The Ductwork

It is not necessary to become a certified HVAC technician, but a homeowner ought to have an understanding of the air-conditioning system that cools his or her home during warm months. The ductwork is not something out in the open to be seen, yet it plays a very important role in keeping the house at a comfortable temperature.

The Basic Operation

Air is drawn into the air conditioning system by fans and within the Air Handling Unit (AHU) the air is cooled. The air is then circulated back into the living space through the ducts, and returned to the air-conditioning unit by means of the ducts. It is the circulation that can cause some of the difficulties commonly experienced with this part of the HVAC system.

Problems in the Ductwork

It is possible that dirt and dust can accumulate in the ductwork and these create obstacles to the airflow. They can require the system to generate more energy to get the air circulating, and that becomes a cost to the homeowner. Perhaps more serious would be leaks in the ductwork that allows cool air to escape. It can also cause warm air from the outside to enter into the circulation system. Either can generate additional cost for the homeowner.

The problems are not dangerous in and of themselves but they do create a situation where the air-conditioning is not performing as well as it can. This can be a problem in the summer when the air-conditioning is in continual use. Problems with the ductwork will generate greater utility bills and less efficiency. A certified HVAC technician is best qualified to take care of cleaning the ductwork. This person has the proper tools and skill set necessary to do a good job. An annual inspection of the ductwork can also identify problems that can be fixed before they are serious, saving a homeowner a significant amount of money in the long run.

Air Conditioning and the Environment

A primary concern for any maintenance inspection of an air-conditioning unit is whether or not there is a refrigerant leak. People may wonder why this is so important and it has a lot to do with a safe environment. Refrigerant has properties that may be detrimental.

Trouble With The Ozone

Much the environmental danger is concerned with the ozone. A measure of the threat to the ozone layer is the Ozone Depletion Potential or ODP. The less value registered by the ODP, less of a threat refrigerant is to the environment. Another measure is the Global Warming Potential, or GWP. The lower value registered by the GWP the safer for the environment is the refrigerant.

There is a chlorofluorocarbon compound known as R11. This has both a high ODP and high GWP. Refrigerants are measured against R11, with R11 having an ODP of one. This is a critical for determining whether the refrigerant is safe or not.

Various Refrigerants

There are quite a few refrigerants used and they have different ODP and GWP ratings. Refrigerants such as R134A, R407C, R410A and R417A are safe refrigerants to use and some alternative refrigerants that can be in an air conditioner include R290. All of these do not pose a threat to the ozone layer, but a refrigerant leak still is something that does require attention as soon as possible. The possibility the one of the older air-conditioning units may have a refrigerant with a high ODP is reason enough to attend to the problem immediately.

Refrigerant leak maintenance is not really a good do-it-yourself project. It is far better to have people who are experienced and trained in dealing with these compounds, because an HVAC technician would have the proper equipment to deal with the situation successfully. Preserving the environment has become increasingly more important part of HVAC technology and practice. The idea is to provide as much air conditioning or heating service to make a residence comfortable while the same time leaving as little an impression on the ecology as is practicable.

Take Advantage of a Tune up Opportunity

 

 Holiday shopping takes a lot of attention away from other projects, but a homeowner should take the opportunity during the winter to schedule a tune-up for the air-conditioning unit in the house. It a practical idea because the air conditioner isn’t used that often in the winter and the AC check up probably will not be that expensive. This is a way of doing some maintenance on equipment that will be extremely important when the temperature start to climb.

 

Getting Ready For Summer

 

Air conditioners get a lot of use in the summer and the tune-up repairs done in the winter helps keep the air-conditioning running efficiently when the weather becomes unbearably hot. The HVAC technician will do simple things like calibrate the thermostat, check on the condenser, be sure that the condenser fan motors and blades are in good working order, and see to it the evaporator coil is clean. Actual cleaning is one of the biggest benefits of an AC check up in the winter. The grime and dust that can harm efficiency are swept away and equipment is fine tuned for the high demand season. The HVAC professional can also spot situations where the equipment is starting to wear down and need replacement. It is far better to replace worn out belts and wires now than have to do it in the summer.

 

Curbing Expenses

 

An air-conditioning unit that has had a tune-up is one that does not require as much energy to generate the cooling air. The obstacles to efficiency have been removed, and the systems don’t have to put as much effort into maintaining the desired temperature. That translates into lower energy costs and smaller utility bills. It is another reason why taking a break from the holiday shopping to schedule an AC check up is really a great idea.

Geothermal Heat the House

 Modern consumers are looking for a way to not only reduce the amount of carbon emissions but also to have needed energy at a reasonable price. The house still needs to be warmed and cooled properly, and simply opening or closing a window is not sufficient replacement for the old fossil burning furnace. Technology has advanced and HVAC systems can offer alternatives that use little or no carbon-based fuel. Geothermal heat pumps can provide both the heat and cool air are necessary to keep the house comfortable.

