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Interested in keeping up with the latest HVAC tips from a local expert? The Simply the Best Heating & Cooling blog offers a variety of home tips including: energy efficiency, heating and cooling, air quality, home comfort and more.
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Should You Be Concerned About the Indoor Air Quality in Your Home?

Girl pretending to blow on a chalk dandelion, simulating allergens in the air and the quality of the air in your home.

The effects of indoor air quality have been well documented. The complications of breathing in contaminated air range from short term effects – sneezing, coughing, headaches – to more severe, longer term effects – chronic fatigue, respiratory conditions and cancer. The biggest time of concern is during the winter when homes are sealed from the cold. Although here in AZ, summer can be an even greater concern because it’s too hot to open the windows.

How Much of a Concern is Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a major concern, and federal scientists have ranked it as being one of the most important environmental issues in the country. EPA studies have shown that indoor air pollutants are 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor pollutants. There are many reasons for this, including poor ventilation, the use of air fresheners, candles and cleaners that contain chemicals and more.

Believe it or not, one of the biggest culprits of indoor air pollution is funiture. Before 2006, furniture contained PBDEs, a type of flame retardant. However, even furniture purchased today might have other flame retardants that can be released into the air. These chemicals are sometimes used in children’s pajamas!

Small Steps to Improving Indoor Air Quality

In the end, IAQ is something that we should all be more aware of. We can’t avoid chemicals and pollutants entirely, but there are ways to make your home safer and healthier. Below are a few suggestions to start with.

  • Replace candles and air fresheners with essential oils. You can diffuse these oils for emotional and physical benefits, and they smell great, too.
  • Choose cleaners made from natural ingredients. They should be nontoxic, hypoallergenic, environmentally friendly and low on VOCs. Or, consider making your own household cleaners using basic ingredients such as baking soda and vinegar.
  • Change your air filters on time. Dirty air filters blow dirty air back into your home. Stock up on air filters so that you have them available to switch out, or ask our AC repair company in Gilbert about washable electrostatic air filters.
  • Open your windows daily. Fresh air acts as a filter for your indoor air. Better yet, get outdoors regularly and soak in the sun. This isn’t hard to do in sunny Arizona!
  • Be a smart shopper. Pay attention to the purchases that you make. Many laundry detergents, dish soaps and household cleaners are made in “clear & free” versions. Also be mindful of furniture, clothing and linens that you add to the home.

Consider UV Light Installation

If you are concerned that IAQ is affecting your family’s health, there’s another step that you can take. Ultraviolet lights can help you maintain a safer environment, and once installed, you don’t have to do anything extra. Our AC service in Gilbert offers ultraviolet light installation.

Here’s how the process works. UV lights are installed into your central air conditioning system, preventing the growth of harmful airborne particles such as mold, bacteria and viruses. Since these are stopped from being released into the air you breathe, your home’s IAQ is significantly improved. Also, the efficiency of your HVAC equipment is enhanced, resulting in better performance and a longer lifespan.

Let’s sum up the benefits to installing UV lights in your heating and cooling system.

  • Improve indoor air quality
  • Create optimal airflow
  • Destroy mold and bacterial on coils
  • Improve efficiency of HVAC equipment

If you have questions about how to improve IAQ in your home through UV light installation, better air filters or other measures, call Simply The Best AC. Our experienced techs will be happy to make suggestions and get you on the right track to a healthier home!

Photo Credit: Jack Moreh

Guide To Types of Attic Insulation

Batts of insulation in an attic.

If you aren’t the do-it-yourselfer type who enjoys home improvement projects and has some experience and skill with them, it might be best to leave attic insulation to a well-qualified professional, like those at Simply the Best Heating & Cooling. While you might not think your attic needs insulation in areas like Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, Chandler, or Gilbert, insulation works to keep cool air inside the home in the same way that warm air is retained in a cooler climate. There a few different types of home attic insulation and a question that we get asked a lot is, “What is the best type of insulation for my attic?” Here’s what you need to know about installing attic insulation.

Types and Methods of Insulation

Blanket Insulation

Probably the most popular form of insulation is known as blanket insulation, and its popularity is partly due to how easy it is to work with. When you’re working with this kind of insulation however, you should be sure to keep covered, because when your skin comes in contact with it, itchiness can develop. Recycled insulation is an environmentally friendly alternative which does not make your skin feel uncomfortable or itchy when contact is made. There’s no real difference with the installation of either type, but there is a definite difference in the handling comfort between the two.

