BPI & Home Performance FAQs Be Green. Live Better!

FAQs on Your Home Comfort System

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BPI & Home Performance

What is home performance contracting?

Home Performance’ contracting is all about making existing homes more comfortable, safer and healthier to live in while at the same time, making them more durable and energy efficient. We use building science to examine the whole home and how different systems within it are interacting with one another. These systems include the building envelope (shell), heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and the occupants. Home performance contracting projects start with a comprehensive Energy Assessment of the house to identify problems and trace them to the root cause. Then the contractor prescribes and prioritizes improvements—from must-do to nice-to-have. Once all the work is done, a second Energy Assessment is completed and compared to the initial assessment to learn what was accomplished and ensure that everything is performing as planned.

Can I tackle a home performance project on my own?

There are some aspects you can probably tackle alone, but the whole-home Energy Assessment is best performed by a trained and qualified technician for mainly two reasons:

  • Properly diagnosing home performance problems and prescribing solutions requires a building science specialist background that most homeowners just do not have.
  • The job requires specialist (and often expensive) diagnostic tools, such as a pressurization Blower Door, Duct Blaster, Gas Leaks Detector, and Infrared Camera, that are not likely to be found in the average homeowner’s tool kit.

What you can do to prepare for the comprehensive assessment is conduct an initial audit of your own. Start by writing down all the symptoms, including when and where in the house you notice them most. Make a list of any work that’s been done and when it was done—for example, you might note that you installed new insulation last fall, or converted the deck to a sunroom three summers ago, or changed from window A/C to Central Air five years ago. Pull together all your energy bills for the last year (the farther back you can go, the better) and look for usage patterns or changes that correspond with the symptoms, the previous work, or both. Double-check the age and rating of your HVAC equipment and household appliances and be sure you know the fuel types for each. Walk through your house and look for clues—taking pictures as you go. Are there damp spots? Is dust collecting or is the carpet looking dirty near the baseboards? Does the furnace make a funny noise or produce a strange smell when it’s running? Is one room particularly hot or cold? If or which windows seem to carry the most condensation? When you present your findings to your home performance contractor specialist, he or she should listen carefully, take good notes and ask follow-up questions as part of the homeowner interview before starting the physical assessment.

They’ll probably also evaluate your energy bills and ask some questions about that third system—the occupants and their behavior—either before or after the physical audit. After the assessment, your BPI Certified (Building Performance Institute) contractor can guide you regarding which fixes are suitable for your particular DIY skill level, and which will require expert help.

What services might be included in a home performance project?

The project will start with a comprehensive Energy Assessment, including an interview with you and a thorough walk-through – both indoors and out. The technician may use an infrared camera to get a visual on temperature differences in different areas, conduct a Blower Door test to depressurize or pressurize the house to assess air leakage levels (infiltration), and will use a Duct Blaster to test for air leakage in the duct work of a forced-air HVAC system. They may also perform other functions and safety tests on HVAC equipment and other appliances in your home which will include testing for spillage, carbon monoxide levels, and combustion back-draft. At the end of the comprehensive Energy Assessment, your home performance contractor should be able to provide you with a scientific and objective view of the situation. They should be able to help you prioritize repairs in order – from must-do to nice-to-do – so you can solve the biggest problems without making smaller problems worse.

These repairs may include:

  • Air sealing the building envelope, including compartmentalizing the attic or basement from the conditioned living space
  • Weather-stripping doors and/or windows
  • Adding insulation
  • Sealing ductwork
  • Tuning-up HVAC equipment
  • Upgrading to energy efficient HVAC equipment and/or ENERGY STAR® rated appliances
  • Upgrading to ENERGY STAR® rated doors or windows
  • Replacing pumps
  • And more…

The Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® initiative from the Department of Energy (DOE) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a great series of videos providing an overview of the home performance process.

Can a home performance project help make my house more comfortable?

Yes. In fact, that’s one of the primary reasons to start a home performance project. Drafts, uneven temperatures (including hard to heat or cool rooms), and extreme (too damp or too dry) or inconsistent humidity levels are all problems best solved with a whole-home approach; it examines the interaction between the different systems in the house.

Can a home performance project help me lower my energy bills?

Yes. The house-as-a-system approach aims to improve the performance of existing homes and it is proven to reduce homeowner annual utility bills by as much as 20% or more (See U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® Brochure, EPA 430-F-09-001, January 2009). Frequently, indoor air quality and safety solutions lead to reductions in energy use and lower energy bills. The matter-of-fact is that most Home Performance projects are mostly initiated due to comfort and health issues.

I’m worried about mold and indoor air quality… can a home performance project help protect my family?

Yes. One of the common problems home performance retrofits correct is uncontrolled air movement through the building envelope. Warm, moist, conditioned air passes from the living space though the walls on its way outside. When that warm air reaches the cooler temperatures within the wall cavity or inside a window frame, it drops the moisture on condensing surfaces, which can help contribute to mold growth. The American Lung Association® Health House® guidelines require homes to be more airtight to improve energy efficiency and prevent unplanned moisture movement and state:”…Although many stories in the media attribute indoor air quality problems to houses being built too tightly, the reality is that homes need to be as tight as practical. Air leaking into and out of homes has created many of the problems. Moist air leaking out in cold weather can condense on wall and attic surfaces, creating mold growth, and in some cases structural decay. This is a direct result of the home not being tight enough. Moist air leaking into a home in hot humid weather can have the same effect on finished surfaces of walls. Air leaking into a home from an attached garage has been shown to be a significant source of carbon monoxide in homes…”

Your BPI Certified (Building Performance Institute) contractor will use a Blower Door to pressurize or depressurize the house and locate air migration pathways as part of the whole-home Energy Assessment. Air sealing to close those pathways will be done as part of the retrofit improvement project.

