With March break right around the corner, it’s easy to get excited about spending quality time relaxing with your family — and forget about protecting your home. Afterglow has five tips for prepping your home before you pack up and go so you can enjoy your well-deserved vacation worry-free.
Unplug before you unwind
The majority of your appliances don’t need to run while you’re out of town. Microwaves, lamps, floor fans, internet modems, gaming consoles, and computers can all take a power-nap in your absence. But just turning them off isn’t enough — unplug to cut off power drain to save money on your electric bill.
Attending to your devices isn’t just about protecting your finances. If a power surge occurs while you’re away, it could fry your appliances and electronics or even cause a malfunction. Sometimes a surge will cause a garage door to open on its own, which can make your empty house an easy target for curious animals or thieves.
Turn off your water supply
You may also want to consider turning off the water supply. Once the water supply has been turned off, pipes should be drained of any remaining water by turning on all of your faucets until they run dry. Make sure to also flush all toilets to clear water from the tanks and bowls. For peace of mind, you can also put nontoxic plumbing antifreeze in the tanks and bowls to prevent any remaining water from freezing and cracking the porcelain or piping.
If your home uses a boiler system for heating, you’ll want to first consult a professional to ensure it’s safe to cut off the water. If your home has a fire sprinkler system, keep the water supply on.
Adjust the thermostat, stat!
When you leave your home during the winter months, it isn’t efficient to keep it toasty warm inside. Home advisor recommends turning the thermostat down to about 14 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit) when you are away. Lowering the temperature will not only cut back on unnecessary energy costs but also maintain a comfortable environment for your plants, pets, electronics, and plumbing systems.
Call in a favour
Give a trusted friend, neighbor or relative access to your home so they can regularly monitor heating, electrical and water systems and be available in case for emergencies. You should also leave them with your contact information and a list of local contractors they can reach if repairs or service are needed.
If you want to take extra precautions, notify the police department that your home will be vacant, and provide emergency numbers.
Keeping up with regular maintenance in your home can help with a smooth transition for a week away. Periodically do an interior walkthrough of your home to check any weather stripping for leaks and drafts near windows and doorways. It’s also very important to ensure there are fire and smoke detectors on every floor and all have fresh batteries.
Last but certainly not least, double check that all exterior doors and windows are closed and locked, including pet doors!
Whether you are spending your time skiing down mountains or flying south to escape the cold, Afterglow can make sure your home’s HVAC is safe, secure and ready for your return.
A survey conducted by Environics Research found that 78% of Canadians are looking for ways to boost energy efficiency in their homes. As the temperatures plummet in winter, home heating costs can rise. Here are a few ways to stay nice and cozy with your home, energy bill and environmental footprint:
Winterizing your home on the outside
It may seem counterintuitive that what’s going outside of your home affects what happens with your energy efficiency inside your home, but little things on the outside can make a big difference to managing indoor comfort and energy costs.
Check the frames around exterior windows and doors (including your garage door). If you see cracks or gaps, seal them up with acrylic, latex or rubber caulking (avoid fast drying varieties for outside) or weather stripping (standard or tape format).
If you have storm windows, change the screens. And if you have siding on your home, check to see if it’s in good condition with no cracks or gaps. Any small leaks will cause you to lose heat from your home. These little leaks will make your furnace work harder and drive up your winter heating bill.
One more place to check — your gutters or eavestrough as we like to call it in Canada. Leaves, dirt and debris from shingles can clog gutters. In winter this can lead to ice jams that have the potential to damage your roof. Not only is this an expensive repair, a gap in your roof can also be a heat leak.
Home energy savings tips for inside
Inside your home, check the windows and doors for gaps, using caulking or weatherstripping to fill any spaces you find. If you have a drafty window, install blinds or heavy curtains. Conversely, take advantage of direct sunlight to get an energy and mood boost from Mother Nature.
Ideal indoor temperatures for Canadian homes in the winter
Another way to save money on home heating during the winter is to set your thermostat to the ideal temperature. If you’re home during the day, the ideal temperature is 20 to 22°C. When you’re away or asleep, the ideal range is 17 to 19°F.
