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Self HVAC Home Comfort Tips

HVAC Home Tips For Atlanta Homeowners

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Maintaining proper humidity levels (air moisture) in your home is accomplished with a humidifier and is essential for human comfort as well as the protection of wood furniture and wood flooring. According to the Mayo Clinic, proper humidity levels ease skin problems and symptoms associated with breathing problems. They also note, however, that humidifiers can make you sick if they are not properly maintained, or if your home’s humidity level is set too high.

Maintenance Tips:

Change your water panel.  The typical water panel (or evaporator pad, or filter) in the humidifier is constructed of an expanded aluminum honeycombed mesh dipped in a ceramic slip (liquid clay).  The large surface area of the clay material is perfect for absorbing water.  When openings in the water panel become clogged with scale and mineral deposits, they will restrict airflow through the pad and should be replaced.  The life of the water panel evaporator will vary with the hardness of the water, the amount of use, and the application.  Is ins recommended that the water panel be changed at least once every year (twice a year for the Aprilaire model 400).  The water panel with be most efficient when installed with the spot at the top.  Make sure the entire water panel is enclosed in the scale control insert (frame).
 
Make sure unit is level.  The unit or distribution tray must be level so that water will be evenly distributed over the entire width of the water panel evaporator.  If the full width of the water panel is not wetted, the capacity will be reduced.
 
Clean the orifice.  The orifice is a metering device that regulates the amount of water flowing through the feed tube to the water distribution tray.  The orifice typically nests into the waterline directly after the solenoid valve.  If the orifice is blocked with scale - gently insert a fine needle through the small opening.  Aprilaire orifices are color-coded and made especially for certain model humidifiers.

Purchase a maintenance kit.  If it has been many years since a humidifier has been maintained - it may be the path of least resistance to replace several of the humidifier parts that are likely to be worn out or covered with scale.  A maintenance kit will often contain water panels, a feed tube assembly (with strainer and orifice), a scale control insert, a water distribution tray and a drain spud.

Lastly - Close the seasonal damper in the summer months. 

There is also the option of maintaining your humidifier when you schedule a routine service for your furnace. This will ensure both systems are clean and in working order going into the cooler months. Give Self Heating & Cooling a call today at        678-909-6377 to schedule your HVAC tune-up and ask about adding in humidifier service. 

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The kids are headed back to school, but we are still headed into one of the hottest months of the summer. Here are a few tips to save energy, but keep your home cool. 
 

Cooling Tips

  • Set your programmable thermostat as high as is comfortable in the summer, and raise the setpoint when you're sleeping or away from home.
  • Clean or replace filters on air conditioners once a month or as recommended.
  • Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
  • During summer, keep the window coverings closed during the day to block the sun's heat.
  • Turn off electronics/screens when not in use. You may not realize it, but heat is being generated and released into the home while your computer screen or tv remains on.
  • If possible, have a whole home fan installed. Fans use less energy than an A/C, and are a great way to circulate air in the home and cool it off. 
And finally, when purchasing a new A/C, select energy-efficient products when you buy new cooling equipment. Your contractor should be able to give you energy fact sheets for different types, models, and designs to help you compare energy usage. See the efficiency standards for information on minimum ratings, and look for the ENERGY STAR when purchasing new products. Self Heating and Cooling offers free, custom, in home estimates to help you select the energy efficient equipment, that is right for you needs. 

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One of the most important aspects of choosing an HVAC system for your home or business is its SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. Prior to 2015, the national minimum SEER rating for a residential HVAC system was 13, regardless of your location. Now, however, the acceptable minimum will depend on your area, and in some cases, the type of system you choose to install.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

The SEER rating, determined by the AHRI (Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute), is to ensure that HVAC systems are productive, safe, and environmentally friendly. The rating calculates the average cooling output a unit provides versus how much energy it consumes, when it’s run in accordance with the kind of yearly use patterns typical in average homes. The higher the rating, the better energy efficiency the system provides.

While an HVAC unit with a high SEER rating may cost more, you’ll see a decrease in utility bills for your home or business, thanks to the system’s effectiveness in conserving energy efficiency. What’s more, using less energy also decreases your carbon footprint, so you can feel good about your contribution to a healthier environment.

