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3 Common Myths About Air Conditioners

Air conditioners are an amazing invention. Can you imagine living in North Central Florida prior to air conditioning? However, there are many myths about them. Everyone has their own “nugget of wisdom.” Although they may seem logical, many of the popular beliefs about air conditioners aren’t necessarily backed by facts. Read on to learn three of the most commonly held myths regarding air conditioners.

What Are the Most Common Myths About Air Conditioners?

This list isn’t exhaustive, but here are the most common myths about air conditioners.

1. Closing Vents In Unused Rooms Saves Energy

It makes sense logically. If you have an office or guest room in your house that you rarely use, why strive to keep it cool? You could save money by cooling less square footage and redirecting the air to help keep the other parts of your home cooler, right?

Closing your AC vents actually decreases your air conditioner’s efficiency. Whether a few vents are closed or not, the same amount of air is pushed through your ductwork by your system. This excess air in the ductwork causes pressure to build up and makes your HVAC system work harder to distribute the air to the other parts of your home.

Another issue is excess moisture build-up in your unused rooms. Living in Gainesville, FL, we have very high humidity during the summer months. A hot, humid environment in a room can cause damage to furniture, electronics, clothing, flooring, and walls. These conditions can also lead to mold growth.

Therefore, closing vents in unused rooms isn’t the best strategy.

2. Bigger Is Better

When it comes to the size of your air conditioning unit, bigger is not always better. Air conditioners must be tailored to the square footage of your home. An oversized unit reduces efficiency and causes higher indoor humidity and short cycling.

air conditioners - a picture of the outside air conditioning unit.

Short cycling is when your air conditioning unit starts and stops rapidly. This happens because an oversized unit cools your house too quickly — causing drastic temperature swings. Short cycling causes issues with your unit over time through unnecessary wear and tear.

Another issue with rapid cooling is that your house will not be cooled evenly. This means you will have some areas of your home that are overly frigid and other areas that are blazing hot.

3. Set Your Thermostat High When You’re Not Home

Another common misconception is to turn your thermostat up when you’re not home during the day or when you go on a trip. Although it’s true you can set your thermostat slightly warmer to conserve energy, setting your thermostat high in the morning and then cranking it back down when you return in the evening makes your air conditioner work harder.

Think about it this way: it’s way easier for your unit to maintain a cooler, consistent temperature than to cool it back down again, causing it to use more energy and creating more wear and tear. Another issue is excess humidity build-up, especially when you go out of town for a few days. In Florida’s climate, humidity levels can build up in your home far too quickly and cause mold growth or damage to drywall within days.

It’s okay to turn your thermostat up a couple of degrees when you’re not home, but don’t overdo it. For example, if you like to keep your thermostat at 73℉ while you’re home, set it to 75℉ while you’re gone. Most new systems also have schedules you can program on their thermostats so you can have a slightly warmer home during work hours and have it cool again by the time you return.

Contact Gator Air and Energy for All Your Air Conditioning Needs

At Gator Air & Energy, we can help you with all your air conditioning needs, including emergency AC repair, AC maintenance, or AC installation. Our repair services start with proper diagnostics followed by clear advice to help you determine the best solution.

Allowing us to provide routine maintenance every 6-12 months will also help you prevent unnecessary repairs. Please reach out to us today for all your air conditioning repair service needs here in Gainesville, Florida, and the surrounding areas.

AC Repair: Characteristics of a Reputable AC Company

What’s worse than having your AC unit stop working? Gainesville residents are fully familiar with the oppressive heat and humidity in North Florida, so we love our central air conditioning. In the unfortunate event that your air conditioner stops working, you need to know what AC repair company you can call and trust. You want to make sure the company has certain characteristics. Read on to learn some of the most relevant ones.

What Should I Look for in a Reputable AC Repair Company?

Licenses and Certifications

Like any homes services industry such as plumbing, electric, or general contracting, the HVAC industry comes with its own list of required licenses and certifications. In Florida, technicians must have a license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). You can also verify their license on the DBRP website.

There are different classes of licenses that carry different requirements depending on where and on what type of equipment a contractor wants to work. Reputable Florida AC repair contractors will have an updated license that is verifiable on the DBRP website.

Transparency

When it comes to finding a reputable contractor for AC repair services, another red flag to look out for is a lack of transparency. Reputable contractors should gladly and willingly walk you through every step of the AC repair process and answer any questions without push-back.

After the diagnostic tests and before performing any AC repairs, the HVAC technicians should go over the scope of work necessary to fix the issue and outline the cost of the repair. They should explain why they’re replacing a particular part of your unit and why that part is important.

Industry Best Practices and Regulations

Reputable AC repair companies will follow local ordinances and regulations like pulling permits and getting inspections when necessary.

If a replacement unit is installed, it’s required to be inspected by a certified inspector. This state-certified inspector will pass or fail the inspection based on the city codes currently in effect. Copies of the report are also made available to both the customer and the contractor. It’s a major red flag if an HVAC company tries to circumvent or dismiss the need for an inspection.

Contact Gator Air and Energy for AC Repair Services

Here at Gator Air & Energy, we can help you with your AC emergency service needs. Our services start with proper diagnostics followed by clear advice to help you determine the best solution.

