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Programmable Thermostats

19 Nov

c-observerWith the fluctuating weather these days, navigating the temperatures in your home may become a bit more tedious. At night it’s cool enough to bundle up, but do you want to turn your heat on? In the afternoon, it’s warm enough to lose some layers, but do you turn on the air? What if you leave your thermostat on the wrong temperature all day? Nobody wants to come home to that.

Misinformation often leads either to inaction or improper action. Many people believe that it takes more energy and costs more money to change the temperatures on their thermostats when they’re away from home or sleeping, thinking that a constant temperature keeps the unit from using too much energy.

However, the U.S. Department of Energy disagrees with this: The recommendation is to match outdoor temperatures as much as is comfortable for you. To set the temperature higher in the summer and lower in the winter, particularly when no one is in the home, is the best way to save energy and money. Take a look at this chart of recommended thermostat settings throughout the day for a normal home and family who are at work and school all day.

Period Time Heat Set Point      (In Winter) Cool Set Point      (In Summer) Fan Setting
Wake 6:00 AM 70°F (21°C) 78°F (25.5°C) Auto
Leave 8:00 AM 62°F (16.5°C) 85°F (29.5°C) Auto
Return 6:00 PM 70°F (21°C) 78°F (25.5°C) Auto
Sleep 10:00 PM 62°F (16.5°C) 82°F (28°C) Auto

Forgetting to do this can be the main problem – it has been for me. The answer?

Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats make it easier to manage temperatures at certain times, which can save you up to 20% on your energy bills over the year. With these, you can “set it and forget it” and rest easy knowing that it will be a comfortable temperature when you need it to be without using unnecessary amounts of energy. Contrary to popular belief, the unit does not actually “work harder” to reach these temperatures. Therefore, it actually is more efficient to let the unit meet your temperatures when you need them met.

If you have the ability to program your current thermostat but have been on the fence about it, try it for a time and see how it goes. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, it’s definitely worth looking into.

The U.S. Department of Energy has some great articles on the subject. Check them out at www.energy.gov and search for programmable thermostats. Once you’ve done some research and decided what’s best for your home and family, give us a call at Tropical Air or check out our website at acnotworking.com and gain powerful insight about decreasing your energy costs while you feel the breeze.

Keep Cool, Warm, and Informed,

Rikki Payne
Your Licensed A/C and Heating Connection
321-972-9935
www.Tropical-Air.com
http://www.ACNotWorking.com
Serving Greater Central Florida

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Your A/C and Heating Connection: Loss Aversion

16 Sep

For many not in the air conditioning and/or HVAC industry, insulation is just that prickly pink stuff in the attic that we don’t want on our skin or in our eyes, right? For most, insulation is not something we lay awake at night concerned about whether or not it’s doing its job. I mean, I can’t say I lose sleep over a cloud-like substance preventing cool-air escape ten feet above me.

Insulation, what’s the big deal?

Carrie Wells, a long-time patron in Ocala, called Tropical Air on Monday. Concerned about her power bill, she took the first step in what could  possibly save her hundreds of dollars each year. Recognizing common reasons for high energy bills, I asked her about the insulation in her attic.

I wouldn’t know,” she laughed, “I never look up there.”

Truth be told, insulation can be a bit of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind kind of thing, and we understand that at Tropical Air. However, if you’re having issues such as high energy bills, you could end up wasting a lot of money if insulation is the root of the problem and it stays overlooked.

Knowing times are tough and many people prefer to help themselves when possible, for the next couple of weeks we’re going to walk through insulation basics, to save you money and help you stay as confident and comfortable as possible.

What is insulation and why is it so important?

Insulation is a layer of material that protects your home from heat loss and gain. It is the single most efficient energy-saving expense in your home, which is why we want you to know what to look out for and what you can do about what you find.

Where Do I Start?

The first step (and all steps thereafter) must be safety. If you are unable to secure a ladder and safely inspect any part of your home, including your attic, please contact a licensed HVAC or insulation professional. There is nothing more important than your safety… nothing!

Once safety issues have been satisfied, start by looking in your attic. You are more than welcome to give us a call and one of our specialists will be glad to talk you through it. During your inspection, look around for debris, dirt, rodents, missing insulation, and any other potential problems. Within these few minutes, what you see may give you clues as to why your energy bills are high.

