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Self HVAC Home Comfort Tips

HVAC Home Tips For Atlanta Homeowners

Flue Pipe Inspections

The flue on your furnace is designed to vent carbon monoxide and other gases made during the combustion process outside. If the flue is clogged or damaged, it can't do its job, and this puts you and your family at risk. Every vented heating appliance in your home should be inspected and cleaned regularly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.


Signs of Clogged Flues

Gas furnaces build up scale, which forms when gas byproducts and moisture combine, and these can block the flue. If you see rust or water streaking on the vent, flue, or on your chimney, something may be blocking the flue. Moisture builds inside your furnace pipes when the air can't properly circulate, and this can result in rust.

Soot around your furnace is also an indication of a problem. Soot can build up to in your venting system and block it. If your furnace is vented through a masonry chimney, look for white residue on the brick. This is a sign that mineral salts are coming through the masonry because too much moisture is inside the chimney. Although flame color doesn't always mean the presence of carbon monoxide, a change in the color of your flame, such as blue becoming yellow, indicates that the level of carbon monoxide has increased, and this may be caused by a blocked flue.


Potential Problems

A blocked or damaged furnace flue prevents combustion gases from escaping outside. Instead these gases are released into your home. Once inside, they recirculate, and then carbon monoxide becomes part of the air taken in during the combustion process. This increases the amount of carbon monoxide present. The cycle continues and can build up to deadly levels of carbon monoxide in your home.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble the flu, without fever, in the beginning. If you or your family experience headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness, go outside your home immediately. If the symptoms lessen or go away but return once inside, you may have carbon monoxide poisoning. Open all doors and windows and turn off any combustion appliances. Seek medical attention. Have your furnace inspected and the flue cleaned immediately by a professional. Have carbon monoxide detectors installed in your home.

Cleaning to Prevent Clogs

Your furnace needs to have its venting system cleaned every year. The buildup of particulates is not as significant as it is with a fireplace flue, but over time, they can reduce the efficiency of the flue. This is dangerous and can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Contact a qualified professional to have the venting system cleaned and inspected for damage or leaks even when the furnace appears to operate properly. Only a trained technician can detect blockages or buildup inside your furnace flue and correct the problem. Call Self Heating and Cooling to check your heating system and verify the flue pipe is working as it should. 

Humidifier Maintenance

Maintaining proper humidity levels (air moisture) in your home is accomplished with a humidifier and is essential for human comfort as well as the protection of wood furniture and wood flooring. According to the Mayo Clinic, proper humidity levels ease skin problems and symptoms associated with breathing problems. They also note, however, that humidifiers can make you sick if they are not properly maintained, or if your home’s humidity level is set too high.

Maintenance Tips:

Change your water panel.  The typical water panel (or evaporator pad, or filter) in the humidifier is constructed of an expanded aluminum honeycombed mesh dipped in a ceramic slip (liquid clay).  The large surface area of the clay material is perfect for absorbing water.  When openings in the water panel become clogged with scale and mineral deposits, they will restrict airflow through the pad and should be replaced.  The life of the water panel evaporator will vary with the hardness of the water, the amount of use, and the application.  Is ins recommended that the water panel be changed at least once every year (twice a year for the Aprilaire model 400).  The water panel with be most efficient when installed with the spot at the top.  Make sure the entire water panel is enclosed in the scale control insert (frame).
Make sure unit is level.  The unit or distribution tray must be level so that water will be evenly distributed over the entire width of the water panel evaporator.  If the full width of the water panel is not wetted, the capacity will be reduced.
Clean the orifice.  The orifice is a metering device that regulates the amount of water flowing through the feed tube to the water distribution tray.  The orifice typically nests into the waterline directly after the solenoid valve.  If the orifice is blocked with scale - gently insert a fine needle through the small opening.  Aprilaire orifices are color-coded and made especially for certain model humidifiers.

Purchase a maintenance kit.  If it has been many years since a humidifier has been maintained - it may be the path of least resistance to replace several of the humidifier parts that are likely to be worn out or covered with scale.  A maintenance kit will often contain water panels, a feed tube assembly (with strainer and orifice), a scale control insert, a water distribution tray and a drain spud.

Lastly - Close the seasonal damper in the summer months. 

