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How to Get Ready for Allergy Season

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Every year, millions of people suffer from spring allergies once trees, grasses, and weeds start releasing their pollen. Whether you get itchy eyes, a runny nose, coughing, sneezing, headaches, sinus pressure, or a little bit of everything, you know that allergies aren’t fun. At our air duct cleaning company, we have a few suggestions that can help you get ready for the upcoming season:

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A Helpful HVAC Glossary

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When it comes to HVAC services, our experts are always talking in industry terms. However, we know you may not be familiar with what “HSPF” stands for or what a programmable thermostat does, so we’ve created a basic HVAC glossary to help. If you have a term that isn’t defined in this article, feel free to “ask the expert.”

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Do You Qualify for an Energy Efficient Tax Credit?

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Yes, it’s tax season again and we know you all love doing your taxes. That’s why our HVAC contractor is here – to help you save even more with energy efficient tax credits.

According to the IRS, you can receive a tax credit if you have an energy-efficient home. If you made an improvement to your home last year, you may qualify for the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit or the Non-Business Energy Efficient Property Credit.

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5 Ways Humidity and Moisture Can Damage Your Home

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As a duct cleaning company, we understand how important it is for your home to be clean and your air quality to be healthy. In addition to changing your HVAC filters on a regular basis, we recommend installing a dehumidifier in the areas of your home that contain too much moisture and humidity. If these areas are constantly damp, it can lead to damages like:

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The ACCA’s Statement on the Recent Steel and Aluminum Tariffs

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Recently, President Trump decided to impose additional tariffs on steel and aluminum, with most regions experiencing a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum. While Trump believes the move will protect U.S. companies and create new manufacturing plants, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) released the following statement:

“ACCA is concerned that increased costs of HVACR equipment caused by tariffs on steel and aluminum will negatively impact professional contractors and consumers,” said Paul T. Stalknecht, ACCA president and CEO. “When the price of HVACR equipment increases, consumers who are in need of a new system trend toward cut-rate and unqualified individuals to service or replace their equipment. It also shifts the mindset of consumers to opt for putting Band-Aids on aging systems instead of replacing them with today’s more efficient products.”

If you business is in need of commercial HVAC services, please make sure to contact Oliver Mechanical Services today.

About the ACCA

The ACCA is a non-profit association that includes more than 60,000 professionals and 4,000 businesses in the indoor environment and energy services community. It works to “promote professional contracting, energy efficiency, and healthy, comfortable indoor environments.” The ACCA is the only nationwide organization to wholly encompass small businesses that design, install and maintain indoor environment and building performance systems.


The Benefits of an HVAC Zoning System

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If you haven’t heard of an HVAC zoning system, the experts at Oliver would like to enlighten you a little bit about its benefits: If you’re interested in saving money while increasing the comfort of your home, we suggest a zoning solution. Not only will you be able to turn the thermostat up or down in various areas in the house, you’ll also enjoy being constantly comfortable. For a few points on why so many homeowners have invested in the system, read below:

Convenience

Being able to control the temperature in each area of your home is extremely convenient. Not only can you adjust the thermostat according to each room’s size, but you’ll never have to go out of your way to do it. (Think about the convenience of waking up in the middle of the night and not having to go all the way downstairs to adjust the temperature.)

Savings

By choosing a comfort system with zoning, you’ll only use energy when you need it, which can save you money on your monthly energy bills. You’ll also reduce your carbon footprint and be a bigger part of the “green” movement.

Comfort

When people think of home, they think of comfort, and having a thermostat in each part of your home means you’ll always be comfortable. If your kitchen is always hotter than your bedroom, or your basement is much colder than the rest of the house, you’ll be able to adjust their temperatures accordingly and never be too hot or too cold.

HVAC Lifespan

Zoning systems work best when they are installed with your heating and cooling system. Units with a compatible communicating system will be able to run at maximum efficiency. By not working your unit as hard, you’ll prolong its lifespan and won’t have to worry about wearing it out (or relying on our HVAC repair service).

If you’re interested in turning your home into a comfortable, efficient space, give us a call to set up a free, no-obligation in-home estimate.


5 Things That Contribute to Indoor Air Pollution

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We spend most of our lives indoors and much of this time is spent at home, so why breathe indoor air that’s dirty? At Oliver, we know clean indoor air can mean a happier, healthy life – especially for those who suffer from breathing problems or allergies. Here are five things that can contribute to indoor air pollution and lead to coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, and even more serious situations:

Dirty Ducts

As air flows through your home, airborne particles are pulled into your ductwork and after awhile, you’ll begin breathing these particles as they start circulating through your home. Keeping your ductwork clean is an important part of keeping your indoor air clean and with a duct cleaning from our indoor air experts, we can get rid of the dust, dirt, dander, and more that have been circulating through your system.

