At the peak of summer, you may be well aware of how much your home depends on a well-functioning air conditioner. But do you know where it came from? And where it’s going?

Early Beginnings

The Mitchell Cooling and Heating team has been serving Atlanta and the North Metro area for almost thirty years, but air conditioning (and, consequently, A/C service) has been around for much longer.

Attempts to control indoor temperatures perhaps began in ancient Egypt, where water-soaked mats were hung in doorways to help cool rooms from the dry desert air.  Later, in Rome, elaborate aqueduct systems were implemented in part to circulate cooling water through villa walls. However, internal climate control wasn’t widespread until electricity became more readily available. 

At the turn of the 20th century, Willis Carrier developed a cooling system, upon which modern air conditioning is built. Originally designed to resolve the problems humidity caused in image printing at Brooklyn’s Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographic and Publishing Company, Carrier’s system is largely credited as the origin of modern air conditioning.

The future success of Carrier’s invention stood on the shoulders of others. 

“Long before Carrier was even born,” Smithsonian Magazine explains, “University of Glasgow professor William Cullen evaporated liquids in a vacuum thus creating refrigeration technology as early as 1748.” And in 1841, John Gorrie also invented his own ice-making machine in an attempt to cure Yellow Fever. 

Combined together, each of these technological breakthroughs established the current cooling we enjoy today. 

Modern Progress

The growing popularity of movie theaters and hotels helped spur air conditioning’s progress. Memorial Day weekend of 1925, the Rivoli Theater in New York City debuted its own air conditioning system, offering cooler respites from summer doldrums. The experiment was a success, with Adolph Zukor, president of Paramount Pictures, proclaiming on the day of the reveal, “Yes, the people are going to like it.” 

Ensuing efforts continued to adapt the technology to create smaller, safer, and more affordable cooling methods — ones that could be implemented in homes or schools. Thanks in part to research and development by engineer Henry Galson, “By 1947, 43,000 of these systems were sold — and, for the first time, homeowners could enjoy air conditioning without having to make expensive upgrades.”

Future Forward

These days, air conditioning systems are nearly everywhere. But keeping up with the technology’s maintenance and growth could be as important as creating it in the first place. 

According to an October 2020 Forbes report, “IBISWorld expects 1% average growth in this $47.6 billion (estimated 2020 revenue industry) through 2025.” There will be a great demand for experienced technicians who can keep up. 

However, the impact of climate change is also something to keep track of as well. As the planet gets hotter, more cooling solutions will be needed, but systems that don’t further contribute to climate change will also be crucial.

“With more energy-efficient air conditioners and less super-polluting refrigerants,” Fast Company reported in July 2020, “we could avoid releasing greenhouse gases  . . . in the next four decades—like preventing eight years of total annual greenhouse gas emissions.”

Technicians will need to remain knowledgeable about this changing technology and help anticipate solutions for what’s to come. 

At Mitchell Cooling and Heating, our experts are continually educated to guarantee your system’s efficiency all year round. Give us a call anytime at 770-995-7585 or schedule a service appointment to ensure your system is in prime shape — and ready for the future.

21 years ago, Service Manager Bill Lord stepped through Mitchell Cooling and Heating’s doors and hasn’t looked back since. With 37 years’ worth of experience in the HVAC industry, the only surprise he’s encountered in his career was staying at one company for over two decades.  

Bill was introduced to the HVAC field by a friend’s dad who had his own repair and installation company. As a teenager, he started out as a helper for that company and quickly grew from there.

The Day to Day

As Service Manager, Bill’s role has him involved in several key parts of Mitchell’s day-to-day operations. In the morning, he helps the team by going over any pending work from the previous day and making sure each technician has what they need for upcoming service requests. 

Additionally, Bill is available to the office staff to make sure parts are ordered and that customers are fully satisfied with their service. On top of this, he makes sure to have the phone nearby in case any technicians out in the field need support.

For Bill, while there’s not enough time in the day to take care of everything, knowing that he gets to help someone every day is reward enough to keep going.

Three Pieces of Advice

With nearly four decades of experience, Bill only has three pieces of advice for people in the field.

