Attic insulation improves efficiency

I am always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of my home. My local area sees every type of weather extreme. During the winter, the outdoor temperature frequently drops into the negative digits. The summers bring temperatures in the nineties and brutal humidity. The fall and spring are typically wet, windy and chilly. We switch between running the furnace and relying on the air conditioner with very little break in-between. The cost of heating and cooling adds up to about fifty percent of our household energy bills. Upgrading to thermal pane, low E, Energy Star rated windows and carefully caulking around them made a difference. Keeping up with filter changes and professional maintenance helps to keep the furnace and air conditioner operating at peak efficiency. I’ve installed ceiling fans to circulate the air. I run the blades counterclockwise in the summer to create a cooling effect. I reverse the rotation in the winter to prevent the heat from rising straight up to the ceiling. When I complained to my HVAC contractor about the high cost of comfort, he asked about my attic insulation. I realized I hadn’t given the insulation in the attic a thought since my family moved into the house over five years before. I took a look and discovered that the insulation had been compromised by moisture damage and rodent infestation. A properly insulated attic minimizes the chance of the heat from the furnace migrating into the attic. It stops an overheated attic from adding to the workload of the air conditioner in the summer. I hired the HVAC contractor to install new insulation and immediately noticed an improvement in comfort.

 

 

Digital thermostat

Winterizing AC unit

I live in the northeastern part of the country, where the winter weather lingers for more than half the year.

We experience temperatures down to negative twenty-five degrees. The conditions are frequently below freezing, and we set records for the amount of snowfall in a single season. We run the air conditioner four a couple of months and then it sits idle. Until recently, it never occurred to me that I should winterize the cooling equipment. The outdoor unit can get damaged by snow and ice. Winterizing the central air conditioner protects against rust and stops pests from getting inside and destroying mechanical parts. The process is quick and easy. I don’t need to call an HVAC contractor to handle it. A few simple steps keep my AC system clean and in peak working order. I’ve found that the best time to winterize the outdoor component is during the fall. Right before I need to close the windows and start up the furnace, I find a sunny day and devote a few minutes to the job. I put on a pair of gloves and remove any leaves, twigs or grass clippings that have fallen onto the unit. I use a garden hose to wash the air conditioner. The spray effectively removes bugs, droppings, dirt and dust. I then allow the system to dry completely. I locate the electrical circuit, remove the lid and flip the switch to cut off the power supply. This stops the cooling unit from starting up on a warm winter day. It keeps water out of the unit that might freeze and result in major damage. I install insulation around the pipes to safeguard against freezing. I finish by fitting a waterproof air conditioner cover over the outdoor component. Bungee cords, vinyl tie-downs and a few bricks work to secure the cover in place in case of high winds. Throughout the winter, I periodically take the time to remove snow, ice and debris from the top of the HVAC unit.

heater

Time for a new furnace

Despite being conscientious about filter replacements and yearly maintenance, my furnace has started showing signs that it needs to be replaced. I know better than to procrastinate. Getting a new heater installed without delay will help to avoid a sudden breakdown in the middle of winter and being left without heat. The temperature in my local area frequently falls below zero, and the windchill makes it feel even colder. We can get feet of snow overnight and experience white-outs. I don’t want to be in a rush to get a new furnace installed during a blizzard. Our furnace was already in place when we moved in. Until recently,I wasn’t sure of the age of the heating system. I located the serial number and found out that the unit is over fifteen years old. For the last couple of years, I’ve paid for a minor repair every winter. The cost of replacement parts and labor add up quickly. It’s better to devote that money toward the price of a new heating system. Plus,I’ve noticed that some rooms of the house feel hot and stuffy while others are always chilly. The inconsistent temperature is a sign of a deteriorating furnace. My heating bills have gotten higher every month. This is because the furnace needs to work harder and run longer to meet the thermostat setting. It’s using a lot more energy. I’ve already called a local HVAC contractor and scheduled a free estimate. I’ve been researching the latest advances in furnaces, including adaptable-speed technology. Modern furnaces achieve up to 98% AFUE ratings.

 

 

gas furnace

Using the thermostat properly

I’ve always been conscientious about taking good care of the furnace, air conditioner and ductwork.

I forgot about the importance of the thermostat.