SEER Ratings

The U.S. is broken down into three regions based on the climate for the states included in each of the regions, which means the SEER ratings can differ from state to state. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your HVAC system meets the new SEER requirements in your area.

  • North – Most of the U.S.—including Alaska—falls into the Northern region for SEER ratings. If you live in this area, the new minimum is 14 SEER for packaged HVAC systems, and 13 SEER for split systems, where the unit components are housed both outdoors and inside the home. Heat pumps must be rated 14 SEER, or 8.0 HSPF for packaged units, and 8.2 HSPF for split systems.
  • Southwest – The Southwest region includes Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico. In these states, the minimum SEER rating for AC units is 14, no matter what kind you purchase.  For heat pumps, the minimum HSPF is 8.0 for packaged units, and 8.2 for split systems, while the minimum SEER is 14 for all types. All air conditioning systems must also meet another measurement, the EER rating, which calculates the system’s efficiency as though outside temperatures were a consistent 95 degrees every day (rather than a range of temperatures, as in the SEER rating). This makes it a more accurate indication of performance for homes in high heat climates. For packaged systems, the EER rating is 11. For split systems, it can vary depending on the unit’s weight—for units less than or equal to 3.5 tons, it is 12.2 EER, and for those greater than 4 tons, it is 11.7.
  • South – The southern region includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, as well as Hawaii and the District of Columbia. Units in these areas must have a SEER rating of at least 14. The heating system must be rated 14 SEER, or 8.0 HSPF for packaged units, and 8.2 HSPF for split systems. There is no EER requirement.

If you have an HVAC gas pack instead of a heat pump, it must have a minimum SEER of 14, no matter your location.

Choosing the Right SEER Rating

When choosing your new HVAC system, don’t assume that bigger means better, since the square footage to be heated and cooled is an important consideration. A unit that is too big for a small area will not work efficiently—in fact, it will over compensate. A system that is too small to keep a larger area comfortable will work overtime, running up the utility bill and putting additional strain on the unit. One of the biggest factors in determining the HVAC efficiency is the thermal rating of your property. This means addressing any necessary improvements that affect the temperature in your home or business. Here’s how you can ensure a better energy efficient output:

  • Reseal and add a double layer of insulation to ductwork, since ducts can become deteriorated or damaged over time.
  • If your property does not have an attic exhaust fan, have one installed.
  • Add a double layer of insulation in the attic/ceiling to improve thermal efficiency.
  • Install solar screens and low-E windows, or add a radiant barrier to your roof.

To ensure that you’ll see a return on investment for the cost of your new unit, you’ll need to consider how long you plan to stay in your home. For example, if you purchase a more expensive 36,000 BTU unit with a 16 SEER that costs $6,000, you’ll have better efficiency—but it could take up to 9 years before you fully recoup the cost of the initial investment. In this case, a less expensive unit that can accommodate the square footage and a lower SEER rating may be the wiser choice.

Benefits of SEER Ratings

As long as your home is properly insulated, devoid of areas where air can leak in or out, you can expect better efficiency—and therefore, decreased energy bills. Even better, if you purchase an Energy Star certified air conditioners, you’re eligible for federal tax rebates, which helps defray the cost of the equipment. And make sure to check with your local utility company, since they may offer rebates for installing an energy efficient air conditioning and heating system.

While your final choice will depend on a variety of factors, you can get a general feel for the annual energy savings from different systems by performing a simple cost calculation, which will take into account your individual system’s efficiency ratings, the size of your home, and the size of your unit, among other factors.

If you have more questions about SEER ratings or would like to get a free customized in home estimate, give Self Heating & Cooling a call at 678-909-6377

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To most people, the science behind air conditioning is pure magic. The process cools your house and that’s all you care about… until it stops working. However, a basic understanding of the process behind air conditioning will provide you with a better ability to troubleshoot problems. Evaporator and condenser coils are at the heart of this process.

Why Refrigerant Is So Important

First, it’s important to understand how refrigerant plays a role in air conditioning. It easily transitions between liquid and gas, and when it does, it either extracts heat from the air or releases heat into the air. Pressure aids the process.

