Blog - PECO Heating & Cooling

Heat Pumps Vs. Air Conditioning: What’s the Difference?

If it’s time to replace the cooling system in your home, you may be trying to decide between an air conditioner and a heat pump. While both can provide cooling for your home, they have different benefits, so it’s important to choose a system that fits your needs.

Heat Pumps | Air Conditioning

In warm weather, a heat pump and an AC unit work essentially the same; they both cool indoor air. During the winter when you need to heat your home, an AC unit can’t help; this is why homes with AC typically also have a furnace or electric heat. A heat pump can provide heat as well as cooling. Here’s a deeper look at the advantages and limitations of each type of unit.

Types of Heat Pumps and AC systems.

Heat pumps are devices that transfer the heat inside a home and the air outside. In warmer climates, heat pumps extract the heat from indoor air and transfer it outside; during cold temperatures, it reverses the process.  

There are two main types of heat pumps: air sourced and geothermal. An air-source heat pump uses heat from the outside air, while geothermal ones extract the heat from the ground. There are two different designs for heat pumps/AC systems as well: split type and packaged units.

A split type heat pump has a separate indoor and outdoor unit.

Packaged heat pumps contain all the system’s components housed in a single unit. Heat pumps can be connected to an air handler with heat strips or a gas or propane furnace (known as a dual fuel system) that supplements heating during extremely cold temperatures. Heat strips are only utilized during the defrost cycle of the heat pump or when temperatures hit below 30 degrees when the heat pump has difficulty extracting heat from the air.

A mini-split system can be cooling only or heat pump… The indoor unit is mounted on the wall or as an air handler connected to a small duct system.

A window unit can be either cooling only or a heat pump and combines all components into a single box-like unit that can be fit onto a window. These are typically best for a single room.

Portable air conditioning units are similar to window units, but they can be moved easily throughout the home. Most are cooling only.

Heat Pumps Benefits

  • Generally more cost-effective and energy-efficient than other types of heating
  • Safer than gas furnaces and relatively environmentally friendly
  • Provides both cooling and heating, which eliminates the need for separate systems
  • Reliable with a long lifespan averaging 10 – 15 years
  • Purchasing an energy-efficient model may qualify for tax rebates
  • Requires less maintenance than traditional heating and cooling systems like stoves or fireplaces.

Costs

The cost of a heat pump with installation can vary greatly, as it’s dependent on factors like unit type, size, energy efficiency ratings, installation location, and the amount of ductwork needed. Averagely, it can cost anywhere from $4,100 to up to $20,000 for geothermal unit installation.

Air Conditioners

Like heat pumps, air conditioners transfer heat from indoors to the outside, but they’re only able to provide cooling. Air conditioners consist of both outdoor and indoor units. The outdoor unit consists of a condenser, compressor, and fan. This connects to an indoor unit with a blower and evaporator coil. Air conditioners are connected to either an air handler with heat strips or a gas or propane furnace. Refrigerant circulates through the condenser and evaporator, which allows the air conditioner to absorb heat from the indoor air. The cold air that results from this process is then pumped through the ducts using the fan.

Air Conditioner Benefits

  • Offers an optimal indoor climate even during the hottest temperatures
  • Can encourage better sleep due to steady, comfortable room temperatures
  • Can help improve air quality by reducing allergens and pollutants
  • Can reduce dehydration
  • Long lifespan averaging 10 – 15 years

AC Costs

Like heat pumps, air conditioner costs can vary significantly depending on the type, energy efficiency rating, installation location, and unit size. The unit itself can be anywhere from $150 to $10,000. Another factor that can affect the installation costs is the amount of ductwork needed to set up the system. While purchasing a more energy-efficient model can be more expensive initially, it can save you money on energy costs over time.Since both air conditioners and heat pumps last for over a decade, it’s important to consider which system is best for your cooling needs. If you’re unsure which system to choose, we’re always happy to offer recommendations and find the best solution for your needs. We also provide complete installation, repairs, and maintenance for your HVAC systems. Give us a call today at 864-639-2424 to learn more or schedule an appointment

Our Top Picks for Smart Water Leak Devices

Clean water has become scarce and expensive throughout the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately one trillion gallons of water is wasted yearly from household leaks. To put this number into perspective, this is the approximate amount of water used by more than eleven million homes annually!

