Energy Solutions Category
Saving money isn’t the only benefit of a furnace inspection, but it’s one you’ll appreciate every month when you pay your utility bills. Nationwide, the annual average cost to heat a home with a gas furnace is more than $1,200. Any effective measures you can take to reduce that substantial figure usually pay for themselves in energy savings alone. Of course, an annual furnace inspection also keeps your heating system performing up to manufacturer’s specs, reduces the incidence of repairs and ensures that all safety functions are fully operational.
Here are some ways an annual furnace inspection by a qualified HVAC service technician helps keep household heating affordable.
- Furnace air filter is checked and replaced. A dirty filter obstructs system airflow. Low airflow is a major cause of substandard furnace efficiency and higher heating costs.
- Burners are cleaned and checked for proper ignition and flame. Dirty or clogged burners cause incomplete combustion and waste gas.
- The vent system is inspected all the way to the roof to ensure free flow of exhaust gases. An obstructed vent is a major safety hazard and also affects furnace energy consumption.
- Combustion gases produced by the furnace are checked with an analyzer. This is an important diagnostic procedure to verify proper combustion and make sure the furnace is operating at optimum fuel efficiency. It’s also a critical safety measure to detect excessive amounts of dangerous carbon monoxide.
- Blower amperage is measured. The furnace blower makes a substantial contribution to monthly electrical costs. Excessive amperage draw indicates a worn, failing motor that may be wasting electricity.
- Heat exchanger is inspected. This is a vital safety check as the heat exchanger prevents dangerous combustion gases including carbon monoxide from entering the system airflow. Because the heat exchanger is the single most expensive component in your heating system, an annual inspection also provides important information about the expected service life of the furnace and when replacement may be necessary.
Enjoy optimum heating comfort at lowest cost this winter. Schedule a furnace inspection by the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
Back-to-school energy savings can be a good opportunity to recoup some of those higher summer costs. There’s no doubt that this time of year is a more moderate energy season here in Ohio. As the daily hours of air conditioning use—a major electrical consumer in most households—began to drop, you’ll get a break in monthly utility bills. Later in the fall, as cooler weather arrives, heating expenses begin to come into the picture. But for right now, back-to-school energy savings can provide welcome relief from the summer’s higher bills. Here are some ways to take maximum advantage of the season.
Change The Filter
Don’t go into the new season with an HVAC air filter that’s clogged from long days of summer air conditioner operation. In most central systems, the air conditioner and furnace utilize the same filter. Low airflow due to an obstructed filter can cause both cooling and heating costs to climb drastically, as well as decreasing system performance. Change the filter now and check it monthly as the heating season arrives, changing it at least every other month.
Adjust Thermostat Schedule
If your thermostat is still operating on summer schedules, it may be running the system more hours per day than necessary. Usually, back-to-school means the house is less occupied during daylight hours and so doesn’t require the extended summer schedule for air conditioning. Also, as cooler outdoor weather begins to arrive, you’ll be able to bump up temperature settings a few degrees without affecting indoor comfort. For every degree you increase the thermostat setting, you can reduce A/C expenses by up to 4%.
Get Annual Preventive Maintenance
This transitional period is the time to schedule an annual system check-up by a qualified HVAC technician. The process includes a complete inspection as well as a list of manufacturer-recommended maintenance procedures that sustain optimum energy efficiency and lower operating costs during the coming months, as well as ensuring reliable operation.
Ask the experts at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing about more ways to maximize back-to-school energy savings.
The breaker box in your home divides up the electrical current entering the house into individual circuits protected by circuit breakers. Breaker boxes are rated for a certain maximum amperage. Many boxes in older homes are rated for the electrical demand that was common at the time the house was built. However, as time has passed, everyone knows that household electrical devices have multiplied exponentially. If your breaker box hasn’t been updated, it may be out of date by one or more current code standards, as well as insufficient for today’s demand.
- The National Electrical Code recommends that all residential breaker boxes be rated for a minimum of 100 amps. Old boxes in existing homes, however, may be designed to handle only as little as 60 amps. Upgrading to a box with a higher rating that meets the National Electrical Code recommendation—as well as accommodating today’s increased electrical demand—can be done by a qualified electrician. Upgrading the breaker box does not mean you have to rewire the entire house.
