Archive for January 2017

How to prepare for an unexpected power loss

While you can lose power to your home any time during the year, the most common time for us to lose power here in central Oklahoma is during a severe winter ice storm. This can be more than a simple inconvenience—it can be a matter of life and death for some families.

Of course, we don’t know if this winter will bring any ice storms or widespread power outages, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Stock up on these essentials

1. Medications: Do you take regular medications? See if you can purchase your medicines in a 90-day supply instead of the commonly prescribed 30-day amounts.

2. Battery-powered emergency radio: Many weather-aware Oklahomans already have a battery powered radio, but then again, many families we’ve visited with don’t have one. If you don’t have one and aren’t sure how to choose the right model for you, this is a helpful article.

3. Phone charger for vehicle: A lot of us depend on our smart phones, which conveniently need a charged battery to operate. A car phone charger can keep that phone battery charged and keep you plugged in.

4. Dry foods and water: Having a two- to four-week supply of dry goods and water is a smart idea, extreme weather notwithstanding. If a storm shuts down supply lines, most grocery stores will run out of food within a few days, so it’s best to have some food and water on hand.

5. Portable generator fuel: If you’re fortunate enough to have a portable generator for your home, make sure you keep a decent stock of fuel for it. During a sustained power loss, most gas pumps won’t work properly.

Preventive steps you can take

Luckily for us, Oklahomans are highly weather aware. Our news channels largely do a wonderful job of preparing us for upcoming inclement weather. Here’s a small list of things we strongly recommend considering if you learn that significant winter weather is on the way.

1. Trim tree branches: Falling tree limbs can cause major damage to your property and pull down electrical lines. Be very careful trimming any branches in the vicinity of power lines. You may even want to hire a professional. It’s a good idea to keep your tree branches trimmed as part of your regular home maintenance.

2. Lower the temperature in your fridge and freezer: If you think power loss seems likely from a forecasted storm, you can proactively lower the temperatures in your refrigerator and freezer(s). Once the power does go out, they will maintain their cooling temperature much longer.

Safety tips for after the power is out

1. Unplug appliances: There’s a high chance that when power does come back on, it will be with a power surge. That can damage your appliances and electronics. Since the power’s already out, why not unplug them and prevent that potential cause of damage?

2. Leave one light switch on: Since the appliances and electronics are unplugged, make sure to leave at least one light switch on. This will let you know when the power has been restored.

3. Check on your neighbors: It’s the Oklahoma way. Take a few moments to check on people in your area who might be vulnerable. You might be able to help someone who is in a bad way or didn’t prepare for the situation.

4. Operate that generator safely: If you have a portable generator, remember not to operate it indoors. The generator produces carbon monoxide by burning fuel. Also, avoid plugging your generator into the outlets inside or outside your home. That runs the risk of sending power back to the utility grid, which could lead to the injury or death of a utility worker.

Hopefully, you won’t need to use your weather radio or dip into your stored food this winter. But being prepared and having a plan for what you will do if there is an ice storm that creates significant power loss will help you handle whatever Mother Nature throws at us this winter.

Enjoy LED light energy savings without sacrificing ambience

If you’ve been shopping for lightbulbs recently, you’ve probably noticed how overwhelming the selection is. There are probably twice as many options now as there were two years ago, and I’m sure in two years there will be more options than there are now.

As far as LED lighting goes, the investment for those bulbs has been steadily decreasing as the economics of supply and demand have run their course. Some of our Edmond and Oklahoma City clients have already switched to LED lighting for their homes and businesses because there’s quite a long-term savings with LED bulbs.

But the majority of our clients, especially our commercial clients, haven’t made the switch—for a variety of reasons. One of the more common reasons that our commercial clients give is that they don’t like the type of light that LED fixtures typically give off.

Fortunately, LED lighting is constantly evolving. We’re increasingly seeing the inclusion of filament-style LED bulbs, which look more like the incandescent (I/C) bulbs that many folks are used to. Want a refresher on the different types of light bulbs? Check this out.

LED filament-style bulbs are now being commonly used in many residential and commercial applications. The beautiful light put off by these bulbs is becoming increasingly popular in restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, coffee shops, and diners. These bulbs can capture the look and feel of typical Edison-style bulbs or tungsten filament bulbs while boasting lifespans of up to 15,000 hours, as compared to less than 1,000 hours for their I/C counterparts.

Another benefit to filament-style LED bulbs is that they produce 360-degree lighting. Many of the other LED bulbs on the market give you 180 to 270 degrees of light. That means that these filament-style LED bulbs are an ideal choice for open fixtures such as chandeliers, wall sconces, and lamps.

