It’s time again for ghouls and goblins. Candy corn and caramel apples. Tricks and treats. As with any holiday, decorating for Halloween can be exciting, and leading up to the actual event itself means leaving up decorations for an extended period of time. Plus, a drop in the temperature is normal during this fall festivity, giving you a reason to break out lumpy sweaters. Wherever Halloween falls on your list of favorite holidays, there is no reason to be scared of energy usage or heat loss.
As this graphic from the Department of Energy shows, some heat ghouls and energy vampires can run amuck once the weather starts to dip into cool, cold, and colder temperatures. As a local heating and cooling company, our team isn’t just about finding the right products for your home; we also look for ways to help you save energy — even during holidays.
As the Department of Energy suggests above, there are numerous ways to keep an energy bill low and prevent heat loss. In addition to the tips above, the Crane team has rounded up additional ways to get rid of ghastly heat loss and zap away excess energy usage.
- Is the whole family going out trick-or-treating this year? With a programmable thermostat, you can wave goodbye to heat loss. If no one is home to hand out treats, lowering the temperature in your home means you aren’t wasting energy. It’s easy to turn it back up to your preferred temperature when you return. The DOE recommends lowering the thermostat to 68 degrees (or roughly around 10 degrees than what you normally set it at) for optimal energy efficiency in cooler temperatures.
- However, if you’re the one staying home this Halloween to hand out goodies, there is another way to keep energy use low. Keeping your home bright with candles isn’t the safest idea. Instead, for spooky Halloween decorations, LED lights are the most energy-efficient option. Banish energy and lighting vampires from your home by replacing other light bulbs in your home with LEDs.
Fall weatherWeather during anytime of the year in New Jersey doesn’t necessarily adhere to climate and temperatures that are the norm during each season. So if this Halloween season is unreasonably chilly, don’t cozy up to a warm fireplace just yet. Without proper maintenance and an inspection, lighting a fire will have you suffering from heat loss and a high energy bill. Before settling in with pumpkin-spiced coffees, if you don’t plan on using your fireplace, close it with the chimney flue or an inflatable stopper. This way, you won’t be seeing any heat loss, and you will also prevent any air leaks.
- It’s difficult to enjoy Halloween treats if your heating system isn’t functioning properly. It’s best to have regular checks on your heating system. But, if you feel something isn’t operating as it should, you can schedule a service request so a “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” representative can assess whatever the issue may be with your heating system. We’ll be keeping your utility bill low and prevent heat loss in no time!
Halloween may not be until the end of the month, but you can keep energy tricksters away all fall and winter long when you lower your heating usage.
As temperatures begin to drop in the evenings it is natural to be giving a lot of thought to how you heat your home. If you are like many homeowners, you have a furnace as part of a HVAC system, and you typically keep an eye on it and maintain it as best you can. How can you know if you should take care of a little furnace repair before the weather really turns cold? Besides the obvious sign of a furnace simply not working any longer, there are some warning signs that you can watch out for and hopefully use to catch a major problem before it gets out of control!
1 – Your furnace sounds like it’s possessed
While it’s true that no furnace is going to be whisper-quiet, it is also not normal for a furnace to be making all manner of strange noises. If you hear sounds that sound like something out of a horror film (groaning, banging, and whining noises) your furnace repairs might include replacing a loose belt, correcting an ignition problem, or replacing a component that is about to fail.
2 – Cranking up the thermostat isn’t cutting it anymore
When you’re cold, your natural response is to try to warm things up. Usually all you need to do if you have a furnace is go bump the heat up a few notches at the thermostat…but what if this isn’t working? Your thermostat may be faulty, or you may have leaking ducts, or a problem with your pilot light.
3 – Your electric bills have gone sky high
Higher than normal electricity bills often indicate inefficient performance, which can be caused by a variety of problems. It is best to have a qualified professional diagnose the issue rather than trying to do so yourself.
4 – Your pilot light is yellow
When you check on your furnace and notice that your pilot light is burning yellow, you may not think anything of it at first. The trouble is that a yellow flame indicates that the gas combination of your furnace is not in good condition. A blue flame is the ideal because it indicates an ideal balance of gases. Yellow can indicate problem gases such as Carbon Monoxide.