Are there any incentives available to help me pay for this?

There is a wide range of incentive opportunities available across the United States right now—many of them funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Click here to find incentives that include whole-home assessments and home performance improvement projects. The most popular program here in California is managed and controlled by Energy Upgrade CA which is a coalition of the CEC, Utility companies, and State and Local government agencies.

How are BPI contractors different from regular contractors?

Anyone with a truck and some tools can call themselves a contractor. But BPI certified professionals have proven their skills and knowledge in building science and their area(s) of expertise – Building Analyst, Envelope, Heating, Air Conditioning, Manufactured Homes or Multifamily – as well as business ethics, conduct and communications. BPI accredited contractors (who employ BPI certified professionals) have made an organization-wide commitment to raising the bar in home performance contracting, including their participation in a nationwide Quality Assurance Program. Many trades license their contractors after apprenticeship programs or college courses. Some manufacturers require contractors to comply with extra standards while installing a product. BPI certifications do not take the place of trade qualifications, apprenticeship programs, or manufacturer requirements. They are meant to build on and enhance these qualifications, making individuals who hold multiple credentials even more valuable to homeowners.

What type of training do BPI certified professionals receive?

Training is administered by a coast-to-coast network of independent training organizations, including private companies, community colleges, and local not-for-profit agencies. Individuals hoping to become BPI certified professionals learn the house-as-a-system approach that focuses on the relationships between different components within the home. How to identify problems at the root cause, prioritize, and provide solutions that improve energy efficiency while enhancing important safety functions such as mold prevention, indoor air quality, and carbon monoxide testing, as well as combustion appliance safety checks. After they are certified, they are required to participate in ongoing continuing education to keep these specialists on top of emerging issues, technologies, and best practices.

Insulation

What does R-value mean?

R-value measures insulation’s resistance to heat flow. It can also be referred to as “thermal resistance.” The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. All materials having the same R-value, regardless of type, thickness, or weight, are equal in insulating power. The R-value of different insulating materials must be based on test methods established by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM). Don’t forget that R-values are determined by material type, thickness, and installed weight per square foot, not by thickness alone. Insulation helps keep your home cool during the summer months and warm during the winter months and with a higher R-Value, it will do a better job for a lesser cost.

How much will I save by adding insulation to the walls, ceilings, and floors of my home?

Insulation saves money, increases home comfort, and protects the environment by reducing energy use. Department of Energy (DOE) statistics show that, typically, 44% of a homeowner’s utility bill goes for heating and cooling costs. The DOE states that homeowners may be able to reduce their energy bills from 10% to 50% by taking certain steps. One of the major steps is increasing the amount of thermal insulation in their existing homes or purchasing additional insulation when buying new homes.Unless your home was constructed with special attention to energy efficiency, adding insulation will probably reduce your utility bills. The amount of energy you conserve will depend on several factors: your local climate; the size, shape, and construction of your house; the living habits of your family; the type and efficiency of the heating and cooling systems; and the fuel you use. Energy conserved is money saved, and the annual savings increase when utility rates go up. Insulation upgrades also add to the value of your home.

How much insulation should my house have?

“Insulation,” says Bob Vila, host of the nationally syndicated TV program that bears his name, “is the most efficient energy-saving expenditure.” Vila says homeowners should check attics to determine the amount of insulation already installed. “Most homes built before 1980 have inadequate insulation,” he said, noting that if insulation between the joists of the attic floor comes only to the top of the joist, it probably makes sense to install more insulation.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends home insulation R-values based on where you live.

Be sure your new home complies with current building code requirements for insulation. These building codes establish minimum levels of insulation for ceilings, walls, floors, and basements for new residential construction. The BPI certified representative should provide you with a recommendation for your home upon completion of the initial assessment.

What is the difference between fiberglass, rock and slag wool, cellulose, and foam insulations?

Fiberglass is made from molten sand or recycled glass and other inorganic materials under highly controlled conditions. Fiberglass is produced in batt, blanket, and loose-fill forms.

Rock and slag wool are manufactured similarly to fiberglass, but use natural rock and blast furnace slag as its raw material. Typical forms are loose-fill, blanket, or board types.

Cellulose is a loose-fill made from paper to which flame retardants are added.

Foam insulations are available as rigid boards or foamed-in-place materials that can fill and seal blocks or building cavity spaces. Foams are also used in air sealing to fill gaps, cracks, or openings.

Reflective materials are fabricated from aluminum foils with a variety of backings such as polyethylene bubbles and plastic film. Reflective insulations retard the transfer of heat; they can be tested by the same methods as mass insulation and therefore assigned an R-value.

A Radiant Barrier is a building construction material consisting of a low emittance (normally 0.1 or less) surface (usually aluminum foil) bounded by an open-air space. Radiant barriers are used for the sole purpose of limiting heat transfer by radiation.

What words should I watch out for in contracts or job estimates?

Once you have chosen an insulation contractor, make sure the contract includes the job specification, cost, method of payment, and warranty information provided by the insulation material manufacturer. Make sure that the contract lists the type of insulation to be used and where it will be used. Pay attention to the type of insulation listed and the R-value.

Avoid contracts with vague language such as R-values with the terms “plus or minus”; “+ or -“; “average”; or “nominal.” Beware of any contract or verbal offering that quotes the job in terms of thickness only (e.g. “14 inches of insulation”). Remember, it is the R-value — not the thickness — that tells how well a material insulates. When buying insulation, be sure not to get sidetracked by the thickness of the material. The contractor that installs insulation properly will most likely not be the cheapest bidder.

