should-i-buy-smart-thermostat

IoT and HVAC Technology: Should I Buy a Smart Thermostat?

Your home’s HVAC system relies on various components to keep the home feeling comfortable throughout the year, and one of the most important is the thermostat. Without a proper thermostat, your air conditioner would run and run, and never know when to turn off.

That’s what the thermostat helps to do; it regulates your HVAC system. But how does it do that?

In the simplest terms, a thermostat for home heating and cooling works like a thermometer. It gauges the interior temperature of your home. Yet, the thermostat also serves the function of telling your heating or cooling system when to turn off. Thermostats are hardwired to the HVAC unit’s airhandling system or furnace. Therefore, you select a temperature, and when the air conditioning system has lowered temperatures to that point, the HVAC system cycles off.

Thermostats have come a long way in the last decade. Today, smart thermostats have become the norm, replacing standard programmable thermostats. Smart thermostats offer a number of benefits for homeowners, including web and mobile integration, sensor technology and mobile programming, and by optimizing your home’s heating and cooling, smart thermostats have the ability to help reduce your HVAC costs.

Smart Thermostats vs Programmable Thermostats

In the last decade, programmable thermostats have become commonplace in modern HVAC systems. Essentially, a programmable thermostat allows homeowners to set perimeters for the unit. For instance, you might program in different settings during the evening or while you’re away from work.

You can also add in preset preferences for the thermostat, i.e. an away setting. Smart thermostats, on the other hand, are like programmable thermostats on steroids; they add in a range of advanced capabilities.

Most importantly, a smart thermostat, like many home automation technologies, can be accessed via the web. A smart thermostat connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network, and homeowners can then access the thermostat via a mobile app or desktop app, which has been connected to the device. Therefore, you could be on vacation in Fuji, but you’d still have the ability to turn off, raise or lower your thermostat settings. Yet, in addition to remote connectivity, smart thermostats offer a range of additional features.

Key Benefits of Smart Thermostats

A smart thermostat for home heating and cooling actually “learns” about the environment around it. Therefore, it can automate setting changes, which can help you lower your home HVAC costs. A few beneficial features include:

  •  Algorithmic learning: Smart thermostats “learn” about your heating and cooling preferences and automatically adjust settings. For example, a smart thermostat might learn you’ve changed your schedule, heading into work an hour later, and revise its away-mode scheduling accordingly.
  • Reporting: With smart thermostats, you can access real-time and historical data about your system. For example, a smart thermostat allows you to view real-time energy consumption estimates, as well as monthly, yearly or quarterly data. Want to see how much energy you used last winter? That data is readily available from your thermostat’s dashboard.
  • Remote Sensing + Geofencing: Most smart thermostats have advanced sensors that can detect when you’re in the home. If you get home early from work or stay home sick, the thermostat will adjust accordingly. Additionally, the smart thermostat offers geo-fencing capabilities, meaning it can sense how close your smartphone is to the home. Therefore, you might set a preference to switch from home to away mode if your phone was more than 7 miles from the thermostat. That way, if you’ll be away for longer (signalled by being 7 miles or more from home), your thermostat can adjust.
  • Auto Environmental Adjustments: Is today a little more humid than usual? Are you in the middle of a winter cold snap? In these types of situations, you’d likely adjust your thermostat settings manually. Smart thermostats, though, have the ability to detect these variations and adjust settings automatically. This can help you avoid having to crank the thermostat in any of these situations, which can increase run costs.
  • Home Automation Integration: Many of today’s smart thermostats can be integrated with other home automation systems, like automated lighting or appliance systems. Therefore, all of your home automation tools can be accessed from the same dashboard.

Is a Smart Thermostat Worth It?

Standard thermostat units are usually reasonably priced.  Smart thermostats, on the other hand, do increase upfront costs.  That certainly might discourage some homeowners, but remember, they can help you save on heating and cooling costs.

How exactly do they cut costs? By learning about your preferences, Nest thermostats can limit the run time of your HVAC systems. For example, the makers of the Nest thermostat estimate that heating savings are about 10-12% and cooling savings are about 15% compared to a standard programmable unit.

Additionally, you receive more control, with the ability to the access the system from anywhere in the world with a Wi-Fi connection. And you can completely customize your preferences. Therefore, the customizability and the cost savings are the two biggest reasons why you might consider a smart thermostat.

