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Home Insulation Saves You Money
Posted: January 17, 2019 by Andy
HVAC systems are all about efficiency, and they become less efficient with age. Aside from age, another element that impacts your HVAC system's effectiveness is your home's insulation. It stands to reason that in order to maintain a comfortable and consistent indoor temperature, your walls, rafters, windows, ducts and other empty gaps in your home's structure should be well-insulated. But that's not all home insulation does for you.
Why should I add insulation?
You may have invested a significant amount of money to repair your HVAC system or install a new one recently. That's only half of the job, though. Now, you should make sure that your home is doing its part to promote efficient heating. That's where proper insulation throughout the house comes in. Without adequate insulation, a considerable amount of the heated air will escape your home, forcing your system to work much harder. Naturally, that translates into higher energy bills and a reduced comfort level.
Poor insulation can also lead to health issues for your family. Mother Nature can be relentless during Ohio winters, and a quick look at this weekend's forecast shows that she won't be easing up anytime soon. Even the best HVAC systems can fail due to poor insulation, leaving your family without heat at the worst possible time. Also, inadequate insulation causes drafty living spaces, which leads to an increased chance of illness. Winter is hard enough without being sick more often!
Where should I insulate?
Generally speaking, you should insulate every part of your home that is adjacent to the outside elements. Some of the following areas are obvious, but there are a few that the average homeowner might not have considered: roof, attic, walls, windows, doors, ducts, floors, and ceilings. Insulation differs for each of these areas, but the principle remains the same - keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside (and vice-versa during the summer months, of course).
What type of insulation do I need?
There are several types of insulation, and each one has advantages and disadvantages.
Fiberglass. The most common type of insulation, fiberglass can be purchased as batts (usually in rolls) or as loose fill. Batts are simple to install since they are woven blankets of insulation that include a paper or foil moisture barrier. Even though fiberglass is inexpensive, it provides desirable features like resistance to water damage and fire.
Mineral wool. Similar in structure to fiberglass, mineral wool is more expensive and not as easy to find. Mineral wool can be compared to dryer lint in terms of physical appearance. A disadvantage to mineral wool is that it cakes when wet and also settles over time, which results in less effectiveness.
Cellulose. Made from recycled paper, cellulose insulation is available as a loose fill product that has been treated to resist damage from moisture and pests. However, like mineral wool, when moisture absorption occurs, cellulose becomes compacted, dense and less effective.
Spray foam. Touted as a green product, spray foam is a polyurethane product created by mixing two chemicals. It is then applied with a hose. While most spray foam can be installed without issues, serious problems can occur, including difficulty breathing, unpleasant odors, and other health problems if the job is done incorrectly.
How much will insulation cost me?
Before we look into the costs, it's important to remember that a well-insulated home will translate to tremendous long-term savings on your monthly energy bills. Insulation costs will vary based on the materials and method of installation. Many homeowners opt to install their own insulation, but it can be helpful to work with a professional who will expertly calculate your needs in the spaces in question. Working with a professional is essential if your insulation project is subject to local building codes.
A recent study found that after analyzing over 7,500 home insulation projects, the average cost to install home insulation is nearly $1,300. Your costs will be more if you're removing old material. In older homes, insulation materials likely have degraded due to a lack of standards at the time of installation. Cellulose, for example, was very popular in the late 1970s as homeowners took steps to improve home energy costs in the face of the Middle Eastern oil embargo. As a result, insulation standards were developed, to address issues like fire resistance and R-value.
How can I save money on my insulation project?
Like most household projects, you can save a significant amount of money by installing the insulation yourself. Home insulation is a very user-friendly DIY project, but hiring a contractor does have its benefits. Hiring a professional insulation contractor can save you time, materials and aggravation. A professional's expertise, specialized equipment, and precise calculations equal even greater energy efficiency, leading to lower energy costs for you in the long run. A professional will also be bonded and insured, so it's in their best interest to install your new insulation properly and safely.
Is new insulation worth it?
Absolutely! Between 50% and 70% of the average American home's energy is used for heating and cooling. That means that up to 70% of your monthly energy expense is tied to your HVAC system and home insulation. If you want to save money on your energy bills - and who doesn't? - make sure you have the best home insulation available - otherwise, the money you spend heating your home could be literally going out the window!
Humidity Isn't Just A Summer Issue
Posted: January 3, 2019 by Andy
When you think about humidity, your first thought is probably being muggy and sticky in the summer, and that's never something you want. In the winter, though, when it gets cold outside, there is a lack of humidity in the air. This can lead to many different health issues and can make your home less comfortable than it ought to be. Here are some of the wintertime issues that arise when there isn't enough humidity in the air.
Dry skin, lips, and eyes
When the humidity drops, the air is drier and can cause your skin to be very dry as well. Dry skin is uncomfortable, often itchy, and in severe cases can lead to cracking, especially on more exposed parts of your body like your hands and lips. There are lotions, moisturizers, ChapStick, and other remedies that can help alleviate your dry skin and add moisture to these parts of your body.
