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

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

Exxel Thumbnail

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 Heating & Cooling Systems, hvac efficiency, HVAC maintenance, hvac service and repair

How Old Is Your HVAC? These Signs Of Age May Shock You.

Exxel Mechanical

If we could suggest only two times of year to check on the quality of your HVAC unit, it would be the months leading up to summer and winter.

Why? Summer and winter are when we face the hottest and coldest temperatures of the year,  the times of year in which we want to know without a doubt that our heating and cooling system is working properly.

The first step is determining the age of your HVAC unit.

How to determine your HVAC unit’s age

Time to say, “Out with the old and in with the new,” perhaps.

Most HVAC units maintain their quality for 10 to 15 years, so if you’re wondering about the manufacturing date of your unit, you can peek at the branded nameplate on the side of the unit. If you don’t see it, you can also try Googling the serial number or calling the manufacturer directly.

While knowing the exact age of your unit may be beneficial, the number of years it will last depends on how often you personally service it; how well you support its function by doing things like regularly changing the air filters and cleaning leaves out of the fan after a storm; and how often you have it serviced by a technician.

If you’re curious whether you should service or replace your HVAC unit, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1) Has your utility bill increased in recent months? If so, this could mean that your air filters need to be replaced or that you have loose air vents. On the other hand, you may be facing some electrical issues, making your unit less effective. The older your unit, the more effort it must put toward achieving the same results.

2) Have you found yourself calling a technician more times than normal this year? A good rule of thumb when it comes to servicing your HVAC unit is to get it checked right before it’s extremely hot (summer) or frigidly cold (winter). If you’ve already had multiple technician visits in the last year or so, it might be time to replace.

3) Are there any funny smells or noises coming from your unit? If your unit sounds like creaking floors in an old house, or if you smell weird, moldy, or burning odors, your HVAC unit is likely to blame.

If you answered “no” to all three questions, then you have a quality HVAC unit on your hands! If not, then we suggest having your unit serviced. The sooner you can get it serviced, the more cost efficient the process will be in the long run.

At any point, if you find yourself with concerns or questions about your unit, don’t hesitate to give us a call here at Exxel Mechanical Services. While we service a great many HVAC systems in Maryland, our knowledge extends well beyond our state!

How to use a SEER rating to find the age of your HVAC unit

You may know how old your unit is based on the manufacturing date, but just how old are we talking in terms of quality? The best way to find out is by calculating the SEER rating, otherwise known as the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. More specifically, it is the ratio of cooling output throughout the cooling season.

Generally, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient your unit should perform. A higher SEER rating is typically about a 16,  whereas a lower rating is 13, which indicates a less expensive and less efficient unit. This rating is the federal minimum to be sold. Some manufacturers will list this number along with the manufacturing date.

Keep in mind that the more up-to-date and efficient your unit is, the less costly it will be to run. Whether AC or other types of equipment, the longer you run any kind of machine, the more energy and/or power it takes to operate at its optimal level. However, when comparing an old unit to a new unit, the new unit will produce more energy for less money because it is more efficient.

How to make your HVAC unit last longer

Just as you could say a 50-year-old man has the athletic tendencies of a 35-year-old man, you can say a 15-year-old unit acts the same as a 12-year-old unit. You can apply age to the unit.

There are several factors that can shorten or lengthen your unit’s lifespan, such as how often you run the unit, the temperature at which you run it, and even the number of times you turn it on and off in a day. 

When it comes to recommending how to exceed the typical lifespan of your HVAC unit safely and efficiently, we like to explain that there are ways to prevent large or continuous repairs, as well as ways to support the overall function of your system. 

Let’s start with preventive maintenance.

The two best things you can do to ensure an efficiently run unit this season are to call a technician to check for damage, errors, or other issues, and to replace your air filter(s) at least every 1-3 months. Doing both can prevent future high-cost repairs.

Keep your eyes open for certain changes in and around your house:

  • Accumulation of dust could simply mean you need to change the filter, but if humidity is present, it’s best to call your technician. 
  • A room that won’t properly cool or heat is usually a red flag for poor insulation, a damaged thermostat reading, or a clogged filter. 
  • Poor efficiency after an intense storm could indicate a leaf and debris pile up in the unit, preventing the fan from working correctly. 

If, while you keep your eyes peeled for changes,  you find yourself in need of a group of dependable, HVAC experts to respond to any repair, service, maintenance, or installation issues, look no further than our HVAC team in Westminster, MD. We’d be happy to help.

Stay cool, everyone!

Categories hvac efficiency, Indoor Air Quality

10 Tips To Improve Your HVAC Quality This Summer (And Save Money!)

10 Tips To Improve Your HVAC Quality This Summer (And Save Money!)

As summer begins, you’re probably thinking about how much it’s going to cost to keep your house cool and about keeping your HVAC system working in tip-top shape. Here are ten tips to help you cut costs and save your HVAC from working too hard:

1. Set the thermostat as high as you’re comfortable 

The higher the temperature you keep your home in the summer, the higher the savings. That being said, you shouldn’t be uncomfortable! The EPA received a lot of attention when they suggested keeping the home thermostat at high temperatures in the summer – 78 degrees when you’re home, 82 degrees when you sleep, and 85 degrees when you’re away from home (source, source).  