 

 

ComfortPro Home Insulation

The Best Time for Pennsylvania Residents to Replace Their Home Insulation

Proper home insulation is critical for comfort and even room temperatures during Pennsylvania’s long, cold winters. Yet, a more comfortable home isn’t the only benefit of high-performance insulation. New insulation can save you money. According to ENERGY STAR estimates, updating aging insulation can reduce a home’s heating/cooling needs by 20 percent.

Is your home in need of new insulation? Properly installed insulation can last a lifetime, but there are instances when it needs to be replaced. They include:  

  • Water or mildew damage
  • Under insulation
  • Uneven room temperatures
  • Old, decayed insulation
  • Pest infestation

So what’s the best time to replace insulation in Pennsylvania? In our state, home insulation replacement can be accomplished year-round. Yet, late summer and early fall tend to offer ideal installation conditions and faster scheduling.

Why Late Summer Is Best for PA Home Insulation Replacement?  

Pennsylvania’s moderate summer and early fall temperatures create an ideal environment for updating your home’s insulation. Yet, this is just one of many reasons. During this time of year, you’ll also benefit from:

  • Faster Scheduling: In mid-to-late fall and winter, there’s a rush for home insulation replacement in Pennsylvania. Updating your home’s insulation in summer can help you avoid potential bottlenecks in scheduling that may arise.
  • Ideal Weather: During the replacement process, homeowners may experience draftiness in the home. Homeowners may have to turn up the thermostat to offset this issue and keep the home evenly heated in winter and fall.
  • Your Home Will Be Winter-Ready: By improving the insulation in summer or early fall, your home will be winterized when the heating season arrives. This ensures all potential energy savings are realized by the homeowner.

Energy Audits: Learn Potential Benefits of Insulation Replacement

Want to learn about the potential energy savings of updating your home’s insulation? An energy audit performed by a licensed HVAC specialist is the best solution.

During an energy audit, an HVAC professional determine areas of the home that are potential energy drains, i.e. an under-insulated attic. Additionally, potential insulation issues like old or decaying material or water damage can be determined. Energy audits can be done during any time of year. If you suspect your home’s insulation is under-performing, you should schedule an energy audit or insulation inspection today.

 

Efficient HVAC Multifamily Home

Choosing An Efficient HVAC System for a Multifamily Home

Developers of multifamily housing have numerous initial decisions to make at the start of a project. Yet, the type of HVAC system that will be used in the property is a decision that has long-term implications. This article will outline efficient HVAC systems for a multifamily home.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to a number of factors, from installation and long-term maintenance costs, aesthetics and energy efficiency, as well as the size of the property. Low-rise buildings, for example, tend to have different needs compared to mid-rise or high-rise developments.

Beyond this, multifamily developments also have unique HVAC requirements, compared to single-family homes. Multifamily HVAC units must deliver:

  • Peak load flexibility: It’s difficult to estimate the peak energy demand of a multi-family property. Therefore, the system must be optimized to handle a variety of peak loads.
  • Individual comfort controls: Occupants must have in-unit controls, which can be delivered in a number of ways.
  • Ease of maintenance: HVAC units may be contained in-unit or as part of a centralized system. Either way, the system should be designed to be easily maintained.

Ultimately, the question remains: Which systems are the most energy efficient?

Centralized vs. Decentralized HVAC Units

HVAC units for multifamily buildings fall into two categories: Centralized and decentralized systems. Centralized HVAC systems are similar to a home’s heating and cooling systems. Heat and/or AC are feed from a central location – typically a mechanical room in the basement or in a penthouse of the building. Centralized systems do have a higher cost, and therefore, they’re more common in mid-rise and high-rise properties with many units.

Decentralized units, on the other hand, are compartmentalized. Each unit is treated as its own building, and separate heating and cooling systems are delivered to the individual units. These units are typically considered “self-contained.” Baseboard heat is another type of decentralized system.

Energy Efficiency of Centralized and Decentralized Systems

In general, centralized systems outperform decentralized HVAC systems in terms of energy efficiency. Yet, the higher installation costs may make these systems cost prohibitive. Common types of centralized HVAC systems include:

  • Hot Water Baseboard: These systems deliver hot water from a central location to individual units. Essentially, the hot water flows through the radiator, as the radiator sucks in cooler air and heats it. This type of system is economical to install and is fairly efficient.
  • Two-Pipe Systems: This system includes a central water boiler, as well as a central cooling plant, which is typically on the roof. These systems have two pipes – one for delivering hot or cold water – and one for returning. Therefore, heat and A/C cannot be delivered at the same time. Efficiency is boosted with these systems.
  • Four-Pipe Systems: Four-pipe systems utilize similar equipment to the two-pipe system, but since there are four pipes, heating and cooling can be provided at the same time. Therefore, Apartment A can choose heat, while Apartment B can choose to cool. These systems are expensive to install, but are well-known for their efficiency.
  • Geothermal Systems: One of the most efficient types of HVAC systems, geothermal utilize a water loop buried within the earth to heat or cool the water. This water can then be delivered to individual units with a two- or four-pipe system.