To compare, does your attic and insulation look something like this?

nice attic

If your attic looks like this, insulation may not be the issue at hand. After all, this is how your attic should look. Granted, it does not have to be pink and you don’t have to have a window, but as long as the floor is completely covered with no joists poking out, you are insulated better than most.

On the other hand, if your attic looks like something like this…
nasty attic

…we need to talk. Needless to say, most attics in the Greater Central Florida look similar to the image directly above. You are not alone.

Getting back to Carrie, fortunately we came in just in time. While we were there to handle the insulation, we found a spider infestation which was also quickly taken care of. According to averages, Carrie not only has a refreshed attic, her energy bill is slated to decrease significantly.

I know it’s tough to inspect attics and so much easier to push the envelope, but if your insulation needs replacing, it could be costing you more money than you realize. We want to prevent that.

Knowing, they say, is half the battle. So now that you know a few basics of insulation, we can work together to address any issues properly and safely. Next time, we’ll review different types of insulation and how you can make the best decision for your home.

If you have any questions or concerns, speaking to one of our HVAC and insulation professionals is always a free courtesy.

Keep Cool and Informed,

Rikki Payne
Your Licensed A/C and Heating Connection
321-972-9935
www.Tropical-Air.com
Serving Greater Central Florida

Your A/C and Heating Connection: A/C PM

11 Sep
Tropical's Project Manager, Andrew

Tropical’s Project Manager, Andrew

This week, a couple named Steve and Cheryl had problems with their A/C unit on Saturday morning. Knowing there’s nothing more uncomfortable than a clammy Saturday, we got out there by mid-afternoon to look at it, hoping to get them back to a comfortable temperature for Labor Day. What we found was a bad blower motor, which we could only get from the manufacturer. To everyone’s chagrin, we would not be able to fix the issue until Tuesday.

Nobody likes to see this happen, especially us at Tropical Air. Luckily, it worked out for Steve and Cheryl – they enjoyed a family stay-cation at a nearby hotel, ran into old friends there, and had a better holiday weekend than they had planned. However, this may not always be the case. We want you to be in as much control of your own comfort as possible, so this week we want you to think about preventive maintenance, particularly before approaching holidays.

While preventive maintenance is not a cure-all, we here at Tropical Air highly recommend it as a way of catching little things that could throw a big wrench in your plans. Here are a few things an extensive protective service could bring to light:

Low refrigerant: Here’s one thing that is always good to watch out for. In the same way you would fill up with gas before a road trip, checking your refrigerant levels before long weekends or holidays is a great way to stay ahead of the game.

Clogged lines: A clogged line is another relatively small issue that could cause a big problem. When your drain line gets clogged to a certain point, it can engage what is called a float switch, shutting your whole system down until the lines are clear. This could cause more than a temporary panic that can easily be avoided.

Dirty filters: We know that it can be hard to remember to change filters every month. That’s why, on a preventive maintenance, we check them for you. If you have a back-up at your house, we’ll even change it for you if need be, and give you a friendly reminder to keep an eye on them to prevent the many problems that can come with dirty filters.

A/C Insight: Running your air conditioner for one year is like running your vehicle for 100,000 miles. Would you operate your car without a service for that many miles? Neither should your air conditioning system be run without a proper service.

This is only a small list of the benefits of an extensive protective service, and those benefits are magnified in the wake of a holiday or event that requires your attention for more important things in your life. If you have a relationship with a trusted air conditioning service company, give them a call. If you happen to be looking for an air conditioning company, give us a call and let us keep you in touch with your comfort.

If you have not had your A/C system maintained or undergone an extensive protective service in the past six months, a small investment today could save you thousands next year.

Keep cool and informed,

Rikki Payne
Your Licensed A/C and Heating Connection
321-972-9935
www.Tropical-Air.com
Serving Greater Central Florida

Your A/C and Heating Connection: Thermostat Debate

30 Aug

Thermostat (1)Last week, Sylvia from Eustis called in to speak to our professional staff about which thermostat she should purchase with her new system. As knowledge is power, our team offers the following insight for your power. On this note, if you have a question about your air conditioning or heating system, give us a call at 321-972-9935 or write to me directly at Rikki@tropical-air.com and we’ll take care of business.

The truth is, not many consumers have been schooled in this matter, which may cost you lots of money in the short and long run. If you’re not careful, lack of knowledge may lead to you being taken advantage of. Protect yourself by getting the right information before making that next purchase, repair, or service.

