When buying a home you expect to have a solid HVAC system that works, especially if you’ve done a home inspection. While a general Home Inspector has a lot of knowledge, they are not specialists in HVAC. We explain what to look for in an HVAC system when buying a new home in our latest infographic:
Work From What You Have
Making renovations to your home can make your house more comfortable and more valuable. There are a lot of different ways to renovate your home, so you want to make sure you are using your time and energy wisely. By looking at what your house already has and thinking about the internal structural systems, you can renovate your home in a cost-effective manner.
Before making improvements to your home, there are several issues you need to consider. First, be sure to think about what you already have in your home. If your home only has one bathroom, adding another bathroom instead of a bedroom can significantly increase the value of your home. You can also consider what the other houses in your neighborhood have. You don’t have to make your home exactly like every other home in your area, but you can use what other people have as a guide to ways you might renovate your home. Looking at your neighborhood can also help you avoid adding too much and pricing your home out of your neighborhood. Additionally, be sure to think about if you plan to move in a few years or if you want to stay where you are. If you plan to stay for a few years, make the renovations the kind of renovations that you would use the most. After all, if you’re spending time and money renovating your home, you should be able to enjoy it.
Most Valuable Upgrades
While areas such as bathrooms and kitchens get the most attention during renovation plans, avoid skipping the infrastructure areas of the house, such as furnace or heating systems. Think of these systems as what provides support for more visual renovations. These areas aren’t as easily seen, but they are appreciated by potential buyers. Because infrastructure replacement and treatment can be very expensive, potential homebuyers will show more interest on a home that already has these issues addressed rather than one with mere cosmetic changes. Another benefit of working on infrastructure is that you will be remodeling without adding floor space to you home. Adding floor space can provide a lot of opportunities for new ideas, but it will be more expensive than working within your current floor plan because it requires adding in foundations, walls, and other expensive pieces of infrastructure.
Think About Efficiency
For any remodeling, consider looking at improvements that, once installed, will have low maintenance and energy efficiency. This is where addressing issues such as heating and cooling can give you a lot of benefits. One way to do this is by installing a ductless cooling/heating system. The ductless system provides heating and cooling that is cheaper to maintain than traditional systems. This system can also provide heating and cooling services with a simple switch of airflow. Ductless cooling is more efficient than traditional systems energy is not lost through joints in a duct. There can be more opportunities to fit a ductless system to the size of your home to avoid wasting money on more cooling system than you need. While the system can be more expensive to install than traditional systems, the energy efficiency and easy maintenance make up for the initial investment.
Another area to consider renovating is the outside of the house. This is the first thing that potential buyers see, so this is one area that definitely benefits from attention. Adding vinyl or foam-back vinyl siding provides an attractive and easily maintained outside appearance. You can also look at landscaping and lawn maintenance choices to further boost your home’s profile. Roofing is also an area that can provide a nice return.
While a renovation to your home can be a long and expensive process, you can gain some returns on the investment. By focusing on what you already have and making the infrastructure better, you can assure potential buyers that your house is a good investment for their future.
In our homes today, we may have appliances wasting our money, chemicals robbing us of our health, and poor indoor air quality. We can turn things around into a safer, healthier, energy efficient home with tips from our latest infographic:
Which Insulation is Right for your Home?
Insulation is like your home’s favorite sweater in winter and shade tree in summer. Choosing the right type of insulation not only affects your comfort, but also determines your home’s utility bills and overall energy efficiency. Let’s take a look at how insulation works and the best type of insulation for your home.
Insulation and Heat Flow
Heat flow is the main reason you might feel uncomfortable in your home. It describes the natural tendency for heat to move from warm objects to cooler objects. In the summer, heat flow causes the hot air from outside to leak inside. In the winter, the warmth in your living spaces moves to unheated basements, attics, garages, and outdoors.
Heat flow involves three basic mechanisms:
Conduction is the way heat moves through objects, like how heat from coffee moves through the mug to your hand.
Convection describes how heat circulates through gases and liquids. It’s why cool air sinks and warm air rises.
Radiant heat describes heat that travels in a straight line, warming anything solid in its path.
Most forms of insulation operate by hampering conductive and convective heat. Insulation’s resistance to conductive heat is measured by its R-value. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating effectiveness.
Batt or blanket insulation is the most common form of insulation and comes in large rolls or chunks. Batts are made from flexible fibers, most commonly fiberglass and cotton, though you can find blanket insulation made from:
- Mineral wool
- Plastic fiber
- Sheep’s wool
As effective as batts can be, they often have trouble filling a space. Insulation works best when it completely fills a space. Gaps, compression, voids, or otherwise incompletely filled areas are equivalent to air leaks in your walls or around your doors. Batts also don’t do well when they have to compete with other things inside the walls—framing, wires, exhaust fans, electrical junction boxes, lighting.
