Tag Archives: summer

Summer (HVAC) Reading: “Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything”

8 Quick AC Facts From the Freezer

Have you ever read a book on air conditioning? Not a manual, but an actual book with a conversational dialogue formulated around the air conditioner – one of mankind’s greatest inventions? Probably not. Well, we have. Bet you never thought you’d find a book report on our site. Well, we’re not going to give you a report so much as give you a few pretty interesting facts that we took away from the read that are all about the air conditioner – the vehicle that keeps us cool during these sticky, hot (and sometimes flat out oppressive) months here in New England.

The book?

“Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything” – by Salvatore Basile

The facts?

Here we go:

  1. In 1736, the English House of Commons in the United Kingdom was cooled by a 7-foot, hand-cranked “blowing wheel,” which essentially was nothing more than a giant fan. The man at the helm of the crank was called the Ventilator.
  2. An anonymous California millionaire was the first person to try using A/C to cool a 6’ x 9’ room in his home in 1892. The room required a false wall to hide the machinery, more of which was placed on the roof – sounds like a typical city commercial install these days…
  3. Two of the earliest known ventilation systems were installed in 1899, in Cornell University’s dissecting rooms (for cadavers), and 1903, at the New York Stock Exchange.
  4. The first known, fully functioning air-conditioned home, was built in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1913. The home was owned by Charles Gates (AKA “Spend-A-Million” Gates), who was the heir to the barbed wire fortune. His mansion took up three city lots, and – just to set the mood a bit more – had gold plumbing. Gates never got to experience the benefits of said air conditioner because, as fate would have it, he died while on a hunting trip before the house was completed.
  5. Since there were no affordable home air conditioning systems back in 1917, movie theater owners would fill seats by marketing their “state-of-the-art” ice cold air conditioned theatres with icicle-covered letters on their advertisements. This type of messaging worked rather well and movie theatres were often at capacity on those simmering summer days.
  6. Herbert Hoover was the first United States President to enjoy air conditioning in the Oval Office. He spent $30,000 on the system, just months after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the start of the Great Depression. True story.
  7. For a basic window A/C unit in the 1940s, you’d spend around $350, which, in today’s money, is almost $3,500.
  8. AND finally, because we’re loyal to our Carrier roots… Founder Willis Haviland Carrier, whose patents and ideas created the first widely popular factory-scale coolers, was so absorbed in creating his air conditioner that he once left for a business trip with a large suitcase in which he had packed nothing but a handkerchief. Now that’s just fun…

We’ll stop there. Lucky for all of us, the technology of air conditioners has improved drastically, and there are many affordable options for all of us to take advantage of. To explore some of those options, and to take comfort during this hot summer season, give Suburban Companies a call today. You’ll be glad you did, and we’d be happy to meet you. Unless of course you’re still happy with that hand-cranked 7-foot wheel in your living room…

Optimizing the Cool: Accenting Your HVAC Equipment During the Hot Summer Months

You know by now that Suburban Companies is in the business of comfort and making sure that our customers’ home and business environment is at an optimal degree. (See what we did there?)

Since we’re smack dab in the middle of summer, we’re going to focus on cooling for a moment. Keeping cool is essential during these long, sunshiny days, and there are ways to further exploit cooler temperatures indoors that help maximize the work that your HVAC unit is doing.

You ready?

Here we go:

Keep the shades drawn

Yeah, we know, it’s nice out, we like to look around at all the lush green grass and vegetation (flowers) that are coming to life and adding a whole bunch of natural beauty to the landscape outside our windows. And while we’re not trying to suggest you shouldn’t take in those sights, we are here to tell you that keeping the blinds/curtains pulled back is heating up the interior of your home or office. We all know that when we’re outside and looking to shave off a degree or two of oppressive heat hitting us from the sun, we seek shade. The same sentiment is true indoors. Creating shade by drawing the, well, shades, is going to drop the internal temperature naturally.

Check the location of your thermostat

If you had your system installed by one of our certified and trusted professionals, you need not worry about this one, but, reality is, this is not the case with everyone reading this… (but hey, contact us if you need information on a new system or need to schedule routine maintenance/service).

Make sure your thermostat isn’t located directly next to a window. Why? Well, quite simply, if you don’t have those (aforementioned) shades drawn (or even if you do), the heat that permeates from your window is going to trigger a warmer response within the operative makeup of your thermostat and “tell it” to turn on and cool things down. Your house may not actually be as warm as what is being read by your thermostat if it’s directly next to the window. Pick a wall that’s at a more centralized position within the room. It’ll make a big difference.

