The Most Efficient Thermostat Setting for Winter

The Most Efficient Thermostat Setting for Winter

As you try to save energy in your Northbrook, IL, home, you want to be sure that you are using your thermostat wisely. While there are recommended guidelines that are considered to increase energy efficiency, there are a variety of factors that play into how effectively these recommendations work in each home. Just because one temperature is most efficient doesn’t mean that it is also the most comfortable. Fortunately, there are other ways to save energy this fall without setting your thermostat lower than you’d like.

Thermostat Setting

It is recommended that you set your thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter for the periods when you are awake. This setting is expected to realize the most energy savings when used for a period of eight or more hours. It is thought to be the lowest that is comfortable for most persons while still being low enough to save on energy bills. However, this temperature might not work for everyone. Some may be able to tolerate a degree or two colder and still be comfortable, while some may find that number just a little too frigid, especially during the coldest Illinois months.

As Low as Comfortable

Since there are a lot of factors involved in the comfort of your home, the best setting will depend on the occupants of the home. The closer your thermostat is set to the outdoor temperature, the lower your utility bills will be. This is easier said than done, of course, when it is freezing outside, but you should aim to set your thermostat as low as is comfortable. You may consider slowly working your way down and getting acclimated to slightly lower temperatures over time.

Time of Day and Activity Factors

Different settings should be used based on whether you are at home, away, or asleep. Another setting is also used so you can wake up to more comfortable temperatures in the morning. A programmable thermostat allows you to set all these various temperatures in advance. There are thermostats that can also allow you to set one schedule for the week, and another for the weekend. These thermostats make it easy to adjust the temperature when necessary so you don’t waste extra energy heating an empty home. Programming your thermostat according to daily schedules or activities is an effective way to manage energy consumption.

Indoor Humidity

The humidity levels in your home should be between 30 to 50 percent. Your indoor air tends to be much drier because of the cold air in the winter. Dry air doesn’t hold heat, which will make your home feel colder, and create uncomfortable conditions such as dry skin and static shock. If you live in a cold climate during the winter, you may want to consider a humidifier for your home. It will keep the family more comfortable with the added moisture, and it will also make your home feel warmer during the winter.

Energy-Saving Opportunities

It is possible to be comfortable in your home and save on your utility bills this winter. Consider buying a space heater for rooms that are more often occupied. You can get away with setting the thermostat a little lower if you put a space heater in your bedroom or home office. If you have ceiling fans, adjust them to spin in a clockwise direction to help circulate the warm air. Also consider weatherizing your doors and windows as well as adding insulation in your attic so you don’t waste heat energy. These measures will help to keep heat in the home so that you are not tempted to increase the temperature.

For more information about using your heating system efficiently this winter, call Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. at 847-562-5292 to speak with one of our experts.

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Don’t Ignore Noises from Your HVAC System

Don’t Ignore Noises from Your HVAC System

Furnace noises can be unsettling. From clattering, banging and popping in the ductwork to clicking and squealing in the furnace itself, furnace noises can range from those that are typical, to those that indicate trouble. You don’t want to pay for service that is not necessary if the noise is normal. However, you want to be diligent about correcting possible malfunctions in a timely manner, to ensure they don’t become more costly. It is important to understand what noises from your HVAC system could mean to ensure that you do not ignore something that is potentially very serious.

Types of Noises

Noises can emanate from ducts and from the furnace. Generally, duct noises can be easily explained. Although there are different types of noises that can come from ducts, it is beneficial if you can distinguish what they are, and what they possibly mean.

