The cost of cooling and heating a home, apartment or building is among the largest energy expenses most people face, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Currently here in southern California, you might be enjoying low utility bills, because we live in a region of nearly perfect weather in the Spring. But the days in the 90s and higher are coming faster than you can imagine. Before long, you will be running the air conditioning all day in order to stay comfortable. You could be in for big electric bills over the summer if your air conditioning system isn’t ready to perform at it’s peak efficiency. There are a few steps
you can take to prepare your AC for the warmer months ahead:
Change Your Air Filters While this seems like an obvious and easy step in HVAC maintenance, most people don’t do this frequently enough -- or in come cases, at all. Homeowners should be replacing the filters every 1 to 2 months to keep your air conditioning running smoothly.
Clean the A/C Unit’s Condensation Lines There is a tube or pipe that drains condensation away from your air conditioner which can become clogged. If it becomes clogged it almost certainly will lead to big problems. Normally, there is a drip pan to safeguard both the unit and your house. If the problem continues unabated, water could spill over the top of the drip pan and into your house. With a clog, water can backup into the air conditioning unit itself -- likely causing a hefty repair bill. Check to see if the condensation lines are flowing freely to the outside of the home.
You Can Install a Programmable Thermostat If you don’t already have one, a programmable thermostat can increase the overall efficiency (and energy savings) of your air conditioning system. The programmable thermostat is designed to automatically reduce the use of air conditioning during times when you don’t need cooling (i.e. times you are normally out of the house). These thermostats are fairly quick and easy to install yourself. If you run into problems, a professional can always step in to help get you back on track.
You Can Clean the Coils on the Outside Unit Over the winter, the outside unit of the air conditioning collects dust, dirt, leaves, etc. This is especially true if you don’t use a cover when not using the system. The accumulated debris can cause a markedly reduced efficiency, as the unit struggles to overcome the blockage. In the ase of mildly dirty units, you can disconnect the power to the unit and spray the outside of the unit with a hose. If the unit is heavily soiled, you may want to purchase a commercially prepared air-conditioner cleaner made for this purpose.
You Can Clean the Fins A good cleaning of the fins on the outside of your air conditioning unit will help it work better. You should use a soft brush like a toothbrush or small car care brush. Use the brush to carefully clean each fin. You don’t want to use force because you can easily bend the fins. If you do damage a fin or discover that one has already been damaged, you can use a variety of tools to straighten them out.
Conduct an Inspection of the Underlying Concrete Slab Once the outside unit is cleaned take a look at the concrete slab upon which the unit sits. You can use a level to see if the concrete slab is flat and level. If the slab is not level, the unit is probably working too hard to maintain the desired cooling point. You can fix an sloping slab by prying it up with a board and shoveling small amounts of gravel underneath until it is level.
Clear Debris From Around the Unit Overgrown plants, drifting leaves, or high grass can end up surrounding outside unit, reducing the air conditioner’s performance. Before using the AC unit in the summer, cut back any overgrown plants or grass. Remove any debris. Over the course of the summer, inspect the area surrounding the unit for these common blockages at least monthly.
Look to See if the Ductwork Has Any Leaks It may be obvious, but leaking ducts can seriously increase the unit’s workload — ducts that leak only 20% of the cooled air passing through them result in your system to work harder by 50%. Sealing duct leaks can generate significant savings on cooling your home. If you discover leaks, you can seal them with a duct tape displaying the UL symbol. Other types of tape that are backed by fabric or rubber can break down more quickly.
Let us know what measures you take to save energy while staying cool in the summer? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Spring is the semi-annual time (the other is Fall) when we take time to check our heating, air conditioning, and indoor air quality systems. In the spring our focus is on the upcoming air conditioning season. Your home maintenance routine should including taking care of your A/C system in order to keep them operating efficiently and to extend the life of your equipment. There are a number of tasks which you can do yourself (or hire a professional, at your preference) in this regard. Other routine items really need the assistance of a qualified professional air conditioning technician. See list below:
Most homeowners and property managers don’t give a thought that there might be bugs in your heating and air conditioning system at your commercial property or home. Fortunately, it is not very difficult to keep these sorts of pests out of your system. We recommend a few simple tips:
Address Cracks or Gaps In Your System
Cracks and gaps can develop in your HVAC system due to the home settling, earthquakes, or an inexperienced technician messing around. When the cracks and/or gaps occur, the bugs can can enter right into the system itself. When you find any of these openings, make sure they are filled before they can get in (or more can get in).
In Particular, Inspect The Ductwork
Very often, various insects and arachnids (spiders) get into your heating and air conditioning equipment is through your home or property’s ductwork. Again, you want to fill in any gaps or tears in order to keep them out. Always check for loose connections and areas of rust and corrosion.
