You may not realize how “hard” your own water is until you visit a friend with “soft” water. You will notice how just a small amount of soap creates a rich lather, and how soft the towels are as you dry your hands. This is the result of a water softener at work. Water softeners […]
You have a lot on the go, so it’s normal if tending to the needs of your furnace, air conditioner, and other HVAC equipment often comes last on the list of priorities.
That’s why we have compiled this primer on common HVAC equipment and care. Whether you have recently moved in to a new home or gotten new equipment, or it has been a while and you need a refresher, this guide will help you gain an understanding of your equipment and the basic maintenance it requires.
Maintaining Your Air Conditioner, Furnace, and HRV/ERV
This following schedule is based on the use of a standard 1″ furnace air filter. If you are using a thicker filter you will be able to change it once or twice a year, depending on your home’s attributes, respiratory sensitivities, and personal preference.
Replacing Your Furnace Filter
Turn off your furnace at the switch. Generally the air filter cabinet is on the left or right side of the furnace in a vertical position, and is 1 – 5 inches wide. You should be able to pop off the front panel by hand. To see if your filter is dirty, hold it up to the light and compare with a clean filter. If the filter looks dirty and is near the prescribed length of time it is supposed to last, it is time to replace it.
Why to Get Preventative Maintenance
Just like a car, your home comfort equipment requires regular tune ups. Manufacturers recommend having your furnace and A/C professionally maintained annually to preserve efficiency and extend the lifetime of the equipment. In some cases it may even be required to keep your warranty valid. Since a maintenance includes cleaning and checking of all functions, these visits often catch small issues before they grow and lead to big repair needs or equipment failure.
Did You Know?
The air conditioner ventilates through the furnace, so it is still extremely important that the furnace filter be changed throughout the cooling season. Cool and warm air travel differently, so use a filter no thicker than .5” or 1” during the cooling season to avoid restriction of airflow. A thicker filter with a high MERV rating can be used in the heating season.
Understanding the Purpose of Your ERV/HRV
Your home either has an energy or heat recovery ventilator, whose purpose is to exchange stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air. This ventilates carbon dioxide, fumes, cooking odours, dust, and excess humidity out of your home. A new home can take 12 – 18 months to fully dry out from the construction, so you may run your ERV/HRV more during this initial period.
Cleaning Your ERV/HRV Filters
1. Unplug the unit
2. Remove reusable filters and vacuum off dust/dirt
3. Wash with warm water and dish soap. Rinse and let dry completely before replacing
Cleaning the ERV/HRV Core
This should be cleaned once/year at the end of summer. Vacuum the plastic core with a soft brush and then soak in a mild soap solution for 3 hours. Rinse it and let it dry completely before reinstalling. During your furnace maintenance a technician can do this for your upon request.
Controlling the Humidity in your Home
As a rule of thumb, set your ERV/HRV to run intermittently in the winter and do not run it in the summer. Acceptable humidity levels in winter are 15 – 25%, while in summer you can expect 40%. You can adjust your humidity levels from your thermostat/humidistat or a control on your humidifier.
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Ah, allergies – this gift that keeps on giving. For most people, they tend to act up in the spring and summer months when outdoor air is ripe with pollen.
But if during our recent “January thaw” you noticed your allergies kicking in, this is why.
Mold, mold, mold
There’s a certain degree of mold present outside year-round, but most grows in the fall season. At this time piles of leaves and other dead vegetation absorb moisture and create dark, wet places ideal for bacteria growth. Anyone with allergies or respiratory sensitivities has probably noticed they are aggravated by activities like raking leaves or turning a compost pile.
Here’s the surprising part: many of these mold strains are not killed off by winter frosts. Instead they lay dormant until mid-winter warm ups when they become exposed on the ground, brush and trees as ice and snow melt off.
So if your allergies flare up whenever the weather gets above 0 degrees outside, particularly when you are spending time outside, this could be why.
Cold weather indoor allergens
However, we can’t forget about allergens that strike in the home all winter long. Forced air heating systems do make homes drier this time of year, but condensation gathers in the more humid parts of homes, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Cold weather means windows stay closed, so if you have an HRV/ERV it’s important to keep them running to exchange fresh outdoor air with indoor air. If you do find mold is growing in your home, it can be cleaned with vinegar or a gentle bleach and hot water solution.
