INFORMATION THAT'S GOOD TO KNOW!
Ever wonder why so many furnace rooms have louvered doors? It’s not
some quirky, Midwestern, interior design choice. It’s actually not
even about the door itself. What it is about is how well the area housing
your home’s HVAC and water heater is ventilated.
Gas furnaces and water heaters need what is called “combustion air”
to burn and to work properly. Combustion requires oxygen and complete
combustion requires 10 cubic feet of air for every cubic foot of natural
gas burned. While some furnaces get their air from the outside through
direct venting, most get the air needed from inside the home.
When a natural gas, forced-air furnace is housed with a natural gas water
heater in an area without access to enough “combustion” air,
there is the possibility that back drafting can occur, possibly sending
dangerous carbon monoxide into the air in your home. This necessary safety
precaution is overlooked in more homes than you might think, either because
the correct ventilation was never installed or because at some point a
remodeling project eliminated the needed venting by changing wall openings
or doors. Generally, all that is needed to provide the necessary ventilation
for safe operation is the installation of a louvered door.
aksarben / ARS Comfort Advisors visit a lot of homes and it’s not
uncommon for the recommendation of a new vented furnace room door to be
included with estimates for a replacement HVAC system. That’s because
we believe that when it comes to your family’s safety and comfort,
there shouldn’t be any short cuts!
[Top of page]
What is a heat pump and would you know one if you saw it? Technically speaking,
a heat pump is a device that transfers thermal energy from a source that
is at a higher temperature to a site that is at a lower temperature. In
simpler terms, a heat pump is an air conditioner that also has a reversing
valve, allowing it to also provide heating for your home during cold weather.
The most common type of heat pump used for homes in the Omaha area is
an air-source heat pump.
Heat pumps are rated for efficiency using two rating systems. The SEER
(Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) is used to evaluate cooling efficiency
and generally ranges from 13 to 21. For the evaluation of heating efficiency,
the HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) is used and the range is
from 6.5 to 9.9. For both rating systems, the higher the number, the more
efficient the unit is for that particular performance.
An air-forced heat pump looks like a standard central air conditioning
unit and is located on the exterior of the home just like a traditional
central air conditioner. During the summer, the heat pump functions as
a high efficiency central air conditioner – transferring heat from
inside of your home to outside through the use of refrigerant gas. A heat
pump also provides better dehumidification than a traditional central
air unit, resulting in increased home comfort and reduced energy use.
In the winter, the heat pump works in reverse. It removes available heat
from the air outside the home (yes, there is heat in cold, outdoor air)
and moves it indoors - providing an even, comfortable temperature level
throughout the home. It’s also during the winter months that the
homeowner will see the greatest savings from choosing to install a heat
pump. Because they move heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can
provide up to 4 times the amount of energy they consume, according to
An Omaha-area home can be effectively heated to a comfortable level by
a heat pump on all but the coldest days. According to OPPD, a heat pump
can provide at least 80% of your home’s heating needs during a typical
Midwest winter. During most days, your home will be heated by the heat
pump. For those days when the outside temperature falls to below 20 degrees,
your furnace will provide supplemental heat. This dramatically reduces
the amount of time your furnace will actually run, saving on energy costs.
Other savings are also available directly from OPPD. Homeowners who make
the switch from a traditional heating/cooling system to a heat pump can
receive an energy refund for the purchase of a qualifying heat pump. Once
the heat pump is installed, homeowners can register for a program which
provides lower electric rates for the whole house from October 1 to May
31 each year. Interested homeowners should visit OPPD’s website
to see the programs and savings currently available.
Is a heat pump right for your home? An aksarben® / ARS® Comfort
Advisor will be happy to visit with you in your home and give you more
information about how heat pumps work, the savings opportunities available
and the comfort level you can expect when you install a heat pump.
[Top of page]
When it comes to improving your indoor air quality, there are many reasons
to do it and multiple layers of benefits. With the improved filtration
technology available today, it’s possible to provide health benefits
to your family as well as protect your home’s HVAC system.