Don’t toss the fan

Listen, we know you’re excited. You’ve got an HVAC system that’s slated to cool the whole house and/or office. And, for all intents and purposes, it will. Some of us get so excited that we ditch the fan (or, let’s be honest, fans – plural) for good. “What do I need it for?” Hey, we get it. It seems like a useless appliance. But that fan, be it a window fan, an standing oscillating unit, or a ceiling fan, can actually accentuate the work your HVAC is doing. If you’ve got a fan circulating on low, it’s going to make the environment around you feel a solid 10 degrees cooler, and, to be completely transparent, a fan uses about 10% of the energy an HVAC unit is going to use. So don’t treat the fan like an inferior part of the family – let it do its thing. The benefits are vast.

The lower the temp, the higher the price

Again, we know you’re excited. So are we. We love installing a new HVAC system for a customer and seeing the look on their face when the initial “fire up” phase kicks in and their home or office is all of a sudden the most comfortable place on earth. We know the feeling. We thrive off of that feeling and reaction. As we mentioned at the start, we take great pride in delivering ultimate comfort. Here’s the skinny, don’t just set the thing on arctic temperatures and assume your going to save a trunkful of cash. There’s saving to be had, for sure, but listen, the lower you set the thermostat the more it’s going to cost you. Keep that in mind. We’re not telling you you shouldn’t, we’re just merely stating that you’ll save more the higher you get up the ticker on the thermostat (when it comes to cooling – heating is an entirely different subject).

In short: set your thermostat to the highest temperature you can stand in the summer months to keep the most coin in your wallet. You can save around 10% (we know, we keep dropping the 10-figure everywhere in this thing…) a year by setting your thermostat 10-15 degrees higher for approximately 8 hours each day. If you’ve got a smart thermostat, you can automatically adjust the temperature of your home or office depending on what time of day it is and how much use a space gets as it pertains to those specific times. Keep that in mind. And if you’re interested in learning more about different thermostats that are available, here’s some light reading material for you.

We’re here when you need us. And if we don’t hear from you, stay cool and take comfort this summer!

The Cool is in the Coils

The Cool is in the Coils

As summer fast approaches, home and business owners everywhere will be reaching for the controls to the air conditioner portion of their respective heating and cooling system. Right? Right.

Quick question: What are you doing for your annual HVAC “checkup”? Are you locked into a service plan yet? Yes? GREAT. No? Well, consider it

Part of that maintenance, especially at this time of year, will be the proper cleaning of the coils that literally “fuel the cool” in your home or office. This is imperative the efficient operative function of your HVAC system – Especially if you live in a more metro area like Boston for instance. The higher amount of potential contaminants in the air, the more buildup is likely to have accumulated on the coils of your air conditioning apparatus.

How do you save money as a home or business owner by keeping the coils clean?

Well, for one, clean coils prevent the overworking of your entire system due to importune grit, grime, and dust. In the long run, this literally helps add to the longevity of your HVAC environment and helps you to avoid system failure – which can (and will) result in a costly repair or the need for completely new heating and cooling system.

Another cost savings that stems from keeping a proactive “cleanly” approach to coils is the immediate cost savings you’ll experience in monthly utility bills. When dirty coils are forced to overwork to achieve optimal performance, more energy is being used. Simple premise. If your air conditioner’s coils are not thoroughly cleaned every year (and in some cases, monthly, depending on your location), you will experience discomfort in your home or office and your energy bills will inevitably be through the roof…

What are your air conditioner’s coils?

Fair question. Perhaps we should have started here, but alas, better late than never, right? In short, the air conditioning portion of your HVAC system contains two sets of coils:

  1. Evaporator coils. The evaporator coils are located in the indoor portion of the cooling solution and are responsible for “absorbing” heat from your home or office’s air and transferring it to the refrigerant element that carries it out of your home.
  2. Condenser coils. The condenser coils are typically located in the outdoor portion of your air conditioner. The condenser coils are responsible for “dumping the heat from the refrigerant element to the air outside.

