Is a High SEER Rating Important for Your Home’s AC?

Do you need a new air conditioner? Should your future central system have the highest seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) available? If you’ve heard a high SEER rating is the way to go, take a look at what you need to know about this number, energy efficiency, and home cooling before you invest in a new AC system.

What Is a SEER Rating?

The seasonal energy efficiency ratio is exactly what the name says—the ratio (number) of the air conditioner’s energy efficiency over the annual cooling season. More specifically, this ratio measures the total heat the air conditioner removes (from the interior space) divided by the electricity the system uses annually.

What Is a High SEER Rating?

A higher SEER rating should equal increased energy efficiency and lower electricity bills. The reduced energy usage and operating costs of high SEER number units often appeal to homeowners who want to save money and help the planet.

While new technology and innovations allow the HVAC industry to increase efficiency, current top SEER numbers range from the 18 to the miod-20’s.

How Can a Homeowner Find Out the SEER Rating?

What is the SEER rating of the air conditioner you want to buy and install? The SEER number is listed on the unit itself. But if you haven’t seen the unit or are ordering the AC system from an HVAC contractor, ask the professional. The technician or installation expert can provide you with the SEER rating before you commit to a new purchase.

Is Higher Better?

Even though it might seem like the highest SEER number possible is the best unit for your home, this isn’t always true. While a high SEER rating indicates the air conditioner’s advanced ability to efficiently remove heat from the indoor environment (your home’s space) over the course of one cooling system, a 20-plus unit isn’t always the best choice.

In general, higher SEER rated air conditioners are more expensive. While you can find high SEER number systems at a variety of price points, the quality and technology used in most of these air conditioners comes at a greater initial purchase cost in comparison to a unit rated in the low teens.

If you want to lower overall air conditioner-related costs, you need to calculate the cost savings of a higher SEER unit versus the initial purchase price. Some high-prices/high-SEER units may not pay for themselves over time. A qualified HVAC contractor can help you to calculate the cost-savings difference between SEER ratings and compare the price of use to the purchase and installation costs.

Is Lower Better?

In general, a lower SEER rating isn’t a better choice. While the highest SEER rated air conditioner isn’t necessary in every home, the lowest SEER rated model can cost you in excessive energy bills. Even though low SEER rated units are cheaper to buy, you are likely to pay more in energy costs. The U.S. Department of Energy suggests homeowners choose models with a minimum of a 15 SEER rating.

A low SEER rated system may need to run for longer periods of time to cool your home effectively. Along with cooling the air, the AC system also removed humidity. Lower SEER units may not dehumidify your home completely. This can leave the indoor air sticky and uncomfortable.

Is the SEER Rating the Only Feature to Look For?

While SEER rating is key to lowering home energy usage and the related cooling costs, it doesn’t always guarantee a low electricity bill. The system’s components or features also play key roles in how well your air conditioner works.

A single speed air handler is the least efficient option for a new AC unit. A two-speed air handler can reduce costs, in comparison to a single-speed selection. But if you want to save the most money in cooling costs, a variable speed air handler is the best option, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Along with the air handler, the thermal expansion valve can add to the unit’s overall energy efficiency. Don’t worry if you have little to no knowledge of the air conditioner’s parts. A qualified HVAC contractor can help you to choose the right combination of features and SEER number for your home’s needs.

Does Installation Play a Role in Home Cooling?

Simply stated: yes, installation plays a primary role in your new air conditioner’s ability to efficiently and effectively cool your home. A high SEER rated air conditioner that’s the wrong size for your home’s interior space and energy needs may not save you money.

An HVAC contractor can calculate size based on the square footage to cool combined with potential energy loss (such as leaky air ducts or poor insulation). They can also install the unit to the manufacturer’s specifications and make sure the ducts, thermostat, and other parts of the system work correctly.

Do you need a new air conditioner? Contact Derek Sawyers Heating & Air Conditioning for more information.

Important HVAC Tips for Seniors

HVAC systems help seniors stay safe and comfortable while they’re at home. If you’re a senior or someone who helps an elderly relative take care of themselves at home, take a look at the following HVAC tips. You’ll find there are many things you can do to maintain an effective and functional HVAC system.

Use a HEPA Filter

Wildfire smoke is becoming a regular occurrence in states like California, where major wildfires often happen during the wildfire season. Seniors are especially affected by smoke from wildfires, which can complicate chronic heart and lung diseases.

You can improve indoor air quality in your home by using a HEPA filter in the HVAC system. HEPA filters can filter particles from wildfire smoke out of the air, which can help improve your home’s indoor air quality.

HEPA filters, like other HVAC air filters, need to be replaced on a regular basis. The EPA recommends replacing your home’s HVAC air filter every 3 months, or sooner if it becomes dirty. If you have a HEPA filter, it may start to look dirty quickly, because it’s capable of filtering out smaller particles than standard air filters.