Duct Noises

If banging or popping sounds can be heard in the ductwork after the system comes on, it’s most likely the sheet metal sides expanding to accommodate the air pressure that’s flowing through the ductwork is made of thin sheet metal, which tends to expand and contract with changes in air pressure. Sometimes having ductwork cleaned can cause popping, banging and other noises associated with expansion. When ductwork is clean, debris and dirt that may have been slowing down the airflow are removed, and the air pressure increases, causing the metal to expand. While this is harmless, it may be startling or annoying. Ductwork that hasn’t been cleaned may also emit banging, clanging or popping sounds. In this case, debris and obstructions may be causing a problem with airflow, resulting in noises. Getting a professional duct cleaning will help. Other ways your HVAC technician can mitigate duct noises:

  • Replace square rectangular ductwork with round or square ducts. Round is best, as it allows the air to flow most freely through the ducts.
  • Improve the ductwork design to allow for fewer bends and turns. The fewer obstacles in the ductwork, the better air can flow.
  • Replace thin residential-grade sheet metal ducts with commercial-grade sheet metal, which is much thicker. It won’t expand and contract as much.
  • Adjust the actuator inside the duct dampers to diminish banging.
  • Add insulation around ductwork.
  • Check dampers on the supply side of the ducts to see if they are open or closed. If several are closed, this could cause the banging.
  • Have the fan inside the ductwork cleaned.

Sometimes noise in the ducts can be caused by small animals. They sometimes make their way out, but at other times they can become trapped. It is best to contact pest control in case a scared animal attacks. This is especially worrisome if they are carriers of diseases such as rabies. In addition, waste and shedding from animals can end up in your indoor air, affecting air quality and aggravating respiratory problems. If the animals die within the duct system, the foul odor can end up affecting the air quality throughout your entire home.

Furnace Noises

Furnaces too, will make various noises, with several possible causes. Furnace noises are generally more concerning because they can be signs of something potentially dangerous. Furnace noises are often common when you first turn on the system after months of no use. Typical furnace noises include:

  • Booms and bangs may also arise from delayed ignition. Burners get clogged or dirty over time. When there is a call for an increase of temperature, a clogged or rusty burner may delay ignition.
  • Loud scraping can signal a malfunction with the furnace’s blower wheel. It may be loose and need tightening, or it could be broken and need replacing. Another possible cause of a loud scraping noise could be a broken motor mount.
  • High-pitched squealing might be caused by a loose or frayed blower belt, shaft bearings requiring lubrication or a blower motor malfunction.
  • If you hear a rattling noise, the cover panels might need to be tightened. If it persists, it may be that the blower is out of alignment or the motor is malfunctioning.
  • Clicking sounds are only normal when the furnace turns on and off. If you hear repeated clicking coming from the control panel, a relay may be broken and in need of repair.
  • Grinding noises could be a sign that the bearings are worn out and need replacing.

It is best to consult a technician as soon as possible for any new sounds from your HVAC system. A sound that you might think is harmless could be a sign of a real or developing problem. It is far better to be wrong and there is nothing wrong with the system, than to ignore sounds that need to be addressed right away.

System Noises Could Be Costing You

If the sounds from your system are an indication of a problem, it is quite likely that your system is not performing as efficiently as it should. Noises could also result from loose or damaged parts. If that is the case, your HVAC system might be working harder to keep your house at the temperature set at the thermostat.

The increased effort by the system could lead to further wear. You are likely to see an increase in your energy bill also. If the furnace is working harder, it is consuming more energy.

There is also a safety concern. Furnace noises could be a sign of electrical problems that could lead to a fire. Damage to the furnace could also result in carbon monoxide leaks that could lead to illness and even death.

Maintenance Is Key

Routine maintenance is one of the best ways to ensure your system is free from the kind of damage that would lead to these noises. During routine maintenance, your technician checks the entire HVAC system — the indoor as well as outdoor components. Your technician will thoroughly check and clean the system. Routine maintenance not only keeps your system performing as it should, but will also mean you are less likely to be faced with the dangers such as fires and gas leaks.

Furnace maintenance is recommended once a year, during fall. This will ensure that your furnace is in a better condition to handle whatever winter might bring. Maintenance works because it saves you from untimely system breakdown and helps to extend the life of your system.

If your system is old or needs a lot of repair, it is time to consider an upgrade . Don’t sacrifice comfort and safety, ensure that your furnace is in the right condition to meet the needs of your household.

If you are concerned about furnace noises, other HVAC-related sounds, or if there is anything about your system that does not seem to be quite right, contact Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning right away. We have been serving the Northbrook area since 1979, and our qualified technicians can provide the services and systems you need to improve system performance and comfort in your home. Call us today at 847-562-5292 for more information or to schedule an appointment.