Loose-fill or blown-in insulation comprises small particles of foam, fiber, or other materials. Thanks to the smaller form, blown-in insulation can conform to any space without disturbing the structural foundation. The most common types of materials include fiberglass, cellulose, and mineral wool made from rock or slag, all of which are made from recycled waste:
- Fiberglass contains 20-30% recycled glass
- Cellulose comprises recycled newspaper
- Mineral wool is produced using 75% post-industrial recycled content
Of these, cellulose tends to have the higher R-value per inch, meaning you’ll ultimately need less of it.
This form of insulation is installed via a hose that blows the particles into the attic empty space—hence, blown-in insulation. This method allows you to fill in any gaps and create a complete layer of insulation that ensures full protection from heat flow.
Spray On Insulation
Sprayed foam insulation comprises a liquid compound that expands and hardens as it dries to create an effective barrier against heat flow. The most common types of liquid foam insulation include:
These foaming agents don’t contain CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), or other chemicals that can damage the earth’s ozone layer.
Sprayed foam insulation can have twice the R-value per inch of traditional batt insulation, but the real advantage comes with the method of installation. The consistency of the foam allows it to fill even the smallest cavities. As it cures, the foam compounds conform to the shape of the cavity, creating an effective air barrier to prevent leakage.
Determining what type of insulation is right for you involves several factors. Where do you want it installed? What R-value do you want to achieve? You also have to take into account overall lifecycle costs, impact on indoor air quality, and ease of installation. If you’re not sure, get some professional advice from a Bob Jenson Air Conditioning & Heating.
Heating and air conditioning is all about changing the uncomfortable environment within your home to a temperature and humidity level that feels right to you. But why does your home become uncomfortable in the first place? Many times air leaks are the culprit. Most San Diego homes leak air, some more than others. Our latest infographic shows how you can do away with this problem and give your comfort system a fighting chance.
Breaking Down Water Heater Issues
To most of us, the internal mechanics of our water heaters are a bit of a mystery. Thus when they stop functioning correctly, we are at a loss as to why. Here we’ll explore some of the most common issues with water heaters and learn why your water heater may be exhibiting a certain symptom.
I don’t have enough hot water.
One of the most common and frustrating issues with hot water heaters is running out of hot water just when you need it—like in the middle of your shower.
If your hot water is routinely running out, it may be the size of your tank that is to blame. Consider upgrading to a larger hot water tank. If your tank is of a sufficient size, there could be leaks in the hot water line or an excess of sediment in the tank. Other causes might be defective heating elements or faulty thermostats.
I don’t get any hot water.
The cause of cold water in gas water heaters is often the pilot light. Check the pilot light to make sure it is lit. If it is not, the cure could be as simple as relighting it. If the pilot light won’t re-light, you may have an issue with your gas supply and you may need to contact your utility company directly. If the pilot light can be lit but goes out shortly after lighting, you may be looking at an issue with your gas or thermocouple control valve.
The cause of cold water in electric water heaters may be the circuit breaker. Check to make sure it has not been tripped. If it has, it may not be set to the full “on” position. Flip it off and then back on again. If this does not solve the problem, check that your high temperature cutoff is set appropriately. If neither the circuit breaker nor the high temperature cutoff is the culprit, you may need to replace the heater’s heating element or thermostat.
My water heater is leaking.
If your water heater is leaking, you may have a temperature-pressure relief (TPR) valve that is stuck open. It may also be releasing water due to debris. Check the tank itself for corrosion and look for leaks in gaskets and pipe fittings. If you believe the TPR valve is the culprit, clear it of debris and check again to make sure it is in working order. If it is not or there are other leaks, it is time to call a plumber.
My water heater makes strange noises.
Hot water heaters may make rumbling or popping noises during operation. These noises can be due to low water pressure or sediment buildup. Low water pressure at or below 50 PSI may cause your tank to rumble. Check with your local water department to explore the expected water pressure and compare it with your own.
If sedimentation is to blame, it is likely calcium carbonate that deposits on the bottom of the tank and can cause a rumbling noise or a high-pitched whine. It can also use more energy and overheat the tank, potentially causing damage over time. You can help remove and prevent this buildup by soaking them in vinegar or a de-liming solution.
My hot water is a strange color or smells bad.
