Author: MSCO

What's Gone Wrong With My HVAC System?

What’s Gone Wrong With My HVAC System?

Your heating and cooling system is complex and when it malfunctions, it’s completely natural to freak out a little bit. Not only does it adversely affect the comfort of your home, it could mean a pretty costly repair or even a replacement. But sometimes the root cause of what’s ailing your system can be deceptively simple. A clogged filter, worn-out batteries in your thermostat, a blocked vent, or another easy-to-fix issue may be the culprit. The good part – you can often take care of these things yourself and keep your HVAC system chugging right along for the summer.

Fix #1: Change or Clean Dirty Filter

By now, you already know how important it is to replace your air filter regularly. But if you find your system not to be operating properly, the first thing you should do is take a look at your air filter. A clogged filter prevents airflow meaning that the cool air isn’t able to be distributed throughout the home. In the summer time, condensation leaks can occur if the filter and system are too clogged with dirt to operate properly.

What's Gone Wrong With My HVAC System

Your fix for this is to turn off your unit, replace the filter with a clean new one, turn the AC back on, and give it a couple of hours to adjust and cool off. A dirty filter causes your system to work harder to perform the same amount of work and drives up your energy costs, meaning more wear and tear on your system and a shortened lifespan.

Fix #2: Wake Up Your Thermostat

Occasionally, you may find that the root of the problem lies in your thermostat. Here’s how to check: make sure your thermostat is set to the desired settings, and any programming is correct and current.  It may sound obvious, but make certain that you are in a/c mode for summer. After ensuring that everything is where it should be, try replacing the batteries. While you are doing that, be sure to look inside the battery housing to make sure there is no dust and debris that might be clogging it or broken wires. If you find loose or broken wires, or need any assistance at all, now is the time to call your MSCO HVAC expert to perform a more thorough inspection and repair.

Fix #3: Unblock Your Vents

The vents in your walls, floors, and ceilings are an essential element of your HVAC system; they deliver the heated and cooled air from the place of production, through the ductwork, and into the individual rooms of your home. In some systems, they can be controlled or closed manually to adjust the amount of heated or cooled air that’s being sent into the room but you should make sure that the individual vents are not being blocked. This could not only impede the airflow to that specific room but it can also put extra pressure on the duct system.  Keeping vents clear and open will help make sure that you stay cool and comfortable all summer long.

Fix #4: Check Your Power Status

What's Gone Wrong with My HVAC System

If nothing is running at all with regards to your HVAC system, it could actually be a wider problem with the electricity in your home. At this point you will want to check to make sure that your entire house has power. Checking the breaker panel to assure that everything is as it should be would also be a good idea. Also, homes with gas furnaces may have an emergency cut off switch. If this switch has accidently been turned off, the system may not operate. If everything checks out electrical wise, there may be more complicated issues. Which brings us to our last fix…

Fix #5: Call in the Big Guns

The majority of HVAC failures are caused by mechanical problems and these fixes are best left to the pros meaning you should not attempt them.  MSCO is ready, willing, and able to help with any home comfort problem you my encounter – big or small. As a homeowner, your best bet is to opt for a maintenance package and have an MSCO technician come and check your heating and cooling system twice a year. Curious as to what the technicians do during these visits? Check out this article.

HVAC Myths Busted

6 HVAC Myths Busted

These days, it can be hard to tell what is real and what is not. Information can be suspect, or even outright fiction. Today, we’re busting some common HVAC myths in hopes that it will help you in your quest for the truth about your home comfort system.

Myth #1: You can ignore your system’s filter.

We hope that by now we’ve made it abundantly clear that it is vitally important to change your filter often enough. Neglecting your filter can actually cost you a lot in the long-run while the upfront cost of buying a new filter is pretty low and absolutely worth it. Want to learn more about how a clogged filter can affect the entirety of your HVAC system? Read our article on what happens when you don’t change your HVAC filter.

Myth #2: You don’t need regular maintenance. Just suffer through repairs when your HVAC system breaks down.

We certainly hope you don’t believe this one. Have you heard the quote “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? We fully believe this is applicable to your HVAC system. Having consistent maintenance performed on your HVAC system routinely (twice a year) will keep your system operating at peak performance and help prevent expensive repairs and having to prematurely invest in an entirely new system before you are ready. Curious what goes on during these maintenance check-ups? Check out our maintenance basics article.

Myth #3: The bigger the HVAC system, the better.

We’ve heard it all before: bigger is better. Well, not in the case of your heating and cooling system. Get a system that’s too big and it will run hard, then shut off, and continue in this cycle of never-ending fluctuating temperatures, excessive humidity, and potentially a premature breakdown of your system. A system that’s too small will constantly be running at maximum capacity, resulting in higher energy bills. Reputable HVAC contractors will perform a load calculation to precisely match the proper size system to your home. If you’re in need of a new system, rely on one of our consultants to find the system that’s right for you.

Myth #4: Constantly tweaking your thermostat is a good thing.

Please don’t do this. There seems to be a common misconception floating around that cranking down your AC to a much lower temperature will cool the house down faster. In reality, turning your system up or down in stages, gradually is the best way to save energy. If you are constantly turning your system on and off, it can waste energy and drive up costs. The constant stopping and starting can put undue wear and tear on the system.  We highly recommend that you consider a programmable thermostat that will do all the work for you; you can set it to react properly when you’re out of the house and regulate your desired temperature before you return. For more energy efficiency tips, check out our article!

Myth #5: The placement of my thermostat doesn’t affect the system.

