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HVAC Tips for Allergy Sufferers

hvac pollenSpring is upon us and, while Berks County’s beauty is flourishing as nature blooms, many of us are beginning to suffer our dreaded spring allergies. The pollen count is getting higher with grass, ragweed, trees, and various other plants in bloom; damp and humid temperatures will soon give way to mold; and those cool spring and summer breezes blowing through the windows we all enjoy will circulate dust and other allergens around our homes. But spring doesn’t need to be bleak for allergy sufferers; just follow these HVAC maintenance tips to ease your allergies.

  1. Purchase high quality filters. Filters are your HVAC system’s way of defending you against allergens; filters keep allergens out so they won’t circulate through your home. You want to purchase high quality filters so they do their job properly.
  2. Change filters regularly. Filters trap dirt, pollen, dust, and other allergens. At some point, those filters must be changed so they can continue to trap allergens while still allowing air to circulate effectively. Filters should be changed every couple of months, with the exact amount of time dependent on your specific filter and HVAC system. If you see the filters are getting dirty before the regularly scheduled change, you may want to change them early.
  3. Your ducts may need cleaning. If your home hasn’t had regular HVAC maintenance or if you suspect there is mold or debris inside of your ducts, then you should have your ducts cleaned to remove allergens. This is a good tip to keep in mind before cranking up the heat again in the fall. Your ducts accumulate dust and other allergens all summer, so when you first turn your heating unit on those allergens will circulate throughout the house.
  4. Get rid of debris around units. Keep the area around your indoor and outdoor units clean and free of debris. Outdoor units pull air, and while the filter is there to catch the debris you don’t want to make the filter work harder if it doesn’t need to. Excessive debris will cause your filters to get dirtier faster, which means you will need to change your filters more frequently. Indoor units will circulate the air that is already inside of the house and any other allergens that are already inside of the house. If there is dust, dirt, or pet dander in front of your unit, those allergens will get circulated around the house when the unit blows the air.
  5. Don’t forget to dust. It’s common for people to forget to dust registers and return vents, but they can’t be overlooked because they circulate all of the air from the HVAC system. You don’t want registers and vents circulating allergens with the air.

What are some of your HVAC tips to help improve allergies?

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Keep your HVAC system alive this summer

Summer is fast approaching, and in order to beat the heat outside you want to keep your home nice and cool inside. But is your HVAC system ready for summer? The tips below will help keep your HVAC system alive and running through the summer heat and can even save you money.

  1. Make sure your HVAC system is regularly inspected and maintained. Doing this helps you treat normal wear and tear issues before they become major issues. You may also want to consider an energy audit as part of or in addition to regular maintenance.
  2. Check your insulation. Proper insulation will help keep a home cool when you run the air conditioning and warm when you run the heat. Even if your home is insulated, it may be time for an upgrade.
  3. Get a programmable thermostat…and program it. Setting your thermostat for optimal daytime and nighttime temperatures is a great way to save money on your HVAC bills and to give your system some much needed rest and relaxation when it doesn’t need to be working hard.
  4. Replace old air conditioning units with energy efficient units. Energy efficient units can save you money, and you may be eligible for tax breaks. It’s also better to be proactive about replacing old units than it is to be surprised when your unit breaks.
  5. Check your fuses and circuit breakers. You may have a brand new HVAC system, but it won’t do you any good if your home’s electrical system is in need of care and you are constantly blowing fuses.
  6. Don’t block your air conditioning unit. If your unit is inside the house, don’t block the flow of air or use it as a shelf. Blocking the flow of air means you won’t feel the air, and if that happens you will likely crank up the AC and make the unit work harder than it needs to work. If your unit is outside, don’t let grass, trees, or shrubs block it; this can cause the filters to clog and impair the unit’s ability to drain properly.
  7. Check your unit’s filters often. If the filters are clogged or dirty, clean or replace them as soon as possible. Filters are in place to help you maintain good indoor air quality, so you don’t want to let the impurities filtered out of your air sit around in your machine and get re-filtered through the house. Clean filters also help your unit run easier.
  8. Make sure your AC units are draining properly. Removing any debris that is built up around the drainage area, keeping grass around the unit trimmed and not planting vegetation close to the unit are ways to keep the drain area open and unclogged.
  9. Turn off lights and heat-producing appliances when possible. If you reduce the amount of heat being produced inside of your home, you won’t need to run the air conditioner so much.
  10. Use fans rather than your air conditioner. Fans, especially a ceiling fan, will circulate cool air and use much less electricity.

What are your tips and tricks for keeping your HVAC units alive this summer?

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Buying a home? Ask these HVAC questions.

Spring is practically here, and chances are if you’re planning to buy a new home this year you will soon start looking; however when you’re looking for your dream home, don’t forget to dream with your eyes opened. Purchasing a home is one of the biggest financial investments you will make in your lifetime, and there are many things you can do before you purchase a home to make sure your financial investment doesn’t suddenly become bigger than you anticipated; one of the most important things you can do is to get adequate information about your potential home’s HVAC system.