There is also the option of maintaining your humidifier when you schedule a routine service for your furnace. This will ensure both systems are clean and in working order going into the cooler months. Give Self Heating & Cooling a call today at        678-909-6377 to schedule your HVAC tune-up and ask about adding in humidifier service. 

Energy Saving Tips for the Summer

The kids are headed back to school, but we are still headed into one of the hottest months of the summer. Here are a few tips to save energy, but keep your home cool. 

Cooling Tips

  • Set your programmable thermostat as high as is comfortable in the summer, and raise the setpoint when you're sleeping or away from home.
  • Clean or replace filters on air conditioners once a month or as recommended.
  • Turn off kitchen, bath, and other exhaust fans within 20 minutes after you are done cooking or bathing; when replacing exhaust fans, consider installing high-efficiency, low-noise models.
  • During summer, keep the window coverings closed during the day to block the sun's heat.
  • Turn off electronics/screens when not in use. You may not realize it, but heat is being generated and released into the home while your computer screen or tv remains on.
  • If possible, have a whole home fan installed. Fans use less energy than an A/C, and are a great way to circulate air in the home and cool it off. 
And finally, when purchasing a new A/C, select energy-efficient products when you buy new cooling equipment. Your contractor should be able to give you energy fact sheets for different types, models, and designs to help you compare energy usage. See the efficiency standards for information on minimum ratings, and look for the ENERGY STAR when purchasing new products. Self Heating and Cooling offers free, custom, in home estimates to help you select the energy efficient equipment, that is right for you needs. 

Understanding SEER Ratings

One of the most important aspects of choosing an HVAC system for your home or business is its SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. Prior to 2015, the national minimum SEER rating for a residential HVAC system was 13, regardless of your location. Now, however, the acceptable minimum will depend on your area, and in some cases, the type of system you choose to install.

Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

The SEER rating, determined by the AHRI (Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute), is to ensure that HVAC systems are productive, safe, and environmentally friendly. The rating calculates the average cooling output a unit provides versus how much energy it consumes, when it’s run in accordance with the kind of yearly use patterns typical in average homes. The higher the rating, the better energy efficiency the system provides.

While an HVAC unit with a high SEER rating may cost more, you’ll see a decrease in utility bills for your home or business, thanks to the system’s effectiveness in conserving energy efficiency. What’s more, using less energy also decreases your carbon footprint, so you can feel good about your contribution to a healthier environment.

SEER Ratings

The U.S. is broken down into three regions based on the climate for the states included in each of the regions, which means the SEER ratings can differ from state to state. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your HVAC system meets the new SEER requirements in your area.

  • North – Most of the U.S.—including Alaska—falls into the Northern region for SEER ratings. If you live in this area, the new minimum is 14 SEER for packaged HVAC systems, and 13 SEER for split systems, where the unit components are housed both outdoors and inside the home. Heat pumps must be rated 14 SEER, or 8.0 HSPF for packaged units, and 8.2 HSPF for split systems.
  • Southwest – The Southwest region includes Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico. In these states, the minimum SEER rating for AC units is 14, no matter what kind you purchase.  For heat pumps, the minimum HSPF is 8.0 for packaged units, and 8.2 for split systems, while the minimum SEER is 14 for all types. All air conditioning systems must also meet another measurement, the EER rating, which calculates the system’s efficiency as though outside temperatures were a consistent 95 degrees every day (rather than a range of temperatures, as in the SEER rating). This makes it a more accurate indication of performance for homes in high heat climates. For packaged systems, the EER rating is 11. For split systems, it can vary depending on the unit’s weight—for units less than or equal to 3.5 tons, it is 12.2 EER, and for those greater than 4 tons, it is 11.7.
  • South – The southern region includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, as well as Hawaii and the District of Columbia. Units in these areas must have a SEER rating of at least 14. The heating system must be rated 14 SEER, or 8.0 HSPF for packaged units, and 8.2 HSPF for split systems. There is no EER requirement.

If you have an HVAC gas pack instead of a heat pump, it must have a minimum SEER of 14, no matter your location.