Comparatively, decentralized systems are, on average, more cost-effective to install, but most do not deliver maximum efficiency.

  • Electric Baseboard Heat: Baseboard heat is one of the most economical options to install. But these systems are inefficient and carry high operating costs, and they’re only capable of providing heat.
  • Wall Unit Air Conditioner: Like baseboard heaters, wall units are cost-effective to install, but they are inefficient. Additionally, these systems typically only provide cooling.
  • Packaged Thermal Air Conditioner: A common heating/cooling option used in hospitality developments, PTAC systems are wall-mounted forced air systems units. Generally, these systems have shorter life cycles, and they aren’t very efficient.
  • Self-Contained Systems: These are forced air systems that deliver heating and cooling an individual unit. Heating and cooling equipment is installed in each individual unit, either in a closet or mounted to an exterior wall. In terms of decentralized HVAC units, the self-contained systems offer the best efficiency.

Additional Tips for Developing Energy Efficient HVAC Systems

Ultimately, your choice of HVAC unit will set the standard for the system’s efficiency, but there additional steps that can be taken as well. For example, properly sealing heating and cooling ductwork can instantly optimize a system. Additionally, improving the insulation of the building envelop can reduce the system’s overall heating or cooling load.

To schedule an appointment or if you have any questions please contact us today!

 

Tax Credits for geothermal heating in pennslyvania

Geothermal Tax Credits | The Ultimate Guide

Geothermal heat pumps, which utilize renewable energy, are a long-used heating source for homes in the U.S. In fact, since the 1940s, geothermal heat pumps have offered a greener alternative to electric- and gas-powered heating/cooling systems for homeowners.

These systems use a pipe-loop buried vertically underneath the ground beside the home. This earth pipe-loop gathers the energy held below the earth’s surface and transfers that energy into the home that provides heating and or air conditioning. There are two types of geothermal heat pumps: Water-to-water systems and water-to-air systems. Water-to-water systems are used to power hydronic radiant heating systems, while water-to-air heating systems power forced-air heating ducts. In most cases, GHPs also will provide most of the domestic hot water for the home.

Today, with rising energy costs, geothermal heat pumps make more sense than ever. Not only will updating your home’s HVAC system with a geothermal heat pump lead to substantial energy bill savings. Years past they had a substantial tax credit. ENERGY STAR rated geothermal heat pumps were eligible for a 30% federal tax credit, including cost and installation, and there was no maximum for the credit.  

What Types of Geothermal Heat Pumps Qualify?

Both types of geothermal heat pumps qualified for the 30% federal tax credit, but they must be ENERGY STAR certified. All ENERGY STAR certified GHPs are eligible for the credit, and there are numerous options to use. ENERGY STAR has provided this comprehensive list of eligible heat pumps, which you can use to research models.  Also, unlike in the past, qualified GHPs no longer have to provide a percentage or all of the home’s hot water supply to qualify.

Although GHPs may cost more upfront than traditional heating system, they do greatly reduce home energy costs. In fact, all ENERGY STAR certified models are more than 45% more energy efficient than traditional HVAC options.

There is no tax credit at present for 2017 but could change at a moment’s notice depending on our Government agencies’. Currently, the geothermal tax credit is in effect through 2016, and expires on December 31, 2016.  

Homeowners apply for the tax credit when they file taxes for the installation year. IRS Form 5695 for Residential Energy Tax Credits. A more detailed summary of Form 5695 is available from the IRS.

Pennsylvania Specific Geothermal Rebates

There are many rebate programs available in Pennsylvania for geothermal customers. If you are provided power by one of the following companies, you may qualify:

  • Allegheny Power
  • Duquesne Light Company
  • Met Edison
  • PECO Energy
  • Penelec
  • Penn Power
  • PPL Electric Utilities

If you are unsure what you qualify for, feel free to checkout this tool to learn more.

Want to learn more about the benefits of geothermal heat pumps for your home? Contact Comfort Pro  today. We install and service a wide variety of GHPs

 

ground-source heat

Preparing for Winter with Ground-Source Heat Pumps in Pennsylvania

Winter is almost here in Pennsylvania. If you use a ground-source heat pump to warm your home, getting the system dialed in for the winter should be at the top of your checklist.

