- Adjust Your Thermostat: Take advantage of programmable thermostats. Especially if you have a furnace, set your thermostat to automatically turn the heat down at night and when you’re away. If you have a heat pump, use your smart thermostat to turn down the thermostat in the winter when you are away and at night when you are asleep, or to turn it up a few degrees in the summer.
- Use Your Windows: Add curtains to windows to reduce heat loss by 10%, according to Energy.gov. During the winter, open your drapes or blinds on the south side of your home to bring the heat of the sun into your home keeping it warm. In the summer, keep your blinds and windows closed to block the heat. If you have blinds, close them completely to reduce heat gain by 45%. If you have drapes, switch them out for medium colors with white-plastic backings to reduce heat gains by 33%. Let shrubbery and plants grow over the windows or add awnings to provide shade, which can reduce heat gain by 77% on west-facing windows.
- Keep HVAC Registers Clear: Your HVAC system uses energy to take air in, heat or cool it, and then push it through your home. Don’t make it work harder to get your home to the set temperature by placing obstacles over the heat registers. If you have furniture blocking the registers, rearrange the room to improve air circulation.
- Block and Damper your Fireplace: If you’re not using your fireplace, make sure to close the flu, preventing heated or cooled air from escaping through the chimney. Besides using the damper, you can install glass doors around the fireplace, or invest in a chimney balloon.
- Only Heat/Cool the Rooms You’re Using: If you have a storage or guest room that isn’t being used, block and shut off the registers for those rooms using less energy to keep unnecessary areas warm/cool, leaving the main areas of your home comfortable.
- Use Ceiling Fans: Ceiling fans can be an excellent way to reduce your heating and cooling costs year-round. In the winter, you can use your ceiling fans to cut costs by changing the ceiling fan’s rotation to clockwise and set it to low, circulating warm air that’s risen to the ceiling back down to the living area without creating a draft. In the summer, make sure your ceiling fans are going counterclockwise and pushing cooler air down. Using your ceiling fans in the summer can make it feel 6 degrees cooler in your home, letting you increase your thermostat 6 degrees higher, saving on energy costs. But remember to turn them off when you leave a room to avoid wasting energy.
- Lock Windows and Doors: When you lock your windows and doors, they are usually pulled tighter against the weather stripping of their frames. This can help seal the windows and doors from leaks and won’t let the cool or warm air out.
- Replace Your Filters: A dirty filter makes your HVAC system work harder and reduces efficiency, increasing your energy use. Change your HVAC filter at least every three months, if not every month in the hottest and coldest seasons. According to the US Department of Energy, changing your filter can lower your energy consumption by 5-15%.
- Find and Seal Leaks: In the winter, as much as 38% of your home’s heat can be lost through leaks in ductwork, and around doors and windows. Sealing leaks can help minimize wasting money on heating and cooling your home. By sealing the ductwork in your home, caulking around windows, replacing the weather stripping around the outside or bottom of your doors, and insulating around outlets and pipes, you can help reduce the amount of leaks in your home, thereby saving you on heating and cooling costs year-round!
- Maintain Your HVAC System: Energy Star recommends regular maintenance and getting tune-ups on your HVAC system to ensure your HVAC system runs efficiently. This can not only increase efficiency and save you money on your HVAC bills but it can help prevent more costly problems in before they cause major damage to your system. Learn more about getting a system tune-up here.
Heat Pump Maintenance:
- Dirty filters cause the system to work harder, leading to higher energy costs. Check air filters monthly and clean or replace when dirty.
- Ensure there is at least 18 inches on all sides of your outdoor unit clear of snow, ice, shrubs, and debris.
- Keep the coils on your outdoor unit clean. Apex Heating and Air can clean the coils with an approved cleaner to ensure your unit is running at top condition.
- Call Apex Heating and Air to schedule an inspection of your heat pump before the cold weather sets in.
More Energy Savings Tips:
- Invest in a programmable smart thermostat and set it to turn the heat down when you are out of town or away from home. This easy home upgrade can cut energy costs by up to 12% and will continue to reduce AC costs in the upcoming spring and summer.