Leaks are a problem for several reasons. Not only do they cause waste and drive up the cost of your water bill, but water damage can be expensive to repair. A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can leak as much as 250 gallons of water in a single day. The average cost of drying out your property – with no further damage or restoration needed – averages around $2,700 nationally. If you need to repair drywall or carpeting, this can cost up to $7,500. Not to mention, leaks can also cause fires if they come in contact with electrical outlets, encourage the growth of mold and mildew, and can cause wood or other organic materials to rot.

Our Top Picks | Smart Water Leak Devices

Given this, it’s recommended that every home have a reliable system to detect leaks as soon as they happen. Traditionally, leak detection relied on an alarm system. Leak detectors would be placed in areas of the home that were most likely to experience leaks, like underneath sinks or behind toilets. The problem with this system is that a leak can occur anywhere in the plumbing system, not just where the water sensor was placed.

Today, the best way to catch leaks is by using a smart leak detector. These smart devices monitor the flow of water in the home, catching leaks as they start. Here are a few of our favorite smart water devices we’ve installed:

Phyn Plus

When you flush a toilet or run the dishwasher, the pressure in your plumbing changes. The Phyn Plus monitors your plumbing system for microscopic water pressure changes 240 times a second to create individual profiles of your water fixtures and a baseline of your overall usage. This allows it to learn when you’re using a faucet or watering the lawn versus when there’s a leak. Once the Phyn learns your personal plumbing profile, it will enable an auto-shutoff feature that allows you to turn your water off directly from your phone. In addition, it’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT.

The Phyn gives you insights about your water usage, allowing you to spot trends about how much water you’re using. On average, most people can save approximately 10% on their water bills using this system. It also comes with a “Plumbing Check” diagnostic feature, which looks for tiny leaks within your plumbing system when you’re not likely to be using water. The Phyn will alert you to any type of leak – from pinhole leaks behind walls to frozen pipes in your attic. As a bonus, some insurance companies offer policy discounts for having the Phyn in your home.

Moen FLO

The Moen Flo works similarly to the Phyn Plus. The Flo is installed in-line on your main water supply line, which allows it to monitor all the water going into your home. The Smart Water Shutoff uses three sensors and a series of algorithms to actively monitor water flow, pressure, and temperature. The MicroLeak™ feature runs daily proactive tests to identify and notify you of any leaks in your plumbing system. The Flo can detect leaks as small as a drop per minute, which might be unnoticeable until you discover mold growth or water damage.

Your smartphone acts as your interface, allowing you to get alerts, remotely shut off your water, view water consumption, or contact your plumber directly for repairs. If you don’t have your phone with you, the Flo will automatically shut off the main water line. The Flo conveniently integrates with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT, and comes with a 1-year limited warranty covering manufacturer’s defects. Moen also offers an optional subscription call FloProtect, which provides an insurance deductible guarantee. If the Flo device fails to protect the home from catastrophic water damage, FloProtect will reimburse up to $2,500 of the insurance deductible.

StreamLabs Smart Home Water Monitor

StreamLabs Smart Home Water Monitor uses ultrasonic technology for 24/7 real-time leak monitoring. The device doesn’t require pipe cutting or tools – it conveniently zip ties directly to the pipe on your main water line, automatically detecting the size and type of your pipe. StreamLabs works by sending soundwaves directly into your water line, then recording the time delay to measure the water flow. It monitors everything from usage to leaky pipes, appliance failure, freezing conditions, and running toilets. StreamLabs also includes an “away” setting for when you’re not at home. This is useful for vacations or weekends away, as it will monitor and notify you if there is any water flow for longer than 15 seconds.

