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Fall/Winter Maintenance Checklist

In central Arizona, winter tends to arrive late and leave early. Even though freezing temperatures are extremely rare, winter does arrive every year, and your furnace needs service and preventative maintenance every winter. Here are five checklist tips to get you through the winter.

    1. Interior air qualityInterior air collects dust, allergens, and other pollutants. Does your furniture need dusting occasionally? The fine particles that you collect when you dust are the same that are circulating in your interior air day after day. In most cases, the quality of your interior air is much poorer than outside air. Your heating and cooling technician can measure your indoor air quality and recommend methods to clean it and reduce harmful pollutants.

      The first line of defense against dirty indoor air is your air filter. Change your furnace filter frequently, use a high-quality air filter, and change it often. If you remove a filter and it is noticeably darker from accumulated dust, you aren’t changing it as often as you should.

Over the years, dust and other pollutants accumulate in ductwork. Professional duct cleaning and sealing will remove years of accumulated grime and improve the quality of the air that is circulating in your home. Devices can be installed in ductwork to kill bacteria, viruses, mold, and other harmful materials in your air. Ask your technician for recommendations.

  1. Thermostat settingsA good rule of thumb for a thermostat is to set it at 68 degrees for the winter and 76 degrees for the summer. In winter, many homeowners choose to lower their thermostats overnight. Every one degree higher in winter or lower in summer will add about 1% to your utility bill. A programmable or smart thermostat will adjust the settings to accommodate your daily and weekly routine. In most cases, programmable and smart thermostats pay for themselves through reduced utility costs.
  2. Furnace maintenanceAn often-overlooked way in which programmable thermostats pay for themselves is that your furnace will run less often, usually giving it additional years of service before needing to be replaced. Regular tune-ups and preventative maintenance will also prolong the efficient operating life of your furnace. Annual service plans pay for themselves, but equally important is the peace of mind that you are not going to have a system breakdown on a cold night or when your family is gathering for the holidays.
  3. Unpleasant smellsWhen furnaces get turned on for the first time after not being used for months, it is not uncommon for homeowners to notice a burning smell. It is likely that the smell comes from the dust that has accumulated over the months of not being used. As the dust burns off, it emits a burning plastic smell. Allow 10-15 minutes for the dust to burn off, and the smell should go away. If the smell lingers longer, there might be a different problem and you should turn the furnace off and call Semper Fi Heating & Cooling. They will send a technician to check it out.
  4. InsulationGood insulation, properly installed, helps keep the cold air out in the winter and hot air out in the summer. Inadequate insulation—along with windows and doors that are not sealed properly—lets in the outside air and causes your heating and cooling system to work harder year-round. Good insulation allows your furnace and air conditioner to work less and with fewer repairs for longer.

For more information about furnace problems, tune-ups, or other heating and cooling problems, call the expert technicians at Semper Fi Heating & Cooling at 480-616-3636.

Save Energy with a Heat Pump

Way back in the middle of the 19th century, an Austrian named Peter von Rittinger observed that forests in upper Austria were being cleared to use as fuel for producing salt from naturally occurring salt brine. He developed a process to evaporate water from salt brine using 80% less energy than boiling away the water over a wood fire. He called his device a steam pump. Today, we refer to systems performing similar functions as heat pumps.

Modern heat pumps are used for both heating and cooling. They remain one of the more energy-efficient systems for heating and cooling. There are two types of modern heat pumps. Geothermal, also known as ground source, utilizes heat from underground or underwater and condenses it to produce heat or cooling to distribute through a home. Air-sourced heat pumps take in outside air to do the same thing. Both types are capable of keeping your home warm in winter and cool in summer.