How an Air Conditioner Works

In a split-system central air conditioner, liquid refrigerant, also called coolant, is pumped into the home. It flows through an evaporator coil, which is either located in a dedicated air handling unit or attached to the furnace plenum.

Before the coolant flows into the evaporator coil, an expansion valve reduces pressure on the refrigerant, causing it to evaporate into a gas. As this happens, the refrigerant extracts heat energy from the surrounding air. The removal of heat from the air cools it off, and that cooled air is blown away from the coil and circulated throughout the home via a blower fan and air ducts.

At this point, the A/C pumps the gaseous refrigerant back outside to the condenser/compressor unit, usually located on a concrete pad next to the house. The compressor squeezes the gas, turning it back into a liquid. As the returns to a liquid state , heat is released into the outside air, blown away by an exhaust fan.

All air conditioning systems — central, portable and package units — operate on the same principle. Electric, air-source heat pumps cool homes in this manner as well, using a reversing valve to switches the process from indoor cooling to heating. When this happens, the indoor evaporator coil operates as a condensing coil during heating, and the outdoor condenser coil becomes an evaporator coil.

When Your System Isn't Cooling

If you notice your A/C isn't cooling right, always check to see if any of the breakers have tripped and verify you have changed your filter recently.If you notice the system not cooling properly, check to see if there is any ice forming around the insulated line coming off the evaporator coil or condenser outside. This a sign the system is low on refrigerant, and you should turn the system off right away and contact a professional to assess the system. Be sure to keep it turned off until a tech arrives, even after the ice has thawed. Just like you wouldn't run your car with out oil, you don't want to run the A/C without refrigerant.

For more information on how evaporator and condenser coils cool, please contact Self Heating and Cooling at 678-909-6377 

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Most U.S. homes are heated with either furnaces or boilers. Furnaces heat air and distribute the heated air through the house using ducts. Boilers heat water, and provide either hot water or steam for heating. Steam is distributed via pipes to steam radiators, and hot water can be distributed via baseboard radiators or radiant floor systems, or can heat air via a coil. Steam boilers operate at a higher temperature than hot water boilers, and are inherently less efficient, but high-efficiency versions of all types of furnaces and boilers are currently available.

Understanding the Efficiency Rating of Furnaces and Boilers

A central furnace or boiler's efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). The Federal Trade Commission requires new furnaces or boilers to display their AFUE so consumers can compare heating efficiencies of various models. AFUE is a measure of how efficient the appliance is in converting the energy in its fuel to heat over the course of a typical year.

Specifically, AFUE is the ratio of annual heat output of the furnace or boiler compared to the total annual fossil fuel energy consumed by a furnace or boiler. An AFUE of 90% means that 90% of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and the other 10% escapes up the chimney and elsewhere. AFUE doesn't include the heat losses of the duct system or piping, which can be as much as 35% of the energy for output of the furnace when ducts are located in the attic, garage, or other partially conditioned or unconditioned space.

An all-electric furnace or boiler has no flue loss through a chimney. The AFUE rating for an all-electric furnace or boiler is between 95% and 100%. The lower values are for units installed outdoors because they have greater jacket heat loss. However, despite their high efficiency, the higher cost of electricity in most parts of the country makes all-electric furnaces or boilers an uneconomic choice. If you are interested in electric heating, consider installing a heat pump system.

You can identify and compare a system's efficiency by not only its AFUE but also by its equipment features.

Old, low-efficiency heating systems:

  • Natural draft that creates a flow of combustion gases
  • Continuous pilot light
  • Heavy heat exchanger
  • 56% to 70% AFUE.

Mid-efficiency heating systems:

  • Exhaust fan controls the flow of combustion air and combustion gases more precisely
  • Electronic ignition (no pilot light)
  • Compact size and lighter weight to reduce cycling losses
  • Small-diameter flue pipe
  • 80% to 83% AFUE.

High-efficiency heating systems:

  • Condensing flue gases in a second heat exchanger for extra efficiency
  • Sealed combustion
  • 90% to 98.5% AFUE.