Purchasing a new air conditioning and heating system is a big deal. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

For your protection, research not just the product, but also the company you are contracting. Ask questions, and get several recommendations. Even ask about thermostat options. Then YOU figure out what is best for your budget (not all thermostats cost the same) as well as your needs and wants.

Think about the thermostat for a second. The thermostat is your only form of communication with the system that is largely responsible for your comfort. For most, the thermostat is just a pretty little panel of buttons on your wall that you walk by without a second thought. The problem is, if you do not understand this panel, frustration can turn a cool mind into a hot stir.

Important note: You do have a window of choice when it comes to your thermostat. There are guidelines, but within those guidelines you can find something that works well for you. Thus, the importance of working with an air conditioning company you trust.

Thermostat guidelines are relatively simple. One basic rule is that your thermostat must be compatible with the kind of system that you have (for example, a straight cool thermostat for a straight cool system). This is especially true with a variable speed system, for which you will need a thermostat capable of dehumidification.

If you’re not sure about dehumidification or what variable speed systems are, give us a call and we’ll be glad to get you up to speed.

With a few basic guidelines in tow, let’s check out three thermostat categories:

Old-Fashioned

These are your analogue thermostats, with the dial and the little lever on the side and the slide buttons on top that you can’t see without a step-stool or tiptoes. These thermostats contain mercury and, as a result, you cannot get them anymore. If you still have one of these, you may want to seriously consider an upgrade. So you know, upgrading is relatively inexpensive and one of our trained professionals can be in and out of the house in no time.

Simple

There are digital thermostats that are easy to operate. The screen is legible and there are a limited amount of self-explanatory buttons that will make your house either warmer or cooler. Who could ask for more? No doubt about it, this is a popular choice for those seeking functionality without lots of bells and whistles.

The Techie

For those desiring complete control of every aspect of each degree of your house at every moment from any place in your life’s radius, this is the thermostat for you. You can get a programmable one or one that also controls the humidity in your house, even one with Wi-Fi that you can control from your computer or smart-phone.

This isn’t the full extent of thermostat ins and outs but I believe we are well on the way to air conditioning and consumer empowerment. The moral of this bite is for you to remember that you do have options, and just a moment of consideration is likely to save you time, money, and frustration for the foreseeable future.

If you are thinking about replacing or upgrading your air conditioning thermostat or purchasing a new complete system, do yourself a favor and ask questions to ensure the thermostat (and unit) is right for you… not the company selling the system.

Keep cool and empowered,

Rikki Payne
Your A/C and heating connection
www.Tropical-Air.com

The Big Debate! Straight Cool vs. Heat Pump

12 Nov

First thing to take into consideration is the climate you’re in.  If you happen to live in a northern region where temperatures can easily plummet below 40°F in the winter, a heat pump system alone may not be enough to maintain your desired level of comfort.  As strange as it may sound, a heat pump works by capturing the heat outside and moving it inside.  Now you may ask yourself, how is it supposed to capture any heat when its 42°F outside?  Well, the truth is that any temperature above absolute zero (around -459°F) contains some stored heat energy.  In other words, the temperature difference between any two temperatures is heat energy ripe for the taking.  Since it becomes very hard to extract the heat from temperatures below 40°F, it is recommended that a secondary heat source be included when a heat pump is installed in climates prone to colder weather. Even here in Florida, we always install auxiliary electric heat strips for the instance that it gets abnormally cold or in emergencies when the heat pump may not be running properly.   If you’re in an area that averages below 40°F in the winter, your best option would be a straight cool system with a gas furnace (whether it be Natural or LP).  If a gas furnace isn’t an option, a heat pump system with auxiliary electric heat strips would be the next best choice.

The next thing you will want to consider is your comfort level.  If you are used to the heat provided by gas furnaces or electric heat strips, the change to a heat pump system may leave you scratching your head.  Supply temperatures of 120° F are normal for gas and electric heating systems.  While this does allow for rapid heating of the house, it can also leave cold spots.  With temperatures this high pumping into your home, the thermostat may satisfy quicker than it should, leaving areas of the home colder than the “set to” temperature.  The main difference in the design of the heat pump is that it does best in maintaining a consistent temperature.  You may notice that when heating with the heat pump only, the air temperature at the vents may feel cool.  Average temperature for a heat pump in heating mode without the auxiliary electric heat strips is between 80° F-90° F.  This is high enough to heat the house as most people will keep their heating temperature set to between 68° F-72° F. This makes for a more evenly felt temperature throughout the house.

