Countless Americans suffer from symptoms such as asthma, emphysema, and COPD due to indoor air pollution every year. Indoor pollution, if left unchecked, can cause these and other serious health risks. However, there are plenty of preventative steps one can take to make sure these issues do not arise in your home. While there are plenty of steps one can take to lower indoor air pollution, routine maintenance is one of, if not the most, effective of these steps.
A quick and easy step you can do yourself is making sure to keep your indoor air filter clean, and change it monthly when you get your power bill.
Now in terms of more complicated maintenance, when you use your A/C system throughout the year, dirt and other debris is collected in the various components of the A/C system. The condensing unit, the system outside the home, often collects dirt. The system does not send those leaves or dirt into your home. However if the outdoor unit and the separate indoor unit, the air handler, are not properly maintained, elements of these particulates can collect the air stream within your home, damaging the air’s quality, and can eventually cause harmful air pollution.
When our Kalos technicians perform routine maintenance, they remove all the accumulated large debris that has been captured in the condenser unit; they then clean the condenser, but are careful not to bend the delicate coil pins. They also clean the air handler inside your home, by sensibly washing the evaporator coils.
When these tasks are finished none of the dangerous particulates harm your indoor air, keeping it safe and breathable. Routine maintenance is recommended at the very least annually, and preferably biannually to keep your home’s air healthy and unpolluted, and to protect your health.
Here are the five things that you need to make sure gets done before and during your blown in insulation project. These steps will make sure your company actually does a quality job. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone behind the other blown insulation contractors here in Florida and seeing that they either, don’t even attempt to do what should be done in terms of performance or under deliver on what they promised and don’t actually finish what is needed. Here in Florida, it is scorching outside and one of the things that you can do in order to help make your home more energy efficient is to add a layer of insulation between that heat and your livable space.
The work is not necessarily highly skilled or hard work in terms of needing immense education to understand its process, but it does take commitment and hard work to actually put into practice. Attic temperatures here in Florida can sometimes reach up to 150 degrees, so it’s important to make sure that the company you choose takes employee safety seriously and trains them properly. Once you’re up in an attic for more than about 10 minutes, it’s easy to start cutting corners, so proper training and leeway for needed rest are both key.
AN ESTIMATOR NEEDS TO CHECK OUT THE ATTIC
Many estimations in this business do not take the proper time to evaluate how exactly an attic should be treated. About three quarters of the time the other estimators from another company will simply ballpark the situation from down below in the cool living space so that they don’t have to get into the attic, sweat, and get their eyes on what’s actually going on up there. In our company’s expert opinion you have to actually look at something in order to know how to properly quote it. There are a lot of different variables involved with quoting blown in insulation and there’s a lot of different solutions out there, so in general, make sure that your estimator actually gets up into the attic for about 10 minutes or so to get a good look at everything and take some photos. The estimator should go over the whole plan with you and tell you exactly what you need while also visually showing you. More than likely you’re not going to follow an estimator up into the attic in order to see what they’re talking about, so you have to take their word for it. However, make sure that they give you some photos and that the photos are trustworthy.
SEAL ANY PENETRATIONS TO THE ATTIC
We have found that most homes are pretty leaky, and need to be improved with some ceiling work. A lot of times when somebody is insulating and get quotes for blown in insulation here in Florida, they are insulating a new edition where they are insulating perhaps a lanai or their garage. There are probably a lot of penetrations into the attic ceiling that had been left unsealed by the general contractor in these areas. This allows for a lot of, not only heat, but also humidity infiltration into the space. Whenever we quote a customer for blown in insulation, we offer to both seal and insulate the area. We quote this as a package is because once there is a lot of blown in insulation in your way, it only makes it harder to actually seal up. In order to make sure that the blown in installation is the most effective insulator that it can be, we seal any penetrations into the attic using a Fonville spray that we install the morning of the blown in insulation job. This expands to fill any cracks or penetrations in the attic.
