Author archives: Bryan Orr

There is Something You Need to Know About Sunrooms

As many of you are aware, Florida has some pretty fantastic weather, save for a hurricane here or there and our expected summer afternoon thunderstorms.

This is one of the major reasons that the rear lanai / enclosed porch / sunroom is so popular in The Villages. There is nothing like enjoying coffee in the morning on your own porch as you are bathed in the beautiful sunshine.

Over the past 10 years, a few changes in the building and energy codes have affected the types of rooms that can be built and the way in which they can be used.

However, in the last few months, we have learned of a major change in interpretation that is shaking things up once again.

First, let’s start with some history: Florida building regulations are governed by a central body (Florida building commission) and code (Florida building code). These codes are enforced by local municipal building departments at the city or county level depending on the jurisdiction.

In theory, the code would be enforced uniformly across the state. This is not the case. The code is enforced based on the interpretation of the code by the local building officials and according to processes also established at the local level.

Lanai Classification

This means that something that is allowed in one county or city may very well not be allowed in another city.

According to the code there are 5 different types of sunrooms that may be built, all with different requirements. Here is the cliffsnotes version.

  • Class 1 – Essentially, a screen room can’t be air conditioned
  • Class 2 – A simple room with glass or acrylic enclosure but still not really an extension of the home, can’t be air conditioned
  • Class 3 – Same as above only the addition of air leakage resistance and forced entry doors (harder to break into) can’t be air conditioned
  • Class 4 – Can be Fully conditioned and habitable part of the home but has a door separating it (needs to meet ALL codes electrical, slab water intrusion, insulation, forced entry, slab to grade etc..)
  • Class 5 – Same as 4 but with no door between room and house.

Many contractors were installing windows and doors on what amounted to a screen porch. Sometimes this was being done with a permit and sometimes it was not.

Finding a Balance Between Comfort and the Building code

As you might imagine, there was  and is a huge demand to install cooling and heating in these spaces. A lanai is enjoyable, but when it’s 95 degrees in there the joy can quickly turn to agony.

About 5 years ago I was made aware of a work around by Sumter County. They gave me a handout detailing how a high efficiency ductless system could be classified as a dehumidifier (which it is) so long as we installed a dehumidistat adjacent to the unit, and had the owner sign a letter stating that they understood the exemption being used.

However- On June 13th, 2014 Sprague Owens, Chief Plans Examiner for Marion County sent a “Petition for Declaratory Statement” to the Florida Building Commission that essentially brought the exemption being used into question.

On November 18th, 2014, The Florida building commission sent down their official interpretation that the dehumidifier exemption is for systems that dehumidify ONLY.

From November 18th onward, Marion County ceased issuing permits for “ductless dehumidifiers” and Sumter ceased issuing permits as of 1/1/2015. See the PDF document link below.

FL Building Code

The ramifications are as follows:

  • Before – any licensed HVAC contractor could look at any sunroom or lanai and easily obtain a permit to install in the space.
  • Now – The space must be looked at and brought up to class 4 or class 5 standards before ANY heat or air can be added. This includes window units, ductless units, portable units or ducts for the existing system.

Here is the Good News

If you live in Sumter County you have been blessed with a very conscientious, helpful, and responsive building department.

I had a sit down meeting with the head building official, Steve Wilcox, along with Plans Examiner, E.J. Aubuchon, and Chief Building Inspector, Jim Parman. We discussed the issue and looked carefully through the building code to ensure that whatever is done moving forward will be consistent and reasonable.

Here are the main points we discussed:

  • We must find out what type of structure is there currently and how it was previously permitted.
  • Whatever was approved and permitted previously does not need to be readdressed as it would fall under the previous interpretation.
  • If the space does need to be brought up to a class 4 or 5 the following aspects would need to be addressed
  • Is it glass and is it properly wind rated? If it is acrylic or vinyl it must be changed to glass. If it is glass, we must be able to prove the wind rating. Any old documentation is very useful.
  • The space must comply with the energy code and energy calculations must be provided (Quality glass, attic insulation).
  • Slab must be at least 4” above grade if the walls are block / stucco and 6” above grade if anything else.
  • Slab must be waterproofed with plastic sheeting BENEATH the slab or other approved method. Steve approved a coating that I located for application on top of the concrete and under the finished flooring.
  • Doors and windows must be forced entry resistant. In other words, they must be rated to help prevent home invasion. If your space was previously permitted as class 3 or above you are likely already covered. Any information from the installer or manufacturer may be helpful.
  • Space must comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC 210.52) that establishes that no point of the wall along the floor shall be more than 6′ from a receptacle. This means a receptacle needs to be located within 6′ from a wall opening and then no more than 12′ apart after the first one. Each wall needs at least one receptacle unless is it 24” or less in width.

Other Things to Consider When Upgrading Your Lanai

Many residents will ask what the additional cost will be on their property taxes if they upgrade the rear sunroom or lanai to a class 4 or 5. This is an area that I would be a fool to speak to specifically as it can change at any time.