Can insulation help reduce unwanted sound?

Yes. Insulation is an efficient way to reduce unwanted sound, and it is commonly used to provide a more comfortable and quieter interior environment. Insulation effectively reduces noise transmission through floors and through the interior and exterior walls. A professional Home Performance contractor can help you select the proper insulation for your needs.

Where can I get more information about insulation?

  • General: U.S. Department of Energy and Energy Star, a service of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Fiberglass, Rock, and Slag Wool Insulation: North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA)
  • Cellulose Insulation: Cellulose Insulation Manufacturers Association (CIMA)
  • Spray Foam: Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance (SPFA)

Weatherization

Does energy conservation increase health risks in my home by tightening and sealing it up?

No. Energy conservation is designed to identify and resolve all health and safety risks in the home prior to air sealing and insulation. Improving energy efficiency in one’s home actually improves indoor air quality and makes your home healthier, safer, and more comfortable.

What are the most common health or safety problems in homes and how does energy conservation address them?

Carbon monoxide poisoning caused by improper venting of heaters, water heaters, gas stoves, unvented space heaters, “fake fireplaces”, and other combustion devices are probably the most common health and safety problem. The problem with carbon monoxide (CO) is that it is an odorless, colorless gas. Many people suffering from CO poisoning think they have the flu or chronic headaches. CO poisoning is especially dangerous for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. During the Energy Assessment, a trained, BPI certified auditor will test every combustion appliance. If elevated CO levels are found, the homeowner will be advised immediately to turn the appliance off and contact a repair contractor. Another surprisingly common problem is gas leaks, especially in older homes. Tiny gas leaks can be caused simply over time from a sagging pipe, a loose fitting, or other related problems. These leaks can also escape detection for years. Gas leaks will also be eliminated prior to energy conservation treatment. Cold and drafty homes are the results of infiltration or insufficient insulation. Accordingly, weatherization improvements result in warmer and less drafty homes during the winter months and can lead to fewer colds and illnesses. Lead-based paint is also common in older homes. Since the EPA now requires that all weatherization providers be trained and certified in Lead Safety, homeowners will receive a booklet of information on the hazards of lead-based paint. Moisture and mildew can be a problem in both new and older homes. The source of these problems could be as obvious as a roof leak or a more difficult to identify. The auditor will help to identify both the source and the solution to these problems prior to air sealing.

What if I have a problem with pests such as spiders, cockroaches, or mice?

Air sealing is an excellent solution to this problem. By sealing cracks and holes, particularly in the basement, passageways used by unwanted insects or rodents are permanently sealed.

Is there such a thing as making a house too tight?

If you tighten your house beyond the optimum range, you will need to add mechanical ventilation such as a fan or a Recovery Ventilator (HRV/ERV). BPI certified auditors perform Blower Door tests to check the air tightness of your home after energy conservation treatments and measure the air leakage rate. In the unlikely event that the home has been tightened beyond the optimum range, the auditor will advise the homeowner that mechanical ventilation is recommended or in extreme cases must be installed.

What other issues do weatherization procedures address?

Weatherization procedures also address other hazards including asbestos, mold, toxic chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), combustible products, and humidity levels.

Windows

How often should residential windows be replaced?

Homeowners with windows over 25 years old should consider replacing them, both to gain the best energy efficiencies and to protect the “envelope” of the house. A home is an ideal candidate for a window replacement if its windows are sealed or painted shut, experiences ice buildup or a frosty glaze during the winter, gets fogged with condensation or has drafts that come through the windows. It is also recommended to upgrade your windows if the existing windows are single pane or leaking air.

What are modern windows and doors made of?

Windows and doors are made of many different materials and the most common are wood, aluminum, and vinyl. Home Performance contractors usually install vinyl made windows and glass doors since vinyl does not transfer heat as much as aluminum and other metals.

What does “cladding” mean?

Some windows have wood frames that are covered on the exterior and/or interior with a layer called “cladding” consisting of vinyl, fiberglass or aluminum. This cladding provides additional protection for the window frame by strengthening its resistance to outside weather or heavy inside usage.

How do I know what type of glazing is right for a window?

Different climates and styles of homes require different glazing options in order to maximize energy efficiency. Some glazing options can also help reduce outdoor noises from entering the home. Options range from the single-glazed glass with minimal insulating value (commonly found in historic homes), up through dual-sealed, triple-insulated glass with multiple Low E surfaces with an argon gas-filled insulated airspaces for maximum efficiency. The minimum requirement for new windows here in Southern California is dual-pane windows, it is highly recommended to add the Low-e feature which reduces the U-factor and the Solar Heat Gain Co-efficiency (SHGC).

What are grilles?

Grilles consist of muntin bars that form a decorative pattern on a window or door by dividing the glass into smaller panes.

What are the advantages of airspace and perimeter grilles?

Airspace grilles feature the muntin bars sealed in the insulating airspace between two panes of glass and make the windows easier to clean. Perimeter grilles have an easy snap-in design that allows you to easily remove them for cleaning and to quickly change the look of the windows. Some manufacturers offer custom grilles designed to fit a number of architectural styles and are also available as removable perimeter grilles for easy installation and removal.

What do U-values and R-values really mean?

When choosing any window or door, look for information that lists the product’s U-Value and R-Value. U-Values represent the amount of heat that escapes through a wall, window, roof or other surfaces. The lower the U-Value, the more energy efficient a material is. R-Values are the direct opposite and they measure an object’s resistance to heat flow. The higher a material’s R-Value, the lower its U-Value, and the less energy it will lose (has a better Thermal Resistance). An R-Value depends on the number of layers of glass in a window, what type of gas is between those layers, and whether one or more of the layers of glazing have been treated with a Low E coating.