Can-lights are the sort of light that sits flush with the ceiling of your living space, but is actually recessed up into the attic. It’s very important to make sure that these are actually seal themselves rather than trying to use any sort of spray fall around them. Reasons being that there are electrical processes involved. We never want to compromise any of that kind of material with anything that is flammable. We have found that in The Villages, for example, can-lights are almost exclusively used to light lanais, and they are almost always unsealed and allow the air between the two spaces to mix one way some installation contractors mitigate. We install a cone above each can light, allowing the area to be sealed from the rest of the attic, and not be touched by the new blown in insulation. That’s not a bad way to accomplish the goal of sealing it, but it’s preferable to buy pre-sealed can-lights and install them to replace the existing can-lights in the space. Many of these sealed the can-lights are actually LED, more energy efficient, and in the long run saving you money on your power bill. As licensed electrical contractors in Florida, we can offer solutions like installing these sealed can-lights, which can accomplish better energy savings.
SEALING THE ATTIC ENTRANCE POINT
In general, there are a couple of different types of ways you can get up into an attic. There’s usually either a set of pull downstairs or there is a piece of drywall with a frame that gets pushed up, a large hole is then exposed to allow access. Many homes in Florida have the benefit of having an attached garage at the front of the house, so the easiest place for the attic access was to install the pull-downstairs or push-up entrance in the garage space. Unless you are looking to add blown in insulation into your garage, this is not an area of concern, however, if your attic access is actually within the space that you are looking to either cool or insulate, this is a huge point of heat infiltration. If you ever tried to push into an attic entrance that just has blown in insulation all around it, you’ll know what a mess it makes whenever you open the attic. Hatch and blown in insulation tumbles down into your livable space to avoid this and to allow for less heat infiltration. We actually suggest to install one of two solutions. The first one that will help just keep the area around the attic hatch clear from any blown in insulation is install a barrier wall around the attic access. We built a small barrier wall, a foam board, in order to keep the blown in insulation from falling down into your livable space, you’ve paid for us to blow in the insulation, why would you want it to just fall down and be something that gets vacuumed up or thrown away every time that you go into your attic? Secondly, we would suggest a large bag filled with insulation and placed directly on top of the attic hatch a stairway, insulate it. Stairway insulator is going to be a little bit different style, but essentially if we’re talking about having a moveable piece of insulation that sits on top of the attic hatch entrance can be placed back whenever the needs to be closed up. This allows for you to make sure that you are not having a ton of heat come through your attic hatch access point, but at the same time and not have a giant mess every time you open it up.
INSTALLING BAFFLED BETWEEN EACH TRUSS
Many contractors leave this step out of their job, they leave it out because it’s simply just not easy, and takes time. Almost every home has a breathable soften around the outside edge of the home. This is meant to allow air to infiltrate up into the attic from outside, allowing the attic to breathe and ventilate out of the ridge vents in the top of the roof. This allows for there to be exchanged in the attic so it doesn’t just sit stagnantly increasing in heat. Many people don’t know that their attic is actually open to the elements outside, but if it’s beneficial to do so in a controlled manner. The last thing that a customer wants to do when starting one project is to create additional follow-up problems without these baffles in place. The problem we see many customers have when they hire an unqualified blown in insulation contractor, is that the blown in insulation usually falls directly down onto those soffit vents and close them up, not allowing for air to enter the space and ventilate through to the Richmond at the top of the attic. Essentially they are ceiling in that space and when they do so, they’re actually creating a higher level of humidity and a myriad of other problems. The solution to this is to staple cardboard core polyurethane baffles between each of the trusses in the attic. This allows for a natural barrier to be formed allowing the blown in insulation to be bonded right to the edge of the attic space without ever falling onto the soffit. Another central part is to make sure that the baffles are tall enough for the amount of installation that is being installed. The thicker the installation, the taller the baffled needs to be. Unfortunately, it is not too easy. Essentially one will need to be on their back, should been through the attic, stopping at every trust bay, and stapling these baffled into place one by one. Take a look at our video below to get a better sense of this.
Here within our five points the prep work is everything. The blown in insulation portion is actually the easiest part of the job, but if the preparation is not done properly you will be setting yourself up for a long list of problems in the future. Make sure you work with trustworthy and detail oriented technicians to save yourself the headaches. If you have any questions, please feel free to give our office a call at 352-224-3708 or visit us online at kalosflorida.com/installation.
Is it time to replace your air conditioner? Power bills high? Home starting to feel hot and sticky? Repair bills starting to add up?
What do you do next? Call an air conditioning company and ask for a “free” estimate to replace it. How do you know who to trust? Aren’t all companies and all salespeople the same?
