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5 Energy Efficiency Terms Every Homeowner Should Learn

Know Your HVAC To maintain your HVAC system properly and lower your home’s utility bills in Mobile, Alabama, you should learn and know the most common energy efficiency terms. That way, you can communicate with your HVAC service technician easily and choose an efficient HVAC system for your home.

MERV

The MERV, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is an efficiency rating for your HVAC system’s air filters. A filter with a higher score will improve your indoor air quality by catching more pollutants like dust, pollen, dirt, and mold. However, it will also use more energy. Ask an experienced service technician which MERV rating is best for keeping your home’s air clean while conserving energy. Air filters with MERV ratings from 1 to 4 are usually the least expensive. They can remove particles like pollen and dust mites that can damage your HVAC system’s efficiency. Filters with ratings from 5 to 8 can also remove dust and mold spores. A MERV rating from 9 to 12 can catch pet dander and auto emissions. If you have allergies or other respiratory problems, use an air filter with a rating from 13 to 16 that can even catch bacteria and viruses.

SEER

The SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, is your air conditioner or heat pump’s cooling capacity during an average summer divided by the amount of electricity it uses. The cooling energy is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units, and the power is measured in watts per hour. HVAC systems that have a higher SEER rating are more efficient. They’re also more expensive. But the investment is worth it because you can save money on your utility bills.

BTUs

One BTU is the amount of energy you need to raise or lower 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit at sea level. The measurement is usually written as the number of BTUs per hour that your HVAC system uses to heat or cool your home’s air. If your unit uses too many BTUs, you’ll waste energy. Your system will also make more noise. If your heater or AC doesn’t use enough BTUs, making your home comfortable might be difficult. Your system won’t be as efficient as a correctly sized unit, and the extra stress could shorten its life. An experienced professional should perform a Manual J calculation to determine the right number of BTUs for your heater or AC. Many service technicians use software programs to consider factors, including the number of rooms in your home, the number of occupants and your home’s insulation.

HSPF

The HSPF, or Heating and Seasonal Performance Factor, is the heating output of your heat pump during the fall and winter (measured in BTUs) divided by the electricity in watts-per-hour that it uses during that same time. Heat pumps transfer heat like air conditioners, but they can cycle in both directions to heat or cool your home. That way, you won’t have to install or maintain a separate furnace. Heat pumps are more expensive than air conditioners, but they’re also more efficient. Many are quieter than other systems, as well.

AFUE

The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, or AFUE, measures your heater’s efficiency. It’s the percentage of heat delivered to your home from each unit of fuel. If your furnace is more than 20 years old, replacing it with a new system with a high AFUE can help you save energy and prevent inconvenient expensive breakdowns. Electric heaters are usually most efficient, but natural gas or propane is less costly in some areas. You can also save energy by using solar panels or adding more insulation. Air Specialty is a Carrier Factory Authorized Dealer with more than 20 years of heating and cooling experience. We can help you install, maintain and repair a variety of HVAC equipment. Call us anytime at 251-545-3337 for excellent service.
Why Seal Your Home Before Colder Weather Hits

Why Seal Your Home Before Colder Weather Hits

After a hot summer in Mobile, Alabama, you’re eager to break out the sweaters, boots,and hot cocoa. Colder weather, as long as it doesn’t dip into the extremes, is a welcome respite from the heat and humidity of summer. But without preparation, it can also be a drain on your energy efficiency. The change in season is the perfect time to reinstate your goal to be more energy efficient. You can start by preparing your home for the upcoming cold weather. Sealing your home will prevent energy waste and high utility costs by keeping air where it belongs. Here’s why you should seal your home.

What Are You Sealing?

When we discuss sealing a home, we generally refer to sealing a “thermal envelope.” Thermal envelopes refer to everything that separates the thermostat-controlled air inside your home from the fluctuating temperatures outside. Thermal envelopes consist of doors, windows, insulation and anything else that keeps air where it belongs.

Why Seal Your Home?

