3 Easy Ways to Energy-Efficient Air Conditioning and Heating

During the winter, many homeowners have their heating system running non-stop. With this season’s frigid weather, homeowners will need to come up with ways to use their heating units more efficiently to reduce utility bills. Taking steps to use your HVAC system more efficiently allows you to reduce overall energy consumption without sacrificing your home comfort. Below are just a few easy ways you can achieve better all-around efficiency with your heating system. Continue reading

Setting Your Thermostat in the Spring and Summer (The Last Blog You’ll Ever Need to Read)

Thermostats have almost become an enigma among Virginia households. Anytime someone asks, “What should I set my thermostat to save money?”, it’s met with a number of different responses, of which, only a few are really applicable to any given household.

The truth is, setting your thermostat in the warmer months doesn’t have to be so complicated. Taking into account your family’s comfort and short vs. long-term savings, you can very likely run your home’s A/C on one simple rule – Set it and forget it!

While programmable thermostats can be a lifesaver in terms of short-term savings and home comfort, putting your system through consistent temperature shifts can harm your energy efficiency and place unnecessary wear and tear on your unit. Always keep in mind that whatever you set your thermostat to, your system will eventually have to overcompensate to return your home, or a given area, back to a comfortable temperature.

Unless you are on the brink of a seasonal shift in weather, the warm weather that you allowed to buildup in your home is going to stick around until your unit kicks back on again. Once it does, it is forced to work twice as hard to attain the same comfortable temperature. So while you are saving up to 6% of your energy per each degree you increase your thermostat and your unit doesn’t have to run as much, your savings go right back into re-cooling your house.

What should I set my thermostat to in the summer?

The average person does not sweat until the temperature rises above 78 degrees. This is why most HVAC specialists and energy saving buffs recommend setting your thermostat to 78 degrees in the warm season. On days where the temperature does not drop below 78 during the daytime, it’s best to maintain one setting in order to prevent your system from overworking. This setting also prevents residents from experiencing harsh shifts in temperature when leaving their homes.

Pro tip: A desk, box or ceiling fan can go a long way towards helping you feel cooler without actually cooling the room further. Fans use up significantly less energy than your A/C unit, so you can stay comfortable while also keeping your home energy efficient.

Unique factors that can affect home comfort

Each household will have exceptions to the standard 78 degrees in the warmer months. If you have the budget, then discussing these factors will help promote a comfortable home for all residents.

  • Hormones (especially for those experience times of great hormone fluctuations – pregnancy & menopause)
  • Glandular disorder – While the average person perspires when the temps hit 78, those that sweat at cooler temperatures will want to avoid excessive perspiration with a more appropriate thermostat setting.
  • Sleep habits – A great night’s sleep is a must for any lifestyle. If you are  a cool sleeper, a simple fan may not be enough to keep you from waking up in a sweat. Be certain to set the thermostat to accommodate cool sleepers during spring and summer.
  • Time spent in the home – Certain programmable thermostats can be set depending on the day of the week. This is great for households on the go. You can avoid energy efficiency issues by increasing the thermostat setting while you are away, but only if the temperature drops enough by the time you return home at night to assist your unit in re-cooling your home.
  • Where time is spent (hot air rises, which makes spending time upstairs less comfortable)
  • Humidity – Humidity can make any home uncomfortable. Don’t continue to set your thermostat lower and lower to attempt to make your home comfortable if humidity is the issue. Instead, invest in a dehumidifier or and A/C unit that controls humidity in order to create a comfortable home.
  • Sunlight – Skylights and poorly shaded windows can let in heat from the sun. Be aware that those that spend time in these rooms will not be as comfortable as residents in rooms with less sunlight in the summer.

What about zoning my home in the summer?

Attempting to zone your home in the summer can get a bit dicey. Yes, zoning can save you money on your monthly bill, however, just like raising your settings or shutting off your system, you run into the issue of re-cooling a room or section of your home that is now much warmer than it would have been if you would have just maintained a consistent thermostat setting at the beginning of spring.

If at all possible, consider your schedule at the start of the warm season when attempting to zone your home. If you aren’t expecting guests until late fall, feel free to zone off your guest bedroom and bathroom.

Setting your thermostat while on summer vacation

The same mentality can go into your “away” or “vacation” mode settings. If you’re going to be gone through a temperature transition, then it’s okay to shut your system off and allow your home to naturally release the heat that gathered during summer when you get back in the fall.

If you’re gone for just a few weeks or less, only increase your settings by 4 degrees at the most. This will keep your system from using too much energy while you are away, but prevent it from having to struggle to replenish your home with the cool air you need to stay comfortable.

