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  • Why Is My Utility Bill Increasing?

    Increasing Utility Bill?

    You know it’s coming — that dreaded utility bill every month!

    You have tried to keep your budget in check, but you also want the temperature to be comfortable in your home! Deep in your soul, are you wondering if the source of your high utility bill is your inefficient heating or cooling equipment? Why do you feel guilty every time you adjust the temperature on your thermostat or control system? Let’s do some soul searching!


    Age and Maintenance

     

    As you may have heard, some things get better with age — wine, jeans, and maybe you! The good news is that properly installed heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment is designed to perform the job it was intended for:  to heat and cool your home for many, many comfortable years.

     

    However, just like you, HVAC equipment may lose efficiency over time if not appropriately maintained. Routine maintenance can play a big part in maximizing the longevity and maintaining the energy-efficient performance your equipment. It’s as important as going to the dentist! Take care of what’s important, and it should take care of you.

     

    Over time, lapses in annual maintenance may impact the delicate balancing act between HVAC equipment, air flow, and mechanics. If one or more components are not functioning as designed, the entire system may be affected and impact longevity and efficiency. Routine maintenance may extend the life of your HVAC equipment and possibly prevent minor issues from turning into expensive major problems over time.1


    Operating Costs

     

    If your HVAC equipment was installed in 2006, the Pittsburgh Steelers had just won their fifth Super Bowl, and average residential, retail price for electricity was 10.40¢ per Kilowatt hour.2  As long as you were a Pittsburgh fan and your HVAC equipment was installed properly, life may have been pretty good in your house!

     

    But in 2016 the average residential electricity price per Kilowatt hour was 12.55¢, and it doesn’t look like electricity is getting any cheaper.3 The Energy Information Administration forecasts the July 2018 price to be near 13.33¢ per Kilowatt hour4, which may impact your utility bill even more! 

     

    Fortunately, technology improvements have resulted in higher energy efficiency ratings for new indoor comfort systems. Yet, unless you implement these advancements, alter your electricity usage, or make an effort to increase your home’s insulation or R-value, your utility costs may have risen nearly 21% in 10 years.


    Efficiency Standards and Features

     

    You may think that you are saving money by putting off the installation of new heating or cooling equipment, but it may be costing you more than you think. Today’s high-efficiency systems may dramatically reduce energy usage, thereby lowering your monthly cooling bills.

     

    Since 2006, the minimum energy efficiency standards of HVAC equipment, such as SEER, Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) and Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) numbers have been on an upward trajectory, providing homeowners with greater options of energy efficient heating and cooling systems. It’s increasingly common to see residential HVAC equipment such as air conditioner and heat pumps reaching 18 SEER, 9.5 HSPF performance, and natural gas furnaces with efficiency ratings up to 98% AFUE.

     


    Energy-efficient features, such as variable speed fans, variable speed compressors, and heat exchanger technology have also ushered in a new era of HVAC equipment. Not only do these features offer the benefits of increased energy efficiency when compared to some older or base models, but they may also help keep your budget in check and greatly improve your overall comfort level in your home.

     

    But high-efficient HVAC equipment with innovative technology is only one piece of the puzzle. If other key energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like. Additional factors that can influence heating and cooling efficiency levels include, but are not limited to:

    • Local climate
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Ductwork
    • Installation and maintenance schedule
    • Insulation and construction methods
    • Windows and doors

     

    If you are curious how your indoor heating and cooling equipment may be affecting your monthly utility bill or want to learn ways to improve efficiency, talk to your local professional licensed HVAC dealer. 

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    1 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner
    2,3 U.S. EIA. (2017, May). Monthly Energy Review, Average Retail Prices of Electricity. Retrieved from U.S. Energy Information Administration: https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec9_11.pdf

    4 Short-Term Energy Outlook, January 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved from US Energy Information Administration: http://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/report/electricity.cfm

     

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  • Is Your HVAC System as Smart as Your Phone?

    Has HVAC Technology Caught up with the Smart Phone

    Once upon a time, a phone had a single, exclusive purpose — to speak to another person. Wow, how times have changed! The warp speed of advancing technology has propelled the telephone from a single-function device to a tool capable of almost infinite possibilities.

     

    As technology seeps into nearly every aspect of our daily lives, more and more homeowners are embracing the concept that all of the systems in their home should be as smart as their mobile.  You may not have noticed, but your central heating and cooling systems have gotten much ‘smarter’ over the past several years.

    Current HVAC Technology

     

    Comfort features and energy-efficiency ratings of furnaces, heat pumps and air conditioner continue to advance, but the equipment is not a multi-functional tool equal to that of a smart phone. This equipment is built to perform a single function — to heat or cool your home. 

    However, your indoor comfort system has made significant technological advancements over the past few years. Today’s thermostats or control systems offer a wide range of control features and connectivity with your Smartphone, making them even easier to align your indoor comfort with your lifestyle.

     

    Some current technology includes the following:

    Smart thermostats: As demand increases, more and more manufacturers are designing smart temperature control technology. Some thermostats or HVAC control systems have advanced technology that will learn your routine, adjust the temperature according to your preferences, and offer remote access from your smart phone.

    Many smart thermostats integrate directly with your smart phone through a dedicated app and are compatible with a centralized “hub,” such as Amazon Alexa devices* or Google Home products*. Each system has specific integration capabilities so be sure read the details specific to your needs.

    Some companies are bridging the smart home/HVAC integration gap by offering home automation, energy management solutions, and interactive monitoring of heating and cooling systems. New, built-in smart HVAC communicating technology is offering a solution to the compatibility challenges of the past between the heating and cooling equipment and the smart home concept.

    Location Services: Just as your car’s Bluetooth technology may recognize your phone and automatically connect when you get in your vehicle, certain smart thermostats and control systems can recognize your location based on your smart phone’s location.

     

    With location servicing, you may set your thermostat or control system to reach a preset temperature when you enter or leave a certain radius of your home. When set up to your specific criteria, this technology tailors your home’s temperature to your movements.  It can be a set it and forget it convenience the may maximize your comfort and save in energy usage when you aren’t home.

    Occupancy Sensing: Occupancy sensing allows you to customize the indoor temperatures based on room activity. Wireless sensors use motion detection technology and temperature/humidity level readings in a specific area to automatically adjust your compatible thermostat or control systems setting according to your preferences.

    If you have more than one thermostat or control system in your home, a series of wireless sensors can communicate to a particular zone.  These sensors can communicate individual readings, and the thermostat or control system can average them out to make the necessary adjustments to the indoor temperature of that zone.

     

    If your rooms utilize individual mini-splits and occupancy sensors, each room’s temperature can be set to a specific setting and turn on/off depending on occupancy.

    Homeowner alerts: Once a thermostat or control system is installed and connected to your smart phone, you can receive notifications. These notifications may inform you to change your air filter or schedule maintenance. 

     

    If your HVAC system has a communication-enabled feature, it can alert you to conditions or functions that may require professional services. You may even be able to schedule an HVAC service before you arrive home to a hot or cold house!


    Energy-Efficiency: Not only can smart, programmable temperature control make your life more comfortable and convenient, but some thermostats or control systems have shown that they can save you money in the long run.1

     

    While individual results may vary, the technology offers the possibility to conserve energy. When products are pre-programmed to fit your needs, it reduces the chance that they are operating when no one needs them.


    What's New in HVAC Technology?

     

    Innovative technology is now being factory-installed into high-efficiency gas furnaces and air handlers. By incorporating the communicating technology directly into the indoor HVAC equipment, a system can gather performance data and uses it to automatically make adjustments to create a consistent level of indoor comfort. The technology is designed to squeeze as much performance as possible out of the system, while using the least amount of energy.

     

    History has proven that as technology is more widely accepted and adopted, costs come down. In 1983, the first mobile phone cost nearly $4000. The cost prohibited the “Average Joe” from using them. But over time, the price point came down and allowed for widespread adoption.

     

    The same is happening with technologically advanced HVAC equipment and temperature control systems. Greater adoption of smart home technology and communicating equipment could eventually mean even lower costs to the average homeowner.

     

    Cutting Edge HVAC

     

    As technology becomes more integrated into the HVAC equipment, your furnace, air conditioner or heat pump may be able to communicate directly to your dealer or technician. They will be able to see status updates of your heating or cooling system without traveling to your home. This technology could allow for proactive maintenance or service scheduling, possibly before you realize that it’s necessary.

