Answering All Your Heating & AC Questions
1. HOW DO I SELECT A CONTRACTOR?
In selecting a heating and air conditioning contractor, ask the following questions:
How long have they been in business? ServiceMark has been in business for over 65 years. Originally serving the greater Main Line area and northern Delaware areas, we have grown and expanded to serving all of eastern Pennsylvania, New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties in Delaware and Cecil County and other Eastern Maryland counties.
Do they have several locations? ServiceMark has eight branch locations throughout eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware with an office near you for your convenience.
Do they employ certified factory-trained technicians? ServiceMark has over 150 employees. These include certified, factory trained sales and management personnel, as well as NATE certified technicians. Our technicians receive continuous training to keep them current on the new technologies and products. They use state-of-the-art tools and testing equipment, including Freon recovery equipment to protect the environment. Our fleet of over 100 vehicles enables us to provide you with timely, professional service.
Are they bonded and insured? ServiceMark technicians are fully bonded, insured, and covered by Workman’s Compensation.
Do they complete full background checks? All ServiceMark employees, not only the technicians that enter your home, have a thorough pre-employment drug screening and a background check with a random on-going drug screening program during their employment years.
Are they a full-service contractor? ServiceMark is a full-service contractor with complete service departments and installation departments, including duct cleaning and IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) services.
Do they offer emergency service? ServiceMark guarantees emergency service 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, including holidays, for all of our service agreementcustomers.
Do they offer service agreements? ServiceMark knows that homeowners have many concerns and activities in their lives. Their mission is to design, install and service heating and cooling systems in a way that provides homeowners with worry-free comfort. They offer several excellent service agreements which can be custom designed to fit the individual comfort need Any of these policies are certain to meet your needs and provide you with necessary convenience and peace of mind.
2. CAN I JUST REPLACE THE HEAT PUMP CONDENSING UNIT ON AN OLDER SYSTEM TO SAVE MONEY?
No. Replacing only the outdoor unit will sacrifice your comfort and lower the efficiency of the unit. In fact, you can lose up to 15% of the unit’s efficiency! Even worse, your system may fail sooner than normal and most manufacturers’ warranties will be voided. You should seriously consider buying a complete coordinated heat pump system.
3. WHAT IS THE AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY OF EQUIPMENT?
Most systems have a lifetime of 12 years or less. As your equipment gets older, its efficiency can decrease dramatically. You may notice that it gets noisier and needs repairs more often. If your system is over five years old, you should have a heating and cooling contractor check your system for maintenance or replacement.
4. SHOULD I HAVE MY DUCTS CLEANED?
Yes. Mold, mildew, pet hair, skin flakes, smoke film, dander, dust mites, dirt, pollen, and even bacteria take up residence in your air ducts. With each breath you take you inhale these contaminants. Dirty air ducts can not only make you sick or raise your utility bills, but they can also reduce your air flow and cause premature failure of your expensive heating and cooling system.
5. WHY SHOULD I PURCHASE A SERVICE AGREEMENT?
Proper care of your equipment can save you real dollars on your utility bills. Some air conditioning and heating problems can double operating costs without reducing comfort. Just 100th of an inch of dirt or film on an evaporator coil can reduce cooling and heating efficiency by 5%. All leading manufacturers recommend regular maintenance for peak performance. A service agreement will give you the peace of mind that your system is operating at optimum efficiency and performance AND make sure you are following manufacture’s guidelines to protect the valuable warranty. Forget your annual service? We’ll remind you automatically.
6. SHOULD I REPLACE OR REPAIR MY EQUIPMENT?
There are five main questions that need to be considered when deciding to either replace or repair your heating and cooling system:
- How old is your system?
If your system is more than twelve years old, it may be wiser to invest in new, higher efficiency equipment, which could cut your energy costs by up to 40%.
- What is the efficiency level of your current indoor weather system?
Unfortunately, replacing parts of your old system will not improve the efficiency. If the energy savings of using a higher efficiency system will cover all or part of the cost of investing in new equipment, you should seriously consider replacement of the old system.
- What is the overall condition of your system?
If your system is in good reliable condition, it could be wiser to simply repair it. But if your system breaks down often, you should consider replacing it.
- How often is your system operating?
If your system has been used extensively, it may be time to replace it.
- Are you planning to move soon?
If you are moving in the next year or two and believe investing in a new indoor comfort system will improve the value of your home, you should consider making the investment. If you plan to live in your current residence for many more years, it may also be wise to go ahead and invest in your future comfort and lower monthly utility expenses.We will be happy to discuss any option with you.
