How Can I Identify the Reasons for High Home Energy Costs?
Various factors drive operating costs for your heating and cooling system. The local climate, your area’s electric (or gas) rates, even how often doors and windows are opened and shut affect the costs to run your heating & cooling system. Know the factors, so you can save money on electric bills and maintenance.
Of course, there are some factors you cannot control, like climate. For example, a central air conditioner will run a lot harder and get more use in Florida, than in the Northeast. But you can lower operating costs by better insulating your home, and by keeping windows and doors to the outside shut as much as possible. Also, look at household additions, such as ceiling fans that can better distribute heated or cooled air throughout your home.
Ask your service technician for ideas!
How important is an EnergyGuide Label?
The EnergyGuide label is important when shopping for an energy-efficient product. The U.S. government requires manufacturer’s to affix the label to a variety of products to provide a way for consumers to compare the energy use of similar appliances.
The label helps you understand and compare the estimated yearly operating cost based on the unit’s electricity usage and the national average cost of energy. Estimated yearly electricity use tells consumers how much electricity the appliances use in a year based on typical use. Multiply this by the electricity rate on your utility bill, and you can determine your estimated operating costs.
The EnergyGuide label makes it easier to find energy efficient appliances, which cost less to run, and help lower your utility bills. And of course, using less energy is good for the environment, too; it can reduce air pollution and help conserve natural resources.
How do I increase the humidity in my home during the winter?
Controlling the humidity levels in your home greatly influences the comfort you will experience as well as save you energy and reduce maintenance. Your home will feel most comfortable at humidity levels between 30 – 50%. We need humidity for our comfort and health but too little can produce difficulties for homeowners.
When the temperature outside falls, your furnace runs more. In extreme cold conditions, your home humidity level can drop as low as 10 percent. By comparison, the Sahara Desert has an average relative humidity of 25 percent. When you consider that people generally are most comfortable when the relative humidity is approximately 40 percent, you can see how dry indoor air can take a toll on your family.
Low humidity causes static electricity, dry skin, lips and hair, scratchy throats and noses, and itching and chapping. Mucous membranes in nose and throat dry out, increasing your discomfort and susceptibility to colds and respiratory illness. With low humidity levels, body moisture evaporates so quickly that you feel chilled even at higher thermostat settings.
Your home suffers, too. Low humidity can cause havoc with woodwork and furniture. You’ll notice shrinkage, hardwood floor separation and warping, your piano will go out of tune, wallpaper peels at the edges, drawers loosen and molding gaps start to appear.
A humidifier built into your heating and cooling system is the best long-term solution. The water supply is constant and it can be controlled by a humidistat mounted on your wall, properly regulating the humidity in your home. With the right amount of humidity, you’ll find that you can be comfortable at a lower thermostat setting. And that will increase your comfort as well as save you money on your energy bills.
Some other solutions are:
Individual humidifier units for rooms or areas in your home.
Boiling or cooking with the lids off the pans
Moisture from the shower or bathroom
Can I troubleshoot my system before I call in for a repair?
Of course you can! Mister Quik HVAC’s heating and air conditioning specialists encourage you to perform these simple procedures before calling us.
Check disconnected switches (indoors and outdoors if you have a split system). Make sure that circuit breakers are on or that fuses have not blown.
Check for sufficient airflow. Make sure air filters are clean and that supply-air and return-air grilles are open and unobstructed.
Check the settings on your thermostat. If you want cooling, make sure the temperature control selector is set below room temperature and the SYSTEM switch is on the COOL or AUTO position. If you want heat, make sure the temperature control selector is set above room temperature and the SYSTEM switch is at HEAT or AUTO. The FAN switch should be set at ON for continuous blower operation or AUTO if you want the blower to function only while the home heating system or central air conditioning unit is operating.
In addition to the routine maintenance you perform, your home comfort system should be inspected at least once a year by a properly trained service technician. A Mister Quik HVAC specialist will make sure your heating and air conditioning system operates safely and gives you the best performance at the lowest cost.
Heating & Cooling
What causes your air conditioning unit to frost over?
Air conditioners work by moving warm air over the cooling coil (also know as the evaporator coil). This process removes moisture from the air, which accumulates in the collector pan. This process is also key to maintaining a comfortable environment for your home in the summer.
If the air moves too slowly over the evaporator coils or if the refrigerant in your system is low you run the risk of the coil developing frost and icing over. A frozen unit will not be able to cool your home properly.
A frozen unit can be the result of low refrigerant or a dirty filter or coils. You can help avoid these problems by scheduling annual maintenance and changing or cleaning your air filter on a regular basis. During a maintenance check-up your technician will clean dirty coils and a clean air filter ensures proper airflow through your system. If your refrigerant is low, this could be an indication that you have a leak. Contact a professional technician to check for proper refrigerant levels and leaks.
How Is Sizing Determined for my Heating and Cooling Unit? Is the size important?
First of all, capacity is the ability of a heating or cooling system to heat or cool a given amount of space. For heating, this is usually expressed in BTUs. For cooling, it is usually given in tons. Heating and cooling systems are sized according to their tonnage. One (1) ton equals 12,000 BTU/H. Residential systems can range from 1 to 5 tons.
Sizing HVAC equipment is very important in determining your ultimate levels of comfort, cost and energy use. Never oversize! Oversized equipment increases the capital cost at the time of the installation and the costs of operating the equipment. Oversized equipment will not run as frequently or as long when it does run (known as “short cycling”), which accelerates the wear and tear on your equipment. It will also not be as energy efficient as a properly matched capacity unit. On the other hand, equipment that is undersized will have to work longer and harder to meet your comfort demands during temperature extremes. This results in lower energy efficiencies, less comfort, and the potential for premature equipment failure. In either case, both result in poor humidity control. Make sure to have a reputable, professional technician perform a home “load calculation” to determine the correct size heating and cooling system for your home.
