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Should I Use Space Heaters or Turn up the Thermostat this Winter?

Posted by Empire Blog at 7:00 am on November 28, 2016

space heaterGetting through the winter can be tough! Every time you get cold you throw on an extra layer of clothes or adjust the thermostat a bit higher. But before you adjust your heater this winter consider using a space heater to save some money.

Why Space Heaters?

Space heaters are a very convenient option to help you warm up your house during the cold winters. Since space heaters are small, they are quite portable and can be moved anywhere. They are also inexpensive and range in price from $20 to $200.

Deciding whether or not to use a space heater boils down to the size of the room you are heating. If the room is large like an entire living room, you may need to operate it for much longer or turn on additional heaters. On the other hand, if you just need a little extra heat while working at your desk, using a space heater will be more cost effective than increasing the thermostat temperature.

Potential Drawbacks of Space Heaters

Although space heaters are convenient, there are some drawbacks to using them. If you need to warm up a large area of your home, you will end up needing multiple units. Since the units require a great deal of electricity, you may end up spending more using space heaters.

Another factor that determines whether or not to use a space heater involves electricity prices. If rates for electric power are high compared to rates for gas, you may end up spending more using a space heater.

Besides comparing rates and seeing how many units you will need, consider safety. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a majority of deaths caused by fires during the winter season were a result of space heaters. When operating a space heater, it is important that you leave no flammable chemicals or materials nearby.

Other Money Saving Ideas

Concerns about your heating bill this winter should not just revolve around adjusting the thermostat or using a space heater. There are many other ways to save money.

First, consider bringing in an HVAC professional to inspect your unit. He or she will perform the necessary adjustments and fix worn out parts to ensure that your system is operating at peak efficiency.

Next, take a look at the gaps in doors and windows. Fill in these spots to prevent heat from escaping.

Finally, consider setting the temperature considerably lower when no one is home. For example, manually adjust or use the programmable feature on your thermostat to set the temperature 3, 4 or even 10 degrees below normal during the time everyone at home is either at school or work. The heating system can recover temperatures very quickly unlike the cooling system

Conclusion

Rather than adjusting the thermostat, space heaters present a convenient way to warm up your home. Before using one, consider several factors including the size of the room you are trying to heat as well as electricity rates. Also consider other money saving ideas. This winter, consider other options including space heaters to keep your family warm and your wallet full!

Things to do Before Turning on Your Heater this Winter

Posted by Empire Blog at 7:00 am on November 21, 2016

prepare your heater for winter

When winter hits and you start shivering from the cold, your first impulse is to turn up the thermostat to warm up your home. Before the cold weather sets in you should take some important steps including preventative maintenance, safety inspection and cleaning and debris that has built up. Neglecting these steps may cause your unit use more energy than necessary or bring about unexpected, costly breakdowns.

HVAC Maintenance

One important thing you can do before turning on your heater is to have preventative maintenance done by a licensed HVAC professional. Some of the maintenance tasks will include inspecting the components of the heating system, adjusting settings, testing for carbon monoxide and performing a complete standard operational test. This ensures that your unit is working at peak efficiency and won’t suffer from unexpected breakdowns. You will also save money on heating costs.

Seal Air Leaks

To make your heater more is effective in warming up your home, you need to reduce the amount of heat that could escape. This calls for checking all windows and doors for gaps and sealing them as well as inspecting the ductwork.

Replace Filters

When you turn the heater on after a long summer, you may encounter an unusual smell. If the odor lasts for more than a couple of hours, you may need to replace or clean the filters. Find the right filter size by checking the side of the unit or the owner’s manual. If you have a reusable filter, simply vacuum and clean it with water. Once dried, place the filter back in. Be sure to check the owner’s manual for more details on cleaning and replacement procedures. If odors persist you may need to call a professional to investigate.

Inspect the Area Around the Heater

Before turning on the heater, another important step is to take a look at the area around the heating unit itself. The unit in your home may located in the garage, basement, crawl space, closet or attic. Hazardous or flammable chemicals as well as dust and debris could present a potential fire hazard. Clear the area around the unit and ensure it has enough space before starting up the heater.

