In our last blog, we discussed how inadequate ductwork could cause poor system performance, and lead to higher utility costs. Another common problem with ductwork is called “duct leakage”. The fact is if a duct system is in an unconditioned space and there are holes in it, there will be leakage. We want you to know how much leakage is acceptable, how it is measured, and what you can do about it.
First, let me explain why this can result in unexpectedly high utility bills. When you have a home and you are heating, you pay to maintain the air at a set temperature. The air is already treated and as it leaves your house and enters your ductwork on its way to your furnace, if you have duct leakage air will be pulled from the surrounding area into the ductwork. This dilutes your room temperature air with colder attic or crawlspace air. Also, it will result in wasting energy to reheat the air back to room temperature. After it leaves your furnace, if you have leakage, some of the air you paid to heat will leak out of the ductwork into your attic or crawl space, reducing the heat available to warm your home.
So is it difficult to measure duct leakage? No, it is a fairly simple process. With your furnace running, we calculate how much air the furnace is blowing, measure how much is exiting the vents, and then subtract the two in order to tell how much the leakage is actually occurring. Although this is not hard, it does take some tools and skills that are not readily available to most people.
How much duct leakage is acceptable? This is a very good question! Honestly, there is no definite answer for this question because it depends on you. If you are satisfied with your utility costs and the comfort level of your home, then your duct leakage is acceptable. The fact is that any duct leakage can be prevented, and does drive up utility costs through reheating, lost heating and excessive infiltration.
Now the question we want to address is, what should you do about duct leakage? The solution is very simple. To stop duct leakage, your ductwork must be sealed appropriately. This is accomplished most often through a mastic seal that is applied to every seam, joint, penetration, and hole in the ductwork. Often times, leakage spots can be found by looking for cracks around the holes in the floor and ceiling, but instead they get overlooked.
This process is time consuming, but can provide huge payback in utility savings and comfort. Reliable Comfort has several individuals that have been specifically trained in identifying duct issues, including leakage and other sources of related to poor performance of your equipment.
Is your heating bill too high? Is ductwork the issue?
As cold weather is upon us, one of the unfortunate effects is that utility costs increase. For some homeowners, this increase is drastic, whereas for others in similar homes, the increase is not as severe. While lifestyle plays into some of the price differentiation, a large part may be the result of poor ductwork. Let us investigate this issue for you, and provide some insight as to a few possible solutions that will keep more money in your pocket.
As the equipment has been developed over the years to be more efficient, the requirement of air movement has been increased to protect the thinner components. This results in trying to move more air through the existing duct space, which increases the pressure in the ductwork. This type of pressure is referred to as static pressure. Every manufacturer rates the performance of their equipment at a maximum external static pressure (ESP). Systems that have been changed over the last 10 years are being installed in situations where their ESP could be double, or even triple the manufacturer’s maximum. This results in higher operating power consumptions and lower airflow, which in turn wastes energy. The national average of delivered heat to a structure is just over 55%, which means that for every dollar you spend, forty-five cents is wasted through the delivery process.
Think of it this way, your blood pressure is supposed to be around 120/80; if it gets higher, your heart has a hard time pumping blood and health problems can be a result of that. The same thing occurs to mechanical components in your furnace, they are designed to operate at a certain pressure and anything above that level is detrimental to comfort, efficiency, and the unit’s longevity.
Sometimes, very simple changes can be made to correct the problem, and in turn can end up saving you money while increasing your comfort, and the longevity of your equipment. A few possible corrections are replacing a few vents, replacing a small section of ducting, or simply adjusting air settings.
The fact is, you would benefit from having your heating and cooling system checked by a contractor, trained to diagnose airflow and static issues. Reliable Comfort has air balancing and diagnostic skill certification, obtained from the.
Carbon monoxide is a serious danger to any homeowner and if you are perhaps questioning that, simply go to a search engine and type in the words carbon monoxide poisoning and you will get at least 1.9 million hits. With knowing this fact, how should we protect ourselves from this dangerous gas?
In addition to good carbon monoxide prevention, maintenance, testing and general safe heating practices, it’s essential that every home with a fuel-burning appliance and/or an attached garage have at least one carbon monoxide warning device. Now the question needs to be asked, is there any difference between a detector and an alarm monitor?
Shockingly enough, the answer is yes. These two items are very different so let’s discover all of the differences and how they apply to your home.
This device will typically be mounted on the wall of your house with no readout or visible way to read CO levels. The typical detector will sound an alarm if the CO level rises above 70 ppm (parts per million). That may sound good to you until you understand that it can take up to 4 hours of a higher than 70ppm reading to initiate the warning, long after the adverse effects usually begin. Another alarming fact is that in the instruction manual for detectors, the manufacturers state that they do not meet OSHA standards and cannot protect children, the elderly, and/or those sensitive to carbon monoxide. Would you like to know if there is anything else out there that will protect you and your family from this orderless, poisonous gas?