Incorrect. Your thermostat is the most visible and hands-on part of your HVAC system. But it cannot just be slapped up in any old place in the home. For example, if the thermostat is placed too close to vents, heat sources, or windows, it could read the internal temperature of your home incorrectly and either shut down the system entirely or possibly keep it running longer than necessary. Thermostat placement is a careful consideration, and varies in each home. Trust us, nothing involving your heating and cooling system should be done haphazardly.

Myth #6: An energy-efficient HVAC system is the only way to reduce my energy costs.

We love our state of the art high-efficiency HVAC systems.  Representing one of the most significant investments in your home, the energy savings can be enormous. While this is a great start, there are so many other ways to increase energy efficiency while also lowering your energy bill. Purchasing Energy Star rated appliances, unplugging things you don’t use often, even unplugging chargers when you are done with them can help save you money and reduce your energy usage. Check out our articles on Home Energy Efficiency Tips and Cooling Your Space Without Blasting the AC.

MSCO: Heating and Cooling Maintenance Basics

Heating and Cooling Maintenance Basics

One of the best ways to protect the investment that is your HVAC system is by participating in a maintenance program. As we discussed in “Should I Hire an HVAC Professional or Do It Myself?” your heating and cooling system requires maintenance that is essential to keeping it running smoothly over its lifespan. But you’ve probably wondered what exactly goes on during one of these maintenance appointments and how important it truly is. All you see is a contractor coming into your home with unrecognizable equipment, adjusting your thermostat, taking apart your outdoor unit, and messing with that strange box in your closet that you may not know the purpose of. So, keep reading to learn what exactly happens during these maintenance appointments, or contact MSCO to sign up for our maintenance plan.

Seasonal Specific Maintenance?

As we dive deeper into spring and soon enough into summer, you’re probably most concerned with the operation of the cooling elements of your HVAC system but it’s important to realize that this is all one system. So maintenance will be performed on the entire system during each appointment. No matter what the season, MSCO will make sure you receive a thorough and complete service with each maintenance visit.

Your home HVAC components are part of a complicated system with a lot of moving parts. In order to effectively maintain the comfort of your home all year long, we highly recommend you schedule semi-annual tune-ups. During this tune-up, one of our MSCO technicians will:

  • Clean or advise replacement of your air filter as needed. A clogged filter equals higher energy costs, poorer air quality, and a reduced life for your HVAC system.
  • Test thermostat – The brain of the system. We will test for proper operation and adjust settings as necessary.
  • Clean evaporator and condenser coils. Dirty and clogged coils reduce your system’s ability to effectively cool your home and cause the system to run harder. Dirt and neglect are the top causes of HVAC inefficiency and parts failure.
  • Check temperature readings. The technician will take readings, and if necessary, check your system’s refrigerant level.
  • Inspect and test major components. This includes the blower motor which affects the system’s airflow, the compressor, your condensate traps, and drain, and all electrical connections.
  • Clean outdoor unit. After your technician cleans the inside components of your condenser, the unit will be put back together – with the exterior being thoroughly cleaned and waxed.
  • Notify you of any parts that may need replacement.  Your technician will advise you of any issues that we may need to address.

Stay Comfortable All Year Long

No matter what type of heating and cooling system in your home – gas furnace, heat pump, basic or variable speed – it is important to keep it properly cleaned and all moving parts in good working order. When the season turns again to Fall and Winter, worry not – because your MSCO technician will have inspected all heat operations including connections, flame sensor, burner combustion, and heat exchanger. We will inspect safety controls and fan settings, as well as a heat pump system’s supplemental heat strips. A healthy heating and cooling system leads to a healthier and safer home.

Just like your car, your heating and cooling system needs routine maintenance in order to function properly for the entirety of its lifespan and avoid costly repairs. Our HVAC technicians are highly trained, certified, and armed with the best products and equipment to help identify the most affordable and energy efficient way to maintain the comfort level in your home. Contact us to sign up for our maintenance plan

How to Cool Your Space Without Blasting the AC

How to Cool Your Space Without Blasting the AC

Now that we are well into spring and moving toward the hotter months, it is inevitable that, at least here in Hampton Roads, we’re going to be experiencing some temperatures that’ll make us want to keel over in the house with the AC blasting. Sometimes, though – a minor home adjustment can be an effective method to deal with that thermometer number that keeps going up and up. Here are 7 ways to stay cool and save money:

#1: Use Your Blinds and Curtains

If you have untreated windows, you’re letting a shocking amount of unwelcome heat into your home. You’ll definitely want to add blinds and/or curtains in order to keep direct sun out. This is a great way to reduce the amount of incoming heat and it’s a nice enhancement to the home. Insulated or blackout curtains are especially helpful as they prevent sunlight and UV rays from entering the room, and as a bonus, they also help hold heat inside the room during the winter.

#2: Utilize Fans

Fans are a saving grace during the summer because even though they don’t actually decrease the temperature in the room, they do a great job of circulating the air, making you more comfortable and leaving you refreshed. It’s important to make sure that your fan is rotating counterclockwise during the summer; this pushes cool air downward and helps keep you feeling cooler without actually affecting the temperature of the room.

#3: Keep Your Fridge and Freezer Closed

As tempting as it may seem to leisurely browse the contents of your fridge on a hot day, you’re actually forcing your fridge and freezer to work harder, increasing the air temperature inside these appliances. Counteract this temptation by thinking about what you want to pull out before you even open it; maybe even make a list of the fridge and freezer’s contents to reduce the times you are actually opening it.

Here’s a fun little experiment to try:  While you already have the freezer open, grab some ice cubes and put them into a bowl. Place the bowl in front of a fan so that the airflow blows over the ice and creates a cool breeze. Then sit right in front of the fan. Ahhhhhhh….

