5 Ways to Fix Temperature Variations In Your Home and Save Energy

Is there a spot in your home that’s always hotter or colder than the rest? It’s more common than you think. Fix temperature variations right away and you’ll extend the life of your HVAC system and save on your home energy bills.

When a room’s temperature varies, your HVAC system has to adjust to regulate for the change in temperature. This means your HVAC system may be working harder than needed.

Why are some rooms warmer or colder than others?

Before you can fix temperature variations, it’s a good idea to understand why they happen. There are lots of factors that can contribute to a hot spot or cold, drafty room in your house, but the most common are the following:

  • Poor insulation can let more outside air in, causing the room to feel colder or warmer
  • The orientation of the room may mean more hot sun comes in or a lack of sunshine
  • If the room is furthest out on the HVAC air duct’s line, it may not cool or heat efficiently

Fixing the temperature variations in your house allows your HVAC to work less, which will save you money on your cooling and heating bills. Here’s how you can fix temperature variations in your home so your HVAC system works more efficiently.

how to fix temperature variations in a room

Caulk gaps and drafty spots around windows and doors. Image: veryulissa/Shutterstock

1. Seal Windows and Doors

The weatherstripping on windows and doors deteriorates over time, letting cold or hot air in. Caulk all gaps and replace worn out weatherstripping to better balance the temperature in your home.

HVAC drafts

Layers of fabrics and textiles can warm up a cold, drafty space. Image: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

2. Add Window Drapes, Shutters Or Blinds

Sunny rooms tend to feel warmer than rooms that are dark. If you have a room where the window receives a lot of sun in the summer or feels very cold to the touch in the winter, invest in a heavy black-out or insulating set of curtains or drapes. Window shutters or blinds are also a good insulating option to keep the ambient temperature of the room comfortable.

Open the shades or blinds during the winter so the sun’s warmth enters. And in the summer, keep blinds closed to maintain a cooler room.

HVAC thermostats to fix temperature variations and drafty rooms

A programmable thermostat can keep the room at a comfortable level automatically. Image courtesy of Trane.

3. Add A Programmable Thermostat Strategically

Once you address insulation and manage to balance the temperature extremes, install a programmable thermostat. The key is the location of the thermostat. Place it in or near the room you use most so the temperature level is most comfortable where you spend the most time.

Smart thermostats like Trane’s ComfortLink II XL850 can be programmed remotely from your smartphone so your home’s temperature is perfect before you arrive.

cold drafty rooms and how to fix them

A zoning system means each room can have its own temperature setting. Image courtesy of Trane.

4. Install An HVAC Zoning System

If one temperature for the entire home isn’t realistic, consider adding an HVAC zoning system. A zoning system allows you to set unique temperatures in different rooms or zones in your home.

how to fix drafty rooms

A ceiling fan can circulate air to keep the room’s temperature more comfortable. Image: JR-stock/Shutterstock

5. Add a Ceiling Fan

A ceiling fan is a low-energy way to circulate the air in a room. Most fans have a small button at the base of the motor that allows you to switch the direction the fan spins. This little trick can make a huge difference in the temperature of your room.

In the winter, set your fan to rotate clockwise on low to pull cold air up and away. Doing so pushes the warm air that has risen to the ceiling back down, warming the room. Do the opposite in the summer, setting the fan to spin counter-clockwise, to cool your room.

Still have questions? Talk to an expert

Making your home comfortable and energy-efficient is the smart way to live. Plus, think of all the design projects you can take on with the monthly savings. Talk to a local HVAC professional to see what you can do for your home.

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How to Keep Your Heating and Cooling Vents Clean

Dusty heating and cooling vents aren’t just ugly. They can also restrict the airflow into a room if the dust buildup gets bad enough, and you risk dust and debris getting down into your air ducts. So, to keep your heating and cooling vents free of dust and debris, below we have both some cleaning tips and some preventative ideas.

These tips to keep your heating and cooling vents clean are actually very easy to do and only take a few minutes. They also tend to be low in cost. You’ll need your vacuum cleaner, some soap and water, towels/rags and crevice cleaning supplies to clean the vent.

Some of the preventative measures, on the other hand, could require some items you don’t already have around the home. For instance, an air purifier to capture dust can run around $20 for small devices or all the way up to hundreds of dollars, depending on how many features you want the device to have. Air vent covers often cost around $5.

