Shavitz Heating and Air Conditioning Blog: Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

10 Easy Ways to Save Energy

Friday, June 22nd, 2012



It may not seem like using a compact fluorescent light bulb or fixing a leaky faucet will do much to reduce your energy costs – or protect the environment. But if every household practiced just a few simple conservation ideas like these, we could reduce energy consumption by a significant amount.

Complete a home energy audit. This survey will analyze the structure of your home, appliances and insulation, in addition to your family’s lifestyle.

Air Conditioning and Cooling in Your Home:

1. Maintain your AC Unit by cleaning the outside compressor with a garden hose (be sure to shut off power at the fuse or breaker first). Keep plantings at least one foot away for adequate airflow.

2. Turn off unnecessary lights during late afternoon and early evening, and wait to use heat-producing appliances as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to shade south- and west- facing windows during the hottest part of the day to keep the heat out.

3. Plant a tree. One well-placed shade tree can reduce your cooling costs by 25 percent. For maximum benefit, place leafy shade trees to the south and west, and evergreens to the north.

4. Make sure a window air conditioner is the proper size. It’s better to get one that’s too small than too large – a larger unit will start up and turn off more frequently and won’t do as good a job dehumidifying the air.

5. Utilize ceiling fans to help circulate air throughout your home, and make sure your attic is properly ventilated. A ceiling fan should run clockwise during the summer, and counter-clockwise during the winter.

6. Don’t judge the efficiency of your AC by the sound of the fan shutting on and off. The blower will continue to circulate cooled air throughout your home up to 15 minutes after the compressor has stopped. (The same holds true for the furnace.)

7. Raise the thermostat to about 78 to 80 degrees whenever you go to bed or leave the house. A programmable thermostat will do this for you automatically.

8. Set the fan on your central air conditioner to “on” rather than “auto.” This will circulate air continuously, keeping the temperature more even throughout the house and aiding in dehumidification.

9. If your home can’t accommodate central air conditioning, try a whole-house attic fan. This device pushes hot air out through attic vents, lowering the temperature throughout your home about five degrees in less than ten minutes. Attic fans cost less than 25 cents per day to operate.

10. During the winter, remove window air conditioners and seal the windows with caulk and weatherstripping. You might also want to cover the central air compressor with a tarp to keep it clean.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Now, give them a shot and see how much you can save!

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10 Fabulous Houseplants that Work as Living Air Purifiers

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Often people do not understand why they feel sick on a regular basis and why we develop symptoms that worsen over time. We hardly know that inside our house, various toxins are present at any time: toluene, xylene, ethyl acetate, methylene, acetone and chloroform, none of which are healthy.

Among other toxins present, three are of major concern: benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, which could lead to serious health problems like asthma, cancer and various allergies.

In recent years, scientists at NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) have discovered that there are various houseplants that keep our household air clean and pure and balance indoor humidity. Not only do these plants absorb pollutants, they also scrub harmful gases out of the air and help fight pollution. How incredible!

Let’s visit a gallery of a few of these beneficial types of houseplants, which can take good care of indoor pollution.



10. Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

A beautiful houseplant with long grassy leaves, the spider plant is also a rapidly growing plant. This elegant plant is great at removing poisonous gases as well as other impurities like formaldehyde and xylene. For better effect, it should be kept in the kitchen or near the fireplace as these are the places where carbon monooxide accumulates a lot.



9. Boston fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata bostoniensis)

An exotic plant that has gracefully arching fronds and frilly leaves, the Boston fern also acts as a natural humidifier. Boston ferns grow better in filtered sunlight and in humid conditions. By releasing moisture into the air, they remove nasty air pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde and xylene, and provide clean air inside the home.



8. English Ivy (Hedera helix)

Despite its poisonous leaves, English Ivy is a very popular houseplant and best suitable for patients with asthma and allergic conditions. Easy to grow in bright sunlight, the plant has the amazing capability of removing benzene, formaldehyde as well as off-gassing various chemicals released by synthetic materials. So, it keeps the inside air non-toxic. With its ground-covering property, the plant often serves well in landscaping.



7. Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescen)

This very sensitive plant with feathery fronds is best known as a humidifier. Therefore, it is best in places where winters can get quite brutal. Though the plant grows slowly and needs year-round care, it can be kept anywhere in the house, especially next to newly varnished furniture or in carpeted areas. The areca palm helps remove deadly toxins like formaldehyde and xylene.



6. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Also known as Devil’s Ivy or Silver Vine, the Golden Pothos is a highly invasive plant. With evergreen leaves and progressive stems, this hardy plant easily overtakes its surrounding area. Yet it is also very efficient in removing indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene and xylene. But, care should be taken as the plant is toxic to small animals such as dogs and cats, and even kids.



5. Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)

We all know that aloe vera is present in many skin care products. Not only does it help with skin burns but also with filtering various gas emissions from dangerously toxic materials. Claimed to possess tons of medicinal properties, this incredible plant can also be grown as an ornamental plant.



4. Chinese Evergreen (aglaonema modestum)

An excellent air-purifier plant, Chinese evergreen is a herbaceous perennial plant. A very common houseplant with shiny, green leaves that have interesting markings on them, it grows even better with less water and minimum light. It can filter out airborne toxins such as benzene and formaldehyde.



3. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Widely used as an ornamental plant, the snake plant is an evergreen perennial plant that is tolerant of irregular watering and less lightning. Scientists at NASA have found out that this plant has the amazing capability to absorb formaldehyde, nitrogen oxides and a variety of other chemicals present in the air.



2. Marginata (Dracaena marginata)

One cannot ignore the beauty of Marginata, a plant that has glossy thin leaves with red edges. It is a very famous, slow-growing flowering houseplant with very few growing requirements. It removes not only formaldehyde and benzene from the air, but is also capable of filtering other toxins present there. However, proper care should be taken while placing the plant inside, as it could be poisonous to dogs.

 



1. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)

Our top houseplant is the peace lily, best known for reducing harmful indoor toxins that may cause cancer. An easy-to-care-for houseplant, the peace lily is a great pollution fighter and air-purifier. It helps in removing benzene and formaldehyde present in the house. No doubt this plant is recommended for homes that meet the term ‘sick building syndrome’.

Life on Earth depends on plants, whether directly or indirectly. We can’t ignore the fact that plants do keep the air clean and pollution free by absorbing the excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. To know more about the list of air-filtering plants, prepared by scientists at NASA, visit here.

“We feel that future results will provide an even stronger argument that common indoor landscaping plants can be a very effective part of a system used to provide pollution free homes and work places”, says Dr. Bill Wolverton, former senior research scientist at NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center.

Today, we can see the effect of global warming and pollution on human health as well as on plants. Why not visit a nearby nursery today and decorate your house with some life-saver plants?

I hope you found this helpful and informational.

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Which direction should my ceiling fan turn in summer and winter?

Monday, April 30th, 2012

If you are looking to reduce your utility bill and efficiently cool your home this upcoming summer, ceiling fans are an inexpensive way to add that comfort to your home throughout the season and even in the winter. When you operate ceiling fans properly you can cool off or warm your home and save money at the same time by reducing the use of your air conditioning unit.

Ceiling Fan Direction in Summer – Forward/Counter Clockwise

On very hot summer days you can beat the heat with a breeze from a ceiling fan. A ceiling fan’s direction in the summer should be rotating counter clockwise or “forward” to which produces a Wind Chill effect when it creates downward airflow. Your thermostat won’t actually change but the room will feel like it’s several degrees cooler because of the wind chill factor.

When you are using a ceiling fan you can then generally raise the thermostat setting, which results in reduced air conditioning energy consumption of 40% or more while still keeping your room cool.

Ceiling Fan Direction in Winter – Reverse/Clockwise

Ceiling fans are generally thought of when it comes to warm weather. However, many people don’t realize that ceiling fans can also help warm up a room in cooler months. The ceiling fan direction in winter should rotate clockwise or “reverse”. Warm air rises and gets trapped near the ceiling so when the ceiling fan direction is in “reverse mode” it circulates the warm air from the ceiling to the floor which helps take the coolness out of the air.

Without a ceiling Fan the warm air would continue to be trapped near the ceiling and the floor level would continue to stay cold. Keep in mind that with reverse mode it only works if the fan is on low. If you have the fan on higher speed you might create a wind chill effect since it is already cold. Check your fan because some ceiling fans now come with a wall or remote control that has a forward/reverse option so you can change the direction with a push of a button. I hope you find this post helpful!

