5 Air Conditioning Myths Debunked

In these days of super-fast communication media, it takes very little time and effort for misinformation to spread. Misinformation can then be taken as fact by large numbers of people. Unfortunately, half-baked ideas and misconceptions about air-conditioning are common—getting in the way of making good decisions about home HVAC systems. Take a look at these five air-conditioning myths, debunked so that you can separate fact from fiction about your home AC.

1. Air-conditioning Causes Respiratory Problems

This is a myth not backed up by health research. When AC equipment is used correctly, it helps prevent and minimize health issues. By filtering out harmful airborne particles—bacteria, viruses, fungi, pollen, dander, and other allergens, cleaner air circulates indoors. As a result, asthma and hay fever sufferers can breathe easier, particularly if high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are used.

However, if you don’t service your air conditioner regularly, the air filters will eventually become dirty and clogged, lowering the air quality in the home. So, this is a case of a myth deriving from homeowners’ neglect of their equipment.

2. The Bigger the AC Unit, the Better

While it seems to make sense that a large, powerful AC unit is best for cooling down rooms, that’s not necessarily the case. Equipment needs to be sized for the space it’s expected to service.

An undersized AC unit will have to work harder to meet set temperature levels, making it less energy efficient, and costing you more in energy bills. Similarly, an oversized unit will need to turn itself on and off to maintain set temperatures, also using more energy than the right-sized equipment would. The result in both cases is higher equipment wear and tear, along with higher energy costs. Additionally, the lifespan of the equipment will be shorter, requiring earlier replacement.

3. Keeping Vents Closed Keeps Air Cool

Many air-conditioning myths seem to start from a logical position but don’t hold up due to a lack of technical knowledge. For example, it’s a popular misconception that if you close off vents and doors in lightly used rooms, chill air will circulate in a smaller area keeping the home cooler.

Unfortunately, home HVAC systems don’t work optimally with vents closed. Air pressure builds up in the air ducts, putting strain on the equipment, lowering energy efficiency, and raising energy costs. Vents should be open so that air is evenly distributed through your home, which is how your AC equipment was designed to be used.

4. AC Equipment Isn’t Efficient for Heating

An expensive fallacy held by many homeowners is that reverse-cycle air conditioning isn’t as efficient as dedicated heating appliances. Gas or electric wall attached or portable plug-in heaters are used rather than AC. However, the heating method used by reverse cycle AC units actually results in lower heating costs per hour than typical plug-in heaters.

Reverse cycle air conditioners draw in heat from outdoor air to indoors. Then, the drawn-in air is heated to set thermostat temperatures through a refrigerant process. This energy-efficient method of heating works even in freezing weather.

The energy cost savings from a reverse cycle air conditioner can be more than 50% less per hour compared to radiant and panel heaters. Of course, this depends on specific appliance models and their energy input levels. Check the Energy Star ratings for your AC and heating appliances. You may be shocked at the difference in running costs and how much this can add up to over winter.

5. ACs Are Bad for the Environment

This is one of the most disingenuous air-conditioning myths. It’s propagated upon the notion that any use of power is bad for the environment and that AC is particularly to blame. However, heating and cooling are essential requirements of modern life for most people. Moreover, as with Myth Number 4, reverse-cycle air conditioning can be much more efficient than standard heating appliances. As such, the lower energy use of AC appliances benefits the environment.

Using reverse-cycle AC results in roughly one-third fewer emissions being released into the atmosphere. Some of the most efficient appliances produce only one-fifth the level of emissions by standard heaters. Technical improvements in refrigerants are also reducing greenhouse gas levels. Human ingenuity can be expected to achieve even better results in future years.

Keep Your Air Conditioning Equipment at Peak Efficiency

At Briggs HVAC, we love helping debunk AC myths. Talk to us about a system maintenance plan to keep your AC in top condition and reduce energy emissions and costs. We service Northern Virginia and nearby counties.

What’s in Your Ductwork?

Keeping your HVAC ductwork clean and in good condition is essential to achieving high-quality air in your home. Lack of regular maintenance and HVAC servicing is the number one cause of pests and pathogens in system ducts. So, do you know what’s in your ductwork? You may be shocked to find what ductwork contaminants are in your system.

Here are Several Common Problems to Look Out For:

Signs Your HVAC Servicing is Overdue

If you can’t remember when HVAC servicing was last carried out, your home may be experiencing some unpleasant consequences. Nasty odors, and noises like rattling, squeaking, and squealing that seem to be coming from the HVAC are clear signs that equipment inspection should be done pronto. Additionally, you may notice a smell of dust in the air, or sudden mustiness, or family members may be experiencing intense allergy symptoms.

Large, Furry, or Feathery Intruders

Old houses are prone to wear and tear, creating openings in external and internal walls. These small gaps entice and enable many types of rodents to work their way inside and make their homes inside wall cavities and ductwork. Let’s talk about mice and rats, for starters.

