Zoning Systems 101

Zoning Systems 101A home zoning system can improve your home comfort as well as cutting down your ongoing energy bills. The principle behind them is simple: not all areas of your home in the northwest Chicago suburbs need heating or cooling at the same rate, or at the same times.

For example, a guest room may only need to be heated or cooled when you’re entertaining guests. A dining room with high ceilings and large windows, by contrast, may need to be heated and cooled every day, but may need the thermostat set to a different temperature to keep it comfortable despite solar heat gain or hot air rising out of reach. Or a living area may be kept warm during the winter, while the bedrooms are kept cooler because sleepers will enjoy the warmth of thick blankets.

Home zoning allows you to control the temperature in each region of your home. It does this by re-balancing the airflow through your ductwork, using a series of dampers which can be opened and shut independently. This means that if not all of your home needs to be heated or cooled, your HVAC load can be significantly decreased.

One common energy-saving myth advises homeowners to approximate this function by closing vents in rooms that aren’t in use. The problem with this approach is that, while it stops conditioned air from entering the rooms, it doesn’t stop the room’s unconditioned air from re-entering the return vents leading back to the central HVAC system. This means that the central system is fed a steady supply of untreated air, which it has to work harder to heat or cool. It’s no substitute for a proper home zoning system.

If you’re curious about how a home zoning system would work in your northwest Chicago suburbs home, call us up at Ibbotson Heating & Air Conditioning! We’re always proud to help our Illinois neighbors meet their home comfort and energy-saving goals.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Chicago, Illinois about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about zoning systems and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 847-603-2233.

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Save Energy in Your Home With These Window Treatments

Save Energy in Your Home With These Window TreatmentsWindows add beauty to your home, but they also add challenges when it comes to managing your home temperature. Solar heat gain may warm rooms in the winter, but it can easily overheat them in the summer. And whether it’s through air leaks or simply the fact that a single pane of glass is a poor insulator, windows are culprits when it comes to losing heat in the winter and losing cool in the summer. Applying window treatments to the windows in your northwest Chicago suburbs home can help you stay more comfortable and spend less on heating and cooling throughout the year. Here are some to consider:

  • Blinds. Blinds can keep excess heat and light from entering your home, but they can also be used to help light it: horizontal blinds in white or another light color can be angled to reflect light onto ceiling spaces for diffuse illumination. Using reflected and diffused sunlight in this way can reduce your need for artificial lighting during daylight hours.
  • Curtains. Curtains and drapes don’t just block light. If they’re made of a heavy enough fabric, they can also form a layer of insulation against your windows. This may be most obvious in the winter months when cold drafts are caught by the fabric, but it also helps prevent heat loss during the summer.
  • Awnings. These can be installed to shade one window, or the entire side of your house. During the summer, they can cut solar heat gain by more than half on south- and west-facing walls and windows. During the winter, they can keep snowfall away from your walls — just make sure that they’re sturdy and angled, so that snow doesn’t build up and damage them.

To learn about more window treatments you can use to keep your home comfortable year-round, call us up at Ibbotson Heating & Air Conditioning! We’re happy to make your home’s windows energy efficient.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Chicago, Illinois about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about window treatments and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 847-603-2233.

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Tips for Using Ceiling Fans for Cooling Efficiency

Tips for Using Ceiling Fans for Cooling EfficiencySummers in the northwest Chicago suburbs can get pretty uncomfortable if you don’t have a way to stay cool at home. While your air conditioner definitely helps, your ceiling fan can do more than you might think.

How Your Ceiling Fan Helps

Your ceiling fan cools you by blowing air over your skin. With this fan running, you’ll feel 3 to 8 degrees cooler. This allows you to raise your air conditioner thermostat setting by the same amount with no decrease in comfort.

Because a fan uses much less energy than an air conditioner, you’ll save energy and enjoy lower electrical bills. For every degree you raise the thermostat setting above 72 degrees, you could save 1 to 3 percent on your cooling bills.

Get the Most from Your Fan

Use ceiling fans rather than table or standing fans, which move less air.

Fit the fan to the room. In a 76 to 144 sq. ft room, a 36-inch fan is sufficient, but a room of 145 to 225 sq. ft. will need at least a 44-inch fan. In long rooms, install a fan at each end.

The fan should be at least 18 inches from the walls and, where possible, 8 to 9 feet above the floor. If you have high ceilings, look for extended-mount fans, which have longer downrods to bring the fan closer to the floor.

Air conditioners are energy hogs, so on moderately warm days, opt for the ceiling fan over the air conditioner.

In summer, the blades of your ceiling fan should rotate counterclockwise as you watch them from below. If they don’t, look for a small switch on the motor housing that lets you change the blade direction. Setting them to rotate clockwise can help you feel warmer in winter.

Fans cool you, but they don’t actually lower the room temperature. If you leave the room for more than a few minutes, turn off the fan to save energy.

For more tips on staying cool efficiently, talk with us at Ibbotson Heating & Air Conditioning in the northwest Chicago suburbs.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Chicago, Illinois about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about using ceiling fans and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 847-603-2233.

