Categories Heating & Cooling Systems

What HVAC signs to watch for when buying an old home

Old houses have tons of charm that you rarely find in newly built houses. But unlike a newer home, buying an old house often comes with more risk. Does the house contain lead paint? Do the appliances in the kitchen look like they were purchased in a previous century? And most important, is the HVAC system in good working condition? Or does the house even have central AC? 

HVAC systems tend to need replacement between 15 and 20 years. Even if the HVAC system works, it has been proven that newer systems are far more efficient and will cost you less in utility bills over time. This article discusses important considerations when buying an older house with an old HVAC system so that you can weigh your HVAC options.

Inspection & other questions to ask

The most important “first step” is to make sure the home inspector takes a thorough look at the home’s HVAC system. Even though this is already part of the overall inspection, having knowledge about the specific aspects of the HVAC inspection will help you to ask the right questions. Additionally, you might even consider hiring an HVAC professional to check out the system if you are serious about buying the house. When getting the home inspected or at some other point during the due diligence period, find out:

  • Is there any noticeable damage or issues with the HVAC system?
  • Can you review any maintenance or service documents or records?
  • What is the energy rating on the system?
  • What kind of ductwork (or lack thereof) exists?
  • What kind of thermostat operates the system? 
  • How much does a new HVAC system cost to install?

If you do have an HVAC professional come in for a review, consider researching common issues with HVAC systems in advance and asking in-depth questions about the system.

Use the info you collected to negotiate 

Using all the information you’ve gathered about the status of the HVAC system, you now have leverage with the seller. Your realtor should be well-versed in these types of negotiations and what might be considered a good offer. Options may include: 

  • Asking the seller to lower the price of the house
  • Asking the seller to include a home warranty in case any problems occur with HVAC in the first year 
  • Asking the seller to upgrade aspects of the HVAC system 
  • Asking the seller to have the HVAC system serviced 

Call us

If you need to have an HVAC system checked out, call us! At Exxel Mechanical Services, we are happy to make sure a potential home’s HVAC system is in good condition for you. We serve 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. 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

How Much Does Your HVAC Unit Affect Your Power Bill

When the last leaves finally fall and the temperatures dip below freezing at night, you might start to notice you’re just a little bit chilly even indoors. Would it hurt to turn up the thermostat one… or two… or three degrees? 

Unfortunately, your dad (or husband, or whoever in your house who is the thermostat fanatic) is right: Changing the temperature directly affects your power bill, according to the Department of Energy. The Department of Energy also reports that 48 percent of Americans’ home energy use goes to keeping our homes at a comfortable temperature. 

If you’re the one wondering just how much does an AC unit add to your electric bill, or how much does it really cost to be comfortable in your home, there isn’t an easy answer. However, it’s safe to say that heating and cooling your home justifiably impacts your power bill – a lot.

When it comes to saving on your power bill through operating your HVAC system in the smartest ways possible, there are multiple variables at play. These include where you live and the cost of electricity in your area, the age of your HVAC system and unit, and the measures you take to keep your system running efficiently. 

This article will detail how to calculate the cost of running your HVAC system and tips on cutting costs. 

Calculating the cost

If you want to calculate the actual cost of running your HVAC system so you know how much running your HVAC affects your power bill, you can make a close estimate by doing some calculations. Here’s the simple version to get the cost of running your HVAC system per day: multiply the HVAC unit’s wattage by the time it runs per day and multiply that figure by the cost per kilowatt hours (kWh). 

To break down this calculation, you first need to find out the wattage of your HVAC unit—how many watts your HVAC unit consumes. This information might be on a sticker on the unit itself or in the paperwork that came with the unit when it was installed. You can also Google your HVAC system with all its specifications if you can’t find it anywhere else.

Then, you’ll need to figure out how long your system runs every day. You can estimate running time by tracking the minutes your system runs in one hour and converting this to a 24-hour period to figure out the number of hours it runs in one day. Taking an average of the hour it’s working the hardest and the hour it’s working the least will provide the most accurate base starting point. 

