Premier Indoor Comfort Systems LLC Blog : Archive for August, 2011

Your HVAC System and Electricity: Some Tips From Norcross

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

While not every HVAC system in your Norcross home requires electricity, many of them do. Your air conditioner, electric furnace or water heater and ventilation system all need access to the central power line. So what does that mean for your system and what problems should be you beware of?

How Your HVAC System Uses Electricity

How your HVAC system works depends largely on which components need electricity to operate. Here is a quick summary of how each system uses electricity:

  • Air Conditioning – Most air conditioners are electric and therefore use electricity based on the number of BTUs produced. For example, if your air conditioner produces 25,000 BTUs and has a SEER of 16, it can produce 16 BTUs for every watt of electricity consumed per hour. As a result, it consumes 1,562.5 watts per hour when the system is running at maximum capacity. If it runs at full capacity for 8 hours per day, 30 days a month in the summer, that’s 375 kilowatt hours – which is the measurement unit you’ll see on your electric bill.
  • Heating – Your heating system may not use electricity, as many homes today use gas or oil combustion furnaces or boilers to produce heat. However, if you have an electric furnace, that electric power is used to heat the filament in the furnace. Electricity also powers the blower fan motor which pushes air across the filament and into the air handler. An electric furnace sized to heat a 1500 square foot home can use up to 8,000 watts per hour to produce enough heat for your home. That converts to roughly 5,000 kilowatt hours per month. The current price of electricity will determine how much this actually costs, you but it can really add up quickly.
  • Ventilation – Your ventilation system is almost always going to use electricity to circulate and filter air. While mechanical filters rely on the movement of air to remove certain particles, ventilation systems have a variety of components including fans and possibly even condenser coils to conserve energy as air is exchanged between the inside and outside.

Electricity plays an important role in your HVAC system no matter how your system works. To ensure yours continues to operate as intended, have your power system checked on a regular basis when the rest of your HVAC system is serviced.

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Different Types of Refrigerants Used in HVAC: A Guide From Powder Springs

Monday, August 29th, 2011

We have all heard phrases in Powder Springs like “save the planet” or “save the ozone layer.” Up until the 1960s there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to the disintegrating protective ozone layer around the Earth’s surface. Since then, ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) have been seen as the ozone-depleting culprit and new laws regulating the use of CFCs have had a direct impact on heating and cooling (HVAC) systems.

The “lifeblood” of any air conditioning system is its refrigerants – a chemical used in the refrigeration cycle. For several decades, the “refrigerant of choice” in HVAC systems has been HCFC-22, also known as R-22. The problem is, HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) are harmful to the ozone layer because they contain ozone-destroying chlorine.

Because of this, the use of R-22 is being slowly phased out from usage in HVAC systems. The Clean Air Act of 1970 has provisions in it to phase out HCFC refrigerants. As a result, chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce, and companies will no longer be able to import, R-22 for use in new air conditioning equipment (effective this year),  but they can continue production and import of R-22 until 2020 for use in servicing existing equipment. So, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing for many years to come.

But the “new kid on the block” replacing R-22 has been getting up a head of steam for several years now. Among the new alternative refrigerants recommended by the U.S. EPA is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, but, like R-22, contributes to global warming. R-410A is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®.

There are several other substitute refrigerants going by the names of R-407C, HFC-134A, and R-422C. A complete list can be found at www.epa.gov.

According to the U.S. EPA, homeowners with existing units using R-22 can continue to use R-22 since there is “no requirement to change or convert R-22 units for use with a non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerant.” And it is important to note that R-407C is allowed for retrofits but R-410A is not, due to its higher working pressures. Substitute refrigerants would not work well with existing components unless a retrofit was made or in the case of using R-410A, a complete system changeout.

One of the leading causes for air conditioner and heat pump failure are lower levels of refrigerant. If you are working on your own equipment, it is important to note that replacing refrigerants like R-22 and R-410A should only be done by certified HVAC professionals. You must show EPA certification to purchase these refrigerants.