If your HVAC vents through a chimney, there’s also the potential for storm damage to the chimney cap and more furry and feathered friends to install themselves through openings from the roof. Furthermore, as an HVAC system ages, normal wear and tear will also contribute to gaps and weaknesses in the ductwork providing entryways for small critters.

Small and Creepy Invaders

If rodents and birds can make a nuisance of themselves in chimney structures and ductwork, then it’s even easier for tiny and not-so-tiny, creeping, crawling, and scuttling nuisances to come inside. Insects and arachnids that frequent HVAC ducts include dust mites, spiders, cockroaches, and silverfish.

Your unwelcome lodgers can breed quickly in the cavities, sheltered nooks, and crannies of ducts. A small problem can soon become an explosion in numbers and a significant headache to get rid of. Fortunately, many HVAC companies perform basic pest control as part of their servicing and will readily capture and dispose of small critters.

Hidden but Toxic Ductwork Contaminants

It’s usually fairly obvious when rodents or birds make themselves at home where they’re not wanted. Still, the less obvious ductwork contaminants can be highly detrimental to the air quality in your home or workplace. Organic pollutants include fungal and mold spores, pollen particles, and harmful bacteria and virus spores. These airborne particles can easily make their way into the ducts from the outdoors.

Your first sign that these microscopic particles may be lodged in your HVAC ducts is when you or yours develop respiratory symptoms.  Excessive sneezing, coughing, a tendency to develop sinus problems, colds, and flu can all be signs that pollutants are present in heavy concentrations in the air. Over time too much exposure to these pollutants can weaken the immune system in susceptible people and cause constant respiratory problems. Reducing such health risks requires that air filters be regularly changed and upgraded to HEPA filtration levels if necessary.

How Regular HVAC Servicing Prevents and Removes Problems

Professional, qualified HVAC technicians follow strict processes when servicing your HVAC. They inspect, lubricate, and adjust moving parts, including motors, belts, controls, and valves. Air measurements are performed to ensure there are no blockages or leaks and that blower mechanisms are working correctly. Thermostat controls are checked along with electrical connections.

The ductwork is inspected to identify and repair any gaps that have allowed entry by animals or biological pollutants. Air filters are inspected and replaced.

Removing Pests and Pollutants

If large rodents such as squirrels, snakes, or raccoons have invaded, a professional pest control company may have to be called in before HVAC cleaning begins. Insects can be blown out of the system as the ducts are cleaned and vacuumed. Industrial-strength vacuums can also remove small dead creatures such as mice and spiders.

Severe contamination levels may require pesticides, antiseptics, or disinfectants to be applied. The Environmental Protection Agency lists registered and recommended products that can be used for cleaning purposes.

Tackle Ductwork Problems with Your Local HVAC Experts

Briggs HVAC is your local Northern Virginia for all HVAC maintenance and servicing. Our technicians give superior service, expertly inspecting, cleaning, and remediating your HVAC equipment. With a regular maintenance plan, you get a twice-yearly service and head off a host of potential problems. Servicing includes ensuring your equipment is properly sealed to prevent animals and other ductwork contaminants. Contact us today for more details

Benefits of Managing Your Indoor Air Quality

We spend a significant part of our lives indoors, particularly at home. Unfortunately, the air quality within our homes often leaves much to be desired. Chemicals, toxins, molds, fungi, and other allergens can hang heavy in the air. This all can affect our health and comfort. Poor ventilation, dampness, excess humidity, and dusty and dirty conditions within the home can exacerbate problems. See how the benefits of actively managing your indoor air quality can reap rewards for you, your family, and your bank account.

What’s Involved in Managing Indoor Air Quality?

Actively managing your home air quality means being aware of the significant causes of degraded air. These include:

  • residue from smoke, whether from cigarette smoking or burning wood in open fireplaces
  • airborne particles that make their way indoors, such as pollen, and
  • mold and fungi growing in damp areas of the home that release spores into the air.

Many of these airborne culprits increase due to poor air circulation or degraded filtering by home HVAC systems. Other home environment factors include damaged chimney stacks and external wear and tear, resulting in gaps in walls and windows that let moisture into the home.

You may find that you need to be something of a detective in monitoring and determining the causes of dank air or the reasons behind respiratory health problems experienced by yourself or your family members. Indoor air quality monitors can assist you in this task, and another expert source of advice is your local HVAC company.

What are the Benefits of Managing Your Indoor Air Quality?

You can achieve several benefits from keeping your HVAC equipment at peak efficiency, but the greatest benefit is to you and your family’s overall health. You may realize secondary gains from improved comfort and in reducing HVAC costs.

Here’s More Detail on How to Get These Benefits:

The Benefits of Reducing Allergens

Many people suffer from respiratory conditions such as hay fever and asthma, triggered by airborne particles such as pollen, dust in the air, fungal spores, or tiny nasties such as dust mites. Hay fever sufferers have a miserable time, with symptoms similar to a constant head cold. Asthma attacks can be brought on by exposure to allergens, with deadly consequences if not treated in time.