- Install weather stripping around doors and windows to help keep the cold out.
- If you have a traditional fireplace, be sure the flue is closed when not in use to avoid heat from escaping. Similarly, avoid leaving bathroom fans, range hoods, and exhaust fans running for long periods as they will suck heat from your home.
- Take advantage of the world’s best natural heat source — the sun! Open curtains of windows facing the sun during the heat of the day, then close curtains to hold the heat in.
- Reverse your fan’s blades to a clockwise rotation to help push the warm air down to where you are.
Between school, sports and cooler temperatures it can be hard to remember that even though the AC isn’t blasting through your home, your HVAC unit still needs some love. Apex Heating and Air is here to help with some quick fixes to keep your HVAC happy and healthy, as well as for long term home maintenance contracts.
One of the easiest ways to keep your HVAC unit as efficient as possible is to regularly change your homes air filter. Replacing old or clogged air filters will prevent your unit from working harder than it has to, which increases your energy bill and puts unnecessary wear and tear on your AC unit. The US Department of Energy states that changing your air filter at least once a month can save you 5-15% on your monthly energy bill.
Keep an eye on the thermostat as the weather gets colder. A programmable thermostat is the best way to prevent unnecessary heating and cooling of your home. You can set the temperature to colder if everyone is out of the house at school and work, as well as at night, and warming during hours everyone is home. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat or believe your thermostat may be reading incorrectly call us at (919) 467-8823. The Apex Heating and Air staff is comprised of highly skilled technicians who can run a routine check up on your thermostat to make sure it is running properly, as well as install a programmable thermostat. The easiest way to ensure your thermostat is ready for every seasonal weather change is to schedule a maintenance contract with Apex Heating and Air. This way the stress of remembering to check on your HVAC unit seasonally is no longer a problem. Apex Heating and Air can clean, and perform a routine check up on your heater before the season get too cold.
Regular HVAC preventive maintenance from Apex Heating and Air is the best way to ensure trouble-free operation and peak performance year round and through all types of weather. Call Apex Heating and Air today for more information.
Discover issues before they become a problem by calling Apex Heating and Air Conditioning today at (919) 467-8823 to schedule a checkup, or signup for our annual maintenance contract.
Don’t let the next winter storm take you by surprise.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units are built to withstand the snow and ice, but every unit has its limits. Many units in our area were pushed past those limits during Winter Storm Grayson last week. The storm rolled through January 3rd and 4th and left a half foot or more of snow piled up in eastern sections of North Carolina. Wind gusts topped 70 mph in some areas!
Even if you’re aware of the extreme importance of interior HVAC care, specifically the changing of the air filters, switching to programmable thermostats, and getting the system inspected annually by a professional, you should never lower your guard when it comes to your heater and air conditioner. The care of the outside HVAC unit is crucial, especially since snow and ice can have a lasting effect on your system well into the spring and summer.
Ice Build Up
Not all incidences of snow and ice build-up is an emergency situation. In fact, in a heat pump, it’s a normal part of operation on extremely frigid days. Heat pumps operate via a refrigerant that absorbs temperature from the Earth’s atmosphere. When the refrigerant absorbs heat, excess moisture builds up on the processing coils. When outside temperatures are at or near zero degrees, that moisture freezes up almost instantly. The system may run a little more sluggishly on those very brutally cold days, but it will return to normal as the temperatures rise.
Falling Snow and Ice
A “normal” ice buildup on heat pumps and HVAC systems is pretty rare because units are manufactured to take into account this moisture freezing with an automatic defrost setting. When ice buildup is detected, the unit switches to a heat distribution mode to melt ice off the coils—all while back-up heat keeps your house warm. Sometimes thermostats will display “auxiliary heat” or “aux heat” on the wall display in your home when this occurs.
It generally takes 30 minutes for the defroster to do its job, but it needs air flow to do so. When snow builds up around the outdoor unit and ice forms on top of the HVAC, components can’t breathe and the defrost cycle will not work—raising electricity usage, but, more importantly, putting unneeded strain on the entire system. And this is also true for units covered in such things as leaves, shrubs, and ivy—so, make sure you keep the area around units clear year-round so they can breathe and function properly. Keep in mind that when it is approximately 35 degrees outside, the unit can no longer efficiently transfer ‘heat’ from the outside air into your home, making it more difficult to keep your home warm.
