A Winter Furnace Checklist for Toronto Homeowners

Christmas is near and so is the time when the winter will go high on the swing of extreme cold. No party, no get together and no other indoor enjoyment will provide with ultimate joy unless there is comfort and comfort cannot be felt when the HVAC system is operating inefficiently. In order to keep all things all right, it is crucial to prepare yourself and your HVAC system well before the extreme cold blows start blowing. Below is a checklist that will help you prepare your HVAC system to provide you with ultimate warmth for the entire winter.

First and foremost - Filters 

Before you start inspecting any other component for issues, make sure you're done with cleaning the Air Filters. Whether or not any other component has developed a problem, the filters have certainly accumulated a lot of dirt. If the system is turned on with the same clogged filters, the accumulated dust will not only spread in the home but will also go and stick to other components of the system. So change/clean the filters before doing anything else.

Give a quick check to ductwork 

The ductwork is supposed to provide you with warm air throughout winter. For this, the ductwork has to have a clear pathway and in addition to that, NO LEAKS AND HOLES. Quickly inspects your ductwork first to check if it needs cleaning. Later, inspect the ductwork for any leaks. A leaking ductwork can raise energy bills up to 15%.

Clean the heat exchanger 

The accumulation of dirt on the heat exchanger can affect the heating efficiency. Clean the heat exchanger properly in order to maintain excellent heating levels.

Check fuel level 

If you're using oil-fired or Propane Furnace, fill the fuel up to the mark.

Change Thermostat batteries

Although the Thermostat remains in use almost throughout the year, it is still recommended to check batteries at the beginning of the winter season. A faulty thermostat can put you in irritating situations like system shut off, constant tripping or hot & cold spots. Change the batteries in time to avoid any such circumstances.

Clear supply and return registers 

The supply and return registers need to be cleared of any hindrances. If you had placed sofas or carpets on supply/return registers, remove them and clear all registers for a smooth flow of air.

Check exhaust vents 

Blockage in the exhaust vents can result in devastating situations. While you check and clean other components, make sure the exhaust vents are also clear of any blockage.

Check CO batteries 

Did you know that homeowners suffer from CO poisoning even after having a CO detector installed? That happens when they install the detector but don't change the batteries. If you have a CO detector installed, you have an addition in your checklist; change the batteries.

While all of these maintenances to do's are those that individuals can perform on their own, it is always suggested that a professional maintenance from a licensed HVAC technician is also taken.


Here's why you should not fully cover AC condenser in Winter

With the approaching winter, homeowners are preparing their Furnaces and Fireplaces and at the same time putting their AC condensers on snooze for a long winter break. For winters, you must have heard of the importance of covering the condenser unit since not covering it damages the unit, particularly as the environmental factors make their influence. But we can say it for sure that you must have heard half of the tip. While covering is fine, fully fledged covering is not a good idea and there as convincing reasons why;

- Moisture in a fully covered unit 

The compressor unit develops moisture because of high humidity, rain, snow or other climatic conditions. This moisture easily gets dispersed when the unit is not completely covered and get sufficient sunlight. In the case of the fully covered unit, moisture will still find a way in but will not get away easily once it reaches in the inside of the unit. Long presence of moisture, as you can guess, will contribute to producing rust and mold on the unit and corrode the compressor parts. 

- Rodents are not kept away this way

Many people cover their outdoor compressor units in order to protect them from animals. particularly rodents. Interestingly, covering the unit actually helps the rodents find a warm place to spend their winters at. So they make the inside or downside of the unit their home. The mess they create and the damage they cause is, of course, something you already have an idea about.

- A simple cover is all okay 

While there is no need to fully cover the unit, there is a need to cover it. And that is because, in winter, leaves fall and dust & debris gets accumulated on the unit particularly when it is not operational. So covering it up with a simple cover helps keep dust, debris and leaves away. Also, in case of a storm, other stuff may bang into the unit and get stuck therein when there's no cover at all.
So yes, cover it but the cover shouldn't be a seal.

Bottom line - Outdoor units are durable! 

The parts of the air conditioner that are meant to stay in the outdoor are designed in such a way so as to withstand the toughness of the climate conditions. The latest models, in particular, come with designs that offer special safety to the unit. So there is not really a need to fully cover the unit but even if it is covered, it should be done in such a way so as to leave some space for the unit to breathe in and out. And as said above, a normal fabric cover is well enough to protect the unit from dust, debris and leaves and at the same time, to keep it cool enough so as not to offer a residence to rodents and other animals.
A side tip in order to keep pests and animals away is to use a professional's suggested spray around the unit to keep all these unit corroding elements away.
Do you cover your unit in winters? If yes, how? If not, why not?


