Friday, March 26, 2010

4 Additional Considerations When Replacing Furnace and Air Conditioners

Here are some additional things you should consider when purchasing heating or air conditioning systems. The information provided below by Service Roundtable will help you make the best investment.

© 2006 Service Roundtable

Because of the investment, replacing a heating and air conditioning system necessitates more due diligence. The best company to select for a replacement is a contractor who has performed satisfactorily for you in the past. An established, successful relationship is always the best gauge of what you can expect in the future. Relationship or not, the following are four items you should insist upon.

1. Will the company offer an AHRI Certified combination?
The Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute certifies product efficiency. If you are replacing your air conditioner or heat pump, a reputable contractor will present you with a certification of performance from ARI. Without replacing the condensing unit (outdoor unit) and the evaporator (air handler or indoor unit), a contractor cannot promise you will receive the efficiency you pay for, or even that the system will operate correctly over time.

2. Will the contractor permit equipment replacements?
If you replace your heating or cooling system, you should insist that the job is permitted. When jobs are permitted, a municipal inspector will review the installation to ensure the job can at least meet current building codes. Like licensing, building codes are the minimum standard.

3. Is the company willing to provide references?
If you do not know anyone who has done work for a company, ask for references. The contractor should be willing to provide you with three to five recent customers you can call.

4. Will the company provide you with a copy of a “load calculation?”
A load calculation is a method of sizing equipment. It’s often called a “Manual J®” for the Air Conditioning Contractors of America’s Manual J®, the standard for sizing residential equipment. Once measurements are taken, load calculations can be conducted quickly using computers. Contractors should be able to show and review the load calculations and provide you with a copy if you authorize the company to proceed with the replacement.

3 Things to Beware
Be especially careful about the following four pitfalls.

1. Beware the lowest price
You want to spend the least amount possible, which often eliminates the lowest price. Cheap contractors typically cut corners, which costs more in the long run. Cheap contractors cannot afford to fix mistakes, resulting in the need to pay twice. Often the lowest price is not the lowest at all.

2. Beware the yellow pages
Selecting a contractor from the yellow pages is tantamount to throwing a dart. Maybe you will get lucky. Maybe not. The yellow pages should be used as tool of last resort.

3. Beware anything that sounds too good to be true
Usually, something too good to be true really is too good to be true.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Heating & Air Conditioning Contractor Selection Checklist

Selecting a company to install heating or air conditioning in your home can sometimes be difficult because there are so many to choose from. Below is a list provided by Service Roundtable of things you can look for to help make your decision.

Heating & Air Conditioning Contractor Selection Checklist

12 Things to Look For, Before Calling

With just a little observation, you can determine much about a company. You can find the following by direct observation, talking with friends and neighbors, and a quick review of the company’s website or advertising. If you do not know an answer, ask when you call.

1. Is the contractor referred by a friend or neighbor?

The best source of information about the quality of work, friendliness, and customer service is the experiences of friends or neighbors.

2. Does the company fleet reassure you?

Contractors driving unmarked, beat up, dirty vehicles and likely to treat your home similarly. In addition, these contractors may be skating on the edge of bankruptcy and unwilling or unable to fulfill their warranty requirements.

3. Does the company have a physical address?

While many contractors may operate out of a home office when starting, they do have a physical address. Fly-by-nights and moonlighters, who will not remain around to stand behind their work, do not. They operate companies from cell phones.

4. Are company employees neat, clean, and professional?

Companies that provide employees with uniforms and insist on moderate levels of grooming tend to take a more professional approach across the board. Fly-by-nights are more likely to wear dirty jeans and tee shirts.

5. Does the company employ NATE certified technicians?

Similar to the ASE program for the automotive industry, NATE is the heating and air conditioning industry’s technician certification program.

6. Does the company have a website?

Similar to a physical address, a website is a sign of legitimacy. Most heating and air conditioning companies have a web presence today.

7. Will the company guarantee a price before work begins?

Most contractors utilize a national flat rate pricing service today. The service uses national standard times for repairs, allowing the contractor to offer a fixed price quote before work begins, rather than an open-ended parts and labor estimate.

8. What warranties are offered?

Better contractors, who are more confident in their work, offer better warranties.

9. Is the contractor licensed?

Licensing is a minimum requirement. Under no circumstances should you allow an unlicensed contractor to work on your equipment.

10. Is the contractor fully insured?

If an employee of an uninsured contractor is hurt on your property, you can be held liable for medical expenses. Reputable contractors will provide copies of their general liability and workers compensation insurance. If the contractor uses subcontractors (e.g., an electrician or an insulation company), ask for copies of their insurance.