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Great energy savings ideas for this Spring!

Friday, April 27th, 2012

It’s Spring everyone!! and I bet with the high prices of gas you would like to find any way you can to save money. Here is a good checklist of energy saving tips you can use to keep more money in your pocket this spring.

Air Conditioning Savings

  • Increase your air conditioner temperature by one degree. Believe it or not, it could mean significant savings over the long run. Your air conditioner uses three to five per cent more energy for each degree that your air conditioner is set below 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24C). So, set your thermostat to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25C) to provide the most comfort at the least cost.
  • Opening windows costs nothing, but it can save a lot of energy and money. Consider keeping your windows open in the evening and overnight to allow cooler air into your home, and don’t forget to turn off your air conditioner. Close the windows during the day to keep the cool air in and the warm air out.
  • If you’re going to be away from your home for a long time, say, on vacation or a long weekend, turn the temperature up. Or better yet, turn the air conditioning unit off.
  • Install a programmable thermostat if you don’t have one already and set the times and temperatures to match your schedule. Also, consider installing an automatic setback thermostat that turns off your air conditioner at night.
  • Bigger isn’t always better. Buy the proper-sized equipment to meet your family’s needs. An oversized air conditioner unit will waste energy.
  • Before buying an air conditioning unit or system, find out its energy-efficiency ratio (EER). Calculate the EER by dividing the unit’s cooling capacity (BTUs/hour) by its energy requirement (watts). An EER of 10 or more is very good, and 6 or 7 is fair. Remember to buy the smallest capacity unit or system that will meet your needs.
  • Spring cleaning involves making sure all the fans in your home are working properly and are dust-free. Wash or replace filters every month, clogged filters mean your air conditioner works harder.
  • Have a look at your foundation walls. If you have an unfinished basement or crawlspace, check for air leaks by looking for spider webs. If there’s a web, there’s a draft. A large amount of heat is also lost from an un-insulated basement.
  • Ceiling fans use less electricity than air conditioners or furnaces. For example, a ceiling fan costs about five cents an hour to operate, which is much less than an air conditioner.
  • Buy a ceiling fan
  • Without blocking airflow, plant trees or shrubs around your air conditioning unit. A shaded unit uses up to 10 per cent less electricity than it would in the sun.

Windows and Insulation

  • In preparing for the summer, consider investing in some insulated, thermal-backed drapes for your windows.
  • Consider upgrading the windows in your home. Select high efficiency windows with low-e coatings, argon gas fill and insulated spacers.

 

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What temperature can I turn my A/C on?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

With this unseasonably warm spring, I’ve already gotten several calls from clients asking if it is safe to turn on their air conditioners – not the question that I expected during the middle of March! So when can you turn on your air conditioning? A standard system that has the proper refrigerant charge and correct airflow (from good ductwork and a proper fan speed setting on the indoor furnace or air handler) can be turned on at outdoor temperatures at or above 65 degrees. Running a standard air conditioner below 65 degrees and/or with insufficient ductwork or refrigerant charge can significantly reduce the life of the equipment so the best recommendation is to have a trained professional come to your home and perform preseason maintenance to prevent expensive problems in the future and make sure your a/c is running at its max efficiency. Lower electric bills and a cleaner planet, go ahead and hug your polar bear.

If your home or business gets hot even when it’s cooler than 65 outside (multi-unit buildings, lots of east facing windows, or commercial properties), a “low ambient kit” can be installed onto your air conditioner to enable it to operate reliably below 65 degrees. This kit must be installed by a professional and is often specific to each make and model of air conditioner. If your air conditioner is a package outdoor unit (like a rooftop unit) you may be able to get almost free air conditioning with an economizer which will draw in cool outdoor air without running your compressor. The only thing that will be using electricity is the fan motor which uses much less than the compressor. Another great way to lower electric bills and carbon footprint, where’s that polar bear?

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What type of humidifier is best for my home?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

A whole house humidifier is the best type of humidifier for your home. They are much more effective and easier to maintain than individual portable humidifiers. The standing water in portable humidifiers can also lead to mold/bacteria growth if not cleaned or operated properly. But what type of whole-house humidifier is best? The answer depends on how much humidity your home needs.

