Touchstone Heating & Air Inc Blog : Archive for January, 2015

Finding the Most Efficient System for Air Conditioning Installation

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Every whole-home appliance uses energy which is why it’s important to review the energy efficiency of a given system before installation. There are different rating systems for appliances and whole-home systems; for instance, heating systems use a rating called AFUE. When it comes to air conditioners, the rating to review is called SEER. Energy efficiency can, and should, be an important factor for any air conditioning installation in Lake City, and we’ll explain more about this below.

What Is SEER?

SEER stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. SEER is based on a scale of 1 to 23; the higher the SEER number, the better the energy efficiency of the unit. SEER tells you how much cooling a particular AC will provide for every unit of energy it uses.

SEER Minimums

In 2006, federal law mandated that all air conditioners have a minimum SEER of 13; prior to this, the minimum SEER was 10. If you are replacing an outdated system, you may see a significant savings from your new system because each SEER point higher can save you up to 10% on your annual cooling costs.

How SEER Works

SEER doesn’t tell you that one unit will cool your home better than another; what it tells you is that if you have two comparable units, and one has a SEER number of 13 and the other has a SEER number of 16, the unit with the SEER of 16 will cost you less to cool your space versus the unit with the lower SEER number. As such, the unit with the higher SEER number will save you more money by being a more energy efficient unit. However, a more efficient unit can cost more initially, so it’s important to balance between the monthly savings a particular unit can cost you and the initial costs.

Confused about SEER? Working with a trained expert can help ensure that you choose and install an air conditioner that has the energy efficiency you want for your home.

Contact Touchstone Heating and Air, Inc., today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

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How Can I Tell When It’s Time for AC Maintenance?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

If you’re like most homeowners, you probably don’t think much about the state of your air conditioner until it finally breaks. And once that repair bill is in your hands, you may begin to wonder: is there something I could have done to prevent this? In some cases, common AC issues are easily preventable if you schedule annual maintenance. While AC maintenance doesn’t guarantee that your AC won’t need repairs through the year, it certainly reduces your chances of a major breakdown. Ask yourself the following questions to decide if it’s time for maintenance.

  • How long has it been since you last had a technician check over your system? You may have looming repair needs that you simply cannot detect just yet, but these can be caught early on with a maintenance visit. Most experts recommend scheduling a visit once a year at least.
  • How much are you spending on monthly energy bills? Does it seem to have increased over last year’s bills? If so, some minor adjustments may restore some efficiency to the unit.
  • Can you afford a sudden repair need in the next few months? A maintenance visit is less expensive than most repair calls and may prevent parts from failing throughout the year.
  • Have you noticed your air conditioner struggling lately? If so, this is a sign you should call for AC repairs instead of maintenance. Making repairs right away is key to keeping the problem from worsening.

The Steps of Maintenance

The maintenance process is thorough enough to target the areas of your unit that can cause the most trouble.

  • Inspection: First, technicians inspect the entire unit, inside and out. They’ll let you know if anything seems off and tell you if a major repair is necessary so that you can schedule it now before a breakdown.
  • Adjustment: Any other adjustments are made on the spot, such as straightening bent coils, screwing in loose bolts, and tightening electrical connections.
  • Cleaning: Finally, the technician will clean the parts of your system that can contribute to inefficiency if dirty, including the inside and outside coils.

At Touchstone Heating and Air Inc. we know how to help you get the most from your air conditioning system year round with complete AC maintenance service in Fort White. 

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What Is a Hybrid Heating System?

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Although many people outside of Florida assume that we have warm, sunny weather all year long, residents know that the weather can get very chilly. And since your air conditioner uses so much energy the rest of the year, you may dread running your heater if the system you currently own is somewhat inefficient. So when you need to replace your heater, you might decide to go with a hybrid heating system, one of the most energy-efficient heating systems available.

Hybrid heating systems contain both a heat pump and a gas furnace, so that homeowners get the efficiency of a heat pump and the performance of a gas furnace. A hybrid heating system is a heat pump first and foremost, but it uses a furnace as a backup. Let’s look at how a heat pump and furnace work to see how this unit can help your home to run more efficiently.

Heat pumps are essentially just air conditioners with a couple of extra components and settings that allow for both heating and cooling. In air conditioning mode, refrigerant moves from the compressor unit to the indoor air handler, absorbing the heat from the home and then moving it back outside. In heating mode, refrigerant moves in the opposite direction via an additional component called the reversing valve. The reversing valve allows refrigerant to flow the other way while check valves help it to avoid passing through the components reserved for cooling mode.

Moving heat from one area to the next is a very efficient way to heat a space, usually more so than generating heat. But generating heat via combustion, as a furnace does, means reliable heating in any weather. Furnaces don’t rely on outside conditions to heat a home, and all of the parts are located indoors. While a heat pump may struggle to heat when outdoor temperatures drop too low, a furnace typically will not. This means it’s there a source of heating when the temperatures drop or when a component of your heat pump breaks and you need a backup source.

Call Touchstone Heating and Air Inc. to learn about all of the ways homeowners benefit from installing hybrid heating systems in Gainesville.

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What Kinds of Contaminants May Be Living in the Ducts?

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

No one really wants to think about the “things” living in the cool, dark places of their home, but it may surprise you just how many contaminants can be in your home’s ductwork. Any type of contamination in your home is reason for concern, but the contamination in your ductwork can be blown directly into your living spaces, giving these contaminants direct access to you. Understanding what types of contaminants can live and thrive in your ductwork can help you prevent them from taking up residence in your home and improve your overall indoor air quality in Gainesville.