In the Air Conditioning Business, the answer is a Great… Big …. NO
This is a list of things that will empower YOU to get the best possible installation on your air conditioner NOT necessarily the best price upfront. I know everyone tries to sell their own brand of special snake oil but in the air conditioning business it’s not just one thing that matters, it’s all the little things that add up to great comfort, healthy air, low bills and a system that lasts a long time.
Before you go on you may ask, “why should I trust you and your little article” and the answer to that is that you definitely shouldn’t… Yet.
I could try to convince you by telling you that I have dedicated my career to improving the air conditioning industry. I could tell you that I created the premier online resource for training air conditioning technicians all over the world at HVACRSchool.com or that I write training articles for the largest air conditioning trade magazine in the USA.
While those things may be true, as an owner of Kalos Services I’m certainly not a neutral observer. So don’t take my word for this list.
Do your own research and see if it lines up, ask tough questions and I bet you are surprised at what you find. Truth be told, even at Kalos, even after 12 years of hard work, we don’t always get it perfect. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes personally over the years and I’m not going to pretend otherwise but we are COMMITTED to this list of items and doing them all to the best of our human ability every day.
So here they are…
Ask About Proper System Sizing
Your air conditioner isn’t too small. It isn’t good business to tell you that, but it happens to be the truth.
There is no “rule of thumb” for sizing an air conditioner based on the square footage or the number of rooms. An air conditioner (and heater) is sized based on the internal and external heat losses and gains of the home. This is everything from walls, to windows, to doors and ceilings to how many people live in the house and how many showers you take. All of these things factor into how much heat enters and leaves the home for a given amount of time and calculating that amount of heat entering an leaving is required to size an air conditioner properly.
The heat is contained in the air and in the moisture in the air and we measure that heat using a unit of energy called a BTU (British Thermal Unit), 12,000 of these BTUs make up 1-ton of cooling per hour. The more BTUs of heat we let in the house the more them we need to pull out again with an air conditioner. The trouble is when we pull out BTUs we need to use energy to do that, it’s better when we can find ways to keep them out of the house in the first place through proper sealing, insulation, bath and kitchen ventilation, high-efficiency lighting etc…
You may say “But Bryan, my unit just runs and runs all Summer and never get’s to the temperature I set so I need a bigger one” and I understand the sentiment. The first thing there is to understand that a unit SHOULD run and run on the hottest Summer days, that is actually how it is sized and is totally appropriate. An air conditioner is at it’s most efficient when it runs all day during the hottest days of the Summer and only starts to cycle off at night. Going on and off is a big energy waste for an air conditioner and also negatively impacts humidity removal from the home.
There is something that can be done to get the house down to a more comfortable condition and that is to REDUCE the amount of heat coming into the home from outside and reduce the amount of heat and moisture being generated or trapped inside. These are things like replacing door sweeps, sealing attic penetrations, replacing unsealed can lights with sealed LED trims and increasing attic insulation as well as a lot of other little things.
It also makes a big difference if the air conditioner is charged properly, properly maintained and commisioned with proper air flow and properly installed and sealed ductwork. Many homes are losing 20%+ of the cooling capacity due to damaged, poorly installed and leaky ducts.
Once all of this is factored in VERY FEW homes need a larger A/C system but it all must be considered by a professional who looks over your entire home, performs a manual J heat load calculation and inspects your ducting as best as possible.
Let the company who quotes you look over your home. Do they look at the windows? measure walls? look at attic insulation? check ducts? inspect lighting? if not, they probably aren’t REALLY confirming that your air conditioner is the correct size.
Ask About Refrigerant Recovery
Depending on your political and/or scientific views you may or may not care much about this one but the fact is that MANY technicians and air conditioning installers vent refrigerant (Freon) to the atmosphere when they replace systems or later on when they get them back to the shop.
The EPA requires that all refrigerants be recovered and not vented into the atmosphere, because of this EVERY technician will tell you they do it whether they do or don’t. In order to properly recover then need to have an expensive recovery machine and tank that look something like the one shown above. If they don’t have them / use them they are almost certainly venting it to the environment.
Ask About Flowing Nitrogen
In air conditioning, the copper connecting lines are brazed (high-temperature soldering) together using torches. When copper is heated to the very high temperature required to make a proper joint any oxygen inside the tubing or fittings creates a black oxide scale that can (and does) contaminate an air conditioning system. In order to prevent these technicians need to use a special regulator to “flow” nitrogen at very low pressure and volume during brazing. In the past, many techs got away without doing this because older units used a type of oil that wouldn’t scrub this black scale off of the lines. Modern R410a units use a new oil that will scavenge this oxide off of the pipes resulting in damage to valves and even the compressor over time.
