Winter Heating Safety

Winter Heating Safety

Generator exhaust is toxic. Always put generators outside well away from doors, windows, and vents. Carbon monoxide (CO) is deadly, can build up quickly, and linger for hours. More information

stoveCombustion appliances are those which burn fuels for warmth, cooking, or decorative purposes. Typical fuels are gas, both natural and liquefied petroleum; kerosene; oil; coal; and wood. Examples of the appliances are space heaters, ranges, ovens, furnaces, wood burning stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, and clothes dryers. These appliances are usually safe. However, under certain conditions, these appliances can produce combustion pollutants that can damage your health, or even kill you.

Possible health effects range from headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, and watery eyes to breathing difficulties or even death. Similar effects may also occur because of common medical problems or other indoor air pollutants.

A properly installed, correctly used wood-burning appliance should be smoke free. If you see or smell smoke that means you may have a problem. Never burn household garbage, colored paper or ink, or any type of plastic, foam, or other artificial materials. Burning these can release harmful chemicals. Practice these guidelines to Burn Wise.

Are You Ready for the New 2015 HVAC Efficiency Standards?

Are You Ready for the New 2015 HVAC Efficiency Standards?

As you know, our primary focus on PowerTips is to provide you with tips, tactics and techniques for building a strong, consistently profitable remodeling company. But sometimes we just need to make sure you’re on top of the latest industry news! This week we’re proud to have Stefanie Petersen with Ferguson to share the key changes to HVAC Efficiency standards in 2015.

How well are you and your team educated about the upcoming changes?

In April 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed upcoming changes for HVAC efficiency standards for residential and commercial equipment. However, according to a survey by Emerson Climate Technologies Inc., 74 percent of contractors are unaware of the change and how to best prepare their staff and inventory to meet customer demand and new regulations. Below are key aspects every remodeler should know.

What’s changing?

New Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) standards will be enforced for air conditioners and heat pumps installed on or after January 1, 2015; however, standards differ by region. The current 13 SEER standard for air conditioners will move to 14 SEER in most areas, but 13 SEER air conditioning units can still be sold in the northern region.

The most significant product change regarding the new regulations involves all split-system heat pumps. All regions will move from 13 SEER and 7.7 HSPF, Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, to the new national heat pump efficiency minimum of 14 SEER and 8.2 HSPF.

Additionally, the changes also affect the FTC EnergyGuide label, commonly referred to as the yellow “hang tag”, attached to the heating and cooling system. The label contains SEER and HSPF ratings for the unit in relation to similar models. Instead of a single rating point, new labels for split-system air conditioners and heat pumps will now be shown in a range representing the lowest and highest SEER ratings for all the condenser’s certified coil combinations. This means all of the component parts in the entire system, inside and out, must have an aggregate SEER that meets the new guidelines.

HVAC Standards by Regiion

How to prepare

Education surrounding the new standards is key, as enforcement will begin in less than five months. Remodelers and contractors should be able to identify that the equipment being installed meets the minimum standards of the new regulations as well as meets the needs of the customer.

The majority of U.S. manufacturers already offer 14 SEER heat pump systems, and many manufacturers may spruce up current 14 SEER designs to meet product demands for 2015 inventory stocking. While the changes are effective January 1, 2015, the new regulation also includes an 18-month grace period for distributors to sell their remaining inventory.


Image courtesy of Emerson Climate Technologies

Buying an Older Home: HVAC System Checklist

Buying an Older Home: HVAC System Checklist

Learn what to look out for when buying an older home with this gas furnace and air conditioning system troubleshooting guide from Trane.

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Staying cool in the summer is just a fraction of what you need. Doing it efficiently day and night, even on the record highs, that’s what a Trane gives you.

learn about Air Conditioners

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Depending on where you plan to buy property, you could be shopping for homes that are 50 or even 100 years old. And while some of these homes’ HVAC systems will have been upgraded, many will have older furnaces or air conditioning systems. Here are a few things to consider when buying an older home, or a home with an old HVAC system.

Older gas furnaces

As with any home purchase, make sure to have the furnace checked by a certified technician during the home inspection. That person should be able to tell you the condition of the older furnace, and any potential repairs or costs you could face in the near future.

If the technician recommends installing a new system, call your local Trane Comfort Specialist for a free evaluation and cost estimate. With your realtor’s help, you may even be able to subtract all or part of the cost of the furnace from the seller’s asking price.

If the existing furnace does pass inspection, have it rechecked annually, and keep your family safe by installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home.