The heating and cooling system is not working well in several rooms in my home. What should I do?
If you have rooms in your home that are too hot or too cold, contact a heating and cooling professional. He (or she) will be able to evaluate your home and identify the problem. Below are some good questions to ask the technician.
Is my home’s insulation adequate?
Are the air ducts well sealed?
Is air distribution adequate for my home?
Do I have areas of high humidity or moisture buildup in my home?
Is my heating and cooling system operating as it should?
There are a variety of variables that can cause certain rooms to overheat and other to get too cold. It is important to contact a trained professional in these situations who can not only evaluate your problem but also offer solutions and make any necessary repairs.
How Often Should I Replace my Furnace Filter?
In general, you should replace your disposable filters at least once a month. We recommend that you visually check filters and filtering equipment monthly. If filters look dirty, they need to be cleaned or replaced. If you have washable filters, they can be rinsed off. Replacing your filters on a regular basis ensures optimum efficiency and filtration for your system.
What are furnace ratings?
Furnaces are rated by the Annual Fuel Utilization (AFUE) ratio, which is a percent of heat produced for every dollar of fuel consumed. Like the miles per gallon rating on your car, the higher the AFUE rating, the lower your fuel costs. All furnaces manufactured must meet at least 78 percent AFUE.
AFUE tells you how much of your fuel is used to heat your home and how much fuel is wasted. Example: If your furnace has a rating of 80%, the furnace converts 80% of the fuel that you supply to heat and 20% is lost out of the chimney.
How can I improve the ventilation in my home?
Make your home more comfortable and energy-efficient by improving ventilation. Here are few “around the house” tips to boost ventilation:
Vent moisture to the outside from the bathroom and laundry room. The bathroom produces more moisture than any other room in your house.
If you cannot vent the bathroom to the outside, install a vent through the attic and down through a soffit vent. But do not vent directly into the attic, which can lead to ice buildup in the winter and mold during warmer months.
Vent the clothes dryer to the outside with a short metal duct. Clean the duct regularly to prevent house fires. Do not vent the dryer directly into the laundry room.
Install a vent hood with an exhaust van over your kitchen stove.
Improve ventilation and airflow in your home with ceiling fans. If you run the ceiling fan in reverse, it will better distribute warm air in the winter.
Do not block vents for heating and cooling systems, which can run up energy costs and damage equipment.
Why do I need to clean my filter regularly?
Regular filter replacement helps your heating and cooling system operate at peak levels and improves indoor air quality. It is important to change filters regularly to ensure proper air flow and to keep your home free from dust, allergens and germs. Depending upon the type of filter you have, you may require monthly or less frequent (3-6 month) media filter changes. If you are unsure of what type of filter your system uses, contact your service technician.
What regular maintenance do heating and air conditioning systems need?
The most important part of HVAC maintenance is preserving unrestricted airflows. Dust, dirt, and debris are an HVAC system’s worst enemies. Whether it’s an indoor or outdoor unit, you must keep all filters clean and heat exchangers and coils free of restrictions. We recommend that your heating and cooling system be checked and serviced twice a year; ideally a spring and autumn tune-up. Also we recommend that you change your filter regularly, depending on the type of filter you have. This alone can eliminate many of the most common problem that need fixing and can significantly reduce the likelihood of a serious breakdown.
Should I close registers and doors to areas of my home I’m not using?
No. Every system is designed to cool a certain number of square feet. By closing registers and doors in certain rooms, you disrupt and decrease the system’s airflow and efficiency. You system will have to work harder to cool less space, making it cycle more and become less efficient.
What is a good temperature to set my thermostat?
Most of the time, the best thermostat setting is that temperature at which you feel most comfortable. However, when extremely high summertime temperatures set in, the best temperature setting is going to be 15 to 16 degrees below the outside temperature. Remember, your air conditioner can only produce so much cooling, no matter how low you set the thermostat. And no matter what temperature you choose, once you have found a ‘comfort zone’ leave that thermostat set in one place – turning it up and down constantly only costs you more energy!
What is an air handler?
An Air Handler is the indoor unit of a central air conditioning or heat pump system that is responsible for the movement of the heated or cooled air throughout your home. An air handler in combination with a heat pump performs the task of circulating both hot and cold air through the desired area. Clean and safe air handlers in your home ensure that you and your family can have fresh and comfortable air all the year round.
Besides changing my filters, what maintenance should I do on my HVAC?
Most maintenance should be performed only by a qualified service technician, however, there are a few things you can do to ensure optimal performance. Keep ground mounted outdoor units clear of debris, clutter and weeds; this can reduce the airflow of the unit. Use caution with weed trimmers around the unit to prevent damaging control wiring. And lastly, keep pets away from the unit; pet urine can cause expensive damage.
I have very cold and very warm rooms in my home. Is there anything I can do?
Temperature differences of up to three degrees from room to room are not uncommon, but often one or several rooms are uncomfortably warm or cold. This condition could be caused by a number of factors within your home including inadequate insulation, air leakage, poor duct system design, duct leakage, unwanted heating by the sun in warmer months, or a failure in part of your heating and cooling system.
Hire an energy specialist to do an in-home evaluation to find any trouble spots.
Have a HVAC technician check to see if your heating and cooling system is operating correctly.
Have a HVAC technician check your ducts for air leakage and proper distribution of air.
Seal any leaks in your home (around windows, doors, outlets) and add insulation.