Air filtration products can also be your friends year-round when it comes to reducing indoor allergens like dust, bacteria, and pet dander. There is a huge difference between a standard 1 inch furnace filter and something like the Lennox PureAir which can remove 99.9% of airborne particles and 90% of bacteria. Because the whole family and pets tend to spend more time bundled up inside in the cold months, that’s more hair, dust, pet fur and dirt accumulating inside. Ventilation upgrades – plus not skimping on the dusting and vacuuming – can help reduce respiratory irritants that bother us in winter.
By following these methods, as well as limiting time outdoors on warmer and windy winter days you can reduce your allergy flare ups in winter…at least until spring allergies kick in.
Hy-Mark had some special guests today…and they came hungry! Hy-Mark was a stop on “Residential Construction Day,” a field trip for Grade 12 students to gain an understanding of life in the residential construction industry and the skilled trades. Thirty-five construction students from the Upper Grand District School Board enjoyed one of our famous Hy-Mark […]
Nothing beats curling up in front of a cozy fire on a cold winter night. If you are considering adding a fireplace to your home, the first thing to decide is whether to go with a gas or electric model. Here is our breakdown of how the types compare.
Gas: Requires a gas line to the house and must have room to cut a vent to outside of home (usually means being located on exterior wall).
Electric: Simply plugs into an electrical outlet like any other appliance. These can be wall mounted or housed in display units.
Cost to Install and Operate
Gas: The price with standard installation ranges from $2,750 to $5,000. The cost to run is about 20 cents to 40 cents per hour, depending on the size of the unit.
Electric: These start around $500, and go as high as $1,200 for higher end models. Operation costs roughly 0.3 to 3 cents per hour, without heat, and about 16 cents per hour with heat on 100% of the time.
Value to Your Home
Gas: According to surveys, 40% of homebuyers say they would pay more for a home with a gas fireplace, and home’s value could increase by about 12% for each fireplace.
Electric: With little to no investment in installation, an electric fireplace will not add much value to your home. However, if you move you can take it with you to your new home.
Gas: Can provide 25,000 – 30,000 BTUs of heat. Great for heating larger areas or even a whole home, up to 2,000 square feet.
Electric: Can provide 3,000 – 9,000 BTUs. This will effectively heat one room, up to 400 square feet. The artificial flame can also run when the heater is turned off, lending ambiance even when you do not wish for heat.
Gas: Only 70% to 80% efficient due to heat lost through venting.
Electric: 100% efficient.
Gas: Glass pane and housing may get hot enough to burn skin if touched during operation.
Electric: Glass pane temperature will not get warm enough to burn.
What It All Adds Up To:
Gas fireplaces are good for those willing to spend more for a bigger return – in heating ability and home value.
Electric fireplaces will do the trick nicely for smaller spaces or when heating is less important than style, and will save you plenty in upfront and operation costs.
Want a quote on your future gas or electric fireplace? Call Hy-Mark today at 1-800-727-0750.
Contributing Source: Stylish Fireplaces
Maybe this situation has happened to you, or will one day occur: you are planning some plumbing renovations in your home and get a quote on the scope of work from a plumbing company. When you see the part versus labour breakdown, you decide to shop around and see if you can find the fixture for cheaper. You hop online and do a quick Google search and find the part around 30% cheaper at one of the big box home hardware stores. Great! You’ve just saved some money by doing a quick price comparison online, right?
Actually the truth is, it’s smarter to buy fixtures through your plumbing company. You may spend a little more upfront, but not as much as you think. Plus the protection you will get from damage will make it worth it. Let’s break down why…
The Big Box Catch-22
Big box stores almost always sell a cheaper line of products than you would get from a plumbing supply company or even directly from the manufacturer. This is because these large retail chains want to keep their prices low, and sell in quantities high enough that manufacturers will actually make custom products exclusively for their stores.
Here’s the part that misleads customers – these models sometimes look identical to those from plumbing supply stores (where your plumber shops), and yet have lower quality internal parts. Generally this means plastic instead of metal. The outcome? The products from big box stores wear out much sooner, and you’ll be looking at replacement plus more labour costs. Plus the big box stores often don’t sell internal parts separately.
Now is when you might be thinking, “Ok, but can those higher quality versions myself at a plumbing supply store?”
The Deal With Plumbing Supply Stores
Yes, you can shop at some plumbing supply stores and showrooms (some are not open to the public), but you will pay more than a plumbing company or contractor would. This is because these businesses have accounts that get them discounts. The same goes with purchasing direct from manufacturers’ websites.
