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6 Signs Your HVAC System is Failing

If your HVAC system fails, you have two choices. Continue putting more money into the current system, or install a new, more cost-effective, heating and air conditioning system. Often, this can be a difficult choice to make, as knowing what to do from a financial point of view can be a bit complicated.

The fact is, if you hold on to your old HVAC system too long, inferior performance and expensive maintenance can lead to much higher costs. At the same time, you would like to know you’ve gotten the most from your current HVAC system before putting more money into a new one.

Brown and Reaves Services, Inc. (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) technicians help homeowners identify the ultimate HVAC systems that fit their needs.

So, just when is it the best time to replace your tired old HVAC system? Well, one obvious reply is the moment it begins to fail. But, is that not too late? How much cash have you already lost in repair and maintenance costs and high power and fuel bills due to an inefficient heating system?

Signs to Watch For With a Failing HVAC System

If your HVAC system is over 15 years old, it may be time to think about replacement1 – Your System Is Old

If your HVAC system is more than 15 (fifteen) years old, it’s time to think about modernizing your system. Setting up a whole new, cost-effective version before the old one breaks-down could prevent needless repair expenses and discomfort when your old system won’t heat or cool efficiently.

Even when the system is more than 15 years old you may feel it still has some years left, but it is likely not performing at its peak performance. The best plan is usually to buy a new HVAC system that features the ENERGY STAR label. This specific label is very important considering that when properly installed, these systems may save about twenty percent on heating and cooling bills.

2 – Escalating Energy Bills

With electricity and fuel continuing to get more expensive, the last thing you need is higher energy costs due to an aging HVAC system.

A new HVAC system today is often times 50% to 60% more efficient than systems built ten years ago. In addition, infrequent maintenance and ordinary wear and tear can lower the effectiveness of the system. So, if you’re faced with a pricey repair or anxious about higher energy costs, you may want to go ahead and replace your HVAC system to save money in the long run.

The money saved on your electric bill will provide you with a nice return on your investment. Also, if you finance your new system, be sure the money saved on your utility bill each month is factored into the purchase to determine your true “return on investment.”

Anytime you replace an appliance, look for an ENERGY STAR product. With the exception of boilers, they’re up to 15% more efficient in comparison with non-ENERGY STAR products.

3 – Regular Maintenance

Chances are if your HVAC system has experienced problems during the past 24 months, this could be a sign of an aging system and it might be the perfect time to get a new one. It won’t take very long for you to realize a nice return on your investment decision for acquiring a more cost-effective system once you begin saving money on your electric bill, not to mention fewer maintenance costs. Most new HVAC systems come with a 10 year warranty on parts and labor, meaning that your repair bills will be a thing of the past for the next 10 years.

4 – Strange Noises

Any types of strange noises coming out of your HVAC system needs to be inspected by an expert. Something to watch for is a blower fan that is making strange sounds. Just keep in mind that all machinery makes their very own characteristic and quirky noises, so pay any attention for noises that are not standard in your system.

5 – Inadequate Air Quality

If you can’t keep airborne dirt and dust around your house under control, it may be an indicator that your HVAC system is simply too small for the air exchange or that the system is growing older.

If you experience serious dryness or moisture inside your home, you’ll take pleasure in an upgraded HVAC system that may also include more advanced bells and whistles like a central whole home humidifier.

6 – Some Rooms Too Cold or Hot

Is your home comfortable in each room? An efficient HVAC system will keep your family cozy throughout the house. When you see levels of discomfort, have a look at updating or repairing your HVAC system. Watch out for rooms that are not as comfortable as before, increased dust, or indications of moisture that could cause mold.

These signs to watch for in your HVAC system have been brought to you by Brown and Reaves Services, Inc., Serving the entire Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand area. Call us today: 843-497-9867. Remember to grab our 20% off coupon on your next service call by Liking us on Facebook.

Caring For A Live Christmas Tree

leftover turkey sandwichNow that Thanksgiving is done and the leftover turkey is being served up for sandwiches, many people are thinking Christmas trees. And although the subject of a live Christmas tree has nothing to do with heating or air conditioning, we thought it would be good to bring a little festive information your way for this holiday weekend.

There has been a growing trend in recent years with more and more people opting to go with a live Christmas tree. We’re not talking about the fresh-cut trees found on tree lots or in home improvement centers, a live Christmas tree will still have its roots; people decorate and showcase them in their homes and then plant the trees in the yard after the holidays.

