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Heat pumps are highly efficient systems that transfer heat from one location to another instead of creating it. During cold weather, they collect heat from the environment and pump it into the house. They are also efficient cooling systems. Heat-pump air conditioning works by collecting heat from inside the house and transferring it outdoors. Heat-pump air conditioning systems sometimes incorporate advanced features that can save you even more money.
- Desuperheater: Heat-pump air conditioning creates excess heat in the unit. A desuperheater recycles this heat and uses it to power a hot water heater. This method of supplying your home with hot water can save 3 times the amount of energy of a standard water heater.
- Dual-speed motor: While a standard motor has just one operating speed, you don’t always need full capacity. A dual-speed motor, also known as a “variable-speed motor,” can be installed with the outdoor blowers, indoor blowers or with both to circulate air at a more comfortable level. A blower running at less than 100 percent is usually quieter and can reduce drafts and increase efficiency.
- Two-speed compressor: The principle here is similar to that behind a dual-speed motor. You may not always need the heat pump air conditioning system to run at full capacity. With a two-speed compressor, it doesn’t have to cycle on full blast if you need a slight temperature adjustment. This keeps your comfort levels more stable, reduces wear and tear on the equipment and uses less electricity. A two-speed compressor can be especially helpful when used with a zoning system, which lets you set different temperatures for different rooms in the house.
- Scroll compressor: Scroll compressors cause refrigerant to flow in more compact, tighter areas, which increases efficiency. They often have longer life spans and may be quieter than piston compressors. Instead of a piston design, scroll compressors consist of two spiral-shaped elements, one which spirals around the other.
High-efficiency air conditioning systems have many benefits compared to their standard counterparts. They save homeowners money by using less energy and they have a reduced impact on the environment. Today’s high efficiency A/C systems can be up to 40 percent more efficient than air conditioners manufactured as recently as 10 years ago. Air conditioner efficiency is rated by SEER, or “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.” The more cool air the system creates per energy unit consumed, the higher the SEER. High-efficiency air conditioning systems have SEERs from 16 to 23, or even higher, because they produce more usable cool air for every BTU they use during operation than standard A/Cs. High efficiency air conditioning systems have been proven to generate more energy savings over their lifespans than standard systems. Currently, the U.S. government requires all air conditioners being produced to be at least SEER 13. Older systems, however, can be much lower and as equipment gets older and degrades, SEER ratings naturally fall. Benefits of high efficiency air conditioning include:
- Generates long-term savings that enable the unit to pay for itself more than once over its lifespan.
- Environmentally friendly, requiring less foreign fossil fuels to operate and producing fewer dangerous toxins, such as greenhouse gases, that harm our planet.
- Raises your home’s efficiency and increase property value.
- High efficiency systems are more affordable than ever, thanks to incentives such as federal and state tax credits and rebates from sources such as manufacturers and utility companies.
Insulation is probably not something you think about very often. Even though you don't usually see it in the attic or behind the walls, it is constantly working to keep conditioned air inside your home, while keeping hot or cold air out. This vital function not only keeps you comfortable year-round, but keeps your monthly utility bills low. If you have an older home, or if your house was not constructed with the goal of energy efficiency, chances are you can benefit from an insulation upgrade. Here are some other tips you can use to help you decide when it's time to upgrade:
- Determine how well your home is currently insulated. Look at the attic floor, ductwork, space above the garage, exterior walls, the basement and the crawl space. If any of these areas is not insulated, call a professional to determine how much you need and to help with installation.
- Get an R-value rating. The R-value is a rating that indicates the thermal resistance of insulation. Adding additional layers or changing the type of insulating material can affect the R-value. Each region has recommendations for the optimal R-value in different areas of your home. Conforming to these can help improve energy efficiency and home comfort.
- Make sure you don't insulate where you should not. Installing insulation is not as simple as putting in as much as possible and assuming it will work. Some areas of your home, particularly specific areas of the attic, should not be insulated. Proper airflow is essential for maintaining ideal home comfort levels; improperly insulating certain areas can impede air flow and reduce energy efficiency.
How long an HVAC system will last before needing major repairs or replacement depends on several factors. First and foremost is how well it has been maintained. The average A/C can last from 15 to 20 years and the average furnace can last about 20 years, but if the system is neglected it could fail prematurely. Annual service is the best way to prevent costly repairs and extend the lifespan of your HVAC equipment. In the South Bay, Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas, air conditioners are an important part of our daily comfort all summer long. Any system on which you rely every day needs annual service to keep it operating at peak efficiency. You service your car with regular oil changes and maintenance, but because your HVAC system works “behind the scenes,” it’s easy to overlook. However, keeping up with annual service is important. It can take care of small problems before they evolve into big repairs, and can even extend the lifespan of your equipment as much as 30 percent. Regular, annual service also allows a technician to become familiar with your equipment. A few issues that regular service can address include:
- Checking the electricity voltage and current on the motor and tightening the connections if necessary. Correct motor operation and electric connections ensure the safe operation of the system and can increase its lifespan.