Air conditioning systems in older homes

Since many older homes do not have air conditioning systems, you may be wondering how much it will cost to install a new central air conditioner. Your local Trane Comfort Specialist can help you make an informed decision by put together a quote, including the cost of installation, labor and equipment. Keep in mind that some older homes have electric or steam radiant heat. If that’s the case, and your home has no ductwork, you have a couple options:

Ductwork can be installed throughout your home. While this can be an invasive and expensive option, you can work with your contractor to minimize the ductwork’s visibility, while still efficiently moving air to all parts of the house.
You may also opt for a ductless cooling system. As the name suggests, these systems do not require ducts, but rather run small refrigerant and drainage lines from an outdoor unit to one or more indoor units.

Even if the home does have an existing central air conditioning system, you may still consider replacing it. Older air conditioners are usually less efficient than Trane’s newer models, and replacing old systems could result in significant energy savings over the life of the system. Check out Trane Air Conditioner SEER ratings to compare energy efficiency of different models.

10 Tips for Hiring a Heating and Cooling Contractor

1. Study up — Find out about license and insurance requirements for contractors in your state. And before you call a contractor, know the model of your current system and its maintenance history. Also make note of any uncomfortable rooms. This will help potential contractors better understand your heating needs.

2. Ask for referrals — Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers for contractor referrals. You can also contact local trade organizations for names of members in your area.

3. Call references — Ask contractors for customer references and call them. Ask about the contractor’s installation or service performance, and if the job was completed on time and within budget.

4. Find special offers — A heating and cooling system is one of the largest purchases you’ll make as a homeowner. Keep your costs down by checking around for available rebates on energy-efficient ENERGY STAR qualified heating and cooling equipment. Begin your search at www.energystar.gov.

5. Look for ENERGY STAR — ENERGY STAR qualified products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and offer significant long-term energy savings. Contractors should be able to show you calculations of savings for ENERGY STAR heating and cooling equipment.

6. Expect a home evaluation — The contractor should spend significant time inspecting your current system and home to assess your needs. A bigger system isn’t always better; a contractor should size the heating and cooling system based on the size of your house, level of insulation, and windows. A good contractor will inspect your duct system (if applicable) for air leaks and insulation and measure airflow to make sure it meets manufacturers specifications.

7. Get written, itemized estimates — When comparing contractors’ proposals (bids), be sure to compare cost, energy efficiency and warranties. A lowest price may not be the best deal if it’s not the most efficient because your energy costs will be higher.

8. Get it in ink — Sign a written proposal with a contractor before work gets started. It’ll protect you by specifying project costs, model numbers, job schedule and warranty information.

9. Pass it on — Tell friends and family about ENERGY STAR. Almost one-quarter of households knowingly purchased at least one qualified product last year, and 71% of those consumers say they would recommend ENERGY STAR to a friend. Spread the word, and we can all make a big difference.

10. Get the ENERGY STAR Guide — For complete information on keeping your home comfortable year-round, get the ENERGY STAR Guide to Energy Efficient Cooling and Heating PDF (2.6 MB) en espanolGuía para la Eficiencia de Energía en la Calefacción y el Aire Acondicionado PDF (2.5MB) or 1-888-STAR-YES (1-888-782-7937).

Top 5 ways to Chill Out this summer

  • 1. Keep the Heat Out
  • 2. Keep the Cool In
  • 3. Maintain Your Cooling System
  • 4. Be a Fan of Fans
  • 5. Look for the ENERGY STAR
  • Close the shades, blinds, and curtains, especially on the south and west sides of your home where the sun is hottest.
  • If you are upgrading your windows, consider ENERGY STAR certified windows, which are even better at preventing the heat from coming in.
  • Check attic insulation and add more if you can see the floor joists. This will help keep all that hot air in your attic from coming in your house.  We suggest you keep your cool and call a contractor.
  • The right roof can do a lot to keep the heat out. Consider ENERGY STAR certified roof products.
  • Keep your valuable air conditioned air from getting out.
  • Leaky cooling system ducts are not cool. In most homes, 25% of air leaks away before getting to the register. Tight ducts can reduce your cooling bill by 20%. A contractor can test for leaks, as well as seal and insulate them.
  • Sealing air leaks and improving your home’s insulation could save you up to $200 a year in cooling/heating costs or about 10% of your annual energy bill.
  • Have a contractor give your HVAC equipment a tune up. It’ll keep you cooler.
  • Change your air filter every three months. Dirty filters block air flow, so keep the air moving.
  • Use a programmable thermostat. If it’s hot out, set it seven degrees higher when no one’s home, and four degrees higher at bedtime. It’ll save more than $180 a year.
  • Use a ceiling fan and raise your thermostat two degrees. It’ll lower cooling costs by 14%.
  • Need a ceiling fan? The simple choice is ENERGY STAR – a certified fan with lights is 60% more efficient.
  • Bathroom vent fans should be ENERGY STAR certified. They’re great at getting rid of humid air after a shower.