    In theory, the technician or dealer will be able to contact the homeowner regarding the notification, arrive at their home with the correct part(s) and be sure the HVAC system is maintained without the homeowner having to lift a finger or experience an uncomfortable temperature in their home.

    Wireless technology: Re-wiring can be expensive in an existing home.  Wireless-enabled devices that encourage home automation may require less labor and infrastructure fixes to install. Wireless thermostats or control systems may be able to communicate with your HVAC system directly.  This also means that your HVAC system may, one day, be able to communicate directly with your smart phone, eliminating the need to a walled temperature control device. The dawn of a home without a thermostat or control system may be just around the corner.

    Increased Adoption of Sensor Technology: Sensor technology that determines room occupancy and temperature settings is in its beginning stages of adoption. Just as motion-activated lights are common, so will sensor technology for indoor comfort. In the future, occupancy sensing may also have a Bluetooth-enabled feature in addition to motion, optimizing your heating and cooling as you move through your home.

    Energy-Efficiency: There may come a time when entry-level HVAC equipment will incorporate the same advanced energy-efficient and comfort features that are currently offered in higher end models. The push for more efficient and environmentally-friendly consumer products will continue to drive HVAC technology and will provide more customized, energy-saving home automation products.

    The thought of turning everyday products, including heating and cooling equipment into smart products sounds complicated. However, the smart home concept will be more attainable for everyone with ongoing technological advancements, affordability, and usability.

    *Alexa is trademarked by Amazon.com Inc. or its affiliates and Google Home is trademarked by Google Inc.


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    1  Parker, D., Sutherland, K., & Chasar, D. (2016). Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. ACEEE. Retrieved from http://aceee.org/files/proceedings/2016/data/papers/8_163.pdf

     
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  • Are you Paying Too Much for Indoor Comfort?

    Lower utility bills with high efficiency AC or gas furnace

    Monthly energy bills remind us that indoor comfort comes at a cost. But, what if you could spend less on those bills without sacrificing a degree of indoor comfort? If your heating or cooling system is more than ten years old, there is a good chance that your equipment may not have the same energy-efficiency ratings or performance features of one that was built this year! Your current equipment could be causing you to pay more than necessary on your energy bill every month!
     

    The Energy Bill

     
    First, you need to understand which home appliances contribute to your energy bill.  According to ENERGY STAR®, “Understanding what goes into those monthly charges could put you in a better position to reduce them.”1 While each home’s heating and cooling configuration and homeowner usage patterns are different, ENERGY STAR® suggests that up to 43% of a year’s total energy costs may be from maintaining a comfortable temperature inside your home.2
     
    According to the Consumer Technology Association, the average homeowner owns 24 home electronic products.3 As homeowners gather a larger collection of mobile devices and associated electronics, more energy dollars will be funneled to supporting these products. So how can a homeowner compensate for these added home electronics on their energy bill? It may be time to take more control over the costs of critical systems - such as your central heating and cooling system!
     
    New interactive home automation platforms now provide solutions to intelligently monitor your home’s energy usage in real time — seeing the amount you spend on energy in your home at any given point in the day or night. Some of these smart home energy meters offer a complete home energy breakdown profile of where you’re using energy, when you’re using it, and how much it costs you in real-time. And let’s face it, using less energy at home may mean saving more money on your utility bills.
     

    Check Energy Efficiency Ratings

     
    Evaluating the energy-efficiency and operational performance of your gas furnace, air conditioner or heat pump may help you see if you are throwing potential savings out the window. The higher the energy-efficiency rating of your heating and cooling system, the more you may save on your monthly energy bill compared to lower efficiency systems. 
     
    The good news is that since 2006, the minimum energy efficiency standards of HVAC equipment have increased. So, if your system is rated less than the current minimum standard, you may be paying too much for indoor comfort!
     
    So what are the current standards?
     
    SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio): Measures the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the unit operates. Currently, the minimum SEER rating for central air conditioners and heat pumps is 14 SEER in the South and Southwest regions of the U.S. and 13 SEER in the North.  
     
    AFUE (The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency): Measurement that indicates how well fuel is consumed to produce heat by a gas furnace. As the AFUE rate increases, the efficiency of your gas furnace also increases. (NOTE: For specific AFUE standards, click here)
     
    HSPF (Heating Season Performance Factor): A number represents the total heat output of a heat pump, including the supplementary electric heat. The higher the HSPF, the more efficient the heating performance of the heat pump. New units in the United States must have HSPF ratings from 7.0 to 9.4. (NOTE: For specific HSPF standards by state, click here)
     
    High-efficiency systems are designed and engineered to operate more efficiently than their standard-efficiency counterparts. It’s increasingly common to see residential HVAC equipment such as air conditioner and heat pumps reaching up to 18 SEER, 10 HSPF performance, and natural gas furnaces with efficiency ratings up to 98% AFUE.
     
    The initial cost of a high-efficiency unit may be more expensive than a lower rated model. However, lower monthly energy costs can result in substantial operational savings over the life of a new high-efficiency system, often making up for the initial price difference.4 This is especially true if you intend to use your new high-efficiency heating and cooling system for years to come.
     
    Not only may energy-efficiency features help keep your monthly budget in check, installing a high-efficiency system may greatly improve your overall comfort level in your home. To discover current system technologies available that may improve the energy efficiency of your home, discuss the various options and potential cost saving with your licensed professional HVAC dealer.
     

    Shut the Front Door!

     
    Energy vampires that drive up your utility bill can creep into your home from many areas. High-efficient heating and cooling equipment is only one method to save on monthly energy bills. If other key energy-efficient solutions are overlooked, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like. And, that could make you uncomfortable. Additional factors that can influence heating and cooling efficiency levels may include, but are not limited to:
    • Local climate
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Ductwork
    • Installation and maintenance schedule
    • Insulation and construction methods
    • Windows and doors
     
    If you are curious how your indoor heating and cooling equipment may be affecting your monthly utility bill or want to learn ways to improve efficiency, talk to your licensed professional HVAC dealer.

    cta-outline_affordable
     
    1, 2 Energy Star. "Ask the Expert, Breaking Down the Typical Utility Bill." 16 February 2016. www.energystar.gov. https://www.energystar.gov/products/ask-the-expert/breaking-down-the-typical-utility-bill. 13 December 2017.
    3 Consumer Technology Association. "Press Release." 11 May 2015. Consumer Technology Association. https://www.cta.tech/News/Press-Releases/2015/May/Owning-Innovation-CEA-Study-Shows-Major-Shifts-in.aspx. 13 December 2017.
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  • Why Does my Neighbor's Air Conditioner Sound Loud?

    Loud AC

    As they say, silence in golden! However, there is something special about the sounds of children playing, birds chirping in the trees and the soft hum of an air conditioner in the warm summer months.  But if you have recently upgraded your air conditioner and are enjoying the benefits of a quieter operation, you may notice some new sounds that weren’t so obvious before — especially the sound of your neighbor’s air conditioner!


    The Sound of Indoor Comfort

     

    When you are in a library, even a whisper can seem loud. If your air conditioner was upgraded from a single-stage, inefficient unit to a two-stage or variable speed, high efficiency system, you might be enjoying a quieter outdoor environment, but you may be more aware of other surrounding sounds! Simply stated, your new energy efficient system has operational noise levels lower than the old inefficient heating and cooling system you replaced. The noise from your old unit covered up the noise from your neighbors system. When your unit’s noise is reduced, suddenly it may seem like the neighbor’s unit got louder but that may not be accurate.


    When an air conditioning system turns ON and OFF, it creates sound. If the thermostat or control system detects that it is too hot indoors, a single-stage air conditioning system will turn on at full power and move cooled, conditioned air at one consistent speed until the thermostat setting was /is satisfied. When the indoor temperature reached the setting, then the whole system shuts down just as quickly as it started.

    A two-stage air conditioning system is designed to operate lower and higher speed options, minimizing the effect of full ON  or  OFF cycling compared to single speed units. Two-speed and variable speed systems do tend to run longer because they were engineered to maintain consistent indoor comfort at the lower speed. This may also reduce the ON/OFF noise when compared to a single stage unit because it cycles less often.  


    A variable speed unit can adjust output levels at various speeds depending on the thermostat or control system settings. These systems tend to run for longer periods but at a lower capacity to maintain indoor comfort.  