- To protect home occupants from the risk of electrocution, the National Electrical Code stipulates that rooms where water is present—kitchen, bathrooms, spa, etc.—or appliances are in use must be served by circuits with GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) protection. This safety measure can be added to circuits by upgrading the box to incorporate GFCI-rated breakers.
- The National Electrical Code also includes requirements for location of breaker boxes. In older homes, it may be situated in almost any indoor room. The NEC states that breaker boxes installed today must be in a safe location—no bathrooms—that is easily accessible. The box must have a minimum of three feet of open space clearance in front of it—no cramped closets and no large furniture obstructing the panel. If plumbing pipes are routed nearby, the box must be waterproof.
For more information on upgrading your breaker box to meet code as well as the electrical demands of the future, contact the professionals at Apollo Electrical, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
Ceiling fans help your air conditioner do what it’s designed to do: make the house more comfortable in summer. However, they do it at less cost than an A/C. Air in motion is one of the secrets to indoor comfort. The slowly rotating blades of a ceiling fan move a large volume of air with very low electrical consumption. Compared to a typical 2.5 ton residential central air conditioner that consumes about 3,500 watts, a 48-inch ceiling fan running on “High” uses less than 75 watts. Here’s how a ceiling fan helps your A/C do its job better and saves money on monthly bills.
The sensation of moving air makes people feel cooler, even when the actual room temperature stays the same. It’s a small-scale version of the familiar wind chill effect that makes a blustery winter day feel colder than a calm day. The gentle flow of air from a ceiling fan allows you to raise the air conditioner thermostat a few degrees without sacrificing cool comfort. For every degree you can bump the A/C thermostat up in summer, you can save about 3% on cooling costs. In most cases, used in conjunction with the air conditioner the cooling effect created by a ceiling fan adequately compensates for a four-degree increase in thermostat setting. Here’s how to make sure you get the comfort and savings of a ceiling fan.
- For summer operation, the ceiling fan’s directional switch should be set in the counter-clockwise direction. When standing directly beneath the fan, you should be able to feel a gentle downward breeze.
- A ceiling fan only helps enhance the perception of coolness for people and pets in a room. Therefore, leaving a ceiling fan running in a room that isn’t occupied is a waste of energy and money. Turn ceiling fans off when everyone leaves the room.
For more about the comfort and economy of utilizing ceiling fans in your home this summer, contact Apollo Electrical, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
A whole house generator is rapidly becoming a standard accessory in homes. Weather-related power outages have increased 100 percent since 2003. On an average day, about a half-million people across the country are affected by loss of utility power. Not only are power outages increasing, the typical duration until power is restored is also getting longer. The reason is clear: most of the U.S. power grid was constructed in the 1950s and upgrades have not kept pace with rapidly increasing demand or changes in patterns of severe weather.
Portable generators utilized for recreational activities are not designed to provide safe, reliable household power during an outage; amperage output is insufficient. Units must be deployed outdoors then manually started, and utilization present hazards from carbon monoxide exhaust and the necessity to string long extension cords in wet weather.
Installed by a professional electrician, a whole-house generator safely protects your household from electrical interruptions and the potential expense and stress of having to leave home until utility power is restored. Here are some key facts to consider:
- Whole-house generators are permanently installed behind or next to your home, and are about the size of a typical central A/C.
- The unit is hard-wired directly into the main electrical panel of the house and continuously monitors incoming power from the grid. When an outage is detected, the system automatically starts and shifts household circuits over to generator power in seconds. After utility power is restored, the generator automatically switches back to the grid and shuts off.
- Whole-house generators typically run off clean natural gas fuel already supplied to your home. It’s a self-feeding energy source that flows without pumps and is very rarely affected by weather or other factors that cause power outages.
- A whole-house generator can be sized to your expected needs. Capacity ranges from sufficient power for critical circuits only to units that totally replace utility power throughout the entire home.
- Apps available for many whole-house units permit remote monitoring and control via smartphone.
Ask the professionals at Apollo Home Electrical, Heating, Cooling, Plumbing for more information about the benefits of a whole house generator.