Any Lasting Damage?
So, we know that snow and ice causes inefficient operation, but other problems with the unit can appear as well. When a unit is encased in ice, an emergency shut-off is triggered as the system freezes up. With no heat coming into your home, the water pipes are more likely to burst and cause major damage.
Even though the components of your outside unit are designed to withstand the elements—hot or cold—it may still be possible for heavy ice to bend the aluminum fan and coil fins. If this happens, you’ll most likely know because of the noise the unit will make! Another concern during weather extremes is the workload placed on unit components—they may be working twice as hard with limited airflow which can cause a burn out or short circuit.
Protecting your HVAC system from extreme weather starts at installation and should continue throughout the life of the unit. Follow these guidelines to keep things running smoothly:
- Your outdoor unit should not be installed directly on the ground. They should instead be elevated to keep them out of possible snow or standing water. Apex Heating and Air does this as a standard part of our installation procedure.
- Consider building a wind barrier with shrubs or a fence, but remember to keep them far enough away for servicing and air flow.
- Keep the unit at least 18 inches away from the exterior wall of the house to increase air passage and to avoid drifting exposure.
- Monitor your heat pump and outdoor HVAC systems in the winter. Snow buildup should be shoveled away, gutters should be cleaned, and ice should be melted away with warm water to prevent possible damage to the system. If it’s so cold that the warm water will refreeze, let the defrost cycle run once or twice or call one of our service technicians.
A Few Suggestions
With winter hanging around for the next few months, thermostats are working overtime. That means high heating costs for many of us, but there are ways to keep those bills as low as possible.
Here are a few mistakes you might be making and how to fix them:
- Turning up a thermostat too high to heat a cold house quickly. When coming home to a cold house, it might be tempting to turn up the heat to try and warm things faster. But thermostats don’t work like an accelerator on a car, and turning the heat up to blistering levels won’t warm your home faster. Be patient and save money.
- Turning the thermostat way down at night. It’s best to avoid extremes with your thermostat. If you let the temperature fall dramatically overnight, it’s going to require a lot of work from your system to warm things up in the morning—costing big bucks when the electric bill arrives.
- Overworking a thermostat that has its limits. If you want the house to be 70 degrees, and your thermostat is only reaching 66 degrees, turning the thermostat up to 74 degrees to make up the difference could force your furnace to work beyond its capability. Instead, call Apex Heating and Air to find out what’s causing the problem. Heat could be escaping somewhere in your home or the furnace may be faulty.
- Heating an empty house. Since we can now control pretty much everything from a phone app, the easiest way to save money is to install a system that can be adjusted remotely. Heating an empty home is a huge waste of money, so a programmable thermostat can save hundreds of dollars every year.
- Leaving curtains closed on sunny days. While you’re away, open the curtains to allow as much warm sunlight as possible to heat the house. Solar warmth can go a long way not only in heating a house, but can help give the furnace a break during the warmest hours of the day.
- Leaving some windows pushed up, but not locked in place. Loose or slightly open windows may allow warm air to escape (along with your hard-earned money). Enable the locks to create a seal that will keep the warm air where it belongs.
Just like shoveling snow or salting walkways, make maintenance of your HVAC system a priority this winter.
For more information on HVAC system maintenance, call (919) 467-8823 or (919) 367-0102 or click here.
About Apex Heating and Air Conditioning
Founded in 1969, Apex Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. provides complete sales and service of heating and cooling products. As a Factory Authorized Carrier® Dealer, the company is proud to offer top-notch customer service and expertise. Whether you’re in need of routine service for your HVAC system, or you require installation of a new heating or cooling system, the knowledgeable staff will work with you to ensure you’re given the information you need to make the best decision for your family or business.
(Sources: U.S. Department of Energy; The Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration NEWS; The Weather Channel; AC & Heating Connect; and The Weather Company.)
Apex Heating and Air Conditioning
1231 Perry Rd Suite 106
Apex, NC 27502
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