    Listen Up!

     

    A sporadic  ON/OFF cycle may catch your attention, but when an air conditioner’s soft hum amplifies into something else, neighbors may start to take notice. Air conditioning components are designed and engineered to contribute to the efficient transfer of heat and movement of cool, conditioned air. As a result, there are lots of sound-producing moving parts! Yet, when a component’s intended function is compromised, an air conditioner’s hum may turn into a buzzing roar, rattle or screech.  If there is a significant change in sounds, it may be a signal to contact a licensed professional HVAC dealer for an inspection. 

     

    There are certain noises that are the result of a particular action. If you bang two pots together, you will get a clanging sound.  In an air conditioner, a rattling sound may indicate that the fan blade may need an adjustment or be cleaned of debris. Changes in the particular sound coming from an air conditioner may indicate:

    • Loose parts, bearings or motor components
    • Dirt or debris is interfering with proper operation
    • A particular part is out of balance
    • Bearings need lubrication
    • Piping to the inside is rubbing against an object
    • Coils need to be cleaned
    • Air filter needs to be changed
    • An issue with the compressor


    Measures in Maintenance

     

    Notating new sounds may assist an HVAC dealer with determining the probable cause and a potential fix. Regular maintenance performed by a licensed professional HVAC dealer may ward off noise-inducing malfunctions, potentially reduce the cooling emergencies and help extend the life of your system. While each contractor has their own air conditioning maintenance process, professional maintenance services may include the inspection of sound producing elements as well as:

    • Check for adequate air flow
    • Inspect refrigerant lines
    • Clear drain lines and pans
    • Inspect exterior fan and lubricate moving parts
    • Check and tighten and loose electrical connections
    • Inspect system controls
    • Replace parts that are showing wear and tear


    Resounding Air

     

    If unusual noises are coming from the air registers (the vents where the conditioned air is blown into a room), ductwork should be inspected. Loose or ill-fitting ducts, as well as debris in the ductwork, may reverberate or echo sounds through the registers into living spaces.

    An air condition system is intentionally sized and installed to move a specific amount of air. When unusual sounds come from the register, it may indicate a pressure imbalance between the air drawn into the system and cooled, conditioned air flowing into the indoor spaces. If the air filter or supply vents are blocked, intake duct work is impaired or too many registers are closed off, the pressure and the speed of the air may change from intended set up, possibly increasing the sound level.  A professional licensed HVAC dealer can inspect the air conditioning system to determine if proper air flow is being compromised.  

     

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  • Why do Air Filters and MERV Ratings Matter?

    What's in your air filter?

    You vacuum, sweep, dust, and even give your pet a bath, but your air filter may still become coated with “stuff” that has been floating around the conditioned air.  Your air filters may reveal a dirty little secret - the air you breathe may not be as fresh as you think!

    Where are the Indoor Particulates?

     

    “Particulates” is the fancy word for the “stuff” found floating in the ductwork your home. This is the “stuff” that is captured in your HVAC filter. According to the EPA1, a basic air filter with a low Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (commonly known as MERV) may capture some of your home’s airborne particulates including, but not limited to:

    • Dust
    • Pollen
    • Animal dander
    • Larger particles that contain dust mite and cockroach allergens

    Air filters are crucial to the proper operation of an HVAC system because they are intended to minimize the number of particulates landing on fan motors and heating or cooling coils. Routinely replacing the air filter as directed by the manufacturer’s guidelines can protect your HVAC equipment and may help your HVAC system from losing efficiency over time! A clogged air filter can increase your air conditioner's energy consumption by up to 15%.2

    What’s MERV got to do with it?

     

    MERV is not the guy you met at the gym! MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) is number value that distinguishes the filtration ability of air filters installed in your HVAC system.3 The MERV numbering system can range from 1 to 20. The higher the MERV number, the better the filter may be at trapping particulates. This means that fewer particles and airborne contaminants can pass through a high MERV filter to your HVAC equipment.

     

    Residential furnaces and air conditioners commonly use 1 to 4 MERV rated filters. The EPA says that basic mechanical air filters may not be very good at completely removing particulates.4 However, these filters may stop some larger particles from passing through to the HVAC equipment.

     

    If the MERV rating if higher, there is a better chance of trapping “bacteria, some spores, a significant fraction of cat and dog allergens, and a small portion of dust mite allergens.”5 The EPA suggests that filters with a MERV rating between 7 and 13 can be as nearly as effective as true HEPA filters.

     

    However, some residential HVAC systems may not have enough fan or motor capacity to accommodate higher efficiency filters. Therefore, talk with your technician about your HVAC manufacturer’s recommended filter type before upgrading to higher MERV filters. Installing true HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filters in an existing home HVAC system typically requires professional modification of the system.

     

    If you are concerned with indoor pollutants, discuss possible solutions and products with your licensed professional HVAC dealer.

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    1, 2 Guide to Indoor Air Cleaners in the Home. (2014, July). Retrieved from EPA: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-07/documents/aircleaners.pdf

    3 What Are MERV Ratings and How Do They Work? (n.d.). Retrieved from Air Purifier Guide: http://www.airpurifierguide.org/faq/merv-ratings

    4 Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). (n.d.). Retrieved from EPA: https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/residential-air-cleaners-second-edition-summary-available-information#summary

    5 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner

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  • How Smart is Your Thermostat?

    smart thermostats and comfort

    Once upon a time, homeowners like you had to adjust their indoor temperatures by opening windows or fueling fires. Luckily, in 1883 a Wisconsin professor grew tired of having a cold classroom. The professor found himself continuously searching for the janitor in charge of the basement furnace who was responsible for adjusting dampers. As a result, the professor, Warren Johnson, invented the first thermostat.

     

    The Basic Thermostat

     

    Today, it’s hard to imagine a modern home without a device to set the desired indoor temperature. The basic thermostat, which has been a staple in home construction for a few decades, is designed to turn on the central heating and cooling system at one temperature and off at another. There are three basic operations that even the simplest thermostat has:


    • A HEAT, COOL and OFF switch
    • An ON or AUTO fan switch
    • A means to increase or decrease the temperature settings

     

    While these options provide functionality to your heating and cooling system, additional options may be required depending on your specific HVAC scenario. For example, a thermostat for a heat pump may include an option for auxiliary heat. The auxiliary heat switch activates the air handler’s (the most common inside component of a heat pump system) heat strips to turn on to supplement the output. 

     

    The Programmable Thermostat

     

    With the entry of the programmable thermostat, the sophistication level of indoor temperature control was elevated. Some of the early programmable thermostats could be difficult to program. The newer ones of today are more intuitive and simpler to operate by comparison. By pre-programming temperature settings that align with lifestyles and preferences, homeowners can create an environment that makes their family most comfortable and potentially save money in the process. A programmable thermostat or control system can save you as much as $180 every year in energy costs when properly programmed.1

    If you need assistance with determining set points times and temperatures, ENERGY STAR® suggests the following:2 

    Programmable thermostat recommendations 

    The Smart Thermostat or Control System

     

    But as today’s consumers are increasingly looking for ways to connect their lives and homes, intelligent heating and cooling devices are becoming more commonly accepted. Enter the smart thermostat or control system; a Wi-Fi enabled device that automatically adjusts heating and cooling temperature settings for optimal performance.3

     

    In late 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the first-ever ENERGY STAR® specification for smart thermostats. “The challenge in identifying household thermostats that save energy is accounting for how an individual or family ultimately sets the temperature.”4 “Anyone who cares about energy savings but is too busy to think about their heating and cooling use can be assured that these products have shown they help other busy families,” said Abi Daken, program manager for ENERGY STAR® HVAC products.5

     

    When integrated with popular consumer electronics, homeowners now have the option of even more sophisticated indoor temperature control than with previous traditional or basic programmable thermostats. For example, both the Amazon Echo and Google Home integrate with the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort App to provide advanced inter-connectivity and voice control ability.

     

    Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker that uses Alexa Voice Assistant to control devices in your home.


