Ask the Contractor: HVAC tips for a comfy home, all summer long

The use of a programmable thermostat can reduce energy use between 5 and 30 percent. (Stock photo)

The use of a programmable thermostat can reduce energy use between 5 and 30 percent. (Stock photo)

We just purchased our first new home, and we are a bit concerned over the operation of our HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system. We have always had a “Swamp Cooler” and would like to know some tips to ensure that our system is operating properly and we do the right things to make it last for many years. Connie and Bill, Prescott Valley

We have all heard the saying “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” On the same premise, if the HVAC unit “ain’t happily operating, ain’t a happy home or family.”

We are fast approaching summer — 81 days from now, so, inasmuch as you have a new home, there are performance standards for the first two years of ownership unless otherwise specified. The contractor should stand behind the product, but the buyer should be responsible for owner-maintenance items.

As far as the operation of your HVAC system, if you experience any of the following, the corrective actions are listed:

Inadequate heat with the unit; the contractor should correct the heating to provide the specified temperatures. The contractor is responsible for balancing dampers, registers and other minor adjustments one time, for one season. Deficiencies caused by malfunction of system equipment or appliances are subject to the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty unless workmanship by the contractor is involved.

Excessive noise from ducts; the contractor should determine cause and make the necessary repairs.

Inadequate combustion air vent; the contractor needs to make necessary repairs.

Improper clearance to change filters; the contractor needs to make corrections to allow easy removal of filters.

Air condition does not adequately cool the home; unit should cool home to 30 degrees lower than outside air temperature when measured in center of the room at 5-foot in height. Minimum indoor temperature should be 78 degrees. Contractor should make repairs or adjustments to meet temperature conditions.

Equipment fails; contractor should correct deficiency if within one year or within limits of manufacturer’s warranty.

Condensate lines broken, improperly routed or water leaking into distribution system; contractor should make necessary repairs.

Your unit passed inspection by the jurisdiction code requirements. You can certainly call the installation contractor and ask for an overview of the system, to make sure you understand how it operates. The industry calls this a “check and serve,” and you should confirm if there are charges for this service.

It is always a good idea to have an HVAC company inspect and perform preventative maintenance on an HVAC system every spring and fall.

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Changing air filters regularly will increase an air conditioning system’s efficiency. (Stock photo)

As a homeowner, you can perform some simple maintenance steps on your own to prolong life and increase the efficiency of the system:

Never close the home registers and shut off rooms; this will place unnecessary strain on the HVAC system.

There are simple AC tips that every homeowner should follow to keep their home comfortably cool and still keep utility bills down during the oppressive heat of summer. The key is to make sure that that the air conditioner is working as efficiently as possible.

It’s not terribly difficult to keep cool during the sweltering days of summer without receiving high utility bills. If you have a central air conditioning system, you can save money and keep cool by following a few tips. Your goal is to make sure that your air conditioner is working as efficiently as possible.

Change air filters. This will ensure that your air conditioning units will be efficient. A home that has central air may also have a furnace with an air handler. Look for the intake duct near the air handler to find the filter. If the filter is dirty, it needs to be cleaned or replaced at least once in a 30-day to 90-day period and more often when running in more extreme weather.

Remember the filters will need to be replaced more frequently if you have pets in your home because pet fur and dander collects in the filters.

Set your thermostat to the “AUTO” setting to keep from running your air conditioner non-stop. This will help reduce the amount of energy needed to run your air conditioner and help your unit run more efficiently. Your air conditioner serves to move the air in your home and remove the moisture from it. When running on the auto setting, your air conditioner will shut off when your home reaches the desired temperature. Additionally, not constantly running your unit will allow for the moisture pulled from the air to evaporate properly, rather than be constantly cycled into your home.

In the spring, wash the condenser coil on the outside unit. This needs to be done at least once a year and will ensure that the unit is running at peak efficiency. A dirty condenser coil runs hotter and is less efficient.

You can tell if the condenser is running too hot by checking the copper tube connecting the outside unit to the inside unit. If it is, your air conditioner may need professional service. A technician will also be able to tell if the unit is low on refrigerant.

The use of a programmable thermostat can reduce energy use between 5 and 30 percent. To reduce energy costs, you can set the thermostat to a higher setting when you will be out of a room or when you are not as active. Higher thermostat settings at night and when you are at work will save you money.

A programmable thermostat can help you save energy and dollars, but the catch is, you must use it. They are not that complicated to operate, less complicated than trying to figure out how to use the VCR and set up the recording device, and it’s worth programming the thermostat because it can help to reduce your power bill. There are a variety of programmable thermostats on the market. Pick one that suits your needs for ease and convenience of operation. You can set it and forget it, as they say.

Before you purchase a programmable thermostat, identify the type of HVAC equipment you have, to ensure compatibility and reap the rewards of energy savings.

Most programmable thermostats have pre-programmed settings that can be set to sync with your life; you can program a wake up time, sleep time, leave time and return time and bingo, the unit will turn on and off and heat and cool accordingly. How nice would it be to have the heat or air conditioning turn on 30 minutes before you walk in the door each day?

I have a programmable, smart thermostat, and it tells me when to change my filter. I can also change the color of the face screen, add photos to the screen and change the face plate finish. It looks like a picture hanging in the hallway. It is simple, easy to use, and I know that using the programmable thermostat is reducing the cost of my energy bill.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time twice each weekend Saturday and Sunday morning at 7 on KQNA 1130AM/99.9FM/95.5FM or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners. A wildly fun, local show.