Over time these symptoms can lower the body’s immune system response and develop long-term health conditions such as sinusitis or worsening asthma. Clearly, reducing airborne allergens in the home positively benefits respiratory illness sufferers.

How to Manage Allergens with a Three-pronged Attack:
  1. Clean or replace all HVAC filters regularly and upgrade to higher quality equipment such as HEPA filters if necessary.
  2. Implement a thorough cleaning routine: wash pillowcases and sheets every two to three weeks; vacuum rugs and carpets with a HEPA filter machine.
  3. Reduce opportunities for pollen and other microbial spores like mold and fungi to get inside by keeping windows closed on high pollen days.

The Benefits of Reducing Exposure to Smoke

Whether you’re exposed to smoke from wood fire burning or secondhand cigarette smoke, you’re inhaling toxic substances. Wood burning releases carbon monoxide, soot, creosote, and other harmful chemicals, while cigarette smoke produces hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, and other poisons. Cancer, heart disease, stroke, and worsening asthma are all associated with inhaled smoke, so the less exposure, the greater the health benefit.

How to Manage Health Risks by Ensuring Regular Maintenance:
  1. HVAC filters are regularly changed, with annual maintenance and immediate repair of any leaks in the system.
  2. If using open wood-burning fires, annual chimney inspection, and sweeping.
  3. Cigarette smokers are banned from smoking indoors.

The Benefits of Programmable Thermostats for HVAC

With new technology, HVAC systems can run longer for less cost. Digital thermostats can automatically lower the temperature when no one is home or sleeping at night. The Department of Energy states that 10% a year can be saved on energy bills by simply lowering temperatures for eight hours a day.

Improve Your Indoor Air Quality with Briggs HVAC in Northern Virginia

Our homes should be places of respite, providing breathing space from the hectic pace and barrage of modern life. However, long-term exposure to degraded indoor air can lead to severe and chronic health conditions, while even short bursts of exposure to air laden with carbon monoxide can kill.

Regular HVAC maintenance is a primary way to have clean and fresh indoor air and ensure toxins are not reaching deadly levels. Let us assist you in managing indoor air quality and keeping your HVAC equipment in tip-top condition.

What the Labels on Your HVAC Units Can Tell You

Many types of household appliances and equipment, including your HVAC system, have information stickers. So, why should you understand what the labels on your HVAC units can tell you? Well, for one thing, the data displayed can help you with warranty and service information, and additionally can help you save money on energy costs. Here’s a simple explanation about the technical information on HVAC system labels.

What Are the Types of Data on HVAC Unit Labels?

The government mandates that cooling and heating equipment meet construction, safety, and energy efficiency standards. These standards require manufacturers to place stickers with specific data in a spot on the equipment where the homeowner can view the information. Typically, this information includes:

  • Manufacturer specifications such as model number, date of manufacture, and energy efficiency are usually detailed on a data sticker.
  •  Another label showing the install date and contractor details may be added at installation.
  •  After installation, separate service maintenance labels may be placed on the equipment by HVAC technicians.

Depending on the age of your HVAC system, all labels may not be present, and formats not standard. Recently passed legislation from the Federal Trade Commission now addresses this issue so that consumers get a range of factual information displayed on their equipment.

Energy Efficiency Labels

The Energy Labeling Rule now requires major home appliance makers to place a black and yellow EnergyGuide sticker on equipment. The label is fixed to central and portable air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps.

The model number, company responsible for making the equipment, significant features of the equipment, estimated annual operating costs, and estimated power use is detailed on the EnergyGuide data sticker.

How Homeowners Can Save on HVAC Running Costs

So, this is the good news about having EnergyGuide labels on heating and cooling equipment. The appliance data sticker gives an estimated annual power use and operating cost, so comparison shopping has never been easier. You can easily assess the purchase price of similar equipment with similar power outputs straight from the HVAC unit labels.

However, the final choice may not necessarily be decided on the lowest purchase cost of heating or cooling systems. You still have to consider the size of your home, solar passivity, the number of rooms to be heated, and any other impacts that may require a high-power output appliance. So, for example, an old timber home subject to draughts will probably need a higher heat output than a more modern, better sealed home. And there’s no getting away from the fact that the more energy an HVAC system uses, the higher the running costs are.

With the EnergyGuide sticker, you can at least do a better ‘apples to apples’ comparison on similar models with the power output you need. Remembering that the details are estimates, not actuals, you can make your own best guess on cost and power use based on your home’s unique requirements for HVAC use.

Maintenance Information on HVAC System Labels

Besides the EnergyGuide label, you can expect your HVAC service technicians to place service labels on the equipment. These stickers record the service date and recommended due date for the next service. Depending upon your local climate, HVAC preventative maintenance should be done once or twice a year.