7. HOW CAN I REDUCE ALLERGENS AND INCREASE HUMIDITY IN MY HOME?
With a high-efficiency air cleaner, you can remove up to 99% of the pollen and spores that find their way into the home. There is also a great reduction in household dust, dirt, smoke, and other air pollutants. Your indoor air will become cleaner and fresher while reducing the allergens and dust that circulate throughout the house. With a whole house humidifier, you can relieve the irritating discomfort of dry indoor air. The humidifier reduces itchy skin, scratchy throats, static electricity, and damage to your furnishings and woodwork. Since humid air feels warmer than dry air, you do not have to set the thermostat as high to feel the comfort you want. A lower thermostat setting will reduce the costs of your energy bill. A humidifier improves your comfort while increasing the energy efficiency of your indoor weather system. For more information, please call 1-800-474-5200.
8. WHAT DO SEER AND HSPF MEAN?
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is the measure of efficiency by which the cooling process of air conditioners and heat pumps is rated. The higher the SEER number, the greater the efficiency, which translates into greater energy savings. Today, U.S. regulatory agencies require all new models to have a 13.0 SEER rating or better. Most major manufacturers offer a line of air conditioners and heat pumps that range from 13.0 SEER to 19.0 SEER.
HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) is the efficiency measurement used to gauge the efficiency of the heating mode of heat pumps. Again, the higher the number, the greater the efficiency. Today’s models are required to have a minimum of 7.7 HSPF. Most major manufacturers offer heat pumps with HSPF ratings ranging from 7.7 to 10.0.
9. HOW WILL THE NEW ENVIRONMENT-FRIENDLY REFRIGERANT AFFECT ME?
The 1990 Clean Air Act and the internationally binding Montreal Protocol calls for an international phase-out on future manufacturing of the refrigerant HCFC-22 (also known as R-22), which had been used in most air conditioning and heat pump systems.
According to current government regulations, starting January 1, 2010, the production and import of HCFC-22 for newly manufactured equipment will stop in the United States. Between 2010 and 2020, HCFC-22 will be produced or imported for the exclusive purpose of servicing existing equipment. As of January 1, 2015, as part of the phase-out, the sale and use of HCFC-22 and will be banned except for transformation or servicing refrigeration and air-conditioning applications. EPA will not permit newly manufactured HCFC-22 or blends to be used for charging new equipment. Starting January 1, 2020, the production and import of HCFC-22 will be banned entirely in the United States. Once this happens, only recycled/reclaimed or stockpiled quantities of HCFC-22 will be available for servicing existing equipment.
Fortunately, manufacturers have begun making equipment that utilizes non-ozone depleting technology. The refrigerant R-410A is one of the substitutes currently accepted as a replacement for the commonly used HCFC-22 (also known as R-22). The new material is marketed under the trade names AZ-20, Suva 9100 and Puron.
An air conditioner using R-410A has slightly different specifications than traditional cooling systems. Higher pressures are needed for the refrigerant to have the same cooling effect. This increased pressure requires design changes in the compressor and piping. An unfortunate consequence is that R-410A may not be substituted into existing systems.
10. SHOULD I BE CONCERNED ABOUT CARBON MONOXIDE IN MY HOME?
Yes. Each year, carbon monoxide kills more than 300 Americans and sends nearly 5,000 more to emergency rooms for treatment, reports the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Where does it come from? When carbon-based fuels such as gas, oil, kerosene or wood burn, they produce gases. When fuel combustion or burning isn’t complete, carbon monoxide enters the air. The CPSC advises that carbon monoxide detectors are the only way to alert yourself to the presence of toxic gas in your home. Routine maintenance of the equipment should help equipment to operate properly.
11. HOW CAN I REDUCE MY ENERGY COSTS IN THE WINTER?
- Limit the loss of expensive heated air to the outside. Use kitchen, bath, and other ventilating fans sparingly.
- Keep fireplace dampers tightly closed until you prepare to light a fire.
- When using your fireplace, limit the amount of heated air drawn from the rest of the house. Open dampers in the bottom of the firebox if provided, or open the closest window about 1 inch and close any doors leading into the room
- Draft-proof windows, doors, and other air leaks. Caulking and weather stripping are reasonably easy, so you may be able to save money by doing the job yourself.
- Lower your thermostat to about 65 degrees F during the day and 60 degrees F at night. For each degree you turn down your thermostat, you’ll save about 3 percent on your heating bills. Consider the comfort and convenience of a programmable thermostat to do this for you.
- Avoid heating unused areas by closing off unoccupied rooms and shutting off heating vents. Note: this does not apply if you have a heat pump system. Leave it alone, as shutting vents could harm a heat pump.
- Keep your heating equipment operating efficiently. Clean or replace the filter in your forced air heating system each month, and check the ductwork that is readily accessible for air leaks about once a year. Be sure that heating ducts in unheated areas are insulated. Keep the heating system well tuned with periodic maintenance by a professional service.
- Insulate your attic floor or top floor ceiling to reduce winter heat loss.
- Consider installing storm windows and doors.
- If you have an attached garage, keep your garage door closed. This will prevent cold winds from infiltrating the connecting door and other areas between the house and garage.
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