Water heaters have a lifetime, and if your hot water is beginning to turn color, it may indicate that your particular heater has met the end of its life. Rust-colored water is an indication that the water tank has begun to corrode. A decaying anode may also be to blame, feeding the bacteria in your tank’s sediment and causing your water to begin to smell like sulfur. The solution to these issues is to either replace the corroded tank or the anode.
If you cannot readily determine the cause of your hot water heater’s issue, a call to a local plumber may be in order. Plumbers can save time and money with a quick diagnosis and a swift and accurate replacement of faulty parts.
Factors to Help You Sell Your Home
Selling a home isn’t all about curb appeal cosmetic changes. And even before buyers lay eyes on a home, there are more impactful items that can be added to a home’s resume to bump a buyer’s interest and help ease their minds about the structural integrity and efficiency of the home.
At today’s rates, it is still a buyer’s market. This means that sellers need to really work at stepping up their game at the foundational level. As any seller knows, the longer a home is on the market, the lower the bids that filter in over time. This makes quickness a key factor in receiving a fair asking price.
This also means that just doing a little bit of superficial sprucing up won’t be enough. Lower real estate prices mean that buyers can use that extra cash to repaint or re-tile themselves (and in their own style preferences), and therefore many buyers these days are looking for bigger-ticket items. Let’s take a look at a few of these items and where those pre-sale dollars will make the best impact.
1) Air conditioning and heating system
Most buyers will be much more likely to have interest if the home already has an air conditioning and heating system. And if you have an older system in place already, upgrading your HVAC system not only increases efficiency, but can offer the buyer more customized and automated management of their in-home environment. Along with the peace of mind that comes with knowing the home they are purchasing has new facilities that they won’t have to worry about for years to come, a new HVAC system offers potential buyers set temperatures for different areas of the home, automatic temperature adjustment during peak hours, and energy management.
2) New windows and doors
Upgrading windows can be one of the best options for increasing efficiency. As a side benefit, it also adds aesthetics to the property. Such an improvement can be boldly labeled on a home’s resume, and can go a long way towards decreasing the time your home stays on the market. Doors can also be not only an energy saver, but an aesthetic improvement to catch the eye of the buyer. Look into doors with a foam core and built-in weather stripping to add money-saving insulation to the home.
3) New roof
To get the most impressive return, take a look at areas of your home that will most greatly impact a new buyer’s energy efficiency. If the roof is old, it might be worth considering an upgrade. A brand new roof can be an enormous selling point, and increase a bid dramatically, as roofs last many years and can also increase heating and air conditioning efficiency.
4) Sturdy foundation
A home’s foundation is a critical piece of its value. If your foundation is cracked or shifting, or your basement is in poor shape, fix it up before selling. Seeping water or large cracks can cause a buyer to think twice before purchasing. Horizontal, wide, or uneven cracks can be a sign that the entire home is shifting, and can deter a conscious buyer.
5) High-efficiency appliances
If your old appliances and fixtures are falling apart or looking dated, consider replacing them with tried-and-true Energy Star models. This goes for everything from dishwashers to faucets and toilets. And this is the least costly of the considerations to take when updating. Most often, it will cost less to make the fixes than it will to pay the difference in an interested buyer’s bid if they had to account for the work needed.
Although fixtures and appliances will catch the eye, updating the roof, HVAC system, and windows and doors can be enormous selling points for a buyer who is interested in picking up a turn-key home that won’t end up costing them hundreds of dollars a month in inefficiencies—or hundreds of dollars in fixes down the line.
Energy-efficient modifications can do an exceptional job of piquing the interest of a buyer in the current market. Look to the foundational energy efficiency of your home and leverage the interests of today’s energy-savvy buyer.
What in the World is that Sound?
Air conditioners are not perfectly silent appliances, but they shouldn’t be an audible nuisance. Common noises that are not usually a sign of issue include soft motor whirring while the system is running, the expulsion of air through the air ducts, and clicks when the system is started up or shut down.
If you’re hearing odd sounds that are new, consistent, or loud, there’s a chance that they signal an issue that should be addressed. Sounds such as grinding, loud humming, squealing, banging, thumping, or clanging can be indications that something is wrong. Here we’ll take a look at a few of the common noises that can signal issues and how to cure the clamor of this handy appliance.
Note: With any maintenance of a home appliance, make sure that you first shut off all power to the unit to prevent the chance of electric shock or injury from spinning fan blades while removing debris.