Check your HEPA filter once per month whenever the HVAC system is in use, and replace the filter as needed. Look for the air filter slot between the return air duct and the blower. Pull out the filter, buy an identical filter from your local hardware store, then slide the new filter into place.

Maintain Safe Indoor Air Temperatures

Seniors are especially vulnerable to cold and hot temperatures. Some studies even show that seniors are more likely to experience falls and accidents in chilly rooms.

For this reason, it’s important for seniors to maintain a comfortable temperature at home. Using the air conditioner and furnace at the right times of the year can help. This is especially important in Modesto, where the average temperature in July is over 90 degrees, and the average temperature in January is less than 40 degrees.

Seniors who live on a fixed income will sometimes maintain less-than-comfortable temperatures at home to save money. Some may also neglect HVAC maintenance to save money on HVAC contractors. Avoid these temptations and always do what you must to maintain safe indoor air temperatures.

Check the Thermostat

Check your thermostat often to ensure that you use your furnace and air conditioner consistently. If money is tight in your household, work out a plan to ensure that you can afford to keep your HVAC system running. Make a budget and identify other ways to save money, to ensure that HVAC costs are affordable.

Get Regular Tune-Ups

Preventative care is often less costly than repairs and can prevent HVAC breakdowns from occurring. Many HVAC contractors offer tune-up services that can keep your HVAC system in good condition throughout its service life. Shop around to find the best deals. Some contractors may charge lower prices at slower times of the year. Ask about this when you schedule the appointment.

Clean the Air Conditioner Condenser

Debris inside the air conditioner condenser can cling to the coils and may prevent the condenser from releasing heat, which puts unnecessary wear and tear on the air conditioner. To keep your condenser in good condition, vacuum the coils inside the condenser, and then spray down the inside with a hose. This is a low-cost way to prevent air conditioner breakdowns.

Remember to turn off the power to the air conditioner condenser before you start this job. If you don’t feel comfortable cleaning the condenser yourself, ask the HVAC contractor to do this for you during the tune-up.

Reduce the Burden on Your HVAC System

There are also a few tasks you can perform around the house to keep your HVAC costs down and ensure that the system runs efficiently.

Weather Strip the House

You can maintain a comfortable temperature inside your house with weather stripping. Weather stripping often takes the form of strips of foam that can seal the cracks around doors and windows.

Installing weather stripping puts less burden on the HVAC system and tightens up the building envelope to prevent energy loss. Weather stripping can be done at any time of year but should be done especially before summer or winter.

Once weather stripping is installed, it can be used all year round. Some kinds of weather stripping will wear down over time. Check weather stripping every fall and spring, and replace weather stripping once it becomes too old to be effective.

Reduce Direct Sunlight

You can also reduce the burden on your HVAC system by closing blinds and windows in rooms exposed to direct sunlight. This helps prevent the summer sun from warming your home at the height of summer, which can increase air conditioning costs.

Contact Your HVAC Professional

To find out more about how you can take care of your HVAC system, contact Derek Sawyer’s Heating and Air Conditioning. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and perform any services you may require.

New Decade, New Furnace: What an Upgrade Offers

The new year is usually a time to reflect on the year that has passed and make goals for the future. With the start of 2020, however, you can also reflect on the past decade — including how the time has affected your HVAC system.

Improvements to heating systems are made constantly, and as your furnace ages, it becomes less efficient. Some furnaces, while still in good working order, simply don’t measure up to systems currently on the market.

Learn more about the features of newer gas heating systems to see if your house might need an improvement to start the new decade off right.

Using Less Energy

The definition of what makes an efficient furnace has shifted as technology has improved. It used to be that a furnace with a 78% fuel efficiency was an excellent investment, even though that meant that 30% of the fuel was wasted instead of used to heat your home.

Now, furnaces are more efficient than ever, with the best models utilizing over 98.5% percent of the fuel they burn. You’ll get more heat from less fuel, which translates into significant savings over time.

Harnessing the Heat

Heat loss can occur in many areas of a furnace, resulting in lower energy efficiency. One of those areas is the heat exchanger. Older furnaces have only one heat exchanger. After burning fuel, the warmed air is pumped into your home, while the exhaust is pumped outside.

With only one heat exchanger, a lot of heat leaves the house with the exhausted fuel. In a new furnace, the still-warm exhaust can be processed again, pulling even more heat into your house before releasing the exhaust. You’re getting more from what you’re burning, which translates into getting more bang for your buck.

Working Smarter

Does your old furnace still use a pilot light to keep the heat running? The pilot light constantly burns, but it is only actually useful when the furnace switches on. The rest of the time, the constant flame wastes fuel by staying lit.

More modern furnace designs offer pilot light alternatives, including an electric igniter that helps a gas furnace burn fuel only when needed.

Spreading Heat Evenly

Does your home seem to vary in temperature throughout the day instead of staying at a constant comfort level? The varying temperature can be caused by a single-speed blower, a hallmark of older heating systems. When the furnace is on, it uses a fan to distribute heat through the ductwork.