While some might be able to handle 78 degrees, others might not be comfortable at that temp. It’s not good to continuously change your thermostat up and down, so take a sweltering day to figure out what temperature you can manage. Once you know which temperature is cool enough to be comfortable, you can set your thermostat (or even put it on a schedule if you have a smart thermostat) to mid to high seventies for optimal savings. 

2. Adjust the thermostat when you’re out or away

In addition to keeping your thermostat at an elevated temperature while you’re in your home, increasing the temperature while you’re away is another method for getting those savings on your energy bill. The EPA suggested 85 degrees but cooling the house again when you return might take too long or require a ton of energy, depending on how long you’re gone. If you’re away for 8 hours or more, and it doesn’t take a long time to get your house comfortable again, increasing the temperature is a great move for energy costs. 

3. Seal your windows, doors, ducts, and cracks

Sealing or weatherproofing your windows, doors, ducts, and any other cracks that might be making your home less energy-efficient is another good move during a hot summer. Your HVAC system won’t be working hard only to have cooled air escaping, and you’ll get to enjoy much more of the cool air it’s producing. 

4. Use fans 

Fans don’t lower the temperature in the house but having one on while you’re in a room will help to cool you off. Fans moving counterclockwise in the summer will push cool air downward and draw warm air up. Using fans is another way you can lower your thermostat a degree or two.

5. Open the windows at night 

If it’s not too hot and humid overnight, turning the thermostat up or off while opening the windows at night is another good move to give your HVAC system a break and lower costs. 

6. Use thick blackout curtains

Thick curtains can prevent the hot sun from heating up your home and can insulate your home, helping to retain the cool air your HVAC is producing. Blackout curtains are just another tool for reducing the workload on your HVAC system and helping keep costs down.

7. Check on the humidity level & use dehumidifiers 

When it’s humid, you’ll be less comfortable. Your HVAC’s job is to remove humidity from the air, which is half the battle when keeping you cool and comfortable. If you’re able to test the humidity level, or it simply feels humid inside, adding dehumidifiers can help to make your home more comfortable, reduce the strain on your HVAC system, and even allow you to increase the temperature by a few degrees. 

8. Be smart about heat-producing appliances 

Cooking on the stove and using other heat-producing appliances will add to the hard work of your HVAC system, especially during extremely hot days. Using these as little as possible or limiting use to the evening or early morning when temperatures are a bit cooler will reduce not only costs but also strain on your HVAC system. 

9. Close off entrances to the basement

Your basement is the coolest place in the house as the cool air will settle to the lowest place possible. Open doors or vents to the basement means cool air from your HVAC system will be lost to the basement. Sealing off the basement so that cool air stays in the main living spaces can help. If you have a finished basement, consider spending more time there during the summer months so that you can turn down your home’s thermostat and stay comfortable in the basement.

10. Change your air filters & service your HVAC before it’s hot

Changing the filters regularly is always important for an efficient HVAC system. With summer plants in full bloom and indoor spaces sealed off, dirt and pollen can build up within the house dust. Making sure your air filter is clean is one of the best ways to be assured that your HVAC system is working properly in the summer. Additionally, servicing your HVAC system before the hottest months will guarantee it’s in the best shape possible and can prevent a breakdown due to something that could have been fixed during a tune up. 

While all these tips may not be for everyone, there are at least a few actionable steps on the list that can help you save money on your bill and lessen the burden on your HVAC system. And as the weather gets hot, you may even return to this practical list to review what you can do to improve your HVAC quality this summer.

Call us 

If your bills are too high during the summer, call in the professionals at Exxel Mechanical Services. An HVAC professional can examine your HVAC system to make sure it’s working properly and as efficiently as possible.
Call or email us at Exxel Mechanical Services today at (443) 821-1040 or bob@exxelmechanical.com. It would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.

Categories hvac efficiency, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac

Does Improved HVAC Air Quality Still Matter?

Exxel Mechanical

Indoor air quality, or IAQ as abbreviated by the EPA, has been a topic of much conversation since we have started to figure out the effects of Covid-19 and the role of airborne virus particles on transmission of the virus. We have learned more than we’d ever wanted to know about social distancing, masking, ventilation, and other tools to mitigate the spread of a respiratory virus. As we move on to an endemic stage of the pandemic, the question is: should we still concern ourselves with indoor air quality?

Is indoor air quality important?

The quick answer is yes. Indoor air quality affects us all as the average American spends about 90% of their time inside, and often there are more pollutants in indoor environments (source). Even if the spread of a virus through airborne respiratory virus particles is less of a concern, there are still many indoor air pollutants that can lead to health problems or exacerbate health issues already present. 

The most common indoor air quality offenders are:

  • dust mites and their waste,
  • pet dander,
  • pollen,
  • excess moisture, and
  • smoke from a fireplace, cooking, or cigarettes.