Check Vents

Before turning on the heater, go into each room of your home and check the vents. Clean the dust and dirt from the vents and ensure that they are opened. This will help keep the system clean, enhance your heating system’s efficiency, and save you money.

Detectors

Every home should be equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. We recommend low level CO detectors rather than the typical store brands. Common CO detectors are set to alarm at 70 parts per million (PPM) and while that may be the federal mandate we would not want our families or customers exposed to those levels of carbon monoxide. Low level CO detectors alarm at 10 PPM allowing the problems to be corrected long before symptoms become evident. Alwaysrun a simple test on the detectors and replace the batteries if needed.

Thermostat

Once you have inspected the unit and made necessary replacements, consider testing the thermostat. Turn it on and set it to heat mode. Once you have verified the system is heating throughout your home with no unusual noises or odors check for a low battery indicator on your thermostat. Some thermostats do require battery power to function properly!

Conclusion

Before winter arrives, there are many steps you should take to make sure your heater is working at peak performance and to help prevent unexpected breakdowns. Taking these steps will ensure cost savings and warmth throughout your home.

Need assistance with your HVAC system? Give us a call today: 404-596-6161

Why Should You Clean Your Air Vents and Change Your Air Filter

Posted by Empire Blog at 10:21 am on November 17, 2016

filters atlantaYour HVAC system helps keep your home cool in the hot summers and warm during the cold winters. It is also complex and made up of vents that bring air to various parts of your home as well as the air filter. It is important to follow a regular service for these components. Replacing the air filters and cleaning the air vents will help keep your unit working as efficiently as possible and your home at the appropriate temperature.

Replacing Air Filters

A major component of any HVAC system includes air filters. The air filters are responsible for preventing allergens and other pollutants from coming into your home and improve air flow.

When an air filter becomes dirty, its performance degrades causing more pollutants to come into the home. The excess material that gets trapped within the filter reduces effectiveness and cause even more pollutants to escape. It also restricts air flow causing your HVAC unit to suffer from poor performance.

How often you replace your air filters depends on many different factors. These include how frequently the home is used, how many pets are present, and how many people live in the home. For example, if you rarely use your home, you may just need to replace your air filters once every 6 to 12 months. On the other hand, if you have pets or suffer from severe allergies, you may need to replace it more often.

Cleaning Vents

air ventThe air inside your home is circulated through a series of vents. Since the air filters do not trap all pollutants, dust may get trapped inside the vents.

The trapped particles inside the vents restrict air flow and reduce operating efficiency. Cleaning vents not only helps increase efficiency, it also helps improve air quality when excess dust and particles are removed.

Sometimes cleaning vents can be done by yourself. This involves simply removing the vent cover and cleaning the area around it. Primarily the return vents are the dirt catchers, seldom do supply vents need to be cleaned. Other times, you may need a deeper cleaning that targets the entire duct system which may require the help of a professional. Though government agencies such as the EPA are skeptical about benefits from air duct cleaning, many allergy sufferers have seen major improvements as a result of it.

How often you clean your vents and air ducts depends on several factors including the level of allergies you have and the number of pets. Cleaning is highly recommended if insects or other pests are present in the duct system or if you notice mold growth. It is especially important to get rid of mold at the first chance since it will be much more costly to remove later on.

Conclusion

Two of the most important things you can do for your HVAC system is to clean the air vents and change out air filters. These simple steps can be done with a help of an HVAC professional or on your own. Taking these easy steps will improve your HVAC system’s performance and help your family breathe easier!

Need help? Give Empire HVAC a call today: 404-596-6161

R-22 Phase-Out: What It Means for You?

Posted by Empire Blog at 10:19 am on November 2, 2016

United States EPA
Final Rule Phase Out of R-22R-22 Phase Out Graphic

In recent years, the EPA has been phasing out R-22. R-22 is a refrigerant used in older HVAC units to help keep indoor temperatures cooler. As the temperatures get warmer during these hot and long summers, your AC gets used more and more. This places a huge burden on your system resulting in potentially costly repairs and maintenance.