Allowing us to provide routine maintenance every 6-12 months will also help you prevent unnecessary repairs. Please reach out to us today for all your air conditioning repair service needs here in Gainesville, Florida, and the surrounding areas.

Common Issues Leading to AC Repair Service

As Florida homeowners, we have unique challenges regarding our air conditioning repair service needs. Due to North Florida’s long summers and nearly year-round demand for air conditioning, our HVAC systems experience different types of stress than our northern counterparts. For this reason, we are taking a look at the most common issues that require AC repair service in our area.

Signs You Need AC Repair

Having to call an AC repair service company to come out to your home or business can feel a little intimidating. We ask ourselves questions like, “What if I call an HVAC service technician to come out, and it turns out to be something simple that I could’ve solved myself?” We may also wonder, “How much is this going to cost?”

The following are the most common issues that air conditioning repair service technicians encounter during service calls.

  • Bad AC contactor or capacitor
  • Blown breaker
  • Air handler condensation line blockage
  • Faulty compressor

AC Repair or Replacement

Bad AC Contactor or Capacitor

What is an AC contactor and capacitor? Think of this duo as being like your AC unit’s “spark plug.” An AC contactor and the separate capacitor are small components that fit in the palm of your hand that build up enough electrical charge to initiate the compressor in your exterior condenser unit to “kick on.” Over time, corrosion builds up on the contactor, or the capacitor loses its charging ability — preventing them from doing their job.

Keep in mind the contactor and capacitor don’t have to go out simultaneously. If one is bad, they will not work in tandem. Usually, when one or the other is out, it’s easiest to have both replaced simultaneously. One telltale sign that you have an issue with your contactor or capacitor is if your outdoor unit’s fan is turning on, but your system is not blowing cool air. The lack of cool air means the compressor is not turning on.

It’s important to note having a bad compressor will also cause this issue. We will cover a bad condenser in the final section.

Blown Breaker

Every electrical circuit in your home has an associated breaker. Appliances and systems like your HVAC System require higher amperage, so they tend to have higher amp breakers in your home’s electrical service panel. Sometimes, the breaker associated with your AC unit will go out for various reasons. One cause is if the AC unit is pulling a high load of amperes (amps) that exceeds the breaker’s limit.

Breakers are rated according to their maximum amp load. If this load is exceeded, newer breakers have a mechanism that will automatically shut them off. However, in some cases, the breakers are damaged due to overload. This requires breakers to be replaced. Your constantly-running AC unit places a great load on the breaker. An indicator of this issue is if your HVAC system won’t turn on at all.

It’s best to have a professional replace breakers. It can be dangerous for homeowners to attempt to replace breakers on their own.

Air Conditioner Condensation Line Blockage

Central HVAC systems have air handlers. Air handlers are usually in the home’s utility closet or garage. These units have internal coils that create condensation as they cool the air. This condensed water collects in a condensation pan near the bottom of the air handler, where water is then drained out via a condensation line. These condensation lines usually drain the water outside on an exterior wall.

When air filters become dirty or if there are leaks in the system that allow air to circumvent the filter, debris builds up in the condensation pan and mixes in with the water. This dirty water can lead to blockages in the condensation line.

Newer HVAC systems come with a float switch component designed to shut the system down should the water level in the condensation pan exceed a certain threshold. This prevents the pan from backing up and causing water damage to your home.

Often, blocked condensation lines are the culprit for a system that won’t run. A blocked condensation line is an easy fix and can be solved by flushing the line or physically clearing the blockage.

A Faulty Compressor

Earlier, we talked about how a bad capacitor or contactor can allow the outdoor condenser unit’s fan to run but keep the unit from cooling because the compressor won’t turn on. When your fan is running, but your air isn’t cooling during a cooling cycle, the hope is that it’s just a bad capacitor or contactor because they’re cheaper and easier to replace.

However, a faulty compressor will present the same symptoms, and it’s much more expensive to replace. An HVAC professional will determine the cause after running a few diagnostic tests.

Contact Gator Air & Energy for Air Conditioning Repair Service

At Gator Air & Energy, we help the residents of Gainesville and surrounding communities keep their homes cool. We provide AC repair service in Lake City, High Springs, Alachua, and Melrose. Our experts can troubleshoot and solve any of your AC repair needs. Do you need air conditioning repair service at your home? Call us today at (352) 389-4396 or fill out our online contact form to get a quote!

How to Choose the Best Air Conditioning Unit for Your Home

Living in North Florida, we’re no strangers to smothering heat and humidity, and our climate is a real testing ground for air conditioners. Choosing the right air conditioning unit is one of the most important decisions homeowners can make. Our goal is to find an efficient, reliable system of the proper size and capacity for our home that requires minimal repairs over its lifespan. Read on to learn what to look for when choosing the best AC unit for your home.

What to Consider When Choosing an Air Conditioning Unit

When selecting an air conditioning unit for your home, there are several factors to consider, including the following.

Your Home’s Condition

Bigger is not always better. Many homeowners make the false assumption that if they buy a massive air conditioning unit — regardless of their home’s square footage — it will effectively keep their home cooler. Although it seems that simply having a bigger air conditioning unit is best, an oversized or undersized unit creates several issues.

