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How to Choose the Best Heating & Cooling System for Your Home

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Let’s face it, buying a new heating and cooling system can be a stressful situation. Choosing just the right units is a big decision that will impact your family’s comfort for years to come. So, before you jump into purchasing the first system you see, we recommend you take a little time to determine exactly what your home comfort needs are, and how to correctly address them. The key factors to the ideal HVAC system for your home are system type, unit size and, of course, budget. Read on for help in identifying these factors and choosing the best system for your needs.

Be Specific About the Space

The first step to determining what system to purchase is to define the type and size of space that will be cooled and/or heated. Being as specific as possible will help you avoid selecting units that will not fit your home’s climate control needs. By answering the questions below, you can more accurately define your space, making the final purchase decision much easier.

  • Is the space residential or commercial?
  • If it is residential, is the home traditional stick-built or mobile?
  • How many total square feet is in the space (including basement)?
  • How many total floors is in the space (including basement)?
  • Is the space new construction or an existing structure? If it is an existing structure, where is the current furnace located? (attic, crawlspace, utility room?)
  • Does the space currently have adequate insulation?

Now that you have nailed down the specifics of your space, you can move on to deciding what type and size of system you need. Read on for details.

Select the Right Type of System  

This step is actually quite simple, and it boils down to just a few points. In fact, the type of system your home requires may have already decided for you. If your goal is to upgrade your current AC/furnace units, then you’ll need to choose new units of the same size, type and air flow configuration of those currently in your home. For example, if the home currently employs a 3.5-ton AC/80,000 Btu upflow gas furnace system, and you have no plans to add on to the home, you’ll need to choose new units with the same specifications.

In the end, whether you go with a different type of system or not can be determined by asking yourself these three questions.

  • Are you happy with your current unit(s)?
  • Do you like the way your home is heated/cooled?
  • Are your current utility bills affordable?

Using the answers to these three questions, as well as the guidelines below, you should be able to easily decide whether your current heating/cooling system is the right size for your home. If it is, congratulations! You now know exactly which units to buy based on size, type and configuration. If the current system does not match your needs, we suggest consulting an HVAC specialist for help with sizing the new system.

Starting from Scratch

Selecting AC/furnace units for new construction, or an existing home that you will be adding on to, takes a little more thought. However, the process is still fairly simple when you break down the factors that go into it.

What unit(s) do you need for your home?

  • AC only
  • Furnace only
  • Package of both units

If you are purchasing a furnace, what type of fuel source will it be using?

  • Natural Gas
  • Oil
  • Electricity

Which fuel source your new furnace will use comes down to three things: what is available, what is most cost-effective, and what you prefer.

Natural Gas is the most efficient fuel source available and it provides a cleaner burn than oil. But you must have access to a natural gas line in order to use it. Creating new access to a natural gas line is a very expensive and time-consuming task.

Oil furnaces are cheaper than their gas-powered counterparts, and oil produces a higher Btu heat than gas. However, oil must be ordered from a third-party supplier. Plus, an external tank is needed to store the oil once it has been delivered.   

Electric furnaces are less expensive to install and offer ultimate control over heating zones (rather than the “whole-house” approach of gas or oil). But electric furnaces are not an energy-efficient option as they operate at a much higher cost than gas or oil furnaces.

 

If you are purchasing a furnace, what direction do you need the air flow to take?

  • Up
  • Down
  • Horizontal

The direction of the air flow is an important factor in selecting the right furnace unit for your home. That’s because the location of the furnace directly determines the direction the warm air will take through the ductwork. Typically, you will find furnace units that use one of three air flow directions — upflow, downflow, and horizontal (pictured below).

Configuration

If you plan to locate the furnace in a basement or on the main floor of your home, choose an upflow unit. These are the most commonly purchased units and you’re sure to find several choices in this configuration. If you are installing the new furnace in a mobile home, you will need to purchase a downflow unit. (NOTE: Some traditional stick-built homes do use downflow units, but this is not the norm. Be sure to check the direction of air flow on the current unit if you are upgrading an existing furnace.) If you plant to install the new furnace in a crawlspace or attic, you will need to source a unit with horizontal flow.

