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Summer heat and strong high pressure systems often result in high energy bills and if it's too hot, can sometimes lead to energy blackouts. However, you can make a few changes to your lifestyle when the heat's oppressive that'll save you money without much sacrifice. Consider these tips to sail through hot weather without incurring high electric bills and lowering the amount of peak usage you require.
- Do as much as you can early in the morning. Wash and dry your clothes before you need to turn on the A/C and use cold water for washing. Today's detergents do a good job without hot water. You may not need to fully dry your clothes if you take them out of the dryer and hang them on coat hangers, letting them air-dry.
- Turn down the water heater to 120 degrees to save money year-round.
- Use your oven sparingly when it's hot. If you have to bake, do so in the early morning or after sunset. Use your slow cooker to avoid the heat from the stove or range. If your yard is fenced and no wild animals live nearby, consider putting it outside to lower the heat indoors.
- Close your drapes or install shade screens to lower high energy bills. Windows contribute a good deal of heat indoors. Lined or insulated drapes do a good job blocking heat, especially when hung close to the glass.
- You'll get the best results by blocking the heat before it comes into your home.Shade screens can block up to 90 percent of the heat coming through your windows. You can have them custom-made or buy kits at home centers.
- Clean the air filter for the air handler inside your home or a window air conditioner. Clogged filters increase your electric bills and create more wear and tear on your entire cooling system.
A noisy air conditioner can be enough to drive you out of your mind. That annoying sound is always there whether you are trying to watch TV, have a conversation or try to fall asleep. While it is possible to reduce the sound produced by a noisy air conditioner, many times it is more cost efficient and easier to replace the entire unit. Causes of a noisy air conditioner Usually an air conditioner becomes noisy when it has gotten older and is on its last leg. The most common culprit for a loud unit is an old and failing compressor, and the only option here is to replace your system. For a newer unit that is noisy, a compressor blanket or the erecting of a sound-barrier fence may reduce the sound, but typically replacement will be your best bet. Because upgrades are usually necessary, here are three suggestions for selecting a quiet syst
- Energy efficiency: While making the switch to a quieter system, you should make sure that you are getting the most bang for your buck. Energy efficient units are designed to be far quieter than models manufactured as little as a few years ago. On top of this, you will delight in a lower monthly utility bill, as your new air conditioner will be able to run more efficiently and effectively.
- Two-stage cooling: Two-Stage cooling systems are also designed to run extremely quietly and to promote energy savings. These innovative systems allow your air conditioner to automatically switch between a low and high operation speed depending on what the temperature demands.
- Easy maintenance: Regardless of what time of cooling equipment you decide to have installed, it's essential that you choose a system which can easily be maintained. Dirty fan blades are a major cause of a noisy air conditioner and can put strain on the system, decreasing efficiency and lifespan. Choose a system that can be cleaned and maintenance simply for longevity and comfort. For more expert advice on replacing a noisy air conditioner, contact the professionals at Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical. We've been serving the Silicon Valley since 1962. Call us at 408-294-6290.
If you're considering an air conditioning upgrade, it's strongly recommended that you consider the many benefits of Energy Star-qualified cooling equipment. The Energy Star program is backed by the Environmental Protection Agency, and helps consumers identify air conditioners which use less energy, helping reduce operational costs and environmental impact. To qualify for the Energy Star program, an air conditioner must have an efficiency rating at least 10 percent better than minimum requirements set out in federal law. In addition, the appliance's efficiency must stand up to independent testing and be generated by non-proprietary technologies available from numerous manufacturers to ensure consumers have choices. Qualified air conditioners are guaranteed to provide sustained, significant energy savings to consumers. Considering that the average lifespan of a new air conditioner is about 10 to 15 years, you stand to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your energy bills over the life of your cooling equipment. When you are doing your calculations, be sure to look beyond the initial price tag and factor in operational costs. You'll find it almost always makes better sense to choose an energy-efficient alternative, despite an up-front cost that is typically a little higher. Look for the Energy Star symbol on the air conditioner's EnergyGuide label. This bright yellow label provides additional important information, including an estimation of annual power consumption and operating costs. You can use this information to conduct further research into the competing makes and models, applying local utility rates to average annual electrical consumption to generate a very accurate idea of how much each air conditioner will cost you each year. At Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical, we're happy to help you better understand the many benefits of choosing energy-efficient HVAC equipment. If you have any questions or concerns, contact us. Or you can call us at 408-294-6290. We've been serving homeowners in the Silicon Valley since 1962. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about energy star-qualified and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. Visit our website to see our special offers and get started today! Image courtesy of ShutterstockRead More
Reducing heat gain is the key to summer energy savings. Since your windows are one of your home's top sources of heat gain, using window treatments to shut out heat and sunlight can go a long way towards reducing your cooling load and helping you save money by running your air conditioner with less frequency. A single-pane window without any kind of treatment will allow about 85 percent of the heat generated by direct sunlight into your home. If you have large windows that get sustained sun exposure, you will experience dramatically increased heat gain unless you use window treatments to block sunlight. Window treatments for reducing heat gain Window treatments can be divided into two categories: those for exterior use, and those for interior use. Here's a closer look at your options in each category:
- Exterior window treatments: This category includes shutters, sun screens and reflective films. Shutters add aesthetic value to your home, while sun screens offer a very affordable option capable of absorbing as much as 70 percent of the heat generated by sun exposure. Reflective films are made of a combination of metallic and plastic elements, which are fitted over windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 75 percent; however, they also absorb sunlight, eliminating your ability to let natural light into your home.
