Boehmer Heating & Cooling Blog : Archive for July, 2011

The Preventative Maintenance That Will Save You the Most

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Having a high performance, energy efficient HVAC system will save you a good deal of money in terms of your monthly heating and cooling bills. But that efficiency will not last unless you also take the necessary steps to keep your equipment in good working order. While regular maintenance visits from a professional HVAC technician are an important part of this, there are also several things you can do on your own to keep your equipment running at peak efficiency.

  1. Keep it Clear – The first thing you should do is to make sure that there is plenty of space cleared around your outdoor unit. Whether it is the condenser and compressor for your air conditioning system or part of your heat pump, that outdoor equipment needs to have plenty of space to vent hot air. Also, the space will mean that debris is less likely to develop inside the unit.
  2. Clean the Condensing Coil – While your technician will do this when they make their annual visit, it is best to clean your coil more than just once a year. Just make sure that the power is turned off to your unit before you begin. This will help the unit cool air more efficiently and can prevent a whole host of other problems from developing.
  3. Check on the Blower – If your blower is not working right or the blade is clogged, your HVAC unit will not work properly. Make sure your blower fan is free of all debris and that is turns freely once you have cleaned it. If you are still having a problem with it, you may have to call a technician for repairs. Cleaning the blower out on a regular basis, however, should keep this from becoming a problem you need a professional for.
  4. Air Filters – You should also make sure you change your air filters regularly. This can help to keep your indoor air clean and healthy and it will also enable your HVAC system to run more efficiently.
  5. Clean it Out – Clean out any debris that you can reach from any part of your system. Just make sure any time you work inside your HVAC system that you have all of the power turned off. Anything from leaves to dust can get in there and cause a problem if it is allowed to build up over time. As long as you are on top of things and keep to a regular schedule of maintenance, none of this should take you very long.

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How to Maximize Savings in Your Home

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

When you are thinking about different ways you might be able to save money around the house, the tendency is to think big. Maybe you need to upgrade to a more energy efficient furnace, or it could be time to install a new central air conditioning system. Maybe it is even a good idea to switch to solar or geothermal power.

But before you do any of that, you may want to try some quick and easy ways to save money around the house with the equipment you already have. Here are 10 great ways to cut your power usage and keep those energy bills down without investing a lot in new equipment.

  1. Seal Up Your House – No matter how energy efficient the heating and cooling systems are in your house, you will be using more energy than necessary if your house is not tightly sealed. Make sure there are not cracks or places where drafts can get in and you will start saving money right away.
  2. The Right Thermostat Setting – Are you really going to notice the difference between 72°F and 69°F? Probably not, but you will save about 3% off of your monthly heating bill for every degree you turn the thermostat down. The same goes in the summer too, just backwards.
  3. Programmable Thermostats – And while we are on the subject of thermostats, it is a good idea to invest in a new one with programmable settings. That way you will be able to set your house to be warm when you will be there and you do not have to pay to keep it warm all day long if it is empty.
  4. Water Heater Temperature – Most hot water heaters are set to about 140°F. However, you really only need your water to be at 120°F. So turn down the hot water heater and you will save a lot.
  5. Ceiling Fans – Ceiling fans can help keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Plus, they cost very little to run so they are a great investment.
  6. Light Bulbs – Switching to energy efficient fluorescent bulbs all over your house will save you a ton even though they cost a bit more to begin with.
  7. Lights Out – But energy efficient bulbs will only get you so far. You should also be sure to turn off the lights in any room you are not using.
  8. Insulation – Proper insulation will go a long way towards keeping in the temperature controlled air that you want and keeping out the outdoor air that you do not.
  9. Power Strips – Many home appliances draw a small amount of power even when they are not turned on. Use a power strip to easily cut the power to them completely and eliminate that drain.
  10. Sealing Windows – Plenty of air can come and go through your windows as well. Upgrading to more energy efficient windows is certainly an option, but you can also help to seal up your home inexpensively by covering your windows with plastic.

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How Much Can I Save with New Equipment?

