The Latest HVAC Advancements Every Homeowner Should Know About

Though you may not realize it, the HVAC industry is constantly creating new innovations that make it more cost effective and convenient for homeowners to heat and cool their homes.  From self-diagnosing HVAC systems to equipment that adjusts its controls based on the space around it, the HVAC industry continues to provide smarter and more sophisticated products to keep homes comfortable.

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3 HVAC Advancements for Homeowners

There are a variety of new HVAC advancements and technologies available to homeowners that make the heating and cooling process simple and convenient. Though some of these products are not widely available on the market just quite yet, here are just 3 recent advancements that homeowners can start implementing today:

Smart Technology

Smart thermostats are a popular HVAC technology for homeowners, and with good reason! Smart thermostats allow you to connect to your thermostat on your smartphone or computer through a Wi-Fi connection. Once connected, you can adjust temperature settings no matter where you are. This helps you save on energy costs by adjusting the temperatures to use less energy when you are not home. In addition to smart temperature control, you can also control the airflow in every room of your house using a smart ventilation system. This allows homeowners to make sure that each room in the house is adjusted for maximum comfort.

Motion Sensor Cooling

Another HVAC technology that has the potential to change the way that homeowners heat and cool their homes is motion sensor cooling. Using motion detectors, you can activate your air conditioning or heat to turn on when people enter the room and turn off once they leave. This helps you save energy by only heating or cooling rooms that people are using instead of your whole house. By pairing this technology with a programmable thermostat or smart ventilation, you can make sure that your home is always at an optimal temperature no matter what time of the year it may be and each member of your family is comfortable at a temperature that is just right for them.

Variable Refrigerant Flow

Chances are that not everyone in your home likes their space the same temperature. Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) helps correct this problem by allowing you to simultaneously heat and cool different areas of your home. VRF uses many several small air handlers that are individually controlled instead of one large unit. Rather than having to heat or cool your entire home in order to affect temperature in just one room, this technology allows you to heat and cool different areas of your home to different temperatures all while cutting down on wasted energy and saving on your electricity costs.

Are you looking to upgrade your HVAC system? If you want to learn more about your options for new money-saving HVAC technologies, call us today to speak to an experienced HVAC professional.

The Importance Of J Load Calculations

In today’s world, almost everything seems oversized. We go to Starbucks and buy a venti coffee instead of a tall one because we assume we’ll need the extra caffeine. We buy two new titles in our favorite series instead of one because we don’t know if we’ll find both in the same bookstore again.

HVAC systems are not much different. People inadvertently buy oversized HVAC systems all the time out of a belief that bigger is better. Yet knowing the system size you actually need and calculating its loads correctly could save you money, time, and energy.

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What Is A J Load Calculation?

If you’re researching HVAC systems, you’ve probably already heard the phrase “J load calculation.” You know it’s important, but what exactly is it? J load calculations refer to Manual J. This is actually not a manual, but a product. The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) use it to size HVAC systems for individual homes. Manual J helps determine how much cooling your home needs, which determines how much energy will be used in the process.

Why You Need A Load Calculation

In the same way you exhibit symptoms when you get a cold, your house will exhibit “symptoms” when you use an oversized HVAC system. One key symptom is an increase in repairs. An oversized HVAC system takes more energy to run, so it will naturally experience more wear and tear than a properly sized system would. Over time, you’ll find yourself spending increasing amounts of money on repairs. Eventually, you may need to replace the entire system even if replacement seems premature.

Additionally, your home’s temperature is a good indicator your HVAC system is too big. Oversized HVAC systems can’t dehumidify the air properly. As a result, your house may feel cold and clammy or unusually stuffy. Worse, humid air increases your chances of allergy and asthma attacks, respiratory illnesses, and exposure to contaminants like mold. If your house feels uncomfortable or you have respiratory symptoms, it may be time to downsize.

Finally, running an HVAC system without load calculations can negatively impact energy efficiency. Some large HVAC systems “kick” on and off arbitrarily, leaving your home insufficiently warm or cool. To compensate, you must constantly adjust the HVAC machines and your thermostat. This wastes electricity and fuel and can contribute to air pollution. In contrast, smaller HVAC systems naturally use less air. Your home heats or cools faster and more thoroughly, and your system doesn’t have to work as hard to use leftover or “wasted” air.

