the annual inspection is required to be done by a professional, this doesn’t mean the homeowner is devoid of responsibilities during the Winter. Specifically, it’s critical that you change your air filters up to at least once every 30 days. It’s not known if some homeowners forget about this, aren’t aware of it to begin with, or are just afraid to go into their dungeon of a basement but here is why changing your air filters is a MUST.

blogairfilterBetter Air Quality 

During the cold weather our homes are basically a sealed fortress. The only air escaping or entering the house comes from the split second we dash out the front door to start cars, shovel snow, drive to the airport to fly to Jamaica for 3 months, etc. This means the indoor air quality of your home is very much at risk during the Winter.

A dirty furnace air filter blocks the circulation of air within the house. This means that dirt, dander, and debris have more of an opportunity to settle on furniture, shelves, cabinets, and in duct work. More of this debris settles and settles until eventually when (if) you do change the filter, it gets kicked around at every furnace cycle. Even the buildup of debris on the filter promotes more moisture to gather which eventually kicks mold and mildew throughout the home.

Lower Utility Bills 

When air doesn’t flow as easily through a dirty, old filter it means that the blower motor has to work extra hard to meet the demands of the thermostat. This results in longer furnace cycling which drives up already high heating costs. Additionally, when HVAC components have to work harder, they don’t last as long. Failure to replace a $12 air filter could be costing you hundreds in furnace repairs or thousands in an early HVAC replacement.

More Comfortable Home 

Besides the ability to breathe better, changing your filter creates a more comfortable (warm) home. With an efficient air flow the ducts have enough intake air to properly reach every room in the home. When that flow is low thanks to a wall of debris preventing air from entering, some rooms can be downright cold during the Winter.

Knowing When to Change Your Filter 

You can take the safe route and change your filter every 30 days in the Winter. Beyond that, if you hold the filter up to the light and can barely see illumination shining through it’s time to replace. If you have pets or consider yourself an allergy sufferer there’s no such thing as replacing your air filter too often.


Signs You Need to Re-insulate Your Home


There are three things that make any renovation project great – 1) the improvement of your quality of living, 2) an increase to the market value of your home and 3) lower energy bills. Some projects fulfill all of these three benefits while others might do one thing solely great. Believe it or not, one of the under-the-radar projects with a multitude of investments is re-insulating your home. 

BLOGinsulateyourhomeThink about it, insulation creates a barrier for you home which keeps heated and cool inside which thus increases the comfort of each room and by proxy your quality of living. A home that has overgone an insulation overhaul recently is going to be more appealing to buyers which hereby increases your market value. Finally, re-insulating is one of the best ways to lower utility bills while also lowering the strain on your HVAC system.

So the question becomes, does your home need to be re-insulated?

Is There Insulation Installed at All? 

You’ll likely know if your walls are not insulated, mostly because your home was a hot stove all Summer. That being said, there are areas of your house that could be missing crucial insulation. Some contractors forget to insulate around windows after installation for example. The small area between the top plate of your wall framing and the floor joists of the room above is another area often overlooked. Then again, although rare, there are homes that don’t have insulation on some exterior walls. Before you become aware of signs that you need to insulate your home, you better make sure there’s some installed at all.

Have You Caulked Windows and Doors But Still Feel Drafts? 

It doesn’t make sense to jump to an insulation project if you haven’t first solved the problems that are causing your room to be uncomfortable and your utility bills to rise. That would be like putting on an extra pair of pants because your arms are cold. Some of the biggest sources of heat (and cold) loss are gaps around windows and doors or missing siding and other openings to the outside. Your energy efficiency might also be lacking because you have old single-paned windows installed too. Check out these areas to make sure they’re sound before you investigating insulation.

Are You Going to Change Insulation Type? 

Honestly, it generally doesn’t provide that huge of an energy savings to insulate just to insulate – basically removing the batting just to put in new batting. Now if the insulation has gotten wet or is too thin then the new install becomes very valuable. You need to:

  1. Know what you have currently for insulation (to do this: cut off power, remove outlets, pull out pieces)
  2. Know what you want for the new insulation project. 

What Is the Collateral Damage Involved in the Project? 

Something else to consider when retrofitting new insulation into a home is just how much demolition is going to be involved in the project. Unfinished walls are no problem but if you want to upgrade to a thicker R-factor fiberglass batting in a finished living room, it’s going to involve removing sheetrock. You might actual save money on upgrading to blown in insulation (small hole in wall) when you consider drywall and painting costs.