A single-speed fan will blow the heat through the home effectively, but then it shuts off, and the air stops moving entirely until the house cools down and triggers the furnace to start burning more fuel.

Newer heating systems have a more intelligent approach. The blower can work at higher speeds but then continue to move air at a slower speed to help circulate residual heat and keep air moving through the house. Blowing the heat through the home at a reduced speed for a longer time also prevents the wear and tear of frequent stopping and starting.

The result is a more even temperature and fewer freeze-thaw cycles, which decreases the overall load on your furnace over time.

Choosing the Right Fuel

Gone are the days when you have to choose between many different heat sources and types. Each type of system has pros and cons. Modern technology takes the good things from different system types and puts them together into a hybrid system where you can enjoy all of the pros with fewer cons.

For example, a hybrid furnace can adjust which energy source it uses based on what is more efficient. A gas or heat pump hybrid might use a heat pump for temperatures that are more mild, but still chilly, but during a cold snap, the furnace can switch to using gas or propane as a fuel source for more dependable heating in cold weather.

This way, you don’t have to put up with the cons of a heat pump (less dependable in very cold weather), but you also don’t have to worry about inefficiently burning and paying for fuel when a different heat source could do the job more easily.

Entering a New Era of Furnace

Finally, just like everything else, your HVAC is going smart. Wireless connectivity and smart thermostats make it easier to control your heating system away from home.

You can reap the benefits of reduced furnace use by setting the temperature to go colder at night, checking for times when the furnace seems to be on more often (indicating the need for service or repair), and checking the state of the appliance when you are on vacation.

Communicating home heating systems will become more mainstream this decade.

For more information or to schedule a new furnace installation for your home, contact us at Derek Sawyer’s Smart Energy Heating & Air.

3 Ways Smaller Commercial Properties Can Benefit From Solar

While many larger commercial properties and operations have implemented solar, smaller commercial properties owners may hesitate. Solar does represent an investment, and in some cases, owners of smaller commercial properties may not immediately see the benefits solar can bring them. Discover some of the many ways smaller commercial properties can benefit from solar power implementations.

1. Take Advantage of Solar Incentives

Incentives and tax credit programs change over time, but they still exist. These incentives can exist at the federal and state level. In some cases, local incentives or incentives from other organizations sometimes show up as well.
The investment tax credit (ITC), also called the federal solar tax credit, allows for a 30% tax credit off the cost of installing a solar system. This credit depreciates over time:

  • In 2020, the tax credit drops to 26%.
  • In 2021, the tax credit drops to 22%.
  • In 2022, the tax credit drops permanently to 10%.

A 30% credit is an incredible value, especially as it’s a tax credit, rather than a deduction. Even a 10% credit can represent a very nice incentive for solar installation.
At the state level, incentives can change frequently, but typically, one or more incentives are available in the form of:

  • Rebates
  • Preferential financing options
  • Tax exemptions
  • Discounts
  • Lease options
  • Power purchase agreements

When considering solar, always check to see what incentives your locality has available at the time.

2. Reduce Operating Costs With Solar

Small commercial properties can come with significant operating costs. A solar system can help reduce those costs in a staggering number of ways. In some cases, a solar system really can pay for itself over time strictly based on the cost reductions you can achieve through it.

If you combine a solar system with other energy-efficiency solutions, then operating costs can fall dramatically. Still, solar alone can do much for your smaller commercial property. Even a small solar upgrade can offer large cost savings.
The operating costs associated with commercial properties of any size can vary, but many of them have to do with utilities. Just keeping the lights on, the HVAC system running, and equipment functioning can cost a great deal monthly.
Solar offers energy diversity. Depending on the solar equipment and the energy needs of your property, your solar solution can power all a facility or some of it, or you can dedicate some to a specific appliance or system. In all these scenarios, you will cut energy costs to some extent.

That drop in operating costs can encompass far more than your property’s energy costs. Solar adds sustainability to your property, which creates other advantages, such as fewer maintenance costs.
Save Even More With Net Metering

Solar can also allow you to take advantage of net metering (NEM). Many states, including California, have net metering policies in place. These policies will allow you to only pay for the net amount of electricity your property uses.
If your solar equipment produces more energy than your property uses, the excess electricity will go to the grid and you’ll receive a credit for it. When you need to use electricity from the grid, you can initially pay for it with your credit. In this way, the grid can work as an electrical storage solution for you.

In the meantime, your solar solution can continue to produce electricity. Depending on your solar setup and how much electricity your property needs, the NEM process can save you a tremendous amount of money, lowering your operating costs even further.
Solar also helps to lower operating costs by mitigating fluctuating utility costs. Whether utilities costs change seasonally, yearly, or randomly, you’ll have a source of energy the utility companies can’t touch.
If you bank enough credit, you can weather any changes a utility company makes. Even if you only use solar for a single piece of equipment, you will still save funds due to that partial bit of energy independence.