Loose-Fill Insulation

Loose-fill insulation can be blown in with the use of a special machine which distributes loose-fill cellulose all throughout the framing of the attic, in all the obvious places, and especially in nooks and crannies, which can’t really be addressed by blanket insulation. The big advantage of this insulation method is that it can be very thorough in its coverage, and thus its effectiveness. However, this is probably not a method you would undertake as a homeowner, if for no other reason, because you wouldn’t have the necessary equipment.

Spray Foam Insulation

Another insulation method calls for the use of sprayed foam polyurethane. The big appeal of this insulation type is that it does not intrude on the living space to any real degree, so if you’re intending to use the attic as a finished room, this would be a good choice, especially since in this case, the actual insulation is done to the roof, not the attic. The polyurethane molds itself to every part of the roof’s interior, creating a highly effective barrier between inside and outside, with great retention properties. The downside of this method would probably be its higher cost, which runs as much as twice the cost of an ordinary insulation strategy.

Level of insulation

While the appropriate level of insulation varies across climatic regions, a good rule of thumb is insulating to R-50 or R-60 for a high degree of retention. If you have existing insulation, you need only insulate to the difference between R-50 and what you already have, and for all new insulation you’d need the full amount. For further guidance on how much insulation to install in your geographic area of the country, consult your local heating and cooling contractor.

Common Causes of HVAC Failure

An older air conditioning unit that might be failing and in need of a repair.

As is the case with any complex mechanical system, your home’s HVAC system is comprised of a number of components which all have to be functioning well in order for this system as a whole to perform smoothly and efficiently. When all these components are well-maintained and functioning properly, so will your HVAC unit be functioning properly. This is important to you because of the comfort and indoor air quality the system provides, as well as for its ability to keep energy bills lower.

When something goes wrong with your HVAC system in Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Scottsdale, or Gilbert, your first call should be to Simply the Best Heating and Cooling, so service can be restored promptly and effectively. The following reasons for failure are among the most common with HVAC units in general, so when your system isn’t working right, chances are it will be for one of these reasons. Check these first before making a call to the professionals.

Dirty filters

If this is the only thing wrong with your HVAC unit, it’s an inexpensive fix to make. Filters should really be changed monthly during peak seasons of warmth or cold, so that all trapped pollutants can be discarded, and not recirculated throughout the home. When filters are not regularly changed, they make an HVAC unit work twice as hard, because the pollutants create a barrier which hinders airflow.

Improperly balanced dampers

Most ductwork systems in homes terminate at individual rooms, and have dampers in the main supply line which act to control airflow throughout the ducts. When dampers are not properly balanced, some rooms may be heated or cooled much faster than others, but when dampers are properly balanced, all rooms are equally heated and cooled.

Broken thermostat

Broken thermostats are the root cause of far more HVAC system failures than you might think, and fortunately, this is one of the simplest and least expensive repairs you can make on your heating or cooling system. The only bad thing about the thermostat being the culprit for so many problems, is that it’s usually not obvious to the occupants, and requires the knowledge and experience of a professional to uncover.

Leaking refrigerant

This is a common problem with air-conditioning units, and it can cause either poor performance, or no performance at all if the problem is bad enough. Condenser units in your air conditioner require a refrigerant in order to cool incoming air for your home, and when there isn’t enough refrigerant in the system, there’s no way for the air conditioner to function correctly. With low refrigerant levels, the condenser works harder than it’s meant to, and that creates additional problems, which can lead to a complete breakdown.

Breaker was tripped

When your HVAC unit won’t function at all, there’s a possibility that the circuit breaker was tripped, and the breaker provides the flow of electricity which powers the unit. You may be able to restore power by resetting the breaker, but there’s also a chance that some other problem caused the breaker to trip in the first place. If resetting the breaker solves the problem, then it may have just been a fluke, but if the breaker trips again, the safest thing to do is contact a professional electrician.

How to Get the Most From Your Heat Pump

Woman enjoying a drink in the sunlight.

You’ve decided to install a heat pump! Good for you! Heat pumps are an excellent choice for Arizona residents because our winters are relatively mild. This means that you don’t need the power of a furnace unless you prefer a warmer home in the winter rather than the more mild temperatures that a heat pump creates. Aside from your personal preferences, a heat pump is a suitable heating system for homes and businesses in the Greater Phoenix area.

Even though heat pumps are great heating systems, not all are created equal. To get the most from this investment, you need to buy smart and use smart.

Choose the Right Heat Pump

When buying a heat pump, do your research and get a recommendation from your local HVAC service in Gilbert. HVAC techs see all types of issues with heating systems and are familiar with the best manufacturers and models.