Your eyes can also feel the adverse effects of drier air too. They may feel itchy or gritty. Eye drops offer temporary relief, but adding moisture to the air inside your home is a better overall solution, and will prevent this from becoming a big problem. The added moisture helps keep the air from pulling moisture from your skin and will prevent most of the cracking, chapping, and itching from ever happening in the first place.
Sinus problems, colds, and flu
Dry air is rough on your nose and respiratory system in general. Breathing cold, dry air every day can irritate your nasal passages. Breathing in dry air feels colder as well. When your sinuses are irritated, it can be difficult and uncomfortable to breathe, and this can also lead to nosebleeds due to aggravated membranes.
Dry air in your home also allows viruses and bacteria to live longer. They survive and travel through the drier air much easier than through humid air, leading to an increased chance of catching a cold, or even worse, the flu. When the humidity in your home is well-regulated, these viruses are less likely to persist in the moist air, reducing the risk of illness.
Damage to your furniture
When there are large fluctuations in the humidity and temperature, it can affect the furniture in your home, especially pieces made of wood. A lack of airborne moisture, or too much of it, can warp the wood, causing the furniture to lose its form, deteriorate more quickly, and possibly even split. High humidity levels in your home can also promote the formation of mold and mildew, leading to respiratory and other health issues. It's also bad for your wallpaper and paint, and other things in your home like musical instruments and books. Keeping your humidity at the right level helps preserve your home and your health.
Solving the humidity problem
The ideal humidity level that researchers agree will allow your home to be healthy and comfortable is between 40% and 60%, and you have several options to achieve this. A humidity monitor for your home allows you to keep track of the moisture levels in your home, and you can add an integrated humidifier to your heating and cooling system to help keep your home's humidity level in the ideal range.
Another great tool is a thermostat capable of measuring humidity. Some of these can even work with your system's humidifier to automatically set the humidity, so you never have to worry about it. It will not only keep you comfortable, but will also lower your heating bill, because properly humidified air easier to heat than dry air.
Don't let uncontrolled humidity in your home make your family uncomfortable, or worse, sick. Make sure your home is in the ideal humidity range to keep your family happy and healthy!
My Furnace Won't Stay On!
Posted: December 20, 2018 by Andy
In the winter, a furnace that doesn't stay on is a frustrating problem that usually requires immediate professional attention. Called "short-cycling," this problem shows up by your system turning on, heating up for a few minutes or seconds, and then turning back off before your home reaches the target temperature. So, why won't your furnace stay running and why won't your burner stay lit? Here are five potential issues causing your furnace to stop heating before it's supposed to.
1. A bad thermocouple
The thermocouple in your furnace is a heat sensor installed next to the pilot light. Its purpose is to close the gas valve if the pilot light goes out, so gas doesn't fill your home and cause a dangerous and potentially deadly situation. A malfunctioning thermocouple may lose the ability to sense heat from the pilot light, causing it to stop the flow of gas randomly. Knowing this, check the pilot light if your furnace won't stay on. If it's not staying lit, a bad thermocouple is the likely culprit.
2. A malfunctioning thermostat
A short-cycling furnace could mean that your thermostat isn't calibrated correctly. This means that your thermostat is telling your heater that it has reached the desired temperature before it actually has. As a result, your system is turning off after only running for a short time. An easy test is to purchase a basic thermostat and replace yours with it temporarily. If the short-cycling problem continues, your thermostat isn't the problem (and you can return the test thermostat).
3. A full condensation pan or a broken pump
Condensing furnaces generate condensation, which drips into a pan and then drains away by force of gravity or via a pump. However, if your furnace's drain is clogged, the pan will begin to fill up. When the rising water reaches the full-pan sensor, your heating system automatically turns off to prevent a spill. You can easily check the condensation pan. If it's full, then either the drain is clogged, or your condensation pump isn't working properly.
For a clogged drain, insert a straightened wire clothes hanger to clear out the clog. We also recommend pouring an algaecide or bleach solution down the drain regularly to prevent future drain clogs. Likewise, checking your condensation pump's condition is easy. First, check to make sure it isn't unplugged or that a breaker hasn't tripped. If the unit has power, inspect the hose leading from the pump for clogs. If you find any (or the hose is full of water), turn off the power to the pump, disconnect the hose, and use your trusty wire hanger to clean it out.
4. The blower motor isn't running
This is another straightforward check. Simply put your hand over a supply register when your furnace is running. If you can feel hot air coming from the vent, your furnace's blower motor is operating normally. If you don't feel hot air, the blower isn't moving air well (or at all), and your furnace is turning itself off to prevent its heat exchanger from overheating. The motor's fan relay could have failed, or the blower motor belt might be worn out. A non-working blower motor requires immediate professional attention.