What does “Low E” stand for?

The term “Low E” means low emissivity. Emissivity is a property that’s unique to materials, such as glass, which light can freely pass through. Low E is a coating of non-visible, microscopic layers of silver sandwiched between layers of anti-reflective metal oxide coatings. Added to the surface of window and door glass, Low E provides greater energy efficiency, increased comfort and protection from damaging Ultra Violet (UV) rays. By filtering out the part of the light spectrum that transmits heat, Low E reduces a window’s U-Value and increases its R-Value.

What is the difference between “Simulated” and “True Divided Lite?”

True Divided Lite (TDL) windows have individual panes of glass held together by muntin bars for a look similar to homes built during colonial times. While they look very much like the windows of yesterday, today’s technology makes TDL windows extremely energy efficient with insulated glass or insulated Low E glazing. Simulated Divided Lite (SDL) windows feature a glass pane with the muntin bar grilles permanently adhered to the interior and exterior surfaces to give it the appearance of a TDL window. An optional narrow spacer bar is available for the insulating airspace between glass panes and grille bars. This design offers modern energy efficiency while replicating the look of TDL construction where each lite is completely separated by a muntin bar.

Who should have impact-resistant glass in their home?

Impact-resistant glass is ideal for homeowners living in coastal areas prone to strong windstorms and hurricanes, or for those who live near a golf course or other area where vigorous sports activities take place. Some homeowners choose impact-resistant glass for the sound reduction and security benefits it provides.

Will impact-resistant glass prevent intruders from breaking into my home?

No glass can completely prevent intruders from entering your home. Any glass, when struck repeatedly with forceful blows, will eventually shatter. However, the majority of impact-resistant glass stays in the frame when broken, causing a forced entry to be much more time consuming, cumbersome, and difficult.

Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC)

How does an Air Conditioner work?

Air conditioning systems work by moving heat from inside your premises to the outside. In a central air conditioning system, air is drawn into the ductwork system through the return air system. Installed in the air stream ductwork is an evaporator coil. This coil is connected to the condenser (outdoor unit) by copper tubing (refrigerant lines).The refrigerant is then pumped from the condenser to the evaporator coil. As the refrigerant passes through the inside of the evaporator coil, it collects heat from the warm air (air stream), passes over to the outdoor unit (condenser), and rejected to the atmosphere. Because the refrigerant is cooler than the warm air, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the air in the duct system. The refrigerant is then sent outside to the condenser unit. When the warmed refrigerant is in the condenser unit it is compressed by the compressor; the compression of the refrigerant causes it to boil. As the refrigerant boils it gives off the heat it picked up from inside your home. The refrigerant is then passed through the coil in the condenser unit where it gets cooled again (heat is rejected to the atmosphere) and is ready to go back inside to pick up more heat from your home.

As this whole process is going on, the temperature and relative humidity in your premises are both lowered. The relative humidity level drops because cooler air cannot hold as much moisture. As the air cools, it gives up some moisture and it gets collected in the base of the evaporator coil and is then drained away.

How much does it cost to install an A/C and Heating system?

Many factors affect the cost of a heating or air conditioning system, including the size of your home, type of windows, if the house well insulated, the type and condition of the ductwork if installed, and accessories you might like to add such as a touch screen thermostat, zoning system, filtration system, and more. Your specific needs must be met in the design stage before an amount can be given. We have a complete range of systems and accessories available to meet all your needs and we will explore these options during the consultation visit. Our goal is to provide homeowners with the best solution to meet their unique situation and install the most comfortable and efficient system that meet their budget.

How long does it take to install or replace a system?

The installation process, when done professionally, is comprehensive and the duration varies from one installation to another. Our technician will survey your home and will cover the matter during the consultation visit.

Which brand should I choose?

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) states that the design and installation practices are more important than the brand; the importance of the brand is only 30% or less. That being said, based on our past experience we mostly recommend installing American Standard and Lennox for conventional systems, and Fujitsu and Mitsubishi for mini-split applications.

What size should I get?

There is no quick and easy rule of thumb to use for sizing an air conditioning & heating system. The best practice is the use of a formula which is based on the ACCA guidelines (Manual J). The formula takes into account the insulation (attic, walls, and floor), shading, square footage, ceiling height, construction materials, windows size & type, doors, purpose of use and occupancy, orientation, and more. To size your system correctly using these methods, please call us and schedule for one of our experts to meet with you. We use ACCA approved software to size the right system for you and your family.

What are the benefits of Air Conditioning?

The benefits of Air Conditioning are to provide a comfortable environment at work or at home throughout all seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

How often should I have my equipment serviced?

Heating and Air Conditioning equipment should be serviced minimum twice a year. The best scenario is to have the system checked in autumn and again in the spring. You can save much more by investing in our comprehensive Energy Saving Program (ESP) which includes 2 precision tune-up visits a year, priority service, extended warranties, cash discounts (10% discount on repairs and 5% discount on new systems and accessories) and most importantly peace of mind. It is a good practice to inspect your filter every 1-2 months and when found dirty, replace it.

Why should I have my equipment serviced?

Annual servicing includes cleaning the system, checking for any problems or potential problems, and adjusting for peak efficiency.

Some of the benefits of a professionally done tune-up include:

  • Increased dependability.
  • Finding potential problems and fix them quickly.
  • Maximizes efficiency and lowers energy costs.
  • Prolongs the life-span of the equipment.
  • Maintains safe and healthy operation.
  • Helps to protect the environment.
  • Drastically reduces the chance of a break-down which usually happens at the most inconvenient time – at night or on weekends when repair rates are higher.

