How to Avoid a Shocking Electric Bill

How to Avoid a Shocking Electric Bill

Imagine opening your monthly utility bill and seeing you owe over $900 dollars for one 30-day period. Though it sounds impossible, this actually happened, and it could happen to you if your air conditioning unit runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In this real-world example, the homeowner’s system was both heating and cooling the house at the same time. It seems odd, but no one in the family felt heat coming out of the vents because the heat was mixed with the cool air from the air conditioner and they “cancelled” each other out…all the while using a crazy amount of energy fighting each other.

Fortunately, this issue was resolved, but the electricity provider wouldn’t take pity on the homeowner. He coughed up the outrageous bill and learned a valuable lesson in the process: Homeowners should pay close attention to HVAC systems and be on the lookout for changes in how the unit is functioning.

A unit can run non-stop for a number of reasons, but it most likely indicates a problem with the system or some other issue in the home that needs correction. Here are a few of the common culprits:

HVAC Unit Size and “Fit”

A properly sized, energy-efficient central air conditioning system will run fairly continuously in the summer to maintain a constant, desired temperature in your home. If the unit is too small it has to work harder to cool your home. Over time, this increases the wear and tear on the unit and will shorten its life. In addition, this undersized system will never be able to cool your home to your satisfaction and breakdowns will be common. If the unit is too large it can’t effectively remove moisture from the air which results in an output of moist, clammy air. The system will also use excessive amounts of electricity leading to higher utility bills.

It’s important to note that the size of your ductwork should be proportional to the size of the air conditioning unit. If ducts are the wrong size, they may not be able to handle the airflow or distribute cool air efficiently to all parts of the home.

How Old is the Filter?

Do you know when you last changed the air filters in your home? If it’s been awhile, those filters are restricting air flow. Poor air flow cuts down on the amount of cool air the unit can produce, which in turn, forces the air conditioner to run more through the day.

A dirty filter forces the system to work harder which can lead to overheating. Without enough air flowing over the coils, the system is unable to remove humidity and cool the air to the set temperature. All the unit can do is keep running when it shouldn’t. Be sure to clean or replace filters once a month or as recommended by the manufacturer for best performance.

Parts Don’t Last Forever

Failing parts on a — like motors, capacitors, and the compressor — can result in a high electric bill. The reduction in production from a failing part will cause your system to be less efficient.

For example, if there’s a failing condenser motor on the unit’s condenser and it’s trying to cool the home, the motor won’t be able to remove heat from the home very well. The struggling motor and a thermostat that’s never satisfied will cause the motor to run longer and contribute to an outrageous electric bill. This process can continue until the motor fails and the unit breaks down.

Faulty Thermostat

If a system seems to never shut off, there could be an issue with the thermostat. Maybe the home has reached the correct temperature, but the thermostat is not registering the correct indoor conditions. In this case, the unit will continue running. You can check the thermostat by placing another thermometer near the location of the thermostat. After an hour or two, check the reading. If it’s at or near the desired temperature, there may be a problem with your thermostat.

To see if the thermostat is the problem, try setting it at least 5 degrees higher or lower than the normal setting. If it’s working properly, the unit should turn on immediately. Also check that the thermostat is correctly set to “heat” or “cool.” The main circuit breaker should also be in the “on” position.

Maintenance Needed

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is for air conditioning units to receive regular maintenance for proper operation. Ideally, maintenance should happen twice a year, in the spring before the warm weather hits and in the early fall after things have cooled off and it’s no longer in use. If the system isn’t clean—including ducts, coils, and the air filter—it will likely encounter airflow problems and inefficient cycling.

Apex Heating and Air Conditioning’s technicians can check to make sure everything is clean and functioning properly. Regular maintenance of the unit will not only help ensure it’s in good working order, but it will also extend the life of the system.

Bring in the New

Air conditioners have a life span. Even if the unit’s been properly maintained, it will eventually wear out. At this point, it’s best to consider replacing the old, inefficient unit with a new and more energy efficient model.

It’s best to address issues before they become problems. When you notice a change in the quality of air in your home, or the fan running more than usual, or even a faulty reading on your thermostat, it’s best to call us at Apex Heating and Air Conditioning and let us complete a proper inspection of the air conditioning system. You’ll feel more confident knowing trained professionals have addressed and corrected the problem—and saved you from the potential shock of a $900 utility bill.

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.

(Sources: Energy Vanguard; Direct Energy; EnergyStar; Repair Clinic; and Angie’s List.)

Apex Heating and Air - HVAC residential heating and air repair service

Cool Cash Rebates – Save up to $1,650 on a NEW System!

Now is the time to upgrade to energy efficient equipment, save on energy costs and get some COOL CASH! Save up to $1,650 in Cool Cash rebates! Purchase a qualifying heating or cooling product from Apex Heating and Air Conditioning for a limited time to get in on the savings (Promotion dates: 3/1/18-5/31-18). You may even qualify for special financing options. Call our offices at (919) 467-8823 or send us a request through our contact form for complete details on all our rebate and financing options.

Why Cold Temperatures Can Wreak Havoc on Your HVAC Unit

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.

Planning Ahead

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.)

