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How to Make a Whole-House Plan for Energy Savings

How to Make a Whole-House Plan for Energy SavingsTaking a whole-house approach to saving energy in your home requires much more than just investing in a high-efficiency heating and cooling system. While that’s important, it must go hand in hand with other steps in pursuit of consistent and significant energy savings.

Those steps include proper installation and maintenance of your heating and cooling equipment, weatherization in the form or effective air sealing, insulation and ventilation, and good energy-saving habits.

Let’s take apart an effective whole-house energy-saving strategy:

  • High-efficiency HVAC. Modern heating and cooling equipment is much more energy-efficient than even a decade ago, and federal standards require that HVAC equipment surpass minimal efficiency ratings. Discuss with your trusted HVAC contractor what cooling or heating system makes the most sense for your desired comfort and energy savings, household budget, and our Southern California climate.
  • Proper maintenance. You can have a state-of-the-art HVAC system but if it goes without routine, regular maintenance for any length of time, you won’t obtain the advertised energy savings. This means both homeowner maintenance (simple stuff like changing air filters and keeping registers clear) and yearly or twice-yearly professional maintenance.
  • Air sealing, insulation and ventilation. This is where the whole-house concept really kicks into gear. Ideally, you can start with an energy evaluation to ascertain where your home is losing energy, either via air leaks or inadequate insulation, and then based on that data proceed with whole-house weatherization. Even without an energy audit, you can take steps to seal visible air leaks with weatherstripping, caulk and/or spray foam, and upgrade insulation in vulnerable areas such as the attic. Likewise, proper attic ventilation is essential if you don’t want your attic negatively affecting comfort in the rest of your house.
  • Your own energy habits. You’d be surprised at the potential for increasing energy conservation in your home. One of the simplest ways is to get accustomed to higher (or lower) temperatures, depending on the season. Just a few degrees can make a big difference.

For help planning a whole-house energy-saving strategy for your San Diego area home, please contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Common A/C Condensate Drain Problems

Common A/C Condensate Drain ProblemsDuring the normal cooling process, your A/C extracts water from the air and sends it outdoors through the built-in drainage system. Problems with the drain system can result in unpleasant odors, mold growth that degrades your indoor air quality, or even HVAC equipment and property damage. Here’s how to deal with three of the most common drainage system issues that develop, so you can avoid messy cleanups, prevent costly repairs, and maintain a healthier air supply.

Dry Drain Trap

Your condensate drain system most likely includes a trap that’s similar to the one on the kitchen sink. When the air conditioner is used regularly, water that’s retained in the trap forms a seal that keeps noxious sewer gas odors from entering your home. If you notice a foul smell whenever the A/C is running, the drain line may not be installed properly, so have it checked by your HVAC pro.

Dirty Evaporator Coil

When dust and dirt particles get inside the air handler and build up on the evaporator coil, they’ll get carried into the drainage system along with the condensate that drips off the coil. Eventually, all that debris can clog up the drain line. Changing your A/C air filter regularly can help prevent this, but it’s also vital to have the evaporator professionally cleaned during a yearly maintenance visit.

Mold or Algae Growth

Warmth, moisture and supply of organic particles make your condensate drain system an ideal environment where mold and algae can thrive. If either gain a foothold and start to flourish, an overgrowth can clog up the drain line and cause a condensate backup that leads to water damage in your home. If it’s not kept in check, mold can also circulate throughout your air supply via the ductwork, or even clog up the evaporator coil, restrict essential system airflow and cause equipment damage. To avert these problems, you or your HVAC technician should flush out the drain lines and clean the pan periodically.

For expert help solving A/C condensate drain problems in your San Diego-area home, contact the HVAC pros at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Here’s What the Information on the EnergyGuide Label Tells You

Here's What the Information on the EnergyGuide Label Tells YouIt can be quite a lengthy process to research the features and energy efficiency stats of different HVAC systems and appliances. If you want the best deal and system for your home, vigilant homework is required. Fortunately, there’s a bright yellow tag attached to most energy-using HVAC systems and appliances that make the job easier for you. Read on to learn how the EnergyGuide label can help!

EnergyGuide Information

The EnergyGuide label is part of a federally-mandated program designed to help consumers make educated choices when purchasing HVAC units, appliances, and other products. Manufacturers of these products submit the testing results in an annual report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This way, you know that the information contained on EnergyGuide labels is current up to one year.