If you can hack it, put on a sweater and turn down the heat another degree or two during the day. Every degree you can lower the heat during the day or night will help you lower your home heating costs.
A digital or smart thermostat also lets you set daytime and nighttime programs to control the temperature in your home.
More ways to boost the energy efficiency of your furnace
Before winter’s freezing temperatures arrive to stay, schedule a winter check-up for your furnace. This will ensure that your furnace won’t fail during when the mercury drops and that your furnace is working at peak performance. Changing your filter on a regular basis also helps maintain the efficiency of your furnace.
If you’re planning to replace your furnace, newer furnaces are more energy efficient. Furnace efficiency is measured by something called Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE). The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace. Furnaces with an AFUE rating of 95% or higher are considered Energy Star certified.
Advanced features, like variable speed and multi-stage blower motors also boost energy efficiency.
Warm up to saving energy
While winter’s already begun, there’s still time to have your furnace serviced or find out more about replacing an older furnace. Contact Afterglow for your winterizing needs! You can count on us for honest, professional service to keep your home comfortable and a low-pressure sales team to answer all your questions. For service emergencies, call 519-747-7732 for a guaranteed response time of four hours or less.
Lights, gatherings, celebrations — the holidays bring a lot of joy and a lot of preparation and planning. Here are a few simple home safety tips you can use so that you can spend more time in the moment and avoid crisis mode altogether.
1. Keep it Light
Regardless of how you celebrate if you’ve got indoor or outdoor holiday lights, one of the main holiday safety tips to follow is to make sure that all the wiring is in good condition. Watch for frayed cords or broken connections. Replacing a broken string of lights is much more cost effective than the alternative of replacing your home and contents.
When purchasing lights or any electrical products for your home, look for the following symbols. Below is a list of the symbols used in Ontario, courtesy of the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA).
2. Maintain an Air of Comfort
With the furnace running and the windows closed, conversations aren’t the only things that can get a little dry. This is why maintaining indoor air quality and proper humidity levels are so important during the holidays and throughout the winter heating season.
Ideal home humidity levels in winter are 30-40% at 19-23°C. Air that’s too dry can irritate nasal passages and worsen dry skin. In addition to physical discomfort, overly dry indoor air can also dry out woodwork and hardwood floors, cause your fresh tree to get parched more easily and damage sensitive musical instruments and electronics.
Note: If you see condensation on your windows, this is a sign that your humidity is too high and need to be lowered. As a benchmark, humidity levels shouldn’t be any higher than 45%.
3. Avoid Shocking Situations
During the holidays, the only electricity in the air should be the anticipation of time spent with family and friends. Keep everyone safe in your home by:
- Replacing missing or broken plate covers.
- Using safety covers to protect younger children from exposed outlets.
- Keeping all loose cords out of reach when younger children (especially the orally fixated ones) are about.
- Teaching older children how to use plugs and outlets correctly.
- Using surge protectors for indoor lights and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) for outdoor lights or if electronics are anywhere near water (think kitchen and bathroom) and don’t overload outlets (no more than three strings of lights at a time)
4. Prevent Slip-ups
Treat icy porches, steps, and walkways with de-icer. If you want to avoid the heavy use of salt and chemicals, there are many eco-friendly options now on the market. In a pinch, you can also use cat litter or sandbox sand.
Inside your home wipe up any spills or inadvertently placed wet footprints. Be mindful of hard surfaces like tile and hardwood floors that can be more slippery when wet. (Yes, the Bon Jovi reference is deliberate.)
5. Stay On-Point
Poinsettias add a festive pop of red or white. However, they also have a bit of a bad reputation in terms of holiday safety. The truth is while they can cause a child or pet to be sick from sampling these savories, a 50-pound child or pet would have to eat more than 500 leaves to reach toxic levels. In other words, there’s no need to skip the poinsettias — just keep an eye on them when children or pets are in the mix.
Bonus Tip: Don’t let pets drink from the Christmas tree water. Tree preservatives contain compounds and chemicals that can cause an upset tummy.
