Choosing the Right Programmable Thermostat for the Southern Arizona Heat

There are a whole lot of things to love about living in Southern Arizona, but no matter how much you sell the perfect Phoenix life to your friends who live out of state, one thing that non-locals can’t wrap their heads around is how we can live in such a hot climate. As I’ve explained to many visitors before they come visit: one, it’s a dry heat (our favorite motto), and two, every place you go has air conditioning.

Air conditioning, that phenomenal modern invention, is what allows us to live comfortably in this desert environment, and honestly, what would life be like without it? The answer: we don’t want to know!

One of the smallest improvements that you can make to your normal air conditioning system that can pay off handsomely is replacing your outdated thermostat and installing a programmable one. Not only will a programmable thermostat allow you to have much better control over your home’s temperatures, it will also help reduce your homes’ energy bills.

If you’re already sold on upgrading to a programmable thermostat, you still have a big decision to make when it comes to choosing the right thermostat for your home. The kind of thermostat that you choose will depend on a few factors. When considering which type you might need, think about:

  • Flexibility of options
  • System requirements
  • Individual room vs whole home needs
  • Voltage
  • Remote access
  • Home integration

Though there are a few additional factors that go into selecting a thermostat, there are three basic types of programmable thermostats to choose from. Each has their own advantages, and you should speak with an HVAC specialist before selecting one for your home.

Programmable

Though it may be hitting triple digits by mid-day, most mornings and nights are still fairly chilly. Programmable thermostats allow homeowners to set multiple temperatures for different times of the day, which makes your home perfectly comfortable no matter the hour.

Programmable thermostats are the best way to keep your energy costs down since you can be sure that your A/C will only be on when it needs to and at a temperature that suits you.

Wi-Fi or Remote Programmable

Wouldn’t it be nice if, after a long weekend of camping with your family, you could tell your home’s air conditioner to turn on exactly 30 minutes before you arrive home so that the house is cool when you walk through the door? That’s exactly what a remote programmable thermostat does.

Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats allow users to have control over their home’s temperature from anywhere by monitoring and adjusting it with their phone, tablet, or computer. The modern standard, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats are making their way into thousands of homes a year.

Learning

There are modern thermostats, and there are modern thermostats. Learning thermostats, like Wi-Fi thermostats, make it easy for homeowners to set their temperatures remotely, but more importantly, they are interactive, and “learn” your home’s preferences, when you’re away, and can be integrated into your home’s electronic systems.

Popular models of learning thermostats include the Ecobee 3, Honeywell Lyric, and the most popular model, the Nest thermostat.

Condenser Coil – Keep it Clean!

Written by:

Mitch Apalategui

on
June 10, 2014

Sharp Air Conditioning & Heating, LLCBy now, you know all about changing your air filters in your house to keep dirt out of your indoor system and helping to keep it working efficiently, but what about that part of your system that sits outside? It important to keep your condenser coil clean as well, and there are a few steps you can follow to make this happen.

  1. The first step is to clear any visible debris from the outside of the condenser. This would be debris such as grass clippings, tree trimmings, loose trash, or anything that can get stuck on the side of your condenser. Free flowing air through this coil is a very important part of the process of keeping your home cool.
  2. At this point, you should be able to visually see your condenser coil. If it appears dirty beyond just debris on the outside cage of the condenser, your next step would be to purchase a biodegradable coil cleaner that can be purchased at your local hardware store. Spray this into the outdoor coil and wait 5-10 minutes before gently spraying the coil with water from your hose. That’s it!

If these steps still do not clean your condenser coil or you do not feel comfortable with the above steps, give us a call at Sharp Air Conditioning & Heating and we can take care of it for you.

Regular maintenance is always the best way to keep repair costs at a minimum. Part of our scheduled maintenance in the Sharp Air Maintenance Program is to make sure that your condenser coil is clean, and if not we clean it as part of the Maintenance Program. Give us a call to find out more about the benefits of the Sharp Air Maintenance Program!

Should I Buy a Programmable Thermostat?