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6 Benefits of an Indoor Air Quality Check

6 Benefits of an Indoor Air Quality Check

During the frosty winter, you will likely keep indoors to avoid the cold. However, spending more time indoors makes you more vulnerable to indoor pollutants. Here are six benefits of having an indoor air quality check during to help you weather the Illinois flu season.

Breathe Easier

Getting your indoor air quality checked by an expert is the best way to make sure the air you are breathing is as clean as possible. By ensuring that you have clean air flowing through your home, for persons with respiratory problems and allergies, you will help to lower the chances of an attack or other allergic reactions.

Odor Suppression

It is possible for some bad odors to develop in indoor areas such as basements, due to poor air flow and filtration. Areas where these odors originate are generally clammy and dim, making them ideal for mold to develop. Upgrades to indoor air quality won’t simply diminish smells in those zones; the whole indoor space can benefit, as well.

Radon Check

Radon can be a dangerous, unwanted guest in your home. This gas is odorless and tasteless, that is released from the soil. It can stream into structures through holes or cracks in the foundation. In the long run, it can reach dangerous levels in cellars and lower floors. Basements are generally the areas of most concern where radon is concerned.

While the EPA’s radon zone guide can give you an idea of the potential for danger in your area, air-quality testing is the best way to know for certain. DIY radon test packs are accessible online and in home improvement stores, yet the EPA recommends reaching out to your state radon office for professional advice, and some states offer free or reduced price on test kits.

It is best to be vigilant when testing for radon, and many people are choosing to keep radon detectors in their homes. The detectors can let homeowners know when radon concentrations rise above the normal indoor levels so necessary steps can be taken to protect themselves.

If it is deemed necessary, radon mitigation involves soil depressurization and mechanical ventilation by drawing in the gas from below a building and exhausting it above the roofline. The normal cost average cost of a radon reduction system is about $1,200. An indoor air quality check can test for whether or not radon is an issue in your home.

Asbestos Check

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was once used as a building material because of its strength, affordability, and fire-resistant properties. It came to light in the 20th century that inhaling asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, so current homes and workplaces are now built using other, safer materials.

Unfortunately, older structures may still contain asbestos, and this can put occupants at risk. A professional technician can help you determine if your home contains asbestos and can recommend safe ways to remove it.


Fungi are a big aspect of indoor air pollution, thriving in warm, muggy conditions. Mold often develops in cellars and bathrooms and can rapidly spread where there is moisture. The presence of mold can result in a variety of symptoms including nasal stuffiness, wheezing, and skin rashes.

The most ideal approach to treating mold is to tackle moisture and dampness. Keep indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent, and utilize a dehumidifier to dry out the air if necessary. Pockets of mold can be expelled from hard surfaces by scouring with cleanser and water, detergent, or hydrogen peroxide. Check EPA rules for bigger-scale cleanups, and consider running an indoor air quality audit to effectively identify areas in your home where mold might be growing.

Dust, Dander, and Droppings

Mold isn’t the only organic polluter of indoor air. Many homes have to deal with the presence of rats, roaches, and other insects. Even simple pet dander and dust can be major contributors to poor indoor air quality. An indoor air quality check will help you to identify how animals and insects could be affecting your indoor air quality.

Call Roberts Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc. today at 847-562-5292 to schedule your indoor air quality audit. See the difference our solutions can make in your health and comfort.

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5 Inexpensive Ways to Save Energy at Home

5 Inexpensive Ways to Save Energy at Home

You care about the environment and you want to lower your utility bills, but you think energy-saving changes will be expensive. Fortunately, reducing energy consumption in your Northbrook home doesn’t have to mean spending a fortune on upgrades for your home. There are many inexpensive changes you can start making today to save energy and make your home more environmentally-friendly.

