One of the most common questions people ask is “how much will my new HVAC system cost?” After countless searches on the internet I, like you, was unable to find an answer with an actual dollar amount. Well don’t get your hopes up, this article will not have an exact cost either. I can’t tell you a new furnace will cost XX dollars or a new air conditioner will cost XX dollars. There are many reasons for this. I will layout these reasons in this article.
The main reason costs vary is your home size. If you have 900 square feet to heat and cool you will not need a system as large as a 2,500 square foot home. The size difference alone will greatly change the cost of the unit.
Another cost factor is the layout of your home. The layout of your home affects how many vents are needed and how the ducts can be routed. More duct work and vents means more materials and man hours, resulting in an increased cost.
The type of equipment also plays into the cost. If you want a furnace and air conditioner it will cost more than just a furnace. Gas, oil, electric, or geo-thermal systems also vary in size and price. Some systems require more man hours and materials than others. Some systems come with a higher up front cost but will save you money on your energy bills and repairs over the long run.
There are also add on equipment options. You might want a humidifier so you can control your home’s humidity level. You might want a whole home air cleaner to improve your indoor air quality. Maybe an upgraded thermostat so you can improve your comfort and efficiency. There are many options available beyond just a furnace and air conditioner.
With so many options available it is hard for you to know exactly what equipment and materials will be needed for your home and how many man hours it will take to install all of it. That makes it very difficult to come up with an estimated cost without seeing your home.
So your next question is, why do I see advertising saying they will do it for a specific cost? Well, when someone says, “I can install XX furnace or XX air conditioner in your home for $700 dollars” they are not designing a system for your home. They are going to put an improperly sized unit in your home that will cost you a lot of money in energy bills and repairs. Additionally, they may not be licensed or insured which will lead to other problems with warranties and make you liable for any injuries during the installation process.
The bottom line is, an efficient HVAC system should be designed specifically for your home. It shouldn’t be a “one size fits all” type of thing. It is important for you to have a professional evaluate your home and provide you with an estimated cost. Most HVAC companies do this for free. BOSS Heating and Air will send and HVAC efficiency expert to evaluate your home and discuss options at no cost to you. You really don’t have anything to lose by asking for an evaluation.
Do you ever wonder why people use humidifiers and de-humidifiers? Well, wonder no more! We are going to explain it all. We will start off by telling you what humidity is and how it plays a part in your home. Then we will talk about what the ideal home humidity level is. Let’s dive in!
So, what is humidity? Simply put, humidity is the water vapor in the air. There are two kinds of humidity that we will talk about. Relative and absolute. Relative is what most people are talking about when they talk about humidity. Relative is what meteorologists talk about when they give you the humidity levels.
Relative humidity is measuring how close the air is to saturation at a specific temperature. 100 percent saturation means the air can’t hold any more moisture and this will result in rain or snow. 0 percent saturation means there is no water vapor in the air. Southwest Michigan averages 73 percent relative humidity for the year. That means, on average, the air is holding 73 percent of its maximum water vapor.
Absolute humidity is the measure of how much water vapor is in the air regardless of the temperature. This is important to note because the relative humidity in the summer might be 72 and 76 in the winter, but that doesn’t mean there is more water vapor in the air in the winter. The cold air has a lower water vapor capacity than the warm air. That means it can reach the same relative humidity level with significantly less water vapor than is needed for warmer air. This results in the absolute humidity being lower in the winter than it is in the summer. That is why your nose and skin dry out in the winter more than the summer. There are some calculators and variables that you can use to figure out what the absolute humidity is, but it doesn’t matter that much here. The important thing to know is there is less water vapor in the air in the winter and because of that you need to humidify (add water vapor) in the winter and de-humidify (remove water vapor) in the summer.
Now let’s talk about how the humidity effects your heating and air conditioning, or HVAC, system. High humidity air is harder to cool off. In the summer, you need to remove humidity so the air is easier to cool and the load on your AC is reduced. If there is too much humidity it will feel warmer in your home than the temperature says. This will cause you to set the temperature lower than needed and cause your system to work harder than is necessary. Also as your house cools off the humidity will go up if you don’t remove it. The air will cool off and the lower temperature air will become saturated quicker. This is the reason dehumidifying your house is a critical part of the air conditioning process. Humidity control must be the first consideration when looking at proper air conditioning equipment and the size of that equipment. An oversized system will drop the temperature in your home without removing the proper amount of humidity causing a “clammy” feeling.
Just the opposite is true for the winter months. The dry air is harder to heat. There is not enough water vapor in the outside air to provide the heated air in your home with the proper amount of humidity. Without the proper amount of humidity your furnace must work harder to heat your home. Like with the AC, this will cause extra wear and tear on your HVAC system and reduce its overall life. It will also add to your energy bill. Adding humidity to your home in the winter will enhance the comfort of your home at lower temperatures. This will result in energy savings, added equipment life, and a more comfortable home.
Now that we know all we need to about humidity and how it affects our HVAC system, we need to know how to measure it in our home. There are a variety of options for this. You can get a basic hygrometer from your local hardware store or an online merchant. They can be relatively inexpensive or quite costly. The choice is up to you. You can also invest in a thermostat, like the Nexia, that monitors your home’s humidity (We will cover thermostat choices in a separate article). The prices vary and you will ultimately have to make the decision on what one you want based on your needs and budget.
