Why You Should Never Go For an Oversized HVAC System

Why You Should Never Go For an Oversized HVAC System

With weather as wishy-washy as Virginia, it may seem like a good idea to maximize your HVAC system to ensure that your furnace keeps you warm all winter long and your AC can blast away the heat of summer. But trust us when we say that bigger isn’t always better, especially when it comes to heating and cooling. Here’s why you shouldn’t pick a furnace or AC that is too big for your home and how to pick a correctly-sized HVAC system. 

The heating and cooling are weaker

You might think that a bigger and, therefore, more powerful system would mean a higher comfort level for you and your family. Believe it or not, the opposite is true: an oversized system will produce weaker heating and cooling

Here’s what that would look like: In the winter when the furnace turns on, you get a huge amount of heat but all at once. The system shuts off because the thermostat got all that direct heat and thinks the system has done its job in warming up your home. As a result, there is uneven heating and the entire house doesn’t get warm because the heater hasn’t run long enough to reach every part of every room. 

In the summer, you run into the same problem with an AC that is too big and powerful for your home. It comes on strong then shuts off prematurely, never treating and cooling the whole house. Not only is the air too warm but it’s also too humid. An essential part of an air conditioner’s function is dehumidification when it removes excess moisture from the air making it cooler. But this part of the process takes time, time it will never have if the AC continues to turn off right away. The AC will never be able to fully operate and remove the extra water vapor from the air. 

The HVAC system will wear out quickly

As the HVAC system continues to operate in this pattern, turning on, blasting heat or air, then turning right back off, it causes the system to wear out very quickly. This is called short-cycling. 

An HVAC system usually works with the furnace or AC switching on and off a few times every hour, staying on for at least 15 minutes. When it’s short-cycling as a result of the HVAC system being too large for the home, it switches on and off more frequently than it should. The sudden shifts from hot to cold put strain on the components of your HVAC system. The heat exchanger may crack which means you will need a new furnace. All this extra work can take years off your system, forcing you to replace it prematurely. 

Cold air in the winter, hot air in the summer

With an oversized HVAC system, you will probably have the problem of cold air coming out of your vents. Why? Because the furnace is doing its job too efficiently and it’s giving off to much heat all at once. The system pushes the warm air through the ductwork but, in small spaces, the sudden blast of hot air can’t go anywhere so it backs up in the vents and is pushed back to the furnace. 

As that thermal energy builds up in the furnace, it can start to damage the system as a whole. Your furnace will then shut off in an attempt to alleviate the issue and then blast cold air to cool itself down and prevent damage. That cold air ends up blowing through your vents and, in the dead of winter, that is the last thing you want. 

How to pick the right HVAC system

So, how do you pick an HVAC system that’s right for your home? This is a job for a professional. A professional has the expertise to do a load calculation that takes into account airflow, ductwork, the home’s square footage, and the layout of the rooms. This analysis tells them how much heating and cooling you’ll need in your home and what challenges you may face with circulation.

If you feel you have an HVAC system that is the wrong size for your home or are on the market for the perfect sized HVAC system, give us a call. We’ll help you find the furnace and AC that’s right for your home.

air quality Don’t Skip These Essential Services

Don’t Skip These Essential Services

Now, more than ever – we are spending more time at home to keep ourselves healthy. While there are some things that can definitely wait, it is never a good idea to neglect certain critical aspects of your home’s health. There is a list of items that are essential to the well-being of every home and every homeowner should keep the phone numbers handy for the providers of these key services.


Of course, we all know how critical regular maintenance can be to keep your home heating and cooling system operating properly. Comfort for the entire family is essential – and maintaining the proper temperatures and humidity level is vital for the integrity of the home as well. Remember, your home’s interior is now the school, movie theater, recreation center, office, and more. Making sure that everyone is comfortable makes all these homebound functions more enjoyable.

Indoor Air Quality

Since we are spending more time indoors, we should be more aware of the potential for indoor pollution. We typically think of pollution as something found outside like smog, pollen, and exhaust. The reality is that everything that exists in the air outside is also in the air inside our homes. It only gets worse when we add cooking odors, pet dander, and dust.

Enhancements to the home that improve air quality have taken on additional importance and should be a priority. High-efficiency filtration systems and air purification systems will ensure that your family is breathing the best germ-free air possible. 

Foundation and Crawlspace

All homes need to rest on a healthy foundation. Water and moisture under your house can cause or increase a moisture problem inside your home as well. Moisture is the enemy of hardwood floors, wood furniture, clothing, and more. If you suspect a foundation or crawlspace issue may be affecting your home, don’t delay in contacting a professional (such as MSCO). Small problems can become big and expensive quickly.

House Cleaning

Cleaning services may seem like a luxury, but during times of heightened concern about germs and allergies – such a service may be invaluable. Services utilizing the CDC cleanliness guidelines can help maintain a healthy indoor environment, especially for busy families with children or elderly folks living alone. 

Pest Control

Insects, rodents, and other pests may try to join the fun in your home – especially this time of year. Unfortunately, not only do they creep us out – they can cause real harm to our houses. Invading pests can inflict damage to major systems in your home such as ductwork and insulation. A pest control professional can be a valuable ally in keeping your home healthy and free of certain unwanted guests.

