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Hidden costs and HVAC equipment

My guy and I have been house hunting for a few months now, and we’ve found ourselves on a few adventures along the way. Of course, we’ve found ourselves in sketchy neighborhoods more than a few times and made a quick getaway drive. We’ve also encountered flamboyant real estate agents and eccentric neighbors that made us immediately wary of the situation. The most ridiculous venture of all, however, was last week when we may or may not have ruined an entire HVAC system.

            The house in question had been foreclosed on, so we were digging around in some dirty and dingy conditions, in general. Since the home had been sitting vacant for some time, I was curious about the heating and cooling system. I wondered if the air conditioner or furnace had been operated in the past several months at all. I was also pretty sure that the whole indoor temperature control system was poorly maintained, based on the rest of the house. All of that curiosity got the best of me, so I started looking around for the thermostat. I soon found the temperature control device and switched on the air conditioner. However, nothing happened. The cooling system didn’t respond at all to the thermostat settings, as I expected. I switched over to the heating function and powered on the system.

              This time, I heard a definite response as the furnace kicked into gear! About 15 seconds later, however, a huge banging sound rang out from the kitchen, and a terrible smell filled the home. The heater made a final screech and stopped operating before I could get back to the thermostat. After that, we sprinted to the car and drove away as if we just robbed the place.

 

HVAC tune-up 

Reminders of HVAC service

I feel like I’m going cross eyed at this point in the day, and it’s not even 10am. I spend way too much time staring at computer screens. At a certain point I feel like my eyes and brain start to fail me with all the detailed reading I do. See, not only do I work online and operate my own small business front digitally, but I’m also currently on the market for a new house. That means I spend countless hours hunched over my laptop browsing online listings these days.      

            Sometimes the housing information really gets difficult to read, which is how we almost got scammed last week. I was looking into a local property that seemed pretty great. When I got to the property details, my eyes skimmed over the heating and cooling methods section without fully absorbing them. I assumed that the house would be outfitted as usual, with a forced air furnace and central air conditioning unit. I didn’t expect anything great or high tech. There were no expectations for radiant heated floors, zone controlled heating and cooling, or a smart thermostat, even. However, I did anticipate that the house would have traditional indoor temperature control features.

             What I didn’t see until my boyfriend viewed the listing was the words “natural ventilation” under the heating and cooling section. Wait a second, I thought. What entails “natural ventilation”? When I contacted the listing agent, I soon found out. This was her creative way of saying the home didn’t actually have a furnace or AC unit installed; it had working windows.

HVAC maintenance 

I love a day out

About five years ago, my husband Marcus and I were forced to move across the country for his job.  We purchased a house in the northeastern region, and were shocked by the brutal cold. While we were no strangers to snow, we had never before experienced temperatures down to twenty-six below zero and such horrendous wind chill.  At first, I was a bit disappointed when I learned that our new home was equipped with a boiler system. Having no experience with boiler heating, I doubted it could handle the ungodly cold. I expected the boiler to be loud, dirty and expensive to operate.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I am extremely thankful for the boiler. The boiler is quite compact, operates silently, and has proved wonderfully effective and reliable. There are baseboard heaters around the perimeter of the various rooms, which maintain a very even and comfortable temperature.  The heat is introduced near the floor and rises very slowly. Because it is transfused rather than blow into the room, there is no introduction of air contaminants such as dust, mold or bacteria. The boiler works by heating water which then circulates through pipes, carrying the heat and linked to the baseboards.  This process is exceptionally energy efficient, because water heats up faster and stays warmer longer than air. It also avoids the energy losses and maintenance of a duct system. With this type of heating system, we are able to set up each room as a separate zone and control temperature independently. Marcus and I save money by lowering the temperature setting in empty rooms, and can cater to personal preference. Plus, the boiler supplements our water heating needs, trimming that expense as well.