If the outdoor fan is humming, clacking or sounds loose, it may need to be serviced. Watch the fan as the unit is running. Does it wobble and shake? A technician can oftentimes fix this issue by simply tightening screws to stabilize it. Check for debris around the fan that may be getting sucked into the blades during use. Check the blades as well to make sure they are not bent and rubbing up against their encasement.
If you hear the motor constantly humming, it may be going bad. Your trusted air conditioning technician can perform a few tests to tell if the motor is on its way out. A new fan motor can be more energy efficient and improve the transfer of heat from the compressor and coils.
Outdoor coil fins can also become a problem if they are dirty. Check the coil fins and clean out any dirt or debris that has collected. You can pull out leaves and lightly spray down the coils with your gardening hose. Bent coil fins can also cause excessive noise. If you notice the fins of your coil pushed in or flattened, ask your technician if he can straighten them while he’s doing the maintenance. A special fin comb can be inserted between the coil fins and slid through them to straighten the coil back to its original shape. This will improve your a/c’s performance as well!
If you’re hearing rattling, there is a chance that you may simply have an issue with your air conditioner not being stably supported. Concrete can transfer vibration noise into your home. You can add rubber pads under each of the feet of the a/c unit to reduce this noise. Ask your technician about these, he may even have them on his truck!
Old Condenser or Compressor
The compressor is by far the biggest noisemaker in older air conditioning units. After years of working hard the moving parts start to breakdown inside and it may be time for replacement. New units are more efficient and quieter. Some modern mini-split compressors are virtually silent! If your condenser is older, you may be able to purchase a sound blanket from the manufacturer and have it installed it over the compressor to help dampen the noise.
If you cannot find the issue or are having trouble diagnosing the issue with your air conditioning unit, it may be time to call in a professional who can give you expert advice. Bob Jenson Air Conditioning will be able to quickly diagnose the issue and make an expert recommendation on whether to replace or repair parts or the entire unit, if necessary.
Gadgets to Save Your Home Energy Use
Saving energy at home makes a difference in your household’s carbon footprint and how much money you spend on utilities. Take a look at a few energy-saving gadgets you should be using at home to accomplish both of these tasks:
1) Evolve Showerheads
Ever heard of a smart showerhead? Well, this is about as close as it comes. The showerhead goes from full blast to a trickle when the water temperature reaches 95 degrees, conserving water while you handle other bathroom tasks, like brushing your teeth. The showerhead is also low-flow, which increases the efficiency of its use during the entire showering process.
2) Bedol Water-Powered Alarm Clock
While we are on the topic of water, how about using it instead of electricity to fuel a bedroom electronic staple? This alarm clock requires no battery or power cord. Instead, it uses the electrodes from water to produce a current that displays time for two to three months on just one fill up.
3) Nest Smart Thermostat System
Typical thermostats require you to program them every time you want to adjust the temperature of your home but cannot actually tell who is in the building, enjoying the climate control. The Nest system uses sensors and its own algorithms to develop the most comfortable settings for when you are home and away and then puts those algorithms into action. It saves money while also offering plenty of convenience and comfort.
4) Black and Decker Thermal Leak Detector
With this energy-saving gadget, you can find and identify the places in your home where hot and cool air are escaping. From there, you can work to improve your heating and cooling system efficiency.
These power monitors completely shut down your appliances when you aren’t around to use or enjoy them through the use of motion sensors. You only have to program devices once for them to work properly.
6) Belkin Conservative Valet Energy-Saving USB Charging Station
This can charge up to four different devices and then automatically click off after four hours. It’s perfect for charging smartphones and tablets when you go to bed at night, but avoid charging them when they don’t need it.
7) EcoMow Lawn Mower
What better way to conserve energy and reuse what is already available than to recycle waste? In this case, it is grass clippings that the lawn mower collects during its course around a yard. The grass that is not used for fuel during a mowing session is converted into a dried pellet that is usable in power generators.
8) Voltaic Amp Solar Charger
These small, portable chargers are perfect for traveling or even at home when you want to avoid a wall unit and harness the power of the sun instead. After just a single hour in the sun charging, this device can charge your phone for three hours of talk time.
9) Maestro Room Occupancy Sensor
Forget about flipping a switch or even clapping to turn lights on and off. This device can sense when people enter and exit rooms and will adjust the lighting based on this potential. Some of the models even have sensors that determine whether a light is necessary when a person comes into a room based on the amount of available sunlight.
10) Epiphany onE Puck
This nifty, portable device is still being crowdfunded to become readily available to households everywhere, but keep an eye out for it. The “puck” serves as a coaster of sorts, and when anything warm is placed on it, the heat is converted to energy that can then charge cell phones. So you can drink your morning coffee and charge your phone at the same time, no extra energy needed.
