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.

Managing Allergies With HVAC

Allergies can bring you down and leave you feeling too terrible to enjoy life. Whether you’re allergic to pets, pollen, dust, or other airborne allergens, a high-quality HVAC system can be one of your best allies. All you need to know is how to put your HVAC system to work for you. Follow these innovative strategies to use your HVAC system to get real relief from runny noses, dryness, hay fever, and more!

Add an Air Purifier

You may cringe when you learn about the common air pollutants inside your home. You may be breathing in such things as microplastics, mold, pet dander, household cleaners, pollen, and worse. The air pollutants that you inhale while relaxing at home can be the very things that trigger a variety of allergic reactions.

Consider adding a whole-house air purifier to your HVAC system. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, this can be one of the most effective things you can do to improve your indoor air quality. When you use an air purifier, you reduce your exposure to common allergens. As a result, you may notice a dramatic difference after introducing the purifier and start to feel better.

Keep the Humidity in Your Home Low

Mold allergies are common, and they can wreak havoc on your sense of well-being. The bad news is that mold can grow anywhere. The good news is that you can help prevent mold with your HVAC system. If you have a mold allergy, fight back and set the humidity in your home to be lower than 50 percent. Otherwise, the moisture can encourage mold growth.

If necessary, add a dehumidifier as a tool to keep your allergies at bay. A whole-house dehumidifier can be an asset that works with the HVAC system to create a suitable healthy climate within your home. It can continue to ensure that humidity is removed from the air while your air conditioner is between cycles.

You should also make sure to ventilate your home correctly. If you don’t have proper ventilation, mold can grow and thrive. Pay especially close attention to the bathroom, kitchen, and basement. These areas often lack the proper ventilation and can be a hotbed for mold growth.

Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned

If you suspect that your air ducts may be causing your problems, make sure you have a professional clean them. If your air ducts contain mold or have accumulated a lot of dirt and grime, a professional duct cleaning service is worth every penny. Often an entire HVAC system cleaning is combined with cleaning your air ducts. The cleaning service you need depends on your unique situation and the condition of your system.

Never try to clean your air ducts yourself, and don’t ask a knowledgeable neighbor or friend to try their hand at cleaning them either. Hire a licensed National Air Duct Cleaning Association certified professional to perform the cleaning instead. Only a professional will know the ins and outs of cleaning ducts. In some cases, duct cleaning requires cutting holes in the system, and a professional can cut and seal the ducts properly.

Keep the Area Around Your HVAC Clear

Keep the area around your heating and air conditioning unit clear of debris, dust, and other items. If you have children, make it a family rule that everyone keeps their stuff clear of the HVAC unit, both inside and outside the house. A clear pathway will help increase the airflow. It also helps the system work most efficiently to regulate the air inside your home and protect you from allergies.

Try to avoid fancy landscaping in the outside area around the HVAC unit, too. Trees around the unit can provide some shade, as long as they don’t block airflow. Otherwise, the best practice is simply keeping the grass mowed and clear of the unit. You don’t want common allergens or other outdoor debris to brush up against the heating and cooling system where they may cause problems.

Don’t Open Windows During Any Season

Keep your home protected from the allergy triggers that are often found in the great outdoors. Although you might want to open the windows during beautiful weather, resist the temptation. Even though allergens are less prominent at night, keep windows closed to protect you and your children.

Replace Old Units

Newer HVAC systems tend to offer the best protection against indoor allergens. If you have had your air conditioning and heating system for a decade or if it malfunctions, a total replacement may be best. The United States Department of Energy recommends regular maintenance on your system if you want to get the most out of its ability to fight allergies.

Finally, contact Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning today for any questions you may have about a new heating and cooling system. We can offer advice on improving the air quality in your home with the best equipment. Since we strive to be the best in the Sacramento area, you’ll enjoy the highest quality systems and a pleasant, professional installation experience.

If you find that you’re outside of our service area, then, by all means, contact one of our many friends in the HVAC industry like Done Plumbing & Heating. Done provides a variety of Denver heating, cooling, plumbing, and other related services for the people of Colorado. If you have the opportunity to work with them, we know they’ll live up to their stellar reputation.

How Important Is Furnace Maintenance

If you’re the kind of person that forgoes maintaining your equipment and appliances, well, you’re not alone. Every year, millions of people decide it’s not worth their time to perform basic maintenance services on their furnaces, and every year millions of furnaces break down. The connection isn’t hard to make here.