The Mechanics of Geothermal Heat Pumps

The geothermal system moves heat through liquid fill pipes buried in the ground. Below the surface the temperature of the earth is somewhere around 50°F. Geothermal heat pumps will take this heat from out of the ground through the pipes and process it either for cooling air or for heating purposes. A major benefit is that the amount of electricity needed for the geothermal heat pump to work is a fraction of what a standard heat pump would need. This type of HVAC equipment ordinarily comes with warranties of up to 10 years, and the lifespan is much more. Overall, they are considered much more energy-efficient than standard air-conditioners or gas furnaces.

Something to Keep In Mind

Geothermal heat pumps will ultimately pay for themselves and more, but the installment will require hundreds of feet of piping to be buried deep in the soil. Soil conditions will influence the overall cost of installation, and small lots will require drilling hundreds of feet straight down to reach the heat source. The cost overall is fairly high, and a homeowner should expect to pay as much as $20,000 or more for geothermal heat pump. All this understood these heat pumps will pay for themselves over period of time, substantially reduce utility bills, and the carbon emission created by geothermal heat pumps is almost nil. This is definitely an option for those people who have a great concern about carbon emission and are willing to pay for installation.

Preventative Maintenance on Heat Pumps

Installing a heat pump is a positive step in the direction towards energy efficiency and lower utility bills. Heat pumps operate with minimal carbon emissions, and have been known to decrease utility bills by double-digit percentages. This machinery does need to be checked for wear and potential problems. Preventive maintenance will keep heat pumps running smoothly.

The Aging of the Heat Pumps

The idea behind the maintenance is to keep the machinery running for an extended life. Heat pumps are a durable appliance and should be able to run effectively for decades. They can, if some routine inspections are done to see if everything is in good order. A good heat pump is going to provide both heating and cooling for the entire year, and that takes its toll. Some parts may be worn down to the point of breaking and have to replaced, while others just need some lubrication.

Common Maintenance on Heat Pumps

Not all of the maintenance work requires expert knowledge or sophisticated tools. Sometimes, it can be just a change of the filters or perhaps replacing a blown fuse. Air ducts can have problems such as leaking points or loose parts. These can easily be fixed. Other maintenance can depend on the noise. Grinding sounds could suggest problems with the motor, and this is not something that a homeowner should try to repair. The same is true if there is a possibility of a refrigerant leak. Both of these situations will require a trained technician to go in and fix things. That is much better than having an untrained person try to do maintenance cause an even greater problem.

A maintenance check up once or twice a year will add considerable time onto the lives of these energy-saving machines. A good heat pump can last up to 30 years if properly maintained. The energy savings and lower utility bills that he pumps provide over extended periods of time gives a real incentive to have at least an annual maintenance checkup on the machinery.

HVAC Improvements for House Selling

There comes a time when a person has to consider selling the house. It may be due to a job transfer or simply moving to a bigger home that causes the decision to be made. Getting the house ready for sale may take some time and a few home improvements will add to the value of property. Work on the HVAC systems, including the air-conditioning and heat pumps, can raise the selling price.

Repair/Renovation

Too many homeowners will make unnecessary renovations to try to improve the value of their house. Some of these are very cosmetic and a prospective homebuyer could care less about them. Working on the HVAC system is different. Seeing to it that the ducts have been properly sealed and that the heat pump is in good working order can be beneficial. Prospective buyers want to be assured that the systems in good working order, so scheduling an inspection and maintenance a few weeks before the viewing will help. A homeowner may even want to keep a copy of the inspection to show to people interested in the house.

Installing New HVAC

Energy-efficient air-conditioning units and heat pumps are definite value adders to the selling price. A homeowner may want to consider installation of either and if that is the strategy, it would be a smart idea to check with a tax accountant on what possible breaks are available. Depending on the terms and conditions, a homeowner could get tax rebates and incentives for installing ENERGY STAR approved HVAC machinery. The HVAC system may also qualify as a capital improvement to the home and that is tax-deductible. It is important, however, to speak with a knowledgeable tax person before making the investment in a new HVAC system.

 A well running HVAC system adds value for no other reason than it keeps utility bills low. That can add a few thousand dollars on to the final selling price of the house. A homeowner should do some planning and get a few cost estimates before doing anything major, but even fine-tuning the HVAC system is going to mean extra cash when the house is finally sold.

Going Over the Checkpoints

This is the best time to take a look at the air-conditioning unit of the house. There won’t be any need for air-conditioning until the weather gets hot, and a little tune-up work can guarantee the best results from the air conditioner. Rather than just looking into the machinery see if anything looks unusual, a decent check checklist can guide the homeowner in doing this winter maintenance on the unit.

Things to Do

ENERGY STAR is a program administered by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and they have developed what can be considered a bucket list for air-conditioning maintenance. Among the things that should be included in a routine inspection include:

  • Checking the condensate drain so there is no water backup occurring;
  • Take a look at the blower components to be sure that they are cleaned. This is important because if the regular flow of air is blocked it can result in a serious reduction in air-conditioning; efficiency;
  • Inspect the thermostat settings to be sure that what is registered is reflected in the actual temperature of the room;
  • Inspect the refrigerant and check for leaks.

