How Annual HVAC Maintenance Saves You Money

If you’re not scheduling annual HVAC maintenance calls, you’re probably missing out on some opportunities for savings. These visits may seem unnecessary, especially if your unit seems to be working as it should, but having your AC checked every year could save you thousands of dollars over the course of your lifetime. Here’s how.

Even Small Problems Create Inefficiencies

Even though it may seem as if your HVAC unit is right on target when it comes to keeping your home comfortable, the truth is that even a slight problem could be increasing your energy bills. For example, if your ducts aren’t properly insulated, you’re likely losing some of your cooled air. This is often remedied with some additional insulation, which is a quick and simple repair. Along those same lines, even a slight mechanical issue could create inefficiencies in your cooling system. These may increase your energy bills only by about $25 a month, but over the course of a year, those extra costs add up.

You Can Prevent Major Repairs

Most homeowners don’t spend much time thinking about their air conditioners until there’s a problem, and that’s another reason why annual HVAC maintenance is important for saving you money. When a knowledgeable and experienced HVAC technician takes the time to go over each component in your system, he or she can pinpoint potential problem areas long before they cause problems. Things like blower motors and compressor units are expensive to replace, and in many cases, they’re nearly as expensive to repair. When you schedule annual HVAC maintenance, it’s possible to prevent these issues in the first place, thereby saving thousands over the course of your unit’s lifetime.

Get Valuable Advice during Annual HVAC Maintenance

HVAC technicians can do far more than simply inspect your system for potential trouble; they can even provide you with valuable advice during your annual HVAC maintenance calls. For example, if there’s a “hot spot” in your house and you can’t seem to figure out why, it’s often caused by something as simple as a clogged register, an incorrect thermostat setting, or even issues with dampers that control certain zones in your home. Often, the technician can help you resolve these issues within a matter of minutes, and the best part is that they’ll answer your questions for you free of charge while they’re in your home performing the inspection.

You’ll Know When it’s Time to Replace Your System

If you have an older air conditioner that still seems to be keeping you comfortable, there’s always a chance that you could save money by investing in a newer, more efficient model. During an annual HVAC maintenance call, these technicians will inspect every part of your system for wear, tear, and inefficiency. If he or she believes that you may save money with a new system, there’s reason to consider it. In cases like this, switching an old, inefficient model for a newer one can pay for itself in a couple years with reduced energy costs.

Annual HVAC maintenance calls are very important. In fact, it’s the best thing you can do to make sure your family stays comfortable all year. You can even decrease the odds of major component failure. You’ll be able to get small problems resolved before they become bigger ones, and you’ll get some valuable advice on how to get the most out of your cooling system for the least amount of money.

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How Much Insulation Do You Really Need?

Are you building a new home? If so, it’s the perfect opportunity to install the right amount of insulation right off the bat, thereby saving yourself time, trouble, energy, and money in the future. Here, you’ll learn how much insulation you really need in different parts of your home to keep things comfortable and efficient – even if you want to add insulation to your existing home.

What Is Insulation?

Insulation acts as a barrier between your home and the outside air. It’s main function is to reduce the transfer of heat. The most common insulation type is the pink fiberglass that comes in rolls. It’s placed between wall studs, in attics, and even in floor joists in some places. It’s affordable, and it certainly does the job if it’s applied at the correct thickness. Other insulation types include  loose-fill, rigid foam, and foam-in-place insulation. Each one has its own unique set of benefits, and some are more cost-effective than others.

A Little about Insulation Types

Before you can decide how much insulation you need, you first need to consider the insulation type and where you’ll be installing it. This handy chart will help you make the right choices.

  • Fiberglass (or rock wool) roll insulation – This is the most popular type of insulation found in homes across the country. They come in standard widths, too. Larger wall stud spaces require a higher R-value, too, and the products are designed to provide it.
  • Loose-fill insulation – This type of insulation is ideal for existing homes because it can be “blown” into spaces via small, easily repaired holes in walls. It’s made of rock wool, fiberglass, cellulose, or even recycled materials. It conforms nicely to its surroundings, which makes it preferable over fiberglass batts or rolls in some areas.
  • Rigid foam insulation – Rigid foam is typically found on the outside of the walls, just under the siding, masonry, or stone. It’s more expensive than fiber, but it’s great for small buildings and areas where large R-values are required.
  • Foam-in-place – This kind of insulation is injected directly into the walls of an existing home. It can improve energy efficiency by plugging air leaks.