#4: Cool Down with Evening Air

Cooler temperatures and low humidity in the evenings can be delightful in the springtime. Harness those lower temperatures by temporarily opening windows to strategically draw cooler air into the home. You can even enhance the effect by placing a small fan pointing into the room to draw the cool air from the outside in. As many of us work all day, and our homes are closed up – it can be refreshing to naturally air out our homes and enhance our comfort at the same time.

#5: Turn Your Lights Off

This isn’t just an energy saving tip. Light bulbs can give off a surprising amount of heat especially in smaller and upper-level rooms. Lamps and light fixtures can generate even more heat than ceiling lights so if you don’t need the light, its generally a good idea to turn it off.  Thankfully, with the longer daylight hours approaching, we will need less artificial lighting.

You can also switch to light bulbs that produce less heat than incandescent bulbs, like compact fluorescents and LED bulbs. But in general, it’s best to keep lights off during the hottest parts of the day to prevent overheating and excessive electricity usage, which leads to higher energy bills.

#6: Minimize Use of Appliances

It can be eye-opening when we learn how much heat your household appliances give off. We talked in our last article about how much energy operating your oven requires, but really – all of your appliances – from your slow cooker and countertop oven to your dishwasher and washer/dryer pair – are not always your friends during the summer. They can generate a lot of heat in order to perform their operations. Take measures to limit the use of the bigger appliances: utilize the smallest, less energy-intensive appliances you can to effectively cook your meals; cook in large batches; wash dishes by hand; and hand wash clothes and hang them to dry.

#7: Turn Off and Unplug Electronics

Televisions and computers can produce a great deal of heat so when they are not in use, leave them off.  Especially try to avoid leaving them on overnight so they are not just sitting there producing heat while you sleep. And when your electronics are off, unplug them too. Household electronics can still generate heat when they’re off and plugged in.

Enjoy the springtime weather, and prepare for the heat to come. In the meantime, we are always available to answer any questions you may have about warm weather comfort and ways to make your home cooler and more energy efficient.

Home Energy Efficiency Tips

Home Energy Efficiency Tips

Now that Spring has officially arrived, and you’re thoroughly cleaning your home, why not run through these home energy efficiency tips that will save you money and reduce your carbon footprint? At MSCO, we’re all about promoting better energy-use habits throughout your home, not just with your heating and cooling system – of course, there’s a little of that in here too.

Did you know that the average US household will spend about $2,000 on home energy this year? If you’re appalled by this statistic and want to learn some steps you can take to bring that number down, keep reading!

Outside the Home

Air Conditioning Unit

When you’re investing in new heating and cooling equipment, it’s important that you buy a unit that is the proper size and have it installed by a high-quality company. This is critical for your home’s energy efficiency and comfort.

Systems that are too big can cause reduced comfort and excessive noise. Bigger isn’t always better in this case as oversizing can actually cause it to cycle on and off more frequently than a properly-sized unit. On the other hand, systems that are too small can greatly reduce efficiency because they’re working overtime to produce the same amount of work as a properly-sized system; plus it accelerates wear and tear on system components, leading to early failure and costly repair and/or replacement.

Car/Garage

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, giving your car a break every now and then is one of the best ways. You can combine trips instead of making lots of little ones, use mass transit, walk, or bike when possible. Keeping your car well-maintained and up-to-date on its annual inspections maximizes fuel efficiency, safety, and reliability in your vehicle. Any easy way to ensure you are getting max efficiency out of your car is to check your tire pressure regularly to avoid unnecessary wear and tear and decrease gas mileage, which can result from under-inflated tires.

Door Sweeps

Air leaks are one of the largest sources of heat loss during the winter and air conditioning escaping during the summer. Air leaks can often happen under the door leading from your house to the garage because they often aren’t sealed as effectively as doors leading directly outside. Ensure that there are door sweeps under every door leading outside but especially under this one that is often neglected. Sealing the gap between the bottom of the door and the threshold helps to prevent the inside air from escaping your home.

Attic

The attic is one of the biggest culprits for air leaks but because of the attic’s general accessibility, it is easy to seal and insulate it to improve the home’s comfort and energy performance. A quick way to determine if your attic needs more insulation is to look across the uncovered attic floor. If the insulation is level with or below the attic floor joists, you most likely need more.

Ducts

Ducts distribute conditioned air throughout the home making them the driving force of your heating and cooling system. In a typical house, about 20% of the air moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, rips, holes, and poorly connected ducts. Look for any signs that point to leaking ducts and have them sealed using either mastic or metal tape.

Chimney

As you’re going through and adding insulation to your attic, make sure you are only placing it where you find leaks. For example, chimneys or furnace flues that penetrate your attic floor may have gaps and holes around it that allows air to escape your home, causing more drafts. Around these parts, you should cover the gaps with metal flashing and caulk small gaps with high-temperature caulk as chimneys and furnace flues can get hot.

Kitchen

There are some easy fixes you can make to your kitchen appliances to improve the energy efficiency of your home and save on energy bills.

Refrigerator

ENERGY STAR recommends keeping your temperature range between 35° and 38°F to keep food fresh but also keep from wasting energy. Otherwise, follow the temperature recommendation that accompanies your fridge to avoid excessive cooling.

Did you know that refrigerators and freezers operate most efficiently when they are full (but not overflowing)? This is great because that extra freezer that you have in your garage for overflow storage, you know the one, is costing you more money than you might think. You could save $300-$700 by not running a second refrigerator over the next 5 years, according to ENERGY STAR, so if possible, you should properly recycle your second and fill the first.