“You can make a great career in HVAC, just get as much training as you can, and stay up to date on technology,” he says.

At home, Bill lives with his wife, Valerie, and their dogs. They have three adult children and two grandchildren. Outside of work, you can find him spending time hunting, fishing, and of course relaxing with Valerie and the rest of his family. This summer, they have big plans to hit the pool and grill out.

Do your big summer plans include updating your HVAC? Give us a call to schedule it by calling 770-995-7585. You can also schedule service online.

We’ve already sweated through some hot spring afternoons, but here in Georgia we know the sultry scorchers are still on the way.

When those sweltering days arrive in Atlanta and North Georgia, will your air conditioner be ready to keep you and your family cool? And will your AC keep you comfortable without barbecuing your bank account with searing hot energy bills?

Don’t let the dog days of summer catch you (and your pets) unprepared. Now’s the time to make sure your air conditioner is in tip-top condition. Here’s what you can do… 

A Measure of Maintenance Goes a Long Way

Some basic annual maintenance will go a long way toward helping your air conditioner cool effectively throughout its expected lifespan. And most of it is easy to do yourself.

Vacuum Vents. Run a vacuum over all your home’s vents, registers, and grilles to remove any accumulated dust and debris. While you’re at it, make sure that each vent has about a foot of unobstructed space around it. Relocate any furniture, artwork, and other life debris — we’re looking at you, winter boots dropped by the front door three months ago — to allow for easy air flow.

Clean the Condenser. As we suggested in last month’s post, clean up any branches and leaves on or around your outdoor condenser unit, then use a hose to spray dust and grime off the fan and condenser coils. You can also use a shop vac and soft-bristled brush to vacuum the condenser fins. (They’re delicate, so proceed with care.)

Douse the Drain. Your indoor evaporator unit has a drain pan under it to capture dripping condensation. A drain line then moves the water outside. Once a year, pour a cup of a 50/50 mix of bleach and water down that drain line, wait a few minutes, then flush it with lots of clean water. This will stop the growth of algae and help prevent clogs. If the water you pour in doesn’t drain, give your HVAC service provider a call right away. Pooling water in your drain pan can cause water damage and will keep your air conditioner from cooling as effectively.

More Maintenance for Fewer Problems. Professional preventative maintenance goes beyond the measures you can manage yourself, and it may lengthen the life of your equipment. Give us a call if you’d like to schedule an annual preventative maintenance appointment.

Lower Energy Bills are Cool Too

Some simple energy efficiency measures can help keep your energy bills cool without sacrificing your family’s comfort.

Be a Fan of Fans. Moving air moves heat off your skin, so make the most of fans. Ceiling fans, floor fans, desk fans, heck even hand fans will all keep you cooler, even with the thermostat set a few degrees higher. Just remember that fans don’t do you any good in an empty room, so turn them off when you leave.

Delete the Heat. With all the heat Mother Nature is making outside, don’t add to the problem by running stoves, ovens, dishwashers, and dryers during the hottest parts of the day. That’s just inviting in more heat that your air conditioner will then have to remove. Many modern dishwashers and dryers can be programmed to run at a set time, late at night or when you’re away from home. And outdoor grilling is a smart summertime substitute to running your oven and stove.

Savings Made with Your Shades. Some of your simplest cost-cutting cool tools are old school curtains and shades. Close them during the day, especially for windows that get direct sunlight, and you’ll send a lot of excess heat back outside to play.

More Ways to Beat the Heat

These are only a cool half dozen of the many ways you can keep your family comfortable this summer while saving on your energy bills. Want more? Give us a call anytime at 770-995-7585 or schedule a service appointment. We’ll be happy to help!

With the azaleas in bloom and warmer temperatures inviting us back outside, spring is our favorite season in Atlanta and North Georgia. (Pay no mind to the pollen coating our cars and sinuses.)

But with the winter chills mostly behind us and summer’s heat ahead, it’s a good time for some spring cleaning of your heating and cooling system.

Keep It Cool

You know when’s the worst time to find out your air conditioner isn’t cooling properly? During that first 95-degree day in early summer. Check out your AC now instead, when you can address any needed repairs before the heavy heat sets in.

