Does Your HVAC System Need an Upgrade?

For many homeowners, central heating and cooling is one of the things we take for granted. You may not think about your HVAC system often, only noticing it when something goes wrong. When was the last time you checked your system’s efficiency? If you’ve never had your efficiency checked, you might be wasting money every month paying more than you should for effective heating and cooling.

One of the biggest offenders when it comes to a lack of efficiency are old units that don’t meet today’s energy standards. As new technology is introduced, heating and cooling systems are able to work more effectively and efficiently than they used to. Digital systems help to maintain and control temperatures in your home in a precise manner that older units just can’t achieve.

When is it time to replace?

It can be difficult to tell how efficient your HVAC system is without professional assistance. Sometimes there are red flags that can tip you off, like abnormally high energy bills, or poor temperature control, but in some cases it may be more subtle.

The best way to check the efficiency of your central air system is to have a professional come and perform an energy assessment. Companies like Bradley Mechanical, here in Richmond, VA, have specialized technicians who can come to your home and check a variety of different things to see if your system is functioning at optimal levels.

Some electric utility companies will subsidize the cost of an energy assessment because increasing the efficiency of your home will draw less power from the grid, helping the overall energy efficiency of your area. Check with your provider to see if they offer energy assessments or if they’ll help to subsidize the cost of your own private assessment.

Checking Outside Factors

Sometimes a lack of efficiency has little to do with your HVAC system and more to do with the construction of your home. Cracks in walls, poor insulation, or poorly sealed windows can add up to create a significant loss of energy in your home. Patching these smaller issues is often much more cost effective than replacing your whole HVAC system. It is recommended to fully seal your home before jumping into buying a new central air unit.

Getting the Right Unit

Another thing to check when completing an energy audit of your home is the size of your HVAC system. If your home came with the current HVAC system, it’s a good idea to do your due diligence and make sure that the system is the proper size for your home. This is especially important if you plan to add rooms, or have already done significant renovation.

Having the wrong size HVAC unit for your home can cause a multitude of different problems, including:

  • Inefficient air circulation
  • Promotion of mold growth
  • Chronic illness
  • Fire hazard if the system is working too hard

The best way to find out what size HVAC unit your home needs is to have a specialist run a load calculation, to see approximately how much air your system will need to move through your home on a regular basis. That way they can assess your energy needs and recommend a unit that will meet your needs. Having a properly sized HVAC system is a key part of achieving and maintaining energy efficiency for your home. Call your local HVAC professional today to learn more about making your home energy efficient and saving money.

Replacing Windows on Homes with Classic Architecture

Here in North Carolina, three of the more classic architectural styles remain popular today: Colonial, Federal, and Georgian. Even if you own a home in a classic style, it doesn’t mean that you can’t replace your windows with more modern and more energy-efficient models; it does mean that you’ll want to choose your replacements with a good deal of thought and care.

Let’s start with a look at Colonial-style homes. Among other things, the Colonial style tends to be understated and symmetrical. Colonial homes are also two-storied and rectangular, with the front and back representing the wider side. Other key features are a centered entry, gabled roof, and either white clapboard siding or brick – usually the latter here.

We can see some southern adaptations to the original New England design: Where a steep gabled roof would be helpful in shedding snow, severe winds are a greater concern here; as a result, we might see hip roofs that slope down on all sides, and which are less prone to wind damage. We might also see dual chimneys on each side of the house employed not to release smoke, but instead heat during a hot southern summer.

The windows you’ll find on Colonial homes also tend to follow a certain pattern: They feature small panes (or employ grilles to create the look of small panes); they tend to slide open vertically; and they tend to feature shutters.

With that in mind, you’ll probably want to consider double-hung windows with grilles, and with relatively narrow frames. The most common look for a Colonial-style window would be to have six panes of glass in both window panels. Frames would be on the narrow side, as this yields a more pleasing look when flanked by shutters.

If your home is brick, white frames would be the most traditional choice. If your home features clapboard siding, white or earth tones (think finished woods) are also excellent choices.

Now let’s look at Federal-style homes. Relative to Colonial homes, Federal homes feature more ornamentation. For example, you may find cornices with decorative moldings lining the top of the house. Entry doors are often framed by a small entry porch, held aloft by a pair of round, slender columns; other common features of Federal-style homes include curved steps leading to the entry and lintels topping each window.

Like the windows on Colonial homes, Federals also feature small panes and shutters. However, you’re also more likely to find smaller, ornamental windows. A common feature of Federal homes is a half-round transom window just over the entry; some Federal style homes also top the other windows with transoms as well. Another common feature are sidelight windows that flank each side of the entry door.

You’ll most often see double-pane windows on Federal homes – with white frames the most popular choice. However, the use of additional color in the window frame is becoming more popular. More and more homeowners are opting to choose a window frame color to match a contrasting color or trim on the house. If you’re planning to replace a Federal home’s windows, you’ll want to look at product lines of replacement windows that offer customization.