11. Is the company part of your community?

A company that’s involved in your community has a greater stake in their local reputation than one not involved. Problems will arise from time to time and companies with a stake in the community tend to put forth an extra effort to resolve problems.

12. Is the company part of a professional community?

Companies that belong to a trade association or business alliance are companies committed to their craft. They care more. Quality is better. The level of professionalism is higher.

© 2006 Service Roundtable

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Clear Your Home of Asthma Triggers

Clear Your Home of Asthma Triggers

Your children will breathe easier

Act now
asthma at home.
Asthma is a serious lung disease.

  • During an asthma attack, the airways get narrow, making it difficult to breathe.
  • Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing.
  • Asthma can even cause death.
If you have asthma or a child with asthma, you are not alone.
  • About 17 million Americans have asthma.
  • Asthma is the leading cause of long-term illness in children.
The air that children breathe can make a difference.
  • Asthma may be triggered by allergens and irritants that are common in homes.
  • Help your child breathe easier: consult a doctor and reduce asthma triggers in your home.

Clear Your Home of Asthma Triggers

Below are five common asthma triggers found in homes and what you can do to reduce you and your child's exposure to them. Not all of the asthma triggers listed here affect every person with asthma. Not all asthma triggers are listed here. See your doctor or health care provider for more information.

Secondhand Smoke

Asthma can be triggered by the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar and the smoke breathed out by a smoker.

  • Choose not to smoke in your home or car and do not allow others to do so either.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are too small to be seen but are found in every home.

Dust mites live in mattresses, pillows, carpets, fabric-covered furniture, bedcovers, clothes, and stuffed toys.

  • Wash sheets and blankets once a week in hot water.
  • Choose washable stuffed toys, wash them often in hot water, and dry thoroughly. Keep stuffed toys off beds.
  • Cover mattresses and pillows in dust-proof (allergen-impermeable) zippered covers.


Your pet’s skin flakes, urine, and saliva can be asthma triggers.

  • Consider keeping pets outdoors or even finding a new home for your pets, if necessary.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom and other sleeping areas at all times, and keep the door closed.
  • Keep pets away from fabric-covered furniture, carpets, and stuffed toys.


Molds grow on damp materials. The key to mold control is moisture control.

If mold is a problem in your home, clean up the mold and get rid of excess water or moisture.

Lowering the moisture also helps reduce other triggers, such as dust mites and cockroaches.

  • Wash mold off hard surfaces and dry completely. Absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, with mold may need to be replaced.
  • Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water.
  • Keep drip pans in your air conditioner, refrigerator, and dehumidifier clean and dry.
  • Use exhaust fans or open windows in kitchens and bathrooms when showering, cooking, or using the dishwasher.
  • Vent clothes dryers to the outside.
  • Maintain low indoor humidity, ideally between 30-50% relative humidity. Humidity levels can be measured by hygrometers which are available at local hardware stores.


Droppings or body parts of pests such as cockroaches or rodents can be asthma triggers.

  • Do not leave food or garbage out.
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Clean all food crumbs or spilled liquids right away.
  • Try using poison baits, boric acid (for cockroaches), or traps first before using pesticidal sprays.
  • If sprays are used:

    • Limit the spray to infested area.
    • Carefully follow instructions on the label.
    • Make sure there is plenty of fresh air when you spray, and keep the person with asthma out of the room.


House dust may contain asthma triggers. Remove dust often with a damp cloth, and vacuum carpet and fabric-covered furniture to reduce dust build-up. Allergic people should leave the area being vacuumed. Using vacuums with high efficiency filters or central vacuums may be helpful.

When your local weather forecast announces an ozone action day, stay indoors as much as possible.

For more information:

You can request information from EPA's:

Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse (IAQ INFO)
P.O. Box 37133
Washington, DC 20013-7133
(800) 438-4318, or
(703) 356-4020 (local)
(703) 356-5386 (fax)

Other related sites:

National Academy of Sciences Report - "Clearing the Air: Asthma and Indoor Air Exposures"

Two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to undertake an assessment of the role of indoor air quality in the growing asthma problem. EPA asked NAS to characterize the state of the science on health impacts and prevention strategies, and to provide recommendations on needed research. In response to this request, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine has issued a report, Clearing the Air: Asthma and Indoor Air Exposures, on the role of indoor environmental pollutants in the development and exacerbation of asthma. The report affirms the Administrator's asthma initiative to educate the public about the ways they can help control asthma by managing indoor air quality. The report concludes that exposure to indoor pollutants is an important contributor to the asthma problem in this nation. Asthma sufferers should consult with their doctor about reducing their exposure to secondhand smoke, dust mites, pet dander, molds, and cockroaches. The executive summary of the NAS report is available at

Read more:
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