When Should I Do Furnace Maintenance?

 

The old adage is true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Below you’ll find our Preventative Maintenance Checklist, which is our proven method to keep your system in the pink and your home in constant comfort.

  • For a system that heats and cools: perform maintenance in the spring and fall
  • For cooling system maintenance only: perform maintenance at least once a year, before the cooling season
  • For furnace maintenance only: perform maintenance at least once a year, before the heating season.

HVAC Preventative Maintenance Checklist

Many dealers provide priority service for their customers who have an annual maintenance or service agreement. Bi-annual preventative maintenance will ensure that your system runs as efficiently as possible. Your local dealer will perform the following tasks, depending on the unit:

Outdoor Units

  • Inspect unit for proper refrigerant level and adjust if necessary
  • Clean dirt, leaves and debris from inside cabinet
  • Inspect base pan for restricted drain openings—remove obstructions as necessary
  • Inspect coil and cabinet—clean as needed
  • Inspect fan motor and fan blades for wear and damage—on older models lubricate as needed
  • Inspect control box, associated controls/accessories, wiring and connections. Controls may include contactors, relays, circuit boards, capacitors, sump heat and other accessories. All control box and electrical parts should be checked for wear or damage.
  • Inspect compressor and associated tubing for damage

Indoor Units

  • Inspect and clean blower assembly (includes blower housing, blower wheel and motor)
  • On older models, lubricate motor and inspect and replace fan belt if needed
  • Check combustion blower housing for lint and debris and clean as necessary
  • Inspect evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain lines. Clean as needed
  • Inspect for gas leaks in gas furnaces
  • Inspect burner assembly—clean and adjust as needed
  • Inspect ignition system and safety controls—clean and adjust as needed
  • Inspect heat exchanger or heating elements
  • Inspect flue system—check for proper attachment to the furnace, any dislocated sections, and for signs of corrosion. Replace if necessary.
  • Inspect control box, associated controls, wiring and connections
  • Clean or replace air filters
  • Inspect conditioned airflow system (ductwork)—check for leaks

While Your System Is Operating

  • Monitor system starting characteristics and capabilities
  • Listen for abnormal noise
  • Search for source of unusual odors
  • Monitor air conditioning and heat pump systems for correct refrigerant charge
  • Measure outdoor dry bulb temperature
  • Measure indoor dry and wet bulb temperature
  • Measure high and low side system pressures
  • Monitor gas furnace for correct line and manifold gas pressure—make adjustments as needed
  • Measure temperature rise and adjust airflow as needed
  • Check vent system for proper operation
  • Monitor system for correct line and load volts/amps
  • Monitor system operation per manufacturer’s specifications
  • Provide system operation report and recommend repairs or replacement as necessary

NOTE: All maintenance and service work be performed by a professional air conditioning and heating dealer that holds the appropriate credentials to install and service air conditioning and heating equipment.

How Can I Get the Most Out of My Heating and Cooling Systems?

HVAC systems are designed to provide optimal efficiency and comfort. Now it’s time to do the same to your home. Here are some things you can do around the house to optimize the operation of your system, as well as the comfort inside your home.

Cooling System Maintenance

  • Set the thermostat as high as comfort will permit.
  • Make sure attics are adequately ventilated to relieve heat buildup. If necessary, improve airflow by adding or enlarging vents.
  • When building a new house or renovating an old one, choose light-colored roof shingles to reflect more of the sun’s heat.
  • During moderate weather, don’t use the air conditioner unnecessarily.
  • Draw blinds or drapes to block the sunlight during the hottest part of the day.
  • Install awnings over windows exposed to direct sunlight.
  • In the cooling season, don’t run kitchen and bath exhaust fans longer than necessary.
  • Don’t place lamps, TV sets or other heat-producing devices beneath a wall-mounted thermostat. Rising heat from that equipment may cause the air conditioning system to overcool your house.

Heating & Furnace Maintenance

  • Locate the thermostat on an inside wall away from windows and doors.
  • Set the thermostat as low as comfort permits. Each degree over 68°F can add 3% to the amount of energy needed for heating.
  • People generate heat. So lower the thermostat a degree or two when expecting a large group of guests.

