5 Tips to Extend the Life of Your HVAC System

colorado springs hvac repair

Your home’s HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Condition) system runs ’round the clock, 24/7, all year long. You can’t expect it to last forever, but you can expect your furnace to last for about several years—depending on the model, you may get 15-20 years out of your furnace and 10-15 years out of your air conditioner. It’s a big investment to replace your furnace or air conditioner, so we have five tips for you to try to extend the life of your HVAC system.

  1. Schedule two HVAC tune-ups per year: Contact a home services company to give your furnace a tune-up in the fall and your air conditioner a tune-up in the spring. This preventative maintenance usually includes a good inspection, cleaning, lubrication and any necessary adjustments.
  2. Change the air filter regularly: Disposable fiberglass filters should be replaced every 30 days, but check your filter and furnace manual to see how often you should be replacing the filter. A dirty filer will make your HVAC system work harder to circulate air and that can cause extra wear on the system.
  3. Clean your ducts: Be sure to keep the return air vents clean and prevent the build-up of dust and debris. You might also want to have your ducts professionally cleaned so that your system is delivering the cleanest air possible.
  4. Give the HVAC system a break sometimes: Does your HVAC system really need to be running almost 24/7? Can you give it a break when you’re on vacation? On a cool evening could you open the windows and give the a/c the night off? You’ll be saving energy and giving the system a break.
  5. Upgrade your insulation: The better your home is insulated, the less your HVAC system will need to run to maintain the temperature. The first place to check for sufficient insulation is your attic.

When to Replace Your HVAC System

Even if you follow these tips and take good care of your HVAC system, eventually it will need to be replaced, but when? If you’re approaching the projected end of life for the unit, you can’t go wrong replacing it because you will be saving money with the new, more energy efficient replacement. But if you want to prolong the system as long as possible, contract with a reliable home services company for your annual tune-ups and then ask the HVAC tech for their input on when to replace. Be honest with them about the maintenance you’ve carried out on the unit—even if that means confessing that sometimes you didn’t replace the air filter for a season or two. Hopefully you can get to know the techs from the home services company and get to where you can trust their input on when to replace your furnace or air conditioner.

Summary

Take good care of your HVAC system and it may well last longer than the average lifespan, but also know when to replace it before it becomes unreliable or so inefficient that it’s costly to keep it running.

Here’s 7 Quick Tips To Save Money And Use Less Water…

plumber colorado springs

You already know how important it is that we all try to reduce our use of water. Our planet’s future depends on it! And, there are so many practical and surprisingly easy ways for us to do that. 

So, here are seven really practical ways for you to conserve water in your home…

  1. Monitor your water bills
    Check your water bill each month and if it goes up try to figure out if there’s a good reason (filling the swimming pool). If it spikes and you don’t know why, you probably have a leak somewhere. Seriously, the average home wastes more than 10,000 gallons of water a year from easily fixable plumbing leaks. It’s worth it to bring in a plumber if you suspect you have a leak but cannot find
    it.
  2. Use the water meter to check for hidden water leaks
    Go read your water meter and write down the number. Stop using water for two hours. Then go back to the meter. If it’s not at the exact same number, there’s a water leak in your house. If you can’t find it, call your home services company to send out a plumber.
  3. Use every drop
    Find ways to repurpose water so it doesn’t just go down the drain. For example, when you boil potatoes or pasta, pour that water through a colander and into another pot to capture the hot water. After it’s cooled, this water can be used for your household plants. You can do something similar whenever you run the tap and wait for hot water.
  4. Use your dishwasher more
    You might be surprised, but as it turns out washing dishes by hand uses a lot more water than running the dishwasher, and even more so if you have a newer more water-efficient model. Newer dishwashers will also adjust to use less water for smaller loads. (If you don’t have a newer dishwasher, see #7.)
  5. Run full loads in your washing machine
    You can adjust water levels to match the size of your load, but it’s even more water-efficient to run larger loads in your washing machine.
  6. Cover your swimming pool
    It takes a lot of water to fill your swimming pool and to keep it filled. In the summer sun, pools can lose an inch or more of water each week to evaporation. Getting a cover for your pool can save thousands of gallons of water each season. Make it a solar blanket and you can also reduce your heating cost. But this only works if you’re diligent about covering the pool when it’s not in use.
  7. Install a new dishwasher
    Newer dishwashers use as little as four to seven gallons per load—again that’s a lot less than
    washing by hand and much less than older dishwashers.

