The NATE Patch

Posted On April 17th, 2017 by J&J Burk

Look for the NATE Patch

Consumers demand technician excellence, and NATE-certified technicians deliver.

What is NATE?

NATE stands for North American Technician Excellence, and it’s the only nationwide certification program accepted by the entire heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) industry – contractors, manufacturers, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), and technicians themselves.

Are all HVACR technicians certified by NATE?

NATE is a voluntary certification program designed to ensure that qualifying technicians have a core set of competencies and can be trusted by the consumers who hire them. NATE is the culmination of several years’ worth of work by ACCA and other industry organizations to establish one single, nationwide certification.

Over the past few years, NATE has grown considerably. More than 20,000 technicians have been NATE-certified and the list continues to grow. With a strong endorsement from the leading manufacturers of HVACR equipment, NATE certification is the standard by which all technicians should be judged.

Don’t you want third-party reassurance that the technician in your home is a capable, qualified individual?

Nearly 90 percent of consumers do. Ask your contractor if he or she employs NATE-certified technicians, and request that only NATE-certified technicians service your system. Some contractors choose to show off their NATE-certified status in ACCA’s online Contractor Locator, and others do not. Be sure to ask.

Is the NATE certification really meaningful?

Yes! The NATE certification is rigorous and voluntary. There are other third-party certification programs out there, but they have suspiciously high “pass” rates. NATE has the lowest pass rate and is the only nationwide certification program endorsed by the HVACR industry across all levels. Technicians, contractors, manufacturers, utilities, educators, wholesalers, and leading industry trade associations support NATE, and industry organizations such as ACCA have helped develop the tests to ensure they maintain high professional standards.

In short … ask for NATE-certified technicians. And look for the NATE patch!

© Air Conditioning Contractors of America Association, Inc., www.acca.org. Reprinted with permission.

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Preventive Maintenance

Posted On April 17th, 2017 by J&J Burk

Preventive Maintenance = $avings!

Take care of your HVAC system, and it will take care of you.

Preventive Maintenance Agreements (PMAs) are agreements between you and your Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) quality contractor for scheduled inspections and maintenance of your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

PMAs are generally scheduled for the spring and fall to maintain peak efficiency, help keep utility bills lower, extend the life of your HVAC system, and avert failures. Sometimes PMAs are referred to as “planned maintenance agreements,” “start and checks,” or “preventive service agreements.” Most agreements offered by ACCA contractors cover an inspection of the entire HVAC system and routine maintenance (such as replacing or cleaning filters).

Energy Consumption

The HVAC system is most likely the single biggest use of energy in your home. In commercial applications where refrigeration is applied (combined with the HVAC systems), huge amounts of energy are used in the building. In fact, over a third of the energy used in the United States is used to heat and cool buildings.

According to the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE), up to 50% more energy can be saved with proper installation, sizing, and maintenance of commercial central air conditioning and heat pumps. Although the CEE study did not measure residential systems, a compelling case can be made that proper maintenance can save homeowners up to 50% as well.

Out of Sight, NOT Out of Mind

The cliche “out of sight, out of mind” is often the reason for neglected maintenance on your HVAC system. HVAC systems are usually installed where they aren’t seen, such as in a section of the basement, a closet, on rooftops, or in mechanical rooms, making them easy to ignore. The systems are simply taken for granted, until they fail. Decreased efficiency, utility overpayment, discomfort, loss of productivity, premature replacement, and higher repair costs are the result.

Getting your HVAC system checked twice annually is just as important as changing the oil in your car every 3,000 miles!

What should you expect your ACCA member service technician to do during a PMA visit?

  • Check system functions, safety controls, and adjust the operating sequence where appropriate.
  • Inspect electrical components and connections and repair/replace or tighten as required.
  • Ensure proper airflow and change dirty air filters.
  • Inspect pumps, lubricate and check flow rates where appropriate.
  • Clean and lubricate motors as required.
  • Examine belts, adjust and align as required.
  • Inspect, clean and balance blowers as required.

Spring Visit (preparation for summer season)

  • Clean inside coil, condensate pans, condensate traps, and condensate lines to prevent obstructions.
  • Clean outside coil and straighten fins for efficient operation.
  • Check refrigerant levels and if low, find the leak and fix it. (According to many equipment manufacturers, a 10% refrigerant loss will result in a 20% decrease in system efficiency!)

