Is Your Furnace Worth Repairing?

With the average furnace costing thousands of dollars once you factor in parts and installation, most homeowners consider their furnaces a costly investment. In that light, it makes sense to hold on to your heating system for as long as possible. At some point, however, the downsides of keeping your current furnace will eventually outweigh the benefits.

While your HVAC specialist can quickly tell you when to cut your losses, a quick self-assessment will help you decide between a furnace repair and a complete replacement. Ask yourself the questions below if you’re at a crossroads regarding your furnace’s future.

Are Your Furnace Problems Minor or Major?

The severity of your furnace’s problems can easily tip the scales toward either repair or replacement. However, simple issues like a faulty thermostat or a clogged condensate drain often require little to no effort or investment to fix. You can even take the DIY route to fix minor problems like clogged air filters and vents at little to no cost.

However, when faced with a significant furnace problem, the time, effort, and cost of repair can sometimes exceed the cost and effort of a new heating system, even when you add labor and other miscellaneous expenses. If the repair cost exceeds a third of the cost of a new furnace, you’re better off replacing it.

Furnace problems that take a long time to fix or require extensive changes can make a complete replacement more worthwhile. However, some issues, such as a cracked heat exchanger, offer no other choice except to replace the furnace altogether.

How Long Have You had Your Furnace?

Today’s furnaces are robust enough to offer 20 to 30 years of reliable service. However, most manufacturers recommend turning an eye toward replacement at the 15-year mark. Continual wear and tear over a decade or more of kindness can make any furnace feel its age, which increases the frequency of repairs.

Consider the following if you have trouble deciding whether a repair or replacement is a good idea for your existing furnace:

  • If your furnace is brand-new and already needs repair, consider replacing it under warranty, as it may have defects that affect its operation.
  • Don’t worry about replacement if your furnace is just a few years old. Your heating system has plenty of years of faithful service ahead of it.
  • If your furnace is over 15 years old but only needs the occasional repair, consider your replacement options and make plans if repairs increase in frequency.
  • If your furnace is over 15 years old and suffers from constant issues, prepare for a complete replacement.

Care and upkeep also play a role in a furnace’s long-term health and influence your decision to repair or replace it. A well-maintained furnace won’t need as many repairs as a neglected system, regardless of age.

How Many Repairs Has It Had So Far?

Occasional repairs and quick preventative fixes are a fact of life for most furnaces. What’s unusual, however, is to keep your furnace on life support via frequent repairs. Unfortunately, funneling time and money to keep your current furnace in service quickly turns into a game of diminishing returns, with each repair offering less benefit and a shorter lease on life for your furnace.

Not only do the financial costs add up to nurse your furnace along steadily, but you also have to consider the personal cost. Instead of dreading the following breakdown or scrambling to cover yet another repair bill, you’ll rest more accessible and have greater peace of mind with a brand-new furnace.

Is Your Furnace Right for Your Home?

Recent improvements can leave your furnace out of step with your home’s changing heating needs. New additions, such as an extra room or an enlarged ceiling, can add additional strain to your existing furnace, resulting in more wear, higher energy consumption, and shorter service life. Complete remodeling can change so many aspects of your home that a new system becomes necessary.

Changing technology can also make your existing furnace outdated. Recent advances, including variable speed motors and modulating gas valves, help modern furnaces use less energy while maximizing heat output. Although you can retrofit these features on some existing furnaces, only a brand-new unit will make full, efficient use of the new tech.

If your furnace was oversized or undersized from the start, now is the time to choose a right-sized replacement. Modern methods like Manual J load calculation let HVAC specialists select and install furnaces based on precision on square footage, insulation levels, and other home data.

Whether you choose repairs or a complete furnace replacement, the experts at Derek Sawyer’s Smart Energy Heating & Air are ready to help. Let us tackle your Central Valley home’s furnace repairs or help you choose the right upgrades to keep your home cozy. Contact us today if you have any questions or to schedule an appointment.

5 Common HVAC System Mistakes

If your HVAC system isn’t used or maintained correctly, it may fail over time. Below are some of the most common mistakes you might make when caring for or using your HVAC system. Correcting these mistakes can help you take care of your HVAC system and can also help you maintain a better quality of life in your home.

