Energy Solutions Category


How to Keep a Lid on Energy Costs This Winter

energy costsWhether 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 Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.


What Types of Weatherstripping are Best?

types of weatherstrippingWeatherstripping 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 Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.


5 Energy Saving Tips for the Winter Season

ceiling fan to save energyPatterns 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more winter energy saving tips


Extending the Life of Your HVAC System – Things to Avoid

HVAC maintenanceExtending 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 Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more advice about extending the life of an HVAC system.


3 Quick Winterizing Tips

quick winterizing tipsSeasonal 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.

Winterizing your household plumbing is a task that’s much better done now—before the forecast mentions a severe cold spell. Here are three seasonal plumbing maintenance items.

  • 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 Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing for more winterizing tips to prepare for cold weather.

 


Boosting Home Comfort with Ceiling Fans

ceiling fanA ceiling fan installation in Cincinnati can help boost household comfort while lowering heating and cooling bills. Ceiling fans were actually the first electrical indoor comfort device, becoming common in residences during the 1920s. Efficient fans today sip energy and can cost as little as one cent per hour to operate. By supplementing air circulation in the proper direction for the season, a ceiling fan installation in Cincinnati can make your home more comfortable while lowering monthly utility costs.

Ceiling fans move a large volume of air at low velocity. Their slowly rotating paddle-like blades induce gentle air circulation without blowing papers around or making noise. Here’s how a ceiling fan supports your indoor comfort and energy-efficiency in winter and summer.

Ceiling Fans in Winter

As warmth from your furnace enters the livings spaces, the laws of physics quickly take effect. Heat energy naturally rises and accumulates in a layer at the ceiling, radiating into the attic. In winter, running a ceiling fan disrupts the accumulation of heat at the ceiling and continuously pushes it out toward the walls and down into the room, keeping occupants more comfortable. Since you don’t have to bump up the furnace thermostat to compensate for heat loss into the attic, a ceiling fan can reduce heating expenses by up to 15 percent.

During winter, the directional switch on a ceiling fan should be set to the clockwise or “Reverse” setting in order to circulate air properly and augment heating.

Ceiling Fans in Summer

Known as the wind-chill effect, moving air makes any environment feel cooler than it actually is. In summer a ceiling fan makes rooms more comfortable without actually changing the thermometer reading. This allows you to move the air conditioner thermostat up a few degrees. As a rule of thumb, for every degree you increase the thermostat setting, you decrease monthly A/C costs by 1%.

Change the fan directional switch to the counter-clockwise or “Forward” setting in summer. You should be able to feel the breeze when standing directly beneath the fan.

For professional advice about ceiling fan installation in Cincinnati, contact Apollo Electrical, Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.


4 Home Energy Myths Debunked

Like other fables, home energy myths tend to be accepted and passed along without ever being subjected to scientific proof. Relying on untested methods for energy savings often results in the opposite: increased energy use and higher operating costs. Science doesn’t yet know everything about how to make a home as energy efficient as possible. However, we can be certain about a number of things that don’t work. Here are four home energy myths that don’t stand up to a closer look:

home energy mythsMyth: Upgrading attic insulation only causes more heat loss through the walls and floor.
Fact: Heat energy inside a house isn’t like air pressure. Fixing heat loss in one spot doesn’t increase heat loss elsewhere. Heat passes through solid surfaces by conduction and radiation. Wherever it’s installed, proper insulation inhibits heat loss and doesn’t cause it to increase elsewhere.

Myth: Closing supply vents in some rooms saves energy.
Fact: Your furnace or air conditioner doesn’t “know” if vents are open or not. It just keeps on generating the same amount of heating or cooling and the same amount of energy is consumed whether or not all vents are open. Closing supply vents may actually cause the system to run longer “on” cycles and use more energy.

Myth: When you turn off an electronic device, it stops consuming electricity.
Fact: Many devices such as battery chargers, printers and home entertainment equipment actually go into “standby” mode when turned off and continue to use some electricity, although at a reduced amount. Plugging these devices into a switched outlet strip then turning off the strip is the only way to completely stop electrical consumption.

Myth: Replacing standard windows with high-efficiency windows pays for itself in energy savings.
Fact: Not for a very, very long time. The high cost of window replacement rarely pays for itself in a reasonable time frame. For a low investment and fast payback, caulking and weatherstripping to seal air leaks and upgrading attic insulation are a better bet.

Want to bust more home energy myths? Contact the experts at Apollo Home.