And here’s an additional important point to remember: if a product were to be defective and needed to be replaced under warranty, standard practice is that a plumber/contractor would not handle this for purchases he/she had not made for you.
Breaking Down Warranties
This might seem odd, since we are talking about a manufacturer’s warranty coverage. However the reason is if a company did not supply or recommend the part, they cannot be reasonably held responsible for its performance and the cost of seeking out a warranty exchange, particularly as it could be with a company this company has no relationship with and that is difficult to contact.
So, how long will you have warranty coverage if you buy everything through your plumber? While we can’t speak for all companies, Hy-Mark offers the first year after installation of labour coverage, and the first 2 years of parts coverage on our retrofit jobs. The nice thing is if you purchase your parts through your plumber, not only will you have replacement coverage for those 2 years, you will also have coverage of any damage that could result from a part failure. If you purchase your own fixtures, this may not apply if it’s determined the item was defective.
In the End
In the end, we recommend investing wisely in your plumbing fixtures in order to save yourself money and hassle. You may save a bit up front buying from big box retailers, but you get what you pay for. If you allow the same plumbing company you are entrusting to do work in your home to purchase your parts for you, you will likely get higher quality and performance from those products, plus warranties that offer you peace of mind.
Want a quote on your plumbing job? Give us a call at 1-800-727-0750.
- Close your basement vents
Since cold air settles in low places, you will want to adjust your home’s vents for the summer months. Your basement will naturally be the coolest place in the house, so close your vents in this area to prevent over-cooling. Leave them half open on the first floor, and wide open on the second or third floors. This will ensure enough cooled air makes it up to the higher levels of your home, giving you an even and comfortable temperature throughout your home.
- Use a thin air filter in your furnace
Cooled air still utilizes the fan in your furnace to be distributed throughout your home, and since cool air doesn`t rise like warm air it has difficulty traveling through your venting. To make it easier, make sure you only use a half or 1 inch filter in your furnace for the summer. If you use a thicker air filter (high MERV value) in the heating season, simply replace with a thin one for the cooling season.
- Leave space around your air conditioner
If your cooling system has an outdoor air condenser or heat pump, make sure to leave at least a one foot perimeter of clear space around it. Crowding the unit with bushes, plants, or clutter will impede air intake.
- Get an A/C maintenance
Just like your car requires regular oil changes, air conditioners need some basic care to last long-term. Manufacturers recommend having a professional maintenance by an HVAC technician annually. At this visit the tech will check for efficiency and good function of your air conditioner, making sure there are no issues like leaky refrigerant lines, dirty or corroded materials, or failing electronics. This is your opportunity for small problems to be detected before they lead to big repairs or total system failure. It can also be required to keep some warranties valid, as well.
- Keep the sun out
Direct sunlight can be your biggest cause of heat gain throughout the day, and an overheated home means your air conditioner has to work harder. Make sure you have blinds or curtains on the sides of the house that get the most sun, and close them during the day to stop the sun excessively heating those rooms. You may even want to plant trees to create a sun barrier that lasts long-term. Conversely, take advantage on cool nights and open the shades. Even if a window doesn’t open, there will be some transfer of cool temperature outside through the glass. This is especially true for older homes with less sophisticated or single pane windows.
If you’ve tried all of these steps and your air conditioner still can’t keep up it is time to think about getting a new unit. Signs include an A/C that is constantly running on a high setting or large energy bills. Give us a call for a free home comfort consultation and quote.
Over the weekend Hy-Mark participated in the Project Hope build organized by Doug Tarry Homes. This charity event saw an entire home built in less than 3 days! Proceeds of the sale of the home will benefit the surviving family of St. Thomas native Johnny Nooren, who passed away leaving behind his wife and two young children.
Beginning Friday June 9th and culminating Sunday June 11th before noon, the home took shape and was completed in only 39 working hours. Remarkably, site supervisors said that due to smooth coordination the home could even have been completed in only 2 days. Site supervisors and our own Hy-Mark team were amazed at the level of cooperation among all site tradespeople. This was especially apparent on Friday when there were literally hundreds of tradespeople and volunteers on site.
Despite high weekend temperatures and humidity, Hy-Mark team members – mostly from our London Division – worked 11 straight hours in a 35 degree basement to install the home’s HVAC system. Even with the heat nobody “lost their cool,” and the team was even able to start up cooling in the home a day ahead of schedule.
This is a great example of the dedication and work ethic our team members show. A special thanks to all who donated their time this weekend for this good cause!