Top 5 questions you should always ask about a home’s HVAC system

  1. How old is the system? – While proper upkeep can extend the life of HVAC systems and units, most have a lifespan of 10-15 years and can cost thousands of dollars to replace.
  2. What type of system/units does the house have? – Does the home have central air and forced heat? Are there separate air conditioning and heating units? Each system/unit may require different upkeep and come with different expenses.
  3. May I see documentation from the last time this was serviced?You want to know when the system or units were last serviced as well as how regular service has been (for example, did the seller get the unit serviced just before putting the home on the market? Or has the seller engaged in regular upkeep and maintenance of the units?). You also want to know if the technician noticed any problems or potential problems, and whether or not these problems have been resolved.
  4. What are your average monthly heating/cooling costs?Utility costs are an important monthly expense to consider. In addition to telling you whether or not you can afford these costs, the monthly heating and cooling bill may be a clue to other home issues (i.e. insulation, system issues, etc.).
  5. Is there a warranty that transfers when ownership transfers? – You want to know if there is a warranty on your system, but also the stipulations of the warranty. Will the warranty transfer to a new owner? What does the warranty cover? If you are told there is a warranty, be sure to ask for documentation.

Other HVAC and HVAC-related issues to consider

  • Does the system work? – This may seem like a very simple question, but we often assume it works without trying it out. Don’t be afraid to turn on the unit and walk around the house so you can feel the difference in temperature and air or heat flow. Also, take note of any odd noises or smells you experience once the unit is turned on.
  • Does the unit look like it’s in good shape? – While this won’t tell the whole story about how the unit is functioning, you should be on the lookout for signs of water marks, rust, or decay.
  • Is the system/unit energy efficient? – Is the system/unit helping you maximize your heating and cooling capabilities while minimizing your costs and its environmental impact? Energy efficient HVAC systems may results in tax rebates or credits you can claim.
  • How big are the heating and cooling units? – You don’t want something that’s too big or too small for your home because neither situation will be financially beneficial to you.
  • How well insulated is the home? – While insulation isn’t part of your HVAC system, it potentially impacts your HVAC use. If there are areas of exposed drywall, look for insulation. Ask about whether or not certain rooms are cold despite having the heat on or are hot despite having the air on.
  • Are the windows and doors properly sealed? – Check to make sure no air can leak in around windows and doors. This may also lead you to question how old the windows are in the house. Older windows with older seals may let in more air than newer windows.

Don’t forget that your realtor and a home inspector are your best friends during the home-buying process. If you have questions about the HVAC system, aren’t sure of the answers to questions, or want something checked out for you, tell them and they will help you out.

Do you have any other HVAC tips for homebuyers to consider? If so, comment below!

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Indoor Air Quality and Health

air conditioner repairDoes indoor air quality affect your health? More-so than you may think. Dry, polluted air in your home can cause sickness, allergies, and a range of other issues.

Effects of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality can become poor for a number of reasons, including:

  • Outdated duct work that gathers dust
  • Air filters that have not been changed
  • Lack of HVAC maintenance or cleaning
  • Mold in dirty equipment
  • Poor ventilation or humidifying

Dry, polluted indoor air can lead to a number of health issues, The problems are mainly respiratory ailments that affect the nose and throat. A dry respiratory system can cause frequent colds during the winter and allergies all year round.

The humidity in your home is one aspect that has a direct effect on health. The correct humidity can keep allergies and colds at bay. The optimal level is between 30 and 50 percent.

Sometimes everyday tasks help add humidity to our indoor air. Taking a bath or shower, washing dishes with hot water, or cooking on the stovetop can moisturize the air. However, if you are dealing with health issues of dry air, we highly recommend you install a humidifier. A humidifier can help correct any issue and maintain the perfect air moisture levels.

Mold is another issue that can affect the quality of your air and cause health problems. Mold can grow inside of HVAC equipment and ducts after long periods and being left alone. Without proper cleaning and maintenance, moisture may get trapped inside and lead to mold. Out staff can also inspect your HVAC equipment for mold and provide proper recommendations.

Test Indoor Air Quality in Berks County

Testing your indoor air quality is a good idea if you have any health concerns. Our skilled technicians visit homes across Berks County to make sure you air quality is adequate. They will evaluate the air, determine any needed changes, and make knowledgeable and personalized recommendations on products and service. These recommendations may include:

  • Minor HVAC maintenance
  • Addition or changing of air filters
  • Dehumidifier or ventilation installation
  • Other options based on your specific home

After the evaluation and service, you will see a big difference in the air quality of your home, breathe easier with comfort, and suffer less related health issues.

Contact B&L Ott HVAC to request service on your air quality today. Our trained technicians will make sure you feel comfortable in your own home. A thorough and accurate evaluation will help you maintain better air quality and optimal health.

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HVAC Savings with Berks County Home Energy Audit

air conditioner repairAre you looking to save money on your heating and cooling bills and maximize the comfort of your home environment? If you’re unsure where to start, a home energy audit is highly recommended for you.

