How Often Should I Change the Air Filter?

change the air filter

With the constantly rising cost of energy, it’s crucial for many homeowners to try save energy and maximize equipment efficiency. Especially since heating and cooling account for nearly half of your home’s energy use. The United States Department of Energy reports that a simple way to do this is to change the air filter. This easy fix doesn’t sacrifice your home comfort and it can improve the efficiency of your HVAC equipment by 5% to 15%.

Now imagine that savings in dollars:
Say your average utility bills total $200 a month – that could mean a savings of $10-$30 a month and up to $360 a year!

Determining When to Change the Air Filter

Most people will change the air filter at the start of a new season. Some people, on the other hand, change it once a month – just to be on the safe side. What are the factors that determine how often you should change the filter?

  • What type of air filter do you have? Since each type has a different life span, use that to help determine how often to change the air filter.
  • What is the air quality like in the house? If the air does not seem as clear or fresh as it used to, or you are having issues with allergies or frequent colds, you may need to replace your filter more often or choose a different type.
  • Are there pets in the house? If you have pets in the home, you may want to consider changing filters more frequently or choosing a type that helps with pet dander.
  • How many people are in the home? The more people in the home, the more dust and dirt flies around – consider changing your filters more often.
  • Are you in an area with high construction or pollution? If the answer is yes to either of these, check your filters frequently and make sure to change them when they are dirty.

How Often Should Filters Be Changed?change the filter

Keeping all the above factors in mind, your filters should basically be changed when they are dirty. While this may seem like generic advice, it all depends on the living condition in your home, the type of filters used, and how often and how hard your HVAC equipment is used. In unusually hot summers or cold winters, the filters are going to need checking more often. A good rule of thumb is check them once a month.

Which is the Right Type of Air Filter for Me?

With the many advances in technology, homeowners have a lot more choices in energy-efficient equipment and accessories. Even something as simple as air filters come in many varieties. Here are the some of the types of air filters you may be able to use for your HVAC equipment.

  • Economy panel filters – These come in a pack of four or five and are relatively inexpensive. The downside is that you get what you pay for. These filters simply do not filter much at all and you will probably be replacing them once a month as well.
  • Pleated filters – Pleated filters, which can last from three to six months, are from 10% to 60% more efficient than conventional AC filters.
  • Electrostatic filters – These are both energy-efficient and cost-effective. They may cost a little more but can typically be washed and reused.
  • Electronic filters – These filters can get dirty quickly, but it typically does not negatively impact airflow. To clean them, you remove the cells, soak them in cleaner, rinse and reuse.
  • HEPA filters – Although HEPA filters are the most efficient, you will likely pay a premium for these filters.

Smart Home Party Technology Tips

smart home party

Smart home party tech can help you connect with guests

It’s that time of year again and the month you’ve been dreading. It’s your turn to host the family or neighborhood holiday party. The task at hand seems daunting and the future looks bleak. You’ll be worrying about this party all week. Then what to your wondering eyes should appear but these smart home party gadgets for holiday cheer. The solution to all of your party planning fears is right at your fingertips. Host a smart home party with help from these gadgets that you can use right from your smart phone.

Smart Home Party Tech Tips

First, let’s plan ahead a bit for the barrage of people that are about to flow through your front door. A smart lock can keep you from running back and forth to answer the door or entrusting your spouse to do it. Set up a temporary security code and share with guests ahead of time or simply grant access from your app when they arrive.

Now, you’ll need all of your energy to get through this day and that can only mean one thing – coffee! Worried about oversleeping? Use a smart gadget like a Wi-Fi coffee maker to infuse your home with the enticing aroma of a strong brew. Program it to start at a set time or turn it on from your mobile app from the convenience of bed. After you down your first or second pot, set it up for after dinner service.