3. Use Solar for Marketing

Whether you want investors, buyers, or tenants, having a solar solution in place increases the overall appeal of a smaller property. Because it’s a smaller commercial property, a solar solution does that much more for it.
Solar creates a ton of selling points in this way. In addition, solar helps to boost the reputation of both your property and your business. Since solar represents a green and sustainable choice, it shows you care about not just your bottom line, but the local environment as well.

When you’re ready to reap the benefits that solar provide, make sure you speak with a reputable installer. Solar solutions aren’t one-size-fits-all. You will need a custom setup specifically for your smaller commercial property. To learn more or to get started with a commercial solar solution, please contact Derek Sawyers Smart Energy Heating & Air today.

An In-Depth Look Into Manual J Load Calculation

When choosing a new heating and cooling system for your Central Valley home, you have plenty of factors to consider. One such factor is how large your new HVAC system needs to be for the best performance and comfort possible. The adage one size fits all may apply to some things, but your HVAC system isn’t one of them.

The best way to size up your home’s heating and cooling needs before HVAC installation is via a manual J load calculation. If you have no idea what this is or how it benefits your home, don’t worry. The following tells you everything you need to know about the process and its impact on your home comfort.

What Manual J Load Calculation Is

A Manual J load calculation is the first step towards choosing and installing your new HVAC system. Manual J, also known as a residential load calculation, is a protocol contractors use to determine a home’s precise heating and cooling requirements.

Developed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Manual J lets contractors accurately calculate heating and cooling needs on a room-by-room basis, as well as for the entire home. With the accurate data through Manual J load calculation, contractors can choose an HVAC system that’s right-sized for your home.

A major advantage of Manual J is that it’s far more accurate than the traditional rule of thumb once widely used by contractors. Using rule of thumb often results in an HVAC system that’s several times larger than it needs to be in terms of heating and cooling load.

How Your Home Benefits From Manual J

No two homes are built the same way. Differences in square footage, insulation usage, window types, and ventilation requirements can have a sizable impact on your heating and cooling needs. Additions, renovations, and even old age can change many of these characteristics, making an accurate assessment essential for installing the right HVAC system.

A common mistake that many contractors and homeowners make is choosing an HVAC system that’s too large or too small for your home. Many of these mistakes come from using rule of thumb to calculate heating and cooling loads. Simply replacing your existing HVAC system with one that’s roughly the same size can also lead to problems, especially if your current system wasn’t properly sized in the first place.

A Manual J load calculation gives you and your contractor a clearer picture of your home’s heating and cooling demands. When it comes to right sizing your HVAC system, following the Manual J protocol offers plenty of benefits:

  • You’ll get an energy-efficient system that’s precisely tailored to your home comfort needs, eliminating the clammy, uncomfortable feeling an oversized system offers.
  • You’ll get an HVAC system that costs less to purchase and install, as oversized units often add extra costs to a typical HVAC installation.
  • You’ll spend less on maintenance and repairs since oversized HVAC units often suffer from short-cycling and other issues that add wear and tear on equipment.
  • You’ll spend less monthly on electricity since your correctly sized HVAC unit doesn’t use more energy than it needs.

For the average modern home, having extra HVAC capacity simply means wasting energy and money. A Manual J load calculation gives you the most efficient heating and cooling solution possible.

What to Expect During a Manual J Load Calculation

A proper Manual J load calculation takes a broad range of factors into account. In addition to the square footage of each room in your home and total square footage, a typical load calculation also includes:

  • The number of current occupants living in your home
  • The type and number of windows your home uses, along with window coverings
  • The number of exterior doors on your home and their material type
  • The type, amount, and R-value of insulation in the attic and walls
  • The presence of vaulted ceilings in your home
  • The type of material on your roof
  • The direction your home faces

Your contractor may also perform a blower door test as part of the Manual J load calculation. The blower door test pressurizes the indoor spaces in your home, revealing the amount of air infiltration that goes on in your home. Your home’s level of air infiltration can have a drastic impact on your HVAC system’s final size.

All of the above information then goes into an ACCA-approved software program. The program crunches the numbers and returns the final results of the load calculation, letting your contractor know exactly what size heating and cooling solution is ideal for your home. You may also see your contractor go through the load calculation using pen and paper, but only to verify the software’s results.

A Manual J load calculation is essential if you plan on an HVAC replacement. The experts at Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning can help take care of your heating and cooling needs, from installation to regularly scheduled maintenance. Call us today.

3 Tips to Pick the Correct Size AC System

If you’re upgrading your central air conditioning (AC) unit this year, ensure that you purchase the correct size of AC system for your home. Here are three things every AC system buyer should know before shopping for AC replacement.

1. Tons or British Thermal Units Are Ratings for AC Units

When you shop for central AC systems for your home, you’ll see the measurement term ton in the product descriptions for central AC appliances. An AC unit’s tonnage describes its heat-extracting capabilities. Each ton rating is equivalent to freezing (at 32 degrees Fahrenheit) one ton of ice for an entire 24-hour period.