Summary

If we all work on conserving water, we can make a big difference. While taking these practical steps, be sure to contact a home services company if you need help finding a water leak or installing a new dishwasher.

Make Your House Look Great At Low Cost with Outdoor Lighting

electrician colorado springs

Lighting up your outdoor spaces can increase your security, enhance your enjoyment of your property, and help raise the value of your home. Here are five tips to think about regarding your outdoor lighting.

#1. Entryways

You need the brightest lights on your entryways, any places into your house or garage. While spotlights or pot-lights will be the best here, you can have bright lights while still maintaining low power usage and costs. If you have lights by your windows, especially bedroom windows, consider putting them on a timer or turning them off at night. While this isn’t the greatest for security purposes, you still need a good night’s sleep. You could get blackout curtains, instead, which could help you sleep. Your doorways and other easy access points are the most important to be lit brightly.

#2. Entertainment Spaces

The lighting you have by your fire-pit, on your patio, at the BBQ, or in your dining area should be different than the lighting at your entryways. You don’t have to have glaring lights and bright spotlights where you hang out with friends and family. The lighting should be more subtle and gentle, and because of this, you will not need to use as much energy to light up these beautiful locations. Sometimes solar lights can work well in these areas, as string lights, lanterns, or more, which will reduce your costs significantly. Focus on relaxing illumination for your entertaining and garden spaces. 

#3. LED Bulbs

You don’t need to get halogen bulbs that burn through energy and ramp up your power bill to light your property well. There are numerous options of LED bulbs for outdoor lighting that can stay on throughout the night and use 90% less energy than traditional or older lights. Many LED lights are also maintenance free, and so you won’t have to spend time and money replacing any bulbs.

#4. Outdoor Certified

When hanging lights outside or when buying new bulbs for your outdoor fixtures, make sure you pay attention to whether your new lights are certified for outdoor use. Our exterior lights take a lot more of a beating than our interior ones what with rain, wind, dirt, and bugs. Ensuring that your outdoor lights and cords are designed for outdoor use will save you some headaches and money in the future. 

#5. Hanging

If you are hanging lights or attaching strings of light to your home or to other structures outside of your house, consider the methods you use to do this. For one, stay away from nails or staples which can penetrate wires and cause damage to your cords or lights which can result in shorts and other dangers. Using clips or installing hooks around your home or an archway is a great way to save your string lights. Hooks can also help to speed up the installation if you want to change lights depending on the seasons or events.

Summary

There you have it! 5 simple tips to help you light your outdoors with great, safe lights for a safer, more beautiful home!

7 Practical Ways to Conserve Water at Home

a shower for running outdoors

In America we’re used to have running water readily available and in seemingly endless supply, but the long-running drought in California and water restrictions in western states should tell us otherwise. There is a finite supply of water and though water is a renewable resource the amount of clean drinking water is declining. We can all help out by using less water (and paying less). These seven ways to conserve water at home are very practical and some are surprisingly easy.

1. Turn off faucets

How often do you let faucet water run needlessly as you wash or rinse dishes, wash your hands or face, brush your teeth or shave? Your bathroom faucet runs at about two gallons of water per minute. Turn off that tap while you brush your teeth and shave, and you’ll save hundreds of gallons a month.

2. Shorten showers

An older showerhead can put out as much as 5 gallons of water per minute. Install a new low-flow showerhead to bring that down to 2.5 gallons and then cut your shower time in half and you will have reduced your shower water use by 75 percent!