StreamLabs allows you to monitor your system from your smartphone and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Nest. Unlike the Flo or Phyn, you can’t turn your water off remotely, however, you’ll have access to live and historical water usage stats, a leak alert history, freeze alerts, and comparative usage chart. The app also remembers your settings, so you can use it even if WiFi isn’t available. StreamLabs comes with a 2-year full product warranty and 3 months free of StreamPlus, a subscription that gives you access to a range of additional features, including the ability to monitor and control more than two locations and an extended 5-year warranty.

Smart water leak detectors are an easy and affordable way to protect your home from water damage and expensive repairs. They’re also a great way to be more eco-friendly and reduce your water bills! At PECO, we regularly install these devices and can help you select the best one for your needs. Give us a call at 864-639-2424 or schedule your appointment online.

Top Reasons to Make the Switch to Natural Gas

Have you been considering installing natural gas lines at your residence? Natural gas is versatile, adds lasting value to your home, and is very economical. It’s estimated that using natural gas helps the consumers save an average of $874 on energy bills each year compared to those who use electricity.

Switch To Natural Gas

Natural gas is also more eco-friendly and energy-efficient than other types of energy sources. As natural gas is transported through a series of pipelines, 92% of it is delivered and utilized as energy. In contrast, only about 32% of power from electricity is delivered to consumers and able to be utilized as energy. Natural gas also cuts carbon emissions by nearly half compared to other types of energy sources. Here are a few other reasons you may want to consider natural gas for your home:

  1. Convenient and reliable – You’ll never run out of fuel with natural gas. It’s delivered directly to your home through underground pipelines and is uninterrupted by storms or power outages. Unlike wood-burning furnaces, there’s no mess from ashes or tars. Gas furnaces don’t need to be cleaned and require limited maintenance. You’ll also have the convenience of instant energy to warm your house, cook, or take hot showers.

  2. Versatile – Natural gas is used for more than just heating your home. It heats water, powers appliances like stoves, dryers, and fireplaces. It can also be used outdoors for barbecues, lighting or warming pools or hot tubs.

  3. Save money – With its high efficiency, natural gas can save you money, especially if you switch over to gas-powered appliances. In most areas, natural gas costs less than other types of energy – often up to half.

  4. Ready for the Future – Once your home is set up for natural gas, it’s easy to upgrade your appliances or add additional gas-powered appliances later on.

  5. Safety – natural gas is safer and easier to store than other types of fossil fuels.

  6. Plentiful – the United States has an abundant supply of natural gas, which helps decrease our reliance on foreign energy supplies.

  7. Environmentally friendly – While natural gas isn’t as clean as wind or solar, it’s the cleanest fossil fuel energy source available. Natural gas produces a 1/3 less carbon dioxide than coal and almost half less than oil. It emits little to no sulfur. Not only does it burn cleaner than other fossil fuels, but it’s also less disruptive to the environment. Coal mining can overtake entire hillsides, creating erosion, deforestation, and pollution. With natural gas, the environmental impact is minimal, and the majority of the land it’s extracted from stays intact. 

  8. Increased Resale Value – On average, homes with existing natural gas sell at a 6% higher price than homes utilizing other energy sources. According to the National Association of Home Builders, 72% of homebuyers looking to buy a home within the next five years say they want their home to run on natural gas. Not only can adding natural gas increase the interest and sale price of your home should you decide to sell it in the future, but appliance rebates may be able to offset the cost of adding major new appliances.

Are you ready to make the switch to natural gas? Give your friendly home service heroes at PECO a call!  We’re happy to answer any questions you have and help you decide whether natural gas is right for your home. We can also expertly install your new gas line, along with water heaters or gas appliances. Contact us today at 864-639-2424 or request an appointment online.  

Save Money with Right HVAC Unit

Who doesn’t love saving money? As one of the most critical and expensive components of household living, your HVAC system is also a place where you can save money if you make a few smart moves.

Is Bigger Better?

Because it will struggle to heat or cool your home, an inadequate HVAC unit can drive up cost. Conversely, a unit that is too large will constantly cycle on and off. This is hard on the unit as well as being inefficient. We recommend that, based on your square footage, you don’t go more than:

Saving Money With HVAC
  • 15% over your recommended BTU for air conditioning.
  • 40% over your recommended BTUs for heating.
  • 25% over your recommended combined BTUs for a heat pump.