To keep your home comfortable anytime during the year, of course – as always, turn to us at MSCO. We are always available to help with all your HVAC questions and concerns – and we can gladly help you find quality service providers for certain other home services that we don’t currently provide. We are always here to help our community in any way we can – making Hampton Roads comfortable, one family at a time. Call us at (757) 427-0016 or get us at www.msco.pro

The Inside Story: How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

The Inside Story: How to Improve Indoor Air Quality

We often think of air pollution as something you find outside: smog, that haze that hangs in the air in big cities, and all of their negative effects on the ozone layer. But in reality, the air inside our houses, offices, and other buildings we frequent can be even more polluted than the air outside. The air inside your home may be filled with pet dander, mold spores, and so many other substances that affect the indoor air quality, which can be harmful to your health.

Some of these pollutants are tracked into the house; they arrive when we bring in new furniture or start using a new cleaner in which the fragrance causes a chemical imbalance inside. They come when you add a fresh coat of paint to the walls or have your carpets professionally cleaned. Children, people with asthma, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable when it comes to poor indoor air quality – the effects of which can impact their health for years. We don’t mean to scare you but knowing the potentially harmful effects of poor indoor air quality can help you to take steps to improve it. That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today. Let’s hop in!

Improving Indoor Air Quality

While it’s probably not possible to eliminate all the allergens inside your home, you can certainly reduce the number and your exposure to them by making some small changes. Here are some strategies you can use to improve your indoor air quality and, in turn, improve your and your family’s allergy symptoms.

Step #1: Keep a clean house

A clean house is a healthier house. Keeping your home clean cuts down on the amount of dust and animal dander in the air and in your HVAC system, so you should focus your cleaning efforts on reducing the accumulation of dust, mold, and pet particles in your home by doing the following:

  • Regularly wash bedding, curtains, tablecloths, and other items that can be a breeding ground for allergens, especially if you have pets. The American Acadamy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology recommends washing these items in water that is at least 130°F. 
  • Vacuum carpets and area rugs at least once or twice a week. If possible, opt for hard-surface flooring rather than wall-to-wall carpeting. 
  • Clear away clutter as it can trap and hold dust that can trigger an allergic reaction. 
  • Consider using dust mite-proof covers on pillows, mattresses, and box springs.

Step #2: Maintain humidity

Dust mites and mold love moisture so you’ll want to keep the humidity in your home around 30-50% to keep allergens under control. A dehumidifier and using air conditioning during the summer months can help to reduce moisture in indoor air and effectively keep allergens under control. Here are some steps to help dehumidify your home:

  • Consider having a dehumidifier in areas that are generally damp including bathrooms and basements if applicable. 
  • Ensure that bathrooms are well ventilated as they can be a breeding ground for mold. Scrub any visible mold that collects in the shower, on fixtures, or on the walls.
  • Don’t overwater houseplants. The condensation will just increase the moisture in the air.
  • Use an exhaust fan or open a window when cooking, running the dishwasher, or bathing. 
  • Vent the clothes dryer to the outdoors.
  • Empty drip pans in your window air conditioning unit and dehumidifier.
  • Fix leaky plumbing. 

Step #3: Use natural fragrances

Many household cleaners contain synthetic fragrances that emit dozens of chemicals into the air in your home. But you won’t see the names of those chemicals on the bottle because the only world these companies are required to include is “fragrance.” Most fragrances are derived from petroleum products and don’t undergo much testing to see if they have adverse effects on human health when inhaled. Instead, the studies focus on whether or not the fragrances cause skin irritation. But you can protect yourself and your family from these harmful chemicals by taking these steps:

  • Look for naturally-scented or fragrance-free laundry products.
  • Stop using aerosol sprays including hairsprays, deodorants, furniture polish, air fresheners, and carpet cleaners.
  • Use sliced lemons and baking soda to get a clean scent in the kitchen. Grind up citrus peels in your garbage disposal for a naturally good smell.
  • Let in the fresh air: open your windows so that toxic chemicals don’t build up in your home. If you or your family members suffer from pollen allergies, keep the rooms ventilated with a filtered air conditioning system.
  • Switch to mild cleaners that don’t contain artificial fragrances.
  • Bring the outside inside: house plants are great at purifying the air inside and improving the indoor air quality. As a reminder though, make sure you don’t overwater them or get plants that could potentially be poisonous if ingested by children.

Step #4: Seek professional HVAC help

If you’ve been taking all the above steps and still aren’t seeing an improvement in your indoor air quality, it may be time to speak to an HVAC professional. In some cases, you may simply need to upgrade your filter while in others, additional products specifically created to help improve indoor air quality may benefit your HVAC system. 

For example, if your filter isn’t cutting it anymore, check out the Trane CleanEffects filter. This 5” filter is up to 100 times more effective than your standard 1” filter, catching approximately 99.98% of allergens. Another option is the Air Scrubber Plus. This weapon in the fight for your indoor air quality is inserted into your existing system. It literally helps your HVAC system scrub the surfaces inside your home. If you don’t believe us, check out how the Air Scrubber Plus works

At the end of the day, if you just want to talk to a real person about your situation, contact us! We would love to help you find a solution to your air quality problem!

How Smart Thermostats and Home Automation Will Benefit Your Home (and Your Wallet)

How Smart Thermostats and Home Automation Will Benefit Your Home (and Your Wallet)

Today everything is smart: cars, phones, and now home appliances. With the push for smarter technology, it is no surprise that your heating and cooling system is no exception. Your furnace, boiler, or heat pump plays an essential role in your home, and connecting it to a smart thermostat ensures that you not only reap the benefits but also lengthen the life of your furnace. 