At Fire & Ice HVAC, we know that marrying home comfort and energy savings can be a struggle. We also understand that every home has different needs. If you feel as though you need additional guidance beyond this post, please don’t hesitate to contact our Woodbridge HVAC office at 703-496-5527 to speak with one of our licensed HVAC specialists.

Choosing The Right Sized Air Conditioner

When it comes to choosing the right sized air conditioner, there are some very important considerations to be made. Size is really very important. Choosing something too small will force the unit to constantly struggle to keep up. Choosing something too big will bring you a unit that will cool the room before it removes the humidity from it. This is why we suggest you take the time to get the information and guidance you need before making any final decisions. In the long run, you will be glad you did! Let us give you some thoughts to ponder.

If you are seeking an air conditioner for an office or a regular size bedroom, your main concern should be that the smaller unit needed for this area, say 100-300 square feet or so, be efficient but also as quiet as possible. In the case of a playroom or master bedroom, you will be moving up to a mid-sized unit to cover the 250-400 square feet or so. For the family rooms and living rooms ranging from 400-700 square feet, you will be looking at a larger unit. One of the considerations to keep in mind as a guide should be that you estimate for each square foot involved approximately 20 BTUs. This is a good starting point, and then you should be aware of and compensate for high ceilings, large windows, and the number and size of doorways in a room. Other considerations to keep in mind are things such as if the room is extra sunny, increase your estimate by 10% or so. Conversely, if the room is heavily shaded, you might decrease by 10% or so. In a kitchen, you are going to want to substantially increase your BTU capacity, depending on size by perhaps as much as 3000-4000 BTUs. Another critical factor is that when the unit is installed, it be dome properly. It must be well balanced for proper drainage, and if a larger unit connected to a dedicated outlet.

The bottom line is that taking a bit of time to get the job done right will have long-term positive effects. We are standing by to offer any help we can, and we ask you to follow our blog for additional heating/cooling tips on keeping your home well maintained and energy efficient.

Ideal Thermostat Settings Can Save On Energy Costs

If your latest energy bill was larger than you expected and you are now looking for a strategy to make the next one a little more palatable then it might be time to examine the settings on your thermostat. You no doubt know the feeling of jumping out of a nice warm bed and feeling the cold air of a frosty morning. It’s always tempting to tweak that thermostat just a little bit higher than it needs to be to dispel the chill, but stop and think for a moment.

The fact is that setting the thermostat higher than it needs to be is just a knee jerk reaction to the cold — and it is costing you money. What you should really be doing is allowing yourself some time to adjust to the new temperature outside of a nice warm bed. You can avoid any unnecessary tweaking of the thermostat by removing the temptation altogether and install a programmable thermostat. With one of these you can have the ideal thermostat settings throughout the day. Set it once to accommodate the needs and habits of everyone in the household and then never think about it again — at least until the season changes.

The ideal thermostat settings will change throughout the day. If the day for the household starts at 6.30 am you would set the thermostat to start raising the temperature to 68°F at 6.00 am, about half an hour before everybody rises. This gives the house time to warm up so climbing out of the sheets is not such a shock to the system.

At 8.00 am everyone is out of the house so the thermostat reduces to 56°F for about 8 hours, which dramatically reduces energy consumption. At around 4.30 pm people start returning home. Walking into a frosty house can increase the temptation to raise the temperature higher than required, but with an automatic device the temperature sets itself to 68°F a half an hour before the earliest arrival so the house is now quite comfortable. This strategy alone can easily save 5% to 15% off the household energy bill per year.

At 10.30 pm it’s time for bed and seeing as everyone will be bundled up in their nice warm bedclothes the thermostat can be lowered accordingly to 56°F for the rest of the night. When it reaches 6.00 am the cycle then starts all over again.

Programming a thermostat at the beginning of the season like this can provide dramatic cost savings to the household energy bill. Heat changes are slow and steady with no sudden spikes to increase the load on energy consumption. Of course, these are only suggestions as every household is different and you will need to take individual family member’s needs into consideration when devising settings for your thermostat. If you need to know more then check out our website for even more ideas on using your thermostat efficiently.

What Do UV Lights Really Do For Your Indoor Air Quality?

Modern homes are designed to have heating and cooling systems that recycle air inside the building. To achieve this goal in an energy efficient manner, the building must be sealed to prevent air that is already conditioned from escaping to the outside. While this is usually achieved in a safe manner, there is an ever-increasing amount of bacteria and fungi in homes and this also needs to be dealt with. While filters in HVAC systems can filter out even the tiniest sand granules or fungi spores, they are not 100 percent effective. For this reason, UV lights must be used. Ultraviolet radiation from UV lights can kill unwanted micro-organisms, such as mold. This will help to ensure that your home is healthy and safe for the family.

