CAN I REALLY GET A TAX BREAK FROM MY HVAC SYSTEM?

Utility and energy costs continue to rise, causing many homeowners unnecessary stress, worry, and discomfort. As energy costs rise, homeowners are forced to reduce their consumption, and in hot climates this often means cutting back the air conditioning on sweltering days. If you are struggling with the rising cost of your home’s heating and cooling needs, it may be time to look into more energy efficient cooling and heating options. Newer HVAC units not only run more efficiently and save you money, but many also provide owners with a tax break, saving them even more. Let’s look at some of the ways HVAC owners can benefit from updating their HVAC unit and tax breaks.

Energy Savings From Efficiency

Apart from a federal tax break, switching to a newer, more energy efficient HVAC unit can save you on your energy bills in the long run. The average upgrade will pay for itself over the course of about ten years in energy savings. This may not sound like much, but it can really make a difference in the long run, and if you are looking to replace an old unit anyway, you’ve got nothing to lose and only money to gain each month!

Tax Credits

In addition to the savings you will have by switching to a more energy efficient unit, certain HVAC units can actually give owners a break on their taxes. Energy Star certified units not only save homeowners money monthly on their utility bill, but also qualify for a tax break for 10% of the cost of your unit up to $500! This credit is for qualified units purchased in 2015 or 2016 in existing homes (new construction and rental properties do not qualify). For homeowners that are considering replacing their existing units for any reason, it would be wise to look into Energy Star certified models that qualify for this year’s tax credit. Not all units qualify, so make sure to discuss this with whoever is installing a new unit for you! If you’ve already replaced your unit in 2015 or 2016 with a qualifying unit, you are already eligible for a tax credit, you just need to submit proof when filing your taxes.

At Cool Breeze, we are experts in our field, and our goal is to keep you comfortable in your home while saving you as much money as possible. Our team is up to date on current tax incentives, and can help you determine if a new energy efficient model is the right fit for your home. And while a tax break of up to $500 may not be a huge savings, that in combination with the monthly utility bill savings could be significant over the course of five to ten years. If you are in need of a new unit urgently and want to make the wisest decision, or if you are carefully weighing your options in hopes of saving some money and reducing your utility bills, give us at Cool Breeze a call today!

PREPARING YOUR HVAC FOR COLD WEATHER

Fall is quickly approaching us here in the Maryland/Virginia/Pennsylvania area, and it’s essential for homeowners to prep their houses for the lowering temperatures. In the cooler months, your HVAC unit will no longer be working to cool your home and the heat pump may take over. As a homeowner, it is important in these transitional early fall months to prepare your home and its HVAC unit for the colder winter months ahead. Here’s how:

PREPARE YOUR HEAT PUMP

If you have a heat pump that will be used to warm the home there are steps you can take to prepare it for the winter months. Walking around the heat pump to check that it is unobstructed is a good best practice. Remove any debris or obstruction from the outside of the unit so that air can circulate through it. You can also have your heat pump inspected each year around this time to prevent larger problems from occurring. A service technician can check the power supply, fan, and filter and alert you to any major concerns.

THERMOSTAT

Before the colder weather sets in you’ll want to do a thorough check on the thermostat to make sure it is up to date and working correctly. There are many thermostats that are outdated and that don’t work well anymore, which can make them very inaccurate. Be sure to replace batteries at this time, if yours is a digital thermostat check to make sure it turns on and off properly and that any settings are correct.

THE DUCTS

It is important to clean your heating duct periodically so that warm air is able to flow into the home. Punctures, dents, and disconnections should be addressed by a professional and corrected before your unit is used for the winter. You can call an HVAC contractor to help with locating your ducts and assessing any problem areas.

AIR FILTERS

Air filters need to be regularly changed, no matter what the season, but we feel as though the change of seasons is a great time to make a habit of checking and changing them. Mark your new calendar at the end of the year with regular dates to change your filter, different filters last shorter or longer period of time and you can check the packaging if you are unsure about how often to change them.