Finally, we need to put all this information together. We recommend you keep your home’s humidity between 35 – 40 percent. This should provide a comfortable feeling in your home and keep your HVAC system happy. There are a couple things you need to keep in mind with this recommendation though.
- This is just a recommendation. Each person will feel comfortable with different humidity levels. It’s your home, adjust the humidity to your comfort level.
- While 35 – 40 percent is preferred, it might not be practical. If it is warm outside and you are cooling your home with high humidity you might see condensation on the ceiling, walls, or other places. This is because the cold air in your home has reached 100 percent saturation. If this happens you need to turn up the temperature in your home or reduce the humidity.
- On the other side of that, if the temperature is too cold outside high indoor humidity might cause condensation and/or ice crystals to form on the windows. Newer windows are better insulated and protect against this but if it does happen to you, just lower the humidity a little.
A lot of people spend money on a great HVAC system but don’t get humidity control because they want to save a couple bucks. Saving money in the short term might seem like a good idea, but chances are it will cost you more in maintenance, energy bills, and your comfort over the long run.
If you still have questions about how to control the humidity in your home, leave a comment or head over to the contact BOSS page and we will be glad to answer all of your questions.
Proper maintenance of your furnace will save you money on your heating bills and repairs. You don’t always need to call in a professional to make sure your furnace is running smooth. Here is a list of things you can do now to make sure your furnace isn’t costing you extra money this winter.
- Change the filter. If you have a dirty filter your airflow is reduced. This causes your furnace to work harder to heat your home and costs you extra money. Filters should be checked every month. If you are using 30 day filters they should be changed every month. If you are using 90 day filters check them each month and change them if there is dirt build up regardless of the time in use.
- Don’t block vents. Blocking your vents reduces the airflow in a room. If you put a rug or a couch over a floor vent you are disrupting the design of the system. You will get reduced airflow in the room with the blocked vent and extra air flow in other rooms. If this is happening, you may notice that some rooms are colder than others.
- Clean the vents. Take the vent cover off and vacuum out the vent. Getting the dirt and dust out will prevent it from blowing around your home and keep it out of your filter.
- Control your home’s humidity. Humidity plays an important part in your home comfort. Check your humidity level and raise or lower it as needed.
- Check your thermostat. Make sure your thermostat is set to a comfortable level. If you have a programmable thermostat make sure it is programed to lower the temperature automatically during the times no one is at home. Also, you can lower the temperature while you sleep to save more money on your energy bills and reduce the load on your furnace.
- Clean in and around the furnace. Before you do this turn your furnace off. Open the access panels and vacuum the inside of your furnace. While you are doing that make sure the area around your furnace is also clean. Reducing the amount of dirt and dust in your system will extend the life of your furnace and filter.
- Check the blower motor. Before you do this turn your furnace off. Open the access panel and look at the blower motor. Make sure it is firmly in place. Check the belt to make sure it is not frayed or breaking. Make sure the belt is tight. If the blower motor is not operating at peak performance, you are not getting the maximum air flow from your system.
- Check the flue. If you have a gas or oil furnace, check the flue to make sure it is venting properly. If the flue is blocked it will cause a pressure build up and it will leak the exhaust fumes into your home.
- Check the pilot light. If you have a gas furnace check your pilot light. If your pilot light goes out, you will not be able to heat your home. There should be instructions on your system detailing how to re-light it.
- Change the oil filter. If you have an oil furnace, make sure you change the oil filter. If your filter becomes clogged it will reduce, or stop, the flow of oil to your furnace. Change your filter at the beginning of the heating season and again about mid-way through.
These DIY tips will help you have a more comfortable winter without having to worry about your furnace breaking. Benjamin Franklin said it best, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks. While there are a variety of ways to combat this health risk, in this article we will be focusing on mechanical filtration, otherwise known as air filters. Let’s get started!
Not all air filters are created equal. When you go to the store and look at the air filters it can be a little overwhelming. There are cheap ones that look like they will break just by touching them. There are slightly more expensive ones that tell you they last for three months. Then there are even more expensive ones that tell you they are the best filter ever created and they will last years. Picking the right one is a little tricky.
So, how are filters rated? There is a thing called the minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV, rating. This is a rating assigned by the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, or ASHRAE. ASHRAE created the MERV rating and each filter type gets a number from 1 – 20. 1 being the least protective and 20 being the most protective. The MERV rating is displayed on many filters or their packaging, but not on all. The chart below is the MERV rating scale and where different filters fit into it.
Let’s start by talking about the cheap filters. They have a MERV rating of 1 – 4. They are cheap, flimsy, and must be replaced often. They are there to protect your heating and air conditioning system. They are not focused on cleaning your home’s air. They offer minimal air resistance and only filter larger particles. It’s not bad to use these filters but don’t expect them to improve your indoor air quality.
