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5 Easy Tasks To Prepare Your Home For Spring
Posted: Feb 13, 2020 by Andy
Owning a home requires year-round responsibilities, but you don't need to dread these tasks. Home maintenance is easier than you might think. The key is to take seasonal preventive measures that are manageable and certainly less expensive than the costly repairs that'll be needed if you neglect your property. Here's a guide to the essential tasks you'll want to complete this spring.
Spring can be an unpredictable time. Early on, snow is still a concern, while heavy rains, flooding, and high winds occur throughout the season. Experts estimate that 30% of all home insurance claims occur in the spring. Household chores during the spring months should focus on preparing for unpredictable weather patterns as well as cleaning any damage from the winter. Here are some vital spring home maintenance tasks.
Clean out your gutters. Between the snow melting and spring showers, there is the potential for a lot of water to be pouring through your downspouts. Make sure your spouting drains are clear and working properly.
Conduct an exterior inspection of your property. You likely haven't spent much time outside during the winter. Spring is the ideal time to look for loose siding, missing shingles, and hanging branches.
Check your sump pump. Spring is a great time to go down to your basement and inspect your sump pump. It's crucial to take action to ensure that water from the outside doesn't cause damage inside. Test to ensure that your sump pump has enough water to raise the pump's float and make sure it's pumped out properly. If you have any concerns, consult a plumbing professional.
Renovate with modern materials. Hail can cause expensive damage in the spring. If you need to replace siding or roofing, use impact-resistant material to help prevent future damage. Modern materials follow a national standard that can be used to ensure you're using the correct products to guard against hail and wind damage.
Turn off your home's water supply when you're on vacation. Experts say 45% of property claims are related to interior water damage. To avoid costly damage to your home, consider turning off your home's main incoming water valve when you'll be away for longer periods. It's also wise to inspect the pipes to appliances, sinks, and toilets for leaks or loose connections.
Taking a little time and investing a little effort will ensure that spring remains the beautiful and joyous return to the warmth we all love, and not a home maintenance headache. And, if we haven't said it enough before now, spring is also the perfect time to change your furnace's air filter if you haven't swapped it out lately. That way, you'll be well-prepared for spring's airborne allergens.
Improve Your Winter Air Quality
Posted: Jan 30, 2020 by Andy
In the winter, it's cozy being snug as a bug in a rug in your home. However, it'll also wreak havoc on your indoor air quality (IAQ) and can cause health problems. We recommend taking some precautions to avoid the commonly-suffered issues associated with poor indoor air quality.
Why does winter cause air-quality problems?
During the warmer months, your windows are often open to let fresh air into your home. During the colder months, however, you do the opposite. Everything is locked up tight, with caulking and insulation preventing cold air from creeping in.
While this certainly keeps you toasty warm, unfortunately, it also traps your indoor air inside with all the impurities produced by your home. Homes are becoming more and more energy-efficient, and there are fewer ways for outdoor air to infiltrate and help ventilate your home.
What are some common air-quality issues?
All of the confined air can cause a host of issues. Dr. Marilyn Black, an IAQ pioneer, found after years of research that poor indoor air quality was "directly related to the 500-1,000 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) coming from everyday materials, such as paint, flooring, furnishings, and printers."
It has also been proven that smoke, pet dander, cleaning and personal-care products, mold, dust, mildew, asbestos, lead, carbon monoxide (CO), and a host of other factors contribute to your home's indoor air pollution. Due to poor indoor air quality, your family may regularly experience one or more of these common symptoms:
• Flu-like symptoms
• Itchy eyes, nose, and throat
• Aggravated asthma, allergies, or chronic illnesses
How to improve your winter air quality
Just because it's winter, don't assume you have to suffer from poor indoor air quality. There are ways you can improve it. Here are some that we recommend:
Have your ductwork inspected and cleaned. A professional inspection of your HVAC system's air ducts will alert you to leaks, where unconditioned air may be leaking and causing a problem. Having your ducts cleaned will remove any dust and debris that has built up, preventing it from polluting your indoor air. This is especially important in an older home, where decades of allergens have likely accumulated in your ducts.
Have your furnace annually inspected and cleaned. Ensuring that your furnace and its filter are both clean will help prevent dust and debris from finding their way into your lungs. Your furnace is the primary component of your home's HVAC system, so having it regularly tuned up will keeps things working properly for a long time to come.
Consider adding an air purifier. Your heating and cooling system's air filter can only stop so much. Many airborne particles aren't visible to the human eye yet can still do harm. An air purifier - such as Air Scrubber Plus™ - can eradicate them from your home's air.
Check your home's humidity levels. Ideally, your home's humidity level should remain between 30% and 50% year-round. During the colder months, your home's air dries out, so be sure your humidifier is providing adequate humidity to your home while not over-humidifying it. Excess moisture breeds mold and mildew - both are toxic to your body.