If you are interested in “saving the planet” you might do well to give the boot to your HCFC-consuming appliance. For more information, contact your local contractor.

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Essential Components of a Home Comfort System: Some Pointers From Alpharetta

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Indoor comfort is defined by several factors: temperature, humidity, and air quality. If any one of the three is out of the “normal” range it can affect the quality of life in your Alpharetta home.

The ultimate goal of any heating & cooling contractor is to ensure that customers are comfortable – meaning that all three factors are addressed when servicing, replacing, or installing new equipment in a home. This equipment includes furnaces and air conditioners but also extends to humidifiers, dehumidifiers, electronic filters, ultraviolet (UV) lighting, infrared heating, etc.

Obviously, the essential component for most U.S. households is a furnace. Air conditioners may not be essential for all parts of the U.S., namely the northern states, but are still considered an integral part of any home comfort system. Add-ons like de-humidifiers and electronic filters are important for controlling the air quality.

Let’s look at the furnace first. There are several choices but most can be found in two different classifications: single-stage or variable speed two-stage. Your choice depends on the indoor square footage, your own comfort needs, and possibly the cost of energy units (gas or electric for example). Forced air is a common method of moving heated air to all parts of the home via an air handling unit and through a duct system. But gaining in popularity is radiant heat (electric), which does not utilize a duct system.

Air conditioners also come in a variety of sizes, including window/room air conditioners or central air conditioning, which is likely a “split” system including an outdoor unit and indoor coil. The size of the air conditioner is determined by square footage, which is part of a load calculation performed by qualified heating & cooling contractors while planning the equipment replacement or new installation. An oversized air conditioner may produce high humidity levels and an undersized unit may not provide enough cooling to all areas of the home. High humidity levels contribute to higher indoor temperatures in the summer, and can also lead to respiratory problems.

If someone in your home has allergies or is sensitive to certain pollutants in the air, it may be important to include extra filtration in your heating & cooling system, such as electronic filtration and UV lighting mounted in the buildings duct system, to kill germs and contaminants.

And speaking of an essential component, duct systems are keys to maximizing efficiency and comfort. Properly sized, insulated, and sealed, the duct system is a key to comfortable, healthy indoor air – and energy efficiency. It is also important to keep your duct system clean, too.

As always, it is best to consult with a qualified and licensed heating and cooling contractor who can offer the best solutions for your home comfort system.

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Does Humid Air Affect How AC Runs? A Question From Atlanta

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

You’ve probably heard a dozen times in Atlanta that humidity is removed by air conditioning. Unfortunately, the common assumption is that there is no inherent cost in allowing humidity to persist in their home. But, did you know it costs significantly more to remove humidity from the air with air conditioning than with a dehumidifier? Here’s why.

Water Vapor in Your Air Conditioner

Consider the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of water by one degree – one BTU. However, to change water from liquid to steam, another 10 BTUs are required. So, imagine how much energy it takes to condense water vapor from the air (in the form of humidity) into a liquid. This is what your air conditioner does whenever it processes humid air. It takes about 1,050 BTUs to condense one pound of moisture in the air into liquid.

The cost of running your air conditioner strictly for dehumidification can be huge, especially considering the fact that humidity is heaviest in the morning and evening when you probably don’t need your air conditioner every day (at least not early and late in the summer). Imagine, the cost difference if you used a dehumidifier to remove 150 or more pounds of moisture per week and an air conditioner when needed just to remove 15-20.

Negative Impact on How it Runs

Another thing to consider is that humidity can actually put an extra burden on your air conditioner. While the system is designed to remove that liquid from the air and get rid of it through the cooling coil and condensate drain, every extra minute the system is running is a bigger burden on it. Of course it will do its job for a few years, but the extra running time will add up, not only on your electricity bill but eventually on the machine itself.

