Air Filters: How Efficient Does Yours Need to Be?
One of the most important components of forced air heating and cooling systems are the air filters. They make an impact on energy bills, system longevity and indoor air quality. Although it’s one of the most important elements of your HVAC system, it’s also one of the easiest to overlook.
Filters carry efficiency ratings known as minimum efficiency reporting values, or MERV, which tell consumers the smallest particle the filter can trap. The scale runs from 1 to 16 for residential filtration, and efficiency rises as the numbers get higher. Most HVAC systems can use a filter with a MERV rating of 8 or less, and anything higher has the potential to slow the airflow through the air handler, which harms your system and increases energy bills.
The least expensive air filters are fiberglass and have MERV ratings no higher than 4. The size of the particles an air filter can remove is measured in microns, and a filter with a MERV of 4 will trap particles no smaller than 10 microns, including dust, pollen, lint and larger mold spores. An air filter with a MERV up to 8 will trap airborne particulates that are 3 microns and larger, including mold and other spores, hair, animal dander and very fine dust.
Before you upgrade your filters to a higher MERV rating, check the owner’s manual to learn the maximum density your air handler can handle, or check with an HVAC professional who can tell you.
No matter what filter you choose, be sure to check air filters monthly. Higher efficiency filters trap more particles, so they can accumulate dirt quicker. One of the ironies of filtration is that the fiberglass filters actually trap more particles when they’re dirty, but combined with the slower airflow and the fact that more dust enters your system, it’s not a good way idea to use them when they’re dirty.
To learn more about air filters for your HVAC system in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area, contact Cox Air Conditioning & Heating today.
A Heat Pump Might Be Just the Thing to Keep You Warm on Those Chilly Nights
If you’re thinking about installing a new heating system in your Clearwater area home, you should consider the benefits of installing an air-source heat pump. A heat pump is the ideal appliance for warming homes during our more mild Florida winter. These units utilize the heat exchange properties of refrigerant to transfer heat from one site to another. In other words, they work on the scientific principle that hot air will naturally seek a cooler environment.
Due to a reversing valve that switches the flow of refrigerant, heat pumps are actually able to both heat and cool a home. During winter, heat pumps pull heat from the outdoor air into the outside condenser unit. The refrigerant here picks up the heat and flows into the indoor heat exchange coil where a fan blows over the coil and heats the interior air. During the summer, the opposite happens as the evaporator coil captures inside heat and exhausts it outside. This dual ability has made heat pumps an ideal option for many homeowners.
An air-source heat pump is especially energy efficient for heating in mild Florida winters, particularly compared to other types of heating systems. Their one big disadvantage is that their performance efficiency is decreased when outside temperatures fall below 35 degrees. However, given our more mild temperatures, this factor doesn’t matter for Clearwater residents.
Their energy efficiency is worth boasting about, however. A well-maintained heat pump can generate three to four times the amount of heat from one unit of electricity. Meanwhile, a combustion furnace can’t exceed an energy efficiency of 100 percent, or one to one. Since most of your conditioning requirements in Florida is for cooling, heat pump systems provide an economical and convenient way to accomplish both.
To learn more about how an air-source heat pump system will improve your indoor environment this winter, or for information on other quality HVAC products and solutions, contact your local experts at Cox Air Conditioning & Heating. We’ve have been providing expert advice and service since 1958.
Mold: Don’t Let Your Guard Down, Even in Winter
Mold and mildew need four things to thrive: available spores, moisture, organic matter to feed on, and temperatures between 68 to 86 degrees. Even though it’s thought of as a summertime problem, due to our hot, humid climate, homes can become a haven for mold growth in the winter months too. Condensation that occurs along the roofline in the attic, or in rooms that are poorly ventilated, can yield the moisture mold needs to get started.
In addition to causing unsightly stain and rot, mold causes serious allergies and respiratory problems. The following tips will help you prevent its growth in your home this winter.
- Insulate the attic – A warm attic causes condensation to collect along the cool roofline, dripping back onto the surfaces below. By keeping your attic at an ambient temperature, providing adequate insulation on the floor, you’ll be able to keep warm, conditioned air in your living space while preventing condensation from forming along the roofline. Also, consider installing an attic ventilator, which will prevent excess moisture in the winter and mitigate heat gain in the summer.