Stay safe and cozy this holiday season. There’s still time to schedule routine service check of your furnace to ensure you’re not feeling any unwanted chills. Of course, emergency service is also available for any holiday surprises. Want to learn more about home humidity levels? We can help you with that too. All you have to do is contact Afterglow.
As winter approaches, it’s important to not only prepare yourself for the cold weather but your home as well. If your home is not properly winterized, it will leak both warm air and money. Here are some helpful tips to avoid winter complications!
Run Fans In Reverse
Many ceiling fans come with a switch allowing the blades to reverse their direction. By switching the blades from counterclockwise to clockwise, the breeze becomes warmer which helps heat your home! This small but effective tip is often overlooked yet it can make a difference in your home (and bills) over the winter months.
Air leakage is very common in homes and cool drafts can increase the cost of heating your home. According to Union Gas, 30-40% of heat loss is due to air leakage. Here are some effective ways to protect your home from air leakage:
- Add draft snakes along the bottom of drafty doors to eliminate breezes that sweep under doorways.
- Install plastic window seals to stop drafts. These kits can be found anywhere, including the dollar store and require little to no labour.
- Caulk gaps to effectively seal off air leakage for a more permanent solution.
- Install storm windows and doors to stop the cold winter winds. Government incentives are often available if you choose to install storm windows and doors.
Change Furnace Filters
It’s important to remember to change your furnace filter every 2-3 months (depending on your model) in order to ensure your furnace runs effectively and efficiently.
Permanent filters are also a great, environmentally friendly option that will save you the trouble of having to remember to change your filters as often. Remember that you can always call on Afterglow for help getting your furnace ready for the wintry days ahead.
Trim Back Your Trees
The arrival of changing temperatures and winter storms can often mean trees get a heavy coating of ice which can cause breakage. It’s crucial to trim back the branches near your driveway, roof or windows to avoid the risk of damage or injury.
Clean Your Gutters
Clogged gutters can cause water to pool and freeze creating ice dams, jamming the flow of water. This can cause damage not only to your gutters, but also cause leaks inside your home. When your gutters are clogged, the melted snow from the roof pools up, eventually seeping into the house. To prevent this issue, make sure all leaves and other debris are cleared from the gutter before winter.
You can prepare your home for winter by ensuring each of these areas receives attention before it develops into a larger problem. But if you are worried about whether your HVAC is prepped for winter, contact us to check that your major systems are ready.
Buying a house can be stressful. With so many things to consider, it’s hard to know what to prioritize. Aesthetics are important, but don’t let the look of your prospective home overshadow the more vital structural elements. Faulty or outdated electrical components can quickly turn your new home into a headache as you try and bring it up to code and make it safe.
Do you know what to look for when prospecting? Here is a handy list of the top 5 HVAC-related things to look for when buying a home.
The electrical panel is one of the most integral parts of the home. It’s important to thoroughly check the electrical panel before buying a home to avoid paying thousands of dollars in unexpected costs.
Many older homes have undersized electrical panels, meaning that the number of amps is too low to accommodate modern demands. The electrical current should be between 100-200 amps in order to heat the home properly and for a home to be considered safe.
Make sure to inspect inside the electrical panel as well before taking the leap into home ownership. It’s a key safety feature when it comes to the electrical current running through your home, so you want to be sure it’s up to the job. Newer homes generally have a circuit breaker installed, but some older homes may still use a fuse box. A circuit breaker is the preferred option as circuits can be reset if they trip because too much current passes through them. But if a fuse blows in a furnace’s fuse box, the fuse will have to be replaced each time and could leave you without heat at an inopportune time. An outdated or faulty fuse box will need to be replaced before it begins to cause you problems.
Proximity to Hospitals
When it comes to the electricity that is supplied to a house, location is everything. Living in close proximity to a hospital is not just beneficial during a health emergency, it is also helpful in the event of an electrical scare as well. When power outages occur, emergency services such as hospitals are the first to get their power back, followed by surrounding areas. For those of you who desperately rely on power, living close to a hospital can help ensure that you are next in line to get your power restored and your HVAC systems back online.