    • The Amazon Echo allows direct control of certain smart thermostats or control systems, taking your home comfort to the next level.
    • Homeowners can install the Alexa App on their smart home device. Once installed, you can search for the “skills” list for your particular smart thermostat. Amazon Alexa puts you in command of your home through voice controls that can be used with individual smart thermostats or group names. Here are a two examples of the commands you can use to operate your thermostat hands-free:
      • The family cooking session was too hot. Ask Alexa to cool down the room. Command: “Alexa, lower the temperature by 3 degrees.”
      • Too chilly for your guests? Alexa can make it warmer. Say: “Alexa, raise the temperature by 2 degrees.”

     

    Google Home is a voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant.


    • Homeowners can control their smart thermostat control system hands-free, receive important notifications and automate their home to react to your unique preferences.
    • Simply install the Google Home app onto your smartphone and link your smart thermostat in a few easy steps.
    • A simple voice command like "Ok Google, set the temperature to 72 degrees" can provide automated home comfort.

     

    Even without these dedicated smart devices, homeowners may be able to control certain smart thermostats or control systems directly through a smartphone and/or tablet app. When a compatible smart thermostat or control system is installed, a coordinating App may be able to remotely monitor and manage home comfort, and possibly energy use anytime, anywhere.

     

    In the near future, a thermostat or control system mounted on a home’s wall may not even be necessary. The dawn of a home without a thermostat or control system may be just around the corner.

     

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    1 Thermostats. n.d. <https://energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats>.

    2 "A Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling." August 2009. Energy Star. <https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/HeatingCoolingGuide%20FINAL_9-4-09.pdf>.

    3 ENERGY STAR®. Certified Products. 2017. https://www.energystar.gov/products/heating_cooling/smart_thermostats. 27 March 2017.

    4, 5 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. ENERGY STAR® Ends the Thermostat Wars by Introducing FIrst-Ever Smart Thermostat Specification. 1 March 2017. <https://www.energystar.gov/about/content/energy_star_ends_thermostat_wars_introducing_first_ever_smart_thermostat_specification>.



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  • Three Common Questions Homeowners ask HVAC Technic ...

    3_HVAC questions for experts

    Spending money on home heating and cooling often feels like buying tires — you know you need them, but you don’t want to buy them and you don’t want to experience a blowout while driving! So it’s kind of a complex situation. But depending on where you live, you’ll likely need a whole house heating and cooling system to regulate your indoor comfort. 

    Unlike buying tires, too many homeowners wait until their heating and cooling system fails before thinking about repairing or buying a new system. That’s why an air conditioner, heat pump or a gas furnace should be considered a quality of life investment for your home and family. So naturally, you will have some questions when the heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) expert arrives at your home.

    Here are some of the most common questions:

    How much is this going to cost me?

     

    The thought of unknown and unplanned HVAC replacement costs can be financially daunting. Service rates, replacement parts and entire systems have a wide range of costs, making it difficult to budget for your HVAC technician’s arrival.  On top of that, every home set up and homeowner expectations are different. While costs are specific to your service and customized to your system needs, costs can be broken down into the following three categories:


    Maintenance:
    Scheduled heating and cooling maintenance is intended to be a service-oriented visit. Many HVAC technicians offer a flat rate for maintenance, but your costs may depend on your home’s number of units, your location, and even the HVAC company.  If you have a heating and cooling maintenance service contract, your maintenance visit may be set at a pre-determined, discounted rate.
      

    The cost of maintenance contracts can vary greatly. You can find maintenance plans for as little as $100, but you should compare companies, coverages and included services to determine which plan is right for you.1

    While you may want to forgo routine HVAC maintenance, preventive maintenance on your heating and cooling system may prevent minor issues from turning into expensive, major problems over time and could maximize the lifecycle of your heating or cooling unit.2 According to the experts, it’s worth the money.3 

    Repair: The cost to repair to your heating or cooling system may consist of a set service call fee, the time associated to make the repair and the specific replacement parts required for your system. If you need a service call outside regular working hours, labor fees may be more expensive than during normal business hours. The cost for HVAC repairs can vary just as much as car repairs — ranging from less than $100 to a few thousand dollars depending on the work required.

    The more costly a repair, the more you should consider getting additional quotes. You want the best price to get the job done right, so take the time to hire the right HVAC dealer! Follow up repairs, lackluster energy efficiency, excessive utility bills and compromised indoor comfort may be just a few of the long term consequences associated with hiring the wrong technician.

    Replacement: There are multiple considerations that go into the cost of installing a new energy efficient heating or cooling system in your home. The following are just a few of the variables that determine the price of your new heating or cooling system. 

    • Your home: You home’s square footage and construction impact the size and required capacity of your heating and cooling system. Typically, larger capacity or tonnage units are more expensive than smaller capacity or tonnage units.
    • Complexity of installation: The more complex the installation, the more it may cost for labor, installation and additional parts.
    • Location, location, location: Every location has cost-of-living variables, supply/demand characteristics, and site-specific regulations. Your home’s location may impact the cost of housing-related products, including new heating and cooling equipment.
    • System features: Some innovative features may cost more upfront, but are designed and engineered to improve the energy efficiency of the air conditioner.
    • Additional parts: For a new unit to be installed in your home according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, the set-up or configuration modifications may require additional parts.

    How do I know when it’s time to replace my old system?


    Despite efforts to prolong the life of your heating or cooling system, there may come a time when it is better to replace your furnace rather than repair it. Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the unit and the expectations of the homeowner. A professional licensed HVAC technician can provide you with a customized estimate of repair cost, as well as supply equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit. Below are a few factors that may help you to determine if it’s time to replace your old heating or cooling system.

    Years in operation: Discuss the typical lifespan of your heating or cooling equipment with your HVAC technician.  Lifespan depends on many variables including usage, maintenance, installation and system set-up. 

    Continuous or costly repairs: How expensive does an air conditioner repair need to be before it’s worth it to upgrade to a new system?

    Lackluster energy efficiency and increasing utility bills: If your aging unit has a low-efficiency rating, it may be cost-effective to replace it with a more energy-efficient model. The long-term utility bill savings of purchasing a higher efficiency system may outweigh the price of a series of costly repairs.  

    Compromised indoor comfort: Advanced features, such as improved motor and compressor technologies, as well as smart home automation and communication may provide homeowners with more precise temperature control, noise reduction and energy efficiency when compared to their current model.

    Length of home ownership: You should evaluate how long you plan to live in your current home. Typically, the longer you plan to live in your house, the longer you have to recover the cost of a new high-efficiency heating or cooling system unit.

    How can I save money on my utility bills?


    The more electricity or fuel your household uses, the higher your utility bill will be. So, to cut utility bills, you have to reduce the amount of energy that your home uses. One way is with energy-efficiency heating and cooling systems.  Today’s HVAC systems are designed to offer a range of energy-efficient features that may help you save on your utility bill.

    Gas Furnace: A gas furnace can offer an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) as high as 98.5%, meaning nearly all the energy purchased is used for heating your home. The minimum efficiency standard for furnaces using natural gas is currently 80%  AFUE.  

    Heat pump in heating mode: Some heat pumps offer Heating Season Performance Factor (HSPF) of 9 or higher, which may provide significant energy efficiency and savings on monthly heating bills when compared to a lower HSPF model operating under the same conditions. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is currently 8.2 HSPF. 

    Air conditioner or heat pump in cooling mode: It’s increasingly common to see residential HVAC cooling equipment being installed with up to 18 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The minimum efficiency standard for split system air conditioners is currently 13 SEER in northern states and 14 SEER in southern states. The minimum efficiency standard for split system heat pumps is 14 SEER.

    High-efficient HVAC equipment with innovative technology is only one piece of the puzzle. If other key energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like. Additional factors that can influence heating and cooling efficiency levels include, but are not limited to:

    • Routine air filter replacements
    • Local climate
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Ductwork
    • Installation and maintenance schedule
    • Insulation and construction methods
    • Windows and doors
    • Programmable thermostats

    If you are curious how your indoor heating and cooling equipment may be affecting your monthly utility bill or want to learn ways to improve efficiency, talk to your local professional licensed HVAC dealer.

    Goodman Find a Dealer

    1 Consumer Checkbook. Are HVAC Services Contracts Worth It? November 2016. https://www.checkbook.org/national/air-conditioning-and-heating-contractors/articles/Are-HVAC-Service-Contracts-Worth-It-2909. 22 August 2017.
    2 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. n.d. <http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner>.
    3 Energy Star. Maintenance Checklist. n.d. https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=heat_cool.pr_maintenance. 22 August 2017.