Dishwashers

Believe it or not, rinsing dirty dishes before loading the dishes uses a lot of water and turning the sink on and off uses a lot of energy. Instead, save water by scraping the dishes then running the dishwasher only with a full load. It’s also recommended that you run your dishwasher and clothes washer/dryer at night as it will emit air, keeping the house cooler and it’ll reduce strain on the power grid if you avoid peak washing times between the hours of 4 and 6 PM.

Range/Oven

It’s in your best interest to use the right sized pot on stove burners. For example, using a 6” pot on an 8” burner wastes over 40% of the burner’s heat and emits unnecessary heat into the home, bringing the indoor temperature up. If you have a gas range, keep the burners clean and clear for maximum efficiency.

When it comes to the oven, using it as little as possible is the best way to go. If possible, employ your microwave, stove top, or toaster oven rather than turning on your oven. When you do use the oven, avoid peeking while your food bakes; every time you open the oven door, the temperature drops 25° F, making your oven use more energy to maintain the temperature. Save even more energy by turning the oven off a few minutes before cooking time runs out; the residual heat will continue to cook the food without using extra electricity.

Basement

The basement, like the attic, is a great place to start making energy-efficient improvements from the appliances to the heating and cooling equipment. There are several steps that are important to improve your home’s energy efficiency, save on energy bills, and reduce your carbon footprint.

Your Heating and Cooling System

Dirt and maintenance irregularity are the two biggest causes of an inefficient heating and cooling system. It’s critical to regularly change your filter and schedule routine maintenance check-ups performed by a certified technician. If your HVAC system is an older model and is nearing the end of its lifespan, replacing it will save you money and energy.

As much as half of your household energy is used by heating and cooling so replacing your system with one that’s more energy efficient one is a great way to save. In addition to replacing your old system, getting a system that is the right size, scheduling regular maintenance, sealing your air ducts, installing a programmable thermostat, and adding insulation are great DIY methods of increasing efficiency and lowering your energy bill.

Washing Machine & Dryer

Whenever possible, wash your laundry in cold water and only run the washing machine when you have a full load – or reduce the amount of water if you want to wash a partial load. Hot water heating accounts for about 90% of the energy your machine uses to wash clothes (the other 10% goes to electricity used by the washer motor).

If you are ready to replace your old washing machine, an energy-efficient model, which reduces water consumption with a better spin cycle and lower drying time, is a worthwhile investment.

When it comes to drying your clothes, you don’t want to over-dry them; the best way to do this is to get a dryer with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off when the clothes are dry. Just like with your washing machine, only run full loads or reduce the drying time for partial loads. It’s also a good idea to run loads made up of similar fabrics so that the entire load dries in relatively the same amount of time. The lint trap is also an important energy saver and should be cleaned out after every single load.

Should I Hire an HVAC Professional or Do It Myself?

Should I Hire an HVAC Professional or Do It Myself?

How many YouTube videos does it take to maintain an HVAC system?

Oh, that’s not how the joke goes?

Well, either way, there are a lot of YouTube tutorials out there showing viewers how to perform different services on their heating and air conditioning system. Some can be useful and informative, but others may leave you confused and attempting to follow them can be difficult and dangerous.

Ask Yourself: How big is the job?

Smaller things like changing a filter or cleaning around the system are things that, as a homeowner, you can easily take care of yourself. You can perform these maintenance chores safely and relatively easily, especially with full knowledge of the different elements of your HVAC system.

As the jobs become more involved, they require a well-trained and experienced professional. Did you know attempting to install your own HVAC system can have serious legal ramifications? This is in part because you must carry the correct certifications in order to avoid contributing to environmental damage.  All types of refrigerant used in modern HVAC systems require a certified technician to properly install or remove and recover them from the system. Accidentally venting refrigerant into the atmosphere is potentially damaging and very illegal, with fines of up to $10,000 for just a single incident.

Safety

A significant reason that extensive repair and installation of your HVAC equipment is best left to professionals is safety. Potential dangers involving electrical wiring, and/or natural gas lines exist. If the air conditioning equipment is not properly installed or repaired, the electrical wiring could become a fire hazard. Electrical issues are one of the most common causes of house fires. If you heat your home with a gas furnace, gas leaks could result from improper or incorrect handling of the gas lines or valves.

When it comes to the heating system, improper wiring can once again be a risk but an even more grave concern is carbon monoxide emissions: a silent killer. It’s odorless and colorless but extremely poisonous. Anytime you burn heating fuels like oil or gas, carbon monoxide is naturally produced as a result. A properly installed system is designed to expel those gases as they are produced. Making sure that ALL repairs are performed by a qualified technician can prevent potential problems.

Choosing the Right System

Like we mentioned in “What is the Lifespan of My HVAC System?”, maintaining a good relationship with a quality HVAC provider is key to understanding how to choose the best system for your home and budget. Although it may appear that the professional companies are quoting you more expensive systems they are actually helping you select the best solution for your home.

If you were to attempt to piece together a system on your own, even if you could legally purchase the equipment – you may not get the results you expect. Getting the right system depends on the size of your home, the layout, and your criteria for a comfortable environment.

With a system that is too big, it will run hard, then shut off, and continue this cycle. This leads to temperatures constantly fluctuating throughout the home. Excess humidity is not pulled from the air as it should be. This is also going to put wear and tear on your system, causing it to prematurely break down.

If the system is too small, it will constantly run at maximum capacity and likely still not keep your whole house comfortable. Once again you run the risk of higher energy bills because the system is constantly working overtime.

Professional HVAC contractors have the training and experience to help you choose the perfect system so that you don’t need to worry about making any of these calculations yourself.