If you live in a warm climate, only requiring air conditioning, then an annual service will be sufficient. However, if you live in a climate zone where summers are hot and winters bitterly cold, your HVAC system will get a good workout throughout these seasons. Maintenance is best done twice a year, once for the cooling equipment and once for the heating equipment. Place a service call with your HVAC contractor so that work can be done before the season begins.

The record of service that HVAC unit labels provide may be beneficial if you’re thinking of selling or renting your home at some stage. The data sticker assures potential buyers or renters that the house has been well maintained.

Get Expert Assistance from North Virginia HVAC Contractors

Briggs HVAC in North Virginia is an expert in HVAC installation and maintenance. If your heating and cooling appliances and equipment are missing labeling information, we can help find the details for you with a thorough maintenance inspection and research. Our highly experienced technicians have worked on many different HVAC systems. We will help you put in place service maintenance records and an annual plan that will give you peace of mind

If money is tight, we may be able to offer you monthly payment options, so contact us today for all your home heating and cooling needs. 

Adding on to Your Home? 6 HVAC Considerations That Should Be Part of Your Project

Planning a home addition requires myriad issues and tasks to be thought through and documented. A crucial part of home remodeling is addressing heating and cooling requirements for the new space. Talking over HVAC requirements with a home heating and cooling expert should be one of your primary tasks. So, if you’re adding on to your home, here are six HVAC considerations that should be part of your project.

1. Are There HVAC Regulations You Need to Know About?

In this era of rapid technological changes to energy production methods (think solar and battery storage), new HVAC regulations inevitably come into play. Likewise, the relentless pursuit of energy efficiency also drives new heating and cooling equipment standards. As part of your upfront home addition planning, you should check with government agencies on any recent rule changes. Good starting points are the Energy Information Administration and the Department of Energy.

2. Will the Extra Footage from Your Home Addition Need More HVAC?

One of the vital HVAC matters to consider is the level of heating and cooling needed in the new space. It would help if you asked several key questions:

  1.       What will be the most cost-efficient way to cool and heat the area?
  2.       Can you extend the existing HVAC system to the room with additional ductwork?
  3.       Will the new space be energy passive?
  4.       If new HVAC equipment is needed, does it have to be connected to existing systems, or can it stand   alone?

Expert HVAC companies can be worth their weight in gold at this early stage of your planning. They will generally give you free advice on all relevant new and updated laws and equipment standards, as this knowledge is essential to their business.

3. Should You Reconfigure Ductwork?

So, should you consider reconfiguring existing ductwork to deliver seasonal cooling and heating to the home addition? With walls opened up and ductwork exposed, this can be an opportune time to expand your existing HVAC. It will be much cheaper to add some new ductwork and a vent at this point in the project than after completion.

You should go back to the project plan to calculate and compare the cost of expansion over a new HVAC system or a stand-alone appliance.

4. Is This a Good Opportunity to Upgrade Your HVAC?

You don’t want to overinvest in a new HVAC if it’s unnecessary. But with all the work occurring on the home addition, there may be cost savings to upgrading machinery now, rather than postponing.

One of the HVAC matters to consider is whether upcoming regulatory changes will cost you in retrofitting and balance that cost against the price of a new system. In addition, examine whether the improved efficiencies of new equipment can help offset the higher purchase price. 

5. Critical HVAC Matters to Consider — What type of HVAC is best suited for the new space?

Working out the most efficient way to address the energy required for the new home space will take some time. You’ll need to work through the different types of HVAC appliances on the market, including price and energy outputs. And, of course, you’ll need to tailor the solution to your specific climate and weather characteristics.

Air conditioners can be purchased as evaporative coolers, window units, wall-mounted, or even portable appliances. Heating can be supplied via furnace systems, permanently wall-mounted or portable space heaters, and mini-split systems.

Geothermal and hybrid systems, while not as common on the market, can also be investigated and costed.

6. How will you Maintain your HVAC during and after renovation?

Building and renovating is a messy business. Dust will be shaken loose and move throughout the home. Debris from opening up walls, building new ones, plastering, and painting, will all contribute to poor air quality until the home addition work is complete.

As much as practical, you don’t want this filthy air getting into the HVAC where it will collect and put a strain on the equipment. Minimizing the use of your HVAC during the peak of building work will assist. Checking, cleaning, and replacing air filters can be done more regularly than before the home addition work began. Use exhaust fans to blow dust and debris out of the house where you can.

Get Expert Assistance from Briggs HVAC in North Virginia

At Briggs HVAC, we are highly experienced with fitting many different types of HVAC systems. If you’re planning a new installation, need advice on general heating and cooling matters, or need to schedule a maintenance visit, please get in touch. Your HVAC can probably do with a good inspection and clean after all that building work.