As an easy test, simply turn on your air conditioner — in most cases, by adjusting your thermostat down below the current temperature. Wait a few minutes, then feel the air blowing out of your HVAC system’s exhaust vents. Is it cool? Good news! If not, then at least you have time to address it.

(Remember to turn your thermostat back up when you’re done with the test.)

To keep things running smoothly and efficiently, take a quick trip to your outdoor unit with a hose and a broom. Clean up any branches, leaves or other debris that are on your condenser unit, and clear a buffer area of a couple feet around its base. Then use the hose to spray excess grime off the condenser coils and fan. (Spraying water on the unit is safe, as long it’s properly installed. It is, after all, designed to run in the rain.)

For a more thorough test and tune-up of your air conditioner or heat pump, consider scheduling an inspection and maintenance call. It’ll give you peace of mind to know you’re all set for the heat.

Avoid the Allergens

But about that pollen… along with winter’s dust and your pet’s endless supply of dander and shed hair.

We say it every season, but that’s because you should do it at minimum once every three months: Change your air filter, replacing it with a high-efficiency filter that’s appropriate for your HVAC system. (We can advise you on that if you’re not sure.)

According to the Department of Energy, “Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.”

Spring is also a good time to vacuum or dust off your intake vents. If your allergies are worse than usual, you might also investigate having your ductwork cleaned. (It’s not something we or the EPA recommend for everyone, but in some cases it may help.)

Save on Spring Energy Bills

Spring is also a good time to get ahead on controlling your summer cooling costs while keeping you and your family comfortable at home. The tips we’ve already covered also help your HVAC system’s efficiency, but we’ve got more!

Remember to reverse the direction on your ceiling fans (assuming you did so for winter). In warm weather, you want the fans to push the air down, so the moving air cools your skin. For most fans, that means it’s spinning counterclockwise from your perspective looking up.

According to the Department of Energy, “A ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort.”

Spring is also a good time to search for any cracks or leaks that are letting the outside air sneak in. Close them up with caulk and weatherstripping.

As is true year-round, a programmable or smart thermostat can help you optimize your cooling, keeping you comfortable at home while conserving energy while you’re away. (We’ll be happy to install one for you.)

And if you’re looking for an excuse to upgrade your outdoor grill, we’re here to help: Cooking outdoors during the warm months saves your air conditioning system from having to remove all that extra heat. Those flame-grilled burgers are saving you money!

Need some help getting ready for warmer weather? We’re here for you and ready to help, any time. Give us a call at 770-995-7585 or schedule a service appointment. (Inviting us to your barbecue is optional.)

For 25 years, Assistant Service Manager April Johnston has been one of the most familiar friendly voices answering the phone when Mitchell Cooling and Heating customers call in asking for help.

Johnston joined the Mitchell team during her senior year at Dacula High School, back in 1996. As part of a work-based learning program, she would spend half her day at school, then half in the Mitchell “office.” At the time, the whole operation was run from a single, long desk with one computer and two phones, all of which she shared with Kathy Mitchell and Lindy Strickland

“We were literally elbow to elbow,” says Johnston. “We worked hard and we laughed, and we just had fun.”

In the early days, Johnston did a lot of filling out paperwork, filing, and making copies. “Everything was on paper, so everything took longer,” she says. “The copier was my best friend.”

As the company grew, so did Johnston’s responsibilities. In time, she took charge of answering customer calls, dispatching technicians, and coordinating the daily service schedule. While additional team members now take some of the customer calls, you’ll still often hear her voice when you call in. Some long-time customers even ask for her by name.

People You Know

Though raised in Lawrenceville, Georgia, Johnston went to Dacula for school, church, and softball practice. “It was a very small town when we were younger,” she says. “Everybody knew everybody. Until a few years ago, just about everybody who worked here, we knew them or knew their family.” (Mitchell is now headquartered in neighboring Auburn, Georgia.)

It’s part of why she has stayed so long at Mitchell. “I get along with everyone,” she says, “I’m paid well, and they treat me well. And when it comes down to it, they know me. We’ve been through the good, the bad, and the ugly together. There’s a lot of benefit to really knowing the people you work with.”