Seal Your Ducts

Even if you’ve just had a brand new HVAC unit installed, if your ducts aren’t properly sealed, you are going to be wasting a lot of energy and a lot of money. The signs of leaky ducts may include high utility bills, or the inability to achieve comfortable temperatures even after adjusting the thermostat. If your ducts are in unconditioned spaces such as the garage or attic, you may also have a higher risk for energy waste. You might not be able to see the entire ductwork system, but your qualified HVAC technician will be able to identify problems and make necessary repairs.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats enable you to use your system more efficiently. There are several reasons a programmable thermostat is superior to your traditional thermostat. It can be difficult to make small adjustments on older or traditional thermostats, which may result in greater difficulty obtaining ideal temperatures for your home. Programmable thermostats allow you to set temperatures based on your activities or according to whether or not you will be at home. For example, you can program temperatures for when you are asleep, when you wake up, when you are away from home, and when you return. This ability reduces waste and ensures temperatures are ideal at all times.

If you are using an older thermostat or if your thermostat is not functioning properly, it is definitely time to upgrade. Thermostats come in a variety of styles, with various functions and at different price levels. All the options mean you will be able to find the right thermostat for your home. Modern thermostats generally work better with your decor, help you to decrease your energy usage, and lower your utility bills.

Reduce Your Water Consumption

Reducing the amount of water you use can also make a difference in your overall monthly savings. Start by instituting good habits for you and your family. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth or when you are washing your hair. You can also save water by only running the washing machine or dishwasher when you have full loads.

Installing WaterSense products, such as WaterSense or low-flow shower heads showerheads will also help you to reduce the amount of water you use. Adding an aerator or flow regulator to your faucets is an inexpensive way to regulate water usage.

Change Your Light Bulbs

Make the switch to energy-efficient light bulbs such as CFL or LED light bulbs to reduce heat and energy consumption in your home. While these bulbs are slightly more expensive than traditional bulbs, because they use less energy, even while emitting the same amount of light, you will reduce energy consumption. Considering how many light bulbs most people have throughout their home, the change will make a difference for both your wallet and the environment. If you are not able to change all the bulbs in your home, try upgrading the bulbs in lamps that are used regularly, or in areas where light is needed more often.

Regular Maintenance Is Important

If you do not afford to buy a new unit, and your current unit is working fine, you can hold off making the system upgrade, but ensure you take advantage of regular maintenance to keep your system performing efficiently. Routine maintenance is affordable, and will more likely prevent system breakdown and costly repairs.

If you continue to operate an old, worn, or damaged unit, it could be costing you more than you realize, making it worthwhile to invest in a more efficient system. Apart from the need for frequent repairs, an inefficient system results in further expenditure by driving up your energy bills. Energy-efficient appliances are more affordable than ever, and you will see a significant reduction in your bills, offsetting the cost over time. The upfront cost is offset by lower utility bills and reduced spending on repairs.

In general, many upgrades you make to save energy can be quite affordable. Contact Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning at 847-562-5292 for more ways to save, and improve energy efficiency in your home.

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How to Use Your Air Conditioner More Efficiently

How to Use Your Air Conditioner More Efficiently

As the cooler weather fast approaches, your need for cooling in your Chicagoland-area home will decrease just as quickly. However, fluctuating temperatures as the weather changes over the next few months can affect air conditioner efficiency, particularly if you constantly adjust settings. Using your air conditioner efficiently will result in a more comfortable environment and help your system to remain in good working condition when the hot season comes around again.

Closing Vents Wastes Energy

It might seem logical to close the vents in rooms that are not being used in order to save energy. However, closing off vents will increase pressure within in your HVAC system. This can result in air leaks via the ductwork, which means air that is needed to cool your home will escape instead. It also forces your air conditioner to work harder to cool the rooms throughout your home, and this translates to higher energy bills and reduced efficiency.

Let your air conditioner do its job even in unused spaces of your house. To improve your energy efficiency, consider increasing the thermostat temperature by a few degrees — to a level that is comfortable, and use ceiling fans or other fans to supplement cooling. You might not notice any difference in temperature thanks to the air movement, but you will certainly see the difference in energy savings.

Set Your Thermostat Correctly

There are recommended thermostat settings based on your daily routine. Your settings may vary based on your specific comfort levels, but they give you an idea of how to manage the thermostat for increased efficiency. Every degree you are able to increase the thermostat will allow you to realize savings, as less cooling, or a lower cooling output will be required from your air conditioner.