One ton of refrigeration (TR or RT) is equal to 12,000 BTU/h. BTU stands for British thermal unit. The definition of one BTU is the amount of heat necessary to increase (or reduce) by one degree Fahrenheit the temperature of one pound of water.

The larger the tonnage or BTU rating on a central AC system, the more capacity the AC unit has to cool indoor spaces. To find the right BTU rating for your residence, you must calculate the optimum BTU rating for the total square footage amount you wish to cool.

2. Room Measurements Determine Ideal AC Sizing

Your AC professional can help you calculate the best size of central air conditioner for your home. If you want to do the math yourself, first measure the total width and length of all rooms you wish to cool.

For example, when your home consists of two 12-foot by 10-foot bedrooms, one 6-foot by 8-foot bathroom, and one combined kitchen/dining/living room that measures 18 feet by 12 feet, your rooms’ total square footage equals the following:

  • Bedrooms: 12 feet X 10 feet X 2 rooms = 120 square feet
  • Bathroom: 6 feet X 8 feet = 48 square feet
  • Dining/living room/kitchen: 18 feet X 12 feet = 216 feet

TOTAL square footage in the above example: 120 square feet + 48 square feet + 216 square feet = 384 square feet.

Most homes have hallways, closets, and other spaces that must be cooled, so calculate the total home square footage for a whole-house central air conditioning unit. If you choose a split or mini-split AC system, simply add together the total square footage of the individual rooms where the units will be mounted.

After you determine the total square footage you want to cool in your home, multiply the total square footage by 25 BTU. In the above home, 384 square feet multiplied by 25 equals a required central AC unit with at least 9,600 BTU capacity.

3. Oversized and Undersized Central AC Units Cause Problems

Many homeowners believe that the size of a central AC system doesn’t necessarily have to match the size of the home being cooled. However, the size of your central AC unit is key to home cooling performance, humidity reduction, and cooling costs during summer.

While an undersized AC system may be less expensive to install than a larger unit, the long-term costs of an undersized central AC system outweigh any initial savings. Undersized AC units must run longer to keep up with the cooling load in a home that’s too spacious for the unit to handle normally.

A central AC unit that runs continuously will increase your power bill during the summer months. The undersized central AC unit will have a hard time keeping up with your cooling needs on extra hot and humid days.

Oversized central AC units won’t cool a home better than a correctly sized AC unit, even if the AC system is rated at a higher BTU level. However, an oversized unit only needs to run for a few minutes to cool your home, which means the AC system will cycle on and off more frequently.

Constant cycling on and off adds wear and tear on the AC unit, which means the appliance will probably not live up to its useful life expectancy. An oversized central AC system may need repairs and replacement more often than a central AC system that is sized correctly.

Oversized AC systems are also notoriously bad at removing humidity from the air. Because the fan and compressor only run for short periods in an oversized central AC system, the AC unit doesn’t operate long enough for moisture in the air to condense and fall into the drip pan of the AC unit.

Humidity in the air continues to cycle through your central AC system and your home when you have an oversized central AC unit. The moisture can lead to mold and mildew problems throughout your home.

Purchase a properly sized central AC appliance to get the most value, performance, and efficiency out of your AC system. Contact Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning today to learn more about the energy-efficient modern AC appliances available today. We install, repair, and service AC systems for residential customers in Fresno, Modesto, Chico, Stockton, and Sacramento, California.

5 Smart Reasons to Schedule an Air Conditioning Tune-Up

Anyone can easily neglect appliances until they need help. Proactive homeowners have learned to vigilantly maintain their appliances including central air conditioning (AC) units to receive top performance from their investments. Here are five benefits you receive when you wisely schedule an AC tune-up this spring and summer.

1. AC Tune-Ups Lower Summer Cooling Costs

Multiple issues with older central AC systems can cause the units to become highly inefficient. Something as simple as excess dust can cause corrosion or other performance issues in your system. If you don’t change the filters on your HVAC unit often enough, the dust and debris bypass the filter and clutter up the works inside the appliance.

Dirty evaporator and condenser coils cause AC systems to use more power. If your outside AC unit is covered in bugs, leaves, and climbing weeds, the unit doesn’t get proper airflow to cool your home efficiently.

Clogged drains or drainpipes coming from HVAC units can cause some AC units to eventually shut down when the collected condensate overflows. Clogged drains also hinder an AC unit’s ability to remove moisture from the indoor air, which can cause higher cooling bills as well as unsightly water stains on flooring and walls.

During a tune-up, the HVAC professional checks all of the AC’s parts for the buildup of dirt and debris before cleaning the unit. Any parts that are corroded, displaced, plugged, or damaged by debris have repair or replacement. Then, your unit functions at top efficiency, which can keep your cooling costs lower than running the same air conditioner with grimy, dust-choked parts.

An improperly installed or un-calibrated thermostat can cause your unit to kick on more often than is necessary to adequately cool your home. When the thermostat is calibrated, replaced, or moved, your AC unit will work more efficiently and cost less to run. If your AC unit has a thermostat problem or incompatibility, an AC tune-up will discover the issue.