The Right System

HVAC systems usually consist of a separate furnace and air conditioner, or a heat pump, which combines the two. A heat pump might be your only option if your home is all-electric. Lots of folks with available natural gas or propane still choose heat pumps because of their one-unit simplicity. Heat pumps may cost more per month to run since electricity is usually more expensive than other fuels. It can be even more expensive and inefficient to run a heat pump if you live in climate zones extreme winter or summer temperatures.

Manage That Thermostat

Keeping a consistent temperature throughout the year can bring big savings. For example, you can create 3% savings for every degree over 72 that you set your air conditioner. A smart thermostat can allow you to manage temperature from anywhere and set up automatic settings that are highly efficient.No matter what you buy, or what you already own, we also offer a Planned Maintenance Agreement (PMA) to keep your HVAC system running at peak efficiency. For a minimal investment, we can come to your home twice each year. We will clean filters and burners, check coils, motors, amperage, and all other components of your system. You gain peace of mind and lower energy bills. We also give PMA customers a 10% discount on repairs, priority status and never charge them overtime for nights and weekends. Don’t forget that we also offer a wide range of home maintenance and repairs, including home inspection repairs, plumbing, and electrical services! Call the pros at PECO at  864-639-2424 or visit us online to schedule an appointment today. 

Choosing the Most Energy Efficient Heating System

Energy Efficient Heating System

Heating your home in winter is one of your most expensive annual energy costs. If you’re thinking of purchasing a new furnace, it’s good to carefully look at your options to make a choice that saves resources and energy over the long haul.

We suggest you ask yourself five important questions before purchasing:

How cold is cold?

The farther north you are and the colder it gets and the more a high-efficiency system can reduce cost over time. If you live in the southern areas at low altitudes, perhaps smaller zoned systems will be enough even on the coldest days.

Forced or radiant? 

Radiant heating—warm water that flows through tubing under or within floors—is highly efficient and cozy way to keep your toes warm. There are no cold areas because heat rises from the entire floor. But the cost can be quite high, especially if you are trying install it in an existing building.

How much room do you have for your unit?

A larger furnace may seem like a good idea until you consider the space available to install it. Outdoor units, such as heat pumps require enough yard for the unit and clearances. It’s best to consult with us before purchasing equipment that may not fit your space.

Which fuel options are available? 

What energy sources do you have access to? Natural gas, heating oil, electricity, or propane? Availability and prices of these vary widely. It’s good to consider which energy source will be plentiful and stable over the life of the unit.

What energy-efficiency best fits your needs?

Furnaces are sold at varying levels of efficiency. An 80% efficient furnace is open combustion, meaning it sucks in air from the surrounding area. A 95% heater can’t do that—it uses seals combustion and requires air from the outside. That means in addition to the increased cost of the more efficient model, you may also need to create a pathway for the air to enter the unit. Based on your needs, it may take a long time for the higher-efficiency model to pay for itself. In fact, it might never do so.

At PECO Heating and Cooling, we’ll give you straight answers about all of the furnaces we offer. We’re also available 24/7 to make sure your furnace or HVAC system is running right. With our Planned Maintenance Agreement you can make sure your system remains in excellent working order. Twice each year, we’ll come to your house and perform maintenance that will give you the reliability you can count on. We also provide a wide range of home maintenance and repairs, including home inspection repairs, plumbing, and electrical services. Visit us online or call 864-639-2424 to schedule your appointment to stay warm all winter long!   

Frozen Heat Pump? Call PECO!

It’s normal for your heat pump to develop some frost or ice on its outdoor coils. It’s not normal for it to look like a snowman!

What’s going on? Why are you seeing Frosty instead of your heat pump?

Insufficient Airflow

A heat pump’s refrigerant temperature can fall below freezing. Without sufficient airflow through the unit, moisture in the air freezes on the evaporator or condenser coils. One measure you can safely take to ensure good airflow is to clear away any leaves, debris or snow drifts that may be blocking the coils. If this doesn’t help, give us a call ASAP so we make repairs before any damage occurs.