There are many thermostats today that are designed with increased efficiency in mind. Modern thermostats help you to be more efficient in several ways including:

  • Increased ability to manage humidity so that you rely less on the air conditioner for more comfort.
  • Some thermostats use sensors that react to activity in the home, and cycle on and off accordingly.
  • You can enable vacation programming so that energy is not wasted while you are away, and importantly too, so that you return home to comfortable temperatures.
  • Systems can provide reminders for those tasks we tend to easily forget such as filter changes.
  • Report generation capabilities allow you to assess AC usage over different periods in relation to energy expenditure so that adjustments can be made for energy conservation.

Thermostat Location Makes a Difference

Thermostats are ideally located on the ground floor, in an interior hallway, and away from heat, dust, and drafts. If your thermostat is in an area where it is exposed to these elements, it could give false readings, and cycle on and off unnecessarily. For example, if your thermostat is in a location where it receives direct sunlight, it will read the room temperature as hot, even though the heat is concentrated just in the area around the thermostat. The air conditioner will therefore cycle on in order to cool the house, and will do so more often than necessary. Areas that are already sufficiently cooled will continue to receive cool air. If your thermostat is in a location that will affect its ability to function properly, it is best to have it moved to an ideal location. Remove any nearby object such as lamps that could affect readings.

Air Filtration Matters

An efficient air conditioner reduces your energy bills and your carbon footprint. It will also improve your indoor air quality which is very important, and especially so, if there are persons in the home who have respiratory problems. Air conditioners work best if they are kept clean. Air filters in your HVAC system trap particles and prevent them from contaminating your indoor air or clogging the system. Be sure to replace or clean your filters in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.

Indoor air quality products such as air purifiers provide an extra boost to AC efficiency and even eliminate harmful viruses and bacteria. Older, less efficient air conditioners often have a negative impact on indoor air quality because they are likely to have damaged or worn parts that make them more prone to air and water leaks. Air leaks, especially in the ductwork, can cause contaminated air from outside to circulate throughout the home. Water leaks in the condensate drain, for example, can lead to the development of mold, resulting in mold spores moving through the system. It is a good idea to consider a modern system because of increased expenditure for repairs and parts, and the negative impact on poor air quality that come with older systems.

Repair Sources of Heat Gain

Conditioned air can escape, and unwanted air can enter your home via cracks or gaps, and this reduces energy efficiency. Doors and windows are the usual sources, and air leaks can be corrected by using weatherstripping and caulk. Leaks in the ductwork mean, ducts will need to be either sealed or replaced.

Other vulnerable areas include holes made for wiring and cables, vents for plumbing, the cavities created to conceal recessed lights, the rim joints between basements and walls, and the areas around crawlspaces, and chimneys. All of these places can let heat into your home during the summer or allow it to escape in the winter.

If there is not enough insulation, especially in your attic your air conditioner will have to work harder to cool your home as hot air in the attic is transferred to conditioned spaces via the ceiling. Ducts, too, are often insulated for increased efficiency.

Window Treatments

Any action that reduces the amount of heat in your home will help your air conditioner to perform more efficiently. Window treatments, such as curtains, blinds, shutters, screens, and shades will help to block heat that penetrates your home via windows or glass doors. Awnings are another effective option. Trees planted outside windows can also provide much-needed shade. All these options reduce heat transfer with the additional benefit of aesthetic appeal.

Energy-efficient windows can also help you to reduce energy costs. The windows you choose will be dependent on the design of your home, and the climate of the area. Energy-efficient windows include those that have a special glaze, coating, or tint that can filter out as much as 70% of the heat coming through windows.

Regular Maintenance is Key

It is quite easy to only think about your air conditioner in terms of its ability to provide sufficient heating or cooling at any given moment. Beyond that, many of us do not give our air conditioning systems much thought. Regular maintenance is key in ensuring your air conditioner performs efficiently and serves you effectively over its expected lifetime. During routine maintenance, your HVAC technician will examine all parts of both the indoor and outdoor units, to make sure everything is in good working order. Recommendations will be made regarding any component that needs to be repaired or replaced. Routine maintenance allows you to avoid costly or unexpected repairs, and enable your air conditioner to provide optimum levels of cooling while still allowing you to reduce energy bills. Regular maintenance should be scheduled at least once per year.