There are other important variables to consider besides square footage. Therefore, it’s best to have a professional home energy audit completed to account for the following.

  • Local climate
  • Existing ductwork quality
  • Insulation quality and window condition
  • Home floorplan and construction materials
  • Sun exposure
  • Occupants living in the home

These energy audits are integral to tailoring an AC system to your home. Keep in mind if you’re replacing a unit, you don’t necessarily want to replace it with the same size system. It’s best not to assume that a proper size unit was installed the first time.

Central AC vs. a Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning Unit

These factors will also help you determine if you should choose a central system or go with a ductless mini-split. Central HVAC systems are just as they sound with a centralized outdoor unit (or 2 units if the home is 2-story) and an indoor component called an air handler. The air handler is usually located in the garage or utility room. Central units also have ductwork usually run through the attic that distributes cool or warm air throughout the home via the air handler.

Ductless mini-splits, on the other hand, are not centralized. Instead of supplying air throughout the entire property like centralized systems, they are individual units that cool and heat specific rooms or areas of the home.

There are pros and cons to each system type. Central HVAC systems generally make a home’s interior more appealing because the air supply vents are less noticeable. However, mini-splits may be a better option for homes that don’t have existing ductwork, have limited space, or had a recent addition.

Mini-split installation is also simpler and less invasive because it’s ductless, creates cost and energy savings, and gives a home greater curb appeal because the outdoor unit is much smaller than a central system.

Brand

Like any product or system, many different companies manufacture air conditioning units. Although we service multiple brands of HVAC units, we exclusively install Trane air conditioners, mini-splits, furnaces, and heat pumps. Trane produces industry-leading HVAC systems that are reliable and resilient in the Gainesville, FL climate.

These systems come with various thermostats, including smart thermostats, so you can efficiently cool and heat your home. These thermostats provide users with filter cleaning and replacement notifications along with system errors or warnings. Choosing the best brand is important to stay comfortable all year long.

Trane Air Conditioner

Budget

Upgrading or installing a new HVAC system is a major homeowner decision. Therefore, determining your budget is an important factor in deciding what type of system to have installed. Some homeowners may not be able to make a large purchase right away. In those situations, it may be more cost-effective to repair an existing system until their budget allows them to install a new system.

Another option is financing for those who qualify. Financing a system helps offset the upfront costs of installing a new system and allows homeowners to spread the cost out over monthly installments. Regardless, choosing a reliable system like a Trane is ideal because, like most things in life, we get what we pay for.

Contact Gator Air & Energy for AC Installation

At Gator Air & Energy, we help the residents of Gainesville and surrounding communities keep their homes cool. We install air conditioning and heating systems in Lake City, High Springs, Alachua, and Melrose. Our experts help you choose the optimal HVAC system by assessing your home and performing an audit. During our installation process, you can expect punctual service, clear communication, expert technicians, and friendly faces. Ready to schedule your AC installation for your home? Call us today at (352) 389-4396 or fill out our online contact form to get a quote!

Breathe Easier: Improving Indoor Air Quality

How often do we actually think about indoor air quality? Whether at home or the office, we’re usually more concerned with temperature than we are with quality. However, low-quality air presents a host of issues. Read on to learn more about the most common contaminants and how to improve and maintain your indoor air quality.

Indoor Air Quality

Just as it sounds, indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air inside building structures and can sometimes refer to its immediate outside air. Air quality is usually defined as it relates to human health. Indoor air pollutants can cause various human health issues depending on the type, dosage, and length of contaminant exposure.

North Florida’s Most Common Indoor Air Contaminants

The main sources of indoor air pollution in the Gainesville area include:

  • Mold
  • Excess Moisture
  • Radon
  • Formaldehyde
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • Construction Dust
  • Household Cleaning Products
  • Pet Dander
  • Bacteria

Note, that this list isn’t exhaustive. Depending on life habits, this list can be much longer or shorter. For example, well-maintained homes feature better air quality than homes where cleanliness is poorly maintained.

Indoor Air Contaminant Health Impacts

Florida is a peninsula with a warm and humid climate. Therefore, mold is a common issue in many homes and offices. The presence of mold indoors isn’t unprecedented. Instead, issues arise when the mold count indoors begins to exceed the outdoor count — mold concentrations indoors should be nearly identical to outdoors.

Mold begins to get out of control when homeowners fail to practice some of the following habits:

  • Regularly running their air conditioner unit during the humid summer months.
  • Quickly identifying and addressing an unwanted water source like a slow plumbing leak or roof leak.
  • Running their bathroom’s vent fan while showering.

There are thousands of mold species, and some are more toxic than others. Additionally, mold sensitivity varies from person to person, increasing in concert with mold exposure. In other words, the longer a person is exposed to mold, the more their sensitivity increases.

Nearly every home contains various levels of VOCs and formaldehyde from building materials such as insulation and flooring. When a remodel or construction project is completed in a home, there is likely construction dust that can affect the human respiratory system. Homes with pets also contain dander and hair, which can become trapped in crevices and the home’s HVAC duct system.

If left unchecked, these contaminants work together to cause diseases and conditions, including weakened immune systems, cancer, respiratory illness, allergies, and a host of other issues.