Replace your AC before next summer

While everyone else is busy purchasing Furnaces and tuning their home for winter, here we are talking about Air Conditioners. Is there a particular reason for this post? Oh yes, there is! But before knowing that reason, you should make sure whether or not your unit needs an upgrade.

Does my unit need an upgrade? 

To be sure of whether or not your unit needs an upgrade, the best way is to allow a professional technician to evaluate it. But since many homeowners are always trying to save, their preference is to not spend on a professional analysis and instead, make an analysis all on their own. For such homeowners, here are some useful tips;

- If your unit is old and has lately been costing too much, it is suggested to replace it. That is because even if you don't upgrade, you'll have to pay in the form of hefty energy bills whatsoever. And despite high energy bills, there will be compromised comfort. So if the bills have been unusually high lately, better replace!

- In addition to bringing hefty bills, one of the signs for a unit needing a replacement is when it breaks off frequently resulting in costly repairs. Once again, if you do not replace and drag the same unit, it will continue to create costly repair circumstances and your budget will continue to experience shocks. Better replace and relax!

- Even if the unit is not causing high energy bills or frequent repairs, an age of over 15 years is an indication of replacement in itself. While many people wonder why should they replace when the unit is running, the answer is; the running unit can stop anytime, most probably on the hottest noon possible. And why should you wait for a unit to bring high bills or frequent repairs and breakdowns? Why not replace well in time? Professionals suggest that it is better to replace a system when it crosses the age of 15 years. And should be replaced whatsoever if it exceeds 20 years.

Does it make sense to purchase Air Conditioner in Fall? 

And here we are at the point of concern. Why should an Air Conditioner be replaced in Fall or Winter? What sense does it make?
Here are some of the reasons that prove replacement is beneficial when it is done in an off-peak season:
- Goes without saying that in peak season the price tags suddenly go unusually high. And this is quite opposite in off-peak season.  In off-peak season, the prices usually drop. So one of the benefits of replacing AC for the next summer is savings. Savings, something that you love, don't you?
- Making a purchase in the off-peak season gives you the privilege of taking the wise decision. Many times, homeowners make purchases in a rush which often turns out to be an unwise purchase. Contrarily, when there's time to think, search, check reviews and consult a professional, the outcome is a unit that best suits your home and your needs.
- With a purchased unit at home, you can wait for the best time for installation and make some saving of installation as well.

If your Furnace is new/performing good and there's no other costly appliance purchase on the list but you have money to invest, invest in replacement of Air Conditioner. And make the purchase now!


It's time to upgrade to a new Thermostat

There are appliances that homeowners think seriously about; their maintenance, their in-time replacement and keeping them tuned-up. But at the same time, there are appliances, that get the least attention while they are the ones that contribute a lot, if not the most, to home comfort. The Thermostat is one such device taken extremely for granted. If you ask homeowners about the age of their Thermostat, it is most probable that you'll either get a response that they don't remember or that they don't have any idea because they didn't install it in the first place, it was pre-installed. So as long as this poor device does not show a sign of sickness or does not completely shut off in protest, most homeowners never give it a damn. But did you know, by doing so, you make a massive compromise to yours and your family's comfort? How do you expect your HVAC system to provide you with optimal efficiency when the device programming it doesn't itself operate with optimal efficiency? A malfunctioning thermostat can lead to repairs, breakdowns, lowering the system's lifetime and most importantly, a compromised efficiency. So it is important to make an upgrade to HVAC Thermostat with as much concern as an upgrade is made for the very HVAC appliances.
Here's when you should consider an upgrade:

- If it's Granny's time manual Thermostat 

Manual Thermostats have provided us with a lot of comforts for many years. But that doesn't suggest sticking to them even when there are better options. Slider, knob or dialers Thermostats were once wonders but now, comparing them to the latest Thermostats, they are only a deal of loss. The older systems are less efficient and less accurate. The latest models can provide with temperature precision with as less as 1 degree of temperature difference.
So if your Thermostat is still that granny time's Thermostat, it is time to look for a better and more efficient model. It is guaranteed that doing so will increase the comfort and decrease the energy bills.

