Articles for March 2014

Buying a New Central Air Conditioning Unit

ac unitWhen buying new heating and cooling equipment such as a central air conditioning unit, proper sizing and quality installation are critical to your home’s energy efficiency and comfort.

Remember: Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Oversized equipment can cause reduced comfort and excessive noise. Oversizing can also shorten the life of the equipment by causing it to cycle on and off more frequently than a properly sized unit. Too large a unit will not adequately remove humidity.

However, undersized equipment can reduce the efficiency and accelerate wear on system components, leading to early failure. Too small a unit will not be able to attain a comfortable temperature on the hottest days.

When buying an air conditioner, look for a model with a high efficiency. Central air conditioners are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less. The minimum SEER allowed today is 13. Look for the ENERGY STAR® label for central air conditioners with SEER ratings of 13 or greater, but consider using air conditioning equipment with higher SEER ratings for greater savings.

Clay is interviewed by Little Texas Cottage

Recently, Clay was interviewed by our friend and marketing guru, Chris Doelle for a project called Little Texas Cottage.  Clay and Chris have been friends and worked together for over a decade so of course, Clay got the call when air conditioning was needed.

green, netzero, energy, texas, air conditioning, savings, money, rainwater

Building our green dream in Central Texas!

Little Texas Cottage is a custom home building project outside of Austin where Chris is showing that you can build a super high efficiency home using technology that exists today and without spending half a million dollars.

Chris interviewed Clay for the first of a many-segment installment, where they just got into the basics of why a HVAC is the cornerstone piece of today’s green building movement.

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Heating Your Houston Home

warm feet by fireHouston homeowners are home-heating challenged! Keeping your home warm and comfortable can seem like a waste for just a few weeks in the winter. But when we have a frigid winter like this one, its necessary to have a dependable heating system.

The relatively cheap gas furnaces are common, but older models are notoriously inefficient and can be dangerous. You’ll probably see a difference in your monthly bills from a new gas furnace in Houston, but even newer models can’t match the energy efficiency of other heating alternatives.

If you are able to build your heating system from scratch, the most viable alternative is a heat pump. Heat pumps work by exchanging warm and cold air from your home’s interior and the outside air. Because heat pumps simply move air around, no original heat needs to be generated, making these units extremely efficient.

The real advantage of heat pumps is that your heat pump can also work as a “cooling pump.” When you combine your heat pump with an already established air conditioning unit during the full heat of a Houston summer, you’ll be able to keep your home comfortable and save mileage on an older A/C unit.

How to Read Your Residential Electric Meter

electric meterYou can read your own meter to help monitor your electric use. During the heating season, your energy use should be compared to the number of heating degree days for the same time period; during the cooling season, compare your energy use to the number of cooling degree days.

Heating and cooling degree days are a simple measure of the effect of weather on your energy needs: using the average temperature for each day, each degree Fahrenheit below 65°F is counted as one heating degree day, and each degree Fahrenheit above 65°F is counted as one cooling degree day. Your heating and cooling use should be proportional to the number of heating and cooling degree days for the time period in question.

The basic unit of measure of electric power is the watt. One thousand watts are called a kilowatt. If you use one thousand watts of power in one hour you have used a kilowatt-hour (kWh). Your electric utility bills you by the kWh.

The standard electric power meter is a clock-like device driven by the electricity moving through it. As the home draws current from the power lines, a set of small gears inside the meter move. The number of revolutions is recorded by the dials that you can see on the face of the meter. The speed of the revolutions depends on the amount of current drawn — the more power consumed at any one instant, the faster the gears will rotate.

When reading an electric meter, read and write down the numbers as shown on the dials from right to left. When the pointer is directly on a number, look at the dial to the right. If it has passed zero, use the next higher number. If it has not passed zero, use the lower number. Record the numbers shown by writing down the value of the dial to your extreme right first and the rest as you come to them. Should the hand of a dial fall between two numbers, use the smaller of the two numbers.

Home Heating Facts

With every other day in Houston being either sweltering hot or below freezing, it is hard to decide whether to open the windows or start the fireplace – much less know whether to start the heater or the air conditioner.   While you’re sitting around trying to decide what the weather will be tonight… we thought you could use some factoids about home heating:

  • space heater w dogSpace heating is the largest heating expense in the average U.S. home, accounting for about 45% of energy bills.
  • The most common home heating fuel is natural gas. It is used in about 57% of American homes.
  • Between 2007 and 2012, the average U.S. home spent more than $700 on heating using natural gas & more than $1700 on heating homes using heating oil.
  • Before upgrading your heating system, improve the efficiency of your house. This will allow you to purchase a smaller unit, saving you money on the upgrade & operating costs.
  • The efficiency of combustion heating appliances (furnaces & boilers) is measured by Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE).
  • In 2011, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 53,600 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 400 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries, and $893 million in direct property damage. These fires accounted for 14% of all reported home fires.
  • Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) of home heating fire deaths.
  • The leading factor contributing to home heating fires (28%) was failure to clean, principally creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.