If you want a good install ask them how they flow nitrogen while brazing.. (Hint: it should be just a whisper of flow, about 3-5 scfm)
Ask About Evacuation
Micron vacuum gauge and core tool
Evacuation is one of the MOST important and MOST overlooked aspects of an air conditioner install. Once the copper is joined the lines need to evacuated with a deep vacuum using a special pump called a vacuum pump and very sensitive vacuum gauge called a micron or vacuum gauge. This setup will take 10 minutes to 1 hr depending on the quality of their hose and adapter setup and is ESSENTIAL for removing air and moisture from inside the lines before the refrigerant (freon) is added
This should be done down to a level below 500 microns and then held there in a standing “decay test” for 10 – 15 minutes to confirm there are no leaks and all moisture has been extracted. To really test a salesperson or tech ask them how deep they pull a vacuum (should say 500 microns or less) and then ask them what they look for in a decay test.
A system that isn’t evacuated properly won’t last NEARLY as long and you will never know why the compressor failed 5 years in. The contractor will just blame it on the manufacturer and may even believe what they are saying when all along it was improper evacuation.
Ask About Ducts
Duct installation with minimal leakage, kinks etc.. is a must and many older homes have issues that will impact comfort, efficiency and longevity if these duct issues aren’t addressed.
It is also important that ducts are sized properly to deliver the correct amount of air to each room for proper cooling and heating. A full-service contractor will inspect ducts visually and with thermal imaging cameras, take measurements such as air flow CFM using an airflow hood and duct pressure measurements using a tool called a manometer or magnahelic gauge. If the person giving you a quote on a system doesn’t have test instruments how can know if the old ducts will work well on the new system?
A great unit installed on bad ducts is like running a new car on bad gas, it won’t work well.
On a side note, in Florida with the type of ducts, we have in houses I do not believe in the efficacy of duct cleaning for the reasons I give HERE. This means that ducts need to be kept clean through proper filtration and installation BEFORE they get dirty in the first place.
Ask About Commisioning
Once a unit is up and running it needs to be fully tested by a trained professional to set the refrigerant charge, test air flow, ensure that the heat and cooling is working, test the drain and check any dehumidification (humidity removal) features. It is incredible how often I see this step get missed and proper commisioning get passed over. Ask your installer to demonstrate all the features and leave you with or email you a copy of the detailed reading they took for superheat, subcooling, delta T and static pressure. The comfort and efficiency of the system depends on it.
Ask About the DETAILS of the Warranty
Many companies have long PARTS warranties but they don’t cover labor, warranty processing fees, diagnosis fees, late charges, refrigerant leakage etc.. You want to be crystal clear on what your contractor means when they say “warranty”.
If you ask these questions and proper steps are taken to ensure a great installation, good air flow, proper load calculation with heat gains reduced etc… you will have a much better experience and should get a long life out of the system.
While this is only the tip of the iceberg I hope this helps you get great install on a new air conditioner. If you want to know more about us, healthy indoor air, what a good air conditioning maintenance should include or anything else just call us up at 352-243-7088 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
and if at any point we don’t live up to your standards give me a call on my cell at 352-536-5718 and I will make it right.
Every year our customer’s ask us “When is the best time to buy a new AC unit?”. Of course, when you’re dealing with the Central Florida heat and have a broken AC, the best time to buy is right away.
As with anything, if you’re able to think proactively and get ahead of the curve you will reap the blessings of getting that high efficiency AC system for a great deal.
It’s that time of year, and Carrier’s Fall 2017 Cool Cash Promotion is in full swing. Now through November 30th 2017, the Cool Cash Promotion can save you hundreds of dollars on a new high efficiency AC unit. These systems use the latest in variable speed technology to give you superior temperature and humidity control, and will save you lots of money on your monthly power bill.
Check out our chart below to see which units qualify for these AC Unit Rebates:
Carrier Infinity Heat Pump
Carrier Infinity Heat Pump
Carrier Performance Heat Pump
Carrier Comfort Heat Pump
Give us a call or fill out the form below for a free estimate on how much one of these AC units will save you on your power bill and the installation costs for the new ac unit. (and if you’ve recently replaced your AC unit, give us a call to ask about how you can earn credit for new customer referrals!)