Monthly Archives: November 2014

Adequate Attic Insulation Can Reap Some Serious Benefits

insulation roll atticAs the weather starts to cool off, the importance of attic insulation becomes more apparent. If you have no idea if your attic insulation is sufficient, take a peek and see what you can see. The entire floor should be covered in a thick, even layer of insulation. If you can see the rafters poking up through the insulation, you could probably benefit from adding more.

Benefits of Adding Attic Insulation

Homes with inadequate insulation often suffer from the same types of problems. By boosting attic insulation, you stand to benefit in a number of ways:

  • More even temperature throughout the home: If you go upstairs and place your hand on the ceiling, it may be cold to the touch, meaning attic air is infiltrating the ceiling. This creates hot and cold spots, drafts and uneven temperatures from room to room. Rooms feel warmer and more comfortable in homes where attic insulation is up to par.
  • Lower heating bills: Adding extra insulation requires an investment, but the resulting lower energy bills help pay for the project. Lower heating bills also mean you’re consuming less energy, which is good news for the environment.
  • Protected structural integrity: In homes where heat and moisture rise up into the attic, issues such as mold growth, rotting wood and ice dams threaten the structural integrity of the attic and roof. By more effectively separating your home from your attic, you help prevent these problems.

Choosing Insulation

The two most common types of insulation are loose fill (often made from cellulose) and batts or rolls (made from fiberglass). Both types are effective at insulating your home against the unconditioned attic air. Consider that you can use either type of insulation, regardless of what’s already installed in your attic.

If you choose loose fill, it’s wise to have the insulation installed by a professional since proper application requires the use of a special blowing machine. If you’re insistent upon doing it yourself, you may be able to rent the equipment you need from your local home improvement store.

Batts and rolls provide the easiest do-it-yourself job. If you install a layer on top of existing insulation, make sure you pick “unfaced” insulation with no paper or foil backing.

Installing the Insulation

Before you begin, gather the necessary safety supplies and installation tools. These include safety glasses, gloves, dust mask, hard hat, flashlight, portable hanging light, boards to walk on, utility knife, sheet metal cutters, tape measure and the insulation you choose to install.

The installation itself is quite straightforward if you opt for fiberglass batts or rolls. If the existing insulation sits between the rafters, install a second layer perpendicular to the beams to help reduce heat loss through the frame. Work from the perimeter inward toward the attic hatch, being careful not to cover the soffit vents that allow for attic ventilation.

To avoid creating a fire hazard, make sure you never install insulation directly over recessed light fixtures unless they are IC rated for insulation contact. If your lights lack this distinction, you need to make a barrier around the light with sheet metal or wire mesh to keep the insulation at least three inches away.

When to Call a Professional

If your attic is easily accessible and not too difficult to move around in, you should feel free to make the attic insulation project a DIY task. However, some situations may lead you to call a professional to do the job for you. You know it’s time to call in the pros if the following is true:

  • The attic is difficult to access and the space to work inside is cramped and dangerous.
  • The insulation is damp to the touch or smells moldy, problems that indicate a leaky roof.
  • The attic rafters or floor joists are rotted, another indicator of moisture problems.
  • You find out that the kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans or dryer vent exhaust air to the attic instead of to the outdoors.
  • The attic has little to no ventilation.
  • Knob and tube wiring is installed in the attic of your pre-1930s home, which creates a fire hazard if it comes in contact with insulation.

Whether you install the attic insulation yourself or you choose to call a professional to complete the job, you’ll notice a difference in your comfort level and energy bills with more insulation in the attic. For more useful tips or to schedule service, please contact Keith Air Conditioning, Inc. We’ve been serving Mobile and Baldwin County since 1964.

How Long Can My Furnace Last?

How Long Can My Furnace Last?

Perhaps more years ago than you care to remember, you invested in a new furnace to keep your Baldwin County home warm. You did all the right things: you signed a maintenance agreement, kept up with annual cleaning and inspection, installed a programmable thermostat and followed suggestions on how to ease its workload while still keeping you comfortable. Every now and again, though, you ask yourself that nagging little question, “How long can my furnace last?”

Perhaps your situation is a little different. More years ago than you can remember, you bought a lovely home in the Mobile area, furnace included. You ignored it completely since you weren’t facing the fierce winters of your northern neighbors. Now you continually ask yourself a terrifying little question: “How long can my furnace last?”

The Short Answer

Your furnace will last longer the better you treat it. Whether “longer” is 10 years or 30 years depends on some variables you control and some you can’t.

  • Annual maintenance can add years to your heating system. A qualified HVAC technician can keep small troubles from getting out of control, while individual parts can be replaced for less money than you’d pay to put in a whole new furnace.
  • Making your home as energy efficient as possible also extends the life of your furnace, because calls for heat will be less frequent, air will move easily for recirculation, and you won’t have fluctuations in room temperatures that force your furnace to cycle on and off.
  • If your furnace came with your existing home, you can’t know how well it was cared for, and earlier neglect by previous owners is beyond your control.

So when you ask “how long can my furnace last?,” the short answer is 25 to 40 percent longer than average—if you treat it well.