Now that you’re caffeinated, it’s time to clean. But you’ve got a smart vacuum so put your little robot friend to work. Put it in auto mode or switch to manual for manual steering around tight corners. When it finishes, it will drive itself to the charging station and send you a message that the job is complete.

With coffee and cleaning checked off your list, it’s time to get cooking. Food prep is a breeze when you have a smart gadget like a Wi-Fi cooking thermometer. This handy device already knows the perfect temperature setting for your ham, turkey, or brisket so you won’t waste time looking up the correct internal temperature. It will even store your cooking history so you can duplicate the tender, juicy entrée again and again. Connect your smart thermometer to the mobile app, set up convenient alerts and timers and stop worrying about when the meat is done and finish setting up the decorations and entertainment.

Speaking of decorations and entertainment, today’s smart home technology has you covered. How about a wireless speaker with a built-in light show? Need an easy after-dinner game to help rouse your guests from their turkey comas? Amazon Echo is the perfect smart home party gadget. Enable Alexa skills to tell jokes and even play games like 21 Questions or Bingo. (CNET.com has some fun suggestions. Read more here.)

Now your party is in full swing. Is it hot in here? Just adjust your home temperature with your Sensi W-Fi Programmable Thermostat mobile app to cool it off a bit. (Pro Tip: Use the Keypad Lockout feature to keep pesky guests from meddling with the thermostat.)

Finally the end of the night is drawing near, the last guest has departed and you’re exhausted. Not from the planning or the prep but from actually speaking to, catching up with and enjoying your friends and family. You are grinning from ear to ear, content with the praise and accolades of “next year has a lot to live up to!” and “best party ever!” ringing in your ears.

Happy Holidays to all and to all a comfortable, satisfying night.

Smart Home Gift Ideas for Mom

smart home gift

Discover the perfect smart home gift for her challenging role

Parents are tasked with a variety of challenges but smart home technology can help to both enhance their daily lives and ease some of the heavy burden. Explore the variety of home automation products that speak directly to some of the challenging roles and personas that many moms have to assume and get them the perfect gift this holiday season.

Smart Home Gift Ideas for Mom

The Hall Monitor

A connected security camera, video doorbell or smart lock can help mom to keep an eye on who is roaming her halls. Catch them in the act of leaving doors open (“Were you born in a barn!”), or going into off-limits rooms. (Especially important in this holiday season.) She can also peek in on the family for peace of mind when she has to stay late in the office or has an extended business trip.

The Caregiver

The caregiver role encompasses so much for both moms and dads. Parents are responsible for providing a safe and comfortable environment, nursing kids back to health and even looking in on their own aging parents. A smart home gift can help to to lighten some of this load so they might even be to able to occasionally extend the same level of care to themselves.

Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat is a smart home gift that can help mom to keep her family comfortable at all times. She can set schedules for each day to account for tutoring sessions, sports practices and school holidays. Remote temperature control allows her to easily adjust the thermostat when someone says they are coming home early. It also makes an ideal gift for parents who are caring for their own parents. The Sensi mobile app makes it easy to check in to make sure their heat is on and working in frigid winter temperatures. The added benefit of saving on utility bills can go a long way in lowering some of the financial stress that all parents face.

For the mom who is tired of fast food, a smart kitchen appliances like a Wi-Fi crock pot can adjust cooking times remotely if they are running late. New moms might appreciate a smart bottle holder that can monitor feeding habits, a Wi-Fi thermometer to take baby’s temperature without interrupting their sleep or even smart socks that can monitor infant heart rates.

The Entertainer

A helpful smart home gift like the Amazon Echo can give moms a variety of options to respond to the dreaded, “I’m bored!” cries from youngsters. Alexa can play music, read bedtime stories, play games, tell knock-knock jokes and a host of other things to keep kids entertained. There are even Alexa Skills that help moms in another role they play – The Professor – to encourage kids to practice spelling and learn valuable math skills.

(You can also control your Sensi thermostat…read more about that integration here.)