Be aware that some newer furnace models employ a multi-positional air flow feature that allows them to vent warm air in all directions — up, down and horizontally. You may also find units that feature two air flow directions (i.e. upflow and horizontal, downflow and horizontal).

Important: If you are upgrading a furnace in an existing home, be sure to check the current unit’s air flow direction — up, down or horizontal. Your new unit will need to have the same air flow configuration.

 

A Note About Mobile Homes

The typical mobile home uses a heating and cooling system that is different from those found in traditional structures. This is mainly due to the mobile home’s duct system, which is considerably smaller. Therefore, a mobile home’s furnace or air handler uses a smaller-capacity blower to accommodate the small ducts. So, when choosing a new HVAC system, be sure it is compatible with mobile home ductwork.

Choosing the Right Size System

The last thing you’ll need to do before purchasing your new heating and cooling system is to determine what size you need for your space. Though common sense tells us that choosing a system that is too small for the home is a bad thing because it puts too much stress on the units, resulting in unnecessary wear and tear and higher utility bills. But, did you know that choosing a system that is too big can also drive up your utility bills? Oversized units are known to routinely turn on and off in short cycles, which not only causes excess stress on the system, but also inefficient heating and cooling. A system that is perfectly sized for your home provides constant, comfortable air and even small temperature fluctuations will go by unnoticed.

To find the correct size AC unit for your home, find your geographical zone on the map below. Then use the corresponding color-coded table to determine the number of energy tons it takes to cool a home with your total square footage.

 

Zone-map

 

  ZONE 1 ZONE 2 ZONE 3 ZONE 4 ZONE 5
1.5 Tons 600 - 900 sf 600 - 950 sf 600 - 1000 sf 700 - 1050 sf 700 - 1100 sf
2 Tons 901 - 1200 sf 951 - 1250 sf 1001 - 1300 sf 1051 - 1350 sf 1101 - 1400 sf
2.5 Tons 1201 - 1500 sf 1251 - 1550 sf 1301 - 1600 sf 1351 - 1600 sf 1401 - 1650 sf
3 Tons 1501 - 1800 sf 1501 - 1850 sf 1601 - 1900 sf 1601 - 2000 sf 1651 - 2100 sf
3.5 Tons 1801 - 2100 sf 1851 - 2150 sf 1901 - 2200 sf 2001 - 2250 sf 2101 - 2300 sf
4 Tons 2101 - 2400 sf 2151 - 2500 sf 2201 - 2600 sf 2251 - 2700 sf 2301 - 2700 sf
5 Tons 2401 - 3000 sf 2501 - 3100 sf 2601 - 3200 sf 2751 - 3300 sf 2701 - 3300 sf

 

Heating Square Footage per Zone

For the best-sized furnace unit for your needs, refer to the zone map again. Then use the color-coded table below for the BTU necessary to heat one square foot of area. Next, simply multiply the total BTU from the table by your home’s total square footage. (Example:  40 BTU x 2000 square feet = 80,000 BTU). This is the ideal furnace size needed to efficiently heat your home.

ZONE 1 ZONE 2 ZONE 3 ZONE 4 ZONE 5
30 - 35 BTUs/sf 35 - 40 BTUs/sf 40 - 45 BTUs/sf 45 - 50 BTUs/sf 50 - 60 BTUs/sf

 

Purchasing a new heating and cooling system shouldn’t be an overwhelming task. With the right information at your fingertips, you’re sure to choose the perfect system for your family’s needs.

 

Still not sure which size and type of heating/cooling system you need?
Use our handy System Selector.

 

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4 Cooling System Options For Your Home

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Have you ever been through a summer without any way to cool your home? It’s miserable. The sun beats down on the wall and ceiling, turning your home into an oven.

Luckily, there are several options available to help cool your home. There are different advantages and disadvantages to all these types of cooling systems. It is important to do thorough research on what will be the best option for your home. Remember, this is an overview, not an all-inclusive list.

Central AC

This is probably the most common type of home cooling system. If you can walk to the wall and adjust a thermostat, then you have central cooling. Central AC works by having a unit outside of your home that blows air through ducts all throughout your home. Coils filled with refrigerant cool the air. A pump pulls the heat absorbed in the cooling process out of the home.

