Furnace Maintenance Tips to Keep Your System Running Strong

You want your furnace in top running condition during the winter. If you perform proper maintenance, you can avoid most mishaps with your system. The right knowledge and a little bit of effort can keep your furnace running efficiently and avoid future breakdowns. Here are eight furnace maintenance tips that will help keep your heating system running great all season long!

Think safety first

If you perform any maintenance beyond basic filter changes, be sure you put safety first. Before getting started, turn off the power to your furnace to avoid injury. You may want to hire a professional to help with any inspection, cleaning, tune-ups, or repairs that are more complicated or if you are uncomfortable performing these furnace maintenance tips.

1.  Understand your system and recommended maintenance

Although most furnaces in the United States are natural gas or electric, some such as propane, geothermal, and heat pump are now available. Understanding what kind of system you have that provides your home with its heat and learning how it needs to be maintained is critical. Some systems may not require any maintenance. Other more common systems, like natural gas heating, need regular inspections and tune-ups.

2.  Get a professional tune-up

In any case, the best thing you can do to ensure that your furnace performs at its best is to schedule a professional tune-up every year. During that time, a technician will inspect your furnace for any operational problems and perform a number of maintenance tasks. These may include cleaning your system to help avoid future breakdowns, improve efficiency and make sure that your system is running safely.

3.  Keep your air filter clean

Cleaning or changing your air filter prevents many furnace breakdowns! A dirty filter will cause all sorts of performance and efficiency problems. You can avoid them by simply checking and/or changing your filter once per month.

4.  Test your carbon monoxide detectorscarbon monoxide alarms are an important safety device

Carbon monoxide detectors will warn you if your furnace develops a CO2 leak.  A leak could be life-threatening to you and your family. Make sure that your detectors are working and that they have fresh batteries, especially during the heating season.

5.  Give your air registers room to breathe

If any of your air registers are closed or blocked off by furniture, your furnace will have a hard time heating your home evenly and effectively. Make sure that all of your floor registers are open and there are no obstructions.

6.  Check the pilot light in older furnaces

If you have an older furnace with a pilot light, make sure the flame is burning bright blue. If it’s a different color, it is likely burning inefficiently and you should contact a furnace technician to investigate the problem.

7.  Don’t block outdoor exhaust pipes

High efficiency gas furnaces have exhaust pipes and they lead outside of the home and near the ground. It’s important to ensure nothing is blocking these pipes, so that your furnace can operate safely and efficiently.

8.  Keep the area around your system clear

Remove any clutter from around your furnace. This will ensure you and your service technician can easily access it when the time comes for any maintenance or repairs.

Additional Furnace Maintenance Tips

In some cases, you must replace a system or upgrade the one you have already. If your furnace is old, worn out, inefficient, or significantly oversized, the simplest solution is to replace it with a modern high-efficiency model.

Before buying a new furnace or modifying your existing unit, first make every effort to improve the energy efficiency of your home in other ways, then have a professional size your furnace. Energy-efficiency improvements will save money, because you can purchase a smaller unit. A properly sized furnace will operate most efficiently. You’ll want to choose a dependable unit and compare the warranties of each furnace you’re considering.

When shopping for high-efficiency furnaces, look for the ENERGY STAR® label. In mild climates with lower annual heating costs, the extra investment required to go from 80% to 90% or more efficiency may be hard to justify, but it’s always smart to look at your options.

You can always count on the professionals at Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, and Electrical, to make recommendations to best suit your needs.  Call 1.800.461.3010 to schedule an inspection and consultation.

Balancing hot & cold spots in your home

Do you ever walk from one room to another and notice a temperature difference? Do the floors feel cold in some rooms and not others? Balancing hot and cold spots in your home can bring you more comfort and lower utility bills. Knowing how to do this can save you money and aggravation.

A home with balanced air will improve air circulation, increase energy efficiency and enhance the overall performance of your heating and air systems. This balance involves modifying your existing HVAC system, which includes making adjustments in areas you may not be currently considering. By doing this your HVAC system will be working in harmony, avoid hot and cold spots throughout your home, and provide and improve air quality and comfort.

You can correct issues on your own by following these steps.

1. Check air filters for cleanliness

Clean filters improve your air quality, increase the efficiency of your systems, extend the life of your HVAC and help keep costs low.

2. Feel for drafts

Check your windows and doors for tight sealing. Add additional insulation measures if you can feel hot or cold coming through.

3. Open or close your register

A simple yet effective fix is to open registers during warm weather on your upper floor and at the same time partially close them on the first floor. When cold temperatures arrive, reverse the process.

4. Create a 2 degree difference

If you have separate thermostats for your first and second floors, set the thermostat at a two degree difference. For instance, your downstairs could be set at 72 while your upstairs is set at 74 degrees. Doing this can help with uneven temperatures on different floors.

5. Change the direction of ceiling fansChange the direction of ceiling fan to help with air flow

Switching the direction of a fan can affect air circulation. Set your ceiling fans to go counterclockwise during warming months to create a downward airflow. Change the direction in the cooler months. Fans should spin at a low speed in a clockwise motion so it can distribute warm air.