Most studies agree that indoor air can be worse than outside air, harboring
pollutants like pollen, pet dander, dust mites, mold spores, bacteria
and viruses. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that indoor
air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks. Add to
that information from the American Lung Association regarding the rising
prevalence of pediatric asthma and the fact that 40 million Americans
now suffer from allergies and you‘ll see there are plenty of reasons
to give your home’s air quality more thought.
Tips For Better Indoor Air
A leading manufacturer of indoor air quality products recommends these
easy tips for improving your home’s air:
1) Open windows whenever weather permits
2) Bath pets regularly and keep bedding and litter boxes away from vents
3) Change the filter on your HVAC system regularly – if you are
only using the standard 1” filters, keep in mind that only 5 –
15% of airborne particulates are being captured
4) Run the blower on your central heat and air system when vacuuming to
circulate polluted air through the air filter
5) Keep your home’s relative humidity between 30 – 60%
6) Make sure that kitchen, bathroom and other exhaust fans are properly
vented to the outside and not just into your attic, crawl space, etc.
The Advanced Solution For Cleaner Indoor Air
To take cleaning your home’s air to the next level, consider installing
an advanced filtration system. Installed between your home’s air
return ductwork and the HVAC system, an advanced filtration system with
a high MERV-rated media filter provides a good level of capture of particulates
such as dust, pollen and mold.
We recommend and install the following Media Air Cleaners listed below
with their effective rate on the most prevalent home air pollutants:
Merv 11 Specialized 4” to 6” Pleated Media Air Cleaner
Dust (1 to 3 microns - 50% effective
Pollen & Mold (3 to 10 microns) - 85% effective
Merv 13 Specialized 4” to 6” Pleated Media Air Cleaner
Dust (1 to 3 microns) - 90% effective
Pollen & Mold (3 to 10 microns)- 90% effective
Viruses (0.3 to 1 microns)- 76% effective
Portable Air Cleaners vs. Whole House Filtration
Consider this before spending money on the purchase of a portable air
cleaner: the average size home in the Omaha area would require approximately
7 portable air cleaning units to filter the air in the entire house. That’s
7 units with a retail price ranging between $100 and as high as $300 each
and 7 units x 7 filters that need changing frequently. With the installation
of advanced filtration to your home’s HVAC system, you will efficiently
and effectively clean the air in your entire home without having multiple
appliances to purchase and maintain.
Proper Filtering Protects Your HVAC Equipment In addition to health issues,
particles in the air can also lead to service and longevity issues for
your home’s HVAC equipment. Particles not caught by filtration will
make their way into the secondary heat exchanger on your central heating
and air system. This can lead to overheating, resulting in breakdowns.
Advanced filtering and air cleaning will help your HVAC equipment last
longer and prevent the types of service issues commonly occurring due
to improper filtering.
Whether installed along with new equipment or as an add-on to your existing
central heat and air system, the benefits of an air filtration system
will be ones the whole family will appreciate!
[Top of page]
If your air conditioning system isn’t cooling your home as well or
as efficiently as in the past and you have an older unit, here is some
news concerning the price of replacement refrigerant that may be of interest
to you. Since January of 2012, the cost of R-22 refrigerant has increased
by as much as 400% and could continue to rise as we approach the summer
months. This will result in higher replacement refrigerant costs for customers
who have older air conditioning systems still using R-22.
Why The Dramatic Increase? R-22 has been determined to be an ozone depleting product and the EPA
now controls how much can be produced or imported each year. Because the
limit for 2012 has not yet been set, manufacturers are making 45% less
than last year to avoid the possibility of exceeding this year’s
limit. This creates volatility in the marketplace and is reflected in
the price of R-22.
When Will Prices Stabilize? The EPA has indicated that the earliest they would announce limits would
be summer of 2012, well into peak air conditioning season. Until this
limit is announced, pricing uncertainties will continue.
What Is The Future Of R-22? While R-22 was the refrigerant of choice for well over 40 years, it has
since been replaced by more environmentally compatible products. R-22
has not been used in the production of new air conditioning units for
a number of years and the government has scheduled it for termination
at which point production will cease.
There are a number of factors which can help you determine whether it
makes sense to recharge your existing unit’s R-22 refrigerant or
whether it’s time to consider replacement equipment. We would be
happy to discuss with you the possible life cycle costs of your current
unit based on age, repair history and your comfort needs.