How Do Smart Thermostats Work?

Home automation can be as simple or extensive as you want it to be. Smart thermostats are made up of three basic components: 

  • The part that plugs directly into your HVAC system
  • The thermostat control itself
  • The smart thermostat app which can be controlled remotely from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

These three parts work together to allow you to adjust the temperature in your home from any location. You can have anything from just automating your HVAC system to a fully automated system controlling appliances, home security, devices, and your heating and cooling system. However, bear in mind that WiFi connection is required. With the help of the team at MSCO, you can have control over your home’s automation in the palm of your hand. 

How a Smart Thermostat Benefits Your HVAC System

Smart thermostats help your furnace to work more efficiently and avoid wear and tear in the following ways:

Tracking Energy Usage

A smart thermostat can track how much energy your HVAC system is using each month and you can control that amount straight from your app. This not only benefits you so that you’re aware of your energy usage bill but it also helps to keep your furnace healthy. How? A higher than normal energy bill can be a sign of a problem if nothing about your energy usage has changed.

Providing More Accurate Readings

A smart thermostat is able to give you a more accurate reading of the temperature inside your home than digital thermostats. As a result of home automation, you’ll end up with fewer temperature fluctuations and less stress on your HVAC system that doesn’t have to work as hard. 

Letting You Know When Something’s Wrong

Your smart thermostat is programmed to know when something isn’t right. Typically this will be signaled when the furnace starts putting in more work than usual, which could signify a number of issues within your HVAC system. 

How a Smart Thermostat Benefits You

Access Remotely

A smart thermostat allows you to control your HVAC system from any device in any location. It adds convenience to your heating and cooling system. Let’s say you’ve been out of town for a few days in the winter and turned the temperature way down to help save money. You can turn the system back up from your phone, tablet, or computer a few hours before you expect to arrive back home and be welcomed home by a comfortable temperature. 

Smart Technology

The more high-tech smart thermostats are able to learn from your patterns, keeping track of when you make changes to your routine and start to adjust themselves accordingly. Your smart thermostat starts to automatically make these changes for you as it’s programmed to make the most energy-efficient choices. 


About half of monthly energy costs are related to the temperature at which you keep your home. A smart thermostat not only offers convenience but it also helps to reduce your energy bills. Most models use some method to detect if you’re home whether that be geofencing your phone or using motion sensors. If it finds that you’re not home, it’ll adjust your system accordingly into a lower power mode to save energy. 


Smart thermostats offer convenience, help to lengthen the lifespan of your HVAC system, and increase energy efficiency thereby saving you money. If you are ready to make this simple home improvement, give us a call!

How to Keep Air Conditioning Costs Down

How to Keep Air Conditioning Costs Down

Now that we are spending more time at home (thanks to COVID-19), we may start wondering about the cost of operating our heating and air conditioning systems nearly continuously, especially with warmer weather right around the bend. While we can’t control the temperature outside, there are things we can do to make our homes cooler and minimize air conditioning costs at the same time. Keep these tips in your back pocket for the upcoming days of warmer temperatures and make sure to check out our additional resources for even more cost-effective tips.

Tip #1: Dress your windows

According to the US Department of Energy, during cooling seasons, about 76% of sunlight enters your windows in the form of heat driving up the temperature in your home. Window shades/blinds or light-blocking curtains are a great way to curtail the impact of the heat on the temperature of your home. Keeping them closed during the hottest part of the day can help lower the temperature in the home. If you take note of the direction your windows face and close the curtains accordingly – you can keep out significant amounts of additional heat.

Tip #2: Keep it down low

As we all know, heat rises – so spending most of your time on the lower floor of your home is a good way to avoid the heat if you live in a multi-story home. Make sure that you leave the interior doors open upstairs, and keep upstairs vents open to allow the maximum amount of cool airflow to keep upstairs more comfortable.

Tip #3: Avoid using the oven and stove  

You’d be surprised how much heat cooking on the stovetop or baking in the oven generates in your home. Reduce indoor heat by cooking in the microwave, firing up the grill outside, or getting creative with more chilled foods, like salads and fruit-based dishes.

If you do find that you want to use the oven or stove, try to do so in the evening. Then, when you’re done, turn on the kitchen exhaust fan to help the heat and cooking odors dissipate. 

Tip #4: Use ceiling fans

Ceiling fans help to circulate cool air throughout your home. This is especially true during the time when you don’t quite need a/c, so your ceiling fans can help you avoid using your air conditioning system unnecessarily. If you have existing ceiling fans, we recommend you put them to work. If you don’t have them, you may consider installing them throughout the home to add comfort options and increase energy efficiency. 

Tip #5: Grow air-purifying plants

Humidity levels can impact health and comfort. Too low humidity levels can increase susceptibility to sinus congestion while higher humidity levels can lead to excess moisture in your indoor environment. A natural way to enhance indoor air quality and help keep your home comfortable at the same time is to enjoy more house plants. 

Plants can help regulate indoor humidity while leaving the air around them cleaner and fresher. Adding a few house plants is a quick and attractive way to boost comfort and help establish healthy humidity levels. According to a study from the University of Vermont, plants have been able to cool down the temperature in a room by as much as 10 degrees. 

