Air Conditioning DIY Tips
Get the most out of your system so you don’t have to call AC companies in Fort Worth TX. The cost of running your home’s heating and cooling equipment probably represents around half of your annual utility bills. If you’re looking to maximize comfort and energy efficiency, you’ve come to the right place. If your heating and cooling equipment is energy-efficient but your utility bills are still high, air leaks, insufficient insulation, and/or leaky ducts could be the problem. However, if your equipment is more than 10 years old, it may be more cost-effective over the long-term to buy new higher-efficiency equipment now. A professional HVAC contractor is in the best position to present and explain your options. Most contractors offer numerous alternatives, including equipment that bears the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) ENERGY STAR label. ENERGY STAR-qualified equipment is the most efficient equipment on the market.
Your home should be an envelope of comfort. No matter how efficient your heating and cooling equipment is, if your home is not properly sealed and insulated, you will not be as comfortable as you could be and your system will have to work harder. In addition, if you have leaky or poorly insulated ductwork, your home might have humidity problems, excessive dust, or rooms that never seem to get comfortable. Windows can present problems as well. Before you invest in new HVAC equipment, check to make sure that the following areas of your home are in order.
Is There a Seal Leak in your Home?
The exterior of your home—the outer walls, ceiling, windows, and floor—is called the “envelope” or “shell.” When air leaks out from or enters your home through the envelope, your heating and cooling equipment has to use more energy which AC companies in Fort Worth TX are here to help with. Properly sealing and insulating your home can result in a 20% savings on your heating and cooling costs, or up to 10% on your total annual energy bill. Many air leaks and drafts are easy to find because they are easy to feel—like those around windows and doors. But holes hidden in attics, basements, and crawlspaces are usually bigger problems.
Sealing these leaks with caulk, spray foam, or weather stripping will have a great impact on improving your comfort and reducing utility bills. Most homeowners can seal leaks themselves; however, you may want to consider asking your HVAC contractor to check your home for hidden leaks. AC companies in Fort Worth TX have special diagnostic tools that will uncover these problematic areas.
Add Insulation for Better Efficiency
Insulation keeps your home warm in the winter and cools in the summer, very important for you and AC companies in Fort Worth TX. When correctly installed with air sealing, insulation can deliver comfort and lower energy bills during the hottest and coldest times of the year. Insulation performance is measured by R-value—its ability to resist heat flow. Higher R-values mean more insulating power. Different R-values are recommended for walls, attics, basements, and crawlspaces, depending on your area of the country. Insulation works best when air is not moving through or around it, making it very important to seal air leaks before installing insulation to ensure that you get the best performance from the insulation. To get the biggest savings, the easiest place to add insulation is usually in the attic. A quick way to see if you need more insulation is to look across your uncovered attic floor. If your insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, you probably need to add more. The recommended insulation level for most attics is R-38 (or about 12 to 15 inches, depending on the insulation type). In the coldest climates, insulating up to R-49 is recommended.
Duct sealing and Duct Repair
AC companies in Fort Worth TX use ducts to distribute conditioned air throughout houses with forced-air heating and cooling systems. In typical houses, about 20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts. The result is an inefficient HVAC system, high utility bills, and difficulty keeping the house comfortable, no matter how the thermostat is set.
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Common Duct Problems Include:
- Leaky, torn, and disconnected ducts
- Poorly sealed registers and grills
- Leaks at the furnace and filter slots
- Kinks in flexible ductwork restricting airflow
Because ducts are often concealed in walls, ceilings, attics, and basements, repairing them can be difficult. But there are things you can do to improve duct performance in your house. Start by sealing leaks using mastic sealant or metal (foil) tape and insulating all the ducts that you can access such as those in the attic, crawlspace, basement, or garage. Do not use “duct tape,” as it is not long-lasting. Also make sure that the connections at vents and registers are well-sealed where they meet the floors, walls, and ceiling.
These are common locations to find leaks and disconnected ductwork.
- Do You Still have Rooms that are Too Hot or Too Cold?