Following is a basic guide to the EnergyGuide label:

  • Top left-hand corner displays product designation, features, size, and capacity.
  • Top right-hand corner displays the manufacturer, make, and model of the product.
  • Middle area displays the energy efficiency of the product (e.g. 22 SEER for a high-efficiency central air conditioner), and how the product compares to similar models in the same class. You’ll also find the estimated annual operating cost and estimated annual energy usage. These estimates are based on national averages for cost and usage.
  • The Energy Star logo will be displayed at the bottom for products that meet stringent efficiency ratings, offer advanced features, and better service than other models.

Cost Analysis

The first cost of any product is the sticker price, sales tax, and any other cost at the point of sale. The lifetime cost of any product is the true investment. For example, the lifetime cost of a high-efficiency heat pump is based on the sum of the first cost, estimated operating cost for life, and the estimated maintenance and repair cost for life. With this cost analysis, you can make a more informed choice for real value.

When you’re ready to install HVAC equipment in your Greater San Diego home, use the information from your EnergyGuide label and contact the pros at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning!

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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A Timeline of HVAC Replacement and Maintenance

A Timeline of HVAC Replacement and MaintenanceWhen you buy a new HVAC system, you want it to run as efficiently as possible for as long as possible. But the only way to do that is to keep it properly maintained throughout its lifetime. If you don’t take care of it, it will run down and begin using more energy. To prevent that and keep your system in top shape, here’s a basic HVAC maintenance timeline to follow over the system’s lifetime.

Every month                           

Check your air filter. If your air filter becomes clogged, it can not only reduce your indoor air quality, but also reduce airflow through your system, which wastes energy and ultimately damages the system. Check your filter every month to see if it should be replaced.

Every 3–6 months

Replace your filter. How often your filter needs replacing depends on the quality of the filter, your home’s lifestyle, and other factors. If the filter is white and translucent, it’s still usable. If it’s grey and opaque, it’s time to replace it.

Every year

Schedule maintenance. An essential part of your HVAC maintenance timeline, this should technically be two annual visits — one in the autumn for your furnace and one in the spring for your A/C. Your HVAC service technician will inspect the system to make sure it’s operating at peak efficiency. This includes calibrating the thermostat, tightening all electrical components, oiling the motor and other moving parts, and checking the condensate drain for blockages. For your A/C, they should also check the refrigerant level, and for your furnace, they should check the gas pressure and connections.

Every 15 years

Replace the unit. With regular maintenance, an A/C will last about 10–15 years, a furnace will last 15–20 years, and a heat pump will last around 16 years. Even if the system seems to be in good working order, when it gets to be around 15 years old, you should start shopping around for a new one.

For more help with your HVAC maintenance timeline, contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning today. We’ve been San Diego’s source for quality HVAC service since 2002.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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How to Take Care of Your Windows

How to Take Care of Your WindowsWhen you think about your windows, you probably appreciate the light they bring in and the glimpses of the outdoors they give you. Most likely, you don’t picture them with energy dollars flying out. However, if your windows aren’t properly maintained, that’s exactly what could be happening.

If you think about it, a window is basically a hole in the wall with glass in it. Holes let air in and out, and glass does nothing to stop heat from moving where it isn’t wanted. That doesn’t mean windows are bad to have in your home. It just means that you have to be smart about maintaining them.

For example, if you live in an old home that has never had the windows replaced, there is a chance that new, energy-efficient windows might return some or all of their cost to you in energy savings. Even if you are not interested in replacing your windows, you have several options for making your current windows more energy efficient.

  • Install storm windows. When properly installed, storm windows are good for stopping air transfer from outside to inside.You have many options when it comes to storm windows, making it likely that you can find something that fits what you need.
  • Hang curtains or other window treatments. Although curtains and blinds aren’t very useful for stopping air flow, they are good at blocking heat from transferring in during the summer or out during the winter.
  • Caulk air leaks. Perhaps one of the least expensive but most effective solutions, caulking your window frames to stop air leaks can do wonders for your energy bill. Since caulk can shrink or crumble, make sure to check it periodically and reapply as needed.
  • Add weatherstripping. If you have any openable windows, even if you don’t typically open them, apply weatherstripping to create a seal when they’re closed.
  • Shade your windows. Awning provides shade that will keep down heat transfer in the summer. Bushes or trees can have a similar benefit.

Do you want more energy saving tips for your San Diego area home? Contact Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning today.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Here’s How to Troubleshoot Your A/C

Here's How to Troubleshoot Your A/CYour air conditioner is a complex system of motorized parts, electrical components, refrigerant, fans, and more. If one part is too dirty, out of whack, or has simply gone kaput, your A/C won’t operate efficiently or, perhaps, it won’t work at all. Try these troubleshooting tips before you call your HVAC contractor.