The more you know about the relationship between air condition use and care, and energy efficiency, the more changes you will be able to implement that will help you to lower your cooling costs. If you are in need of air conditioning services or repair, or would like to set up a maintenance agreement, call Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning at 847-562-5292. We can also provide advice regarding the most efficient systems for your home and budget.

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Teaching Your Kids How to Conserve Energy

Teaching Your Kids How to Conserve Energy

The earlier you teach your children about energy efficiency, the more ingrained it will be in their lifestyles. Teaching your children best practices in conserving energy now will ensure they grow up to be responsible adults who care about the environment and their role in protecting it for future generations.

Replace Incandescent Light Bulbs

Teach your children how energy-efficient lighting saves energy. Make a game out of having them find all the incandescent bulbs throughout your home so that you or another adult can replace them.

Turn Off the Lights

A simple yet effective energy-saving method you can teach your children is to turn off the lights when they are not needed. Explain to your children the benefits of taking advantage of natural lighting during the day to illuminate a room. Some interior rooms do not receive much natural light during the day. For these rooms, and for general usage at night, lights that are not being used, especially for extended periods, should be turned off.

Unplug Electronic Devices

Children today spend a lot of time with various types of electronic devices. Whether it’s spending hours glued to the television set, browsing the Internet, or playing video games, children need to understand how much these electronics consume energy. In addition, a lot of devices such as music players and smartphones need to be charged regularly. Devices left plugged in use standby power, which still impacts energy consumption. Teach children to conserve energy by unplugging devices when they are not being used. It is also a good opportunity to remind your children to spend less time with devices and more time pursuing physical activity for better health.

Keep Doors and Windows Closed

When your HVAC system is being used, you need to keep a tight seal in your home. You can demonstrate this concept to your children using a resealable plastic bag. Have your child blow air into the bag as if he or she is the HVAC supplying air to your home. By sealing the bag, you are closing the front door to the house. Let your child open the “door” by opening the bag to release the air. Explain that valuable conditioned air will escape from the house in the same way when windows or exterior doors are left open, forcing the air conditioner to run longer requiring more electricity. As children sometimes are in and out frequently during play time, it is very important that they take responsibility for keeping doors closed. Also point out that unwanted hot or cold air, as well as pollutants, can enter the home in this way as well.

Look for Air Leaks

Searching for air leaks is a great way to teach your children about energy efficiency issues. Building off the concept of keeping the doors and windows closed, explain to your children how air can escape your home through cracks and gaps that form over time in your home’s structure. Then, take them on a mission to find real leaks. They will be able to do this by feeling for drafts, or by using paper, strips of cloth or similar items to detect air movement.

Visual Inspection

Your children can help you to check all adjoining areas, such as the edges around window and door frames, and around fireplaces and chimneys. Look for cracks, gaps, or deteriorating caulk or weather-stripping that will need to be replaced.

Air Pressure

Close all windows and doors and turn off the HVAC system and ceiling fans. Vents, the clothes dryer or a window fan can be used to pull air out of the home. Light an incense stick and hold it near various locations that you suspect might be sources of drafts or leaks. Air leaks will result in the incense smoke being pulled outside. Alternatively air seeping in will push the smoke inward. This test works better on windy days. Explain how this forces the HVAC to work harder and cause it to use more energy.

Including children in energy conservation activities, will instill a sense of responsibility and ownership as they start to take active roles in saving your family money and helping to improve energy efficiency. Over time, these activities will become second nature. Children should only be given simple tasks. No task should require them to enter areas that are not safe, use dangerous equipment, or undertake potentially harmful activity. Ensure that they do not go above and beyond in their enthusiasm, and only conduct activities approved by an adult.

For more ways you can save energy in your home, contact the experts at Roberts Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. Call us today, at 847-562-5292 for more information about our services, or repair and preventive maintenance solutions.

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