ACI Northwest Blog : Posts Tagged ‘Athol’

How to Lower Energy Costs for Your Athol Home: Water Heater Tips

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

If you want to lower the energy costs for your Athol home, the water heater might not be the first place you’d think to save energy. However, when you add up the savings from a few easy steps that can improve your water heater’s efficiency, it can make a significant difference in your utility bills.

Here are some of the ways you can reduce the use of hot water in the home and increase your energy savings.

Saving Energy by Using Less Hot Water

Even if you own an energy-efficient, tankless water heater, and you try to conserve water as much as possible, hot water usage can always be reduced in other areas. Installing low flow faucets and fixtures can provide up to 60% in water savings because they reduce the flow rate (gallons per minute) for each fixture. Tankless water heaters are also more efficient when they are used with any application with a lower flow rate.

Replacing older appliances that require a lot of hot water with more energy-efficient models is worth the money and effort because of the energy savings you will get in the end. Make sure you fix any leaks on older hot water faucet or fixtures. A leak that costs a dollar or two extra per month doesn’t seem like much, but it will add up over time.

Lower the Temperature on Your Hot Water Heater

For every 10°F that you lower the water temperature on your hot water heater, you save between 3% to 5% in energy costs. The manufactured setting for most water heaters is 140°F, but most homes only require a maximum temperature of 120°F. Check your owner’s manual before you lower the temperature on your water heater to find out what the recommended settings are and how to change them.

Insulate Your Water Heater Tank and Water Pipes

Whether you have a gas or electric hot water heater, you can find fairly inexpensive and easy-to-install insulators or “jackets” for your water heater tank. Every tank has an R-value that determines how much heat it loses, so unless it is a high value, your water heater tank needs insulation. Call a professional or check your owner’s manual for the R-value of your hot water heater, but the general rule is that if the tank is warm when you touch it, you need more insulation.

You can reduce emissions and your energy costs simply by paying more attention to how much hot water you are using in your Athol home. For more tips and expert advice, call ACI Northwest to speak with one of our technicians.

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Question from Cocolalla: What Makes a Furnace High Efficiency?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

You’ve probably heard in Cocolalla about the new lines of high efficiency furnaces being released by popular home heating companies, but what exactly is different about these high efficiency devices from your current furnace? Let’s take a closer look at what a high efficiency furnace offers and why it can save you money.

Added Features

A high efficiency furnace uses familiar technology in a new way to reduce the amount of energy lost when combustion takes place. This means:

  • Sealed Combustion – Instead of open combustion which allows heat to escape during and after the combustion process, a high efficiency furnace uses a sealed chamber with carefully measured and fed airflow to burn fuel and produce heat. Exhaust heat can then be recaptured and used to heat air transferred to your air vents.
  • Two Stage Gas Valves – With a two stage gas valve, your furnace can respond to the temperature outside. There isn’t just one “on” switch. The furnace will regulate gas flow based on how much energy is needed to produce heat for your home. So, if there is a sudden burst of cold outside, the furnace will respond accordingly, but for most days when heating needs are low, it will use only the minimum amount of needed gas.
  • Programmable – High efficiency furnaces are now programmable, meaning you can set specific time limits for operation, change thermostat settings digitally and inspect the device through an electronic read out. The level of control given to you by a programmable high efficiency furnace can greatly reduce gas or electricity consumption.

Cost Benefit

The real reason many people are interested in high efficiency furnaces is that they are so much less expensive to operate. Instead of costing hundreds of dollars to run through the winter, they operate the bare minimum needed to heat your home. Using up to 95% of the fuel they consume to produce heat and regulating gas to cut how much is consumed during milder days, these furnaces are built to save you money.

If you have an old furnace that chews through energy like nobody’s business, now might be the time to consider the benefits of a brand new, high efficiency model.

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How Much Will a High Efficiency Furnace Save Me? A Question from Kootenai

Friday, October 14th, 2011

The furnaces you can buy these days in Kootenai are all much more energy efficient than those available even 10 years ago. However, that doesn’t mean that all of the current models are created equal. There is still a pretty big variation when it comes to energy efficiency and when it comes to price, so you need to really know what you’re looking for if you want to get the best deal out there.

