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The Rinaldi's Blog

by Scott Hudson, Vice-President

Energy Vampires: Pet Doors and Your HVAC Efficiency

There are many energy vampires in your home — that is, appliances that use energy when you don’t realize they are running after they’re turned off. But another type of energy vampire is an air leak. Most homes have numerous air leaks, around doors, electric switches, window frames and around recessed lighting. But one place we don’t commonly think of as an air leak is the pet door. Pet doors generally leak air in two ways. First, they may not be installed tightly, so that there are small cracks around the frame that allow conditioned air to escape and unconditioned air to get inside. Second, the way the door is constructed may be allowing drafts inside the home, or letting conditioned air out when the pet makes its entrance or exit. Learn what you can do to keep your pet door from leaking air and costing you more on your energy bills. Choosing the Most Energy-Efficient Pet Door Pet doors come in a variety of styles. One of the most efficient types is the kind with sturdy plastic flaps that close tightly behind the pet as it comes and goes. The double-flap design does a good job of insulating the home by trapping air between the flaps. Unconditioned air is less likely to intrude, while conditioned air is less likely to leak with this design. Models with triple plastic flaps boost energy efficiency even more. If you choose this type of door, look for one with magnets that help secure the flaps in place so they don’t blow open in a strong wind. You can also apply magnets to... read more

Residential Rooftop HVAC Units: Worth the Effort?

If it’s time to replace your home’s cooling equipment, you may be intrigued by the idea of installing a rooftop HVAC unit. Rooftop units are most often seen on commercial buildings, but they’re gaining popularity for homes in warmer climates in recent years. If you’re used to a traditional “split system,” you’ll find that rooftop units differ in some key ways: Also called “packaged systems,” rooftop HVAC units have all of the necessary system components contained in one outdoor cabinet, including the compressor, condenser and evaporator coils, and air handler. Because of the installation site, the unit is ducted through the attic down into the living space ceilings. The commercial buildings where rooftop HVAC is most commonly installed typically have flat roofs that provide the level site and structural durability that’s needed to support these extra-heavy units. Factors to Consider About Rooftop HVAC Units With any decision about upgrading equipment, it’s best to consult an experienced HVAC professional. Some of the factors about rooftop units that you should discuss with a pro include: If your home doesn’t have a flat roof, a platform will need to be built that can safely support the unit’s heftier weight, and this will add to the installation cost. You’ll find that installing a rooftop HVAC unit is more expensive than a traditional split or ductless mini-split system if you currently have central, forced-air HVAC. Installing your HVAC components on the roof can be a good option if you have limited space in your home or yard for new equipment. A rooftop location will make accessing the unit more difficult/hazardous for an HVAC technician... read more

VOCs: What to Know

Local news and weather reports broadcast air quality alerts when pollutants build to unhealthy levels outdoors, which helps sensitive groups avoid exposure to bad air. Unfortunately there’s no good way to get such alerts for your home, especially for VOCs (volatile organic compounds) whose side effects may be more serious than polluted outdoor air. A volatile organic compound (VOC) is a gaseous byproduct of products that contain hydrocarbons. They’re found in cleaning products, dry cleaning, anything perfumed, cosmetics, hobby and home improvement products like new flooring, paints and glues, caulk, furniture and cabinets, vehicle exhaust, yard and pool chemicals, and many kinds of plastics. Some people have a high tolerance for volatile organic compounds, while others are highly sensitive. Reactions include headaches, respiratory issues and long term exposure can contribute to organ failure, cancer, or nervous system problems. Minimizing the Effects Keeping these gases out of the indoor air is possible by avoiding them altogether or providing adequate ventilation to dilute their concentration. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternative products available that offer the same quality and function as those laden with VOCs, but are safer for indoor air. Unfortunately, pulling in fresh air by opening windows isn’t a good option in the summer if you’re trying to keep your cooling bills low. An energy recovery ventilator (ERV) will do everything an open window does and more. ERVs pull as much stale, contaminated indoor air out of your home as they bring in. At their center, they use heat exchange technology that means that they precondition the incoming air so that it won’t raise cooling bills. An ERV can... read more

