Can A Smart Thermostat Save You Money?

Smart home technology is becoming more and more mainstream for tech-savvy homeowners. If you’re not a gadget guru, you might wonder if a smart thermostat is worth the investment and learning curve. And, can a smart thermostat save you money?  Programmable thermostats have been around, but here are some things that might surprise you about smart thermostat technology.

What is a smart thermostat? 

Smart thermostats connect to your home WiFi – typically, they have a WiFi chip, but some communicate through a separate hub. (Eyes glazing over? Don’t worry professionals set this up). You simply control your thermostat through an app on your phone. The newest technology allows the thermostat to not only set up schedules, but also read your daily patterns and adjust accordingly.  This can lead to improved efficiency and opportunities for savings.

You don’t have to have a “smart home” to use a smart thermostat.

If you don’t have a smart home system, you can still use a smart thermostat and phone app. If you have Google Home, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit, you can control your thermostat the same way you control other things like lights, appliances, and entertainment.

They report to you.

Home with smart thermostat

Some smart thermostats can translate temperature trends and usage data into energy efficiency reports. If you have electric HVAC and appliances, it might be hard to decipher how much of your electric bill is directly from heating and cooling. Getting a separate report from your smart thermostat shows you how your energy usage breaks down and allows you to make changes or improvements to maximize efficiency and save money.

They know your home.

Whether it be your HVAC unit itself, drafts from windows, insulation issues, or blocked vents, if your home is not maintaining temperature in an efficient way, your smart thermostat knows. It alerts you to changes in the amount of time it takes to get your home to a desired temperature. This gives you the opportunity to identify potential problems with your home or system.

Central Carolina Air Conditioning can help with your home efficiency needs.  Request an appointment online or call us at 1.800.461.3010.

Fall Maintenance Checklist

The recent temperatures have it finally feeling like fall! The summer heat that lingered into September and October is officially gone. Now is a perfect time to complete these fall maintenance tasks:

  • Check your roof: Remove moss from sloped areas and clear any debris from gutters and downspouts. Additionally, look for signs of damage/wear and make repairs as soon as possible.
  • Check Windows: Check windows seals and replace weather stripping if necessary.
  • Gutters: clean leaves and debris from gutters and make sure the screen covering your HVAC fan is preventing leaves from falling inside.
  • Outdoor surfaces:  Blow or sweep leaves and acorns before things get wet and slippery. Wet leaves can get moldy and worsen seasonal allergies. Use an outdoor cleaning solution and power washer or hose to clean walkways, porches and steps that have accumulated algae over the summer.
  • Outdoor Vents: Attic vents, dryer vents and exhaust ducts should be clear (check inside and out).
  • Basement/Crawlspace: If you have a sump pump, make sure it is in good working condition, and check for wet spots or puddles in the crawlspace. Check for pest problems – this is a good time for preventative treatment for things like camel crickets, spiders, and mice.
  • HVAC: change air filters and have your HVAC system and ducts professionally inspected before the first big temperature drop of the season.

For more information on how to prepare your home’s HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems for cold weather, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning at 800.461.3010.

HVAC Maintenance Delivers Efficiency, Savings, and Safety

We’ve been on a weather roller-coaster with extreme temperature lows and highs this year. Swings in the seasons took us from a long, cold winter to record setting heat in the summer. This can take a toll on your home, especially your HVAC!

If you keep your HVAC in top-working condition, you will maintain a comfortable environment throughout the seasons. But, letting maintenance fall to the back burner could mean low-performing systems that result in costly repairs.

Let’s look further at what components make up an HVAC, steps you can take to avoid costly repairs, improve performance and ensure safety, and optimal maintenance schedules to extend the life of your system.

What is HVAC?

HVAC is an acronym for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. The systems are comprised of products like furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners and ventilators. The ductwork connected to these pieces of equipment is another component of HVAC, as well as thermostats and other controls. Maintaining these individual parts will keep the whole system working optimally. Regular professional and DIY maintenance will ensure these hardworking parts are at their best.

What is HVAC maintenance?

There are several aspects of a proper professional maintenance visit. HVAC maintenance is when you have a trusted HVAC technician come to your home to look at your system. The HVAC technician will inspect, clean, test, and make adjustments to your heating or cooling system to ensure it is working at optimal functionality, safety, and efficiency.

HVAC maintenance involves so much and varies based on the different heating and cooling systems, but some basic components include:Technician maintains HVAC unit

  • Checking thermostat settings
  • Tightening electrical connections
  • Calibrating comfort controls
  • Lubricating any moving parts
  • Clearing the drain line
  • Assessing unit efficiency and functionality

HVAC maintenance is more than the DIY maintenance you should be tending to regularly, like changing air filters. Professional maintenance includes the more electrical and mechanical aspects of your system. Of course, if you encounter problems while changing your filters or with your regular maintenance, you should call a specialist.