I HAVE been told that any impact would be minimal, however, I would suggest contacting the Sumter County property appraiser’s office with any specific questions at 352-569-6800.

If you live in one of the other surrounding counties or cities the interpretation will likely be similar but it is always safer to ask the appropriate office before making any assumptions.

At Kalos Services we are committed to leading the way in bringing clarity to this issue for all of our customers, but even more specifically to our friends in The Villages.

What Next?

At this point, the best thing any owner can do who wants A/C in a sunroom is to gather up all the information regarding any work done on the sunroom and if any questions remain, talk to the building department about any prior work performed.

At Kalos Services, we are a licensed HVAC (air conditioning), Electrical and Building contractor so we are licensed and qualified to review any existing space and perform the requisite changes to make it compliant with these changes.

If you have any further questions or concerns, just give us a call at 352.243.7088 and ask for Bryan or Jesse, or fill out the form below:

All the best to you and yours.

Bryan Orr

Co-Founder

Kalos Services Inc.  

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Things I’ve Learned as an HVAC Tech

The 3 Most Surprising Things I’ve Learned as an HVAC Tech

Over the past six months, I’ve been training to become an HVAC tech. Along the way I’ve learned so much, but today I’m pleased to share with you the three most surprising things I’ve learned.

hvac tech

How a small issue can cause big problems.

It was surprising for me to learn that a small issue, if ignored, can cause a much larger problem later on with your air conditioning unit. It’s easy to take for granted something as simple as cleaning your drain line or regularly changing your air filters, yet it is surprising how much it matters. Taking care of these two simple items can make a huge difference in prolonging the life of your system. Before being in this industry, I wouldn’t pay attention to these small details. I learned the hard way, though, and water flooded right into my garage from my AC unit’s overflowing drain! This leak caused damage to the platform that the unit sat on and even made it all the way to the bedroom closet. I have learned that it pays to keep up with these small items and that almost anyone can do it themselves.

How helpful Preventive Maintenance is.

Air conditioning maintenance is a great way to give your system a check-up to ensure things are working properly before you hit the heat of the summer or cold of the winter. While we wish that our units would just run forever, we all know there are things that we can’t plan for. During a maintenance, the entire system is checked, inside and out. This is done to ensure that your system is running to factory specifications (or as close to them as possible). If any issues are found during this process, we take the time to discuss these with you and give you options on any next steps you can take. This program is a wonderful service an HVAC tech can provide, and it’s surprised me how valuable it can be for a customer.

How much HVAC techs care about their jobs and the customers.

Of course, each tech is different and we all have different styles of work. I’ve noticed, though, that there’s one consistent attribute across the board: how much every Kalos Services HVAC tech cares about their job and the customer that it affects. They all realize that they are here to assist you in any way necessary and will spend that extra time to ensure that your system is working properly. A good HVAC tech will work hard to find any issues and repair them as quickly as possible. They all realize that you, the customer, are the reason they are here each day, and they’ll always strive to provide you with Simply Great Service!

I have had a great six months learning this industry, and I have enjoyed meeting and talking with each customer I have come across. This business is not only about fixing air conditioners, but also about making relationships with each person we get to come into contact with. I hope to see you out in the field sometime!

Britton Bingham
Service Specialist

More questions about my first 6 months? Make sure to sound off in the comments or leave us a Voicemail. If you do, you might end up on our Podcast!

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The Dirty Truth About Duct Cleaning

The demand for duct cleaning is something that has been on the rise over the last 10 years in the HVAC industry. It has gone from a very small niche business to a large and profitable industry and with this growth has come many questions. Before we get started allow me to establish my experience. I have been in the HVAC industry for over 15 years. I have never personally performed a duct cleaning but I have been back to multiple HVAC service after duct cleanings have been performed. I personally have no issue with the duct cleaning industry as a whole, I simply have concerns with the common practices I have observed as well as customers expectations in relation to the outcome.
Duct CleaningFirst, we must establish that the vast majority of residential and light commercial duct systems installed in Florida are flex and board systems. This means that the bulk of the air flows through flexible insulated tubes with a thin plastic inner liner. The remainder of the duct system is constructed of fiberglass board that is formed into boxes and triangle shapes that act as the main lines and distribution boxes.   Second we must state clearly that almost anything can be cleaned if enough time and resources are applied this is as true of ducting as any other surface.

The real questions are:

  1. Is duct cleaning effective at consistently providing cleaner air?
  2. Are the practices consistently applied that produce a good result?
  3. Is the cost of properly cleaning the ducts vs. replacing them represent a real value?

