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Smart Tech for the Home

Not too long ago, today’s consumer expectations for smarter products sounded like science fiction. But, as technology is becoming increasingly accessible and interconnected, consumer demand is fueling the rise of intelligent products in the HVAC marketplace!

Intelligent products, including a variety of smart thermostats that are already on the market, give consumers more personal control over their home’s comfort through the use of technology that “learns” on its own or through an app on their phone. As heating and cooling systems trend towards including more electronic components in addition to the mechanical, consumers have more nuanced ways to control that perfect temperature from wherever they may be.

Many times, the purchase of the cheapest HVAC system ends up as the most expensive proposition in the long run, due to poor temperature management. Additionally, if your thermostat isn’t properly programmed, you could be throwing away hundreds of dollars annually. With increased regulations on energy efficiency, and more informed consumers, many heating and air-conditioning units can be equipped with smart controls and sensors to keep homes, and offices, cooler in the summer and warmer during the winter.

Sensors that can communicate with the thermostat, a smart meter and apps accessible on the web or smartphones are key to lowering those utility bills. Smart HVAC systems can net up to a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency upon installation, and even notify homeowners, building managers or HVAC service providers in real time if the efficiency drops below a certain threshold, indicating a problem. Whether a part breaks, or refrigerant leaks, the ability of sensors and software can pay off with huge savings–not to mention the comfort we desire at home or in the office in the first place.

Smart thermostats, like the popular Honeywell and Bryant Thermostats, can be controlled from your phone (so you don’t have to get out of bed just to adjust the temperature), but also learn where your heating and cooling systems are least efficient, and works to correct them. In fact, every time you make a heating or cooling change in your home, the thermostat’s software is learning, so that it can schedule and activate your preferences itself.

If your concern is rising utility bills, or you want to take advantage of the latest technology on the market, let us give your system a consult to see what upgrades are available!

Winterizing your HVAC system

When we think of winter, we often look forward to gleaming banks of snow and hot cocoa by the fire. But, with freezing temperatures comes a huge strain on your heating systems. Complicated machines need maintenance to make sure they work when you need them to. Even though we’ve already seen snow on the ground, it’s not too late to plan ahead and get your furnace tested!

Keep the outside air out and the inside air in

We talk about this a lot, but one of the most important elements of energy savings is to ensure there are no air leaks in your home. During the cold season, warm air will escape out of any cracks and can make your heating system work harder and cost you more to heat your home. Use caulk to seal cracks and openings between stationary house components, like a door frame or weatherstripping to seal components that move like an operable window.

Replace your filter

During the winter, one of the most important and simple ways to keep your HVAC system in top shape is by maintaining the filters. Filters that are properly chosen and cleaned/replaced can have a huge impact on your energy costs, the quality of air in your home, and the efficiency of your system.

Filters should be replaced or cleaned, depending on your type of filter, about every three months. By keeping your filters maintained, you will not only have your home more primed for winter, but if you or a family member suffer from allergies, it’s even more important in the winter to make sure the allergens are filtered out of your home, as you spend more time stuck indoors.

Do a little clean up

When your furnace is dormant, it’s easy to let clutter gather up around it, however it is so important to remove all flammable objects from around your furnace and water heater. This tip seems obvious, but can be very dangerous for your home. Look for paper products, boxes, aerosols, and other dry or chemical items, especially if your furnace or water heater are kept in a small room.

Show some TLC to your furnace

The humble furnace is often forgotten for most of the year, until the chill in the air becomes intense enough that you reluctantly switch on the heat. Autumn is the ideal time for a maintenance check, allowing sediment build-up to be cleaned out, reducing the risk of becoming a fire-hazard, as well as for all the nuts, bolts and wiring to be inspected!

At BNG, we believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! And even though winter has already arrived, it is not too late for preventative maintenance to your heating systems. Of course, all that being said, a preventive maintenance plan is only as good as the people you have carrying it out. That’s where BNG comes in. We have 150 years of combined experience serving you. We want you to make your home as comfortable as possible because we know you have better things to worry about than your HVAC system, like getting your kids to school on time.