Why Consider a Heat Pump?
  1. Most HVAC industry information recommends that a conventional central heating and cooling system should be replaced every 10-15 years. Well-maintained systems may last longer, but eventually repair costs get higher and higher as more expensive components start breaking down. Air conditioners usually fail before furnaces, but often it is best to replace both units at the same time. Heat pumps have a longer life expectancy; 20-25 years is not uncommon. For a house that is expected to last a normal lifetime, replacing the conventional central heating and cooling system may be needed two or three times. A heat pump may only need to be replaced once.
  2. Heat pumps require less maintenance. A once a year preventative maintenance and service check is all that is needed. Conventional systems should be checked twice a year. Not only does a heat pump need repair less often, when it does need repair it is likely to be less expensive. Heat pumps have fewer parts to break down and require replacement than conventional systems.
  3. Heat pumps are more energy efficient; utility bills will be lower. Heat pumps use electric-powered fans to circulate air around a home, but they do not directly consume fossil fuels to produce heat. In most homes without a heat pump, the central heating and cooling system is the largest user of energy.
  4. Over their lifespan, most conventional air conditioners develop refrigerant leaks. The leaks get repaired with regular maintenance and more refrigerant is added. The missing refrigerant has leaked out into the air as environmental pollution. Replacing refrigerant is costly, and dispersing the refrigerant into the atmosphere is harmful. Heat pumps do not use refrigerant. There is nothing to leak and cause environmental harm.
  5. A downside to heat pumps is that generally they are more expensive than conventional central heating and cooling systems. Over years of lower utility bills, fewer and less expensive repairs, less routine maintenance, and fewer replacements, a heat pump is usually a less expensive option despite the higher initial cost.

To learn more about heat pumps, call the experts at Semper Fi Heating & Cooling at 480-616-3636.

Energy Usage in Your Home

Typical homes contain dozens if not hundreds of energy-consuming parts. Heating and cooling systems, light bulbs, refrigerators, coffee makers, vacuums, and many more items in your home depend on electrical energy to operate. Let’s take a look at the energy users and learn more about which consume the most electrical power.

Heating and Cooling Systems

It is very likely that your HVAC system is the largest energy user. Even if you heat your home with natural gas, bottled gas or oil, the heated air does not circulate around your home without a blower that is powered by an electric motor. Ceiling fans are great to keep warm air circulating; ceiling fans are powered by electric motors.

Conventional air conditioners are big users of electrical energy. Electrical-powered compressors generate cool air and electric motor-powered blowers circulate the cool air. Heat pumps and geothermal systems are highly efficient for heating and cooling. They use the natural heat in the air and underground to heat and cool your home. But they require electric motors to pump and circulate the air and coolant that heat and cool the home.

In most homes, the heating and cooling systems are the largest user of electrical power. These systems typically account for nearly 50% of your total energy usage. Your toaster oven and hair dryer may be energy hogs, but they only get used occasionally. Your heating and cooling system operates nearly year round and nearly 24 hours every day.

Refrigerators and Freezers

Refrigerators and freezers are appliances that also require electrical power 24/7/365. Modern refrigerators are well insulated and well-sealed, making them highly efficient. A full freezer with solidly frozen food and a good seal is especially efficient. The frozen foods themselves keep the temperature low with the compressor motor seldom needing to run. Less than 5% of total home electrical usage should be attributed to refrigerators and freezers.

Water Heater

A conventional tank-type water heater requires 10-12% of energy usage. Gas-burning water heaters use much less electrical power, but gas is still part of home energy costs. The greatest inefficiency in a tank-type water heater is they keep water hot 24/7/365—all day, all night and all through your out-of-town vacation. A tankless water heater only heats water as you use it, making it significantly more efficient. The energy savings is not enough to justify replacing a working tank-type water heater, but when the tank needs to be replaced, it is a good idea to consider tankless.

Washer and Dryer

Laundry machines are big electrical users, using as much as 12-15% of total electrical usage. Power usage can vary significantly depending on the number of loads to be washed and dried. Newer machines with larger capacities make it possible to wash fewer loads with improved operational efficiency.

Lights and Other Appliances

Light bulbs, microwave ovens, computers, televisions, phone chargers, coffee makers, cooling fans, power tools, and all other small appliances account for the balance of home electrical usage. Most of these items are only used occasionally, while some are on 24/7/365. Think of the little lights in your doorbell button, your coffee maker, and charging station that indicate power is on.