If the sun is making rooms too hot, consider using shades or solar screening.
Hire an electrician to install ceiling fans to make room air circulation more uniform.
What are some signs that might indicate I have a problem with my HVAC system?
While not always, you may notice an abnormal noise coming from the system, your heating or cooling system running non-stop, or warm air/cool air coming from the vents during the opposite season. Abnormally high utility bills are also a common indicator.
Problems can be caused by a number of different factors. The most common include:
Normal wear and tear associated with age. As your HVAC system is nearing the end of its life cycle you may see an increase in maintenance bills. This is a good indication that it is time to replace your system.
A failed part due to any number of reasons. Routine maintenance on your HVAC system can sometimes head off these types of problems. You can catch them before they become major problems.
Improper or poor maintenance. Lack of maintenance also decreases the efficiency of your system and makes it more costly to run.
How long should my furnace last?
This depends greatly upon how well it is maintained but in general the average life is 15 years. But I can’t stress enough that the better maintained your furnace is, by having seasonal check-ups performed every fall, the longer you can expect it to last.
My rule of thumb is when your system is around 10 years old and repair costs are getting high you should start looking into replacement. Another major tell is if your heat exchanger, the area that harnesses your fire in the furnace, shows rust and deterioration. In this instance you should definitely consider replacement. Heat exchangers that crack will leak carbon monoxide, a by-product of gas being burned off. This colorless, odorless gas will enter your home and is deadly to you and your family.
How often should I have my system serviced?
You should have your heating system serviced once a year for a seasonal check-up in the fall. A heating system that is not maintained is a problem waiting to happen. At the very least, you will have escalating operating costs due to the inefficient running of your system and the eventual need for repairs. In the worst case, improperly maintained equipment powered by natural gas can compromise your safety by causing high levels of CO, resulting in serious injury or even death.
There are some maintenance tasks that homeowners can do themselves, such as cleaning and replacing filters. However, in order to insure safe and efficient operation of a heating system, homeowners should have their furnace inspected and cleaned annually by a qualified service technician. The benefit to homeowners, your health and safety, your money and your time, far out way any costs incurred with a yearly inspection.
I have friends and relatives that have installed UV lights on their furnace. What are they for?
UV is the abbreviation for ultraviolet. Located in the return air ductwork and by the indoor cooling coil, the ultraviolet air treatment system continuously emits high – intensity ultraviolet (UV) energy. The energy eliminates (kills) a very high percentage of airborne bacteria and germs passing over the UV light field inside the ductwork. The UV light mounted next to the indoor cooling coil will help eliminate the growth of mold, mildew and other contaminates from the drain pan and coil surface. At Mister Quik HVAC we recommend installing non-ozone-producing UV products.
During the winter the fan occasionally shuts off on my heat pump outside unit, why?
Nothing is wrong with your unit. What appears to be smoke is steam from the outdoor coil after it completes a defrost cycle. After extended run times the outdoor unit will start to build frost or ice on the coil. The system is designed to go in a defrost mode when needed to clear the ice away and keep the efficiency level up.
Why is the upstairs of my house always hotter in the summer & cooler in the winter?
Heat rises, thus the reason it’s hotter in the summer. Assuming the system was sized and installed correctly, you should consider installing a zone system if possible. Sometimes the addition of return air ductwork will help improve air movement and help make upper levels more comfortable.
What kind of maintenance can be done manually?
With the proper maintenance and care, your Carrier equipment will operate economically and dependably. Though the professionals at Mister Quik HVAC are there to help with your heating and air conditioning unit, there are a few simple, routine maintenance operations you can do to help ensure the best performance and comfort from your heating and air conditioning system.
Before you perform any kind of maintenance, consider these important safety precautions.
Disconnect all electrical power to the unit before removing access panels to perform maintenance. Please note that there may be more than one power connection switch.
Although Carrier takes special care to prevent sharp edges in the construction of heating and air conditioning equipment and indoor air quality systems, it’s best to be very careful when you handle parts or reach into units.
Do-It-Yourself Heating and Air Conditioning Maintenance
Check the air filter in your furnace or fan coil every three to four weeks. A dirty filter will cause excessive strain on your furnace, air conditioner or heat pump. Replace your filter when necessary or clean it if you have the reusable type. (If you have a reusable filter, make sure it’s completely dry before you re-install it.) The pre-filter and collection cells of an electronic air cleaner should be cleaned at least two or three times per year for optimal indoor air quality.
Clean dust off of your indoor coil. With a vacuum cleaner and soft-brush attachment, you can remove any dust from the top and underside of the coil. Make sure you only do this when the coil is dry. If you can’t get the coil clean this way, call us for service.
Keep your outdoor condensing unit free of debris. If you keep grass clippings, leaves, shrubbery and debris away from your outdoor unit, it should only require minimal care to operate properly. Check the base pan (under the unit) occasionally and remove debris, to help the unit drain correctly.
If the outdoor coil becomes dirty, use a brush or a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to clean the surface. To clean dirt that is deep in the coil, contact us.
Take special care of outdoor condensing units in ocean environments. Living in Monmouth and Ocean counties, many Indianapolis residents can help preserve their heating and air conditioning system with some extra care. Although new Carrier furnaces and Carrier air conditioner units are made out of galvanized metal and are protected by top-grade paint, you can add life to your unit by washing all exposed surfaces and the coil approximately every three months. (Ask your installing contractor about the appropriate interval in your area.)
Make sure your outdoor unit stays in a level position. If the support for your split-system outdoor unit shifts or settles and the unit is no longer level, re-level it promptly to make sure moisture drains properly out of the unit. If you notice that water or ice collects beneath the unit, arrange for it to be drained away from the equipment.