Next we will move on to the moderately more expensive filters. They have a MERV rating of 5 – 8. These filters will provide better air cleaning and will filter out some of the harmful pollutants. This is the level that will start to filter out mold and pet dander. Some of these say they only need changed every three months but that isn’t always true. We will discuss that later.
As we move up the MERV rating list we get to the 9 – 12 rated filters. These are going to filter out fine particles. This is the level of filtration that hospital laboratories use. You probably don’t need to go higher than this for home air filtration.
Next up we have the filters rated from 13 – 16. These filters are the ones used in hospital patient care and general surgery. They will filter out all bacteria and more.
Finally, we have the 17 – 20 rated filters. These are better known as high-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA filters, and ultra-low penetration air, or ULPA filters. These are the top of the line filters. When it comes to mechanical air filters, these are the best.
Now that we know what types are available, let’s talk about how to choose one. The correct air filter choice depends on a variety of factors. There is no one size fits all when it comes to selecting your air filter. Things like, do you smoke, have pets, age of your house, type of HVAC system, and more come into play.
A general rule is, the more it filters, the more air flow is reduced. Your HVAC system circulates air throughout your home. It heats or cools the air as it does that. If you put a HEPA filter in your system, it will restrict the air flow. It will cause your system to work harder to heat or cool your home. This will reduce the life of your system, cause mechanical problems, and increase your energy bills. On the other hand, if you use the filter with the lowest MERV rating you will protect your HVAC system but you will not be cleaning your home’s air.
Here’s what we recommend as a starting place for choosing your air filter:
- The EPA says that a MERV rating of 7 – 13 is likely to be as effective as true HEPA filters.
- Make sure you check your HVAC documentation to see what filters are recommended by the manufacturer.
- If you open your windows a lot to ventilate your home, you probably don’t need to clean your air as much, so you can go with one of the lower rated filters.
- If you have pets, you will want to start at the 5 – 8 range because they will filter out pet dander.
- The 9 – 12 MERV rating range is considered superior residential filtration by ASHRAE. If you have asthma or allergies this might be the range for you.
Keep in mind that your HVAC filter might not be the solution to your indoor air quality concerns. Contact an HVAC contractor, like Boss Heating and Air, that offers indoor air quality evaluations. They will come out and evaluate your home’s air quality and discuss options with you. You might want to install a whole house air filtration system. We will discuss those and other air cleaning systems in another article.
Now we are going to move on to changing your filter. If you don’t change your filter it is restricting the air flow and causing your furnace or air conditioner to work harder. You should check your filter monthly. That means you should take it out and inspect it for damage or dirt buildup. If it is a cheap filter you should replace it monthly. If it is a “three month” or a “twelve month” filter you should inspect it to make sure it is not clogged. If you can see a buildup of dust, dirt, and dander on it, you should replace it. If your home is dusty or if you have pets you will have to change your filter more frequently.
With the proper air filter selection, inspections, and replacement your home’s air will be cleaner and healthier and your HVAC system will run more efficiently. This will keep you and your family safe and comfortable, and save you money.
If you are remodeling your home, it is probably to increase the value and comfort. Remodeling your home is a big project. Whether you are upgrading one room or moving walls it’s important that you don’t forget about your HVAC system.
If your heating and air conditioning system was installed properly it was customized for your home. A company should have come out and looked at your home, took measurements, and then designed the duct work and vents to provide optimal airflow to each area of your house. By doing this you should be able to maintain a consistent temperature thought your home.
Because your HVAC system is customized for your house’s floorplan, you may need to change some vent locations during a remodel.
If you are only remodeling one room, your HVAC system most likely will not be affected. You may need to move a vent from one area of the room to another to accommodate your plans or you can leave it in place and work around it. If you are going to relocate a vent in a single room remodel, make sure you consult with a heating and air conditioning company. They will make sure it is done properly without losing efficiency.
If you are removing or moving walls in your home, you will definitely want an expert to come out and evaluate your plans. A good HVAC company will come to your home to look at your current set up and your desired floor plans and give you a recommendation for free.
You will most likely not need to replace your entire furnace or air conditioner. You might have to move some ducts or vents to maintain optimum efficiency. This can be done at a relatively low cost and fairly quickly.
If you choose to move walls and not change your HVAC system. This will result in some rooms being warmer or cooler than others. It could make your system work harder to maintain a consistent temperature. If this happens it will cause more wear and tear on your HVAC system and your maintenance and energy bills will increase.
Another thing to consider when building walls is the proximity to your furnace and air handler. If you build a wall that blocks the access panels to your HVAC system it will increase the cost of maintenance and repairs. When your system breaks an HVAC company will have to remove the wall to gain access and then replace it when they are done. The technician will remove the wall but they will most likely hire a contractor to replace it. This cost will fall on you, the homeowner.
If you want to build a wall near your furnace or air handler, make sure there is enough clearance to not only remove the access panels, but to get in and work on the unit also. There are many ways to make your unit accessible and still hidden. Work with your contractor for options.
If you are ever unsure about how your remodeling will affect your HVAC system call a professional. Make sure you ask them if they will come out and evaluate your new floor plan or room free of charge. If they say no, call someone else.
It is better to take a little extra time to get an evaluation than to lose efficiency or cause harm to your system.