Tip #6: Maintain your air conditioning system

Having a reputable contractor (like MSCO) regularly service your air conditioner can ensure that your system continues operating at peak efficiency. HVAC problems that go undetected can cause other issues such as higher electric bills. Your service technician will make certain that the entire system is operating as it should by performing your regular maintenance.

Tips For Hiring the Right HVAC Contractor

Tips For Hiring the Right HVAC Contractor

Your HVAC system provides continuous comfort in your home. This is more important now than ever – especially when we are in our homes more than we typically would be. Make certain that you have the best company to always keep your family comfortable with their experience and knowledge of all things HVAC. But how do you find someone that you can trust? Someone with references, credentials, and ample experience? We have all the great tips for you for hiring an HVAC contractor. 

Tip #1: Know What You Want

Before looking for recommendations or calling service companies, be knowledgeable about what you want and need done in your home. Don’t feel like you have to become an expert on HVAC (although we certainly have the resources for you). That’s our job! But you can absolutely study up a little on your heating and cooling system; even just knowing the make and model of your current system and the maintenance history is sufficient. If there are additional things you’d like implemented on your system, write a list to ask the customer service representative. 

Tip #2: Ask Around for Recommendations

Most of us respect the opinions of our friends and relatives when we need to make an important decision.  So why not ask for recommendations of an HVAC contractor that they know and trust? Ask family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors who they use and their experience. You can also check reference sites and manufacturers websites, and don’t forget to check with the Better Business Bureau. Look for the companies that have an A+ rating (like MSCO).

Tip #3: Look at Reviews

Once you have selected a contractor, going to Google reviews is one of the quickest ways to determine the reputability of a company. Most people approach leaving a review objectively and want to help others have a good experience. A company with 4-5 stars is ideal. You should also take the time to see what their customers are saying. Look for positive experiences that resonate with you. Words like “professional”, “efficient”, and “helpful” should point to a company that would meet your criteria.

Tips For Hiring the Right HVAC Contractor

Tip #4: Check Licenses and Certifications

Reputable companies will have up to date state and federal business licenses as well as certifications and master licenses in their trade. Knowing that the people who are potentially working on your home’s heating and air conditioning system are certified by these and other organizations mean that they have proven to uphold the quality standards that you want in someone that’s working in your home. 

Tip #5: Check for Proof of Insurance

HVAC companies, as other businesses, are required to carry a variety of insurance coverages –  chief among them is general liability and workers’ compensation. If you feel the need, don’t hesitate to ask for proof of insurance when talking to their customer service department.

Tip #6: Look for a Maintenance Program

When looking into an HVAC company, you should ask about their maintenance plan. This is your best bet in ensuring that your HVAC system always remains at tip-top shape. For example, our plan at MSCO comes with the benefit of having your heating and cooling systems cleaned and maintained each year that you keep the plan. Priority service, no overtime rates, and other special amenities come built in as well. Ask about enrolling in continuous monthly payments and never worry about your HVAC maintenance again. 

Tip #7: Go With Your Gut

In the end, trust your instincts. If an HVAC contractor doesn’t seem like a good fit, keep looking for a company that works for you (like MSCO) and don’t settle for less. 

Why You Should Replace Your Furnace & Air Conditioner at the Same Time

Why You Should Replace Your Furnace & Air Conditioner at the Same Time

Replacing anything piecemeal ultimately costs more for several good reasons:


When you replace pieces of your heating & cooling system it will always be limited to the performance of the most inefficient piece.  Putting a high efficiency 16 or 18 SEER condenser on an old 12 or 13 SEER system will result in a system that operates closer to 12 or 13 SEER and rob you of valuable savings.


When you replace only sections of a system it will result in more frequent repairs, not only as older parts would normally wear out, but also because newer equipment operates at higher pressures which equipment ten years ago was not designed to handle and may put an added strain on older parts.


Replacing all parts of the system can save up to $2,000.00 in labor and materials because you don’t have to repeat the labor for each piece.


When replacing your complete system, you end up with better warranties covering labor, materials, and in many cases, up to double the warranty you would have if you did it piecemeal.  There is no question regarding what was done, did the old part cause the new part to fail, or if the materials used were new or preexisting.


The problem is that most furnaces last longer than most air conditioners. The average lifespan of an air conditioner is about 12-18 years whereas the average lifespan of a furnace is about 15-30 years. The biggest thing to remember should be that an old furnace, air conditioner, heat pump, or coil, is kind of like that beat-up old 1967 Pontiac Bonneville that got at best 11 miles to the gallon. You stopped driving it years ago because it cost a fortune to operate.

In certain rare instances, it may more practical to reuse parts of a system, but only when a professional can prove that the piece in question is not approaching the end of its life and that it will not reduce the system performance significantly.  Keep in mind that you will still be running an unmatched system and it may sacrifice some of the air conditioner’s efficiency. Replacing one piece and not the other may also result in premature failure.

Condensation in the Home

Condensation in the Home

Myth buster:  Air conditioning systems do not produce water in your home!

When an air conditioner is operating properly it will extract pre-existing moisture in your air as it cools the home through a process called condensation.  

As the warmer air in your home travels back through your return it is first filtered then pushed across the evaporator coil located inside your air-handler or attached to your furnace.  As this warm moist air crosses the cold coil, the air rapidly cools and releases moisture which is trapped in the coil drain and voided using the drains attached.

