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HVAC Home Tips For Atlanta Homeowners

Change Your Home Air Filter

Regular maintenance of your home heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) is critical to ensure its long life and efficient operation. Proper maintenance of this system can help keep your loved ones safe from extreme temperatures —and may also help save you some money.

Change your home air filter.

What Needs To Be Done:

The HVAC system heats your home during the cold winter months and keeps your home cool in the sweltering summer. Regularly changing the HVAC air filter is critical for its long life.

Why Do It?

The air filter keeps pollution and debris out of your HVAC system, ensuring proper and efficient operation. A dirty filter will slow down the air flow, making both the furnace work harder to heat your home and your AC work harder to cool it. This wastes energy and can result in higher energy bills.

How Often?

According to Energystar.gov, the filters on your home system likely need to be changed either once a month or once every three months, depending on the type you're using. You should check the product information on the filters for the manufacturer's suggested frequency of change.

Depending on where you live, the time of year, and how much you're using your AC or furnace, you may end up having to change your air filter more frequently. For instance, during a steamy summer when you're running your system constantly, you may end up having to change the filter more often than if the weather is nice and you're relying on open windows.


How to Do It:

Following these steps will make changing your air filter easy. But, always make sure to read your HVAC system's manufacturer instructions to ensure you understand how to properly change the filter.

Step 1. Buy a new filter.

Before you buy a new air filter, check your owner's manual to identify the right number or size (it should also be printed on the side of your existing air filter). You should be able to get a replacement filter at a hardware store, or some department stores sell them.

Step 2. Turn off the unit.

Be sure to turn off your HVAC unit before attempting to change the filter, for your own safety. If you can't figure out how to turn off the unit itself, you should turn off the breaker.

Step 3. Remove the old filter.

Most air filters are located on the right side of the unit. The filter should easily pull out of its slot in the furnace. It's not common, but sometimes filters are found in air vents in your home. If that is the case, you will likely need to contact a professional to change the filter.

Step 4. Insert new filter

Simply slide the new filter into place. There are arrows on the new filter to indicate which side should be facing the outside air.

Remove the old air filter and slide the new filter into place.

Remove the old air filter and slide the new filter into place.


Changing your HVAC air filter should be simple, but if you are unsure, you can always call a professional at Self Heating & Cooling!

Summer is here and with it comes summer air conditioning bills and some potentially miserable outdoor conditions.  

Sure, it feels great to have your air conditioning running constantly to keep your house cool, but it utterly drains your wallet. If you’re smart, however, you can avoid running your air conditioner 24/7. Take advantage of several tactics for beating the summer heat without watching your energy meter spin out of control.

Here are six strategies you can employ to keep those energy costs nice and low.

Block sunny side windows. Sure, sunlight streaming through a window looks beautiful, but those sunny rays bring pure heat into your home. 

The best strategy you can use is to cover up all windows on the sunny side of your house. The more dense the covering, the better, but even a simple curtain is better than nothing at all. Every little bit of direct sunlight you block from entering your home will keep your home just a bit cooler and allow your air conditioner to run a little less.

Leave windows open at night. Most nights, outdoor temperatures drop below the level of your air conditioning, so take advantage of it. Open your windows and let the cool air blow in.

Start doing this as early as possible, even in mid-spring. You might wake up to a cold house, but that means the house will be cool as the day warms up. The chill might be enough to prevent you from turning on the air conditioning all day long, which can be a great money saver.

Run ceiling fans the right way. A ceiling fan can be an inexpensive tool for keeping your home feeling cool, but it won’t cool down unless you set it to spin counterclockwise. Most air conditioners have a simple switch setting to make this work.

Blades that spin counterclockwise cause a downdraft and move air in the middle of room. This creates a simple wind chill effect, cooling skin and making higher indoor temperatures tolerable. We can set our air conditioning system at 78 or 80 degrees F with all the fans running counterclockwise in our home and the atmosphere feels fine, but without the fans, it feels very stuffy above 74 degrees F. That’s a huge daytime energy savings on a hot day.

Take cold showers multiple times a day. Cold water is cheap. Take advantage of it to cool yourself off, and take a quick cold shower a few times a day. The cost is minimal, and it will greatly lower your body temperature.  

Plus, because you’re a bit cold when you get out, you’ll feel just fine in warmer temperatures for a while, so you won’t need to blast the air conditioning nearly as much to feel comfortable.

Hang out in the basement. In most homes, the basement is the coolest part of the house, so hang out down there. If it isn’t already, set up your family room in the basement so that it’s comfortable and enjoyable to spend family time and idle hours.

This is also a great reason to finish up an unfinished basement. In fact, make it into a summer project – it’ll keep you down in the relatively cool basement, add to the value of your home and make your basement a better “hang out” spot for the remainder of the time you live there.