Using these numbers, you can figure out your HVAC unit’s kWh. Next, multiply the wattage by the number of hours your unit runs. Don’t forget to convert the wattage to kilowatts! Finally, you can multiply this number by the price you currently pay for electricity per kWh, which will give you a rough estimate of how much you spend every day to run your HVAC system.

While it is possible for you to calculate the dollar figure using this method, there is plenty of room for error. As stated in the beginning of this article, nearly half of the average American home’s energy bill is devoted to HVAC operation. This is a national average and doesn’t mean this is what your bill should or will look like. But, if you do your calculations and find that you’re spending far more than half your energy bill on HVAC operation, you may want to investigate why this is the case.

Tips for cutting costs

Because the cost of running your AC unit or your heating system is a given, it’s smart to consider ways you can make your HVAC system run more efficiently. Actions ranging from simple tricks to investing in larger projects can help you to cut down on those regular HVAC bills.

First, consider some simple adjustments you can make that will go a long way with your power bill. For example, keep the thermostat temperature set at a comfortable level. For the summer, think around 75 or higher. For the winter, think around 68 or lower. Other ideas include using an energy-efficient space heater, using fans to circulate air (regardless of the season), and taking advantage of energy-saving window curtains. 

If you don’t want to make any sacrifices to your comfort by turning the thermostat up or down to save money, there are other ways to help your HVAC system do its job while keeping costs down. These include checking on the type of insulation you have in your attic, examining your ductwork to make sure it has no leaks, making sure the filters in your system are cleaned or changed regularly, and getting a new smart thermostat that is programmable. You should also have your system tuned up yearly to make sure it is working as efficiently as possible. All these actions can make your system cost less to operate and keep your energy bill reasonable. 

Whether you are satisfied with the state of your current utility bills, or you are desperately seeking ways to lower them, it’s always a good idea to review the many ways your HVAC system could be wasting energy. Why? Because no matter how much energy is wasted, you will still pay for it!

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. 

Our professionals have seen it all and we have plenty of ideas for ways to make sure your heating and cooling systems are working as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. We want you to be comfortable and save as much money as possible.
Call (443) 821-1040 or email bob@exxelmechanical.com

Categories Furnace, Heating & Cooling Systems, home heating system, HVAC maintenance

Signs your HVAC System is Wasting Energy

When you consider your biggest expenses every year, heating and cooling your home will inevitably be high on that list. The last thing you need is to be spending more to heat and cool your home. These are the three biggest things to watch out for that indicate your HVAC unit is wasting energy. 

High bills

Inflation, natural gas price increases, drastic temperature changes…all of these can increase the cost of your utility bill and are beyond your control. But a sharp or unexplainable increase in your bill might mean that your HVAC unit is struggling or wasting energy. Whether caused by dirty filters, leaky ducts, or broken parts, any unattended repair or maintenance task can lead to poor performance and higher bills. 

Air temperature or quality seems off

The temperature should not be vastly different in various rooms (unless your system is designed to heat and cool different areas). In addition, you should not feel as though the air is wet or sticky—indicating high humidity. Whether it’s a broken or faulty thermostat, something malfunctioning within the unit, or simply an outdated and inefficient unit, noticing something off with the room temperature or humidity is a good clue that your system is wasting energy. 

A system that’s always on

Long cycles or a system that seems like it’s always on is not running as efficiently as possible. It could be that your system is not appropriate for the size of your home, is getting old, or has developed a blockage restricting air flow. Whatever the issue, if you notice that your system is constantly running, you have a system that is wasting energy.

Call us 

If you feel like your HVAC system is costing you more than it should to run, call the experts at Exxel Mechanical Services! It’s always better to have your HVAC system checked out rather than needlessly spend money for an inefficient system. Call (443) 821-1040 or email bob@exxelmechanical.com.

Categories Heating & Cooling Systems

When to do maintenance on your heat pump

Whatever topic we cover on our blog, we often come back to this truth: regular maintenance is the best way to prevent emergencies and spending a lot of money to repair or replace your HVAC system. Selecting a quality heating and cooling system is not only about having a great HVAC guy for annual checkups and emergencies, but also diligent home maintenance. 