Open your windows briefly every day (or at least a few times a week). During the winter months, your home's ventilation doesn't bring in nearly as much fresh air from outside as other times of the year. Naturally, your home is shut tight to keep the cold out. One easy measure is to open your windows daily for a short time, even for a few minutes. This brings that much-needed fresh air into your home and will help purify the stuffy, stale air trapped inside.
Use natural cleaning and personal care products. Chemicals from everyday products will linger in your home's winter air without the flow of fresh air. Concentrated, they can do real damage to your body over time. Consider substituting healthier alternatives.
Add houseplants. Indoor plants will clean and purify your home's air. Adding greenery to your home can only help remove the toxins and stale air present during the colder months.
Clean your home regularly. You should pay special attention to carpets, floors, and dusty areas. A once-a-week tidy-up will go a long way toward keeping dirt and dust from your home's airflow. Carpet is particularly notorious for harboring pollutants. Vacuum often, using a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter vacuum - it will dramatically cut down on your indoor air pollution.
Let us help with your air quality needs
Our trained professionals will help you improve your home's indoor air quality, especially during the frigid Ohio winter months. Call us at 877-247-7661 or schedule service online today to discuss how we can help.
You might be aware that a new law banning the production of a conventional air conditioning refrigerant took effect on January 1st. Freon is no longer being produced, and it has already begun to be phased out of use completely. What does this mean for homeowners with units that rely on Freon refrigerant? Will your system need to be replaced?
We want to help clear the air about Freon and older AC systems. Here's what you need to know.
New regulations are in effect this year
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works to decrease the use of chemicals harmful to the environment. In 1992, the agency decided that hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) - the chemicals which enable refrigerators and air conditioners to cool air - should be phased out. Studies have found that HCFCs affect global warming and ozone depletion. These chemical compounds are only a small part of the greenhouse gases affecting our environment, but according to the New York Times, "they trap thousands of times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide."
For many years, Freon - also known as R-22 and HCFC-22 - was the primary refrigerant used in heat pumps and residential air conditioning units. To help protect our planet's ozone layer, the EPA mandated the stoppage of Freon production by January 2020.
Fortunately, new air conditioning systems manufactured since 2010 no longer use Freon. Most modern units use a refrigerant called R410A, or Puron. Like Freon, this chemical is also an HFC, but has not been shown to harm the ozone and, since 2015, has become the residential AC standard.
The ban's impact on homeowners with older units
You shouldn't worry. Many affected homeowners have already switched to the more environmentally friendly refrigerants. HVAC professionals have been gradually phasing out Freon over the past decade. Any older AC system that has been replaced in that time was probably switched out for an R410A unit.
Freon is only an environmental hazard if it escapes into the atmosphere (leaks out) or is disposed of improperly. It's important to know that Freon-based HVAC units still functioning properly don't need to be replaced now. While it is true that starting in 2020, Freon won't be produced or imported; limited amounts are still available. Older systems can be recharged or serviced using existing stocks of R-22. Once these stocks are gone, however, technicians will need to source recycled Freon to keep an old cooling system running - and this will likely be an expensive proposition for a homeowner. In other words, a new R410A system will become a better financial decision, in addition to being better for the environment.
Retrofitting older air conditioners
The EPA doesn't require homeowners to buy new AC systems, and retrofitting your older system is a valid option. Unfortunately, you can't just switch to the new refrigerant. Many older air conditioners have compressors and other parts which will only work with specific chemicals. Fortunately, this doesn't mean that your AC system has to be replaced.
If the coils in your system are compatible with R410A refrigerant, our expert technicians can replace the outdoor condenser unit without needing to upgrade other AC system components in your home. This option can be expensive, but it'll keep your current AC system running. Switching to R410A may also make your existing unit more energy efficient. It's worth noting that routine service is essential for a retrofitted system to prevent leaks and any potentially harmful effects on the environment.
Replacing an older AC system
If your unit was produced before 2010, you should consider replacing it. After all, the average working life of an HVAC system is 15 years. Modern air conditioners are more energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly as well. Lower utility bills are a significant consideration when determining the best course of action. Many homeowners opt to replace older systems rather than retrofit because it ensures greater long-term energy savings.
Trust us for quality AC service!
Homeowners should only trust EPA-certified dealers who are familiar with new Clean Air Act regulations. Proper servicing, installation, and refrigerant replacement require specialized training to prevent leaks.