Heating and Cooling Vents Vacuum Attachment

Brush attachments on the vacuum can help clean vents easily. Image: paulbiryukov/Getty Images

Cleaning Tips

Regular cleaning is your best bet in keeping your heating and cooling vents free of dust and debris. That way, nothing has the chance to build up to problematic levels. In order to get your vents clean, follow these tips:

  • Start by turning off the power source to your air conditioner at the breaker. That way, your HVAC system won’t kick on when you’re cleaning it, blowing dust everywhere.
  • Vacuum the vent cover itself, ideally with a crevice or brush attachment.
  • Remove the vent cover by unscrewing it, if it’s screwed in place. Pull the cover straight up from the duct.
  • Soak the vent cover in warm, soapy water if there is any stubborn dirt. Keeping soaking until that dirt loosens.
  • Wipe the cover down with a wet rag.
  • You can clean between the slats of the vent cover with any narrow cleaning tool, like a pipe cleaner, narrow soft brush or even a cotton swab.
  • You should manually dry between the slats with either a thin rag or a hair dryer on the hot setting to prevent water from pooling. If you use a hair dryer, be careful touching the metal after you blow dry it on a hot setting, as the metal can get warm. From there, you can either let heating and cooling vents air dry on a towel or dry them by hand.
  • After they’re dry, put the vent covers back and turn the power source back on.
Heating and Cooling Vents Pet by Vent

Pets seem to be naturally attracted to vents. Image: @jenlpalmer/Twenty20

Preventative Maintenance for Your Heating and Cooling Vents

You can also keep your heating and cooling vents clear of dust and debris with some defensive measures. A popular way to do so is to invest in a magnetic or plastic vent cover. These are usually used to direct airflow in a certain direction or to prevent excess air from coming through a closed vent, so they’re only suitable if you wish to restrict airflow. But they have the added benefit of keeping dust and grime off the vent, too.

Another option is to protect the heating and cooling vents themselves through lifestyle changes. For instance, encourage pets to avoid the heating and cooling vents if they have a habit of laying on or near them. That will keep dirt and pet hair away from the heating and cooling system. Make sure to vacuum the floor regularly so that dirt and debris are not close to the vent. You may also want to invest in an indoor air purifier to remove dust from the home.

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5 Inexpensive Ways To Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Summer

There’s a lot of information out there on how to make your home more energy efficient. While it’s all meant to be helpful, some of the advice is not the most practical. Not all of us can afford to install solar panels or to buy all new appliances. With that in mind, we’ve brought you a few budget-friendly ways to save on energy. Read on to learn how to start lowering your utility bills.

energy efficient

An energy audit will take stock of your home’s strengths and weaknesses. Image: tommaso79/Shutterstock

Get an energy audit

If you’re unsure of where to start with making your home more energy efficient, having an energy audit done is a great first step. Also known as an energy assessment, these audits are designed to take stock of how much energy your home is currently using, to identify problem areas where energy might be being wasted and to offer suggestions on how to solve those issues.

As for how to get an auditor out to your home, calling your electric or gas utility company may be your best bet. There’s a good chance they’ll either conduct assessments themselves or be able to recommend local auditors. However, if not, the Residential Energy Services Network offers a search directory for qualified professionals. Just remember to always do your research before hiring any service provider to come into your home.

insulation

Insulating your attic will help keep cool air where it belongs. Image: Arturs Budkevics/Shutterstock

Insulate your attic

Your attic isn’t just a place to store your excess belongings. It’s also one of the places in your home that’s most likely to let cool air out. This, in turn, causes your HVAC systems to have to work harder, using more energy overall. However, by adding some extra insulation, you can go a long way towards keeping your temperature-controlled air where it belongs.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, you can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs — and an average of 11% on total energy costs — by taking the time to properly insulate your home. Here, they especially recommend insulating attics, crawl spaces and floors.

seal

Fixing drafty doors and windows will keep you more comfortable indoors and help you save big. Image: Ray B Stone/Shutterstock

Seal drafty doors and windows

In addition to insulating the attic, you can also take care of any drafty doors and windows that might be allowing cool air to escape your home. While an energy auditor will be able to identify these “cold spots” during your assessment, you can DIY this task just by paying attention to where you can feel drafts coming through on windy days.

As far as how to do the sealing, this is definitely one home maintenance task where you won’t need to call in a professional. Adhesive sealing strips are sold at nearly every home improvement store. Once you have the strips in hand, it’s simply a matter of measuring the area you need to seal, cutting the strip to size and applying it securely.

light bulbs

Change out your light bulbs for newer, energy-efficient varieties. Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

Change your light bulbs

If you can’t afford to splurge on a new energy-efficient appliance package or to upgrade to solar panels, replacing the light bulbs in your home is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to make a difference in your energy usage. This move can help you save around 5% on your total energy bills.

In terms of which lighting options offer the biggest savings, you have three choices:

  • Halogen incandescents: Halogen incandescents are popular bulbs because they come in a wide range of shapes and colors. In addition, they tend to work well with dimmer switches. However, while they do meet the minimum energy-efficiency standard, they are not the most efficient option that’s currently available on the market.
  • Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs): CFLs are where you really start to see energy savings. These bulbs use about one-fourth the energy of traditional incandescent options. They also are said to last up to ten times as long. While these bulbs did not offer a lot of variety when they first came out, they are starting to become available in more shades and colors.
  • Light emitting diodes (LEDs): Though LED lights have been traditionally used in outdoor applications, they are becoming more commonplace in indoor settings. LEDs use only 20% to 25% of the energy and last 15 to 25 times longer than the traditional incandescent bulbs they replace. They also use 25% to 30% of the energy and last 8 to 25 times longer than halogen incandescents.
electronics

Plugged-in electronics like coffee makers can use up a lot of unnecessary energy. Image: rawf8/Shutterstock

Unplug energy vampires

This last tip is more of an ongoing effort than a one-time task. Though it may be convenient to leave electronics plugged in even when you’re not using them, the reality is that unless they are certified as energy-saving, they are likely wasting energy. Directenergy.com estimates that you can save $100 to $200 per year simply by unplugging these devices when they’re not in use.