Fall Visit (preparation for winter season)

  • Clean the burner assembly.
  • Remove soot from fireside of burner.
  • Clean and check operation of humidifier.
  • Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks.
  • Adjust air-to-fuel ratio of burner and perform combustion analysis.

Note: For heat pump applications, winter season inspections repeat a number of the summer procedures plus several additional checks. Maintaining semi-annual PMAs for heat pumps is also important.

What’s Your Bottom Line?

Savings: PMAs typically more than pay for themselves through higher efficiency, lower utility bills, and contractor discounts. PMA customers typically receive a discount on all parts and services performed during the entire year.

Peace of Mind: Predictive maintenance will mean fewer system failures and a longer life for your HVAC equipment.

Priority Service: Should a system failure occur during the heat of the summer or the cold of the winter, customers with PMAs generally receive priority service.

Continuity: Many ACCA contractors assign technicians to specific customers. That way, you get to see and know the same service technician, and he or she becomes more familiar with you and your equipment.

© Air Conditioning Contractors of America Association, Inc., www.acca.org. Reprinted with permission.

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Maintenance Tips

Posted On April 17th, 2017 by J&J Burk

Keeping your heating and cooling systems in good working order means your utility bills will be lower, your home will be more comfortable, and you’ll need to call for repairs less often.

Maintenance Scheduling

Schedule a maintenance service call before the heating season starts. If there are any problems with your system, it’s better to find out before it’s freezing outside! Do the same for your cooling system before sweltering season begins. Our maintenance customers always receive priority service during peak heating and cooling seasons.

Filters

Replace your heating and cooling air filters every month that they’re in use. Operating your system with old, dirty filters means energy is wasted and your system may even be damaged. While you’re at it, check and clean the filters in your home’s air cleaners and humidifiers.

System Checks

If you have a forced air heating system check your furnace’s blower compartment and blower coils. Vacuum them if you see dirt and dust there. You should also check fan belt tension, and lubricate fan and motor bearings.

  • If you have a steam system, check the shut-off valve for leaks.
  • Bleed hot water system radiators at least once a year.
  • Don’t keep clutter near your furnace. It’s a fire hazard, and may keep your system from operating efficiently.
  • To make sure you’re getting the most out of your heating system, keep the heating registers and vents throughout the house free of dust, dirt, and pet hair by vacuuming them at least once a year.
  • Listen for odd sounds when your heating or cooling system kicks in. If you hear anything unusual, get in touch with your service professional so you can head off problems before they become serious.
  • In winter months, set your ceiling fan at its slowest speed and reverse it in order to gently push warm air down from the ceiling without generating a breeze.

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Save Money and Make Your Home More Comfortable: Home Energy Audits

Posted On April 17th, 2017 by J&J Burk

Do-It-Yourself

1. Find the air leaks–

First, close all your windows, doors and flues and turn off your furnace and water heater. Then turn on all your exhaust fans–this will help pull air from the outside. Now, walk around your home and feel for drafts in the following areas:

  • Doors and windows
  • Fireplaces
  • Corners, baseboards and areas where the wall and ceiling meet
  • Pet doors and mail lots
  • Window AC units
  • Electrical outlets and plates
  • Pipes

If you have trouble, try wetting your hand or use a lit incense stick and watch the trail of smoke for indications of drafts.

2. Check your insulation–

in the attic you should find both insulation and a vapor barrier underneath it. If your basement is heated, there should be insulation in the walls, around pipes, the water heater and ducts. If your basement is unheated you should also find it installed underneath living areas. Of course, there should be insulation in your walls as well. To check, turn off the electricity in your home, remove an electrical outlet plate and push a stick (a chopstick works really well) into the gap–resistance indicates insulation.

3. Heating and Cooling Equipment–

these energy draining systems have come a long way in terms of efficiency, size and noise levels. If your equipment is more than 15 years old, you can most likely save as much money in lower utility costs over a couple years as you spend replacing them with a new, quiet efficient system. Plus, new tax credits and incentives [anchor to Tax Incentives Info below] make replacing older units a logical choice. Regardless of age, all HVAC equipment should be serviced annually by a certified professional to maintain efficiency.