     

     

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  • Three Easy Ways to Ruin Your HVAC System

    How to Ruin Your Heating and Cooling System

    No one intentionally ruins their heating or cooling system – just like they don’t intentionally destroy a car, drop food on a white shirt, or crack a cell phone screen.  But unfortunately, homeowner actions ruin heating and cooling systems more than you would expect!
     
    Let’s take a look at three common areas that may shorten the lifespan of your HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system.
     
    Air Filters
     
    If you want to ruin your heating or cooling system, don’t change your air filters!
     
    Dirty filters block airflow that your system uses to heat or cool your indoor spaces. When these pathways get clogged with dust and debris, your system has to work harder to pull the air into the heating and cooling system. After some time, a dirty air filter may affect your system’s operation.
     
    Clean air filters may also help keep your HVAC system clean.  They can reduce the number of “particulates” that may land on the fan motors and coils, which may hinder the designed performance of those parts. Your HVAC filter is designed to capture this “stuff” so it stays out of your system.
     
    Did you know that a clogged air filter may increase your system’s energy consumption by up to 15%.1 That means that your utility bill may be higher just because of dirty air filters! By replacing the air filter according to your heating and cooling manufacturer’s guidelines, you may help keep your monthly energy bill in check. You may even save more money if you can protect your HVAC equipment from losing efficiency over time! Keep those air filters clean!
     
    So you may be thinking, “I should get the highest-rated filter available.” But, the best filter is the one that matches your system’s fan or motor capacity. Some residential HVAC systems may not have the capacity to accommodate higher efficiency filters. Be sure to talk with your heating and cooling technician about your HVAC manufacturer’s recommended filter type before upgrading to high MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) filter.
     
    HVAC Maintenance
     
    If you want to ruin your heating or cooling system, never let a professional HVAC dealer perform regular maintenance on the system! 
     
    Routine maintenance plays a big part in maximizing the lifespan and efficiency of your gas furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner. During an inspection, your dealer may identify airflow problems, system leaks, coil issues or potential concerns that could cause your system to operate below its designed performance level. Over time, if one or more parts are not functioning as designed, the entire system may be affected.
     
    Maintaining a comfortable and consistent temperature in your home is a delicate balancing act between the HVAC equipment, individual parts and mechanics, and air flow. The longer the system is out of balance, the more likely that issues will be compounded – which may lead to additional expense, decreased operational performance, and eventually ruin your system. Routine maintenance may fine-tune this balance, making sure the system doesn’t stray too far from proper operation. These small adjustments may make a difference!
     
    Do-It-Yourself
     
    If you are not a licensed professional HVAC technician and you try to do repairs yourself, you could ruin the system and cause harm to your person! (A note of caution. Never, under any circumstances remove any panels or protection devices associated with your central heating and cooling system.)
     
    Home heating and cooling systems are specific to each home, so it takes more than a “How To” video to safely install, repair or maintain it. To become a knowledgeable professional technician, it may take years of experience and training to become an expert. In fact, you often need a license to handle parts of the heating or cooling system.
     
    These licensed professional HVAC dealers are typically trained in necessary and precise calculations such as volumes, loads, weight, flow rate, and more. If one or more of these variables are out of sync, the entire system’s operation may fail, your overall indoor comfort may suffer, and the energy-efficiency of the system may be compromised.
     
    Since your home’s heating and cooling system and your indoor comfort expectations are unique, the unlicensed HVAC DIY’er may not understand the critical components within a particular HVAC system. Installation or repair without a licensed professional HVAC technician may lead to damaged equipment, compromised system efficiency, and even voided warranties.
     
    While DIY HVAC may initially seem like a good idea, the long-term consequences may end up costing you the price of a new system! 
     
    Find a heating and cooling technician
     
    1 "Guide to Indoor Air Cleaners in the Home." July 2014. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-07/documents/aircleaners.pdf.
     
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  • How Humidity and Dry Air May Impact Your Indoor, “ ...

    Dry air or humidity levels may contribute to indoor comfort

    In the popular children’s story, Goldilocks quickly realized that too hot or too cold is not a good thing. Most people appreciate when temperatures, especially indoor temperatures, are “just right.” Humidity control of your home’s indoor air is essential to ensuring that the temperature you set on the thermostat or control system is ‘just right’ for you and your family.


    When it comes to humidity, the Department of Energy suggests that your air conditioner or heat pump may make an indoor space more comfortable in hot, humid climates. While the main job of the air conditioner or heat pump is to condition the air to a set temperature, these comfort-creating pieces of equipment may lower the indoor humidity level as a by-product of the cooling process. However, if the indoor humidity level remains high, you could still feel uncomfortably damp despite a cooler temperature.1


    Relative Humidity

     

    The temperature you feel has a lot to do with how much moisture, or water vapor, is in the air. Think back to Goldilocks’ porridge (a fancy name for oatmeal!).  If there is a small amount of porridge in the bowl, you can add more. But if the bowl is full of porridge, there is a good chance it will spill over the side. The same is true of water vapor in the air. The more water vapor in the air, the less room there is for more to be added.  If the air is filled with water vapor, it drops out in the form of rain, sleet or snow. The percentage of water vapor in the air, compared to how much it could hold without dropping out at a specific temperature is the relative humidity.2


    The Good and Bad of Evaporation!

     

    When moisture evaporates from our skin, it has a cooling effect. Scientists tell us that evaporation rates increase when the relative humidity decreases.3 That means, when all other conditions are identical,  dry air absorbs moisture faster than humid air. Why?  Because there is room for more water vapor!

    Indoor air with higher humidity has an increased amount of water vapor. As a result, sweat may not evaporate from our skin as quickly as it would with a lower humidity level. This phenomenon may make us feel hotter than the actual temperature because evaporation is slowed. According to the Missouri Department of Energy, most people will feel cooler in a room at 75°F and a relative humidity between 50% and 55% than in a room at the same temperature with a higher relative humidity.4

    While high indoor humidity may make you feel uncomfortable, air with low humidity level can impact your comfort as well.  While there are many variables involved (including air pressure, temperature, and wind speed, etc.) evaporation rates tend to increase with low humidity levels. When evaporation increases, the dry air may leave our skin and other parts of the body that require moisture, feeling dry and parched.5  Proper humidity levels keep you, your furniture and your home from drying out.


    The “Just Right” Feeling

     

    Depending on the season and the geographical location of your home, your indoor spaces may be prone to high or low indoor humidity levels. But despite site-specific variables, every person has unique preferences on their ideal specific humidity and temperature settings required to get that “just right” feeling.

     

    The idea of indoor humidity control sparked one of the first uses of air conditioning in the southern U.S. (link to ice, physics article) Stuart W. Cramer installed the first air conditioning system in North Carolina in order to create “ideal” humidity levels at his cotton mills. However, conventional heat pumps and air conditioners are not meant to control both temperature and humidity independently.6 Dehumidification just happens to be an incidental by-product of the refrigeration cycle!

     

    During the refrigeration cycle, warm air comes in contact with the cold evaporator coil in your air conditioner or heat pump. When this happens, some moisture may be condensed out of the air making your home feel less humid. Any moisture collected by the coil goes to a drain and sent outside, away from your home.

     

    But if your home’s air conditioner or heat pump is oversized for your space, it may not be removing as much moisture as a properly sized and matched unit. A unit that is too large for your home may cool your indoor space quickly, but cycle off before providing the incidental dehumidification. 

     

    A licensed professional HVAC dealer may suggest a separate or additional dehumidifier, which can reduce the relative humidity in your home to a comfortable level.  A dehumidifier may:

    • Reduce the cold, clammy feeling that comes from lowering the temperature on your thermostat in order to reduce the humidity level in your home7
    • Help create an environment where dust mites can’t easily survive (when air is maintained below 50% relative humidity*)7
    • Helps protect your hardwood flooring from warping when set to maintain the relative humidity in the range recommended by the hardwood flooring manufacturer7

     

    If you feel the humidity level is too high for your indoor spaces, your licensed or professional HVAC dealer can inspect your system and provide solutions that can create that “just right” feeling in your home.

    cta-outline_stay-cool

    1 Department of Energy. Energy Saver - Dehumidifying Heat Pipes. n.d. https://energy.gov/energysaver/dehumidifying-heat-pipes. 2017 4 May.