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Here’s Why an HVAC Inspection is Worth the Cost

Is an HVAC inspection worth the small price now? Absolutely, especially when you consider you’re avoiding a big, unexpected repair bill later. During an annual HVAC maintenance visit, a licensed AC technician can spot issues and prevent the need for costly repairs.

HVAC maintenance by HVAC technicians near me

An annual HVAC maintenance visit can save you on repair and energy costs. Image: Serenethos/Shutterstock

Is an HVAC inspection worth the money?

An HVAC system costs thousands of dollars and features lots of moving parts that wear down over time. A neglected system doesn’t work its best.

According to the contractor-consumer matching website Thumbtack.com, the average HVAC technician charges $50 to $80 for an AC service tune-up. Compare that to a repair, which can run you between $150 and $1,000 on average, and it’s a no-brainer. It pays to prevent HVAC problems before they happen.

You’re also likely to save money on your energy bills after a spring HVAC maintenance visit. The Department of Energy says that routinely replacing or cleaning your AC’s air filters (one of the jobs an HVAC technician performs during the tune-up) can reduce your home’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.

HVAC inspection and AC maintenance schedule by HVAC technicians near me

An HVAC inspection should be performed at least once per year. Image: I AM NIKOM/Shutterstock

When should I schedule an HVAC maintenance visit?

Spring is an ideal time for HVAC maintenance. You’ll be running your air conditioner soon enough, so get your preventative maintenance in early. The last thing you want is your AC to break down and leave you in the lurch on the hottest day of summer. And scheduling an HVAC inspection before the summer busy season could save you money on the visit.

If your system also includes heating, the technician can inspect the heating elements during the same visit. Or if you use your heating as much as your air conditioning, you may want to schedule two inspections separately: a spring inspection to review your AC system and a fall inspection to review your heating system.

HVAC technicians near me for HVAC service

During an HVAC maintenance visit, the technician reviews and inspects all components. Image: Joyseulay/Shutterstock

What should I expect during an HVAC tune-up?

An HVAC technician will set a time to visit your home. The HVAC maintenance visit takes about an hour. If the refrigerant needs a refill, it may add another 30 minutes to the service visit. During your appointment, a technician will inspect all the components of your system. This includes checking:

  • The thermostat
  • Electrical connections
  • Refrigerant levels
  • Controls

And adjusting, replacing or cleaning the coils, plus:

  • Adjusting and lubricating moving parts
  • Straightening the fins
  • Cleaning the condensation drain
  • Changing the air filter
  • Adjusting the blower motor and all belts
HVAC inspection

A licensed HVAC technician is familiar with all aspects of an annual HVAC maintenance schedule. Image: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

How to choose an HVAC technician near you

Most states require HVAC technicians to be licensed (or certified) and insured. There’s good reason for this requirement: state licensing programs are designed to protect consumers by requiring that HVAC technicians have experience working with heating and cooling systems and are adequately insured to cover anything that could go wrong while working in your home.

Once you find an HVAC technician near you, you can check to see that their license and insurance is up to date, by state, at contractorquotes.com.

HVAC maintenance schedule

One of the HVAC maintenance jobs you can DIY is to keep your unit(s) clear of shrubbery and debris. Image: Christian Delbert/Shutterstock

Can I do my own annual HVAC service or should I hire an HVAC technician near me?

There are a few things you can do to maintain your HVAC system yourself. Most maintenance and service, however, should be left to a licensed professional, or you could void your warranty. Some of tjhe tasks you can do yourself to extend the life and function of your heating and cooling systems include:

  • Change your filters at least once a year
  • Trim all grass and shrubs around the AC unit outside and clean away any debris like cobwebs or leaves
  • Check the insulation around the exterior unit for damage
  • Clean the air vents inside your home

Your HVAC unit is an essential part of your home. Just because it quietly runs behind the scenes doesn’t mean you can forget about it. An hour of your time once a year and an affordable visit by a licensed HVAC technician can extend the life of your unit — and your family’s comfort level.

The post Here’s Why an HVAC Inspection is Worth the Cost appeared first on Freshome.com.

How to Allergy-Proof Your HVAC System

Allergies and asthma are a growing problem. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says, “More than 26 million people in the US have asthma, and allergic asthma is the most common type, affecting around 60% of people with asthma.” Improving your home’s air quality can reduce common symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath. Start by updating your HVAC for allergy relief.

