Air Mechanical, Inc. Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Energy Savings’

HVAC Guide: Green Building Trends for New Homes

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

In a society with an increasing an eye on reducing waste and creating energy-efficient spaces, it might not be as surprising to know that the green building market has been steadily increasing over the past few years, and in years to come is expected to triple from what it is now.  The variety of green building trends for new homes in Ham Lake which are in place today are staggering and exciting, and will ultimately change the way we build homes and business facilities, permanently.  According to the Earth Advantage Institute, below are the latest green building trends for new homes to watch for in the near future.

  • Urban Density:  Homeowners are opting to build in the empty space between existing homes or buildings.  These lots are desired by those who want to be closer to city-centers and hotspots.
  • Green Multi-Family Homes:  An increased interest in energy-saving building options and an increase in the number of multi-family homes being built mean an increase in green multi-family homes.
  • Energy Upgrades Drive Home Remodels:  Consumer preference has switched to remodeling in order to save energy in their upgrades.  Thus contractors have begun to offer these types of services as a standard option in remodeling projects. This includes new, energy saving HVAC equipment.
  • Development and Testing of New Materials: National labs and research departments are working with construction firms in order to produce test facilities and sensor-filled buildings which track real-time energy performance of new materials and equipment.
  • Consumer-Friendly Home Energy Tracking Devices:  Sensor-based energy and water monitoring systems are being used by consumers to save money all throughout their homes and the number of companies creating these tracking devices is increasing, making them easier to come by.
  • Energy Education for Commercial Tenants:  Commercial building energy disclosure is pushing building owners to be more energy efficient, this in addition to educating tenants on ways for them to contribute to saving energy means that more commercial buildings are going green.
  • Transparency in Home Marketing:  Consumers who have instant access to information are more educated and can see through housing scams more easily. Real estate agents who are forthright and educate clients even further on the benefits of having energy efficient home features means more confidence in the green housing market.
  • More Accurate Appraisals:  With more educated consumers looking for Certified Residential Green Appraisers, the lending community is beginning to follow suit and pay attention even further to the added value and return on investment for green homes and green remodels.
  • Broader Adoption of Residential Energy Ratings for Homes:  Energy labeling systems are being put into place nationally, thus causing homeowners to be more educated regarding energy savings possibilities.  More extensive usage of residential energy ratings for homes means homeowners are undertaking more energy upgrade work.
  • Smart Grid-Compatible High-Performance Homes:  More new homes are utilizing “grid-aware” appliances which monitor and report their own usage with the ability to increase or decrease electric usage remotely, thus saving energy.

For more tips on how to improve your Ham Lake home, or for any plumbing, heating, or air conditioning service you need, give Air Mechanical Heating, Cooling & Plumbing a call!

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Troubleshooting Thermostat Issues: Is it the Thermostat or Something Else?

Friday, October 21st, 2011

If your the room temperature in your Andover home is too hot or cold, what is the first thing you check? Probably the thermostat. If you are a homeowner, you probably have played around with the setting on a thermostat, much to the chagrin of other occupants who don’t share your same comfort level. And if you try and adjust a thermostat at work – well forget about it. Most companies now have locking thermostats or “false” ones that don’t actually connect to the heating and cooling system.

So if you have a temperature problem, is it really the thermostat that causes it? Maybe yes and maybe no. One physical characteristic to check is the location of the thermostat. If it is in a drafty hallway or near a heat source, it only reads the temperature for that area and other parts of the building are neglected. You will often find more than one thermostat in a home that is tied into more than one furnace or air conditioner.

The older more popular round thermostats are manually controlled and do not adjust to any conditions in the home. They simply control the heating and cooling functions based on a human turning a dial. It’s as simple as that. So if you use this method to adjust the temperatures, blame yourself and not the thermostat. You might want to consider installing a digital, programmable thermostat.

With that in mind, let’s look at some typical ways to troubleshoot a thermostat.

  • Check the anticipator, which is a small metal tab on the front of the printed scale. Give it a light push in either direction. It may be stuck.
  • Clean the interior of the thermostat housing and clean the contacts (small metal plates)
  • Check loose wires or wires that may be corroded.
  • Read the thermostat manual (if not available, look online) for other tips such as ensuring there is voltage to the terminals.