5 – Your furnace has trouble getting started and staying on
Furnace repairs that might be needed to correct this problem are replacing a thermostat, faulty wiring, repairing a pilot light, or fixing a fan motor
6 – Your family isn’t doing so well in the air quality department
If your furnace needs repairs, you can often see a rise in the frequency that you and your family experience breathing-related troubles such as asthma, allergies, and other illnesses. A poorly-functioning system can be putting dust, mold, and other irritants into the air that circulates through your home.
7 – Chills everywhere and ice where it shouldn’t be
If constant drafts are the norm, it is likely that your furnace is not able to heat your entire house anymore. If ice is forming on your roof, it can be a sign that furnace repairs are needed because the heat from your home is leaking up through your attic as opposed to staying down in the living areas where it belongs.
8 – Condensation is common
Furnace repairs might not be needed if you are seeing condensation on the insides of your windows, but it is a sign that you should call in a professional to take a look at your system.
9 – Your furnace could give fossils a run for their money
The average life of a furnace is between 10 and 20 years, with most units lasting into the upper end of that range. If your furnace is beyond 15 years old, it is time to start planning to replace it sooner rather than later.
10 – You have repaired in within the last 2 years
If you have needed furnace repairs more than once in the past two years it may be time to consider replacing it. Furnaces are like cars in that they tend to break down more as they age. The average lifespan for a Furnace is approximately 12-15 years.
There’s growing concern about price rises from energy companies. Here are cheap ways to save money when heating your house.
Householders are regularly being advised to install double glazing, thorough insulation and overhaul their inefficient heating system. But apart from those often expensive tactics, what can be done cheaply and quickly to keep your house warm?
1. Use tin foil. One way to prevent unnecessary heat loss from radiators, particularly on those attached to external walls, is to use heat reflective aluminium foil behind the radiator. This prevents heat disappearing through the wall by reflecting it back into the room, says Sophie Neuburg, energy campaigner for charity Friends of the Earth. Foil specially designed for the purpose can be bought for under $5.00 “You can even use good quality kitchen foil,” says Carl Brennand, assistant manager of website Moneymagpie, although it’s generally not as effective.
2. Thick curtains are one of the main ways to protect your house from losing heat through the windows. Curtains with a thermal lining are a relatively cheap option, says Brennand. “The thicker the better,” adds Archna Luthra, consumer analyst at moneysavingexpert.com. If you don’t want to splash out on new curtains you can line them yourself with materials like cheap fleece, says Brennand. “You can even use PVC shower curtains,” he suggests. And it’s not just windows that can have curtains. Placing a curtain in front of doors to the outside adds another layer of protection. And it doesn’t even need to be a curtain. “My grandma used to have an old rug that she used to pin up over the back of the front door,” says interior designer Claire Potter.
3. But let the sunlight in during the day. It’s important to try to use as much natural – and free – heat (in the form of sunlight) as possible. Window shades and curtains should be kept open during the day. Closing your curtains as soon as dusk falls will maximise your house’s potential to retain that heat.
4. Double glazing is heat-efficient but it’s relatively costly. If you can’t afford it, why not fake it? “There’s a special film that you can put across [single-glazed] windows” that can imitate the same effect, albeit to a lesser degree, says Neuburg. You can attach the film to the window frame using double-sided tape and then fix it using a hairdryer, she says. There’s a downside. You won’t be able to open your windows without breaking the seal. But a pack to cover a medium-sized house would be about $30.00, estimates Potter, so it could just be redone from time to time. Potter, who has no heating system in her house, says one batch of film has lasted about two or three years as she has small windows. Alternatively, self-adhesive foam strips can help seal any gaps in the edges of windows. Metal or plastic strips with brushes or wipers attached cost a bit more but will last longer as a result, according to the Energy Saving Trust. These can also be used as draught excluders around the hinges and frames of doors.
5. Stop heat being lost up the chimney. It’s now fairly common to have fireplaces that are merely decorative. If you’re not using yours then you should consider a chimney balloon, says Potter. “There’s an amazing amount of heat that can be lost through an open fireplace,” she says. A chimney balloon, made from a special laminate, can be bought for about £20 and works by being placed inside the chimney hole, just out of sight. It’s then inflated until it completely shuts out any incoming cold air or escaping heat. Just be sure not to start a fire without removing it. There are also woollen chimney insulators on the market. But again, make sure you remove them before starting any fires.
