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Air Conditioning

Ask Dirk: What is the best thermostat for my home?

Ask Dirk: What is the best thermostat for my home?

Heating can account for nearly half of the average family’s winter energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Having a good thermostat may help homeowners reduce those costs. The market is full of choices when it comes to home thermostats, so let’s break it down so that you as the homeowner can make an informed decision before winter hits here in northern Nevada.

High-end thermostat options:

Smart thermostats

Operates like a programmable thermostat, but allows the user to access the system from any internet-connect device, including a smartphone, which allows the user to adjust the temperature remotely. Some smart thermostats will let you manage temperature, humidity, air quality, fan speeds, ventilation and zoning, making it easy for you to create comfort settings and connect with your system while home or away.

These thermostats know the temperature outside and adjust the inside temperature, based on your known settings. Automatically.

Care should be taken to make sure your smart thermostat is programmed correctly to ensure the best energy savings. These systems also have the capacity to record the inside and outside temperature, notify the homeowner when the filter should be changed and record its own operating time.

Learning thermostats

The next evolution in smart thermostats is the learning thermostat, which can “learn” when the home is likely to be occupied or empty, thus allowing for automatic heating and cooling upon entry. They do this by using motion detectors to determine when the home is occupied or by using a wireless network to sense when someone is away from their home.

Some manufacturers claim this new breed of comfort management device can save homeowners an average of 20% on their heating and cooling energy costs. Combine that with custom energy tips and you can make informed decisions about when and how to save even more money.

I’m not yet a fan of learning thermostats. I think they work well if you have regular patterns and don’t want to bother with programming your thermostat, but they aren’t great at unusual patterns. I tried one at my office. It noticed that I came in on a couple of Saturdays, so it started turning up the heat every Saturday whether I was there or not. It also started turning on for my cleaning crew who left the door open while they were working. I’ve switched back to a programmable thermostat with Wi-Fi. Now if I’m headed in to the office on the weekend, I can set the thermostat when I leave home.

Mid-range thermostat options:

Programmable thermostats

Allows the operator to set back the temperature based on a schedule of your choosing, so you don’t have to set it back when you leave or turn in for the night. Once you manually set the desired temperatures for, say daytime and nighttime or weekdays and weekends, the system heats or cools the home to those desired setpoints automatically.

Budget-friendly options

Non-programmable thermostats

The most basic option that allows the homeowner to turn on the heating or cooling, set the temperature and operate the fan. Also known as manual thermostats, all functions in these systems are operated manually. Keeps the home at the same temperature 24 hours a day unless it is manually changed.

How to decide?

If you’re really excited about technology, the smart and learning thermostats are really fun. If all you want is comfort without thinking too much, programmable thermostats are a great option. Non-programmable thermostats are easy to use – no fuss, no muss.

Consider your budget and your appetite for learning, and, as I always say, do your research.

If you have a question or comment, I’d love to hear from you. Please send it to me at dirk@roperhvac.com and I’ll try to answer it in an upcoming column.

Here’s a question I got recently from Philip L. regarding “Is my thermostat costing me money?”

  1. Is there any truth to NV Energy manipulating your HVAC system with their installed thermostats?
  2. Yes, in fact, NV Energy can control the set point in your home if you let them install their thermostat. See the following references:

https://mynews4.com/news/local/nv-energy-offers-free-smart-thermostats-to-customers-but-will-increase-home-temperature

https://www.nvenergy.com/save-with-powershift/smart-thermostat

  1. Were we to replace our 8+ year old programmable thermostat, what would you recommend?
  2. There are many options for replacement thermostats. It’s kind of like buying a car – it’s difficult for one person to decide what’s best for another. The way you want to use your system will largely decide what’s best for you:
  • Are you looking for simplicity, and do you prefer to be in charge of the temperature that is set?
  • Do you want to set a temperature program that runs every day?
  • Do you want different programs on weekdays and weekends?
  • Do you want a different program every day?
  • Do you want to be able to control your temperature setting from your phone or tablet? (Even when you’re not home.)
  • Do you want to use Alexa or Google Home to control your thermostat by voice?
  • Do you want a thermostat that watches you and tries to program itself according to what it sees?
  • Do you want a thermostat that can send you a text if it gets too cold in your home?

There are many options available to you, once you know your preferences. If you know what they are, I’d be happy to help you out!

Dirk

2019-10-21T13:31:20-07:00September 18th, 2018|

Ask Dirk: How can I lower my cooling costs?

Ask Dirk - Nevada Appeal Column photoIt’s hot. Darn hot.

It can be expensive to be cool, but you can lower your cooling costs with these simple tips.

Keep your filters clean

Dirty filters are one of the biggest causes of AC poor performance or system failure. Imagine breathing with a filthy cloth over your mouth and nose. It’s much harder, and you’re bound to start coughing.