Why You Need an AC Tune Up After a Long Hot Summer


As the Summer winds down and the Autumn colors make their arrival, many homeowners are dancing a jig and thanking their air-conditioner for making it through another busy season. Let’s face it, your AC is under a lot of stress as the temperatures have climbed the past 3+ months and as she gets up there in age, a trouble-free Summer is no given. Before your air-conditioner retires for the Winter however, it’s important to make sure it’s ready for next year with an end-of-season tune up. 

BLOGcleaningACMany people believe that a Fall air-conditioner tune up is overkill, especially since it’s going to get one again in the Spring before firing up for next Summer’s cooling season. For the price though, end of the year reconditioning is still very valuable.

Be Clean Going Into Storage 

Your AC will likely collect some dust and dirt if it is used sparingly or even stored throughout the Winter. Why add to that pile of gunk however? A fall tuneup includes a rigorous cleaning of system components and lubricating moving parts. If these items are put away dirty, that’s just more risk of corrosion and buildup for next Spring. Plus, you want to make sure condensation lines and other hoses are cleaned out or they can get pretty funky over the offseason.

See If Any Problems Have Arisen 

With our climate it’s very possible that your air-conditioner will be shut down only briefly. We run our air-conditioners late and start them back up very early into the new year. An end of season inspection is the best window to see if any problems have come up so you can have them repaired when AC technicians aren’t dealing with emergency 24/7 service calls of the Summer.

Budget For Any Big Repairs or Replacements Next Year 

Another thing an end of the season inspection does is give you a good evaluation of your system’s condition. If you have costly repairs or replacements coming up, it’s much better to know early and be able to budget for them instead of getting them sprung upon you when the mercury is soaring.

Get Your Warranty Requirements Out of the Way

Most manufacturers require an annual inspection in order to maintain in good standing with your warranty. The Spring will always fulfill that, but you can also get it out of the way for next year by having it performed in the Fall. If you’ve somehow forgotten to have your system serviced back in the Spring, a Fall tuneup will help you keep your warranty (but be prepared for some finger shaming for forgetting).

The Spring tune-up will always be the most important maintenance for your air-conditioner but a fall inspection helps the two seasons work together and transition between each other.


Home Maintenance Tips When Moving from Renting to Owning


It’s the dream of many to someday be a homeowner. Nobody is saying the house shopping, financing, and moving is easy, but there is a certain, “I’ve made it” factor to owning your own place. Looking back however, renting was a pretty cake gig, especially when you consider all the home maintenance responsibilities that now fall on your lap instead of a landlord or property management group. 

Home maintenance isn’t just fiddling around in the yard on the weekends. In fact, without proper maintenance you’ll decrease the lifespan of many of your home components and promote increased damage to the others. Nobody is saying you have to know how to frame a house or rewire your electrical system, but these home maintenance tips should be mandatory as you move from being a renter to an owner.

Changing HVAC Filter Get yourself acquainted with your furnace and air-conditioner filter really quick because you’re going to becoming close friends. In fact, depending on the filter type and the HVAC system manufacturer recommendations could be for swapping in a new piece as little as every 30 days. It may seem tedious, but you’ll want to change the filters often not only for improved breathing conditions in your home, but also to help lower heating and cooling bills and to expand the life span of your AC and furnace.

BLOGrentingtoowningCleaning Out Gutters 

Gutters might seem like they’re simply there for your convenience to effortlessly whisk water away from your path. The truth is, gutters that are clogged or malfunctioning can be a deathtrap. Consider the layout of your roof with eaves to collect water and send it to the gutters for safe dispersal. When that water can’t evacuate it piles up over the gutters and into the fascia. This rots the fascia boards and creates a hole that leads all the way down through the back of your siding. Not only that, the overflowing water settles around your foundation, eventually making it’s way into your basement causing flood damage.

Stop Air Loss 

You’ll want to constantly keep an eye out for air leaks as another way to lower your utility bills. Heated and cooled air most often seaps out via cracks near your windows and doors but can also escape through spots like an uninsulated attic or via inferior windows. Missing siding has kind of the same effect so always feel around for drafts in the house and make the corresponding repairs.

Tape Your Foundation Cracks 

Some maintenance doesn’t do anything but monitoring. Taping any cracks in your foundation is one such task. You tape these cracks to know whether they are ‘natural’ or are growing. Since you’ve just moved in, you don’t really know how the house has settled. If these cracks grow, you can fix the problem on your own terms instead of on that of gushing water into the basement.

