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14 HVAC System Tips for New Homeowners in Portland

family-drinking-orange-juice-in-kitchenAre you a first-time homeowner in the Portland metro area? If so, HVAC systems might be unfamiliar to you. Want to learn HVAC equipment basics and maintenance tips from top experts? Our local HVAC company shares heating and cooling fundamentals below. 

HVAC Tips for Beginners

What is an HVAC system? HVAC stands for “heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.” As the name suggests, HVAC units are responsible for all your residential heating and air conditioning needs. While HVAC systems are complex machines with many intricate parts, there are nine main components you should be familiar with. Keep in mind not all HVAC units are alike, so consult your professional HVAC contractor with any questions.

9 Basic HVAC Components

1) Furnace

Your furnace is designed to heat air and push it through your duct system to properly warm up your home. Furnaces can run off of electricity or natural gas, come in single-stage or two-stage options, and are often installed in your garage, basement or utility closet. 

2) Heat Exchanger

The heat exchanger is not technically part of your furnace, although it is often located inside of your furnace. The furnace is responsible for moving hot air into your ducts, but the heat exchanger converts cold air to warm air via the combustion chamber.

3) Evaporator Coil

Also located inside of your home furnace, the evaporator coil helps to cool your indoor air. Refrigerant circulates through the coil, which allows the evaporator coil to absorb heat from the incoming air. The chilled air then blows through the ducts to help cool your residence.

4) Condensing Unit

The condensing unit serves a similar function as the evaporator coil; however, the condensing unit is typically located outside your home and gives off heat. 

5) Refrigerant Tubes

Refrigerant tubes connect the evaporator coil to the condensing unit. They are usually made of metal, contain refrigerant, and join the indoor and outdoor units. 

6) Thermostat

Thermostats allow you to control the internal temperature of your home. Typically mounted on the walls of a home, they can be located throughout your residence. You can find manual, programmable, and smart options. Programmable thermostats can often help save energy costs.

7) Ductwork

Ductwork allows warm or cool air to be distributed throughout your home via air ducts. Hot or cool air is pulled into your HVAC system, where it is conditioned, then pushed back out to maintain ideal indoor temperatures. Ducts can be located in attics and in the ceiling spaces. 

8) Vents

As conditioned air moves through the ducts, it enters rooms in your home through air vents.

9) Heat Pump

A residential heat pump provides both heating and cooling. During colder months, the heat pump transfers cold air from the inside to the outside. In the warmer months, it does the exact opposite. 

5 HVAC Tips for Portland Homeowners

1) Know Your HVAC System

As an Oregon homeowner, you need to know what type of HVAC system you have. This will help you troubleshoot potential problems and plan your routine maintenance schedule. 

The most common system is known as the central air conditioning system and includes all the components listed above. Some homes, however, could have ductless systems. It’s also a good idea to know if your home uses a gas or electric furnace, or a boiler system. 

2) Don’t Close Your Vents

Keeping air vents open allows for proper air distribution throughout your home. Closed vents force your HVAC system to work harder and less efficiently.

3) Inspect and Clean Your Ductwork

As a new homeowner, it’s important to have your ducts inspected and cleaned by a professional. Dirty and clogged ducts can contribute to poor indoor air quality and increase energy costs. 

4) Replace Your Air Filter

One of the first maintenance steps you can take in your new home is to replace the air filter. Choose one that fits the best needs for your residence. Plan to replace your air filter every three months. 

5) Develop an HVAC Maintenance Schedule

hvac-maintenance-plan-in-portlandUpon moving into your new home, contact your Oregon HVAC contractor and schedule a maintenance visit. Once all issues have been addressed, develop a yearly maintenance plan with your contractor. Taking care of your HVAC system will keep your unit performing its best and can save you on energy costs.