Sharp Air Conditioning & Heating, LLCMost new homes and many older homes now have programmable thermostats installed for the HVAC system. If your home still has an older system thermostat or one that does not have a programmable feature, you are missing out on added convenience, energy savings and other benefits of setting a schedule for your HVAC system to run.

Many people have a schedule that they follow everyday. We work at certain times, or can count on being out of the house at certain times. Also, when the sun goes down we may not want the house to be as cool as during the day. Without a programmable thermostat, this means remembering to change the thermostat every time there is a change. If forgotten, you run the risk of cooling an empty house, putting unneeded wear and tear on your system, as well as wasting precious energy when it is not needed. A simple switch to a programmable thermostat can help alleviate these problems and better help manage your energy costs.

Recently, there have been some very high tech introductions to the programmable thermostat realm, most notably the Nest thermostat or Lyric thermostat by Honeywell. While these are great options, they come with a high price tag. Sometimes that price tag is a little too much for a homeowner to take at one time. Not to worry! There are many affordable options for programmable thermostats that will give you the basic functionality of being able to set your HVAC system on a schedule, unlocking your energy savings potential. Give the professionals at Sharp Air Conditioning & Heating a call today, and we can walk you through your options and what best fits your household needs!

10 Myths About Your HVAC System: BUSTED!

Homeowners, for one reason or another, seem to hold onto common myths about HVAC systems, maintenance, and energy efficiency. These myths could be affecting the lifespan of your home’s HVAC system – and your monthly energy bills as well.

Sharp Air Conditioning is here to bust those HVAC system myths and save you money and home heating and cooling frustration!

Myth #1: Shutting off the A/C during the day wastes energy

Busted: Shutting off your A/C might save money and energy, but it might also mean replacing your system sooner. Constantly shutting off the A/C could cause more wear and tear on the AC system while also making the home an uncomfortable temperature. One financially smart solution is to have your HVAC specialist install a programmable thermostat. These units will turn the A/C off and on according to your work schedule.

Myth #2: Keeping the temperature the same all day is more cost-effective

Busted: The closer your home is to the temperature outside, the less your air conditioner has to work to keep the house comfortable. People tend to make the difference between temperatures smaller when they’re sleeping, but not when they leave the house. Less energy is used when the difference between the inside and outdoor temperature is small, which leads to a reduced energy bill, so it is a good idea to set your home’s temperature as close to the outdoor temperature as possible when you’re not home. Again, a programmable thermostat can be an asset for this type of routine.

Myth #3: Filters only need to be changed once a year

Busted: Filters should be changed every few months to ensure an efficiently running system, and possibly more often depending on the quality of air filter you’re using. A filter that’s only changed once a year becomes extremely dirty and constricts air flow through the system, essentially choking it and forcing it to work overtime to cool your house. This could cause undue stress on the system, prompting a possible breakdown. No matter how you slice it, a clean filter changed often is far less costly than a unit repair.

Myth #4: My HVAC system doesn’t need routine maintenance

Busted: Just like a car requires a yearly inspection, an HVAC system should be treated to a routine check-up. This ensures that the system is functioning as well as it should. Routine maintenance cuts back on emergency issues as well, as HVAC technicians can spot problems early on before they become expensive emergencies. The HVAC system operates with a complicated grid of parts, and over time, the pieces will need lubricated or replaced to keep the system running efficiently.

Myth #5: The best HVAC system is a big one

Busted: The best HVAC system for any home is one that is specifically suited for the insulation level, square footage, and number of windows. A too-big HVAC system uses more energy and needs to cycle on and off more frequently due to the small space. A HVAC contractor can help you choose the right system for your home by analyzing the house and your family’s needs.

Myth #6: Thermostat location doesn’t influence heating or cooling

Busted: A thermostat located in direct sunlight or too near a vent will shut down early. Since the thermostat regulates the building temperature, an improperly located thermostat could influence the comfort of every occupant and cause your unit to turn on and off unnecessarily. If you are unsure if your thermostat is in an ideal location, contact your HVAC specialist for assistance and advice about relocating it to a more desirable location.

