Top Air Conditioner Brands

furnace

This time of the year everyone starts thinking about summer, and that means air conditioning for many people. A commonly asked question is “Which brand of air conditioner is the best?”  This really depends on what you’re looking for.  Is your number one priority price? Or is it reliability?  What about customer service? Or are there specific features you want?  The answers to these questions will determine which brand of air conditioner would be the ideal fit.

In many different polls Amana ranked highest overall in terms of efficiency, warranty, and customer service. However, the high end Amana units are some of the most expensive options on the market.  This higher upfront cost can be completely negated though if an expensive component, such as the compressor or heat exchanger, fails.  On these units Amana offers a lifetime warranty while you own your home, so even the most expensive component would be replaced free of charge.

If you’re looking for the best value, consider Goodman.  They actually own Amana and many of the internal components between the two brands are identical.  Goodman is their more affordable every day brand that many consumers prefer.  Generally, experience has shown that the Goodman brand is just as reliable and lasts just as long as the Amana brand, but comes with a shorter 10-year warranty.  So if the Amana is more than you’re looking to spend up front, the Goodman brand is a solid second choice.

The next best option for air conditioning is another, one company with multiple brands, situation.  It turns out that one parent company, United Technologies, owns four different brands – Day and Night, Carrier, Bryant, and Payne.  For efficiency in manufacturing, all of these brands share many of the same internal components and often have models from each brand coming off the same assembly line.  Day and Night is the best value in terms of balancing price and reliability, but they have more limited availability and can be unavailable in certain areas at different times of the year.  Carrier has a great reputation in the industry and it’s well deserved, unfortunately that has earned them the right to a higher price tag.  Other than the higher price though they are an excellent choice.  Bryant and Payne, while lesser known then Carrier, are both solid brands as well.  They tend to be priced in between Day and Night and Carrier, and their efficiency rankings fall in the middle as well.

At the end of the day it’s important to remember that while choosing a quality brand is important, choosing a qualified technician for installation is even more important. Manufacturer research has shown that premature failure of air conditioner components is almost always a result of an improper installation.  Diamond Heating and Cooling will provide a high quality installation, in addition to a trustworthy recommendation on which brand is best for your situation.

This time of the year everyone starts thinking about summer, and that means air conditioning for many people. A commonly asked question is “Which brand of air conditioner is the best?”  This really depends on what you’re looking for.  Is your number one priority price? Or is it reliability?  What about customer service? Or are there specific features you want?  The answers to these questions will determine which brand of air conditioner would be the ideal fit.

In many different polls Amana ranked highest overall in terms of efficiency, warranty, and customer service. However, the high end Amana units are some of the most expensive options on the market.  This higher upfront cost can be completely negated though if an expensive component, such as the compressor or heat exchanger, fails.  On these units Amana offers a lifetime warranty while you own your home, so even the most expensive component would be replaced free of charge.

If you’re looking for the best value, consider Goodman.  They actually own Amana and many of the internal components between the two brands are identical.  Goodman is their more affordable every day brand that many consumers prefer.  Generally, experience has shown that the Goodman brand is just as reliable and lasts just as long as the Amana brand, but comes with a shorter 10-year warranty.  So if the Amana is more than you’re looking to spend up front, the Goodman brand is a solid second choice.

The next best option for air conditioning is another, one company with multiple brands, situation.  It turns out that one parent company, United Technologies, owns four different brands – Day and Night, Carrier, Bryant, and Payne.  For efficiency in manufacturing, all of these brands share many of the same internal components and often have models from each brand coming off the same assembly line.  Day and Night is the best value in terms of balancing price and reliability, but they have more limited availability and can be unavailable in certain areas at different times of the year.  Carrier has a great reputation in the industry and it’s well deserved, unfortunately that has earned them the right to a higher price tag.  Other than the higher price though they are an excellent choice.  Bryant and Payne, while lesser known then Carrier, are both solid brands as well.  They tend to be priced in between Day and Night and Carrier, and their efficiency rankings fall in the middle as well.

At the end of the day it’s important to remember that while choosing a quality brand is important, choosing a qualified technician for installation is even more important. Manufacturer research has shown that premature failure of air conditioner components is almost always a result of an improper installation.  Diamond Heating and Cooling will provide a high quality installation, in addition to a trustworthy recommendation on which brand is best for your situation.