If you have checked everything and the thermostat seems to be in working order, look for other things within the heating & cooling system. These include blocked or restricted registers and vents, leaks or cracks in ductwork, and dirty air handling filters.

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The Beauty of Zone Heating: Some Pointers From Bloomington

Monday, October 10th, 2011

While it might not technically be a necessity, there are a lot of reasons why you might want to look into having a zone heating system installed in your Bloomington home. Whether you’ve been using the same home heating system for a long time or are looking to have a new one installed, there’s never a bad time to have a zone heating system put in.

Most people think that the only thing that affects their home heating and cooling bills is the energy efficiency of their furnace or heat pump. However, that’s simply not always the case. Certainly, the more efficient your furnace or heat pump is, the lower your energy bills will be. But that doesn’t mean they’re as low as they could possibly be.

After all, if you don’t have a zone control system installed, you’re paying to heat your entire house every time you turn on the heat. Depending on the size of your house, that could mean you’re heating anywhere from two to 10 rooms or more that are unoccupied at the time. In fact, you could be paying to heat an entire empty wing of your home. And while you’ll pay less than you would if your heating system was less efficient, you’re still paying more than you need to.

With a zone control system, you can heat your home much more efficiently because you can control which areas of the house get the heat and which ones don’t. You can set multiple different temperatures for the different zones of your home, which allows you to keep the occupied areas warm while not forcing you to waste energy to heat unoccupied spaces.

Aside from the economic benefits of only heating the areas of your home that you need, zone control systems also can put an end to some of those contentious thermostat wars that go on in so many households. If the members of your household can never agree on what a comfortable temperature is, they can simply each set their own temperature for their own area of the house.

That way, everyone is happy and no one has to suffer uncomfortably. After all, you paid a lot for your state of the art home heating system. It’s only fitting that you should be able to get the most possible out of it.

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Home Energy Myths: Some Information From Bloomington

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Measuring and controlling your Bloomington home’s energy consumption is a little tricky. There are plenty of talking heads and information resources on the Internet that tell you how it’s supposed to work, but in most cases you’ll find that so called common knowledge about your home’s energy use isn’t always true. Here are some of the most common myths and how to differentiate from the truth.

  1. Conservation and Efficiency Are Different – Many people think that by getting an energy efficient appliance, they are conserving energy and helping the environment. To some degree this is true. However, in reality, you are merely reducing how much energy it takes to complete a task. Conservation is finding ways to actually stop using energy for common tasks. Taking baths instead of showers, not watering your lawn, and turning off lights completely are all examples of conservation.
  2. Turning Off an Appliance Saves a Lot of Energy – Regardless of whether an appliance is physically on or not, it still consumes power as long as it is plugged in. The only way to completely stop your energy consumption is to unplug an item completely or use a power strip that blocks access to electricity when the switch is turned to off.
  3. Turning on Items Creates a Power Surge – While turning a computer on and off uses a bit more electricity than simply leaving it on all the time, it isn’t a significant difference. In fact, the longer you leave an appliance on, the more it wears down and the faster it starts to use extra power to remain effective.
  4. One Energy Source is Cheaper than Another – This depends largely on the type of energy source you have for heating and cooling, the cost of that source and how much heating and cooling you need. A single portable electric heater is cheaper than running your entire oil heating system. But, electric heaters are rarely cheaper if you use them to heat your entire home.

Myths abound when it comes to energy use around your home. Make sure to get all the facts before making decisions that could end up costing you more money in the long run.

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New Thermostats – Are they Worth the Investment? A Question From Bethel

Monday, September 19th, 2011

When you are trying to save money around your Bethel house, a new thermostat is definitely worth looking into. Sure, your old thermostat works fine. But there are a lot of features available on newer models that can help you save money on your heating and cooling costs throughout the year.

And you do not need to wait until it is time to replace your home comfort system to upgrade your thermostat. Most thermostats can work with many different types of heating and cooling systems. So no matter what type of HVAC system you have or how old it is, you should be able to integrate some type of new thermostat into it.

But how can a new thermostat save you money? Well, they simply offer a lot of features that you can use to your advantage. For instance, even the most basic programmable thermostat can let you set different temperatures for different times of day. You can program the thermostat to turn the heat down during the day when no one is home and then you can have the heat switch back on just before you get home.