6. Watch out for mini-draughts. “Lots of draught comes through the letterbox,” says Potter. It’s worthwhile putting an extra barrier there in the form of a “brush”. They may be a nightmare for junk-mailers trying to force through that 15th pizza takeaway offer, but they could prevent a chill breezing through the house. The same goes for keyholes, which can be protected with “simple circular (keyhole covers) that slip over the top”, says Potter, especially with the older, wider keyholes. Cat or dog flaps can also be filled with some sheep’s wool insulation or pieces of blanket. “It’s amazing how even a small draught can make a room a lot colder, so if you can cut that bit of air out it immediately makes a difference,” says Potter.
7. DIY draught excluders are one lesson people can learn from previous generations. “Old-fashioned draught excluders work well,” says Potter. “In the past it wasn’t unusual to have a ‘sausage dog’,” says Potter. For the uninitiated, “sausage dog” draught excluders are vaguely reminiscent of the shape of a dachshund and typically rest at the bottom of doors, stopping heat escaping through the gap between door and floor. Anybody who’s ever been smoking inside a room that they shouldn’t will probably be aware that almost any material or piece of clothing can be used to wedge the space. And simple draft excluders can be made from cutting an old pair of tights and stuffing them with socks, says Luthra. But the more ambitious can go further. “If you really want to go all out you can decorate them,” she says. The stuffing can be almost anything from rice and lentils to gravel, suggests the website Singerdiscount, which also provides a relatively simple guide.
8. Clear your radiators. Try and avoid placing large pieces of furniture in front of them. At least in the short-term, the sofa you love by the radiator is absorbing heat, says Neuburg.
9. Putting a shelf above the radiator, especially if you have high ceilings, can also help channel the warmth, adds Neuburg. But it’s important not to place things on the radiator itself, she says, “You can put a shelf above it to stop the hot air rising directly above it.” This is particularly the case if the radiator is below a window with curtains, where warm air would be trapped between the window and the curtain.
10. Shut up unused rooms, says Neuburg. Keeping doors closed will prevent cold air moving into the rest of the house and contain the heat you’ve generated in a smaller area.
11. Cover bare floorboards. Floors account for as much as 10% of heat loss if they’re not insulated, according to the National Energy Foundation (NEF). Carpets came into being for a reason, says Potter. Those with wooden flooring have to deal with heat loss. Rugs and blankets can help mitigate this and have the added bonus of keeping your feet warm. “Sometimes it’s just the psychological element,” says Potter. But if there are cracks or gaps in the flooring it’s a good idea to squirt some filler into them, advises the NEF. “Floorboards and skirting boards can contract, expand or move slightly with everyday use, so you should use a filler that can tolerate movement,” suggests the NEF. These are usually silicone-based.
12. Insulating your whole house professionally can seem expensive to some. But DIY loft insulation is a possibility. Rolls of foam insulation are cheap, says Brennand, and three rolls of 8in deep foam should be enough to give most lofts an important layer of protection. Mineral wool (such as Rockwool or Rocksil), glass fibre and recycled paper products all work well, according to the NEF. But remember to wear a facemask, goggles and protective clothing if you do it yourself, and leave sufficient gaps around the eaves to avoid condensation, the NEF warns.
13. Don’t undo your work by having an inefficient loft hatch, says Potter. “Some people might have a lovely insulated loft but the loft hatch might be an old timber one that’s not insulated,” she says. Insulating it can be done with same self-adhesive strips as for window and doors. It’s also worth checking that none of your roof tiles is loose or missing. “If you have loose tiles or a damaged roof then you’re going to get water that can get into your loft and as soon as the insulation gets wet it loses its efficiency,” she says. Although the difficulty of checking may be the biggest obstacle, if it’s safe to do so then a single tile or so can be relatively cheap to replace.
14. Setting timers on heating is important. “It’s a myth that keeping it on all day is better,” says Luthra. If it’s very cold, the timer should be set to switch the heating on earlier.
September 22 was the first day of autumn; even though it seems like we just turned off the furnace for the summer, it’s time to make sure it’s in tiptop shape to make it through the winter. Since The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a winter that’s much snowier than normal and below average temperatures from mid-December through late January, having a furnace that can handle the job is essential.