Residential HVAC Services for Your Portland Home

If you are new to HVAC systems and need expert advice, AAA Heating and Cooling is here to help. Whether you are looking to schedule a routine visit or have an issue that requires immediate attention, our trained technicians can get the job done. Contact us today and let us assist you with all your HVAC needs. 

mother-and-child-by-windowLet’s face it, we can all use some help reducing our heating and cooling costs. We all want to save money on energy bills and get the most out of our HVAC systems. The more efficient our heating and cooling systems are, then less impact they have on our wallet and the environment. 

Our HVAC company in Beaverton is here to help you keep your residential HVAC system running smoothly and help you save on utility costs.

Home Heating and Cooling Cost Savings

Are your utility costs higher than you’d like? Before you invest in a new HVAC system, there are a few tips to help increase energy efficiency and lower your bills. From routine maintenance to ENERGY STAR equipment upgrades, AAA Heating and Cooling has the best solutions to managing your residential energy costs.

5 HVAC Tips to Save Money on Your Energy Bills

1. Check and Change Your Air Filter Frequently

Dirty air filters can impede airflow and cause HVAC units to work harder to maintain your ideal indoor temperature. This added stress on your unit can result in wasted energy and higher utility bills.

To avoid clogged and dirty air filters, our HVAC installers recommend checking your air filters every other month. If you notice any dirt or debris, change the filter right away. Otherwise, plan to install a new air filter every three months. Sticking to this schedule will help prevent dust and dirt from accumulating in the system. 

2. Install a Programmable Thermostat

smart-thermostatInvesting in a programmable thermostat can help save you on energy costs. In the average household, nearly half of the yearly energy bill goes towards heating and cooling. Controlling your temperature settings allows you to save more while still maintaining a comfortable air climate. 

You can always shut off your unit while you are away, but this can cause other potential problems. For example, turning off your AC unit in the summer might increase humidity levels. Programmable thermostats allow you to set your ideal temperatures while at home and away, reducing energy waste. 

3. Schedule Routine HVAC Maintenance

HVAC systems are complex machines that require routine tune-ups to keep them functioning at peak performance. Even if you’re not experiencing any problems with your residential HVAC unit, it’s a good idea to have your systems checked annually

Your HVAC contractors will thoroughly check and tune-up all components of your unit including:

  • Thermostat settings
  • System controls
  • Electrical connections
  • Gas connections, pressure, burner combustion, and heat exchangers
  • Air conditioning coils and refrigerant

Performing annual maintenance will help ensure maximum efficiency and improve the longevity of your unit.

4. Inspect and Seal Your Heating and Cooling Ducts

Ducts that transfer air to-and-from heat pumps, central air conditioners, and forced air furnaces can waste energy if not properly sealed. To help maintain energy efficiency, have your local HVAC installer seal the seams and connections of your duct system. Once your ducts are properly sealed, schedule professional duct cleaning every three to five years.

For even more energy-saving, consider investing in ductless heating and cooling. An alternative to forced air systems, ductless cooling and heating can save you on overall energy costs over time. 

5. Choose ENERGY STAR rated HVAC Equipment

energy-star-equipmentIf your HVAC system isn’t performing at its best, has low-efficiency ratings, or is more than 10 years old, it might be time to consider investing in a new system.

Choosing ENERGY STAR certified equipment can have a big impact on your overall energy costs and home comfort. What’s more? It has a better positive environmental impact.  

Contact Our Beaverton HVAC Company for Your Heating & Cooling Needs

From recommendations on certified ENERGY STAR equipment to performing routine maintenance, our HVAC installers are dedicated to helping you achieve energy efficiency. We proudly serve the Beaverton and Portland metro area, with two locations for all your service needs.

 

Click to View or Download Our Checklist

hvac-inspection-checklist-for-homeowners

family-in-poolWith summer right around the corner, many Pacific Northwest residents are starting to think about how best to stay cool as our days begin to warm up. If you are considering purchasing a portable unit for your home or apartment it’s important to know the options available to you. 

What AC units are better for your needs? Need to learn the difference between portable AC and ventless air conditioning units? Our Beaverton HVAC contractors provide details and answers below.

