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So far RoperHVAC has created 16 blog entries.

Ask Dirk: My allergies are killing me! How can I reduce allergens in my home?

If you suffer from allergies, you might view spring with mixed emotions. Yes, it will be warmer and sunnier. But those conditions cause plants to grow and bloom, and pollen from those plants can be a problem for allergy sufferers.

Dog with allergiesWhat are we dealing with?

Northern Nevada is a beautiful place to live, but it is rich in allergens. Airborne pollens from rabbit brush, sagebrush, ragweed, and dozens of other plants can cause discomfort like sneezing, wheezing, coughing, itchy eyes, stuffed-up noses for allergy sufferers. In addition, you, your family, your pets, and visitors all bring allergens with them when they enter your home.

How can I avoid allergens?

While there’s not much you can do about allergens when you are outdoors, you can take steps to minimize them in your home.

Infiltration is a significant contributor to poor indoor air quality. Open doors and windows, pet doors, poor sealing of the building envelope, and leaks around registers are prime offenders. But remember, not all allergens come from outdoors. Pet dander, dust mites, mold, and other sources of allergens may already be inside your home.

A properly maintained HVAC system can help in removing these allergy-aggravating substances from the air. The addition of free-standing air cleaners may work even better, especially if your HVAC system isn’t designed to provide extra-clean air.

What can I do?

Remember, the HVAC system only filters when it is moving air. If you are not running central air conditioning in the summer, you may be able to set the fan to “on” if the system allows. This could increase your electric bill as well as accelerated wear on the blower motor.

You’ll want to choose a filter that collects more of the microscopic spores and other pollutants that may aggravate your allergies without stressing the system. Restricted airflow caused by filters that are designed to improve air quality can make the blower motor work even harder, so make sure you select the correct filters and change them regularly. Your service technician can help you choose the best filter for your system.

How will I know what filter to choose?

Filters are rated by the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV rating), and range from a value of 1 to 20 http://www.mechreps.com/PDF/Merv_Rating_Chart.pdf. Flat panel filters, installed by most furnace manufacturers, have a 1 to 4 MERV rating. Medium efficiency filters with a MERV rating of 5 to 13 are the most common types used in home HVAC systems. High efficiency with a rating of 14 to 16 MERV, are considerably more expensive, and should only be used in systems designed for them.

No matter what filter you choose, remember to replace it as directed on the packaging. Some homes require filters to be changed monthly at a minimum. If the filter is very dirty when you change it, replace it sooner next time.

What else can help?

Your ducts may also contribute to the problem. Duct leakage can occur over time, allowing dirty air from the attic or the crawlspace to enter the system. Increased pressure in these spaces can also cause that dirty air to leak in around the registers. If you suspect this is happening, have the system inspected by a professional, who will seal any leaks found.

The bottom line

Your first line of defense in reducing allergens in your home, next to a free-standing air cleaner, is regular filter changes with a good quality filter. It’s also a good idea to have your HVAC system inspected on an annual

basis to prevent any problems before they occur.

# # #

Have a question for Dirk? Send it to dirk@roperHVAC.com and he’ll try to answer it in an upcoming column.

2019-05-09T15:51:46-07:00May 9th, 2019|

Ask Dirk: Is my thermostat costing me money?

According to EnergyStar.gov, nearly half of your home’s energy usage is for heating and cooling. How can you be both comfortable and energy efficient?

Aside from changing your filters regularly to keep dirt and dust from building up in your system, which can cause early failure or expensive repairs. here are easy some things you can do right now to improve your energy use:

 

Stop trying to heat or cool your home quickly

Most homes in our area have single-stage systems, which means it only works at one speed. Cranking up the heat will not heat the home any faster. Setting the temperature higher than what you want will make your furnace run longer and is likely to cause you to overshoot your desired temperature. The same idea applies to cooling, but in reverse, of course.

Don’t “set it and forget it”

Thermostat temperature settings should be changed any time you’re leaving the house for more than a couple of hours. Why heat or cool the place if you’re not there? If you’re leaving for more than a couple of hours, you can save energy by resetting your temperature.

Try this – when you’re going to be gone for more than a couple of hours, set your thermostat 10 to 15 degrees lower in the winter and 5 to 8 degrees higher in the summer. Energy Star calculates savings of 5 to 15 percent on your energy bills if you can do this.

If remembering to change the thermostat every time you leave sounds daunting, try a programmable thermostat, which can be set to accommodate your daily absences and desired sleeping temperatures.

Or, if you’re not really sure when you’ll be back, a WiFi thermostat will allow you to set your thermostat using your phone or tablet from pretty much anywhere when you’re ready to head home.