The control is essential to effective and efficient operation of the heating and cooling system. I didn’t realize that improper use of the thermostat can result in energy waste, stress on equipment and higher running costs. I finally upgraded from an ancient, traditional thermostat to a smart model. This helped to reduce energy used to heat or cool an empty house during the day. Setting up a program for adjustments to be made at specific times avoids excess wear and tear. A modern thermostat elevates system reliability and extends lifespan. I estimate that I’m saving almost $200 per year just by taking advantage of thermostat programming. I no longer need to remember to lower or raise the setting before leaving in the morning or going to bed at night. The furnace and air conditioner aren’t running at maximum capacity when comfort is unnecessary. I’ve also tried setting the thermostat a few degrees lower in the winter and higher in the summer. THe house still feels perfectly warm or cool and yet we are using less energy. I have stopped making big adjustments hoping to raise or lower indoor temperature very quickly. I’ve realized that the thermostat has nothing to do with how fast the furnace or air conditioner works. There is only so much conditioned air flowing from the vents. I now pay attention to thermostat maintenance. I make sure to replace the batteries every year as well as after a power outage. I’ve relocated the thermostat so that it is not exposed to direct sunlight or drafts.

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Working on indoor air quality

While it’s important to seal up the house against the cold during the winter months, the stale indoor environment causes some problems with my allergies.

The dry air and lack of fresh air coming in increases the amount of dust mites, med dander, mold spores and VOCs circulating through the house.

From late fall, throughout the winter and during most of spring, the outdoor temperature is too chilly to open the windows. Most of the contaminants are odorless and impossible to see. The only way I realize there are issues is because of the systems they trigger. I might have trouble sleeping, feel fatigued and sluggish and suffer from sneezing, coughing, headaches, sore throat and itchy eyes. I’ve attempted to improve indoor air quality by regularly replacing air filters, scheduling professional heating/cooling maintenance and keeping a clean house. I make sure to vacuum the carpets once or twice a week with a vacuum cleaner outfitted with a HEPA filter. I have removed most of the carpets in the house and installed ceramic tile that is easier to keep clean. I regularly launder bedding and drapes in hot water. I’ve purchased covers that are supposed to protect against dust mites for all pillows, mattresses and box springs. I am careful not to have clutter on any of my shelves or countertops that might trap dust. Every few years, I schedule duct cleaning. A licensed HVAC technician uses what looks like a gigantic vacuum cleaner hose and brush to remove the buildup of pollutants inside the pipes. I’ve just recently added an ionic air purifier that works to capture airborne irritants, kill pathogens and remove odors.

radiant heater

Getting gas fireplace serviced

My house is older and lacks conventional ductwork.

We’ve pieced together a combination of different styles of heaters to keep us warm in the winter.

It’s not ideal but we’ve been reluctant to deal with huge amounts of mess and pay the very expensive cost of installing a duct system for a furnace. In the living room we’ve added a ventless gas fireplace. I like that it closely resembles a wood-burning fireplace. The stone facade and wooden hearth and mantle are really beautiful and enhance the decor of the room. Instead of needing to chop and haul wood, light a fire and deal with smoke and ash, we simply press the button on a cordless remote to start the heater. The natural gas fireplace includes faux log and flames that are great for ambience. The system is fairly quiet and quite energy efficient. My biggest problem with the heater is getting it serviced. The company that installed the fireplace went out of business. There aren’t many HVAC contractors in the area who are willing to provide maintenance or repairs for a gas fireplace. I’ve read the owner’s manual and googled to figure out what I can do for upkeep on my own. I’m able to remove the front pieces and vacuum the dust from around the burner assembly. However, I can’t access the inner workings and I would assume dust, lint and other debris is accumulating. When I finally got an HVAC technician to come to the house to complete a tune-up, he did little more than what I can manage on my own. I felt the service was a waste of money.

Commercial air conditioning

Benefits of radiant heated floors

I think the best type of heating system is radiant flooring.

  • It offers unique and exceptional benefits.

Possibly the only drawback is that heated floors don’t offer the option of central cooling. In my local area, that isn’t a problem. My priority is heating, because the cold weather lingers for around eight months. One of the best home improvements I’ve made was suffering through the major mess and renovation of tearing up the old floors to implement the system of pipes. The project was expensive. However, my house now has brand new tile and hardwood floors with the heating system entirely concealed beneath. The equipment takes up no living space. It doesn’t detract from the decor, and I don’t need to arrange my furniture to accommodate supply or return vents. There is a boiler installed in the basement that heats up water and sends it through the network of pipes. The heat from the pipes spreads across the floor from wall to wall and corner to corner. It creates a very een layer of warmth that heats up all objects sitting on it and rises very slowly. With heated floors, there are no drafts, cold spots or stratification. The temperature between floor and ceiling never fluctuates more than three degrees from the thermostat setting. Because the boiler uses water instead of air to convey heat energy, it doesn’t dry out the air, eliminating the need for a humidifier. The boiler and radiant flooring are a closed system, using the same water over and over. It doesn’t introduce any air contaminants. The system is especially clean, quiet and reliable. With very few moving parts, there is little that can go wrong. Boilers are super reliable and long-lasting. Maintenance needs are minimal.