To a large degree, the coils contained in your HVAC system are tucked inside the system, and, to be honest, are difficult to effectively access and clean on your own. And if you’re a business owner (or manager), you don’t want to be tinkering around with the HVAC system while you should be focusing on other aspects of the business. That’s why we’re here. Cleaning air conditioner coils is a job that’s best left to your friendly service contractor such as the team here at Suburban Companies. Remember that maintenance plan we mentioned before? Well, think about it. This is part of that service. Our goal is to make sure your HVAC system is firing at an optimal level so that your comfort is at a maximum.

Contact us today to learn more, and to sign up for your maintenance service. Learn more about maintenance right here.

Once you’ve got us locked in, you’re free to Take Comfort.

Here’s to the sunny days ahead, and total comfort in your home and/or office!

Hot and Cold: How Your HVAC System Effects Worker Productivity

How Your HVAC System Effects Worker Productivity

Have you ever stopped and wondered for a moment how the heating and cooling environment in your offices helps shape your bottom line? No? Well, it’s time to look into it.

Consider this:

A recent CareerBuilder study found that 53 percent of employees said they were less productive when working in an office that is too cold, and, on the flipside, 71 percent said they were less productive when working in an office that is too warm. That’s straight from the horse’s mouth!

A study conducted a number of years back by Cornell University suggested that a company with compromised environmental comfort was negatively effecting the cost of labor by as much as 10%.

“The results of our study also suggest raising the temperature to a more comfortable thermal zone saves employers about $2 per worker, per hour,” Cornell professor Alan Hedge said in a news statement when the results were released in October 2004. Hedge teaches design and environmental analysis.

The productivity effects of your organization’s HVAC system need to be taken seriously. There are myriad impacts including (but not limited to):

  • Performance decrease when too hot
  • Performance decrease when too cold
  • Performance decrease when air is polluted and unhealthy (for example: greater sick time/leave)
  • Performance decrease when HVAC environment runs loudly (due in part to lack of maintenance, age of system, etc.)
  • Performance decrease when equipment causes vibrations in building (also due in part to lack of maintenance, age of system, etc.)

In short, when your heating and cooling environment is healthy, your work force is healthy (literally and figuratively). When your work force is healthy, it’s better bet that your business is healthy as well.

For a full report on that study:


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Exploring the Ducts: Putting Quality Back into the Air You’re Breathing.

Residential Duct Cleaning

Are you constantly cleaning and dusting around the house? Have you thought of purchasing a “duct-cleaning” to take the dust out of the ductwork?

Do you find the “fresh air” you’re breathing in just doesn’t feel so fresh?

These could be a direct product of improperly installed or aged ductwork, which are jeopardizing the air quality of your home as it gets filtered by your heating and cooling system. How does the dust get into the ductwork?

The average home loses about 30% of the air that circulates through its ducts, causing major inefficiency in your heating or cooling system. This causes a loss of air that you have already paid to heat or cool and causes your HVAC system to work harder to make up for anything that was lost due to the poor seals.

For example, if you have a three ton cooling system with ductwork in the attic. 30% leakage means that you are only delivering two tons of cooling to the space. In addition, that 16 SEER air condition system you’re running now loses 30% of its efficiency.

In fact, of the literally millions of miles of duct work installed in homes throughout the country, industry experts estimate that 90% of them are posing enough of a compromised leak that you are best served to take action. Because isn’t the quality of the air you’re living in important?

Of course it is.

In short: don’t hesitate in taking control of the air that’s filtering around in your home. This issue goes beyond mere temperature. If it isn’t clean, it’s impossible to fully enjoy the comfort you deserve.

Allow us to list a few of the issues you’re going to into if you’re home is suffering from a leaky duct system:

  • Leaks in the ductwork will inevitably cause expensive conditioned air to be dumped into your attic, crawlspace or garage instead of into the house. And that’s not what you intended, right? No. Not at all. That’s an expensive “whoops.”
  • Ductwork leaks pull outside air (hot in summer, cold in winter) into the duct system, which greatly reduces both efficiency and capacity. In humid climates, moist air being drawn into return leaks can (and will) overwhelm the dehumidification capacity of air conditioning systems and cause your home to feel clammy even when your air conditioning system is running. Again, an expensive “whoops.”
  • Heat pumps are particularly susceptible to myriad comfort complaints due to duct leakage. Duct leaks can cause the air coming from your heat pump to feel luke-warm or even cold during the winter (not good). As a form of “remediation,” it has been found that in these instances, there exists an increase in the use of electric strip heaters in heat pumps during the heating season. This is not good. In fact, it’s quite counter-productive.
  • Leaks in ductwork draw air into the house from crawlspaces, garages and attics bringing with it dust, mold spores, insulation fibers and other contaminants. Remember that first question we posed above – you know, the one about constantly cleaning and dusting? – yeah, this is quite possibly why that is happening.

duct-work-dusty-homeYou don’t want to continue down this path… Do you?