4. Think about your lights–

replacing incandescent bulbs with fluorescents and/or LEDs not only dramatically reduces the amount of energy it takes to light up your home, it also significantly reduces the amount of heat produced and creates less work for your AC system. Avoid halogen lamps which produce a great deal of heat. Install dimmer switches where they can be used and motion sensors on exterior lights.

Professional Audits

A professional home energy audit is relatively inexpensive and provides invaluable information. After a thorough survey of your home, a licensed and certified professional can suggest measures geared specifically to your property that will make your home more comfortable and reduce utility bills.

A professional home energy audit should include the following:

  • Use of a calibrated blower door–To the extent that is possible, the technician will seal your home and then using a special fan create negative pressure (don’t worry, nothing will be damaged) which will draw air inside. This makes it easier to detect leaks and reveals areas for improvement typically not noticeable.
  • A thermographic inspection–this specialized test will result in a color coded chart of your home indicating warm and cool spots. Using this information, the technician can suggest means of equalizing the temperature throughout your home–these may include installing additional thermostats, heating vents or humidifiers in key areas.
  • Inspection of ducts and HVAC equipment–if your ducts have leaks, or your heating and cooling equipment is operating below its peak performance level, the technician will determine the cause and suggest solutions.

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Humidity

Posted On April 17th, 2017 by J&J Burk

It’s All Relative

Proper humidity levels keep you healthier and more comfortable.

Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can do more than heat and cool your home. It can also keep the humidity at a comfortable level in winter and summer. It’s a delicate balance: if it’s too low, you’ll feel the effects of colds, respiratory infections, and asthma more, and some of the furnishings in your home will literally dry out. If it’s too high, you’ll be uncomfortable but mold and mildew will flourish. They love moisture!

Residential HVAC systems balance temperature and humidity. The best person to design a system appropriate for your climate and your comfort needs is a professional ACCA member contractor. He or she understands the science of your home and applies the principles contained in the ACCA design and technical manuals to the design, selection, and installation of an HVAC system that’s right for you.

ACCA manuals are the industry standard, often incorporated into local building codes and endorsed or recommended by the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and equipment manufacturers.

Relatively Speaking…

Relative humidity (RH) is the percent of moisture actually in the air compared to the maximum amount of moisture the air can hold at that temperature. Cold air can hold less moisture than warm air. At 70°F, air can hold as much as 12 times the amount of moisture as 10°F air. That’s why it’s usually more humid in the hot summer months.

Winter Humidification

Most heating systems just heat the air, changing the temperature, not the humidity. Cold air is dry, and forced-air systems and heat pumps pull outside air for heating. When 10°F outside air is heated to 70°F, the humidity level in your home will be the same as the outside air’s, around 7%. That’s one reason your skin feels dryer, perhaps even chapped, in the winter. So in dry cold climates, you will probably want to add a humidifier to your heating system.

The effects of bacteria, viruses, fungi, respiratory infections, allergic rhinitis and asthma, and ozone production during the winter can be minimized by higher humidity levels. Studies have shown that wintertime levels of 68°F/60% RH are just as comfortable as 72°F/30% RH; so by increasing the RH and lowering the temperature, you will minimize negative effects while lowering your utility bills.

Because the outside air temperature and RH can change in a short time, even a few hours, a computer-controlled humidifier is probably your best choice. It will automatically adjust for these fluctuations to provide enough moisture for a healthy, comfortable home and minimize or prevent window and cold surface condensation.

Summer Dehumidification

Air conditioners pull moisture from the air (HVAC professionals call that “latent heat,” as opposed to “sensible heat,” the temperature) as they cool it, which is one reason you feel better in an air conditioned home. If they didn’t, you’d feel cold and clammy instead of cool and comfortable. In particularly hot and humid climates, however, you may need to augment the dehumidifying capacity of your system.

Very high moisture levels give you that “sticky” feeling and may lead to health problems resulting from the growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi, dust mites, and mold. Air at 78°F/30% RH provides the same level of comfort as does 74°F/70% RH air. In the summer, turning the thermostat up lowers your utility bills, so dehumidifying can save you money as well as add to your comfort.

Although your air conditioning system or stand-alone dehumidifier is designed to remove moisture and decrease the RH levels in your home, in very humid areas of the country, it may not be capable of lowering the levels below 60% RH. In such cases, your ACCA quality contractor may suggest alternative or additional equipment and control strategies.

