Categories Heating & Cooling Systems, hvac efficiency, HVAC replacement, hvac system, hvac westminster md, quality hvac, Uncategorized

Time To Change Your HVAC?

5 Signs Telling You It’s Time

It’s old 

If you’ve clicked on this article, you might be experiencing an issue with the way your HVAC system performs. The first question your HVAC technician will ask during your service call is: How old is your HVAC system?

HVAC systems tend to have a lifespan of between 10-20 years. Systems that have been serviced regularly run longest and most efficiently. However, bear in mind that as a system ages, reduced efficiency and repairs become factors in your decisions moving forward. If your system is older than 10 years and you’re facing many medium-to-large repairs, HVAC replacement might be a better option.

It’s Inefficient 

You might notice your HVAC system’s inefficiency in the running costs, but you can also tell if your HVAC is not working properly by the following:

  • The amount of time the system is running or the fan is blowing 
  • If your system seems to struggle to keep the temperature consistent 
  • Evidence of  increased dust piles
  • A noticeable higher than comfortable humidity level 

While these issues might point to a specific HVAC issue, they can also impact the overall efficiency of your unit’s operation. Depending on the age or severity of the issue, you may find it’s time to replace your HVAC.

Cost to Run: Repairs & Monthly Bills 

Costly repairs or high monthly bills are two big reasons to consider HVAC replacement. Here’s a general rule for making the decision to repair vs. replace:  Replace your HVAC system if the repair costs are more than half of a new system. 

Monthly bills should also stay consistent year to year (while accounting for things like fuel cost increases and inflation). For example, if this summer you notice a substantial increase in your bills compared to last summer, this may indicate that something is going on with your HVAC system. 

To stop habitual repairs and costly monthly bills, replacement might be the way to go.

It’s the Wrong Size 

If your system can’t keep the whole house at a consistent temperature, can’t keep different rooms at the set temperature, or achieves a temperature so quickly that it shuts down mid-cycle, it might be the wrong size unit for your home. 

That’s right! HVAC systems are not one-size-fits-all and having the wrong size unit can lead to inefficient operations. To remedy this situation, you may want to consult an HVAC professional about getting your HVAC system replaced so that it’s the right size for your home. 

There are Odd Noises & Smells in Your House

Grinding, hissing, or clunking noises are not good sounds to hear while enjoying time in your home, especially if they are coming from your HVAC system. Loose or broken parts within  your unit can be to blame, especially with older HVAC systems. 

Burning, sour, or foul smells–also not good to be experiencing in your house–may be coming from your HVAC system if something is wrong. Mold, melting pieces, a fire, or a dead animal in the vents could all be the culprit. 

If you have an older HVAC system or it’s going to take a major repair to fix the sounds or smells coming from your HVAC system, a new HVAC system might be in order. 

Call Us

No matter what issue you’re experiencing, we can figure out the best course of action. At Exxel Mechanical Service, our team is ready to serve you. 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 hvac efficiency, HVAC maintenance, hvac maryland, hvac system, hvac westminster md, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac, Uncategorized

Is your HVAC to blame for your sniffles?

HVAC Allergies

If you’re prone to allergies, you might have mixed reactions about the coming of spring. The warm weather and pretty flowers are nice, but if you’re sneezing and coughing and not feeling well because of your allergies, they can be tough to enjoy. Going inside your home should be an escape from outside air contaminants, providing relief, right? 

A properly working HVAC system can help to rid the indoor air of the contaminants, providing that escape allergy-sufferers seek. By filtering and circulating the air, HVAC system rids dust from the home by catching it and keeps it from piling up by moving the air around. So, as long as the HVAC is properly working, you can rule out your HVAC system as the cause of your allergies. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re sneezing every time the air turns on, you may want to consider that your HVAC system isn’t working properly.

If your allergies are worse when you’re inside than when you’re outside during the spring (or anytime, for that matter), then consider what kind of indoor air pollutants are gathering in your house and how you can help your HVAC system do its job. 