DIY Maintenance

As we have seen, while there are certain elements of your HVAC system that you cannot install on your own, there are several maintenance steps that you don’t always have to call in the pros to perform.

1) Change Your Filters.

Neglecting your filters can cost you big time: when you don’t change your filter as frequently as you should, its ability to clean the air diminishes. The filter will accumulate dirt and grime that jams the porous surface of the filter and eventually restricts the airflow that your system needs to work properly. This forces your HVAC system to work harder and run longer and increases your energy bill as a result.

Changing your filters can be a fairly quick and easy job but it has a profound impact on the efficiency of your system. Your MSCO technician will show you during your maintenance visit how to change your filter and which filters will be most effective in your system.

2) Clean Around Your Outdoor Unit.

Cleaning around the condenser of your HVAC system (the outdoor unit) is important in ensuring proper airflow within the system. If you have a heat pump, this involves year-round maintenance including snow removal, cutting back vines and branches, and controlling falling leaves. If you have an air conditioner, covers are available to protect the unit when it is not being used.

Now that it’s warming up and you absolutely will be using your condenser – you’ll want to remove anything potentially restricting the unit. This includes raking back leaves and clearing debris from around the sides of the condenser and cutting back branches and vegetation surrounding it at least two feet in all directions.

3) Keep Indoor Registers Clean.

Your heating and cooling system uses ducts to distribute conditioned air throughout the house. These ducts terminate in a series of specialized metal “boots” that are capped by a register or grille in the walls, ceilings, and floors of your home.  

These registers are the direct way that heated or cooled air is delivered to each room, and they need a little care to keep doing their job. Make certain that registers are not blocked or restricted by furniture or other decorations in the room. They need plenty of space to perform properly. Make sure that the internal louvers in each register are either open or adjusted as desired to maintain proper airflow. There will be a lever or knob to adjust each one.

Take care when performing house cleaning chores that registers or grilles are not accidentally scratched or damaged. They should be kept clean and dry in order to prevent rusting. If airflow from an open register is diminished or non-existent it may mean that the duct attached to it has become disconnected and may need to be repaired.

Taking these steps, you can safely help maintain your own HVAC system and assist your HVAC professionals in keeping your home more comfortable.

Contact us online  or call at 757-418-8305 today, to learn more about HVAC installation, DIY maintenance tips, and for all your home comfort needs and concerns.

Your HVAC System Part-by-Part

Your HVAC System Explained: Part-by-Part

As a homeowner, you probably have many questions about your HVAC system. Now you may have never thought about becoming an HVAC expert in your free time, but with our help, you can at least be familiar with the most basic components and what they do.

Your HVAC System Part-by-Part

Inside Your Home

Thermostat

Mounted on a prominent, easily accessible wall, the thermostat is the most visible and interactive part of your HVAC system. Either programmed in advance or set manually, your thermostat directs your system to keep your home at the desired temperature. When the temperature in your house gets too hot or cold, the thermostat will trigger your HVAC system to start circulating air as needed.

Furnace / Air Handler

Your furnace or air handler is the other inside portion of your HVAC system. Typically these are located in your garage, basement, attic, or a special closet designated for this purpose.

The furnace or air handler is designed to heat or cool air which is then distributed to different parts of the home via ductwork. Fossil fuel burning furnaces and electric air handlers are utilized for this purpose, depending on the type of system in your home.

Evaporator Coil

The evaporator coil is used in conjunction with your furnace. It is located within a separate metal enclosure installed adjacent to the furnace itself.

To simplify a much more complicated process, refrigerant is pumped into the evaporator coil and, like a cold glass of water on a warm day, the coil pulls the heat from the air as it passes over the coil and cools it at the same time. The cool air is then circulated through the ductwork.

Ductwork

Ductwork refers to the system of ducts, which you might compare to pipes or channels, that transport air – warmed or cooled by the system – to various parts of your home.

They are most often made of lightweight aluminum but are also manufactured from steel, flexible plastic, polyurethane, or fiberglass.

Vents

These are the outlets that help deliver the heated and cooled air from the duct system into the individual rooms of your home. Made of high-and low-temperature safe metal or similar materials, the vents are located on the ceiling, upper parts of walls, or in the floor. Each vent is fronted with angular slats that direct the in a particular direction.

In certain applications, they can be controlled or even closed manually to control the amount of heated or cooled air that’s being sent into the room. Otherwise, care should be taken to not block or impede the airflow from vents as this will affect the overall comfort of your home.

Outside Your Home

Condensing Unit

Connected to the inside evaporator coil by special refrigerant lines, the condensing unit is installed on the outside of your home. This unit contains the compressor – which can be likened to the heart of your heating and cooling system. When refrigerant is cooled by the cold air passing over it, the condensing unit pumps that liquid to the evaporator coil to be evaporated into gas once more. It is a continuous cycle during the operation of the system – with the refrigerant gas being continually compressed and cooled for conversion back to a liquid again.

Refrigerant lines

These narrow metal tubes carry the refrigerant in gas form to the condensing unit and then back to the evaporator coil in liquid form. These tubes, made of a durable heat- and cold-resistant metal such as copper or aluminum, bridge the gap between your home’s indoor and outdoor units.

If you have additional questions regarding your HVAC system and what each part does, or if you realize that system may be overdue for some maintenance, give us a call: (757) 418-8305.

Ask the Experts: What If I Don’t Change My HVAC Filter?

Ask the Experts: What If I Don’t Change My HVAC Filter?

Changing your HVAC filter. You know you are supposed to do it. Your HVAC technician told you how important it is. But did you do it? Is it really that important? What’s the big deal if you don’t change them?

You may be surprised how expensive it may be to neglect that poor little filter.