What is included in a Precision Tune-Up Service?

  • Clean or replace filter
  • Measure temperature drop
  • Measure for correct airflow
  • Tighten electrical connections
  • Monitor refrigerant pressure and charge
  • Lubricate all moving parts
  • Clean the condensation drain line
  • Tighten compressor terminals
  • Verify proper connection for breaker and disconnect box
  • Measure volts and amps draw
  • Inspect evaporator coil
  • Check and adjust blower components and test cycle for proper operation
  • Measure temperature rise
  • Test furnace safety control
  • Test starting capabilities
  • Inspect for gas leaks
  • Verify gas valve proper operation
  • Clean the ignition and burner assembly
  • Monitor flue draft
  • Verify reversing valve operation (heat-pump)
  • And much more

What are the benefits of installing a new, energy efficient system?

Today’s best air conditioners use 30%, 50%, and even 70% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid -1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save up to 60% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a properly sized and installed, newer, and more efficient model.

How long will my Air Conditioning unit last before it needs to be replaced?

By having a qualified technician perform precision tune-ups and service the system as suggested your unit will beat the industry standard. Some units last as little as 8 years and some will last 25 years or more. It is hard to predict the life-cycle of an Air Conditioning system but it is known that a well maintained system minimizes costly repairs and to ensure longevity.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Can the air inside our homes be bad for us?

Indoor air can be polluted. There are many sources of poor indoor air quality (IAQ) – infiltration, duct system, poorly maintained heating system, improper exhaust systems, and more. The indoor environment is also affected by indoor contaminants – chemicals, dusts, molds or fungi, bacteria, gases, vapors, and bad odors. Indoor air contaminants are linked to health issues such as dryness; irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and skin; headache; fatigue; shortness of breath; allergies; sinus congestion; coughing and sneezing; dizziness; and nausea. The symptoms are usually noticed after being in the house for several hours and feeling better when leaving the building or being away from the building for a weekend or a vacation. Some of these symptoms may also be caused by other health conditions including common colds or the flu, and are not necessarily due to poor indoor air quality; therefore, identifying and resolving IAQ problems can be difficult.

Why is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) an issue?

According to the National Safety Council, people, on average, spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Of that 90 percent, 65 is spent at home and to make matters worse, those who are most susceptible to indoor air pollution are the ones who are home the most: children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses. Children breathe in 50 percent more air per pound of body weight than adults do. EPA studies have found that pollutant levels inside can be two to five times higher than outdoors. In some instances indoor air pollution levels can be 100 times higher than outdoors.

What are the sources of pollutants?

According to the National Safety Council, there are many sources of pollutants in the home. Obvious ones are chemicals from cleaning products and pesticides. Less obvious are pollutants caused by such simple tasks as cooking, bathing, infiltration, or heating the home. Fortunately, there are easy steps that everyone can take to reduce the potential for indoor air pollution and to improve the quality of the air they breathe.

What are the different types of pollutants?

There are three different types of indoor air pollutants. Particulates: dust, pollen, dust mites, animal dander, carpet fibers, and lint. Micro-organisms: mold, influenza, fungi, viruses, bacteria, and germs. Toxins (gases): benzene chemical vapors, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, paint, pesticides, carpet fumes, pet odors, ozone, cleaning vapors, and smoke.

How to know if the air inside your home is dangerous to your health?

According to the National Safety Council, it is difficult to determine which pollutant or pollutants are the sources of a person’s ill health, or even if indoor air pollution is the problem. Many indoor air pollutants cannot be detected by our senses (e.g., smell) and the symptoms they produce can be vague and sometimes similar, making it hard to attribute them to a specific cause. Some symptoms may not show up until years later, making it even harder to discover the cause. Common symptoms of exposure to indoor air pollutants include: headaches, tiredness, dizziness, nausea, itchy nose, and scratchy throat. More serious effects are asthma and other breathing disorders and cancer.

How does this affect children?

According to the National Safety Council, children may be more susceptible to environmental exposures than adults and because of their developing systems, particularly vulnerable to their effects. Let’s take asthma as an example. About 4.2 million children in the United States and more than 12.4 million people total are affected by asthma each year. A recent study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine concluded that 65 percent of asthma cases among elementary school-age children could be prevented by controlling exposure to indoor allergens and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). By controlling biological contaminants (e.g., dust mites and cat allergens), asthma cases could be reduced by 55 to 60 percent.

How can I find an Indoor Air Quality system that’s right for my home?

Here at Pros360, we have an entire team dedicated to improve the quality of life for our customers starting with the air you breathe. We offer a variety of solutions to suit your individual needs to improve your indoor air quality. Our process consists of addressing your concerns, in home consultation, comprehensive assessment, and installation. A phone call is all that stands between you and improved home indoor air quality. Give us a call today and breathe easier tomorrow!!!

Water Heaters

What factors should I consider when choosing a new water heater?

Consider fuel source (gas or electric), storage capacity (20 gallon and up), tank type (tank or Tankless), efficiency, and warranty.

Do I have an option of what type of unit I purchase?

You have many options. We carry a variety of tank and Tankless water heaters with different fuel sources (gas, electric, and liquid propane). We can review all available options with you and help you select the best system to fit your budget and needs.

How do I know if I need a new water heater?

There are several signs that may indicate your water heater might be failing:

  • Water buildup in or around the area of your water heater may suggest a leak.
  • Water-quality issues, such as rust or sediment visible in your water supply, could indicate the unit may fail soon.
  • The unit no longer provides the same temperature or duration of hot water as it had in the past

What’s the difference between gas and electric?

