Tuckers Air Conditioning, Heating & Plumbing Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Urbana’

The Benefits of Ductless Splits AC in Gaithersburg

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Ductless splits air conditioners are designed to eliminate the need for ductwork in a home where space is at a premium. Usually homeowners with older homes – those built before the 1970s – have very little space to work with when it comes to installing the ductwork a traditional central air conditioning system requires. These homes are often heated with radiant boiler systems and have window units to provide cooling in warmer weather. As a result, cooling costs can be extremely high each summer and the house usually isn’t comfortable during these months.

Ductless air conditioning offers a solution to most of these problems. Not only does the technology not require ductwork to be installed; it allows for multiple in-room units on a single compressor and it costs significantly less to operate compared to window AC units.

Ductless System Specifications

Ductless air conditioning systems consist of two major components: a compressor which is placed outside and indoor evaporators. With the use of inverter technology, these systems can support multiple evaporators – usually as many as four to a single condenser. This means you can have a single outdoor unit supporting cooling four separate rooms of your home at the same time.

Each of those indoor evaporators acts as a heat pump, allowing you to both heat and cool the room year round. And because the only connection needed between evaporator and condenser is a single refrigerant line, the installation is much simpler than it would be for a ductwork based central AC system.

Room by Room Benefits

While the primary benefit of a ductless system is the fact that it allows you to install air conditioning in multiple rooms of your house without the need for ductwork, there are other benefits. Not only do you get a much higher energy efficiency rating than you would with traditional window units (many ductless systems are rated at 16 SEER or higher while window units are frequently as low as 10 or 11), but you can control each unit individually. So if a room upstairs doesn’t need to be cooled during the afternoon hours, simply turn off the thermostat in that part of the house and save money.

There are some factors to consider when installing a ductless system. How many rooms do you need cooled? How warm does it get in the summer? Will the system be used for heating in the winter? These are all things you may want to discuss in greater detail with your contractor when you call for an estimate. For more information about having a ductless split air conditioning system installed in Gaithersburg, give Tuckers Air Conditioning & Heating a call at 301-670-0034!

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Heating Installation Question: What Makes a Furnace High Efficiency?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

You’ve probably heard about the new lines of high efficiency furnaces being released by popular home heating companies in Garrett Park, but what exactly is different about these high efficiency devices from your current furnace? Let’s take a closer look at what a high efficiency furnace offers and why it can save you money.

Added Features

A high efficiency furnace uses familiar technology in a new way to reduce the amount of energy lost when combustion takes place. This means:

  • Sealed Combustion – Instead of open combustion which allows heat to escape during and after the combustion process, a high efficiency furnace uses a sealed chamber with carefully measured and fed airflow to burn fuel and produce heat. Exhaust heat can then be recaptured and used to heat air transferred to your air vents.
  • Two Stage Gas Valves – With a two stage gas valve, your furnace can respond to the temperature outside. There isn’t just one “on” switch. The furnace will regulate gas flow based on how much energy is needed to produce heat for your home. So, if there is a sudden burst of cold outside, the furnace will respond accordingly, but for most days when heating needs are low, it will use only the minimum amount of needed gas.
  • Programmable – High efficiency furnaces are now programmable, meaning you can set specific time limits for operation, change thermostat settings digitally and inspect the device through an electronic read out. The level of control given to you by a programmable high efficiency furnace can greatly reduce gas or electricity consumption.

Cost Benefit

The real reason many people are interested in high efficiency furnaces is that they are so much less expensive to operate. Instead of costing hundreds of dollars to run through the winter, they operate the bare minimum needed to heat your Garrett Park home. Using up to 95% of the fuel they consume to produce heat and regulating gas to cut how much is consumed during milder days, these furnaces are built to save you money.

If you have an old furnace that chews through energy like nobody’s business, now might be the time to consider the benefits of a brand new, high efficiency model.

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Heating Installation Tip: Comparing High-Efficiency and Mid-Efficiency Furnaces

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Whenever you are in the market for a new furnace for your Ijamsville home, there are many models to choose from.  Many of the furnaces manufactured within the last few years are high-efficiency furnaces with a high AFUE rating (AFUE measures the amount of fuel the furnace converts into heat). When people refer to a mid-efficiency furnace, they are usually talking about older furnaces.