- Interior window treatments: Here, your options include drapes, roller shades and blinds. With drapes, thicker is better. If you're going to use roller shades or blinds, select a window treatment with an outward-facing white surface. This will reflect more sunlight away, reducing solar heat gain by as much as 80 percent.
If you suffer from summer allergies, it's vital that you pay close attention to your indoor air quality. Eliminating allergens from your home environment offers a drug-free alternative for symptom control and can help you get more enjoyment out of the warm weather and sunshine. Following a few simple tips and investing in some affordable indoor air quality products can go a long way to relieve your symptoms. With that in mind, here are five strategies you can use to beat your summer allergies:
- Use an indoor air cleaner. Portable and whole-house air-purification systems offer some of the most effective available protection against allergens. These systems have filters which trap dust, dust mites, pollen and other airborne irritants to boost indoor air quality. For best results, use an indoor air cleaner with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) rating of 13 or higher.
- Control humidity levels. Many allergy sufferers report worsened symptoms in humid environments. Use dehumidifiers to keep indoor humidity levels in the optimal range of 30 to 50 percent; this will also help you avoid problems associated with high humidity, like toxic mold and potential structural damage.
- Keep things clean. You should mop, dust and vacuum your entire home at least once a week; if you have pets, you should increase the frequency of your vacuuming to eliminate dander. Keep sheets, linens and pillowcases clean by washing them with fragrance-free detergents in hot water.
- Close your windows. Pollen and other allergens are typically introduced to your home from the outdoors. Check your local pollen forecast, and keep windows closed during times of day when pollen counts are at their highest.
- Let the sun shine in. Ultraviolet light is proven to kill dust mites and other biological air pollutants. If you have large windows that get a lot of sun exposure, open your drapes to give your indoor air quality an added boost.
If you are upgrading your air conditioner this summer, it helps to go into the process as an educated consumer. There are a number of cooling terms you should know and understand before going through the process of upgrading your air conditioner:
- Split system: An A/C system that is split between an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Most central air conditioners are split systems.
- Air handler: The indoor half of a split-system A/C.
- Condensing unit: The outdoor half of a split system.
- Evaporator coil: The radiator-like coil of tubing inside the air handler that cools the air.
- Condenser coil: Counterpart to the evaporator coil that is located in the condensing unit.
- Refrigerant: The cooling substance that flows in a continuous loop through the two coils. The refrigerant evaporates inside the evaporator coil -- a process which absorbs heat from the air -- and condenses back into a liquid in the condenser coil.
- Compressor: The pump that keeps the refrigerant flowing through the A/C, and compresses the refrigerant before it enters the condenser coil.
- Expansion valve: A valve that lowers the pressure on the refrigerant as it enters the evaporator coil.
- Heat gain: The amount of heat that your home absorbs, and which the A/C must overcome to keep the house cool.
- Ton: A measurement of the cooling capacity (not the weight) of an A/C system. You need enough tons of cooling power to overcome the home's heat gain.
- Delta T: The change in the temperature of the air as it passes through the evaporator coil.
- SEER: Seasonal energy efficiency ratio. It is the most widely-used measure of A/C efficiency. A higher SEER number means the A/C will use less electricity.
- NATE: North American Technician Excellence. It is a certification program for A/C professionals, similar to how the CPA designation identifies professional accountants.
When you’re tidying around the house or yard this season, don’t forget about ductless mini-split maintenance. Follow these easy tips as a guide to help your system function at peak efficiency for greater home comfort this season, and all year long. Ductless mini-splits reach very high heating and cooling efficiency. This is accomplished by moving heat energy from one area to another area, instead of consuming energy to produce heat energy, like a baseboard heater or furnace. Free airflow and clean components are essential for this heat exchange. Therefore, do-it-yourself maintenance primarily pertains to keeping the components clean and free of obstructions for unhindered airflow.
- Turn the power off at the circuit box and mini-split unit for safety.
- Check the air filters for cleanliness. Clean or change as needed.
- Look to see if there is any dirt or debris accumulation on the evaporator coil. You may need to remove the cover. If there is debris, you may clean the coil using the brush extension of a vacuum cleaner, if you feel comfortable doing so.
- Check the drain pan for water. If there is water, the drainage may not be sloped properly, or the drain line may be obstructed. A heating and cooling professional should check this during preventive maintenance. You do not want water overflowing, and causing water damage and potential mold and bacterial growth.
- At the outdoor unit, with the power still off, use a garden hose to wash the unit. Dirt and debris collect inside, and washing the unit a few times each season helps keep airflow unobstructed.