How to Improve and Maintain IAQ

Improving and maintaining indoor air quality is accomplished by the following:

  • Properly maintaining your home’s HVAC system.
  • Regularly cleaning your home.
  • Keeping your thermostat setting within an appropriate range (68°F – 78°F).
  • Quickly addressing water leaks from faulty plumbing or leaky roofs.
  • Checking caulking around windows to ensure they’re properly sealed.

Dirty return duct

These habits form a great starting place for improving and maintaining indoor air quality. Most of these habits, including some aspects of HVAC maintenance, can be performed by the average homeowner. For example, homeowners can maintain their HVAC system by regularly replacing their air filter every 1-3 months. Other aspects of HVAC maintenance, such as duct cleaning, can be done by a professional.

Contact Gator Air & Energy For a Healthier Home

Here at Gator Air & Energy, we can help you with your indoor air quality. Our services start with proper HVAC system maintenance, including coil and pan cleaning, air filter replacement, duct cleaning, and UV light installation in the HVAC system’s air handler.

Practicing good home cleaning habits and allowing us to provide routine maintenance every 6-12 months will help you breathe easier in your home. Contact us today for more information about our indoor air quality services here in Gainesville, FL, and the surrounding areas.

How Can I Protect My Outdoor Condenser?

There are a host of outdoor elements that your condenser is exposed to daily. Animals, debris, extreme heat, and flooding can all cause damage to your outdoor unit, but there are ways to protect your investment from damage. At Gator Air & Energy, we want to help you keep your air conditioner running as long as possible, so we have some advice on how to prevent damage to your outdoor condenser.

At Gator Air & Energy, we want to help you keep your air conditioner running as long as possible.

Protecting Your Condenser From Animals

dead snake inside a condenser Gator Air & Energy Gainesville FL

The animals in Gainesville are adorable but they can also wreak havoc on your outdoor condenser. The tiny lizards (known as anoles), snakes, raccoons, squirrels, birds, and even pets can cause physical damage to your unit.

Particularly, animals can cause damage to your condenser fan motor and capacitor. Snakes, for example, like to curl up inside the condenser when it is off. But when it turns back on, it’s bad news for the snake and bad news for your air conditioner!

Use a Pest Repellent

One way to prevent animals from harming your outdoor condenser is to spray pest repellent around the unit. Commercial pest repellents are found at most hardware or outdoor stores as well as online. They use a scent that most pests will find unattractive. Spray the pest repellant evenly around the unit, and it should help keep the pests away.

Clean the Area Around the Condenser Regularly

If animals urinate around the unit, it can attract other animals to the area. Spray down the area around your condenser unit with water regularly to ensure that no other animals come around.

Protecting Your Condenser From Leaves & Debris

Leaves, pollen, branches, and other debris can get caught in your outdoor condenser. This debris not only harms the unit’s fan, but if enough debris is sucked through the system, it can drastically reduce your air conditioner’s efficiency. As part of AC maintenance service, we clean your unit and ensure that your unit is free of debris.

Use a Condenser Cover

Once you have cleaned the outdoor condenser, you can use a condenser cover to protect the unit. These covers are made of a thin sheet of fabric that allows the unit to take air in but also prevents debris from getting in the unit.

Use a Year-Round Exterior Filter

Another option is to use a year-round exterior condenser filter. This option is typically made of a thin mesh of metal and protects the unit from larger debris. You can find these filters at any major home improvement store as well as online.

Protecting Your Condenser From Extreme Heat

Extreme heat can take a toll on your air conditioner on all fronts, but the outdoor condenser unit is especially vulnerable. There are a few things you can try to keep your unit from overheating, but it’s important to note that these methods are only necessary if the temperatures rise above 120℉. Air conditioners can withstand high temperatures in normal operation, even for the high temperatures in Gainesville.

Use a Mister

In extreme heat, you can use a water mister to cool the unit down from the outside. However, this is only a strategy for extreme heat and shouldn’t be used on a regular basis. Prolonged exposure to misty water can rust the unit’s components.

Check Your Ducts

If air is escaping anywhere in your air conditioning system, then it will affect how efficiently your condenser runs. Our duct sealing service ensures that your system is working as intended, which will help your outdoor condenser function, even in extreme heat.

Protecting Your Condenser From Flooding

A typical rainfall, even the downpours we experience here in Gainesville, won’t damage your outdoor condenser. Condensers are built to withstand even the heaviest downpours, and the components in the unit are well protected with plastic and are water-repellent.

However, flooding is a different story. If your unit gets submerged in water, it can cause damage to the unit and also pose a serious safety concern.

Immediately Turn Off Electrical Power

If you notice that your outdoor condenser is flooded, immediately turn off any electrical power going to the unit. The circuit breaker in your home should have a switch labeled for the condenser. Leave your condenser off until you have a qualified HVAC professional inspect the unit.

Get Rid of Standing Water

If you can, get rid of any standing water around your unit. You can use a shovel to create a makeshift drain to carry water safely away from your unit. Also, remove any debris that you see that may have settled around your condenser due to the flooding.

