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Tired of digging the window unit out of storage, lugging it over to a window, and allowing the unit to occupy precious window space all summer?  If you do not have central ducts in your home, you are not stuck with window air conditioners as your only option to cool your home.  Ductless air conditioners offer the perfect solution for quiet, comfortable, and efficient temperature control.

Mitsubishi MrSlim MSZ series wall unit

 A few other benefits of ductless systems are their quiet, efficient operation.  We often hear from home and business owners that they have to struggle to hear the unit running.  Ductless air conditioners are generally more efficient than central air conditioners.  Reaching 17 SEER and higher is not uncommon with these units.  Many of these systems are available as a heat pump as well, which can be a great source of inexpensive heat.  About 80% of our customers chose a heat pump over a straight cool air conditioner.  Heat generated from a heat pump can reach 400% electrical efficiency, and operate at an outdoor temperature of -5 degrees celsius.  We will discuss in more detail how a heat pump operates in another blog. 

Mitsubishi MSZ series ductless heat pump
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Is there a stand alone central air conditioner that qualifies for the Federal Tax Credit

No, there is not a central air conditioner currently on the market that qualifies for the Federal Tax credit on it’s own. You need to install a furnace at the same time, with a variable speed blower to achieve the SEER and EER rating to qualify for the tax credit.

However, there are heat pumps on the market that will achieve a SEER and EER rating high enough to qualify for the Federal Tax Credit.  The price of a heat pump is more expensive than a straight air conditioner, however the tax credit cuts the cost of the system to a price close to that of a central air conditioner. 

A heat pump operates as an air conditioner in the summer months, and provides heat on cooler days down to about 30 degrees.  Here in Minnesota, a special thermostat with an outdoor temperature sensor knows when to switch over from the heat pump to the furnace.  This is known as “dual fuel” or “hybrid heat”.  A heat pump is an excellent hedge against volitile fossil fuel prices. 

To learn more about heat pumps, visit:  http://www.summitheating.com/heatpumps.html

Josh Mahoney- Summit Heating & Air Conditioning

White Bear Township, MN

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Should I have the fan on my thermostat set to “ON” or “AUTO”?

First, let’s understand what this switch does.  The furnace fan is responsible for circulating air throughout the home, in both heating and cooling season.  The fan will automatically turn on when the thermostat calls for heat or cooling.  If you desire the fan to run continuously, regardless of whether the thermostat is calling for heat or cooling, set the thermostat to the “ON” setting.  Leaving it on the “AUTO” means the fan will run only when there is a call for heat or cooling.

When would you want to have the thermostat set to “ON”?  Allowing the furnace fan to run continuously can help stabilize your home’s air temperatures.  Living in a home where you’re battling hot or cold spots, you may want to consider leaving your fan setting at “ON” to help circulate the air.  Another reason to keep your thermostat in the “ON” position, is cleaner air.  This is especially true of you have a high-efficiency air cleaner.  Refer to my post regarding air filters for more information on filtering your air.

There are a couple of negatives to consider when leaving your fan in the “ON” position.  The most obvious is higher electrical usage.  The average furnace blower when left in the “ON” position, will consume about $20-$30 per month.  A variable speed blower, however, will consume only about $6 per month when left on continuously. 

Another downfall to a continuous fan is humidity control in the summer months.  On days when the air conditioner is cycling on, humidity will be higher if the fan is in the “ON” position.  Higher humidity results from condensate from the damp evaporator coil re-evaporating into the airstream after the air conditioner turns off.  On my personal home, our humidity will go up about 9% if I leave the fan on “ON” in the summer.  9% is a lot of humidity.  In most cases it is best to leave your fan on “AUTO” in the summertime. 

Josh Mahoney- Summit Heating & Air Conditioning

White Bear Township, MN

http://www.summitheating.com

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Is your HVAC company sending out a salesman to tune up your furnace?

Do not hire a salesman to tune up your furnace.  Some HVAC companies intend to use a tune-up as an opportunity to sell you new equipment.  They will recommend a new furnace regardless of the condition of your equipment.  Imagine being pitched a new car every time you get your car serviced.  The first priority of a furnace tune-up ought to be making adjustments and ensuring a safely operating furnace.  If there’s a possibility that the furnace is unsafe,  the furnace appears to have poorly operating parts, or home comfort and efficiency issues exist, only then is it appropriate for the HVAC professional to discuss a new furnace. 

How do you know whether they’ll send out a salesman?  The biggest red flag is if the company asks the age of your furnace when the appointment is being made.  The age of the furnace should not matter.  Younger furnaces require the same tune up tools as the older ones.  They are deciding whether to send out a young tech, or a seasoned salesman.

Homeowners ought not be worried about being pressured into a new furnace on a yearly basis.  Most people are bombarded by sales techniques on a daily basis, and have become adept at avoiding a sales situation.  Keeping your furnace running safely and efficiently with an annual tune-up should be an experience that homeowners look forward to, and not an event to avoid. 