How To Correctly Size Your HVAC System

Professionals should calculate J load for you; do not try to do so yourself. To properly calculate J load, professionals like the ones at McMaster Air will consider how much square footage you have, your insulation levels, and which surfaces gain or lose heat in your house, among other factors.

Even homes that need plenty of cooling often use HVAC systems 2, 3, or 4 times too big. If you are not sure how big your system should be, it’s best to contact McMaster Air and get an exact calculation. To get your calculation or discuss your cooling needs further, please contact us immediately. It’s our mission to ensure your HVAC system keeps your home comfortable, but also uses only the energy it needs.

What You Need to Know About Chinese Drywall Syndrome

Stinky, rotten eggs. Not usually what comes to mind when troubleshooting your HVAC system. But for many homeowners this has become an association. During the housing boom of the mid 2000’s domestic supplies of drywall became scarce and many home builders, contractors, and suppliers began to use imported Chinese drywall in their domestic construction projects to disastrous effects.

Chinese Drywall Syndrome

The reason for the smell, the association, and the disastrous effects is sulfurous compounds leeching, or offgassing, from the imported, Chinese drywall. Compounds such as hydrogen sulfide – if you’ve ever been to Yellowstone National Park and smelled that strong, sulfurous, rotten egg odor that’s what it comes from – carbonyl sulfide, and carbon disulfide, have all been detected emitting from the Chinese drywall. Homeowners with the imported drywall will often describe the smell as being like that of rotten eggs or matches, but much stronger.

These gasses are highly reactive with certain metals, such as copper, silver, and brass, in your HVAC system, plumbing, electrical wiring, and home appliances. The levels of corrosion are far beyond the usual tarnish, or patina, that develops over time on the. They are severe enough that they can cause the systems they are a part of to completely cease functioning.

As the gasses emit from the drywall, they disperse naturally to equally fill all parts of the house, helped along their way by the HVAC system. While running, the HVAC system will circulate those gasses around its components, further speeding up the corrosive process. In just a few short months the evaporator coil on a home HVAC unit can completely fail. Many home owners have replaced them several times before the Chinese drywall issue came to light.

Diagnosing Chinese Drywall Syndrome

If you’ve had your AC unit serviced recently, your technician will have told you if there was any corrosion to the components of the system. If you haven’t had your system serviced yet this year, make sure to bring it up to your technician when it is. And if your home is, or if you think your home might be one of the ones affected, it is imperative to call one of the qualified inspectors to diagnose the issue. They will examine your drywall, looking for manufacturer’s markings and measuring the thickness, to determine if the drywall is affected or not and tell you of your options.

For all the latest HVAC industry news, maintenance tips, and energy-saving techniques, follow the McMaster Heating & Air Conditioning blog.

Servicing TXV Valves

What is a Thermal Expansion Valve?

Thermal expansion valves, or TXV/TEV valves for short, are valves which control the flow of refrigerant into the evaporator. TEV valves are essential for energy-efficient operation of modern 13 SEER systems because they keep the refrigerant closer to the optimum superheat at all operating conditions.

TEV valves are often viewed as mysterious, esoteric, devices whose operation is understandable only to those with years of experience. This is absolutely not the case. The TEV valves sole function is to precisely control the flow rate of refrigerant into the evaporator at the same rate it evaporates. That’s all.

Troubleshooting TEV Valves

There are three main issues that can occur with TEV valves: starving, flooding, and hunting. Each have their own symptoms and are fairly straight forward to diagnose and treat. Let’s examine the symptoms.

Starving

Starving is when the refrigerant feeding the evaporator is evaporated before it ever reaches the evaporator coil. This results in high superheat, higher than desired load temperatures and low suction pressure.

Flooding

Flooding occurs when the TEV valve is releasing more refrigerant than what can be evaporated in the coil. This will allow liquid to enter the compressor and possibly result in noisy operation or a frosted compressor cover. Other symptoms include low superheat and higher than normal suction pressures.

Hunting

Hunting is when the TEV valve fluctuates back and forth between starving and flooding, alternately releasing too much or too little refrigerant. Symptoms of this include wildly variable superheat, and a combination of flooding and starving symptoms.

Diagnosing and Fixing TEV Valve Issues

Isolating the causes of hunting, flooding or starving is something that is more involved than what the average homeowner could, or should, attempt to diagnose and fix on their own. Your HVAC system is a delicately balanced group of machines all working together in harmony to generate cold or heated air. Small disruptions or changes in variables can have drastic effects on the operation of your HVAC system. If you think your TEV valve needs adjustment or replacement, give us a call to schedule a service call!