Drawing the Line

There should be a dividing point in the checklist. A homeowner must appreciate that he or she does not have all of the expertise needed to do a complete job. There are some assignments like patching a refrigerant leak that ought to be left to professionals. Those people have the proper equipment and stores knowledge to best deal with major tune up work. There’s no reason to risk a mistake.

Maintenance that is governed by a list makes certain that the essential components are inspected and necessary adjustments or repair completed. Air conditioning that is at peak performance will not only provide the cooling air that makes house comfortable, but will also do it using as little energy as possible and keeping utility bills under reasonable control.

Maximizing the air-conditioning

 

The weather outside any subzero and everyone is more concerned about heat, but this is actually a great time to plan a more fuel-efficient air-conditioning system. There are ways in which a homeowner can see to it that the house gets exactly the cooling air it needs be comfortable, without busting the home budget.

Optimal Efficiency in the House

The first things that could be done involves the structure of the house. Windows can be fitted with window film to deflect the rays of the sun, seeing to it that unwanted heat does not penetrate into living quarters. Ceiling fans can also be put in to make certain that air circulates properly and that no one room is overly warm. Insulation around the windows is primarily a means of plugging the leaks. There really is no reason to air-conditioning outside with cool air escaping into the outdoors. A programmable thermostat can adjust the temperature so that when the house is vacant the level of air-conditioning is reduced.

Looking at the Air-Conditioning Unit

There are a number of heat pumps on the market but a homeowner may not be able to afford one just yet. The AC service can be made more efficient by a very simple air conditioning tune-up. This would include checking on the filters and also looking to see if there any possible refrigerant leaks in the existing air conditioner. This is the time of year that the HVAC unit is not in a lot of use, so doing any maintenance work is not going to cause an inconvenience for the household. The ductwork may need a little inspection to see whether or not there are accumulations of dirt that may be obstacles to airflow. If it looks as if there may be some mechanical problems with the air conditioner, it is a good idea to have an HVAC technician come in to do more in-depth work.

None of the above really costs and awful lot of money but it’s the kind of maximization that ensures that the air-conditioning is providing the best service when it is most needed. It’s also very easy to schedule maintenance work right now, because this is the off-season and HVAC maintenance companies have available time.

Taking Care of the Thermostat

 

The thermostat is the temperature control mechanism of the HVAC system. It sees to it that the living space is adequately cooled or heated, and the thermostat has to run accurately. A variance between settings, where the thermostat is set at one temperature but actually maintains a higher level of heat, can result in substantially increased energy bills. This is a primary reason why attention should be given to the maintenance of the thermostat.

 

Review the Calibration

 

Good calibration assures that the proper temperature is being maintained. If there is a variation between the reading on the thermometer and the reading on the thermostat, there may be some difficulty with the calibration. This will mean that the thermostat will have to be replaced. A homeowner has to be careful about the wiring of the thermostat, and be certain that the replacement thermostat has all the necessary wires attached to it. The new thermostat by the way must also have the same little rating as the one it is replacing. Checking to see if the thermostat is able to turn on and turn off the heating system is a final check to be sure that it is running properly.

 

Increase the Energy Efficiency

 

A good thermostat can make energy efficiency easier and maintain lower utility bills. Once a thermostat has to be replaced, a programmable model should be the new one. These models of thermostats can be programmed to lower the heating temperature in winter at times when no one is in the house, and then automatically increase the heat when the family is ordinarily at home. This little variation assures that only the heat that is necessary at a given time is in the house. It furthermore helps keep utility costs down because less energy is being expended. Maintenance of the thermostat doesn’t take a considerable amount of time nor any advanced expertise. It requires staying alert to any sudden variations in temperature in which the house is actually warmer than the temperature registered.

Getting Assistance with HVAC Improvements

Consumers don’t always make improvements to the home HVAC system because they are environmentalists. It does happen in older homes of the HVAC system has seen the best years and can no longer supply sufficient AC service or heater service. The decision to make changes in the house is done with cost in mind. HVAC systems and their components are durable products and they do not come cheap. Fortunately for homeowners, there is financial assistance available in various places.

Utility Rebates

A telephone call to the local public utility can determine whether or not rebates are available. It is certainly in the best interests of that company to encourage people to make their homes more energy efficient. Financial assistance in the form of rebates can be in the hundreds of dollars but the homeowner must be willing to purchase those HVAC products that have certain standards as determined by the utility. That shouldn’t be a problem because whatever requirements are set by the public utility are directly related to reducing energy use and lowering utility bills at the same time.

Government Help

This is going to require a little homework on the part of the consumer. Some of the federal tax credit incentives have expired, but there are still some possibilities left. The state and local level may have tax incentives and rebates available for specified HVAC products. It does require investigation on the part of the homeowner but keep in mind the end result is going to be extremely worthwhile. Shaving a couple hundred dollars off of the final bill for any HVAC improvement that upgrades AC service or heating service is sensible. All it really takes is to find out whether or not one person has in mind qualifies.

Cost is always a factor but it can be reduced through rebates and tax incentives. Rather than risk having the old HVAC system break down the wrong time, a homeowner may want to take a look at what HVAC improvements can be done and what type of financial help is available.