Inspect your furnace’s combustion area and vent system before each heating season. If you find dirt, soot or rust, your system may not operate properly or at its peak efficiency. Call us and do not operate your furnace until it is professionally inspected and/or repaired.
Have oil-fired boilers inspected annually. Contact us before each heating season to replace your oil filter cartridge and conduct a thorough inspection of the unit’s operation. This will make your home heating system work at peak efficiency.
Clean your humidifier at the beginning of every heating season. Review your owner’s manual for the proper procedure to clean the external and internal components of your whole house humidifier. The evaporator pad should also be replaced before each heating season. If the water in your area is hard or has high mineral content, you may need to clean or service your humidifier more frequently.
Clean the core and air filters on a ventilator at least every three months. You can vacuum the core of an energy recovery ventilator as long as it is dry and the outdoor temperature is between 60 F (16 C) and 75 F (24 C). Heat recovery ventilator cores can be soaked for three hours in a solution of warm water and mild soap and then rinsed. Ventilator air filters are washable: just use a vacuum to remove the heaviest accumulation of dust and then wash them in lukewarm water. Replace them after they are completely dry.
What system is best for my home and my budget?
To determine which home heating and air conditioning system is best for you, take into consideration factors such as: your budget, your comfort expectations, physical factors (such as your current system) and other unique features of your home. Because your geographical region is also an integral factor in choosing a home heating system or home central air conditioning unit, that should be taken into consideration as well.
For the basics of heating or cooling temperature control, you have four system options. Below is a list of those options followed by the approximate percentage of U.S. homes using that particular system:
Gas Furnace/air conditioner (60% of homes)
Gas Heat Pump (25% of homes)
Gas Small Packaged System (5% of homes)
There are other accessories you may want to consider to determine what system works best for you. Air cleaners, ventilators or a whole house humidifier may be useful.
System control is another factor when choosing a home heating system or central air conditioning. This involves being able to maintain a comfortable temperature, manually or automatically, to keep the home consistently comfortable with changing physical or environmental fluctuations.
To choose a heating and air conditioning system, you also must assess your current system. The three most likely energy sources for your comfort system are electricity, gas or oil. Here are some options based on your energy source.
If you have no gas or oil service, you will need to go with an all-electric system, which means a heat pump or air conditioner. You may be able to have a gas line installed at your home, but that could be an additional cost. In some areas, electrical rates are so low that an all-electric system can still be the best option even if gas or oil are available.
If natural gas is available, furnaces and boilers become options for you. You may still opt to have an all-electric system if that suits your home or your personal preference.
If oil is available, furnaces and boilers are also options for you. However, you can switch over to an all-electric system to better fit your needs.
Everybody’s home is different. Some are big, some are small. Older homes are not as tightly sealed as new ones, which means efficiency is reduced. The number and size of windows, what direction the home is facing, number of mature trees in the yard and many more factors can affect your comfort, and may play a part in deciding what type of system is best for you. An Mister Quik HVAC specialist has the expertise to assess any unusual circumstances surrounding the specific needs of your home.
How can I save money on a heating or air conditioning system?
Will the lowest priced heating and air conditioning system end up costing you money in the long run with high operating costs or by needing to be replaced sooner? Will the lowest priced system provide the comfort you expect? Before you make your final decision, you should consider operating costs and efficiency ratings.
Comparing energy efficiency of different brands of home heating systems and central air conditioners is relatively easy. There are three standardized rating systems used. Each rating is used for a specific type of product (in other words, all furnaces use the same system, heat pumps use a different system, and so on).
AFUE (Gas Heating)
The efficiency of a furnace is measured in a rating known as AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). A lot like your car’s miles-per-gallon rating, AFUE tells you how efficiently the furnace converts fuel (gas or oil) into heat. An AFUE of 80% means that 80% of the fuel is used to heat your home, while the other 20% basically goes up the chimney.
The government mandated a minimum AFUE rating for furnaces installed in new homes is 78%. (In contrast, many furnaces manufactured before 1992 had AFUE ratings as low as 60% — so nearly half the fuel was being wasted.) Furnaces with AFUE ratings of 78% to 80% are considered “mid-efficiency”; those with ratings of 90% or higher are known as “high efficiency.” The maximum furnace efficiency available is around 96.6%.
In general, a higher efficiency furnace usually means you pay a higher price for the system but endure a lower monthly operating cost. If you have an older furnace (with an AFUE of about 60%), you could save up to 60% on your heating bills by replacing it with a new high-efficiency furnace. So the cost to replace your old, inefficient furnace is paid back through lower utility bills.
Furnace Replacement Payback
If you live in a cold climate, you could see a payback in a few short years. If you live in a moderate climate, it might make more sense to purchase a mid-efficiency furnace. A Mister Quik HVAC representative can use heating system data from your area to help you determine about how long it would take you to recover the additional cost of a high-efficiency model in energy savings. And after the payback, you continue to save on your energy bills for the life of the system.
Cooling efficiency for air conditioning systems and heat pumps is indicated by a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating which tells you how efficiently a unit uses electricity. The higher the number, the greater the efficiency. The typical SEER rating of units manufactured prior to 1992 is about 6.0. Now, the government mandated minimum is 10.0 SEER. High-efficiency units have a SEER of at least 12.0; the maximum available is about 17.
HSPF (Heat Pump Heating)
Heat pumps also have heating efficiency ratings, indicated as an HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor). In general, the higher the HSPF rating, the less electricity the unit will use to heat your home. The government mandated minimum heating efficiency standards for new heat pumps is 6.8 HSPF. Most heat pumps manufactured before 1992 have HSPF ratings below 5.0. Today, an HSPF of 7.5 or higher is considered high-efficiency; the maximum available is 10.0.