Contact Gator Air & Energy for AC Repair and Maintenance

If you have experienced any of the problems listed above, we can help you repair your outdoor condenser and get it back to running efficiently as quickly as possible. Also, we recommend regular AC maintenance service is performed on your unit every 6 months. During our service, we inspect, clean, and tune up the outdoor condenser to make sure it works properly.

Call us today and let our experts help you keep your condenser running at its best!

Remedies for Clean Indoor Air

Whether you’re spending time inside your home or outside, the quality of the air you breathe is incredibly important for your health and wellness. Harmful air pollutants can build up and collect in the air supply within your home, posing significant health threats to your household. As we tend to spend approximately 90% of our time indoors, it’s crucial to ensure that we have clean indoor air in our homes.

While it may seem as though indoor pollution may simply be the remnants of excess outdoor pollution, there are various sources of indoor air pollution directly stemming from your home. These sources include your building materials, cleaning products, pet dander, appliances, excess humidity, and furnishings.

In fact, according to the EPA, indoor air can be up to 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor air.

There are specialized HVAC features that can foster clean indoor air by significantly reducing the number of pollutants, including UV lights, increased ventilation, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, and air filter systems. In addition to improving your home’s HVAC system, you can take some simple steps to reduce the source of indoor air pollutants and work with these features to help purify the air.

Add Greenery to Your Home

While plants aren’t as effective as air purifiers, they offer a simple solution to help clean your home’s air naturally and in a cost-effective manner. By nature, some plants help to filter out harmful chemicals in the air, allowing your family to reap the benefits of thriving plants far beyond just aesthetics. We recommend adding these houseplants to help refresh your home’s air supply:

  • Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  • Snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’)
  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
  • Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum)
  • Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum)

These plants are also some of the easiest houseplants to care for, so even if you don’t have the greenest thumb, you can surely keep these plants thriving. Place two to three of these houseplants about every 100 sq. ft. within your home to help remove harmful pollutants from the air. If your house is not only home to your family but also some furry friends, remember that most houseplants are toxic to animals. You may want to keep houseplants on shelves or safely tucked out of reach from your pets.

Switch to Cleaner Household Products

When we speak about fresh air, that’s not a cue to reach for a spray can of air freshener. While that freshener can make your room smell pleasant, it may also release harmful aerosolized chemicals. Many common store-bought household cleaners consist of toxic chemicals that can increase the pollution of your home’s air, causing additional health-related concerns. As an alternative, switch to non-toxic cleaners at the grocery store with simpler, healthier ingredients or make your own natural cleaning products.

Maintain Your Pet’s Grooming

Pet dander can easily build-up in a home with pets. Pet dander refers to your pet’s skin cells circulating in the air, causing much greater allergic reactions and respiratory problems than the pet fur you see throughout your home. To keep pet dander from accumulating in your home, groom your pet often, ensure that any brushing takes place outdoors, vacuum frequently, and change your AC filter regularly.

Take Your Shoes Off at the Door
When coming home, try to make taking off your shoes one of the first things you do. Walking through your home with your shoes on will transfer dirt throughout your house. This can leave behind harmful substances, including pollen, fungi, pesticides, fecal matter, and bacteria contributing to poor air quality.

Care for Your Home

Cleaning Your Carpets

Your carpets are like sponges for harmful particles and potentially pathogenic microorganisms. By vacuuming and cleaning your carpets regularly, you can minimize the build-up of these pollutants in your home. Most pollutants tend to weigh heavily in the air, causing them to fall downward. This can often lead the lower portion of your home’s air to be even more polluted, posing specific concerns for small children. By actively cleaning these lower areas and the floors on which these pollutants can build up, you can reduce the risk of heightened indoor air pollution.

Ensuring a Healthy Environment

Proactively cleaning your home provides countless health benefits, including improved air quality. Many contributing factors negatively affect your indoor air, including excess humidity, bacteria, mold, and mildew growth. Mold often grows in damp, dark places, like your bathroom or laundry room, and will release harmful spores into the air, causing respiratory issues or triggering allergies and asthma. Cleaning your home before this happens can prevent these additional pollutants from developing.

Open Your Windows

If the weather permits, open your windows to let fresh air into your home. Doing this for a few minutes each day can help circulate the air in your home and allow cleaner outdoor air to refresh the air inside.

Change Your AC Filter Regularly

AC filters trap the indoor air pollutants that flow through your home’s air supply. Routinely changing your filter allows for better air circulation and optimal filtering capabilities, while dirty AC filters enable contaminants to enter your HVAC system and continue to build up in your home. Having a clean AC filter in place allows your HVAC system to operate at its fullest capacity, promoting better indoor air quality. Combine this proactive measure with regular AC maintenance to keep your home’s air circulating freshly.

Breathe Better with Gator Air & Energy

While these are great ways to incorporate healthier practices into your home, to get truly high-quality indoor air, you’ll need to equip your home with the tools it needs. Minimizing the sources of pollutants in your home and purifying the air as it circulates improves the quality of the air you and your family breathe every day. Reach out to our team at Gator Air & Energy to find the best ways to combat indoor pollution. Call us at 352-389-4396 to refresh your home’s air today!