Monday, July 25th, 2011

There is certainly something to be said for upgrading your current HVAC equipment to newer, more energy efficient equipment. Doing so can save you a ton of money in heating and cooling costs and it can make your home a more comfortable place in general. Of course, upgrading your equipment is a big investment, but ideally you will save enough on your monthly energy bills that it will more than make up for the initial cost of the installation.

But before you can decide whether or not it makes sense for you to upgrade, you need to know exactly how much you stand to save every month by upgrading. And that will vary considerably depending on several particulars of your situation.

For instance, you will have to take the age of your current system into account. No matter how energy efficient your system was when you first bought it, that energy efficiency has almost certainly deteriorated over time. Plus, the older your system is, the less energy efficient it probably was to start with. And the less energy efficient your current system is, the more you will save when you upgrade to a newer, more energy efficient system.

But that is not the only variable you will have to be on top of. The amount you will save monthly and annually will also have to do with how much you use your HVAC system. If you live in a rather temperate climate, you may use your HVAC much less, both in the summer and the winter.

In a case like this, the percentage you will save with an equipment upgrade will be the same as it would for someone who lived in an area with a harsher climate, but the actual dollar value will be much lower. All that really means is that it will take you longer to recoup your investment, but it may still be worth it to invest in a new system now.

You will also need to be aware of other factors that could impact the energy efficiency of your HVAC system. For instance, if your house is not well insulated, it will not matter how good your HVAC system is. You will still be paying more than you should to keep the indoors comfortable, and while investing in a new system may save you money, you will save more by taking care of your insulation problem first.

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New Thermostats – Are they Worth the Investment?

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

When you are trying to save money around the house, a new thermostat is definitely worth looking into. Sure, your old thermostat works fine. But there are a lot of features available on newer models that can help you save money on your heating and cooling costs throughout the year.

And you do not need to wait until it is time to replace your home comfort system to upgrade your thermostat. Most thermostats can work with many different types of heating and cooling systems. So no matter what type of HVAC system you have or how old it is, you should be able to integrate some type of new thermostat into it.

But how can a new thermostat save you money? Well, they simply offer a lot of features that you can use to your advantage. For instance, even the most basic programmable thermostat can let you set different temperatures for different times of day. You can program the thermostat to turn the heat down during the day when no one is home and then you can have the heat switch back on just before you get home.

That way, you can come home to a nice, warm house without having to pay to heat it all day long when it is empty. Many newer thermostats also are more accurate and can provide more pinpoint control of your heating and cooling system. That means that you will not be wasting money because your heating system gets the actual temperature in your house up to 75°F when you only really need it to hit 72°F.

Newer thermostats help you to save money in a variety of ways, and that savings will more than pay for the cost of having a new thermostat installed. That is because thermostats are actually quite cheap and easy to install. A relatively basic programmable thermostat should not run you more than $100, and even if you opt for one of the more advanced systems out there, you will not pay more than a few hundred dollars.

That is a small price to pay considering the increased comfort possible with a state of the art thermostat and the potential for savings every month on your heating or cooling bills. Plus, you likely paid a considerable amount to have that state of the art HVAC system put in. It is worth paying just a bit more so that you can get the most possible out of it.

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Save by Buying Low, Buying at the Right Time

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Buying a new HVAC system is a big step and a big investment. You know you will be spending a considerable amount of money, but it is worth it to get the right system for your home. However, that does not mean you should not shop around and compare prices before you buy. Prices in this industry are far from static, and you could get a great deal if you do some research and know what you are looking for.

Of course, you first have to have the luxury of being able to shop around. If your HVAC system has broken down completely, you will be much more limited on what options you can explore and how much you will pay for the system that you want.

But if you know that you are going to be replacing your existing HVAC system sometime soon, the best thing you can do is to start looking around at what is on the market now. Get a feel for the type of system that you want, the features that are important to you and what it will cost you to get all of that in one package deal.

You can also compare the prices for the same system offered by various retailers and installation companies. While it may seem like the same system should cost the same everywhere, this is often not the case. Also, different places may be offering special discounts or installation specials at different times, and you want to put yourself in the best position to take advantage of that.

The time of year can also affect the price of the system you are looking at. Buying a heating system in the middle of the summer, for instance, is often a good way to get a great deal. So if you plan ahead a little bit, you can make out big when you see the deal you were looking for.

