Categories Air Conditoners, HVAC maintenance, hvac service plan, quality hvac

What Temp Should You Keep Your Thermostat To Save On Your Energy Bill This Summer? Here’s Your Strategy To Save Energy Without Discomfort.

Exxel Mechanical

When July hits, it’s hot. If you’re in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast, June might have been mild with some cool nights-–but July’s stifling heat can make it tough to turn off the AC at all. So, what’s a person to do if they want to save energy and money, but it’s hot as all get out? There are a few things you can do, whether it’s planning a HVAC temp strategy, thinking about HVAC maintenance, or adding a few non-HVAC cooling tricks. 

Read on to find out how you can manage the heat while saving some energy:

Adjusting the temperature: home & away

During the hottest months, you can save energy by having a game plan for when you’re home and when you’re away. It might take some experimentation to find the temperature you can handle, but with ceiling fans and closed blinds, you might find that you can keep the HVAC temp higher without reducing your comfort level. Once you know how warm you can keep it while you’re around, figuring out temps for short-term and long-term periods away from your house is the next step. 

If you’re going to be away for the entire day, that’s not long enough to turn the entire system off (in terms of saving energy) because of the strain and costs it takes to get the temperature back to comfortable levels for the evening and morning. If you’ll be gone all day, set the thermostat (or better yet, program a programmable thermostat!) to 78-80 degrees. 

Depending on how hot it’s going to be when you’re away for an extended period, you can consider turning off your AC unit completely or turning it up to just under the “high” forecasted for days away. While turning off your AC unit completely will save energy, experts suggest that it’s better for homes in extremely hot and humid areas to keep the AC on. Some reasons for this are the strain on your AC to suck all the humidity back out of the air when you return and because some homes can be damaged by intense humidity.

Generally, one to two days away should mean your system is on and the HVAC temp is set high. If it’s a week or two, you might opt to turn off the unit completely. 

DIY HVAC maintenance 

There are also a few routine maintenance activities you can do yourself to prevent having to resort to costly HVAC repairs (or find yourself in “replace HVAC” territory). These also save on energy and costs. These include: 

  • Clean your vents 
  • Clean or replace your air filters
  • Make sure the AC unit outside is clean and in a shady spot (but not obstructed at all!)
  • Check on your insulation, specifically in your attic and around ductwork

By maintaining your HVAC system and all its parts on your own, you increase its ability to heat and cool your home while saving energy. For maintenance you can’t do on your own– professional ductwork cleaning or other internal cleaning– make sure a professional is brought in at least once a year or every two years! 

Tricks to keep the heat out 

There are many things you can do besides adjusting your HVAC temp to help take the pressure off your HVAC system. These include: 

  • Window treatments 

Putting up blackout curtains–thick curtains or blinds that keep the sunlight out–can keep the heat out, too. White curtains specifically work best to deflect the sun, preventing direct sunlight from coming through your windows and heating up your house. 

  • Fans (going counterclockwise)

Ceiling fans can work wonders, keeping you comfortable while the HVAC temp is set to up to four degrees hotter than normal! While fans don’t cool the room or lower the temperature, the air movement does contribute to you feeling cooler. But to make sure it’s pushing the air downward, set your ceiling fan blades to move counterclockwise. 

  • Smart cooking practices

If you have a grill or other means of cooking outside, this is one way to keep the incredible heat from appliances from heating up your house and combatting your HVAC system in the cooling process. If you can’t cook outside, using your cooking appliances in the evening after the sun goes down when things are a bit cooler is a good compromise. Being smart about how these major heat-producing appliances make your HVAC system work harder can help you save energy.

These are just three tips that can help lessen the strain on your HVAC system and are some of the best ways to save energy.

HVAC repair or replace HVAC 

We always suggest that you get your HVAC checked before peak seasons to ensure you’re not setting yourself up to pay extra in energy bills. If it’s been a while since you’ve had any HVAC repairs, you might notice that you’re doing everything right: keeping HVAC temp set high, closing the blinds, and grilling outside as often as possible, but what if your summertime costs are staying the same or even increasing? 