She says that many of Mitchell’s customers feel the same way.

“They like that it’s the same people when they call, no matter how long it’s been,” she says. “They know they’re not just another customer to us.”

Rearranging the World to Make It Work

“I do the best I can for every customer, every time,” Johnston says. “Not just because they’re someone special. Not because they’re so-and-so’s mother. Every customer who needs help is someone who needs help, and I do everything possible for them. I will rearrange the world to make it work.”

After 25 years at Mitchell, she and Lindy Strickland can even troubleshoot some problems over the phone, saving customers a service call by talking them through something simple like flipping a breaker switch back on.

“We don’t try to charge them for things they don’t need,” she says. “We’re not constantly pushing something new on them. We’re honest, and we do what we say we’re going to do.”

Family and Fun Adventures

Johnston and her husband have three children, two now grown, married, and out of the house. Because of the pandemic, it has been over a year since she last saw her son, who is in the Army and currently based in Alaska. She hopes she’ll be able to visit him soon. Her daughter lives close by, so they’re able to visit her more often. Johnston’s youngest is still at home and is enjoying time as the only child in the house. 

Johnston and her husband are nevertheless content making the most of their time with family. “We enjoy being together, doing whatever comes up or just hanging out,” she says. “We may wake up Saturday morning and decide to go for a mountain hike, head to the lake, visit an antique store, or just take off for the day.” Sundays and some weeknights are taken up by church.

After years of marriage, they know each other well and have been through a lot together. Loving someone, trusting them, and knowing them well for so many years… What else could anyone want?

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Is it time for your spring HVAC maintenance? Give April a call to schedule it or talk with anyone else in the office by calling 770-995-7585. You can also schedule service online.

In our January blog, we discussed the negative impact dry air can have on your home and your personal health. We also offered a few solutions for testing the humidity of your air, including scheduling a service call with our team. If your home does have low humidity during the colder months, a whole-house humidifier may be the best solution and will benefit you and your family in several ways.

1. Better Health

Low humidity can dry out your nasal passages, sinuses, throat, and even lungs. By raising indoor humidity to healthier levels, a whole house humidifier may lower your family’s risk of sinusitis and sore throat.

For some people, a humidifier can also reduce the severity of allergies and asthma, although you should always consult with your doctor first. And make sure to keep up on regular maintenance, as a poorly maintained humidifier can spread mold or bacteria, making allergies and asthma worse.

Adding moisture to your home’s dry air may also help prevent the spread of airborne viruses, such as colds and flus. Basically, in drier air, viral droplets evaporate into smaller aerosols faster and float longer, giving them more opportunity to infect the people in your home.

Finally, if you or someone in your family has a cold, cough, or other respiratory disease, healthy humidity levels may help reduce inflammation, open airways, and ease congestion.

2. Better Sleep (and Less Snoring)

Low humidity indoor air can dry out your soft palate, triggering snoring or making it worse. A whole house humidifier moistens the soft palate, throat, and nasal passages. It may also reduce allergies and congestion, both of which can cause snoring.

With less snoring, easier breathing, and better overall comfort, you and your family may sleep better too.

3. Comfort

No matter how much lotion and lip balm you apply through the winter, properly humidified air is going to be more comfortable for you and your family. You’re less likely to develop chapped lips, dry skin and eczema, and irritated eyes and throat.

A whole house humidifier also reduces static in your home: the static that may mess up your hair, cling to your clothes, or give you a shock when you touch a family member or pet.

Drier air also feels colder, so adding moisture will help you feel warmer at lower temperatures.

4. Energy Savings

Because moist air feels warmer, you may be able to lower your thermostat a degree or two, saving money on your utility bills. Powering the humidifier does consume a little electricity, but, as we’ll discuss below, some types of whole house humidifiers are extremely efficient. You can easily have a net savings on your utilities.

5. House

Finally, maintaining moderate humidity in your home is better for your house and many of your belongings.

Excessively dry air can shrink, warp, or crack wood floors, framing, molding, and furniture. It can dry out and cause peeling in paint. It can even damage wooden instruments such as guitars and violins. And the increase in static electricity can damage sensitive electronics. All of this can be prevented by maintaining that 30-50% relative humidity range.

