Advice From the Pros

5 Tips for Reducing Your Home Heating Bill This Winter

reducing home heating bill

While winter heating bills are often lower than the Texas summer air conditioning bills when systems are running around the clock, they can be high enough to put a significant dent in a typical budget. What’s a homeowner to do? Fortunately, there are some simple strategies that you can use now to slash your home heating bills during these cold winter months.

Replace Your Filters

Homeowners often forget to replace the filters in their heating system. However, this easy task should be scheduled on a regular basis. Old air filters clogged with dust, dander, and other particulates obstruct airflow and make your heating system work harder than necessary. This translates into higher heating costs. Pencil in changing the filter once a month, and you’ll undoubtedly see a drop in your bill.

Turn Down the Water Heater

The factory default temperature for water heaters is typically 120 degrees. This is far hotter than you need your water. By turning it down a couple of degrees, you’ll still have plenty of warm water for bathing and cleaning and will save yourself a noticeable amount each month.

Program Your Thermostat

If you’re not home, there’s no reason to crank your heater to 75 degrees. Instead, program your thermostat so that it’s lower while you’re at work and asleep and higher when you’re awake and at home. At Gentry, our experts can help you choose the right type of programmable thermostat for your home.

Seal Leaks

A tremendous amount of warm air can escape in the winter, as well as cool air in the summer, from unsealed windows and gaps under doors. Take the time to effectively caulk and weatherstrip these and reduce your monthly costs both in the winter and in the summer.

Maintain Your System

The most effective way to save money by reducing your home heating bill is to ensure that it’s working as it should be. Call Gentry today to schedule maintenance for your system. Our skilled technicians are here for you. Don’t wait until the winter hits — schedule your tune-up with Gentry Air Conditioning today!

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Why It’s Hotter Upstairs

Why it's hotter upstairs

We all know that hot air rises, and that’s a key factor in a common household HVAC question: Why is it hotter upstairs? But it’s actually far more complicated than just that. Here are some of the other major factors that can contribute to this issue:

Your Air Conditioner

Replacing your air conditioner is a major expense, but it’s also an inevitability of homeownership. The average lifespan of a central air conditioning unit is 15 to 20 years, and with every year of use, your system loses a little of its efficiency. If your air conditioner is primed for replacement and you’re sweltering in your second story, it could be that your system just can’t keep up with demand anymore.

If years of wear and tear aren’t dragging your air conditioner down, it could still be related to overdue maintenance or a broken part, and it could even be that your air conditioner is too small for your home, to begin with. If your installers didn’t perform a proper load calculation prior to recommending a system for your home, you may have ended up with an undersized air conditioner.

Your Ductwork

The farther your air conditioner is from your second floor, the more ductwork the cold air has to pass through to get there. If that network of ducts is prone to having gaps and leaks, if not installed properly, a lot of that cool air can get lost before it reaches your upstairs rooms.

Leaky ductwork can develop over time, but it’s most commonly related to substandard installation. Joints in ductwork should not only be bolted together securely, but they should also be sealed with a compound called mastic to ensure that treated air doesn’t leak out. For maximum energy efficiency, they should also be insulated.

Your Attic

On a hot summer afternoon, your attic can fill with superheated air. And if that happens, you’ll need a strong barrier of insulation to keep that heat from radiating through the ceiling of your top floor. Attic insulation is an important thermal barrier all year long. It keeps hot air in during the winter and out during the summer. But it can degrade over time, and it’s possible that your attic doesn’t have enough, to begin with.

Insulation is measured in R-values, with higher R-values providing more thermal resistance. You can check the attic insulation R-value that is recommended for your climate zone using the U.S. Department of Energy’s insulation map. If you’re not sure what type of insulation you have, simply go up to your attic and check. If the attic floor is insulated with batts, you can probably read all the information you need on the paper backing. If you see loose-fill insulation, consult the Energy Department’s insulation identification guide to try to determine the type.