Make a count of all of the items in your home that require electricity. Don’t be surprised if there are over 100 light bulbs and at least 50 small electric-powered devices. Individually, they don’t consume much electricity, but collectively they can account for nearly a quarter of total usage.

Look for efficiencies in all areas. Look to your heating and cooling system for the biggest efficiency improvement. Keep your home a little cooler in winter and a little warmer in summer. Keep your heating and cooling system in good working condition, and get it tuned up every year. When it comes time for a replacement, purchase a high-efficiency system from Semper Fi Heating & Cooling.

Pricing Outlook for Heating & Cooling Systems for 2022

A replacement heating and cooling system has always been one of the more expensive items to purchase for home upkeep. Recommendations for the frequency of replacing your heating and cooling system range from 10 years to as much as 20 years. Systems that have been well maintained through routine preventive maintenance may even last a few years longer.

As multiple efficiency improvements have occurred over the past 20 years, the inefficiencies of an older system have made newer systems even more attractive. Not only are newer systems more efficient, but there is good reason to expect that with proper maintenance they will continue to operate efficiently for longer lifespans.

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers and their employers turned to remote working. Initially just to survive, some later made remote work a permanent solution. During 2020 and 2021, many remote workers chose to make their home more comfortable by replacing their heating and cooling systems. The upturn in demand coupled with materials shortages and logistics disruptions resulted in spotty shortages of replacement HVAC systems and parts.

As early as late fall 2020, price increases for heating and cooling systems and the components to service and repair them led to price increases for consumers. Prices continued to rise throughout 2021 and are continuing to increase in 2022 as the shortages of raw materials, parts, and new systems continue. Higher transportation costs and ongoing logistics disruptions are adding to the price increases.

Additional price increases in 2022 are expected by most industry insiders. Many of the major system manufacturers have already announced mid-year price increases ranging up to 20% with no assurance that there will not be additional price increases before the year’s end.

For instance, one major equipment manufacturer announced a 7% increase in June 2021, a 9% increase in April 2022 and a 12% increase for July 2022. Together, they compound to an increase of more than 30%.

Over the past several years, small price increases for HVAC equipment have come to be expected as new models became more advanced, longer lasting and efficient. The post-pandemic increases, however, have been larger and more frequent. The repeated significant increases add up to an overall surge in HVAC equipment prices.

Since the start of the pandemic, commodity raw material prices like copper and steel have increased in the 20% range, and transportation costs have increased by up to 40%. A heating and air conditioning system consists of dozens of additional components, all of which have experienced inflationary increases:

  • Wrap insulation +15%
  • PVC fittings +15%
  • Filters +10%
  • Parts and accessories +19%
  • Pipe fittings +15%
  • Coils +5%

The outlook is for continued price increases through the end of 2022. If you need to purchase a replacement unit, expect to pay more. If you need repair parts for your existing system, you should also expect to pay more. The good news is that these newer, higher-priced systems are generally more efficient and will have a longer lifespan than new systems did 15 to 20 years ago.

Programmable & Smart Thermostats

Spend a Little – Save a Lot

The concept behind all programmable and smart thermostats is that there are days and partial days when your home does not need to be heated or cooled to the level that you feel is most comfortable. Any properly sized, properly installed, and well-maintained heating and cooling system can keep your home at the preferred temperature all day and all night, at a cost. The cost is higher utility bills.

Does the temperature need to stay the same overnight? Many people turn the heat down overnight. What about when your home is empty when you are away at work or on vacation? Are you heating and cooling more than necessary just so your home will be at your preferred temperature when you return? Do you manually adjust your thermostat multiple times every day? Do you ever forget to make some of your daily adjustments? A programmed thermostat does not forget.

The savings you can expect from a programmable or smart thermostat will vary greatly depending on what you program into the thermostat. In any case, you should expect the cost of the new thermostat to be recovered somewhere between 6 and 24 months. After that, the savings goes on for years.