To learn more about Project Hope and view more photos and video from the build, visit the Doug Tarry Homes Facebook page.
Air conditioner getting up there in age, and not performing as well as it used to? The big decision is always to keep making repairs or replace. But how do you know when it’s time? Here are five ways to tell for sure if it’s time for a new unit.
Not Enough Cooling Power
Do you constantly have the air blasting on high, yet you’re still not comfortable? If your air conditioner is always working hard – but hardly working – it may be time to look for another. The problem could be that your current unit is undersized for your home, or that it is running inefficiently due to old age. Either way, you are losing money as it sucks energy while producing bad results. A new, correctly sized unit will cool your home at a regular setting, as well as cycle through efficiency stages rather than run constantly.
Uneven, Inconsistent Cooling
This is part and parcel with not having enough cooling power. While it’s normal for rooms that get more sun exposure or are higher in the home to be a degree warmer than darker or lower rooms, your air conditioner should be able to provide even, cool comfort throughout the whole home. A large variance in temperature means your air conditioner isn’t strong enough.
High Energy Bills
In Ontario we are already battling high hydro costs, but if your air conditioner is running inefficiently these costs will balloon even higher. If you noticed an increase in your bills last summer, or if the cost is just above what you are comfortable spending, it may be time for a new A/C. Not only will a factory new unit run better than an old one, technology improvements have allowed newer models to consume less energy.
Like with any appliance or machine, frequent repairs are a bad sign. With air conditioners the most common sign that the unit is not up to par is a frequent loss of coolant. If you are having to refill your unit with coolant every summer, there is likely a leak somewhere. These can be expensive to fix, so if your unit is over 10 years it’s probably worth investing in new equipment.
Remember – problems can be detected early by getting annual maintenance visits. They are necessary to keep your air conditioner running smoothly, and can also be required to keep warranties valid.
Signs of Wear
If you’ve noticed any burning smells, fluids leaking from the lines, loud noises, or visible deterioration on the unit, these signs point towards a breakdown coming. Emergency replacements never happen at a good time, so be proactive and consider a replacement before you are without cooling on a scorching long weekend!
1. You’ve spent thousands of dollars on the perfect bathroom – why ruin the aesthetic with ugly plastic bottles?
Instead, try putting mouthwash in an elegant glass bottle from the kitchenware section of any home goods store. Attach a rubber lined spout on top for easy, one handed pouring. Some small, nicely detailed disposable cups are a nice touch, especially for guests.
2. A display of clean bath towels can add a sense of luxury and comfort.
A wine rack display can stow towels tightly in small areas, with the added benefit of making them easy to find for guests. (Do you really want your guests going through cabinets of old shampoo bottles and prescriptions?) You can also find them in a variety of colours, and in free standing and wall hanging designs.
3. Stick to a “cool” colour scheme.
Which of these bathrooms looks better? To most people, the white and blue colouration (cool colours) in the second photo make it appear cleaner and brighter. Though warm tones like yellow or light browns are cozy in kitchens and living rooms, they are also similar to the colour of dirt and water stains…yuck. Using these colours in your bathroom could give the appearance of age and tarnish. Off whites, yellows, reds and browns can also give a retro look. High contrast white and dark wood settings are a much more modern look, and are the popular contemporary design choice.
4. Save counter top space with a beautiful tiered tray.
Inspiration comes again from the kitchen, this time from dessert trays. One design element often forgotten is use of depth and height. Whether glass, wood or another material these trays add dynamism to your vanity top. It’s also a way to save valuable space. So get those bottles off your counter top!
5. Add a rustic display element.
A weathered wooden accent piece is perfect for adding some country charm and comfort. You can find antique ladders like this at many flea markets and antique stores. Or why not make on yourself from new or reclaimed wood?
6. Add glitz with mirrored surfaces.
Mirrors are fantastic for brightening up spaces and making rooms appear larger. This shabby chic white trimmed mirror lays a perfect setting for a display of white candlesticks and pillar candles. Dim the lights and add bubble bath for a super relaxing bath experience.
7. Add statement light switch frames.
True design magic is in the small details, and here’s one that will quickly add a touch of style. Use a subtle ribbed frame fitted tightly to the size of the light switch cover. Ensure there is no gap of space between the frame and the plastic cover. With the right size, the cover should hold the frame by the inner lip with no additional supports.
Planning a bathroom renovation? We can help! Call us at 1-800-727-0750 to speak to a Comfort Advisor.
All image sources here.