A duct cleaning can pay for itself!


In the majority of homes, the ductwork is largely concealed inside walls, ceilings, attics and crawl spaces. This network of pipes connects the furnace and air conditioner to the various rooms of the house. The duct system is responsible for delivering heated and cooled air while also pulling the stale air out of the rooms. The integrity of the pipes directly affects the efficiency, capacity and reliability of the furnace and air conditioner. The average home collects approximately forty pounds of dust every year. Living in dust are microscopic bugs, such as dust mites, that multiply rapidly and can become a health issue. While continual dusting and vacuuming helps to rid the living environment of pollutants, the dust work is often neglected. Debris gradually builds up within the pipes. This accumulation blocks airflow.

When the maximum amount of conditioned air is restricted from reaching the intended destination, the furnace or air conditioner is required to run more often and use more energy to reach thermostat settings. Along with higher running costs, the added wear and tear increases the risk of malfunction and shortens service life. In addition to dust, the ductwork commonly conceals mold growth, mildew, pollen, lint, pet dander, bugs, webs, decomposing rodents and construction debris.

Heated and cooled air passes through the duct system multiple times. These harmful toxins can easily become airborne and spread into every room of the house. When occupants breathe the contaminants into their lungs, they are at risk of respiratory infections and everything from headaches to asthma attacks. It’s a good idea to have the ductwork professionally inspected and tested every couple of years. Ductwork cleaning is a non-invasive procedure that optimizes the airflow and efficiency of the system. It can help to reduce the workload on the furnace and air conditioner and save a great deal of money on utility bills and repairs.

Reasons why air conditioner maintenance is essential

air conditioner

A modern central air conditioner provides significant benefits, including elevating whole-home comfort and air quality. Today’s cooling systems are typically quite reliable, quiet and energy efficient. While every unit is different, a good quality air conditioner should last between fifteen and twenty years. To get the most value and service life out of the equipment, proper maintenance is necessary. All makes, models, styles and ages of cooling systems require yearly tune-ups to provide reliable longevity. The cooling system is made up of a complexity of components all working together to provide the maximum amount of cool air. Any compromise in integrity of any of the separate parts diminishes capacity and efficiency. Mold, mildew and bacteria thrive in the hot, moist environment inside the air conditioner. These contaminants not only hinder performance but can become airborne and pollute indoor air quality. A dirty air conditioner contributes to a long list of serious health problems. Musty smells from the vents are an indication of microbial growth within the system.

There is also the potential of algae growing in the condensate drain, restricting drainage and leading to water damage. Dust is another problem. Whether the air conditioner is running or sitting idle, dust can work its way into the interior of the system and settle on the various components. Dust impedes the operation of the motor and can result in overheating and failure. Any issues that diminishes airflow is a concern. The air conditioner is then forced to operate more frequently, using more energy and experiencing greater wear and tear. The probability of malfunction and failure increases. The comfort and health of the home suffers. The air conditioner will make more noise, pollute the indoor air and provide inconsistent temperature from one room to another. A yearly tune-up solves these problems. Proactive measures, including cleaning, troubleshooting, testing, tightening and lubricating moving parts works to keep the system operating at its best. Not only will the system cost less to operate, but the professional service fulfills the manufacturer’s warranty requirements. 

Why a dehumidifier is a good idea

In the southern area of the country, with especially hot and muggy weather, the air conditioner is essential to comfort. The cooling system often operates for more than half the year, combats temperatures in the triple digits and adds up to a significant electric bill. High humidity is typically a problem. While modern air conditioners are helpful in reducing humidity, they aren’t designed to handle excessive moisture levels. Air conditioners work by pulling heat out of the air and transferring it outdoors by way of refrigerant. Because overly damp air feels warmer than dry air, it can be tempting to lower the thermostat setting. The air conditioner then starts up more often and works for longer cycles. It uses more energy and leads to higher energy costs without solving the problem.

Lower temperature settings can lead to over-cooling the air yet the humidity remains. Along with causing discomfort, high humidity levels can result in damage. Hardwood floors, antiques, wood furnishings, modlings, doors and musical instruments can warp and split. There’s a greater risk of mold and mildew growth and dust mites thrive in moist environments. The degraded air quality is often responsible for health issues such as headaches, difficulty sleeping, coughing and sneezing. High humidity aggravates symptoms of allergies, asthma and respiratory infection. A whole-home dehumidifier provides a significant improvement.

While portable dehumidifiers affect only a single room and require continual upkeep, whole-home dehumidifiers are installed right into the air conditioning system. The device draws moisture out of the air as it passes through the ductwork. The higher end models can be adjusted to preference for humidity levels. The operation is unobtrusive and the accessory only requires annual maintenance. Because of running the dehumidifier, homeowners can raise the temperature setting. The savings on electric bills quickly helps to recover the investment. 