That way, you can come home to a nice, warm house without having to pay to heat it all day long when it is empty. Many newer thermostats also are more accurate and can provide more pinpoint control of your heating and cooling system. That means that you will not be wasting money because your heating system gets the actual temperature in your house up to 75°F when you only really need it to hit 72°F.

Newer thermostats help you to save money in a variety of ways, and that savings will more than pay for the cost of having a new thermostat installed. That is because thermostats are actually quite cheap and easy to install. A relatively basic programmable thermostat should not run you more than $100, and even if you opt for one of the more advanced systems out there, you will not pay more than a few hundred dollars.

That is a small price to pay considering the increased comfort possible with a state of the art thermostat and the potential for savings every month on your heating or cooling bills. Plus, you likely paid a considerable amount to have that state of the art HVAC system put in. It is worth paying just a bit more so that you can get the most possible out of it. If you have questions about getting a new thermostat installed, talk to your local Bethel contractor.

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Geothermal Myths

Friday, September 16th, 2011

As with any misunderstood technology, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions concerning geothermal heat pumps and how well they work in your Blaine home. While these types of systems certainly have their limitations, the same is true of just about any type of heating and cooling system you could have installed in your home. But if you are really trying to evaluate whether or not a geothermal heating system is right for your home, you need to know exactly what is true about these systems and what is just not true.

For instance, there is a widely held belief that geothermal energy is not a viable heating option in areas with harsh winters. The fact is, though, that even when the air temperature outside is below freezing, the temperature several feet below ground can be as high as 55°F.

With a ground temperature like that, a geothermal heat pump will have no trouble extracting enough heat to keep your home comfortable even when it is well below freezing outside. And even when the ground freezes, the frost usually only extends three or four feet below the surface. Since the pipes for your geothermal heat pump will be at least four feet down, the frost should not affect them at all.

Also, it is common for people to assume that geothermal heat pumps will always need to have a regular heating system in place to serve as a backup. In fact, a geothermal heat pump is quite capable of providing consistent and adequate heating for your entire house as long as it is properly sized and installed. Make sure you are dealing with an experienced and qualified contractor and you will have no problems along these lines.

There are also plenty of myths floating around out there that geothermal heat pumps are just too expensive to make sense as a home heating solution. The truth is that geothermal heating costs almost nothing to operate.

While it is true the geothermal systems are quite a bit more expensive to install than many of the other options, alternative heating systems will still cost a significant amount to install and you will also have to pay much more to operate them on a regular basis. With a geothermal heating system, you pay quite a bit up front, but it is a one-time cost and there will be minimal monthly heating bills after that.

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How to Use AC Most Efficiently in Chisago City

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Air conditioning is definitely something most of us wouldn’t want to try and get through the summer in Chisago City without. And for a lot of people, because of medical or other conditions, it’s an absolute necessity. But just because you need to run your AC unit all summer doesn’t mean you need to suffer under the weight of cooling costs.

So if you’re interested in ways to save on cooling without sacrificing comfort, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Get a Programmable Thermostat – When you come home at the end of a long day, you want your home to be cool and comfortable. But if you only have a basic thermostat, you would have to leave your air conditioning on all day in order to make this possible. Paying to cool an empty house is probably the last thing you want to do. But what is the alternative? Programmable thermostats offer the best solution in a case like this. These devices can be easily integrated into just about any home air conditioning system and they allow you to set different temperatures for different times of the day. That means you can have your air conditioning off while you’re not home and set it to come on a half hour or so before you get there. This way, you get the pleasure of walking into a cool, comfortable house without paying extra to keep it that way when you’re not home.
  • Incorporate Passive Cooling – The design of your home and how you use it can also have an effect on how hard your air conditioning system needs to work. Taking steps as simple as closing the blinds to block out the afternoon sun, putting up awnings and making sure that the exterior of your home is painted a lighter color to reflect sunlight rather than a darker one that will absorb it are all excellent ways to reduce the load on your air conditioner.
  • Supplement Your System – You can also take a good chunk out of your cooling bills by using things like ceiling fans in conjunction with your air conditioner. A ceiling fan can effectively lower the indoor temperature several degrees on its own, allowing you to set your thermostat a little higher.

Air conditioning is a major expense that most of us are resigned to paying, but there’s no reason to pay more than necessary with so many strategies available to save money.

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