If you are concerned about having your HVAC unit ready for winter, and are interested in scheduling an inspection, we even offer a $59 HVAC checkup service! Contact Cool Breeze today or call (410) 549-0323. Our professionals can help you assess your situation and determine what will best meet your needs.

SPRING HVAC MAINTENANCE BASICS

Sometimes home maintenance can seem overwhelming and endless, but keeping your home in good shape now will save you both time and money in the long run. One thing that needs regular maintenance in your home is your HVAC system. HVAC units need to be checked periodically and have their air filters changed on a regular basis. Each fall and spring, however, you should be doing a more thorough tune-up. When the seasons change, so does the equipment you use, and in spring we switch from furnace to AC (unless you have a heat pump that both heats and cools). Either way, it’s worth it to have your HVAC equipment checked out, cleaned and tuned as needed to ensure optimal performance this summer. Let’s take a look at some of these spring HVAC maintenance basics.

ELECTRONICS

The electrical components of your HVAC system should be checked a few times a year. Thermostats need to be periodically calibrated, or you could risk an incorrect reading, costing you in the long run. For example, if your thermostat reads 70 when it is really 68 degrees in your home, your air conditioning could be running when it doesn’t need to, raising your energy bills. Additional electric components that should be checked each spring include:

  • Electrical connections
  • Amperage draw
  • Wiring
  • Total electrical use

FILTERS AND DRAINS

The filters in your air handler need to be checked and replaced on a schedule recommended by your equipment’s manufacturer. Depending on the type of filters you use, they may need to be replaced monthly or once every few months. But in spring it’s a good idea to do a more thorough inspection of the filters, ducts and drains before you crank up your air conditioning during the first heat wave. If you are currently using a fiberglass filter that needs to be replaced once a month, this may be a good time to consider switching to a HEPA filter that can last up to six months. Spring is also an important time to check the drain on your evaporator unit, because a clogged drain can lead to water damage. Other things to check include:

  • Return air filter
  • Condensation pan
  • Check for debris and blockages around outside unit
  • Clean air returns around the house

MOTOR/FANS

Checking your HVAC unit’s motors is also an important part of spring maintenance. It’s critical to make sure the blower is running smoothly and is free of any debris. Other things to check or have checked include:

  • Blower wheel
  • Blower motor stability and electrical usage
  • Belts and belt tension
  • Condenser fan motor
  • Compressor energy usage

Inspecting and maintaining your HVAC unit can seem overwhelming, but it is one of the key parts of home maintenance. At Cool Breeze, we have years of experience in all types of HVAC units, and we’d love to help put your mind at ease going into Maryland’s warmer months. Our pre-season maintenance service will ensure your unit is in its peak condition and operates efficiently. While some of your home maintenance can be done on your own, it’s a wise idea to have your HVAC unit checked by a professional who knows what to look for.

Give us a call or reach out online to schedule spring HVAC maintenance appointment!

HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE A HEAT PUMP OR CONVENTIONAL SYSTEM?

You’d think that knowing the difference between a heat pump and a conventional air conditioning system would be a no brainer, but these different units often look near identical. There are some ways you can distinguish the two from each other though, when you know what to look for. Let’s take a look at what you can do to tell the two apart, as well as the pros and cons of the two different systems.

THE DIFFERENCE

During the summer months when it is warm outside and you need to cool your house, there is no functional difference between an air conditioner and a heat pump. Both expel hot air from your home while blowing cool, or conditioned, air inside. What sets a heat pump apart from a conventional air conditioning unit is that it can be reversed in the cooler months, to expel cold air and blow warm air into your home. While these units serve different functions, they can still be hard to tell apart just by looking at them. There are three relatively simple ways you can check to see if your unit is a heat pump or just an air conditioner. First and foremost, you can check to see if the unit says heat pump anywhere on it. Often units will say somewhere on them if they are a heat pump. Next, you can check the service ports on the unit. If there are three service ports, then you have a heat pump. And finally, you can determine if you have a heat pump or AC only unit by checking your thermostat. Heat pumps will have a heating option on the thermostat.