Types of indoor air contaminants 

The most common types of indoor contaminants are dust mites, pet dander, combustion from cooking, and mold. Dust mites are distant relatives of ticks and spiders– tiny bugs whose waste and carcasses are found pretty much in every American home. That’s right– they don’t bite and generally leave us alone, but for the unlucky few affected by dust, it’s usually dead dust mites and their waste that are affecting those who are allergic . 

Pet dander is another allergen that is pretty disgusting to think about. Those who are bothered by allergies including pet dander are not typically allergic to their actual pet, but rather dried saliva, urine, and skin flakes that their pets spread about the house with scratching and shaking.

Combustion of any kind of material leads to emissions into the air. This includes smoking cigarettes and wood-burning fireplaces, but most commonly comes from cooking with oil or using gas stoves.

Another common allergen or pollutant in the house is mold, which grows in humid or damp areas or where water collects. Mold releases spores into the air which in turn grows more mold, causing allergy symptoms when these spores settle into dust piles. 

Pollen can also find its way indoors and collect in dust piles and circulating in the indoor air. Without a quality HVAC system or one that filters the air, the typical symptoms from pollen-induced allergies can result.

Less common household air pollutants 

Although less common, carbon monoxide, radon, disease-carrying animals and their waste, and bacterial infections and viruses can result in airborne contaminants with serious side effects. Normally you would determine the presence of one of these pollutants quite quickly, but it is possible for low levels of contaminants like these to contribute to allergy-like symptoms and other more serious symptoms. 

Sick or allergies?

It can be difficult to tell what’s going on when you have allergy symptoms, because of the multiple symptoms you may experience. If you’re really experiencing an allergic reaction to allergens in the air inside your home, you’ll typically have cold symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itchy or watery eyes, or an itchy throat. But it’s also possible to have headaches, a low-grade fever, or skin reactions like eczema. 

While you shouldn’t take our word for it— we’re HVAC doctors, not people doctors— it’s definitely worth following up if you have any of these persisting symptoms. If it is a reaction to some type of indoor air contaminant, your symptoms could worsen to the point of having trouble breathing or developing into something more serious than allergies. 

How to combat indoor air contamination 

  • Cleaning your HVAC system 

Inspecting and cleaning your HVAC system is a good first step to make sure it’s not part of the problem. 

Cleaning or replacing your air filters and cleaning the vents are the primary steps to making sure your HVAC system can do its job. Clogged air filters will strain the overall system. Dust in and around the vents only creates more clogging and blows around dusty air. 

You also might consider having your HVAC system professionally cleaned or at the very least inspected during a tune up. During a springtime tune up, an HVAC professional can check the parts you might not be able to access, cleaning inside the unit itself or the ductwork. 

  • Cleaning carpets and other fabrics

Vacuuming carpets and even couches and mattresses, washing any washable fabrics like stuffed animals and blankets, and keeping the home as dust-free as possible are the best ways to help your HVAC system to do its job.

  • Ventilation & air purifiers

The EPA recommends regular “natural ventilation” through open doors and windows. While you might think that keeping the pollen and other outdoor air pollutants out is the best option, fresh air is helpful for flushing out any pollutants that might have gathered indoors. 

Another great option for especially sensitive or allergy-prone people is an air purifier with a good filter. Air purifiers help HVAC systems do their job by removing allergens. The air circulated by the system is then more likely to be free of allergy-causing contaminants.

Replacing your HVAC system 

If your HVAC system is old and not effectively circulating or filtering the air in your home, if the ductwork is leaky or poorly constructed, or if an old thermostat is hindering your HVAC’s performance, it may be time to consider repairing or replacing your HVAC or affected units. Without good humidity control and air flow, allergens listed in this article can collect and air quality can suffer. 

Call us
Having a quality HVAC system that is working at peak capacity is one of the best ways to improve indoor air quality. At Exxel Mechanical Services, our priority is safety and comfort for you and your family, delivered through our expertise and attention to detail. 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 Heating & Cooling Systems, hvac system

These are the most common home allergens – and how to use your HVAC system to reduce them

People with allergies might consider springtime the worst season, but the truth is allergens can be present indoors any time of year. In fact, depending on the type of allergens floating around your home, you might be experiencing more allergy symptoms during the winter or summer months when the HVAC is blowing air around. 