The main culprits that lead to asthma and allergies in your home include dust mites, pollen, pet dander and cockroach droppings. Your HVAC system is designed to filter these allergens (and more), but if it’s not optimized properly, it may be blowing the allergens around. Here are 4 reasons everyone should update their HVAC for allergy relief, even if you don’t personally suffer from asthma or hay fever:

hvac for allergies

An HVAC inspection and maintenance includes cleaning or replacing air filters and searching for trouble areas where mold and mildew are growing. Image: Charles Knowles/Shutterstock

1. Your HVAC System Can Be Hiding Mildew And Mold

Mildew and mold thrive off dark and damp places. And an improperly maintained HVAC system may be collecting condensation and humidity in hidden zones. Turn your contaminated AC or heating on and you may inadvertently blow the mildew and mold into the room.

HVAC allergy fix: Schedule an annual maintenance visit with a licensed professional to make sure your system is working properly. Make sure the HVAC maintenance visit includes having all ductwork cleaned and changing the air filters. In humid zones, installing a dehumidifier can keep humidity levels in check. A good humidity level is around 40%.

hvac for allergies and best hepa filters

Here’s what your HVAC air filter may look like if you don’t regularly clean or replace it. Image: Steve Heap/Shutterstock

2. Your HVAC Filter May Be Making Your Allergies Worse

HVAC filters are meant to capture debris. But if you don’t clean or replace them regularly, they could become overloaded with allergens and blow allergens like dander, pollen and dust mites back throughout the home.

HVAC allergy fix: Clean or replace your HVAC filters every two to three months. Better yet, upgrade to a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. Filters must remove at least 99.97% of contaminants in the air to earn a HEPA rating. Choose a HEPA filter with a MERV rating of at least 10. MERV ratings score the quality of the air filtration on a scale from 1 (worst) to 20 (best).

hvac asthma and allergies

Keeping all windows closed can cause poor air quality inside your home. Get your home’s air circulating! Image: Dmitry Zimin/Shutterstock

3. Your Home’s Air Is Stagnant

Just because the temperature indoors is fine doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run your AC occasionally. Homes nowadays are so well insulated that there’s a side effect: pollutants and contaminants can’t escape.

HVAC allergy fix: Run your HVAC system regularly, even if just for 20 minutes, to circulate air. The AC ventilates your home by pumping in fresh outdoor air and pumping out the stale indoor air. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can schedule your system to run at a time and duration of your choice.

4. Other Types Of Microbes And Bacteria May Be Growing In And Around Your HVAC Unit

Besides mold and mildew, other organisms can thrive in the warm, damp and dark environment of your system. According to abatement.com, fungi, mites and bacteria that thrive there can “produce adverse effects” to one’s health. Air filters made of cotton and cardboard can provide food for these microbes, allowing them to multiply quickly.

HVAC allergy fix: Consider having your HVAC contractor install a UV light near the system’s evaporator, which absorbs the heat drawn from your home and is often the place where microbes thrive. A UV light will kill bacteria and other bio-organisms and curtail the harmful growth in your HVAC unit.

Once you allergy-proof your HVAC system, tackle the rest of your home. Here are some tips on how to have a healthier, greener home:

The Ultimate Guide To Sustainable Furniture

How To Keep Your Clean Eco-Friendly

Dealing With Asthma And Allergy Triggers In Your Home

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How to Make Sure Your Home Stays Energy Efficient this Summer

For many of us, summer has become synonymous with high energy bills. However, even if you’re one of those people who has to have their AC running at all times, there are things that you can do to cut down on energy costs. To that end, we’ve created the following guide. Below is a list of surprisingly simple tips that you can use to ensure that your home stays energy efficient this summer. Don’t go into the warmer months without it.

energy efficient

Make sure to have your HVAC system inspected seasonally. Image: Christian Delbert/Shutterstock

Optimize your HVAC

The first step that every homeowner should take toward making sure their home is energy efficient is to keep their HVAC system in good shape. The easiest way to do that is to make the effort to keep up with the HVAC maintenance schedule. While that’s truly a year-round effort, the summer months are all about two tasks. First, have an HVAC professional perform a seasonal check-up. Second, make sure you change the air filter regularly.

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During the inspection, the professional will look at the connections, voltage, lines, fins, pans, coils, refrigerant levels, blower system components and more. He or she will also lubricate moving parts, clean dirty components and calibrate the blower.

Do your part, too. Cleaning the filter ensures that dust and dirt don’t get trapped in the components of your HVAC unit. They can cause an unnecessary amount of wear and tear on the system.

After the inspection is over and new filters are in place, you can further optimize your HVAC system by setting the thermostat for the season. While it may be tempting to adjust the temperature in accordance with the weather, don’t. Doing so actually expends more energy and can raise your cooling bills. Instead, experts recommend setting the system at a manageable temperature each season and then leaving it alone.

seal

Seal up your attic and windows. Image: onzon/Shutterstock

Seal up your home

You’re probably used to hearing about sealing up cracks and air leaks in your home in conjunction with advice on how to keep your home warmer during the winter months. While this maneuver will help keep warm air inside your home, it will also help keep the cool air where it belongs. The reality is, if all the cool air is escaping your home, your HVAC system has to work that much harder. If the cool air stays put, however, your system will be able to shut off sooner, saving you on energy costs.