The first thing you should understand when you’re trying to pick out a furnace is how energy efficiency for this type of equipment it measured. All furnaces come with an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating that reflects just exactly how energy efficient they are.

Any furnace you buy today will have an AFUE of at least 80%, but it’s possible to purchase models with AFUEs of 97% or more. Of course, energy efficiency is generally a good thing, but there are some other things to consider when you’re trying to decide just how energy efficient you need your new furnace to be.

What this calculation really comes down to is how much you’ll be able to save monthly and annually with a higher efficiency furnace. While your heating bills will certainly be lower the higher the furnace’s efficiency is, you will also pay more up front for the highest efficiency models.

This higher purchase price may be worth it, however, if you live in an area with particularly harsh winters. If your heating load is very high and you’ll be using your furnace a lot, your monthly savings will make up for the higher initial price of the high efficiency furnace in a reasonable amount of time.

However, if you live in an area with relatively mild winters and you won’t be demanding a whole lot of your furnace, then the amount you’ll save each month with the highest efficiency models really won’t add up to much.

Keep in mind that a furnace with an 80% AFUE is still quite efficient and will almost certainly save you a considerable amount monthly when compared to the unit you’re currently using.

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How to Reduce Indoor Allergens: A Tip From Cocolalla

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Indoor allergens range from the obnoxious like pet dander, pollen and dust to the downright dangerous like mold, smoke and dust mites. Typically, you won’t even realize you have allergens in your Cocolalla home until one or more members of your family develop symptoms of discomfort or illness with no clear reason. Long term respiratory or allergic issues when inside the house are usually a clear sign of an indoor allergen problem – usually something you can fix.

Identify the Allergen

Step one is to identify the source of the discomfort. Most allergens are related to something you have in or around your home. For example, if you have a cat or dog, you very likely have high levels of pet dander. A flower garden outside or lots of plants inside can result in high pollen levels. Excess moisture in your basement or attic can result in dust mite and mold growth.

If you are unsure of what allergens are causing your discomfort, there are companies that can test the air in your home for specific allergens. These tests look for all allergens as well as potentially dangerous contaminants like radon and MVOC toxins from mold and mildew. Whether you need such testing depends on the severity of your health concerns and the initial inspection performed by your contractor.

Getting Rid of Allergens

Once you know for sure what your problem is, it’s time to cut back on the allergens. Mechanical fixes are available in the form of air filters and advanced ventilation systems. You can supplement those solutions by implementing a series of simple upgrades to your insulation to keep out the pollutants that are outside.

The key is to make sure the air flows freely through your home and filters remove and ventilate the air properly to keep it from growing too stale and making you sick. You can also cut back on the use of certain chemicals and materials that cause allergens to build up. For example, aerosols, paints and glues produce a number of irritating gases that tend to stick around inside.

Additionally, make sure your pets are cleaned often and that your upholstery and carpet is vacuumed daily by a HEPA quality vacuum cleaner. This will severely reduce the presence of dust, dust mites and dander.

By focusing heavily on the reduction of pollutants and allergens like dander, pollen and dust, most of your indoor air quality problems will be solved. It just takes awareness and action.

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2011 AC Federal Tax Credits: A Tip From Priest River

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

You’ve probably heard many arguments for why you should purchase an energy efficient air conditioner in Priest River. They may cost a bit more up front, but they’ll save you money in the long run by cutting down on your monthly energy bills. They’re also better for the environment because their lower energy usage means less fossil fuels are burned to keep them running.

But there’s another reason energy efficient AC units are better buys than your standard alternative. There are Federal tax credits available to consumers who purchase them. This tax credit can more than make up for the higher purchase price of the units, allowing you to enjoy your monthly savings much sooner and know you’re doing your part to protect the environment.

How to Qualify

In order to qualify for 2011 air conditioning Federal tax credit, you need to purchase an appropriate energy efficient AC system. Your HVAC contractor or salesperson can tell you which models and units qualify for this program. Just make sure you save all documentation and proof of purchase in case you need them to validate your claim.