- If you’ve sealed the leaks and ductwork in your home and you have adequate insulation and reasonably efficient windows and you are still experiencing rooms that are too hot or too cold, it could be because of:
- The home’s construction—homes that are built on slabs tend to be colder, while two-story and split-level homes tend to have colder lower levels and warmer upper levels
- The direction—a south-facing room gets more sun and is likely to be warmer than a
- The number of windows in the room and the direction they face—changing the window
coverings might help; if the room is too cold, add heavier drapes, or if it is too hot, use
- There are not enough air return ducts in the house—in this case, closed doors can cut off the air supply and create a pressure imbalance throughout the entire house, affecting the comfort of all rooms.
Thompson’s Cooling and Heating, AC companies in Fort Worth TX, can perform a heat load calculation of your home and may be able to “balance” your system in order to make the entire house more comfortable. If you’ve done all you can do on your own and you are still experiencing comfort issues, look to your HVAC contractor for solutions. In some cases, “zoning” the house (i.e., providing comfort control to individual rooms or specific areas of the house) can be a perfect solution.
Should you get a Programmable Thermostat?
Using a programmable thermostat is one of the easiest ways you can save energy in your home. The average household spends more than $2,200 a year on energy bills—nearly half of which goes to heating and cooling. Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings. The pre-programmed settings that come with programmable thermostats are intended to deliver savings without sacrificing comfort. Depending on your family’s schedule, you can see significant savings by sticking with those settings or adjust them as appropriate for your family. Learn more money-saving information on thermostats.
What to Look for in a Programmable Thermostat
In general, every programmable thermostat comes with four pre-programmed settings and maintains those settings within two degrees. Many qualified models also come with additional features, such as:
- Digital, backlit displays
- Touch-pad screen programming
- Voice and/or phone programming
- Hold/permanent/vacation features
- Indicators that tell you when it’s time to change air filters
- Indicators that signal to malfunction of heating/cooling systems
- Adaptive Recovery/Smart Recovery features—control features that sense the amount of time it will take to reach the next set-point temperature, and reach desired temperatures by the set time.
Dangers in DIY Thermostat Installation
One of the most frequent calls to AC companies in Fort Worth TX is from homeowners who tried to install their own digital programmable thermostats. While the big box home stores readily promote the sale of programmable thermostats, many homeowners regret trying to install them on their own. This is still an electrical device and care and concentration is a must. Blown furnace or air handler transformers, improper wiring, and shorting out the wiring are a few of the pitfalls we see. Also, the system may work during the season you are currently in but fail during a hot summer or cold winter due to not setting up the internal software to match your particular system. It may seem simple to install – and some are – but the higher-end models are best left to the professional.
Proper Installation for Your Thermostat
Your programmable thermostat should be installed on an interior wall, away from heating or cooling vents and other sources of heat or drafts (e.g., doorways, windows, skylights, direct sunlight, or bright lamps). If you’re replacing an older programmable thermostat, be sure to read directions carefully and take the proper safety precautions. Programmable thermostats are a low-voltage wiring installation and involve anywhere from 2 to 10 wires, depending on your type of heating and cooling system. The electricity should be shut-off during any replacement. The previous attachment points will reconnect your new unit. If the job requires more than just a replacement, call Thompson’s Cooling and Heating to ensure proper installation. It’s a good idea to upgrade an old manual thermostat to a programmable unit if you’re replacing a central air conditioning or heating system, given that programmable thermostats are far more accurate and will maximize the efficiency of your new system with AC companies in Fort Worth TX. Heat pumps may require a special unit to maximize energy savings year-round. Also, if you’re replacing a manual thermostat that has a mercury switch, be careful not to break the tube that holds this toxic substance. Contact your local recycling/hazardous materials center, or the manufacturer of your new thermostat, for advice on proper disposal. For the professional installation of a programmable thermostat call us now at 817-560-4300. The AC companies in Fort Worth TX you can trust.
*Diagnostic fee is waived with residential customers only and must be with same-day repair.
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