1. You Closed Off Vents to Save Energy

It’s a common assumption that you can save money and reduce the burden on your HVAC system by closing off vents to rooms that are not regularly used throughout the day. Many people do this because they believe fewer rooms to cool off or heat means less work for the furnace or air conditioner. While this does seem logical, it’s not necessarily true.

Your HVAC system was designed for your house, calibrated to its size and duct design. However, cutting off rooms can throw that system off. Also, added pressure in the ducts can cause air leaks, leading to inefficiency.

Besides, if your air conditioner can cool your home in less time because it’s cooling less space, your home could become humid. Your air conditioner needs to run for a while to remove moisture from your home. Overall, it’s better to leave your vents open throughout the year.

2. You Set a Higher Temperature to Heat Your Home Faster

When you set a temperature on your thermostat, you don’t set the rate at which the HVAC system does its job; you only set the temperature the HVAC system is trying to reach. So turning your furnace to a high temperature in winter to warm up faster doesn’t work because your home will warm up at the same rate no matter what temperature you set. The same is true of air conditioner use in summer.

Plugging in a more extreme temperature than the temperature you want only wastes energy. Instead, set the thermostat to the temperature you want and be patient; your house will soon be comfortable if your HVAC system works properly.

3. You Decided Not to Get That HVAC Tune-Up

HVAC tune-ups aren’t wasted money! During an HVAC tune-up, your HVAC contractor will do things like:

  • Check the thermostat
  • Examine the mechanical parts
  • Ensure operating safety
  • Clean the coils (if necessary)
  • Examine wires for wear and tear
  • Test and/or inspect all moving parts
  • Identify potential issues like a mechanical failure

If you can get a tune-up at a time of year when you don’t use your HVAC system as much, your HVAC system should be ready to run at times when it’s needed. However, if you don’t get a tune-up, you may not be catching problems that your HVAC system is experiencing. This could lead your HVAC system to work harder throughout the year or could lead to a breakdown at a time when you need your HVAC system to function.

4. You Didn’t Notice Your HVAC System Was Exacerbating Allergies

Your HVAC system spreads dust and even germs throughout your house. Your ducts blow dust into the rooms of your home. However, during this process,  allergens are transported from one room to the next in a stream of air. If you or your loved ones suffer from allergies, you may be able to reduce allergy symptoms at home by making some changes to your HVAC system.

And, if your HVAC system is negatively impacting your allergies, one of the ways to tell is to notice what happens when your HVAC system turns on. If you start to cough, sneeze or experience other allergy symptoms when your furnace or air conditioner begins to run, this is a sign that your HVAC system is spreading dust. Pay attention to the behaviors of other family members and watch for these same signs.

There are many things you can do to improve indoor air quality. First, have your ducts cleaned by an HVAC professional? If you or someone you live with is very sensitive to allergens, have an air purification system installed in your home. Talk to your reputable HVAC contractor to get a quote.

5. You Didn’t Get a Safety Inspection

During a home safety inspection, your HVAC professional will identify dangers like gas leaks, asbestos in the ductwork, mold, and too much humidity. Failure to catch one of these problems can impact the health and safety of your family. So get a safety inspection to catch issues as soon as possible.

Contact Your HVAC Professional

Overall, don’t fret too much over avoiding common HVAC system mistakes. Instead, maintain your HVAC system and improve the quality of life in your home. For more information about getting a safety inspection, improving indoor air quality, or getting a tune-up, contact Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning. We’ll be happy to schedule an appointment.

Is It Time To Replace Your Air Conditioning Unit?

Is It Time To Replace Your Air Conditioning Unit?

If your AC isn’t working well, primarily if it’s functioning worse than it did when you bought it, then there is a good chance you’re wondering if it’s time for repairs. Well, there’s a good chance you may be asking yourself the wrong question. Depending on your air conditioning unit’s age and history, it may be time to replace it with a completely new system. So let’s discuss the top 5 most essential things when deciding whether to replace your air conditioning unit.

Your Home Feels Like A Sauna

If the sun’s sweltering heat is causing you to work up a sweat, then your air conditioning unit is likely on its last leg. A new unit should be able to keep your temperature steady regardless of how strongly the sun is shining. As a bonus, an air conditioning unit that works efficiently won’t work as hard to cool your home, thus saving you money in the long run.

Electricity Bills Seem To Explode

When utility bills seem to rise whenever you turn on your AC, it is a good sign that it is time to replace it. Units that malfunction not only waste electricity, they often fail to cool your home correctly. At this rate new unit should work at a fraction of the cost of your current, old model.