A great example of condensation would be that can of Pepsi we just set on the counter. When we take a Pepsi out of the refrigerator, it’s dry but when we set it on the counter for a few minutes a ring of water will appear. This water was already in the air, the cold can made it condense and form a ring.

During times of high humidity or long periods of extreme heat, a small percentage of homes will have conditions that may cause the refrigeration lines to condensate, ductwork to sweat, or in some cases, even have moisture form on the vent grills. When this occurs, the homeowner needs to consider several things such as:

  • Low airflow because of dirty or high-performance air filters
  • Low airflow due to crushed or inadequate duct systems 
  • Excessive humidity due to abnormal weather conditions.
  • Excessive humidity in attic or garage areas due to broken bath fan vent lines 
  • Excessive humidity in attic or garage areas due to broken or split dryer vents
  • Low airflow because of equipment failure.
  • Supply vents being closed causing airflow restrictions.
  • Improper attic ventilation.  
  • Partially blocked or “slow” drains.

During the cooling season, the humidity can get extremely high, and customers routinely have problems with drain lines or ductwork sweating.  This may be due to environmental issues exceeding your home’s ability to protect you from the weather. The technician’s best solution may be to reduce symptoms as a temporary fix until the problem can be addressed correctly.

How Do Furnaces Work?

How Do Furnaces Work?

Now that we here in Southeastern Virginia are experiencing weather more typical of winter, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the machinery that is keeping your home warm and comfortable while temperatures outside are near freezing. The better informed you are about your furnace – likely a gas furnace – the quicker you can identify a shift in the comfort level in your home and troubleshoot the issue likely by giving us a call. And, considering that heating accounts for roughly 45% of your home’s energy bill, homeowners tend to enjoy having the knowledge of how furnaces work

Alternatives to a gas furnace

You may have a different heating system such as:

A boiler

A boiler heats water and emits it through radiators

A heat pump

A heat pump is essentially an air conditioner that works in reverse. Check out this article to learn more about heat pumps

Hybrid heating

Many homes have a hybrid heating system, which combines the energy-efficient properties of heat pumps during mild weather months with the powerful heating abilities of furnaces during extreme weather.

Non-gas furnace

While most furnaces use natural gas, some run on propane, heating oil, or electricity.

Furnace 101

The most common furnace is a gas-powered central air system that works by heating air in one area and distributing it throughout the rest of the home via ductwork and through vents. 

The main components of the furnace are the gas valve, burners, heat exchanger, blower, ducts and ventilation system, and the control center, including the thermostat and electrical controls. 

Furnace and gas valve

The furnace is triggered when it receives a signal from the thermostat telling it to turn on. Based on the temperature you manually set the thermostat to or have programmed in, the thermostat will detect when the air in the room is below that number and activate the furnace. 

After the thermostat sends its signal, the furnace gas valve opens and ignites the burner under the combustion chamber which then works to regulate the amount of gas that flows into the furnace. Oftentimes when the gas valve is working but the furnace isn’t turning on, the culprit is an issue with the pilot light also not turning on. Your best bet is having a professional come and relight the pilot light. We don’t recommend attempting to do so yourself. 

The heat exchanger

The flames then heat a metal heat exchanger and from there, the heat circulates through the tubes of the heat exchanger where the heat is transferred into air. This part is super important because without it, no heat will pass through the house. Following this process, combustion gases should be circulating safely out of the house. 

Air handler

As the heat circulates through the heat exchanger, the blower motor and fan moves the heat through the ductwork in the home. The heat then flows through the various vents of the house to distribute heat to the rooms. Once the heat is sufficiently distributed, the thermostat shuts off the heater until the cycle starts over again. 

How is furnace energy efficiency measured?

Furnaces operate under a rating system called Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), a percentage that basically equates to how much of your fuel is used for heating and how much is lost due to combustion. For example, a high-efficiency furnace has an AFUE percentage of 90% or above. That means that 90% of the fuel is used directly within the home to heat it while 10% is lost. 

Mid-range efficiency furnaces have an AFUE around 80-85% while older, lower-efficiency models typically have an AFUE rating that falls between 50 and 70%. 

The AFUE rating will decline over time due to leaks in the ductwork, dirt in the furnace components, damaged and loose parts, and a clogged air filter. This is just one reason why you should be having your furnace professionally maintained annually. The best way to keep on top of this is to sign up for our HVAC maintenance plan to ensure that one of our licensed technicians is cleaning out your unit and making sure everything is in tip-top shape. 

Furnace maintenance and safety tips

  • Replace your furnace filter every 90 days. We recommend writing the date you replaced it on the furnace itself so that you know when to replace it.
  • Test to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly every 30 days.
  • Invest in a programmable or smart thermostat. This will save you money on your utility bills plus it’s far more energy-efficient than the alternative.
  • Periodically check the color of the flame produced by your furnace (you can do this at the same time you change the filter). The flame should be blue in color, potentially with a small yellow tip. If it is any other color – likely red, orange, or green – this indicates a fuel/burner problem and you should contact a professional immediately. Don’t try to fix it DIY-style. 
  • If at any point your furnace is making strange noises, make sure to call a professional and schedule an appointment to have it looked at as soon as possible.
  • If at any point you smell gas (many have described this as rotten-egg like), do not operate any of the system’s components. Evacuate the home then call the fire department and don’t reenter the home until everything is deemed safe.
  • Find leaks in your ductwork and seal them with mastic sealant or aluminum foil tape. This will help to improve the AFUE.
  • Schedule regular maintenance appointments. At your appointment, they will test your heat exchanger for cracks, inspect the ventilation system, clean your pilot light, and take many more necessary precautions.
The ABC’s of HVAC: Understanding Industry Terms The heating and cooling industry is full of jargon and acronyms that can be confusing to homeowners. It’s like an alphabet soup of mysterious terms that make it harder to understand the operation of your HVAC system.