Cook outside. Ovens and stovetops can heat up a house quickly, making an already warm kitchen stifling. No one wants that.

Instead, cook your meals outside as much as possible. Get a grill and prepare lots of grilled food. You can cook anything on a grill, from pizza to burgers and vegetable medleys to spaghetti. Trust me – I’ve done all those things.

Cooking outside keeps all the heat outside and doesn’t cause your air conditioning to run overtime just to eliminate all the cooking heat you create. That will have a very positive impact on your energy bill.

Summer energy bills can really be a pain, but if you use smart strategies like these, you can keep your air conditioning on a lower setting and save yourself some real cash this summer without having to suffer through a hot house. Keep your body cool and your budget low at the same time and when fall arrives, you will have enjoyed a great summer without breaking the bank.

Basements tend to be cold rooms, which leads to water condensation. A basement dehumidifier can keep your basement dry. Since water is damages items which have been stored in your basement as promoting the growth of mildew and mold, keeping your basement dry can is very important. If you plan to use a basement dehumidifier, there are a few things you should keep in mind for optimal performance.

Carefully Place Your Basement Dehumidifier

The more moisture that forms in a room, the harder your basement dehumidifier will have to work. It operates best in enclosed spaces. Ensure that all outside openings, such as doors and windows, are closed.

Air needs to flow freely through the coils in the the basement dehumidifier, so allow at least 12-inches of space around these areas. If you have a basement dehumidifier with a top-mounted air discharge, you can place it against a wall. Know the product specification for you model when deciding where to place the system.

 

Unless there is adequate circulation, a single basement dehumidifier will be unable to dry storage areas which are adjacent to your basement. If you have any basement closets or additional rooms, multiple basement dehumidifiers may be necessary.

Energy Concerns

A basement dehumidifier operates using 110/120-volt 60-cycle AC, so your household outlets will be plenty to turn power it. Since large basement dehumidifiers dry your basement faster than smaller versions, using a larger dehumidifier will save money on your electric bill.

Drainage System

As your basement dehumidifier dries your basement, the water needs to go somewhere. While dehumidifiers can hold anywhere up to 135-pints of water, it can become a problem quickly if you do not tend to it regularly. If your basement dehumidifier fills, it will be unable to function correctly. Check it and empty it frequently.

Alternatively, the basement dehumidifier can empty the water into a sink or drain. If you use this approach, ensure that your hose is out of the way to avoid tripping on it and injuring yourself.

Temperature

Not all basement dehumidifiers can operate in all temperatures. Ensure that when you purchase a dehumidifier for your basement, it can operate in the sort of temperatures that your basement will experience.

If the coils of your basement dehumidifier frost over, it will not function properly. If that happens, you can turn-off your dehumidifier and allow it to defrost. Some basement dehumidifiers come with anti-frost sensors which defrost automatically.

Cleaning

Dust and debris accumulate in the coils. Clean the coils regularly for optimal performance.

If you are concerned about water damage in your basement or the health of your family, especially those with allergies, a basement dehumidifier can be very helpful. Call Self Heating & Cooling today to hear more about our dehumidifier solutions.

To keep your house in top shape, give systems an annual checkup.

Spring cleaning is a tradition, but there are some other chores that should be part of your springtime routine, too. Most of them take only a few minutes, so get started!

1. Check your air-conditioning and heating equipment before the beginning of a new season.

2. Check and replace your furnace and air-conditioning filters every month. There are several types from which to choose, depending on your needs. Fiberglass filters last only one month, while the filters typically last three to four months. HEPA filters last up to six months and can be cleaned with a vacuum nozzle.

3. Most air conditioners have a drainage hole on the base of the cabinet, beneath the evaporator fins. This hole needs to be kept clear in order for the air conditioner to work properly. It's a good idea each spring to use a paper clip or wire to poke through the hole and clear it.

4. To keep a dehumidifier working properly, remove its housing and let the unit dry completely. Vacuum every accessible surface and crevice.

5. Clean your bathroom fans once a year. Take the cover off, wash it in soapy water and clean dirt off the fan blades with a toothbrush. Be sure the power is off when you do this!

6. Check the flappers on your toilets at least once a year. If they are showing their age, replace them before they start leaking and wasting water.

7. Remove all faucet handles and clean their insides to keep the screws from corroding. Use a rust remover if necessary.

8. Replace the batteries in smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors twice a year: when the time changes to daylight savings time and then back to standard time. While you're at it, dust or vacuum the detectors to keep them working at peak performance.

9. Make sure you have a fully charged fire extinguisher that you can reach quickly and easily.

10. Inspect and, if necessary, caulk around your home's windows and doors annually. That will help keep out heat and humidity in the summer and cold drafts in the winter—and save money on your utility bills all year round.