These systems, also called geothermal heat pumps, offer homeowners a range of benefits: Better air quality, longevity, high-efficiency and more comfortable heating. To ensure you’re receiving all those benefits, it’s important the system is ready for winter. A quick heat pump tune-up can help you ensure the system is ready to go.  

Here are four steps that should be on your winter prep to-do list for ground-source pumps:

  1. Open Your Home’s Air Vents: Many homeowners close air vents to prevent drafts during summer months. This can cause uneven heating in the home, but fortunately, it’s one of the easiest problems to reverse. Before the heating season starts, this should be task No. 1 on your checklist. Make sure all vents are open.
  2. Check the Air Filter: During the summer months, water-to-air heat pumps capture warm air from the home, and send it through a filter into the heat loop. This filter cleans the air of dust and contaminants, and it can get dirty quickly. A dirty air filter can wreak havoc on your system’s compressor. Over time, this problem can cause system malfunctions, increased energy use and uneven heating in the home. Check the air filter regularly.
  3. Inspect the Circuit Breakers: If your system has been out of use for an extended period, you’ll want to do a quick test run. First, though, ensure the circuit breakers for the heat pump and any additional pump components are turned on. If the circuit breakers trip when you start up the system, you may have a problem with the system itself. In this case, you would want to contact an HVAC provider to diagnose the problem.
  4. Schedule A Yearly Tune-Up: The weeks leading up to the heating season are the perfect time to schedule a yearly tune-up. Technicians can perform more advanced diagnostics and maintenance, like adding pressure or antifreeze to a closed loop system, tightening all connections, and performing a deep cleaning of the drain pan and trap.

Do you use a heat pump in your home? Comfort Pro, Inc. – a premier HVAC provider in PA – offers great prices on yearly tune-ups and heat pump inspections. Schedule a maintenance appointment today.

 

HVAC for house flipping

Picking an HVAC Unit for House Flipping: What to Choose

If you’re in the business of flipping houses, you know that the home’s HVAC system matters. Buyers expect the furnace and air conditioning unit to be in working order, and the newer the HVAC system is, the more attractive the property is to buyers. This guide will provide HVAC options for house flipping.

This is especially true in Pennsylvania. Buyers here demand that the home is prepared for our cold winters, and consequently, new heaters tend to jump out in home listings. Plus, if the investment property’s furnace or A/C unit is more than 10-15 years old, chances are it won’t go unnoticed. The buyer’s inspector will likely find and report a heating/cooling system that’s on it’s last leg, which might just scare off a potential buyer at the last minute.

So how should home flippers approach HVAC improvement? The key is matching affordability with dependability. Here are a few keys to consider:

Should I Repair or Replace the HVAC System?

In some cases, repairing the home’s furnace or A/C might be the most economical option. This is especially true for systems that are relatively new. In general, if the repairs will cost more than one-third of the replacement costs, replacement is the better option. The reason? Costly repairs won’t likely add the same value for buyers as replacing the system.

Considering Heating Upgrades for House Flipping

You have hundreds of options when it comes to purchasing a new furnace or heating system for your investment properties, and it can be hard to choose which one is best for home flipping.

Typically, though, your best bet would be to match the HVAC system to the market. Some upscale markets demand high-efficiency furnaces or state-of-the-art geothermal heat pumps. In others, a standard 85-percent efficient furnace is attractive for buyers.

When shopping for HVAC systems for investment properties, there are a few points to consider including:

  • Heating System Types: In most locations, the three most common are forced-air, heat pumps and water boilers. If you’re flipping a home in a more upscale environment, geothermal heat is another option, which is eco-friendly. Common types include:  
  • Forced-Air Systems: These systems utilize a furnace which produces warm air and then “forces” it through the home’s air ducts. These systems are cost-effective to install, and they’re attractive to potential buyers.  
  • Heat Pump: Heat pumps gather heat from the surrounding air and use it to generate heat for the home. These types of systems are highly efficient, but since they are less common, they’re not always preferred by buyers. Some buyers will love them, while others may not.
  • Boilers: Boiler systems generate hot water, which is then distributed through the home’s radiators or baseboard heaters. These systems can be cost-effective to install.
  • Efficiency Rating: Your heating system has an AFUE rating, which is its efficiency rating. Essentially, AFUE is a measure of the amount of energy that’s converted to heat. Typically, older furnaces have AFUE ratings of around 70 percent, meaning 70 percent of the energy is converted to heat and 30 percent is wasted. Today, standard units average about 80 percent, and high-efficiency models can reach 95 percent. A high-efficiency furnace may be attractive in upscale neighborhoods. In others, it may be difficult to recoup costs for a more expensive system.
  • Available Rebates: Typically local and federal rebates are available for updating home HVAC systems. The local energy company, for example, may offer rebates to homeowners who upgrade or repair their HVAC systems. This can help you offset some of the costs of installation, but not all types of heaters are qualified for rebate programs.