Myth #7: An energy-efficient unit saves money

Busted: An energy-efficient unit is a good place to start for saving money, but a number of other factors can make your bill continue to skyrocket. For example, without good insulation and good window seals, the energy bill will still be high. Choosing the right system size for the home influences the energy bill. Simply put, though energy-efficient units can reduce your bill, they can only do so if other additional factors are working to keep your home’s temperature comfortable.

Myth #8: I can cool my home faster by lowering the thermostat

Busted: Although this seems like common sense to crank the A/C all the way down when it’s hot, the truth is that the HVAC system pushes air through the house at the same rate no matter the temperature. Setting a lower temperature only means that the HVAC system will work longer than needed to adequately cool the space. A quick fix for feeling cooler is to turn on a few fans to move the air around until the home is at the desired temperature.

Myth #9: Closing vents in unused rooms is more efficient

Busted: When vents are closed, air pressure increases within the air ducts. A balanced air pressure helps to effectively move air throughout the house to regulate the temperature. Blocked off vents, however, throw the air pressure balance off, causing air to seep out of air duct seams and forcing the HVAC system to work harder. This means more energy use and potentially adding energy usage to your bill unnecessarily.

Myth #10: Duct tape best seals HVAC ducts

Busted: Despite the common denominator of “duct,” duct tape is not the best option for sealing ducts. In fact, duct tape negatively impacts the HVAC system because dust can build up. Duct tape also does not have a long enough life span for HVAC ducts. For proper duct insulation, it is best to contact an HVAC professional.

The Benefits of a Zoning System

We’ve all been there: One floor of the house is freezing while another is too hot to handle. It can be hard to regulate the temperature of your entire house with a traditional thermostat since cranking up the heat or A/C will result in making things more unbearable in one area while barely making others tolerable.

The solution? HVAC zoning systems.

A zoning system involves more than one programmable thermostat located in various areas of the house, allowing you to control the temperature for just one area at a time. This solution is great especially in summer and winter as it tends to be much hotter or colder on one floor of the house than the other, depending on the season.

Here are 4 ways that a zoning system can benefit you and your home.

  1. Efficiency
    One of the biggest benefits to HVAC zoning is energy efficiency. Zoning can target specific areas of the house that need more heating or cooling without driving up your utility bills.If you adjust your thermostats as you move throughout the home, you can reduce energy use in areas that aren’t being occupied. You don’t have to worry about wasting heat or air conditioning in empty rooms and less overall utility use means cheaper bills at the end of the month.
  2. Comfort
    Zoning is great for homes with multiple residents as each person can adjust the thermostat of the area they’re in without making anyone else uncomfortable. You can crank up the heat while you watch TV upstairs while your partner keeps a lower temperature downstairs in the kitchen as they’re cooking. No more arguing about who touched the thermostat – with zoning systems, everyone can be happy.This is especially handy for multi-level homes where the temperature can vary drastically from one floor to the next. If someone has a bedroom on the second floor, they can easily adjust the temperature to be more comfortable without affecting the first floor at all.
  3. Longevity
    If your zoning systems are installed correctly, they can actually help prolong the lifespan of your HVAC unit. Directing the heating or cooling to the rooms that need it most prevents the system from becoming overloaded, allowing each part of your equipment to function only as it’s needed rather than having all of it running all the time.
  4. Convenience
    Finally, installing a zoning system in your house is convenient for everyone who lives there. Having multiple thermostats throughout the house guarantees you’ll never have to go far to find one and being able to tailor the temperature of each area of your home means that you can always feel comfortable.It’s much more convenient to change the temperature of the room or area you’re in than it is to walk all the way to a sole thermostat and risk upsetting the temperature balance in the rest of the house. Plus, zoning systems can be installed without adding any extra heating or cooling equipment.If you’re thinking about having a zoning system installed in your home, give the pros at Sharp Air a call. They’re the premier heating and cooling experts in the Phoenix area and they’re always happy to help. Book your appointment or secure an estimate today!

Spring is Here! Time to Spring Clean Your Home’s Air Quality

Springtime is here again, and that means that it is time for the great annual Spring Cleaning! We all want our homes to smell of fresh, clean spring air, especially at this time of year, and we can all do without the dust buildup that comes along with Phoenix-area living. Spring cleaning allows us to dig down deep and clean everything thoroughly, to get rid of the things we no longer need, and restore our homes to optimal health and happiness (at least once a year!)