The main difference between the two is that gas usually costs less to operate, and electric is safer to operate.

What’s the difference between a conventional storage tank and a Tankless water heater?

A conventional tank constantly heats stored water, is good for high usage demands and economical. It can be stored in a closet, basement or garage and has a capacity ranging from 20 to 80 gallons. A Tankless water heater has lower operating costs, uses less space and can reduce energy consumption by as much as 30%. It also can provide continuous hot water at a precise temperature. However, it does require more up-front investment, and may take longer to deliver hot water to the faucet at the initial demand.

What is a permit and why do I need it?

Permits are governed by local cities and municipalities and required to ensure that a local plumbing inspector is dispatched to the site as a third party to review the workmanship of the installer. This is meant to ensure that the install has been executed safely and in line with local city and state plumbing codes. It also ensures that the quality of workmanship by the licensed professional installer meets the minimum plumbing standards.

Do water heaters require permits?

Permits are required for water heater installs and pricing varies by state, city and municipality. Our installation professionals can review the permit process and pricing with you and answer any questions you have.

What if I have purchased a water heater already and just need it installed?

No problem. We will install any water heater for you.

What are some additional water heater features to consider?

Depending on your needs, inquire about self-cleaning units, water treatment, product efficiency ratings, first-hour hot water delivery and recovery time, circulation pump, and automatic shut off valves. Self-cleaning units automatically fight lime and sediment buildup to lengthen tank life and maintain peak efficiency for a longer period of time. Recovery speed is the amount of time it takes to heat a full tank of water. If you tend to use a lot of hot water, look for a model with a fast recovery speed. An automatic shutoff valve helps prevent fires by shutting off the flow of gas if there’s movement in the ground or the gas flow experiences a sudden, sizeable increase.

What is the best way to protect my investment and insure a longer life for my water heater?

At minimum you should flush your water heater and clean the burners once per year to help remove any sediment or rust that may be building up. This will greatly increase the life of your water heater, keep it performing at peak level, and can even extend it beyond the manufacturer’s warranty timeframe. We offer planned maintenance program to do just that – extend the life of your water heater and push it to the limit.

Can I install a water heater myself?

It is recommended that you use a licensed, professional installer as the installation of a water heater deals with carbon monoxide, natural gas, and a pressure-controlled holding tank. Any one of these factors could cause catastrophic damage and/or injury if the unit is not installed properly. Be sure to use a trained professional who knows the necessary codes and safety factors.

How do I know if I need to repair – rather than replace – my water heater?

It often comes down to the age and overall condition of the existing water heater. If the water heater is within a couple of years (2 years) of its manufacturer warranty period, we recommend that it to be replaced rather than repaired. However, if you cannot afford a full replacement, a repair provides a lower-cost solution that extends the life of your water heater, deferring the replacement expense.

What are common symptoms / problems that require professional repair?

  • While a leak from the tank vessel will always indicate a need for replacement (we will not conduct repair work on these tanks), attached accessories that are leaking – such as valves, flex hose, CPVC and copper lines – may be repairable.
  • Water won’t get as hot as it used to which can be related to gas valve issues, heating elements, burner assembly, dip tube, pilot light being out, settings have changed.
  • If you notice smell of gas near the water heater immediately shut off the gas supply and call for a service professional. We will thoroughly inspect it and recommend a solution which ensures safe and proper operation.
  • Rust/sediment in the water is generally a sign of corroding tank and can be flushed out, depending on the tank age and condition.
  • Foul smell coming from the unit is generally due to well water and may be eliminated by inserting a chlorine-treated anode rod into the tank or flushing the tank with chlorine. However, adding a water treatment system is the preferred option.
  • Unit is leaking from the top or side could be a problem with the pressure and temperature valve, flex water lines connections, or the pipes to or from the heater which can be repaired or replaced.
  • Banging pipes is often because of increased pressure in the system. It may be fixed with the installation of a pressure relief valve (PRV) or pressure regulator.
  • Noisy water heater may be related to the burner assembly, upper/lower heating elements, or system pressure and valves. We highly recommend inspecting the water heater when you hear loud noise coming out of it.

Is there a fee for an in-home visit?

Yes. A flat diagnostic fee will be charged to have the technician come out and assess the situation. If you decide to repair or replace the system, the diagnostic fee will be waived and you’ll simply pay for the water heater repair or the new installation.

Is there a fee for an in-home visit?

After scheduling an appointment that includes an in-home consultation fee, the technician will diagnose your water heater. He will review the findings and recommend any needed repairs, along with a final price. The technician may suggest replacing the water heater if the water tank or heat-exchanger is leaking or if the water heater is near the end of the warranty term.

What’s involved with an in-home visit?

After scheduling an appointment that includes an in-home consultation fee, the technician will diagnose your water heater. He will review the findings and recommend any needed repairs, along with a final price. The technician may suggest replacing the water heater if the water tank or heat-exchanger is leaking or if the water heater is near the end of the warranty term.

Can the repair work be done the same day as the assessment/diagnostic?

In most cases repair work or a replacement can be executed the same day.

What brands do you service?

We service all major brands of water heaters.

Tankless Water Heaters

What is a Tankless water heater?

Tankless water heaters raise cold water to the temperature you’ve digitally set when your demand for water passes either a gas burner or electric element. Another way to look at it is if a conventional tank-style water heater stores hot water and heats it 24/7, whether you use it or not, a compact Tankless water heater only heats water on demand, making it more energy efficient.

What are the benefits of a Tankless water heater and how does it differ from a traditional unit?