- If it's a non-programmable Thermostat 

A non-programmable Thermostat is the one that you cannot pre-program which in simple words means, high energy bills. When the temperature is not pre-programmed, it is required to change it manually, every time you want to increase or decrease the temperature. So let's suppose, you forget to change the temperature as you leave for the office, the system will keep running for all that time when no one is at home. Or even when you are at home, you'll find yourself in discomfort first and then realise it's time to change the temperature. Unlike that, with Programmable Thermostat, you can set a different temperature for different times and the Thermostat will auto adjust itself as the time comes. This way, your device knows it has to go some degrees up as you are away and knows it has to come down some degrees when you are expected to return home. A programmable system brings comfort and amazing savings. So yes, if the device staring at you from over there is an outdated non-programmable Thermostat, it is your time to upgrade.

- If it's located at the wrong location 

The placement matters a lot when it's about Thermostat. Did you know that a wrong placement of Thermostat; at places where it picks the wrong temperature can keep your indoor at a wrong temperature no matter how efficient your Thermostat is. If your old device is installed at a wrong location and is also old, any HVAC technician would suggest you to install a new one at the right location. And this would be a worth making the investment because a wrongly placed device will only read wrong readings, resulting in wrong temperature setting and causing discomfort as a result. What then is the use of installing a Thermostat in the first place?

If your Thermostat lies in any of the above mentioned ''ifs'', it's time to upgrade to a new device. And if you ask us and your system allows, we would suggest going for a Smart Thermostat.


3 Signs your Air Conditioner desperately needs an HVAC tech

In the midst of hot summer, who wants his Air Conditioning system to fail? No sane person ever wishes this for his home but guess what, not enough people take the prerequisites to avoid sudden appliance breakdowns. And usually, no HVAC appliance fails without showing some prior signs. Appliances do show some signs when they are in need of maintenance or repairs. When these signs are neglected, the result comes in the form of breakdown. This blog is to help you find out in time when your Air Conditioner needs help. There are a few easy to notice signs.

- Dropping efficiency

You can tell when you are uncomfortable even when the Air Conditioner is on. You can compare your current level of comfort from that of the last year and can easily decide that the AC is not as efficient as it used to be. This kind of significant change in efficiency in one year is an indication that there is something wrong with the system that needs to be fixed. If you did perform proper maintenance & cleaning before starting the unit, are following the same temperature schedules and the weather is not unusually hot, then there's something that requires an HVAC tech's help. So as soon as you suspect a noticeable drop in the unit's efficiency, call a professional as early as possible.

- A sudden rise in energy bills

Energy bills are always loathsome, aren't they? But they become equally shocking sometimes. That happens when there's a sudden rise in them. Your usage remains the same but the graph of monthly energy bills changes. Although Air Conditioners as they get older do start to consume more energy, this does not happen over the course of a month or two. So if your bills have suddenly started to become coarse towards you, there's an indication of something annoying the system. It could be dirty filters, leaking ductwork, problematic compressor or something else. Take also this sign seriously.

- Frequent Short Cycling

One of the indications of the Air Conditioner going through something serious is when it short cycles frequently. Short cycling is when the AC turns off and on. The possible causes of short cycling are dirty filter or compressor fan, frozen evaporator coils or electrical wiring issues. So as your Air Conditioner starts to short cycle frequently, consider calling a professional to inspect what's wrong.

They say prevention is better than cure. Every year, many homeowners have to face serious accidents or costly repairs and the reason behind is not performing maintenance or ignoring the repair signs that the system shows. We as HVAC professionals suggest homeowners to learn at least the basics of their HVAC appliances and especially about the signs of appliance sickness so that preventive measures can be taken in time.

If your Air Conditioner shows all or one of the above-mentioned signs then don't postpone calling out a professional for help.

Some hundred dollars spent on in time repairs are better than the thousands of dollars that you'll have to spend otherwise on worsen damages or entire unit replacement. Be wise towards your HVAC appliance.


The cost of Heating & Air Conditioning in cars

So it becomes comfortable to travel when you've Air Conditioning in your car. You can travel with ease even if the sun is super hot out on the road. Similarly, as the winter becomes unbearable and it's snowfall everywhere outside, it becomes a nightmare to travel without some heat along. Heating in cars is another blessing that the technology has provided us in the recent years. But do both of these come for free or is their an extra price you have to pay for the heating and cooling to keep functioning in your car? In this blog, we'll explore the cost of Heating and Air Conditioning in cars.

