Insulated attic reduces workload of furnace and air conditioner

For a long time, I never considered the attic as anything more than a storage area.

  • I have a full-sized attic that provides plenty of room to stack boxes of Christmas decorations, sports gear, photo albums, furniture we no longer use and outgrown clothes.

Although I noticed that the attic was extremely cold in the winter and brutally hot in the summer, I didn’t worry about it. The attic isn’t part of our living space and isn’t equipped with heating or cooling vents. Since I don’t pay for temperature control for the attic, I didn’t think the temperature up there mattered. However, when I complained to my HVAC technician about the cost of heating and cooling, he mentioned a few ways to conserve energy. He suggested installing a smart thermostat, adding ceiling fans and insulating the attic. I then learned that the attic is designed as a defense against severe weather. Because heat naturally travels to cooler locations, it’s a good idea to properly insulate the attic. Otherwise, the heat from the furnace will migrate to the freezing cold attic, resulting in more work for the heating system and higher costs for me. In the summer, the hot air from the attic heads toward the cooler living areas, causing more stress on the air conditioner. When I checked out the attic, I realized that the minimal amount of insulation had been compromised by moisture and rodents. It was probably doing more harm than good. Although removing the dirty insulation and installing new was a time-consuming and unpleasant job, it was definitely worth it.

 

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Choosing an air purifier to improve indoor air quality

Last winter, I noticed that cooking smells were lingering for a long time in the house.

When I cooked a particularly smelly fish dinner, I clearly detected the odor in every single room.

I realized that the smell was getting pulled into the ductwork and delivered with the heated air. I started to worry about what else was circulating throughout the house. Any dust, dander, bacteria, viruses or contaminants floating in the air would be trapped inside the house until spring. I have done my best to seal the thermal envelope and prevent energy waste. Our winter weather is brutal and tends to linger for up to eight months. The furnace is essential but expensive to operate. I hope to reduce monthly utility bills by creating an energy efficient home. I’ve caulked, weatherstripped and insulated to stop our heat from leaking out and to prevent outside air from coming in. I’ve eliminated essential ventilation, resulting in some concerns with indoor air quality. I worried about my family breathing in these allergens and being at risk of health problems. Very often, coughing, sneezing, sore throat, headaches, congestion and sleeplessness can be blamed on poor indoor air quality. I looked into the different types of indoor air quality accessories on the market. There are a wide range of options to choose from, and I wasn’t quite sure which one would best suit our needs. I then called a professional HVAC contractor, and he recommended an in-duct air purifier. The air purifier has made significant improvements to the cleanliness, health, smell and comfort of our home. It treats the air as it passes through the duct system, trapping particles, eliminating odors and killing pathogens. The air purifier operates silently and requires only annual maintenance.

Heating and air conditioning system

Waiting as long as possible to start up the furnace

I wait as long as possible to start up the furnace every year.

I know that once I raise the thermostat setting and the heater kicks on, it will run non stop for at least six month.

Sometimes, we keep the furnace working until sometime in May. It’s not usual to have blizzard conditions at Easter and frost on the ground on Mother’s Day. Over the winter the temperature is below freezing for the majority of the time and frequently dips into the negative digits. Last winter, the temperature got down to twenty-six degrees below zero for over a week. Because the furnace carries such a heavy workload, it consumes a great deal of energy. Our monthly heating bills add up to about half of our total household energy usage. Keeping a comfortable home is expensive. As the temperature cools off in the fall, I make sure to close all of the windows and doors tight. I caulk or weatherstrip any cracks I find and place rolled up towels along the windowsills and door jambs to prevent drafts. Our house is big and old and despite my attempt to improve efficiency, there’s cold spots and air leaks. My kids complain about the chilly house and aren’t happy when I refuse to use the furnace. I tell them to dress warmer. Eventually, I have no choice. The house gets so uncomfortably cold that I can’t wait any longer. When I adjust the thermostat and heat flows from the vents, it’s the official start of winter. I know we’re going to be trapped inside, breathing the same stuff air for months and months.

 

air purification

Investing in a ductless heat pump

My husband and I go back and forth between a house down south and another up north.

The northern house is left empty from November until the end of April.