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Indoor Humidity: How it Affects Your Health

Indoor Humidity: How it Affects Your HealthThe moisture content in your indoor air can be a pleasant relief from a dry day, or one element of an oppressively muggy atmosphere. But humidity doesn’t just affect your comfort — it can have a serious impact on your own health, as well as the health of your home. Here’s are some of the effects:

High Humidity

  • High humidity increases the amount of heat that air can hold, and also makes it more difficult for heat to dissipate from your skin. This can increase your comfort during the winter when the furnace is on, but during the hot summers in the northwest Chicago suburbs, it can lead to overheating and even heat stroke.
  • Mold, mildew, fungus, and bacteria all thrive in humid environments — which is why they’re often a problem in bathrooms and poorly insulated basement and attic spaces. All of these organisms can trigger allergies, and cause other respiratory illnesses.
  • High humidity can make it harder to breathe, especially for people with asthma.

Low Humidity

  • Low humidity can cause furniture, fabrics, and fixtures to dry out and age, which can cause them damage. It also increases the production of dust in your home, which can irritate allergies and conditions such as asthma.
  • Low humidity increases the rate of evaporation from your skin, which can make you feel cooler as well as dehydrate you. It can also cause skin cracking, chapped lips, and other complaints.
  • Some viruses, such as the flu virus, prefer low-humidity environments. When the air is dry, these viruses may be more contagious.
  • Dry environments encourage the buildup of static electricity, which can lead to uncomfortable static shocks. These static shocks can also damage sensitive electronics.

Balancing Your Home Humidity

While high humidity and low humidity both have their drawbacks, it doesn’t have to be a matter of choosing which kind of discomfort you’d rather have. Using a humidifier and dehumidifier when needed can ensure that your home has a comfortable level of humidity all year round.

To learn more about the effects of humidity, and how you can control it, contact Ibbotson Heating & Air Conditioning!

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Chicago, Illinois about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about indoor humidity and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 847-603-2233.

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Why Air Duct Cleaning is Necessary

Why Air Duct Cleaning is NecessaryAs HVAC systems push heated or cooled air through a network of air ducts, over time, dust and other particles build up on the ductwork’s interior surfaces. It is a good idea to schedule an inspection to check for dirty ducts and have them cleaned when necessary. Here are reasons why clean air ducts are important.

Healthier Indoor Air

As debris collects on the inner surface of ducts, it can attract mold growth. Mold doesn’t require leaking water for its development. If moist air enters ductwork, the grime on the inner surfaces can become damp enough for mold growth. This is a problem because mold spores travel through the air, which means that mold spores in your air ducts can enter your home and cause allergic responses.

If ducts are leaky, the chance of dirty ducts is higher because of the infiltration of dust from the environment and because of the increased potential for insect and rodent activity. Pest waste provides a breeding ground for bacteria.

Keep Your HVAC System Clean and Efficient

Besides offering potential air quality improvement, cleaning the ductwork can offer additional protection for your HVAC system. Air ducts filled with dust or other contaminants contribute to a dirty heat exchanger, dirty air filters and airflow issues. Your HVAC equipment can last longer and run more efficiently with clean air ducts.

How Often Should Ducts be Cleaned?

Unlike seasonal system checks and other regular maintenance tasks, duct cleaning should be performed on an as-needed basis. Many factors contribute to dirty ductwork and there is no one-size-fits-all schedule for cleaning. An exception is if a family member suffers from asthma or other respiratory disease. In these cases, or if household members’ allergies worsen indoors, annual duct cleaning can be an important step for controlling symptoms.

Barring health issues, consider having your ducts checked once every year or two along with other scheduled maintenance, and follow the suggestions of your technician regarding when to have a professional cleaning.

For more about air duct cleaning, please contact us at Ibbotson Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Chicago, Illinois about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about air ducts and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 847-603-2233.

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All About Air Conditioner Ratings

All About Air Conditioner RatingsIf you haven’t shopped for an air conditioner in a while, you may not know about air conditioner ratings. These ratings measure A/C efficiency, and are a great way to find the most efficient air conditioner for your home within your budget.

Considering SEER and EER

The Department of Energy in the 1970s began issuing efficiency ratings for heating and cooling appliances. For air conditioners, SEER, or seasonal energy efficiency ratio, is the most common rating, and represents the amount of energy needed to reach a cooling capacity over a typical cooling season. This average is calculated using a constant indoor temperature and varying temperatures from the 60s to more than 100 degrees F.

EER, or energy efficiency ratio, also measures the amount of energy needed to provide a cooling output, but it is determined for a specific outdoor temperature. These older EER ratings are mostly used nowadays for window units, while SEER is what most homeowners look at when comparing the efficiency of various air conditioners.

What SEER Should You Choose?

If you have a 20-year-old air conditioner, it could have a SEER as low as 6, which is not particularly efficient. A 10-year-old A/C may have a SEER of about 10. The current minimum SEER for newly manufactured A/Cs in our region is 13; for new A/Cs in the South, the minimum SEER is 14.

