Archive for June 2016

Are your utility bills too high?

According to Energy Star’s website, most homes have enough holes, gaps, and leaks that the air loss is equal to leaving a window open all day and all night. Combine that with the fact that many older homes like the ones we see in Oklahoma City and Edmond have insulation that is inefficient and insufficient—can you imagine how much energy is being lost that way?

If your utility bills seem too high, it’s likely that your insulation is contributing to that issue. One of the main reasons we find that customers purchase high-end heating and air conditioning equipment is to save money on utilities. But if you aren’t addressing your home’s insulation too, you could still be losing money!

Do you have enough insulation?

Determining if you have an insulation issue is outside of many people’s comfort zones, but there are a couple of things you can do to see if what you have is doing its job.

You can request a home energy audit from your utility company—if they don’t offer the service, they’ll be able to recommend you to someone who does. Often, they’ll perform the services themselves and it may not even cost you anything above your monthly bill.

Alternatively, you can check in your attic to see if your insulation is sufficient. To upgrade or install insulation, you’ll need to fix air leaks first. Can you see daylight in your attic? That means you have an air leak. Fixing that will help your HVAC unit work more efficiently.

3 main types of insulation

If you decide you do need insulation, here are the three main types you’ll come across.

1. Batts or blankets: You usually see this type rolled up. It’s made out of fiberglass (so you don’t want to touch it with your bare hands!) and is usually pink. It’s often used in walls.

2. Loose-fitting fiberglass: Instead of being packed into a batt, it’s loose fiberglass. You’ll usually find this in attics.

3. Spray-in foam: This is more commonly used in newer homes. It seals more completely than the other two types, so special ventilation is required.

Sufficient and efficient

It’s important to have enough insulation for your home. But it’s also important that the insulation you have is efficient. That’s measured by the R-value of insulation, which measures the resistance to heat flow through a given thickness of material.

While the R-value shouldn’t be your only consideration when choosing insulation, it does give you an idea of the efficiency potential of any given insulation.
Want to learn more about insulation for your home? Check out Houselogic’s take on insulation for more information!

Common causes of house fires

According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) there are 360,000 home structure fires per year. That’s almost a thousand house fires per day!

It amounts to six to eight billion dollars in damage every year, as well. And many house fires are preventable. You’re probably already being cautious about several things on this list, but it never hurts to have a reminder with something this serious.

Here are eight common causes of house fires from the NFPA, and ways to prevent them.

Live Christmas trees

This still causes 230 fires per year. If you have a live Christmas tree, keep it watered and get rid of it when you need to! Turning off the lights when you go to bed at night will also help. It’s a good idea to throw out any old Christmas lights you use on the tree and replace them with LED lights—they produce little to no heat so they’re a safer choice.

Children playing with fire.

This creates fires in 7,100 homes per year. These fires are overwhelmingly caused by males (83%). To prevent this, make sure you teach proper fire safety very early. Keep matches, lighters, and flammables out of kids’ reach.

Candles

Over 10,000 home fires per year are started because of a candle! Many of these fires started in the bedroom. Make sure to extinguish candles if you’re leaving the room or going to bed, and keep them away from flammable objects.

Smoking

Even with smoking in decline, this still caused 17,000 deaths in the most recent year recorded. To prevent this, smoke outside and have a safe receptacle for your butts.

Washer and dryer

There are 17,000 deaths per year caused by washer and dryer malfunction. Usually it’s the dryer. Sometimes it’s from mechanical malfunction but it’s more often caused by a lack of ventilation. Be sure to clean your lint screen at least every couple of loads, and make sure your dryer is vented outside the home. It’s also a good idea to clean out the dryer ventilation before it gets clogged.

Lightning

Lightning causes 22,000 home fires per year. Unfortunately, this cause isn’t very preventable. Normal surge protection for homes simply isn’t meant to handle the voltage of a lightning strike. To avoid damage to yourself and your things, though, avoid taking a bath or shower during a lightning storm and unplug your major electronics.

Electrical and lighting

This causes 47,000 fires per year, according to NFPA’s most recent data. Overheated lights, extension cord overuse, mechanical malfunction, and faulty wiring all contribute to this significant number.

There are steps you can take to prevent this, though. Always use licensed electricians—we can’t stress it enough! Use inside extension cords inside and outside extension cords outside, and don’t try anything tricky to add more plugs to a cord. It will create issues for you. Avoid leaving lights on for extended periods of time unattended, and when you’re replacing light bulbs, consider replacing them with LED lights that remain cool.

Cooking

This is still the number one cause of house fires. Cooking creates fires in 156,000 homes per year, often when people have left cooking on their range or stove unattended.

To prevent this, certainly don’t leave cooking unattended, but there are also some things you can do if a fire has started in your house. If it’s a fire in the oven, don’t open it! If there’s no oxygen, the fire will burn itself out. For grease fires, remember that water will only make it worse.