5 Benefits of Digital Thermostats

Digital thermostats are a relatively new feature of HVAC systems. Older analog thermostats have been a reliable piece of equipment for decades, maintaining set temperature levels in the home. So, are there compelling reasons homeowners should consider switching to digital from analog? This article lays out five benefits of digital thermostats to help you decide the facts and whether to upgrade your equipment.

1. Lower Energy Costs

Both analog and digital thermostats are wall-mounted and wired into HVAC systems. However, analog devices must be manually set, usually via a mechanical slider set to the desired temperature. On the other hand, smart digital thermostats can be connected via Wi-Fi and operated through a mobile phone app or via computer to reset the temperature. This remote programming functionality gives digital thermostats the edge in reducing energy costs.

According to the Department of Energy, households can save up to 10% a year on HVAC power consumption by simply changing thermostat temperature settings for up to eight hours each day. With a digital thermostat, this is easy to do.

The flexibility of digital thermostats in managing HVAC cycles aids in lowering household energy costs. Multiple temperature cycles can be set for the day, week, or other periods. For example, lower energy settings can be set for when people go to work during the day or at night when the family is sleeping. If you’re out of the home and forgot to set a cycle or will be home late, it’s a breeze to reset the HVAC thermostat cycle via a mobile app.

2. Better Home Comfort Levels

With digital thermostats, it’s easy to achieve reliable and customizable temperatures across the home. Any room with air ducts can have a digital thermostat installed. Installing multiple thermostats wired to the HVAC lets you achieve different climate zones in the house. So, for example, if you have someone suffering from a cold or flu, you can set their bedroom to be kept constantly warm while ill.

Another benefit of having multiple digital thermostats is that unused rooms can be shut off from the HVAC. For example, if you have empty guest rooms, you can use the thermostat to close off air from the ducts. This action will save on energy costs.

3. Convenience

Convenience is a significant advantage with digital over analog temperature devices. Analog always requires manual adjustment, meaning unless you’re physically present, no fine-tuning is possible. Too bad if you’ve gone out for the day and forgotten to lower the settings.

Of course, with smart digital thermostats, all you need is your mobile phone and the downloaded app, and you can adjust the required settings instantly. You get convenience and cost savings at the press of a screen button.

4. Improve HVAC performance with a Digital Thermostat

HVAC performance can be enhanced with a digital thermostat in two ways:

  1. Reduced heating and cooling cycle times, and
  2. Subsequent reduced wear and tear on the equipment.

A correctly functioning thermostat causes the heating and cooling equipment to be turned on and off when room warmth starts to vary from a set temperature. All thermostats have this temperature variance. So, if for example, you set the thermostat temperature to 80 degrees, the variance range could be between 77 or 83 degrees when the HVAC operates.

However, the variance is less with digital than analog thermostats and can be fine-tuned by interaction with smart apps and computer programs. As a result, the heating and cooling cycles have a shorter operation time. In turn, this reduces workload and extends the lifespan of your HVAC equipment.

5. Keep Costs Down with More Smart Controls

Advanced digital thermostats are now becoming integrated with smart speaker and HVAC systems, enabling even more cost savings.

Using mobile apps and computer software, you can track your energy usage and quickly make decisions on power use.

The underlying smarts in digital technology enable systems to learn preferences in homeowner temperature needs and adjust accordingly.

And some mobile apps are linked to dynamic weather data, allowing the digital thermostat to regulate internal temperature based on local weather conditions.

Going Digital?

If you’re unsure whether you want to go digital, get in touch with Briggs HVAC. Even though you may have an older HVAC system with an analog thermostat, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t switch to a digital thermostat. If your system is less than ten years old, there is a good chance that it will be compatible with a digital device. This is an excellent time to discuss equipment compatibility with your local HVAC professionals in North Virginia. 

What Is the Purpose of a Cold Air Return Vent?

Home heating, ventilation, and cooling systems (HVAC) are complex mechanisms. Amongst other functions, these systems use venting to carry cold and warm air through ducts to the furnace or air conditioner unit, heating or cooling our homes as needed. If you don’t know what the purpose of a cold air return vent is, here’s a brief overview. It will help you maintain your HVAC in peak condition.

What are Cold Air Return Vents?

HVAC vents are the entry and exit points for air circulated around the home. They’re easy enough to locate around your home as they will be fronted by a grille or a grate, often matched to the home décor. As an example, timber slotted grilles look smart and neat when embedded into similarly colored timber floors. In contrast, decorative metal grilles can have an elegant impact in tiled bathrooms.

These vent facings are slotted so that airflow into and out of the HVAC ducts isn’t interrupted. The grille also usually allows the air direction to be manually adjusted with little effort. Cold air return vents are typically located on the floor, though they may also be found on the lower part of walls.

What’s the Primary Purpose of a Return Vent?

There’s more than one purpose of a cold air return vent, but the main function is sending cold air to the furnace to be heated. From the furnace, warm air is blown through the ducts, exiting through the hot air returns or vents within the home.

