Running the Air Conditioner During the Winter

Now that the summer heat is a distant memory we need to make sure we are ready for what winter has in store for our homes. Part of getting ready for winter includes winterizing your air conditioner. Every year in the spring we repair and replace many units because they were turned on during the winter months by accident. Sometimes kids playing with the thermostat are to blame and sometimes we push the wrong button. Other times the cause is excessive heat trapped indoors that causes us to use the air conditioner for some relief.  No matter how it happens if your unit starts in the winter serious damage can occur.

Reduce Heat Gain

Running the air conditioner when it is less than 60 degrees outside can cause serious, irreversible damage to the system’s compressor. It must be 60 degrees for at least a few days before you can safely use the air conditioner without worry of blowing the compressor. If the home is gaining too much heat, turn down the temperature at the thermostat and consider closing drapes or blinds. The sun may be heating up the inside of your home and closing the blinds will help bring the temperature down. If the house is still too warm, shut down the furnace and crack of few windows on opposite sides of the home. Take advantage of the free cold air outside, but don’t waste energy by running the furnace at the same time. Continue reading

Post-Hurricane Sandy Scam Prevention

As hurricane Sandy blows herself out, cities and states along the East coast begin to assess the damage done to many areas that are not accustomed to hurricanes. New York and New Jersey were hit especially hard, and whenever there is a disaster like this, scam artists come crawling out of the woodwork from all over the country. They flock towards disaster because it usually means easy money. These states will be especially vulnerable because disasters of this magnitude rarely if ever impact this area. Before you throw your money away on a fly-by-night contractor, consider these tips in order to prevent another disaster on top of the hurricane damage.

Tips to Prevent Post-Disaster Scams:

  • Slow Down and Take a Deep Breath! Many homeowners rush into repairs and find themselves in the middle of a scam simply because they tried to rush through the process. We know you want to get back to normal, but haste is something scam artists are counting on in order to make a quick buck. Continue reading

Northerners Faced with Furnace Replacement

Those of us that live in the northern half of the United States endure some of the most extreme winter seasons. Blizzards are not uncommon in Maine or Illinois, and as a result, the heating system is used around the clock during the coldest months of the year, typically October to April or May depending on the year. Heavy use of the heating system not only leads to high energy costs, but it also causes a lot of air pollution.

The combustion process that your heating system uses to create heat for the home pumps out greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Natural gas furnaces may be the cleanest burning units when compared to the alternatives, propane, oil, wood, and electricity, but if your furnace is wasteful with the natural gas it consumes it can still be a major contributor to pollution. Continue reading

Severe Storms Can Severely Damage Air Conditioners

With the severe storms that recently came through the Chicagoland area, it is once again worth mentioning that you need to check on your air conditioner occasionally to ensure debris-free operation. Heavy winds blow down tree branches among other things and sometimes they end up stuck in our air conditioners. Turning a unit “On” in this condition could cause damage to your unit.

Clear the Way for Proper Operation

To avoid any possible damage you to your unit you simply need to take a moment and check the unit before turning it on! If you do find debris lodged in the unit simply turn the unit off and remove anything that may obstruct proper operation. After the debris is removed, take a moment to pull the weeds or plants surrounding the system that may impede proper air flow. Once everything is cleared out of the way, test your air conditioner. Everything should be working properly, and these few moments of your time could have saved you hundreds in air conditioner repairs.

Duct-Less Air Conditioning and Heating

Recently, a friend asked me to help him find a way to air condition his new TV room in the attic of his home. He has an old Chicago house with a walk up attic, and he and his wife thought that the attic was the best place for the kids to watch TV and be out of their hair all in one shot. Unfortunately, their attic was never a conditioned space, and therefore did not have any duct work attaching it to the existing heating and cooling systems. We checked out all of the possibilities, and even considered snaking flexible duct work up to the attic. Despite our best efforts, we could not come up with any way that wouldn’t involve ripping out a wall or two. Continue reading