How do you avoid calling the wrong company?  Ask your friends and associates for recommendations. Word of mouth is one of the most important forms of advertising for most businesses. Ask your friends if they have used an HVAC contractor in the past, and if so, who they used. Ask they if they had a good experience with this company. 

Josh Mahoney- Summit Heating & Air Conditioning

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Which 1″ replacement air filter should I buy?

If your furnace accepts only 1″ filters, is important that you chose the right replacement filter for your furnace.  Choosing the wrong filter can lead to high utility costs, poor air circulation, and damage to your heating and cooling equipment.

Here’s the quick answer, chose the cheapest pleated air filter you can buy.  The keyword here is “pleated”.  Cheap pleated air filters can be found at your local  hardware store for about $2-$4. 

The absolute cheapest filter on the market, made of blue fiberglass, does not do an adequate job of capturing enough dust particles to keep your furnace clean.  So stay away from this filter.

 

The more expensive filters that assist with removal of allergens are not good for your furnace either.  These filters do a great job of filtering your air, but are also known as “furnace killers”.  Because the filters do such a good job filtering the air, they also restrict the airflow.  Restricting the airflow will cause the furnace’s operating temperature to increase.  In addition, the furnace’s circulating fan has to work harder, causing more electricity to be used.  This can also shorten the life of the furnace fan. 

An airflow restriction can be even more costly during air conditioning season.  The outdoor compressor relies on the furnace blower to adequately blow air over the evaporator coil.  Restricted airflow can lead to air conditioner compressor damage. 

The best way to clean your air, without worrying about an airflow restriction, is to have either a 4″ air cleaner installed, or a bypass HEPA cleaner. 

I prefer to install a 4″ media air cleaner that accepts filters that are readily available at any local hardware store.  Many major HVAC manufacturers attempt to lock in a customers’ repeat business, by offering an air cleaner that only accepts brand specific filters.  When the customer needs a new filter, they need to contact a dealer or order the special filters online.  I would much rather my customers have no trouble obtaining replacement filters for their furnace. 

The other option is a bypass HEPA cleaner, which mounts to the ductwork and is a supplement to a 1″ or 4″ air filter system.  Replacement filters for bypass HEPA air cleaners are not yet available at local hardware stores, and are only available through dealers or online.  However, serious allergy sufferers can certainly benefit from the power of a whole house HEPA air cleaner. 

Another way to ensure good indoor air quality is to have an air exchanger installed in your home.  An air exchanger provides a continuous supply of outdoor air to your home, while at the same time expelling stale air.  Today’s air exchangers can be equipped with a HEPA filter, ensuring that no allergens are introduced into you airstream.  A popular air exchanger is the Venmar HEPA 4100. 

For more information about keeping your indoor air clean, feel free to contact me at 651-775-1312 or by e-mail at josh@summitheating.com

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Which whole house humidifer should I chose?

There are 3 main types of whole house humidifiers that are integrated into a home’s heating system.   A whole house humidifier adds moist air to a home’s ductwork.  This type of humidifier taps into your home’s water line, so there is no need to worry about adding water.  Humidity is controlled through a humidistat, or a special thermostat with humidity control. 

The most popular humidifier type is the bypass humidifier.  With the bypass humidifier, the furnace fan forces air through a 6″ duct over a moist humidifier pad.  Advantages of the bypass humidifier is that it does not require 120 volt operation, it’s easy to maintain, and operates quietly.  Disadvantages include high water use (1/4 of the water gets transferred to your airstream), and a slight drop in airflow.  The airflow decrease could impact homes that have trouble getting full air circulation throughout the home. 

A power humidifier has a small fan that blows air over a moist humidifier pad.  The humidified air is blown into the ductwork by the fan.  This type of humidifier is advantageous in situations where a bypass humidifier cannot be installed, and a drop in airflow cannot be tolerated.  A disadvantage is additional 120 volt wiring may be necessary, and it consumes more energy than a bypass humidifier.

A steam humidifier heats a collection of water above it’s boiling point, and sends the steam to the ductwork through a special rubber hose.  Advantages to a steam humidifier include a 1 to 1 transfer of water to the airstream, and very flexible installation.  Disadvantages include high electrical consumption, and frequent cleaning.

My only experience with a steam humidifier is the Honeywell TrueSteam.  This humidifier has been out for about 2 years, and I’ve been testing a model in my home.  In the past 2 years, I’ve had to clean the unit about 7 times.  The humidifier has also overflown and leaked once.  Because of my personal experience with this humidifier, I am not recommending it to my customers.

What humidity level should I set it at?  That really depends on your home.  A good starting point is 30%.  I tell my customers to keep an eye on their windows.  If condensation is appearing on their windows, the humidity is too high.   As the outdoor temperature drops, the indoor humidity should be adjusted slightly lower as well.  Many humidifiers have an automatic function, that utilizes an outdoor temperature sensor to automatically adjust the humidity setting. 

How much does it cost?  Send us a photo of  furnace and attached ductwork to josh@summitheating.com, and we’ll send you a quote.  Also let us know what city you are located in. 

Josh Mahoney

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