Then again, don’t mess with it

This is one of those times when micromanaging can backfire. Programmable thermostats are efficient when they’re allowed to run according to the schedule you gave it. If you decide you’re too warm or too cold and fiddle with the temperature, the system will turn on and shut off more frequently, which makes it run inefficiently.

Programmable thermostats come in many abilities and new technologies. Research the one that seems right for you, and talk with your service technician about which thermostats will work well with your system.

And, as we’ve discussed before, give your system an annual check-up

It may still be snowing now, but spring and summer are right around the corner, which is a peak season for HVAC contractors. Spring is a great time to do a pre-season check on your equipment that put in some overtime this winter.

Your service technician will clean your system, and tighten electrical connections, lubricate moving parts if any require it, check system controls, drainage, ensure your gas lines are safely connected and check your thermostat settings for you.

— Dirk

If you have a question for Dirk, send an email to dirk@roperhvac.com and we’ll try to answer it in an upcoming column.

2019-03-26T11:52:23-07:00March 21st, 2019|

Ask Dirk: Will running my ceiling fan in the winter save money?

Ceiling fanYou may use ceiling fans to help cool your house during the summer, but did you know you can use them in the winter to help boost your home heating system as well?

Heat rises

A ceiling fan normally cools the home by pushing air down directly under the fan. When the blades push air down, they create a wind-chill effect and can facilitate evaporation, further aiding in cooling. This does not actually lower the temperature of your home. It just makes you feel cooler.

Because hot air rises, a lot of the energy your central heating system uses warms the top of the room, near the ceiling. Check to see if there is a switch on the fan motor casing. If there is, flip it and see if the air is pulling up or down. Reversing the direction of the fan’s rotation to pull cooler room air upward will push warm air near the ceiling downward.

If your home leaks…

As we’ve discussed in other columns, your home most likely leaks air. Homes with high or leaky ceilings will be harder to heat. If you have air leaking into your attic, the negative pressure inside your home compensates by pulling in cold air near the floor.

In the clockwise direction, ceiling fan blades draw the cold air in from around the room and push it upward, which then pushes the warm air hovering near the ceiling down into the room.

Does this save me money?

Ceiling fans, especially if they are Energy Star-rated, cost maybe a few cents per hour to run and may allow you to lower your thermostat a few degrees. This will cause your furnace to run less often which may lower your energy bills with no significant reduction in comfort.

To ensure optimal savings and comfort, it’s important to choose an energy-efficient fan. Choose an Energy Star-rated ceiling fan, which are up to 40 percent more efficient than standard fans, and which use better motors and innovative blade designs to lower the fan’s energy consumption .

 But wait, there’s more

Another fun benefit of running your ceiling fan in the winter is the potential for improved airflow and air quality. Your ceiling fan supplements the air circulation by your HVAC and will definitely help to circulate stale air which, during heating season, sits near the ceiling.

It’s not the fan, it’s you

It’s important to remember that ceiling fans make people warmer or cooler, not rooms. While they may only cost pennies per hour to run, you’ll want to turn your fan off when you leave the room. Because they only distribute air more evenly and don’t actually heat it, running a fan in an empty room is a waste of electricity. The room with the thermostat is the exception — leave the fan in there turned on so that the thermostat has an accurate reading of the room’s temperature and doesn’t use extra energy trying to heat the room further.

One last thing

If you have an open stairway in your home, installing a ceiling fan at the top of your stairs helps redistribute the heat that rises to the second floor back down to the first floor. Keep this fan running while anyone is in the rooms near the first-floor landing. If the thermostat is near it, run the stairway fan whenever the central heating is on, so the thermostat gets a more accurate reading and the heating system doesn’t work harder to heat the whole house.

2019-02-08T17:19:21-07:00February 8th, 2019|

Ask Dirk: What Should I Do Before Calling for Service?

You’ve turned on the heat and nothing happens. No click. No warm air flowing through your vents. And it’s cold inside. Should you immediately call for service?

Roper's Heating and Air Conditioning ServicesWhile some situations require a call to the technician to set up a service appointment, not all do. There are some simple steps you can take to troubleshoot possible problems to save yourself time and money before calling for service.

Check the thermostat

You’d be amazed how often settings on the thermostat cause issues that result in a technician visit. Take a moment and check your settings before calling. It could be that someone messed with the settings or something wasn’t set correctly.

Newer HVAC control panels can be complicated. If you’re having problems with your thermostat control pad or don’t understand it, ask your technician to walk you through it again during their next visit.

Check Batteries if Applicable
If your thermostat uses batteries and you find it isn’t lighting up, dead batteries could be to blame. Replacing these batteries yourself is simple and doesn’t require a visit from a technician.