6. Install window coverings to prevent temperature differences

Window coverings can improve energy efficiency. In cooler seasons most of the sunlight that comes in standard double-pane windows becomes heat, so be sure to let the light in!

7. Clear registers of any blocks

When you block a vent with furniture your system has to work harder. Be sure your registers are clear of furniture or items that will restrict air flow.

8. Adjust your insulation

If your home isn’t properly insulated, you will have unbalanced air temperatures throughout your home. Hire a professional to evaluate your insulation needs. They will help find any problems that need correcting.

9. Set your thermostat fan setting to “ON”

By utilizing the “ON” setting, the fan will blow continuously,  filter the air and always be replacing it. This will keep the air more steady than by using the auto position where your air can become stagnant. There are pros and cons. When using the “On” setting, you may see an increase in your utility bill.

10. Make sure your HVAC system correlates with the needs of your home

You want to be sure your unit is not too small for the size of your home because you won’t get the results you need. You also don’t want one that is too large because it will over condition your home. Likewise, when the furnace is too large, it can cause issues from short cycling to inefficient operation and uncomfortable living space.

Balancing hot and cold spots in your home may require the help of a professional.  Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 1.800.461.3010 to schedule an appointment.

 

Cold Weather Home Maintenance

Temperatures have been cold across most of the country this month. You may be waiting until spring to tackle big home improvement projects, but here are some easy cold weather home maintenance tasks to consider.  Many of these jobs can be done yourself, but in some cases you will want to enlist a professional’s help.

1. Check Your HVAC System

It’s a good idea to do some basic maintenance to help keep your heating system working at optimal capacity. Check your filters, and change them if they look dirty. Filters should be replaced at least every three months. It’s also a good idea to have your HVAC system cleaned and checked by your heating professional.

2. Fill Gaps Around Windows and Doors

Drafts around windows and doors can leave you feeling cold, and they could be wasting energy as your HVAC system works harder to warm that cool air. Apply caulk around the window trim to seal off any drafts. You can also install weatherstripping around edges of doors and windows to create a tight seal. Another DIY tip is to make a simple door draft blocker to help keep heat from escaping under your door.Warm and cozy home

Adding insulation can also lower your utility bill, make your home more environmentally friendly and ensure that you stay nice and toasty! Since heat rises, most of the heat loss in your home escapes through your roof. To fight the cold, add an extra layer of insulation in your attic. Consider adding layers of insulation in your basement or garage to prevent heat loss from these areas as well. You can also insulate your garage door for extra protection.

3. Test the Sump Pump

As water drains from under and around your home, your sump pump pushes it out of the house and away from the foundation. You can consult your sump pump’s owner’s manual and perform some basic maintenance and regular testing yourself. Also have a professional inspect your sump pump each year.

4. Inspect Your Chimney and Fireplace

If you want to enjoy a warm fire this winter, be sure to get your chimneys, vents and fireplace cleaned first. A professional chimney sweep can clean and inspect your fireplace and chimney. If you have a gas fireplace, your chimney and flue should be inspected for any blockages. A professional will also inspect the gas lines and vents for leaks and can make necessary repairs.

6. Turn Off Outside Faucets

In cold weather, water in exterior pipes can freeze and cause pipes to burst. So, before the temperatures reach freezing disconnect garden hoses from outdoor faucets. If your exterior faucets have shutoff valves, turn them off. Then, release any water remaining in the pipe by opening and closing the outside tap. You can also help protect exterior faucets with an insulated cover.

These cold weather home maintenance tips will help keep your home warm and energy efficient this winter.  If you need professional assistance, be sure and call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electrical at 1.800.461.3010.

Conserve Heat this Winter and Save

Colder days are here! Taking steps now to conserve and redirect heat will help you save on your energy bill  throughout the winter months. It can also prevent costly repairs to overworked systems.

Most of the tips below are free, and any costs are minimal compared to the amount of money you can save.

Bring in the warmth of sunlight

  • Open curtains on your south-facing windows and doors during the day to allow the sun’s light heat your home.
  • At night, close them to cut the chill from cold windows.

Cover drafty windows

  • Use window treatments such as a heavy-duty, clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape clear plastic film to the inside of your window frames. Make sure the plastic is sealed tightly to the frame.
  • Install tight-fitting, insulating drapes or shades on drafty windows after weatherizing, to conserve heat and save energy.

Adjust the temperature

  • Set your thermostat as low as comfortable when you are home and awake.
  • When you are away from the house or asleep, turn your thermostat back 10 degrees to 15 degrees for eight hours to save around 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bills.
  • Keep a moderate setting on your heat pump or use a programmable thermostat specially designed for use with heat pumps.

Locate and seal leaks

  • Seal air leaks. Some places to check are around utility cut-throughs for pipes, gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets.
  • Use caulking or weatherstripping to seal air leaks around doors and windows.

Insulate the attic door

  • Even if your attic is insulated, don’t forget to check your attic door.
  • Add insulation to the inside of the door to prevent heated air from rising into the attic.

Maintain your heating systems

  • Schedule maintenance for your heating system.
  • Replace your furnaces and heat pump filters once a month or as needed.
  • Clean the flue vent regularly on your wood- and pellet-burning heaters. Clean the inside of the appliance with a wire brush to ensure that your home is heated efficiently.