With these cool gadgets, you’ll be living in style and saving energy all at once.
Spring Has Sprung; Now Get Some Maintenance Done!
Spring has arrived, already promising plenty of sunlight, warm temperatures, and thriving nature as far as the eye can see. Spring is a time for a fresh start, and there’s nothing like freshening up your home than with some much needed spring maintenance.
Now that the weather is warm and the air is fresh, let’s take a look at some ways you can shake off the cold and turn your house back into a warm, inviting, and efficient home.
Room to Breathe
Poor air quality causes the continuous circulation of irritants and particles within your home, forcing a flu virus from the winter to linger a little longer. Consistently poor air quality can lead to persistent respiratory issues and an inability to concentrate.
As beautiful as the spring bloom is, it often gives way to excess pollen, dust, and spores, all of which contribute to allergies.
To maintain your home’s air quality, make sure you check the filters on your HVAC system. Filters are designed to trap dust, allergens, pollen, mold spores, and more, but dirty filters won’t properly capture microscopic particles. This can cause your ventilation to recirculate allergens and work double-time to get clean air into your home. How often you change a filter depends on its rating and how often you use your HVAC system. But as a general rule of thumb, you should change your filter every three months.
Along with a new filter, have your entire ventilation system checked out by the pros. A good ventilation system supplies your home with plenty of fresh air and pushes stale air and indoor pollutants back outside.
In the Attic
Attic insulation plays a significant part in your comfort. Most people assume that attic insulation only matters in cold months, sealing in warm air, but it works in a similar way during hotter seasons. As the sun beats down on your house, your attic soaks up the heat, which bleeds through the ceiling into the living areas of your home. Attic insulation can prevent heat from seeping into your home come summer.
For added effect, check your attic’s ventilation. A well-vented attic keeps warm air from accumulating and prevents the build-up of moisture, both of which can lead to mold growth. An attic fan can also help move the air around to keep it from getting warm and stale. Consult a professional HVAC company to figure out what would be best.
Taking Care of Air Conditioning
You probably won’t need your air conditioner for spring, but this is a good opportunity to give your air conditioning system a checkup in preparation for the hotter months ahead. If your air conditioner hasn’t been touched in a while, it will need maintenance before you can properly use it again.
Along with a clean or new filter (as mentioned above), make sure you clean the condenser. This is the outdoor unit that generally looks like a large fan inside a metal box. Make sure the breaker or disconnect is shut off. You can take a hose and gently spray the sides of the Condenser, cleaning the dirt and dust off of the coils. Also trim away any plants that are on or near the outdoor unit so it can get maximum airflow.
For more stubborn debris, you may need to call a professional who can carefully take apart the unit and use a commercial coil cleaner, carefully scrubbing the coil clean. When they’re done they can make sure the unit gets put back together properly. They also will check refrigerant levels and electrical connections and test that everything works as it should! You usually can save some money by signing up for a regular maintenance program.
Window units require just as much care as central units. Use a damp rag to wipe down the exterior of the air conditioner, getting into the vents and edges of the unit. The more thoroughly you clean, the cleaner the air will be. Make sure you also clean out any dead leaves and debris in the back of the air conditioner. If your window unit sits close to the ground, pick out the weeds growing around it.
Keeping your air conditioner in good working order ensures that you can stay comfortable in the summer, but you can also save money in the long run by replacing your current air conditioning system with a more energy efficient model.
General Spring Cleaning
Aside from general maintenance, spring is all about tidying up your home and turning it into a refreshing, lovely place for you and your family. Here are some basic tips for your spring cleaning:
- Use a commercial spot cleaner or a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar to remove spots and odor in carpets and upholstery.
- While most of the dust in your home will fall on the floor, just enough clings to the walls to warrant a seasonal washing. Use a sponge and some dishwashing soap to wash your walls in sections. Use a sponge mop to reach higher spots. Dry with a clean cloth.
- Unfortunately, the fridge is often left forgotten in the rush of spring cleaning, but food poisoning and other food-borne illnesses remain a common issue. Throw out any old foods, even if you’re not sure. It’s better to play it safe. Give your fridge a good scrubbing. While you’re at it, check your condenser coils, which can be found behind the toe grille at the bottom of your fridge. Too much dust on the coil will cause your fridge to overheat, so use a vacuum and long brush to remove any built-up dust.
Bring spring into your home with some simple maintenance, and you are sure to feel your home lift itself up in warmth and light. Don’t be afraid to consult a professional like Bob Jenson for help with your spring home maintenance.