Clogged Filters = Higher Energy Costs

When a filter is not changed as frequently as recommended, its ability to clean the air diminishes. The accumulation of dirt and grime eventually causes the once porous surface of the filter to be jammed up and solid. This eventually restricts vital airflow that your system must have to work properly.

End result – you have made your HVAC system’s job much more difficult, as it must work harder and run longer. Increased amperage draw requires more power costs. System cost efficiency is reduced. You have just caused your energy bills to increase.

Ignoring Filters = HVAC Lifespan Reduction

Now that your filter is clogged, your system needs to work harder to keep your home comfortable. Your issues don’t end with the higher bills, though. Coils and other vital components become mired with muck and grime – causing them to not work properly.

Condensation drain lines can become clogged – resulting in possible water damage to your home. The increased wear and tear can also shorten the lifespan of your system.

Keeping that filter clean will allow your HVAC system to run its entire lifespan cleanly and efficiently, and you will enjoy years of comfort before you have to worry about investing in a replacement system.

Changing Filters = Better Air Quality

When air is unable to pass through your filter and circulate throughout the system, it cannot be cleansed of airborne dirt. All of the particles of dust and allergens in your home are able to stay in the air because the filter is not able to do its job. Clean, filtered air is better for your HVAC system and better for your family too.

Expert Note:

The Air Scrubber Plus is a device that uses its ActivePure Technology to purify the air and help eliminate home pollutants like smoke, mold, chemical odors, bacteria, and odors caused by pets and cooking.

Air Scrubbers perform these tasks using UV light waves along with a proprietary catalytic process that creates enviroscrubbing molecules of oxygen and hydrogen. These scrubbing molecules work 24/7 in your home, continuously reducing airborne contaminants, helping to eliminate odors and surface dust.

 

Your MSCO technician can help you determine how the Air Scrubber Plus can enhance your HVAC system.

Winter HVAC Maintenance Guide graphic

Your Winter HVAC Maintenance Guide

With the winter holiday season quickly approaching and our first snow already having fallen (a little prematurely we would say), now is the perfect time to service your heating equipment for the plunging temperatures ahead. Nothing is worse than waking up on a cold, wintry morning to find that your heater’s given out.

As a rule, a poorly maintained system will result in higher utility costs as well as more expensive repairs.  With a little preventative TLC, your house will be warm, efficient, and ready for the cold weather.

Here are some other tips to help keep yourself in the clear until spring:

Change your Filters

This is one of the easiest maintenance tasks and yet one of the most forgotten. Dirty filters can prevent the flow of air and as a result, your system is using more energy to deliver less heated air to your home. Really not a great deal money-wise, huh?

The harder your system works, the higher your heating bill and the more likely it will break down prematurely, which means spending even more money on expensive repairs.

Let’s avoid that hassle and change the filters as frequently as necessary. Here’s an entire article we wrote on how to choose an effective filter for your system based on its MERV rating.

Improve Your Insulation

You didn’t think that your home’s heating system was little more than a furnace, right? It’s a whole system of parts including vents, ducts, wiring, and registers, all of which work far more effectively if your home is sufficiently insulated.

Check the insulation, namely in your attic and crawl spaces. Look for bare areas in your attic or where the insulation has been compressed.  Check for water damage on the ceiling and attic walls, because water infiltration will make your insulation ineffective.

If you unsure what you should look for, call us to schedule an inspection.  Not only do we provide a complete service with a report for your heating system, but we will also visually inspect your attic. During our inspection, if we see any other areas that might be problems, we will also let you know you might want to contact your pest company.  Don’t worry, we got you!

Check and Reprogram Your Thermostat

If you don’t already have one, we strongly recommend investing in a smart or programmable thermostat. If you already have one, take this time to check the batteries in your thermostat and reprogram it to suit your winter needs. We recommend setting your thermostat to a cooler temperature at night and while you’re out of the house then raising the temperature back when you’re home.

Here’s a whole article on how to save money on your heating bill this winter.

Prepare Your Fireplace

While fireplaces are a great source of heat and can allow you to turn down your heating system and, in turn, save you money, they need proper maintenance just like every aspect of your HVAC system. We would recommend having a chimney sweep (no, those don’t just exist in Mary Poppins) come out at least once a year. Professionals remove the tar, soot, and debris that could pose as a potential fire hazard and make sure there’s no structural damage to your chimney.

Have an HVAC Professional Tune-Up Today!

HVAC systems are complicated, but not for us! If you schedule a service visit with us, we’ll make sure your system is prepared for the cold winter ahead and make recommendations for how to make your system operate more efficiently before we even make those changes. Changes that could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.

Pros and Cons: Whole-House vs. Portable Humidifiers

Pros and cons: whole-house vs. portable humidifiers

As winter settles in, dry air becomes a problem for many people. If you’re experiencing symptoms like severely chapped lips, coughing, and even nosebleeds, you’ve probably considered getting a humidifier. Sounds like a good plan, but here are several things that’ll guide you through this purchasing decision.

Whole-House Humidifiers:

  • Are normally installed in your HVAC system
  • Service every room in the home
  • Require a water line to the unit
  • Do not require refilling
  • Have a drain line with water flowing during operation
  • Have a filter that requires replacement yearly
  • Can be very expensive to install
  • Only work while the system is operating

Portable Humidifiers:

  • Are normally freestanding
  • Services specific areas in your dwelling
  • Require frequent refilling of the water reservoir
  • Require no drain line
  • Are unlikely to cause a water leak
  • Are very moderately priced
  • Many models work even when your HVAC system is not on

While some HVAC companies might recommend equipping your home with a system-installed humidifier, which works to add moisture to the air in your whole house, we try to give our customers as many different factors as possible so they can make an informed decision.