temperature control 

Little Lamb

Last winter, I noticed the furnace was struggling to keep up with demand.  It seemed to run constantly, and my monthly energy bills were considerably higher than normal.  There were cold spots in various rooms, and I kept raising the thermostat setting. I gradually realized that there was a lot more dust blowing around, and I was required to clean the house more often.  There was a musty smell in the house, and whenever the furnace started up, I’d end up with a headache. Since I had just paid for a complete service of the heating system in the fall, I was surprised by these issues.  The HVAC contractor had thoroughly cleaned the heating components and provided a careful inspection. I finally called for a repair and explained the problems I was experiencing. The HVAC contractor immediately checked out the duct system and discovered a bunch of small holes and leaks at the seams.  These faults in the ducs were drawing in dirty, outside air and allowing my heated air to escape. This was forcing the furnace to work much harder and resulting in inferior comfort and poor air quality. When the HVAC contractor recommended duct sealing, I expected the process to be messy, invasive and costly.  Instead, the contractor used a technique called Aeroseal, which targets faults in the ductwork from the inside. He blocked off all of the vents and then used pressurized air to introduce adhesive particles into the system. As the particles escaped through holes, they adhered to the edges and gradually built up.  In about an hour, the duct system was totally fixed, and there was no bad smell, residue left behind or damage to my home.

air quality

The lifespan of our equipment

When my wife, Mary and I bought a new home, we hired a licensed HVAC contractor to service the forced air furnace and central cooling system.  We asked the contractor to fully inspect, clean and adjust the equipment to ensure peak capacity, efficiency and reliability. We were pleased when the contractor pronounced both our heating and cooling system in good condition.  Right after that, Mary and I started some major remodeling projects, We entirely gutted the kitchen, tearing out the walls, cupboards, countertops and appliances. We added insulation to the walls, hired an electrician to update the wiring, and installed brand new everything.  Mary and I also tackled the hardwood floors in the living room. Because they were in such terrible shape, we needed to do a great deal of sanding. These projects created an enormous amount of dust and debris, and we constantly had the windows open to provide ventilation. Despite the rising temperatures and humidity, we did not have the opportunity to operate the air conditioner.  We were relieved when the jobs were finally completed, and we’d cleaned everything up. By that time, it was the end of June, and the outside temperature had climbed into the mid-eighties. When we started up the air conditioner, it ran perfectly for two days. Then it began making strange noises, cycled continuously, but failed to provide comfort. There was hardly any air coming from the vents.  We called the HVAC contractor back for repair, and he found a significant buildup of debris within the inner workings. Since we had failed to cover the vents during our remodeling, we’d allowed the construction dust to clog the air conditioner.

HVAC business 

Tattoo

I love tattoos. I don’t even mind the pain associated with them. My very first tattoo that I ever got was on my foot. I knew it was one of the most painful areas, so I wanted to get the pain over with on the first go. I knew I wanted more down the road. Most of my friends thought I was crazy. Getting tattoos is mostly just a bit uncomfortable for me. Depending on what area I’m having tattooed, I have to sit in a specific position so the tattoo artist can do their job to the best of their abilities. On top of that, for some reason, I find the tattoo places are always freezing cold. I don’t know if they have their A/C blasting for a specific reason or if it’s just a normal thing most shops do to help avoid bacteria in the studio… I really should ask about the HVAC system’s affects next time I go in. Last time I got tattooed, I tried a new place thinking the air conditioning problem would be different at a different place… That wasn’t the case at all. I did bring a sweat shirt just in case, and I’m glad because I definitely needed it! I was shivering at one point. Luckily I was getting the tattoo on my leg, so I could wear a sweater! The artist I was with did comment on my coldness… She said she knew the A/C was turned up high and that she was sorry I was so cold. I wanted to just ask her to turn it down, but I was in the last thirty minutes of the tattoo by that point and thought it wasn’t worth it to get into that at that time. I simply vowed that next time I went in, I would say something right off the bat about the A/C. If the A/C can’t be turned down, I want a good reason why. Getting tattooed is uncomfortable enough without having to deal with being freezing as well.

central a/c

Air conditioning at the Movies

I love to go to the movies. I know that nowadays there are so many ways to see movies, and lots of folks do not go to the movies  because it is so much cheaper to stream them or get Netflix or whatever. Even so, I prefer to go to the movies. To me, going to the movies is like a mini vacation. I start watching the movie and I forget about the rest of the world. If I watch a movie at home, I am getting up to do the dishes or the laundry while I watch. I have to let the dog in and out. I notice the dust and start to wipe surfaces. It is no fun. There are only two things about the movies that I do not like. One, it is often way too loud. Sometimes the volume hurts my ears. Second, it is often way too cold. Movie theaters definitely do not skimp on the air conditioning. The a/c thermostat is set way too low in my opinion. I do not like to have to carry a sweater with me when I live in the south and it is July. The managers of the theaters need to cut back on the HVAC. I realize that different people prefer different thermostat settings, but sometimes it is just ridiculous. They could get HVAC zone control or employ other modern HVAC technology if necessary. I feel sure if they got their a/c usage under control, they would be more profitable.

