Author: MSCO

Prepare Your HVAC System for Hurricane Season

Prepare Your HVAC System for Hurricane Season

Here in Virginia, we are no strangers to hurricane season. While you may be well aware of what precautions to take to protect your family – stocking up on non-perishable foods, buying batteries, and boarding up windows – there are also precautions you should take to protect your HVAC system. By taking steps before the storm hits and afterward, you minimize system damage and help safeguard your family and home. 

Preparing Your HVAC Unit Before a Hurricane 

Below is a list of steps you can take before the storm even hits to work towards minimizing the damage caused to your HVAC system. 

Prepare Your Home

Before a hurricane, if you think it is likely that your power may go down, it is a good idea to go ahead and cool your home thoroughly so that you and your family stay comfortable until the power is restored. To maximize the cooling before the storm, close curtains and blinds, and keep doors and windows shut to keep the cool air inside. You will want to hold on to all of the cool that you can while the power is out.

Turn Off Electricity to Your Air Conditioner

Once the storm arrives, electrical surges caused by lightning strikes can potentially damage your AC unit, sometimes rendering it inoperable. There is also a chance that debris may become stuck in your outdoor unit and damage the moving parts. The best option may be to play it safe and shut off the power to your air conditioning system. We recommend you turn off the breakers to your AC or heat pump and indoor air handler or gas furnace.

Protect and Deflect

Covering your outdoor unit would ensure that no flying debris can damage your outdoor unit. High winds can knock down branches and trees that can damage your air conditioning unit if they land on it. Only cover your outdoor unit if the power has been turned off to the system.  Be sure to remove any covering before attempting to operate the system. If your area is prone to flooding, you may want to consider having an HVAC professional place your unit on an elevated platform.

Refrain from turning your HVAC on until you have safely removed any covering and inspected the unit for damage. If anything looks questionable or out of place, wait until an HVAC professional is able to take a look before restoring power. 

Proactive Debris Protection

Before the storm hits, take a thorough look around your yard and see if there are any loose objects lying around that could potentially damage your home and/or your outdoor HVAC unit. This might include tree debris, loose dead branches, outdoor furniture including grills, toys, and anything else that could pose a potential hazard. Move these items into a storage area or otherwise secure them or dispose of them before the storm hits. 

Get a Surge Protector

Lightning during a storm can be incredibly harmful to an HVAC unit, even fatal, as with any electronic device. Protecting your investment with a surge protector made specifically for your HVAC system can help to protect your unit from being damaged. 

Steps to Take After the Hurricane

Once the hurricane has passed and you can safely assess any damage, check to see if there is any water damage or other storm-related issues that may require you to replace some of your HVAC equipment or ductwork. Your home’s insurance provider can help you determine if is appropriate to file a claim. 

And, of course again, if anything appears to be damaged or questionable, contact your local HVAC provider to inspect your system first. Your technician is able to determine if the system is safe to operate or which equipment might need repairs and what needs to be replaced. 

Call a Qualified Contractor to Perform HVAC Repairs and Replacement

It is our hope that you, your family, and your home will “weather the storm” just fine. Unfortunately, however, there are times when flooding, large dangerous debris, and strong winds can cause serious damage to your home and HVAC system. Please do not attempt anything during a hurricane that may endanger yourself. 

Hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th and can unleash strong winds, storm surges, and a catastrophic amount of heavy rain that can ravage homes and communities. As far as your HVAC system’s continued operation under severe circumstances, turn to the name you can trust. 

 

MSCO can provide guidance prior to the storm to protect your HVAC system and we can perform any repairs that will help get you and your home through hurricane season. We’re here to help!

Here Are Your Latest HVAC Replacement FAQs

Here Are Your Latest HVAC Replacement FAQs

Getting a new HVAC system is a big commitment, and it can be hard to know where to start. Not only do you want to ensure you’re getting the right unit, but you also want to make sure it lasts as long as possible. Once it is installed, you may wonder about the best way to keep the comfort coming all year long. We’ve got you covered.

Here are a few frequently asked questions we get here at MSCO. We are going to help you with finding the right size unit, learning how to maintain it, and special tips from MSCO to give you a better HVAC experience.

HVAC Replacement Question #1: What size HVAC system should I get?

