Unseen Electrical Danger
Though only 41 :), I have learned in my short life that it is often the unseen dangers of life that can bring great ruin. In fact as I write this article a close friend is lying in the hospital having fought the unseen disease of cancer and is now fighting an unseen infection in the brain. These problems whether they be diseases in the body or dangers in the home, can lie dormant and unseen for sometime before the destructive results become noticeable.
One of these dangers in the home is the old fuse type breakers panels (pictured below). Due to the manner in which they were designed, these panels are notorious for loose connections that cause heat over time. Each appliance, computer, light, etc. in your home utilizes power or amperage drawn from the power company through the panel box to operate. The Electrical panel ultimately exists to protect you and your home/property. If the amperage exceeds the amp rating of the wire that is connected to it, the fuse is designed to “blow” for protection. However, in many cases where these panels exists heat increases in the panel behind the cover unseen by the homeowner or in some cases the residence. Typically there are 2 reasons for the increase in heat:
1) Loose connections at the fuse themselves – The clips on the fuses over time can become loose causing a bad connection resulting in higher amperage thus the presence of heat.
2) Improper sizing of fuses – When fuses “blow” in these panels the resident’s are usually unaware of the cause, thus they will often intentionally or unintentionally install a larger fuse. In the intentional cases they due so thinking the larger fuse will not “blow” unaware that the size of the fuse is in accordance with the capacity of the wire. The fuse then allows more amperage on the wire than its design which results in the presence of heat. Unintentionally they purchase the “only fuses they could find at the hardware store.” In either case the fuse is larger than it should be which can allow the presence of heat. WARNING: either scenario will eventually cause a fire if proper attention is not given.
The presence of heat is unseen due to it being hidden behind the panel cover. Pictured below is a panel we recently replaced. Notice in the full picture of the panel there is no sign of noticeable danger; however, the picture of the fuse tells a different story. Heat was increasing in the panel and was an unseen danger.
We recommend having the panel thoroughly checked and in most cases replaced. Breaker panels are much more safe due to the safer design. Loose connections are limited in addition to breakers indicating heat and tripping at a safer rate. Be safe and have your panel serviced for possible Unseen Electrical Dangers.
The Value of Planned Replacement
We as homeowners are the best at procrastinating when it comes to spending our cash on necessary applicances and home repairs. The old adage to “fail to plan is to plan to fail” indeed describes how many of us fail at budgeting (a.k.a planning ) for repairs. Studies show that standard Residential Heating & Air Conditioning equipment, if maintained properly, has a life span of 12-15 yrs. As is everything that is man made, there is an expiration date from the time you purchase & install. Wisdom instructs us to plan for those particularly large financial investments that often do, but should not, take us off guard ending in high anxiety. Residential Heating & Air equipment replacement ranges from $5,500-$15,000! Who enjoys receiving the surprising word that you will have to spend this amount of money. NO ONE! In fact, we typically make rash, uninformed decisions when “taken off guard.” These decisions may also be short-sighted as we tend to make them hastily. High percentages of Residential Heating & Air systems need more than merely changing the equipment; however, in the Heat of the summer or the Cold of the Winter we just want it done quickly to provide immediate relief. Wisdom knows that there is great value in planning your replacement. The list below provides some valuable insight as to why we as homeowners should plan our replacement.
1) Planning leads to our budgeting which leads to our saving for the necessary investment – wise planning will result in saving the cash you need to replace your equipment. $15,000 saved over the course of 5 yrs. equals $250/mnth. Yes, $15,000 is usually very highly efficient equipment (what I recommend for energy savings & comfort) and possibly changing the duct work; however, this is a good number to aid in planning. This relieves the anxiety of the surprise replacement.
2) Planning for your replacement means you can schedule at your convenience – most replacements happen when it is extremly cold or hot. This can leave you & your family without for a period of time due to the busyness of contractors and other factors. However, if you plan your replacement such can be done in milder weather rather than in the “rush” of life’s circumstances.
3) Planning for your replacement means taking advantage of “off-season” deals – due to the milder seasonal weather here in the south, manufacturers as well as contractors have planned sales events that last 2-4 months. As with any business, they must plan to stay busy in the slow seasons. One way of doing so is to provide great sales & discounts that will not be available when everyone is extremely busy. Take advantage of these sales that can save you from $4oo-$1500 depending on the manufacturer or contractor. While I cannot speak for other contractors, we pass the savings from the manufacturer on to you which can save you loads.