Effective Reminders to Change Your Air Filter

Lowering your electric bills and increasing your home comfort might be as easy as checking and changing the air filter for your HVAC system. A clean filter promotes good airflow through the air handler that promotes energy efficiency and keeps the components inside it clean. With the right amount of air blowing through it, your home will cool faster, have less indoor humidity and better air quality. HVAC experts recommend that you check the filter monthly and change it when it’s dirty to prevent premature breakdowns. A dirty filter also pulls dust and dirt into the air handler, where it will cover the components and enter the ductwork. It’s easy to forget to check the filter since it’s out of sight, but these prompts might help you remember this important task: Tie it to your electric bill. During the summer, you can probably attribute half of your electric bill to cooling your home. After you examine the electrical consumption for the preceding month, check the filter. Remind yourself that keeping it clean will lower the amount of power your HVAC needs. Stack the filters in an obvious place. Find a place that you walk by or see daily to store a few replacement filters. Some people put them by the garage door, place them in a pantry, or a frequently used closet. Program your phone or computer with a reminder. Send yourself a message each month to check the filter. Change the thermostat. Many programmable thermostats use internal timers to track the time your HVAC runs. They tie timer to a warning light that goes on when the HVAC... read more

Why You Need to Prevent HVAC Coil Corrosion

When you think of corrosion, you probably picture rusted-out iron or steel, but corrosion can also deteriorate your HVAC system’s copper coils. If you’re not actively preventing coil corrosion, you may be caught unawares by a ruined condenser or evaporator coil and end up facing an expensive, premature HVAC replacement. What Causes Coil Corrosion? Coil corrosion typically occurs in two ways: The outdoor condenser coil becomes pitted from exposure to corrosive substances in the air and rain, such as fluoride and chloride. The indoor evaporator coil corrodes due to airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are off-gassed by building materials, pressed-wood furniture components, as well as textiles, fabrics and various everyday household products. Once these compounds settle on the coil surface, they turn into caustic formic and acetic acids. Both types of corrosion eventually create tiny holes in the coils/fins where refrigerant can leak out. Taking steps to prevent coil corrosion from reaching this stage is vital to avoid: Eroded efficiency. Slow leaks that develop over time will cause a gradual drop in your system’s efficiency. Higher energy bills. As efficiency decreases, your monthly energy bills will increase. Loss of comfort. A decline in efficiency also makes it harder to maintain a comfortably cool indoor temperature. Early replacement. The only fix for a badly corroded coil is replacement, and this typically means buying a complete new system to ensure the components match. How to Prevent Coil Corrosion Regular professional HVAC maintenance that includes cleaning both the coils is the best way to keep corrosion under control. An experienced HVAC pro knows the right methods and products to use to... read more

Options When Switching Heating Systems

It makes a lot of sense to consider switching heating systems in the spring for a few solid reasons. First, it’s not likely you’ll need to heat your home during the transition from one heating system to another. Secondly, HVAC contractors experience a lull between the heating and cooling seasons. They’ll have more time to help you select which type would work best for you. In this region, your choices include natural gas and electrical. Natural Gas When you have natural gas in your home, installing a natural gas furnace makes sense if you want or need the instant warmth of gas heat, along with higher indoor temperatures. Currently gas prices are low because supplies are so abundant. Electric Heating Unless you’re using a heat pump, electric heating is the most expensive way to keep your home warm. Even though the winters are short in Florida, electricity costs could add up quickly if you rely on electric baseboard or radiant floor heating, an electric furnace, or electric space heaters. The coefficient of performance (COP) is the efficiency rating applied to some heating systems, and electric resistance heaters have COP ratings of 1. This rating means that for every watt of electricity the heater uses, it creates one unit of heat. A heat pump with a COP of 4 delivers four units of heat for every watt of electricity it uses. Over the course of the winter, you’d save four times the electricity when switching heating systems to a heat pump compared to installing electric units. Heat pumps are so efficient because they move heat from one place to another... read more
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