- There should not be weeds, leaves or other debris nearby that could obstruct airflow. Fences and other permanent objects should be at least a foot distance.
- During the heating season, ensure that ice and snow do not accumulate around the unit.
Once a target mainly for thieves seeking the copper used in its coils, your central air conditioner may now be a source for substance abusers seeking a new and dangerous high. Air conditioning refrigerant joins the list of compounds which someone has found will produce a high or intoxicated sensation when inhaled. This practice of inhalant abuse, known as refrigerant huffing, poses severe dangers to the abuser and severely affects your A/C unit as well, impacting efficiency and potentially causing expensive damage. Consequences of refrigerant huffing The refrigerant abuser may suffer cardiac damage including heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythm and high blood pressure. A condition known as “sudden sniffing death syndrome” can occur when an adrenalin surge from being startled combines with refrigerant intoxication to cause sudden death. Permanent brain damage and respiratory dysfunction including suffocation are also results of refrigerant huffing. Effects on air conditioners Another obvious result of refrigerant abuse is a central air conditioner with a reduced refrigerant charge. Air conditioners with low refrigerant run very inefficiently, consuming large amounts of energy as the cooling system struggles to meet thermostat settings without sufficient refrigerant. This continuous operation stresses moving parts in the system, causing increased wear and tear. A low charge is especially damaging to the compressor, since the refrigerant also contains the compressor’s lubricant oil. In addition, lack of refrigerant may cause the evaporator coil to operate below temperature, resulting in ice formation on the coil, eventually blocking air flow through the system entirely. What you can do Most HVAC contractors can supply locking caps to prevent unauthorized refrigerant removal from the outdoor condenser unit of central air conditioners. These color-coded caps fit on the refrigerant access ports and can be removed only with a special key sold exclusively to licensed HVAC contractors. The key is maintained in the possession of the contractor and is not supplied to the homeowner. Maintaining the interior comfort of Silicon Valley homeowners since 1962, Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical is the home of old-fashioned service. Contact us now about locking refrigerant caps to secure your central air conditioner. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about refrigerant huffing and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. Visit our website to see our special offers and get started today!Read More
The proper sizing of ducts is absolutely crucial to the overall effectiveness of your climate-control systems, as the air in your household must be properly distributed throughout the home for safety and comfort. But is your contractor familiar with sizing ducts using Manual D? This procedure is crucial to your home comfort, so you must demand that your technician use this technique to properly size your ductwork. What Manual D is Manual D is a calculation worksheet recognized by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). Additionally, and it is required by most residential building codes. Ducts sized with Manual D will help your HVAC systems perform at optimum efficiency -- which will reduce your energy usage and spending. Problems Manual D can prevent If your ductwork is improperly sized, you are running the risk that the wrong amount of air will enter any given room in your home, which can cause a number of problems. You may notice that a room is warmer or cooler than is comfortable, or you may feel a draft. Improperly sized ductwork can also cause noisy airflow. In addition, you may discover that the air is moving too slowly through your ducts, which results in poor circulation. Lastly, your energy spending may be excessive as the wrong sized ducts can cause the A/C to work harder and/or fail sooner than expected. Insist on Manual D Don't let your HVAC system's efficiency be reduced by improperly sized ductwork. A reputable contractor who is familiar with industry standards and building codes should be up to speed with Manual D calculations. There are a number of software programs and calculation tools available to HVAC experts to make sure that your ductwork is sized correctly. Make sure your contractor takes care of you when sizing ducts. Contact us at Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical for expert HVAC advice, or call us at at 408-294-6290. We have proudly been serving South Bay, the peninsula and Santa Cruz since 1962. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about sizing ducts and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. Visit our website to see our special offers and get started today!Read More
When your cooling system starts acting up, you may be forced to decide in a hurry whether to repair or replace your air conditioner. It may seem like a daunting task, but consider the following key factors when deciding: Age Most air conditioners last between eight and 12 years. Once your unit reaches this point, it's probably time for it to retire. Not only does the likelihood of a breakdown increase with age, but so does the possibility that necessary replacement parts will have been discontinued. Condition If your air conditioner has been breaking down or having trouble frequently, it is probably beyond the point of complete repair -- especially if your system has not received regular preventive maintenance. There is only so much that can be done for an air conditioner that's worn down or was inadequately maintained. Efficiency Be mindful that your cooling equipment can never be more efficient than it was designed to be. Newer systems are being manufactured to promote energy savings and increase efficiency. When choosing to repair or replace your air conditioner, consider your utility bill. If you feel that you're losing money and energy by operating an inefficient air conditioner, it's time to upgrade. On top of long-term savings, you may receive other incentives and tax rebates for "green" cooling equipment. Want more professional advice on this subject or other matters related to home comfort? Contact us at Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical for in-depth HVAC advice, or just give us a call at 408-294-6290. We have been serving South Bay, the peninsula and Santa Cruz for 50 years. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about whether to repair or replace your air conditioner and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. Visit our website to see our special offers and get started today!Read More
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