The Longer Answer

Today’s furnaces versus those of 40 or 50 years ago will average between 13 and 20 years of useful life. Furnaces installed decades ago could still be in service today, doing a horrible job providing heat and a great job gobbling up your money. Inefficient furnaces of long ago could convert only around 60 percent of the fuel going into them into usable heat. To make up for that inefficiency while still providing heat, those older furnaces had to be much larger than we need today. A modern furnace can achieve up to 98.5 percent efficiency in much less space and with greater reliability than the old clunkers.

So even if your older furnace is still on the job, it may be costing you a lot in excess energy costs to keep it in service. It’s likely too big, it may have outlived its parts cycle, and it converts fuel to heat at an abysmal efficiency rating. You may want to consider replacing it with one of today’s gas or oil models. Be sure to look for the federal Energy Star certification that tells you the new system is energy efficient and helps to conserve diminishing natural resources.

So while your older furnace may last 13 to 20 years, consider the many benefits of replacing an older furnace with a modern, new one.

The Safe Answer

Perhaps you do have an older furnace and you’ve arranged for qualified HVAC technicians to keep it in good shape. One of the parts they’ll examine every year is the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger is inside your furnace, a place you should not go. It’s the element that takes the fuel’s heat and transfers it to the air or liquid that circulates through your home to keep you warm. If your heat exchanger is cracked or corroded, it shouldn’t be repaired. It’s a strong sign to replace your system.

The other parts you must have inspected are venting connections. Carbon monoxide (CO) gas, formed when any fuel burns, must be vented out of your home safely through chimney connections, which are constantly expanding and contracting through heating cycles. If CO enters your home, this odorless, colorless gas can sicken family members and even lead to death. An older furnace is more likely to have problems with carbon monoxide escaping. If your furnace has repeated problems with CO emissions, consider replacing it.

For expert advice on how long your furnace may last, contact us at Keith Air Conditioning, Inc.

Looking to Reduce Heating Costs This Winter? Here Are 4 Steps to Get Started on Now

sofa couch home comfortBefore you know it, winter will arrive and you’ll need to start worrying about heating bills. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to reduce heating costs in your Mobile area home. You can start with these four steps:

Check Your Thermostat

First off, if you don’t have either a programmable or Wi-Fi thermostat, you’re behind the times. These types of devices allow you to gain better control over the heating of your home and will save you money immediately. Also, lower the temperature to 68 degrees or lower. For each degree you dial it down, you’ll save approximately 2-3 percent.

Find and Seal Air Leaks

A home energy audit conducted by a professional HVAC technician will help identify problem areas in your home, but there are obvious places you can’t miss. Start by sealing the gaps around your doors and windows with either caulk or weatherstripping. One source of air leakage that’s often missed is your electrical outlets. You can seal those by using child-proof plastic plugs.

Add Insulation, if Needed

If you lack insulation in your attic, basement or exterior walls, heat will escape from your home while the cold weather to infiltrate, forcing your heating equipment to work harder than it should. Insulation can sometimes be tricky, so call a trusted technician if you need assistance.

Lower Water Heater Temperature

Who takes showers in 140-degree water? The answer: no one. Yet most water heaters have a factory default setting of 140 degrees. Instead, turn it down to 120 degrees, which will represent its warm or medium setting. You’ll save money and avoid accidental scalding, and your clothes and dishes will still get clean. To prevent heat loss, wrap your older water heater in a thick blanket. (Newer water heaters usually come pre-insulated.)

For more expert advice on how you can reduce heating costs this winter, or if you have other concerns related to home comfort, please contact us at Keith Air Conditioning, Inc. We’ve been serving the HVAC needs of Mobile, Baldwin County and the surrounding area since 1964.

Troubleshoot Your Home Heating System

Keith Air Conditioning, Inc. and HeatingProblems with your heating system can make life uncomfortable during the winter months. Not every issue requires a professional intervention, though. Troubleshooting heating system issues isn’t difficult, and many common problems can be easily fixed if you know what to look for. Before calling your HVAC contractor for help, try these troubleshooting tips.

Start at the Thermostat

First, make sure the thermostat is in “heat” mode, then set it above the displayed room temperature to see if the furnace cycles on. If the heater doesn’t kick on, look for a tripped breaker or blown fuse in the main electrical panel. Next, check that the furnace blower compartment cover is closed properly so it engages the small power switch behind it. If the thermostat is battery-operated and the display won’t light up at all, replacing the battery may solve the problem.

Examine the Air Filter

A dirty air filter can reduce the amount of warmth that arrives at the registers, but it can also cause a system shutdown or even shorten the HVAC equipment life span. To prevent these issues, check the filter once a month and replace it when it starts to look dirty. The filter may be located behind a cold air return grille or inside the blower compartment of the furnace. If you don’t check it regularly and the filter becomes badly clogged with dust, dirt and debris, the furnace can overheat and trigger the high limit switch that shuts it down and leaves you without heat.

Check the Pilot Light or Electronic Ignitor

If the pilot light has gone out on your older furnace, follow the manufacturer’s instructions in the owner’s manual to relight it. For a newer model with an electronic ignitor, resetting the gas valve inside the furnace is one simple fix you can try yourself. Locate the reset valve, shut it off, wait about five minutes, then turn it on again. If the furnace still doesn’t start, it’s time to get a professional diagnosis.

If you need expert help with troubleshooting heating issues in your Baldwin County home, contact us today at Keith Air Conditioning, Inc.