Your AC Is 10 Years Old Or Older

If your AC looks like it would be right at home in a museum, you’re likely better off finding a replacement. An air conditioning unit’s lifespan can be as long as 15 years but is often much shorter. It is more likely than not that by your unit’s tenth year of service, it will start needing constant, costly repairs. At that point, you are better off finding yourself a new Energy Star-rated unit that will last another 10+ years.

The Unit Is Facing Extensive Repairs

Whether your unit was damaged or has worn down from use, you may find that it will need complex repairs. Even once the unit has been fixed, it will likely either need constant future repairs or corrections. Either way, it is unlikely that it will run as well as it did before. To save yourself the hassle and cost of future repairs, buying a new air conditioning unit may save you time and money in the long run.

Costly Repairs Are Coming Your Way

When all is said and done, a new air conditioning unit can be the best choice for your finances. Rather than repair a failing unit over and over again as it fails repeatedly, you can purchase a new, efficient system. Doing so will help you enjoy a fresh current of cool air throughout your house.

Still Not Sure About What To Do With Your Air Conditioning Unit?

To receive an expert’s opinion on the state of your air conditioning unit, contact the knowledgeable team at Derek Sawyer’s Heating and Air conditioning. We will answer any of the questions you may have and can even help schedule an appointment so that one of our trained technicians can take a look at your unit.

How To Program Your Thermostat For Summer

Save Money And Improve Performance While Keeping Cool

We’re all happy to run our AC full blast as soon as the temperature hits 90°F, and for a good reason. Hot temperatures are not only uncomfortable, but they can also threaten the well-being of our family! However, that doesn’t mean we must push our HVAC systems to the limit 24/7. Instead, we can program our thermostat to respond to the changes in the temperature of our home so that it only works hard when it has to. Doing this can save on your utility bill and keep your air conditioner in excellent working condition.

A programmable thermostat can help keep your cooling costs low, even on hot days. All you need to do is follow these few simple steps when programming your thermostat.

Reduce The Number Of Temperature Fluctuations

Your AC works hardest when it has to change the overall temperature of your home. Suppose you constantly have to change the temperature of your home. In that case, your air conditioner will have to work much harder to meet your demands. We recommend you find your ideal temperature and stick to it to avoid these constant temperature fluctuations. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, temperatures near 78°F are the most pleasant and energy-efficient for your home. You may want to start at 78°F and slowly tweak your thermostat until you find the right temperature for you.

A Routine Helps Keep The Ideal Temperature

There is no reason to keep your AC blasting all day. Instead, it is best to teach your thermostat to adjust itself to work hard when it needs to and rest when you’re not around. It is best to schedule your thermostat around the day’s events, such as:

Early Morning

Rather than keep the air conditioning running through the night, have it turn on around ten minutes before you plan on waking up. This early start allows your home to reach a pleasant temperature before you start your day. The temperature change may even help to wake you gently!

While Away

You won’t need to run your air conditioning if you are away from home for work. However, you shouldn’t turn your thermostat off. Instead, please set it to maintain a slightly elevated temperature that would typically be comfortable for you. At 85-90°F, your AC won’t work as hard to maintain the weather but will keep your home cooler than the air outside. Keeping this temperature will make your home much easier to cool later.

Returning Home

Around half an hour before you expect to be home, set your thermometer to begin cooling your home back to your desired temperature. When you arrive at your house, the temperature should be perfect. Because the place was allowed to cool slowly, it cost you less than a sudden and sharp drop in temperature.

Nighttime

When it comes time for bed, don’t leave your AC running. Set your thermostat to operate normally until the time you expect to be asleep. It should either stop working until morning or only work enough to keep the house from becoming unbearably hot. It shouldn’t be difficult for your home to stay cool at night.

While this schedule will work for most people, you may have to adjust it to your specific needs.

Leave Your AC Off If No One Will Be Home

A piece of simple but helpful advice is to turn off your thermostat while you are away from home. No matter how efficient your thermostat programming may be, there is no point in cooling an empty house.

Ensure Your Home Is Sealed

While your thermostat can’t control your doors or windows, an air conditioner can only work correctly if your doors and windows are closed. Homeowners who don’t follow this advice will be unable to cool their house no matter how hard they try, as their cool air will rush out of their homes.