Westerners and their Humidifiers

I am a southerner. I am in love with my air conditioning. Without my a/c, my life would be unbearable. Similar to how I feel about my a/c, many members of my family also love their furnaces. It is hot every day where I live, so I love my a/c. My family that lives up north has a lot of bitterly cold weather, so they are more concerned about having a great furnace. I also have a brother who lives out west. We were all on a conference call together the other day, and soon the conversation turned to what was going on in the homes of everyone. It turns out that both my Uncle Joseph and my brother were recently forced to purchase new HVAc systems for their homes. You should have heard my uncle bragging about all the new efficiency levels of the new furnace. The furnace is so quiet you hardly know it’s there at all. The new furnace is so compact it is just resting in one little corner of the basement. Well, my brother was just as proud of his new humidifier. Yes, out west, almost everyone wants a humidifier. That’s is weird to us because we have mildew growing everywhere most of the time and try to rid ourselves of all that moisture. Out west, though, the air is so dry that people spend more on lotion that on food! Silly me, I’m only kidding, but they do definitely need a good humidifier. So, I just sat back and chuckled as I listened to my two family members go on and on about their new HVAc systems — their new family members!

air quality

The HVAC system here will take some planning

This past winter was especially long and brutal.  The outside temperature dropped down below zero and stayed there for seven months.  It snowed continually, and the windchill was vicious. The furnace ran non stop and I spent a fortune on energy bills.  It seemed I was constantly shoveling snow, scraping ice, and spreading rock salt. I was eager for the weather to finally warm up and the snow to melt.   I couldn’t wait to step outside without bundling up in a million layers of clothes. It was such a relief to finally open some windows in the house and welcome the fresh air.  Over the winter, with the furnace running, I had everything sealed up tight to conserve energy. The house became very dry and musty, and I hoped the fresh air would improve the air quality.  I also enjoyed the break from running the heater and paying such high energy bills. Unfortunately, our spring season lasted for about a week. I had not even had the opportunity to schedule seasonal maintenance from an HVAC contractor before I was forced to start up the air conditioner.  I swear, the outside temperature went straight from twelve degrees to eighty-nine degrees. The heat and humidity were so excessive that I had no choice but to shut all the windows and rely on the cooling system. Once again, I was trapped in the house, depending on the HVAC system and paying excessive energy bills.   Since I did not have the opportunity to have the air conditioner professionally serviced, I wasn’t convinced it was working at its best.

temperature control unit 

Cranking up the a/c in the room

The first time I traveled to a desert was like a whole new planet for me. It was just such a massive climate change that I was completely not ready for.  The closest thing that I could relate it to would be like getting the wind knocked out of you. Granted it wasn’t quite as shocking to the system. Nevertheless, as soon as we drove into the desert there was such a shift in climate that I was not expecting whatsoever. We had an entire day of travel through this god-forsaken place and I was not looking forward to it. By the end of the day, I was just ready to sleep. Unfortunately the air conditioning inside of our car was not quite up to par so it was an excruciating trip. By the time we got to the hotel, I was nearly drenched in sweat. We got into our room and I cranked up the AC. Within minutes,  we were all comfortably cool and we were ready to shower. By the time we actually got out of the shower at the room was freezing cold. I wouldn’t be surprised if I woke up sick with all these drastic temperature changes that I have been facing. I’m thankful either way that the hotel had an adequate air conditioning to keep a school inside of these desert climates. I guess it makes sense as there more accustomed to these hot desert climates than we are. So with the territory Comes The Amazing air conditioning systems. Either way I definitely do not wish to travel out here anytime soon.

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