R-Value Recommendations

The amount of insulation you need is based on your climate zone, and in Florida, the climate is in Zone 4. Here, you’ll need to insulate various areas of your home as follows:

  • Attic – R-38
  • Cathedral – R-38
  • Walls – R-13 (you’ll need to calculate this based on the thickness of the insulation)
  • Floors – R-13
  • Crawlspaces – R-13 (only insulate crawlspace walls if the crawlspace is sealed and dry all year)
  • Slab Edges – R-4
  • Basement Interior – R-11
  • Basement Exterior – R-4

These numbers indicate the amount of insulation required in new Florida homes to help provide the best possible energy efficiency and cooling power. While it’s difficult to add too much insulation, it’s certainly possible to add too little. Make sure you take these numbers into consideration, and remember that many of these spaces can be filled with loose-fill insulation if your R-values are lower than those recommended here.

Whether you’re building a new home or you think your current home is under-insulated, learning how much insulation to install will help you keep your home more comfortable and reduce your energy bills all year long. The best part is that new technologies make it simple to add insulation to existing homes, regardless of their age.

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Is Geothermal Cooling Worth it in Florida?

Florida is one of the hottest and most humid states in the country, and the people who live here are always looking for ways to save on their utility bills, cut down on their carbon footprints, or both. Geothermal cooling is a great way to do both, but is it worth the time and money it takes to install it?

Is the Ground Just Too Hot for Geothermal Cooling?

One of the most common misconceptions about geothermal cooling is that the ground in sunny Florida stays far too warm to really provide much cooling comfort in the summer. This is not the case. Remember that just below the surface of the ground, the temperature stays constant year-round. When it’s in the nineties outside, it may be below 60 just a couple feet below your feet. Geothermal cooling makes use of this constant temperature, and it can be quite efficient – even in Florida homes.

The Cooling Cycle

Geothermal cooling actually uses a heat pump in reverse. When you think of a heat pump, you probably think of a system pulling heat from inside the earth and pumping it into your home so you stay warm. This is certainly true, but a geothermal unit can also work in reverse. In this case, the system moves the hot, moist air out of your home and through one of the best conductors known to mankind – water. It’s this redistribution of heat that saves you incredible amounts of energy and money over time.

Will the Comfort Be the Same?

Remember that a geothermal cooling system relies on the temperature of the ground outside to provide you with comfort. Though it’s true that they work better in milder climates because there’s less redistribution of heat, they can do the job in Florida, too. It may take a little longer to bring your home down to the desired temperature, but once it’s there, the system can maintain that temperature much more easily (and far more efficiently) than a standard HVAC system can.

Considerations before Switching

There are a few things to remember before you decide on a geothermal heat pump as your main source of cooling.

  • It’s an expensive initial investment. Installing a geothermal heat pump in Florida can cost up to four times (and in some cases even more) than installing a traditional HVAC system. However, with the combined savings on your energy bills, it’s worth it.
  • It’ll last longer. Heat pumps have far fewer moving parts, and this means they have a long life expectancy. Most heat pump components last 25 years while the outdoor loop lasts up to 50 years or more.
  • You’ll have access to heat, too. Though it rarely gets cold enough in Florida to warrant running central heat, you’ll have it available to you if you need it.
  • The efficiency is amazing. Some of the best geothermal cooling systems on the market are up to 600% efficient. Imagine the savings!

Is geothermal cooling worth it in Florida? If you don’t mind the initial investment, it absolutely is. However, keep in mind that not all property is well-suited for geothermal systems. The best way to find out is to contact an expert for an evaluation.

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Say Goodbye to Your Vented Crawlspace

Once upon a time, vented crawlspaces were commonplace. After all, homeowners believed that venting their crawlspaces would allow them to “air out”, thereby releasing any accumulation of heat. However, this isn’t truly the case, and a vented crawlspace may do more harm than good when it comes to staying comfortable – and safe.