A Good Routine For Your Programmable Thermostat Saves Money

A proper routine for your programmable thermostat is the best way to save money on your cooling costs. Knowing these tips will allow you to not only rein in your energy costs but still maintain a cool home. However, if you find that following these tips does not lower your utility bill, you may have a more severe problem. Not to worry, the AC repair experts at Derek Sawyer’s Smart Energy Heating & Air Conditioning are prepared to tackle your most challenging repair needs.

Don’t let your air conditioning rack up a colossal bill! Instead, contact a friendly service representative at (209) 247-1245 to get started.

What’s Involved In Professional AC Maintenance Services?

When You Receive Maintenance From The Pros, What Are You Paying For?

We all know that we should maintain all of our appliances. Still, we rarely find the time or motivation to do it ourselves. So should we pay someone to do the maintenance for us? Well, that feels like cheating. Most of us would rather have our AC break down than pay for someone else to do work we could have done ourselves.

But, can we do the job as well as the pros?

It turns out we can’t.

The average person can, at most, take care of simple maintenance procedures that will keep our AC chugging along. However, it takes a real professional to get our systems back into prime condition. Thankfully, Derek Sawyer’s Heating and Air Conditioning team are the people you need for all your AC maintenance needs.

Preventative Maintenance

Let’s face it, some of us can barely operate the toaster, let alone a precision machine like an air conditioner. The most an inexperienced consumer should ever perform on their air conditioner is essential preventative maintenance. Depending on your level of comfort, this may include:

  • Combing The Vent Fins
  • Replacing the Air Filter
  • Cleaning The Evaporator Coil
  • Cleaning the Condensate Drain

Maintenance of this level should be relatively easy to handle and will only help improve regular performance. If your AC is suffering from any serious problems, only a professional will be able to diagnose your unit.

Professional Service

If you find that your AC seems to be struggling to keep up with your demands despite being well maintained, you should look into calling an expert. A professional technician is perfectly capable of performing any of the regular maintenance you’ve missed and the more technical work that it needs. In addition to basic maintenance procedures, your service technician should, at the very least:

  • Calibrate Your Thermostat
  • Inspect The Unit’s Electrical Contacts
  • Lubricate Parts In Good Condition and Replace Worn Ones
  • Cycle The System On And Off
  • Recharge The Refrigerant And Fix Any Leaks

These few inspections are generally enough to keep your AC working and avoid costly breakdowns. However, most service technicians will perform a full 20-point inspection of your AC that should include:

  • Test Capacitors
  • Calibrate the Thermostat
  • Lubricate the Bearing
  • Examine Safety Devices
  • Clean the Indoor Coil
  • Examine the Fan’s Blade
  • Flush the Condensate Drain
  • Clean the Air Purifier
  • Examine the Ducts
  • Check the Condenser Coil
  • Clean the Condenser Coil
  • Examine the Service Valves
  • Test For Burnt Contacts
  • Check For Exposed Wiring
  • Examine Electrical Wiring Connections
  • Examine the Operation Of the Compressor
  • Monitor the Refrigerant’s Operating Pressures
  • Calculate Supply/Return Temperature Differential
  • Calculate the Blower Motor’s Amperage and Voltage
  • Inspect The Electrical Disconnect Box Proper Installation

If you’re not sure what all of that means, don’t worry. You don’t have to know everything about your AC because it is a professional’s job to ensure it is appropriately maintained.

Why You Should Have Your AC Maintained By A Professional?

We would all like to care for our repairs, but we have to leave some things to professionals. Unless you plan on joining an AC repair school sometime soon, there is no way for you to take proper care of your air conditioner.

Not to mention that maintaining an air conditioner can be a dangerous job! Between all of the refrigerants, electrical wiring, and fans, there is no shortage of ways that you can hurt yourself.

Instead, it is best to leave most AC maintenance to your local HVAC company. If you think hiring someone to maintain your AC is a waste of money well, then think again! Not only will regular maintenance help prevent breakdowns, but an efficient AC will also help you save on your utility bill. Altogether, you can be sure that maintaining your AC, especially with Derek Sawyer, will only keep your money in the long run.

Why Get Your Ducts Cleaned?

If pollen, dust, insects, or other pests have invaded your home, it may be good to have your ducts cleaned.