Whole house humidifiers are also better for your houseplants. Most common indoor houseplants come from humid tropical climates, so they tend not to do well in dry air. They’ll thank you for the added humidity with healthier green leaves.

Whole House vs. Portable Humidifiers

As you are probably aware, there are many portable humidifiers available on the market. While these may be a quick, temporary fix for a single room, whole house humidifiers offer many advantages.

  1. As the name suggests, whole house humidifiers treat the air throughout your house, while portable units generally only treat a single room.
  2. Most portable humidifiers don’t have hygrometers (humidity sensors). They don’t sense the room’s humidity and maintain it at a set level. Whole house humidifiers always have hygrometers and automatically adjust to maintain ideal indoor humidity.
  3. Whole house humidifiers are generally healthier, as long as you keep up on annual maintenance. Portable units are prone to developing mold and bacteria, and some types may even spread allergens and irritants (white mineral dust) in the air.
  4. Portable humidifiers require regular deep cleaning, and you have to refill their reservoirs daily or more often. Whole house humidifiers are easier to maintain. They only need annual maintenance, and they are directly connected to your home’s water supply, so you never have to refill them.
  5. According to Energy Star, portable humidifiers typically must be replaced every 3-5 years. Whole house humidifiers last 10 years or more. Because many key parts are replaceable, you may even be able to extend their lifetime much further.
  6. Many whole house humidifiers are more energy efficient than portable units. There are many variables to calculating this, but the most efficient types of whole house humidifiers let your existing HVAC system do most of the work.

Types of Whole House Humidifiers

There are three main types of whole house humidifiers.

Bypass humidifiers periodically spray water onto a pad or filter through which your HVAC system’s blower pushes heated air. Because bypass humidifiers piggy-back on the forced air your HVAC system is already moving, they are extremely efficient. However, they cannot run independently of your furnace and blower. The heat must be running for the humidifier to add moisture. For extremely dry air, this may not be enough.

Fan-powered humidifiers work similarly to bypass humidifiers, but they also have their own fan to push humidity through your ductwork even when your HVAC system’s main blower is not running. They draw a little more electricity but are still relatively efficient.

Steam humidifiers heat water to generate steam, which is then pushed through your ductwork. They are highly effective but use 14 times as much electricity as bypass humidifiers, according to Energy Star. (PDF)

For the Health and Comfort of You and Your Family, We’re Here to Help

Whether you’re trying to decide if a whole-house humidifier makes sense for your home, or are wondering which kind is right for you, we’re here to help. Give us a call anytime or schedule a service call. We’ll give you our best advice. Then we’ll help you with whatever you decide makes the most sense for your family’s health and comfort.

The climate in Atlanta and North Georgia is certainly no desert. Outside, the average monthly relative humidity rarely drops below 60% and it rises up near 80% in sultry August. But in the late fall, winter, and early spring, our heating systems can create desert-dry air in our homes.

You may notice dry air first through the discomforts it can bring. Dry, itchy skin. Chapped lips. Irritated eyes. If dry air persists, you may develop a sore throat, inflamed sinuses, and even nose bleeds.

Your body will also feel colder in dry air. Moisture evaporates more easily from your body, cooling you down. You’re likely to turn up the thermostat to compensate. This can raise your monthly energy bills and make the dry air even worse.

In addition to discomfort, dry air can cause or worsen many respiratory problems. It may even damage your house, furniture, plants, and other belongings. Learn about the effects of dry air below!

How Does Your Heating System Dry Air?

While the details of the answer vary somewhat for different kinds of heating systems, furnaces generally do not remove water from the air inside your home. Rather, the cold air outside your home cannot hold as much total moisture as warm air. It tends to have a lower absolute humidity[1] even if its relative humidity[2] is still high.

As your furnace heats up that cold air from outside, the air’s capacity to absorb moisture goes up, but there’s no more moisture in the air to absorb. Your home’s relative humidity goes down, and the air goes looking for other sources of moisture to absorb… sources such as your skin, eyes, and respiratory system.

How Can You Measure the Humidity of Your Home Air?