While we’re gone, the outdoor temperature is often well below zero. While we prefer not to pay huge energy bills for an unoccupied house, we can’t shut off the heat entirely. There’s the concern of damage such as water pipes freezing. The heating system installed in the house is old and not totally reliable. We aren’t willing to invest in a whole new furnace for a house we don’t use in the winter. I decided the solution was to have a ductless heat pump installed. This type of system isn’t overly expensive and can be installed without causing disruption. It requires little more than access to electricity, mounting capabilities for the indoor air handler and a three-inch hole in an exterior wall for the conduit. The benefit of a ductless heat pump is that it provides both heating and cooling capability. I hoped it would supply sufficient heat to protect the home over the winter and also cold down the house in the summer. It’s not intended for whole-home temperature control but instead targets specific rooms. The air handlers mount onto the wall and include independent thermostats for zone control. The guy I called to handle the installation was recommended to me by a coworker. I should have done some research into his qualifications. The ductless system he sold me wasn’t capable of handling the below-freezing temperatures of our local winters. Plus, he installed the unit improperly and it wouldn’t even start up. When I called him back to complain, he promised to fix it. He never showed up and then stopped answering my calls. I was forced to hire a new contractor to fix the other guy’s mistakes.

a/c workman

Upgrading to zoned heating and cooling saves money

I am always involved in some type of home improvement project. I like renovating rooms, updating appliances and changing the decor. Many of my investments have significantly increased the value and energy efficiency of the household. I’ve replaced the roof, windows and exterior doors, elevating curb appeal and also reducing our utility bills. One of my most recent investments was zone control. Upgrading the heating and cooling system was one of the most expensive home improvements but also the most beneficial. It was necessary to install a new furnace and air conditioner to achieve zoning. There is now a thermostat mounted in each room that allows for customized temperature settings. Because of wifi connectivity, the thermostats can easily be accessed through an app on my smartphone. Rather than making manual adjustments, I raise or lower settings as needed with a tap of my finger no matter where I happen to be located. There are so many benefits from zone control. I can target those rooms that tend to feel chilly or overheated without affecting temperature in the whole house. I lower the temperature in the kitchen when I’m cooking dinner in the summer. I make sure the living room is perfectly comfortable when the family sits down to watch a movie together. There’s no need to heat or cool empty rooms to the ideal temperature. We use a lot less energy, pay lower utility bills and there’s less wear and tear on the furnace and air conditioner. It’s also helpful that family members can tailor temperature to their personal preferences.

Cooling products

Smart thermostat is a helpful energy saving measure

My house is very old, very large and extremely difficult to heat and cool.

I live in an area where the temperature fluctuates between ninety degrees and twenty below zero.

Keeping a comfortable home is difficult, expensive and a year around challenge. High ceilings, big windows and a lot of square footage force the furnace and air conditioner to work hard to achieve the thermostat settings. I’ve made it my mission to minimize demands on the heating and cooling system and reduce our household energy bills. There are lots of little and inexpensive things I can do to combat energy waste. Every year, I go around with caulk and weatherstripping and check for cracks and leaks around the windows and doors that need to be sealed. I’ve devoted a great deal of time to adding insulation to the walls, ceilings and attic. I’ve very carefully insulated around electrical outlets and plumbing pipes. I make the effort to open the curtains during the winter and take advantage of the warmth of the midday sun. Closing them during the summer helps to keep the house from heating up. I’ve installed ceiling fans that work to push the heat toward the floor in the winter. By changing the direction of the blades, the ceiling fans encourage the heat up and out during the summer. I’ve invested a small fortune into replacing all of the windows in the house. One of the best home improvements was upgrading the thermostat. I used to forget to raise or lower the thermostat before leaving the house in the morning. The furnace or air conditioner would run all day, keeping empty rooms at the ideal comfort level. Having a smart thermostat allows me to make adjustments to heating and cooling through an app on my phone no matter where I happen to be. Even better, the thermostat automatically caters to our schedule. It uses occupancy sensors to know when the house is empty. Plus, the thermostat sends alerts when it’s time to schedule professional maintenance or change the air filters, helping me to take better care of the furnace and air conditioner.

 

a/c service

Realizing the importance of furnace maintenance

I never used to be all that conscientious about changing the air filter in the furnace.

When the weather cooled off, I turned up the thermostat.

I never considered scheduling professional maintenance for the heating system. I would usually install a fresh filter at the start of the season and then ignore the furnace all winter long. As long as the heater continued to supply a sufficient amount of warm air, I didn’t worry about it. A couple of years ago, the winter season was especially long and cold. We saw temperatures down to 26 below zero for weeks at a time. During a blizzard in the middle of February, my furnace quit. I should have seen it coming. I had noticed more dust blowing around in the air. I’d needed to turn up the thermostat setting for the sake of comfort and realized that the heater was running for longer cycles. The technician took the system apart and showed me the buildup of dust and debris on the components. He explained that these contaminants were hindering the operation of moving parts, restricting airflow and probably creating a health risk. The furnace overheated and the cost of repair was considerable. It could have been prevented if I’d changed the filter and arranged for proactive maintenance in the fall. A clean filter traps particles and prevents them from getting inside the furnace. Professional upkeep in the fall includes a thorough cleaning of the various parts, troubleshooting and tuning. The technician makes sure the heater is in tip top shape and prepared for the winter workload. Since taking better care of my furnace, I’ve benefited from lower monthly energy bills, a cleaner home and superior comfort. I haven’t had any complaints with the furnace.