Single-stage furnaces were considered to be an efficient heating system when they were manufactured, but compared to newer furnaces, they use up a lot more energy than they need to. Single-speed furnaces are designed to run at full capacity until the temperature inside the home reaches the thermostat setting. After they shut off, the home not only loses heat, but the furnace will also take longer and burn more fuel when it cycles on again.

Newer, two-speed and multispeed models run consistently at lower speeds, and the ones with variable-speed blowers are even more efficient because they can operate at various levels. These models will also automatically adjust to the thermostat to maintain a constant temperature, which saves energy by keeping the home at a consistent temperature so that there’s little heat loss.

When shopping for a new furnace, keep in mind that the AFUE ratings for multispeed and variable-speed furnaces only determine the efficiency of the actual furnace. If you are upgrading your old, mid-efficiency furnace to a high-efficiency furnace, you should make sure that your Ijamsville home is properly insulated and sealed.  You could also consider upgrading any older doors and windows to more efficient double-paned ones, or you can also install storm doors and windows.

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Guide from an HVAC Contractor: How to Maintain High Efficiency Heat Pump Filters

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The filter on your heat pump is an integral part of your Urbana home’s comfort system. Without that filter, the device will quickly be subjected to an influx of debris and contaminants that can get into the machinery and the air being filtered into your home. As a result, you need to make sure you properly maintain the filters to reduce stress on your heat pump.

Change Your Filters

High efficiency filters are designed to remove as much of the airborne contaminants in the air as possible. This is fantastic for keeping your indoor air clean. But if you don’t properly maintain the filter, air quality can worsen and your heat pump is put under unnecessary stress. Specifically, the extremely tight knit filter, designed to stop nearly anything from getting through, gets clogged.

Now your heat pump is forced to work much harder to draw the air it needs from outside and heat or cool your home. On top of that, the filter is filled with contaminants that can start to leak back into the air supply, actually making your indoor air quality worse than it would be otherwise. That’s why it is so important to clean your filters on a regular basis (for permanent filters) and replace them if they are one time use.

Recommended Filters

You have options as to which types of filters you use for your heat pump. Filters come in multiple options, from super high MERV rated filters that trap up to 99% of all contaminants as small as 0.3 microns.

Electrostatic filters are especially efficient because they extract contaminants of all types – from dust and mold to smoke and gas fumes. A good filtration system should effectively remove anything from the air without needing replacement too often.

Permanent filters tend to offer the best protection against airborne contaminants and generally need to be cleaned once a month. HEPA filters are often permanent and while each filter is different, these are often extremely effective at minimizing contaminants in the air without putting stress on your heat pump.

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How to Maximize Savings in Your New Market Home

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

When you are thinking about different ways you might be able to save money around your New Market house, the tendency is to think big. Maybe you need to upgrade to a more energy efficient furnace, or it could be time to install a new central air conditioning system. Maybe it is even a good idea to switch to geothermal heating.

But before you do any of that, you may want to try some quick and easy ways to save money around the house with the equipment you already have. Here are 8 great ways to cut your power usage and keep those energy bills down without investing a lot in new equipment.

  1. Seal Up Your House – No matter how energy efficient the heating and cooling systems are in your house, you will be using more energy than necessary if your house is not tightly sealed. Make sure there are not cracks or places where drafts can get in and you will start saving money right away.
  2. The Right Thermostat Setting – Are you really going to notice the difference between 72°F and 69°F? Probably not, but you will save about 3% off of your monthly heating bill for every degree you turn the thermostat down. The same goes in the summer too, just backwards.
  3. Programmable Thermostats – And while we are on the subject of thermostats, it is a good idea to invest in a new one with programmable settings. That way you will be able to set your house to be warm when you will be there and you do not have to pay to keep it warm all day long if it is empty.
  4. Ceiling Fans – Ceiling fans can help keep you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Plus, they cost very little to run so they are a great investment.
  5. Light Bulbs – Switching to energy efficient fluorescent bulbs all over your house will save you a ton even though they cost a bit more to begin with.
  6. Lights Out – But energy efficient bulbs will only get you so far. You should also be sure to turn off the lights in any room you are not using.
  7. Power Strips – Many home appliances draw a small amount of power even when they are not turned on. Use a power strip to easily cut the power to them completely and eliminate that drain.
  8. Sealing Windows – Plenty of air can come and go through your windows as well. Upgrading to more energy efficient windows is certainly an option, but you can also help to seal up your home inexpensively by covering your windows with plastic.