4) Planning your replacement can result in making an informed decision – newer systems save money due to their energy efficiency (which will be discussed in a later post) & replacing/sealing necessary duct work (also discussed later) will also provide increased savings & comfort. Often these items are overlooked or ignored in the “rush of life” or “rash decisions.” Planning to replace in a slow season will enable you to make an informed decision that will lead to a wise investment.
The value of planning your Heating & Air Condition equipment replacement has more value than is listed here; however, these will highlight some solid reasons to plan ahead. Do your research now. Discover through a trained contractor how old your system is and what shape it is in. Have them provide an overall analysis & replacement estimate (which we do for free) so you can plan your replacement & reap great benefits!
The Value of Variable
The technological age has dawned impacting every industry in some significant way. I remember the days of dial up internet when you could walk away from the screen, make a pot of coffee and cook breakfast only to return and wait a few more minutes for the World Wide Web to appear. Recently we have been informed that if your Mobile Page does not load in 3 seconds, the searcher will look elswhere. Not to mention that 20 yrs. ago a cell phone was owned by only a select few and worked in limited areas. The same goes for the HVAC industry. Technological advancement has vastly changed how we heat and cool homes from the accuracy of tempearture to increased energy efficiency.
A very beneficial development to our industry that adds much value is that of the Variable Speed unit. Most manufacturers are now producing their own model of a complete Variable Speed unit. Trane’s model is called the TruComfort System and comes in both an 18 and 20 SEER (Seasonal Energy Effcient). Prior to the Variable Speed unit, manufacturers were producing 2 stage compressors to provide great comfort and high efficient operation. With the dawn of the Variable Speed unit the comfort has become more precise and the efficiency is even greater.
So, what is the Variable Speed Unit? Variable Speed units utilize motors (both indoor & outdoor) and compressors that can vary in speeds anywhere from 10% to 100% of its capacity to adjust the operation of the unit to fit the Heat/Cool load of your home or business. Conjointly Variable Speed units also use metering devices and computerized thermostats to work in tandem with the motors to vary the capacity of the entire system. This enables more precise control as well as high efficient operation. Comparitively speaking, prior to the Variable Speed Unit, systems were 2 speed at best meaning they had 2 stages of variation. The Variable Speed, particularly Trane, boasts some 750 stages or variations achieving greater comfort and efficiency. This ability to “Vary” the capacity is where the unit receives its name – Variable Speed.
The Question then is “what is the value of the Variable Speed Unit?” Or, why should I invest in a Variable Speed Heat Pump, AC, and/or Gas Furance? The value question has become one of my family’s premier questions due to our desire to be wise stewards of our finances. Here are 4 points of value that warrant your investment in a Variable Speed Unit:
1) Provides Excellent Comfort – due to the Variable Speed units ability to vary air flow and refrigerant flow, its capacity to proivde comfort is heads above the rest. The ability for the unit to vary according to load causes the unit to run longer thus be more precise in temperature and maintain that temperature. The VS is able to respond quickly to load changes. We as professional Heating and Air contractors are tasked with determining what size (tonnage) unit your home/office needs in order to maintain comfortability on the average hottest and coldest day. The often held idea of “Bigger is better” does not ring true in our industry. In fact aversizing can be disastrous. Professionals utilize a standard program or method of load calculation to design your system. Now you and I both know that in NC it does not stay 95-100 degrees all Spring/Summer, thus the AC load in the summer changes from day to day with the weather. We have to size the unit to handle the hottest average day (say 95 degrees), but the average day may be 85 degreess. Unlike standard single speed units, the Variable Speed can vary its capcaity based on the demand or load of the house which results in a more comfortable house on both the hot and mild days.
2) High Efficient Operation – due to the low starting amps of the compressor as well as the low energy usage of variable speed motors, the Variable Speed Units offer very High Efficient operation. On a 3T single speed unit operating on a mild day (when your house/business only needs 1.5T), the entire 3T operates so you are paying for what you do not need. The Variable Speed Unit adjusts its capacity only using what it needs, thus you are only paying for what you need. This results in High Energy Efficient operation.