With so many items on your list to tackle for spring cleaning, it can be difficult to figure out where to start the process of getting your home or office back to sparkling clean. While many online magazines, blogs, and tips sites will recommend a myriad of places to begin your spring cleaning home makeover, what they won’t tell you is that before you clean the surfaces of your home, you should turn your attention to the one item in your house that can make your home healthier, cleaner, and of course, cooler: your air conditioner.

Before you fold, store, scrub, dust, and vacuum your home to back to cleanliness, read up on why it is important to tackle the quality of your home’s air first.

Air quality affects us every day, whether we realize it or not. Without regular care and maintenance, your air conditioner can contribute to the poor air quality of your home. In turn, that contaminated air puts your family at unnecessary risk for environmentally-related breathing conditions and illnesses. Instead of making your home immaculate only to pollute it with unclean air, start your spring cleaning projects and to-do lists with a professional tune-up, maintenance inspection, and cleaning from your local air conditioning repair and maintenance service (we know a great one)!

There are ways that you yourself can take great care of your A/C unit, like sprucing it up before it becomes your most-relied upon item in your home this spring and summer. As a part of regular air quality maintenance, homeowners need to keep their air filters clean (by changing them no less than four times a year, but ideally monthly), wiping down air intake vent slats, and prevent dust, animal fur, and debris from getting into the air conditioning system with regular floor sweeping and mopping.

Beyond those small ways to keep your air conditioner from circulating unhealthy air throughout your home, the best thing that you do to keep your A/C in great condition is to schedule a maintenance and tune-up with an HVAC specialist.

Professional technicians will be able to perform a number of maintenance inspections and operations that will keep your air conditioner in premium shape through the long spring and summer months. Not only will your unit be inspected by a professional who is able to troubleshoot and diagnose small problems before they become larger issues that threaten your system and lead to your A/C failing when you need it most, but they safely clean your unit from the inside out.

By inspecting your unit’s wires, cables, plugs, and parts, cleaning evaporator coils, and tuning up the unit from top to bottom, you can rest assured that your home’s air is as clean, healthy, and cool as you want it to be before you transform your home into its spring best.

Keep Your Sunroom Comfortable All Year Long

If there is one thing that you can count on Arizona delivering plenty of, it’s bright and beautiful sunshine nearly every day of the year. With all that sunlight, it should be no surprise that so many Phoenix area residents add sunrooms to their homes to take in all that sunshine.

Sunrooms, sometimes called four-season rooms or solariums, are designed to let all that light in without having to bake outside in the heat. Many sunrooms have been converted to multi-use spaces and can include indoor spas, aviaries, green rooms, libraries, and bright, open eating areas where you can sip some lemonade in a cool room during spring and summer barbecues.

Access to sunlight is directly linked to human health and wellbeing. We get 90 to 95% of our necessary Vitamin D from sunlight, and that’s very important. Vitamin D helps keep bones healthy, aids in calcium absorption and prevents diseases like osteoporosis from occurring. Sunlight also boosts mood and reduces your risk of developing diseases like heart disease and even diabetes.

One of the benefits of adding a sunroom to your home is that you never have to worry about heading outdoors to soak up the sunshine. Sunrooms are created to be comfortable all year long, but that level of indoor comfort with outdoor sunshine requires some proper planning to ensure that the room can be kept at adequate temperatures.

Many homeowners choose to extend their home’s existing heating and cooling systems into a sunroom addition for temperature control. Extending your existing HVAC system into a sunroom requires adding additional ductwork. Of course, this would need to be done by a professional to ensure proper installation.

The primary drawback to this type of installation occurs when your home is using a single thermostat to control the temperatures in every room of the house. A sunroom will do what it is designed to do – deliver lots of light, and that means delivering lots of heat too. The temperatures that a sunroom can reach may be too high for single-zone thermostats, causing them to run continuously throughout the day, resulting in a serious spike in your electric bill.