You can also add to your utility cost savings by setting it for higher and lower temperatures in the summer and winter. ENERGY STAR estimates that for every 1 degree of thermostat change, your energy cost will decrease by 1%.

Programmable & Reliable

Typically, a programmable thermostat can be set to adjust the temperature at different levels for weekly intervals. You might program it for a daily schedule something like this:

  1. 6:15 AM, 15 minutes before your normal wake-up time. Raise the temperature to 70 degrees.
  2. 8:15 AM, last family member leaves for work or school. Lower temperature to 62 degrees.
  3. 4:00 PM, 15 minutes before first family member returns from work or school. Increase temperature to 70 degrees.
  4. 10:30 PM, bedtime. Lower temperature to 66 degrees.

For weekend days, you would program in a different schedule. You could achieve the same energy reduction if you manually adjusted the temperature four times every day. For most families, a programmable thermostat is more reliable than counting on someone to adjust the thermostat four times every day.

Smart & Smarter

Smart can do everything that a programmable thermostat can do, and a whole lot more. A Wi-Fi-enabled smart thermostat can be reset or adjusted from anywhere using a mobile device or computer. If you are working late, just tell the app on your phone to warm up the house later. If your smart device is linked to Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant or another smart home service, you can just ask for a little more heat or cooling when you feel it is needed.

A smart thermostat equipped with geofencing can learn to adjust the temperature when a connected smart phone leaves the house or moves from room to room within the house. A smart thermostat that utilizes machine learning can observe your comings and goings over time and create a heating and cooling schedule that reflects your personal lifestyle.

All HVAC systems eventually need to be replaced. Your central heating and cooling system may last for 10 years, 20 years, or more. A well maintained system will have a longer lifespan. Among the most important reasons to install a smart thermostat with learning is that your system can alert you when maintenance or safety repairs are needed. A smart thermostat saves you money every day it operates. It saves you even more when your system continues to operate efficiently for years before needing to be replaced.

Seven Ways to Lower Your Utility Costs

In the Valley of the Sun, the average 2,000-square-foot home spends about $160 per month for electrical power, or $1,920 per year. In summer, the cost of electrical usage goes up dramatically with some larger homes paying $500-$600 and more per month. During winter months, the cost of electricity for heating drops significantly unless the home is using electrical power for heating.

Larger homes with multiple heating and cooling systems pay substantially more to stay comfortable year-round. Homes with heating and cooling systems that are more than 10 years old also pay more. Homes with a heat pump heating and cooling system will experience much less variation.

Here are seven steps that a homeowner can take to reduce the cost of electrical usage:

  1. Replace HVAC System – If your system is more than 10 years old, if it has been requiring repairs over the past few years, if your summer electrical bills have been going up, or if it is not doing a good job keeping your home comfortable, it may be time for a replacement. Look for a new system with 90% or higher efficiency.
  2. Keep System in Good Repair – No matter how old your system is, it needs regular service. Semper Fi Heating & Cooling offers a 29-point tune-up for only $17.75. You don’t drive your car for years without service. Your heating and cooling system needs occasional service too. Your system will operate better and more efficiently. It will have a longer peak operating life if it is properly tuned up.
  3. Home Insulation – The amount and quality of insulation in your home makes a big difference in the energy required for heating and cooling. The effectiveness of your insulation goes beyond the basic R-value of the insulation material used. Talk to an insulation expert to determine if your home is properly insulated to maximize energy efficiency. Don’t forget windows and doors; they need to be adequately sealed to avoid air leaks.
  4. Smart Thermostat – Are you heating and cooling an empty house for a big part of every day? Do you remember to turn the thermostat down every night? A smart thermostat can adapt to your daily routines and reduce your energy usage when you are away. The cost of a smart thermostat is relatively low compared to the savings in electrical usage that will result.
  5. Seal Air Leaks in Ducts – It is not uncommon for as much as one-third of heated or cooled air to leak out of unsealed ducts. If your ducts haven’t been checked for several years, there is a good chance there are leaks. While you are getting the air ducts sealed, it is a good practice to get your air ducts cleaned to improve the quality of the air that you breathe.
  6. Lower Hot Water Temperature – Lowering the temperature on your hot water heater will reduce your energy usage. There are no smart thermostats for water heaters; they keep your hot water at a set temperature day and night, whether you’re home or away, on vacation or not. If the temperature is set lower, it will use less gas or electric. Like newer air conditioners, newer water heaters are also more energy efficient. If your water heater is 10-20 years old, you may find that replacing it with a newer one will have a reasonably quick payback.
  7. Appliance Replacement – Your water heater is not the only home appliance that contributes to your total utility bill. Appliances such as washers and dryers, refrigerators, and dishwashers are all available in newer energy-efficient models.