The added pressure will result in eventual breakdown of the system and a need for early replacement. The easiest solution is to purchase a dehumidifier. These run at a fraction of the energy level of a full AC system and work extremely well to remove humidity from your home. In fact, most air conditioners will only remove humidity after 20-30 minutes of continuous operation. For short cooling cycles, you may not even dehumidify the house. So a dehumidifier ensures higher levels of comfort all at a lower cost.

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How Much Maintenance Do Solar Panels and Require? A Question From Norcross

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

The most commonly cited benefits of solar panels and solar modules are that they are eco-friendly and cost effective. Many resources on the subject are quick to point out that despite high upfront costs, solar panels pay for themselves over time by being durable enough to provide cheap energy for a long time. You know all this, but as a Norcross homeowner, you also need to know what kind of maintenance is involved in a solar system. In short, after investing your cash, how much work will you put in?

The amount of maintenance required by solar panels is fairly low, as they are quite durable and the only truly vulnerable component is the glass face. There are some steps that you can take to maintain and extend the life of your solar system, though. Below are some routine maintenance tips.

Cleaning

There are quite a few things you can do to keep your solar panels in tip top shape. For example, you should clean your solar panels regularly with water and dish soap to remove any surface grime. There are also surface sprayers available which allow you to clean your panels effectively from the ground.

You should avoid installing panels in a location where they will attract dust, grime and bird droppings, such as near trees, branches, or other growth. Remember that your solar panels are only as good as the energy they can capture, so keeping them clean is much more than a simple cosmetic measure.

Inspecting

To ensure they continue to work properly, you should examine your solar panels regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Clean away any dirt or debris and tighten any loose connections. Should your panel become damaged in any way, for example by severe weather or blown down branches, have it repaired immediately.

If your system has a backup battery, be sure to replace the batteries as they wear down. There will be a noticeable decline in performance when this happens. Also inspect the connections on both the batteries and the inverter to ensure they are tight.

Generally speaking, solar panels themselves don’t require much maintenance. Simply keep them clean and inspect them regularly and they should last a good long while. Other components, such as backup batteries or generators, inverters, and additional arrays will require extra maintenance as well. For the most part, installing a solar system will not add much to your usual household maintenance tasks.

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What to Do About Cool Spots: A Tip From Peachtree City

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Sitting on your couch watching TV in your Peachtree City home should be an enjoyable experience, especially after a long day at the office. But, if your air conditioner deposits an abnormally high volume of cold air directly onto your couch, making you shiver despite the 90 degree heat outside, you may have a cool spot.

Cool spots are an unfortunate side effect of modern air conditioning technology. They occur when HVAC systems are improperly sized or ductwork is improperly installed. Other factors like insulation, vent configuration or window placement can also contribute to the presence of a cool spot (and possibly some hot spots). So, what can you do about it? There are a few options, starting with a quick inspection of the space.

Checking for Common Problems

Your inspector will check a number of things. Most importantly, they’ll measure the size of your HVAC system and compare it to the dimensions and particulars of your house. Usually, in the case of cool spots, the problem is directly related to an oversized system. When it turns on, even for a few minutes, it produces more cold air than is necessary, flooding your home with cooling. The thermostat recognizes this and the system shuts off soon after turning on. As a result, you’ll feel fluctuation between cold and warm as the system fails to properly condition the space.

Modern systems are sized for your house at 100% capacity. So, when the system turns on, it should stay on for a substantial period of time, keeping your home cool. Turning off and on frequently is bad for the system and wastes energy (plus it produces those pesky cool spots). Keep in mind that hot spots can also occur if the system isn’t powerful enough.

Your inspector will also look for vent placement and duct configuration. Improper placement of vents can lead to pooling of cool air that creates cool spots. By checking for potential problems in the layout of your HVAC system, an inspector can determine if new vents or ducts are needed to solve the problem.

Fixing the Cool Spots

For now, you may just want to move to another part of the house. Cool spots rarely affect the entire space – they tend to cluster around vents and outlets and can usually be fixed by resizing or adjusting your system. However, only your contractor can tell you for sure what the best solution will be for your air conditioning issues so make sure to schedule an inspection.