5 Biggest Furnace Hazards: How to Protect Your Family

 

Furnaces are the most commonly used residential heating system in the United States. Running most often on gas, but sometimes on oil, propane, or electricity, furnaces deliver their heat through a duct system. Since we don’t use our heaters too often in Florida, it’s easy to neglect the routine maintenance of these systems and take them for granted; but there’s nothing worse than turning on your heater on a cold winter morning and discovering that your heater isn’t working! According to Angie’s List, some HVAC experts say up to 75% of no-heat calls in the winter are related to a lack of maintenance. 

Neglecting your furnace can also create serious health hazards. Let’s take a look at a few of these hazards and explain how you can protect yourself and your family from these dangers.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a life-threatening emergency that occurs from inhaling carbon monoxide (CO) fumes. CO is a colorless, odorless gas made when fuels such as wood, gasoline, natural gas or kerosene burn. Breathing in carbon monoxide fumes prevents the body from using oxygen properly, which can harm the brain, heart, and other organs. An estimated 500 people die each year, and 15,000 people are taken to emergency rooms, because of exposure to carbon monoxide. Most of these preventable happen in the winter when our homes are closed up and heaters are in use. 

Regular maintenance of your home’s heating and ventilation system will help prevent a carbon monoxide leak but you should also protect yourself by having alarms installed on every floor and near every bedroom in your home as well as one by your furnace (at a distance of 10 or more feet away). According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a qualified heating contractor should inspect your home heating system annually. The technician will check your furnace, its electrical and mechanical components, thermostat controls, and automatic safety switches. Ventilation systems should also be checked for any blockages or cracks that could allow carbon monoxide to leak into your home.

Carbon monoxide is especially important to be aware of if your house has a chimney and you use your fireplace. If unchecked for an extended period of time, a chimney can gather grime and soot to the point where it can trap some of the fumes in the house, including carbon monoxide. Even if you don’t have a chimney, the furnace burner, electrical wiring, mechanical controls, and more can also be potential causes of this dangerous gas. A Gator Air & Energy technician can ensure that your house is clean of carbon monoxide and help prevent future issues by finding areas where the gas might get trapped in heating the house.

Allergens

Your furnace heats your home by taking in air, warming it and dispersing it through your home via ductwork and in-room vents. During the spring and summer months, your unit accumulates dust as well as allergens and indoor air quality contaminants including pollen, mold and pet dander, which are then circulated through your home when you turn on the heater. The immediate effects of encounters with these pollutants can include:

  • Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Long-term effects from the presence of these pollutants sometimes involve:

  • Humidifier fever
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Asthma
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

Dr. Adrian Casillas, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of clinical immunology and allergy at the University of California, at Los Angeles, School of Medicine suggests that one way to cure this problem is to have your heating ducts cleaned prior to firing up your furnace for the first time. In addition to cleaning your ducts, Gator Air & Energy will also conduct a thorough inspection to check your ducts for holes and leaks, hidden restrictions, and insufficient insulation that could be costing you extra money each month on your energy bill.

Fire 

Whether your furnace is powered by gas or electric, it has the potential to be a fire hazard. As we explained in a previous article, the furnace burner is the spot in your central heating unit where air and fuel are burned to produce heat. Because there’s an actual flame here, it’s very important that the burner is clean of any dirt, grime, grease, or anything else that could inadvertently catch on fire. Gator Air & Energy technicians have the proper tools and equipment to carefully and thoroughly clean your gas or electric furnace and are also trained to identify and remedy potentially dangerous electrical issues such as frayed wires or corroded electrical contacts before they cause a dangerous house fire. 

Crowding

Your furnace needs room and unobstructed airflow to operate properly. You should always keep at least a 3 ft clearance around all sides of your unit. This will not only make it easier for your Gator Air & Energy technician to service your unit but it will help ensure that combustible items are not in the immediate vicinity. Never store volatile chemicals such as gasoline, paint thinners or paint near your furnace as the high heat and sparks produced could ignite dangerous fumes. It’s also important to avoid clutter around your furnace. Hang laundry several feet away from your unit and keep cleaners and detergents capped securely and at a distance. 

Neglect

Dirt and neglect are the top causes of heating and cooling system inefficiency and failure. Routine maintenance is the best way to ensure your furnace continues to operate at peak efficiency. Trane recommends scheduling an appointment to have a licensed HVAC technician inspect your furnace annually, before heating season begins because most furnace problems can be caught early with preventative maintenance. With regular maintenance, you can feel confident that when the time comes to turn your furnace on, it will work safely and efficiently. 

Annual maintenance can also save the cost of an emergency call for a costly repair.

When performing routine maintenance on your furnace, a Gator Air & Energy technician will:

  • Check the combustion chamber for cracks
  • Test for carbon monoxide (CO) and remedy if found
  • Adjust blower control and supply-air temperature
  • Clean and oil the blower
  • Remove dirt, soot, or corrosion from the furnace or boiler
  • Check fuel input and flame characteristics, and adjust if necessary
  • Seal connections between the furnace and main ducts.

We hope this important safety information has deepened your understanding of how important it is to have your furnace inspected by a professional at least once a year. If it’s been more than 12 months since your last furnace inspection, contact Gator Air and Energy to set up an appointment so we can make sure your furnace will be ready for the next cold snap and you and your family will enjoy a warm and safe winter season!