Recommendations for the ideal home humidity vary slightly from source to source, but both the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Mayo Clinic suggest maintaining a relative humidity of 30-50%.

Some models of smart thermostats have a built-in hygrometer (a humidity sensor), so you may be able to get a relative humidity reading directly from your thermostat.

If your thermostat does not include a humidity sensor, you can find many affordable, battery-powered hygrometers online or in your local hardware or home store. If you find them for a good price, consider buying a few and placing them in different areas of your home. Or buy one and move it around from time to time to compare humidity levels.

You’re likely to find more humid conditions in your basement, bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry room. You may find drier air in bedrooms, living rooms, home offices, and other living areas.

You’re also welcome to schedule a service call with us, and we’ll test your humidity levels for you. (If you’re concerned about dry indoor air, it’s best to do this during the colder months, when your home’s humidity is likely to be at its lowest. Call us in the summer if you’re concerned about indoor air that’s too humid.)

Our Team is Here to Help

However you test your home humidity, if you find levels below 30%, it’s time to consider a whole house humidifier for healthier indoor air. In our next blog, we’ll discuss the five major benefits of getting a whole house humidifier, differentiating why it’s safer than a portable humidifier, and making a few recommendations for which type of whole house humidifier would best fit your needs.

Or, if you’re interested in learning about our recommended whole house humidifiers or have any further questions on the effects of dry air, reach out to us here or give our team a call at 770-995-7585. We look forward to your call!

[1] The total mass of water vapor in a volume of air.

[2] The mass of water vapor as a percentage of the maximum amount the air could hold at the current temperature.

A member of the Mitchell Cooling and Heating team since 1994, Lindy Strickland wears many hats: human resources, office manager, customer service, and dispatch. In her first year with the company, she was also our lead childcare provider.

Back then, owners Chris and Kathy Mitchell ran the two-year-old company out of their home. While Chris was out installing heating and cooling systems in new construction, Kathy and Strickland took turns answering the phones, scheduling calls, and taking care of the Mitchells’ young daughter.

As the company grew, they soon moved into a proper office space, and Strickland focused entirely on company operations. She was later promoted to office manager and now oversees the office team. She still answers the phones and schedules service calls as needed. (If you’re already a Mitchell customer, you’ve undoubtedly spoken with her from time to time.) But as the business and team have grown, Strickland has taken on accounts receivable, paying bills, human resources, and office management.

“When I first started, everything was done on paper,” says Lindy, “paper service tickets, and each customer had an actual paper file. When calls came in we had to pull the files and give past customer information to the techs.”

Technology has since greatly streamlined that process. “Over the years, the computers and iPads have made things much simpler,” she says. “The techs now have the ability to see all the past information, the history, for each of the calls they have. That frees us up to help more customers.”

Good People Who Work Well Together

Strickland is not alone in her long tenure with the company. Assistant Service Manager April Johnston has been with the company 24 years. New Construction Manager Gus Loaiza has been with us for 25 years. General Manager Bill Lord is the new kid with only 20 years at the company (though he has 30 years experience in the HVAC industry).

“That gives people confidence in our staff,” says Strickland. “They know who we are when we pick up the phone. They’ll get to know a particular tech and always request them by name. They’ve had them in their homes and know them on a personal level.”

For Strickland, the people of Mitchell are like a second family.

“We have a good, honest, dependable group who are here to do their best at what they do,” says Strickland, “whether it’s in the office or working out in the field. We all pitch in wherever we’re needed to take care of our customers to the best of our ability.”

Family, Faith, and Mountain Hikes

Outside of work, Strickland is very active in her church, although the present COVID-19 restrictions have limited that somewhat. “We can’t be as involved as usual,” she says.

“Our family spends a lot of time together,” Strickland says. She and her husband have adult children now living in Savannah and Athens, so they frequently road-trip on the weekends to visit one or the other. Her son, currently in school to become a physical therapist, is getting married soon, so they’ve been helping to prepare for that important day.

Strickland and her husband also like to go hiking in the mountains. “We’ve taken a couple of trips out to Colorado,” she says, “and this year we went to Montana and Wyoming. We go up to the Smokies often and hike all over North Georgia.”