The aforementioned problem can be solved by adding a zone control thermostat to your home at the same time you install new ductwork. A zone control system allows for a single thermostat to control multiple environments separately so that no one floor or room is heated or cooled unnecessarily.

Another sunroom heating and cooling option that is very popular are mini ductless split systems. Designed to give direct temperature control to individual rooms and spaces, mini ductless split systems work independently off of a primary unit and are an on-the-spot adjustable solution to providing your sunroom with adequate heat and air conditioning only when you choose to turn it on.

There are other options to heat and cool sunrooms, but they are not ideal. Opting for an in-wall, window-style air conditioning unit can help keep you cool in the summertime, but it will have to work hard to cool the room down well enough in the summer heat of Phoenix. These types of units also do not provide heat in the wintertime, making a portable space heater an option for some. Space heaters, though effective, can be very dangerous and should not be left unattended at any time.

If you are interested in exploring your heating and cooling options for a sunroom or other home addition, call the professionals at Sharp Air Conditioning and Heating for a consultation.

4 Things to Know When Buying an Air Purifier

Buying an air purifier can be a big decision. With so many models and price points out there, it may be overwhelming to some.

While we’re not here to tell you exactly which unit to buy, we know a few things that can help you make the best decision for your home and your family.

Here are 4 things to think about when buying an air purifier.

  1. Portability
    Most air purifier systems are lightweight and easy enough to carry but you should be conscious of your unit’s weight in the event you need to move it.Look for options that weigh in somewhere between 10-20 pounds. Anything beyond this is likely larger than what you need in your home and will be difficult to move even for little things, like changing filters or servicing if something goes wrong.
  2. Long-Term Costs
    Air purifiers are generally not cheap up front (and they shouldn’t be if you’re looking to get a quality machine), but they can also have heavy costs on the backend.Depending on what brand and type of air purifier you choose, your filters could be as low as $10 each or more than $100 each! When you purchase your purifier, be sure you know what costs to expect for the long haul.2In addition, it pays to know about how much electricity your unit will use over the course of a year. Some models are not very energy efficient, meaning you could be spending a few hundred dollars annually just to have your machine running.

    The bottom line: Do your homework. Choose a model that fits within your budget long-term.

  3. Noise Level
    Air purifiers have come a long way. (Mostly) Gone are the days of excessively noisy units like the one Ross Gellar had in the TV show, Friends. (Don’t know what we mean? Watch this clip.)Not all machines have made it to the near-silent point yet, however. It’s important to consider what level of ambient noise your family can – and is willing to – put up with.

    Here’s where cost comes in again… Generally speaking, the quieter the unit, the higher the price tag. If you can’t afford a super-quiet system, consider putting yours in a common area of your home that’s away from bedrooms, like the living room or kitchen.

  4. Warnings
    How do you know when something is wrong? Without some kind of warning light system, you may not know if there’s an issue and that can lead to more trouble.Make an effort to purchase an air purifier that has some sort of warning system – a light that turns on when there is an operational problem or if the filter needs to be replaced. Keep an eye on your unit so you don’t miss these warning signals.

    As a general rule, take a look at your purifier once every month or two to ensure it’s still in good working order. Check the filter to see if it needs to be replaced. Ensure your home is dusted and vacuumed often to alleviate any extra particles that may be floating through the air. While it’s the air purifiers job to capture these particles, every bit of help you can give it will further ensure the longevity of your system.

    Buying an air purifier doesn’t have to be rocket science. With a list of things to look out for and options to consider, you’ll soon have a model that fits your family’s needs like a glove.

    Need a tune-up before switching from air to heat this winter? Schedule an appointment and we’ll give your HVAC a check.

Clean Air Filters: More Important Than You Think in Arizona

Your HVAC system may be out of sight, tucked away in your ceilings and walls and inside small closets, but it is truly a major part of the health of your home. Imagine you walked into a room filled with smoke, dust, and mildew. You would likely try to hold your breath to not fill your lungs with that unhealthy, lung-harming air.

Inside your home, your HVAC system operates much like your lungs do, taking in and pushing out air. That is why the ‘V’ in HVAC stands for ventilation; your HVAC unit is designed to fill your home with clean, refreshing air whether that air is cold or warm.

