Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cooling Tips

During the summer months, the top questions most homeowners ask is how to save money while air conditioning their home to a nice cool temperature.  The summer months can raise everyone’s electric bill substantially.  All Seasons Heating and Cooling would like to share our top tips to staying cool and that help from paying out more money to the electric company than necessary.

1. Good HVAC Habits
First thing is to make sure you have a planned maintenance program for your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system so that it is running at its peak performance level.

If the coil on the outdoor unit is not cleaned at least annually, it becomes blocked with dirt and various fibrous materials - sometimes almost completely blocked. A rule of thumb is that the operating cost of the air conditioning is affected in direct proportion to the percentage of coil blockage. 10% blockage can cause approximately a 10% increase in operating cost. Heat damaged motors and other electrical parts also occur because of the inability of the condenser to reject the substantial heat from the compressor due to the blocked coils. This does cost you more money in the short and long run.

2.  Clean Filter
A dusty filter reduces air flow. Examine your air filters once a month and clean or replace filters when necessary. Keeping your filters clean can cut the energy used by 5 to 15%.  Your HVAC systems air filters should be changed not when they're dirty but on frequently planned intervals. Your home's air filters are like your cars oil filter. Only clean oil works effectively as a lubricant. If you wait to change your car's oil and filter when it’s dirty, the performance, fuel efficiency, and life of the engine decreases. This is the same for your home's HVAC system. 

Extra: If you are looking to replace your thermostat, you may want to choose one that offers a warning LED each month to remind you to change the filter.  Also, sign up for a monthly email reminder from All Seasons Heating and Cooling and we will send you a monthly reminder to change/examine your filters.

3. Use Fans
Fans can also help cool your home. No one is saying that a fan can replace your air conditioner, but a fan can give supplemental cooling. Substituting fans for air conditioners on milder days can save 60% or more in energy costs. Appropriately setting the fan on your air conditioner can help you save as well. Set the fan speed on “auto” to the fan works only when the air conditioner is running. When you set the fan to “on”, it will run all the time and you introduce more humidity into your house. This is not a good thing. If you use ceiling fans when your air condition system is on, you can raise your thermostat setting two degrees and save a few dollars to off-set the cost of running your ceiling fans while maintaining your comfort.

4.  Close the Blinds and/or Drapes
Natural light is great, but the sun's heat will increase the temperature in your home. Be sure blinds and drapes are closed on the east side in the morning and then the west side in the afternoon or in the rooms you have direct sunlight to help reduce the sun's thermal heat. If you are intent on letting the light in, think about installing a reflective film on the windows to block some of the heat. This also helps protect your furnishings from fading due to the UV rays.

5.  Reserve Heat Producing Tasks
You should also reserve heat and humidity producing tasks like cooking and doing the laundry to early morning or late evening.  A clothes dryer uses up a lot of energy and produces heat.  Try using a clothes line instead.  If you grill outside, you can keep your kitchen much cooler.

Keep heat-producing appliances, such as televisions or lamps, away from the thermostat. The heat they produce can fool your thermostat into continuing to cool.

6. Maintain the Ducts and Vents
If you are using a central air conditioning unit, make sure the air ducts are properly insulated, especially those that pass through the attic or any other unconditioned areas. You may want to have a specialist check for holes or leaks in the ducts. Duct tape can offer a temporary repair, but you will want to have any holes or leaks professionally sealed or repaired. The average duct system in a house leaks up to 20% or more. It should be 6% or less. Be sure furniture does not obstruct air conditioning air supply or return air vents. Closed or blocked vents will affect your comfort and the performance of your air condition and heating system.

7. Check for Household Leaks
Make sure air isn't escaping through unnecessary openings such as fireplace dampers, doors and windows. Take a good look at the seals around doors and windows to see if weather stripping or caulk needs to be applied.  We offer whole house testing that can help you determine where your air is escaping in your house.  (Click here for more information on whole house testing)

8. Set the Thermostat to the Best Temperature
Turning your thermostat to 78 degrees is the best setting for your air conditioner during warmer months. Reducing your temperature to 72 degrees will increase your cooling costs up to 12 to 47 percent. Also remember, setting it really low at first will not help your home cool faster. It will use more energy and if you forget to adjust it, you will be running far less efficiently than you think.

Also, have you considered a programmable thermostat?  Programmable thermostats can be set to adjust the temperature of your home according to your schedule. The temperature on programmable thermostats can be set to change based on whether or not the home is occupied or whether residents are asleep or awake. For example, in the morning before occupants wake up, the thermostat can be preset for a slightly warmer temperature.  The thermostat should be programmed for both heating and cooling seasons to save the most money. Today’s thermostats are easy to program and have large numbers that are easy to see.

9.  Invest in great landscaping.
If you want to reduce the amount of money that you spend on cooling your home then you can also use great landscaping to provide natural cooling properties for the home. Strategically placed shade trees are the top choice for affordably reinventing your landscape to allow you to turn off your homes cooling system.  If you can shade the outdoor unit of an air conditioning unit, it will be more efficient. Just be sure not to have shrubbery closer than 2-3 feet of the unit and never closer than 6 feet above it.

10.  Get out of the house.
The more time that you spend at home the more it is going to cost you when the electricity bills come. First, when you are home, you are cooling off the place and as you get adjusted to the temperature it may require more and more cool air to make you feel cool enough. Second, you are using the lights, computers and appliances when you are home which drives energy bills up more. Get out and get active. Spend time in the pool. Find ways to cool off away from home. Let someone else pay to keep you cool!

If being outdoors is not your thing; be sure to turn off lights, computers, TV’s etc. when you are not using them. Also replace your light bulbs with high efficiency ones, tighten up your house by weather stripping it and being sure you have enough insulation. If you need help, just give us a call (757) 421-9790 and we can get you the information you need.

Hello HVAC World

Have you ever had questions about your HVAC system but didn’t know where to find the answers?  We have launched our blog to help homeowner’s find the answers to the questions that they have about how to keep their homes comfortable and energy efficient all year round.  We will share helpful information about a variety of HVAC topics. Our goal is to help you find the answers you’re looking for right here. If we don’t cover a subject you are interested in; just contact us and we will include it.

Why is it important for homeowners to know that maintaining their heating and cooling equipment is important and what to look out for?  After all, isn’t that what your contractor is for?  Sure, you can leave it up to the professional– we have been taking care of our customers’ HVAC needs for over 21 years.  But, the truth is, (an aware versus an unaware) homeowner will recognize signs of trouble faster, and get help before a small problem turns into a major repair because you live there.  A well-maintained heating and cooling system lasts longer and performs more efficiently.  This can add up to significant energy savings and fewer breakdowns.

So, check in with us each week to learn more about your system, its maintenance and all of your equipment options.  With a little bit of help from our experts, you can stay comfortable, reduce repair bills and keep your energy costs under control.