Types of Residential Air Conditioning Systems

You may not be aware that there are two types of portable air conditioning options for your home: portable AC and ventless AC. Both have unique cooling options with their own set of pros and cons. To help you make an informed decision on which one is right for you, check out the facts below:

The Difference Between Portable and Ventless Air Conditioners 

To ensure you purchase the right air conditioner for your home, it’s first necessary to understand the difference between portable and ventless AC units.

portable-ac-unitPortable AC units are outfitted with a hose that allows the system to transfer hot air from inside a room to outside. Due to their design, they must be installed next to a window in order for the hose to vent warm air outdoors. Once the exhaust is set up, all you have to do is plug in your portable air conditioning unit and turn it on. 

Ventless air conditioners, also known as evaporative air coolers,  do not use a hose or vent warm air outside. Instead, these units rely on a tank of water, the process of evaporation, and a fan to circulate the cool air throughout the room.  

Choosing Your Air Conditioning Unit

Now that you know the differences between each unit, which is the best solution for you? Let’s examine some pro and cons of each:

1. Portability: While the name, “portable air conditioner,” implies maximum portability, they are actually less moveable than ventless AC systems. Because ventless units don’t come with a hose that requires venting, they can easily be moved from room to room and plugged in. If you are looking to cool down multiple rooms with the ease of one unit, an evaporative air cooler might be right for you.

2. Efficiency: One factor to consider in choosing a portable cooling unit is its energy efficiency. Ventless AC units are more cost-effective upfront, yet they might cost you more in energy costs down the line.

cold-airPortable air conditioners are able to remove warm air from your room and dispel it outdoors, via their venting hose. Ventless units cool the surrounding air, but don’t have the ability to transfer any remaining hot air outside. This can result in you having to run your unit longer to achieve ideal cooling temperatures. 

3. Cooling Ability: When selecting an air conditioning unit, you want one that cools effectively, while being energy efficient. How effectively an AC unit cools your room can ultimately depend on the humidity levels in your area.

Portable air conditioning units are best for humid climates because they remove moisture from the air and vent it out. Ventless units are ideal for drier climates because they introduce moisture into the air as part of the cooling process. 

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can experience a range of temperatures and humidity levels. That’s why it’s important to work with your HVAC contractor to determine the best air conditioning unit for your home.

Contact Our Beaverton Air Conditioning Installation & Maintenance Professionals

Looking for more guidance on the best air conditioning solution for your needs? AAA Heating and Cooling offers expert advice, installation, and repair for all your HVAC needs. Contact us today to schedule an inspection, or to discuss an upgrade, of your residential AC unit. 

Many of the Portland and Beaverton homeowners we service have questions about how their HVAC dampers work. Are you looking to learn more about your residential HVAC unit? Want to understand what HVAC dampers are and how they work? Our Portland and Beaverton HVAC contractors are here to help.

Residential Heating and Air Conditioning Dampers

HVAC dampers are essential to your home HVAC unit. They help regulate the temperature in your home and can help with energy efficiency. Our Oregon HVAC specialists explain the inner workings and benefits of HVAC dampers and HVAC zoning systems below. 

What are HVAC Dampers?

types-of-hvac-dampersDampers in your residential HVAC unit are the mechanisms that regulate temperature when using an HVAC zoning system. Zoning systems divide your home heating and cooling into different zones, giving you more options to control your air climate and energy usage. HVAC dampers are typically found in zoning systems. They monitor airflow, temperature, and humidity levels in your home, lowering or raising the zone’s temperature to your desired setting.

Damper systems function differently than residential vent systems. Closing a vent on the floor or on the wall will still allow air to travel through your ducts, thus wasting energy. HVAC dampers are located closer to the mouth of the distribution pipe, allowing them to regulate airflow as needed. 

How do HVAC Dampers Work?