THE CO MONITOR
When it comes to protecting your own health and the health of your family, this is a must! There are two types of CO alarm monitors which are the standard monitor and the low-level monitor. Standard monitors have a digital readout and behave within the specs described above with the added protection of you being able to “look”, test and check your protection. Low-level monitors will have a digital readout and an alarm at a much lower level. Be sure to check the spec data for specifics.
Reliable Comfort Heating and Air Conditioning is one of few local certified CO contractors that can service your home. Let us protect your health from this dangerous toxin with a NSI 3000 low-level CO monitor.
As winter becomes ever more present, and we all begin to run our furnaces once again, it becomes essential to discuss one of the most dangerous conditions in your home – the presence of carbon monoxide, a real and present danger in your home. Carbon monoxide is a biproduct of combustion (gas+ignition=flame) that is an odorless, tasteless and invisible poison that can be floating in the air of your home. This poison can enter your home in various ways; faulty venting, poorly maintained equipment and/or excessive infiltration are extremely common reasons for this unwanted occupant. Don’t worry though; there are several ways to protect your family from this danger.
Have a carbon monoxide safety inspection in your home.
This is the easiest way to ensure your safety. Let a certified carbon monoxide and combustion specialist come and evaluate your home. This should include a visual inspection, venting check and combustion performance check on all gas fired appliances. He or she will be able to give you a detailed report as to the probability of carbon monoxide.
Have safety switches placed on each gas appliance vent.
These switches will protect your home from excess flue gasses including carbon monoxide from invading your home in the event of your flue being restricted. If your flue gets restricted, the typical furnace, water heater and gas logs will not shut down since they do not come with any such safeties. This lack of protection allows carbon monoxide to build up rapidly, in some cases to deadly levels, in a matter of hours.
Install a low level carbon monoxide monitor.
This is the best and only way to ensure protection for you and your family. A monitor will warn you if levels of carbon monoxide levels start to climb and provide you info way before dangerous levels are reach. Be advised that a carbon monoxide monitor is much different than a carbon monoxide detector. In our next post, we will look at the difference between these two devices.
Take action today.
Reliable Comfort has just joined an elite group of contractors in obtaining carbon monoxide and combustion certification from National Comfort Institute, the leader in carbon monoxide and combustion training. Give us a call, and let us ensure your safety today!
With the weather changing, and the temperatures dropping, more talks seems to be given to the discussion of dry air in homes. As HVAC experts, we get asked a lot of questions about how to properly control humidity levels in your home, and we have been discussing that topic in some of our recent blog posts. For this post, though, we thought we’d discuss some of the benefits of proper humidity.
There are numerous benefits to proper humidity in your home, but for times sake, lets look at the three significant ones.
- Healthier Air
- A huge benefit of proper humidity is the increased quality of the air that you breathe. The ideal humidity in the winter for the healthiest air is 45%. At that humidity level, the moist air will keep your sinus passages from drying out and provide great protection from inhaling airborne particles.
Home Care and Preservation
- Another benefit of humidity is the comfort you feel. As the humidity level in your home drops, the moisture out of your skin evaporates and leaves you with a chilling feel. When you keep the humidity up, the moisture stays on your skin and you feel warmer. Consider a spring day with the outdoor temperature around 70 degrees and a low humidity, you would grab a jacket. Now that same 70 degrees late in the summer evening at a higher humidity, you would feel very comfortable.
- The final benefit we will consider is the benefit for your home. Proper humidity can provide a huge benefit to your largest investment. Without proper humidity, anything materials that are or contain wood will lose significant amounts of moisture. This will result in cracking, splitting and huge gaps in your woodwork, floors and trim. Low humidity also wreaks havoc on musical instruments such as pianos.
As you can see, there are numerous benefits to humidity. Coming soon, we will investigate some obscure benefits and facts about humidity.
For all of your comfort needs, Reliable Comfort, Columbus and Seymour, Indiana’s HVAC experts, desires to serve and help you understand and maintain your heating system including ensuring that your home has proper humidity levels. Give us a call today to have your home humidity levels tested and optimized.
As we discussed in our last blog post, low humidity problems are very frequent in homes, especially in the winter. The only way to remedy this situation is to add moisture to the existing air with the use of a humidifier. There are three types of humidifiers: portable, self-contained, and duct mounted (or whole house). Let’s look at each type.
This is the least expensive type of humidifer and typically serve only a small room. They must be constantly filled with water due to their limited capacity and typically have a small heat element in them with no fan assist. Portable humidifiers rely on the heat to evaporate the water into your environment.
As we continue on to a typically bigger humidifier, we start to find more benefits and controls. Most self-contained humidifiers have a larger heater and fan assist which circulates the air in the room. There is also likely to be a sensor and control to limit the amount of humidity delivered to one specific area. Self-Contained units come in a variety of capacities (3-10 gallons per day) and can cover a significantly larger area than a portable unit.
A duct mounted humidifier provides complete control of the amount of humidity in your house. There are two basic styles: evaporative and mechanical. Both types typically have humidistat controls and the ability to cycle on demand and according to the humidity sensors.