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Your HVAC Can Help Reduce Allergens

indoor air quality

Many homeowners think of things like replacing the filter in their HVAC system to reduce the spread of allergens throughout the home, but there are actually several different ways that the HVAC system can be used to reduce asthma and allergy symptoms.

Certainly the filter is the first line of defense against indoor air pollutants so it’s important to replace it regularly and buy a quality filter.  The professionals at Diamond Heating and Cooling can recommend one based on your specific situation, but in general it’s recommended to look for one with a higher MERV rating.  This rating will range from 1-20 with a higher number indicating a higher level of filtration.  It’s also important to choose a high-efficiency filter that is designed to help reduce allergens.  Most high-efficiency filters are rated from 14-16, and are designed to remove small particles from the air. The highest rated filters are HEPA filters which are rated from 17-20 however you’ll want to check with an HVAC technician though before installing a HEPA filter as they are only intended to be used on HVAC systems that can handle the additional stress that this type of filter will put on it.

Looking to do more than just change the filter?  There are some accessory items that can be added to your HVAC system to further improve the indoor air quality.  The most common first addition is an air purifier.  A whole-home air purifier is highly recommended for anyone dealing with severe allergies or asthma.  It is designed to improve the air in the entire home through purification and the use of a HEPA filter.

The next biggest cause of allergy symptoms is changes in humidity levels.  Maintaining the ideal humidity level inside your home is often the next step that allergy and asthma suffers will take.  A whole-home dehumidifier/humidifier can be added to your HVAC system to help achieve that ideal humidity level.  The final, and most expensive, option is the addition of UV lamps.  A UV lamp can be used with your HVAC system to help you go beyond just trapping allergens to actually killing bacteria, mold and other allergy triggers.

One final recommendation is to stay on top of regular HVAC maintenance visits.  Having a technician thoroughly clean your HVAC system, as well as the ductwork, is the absolute best way to stay ahead of allergens.  It’s generally recommended to have this done annually, and spring is usually the ideal time.

Best Heating and Cooling Options for a Finished Basement

710673 - nicey decorated full finished basement in a model home
710673 – nicely decorated full finished basement in a model home

Are you considering adding some living space below ground or have you recently completed a remodel?  If so at some point you’ll need to give consideration to how best to heat and cool this added space.  Luckily this is typically a pretty straight-forward decision with the existing home factors making the determination.  Things such as the climate you live in, the capacity of your existing HVAC system, the size of the newly finished space and others will dictate the heating and cooling plan.

Tying in to the existing HVAC system is the most common, and generally most affordable, option.  A qualified HVAC technician will need to review the current set-up to ensure the system has the capacity to cover the additional space as well as compensate for the generally cooler temperature of the basement. If it’s determined that the existing system can handle the load all that’s left to be done is to install the additional ductwork and vents in the new living space. This is a fairly simple job for the technician to complete if done prior to starting the renovations, or in the very early stages.

If adding on to the existing system proves not to be a viable choice there are two options – either upgrade the unit or add a second system.  Upgrading is the preferred method if the existing HVAC system is older and likely to need replaced regardless in the next few years.  Adding a second unit may be less expensive as a smaller set-up could get the job done verses a single, much larger one for the entire house.  In addition, if space is a concern it may not be practical to add an entire second furnace and air conditioning unit.

Another popular option for heating finished basements is a duct-less, mini-split system.  These systems work by placing several indoor air handling units throughout the basement area.  These units are then tied together into a single exterior condenser.  With this option no ductwork needs to be run, no additional space is required in the basement, and the overall cost can be reduced.

If the basement has already been finished (it’s too late to run ductwork) and heating and cooling have now been determined to be a problem, there are a few options to consider.  Many homeowners add baseboard heaters, wall-mounted units or radiant heat systems. All of these options are relatively simple to use, effective in small spaces and fairly economical.

Certainly the ideal option is to have a plan for heating and cooling the basement prior to finishing it but in either scenario Diamond Heating and Cooling can help come up with the best solution and get it implemented quickly and affordably.