If you live in an older home you may need a high velocity system

Not that long ago, anyone with an older home lacking conventional ductwork had very limited choices for temperature control. Other than tearing down walls and ceilings and taking on a huge, messy and expensive remodeling project, there were few options. Installing ductwork takes up a great deal of space and often compromises architectural integrity in historical homes. Those with walls and ceiling constructed of the original plaster and lath rarely found it feasible to incorporate a duct system. Homeowners struggled to get by with baseboard heaters, windows air conditioners and box fans. The homes were overheated throughout the summer and chilly during the summer. The equipment detracted from aesthetics and blocked views from windows.  Fortunately, modern engineering has led to a system designed specifically to retrofit into older homes without damage or disruption. High-velocity heating and cooling systems feature the innovation of mini-ducts that are only two inches in diameter. The narrow ducts are flexible enough to snake through existing walls around studs, plumbing pipes and electrical outlets. They link to circular-shaped vents that are six inches across and available in all different colors. The vents allow freedom of location and incorporate unobtrusively into nearly any decor. The actual heating/cooling unit is compact enough to fit into a closet or the attic. A high velocity system sends conditioned air into the room at an extremely high rate of speed, creating a gentle suction called aspiration. The old and new air mixes quickly to rapidly raise or lower temperature. The combination of shorter running times, smaller air ducts and insulated ducts achieves outstanding efficiency levels by minimizing energy waste. 

The aftermath of DIY AC installation

Installing your own air conditioner machine is a really bad idea. For one, there is a reason a HVAC contractor becomes certified, insured and bonded. There is a reason he takes tests and clocks in hours learning in the HVAC field. Setting up, maintaining and repairing complex machinery is not for any guy with a toolset. Unfortunately, I was that guy with a toolset who thought he could save a few bucks installing his air conditioner. In the end, trying to save money cost me way more down the road.

Once I had my new AC system installed, I turned it on for the first time. Right away the air conditioner made this horrible grinding noise when it was running. It was loud, awkward and sounded like it was dying. I did some research online and people say that their AC makes noises when it needs a repair. I literally had just bought it new and installed it. No way there could be a repair, right? 

After a few days of using the AC I realized it was not functioning that great. There was water leaking over the sides and forming a puddle around it. I also had the thermostat as low as it could go and my house was still sweltering. It took days for me to finally throw in the towel and admit that I messed up badly. I knew that I messed a lot of things up when I installed my own cooling system. Check out my next blog, Admitting defeat on my DIY AC installation, when I admit defeat. 

Trying my own AC install

When it comes to any major appliance, it is best to leave service, maintenance and repairs to the professionals. Do you really feel confident pumping your own septic tank? Do you really think you can install all new wiring without shocking yourself? Installing your own HVAC system is equally as daunting and demanding. I made the horrible mistake of thinking I could install my own cooling system however. I went online and I found the perfect cooling system for my home. I already had ductwork installed in my home and figured all I needed was to buy the magical system and I could hook it up myself. The cost of AC installation scared me. I did not want to pay somebody to do a job I figured I could do. I am a handy guy. I had installed doors, windows and laid drywall. I have cut tiles and redone flooring. I can handle small plumbing repairs and even do my own wiring. I figured HVAC would be along the same lines. 

When I purchased the cooling system and had it delivered, I was quite overwhelmed. First, the AC machine was a lot bigger and more complicated than I expected. Second, I had literally no idea where to start. Like any normal person, I started looking online on how to install my own air conditioner. The videos were confusing, uninformative and sometimes only showed half the job. I had a very difficult time even starting. I then figured it would be like popping the hood on a car. Once I had the pieces kind of in the right area, it would all make sense to me. At the time, and still to this day, AC doesn’t make sense to me. That became clear once I started hooking up to my existing ductwork and setting up the indoor air handler. 

The process took days to complete and at the end of the process, I didn’t feel like I did a good job. I then dumped a whole bunch of refrigerant systems and figured I was good to go. How bad could I have made it really? Really bad is the answer. Read my next blog, The aftermath of DIY AC installation, to find out just how badly I messed up. 

What is a VFR HVAC system?

Just like traditional HVAC systems, VRF HVAC systems are refrigerant based and air-cooled. These also use an outdoor condenser unit and indoor fan units like older systems.

But instead of one large unit supplying hot or cool air in your house, the VRF system has multiple small air handlers that can be controlled individually and can be piped back to one main system.

Variable Refrigerant Flow refers to this system’s ability to separately control the amount of refrigerant flow reaching each specific air handler.

The biggest advantage of VRF HVAC systems is that they can provide heating and cooling at the same time, in different areas of your house, as required.

Moreover, these systems are energy-efficient and noise-free as there is no single large unit that has to bear all the load. The variable speed compressor runs only at the required speed according to current temperature conditions.

Characteristics and advantages of a VRF HVAC system

  1. Energy efficiency

The VRF HVAC system is not just energy efficient because of the multiple smaller air handlers but also because the system provides only that amount of energy that is required for cooling under current conditions.