Air quality is important. In order to achieve a maximum level of comfort (while offering you a maximum level of energy savings), your system, and the underlying components that work in conjunction with it, need to be operating effectively and efficiently. It’s those satellite components that can get tricky, and are the “silent killers” of energy consumption and cost. Allow a professional to analyze your home, and make the adjustments necessary to keep you running cool and/or warm.

If you are considering a replacement system or just experiencing some of the aforementioned issues, a diagnostic test (duct blast) can be performed to confirm the actual leakage of your ductwork. Many times there are simple repairs to remedy the situation. In some cases the dust is cause by negative pressure in the home causing infiltration through recessed lights and poorly insulated areas. A “blower door” test can be done to verify this condition. Remediation consists of typically adding an ERV (Energy Recovery Ventilator) to bring in fresh air with a program to properly insulate and seal the structure.

Speak to Suburban for assistance with any of these problems. Place your trust in us.

Suburban. Take Comfort.

 

 

 

 

Understanding the Thermostat: How to Take Complete Control over Your Heating and Cooling System

Thermostat

With regard to your heating and cooling system, the hot topic of any season is whether you’re warm or cool enough. In short: Are you comfortable?

The follow up to that question: Is your heating and cooling system providing you with the comfort you long for in an efficient, and cost-effective manner?

Take into consideration that all three of those pieces (comfort, efficiency, and cost) are driven by one single device. What is that device? Please allow us to divulge:

The central force of any heating and cooling system is the control you use to activate it. There are a couple of typical options here:

1. The Classic Dial: The standard option is the thermostat dial that we’ve all seen at one time or another. You turn it to the desired temperature, and, if the temp dips or rises below that mark, your heating and cooling system responds. There are no bells and whistles here. It simply “is what it is.”

2. The Nest: From there the bar rises. One of the hottest trends on the market right now is the “Nest” thermostat. It has roused a cult following and has quickly become the “status symbol” of heating and cooling system controls. The Nest is sleek, and can be accessed and controlled similarly to a standard thermostat, but with a much more dynamic digital interface. It can also be activated remotely through applicable plugins downloadable to your handheld device (such as your phone, tablet, etc.)

When it comes to the temperature of your home (or business), these two options will suffice, but there’s a fundamental flaw that is shared by both of them that you may be overlooking…

Humidity.

There are two basic types of residential heating systems: water based (boiler) and air-based (furnace or heat pump). Residential air conditioning systems are primarily air-based. Your air-based heating and cooling system is made up of two basic components: The furnace and the coil/condenser. The first piece adds heat, the second removes it. Your air-based cooling system is also made up of a fan coil and condenser. The part that both of the aforementioned thermostats don’t deal with when cooling is high-moisture in the air when temperatures are moderate. During the cooling operation, removing moisture is a big piece that supports environmental comfort but the control you may be using isn’t communicating this to your system.

That’s why you need:

3. The Communicating Thermostat: Most commercially available heating and cooling systems have a proprietary communicating thermostat that is specifically designed to get your system working in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. While temperature control is important, so is controlling the humidity in the air. Controlling both with a single device is the ultimate in comfort support. Each “element” of the HVAC system is “controlled” to operate at its optimum level to provide comfort and efficiency based on individual comfort profiles. This is the “smart” technology you’re really looking for.

This technology allows you to control:

  • Humidity levels
  • Fan speed (variable)
  • Temperature settings
  • Ventilation

In addition, the Communicating Thermostat provides internal diagnostic information for each component to proactively fix problems prior to loss of heating or cooling.

The communicating, programmable thermostat allows you manage your heating and cooling system remotely from any handheld device (smartphone, tablet, computer, etc.). You’re saving money, energy, and headache by knowing that your system will be operating at peak performance. With a basic thermostat or the Nest product you only have the ability to turn your heating and cooling system on and off. With a Communicating Thermostat you’ve gained the ability to take full control of your environment – and that equals maximum comfort.

Contact us today to learn more!

Introducing Ecovent

Environmental Web

EcoVentIn most homes, the heating and cooling system is controlled by a wall-mounted thermostat that is typically located at a convenient and easily-accessible spot within one of the main living areas. Makes sense right? It’s something that gets used a lot, so why not put it somewhere that’s easy to get to? There’s only one issue with this – something that unless you’ve been told, you probably never thought about.