Staying on top of the market is the best way for you to see how the prices on different systems change over time and you will be in a great position to grab a good deal when it comes up. You can also often get good deals on HVAC systems that are close to being replaced by a newer model. Just make sure that the newer model does not offer too much more than the previous year’s and you will likely come out ahead.

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Save with Maintenance on HVAC

Monday, July 18th, 2011

You can never save too much money by making improvements and taking steps around the house. Of course, it is hard sometimes to see exactly where the money saving opportunities are. That’s because you expect to spend a certain amount on various types of services when you own a home. You know you are always going to have heating and cooling bills, for instance. But are they higher than they need to be?

For many people, the answer to that question is “yes.” And it is not because they use their home heating and cooling systems inappropriately or because they have the wrong equipment. It is simply because they neglect to get their HVAC systems the regular care and maintenance that would keep them running at peak effectiveness and energy efficiency.

When your HVAC system is new, it runs well and can be remarkably energy efficient. However, over time that energy efficiency will gradually deteriorate. This drop off in efficiency is often not obvious at first, but if you compare your energy bills from the year you got your system to bills for the same time of year and same usage five years later, you will probably notice that the bill has gone up quite a bit, and not just because energy prices have gone up.

You can do a lot to prevent this loss of energy efficiency, though, if you simply have a professional HVAC technician come out once a year and give your system a tune up. During this type of maintenance service, the technician will check over your entire system looking for worn out parts and buildup that could be interfering with your system’s performance.

They can clean out any areas of your HVAC equipment that require it and they will be able to make any necessary repairs at that time. Often, a technician performing this type of maintenance will be able to catch minor issues before they are able to develop into bigger problems. And while you still have to pay for the maintenance visit, the cost is much less than what you would pay for an emergency repair.

It also represents a substantial savings over what you would be paying on your energy bills every month without it. Regular HVAC maintenance can preserve the vast majority of your system’s energy efficiency loss over time, and it is never too late to start. Even if it has been several years since you had your system installed, you will still be able to get back the vast majority of your original energy efficiency by starting with regular maintenance now.

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What Is the Single Biggest Money-Saver Upgrade You Can Make?

Friday, July 15th, 2011

While it would be great if there was a simple answer to this question, the real right answer depends to a great extent on your own particular situation. There are literally dozens of steps you can take to save on your home heating and cooling costs, and which ones are most appropriate for you will have a lot to do with what you already have, how you use it and where you live.

For instance, if you have a well-insulated house but your HVAC system is more than 10 or 15 years old, investing in a new system will almost certainly save you a ton in the long run. Even if your existing system is working well, the newer systems available are simply so much more energy efficient that having one will cut your monthly bills dramatically.

Plus, you will be replacing your system relatively soon anyway if it is that old, so you might as well start saving now on your heating and cooling costs. However, even the best heating and cooling system on the market will not save you that much money if you do not have a properly insulated and sealed house.

Insulation keeps the warm air in during the winter, and it also keeps colder air from seeping in. In the summer, it works the other way around, keeping in the air you are paying to cool and keeping out the hotter outside air. If you do not have thorough insulation or if it is too old, that temperature controlled air that you are paying for will be leaking out and unwanted outdoor air will be finding its way in. You will pay much more than necessary to keep the indoor temperature comfortable as a result.

If you have both good insulation and an energy efficient HVAC system, your thermostat might be the place to look when you want to try and cut your energy costs. A programmable or wireless thermostat might be just the ticket you need to cut back even more on your energy bills because of the added control it gives you to more precisely regulate the temperature inside your home.

Particularly if you have a large house, you might even consider having a zone control system put in so that you can set different temperatures for different areas of the house. After all, there is no need to be paying to regulate the temperature in a part of the house that is unoccupied.

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Energy Performance Ratings for Windows, Doors, Skylights

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

When you are picking out windows, doors or skylights for your home, you will have a lot of factors to take into consideration. Not the least of these is how well or poorly the product in question will transfer heat into your home or help to block it out. Luckily, there are actually energy performance ratings listed on most windows, doors and skylights so that you can make the most informed decision possible about which product is best for you.