New LED options also include a range of color, from a soft orange glow to a bright white. The other benefits of LED lighting are still present, including longer lifespans, lower operating costs, and no maintenance—but now you have more options for the kind of ambiance you want to set with your LED lighting.

If you previously thought LED lighting didn’t make sense for your property, we would encourage you to think about it again.

OG&E is currently offering a generous rebate program for businesses who switch to LED lighting—we know dozens of clients who have already made the switch and received their rebate check. If this is something you would be interested in learning more about, we would be happy to visit with you today.

Thanks to the many available options, you can still reap the benefits of making the switch without sacrificing the quality and color of lighting you’re accustomed to.

Why we can’t give you a firm price over the phone

If I’m going to invest in a project, especially a large one, I’d like to know how much it’s going to cost before I commit to it. Most of the people who call us are the same way.

It can cause a lot of frustration when you take the time to make some phone calls and reach out to contractors about pricing a project on your house, only to find out that none of them will give you a quote over the phone. Maybe they’ll offer to send a salesperson out to your house to talk with you, but if you haven’t even committed to the project yet, why would you want to feel pressured to buy something?

Most contractors don’t want to set an unfair expectation around pricing. It’s always possible that when you quote a typical price for a particular service, you’ll get to the site and encounter something unexpected that forces you to add something to the price you gave over the phone. It’s uncomfortable all around.

I can’t speak for any other companies in our industry, but I know the reason that we don’t give firm prices over the phone is because we want to give our clients a fair, accurate price—and there are simply too many variables in most service calls to do so without going out to the site.

It’s important to us as a company to be helpful to our clients even though we can’t give a firm quote over the phone. We know that a lot of times, people call for prices because they want to gauge whether or not a project is feasible for them, and there are several things we do to help people decide on that question.

We can often provide a range of prices for budgetary purposes over the phone. Before that, we listen to your project goals and expectations and help you narrow down some of the many choices based on your needs. We may ask for photos or measurements to give us a better idea of the project difficulty and ease of access. If you have drawings or plan for a project, that can help us give you a more accurate budget, too.

Sometimes, after talking with a homeowner about their project, they decide to work with us to carry out the project. And sometimes that’s not the case. But either way, we’re happy to share our expertise, and it’s our hope that it saves people time and energy.

Four possible reasons your furnace keeps turning on and off

During the heating season, we typically receive some calls from our Edmond and Oklahoma City clients about their furnace turning on and off frequently. There are a number of reasons that may happen, and I’ll name four of the most common ones below.

Before deciding to contact your service provider and have a technician sent out to your home, there are two things you should consider.

First, it’s okay for your heater to cycle on and off when it’s operating as it should. Depending on how cold it is outside and how warm you want it to be inside, it’s acceptable and normal for your furnace to cycle on and off three to eight times per hour. If that’s the case with yours, you probably have nothing to worry about. But cycling faster than that could indicate an issue.

Second, think about the age of your furnace. If you have a newer furnace, it likely came with a long list of safety features to prevent unsafe operation or damage to system components. Your furnace may be shutting down because of one of those safety features. While that may still be annoying and uncomfortable, you can breathe easy knowing your furnace isn’t operating under dangerous conditions.

What you want to keep an eye out for is what we in the industry refer to as short-cycling. That means your system does start up and run, typically for 30-60 seconds, before something tells your system to shut down. That “something” will usually be one of two sensors in your furnace:

High limit switch

This switch (also called a limit switch) kills power to the furnace to prevent damage if your system is working too hard. Tripping this switch consistently can cause it to wear out and fail. Without an operational high limit switch, your furnace will simply not run.

Flue limit switch

This switch will turn off power to your system if air isn’t properly ventilating out of your home through the flue exhaust vent. Furnaces produce carbon monoxide when they burn their fuel source, which of course needs to be safely vented. Without a functioning flue switch, your system will not operate.

What’s behind the short-cycling?

Now, what could actually be causing your system to short-cycle? Here are four common causes.

1. Flue not venting correctly

Your flue exhaust may have something blocking airflow and causing it to short-cycle. The most frequently seen culprits are bird nests and other critters setting up shop in your vent.

2. Blower motor not working

It’s possible the blower itself is out, which means air isn’t circulating through your duct system. Your limit switch detects the heat buildup and shuts the system down.

3. Dirty air filters

If your air filters aren’t changed out at least every three months, that makes it difficult for your system to run properly. If your system can’t “breathe,” it can cause the limit switch to trip.