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How Do EER and SEER Work? A Question From Poolesville

Friday, September 9th, 2011

If you’ve looked for a new air conditioner in Poolesville recently, you probably noticed each unit comes with an EER or SEER rating. The former is for room air conditioners and the latter for central air conditioning units. In both cases, the number is a measure of how efficiently the system uses electricity. Effectively, if you buy a system with a high rating, you spend less on electricity. Of course, there are tradeoffs. The higher rated machines tend to cost much more, so as a homeowner, you’ll have to evaluate how much you can spend now and how long it will take to save money from that investment.

How EER and SEER Are Measured

These numbers are required by the government to tell you, the consumer, how many BTUs per hour the device can use for every watt of electricity drawn. The more BTUs a system can use, the better for your bill.

Let’s say you want to buy a 10,000 BTU system to cool your living room and dining room. A pretty standard number for a single room unit is 11, meaning the 10,000 BTU system would use about 900 watts per hour to run at full capacity. We figure this out by dividing the BTUs (10,000) by the watts (900).

There is a lot of math to do here, so many people simply look for a higher number within their price range. But, at what point is the upgrade really worth your extra money?

Choosing the Right Energy Efficiency Rating

The easiest way to describe this is to compare two similar devices with different EERs:

Air Conditioner 1 Air Conditioner 2
BTUs 12,000 12,000
EER 9 11
Watts 1333 1091
Price $300 $450

In this particular case, we can spend more for a device that is the same size but uses less electricity. The question then is whether that increased expenditure will pay off in the short term. Let’s assume each device would be operated for 10 hours per day for 30 days in a typical summer month. That’s 300 hours of operation. If the average cost per kWh in you are is $0.09, it will take 4 hours for the first air conditioner to consume 1 extra kilowatt of electricity equal to an additional $0.09. If your air conditioner runs for four months out of the year, we know that it will operate for a total of 1200 hours. That means:

[(1200 hrs x 242 watts) / (1000 watts/kw) ] x $0.09/kWh = $26

So, you save roughly $26 per year from that high efficiency unit. With a $150 price difference, you will break even after 6 years (though probably sooner if the price of electricity goes up).

If you have questions about which air conditioner is right for you, contact your local AC contractor.

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What is the COP and Why Is It Important?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

If you’ve been researching air conditioners, you’ve probably seen all sorts of numbers associated with each model. One of these numbers is the Coefficient of Performance (COP). While it’s good to gather as much data as you can before you make a purchasing decision, you also need to know what that data means if it’s going to help you make the best selection possible.

Measuring COP

Calculating the COP for any air conditioning model is relatively simple. The number you see displayed on the box is the ratio of energy input to cooling output. For the most part, the air conditioners you’re probably been looking at have a COP of between 2.5 and 4.0, although newer models are beginning to appear with COPs of up to 5.0.

The higher the COP, of course, the more efficient the air conditioner, so it makes sense to take this number into account when you’re making your purchase. You should also keep in mind, though, that the COP is not a constant measurement. The warmer it is outside, the lower your unit’s COP will be. However, this is standard across all units, so a relative COP comparison is still a viable evaluation method.

If you’re not sure what COP you should look for or whether a lower number will be effective for your home (especially if you only need to cool a small space), you should talk to a professional who can help you match the right COP level to your particular living space.

Improving Efficiency

While it’s always a good idea to get an air conditioner with the best energy efficiency ratings possible, that’s not the only thing you can do to reduce your energy usage and keep your cooling costs down. For instance, there are plenty of ways to keep your home naturally cooler without even turning on the air conditioner.