PROS OF A HEAT PUMP

Heat pumps are a great option if you live in a more moderate climate that doesn’t have extreme highs and lows in temperature. Because heat pumps both cool and heat, they often don’t handle extreme cold or hot as well as an individual air conditioning unit and furnace. For our less extreme summers and winters here in Maryland, a heat pump is often a good option.

PROS OF A CONVENTIONAL SYSTEM

A traditional air conditioning unit is a great option if you prefer your home very cool in the warmer months, or if you live in an area with extreme temperatures. Heat pumps are very versatile but can’t keep up in extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold. If you live in an area with very hot summers, or prefer your home be kept at a lower temperature on hot days, a conventional system would be a better choice for your home.

If you are having issues with your home’s heating and cooling unit and need service, but don’t know what kind of unit you have, try these simple tricks to determine what you have. If you are considering replacing your current unit, and are trying to decide whether a heat pump or air conditioning unit is a better option for your home, give us at Cool Breeze a call today! We are experts in our field and are happy to help you determine what is the best option for your home and for your needs.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHANGING YOUR HOME’S HVAC FILTER

Some home cleaning/maintenance projects can be easy to forget, despite their importance. Changing your HVAC filter is no exception, it can be hard to remember, but it is an important part of home maintenance. There are certain scenarios that require you to monitor and change your filter more frequently than others, as well as different types of filters to consider for your HVAC unit. Let’s take a quick look at the different filter options available, and at the scenarios that would lead you to change your filter more frequently.

TYPES OF FILTERS

The size and type of filter used in your HVAC unit will somewhat determine how frequently it needs to be changed. Filters are made with paper, or similar material, and have a large surface area for collecting dust and debris. Filters come in all shapes and sizes, so it is important to take a look at your HVAC model to determine which filter is correct for your unit. Improperly fitted filters can allow dirt into the system, and can lead to damage in your unit. There are also HEPA filters available that last up to six months because of new technology. These filters understandably cost more, but last up to six times longer than traditional filters.

FREQUENCY OF CHANGES

Most HVAC filters need to be checked and replaced every month following inspection, especially if you run your HVAC unit at least six months out of the year. Additional scenarios where you will want to constantly change your filter each month include being a pet owner, a smoker (inside the home), you have a fireplace that is used (even infrequently), or if there is construction nearby your home. All of these scenarios lead to more dirt and debris in the air, and therefore take a heavier toll on your filter. If your home meets any of these criteria, it may be a good time to look into replacing your current filter with a HEPA filter that has a longer lifespan.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

There are some circumstances where your filter should be changed immediately, even if it has been less than a month since your last change. If you check the filter and it is damaged at all, it needs to be replaced to prevent damage to your HVAC unit. Signs of moisture or mold of any kind are also a red flag, and your filter needs to be changed immediately, to prevent the spread of mold spores in your home. If you find your filter to be damp or moldy, it is important to have an HVAC company come out to investigate why your filter got damp in the first place, as it could signal a bigger issue with your HVAC unit.

Changing your HVAC filter is an important part of home maintenance, and can save you money and headaches in the long run, because it can prevent major issues down the road. If you’ve recently changed your HVAC filter and are concerned there is a problem, call Cool Breeze today, we’d love to take a look and help!

CHOOSING THE BEST AC UNIT FOR YOUR HOME

With summer quickly approaching here in Maryland, replacing your home’s air conditioning unit may be on the top of your priority list, especially if it is inefficient, not functioning, or very old and soon in need of repair. No one wants to be stuck without air conditioning during the long, hot days of summer, but replacing an AC unit can be a daunting task. While it is wise to speak with a professional and get their honest opinion on what is the best solution for you, it doesn’t hurt to have a little bit of background first. Selecting a new central air conditioning unit for your home can be overwhelming, but here are some things to consider to help you narrow down your search.