3. Fix leaks

Even a slow drip from a leaking faucet can waste as much as 20 gallons of water a day. A leaking toilet can waste 200 gallons a day! (To check your toilet for a leak, put several drops of food coloring in the tank. If that color shows up in the bowl without flushing, you have a leak.)

4. Go to a car wash

Instead of washing your car at home with the hose, go to a gas station car wash that will use less water and recycle it.

5. Install low-flow or dual-flush toilet

Replace an old toilet with a new ultra-low volume (ULV) 1.6 gallon flush toilet to use up to 70 percent less water. That could reduce your total indoor water use by 30 percent! Another option is a dual-flush toilet that could use as little as 1 gallon for the low-level flush.

6. Replace your old water heater with a tankless hot water heater

A tankless water heater only heats water when you need it. And when you need hot water, the supply is ongoing… so no more worrying about being the last one to take a morning shower. You’ll save about $80 a year in water heating bills.

7. Upgrade to a High Efficiency (HE) washing machine

Today HE washing machines use as little as 7 gallons per load. That’s a lot less than your old washing machine that could be using up to 54 gallons! Newer Energy Star-rated washers use less water and 50 percent less energy.

Summary

None of these are particularly hard to do, but act on a few of them (or all of them) and you could conserve a lot of water—and lower your monthly bills. Some of these are do-it-yourself projects, but a home services company could help you with any of these projects that require a professional.

Want A Comfortable House Where Every Room Is The Right Temperature?

person laying on couch with blanket

Do people in your home fight over the thermostat setting? In many homes, especially split-level homes, someone is too hot, someone is too cold and no one is happy. 

Even in a home with adequate central air conditioning, mom or dad may find the temperature to be fine in the kitchen or living room, but their daughter is in the basement game room with her friends passing out sweaters for them. But then upstairs, their son is home from college wanting to study at his desk, but he can’t because the desk surface is hot enough to fry an egg! This is a house that might benefit from a zoned HVAC system.

What is a zoned HVAC system?

A zoned HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system allows the homeowner to set different temperatures in different parts or “zones” of the house. Rather than one thermostat for the entire house, each zone can be regulated with its own thermostat. A zone can be as small as one room or as large as an entire level of the house or an addition to the house.

How does zoning work?

In a home with an existing forced air heating and cooling system (and one thermostat), it may be possible to install an automatic damper system into the HVAC ductwork that would divide the home into zones.

The better way to set up a zoned HVAC system is with ductless mini-split units. These units come in a variety of styles and models, but basically it’s a rectangular heating and cooling unit that is mounted high on the wall (or into the ceiling). That’s actually the first part, the indoor air-handling unit (evaporator). It’s hooked up to the second part, an outdoor compressor/condenser. Several of the indoor units can be hooked up to one outdoor unit. Each indoor unit is controlled with its own thermostat.

Reasons why you might want a zoned HVAC system

Ductless mini-splits are a great solution for a newly constructed house, but also a good retrofit for houses with non-ducted heating systems (like hot water heat or electric heating). They also work well for new additions to a house that lack ductwork or separate buildings like a garage or shed converted into offices or hobby rooms. Why might you want to looking into installing some ductless mini-splits?

  1. To solve the multi-level home heating/cooling problem (described above).
  2. To balance the temperature in homes where one side of the house gets more solar heat than the other side.
  3. To heat/cool only the parts of the home in use. (Why heat/cool a huge house if you’re mostly only using a few rooms?)
  4. To get heating/cooling in new house additions / separate buildings without installing ductwork.

Summary

To find out how a zoned HVAC system could work in your home, call a heating and cooling expert at your preferred home services company. With this surprisingly simple solution, you’ll never fight over the thermostat in your home again!

5 Tips For A Spooky Yet Safe Halloween

a home at halloween time

Who else wants to save some money this month while also enjoying a spooky, fun Halloween? We want it all—the fun and light-hearted “scare” of a Halloween… but also a safe Halloween… and we don’t want to spend too much on electricity.