The size of your HVAC system is chosen based on many factors, both internal and external to your home. No two houses are exactly alike, and your HVAC system should be customized to your needs. There are specific load calculations performed to size the system to the home. These calculations take many factors into account, such as insulation, windows, foundation, even which direction the house faces. If your heating and cooling system is sized improperly to the house, it will not perform as expected and can even lead to problems such as moisture in the home. To ensure your home’s heating and cooling system isn’t too large or too small, an evaluation from a licensed professional at MSCO can help.

HVAC Replacement Question #2: Is an HVAC system with more capacity always better?

No, as this can greatly diminish your overall comfort. Having more capacity can mean that more frequent shorter cycles occur where the system frequently turns itself on, quickly satisfies the setting and then turns right back off. In theory, this might seem more efficient, but the opposite is actually true. It’s important to note that indoor humidity is only removed while the AC is running, therefore these short cycles don’t allow humidity to be properly removed – leaving you feeling uncomfortable.

HVAC Replacement Question #3: How long should my system stay running without shutting off?

This depends on the relationship between factors such as outside temperature and your thermostat settings. Certain high efficiency systems are also designed to run more than others. HVAC systems in our area are designed to perform normally when the outdoor temperatures are at or below 95 in the summer, and at or above 20 in the winter. When the conditions outside get close to or exceed these limits, then the system could run more than it typically does. This is completely normal and expected. And, as we noted above, your air conditioner does not perform it’s function of removing excess humidity if it is not allowed to run for long enough

HVAC Replacement Question #4: What can I do to maintain the health of my HVAC unit?

The most important thing to remember is to maintain your filters. Clean filters lead to a cleaner system. And a cleaner system makes for a more comfortable home. If they’re disposable, replace them once a month and if they’re washable, clean them once a month. If you have a high efficiency filtration system, follow the recommendations of your service technician for filter change-out schedules. Other maintenance includes cleaning any branches or debris from your outdoor unit, cautiously weed whacking any overgrown landscaping around the unit (be careful to not damage any control wiring!), and keeping pets away from your unit (pet urine = expensive damage). 

HVAC Replacement Question #5: What’s the best way to purify the air in my home?

MSCO offers options to purify your home’s air, either to add on to your existing unit or install when you get a new system. PlasmaPure uses bipolar ionization technology to proactively purify the air in your home. Air Scrubber technology goes beyond traditional air purification measures by not only eliminating stale air and reducing dust in your home, but by also eliminating harmful contaminants in the air and on the surfaces in your home. And, as always, our current offering of Trane products can not only help with purification but also efficiency and total home comfort.

Check out our special pricing and financing options here.

HVAC Replacement Question #6: How long should my new unit last?

If everything goes accordingly and life doesn’t throw anything too crazy at your HVAC system, they can last up to 15 to 25 years. However, you can elongate the life of your HVAC unit with one of our Continuous Maintenance Plans. Plans are available starting as little as $29 a month, and you will be treated like a VIP!

We’ll see you every six months to make sure everything is running smoothly, spot potential problems you might not even have noticed, and clean your system. You also will not have to wait for your repairs with our 24/7 priority service, even at the height of the season.

See the benefits and more info about this plan here.

Finding a Quiet HVAC System for Your Home

Finding a Quiet HVAC System for Your Home

When it comes to choosing an HVAC system, many homeowners are looking for comfort without sacrificing peace and quiet. The location, size, and features of any given HVAC unit can greatly impact the quality of life in your home. Although there are a lot of factors to consider when purchasing an HVAC system, the right HVAC unit does not drown out daily activities or wake you up in the middle of the night. For help in finding an efficient and quiet cooling and heating system to offer comfort without the noise, use the following tips.  

Understand the Noise Rating of an HVAC System

All HVAC systems have a decibel (dB) rating that correlates with the intensity of sound. This decibel rating can be found on the label and refers to the sound output that can be heard by a person standing within a reasonable distance of the HVAC system in a non-insulated surrounding. The lower the decibel rating, the quieter the system. 

There are units on the market with innovative sound reduction features, but note that they are more expensive than regular air conditioners. 