Ultimately, you’ll want to determine the best value for the heating updates. In some locations, a high-efficiency 95% AFUE furnace might be a selling point with buyers and add more value to the home. In other locations, a more affordable system will do the trick.

Additional Considerations

Beyond the furnace, there are other HVAC components you will want to consider. For example, a home without central air cooling, might be limited in appeal, depending on the targeted buyer demographic. Today, additional options like smart, programmable thermostats may also be a high-priority need for buyers. A few items to consider include:

  • Air Conditioning: Depending on your target market, an A/C installation or upgrade may be a requirement. A/C units may be a big ticket item, especially, if you have to install central air.
  • Thermostat: Thermostats are a low-cost replacement item, which makes it a nice item to add to your updated list you will share with buyers.  Depending on your target market, a smart, programmable thermostat may be an attractive option.
  • Ductwork: Depending on the extent of your renovations, a lot of dust may have been kicked up into the duct system. A proper Duct Cleaning may be needed to remove dirt, and debris that can cause health issues. Additionally, a duct inspection can ensure the ductwork is properly sealed.  

 

Home flippers in PA count on Comfort Pro, Inc. for in-depth expertise and knowledge. If you would like to discuss the best option for your investment property, our customer service representatives can help. Contact us today.

 

Repairman vacuuming inside of a gas furnace during a cleaning.

How a Furnace Works

It’s unrealistic to expect homeowners to be able to work on their HVAC systems on their own. Some home projects are great for DIY and a nice way to learn a new skill, such as painting a room or pressure washing siding. That being said, when it comes to electrical, plumbing, or HVAC, for safety (and warranty) reasons, it’s best to call the professionals.

Of course, it never hurts a homeowner to know just how their furnace works. After all, they will have to change the filter (sometimes as frequently as every 30 days) and a familiarity with how the system operates helps to know if the furnace is running as it should or if a technician should be called. Being comfortable with the ins and outs of the furnace helps to diagnose problems and zero in on the fix when contacting an HVAC repair company. Some of the basics of the furnace function include:

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Why is My Furnace Blowing Cold Air?

There’s nothing quite like the bone-aching struggle to clear the snow off your sidewalk while facing a 30 mph cross-wind blowing directly into your eye. After the task is done and you limp through your home in your frozen pants like a combination robot/scarecrow, the warmth of the furnace encompassing your whole body is starting to become a reality. You hear the rumble in the blower motor and the hot air working its way through the ducts only to deliver an arctic blast of cold air into your face….

“Furnace, you had one job.”

When your furnace is blowing cold air it’s really no longer a furnace is it? This is not only a nuisance but a legitimate danger that could compromise the sanctity of your home’s pipes, electronic components, and other features such as your body, that should be kept above freezing temperatures. The winter is hard enough, you don’t need a furnace blowing cold air to pile on to the misery so here’s what could be causing these issues:

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HVAC unit covered with icicles on a yellow wall

The Snow’s Effect on Your HVAC System

For most of our customers, we have been successful in reiterating the extreme importance of interior HVAC care, specifically the changing of the air filters, switching to programmable thermostats, and getting the system inspected annually by a professional. Another thing we stress though is to never rest on your laurels when it comes to your heater and air-conditioner, specifically when it comes to the outside care of the HVAC unit. Specifically, snow and ice from the winter can have lasting effects well into the spring and summer.

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HVAC technician charging a heat pump with refrigerant

Common Heat Pump Problems

Geothermal heating has two main selling points:

  1. It has a much lighter strain on the environment than fossil fuel burning systems 
  2. It’s relatively maintenance free

It’s hard to argue against the first point as a series of loops underground that harness the constant temperature of the Earth and turn it into a sustainable way to heat your home is much better than most alternatives. The second fact, though, is debatable because although the tubes deep underground will likely never need servicing, there are some common heat pump problems that will be encountered over the years, particularly dealing with the above-ground portion.

Here are five common heat pump problems and how to fix them:

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