Furnace maintenance is the key to successfully prolonging the lifespan and conserving the energy efficiency for your system. More importantly, it ensures that your home is protected from the major disaster that often befalls homes with poorly maintained furnaces. High utility bills, carbon-monoxide poisoning, and fire are some of the dangers of failing to meet your system’s maintenance needs.

Thankfully, it is easy to schedule regular maintenance with qualified professionals to take care of any issues you may have. Here’s why and how you should keep up with your furnace maintenance.

Let A Professional Handle These Jobs

Every company delivers a different experience during its maintenance services. However, you can count on most companies to offer, at a minimum, these services:

  • Filter Inspections and Replacements
  • Gas Lines and Heat Exchanger Inspections
  • Burner and Flue Pipe Cleaning
  • Thermostat and Wiring Connection Testing
  • Pilot Assembly Cleaning

These services ensure that you’ve protected your system from a large portion of the issues that furnaces experience most often. This protection is part of what makes maintenance so valuable.

Professional Maintenance Helps You Avoid Issues

Not every issue is preventable, but when you have professionals take care of your furnace, you’ll be sure to avoid the worst problems. As such, your furnace is sure to sustain a higher level of performance throughout its lifetime. More importantly, you’ll be sure to know well in advance if you’re having issues with your heat exchanger or other dangerous components of your furnace.

As your primary heating appliance, there’s always a chance that your furnace can lead to the outbreak of a fire or the venting of carbon monoxide into your home. That is unless it receives monthly maintenance. When you have a professional HVAC company maintain your furnace, you reduce the chance that your system will experience any serious issues. Furthermore, if your system does begin to exhibit signs of complications, you’ll be poised to handle the issue before it becomes something serious.

However, the benefits of maintenance don’t stop here.

Conserve Energy Efficiency With Regular Maintenance

No system is perfect, and your furnace is practically guaranteed to lose some of its energy efficiency over time. However, you can minimize the effect that years of operation have on your system’s efficiency by using a maintenance service.

With consistent general maintenance, your furnace will receive the care it needs to ensure that there are no steep drop-offs in efficiency. Even if you’ve never had a professional perform maintenance on your furnace, you’ll find that a single visit will have your system running cleaner.

Of course, better efficiency doesn’t just affect performance; it saves you money. An efficient furnace uses less energy to maintain temperatures than one with dirty filters or other issues. This energy savings translates directly into more money in your pocket.

Let Derek’s Experts Optimize Your Furnace

If you wanted to, you could run your furnace all day and night without caring for it whatsoever. However, in this scenario, your furnace would live a very short life. Not only would that force you to replace your furnace regularly, but it would put your entire property at risk!

However, you can avoid all of that if your system receives regular maintenance from a professional HVAC technician. Furnace maintenance not only preserves your system but also protects your property from fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, and more! If that wasn’t good enough, system care helps you do all this while saving you money on overall operating costs.

Why wait any longer? Call Derek Sawyers Heating & Air Conditioning today at (209) 247-1245 or contact one of our service representatives through our web portal for help maintaining your furnace!

For our friends to the east of our service area, we recommend the services of Done Plumbing & Heating when you need help with furnace maintenance. Done has provided HVAC services to Colorado for years, but specializes in Denver heating services. As such, they help the greater Denver area whenever it needs help maintaining furnaces.

Switching From Air Conditioning To Heating

Central California residents enjoy relatively comfortable temperatures for most of the year. However, as the calendar advances toward the final weeks of the year, nighttime temperatures can get pretty chilly. This change prompts many homeowners to switch their HVAC systems from cooling mode to heating mode.

As you make this transition in your own home, you should know what to expect. You should also know how to make the transition as easy as possible for your equipment and what to do if the change from air conditioning to heating causes trouble. Check out the answers to these frequently asked questions on the topic.

How Do Your HVAC System’s Air Conditioning and Heating Processes Differ?

An HVAC system uses many of the same components for heating and cooling, with a thermostat regulating the air temperature and ducts distributing either warmed or cooled air throughout the rooms. However, most HVAC systems get their cooling power through electricity and their heat through natural gas.

When you set your HVAC system to air conditioning mode, an electrically powered compressor turns hot refrigerant gas into a cold liquid very quickly. As this cold liquid passes through coils, the air surrounding them becomes cool and dry. A fan then blows this cooled air through vents to lower your home’s interior temperature.

When you set your HVAC system to heating mode, you activate a gas-power furnace that receives air through the aid of an electric fan. The gas rises through a heat exchanger, which heats the surrounding air. The heated air then circulates through your home’s ducts before returning for another pass through the system.

What’s That Funny Smell When You First Engage Your Heater?