Ideally, a professional will help you detect the areas where air is leaking from your home. However, if you don’t want to make that level of a commitment just yet, you can do some of this work yourself. Simply make sure that your attic is properly insulated and use caulk or weatherstripping to create a proper seal on all your doors and windows.

fan

Put your ceiling fan to work. Image: JR-stock/Shutterstock

Fan yourself

Though it may seem simple, one of the easiest ways to keep yourself cool in the summer is to invest in a high-quality ceiling fan. While ceiling fans don’t directly cool the air, they work well with your AC by helping to circulate the cool air faster. According to the Department of Energy, using ceiling fans allows you to set your thermostat up to four degrees higher, which will help save money.

The key to helping a ceiling fan do its job is to pay attention to the direction that the air is flowing. Most fans have both a “clockwise” and “counterclockwise” setting. In the summertime, you want the blades on your fan to run counterclockwise. That way, they push the cool air back down towards you. The trick for determining if the fan is set properly is simply to stand under the fan while it’s on and see if you feel a breeze. If you do, it’s set correctly. If not, all you need to do is get a ladder and switch the setting.

oven

Limit the use of heat-generating appliances like the oven. Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

Watch out for heat-generating appliances and lighting

Did you know that only 10 to 15 percent of the electricity that incandescent lightbulbs consume is used to create light? The remainder is turned into heat. Fortunately, you can combat these percentages by using newer, energy efficient lightbulbs, which run cooler. Additionally, turning off any lights that you aren’t using helps to stop the creation of any excess heat.

Like lighting, the electronics in your home can also create excess heat energy. Appliances like your washing machine, dishwasher and oven are the biggest culprits. You can give yourself a leg up by investing in certified, energy efficient models of these products. However, the best way to save on energy is to avoid using these appliances on hotter days. Wait until it cools down a little to do that laundry and look into alternative cooking methods like grilling.

Why Isn’t My Air Conditioner Working?
Keeping Cool: How to Choose the Right A/C Unit
HVAC Basics: What’s a Good SEER Rating? 
Building Your Energy-Efficient Dream Home
Clever Ways to Hide an Ugly HVAC Unit

The post How to Make Sure Your Home Stays Energy Efficient this Summer appeared first on Freshome.com.

Spring Tasks to Keep Your Home Cooler During Summer

With the days getting warmer, you may be thinking of all the fun you’ll have this summer: cookouts, roads trips or days at the beach. But you may also want to take some time to think about one of the not-so-fun parts of summer: those increased energy bills as you run the AC constantly to keep a cooler home during summer. Fortunately, there are several ways to plan ahead to make it easier to cool the home.

These ideas run from replacing cooling equipment to simply adding an awning outside windows. Costs could be negligible (as in the case of weatherstripping) or run in the thousands of dollars (as in the case of landscaping or a new AC unit). But if you’ve needed to replace key parts of your home and you want to reduce your energy costs, it could be worth the upfront price. Plus, most of these ideas only take one afternoon to implement. Below are several ways to keep a cooler home during summer.

Cooler Home in Summer Window Shot

While windows add plenty of ambient sunlight, they can also heat the home. Image: S_Photo/Shutterstock

Check your windows

Your windows are the place that you stand to lose the most cold air and gain the most heat. Heat gain and loss account for 25 to 30 percent of residential heating and cooling energy use, according to the EPA. However, updating to new window technologies, like low-e storm windows, can help save 12 to 33 percent per year in heating and cooling costs.

But if you have an older home, replacing windows can come with disadvantages. And it can be expensive, running hundreds of dollars per window. So if you’d rather not replace your windows at this time, you can choose other options for getting a cooler home during summer:

  • Place awnings over windows so that less heat is hitting the window directly and transferring into the home.
  • Replace just the windows that leak the most air. You can hire a professional inspector to perform what’s called a “blower door” test to determine the location of the most air leaks. Though, if it’s bad enough, you can usually tell because it’s simply drafty around that window or door.
  • Invest in weatherstripping around windows and doors to keep them from leaking air. Different doors and windows have different weatherstripping needs, which you can read about in detail here.
Cooler Home in Summer Tree Outside Window

Having landscaping just outside the window can reduce warming sunlight in your home while the sun is lower. Image: Svetlana Larina/Shutterstock

Fix your landscaping to keep a cooler home in summer

Another idea is to think from the outside in. In other words, plan your landscaping so that you have more shade around your home. Simply put, if the sun can’t hit your windows, it can’t warm your home as much.

Look at your home to see which windows let in the most natural sunlight. Then, see if there is a large tree or shrub you can put outside the window to obstruct the sunlight.

You’ll have to be careful with this idea, however. Trees planted too close to the home can disrupt the foundation as roots expand outward. You may want to consult with a professional landscaping service if you choose this option.

