Tips to Make Your Home Energy Efficient

If the past week’s cold weather has told us anything, it’s that fall is here and winter is near. Soon, it’ll be time to fire up those furnaces and start paying heating bills. What is the best way to cut down on your heating bills? By making sure your home is energy efficient!

Read on for HVAC Philly’s tips to make your home energy efficient during the upcoming winter season. There are several ways to make your home energy efficient, and many of them are simple and easy to do!

Don’t Make Your Furnace Work Too Hard

             First, start by turning down the thermostat when it’s cold; even setting the thermostat two degrees cooler will save you money and reduce emissions by about 6 percent. You might not even feel the difference, especially at night or when you’re out of the house (a programmable thermostat can help here). You’d be surprised at how many people waste money heating their house so they can walk around in a t-shirt. Throw on a sweater and lower that thermostat! Also, uncovering your windows on sunny days during the winter is a great way to get some free solar heating.

Get an Energy Efficient Thermostat

            Many people have older thermostats that simply turn on and off. You can save a lot of money by upgrading to a new, programmable model. These newer thermostats will save you money since they tell your heater to heat less if you aren’t around or if there is already sufficient heat in your house.

Reduce Heat Loss

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             Do you have old, poorly insulated windows? Consider buying heavier curtains you can draw at night to block the heat from escaping. You can also reduce heat loss from ducts by sealing leaks and insulating ducts where feasible. Next, check your doors. If you feel cold air coming in around the edges, or if your door feels significantly colder than the wall next to it, it might be a good idea to get a new door that keeps heat in better.

             The best step to take if you’re serious about having an energy-efficient home is to have a home energy audit. A professional auditor will come into your home and identify where most heat loss comes from. Often, you will be losing heat in places you never expected. A professional auditor can also help you establish remedies for the heat loss happening in your home.

Don’t Heat Empty Rooms

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  If you have rooms in your house that you don’t occupy often, make sure you aren’t wasting money heating them. Partially (not all the way) close the heating vents in these rooms; they’ll be colder than the rest of the house, but you can always adjust the vents to heat them up when you need them.

Consider Replacing or Repairing Your Heater

            If you aren’t performing regular maintenance to your furnace, you could be losing money due to inefficient operation. Read here for HVAC Philly’s furnace maintenance tips. New furnaces are extremely efficient and can save you an average of 40% on heating costs if you have a furnace that is over 15 years old. Talk to your HVAC technician to determine if you would be better off getting rid of your old inefficient furnace.

If you follow all of these tips, your house will be energy efficient in no time! If you live in Philadelphia, Montgomery, or Bucks County, give us at HVAC Philly a call at 215-725-6111 for all of your heating needs. We also provide free estimates!

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Simple Heater Repair

Simple Heater Repair

Having a broken heater is no fun, especially in the dead of winter. What’s worse than having a broken heater? Waiting for your HVAC technician to arrive and finding out that you could have easily fixed your furnace yourself. Oftentimes, you can easily perform heater repair without the help of the pros.

Here at HVAC Philly, we’re going to provide you with simple heater repairs you can do by yourself. Some heater repairs are simple. Others aren’t. If you live in Philadelphia, Montgomery, or Bucks County, gives us a call at 215-725-6111 for a free estimate.

 

Before you attempt any repairs to your heater, be sure to turn the power off and shut off the gas! These machines are dangerous, and while fixing your furnace by yourself will save some money, going to the hospital will cost you a lot more. Also, the best way to avoid heater repairs is to perform regular maintenance to your furnace. Click here for HVAC Philly’s furnace maintenance tips.

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Heater Repair or Lack of Power?

Oftentimes, when we get a call that a heater is broken, we find that the customer simply didn’t realize their furnace wasn’t getting power or gas. This simple fix is often overlooked, so be sure to check that your heater has power and gas before you do anything else. To check this, first reset your heater by turning it off for a few minutes and then back on. If it’s still not working, check your breaker to make sure it’s not the source of the problem. To see if your furnace is getting gas, check if you’re able to get hot water or use your stove if it’s gas driven. Also, if you have a furnace that uses a pilot light, make sure the pilot light is lit.

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Check that filter!

The most common problem with broken heaters is a clogged filter. If your furnace becomes too clogged, most furnaces will revert to a safety mode that blows only cold air to avoid serious damage. Air is filtered before it reaches the furnace itself, so look for furnace slot, which is usually at the meeting of the return duct (where the cold air comes in) and the main body of the furnace. Once you remove the old dirty filter, insert the new one, make sure it’s facing the right way, and that’s it! Easy right?