Choosing the Right SEER Rating

When choosing your new HVAC system, don’t assume that bigger means better, since the square footage to be heated and cooled is an important consideration. A unit that is too big for a small area will not work efficiently—in fact, it will over compensate. A system that is too small to keep a larger area comfortable will work overtime, running up the utility bill and putting additional strain on the unit. One of the biggest factors in determining the HVAC efficiency is the thermal rating of your property. This means addressing any necessary improvements that affect the temperature in your home or business. Here’s how you can ensure a better energy efficient output:

  • Reseal and add a double layer of insulation to ductwork, since ducts can become deteriorated or damaged over time.
  • If your property does not have an attic exhaust fan, have one installed.
  • Add a double layer of insulation in the attic/ceiling to improve thermal efficiency.
  • Install solar screens and low-E windows, or add a radiant barrier to your roof.

To ensure that you’ll see a return on investment for the cost of your new unit, you’ll need to consider how long you plan to stay in your home. For example, if you purchase a more expensive 36,000 BTU unit with a 16 SEER that costs $6,000, you’ll have better efficiency—but it could take up to 9 years before you fully recoup the cost of the initial investment. In this case, a less expensive unit that can accommodate the square footage and a lower SEER rating may be the wiser choice.

Benefits of SEER Ratings

As long as your home is properly insulated, devoid of areas where air can leak in or out, you can expect better efficiency—and therefore, decreased energy bills. Even better, if you purchase an Energy Star certified air conditioners, you’re eligible for federal tax rebates, which helps defray the cost of the equipment. And make sure to check with your local utility company, since they may offer rebates for installing an energy efficient air conditioning and heating system.

While your final choice will depend on a variety of factors, you can get a general feel for the annual energy savings from different systems by performing a simple cost calculation, which will take into account your individual system’s efficiency ratings, the size of your home, and the size of your unit, among other factors.

If you have more questions about SEER ratings or would like to get a free customized in home estimate, give Self Heating & Cooling a call at 678-909-6377

Understanding How Your A/C Works

To most people, the science behind air conditioning is pure magic. The process cools your house and that’s all you care about… until it stops working. However, a basic understanding of the process behind air conditioning will provide you with a better ability to troubleshoot problems. Evaporator and condenser coils are at the heart of this process.

Why Refrigerant Is So Important

First, it’s important to understand how refrigerant plays a role in air conditioning. It easily transitions between liquid and gas, and when it does, it either extracts heat from the air or releases heat into the air. Pressure aids the process.

How an Air Conditioner Works

In a split-system central air conditioner, liquid refrigerant, also called coolant, is pumped into the home. It flows through an evaporator coil, which is either located in a dedicated air handling unit or attached to the furnace plenum.

Before the coolant flows into the evaporator coil, an expansion valve reduces pressure on the refrigerant, causing it to evaporate into a gas. As this happens, the refrigerant extracts heat energy from the surrounding air. The removal of heat from the air cools it off, and that cooled air is blown away from the coil and circulated throughout the home via a blower fan and air ducts.

At this point, the A/C pumps the gaseous refrigerant back outside to the condenser/compressor unit, usually located on a concrete pad next to the house. The compressor squeezes the gas, turning it back into a liquid. As the returns to a liquid state , heat is released into the outside air, blown away by an exhaust fan.

All air conditioning systems — central, portable and package units — operate on the same principle. Electric, air-source heat pumps cool homes in this manner as well, using a reversing valve to switches the process from indoor cooling to heating. When this happens, the indoor evaporator coil operates as a condensing coil during heating, and the outdoor condenser coil becomes an evaporator coil.

When Your System Isn't Cooling

If you notice your A/C isn't cooling right, always check to see if any of the breakers have tripped and verify you have changed your filter recently.If you notice the system not cooling properly, check to see if there is any ice forming around the insulated line coming off the evaporator coil or condenser outside. This a sign the system is low on refrigerant, and you should turn the system off right away and contact a professional to assess the system. Be sure to keep it turned off until a tech arrives, even after the ice has thawed. Just like you wouldn't run your car with out oil, you don't want to run the A/C without refrigerant.

For more information on how evaporator and condenser coils cool, please contact Self Heating and Cooling at 678-909-6377 

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1700 Cumberland Point Dr
Marietta, GA. 30067
Phone: (678) 909-6377
Fax: (678) 909-6378