TYPES OF AC UNITS

First it is important to understand that there are different types of air conditioning units. There are units that function just to cool your home in the warm months, and also units, such as a heat pump, that can both heat and cool your home. If you live in an exceptionally hot climate, a stand alone air conditioning unit will be your best solution, as it is able to cool the air more efficiently than a heat pump. For more moderate climates like ours here in Maryland, a heat pump may suffice for both heating and cooling your home throughout the year.

SIZING

The most important thing to understand when selecting the size air conditioning unit for your home is that this is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units and not by the physical size of the unit. Selecting an air conditioner that outputs too few BTU may not be able to keep your house at a comfortable temperature on a hot summer day, while a unit that is too big may not run for long enough periods of time to properly condition the air. On average, air conditioning units cool 400 square feet for each ton, however this is not always the case for homes with exceptionally poor or tight insulation.

COST AND EFFICIENCY

And finally cost and efficiency play a major role in your decision. While less expensive models may seem like a quick way to save some money, this is usually not the case. When pricing out AC units for your home, be sure to look at the unit’s efficiency rating, because that can save you money over the lifespan of the unit. While more efficient models may cost you more upfront, they will save you countless dollars in the years to come.

Air conditioning units are often tricky to select and install, but choosing the right size and model for your home and family’s particular needs is very important. Selecting the proper size and model for your home can be challenging because of variable factors such as insulation and airflow. If your air conditioning unit is in need of an upgrade, stop suffering through the heat and contact us at Cool Breeze today!

HOW INDOOR AIR QUALITY AFFECTS YOUR HVAC SYSTEM

AC air conditioning outdoor condenser unit fan pump on slab outside a building in a climate control cooling and cold refrigeration conditioner system

Indoor air quality and how it affects your HVAC system should be a common concern. The average American spends the majority of their time inside their office, home, or other interiors. Indoor air quality is typically 2-4 times more polluted than the outdoor air even with a clean air conditioning filter. Air pollutants are circulated throughout your home by your air conditioning system including pollen, chemicals from cleaning products, smoke, mildew and mold, dust and dirt, pet dander and other allergens.

Preventing indoor air quality problems from occurring is the best way to protect the health of everyone that uses the space. All types of buildings can have air that is contaminated by air pollutants and harmful particles that can cause a number of respiratory illnesses and other health problems. It is important to take steps to keep air as pure and clean as possible in any structure. Here, you will learn and know the effective and proven tips on how to prevent problems with indoor air quality. Check these out:

  • Keep Air Grilles and Vents Clear- It is important to keep all air grilles and vents clear and free from obstructions. This is due to the fact that air grilles and vents are needed to circulate the air throughout the building and through the cooling and heating system. If they are blocked, the air in the indoor areas can become stagnant with high levels of air pollutants due to poor ventilation. Blocked grills can also put mechanical systems under strain, potentially causing costly repairs and higher energy bills.
  • Avoid Smoking in Indoor Spaces- Environmental tobacco smoke is considered to be one of the most harmful air pollutants that can be encountered in interior air. Tobacco smoke can cause a wide variety of health conditions and illnesses for both the smoker and anyone else that inhales the smoke from tobacco products. Banning smoking in indoor areas and creating a designated area outside away from the windows and doors of the building is the best way to eliminate tobacco smoke from the indoor air.
  • Install Top Quality Air Filters- Installing top quality air filters in the cooling and heating system of the building will help to reduce the number of airborne contaminants in the indoor air. Choose first class quality filters that are capable of removing a wide variety of contaminants from the air as it passes through the filter, including harmful particulates, viruses, mold, animal dander and dust. Make sure that the high quality air filter purchased is the right size for your cooling and heating unit that it will work effectively and improve the quality of the indoor air.
  • Dispose of the Trash Properly- Neglecting to dispose of trash properly can have a negative effect on the quality of the air in an interior space. It is important to dispose of all trash promptly and properly to maintain good air quality in the indoor space.

By maintaining good indoor quality, you can reduce instances of illness and decrease the risk of developing devastating health conditions associated with exposure to poor quality air.