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The Ins and Outs of Ductless Splits Air Conditioning: Some Pointers From Sharpsburg

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

So, it’s time to install a new air conditioner in your Sharpsburg home and you’re pretty sure there just isn’t enough room in the walls or ceilings to place the necessary ductwork. No problem. There is a rapidly evolving technology that allows you to have air conditioning without ductwork. It’s called mini-split ductless air conditioning and it relies on individual units placed in key locations around your house. Here’s how they work.

Multi-Zone Cooling

The first step is to install a central unit. This is your compressor and condenser and is usually placed outside like the core of a central AC system. These units range between 15,000 and 40,000 BTUs depending on how much cooling your home needs and will support up to 4 zones within your house.

Once the central unit is installed, smaller room-sized units are placed throughout your house. These units are designed for between 9,000 and 18,000 BTU spaces and are usually placed high on the wall of your room to distribute cooled air. The smaller units are connected to the main unit by refrigerant lines that are run up the side of your house (or inside if you want them out of the elements).

Because each indoor unit is individual and has its own thermostat, you save electricity by having direct control over each part of your home. In fact, the average ductless split system uses something like 30% less electricity than a standard air conditioning system.

Is it Right for You?

This is the most common question we hear and to be honest, it really depends on your needs. If you have a large house – we’re talking 3,000 square feet or bigger, a multi-zone ductless system may not provide enough cooling on its own. Most systems only support up to 4 individual units and therefore cannot cool massive spaces. However, if you have a smaller home, or more importantly have no space for ductwork, these systems are much more efficient than installing multiple window units.

Plus, for those with inferior heating systems (or mild winters), most ductless systems provide heating in the winter as well. Not a bad tradeoff for a relatively simple installation and lower electricity costs. If you have more questions about this type of air conditioning, talk to an air conditioning contractor.

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Quick Tips From Alpharetta: How to Save Money on Air Conditioning

Monday, August 15th, 2011

You’ve probably heard once or twice that the cost of running your air conditioner is more than that of any other single electrical device in your Alpharetta house. That means you’re spending hundreds and possibly even thousands of dollars each and every year to stay cool. It’s well worth the investment as the risk of not having air conditioning is much too high, but there must be ways to cut the costs, right? With careful attention to how your AC operates and when you use, there are some things you can do to slash those costs. Here are a few of the easiest:

  • SEER Matters – What is this magical acronym you hear so much? SEER refers to how many BTUs your air conditioner can produce with a single watt of electricity. A low SEER device therefore uses a LOT more electricity to produce the same volume of cooling as a high SEER device. Since current devices offer SEER of 13 or higher (some are up to 20+), just about any upgrade will save you money relatively quickly if your current air conditioner has a rating of 8 or lower.
  • Program Your AC – If you have a single point analog thermostat, you’re wasting a LOT of electricity. You’re either paying to cool your house while it’s empty or you’re coming home to a roasting hot living space. Purchase a programmable thermostat and set the system to 85 degrees when you’re not home. With timers in most digital units, you can tell it when you’ll be home so that you walk into a cool, comfortable space without having to keep it cool all day long.
  • Use the Landscape to Your Advantage – Instead of relying solely on your air conditioner to keep the house cool in the summer, plant some trees and shrubs around the house to block the sunlight. Simply adding some shade to your property can directly reduce how much heat your home absorbs throughout the day and reduce how much your AC unit needs to work to keep you cool.
  • Ventilate Your Roof – A good third of the heat in your home is absorbed directly through the roof. To keep this heat from affecting the rest of your home, install a roof fan that ventilates the excess energy and keeps the attic at a steady temperature. Less heat up top means less cooling needed down low.

A good air conditioning system is effective no matter what the temperature does, so it’s easy to forget how big your bill will soon be. To avoid an overblown bill, keep an eye on your cooling and follow these simple tips to cut back on use.