Our Recommendation for Humidifiers

If you choose a whole-house humidifier we offer several brands depending on your needs.  Call us and we will be happy to help you select the right one for you.

If you decide that a portable is your best choice, Grainger makes some of our favorite portable units. This humidifier features a digital display for accurate humidity-level readings so that you can adjust it to your personal preference and it allows you to control the amount of air and noise the machine gives off. They run for about 55 hours at a time, requiring you fill it’s 5-gallon reservoir every 2 days.

If you’re not looking for something that high-tech, you can usually find a small unit at your local Target or Walmart for $20-$30.

Both products are going to give off moisture that can combat the effects of dry air and are easy to clean and maintain. To do so, follow the instructions that come with your unit but simply put, empty the excess water, wipe out the unit after every use, and don’t leave it running when you aren’t using it.  

If you clean your unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions, you will have an effective and low-risk solution to your dry air problem.

msco energy savings agreement esa

What is the MSCO Energy Savings Agreement?

You may have heard it said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We see this all the time when it comes to HVAC maintenance. Over the lifespan of your HVAC unit, routine maintenance not only saves you the headache of more frequent (and inconvenient) repairs, but it actually will save you money in the long run.

Meet the MSCO Energy Savings Agreement

Our Energy Savings Agreement (ESA) is a comprehensive preventive maintenance program that we’ve specifically designed to extend the life of your HVAC system.

The purpose of our ESA is to reduce operating costs while identifying potential failures through routine inspections including during non-peak periods.

Now, because we keep your equipment cleaner, the system’s reliability and efficiency increases, maximizing air quality and lowering operating costs. We identify potential issues during routine maintenance so repairs are complete before severe weather conditions or shortages of repair parts.

MSCO ESA graphics

What You Get with our Energy Savings Agreement

With our ESA, you don’t just get a healthier system. Of course, there’s our priority service, which includes:

  • Discounts off replacement systems
  • No overtime charges for emergency services
  • Automatic documentation of service to address any warranty requirements
  • Usually same day, significant discounts off our labor charges
  • Non-advertised specials for accessories exclusive to our ESA customers

How the ESA Helps MSCO Provide Better Service

The routine maintenance we provide is not only of benefit to you, but it is an integral part of our company’s service structure.

All of our technicians go through our carefully designed training program as well as year-round employment (we never need to “shake off the rust”). We are always recruiting, training, and retaining a high quality, professional workforce that you can trust in your home.

But in addition to our training program, our ESA customers provide our technicians first-hand experience identifying and monitoring our customers’ HVAC systems, allowing them to recognize proper operation versus a system that’s not running optimally.

This allows our employees to become more familiar with all the equipment we install by increased frequency of operation. And, since most repairs are discovered during maintenance, employees have work even during non-peak periods.

Interested in Our ESA?

If you would like to know more about our Energy Savings Agreement, let’s chat! We are dedicated to saving you time, headache, and of course, money. Let’s see how we can help you!

Contact Us

VB Home Rehab Program

Virginia Beach Program Helps Homeowners with HVAC Costs

If you are in need of some safety-related repairs to your home, specifically your HVAC system, we have a resource you will want to check out. A program put on by the city of Virginia Beach can help you get the money you need to fix safety-related issues in your home.

This program is called the VB Housing and Neighborhood Preservation Owner-Occupied Rehabilitation Program.This program assists eligible homeowners repair and replace defective HVAC equipment with the help of grants and loans.

“Keeping your home in good repair protects your investment and helps everyone enjoy a better quality of life. Sometimes it’s difficult to afford necessary repairs and improvements.”
Virginia Beach Housing & Neighborhood Preservation

The program’s goal is to provide affordable home rehabilitation and repairs to low- and moderate-income homeowners in Virginia Beach. With the loans and grants provided, applicants can afford emergency home repairs in order to remove health and safety hazards, correct certain code violations, and make changes to the home’s exterior.

What the Virginia Beach Program Does

Virginia Beach offers eligible homeowners, dependent upon your level of income and the type of repairs needed, either a grant or an affordable loan (to be paid back over an extended period of time) to fix up their house.

These repairs could be to bring your home up to code, to fix health or safety risks, to make your home accessible to physically impaired individuals, and/or to replace defective housing equipment. All of these changes can be made to mobile homes as well.

The program offers three types of assistance.

1. Emergency Assistance

Emergency assistance deals with existing or imminent health and/or safety hazards, making necessary changes to allow a physically disabled resident to stay in their home. This assistance provides eligible applicants with an unsecured grant up to $10,000, a secured grant, or a deferred loan.

Eligibility requirements an be found here.

2. Home Rehabilitation

Home rehabilitation provides assistance to bring your home up to code by correcting select code violations. It comes in the form of a 20-year deferred loan.

Eligibility requirements an be found here.

3. Mobile Home Rehabilitation

provides rehabilitation/repairs need to remove any existing safety violations, make exterior repairs, correct code violations or make physical modifications for physically or sensory disabled mobile homeowners. This type of assistance is available to owner-occupied properties in the form of an unsecured grant up to $5,000.

Eligibility requirements an be found here.

Getting Help with your HVAC Repairs

We felt that our customers should know about this program because we are well aware that quality HVAC work doesn’t come cheap, but they are also a necessity in maintaining your household.

After receiving your grant or loan, you can come to us and our highly-qualified technicians will work with you to help get your home back in shape.

If you have questions about the repairs you need and the safety of your home, please call us or email us here!

For a complete list of the provided services, program details, and eligibility requirements, visit www.vbgov.com/home-rehab.