If you want to read more, check out NFPA’s website.

One big overarching tip based on these common causes of home fires: keep a fire extinguisher handy! They’re inexpensive and very important to have readily available in case of emergency.

Were any of these tips new to you? Do you have any suggestions for other homeowners to prevent home fires?

Reducing humidity in your home

While a humidifier in the winter can help keep your home more comfortable, humidity in the summer months is anything but comfortable. It’s not just uncomfortable—it can actually lead to mold and mildew!

How can you tell if your house’s humidity is a problem? Besides the obvious sticky feeling, here are things you may notice:

  • consistent condensation on glass doors and windows
  • mold around moist areas and on window frames—often it just looks like black dirt!
  • warping of woodwork and trim work
  • books showing signs of water damage
  • musty smells in the house
  • temperature feeling much hotter than the thermostat shows

If you’re looking for a scientific way to measure the humidity, a hygrometer will tell you how humid your room is, and you can get one for about $10-20. You can measure room by room with the hygrometer, preferably a couple times throughout the day, to get a specific reading of your humidity. You may only have humidity issues with only one or two rooms!

Here are three natural, free things you can do in your home to reduce humidity:

  • Ventilate! Move that air around. Open windows, run small fans and your exhaust fan if you can.
  • Take your houseplants outside. They increase humidity, which is great in the winter but not when It’s hot outside! it turns your house into a greenhouse.
  • Take shorter, cooler showers. Long, hot showers add humidity to the air.

You may also want to get a dehumidifier to address the issue. There are portable ones you can purchase just like a humidifier, but if humidity is a persistent issue in your house there are also large dehumidifiers you you can have installed with your heat and air system.

We can fix your humidity problem permanently with a professional solution, but we recommend trying a few of those options first—it’ll save you time and money if they reduce the humidity enough for your comfort!

If they don’t, we are happy to install a dehumidifier or add new exhaust and ventilation to your home or business, but you won’t hear us pressure you into it. If we discover there are underlying causes to the humidify that are out of our expertise (like window or roofing issues), we’ll be glad to recommend other contractors in the Edmond and Oklahoma City area who we respect.

5 reasons your AC may be blowing hot air

There are many reasons your air conditioning unit could be blowing hot air. Here are a few of the more common ones we’ve found in the Oklahoma City metro area. Some of these you can even diagnose yourself!

Thermostat issues

It may sound silly, but checking your thermostat could save you time, energy, and money! Is it set to “auto” or “on”? If it’s set on the “on” setting, that means it will be blowing air even when your unit isn’t actively cooling the air. That air will feel warm.

It’s a simple fix, though! Just change your setting back to “auto.”

Airflow restriction

This restriction could be caused by a really dirty filter or even dirty condenser coils in the outside unit. The airflow restriction will make it feel like you aren’t getting cool air from your vents. Over time, it will likely cause your outside compressor to freeze up, potentially requiring early replacement of your air conditioning and heating system.

To fix airflow restriction, make sure you’re changing your filters regularly. You can even clean your condenser coils—make sure the power to your unit is off first, though.

Not getting power

When a breaker trips and causes the lights to go out in a room, it’s easy to pinpoint the cause. A tripped breaker could also cut power to your air conditioning unit, though. Your inside unit may even still be running, blowing air that the outside unit isn’t cooling!

Check your breaker box or your fuse box panel to see if this is the cause of your warm air.

Needing refrigerant

Refrigerant is what makes the magic happen. If your unit is low or out of refrigerant, it can’t cool like it’s intended. It might even feel like your AC is broken.

If you suspect your refrigerant is low, it’s best to call a professional. It’s much easier for a professional to find and purchase the right refrigerant for your unit than for a homeowner to, and low refrigerant may even indicate a leak. If there’s a refrigerant leak, that typically means there are some underlying issues that a professional will need to address.

Ductwork issues

This is a less common cause of warm air in the home, but it’s possible that there is an issue with the ductwork itself. In recently built homes, the ductwork is flexible, but older homes have rigid ductwork and are more prone to issues. If something causes the duct to separate a bit, that would allow warm air into the flow and could interfere with your air conditioner’s ability to cool your home properly.

This is another cause of warm air that I’d recommend calling a professional for. But again, it’s not the reason most people have warm air flowing through their unit.

Especially during the hotter months, it’s important to remember that your air conditioning unit will typically be able to cool your home about 20-30° compared to the outside temperature. When it’s 105° outside, it’s highly unlikely you will be able to keep your home at 68° (unfortunately!). You can help your unit last longer by only cooling your home within that range.

If you’re not comfortable diagnosing the cause of the warm air yourself, it’s a good idea to call a professional. We charge $99.95 for a maintenance service, which includes a diagnosis, if you want to tune up your air conditioner.

Many of these issues can be fixed quickly but if your unit is completely not working, let us know when you call—that way we can make the best use of your time!