The Inside Scoop on HVAC: Common Myths Debunked

Myth I: I Only Need to Replace My Filter Every 90 days

Reality: Filter maintenance is one of the easiest and most cost effective things you can do to help your system run efficiently and last for years to come. Often, customers will purchase a 90 day filter and leave it in their system assuming they are good to go. One of our expert staff, Ben Bocox, recommends checking your filter every 30 days, regardless of how long it is rated to last. We all live in active homes that can have pets, children, and spouses or people who smoke and all of these impact the length of the life on your filter. Fluctuations in temperature or extreme temperatures can also shorten the effective life of your filter and result in a less efficient system. “If it looks dirty, change it.”

 

Myth II: Shutting Air Vents Will Reduce My Energy Bill

Reality: This is a common tactic used by homeowners to try to save money by not heating or cooling an unused room. While we strongly recommend against this, if you are going to close your vents, do not shut them completely. Here’s why: your duct work is designed to only handle so much air flow. It’s a lot like a water hose, if you partially close off the opening it will require more pressure to get the water out of the hose. When you close off an air vent, your furnace now has to work much harder to push air out of the other open vents because of the increased pressure of the unevaluated air. Additionally, when you stop controlling the climate within a room, the ambient temperature can leak between walls and result in rooms having uneven heating or cooling, because one wall is significantly hotter or colder than the rest of the room.

 

Myth III: Cranking the Thermostat Will Change the Temperature Faster

Reality: “Over shooting a target temperature is just wasting gas or electricity,” Ben Bocox explains. Your system is going to heat up or cool down in the same amount of time regardless of where you set the thermostat. The best way to get your home to a comfortable temperature is to set it and leave it. For example, if you set your thermostat to a higher temp than you want to heat up more quickly, you will have to turn it off or reduce the temperature which makes your system work in spurts rather than at an even level resulting in extra energy being used.

 

Myth IV: When I leave My Home, I Can Shut Down My System to Save Energy

Reality: You should never turn your system completely off. It can take so much energy to get your home back to the comfort level you want and you will end up spending more than you saved while the system is shut down. Ben recommends that if you are going to be gone eight hours or more, set your thermostat back 3 to 4 degrees. If you’re going to be gone for less time, just leave it set. If you are going to be gone for extended periods of time you can give yourself more leeway in the range of 10 to 12 degrees, but you will want to be mindful of possible weather and temperature changes that might happen in your absence.

Don’t hesitate to call Doug’s Heating & Air Conditioning at 309-764-2500 if you have any questions. Ben Bocox and our other HVAC experts are always happy to help!

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Breathe Easy by Improving Your Home’s Air Quality, It’s Easy!

The average person spends almost 90% of their time indoors on any given day and well over half of that time is within their home. Indoor air doesn’t like to circulate on its own and can result in stagnant, allergen filled air that we are constantly breathing. Keeping a high level of air quality within the home isn’t as hard as one might think! Regular maintenance, filter checks and proper ventilation are just a few of many ways you can keep yourself breathing easy all day.

Regularly cleaning and replacing your HVAC air filter is one of the best ways to ensure clean, quality air is circulating through your home. There have been many innovations in filtration measures in the last few years, so much so that particles a tenth of the width of a human hair can be captured and prevented from recirculating into your home. Electrostatic filters are one such option. They have specially designed plastic or metal strips built in that create static electricity that traps even more particles than a traditional filter alone.

Ventilation is another great way to lower the amount of dust, allergens and air pollutants in your home. The average home has several times more dust than the outdoor air because there isn’t the constant movement of air. When the weather permits, opening a window is probably the cheapest and easiest way to get fresh air flowing. Bathroom and kitchen areas can harbor poor air quality as well because of the various cleaning solvents, gas stoves and dampness. Installing ventilation that pulls the indoor air directly from the room and sends it out doors helps reduce fumes and residual smells as well as dust, pollen and bacteria.

Routine duct cleaning not only clears out built up dust and other contaminants, it also can prolong the life of your HVAC system, allowing it to run at maximum efficiency. Oh, and did we mention your electricity bill will thank you because your HVAC isn’t working as hard? Professional duct maintenance keeps all of the working parts in your system in top shape while cleaning any blockages, build ups and replacing old filters. If you have dirty ducts, you could be blowing any built-up contaminants back into your home and nobody wants to breath that, especially not the family members with allergies.