- Evaporative Humidifiers open a solenoid to flow water across a water panel and utilize the heat from the furnace to humidify the air. The air is then blown into the house where it mixes with the less humid air resulting in a balanced indoor environment. This style of humidification can humidify a 2000 square foot house fairly easily and accurately.
- Mechanical Humidifiers operate in a very similar way. The major difference is that there is a heating element in the water to produce steam. Additionally, there is a relay that can power on the indoor fan, providing humidity any time it is needed.
Humidity is a very necessary part of our indoor environment and is beneficial to our health. If you and your family would like to explore any of these options, Reliable Comfort, humidity experts, can help achieve the balance in your home. Give us a call today.
In our next blog, we’ll will look at the benefits of proper indoor humidity.
Now that the temperature is starting to drop, and we are all turning on our heating systems, one issue that is sure to come into play as it does every year is humidity. Too much humidity, and you will get condensation on your windows and doors; too little humidity, and you get static electricity, dry skin and sinus problems, not to mention, bacteria grows just as well in dry air as moist air. Let’s take a look at both sides of the humidity issue and solutions for each.
First, let’s look at too much humidity. While this is not a very common problem, it does happen. If your humidity climbs too high during the heating season, your home can become very tight and not pull in much outside air through natural infiltration (the process of air traveling from outside to inside through cracks in your home). A solution for this is to install an Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV). This allows your system to mechanically transfer your stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air to provide a less humid, fresher indoor environment. While an ERV will typically solve the problem, if it does not, mechanical dehumidification may be required, but we’ll cover that another time.
Now to the more common problem – the annoying static and dry skin. As cold, moist air from outside is pulled into your home, it is heated up to your indoor temperature, and in doing so, expands. As the air expands, the moisture content stays the same; hence, the moisture content drops drastically. The average home in the USA can have an indoor humidity reading as low as 15% in the winter. The driest desert is not even that dry.
The only way to get that number up is to add mechanical humidity. Mechanical humidity can be accomplished with a portable, duct mounted or self standing unit. Each humidifier has a different combination of features. Keep posted, and we will explore the benefits of each type next week.
Should I set my thermostat back, and how much money will it save me?
These are two of the most common questions we at Reliable Comfort get asked by our customers. There are a couple of pieces of information that will affect the answer. Are there people home all day, and can they stand to be a little cooler? Other considerations should be pets, plants and household items that are affected by changing temperatures. If the answers to the previous questions lead you to no person or thing will be adversely affected, then a set back thermostat would serve you well.
Now, how far back to set it…
A good rule of thumb is to set it back 10 degrees during the day and 4 degrees at night. During the day, your home will loose heat and allow the temperature inside to drop. The theory behind this is you will run for a total time less to reheat than to maintain original temperature. Therefore, you will spend less money on utility bills, the same goes at night, but your comfort comes in to play if you drop much more than 4 degrees.
How much will I save?
According to the US Department of Energy, if you set your thermostat back 10-15 degrees for 8 hours or more, you can expect to save 10 to 14 percent per year.*
There you have it. Is it worth it to you to save a couple hundred of dollars or so each year? Another advantage to setback thermostats is your ability to help the environment. When our home comfort systems run less, we use fewer natural resources and emit less pollution.
Now that we know a little about what is in each platform of HVAC system efficiency, we can evaluate our needs, wants and desires.
Probably the biggest factor that comes into play is budget; the more efficient equipment comes with a bigger price tag but provides lower utility bills. Further benefits of higher technology are humidity control, more even air flow and even more comfort. This is accomplished by a variety of components such as variable speed motors, heat staging, larger coils and specialized sensors and controls.
Before you even start looking into replacing your equipment, there is much wisdom in writing down your objectives. If the primary focus for you and your family is to blow heat in the winter and cold in the summer, then maybe the lower end of the efficiency scale is for you. If you find yourself wanting the lowest utility bills you can have, conserving energy while reducing your impact on the environment, then one would be better served by the higher end of the scale.
Regardless of the efficiency level you choose, picking your HVAC contractor is the biggest factor of all. Choose wisely the contractor that provides you the most information and is the most helpful; after all, if a contractor is not helpful before they get your money, how do you think they will perform afterwards?
In this ever changing world of technology, how do I decide which HVAC system is right for me? There is standard efficient, mid-grade efficient, high efficient, and then, even ultra-high efficient. When you get in close to all the noise and hype, it becomes very confusing and overwhelming. So what’s a consumer to do?
Before you determine that, let’s examine what is in each range of efficiency.
- This is the basic entry level equipment that will consist of 80% efficient furnaces, 13 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps.
Mid Grade Efficiency
- This next step up will typically consist of 90% efficient furnaces, 15 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps.
- As you continue to climb, this group will consist of 95% efficient furnaces, 17 SEER air conditioners and heat pumps.
Ultra High Efficiency
- At the top of the HVAC food chain, you will find your 97% modulating furnaces and geothermal heat pumps.
Stick with us, and we’ll help you make the best decision for your family in our next post (in a couple of days).