- Ventilation – Make sure your home is adequately ventilated. Sealing the leaks in your home is a powerful step toward increasing energy efficiency, but it needs to be paired with an adequate whole-house ventilation system for a fresh air supply and to allow trapped moisture to escape. Ventilation is especially important in rooms where condensation is an issue such as the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms.
- Identify and repair leaks – If you have a plumbing or storm leak, it needs to be repaired immediately. Make sure you dry the interior wall or ceiling spaces thoroughly before closing them back up.
Contact Cox Air Conditioning & Heating to learn more about mold prevention and to balance humidity levels in your Tampa area home this winter.
Your Ductwork Won’t Last Forever – When Should You Replace It?
Has your ductwork been inspected lately? If not, having it looked over is a good idea. Duct systems can show significant deterioration after as little as 10 years of use, depending upon the quality of the materials used at installation. If your duct system has been in place since the home was constructed, chances are that its design and materials were chosen with more regard for cost than quality, which means they may be developing problems that can affect air quality, comfort and energy costs in your home.
So how do you tell if your ductwork needs repair or replacement? The best way to find out is to have your duct system inspected by your HVAC technician. However, if you’re hesitant to call your HVAC contractor without knowing that there’s cause for concern, you can check for telltale signs of duct deterioration on your own.
- Do a visual inspection of exposed ducts, generally found in the attic, basement or crawl space. Pay special attention to joints and seams, looking for deteriorating duct tape, gaps where joints have loosened or seams that have come apart completely, leaving ducts disconnected. Also look for crumbling duct insulation and holes, rust or corrosion in all visible air ducts.
- Check vents in each room of the house. Rooms that have weaker airflow than others may be served by damaged, collapsed or disconnected vents. Temperature differences from one vent to another can indicate leaky ducts or spans of ductwork that have lost their insulation.
- If you discover potential problems, your next step is a professional evaluation of your duct system to determine whether it’s time to replace or repair your home’s ductwork. Typically, a duct blower test will be performed to evaluate duct performance, which uses a blower fan to pressurize the system and sensors to measure airflow, allowing your technician to calculate the rate of air leakage.
For more information on keeping your ductwork in good shape, please contact Cox Air Conditioning & Heating. We’ve been serving homeowners throughout the Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Palm Harbor,Trinity and West Chase areas since 1958.
Heat Loss in Your Clearwater Home – It Costs You, Even in Florida
You may not think much about your home heating costs here in the Clearwater area since we have such mild winters, but there are several things you can do around your house to reduce heat loss and save money, particularly during occasional cold snaps. These things don’t cost much money upfront, but they will make your home more comfortable this winter and continue to pay off next summer. Stopping heat loss works both ways—you’ll save on winter heating bills and reduce your summer air conditioning load.
You can do most of these things to reduce heat loss yourself, but call a licensed heating contractor if you need expert help:
- Reduce your water heating costs. Turn your water heater setting down so that your hot water is kept at 120 degrees or lower. Also wrap the water heater tank in an insulating blanket to reduce further heat losses.
- Check ductwork for leaks and inadequate insulation. Your ducts can lose a significant amount of heated and cooled air before it reaches its destination. Be sure duct joints are fastened with sheet-metal screws and sealed with mastic to prevent leaks. Insulate your ducts anywhere they run through an unconditioned space such as your attic.
- Seal air leaks in your home’s exterior. Caulk and weatherstrip around doors and windows to prevent energy losses. Check the places where plumbing and electrical wiring penetrate your walls to be sure the holes around them are well-sealed with caulk.
- Check your roof for damaged shingles. Leaks in your roof can cause structural damage and degrade insulation so that it no longer blocks heat from moving between your living spaces and attic.
- Maintain your furnace. Change your filter regularly. Have your heating contractor come out for an inspection and maintenance call every year. A well-maintained furnace will heat your Florida home efficiently and inexpensively.
Call us at Cox Air Conditioning & Heating for more energy-saving tips for your Clearwater home. We’ve been helping homeowners in this area stay comfortable since 1958.