Even though the phrase “snowier than normal” should spur you into action, here are some other reasons to have your furnace inspected and tuned-up before the first cold snap hits:
- A thorough inspection will tell you if everything is okay. Furnaces have wear-and-tear parts, and they need to be replaced. If your furnace isn’t inspected you’ll never know it’s wearing out until your furnace stops working. And emergency repairs cost a lot more than a tune-up, not to mention how inconvenient they are.
- Ensure your furnace is running safely. The “Green Apple Mechanical” technician will ensure that your flue pipe and/or chimney aren’t leaking or blocked by anything. Any blockage or leak can mean poisonous carbon monoxide gas is entering your home.
- Your warranty depends upon it. Every furnace manufacturer requires annual maintenance or your warranty will be invalidated.
- It’s good for your system. Think of it like a health plan for your furnace; annual maintenance may extend your furnace’s life by up to five years. With replacement costs in the multiple thousands of dollars, those extra years can save you a lot.
- It’s good for you. A dirty furnace is full of warm, moist air and the bacteria, fungus, and viruses that thrive in those conditions. Then, when the blower moves the air through your furnace, those pollutants move right along with it…into the rest of your home. A clean furnace means cleaner air.
- Dirty furnaces are unhappy. Any technician will tell you that the number one cause of furnace failure is dirt buildup. And, if your furnace is dirty it’s also running inefficiently because the airflow is inhibited. This costs you at least 10% more on your utility bill, all winter long.
- It’s safer. There’s a gas pilot safety and a safety circuit. They should be checked every year because if they’re not functioning correctly, they could make your furnace go “boom”.
- Early means easy. Scheduling your appointment before everyone else means that there will be a much better chance of an appointment time that’s convenient for you. Phone call scheduling takes about five minutes and the full tune-up takes about an hour. What’s an hour compared to four months of peace of mind?
The biggest reason to schedule now is to take advantage of our early season tune-up special. We guarantee your furnace won’t break down and that you’ll save on your utility bills, so there’s nothing to lose by scheduling your tune-up today. Call “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” today toll free at (888) 611-7191
Winter’s chill brings cozy decor and lazy afternoons spent sipping cocoa in front of the fire, but it can also bring major electrical bills. If heating your home is seriously expensive, then you’re going to want to read these nine cost-effective ways to stay warm this Winter.
Plastic Wrap Windows
If you’ve ever stood next to a drafty window, then you can attest that they’re major culprits of heat loss. Keep the cold air out affordably by covering windows with plastic. DIY window insulation kits are generally under $20 and allow you to secure plastic sheets with insulated tape and shrink wrap it with a hair dryer.
Add a Storm Door
Create an extra layer of padding between the elements and your house by adding a storm door. While it’s a little bit pricier up front, you can reduce energy loss up to 50 percent by purchasing a storm door made with low-emissivity glass or coating.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Instead of keeping your heat on full blast all day, use a programable thermostat to set the temperature to turn it down while you’re out in the middle of the day and turn it back up right before you come home in the evening. Turning the temperature back at least 10 degrees for eight hours a day can save you up to 15 percent a year on your heating bill.
Fill in Insulation Gaps
Invisible cracks and gaps around the house allow valuable heat to seep out. Taking a little time in Summer or Fall to caulk or weatherstrip these leaks around the house will save you big money on your energy bill come Winter. Common areas in need of insulation include the space between the baseboard and the floorboard, behind electrical outlets, and around windows and attack hatches.
Hang Thermal Curtains
Invest in curtains with thermal lining. They’ll block heat and UV rays in the Summer and keep the cold air out in the Winter. When the mercury plummets, you can cut your energy bill down by up to 20 percent by keeping drapes closed during the day.
Reverse the Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans usually have a switch you can flip to change the direction the fan blades are rotating in. By simply switching it to clockwise rotation in Winter, you’ll push hot air that has risen to the ceiling back down into the room. Doesn’t get easier than that.
Put Layers on Yourself
It’s a lot cheaper to throw on a sweater and some fuzzy slippers than to crank up the heat every time you get chilly, so keep warm layers close at hand and the temperature at a reasonable setting.
Improvise Wall Insulation
If tearing down the drywall to add insulation isn’t an option, then it’s time to get clever. You can line chilly external walls with cold-absorbing materials like a tall shelf filled with books, use decorative screens as cold air blockers, and even line baseboards with cardboard.