Ground fault circuit interrupter outlets (GFCI) protect people against electrical shocks produced from an electrical system. These are used where water and high concentrations of electricity are present (primarily kitchens, bathrooms and occasionally outdoors). It is important to ensure these outlets are used in these areas of your home to ensure you and your family are safe. If GFCIs are not properly installed, it may be a good indication that there are other electrical or HVAC violations within the home.
Number of Outlets and Extension Cord Use
Placement of electrical outlets is something to consider when looking to buy a home. Outlets are one of the most overlooked features in a home, yet one of the most important. You may be sketching out your dream floor plan only to realize outlets aren’t properly placed to execute your vision. Skip the headache — remember to look at the location and number of outlets before making an offer. Otherwise, you may end up with extension cords snaking around your home to make things work.
Under no circumstances should you connect extension cords to air conditioner units or heaters with fans! Doing so can easily cause the HVAC units to overheat, leading to a hazardous fire.
You should also take note of whether the outlets are two-pronged or three-pronged. While most homes now have the three-prong outlet needed to power up your many devices and appliances, older homes may still have two-prong outlets. These will need to be upgraded to accommodate increased power requirements.
Wiring is another large component (and potentially expensive upgrade) of any home. If it’s not up to code it is potentially dangerous. Look out for knob-and-tube wiring when prospecting a home. Usually visible within the basement, knob-and-tube wiring runs through porcelain tubes designed to keep the wires secure. You will also notice that unlike today’s plastic insulated wiring, knob-and-tube wiring is insulated with rubber.
This kind of wiring doesn’t have a ground wire, so is often indicated by two-prong outlets throughout the home. Why does grounding matter? It protects your home and everyone in it from surges of electricity, decreasing the risk of experiencing an electrical shock or fire. If the power were to surge at your home for whatever reason, a non-grounded system cannot handle this increase in voltage and may cause harm.
When looking at a potential home, it’s important to keep an eye out for any of the key issues outlined above. If you do encounter one or more of these problem points, see if you can negotiate and come up with a mutually beneficial solution.
Finding a professional inspector to accurately identify any issues present is key! If you would like to know more about electrical safety, visit Electrical Safety Authority. For all other HVAC related issues — or if you’d like to maintain the services in your new home — contact us!
As the calendar begins to transition from the months of summer to fall, weather follows suit. Gone, for the most part, are the hot, clear days. We are left to face colder temperatures and spurts of rain and wind. Sometimes it is nice to have a break from the scorching heat, but what if it’s more than we bargained for? Fall may bring severe changes in weather that can cause damage to our properties and/or HVAC units.
While summer is behind us, we do still see some occasional warm and humid days. During these moments of heat, homeowners are tempted to drastically lower their air conditioner temperatures to escape the less-than-optimal outdoor weather. Doing so can often cause your unit to work harder than it needs to. To avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your air conditioner, raise your thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit to keep you cool.
Our clients often ask us, “should we cover our air-conditioner to protect it from rain?” The answer is no, not really. Air-conditioners are designed and constructed with weather in mind. They are made to withstand rain, hail, and even snow.
Covering them can often cause more damage than having no protection at all. Tarp coverings (especially ones made out of plastic) can cut off air circulation to the unit, causing moisture to form on the underside of the casing. This moisture can rot and rust the metal exterior, wiring components, and even rubber within the air-conditioner. Over time, this will render your unit inoperable. If you wish to cover it, opt for commercially available covers with proper ventilation.
The only time you should really worry about water damaging your AC is during periods of severe flooding. If water levels reach or exceed 15 inches in depth, you should consult a technician before restarting your air conditioner.
Thunderous Power Surges
Thunderstorms can damage your unit in two ways. First, the high winds often associated with storms can send objects like leaves and branches flying into your air conditioner’s condenser fan grille. This blockage can prevent it from running properly. Second, if lightning strikes your air conditioner, power surges often incur.