Programmable Thermostat Location and Use

There has been a lot of talk about how much money programmable thermostats can supposedly save the average homeowner, but can a programmable really save you as much money as they say it can? Energy Star states that the average homeowner can save about $180 a year when properly using a programmable thermostat, but the problem is that most of us invest in these pricier thermostats but never use them correctly. You have to find a program that works best with your schedule and actually set the thermostat to run that program! If your schedule changes you have to adjust the program. This is the only way you will see these kinds of savings on your energy bills. Continue reading

Why Should I Invest in a Wi-Fi Thermostat?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past five years you have probably heard about programmable thermostats and the benefits they could potentially have for your home and your wallet. Unfortunately, very few people actually see the savings that a programmable thermostat can provide. Programming a traditional programmable thermostat is very tedious and if you don’t know what you are doing you might never figure it out. You are more likely to simply use the thermostat like a non-programmable digital unit because the programming is so difficult to set. However, programmable thermostats have been changing. Touchscreen capabilities coupled with Wi-Fi access is the new standard in programmable thermostat technology. Continue reading

Undercharged Air Conditioners Increase Cooling Costs

Cooling your home isn’t cheap. Every year the summer seems to grow hotter and hotter and the cost of electricity rises ever higher. If you want real relief from the heat the only real option you have is to suck it up and use the air conditioner regardless of the high costs you will have to pay later. What if you are paying more than you should? If you don’t have your air conditioner cleaned and assessed on a yearly basis, odds are you are paying more than necessary for the use of your cooling system. Dirt build up impedes energy efficiency, but many of these homeowners that don’t take care of their air conditioners have a much bigger problem lurking in their system.

Poor Maintenance Leads to Leaks

Poorly maintained air conditioners are far more likely to spring leaks than systems that are cared for regularly by a professional. Major Freon leaks are obvious and the air conditioner won’t work at all until the system is fixed. However, many air conditioners will develop small pinhole leaks that only allow a small amount of Freon to escape. These leaks can be far more costly and damaging to the air conditioner if they are not addressed early on. Continue reading

Summer Use of Natural Gas

During the summer months, natural gas use in the United States drops by about 30% when compared to the amount used during the winter months. The drop in use is mainly due to the furnace no longer being needed, but there are still other appliances that use natural gas, mainly the oven and the hot water tank. These appliances are still in use during the summer, and the electricity bill will see an increase from the use of the air conditioner. The mild winter has lead to predictions for an extra hot summer, so many of us will be bracing ourselves for painfully high electricity bills. We are all going to be looking for ways to save money, and cutting your natural gas costs even further is an easy way to do this!

Two Ways to Use Less Natural Gas

  • Minimize Use of the Oven: The over uses significant amount of natural gas every time you turn it on, but it also adds a lot of extra heat to the home. The air conditioner must remove this extra heat and it will consume extra electricity to do so. Therefore reducing use of the over is key to saving money! Move your kitchen outdoors this summer and use the grill instead! Many things that can be cooked in an oven can be grilled, and you will save money while enjoying the season as well! Continue reading

A Couple Tips to Keep Your Home Cool

Record breaking temperatures are nothing new for Chicagoland, yet thousands of homeowners find themselves with a broken air conditioner on the first hot day of the summer season. They put off having the unit cleaned and inspected during the spring, and now they need emergency repair services. Odds are these homeowners have the system back in working order by now, but are they still making the air conditioner work much harder than necessary to cool the home? Many of us make common mistakes when it comes to keeping the home cool, but here are a couple tips you can apply in your home to bring down the temperature along with your cooling costs.

  1. Start-Up the Air Conditioner in the Morning:

Some homeowners only run the air conditioner during the warmest part of the day, the afternoon. Once the sun sets and the temperatures drop, they turn off the unit and don’t turn it back on until the home gets uncomfortably warm the next day. They do this to conserve energy, but they could be wasting way more than they are saving. Turn the air conditioner on when the home is already hot and humid makes it very hard for the air conditioner to catch up and get to the set temperature on the thermostat. Continue reading