Cold Water

Freezing rain or water dripping from a leaking gutter can cause the top of the unit to freeze. The rest of the unit quickly follows. We suggest you check your gutters to stop any leaking. If this isn’t the cause and your heat pump doesn’t defrost itself after a day or if it defrosts then freezes again, call us for proper ice removal.

Settling

Most heat pumps rest on a concrete slab. This slab sometimes settles into the ground over time. Just a small amount of settling can block the drainage path for ice melt, impede airflow, and cause ice buildup. Call us about raising the unit.

As you can see, in almost all cases, it’s best to give us a call. We’ve seen a lot of damage when people try to handle a frozen heat pump themselves. When they try to chip the ice off, they sometimes hit the refrigerant line and all the refrigerant leaks out. Another misguided home remedy is to pour boiling water on the unit. The trouble is that the hot water often ruins perfectly good electrical components.

Don’t turn Frosty into the Abominable Snowman to come to life. Contact PECO when you need reliable, trustworthy HVAC installation, maintenance, and repair in Oconee, Pickens, and North Anderson counties. We’re a family-owned business and take great pride in offering high-quality home repair with even higher quality attention to our customer’s needs. As well as being licensed plumbing contractors, we also install, maintain and fix heating and cooling systems. We can fix or build anything that moves gas or water through your house. We even do minor drywall repair and painting when needed. For an HVAC company that maintains the utmost standards and integrity, call us at 864-639-2424 or request an appointment online today!

Common Signs Your Furnace May Be Failing

Have you noticed your furnace is acting strange or is unable to keep up with your home’s heating demands? If so, it’s important to address the issue as soon as possible. Catching small issues before they have a chance to become bigger is the best way to prevent a major repair. Here are some common signs that your furnace may be starting to fail:

Your Furnace is Short Cycling

When your furnace is cycling on and off, it’s called short cycling. This can be really frustrating – especially in winter – but even worse, it can cause higher energy bills and lead to expensive repairs if left unaddressed. If your furnace has been short cycling, it’s a sign that there’s something within the system that is interrupting the heating cycle. This can be caused by a variety of things. You may have low airflow caused by dirty air filters, a dirty blower wheel, or block vents. It could be caused by a faulty thermostat, a dying blower motor, or even a corroded or dirty flame sensor.

The Burner Flame is Yellow

If you have a natural gas furnace, check the color of the flame the next time it starts up. Normally, the flame should be blue. If you see a yellow flame, this could be a sign that you have a dirty burner. A dirty burner is a problem because it means the natural gas and the surrounding air isn’t mixing correctly. Not only does this keep your furnace from running efficiently, but it also means that the carbon monoxide may not be vented properly. Carbon monoxide can leak into your home and be a serious health hazard, so if you notice an irregular flame color, you should have it looked at as soon as possible.

Your Flue is Rusted

A rusted flue is another sign that the carbon monoxide isn’t vented properly. Leaks from the roof or plumbing can cause your flue lines to rust and corrode, leaving holes or areas for carbon monoxide to leak into your home. Gas furnaces produce a dangerous level of carbon monoxide, so it’s critical to ensure that the gas can be properly vented outdoors. Flue maintenance is also important for helping your furnace burn more efficiently, which will help it last longer.

Moisture is Accumulating in Your Home

Moisture on the ceilings, walls, or windows can be a sign that you don’t have enough airflow in your home. This could indicate that you have a problem with your vents or even the furnace itself.

Your Utility Bills are Spiking

Have you noticed a spike in your utility bills as soon as you begin using your furnace? This is often a sign that it’s not running as efficiently as it should be. You could be dealing with one of the issues mentioned above, or it could be due to having an older, inefficient furnace. Depending on the age of your furnace, it may be more cost-effective and energy efficient to install a new furnace.