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How Do I Reduce Dust in My Home? A Question From Douglasville

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Dust is everywhere, from Douglasville to Dawsonville. There is no way to stop it from occurring, so instead we turn to cleaning and filtration to keep the amount of dust circulating through the air in to a minimum. Luckily, there are quite a few things you can do, even without installing new equipment, to reduce your dust levels.

Duct Cleaning

First on the list is regular duct cleaning. You dust your furniture and your floors, so why not clean out your ductwork? Properly cleaned ductwork is very important because of just how much stuff can build up in there over time. Imagine regular air flow in an enclosed space that never gets cleaned. How much dust and debris do you think could build up over the course of a year? Hint: it’s enough to keep a steady flow of dust in your indoor air.

Professional duct cleaning is important and should be done once every year or two depending on how often you use your home comfort system. However, you should also clean in and around the vents and ducts in your home where you can reach. This can be done weekly and will help immensely to reduce dust.

Filtration

Most air filters equipped with high quality HEPA filters work extremely well to remove dust from the air. Because HEPA filters can capture particles as small as 0.3 microns, they won’t just remove dust, but pollen, pet dander and even mold. Mold especially is a problem that occurs in far greater frequency in homes without filtration.

Simple air filtration is an affordable solution to a lot of different contaminants, so it’s a good fit for any home. However, there are more powerful systems as well that will reduce both dust and pathogens like bacteria – these purifiers use ionization to draw particles from the air electronically.

Humidity

Humidity imbalance can cause dust problems as well. Low humidity leads to more dead skin and dust in the house, while high humidity causes the development of dust mites. Properly regulating your humidity to slightly less than 50% will create a perfect environment in which less dust is created and circulated in your home.

The best way to reduce dust is to take a three pronged approach to indoor air quality. Cleanliness is always first on the list, but after that don’t neglect the value of filtration and proper humidity control. When used properly, these three things will ensure dust never bothers you again.

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Does Your Humidifier Have an Odor? A Tip From Decatur

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

The best way to avoid those dry, uncomfortable winters is to have a high quality humidifier in your Decatur home adding much needed moisture to improve your indoor air quality. This can help lessen the severity of cold and allergy symptoms and even reduce the risk of asthma attacks. But if you notice a strange or musky smell coming from your humidifier when you turn it on, you probably won’t want to use it as often.

Fortunately, a problem like this is relatively easy to fix. That’s because it’s probably caused by stagnant water or a buildup of mold or mildew inside the humidifier itself. This isn’t a particularly pleasant thought, of course, but it does mean that the smell is pretty easy to get rid of. All it takes is thorough cleaning with the right materials.

Before you clean out your humidifier, always make sure it’s unplugged. The first thing to do is to remove the filter and change it. In some cases, that will take care of the entire problem and you won’t have to invest any more time in this project.

If your humidifier doesn’t have a filter or if the smell persists even after the filter has been changed, a deeper cleaning is probably in order. Begin by getting rid of the water in the reservoir and washing it out thoroughly. Next, scrub out all the interior areas of the humidifier you can reach with bleach and water. Make sure you get the evaporator belt while you are in there – it’s a particularly tricky component that can contribute to the musky smell. Be sure to rinse out the bleach thoroughly afterwards or it will be introduced into your indoor air when you turn humidifier back on.

Once that’s done, reassemble the unit and run it as normal with a fresh supply of water. That should solve the problem, but to keep it from happening again, there are some simple preventative steps you can take. First of all, don’t leave water standing in the reservoir for any length of time.

Whenever you’re not using your humidifier, dump out excess water and dry the interior thoroughly to prevent the growth of mold or mildew. You can also add vinegar or baking soda to the water in your humidifier to help keep any unwanted smells from coming back. Ideally, this will never again be an issue for you. If it is, and you have kept your humidifier clean, you may need to have it more thoroughly cleaned or inspected.

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