Is a High-Seer A/C Desirable?

Efficient features such as scrolling compressors and variable speed air handlers have helped modern air conditioners reach SEERs of more than 20.

Should homeowners in our region invest in super-efficient air conditioners? That depends. Sure, the high-SEER A/Cs will help you save money on utility bills, but you’ll have to weigh the cost of the more efficient A/Cs against how much you use your cooling equipment, as our summers, though warm and humid, are relatively short. It may be that an A/C with a somewhat lower SEER is the best buy for you.

To determine the right air conditioner ratings for your home, contact Ibbotson Heating and Air conditioning. We serve the northwest Chicago suburbs.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Chicago, Illinois about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about air conditioner ratings and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 847-603-2233.

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The Most Common Condensate Drain Issues

The Most Common Condensate Drain IssuesAs long as your central air conditioner is running, your condensate drain system must be functioning properly, too. On a humid summer day, the A/C evaporator coil located inside the indoor air handler extracts up to 20 gallons of water vapor from the air. As this condensate drips off the evaporator coil, it’s collected by the drain pan then carried away down a small drain pipe. At least, that’s what happens as long as everything works right. If something goes wrong, however, condensate can leak or overflow and cause expensive water damage to your house before you even know there’s a problem.

Here are the two most common issues that may cause condensate problems and how a professional can resolve them.

Defective Drain Pan

Located beneath the air handler, the condensate drain pan is a wide, flat enclosure positioned to catch condensate dripping off the evaporator coil. The pan incorporates a fitting where the condensate drain line attaches. These drain pans are typically made of plastic. Over the years, the pan may crack due to age and develop a leak. If you notice unexplained pools of water on the floor around the A/C air handler, contact an HVAC service professional to have the pan checked out.

Algae and Mold Growth

Algae and mold flourish in wet, warm conditions just like those that exist inside the condensate system. Gooey fungal growth inside the drain pan may eventually completely block the drain pipe. Once a clog occurs, the drain pan will begin overflowing every time the air conditioner cycles on, spilling many gallons of water and potentially causing severe water damage. A qualified HVAC technician will blow out the clogged drain line, disinfect the drain pan to kill residual algae and mold and install time-release tablets that kill fungal growth over the entire season to prevent recurrence.

For more advice about condensate drain issues and fast professional service to resolve them, in the northwest Chicago suburbs contact the HVAC experts at Ibbotson Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Chicago, Illinois about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about condensate drains and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 847-603-2233.

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Smart HVAC Systems: Just How Smart Are They?

Smart HVAC Systems: Just How Smart Are They?The current range of “smart” HVAC systems and controllers provides homeowners with heating and cooling equipment that can “learn,” that can make automatic adjustments, and that can take advantage of computer connections and wireless technology. A smart HVAC system is smart indeed, and these pieces of equipment can easily live up to the hype surrounding smart home technology.

Some of the more notable features of smart HVAC equipment include:

  • Sensors that detect when rooms are occupied. This allows the system to provide more heating and cooling for rooms when people are in them and reduce operation when there is no one around to need conditioned air. These sensors include motion sensors and carbon dioxide sensors that can detect increased levels of CO2 from the exhalations of individuals in the room.
  • Fans that can learn how much air is usually distributed throughout a home and that can react automatically to maintain that level of air distribution. These fans know how much air has been ventilated and what optimum ventilation rates are, and can adjust air distribution to maintain total ventilation requirements.
  • Systems and equipment that can communicate with homeowners via text message, email, or other electronic communication when there is something wrong or when some type of manual intervention is needed. At the same time, these types of systems can allow home equipment settings to be adjusted via phone or Web application.
  • Smart programmable thermostats that offer homeowners some extremely useful functions along with the ability to reduce energy use and cut monthly heating and cooling costs. They can learn when heating or cooling is needed in your home and can automatically adjust HVAC system operation to provide it. For example, a programmable thermostat can automatically turn on heat in the morning, then automatically turn it back down after everyone in the house has left for work or school.

In the northwestern Chicago suburbs, Ibbotson Heating & Air Conditioning is a top choice for professional HVAC sales, installation, and service. Contact us today for more information on how a smart HVAC system can improve your home comfort while saving you money.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Chicago, Illinois about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about smart HVAC systems and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 847-603-2233.

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You Should Look for a Pro With These HVAC Certifications

You Should Look for a Pro With These HVAC CertificationsDo you have trust issues when it comes to hiring someone to work on your HVAC system? That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it can be challenging to sort through all the HVAC companies out there and assess reliability. Fortunately, there are some markers that can help you discern a solid, reputable company from a fly-by-night. HVAC certifications are, in fact, one of the best ways to prove a company has an investment in providing good customer service over the long term.

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Troubleshooting Your A/C

Troubleshooting Your A/CSummers aren’t long in the Chicago area, but they tend to be warm and humid. That means you need to keep your air conditioner in top working order to maximize comfort throughout the cooling season.

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    Gregory Ibbotson Gregory Ibbotson is a service technician and manager at Ibbotson Heating Company ... More »