More than half of the homes in America have detectable levels of allergens including dust mites, dogs, cats, cockroaches, mice, and mold (source). With all the time spent inside, often with doors and windows closed tightly to keep the house energy efficient, allergens can run rampant. These allergens can cause the dreaded itching and sneezing (or even trigger more severe symptoms!) that we associate most commonly with pollen or other outdoor allergens. 

What are the most common allergens found in the home?

Dust mites 

Dust mites are one of the most common allergens in all American homes. They don’t bite but breathing them in causes serious irritation–especially if you are susceptible to respiratory issues like asthma. Dust mites, their waste, and the particles that remain from dead dust mites can all contribute to allergy symptoms.

Pet dander

Pet dander is another leading cause of allergies– which is not to say people are allergic to their pets. Rather, the dried saliva, urine, and skin flakes from the animal that gets into the dust around the house when they scratch or shake is what causes most allergic reactions. Furry pets are the most likely to present the allergens, although it is their dander, not their hair, which causes the allergic reactions.

Mold

The most common household mold is Alternaria, but many forms of mold can grow indoors when there is humidity, dampness, or water collecting anywhere (source). Mold releases spores into the air which can be inhaled or settle on wet areas and grow more mold. Like other allergens, mold can settle among house dust also causing allergy symptoms. Mold is common and not likely to cause serious symptoms, but people with allergies or who are immunocompromised, can have serious symptoms or reactions to indoor mold. There are also some forms of mold, such as black mold, which is toxic and can have serious effects on those exposed to it. 

Pollen

Pollen can easily get inside the house during the months when it’s covering everything outside. It can ride inside on pets’ fur and paws, or shoes and jackets left on once coming inside. Pollen grains from trees, grass, and weeds are small particles that get into the eyes, nose, and lungs and cause typical allergy symptoms. 

Fireplace, cooking, and cigarette smoke

Different emissions from burning wood, food, or tobacco products can lead to coughing and other allergy symptoms. When using a wood burning fireplace, using a gas range, cooking food in oil and butter, or smoking cigarettes, these emissions have an impact on the air quality inside the house. 

Best ways to get rid of allergens in your home

The sources of many of these allergens most often come from the fabric in wall-to-wall carpets, furniture, stuffed animals, or bed linens. Often, allergens are trapped on or in these materials and are released when they’re used. Pets and damp areas are major culprits for home allergens. 

Aside from using your HVAC system to rid your home of allergens, which we will discuss next, it’s important to engage in regular cleaning of rugs, furniture, and bedding. Washing all items that can be machine-washed in the washing machine with hot water and vacuuming surfaces with HEPA filter vacuums will greatly reduce allergen levels in your home. 

For allergens like emissions, a good ventilation system or cracking a window can have a huge effect on getting rid of those reactions. Cleaning surfaces is important too, as chemicals can get stuck on hard surfaces and fabrics long after the smoke has cleared.

How to use your HVAC to get rid of allergens 

The best ways HVAC systems fight allergens is by continuously moving air through its filters and ducts throughout the house to prevent the buildup of dust, and by removing humidity from the air so that allergens like mold will not grow. 

It might seem like, “Wow, that’s it?” It’s true that removing allergens from the air and preventing them from growing in the house, in addition to thoroughly cleaning fabric surfaces, is the easiest and most important way to get rid of the common allergens found inside. Making sure you clean or replace your HVAC filters regularly and ensuring humidity levels are where they should be are ways to keep your HVAC doing its job of cleaning the air for you.

If you want your HVAC system to do more, you can consider upgrading your filters or your HVAC system or adding an air purifier that works in tandem with your HVAC system. Depending on how new or high quality your HVAC system and its filter are, the more it will be able to do in the way of cleaning and purifying the air. High quality filters rated MERV 11 or higher, with proper cleaning and replacement, remove allergens like pollen from the air. You might also consider adding additional air purifiers that work alongside your HVAC system so that the HVAC system is spreading extra-treated air with allergens removed throughout your home.