    2 University of Illinois Extension. Treehouse Weather Kids. n.d. https://extension.illinois.edu/treehouse/clouds.cfm?Slide=2. 4 2017 May.

    3, 4 Dougherty, Elizabeth. MIT School of Engineering. 10 May 2011. https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-do-we-sweat-more-in-high-humidity/. 2017 4 May.

    5 Energy Star. Common Home Problems and Solutions: Dry Air. n.d. https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_solutions.hm_improvement_dryair. 2017 4 May.

    6 American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Top Ten Things About Air Conditioning. n.d. https://www.ashrae.org/resources--publications/free-resources/top-ten-things-about-air-conditioning#10. 4 May 2017.

    7 Clean Comfort Indoor Air Essentials. Dehumidifiers. n.d. http://www.cleancomfort.com/#humiditycontrol. 4 May 2017.


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  • 10 Common Air Conditioner Myths – BUSTED!

    air conditioner myths

    1. MYTH:
    The bigger the air conditioner, the better it will cool my house.

    BUSTED: Oversize units may create bursts of cold air, tricking thermostats or control systems into shutting off the system before the entire house reaches the desired temperature. This “cycling” may end up causing excess wear and tear on the unit, affecting your indoor comfort level, and influencing your overall energy costs.

    When an air conditioner is sized and installed properly by a professional HVAC technician, it will cycle on and off at various intervals to maintain the temperature setting on the thermostat or control system. It is not unusual for an air conditioner to operate using long on and off cycles. In fact, this is preferred for energy efficient performance and humidity removal. When a unit is not properly sized and installed, the unit may cycle on and off quickly and quite frequently. This situation may not allow the unit to operate as efficiently as it was designed and indoor comfort is risked because the unit cannot remove enough humidity. While a bigger unit may seem to offer powerful cooling performance, a unit sized properly is the best option for long term durability and comfort.

    2. MYTH: Setting a thermostat or control system to an extreme cold temperature will cool the house faster! 

    BUSTED: If the indoor temperature us 78 degrees, setting your thermostat to 40 degrees, for example, will not cool your house any faster than setting it at 70 degrees. Most HVAC systems’ airflow cools at a set point.  Once the system starts, it will reach the designated temperature sometime thereafter.1 Temperature settings on a thermostat or control system do not equate to the speed of cooling.

    3. MYTH: Price should be the deciding factor when purchasing an air conditioner!

    BUSTED: There are many factors to consider when you are in the process of purchasing and installing an air conditioner. Be certain to make your selection and choice based upon your specific comfort needs, budget, and anticipated length of time you will be in your current home.

    Enhanced energy savings can result in real, tangible returns when you invest in a high-efficiency system, especially when compared to your old unit or today’s base-efficiency models. Labor costs can vary depending on the complexity of the installation, the quality of your existing duct work and any regulations that may influence how much a new energy efficient fully installed cooling system will cost.

    4. MYTH: Turn off your air conditioner when you leave the house!

    BUSTED: It may seem like a money-saving option, but turning off your HVAC system when you leave the house may create problems that lead to additional expenses. Your air conditioner plays an important role in humidity management, a key component in minimizing indoor air quality issues. Additionally, if temperatures become extreme during your absence, it may take your system a long time to restore a comfortable temperature upon your return.

    5. MYTH: The location of a thermostat location isn’t important.

    BUSTED: The location of your thermostat can affect your HVAC system’s performance and efficiency. A thermostat or control system should be installed on an interior wall of your home. This limits its exposure to direct sunlight, drafts, doorway, skylights and windows.2

    6. MYTH: Closing vents to select rooms in your home will save you money.

     

    BUSTED: A properly installed HVAC system should be sized and balanced according to the specific amount of air to be circulated in a home. However, when you close vents, you may throw off the balance of the system or change the way air is distributed resulting in temperatures that make the rest of the house uncomfortable.3

     

    Before closing vents, discuss concerns with your licensed or professional HVAC dealer. Since each HVAC system set up is site specific, a dealer should be able to help you decide whether certain vents can be closed to reduce the amount of space in your home that is being cooled.

     

    7. MYTH: Maintenance plans have no effect on an air conditioner’s efficiency.

     

    BUSTED: Professional licensed HVAC dealers are equipped to identify airflow problems, system leaks, coil issues or potential concerns. To keep your central cooling system at peak performance, homeowners should schedule routine maintenance for detailed check-ups. Air conditioner maintenance may prevent minor issues from turning into expensive major problems over time and possibly extend the life of your HVAC equipment.

     

    8. MYTH: The air conditioning unit needs new refrigerant every year.

     

    BUSTED: Refrigerant charge, which directly affects the performance and efficiency of your air conditioner, should exactly match the manufacturer's specification.4 Refrigerant should not be undercharged nor overcharged.

    Today, there are two basic types of refrigerant. R-22 is currently being phased out of use. This chlorine containing refrigerant was a very  common refrigerant for many years. R-410A is the refrigerant that is used in all new air conditioner units.  It’s chlorine free and supports higher levels of heat transfer that help the energy efficiency level of the unit. You cannot mix one refrigerant into a unit that uses the other refrigerant. Ask your professional licensed HVAC dealer for help regarding the refrigerant in your central air conditioner.

    9. MYTH: Purchasing an energy-efficient air conditioner will not save you in energy costs.

    BUSTED: High SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) air conditioners typically cost less to run than their lower SEER counterparts under the same conditions. However, there are multiple variables that play into the energy costs associated with air conditioning use. Correct equipment sizing, sealed ducts, filter cleanliness and your home’s energy efficiency contributes to the overall expense of cooling your home.

    A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study says that if your high-efficiency equipment is not installed properly, it may not be running as efficient as you think!5  “Without proper installation, air conditioning and heating equipment will perform significantly below rated energy-efficiency levels,” says Piotr Domanski, who leads NIST research on the performance of HVAC and refrigeration equipment.5  

    10. MYTH: I dust and vacuum my house, so I don’t need to change my air filters.

    BUSTED: According to the Department of Energy, replacing a clogged filter with a clean one can help lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by up to 15%. Dirty filters block airflow and can reduce a system's efficiency and performance significantly. Depending on the filter purchased,  filters should be replaced every 30-90 days.  Check your filter’s instructions for recommended replacement dates.  Also, depending on where you live and how often your air conditioner operates can affect how often you should replace your filters. Your HVAC contractor can provide the proper filter replacement schedule for your particular air conditioning unit.6

    find an independent Goodman dealer


    1 ENERGY STAR. Proper Use Guidelines for Programmable Thermostats. n.d. https://www.energystar.gov/products/heating_cooling/programmable_thermostats/proper_use_guidelines. 27 March 2017.

    2 Thermostats. n.d. <https://energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats>.

    3 ENERGY STAR. Does it help to close vents in rooms not being used during the day? n.d. https://energystar.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/211439388-Does-it-help-to-close-vents-in-rooms-not-being-used-during-the-day-. 28 March 2017.

    4 Department of Energy. Common Air Conditioner Problems. n.d. https://energy.gov/energysaver/common-air-conditioner-problems. 28 March 2017.

    5 Domanski, Piotr A, Hugh I. Henderson and W. Vance Payne. "Sensitivity Analysis of Installation Faults on Heat Pump Performance." October 2014. <http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/TechnicalNotes/NIST.TN.1848.pdf>.

    6 Energy Saver 101: Home Cooling. n.d. https://energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-cooling.

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  • A Great Reason Why Your Air Conditioner Might Be R ...

    Good Reasons Why an AC Runs All Day

    When you think of “slow and steady”, you don’t often think of air conditioners – especially when it’s hotter than blazes outside.  You’re likely looking for quick and fast indoor relief.  Select air conditioners and heat pumps offer a new technology that can help reduce indoor temperatures at 100% capacity, but also feature a “slow and steady” option. This option may actually help improve your home’s indoor comfort level while reducing energy consumption! So when it comes to home cooling – a slow and steady option may win the race on energy-efficient, refreshingly cool indoor comfort!


    The Start vs Slow and Steady

     

    Electricity usage usually surges each time an HVAC system turns on. The more often it has to turn ON, the more electricity it uses.