As you are doing your research and comparing models, you want to have a general idea of what the decibel ratings of different models and brands mean. Here is a quick guide developed by Purdue University to use as a frame of reference: 

  • 50 dB translates to a quiet conversation at home.
  • 60 dB is close to the volume you can hear from a conversation in a restaurant.
  • 70 dB is compared to the sound of a vacuum cleaner.
  • 80 dB is equivalent to the sound produced by a garbage disposal.

 Using this guide as a frame of reference, most homeowners seek out an HVAC system that is 60 dB or lower. The  quietest HVAC systems fall between the range of 50 to 60 dB. 

Look for HVAC Systems with Noise-Reducing Features

One of the biggest contributors to the noise coming from your HVAC system is the intense vibrations from the many moving parts that work together to comprise your HVAC system. These noises are typically associated with the starting and stopping of the fan. 

When the temperatures outside are extreme, your unit will operate at its highest decibel as the unit works overtime to keep the inside of your house at a comfortable temperature. Other sounds can come from things like leaves or twigs falling into your outdoor unit.

Therefore, you should not only look for a low decibel rating but also as many of the following noise-cancelling factors as possible.

  • An insulated base fan: it is an additional pan underneath the unit that works by preventing corrosion and reducing noise pollution.
  • Compressor insulation: it is an independent enclosure or compartment that covers the units compressor to reduce the units overall noise.
  • Noise-reduced fan blades: these are designed to reduce the outdoor unit noise. 
  • Variable speed settings fan:  this is an integrated fan that operates at different speeds based on the family’s comfort level needs. This fan can help not only in lowering energy bills but also at improving comfort and running the HVAC system at a quieter noise level.

Take Preventive Maintenance Measures on Your HVAC System

Don’t Overwork Your HVAC System

Keeping strain off your HVAC system is another great way to keep the noise level down.  The best tips we can give you here are to replace your HVAC filter as frequently as necessary and to monitor and maintain proper humidity levels in your home. Both of these simple steps will make it so that your AC is working less hard and, therefore, being quieter. Are the rule of thumb, aim for a humidity level between 30-45% in the summer and 45-55% in the winter. These are the optimal levels to prevent your HVAC from being overworked while also maintaining comfort in the home.

General HVAC System Maintenance

Maintenance is a crucial step in both the efficiency and lifespan-lengthening  of all appliances but particularly your HVAC system. Get your HVAC unit checked by a professional twice a year to ward off any potential problems from refrigerant leaks, loose bolts and screws, outdoor debris, and worn parts.

Help, Why Is My A/C Blowing Warm Air?

Help, Why Is My A/C Blowing Warm Air?

With more hot days ahead, the last thing you want is warm air blowing out of your air conditioner. When this happens, there are a few things in your home that you can check on yourself before calling in a professional. 

Reason #1: The thermostat is incorrectly set

This may seem so obvious but it’s for that very reason that it is first on the list because it is often overlooked. It’s an easy mistake to switch the thermostat from the cool to heat setting or to forget to make the switch altogether. Double-check that the system is set to “cool” not “heat” and that the fan is set to “auto” and not “on”. If the fan is set to “on,” this means that the fan will blow even when the air conditioner is not actually cooling and can lead to your AC blowing out air that feels warmer. 

Reason #2: Airflow is restricted

A restriction in the airflow to and from the air conditioner can often mean that not enough air is coming out of the vents to cool your home. Restricted airflow can also lead to the compressor – the outdoor unit of your air conditioner that moves the refrigerant – to freeze up. This commonly happens as a result of one or both of the following:

  • You have yet to schedule your maintenance appointment on your AC within the year and therefore the coils are dirty.
  • It’s been too long since the air filter was replaced.

Reason #3: Ductwork issues

Damaged or compromised ductwork can force your HVAC to run when it’s not at peak performance which can also mean an increase in your energy bill. You may otherwise have the problem of a broken or disconnected return duct which can cause air that has not been cooled to be pulled from outside or in the attic and passed through the HVAC system. 

Reason #4: Electricity isn’t getting to the system

Your air conditioner is broken down into two main parts: the indoor unit and the outdoor unit. The indoor unit is within the home and houses the fan that blows their air throughout your home but it can only blow cool air if both components have power and are working.