How UV Lights Work

If you want to get the best results, you should consider installing UV lights in your air ducts, evaporator coils of your heat pump or shining UV lights direct on your air conditioner. In case there are several strains or types of viruses, mold, bacteria and mold in your home, you can use a catalyst to speed up destruction of these harmful micro-organisms. When the catalyst is exposed to UV rays, it breaks the micro-organisms down, forming harmless byproducts in the process. According to the EPA, this method of getting rid of micro-organisms in your home may not be 100% effective, but it can be very helpful in reducing the amount of harmful micro-organisms in your home.

Improving Indoor Air Quality

Now that you know UV lights can be very effective, you should not forget to check your home’s air filtration system. By regularly cleaning and replacing the filters in your air conditioning system, you will be able to further improve the quality of air in your house. That said, UV lights provide homeowners with a cost effective option for improving indoor air quality. These lights come in form of simple light bulbs that emit light blue, or ultra violent, light. All you need to do is buy the bulb and screw it into a standard bulb holder. Call us for all heating and air conditioning needs.

5 Home Cooling Myths

With summer temperatures set to hit new highs, many people want to know how to reduce their utility bills. Do not rush into changing anything around your home though. Take heed of these air conditioning fallacies, before you do anything drastic:

Fallacy: Buying a Larger air Conditioner Produces Superior Results

Your present air conditioner may be struggling to cool your house, which causes you to visit the shop for a new, larger system. However, before spending your hard earned cash, you should try cleaning your air conditioner, because this might remedy the problem. Alternatively, if the problem persists, you could get your unit serviced.

Fallacy: Rooms can be Cooled With Fans

Fans do not cool rooms down, they make the people in them feel cooler. The temperature of your body will fall, when a fan moves air across your skin. However, this does not get rid of the warmth inside the room. Therefore, leaving the fan running while you are out of the room is a waste of energy.

Fallacy: Speed up Cooling by Turning Down the Temperature

Central air conditioning units are manufactured to function at a reasonably consistent pace, then switch off after your property reaches the preferred temperature. Therefore, turning down the temperature will not speed up cooling, it simply means that you may wind up with a freezing property, if you neglect to change the thermostat setting after you reach a desirable temperature. This wastes energy and cash.

Fallacy: Air conditioners Only Serve to Keep the air Cool

As well as keeping the air cool, air conditioners lower humidity too. These systems have drying functions that can reduce humidity. This function is energy efficient.

Fallacy: Raising and lowering the Temperature is less Efficient than Leaving it on Throughout the day

Finally, you can save cash on your utility bills over the summer and winter months with a programmable thermostat. When you are away from home, you should set the thermostat to alter the temperature in your property. This way, you will significantly reduce your energy usage. Call us for all of your heating and air conditioning needs.

4 Effective Tips To Control Home Comfort Energy Costs

As energy prices are soaring high, you need to look for solutions to keep your energy bills low. Of course, you wouldn’t want to compromise the comforts of your home, just to save a lot. Most people think that saving means sacrificing, but this isn’t true if you know how to find great options that will give you comfort and value at the same time. Here are tips on effective energy saving to protect your pocket from the rising energy costs.

Proper Insulation

Your walls need to be properly insulated to ensure that your heater doesn’t work double-time during winter. Heat may go out instantly if there are cracks or tiny openings on your walls. Based on research, well insulated homes are guaranteed to save up to thirty percent on energy costs.

Programmable Thermostat

A programmable thermostat can help keep your home cool or warm, depending on your preference. The good thing about having a programmable device is you don’t need to consume too much electricity when reheating or cooling your place. Most people turn off their HVAC machines when they go out, so they have to start heating or cooling their homes again once they arrive. You might be surprised how much these things cost in the market and how easy they are to install. A programmable thermostat might be your best friend after you see your next energy bill.

Annual Maintenance

You don’t need to experience dilemmas before calling a contractor to check your furnace filters, dishwashers, water heaters and other things that you use at home. With regular maintenance, you can be sure that your home is safe from untoward risks such as flue fires, shower scalding and carbon monoxide poisoning. Safety should be your number one priority, whatever the case may be.

Let Professional Technicians Handle Things for You

Adding insulation, maintaining your HVAC system and installing a programmable thermostat may not be too easy for some people. In such occasions, it is best to call technicians who are professionally trained to avoid accidents. You can call us for additional energy saving solutions or ask us about controlling home comfort costs. We will surely attend to you as soon as we can.

When Will HVAC Efficiency Standards Increase?

Most people know that HVAC efficiency is important to reducing energy use and keeping heating bills affordable. In fact, back in 2009, the DOE came together with industry experts to find an effective way to increase the AFUE (annual fuel efficiency utilization) rating by increasing the minimal rating from the current standard of 78 to an AFUE of 90. Unfortunately, even though this increase in AFUE would most certainly help reduce energy use, the financial impact for some families was far too expensive.

