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Ask Dirk Q&A: Common Questions Homeowners Ask

Ask Dirk Q&A: Common Questions Homeowners Ask

Over the past 30 plus years, we’ve been asked countless questions from customers throughout western Nevada. Many of them have been asked enough times that I felt it important to share.

Does a bigger HVAC system provide better performance?

In short, the answer is no. The size of your HVAC system depends entirely on the total square footage of your home. A system that is too small will run nonstop trying to reach and maintain your desired temperature, whereas a system that is too large will heat and cool your home in frequent, short cycles.  Either way, you may end up with a higher energy bill due to an inadequately sized system for your home.

 

How can I reduce my energy costs?

                    • Consider using a programmable thermostat to control temperatures throughout the day. Or if you’re leaving for more than a couple hours and able to remember, set your thermostat 10-15 degrees lower in the winter and 5-8 degrees higher in the summer. Energy Star estimates that users who do this can save 5-15 percent on their energy bill.
                    • Get your system serviced twice a year, once at the start of air conditioning season and once at the beginning of heat season.
                    • Make sure your vents are not closed, covered, or blocked by furniture.
                    • And last but not least, change your filters regularly.

How often should my filters be changed?

Your filters should be changed twice per year at least, during your summer and winter maintenance services. Even better—change them quarterly. Best—during high use periods, change them monthly.

 

 

 

conditioner 

How long will my HVAC system last?

The length your system lasts is reliant upon how well the unit is maintained. You can expect your HVAC system to roughly last between 15-25 years—IF—the recommended service and maintenance is performed throughout the last of the system. Certain elements of your total system may have different lifespans.

                    • A/C Units: 10-15 years
                    • Gas Heater: 15-30 years
                    • Heat Pumps: 10-15 years

 

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.

2019-08-02T17:07:13-07:00July 15th, 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.

2019-02-08T17:19:21-08:00February 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.

2019-01-14T10:09:34-08:00January 14th, 2019|

Ask Dirk: 7 Reasons Your Air Filter May Not Work Correctly

Indoor air quality researchers tell us that particulate matter (PM), or particulates, which are invisible pieces of stuff floating around in the air, are bad for human health.

Particulates that are 2.5 micrometers (0.0000025 m) or smaller, abbreviated PM2.5, are worse than larger particulates because they can penetrate deeper into the lungs and more easily find their way into your blood. The biggest sources of PM2.5 in most homes are outdoor air that finds its way into your home, indoor smokers, and regularly burning candles or incense.

Opening windows or using local bathroom and kitchen fans may help dilute particulates, although if the wind is blowing or the pollen count is high, open windows may not help. Another approach is to filter these smallest particulates out of your indoor air using the heating and air conditioning system. Even using a forced air HVAC system, filtering the air may not be helping your indoor air quality. Here are seven reasons your HVAC filter may not be working efficiently.

Not enough runtime

Filters can clean the air only when air is actively going through them. For most people, that’s only when your furnace or air conditioner is running. The rest of the time, air cleaning is not happening.

One option is to put the fan switch on the thermostat in the “on” position instead of “auto.” This will work in some places, but at the cost of higher energy bills. Depending on the equipment you have, it’s possible to add $30, $40, or even more to your monthly electric bill.

Not enough flow

Clean filters - change often

A clean filter is a good filter.

Not enough flow may also be caused by ducts and filters that are too small. That increases something called “total static pressure” in the system, which reduces air flow. Not changing filters often enough also can result in high pressure and low air flow.

Air that can’t be filtered

Sealing your home to lower infiltration can help. Air that leaks in around doors, windows, around floor registers, and from other sources will bring particulate matter into your home. There is no way to filter air that infiltrates, so prevention is the cure.

No filter

No filter means no filtration. Maybe someone removed the filter because it’s difficult to reach or took it out and forgot to replace it. Without a filter, you also could be getting your duct work, blower, air conditioner coil, furnace heat exchanger and other components dirty.