You See Water Around Your Furnace

Water is a natural byproduct of a gas furnace or air conditioner, but water should not be pooling around it. If you discover a puddle near your furnace, the first thing to check is where it’s coming from. If you only see a leak when you’re running your air conditioner, you most likely have a leak or clog in your water condensate line. If the water is coming from the heater itself, or you notice it during the heating cycle, there may be a more serious problem.

There Are Signs of Animal Activity

Rodents like mice and rats can do a lot of damage to your heating system. If you notice nesting material or droppings near your furnace, you should check for signs of chewed wires or clogged vents. Likewise, vent hoods on your roof should be examined for animal activity.

Your Furnace is Old

In general, most furnaces can last for about 20 years. If your furnace is approaching that age or older, it may be time to install a new unit. A new furnace will be far more energy-efficient, and it’s better to replace it proactively rather than needing an emergency replacement in the middle of winter.

You’re Constantly Adjusting Your Thermostat

If you find yourself constantly adjusting the thermostat to stay comfortable, your thermostat could be starting to fail. It’s also possible that your furnace needs servicing to help it keep up with your home’s heating demands.

Your Furnace Needs Constant Service Calls

All furnaces will need to be serviced at some point, but recurring problems can signal your furnace is starting to fail. If you have multiple issues in two years or less, it’s worth investigating – or, if it’s older, investing in a new furnace.

There Are Cold Areas Around Your Home

Uneven heat around your home is often a big indicator that your furnace isn’t working as it should. Your furnace may not be heating up enough to keep your whole house warm, or it’s not able to maintain the push and pull of the vent system to circulate warm air. You may have an inadequate ducting system or incorrectly sized ducting and pipes. Poor insulation can also be to blame, especially in older homes.

Your Furnace Makes Excessive Noise (or is Noticeably Silent)

Most furnaces make noise while they’re operating. If you notice an increase in noise, it could be a sign that some of your components have come loose and are shaking around. If you notice that your furnace seems to be having long periods of silence, this could indicate that it’s not functioning as it should.

You Feel Unwell

As you’ve seen, there can be a few issues that can cause the carbon monoxide to be improperly vented, allowing it to leak into your home. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, tasteless gas that can be deadly. It causes a range of physical symptoms like an overall feeling of unease, hallucinations, nausea, headaches, dizziness, and flu-like symptoms. To prevent the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, it’s recommended that you keep up with your furnace maintenance and install a carbon monoxide detector.

My Furnace Has One of These Issues! Now What?

If you’ve noticed one of these issues or it’s been a while since your furnace was serviced, give your friendly Home Service Heroes at PECO a call! Our knowledgeable technicians will make sure your heating system is running safely and smoothly. We also offer planned maintenance to help you extend the life of your HVAC system and keep it in perfect working order. Contact us today at (864) 639-2424 or schedule your appointment online.

Stinky Furnace? What Should You Do?

A stinky furnace aroma is unpleasant. It is also unnerving. Where is it coming from? More importantly, how to get rid of it? Here are four uncomfortable scents your heater might spew and what you can do about it:

Don’t Get All Musty on Me

You might notice a musty smell in autumn the first time you fire up your furnace for the season. This usually means you have some mold growing in your ductwork or on the air conditioner coil mounted above your furnace. You’re probably going to have to call a pro for this one. It’s time to get your equipment and ducts inspected!

When Something is Rotten in Denmark (SC)

Shakespeare was talking about a Norwegian kingdom, but he could have been talking about a rotten egg or sewer smell coming from your furnace right here in South Carolina. If it smells sour or like rotten eggs when your furnace kicks on, it can indicate a failed heat exchanger. This is especially true for a high-efficiency heater. This issue requires a reputable HVAC company because a bad heat exchanger can fill your home with carbon monoxide gas.

Just a Dust-Up

The first time you crank up your heater after summer, you might smell the scent of dust. This one is usually no problem. Dust accumulates during the year when you don’t turn your furnace on. When components get hot, the dust burns and creates that smell. It should burn off soon enough!

Plastic Smell? Shut It Down!