In the past, a simple solution was to pump more R-22 into an HVAC system. Chances are that if your AC unit is 5 or more years old, it may use R-22 or Freon® as it is commonly known. However with the phase-out of R-22, supplies of the refrigerant are getting restricted and homeowners need to think twice before applying this simple recharge fix.

Reasons for Restrictions

R-22 is a refrigerant that is a CFC or chlorofluorocarbon. It is well known that CFCs can react with chemicals and cause damage to the ozone layer. By enacting a phase-out, the EPA hopes to reduce reliance on R-22 and encourage use of more eco-friendly chemicals.

One reason the EPA created restrictions on R-22 was to make the price go up. This makes consumers think long and hard about alternatives instead of performing a simple recharge with R-22. Some alternatives include purchasing more efficient systems that use eco-friendly chemicals.

Another reason is to encourage homeowners to have their HVAC professional fix leaks instead of pumping more R-22. Fewer leaks reduces R-22 consumption and could potentially save money especially when the price of R-22 is so high.

New Systems

The EPA started placing supply restrictions on R-22 back in 2010 by setting limits on production and imports. Since then, the prices of the refrigerant have doubled and tripled forcing consumers to consider new systems.

Though the new systems may be more expensive, they have distinct advantages over the older units.

One advantage of newer systems is efficiency. New systems use less energy as a result of internal components that maximize heat exchange. Since less energy is used, consumers may realize cost savings that exceed the cost of maintaining and operating the old systems.

Another advantage is the use of eco-friendly chemicals. Instead of R-22, newer systems use R-410A. It is a HCFC or hydrochlorofluorocarbon which does not contribute to ozone depletion.

Since the new systems use a different refrigerant, you may wondering if it could be used on the old systems. Unfortunately, the older systems have different components and pressure settings that will not be able to handle the R-410A. It is also not possible to use a newer condenser with an existing air handler since both must use the same refrigerant.

Conclusion

Getting your HVAC unit through the summer may not be as simple as an R-22 recharge fix. The EPA, in an effort to curb ozone depleting chemicals, has restricted supplies of R-22. Consequently, a simple, cheap fix in the past is now more expensive than ever. Instead, replacement with newer systems may save you money in the long run.

 

Need help deciding? Get in touch with our HVAC professionals today to help you decide what’s best for you and your family!

Ductless Air Conditioning Can Save Money

Posted by Empire Blog at 12:20 pm on June 9, 2016

Ductless Air ConditioningWhat’s more southern than sweet tea and Braves baseball in the summertime? Air conditioning! Living in the south means that air conditioning is not a luxury but a necessity.  Unfortunately, those dog days of summer can sometimes lead to expensive power bills and overused AC units.  At Empire HVAC, we would like to tell you about an alternative to traditional central air condition units: ductless air conditioning.

If you are looking at changing the way you cool (and heat) your home, here are some of the advantages of ductless air conditioning to consider:

Primarily, ductless air conditioning provides flexibility

 

Ductless AC units are small in size and allow flexibility for zoning or heating and cooling individual rooms. No more fighting over the thermostat.  Ductless units give you the control to set each room or zone at the precise temperature you want, all at the touch of a button.

Gone are the days of the window units that sound like freight trains coming through your home.  Ductless units are quiet, easy to install and take up very little space in your home.

Ductless systems can save you money

 

Who looks forward to paying that soaring power bill in July and August? When you replace the inefficient window air conditioners and the traditional central systems in your southern home with a ductless system, you can cut your home’s cooling and heating costs by 30 percent.  Additionally, as the name suggests, there is no need for ductwork installation.  This means you are eliminating the loss of energy in the ductwork resulting in cooling your home more efficiently.

Ductless air conditioning is not a new concept

 

A little known fact is that ductless air conditioning has been around for more than 30 years. These systems are used worldwide and have been proven to be an effective, efficient means of beating that unrelenting summer heat.