3) Possesses the Inherit ability to Dehumidify – the varying capabilty of the VS Unit enables it to provide dehumidification that single speed units cannot. The VS unit slows the fan speed down and adjusts the compressor & outdoor motor to vary the refrigerant for healhty operation. Due to the air moving slower across a cold evaporator coil, more water can be removed from the air dehumidifying the space. The hot humid days of summer are easily combated by the VS units ability to dehumidify, thus resulting in a more comfortable living and working space.
4) Quiet Operation – the VS unit design enables quiet operation. The days of talking loud on the back porch in an effort to overcome the loud AC unit are over. VS units operate at low db’s thus providing a more pleasing operating experience for the homeowner/business owner.
The technological age, though at times a bit overwhelming for me :), has afforded us the opporutnity to advance in many ways. One of those ways is how we provide comfort in the HVAC industry. The VS unit is a valuable investment for it utilizes the highest technology to provide Excellent comfort with high efficient operation at a low sound level. When investing in an HVAC unit, remember to invest in value.
Small Steps = Great Rewards
The consumption of energy is both necessary to our living standards and cultural progression. Maintaining the balance between progression of culture and stewardship of the environment can be trifling. I, for one, am convinced that God created the world in which we live to thrive and progress; however, He simultaneously commanded us to be “good stewards” of His Creation. Participating in wise stewardship involves our commitment as homeowners and business owners to be conscientious of our energy consumption while seeking out ways to advance the culture in a energy-wise manner. Energy conservation often carries the uninteded thought of “difficult” or “costly” measures to be Energy-wise. However, in truth some simple steps can be taken that can reap great rewards when striving to be Energy-wise and Progressively minded. The following article provides some tips for businesses, which include supportive studies, to take some small steps that result in high ROI’s when being energy conscious. Practice both wise stewardship of Creation and wise cultural progression by giving attention to one of the following tips.
Preparing for Extended Winter Temps
Though weather can be a bit unpredictable, we thankfully have weather systems that gather data and project most likely outcomes that we may prepare. AccuWeather exists as one of those systems aiding home and business owners in planning for what lies ahead. AccuWeather has indicated that we in the East will experience an extended winter “as cold and snowy conditions extend into Spring 2017.” The US Energy Information Administration or EIA supports this when stating that “Most U.S. households can expect higher heating expenditures this winter (October through March) compared to last winter, according to EIA’s Winter Fuels Outlook.” Extended cold winters cause higher heating bills whether using gas or electric due to systems having to run longer to overcome the heat loss of the home or business. Furthermore, heating systems that are under-maintainenced cause even more costly bills due to the equipments inability to perform at peak performance. For instance, a 16SEER Heat Pump with a 9 HSPF (Heating efficiency rating) ceases to be this efficient when the coils are dirty or the refrigerant charge is low due to a leak. The combination of both an extended winter and poorly maintained equipment results in a costly winter.
What is the solution? Preparation. Though the temperatures in many ways for our area have been unusually warm, it seems that the cold weather is coming and it is coming to stay; therefore, we must prepare for the long haul. How then are we to prepare? Below are some tips to aid you in preparing for the “Extended Winter Temps.”
- If you use propane gas, check your tanks fuel level! – we receive numerous service calls every winter that result in the tank being empty. It is easy forget how fast the fuel can go on really cold days, especially when those days are continuously cold for an extended period of time.
- Check your air filter monthly! – Even if you have a habit of changing it every three months, remember that extended run times cause the filter to catch more particles resulting in dirty filters. A dirty filter creates system strain and inefficient operation resulting in high energy bills
- Check windows, doors, etc. for air leakage! – how much your system operates is directly relative to how much heat your home looses. Air leaks create unwanted air changes thus causing your system to operate more often and for longer periods of time.
- Inspect insulation in attic and crawlspace! – fallen down insulation is useless insulation. When insulation falls it ceases to provide the necessary barrier to stop the heat from transferring to the outdoors. Inspect the attic and the crawlspace to ensure all insulation is entact. If no insulation exist, we strongly encouarge installing insulation.
- Call your local Heating Specialists and have your system serviced! – having your system serviced by a professional prevents breakdowns in the middle of the cold as well as enables the system to work at its peak performance saving you cash!
The Cold Weather is coming. Be prepared! Hope this helps you stay warm at the lowest cost possible for your home this winter.
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