Cut Back Any Vegetation Near Your Outdoor Unit
Generally speaking, bugs and spiders are attracted to vegetation. If plants, grass, or other vegetation are close to your HVAC outdoor units of your system, these critters can find their way into your ducts and equipment. We recommend that you cut back and maintain at least two feet of vegetation-free cleared space around each side of the the outdoor portion of your system. Not only will this help with bug control, you will also be ensuring sufficient air flow for the unit itself to operate properly.
Repair or Replace Screens on Exterior Vents
If the screens on any outside vents are missing, torn deteriorating, this sets up a perfect way for bugs (not to mention birds) to get into your system. This is an inexpensive and easy way to help keep pests out that don’t belong in your system.
Keep the System Clean
Bugs often find their way into an HVAC system and its components, and the result can be a lower air quality. Keeping the system and components clean requires periodic maintenance which can also check for any infestations that may occur. Of particular concern is the air filters, which need to be changed at least every month or two.
We would be happy to advise you or to check out any situation you may have with bugs in your HVAC equipment. Also, if you have any questions or need related to heating, cooling, or indoor air quality, please reach out to us at Ventura Air Conditioning and Heating Repair.
Its that time of year again! The recommended inspection schedule for HVAC is spring and fall -- spring for air conditioning, and fall for heating. So this time of year you may face a decision if the prognosis for your heating system / furnace is not good. Do you keep the old malfunctioning inefficient system or buy a new one. If you are like most people, it is a hard choice. It may still be warm for a while here in southern California, but don’t wait too long to make a choice and schedule a visit from a competent HVAC specialist, like Ventura Air Conditioning and Heating Repair.
If you have a home that is older, or are interested in reducing your heating bills as the winter approaches, it’s a great idea to learn about the different types of forced air furnaces, before you really need it. Like everything in the world, there are trade-offs to be made between the benefits and limitations of the different types of furnaces.
There are a couple of notable differences between furnace types and how they operate. The biggest difference is how they each generate heat. There are those furnaces that generate heat in a single stage to create as much heat as possible -- when on, they are on “full blast” the whole time. Other types create heat in two different stages, so you can have more control over when and how much heat is generated.
The second differentiator between furnace types is a difference in how their blowers operate. It is the blower, after all, that moves the heat the furnace generates throughout the living or office spaces. Similar to the differences we saw in heat creation, there are furnaces that power the blowers at top speed at all times. The only real options here are “on” and “off.” Other types have variable speed blowers, which can respond with heat as needed, in the volume needed. This allows these types of heating systems to have a more nuanced response to the need for heat.
When we consider whether a single phase or two stage furnace, the homeowner or property manager needs to decide, with the help of the specialist, which is the best for them and their situation.
Years ago, the only option in furnaces was for a single phase unit. So in older homes, furnaces are generally single phase products, which we noted above means they generate heat at full blast all the time they are “on.” This furnace comes on, warms the air in your home or office, and then shuts off again. While this is less sophisticated than the two step unit, that is not necessarily a bad thing. The trade off here the single phase units are generally cheaper than the more sophisticated dual phase equipment. We do have concerns that the homeowner or property manager may not enjoy the single phase furnace, as it is not as efficient and comfortable as the two phase units. The two stage furnaces are well known as having higher efficiency, with an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) higher than 95%. By way of comparison, the single phase units generally only achieve levels in the 80’s% in AFUE. The two phase furnaces come on at “full blast” to warm your home through the coldest part of the day. After your home is warm it has an option that the single phase unit does not. The dual phase unit doesn’t shut off after achieving the desired temperature. It instead reduces the heat output level and works to keep heat levels within one of two degrees of the temperature set on the thermostat. By always working, a dual phase unit operates efficiently, cycling between higher and lower heat levels, there by having a much better chance at keeping your living space at a temperature that you will find comfortable.
All furnaces are at their peak efficiency once the unit and the living space is warmed, and is operating for longer time frames. And bigger is not necessarily better. We often dissuade the home owner or property manager from buying an oversized furnace. These are never as efficient as a unit properly sized for the living space. By continually running, a two phase furnace continues to operate efficiently and it simply cycles between the high and low heat output levels to keep your home at comfortable temperatures.
Just as we saw above in the heating component, the one phase unit (aka standard furnace) operates with the blower running at one single power level at all times. The dual phase unit operates a blower that can speed up and slows down depending on how far (above or below) the air temperature is from the thermostat setting. If a home or office only needs a small bump in warmth, with the two phase unit, the blower runs at a slower speed, uses less electricity, leading to a more comfortable living and working space. Not to be overlooked, this style of blower has a longer useful life and should keep working to maintain comfortable temperatures for many years longer than a single-speed blower. The variable speed blower delivers heat with precision and is usually matched with a dual phase furnace resulting in maximum efficiency.
So a dual stage furnace operates more efficiently than single stage models. When you add a variable speed blower, you increase efficiency and comfort even farther. While this type of setup is more expensive up front. But they should more than compensate for the extra expense make up for their added cost with efficiency improvements and a more comfortable home or office, which is what we were after in the first place.
Please visit our website at http://www.venturaheatacrepair.com.