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10 Spring Cleaning Tips for HVAC Units

You’re smiling because the crocuses are starting to pop up; you’re scheduling a Saturday to clean up those soggy dead leaves; and you’re thinking you need a tanning bed and some lotion before you bust out those arms and legs. 

Spring is here! 

While you get your affairs in order for the warmer weather and tackling spring cleaning, don’t ignore adding “clean HVAC” or “HVAC replacement” to that list. Here are 10 tips for getting your HVAC ready for spring:

1. Clean the outside of the AC unit 

During the fall and winter months, debris like leaves and dirt can gather around the outside of the AC unit. Make sure that between 1-2 feet around the unit is cleared out, including trimming bushes or plants that may have grown too close to the unit. 

2. Clean the accessible parts inside the AC unit 

After ensuring the AC unit is shut off, clean the fins by vacuuming and wiping off any dirt from the fins of the AC fan, and lightly rinsing off the unit with a hose. You can also use this opportunity to check out as much of the unit as you can see, noting anything that looks damaged so that an HVAC professional can check it out during a routine tune up. 

3. Clean or replace the air filters

Here we go again about the air filters! But seriously, cleaning or replacing air filters is step #1 for making your system run more efficiently and providing cleaner air. Air filters should be cleaned or replaced at least yearly. 

4. Clean the air vents throughout the house

Dust can build up in the air vents throughout the winter, so cleaning them before you switch from heat to AC is a great way to make sure your HVAC unit isn’t working too hard and is circulating clean air. Remove the vents’ grills, vacuum the grills, wash the grills, and vacuum inside the wall vent as much as possible. 

5. Clean the AC coils 

Refrigerator coils can collect dust, making them less efficient. Take some time to carefully clean them off as spring comes around. You can search on the internet for instructions, or you can let your HVAC professional take care of this chore. 

6. Have the ducts cleaned

While this isn’t necessarily a yearly job (once every three to five years is sufficient), you might consider adding duct cleaning every spring to keep your HVAC system efficient and your air as clean as possible. If you live with someone with allergies or asthma, cleaning the ducts can be helpful for alleviating their symptoms. 

7. Dust the house

Dust, pet dander, and other allergens can all collect in the house. Additionally, spring brings its own allergens, the most significant being pollen. Pollen will try to sneak into your home, worsening allergies for those affected and clinging to the dust. Cleaning your home of dust where it has collected in corners, on ceiling fan fins, and in other hard-to-reach places is a good move to get ready for spring. 

8. Get rid of “things” 

Another part of your spring cleaning that’s also directly related to helping your HVAC system run well is getting rid of excess furniture or clutter. Extra stuff, especially clutter blocking vents, reduces air flow and spreads dust in the house. If possible, clear out the areas in front of or on top of air vents so that your HVAC system can run more efficiently. 

9. Seal windows & clean window treatments 

Vacuuming and re-sealing your windows is a spring cleaning task that will also help an HVAC system efficiency in time for warmer weather. Vacuuming and beating the dust out of window treatments will greatly reduce dust buildup in the house.

10. Have an HVAC professional clean & tune up all the rest

HVAC repairs or tune-ups are smart to schedule in the fall and in the spring. While you might do a great job of cleaning everything you have access to, there are some internal pieces and parts to your HVAC system you can’t reach. Having a professional come to clean your system will leave you satisfied knowing your system is running as smoothly as it should be, and it’s ready to cool your home as the warmer months approach. 

Call us 

Whether it’s HVAC repair, HVAC cleaning, or HVAC replacement, Exxel Mechanical Services is ready to help you get ready for spring! We serve a 30-mile radius of Winfield, Maryland in Westminster, Owings Mills, and Frederick, Maryland. Call us and see why our reputation precedes us! Call or email 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, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac

Ways to Increase HVAC Air Quality

One of the many benefits of a first-rate HVAC system is that you can rely on it to improve the air quality in your home. During the winter or summer when you’re unable to crack a window for fresh outside air, you want to be able to know your HVAC is doing one of its many jobs: keeping the air fresh and contaminant-free. 