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Replace the Thermostat Batteries

The thermostat is another source of avoidable calls to your HVAC technician. If the thermostat isn’t doing anything when you operate it, there’s a good chance the batteries are dead and simply need to be replaced. Another possibility is that the wiring needs to be replaced. Check to make sure the wires are securely connected, especially if you have an old thermostat.

Make Sure Your Heater Door is on Tight

Most furnaces have a safety switch, which will shut off your heater if the cover comes off. If your heater door is loose at all, the switch may activate and prevent your heater from working.

Replace the Igniter or Heat Sensor

If you don’t have a pilot light driven furnace, your igniter may be causing your furnace problems. If your furnace is providing no heat, check the igniter. Check your owner’s manual to locate the igniter. If the igniting element appears very white, you’ll know it’s time to replace it. Replacing the igniter is fairly simple to do, and while each furnace is different, it’s usually a matter of shutting off your furnace, unplugging the old igniter, and plugging in the new one.

If your furnace provides some, but not enough heat, you should check the heat or flame sensor. If it appears to be corroded, simply purchase and install a new one. Check your furnace manual or search online to find the specific location of the heat sensor in your furnace.

 

Remember that sometimes, heaters require an experienced technician’s repair skills. If you’ve tried all of the above fixes and still don’t know what’s wrong, call your local HVAC technician. If you live in Philadelphia, Montgomery, or Bucks County, HVACPhilly can help you! Give us a call at 215-725-6111 for a free estimate.

Furnace Buyer’s Guide

The Complete Furnace Buyer’s Guide

Buying a new furnace can be a daunting task, especially if you find yourself in a situation where your current furnace is broken beyond repair and you need a new one quickly. Even if you’re just replacing your old furnace with a new, more efficient model to offset energy prices, the seemingly endless options can be overwhelming. Money aside, today’s furnaces pollute less and boost comfort with ease by producing heat more steadily than older ones. At HVAC Philly, we have over 20 years of experience in all areas of heating and air conditioning, so today, we’re putting our expertise to use to give back to you and make your furnace buying experience as easy as possible. Read on for our expert buyer’s guide. Since gas is the most common heating fuel, this guide focuses on gas furnaces.

How do most people go about buying a furnace? Usually, they call contractors and ask for estimates. It’s hard to beat the expertise of a seasoned HVAC expert on your own, but learning about the different aspects of furnaces will ensure you are getting the best deal for yourself.

Size Matters

When it comes to choosing a furnace, you should know that size matters–a lot.

The specifications of the furnace you buy should fit your needs and home size. A furnace that’s too small won’t keep your house comfortable when you need it to most. Interestingly, furnaces in most homes are larger than necessary to avoid underperformance during extreme weather. While getting a furnace that’s larger than necessary will guarantee your comfort no matter the weather conditions, you are going to have to pay a higher initial cost for the peace of mind.

It’s also important to note that a furnace that’s too large will cycle on and off more frequently. Frequent cycling puts more wear on the furnace’s components, wastes energy, and can cause your home temperature to vary uncomfortably. Don’t forget that a larger replacement furnace might require larger ducts. Without the right size ducts, airflow can be noisy.

To be sure of correct sizing and a proper installation, choose a reputable contractor who will take the time to calculate your heating needs according to industry standards. Such calculations take into account the climate as well as the size, design, and construction of your house. If you live in Philadelphia, Montgomery, or Bucks County, give us a call at HVAC Philly for a free estimate!

Once the furnace is installed, it’s important to perform regular maintenance according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. (Read here for tips on furnace maintenance)

Is it Efficient?

Why is efficiency important? It’s important because it saves you money and generates fewer emissions, which in turn helps the environment! How efficiently a furnace converts gas into heating energy is reflected in its annual fuel-utilization-efficiency (AFUE) rating. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the furnace.

Over the years, furnaces have of course become much more energy-efficient. A gas furnace made in the early 1970s typically has an AFUE of about 65 percent. The lowest efficiency allowed by law for new gas furnaces is 78 percent, and some new models achieve 97 percent–near-total efficiency.

The price of a furnace generally rises in step with its fuel efficiency. A furnace with a 90% AFUE might cost $1,000 more than a similar size unit with an 80% AFUE, but you can often recoup that additional cost through lower fuel bills over the life of the furnace. AFUE is especially important in regions such as the Northeast and Midwest, where winters can be harsh. How quickly you recover your investment depends on more than just AFUE. Variation in electricity use needed to run the furnace, local climate, home insulation, and your local gas and electricity rates also affect payback times.