Cooler Home in Summer AC Unit

Upgrading to a more energy-efficient AC unit can help reduce cooling costs before those temperatures soar. Image: Krysten Brown/Shutterstock

Replace your AC unit

If your AC unit is old, replacing it can be a direct path to a cooler home during summer. Older or lower-quality AC units run less efficiently. According to the EPA, replacing an old air conditioner with a newer energy-efficient unit could save 20 to 40 percent on your home cooling costs.

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What’s more, many older units also use a coolant called Freon, R-22 or HCFC-22, which was banned in new HVAC systems in 2010, making basic repairs like a coolant change prohibitively expensive. So if it has been a while since you’ve had a unit installed, it might be a good idea to get it replaced before it lets you down on the hottest days of the summer. (You can read more here about finding the right AC unit.) Your new AC unit should last around 15 years. Contact your local HVAC dealer to find the right unit for your home.

And remember, when working toward a cooler home during summer, choose an option that works with your budget. Even simple weatherstripping around your most drafty window can help in the long run.

Why Isn’t My Air Conditioner Working?
Keeping Cool: How to Choose the Right A/C Unit
HVAC Basics: What’s a Good SEER Rating? 
Building Your Energy-Efficient Dream Home
Clever Ways to Hide an Ugly HVAC Unit

The post Spring Tasks to Keep Your Home Cooler During Summer appeared first on Freshome.com.

Exclusive! Chip Wade on Home Maintenance Tasks to Tackle Before Summer

 Chip Wade

Wade gave us a few tips to execute before summer. Image courtesy of Chip Wade

If you’ve ever watched Chip Wade on HGTV or the DIY Network, you know he’s pretty handy, both inside the house and outdoors. Wade, who is also the Owner and Lead Designer of Wade Works Creative and a Liberty Mutual consultant, specializes in helping homeowners create the perfect indoor and outdoor spaces.

As you can imagine, he’s busy, but Freshome asked him to stop and share a few tips on how to recover from winter and get your home and yard prepped for summer.

Service your air conditioner

You don’t want your A/C breaking down during the dog days of summer.

You don’t want your AC breaking down during the dog days of summer. Image: C5Media/Shutterstock

“I recommend checking out your air conditioning system in the spring to ensure it’s working properly before the weather really warms up,” Wade says. The first step is to change the system’s filter. “Clogged and dirty filters make air conditioning systems work harder, stay on longer and cost more to run.” Wade recommends changing heating and air filters every two to four months.

Changing filters regularly helps to keep your system running efficiently.

Changing filters regularly helps to keep your system running efficiently. Image: RF-2018/Shutterstock

After changing the filter, he recommends turning on the unit to see how it is working. “Give it a minute, but if the AC doesn’t start doing its job quickly, I’d recommend checking your fuses and circuit breakers,” Wade says. If that doesn’t make a difference, or you’re getting ghost readings, he recommends calling a professional to assess the situation.

Clean your windows and screens

Caulk and weatherstripping can keep your cool air inside.

Caulk and weatherstripping can keep your cool air inside. Image: 3DPhoto/Shutterstock.

Wade cleans his windows by filling a spray bottle with window cleaning solution and using a squeegee or some newspaper to clean the glass since this leaves it streak-free.

“It’s important to remember that everyone’s windows fare differently after the winter,” Wade says, advising homeowners to look for signs of dry rot. “If you live in a colder climate, look for any water damage caused by melting ice or snow.”

Caulk and weatherstripping keeps your cool air inside:

Caulk and weatherstripping can keep your cool air inside. Image: pics 721/Shutterstock

He also recommends checking the seals around the window. “Recaulk or replace damaged weather stripping where needed,” Wade says. “Those seals will work to keep the cool air inside and the hot air out all summer long.”

And don’t forget about your window screens. “Take time to clean them, inspect them, repair any damage and reinstall the screens in your windows.” Not sure how to repair damaged screens? Wade says you can find a repair kit at most hardware stores. “Also, the best way to wash your screens is by using a hose — not a pressure washer — and some mild detergent.”

Inspect outdoor plumbing

Check for leaks or blockages

Check for leaks or blockages. Image: VTT Studio/Shutterstock

Inspecting your outdoor plumbing is another maintenance task you should perform as the weather heats up. “Start by removing insulators from all outdoor faucets and then turn on the water,” Wade says. “If it isn’t flowing as it normally should, that likely means that there is an issue with your pipes and it’s time to call a plumber.”

If you have an in-ground irrigation system, he recommends calling a professional to tune up your system and ensure that it’s operating efficiently.

Get your yard ready

Inspect outdoor equipment for winter damage.

Inspect outdoor equipment for winter damage. Image: Mark Herried/Shutterstock

As the weather starts warming up, Wade also recommends getting your yard ready. “I like to do a full inspection of everything left outside during the winter, like playground equipment.” He says he’s looking for rust or areas that may be worn down by the weather, and starts troubleshooting from there.

 

 

Prep to enjoy the summer months.