To complicate matters, the severity of those surges is not often seen right away. You may not know your unit has been struck! But over the course of a few months, homeowners begin to notice that their air conditioner is not working as well as it was before.
The most common cause of air conditioner damage after a lightning strike is damage to the capacitor. If not taken care of immediately, this can lead to a compressor failure, which is a much more expensive repair. To limit the impact of a lightning strike, invest in some high-quality outlet surge suppressors!
Do you have more questions about how changes in weather can affect your HVAC units? Contact us! Our knowledgeable and friendly service technicians at Afterglow Ltd. would be happy to help!
You love when summer rays radiate down on you outside, but why don’t you feel the same way when you are inside?
When the sun permeates through windows, the temperature quickly rises, making a home feel more like a greenhouse by the minute. To counteract this effect, homeowners will resort to blasting their air conditioners excessively. This not only increases their energy bill but also wastes energy. Below are some helpful tips for saving on both!
Close Windows When AC Is Running
We all know those people that want the best of both worlds —fresh air and the nice blast of cool air from the air conditioner. However, running the AC while the windows are open makes your unit work harder than it needs to, taking your home longer to reach your desired temperature. If you want fresh air, open your windows during the evening when it is cooler outside.
Close Curtains & Blinds When Not At Home
We spoke about how the sun can turn your home into a greenhouse above, but how does that happen inside your home? When your windows are closed and the sun radiates through to the inside, the temperature in your home increases. The warm air rises, filling and trapping heat in any room it finds.
Investing in some solid blackout curtains and closing them during the hottest parts of the day can significantly decrease this effect. While they do not completely stop heat from entering your home, blackout curtains drastically reduce the impact of the sun’s rays.
Run Your Fan When At Home
A common misconception about fans is that they help cool your home, but they are actually quite inefficient. Fans circulate air throughout a room. When you feel hot and sweaty, this breeze can feel refreshing on the skin and help to lower your core body temperature. However, the actual temperature in the room remains unchanged.
Fans use a lot less energy than central AC (55-90 watts vs 3500 watts depending on the size of the unit), so using them while at home will save you a significant amount on your electricity bill. Avoid running the fan when not at home, however, because it won’t affect the temperature. You’ll just waste electricity.
Invest in a Programmable Thermostat
Programmable thermostats are a more expensive initial purchase, but their benefits far outweigh manual models. First, they save you time, which we all know is precious. Stop wasting time flicking between degrees. Programmable thermostats allow you to set them once, based on recommended levels or personal preferences, and be done with them! Second, they use less energy, saving homeowners upwards of $150 each year! Lastly, unlike some manual models that contain mercury, programmable models are mercury-free. Save the environment, one thermostat at a time!
Don’t let your discomfort overshadow your energy costs! Use the above tips in your home. For more savings tips, or for technical HVAC services, call us to schedule your very own appointment today!
Last month, you fulfilled your curiosity about how air conditioner parts function together to cool the air in your home. That knowledge is all good and dandy, but there are more questions to be answered. Do you know the reasons why an air conditioner would fail and what to do in the event that it does? Below is a breakdown of the top 5 reasons for an air conditioner’s failure.
Faulty Circuit Breaker, Fuse or Electrical Wiring
If your air conditioner fails, first check your fuse and circuit breaker to make sure that there aren’t any electrical issues present. Turn off your air conditioner, allowing 15 minutes of cool down time before replacing the fuse or resetting the breaker. If that doesn’t do the trick, your AC could have been improperly wired or you could have tripped a high-pressure limit switch. In those cases, call a trained technician to inspect the problem.
A refrigerant can leak for several reasons: natural wear and tear, formic acid buildup, or formaldehyde exposure. Over time, acid can build up, burning a hole through the copper tubing or coils of the air conditioning unit, resulting in a leak and a change in pressure. If an air conditioner does not reach an adequate pressure level, this can cause it to fail.
TIP: If you see a refrigerant leak, call a trusted HVAC technician immediately! Refrigerants are harmful substances to the environment.