2. AC Inspections Keep HVAC Molehills From Becoming Mountains

Life’s not easy for certain parts of your AC system. Fans, for example, must spin and spin for years at the optimum speed. If caked-on dust covers its blades or rotor base, your AC fan has to overcome the extra weight and friction of the debris. Fans can start to wobble or corrode, making them less efficient and prone to failure.

The vibration of an AC unit over time can loosen bolts and nuts that hold the appliance together and hold components in place. Additional issues that can happen inside the HVAC enclosure include:

  • Loose or rodent-damaged wiring
  • Corrosion of interior metals
  • Failure of heat-pump components
  • Tripped circuit breakers

Outside the AC unit, you may have issues with airflow, ductwork, and blocked vents.

Over time, small issues like loose bolts can become big issues. A vital component like a fan can break away, a loose wire can create a short, and a corroded duct part can allow hot air to mix with the cooled AC air as the metal duct continues to disintegrate. Your AC unit can shut down completely in the middle of a party or intense heat wave from what started as a minor issue.

When you schedule an AC tune-up, the technician can resolve and repair little issues before they become big issues. The HVAC professional goes behind the scenes to access the hidden AC parts that could spell a hot future for you if you don’t properly service the AC unit.

3. AC Inspections Catch Refrigerant Issues

Refrigerant problems are some of the most common issues with AC units. If you never had a professional look at your refrigerant and you’ve owned your home for a while, check the AC refrigerant levels and delivery system.

Problems with AC refrigerant systems can include the following:

  • Wrong type of refrigerant
  • Inaccurate prior refrigerant charge
  • Refrigerant-system leaks

Some refrigerants are being phased out, but you have replacement refrigerants that will work. Don’t wait until your unit has no refrigerant left to find out you need a special-order product. Your HVAC pro will catch any problems with refrigerant when you schedule an AC tune-up, but schedule that tune-up before the issue becomes a pain.

4. AC Tune-Ups Can Reduce AC Rattle

Numerous problems can cause loud noises in your AC system. Some noise is normal when running your AC since a compressor and fan can’t be made completely silent. Additionally, if your return air vent is the wrong size, the movement of air through the panel can be louder than you prefer. AC units can sound loud or rattling when the following problems are present in the system:
Loose screws
Wobbling or broken fan
Lack of lubrication on moving parts
Dirty or misshaped coil fins
Debris on top of the HVAC enclosure
Loose wiring
Broken internal component
Your HVAC professional will tighten all fasteners, lubricate moving parts, and repair or replace broken components to reduce the related rattle, hum, or buzz that drives you crazy.

Contact Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning today to schedule a thorough tune-up of your AC system in the Modesto, Fresno, and Stockton, California, regions. Enjoy a cool summer without worrying about AC breakdowns.

Should You Get an Air Conditioner or a Heat Pump?

Summer is finally over. If your air conditioner needed repair more than once throughout the summer season, it may be time to replace the unit. When the time does come to replace your air conditioner, one of the choices you’ll have to make is whether you want another air conditioner or a heat pump. These units are very different, so understanding the differences and advantages of each product will help you make your decision.

What an Air Conditioner Does

An air conditioner removes heat from the home and expels it into the yard. It does this by depressurizing coolant in a coil until the coolant is very cold. The coolant then absorbs heat from the air in the home.

Once the heat inside the home has been absorbed, it is moved along the coil until it reaches the exterior of the home. The coolant is then pressurized until it becomes very hot. The air conditioner unit blows warm air out into the yard, and the cycle begins again. Air conditioners reduce both temperature and humidity in the home.

What a Heat Pump Does

A heat pump works like an air conditioner, pressurizing and de-pressurizing coolant to remove warm air inside the house and blast it outside. The difference between these two units is that the heat pump can be reversed to work like a furnace. To do this, the heat pump absorbs heat from the outside and blasts it inside.

Heat pumps are especially practical in warm places like Modesto, where the lowest temperatures of the season are generally in the 40s. In colder climates, heat pumps work less efficiently than furnaces because they rely on warmth from outside the home to heat up the interior of the home. The less heat air outside contains, the less efficiently the heat pump will operate.

Why You Should Choose a Heat Pump

Deciding between a heat pump and an air conditioner can be a challenge. Air conditioners are the traditional appliance for keeping a home cool in the summer. An appropriately sized air conditioner will do its job well. However, heat pumps have many advantages over air conditioners.

Heat Pumps Are Easy to Maintain

With a heat pump doing the job of the air conditioner and the heater, the homeowner has only one appliance to maintain instead of two. This can lead to lower repair bills and less yearly maintenance.

Heat Pumps Are Energy-Efficient

Heat pumps are known for their energy efficiency, especially in mild or warm-weather climates like Modesto. In fact, heat pumps can heat a home using about 50% less electricity than an electric furnace.