Based on the principle that hot air rises and chill air falls, cold air returns are placed at low levels in the home interior, such as the floor and lower walls. Less energy is then required to extract the cold air and return it to the furnace. Conversely, hot air vents are located in the ceiling or near the top of the walls.

What Other Functions Do Cold Air Returns Perform?

Aside from returning cold air to the furnace, cold air returns do other essential jobs.

Balancing Air Flow

Keeping the cold air vents open helps balance the airflow through the HVAC and throughout the home. Closing these returns will have the unfortunate effect of increasing the air pressure inside the air ducts. In turn, the extra pressure is forced into the ductwork and eventually will cause leaks and other damage to your expensive HVAC asset.

Qualified professional heating and cooling companies should deal with these types of problems. Regular annual maintenance will identify problems, but don’t wait if you notice a problem. Waiting will cost you money in unnecessary energy costs and further damage to your HVAC equipment.

Filtering Air

Another purpose of a return vent is to assist with sanitizing the air. Cold air vents typically have air filters behind them, trapping dust, dirt, fungal spores, and other unwanted particles. Filtering at these junctures prevents the airborne nasties from going through to the furnace or air conditioner unit and circulating throughout the home.

Maintaining Energy Efficiency

Having the correct number of cold and hot air vents throughout the home helps lower your energy costs. Rooms without a vent may receive little, if any, benefits of the circulating air, reducing overall energy efficiency.

Return Air Vent Maintenance

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends annual yearly inspections of your HVAC. However, if you lack time or expertise, setting up a maintenance program is a sound way to go.

Some easy tasks you can do to maintain the return air vents are:

  • Give them a regular clean. Lightly running the vacuum hose or dust buster over the vent will remove a good amount of dust.
  • Change the air filters at recommended intervals. Check your system requirements for how often this should occur.
  •  Keep the vents clear of furnishings and other objects. Blocking the vents will make the HVAC work harder than necessary and may cause damage to the overall system.

Need Some Help with Your Air Returns?

It’s ideal to have cold air returns in bedrooms, lounges, and other living areas (bathrooms and kitchens excluded). Such a setup enables the peak efficiency of your home comfort system. Unfortunately, older homes may not have this luxury and lack adequate vents.

At Briggs HVAC, we provide homeowners with thorough inspection services, maintenance programs, and expert repairs. Servicing Northern Virginia, we can answer all your questions on cold air returns and advise whether your home would benefit from additional venting. For example, rooms with musty or stale air may indicate that a new return will significantly improve clean air circulation.

Image: Flickr

5 Energy Efficiency Trends to Look for in 2022

The quest for home energy efficiency continues in 2022. With most people looking to reduce home power costs, the power industry and technology advances provide new opportunities in this area. From solar options, smart devices and systems, and technically advanced materials, here are five energy efficiency trends to look for in 2022.

1. Solar Panels and Batteries

While the take-up of solar panels has been a strong trend that will continue in 2022, batteries are now becoming a standard part of the solar package mix. Batteries supercharge the homeowner’s investment in solar panels by storing the excess generated power. Without a battery, surplus solar power is lost back into the grid. Plus, you’re still reliant on the grid at night or in poor sunlight weather. Batteries change all that and give you energy self-reliance.

Some solar batteries have innovative system capabilities allowing them to connect with smart speakers like Alexa and Google Nest, along with other smart devices in your home.

2. Energy Smart Home Devices

Building on the advances in solar technology, there is a proliferation of energy-related smart devices already on the market. New and enhanced technology is frequently released and becoming commonplace.

Smart Power Adapters and Strips

Inexpensive and easily used, smart power adapters transform standard appliances, lighting, and other electronic equipment into instant smart home devices. Mobile phone apps connecting with the smart adapters let you control power usage from your smartphone. Many of these adapters will also connect with Alexa, Google, and Siri smart speakers, responding to voice commands.

You can obtain energy information from the speakers, including real-time use and length of time on. When paired with motion sensors, the devices can turn on or off all power in a room when people enter or exit. Voice commands or a phone tap quickly turn the adapter on or off.

Smart Light Bulbs

Smart light bulbs use LED technology. In the long run, they beat other light bulbs in the energy efficiency stakes as they use less energy and have a longer life. Some models have motion-triggered and geofencing functionality, allowing automated control of when lights go on or off. Other features include remote control, scheduled timing, and color-changing with Bluetooth or Wi-fi connectivity. In some instances, integration with security cameras and thermostats can occur. As with smart adapters, these can be operated from smartphones and smart speaker systems.

3. Enhancing Home Energy Efficiency with Smart HVAC Systems

Most homeowners spend a substantial amount of their energy costs on heating and cooling, and advances in HVAC technology are one of the vitally important energy efficiency trends occurring. Innovative HVAC systems incorporate automated controls and can monitor and adjust indoor temperatures with fine precision. Smart thermostats are controlled using smartphones, with vents turned off in unoccupied rooms.