- Cleaning and tuning up your air conditioner coils. Dirty A/C coils can cause the system to run longer than a regular cycle. An overworked system is more likely to perform less efficiently and even to break down early.
- Properly lubricating all moving components in the system. Inefficient lubrication can use more electricity and increase friction, resulting in quicker degradation.
A Solar Home Energy System puts you in control of your monthly bills by creating and using solar energy, reducing your need for electricity from your utility provider. Solar energy generated by the system is first used to power your heat pump or air conditioner. When your heating and cooling system is not in use, the solar energy can operate other appliances and electronics. Any excess energy that’s not needed will be sent back to the utility company, possibly entitling you to a credit. Power from the sun also has major benefits for the environment. It reduces the need for electricity generated by power plants, which in turn leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. If you're contemplating making the switch, here's a list of considerations that you and your local HVAC contractor will use in the planning phase for your new system. This information will help your contractor estimate your home's solar energy generation potential: How much space do you have on your roof? How much is exposed to the sun? Do you have a southern exposure? Does your neighborhood have building restrictions, say, from a homeowners association? Will you need to submit plans for approval? Are your electrical wiring and distribution panels up to specifications? Which federal tax credits are available for your solar power system purchases? Are local rebates from your utility company still available? What is net metering and how can it lower my utility costs? What about the budget? When calculating your solar heating and cooling start-up budget, remember to factor in the long-term savings. These include lower utility bills and minimal maintenance bills, since the system has no moving parts. Solar heating and cooling systems last 25 years or more, making their amortized lifetime costs quite low. The best solar energy systems are modular, so homeowners can start small and add more panels to increase the system's capacity as needed. Contact your local HVAC experts at Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical if you're planning a switch to solar or if you just have questions. In business since 1962, we use our experience to keep your home comfortable. We use the latest solar technology and system design, which takes all the advantages of traditional solar to the next level. Take a look at the details on our website or give us a call at 408-294-6290. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information, click here to download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. To get started, check out our website or see our current promotions.Read More
Everyone wants to breathe clean, fresh air at home. Here's some useful information on how duct cleaning can help improve and maintain your home's air quality. Good indoor air quality is not just nice to have, it goes a long way toward keeping you and your family healthy. In the sometimes too-well-sealed, modern, energy-efficient homes found here in the South Bay, peninsula and Santa Cruz areas, your indoor air can become more polluted than the air outside. This type of construction, according to the findings of the EPA and HVAC professionals, traps all kinds of unwanted contaminants in the home, including:
- dust mites
- pet dander
- rodent droppings
- mold spores
- chemical emissions from household cleaners or personal care products
- residue from combustible fuels such as wood, oil and natural gas and more
When you're purchasing a water heater for your home, you will see there are 2 basic types: tankless (also called "on-demand") models and conventional water-storage heaters. A traditional tank unit keeps a reservoir of water heated 24 hours a day, while tankless water heaters activate on demand. Cold water runs through the heat exchanger of a tankless unit, and a gas burner or electric heating element quickly heats it to the desired preset temperature. Why is your choice important? The U.S. Department of Energy identifies water heating -- responsible for up to 25 percent of a household's spent energy -- as the third-largest energy expense in most households. So your choice will definitely affect your budget. Here's an outline of pros and cons that may help: Tankless water heaters Pros:
- Are more energy-efficient and kinder to the environment
- Save money on monthly utilities; for instance, gas units were found to be 22 percent more energy efficient on average than the conventional tank models in Consumer Reports testing.
- Save space; units are the size of a small suitcase.