Humidity

Moisture is the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew, which means if your home is too humid, you could be at risk for breathing in mold spores. Not only is this unhealthy, but it can cause problems for those who are allergic to mold. Investing in a dehumidifier can reduce the amount of moisture in your home and help your family breathe easier.

Smoke

If someone in your family is a smoker and does so indoors, they’re adding a variety of airborne pollutants to your indoor air. (In fact, they say the air pollution caused by cigarettes is up to 10 times worse than diesel car exhaust.) Pollutants can also come from cigars and E-cigarettes, which many people are turning to these instead of traditional cigarettes. While E-cigarette smoke isn’t as bad as cigarette smoke, it can still dirty indoor air.

Pet Dander

Many people believe that pet dander simply refers to hair, but this isn’t true. Pet dander is actually dried skin cells that fall off of your pet and either float around in the air or settle on surfaces. Many times, these cells attach to your pet’s hair and when their hair falls off, it can bring dander with it. With a mix of hair and dander floating around your home, you’re likely to breathe it in on a regular basis.

Dirty Filters

Homeowners tend to run their heat or air conditioning without thinking about their HVAC filters. However, your filters can only trap so much dust, dirt, pollen, dander, and more. Once they’re filled, your HVAC system will circulate these particles throughout your home, so our indoor air experts recommend regular HVAC maintenance. Change your filter every three months or so – even more frequently if you have pets or someone in your family smokes.

Don’t expose your family to dirty indoor air – take action to keep it clean and keep your family healthy. Change your HVAC filters, vacuum your carpets, dust your surfaces, and clean your air ducts on a regular basis and you’ll have a happy, clean environment.


How the IoT Is Helping Colleges Save on Their HVAC Costs

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Today, the Internet of Things is one of the most extensive and fascinating ideas for the modern world. The IoT joins together vehicles, home appliances, and devices using electronics, sensors, and software. This creates a network of elements that are interconnected – and the idea is only growing. In fact, experts estimate that the IoT will consist of around 30 billion objects by 2020.

As an HVAC contractor, we’re always interested in how new technology will affect the HVAC world. In this EdTech article, Alan Joch writes about how higher education institutions are using the IoT to save money on HVAC:

“Consider this scenario: A facilities engineer on a college campus discovers a failure in an HVAC controller that may cause the system to dump too much cold air into a room.

To compensate, the HVAC system reheats the extra cold air to maintain the desired comfort level, wasting energy and money in the process. The room’s occupants have no reason to contact facilities managers, which means technicians aren’t aware of the glitch.

Problems like this are common, costly and tough to solve. But institutions are starting to use the Internet of Things (IoT) — pairing connected sensors with analytics software — to fix them. And they’re saving big money in the process.

Energy engineers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln were mindful of simultaneous heating and cooling issues when they implemented an environmental fault detection and diagnostics system two years ago. So, as they installed thousands of networked room sensors, they included an algorithm designed to spot HVAC breakdowns.

“Lo and behold, a room in the Law College showed up with the heating and cooling problem,” says Lalit Agarwal, the university’s director of utility and energy management.

Fixing the flawed air conditioner damper saved the university a modest $300 per year in excess energy costs. But the financial implications go well beyond that, Agarwal says: “Think about how many rooms we have on our campus. If just 5 percent of them have the same failure, we are looking at thousands of dollars a year in excess costs — for just one type of problem.”

In fact, by Agarwal’s estimate, data-driven energy management activities have yielded about $200,000 in cost-avoidance savings in one year. Those savings likely will grow as facilities engineers continue to combine IoT with other technologies to proactively address HVAC issues that waste energy.

Says Agarwal, “We’ve had instances where technicians show up to fix a classroom’s ventilation system, and the instructor says, ‘But I didn’t call for anybody.’ The technicians say, ‘We know, but you probably would have in a month.’”

IoT Optimizes HVAC Operations

IoT lets institutions collect heaps of data on energy usage and, just as importantly, analyze that data for wasteful consumption patterns and opportunities to optimize HVAC operations.

“Energy management is right up there among the most compelling applications for IoT because it often results in direct cost savings,” says Steve Hoffenberg, the director of industry analysis, IoT and embedded technology at VDC Research.

To reap these savings, institutions combine low-cost digital sensors with analytics software in on-premises systems or cloud services designed for Big Data. Some implementations use onsite gateways that, among other duties, filter raw data streams to keep extraneous information from clogging local area networks and analytics engines.

“Ideally, the analytics should be self-learning, so that it understands energy consumption patterns for a specific building and optimizes it based on actual usage, such as real-time occupancy,” Hoffenberg says.

On the horizon, he says, are energy-related IoT systems that mix building sensory data with third-party weather data to help facilities staff manage energy consumption based on prevailing environmental conditions.