Types of Contaminants

Here are some of the more common contaminants you can find inside ductwork:

  • Mold and mildew – mold and mildew need only a little bit of moisture in a cool, dark place to grow and thrive, making your ductwork a top residential area for them. Faulty ductwork can be especially prone to mold and mildew growth as the holes and cracks offer ample, excess moisture to keep the growth thriving.
  • Dirt and dust – this is probably one of the more expected contaminants, but don’t underestimate what dirt and dust build-up in your ductwork can do to your HVAC system.
  • Vermin – mice, squirrels, raccoons and other vermin love the protection and warmth of ductwork, so if they can get to it, they will – and they don’t come alone. Additionally, they’ll use the nest as both a bathroom and kitchen, so you can wind up with animal feces and food residue in your ductwork.
  • Insects – there are few kinds of insects that enjoy the protection of a ductwork system, but none so much as cockroaches. Cockroaches tend to be more pervasive in urban areas, but they will seek shelter from the cold during the winter months no matter where they are. Some people have severe allergies to cockroaches which can contribute to allergy discomfort and even asthma triggers, so it’s important to make sure they don’t create a community in your ductwork.

The “ick” factor of ductwork contaminants can be pretty high, but with a thorough duct cleaning, you can substantially reduce the contaminants in your ductwork and improve the indoor air quality of your Gainesville home.

Think your ducts need cleaning? Call Touchstone Heating and Air Inc., today and schedule an appointment with one of our experts.

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Tools Used for Professional Duct Cleaning

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

The ducts that lead from the air handler to your home are vital to proper heating and air conditioning, but they can also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Contaminants like dust, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, and viruses can dwell in the ducts and may be forced into your home as you run your heating and air conditioning system. But professionals are equipped with the proper tools to eliminate these pollutants and help you to maintain the quality of your home.

  • Access Tools: First, a technician must access the remote areas of the ducts by using some sort of tool to access the inside of the ducts from multiple locations. They may use these tools to pierce a small hole in the ducts to seal up later or to remove an entire section of ductwork to replace afterwards. First, however, they must access the type and design of the ductwork in order to determine the proper steps to follow.
  • Inspection Materials: A quality technician will inspect your ducts before any cleaning takes place to make sure there are no areas with major leaks or portions of ductwork that require a particular set of tools for cleaning. They may use anything from small handheld mirrors to video cameras, depending on the size of the job, the level of experience of the technician, and the tools they have on hand.
  • Vacuums: Perhaps the most important tool at a professional’s disposal is a high-pressure vacuum. This vacuum creates negative pressure in the ducts so that debris is knocked loose from the lining of the ductwork and gets sucked into the hose. These vacuums have far more power than home vacuum cleaners, and are rather difficult or homeowners to access themselves.
  • Brushes: During, before, or after the duct cleaning, the technician will also use soft brushes or other cleaning tools to rub off any remaining dirt and contaminants. Contaminants may cling to the ducts even after the powerful vacuum is employed, but a simple brush and perhaps a non-toxic cleaning agent can take care of anything that remains. However, the technician will need to make sure that the brush is soft enough not to damage the ducts, particularly if your home uses a flexible ductwork that can easily collapse.

The professionals at Touchstone Heating and Air Inc. can ensure that your next duct cleaning in Fort Worth is handled with care and that no harmful contaminants threaten to enter your home. Give our team a call today!

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12 Grapes for 12 Months: An Unusual New Year’s Tradition

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Across the world, many cultures have specific traditions to celebrate the transition from the old year to the new. In the U.S. and Canada, we associate New Year’s with the ball in Times Square, kissing at the stroke of midnight, resolutions, and singing “Old Lang Syne.” But for many Spanish-speaking countries, one of the key traditions has to do with eating grapes as fast as possible.

The “twelve grapes” tradition comes from Spain, where it is called las doce uvas de la suerte (“The Twelve Lucky Grapes”). To ensure good luck for the next year, people eat one green grape for each of the upcoming twelve months. However, you cannot just eat the grapes during the first day of the new year any time you feel like it. You must eat the twelve grapes starting at the first stroke of midnight on Nochevieja (“Old Night,” New Year’s Eve) as one year changes to another. And you have to keep eating: with each toll of midnight, you must eat another grape, giving you about twelve seconds to consume all of them. If you can finish all dozen grapes—you can’t still be chewing on them!—before the last bell toll fades, you will have a luck-filled new year.

Where did this tradition come from? No one is certain, although it appears to be more than a century old. One story about the Twelve Lucky Grapes is that a large crop of grapes in 1909 in Alicante, Spain led to the growers seeking out a creative way to eliminate their surplus. But recent research through old newspapers shows that perhaps the tradition goes back almost thirty years earlier to the 1880s, where eating grapes was meant to mock the upper classes who were imitating the French tradition of dining on grapes and drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve.

It can be difficult to consume grapes this fast, and the lucky grapes of New Year’s Eve have seeds in them, making the job even trickier. (Seedless grapes are not common in Spain the way they are over here.) For people to manage eating all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight requires swallowing the seeds as well and only taking a single bite of each grape.

Oh, there is one more twist to the tradition: you have to be wearing red undergarments, and they have to be given to you as a gift. The origins of this part of the tradition are even more mysterious, and it’s anybody’s guess why this started.

Whether you go for the grape challenge or find another way to ring in New Year’s, all of us at Touchstone Heating and Air Inc. hope you have a great start to the year and a fruitful 2015.

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