Freshen up your outdoor furniture. Image: Zhu difeng/Shutterstock

After that, Wade says he’s onto the fun part. “I love bringing lawn and patio furniture out of storage and freshening them up.” He also sands and repaints if necessary. “Redesigning — or even redecorating — an outdoor space gets me excited because I’m thinking about all the time that will be spent there with friends and family.” Also, consider ways that you can erase the boundary between inside and outdoors.

Proactively maintain your home

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Image: kurhan/Shutterstock

If you stay on top of home upkeep, Wade says you can avoid future headaches. “In fact, a study from Liberty Mutual Insurance revealed 69 percent of consumers have procrastinated on home maintenance and repairs,” he says. And, unfortunately, many people don’t have money saved for maintenance issues or repair work.

“It’s all about routine maintenance, both inside and outside the home,” Wade explains. “This will save you time and money in the long run.”

The post Exclusive! Chip Wade on Home Maintenance Tasks to Tackle Before Summer appeared first on Freshome.com.

HVAC Basics: Choosing a Dealer

Home HVAC Dealer

Your local HVAC dealer can help you find the perfect system for your home. Image: Artazum/Shutterstock

When it’s time to replace or purchase a new HVAC system, how do you choose the right dealer for you? A new HVAC unit is not an everyday or impulse purchase. It’s important to do a little homework before you shop. Doing some research and asking the right questions is crucial to choosing the best HVAC dealer for your home.

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Basics to know before choosing an HVAC dealer

Let’s start with some basic info before you start your dealer search. What we call HVAC is an acronym for “heating, ventilation, air conditioning.” If you choose a heat pump unit, all three elements are combined into one. Heat pumps are idea for homes that are limited to electrical power, but many homeowners choose them because of their convenience. However, they’re not suitable for all climates. HVAC can also represent a furnace and air conditioner in your home.

Choosing the right HVAC dealer can make the buying process easier — but how can you be sure you’re choosing the right one? Doing your research on your current HVAC, and on the dealers in your area will help you in your search.  Here’s are the first things you’ll need to do.

Having the right information about your heating and cooling needs makes shopping for a new HVAC unit easier. Image: Breadmaker/Shutterstock

This research can make you a savvy HVAC buyer

  • Repair or replace your HVAC? Ask prospective dealers if they have the capability to inspect your HVAC unit and determine if repairs might bring it back to top condition. You may still choose to replace the entire system, but it’s good to know if it’s really time for it to go.
  • Read dealer reviews on more than one site. All review sites are not the same when it comes to getting a balanced look at potential HVAC dealers. It’s a good idea to visit at least two sites that provide ratings and reviews, to get a balanced view of the dealer. Word of mouth from friends and neighbors is also helpful. But visiting at least one review site will let you see an overall view of that dealer’s quality of service.
  • Gather your maintenance and purchase records. It will be helpful to have your current HVAC unit’s records when you shop for a new system, so that your dealer can assess the age and condition of your current system. Furnaces can typically last 12-16 years with proper maintenance, and air conditioning units can last 10 to 16 years when maintained. 
  • Get an energy audit of your home. A local HVAC dealer can provide an energy audit of your home, to ensure that the unit you choose is right for your home. Knowing and understanding your home’s heating and cooling energy needs can save you money. If you’d like to have an energy audit done before you shop for a dealer, most local utility companies offer a free energy audit. This will give you the energy calculations you’ll need when you shop for a unit.
  • Contact prospective HVAC dealers. Once you’ve done your research and are ready to choose an HVAC dealer, visiting their showroom or scheduling a home visit is your next step.

Your local HVAC dealer can help you find the perfect system for your home. Image: John Royal/Shutterstock

What questions should you ask an HVAC dealer?

Your local HVAC dealer can be a great source of information to help you choose the right system. Be ready to ask questions of the prospective dealers, so that you have all the information you’ll need to make a decision. Here are 5 questions you’ll want to ask.

1. Is it really time to replace my HVAC?

A new HVAC unit may not be necessary, when a repair can restore it to optimum condition. Once your HVAC reaches the end of its functional life, a repair may not be possible or cost-effective. A poorly maintained or outdated unit can be more expensive to run.

2. Am I looking at the right HVAC unit for my home?

It’s possible that the HVAC unit you’re replacing was not the perfect type for your home. Your climate, weatherproofing, and even your family size, can be a factor in choosing the  right unit. The right HVAC system for a home in the hot and humid South may not be the right choice for a climate zone in the frigid North.

3. What size HVAC unit do I really need?

Your HVAC dealer can use your energy audit, and other information about your home, to recommend the right size system. There are calculations that provide an accurate picture of your heating and cooling needs. Your dealer can explain the range of HVAC unit sizes, and why they can be too big or too small for efficient energy usage in your home.

4. Will my new HVAC system handle my home’s ventilation needs?

The “V” in HVAC is ventilation. Allergies, dampness, humidity, and more, can affect the fresh air ventilation in your home. Be sure to ask about air cleaning and ventilating features of the HVAC systems you’re considering.

5. Can I finance my purchase?

Many HVAC dealers offer financing, or partner with lenders to make this large purchase easier for you. It’s a good idea to ask about sales, promotions, and discounts you may qualify for as part of group memberships or your age group.

