Friday, February 1, 2019

Room-By-Room Home Audit - Part 3, The Mechanical Room

We are continuing our series on making your home more efficient and comfortable.

Last time we went through items in the kitchen. Now we are moving to the mechanical room, which is just a fancy term for where your items like the furnace and water heater are located. These items can make a large impact on the efficiency of the home. Here are a few ways to improve:

1.     Heating (furnace)/Air Conditioner Unit: Sure it would be great if everyone went out and replaced their unit with a high-efficiency one. We know that is not a practical solution but there are ways to increase the efficiency of your current one:
a.     Have your unit serviced by a professional. They will be able to make sure it is operating at optimal efficiency as well as prolong the life.
b.     Change Air Filters regularly. This will be dependent on how often the unit is running but a good rule of thumb is to change them at least every 3 months. An easy way to remember is to change them every season.
c.      Check the thermostat. While this is technically not located in the mechanical room, we are including it here because it controls the items in this room. Installing a programmable thermostat or a smart thermostat can really impact your heating and cooling costs. These thermostats will adjust to your living, keeping the home comfortable while you are there and then adjusting the temperature and energy usage when you are away.
d.     If it is time to replace your unit, make sure you talk to your installer about the efficiency of what they want to replace it with.  You might need to spend a little more up front, but considering how much your HVAC system is used, that extra money spent for a more efficient unit will more than pay itself off in the long run.
2.     Water Heater: As with the furnace, it would be great if everyone replaced their water heater with a high-efficiency one but again that might not be practical. Here are some things you can do:
a.     Set the temperature to 120 degrees or lower. This way the heater is not overheating the water – wasting energy.
b.     Many new water heaters have significant insulation built into the unit. If you have an older one, consider wrapping the unit with an approved insulating product (usually available at your local home improvement center).
c.      Turn the temperature down when you are away. If you are going on vacation, turn the heater to the lowest setting. Just remember to turn it back up once you return.
d.     Insulate hot water pipes. This will reduce the amount of time and water you need to run before you get hot water.
e.     If it is time to replace your unit, make sure you talk to your installer about the efficiency of what they want to replace it with. Like the furnace, you might need to spend a little more up front, but considering how much your water heater is used, that extra money spent for a more efficient unit will more than pay itself off in the long run.
f.      HVAC Joke – Don’t call it a Hot Water Heater, just refer to it as a water heater. If you do call it a “Hot Water Heater”, you will get the reply – “If it is already hot water, why do you need a heater?”
3.     Fresh Air: Newer homes are being built to a much higher insulation level – this is a good thing. You might hear it called a “Tight” house. Basically, it means that drafts are eliminated. While this is very good for the heating and cooling of the home, it presents a problem for bringing fresh air into the home. In tight homes, a source of fresh air is needed. Many builders are bringing that fresh air in through the mechanical room. Some units utilize the HVAC system, some work independently (such as the Air King FAS and QFAM units). Things to look for in fresh air or make-up air systems include:
a.     What is the efficiency? These units run continuously or for large parts of the day, so you want to make sure the energy being used is minimum.
b.     How does the unit bring the air into the home? Does it need the HVAC to be running? This can be a big one. Even with higher efficiency HVAC units, the fan used to push the air through the home can be very inefficient so if the unit bringing the fresh air in needs to kick this on to operate, it can reduce the overall efficiency.
c.      What type of controls are in place? Does the unit have systems in place that limit the temperature of the air coming in (too cold or too hot)? The Air King QFAM has a controller that can be set for temperature and humidity levels.

Don’t miss our next post when we will take a look at other areas of the home.

To learn more about ways to make your home more efficient, saving money and energy, visit

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Room-By-Room Home Audit - Part 2, The Kitchen

We are continuing our series on making your home more efficient and comfortable. Last time we went through items in the bathroom. Now we are moving to the kitchen.

The kitchen is full of opportunities to save energy with the appliances making up the largest source of energy usage. Here are a few ways to improve:

Refrigerator: If it is time to replace your refrigerator, look for an ENERGY STAR certified one. These can save a considerable amount of energy/money, even up to $75 per year. Also make sure to recycle your old fridge. If replacing your fridge is not in the cards right now there are steps you can take to improve your current one.
  1. Keep your coils clean. Vacuum them regularly and make sure there is a gap between the back of the fridge and the wall to lessen the build-up of dust and debris on the coils.
  2. Minimize the number of times you open the doors. Also minimize the amount of time the kids sit there with the door open staring blankly into the fridge looking for who knows what.
  3. Keep the fridge full – sounds odd, but a full fridge retains cold better than an empty one.