Position Furniture Around Heat Sources
For a free and temporary fix, give your living spaces a Winter makeover by rearranging furniture away from cold external walls and around heat sources, like the fireplace. It will make those frigid nights more enjoyable.
Before assuming your furnace is broken, remember that you could have a malfunctioning thermostat. From heating and cooling systems that seem to have failed to those that overwork – heating or cooling more than the temperature settings dictate – a thermostat throwing fits can masquerade as an appliance problem.
Before calling out HVAC repair companies, try troubleshooting your thermostat first. In many instances, simply repairing the thermostat or replacing it with a new one will save on unnecessary service calls.
How the thermostat senses the temperature and how it responds varies according to the type – electromechanical or electronic.
- Considered somewhat old-fashioned, electromechanical thermostats operate on basic mechanical principles. A bimetallic strip – a fancy name for what is nothing more than joined pieces of two different metals – rests, sometimes in a coil, under the thermostat cover. As the room temperature fluctuates, the coil expands or contracts, activating the contact. Think of a contact as a light switch – when flipped, an electrical circuit closes and the light – or the furnace or central air, in this case – operates. Without the contact, the electrical circuit is open and nothing happens.
- Sometimes, the bimetallic switch is coupled with a mercury switch – a small glass tube or “ampoule” filled with mercury – that tilts as the coil expands or contracts. A liquid conductor of electricity, as the mercury moves from one side of the tube to the other it either closes or opens the contact.
- If the thermostat controls both a heating and air unit, it has contacts on both sides. The mercury or bimetallic switch tilts in one direction for heat and the opposite for cooling. As the temperatures fluctuate, contact is made or broken and the circuit opened or closed on the given side, activating the corresponding equipment.
- Instead of mercury-filled tubes and strips of metal, electronic thermostats use heat-sensing receptors to monitor the room temperature and electrical circuits to respond to the digital data, turning on or off your heating and cooling equipment. Similar to a small computer, electronic thermostats will store data, allowing you to program settings. Wake up to a warm house, cool it while you sleep and set it to different temperatures on weekends to correspond to your needs. All it takes is a few pushes of the buttons.
- Digital sensors and circuitry provide greater temperature accuracy. Bimetallic strips and mercury switches allow “deadband” – a temperature range between which it fails to activate or shut down the furnace or air. This means even if you set your thermostat to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the switch may not activate to turn equipment on or off until it’s much lower or higher.
- Thermostats may wear out. Since electronic thermostats involve electronic equipment instead of purely mechanical components, these thermostats are more complex, meaning there are more things to wear out. Consult the manufacturer’s thermostat literature or contact a qualified technician for troubleshooting specific to the thermostat involved. Given the relatively low replacement cost, in many cases buying and installing a new thermostat may prove a more cost-effective option.
Common Thermostat Problems
Most thermostat failures aren’t dramatic. Chances are, no shooting sparks, puffs of smoke or piercing alarms will signal you have a problem. It may be obvious, like the furnace refuses to come on or the display isn’t lit, or you may notice that the house is cooler than the temperature setting. All you know is something’s wrong and you want it fixed. Always start with the thermometer, troubleshooting according to the symptom. Many symptoms and causes overlap, and the general solutions narrow down to one of a handful of fixes.
Furnace or Central Air Doesn’t Start:
- Check for power. A blown fuse, tripped circuit breaker or dead batteries will prevent the thermostat from turning on the appliance.
- Is the thermostat excessively dirty? Buildup of dust, dirt, spiderwebs and nicotine, for example, can coat the inside of the thermostat, interfering with both electrical and mechanical components. It’s easy to overlook the inside of your thermostat during spring-cleaning, so a dirty thermostat is nothing uncommon. Simply use a soft, clean brush – an artist’s paintbrush works well – to brush the interior components gently. Move parts to ensure you reach every portion of the thermostat. A can of compressed air, such as is used for electronics, also works well.
- Are there loose wires or terminal screws inside the thermostat? Are the wires corroded? Never remove the thermostat cover without removing the batteries or cutting the power at the fuse or breaker box. Tighten screws and secure loose wires when necessary. Consult the manufacturer’s wiring schematics or have a qualified technician rewire the thermostat if needed.
- Replace the thermostat if other troubleshooting methods fail. The most expensive programmable electronic thermostat costs around a couple hundred dollars, and inexpensive mechanical ones cost around $20. Worrying over a thermostat you can’t make work – or paying a professional more than a new one costs – just isn’t worth it.
