Indoor Air Quality, HVAC Efficiency, and Heating Pump Efficiency Tips

Information That’s Good to Know!

How the Wrong Door Can Affect Indoor Air Safety

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 the 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, a 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!

Heat Pumps 101 – How They Work & How They Can Save You Money!

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 the 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.

Simple Tips for Improving Your Home’s Air Quality

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 AirA leading manufacturer of indoor air quality products recommends these easy tips for improving your home’s air:1) Open windows whenever weather permits2) Bath pets regularly and keep bedding and litter boxes away from vents3) 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 captured4) Run the blower on your central heat and air system when vacuuming to circulate polluted air through the air filter5) 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 AirTo 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 CleanerDust (1 to 3 microns – 50% effectivePollen & Mold (3 to 10 microns) – 85% effective

Merv 13 Specialized 4” to 6” Pleated Media Air CleanerDust (1 to 3 microns) – 90% effectivePollen & Mold (3 to 10 microns)90% effectiveViruses (0.3 to 1 microns)76% effective

Portable Air Cleaners vs. Whole House FiltrationConsider 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!

Replacement Refrigerant Costs Have Risen Dramatically – Here’s Why

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.

How Your Air Conditioner Affects Your Home’s Utility Costs

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 (

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.

Energy Saving Tips for Summer

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 unnecessarily.

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!

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