4. Faulty thermostat

If your thermostat isn’t functioning properly, it could be the cause of your short-cycling. You can test the thermostat by removing it from the equation and manually connecting the wires. There are plenty of tutorials for this online if you’re the DIY type.

Don’t forget, it’s okay for your furnace to be cycling three to eight times per hour—possibly more if it’s extremely cold outside. But a cycle of 30-60 seconds is something to be concerned about. If you believe your furnace is short-cycling and would like a professional’s opinion on the cause and solution, please give us a call. We’d be happy to help you resolve the issue.

What’s a fair price for an HVAC system in Oklahoma City?

For most families, a new heating and cooling (HVAC) system is one of the larger investments you’ll make in your home. When people have to make this investment, they understandably want to know how much it will cost before making a decision.

We’ve seen too many people pay a full installation price for a basic changeout of equipment, because they were unable to compare apples to apples. Here’s our contribution to help you budget for this significant investment.

The HVAC contractors I’ve visited with are hesitant to give a firm price quote without seeing the system to be replaced, because there are so many variables that can play into the price of a new system installation. Most prefer to come out for a visit to the property to walk through the job site and see some of those variables.

We’re no different in this regard. We can’t place a firm price on a system installation without a thorough analysis of the existing system. We also want to have a serious conversation with the client to make sure they’ll be happy with both the new system and the installation. There are a ton of options out there, and it can be a lot to consider—especially if your system is broken and it’s very hot or cold outside!

Now, we’ll probably catch some grief from our peers about this next part, but this post isn’t for them. We want to be helpful and transparent, so I’ll point out some common variables and give you some reasonable ballpark numbers you could expect to pay a quality contractor in Edmond or Oklahoma City.

Think of your HVAC unit like a car. Just like with cars, you have some economical brands and models, then you have the luxury and sports car equivalents. They exist for a reason and clearly some consumers make the investment, but the investment with top-end equipment simply won’t be right for every client.

Five factors that can affect your investment in an HVAC system installation

  1. Project difficulty: This can cause a lot of price variation. If it’s difficult to access your attic or utility closet, that can add many hours of labor to the project, which will increase your investment.
  2. Unit size: Larger homes tend to have larger equipment (or multiple HVAC systems). A larger home will need an HVAC system or systems with larger capacity, which will be more expensive than a single lower-capacity unit.
  3. Equipment brand: Each manufacturer has its own pricing structure based on their processes, materials, and workers.
  4. Unit efficiency: More efficient equipment tends to be pricier up front but has lower operating costs. There is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to unit efficiency, so it’s something you’ll have to weigh the importance of for your family.
  5. Ductwork: This is another unknown factor that can cause a large variation in price. Many homes have an undersized duct system. Your duct system allows air to flow throughout your home, and if it’s insufficient for your heating and cooling needs, it will tax your HVAC system. Upgrading your ductwork can add between $1,000-3,000 to your investment.

Three main types of HVAC installations

  1. Changeout only: Existing HVAC equipment is removed and new equipment is installed to replace it.
  2. Changeout plus ductwork: This includes modifying or even replacing the existing duct system in addition to changing out the existing equipment.
  3. Full installation with additional features: In addition to receiving new equipment and ductwork, there are several other features you can add to your HVAC system. These include features to manage humidity and zoning duct systems to maximize home comfort.

Fair pricing for HVAC installations in OKC

  1. Changeout only: $6,500-9,000, one day to complete. 
This range captures most brands and sizes but leaves out some of the more expensive, highest-efficiency models. Changeout jobs only replace equipment, so any ductwork issues would still be present with the new equipment.
  2. Changeout plus ductwork: $9,500-13,000, two to three days to complete.
This range depends on the type of equipment you choose and how much ductwork needs to be added or replaced. This is typically the better solution to address comfort concerns rather than simply replacing the equipment. Many companies in our market charge this price range just for the changeout without even looking at the duct system or asking whether it should be repaired or replaced as well.
  3. Full installation with additional features: $14,000-20,000, three to five days to complete.
While we realize this price range is a large one, that is because of the many variables discussed above. A high-capacity system with top-end efficiency, new ductwork, and a zoning system could absolutely approach $20,000 in this market.

I hope this information is helpful to you for budgeting purposes. If you’ve already received a proposal from another company and aren’t comfortable moving forward with them, feel free to give us a call. We’d be happy to walk you through the process and make sure you know what you’ll be receiving for the price you are quoted.