The Room Temperature Doesn’t Match the Thermostat Setting:
- Is the inside of the thermostat clean? A dirty thermostat is an inaccurate thermostat.
- Is the thermostat level? Hold a level underneath or above it and check. Careless installation or a forceful bump, knocking it off level, may alter the accuracy of the components.
- Is the thermostat in a poorly chosen area of the home? Thermostats located in direct sunlight, in front of cold or drafty windows and doors, or isolated from the main living areas may not regulate the temperature correctly. Consider relocating the thermostat, if possible, or taking other measures to solve the problem. Consult a professional for further information.
- The anticipator may not be set correctly. The anticipator is a little metal tab inside mechanical thermostats, mounted to a round dial with a printed scale. Pushing lightly on the anticipator, in either direction, may solve the issue. More complex adjustments require moving the anticipator to indicate the ampere setting needed for the furnace involved. Typically, this is specified in the owner’s manual or on the unit’s service panel. Consult a qualified technician for further assistance.
The Unit Turns On and Off Constantly or Won’t Turn Off:
- Is the thermostat clean, inside and out? Buildup of any type may interfere with proper thermostat operation.
- Does the anticipator need adjustment? Simply moving the anticipator arm one notch toward longer should cause a furnace to run longer during its cycle. Moving it away helps if the room temperature fails to reach the thermostat settings. Wait two or three hours after any adjustments to see if the problem is solved.
- Is the thermostat completely level? Use a level to adjust it until correct.
Updating Your Thermostat
If all else fails, consider completely replacing your old thermostat with a new digital, electronic thermostat. With a wide range of features and price tags, there’s one to fit most any budget. Touch screen operation, digital displays, alarms to remind you when it’s time to change your HVAC filters and other options make these thermometers very convenient.
Better yet, electronic thermostats help you save money. With old thermostats, every adjustment requires your attention. Programmable electronic thermostats, in contrast, allow you to maintain settings, letting you heat or cool your home only when you need it. The Department of Energy estimates you can save about 10 percent on your heating and cooling bill merely by lowering your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day during the heating season and raising it similarly during the cooling season. When you think about it, that’s enough savings to pay your utility bill for almost an entire month.
Installing an electronic thermostat is, however, more complicated than installing a mechanical one due to the programming needed. An improperly installed thermostat can, of course, cause significant problems. If you are uncertain about your ability to install or program your own, contact a specialist from “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” to do it for you.
Although the first hint of cool fall weather may have you more focused on your furnace, this is the perfect time to install a new central air conditioning system. By getting the job done now, you’ll save money compared to the summertime costs and you’ll be ready to go with a reliable, energy-efficient cooling system next year.
Find Great Deals on New A/C Systems
A new central cooling system is an investment. Even though upgrading to a more efficient air conditioner will lower your cooling bills, it’s still worth it to save as much as you can on upfront purchase costs.
Many homeowners upgrade or install a new central A/C in early summer when they decide not to spend another hot summer without reliable air conditioning. Others are forced to replace their systems in the middle of summer when their existing cooling system breaks down. This keeps A/C system prices high all summer.
Come fall, demand for air conditioners drops off. HVAC equipment sellers who still have plenty of stock left over from summer often discount it to move it out of their inventory before winter. It’s a little like garden furniture going on sale at the end of summer.
In the Fall, Technicians Are Available and Affordable
Fall is one of the slowest periods for heating and cooling technicians. Thanks to the mild weather, the start of school and the upcoming holidays, many homeowners forget all about their air conditioners.
That means not only do many HVAC specialists have open spots in their work schedules, but they also offer favorable pricing to encourage customers to call in and fill those spots. Prices for HVAC services are lower in fall than at any other time of year.
Install a new central A/C in fall and not only can you get a good deal on installation work, but you also have a better chance of getting scheduled in with the kind of highly trained, experienced technician you want.
Putting in an air conditioner requires outdoor work, including digging. You might find air conditioners on sale in December, but getting the system installed in New Jersey’s cold, snowy winter weather may not always be possible. Even when it is, heating and cooling technicians usually have their schedules full with furnace installation and repair work.