Read more about this topic below and don’t hesitate to call Doug’s Heating & Air Conditioning (309-764-2500) to schedule an air quality audit.

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Good Timing

Good timing when it comes to financial decisions is often counter-intuitive, like buying Christmas decorations after the holidays are over or buying stocks during a recession. The basic principle is the following: buy when demand is low to get a better price!

The same applies to routine maintenance for air conditioners. You probably haven’t even turned on your AC this year, but now is a great time to get it checked out so that it’s ready when you need it the most.

Scheduling a maintenance check now will also help you decide whether it makes sense to invest in a new and more efficient AC altogether. Current rebates from MidAmerican and selected manufacturers will not be around forever… If the old one is still good, regular maintenance will improve safety, prolong its life cycle, and save money in the long-term.

A typical Doug’s Heating & Air Conditioning inspection includes the following elements and more:

  • Replacing filters
  • Checking of drains
  • Checking blower wheel
  • Cleaning and checking condenser coil
  • Lubricating moving parts
  • Checking voltage and amperage draw on all motors
  • Monitoring air conditioning cycle
  • Monitoring air flow
  • Check thermostat
  • Checking and tightening electrical connections

You don’t want to have to explain your procrastination to your family when the first heat wave hits, so get a head start and embrace good timing.

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History of Air Conditioning and Heating

Although they have become every-day items, air-conditioning and heating were once considered luxuries. Let’s explore their fascinating history!

The History of Air-conditioning

Long ago, the ancient Egyptians understood the evaporating process and hung wet clothes on the doorways to cool the breeze blowing by them. The ancient Chinese invented a hand-cranked rotary fan.

In the 1840s, Dr. John Gorrie, an American physician, believed that cooling was the key to avoiding diseases and making patients more comfortable.  So, he designed a machine that made ice using a compressor. In 1902, Willis Carrier, an American engineer, invented the first air conditioner. He came up with the invention while he was working for a publishing company that needed a solution for wrinkling magazine pages caused by humidity. His invention blew air over cold coils to cool the air and lower humidity levels by 55 percent.

1904 marked the first time the American public was exposed to the concept of air-conditioning. In 1922, the first well-designed cooling system was put in theaters in Los Angeles. In 1930, the White House and numerous executive offices were equipped with air-conditioning. In 1931, H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman filed a patent for the first window unit air conditioner. By the 1970s, most new homes and commercial buildings had central air conditioning, which led to an increase in population in several hot-weather states like Arizona and Florida.

In 2015, 100 million U.S. homes have air-conditioning. Researchers are currently working on new designs to make units more energy-efficient and environmental-friendly.

 

The History of Heating

In 2500 BC, the Greeks used central heating through radiant heat. There was evidence of hypocausts, which were furnaces used to heat empty spaces under floors in homes, buildings and baths. After the fall of the Roman Empire, people started to insulate their homes with clay and straw, and build chimneys above their fireplaces.

It was not until the Industrial Revolution that coal and oil were used for heating homes.  In the early 1900s, Albert Marsh, known as the “father of the electrical heating industry”, came up with Nichrome, the filament wire to toast bread, marking the first appearance of electrical heating systems. In 1919, Alice Parker patented the first central heating system.

In the 1940s, Robert C. Webber built the first geothermal heat pump and in 2000, new technologies were developed to allow homeowners to regulate heat in their homes remotely using electronic devices. With these exciting developments of the last Century, who knows what the future holds for this industry.

Find more information about the History of Air Conditioning and Heating here:

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MidAmerican Rebates – This is Your Last Chance!

MidAmerican rebates will decrease significantly in 2018, so don’t procrastinate and take advantage of an extra $400 rebate on York Furnaces until the end of the year.

Upgrading to a quality built York unit in 2017 will not only provide a rebate, it will also save you money in the long term by increasing energy efficiency and lowering your utility bill. Its unique properties will additionally improve your home’s air quality by reducing the number of particles and allergens. Click here to learn more about York Furnaces.