A Tankless water heater has lower operating costs, uses less space and can reduce energy consumption by as much as 30-50%. It also can provide continuous hot water at a precise temperature. However, it does require more up-front investment, may need venting, and takes about 13-15 seconds longer to deliver water to the faucet.

How much more do Tankless water heaters cost to purchase?

Generally, a Tankless water heater will cost about 2 to 2-1/2 times as much as a standard water heater to purchase and install. Factored into that price are the higher production costs for the unit, venting, gas line resizing required to support the unit’s demands, and an electrical outlet to power it. However, you’ll have lower operating costs, more useable square footage and may be eligible for federal or local tax incentives and credits.

Can a Tankless unit be installed in the same place as my old water heater?

As long as enough combustion air is provided, Tankless water heaters can be installed in a utility room, garage, basement, attic, or placed on an outside wall. Plus, they may be installed in locations where a storage water heater may not fit. The digital temperature controller may be mounted in any room.

How much may I expect to save on my monthly bill if I install a Tankless water heater?

Test results have shown that a Tankless gas water heater costs about 30-50% less to operate than an electric water heater and about 20-40% less than a natural gas water heater. Please note that there is no guarantee that you will achieve these exact cost savings as many factors go into the efficiency and operation of these units.

Do Tankless water heaters have lower operating costs?

The operating cost of the unit depends heavily on your usage and behavior. Tankless units carry a much higher Energy Factor, meaning a larger percentage of the energy you use will be directly transferred to heating your water. A Tankless water heater has no standing pilot light, no standby loss and burners that modulate to maintain maximum efficiency. So if you have exactly the same water usage behavior (duration of shower, amount of applications using the unit, usage at the same time of day) a Tankless will have a lower operating cost.

Can I install a Tankless water heater myself?

It is recommended that you use a licensed, professional installer as the installation of a water heater deals with carbon monoxide, natural gas, water lines, electrical components, and a high temperature heat-exchanger. Any one of these factors could cause catastrophic damage and/or injury if the unit is not installed properly. Be sure to use a trained professional who knows the necessary codes and safety factors.

How do I ensure that I select the right-sized Tankless water heater for my home?

We will guide you through the selection process and ensure that the Tankless unit you select will appropriately support your needs.

Can I convert the water heater from liquid propane to natural gas or natural gas to liquid propane?

No, these units cannot be converted from one fuel source to another.

Where in my home can I install a Tankless water heater?

Depending on the model, a Tankless water heater may be installed in all locations. However, any location will require access for combustion air from outdoors. Such models are not designed for use in mobile homes. Outdoor models are a great alternative if your climate is appropriate, saving both space and the cost of venting.

Solar Energy Systems

What is a Solar Home?

In California’s New Solar Homes Partnership, a solar home is a highly energy efficient home that uses photovoltaic (or PV) modules to generate electricity from the sun. While the science to convert sunlight directly into electricity has been around for decades, in recent years both the technology and economics have improved for photovoltaic and now systems are becoming mainstream. Currently, California has tens of thousands of homeowners enjoying the benefits of solar on their homes.

A solar home with high energy-efficiency features offers homeowners:

  • Clean, renewable energy
  • Utility bill savings
  • Predictable utility costs
  • Protection against future rising electricity costs

Are solar panels right for my home?

There are a couple of factors that go into whether or not solar is a good fit for your home:

  • Does your roof get much sun exposure?
  • What is the condition of your roof? What material is it made of?
  • Is your roof shaded at all?
  • Does solar make sense for your budget?

How much sun do solar panels need?

Sunlight is important for solar, but even cloudy areas are great for solar energy. It doesn’t matter as much where you live, whether it’s the Northeast or Southwest. What matters more is your roof (or property/land, if you’re thinking of a ground system). As long as your roof is free of shade and faces the South, East, or West, you’ll get plenty of sunshine for panels.

How much roof space do solar panels need?

On average, for every kilowatt (kW) installed, a home solar system takes up about 100 square feet. Most residential solar systems are between 3 and 6 kW, so an average solar system takes between 300 and 600 square feet.

What is the best type of roof for solar panels?

The perfect roof for solar could be described as made of composite and not too steep, with unobstructed space for the solar panels. That being said, solar works on many kinds of roofs, even on slate and clay tile roofs. Wood shake roofs, flat roofs, and concrete tiles are a little more difficult to install on, but can be done.

Should I install solar panels on my house?

Going solar can be a very smart financial choice, depending on your home and how much you’re currently paying for power. If your average monthly electric bill (gas not included) is $250, then you’re paying too much. Adding solar panels can help you cut your electric bill by locking in low solar electric rates.

If you:

  • Own your home
  • Pay too much for electricity ($250 or more)
  • Have a roof with minimal shade that faces south, east, or west

Then we believe solar can be a really good option for you and we can help!

How many solar panels do I need to run my home?

The size of your solar system depends on a number of factors:

  • How much electricity your home uses
  • Angle, pitch, and direction of your roof
  • Unobstructed roof space that is availableIn general, your solar system will not be designed to offset 100% of your electricity needs. This is because it makes more financial sense to get some of your electricity from solar energy and the rest from your utility company (i.e. in the daytime, solar electricity is bountiful but utility electric rates may be at their peak; at night, your system won’t produce any solar energy, but you can use cheaper, off-peak electricity from the utility company).A typical system size can range anywhere from between 10 to 20 panels, though systems panel quantity vary from one house to another. The easiest and most accurate way to figure out how many panels your home will need is to get a free solar consultation by calling us toll free at (866)-620-0409.

Should I consider a ground mounted solar system?

