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 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.

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.