In this case, you might need a HVAC repair to make sure your HVAC system is working properly. 

If your HVAC system has needed multiple repairs and also is toward the end of its lifespan of 15 to 20 years, your Google search might be looking less like “HVAC repair” and more like “replace HVAC.” But it’s not all bad news. If you must replace your HVAC system, you’ll find that newer systems are far more efficient. And replacing a HVAC system also gives you an opportunity to replace your thermostat with a smart thermostat, which can help with costs through the ability to schedule your house’s HVAC temps to suit your lifestyle.

Call us 

If “HVAC repair MD” or “HVAC systems MD” or “replace HVAC MD” have been your recent internet searches, you’ve come to the right place. At Exxel Mechanical Services, our priority is safety and comfort for you and your family, delivered through our expertise and attention to detail. We serve multiple areas of Central MD as Owings Mills, Frederick, and Westminster HVAC specialists. 

Whether it’s an issue that’s causing high energy bills, or you just need a tune-up, call or email us today at (443) 821-1040 or bob@exxelmechanical.com. It would be our pleasure to see how we can help you. 

Categories Air Conditoners, hvac efficiency, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac

5 Tips On How To Stay Cool In 4th Of July Heat

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The Fourth of July is many Americans’ favorite holiday. What’s not to love? Celebrating freedom, eating good food, gathering together, watching fireworks… It’s a pretty great holiday. Staying cool on the Fourth of July, however, is another story. If you’re hosting the festivities, there are some little tips that can go a long way in keeping your guests, and your home, cool and comfortable. 

  1. Keep everything outside or in the garage 

If you and your guests are constantly going in and out, you’ll likely lose a lot of the air conditioned air to the outside. Your HVAC will be working hard in the Fourth of July heat and wasting energy. One way to reduce this is by keeping the food and drinks outside, in coolers when necessary.

For times when people have to go indoors, to go to the bathroom or change their clothes or something like that, it’s good to remind them to shut the door behind them. Putting up a note on the door helps to keep the cool air in and the flies out. 

  1. Do the cooking outside 

Appliances give off a lot of heat, especially ovens and stoves, that your HVAC has to combat to keep the temperature down. Since the Fourth of July is all about barbecuing, take the opportunity to cook outside! If possible, cook anything that needs to cook in the oven the night before, so that the oven isn’t on during the hottest part of the day. 

  1. Put out fans & turn on the sprinkler

If it’s a hot day, your guests are going to get sick of being hot. If you have fans going (better yet, with water misting in front of the fans), a sprinkler for the kids and more adventurous adults, and even a blow up pool, this will encourage people to stay outside and keep cool at the same time. 

  1. Monitor the heat & your guests

On holidays like the Fourth of July, when people are indulging in adult beverages and spending a long time outside in the heat, heat stroke and dehydration become a concern. Make sure it’s not too hot for everyone to be outside, and know the signs of heat stroke and dehydration. Serve plenty of water and provide some ways for everyone to cool off!

  1. Turn down the AC

While it might sound counterintuitive to turn down the AC on a hot day when you have company coming over, it’s a good option if everyone’s mostly going to be outside! Adjusting your temperature or putting it on a schedule to lessen the load on your HVAC is always a good idea, and if everyone’s outside, it could be the perfect day for it. 

As always, make sure your HVAC is ready for the heat by cleaning the filters and making sure it’s in tip top shape with a yearly tune up.

Categories Air Conditoners

Should I repair or replace my air conditioner?

Things to consider: age, energy use, repair costs 

  • Age of your AC unit 

AC units’ lifespans are typically between 10 and 15 years. When considering replacing vs. repairing your AC unit, you can consider this a ballpark number, influenced by the amount of wear and tear on the unit and how you have been taking care of it with routine maintenance. If you use your AC unit less than half the year or three months out of the year, or your energy bills are consistent and relatively inexpensive, these are factors in the longevity of your AC unit. 

That being said, the older your AC unit is, the less money you’ll want to spend on costly repairs. Replacing evaporator coils, compressors, or condenser fan motors can all cost over a thousand dollars. There comes a time when your unit is simply too old to be replacing parts or making expensive repairs. 