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As you start looking for a furnace, insist that your contractor select models in a range of efficiencies and calculate the annual estimated operating cost of each model you’re considering, rather than simply estimating it. The contractor can complete these calculations by entering information on each unit’s electrical consumption and AFUE, local utility rates, and characteristics of your home into a computer program designed to easily calculate estimates. Make sure that the quotes also include the cost of any changes to venting required by any appliances in the home.

Despite the improved efficiency of most new furnaces, it’s generally more cost-effective to repair a furnace than to replace it. However, if a key component such as the heat exchanger or control module fails, you’re probably better off replacing the furnace, especially if the unit is more than about 15 years old (furnaces typically last an average of 15 to 18 years). If you have to replace your furnace, you’ll be glad to hear that today’s more-efficient gas furnaces can save you up to $40 for every $100 you spend on fuel compared to older models. More efficient furnaces are also, on average, less likely to need repairs, which is why reliability is so important.

Ask your contractor if the model you’re considering has been newly introduced, say, two years ago or less—and is thus relatively untested. If it’s an older model, ask if the contractor has noticed any reliability problems with it. According to our numbers, 77% of furnaces that break down need significant work. A majority of that 77% broke down completely, and nearly a third produced no heat for more than a day. 40% of the broken furnaces incurred a repair cost of $150 or more.

Types of Furnaces

You have several choices in energy sources to heat your home and water. Know that prices will vary widely according to the type of furnace and the installation, and you may have to do your research to find out what’s best for you.

Gas

Gas is currently the most common heating fuel. Most new central-heating systems use gas, which is the focus of this report.  Generally, gas furnaces are recommended, but there are situations where you could benefit from having a different type of furnace.

Oil

Oil furnace models still retain a niche in older homes, mostly in the Northeast, but heating costs are usually much higher than those of gas furnaces.

Heat pumps

Heat pump furnaces that wring heat from outdoor air (and reverse the process in summer to act as an air conditioner) are inexpensive to install as an alternative to a cooling-only air-conditioning system. This feature makes them the preferred way to heat in the South and Southwest where winters are typically short and mild. Heat pumps that wring heat from the ground are much more expensive to install, but they are suitable for cold climates because they can maintain their operating efficiency.

Other

Alternate inexpensive electric-heat options include strip heaters, which are installed in the ductwork of central air conditioning and on permanently installed baseboard units in each room. Before you consider any type of electric central heating system in colder regions, keep in mind that electricity rates are much higher than those for natural gas and are likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. You can find rate information for various fuels from local utilities and suppliers.

Furnace Features

Each brand of furnace offers a similar array of key features, depending on price. The furnace features that are most often highlighted are generally the ones included with higher-efficiency models, but some manufacturers also offer them on premium versions of low-efficiency furnaces.

Variable-Speed Blowers

These can deliver air at a slower speed (while often making less noise) when less heat is needed. This speed variation produces fewer drafts and fewer uncomfortable temperature swings.

Variable Heat Output

Available on some furnaces that have a variable-speed blower, this feature can increase efficiency and comfort by automatically varying the amount of heat the furnace delivers. The furnace can thus deliver heat more continuously than one with a fixed heat output could. Again, this reduces uncomfortable temperature swings.

Air Filtration System

Fitting a furnace with an electrostatic filter, which uses an electrical charge to help trap particles, or a high-efficiency particulate-arresting (HEPA) filter can reduce the amount of dust blown through the heating system. These filtration systems may help people with asthma or other chronic lung diseases, but there’s little evidence that other people need such filtration.

Dual Heat Exchanger

Heat exchangers are the components that draw heat from the burned gas. To draw more heat from the air they burn, energy-efficient furnaces supplement the primary exchanger with an additional exchanger. Because the exhaust gases in that second exchanger might yield a corrosive acidic condensate, the second exchanger is made of stainless steel, lined with plastic, or otherwise protected.

Ignition system

Fewer and fewer furnaces have a pilot light–a flame that burns continuously, awaiting the next command to ignite the burners. I don’t know about you, but I’ve personally never been too comfortable with the idea of a constantly burning small fire in my house. Furnaces with intermittent, direct spark, or hot-surface ignition do away with the constant pilot light in various ways. These systems increase efficiency which is usually reflected in a furnace’s higher AFUE rating.

Regardless of what type of heating system you have, if you live in Philadelphia, Bucks or Montgomery County, our team at HVAC Philly will help you find an affordable solution! Contact us today at 215-725-6111 to learn about all of our options and solutions for your heater repair and installation service in the Philadelphia area.