But what do these ratings actually measure? There are actually several categories that are reflected on the energy performance label, and understanding what these various statistics mean will help you pick out the best product for you.

For instance, the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) is something that reflects how well the window transfers heat from the sun into your home. A low SHGC means that the window lets in very little heat, while a high SHGC indicates a product that allows a great deal of heat to pass through into your home. The right one for you, however, depends on your own particular needs.

If you live in an area with a mild summer but a harsh winter, you may be interested in allowing the sunlight to help heating your home in the winter. And if the summers are not that extreme, you might not mind the heat coming in at that time of year.

The opposite would be true if you live somewhere that has very hot summers, though. In that case you might want to keep out as much heat from the sun as possible and be content to heat the house all on your own in the winter. So the ideal SHGC for you can vary depending on your own particular circumstances.

Other elements taken into account when the energy performance of windows, doors and skylights is measured are the amount of visible light the product lets in, how well it insulates your house, how much air is allowed to leak out through joints in the structure of the product and how resistant it is to allowing condensation to develop.

All of these elements will impact how well you are able to maintain a comfortable indoor environment all year round and how much it costs you to do so. Because of this, it can be worth paying a bit more for a door, window or skylight if it means that you will save on your heating or cooling bills every month because of that product.

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Save by Caulking Crevices and Penetrations

Monday, July 11th, 2011

They are nothing to be ashamed of. Really, everyone has them. You know – those little cracks and crevices that you always mean to get around to caulking but just have not found the time for yet. But they are so small, they cannot possibly be causing that many problems, right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, any small space that can let air in or out of your house could be costing you money – and a considerable amount too. The truth is that, next to inadequate insulation, leaks and drafts are some of the biggest drains on your home heating and cooling system.

After all, you are paying to heat or cool the air inside your house in order to keep the indoor environment comfortable all year round. But you do not want to be paying more than you need to be. That is why you bought the high efficiency HVAC system in the first place. If you have lots of drafts and cracks in various places throughout your house, however, you are almost certainly spending more than necessary to keep your house comfortable.

And the solution is so simple. You do not need to go out and spend a ton of money on an even more expensive heating and cooling system. All you really need to do is make sure that your home is sealed up as well as possible. And that means sealing up all of the cracks.

Caulking is an extremely effective way of doing this, and it costs very little, particularly if you take on the job yourself. But even if you hire a professional, the amount that you have to pay out will be returned to you many times over in savings on your monthly heating and cooling bills. There simply is no substitute for sealing up your house tight when you are trying to save money on heating and cooling costs.

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Save with Insulation

Friday, July 8th, 2011

When you are looking for ways to save money around the house, it can be difficult to know where to begin. However, if you start examining things closely, you can actually find many small ways to cut here and there to save a few dollars. Of course, the savings you will generate by making these moves need to be worth the expense of making them, and it some cases that equation does not work out to your advantage.

For instance, when you are trying to save money on your heating or air conditioning bills, is it really worth it to get a top of the line system installed? Do you really need a 97% AFUE furnace? Sure your monthly heating bills will be lower, but it costs so much to install that it might not be worth it. For some people, the right choice will be to opt for the highest efficiency system, but that is far from a universal truth.

However, there is one investment along these lines that will be worth it no matter what your particular situation is. And that is making sure that your house has proper and effective insulation installed everywhere necessary. Certainly, most houses have insulation of some kind. But do you really know that your insulation is effective and that it is in the right place?

With the new technologies and types of insulation available, you should not have to pay too much to have someone come in to check your insulation and improve upon it. And you very likely will not believe the difference it can make in the way your house feels.

Proper insulation will keep heat in and cold out in the winter and the opposite in the summer. You will quite simply be more comfortable all year round. Plus, you will see a pretty dramatic drop in your home heating and cooling bills because your HVAC systems will not have to work as hard to keep your home comfortable.

This will also translate into less wear and tear on the system over all, making it possible for you to extend the useful life of your HVAC system as well. The savings that can be generated by having proper insulation put in will well outweigh the cost of that insulation in just about every case.

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