The Problem with a Vented Crawlspace in the South

If you step outside on a nice, sunny Florida day, there’s one thing you’re likely to notice before anything else: the humidity. The air outside is almost always quite sticky thanks to the bodies of water surrounding the peninsula. Basic physics tells us that warm, moist air moves to cooler, dryer air to distribute the energy (in the form of heat) evenly. That’s why you’re advised to leave your refrigerator door closed in the event of a power outage; things can stay cool for quite some time, but opening the door even once introduces heat that may spoil your food. Venting your crawlspace in the south – especially in humid Florida – produces the same effect.

What’s Going on Under Your House?

A vented crawlspace may allow air to circulate, but in this case, that’s a bad idea. Your crawlspace acts like a barrier between your home and the moist ground, but because your home is still relatively close to the ground, problems can arise very quickly if your crawlspace is exposed to hot, humid air. Humid air condenses when it touches a cooler surface, and in this case, the cooler surface is the insulation that lines the underside of your floor. As such, the moist air will enter your insulation, travel to the coolest spot it can find (as close to the conditioned air as it can get), and wreak havoc. Mildew, rot, and even dangerous black mold can result from venting your crawlspace.

How to Seal a Crawlspace

If you have a vented crawlspace and you’re concerned about moisture damage, it’s best to hire a professional contractor to check things out. These individuals have the knowledge and training required to spot potential problems and possibly even resolve them before they get out of control. Sealing a crawlspace (also known as crawlspace encapsulation) typically requires removing the vented areas and adding new masonry in their place, but in some cases, things can be a little more complicated.

Depending on the age of your home and the amount of settling that has occurred, it may be necessary to add additional insulation, seal gaps between your home and the crawlspace, and repair any gaps between the floor and the floor joists, or between your home and the foundation itself. These can and often do occur in Florida homes. Once these things have been remedied, it’s also possible to add a vapor barrier to the walls of the crawlspace, which keeps moisture from penetrating the masonry.

A vented crawlspace used to be the industry standard, but in some climates, like the one here in Florida, it often does more harm than good. It’s important to keep your home safe from the warm, moist air, and professional crawlspace encapsulation is a good way to do it. In fact, it may even help to insulate your home and lower your cooling costs.

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Installing Central Air Conditioning in an Old House

Despite the oppressive heat, there are many older homes throughout the state of Florida that have never had central air conditioning. If you live in one of these homes, you might think that installing central air is impossible. Fortunately, that’s not the case. Here’s what you need to know.

Traditional Installation

Per statistics from HVAC system manufacturers and installers across the nation, the average cost associated with adding central air to a home with existing forced-air heating costs anywhere from $3500 to $4000, including the cost of the system and the labor involved. It typically takes a maximum of three days to complete the job, but this can vary based upon factors like clearance in the furnace area. In this type of installation, the techs install the outdoor condenser unit and attach the indoor unit to the existing furnace. Ductwork for the furnace is used to deliver cooled air to the home.

Differences when Installing Central Air in an Old Home

Most homes in the Lakeland area don’t have forced air heating. It rarely gets cold enough to run a furnace, so it’s an investment most people just don’t make. This means there are tens of thousands of homes in the area that have no ductwork at all, so these homeowners rely on window units and ductless mini-split systems to keep them comfortable. These can do the trick, but they’re not as efficient as a newer-model central air unit. Installing central air in these homes will require the installation of the entire system – including the ductwork – and is likely double the cost of a traditional installation.

How Long Does It Take?

Installing central air conditioning in an old home can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on several factors. For example, because there are ventilation regulations, homeowners may be required to modify their homes to suit their new central air systems. What’s more, the location of the ductwork – under the floor, in the basement, or even in the attic space – will also help to determine the amount of labor that goes into the project. The best way to figure out the cost and project timeframe is to have a professional evaluate your home and provide an on-site estimate. Some companies will do this free of charge.

How to Prepare

In most cases, installing central air in an older home takes time. This means that homeowners will likely deal with noise and technicians coming in and out of their homes regularly. It’s important to plan for this disruption. While some homeowners find they are more comfortable staying with friends and family during the installation process, keep in mind that your HVAC company may require the presence of someone over the age of 18 to enter your home for liability reasons. Talk to your HVAC installer and plan accordingly.

If you live in an older home, you might think installing central air is impossible. It can be done, and while it costs quite a bit more than a traditional installation, it will add value to your home in the long run and eventually provide a positive return on your investment. The best part? It’ll lower your energy bills and keep you more comfortable, too.

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