Why is maintenance essential?

Preventive maintenance helps ensure that your HVAC system runs close to peak performance. This can mean saving up to 30% on your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Regular cleaning and maintenance can prevent coils and ducts from gathering allergens, bacteria, and mold that flow through the duct work and contaminate indoor spaces. Allowing buildup to occur can trigger health problems like asthma attacks and headaches and can even bring on flu-like symptom

Proper maintenance can give your HVAC system a good 15 to 20 years of use. Without regular care, an HVAC system may only last half that time.

When should you schedule HVAC maintenance?

Your HVAC system needs professional maintenance the most right before it’s about to work the hardest. Ideally, you want to have the heating inspected in the fall and your cooling system inspected during the spring. This general schedule will prevent more serious issues like deadly carbon monoxide leaks or last-minute issues that leave you without a cooling option on hot summer days.

Routine HVAC maintenance schedule – what to expect and when

HVAC systems have many moving parts and components that rely on each other to make the whole system work. When something goes wrong, it can be very costly to repair. Good routine maintenance will help avoid big repairs and keep your system working properly, especially when you need it most.

Here’s what you can do at home to help keep your HVAC system running perfectly:

  • To prolong the life of your HVAC unit, make sure it stays clean. Eliminating environmental factors will ensure better system performance. Examining the machine and clearing it of debris such as grass, leaves, pollen, and dust will allow it to maintain optimal functionality.
  • Be sure to take a look at your refrigerant lines and inspect for damage, leaking, or other factors that may be damaging the functionality of the lines.
  • Keeping your filters changed is one of the easiest ways to ensure a solid running HVAC. Even the high quality filters need to be changed on a regular basis to keep your air conditioning system running smoothly. Regularly changed filters cut down on the system’s strain and can avoid the need for repairs.
  • Check the ground your unit sits on. Foundations and ground can shift, so it is good to perform an annual inspection on the ground that holds your AC unit. If the ground has shifted, it is best to call a professional to reinforce the foundation.
  • Some maintenance is as even more about safety than a well-running machine. Replace the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector. While they may not have completely died, the batteries should be replaced each and every year. Carbon monoxide can be highly dangerous, so it is better to be safe.

For more information or to schedule professional maintenance, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning at 800.461.3010.  We look forward to helping you keep your home comfortable in every season!

 

Are expensive air filters better?

Everyone has seen the endless aisles of heating and air system air filters, but the variety of materials and broad cost range can be confusing. Are the more expensive, pleated filters better than the basic woven fiberglass? Do they have to be replaced less often? Are filters really designed to improve the air in your house, or to keep your HVAC system running properly?

Here is a simple comparison:

Less-expensive filtersChanging air filter in home

The purpose of filters both in your HVAC system and in your air return vents is to keep debris, pet hair and dust out of your unit. Thinner, loosely woven fiberglass filters do the job and allow for better air flow. They are also cheaper so it’s more cost effective to replace them regularly. These filters come in a wide variety of sizes and can be put in air return vents as well as your HVAC unit. It’s important to replace these every 30 days.

More-expensive filters

Pleated, thicker air filters can be a good option if you have severe allergies, a smaller home, or multiple units that don’t have to move air around the entire house. These filters really still need to be changed every 30 days to get the full benefit of the additional allergen and dust filtering.  It’s important to know that if you have pets, pleated air filters can get caked with hair and dander quickly, making your system work harder to force air through.

Regardless of the type of filters you use, investing in professional duct work cleaning every 3-5 years is a good idea to extend the life of your HVAC unit.  If you’re changing your filters regularly but are still concerned about the air quality in your home contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning at 800.461.3010!

Inconsistent Temperature in your Home

Have you ever noticed that there are certain areas of your house that always feel colder in the winter and warmer in the summer?  Rooms like this will sometimes be at the end of a hallway, or on a second or third floor. If the issue isn’t something like blocked air vents or returns,  it might be that you need to consider adding an additional HVAC unit or re-configuring ductwork to improve airflow.

Older homes can have ductwork that is torn or sagging from natural wear and tear, which can allow air to escape in the crawl space or attic. Older homes might also have HVAC units that can’t really handle the load of heating and cooling your space. Particularly, if you’ve added on to your home or increased the livable square footage, adding a second unit might be necessary.

Even if you live in a new home, your HVAC unit might not truly be adequate enough for your square footage. This can take years off of the life of your system.