You should also measure the thickness of the insulation. If you can see the joists on the attic floor, you can benefit from adding more insulation on top of what you already have. Warmer climate homes should have about 13 or 14 inches, while homes in colder climates could benefit from 16 to 18 inches or more, depending on the severity of winter temperatures.

In addition to blocking out attic heat, you should also have features to reduce it, such as rafter and soffit vents to encourage ventilation. You can make your attic ventilation even more powerful with an attic fan. It’s usually a small job for a professional to install vents and a fan.
Finally, you can help block out even more heat with the right type of roof. Some new roofing materials are designed specifically to reflect heat, and there are even coatings that you can apply to an ordinary roof to make it more heat reflective.

Your Treeline

If your multi-story home is surrounded by young trees, you could be getting lots of shade protection on your ground floor windows and lots of direct sunlight pouring in upstairs.
While you wait for those trees to grow, consider upgrading your window treatments on your upstairs windows and keeping them closed more often. Reflective shades, blackout curtains, and heavy drapes can make a big difference in blocking out unwanted daytime heat.

Figuring out which one of these factors is affecting your comfort — or whether it’s a combination of factors — is easier said than done. If you need help finding the answer and fixing the problem, reach out to our friendly experts at Gentry today via our online contact form or 817-488-6733!

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Why Furnace Size Matters

Furnace Size
There are lots of reasons why you want your HVAC equipment installed by a licensed, certified and trained technician. Some of those reasons come into play long before the technical challenge of actually installing a new system; the initial task of sizing a furnace to a home is a technical process that requires special knowledge. Not to mention, getting the right furnace size saves you tons of money and headaches down the road.

An air conditioner that is too small will run constantly, which is expensive, and it may never get the home to reach its thermostat setting. One that’s too large will cool down the house too quickly, resulting in cooling cycles that are too frequent and that wear down parts prematurely.

Furnaces face almost the exact same problems when they aren’t sized properly. Undersized systems will run all the time, racking up huge bills while struggling to heat the space. Oversized systems are likely to make some rooms too hot, especially the ones closest to the furnace. They will also cycle on and off too regularly, all but ensuring more frequent repair calls.

Some HVAC manufacturer websites offer charts or calculators to help you estimate furnace size based on the square footage of your home, and these can be useful for getting a general idea of what size is appropriate. But there are much more accurate calculations that an experienced HVAC technician can perform to ensure the best possible fit, and with so much riding on the performance of your furnace, it’s important to get the furnace size right.

To perform these calculations, a technician will need to take measurements and inspect several elements of the home, including square footage, indoor air space, ductwork efficiency, climate zone, type and amount of insulation, sunlight exposure, and specific information about windows and doors.

If your furnace is exhibiting some of the problems described above, it’s possible that the furnace size was improperly calculated. The most reliable way to know for sure is to have an HVAC technician examine your furnace and assess your home’s heating needs. And if it turns out that your furnace is a major mismatch for your home, it may be that the most cost-effective way forward is to replace it.

If you’re happy with your furnace’s performance and it’s about to become due for replacement, you shouldn’t necessarily jump right in and buy a replacement of the exact same size. By upgrading to a more efficient model, you may be able to buy a smaller furnace while still getting the same heat output as before.

When you check furnace specs, there are two key numbers: the input BTUs, which is the amount of heat the furnace generates, and the efficiency rating, which is the percentage of that heat that actually makes it into your living spaces.

If a new furnace has an input BTU of 100,000 and an efficiency rating of 90, it will deliver 90,000 BTUs of heat into the home (because 90,000 is 90 percent of 100,000). But an older furnace that has an input BTU of 120,000 and an efficiency rating of 75 will put out the same amount of heat — it’ll just use more energy in the process. So when buying a new furnace, you should focus on the BTUs your home needs — as calculated by your HVAC technician — rather than the specs of your old, outdated furnace.

Are you ready to find out what furnace size is a perfect fit for your home or business? Call Gentry today or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation!

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