Ditch Those Window Units
The window A/C units used in many homes have several drawbacks. Inconvenience is one. They’re usually put in place at the beginning of summer, then removed and put into storage come fall. In addition, window units can be uncomfortably loud, older models aren’t energy efficient, and any unsealed gaps around the units cause air leaks that let in hot, humid outdoor air.
Install a new central A/C this fall and it will be the last time you’ll ever have to pull out those window units and haul them to storage. Next summer, you’ll enjoy cool air in every room without any irritating noise. There’s a good chance your cooling bills will be lower, too.
Keep in mind if your home uses radiators, baseboard heaters or another ductless heating method, you’ll need to have ducts installed along with the new air conditioner. Duct sizing and installation adds time to the system installation job, so start early before the cold weather arrives.
Know When to Replace the A/C
If you already have a central air conditioner, but you’ve been considering upgrading, there are a few clear signs that tell you this fall is the time to do it.
- The system is old – An air conditioner that’s more than 10 years old runs less efficiently than modern systems and is at high risk for component failure no matter how well it seems to be running.
- The A/C has frequent breakdowns – Have you had to call a repair technician this year, last year and the year before that? Take time this fall to buy and install a new central A/C and next summer you’ll spend less time and money on A/C repairs, as well as enjoy lower energy bills and improved cooling performance.
- Cooling bills are rising – If every summer brings cooling bills that are much higher than the last, chances are it’s due to the steady drop in energy efficiency your system experiences as it ages.
Finding the right furnace
You can also choose to install electric heat, which comes from small registers located around the border of each room. Although the cost of installation averages between $1,000 and $2,000, this type of “furnace” isn’t a good idea for heating large spaces and comes with high energy costs. One newer option gaining popularity is a heat pump, which pulls in heat from the air or ground using refrigerant coils. Air source heat pumps cost $1,500 to $7,000, while ground source may cost $7,000 to $25,000. These furnaces can be used as air conditioning units in summer, but many can’t operate in extremely cold climates, limiting their efficacy.
The first is heat output, measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs); an “average” home is well served by a 60,000 BTU furnace. Units with higher BTU rating aren’t necessarily better for smaller homes, since they’ll cost more and hit ideal temperatures too quickly, then shut off – the result is an inconsistent comfort level.
Efficiency is the next consideration. Older-model furnaces were often rated 80 percent efficient or less, which means 20 percent of the heat generated was lost to waste. Many new models are rated 90 percent or better, with some in the 94 to 95 percent range. This small jump in efficiency translates to a decrease in utility costs.
It’s also important to determine how effectively a gas furnace can heat your home, in large part determined by its “staging.” Older furnaces were one stage, meaning they always ran at full power. Many newer furnaces are two stage, capable of running at 65 percent when first starting up to conserve fuel, and then ramping up to 95 percent as needed. More expensive three stage models also exist, which can run anywhere from 33 to 90 percent power in 1 percent increments.
Considering labor costs
Two warranties govern furnace installs and function. The first is the manufacturer’s warranty, which comes with the furnace and protects against defects in the furnace itself, such as inoperable fans or pilot lights that won’t stay lit. A contractor’s warranty covers the labor involved to make repairs if the furnace doesn’t work properly and is often good for a period of 5 to 10 years. Some contractors charge more for extended warranties.
Make sure to get any warranty in writing; also make sure that it specifies exactly what gets covered, for how long and what the contractor will do to fix the problem. Although the costs of installing a furnace vary significantly, you can avoid price pitfalls by doing your own research.
As we say goodbye to summer, it is also time to say hello to all things fall! Cooler temps, college football, apple orchards, pumpkin spice lattes, AND fall home maintenance. Considering the minimal time investment and ease of the projects listed below, I’d say that our 5 steps for Preparing Your Home For Fall are well worth your efforts before the cooler weather is here to stay!
1. Clean out the gutters.
It is the job of your roof’s drainage system to shunt rainwater and debris away from your home’s foundation and exterior. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to keep this system draining smoothly. Clogged gutters can lead to costly damage and a little fall-time forethought can ensure peace of mind and a well-functioning drainage system. Take the time to remove leaves and other debris from drain pipes and gutters in an effort to prevent clogging. This is also a wise time to invest in gutter mesh guards to prevent future accumulation.
2. Turn up the heat!
Start with making an appointment for an annual heating system check-up. It is extremely important that your heating system is working correctly and safely! Be sure to take the time to make sure all of your heating vents are free of furniture, carpet, or curtains. This is also the time of year to replace your heater filters and continue to do so as the cool temperatures continue.