Air conditioner installation

Furnace includes adaptable speed technology

I’ve been looking into buying a new furnace.

  • My current heating system is approximately seventeen years old and definitely nearing the end of its service life.

In the last couple of years, the furnace has succumbed to numerous minor repairs. The cost of those services and replacement parts are adding up quickly. Plus, the furnace is struggling to keep up with demands. The winter weather in my local area is brutal. For more than half the year, we rely on the heating system. The temperature often drops below freezing, and it’s not unusual to experience conditions in the negative digits. Several times, I’ve noticed the house feels chilly. Certain rooms are colder than others. I have raised the thermostat setting but this doesn’t accomplish much. The furnace seems to run non stop. It’s using a great deal of energy, costing more in utility bills and yet the living space isn’t comfortable. I also have some concerns with indoor air quality. Instead of waiting for the furnace to fail completely and be in a hurry to get a new one installed during a blizzard, I plan to be proactive. I’ve been researching what’s new on the market and hope to schedule furnace installation over the summer. I am willing to spend extra for a higher efficiency heating system. There are models that feature adaptable-speed technology that allows the equipment to automatically adjust speed to provide the exact amount of heat necessary to maintain consistent and comfortable indoor temperature. The system can adjust in one percent increments anywhere between forty and one hundred percent capacity.

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Adding an air purifier to create a healthier living environment

While I was pregnant, I was extremely sensitive to certain smells and tastes.

I had issues with acid reflux, headaches and nausea.

I would wake up in the morning and start sneezing and coughing. These issues got me more aware and worried about indoor air quality. I was worried about what I was breathing in and concerned about creating a healthy environment for the new baby. I decided to talk with the HVAC contractor who I hire every year to service my furnace and air conditioner. He had some really wonderful recommendations. He told me to be diligent about replacing the air filters in the heating and cooling system every month. I also signed up for a maintenance program that includes annual intensive cleaning of all components. The technician inspects and tests the ductwork to make sure the pipes aren’t harboring contaminants. Removing the buildup of dust, mold growth and other harmful toxins from inside the heating and cooling system prevents allergens from getting distributed throughout the home. I also listened to the technician’s suggestion that I install a whole-home air purifier. The air purifier installed right into the ductwork and introduces positive and negative ions into the air that disrupts the DNA of pathogens, turning them harmless. It also causes particles to clump together, drop out of the air and get more easily filtered out. The air purifier handles unpleasant smells, dander and allergens that are smaller than a grain of table salt. Because of these strategies, I was confident that I was bringing my newborn baby home to a clean environment.

Space heater for sale

Window air conditioners are an ideal solution

Living in the northeastern part of the country, I wait a long time for summer. The winters typically linger for more than six months of the year. We often need to run the furnace during spring and fall. The weather is windy, chilly and wet the majority of the time. I am unwilling to invest into central air conditioning. It’s way too expensive to only use it for a few weeks. However, our short summers can be brutally hot and humid. While I try to be outside as often as possible, enjoying the blue skies and sunshine, I don’t want an overheated and sticky house. It’s especially important that my bedroom be nice and cool for sleeping. The ideal solution for my situation is window air conditioners. I was able to buy several cooling units for right around a hundred dollars each. They are lightweight enough that it’s easy for me to carry them up to the attic for storage in the winter and bring them back down in the late spring. It takes me a couple of minutes to install them into the windows. Despite the small size, the air conditioners are powerful enough to drop the room temperature very quickly. They include cordless remotes that allow temperature changes and adjustments to the fan speed without even getting out of bed. Not only are the window air conditioners energy efficient, only running them at night keeps costs very low. I sleep so much better with the air conditioner operating. The noise works to drown out the sounds of morning birds, road construction, traffic, neighbors and barking dogs. The filter helps to capture dust and other contaminants.

 

 

electric fireplace