The heating and cooling in cars don't come from the same source so don't imagine it as your heat pump or your Split Inverter Air Conditioner. Things do get different when it comes to electric cars but let's first talk about the cars we are now using.

Did you know, Car Heating is almost FREE! O yeah!

This might be something new you're hearing but actually, making your car warm does not cost you anything extra. It just the engine that gets hot and the heat of the engine gets transferred to the indoor of the car instead of escaping out as it does in summer. But we'd be honest here. It's not 100% free. There's a fan to push the heat of the engine inside and that fan needs some energy to operate. It takes that energy from the battery. For that purpose, only a negligible quantity of petrol is consumed.

Cooling isn't FREE, it comes at around 1 Litre per 100 KM

Unlike the heating, the cooling cost does take enough. It takes almost 1 litre of petrol for the car's air conditioner to operate for a distance of almost 100KM. A rough estimate could be between 0.2 to 1 litre per 100 km. The consumption varies according to the usage and the outside temperature.

How things work in electric cars

So in summer, you don't need heat, right? Which means the heat of the engine that you use to warm your car in winters simply go wasted all the times you're not using that heat. Electric cars have an ideology of energy consumption so both heating and cooling use the car's battery. Which means no energy is going to waste and as you don't use heating in winter, no energy is going to waste either. Similarly, as you use Air Conditioning in summers, it operates only when you want it to operate. This ensures energy consumption and saving. 

A few tips for heating & air conditioning in cars

- If you think turning on AC takes loads of energy and you can be comfortable will only a little cooling, consider using a portable desktop fan. It will suffice perfectly for you if you drive all by yourself

- Use blinds as you go for long drives. The direct sunlight that reaches the car heats the indoor more, requiring more air conditioning

- How about hot and cold pads? Try them out this time you go for a long drive. It's a cool idea that can keep your travelling comfortable both in winters and summers.


Here's how your ductwork keeps you in discomfort

So when you think of improving your indoor heating and cooling comfort, what is the first thing that comes to the mind? The heating and cooling appliances? You are right! They are of course the primary factor for increasing the comfort level but not the only factor. Many homeowners, never think of other factors that would sooner or later affect the indoor comfort and the efficiency of the HVAC appliances. Take, for instance, Ductwork. How many people when they purchase a new Air Conditioner or Furnace also get their ductwork inspected for repairs or perform its thorough maintenance? Or more importantly, how many people actually find out how that the system they are installing is suitable for their ductwork or not. Not taking these considerations into account results in indoor discomfort despite having expensive appliances installed. This blog is dedicated to the ways in which ductwork problems could become the primary factor to affect the indoor comfort.

Here's how ductwork deficiencies affect your comfort 

Energy Star says that it causes an energy loss of 20% - 30% to a home with having ductwork issues active. The common ductwork deficiencies include;

Design problems 

When it comes to ductwork, the design is extremely important. The ducts are, therefore, designed with customized designs keeping the home's particular need into account. Poorly designed ductwork bars the proper distribution of air resulting in hot and cold spots, overburdening of the system and frequent duct wear and tear.

Leak problems 

The duct leaks result in escape of conditioned air to the areas where it is not needed. This situation compromises the comfort but raises the energy bills because a lot of conditioned air go wasted. Also, another consequence of duct leaks is that it affects the IAQ. The duct and debris of the ductwork find their way out into the living place.

Insulation problems 

Since the conventional large ductworks cannot be accommodated, they are installed in the basement, attic or anywhere underground. As the temperature of these areas is always more than normal, the temperature of the ductwork can get affected too resulting in the appliances running for extra time and high energy bills.

Recipe to a perfect Ductwork 

The recipe for a perfect ductwork comes with fixing the above-mentioned ductwork problems. Here are some additional tips to not let your ductwork hinder the level of your comfort;
- Always hire professionals for installing a ductwork
- Before purchasing a new unit, make sure it is suitable for the ductwork type
- Perform regular maintenance to avoid duct leaks
- When any duct leaks are found, fix them instantly. The smaller the leak,  the quicker the air will escape
- Be very careful regarding insulation. Perform ductwork insulation if you have high temperatures in the basement, attic and underground. It is recommended to have the ductwork insulated at the time of installation
- If your ductwork is new and is constantly worrying you, there are chances that it is designed wrongly. Do not hesitate to consult a professional regarding redesigning the ductwork if needed. It is better to make an in-time investment than to continue to waste energy and compromise comfort.