Getting the Most Out of Your Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats have the potential to improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system, and reduce your overall utility bills. However, you have to use your thermostat wisely in order to reap the potential savings. If you use your programmable thermostat in unintended ways, you may actually find your energy bills growing instead of shrinking.

Programmable Thermostats Offer Potential Savings

Fundamentally, reducing the amount of energy that you use to heat and cool your home comes down to using your HVAC system less. There are two basic ways to accomplish this—the first is to turn your HVAC system off whenever possible, and the second is to set your thermostat for moderate temperatures that your system won’t have to work overtime to achieve.

Programmable thermostats can help you to do both of these things consistently, which will almost certainly mean energy savings. These devices allow you to turn your system off automatically while you’re at work or sleeping, and program energy efficient temperatures for different times of year. Many such thermostats will even allow you to program different settings for weekdays and weekends.

Irresponsible Settings Can Be Costly

However, studies have found that many people use their programmable thermostats in ways that largely eliminate potential savings or even cost them money.

One study of 400 Florida homes found that people with programmable thermostats saved cooling energy while they were away, but used more when they were at home because they set their systems to much lower temperatures.

Many people also use their programmable thermostats to pursue extreme comfort at the cost of energy efficiency. They may run their air conditioner during the day and their heater at night in order to keep their home at one perfect temperature at all times, which uses a significant amount of energy.

Overall, research has shown such minimal average savings with programmable thermostats that the EPA suspended the ENERGY STAR certification for these devices in 2009.

You Are Your Most Important Energy Saving Tool

If you are motivated to reduce your energy consumption and lower your energy bills, programmable thermostats will probably help you to do so. These devices can guarantee smart energy use on a daily basis, and take human error out of the equation. Instead of having to remember to turn your system on and off several times each day, your thermostat will take care of it for you.

Programmable thermostats are energy saving tools, but as with all tools the way you use them is important. Simply purchasing a programmable thermostat is no guarantee that you will lower your energy bills—it’s up to you to program them in a way that will maximize the efficiency of your HVAC system.

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The Importance of Changing Your Air Filter

Changing your heating and air conditioning air filters is quick and easy to do, but it’s also easy to overlook. Many people don’t realize the importance of this simple task and the negative consequences that can result from using the same air filter for many months.

Air filters play an important role in the quality of your indoor air and the function of your HVAC system. With old and dirty filters, you may begin to suffer symptoms connected to poor air quality and see heating and cooling bills rise.

Protect Your Indoor Air

Air filters trap dirt particles and other contaminants that would otherwise circulate through your interior spaces and pass through your HVAC system. Depending on the quality of your air filter, these barriers remove everything from large dust particles to smaller contaminants like mold spores, bacteria and viruses. Air filters that become dirty and worn with overuse are no longer effective at removing these particles from the air you breathe.

The consequences of breathing contaminated air can range from merely unpleasant to truly serious. Headaches, congestion, sinus irritation and itchy eyes are all common problems with poor indoor air quality. With prolonged exposure to contaminated air, respiratory or cardiac disease become real concerns.

Keep Your HVAC System Clean

In addition to removing harmful particles from the air you breathe, filters also prevent these particles from getting into your HVAC system. Contaminants from a dirty filter can make their way into your heating and cooling equipment, and potentially cause damage to or impair the function of your coils, motor or fans. All of these components are crucial to your system’s performance, and problems with any of them will reduce the efficiency of your heater or air conditioner. In the event of damage, repairing or replacing any of these parts will be much more expensive than replacing your air filter.

A dirty air filter can also make it harder for air to pass through your system. These filters are designed to be air permeable barriers that will catch particles without blocking air circulation. However, as contaminants build up on your filter the particles themselves begin to block air flow, your system has to use more energy to heat and cool your home. More energy use means higher energy bills, and this hidden cost can also add up to much more than the cost of a new air filter.

Change Frequently and Choose Wisely

In general, you should change your air filter every 3-4 months. To ensure the best results from your air filter, you should also put some careful thought into your choice of filter. Some options offer great air flow but trap only larger particles, while others offer a more formidable barrier for contaminants but can also make it a little harder for air to pass through.