Ductless systems provide cooling AND heating

 

While the heat of southern summers can make you forget all about winter, those months are coming. The same energy efficiency and personal control afforded by the air conditioning also applies to warming your home.  The same ductless systems that work to cool you off in the summer can also heat your home in the winter.

In short, ductless air conditioning units are a comprehensive and cost-efficient method for controlling the temperatures in your home.  For more information about these systems and how they work, contact or call us at Empire: 404-596-6161  We look forward to working with you in finding the system that works for your home.

Spring HVAC Tips & Tricks

Posted by Empire Blog at 8:24 am on March 17, 2016

Preparing Your Home For Air Conditioning Season

Save Money This Season With These Energy-Saving Guidelines

 

Winter has passed and now it’s time to start cranking up the air conditioning. Usually, our Atlanta weather is fairly mild in the spring, but a few humid days remind us that warm weather is only a few weeks away. Your A/C system works harder than ever between the months of May and August, and those expensive energy bills are just around the corner.

 

Before you’re hit with your first big bill from your energy provider, follow these 12 steps to ensure that your home or business is getting the most out of our central air conditioning system.

  1. Make sure your outdoor air conditioning unit can breathe! Your unit should always have clear access to open air, so cut back any shrubs or branches or that might be in the way. We recommend at least 18” of clear space in all directions of the unit.
  2. Never let vines grow into your A/C unit. Not only can these pesky plants block airflow, but they can cause interior damage to the unit and cost you big money.
  3. Do not allow grass clipping to blow into the unit while it is running. We also suggest never dumping grass clippings in close proximity to the air conditioning unit. These clippings can increase energy costs, reduce the life cycle of your appliance, and even cause a system breakdown.
  4. Keep the filters clean. If you are unable to clean your A/C filters, always call a professional.
  5. Check for any indoor water leakage. For indoor air conditioning units, pooling water can be a sign of damage, so you should call a local HVAC company to check it out. On the other hand, it is normal for outdoor units to leak small amounts of water.
  6. Do not close indoor or outdoor vents unless you have specifically discussed doing so with a service professional. Proper airflow is critical to thermostat control and efficient HVAC use.
  7. Have you noticed a trail of ants moving into or around your air conditioning unit? If so, you need to call an exterminator or take care of the problem yourself. As ants begin to reappear in the springtime, they might begin to call your HVAC unit home, which can cause major damage to the air conditioner.
  8. Most air conditioning systems use drainage pipes or pumps to transport water outside. During your next tune-up, ask your service professional to locate that area and make sure it remains clear at all times.
  9. Should you cover the outdoor unit? No! Air conditioner covers from the winter trap moisture inside the unit – failing to remove the cover before use can cause serious A/C problems, which might include full unit failure.
  10. How cold should the air be coming out of the vents in my home? This answer varies depending on the type of HVAC system you’re using, but we generally recommend that blowing air should be about 20 degrees cooler than the interior space to meet your thermostat setting.
  11. Is it bad to open windows during cool evenings or nights? Everyone loves fresh air and a nice breeze, but from an energy-efficiency standpoint, open windows force moisture-rich air into your home. The following day, your HVAC unit will have to work exceptionally hard to balance temperatures and moisture levels.
  12. On a 95-degree afternoon, how cool should the interior of my house be? While most people will want a cool temperature in the low 70’s, it is usually best for your residential thermostat to be set somewhere around 78 degrees. For most residential HVAC units, your system will be able to hold this temperature reliably without breaking the bank or taking on too much humidity. For two-stage A/C units or larger commercial sizes, this same rule may not apply, but in any case, it’s always best to speak with an indoor air comfort specialist.

 

Follow these 12 tips and tricks to stay cool this summer and spring, ensure a long-lasting HVAC system, and save money on monthly energy bills. Have other questions about cost-saving features in your air conditioner? Contact Empire Heating & Air Conditioning today to learn how you can save big.

 

 

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