Homeowners Are Likely to Have a Backup

Often, people who have an air conditioner and furnace combo will keep their furnace, even when they replace their air conditioner with a heat pump. This means the furnace can be used as a backup if the heat pump should ever break down.

Heat Pumps Improve Home Value

Home buyers like to buy homes that have energy-efficient appliances and home systems. With a heat pump installed in your house, your home may enjoy a boost in value.

Heat Pumps Are Cost Efficient

Because heat pumps are so efficient, they often cost less to operate than a furnace and air conditioner combination. Using a heat pump year round can help a homeowner save hundreds or thousands of dollars on their utility bill over time.

Heat Pumps Are Space Efficient

Heat pumps take up about half the space of an air conditioner and furnace combination. They’re an excellent product to use in small homes with little space to dedicate to the HVAC system.

When to Get an Air Conditioner

Of course, heat pumps aren’t for everyone. Heat pumps can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than an air conditioner. This makes air conditioners an attractive option for homeowners on a budget.

How to Get Started

Whether you’re replacing your air conditioner with another air conditioner or with a heat pump, the first step is to contact a reputable HVAC contractor. Your HVAC contractor will assess your current system, tell you for certain whether or not it’s a good idea to replace your air conditioner, and give you an estimate for what you will pay to make that replacement.

Get at least three bids from three different professionals before making your final selection. Bids should be itemized and detailed so that you know what to expect when the work is finished. Check references and licensure from each contractor to ensure that they’re certified and qualified to do the work. When the time comes to pick a professional, make sure you sign a contract.

For more information about heat pumps and air conditioners, contact an HVAC professional in your area. At Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning, we’re happy to answer any questions you might have about which unit is right for you. Contact us today for more information.

Important Facts to Know About HVAC for Your Greenhouse

Whether you have a small greenhouse or a large indoor vegetable operation in the Modesto area, your choices of heating, cooling, and ventilation solutions can make your indoor growing space more productive. Here is what you should know.

Reduce Solar Radiation for Cooling, But Add Options

Most greenhouse vegetable plants want daytime temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If average temperatures are too high or too low, plants can stop setting fruit or bolt and begin producing seed.

In a sunny, semi-arid location like the Central Valley of California, keeping daytime temperatures down is your greatest challenge. The Modesto region is considered a Mediterranean climate according to the Köppen Climate Classification . Once the bright California sun comes streaming into a greenhouse, the internal air can rapidly rise due to the abundant solar input.

One trick to reduce temperatures in a Mediterranean-climate greenhouse is to use shade cloth. Cover part or the entire greenhouse during the most intense hours of sunlight to limit the amount of solar input.

However, some plants will suffer if they do not receive enough daytime light. When your greenhouse does not stay at optimum growing temperatures during sunny days, and reducing solar radiation does not work, talk to your HVAC professional about using additional cooling methods.

Add the Right Ventilation to Remove Hot Air

Exchanging greenhouse air for fresh outside air is a great way to cool the air temperature inside the greenhouse and reduce excess humidity. Efficient greenhouse ventilation systems often include a large air intake on one side of the greenhouse and a large air output vent or fan on the opposite side of the greenhouse.

Greenhouse ventilation is installable as a passive system of cross ventilation. Passive systems, when situated at the right levels and angles on greenhouse structures, work best in coastal areas and areas with brisk winds.

Forced-air ventilation systems usually have vented greenhouse openings and large electric fans. Fans may blow air into or out of the greenhouse to adjust the internal greenhouse temperature.

For the best results, forced-air or passive ventilation systems should be placed at greenhouse ridges, sidewalls, and gables. Experts recommend a combined cooling surface on structural vents that is no less than 15 to 30 percent of a greenhouse’s total square footage.

Your HVAC professional can assess your structures individually to determine the best placement for greenhouse forced-air ventilation systems. When combined with a high-efficiency refrigerant-based cooling system, a proper ventilation system in your greenhouse can keep your plants from overheating during a particularly hot summer season or high-heat event.

Go With Forced-Air Systems for Convenience

Forced-air ventilation systems and refrigerant-based greenhouse cooling systems are less messy than evaporative cooling systems like fog coolers or fan and pad coolers. Forced-air cooling systems also require far less maintenance than evaporative coolers.

Misting equipment on evaporative foggers need continual maintenance. Contaminated fog can spread diseases and plant pathogens throughout the greenhouse. Evaporative cooling pads need constant water. The pads need protection from direct sunlight, salt, and sand.

Multiple fans must sometimes run non-stop when using fan and pad evaporative cooling systems, so the total water and electricity usage can be significant for the fan and pad method. The fans must also be arranged in precise sequence to work with the wet pads. Zonal air conditioning and ventilation units take up less space on walls while providing effective greenhouse climate

Calculate Adequate Heating Needs

In the Central Valley, winter temperatures rarely fall below freezing. However, some plants can wither from cold temperatures that are well above freezing.