Your AC needs regular filter changes to keep your system running smoothly. At the very least, change them twice a year during your summer and winter AC service. Better – change them quarterly. Best – change them monthly, especially during high-use times.

Annual maintenance

To keep your AC running right, annual service on your AC will keep it running at peak efficiency. Regularly scheduled maintenance will improve reliability, lower your energy bills, result in fewer costly repairs, help your equipment last longer and provide a safer, healthier indoor environment.

Calling for repair

If something isn’t working quite right, call your friendly local AC repair service. Your technician can run diagnostic tests to find and repair the problem. It’s really better than waiting for disaster to strike and facing expensive repairs down the road.

Make the recommended repairs

You called your trusty technician and he’s recommended repairs. Do it. For the life of your equipment, make the repairs.

Hiring a skilled, professional service company to fix your equipment will reduce the cost of a crisis later on. AC professionals are trained in the ways of AC equipment and will make repairs properly in less time than hiring a handyman or trying to figure it out yourself.

Making a mistake or ignoring the warning signs could lead to unpleasant consequences. Find a company whose technicians gain new techniques and knowledge to keep up with an evolving industry. Bonded, licensed and insured contractors remove the risk from you and take it on themselves.

Who doesn’t like those odds?

 

— Dirk

2018-09-01T13:23:58-07:00September 1st, 2018|

Ask Dirk: What Are My Options When Buying or Replacing My Air Conditioner?

Ask Dirk - Nevada Appeal Column photoAsk Dirk: What Are My Options When Buying or Replacing My Air Conditioner?

Overwhelmed by your choices when purchasing a new air conditioning system? Central air conditioners fall into three categories based on your budget and what works with your existing system. Here is a look at each category.

High-end air conditioners

The ultimate in comfort and efficiency

There’s no doubt you are paying a premium for comfort with high-end systems. If you like to run your AC all day and all night to maintain a steady 72 to 73 degrees, these are the systems for you. As the name implies, high-end central air conditioners tend to be the most expensive. You’re paying for comfort and quiet with these systems and may not recover your costs in energy savings over the lifetime of the equipment.

Precise temperature control

When paired with the right furnace, an air conditioner with multiple cooling levels can reach your set temperature more efficiently and accurately. Instead of switching on and blasting cold air, these systems can use lower stages of cooling.

Lower capacity = steady temperature

Variable speed air conditioning operates at lower capacities during the day, depending on how hot it is outside. Single stage systems blast cold air until it reaches a certain temperature. Variable speed runs longer at lower capacities keeping a steady temperature throughout the day.

Clean is good

Additionally, variable speed AC can also act as an air purifier, filtering your air if you run the blower constantly at lower speed and capacity. This helps to improve indoor air quality, reduce contaminants, limit mold growth and prevent dust mites.

Quiet is better

Variable speed systems run more quietly than single- or double-stage units.

Mid-range air conditioners

Cost less to own

Mid-range air conditioners often have the lowest cost of ownership over the life-time of the equipment.

Mid-range air conditioners are typically two-stage systems. A two-stage system offers two operating speeds: high and low.


Efficiency

Two-stage systems will run at full capacity when necessary and at a lower level when it’s not. Less cycling equals lower energy bills and the system may pay for itself with energy savings over the years.

Budget friendly solutions

The basic AC system

Many cooling systems are single-stage systems with one level of cooling. Single stage systems may have the lowest upfront cost. They turn on when the indoor temperature exceeds the setting on the thermostat. Single-stage air conditioners are the least expensive to buy and generally cost less to install. They have tried and true technology are great for their simplicity and reliability, as well as their lower cost.

Not so efficient, but still reliable

Single-stage air conditioners are the least efficient. They draw more electricity because they run at 100 percent capacity, turning on and off throughout the day. If keeping upfront cost low is important to you, you’ll be happy with this system.

So, which do you choose?

The type of system you choose depends on the size and design of your home, your existing furnace, your needs and your budget. If comfort and quiet are important to you, you may consider going with a two-speed or variable speed. If lower upfront cost is more important to you, stick with a single stage system, again, only if it meets your needs.

Do your research, then talk to a reputable dealer. You’ll feel better making an informed decision, and you’ll find the right system for your situation.

 — Dirk

About Roper’s Heating and Air Conditioning: For more than30 years Roper’s Heating and Air Conditioning has been providing essential indoor climate management services to the citizens of western Nevada. Roper’s is a family-owned, community-oriented business that specializes in the restoration and preservation of Total Home Comfort. Roper’s Heating and Air Conditioning is located at 2062 S. Edmonds Drive in Carson City. For more information, visit https://roperhvac.com/.

 

2018-08-17T13:21:23-07:00August 17th, 2018|