Higher efficiency in heat pumps and air conditioners usually means higher cost but lower utility bills. If you live in a warm and/or humid climate, you will probably see the higher cost of a high-efficiency air conditioner or heat pump paid back (through lower utility bills) in a few short years. Ask an Mister Quik HVAC representative to help you determine about how long it would take you to recover the additional cost in energy savings. Of course, after the payback, you continue to save on your energy bills.
Matching Your Heating and Air Conditioning System for Optimum Efficiency
There’s one other factor that affects the efficiency of your air conditioning or heat pump system: the indoor coil. (Your heat pump or air conditioner is a “split system” which means that there is an outdoor unit or condenser and an indoor unit or evaporator coil.) If your condensing unit is not matched with the proper indoor coil, it may not give you the stated SEER and/or HSPF ratings and could even develop performance problems. When you’re replacing an existing home heating and air conditioning system, make sure you replace both units so your new condensing unit will give you optimal performance, efficiency and comfort.
Want to learn more about energy ratings and environmental impacts of your home heating and air conditioning system? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Program offers information about the environmental standards in place in the heating and air conditioning industry.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency promotes residential energy efficiency because household energy use contributes to air pollution, including:
20 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions
26 of all U.S. sulfur dioxide emissions
15 of all U.S. nitrogen oxides emissions
By using more energy-efficient appliances, home heating systems and air conditioning equipment, and constructing more energy-efficient homes, we can reduce this pollution and 151; and save money at the same time!
Why is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency promoting energy-efficient furnaces? Furnaces are the most commonly used residential heating system in the United States. Approximately 38 million gas furnaces are currently operating in U.S. homes and approximately 2.5 million of these furnaces are replaced annually. A 15-year-old furnace may be only 66% efficient and cost up to $730 per year to operate A new high-efficiency furnace can be 90% efficient or greater and cost as little as $525 to operate annually. Choosing to purchase a furnace in the 90-96% efficiency range can reduce pollution and save homeowners hundreds of dollars over the equipment’s lifetime.
What is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Doing About It?
Industry-leading furnace manufacturers have signed agreements with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to produce and promote high-efficiency furnaces that are 90% efficient or greater. These high-efficiency gas furnaces squeeze energy savings from furnaces using an advanced “condensing” technology. Products qualifying for this U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program will be identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star logo.
How much money can my Energy Star furnace save?
Over 10 years an Energy Star furnace could save:
$1,700 relative to an old furnace*
$920 relative to a new standard furnace*
*Savings based on $732 average annual heating bill from a 1993 American Gas Association survey for the Middle Atlantic region. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates for old furnace AFUE = 66%; standard furnace = 78%; and Energy Star = 92%. Actual savings for individual homeowners will vary based on geographical area of the country, local gas rates and the age and size of the home.
For more information about Energy Star furnaces, please contact: Peter Banwell, Manager, Energy Star Furnaces, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (6202J), 401 M Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20460. Phone: (202) 233-9408. Fax: (202) 233-9578.
Air conditioners and heat pumps
About half of all energy used by households goes to heating and cooling the home. Over 7% of all homes are heated and cooled with heat pumps and 24% of new homes are built with them.
Seventy-seven percent of new homes are now built with central air conditioning, up from 43% in 1972
Over 40% of all existing homes now have central air conditioning
In 1994, over 1 million air-source heat pumps and almost 4 million central air conditioners were shipped from manufacturers, the most ever.
By increasing the efficiency of new heat pump and air conditioning units being installed, we can dramatically reduce the nation’s energy consumption and resultant pollution. This will also help utilities offset their peak loads and avoid having to construct costly new power plants. More efficient equipment has the added benefit of helping consumers save money on their energy bills.
What is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Doing About It?
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has formed a new Energy Star program with air conditioner and heat pump manufacturers. The Energy Star heat pump and air-conditioner program is a voluntary partnership between manufacturers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stimulate the market for high-efficiency products. The Energy StarSM logo is a symbol that consumers can look for to identify heat pumps and air conditioners that save energy and prevent pollution. Energy Star air conditioners are 20 percent more efficient than ones currently meeting the federal government standards. Energy Star air-source heat pumps and central air conditioners could save consumers over $350 million per year by the year 2000 in heating and air conditioning bills. Consumers will easily recognize the new, more efficient products because they will be identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star logo shown above.
Purchasing Energy Star Heat Pumps and Air Conditioners
Utilities all over North America are promoting high-efficiency heat pumps and air conditioners because they help reduce peak demand and provide higher customer satisfaction. Energy Star heat pumps and home central air conditioning systems also produce a variety of other benefits:
Energy bills are dramatically reduced
All units come with a manufacturer’s warranty
Pollution is reduced through the use of high-efficiency products.
In addition to asking for Energy Star when purchasing heat pumps and air conditioners, consumers should consider the following:
Make sure the unit is properly sized and installed to ensure maximum comfort and efficiency.
Contractors should be well trained in the proper installation of air-source heat pumps and central air conditioners.
The duct work should be installed properly, since an improperly installed system can dramatically reduce efficiency.
How Much Money Can My Energy Star Unit Save?
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star heat pumps and air conditioners can save you money by reducing electricity bills. Look for the Energy StarSM logo when purchasing a home heating system or central air conditioner to be sure of lowering your energy bill.
*This information courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
What should I look for in a home comfort system?
It is best to evaluate what makes your home comfortable to determine what heating and air conditioning system is best for your home. Heating and cooling are the foundation for your system but you have a lot of flexibility to maintain comfortable temperature, air cleanliness and humidity levels.