Two words: air leaks. It’s one thing to catch energy efficiency issues by listening for strange sounds coming from your HVAC system or feeling too cold despite your thermostat setting. But air leaks are invisible energy sappers, and you may not notice them until you receive a higher-than-usual utility bill. Air leaks don’t just involve your controlled air leaving the home; they also involve outdoor air entering the home. Some homeowners rely on air leaks to ventilate the home and keep air moving. While ventilation is crucial to indoor air quality, relying on air leaks is not an effective way to ventilate. When outdoor air enters your home, it’s not just bringing in a breeze; it’s drawing in cooler temperatures, hazardous particles and even unwanted moisture. Such leaks can contribute to poor indoor air quality and can also reduce the structure’s durability. By sealing air leaks, you prepare your home for a season of improved energy efficiency. When air leaks allow cool air into the home, your heating system experiences increased strain as it attempts to compensate for the invasion of outdoor air. This forces your system to work harder, hiking up utility costs and potentially reducing your system’s lifespan. Sealing leaks also improves indoor air quality and ensures that you enjoy all the comfort your HVAC system supplies.

How Do You Seal Your Home?

Sealing your home takes some planning, supplies and free time. First, you’ll need to hunt down which areas of your thermal envelope need the most attention. Aside from feeling around your home for drafts, look for dirt and dust around windows and doors where leaks may have also pushed in some particles. Inside your home, look for cracks and gaps around baseboards, outlets and the like. Outside, look for areas where two types of building materials meet, such as exterior corners and around faucets. On the professional side, home energy audits can also catch air leaks. Around windows with cracks in the caulking, simply apply a fresh layer of caulk. You may need to replace poorly installed or old windows with more efficient windows if caulk doesn’t fix the air leak. Place weatherstripping along door frames where doors don’t fit snugly. Spend extra time looking for potential leaks in your attic and garage. Unfinished areas of the home often allow unwanted air into the finished living space. Look for gaps around plumbing pipes and outlet boxes. Use caulk or expanding foam to seal those leaks. Attic entry hatches also often need a layer of weatherstripping to keep the area sealed. Finally, it may be worth your while to roll blanket insulation into your attic floor if there isn’t insulation there already. While you’ll surely enjoy being outside in the cooler weather for a time, your home will quickly become an escape from the cold of winter. For reliable comfort and efficiency, take time to seal your home before the cold fronts hit. To further prepare for an energy-efficient heating season, call Air Specialty at 251-545-3337.
How IAQ and Workplace Productivity Are Intertwined

How IAQ and Workplace Productivity Are Intertwined

The indoor air quality (IAQ) of your commercial property in Daphne, Alabama, can impact the comfort, health, and productivity of your employees. Poor IAQ causes discomfort, fatigue, and several other health conditions that decrease productivity levels in the workplace. Take measures to ensure proper humidity control, air purification, ventilation, and regular HVAC maintenance to improve indoor air quality and boost workplace productivity.

Factors Affecting Indoor Air Quality

The most common factors affecting indoor air quality are temperature, air circulation, humidity, and pollution. Problems arise when the indoor air is either too hot or cold. You may also run into trouble if the air is too moist or dry. Lack of ventilation makes the air stale, and drafty buildings allow polluted air from outside to come in, which makes it difficult to control the indoor environment.

Pollution in the indoor environment can come from dust particles, chemical pollutants, or biological contaminants like bacteria and mold. Often, contaminants from boilers and chimneys sneak into the building. Microbes from stagnant water while dirt and dampness become airborne and pollute the indoor air.

Office equipment such as printers, computers, and photocopiers can also cause air pollution. If your workplace is undergoing maintenance, repairs, renovation, cleaning, painting, or pest control, the IAQ could suffer.

Even your coworkers cause some indoor air pollution through the natural biological process of respiration and perspiration. Sometimes, people bring in other contaminants like perfumes, deodorants, air fresheners, and dog dander on their clothing.

Problems Associated with Poor Indoor Air Quality

Many people in Alabama spend a substantial amount of time indoors working in an office or other commercial establishment. Indoor air is often more polluted than the outside air, so it’s of particular concern to employers whose employees spend a lot of time inside.

Indoor pollutants increase the risk of illness and have a negative impact on the productivity of the occupants. Some of the common health problems caused by poor IAQ include cold, flu, headache, fatigue, sinusitis, and eye and nose irritation. Presence of allergens like dust particles, pollens, animal dander, smoke, and mold spores can trigger allergic reactions such as sneezing, runny nose, and even difficulty breathing in occupants that are sensitive to these allergens.