Unit Doesn’t Run

The first component to check if your A/C isn’t running at all is the thermostat. Make sure it hasn’t been turned to HEAT accidentally. Adjust the temperature five degrees below the displayed temperature. If your A/C still doesn’t turn on, look inside the circuit box to see if a breaker has tripped.

Unit Runs but Not Cooling

It can be frustrating and perplexing when your A/C is running but it’s not blowing out cool air from the vents. There may be dirty components or obstructions that are making your A/C work too hard and unable to keep up with the cooling load.

Journey outdoors and take a look at the unit next to your home (i.e. in a split-system A/C). Remove any obstructions to airflow, such as tall grass and debris. If the condenser coil inside the unit doesn’t receive ample airflow, it won’t be able to cool.

The condenser itself could be dirty enough to block heat transfer — especially if you haven’t scheduled professional maintenance this year. Use a can of spray-on foaming cleaner. Let it soak in according to the instructions and spray off with a garden hose. Make sure power is turned off at the thermostat and circuit breaker.

Professional HVAC Help

Professional preventive maintenance is essential for keeping your A/C running efficiently. This saves you energy, reduces system wear, and keeps your San Marcos home comfortable until summer’s end. Moreover, regular service helps prevent expensive and unnecessary malfunctions, which always seem to occur at the hottest and most inopportune times of the year.

If you are unable to resolve your air conditioner issues, contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. Since 2002, we’ve worked hard to provide the best HVAC services for homeowners in North County and the greater San Diego area!

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

Here’s How to Decode HVAC Air Filter Ratings

Here's How to Decode HVAC Air Filter RatingsHow do you know how effectively an HVAC air filter will safeguard your indoor air quality? The MERV rating was designed to provide a quick basis of comparison between different filter types. Expressed as a number between 1 and 16, MERV actually stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The higher the MERV rating for a filter, the more efficiently the filter performs.

As long as your air conditioner or furnace is running, it’s pushing air through the HVAC air filter. In a typical day, all the air inside your home circulates through the ductwork and filter multiple times. That’s why the quality and efficiency of your air filter matters. Here’s how the various MERV filter ranges stack up by comparison:

MERV 1–4

Usually the least expensive fiberglass panel filters that perform the least efficiently. Typically, these filters remove only the largest particles of dust — the stuff you can actually see — from the air. Smaller invisible particulates, which make up the majority of indoor pollution, escape filtration. Most HVAC professionals recommend immediately replacing them with a higher rated filter.

MERV 5–8

The most appropriate filter choice for most households, this range is dominated by quality pleated cotton or polyester filters. They will remove airborne particulates down to a size of 3 microns. This comprises all lint and dust, pollen, dust mites, and mold spores. Filters in this range offer the best balance between filtration efficiency with minimum airflow restriction.

MERV 9–12

If some family members have particularly high sensitivity to certain airborne allergens, these filters provide an extra level of protection. They will remove 80 percent of airborne particulates down to a size of 1 micron.

MERV 13–16

This high-efficiency range is generally limited to hospitals, clinics and other commercial systems where HVAC systems incorporate high-speed blowers and high-volume airflow. For typical residential systems, however, these filters are too dense and excessively restrict airflow, causing poor cooling/heating performance and reducing energy efficiency.

Ask the professionals at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning for more information about choosing the right HVAC air filter for your home.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Improve Your Attic or Basement with These Tips

Improve Your Attic or Basement with These TipsFor maximizing home energy savings and comfort in summer, turn your attention to the basement and attic. These areas are common sources of energy loss and any improvements made will help you save money. Here are some tips.

Moisture Control

Basements and attics often suffer from high humidity. Any area of the home that remains damp will increase humidity throughout the rest of the home. This decreases comfort and makes your home feel warmer, which means your air conditioning costs will likely go up.

It also creates an opportunity for mold growth, and the problem won’t be confined only to these spaces. Air quality will suffer throughout the home as mold spores are easily airborne.

Check for roof leaks, damp areas and moldy insulation in your attic. Have the ventilation system checked to ensure there is appropriate airflow. This helps exhaust moisture and prevents heat buildup.

In the basement, fix all leaky plumbing pipes, but also check the walls for cracks, gaps or a damp, clammy feeling. You might need to have your basement moisture-sealed by a professional.

Sealing Air Leaks

Air leaks are a big source of energy loss in summer because they allow hot outdoor air into your home. The basement and attic are common areas for air leaks because of chimneys, entrance points for electricity and plumbing, and other structural breaches. Seal small leaks with caulk and seal larger air leaks with expandable foam or similar appropriate material.