 

Realizing the importance of furnace maintenance

Replacing radiators is easier than expected

When we bought our new home, there was a boiler installed in the basement and radiators in each room.

The radiators were extremely old and unattractive. They were bulky pieces of equipment that took up a great deal of space, detracted from the decor and hindered furniture arrangement. Although the radiators provided a tremendous amount of heat, they were dangerous. The surface heated up during the operation and I worried about my kids getting burned. Expecting the replacement of the radiators to be a disruptive, expensive and horrible project, I contacted a local HVAC contractor. The technician inspected our heating system and offered several options for improvement. He said that despite the age of the boiler, it was in good condition and could be expected to perform reliably for many more years. The radiators could be replaced with baseboard heaters, radiant floor heating or modern radiators. When he showed me the options for modern radiators, I was really surprised. Today’s generation of radiators are mounted on the wall, streamlined and unobtrusive. They don’t get hot to the touch or make any noise. They can be positioned so as not to get in the way of furniture arrangement. Changing out the radiators turned out to be a fairly quick and affordable project. The improvement to the look, value and comfort of our home was significant. The radiators provide a very gentle, even heat. They don’t overly dry out the air or introduce any type of air contaminants. They include zone control, allowing us to tailor temperature settings to occupancy and preference.

HVAC brands

Geothermal heat pumps pay for themselves very quickly

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the most environmentally responsible type of heating and cooling is a geothermal system.

Although geothermal heat pumps cost a lot more to purchase and implement than a more conventional alternative, the exceptional energy efficiency typically recovers the investment in under five years.

The reason these systems are so expensive to install is because of the excavation necessary to accommodate the underground loop system. A looping series of pipes is buried underground where it draws from the renewable energy source supplied by the sun. No matter the season or the weather, the temperature underground maintains a steady temperature. This allows the geothermal system to pull heat out of the ground during the winter and pump it indoors. During the summer, the heat pump literally reverses operation. It acts like a regular air conditioner, drawing heat out of the inside air and moving it outdoors. A geothermal heat pump generates four units of energy for every one unit it requires to operate, managing to achieve a 400% efficiency rating. It not only saves money on heating and cooling costs but also provides a virtually free source of domestic water heating. Geothermal temperature control effectively removes excess humidity during the summer and won’t overly dry out the air in the winter. Because there is no combustion process, the system doesn’t produce any greenhouse gases, formaldehyde or carbon monoxide. It’s a wonderful choice for anyone who suffers from allergies, asthma or dust sensitivities. There are government tax incentives available to help with the costs. Plus, the price of these environmentally friendly systems has come down in recent years.

temperature control

High velocity system is designed for older home

There are some benefits to purchasing an older home.

My husband and I really appreciate the hardwood floors, staircase and moldings.

We love the charm of our front porch and the big windows. However, there are some drawbacks to a home built in the 1800s. When we moved in, the water pipes were galvanized steel, corroded and leaking. The electric panel was not up to code and we had one power outlet in each room. The roof was in terrible condition and all of the windows needed to be replaced. There was no insulation in the attic or in any of the walls. Because of a lack of conventional ductwork, the previous owners had handled heating and cooling with portable options, including window air conditioners and electric baseboard heaters. Our house was freezing cold throughout the winter and horribly hot and sticky all summer. I hated the look of all of these various heating and cooling units. I wanted a centralized, permanently installed and more effective solution. I did some research and was surprised to learn about high velocity heating and cooling. This style of system is designed specifically to retrofit into older homes. It uses ducts that are only two inches in diameter and flexible enough to route through existing walls and accommodate obstacles without damage. The mini-ducts connect to vents that are only six inches wide and allow versatility for location. The system uses a process called aspiration, delivering heated or cooled air at a very high rate of speed. It can raise or lower room temperature quickly for shorter system run times. Plus the smaller ducts avoid the energy losses associated with conventional ducts. The high velocity system provides ideal whole-house, year-round comfort without draining our budget.

Commercial AC