The allure of a live Christmas tree, sometimes called a “balled and burlapped” or “container-grown” tree, is that, when properly tended to, it can add to the landscape and live for decades, providing generations of holiday cheer. However, it’s important to understand exactly how much work goes into caring for a live Christmas tree, and establishing it in your landscape, before deciding to purchase one.

Consider these three steps in the process: selecting a tree; tending to the tree inside the home; and planting and tending the tree outside.

How to Select a Live Christmas Tree

Selecting a live Christmas tree is your first step.It’s best to buy your live Christmas tree early in the season so you have a choice of the healthiest trees. Seasonal retail lots, which typically have only offered fresh-cut trees, are beginning to offer live options. There are also special tree farms offering the same. In addition, many garden centers and nurseries sell live trees during the season.

How to make your pick? Be sure the needles are healthy and green; avoid trees that are shedding or have yellowing, brown needles. Also check that the root ball is burlapped (or wrapped in synthetic material) and firm, and remember to treat the root system with extra care after purchase. Just remember to keep the roots moist.

Caring For a Live Christmas Tree

Before you bring your live Christmas tree inside, allow it to gradually adjust to warmer temperatures by moving it to an unheated but sheltered area like a garage for a few days first. A waterproof tub with 2 inches of gravel and putting the tree on top of that to keep the roots moist, but not soaked, is a good idea. Place it in a cool area with plenty of natural light and away from drafts. Make sure the root ball is moist at all times.

When decorating, go light on the lights or follow the suggestion of the National Christmas Tree Association and select versions that produce low heat, to prevent needles from drying out. And keep your tree on display indoors for no longer than 10 days. Housing the tree inside longer may awaken the buds from dormancy and may make them vulnerable once you plant the tree outside.

Planting a Live Christmas Tree Outdoors

live Christmas tree ready to plantAfter Christmas, move your tree to an unheated, sheltered location to allow it to acclimate to outside conditions. Choose a spot in your garden that is large enough to accommodate the tree’s growth; has plenty of sunlight and is well-drained. To plant the tree, prepare a hole that’s as deep as the roots and five times wider, Clemson University says.

It’s not usually a problem in the Myrtle Beach area, but to avoid the challenge of frozen ground, dig your hole early while the ground is still warm, and either bring the dirt indoors, perhaps keeping it in a bucket in your basement or attic until planting time to prevent it from freezing, or deeply mulching the planting site to keep the ground there warm (making it easier to dig).

Caution: Be sure to allow room for your tree to grow. Don’t plant it where it will become crowded, or too close to your house.

Then, remove the burlap around the root ball and any containers or wires. Gradually fill the hole with loose soil from the hole itself, and then water the tree evenly. You can find detailed tree planting instructions here.

Buying a live Christmas tree can be a lot of work — and there’s no guarantee that it will survive once you plant it outside. But many people are drawn to the idea of a live Christmas tree, and the lifelong living memory of wonderful family times they can provide! Best of luck to you in caring for your live Christmas tree!

Enjoy Outdoor Spaces In Cooler Weather

It seems as if summer has returned in the Myrtle Beach area, but we all know cooler weather is just around the corner. When the weather turns colder, it usually means weeks and weeks of staying indoors and no “chilling” in your favorite outdoor spaces.

The backyard porch and garden are the areas that families utilize for certain occasions especially when there’s not enough room inside the house. A great place to party and celebrate especially when there are kids around is in those outdoor spaces, so they can run around, play games, and have a good time without breaking things. But during fall to winter months, parents tend to not allow the kids outside as much.

These days you can do a few things to warm up the outdoor spaces you have at home. Remember your porch and garden are adjacent to a certain area of your house. A wall or two may be facing these outdoor spaces, so the cold can be easily suppressed if you want to.

Here are a few ways to warm up your backyard or porch area so you can enjoy hanging out once again in your favorite outdoor spaces:

A fire pit can warm up your outdoor spaces in cooler weatherBackyard fire pit – If you’ve seen some of the landscaping ideas on the web and on magazines, some outdoor spaces are designed with a fire pit so the owner of the home can create a fire whenever they need to. This can come in very handy during the cold months and when you have people around and would want to roast some marshmallows and hotdogs while chatting the afternoon away. A few hours of entertaining your guests is worth it even during the cold seasons if you have a fire pit in your outdoor spaces.

