Tips for Your Home Category
While today’s central air conditioners offer superior efficiency and reliability, a few common AC issues are still often responsible when problems occur. The average central air conditioner installed today can be expected to provide reliable cooling performance for 12 to 15 years or more with routine annual maintenance. Despite this long service life, however, certain shortfalls may recur that require extra attention. Here are three common A/C issues you may encounter along the way and how they are typically resolved.
No system parameter is more critical than adequate airflow. Declining efficiency, sub-standard cooling and increased wear and tear result when airflow falls below specs. Common causes include:
- Dirty air filter. The filter should be changed monthly during the cooling season. It’s an easy DIY task that takes just a few minutes. Ask your HVAC contractor to show you how if you don’t know.
- Closed or obstructed vents. If individual supply or return vents are shut or inadvertently blocked by furniture or other obstructions, system airflow suffers. Check all vents to verify they’re fully open.
- Leaking ducts. Residential ductwork is often leaky, typically losing 20% or more of airflow due to deteriorated joints and other issues. Ducts should be inspected and pressure-tested to determine extent of leakage. Sealing options are available to restore normal airflow.
Insufficient refrigerant circulating in the coils impacts A/C efficiency, cooling effectiveness and humidity extraction. Low refrigerant almost always indicates a small leak. A qualified HVAC technician using leak detection technology can repair the problem, then restore proper refrigerant level.
Both under-sized and over-sized air conditioners deliver poor performance, waste energy and often have shorter expected service life. Before selecting a new A/C, make sure the system accommodates the home’s cooling load. Conducted by a qualified HVAC technician, “sizing” involves a standardized survey to identify the unique thermal requirements of a house. Industry-standard software crunches this data to determine the exact A/C BTU capacity required for optimum cooling and lowest operating costs.
For professional advice and service to resolve common AC issues, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
A new AC installation is a step forward to greater energy efficiency, lower costs and—perhaps best of all—enhanced indoor comfort. The installation process is critical to getting all those benefits you deserve. If installation doesn’t meet standards, the system may not maintain consistent comfort, operating costs may be higher and excessive wear and tear may occur. To help ensure that a new system lives up to manufacturer’s specs as well as your own expectations, here are three things you can do to prepare for a new A/C installation.
- Make sure the unit is correctly sized. Every new installation should be preceded by a load calculation performed by a qualified HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) contractor. The process—known as “sizing”— consists of a room-by-room survey to quantify the unique thermal characteristics of the house. After this data is entered into industry-standard software called Manual J, the program calculates the BTU (British thermal unit) capacity required to cool the home more effectively and efficiently. This enables the contractor to match a new unit with the correct specs to do the job. It’s critical to get sizing right because both oversized and undersized HVAC units under-perform, cost more to operate, and often have shorter service life.
- Get the ductwork inspected. Connecting a new air conditioner to aging, leaky ductwork produces disappointing results. Residential ductwork typically leaks over 25% of the conditioned air it’s supposed to convey to all rooms throughout the house. This makes living spaces less comfortable and causes the A/C to run longer cycles, boosting operating costs. A qualified HVAC contractor can test the system for leakage and offer sealing options if required.
- Is there sufficient space? Installation of the outdoor component of a central A/C requires certain area to the rear or on one side of the house. Ensure shrubbery is cut away and any large objects relocated so the unit will have at least three feet of open area on all sides to ensure proper air circulation.
For more advice about the benefits of a professional AC installation, contact the experts at Apollo Heating, Cooling Electrical and Plumbing.
Fireplace installation isn’t as common in new home construction as they once were. However, the aesthetic appeal of a fireplace as well as as source of winter warmth holds an attraction for many. As a result, adding a fireplace is still a popular option with homeowners. To decide whether adding a fireplace is a good choice for your home, it’s necessary to consider a few important factors before you commit to the project. Here are some issues you’ll need to clarify first.
- Is the project feasible? Building codes may impose restrictions that make the addition problematic or prohibitively expensive. The height of the chimney may be strictly regulated and other details such as the firebox and flue may not fit your home’s existing construction. Further, local regulations may curtail the amount of smoke you’re allowed to emit.
- What about costs? Whether you choose a wood-burning or natural gas fireplace, the initial price will include the wood-burning firebox or factory-built gas/propane unit. The cost of adapting the existing structure for addition of a chimney, then framing and installing the chimney, as well as adding an interior mantle pushes the total much higher. You can cut that cost by opting for a fireplace that vents horizontally through the wall—known as direct venting—eliminating the expense of chimney installation.
- Does it add value? Some of your fireplace installation investment may be recouped via a higher property value. Although fireplaces are less often included in new construction, surveys show that a substantial majority of prospective home buyers still consider a fireplace to be a market value enhancement. However, other priorities today typically inspire higher market value than a fireplace.
- Will it reduce energy efficiency? To feed combustion, a roaring fire actually pulls warm indoor air out of the home, then sends the heat up the chimney, often increasing heating energy use. Costly thermal loss can be nearly eliminated, however, by installing a sealed unit that utilizes outdoor air for combustion as well as direct venting instead of a chimney.
For more about the pros and cons of adding a fireplace, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
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.