For instance, at Simply The Best AC, we recommend Daikin heat pumps to our customers. We feel that they offer exceptional heating and cooling efficiency throughout the year, plus have lower operating costs compared to other models.

If you don’t want to purchase an Daikin model, at least look for an Energy Star qualified heat pump. These models are energy efficient and will save money on operating costs. To qualify as an Energy Star model, the unit must have a baseline rating of 8.2 HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor).

Additionally, an Energy Star qualified model is tested to work well in cold environments, providing that it’s the right size. This might not make a huge difference living here in Phoenix, but it’s something to think about. You are buying a heat pump to keep warm, after all.

Install the Heat Pump Correctly

When it comes time for installation, be aware of what’s going on. Hiring a trusted HVAC repair company in Gilbert is important because the tech will make sure that the heat pump is the right size and properly installed. Here are some things to look for.

  • Insulation. If you insulate your home prior to installing a heat pump, your home will be cheaper to heat, and you can buy a smaller system.
  • Brand Name. Always choose a quality brand that you can count on. The product should also come with a warranty.
  • Correct Size. The heat pump should be the right size – not too big, not too small. A system that’s overly large will generate more heat than needed, and a system that’s too small will have to work overtime.
  • Proper Installation. Correct location and installation is key to optimal performance. Again, hiring a trusted professional will ensure proper installation.
  • Climate Considerations. When The temperatures drop, the performance of your heat pump will, too. Temps don’t dip too low in AZ, but you still want to know that your heat pump is right for our desert climate.

Smart Use of Your Heat Pump

Let’s talk about how you can see the most from your heat pump. First thing’s first: Only use heat when you need it. There is no reason to keep your heat pump on when you’re at work all day. Second, only heat the rooms that you’re in. You can keep the rest of the rooms warm by closing windows and shutting curtains.

Also make sure that you keep on top of the thermostat. If you buy a programmable thermostat, you can set the temperatures for when you leave, return home and go to sleep. Lastly, take care of your heat pump just as you do your AC unit (providing that you do a good job!). Change the air filter regularly and schedule maintenance checks with an HVAC service in Gilbert.

Whether you’re in the market for a new heat pump or you’re still unsure of whether a furnace or heat pump is right for you, give Simply The Best AC a call. We’ll be happy to come out for a consultation and determine what is best for your needs.

Photo Credit: Ed Gregory

Dangers of Reusing Air Conditioning Filters

This clogged air filter could lead to a dangerous situation for your home HVAC system.

There are certain kinds of air conditioning filters which are specially constructed to be reusable, but unless you are certain that the air filters in your cooling system are of this type, you should not assume that it’s safe to clean and reuse them at maintenance time. Unless your filters are purposely built for reuse, you should simply remove them from their place in the cabinet, discard them, and put brand-new ones in place.

New air filters can be purchased at home improvement shops or from your local HVAC contractor, and if you’re the kind of person who’s uncomfortable with doing home maintenance, you can even have your HVAC repair technician in Gilbert, Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, or Mesa do it safely for you. Here’s why it’s important to not reuse ordinary filters.

Cleaning is inadequate

From one maintenance period to the next, your air conditioning filters trap a great many kinds of contaminants and other debris, and these particles are often trapped well below the surface, in the fibers of the filter. No amount of surface cleaning or vacuuming is going to touch the dust, pollen, and dirt particles at this inner portion of the filter. Instead, these pollutants will create a kind of barrier which prevents the passage of air through the filter, thus making your air conditioner less efficient, or possibly even damaging it.

Mold and mildew might develop

Your cleaning efforts may leave the surface area of an air filter wet, because they are not built to shed any of the moisture that gets on them. Since the moisture is retained over a period of time, it can easily promote the growth of mold or mildew, which would then be passed on to every room of your home where the duct work carries it. Even if mold and mildew do not develop, a wet filter is far less efficient at trapping pollutants than a dry one.

Handling is bad for filters

Cleaning efforts may be well-intentioned, but they can easily damage the integrity of the filter’s construction. For instance, slapping the filter against a hard surface to remove visible dirt and debris can cause damage all by itself. Attempting to pick things out of the filter can also compromise the somewhat delicate construction of the fibers, and if you should tear a hole somewhere in the fibers, the filter simply cannot be as efficient or effective as it originally was.

Reusable filters

While it is safe to clean and re-install filters designed for re-usability, it should be remembered that in order for them to be really effective, they should be cleaned frequently, even as much as every month. When they’re not being cleaned often, all the particles which they extract from the indoor air, slowly begin to clog the filter and reduce its efficiency – which means the longer the time between cleanings, the less efficient will be your air conditioner.