Successful Deployment Requires Collaboration of IoT Stakeholders

The rewards of IoT can be significant, but Chuck Benson, assistant director for IT, facilities services, at the University of Washington, says stakeholders may need to align their priorities. “There needs to be a lot of coordination to get these departments to work together closely,” he says.

In particular, IT and operations staff tend to approach such projects in unique ways. “These professionals even see time differently: IT people are patching and changing systems on a daily and weekly basis. OT people think in terms of buildings that last decades,” Benson says. “It takes work, and regular meetings that start early in the process, to bring these two groups together.”

Increased Data Output Creates Troubleshooting Efficiencies

At Nebraska, the environmental fault detection and diagnostics implementation uses more than 60,000 sensors to monitor the campus’s HVAC and computerized maintenance management systems. An electronic dashboard displays summary data, including updated insights about energy consumption and alerts when HVAC performance dips.

“Engineers get enough information to see possible faults and get a starting point for determining potential causes,” Agarwal says.

Multiple databases support the platform, including those running Microsoft SQL and the open-source MariaDB technology. In addition, Agarwal and his staff are always on the lookout for innovations in data-driven energy management. “Cloud-based machine learning applications in Microsoft Azure and similar technologies may help systems learn how to reduce the time needed to identify HVAC faults,” Agarwal says. “That is definitely an area for us to investigate for the future.”

The university’s fault detection and diagnostics system also supports an ongoing building recommissioning project. So far, more than a dozen buildings have been reconditioned for energy efficiency.

“After we perform a full tuneup on HVAC equipment in older buildings, the IoT sensors, working in conjunction with the detection and diagnostics system, enable us to keep our eye on performance, so we can keep the systems running as optimally as possible over time,” Agarwal says.

Recommissioning has reduced overall energy consumption by 17 percent and counting, he adds. “We’ve addressed barely 10 percent of the 130 buildings, so we expect even greater savings as we continue on this path,” Agarwal says.”


What Happens When You Don’t Maintain Your HVAC System?

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At Oliver, we’re always telling our customers how important HVAC maintenance is. A reliable HVAC maintenance plan can keep your unit running smoothly, improve its reliability, and extend its lifespan. Some of our service calls are made because the HVAC unit hasn’t been properly maintained. Here are some things that could happen when you don’t have a maintenance plan:

Improperly Functioning Thermostat

When your thermostat doesn’t function properly, your HVAC unit may not turn on when it’s supposed to or turn off when it’s supposed to. Not only is this bad for the unit, but it also affects the comfort of you and your family.

Dirty Coils

Your HVAC unit’s evaporator coil is located on your indoor unit and works much like a radiator to make sure that the air flowing through your ductwork is heated or cooled properly. A dirty evaporator coil can restrict airflow, which can also dramatically reduce your unit’s efficiency. The dirt can also harbor mold and mildew, giving your indoor air poor quality.

During the summer, your outside HVAC unit’s condenser coil is responsible for eliminating the hot air that is sent to it. The cleaner the coil, the more efficiently it can handle the hot air. If your condenser coil is dirty, your unit’s efficiency can dramatically drop, hiking up your energy bills and reducing the unit’s lifespan.

Dirty Filter

The role of an HVAC air filter is to filter out pollen, allergens, dander, and other airborne particles that can harm your health. A good air filter will give you high-quality indoor air that can not only prevent illnesses but also shorten them. When your air filter is dirty, airborne particles aren’t filtered; instead, they enter your home through your ductwork and are breathed in by you and your family.

Blocked Condenser

Your condenser is one of the most important parts of your HVAC unit. It’s responsible for desuperheating, condensing, and subcooling to make sure the air that flows through your home is the right temperature. A blocked condenser means the heat transfer that usually occurs won’t be able to take place and the condenser’s temperature will rise. When this happens, your HVAC unit won’t operate efficiently and if not taken care of, your condenser could burn out.

Leaks

Leaks in an HVAC unit can be caused by several common scenarios: the drain hole is blocked with dirt or debris, the condenser pump is broken, the seals on your unit aren’t tight, or your hose is clogged or blocked. All of these things can occur if you don’t properly maintain your HVAC unit.

Power Malfunctions

As part of our maintenance plan, we’ll perform an annual 21-point inspection where we’ll make sure that your HVAC unit can power up properly and power down properly. If it can’t, you’ll run into a lot of frustration when your home is too warm or too cool and you can’t run your unit properly in order to adjust the thermostat.

Dirty Blower

The role of your HVAC’s blower is to circulate the warm or cool air throughout your home. When it gets dirty, it requires more energy to operate, which increases your energy bills. If a blower gets dirty enough, it will fail and once it fails, it’s a sign that more problems are to come. If this happens, many HVAC companies recommend replacing your entire HVAC system.


 

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