The 2020 Freon Ban: Do You Need to Replace Your Old AC Unit?

 

As 2019 comes to a close, you’ll probably be hearing more reports in the news about the 2020 Freon ban; a ban on  R-22 that goes into effect on January 1, 2020. You may be concerned about whether or not this ban will affect you as a homeowner and if so, how. 

Let’s take a closer look at the details of this ban and how it might affect you.

What is R-22 and Why is it Being Banned?

R-22 is a refrigerant commonly used in air conditioning systems that were built and installed prior to 2010. It is categorized as a Class II controlled substance by the EPA. In the U.S., the EPA regulates ozone-depleting substances (ODS) as either class I or class II. Class I substances have been almost completely phased out in the U.S. because of their higher ozone depletion potential. Ozone absorbs UV radiation, so depletion is potentially threatening to humans and can lead to increased rates of skin cancer.  Class II substances are all hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are less damaging to the ozone than class 1 substances, but still harmful. New production and import of most HCFCs will be phased out by 2020. The most common HCFC in use today is HCFC-22 or R-22, which is commonly known by its trademark name, Freon. This colorless, odorless, nonflammable, noncorrosive substance was introduced as a refrigerant in the 1930s. It also proved useful as propellants for aerosols and in numerous technical applications.

How Does a Refrigerant Like R-22 Work?

When warm air inside your home blows across the indoor evaporator coil of your air conditioner, its heat energy transfers to the refrigerant inside the coil. That transfer, in turn, “cools” the air. A refrigerant such as R-22 is pumped back to the compressor where the cycle begins again. The heat absorbed by the R-22 or other coolant is moved outside your home while cooled air is blown inside. Moisture that contributes to humidity is also condensed out of the air. Your cooling system is usually combined with your central heating system because they share the same ductwork for distributing conditioned air throughout your home. 

Will You Be Affected by the Ban? 

Experts estimate half of all residential AC units in the U.S. currently run on R-22 coolant.

If your air conditioning was installed prior to 2010, it’s likely it uses R22 refrigerant. Many air conditioners state what type of coolant the system uses on a label somewhere on the unit but we recommend giving us a call so we can send an experienced, licensed HVAC technician to confirm this. During your service call, we’ll also check your unit for any signs of leakage. 

Your air conditioner is a closed system, so as long as it is in good working order, your Freon level shouldn’t change. However, if you’ve ever needed to have your HVAC system re-charged with Freon or you’ve been limping along with an old AC unit that you know has a leak, we recommend getting your unit repaired and recharged as soon as possible before the ban goes into effect. Freon prices are expected to rise as supply diminishes.

If My AC Unit Runs on R-22, Does That Mean I’ll Have to Replace It?  

Not necessarily. There are many factors to consider before replacing your existing unit. As we explained in a previous article, a great tip to think about when deciding if it’s time for a new unit is if the cost of repair, multiplied by the age of your unit, is more than the cost of a new unit.

(Cost of Repair) X (Age of Old AC Unit in Years) > (Cost of Your New AC)

For Example:

Cost of repair: $450.00

Age of Unit: 15 years

Price of new unit: $5,450.00 (with installation)

($450.00) X (15) = $6,750.00

$6,750.00 > $5,450.00 = Time for a new AC unit.

Regardless of the type of refrigerant your system uses, If your air conditioner is giving you the following warning signs, your unit may be in need of repair:

  • Strange noises
  • Warm air coming from your vents
  • Spike in your electric bill
  • Strange odors coming from your vents
  • Dripping water is creating puddles
  • Electric breaker keeps tripping

If your older unit has been properly maintained and is running well, there’s no immediate need to replace it. And you don’t need to worry that you will be forced to purchase a new unit if supplies of R-22 will run out. According to Trane, there is still enough R-22 available to fill 90.7 Olympic-sized swimming pools!

However, if your unit has been struggling for some time and you anticipate that the 2020 Freon ban will only increase the cost of your future repairs, fall is a great time to have a new unit installed. Not only will you be purchasing an air conditioner that uses a more environmentally-friendly refrigerant but today’s HVAC units are also more energy-efficient, which can help lower your monthly electric bill. Fall is also a good time to have a new AC unit installed because the demand for HVAC servicing is lower in the cooler months which means installation can happen more quickly.

If you’ve been on the fence wondering if it might be time to purchase a new air conditioner, call us to assess the current condition of your unit. We’ll give you an estimate of how much life is left in your HVAC system and help you calculate how much future repairs might cost. We can also give you a quote on a new unit and explain our convenient financing options. 

Here’s to a more energy-efficient and healthier planet in 2020!

Heat Pump vs Air Conditioner: Which is Better For Beating the Florida Heat?

When living in Florida, having an efficient home cooling system like an air conditioner or heat pump is not just a desire, it’s a necessity! Because of the heat and humidity, most Florida residents today rely on one of these systems to maintain not only reasonable comfort levels but to lower humidity levels as well.

But which HVAC system is better for beating the Florida heat? A heat pump or air conditioner?

To answer that question, we first need to explain how the two systems operate. Then we’ll look at 2 factors important to homeowners who might be considering the purchase of a new HVAC system: Cost and Efficiency.