Achoo! You can’t seem to get rid of your allergies, even in December, no matter what you do! The truth is that not all allergies come from plant pollen. It is more likely that dust is triggering your allergies. Specifically, your home’s HVAC ducts are probably circulating dust, dirt, or worse through your home. To know what is going on behind your vents, you must have your ducts cleaned by professionals. Here are a few of the best reasons to have your ducts cleaned.

A Cleaning Will Improve Your Air Quality

If you’ve ever looked at a dusty bookshelf and wondered how it got that way, it was probably because of a nearby air duct. Your HVAC ducts are full of dust made up of pollen, dirt, and several other nasty substances. In small amounts, it isn’t noticeable, but as your HVAC system moves air around, things will get dusty.

Imagine that the same dust that settled onto your bookshelf settled onto your lungs. It’s not a pretty picture. But with dirty HVAC vents, your lungs are processing this same dust as you breathe. Worse, if you have mold in your vents, you could be inhaling mold spores and mycotoxins! However, a duct cleaning will remove dust and mold from your HVAC ducts and leave you with nothing but fresh air.

You May Have Pests In Your HVAC Ducts

Dust is full of surprises, with animal feces being among them. Yup, that’s right. There is a good chance that your home has rodents or other pests living in your HVAC vents, and their excrement becomes a part of your home’s dust. Try not to think about it. Forget about it because cleaning your HVAC ducts will eliminate any pests you have.

Clean HVAC Ducts Are Efficient HVAC Vents

If you find your HVAC ducts clogged with dust and trash, you can be sure that they’re not working as well as they could be. Not only can blocked vents damage your HVAC system, but they also make it work much harder to do its job. An HVAC system that works harder uses far more energy than usual. Avoid the high costs of heating and cooling by having professionals keep your ducts in perfect working condition.

Derek Sawyer Keeps Your HVAC Ducts Clean

Suppose you suddenly realize that you have your worst allergies after using your air conditioner. In that case, you should contact Derek Sawyer at (209)247-1245. We specialize in making sure that our customers are healthy and satisfied. The last thing we want is for one of our loyal customers to suffer from poor air quality in their home. So don’t wait any longer! We specialize in all things home service and are too happy to help you get your HVAC ducts squeaky clean.

4 Strategies for Enjoying a Safer, Healthier HVAC System

Residential HVAC systems can provide homeowners and their families with essential health benefits and comfort. Efficient air circulation can reduce airborne irritants. Effective cooling systems and other components can help control moisture levels in the home while protecting residents against extreme temperatures.

Unfortunately, an HVAC system may fail to deliver these benefits if it develops mechanical or electrical problems, in some cases posing health and safety risks instead of mitigating them. Employ the following four strategies to ensure that your HVAC system provides a safer, healthier environment.

1. Find and Fix Standing Water Problems

HVAC systems dry the air as well as cool it. The evaporator coils contain cold, pressurized refrigerant that chills the surrounding air rapidly. The temperature drop causes water vapor to condense. The liquid water drops out of the air and into a drip pan. A hose then drains this water to a tub or other receptacle.
Any malfunction in this part of the system can cause water to accumulate instead of draining normally. In addition, the standing water can harbor mold spores, which may produce asthma attacks or allergic reactions when blown through the air ducts. Water can also spill onto electrical components, potentially creating short-circuits.

Standing water in your HVAC system can even present an injury risk. For instance, if an overhead service panel leaks water from a corroded or overfilled drip pan onto a slick floor, occupants could sustain slip-and-fall injuries.

Have your HVAC technician check any water spots or puddles that might stem from your HVAC system. You may need corroded parts replaced or unclog a blocked drain line. Ensure that none of the surrounding electrical or mechanical parts show signs of water damage.

2. Control Your Humidity

Standing water represents just one way a poorly functioning HVAC system might encourage mold growth. Mold can also develop throughout your home if humidity levels remain abnormally high. Check for an evaporator, blower, or condenser failure that keeps the system from removing airborne moisture.

If your humidity problem persists despite normal HVAC operation, ask your HVAC service provider whether you need a smaller system for your home. (Too large an air conditioner may shut on and off too frequently to dehumidify a home properly.) Your technician can also add a separate dehumidifier to your current system.