So, you’ll love these tips…

Lights

The kind of lights we use could be burning more power than we want. If you have older lights and displays, the bulbs are likely consuming more energy than modern ones. Consider upgrading your lighting to LEDs, which use about 90% less energy to power than older incandescent bulbs. 

As well, you could also keep your indoor lights turned off while having your outdoor lights on to signal to potential trick or treaters that you are open for business. The energy saving may be low, but it’s better than nothing!

Turn It Off

Don’t leave your Halloween lights or blow-ups on through the night. You aren’t able to watch them or check them for safety concerns in the night. As well, the costs will climb as you keep them on for times when no one will see them. If you like keeping them on into the night, or if you like falling asleep to the peaceful glow of your outdoor display (along with the spooky laughter from your graveyard scene!) take the time to invest in a timer. There are many timers on the market which allow you to set when you want your lights to come on, and when you want them to turn off.

Wires

Before putting up your lights and other decorations, make sure you inspect each strand of lights and each power cord for any damage, fraying, or tears. As well, make sure you are using outdoor extension cords for your outdoor lights as indoor cords are not certified to handle the kind of weather and wear that comes from being outside.

Watch where you put your cords and wires, as well. Be careful not to have them running across your driveway, walkway, sidewalk, or stairs. Kids with masks and limited vision because of those masks will not always see the tripping hazards in front of them.

Flammable Supplies

Some people use a lot of flammable materials when it comes to their Halloween decorations. From hay bales and cotton sheets to wooden displays and candles, there are many dangerous combinations to guard against. If you are using highly flammable materials, consider keeping your wires and outlets far away from them, and don’t risk having real candles in your pumpkins but rather have battery-powered ones instead. Electric candles will still give the same atmospheric glow without the risk and heat.

Don’t Go Overboard

Sometimes employing minimalism is the best thing we can do for our decorating. Having a few lights, a jack-o-lantern or two, a skeleton, or a few other creative ideas can add a nice touch to our yard to help create an excellent experience for the kids of our neighbors and friends. A large number of lights or electrically powered devices can overload our fuses and cause potentially dangerous shorts in our house. If you insist on having a large number of powered decorations, be aware of your electrical capacity and don’t plug too many lights into too few outlets.

Summary

If you’re decorating for Halloween this month then use these quick tips to help you enjoy a fun and safe and money-saving Halloween!

How to Fix a Faucet Aerator

faucet running

Is your kitchen or bathroom faucet running slower than normal? Does it seem like the water pressure is low? The first thing to check is the aerator. It could be clogged. Low pressure is the most common sign of a clogged aerator, but sometimes the faucet can also misdirect water, spraying it on the side of the sink or even onto the vanity.

People often think the low water pressure must be a big problem so they call in a plumber for a simple repair they could do themselves with a pair of pliers and a bowl of vinegar. Read on and we’ll tell you how to fix your faucet aerator just by cleaning it.

What is an aerator?

The spouts of most bathroom faucets and many kitchen faucets are equipped with aerators to provide a focused, even flow of water from the spout. The aerator conserves water by limiting the flow. It’s called an aerator because a screen inside it separates the water into hundreds of tiny streams that are thus more exposed to the air and oxygenated.

The most common problem

Over time, the aerator collects sediments and mineral deposits (scale) that impair the flow of water. Eventually this build-up results in a reduced or misdirected flow of water.

How can you fix it?

Sometimes you can unscrew the aerator from the spout by hand, but usually you’ll need to use pliers.

To prevent the pliers from marking up the metal finish of the aerator, wrap it with a rag and then grip with the pliers to unscrew the aerator. Be careful not to lose the rubber washer that sits snug between the spout and the aerator.