Common reactions or symptoms from exposure to household allergens & treatments 

You might not have considered the fact that your cold or cold symptoms could be coming from poor indoor air quality. Allergy symptoms include: 

  • Stuffy nose 
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing 
  • Dripping, clear, thin mucus
  • Itchy nose and eyes 
  • Wheezing and chest tightness 

If you appear to have a nagging cold or symptoms listed, you might consider if it’s actually allergens in your home triggering these issues. Simple things you might try are cleaning the filter on your HVAC system and doing a major cleaning of all major dust-trapping fabrics like couches and rugs. 

Call us
Keeping your HVAC system running smoothly is the best way to clear the allergens from inside your home. At Exxel Mechanical Service, our team is ready to serve you. 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 hvac efficiency, hvac system

How to find rebates on HVAC Systems

When you are considering a new HVAC system or thinking about upgrading your current HVAC system, rebates are a fantastic way to offset the steep initial cost of a HVAC installation.

The most common rebate offer is designed to encourage energy efficiency. For those upgrading their homes’ heating or cooling systems, or installing entirely new HVAC systems, there are rebates available that promote selecting energy efficient systems. The efficiency of a system is measured by Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER), or for heat pumps, the Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF).

Rebates are offered two ways: either by the state or federal government or your local utility company and may be subject to change. It’s always a smart idea to look up the current rebate offers by checking the website for your state’s energy department as well as your utility company. Additionally, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Energy Star websites all offer updated information about rebates.

Opportunities in Maryland

Every state has different incentives to consider when buying or upgrading HVAC systems. As Exxel Mechanical Services serves the Frederick, Westminster, and Owings Mills areas in Maryland, we are happy to share resources for Maryland residents who want to take advantage of statewide energy policies and incentives.

HVAC system rebates, or any type of heating and cooling rebate that Maryland offers, fall under the “EmPOWER Maryland” initiative. The state works with utility companies to improve energy consumption by providing money-saving deals for customers. HVAC rebates differ depending on which utility company provides service in your area, your yearly income, and other pertinent information.

BGE or Potomac Edison provides service to many of our customers, and they both offer rebates between $300 and $1500 on several types of systems. We list those rebate offers on our website. Click here to check those out.

Maryland’s Energy Administration offers plenty of information on their website, including links to the different utility companies and their offers. Click here to go to the Maryland Energy Administration website and look for the tab titled, “Find Incentives,” for the utility company that serves your area. Additionally, by completing the form on their website, you’ll be able to search for any deal or rebate available to you. Click here for the form.

Call us
Our dedicated professionals at Exxel Mechanical Services are always here to answer any questions you have about relevant rebates or other money-saving deals. Call (443) 821-1040 or email bob@exxelmechanical.com.

Categories Heating & Cooling Systems, hvac system

How to Choose the Right HVAC system for your home

You might think HVAC systems are one-size-fits-all. But choosing the right HVAC system for your home can depend on many different things. This article discusses factors like the size of your home, the climate where you live, your desires for energy efficiency, and type of system when considering a new HVAC system for your home.

Size of your home

Home size is extremely important in choosing the right HVAC system. A bigger system does not necessarily translate to higher efficiency, and often can lead to issues like using too much energy or excess of humidity in the air inside the home. 

Calculating the “cooling load” includes multiple factors and measurements which determine as accurately as possible the right size HVAC to cool your home. This measurement should be determined by professionals only. If you have the right size HVAC system, you will have better control over the temperature and excess humidity, a lower energy bill, and more effective heating and cooling cycles. If your system is too large, aside from taking up space and costing more to maintain and repair, you will certainly have higher energy bills, and heating and cooling cycles that are not efficient for the space.

Another issue that can occur specifically with cooling systems that are too large is higher humidity due to air being cooled off quickly but moisture remaining in the air. If you can perceive the humidity, this may cause you to turn the temperature even lower, or, in some cases, you might not notice the humidity, causing mold and mildew to grow in your home and HVAC unit. 