3. Bust That Dust

Dust, dander, and pollen can affect your respiratory health and comfort just as mold spores can. No matter how carefully you sweep and vacuum your home, new particles will migrate from pets and people onto surfaces. Your HVAC system can help control this problem, but only if it functions as it should.

Air filters placed at the ends of air conditioning ducts can block much of this material. So instead, these items feature a mesh or porous material that allows air to pass through while removing all particles of a certain size from the air.

Eventually, however, the filters become so clogged by dust and dander that they can barely move air. The resulting lack of air circulation means that dirty air no longer gets pulled into the ductwork for filtering instead of accumulating until you experience respiratory distress.

You can often avoid this health challenge simply by changing your air filters regularly. If your current filters don’t seem to get the job done, ask your HVAC service technician to recommend more specialized products such as HEPA filters, which can filter out much smaller particles than ordinary filters.

Your airborne particulate problem may require more than a simple filter change. For example, you may need to have your HVAC ducts thoroughly cleaned, or you may want to have an air purifier installed for more comprehensive air filtration.

4. Minimize Fire Hazards

Homeowners should always guard against any conditions or malfunctions that might cause a fire. In addition to obvious dangers posed by lightning strikes or combustion of flammable materials, HVAC system problems can also present fire hazards.

Your HVAC system depends on electricity to operate its moving parts and regulate its processes, from proper thermostat function to power for motors, fans, and belts. As smoothly as this arrangement normally operates, electrical systems can still present potential hazards, including the risk of fires, if they suffer damage.

HVAC electrical damage can occur in gradual or subtle ways. For example, rodents can chew their way through electrical wiring, stripping the wiring of its protective insulation. Wiring connections can even come loose for no apparent reason, posing a fire risk every time they receive electrical current.

Regular HVAC inspections can catch these problems in time to prevent disaster. However, if you smell burning plastic or smoke near your HVAC wiring, shut off the system and seek immediate professional assistance.

Furnaces and heat exchangers can also play a role in household fires. The heat radiated by these items can ignite nearby chemicals, paper products, or other debris. Keep the areas around these components clean and free of garbage and other flammable objects.

A little awareness and some proactive strategies can help you keep your HVAC system (and your family) safe and healthy. Contact Derek Sawyer’s Smart Energy Heating & Air for evaluations and repairs.

How Often Should You Change Your HVAC Filter?

Your may need to change your filter more often than you realize!

Air filters are a crucial component of your HVAC system. Air filters not only keep your air clean, they improve the efficiency of your system.
Many people don’t realize that air filters also protect the inner workings of their HVAC system. Filthy filters make it easier for dust and dirt to settle on components that need to stay clean in order to work correctly. To ensure optimum performance, your HVAC system’s filter need to be replaced regularly. However, there are a number of factors that may affect how regularly replacements need to be made.

What Are Air Filters?

Air filters can be made of many materials, such as fiberglass and polyester, but their primary purpose is always the same. Air filters prevent dirt, dust, pollen, and other debris from entering your HVAC system. Depending on your system and filter’s rating, your filter may even capture bacteria and viruses. Make sure to check your unit’s requirements when choosing new filters to ensure they are made of adequate material and have sufficient filtering capacity.

How Should Air Filters Be Replaced?

Air filters should be replaced at least once every six months, but most filters will need to be replaced much sooner. The regularity with which you should replace your air filter depends on several factors, including:

  • How often you use your HVAC system
  • Whether or not you have pets
  • The air quality in your neighborhood
  • The size of your home
  • Allergies in your home

If you have a fiberglass filter, then you may need to replace it as often as every month. On the other hand, air filters made from higher quality materials often last much longer.

How Do Air Filters Affect Efficiency

A dirty air filter forces your HVAC system to work much harder than it should to move air around. Dirty filters also tend to release some of the debris they have picked up if they are left in your system for longer than they should be. However, certain HEPA filters may also cause your HVAC system to work harder even while clean. HEPA filters provide superior filtration at the cost of making it harder for air to move through them. When choosing a replacement air filter, make sure you choose a level of filtration that is right for your home and budget.

Professional Maintenance Services Will Take Care Of Your Filters

The easiest way to replace your air filter will be to have a professional do it for you. Most HVAC companies will clean or replace your air filter as a regular part of their HVAC maintenance services. They will know what filter is best for your system and when its next cleaning or replacement should occur. You may not need a full maintenance service performed on your HVAC every single month. Still, an occasional check-in with a local HVAC company like Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning will set you up for continued performance from your HVAC system.