TIPS FOR CHOOSING A PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT

Thermostats have come a long way over the years. They are now available with a wide variety of features designed to improve indoor comfort and increase energy efficiency of your HVAC equipment! While manual thermostats are still available, programmable thermostats can not only make your life easier, but also save you money in the long run. A programmable thermostat can make a huge difference in your heating and cooling bills, allowing you to adjust the temperature in your home based on whether or not you are home, awake, sleeping, or running a fireplace.

TYPES OF PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTATS

A manual thermostat may costs less upfront than a programmable one, but it doesn’t offer the same long-term savings. Programmable thermostats allow you to heat or cool your house only when you really need to. You can set the temperature based on the time of day, or the day of the week, and some of the more advanced models can even switch between heating and cooling. When it comes to the schedule, there are generally three different types of programmable thermostats: 7-day, 5-2 day, and 5-1-1 day.

7-Day

A 7-day programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperatures in your home for each day of the week. These units are convenient for families with variable schedules and allow for maximum efficiency. With a 7-day unit you can set your home’s heating or air to turn on and off at a different time each day of the week, and never have to change it.

5-2 Day

A 5-2 thermostat allows you to set the thermostat for one schedule during the weekdays, and another schedule on the weekends. These models are great for families with predictable schedules, such as those who work a 5-day workweek and have off on weekends. However, if you work some days form home or if some of your shifts are night shifts, you will get better customization with the 7-day thermostat.

5-1-1 Day

And, finally, a 5-1-1 thermostat allows you to set the temperature for the weekdays, and then have different settings for Saturday and Sunday. Keep in mind that the 5-1-1 setting is typically tied to weekends and weekdays in thermostat settings. So if you work Friday through Tuesday and then have Wednesday and Thursday off, this thermostat won’t work for you.

BEST THERMOSTAT OPTIONS FOR YOUR HOME

Budget and lifestyle are the best determining factors when selecting a thermostat for your home. A programmable thermostat can save you up to 33% on your heating bill in the long run, and up to 25% on your cooling. If you like the sounds of these savings and appreciate the ease of use, then going with a programmable kind is a no-brainer. But which one should you pick?

Naturally, the 7-day thermostat offers the most flexibility. If your schedule differs from day to day (or if you work odd days and hours), then you will need the ability to customize each day’s heating and cooling settings. If your weekends and weekdays are more or less predictable, then 5-2 or 5-1-1 thermostat will do the trick for you. No matter which model you choose, make sure it is compatible with your current HVAC system! One of our experienced Maryland HVAC contractors will be happy to help you with that.

OTHER FEATURES TO CONSIDER

While the type of schedule is probably the most important part of your programmable thermostat, don’t forget to examine the full list of features. Some of them may be important to you, based on your habits and lifestyle. Consider whether it would make your life easier if your thermostat had:

  • Voice commands
  • Smartphone integration
  • Digital touchscreen
  • Vacation settings
  • Reminders to change air filters
  • Adaptive response technology

No matter what your specific needs are, our team at Cool Breeze are experts in heating and cooling, and would love to help you determine which unit is best for your home’s heating and cooling system and your family’s comfort. Give us a call today!

SPRING HVAC MAINTENANCE BASICS

Sometimes home maintenance can seem overwhelming and endless, but keeping your home in good shape now will save you both time and money in the long run. One thing that needs regular maintenance in your home is your HVAC system. HVAC units need to be checked periodically and have their air filters changed on a regular basis. Each fall and spring, however, you should be doing a more thorough tune-up. When the seasons change, so does the equipment you use, and in spring we switch from furnace to AC (unless you have a heat pump that both heats and cools). Either way, it’s worth it to have your HVAC equipment checked out, cleaned and tuned as needed to ensure optimal performance this summer. Let’s take a look at some of these spring HVAC maintenance basics.