Outdoor chimney heaters – These outdoor chimneys are double purpose because they can provide heat and also cook or bake at the same time. Much like those brick ovens in pizzerias, such chimneys can produce high temperatures that can beat the cold on a porch or a small garden.

Outdoor heating system – There are a few types of outdoor heating units available these days. There are propane heaters, electric ones, as well as gas-powered outdoor heating systems. Choosing the best type will depend upon your budget, size of your outdoor spaces, and the amount of time you are planning to use the unit each day. These heating systems can provide long-lasting warmth even during the cold months such as autumn and pre-winter.

You have some choices on different heating units you can use for your outdoor spaces. Enjoying your outdoor living space no matter what the weather creates great atmosphere for everyone in the family.

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If you need service on your air-conditioning unit or heat pump during these remaining warm days of early autumn, give us a call. We service the entire Grand Strand area, in and around Myrtle Beach. 843-497-9867. Or CONTACT US HERE.

Tips For Energy Efficient Home Improvement Projects

Before you start knocking down walls and making home improvements, consider turning your project into an energy efficient home improvement project.

Your energy efficient home improvement project needs to start with a budgetMany energy efficient home improvement items, like windows and water heaters, have come down significantly in price with the rise in consumer demand. You might be surprised at how affordable these projects might be.

Energy efficient home improvement projects not only save you money immediately on energy bills, they may also significantly boost your home’s value. Many real estate experts say that home buyers in the market are more likely to purchase a house with energy-saving qualities than one without. So if you want to make your home standout in a competitive market, energy efficient upgrades could help.

Now that you’re ready to get started on your project, here are a few things to research before you start shelling out your hard earned cash.

Energy Efficient Home Improvement Tips

Create a Budget

Set a budget for your energy efficient home improvement project before you get started. It’s super easy to get carried away, and before you know it your home improvement project puts you thousands of dollars in debt. The bottom line is to create a budget and stick to it.

Check for Remaining Tax Credits

While some federal and state tax credits have expired, you’d be surprised how many are still out there. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency lets you sort by state what incentives may still be available in your area.

Look for Legitimate Labels

When buying new appliances, windows or doors for your home, make sure they have either an ENERGY Star or Energy Guide labels. Both certify that whatever product you’re buying was tested and met specific energy usage requirements established by the government.

Be weary of other labels, and research the credibility or speak with a store clerk if you don’t recognize the agency certifying the energy efficiency of a particular product.

Purchase Recycled or Salvaged Goods

By picking up items made from recycled goods, you can prevent tons of waste from filling up landfills. From counter tops made of recycled glass to wood floors or fixtures, many companies offer affordable home decor options made from recycled or salvaged goods. Plus, you can pick up some pretty unique items for your home.

Pick a Contractor Knowledgeable in Energy Efficiency

For larger projects that require professional help, look for a contractor that has experience in energy efficient home improvement upgrades. Consider seeking out contractors who are certified by the U.S. Green Building Council and have experience building LEED certified homes. This program sets the standard for environmental and energy efficient housing in the United States.

Turning your traditional home improvement project into an energy efficient home improvement project doesn’t require a whole lot of time or money. Well-planned upgrades not only help you start saving money right off the bat, they can also increase you home’s value.

These tips for Energy Efficient Home Improvement Projects have been brought to you by Brown and Reaves Services, Inc., Serving the entire Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand area. Call us today: 843-497-9867. Remember to grab our 20% off coupon on your next service call by Liking us on Facebook.

Insulation Upgrade: What Is a Good Investment?

Is an insulation upgrade a wise investment? We often talk about the importance of energy upgrades for your home. But if you’re thinking about an upgrade this winter, such as adding more insulation to your attic, you may be wondering exactly how to calculate whether that’s a wise financial investment.

Insulation Upgrade - What is a Good Investment?There are a variety of formulas available for making this calculation, such as the one from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

It’s not a terribly difficult formula to use, and we’ve modified it here to make it a little more understandable.

You’ll need to do a little research to track down some basic information to fill in the blanks, all of which you can get off the Internet or with a couple of phone calls. Then it’s just a couple of minutes with a tablet and a calculator.

Incidentally, this formula also works for upgrades to wall insulation.