Central AC units can work everywhere. They can be expensive to install, especially if you don’t have sufficient or any ducts. Central AC provides stability in temperature year-round, but can also lead to higher energy bills and may need maintenance on its ducts.

Swamp Coolers

You might be unfamiliar with swamp coolers unless you have spent time in places with a hot, dry climate. Swamp coolers are evaporative coolers. They are large units placed on the top of a home. They have reservoirs that hold water and keep interior pads moist. Fans blow air through the pads, creating a cool moist breeze throughout your home.

Swamp coolers are most beneficial in the hot, dry climate type. Swamp coolers are making the air moist, and those of us who have lived in humid climates know that there is no need for that. They are cost-effective, though this can be tricky if there are droughts and therefore water restrictions, which is not uncommon in areas where swamp coolers are effective. Paradoxical.

Portable/Window AC Units

These type of AC units have the power to cool one room per unit usually. They sit in or near your window and have the same function as a central cooling system, all packed into one little box. They put cold air into your home while dumping the heat outside. Portable units are called that because they can be moved around, but they do have a hose that goes out the window. That hose pumps the heat outside, so if you don’t have it in a window, things will get very warm very quickly. These units aren’t terribly expensive but are limited in their ability to cool, as it is really only going to work for one room. They can be moved to areas that need more attention, however, and that is a huge plus.

Mini-Splits

Mini-splits are a modern way to cool individual rooms with the same system and without the use of air ducts. An outside unit fills the same basic role as the outside unit of central AC but instead uses tubes to control temperature and remove heat and moisture.

These are beneficial because you can have different temperatures in different rooms. They can be installed in a number of places, and have different looks as well. They do cost more than installing central AC, but are very energy efficient.

You need to stay cool. It is so important on warm, and then hot, summer nights. If you need help looking into air conditioning installation, make sure to call an expert. It will be simple, don’t sweat it.

partnered post • cc-licensed image by ElasticComputeFarm on Pixabay


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House

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Have you been here? If not, and you're in or near the LA area, try to make it for one of the extremely rare tours / open houses. Although really, it’s worth just driving by to see it from the street. Here’s what the LA Times printed about it in 2011.

https://www.latimes.com/home/la-hm-landmark-houses-ennis-house-htmlstory.html

When Frank Lloyd Wright completed the Ennis house in 1924, he immediately considered it his favorite. The last and largest of the four concrete-block houses that Wright built in the Los Angeles area remains arguably the best residential example of Mayan Revival architecture in the country. When The Times' Home section convened a panel of historians, architects and preservationists in 2008 to vote on the region's best houses of all time, the Ennis house ranked ahead of the Modernist Eames house, the John Lautner spaceship-on-a-hill known as Chemosphere and the Arts & Crafts beauty the Gamble house.

That the Ennis house garners so much reverence from the architecture community makes its current status all the more remarkable: for sale since June 2009, price reduced from $15 million to $7,495,000. Prospective buyers have shown much interest, according to listing agent Jeffrey Hyland, president of Hilton & Hyland, Beverly Hills, but as of yet, there have been no takers.


Why Taking Care of Your Roof is So Important

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As a homeowner, you take some things for granted, such as the roof will be reliable. The maintenance of the roof should be thought of as a necessary part of owning a home. Should it fail, rainwater will leak into the attic or loft and begin to cause new and future problems, both due to immediate water and subsequent moisture-related problems.

Here are some reasons to maintain your roof.

Protection from Extreme Weather

While we may worry about rainwater penetrating an old roofing structure, the reality is that the weather conditions in the UK are becoming more extreme. The strong belief is that it’s been caused by the effect of global warming, which is causing changes to the oceans, heating up the atmosphere and thereby modifying our weather.

We tend to think of tornados hitting the ground as an American phenomenon with one hitting Oklahoma in 2013 being over two miles in diameter. However, they’ve occurred in the UK too. There are as many as 40 tornados that hit British shores annually. With shocking speeds of over 100 MPH, they can devastate homes. With that said, a home with a good roof will usually only suffer the loss of some roofing tiles due to high gusts of wind in its vicinity when not directly in the path of the tornado.