Whether this winter is severe or something less, efforts to control energy costs will always pay off. Taking proactive control of those factors you can do something about will produce both immediate and long-term benefits. Lower monthly costs, greater indoor comfort and less wear and tear on your heating system are among them. Here are some effective ways to control energy costs this winter:
- Program the thermostat. Make sure your programmable thermostat is set to reflect the different comfort requirements and household occupancy patterns of winter. Nights are longer, allowing you to set a longer sustained overnight temperature for sleeping. Mornings are colder and require pre-warming the house. Kids back in school and parents working often permit programming lower temps during daytime spans when the house is empty.
- Change the filter. This is a year-round task but particularly important in winter. A dirty filter restricts system airflow. Adequate furnace airflow is necessary to continuously circulate the proper volume of heat to maintain a comfortable temperature. When airflow drops below specs, the furnace runs longer to compensate and heating costs spiral up. Another reason to maintain proper airflow: it protects the furnace heat exchanger—a critical and very expensive safety component—from overheating and cracking.
- Open all vents. Closing heating vents in under-utilized rooms doesn’t save money. Your furnace doesn’t know that vents are closed and still runs just as long to maintain the household thermostat setting. In addition, closing vents unbalances the distribution of heat through the entire ductwork. Rooms further from the furnace may become chronically chilly—causing occupants to crank up the thermostat—while rooms closer to the furnace may be uncomfortably warm.
- Stop air leakage. Heat energy naturally moves from a warmer zone into a cooler zone. That means that air leaks around doors and windows are costing you money as indoor heat escapes to the outdoors. Check for cold drafts around doors and windows that indicate worn weatherstripping. Replace with new foam or vinyl weatherstripping.
For more advice on how to control energy costs this winter, contact the heating professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
Weatherstripping is one of the household materials that keeps warm air inside in winter and hot air outside in summer. Usually foam, vinyl or rubber, it’s typically installed to close the gap between two moveable surfaces. Weatherstripping is usually found along the edges of a door and the door jamb to form an effective seal against air leakage when the door is closed. It’s also usually present on the bottom of the door to close the gap between the door and the threshold. Weatherstripping is also found on double-hung windows to seal between the sash and the window frame and between the central V-channel and the sash.
Because weatherstripping is placed between two moveable surfaces, as the door or window is opened and closed friction and wear occurs over time and replacement is normally required. Here are several common types of weatherstripping.
- Peel-and-stick foam. This is the least expensive option and also the easiest to apply. Typically made of non-porous closed cell foam it can be used around door frames, on the top and bottom window sashes and to seal attic hatches and small openings. Foam typically wears away fastest due to friction and will need to be replaced more often.
- Self-adhesive rolled vinyl. This is pliable material that can be stuck to most door frames and window sashes, but may not adhere well to metal surfaces. Its cost is low to moderate and durability exceeds foam but is not as good as other options.
- Tubular vinyl or rubber. Compresses as the door or window closes against it to form a very effective air seal and is very durable. Usually it must be manually stapled or tacked in place—not self-adhesive—and the cost is moderate to high.
- Door sweep. Installed to close the opening beneath the bottom of a door and the threshold, it consists of an aluminum or stainless steel plate with a brush made of vinyl or rubber to seal the gap. Door must be removed for installation. Cost is moderate to high.
For qualified handyman services to replace worn weatherstripping in your home, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
Patterns of household energy consumption vary according to season, so it’s not surprising that winter has it’s own distinctive energy saving tips. Many useful energy saving tips cost you nothing, others require a small investment that will likely pay for itself after a few Ohio winters—both in added comfort and lower energy costs.
- Adjust the thermostat. If you’re using a programmable thermostat, while the house is occupied winter temperatures should range between 68 and 70 degrees. Most people feel comfortable at that temperature in winter and it’s also the most energy-efficient setting to warm the house to after lower overnight temperatures.
- Take advantage of the sun. Keep drapes and blinds on the sunny side of the house open during daylight hours to admit solar energy through window glass. Heat energy escapes back out through windows just as easily at night, however, so as the sun goes down close drapes and blinds to keep heat in the house.