Insulation Formula and Definitions

The DOE’s formula is as follows: (Ci x R1 x R2 x E) ÷ (Ce x [R2 – R1] x HDD x 24)

OK now, don’t let your eyes glaze over, or have terrifying flashbacks to high school algebra class. Here’s what all those variables stand for:

  • Ci: This is the cost of the insulation you’re considering, in dollars per square foot. If you’re doing the work yourself, it’s the cost of the materials, supplies and any rental equipment you need. If you’re having the work done, it’s the estimated cost from the contractor.
  • R1: This is the R-value of the insulation you currently have in the attic.
  • R2: This is the R-value you want to upgrade to.
  • E: Efficiency rating of your heating system. How well your heating system heats your home plays a major role in how much you’re going to save with an insulation upgrade; the less efficient your heating system is, the more energy dollars the additional insulation will save you each year. You may know the specific energy efficiency rating of your particular heating system, or you may be able to get it from your utility company or HVAC contractor. If not, the DOE offers the following general suggestions: oil and propane furnaces, 0.6 to 0.88; natural gas furnaces, 0.7 to 0.95; electric, 1.0; heat pump 2.1 to 2.5.
  • Ce: This is what you’re paying for the energy you use, converted to dollars per British thermal unit (Btu). To arrive at this number, you’ll need to divide the actual price you pay for the fuel you use (electricity, gas, etc.) by the Btu content of that fuel. You can find the price you’re paying on your utility bill or by calling your utility company.

The Btu content of various fuels is as follows:

No. 2 fuel oil = 140,000 Btu/gallon

Electricity = 3,413 Btu/kilowatt-hour

Natural gas = 103,000 Btu/cubic feet or 100,000 Btu/therm

  • HDD: This stands for heating degree days, which is a standard method for determining how cold a specific geographic location is, and how much demand there will be for heating. It’s determined by the statistical average of the number of degrees that a day’s temperature falls below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, which is considered the temperature at which a building needs to be heated. The higher the number of heating degree days in an area, the more demand there is for heat, so the greater the savings will be from an insulation upgrade. You can get your area’s HDD number from your utility company or off the Internet.
  • 24: Hours in a day, used in this formula to convert HDD from days to hours.

Let’s say you have a 1,500-square-foot home with R-11 insulation in the attic. You have electric heat, and you’re currently paying 9 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity. You’re thinking of upgrading to R-38, and a contractor has given you an estimate of $1,200 to do the work. A quick check on the Web has shown you that your area has approximately 7,500 heating degree days.

Here’s how all that would plug into the formula:

  • Ci: 0.80. (Cost of insulation is 80 cents per square foot, based on a $1,200 estimate divided by 1,500 square feet).
  • R1: 11. (Existing attic insulation is R-11).
  • R2: 38. (Proposed upgrade is R-38).
  • E: 1.0. (Electric heat has an efficiency rating of 1.0).
  • Ce: 0.000026. (Electricity in your area costs $0.09 per kilowatt-hour, divided by 3,413 Btu/kwh).
  • HDD: 7500 (The number of heating degree days in your geographical location).

Now, take the formula in plug in the numbers, then do the math:

  • (Ci x R1 x R2 x E) ÷ (Ce x [R2 – R1] x HDD x 24)
  • (.80 x 11 x 38 x 1) ÷ (0.000026 x [38 – 11] x 7500 x 24)
  • 334.4 ÷ (0.000026 x 27 x 7500 x 24)
  • 334.4 ÷ 126.36 = 2.64 years

So, based on this formula and all the variables, you can expect the insulation upgrade to pay for itself in a little over 2 1/2 years.

Brown and Reaves Services, Inc., Serving the entire Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand area. Call us today: 843-497-9867. Remember to grab our 20% off coupon on your next service call by Liking us on Facebook.

Home Improvements – Tricks of the Trade

When it comes to home improvements and building contractors, there are some tricks of the trade you need to be aware of, especially if you’re looking to hire one for a job you’re considering.

When it comes to building contractors and home improvements, it pays to know the tricks of the trade BEFORE you sign on the dotted line.

We have more tips and advice for you on Home Improvements. Just click on the link under “Myrtle Beach Home Improvements” in the Categories listing to the right.

Like us on Facebook and grab our 20% off coupon for your next service call with Brown and Reaves Services, Inc. Call us today at (843) 497-9867.

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