Protection from Regular Weather

Our homes also get battered by heavy rains, strong gales, and occasional hailstones just to keep things interesting. The roof seals in the home prevent any water from getting inside the internal structure. The rainwater runs down the side of the roof, into the gutters and into the drainage system. At least, it should…

When roofs take too much damage, they deteriorate and lose their ability to protect from regular weather patterns. Tiles start to get dislodged more frequently and the total protection that a roof usually provides begins to breakdown.

This is why it’s worth completing an annual inspection of your roof to look for anything out of place, missing tiles, and areas where they seem less secure following a windy season. Most roofs should last many years, but with maintenance, they’ll last longer and provide greater protection too.

Do You Feel Comfortable Getting Up on the Roof?

If you’re scared of heights, then it’s just not worth doing it yourself. Even climbing up a ladder could give you pause. It’s one thing to do a bit of DIY at ground level but quite another to try to accomplish it while suspended in the air. Too many accidents occur when using a ladder to make it worth risking a broken arm or leg and having to be off work for a period of several weeks.

When you don’t feel comfortable performing a roof inspection or making repairs, then try out Belfast Roofing Services. They understand the issue and know how to perform both inspections, advise on what repairs are needed, and get them completed for you. This provides peace of mind so you can get busy with other DIY tasks still on your To Do list.

Don’t make your roof an afterthought until it’s too late. Maintain it well to get the most years out of it before it must be replaced.

partnered post • cc-licensed image by Mike Bird


8 Ways To Make Your Backyard More Appealing

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Is your backyard bland and lackluster? If that sounds familiar then you’ll be pleased to know that it doesn’t take much to make your yard pop. An added fixture here or a little landscaping there can make your home the envy of the neighborhood. Here are 8 hardscape features to help make your backyard more visually appealing.

  1.   Trellis/arch

Adding a simple trellis or arch in your yard can quickly add a bit of charm to your landscape. It doesn’t take much effort or space and will add a lovely place for picture taking. Because it tends to tower above the rest of the yard it also will help add depth to a small space.

  1.   Stone Walkway

A few stone steps or a rock walkway help to create visually appealing leading lines in an otherwise bland area. Before digging up the yard to put in your walkway, make sure to draw up a game plan and map out exactly where the stones will go so you will be sure to have enough material.

  1.   Pond

Putting a pond into your outdoor area is another great way to help with increasing the depth in an otherwise small space. There are premade ponds available at most home improvement stores or there is always the option of designing the pond yourself. Maintenance of your pond will all depend on what you choose to put inside. You could go simple and just have smooth stones or add a little life with a few hearty Coy fish.

  1.   Bridge

Most people don’t think to put a little walking bridge in their yard so this added feature will make your space feel unique. It will create added dimensions in your yard, making your space feel more open. Under the bridge, you could have a small pond, stream or even a pretty little flower bed.

  1.   Leading Gardens

If you are wanting to make your garden look more like a painting than a plot of grass, then a leading garden is definitely a good idea for you. A leading garden is small sections of your yard that you turn into patches of gardens to help direct eyes from one point in your yard to another.

  1.   Fireplace

You could have either an outdoor fireplace or a nice built-in firepit. Whichever you choose to go with, it will provide a cozy place to gather with friends and the stone or rocks used to build your fire spot will create an aesthetically pleasing, welcoming atmosphere in your backyard.

  1.   Outdoor Pavilion

An outdoor pavilion isn’t just lovely to look at, but it is also useful. It serves as a great place to entertain friends when the weather is nice. String a few lights in your pavilion and you’re ready to host the neighborhood barbeque.

  1.   Rock Fixture

One very convenient thing about rocks is there is little to almost no upkeep. All you need to do is make sure you don’t have weeds growing in your design, and since you aren’t trying to keep other plants alive in that area, a quick spray of weed killer will keep your rocks looking fabulous.

If you have the time and don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease, then you could add one of these hardscape features to your yard in just a weekend or two. On the other hand, yard work isn’t for everyone. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a reliable crew to help your plain patch of grass turn into something that catches people’s attention.  

partnered post • photo by Erin Wilson on Unsplash