These hikes are all day hikes, she says. “At night, I want to take a shower and sleep in a hotel.”

Sleeping in a tent, with no heating or air conditioning? It’s just not for her.

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Is it time for your regular HVAC maintenance? Give Lindy a call to schedule it or talk with anyone else in the office by calling 770-995-7585. You can also schedule service online.

November weather can keep you guessing in Atlanta and North Georgia. You might be going to the park in shorts one weekend, then shoveling an inch of snow the next. (OK, it’ll probably be more like a quarter inch, but we’ll tell anyone we know up North it was a foot.)

Still, even though the temperatures may keep you guessing day to day, you’ll probably fire up the furnace more than once this month. That can drive your energy usage up and deliver some eye-popping utility bills right around the holidays.

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to save energy this fall, and none of it requires shivering in your own home. You and your family can conserve energy while staying comfortable and preparing for fall and all year round.

Reverse the Spin of Your Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer, but you do have to change the direction they spin in the cooler months. The blades should spin clockwise, from your perspective looking up at them. This will draw cooler air up toward the ceiling and force some of the warmer air down without blowing a cooling draft on you.

Many ceiling fans have a switch on their base to do this. Turn the fan off first and let the blades come to a stop. Adjust the switch, then turn the fan back on. Fans that have a remote control may instead have a “Reverse” button you can push on the remote.

Make the Most of Your Fireplace

Wood stove or gas insert fireplaces are an effective way to help heat your home, and they bring a cozy warmth to any room. Open fireplaces are less efficient, though you can retrofit them with box inserts, tempered glass doors, and special grates or a blower to return heated air to the room instead of sending it up the chimney.

Whenever your fireplace is not in use, remember to close the damper so that warm air doesn’t escape out the chimney. (And always open the damper when you start a fire, so the smoke and other fumes can escape.)

Use Windows Wisely

In cooler months, windows can bring warmth into your home along with light. During the day, open blinds and curtains, especially those that face to the south where the most sunlight will shine in. Close them again at sunset to keep the warmth inside.

If your home doesn’t have modern energy-efficient windows and you aren’t ready to make the investment in replacing them, consider installing cellular (honeycomb) shades or insulating films to inhibit the radiation of heat out through your windows.

Install a Smart Thermostat, or Be Smart With Your Thermostat

This is really a year-round conservation tip, but the newer smart thermostats can save you substantially on your monthly utility bills while keeping you comfortable at home. (The manufacturers’ claims range from 15% to 23% savings, but your results may vary.) Smart thermostats learn your daily patterns, then adjust heating and cooling to save you energy and money.

(We’ll be happy to install one for you.)

Even if you have an older mechanical or programmable thermostat, you can save energy by making smart cool weather choices. Consider turning your thermostat down to 68° when you’re at home and awake, and 7-10° lower when you’re away or asleep. (Cooler temperatures are better for sleeping anyway.) According to the Department of Energy, this can save you as much as 10% on your heating and cooling costs.

Check Your Insulation and Sealing

We have a lot of beautiful old homes here in Georgia. (Plenty of nice new ones too.) Most of them were built long before we all got serious about energy conservation. Has your home’s insulation been upgraded to modern standards? Good insulation can save you a lot on your energy bills and make your home more comfortable too.

While preparing for fall, it’s also a good time to check around the edges of exterior doors, windows, and fireplaces for any gaps letting hot air out and cold air in. Look for light shining through and feel for drafts. Seal any gaps with weather stripping, caulk, or, if the gaps are large, expandable insulation foam. It can save you up to 10% on your energy bills.

Inspect and Maintain Your HVAC System

HVAC maintenance is one of Energy Star’s top fall tips for saving on your utility bills while keeping your home comfortable. You should inspect your furnace’s air filter at least once a month and change it no less than every three months or whenever it is visibly dirty. Dirty filters force your heating system to work harder to blow warm air throughout your home, and this drives up your energy costs.

Energy Star also advises an annual professional inspection and tune-up. A well tuned HVAC system will run more efficiently and keep your home reliably comfortable. Regular maintenance may also extend the life of your system.

(So consider scheduling that tune-up today.)