Once you have removed the aerator, you’ll find that is separates into a few parts (some or all of these parts):

  • the outer casing – The metal housing with the threads that screw into the faucet spout.
  • the inner housing – This plastic “sleeve” holds the inner parts together.
  • the screen – The screen is the main working part of the aerator and prone to collecting scale.
  • the screen bushing – This plastic part keeps the screen in place.
  • the mixer – A disk with several holes that buffers the water flow, protecting the screen.
  • the flow restrictor – This disk with a single hole reduces the water flow.

Clean the screen, restrictor and mixer under flowing water. You can scrub them with a toothbrush. You can use a needle or pin to poke through any clogged holes in the screen. To get the screen even cleaner, soak it overnight in a bowl of vinegar. If there’s corrosion or you just can’t get it clean, head to your hardware store with the aerator and finding a matching replacement. They’re not too expensive so you really should do this if the old one cannot be fully cleaned.

When you reassemble the aerator and screw it back on, turn on the faucet the flow of water should be focused and back to full strength. 

3 Tips To Cooler Central Air Conditioning

Is your central air conditioning failing to battle the heat and keep you cool inside? If you turn down the thermostat to 75 degrees, is the air conditioner able to cool down to that temperature or does it work all day slowly getting there? We have three tips to cooler central air conditioning in your home, and two of them are do-it-yourself.

1. Call in an HVAC service tech once a year

fan blowing in wind

If you want your air conditioner to keep your house cool for many summers to come, the best thing you can do is have an HVAC service tech test the unit every spring, clean and adjust it. They are best equipped to go over everything that could be preventing your conditioning from blowing the coolest air possible. To save money, sign up for an annual HVAC maintenance contract to service both your air conditioner and your furnace. This is the gold standard, but if you want to do it yourself there are two things you can do.

2. Clean return air vents and replace filters

HVAC techs constantly recommend changing your air filters regularly and they’re not just making this up to sell more filters. Replace an air filter and you can see for yourself how dirty it is from trapping dust and debris. The more clogged the filter, the less air flow and the less cool your air conditioning will be. During months of high usage, replace filters monthly. Be sure you know where your return air filters are located—sometimes there’s only one alongside the furnace, but there can also be a filter at each return air vent. While you’re checking those return air vents, be sure to vacuum them thoroughly to remove all dust.

3. Clean the condenser coils on the outdoor air conditioner

Go outside to your air conditioning unit and make sure it is free of obstructions such as grass, weeds, vines and globs of leaves and debris. Though a professional HVAC service tech can do this better, you can clean the condenser coils. First turn off the power to the unit. Next, get yourself a bottle of dish detergent, ideally one that is about 80 to 90% empty. Fill it with water to make a soapy solution. Then squirt this soapy solution on the outside front of the air conditioner. You should be squirting through some kind of vents or caging to the condenser coils. On most units these are visible on three sides. Get them soapy and after a few minutes of soaking time, use a garden hose to spray the soap away. You’ll see dirty water and debris flow away from the unit. Give it an hour to dry up before restoring the power.

Important!

Whenever you are working around any part of your HVAC system, always use caution and turn off the device first.

Summary

If your air conditioner still can’t keep up and cool your house after you’ve replaced the filters and cleaned the condenser coils, call an HVAC service tech to do an a/c inspection to determine the problem. On the other hand, an annual HVAC service contract will keep your air conditioning running well and you’ll just need to replace air filters regularly.

5 Tips To Help You Save On Your Energy Bill

Want to save money on your electricity bills? Here are 5 tips to conserve energy and save money! 

#1. Energy Efficient Appliances

pants on a clothing line

If you have several old appliances, they will work together to increase your utility bills throughout the year drastically. Old dishwashers will use more water. Old hot water tanks take more power and time to heat up less water. Refrigerators and freezers run longer and work harder to keep our food safe. Replacing old appliances with new, energy efficient products will cut down our costs while also increasing our ability to cook (and eat!) wonderful things in the kitchen or have clean, fresh smelling clothes. 