- Utilize ceiling fans. If you have one, switch the directional setting to the “Clockwise” or “Reverse” mode. In this setting, the fan pulls air up from the floor and across the ceiling. This pushes the layer of rising hot air that naturally accumulates at the ceiling back down into the room to warm occupants.
- Seal air leaks. If the feel cold drafts around doors, replace worn weatherstripping in the door jamb and/or the rubber threshold that seals under the door. Also replace worn weatherstripping between moveable surfaces of windows. Look for air gaps anywhere plumbing pipes or electrical conduits enter the house and where vents pass through the ceiling. Straight gaps or cracks 1/4 inch or less wide can be filled with silicone caulk; for larger, irregular openings you can use spray foam insulation in a can.
- Light wisely. If you’re still using any conventional incandescent bulbs, replace them with compact fluorescent bulbs or LEDs. Thinking of stringing lights for holiday decorations? Buy LED strings that last longer and use less electricity.
Contact the professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more winter energy saving tips
Extending the life of an HVAC system is doable. So, unfortunately, is shortening its expected service life. The combined average life expectancy of an air conditioner and furnace averages about 15 years. Typically, the furnace lasts longer than the A/C. However, that 15-year estimate is based on the assumption that both systems are professionally installed, receive regular maintenance and are operated according to manufacturer’s recommendations. If that doesn’t happen, all bets are off.
To increases the odds of extending the life of an HVAC system, avoid these mistakes:
- Unqualified installation. Every new furnace or air conditioner should be properly sized to the BTU requirements of the home before installation. This means an accurate load calculation must be performed by a professional HVAC contractor. Over-sized and under-sized units not only under-perform in heating and cooling and cost more to operate, they tend to wear out much sooner.
- Skipping annual check-ups. Your furnace or air conditioner manufacturer’s warranty probably requires yearly professional maintenance. That’s because it’s vital to maximize expected service life. Each unit should get seasonal preventive maintenance from a qualified HVAC technician at the outset of the heating and cooling seasons, respectively.
- Ignoring important upkeep. As the homeowner, you can contribute to longer service life by changing the system air filter monthly—an easy DIY procedure that’s also inexpensive when you buy replacement filters in multi-packs. A dirty, clogged filter reduces system airflow. Low airflow not only raises operating costs, it also over-stresses vital system components like the air conditioner compressor and furnace heat exchanger. Early failure of these very expensive parts may mean early replacement of the entire unit.
- Inefficient operation. Use of an outmoded manual thermostat often means the the furnace or air conditioner is cycled on and off much more frequently. This adds to system wear and tear, shortens expected service life and consumes more energy. A digital programmable thermostat automates temperature changes with fewer on/off cycles to maintain a more comfortable indoor environment at lower cost.
Ask the experts at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more advice about extending the life of an HVAC system.
Seasonal plumbing maintenance takes on greater importance when the season is winter. Frigid weather can be particularly hard on pipes and the consequences of neglecting plumbing maintenance at this time of year can be particularly costly. Frozen pipes not only deprive the household of water supply until they thaw, a pipe that ruptures due to freezing can discharge hundreds of gallons into your home in a very short time, inflicting catastrophic water damage.
- Insulate pipes. Buy foam pipe insulation sleeves that can be slipped over pipes without disconnecting the pipe. Place them on all spans of water supply lines that are accessible: inside the house, down in the crawl space or up in the attic, or out in the garage.
- Seal air leaks. Exterior openings in the home’s envelope should be closed to prevent frigid outside air from contacting indoor pipes. This means sealing up crawl space vents and/or access doors and plugging or covering other openings such as gaps around access points where plumbing pipes and electrical conduits enter the house. Check along the intersection between exterior walls for cracks and use caulking to fill them—also along the long joint between the exterior wall and the foundation sill. To close openings too large for caulking, use expanding spray foam insulation in a can.
- Drain and disconnect exterior components. Freezing that occurs in outside sources can damage interior plumbing. Disconnect garden hoses from exterior faucets, drain the water out and store them. Turn off the water valve to underground sprinklers and drain residual water from the pipes or blow it out with compressed air. If your outdoor faucets are frost-proof with dedicated indoor shut-off valves, now’s the time to shut the valves and open the faucet to drain out remaining water.
Ask the professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing for more winterizing tips to prepare for cold weather.