If your heating and cooling equipment is nearing end-of-life, it’s worth discussing your smart home options with experienced HVAC installers.

4. Smart Speaker Systems — One of the Runaway Energy Efficiency Trends for 2022

With much of the smart home equipment emerging, the presence of smart speaker technology is everywhere. Driven by pandemic conditions in 2021, the market for Amazon, Apple, and Google smart speakers surged. While there are other smart speakers, these three brands are firmly ahead in popularity and connectivity to smart devices and home energy management.

Just a few of the energy efficiency benefits being achieved by smart speakers include:

  •  An energy company partnering with Alexa, allowing customers to adjust their home energy use according to half-hourly price changes from time-of-use tariffs
  • Google’s Nest Temperature Sensor working with smart thermostats to reduce energy use while keeping indoor temperatures at a preferred comfort level, and
  •  Apple’s Siri also talks to the Ecobee SmartThermostat, which has smartphone controls, clever scheduling, and sensors to detect room occupation.

5. Low-E Windows

And just for a change from electronic-based technology is the passive yet extremely valuable, low-emissivity window. The technology behind these windows is based on a specially designed high-performance glass with a transparent thin metal-oxide coating. The metal layer reflects infrared heat back indoors. The improved insulation substantially lowers home heating and cooling costs.

Keep Home Energy Efficiency High with Regular HVAC Maintenance

With all the effort you go to in keeping home energy efficiency at its peak and costs down, don’t forget to schedule a maintenance service for your HVAC at regular intervals. Your HVAC’s performance has a substantial impact on your energy drawdown needs. Regular maintenance is necessary to keep your heating and cooling equipment operating at its best. Here at Briggs HVAC in North Virginia, we are experts in installation, maintenance, and services for all your home comfort systems. 

Why Seasonal HVAC Calls Are Important to the Life of Your Unit

Like many things in life, getting around to regular household upkeep can be tiresome. Spring cleaning, clearing roof gutters, garden tidy-ups, and seasonal HVAC maintenance are such typical chores. They easily slip from the mind and move into “I’ll do that a bit later” territory. However, as with all home upkeep, regular maintenance is key to protecting your important assets. That’s why it’s essential to plan and schedule maintenance at the correct intervals.

How Seasonal HVAC Calls Can Extend the Life of Your HVAC

Your HVAC is a significant value home asset and worth protecting. Failure to keep your HVAC in tip-top condition by not doing regular maintenance at least annually causes premature breakdown. Parts that might have only needed tightening, oiling, or a light cleaning will corrode or fail as time passes.

You want your HVAC to last as long as practical so that you’re not shelling out for expensive repairs or a new system before time. For example, well-cared-for air conditioners can last between 12 to 15 years, while furnaces can have about 20 years. A little TLC by professional HVAC technicians carrying out preventive maintenance can help extend equipment lifespans.

The Best Time of the Year to Schedule Seasonal HVAC Calls

The heating and cooling components of your HVAC are most heavily used at different times of the year. As such, it’s best to do preventive maintenance at differing times for these major parts.

Air Conditioning

Early spring is considered the best time of the year to schedule maintenance and repairs for air conditioning units. This service call will have your equipment running at peak efficiency when needed in summer. It’s a good idea not to leave the service call till hot weather begins. You may find difficulties booking a service as the heat will have prompted many others to do the same.

Furnaces

The end of summer or the beginning of autumn is the recommended time to have your furnace serviced. Preventive maintenance at this time leaves plenty of wriggle room for any necessary repairs or replacement equipment before winter chill arrives.

Preventive Maintenance Plans

Many HVAC maintenance and repair companies offer annual preventive maintenance plans. These plans save you the hassle of scheduling service calls as the maintenance company takes this on. In addition, they will draw up plans showing you what equipment inspections and tune-up tasks will be done for each service call.

Other Benefits of Seasonal HVAC Maintenance

While aiming to extend the life of your HVAC system, there are several other benefits your household will receive from a well-tuned, optimized system. These include:

  1.   Achieving lower energy consumption and consequently receiving lower energy bills
  2.   Keeping mold and other fungi and bacteria from taking hold in ducts and other components, therefore maintaining healthy air quality in your home
  3.   Preventing HVAC failure at critical times (i.e., a well-maintained system should keep powering on through most weather events, even the worst that winter throws around)
  4.       Meeting warranty conditions for equipment maintenance. Manufacturers or retailers then have no excuses to refrain from repairing or replacing equipment as necessary.

What Can You Expect at a Seasonal HVAC Call?

Qualified HVAC technicians should have checklists for HVAC items to be inspected, re-calibrated, cleaned, replaced, topped up, and tested. You can expect that most parts of the cooling or heating system will be looked at, with particular attention paid to parts showing wear and tear.