Here’s a little secret about thermostats: they can only sense the air temperature at their exact location.

To better explain, imagine this – You’re in the study doing some reading. It’s freezing. You go out of the room and walk down the hallway to the thermostat. It tells you that it’s 73. Well, it may be 73 in the hallway, but it sure isn’t 73 in the study…

This type of situation is not uncommon. In fact, the typical residential home has an average of a 7-degree difference in temperature between floors. Cold spots, hot spots, and inconsistency is one of the most common problems in heating and cooling.

While you may be tempted to use a space heater or window air conditioner to remedy those spots, there is a better solution.

Enter Ecovent.

Ecovent enables you to achieve maximum control over your heating and cooling system to eliminate the “problem spots” that are currently a struggle to keep at the perfect temperature. With Ecovent, you can easily install (or even retrofit) your home’s existing vents with an intelligent zoning system that will cover every room in the house.

So how does it work?

Well, it’s simple really. The Ecovent system includes three simple components:

  1. A standard wall outlet sensor that reads and controls the environment of the room per your settings as specified via the central Smart Hub unit.
  2. The Smart Hub is controlled through a mobile application that you can download and access with any handheld device (your smart phone, tablet, computer, etc.). Your Smart Hub dynamically communicates with your existing WiFi powered thermostat to send signals to either open or close the vents in the areas in which the Ecovent has been installed. (If you don’t have a “smart” thermostat, don’t worry, we can help you out with options to obtain one).
  3. Vents which are installed wirelessly. They’re powered by 4 AA batteries, which last 3-5 years. Don’t worry, when the batteries are low, an alert will be sent right to your device.

full_stack_square_webEcovent is the prime solution for effectively and efficiently providing the different “zones” in your home with exactly what you need to achieve maximum comfort. It literally puts room-by-room comfort in the palm of your hand.

Give us a call today to discuss any questions you might have regarding the Ecovent system. We’re happy to schedule a consult, and have you up and running in no time at all.

Ecovent: Built by rocket scientists (literally) to deliver real comfort you can feel. This system is taking smart heating and cooling to the next level.

Contact us today for more information (or for any questions you may have)!

Are you proactive or reactive?

It’s a fair question to pose. Think about it. If you’re an organization looking for cost savings, you ought to lean more towards the proactive end. If you’re a gambler, or just don’t know any better, reactive is probably where you’re at in your operative energy strategy. We suggest you at least think about minimizing the risk, and are happy to talk through it with you and offer helpful suggestions.

Here’s the thing, a reactive approach to maintenance could wind up costing you 3 to 5 times more over the lifespan of your heating and/or cooling system. Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you have a time set aside for the downtime that will be required to service an ill functioning HVAC system?
  • Do you have time set aside to take a hit to your revenues due to be closed for business because of your HVAC system?
  • Do you have the measurement of loss built into your bottom line that occurs when your working environment falters and productivity takes a nosedive?
  • Can you tell when any of these things are about to happen due to an aging, unmanaged system?
  • Do you know how much money you’re about to lose if you lose the gamble that your HVAC system is going to be operatively sound for eternity?

We’re going to ask you again:

Are you proactive, or reactive?

If you’re still leaning towards reactive, we hope you have a very deep wallet, and a backup plan in place in the event something catastrophic happens to your business.

Truth be told, we are here for you at any hour of the day, any day of the week. But we would rather be visiting you for routine service to help your system run at its best, to save you money. Because we know that being proactively conscious of how to make your HVAC system a highly efficient, highly effective operating entity is greatly beneficial to you from an all-encompassing business standpoint.

In short: the proactive approach of HVAC maintenance requires careful planning and forward thinking – saving you time, money, and headaches. Reactive thinking is the most costly way to maintain your building’s HVAC system.

Ready to be proactive?

Here’s what we can offer you with a management contract for your HVAC needs:

  • Existing equipment evaluations – Transparency is the best policy.
  • Suggestions for appropriately planned installs where applicable.
  • Suggestions for appropriately planned maintenance schedules.
  • Budgetary planning advice and estimating for energy initiatives.
  • Scheduling of work at times that is most conducive to not being intrusive to your business operations.

Response. Expertise. Dependability. Suburban.

Take comfort in knowing that we’re here for you.