To provide year-round protection for your greenhouse plants, install a heating system of some type to augment the sunlight’s radiant warmth. Find the correct methods online to calculate how many British thermal units (BTUs) of output you need from a greenhouse heater, or ask your HVAC professional for help calculating your potential winter greenhouse heat loss.

You have many options for greenhouse heaters from wood-fired stoves to natural gas furnaces. Choose a heater or heating system that can keep your greenhouse warm even if the temperature is 15 degrees below your area’s average minimum low temperature for the year. Select a heater that uses fuel you can easily obtain and afford.

Some types of convenient greenhouse heating systems that are used in California include:

  • Electric
  • Natural gas
  • Propane or LP
  • Infrared vacuum

Your HVAC professional can help explain the various professional and commercial greenhouse heaters available. The heating pros can also safely and securely install your greenhouse heating system so it meets all codes and building requirements.

If you need a new greenhouse heater or a headhouse office air conditioning unit, contact Derek Sawyers Smart Energy Heating & Air. We source and install a variety of commercial furnaces and ventilation systems for your Central Valley, California, greenhouse and all of your commercial structures.

4 Tips to Avoid Trouble With Your AC Condensate Drain

A central air conditioning system is composed of several smaller mechanical systems including the condensate drainage system. The condensate drainage system seems insignificant, but a malfunctioning condensate drain can create serious structural problems. Learn four ways to manage your AC condensate drain.

1. Know the Location of Your Condensate Drain System

At the bottom end of your AC unit’s cooling coils is a shallow pan or gutter system to collect condensate from the coils. Since coils can be configured horizontally or vertically in their coil box, the pan shape, sizes, and orientation depend on the model of AC unit you’re using.

Coil boxes and air-handling unit service panels have multiple openings for drain lines that connect to the drain pans under coils. The correct opening for your AC unit’s condensate drainage depends on where the drain pan is located.

Some drain pans are hard to see without taking the entire coil box apart or removing the service panel. If the pan is covered in sludge or heavily corroded, the pan can be even more difficult to find.

The condensate-pan drainage line runs to the external drainage line, which is often white PVC pipe that’s fitted near the condensate drain on the air handler service panel. The pipes dip in what is called a trap close to the coil end of the pipes.

The trap resembles a shallow U-shape. The bend lives up to its name as it traps any gas from your drainage lines. The AC condensate drainage pipe continues on after the trap section to the outdoors or to one of your structure’s other drain lines.

2. Understand the Issues With Mismanaged Condensate

Dark, wet environments are prime real estate for mold, mildew, bacteria, and pests to take up residence. Air conditioning coils produce a lot of condensate, and that moisture can wreak havoc on your AC system, your home, and your health if allowed to pool or overflow.

Drain pans and lines that aren’t sloped correctly cause condensate water to collect and pool in the AC drainage system. If the water stands in a pan or pipe, mold begins to grow. The mold and sludge in the drainage water eventually clog the drain line completely.

When an AC condensate drain line gets clogged, the drain pan doesn’t empty. Eventually, the pan overflows as condensate rises. If the AC system is located on an upper floor, your ceilings, walls, carpeting, and household furnishings can be flooded and ruined when a condensate pan overflows.

Overflowing condensate drainage can corrode parts of your AC system. Corrosion on internal parts of your AC system shorten the life of the AC unit and may affect the efficiency of your cooling system.

Mold on your drain pan and drain lines can enter air conditioning systems and evaporator coils. When mold disperses into your indoor air, it can trigger allergy symptoms and breathing issues. Mold on coils can restrict airflow and make the AC system less efficient.

3. Keep the Drain Lines Clear

One of the best ways a homeowner can keep their drain lines flowing is to run white vinegar through the part of the drain running outside of the air handler. If you have problems with excessive mold buildup in the condensate lines, flushing the pipes with vinegar can reduce your risks of a drain pan overflow.

Locate the condensate drain access point outside your home or near the indoor air handler enclosure. You should see a small vertical vent extension as part of the piping. The vent is located above the point where the line exits your air handler. Open the plug on top to access the drain lines.

Pour a cup or so of vinegar into the drain lines to loosen any clogs and kill mold. Flush the lines with fresh water, and ensure the water flows smoothly down and out of the drain lines. Always replace the cap on the condensate drain vent after you clean the lines.

4. Schedule Routine Inspection of AC Drainage

If you can’t access your condensate drainage pan, then you need an expert to find and examine the drainage system on your AC unit. Most HVAC professionals include condensate-drainage system inspection in their tune-up packages.

An HVAC professional can provide the following services if an inspection finds a problem:

  • Check drain lines for proper slope
  • Check for cracked drain pans or pipes
  • Check orientation of drainage system
  • Flush complete drainage system
  • Clean drain lines and pans
  • Replace or repair condensate-drainage systems

HVAC pros can also add agents to your AC drainage system to inhibit mold and algae growth in drain pans and drainage lines.

Schedule a springtime tune-up of your AC system by contacting Derek Sawyer’s Smart Energy Heating & Air today. We service, repair, and install AC systems for customers throughout California’s Central Valley.

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