5. An air flow restriction
If the air flow to and from your furnace is less than ideal, it will overheat, then turn off to cool down, then reignite. If not addressed, an air flow restriction will cause your furnace's high limit control switch to fail. A dirty furnace filter is the most common cause of an air flow restriction. We recommend that you change your filters regularly - at least every other month, or more often if you have pets. Blocked or closed registers are another common cause. Contrary to popular belief, closing the vents in unused areas of your home won't save you money or ease the load on your heating system. Closing vents will create an air distribution imbalance and cause your furnace's air pressure switch to shut the unit down to prevent damage.
If you have reviewed all five of the potential issues above and your furnace is still short-cycling, you likely have a more significant problem that needs to be taken care of by our friendly expert technicians right away. Call us today - we're always happy to help! That's how neighbors should treat neighbors!™
How Long Should My HVAC Equipment Last?
Posted: December 13, 2018 by Andy
New heating and air conditioning equipment lasts longer than it ever has in the past. The end of a unit's service life depends on more than just its actual age, though. Energy-efficiency issues, component failure, and the price of repairs versus the cost of a new unit all enter into the decision.
What's my furnace's lifespan?
Generally speaking, a new furnace typically operates cost-effectively up to 20 years. Most furnace parts that fail during a unit's first two decades are replaceable at a cost that makes repairing the unit a better decision than replacing the entire furnace. One exception is the unit's heat exchanger, its single most expensive component. A cracked heat exchanger that's already out of warranty is usually the point that dictates it's time to shop for a new furnace.
How long should my central AC unit last?
Central air conditioning units typically operate efficiently up to 15 years. The cost-effective service life of a central cooling unit may be reduced considerably if its capacity is not properly matched to the size of the home. Oversized air conditioners will "short-cycle" - that is, turn on and off rapidly - causing excessive wear on the compressor. Like your furnace's heat exchanger, the compressor is the most costly part in your cooling system. A worn-out compressor in a unit that has outlived its warranty usually indicates that upgrading to a new, more energy-efficient air conditioner rather that repairing the existing unit is the best financial decision.
When replacing your old HVAC equipment with new units, it's always a good idea to note the installation date for future reference. Many homeowners affix a sticker to the side of the new unit with the date so this important information doesn't get misplaced in the years to come. Keeping your equipment's age in mind helps you make a better decision when problems arise. If your heating and cooling system is over 15 years old and is giving you trouble, give us a call! Our expert team is always happy to help you make the best decision for your home and family. That's how neighbors should treat neighbors!™
Tricks To Stay Warm This Winter
Posted: November 29, 2018 by Andy
During winter in northeast Ohio, temperatures can dip into the single digits or even below zero. While cranking up the heat is a great way to stay cozy warm, it can also be expensive. Heating your home accounts for over 70% of your energy consumption in the colder months of the year, but there is good news! Here are some simple and cost-effective ways to stay warm this winter.
Let the sunshine in
During the winter months, it helps to open your blinds and curtains to let the sunlight in, assuming your windows are well-insulated. It may not feel like much heat, but the sun projects considerable warmth into your home even on the coldest days. Open your curtains on sun-facing windows and take advantage of the free heat. Don't forget to close your curtains once again after dusk to prevent heat loss.
Keep using your ceiling fans
Ceiling fans do a great job of helping to keep us cool during the summer months. Did you know that they're also effective at keeping us warm during the winter?
The warm air produced by your furnace rises to the ceiling, while cool air sinks. You can help keep your home warmer this winter by continuing to use your fan and reversing its direction to distribute the warm air throughout your living space. You can even turn your thermostat down a few degrees and still maintain the same level of warmth. Running your ceiling fan during the winter months will help make your home feel warm and will also save you 10% or more on your heating bill.
Add a rug
Tiles are a popular flooring option in many homes. They look nice and are relatively easy to clean. They're also easy to maintain because they're water resistant. However, tile flooring often feels cold under your feet in the winter. To avoid this, we recommend adding a rug on top of your tile floor, so you have a warm surface to walk on. A rug also adds insulation, helping reduce heating costs even further. Even better, you can roll it up and store it during the summer to enjoy that cool tile floor once again!
Optimize your insulation
Warm air rises. Because of this, as much as 25% of your home's heat is wasted, escaping through your roof. To prevent this loss, it's best to insulate your ceiling and attic space well. Also, don't neglect any needed roof repairs and be sure to seal all roof leaks before insulating your attic.
Along with overhead insulation, make sure your windows are well sealed. Windows that allow cold outside air into your home can make your living space feel considerably colder than its actual temperature and will also drive your energy usage up, costing you more money.
These easy, cost-effective tips will help ensure that you and your family stay warm and comfortable in your home, even during the harshest winter storms. They only take a little bit of time to do, but you'll benefit all winter long!
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