  • Energy use 

If your bill is consistently high, or you notice your system isn’t efficient in cooling your entire home, you may be facing energy use and efficiency issues. An inefficient AC unit provides inconsistent coverage, so that some rooms are too warm and others are cold. When units get older, they are often less efficient and could be costing you more per month while underperforming. 

Another energy use issue you might run into is the use of certain refrigerants which are being phased out by the federal government. R-22, also known as freon, is the refrigerant used in older AC units, which was replaced by R-410A, also known as puron. R-410A is now being phased out as well, to be replaced with R-32. The older refrigerants are not only worse for the environment, but they are more expensive and more costly. 

When facing the repair vs. replace AC unit dilemma, energy use both in how your unit performs and the costs involved in running the unit may be helpful to consider.

  • Repairs are costly & frequent 

In tandem with the age factor, the frequency of the repairs you’re making might suggest it’s time to replace your AC unit. If you’ve experienced electrical problems that haven’t been fully resolved, or you’ve had a professional mention oil lubrication issues, refrigerant charge, or too much refrigerant in your unit… you may have problems with bigger ramifications, like ruining the compressor. When you have consistent issues that also might do damage to the most vital parts to your AC unit, it is time to consider replacing.

Other things to think about include the time of year and the severity of the repairs you have been making. When the weather is temperate and you’re able to be without air conditioning, you aren’t necessarily thinking about repairs or replacement. But this is the time of year (link to article about time of year to replace HVAC) you should be thinking of your HVAC system. HVAC professionals are typically less busy during the Fall and Spring months, and you won’t be in a bind if you find yourself with major emergency repairs or a replacement if you’ve thought ahead about the status of your AC unit.

Alarming signs of a struggling AC unit

As we describe in our article “How to know if you may have an HVAC emergency,” odd noises, smells, and air flow are some of the key indicators that your AC unit is having trouble. 

The noises you are hearing might mean a loose part within the unit, motor or compressor issues, or a fan or duct blockage. Smells could mean a melted part or an actual fire, mold growing inside your unit, or a dead animal inside your unit or ducts. A lack of air flow could indicate fan, motor, or air filter issues. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell how serious the problem is until an HVAC professional checks it out. If it turns out to be a vital component to the unit, or the damage is extensive, and your unit is old…replacing the whole AC unit might be the best alternative.

Other issues include: 

  • Lots of dust piling up faster than usual: A good HVAC system that is working properly should prevent quick pile up of dust and debris. 
  • Increased humidity in the air: One of an AC unit’s main jobs is to get moisture out of the air. If it is not doing this, you may have a serious problem.
  • Your bills are increasing or too high: An inefficient unit will cost more to run. Depending on other factors, it may be time to replace. 

Safety

Although this should go without saying, safety should be your number one priority. Older units put you more at risk of poor air quality or fire hazards from old or worn-out parts. This TIME magazine article mentions the ways an AC unit could possibly be harming you through poor air quality, by making breathing conditions or allergies worse. This is no reason to freak out necessarily — the doctor quoted does admit that there’s no science to show how many people or how badly they are affected by “contaminated AC units.” However,  the article does mention, with proper maintenance and attention, an AC unit improves air quality. 

All of this is really to say: if your unit is old, finicky, leaky, costing you too much money to fix it and run it… it’s time for a new AC unit. If your unit is so old that you might worry about bad air quality or even a fire hazard, it’s certainly time to consider a new unit. 

But, as always… 

Call us 

Exxel Mechanical serves a 30-mile radius of Winfield, Maryland, serving Westminster, Owings Mills, and Frederick. Our reputation in this area precedes us, as we pride ourselves on placing our customer as our highest priority. This means we not only care about saving you money, but we also care about your safety. If you think you have an HVAC emergency, call us immediately and we will send someone out to check on you. 

If you think your AC unit needs help or even an entire replacement, we are more than happy to give you our two cents on whether a repair or replacement is in your best interest. 
Call (443) 821-1040 or email bob@exxelmechanical.com