If your roof isn’t optimal for solar and you have ground space, you might choose a ground mounted solar system. People commonly choose ground mounted systems if the roof doesn’t work (faces the wrong direction, made of the wrong materials, etc.) or if they have a lot of space on their property.

Will solar panels work if my roof isn’t new?

In general, we recommend that your roof be less than 15 years old if you decide to go solar. Your home solar system will last for twenty years or more, so you’ll need to have at least twenty good years left on your roof. If your roof needs to be replaced or repaired, it’s best to do so before or when you get solar, so you don’t have to remove and re-install the panels later on. However, it is possible to do a roof replacement or repairs once you have solar. But it can be time consuming and your solar company won’t cover all the expenses involved. However, we will help you coordinate the removal and re-installation if you decided to do so.

If your roof is relatively new or structurally sound, solar might be a great option for you.

Can my homeowners association (HOA) stop me from installing panels on my home?

Usually HOA will not prevent the process. An HOA may try, but in many states, this is not allowed. In California specifically, the California Solar Rights Act says that homeowners associations (HOAs), governments, and other organizations can’t stop you from installing a home solar power system. However, HOAs may ask you to modify the design and/or location for aesthetic reasons as long as the changes don’t significantly impact solar electricity production (a decrease greater than 10%) or cost more than $2,000.

How do I get power at night with home solar?

Although your system doesn’t produce any electricity at night, a process called net metering allows you to benefit from the day’s production. In the morning, your system is producing a little bit of electricity. It’s probably enough to power your hair dryer or make toast for breakfast. You use it as you produce it.During the day, when the sun is at the highest point in the sky, your system produces a lot of electricity, and you’re probably not using all the power being produced. The additional electricity your system produces flows back into the grid and runs your meter backwards, earning you credits.

At night, when your system is not producing any electricity, the credit you earned during the day carries over, and you take electricity back from the grid.

How long will a home solar power system last?

Most home solar power systems are predicted to last between 25 and 35 years. The inverter will need to be replaced in about ten years.

How frequently should I clean my panels?

The solar electricity your panels produce will naturally vary depending mostly on the season and number of daylight hours. Most dust and debris that gets on your panels won’t significantly impact solar production, and average wind and rainfall will keep your solar panels producing at near optimum. In certain situations, dust and debris can decrease your solar production by 5% to 15%, but this would most likely occur in special situations, such as a forest fire near your home. It’s best to clean your panels if you notice a significant drop in electricity production or once a year. We also recommend having the wiring and components inspected and tightened at the same time.

What happens when it rains, snows, sleets or hails?

It doesn’t have to be completely sunny for your panels to produce electricity. In bad weather, your panel production won’t be 100%, but your panels will still be producing power. On a cloudy day, your panels might produce 30% of what they normally would. The exception is a snowstorm. If it snows enough for there to be a significant accumulation on your panels, your panels will not produce electricity. However, snow slides off easily, and your panels tend to be located where your roof gets the most sun, so the snow on your panels will melt first and your panels will resume producing electricity. If you live in an area that gets snow in the winter, snow days are likely, snow days will be factored into your system’s projected production. Solar panels can handle some pretty tough weather. Most solar panels are guaranteed to withstand 3/4 inch hail balls at 120 miles per hour, and they are also built to withstand direct lightning strikes.

If the power goes out, will my home solar power system keep producing electricity?

A typical solar system connected to the grid will not produce energy when the power goes out. For safety reasons, your home solar power system will automatically shut off if the power goes out. This is to protect utility workers who might be working on power lines in an outage from being exposed to live electricity.

Energy Management

What is energy management?

“Energy management” is a term that has a number of meanings, but we’re mainly concerned with the one that relates to saving energy in businesses, public-sector/government organizations, and homes. When it comes to energy saving, energy management is the process of monitoring, controlling, and conserving energy in a building or a home.

While energy management has been popular in larger buildings for a long time, it has only recently started catching on in homes. Most homeowners aren’t even aware of the term, and take more of a haphazard, flying-blind approach to reducing their energy consumption. But the monitoring- and results-driven approach used by professional energy managers is just as effective in the home as it is in larger buildings. So, if you’re a homeowner looking to save energy, don’t be put off by the fact that energy management systems focus more on non-residential buildings. Most of the principles that apply to businesses and other organizations are also applicable to homes.

Why is it important?

Energy management system (EMS) is an additional approach to saving energy in your building or home. It is the process of monitoring and controlling energy consuming equipment in your home or building (A/C & Heating, pumps, lights, etc.) while enhancing the occupants comfort and conserving energy. Energy management system (EMS) will help you save money.

What are the benefits to me, the customer?

  • You can reduce your home’s electric consumption without changes to your lifestyle or comfort levels. Energy management system (EMS) can lower your heating and cooling costs by up to 10% or more.
  • Using the latest technology, you will be able to create personal energy management programs and manage your home’s energy usage from your secure online account.
  • You will be able to access your online account from most internet-enabled devices, like smartphones and tablet computers. This means you can change your home’s program at your convenience from almost anywhere.
  • You will be able to create different energy management programs for seasons of the year, holidays, vacations and special situations.
  • As you reduce your energy use, you will be doing your part to help the environment.

Will I save money on my electric bill?

While we can’t be sure of the exact dollar amount you will save, we expect the average energy savings for our participants to be 10 percent or more on heating and cooling cost. There are many variables that enter into the amount of your home’s electric bill, including the amount of energy used and the rates that are in effect.

How quickly will I see savings?

You will be able to monitor and control your electric use from your personal online account almost immediately. Programming it to maximum saving can take some trial but usually less than a month.

If you have any further questions you’d like to ask our team of Van Nuys HVAC specialists, call us today at (818) 581-2686!

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