Back-up Generator Safety Tips

34590416 - yellow generator

Many homeowners like the idea of having a back-up generator on-hand should they lose power but there are some safety tips to keep in mind.  The biggest potential hazards of using a generator are carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine exhaust, electrocution, fire, and electric shock.  Certainly the best tip is to follow the instructions provided with the owner’s operation manual from the manufacturer of the generator.

There are some general suggestions that apply to all generators though.  First, keep the generator dry and do not operate in rainy or wet conditions.  In order to avoid the risk of electrocution it should be run on a dry surface, only touched with dry hands, and under an open air, canopy type structure.  To avoid risks of fire, make sure to allow the generator to cool after being turned off prior to refueling. Gasoline could ignite if spilled on a hot engine.  Also be sure to store fuel outside of living areas and separate from any fuel-burning appliances.

The American Red Cross recommends plugging appliances directly into the generator or using an outdoor-rated, heavy duty extension cord.  They also warn that the generator should never be plugged directly into a wall outlet as this puts everyone – neighbors, utility workers, and the homeowner at risk of electrocution.  Their final recommendation is to stagger the various items that are powered by the generator to prevent the risk of overload. It’s highly recommended that homeowners install a transfer switch to avoid the need for extension cords.  The transfer switch connects the generator directly to the circuit panel and allows for hardwired appliances to be powered without the need for an extension cord.

To avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning a generator should never be run inside the home or even in the garage.  In fact, the generator should be located not just outside but away from doors and windows as well. Every home should also have a carbon monoxide detector installed.  This is the most important safe guard to protect you and your loved ones from the potentially lethal consequences of carbon monoxide exposure.  High levels of carbon monoxide can kill an adult in as little as 5 minutes.

As weather catastrophes have become more common throughout the country, the number of people buying generators has grown substantially but sadly so have the number of injuries and deaths due to improper operation of these units.  These simple safety tips can keep everyone safe while they weather the storm.

Increasing Humidity Levels In Your Home

residential HVAC
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Throughout the winter months the moisture in the air gets sucked out by the decreasing temperatures, which can have some definite effects on both your body and your home.  Many people have to deal with dry skin or chapped lips, but dry air can also lead to more serious health concerns such as more frequent colds and sinus infections, as a result of the dry respiratory tissue being more susceptible to irritation and infection.  Your home can feel the effects of dry air too with paint and woodwork cracking, hardwood floors expanding and contracting, and increased mold and mildew growth – all from the decreased moisture. While the most commonly thought of solution is a humidifier there are actually many other ways to address this problem, many of which don’t cost any money at all.

  1. Turn off the Dryer – hanging clothes to dry inside your home is a great way to reduce your energy consumption and simultaneously add moisture to the air.
  2. Plug the Shower – when you’re taking a shower plug the drain to keep the water in the bottom. Leave the water there until the next time someone needs to use the shower and then drain. This water will evaporate and increase the humidity in the home.
  3. Boil Water on the Stove – in many homes the bathroom with a shower in it is too far from the kitchen to raise humidity in that area so boil water on the stove to spread moisture to that area.
  4. Vent the Dryer Inside – for those loads of laundry that still go through the dryer, install a simple venting kit to keep that air inside.
  5. Put Containers of Water on top of registers or wood stoves – simply place a container of water on top of floor registers, radiant heating units or wood stoves. The water will evaporate into the home and the air movement from the vents will help distribute it. Be sure the container is made of an appropriate heat resistant product for the location. Plastic or glass bowls may get too hot when placed on a wood stove but a cast iron kettle works perfect.
  6. Add Some Plants – houseplants are a great way to add humidity to your home. Plants are constantly releasing moisture from their leaves and stems into the air.

Certainly the most effective way to make a major change in humidity is by adding a whole home humidifier attachment to your furnace.  In one study this was found to raise humidity levels in the home 28-30%!  Generally, the ideal in-home humidity level is 40-50%, which can certainly be achieved with a whole home unit.  In addition, using one of these with your HVAC system allows you to regulate the humidity level as it changes seasonally, and keeps you from running it when it’s unnecessary.