If you're unsure if your HVAC unit uses R-22 or R410A, or you'd like professional advice on the best solution for your older unit, call us today! We're always happy to help our valued customers gain peace-of-mind on issues like these. That's how neighbors should treat neighbors!™
8 New Year's Resolutions For Your Family's Comfort
Posted: Jan 2, 2020 by Andy
The start of the new year is the ideal time to consider a fresh approach to your home's heating and cooling system. Whether you're considering investing in a new HVAC system for your northeast Ohio home or you're looking to maximize the one you already have, now is an ideal time to start making plans. Whether you're thinking of a smart thermostat or upgrading your system, consider these eight New Year's resolutions for your home's HVAC system.
Change your filter regularly
Arguably the most important HVAC-related New Year's resolution you can make is also one of the easiest to keep. Mark your calendar, and you won't forget to change your filter. During the winter or summer, when you use your HVAC system the most, change your filter once a month. When the weather is milder in the spring and fall, replace it every three months.
Setting a filter-replacement schedule might seem minor, but this has a significant and positive impact on your HVAC system year-round. Air filters prevent dirt, dust, and other airborne particles from entering your system, keeping it clean and avoiding breakdowns.
A clean air filter also does more than that. It improves indoor air quality by removing harmful particles from your home's air and increases your system's operating efficiency by promoting freer airflow. Your air filter does these tasks best when you replace it regularly.
Schedule interval maintenance
Another smart way to ensure that your system continues to run smoothly is to schedule routine preventive maintenance. We recommend annual HVAC maintenance for each primary component of your system. You should schedule a tune-up for your furnace in the fall and another for your air conditioner in the spring. It's a good idea to have a service completed before you turn on your system for the season. This way, our expert HVAC system technicians will catch any performance issues before your family's comfort is compromised.
During a preventive maintenance check-up, our technicians complete a thorough list of tasks, from testing safety controls to lubricating moving parts and checking fluid levels. We'll also discover minor problems before they become major repairs or, worse, cause a complete breakdown. With our cost-effective maintenance agreement, you'll also get a discount on parts and labor.
Upgrade to a smart thermostat
If your heating and cooling system are a decade old or more, there's a good chance you're still relying on a manual thermostat or even an ancient mercury unit. While a manual model allows you to adjust the temperature and switch from heating to cooling easily, they lack the energy-saving features that smart thermostats have.
Upgrading to a smart thermostat doesn't cost much and offers several valuable benefits that our expert technicians can demonstrate for you. For starters, you can program your heating and cooling schedule, which means your HVAC system will run only when necessary. When your family is away from home or asleep, a smart thermostat will adjust the temperature 8 to 10, which will save you up to $200 per year in utility costs. In other words, your new smart thermostat will pay for itself in its first year of service. How cool is that?
But, smart thermostats don't stop there. Since they're integrated into your home's Wi-Fi network, you can access them from anywhere in the world and adjust your home's temperature and indoor air quality settings, wherever you are. Some units will also detect when you're on your way home and make your home comfortable for when you arrive. Many can also track your energy usage to help you identify ways to make your household more environmentally friendly - and that'll save you money, too!
Enhance your air quality
Maintaining a high level of indoor air quality is essential for your family's health and the efficient operation of your HVAC system. Adopting healthy habits, such as a regular cleaning schedule and placing green plants throughout your home, will dramatically improve your home's air quality. If your air quality is less than ideal or if you want to simplify the process, we highly recommend adding air quality components to your HVAC system. They're more reasonable than you might think.
We offer a wide array of air quality items to meet your every need. To remove high levels of pollen, pet dander, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your air, try an air purifier. Some purifiers can even capture and eliminate viruses. To control humidity year-round, add a whole-house humidifier or dehumidifier. They'll boost your family's health and enhance the performance of your system during the winter and summer alike.
If you've already taken steps to insulate your attic and foundation to seal air leaks, you're one step ahead of most homeowners. Tightening up your home's insulation envelope translates to considerable savings on your family's energy consumption, but you might notice that this also limits your home's airflow.
Fortunately, we have a simple solution for keeping your home's air fresh and clean. Air Scrubber Plus works with your home's HVAC system to freshen your air in a constant cycle. You'll never have to worry about breathing yesterday's air again. This also improves your HVAC system's energy efficiency and has a minimal impact on your energy bill.
Add a zoning system
Many Ohio homeowners struggle to keep the temperature comfortable throughout their home. If your home has two levels or more, or family members have strong temperature-related preferences, you know that keeping everyone comfy is a tall order.
If this sounds familiar, consider adding a zoning system to your home. Our experts will install dampers in your system's ductwork and connect them to a series of sensors. You can then program different temperatures for each zone, ensuring that your family room, kitchen, and bedrooms will always be just right. We'll teach you the smart thermostat options that give you the best control over your new zoning system.