    You may be thinking, “The more often my air conditioner runs, the more energy it will consume and the higher my utility bills will be.” But according to a study by the Department of Energy, “Operating fan motors or compressors at lower speeds for longer periods of time can lead to reduced total energy consumption.”1


    This is why air conditioners or heat pumps with compressors that can run at lower speeds for a longer period of time may actually use less energy than equipment with only one, 100% speed option. These energy-efficient compressors may increase the length of the unit’s run time, but they consume less electricity compared to units that only offer ON/OFF cycling! Slow and steady cooling may help you save on your cooling energy costs!

    Compressors

     

    An air conditioner or heat pump’s compressor creates the cooling capacity for the system and can come in single-stage, two-stage or variable-speed options. Each of these compressors offers the ability to run at 100% capacity when demand requires it.


    Single-Stage:
    Traditionally, base model compressors are single-stage, which means the compressor runs full ON or is OFF.  With these models, your cooling system turns ON at 100% capacity and then OFF until your thermostat or control system reaches the temperature setting you have selected. 

     

    For example, if your single-stage unit has a 3-ton capacity (measured in capacity, not weight), it will use all 3-tons or 100% capacity to cool your indoor space. The unit will cycle ON and OFF as many times as necessary to meet your indoor temperature request!


    Two-Stage:
    Two-stage compressors offer two capacity options. It’s like having two units built into one — a low capacity one to handle a smaller demand and a larger one to meet heavier demands. If conditions exist that 100% capacity is not required, a two-stage compressor can operate at the lower speed, offering part-capacity to reach your desired indoor temperature.

     

    While this may mean that your unit’s ON cycle time will be lengthened, the power needed to support the lower speed would be reduced compared to a simple, single-speed system.

     

    Variable Speed: Variable speed compressor technology allows the unit to run at the speed that best meets your comfort needs coupled with energy-efficient operation. A variable speed air conditioner or heat pump is designed and engineered specifically to provide the output needed at the lowest consumption of power.   

     

    Just like a car’s various gears, variable speed compressors can operate at various levels of output depending on the conditions. Systems with variable speed technology may run at full capacity on hot summer days or reduced capacity for milder days. It is a great energy-efficient option when compared to a single-speed unit.

     

    Once the indoor temperature you set on the thermostat or control system is achieved, the variable speed unit will strive to operate at the lowest speed possible to deliver consistent, energy-efficient comfort in your home.

     

    Because a variable speed air conditioner or heat pump can adjust capacity for demand, it may run longer than a single-stage unit under the same conditions. However, as the Department of Energy suggests, operating the compressor at lower speeds for a longer duration may reduce the total energy consumption required to cool your indoor spaces of your home without a loss of the unit’s ability to cool your home.


    Added Benefits of Extended Run Times

     

    A two-stage or variable speed system may run longer than your traditional single speed HVAC system, but at a level that requires less energy. But in addition to energy savings, this slow and steady operation offers some additional comfort benefits when compared to a single-speed unit:

     

    Extended Dehumidification Process – Heat pumps and air conditioners use the refrigeration cycle process to cool your home.  During this process, moisture, in the form of humidity, is removed from the indoor air in your home. Longer run times create the opportunity for more indoor air to be dehumidified. This may improve the balance between temperature and humidity, providing you with more comfortable interior air.

     

    Consistent Indoor Comfort – Two-stage and variable-speed technology may minimize the temperature swings often found with single-stage equipment. Rather than shutting down until your thermostat or control system recognizes the need for cooler indoor air, the optional run speeds prolong the set temperature of your spaces. This allows for a more steady and consistent comfort in your home when compared to the temperature fluctuations that can be associated with a single-stage compressor.

     

    Air Filtering – The extended run time afforded by two-stage or variable speed units may increase the amount of time for the air to circulate and interact with filters or additional air quality system components. However, as with traditional systems, it is important to change out your air filters and indoor air quality essentials according to your HVAC dealer or manufacturer’s recommendations.

     

    While extended run times can be beneficial with a two-stage or variable speed unit, single-stage air conditioners should cycle ON and OFF as demand requires. If you find that your single-stage air conditioner or heat pump is experiencing extended run times in comparison to normal operation, it may be a signal to contact your local licensed professional HVAC dealer for a system evaluation. 

    Goodman® AC & Heat Pumps


    1 Navigant Consulting, I. (2013, December). US Department of Energy. Retrieved from Energy Savings Potential and Opportunities for High-Efficiency Electric Motors in Residential and Commercial Equipment: https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2014/02/f8/Motor%20Energy%20Savings%20Potential%20Report%202013-12-4.pdf


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  • Will a Smart Thermostat Work with My HVAC System?

    Will Smart Thermostat Work with HVAC

     

    We live in an age where smart phones connect us to nearly every aspect of our lives —  and it seems that there is no end in sight. This technological revolution is also extending to the way we control indoor comfort. As a result, the simple thermostat, which has been a basic staple in our homes for decades, has significantly evolved.

    Today’s thermostats or control systems can offer a wide range of features and connectivity with a smart phone. These devices make it even easier to align your lifestyle with the comfort in your home. But, will this new, smart home technology connect with your current heating and cooling system?  

    Your current heating and cooling system likely was designed to perform a single function — to heat or cool your home. It may not have been designed to communicate with the various types of control technology on the market today. Depending on the HVAC system in your home, it’s possible that only a specific thermostat or control system may control the system’s functions. It often comes down to what type of system was installed, and the wiring (or lack of wiring) between that equipment and the thermostat. 

    The HVAC Equipment

     

    Heating and cooling equipment comes in many forms (ex: heat pump, gas furnace, air conditioner, air handler, etc.) with a variety of features. To be sure your thermostat can control all the features of your equipment, it has to work with all the operational modes of your HVAC system.

    For example:

    • If your home has a heat pump, the thermostat or control system should be able to control the auxiliary heat function. If it is specific to a gas furnace, you may not be able to control this function. 
    • A two-stage or variable speed system may only be operating at a single speed because the thermostat or control system doesn’t allow for two-stage wiring.
    • A dual fuel system, which is comprised of a gas furnace and a heat pump, should be connected to a thermostat or control system that can accommodate the specific heating set points.

    Traditionally, if you have a variable-speed or multi-stage system, or a system that’s zoned for different areas of your home, your licensed professional HVAC technician may have to install an advanced thermostat that matches these types of systems. Of course, if you’re not sure which type of system is installed in your home, it’s best to ask a technician to help. 

    Wires and Voltage

     

    While you should always hire a licensed professional to work with any wiring in your home, learning the general concept of thermostat wires and voltage can help you understand the guidance from your local, expert contractor. Many advanced smart thermostats have features, including home automation options, which need to be powered at all times by a ‘common’ wire (C-wire). 

    The common wire supplies constant power to your connected thermostat. If your home’s current set up doesn’t include a dedicated C-wire, you may need the assistance of a licensed professional HVAC technician to add the specific wiring for advanced thermostats or control systems.

    The most common types of thermostat on the market today use low voltage wiring. These low-voltage wires are typically very thin, similar to wiring for doorbells or telephone jacks.  A low voltage thermostat or control system is commonly used to connect with:

    • Conventional gas forced-air furnaces
    • Single-stage or multi-stage heat pumps providing heating and cooling
    • Electric central air conditioning systems with forced-air ductwork

    Some thermostats or control systems utilize line-voltage, powered directly by a standard 120-volt or 240-volt circuit. These wires are typically thick like those inside a wall outlet or light switch. These higher voltage devices are primarily used for electric resistance heating systems, such as electric baseboard heaters and in-wall heaters.

    To determine your specific home set up, consult with your licensed professional HVAC technician.

    Energy-Efficient HVAC Features

     

    If you plan to upgrade your HVAC equipment from a single-stage to a high-efficiency two-stage or variable speed unit, your current thermostat or control system may not be designed to accommodate the additional energy-efficient features. 

    You may be asking, “What does the equipment ‘stage’ mean?” Here’s a review:

    • Single-stage: Your heating or cooling system operates at 100% capacity until it reaches your preset indoor temperature and then turns off.
    • Two-stage: Your heating or cooling system is capable of operating at 100% capacity and a lower speed, depending on demand.
    • Variable-speed or multi-stage:  Your system offers various levels of output to match the demand. 

    Don’t miss out on the energy-efficiency benefits of your new system simply because the equipment is not wired to the thermostat correctly. Depending on the system installed, you may be required to purchase a coordinating thermostat or control system. To ensure you are getting the maximum benefit out of new heating and cooling equipment, talk to your licensed professional HVAC technician about thermostat compatibility and the latest high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment. 