- Reliable if sized properly, supplying hot water at a rate of typically 2 to 5 gallons/minute
- Long life of 20 years-plus
- Cost twice as much or more
- Installation and retrofitting costs higher
- May offer an inadequate flow rate at peak demand
- Cheaper to purchase/replace
- Trusted technology
- Efficient Energy-Star-rated models are now available
- Cost more to operate
- Less energy-efficient than tankless models
- Require more space in your home
- May not keep up with demand - only 70 percent of the water in tank is available for use
- Shorter life expectancy of 10 - 12 years
Many homeowners here in the South Bay, peninsula and Santa Cruz area are inconvenienced by hot and cold areas in their homes. They can't comfortably use a room on the sunny side of the house during the afternoon in summer. Related problems pop up in winter. No matter the season, weather conditions or time of day, there are tools to keep you and your family comfortable in every area of the house. The solution is a zoning system that puts you in charge of the micro-climate of each room or zone in the house. Comfort Comes With Savings Along with the precise room-to-room temperature control you get from a zoned system, you'll save cash by saving energy. When you eliminate excessively chilled or overheated rooms, you can expect significant savings on monthly utility bills. According to Energy Savers, heating and cooling account for 43 percent of the average utility bill, so lower costs make a big difference. Looking at environmental concerns, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that heating and cooling systems emit 150 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Combining proper maintenance of our home comfort systems with upgrades like zoning, adequate insulation and proper thermostat settings, environmental emissions could be reduced by up to 50 percent. A skilled HVAC professional can evaluate the unique climate zones in your home and design a solution that will solve your home comfort problem. Contact the home zoning systems professionals at Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical for additional information. We've been serving the home comfort needs of the South Bay, peninsula and Santa Cruz area families since 1962 and maintain an A+ rating and accreditation with the Better Business Bureau. We're happy to recommend systems, adjustments or improvements to fit your the requirements of your home's unique layout as well as your budget. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information, click here to download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. To get started, check out our website or see our current promotions.Read More
Local residents here in the South Bay, peninsula and Santa Cruz area are understandably concerned with saving energy and keeping their household budget under control. Energy Star has provided a tool for homeowners called the Home Energy Yardstick to help with these concerns. The tool allows you to compare your energy usage to that of other local households. In addition, the Home Advisor tool provides customized energy savings recommendations. A sample of some of the tips, tailored for our region, include:
- Use Energy Star-qualified lighting. This is basic advice that really works to help save energy.
- Install an Energy Star-qualified water heater. In addition, look for other qualified products like windows, skylights and doors to lower energy bills and protect your home's contents from sun damage. Energy Star qualifies more than 60 types of products.
- Make sure you have adequate insulation: R-38 is recommended for the attic, R-18 for exterior walls and R-10 to R-13 for crawl spaces and basement areas.
- Look for air leaks in your house and seal them with weather stripping, caulking or spray foam.
- Do the same with any accessible ductwork in your house, which can be sealed with a product called duct mastic (not duct tape), available at local your home store. Think about hiring a contractor to test and seal the whole duct system to be sure all leaks are taken care of.
- Install a programmable thermostat to help save energy when your home is empty or you're asleep. These thermostats are compatible with most HVAC systems without major retrofitting.
- If your HVAC system is more than 10 years old or not working properly, think about replacing it with new energy-efficient equipment. You can save money right away on monthly utility bills and the system will pay for itself surprisingly quickly.
When you're in the market for an HVAC contractor, you might notice the NATE-certified logo or a mention of the organization on the websites of established companies. In case you've wondered why this certification is important and exactly what it is, we'll put that question to rest today. NATE, or North American Technician Excellence, is a non-profit, professional organization dedicated to the highest quality in home comfort service. Their certifications span all related areas, such as heating, air conditioning, ventilation, refrigeration and their sub-specialties. The organization provides rigorous testing of HVAC technicians who are interested in maintaining the highest standard of service and demonstrating their competency in their chosen specialties. The organization connects HVAC businesses and technicians with professional continuing-education opportunities. There are classes covering everything from the basics through complex topics and the latest technological advances. Instruction is also available covering the ever-more-important areas of energy efficiency standards and methods as well as green technology. Certifications also include training and testing of contractors' communication skills. Examinations are given by approved testing organizations and proctors. Since participation is voluntary for technicians and HVAC businesses, you can be sure certified professionals strive for excellence in their profession. Technicians prepare by taking classes, seminars and also racking up apprentice hours. They pursue independent study, as well, aided by NATE educational publications. Techs are certified in a number of broad areas including installation, service with senior-level certification in sub-specialties such as air distribution, gas heating, hydronics and more. Many contractors are certified in multiple areas, including as HVAC Efficiency Analysts. The bottom line to all this: NATE certification can give you peace of mind when choosing a contractor to work in your home. After reading the above, it will come as no surprise that the local HVAC experts at Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical are NATE certified. We've been in business since 1962, using our extensive experience to keep our neighbors in the South Bay, peninsula and Santa Cruz comfortable at home. Visit our website for in-depth information on most HVAC topics, or just give us a call at 408-294-6290. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information, click here to download our free Home Comfort Resource guide. Valley Heating, Cooling & Electrical services the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas in California. To get started, check out our website or see our current promotions.Read More
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