Check Circuit Breakers
If the batteries are OK but your system still isn’t working, check the circuit breakers or fuse box. Make sure fuses to your system haven’t burned out or make sure your circuit breakers haven’t been tripped. Sometimes a jolt of electrical energy can trip a breaker, so it’s worthwhile to investigate the circuit breaker or fuse box before calling for help.

While your furnace most likely uses gas (or heating oil) to provide heat, it requires electricity to run. So, if your power is out, your furnace will not operate.

Check filters
Your filters should be changed every couple of months. This is especially true during months of heavy use, like cold winters. If your furnace unit doesn’t seem to be blowing sufficient air through vents, or if it’s cycling on and off without warming your home to the desired temperature, it could be the result of a dirty filter. Regularly changing filters will help your system last longer and operate more efficiently.

Check Indoor and Outdoor Switches
Most units have a way to disconnect the power. In our area, the furnace (or air handler) is usually plugged into a normal-looking household outlet, while the outdoor unit typically has a disconnect mounted on a wall near the unit. Occasionally a child or pet will accidentally hit one of these switches, so if that’s a concern, check these switches before calling for service.

If you’ve completed all these steps and still don’t have heat, it is time to call for technician service. Mention to your technician that you have completed this checklist and they will take it from there.

— Dirk

Have a question for Dirk? Send it to dirk@roperHVAC.com and he’ll try to answer it in an upcoming column.

2019-01-14T10:09:34-07:00January 14th, 2019|

Ask Dirk: Do I need fresh air in my home?

A Nevada Appeal reader reached out to me with a question about the need for fresh indoor air. Since it’s a great topic for all of us during windows-closed season, I’ve shared my response here.

If you are worried more about air leaks causing your energy bills to soar, the U.S. Department of Energy (www.energy.gov) provides information on DIY home energy audits. If you’re just wondering if you need fresh air in the house, in a word, the answer is yes, you need fresh indoor air in your home. The question becomes, how does it get in besides opening windows?

Fresh air

Ironically, leaks in the building envelope provide fresh air to the home. A certain amount of fresh air needs to come into the home to keep the air healthy; however, a well-sealed home is too tight, and doesn’t leak enough, to provide the needed fresh air.

That can be remedied with a heat-recovery ventilator or an energy-recovery ventilator. This provides two important benefits.

First, you control the source of the fresh air that comes into your home. Rather than air leaking in through cracks and crevices, with some coming from the crawlspace and the attic (not my favorite sources of fresh air), air comes in through a duct from a place you choose for fresh air.

Secondly, it’s more energy efficient than just bringing outside air in. Indoor air that is exhausted passes through a heat exchanger, conditioning the outside air being brought in.

Pressurization

I’m a fan of maintaining a slight positive pressure inside the home. In this situation, air will leak out through the various places that it currently leaks in. So now you’re bringing air into your home from a source that you’ve chosen, and reversing the flow so that air now “leaks” out into your crawlspace and attic, instead of leaking in from those places. Depending on your situation, this can be accomplished by adjusting airflow through a heat-recovery ventilator or an energy-recovery ventilator, by bringing outside air into your return air duct, or a number of other approaches.

Duct leakage

Need more fresh air in my home

If your home is like the majority of homes in our area, your return air runs through the attic. The blower in the furnace pulls air through the return ducts, creating low pressure in them. Improperly sealed joints in the ducting allows attic air to be drawn into the ducting and it is subsequently distributed through your home.

Your supply ducts are most likely in your crawlspace. Here the duct leakage adds positive pressure to the crawlspace, which helps force air from the crawlspace into your living space (often through gaps around the heating registers in your floor).

Ducts that aren’t stretched tight, or that turn corners without proper technique, create more positive pressure in supply ducts, and negative pressure in return ducts, making the aforementioned issues more pronounced.

Other air losses

Kitchen hoods, bathroom fans, and clothes dryers exhaust air from your home, significantly increasing the rate of infiltration. If they are seldom run or run for short durations, this may not be a huge problem. Providing make-up air when these exhaust sources are running can significantly improve the situation, though.

Improving the quality of your air

Depending on where the air is coming from, higher quality filters in your central heating and cooling system can help improve indoor air quality. Care must be taken not to overdo this. Filters that remove more particles from the air also restrict airflow. Whether the filter is in the ceiling or at the furnace, it can decrease the airflow and create extra wear-and-tear on your system.

You can also supplement filtration efforts through the use of high-quality, free-standing portable air cleaners.

If all else fails and you’re still worried about fresh air, open a window for a bit. You’ll feel better.

— Dirk

If you have a question for Dirk, send an email to dirk@roperhvac.com and we’ll try to answer it in an upcoming column.

2019-01-04T14:30:56-07:00December 29th, 2018|