Impact of Indoor Air Quality on Workplace Productivity

When employees don’t feel comfortable at work and are not in good health, their productivity suffers. Health issues in employees cause an increase in medical leaves and absenteeism, bringing down the number of productive hours in an organization.

Circulation of clean and healthy air is more likely to keep the occupants happy and energetic. This helps employees make fewer errors and improves the quality of their work.

Sometimes, the temperature and humidity levels alone can make the workers form a positive or negative perception about the quality of the building and business. Perception has a direct bearing on the employees’ mood, which in turn, reflects in their performance.

In addition to employees, poor indoor air quality also impacts other occupants of a building, such as customers, clients, guests, and patrons. An indoor environment that causes discomfort and dissatisfaction to occupants can mean a substantial fall in revenue.

Tips for Maintaining Good Indoor Air Quality

Separate any sources of pollution from the workspace. If it’s not possible to totally isolate the source, keep it away from direct air intakes. Prevent the outside contaminants from construction, combustion, and other activities from entering the building as much as possible.

Proper ventilation is essential to let the polluted, stale air out and bring in an adequate supply of fresh air. Ensure that the design and capacity of your HVAC system match the building’s size and number of occupants. Air supply and return vents should be at the correct locations for easy and efficient supply of air to occupants. Make sure that the workspace design and layout allows adequate air circulation.

Use filtration and purification products to clean the indoor air. Use a high-quality HVAC filter and replace it regularly. Our team can help install UV lamps and air cleaners and check your indoor humidity level. If the humidity is high, a dehumidifier can help reduce the moisture content of the air.

In order to maintain good IAQ and workplace productivity, it’s crucial to schedule routine inspections and maintenance of your commercial HVAC system. Our experienced team at Air Specialty is available at your service 24/7. Call us at 251-545-3337.

5 Ways to Use Less Energy This Summer

5 Ways to Use Less Energy This Summer

As the summer temperatures climb in Saraland, Alabama, most homeowners’ energy bills follow suit. If you make a few smart changes to your household habits, however, you can reduce your energy consumption and keep utility bills low. From using a smart thermostat to replacing HVAC filters, discover five ways to use less energy this summer.

Upgrade to a Smart Thermostat

Whether you tend to spend summers at the pool, on the ball field, or at the shore, it’s tough to juggle family activities and your HVAC system. If you rely on a manual thermostat or a low-tech programmable model, upgrading to a smart thermostat lets you maximize energy savings while giving you plenty of flexibility. After installing a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, program your family’s typical schedule into the device as a baseline. When you’re home, you’ll want to set the thermostat to 78 degrees. When everyone is out for the day or asleep for the night, you’ll want to increase the temperature by 8 to 10 degrees, which can help you save 10 percent on your energy bill. If you decide to stay at the pool longer than expected or if thunderstorms cancel that barbecue, there’s no need to worry about returning to an uncomfortable house. Use your smartphone to delay the air conditioner or turn it on early. If you plan an impromptu beach getaway, you can even set the thermostat to vacation mode from anywhere in the world.

Schedule an Air Conditioner Tuneup

Your HVAC system is one of the biggest energy hogs in your home, so you’ll want to make sure it runs as efficiently as possible, especially during the high-demand summer months. Since air conditioners tend to slow down and become more inefficient as time passes, it’s in your best interest to schedule preventive maintenance as early in the season as possible. When you call the Air Specialty team for a tuneup, we’ll check fluid levels, test electrical wiring, and clean the indoor and outdoor units. We’ll also change the air filter to improve airflow and alert you to any problems on the horizons to maximize efficiency and to prevent unexpected breakdowns.

Maintain Comfortable Humidity Levels

Excess moisture in the air can make anyone feel hot and uncomfortable. When you’re relaxing at home, high humidity might prompt you to turn down the thermostat a few degrees, but this will only force your air conditioner to work harder and use more energy. Rather than adjusting the temperature, get to the source of the problem instead. Our team recommends a whole-home dehumidifier such as the Performance DEHXX, which works seamlessly with your HVAC system. This device pulls moisture from the air, which helps your air conditioner run more efficiently while keeping you comfortable.