Homes in the Georgian style are very similar to Federal homes, but one of the key differences lies in the windows. Federal-style windows tended to be narrower and taller. Georgian style preceded the Federal style, and their manufacture was less advanced; out of necessity, Georgian window panes tended to be smaller and their mullions (think grilles) tended to be thicker. As early American manufacturing grew more sophisticated, window panes became larger and more elegant.

Even with authenticity in mind, it’s understandable why many present-day Georgian-style homeowners would opt for narrower grilles: They yield more efficient windows and better views.

But for the most part, little to no compromise is needed when matching today’s efficient new windows to a more classic style. With some diligent research, you should have no problem finding modern windows that do a wonderful job recapturing the style that first drew you to your home.

How to Refinish Your Hardwood Floors

Anyone who has hardwood floors in their home knows that after several years of use, the finish can become dull, scratched, or worn completely away in places. This is especially true for high traffic areas, like around the kitchen table or near doors where people are coming and going regularly. Most of the time when this kind of wear and tear happens, people worry that their floors will never look as good as they once did. Fortunately, that is not the case, and this kind of damage can be fixed fairly easily if you know what you’re doing.

There are a few things you’ll need before proceeding if you plan on tackling this job yourself. Some of the things you may have laying around the garage already, like sandpaper, and dust masks. One of the main things that you’ll need that you probably don’t have is a buffer. You will absolutely want to rent a buffer from your local home store. If you don’t have a shop-vac, you might also want to look into renting that.

Here’s a more concise list of what you’ll need to refinish your floors:

  • Buffer
  • Shop-Vac
  • 180-grit Sandpaper
  • Oil or Water Based Polyurethane
  • Dust Mask and Booties
  • Respirator with Organic Vapor Canisters
  • Paintbrush
  • Long Handled Roller with ¼ inch Nap Cover

Step 1:

 

The first thing you’re going to want to do is remove all of the furniture from the room you’ll be refinishing and clean the floor really well. You can use a commercial floor cleaner, or make a solution of 10 parts water and 1 part white vinegar. Spray the floor down with your choice of cleaning solution and then wipe down the floor with a terrycloth mop, or an old towel.

 

Step 2:

Before sanding the rest of the floor, you’ll want to get the perimeter and any other hard to reach places by hand. You’ll need to sand any part of the floor that the buffer can’t easily access. Using your 180-grit sandpaper, sand about 4-6 inches out from the baseboard, making sure to sand with the grain. Sand each floorboard until the finish gets dull and forms a powder.  You may be tempted to use a sanding block, but I don’t recommend it because you might miss uneven spots in the floor.

Step 3:

Here’s where you’ll need that buffer you rented. Once you’ve sanded all the hard to reach spots and the perimeter, it’ll be time to sand the rest of the floor. Put your dust mask on, and stick a maroon buffing pad to the buffer. Buff the floor in a side to side motion, making sure to overlap your paths by about six inches. Keep the buffer moving at a constant rate to avoid sanding unevenly, and make sure to stop every five minutes or so to vacuum off the buffer pad. The dust buildup can cause it to sand unevenly or ineffectively, so you’ll need to vacuum it to keep your sanding consistent.

Step 4:

Take a break for 20 minutes or so to let the dust in the room settle, you’ve earned it after all that hard work with the buffer. Once the dust has settled, put a new filter in your vacuum and use the brush attachment to get up all of the dust.  Move with the direction of the floorboards so you can get any dust that has settled in the cracks between the boards. After vacuuming, dry-tack the floor with a microfiber cloth to get any final debris that the vacuum may have missed.

Step 5:

It’s finally time to start applying a new coat of finish! Put on your booties and respirator and grab your paintbrush to start the first phase of applying your finish. It’s very important that you start at the point farthest away from your exit door, you don’t want to paint yourself into the room.  Take your paintbrush and apply a 3-inch stripe around the baseboards. You’ll need to work quickly at this point, as you’ll have marks left over if you allow this stripe to dry before you apply polyurethane to the rest of the floor. Once you get to the ten minute mark it’s best to start on the middle and then do the rest of the perimeter as you get to it.

Step 6:

Now you’ll be finishing the rest of the room.  While the edge finish is still wet, pour a line of polyurethane in line with the grain. Only pour as much as you can spread out in about ten minutes. If it dries like that you’ll have a weird bump in the floor. Use your roller with the nap cover to spread out the finish, moving with the grain of the wood first, and then across it. Repeat this process until the whole floor is covered. Once you’re done, wait at least 3 hours before applying a second coat, and about a week before putting furniture back.

If you enjoy completing your own renovation projects, this can be a good weekend project as it needs to be completed pretty quickly once you start. If all of this sounds like a serious hassle, you can always call your local hardwood floor refinishing service  to revitalize the wood floors in your home. No matter who you get to do it, refinishing your floors is a must if you want to keep your hardwood floors looking nice. Most flooring companies recommend refinishing your floors at least once every two years to maintain their appearance. Staying on top of refinishing your floors can also help prevent scratching on your floors. If unattended to, scratching can permanently ruin a hardwood floor, and in serious cases require you to replace parts of the floor if not the whole thing.

Good luck with your floor refinishing project!