For many people temperature is a big factor. Because the temperature outside changes, the temperature inside your home can fluctuate as well. Another factor in home comfort is cleanliness. Many allergy sufferers are sensitive to dusty or odorous homes. The air in today’s tightly sealed, well-insulated homes can become stale. With dust, pollen, pet dander, mold, skin flakes, chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, radon gas or other things in your air, it can lead inhabitants and visitors to be uncomfortable. You may benefit from air duct cleaning. Humidity can be useful in cooler weather when the air is dry but uncomfortable in hotter weather when the outside air is humid. You may or may not desire a whole house humidifier.
System control is what makes your home comfortable because you can adjust the heating or air conditioning to your liking. This offers complete control, allowing you to set a “comfort schedule,” which combines temperature and humidity control. It also can divide a home into zones that can be controlled separately.
Matching Your heating and air conditioning system for Optimum Efficiency. There’s one other factor that affects the efficiency of your air conditioning or heat pump system: the indoor coil. (Your heat pump or air conditioner is a “split system,” which means that there is an outdoor unit or condenser and an indoor unit or evaporator coil.) If your condensing unit is not matched with the proper indoor coil, it may not give you the stated SEER and/or HSPF ratings and could even develop performance problems. When you’re replacing an existing home heating and air conditioning system, make sure you replace both units so your new condensing unit will give you optimal performance, efficiency and comfort.
How Can I Improve My Indoor Air Quality? What Terms Do I Need to Know?
Indoor Air Quality is a growing concern as inhalation of particulate matter has been linked to asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular problems and even early death. Air filters and air cleaning equipment are designed to remove particles, also called particulates, from the air.
Particulates refer to tiny particles suspended in the air. As a general rule, the smaller the particle, the longer it stays in the air.
MERV is the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. This is the rating based on efficiently of air filters to remove particle of various sizes at different airflow rates. MERV ratings range from 1 – 16 and measurements are in microns. Higher MERV ratings mean fewer dust particles and other airborne contaminants pass through the filter. Some of the common particles related to MERV ratings are pet dander, insecticide dust, smog, dust, viruses, wood, tobacco smoke, spores, bacteria and pollen.
A micron is a micrometer, a measurement unit equivalent to one millionth of a meter. For example, a human hair is about 100 microns wide whereas dust particles and red blood cells are about 7 microns in diameter.
HEPA stands fro High-Efficiency Particulate Air filter. This type of filter is designed to remove a minimum of 99.97% of air particles 0.3 microns in size.
Allergies and asthma run in my family. How can I improve my indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality is a growing concern in our society today. Americans on average spend 70% of their time indoors and according to the American Lung Association the quality of our indoor air can be up to FIVE TIMES worse than the outside air. That’s a pretty scary statistic!
The HVAC industry has been dealing with this issue for years and has a variety of products that will help you improve the quality of air you breathe in your home.
Air cleaners can improve your health by keeping your entire house cleaner, protect your furnishings and save you time and the aggravation of continuous dusting and cleaning. A whole-house cleaner can help provide relief from irritants – up to 40 times more efficiently than standard furnace filters.
An air purifier whole-house air filtration system is the most effective air cleaning system available. It thoroughly cleans and filters out 99.98% of airborne allergens that pass through the system. It is up to 100 times more effective than a standard 1″ filter.
By switching out your filters once a month you can cut down on the amount of dust and pollutants in your air. Filters remove dust and other particles from the air such as pollen, bacteria, smoke, smog, pet dander, and plant and mold spores. They also help to increase the energy efficiency and prolong the life of your heating and cooling system.
A whole-house duct cleaning dislodges dirt and debris in the airflow systems followed by a thorough cleaning. This cleaning will kill germs and bacteria, remove dust in your home, improve the efficiency of your system, make your home smell clean and fresh and is also recommended by doctors and allergists.
UV Germicidal Lamps
With an Ultraviolet (UV) Germicidal Lamp you will not just remove airborne contaminants, you will destroy them. Mold and bacteria can easily grow on air conditioning coils as a result of normal condensation that takes place during the cooling process. A UV Germicidal Lamp is designed to kill that mold and bacteria by breaking down its DNA. The elimination of mold and bacteria will reduce your family’s risk of allergic reactions and illnesses as well as get rid of foul odors.
Should I be concerned about carbon monoxide?
Carbon monoxide, also known as the silent killer, can pose a serious threat in some instances and is yet another reason to have your furnace and water heater inspected by Mister Quik HVAC. A carbon monoxide detector is a wise investment. Mister Quik HVAC offers a high quality carbon monoxide detector that has a 5-year warranty.
What’s that black stuff on my ceilings and vents?
Burning candles can be the culprit for the black on your walls and ceilings as well as polluting the air your family breathes. Keep wicks trimmed to no longer than 1/4th of an inch to help reduce soot from the candles.
What causes drain problems?
Most drains use a system called a “trap”. A trap is a piece of pipe that comes apart just below the drain point on your sink. It’s located at a low point in the system so that when you wash heavy items down the drain they often collect there. In a kitchen sink this is where fat can congeal making a plug of solid fat, which can combine with other materials going down the drain causing a clog.
Note: You should avoid putting oils, grease and fat down your drain. If these items do go down your drain make sure to run your garbage disposal with cold water. This will help chop up the fat and allow it to move through your pipes.
If you’re having problems with only one sink, you can try unscrewing the bottom of the trap and try to clear it out. But first make sure your water is turned off and you’re ready with a bucket for any of the nasty stuff that comes out. If this doesn’t solve the problem you probably have a clog elsewhere and need to contact your plumber.