Contact us at one of our four locations to get a free estimate from our expert technicians on service or repair.

Programming your thermostat to save money

Ever forget to turn off your heating or AC when leaving the house? How about having to get up in the middle of the night to turn the heat off because it’s too hot? Or what about waking up to a chilly 55 degree morning, only to be overheated in a sweater at 70 degrees by lunchtime? Wild temperature fluctuations are par for the course in the fall months, but trying to match that temperature can leave your home’s temperature always in flux, and your energy bill climbing steadily. Most people know that turning your thermostat off when you leave the house or spending less time adjusting your thermostat can save you money, as much as 10-15% on your electric bill, but forgetting to adjust your thermostat can keep you paying more without ever finding the perfect temperature for your home.

The solution to this is simple. Programmable thermostats do the work for you, automatically adjusting. Kind of like a crockpot, you can just set it and forget it! According to Energy Star, capitalizing on the best uses of a programmable thermostat, you could save up to $180 a year! Want to save even more money? Many utility companies offer rebates for switching to programmable thermostats; ask the professionals at BNG about rebates in your area.

How to use an energy-saving programmable thermostat.

  1. Program the thermostat to either adjust the temperature or turn off when everyone leaves for work, and to turn back on 20 to 30 minutes before everyone arrives home.
  2. Program the thermostat to adjust the temperature (down if you’re heating the house, and up if you’re cooling it) 20 to 30 minutes after you fall asleep. You should also set it to adjust back within 30 minutes of waking up. Although this may sound a little odd, you won’t notice slight temperature changes like this while you’re sleeping.
  3. Program different settings on the weekends than you would on the weekdays. Having your home warmer than usual in the summer is fine while you’re at work, but you shouldn’t be uncomfortable while you’re home all day!
  4. All thermostats come with an “override” setting, so you can manually adjust the thermostat, no matter your program settings.
  5. If you’re planning on going out of town, most thermostats come with a “vacation/hold” setting that you can use to adjust the temperature for longer periods of time. Be careful about winter vacations, though, and make sure you don’t allow your home’s temperature to fall too low. If your home goes below 55 degrees, your pipes could freeze.
  6. If your thermostat is battery operated, don’t forget to change them at least once a year!

Along with regular HVAC maintenance, we can help you install and program your new smart thermostat! If you’d like more information on what you can do to save money and energy in your home, contact us today.

Common HVAC Myths

As Halloween approaches, we see more and more of the same horrors: ghosts and ghouls roaming the earth, zombies craving brains, and people who don’t know they can leave their AC on when they leave the house! Oh the horror! If the most terrifying thing you can imagine is a ridiculously high energy bill, this post is for you. We’re going to address some of the most common HVAC myths we see.

Myth #1 You should always turn off your HVAC system when you leave the house.

While you may want to turn off your HVAC system when you’re leaving the house for more than 24 hours, it’s not necessary when you’ll be gone for a shorter period of time. In fact, turning your HVAC off and on could be costing you more! HVAC systems work to cool or heat your home to a pre-selected temperature. Your home’s insulation helps to keep the heated or cooled air in your home, and keep outdoor temperatures out. Turning off your HVAC system every time you leave the house, especially in extreme temperatures, makes your system work harder and against your insulation to get your house to the appropriate temperature. A better idea is to adjust your thermostat by 5 to 10 degrees when you leave. If you have a programmable thermostat, this is even easier, because your thermostat will automatically adjust to those temperatures. If you have it set to 88 degrees during the day, for example, you can set it to start lowering as you’re leaving work. Your home will be the perfect temperature when you get home!

Myth #2 Setting your fan to “On” is better than “Auto”.