11. Open and close all windows. Do they all open easily, yet close tightly? If not, check the weather stripping. There are a number of different types to consider.

12. The best time to caulk a joint outdoors is during the spring or fall. That's when the width of the joint is halfway between its seasonal extremes. A plastic drinking straw or a length of plastic tubing makes a handy extension tube for caulking hard-to-reach places. Secure the extender with duct tape.

13. To really clear and clean screens for springtime, rub them with kerosene on both sides, then rinse with soap and water. Kerosene fumes are dangerous, so make sure to do this outside or in a well-ventilated area.

14. To fix a small hole in a window or door screen, dab clear household cement over the hole with a toothpick. If the screens are plastic, test the cement on a scrap to make sure it won't melt the material.

15. Use the same technique to repair screen tears. Pull the two halves of the tear together and hold them in place with masking tape on one side. Apply the household cement to the tear, then smooth with a putty knife. When it's dry, gently remove the tape and apply cement to the other side.

16. Clean out the gutters of winter debris and check them for damage from ice. Install gutter screens or protectors to help keep debris out of the gutters.

17. If a roof gutter is sagging, pitch it back to a level position by tightening its strap with pliers. The tighter the strap is twisted, the more the gutter will rise.

18. Be sure the gutters slope properly toward the down-spouts.

19. To prevent basement flooding, make sure there is at least three feet between the side of the house and the down-spout's outlet. Use one of the following methods to reach that distance:

  • Add an elbow for pipe and extension, although that often leaves the outlet still too close to the house.
  • Use a splash guard that stretches about three feet.
  • Attach a flexible extension hose to the end of the down-spout and bend it in away from the house.

20. To prevent foundation erosion as well as basement flooding, build up soil around the house and slope it away from the foundation.

Before each cooling season, it is recommended that central air conditioners get a professional tune-up. This is the biggest step to preventing major malfunctions in an AC unit.

Probably the most important step that can be done by a homeowner is to clean or replace the air filter every month. Electrostatic filters are the best. Do not run the unit with the filter removed. Check the owner's manual for filter cleaning procedure. Let a washed filter dry completely before reinstalling it.

Every month, especially during the summer months, remove any leaves or debris from outdoor condenser units.

Help keep the outdoor condenser fan running efficiently by cleaning the fan blades and the coils before each cooling season. (Always turn off the power before attempting anything other than superficial cleaning). Remove the fan grill and the fan blades. Gently brush off debris from the blades. Then uncover the condenser coils and gently brush the dirty side. Then hose water from inside the unit, using plastic bags to protect the motor and other components. Also check the base pan (under the unit) and remove any debris that has accumulated there as well.

If the condenser fan makes a clicking or grating noise it may indicate that the blades may be striking an obstruction. If a blade becomes bent, do not try to straighten the blade. A straightened blade may become unbalanced and can loosen the fan motor or hit the condenser coil. Replace a bent blade with a new blade. After replacing a blade, make sure the fan blades rotate freely and don’t wobble. If fan often becomes loose, apply a drop of thread-locking compound.

Keep vegetation at least 2 feet away from outdoor units on each side and above. Aim grass clippings away from the unit when mowing the lawn. During the fall, keep the fan grill free of leaves.

Lubricate the condenser fan motor once a year if it has oil ports. (They're usually plugged with rubber or metal caps). Use non-detergent lightweight SAE 20 oil and add no more than 10 drops per port.

If possible, shade the outdoor compressor unit. Air in shaded space is typically 5 to 6 degrees cooler than the surrounding air. Proper shading can be up to 10 percent more efficient over a cooling season.

During the winter months, protect the condenser unit with a form-fitting cover. To avoid damaging the compressor, don’t operate the unit when it’s below 60 degrees F outside.

A dirty indoor evaporator coil will hinder the unit's ability to cool the air moving through the unit. To clean the evaporator coil, remove the front panel of the air handler/ furnace to expose the coil. Ensure that the coil is dry. Use the soft brush attachment on the vacuum cleaner to gently remove any dust or debris from the coil. Check and make sure that coil fins are straight. If not, straighten them with a fin comb available from refrigeration supply dealers.

Warm indoor air contacting the evaporator coils will condense causing moisture to collect and drip. In most units, a plastic pipe carries the water outdoors or to a floor drain. Algae and bacteria growth can clog the pipe. When this happens, backed-up water can puddle, causing rust or other damage. To clean the evaporator drain, remove the plastic tape holding the trap to the pipe elbow. (It may be necessary to saw through the pipe at the elbow). Flush the trap with water from a hose, and then disinfect using 1 tbsp of chlorine bleach. Reattach the trap to the pipe with new tape.

Raise the temperature settings. Each degree of temperature can represent up to 9 percent savings in cooling costs.

Call Self Heating & Cooling today to schedule your spring service!

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