Range: With a range, it is more about organizing your usage.
  1. Use the appropriate size burner for your need.
  2. When baking, minimize the number of times you open the door. Each time you open it, a considerable amount of heat is lost.
  3. Organize your task to minimize the energy usage. If you have multiple things to bake in a day, do them all at once while the oven is already pre-heated.
  4. Don’t have items on the cook top longer then they need to be. Things like boiling water – once it is to temperature make sure to get the items you are cooking in right away instead of wasting energy.

Dishwasher: As with the fridge, if it is time to replace, look for an ENERGY STAR certified one. ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers can reduce the amount of water you use by almost 4,000 gallons over the lifetime of the dishwasher. Other ways to optimize the dishwasher are:
  1. Only run the dishwasher when it is full. Sort of goes without saying but we are going to go ahead and say it.
  2. Keep the dishwasher’s jets clean. Clogged jets will reduce the effectiveness and cause the need to re-wash items.
  3. Use the cycle that you need. If a shorter cycle is all you need, use it.

Range Hood: Yes, we know many people don’t think about the range hood in the kitchen but we are a ventilation company so we think about it everyday! As with other appliances, if it is time to replace, look for an ENERGY STAR certified hood. Here are a few other ways to improve the efficiency of your hood:
  1. Keep it clean. Regularly clean the grease filters of the hood. Dirty and clogged filters will reduce the efficiency of the hood.
  2. If it has a light, replace the bulb with a LED.
  3. Use It! Many people are tempted to not use the range hood – mostly due to the sound level (by the way there are really quiet ones now). This is a huge mistake. When cooking, the kitchen is full of contaminates that are just not good for you. If you are not ventilating them out of the home, that means you are breathing them in.

In addition to the above items also read our last post regarding the lighting and windows, as these can also be places to improve your efficiency and comfort.

Don’t miss our next post when we will take a look at the mechanical room.

To learn more about ways to make your home more efficient, saving money and energy, visit

Monday, December 3, 2018

Room-By-Room Home Audit - Part 1, The Bathrooms

When is the last time you sat and thought about your home’s efficiency or comfort? If you answered never, don’t worry you’re not alone. Efficiency can be something we just don’t think about or we put to the back of the project list. It can also be a bit overwhelming for some. That is where we are here to help.

Over the course of the next few blog posts we will be going through the home room-by-room to see if there are things that could be done to improve the comfort and/or efficiency. Let’s start in the bathroom.

Bathrooms are typically one of the smaller rooms of the home, but can have a big impact. Here are a few things to look at:
  1. Lighting: what type of bulbs do you have installed? Switching to ENERGY STAR certified LEDs could save up to 90% in energy costs. When choosing a LED make sure to choose one that fits your lighting needs. For instance you might want to choose one that is closer to natural light rather than a warm light, especially if you will be doing things like applying make-up.
  2. Toilet: Yes we are going to talk about a toilet. A feature that is gaining popularity is a dual flush. These toilets can do a half flush and a full flush. We won’t go into the details of when to use which one but it is fairly self-explanatory. Regardless, using this feature can save up to 4,000 gallons of water a year per toilet. If a new toilet is not an option, there are many water saving devises that you can add to an existing one. These devices generally displace water so not as much is wasted each time you flush.
  3. Shower: Here is a little bit of a tougher one. Low flow showerheads are a great way to save water. The issue is not everyone appreciates them. Spa like showers with multiple showerheads don’t necessarily align with low flow and saving water. This falls into the category of weighing the savings and comfort.
  4. Windows: Yes the windows. Do you have a window or two in the bathroom that is a major source of drafts. You might want to consider replacing it with an ENERGY STAR certified one. ENERGY STAR certified windows are better insulated and reduce condensation, a major source of mold, as well as reduce heat loss making the bathroom feel warmer. The draft coming from the window can have residual effects. First is the obvious draft that impacts your comfort as you come out of the shower. Now if you are raising the temperature in the home because of the drafts, you are now using more energy. If replacing the window is not an option, adding a supplemental heat source might be a solution. While this will add to the energy usage, it is generally less than raising the temperature of the entire home for just one room.
  5. Ventilation: The best ventilation will remove moisture and odor in the most efficient way possible. This is an area of function and efficiency needing to co-exist to provide a healthy living area. Utilizing an ENERGY STAR certified exhaust fan is a great start. These will use considerably less energy than a standard unit. From there, using fans that have automated features like a humidity and/or motion sensor are a great way to ensure the proper amount of ventilation is happening. While some might say not to use a fan because it is taking conditioned air out of the home, that would be a major mistake as the consequences such as mold, mildew and more are not worth it.