The ABC’s of HVAC: Understanding Industry Terms

The heating and cooling industry is full of jargon and acronyms that can be confusing to homeowners. It’s like an alphabet soup of mysterious terms that make it harder to understand the operation of your HVAC system. Let’s take some of that mystery away. Here is a brief compendium of some commonly used terms and their meanings:

AC – stands for Air Conditioner or Air Conditioning. This one is pretty simple and well-known.

AFUE – or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. This is the rating used to convey the efficiency of operation for gas furnaces. It is expressed as a percentage. The higher the percentage, the more efficient the furnace. The minimum government standard for AFUE in new furnaces is currently 80%.

BTU – or British Thermal Unit. The British thermal unit is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. In heating, it is a measurement of the heat being delivered into the home. In cooling mode, it measures the heat being removed from the home.

CFM – or Cubic Feet per Minute. This can be used as a measurement for the flow of a gas or to measure air velocity such as the air being pushed into a room from the vents in your floor or ceiling.

CO – Carbon Monoxide, a toxic gas that can be given off under certain conditions as a byproduct of combustion (such as with a gas furnace) and is called the “silent killer”. It can be difficult to detect and there are recommended monitors that can alert you if any is present.

EER – Energy Efficiency Ratio. The EER is a constant number that is used to measure the efficiency of certain types of systems such as geothermal. EER is typically determined by a set outside air temperature, a set inside air temperature, and a 50% relative humidity.

EPA – The United States Environmental Protection Agency is the federal office responsible for regulating anything impacting the environment. The heating and cooling industry works closely with the EPA in matters of safe handling of refrigerants used in systems including residential, industrial, and commercial applications. According to EPA regulations, in the United States, ozone-depleting substances (ODS) are regulated as controlled substances. Class II substances are all hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). New production and import of most HCFCs will be phased out as of 2020. The most common HCFC in use today is HCFC-22 or R-22, a refrigerant still used in existing air conditioners and refrigeration equipment. 

ESA – This is our Energy Savings Agreement. Dirt and neglect are the leading causes of efficiency loss and early failure of heating and cooling equipment. Our ESA will ensure that the necessary regular cleaning and maintenance are properly performed. This agreement is a comprehensive full maintenance program that will help reduce costly repairs and maintain your heating and cooling equipment at its optimum performance level. Learn more

HVAC – or Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. This, of course, is the overall title that encompasses everything needed to deliver a full comfort system into your home. It is a catch-all term that includes equipment, ductwork, ventilation fans, and everything else needed to produce a comfortable indoor space.

PSI – or Pounds per Square Inch. The pound per square inch or, more accurately, pound-force per square inch is a unit of pressure or of stress. It is the pressure resulting from a force of one pound-force applied to an area of one square inch. In our case, it’s generally used in reference to gas pressure levels.

SEER – This is Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The SEER measures air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency, which is calculated by the cooling output for a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same time frame. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficiently the system operates. 

Ton – A ton in the HVAC universe is not actually a measure of weight. It is a unit of measurement equal to 12,000 BTU’s. This means that for every ton, an air conditioning system is rated to remove 12,000 BTU’s of heat from the home. 


If there is anything else that you would like to learn about the heating and cooling industry or have any questions in general regarding your home comfort system, the professionals of MSCO can help. Call 757-427-0016 anytime – we have been keeping you comfortable for over sixty years. 

How to Add Heating to a Sunroom or Screened Porch

How to Add Heating to a Sunroom or Screened Porch

A sunroom gives your home the best of both worlds – the comfort of the indoors with the fresh air and views from outside. It’s a great and relatively inexpensive way to expand your house. When the weather is warm…

When the colder months roll around, the room becomes impractical. But, by adding heating to the enclosed patio, you can use it all year round. There are plenty of options out there for heating a sunroom but the best one will depend on your preferences, the size of your sunroom, and your budget. 

Option #1: Portable heaters

Space heaters are the least expensive way to heat a sunroom or screened-in porch with most running under $100 and being as easy to use as simply plugging it in and turning it on. So while they are low-cost and relatively low-hassle, they use a lot of energy to produce relatively little heat. Enclosed patios are typically not well-insulated because they’re on the outside of the house, allowing heat to escape much more quickly than rooms within a structure. The portable space heater then has to do all the work and because of this, heaters are associated with thousands of house fires and hundreds of deaths every year. 

You can also find ceiling- or wall-mounted heaters which are good if you want to opt for a portable heater but don’t have a lot of floor space for them or are concerned about a child or pet knocking them over. These heaters use radiant heat to warm a room and provide a soft, warm heat like the sun shining down. 

Portable space heaters may be good in a pinch but using them as the main source of heat in the room will likely just lead to a higher electric bill and could potentially start a fire. 

Option #2: Add insulating materials

If heat is able to pass from the main areas of your house to the sunroom, you may not need to invest in heaters and could instead find ways to insulate the room from the cold. You might consider adding: 

Radiant floor heating

While there are alternatives, for a sunroom, you could purchase heating mats which will offer supplemental heat, a great option if you just want a little extra warmth but don’t want to invest in heated floors. You might even consider installing one underneath the floorboards as you’re building. 