Air conditioners need a passageway for warm air to travel in order to reach the cold coils that cool the air. If there is a blockage within this passageway, your coils can freeze from a lack of warm air passing over the coils. To prevent this issue, change your AC filter regularly and don’t skip your HVAC maintenance inspections! If you see frost, call us!
Age & Wear and Tear
Is your air conditioner 5 years or older and constantly toggling on and off? This could be a sign that there is damage to one or more parts within your unit, such as the fan blades, compressor, or electrical parts. Regular inspections can catch these issues before they become too large to fix.
If your thermostat is not properly calibrated, it can cause your air conditioner to work harder than it needs to. Thermostats exist to control the amount of air being circulated within your home. If the thermostat is faulty, it can send your air conditioner into overdrive.
Don’t let the humidity in your home get you down! Talented HVAC technicians are just one call away. Reach out to us and we will get that cool air flowing in no time!
You know that an air conditioner brings joy to your life during the hot summer months, but are you ever curious about how it works? An air conditioner essentially works by transferring heat and humidity found inside your home to the outside. In order to understand why an air conditioner would fail (covered in next month’s blog), you must first understand how it functions.
To break it down, there are 7 essential parts of an air conditioner.
The evaporator, comprised of cooling coils, removes heat from the air using a refrigerant. A refrigerant is a substance that changes states from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid as it absorbs heat. As a blower ‘blows’ air over the coils, this substance cools the air. At the exterior of the house, a condenser, made up of hot coils accumulates all of the hot air and releases it back into the outside world.
In order for the evaporator and condenser to work together in unison, a compressor, with the aid of a fan, exists to pump refrigerant between the two, chilling the air, dispersing and dissipating it as it travels. Within the air conditioning unit, there is also a filter whose job it is to remove particles, like dust and debris, from the air in your home. Lastly, a thermostat exists to regulate the level of cool air being distributed.
These 7 parts are essential for the lower temperature bliss you crave during the humid summer months. If you are in need of an air conditioner, contact us! Our knowledgeable technicians would be happy to help you find the right unit to fit your home!
HVAC systems keep your home comfort and safety in check, but do you know how they work to maintain this comfort and safety? For the average homeowner, these high-tech systems can be tricky to understand. That is why we have honed the expertise of our Afterglow specialists to answer our most frequently asked questions leading into the summer.
“We made it through the winter with our old furnace/boiler. Can we wait for the fall to replace it?”
We get it, everyone wants to save money if they can. But when it comes down to your furnace or boiler, we highly recommend that you don’t wait! Just because your furnace or boiler survived the winter does not mean it is working efficiently. You may be investing more money the longer you wait. Why? Your air-conditioner relies on your furnace to blow air throughout your home. If that furnace is not in good shape, it could cause your AC to stop working entirely. In the summer months —this is not a problem anyone wishes to have! Do not suffer from heat in vain. Replace your furnace or boiler now so that you are not rushed when the colder weather hits!
“Does the efficiency of an air conditioner really make much of a difference?”
If you like saving money and the environment, yes, air-conditioner efficiency matters! AC efficiency is measured in SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio), which is the rating calculated by the amount of cooling outputted during a typical cooling season divided by the electrical energy (BTU) inputted during that same time period. Essentially, the higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the unit is. For the average Canadian home running their AC from March to September, a bump up one point in SEER may result in savings of $10-$15 per month!
“If I have a boiler at home, can I even get air conditioning?”
Many of our clients think that if they have a boiler installed, they are out of luck with an AC system because boiler systems do not use ducts to transport heat throughout the home. That is not the case! Air conditioner technology is becoming more and more inventive! Ductless options with wall-mounted AC heads are available and can be quite cost-effective. These powerful systems can cool rooms or even entire floors quite rapidly, saving you at the hottest time of the year! Ducted systems are also available and can work alongside your boiler.
You asked, we answered! Do not suffer in the scorching heat this summer. Bask in the cool air you always dreamed of! Do you have any HVAC questions nagging you? Contact us —our HVAC specialists would be happy to help provide you with some clarity and expert advice!