Even when you do need to flip it on, anything else you can do to reduce the indoor temperature will make it easier for your air conditioner to keep your house comfortable. So put up some awnings, run the ceiling fan and close the blinds to block out that harsh afternoon sun. The more you can do to reduce your indoor temperature naturally, the less your air conditioner will have to do, and the lower your cooling costs will be.

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How Do I Check for a Dirty Evaporator Coil?

Friday, July 8th, 2011

The evaporator coil is an essential piece of your air conditioning system. It absorbs heat from air that passes over it, and that air then travels into your home to cool it. So if your coil is dirty or isn’t functioning properly, the cooling power of your air conditioning system is diminished. Fortunately, this problem is fixed easily by cleaning the evaporator coil. You can do this on your own or have a professional come in to take care of it.

Signs of a Dirty Evaporator Coil

The most obvious sign of a dirty evaporator coil is an overall drop in system pressure. As long as you know what constitutes a normal pressure for your system, you should be able to tell if the current pressure is below that level. If it is, a dirty evaporator coil is probably your culprit. You can also check the static pressure in your system to see if that is low, but this requires specialized equipment.

Even if you don’t notice any particular signs that your air conditioning system isn’t working properly, it’s a good idea to clean your evaporator coils once a year or so. This can help prevent any larger problems from developing in the future.

Finding Your Coil

Probably the hardest part of cleaning an evaporator coil is reaching it. Unlike your condenser coil, which is located in your outdoor condenser unit, the evaporator coil is found inside near the air handler or furnace. If you have the owner’s manual, there should be detailed instructions telling you where the coil is and how to safely access it.

Alternately, you can have an HVAC technician show you what to do the next time they come out to work on your system. Whatever you do, though, make sure that power to your AC unit is completely shut off before you start working on it. Once you’ve gained access to the coil, use a brush or vacuum attachment to remove any debris or sediment you find there.

The Importance of Maintenance

Cleaning your evaporator coil is only one part of the regular maintenance required to keep your air conditioning system in good working order for the foreseeable future. There are plenty of things you can do on your own, but it pays to have a professional come out once a year or so to check out the entire system and make any necessary repairs.

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Worst Rooms in Your Home to Collect Allergens

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Your home is a haven for allergens, but some rooms in particular are much worse than others. They are damp. They are warm. They often have garbage in them. These are the rooms that need especially close attention when trying to maintain air quality in your home.

Basement

First on the list is your basement. A basement is the biggest problem when it’s either unfinished or not used very often. If you have water leaks in your basement or poor insulation, it’s important to have a moisture barrier put in and have your pipes checked. If the water comes from a drainage pipe or your sewer line, repairs can be made. If it comes from excess ground water or leaks in the foundation, a sump pump or drain tile system will help remove the excess water. Either way, the wetter your basement gets, the higher the risk of mold and other contaminants becomes.

Beyond moisture, a basement tends to collect a lot of dust. After all, it is where we put many of our old and unwanted possessions, and because the furnace is often in your basement, all that damp, allergen filled air gets cycled back into your home.

Bathroom

Bathrooms are allergen havens for two reasons. They are filled with moisture, and without proper ventilation they will soon be filled with mold and mildew. Additionally, when not cleaned regularly they can house buildups of hair, skin, and other dust building residue that tend to trigger allergies.

The easiest way to handle this problem is to clean your bathroom regularly and make sure it is properly ventilated. Short of an exhaust fan in your bathroom, keep the door and windows open to help it dry faster.

Kitchen

Your kitchen produces allergens like mold and mildew due to the presence of garbage and fruit. It can also attract bugs and the dirt that accrues from people passing through constantly. Pets tend to eat in the kitchen, leaving behind dander. Additionally, plants and vegetables in the kitchen release pollen that circulates through your home to trigger additional allergies. Exhaust from cooking and smoke can also be a harmful allergen trigger.

The kitchen should be kept well ventilated and clean at all times. Check for any gaps in your insulation and have your exhaust fan and hood cleaned regularly to avoid backups of smoke or gas.

Allergens are everywhere in your home – with careful attention, however, you can stop them from affecting your family negatively.

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