Install clear vinyl on the screens

Installing clear vinyl inside the screens can help to keep the warmth from escaping outside. This works best with heat coming from the main house or another source of heat within the sunroom. 

Thermal-insulated curtains

These curtains are specifically designed to keep heat from escaping and are especially useful in rooms with large windows like your sunroom. They work best when covering the windows completely but it’s helpful to leave them open during the day so as to get the heat from the sunlight and then shut them at dark. 

Thick rugs

Finally, keep your feet warm with heavy throw rugs or carpeting. Either way, this will prevent the heat from being absorbed by the cold concrete slab floor. 

Option #3: Extend your home’s ductwork

If your home has a traditional furnace setup, you might consider continuing the ductwork to your enclosed patio. This, however, tends to work better in theory than in practice because it can be very expensive and not worth the cost. Considering the design, fabrication, and installation that goes into the process plus the fact that the further the room is from the existing ducts, the more you have to add, this project can cost at least a couple thousand dollars. 

Even then, the heat is still controlled by the thermostat inside which usually registers the temperature from a much warmer room in the house. 

Option #4: Ductless heating and cooling

Ductless heating is a solution that gives you the best of both worlds: the power and efficiency of a central unit with the customization just for that one room. A ductless heating system, also referred to as a mini-split, uses an outdoor heat pump to generate heat which then travels to the home through thin, plastic tubing. It is also equipped with a built-in thermostat which allows you to set whatever temperature you want.

Let’s Clear The Air And Breathe Better All Winter Long

Let’s Clear The Air And Breathe Better All Winter Long

So far, the weather outside is not so frightful. However, as we delve deeper into the cold winter months, you may be bracing yourself for the higher heating bills more typical of winter. Plus, you may also be one of the millions of people that suffer from winter allergies that lead to headaches, congestion, sinus problems, sore throats, and other symptoms. You can tackle both of these issues with a simple addition to your current heating system.  

Improve Air Quality

Air Scrubbers and High-Efficiency Filter Media remove dirt, dust, and debris from the air that circulates through the ducts throughout your home. Not only can dirt and dust build-up within the air in the house, but bacteria can also become a problem despite the lower temperatures. Mildew and mold especially thrive in dark, damp, hidden places within your home. All of these invaders can reduce the quality of your indoor air, leading to all kinds of problems and activating seasonal allergies. 

But, there is no need to feel helpless. You can help stop the invasion of contaminants in your space with one of these proven air quality improvements. During your regular maintenance appointment, our technicians can determine which solution can optimize your winter air comfort. 

Reduce Allergy Symptoms

Many people suffer from bothersome winter allergies, often characterized by congestion, a sore throat, and headaches. If the quality of the air in your home is poor, it will only continue to exacerbate your symptoms, causing them to flare up more often. 

Take notice of whether your symptoms tend to ease up when you leave your home. If the answer is yes, that may be a sign that your indoor air quality could use improvement. Our technicians can recommend ways to help remove pet dander, dust, dirt, mold, and other pollutants that may be causing irritation from your home. After we work our magic, you and your family will immediately benefit from breathing the cleaned and refreshed air in your home this winter.

Improve HVAC Efficiency and Reduce Costs

When dirt and dust build-up in the HVAC system, this impedes airflow and causes a reduction in efficiency. When your HVAC system can’t operate efficiently, it will need more energy to heat the air and distribute it throughout the home. This results in a higher energy bill as your system works harder to keep you comfortable. 

Prolong the Lifespan of Your HVAC System

Your HVAC system is an investment, comprised of mechanical components and specialized technology that is certainly not cheap. Repair and replacement of failed parts can be expensive as well. Allowing dirt, dust, and debris to build-up in any part of your system could mean prematurely repairing or replacing these components that are undergoing excessive wear and tear. 

Your HVAC system needs regular maintenance just like your car in order to best perform its job. We recommend having your entire system professionally cleaned twice per year. If it’s been too long since your last system cleaning or you feel that your air quality could use improvement, call MSCO: (757) 427-0016.

While you may already get regular HVAC tune-ups, you might not do anything in between. Here are some easy tasks that you can do to help supplement these checkups.

What Should I Do In Between HVAC Maintenance Appointments?

As a member of our Maintenance Program, you already enjoy your regular HVAC tune-ups. But you typically don’t consider what to do in between. So today we’ll explore some easy optional tasks that you could perform to help supplement our technicians’ hard work. For those of you who are not yet on our regular maintenance schedule, these ideas will help get your HVAC system on the right track with enhanced efficiency. 

If you have regular filters, replace them at least every 30 days. 

But also check them intermittently. If they look dark or clogged, go ahead and change them. If you have pets, you will also probably need to change them more frequently than usual.

Invest in a better filter if you haven’t already. 

High-efficiency media filters have an electrostatic charge that works like a magnet to grab the tiniest particles – even dust mites and bacteria. 

Make room around outdoor units.

Make sure there is at least two feet of clearance around the outdoor units of air conditioning or heat pump systems.

Remove debris.

In the spring and summer, you will want to remove twigs and pollen build-up weekly from your outdoor units. In the fall, clear the leaves that have inevitably fallen around your unit.

Inspect insulation on refrigeration lines.