How Does A Heat Pump Work?

heat pump

In recent years heat pumps have become increasingly common in newly constructed homes or as an add-on to older homes, but how they work is a mystery to many.  There are two types of heat pumps, those that use air and those that draw from a ground-source.  Essentially, those that use air work to pull any available heat from the cold outdoors in the winter, then by using an electrical system it distributes that heat inside the house, essentially the inverse of how an air conditioning unit works in the summer.  The heat pump is generally connected in to a forced air heating system to distribute the heat throughout the home.  Air-source heat pumps are the more common of the two heat pumps, primarily because they are cheaper to purchase and easier to install, however the ground-source heat pump is by far the more efficient option.

Homeowners who are looking to live more sustainably or those that intend to remain in their home for a long period of time should consider the more expensive ground-source heat pump.  As the name implies ground-source heat pumps get their heat from underground.  Ground temperatures are more consistent than air temperatures allowing for a higher degree of efficiency for the heat pump.  As previously stated a ground-source heat pump requires a more involved installation process and would generally only be completed by a certified HVAC professional.  Depending on the terrain, either long trenches 3-6’ deep, or vertical boreholes, will need to be dug to lay the necessary “loop” of piping.  Consumers also have the option with these systems of using groundwater to pass through the heat exchanger rather than refrigerant. That groundwater can then be returned to the aquifer.  Setting this up would be part of the standard ground-source heat pump installation.

It may initially seem counter intuitive that using electricity with the heat pump will actually be any cheaper for the homeowner than just running a standard gas heating system, however because the electricity is only being used to move heat rather than to actually generate it there will be a savings.  The heat pump definitely delivers more energy than it consumes. Because the ground temperature stays warmer than the air temperature in the winter, a ground-source (or geothermal) heat pump will be the highest level of efficiency.

A heat pump can then be reversed in the summer months to pull heat from the air inside the home and move it outside, thus further increasing its value.  Most homeowners see an energy savings of 30-40% year round after installing a heat pump.  It’s also interesting to note that the heat pumps sold today are more than 3x more efficient than those sold 30 years ago.  So if you looked at heat pumps in the past but had trouble justifying the initial cost, it might be worth giving it another consideration.

Benefits to Flushing the Water Heater

25763704 - electric water heater hanging on the wooden wall

Most homeowners are aware that flushing the water heater is a regular maintenance requirement, but very few do it with the frequency recommended by the water heater manufacturers which is generally once per month, often it never gets done at all.  What are the real costs to not flushing the water heater and what are the benefits to getting it done?

  1. Heating Efficiency – if the water heater hasn’t been flushed for some time it will take longer for the heat transfer process between the heating elements and the water to take place. This will result in it taking longer to get more hot water and will increase the likelihood of running out of hot water.  Most customers say that they notice an immediate improvement in the amount of hot water they have after getting the tank flushed.
  2. Reduced Operational Costs – as sediment builds up in the tank it makes it more difficult for the heating elements to transfer heat to the water, which means it requires more energy to get the water to the same temperature, thus costing more money. In addition, the premature failure of components, which can result from this build up, will also increase maintenance costs of the water tank.
  3. Reduced Noise – a noisy water tank is a sign of a problem. A properly maintained tank should make very little noise.  The noisier the water tank, the more sediment has built up inside.  However, should the water tank eventually get quiet again this does not mean that the problem is resolved, in fact the opposite is true.  At this point the build-up has solidified such that water is no longer circulating properly and an immediate flush is required.
  4. Reduces Potential for Odor – if water is unable to move properly through the water tank system, either due to excessive sediment build-up or a failure of the system, then water will become stagnate. Stagnate water can lead to unpleasant odors which will only grow worse if left unattended.
  5. Ensures Warranty Protection – this is especially important during the first few months after installation while the water heater is under a manufacturer’s warranty. Very few warranties will protect against failure caused by scale or sediment build up so it’s important to be able to show that this is not the case should the water heater fail for some other reason and require warranty coverage.
  6. Increases Life of the Water Heater – the primary reason water heaters fail is a result of sediment build-up. On an electric heater this build-up can cause the electrodes to fail prematurely.  For customers with a gas heater this build up between the heat source and the water can result in additional heat being trapped at the bottom of the tank causing it to get hotter than intended which could eventually cause the metal to become so stressed that the tank leaks or fails.

The necessary frequency for flushing will vary dramatically depending on the quality of the incoming water and the type of water heater in use, however given that there’s no down side to flushing, it’s better to err on the side of over flushing to keep the system running its best.