Lastly, you want to consider your energy efficiency.  Heat pumps are gaining the reputation of being the go to system for energy efficiency.  By taking out the need for electric resistance heating, your electric consumption will be reduced.  The argument has been made that when heating, a heat pump system is running both the indoor and outdoor equipment, so one could assume it would be more costly than just an air handler with electric heat strips.  The difference is apparent when you look at the amp draw.  An amp draw is the measure of electrical current flowing through a conductor or the energy being consumed, in this case, by the system.  An air handler by itself can sometimes pull about 1 amp when just blowing the air.  With the electric heat strips active, it may pull 25 or more amps.  A heat pump on the other hand, will pull about 6 to 10 amps total plus the 1 amp the air handler is pulling.  You are looking at a difference there of around 14 amps less power consumption with the heat pump system versus and standard straight cool with electric heat strips.  Again, when temperatures get below the 40°F mark, your heat pump system will rely on its secondary heat source to help make up the difference.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to take into consider when deciding what kind of system to install.  We always recommend having a professional come out and assess your home and concerns before making a final decision.  Call us today and let use help you make this important decision.

Chris Crites
HVAC Specialist
Tropical Air of Central Florida
407-884-6050

Who is MERV and What Does it Mean to You?

3 Oct

MERV stands for the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.  This measurement scale was designed to rate the effectiveness of air filters……their particle removal capability, resistance to airflow, and the expected operating life.  MERV ratings are usually valued between 1 and 16 although they can go as high as 20 (however those are usually for more commercial/industrial systems).  Residential air filters tend to fall more between the ratings of 5 and 13.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency states that “Medium efficiency filters with a MERV of 5 to 13 are reasonably efficient at removing small to large airborne particles.  Filters with a MERV between 7 and 13 are likely to be nearly as effective as true HEPA filters at controlling most airborne indoor particles.”  The EPA adds that “medium efficiency air filters are generally less expensive than HEPA filters, and allow quieter HVAC fan operation and higher airflow rates than HEPA filters since they have less airflow resistance.”

We’ve all heard of HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters before however, most homes are not capable of having whole-house HEPA filtration systems installed without having extensive modification done.  That being said, keep in mind the EPA’s recommendation for filters with a MERV rating from 7 to 13.

So next time you are in the store shopping for a replacement air filter, remember to consider MERV when you make your choice. 

 

Melissa Bott

Hvac Project Coordinator

Tropical Air of Central FL

Cutting Down Your High Air Conditioning Costs

1 Oct

Just because fall is here, us Floridians know that doesn’t mean we get to turn our a/c systems off!  It will still be pushin’ 90 degrees for the next month or so.  You don’t have to pay high prices to be comfortable in your own home.  Here are some ways to cut down your a/c costs so you can save money for more important things (like the holidays).

Fill up those holes.  Go around all your doors and windows looking for leaks and caulk the leaks when you find them.  Circulating air can easily escape through these holes.

Use your drapes or blinds.  Don’t wait until the house is already hot before using the drapes.  Before you go to bed,  close all the drapes and blinds to block incoming sunlight and heat that will come in the morning.  This keeps your home cooler so your a/c has less work to do.

Cool Yourself.  If you come in from outside and your hot, take a cold shower.  It will bring your body temperature down and the effects can last for hours.  Try icy drinks and electric fans too.

Replace your filter regularly.  When you replace your air filter regularly your a/c will work more efficiently.  During peak season (lets be honest, here in Florida it’s always peak season) make sure to check your filter at least once a month.  Replace it when you notice layers of build up.

Don’t cook with your stove.  You probably won’t be able to follow this one as much but the less you use your oven and stove, the cooler your home will stay.  Grill outdoors or eat salads and dips.

Get a programmable thermostat.  Queue in my last blog.  Getting a programmable t-stat is one of the best ways to reduce your a/c costs.  It can allow you to monitor your energy usage by setting the t-stat to “rest” while you are at work and it will start cooling the house just before you get home.  It’s much better for your unit than constantly having to reset the thermostat manually.

 

Melissa Bott

HVAC Project Coordinator

Tropical Air of Central FL