It’s Your Choice!

The choice is yours: a comfort and health indoor air system, or a furnace/boiler and an air conditioner. Since more than a third of your time is spent in your home, it is important to make the right choice.

© Air Conditioning Contractors of America Association, Inc., www.acca.org. Reprinted with permission.

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Efficiency and Comfort

Posted On April 17th, 2017 by J&J Burk

Tips for Maximum Efficiency and Comfort

Are you getting the most for your comfort dollar? Or are you paying to heat and cool the neighborhood?

Whether your comfort system is old or new, in a new or old home, in an apartment or a single-family home, there are many little things you can do to optimize its efficiency and minimize your utility bills. They’re definitely worth the small amount of time and expense they take, because in the long run, they’ll save you money.

Outside

Whatever the season, you want to keep your comfortable air inside the house. That means caulking and weather stripping doors and windows, around chimneys and flues, and anywhere else inside air can escape. Be sure to check for cracked or broken shingles, crumbling grout, and worn or torn vapor barriers, too.

Inspect the exterior of your home once or twice a year. A good way to remember is to do it when you have your regular, professional HVAC check-up because heating and cooling will be on your mind anyway.

If you’re building a new home or replacing windows, invest in vinyl-or wood-clad insulated (thermopane) windows and storm windows and doors. Then keep them closed whenever the heat or air conditioning is on!

Keep vegetation and debris well away from the outdoor unit of your system. They can block air flow, which forces the system to work harder to produce the same level of comfort. You’ll spend more now…and in a few years, when the equipment fails prematurely and you have to replace it. However, use vegetation to keep your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter. For example, plant a row of trees on the side of your home the wind usually comes from. They’ll act as wind blocks. Because deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter, they’ll let in the sun’s light and warmth in winter; in the summer, they provide cooling shade. Do, however, be careful about how close you plant anything to the house, and take into account that trees and shrubs grow. They can block light, and in some areas of the country become highways for such pests as carpenter ants. A local landscape architect, reputable garden center, or the state or county extension agency can help with plant selection and placement.

Inside

Set the thermostat at the highest comfortable level in the summer and the lowest comfortable level in the winter. A change in one degree changes energy consumption by about 4%. Humidifiers and dehumidifiers can make a huge difference in how the temperature feels.

Install a programmable thermostat. It will automatically adjust the temperature at night or when you’re not going to be home for a long period of time.

Lights are a source of indoor heat, a problem in the summer. Wherever possible, replace incandescent bulbs and fixtures with compact fluorescents. They use a lot less energy, produce less heat, and last longer. Today’s fluorescents aren’t like those of only a few years ago – you can choose a warm, yellow light similar to incandescent light. You can use them in table lamps, ceiling fixtures (including ceiling fan fixtures), torchieres, and for indoor and outdoor lighting. Some can be used with dimmer switches, too. Avoid halogen lamps. The light is clear and bright, but they create a lot of heat.

In the summer, keep drapes and blinds closed on the sunny side of the house during the day. In the winter, open them to take advantage of solar heat but close them at night to help block cold air (even if you have insulated windows).

Insulate attics, crawl spaces, basements, and walls to the R value recommended for your area. Your HVAC contractor can tell you how much you need. Don’t forget to insulate duct work in un-conditioned space.

Use a gas fireplace or put glass doors on a wood-burning fireplace. (Be sure to check with the manufacturer first – some small fireboxes with zero-clearance flues cannot be outfitted with glass doors.) Keep the damper closed whenever you’re not using the fireplace.

In the summer, do household chores during the coolest part of the day if you can. Cooking, laundry, washing dishes, and heavier work such as vacuuming are examples. Check to see if your electric utility offers time-of-day pricing. That could save you even more money.

HVAC System

Check filters regularly and clean or replace them when needed. Your HVAC technician will tell you how often that’s likely to be based on the manufacturer’s recommendations and local air quality conditions.

Make sure room vents are working properly. Close them at least part-way in rooms you’re not using. Never block them with furniture, pictures, or window coverings. Consider a zoned system if your home has two or more stories or is very large. A programmable thermostat in each zone can save energy and money.

Then sit back, relax, and enjoy year-round comfort!

© Air Conditioning Contractors of America Association, Inc., www.acca.org. Reprinted with permission.

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