The three most common types of whole house humidifiers are evaporative pad humidifiers, steam humidifiers, and spray/atomizing humidifiers. A pad humidifier operates by blowing warm air over an evaporative pad that has water trickling down it. The warm air evaporates and absorbs the moisture into the air. Steam humidifiers use electric probes to boil water and inject the steam into the air stream. Spray or atomizing humidifiers have a fine nozzle which sprays a mist into the air stream.

A spray humidifier is the least expensive but also the least common. These humidifiers must have very clean water to prevent minerals from plugging or partially plugging the nozzle. A partially plugged nozzle can change alter the mist into a stream of water that doesn’t evaporate and can cause leaks and water damage. For this reason they typically require annual nozzle replacements and often require an inline water filter that also should be replaced annually.

The most common humidifier is the pad type humidifier. When installed on a properly sized (and preferably two stage) furnace, they are capable of humidifying most homes. They are fairly easy to install, service, and maintain (simply change the humidifier pad at the beginning or end of each heating season). They come in two types, power and bypass. A power humidifier mounts to the side of the supply ductwork and has a built-in fan to draw air across the pad and blow the humidified air back into the ductwork. A bypass humidifier has a bypass duct that utilizes the furnaces own fan to recirculate some of the warm supply air across the humidifier pad and back into the return ductwork. Since bypass humidifiers do not have a built-in fan, they have less things that can break but do require the manual bypass damper to be opened in the winter and then closed in the summer. In some cases bypass humidifiers can exacerbate existing undersized ductwork problems, so make sure your installer is well trained and checks that your ductwork is properly sized so that your furnace can get the proper airflow.

Steam humidifiers are the most effective, but are more costly to install and operate. If you have high end wood furniture, flooring, have a large home, or need precise humidity control, steam humidifiers are the best option. They require a dedicated electrical service and need annual maintenance. Some simply require annual cylinder replacements while others need heavy duty cleaning to scrape away build-up of mineral deposits that inhibit effectiveness.

All three humidifiers should be operated via a humidistat which can be adjusted to the desired humidity setting and will automatically turn the humidifier on and off as required.

If you are curious about which type of humidifier is best for your home, feel free to call us!

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What humidity level should my home be at?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Many people ask me what the proper humidity level in their home should be. While the humidity level each home can handle varies based on the home’s insulation level, window quality, and outdoor temperature, the ideal humidity range is 30-55% relative humidity. Achieving proper humidity levels is very important for your health and keeping your home in good condition.

Humidity levels that are too low are uncomfortable (dry, itchy skin), can be unhealthy to asthma and allergy suffers, will warp and crack wood and furniture, and can result in higher heating bills. Low humidity levels make you feel colder so you compensate by setting your thermostat higher and increasing your heating bill – it’s not the heat it’s the humidity! It can also increase moisturizer and lotion bills!

On the flip side, humidity levels that are too high can promote mold, bacteria, virus, and dust mite growth, can also be bad for asthma and allergy suffers and will also damage wood. During the winter, high humidity levels will also lead to condensation on windows which can lead to mold growth or water damage.

In the summer your air conditioning system will dehumidify your home, often pulling gallons of water out of your air every hour! Sometimes a stand-alone dehumidifier may be necessary, especially in musty basements. In the winter, your home will need a humidifier to add humidity to that dry winter air. Your humidifier is most commonly hooked up to the “humidistat” which is a dial or digital display on your wall or return ductwork which will allow you to control the humidity. A whole-house humidifier that is tied to your ductwork will be the healthiest and most effective humidifier. Watch out for stand-alone humidifiers that have standing water which could promote bacteria growth.

When setting the humidity in the winter, I always recommend to set the humidistat to the highest humidity level the home can support (up to 55%). Remember, higher humidity levels are healthier and lower utility bills because they are more comfortable. However, as it gets colder outdoors, the windows and window frames of your home will also get colder and you may get moisture condensation and even frosting. This is a sign that your home can’t support that level of humidity and you will need to lower the setting on your humidistat. Replacing windows or window frames with better insulated windows might also be something to consider down the road.

Stay tuned for the next posting which will discuss the different types of humidifiers and which one is best for your home.