Clean HVAC Installation by Apex Heating and Air Conditioning

Apex Heating and Air Conditioning takes pride in providing top notch service, and quality installation and parts at a fair price. That includes being respectful of our customer’s homes, both inside and out. Kenny Markham, owner of Apex Heating and Air, instructs each installer to “treat each customer’s home like it was your momma’s.”  This simple statement has become the company mantra. From the time they enter your home, they remove or cover their shoes, lay down runners on carpeted areas to protect your floors, and ensure all areas inside and out are left clean and tidy.

Following are some photos from a recent customer heating and air conditioning system installation.

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Apex Heating and Air - HVAC residential heating and air repair service

HVAC Maintenance Contract: An Ounce of Prevention Can Save Money

As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. Making smart decisions about your home’s HVAC system can have a huge effect on your utility bills—and your comfort.

We all know the saying, but how many of us actually take it to heart? A bit of prevention is truly important when it comes to the comfort of your family and your peace of mind.

Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is the hidden hero in your home: It works to cool or heat your home to your specifications 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But how often do you really think about your HVAC? Probably not often… until it quits working.

Don’t Put It Off

Each year that your HVAC system misses a proper maintenance service can raise your cooling and heating costs by as much as 30%. Think of it like your dental appointments: If you don’t go in every six months to have your teeth cleaned, you can expect plenty of cavities and expensive repairs. It’s the same principle with your HVAC system—neglect will lead to much bigger problems down the road.

Here are just a few reasons to schedule regular maintenance:

  • Up to 80% of all air conditioning and heating system failures could be eliminated if problems that led to the failures were discovered and corrected in a timely manner. Annual maintenance can identify and prevent such problems before they occur.
  • If your system has as little as a 10% refrigerant undercharge your HVAC operating costs can increase by as much as 20%. A 23% refrigerant undercharge could result in as much as a 52% efficiency loss.
  • Each 0.01 inch of dirt on an evaporator coil can increase operating costs by 5%.
  • Every equipment manufacturer recommends annual maintenance to ensure proper system operation. Some manufacturers (and all home owner warranties) require proper maintenance be performed for these warranties to be honored.
  • Maintenance checks can maximize performance and keep your system running at as high as 95% of its original ­efficiency.
  • Studies show that a maintenance contract may increase the life of your heating and air conditioning system significantly. In some cases doubling the life of a system!

Prevent Breakdowns

A lack of regular maintenance is one of the most common reasons for system failure during high-demand times of the year. Without regular service, factors such as dirt and dust buildup or worn and poorly-lubricated parts are more likely to cause serious issues that diminish or halt its function.

Issues like this will be addressed during a routine tune-up, ensuring your air conditioner is clean and that every part is in good working order. Maintaining the condition of your home’s HVAC system will ensure that any possible issue related to a lack of regular attention will not lead to an inconvenient breakdown.

Reduce Repair Costs

The larger the repair, the higher the cost. Addressing any repairs while issues are small is a much more effective way to keep your costs down, and scheduling regular tune-ups can help you accomplish this.

When your system is checked twice a year, the technician can catch problems while they’re still small—not after they’ve grown in size and scope. By bringing these issues to your attention promptly, they can be taken care of while their associated costs are minor, reducing your overall expenses.

Lower Your Electric Bills

In addition to lowering the costs of repairs, regular tune-ups can also lower the cost of daily operation. Factors such as dirt and wear are some of the most common causes of poor efficiency, which can cause your system to require more energy to provide the same amount of heating or cooling. In some cases, neglecting twice-yearly maintenance can lower efficiency by as much as 5% each year.

Because they keep your system clean, lubricated, and in good working order, regular tune-ups will ensure your air conditioner won’t suffer efficiency losses when you can least afford them.

What You Can Do

After an HVAC professional services your system, there are a few steps you can take to keep it running smoothly. Most important is changing the air filter. Energy Star, a branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recommends changing your furnace filter at least once every three months. A clogged air filter will restrict air flow, which can reduce efficiency and increase your exposure to environmental contaminants.

HVAC professionals also recommend using a programmable thermostat. Using a programmable thermostat to reduce your home’s temperature seven or eight degrees for eight hours a day (whether during the work day or at night) can save you up to 10% on your energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Keep in mind, regularly scheduled maintenance isn’t just about safety, it’s also about preventive maintenance. An example is catching a problem before your furnace quits working in the middle of the night in the dead of winter when getting on a crowded schedule may be difficult. And, if you have to call someone to show up on a Sunday evening because the furnace died, you will most likely end up paying emergency rates on top of the repair expenses.

Make Your Next Move

Since your HVAC system is among the most complex systems running through your home, it’s important that you hire a qualified professional to perform inspections and services. That’s where we come in! Apex Heating and Air Conditioning hires only NATE Certified employees.

A Yearly Preventive Maintenance Contract from Apex Heating and Air Conditioning will help ensure your system is operating at peak performance, will minimize costly emergency repairs, and can extend the life of your equipment. The lifespan of an average unit without maintenance is 10 to 12 years, but, with annual maintenance, it can be as much as 15 to 20 years!

Plus, you can receive $25 off first year maintenance contracts for one- to two-unit systems and $30 off for three-unit systems.

For more information on HVAC system maintenance, call (919) 467-8823 or (919) 367-0102 or click here.

Founded in 1969, Apex Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. provides complete sales and service of all make and model heating and cooling products. As a Factory Authorized Carrier® Dealer, the company is proud to offer top-notch products, 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; Energy.gov; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Energy Star; Fox Business Network; and GateHouse Media, LLC.)