The air filter lies at the heart of any HVAC unit, straining to catch everything that blows through your air system so that those unwanted particles do not reenter your home’s airflow. If you are not keeping your air filter clean, then you are doing both your HVAC system and your own health a grave disservice.

It is easy to forget about our air filters. They are tucked away inside a machine that is likely located inside a closet. Not only are they out of our sight, but they make no sound, have no odor, and don’t call our attention to them in any way.

Because those air filters are out of sight and out of mind, they can go from clean and new to filthy and unhealthy without you even knowing it. Worst still, a neglected air conditioner filter can lead to a whole host of problems for your home’s air quality and may even compromise your A/C.

A/C Inefficiency

The first thing to know about your air conditioner’s efficiency is that it requires all components to be working properly in order to function at well as it should to reach the desired home temperature. No matter how clean your home is, your air conditioner’s filter is loaded with dust and small debris, especially if you are a desert dweller.

For the price of a clean and regularly changed air filter (usually just a few dollars each month), you can save a whole lot of money on your energy bills. A clogged and dirty air filter forces your A/C to work overtime, driving up energy use and, in turn, your monthly energy costs.

Compromised Air Quality

Air conditioner filters are designed to capture all of the dust, pet hair, and debris that enters your home’s air, most of which comes in from outside. Pollutants, mold and fungus particles, allergens, and bacteria will all become trapped in your home’s air filter. Once it is completely clogged, additional loose particles can find their way into home’s air and that can mean serious trouble for anyone in your home who may suffer from allergies, asthma, or a respiratory condition.

Coils Can Freeze

If you have ever had to have an emergency repair during the blistering summer months, you have probably had an HVAC repair person talk to you about frozen coils. A common reason for A/C failure, frozen coils occur when cool air builds up on the condenser and evaporator coils, forcing the unit to freeze.

A dirty air filter can be to blame, as once the filter is too clogged to allow air to flow through it, it can trap that cool air inside your system, causing the frost buildup.

To avoid these common problems with air filters, be sure to set a reminder, whether on a calendar, via an alarm on your phone – whatever works best for you – to change your air conditioner’s air filter every one to three months, depending on the quality and specifics of the filter you’ve chosen.

If you need help changing your filter or want to sign up for an HVAC maintenance plan with a professional A/C service who will ensure your air conditioner is working and your air filters are clean all year long.

Why does my AC keep running?

During the hot Phoenix Arizona summers, most people are use to their AC running quite a bit, just to keep up with the 110+ temperatures that we experience here. While it is normal for your AC to be on more than usual when the temperature goes up outside, it shouldn’t be constantly running. Here are a few troubleshooting tips to try before giving Sharp Air Conditioning & Heating a call that can save you some time and money.

  1. Sharp Air Conditioning & Heating, LLCCheck your thermostat – One of the most avoidable issues is to check your thermostat settings. With the more basic thermostats, it can be as simple as forgetting to switch your system from “ON” to “AUTOMATIC”. Having it in the “ON” position will tell your AC system to continue running, even when it satisfies the temperature you have set on your thermostat. With the more complex thermostat options that are on the market now, yours may need a little bit more programming to be set correctly. Check with your owners’ manual, or give us a call and we can try to walk you through some troubleshooting on your thermostat.
  2. Change your filters! – Air flow restrictions caused by dirty filters can greatly affect your AC systems performance. If you AC system does not get enough air flow, it can not blow out cold air and will continue to run since it is not able to satisfy the thermostat setting. Change those filters!
  3. Dirty coils – Check to make sure there is no debris built up on your condenser outside. This is the same as a restriction for your indoor components. Restrictions can cause the system to not cooling correctly, therefore not being able to satisfy the thermostat settings leading to a constantly running AC system.

If you go through the above steps and nothing seems to work, give Sharp Air Conditioning & Heating a call and we can send a certified technician out to assess what may be wrong. Another cause of a constantly running system can be age. Your AC system may just be worn out from years of use. If this is the case, we can work with you to best determine the next steps to take in replacement.