Filter bypass

Installing a deep media filter that’s capable of filtering out the small particulates only functions if properly installed. If it isn’t, air coming into the system will go around the filter, instead of through it.

Improperly sealed ducts

While improperly sealed ducts can waste 20 percent or more of your heating and cooling, they can also cause dirty indoor air. This is especially true of the return air duct that takes air from your living space back to your furnace. In our area, these ducts are typically in the attic. They have lower pressure inside them since the furnace is sucking air through them, so leaks allow air from the attic (not especially nice air) to be sucked into the ducts. If your filter is in your furnace, some of the debris will be caught, but if it’s in your ceiling return air grille, air that’s sucked in from the attic will be delivered straight into your home without the benefit of filtration.

Low efficiency (MERV) filter

The standard rating system for filters is Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV. The higher the number, the more particulates are filtered out. Typical one-inch filters are around MERV 2.

Increasing your filter to at least MERV-10 will remove about half of the small particulates. A MERV-13 will remove more than 90 percent of that small particulate matter.

Use care when switching to higher MERV filters, they can restrict air flow, which can decrease your system’s efficiency and life expectancy. As always, filters in your HVAC system should be changed at least quarterly. Your technician can help you select the best filter to meet your needs, balancing the decision between air cleaning ability and keeping your equipment healthy.

2019-01-04T14:38:45-08:00November 7th, 2018|

Ask Dirk: Should I have my furnace serviced for winter?

With cold weather upon us, chances are you have turned on your furnace for the season and are enjoying the warmth it brings to your home.

So, if everything seems to be working fine, should I still consider having maintenance service? Absolutely. Here are my reasons why:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care

Your furnace system controls the temperature and moves air throughout your home to keep it comfortable while also filtering out dust and allergens. A yearly preventative maintenance inspection by a qualified service technician can keep your system functioning at peak efficiency by identifying problems from thermal stress, movement, or dust.

Common problems can include:

  • Dirty air filters restricting air flow and placing extra stress on the furnace
  • Dirty blower fan blades lowering air flow and making the blower motor work harder
  • Out of specification capacitor making the system work harder (and likely to fail soon)
  • Changes in performance over time as the equipment ages

An inspection can also find and repair less obvious problems like:

  • Loose blower belt
  • Improperly firing burners
  • Blocked condensation drain
  • Loose wiring harnesses

Yearly fall maintenance can save you time, frustration, and money when it’s done right by a trained technician. It may even prevent a mid-winter failure by nipping a pending problem in the bud.

Change those filters!

change those filtersNext to having your furnace checked annually by a trained professional, changing your filter is the most important thing to do to ensure your furnace’s longevity and performance. One of the biggest culprits behind equipment issues are dirty filters, which can:

  • Restrict airflow, putting additional strain on the fan motor that, after time, can make your motor burn out, your system overheats, your heat exchanger crack, or your equipment fail
  • Reduce comfort by affecting the system’s ability to heat your home
  • Reduce efficiency causing an increase in your utility bills
  • Drastically reduce your indoor air quality, which can aggravate allergies, asthma and other illnesses

Manufacturers typically recommend that furnace filters be changed every three months. Homes with smokers, pets, or situations that let more dust indoors will likely need to change their filters more regularly than other households.

Duct cleaning?

Since your furnace has air filters that keep dust away from your heat exchanger and reduce dust from entering your ducts and blowing back into your house, you may not need regular duct cleaning. The strong exception to this is if you see mold, insects/rodents or excessive dust coming from your vents; if you do, then a duct cleaning is in order.

Be sure to hire a competent contractor if you decide to clean your ducts, and make sure they guarantee that their equipment won’t damage your ductwork.

Your service professional also will be able to inform you as your system nears the end of its useful life. That way, you can be in control and replace your equipment at your convenience, instead of having to make a crisis replacement.

— Dirk

2019-01-04T14:27:16-08:00October 28th, 2018|