Monitor and Document Bills 

There could be a multitude of areas driving up unnecessarily high utility costs such as low-efficiency lighting, running toilets or faucets, a bad HVAC thermostat, etc. Keep an eye on these bills and see if you can lower them – or perform maintenance if these costs suddenly start to rise.

Congratulations on becoming a homeowner…and good luck!


Mid Summer A/C Maintenance Tips


Hopefully you’ve made it this far into the Summer with little to no fuss from your air-conditioner. Temps have been manageable as far as June and July go but we’re not quite out of the woods yet. As we all know late July, August, and sometimes even September can be the dog days of Summer that really wear us down – especially when we’re so close to a cool Autumn breeze. Now is the perfect time to make sure your A/C is buckled down for the home stretch with these mid-summer maintenance tasks.

BLOGacmaintenanceChange the A/C Filter

You can technically get by with changing the air-conditioner filters at the beginning of the Summer and they should be good for the whole season. If you live in a particularly dusty area (country back roads), are being irritated by allergens, or are noticing a lack of performance, changing the filter definitely doesn’t hurt.

Clean the A/C Fins

Your outdoor A/C unit has been exposed to 2-3 months of grass cutting and weed whipping and there’s a good chance the clippings (along with other debris) has found its way lodged into the fins thus impeding air flow. A quick squirt from the garden hose can free up a lot of this blockage. If you forgot about this step as part of your preseason maintenance, a special foaming fin cleaner can be used to remove grease and oil as well.

Clean the Interior of the Condenser/Compressor

When you spray the fins down with water, most of that debris will work its way inside the unit and may have the tendency to build up on the internal condenser and compressor components. Turn off the power to the unit (which you should do for all maintenance), remove the fan cage and suck out the debris with a wet-dry vac.

Fix any Crooked Fins

If your home serves as the neighborhood ball field during the Summer, chances are a foul ball or two has found its way towards the fins of your A/C unit. Bent fins can happen with reckless lawn tractor driving or even in heavy wind and rainstorms. These crooked fins block air flow and reduce efficiency but can be straightened in seconds with a butter knife or flat head screwdriver.

Tidy Up the Indoor Evaporator Components

While the majority of Summer debris will build up on the outdoor compressor unit, while you’re doing midterm maintenance it never hurts to give the evaporator components a quick work over. There is an evaporator coil door on the inside of the blower unit. Once again with the power off, wipe the debris off these coils with a soft brush and then gently spray the area with a safe evaporator cleaner. The cleaner works as a sealant to deflect debris but also has the added bonus of eliminating that wet, musty smell from all the moisture created thus far during the year.

Speaking of moisture, it has to drain somewhere which is why a free-flowing evaporator drain is so important. Algae and mold can build up in the drain line (especially if this preseason maintenance tip was glossed over as well) forcing water to back up onto the floor. You can clear the drain line by pushing (hot water and diluted bleach) or pulling (wet-dry vac).

Once again on the surface these all seem like pretty capable DIY jobs. If you’re at all uncomfortable with any component of your air-conditioner however it’s always best to bring in the pros. The money you spend for a service call can easily be recouped with lower utility bills the rest of the Summer and a fully-functioning A/C that will be primed and ready for next season before you know it.


Have You Considered a Mini-Split A/C System?


The middle of the Summer is hardly the time to be considering alternative air-conditioner solutions. After all, we’re on the home stretch of the hot weather (save for some traditional dog days in mid to late August). To be honest we could have another 2-3 months of air-conditioning left on the year and now is always a perfect time to explore any and all options of lowering your utility bills.

BLOGsplitacOf course adding a new system into the mix would seem counter intuitive to saving money but that’s exactly what a mini-split air-conditioner can do. They really are basically mini versions of a central air-conditioner which can be used to cool all or part of the home. Here are some reasons why the middle of the Summer might be the right time to consider a mini-split A/C:

What is a Mini Split System?

First things first, it’s best to know exactly what a mini split air-conditioner is before you contract an installation. The system works very much like a central air-conditioner in that there is a compressor and condenser unit installed on the exterior of your home. Instead of ducted ventilation however, copper tubing and electrical wiring are connected to an indoor air handler that looks like a small wall fan. Refrigerant is carried to this indoor air handling unit which pumps cool air across the fan and out into the room.

Why Install a Mini-Split System Now?