Sealing Ducts

Ductwork is often routed through basements and unconditioned spaces such as attics. Leaky ductwork in either area can cause energy loss, but this is extreme in unconditioned spaces where hot air can enter ducts through gaps. Seal these with metal-backed tape.

Insulation

Attic insulation keeps the summer heat from radiating down through the ceiling. Have a contractor inspect your insulation to make sure it is in good condition, hasn’t shifted and that there is enough of it. Insufficient insulation is a top source of energy loss.

For additional expert tips or for help with energy-saving home improvement, please contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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You’ll Want Clean A/C Coils this Summer

You'll Want Clean A/C Coils this SummerIn the summer, few things are more infuriating than an air conditioning system that’s cooling your home inadequately or not working at all. You can avoid such inconveniences by performing some maintenance tasks, such as cleaning your air conditioning coils. Clean A/C coils can make a significant difference in your system’s performance.

Why are Clean A/C Coils Important?

Your air conditioner has evaporator and condenser coils that absorb indoor heat and release it outdoors. Dirt buildup on the coils prevents the proper movement of heat through them.

Dirty coils use more energy than clean coils. They also lower your A/C system’s cooling capacity. This is because the dirt causes an increase in pressure and operating temperatures within the system. Eventually, the conditions break down the compressor’s lubricant, resulting in equipment failure.

How to Clean A/C Coils

You’ll need a 4-in-1 screwdriver, garden hose with a spray nozzle, shop vacuum, funnel, whisk broom and safety glasses.

To clean the condenser coils:

  • Start by shutting off the power to your air conditioner.
  • Remove the compressor case and gently vacuum the metal fins.
  • Remove the top grille and carefully support it without overstretching the electrical wires.
  • Gently clean the surface of the coils with a whisk broom. Remove trapped dirt from the coils using a hose with a spray nozzle. Be careful not to flood the area, bend the delicate metal fins, or spray water on the fan motor and electrical components. Cover them with a plastic bag.
  • Inspect the coils for damages before reassembling the unit.

To clean the evaporator coils:

  • Start by turning off the power to the indoor A/C unit and replace its filter if it’s dirty to prevent the dust from accumulating on the coil fins.
  • Vacuum any dust in the blower compartment.
  • Unclog your condensation drain by pouring a bleach solution through its tube.

To ensure the job is done correctly and safely, call an HVAC pro. For more information on maintaining clean A/C coils, please contact us at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning. We serve the San Diego area.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Diego and San Marcos, California area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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Learn Important Terms for HVAC Cooling Season

Learn Important Terms for HVAC Cooling Season | SherlockIf you experience cooling system troubles this season, you’ll have an easier time describing the problem and understanding the diagnosis and remedy your technician recommends if you know some relevant HVAC terminology. We’ve put together a list of frequently-used cooling-specific HVAC terms that can help.

  • SEER — This is an acronym for the efficiency rating given to cooling equipment, and it stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio. It gives you the ratio of the equipment’s cooling output divided by its energy usage over one season. Numerical SEER ratings increase as efficiency improves, so higher-rated equipment is more efficient.
  • Capacity — Also referred to as cooling capacity, this tells you how much heat the equipment moves in one hour’s time. The common capacity measurement is a “ton,” which is 12,000 Btu of heat.
  • Refrigerant — This is the chemical compound used as a heat transfer mechanism in a cooling system. It gets pumped through the refrigerant lines and coils in a closed, continuous loop and transforms from liquid to gas form to absorb and release heat.
  • Air handler — The indoor portion of a split-system A/C or heat pump, the air handler houses several key cooling components including the evaporator, air filter, blower and condensate drain system.
  • Evaporator — Also called the cooling coil, this is where heat absorption occurs. Refrigerant enters the coil as a chilled liquid, then converts into a gas as it pulls heat energy from the indoor air.
  • Blower — This fan pulls stale indoor air in from the return ductwork, draws it over the coil for cooling, then circulates freshly-cooled air out through your home via the supply ducts.
  • Compressor — Your outdoor unit houses this vital component that pressurizes and pumps refrigerant through the system’s loop of copper lines and coils.
  • Condenser — Also situated in the outdoor unit is the condenser coil that’s responsible for expelling captured heat into the outdoor air. Refrigerant enters the coil as a hot gas and releases the heat it contains as it transforms back into a liquid.

To learn more cooling season HVAC terms, contact the San Diego home comfort pros at Sherlock Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater
area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). 

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