Reduce heat loss from the fireplace

  • Keep your fireplace damper closed when there is no fire is burning. Keeping it open allows warm air to go right up the chimney.
  • When you use the fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox or open the nearest window about an inch. Close doors to the room. Lower the thermostat setting to between 50 degrees and 55 degrees.
  • If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.
  • Add caulking around the fireplace hearth.

Lower your water heating costs

  • Turn down the water heater temperature to the warm setting (12o degrees).

Use ceiling fans correctly

  • Most ceiling fans have a switch so you can set the blades to rotate in reverse during the winter. This pushes the warm air near the ceiling down toward the floor to keep you warmer.
  • Locate this switch on the body of the fan and set the blades to turn counter-clockwise. In summer, reverse the direction so the blades rotate in a clockwise direction.

Install door sweeps

  • Prevent cold air from blowing in by installing a door sweep at the bottom of exterior doors. Some utility companies offer them free to customers, so call to inquire before you buy one.

Seal electric outlets

  • Did you know electric outlets and switches can be sources of air leaks? Insulate them.
  • Turn off the power at the circuit breaker box. Insulate with pre-made foam gaskets. Measure the outlet to be sure you get the correct size.
  • Also, insert child-safety plugs in unused wall outlets to plug potential leaks.

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

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.

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.

Is your AC about to go out? Know the signs!

Air conditioning is one of modern life’s greatest privileges. We often don’t think about the comfort it provides, until our unit stops working. When the AC goes out, it always seems to happen suddenly (and on the hottest day of the year).  But there are usually signs and symptoms before a unit goes kaput – you just have to know what to look for. Staying on top of your air conditioning unit’s health will save you from discomfort and unexpected expenses down the road!

Signs your air conditioning unit may be about to go out

It’s full of hot air

The number one sign that something is wrong with your unit is that the air doesn’t seem cold. There could be a few reasons why this is happening. It’s possible that your compressor is broken or your unit may have low levels of Freon.

It’s leaky

If you check your unit and there is moisture or leakage, this could be a sign that something is not right. Slight condensation is normal, but a significant amount of moisture is not. A refrigerant leak around your unit can cause a risk to your family. Water leaks can cause damage to your floors and furniture, and they can sometimes even cause mold. It’s best to call a professional to fix the problem sooner rather than later.

It’s thumping, bumping, clicking, or banging

If you hear a strange sound coming from your unit, it may be time to have an inspection done to find the cause of the noise. If you hear rattling, banging or grinding sounds coming from your unit, turn it off immediately and call a professional.

It’s ready to retire

Is your unit 10-15 years old? If so, you may want to consider replacing it with a newer energy efficient model. Air conditioning units typically last 10-15 years, so if yours is within this time frame, then you should be anticipating a unit replacement soon.

It’s a money pit

Are you constantly paying for repairs on your unit? If so, replacing the unit may save you money in the long run. Repair costs can really add up over time.

It’s hogging energy

What is your system’s SEER rating? Every Air Conditioning system has a SEER rating, and the higher the rating, the better. If your SEER rating is low, then it may be time to replace your unit. Any units that have been made since 2006 are made with a minimum SEER rating of 13. It’s best to have a rating higher than the minimum if you want to reap the most energy savings from your unit.

Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical to visit and perform a tune-up on your AC unit! Our service professionals will inspect your condenser and evaporator coils to ensure that your system is running efficiently. We will also come out and check your insulation for any small holes or non-insulated walls.  This will also help reduce the cost of your energy bills since your system will be running properly after our inspection and tune-up!

Call to schedule your appointment now with Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical at 800-461-3010

 

Go Green to Save Green 

 


Even if you don’t care much about the environment, going “green” can save you quite a bit of money! Here are a few ways you can save by making changes around your home.

Low-flow showerheads save on energy usage AND water. They can reduce your water usage by up to 60 percent.

Use a power strip with a switch to eliminate extra spending on powering up idle equipment. These little items add up and the cost is on average $100 each year!

Install a programmable thermostat. This will let you adjust the temperature automatically while you are sleeping or out of the house.

Insulating your walls, ceiling and floors will save you about 10 percent on your energy bills each year. Even if you already have insulation, look to see if you should add more in the attic or other areas you might forget about.

Install new energy-efficient windows. If you’re losing air out of the old leaky windows, you’re losing cash. In the winter the heat will escape and in the summer the cool air will escape. Changing the windows can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Fix leaky faucets. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you have a faucet that has one drip per second, that equals about 1600 gallons of wasted water, which is 35 dollars a year.

If you’re in the market for a new refrigerator, washing machine or other appliance, look for Energy Star models.

To go green, you usually have to spend some money up front and put in some work. In the end though, you’ll pay off by saving thousands of dollars! Think about 5 or 10 years from now!

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Have a concern with your electrical, plumbing or air conditioning? Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing and Electrical is here to help! We offer 24 hour emergency service 7 days a week!  Give us a call! 1-800-461-3010 to speak with our customer service agents that can answer your questions or schedule an appointment!