Don’t want another summer of $500 electrical bills? There are ways to reduce your utility costs. Call Semper Fi Heating & Cooling to learn about your specific energy efficiency options.

Top HVAC and Tips to Reduce Your Utility Bills

Heating and cooling are major contributors to energy consumption. Keeping your home at a comfortable temperature is expensive.

  • Your air conditioner has to run for an extended period of time to bring the indoor temperature of your home from the outside temperature to the temperature you set on your thermostat. If your house is empty during the day, you can save energy by increasing the temperature on the thermostat so that the system does not run as often. If you turn your system off entirely during the day and then at 5:00PM turn the system on and set the temperature in the low 70s, your system may take several hours to cool to that temperature if the outside air is in the triple digits (100 degrees +). In this situation your system may actually run for a longer total amount of time as in the evening the system will run for several hours continuously as it tries to achieve the desired indoor temperature. When a system is set to a normal indoor temperature in the 70s, the system will run for a period of minutes until the thermostat is satisfied and then turn off for several minutes such that the system is not running continuously. Programmable thermostats have the ability to be adjusted to cool less during the day and more at day’s end as well as keeping the temperature at the same level on weekends when someone is home all day.
  • To reduce energy usage, think optimal room temperature, not most comfortable. 70 to 72 may seem like the best temp year-round. But 67 in winter and 75 in summer will reduce your utility bill. Better yet, can you be comfortable with 65 or 66 in winter and 76 to 78 in summer?
  • If you love to get the AC working on the first warm day in spring, your utility bill is going to remind you that it wasn’t worth the cost. Tolerate and even enjoy the warm or cool weather at the change of seasons and enjoy the lower utility bills.
  • If your AC or furnace is 10 years old or more, you could save money by replacing it with a newer, more cost-efficient unit. Chances are that if your system is old, you have been dealing with expensive repairs and rising energy bills for years. Nearly all new systems are more efficient than they were 10 years ago. Getting your system replaced before it completely breaks down is a good move and an immediate energy savings. Utility companies such as SRP also offer rebates for purchasing a new, high efficiency A/C system.
  • Ductless mini-splits for heating and cooling also offer substantial saving opportunities. Heating or cooling the entire house more than necessary to keep one room only marginally warmer or cooler is expensive. Put a mini-split in the room(s) that need a little extra and save on utilities. Depending on your house size, it is possibly even better to replace your old central air system with ductless mini-splits. Get the versatility of heating and cooling some rooms more than others at different times and reduce your utility bill in the process.
  • Old and leaky duct systems can cause up to $0.30 of every $1.00 of your cooling or heating bill to be wasted. Consider a duct-sealing process like Aeroseal to ensure most of your cooling or heating dollars make their way into the living spaces of your home. Learn more at or call Semper Fi Heating and Cooling today to schedule a free estimate.
  • Additionally, inadequate attic insulation can also wreak havoc on your utility bill. Given that heating and cooling costs are responsible for 50 to 70% of the energy bill in the typical American home, call Semper Fi for a free estimate on blown-in attic insulation and start realizing energy savings today!

Talk to the HVAC experts at Semper Fi Heating and Cooling to learn more about how to reduce your utility bills in Arizona and take advantage of lucrative utility rebates associated with the purchase of a new A/C system.