If you have not engaged your heater for several months, you may smell a strong musty or burnt odor in the heated air. This odor commonly occurs as the heat exchanger and other components burn tiny bits of dust and other debris accumulated on their surfaces. It may smell alarming, but it does not indicate a problem.

That musty odor most likely comes from mold and mildew accumulation. These substances may accumulate if you let your home’s humidity levels get out of control or if your condensate pan doesn’t drain properly. Like dust and debris, mold and mildew may burn away after you run your heater for a few minutes.

How Can Switching From Air Conditioning To Heating Cause Trouble?

An HVAC system can usually handle a transition from air conditioning to heating with no trouble. However, this does not mean that you should switch back and forth between the two modes as frequently as you like. If you ask your HVAC system to go from one mode to another too rapidly, it may shut down altogether.

HVAC systems require a few minutes of rest between heating or cooling cycles for the pressure in their components to settle and normalize. Therefore, if you try to reactivate your cooling mode or switch modes too quickly after a cycle has completed, the compressor may draw extra power to attempt to comply, breaking the circuit and shutting the unit down.

Why Might Your Heater Refuse to Work After a Long Dormant Period?

When you have a clear and present need to start your heater for the first time in months, its failure to operate correctly may come as an unwelcome (and uncomfortable) surprise. This malfunction may stem from avoidable maintenance issues, or it may mean that one of the heating system components has reached the end of its life.

Dirt often plays a crucial role in heater malfunctions. For example, if your heater has a blower motor, the heat exchanger can overheat and fail. A dirty flame sensor can prevent the furnace from igniting. And a filthy burner may not run at peak efficiency, while a clogged filter may keep air from circulating through the system.

Furnaces in HVAC systems depend on a device called a capacitor to ignite their gas. A weak or dying capacitor may have trouble starting your heater if it can manage the feat at all. The wrong amount of gas (or refrigerant in a heat pump system) may also lead to poor heater function.

Why Should You Schedule an HVAC Inspection Before Cooler Weather Arrives?

Proper maintenance can help you ready your HVAC system for an efficient, uneventful transition from air conditioning to heating. A skilled HVAC technician can inspect the entire system for dust, mold, incorrect fuel or refrigerant levels, a capacitor that needs replacing, and any other issues that might affect performance.

You can often tell whether you need HVAC maintenance services simply by checking for various potential trouble signs around the house. For instance, if your windows constantly host condensation or your home’s vent pipe looks rusty, you may have a mechanical problem that affects the system’s operation.

Derek Sawyers Smart Energy Heating & Air can help you nudge your HVAC system from air conditioning mode to heating mode as effectively as possible. Contact us today to schedule a seasonal inspection or schedule any needed repair services.

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 you can. 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 also help you decide between a furnace repair and a complete replacement. If you’re at a crossroads when it comes to your furnace’s future, ask yourself the questions listed below.

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 service 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.
  • If your furnace is just a few years old, don’t worry about replacement. 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, then get ready for a complete furnace 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 its 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 living in dread of the next breakdown or scrambling to cover yet another repair bill, you’ll rest easier and have greater peace of mind with a brand-new furnace.

Is Your Furnace Right for Your Home?

Recent home 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 extra strain on 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 a necessity.

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 properly, it may fail over time. Listed 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. Cutting off rooms can throw that system off. Added pressure in the ducts can cause air leaks, leading to inefficiency.

Besides, if your air conditioner manages to 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. Turning your furnace to a high temperature in winter to make your home 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 temperature that is more extreme than the temperature you really want only wastes energy. Set the thermostat to the temperature you really 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 that the thermostat is functioning well, examine the mechanical parts of the HVAC system, check the safety devices for smooth functioning, clean the coils, examine wires for wear and tear, test all of the parts working together, and 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 really needed. 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 on 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 members of your family and watch for these same signs.

There are many things you can do to improve indoor air quality. 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. 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. 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.

4 HVAC Duct Problems to Address

Home HVAC systems can only deliver the performance their owners expect when they have clean, intact, well-designed ductwork. If the ducts that run through your home cannot deliver warmed or cooled air efficiently, you may experience everything from chronic health problems to elevated electric bills.

You might not suspect that your air quality woes relate to a duct issue, if only because you rarely see or deal with these hidden sections of your HVAC system. Take a look at four potential problems that can plague your ducts and the measures you can take to alleviate them.

1. Dust

Even the most carefully maintained home will collect a certain amount of dust. In addition to the dust and debris tracked in from outdoors, humans and pets naturally shed hair and skin cells that settle onto surfaces, get kicked up into the air, and eventually get pulled into the HVAC system.