Upgrade your heating and cooling system
If your home's system is approaching the end of its service lifespan (10-15 years for air conditioners and 15-20 years for furnaces), it's time to start thinking about an upgrade. A new HVAC system is a considerable investment, but it offers a host of benefits for your home and family.
When you begin the search for a new HVAC system, ask our expert team about Energy Star-certified options. These systems offer superior efficiency, and you'll enjoy a low utility bill every month.
Our team will also explain the latest HVAC tech innovations, such as a variable-speed blower. Available in heating and cooling systems alike, these blowers operate at a low level most of the time and run at a higher level only when needed. This results in improved energy efficiency and better comfort for your family. It's a win-win.
Plan ahead for success
If you've made a New Year's resolution before, you know that creating and sticking to a plan is key to its success. Likewise, regarding your HVAC system, planning ahead is beneficial.
Schedule preventive maintenance before the heating or cooling season. This lowers the chance that your HVAC system will have a major breakdown during the hottest summer or coldest winter months. Similarly, investing in a new furnace or air conditioner during the off-season can mean better prices, a more convenient installation time, and extra time to consider the best options for your family.
This year, resolve to stay one step ahead of any HVAC system issues, and you'll benefit in budget, comfort, and peace of mind. Of course, if the unexpected happens and you need emergency repairs, our experienced, licensed HVAC technicians are always just a phone call away.
Whether you want to schedule preventive maintenance or you need help choosing a new HVAC system, our team is at your service. Call us today at 877-247-7661.
Using Your Programmable Thermostat Well
Posted: Dec 19, 2019 by Andy
With all the options available on your programmable thermostat, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Of course, the sheer amount of settings defeats the purpose of a programmable thermostat - it's designed to be a "set and forget" device, making your life easier.
The few minutes it takes to read this article should clear up any confusion you have about correctly setting your thermostat, and you can always call our friendly experts. We're always happy to help!
"Set and forget" means setting one temperature on your thermostat and just leaving it there. You don't worry about it or change it for a long time to come.
Continually adjusting the temperature setting in an attempt to save money on energy actually doesn't save anything. Studies have proven that behavior isn't effective at all, but changing the temperature in different situations actually will save you money, especially in the always-changing northeast Ohio weather.
In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10% a year on your energy bills by turning down your thermostat 7° to 10° for eight hours each day.
With a programmable thermostat, "set and forget" takes on a new meaning. You can set your thermostat once to suit your preference and then forget about it until the season changes.
Get comfortable with your thermostat
Depending on the programmable thermostat you have, it will have different options. However, most programmables feature the same four time options: wake, sleep, leave, and return.
Be sure to enter realistic times that accurately reflect your family's schedule when programming your thermostat. You want to get the biggest benefit.
Here are some things to know before programming your schedule:
Use quality, name-brand batteries and change them each year. Cheaper batteries don't last as long, and their voltage output will fluctuate as they start to lose their charge. You want your thermostat to work when you need it most.
Feel free to override your set schedule temporarily and adjust the temperature when needed. It will automatically cancel and resume its regular programming. However, don't select Hold/Permanent/Vacation (this may vary on your thermostat) unless you're actually going on vacation.
Avoid setting the temperature way up or down with the goal of heating or cooling your home more quickly. Your HVAC system doesn't work any faster that way. You'll only work it much harder, costing you more money and potentially causing a breakdown. Your system will heat or cool your home just as fast by setting your thermostat at reasonable temperatures.
Here's how to use your programmable thermostat (and get the most out of it):
1. Read the manual that came with your thermostat. You don't have to memorize it word-for-word, but you should become familiar with your unit's basic operation and troubleshooting.
2. Choose Heat or Cool mode to suit the season and the weather outside.
3. Set the desired temperature for weekdays by selecting the weekday program. Simple, right? Start with Monday (for 7-day models) or Weekday (for 5-2 models) and select the time and temperature for the days you're scheduling. Continue setting the remaining weekdays in the same manner.
For example, you might want your furnace to heat your home to 72° at 7:00 am, so when you awaken at 7:30 am, your home is warm for you. Then, when you turn in at 11:00 pm, you might want to set your heat to 65° at 11:30 pm, so you're saving energy - and money - while you sleep. The same procedure applies for cooling - simply reverse it - warmer when you're away or sleeping and cooler when you're home and awake.
4. You can set the weekend temperatures in the same manner. But, since folks tend to be home more on the weekends, you might only want to set the thermostat for your wake-up and bed times. You can always use a temporary override if you decide to leave the house during the day.
Your programmable thermostat really is designed for you to "set it and forget it." Spending a few minutes getting familiar with it will make your home considerably more comfortable and will also allow you to save quite a bit of money at the same time. Call us or request service online if it's time for a new thermostat or if you need help programming yours. We're here to help. That's how neighbors should treat neighbors!™
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