Insulation

  • Make sure your home is properly insulated. This is the single most important step in conserving energy. Thermal insulation should be specified in terms of thermal resistance (R-values). R-30 (10″) is recommended for ceilings, and R-11 (3-1/2”) for exterior walls and floors over unheated areas. In colder climates, consider additional insulation.
  • Infiltration of humid outside air is your heating and air conditioning system’s worst enemy—it could account for 15% to 30% of air conditioning energy requirements. Find the places where air can sneak into the home and plug them with caulking, weather-stripping or plastic. Also, weather-strip and caulk around all entrance doors and windows.
  • Cut heat transfer through your windows by 40% to 50% with double-glazing (two panes of glass separated by a sealed air space) and low-e glass.
  • Use wood- or metal-frame storm windows even if single-glazed windows are high quality. The extra layer of glass and the layer of still air will cut heat transfer considerably.
  • Install storm doors at all entrances to your house.
  • Keep all windows and doors closed.
  • Remember that by increasing the glass area, you increase the amount of heat added in summer and lost in winter.
  • Make sure fireplaces have tight-fitting dampers, which can be closed when the fireplace is not in use. Invest in a humidifier to conserve energy in winter. The air in your home won’t be as dry, so you stay comfortable at a lower temperature setting.

When is it time to replace?

Certain telltale signs indicate it’s time to consider replacing heating and cooling equipment, or improving the performance of your overall system. It may be time to call a professional contractor to help you make a change if:

Your heat pump or air conditioner is more than 10 years old.

Consider replacing it with a unit that has earned the ENERGY STAR label. Installed correctly, these high-efficiency units can save up to 20 percent on heating and cooling costs.

Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old.

Consider replacing with an ENERGY STAR qualified furnace, which is 15% more efficient than a conventional furnace. If you have a boiler, consider replacing with an ENERGY STAR qualified boiler that is 5% more efficient than a new, standard model.

Your equipment needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are going up.

Your cooling or heating equipment my have become less efficient.

Some rooms in your home are too hot or too cold.

Improper equipment operation, duct problems or inadequate insulation could be the cause.

No one is home for long periods of the day and you do not have a programmable thermostat.

Install a programmable thermostat or have a good contractor install one and instruct you on its use — to start saving energy and money while they’re away or sleeping.

Your home has humidity problems.

Poor equipment operation, inadequate equipment, and leaky ductwork can cause the air to be too dry in the winter or too humid in the summer.

Your home has excessive dust.

Leaky ducts can pull particles and air from attics, crawl spaces and basements and distribute them throughout your house. Sealing your ducts may be a solution.

Your heating or cooling system is noisy.

You could have an undersized duct system or a problem with the indoor coil of your cooling equipment.

Your score on the Home Energy Yardstick is below five.

That means your energy use at home is above average and you’re probably paying more than you need to on energy bills. Information about Furnaces, Boilers, Heat Pumps, and Air Conditioners that have earned the ENERGY STAR.

Selecting the Right Programmable Thermostat for Your Home

With your busy life, it’s easy to forget to turn down the heat or raise the temperature for the air conditioner as you run out the door. This means you may be heating or cooling your home while no one’s there and wasting money in the process. One of the best ways to reduce home heating and cooling costs is by having a programmable thermostat installed in your home. However, with all the programmable thermostats now available on the market, how do you know which one is just right for you? Here’s some information that can help you make a solid choice:

Why Choose a Programmable Thermostat?

Instead of having to change temperature settings, all you have to do with a programmable thermostat is program it once and forget about it. When you’re at work or sleeping at night, a programmable thermostat can automatically adjust the set temperature. This helps keep you more comfortable and better yet, reduces your energy costs. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a reduction of seven to 10 degrees at least eight hours a day can save you up to almost 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling costs.

Types of Programmable Thermostats

  • Basic programmable – This type of thermostat will usually allow you to set your preferred temperatures for different times throughout the day and for different days during the week, for example day versus night and weekdays versus weekends.
  • Remote energy management  – This type of thermostat gives you the ability to control your thermostat from wherever you can connect to the Internet through your smartphone, computer or tablet, provided the thermostat is connected to your home’s WiFi.
  • Learning – This type of thermostat is programmable and also connects to your WiFi, but it’s also capable of learning your patterns from the temperature changes you make to create a program that suits your needs. You can access your learning thermostat anywhere you can connect to the Internet.

To learn more about programmable thermostats in the Fredericksburg area, call DAVIS HVAC, LLC. for more information.