If you already have a central air conditioner that is properly sized for your home installing a mini-split system will probably be nothing more than overkill. However if you have added on to your home, or want to cool a garage or finished basement a mini-split could be the ultimate solution. They are easier to install and less evasive to run through the house than a central air system.

Mini split air conditioner systems can also be used to provide zone cooling. Each outdoor compressor can control four separate indoor air-handling units offering various levels of comfort in many areas of the home. If you’ve gone this far without A/C, a mini-split system and its ductless installation saves 30% on lost energy compared to a forced air central A/C. Mini-split systems can also be equipped with a heat pump so you’ll not only save now, but through the Winter as well.

Many people also install a small mini-split system to take some of the strain off their overworked central A/C system. If the initial calculations were wrong, more people moved into the house, windows or insulation are starting to fail, etc. your central air may not be working as efficiently as it once did. Giving it a ‘buddy’ so to speak in the form of a mini-split system will allow you to lower the workload for your central air and thus get maybe another 5-10 years out of it.

Installing a mini-split air conditioner is by no means mandatory or in some instances even recommended. It is something to consider however if your Summer utility bills aren’t where you need them to be.


Size Does Matter. Is Your A/C Unit Properly Sized?


When it comes to air-conditioner size, the common notion would be that ‘bigger is better.’ We all know the risks of installing an A/C that is too small such as the unit cycling more frequently to try and meet temperature demands all the while driving up utility bills and shortening the life span of the blower, compressor, fan and other components. What some residential and commercial consumers alike might not be aware of is that an air-conditioner that is too large is harmful as well.

BLOGjulyACYou very much need to take a Goldilocks approach to finding an air-conditioner that is ‘just right.’ An oversized unit will cool the home or business quickly, thus turn off before it can truly ‘condition’ the air. Remember that an A/C is used not only to cool a room, but also to remove moisture and to dehumidify a space. When your air-conditioner is too large, moisture will remain in the room causing it to be very uncomfortable and prone to mold growth.

Finding the Right Size A/C 

So the threats of an improperly sized air-conditioner range from paying exorbitantly high utility bills or sitting in a moisture-rich space with mold all over the walls. Now that you understand the importance of finding the perfectly sized A/C, how do you go about measuring for it and shopping for it?

Luckily, there aren’t hundreds of options when it comes to air-conditioner size. The units are sold based on their tonnage, ranging from 1 ton to 5 ton for residential uses and up to 16 tons for commercial buildings. It should be noted that the tonnage isn’t the weight of the A/C, but rather a measurement of the amount of heat that can be removed from the home or business in an hour.

Air-Conditioners and BTU 

Really only the three things you need to understand when it comes to finding the right air-conditioner size is tons, BTU and square footage of your home or business. One British Thermal Unit (BTU) is equivalent to the amount of heat that would be produced if you burned a single match all the way through. 12,000 of these BTUs can be removed by one ton of air-conditioner capacity in an hour (1 ton = 12,000 BTUs) so a 3 ton unit could remove 36,000 BTUs and so on.

But how many BTUs exist in your space? There is an all-purpose equation to figure this out:

**(square footage of your home or business times 25, divided by 12,000) – 0.5 = recommended A/C tonnage**

So a 2,000 square foot home multiplied by 25 would give you 50,000. Divide 50,000 by 12,000 to get 4.16. Subtract the 0.5 and the recommendations would be 3.5 to 4 ton of air-conditioning capacity. You could get to that with a single 4 ton unit or a dual 2 ton unit. This is something commercial A/C prospects have to evaluate – how they get to the 10+ tons of air-conditioning capacity that is needed for larger spaces. Do they use single units, zoned systems, split-duct air-conditioners, etc.?

Finding Specific Air-Conditioner Size 

The equation for finding the correct A/C size is very generic however. Does a home in Maine need the same air-conditioning capacity as a home in Arizona? You still need to figure out the square footage that needs cooled but the accepted climate zones are as follows:


ac-usa-heat-map Unit-Size-Matters_CDDHDDSqFt

These will give you a better rough estimate for the air-conditioning capacity needed based on your climate. With the help of an air-conditioner contractor however you can go even more in-depth. Using calculations such as number of windows in your home, ceiling height, typical number of occupants, your ideal temperature and humidity settings, etc. we can find the air-conditioner that is truly your exact Goldilocks.

Contact us today for more information about calculating the exact specs for your new A/C unit. We can also inspect your existing unit to see if it is properly sized or if it is the root cause of high utility bills or a humid and uncomfortable space.