What is a Heat Pump and How is it Different Than an Air Conditioner?

Many homeowners believe that air conditioners work by introducing cold air into the home. But in fact, air conditioners make your home cooler by using a compressed refrigerant to collect heat from inside your home as air passes over the coil in the air handler and pumping it outside. A heat pump, in cooling mode, does the same job. It is a mechanical-compression cycle refrigeration system that can be reversed to either heat or cool a controlled space. 

A heat pump is always working, in summer and in winter, transporting warm air from one place to another, to heat or cool, according to the season. In cold weather, a heat pump will extract the heat outside and move it indoors. When it’s warm outside, the heat pump will reverse direction and operate in the same fashion as an air conditioner to cool the home. 

Cost Considerations: Heat Pump Vs Air Conditioner

The largest consumer of energy in a typical Florida home is the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, which can account for more than 40% of home energy use and, therefore, for more than 40% of your utility bill. Energy use by your HVAC system is affected by many factors such as insulation levels, system efficiency, shading on the home, quality and sealing of the windows and doors, design and integrity of the duct system, and, of course, how the system is used. (1)

In cooling mode, there really isn’t much difference in cost or efficiency whether you use a heat pump or an air conditioner.  But remember, while a heat pump can both cool and heat your home, an air conditioner cannot. It can only provide cooling. This means that you’ll have to pair your air conditioner with a furnace or natural gas unit to provide heat in the colder months.

Another consideration in terms of cost is longevity and unit replacement cost. Since a heat pump both cools and heats a home, it works year-round. For this reason, AC units, which don’t need to run continuously in the winter months, experience less wear and tear and may not need to be replaced as often. 

This expense could be offset, however, by the yearly cost-savings of owning a heat pump, which is more energy-efficient than a furnace in the cooler months. 

Let’s explore heat pump energy efficiency a little more.

Which is More Efficient: Heat Pump or Air Conditioner? 

At Gator Air and Energy, we want our customers to get the best, most energy-efficient products. That’s why we install Trane® cooling units. Trane® offers a variety of air conditioners, heat pumps, and more that range in efficiency (SEER), sound levels, price, and more. 

What is SEER?

SEER measures air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency, which is calculated by the cooling output for a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same time frame. A SEER rating is a maximum efficiency rating, similar to the miles per gallon for your car. Your car might get 28 miles per gallon on the highway, but if you’re stuck in city traffic it could be lower. If your air conditioner is 21 SEER, that’s its maximum efficiency. (2)

As we stated earlier, in cooling mode, there really isn’t much difference in cost or efficiency whether you use a heat pump or an air conditioner.

When it comes to heating your home in the winter however, a heat pump will typically be more energy-efficient than a furnace which is paired with an air conditioner. 

Why?

A heat pump transfers or recycles heat rather than generating it as a furnace does. 

Under ideal conditions, a heat pump can transfer 300 percent more energy than it consumes. In contrast, a high-efficiency gas furnace is about 90 percent efficient. Heat pumps are powered by electricity, so you can save substantially on fuel consumption. A heat pump is over 100% efficient in temperate climates with milder winters. (3)

Heat pumps are highly efficient and effective in temperatures as low as 25 degrees. If homeowners use a furnace in the 40-60 degree range, it will provide significantly more heat and power than is needed, which will result in higher energy consumption.

Of course, in order to optimize the efficiency of your heat pump, it’s important to keep it well-maintained. Let’s look at how routine maintenance positively affects efficiency.

How to Optimize Heat Pump Efficiency

As we explained in a previous post, you shouldn’t wait until something’s broken to service your heat pump. Routine maintenance will increase your system’s longevity and prevent expensive repairs. At least once a year, you should:

  • Inspect ducts, filters, and indoor coils for dirt
  • Diagnose and seal duct leakage
  • Inspect heat pump belts for wear
  • Make sure your thermostats are working
  • Verify proper airflow

The more you care for your heat pump, the more likely your heater will work when you need it!

Final Considerations Before Choosing a Heat Pump or Air Conditioner

After you’ve researched the different types of systems, your next call should be to a skilled air conditioning contractor. Why? The operating efficiency of a system relies on proper installation to achieve its performance rating. At Gator Air and Energy, our licensed technicians will advise you on the proper sizing of the system for the specific cooling load of your home. We’ll also ensure the selection and proper installation of thermostats or controls; proper installation and commissioning of the system; and, if required, a duct system designed to deliver the correct amount of conditioned air to each space within the building; and sealing and insulating all ductwork.(4) 

Whether you choose a heat pump or air conditioner for your next HCAV system installation or upgrade, you can relax knowing that Gator Air and Energy provides the highest quality cooling systems to help you beat the Florida heat! 

  References:

  1. http://www.myfloridahomeenergy.com/help/library/hvac/air-conditioning/#sthash.t7XPRHUM.dpbs
  2. https://www.trane.com/residential/en/resources/glossary/what-is-seer/
  3. https://www.trane.com/residential/en/resources/heat-pump-vs-furnace-what-heating-system-is-right-for-you/
  4. http://www.myfloridahomeenergy.com/help/library/hvac/air-conditioning/#sthash.t7XPRHUM.dpb
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