MidAmerican provides extensive information about its expiring 2017 rebates:

Overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information? MidAmerican Energy’s customer representatives (800-894-9599) will help you compare 2017 and 2018 rebates.

These rebates are not coming back, so if you’re considering a new furnace replacement in the next few years, act now and call Doug’s at 563-326-1223.

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Energy-Savings Tips for the Fall and Winter Time

Winter is approaching and turning on the heat is slowly becoming a daily routine. We at Doug’s Heating & Air Conditioning have already talked about the importance of Furnace Maintenance in our October blog, so now let’s focus on how to keep your utilities bill low without having to abstain from the cozy warmth.

Insulation

Keep the heat inside by making sure you home’s insulation is up to date. Check your windows and doors for drafts and consider upgrading to models that seal more efficiently. Energy Star can help you select appropriate products for your place. Learn more about insulation in general here.

Heating Registers

Make sure no objects are blocking the heating registers. Not only would this prevent precious warm air from heating the room; it might also create a fire hazard.

Holidays

Visiting family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve? Consider lowering the water heater and temperature if you are away for more than three consecutive days.

Sun Light

Open the curtains during the day and let the sun light heat your home, but close your blinds and curtains during the night to create a barrier against the cold.

Programmable Thermostat

Manually adjusting the heat before going to bed and after waking up can be cumbersome. A programmable thermostat can help you set up a daily heating routine that fits your needs. It could automatically reduce heat 30 minutes after you went to bed and automatically increase heat 30 minutes prior to getting up. The same applies if nobody is at home all days.

Filter Maintenance

Change your filter on a regular basis as dirty ones won’t work efficiently and waste precious energy.

Ceiling Fans

Run your ceiling fans in reverse to get rising hot air back to where it truly matters. This primarily works if you have high ceilings.

Find more information below and don’t hesitate to call Doug’s Heating & Air Conditioning if you have any questions.

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Furnace Maintenance: What Really Matters

Taking care of your furnace is an important part of having a safe and comfortable home, especially during the upcoming colder months. While it’s best to have professionals inspect or make adjustments to your furnace, there are a few things homeowners can do themselves!

Safety Tip: Before inspecting or cleaning the furnace, make sure the gas line and any electrical circuits connected to the furnace are turned off. It’s important to establish safe working conditions before starting any inspection on your furnace. After the inspection, remember to turn the fuel supply and electric switch back on.

The easiest place to start while inspecting your furnace is with the air filters. In winter, we spend more time inside, making our filters work harder sifting out the pet hair, dander, allergens, and other dust building up around the house. A dirty air filter can heavily strain the furnace, increasing your bill and damaging your equipment. To prevent your furnace from working overtime, we recommend cleaning out and replacing fiberglass air filters every month.

Pro Tip: Fiberglass filters are the most common, affordable filters, but they only filter out basic particles. Pleated filters, on the other hand, are pricier, but have a higher filtering capability and can last up to three months.

Next, check the furnace ducts for any possible leakage. Leaky duct work can increase the amount of dust and other particles circulating your home and so should be occasionally inspected. After cleaning the ducts using a high-powered vacuum cleaner, cover the ducts to stop any air leakage.

Finally, make sure your venting system is in working order. Dirt and other forms of debris can build up and eventually clog your ventilation, cutting off air flow to your house. Prevent this from happening by cleaning your vents with a large brush or vacuum cleaner.

Remember: It’s always nice to do it yourself, but if you’re ever unsure about proper furnace maintenance or cleaning don’t leave it to chance! Call Doug’s Heating and Air Conditioning with any questions or concerns you may have; we are always available and happy to help.

 

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Indoor Odors

Most people know the smell of abandoned leftovers in the fridge. Many have experienced the smell of their kids’ dirty laundry hidden under the bed. But did you know HVAC units can cause or transmit indoor odors as well?