HVAC dampers come in two types, manual and motorized: 

  • Manual dampers require the homeowner to twist a handle in order to regulate the airflow into a particular zone. 
  • Motorized or automatic dampers work with your programmable zoning system and function on their own. These types of dampers tend to be more convenient and energy-efficient for homeowners because they work in tandem with programmable thermostats

Is a Zoning System Right for You?

home-zoning-reduce-heating-billsA typical zoning system is comprised of dampers, a control panel, and temperature controllers for each zone. These elements work together to keep your home climate comfortable for the whole family. A residential zoning system transfers warm or cool air to individual rooms, or zones, instead of forcing air through your entire home to maintain your ideal temperature. 

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, home zoning systems can reduce heating and cooling bills by up to 30 percent. If you are looking to increase energy efficiency and save on utility bills, it might be time to consider a residential zoning system. Our expert HVAC contractors in Beaverton and Portland can help you choose the right solution for your home. 

Residential HVAC Service, Repair & Installation in Beaverton & Portland

Considering a zoning system? Looking to repair or upgrade your existing model? AAA Heating and Cooling is at your service. We proudly serve the Portland-metro and Beaverton areas. Contact our team today! 

Click to View or Download Our Checklist

4-FAQs-about-HVAC-dampers

As a homeowner you may have noticed your lights flicker when you power up your air conditioning unit. What causes your lights to dim?  Could it be a problem with the AC unit itself? Is there something wrong with the electricity in your home? Our Beaverton residential heating and air conditioning pros answer these questions and more. 

Understanding Your Residential Air Conditioning Unit

Think of electricity in your home the same way you do your residential plumbing. Much like the water in your pipes, there is only so much electricity available in your home at any given time. When you flush your home toilet while running a shower, the water pressure splits between the two fixtures. Electricity behaves in a similar manner. 

AC-normal-light-flickeringWhen you turn on a high-energy device, like a modern AC unit, the initial power draw can put a substantial drain on your available electricity. This can cause your lights to dim. While flickering lights might seem worrisome, this is often a normal electrical response to power being diverted. 

How can you tell if the dimming lights are a normal occurrence or signs of a larger problem? For a normal functioning air conditioner, you will experience: 

  • Lights dimming for a split second
  • Lights losing only about 5% of their brightness 

Lights that dim for a long time, flicker on and off rapidly, or only dim on particular circuits could be symptomatic of more serious electrical issues. What are the more serious issues and when should you speak with a professional?

1. Damaged or Loose Wires

Do your lights turn off and on quickly when you start up your AC unit? This could be indicative of loose or damaged electrical wires. Faulty wires can cause current loss to your lightbulb. Plus, the voltage drop that occurs when your air conditioner kicks on can exacerbate the problem, making your lights flicker rapidly. Not sure if your wires need repair? Make an appointment with your Beaverton HVAC contractor to check if your wires are discolored, charred, or loose.

2. Weak or Broken Capacitor

ac-lights-flicker-capacitorIf your lights are losing 30% to 40% percent of their illumination when the AC starts, that’s a sign of a capacitor issue. Your AC capacitor functions like a battery, giving your compression motor the boost of energy it needs to power up. Much like your car battery, your air conditioning compressor can lose its ability to store and maintain power. 

What does this mean? Your AC is pulling more voltage from other appliances and putting more stress on your compressor to start up. This can cause the lights to temporarily lose their brightness.  

3. Overloaded Circuits

Overloaded circuits can present a serious problem. According to the National Electric Safety Code, all major appliances should be on their own dedicated circuit. If you trip your circuit breaker, or hear any buzzing sounds when you turn on your AC unit, you could be overloading your circuits. If you notice any of these signs, unplug any household devices that share the same circuit as your AC unit. This will reduce your risk of fires and electrical shock. For a long term solution, you will need to get a complete assessment and potential repair from your HVAC professionals. 

Home HVAC Solutions in Beaverton & Portland

If you aren’t sure what might be causing your flickering lights, call in the experts. AAA Heating and Cooling is your go-to residential HVAC servicing and installation company. We now have two locations, in Portland and Beaverton!