 


3 Energy-Saving Upgrades to Consider This Winter

Winter’s a good time to think about energy-saving upgrades. It’s a fact that any measures that increase energy efficiency of a home also tend to enhance household comfort and even help the environment. This is especially true in winter, as higher operating costs due to increased energy consumption—as well as the frequent discomforts of a chilly house—sometimes seem to be an annual tradition. It doesn’t have to be that way. Identifying a few opportunities to make energy-saving upgrades to your home can pay off in lower expenses and help keep the house cozier, too. Here are three potential upgrade targets:

energy-saving upgradesIncrease Attic Insulation

Heat rises. In winter, that’s bad news if you don’t have sufficient attic insulation. Rising furnace heat conducts through the ceiling and is lost into the attic. However, you’ll still get the bill for it. Most homes are under-insulated by today’s higher standards. Attic insulation is easy to upgrade by simply adding to the existing level. Different layers of insulation—such as fiberglass batts and cellulose loose-fill—may be mixed to arrive at the recommended depth.

Install A Programmable Thermostat

Manual control of your heating system is inefficient and results in temperature swings between too-hot and too-chilly. A programmable thermostat automates temperature adjustments to match your daily household patterns, saving energy as well as keeping indoor comfort consistent. Many of today’s programmable models are also internet-connected, so you can monitor home temperatures and change programmed settings remotely with a phone app or browser format. Energy savings from utilizing a programmable thermostat will usually pay for it after one year of use.

Upgrade Your Blower

Conventional furnace blowers incorporate single-speed motors that squander electricity and don’t produce optimum indoor comfort. New variable-speed ECM (electronically commutated motor) blowers run consistently across a wide range of speeds programmed to match household heating requirements. Consistent variable output eliminates the temperature swings of on/off blowers, while the ECM technology consumes only about 25 percent as much electricity as old-school conventional blowers.

For more about energy-saving upgrades to make this winter more efficient and comfortable, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.


Which Energy Saving Upgrades Give You the Most Bang For Your Buck?

Finding ways to save money isn’t usually an easy feat. There are some costs that are simply unavoidable, particularly when it comes to the operations of your home. That said, there are also a lot of ways that energy-efficiency upgrades can help you get a little more bang for your buck.

energy saving tipsHere are our top picks for energy-efficiency upgrades that are well worth their investments:

  • Air Sealing & Insulation. Removing the gaps and holes where air seep into and out of the house will help keep your home safe from humid Cincinnati summers and frigid Midwestern winters. Money‘s article “The Best Energy Efficiency Upgrades for Your Money” explains how reinforcing the outside layers of your home can lead to even greater savings down the line when it’s time to purchase a new boiler unit or air conditioning system.
  • Programmable Thermostats. Many of the homes in our beautiful Queen City were built many years ago. If you have a house with a little bit of age on it, you might be missing out on easy savings by not cashing in on upgraded technology. You may be able to save up to 10% by installing a modern thermostat that can take care of temperatures whether you are at home or not.
  • Low-Flow Features. You might be surprised about how much water is potentially wasted in your home just by doing every day things like flushing the toilet. Installing low-flow faucets and toilets in your home can help you achieve significant annual savings on your water bill, and when tax time rolls around, you may find that these easy upgrades make you eligible for the government’s ENERGY STAR rebates.
  • New Heating & Cooling Systems. Sometimes, it is simply time for the big investment. If you need a new heating or cooling system, the right investment should keep your house happy and efficient for many years to come.

Would you like to know which energy-efficiency upgrades would be the best investments for your home? Call our team at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing today to schedule your home’s energy audit.


5 Benefits of a Programmable Thermostat That Every Homeowner Should Know

If you’re still using an analog or digital thermostat, isn’t it time you upgraded? Installing a programmable thermostat to control your home heating and cooling will make your life easier in terms of comfort, savings and convenience. Here’s how.

thermostat

Digital Thermostat being used
Source: istockphoto

Savings

Programmable thermostats are available with different programming modes. Lower or raise the heating or cooling as needed at night or while the family is away during the day. Keep the HVAC system on a regular schedule of at least eight-hour intervals, for heating or cooling, to be sure it runs more economically. Continuously overriding settings can be costly.

Convenience

A programmable thermostat allows a home’s occupants to rely on the programming to lower or raise the temperature. No one has to remember to reset the thermostat in the morning before everyone leaves, or interrupt other activities to adjust the system at night.

Comfort

In general, your home will be more comfortable if you allow the A/C or furnace to run according to programmed schedules. Winter or summer, you can program the furnace or air conditioner to rev up an before you get home, and before the household gets up in the morning, so that the home is a comfortable temperature when everyone’s moving around.

No Worries 

With a programmable thermostat, you don’t have to worry about wasting energy while you’re vacationing. Program the system to come on just enough in winter to keep pipes from freezing, and just enough in summer to manage humidity and heat that could harm paint, furnishings or plants.

Eco-friendly

Replacing an analog thermostat with a programmable one is an eco-friendly act. Analog models usually have mercury in them; when you have yours replaced, your HVAC consultant should dispose of the old thermostat in an environmentally responsible way. Programmable thermostats also help promote greater efficiency, so that homeowners use fewer energy resources.

Improve your home heating and cooling efficiency by having Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing install a programmable thermostat. We specialize in residential repair and replacement of HVAC systems in the Greater Cincinnati area.