Having to use secondary sources of heating and air, like a window unit or space heater, can significantly increase your electric bill, so here are some things to check:

  1. Make sure all vents are clear and not being blocked by furniture
  2. Make sure all return vents have clean filters
  3. Keep doors open – even rooms that you’re not using
  4. Close vents in rooms that seem too cold when using the air conditioning and too warm when running the heat

If you’re still having issues with air temperature consistency in your home, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electric at 800.461.3010 to have your HVAC system and ductwork inspected.

Protect Your Foundation and Plumbing with Gutter Maintenance

Gutters play an essential role in moving water away from your home and protecting its foundation. Having proper gutters for your home can prevent plumbing problems, particularly in the wet, cold winter months.

Most homes have standard 5-inch aluminum or vinyl gutters, but they aren’t created equal, and there are cases where they just don’t cut it. Soil erosion from excess rain run-off can cause foundation instability that can impact your plumbing and sewer system. As cooler temps arrive, pipes and joints contract and can become unstable. This is the case with both pipes bringing water to the home and outgoing sewer plumbing, which can be a major concern if not addressed. Rain water is a major cause of erosion around your home, so how do you prevent it?

The surface area and pitch of your roof is a big factor in how much water the gutters have to be able to handle during a heavy downpour. Most ranch style or tri-level homes have sprawling, large roofs and therefore have to move more water. 6-inch gutters are recommended for roof surface areas of over 3500 square feet or a steep roof that is more likely to catch blowing rain.Gutter Overflowing with Leaves

(For the math enthusiasts: you can determine the exact pitch of your roof and how it is factored in your surface area by using this equation ((rise/run)² + 2) and finding the square root.)

If you have trees near or hanging over your home, fall is the perfect time to prepare for winter rain and snow. Clogged gutters can be just as detrimental to your home’s foundation as having no gutters at all. Because plumbing pipes are not flexible they become brittle over time, and even a small amount of foundation soil erosion can cause pipes to freeze more easily. Mesh or screen guards can prevent clogging in the gutters…but they are prone to clogging themselves and require regular cleaning. If you live in a wooded area, leaf-free gutters might be a worthwhile investment. They have a flat top with channels that collect water, but let leaves and debris run off. They’re really very effective during steady moderate rain but may not be able to handle the volume of a heavy downpour.

If you’ve had erosion around the foundation of your home, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electric at 800.461.3010 to have your plumbing inspected!

Pros and Cons of Replacing Original Windows

If you are the owner of a home built before 1960, you’ve probably considered energy efficiency and the pros and cons of replacing original windows. A big challenge is that all homes are different and the only way to really measure savings with new windows is to replace or repair them and compare energy costs.  Another challenge is the simple fact that a typical 2,000 square foot home built before 1960 could have as many as 22-25 windows. The investment factor is significant.

Window Restoration

Many people who buy older homes do so for historic value, the romance of old architecture, and the quality of craftsmanship. Most original windows were made with quality hardwood frames with panes of glass sealed into the grid with glaze. Over time, the hard putty-like glaze starts to wear away and the weather-tight seal is compromised. Re-glazing is the technique of repairing windows with new seals and sometimes new glass and frames, depending on the extent of the damage. It’s considered an art form and can be expensive and time consuming. If your home has historical value or is located in a neighborhood that has been designated by the municipality for

preservation, re-glazing the original windows might be the best option or even the only option.  Grant funding is sometimes available to homeowners in these areas.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency can be a major issue with old windows, particularly those that weren’t maintained properly. Storm windows provide a barrier from the elements, but nothing compares to the insulation of vinyl replacement windows. The expense of replacement can be considerable because homes built before air conditioning were designed with more windows to promote airflow during the summer. Long-term, restoring or replacing original windows will lower heating and cooling costs, and possibly extend the life of your HVAC unit.

To learn more about lowering your heating and cooling costs, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning at 1.800.461.3010.

DIY Project Safety and Kids

Family DIY ProjectA growing family and tight budget can make DIY home improvements necessary, but there are extra safety precautions that have to be considered when renovating with children in the home.  Basic comfort and convenience aside, keeping dangerous tools, materials, and chemicals away from children requires extra planning and care.