Improve Ventilation

Stale air isn’t uncommon in newer Saraland homes, especially at the height of summer. If stuffy air tempts you to throw open the windows and let in fresh air, however, think again. Welcoming hot outdoor air into your home can cause your energy consumption to spike as your HVAC system works harder than ever. Instead, invest in an energy-recovery ventilator, which improves indoor air quality, keeps the indoor air fresh, and increases your air conditioner’s efficiency.

Turn On the Ceiling Fans

Investing in an energy-recovery ventilator can substantially reduce your energy consumption, but if you’re in the market for a simpler solution, you still have options. For instance, ceiling fans offer surprising cooling power during the summer months. To make the most of ceiling fans, install one in the center of each room, and switch the direction to counterclockwise during the cooling season. Turn it on to enjoy the breeze and the windchill effect. Lower your HVAC system’s thermostat as much as 4 degrees and you’ll lower your energy consumption without noticing a difference in comfort. Make sure to keep ceiling fans running only when you’re in the room and want to cool down. When you leave the room for more than a few minutes, turn them off to save energy. This summer, don’t let your air conditioning bills climb. Call the cooling pros at Air Specialty for more energy-efficient ways to stay cool: 251-545-3337.
How to Get Your Home Ready Before a Vacation

How to Get Your Home Ready Before a Vacation

Making a few changes to your Saraland, Alabama, home before you take a vacation can help you prevent inconvenient problems and expensive repairs. Getting your home ready before you leave also gives you extra peace of mind so you can relax on your trip. Prepare your home before a vacation by unplugging appliances, turning off the water, adjusting your thermostat, and making your home look occupied.

Unplugging Your Appliances

Many electronics and appliances, like TVs, lamps, coffee pots, microwaves, and computers, use a small amount of power even when they’re turned off. You can save energy when you’re on vacation by unplugging unnecessary devices or turning surge protectors off. This also protects the appliances that don’t have surge protectors from fires caused by power surges while you’re gone. If your HVAC system doesn’t have a surge protector, you should have one installed by an HVAC professional. Remember to unplug your refrigerator for longer trips as well since refrigerators use more energy than most other appliances. Remove perishable food before you unplug the fridge. This is also a good time to clean the inside of your refrigerator. Prop the fridge and freezer doors open to prevent mold. If you’re only leaving for a few days, you can still save energy by turning up the temperatures in your freezer and fridge.

Turning Off Your Water

A leak while you’re away could flood your basement or ruin your kitchen or bathroom. Even a small drip at a faucet or pipe could encourage damaging mold growth. Before you start your vacation, turn off your water by closing the valve on your home’s main supply line. That way, your outside sprinklers can still keep plants healthy. You should also turn off your water heater’s circuit breaker or gas valve. Otherwise, it will keep heating the water in the tank until you get back. When you get back from your vacation, run the hot water tap for a while to get rid of the water sitting in the tank before you turn the circuit breaker or the gas valve back on. This can also raise the water level of the tank to protect it from heat damage.

Adjusting Your Thermostat

Before you leave, set your thermostat to a temperature that’s close to the weather outside your home to save energy. Keeping your HVAC system on protects your plants and furniture and helps you maintain your home’s indoor air quality. If you have pets, make sure the indoor temperature isn’t too warm or cold or keep them at a boarding facility during your vacation. A programmable thermostat can return your home to a more comfortable temperature even before you get back. You can control some models from across the country with a smartphone or computer. Some also measure your home’s humidity and your HVAC system’s airflow and then tell you about potential problems.

Making Your Home Look Occupied

To give your home a lived-in look before you leave, trim your grass and hedges and rake any leaves. Have your mail forwarded or ask a neighbor to check it, take out your trash, and keep your lawn green with automatic sprinklers. Also, you should close your blinds or curtains for privacy and energy savings. Park your car in your garage if you have one. You can ask a neighbor to create some activity at your house by parking in the driveway occasionally or checking on pets. Leave an outdoor light on an automatic timer or motion detector and turn out all the indoor lights to save energy before you leave. If you have a swimming pool, you should use a timer for your pool pump to keep it from operating around the clock. Air Specialty is a Carrier Factory Authorized Dealer with more than 20 years of experience. We can inspect your HVAC system before you start your vacation to make sure that you return to a comfortable home, and we install, maintain, and repair a variety of HVAC systems. Call us anytime at 251-545-3337 for expert help from a knowledgeable technician.
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