A qualified heating and cooling expert will inspect your ductwork, furnace or heat pump, blower, and all other components of your system. They’ll clean dirty components, replace worn parts before they break, and may recommend additional measures such as better insulating and sealing your ductwork.

Enjoy the Season by Preparing For Fall

Autumn in Atlanta and North Georgia is a wonderful time of year. Whether you’re outside enjoying the crisp days or staying cozy at home, enjoy the season in comfort while saving money too. Give us a call to schedule your HVAC maintenance or have us install a smart thermostat today or if you have any more questions about preparing for fall. We look forward to hearing from you.

If you whistle while you work, you may just enjoy the work you do, but if your air conditioner is whistling, it’s a sign that something is wrong. At the least, your air conditioner is probably working too hard, possibly running up your power bills and shortening the life of your unit. It’s possible that something more serious is going on. So if your air conditioner is whistling, it’s signaling for attention and help. Please don’t ignore its call.

Most Common Reason: Low Return Airflow

In most cases, a high-pitched whistling sound means that your air conditioner isn’t getting enough airflow through the return vents and ductwork: the ones that pull air from your home to the air conditioning evaporator coils to cool it. Your air conditioner has to work harder to pull enough air through the system. This leads to high-pressure, high-speed air moving through the return ductwork, and that causes the whistling you’re hearing.

The same thing can happen when you have insufficient airflow through the supply vents and ductwork: the ones that push cooled air out to your home. This is a little less likely to cause a high-pitched whistling noise and more likely to cause a deeper hum or roar.

Several issues can lead to poor airflow, and some of them you can diagnose and fix yourself.

Is it time to replace your air filter?

A dirty air filter can slow the flow of air through your central air system. If it has been more than three months since you last replaced it or if it looks visibly dirty, go ahead and replace it and see if that helps.

Are your vents blocked by furniture or other obstructions?

Keeping the areas immediately around your vents cleared allows air to flow with less effort. If furniture, drapes, boxes, or other objects are in the way, move them out or over to let the air flow freely through the vent.

Are vent dampers closed?

Some vents have dampers to reduce the flow of air into unused rooms. You may even have closed them accidentally while doing other housework. Air conditioning systems are generally designed to work best with all the dampers open. Closing one in an unused guest room might not have a big impact, but if you have several dampers closed, open them up and see if the whistling goes away.

Are all the doors closed?

If you have a home with many separate rooms and doors, consider leaving at least some of the doors open for easier whole-house airflow. Even though your interior doors aren’t airtight, forcing all the airflow through small gaps around doors can put added strain on your air conditioner.

Was the ductwork correctly configured?

There’s quite a bit of science and engineering that goes into planning a central air system, including the necessary ductwork. Installation technicians have to carefully balance return and supply airflow with the overall capacity of the blower. If your system either wasn’t designed correctly or has been altered over time as new equipment is installed, your system may not have the right balance. This isn’t something you’ll be able to diagnose or fix yourself, but our service technicians will be happy to investigate it for you if the whistling continues.

But It Could Be: Duct Leaks

Your home’s ductwork has many joints along it, where sections of duct come together. When installed correctly, these joints should be well sealed by the installer. This allows the system work efficiently and helps prevent those whistles. Over time, the seals around duct joints can develop leaks, allowing air to flow through.

You probably won’t be able to diagnose or fix this yourself, but you can schedule a service call to get your ductwork joints checked out.

Or Is It: Bearings and Belts

Are you sure it’s a whistle and not a screech? (Sorry to get so technical, but we’re experts in strange house noises.) A squealing, screeching sound could be the drive belt on your blower (for older models) or bearings in your condenser fan motor. You can do an initial diagnosis by standing near the outdoor condenser unit and then by the indoor blower. Does it seem like the sound is coming from one of these units? If so, your blower or condenser may be at risk of failure soon. Reach out to us promptly to get it checked out before something breaks down.

Quiet Comfort

A properly installed and maintained air conditioner should be felt and not heard. If yours is making noises — whether whistles, screeches, rattles, or hums — give us a call. We’ll figure out what your system is complaining about, then do what it takes to return it to quiet contentment.