The AC units that qualify you for this tax credit include those with a SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) of 16 or greater and an EER (energy efficiency ratio) of at least 13. These two numbers are the best and clearest indicators of the overall energy efficiency of the product and can easily be found on the packaging for any air conditioning unit. While a 16 SEER is very good, it is not the highest rating currently available, either, so you won’t be forced to buy the most expensive model available to get your credit.

Credit Details

The tax credit is good for up to 10% of the purchase price of the unit up to $300. Keep in mind, though, that you can only claim up to $500 lifetime towards this program. So if you’ve previously claimed $250, you can only claim an additional $250 for 2011. That’s still a significant savings, though, and well worth looking into if you’re in the market for a new AC unit or system.

So if you’ve been thinking about upgrading your AC system, but haven’t quiet gotten around to, now may be the time to take advantage of this great tax credit opportunity before it’s too late.

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How Does Central AC Work? A Tip From Spirit Lake

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

We pretty much just take the fact of central air conditioning for granted these days in Spirit Lake. It is present almost everywhere and it is hard to imagine getting through a long hot summer without it. But if you are like most people, you probably do not actually know how central air conditioning works. While you can certainly take advantage of it without understanding it, the basic concept is pretty simple.

Basically, central air conditioning systems are composed of an outdoor unit that typically houses the compressor and condenser and an indoor unit that manages the flow of air throughout your house or other building. This indoor unit is typically either an air handler or a furnace, and it directs the flow of air through a series of ducts that feed into the various rooms of the house.

The cool air originates in the outdoor unit and is blown into the house, gradually absorbing heat as it goes, and that air is then returned to the outdoor unit to be re-cooled. What actually happens in the outdoor unit involves the cycle of a type of refrigerant from a gas to a liquid and back. In the condenser area of the outdoor unit, the pressure on the refrigerant is lessened and it is able to absorb heat from the air returning from the house.

This gas, while warmer than the liquid refrigerant, is still quite cold and acts to cool the air being passed back into the house. As that refrigerant moves along to the compressor area, the gas is converted to a liquid and is forced to release the heat it had been holding. In that way, the air conditioner is able to remove heat from the inside of your house and release it outside.

Your air conditioning system is also generally hooked up to a thermostat, which is what controls when the unit switches on and off. You can set the thermostat at the temperature you would like to maintain inside your house and the thermostat will signal the air conditioner to switch on when the indoor temperature rises above that level. And once the indoor temperature is again below the preset level on the thermostat, the air conditioner will switch off again.

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Maintenance: Cleaning Your Conditioner Coil Will Save You Headaches Later

Monday, July 25th, 2011

You have plenty of things to clean all over your house. But do you really have to clean your air conditioner too? Well, if you want it to keep working well, you do. In fact, cleaning the coil of your air conditioner is a quick and easy process, especially if you do it on a regular basis, and it can save you a great deal of frustration later on.

Like any machine, your air conditioner needs a tune up from time to time in order to continue to function properly. While a lot of this is taken care of if you have an annual maintenance service performed by a professional, your air conditioning coil will benefit greatly by being cleaned more often than that.

In fact, during your annual maintenance visit, your air conditioning technician can easily demonstrate for you how to get to the coil and clean it. This is a relatively easy task that you can carry out every month or so when your system is in use to help ensure optimal health and functioning for your system.

Of course, your air conditioning system will still run whether you clean the coils on a regular basis or not. For now, that is. Allowing more and more debris to build up on the coil, however, can have a big impact on the overall energy efficiency of your unit. An air conditioner with a dirty coil will have to work harder to keep your house cool, and that will be reflected by an increase in energy consumption.

Also, an air conditioner with a dirty coil that is having to work harder to keep your house cool will wear out more quickly than one that is working properly without added impediments. The added wear and tear that this causes to various other parts within your air conditioner can cause them to malfunction and need to be replaced sooner than they should.

This means more costly repairs, even if they are minor ones. It also means that your entire air conditioning system will probably not last as long as it may have with proper care. You will have to replace it sooner, adding even more to the cost of having and running the equipment.

Cleaning your air conditioner coil regularly is a simple and effective way of helping to keep the entire system running smoothly and efficiently for many years to come.

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