A system that is too small causing it to continually run to maintain the desired temperature can result in higher bills. It’s also possible that you’ll never achieve the level of comfort you are looking for if your system is too small for the space it is supposed to heat or cool. 

When it comes to HVAC systems, bigger is not better. When upgrading your HVAC system, it’s best to have a professional assist you in deciding on the perfect size system for your home. 

Climate

When you think about the sheer difference in temperatures between northern and southern states, especially during the winter months, it makes sense that different HVAC systems are better depending on where you live. Systems are designated as efficient for the “U.S. South,” for example, and different ratings are considered efficient depending on the area in which you live. 

In the deep south, heat pumps without a backup source of heat are a good option, because they are the most efficient and temperatures rarely if ever drop low enough to create issues for your system. In Maryland and other mid-Atlantic or in-between states, you might consider a variety of options, with a heat pump and backup heat source probably being the most efficient energy source. In the Northeast and other states that get very hot and very cold, you might consider a system that includes both a furnace and an air conditioner. 

Additionally, things like cost to install and maintain, size of your home, and ductwork in your home also impact your choice. Read on for more information about energy efficiency and types of systems. 

Energy efficiency: monthly bills & rebates  

If you are updating your furnace, consider the Average Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating and the air handler type. The AFUE rating tells you how much of the fuel is directed to heating your home. The higher rating number equals the more efficient the system. Furnaces can be up to 98.5% efficient. 

If you are updating your air conditioner, consider the energy efficiency rating or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). 

Another thing to consider if replacing any part of your HVAC system is the air handler type you have or are considering buying. Air handlers move air around, and include single-state, two-stage, and variable speed. Single-state air handlers are the least efficient as they only operate on one speed, while two-stage air handlers are slightly more efficient. Two-stage air handlers run at full capacity when you need it, and have a “low” speed, requiring less energy, for other times. Variable speed air handlers are the most efficient because they adjust as needed to keep your home’s temperature stable using the least amount of energy of all the air handler types. 

If you are completely renovating your home, including the entire HVAC system, a heat pump which handles both heating and cooling is the most energy efficient option. For Maryland residents or homeowners living in an area that freezes more often during the cold months, you would want to either have a backup heat source or ensure you have the newer, cold climate air source heat pumps. Heat pumps are rated by Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), with ratings of seven, eight or greater considered the best performing heat pumps. 

Energy stars are another way to tell if a furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner is energy efficient, which also vary by different locations with different climates. 

Choosing a thermostat can also impact how efficiently your system performs, with digital and programmable thermostats outperforming traditional analog thermostats. If you choose a digital thermostat, you will have more control over the temperature stability and speed of increasing or decreasing the temperature in your home. In terms of energy efficiency, a programmable thermostat allows you to program your system to change the temperature over time and ultimately can reduce your energy consumption and bills.

There are also rebates and discounts you can get for buying energy efficient systems. See our article (LINK) about rebates offered in Maryland. 

Type of system

You can choose between packaged, split, split ductless, or geothermal systems. 

Packaged systems are less efficient but are a good choice for smaller spaces. The unit does its heating and cooling from one system and might include a gas furnace and air conditioner, a heat pump, or a heat pump with a backup heat source. These are not the most energy efficient systems and the units are kept outside. 

A standard split is the most common system and includes a furnace and air conditioner, or an air handler and a heat pump, or a furnace and a heat pump. This type of system requires ductwork and space to house multiple units. Because you use the ducts already in your home and can use different parts, it tends to be the easiest and cheapest option, although there are a range of efficiency levels. 

Split ductless systems are common and good if you do not have any ductwork and want to easily change the temperature in different rooms. They do, however, require more space to house separate AC and heating units. While they are energy efficient, these can be more expensive and have less ability to heat below freezing.

Geothermal systems are the most energy efficient, transferring heating and cooling from the ground, though their cost is up to five times to other types of systems. Your energy bill will be greatly reduced, but the upfront cost will be greater. 

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 your HVAC system! 

Call (443) 821-1040 or email bob@exxelmechanical.com