How MERV Ratings Work

How MERV Ratings Work

Are you having problems with your air quality? Are you looking to improve your air filtration? Then you’ve probably come across a very important term – MERV ratings. So, what is a MERV Rating?

MERV – Air Quality, Efficiency, and So Much More

MERV, or the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, tells you how effective your air filter is on a scale from one to 16.

The higher the MERV rating on a filter, the fewer airborne particles and other contaminants floating through the air can pass through it.

There are two different factors that play into the MERV rating: (1) The ability to remove large particles that are between 1-10 microns that may include pet dander, pollen, dust mites, debris, etc; and (2) The filter’s ability to remove submicron particles that are smaller than 1 micron.

If you’re not sure how small a micron is (we don’t blame you), take a look at this chart to get an idea of what gets through at each MERV Rating level.

MERV Rating Infographic

The MERV Rating Scale

Here’s how Air Filter MERV Ratings work:

  • MERV 1 to 4: less than 20% of large particles (3 to 10 microns) are picked up
  • 5 to 7: 20-69% of large particles are picked up
  • 8 to 10: Approximately 85% of large particles and 50% of small particles (1.0 to 3.0 microns) are picked up
  • 11 to 16: Over 90% of large particles and 70-90% of small particles are picked up
  • 17 to 20: Even the smallest of particles (< 0.3 microns) are picked up

What MERV Rating Should I Choose?

As we previously mentioned, filters are tested for pollen, textile and carpet fibers, mold spores, dust, pet hair, bacteria and tobacco smoke. Most residential systems can adequately remove these contaminants with a filter rated MERV 7-12. Higher ratings (13-16) are typically found in hospitals and settings where exposure to bacteria can be particularly harmful.

You want to keep two main factors to consider when considering what kind of filter you use while keeping your budget in mind. (The wrong MERV rating and filter can actually damage your system too!)

1. Filters Need to Match Your Environmental Needs

Every home or office is different. For example, a dog owner is going to have more air quality concerns than a home without a furry friend. You should ask your trusted HVAC specialist what kind of filter will take care of your specific needs.

We would be more than happy to help!

2. Filters Will Affect Your HVAC Efficiency

When considering what MERV rating you will use, it’s important to note that your system’s efficiency is greatly impacted by your filtration. The more your filter catches, the faster it gets clogged. This results in either more frequent replacements or lower efficiency, both costing you money.

A Higher MERV Rating Can Damage Your System

When some people upgrade their MERV rating, they keep their standard 1″ filter, but this can actually damage your system. Here’s how:

  1. Because your filter is now catching more particles, it will fill up faster.
  2. Because it fills up faster, you need to replace your filter more frequently.
  3. If you don’t replace your filter more frequently, your system will need to work harder to push air through the clogged filter.
  4. Your motor will overwork and get burned out far more quickly, costing you anywhere from $300-$800.

If you’re going to get a higher MERV rating, ask about if you need a thicker filter. With your standard filter, the 1″ pleats will fill up more quickly than a thicker filter with 4-5″ pleats. The thicker the filter, the more filter material there is to fill up.

A great example is the Trane Perfect Fit Media Filter as seen below.

While 1″ filters are relatively cheap, they are replaced more often and result in lower system efficiency than something like the Trane Perfect Fit filter. It features around 30 feet of total filtration material (compared to the 1.5 feet in a standard 1” filter) that’s a higher quality. This allows it to provide maximum air quality without sacrificing efficiency.

Better yet, Trane recommends you only have to replace this filter once every six months!

If you need a higher MERV Rating on your filter, reach out to us, and we will help you find the perfect fit for your air filtration needs and budget.

Trane Perfect Fit

Discovering the Trane Perfect Fit Media Filter (Video)

Today we’re going to talk about how important air filtration is to your home.

How often do you change the filter in your home? Was it last month? Two months ago? Six months ago? When’s the last time you actually thought about changing it? Have you changed it recently?

You’re supposed to change your air filters in your home, a standard air filter, every month, every 30 days. Most people don’t.

The top three reasons that we believe you should are:

  1. To protect your system, protect the investment
  2. To protect the quality of air in your home
  3. Improved energy efficiency

But does it really get that bad in 30 days? Yes… It does. It actually does. If you don’t change it, you’ll have unhealthier air and a less efficient system, driving up your energy bill as your filter becomes more clogged.

Introducing the Trane Perfect Fit Media Filter

What makes Trane’s Perfect Fit Media Filter so much better?

In a standard 1” filter, if you were to take the material and stretch it out, you’d have about a foot and a half, 18 inches of filter material.

What makes Trane’s Perfect Fit Media Filter so much better? The filter material itself has bigger pleats than the standard one inch filter. There’s over 30 feet of filter material in here that is of higher quality, which also gives it a longer lifespan.

It catches harmful pollutants faster with higher quality mesh, and the 30 feet of material allows it to effectively run longer.

Why It’s Popular with Homeowners

Trane recommends you replace the Perfect Fit Media Filter once every six months. In some homes, we actually have seen them last up to a year!

And what about cost? What’s the difference between your standard 1” filter and the Trane Perfect Fit Media filter?

To keep your air clean in your home, manufacturers recommend you change this filter once a month. This is an $8 filter, so over the course of a year, you’re looking at around $100 a year.

Whereas the Trane Perfect Fit Media Filter, if you change it once every six months as recommended, it cost you a little more than $20 extra per year.

Learn More About the Trane Perfect Fit Media Filter

Check out the Trane Perfect Fit Media Filter. It saves you money, keeps air in your home cleaner and healthier, and you don’t have to change it every month.

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