Fortunately, HVAC system vents accommodate air filters that trap much of this debris, removing it from general circulation and cleaning your air. Not so. Fortunately, these air filters have a finite capacity for collecting dust. When they become clogged, the dust settles in the ducts, where it accumulates over time.

Dust accumulation can also develop all of a sudden if your home undergoes construction or renovation. This work can fill the air with particulate matter, including debris that can trigger allergies or other respiratory issues. This extra burden can overwhelm your air filters’ and ducts’ ability to filter and clean the air.
If your home seems unusually dusty no matter how often you clean it, check your air filters and replace them as needed. If the problem persists, you may need to have the ducts inspected and cleaned by professionals.

2. Mold

Mold represents a special kind of problem. Like dust, it can enter your home on shoes, clothing, pet fur, or other carried objects. However, unlike dust, this living organism grows and thrives in moisture and environmental conditions amply provided by air conditioning components and processes. The presence of dust only nourishes it further.

Mold commonly grows in receptacles for standing water, such as the evaporator drain pan in your HVAC system. Normally, the drain pan collects condensation and then expels it via a drainage line. If this drainage system fails, mold spores from the drain pan may rise into the air and enter your ducts.

Mold spores can cause numerous health problems as they float through the air and into people’s respiratory systems. If you have a mold problem in your HVAC system, your family may experience allergic reactions, asthma attacks, or other ailments. Other signs of mold include discoloration around vents and a musty smell in the air.

While you can often remove mold around vents yourself, mold that has infiltrated your ducts or drain pan requires professional evaluation. Your HVAC technicians will either remove the mold themselves or recommend a mold remediation specialist. They can also repair drainage problems that create standing water in your system.

3. Air Leaks

HVAC ducts can direct air through your home in a precise manner because they function as a closed system. Installers seal individual sections of ductwork to ensure that no air escapes on its journey through your home. However, if a hole, gap, or other air leak develops, the system can lose considerable efficiency.

Duct air leaks can occur for a variety of reasons. For example, rodents can damage ducts as they chew their way into walls, while corrosion can also allow holes to form. Most commonly, however, simple thermal expansion and contraction over several seasons of use can weaken the seals connecting duct sections and vent registers.

Symptoms of a leaky duct system include uneven heating or cooling and hard-to-manage humidity, indications that cooled or heated air has escaped into the walls instead of circulating through your rooms. In addition, an inexplicable rise in your energy bills may mean that your HVAC system must run harder to compensate for the leakage.

HVAC technicians can check every inch of your ductwork for leaks. They can then seal up the leaks with metallic mesh tape, restoring your HVAC system’s functionality and energy efficiency.

4. Design Flaws

Sometimes an HVAC system’s ductwork struggles with efficiency problems from its very first moment of operation. Even experienced contractors can make errors in the planning and construction phases, resulting in HVAC ducts that can’t do their job adequately. If your HVAC system has never worked well, suspect this possibility.

Common mistakes in HVAC duct installation include installing too small a system from the home’s needs, running the ducts over too great a distance for efficient operation, and not installing enough return vents to permit good air circulation. Your HVAC expert can recognize these flaws and make any recommended modifications.

If you believe that a duct problem has limited your ability to enjoy your HVAC system, contact Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning. Our HVAC experts can evaluate your ductwork and recommend the right course of action to improve your home’s air quality and energy efficiency.

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 wellbeing of our family! However, that doesn’t mean that we need to 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. In doing this, you can save on your utility bill and keep your air conditioner in excellent working condition.

A programmable thermostat can help you keep your cooling costs low even on the hottest of 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 that 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 both 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

If you are away from home for work, you won’t need to run your air conditioning. However, you shouldn’t turn your thermostat off. Instead, 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. By keeping this temperature, your home will be much easier to cool later.

Returning Home

Sometime around half an hour before you expect to be home, set your thermometer to begin cooling your home back down to your desired temperature. By the time 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 during the 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 simple but helpful piece of 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 while still maintaining a cool home. If you find that following these tips still 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 difficult repair needs.
Don’t let your air conditioning rack up an huge bill! Contact a friendly service representative today at (209) 247-1245 to get started.

4 Strategies for Enjoying a Safer, Healthier HVAC System

Residential HVAC systems can provide homeowners and their families with important health benefits as well as 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 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. 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 to have corroded parts replaced or unclog a blocked drain line. Make sure 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 your 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. 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 at all. 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 obvious 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 items.

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.

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