What Makes High-Efficiency Condensing Furnaces So Energy Efficient?

Suppose you’re serious about saving energy but don’t want to sacrifice indoor comfort. In that case, high-efficiency condensing furnaces offer a significant upgrade path. Condensing furnaces regularly achieve high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings, with some furnaces rated at 98 percent or more. In comparison, the average conventional furnace is typically rated at an AFUE of 80 percent.

There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to condensing furnaces and the impressive efficiency they offer. The following provides an in-depth look at the components that make the condensing furnace tick and how they save you energy.

Electronic Ignition

Many older furnaces rely on a conventional pilot light for the startup. Pilot lights must remain on at all times, meaning your furnace constantly consumes a small amount of fuel to keep the pilot lit. This fuel usage can add up over months, resulting in higher long-term utility costs.

Condensing furnaces do away with pilot lights in favor of electronic ignition. In addition to eliminating wasted fuel, electronic ignition systems offer better reliability than standing pilot systems.

Modulating Burner Gas Valve

Burner gas valves are another area where the condensing furnace stands out from its traditional brethren. The average conventional furnace uses a burner gas valve with two states: on and off. This means that single-stage burner gas valves operate at 100 percent when activated. Unfortunately, single-stage burner gas valves are impractical when it comes to moderating the burner flame for improved energy efficiency.

Some furnaces get around the inefficiency of single-stage burner gas valves by offering dual-stage versions instead. Dual-stage burner gas valves provide high and low settings via electronic controls. These controls give dual-stage burner gas valves a greater level of flexibility than their single-stage counterparts.

Modulating burner gas valves offer an even greater range of condensing furnaces. In addition, these gas valves can increase or decrease their output in single-percent increments. Such fine-tuned control helps eliminate drastic temperature swings while boosting the furnace’s overall efficiency.

Variable-Speed Blower Motor

Ever notice how most conventional furnaces seem to run at full blast? That’s because traditional furnaces rely on permanent split capacitor (PSC) blower motors for air circulation. While these motors are simple, inexpensive, and robust, they’re also rated at a single operating speed.

The lack of variable controls makes it nearly impossible to moderate indoor temperatures on conventional furnaces without the blower motor stopping and starting repeatedly.

This is where the electronically commutating motor or ECM comes into play. Unlike PSC motors, ECMs can operate at various speeds without any penalties in energy efficiency. In addition, whereas conventional motors have no choice but to run at full blast, variable-speed blower motors can adjust their speeds in response to heating demands.

Variable-speed blower motors help condensing furnaces achieve efficient and highly versatile home comfort. For example, these motors can operate at extremely low RPMs to provide quiet, continuous air circulation throughout each room of your home.

Sealed Combustion Chamber

Conventional furnaces often use atmospheric combustion chambers that draw their air from indoor spaces. However, the need for an indoor air supply leaves the combustion chamber exposed to the rest of the home. In addition, such a design leaves the furnace vulnerable to backdraft, where combustion gases are drawn out of the exhaust flue under negative pressure and back into the home.

In contrast, condensing furnaces use sealed combustion chambers entirely separate from indoor spaces. Instead, the combustion chamber receives its air supply from the outdoors. As a result, sealed combustion chambers are safer and more efficient since minimal heat is lost to the furnace’s immediate surroundings.

Secondary Heat Exchanger

On a conventional furnace, the hot exhaust gases generated through the combustion process travel through the heat exchanger. This series of metal tubes pass the heat between the passing exhaust gases and the circulating air that flows over the device. Any excess heat is carried away into the flue and vented outdoors.

Condensing furnaces prevent excess heat from being wasted by circulating exhaust gases through another heat exchanger. The secondary heat exchanger scavenges waste heat from the passing exhaust, boosting the furnace’s efficiency. This process also cools the exhaust gases to the point where they can pass harmlessly through PVC pipes.

Heat Recovery Ventilator

Some condensing furnaces come equipped with a heat recovery ventilator. This device not only pulls fresh outdoor air into the furnace but also pulls heat from stale indoor air via a built-in air-to-air heat exchanger. The extracted heat is then used to pre-heat the incoming air before reaching the furnace.

HRVs are often necessary for tightly sealed homes since there aren’t any cracks or crevices that fresh outdoor air can be pulled through. Using an HRV also improves a condensing furnace’s overall energy efficiency.