What do we mean when we say contaminant-free? We’re talking about eliminating all kinds of contaminants regularly linger in the air, including: 

  • excess moisture,
  • smoke from a fireplace, cooking or cigarettes,
  • regular house dust and dust from home renovations,
  • pet dander,
  • pollen. 

More serious air contaminants or pollutants include mold, bacteria, carbon monoxide, asbestos, or lead particles. If any of these types of contaminants are an issue in your house, you need to address them through more direct means than simply relying on an effective HVAC unit. However, for the “every day” contaminants such as those listed above, an HVAC system in good working order can improve and maintain air quality. 

To make sure your HVAC is circulating healthy air around your home, consider these 4 ways to improve air quality inside your home.

  1. Clean your air filters

When researching the question of how to make your HVAC system work better, the most common answer you’ll find is to clean or replace your air filters. Not only are clean filters able to pull more dust and other contaminants out of the air, but they won’t block air flow which increases the problem of dust and other particles collecting all over your house.

Full or clogged air filters can also damage your HVAC unit. Dirty filters make the HVAC system work harder and can even lead to broken parts or even a total unit breakdown. When it comes to air quality, it’s important to consider clean air filters your go-to for keeping the air fresh in your home.

Another consideration is the use of the correct air filter for your HVAC system. While having your HVAC serviced, ask your HVAC technician if there’s a preferred filter type or size for catching more particles and keeping your air cleaner. 

  1. Check on ductwork & other components of the HVAC system

The air conditioned by your HVAC system flows through your ductwork. Keeping your ductwork clean is another way to combat contaminants from growing and blowing around your house. Dust or even mold can build up inside ductwork (especially if the ducts were not installed well). During a tune up with an HVAC technician, ensure that the ducts are examined and given a good cleaning. 

Another area of the HVAC system that is prone to getting dirty with potential mold or bacteria is the coil inside the HVAC system. It’s possible to install special ultraviolet lights that can kill any growth inside the unit, making the system more efficient as well. 

During tune ups, the HVAC technician will also clean unit parts like the air handlers, grills, fans, and motors. These are functional parts of the HVAC unit that should only be handled and cleaned by a professional. Keeping your HVAC system and ductwork clean is one of the best ways to make sure the air blown through the system is also clean.

  1. Make use of air purifiers

You might consider using multiple means of cleaning the air, aside from your HVAC system, to improve air quality and reduce the strain on your HVAC system. The use of plants, cooking vents in the kitchen, air purifiers, humidifiers or dehumidifiers are all helpful tools to keep the air fresh. Whether you are fond of cooking foods in oil or butter, or you have a full house requiring daily showers and extra loads of laundry causing increased humidity or are enduring an especially frigid winter leading to cracking dry skin because there’s no humidity – all these place additional strain on your HVAC system. Whatever stress may be placed on your air quality, your HVAC system will thank you (through the longevity of the heating and cooling units) if you take steps to mitigate air quality issues through creative means.

  1. Run the fan more often 

Running your HVAC system’s fan more often can also help with air quality. Depending on the age of your thermostat, you should be able to turn the fan to the “on” mode. If it’s a newer, programmable thermostat, you may have the option to set the fan to remain on for a certain number of minutes per hour. 

While keeping the fan on can cost more on your utility bill or even bother you due to the sound of the fan running, it can help to filter the air as it will run the air through the air filters. But remember that if you are running the fan more often, you might need to clean or change the air filters more often. 

Keep efficiency in mind

Air quality is certainly important, especially if you live with someone who is immunocompromised or has a respiratory issue like asthma. And the Covid-19 pandemic made us more aware of airborne contaminants and ventilation than ever before. We need to think about air quality and controlling contaminants that might be getting into indoor air.

It’s also important to note that air quality also impacts the efficiency of your HVAC system. Air filters clogged with dust or pet dander can cause issues within the whole system, and high humidity will strain the system as it tries to keep it under control. Keeping the air clean helps your HVAC system heat and cool more effectively.

Call us 

Indoor air quality is an important part of a working HVAC system. Our HVAC technicians have experience with a variety of air quality problems, and we’re ready to answer your questions and provide solutions.
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. Call us today at (443) 821-1040, and it would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.

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 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.