If you are the proud owner of a heat pump system, you understand your cost savings especially as inflation has recently increased heating and cooling costs. During the inflation of the 1970s, heat pumps increased in popularity as the HVAC system of choice. It may be possible that 2021 and the coming years will also see a rise in popularity of these energy efficient systems. Let’s talk about how to best take care of these cost efficient, hardworking HVAC units. 

When should you do maintenance on your heat pump? 

The short answer to how often you should have your heat pump checked is yearly or bi-yearly, which is similar to the maintenance schedule for any other kind of HVAC system. If your heat pump is the only method of heating and cooling your home, having it serviced twice a year is a good idea. If you only use it for heating or only use it for cooling, having your heat pump serviced every other year would be fine. 

When it comes to heat pumps and heat pump maintenance, there are ways you can take care of it on your own and maintenance an HVAC technician should do during periodic checkups or tune ups. Taking the time to maintain your system will only benefit you. In fact, the Department of Energy reports that when homeowners are diligent about their heat pumps’ care, the costs of running them can improve by between 10% and 25%. 

What will a HVAC technician do during maintenance checkups?

Inspect, tighten, rewire, seal, clean, lubricate:

The HVAC technician will check on the major components of the heat pump to make sure they are working properly. This includes tightening and sealing belts and ducts, cleaning the various parts so they run more efficiently, and greasing the motor so all internal parts work together smoothly. 

The major areas that can get dirty or experience blockages are the ducts, filters, coils, drain line and pan, blower, and outdoor condensing unit. The technician will inspect and clean each of these areas and components. The technician will also check the electrical wiring and belts to ensure that they are working properly, rewiring and tightening as needed. A routine maintenance checkup should include a cleaning and tune up of all the internal parts that work together to make the heat pump work efficiently.

Check on the refrigerant

Refrigerant is an especially important component to the heat pump’s operation, as it is the substance that absorbs and gives off heat. When servicing the heat pump, a technician will check that refrigerant is not leaking, and ensure that it is charged correctly. 

Test the various operations of the heat pump 

An HVAC technician will also run a variety of tests to make sure the heat pump is working as it should. Some of these tests include checking the airflow to ensure that air is flowing properly, starting a “defrost cycle” to see that the heat pump follows through the cycle correctly, confirming that heat is stopped/blocked when the thermostat is set to cool and, conversely, that cooling is stopped/blocked when the thermostat is set to heat, and testing the thermostat for proper functioning. 

What can you do to maintain your heat pump?

While HVAC technicians have their own checklist of highly technical tasks for inspecting and cleaning during their heat pump maintenance visit (not recommended for a non-expert to attempt), there are plenty of ways you can care for your heat pump in between your yearly or bi-yearly visit from a HVAC professional. 

Best practices for the thermostat

One best practice the Department of Energy suggests is paying attention to your thermostat. The most efficient and cost-effective thermostat temperatures are: 68 degrees for cold months and between 75 and 78 for warm months. If you do not have a variable-speed fan motor, be wary of having the indoor fan on constantly. Instead, opt for the “auto” setting on the thermostat. Lastly, one of the best ways to efficiently run your heat pump is by having a programmable thermostat that will work with the system to be as efficient as possible. 

Clean and replace: filters, coils, and fan

The Department of Energy (and every HVAC company!) recommends cleaning or changing your filters once a month. A maximum of three months is the recommended longest you should go without replacing filters if your goal is optimum efficiency and air quality from your heat pump system. Filter replacement is one of the easiest ways to keep your system working well, but you can also clean the coils if they look dirty. Additionally, if you turn off your system, you can clean the fan. Dirty filters, coils, and fans can force the compressor in the system to work harder and lead to potential problems.

Maintain your outdoor unit 

Ensuring your outdoor unit is kept clean is vital to the care of your heat pump. Keep the area around your unit clean, making sure no other structures, debris, or bushes are obstructing air flow. This will also make it easier for your HVAC technician to work inside the unit for tune ups. During the fall months, clear any leaves or dirt from around or on the unit; and in the winter, make sure there is no ice buildup on the unit. Check on the unit periodically to make sure that it is draining properly. When it’s used to cool your house, you should see water draining from the condenser inside the unit.

Call us!

Maintenance of your system is important! Exxel Mechanical Services 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. Call us today at (443) 821-1040, and 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.