Retrofitting Your Furnace or Boiler

Furnaces and boilers can be retrofitted to increase their efficiency. These upgrades improve the safety and efficiency of otherwise sound, older systems. The costs of retrofits should be carefully weighed against the cost of a new boiler or furnace, especially if replacement is likely within a few years or if you wish to switch to a different system for other reasons, such as adding air conditioning. If you choose to replace your heating system, you'll have the opportunity to install equipment that incorporates the most energy-efficient heating technologies available.

Other retrofitting options that can improve a system's energy efficiency include installing programmable thermostats, upgrading ductwork in forced-air systems, and adding zone control for hot-water systems.

Replacing Your Furnace or Boiler

Although older furnace and boiler systems had efficiencies in the range of 56% to 70%, modern conventional heating systems can achieve efficiencies as high as 98.5%, converting nearly all the fuel to useful heat for your home. Energy efficiency upgrades and a new high-efficiency heating system can often cut your fuel bills and your furnace's pollution output in half. Upgrading your furnace or boiler from 56% to 90% efficiency in an average cold-climate house will save 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year if you heat with gas, or 2.5 tons if you heat with oil.

If your furnace or boiler is old, worn out, inefficient, or significantly oversized, the simplest solution is to replace it with a modern high-efficiency model. Old coal burners that were switched over to oil or gas are prime candidates for replacement, as well as gas furnaces with pilot lights rather than electronic ignitions. Newer systems may be more efficient but are still likely to be oversized, and can often be modified to lower their operating capacity.

Before buying a new furnace or boiler or modifying your existing unit, first make every effort to improve the energy efficiency of your home, then have a heating contractor size your furnace. Energy-efficiency improvements will save money on a new furnace or boiler, because you can purchase a smaller unit. A properly sized furnace or boiler will operate most efficiently, and you'll want to choose a dependable unit and compare the warranties of each furnace or boiler you’re considering.

When shopping for high-efficiency furnaces and boilers, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. If you live in a cold climate, it usually makes sense to invest in the highest-efficiency system. In milder climates with lower annual heating costs, the extra investment required to go from 80% to 90% to 95% efficiency may be hard to justify.

Specify a sealed combustion furnace or boiler, which will bring outside air directly into the burner and exhaust flue gases (combustion products) directly to the outside, without the need for a draft hood or damper. Furnaces and boilers that are not sealed-combustion units draw heated air into the unit for combustion and then send that air up the chimney, wasting the energy that was used to heat the air. Sealed-combustion units avoid that problem and also pose no risk of introducing dangerous combustion gases into your house. In furnaces that are not sealed-combustion units, backdrafting of combustion gases can be a big problem.

High-efficiency sealed-combustion units generally produce an acidic exhaust gas that is not suitable for old, unlined chimneys, so the exhaust gas should either be vented through a new duct or the chimney should be lined to accommodate the acidic gas.

Maintaining Furnaces and Boilers

The following maintenance should be provided by a heating system professional.

All systems:

  • Check the condition of your vent connection pipe and chimney. Parts of the venting system may have deteriorated over time. Chimney problems can be expensive to repair, and may help justify installing new heating equipment that won't use the existing chimney.
  • Check the physical integrity of the heat exchanger. Leaky boiler heat exchangers leak water and are easy to spot. Furnace heat exchangers mix combustion gases with house air when they leak—an important safety reason to have them inspected.
  • Adjust the controls on the boiler or furnace to provide optimum water and air temperature settings for both efficiency and comfort.
  • If you're considering replacing or retrofitting your existing heating system, have the technician perform a combustion-efficiency test.

Forced Air Systems:

  • Check the combustion chamber for cracks
  • Test for carbon monoxide (CO) and remedy if found
  • Adjust blower control and supply-air temperature
  • Clean and oil the blower
  • Remove dirt, soot, or corrosion from the furnace or boiler
  • Check fuel input and flame characteristics, and adjust if necessary
  • Seal connections between the furnace and main ducts.

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1700 Cumberland Point Dr
Marietta, GA. 30067
Phone: (678) 909-6377
Fax: (678) 909-6378
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