Here are some tips to keep children safe during DIY home projects:

  • As a general rule, any time you are considering doing home improvements (with or without children in the home), compare your estimated cost in materials/time to what a professional would charge.
  • Break large scale projects into phases. Make sure that you identify specific areas of the house for your family that won’t be impacted, and don’t allow any project materials or tools in those areas. Make sure the “work-free” areas can function between phases of the project.
  • Don’t try to multi-task. Even small repairs require full attention and if you’re responsible for supervising a child at the same time, you could be putting everyone at risk. Work with family or other caregivers to designate work times when small children can be supervised.
  • Ask for help. Make sure you truly understand the scope of the project and how long it will take to complete. For example, one person painting a room that requires priming and two coats of paint could take two days or more. It’s possible that three people could do it in less than 24 hours.
  • Any DIY project that requires breaching the security of exterior doors or windows, cutting off access to water or electricity, or moving furniture should be carefully considered. In some cases, it’s best to have children stay with a family member if security or physical safety is an issue.
  • Determine a lockable space to secure tools and equipment when you take breaks or between project phases.
  • Be aware of fumes and dust travelling through air vents. If you can, isolate your work space with a door or hang heavy duty plastic in the doorway. As a precaution, cover air intake vents and open windows exterior doors.

Before starting major DIY projects, it’s best to consult an expert.  Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning at 800-461-3010 to ensure your safety before starting a project, especially one involving electrical or plumbing systems.

Old Houses – New Problems

Home renovation before and afterHome Improvement shows add an element of glamour to historic home renovations, and people who invest in them relish in the charm. In one hour-long TV show a cute bubbly couple can turn a moldy, abandoned shack into a bright, trend-forward bungalow. Fixing up a historic home can be very rewarding, but what’s hiding in the walls or even in plain sight, can be downright scary.

In homes built prior to 1977, and especially homes built in the mid 20th century, there is a good chance that there are deadly chemicals in those “good bones”.

Health Risks

Older homes were designed to stand the test of time, but some of the materials used become hazardous or even deadly as they break down over the years. Asbestos and lead were present in significant levels in homes built between 1930 and 1950. Code laws and building guidelines have evolved, but there are serious health risks involved with renovating homes that contain these materials.

This danger goes beyond lead paint and asbestos floor tiles. Homes built before 1977 can have asbestos in popcorn ceilings, exterior insulation, HVAC duct-work insulation, plumbing insulation, and even roof shingles. Luckily, when undisturbed and in a solid form, exposure can be prevented. However, a simple project like moving HVAC ducts, replacing insulation, or scraping a popcorn ceiling could create dust which poses immediate danger.

Lead was used to make paint, water pipes, old window blinds, radiators, and it can even be present in the soil around older homes due to leaching. Despite our knowledge of the danger of lead, it’s still out there. There are still school systems and municipalities replacing lead drinking water pipes to this day.  Serious health problems, particularly in babies and children, can be caused by the chipping of lead paint and exposure to the dust on lead pipes.

Despite the risks, there is value and satisfaction in taking something old and making it new again. If you are planning to take on a renovation of an older home, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning 800-461-3010 for an HVAC and electrical inspection.

How to Pick a Ceiling Fan

In a previous post, we talked about using ceiling fans to circulate cool air in the summer. Fans are multi-functional and offer lots of benefits, so be sure and pick a ceiling fan with the features you need. You’ll enjoy energy savings, cooler spaces, and extra light (if you choose one with a light fixture).  They make your home more comfortable to the point that your thermostat can be adjusted 4-7 degrees lower!

How to pick a ceiling fan

Pick a ceiling fan that will provide aesthetic and practical benefits!

Here are some points to keep in mind as you pick a ceiling fan to meet your needs:

  • When it comes to the size of the fan, it’s best to choose the size that best matches with the square footage of the room.  Rooms that are less than 144 square feet should have a 42-inch fan. Rooms up to 225 square feet should have a 44-inch fan. If you are picking a fan for a room that’s up to 400 square feet, go with a 52-inch fan.
  • It’s important to choose the right blade size that doesn’t disrupt the purpose of the room that the fan is in. If you want to install a fan in your office, for instance, choose a fan with larger blades so the papers don’t get ruffled. They create a lower velocity and still keep the room cool. The number of blades will not make a difference in cooling the room.
  • Each fan should be carefully installed and follow basic guidelines. They should hang down 10-12 inches from the ceiling and 7-9 feet above the floor. Ceiling fans should always be 18-24 inches away from any walls.
  • Fans now come with many options and features.  If you want to use your fan on a frequent basis and save on your energy bills, then consider a fan that is easy to operate. Fans come with remote controls, noise level control, fan speed control, and the ability to dim or brighten the light.

Whether you have a fan that needs updating or want to install a new fan, it’s always best to have a professional take care of it.  Having a professional install your new fan will ensure that you get the manufacturer’s warranty and ensure the safety of your family. The mounting process is specific and includes precise mounting to a ceiling joist. Sometimes a mounting bracket is used instead of a ceiling joist, but both require proper alignment.

Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical at 1-800-461-3010 to install your ceiling fans.