#2. Cold Water Washes

Speaking of clothes, consider washing all of your clothes, towels, sheets, and more in cold water in the future. Most washing machines nowadays are designed to conserve energy by using cold water and do as good of a job in getting your clothes clean. There are many brands of detergent made to clean clothes in cold water. As well, there are some stains, such as sweat, oils, and blood, which come out better in cold water. Warm and hot water actually works to set some of these types of stains into your clothes and sheets. Cold water is just as, if not more effective, at cleaning than warm or hot water in our day and age.

#3. Hang Clothes to Dry

Another big power user in our homes is our clothes dryers. Not only do they use a lot of energy to dry all of our laundry, but they can also add some heat to our house during months where we want to keep our house cool. In these months, consider hanging your clothes to dry outside. The sun and the wind will work together to dry your clothes reasonably quickly. The sun can work to kill certain bacteria that can gather in your clothes, and depending on the quality of the air where you leave, your clothes will smell amazing! Plus, hanging clothes up outside gets you enjoying the outdoors which is great for your mental health.

#4. Programmable Thermostats

If you don’t have them, consider replacing or having someone replace your old thermostats with programmable ones. A programmable thermostat will allow you to heat and cool your house when you most need it while allowing your furnace to use less energy when you are out or away. Some people think it takes less energy to keep your house at the same temperature all day, that it takes too much power to bring the heat back up or to cool the house back down. This is not true. Slight variations in the temperature will not cause your heat or A/C to work too hard.

#5. Clean Up

Lastly, keeping your house clean can reduce your energy costs. For one, a dusty or dirty house can cause blockages in our heating systems forcing our furnaces to work harder for less effect. Cleaning and replacing your furnace filters regularly (monthly or every other month) can bring down the costs of heating your house. As well, clean windows help more light and heat to come into your home.

Summary

There you have it! 5 simple tips to save money while you conserve power around your home. Keep it simple and enjoy those lower energy bills!

5 Tips to Protect Your Home While You’re on Vacation

a suit case ready for departureJust because you’re away on vacation doesn’t mean you don’t stop thinking about or needing to take care of your house. Here are 5 tips to make sure your home is safe from electrical issues while you are gone.

Unplug

Even when your devices are turned off, they still use up power and electricity and could be subject to surges and shorts. By unplugging your devices, specifically things like your TV, computers, lamps, and more you will save money on electrical use and protect from any potential fire hazards. Unless you want a stinky mess when you come home, you probably should leave your fridge plugged in, but you could always turn down the settings slightly.

Hot Water Tank

Another way to reduce your costs and power usage while you are away is to turn down the temperature on your water heater. Even though you are not using your hot water while on vacation, the water will cool on its own which will kick in the heating process of your tank. Most hot water tanks have a setting on them called ‘vacation’ or ‘away.’ Simply find the temperature knob or panel, and set it to the vacation temperature which is usually just above the pilot setting. Why heat your water when you won’t be using it?

Temperature Settings

Don’t leave the temperature turned up high or the AC turned on at all when you are away. If you’re traveling in the winter, you will have to leave the heat on, but the temperature can be much lower than if you were at home to keep your pipes from freezing and bursting. As well, if you are away in the summer, there is no need to keep your air conditioning on at all. You can cool your house down again when you come home. If you have pets you can’t take with you, consider having someone else look after them at their home.

Programmable Lights

At night, we want some lights on in our house, so it looks like people are at home. There are devices we can get so we can program our lights, inside or out, to come on at a particular time. Timed lights will work to reduce our electrical costs. You could also look into smart lights, either builds or fixtures which you can control from your smartphone and turn on and off wherever you are.

Check-In

Lastly, have a friend, family member, or neighbor check in on your house every few days while you are away. Someone walking around your home and property could notice a problem before it becomes severe. Some insurance companies require that someone check on an empty house for the coverage to still be valid in case of an emergency.

Looking for more info on how to prepare your home for your time away? Give the team at One Source Home Service a call today! We look forward to getting to speak with you.

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