[Top of page]
The estimated yearly utility cost for a single family home is about $1,900*.
While there isn’t much you can do about the cost of the energy used
in your home, there are things you can do to reduce the amount of energy
you use without sacrificing any of the comforts of home!
More than half of a home’s energy costs are for heating, cooling
and water heating*.
29% - Heating
17% - Cooling
14% - Water Heating
13% - Appliances
12% - Lighting
4% - Electronics
11% - Other (external power uses, ceiling fans, vent fans, home audio, etc.)
Source: Energy Star website (energystar.gov)
With 17% of your home’s yearly utility costs determined by your
home’s central air conditioner, it’s important to know how
your current ac unit is performing. This is most effectively and economically
achieved by having routine maintenance performed once a year. A thorough
Performance Tune-Up will help to ensure that components are functioning
properly, coolant levels are where they should be and that there are no
leaks. Additionally, a trained HVAC specialist can help you determine
whether you could be losing energy due to an improper installation.
Because your home’s heating and cooling system work in tandem, it
is important to know that your overall system is the right one for your
home. Also, the importance of the right installation can’t be overstressed.
In fact, a leading consumer magazine has said they can’t rate central
air conditioners and furnaces because the manufacturer and the design
of the equipment are not the primary factors of how well a central heat
and air system operates or how long it lasts. In addition, they state
that the performance of your system year after year is primarily influenced
by the quality and expertise of the installation and proper maintenance.
Choose a reputable company, one with a trusted and recognizable level
of quality and customer service, to visit with you in your home. aksarben
/ ARS has trained Comfort Advisers who will be happy to review and evaluate
your energy use and comfort needs and provide you with solutions.
[Top of page]
While it isn’t possible to enjoy all of the comforts of home without
using energy, it is possible to avoid paying for and wasting energy without
sacrificing your home’s comfort.
By utilizing some of the simple steps listed below during the coming spring
and summer months, you can maximize your return on the dollars you spend
on utilities for your home:
1) Get a programmable thermostat if you don’t already have one. During
the warmer months, set the temperature to be higher when you are away.
According to the U.S. Government’s Energy Star website, savings
of up to $180 a year are possible depending on the amount of hours you
are away from home for work, vacations, etc. when combined with also lowering
the temperature during colder months. Your particular equipment also affects
the savings possible.
2) Keep the area around your central air conditioning unit free of debris
and plant material so the air flow is not obstructed.
3) Clean your air filters on your heating unit regularly - we recommend every
3 months. Keep in mind that your central furnace and air conditioner work
in tandem during the warm months, with the blower and ductwork attached
to the furnace actually delivering the cold air produced by the air conditioning
unit. A clogged filter will prevent the free flow of cold air, making
your air conditioning unit work much harder and use more energy than necessary.
4) A seasonal “tune-up” performed yearly will help to keep your
air conditioning unit in peak working condition and can help you avoid
inconvenient, and often expensive, breakdowns from issues that may have
been avoided with regular care. Maintenance is a routine, yearly occurrence
when you join our Home Service Plan. Just like when it’s time to
visit the dentist for your check-up, we will send you a reminder when
it’s time for your a/c tune-up! Our Home Service Plan covers care
for both your heating and air conditioning units as well as an annual
plumbing inspection and also provides priority service and discounts on
repairs and parts.
5) On the outside of your home, use landscaping to provide as much shade
as possible. Inside, use window shades and treatments and remember to
close them or adjust them as needed to keep your home from heating up
6) Use the oven, dishwasher and clothes dryer during the evening hours. The
heat they produce is easier for your air conditioning unit to offset during
the cooler temperatures later in the day.
7) Ensure that you have the right sized heating and cooling system for your
home. You can lose up to 50% efficiency with a system that is either too
large or too small and, according to the EPA, more than half of the existing
systems in the US do not perform to their rated efficiency due to improper
sizing or installation.
While it isn’t possible to enjoy all of the comforts of home without
using energy, it is possible to avoid paying for and wasting energy by
utilizing some of the simple steps listed!
[Top of page]