3. Freshen up the fireplace!
Even if your fireplace isn’t used on a regular basis, you should still always inspect it annually for damage or hazards. Be sure to look for flue blockages (birds and squirrels can get trapped!), chimney damage (loose or broken joints on a brick fireplace), and don’t forget to clear out ash and charred wood. OR, if you’re like me, save yourself the trouble and call in a professional! But don’t forget to remind your chimney cleaner to check the damper for a tight close.
4. Check for drafts!
Seal Cracks and gaps around windows and doors with caulk and weather-stripping. This is an extremely cost-effective way to keep those heating bills in check.
5. Remove and store air conditioners.
Any window air conditioners should be unplugged and removed during the cooler seasons. Go the extra mile and dust and clean them before covering and storing. You’ll thank yourself in the springtime!
If your building’s furnace has been there for 10 or 15 years (or more), you may be wondering how much life it has left. You don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars for a new one if you don’t have to yet, but you also don’t want to be in a position of having to make a quick decision to buy a new furnace when it suddenly fails and you have no heat. How can you predict when it’s likely to fail so you can replace it proactively?
If you’ve noticed many of the following warning signs, it’s time to call a certified HVAC service company for an evaluation of your system and recommendations for replacement options.
1. It’s a teenager
Most light commercial furnaces are built to last 15 to 20 years, so if your furnace is up there in its “teen” years, it’s actually an old-timer in furnace years, and things are bound to go wrong in the near future. You should also take into account the furnace maintenance history. If you haven’t done routinely done your fall furnace maintenance, or had it regularly cleaned and tuned up by a Green Apple Mechanical expert, the expected life span may be reduced significantly.
2. It’s driving up your utility bills
Have you noticed your energy bills going up in the last few years? It may be more than just rate increases. Check your bills to determine if your usage is increasing. If so, your HVAC system may be losing efficiency as it ages. Your old system is probably not more than 60 to 70 percent efficient. If you replace it with a new one rated 97% efficient, you can save 30% or more on your energy usage.
3. It’s getting less reliable
Your old furnace is like an old car. As it ages, more and more parts start to break down. You may have had a number of repair issues over the past few years, but you’ve been lucky and they were fixable without breaking the bank. But once your furnace reaches that stage, you will continue to have frequent breakdowns until a major component fails and the unit has reached the end of its life.
4. It provides inconsistent heat
Does your building have hot and cold spots? Are some people wearing winter coats and others opening the windows? There are many possible causes of temperature variance. Your furnace may no longer be adequately sized for the needs of your space. You may have re-arranged the layout without changing the ductwork, or there may be holes in the ductwork. The fan motor may no longer be blowing adequately. HVAC companies in NJ are trained to get to the bottom of it, so call in a professional.
5. It’s actually making people sick
An inefficient HVAC system can cause a drastic reduction in indoor air quality leading to unpleasant and even dangerous symptoms. Are people complaining of headaches and nausea? You could have a crack in your furnace’s heat exchanger that’s leaking low levels of carbon monoxide throughout the building. Has there been an increase in cold and allergy symptoms? Your ventilation system could be spreading pollen, mold, bacteria and viruses. Obviously, this is a situation that needs immediate attention.
6. It’s making a mess
When your furnace is no longer working effectively, you will notice an increase in dust, humidity and condensation on the windows, and even mold problems throughout your building.
7. It’s making weird noises
Is your furnace making noises that are driving everyone in the building crazy? All those bumps, clanks and rattles are a sign that your furnace is worn out. As your furnace ages and parts get worn, it can get progressively nosier. Think of it as a wake-up call. It’s time to think about a new unit that will give you both peace of mind and peace and quiet.
8. It’s broken!
If your furnace has broken down, and you’ve already noticed most of the above warning signs, it’s probably time to consider a replacement.
Even if your furnace is still working and you’ve noticed these issues, it’s in your best interest to start researching replacement options. This gives you time to find the right equipment at the right price for your needs.
Are you facing a decision about whether to repair an ailing furnace or spring for a new one? It can be a challenge to know who to trust. There are many factors to consider, including the age and condition of the equipment, what exactly is broken, as well as other soft costs and intangibles that you might fail to think about.