These allergens are very common and often contribute to symptoms of allergies or asthma. Dust mites and pet dander are some of the most common allergens in houses, and often gather in piles along with regular house dust. The particles from dead dust mites’ waste, dried saliva, and urine, as well as skin flakes from pets are what cause many allergic reactions in people. Pollen is tiny grains from trees, grass, and weeds which cause an allergic reaction when it gets into the eyes, nose, and lungs. Humidity mostly bothers the physical structure of your home when moisture gathers on surfaces, but it can cause mold and mold spores to begin to grow, also developing into allergy symptoms. Smoke emissions differ depending on what’s being burned, but these also cause similar allergic reactions in people. 

More serious air contaminants or pollutants inside homes include: 

  • mold (black mold and other toxic molds),
  • bacteria,
  • carbon monoxide,
  • radon,
  • asbestos, and  
  • lead particles.

As we always caution, these are serious issues that need to be remedied beyond your typical HVAC use or air purifier use, as they can lead to serious health problems or even death if you are breathing in too much of these types of air pollutants. While less common than pet dander or pollen, ensuring your home is free of these contaminants is especially important. 

Who needs clean air?

Another quick answer is everyone. Everyone needs clean indoor air. But there are some people who require clean air because health issues could worsen due to contaminants in the air. These groups of people include: 

  • those with heart disease or other heart issues,
  • those with lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, or COPD,
  • pregnant women,  
  • seniors, and
  • children under age 14.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we also became much more familiar with the term “immunocompromised,” which refers to those who are suffering from cancer or other illnesses compromising the immune system. If you or your family member is one of those individuals, (including people who struggle with asthma or other respiratory problems), you already know how important air quality is for their health. Small dust particles, fumes from cooking or smoking, excess humidity– these may not affect a healthy person but may make it difficult for someone who has underlying conditions.

If you don’t find yourself or anyone in your family in those groups, it’s also true that poor indoor air quality can be the cause of new health issues. As noted earlier, Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. Even if you spend a lot of time outdoors and don’t think that statistic applies to the way you live your life, at the very least you sleep inside. With poor air quality in your home, you face an increased risk of:

  • heart and lung illnesses, 
  • stress to the heart and lungs which work harder in polluted environments,
  • a damaged respiratory system & aging of the lungs,
  • asthma,
  • bronchitis, or 
  • emphysema. 

What role does your HVAC system play in keeping your air clean?

HVAC systems improve air quality by moving air through its filters and ducts throughout the house to remove particles and humidity from the air. Allergens get trapped in the filters, which you should clean or replace every 6 to 12 months.

It’s relatively simple, but the air flow and filtering do a big job to keep the dust piles and particles in the air to a minimum. With a quality HVAC system, you are doing one of the best things you can do to improve your indoor air quality. 

Ways to help your HVAC do its job are to add higher rated filters or an air purifying system that works alongside your HVAC system. High quality filters rated MERV 11 or higher, with the proper cleaning and replacement, can remove allergens like pollen from the air. You can also employ other methods of improving the air quality in your home, which in turn will only help your HVAC in doing its job of keeping air quality good. 

Other methods of improving your HVAC air quality

Besides using your home’s HVAC system to improve the air quality, the EPA recommends ventilating indoor spaces with fresh outdoor air and using air purifiers as ways to improve indoor air quality. Most people are lucky to live in areas in which ventilation with outdoor air is one helpful way to improve indoor air quality through the introduction of cleaner air and air flow. 

Air purifiers can be effective tools in cleaning the air, although most air purifiers are limited in their capabilities depending on location, flow rate, run time, and other factors. While no air filter or purifier will be able to remove all particles or toxins in the air, and the jury is out on how much air filters do to reduce symptoms of allergies and asthma, the EPA maintains that these can be a good choice for those who suffer from respiratory issues and for those who want to breathe cleaner air. 

To make the best decision possible on an air purifier, the EPA suggests looking into the clean air delivery rate (CADR), which refers to how many particles the air purifier can clean and how big a space it can remove particles from. This information should be on the packaging. They also mention higher run times and higher fan speeds as the most effective at cleaning the air, and to choose an air purifier that can remove gasses as well as particles, specifically those outfitted with an activated carbon filter. Examples of common gasses or VOCs you might have problems with are those emitted from paint, cleaning products, and air fresheners, to name a few. Lastly, it’s important to clean or replace the filters as often as necessary, at least every three months, to get the biggest benefit out of your air purifier. 

You can reference the EPA guide on air purifiers here.

Dehumidifiers are another tool if you struggle with things like dampness or mold in your home. While your HVAC system should be taking care of the humidity level, some areas in the home are more prone to humidity and sometimes your HVAC is working well enough yet not managing the humidity. Dehumidifiers remove water from the air, improving air quality by removing musty smells or mold/mildew growth.

Call us

To make sure you’re breathing healthy air and your HVAC is doing its job, call in the professionals at Exxel Mechanical Services. An HVAC professional will be able to examine areas in your system that might be contributing to air pollutants and ensure that your HVAC system does its part in keeping your air clean.

Call or email us at Exxel Mechanical Services 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 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.