How Can I Get Rid of the Foul Smell in my Garbage Disposal?
These odors are a result of food debris building up in your disposal. Over time spoiled food and bacteria accumulate. A great way to eliminate this smell is to use a lemon or orange. Cut the lemon or orange up into small sections and put it into your disposal, run for about 30 seconds. Next, try squirting a little liquid dish detergent into the disposer while it’s running. Last, run cold water for about 30 seconds to rinse everything down the drain. Another quick tip is to always run cold water when grinding items in your garbage disposal.
Should I be concerned if my toilet is running?
You bet. Not only is it annoying to listen to, it’s a waste of water and money. Leaky toilets can add up on your water bills. If the toilet continues to run after the toilet is flushed, it indicates that some part of the internal mechanism is out of order or broken. Often a little jiggling of the toilet handle solves the problem. Sometimes a simple part needs to be replaced. The worst-case scenario is that the entire mechanism needs to be replaced. No matter what the cause, contact a professional plumber to diagnose and fix the problem.
What Causes the White Residue on my Dishes?
Having water spots on dishes is a common problem. Your dishwasher is most likely doing all that it can, but the problem isn’t the appliance. The problem is the water. Water spots are created from droplets of water that remain on the dishes and are “baked” to the dishes from the heated dry cycle. The mineral deposits in the water are left on the dish leaving a small white discoloration. Using a monthly dishwasher cleaner is a great way to keep the components of your dishwasher clean and working, but it can’t change the water in between uses. The two most common solutions are to get a water softener or to use a dishwasher rinse aid. Water softeners have a high initial cost, but they remove the hard minerals from your water and increase the longevity of your water-using appliances. The use of a rinse aid helps the water run off of your dishes like Rain-x does for your windshield eliminating spots, but the cost can add up after a lifetime of using them.
I am getting a foul odor from a bathroom in our basement. What can we do?
Plumbing systems are designed to prevent foul odors from entering your home by means of the trap attached to fixtures. Traps contain water to seal out foul odors; if the water seal evaporates, the odors enter the house. To solve this problem, pour a bucket of water in each trap, sink, shower and floor drain. This will prevent the odors from entering your house.
What Causes the White Substance on My Faucet? What Can I Do About It?
Mineral deposits cause this unsightly buildup. To remove them, pour a cup of vinegar into a plastic bag. Place the bag over the showerhead or faucets and hold it in place with a twist tie overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and gently scrub off the deposits with an old toothbrush.
Why Is Water Backing Up Into My Sink While I Run the Dishwasher?
There is usually a connection between the dishwasher and the drain from the garbage disposal. Food left behind in the garbage disposal can clog that connection to the main drain and back water up into your sink. To prevent this, make sure that your disposal is free of food before running the dishwasher. Also make sure to run the garbage disposal with plenty of water before turning the dishwasher on.
What happens when roots get inside water/sewer lines and what can I do?
Once roots have entered the pipe, they continue to grow and expand, exerting considerable pressure at the crack or joint. This increased pressure can cause the pipe to break or collapse, in which case it will need to be repaired or completely replaced.
If left undisturbed, roots will completely fill the pipe with hair-like root masses. The root masses quickly become clogged with toilet tissue, grease and other debris flowing from your home to the main sewer. A complete blockage may occur if the roots are not removed and enough waste material accumulates.
If roots have entered your pipes, contact a qualified plumber to remove the roots without tearing up your yard. They may also be able to can apply a compound which prevents future root growth. This compound will kill only the roots growing in the pipes and will not affect the rest of your tree’s root system.
Should I be concerned if my toilet is leaking?
Absolutely. Not only is it annoying to listen to, but it’s also a waste of water and money. Leaky toilets can add up in your water bills. According to a Penn State Article, “10 Easy Ways You Can Conserve Energy” (October 27, 2009, Volume 56, No. 09), “A ‘running’ toilet can waste two gallons of water per minute. A silent leak in a toilet can waste up to 7,000 gallons of water per month”. Here is a good example; say you had a running toilet that was leaking 2 gallons of water a minute for two weeks; 2 gallons x 14 days x 24 hours x 60 minutes = 40,320 gallons of wasted water. At a cost of .002 cents a gallon, (average cost of a gallon of water in the U.S., this varies per state and you can look up what you actually pay on your water bill) you will have spent $80.64 on this leaky toilet in additional water costs in just two weeks time.
If your toilet continues to run after you flush it, it indicates that some part of the internal mechanism is out of order or broken. Sometimes a little jiggling of the toilet handle solves the problem. Sometimes a simple part needs to be replaced. The worst-case scenario is that the entire mechanism needs to be replaced. No matter what the cause make sure to diagnose the problem and get it fixed.
Our kitchen drain has taken longer than usual to drain. What should we do?
Slow drains can be extremely annoying, especially when you need to wait for what seems like ages before you can drain the sink after washing dishes or even just washing your hands. One of the best reasons to treat a slow drain problem right way is that slow drains can easily become clogged ones, at which point they are much harder to treat. First, try an environmentally “friendly” drain cleaner with bacteria and enzymes. We don’t recommend chemical drain cleaners for several reasons; most drain chemicals are very toxic in nature, not a good thing to keep around the home if you have children or pets, and the toxic chemicals can also have a negative effect on your piping as well. Also, over time these chemicals may deteriorate your pipes from the inside out. If this drain cleaner does not work you may need to have a plumber come clean out the drain.
Why is my water pressure so low?
Several things can cause low water pressure. One problem could be the amount of water your local utility company is pumping out. Another is the age of your pipes and the amount of rust in them. Blockages and other restrictions in your pipes can also lower water pressure. Other considerations are: a partially closed or malfunctioning shut off valve, crimped water line, a failed or missing pressure regulator, plugged filters and malfunctioning water softeners. If you are experiencing problems with low water pressure, contact a plumber.