Don’t miss our next post when we will take a look at the kitchen.

To learn more about ways to make your home more efficient, saving money and energy, visit

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Close it up for Winter – Tips to Save Energy and Money This Winter

Winter is quickly approaching and for many areas of the United States that means a significant bump in energy usage – and more money. Thankfully there are some ways to combat the rising bills.

1.     Lighting: Shorter days means more time with lights on. Saying to keep all the lights turned off in the house just isn’t practical but you can make a big impact with a simple switch of bulbs. Changing to an ENERGY STAR® certified LED bulb rather than a typical incandescent bulb can save over 80% (100 Watt – 16 Watt LED).  If you replace 10 bulbs that are on for an average of 5 hours a day, that is a savings of over 4,200 watts per day. Over a 3 month time that is about 378,000 watts.
2.     Heating: Here is a tough one. Yes, you have heard it a thousand times, turn down the thermostat and you will save a bunch of energy and money. While that is very true, you still want to be comfortable and not have to wear a winter jacket inside of your home. Programmable thermostats are a great option as they allow you to adjust the temperature at night or when you are outside the home. Smart thermostats let you control everything from your phone. Another idea is to use supplemental heat such as a portable heater for the most occupied rooms or an installed heater certified for bathroom usage allowing you to keep the rest of the home cooler. Always make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for usage.
3.     Insulation: Check if you have enough insulation in your home. Think of it like a jacket for your house. You wouldn’t go out in a T-Shirt when it is 5 degrees out. Okay, before the letters start coming in – MOST people would not go out in a T-shirt. You would want to put a heavy winter coat on. The same holds true for you house. The insulation is basically the jacket. If it doesn’t have enough, you will have drafts and your heater will have to work extra hard to keep the temperature. Most of the time the money you spend to insulate will be easily made up on energy savings. To see what you need, visit
4.     Find the drafts: Eliminating drafts from you home will greatly improve your efficiency and energy consumption. There are qualified professionals that will do an energy audit on your home. We wish we could say they are free but unfortunately unless it is a friend that owes you a favor, there is a cost to it. A simple and some may consider it a fun way to find drafts is to walk around the house with a small candle. As the flame encounters a draft you will see it flicker. Hopefully the problem isn’t so bad it blows the flame out. It is best to do this when there is a breeze outside, as this will provide an easier way for you to see where the air is coming in. Once you have identified the drafts you can then address what to do.

BONUS TIP: Don’t be lead astray - There is a lot of information out there that is almost dangerous. Especially when it come to exhaust fans and kitchen ventilation. Articles will say to not use any ventilation as it removes conditioned air, causing high bills. Being Air King is a ventilation company, we like to think we know a thing or two about the subject. As with most misguided information, there is a little bit of truth in there. Yes taking conditioned air out of the home does mean it needs to be replaced with more conditioned air. Here is the issue. When you properly ventilate the home, you are removing harmful – yes harmful air from the home. Air that is carrying carcinogens from the cooking surface, moist air that if not ventilated will cause mold and mildew growth in the bathrooms and so forth. So it comes down to balancing the energy usage verses the health of the home. A good step is to use the speed controls on your ventilation units. If you are just warming up some soup on the cook top you probably don’t need to crank the range hood up to it’s highest setting. Think of it this way. If you have a fireplace, you wouldn’t even think about keeping the chimney closed when you had a fire going. It wouldn’t take long for the entire home to be filled with smoke. However, by opening the chimney, you are allowing conditioned air to escape. It becomes the benefits of having a fire to provide heat verses the negative of loosing conditioned air.

Learn more about how to save on your energy bills at