In order for homeowners to meet the higher AFUE requirement, existing HVAC equipment would need to be replaced with a higher HVAC efficiency furnace. Currently the only type of furnace that could meet the new higher HVAC efficiency standards is a condensing furnace. These furnaces utilize two heat exchangers, making them exceptionally efficient; however, this efficiency does not come without problems.

Implementation of the higher efficiency HVAC equipment was delayed by a court order. HVAC industry experts argued that adopting these higher AFUE standards would be difficult for some families. Not only would existing homes need to be retrofitted to handle the new type of heating equipment, but the necessary changes would be challenging to complete and the cost could be quite high.

Condensing furnaces utilize two heat exchangers as well as a completely different venting system. The condensing furnace is designed to utilize the condensed vapor from hot water created during the process of burning gas. This heat source is typically lost up the chimney in a traditional gas furnace, but the condensing furnace is able to use it to help heat the home. These differences from a typical combustible furnace mean that extensive retrofitting would be necessary in order to accommodate the higher AFUE condensing furnace. Additionally, in attached homes, the required modifications can be even further complicated because access to outside walls is often limited in these homes.

With the high cost of retrofitting a home, the courts have delayed implementation of the higher AFUE standards; however, as the case goes through court, it is anyone’s guess what the future might hold. Homeowners who are interested in increasing energy efficiency or who need HVAC services should contact their local HVAC contractor.

Is Your HVAC System Protected From Power Surges?

There are many worries that come with owning a home. One thing that often goes without thought is the possibility of problems that arise after a power surge. This type of event can cause great damage to a home’s HVAC equipment. This is why it is essential to consider home power surge protection. The smartest way to keep a home safe is with a two-step process. Performing HVAC maintenance and arranging home power surge protection is the wisest way to protect your home utilities.

Exterior Surges

A power surge may occur through many outside activities. This can lead to costly damage of a home’s hard wired equipment. For instance, an external surge may result when a car hits a utility pole, or electric companies are performing work on the lines. In these instances, the home may suffer from extreme damage.

Interior Surges

Besides exterior forces, certain interior activities can lead to a power surge. For example, when an appliance is plugged into an outlet, it draws a large amount of power from the home’s supply. When the appliance is turned off, a strong surge is sent back through the lines. This takes a toll on the electrical components and leads to deterioration over time.

How to Protect Your Home Utilities

There are a few ways to keep your home utilities safe from harm. To begin, it is important to guard where the power enters the home. A single device may be used to lower the chances of being harmed by an external power surge. The next way to guard against a power surge is to use point of use protection. This is built into the home’s outlets. It protects delicate electronic devices or other appliances from being harmed from surges.

There is no way to assure that a home is fully protected from a power surge. However, it is possible to lower the likelihood of suffering the repercussions. To protect your home utilities, it is best to consult with an HVAC technician who has the knowledge and experience to develop a plan for your home. It will help save headaches and money on repairs.

Is NATE Certified Important When Choosing A HVAC Technician?

Have you ever wondered, what does NATE certified mean? This is an important question, especially for homeowners who want to make sure that they are getting the very best heating and cooling technician in the business. NATE certified technicians have taken measures to maximize their training by undertaking exams that will provide them with NATE certification. Technicians who are NATE certified bring more to the customer because of their advanced training and knowledge.

What is NATE Certification?

NATE certification is achieved by passing two different tests. The first test covers the basics of heating and air conditioning, such as tools, safety, heat transfer and other areas necessary for exceptional HVAC service. However, in addition to taking this core examination, NATE certified technicians must also pass another exam that is focused on one area of specialization. NATE certified technicians gain a more in-depth knowledge of their specialized area and will be able to provide homeowners with more professional results as well as exceptional service.

Technicians who wish to be NATE certified can choose between ten different areas of specialization. HVAC technicians can choose from hydronics gas, light commercial refrigeration, air conditioning, air distribution, hydronics oil, commercial refrigeration, heat pumps, oil heating, HVAC efficiency analyst and air distribution.

Why choose NATE Certified technicians?

Homeowners who choose NATE certified technicians will not only get an experienced HVAC technician, but they will also get a technician who has demonstrated their expertise in the HVAC field as well as one who has shown their commitment to enriching their education and experience. As a respected HVAC technician, NATE certified technicians offer the benefits of a technician with a higher level of education and professionalism. When you want a HVAC technician who can quickly and accurately diagnose problems or deliver fast, professional installation and repairs, choosing a NATE certified technician just makes sense.

Of course, in addition to being able to deliver the highest quality heating and cooling services, NATE certified technicians are also able to help solve indoor air quality problems as well as improve the energy efficiency of your HVAC equipment through regular equipment maintenance. If you want quality AC performance, schedule your air conditioning maintenance service today.