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Holy Shavitz Stat Squad

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Check out our Shavitz Stat Squad – just click the thermostat at the top of this page next to our logo. We had a little fun with it and hope you like it. If you have any clever drawings of your own unique thermostat character, send them to info@shavitz.com. It may end up on the site!

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Shavitz Facebook Contest!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Shavitz Heating and Air Conditioning is excited to offer its first ever Facebook Contest!  We’ve got some great prizes to offer to make it exciting.  The contest begins on February 1st and runs through February 29th.  Read the rules below to see how you can tally points.

1st Place – $160 Spa treatment package from Spa Space in Chicago.  Spa Space (who is also a Shavitz client) is located in the West Loop and was voted #1 Best Spa in Best of City Search 2010!  Relax in style with a 50 minute Massage (choice of Swedish, Deep Tissue, or Sports), Signature Pedicure with hydrating Paraffin treatment, and seasonal manicure.  www.spaspace.com

2nd Place – $75 Lettuce Entertain You Dinner Gift Card

3rd Place – $20 Starbucks gift card (try the pumpkin spice latte, we’re kind of addicted to it).

RULES:  Tally the most points by doing the following:

15 points – Posting a review on a 3rd party website.  Please tell us where your review is through a post on the Shavitz Facebook page or tagging Shavitz in a post on your own Facebook page.

10 points – For “sharing” one of our recent posts or anything from our website and tagging Shavitz in that Facebook post.  Remember to make it public so we can see it and keep score!

10 point – For each friend of yours that mentions your name on our Facebook page when they “Like” Shavitz Heating and Air Conditioning .

5 points – For “sharing” the Shavitz page and tagging Shavitz in that public post.

5 points – Posting a picture of a Shavitz technician or installer at work on the Shavitz Facebook page.

5 points – Posting a picture of a Shavitz vehicle on the Shavitz Facebook page – be safe and obey all traffic laws!

1 point – Posting a picture of a Shavitz logo on something other than a vehicle, tech or installer on the Shavitz Facebook page (invoice, furnace sticker, brochure etc.)

Note:  For your points  to be a part of this contest, when posted on your page, they need to include a tag to the Shavitz page and be made public.

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Why does my house get so dusty? Where does that dust come from?

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Dust comes from many sources including dead skin regularly shed from people and pets (yuck!), fibers from carpet, bedding, clothing and upholstery, and from the outside. Now unless you want to get rid of all your carpeting, get all leather furniture, toss the curtains, and make Fido sleep outside your best bet at reducing dust is to address the dust which comes from outside which, studies show, makes up about 60% of the dust in your home!

Where Does All the Dust Come From?

How does so much dust get inside? One source is dirt tracked in from shoes, kids, and pets. Another source is unsealed return ductwork running through attics, crawlspaces, or in between walls. The ductwork is actually sucking that dirty air and then blowing it directly into your house! While it’s nice to always have your heating or air conditioning running, this is a major culprit for attracting dust into your home.

Another pathway for the dust to get into your house isn’t so obvious. It may be hard to believe, but your house breathes air in and out all day long. Air is constantly escaping the living space of your house through holes and gaps in things like electrical outlets, light switches, can lights, windows etc. A lot of this is warm air that rises up and finds its way into the attic. When all this air leaves your house it creates a slight vacuum which sucks air back into the house through other cracks, holes, and gaps. Have you ever felt cold air coming through an electrical outlet? (My wife pointed this out to me just the other day! Ironically it was about a day after she asked me where all the dust comes from. Guess where this blog idea came from!) When this air gets sucked into the house, it often travels through dirty areas such as crawl spaces or the dust laden spaces in between your walls. Time for the duster!

How to Get Rid of the Dust

So how do we get rid of all this dust? There are two main ways – Filtration and Prevention. Filtration removes airborne dust once it gets in the house, so get a good air filter – just make sure it’s not one that restricts airflow or you’ll have a whole different set of problems. Prevention means don’t let the dust get in the house in the first place. There are easy steps such as taking shoes off as soon as you come into the house and wiping off your pets feet when they come in from the outdoors. Sealing all of your ductwork will prevent dust from getting in as well as saving you energy and allowing your home to heat and cool easier. Other steps include sealing all of those air leaks in the “envelope” of your home. To help you find them call an energy auditor such as Green Dream Group or Priority Energy.

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