Air Conditioning

Essential maintenance for air conditioning units should include:

  • changing the air filters
  • ensuring vents are clear
  • inspecting the thermostat controls and temperature accuracy
  • oiling any moving parts
  • checking drainage for condensation
  • cleaning and adjusting blowers, and
  • testing the overall unit.

If the air conditioner has both indoor and outdoor components, the technician will check and test both of these.

Furnaces

Much the same maintenance aspects will be carried out for the furnace, though checking the flue for obstructions and overall condition is an additional task. If necessary, the technician will clear off dirt and debris and vacuum inside the unit.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps do both cooling and heating. The HVAC technician’s maintenance of heat pumps will include duct cleaning, a furnace check, and inspection and cleaning of the outdoor unit.

North Virginia HVAC Maintenance and Repairs

Besides the most straightforward Inspection and maintenance tasks (such as changing air filters), homeowners should rely on HVAC technicians. HVAC systems are too complex and dangerous for the unskilled to attempt repairs.

If you need expert advice about seasonal HVAC maintenance or any other issues related to home comfort, talk to us at Briggs. We provide cooling and heating services across northern Virginia, including attending to after-hours emergencies.

5 Signs You Have an Airflow Problem (and How to Fix It)

When your air conditioner stops working during a hot July weekend, you can tell almost immediately. But there are 11 other months in the year, when the outdoor temperatures aren’t so severe. Losing a few degrees here or there might not be as noticeable. And what if your units appear to be running properly, but you start to notice other signs of a potential problem? It could be that you’re having an airflow problem.

Not catching an airflow concern immediately can lead to a host of potential HVAC issues. By the time you reach this awareness point, you’re ready to call in a professional, even on a Sunday, just to get relief. The truth is airflow problems are pretty common and can be avoidable in some instances. Recognizing these five signs early on can help ensure you catch the airflow problem before it turns into a costly service call later.

1. Airflow Problems Can Result from Normal Wear & Tear

Recommendation: Schedule that seasonal maintenance visit for a proper unit cleaning.

There’s no avoiding some HVAC problems, including the occasional airflow failures that result from normal wear and tear. So, just knowing how old your unit is or recognizing how many years your ductwork has gone uncleaned can be reason enough to call in a professional for an inspection. All units, new or old, benefit from routine seasonal maintenance, which is your first line of defense against poor airflow and other mechanical failures.

2. Hot and Cold Spots Throughout Your Home

Recommendation: Change your filters.

Airflow problems can most commonly be the result of a clogged filter. This breakdown in how well the air moves through your unit can result in hot and cold spots around your house. If you experience fluctuating temperatures in various rooms of your home, it could be the filter is prohibiting your unit’s proper operation. It’s easy to forget about changing those filters on time, but it’s an oversight that can lead to these significant airflow and temperature fluctuations. If it’s been a while since you’ve changed your filter, take care of that now. If a fresh filter doesn’t resolve your airflow concerns, you can then explore other culprits.

3. Ductwork Blockages

Recommendation: Schedule a thorough cleaning of your home’s entire ductwork system.

You would be surprised at just how much dust, debris, and contagions get caught up permanently within your ductwork. Older homes might present with layers of old debris along the ductwork walls that essentially takes up space and can hinder how well air flows through to various areas of your home. And there is always the other possibility of a rodent or critter taking up residence in your ductwork somewhere, blocking airflow with a nest. You often hear about how clean ductwork is essential for indoor air quality, which is absolutely true. But blockages or airflow hindrances in your ductwork can lead to an airflow problem, as well.

4. Blocked Vents & Registers

Recommendation: Check every register and vent in your home to remove any blockages.

If you’re experiencing temperature fluctuations, room to room, you can always check your home’s vents and registers. When your house was built, the ductwork was designed based on the layout to promptly deliver air into each of the rooms in a strategic way. Blocking a register with a piece of furniture or clogging a vent with a child’s toy inadvertently can lead to disruptions in your airflow altogether. Even cold air return vents need to be free from coverage.

5. Pressure Imbalances within the Home

Recommendation: This usually warrants a call to a professional for an inspection.

If you notice that your interior or exterior doors slam closed on their own, you might assume it’s because there’s wind presence. But when you realize there is no direct wind source, it could be a sign of pressure imbalances resulting from poor airflow. Check to see if you’re experiencing little to no air from your vents, and then call a professional. You might only need to have your coils cleaned, or the squirrel cage within your unit cleaned. But not addressing the pressure issues when they arise can lead to more significant potential unit damage later.

Airflow problems can be common. To stay on top of potential problems, you can be mindful of these five signs of airflow issues. And if you can’t get to the bottom of it, let the professionals at Briggs HVAC help. Call and schedule your maintenance today, too. Preventing the airflow issues before they arise can help prolong the life of your unit and keep your home comfortable year-round.