Why does my water heater not work as well as it used to?
The most common cause of lost efficiency for a water heater is due to a sediment buildup in your tank. As water heaters grow older, they accumulate sediment and lime deposits. If these deposits are not removed periodically, the sediment will create a barrier between the burner and the water, greatly reducing the water heater’s performance level. The result is an increase in the amount of fuel required to deliver hot water. For this reason, it is recommended that the storage tank in the water heater be drained and flushed free of any sediment every 12 months. This service will bring your water heater back to original manufacturer’s specifications.
Does it make any difference if I use hot or cold water while running my garbage disposal?
While it’s safe to run hot water from the sink through the garbage disposal, we recommend that you use cold water when you are operating the disposal. Use a strong flow of cold water and keep the disposal running at least 30 seconds after grinding has stopped so that all food particles are flushed through the drain line. Cold water will also solidify any fatty and greasy waste so it is chopped up and flushed down the drain (hot water will make fat and grease liquefy and coagulate).
What causes my faucet to drip?
Most faucets work with a rubber or composition washer that closes onto a metal washer seat. Over time, the washer will harden and crack or simply gets worn down. This causes the faucet to leak. You can close the faucet tighter to stop the drip, but this will only be a temporary fix. In fact, you’re just increasing the internal damage to the washer and faucet and the problem is only going to get worse. Usually when the faucet drips, the problem has a relatively simple solution: the washers or other internal mechanisms need to be rebuilt or replaced. You can do this yourself or contact a professional plumber who can fix this easily and inexpensively.
When I turn on the faucet I hear a whining sound. What is wrong?
Usually this results from air in the pipes. There may be other reasons, like a loose washer, but air in the pipes is the most common cause.
Turn the on the water faucet. While it is on, turn OFF the main water valve and the water will shut off. When you turn on the main water valve, any air in the pipes will be flushed out. If this does not solve the problem, you will need to call a plumber.
I hear a rumbling sound coming from the water heater. What could cause this?
Rumbling sounds coming from a water heater are an indication that sediment has built up on the bottom of the water heater. What you are hearing is water that is trapped in the sediment and is boiling. This is an indication that the water heater is not operating efficiently. Sediment will not allow the heat to transfer to the water in the tank, which sends the heat up the flue.
You may try draining a few gallons of water off the bottom of the water heater tank. This is done by attaching a drain hose to the valve at the bottom of the tank. Allow it to drain for about five minutes.
WARNING: HOT WATER IS DANGEROUS. DISCHARGE THE WATER INTO A FLOOR DRAIN, LAUNDRY TUB OR BATHTUB. HOT WATER WILL KILL YOUR GRASS IF DISCHARGED ONTO THE LAWN. HOT WATER WILL CRACK A TOILET BOWL IF DISCHARGED INTO THE TOILET.
If you have severe sediment build-up it may be cost effective to replace go ahead and replace your water heater. Having your water heater drained as least once a year will not only prevent sediment build-up, but it will also increase the life span and efficiency of your water heater.
My water has a funny smell to it almost like rotten eggs. What could be causing this?
The foul smelling water is caused by a combination of hydrogen, sulfur, and bacteria. The magnesium anode rod installed in the tank protects the tank surface, but generates enough hydrogen to create an odor when it interacts with sulfur in the water or bacteria in the tank. Replacing the magnesium anode rod with an aluminum anode may minimize the problem. The most efficient method of eliminating the hydrogen sulfide odor is to control the bacteria. As a rule, chlorination of public water supplies kills the bacteria, but some private well systems may need to be purified by the use of chlorine injectors or ultraviolet light. This will destroy the bacteria, however, if this does not work I recommend calling a plumber for help.
If my drain is clogged, should I use a chemical cleaner before I call a plumber?
We wouldn’t recommend this for several reasons; most drain chemicals are very toxic in nature, not a good thing to keep around the home if you have children or pets. If they do make it down the drain we are contributing to global pollution. The toxic chemicals can also have a negative effect on your piping as well. Over time these chemicals may deteriorate your pipes from the inside out. When this happens, the drain line(s) will have to be replaced. Don’t confuse toxic drain cleaners with the various drain maintenance products that are on the market. These products contain “friendly” bacteria and enzymes. They work great to keep any drain sludge and grease from building up in the pipes.
Why does my plumbing system need a vent?
A plumbing system vent is used to “vent” the plumbing system in your home. A vent will look like pipes sticking out of your roof and are about 12″ high. This vent allows sewer gases to be vented outside the home. Another function of the vent is that when a liquid goes down a pipe air must follow it. Without vents, draining one fixture may cause another fixture in the house to back up. A waste and vent system should keep sewer gas out of the home and drain every fixture well.
What should I do in case of an emergency like water dripping from my ceiling?
The first thing you should remember is that safety comes first. If there are any electrical appliances nearby, turn the electricity off at the main breaker. Then, turn off your main water shut off valve. It’s a must to know where this is! (Did you know that a broken pipe or washing machine hose could flood your home with more than ten gallons of water a minute?) If you have a water meter, that is where your main valve should be located. Once the immediate water flow is stopped, call Mister Quik HVAC to have a plumbing technician promptly sent to your home.
Why do I have hot water in my toilet?
You may have hot water in your toilet because of a bad flapper in the toilet tank or a bad fill valve. When a toilet has a mixing valve (to prevent condensation), a little hot water is added to bring the temperature up. When this system is not functioning correctly, you can get a bowl full of hot water!