Most Americans spend over $2,200 a year on energy costs.  A home energy audit will simplify the process to help you save. This program consists of a custom evaluation of your home to help identify improvements for energy efficiency. Many customers can even receive rebates for taking part in their local program.

A home energy audit can be beneficial for older homes, newer homes, and those in between. Older homes may have equipment that is worn or outdated, whereas newer homes might not have efficient equipment and install techniques.

What Happens During a Home Energy Audit

  • Evaluation of air leakage through windows and doors with a blower test
  • Proper insulation check
  • Inspection of heating and cooling system operations
  • Inspection of appliances and lighting
  • Possible installation of products such as LED bulbs, faucet aerators, and efficient showerheads
  • Personal recommendation of tasks to complete for great efficiency

Your technician will then recommend some custom upgrades or repairs based on the quality of your home, such as: Sealing air ducts, sealing vents and registers, adding insulation, and installing new HVAC equipment. This information will come to you in a comprehensive report. Once you receive the recommendations, you can look into additional rebates such as: wall and attic insulation, HVAC equipment replacement, air and duct sealing, and ENERGY STAR window replacements.

When HVAC Equipment Upgrade is Needed

Even if you consistently keep up with repairs of your HVAC equipment, upgrades eventually become recommended. The risk of expensive repairs and problems increase as the equipment becomes outdated. Skilled technicians can recognize that you could save considerably on your monthly bills and experience a better home environment simply by upgrading to the newest technology.

After the initial investment, the right HVAC equipment upgrades will provide you with increased efficiency and lower energy costs for years to come. It’s best to consult with a technician when choosing the new equipment for your home. A local company like B&L Ott can offer personalized service to provide the best advice for your specific home and needs. We offer the following general advice when choosing upgrades for your HVAC equipment:

  • When replacing a central air conditioner, make sure to replace both the outdoor component (condenser and compressor) and indoor component (evaporator coil) at the same time. Forgetting about half of this “split system” can actually result in lower efficiency or even equipment failure.
  • Choose an ENERGY STAR certified central air conditioner and a contractor that follows ENERGY STAR Quality Installation Guidelines for the best in efficiency.
  • Remember that bigger equipment does not always mean better operation. What’s more important than thinking big is choosing a properly sized unit for the needs of your individual home. The right fit for HVAC equipment is important for smooth operation.
  • Make sure the equipment is properly installed by a knowledgeable HVAC technician. Equipment that is improperly installed can actually reduce system efficiency by up to 30 percent.

Contact B&L Ott if you live in or near Reading, PA. We can offer you comprehensive home energy audits, knowledgeable recommendations, quality products and installation, and information about local rebates. Contact us today to schedule service.

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Prepare Your Berks County Home for Winter

winter power linesAfter a very mild autumn, winter has finally arrived in Berks County. That means freezing temperatures, frigid snowstorms, and plenty of time spent indoors. However, it doesn’t have to mean high heating costs. There are some steps to take to save energy, keep warm, and reduce your monthly bills this Winter. Check out some of our best tips to prepare your home HVAC system for the coldest season:

Conduct Routine Maintenance

The best time to fix potential issues with your heating systems is before they occur. Unexpected repairs during the dead of winter can drive up heating costs. Regular maintenance and check-ups with a professional technician can help prevent problems during the season that your system is working the hardest. Contact B&L Ott today to schedule service in Berks County.

Do-it-yourself maintenance should include replacing your filters. However, if you don’t have knowledge of HVAC systems or suspect a possible problem, it is recommended you consult with a professional. An experienced technician will clean the system, check for potential issues, perform a tune-up, and offer advice on needed repairs or upgrades.

Observe and Repair Air Leaks

Air leaks drive up heating costs because the hot air escapes through them, causing your HVAC systems to expel additional energy to keep your home warm. Seal up all the leaks and cracks in your home for reduced heating costs.

Routine energy audits and maintenance can help you identify and fix air leaks in your home. However, you can also do it yourself when you are short on time and winter is already knocking at your door.

Check door and window frames, electrical and plumbing outlets, and water and furnace flues. Feel for colder spots and areas. Cover up any cracks or leaks with caulk on solid areas. Window frames and cracks in other areas are best repaired with weather stripping.

Pad the Pipes

Pad the pipes in your house to help keep out the cold. Pipes in the basement and garage become especially sensitive to cold weather during the winter. These can freeze, burst, and at the very least need extra energy to heat.

Wrap pipes to keep them warm. Foam insulation, pipe wrap, or heat tape can all be used as materials for padding.

Tending to Air Ducts

Sealing and insulating air ducts properly will help reduce heating costs in preparation for Winter. Check the attic or basement to locate air ducts. Seal air leaks in the ducts using mastic or adhesive-backed metal tape. Insulate the ducts with duct blankets. For those with limited HVAC knowledge or for more complicated jobs, it is recommended you consult with a skilled technician.

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