ELECTRONICS

The electrical components of your HVAC system should be checked a few times a year. Thermostats need to be periodically calibrated, or you could risk an incorrect reading, costing you in the long run. For example, if your thermostat reads 70 when it is really 68 degrees in your home, your air conditioning could be running when it doesn’t need to, raising your energy bills. Additional electric components that should be checked each spring include:

  • Electrical connections
  • Amperage draw
  • Wiring
  • Total electrical use

FILTERS AND DRAINS

The filters in your air handler need to be checked and replaced on a schedule recommended by your equipment’s manufacturer. Depending on the type of filters you use, they may need to be replaced monthly or once every few months. But in spring it’s a good idea to do a more thorough inspection of the filters, ducts and drains before you crank up your air conditioning during the first heat wave. If you are currently using a fiberglass filter that needs to be replaced once a month, this may be a good time to consider switching to a HEPA filter that can last up to six months. Spring is also an important time to check the drain on your evaporator unit, because a clogged drain can lead to water damage. Other things to check include:

  • Return air filter
  • Condensation pan
  • Check for debris and blockages around outside unit
  • Clean air returns around the house

MOTOR/FANS

Checking your HVAC unit’s motors is also an important part of spring maintenance. It’s critical to make sure the blower is running smoothly and is free of any debris. Other things to check or have checked include:

  • Blower wheel
  • Blower motor stability and electrical usage
  • Belts and belt tension
  • Condenser fan motor
  • Compressor energy usage

Inspecting and maintaining your HVAC unit can seem overwhelming, but it is one of the key parts of home maintenance. At Cool Breeze, we have years of experience in all types of HVAC units, and we’d love to help put your mind at ease going into Maryland’s warmer months. Our pre-season maintenance service will ensure your unit is in its peak condition and operates efficiently. While some of your home maintenance can be done on your own, it’s a wise idea to have your HVAC unit checked by a professional who knows what to look for.

Give us a call or reach out online to schedule spring HVAC maintenance appointment!

UNDERSTANDING HVAC EFFICIENCY RATINGS

When shopping around for a new HVAC unit, furnace or heat pump, efficiency is often one of a buyers’ top considerations. But finding the right unit for your home and your needs can be challenging. If efficiency is of utmost importance in your new purchase, it is crucial to understand what the different rating systems are for these units. As Maryland HAVC contractors, we are familiar with several different rating scales used in the HVAC industry. Let’s take a few minutes to examine each one up close.

SEER RATINGS

An HVAC unit’s SEER rating stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is a measurement of the difference between the amount of cool air put out by an HVAC unit and the amount of energy expended to produce that cool air. Basically, it is a rating that lets you know how much energy your HVAC unit will use to cool your home. The higher the SEER number, the more efficient your AC system is.

If you are looking to replace your existing HVAC unit, you are in luck because new HVAC units are required to have a SEER rating of at least 13 or 14. If you live in a particularly warm climate, however, you may want to get a unit that goes as high as a SEER-23, which will help you get the best AC performance for your money.

AFUE RATINGS

AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, which is used to measure a furnace’s overall efficiency. The AFUE rating of a furnace is largely impacted by the fuel used to run the furnace, with electric heating and natural gas receiving the highest ratings. A typical furnace will usually rate somewhere around 80%, while very high-efficiency models may rate at 95% or higher. Not sure what kind of furnace you need? At Cool Breeze, we will spend time to discuss your heating needs, so that we can recommend the best furnace with the right AFUE depending on your lifestyle.

HSPF RATINGS

The HSPF rating, which is an abbreviation for Heating and Seasonal Performance Factor, is what is used to determine the efficiency of a heat pump. Heat pumps are very efficient at both heating and cooling your home, but are more suitable for moderate climates. When looking for a new heat pump for your home, it is important to understand that a higher HSPF rating equals higher efficiency. In Maryland, where the temperatures range from very hot in the summer to freezing cold in the winter, a heat pump may not be enough to heat or cool your home during those extremes. However, an additional heat source such as a wood stove may provide the little heating boost your home needs.

Replacing your home’s HVAC unit, furnace or heat pump can be a stressful and confusing task. At Cool Breeze, we are experts in helping customers select the unit that will best serve their needs, keeping them comfortable and saving them money in the long run. If you are ready to replace your home’s heating or cooling unit and would like some guidance in terms of energy efficiency or capacity, give us a call so we can start discussing your options!