A plastic smell spells trouble. It means electrical components and/or wires are getting heated up. This is probably because of a short or other breakdown in the electrical system. This could be anything from a malfunctioning fan to needing a new furnace. Ignoring this is a safety hazard! Turn off your heater and call a professional immediately.If you live in Oconee, Pickens, and North Anderson counties, contact the experts at PECO. We’re a family-owned business and take great pride in offering high-quality home repair with even higher quality attention to our customer’s needs. As well as being licensed plumbing contractors, we also install, maintain and fix heating and cooling systems. We can fix or build anything that moves gas or water through your house and even do minor drywall repair and painting when needed. Want to get the funk out of your furnace? Call the experts at PECO today at 864-639-2424 or request an appointment online

Furnace Costs—Can We Talk?

Furnaces are more complex than ever. They have more new features, higher efficiencies, and, of course, higher costs. How do you know what is best for you instead of what is best for the company trying to sell it to you?

Here are some thoughts, warnings, advice, and lessons learned about furnace pricing and how to get the most warmth for your dollar!

Mid- or High-Efficiency? 

Furnace Costs

Mid-efficiency furnaces are rated at 80-89% and vents into masonry or a metal chimney. A high efficiency furnace, rated at 90-97%, costs roughly twice as much and requires more sophisticated venting. Higher efficiency models can be good choices if you live in a cold climate or will be staying in your house for 10 years or more. Local energy costs are also important. If you live in an area with higher energy costs, high-efficiency furnaces may be more attractive. There are also some possible rebates for high-efficiency units. 

Single-Stage or Two-Stage?

Think of it like a car. A single-stage furnace only has one burner rate, pedal to the metal. A two-stage furnace has two settings and burns at a lower rate unless more gas is needed. This gives your house more consistent temperatures and can increase the life of the unit. The unit is also quieter and more efficient.  

Standard, Two-Speed or a Variable-Speed Blower?

The new DOE standards for furnaces now include more efficient blower motors for basic furnaces (80% or 90%).  A standard two-speed blower has one blower speed for heating and one for cooling. It’s much cheaper than a variable-speed blower. It is also less complex, which can mean lower future repair costs. It is also noisier than a variable-speed blower and uses more energy. A variable-speed continually adjusts its speed to your home’s needs. It uses a fraction of the electricity of most standard motors, is quiet, and makes your home more comfortable. As stated above, higher initial cost and more expensive future repairs are factors when purchasing a more complex system.

Going with the lowest price isn’t always the best idea. This may mean that the contractor cuts corners or that the unit is of lesser quality. Reputable brands also come with better warranties—so be sure to research how long the equipment is under warranty. Does this warranty include labor?

At PECO Heating and Cooling, we will give you straight answers about the furnaces we offer. We are available 24/7 to make sure your furnace or HVAC system is running right. With our Planned Maintenance Agreement you can make sure that your system is in excellent working order every day. Twice each year, we’ll come to your house and perform maintenance that will give you the reliability you can count on. We also provide a wide range of home maintenance and repairs, including home inspection repairs, plumbing, and electrical services. To stay warm all winter long, visit us online or call 864-639-2424 to schedule your appointment!

How to Conduct a DIY Home Electrical Safety Check

Electrical issues are more than an inconvenience – they can be a serious hazard. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately 24,000 home fires are caused by electrical problems annually. Sadly, many electrical fires can be prevented by conducting occasional safety checks. Electrical safety checks are quick, easy, and can potentially save you from property damage or injury. In some cases, they may even save a life! Understanding the common causes of house fires, as well as warning signs of electrical trouble, can help prevent an electrical fire in your home.

Here’s a list of nine things homeowners should make a point to check each year:

The Breaker Panel

Inspect your breaker panel and the surrounding area. You should make sure that there are at least 3 feet of clear space around it. Open the panel and examine the breakers. Do you see any signs of rust, corrosion, or rodents? Flip each of the circuit breakers on and off, noting any that are sticking or not working properly. If you often experience tripped breakers, this could be an indication that your system is being overloaded.