Your HVAC system comes with those two settings, ‘on’ and ‘auto’, but many aren’t sure of the difference since both keep your house cool. “On” is exactly what it sounds like; even after your home has reached your ideal temperature, the fan stays on, circulating that air around your home. It sounds good, but keeping your system switched “on” is a great way to run up your energy bill and wear out your system faster. We recommend keeping your unit set to “auto” in many cases, which will run the fan to circulate air until it reaches the designated temperature. The fan will then run periodically to maintain that temperature.

If you’re wondering what the “on” setting is good for now, don’t worry! It does have some specific case uses. If you need to drastically change the temperature of your home, “on” can help move the air faster, to make you more comfortable. It can also be good for allergy sufferers, since it will circulate the air more regularly, moving allergens into your HEPA filters. Finally, it’s also great when vacuuming. Since vacuuming kicks up a lot of dust, using this setting while cleaning will help that dust move into the filter- instead of settling back onto your floor!

Myth #3 Closing air vents will save you money.

This is something we see a lot of. If you close off vents to a room in your home, you won’t be heating or cooling that room, so you’ll save money, right? Actually closing off air vents can cost you more money. When you close off vents, you’re preventing air from escaping the vents, which build up pressure on those closed vents. The air pressure and subsequent attempts to recirculate that air actually make your system work harder to cool your home. Keep your vents open!

Myth #4 Having a service subscription is a waste of money.

This is absolutely not true! Just imagining the inconvenience, frustration, and repair costs when your system goes out unexpectedly (and it always goes out when you need it most!) should be enough to convince you otherwise. The cost of most service agreements are marginal when compared to the costs of having to replace your unit when it goes out. Most issues that call for the entire unit to be replaced can be avoided with regularly scheduled maintenance to your HVAC unit.

When is it time to call in the professionals?

Doesn’t it seem like your HVAC system always stops working right when you need it most? If that’s happened to you, you’ve probably done one of two things: Called an HVAC professional or headed to Home Depot to try to fix the problem yourself (we’d love to hear your stories, good or bad about DIY HVAC). There’s nothing wrong with being a do it yourself go-getter, and we encourage our clients to be knowledgeable of HVAC system maintenance so they can spot any major issues forming before they actually become major issues.

proSo If you find your system not working properly, check out the following items or call us!

  1. When did you last replace your filter? This is the easiest, most obvious, and most inexpensive step you can take if you feel like your HVAC system isn’t performing at peak efficiency. If your filter is stopped-up, it can decrease air flow and cause your system to shut off into ‘safe-mode’, which will continue to circulate air, but do nothing to alter the temperature.
  2. Is your thermostat accurate? If you aren’t sure, get a cheap thermostat and compare the readings. If not, calibrate your thermostat.  If your thermostat appears to be working, play with your temperature a little. Adjust it by 10 degrees and see if it actually cools off or heats up. If it does, you have an inefficiency issue.
  3. Have you blown a fuse? Sometimes the issue has nothing to do with the HVAC system. A blown fuse is most common during hot summer – peak usage- months. This fix could be as simple as resetting the fuse, but if the issue continues you’re looking at another inefficiency issue if your system keeps working too hard to heat or cool your home.

If that’s the case, it’s time to call in the professionals. Full-service HVAC companies, like BNG, are up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies for HVAC repair and maintenance, and regular maintenance for your HVAC systems is the key to preventing any of the issues above. Other than not having your system working exactly when you need it, if your HVAC system isn’t working efficiently, you’re wasting money and energy. If you’re worried about the cost of an HVAC professional, attempting to repair larger issues yourself could end up causing more damage (and you’d still have to call a professional anyway).

By all means, educate yourself about HVAC systems. It’s useful knowledge and can save you some time and trouble. But, if you feel at any point a DIY would be dangerous, or you’re getting in over your head, do not hesitate to call HVAC professionals, like us at BNG, to come take a look. With winter approaching and furnaces shaking off the dust after a long, hot summer, now is a good time to schedule your furnace maintenance and pick up a few tips from the pros.