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All About Carrier Cor Smart Thermostats

Carrier Cor thermostats deliver smart technology to help you heat and cool your home as efficiently as possible. While traditional thermostats have long been the standard, smart thermostats are quickly replacing this outdated device.

Why Choose Carrier Cor Thermostats

Carrier Cor thermostats have a number of functions and features that can take the guesswork out of using your HVAC system efficiently. This device will help you lower your heating and cooling costs by decreasing the amount of wasted energy. With the plethora of information that this thermostat provides, you’ll have a wealth of knowledge about how you use your system, and how to better use it moving forward.

Simple Design

The Cor thermostat is a small 3.5-inch device that is installed on the wall just like a traditional thermostat. It has a sleek, black design and an easy-to-use touchscreen that enables to you move through various screens. Since this device resembles a smartphone or tablet, it doesn’t protrude from the wall, but instead blends easily into its surroundings. Instead of wrestling with difficult buttons, you can navigate through the prompts in order to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Tools for Energy Efficiency

The Carrier Cor thermostat gives you real-time information that helps you use your energy wisely. You get monthly energy usage reports that give you interactive tips for energy efficiency. The thermostat also gives you a 4-day weather forecast, and it even has a smart setback feature that monitors the temperature and humidity both inside and outside the home. With this feature, the system can adjust its settings in order to optimize efficiency while still delivering the desired level of heating and cooling. The smart thermostat can even remove excess humidity from the home.

Wi-Fi Capabilities

The Cor thermostat uses Wi-Fi in order to give and receive information. Since it is Wi-Fi enabled, you can also access the system away from home by downloading the app onto any smart device. This app allows you to change the settings even when you’re not at home, which greatly increases your energy efficiency. You can even adjust the settings while on vacation.

Take the guesswork out of heating and cooling your home by having a Carrier Cor thermostat installed. Every Cor thermostat is set up by a qualified Carrier technician, and you can have peace of mind knowing you’re investing in something that can help you for years to come.

Need to Buy a New HVAC System? Here’s How to Avoid the Pitfalls

Has your old furnace or air conditioner sputtered to a halt? Or is it so outdated that you’re ready to replace it with a superior energy-efficient model?

When you begin your search for new HVAC equipment you’ll have a tremendous number of excellent options to sort through. But beware— there are a number of pitfalls that can trip up prospective HVAC equipment buyers, and if you aren’t careful you may end up spending more money than you can afford for a new HVAC system that causes more problems than it solves.

Pitfalls and Remedies

If you are ready to upgrade or replace your old HVAC equipment, here is a list of pitfalls to watch out for and the remedies that will help you avoid them:

Pitfall: Purchasing an HVAC system that’s too large or too small for your home.

Remedy: Ask your contractor to send a technician to your house to perform a heating and cooling load analysis. With this information in hand you’ll have a much better idea of what size HVAC system you need—as will your contractor.

Pitfall: Jumping at the first reasonable estimates for equipment and installation costs.

Remedy: Comparison shop. Get lots of quotes and talk to a lot of contractors before making any decision.

Pitfall: Accepting a low offer at face value.

Remedy: Avoid prices or quotes that are ‘too good to be true.’ Companies that promise unrealistic savings will either cut corners on equipment or labor or slip in hidden fees later on.

Pitfall: Buying inadequate, outdated equipment.

Remedy: Only purchase equipment that has a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) number of 15 or greater. This means they’re energy-efficient and will save you a lot of money on energy costs down the line.

Pitfall: Paying full price when discounts or other types of assistance were available.

Remedy: Ask about manufacturer rebates and contractor financing. Visit the website dsireusa.org to find out more about the rebates for energy-efficient equipment offered by state governments (there are a lot of them).

Pitfall: Not planning ahead for repair and maintenance costs.

Remedy: Pick a contractor that offers a maintenance plan. These plans will include free inspections, cleanings and maintenance visits along with price breaks on equipment and service calls.

Pitfall: Getting mixed up with fly-by-night operators.

Remedy: Before hiring any contractors, look for online reviews and complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau. Visit their offices in person and ask to see proof their technicians are trained and certified. Find out how long they have been in business and ask around to see what kinds of experiences others have had working with them. And before you sign any contract read the fine print, very carefully.