GFCI Testing

All outlets that are at risk of being exposed to water (near a sink, for example) should be ground fault circuit interrupt (GFCI) protected. These outlets can wear out after a while, so it’s essential to test them to make sure they’re still functioning properly. If you look at the face of a GFCI outlet, you’ll notice two rectangular buttons that say “Test” and “Reset.” To test your GFCI outlet, press the test button with your finger. You should hear a snapping sound that trips the outlet and cuts off power to the plug connections.

To confirm that the power is off, you can plug in a lamp or radio into the outlet. If the outlet is working as it should, the device you plugged in shouldn’t turn on. You can also check to see if the outlet is supplying voltage by using a voltage tester or multimeter. There are also GFCI outlet testers, which can alert you whether the outlet is wired correctly. Once you’ve confirmed that the safety function is working, you can press the reset button to restore power to the outlet.  

Test Your Outlets

Like your GFCI outlets, regular outlets should also be tested. One of the best ways to check them is by using a receptacle tester, which is also called a “cube” or “block” tester. This device plugs directly into the outlet and indicates whether it detects common wiring issues. These tools are handy and affordable, so we recommend them for any home toolkit!

Exposed Wiring

Many attics and basements have exposed wiring, which can become worn and cracked over time. You should inspect all visible wiring to make sure it’s free of cracks or splits. Rodents love to chew on wires, so you should also keep an eye out for areas of rodent damage. While you’re there, it’s also a good idea to check for other signs of rodents, such as nests or scat. Any damaged wiring should be replaced. If you’ve found evidence of rodents, this should also be dealt with as soon as possible.

Extension Cords

All extension cords should be checked for cuts, cracks, exposed wiring, or other types of damage that can occur during home projects. You should also check that any cords used for power tools are within their amperage rating.

Exterior Outlets

Exterior outlets are subject to the elements, so it’s important to make sure that they’re sealed and free from animal intrusion. All exterior outlets should be GFCI protected, so you’ll want to test them to make sure they’re working correctly. If something has been plugged into one of your exterior outlets for an extended period of time, check to make sure it’s not keeping the weather cover propped open. If you do use your outlet for an extended period, you should have an outlet with a cover that has access holes. This will allow the cover to completely close while you’re using it.

Test Your Outlets for Tightness

Outlets, like most things, can wear out over time. If you notice plugs sitting loosely in an outlet, or they slip out enough to expose the plug pin, the outlet should be replaced. If the outlet itself is loose in the electrical box, it can be quickly fixed using plastic outlet shims.

Voltage Testing

If you’ve noticed that your electrical devices seem to be working irregularly when plugged into a particular outlet, it’s a good idea to test the voltage. The issue could be caused by a loose wire, but a voltage test will help you determine if it’s a more extensive problem. Check the power to that outlet using a voltmeter or multimeter. Standard residential outlets should read between 110 and 130 volts. If you see readings outside of that range, it may be time to call in the professionals!

Use Your Other Senses

Beyond visual inspections, it’s also essential to take note of other things you notice using your sense of smell, sound, and touch. Place your hand on outlets and light switches. Do you notice excessive heat? It’s normal for dimmer switches to get warm when the lights are on, but they shouldn’t be uncomfortable to touch. Do you notice any acrid smells when you plug in a device or flip a switch? Do you hear popping or cracking noises near an outlet or switch? These are all signs that there’s something wrong with the switch or outlet. It could be that it’s defective or worn, or it could be a sign that there’s a problem with the wiring. In any case, it’s best to address the issue as soon as possible

I Found a Problem – Now What?

So, you’ve gone through your home and found some issues that need to be addressed. Now what? In some cases, you may need to replace a switch in the wall. In other cases, you may need to have areas of your home re-wired. At best, electrical work can be complicated. At worst, it can cause damage to your home or put you at risk for injury. Many times, electrical work is best left to the professionals. We offer a variety of electrical repair services, from minor outlet and switch replacements to major repairs and remodels. We hold both mechanical and electrical licensees and offer a 1-year parts and labor warranty on all repairs. If you’ve discovered an electrical issue or don’t feel comfortable conducting an electrical safety check on your own, contact us today at (864) 639-2424 to schedule a service call!