Is duct cleaning effective at consistently providing cleaner air? A report produced in 1997 by the EPA states that duct cleaning has not been proven to produce cleaner indoor air. The EPA has consistently stood behind this stance and this applies to all types of ducts. It stands to reason in my opinion that cleaning metal or meal lined ducts would be effective. There are many before and after representations of what duct cleaning can and has done for metal ducts. The issue remains in all ducts that cleaning can often dislodge matter that then may be reintroduced into the air stream had the cleaning not been performed. This leaves the question that unless the ducts are left completely clean has the duct cleaning been successful in reducing indoor air contaminants?

Are the practices consistently applied that produce a good result? The NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaning Association) has very good training and application guidelines on the proper cleaning of most duct systems. These practices if consistently applied by well trained professionals with well-maintained and cleaned equipment will result in the best outcome. My experience has shown that many companies that provide duct cleaning service do not consistently or fully abide by NADCA standards, this can result in a poor outcome as well as possible damage. When damage does occur due to improper duct cleaning practices it is often concealed which results in the property owner being unaware that there is an issue.

Is the cost of properly cleaning the ducts vs. replacing them represent a real value? Here is an excerpt from the NADCA website. The Environmental Protection Agency says that duct cleaning services typically “ but not always“ range in cost from $450 to $1000 per heating and cooling system, depending on the services offered, the size of the system to be cleaned, system accessibility, climactic region, and level of contamination and type of duct material. Consumers should beware of air duct cleaning companies that making sweeping claims about the health benefits of duct cleaning such claims are unsubstantiated. Consumers should also beware of blow-and-go air duct cleaning companies. These companies often charge a nominal fee and do a poor job of cleaning the heating and cooling system. These companies may also persuade the consumer into unneeded services with and/or without their permission. This makes it clear that proper duct cleaning does come at a price. In many cases the cost of proper cleaning may not be cost effective when compared with replacement. This depends on the age, condition, type and access to the duct system currently in place. In summary, I would advise the following

  1. Only have ducts cleaned if it is necessary, in most cases cleaner air can be more easily and consistently achieved through air filtration / purification.
  2. If you are going to have ducts cleaned make sure to use a NADCA accredited professional and check their work against the NADCA checklist  HERE
  3. If your ducts are in need of cleaning look at the comparable cost of replacement vs. cleaning
  4. Recognize that Florida duct systems are often not very conducive to proper cleaning reducing your potential success rate

Contact Us with any further questions and we hope this was helpful!- Bryan Orr VP Service Kalos Services Inc. Licensed A/C Contractor CAC1814620

Resources mentioned in this article can be found: EPA.GovNAIMA.Org, and Angie’s List. You can also check out these videos of news teams exposing the potential scams that can come with duct cleaning:

Property Management: Thermostats

 

Common Property Management Issues: Thermostats

There are a lot of really great products on the market these days for saving energy. Sometimes they are easy to use, but with others they can be quite confusing. Thermostats are a piece of equipment that could greatly reduce or increase your efficiency, a knowledge of the best systems is an essential skill for the modern day property manager. Today, we will discuss some of the challenges for property managers in regard to the thermostat. Certain types of  thermostats could be a great tool in your own personal home but may not be effective in a rental or vacation home. Home Heating CostsIt can either be a tool to manage your air conditioning system well or it could also be misused to waste energy and put your system through extra wear and tear.

Firstly, as a homeowner you may be willing to take the time to program different temperatures for different times of the day on a thermostat. For a tenant or guest this programming option will often lead to confusion, temperature complaints and high power bills. These are often set incorrectly which adds to the issue. We regularly hear questions from property managers about features on thermostats that shut off an air conditioner when doors or windows are opened. While in theory this is a good idea, many times this results in unneeded service calls. Many times, this feature causes issues in the long-term health of the system and overall confusion about how it works.

With this feature, it’s very common for a  guest to call and complain that the house is warm and the manager asks if the doors and windows are closed. The guest says yes (which means they are closed now after being left open all day) and you dispatch a service technician only to find nothing wrong and no way to prove if it was the doors or windows were left open that causing the original the problem.

Honeywell Focus Pro Thermostats

thermostat

This brings us to our tip. We suggest a simple and reliable Honeywell Focus Pro thermostat for the rental properties you’re managing. Here’s some reasons:

  • 1. The internal settings can be programmed so that the temperature can only be set to a maximum setting in heating and a minimum setting in cooling. (We usually suggest setting them to 75° in heat and 72° in cooling.)
  • 2. The tenant now has the opportunity to have control over an easy to use system within a reasonable range of settings.
  • 3. This allows you to have a very reliable and energy efficient solution to prevent high power consumption, system failure (freezing) and reduce guest complaints.

As always any questions or comments can be posted below in the comments section, or you can call us directly at 352-243-7088 or visit us at KalosFlorida.com

We are happy to help you with questions or training at any time. Give us a call and we will try to connect you with someone who has the answer. We would also be happy to speak at any of your company / organizational meetings or give onsite classes on the subject of your choosing. It is our pleasure to help and we look forward to helping you succeed.

 

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