Finding a Good HVAC Contractor is the Best Remedy of All

Regardless of the equipment or HVAC-related services you need, your most important step is finding an HVAC contractor that always has your best interests at heart— like McMaster Heating & Air Conditioning, for example. We are a trusted name in this business and our commitment to our customers is iron-clad and unshakeable.

If you live in or around Orange County, California and are in the market for a new air conditioner, furnace or heat pump, please contact McMaster Heating & Air Conditioning to learn more about the Carrier products we sell (Carrier is a pre-eminent name in the HVAC industry) and the expert consultation, evaluation and installation services we can provide.

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The Importance of Controlling Your Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air may seem clean by default, but in reality, this air is prone to contaminants and harmful gases. Indoor air often doesn’t circulate freely, and HVAC systems can contribute to poor indoor air quality when they aren’t properly maintained. In fact, experts say that over 70 percent of problems associated with indoor air can be traced back to the operation and maintenance of HVAC systems.

Microbial Growth

Microbial growth can form in HVAC systems. Dust, dirt and bacteria get trapped inside the fiberglass insulation that is often used in duct systems. When these elements mix with moisture from the air stream, mold, fungi and bacteria can grow as a result. These contaminants are then spread throughout your home. If you live in a humid climate, your HVAC system is especially susceptible to microbial growth and moisture. The stagnant moisture from indoor air in a humid climate, or the air that comes from the HVAC evaporator coils, can make downstream components into microbe breeding grounds.

Health Complications

Microbial growth can contribute to a number of health complications. You may experience symptoms like fatigue, headaches or allergies. Dizziness, upper respiratory congestion and irritation of the eye, skin, nose and throat are also common. If you find that your symptoms let up when you leave the house and return when you re-enter, your indoor air quality may be to blame.

Cleaning Your HVAC System

The best way to improve and maintain your indoor air quality is to stay on top of your HVAC system.

  • Have the system cleaned by a professional on a regular basis. Regular cleaning helps prevent particulates like dust and dirt from settling within the HVAC system.
  • Replace your system’s filter each month. Get an air filter with a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) of at least 11 in order to remove up to 80 percent of the particulates that are as small as one micron. Lesser filters allow mold spores and bacteria to pass through.
  • Install a UV (ultraviolet) lamp. These lamps help to neutralize forms of microbial growth like bacteria and viruses.

When your HVAC system is properly cared for, your indoor air won’t be as prone to contaminants like microbial growth. These measures can help ensure your health as well as that of your family.

Should I Get a Maintenance Plan or a Home Warranty?

While HVAC home warranties and maintenance plans may seem interchangeable, they offer different benefits and services that make a difference in the long run. Companies issue home warranties in hopes that their customers won’t use them, but maintenance plans are distributed with the idea that regular service can save customers, and the company, money.

1. HVAC Cleaning and Checkups

Maintenance plans cover a free professional cleaning and a detailed inspection every six months. These services will help ensure the longevity of your HVAC system. Certain repairs aren’t covered by a home warranty if the customer hasn’t completed regular maintenance, which ultimately leaves the customer monetarily liable for these repairs.

2. Discounts on HVAC Repairs and Parts

Home warranties often require you to pay a deductible before work can begin, and you will most likely encounter repairs that the warranty won’t cover. Maintenance plans generally offer discounts on parts and services in order to save their customers money.

3. Lower Utility Bills

Since you get regular tune-ups and cleaning with a maintenance plan, your HVAC system will be in better overall shape. This in turn saves you money on your utility bill, as your system will be up to par. When HVAC systems aren’t cleaned regularly, it often takes more energy to heat and cool your home. Your system may cycle quickly, which puts extra pressure on the units, and dust, dirt and grime can all clog mechanisms, lowering the quality of your indoor air.

4. Priority Scheduling for Repairs

When you call for service, you may find yourself at the end of a very long line if you have just a warranty. Warranties don’t offer any type of preferential treatment, and in the meantime, you may not be able to use your system. Many maintenance plans allow their customers to be placed at the top of the list, and you can often get service that very same day.

5. Trustworthy HVAC Service

Service performed under a maintenance plan is through the company you purchase it from. This ensures you’ll be getting repairs done by a company you already trust. With a home warranty, you can’t choose your repair company, and these contractors often try to obtain higher revenue than they get just from the home warranty company. This means you might end up paying twice as much for the same service.

There is much to consider when deciding between a home warranty and a maintenance plan, but for greater peace of mind, you might find that a maintenance plan is the best option.

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