Your A/C and Heating Connection: Insulation DIY?

9 Oct

A few weeks ago, we started our talk on the topic of insulation. We began with words of warning and pictures to help you know where you stand. Last week we talked about R-Values and insulation types, and now it’s time to get started.

So, now you know insulation basics in case your attic is losing its efficiency. You know the standard R-Value for your home, and you know types of insulation on the market. The question is: should you do replace the insulation yourself?

When it comes to DIY construction, be careful. Depending on your experience level and the project at hand, you could cost yourself more in the long run than having it professionally completed from the start.

For those DIY contenders, blanketed insulation is the easiest kind to install on your own. However, you want to make sure you get the right R-Value and that you’re filling an unobstructed, standard area. If you have any doubt about these two things and/or your experience level, do not try to do it yourself. If you’re looking for professional advice, don’t hesitate and send a shout our way.

Your safety is the number one concern. Also, don’t forget that the goal of insulation replacement is to raise efficiency levels and save you money over time. If you have any questions or concerns, or if you’re ready to take the next step and get your home accurately insulated, give us a call!

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: Loss Aversion Part II

24 Sep

Last week we cleared the dust on the topic of insulation. I hope it got you thinking about how to make your home more efficient, and if so, this is a great first step. Good news: we’ve been getting positive feedback from Central Florida residents who are now breathing cleaner air thanks to the team at Tropical Air of Central Florida.

Many of our readers have even begun their own research into the types of insulation so that they can get started on the next phase of energy conservation in their home as quickly as possible.

Good move, guys. And don’t forget, you can e-mail me at Rikki@tropical-air.com or call our office at 321-972-9935 if you have questions or want more detail than we get into here. So, ready for the next step in our insulation adventure?

R-Value

Just before we get into the different types, let’s talk standards. Insulation has its standard measured in what is called R-Value, otherwise known as Thermal Resistance. The substances used in different types of insulation have varying R-Values, so it’s going to take some calculation to figure out what works best for your home. For an easy-to-use R-Value calculator to determine your insulation needs, the Department of Energy offers an Insulation Fact Sheet and R-Value calculator. Take a moment and go to http://web.ornl.gov/sci/roofs+walls/insulation/ins_16.html.

Wanting more variety of insulation choice? Check out Energy.Gov at http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/types-insulation, and you will find just that. This site has more than a thorough list of all insulation types and materials – it also offers a slew of related articles and insight for your empowerment. For our purposes, we’ll simplify things a bit and talk about the only two types you should ever really need.

Batts and Rolls

Blanketed insulation, such as batts and rolls, fills in nicely between joists and studs that have standard spacing and no obstruction. It is made of fiberglass, wool, and other fibers, and it is very affordable.

Blown-In

Blown-in insulation is also fiberglass-based, but is also made of cellulose and mineral wool. This type of insulation is literally blown into the walls and floors, sometimes poured in between joists. The advantage of this is that it can go anywhere. If your spaces are not standard or if there are obstacles in the way, blowing in insulation just might be your answer.

Which insulation is right for you? Much of it depends on design, budget, and goal. The best thing to do is learn from the aforementioned sites and ask the right questions when speaking to an insulation specialist. On this note, don’t hesitate to throw any insulation, heating, and/or air conditioning questions our way at Tropical Air.

Be sure to check in next week as we highlight effective methods about getting the job done right, the first time.

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: 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

Repair VS. Replacing Your A/C System

17 Oct

Your A/C unit just went out for the 3rd time in this year and you ask yourself, “When is it time for me to replace my system?”  The decision whether to repair or replace a system is based on what is in your best interest.  However don’t be pressured into making a quick decision, some companies will offer a solution as to what is most convenient or what is going to make them the most momey.

When deciding to repair or replace, there are three main factors to consider.  These factors are current condition of the system, life expectancy, and efficiency.  If any of these issues are posing problems with your system it may be time to consider replacing it.  If two or more are problems then replacing your system would be your best decision.

In regards to current condition of your system consider these factors: quality of the equipment (brand, builders grade, etc), how often the system is maintenanced, and the number of times your system breaks down.  If the system hasn’t been maintenanced like it should or if it is breaking down constantly, it is probably time to consider replacement.  If the system wasn’t the greatest unit to begin with it might be time to replace it.  You’ll never make a system better than it was without putting a lot of money into it.

The life expectancy of a unit is about 8 – 12 years.  After that, they become expensive to repair and will start to break down often.  Also, its going to be harder to find parts for that old of a system as they become discontinued.  If you are near the ocean you can expect the systems life span to be shorter due to corrosion from the salt.  Most manufacturers only warranty systems between 5-10 years.  And generally, this only includes parts, not labor to replace it.  If your system is hitting the 8 year mark or more and your having problems with your system, it is probably time to replace it.

This day and age everything is about efficiency.  How well something performs with a miniumum of energy to accomplish it.  No matter how much money you put into your old system, it will only be as efficient as it was when it was manufactured at best.  Older units have a much less efficiency rating than newer ones due to the constant improving and increasing energy standards that the government imposes.  You could see up to 60% of savings on your electric bill when your replace your system with high efficiency equipment.  A lot of times installing a new a/c system can pay for itself in a relatively short amount of time.

So the next time your a/c goes out, consider these factors and decide whether it’s worth it to pay for repair or if in the end it will be better to replace it.

Melissa Bott

HVAC Project Coordinator

Tropical Air of Central FL