With your research done and your must-ask questions ready, it’s time to contact your local HVAC dealer who can help you choose the right HVAC system for your home.

Why Isn’t My Air Conditioner Working?
Keeping Cool: How to Choose the Right A/C Unit
HVAC Basics: What’s a Good SEER Rating? 
Building Your Energy-Efficient Dream Home
Clever Ways to Hide an Ugly HVAC Unit

The post HVAC Basics: Choosing a Dealer appeared first on Freshome.com.

Should You Repair or Replace Your Home’s HVAC Unit?

Your HVAC system is one of those unsung heroes in your home. When it’s working well, you hardly notice. When it starts to falter, it becomes a big problem. Your HVAC system is responsible for keeping your home comfortable, no matter the temperature. If you find that your home is too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer, it’s probably time for some HVAC maintenance. Knowing whether to repair or replace your HVAC when it’s malfunctioning is important. This can involve a professional evaluation and some checks you can do, too. Always check with a trusted pro before you decide to repair or replace your HVAC unit to save time and money. But here are some general tips for how to know whether you can give your HVAC unit a tune-up, or it’s time to get a new unit altogether.

Row of HVAC units outside of homes

Well-maintained A/C units will work better, longer. Image: Shutterstock/Christian Delbert

Repair your HVAC if:

  • It’s less than 10 years old. Consider the age of your HVAC when deciding to repair or replace. The National Association of Home Builders estimates that the average lifespan of an HVAC system should be between 10-15 years. Of course, that’s not to say that an HVAC system can’t fail before then, but if yours is less than 10 years old, it’s probably cheaper to have it repaired than to buy a new one. Whatever’s wrong with your HVAC should be a minor fix unless it’s over 10 years old.
  • You’ve checked the ductwork. A lot of HVAC issues don’t have to do with the unit, but the duct work. In fact, 10 to 30 percent of the air leaks out before it even gets to your home, so a check of the ductwork can save you big bucks. Having a professional check your ducts and seal any gaps for around $50 can make your HVAC will run more efficiently with a relatively cheap fix.
  • You’ve performed regular maintenance. If you’ve had your HVAC system checked and maintained over the years, you shouldn’t have any major problems. Simply clearing your unit of debris, dust, and dirt, and having regular tune-ups should save you from major problems like failure or inefficiency. Make HVAC maintenance part of your spring and fall checklists and you’ll save time and money.

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Large master bedroom with ceiling fan

Can’t keep cool? It might be time to replace. Image: Shutterstock/JR-Stock

Replace your HVAC if:

  • It’s more than 15 years old. Once your HVAC system is nearing its 15th birthday, it’s also nearing the end of its lifespan. Sure, you could fix whatever’s causing it to malfunction, but chances are that you’ll just have another issue crop up next season. The components in your HVAC start to age and malfunction, which means it might be cheaper to just replace the unit than to pay for repairs year after year. A new unit usually costs anywhere from $5,ooo to $7,00o. It’s a big investment, sure, but it also means a new, more efficient unit.
  • You notice higher energy bills. Feel like you’re suddenly paying more for heating and air? If you get sticker shock every time you open your heating and cooling bills, it might be your HVAC’s fault. As systems age, they simply become less efficient. That means your HVAC is working overtime to heat and cool your home, which means it costs more to run. Calculate out how much extra you’re paying in energy bills and you’ll probably find it’s less expensive to get a new unit.
  • Your unit isn’t doing its job. If you notice that some of the rooms in your house are never as comfortable as they should be, it could be an inefficient HVAC unit. If it’s malfunctioning or aging, it means it can’t keep up with the demands of your home. In the summer, some rooms feel hot or you notice that the unit is running day and night to keep you cool. In the winter, you might notice that you’re always cold or constantly cranking up your thermostat. Keep comfortable by installing a newer, more efficient unit and your home will be more comfortable.

 

Financial tip: when to repair or replace

Still undecided? Knowing whether to repair or replace your HVAC unit comes down to cost. An easy calculation to make if you’re not sure is to get an estimate for HVAC repair. Then, multiply that number by the age of your system in years. If you get an estimate for $385 and your unit is 12 years old, you get a number of $4,680. Check that against the price of a completely new unit. If it’s more than the cost of a new unit, replace it. If it’s less, you can probably get by with just repairing the system.

Still have questions? Talk to an expert

Your best option is to consult a local HVAC professional for their opinion. Your HVAC system might not be the most exciting part of your home, but it might be what makes the biggest difference in your comfort levels. Take good care of your HVAC with regular maintenance and it’ll be easier to tell when to repair or replace the workhorse of your home.

Why Isn’t My Air Conditioner Working?
Keeping Cool: How to Choose the Right A/C Unit
HVAC Basics: What’s a Good SEER Rating? 
Building Your Energy-Efficient Dream Home
Clever Ways to Hide an Ugly HVAC Unit

The post Should You Repair or Replace Your Home’s HVAC Unit? appeared first on Freshome.com.