Plus, it is designed to redirect the heat absorbed in the cooling process to other parts of the house for heating purposes. So, it runs at a lower capacity and less frequently, helping you save a lot on energy and on your monthly bills.

  1. Gives simultaneous heating and cooling

The most convenient and important feature of this system is that it can provide heating in one area of the house while cooling another zone at the same time.

  1. Noiseless

The condensing unit is installed outdoors and there are multiple small air handlers indoors as compared to one big unit like in split air conditioning systems. So, this system is not loud.

  1. Fewer breakdowns

The VRF HVAC system runs only as and when required and uses only that much refrigerant that is needed to cool the different areas of the house. Compared to traditional systems, this does not have to overwork and hence there is less wear and tear of parts, leading to fewer breakdowns which is good because no one should take those Bay Area summers or winters for granted.

It may not be Alaska or Arizona but no one wants to live in a 40 or 95 degree home.

  1. Takes less space

This system does not require ducts and the air handlers are small. Hence you can save a lot of space.

  1. Has modern control options

Residential VRF HVAC systems have mobile device control options. So, you can easily regulate the temperatures in different areas of your home from your phone.

There’s a lot of new technology in the HVAC industry

Although the initial set up cost is higher than purchasing a more conventional style of heating and cooling option, a dual fuel system actually pays for itself. The system works to conserve energy and trim operational costs all year round. Because I live in an area with summer and winter weather extremes, finding a powerful yet efficient solution is a priority. I needed a system that could handle temperatures that vary between negative twenty and ninety degrees. Humidity is also a big problem. I looked into all the different makes, models and styles of units on the current market. A lot of research led me to something called hybrid heating or a dual fuel system. It is the combination of a natural gas furnace and an electric heat pump. It saves money because the heat pump achieves higher efficiency ratings than the furnace or a conventional air conditioner. It works a lot like an air conditioner in that it transfers heat from one location to another. However, the heat pump provides the added bonus of a heating mode.

Modern features include adaptable speed technology that allows the equipment to automatically adjust and operate at lower capacity for longer cycles. This achieves greater dehumidification and air filtration. In heating mode, the system doesn’t negatively impact humidity. Plus, heat pumps are wonderfully environmentally friendly, safe and clean. There’s no combustion byproducts such as carbon monoxide. When the outside temperature plummets, the heat pump starts to struggle to keep up. That’s when the furnace automatically takes over and handles comfort. We couldn’t be happier with the benefits of the dual fuel system. 

A ductless mini-split is great for a small room

I think one of the best inventions is ductless mini-splits. This type of temperature control is extremely versatile. It can accommodate almost any size or layout of home or commercial space. The equipment is super compact, lightweight and requires very little for installation. The system consists of a single outdoor compressor that links to anywhere from one to eight indoor air handlers. They connect by way of a conduit that houses the drainage and refrigerant lines. The indoor air handlers mount up high on the wall, into a drop ceiling or even down near the floor. They can be strictly air conditioners or heat pumps that provide both heating and cooling. The process works by simply moving existing heat between the indoors and outdoors. Modern ductless systems utilize inverter technology that allows the equipment to automatically adapt speed to changing demands. The system supplies only the specific amount of heating or cooling necessary to maintain very even temperature and optimize energy efficiency. They don’t cost much to run.Plus, this results in better dehumidification and air filtration. The better ductless units include wifi connectivity so that programming and adjustments can be made through an app on a smartphone. Each air handler includes an independent thermostat for the benefits of zone control. There’s no need to heat or cool empty rooms and the temperature can cater to preferences. Another advantage of ductless heating and cooling is the ease of the installation process. In most cases, the system can be up and running within a few hours. There’s no major mess, disruption or big renovation project. The ductless air handlers are streamlined, operate quietly and require very little maintenance. They are far superior to window air conditioners or portable electric heaters.

Picking out the perfect smart thermostat

After moving into my house, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people telling me that I needed to get a smart thermostat installed. I’d always heard of smart thermostats before because they were the most efficient thermostat and once they were introduced to the market, they flew off the shelves! However, I had no idea so many of my friends and family had smart thermostats installed in their own homes. Whenever I visited I never paid attention to their HVAC equipment or thermostat preferences. I did some light research in order to scope out the variety of smart thermostats available, but I was disappointed to see how expensive they were.

They could do a lot like, program the temperature, send warnings, and run your heat and air more efficiently. I just wasn’t sure if that was enough for me to spend hundreds of dollars on. In my research, I stumbled upon an article that compared the best smart thermostats and what made each one different. I found this really helpful because it broke all the details down so I could understand the difference between each one. After spending what felt like forever doing this, I narrowed down my smart thermostat selection to the one that was the best value and the one that was best overall. From there, I was able to dig even deeper into the reviews and pick the smart thermostat that was best for me and my heat and air needs. I ended up selecting the one that was best overall because it felt like the safe choice.