It probably comes as no surprise that there is dust invading your home. The amount, however, is remarkable: Studies have shown that a typical six-room American residence accumulates over 40 pounds of dust every year. Most airborne dust originates inside the house versus from outdoor sources. The diverse list includes carpet fibers, human skin flakes, spores from indoor mold growth, powder from drywall construction materials, fragments of dead insects, lint from bedding and pet hair and dander.
Some of the dust invading your home is an inevitable result of human occupation. However, it’s still feasible to reduce that 40-pound annual figure to a more manageable amount.
Don’t Spread It Around
Dust on surfaces can be removed with electrostatic microfiber cloths that retain dust. However, vacuuming carpets often stirs up large volumes of dust into the air instead of capturing it. To avoid re-distributing dust throughout the house, use a vacuum that incorporates a HEPA-grade filter and bags rated to retain dust particles as small as 5 microns.
Choose Quality Air Filters
The entire volume of air inside your home—including the dust floating in it—passes through the HVAC air filter multiple times each day. Cheap fiberglass filters don’t extract dust particles efficiently. Replace with quality pleated cotton or polyester filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) around 8. Change the air filter monthly during cooling season and every other month during heating season.
Maintain Your Ductwork
Leaky, deteriorating ductwork actually sucks in air from dusty parts of the structure such as the attic and crawl space, then circulates that dust into living spaces of the house. Have your ducts inspected and tested for leakage by a qualified HVAC contractor. Options for repair and sealing of ductwork help reduce dust circulation.
Rotate Bedding Weekly
Beds are a repository of shed skin flakes that contribute airborne dust every time you fluff the sheets. Wash pillowcases and sheets every week. Items that don’t require regular washing like blankets and bedspreads should be taken outside and shaken vigorously.
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.
New home owners and those renovating an existing home in Ohio are required to install carbon monoxide detectors if the house has an attached garage or any appliance that uses natural gas such as a stove or gas furnace. Deadly carbon monoxide gas (CO) is a colorless and odorless by-product of combustion of fuels like gasoline, natural gas or even wood in a fireplace. It kills about 500 Americans annually and over 10,000 people exposed to it require emergency room treatment. Many victims of CO gas are never aware of the threat as early symptoms of exposure can be mistaken for common illnesses such as the flu.
Today’s carbon monoxide detectors are sensitive, reliable units that detect increasing levels of CO gas in the home and alert occupants with a loud audible alarm. Most units are designed to warn people before CO levels become concentrated enough to cause noticeable symptoms. Here are some criteria for adding this critical safety factor to your home.
- Dual power source. For maximum safety, choose a plug-in detector that runs off of AC power and also incorporates a 9-volt backup battery to provide protection in the event of brief power outages.
- Sensor type. CO detectors that utilize an electrochemical sensor are considered state of the art today. They are more reliable and accurate than the metal oxide semiconductor sensor included in older, less expensive units.
- UL certified accuracy. Most CO detectors come with a specification that expresses the unit’s accuracy in parts-per-million of detected carbon monoxide. If the carbon monoxide detector is certified by Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL), the unit’s accuracy has also been tested and verified by UL.
- End of life alert. Carbon monoxide detectors have a finite service life of 5 to 7 years. After that point, the unit is no longer reliable and must be replaced. Look for a detector that emits an audio alert when the time to replace the unit is approaching.
Don’t take chances with your family’s health and safety. Ask the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing for more advice about installing carbon monoxide detectors.
A whole house water filtration system purifies all water entering your home and supplied to every fixture. This important fact distinguishes a whole-house system from individual point-of-use units that filter water at a single tap or fixture only. A whole house water filtration system is also not the same as a water softener. Though the water softening process removes certain minerals from the household water, it doesn’t eliminate chemical impurities.
Installed by a qualified professional plumber, a whole-house system is typically located in your main water supply line just after it enters the house and before the line splits off to the water heater. This ensures that all water—cold or hot—utilized in the house is subjected to filtration. Generally, whole-house filtration should be considered to eliminate these water quality issues:
- Sediment including sand, dirt and mineral granules resulting from hard water.
- Chemicals including chlorine, pesticides and solvents.
- Iron that naturally occurs in some municipal water supplies.
To properly compare and contrast whole-house filtration units, here are some characteristics to consider:
- Flow rate. Each whole-house filter system has a maximum flow rating expressed in gallons per minute (gpm.) The total household water usage of all taps and fixtures should not exceed the flow rating of the system. For example, a filtration system rated for only 10 gpm will not supply acceptable water pressure if household demand is in the range of 15 gpm to 40 gpm that is typical for most residences.
- Filter size. Larger filters deliver higher water flow rate and pressure. For most houses, a system with standard 4.5-inch x 20-inch filters is adequate. Households requiring more than 25 gpm flow rate may require a larger filter to accommodate higher water pressure.
- Filter life. Sediment filter life varies according to the amount and size of sediment in the water supply. In a typical home, carbon filters that remove chemicals including chlorine should usually filter up to 150,000 gallons of water before requiring replacement.
For professional advice about selecting the right whole-house water filtration system, contact Apollo Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electrical.
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.