HVAC units are supposed to filter the air, adjust its temperature, and create an enjoyable in-house living environment.  However, external influences or older units might cause the following indoor odors:

  • Moldy or Musty: Most air conditioners dehumidify air, meaning the resulting water might not drain properly. This excess condensation can cause mold which can spread to the filter and dispense moldy odor even faster. Mold is especially harmful for children.  Cleaning the unit or changing the filter often does the trick, but severe drainage issues or affected duct work usually requires a professional to assess the situation.
  • Sewage or Rotten Eggs: These odors are usually caused by external defects with public infrastructure. If your ducts are located anywhere near a gas pipe or sewer line, these smells indicate ruptures. Contact authorities and stay away from rotten egg odors and potentially corresponding gas.
  • Burning or Gun Powder: These odors often indicate an overheated AC unit. Causes can range from (really) dirty filters blocking the air flow to defective wiring and motors. If the filter appears to be in good shape, leave the unit turned off and consult with a professional to limit any fire hazard. Additionally, furnaces using gas might cause these odors due to oil leaks. Again, please consult a professional in a severe case to prevent any further damages or hazardous situations.

Don’t ignore unusual smells, because they are great warning signals telling us we need to take action to avoid negative consequences. Please contact Doug’s Heating and Air Conditioning at 309-764-2500 if you have any questions about this topic.

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Is Your Heating and Air Conditioning System Childproof?

Whether you are a parenting rookie or a seasoned veteran, childproofing your home is essential to keeping your baby safe. Common household items can pose a potential threat to your children, your HVAC system is no different. Your HVAC system may seem harmless, but like most household items, your children can turn it into a hazard. To keep your children safe from your HVAC system and vice versa, follow these safety tips and reduce the risk:

Secure Vents: To a small child, floor vents are a whole new world; shiny and sharp. It is vital to make sure your vents are properly secured to protect your child from any misfortune. Sharp registers can get loose and become a major hazard to your children’s safety. To prevent this from happening, try nailing or screwing your vents into hardwood floors. For further precaution, you could try plastic registers to avoid the sharp edges of metal ones. Evaluating the security of your vents will keep food and toys out of your unit, but more importantly keep your children safe.

Keep Equipment Out of Reach: You may not look at your thermostat as a major hazard, but if your child were to have access to it they could make severe changes that could cause harm to your health as well as damage to your HVAC system. To avoid situations like this from occurring, it is important to keep all thermostats, remotes, or other HVAC control devices in a place inaccessible to small children.

Check your Outdoor Unit: Your outdoor HVAC unit is equally, if not more, dangerous than your indoor unit. It is not a playground, though your child may view it that way. It is essential to eliminate any hazards as your children take on the outside world. A possible solution is to fence in the area or block it off to make it inaccessible to your children, but still accessible to your HVAC technicians.

Securing your home and making it a safe place for children is a top priority. At Doug’s we respect you and your home and we want to help eliminate any potential risk your HVAC system may bring. If you have questions about childproofing your HVAC unit, give us a call at 309-764-2500 and we will be happy to help!

 

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AC Filter Maintenance

AC units don’t only regulate temperatures; they also contribute to your healthy breathing by improving air quality in your home. This only works if the filter is clean and therefore able to do its job! Cleaning or replacing your AC filter on a regular basis will do wonders for the air you breathe. These are only some of the benefits:

  • Well-functioning AC units filter out bacteria, dust, soot, pet dander, and mold spores.
  • Clean filters can do wonders if you have severe allergies because they can better filter out whatever triggers your symptoms.
  • The same applies to asthma because airborne dust particles are better filtered out.
  • Cleaner air generally reduces headaches and fatigue.
  • It can also reduce the risk of serious respiratory and cardiovascular events.
  • Breathing clean air will ultimately help you live longer!

Dirty filters can additionally block the air flow and tempt you to turn down the thermostat more than usual. The consequences can be felt in your wallet shortly after, so maintaining clean filters actually saves money!

Most AC filters are easy to take out and clean or replace; however, it is best to look over the manual before performing any maintenance work on your unit. When it comes to frequency, we recommend replacing them every 1 -3 months. We also recommend checking and replacing filters of air filtration systems every 3-6 months. This depends on how often you are using the AC or whether you own pets.

Routine cleanings and replacements can greatly optimize the efficiency of your AC unit, save you money on your energy bill, and keep you healthy. If you have any questions throughout the process, Doug’s Heating & Air Conditioning specialists are always happy to help!

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