If nothing is coming on at all, the circuit breaker may have tripped that controls the system. Check the circuit breaker or fuse panel to make sure that is not the case. If the breaker did not trip, contact a professional and do not try to fix it yourself; this could mean there is a much bigger problem at play. Also, if you also have a gas furnace in the home, there is usually an emergency cut off switch somewhere nearby. If that switch has accidently been turned off – it will cause the air to stop circulating through the house.

Reason #5: The system is low on refrigerant

The final reason we present as to why your AC may be blowing hot air is that your system is low on refrigerant. The refrigerant moves through the air conditioning system and facilitates cooling. This is a closed and contained system, so if the necessity arises to add refrigerant, there’s likely a leak in the line or coils. Depending on the size and speed of the leak, you may notice that the unit starts blowing warm air. A refrigerant leak is both a concern for the health of your heating and cooling system and potentially the environment. Your HVAC professional will determine the best course of action in the event of a refrigerant leak.

Everything You Need to Know About Filters

Your furnace filter is the one element of your HVAC that keeps your system running smoothly and it plays a massive role in your indoor air quality. Changing your filter is inexpensive, easy to do yourself, and protects the investment you’ve made in your HVAC system. If you are not sure where to find your filter, how often to change it, how to change it, or even which filter to pick for your home in the first place, you’ve come to the right place. 

How do furnace air filters work?

Furnace filters are made up of cotton, fiberglass, and other materials stretched across wire mesh, trapping dirt, debris, and other particles in your home’s air as they pass through your ductwork. The filter keeps the particles from getting into your system, potentially damaging it or getting into the air and affecting the indoor air quality. When particles hit the filter, they attach to the screen and cannot continue through the ductwork. Eventually, so many particles build up on the surface of the filter that air can no longer pass through easily. Once you’ve reached that point, that’s when you’ve got a problem

Which furnace air filter is right for you

There are various types of filters that you will see when shopping around:

  • Fiberglass: This is the industry standard for filters. The woven fiberglass material is designed to catch particles but it is considered the most inefficient type of filter. They are inexpensive, however, and are better than no filter at all.
  • Pleated: A pleated filter is thicker and therefore will catch more airborne particles. They are more efficient than fiberglass filters but are still on the more inexpensive side.
  • HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance): HEPA air filters are often used in buildings that need an especially clean atmosphere like medical facilities, labs, etc. They are very high efficiency and are designed to filter air at a very fine level. 

Before purchasing your filter, you’ll need to know the proper size to get and what will do for your family and home needs. Do you have small children, elderly, or someone with breathing issues living in your home? You’ll want to go for a more efficient filter if so. Do you have pets? If so, you’ll also want to consider a higher-efficiency model as pets can have quite an impact on your indoor air quality. 

One last step before purchasing your new filter: you’ll need to check the dimensions of your current filter. Look for a slot on the side of your furnace close to the floor. Reach in and carefully pull out the filter. It’s not attached to anything so it’s that easy to find and take out the filter. Once you take it out, look at the cardboard frame and you’ll see dimensions printed there. That will tell you what size you need to buy. 

What are the benefits of changing your filter regularly?

Now that you know how to find your air filter and how to best select a new one, you may be wondering what exactly is the benefit that a filter brings to your home. Well, there’s a few…

Filters keep your HVAC system lasting longer

The first thing you will probably notice is decreased air circulation. The surface of the filter will get so clogged up that air can’t pass through properly and you won’t feel nearly as much air coming through the vents. 

Then you’ll start to notice your energy bill creeping up. This happens when your system is having to work in overdrive to produce the same amount of work – in this case, air. Those problems can continue to worsen until eventually, your system breaks down because it’s just so tuckered out from working so hard. 

Filters keep your home and family healthier

Cleaner air means a happier and healthier home. This is especially important during allergy and flu seasons as the filter helps to ensure that the bacteria in the air aren’t circulated causing more irritation or spread of viruses. 

Filters reduce dust and odors

Filters are able to catch dirt and odors before they are able to circulate throughout your home. This is an especially great benefit for homes with pets because pets can carry certain odors that you may not enjoy circulating throughout your home.

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.

HVAC

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. 

Energy-Efficiency

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:

Efficiency 

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.

Reliability 

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.

Cost-Effectiveness

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.

Warranty

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.

hvac repair

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. 

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