You’ll want to inspect the insulation on your refrigeration lines leading into your house on a monthly basis. Replace if damaged or missing.

Make sure your unit is level. 

Ensure that your outdoor units and their pads stay on firm, level ground and are not leaning.

Stave off clogs.

Install Pan Pad in the indoor coil pan to prevent a nasty build-up of mold and algae.

Never close off more than 20% of a home’s registers.  

Closing the vents in your home puts a strain on the HVAC system and causes it to work extra hard which not only increases your energy bill but also wears your system out faster.

Replace the battery…

in your home’s carbon monoxide detector and smoke detectors as recommended.

Need help with any of these tasks?  Your professionals at MSCO will be happy to assist with anything you may need to keep your home comfortable. Let us know how we can help you today.

Winter Home Energy Efficiency Advice

Winter Home Energy Efficiency Advice

With winter just around the corner and our first snow in Hampton Roads under our belts, we have 7 helpful tips for increasing your home’s energy efficiency, saving you money and keeping you comfortable all season long. 

Tip #1: Let the sunshine in

Take advantage of the world’s most energy-efficient heat source: the sun! Open the curtains of any south-facing windows during the day to naturally heat and brighten up your home, remembering to close them at sunset to keep the heat inside.

Tip #2: Thicken up your insulation

To calculate if you have enough attic insulation means measuring its R-value. If you find that your attic could use some additional insulation, increasing the overall R-value will help save on energy costs year-round

Tip #3: Switch the rotation of your ceiling fan

Don’t forget that your ceiling fans are more than just an additional source of cool air. Hot air rises so the heat that your furnace is using may not consistently be reaching you. In order to reverse this, switch the rotation to a clockwise direction to help push the warm air back down to your level.

Tip #4: Consider a space heater

Heating an entire house when you are only using a room or two may be a waste of money. Consider turning the main heat in your house down a bit, and supplement with a new efficient portable heater for the frequently used areas like your living room or bedroom to lower the overall cost of heating during the winter season. Be sure and strictly observe all heating equipment’s instructed safety precautions.

Tip #5: Seal your chimney

Your chimney acts similarly to an open window, allowing your expensive heated air to escape right out the top. Be sure to keep your damper closed when the fireplace is not in use; check the seal on the flue damper to make sure it’s closed tightly. 

Tip #6: Find and seal leaks

In many homes, especially older ones, a significant amount of cold air can seep into your home under exterior doors, through gaps around the chimney, around the windows, and even through openings such as electrical outlets. These types of drafts can keep your home from properly heating, driving up your heating bill. 

Your MSCO technician can help you determine how to detect air leaks and make recommendations to help eliminate them. 

Tip #7: Invest in a smart thermostat

Unfortunately, cranking up the temperature on your thermostat in an attempt to blast heat into your home is not effective or energy efficient. Your house will generally warm up at the same rate, regardless of the number of degrees between your setting and the actual temperature. Instead, invest in a smarter thermostat to stay comfortable all day long and save significantly on heating costs. Here are some tips to help you find the most energy-efficient settings for your smart thermostat:

  • If you’re at home during the day, set your thermostat as low as will allow you to remain comfortable. Remember that wearing light layers of clothing will insulate you and help maintain body temperature.

When you are asleep or away from the house, lowering your thermostat by 10-15° for eight hours at a time can save up to 10% per year on your heating bills.

Ready to Sell Your Home? 4 Steps to Increase Your Home’s Selling Value

Ready to Sell Your Home? 4 Steps to Increase Your Home’s Selling Value

Every Girl Scout knows to Be Prepared, but not everyone selling their home can say with certainty that they are ready for the process. But by tackling a few simple home improvement projects, you can make sure your home has just the right “curb appeal” and is ready to shine. Making your home appealing to potential buyers is less stressful if you break it down into simple steps:

Listen to your Realtor

First, make certain your realtor knows exactly what buyers are looking for in your neighborhood. Second, take their advice seriously. They can guide you through any upgrades or improvements they think may increase the selling price, like replacing an aging HVAC system or damaged ductwork. They can also steer you away from any projects that could prove to be a waste of time and money.

Consider a Home Inspection

Being proactive and scheduling your own professional home inspection could potentially save you some headaches later as you put your home on the market. All known issues must be disclosed to a new buyer, so learning early-on about any repairs necessary can help immensely. 

Home Inspectors will provide you with a report about all major aspects of the home, including the HVAC system. Additionally, a clean “bill of health” from a home inspector can help with price negotiations with potential buyers. 

Clean up your Act

The best way to make your home shine is to quite literally shine it up. Declutter and research home staging to amp up the appeal. Clean every nook and cranny – top to bottom. Clean the windows till they sparkle and don’t forget the appliances and bathroom tile. Try leaving your home and returning – come through your front door imagining yourself as a potential buyer. Would you be happy to purchase the home based on what you see? Tour the home as though you are seeing it for the first time and take note of what you like and change what you don’t. Chances are if you love it, prospective buyers will to.

If you need HVAC Help

These days, many home buyers are interested in home-based technology like smart homes and home automation. A new compatible heating and cooling system could appeal to potential tech-seeking buyers. Even if a new HVAC system is not in your home preparation outlook, a good thorough cleaning and tune-up of your existing system will keep both you and the new homeowner safe and comfortable. Call the pros at MSCO at 757-427-0016, or go to msco.pro to learn more.

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