Now that you know what makes condensing furnaces so energy efficient, give the experts at Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning a call and schedule your next heating system installation today.

Pregnancy and Your HVAC System’s Maintenance

Can your home’s HVAC system impact your pregnancy? If you’re expecting, take a look at what you need to know about residential home heating, cooling, and air ventilation.

HVAC Maintenance Increases Home Safety

You want to create a safe, nurturing environment for your baby — even before they’re born. This means you need to decrease indoor home risks. Poor indoor air quality, natural gas leaks, and carbon monoxide (CO) leaks are HVAC-related issues that can affect pregnant women and their babies.

Anything from dust to chemicals and leftover cigarette smoke can pollute your home’s indoor air. As you inhale the toxins, they may pass through your system to your baby. This can cause health issues that range from minor respiratory or eye irritations to major concerns.

Along with indoor air pollutants, you also need to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and natural gas exposure now and after your baby arrives. CO is an odorless, colorless gas that is toxic to you and your unborn baby. Unlike CO, natural gas (used in some types of heating appliances) has a strong smell. This combustible potential fire hazard is scented with a rotten egg or sulfur-like odor.

Get A Full System Checkup

You may not have had a furnace or full system checkup in years, or you may just want to increase home safety during your pregnancy or in preparation for your baby’s arrival. In any case, a professional maintenance service will:

  • Include CO leak inspections. The March of Dimes organization recommends putting carbon monoxide (CO) alarms outside of all bedrooms. Along with alarms, a professional HVAC checkup can reduce this leak risk.
  • Include natural gas detection. If you have a natural gas leak, it’s likely you already know. The rotten egg smell is pungent and requires immediate attention. But if you don’t detect this smell, the HVAC technician can still inspect your system for a leak during routine maintenance services.
  • Provide repair recommendations. If your furnace has a natural gas or carbon monoxide leak, the HVAC technician will do more than just detect the problem. They can repair the wear or damage, giving you back a safe home heating system.
  • Clear the air. A dirty furnace filter and clogged air ducts can push dust and indoor pollutants around your home — especially if you clean with chemicals, use chemical air fresheners, or recently painted the nursery. An HVAC contractor can check and replace your furnace’s filter and clean the rest of your system.

Discuss pregnancy-related indoor air quality concerns with the HVAC technician before or during your maintenance appointment. The contractor may have suggestions for ways to better maintain your heater or tips to improve indoor air quality through an air purifier or a better quality system filter. The technician can also help you to create a maintenance schedule that works for your growing family’s needs.

HVAC Maintenance Can Increase Your Comfort Level

Physical comfort isn’t always easy to achieve during pregnancy — especially the closer it gets to your due date. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can slightly raise your body temperature. This can cause general sweating or night sweats. If your HVAC system isn’t in top shape, the indoor air could add to your discomfort. To get the most out of your home’s heating and cooling capabilities, you can:

  • Schedule a tune-up. Regular maintenance won’t only improve your system’s safety. It can help it to work at peak performance. This allows you to easily adjust the temperature and keep your home as warm or as cool (depending on your pregnancy comfort level) as you want it.
  • Change the filter. Again, this service doesn’t only impact indoor air quality. A clogged filter forces your system to work harder and may limit its heating or cooling capacity. If you’re not sure where the filter is or how to replace it, ask the technician during a maintenance appointment.
  • Replace the thermostat. Your third-trimester body needs a major cool down. But what if the temperature doesn’t drop when you adjust the thermostat? Talk to the HVAC technician about this issue or schedule a replacement service with your regular maintenance.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Instead of replacing your older thermostat with a manual model, choose a programmable or smart option. This allows you to adjust the temperature during specific times of the day, making it easier to combat night sweats.

If your HVAC system has serious wear and tear or significant damage, you may need to replace your heater, air conditioner, or both. While regular maintenance can improve efficiency and lead to increased indoor comfort, it won’t have a major impact if the system is past its prime or overly expensive to repair. Even though this is an added expense, the investment can keep you and the rest of your family comfortable for years to come.

Contact Derek Sawyers Heating & Air Today!

Do you need to schedule HVAC system maintenance before your baby’s due date? Have you skipped this service for the past few years? Contact Derek Sawyers Heating & Air for more information.

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