    New HVAC System Technology

     

    Historically, conventional premium HVAC systems have limited homeowners to one specific, and perhaps expensive, smart thermostat or control system. However, rather than relying on the communicating technology in the thermostat,  innovative manufacturers are beginning to incorporate this smart technology directly into the circuit boards of the indoor equipment of the central heating and cooling systems. This built-in technology may actively learn and make continuous automatic adjustments, as needed, to the heating and cooling system based on the homeowner’s set preferences.

    With this new intelligent technology, a homeowner may have the opportunity to keep their current single-stage thermostat, or choose from a wide assortment of thermostat or control systems on the market. 

    If you are considering upgrading your HVAC equipment or simply the thermostat or control system, it is best to seek the guidance of a licensed professional HVAC dealer.  They will be able to assess your indoor comfort equipment and determine which thermostat or control system best fits your needs.

     
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  • What Makes Your Home Comfortable?

    Heating and Cooling at Home

     

    Home sweet home…Home is where the heart is…There’s no place like home…

    There is a difference between a house and your home! A house may be made of bricks, wood, stone or even glass, but only your “home” gives you that one-of-a-kind sense of comfort.  Sure, it helps to know that your clothes are in your closet, your comfy chair is reserved just for you, and family pictures line your shelves. But behind the scenes, the indoor temperature often has a lot to do with the overall comfort level of your home and family.

    As you can imagine, extreme indoor temperatures don’t help to create a comfortable home. So if you don’t want to brush your teeth while wearing mittens or cook dinner in oppressive heat, you need to pay a little attention to your heating and cooling system. If you do, your system may provide years and years of indoor comfort so you can live your life…comfortably.

    Your Ideal Indoor Comfort

     

    Every person’s ideal indoor temperature setting is unique. You probably know someone who starts sweating at 75°F and another that shivers at the thought of 74°F. The good news is that advanced programmable thermostats or HVAC control systems allow you to customize your ideal temperature according to your preferences and schedule! By pre-programming temperature settings that align with lifestyles and preferences, homeowners can create an environment that makes their family most comfortable…and potentially save money in the process.

    However, there is more to your ideal indoor comfort than just temperature. Indoor humidity levels have a lot to do with that “just right” feeling. According to the University of Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Health & Safety, “Elevated relative humidity reduces the body’s ability to lose heat through perspiration and evaporation. When this happens, individuals may perceive temperatures to be higher than they actually are.”1

    While high indoor humidity may make you feel uncomfortable, air with low humidity levels can also impact your comfort as well. “Low relative humidity can cause discomfort due to drying of the nose, throat, mucous membranes and skin. This commonly happens in the winter months.”2

    Like a person’s ideal indoor temperature setting, there is considerable debate surrounding the most comfortable indoor humidity levels.  In general, the humidity levels recommended by various organizations may range between 30-60%.3 If you sense that your indoor comfort is being sacrificed by extreme indoor humidity levels, contact your licensed professional HVAC dealer for possible whole-house solutions.  

    Indoor Comfort Advancements

     

    Heating and cooling system manufacturers continue to pursue individual technologies that may collectively improve your overall indoor comfort. HVAC systems that include variable-speed drives, advanced HVAC controls, and additional mechanics will continue to provide additional options for homeowners who prioritize indoor comfort. 

     

    For example, HVAC equipment with variable speed fans automatically adjusts the amount of heated or cooled air blown through the vents into your indoor spaces. A system with this option gently ramps up or down according to heating or cooling demand, minimizing the temperature peaks and valleys often found with the ON/OFF cycle of a single-speed unit. When your interior spaces reach the pre-set temperature on the thermostat or HVAC control system, the lower speed fan may maintain that set temperature longer than if the system turns off. This allows for steady comfort in your home.

    To discover available HVAC technologies that are designed to improve indoor home comfort, discuss the various options with your licensed professional HVAC dealer.

    Maintaining Cool or Cozy Comfort

     

    Properly maintaining your HVAC systems not only protects the equipment, but it may also protect you and your family from extreme indoor temperatures. Unfortunately, most people don’t think about their indoor heating or cooling system until it isn’t making them comfortable. That can lead to inconvenient and expensive fixes! 

    The good news is that a well-maintained gas furnace, air conditioner or heat pump is less likely to break down during the peak season. To keep your central heating and cooling system operating when you need it most, a licensed professional HVAC dealer should perform routine, seasonal maintenance. 

    Over time, lapses in annual maintenance may impact the delicate balancing act between the HVAC equipment, air flow, and mechanics. If components are not functioning as designed, the entire system may be affected and impact longevity and efficiency. Routine maintenance may extend the life of your HVAC equipment and possibly prevent minor issues from turning into expensive major problems over time.4

    As with most anything, if you take care of what’s important, it should take care of you.

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    1,2,3 Safety, University of Connecticut Department of Environmental Health &. "Thermal Comfort in Office Settings." n.d. The University of Connecticut EHS. http://ehs.uconn.edu/docs/Officecomfort.pdf. 7 December 2017.
    4 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. n.d. <http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner>.

     
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  • What You Should Know about Carbon Monoxide


    learn about carbon monoxide

     

    It's instinct! When cold weather arrives, homeowners run to their thermostat or control system to switch on the heat. But they rarely consider the condition of their gas furnace, its exhaust system, and how it might affect their home comfort.


    Let’s Vent


    Overall, new homes can be more energy efficient than homes built as recently as the early 2000’s.1 Innovative insulation options, sealing of air gaps and other factors can create a more energy efficient home. But when fossil fuels are burned in a gas furnace, exhaust gases are produced. One of these gases is carbon monoxide.

    Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, practically odorless, and tasteless gas or liquid.2

    Exhaust gases must be vented away from indoor spaces so the occupants don’t breathe them in. But as homes become more air tight, there are not as many pathways for these gases to escape. To be sure the gas furnace components and exhaust system are working properly; the furnace should be routinely inspected by a licensed or professional HVAC contractor.

    The Fact of Carbon Monoxide


    • Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.3
    • Carbon monoxide is responsible for more than 20,000 visits the emergency room, and more than 4,000 hospitalizations.3
    • Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.3

    Carbon Monoxide Buildup Prevention


    In a properly functioning gas furnace, carbon monoxide gas is vented outside the home.

    When fossil fuels are burned in your home, it is important that the exhaust gases be vented to a properly sized flue or venting system that can eliminate them from indoor spaces. Gas furnaces are not the only source of carbon monoxide. “Carbon monoxide can be generated any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces.”4

    The Center for Disease Control offers the following HVAC-related tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.
    1. Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector and replace batteries often.  The CDC suggests replacing your carbon monoxide detector every five years.5
    2. Hire a professional or licensed technician. Any gas, oil, or coal burning appliances, including your heating system, water heater, or fireplace should be routinely inspected by a qualified technician.5
    3. Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.5
    4. Have your chimney inspected or cleaned every year. Blocked chimneys can cause carbon monoxide to build up inside your home.5
    5. Do not block, close or patch a vent pipe. Only a professional or licensed technician should evaluate and determine appropriate venting. Be aware of heavy snowfall that may block venting on roof or side wall.5

    Carbon Monoxide Awareness and Detection


    “Half of all unintentional CO poisoning deaths could be prevented with the use of CO alarms.”6


    A functioning carbon monoxide detector can be a life saver if the gas is reaching the interior living spaces. However, the detector should only be used as a backup to properly maintaining your fuel burning appliances. The EPA has the following suggestions regarding carbon monoxide detectors.
    • Detectors should be placed on a wall about 5 feet above the floor or on the ceiling.6
    • Do not place the detector right next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance.6
    • Each floor needs a separate detector.6
    • Place a detector near the sleeping area and make certain the alarm is loud enough to wake you up.6
    • Regularly test and replace batteries.6
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    1 Department of Energy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Top 4 Energy Department Inventions Saving You Energy & Money at Home: https://energy.gov/articles/top-4-energy-department-inventions-saving-you-energy-money-home
    2,4  What is Carbon Monoxide? (n.d.). Retrieved from EPA: https://iaq.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/212106787-What-is-Carbon-Monoxide-
    3,5 Carbon Monoxide. (n.d.). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm
    6 Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. (n.d.). Retrieved from EPA: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/pcmp_english_100-f-09-001.pdf
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