 

Smart Home Gifts for Dad

smart home gifts

Smart home gifts to grow dad’s connected castle

Do you know a dad that is interested in starting or growing his connected castle? The connected home category is expanding rapidly which makes it easy to find a thoughtful smart home gift for every type of dad. Explore the variety of home automation products that speak directly to some of the challenging roles and personas that many dads have to assume.

Smart Home Gifts for Every Type of Dad

The Protective Pop

Smart home security cameras with property live feeds, video doorbells and smart locks that send alerts when someone enters and exits make the perfect smart home gift for the watchful dad who wants to keep a close eye on his home and family. Connected carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms can also warn dad to a potential danger at home.

The Frugal Father

The idea of a connected home appeals to many dads but for the frugal father, the reality of the often expensive price of entry does not. Ideal smart home gifts that appeals to this type of dad are ones that A.) didn’t cost you too much to purchase and B.) will actually save him money the more he uses it. Adding a Wi-Fi thermostat to the home is a good first step in maximizing energy savings and increasing HVAC system efficiency. Home energy savings will soon be apparent as he won’t be needlessly cooling or heating the home while on family vacations or away at the endless stream of lessons, practices, games and recitals. The Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat is one of the more affordable Wi-Fi thermostats on the market so frugal fathers won’t freak out.

(Click here to learn about the perks of a modern Wi-Fi thermostat.) 

The Green Guardian

For the “Look at my lawn!” dad, smart home irrigation hubs can help to control water usage by automating watering cycles using weather insight and seasonal trends. Individual plant sensors also make a great connected home gift for the green thumb guardian who needs a little more help with keeping plants alive.

The Dapper Dad

Amazon Echo is the quintessential gift for the dapper dad that likes to show off and look good. When he brags to his friends that he can control his thermostat or home lighting, order online gifts, or even get his daily news with a simple voice command…he just looks cool. As a parent, the opportunity to look cool doesn’t happen often. It’s the smart home gift that will keep on giving.

 

HVAC Decorating Mistakes

HVAC decorating

Don’t make these common holiday HVAC decorating mistakes

The holiday season is here which means many of us will start to unpack the ribbons, wreaths, lights and other decorations to adorn our homes with festive cheer. But before you start decking your halls, be sure that your joyous aesthetics aren’t jeopardizing your home comfort, your HVAC equipment or your energy bill! Read on to make sure you aren’t making these holiday HVAC decorating mistakes.

Don’t cover the thermostat

Pinterest is not your friend. All of those pretty posts with DIY project details on how to cover your thermostat could be jeopardizing your home comfort and your energy bill. Your thermostat is designed to be exposed so it can accurately gauge the temperature of your home.

Don’t heat up the thermostat

Keep those sparkly lights far away from your thermostat. Exposing a thermostat to a heat source can cause false readings. This may prevent your HVAC equipment from running when it should, or may cause it to cool when it should be heating which could lead to equipment or other home damages. For the same reason, you shouldn’t have your thermostat near windows with direct sunlight, lighting and lamps, or other electronic equipment that could generate heat.

Don’t block your air vents

When decorating for the holidays, we often move around furniture to accommodate trees, presents and other adornments. When you block your air vents, your blower could be working harder. Take care to keep any objects in your home clear from your air vents to maintain a comfortable home temperature. Also, if you are a household that puts up live trees, know that they could dry out faster if positioned too closely to vents and could be a potential fire hazard.

Pay attention to these common HVAC decorating gaffes so you can keep your home and family cheerful – and not uncomfortable – this holiday season.

Thermostat Alerts for Peace of Mind

thermostat alerts

Sensi thermostat alerts you if it detects something amiss at home

Remote home monitoring and comfort control. These are two big reasons why people choose to purchase a Wi-Fi thermostat. It’s why Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat is designed to give you complete control of your home comfort from across the couch or across the country. And while Sensi thermostat helps to put you in control, we know that sometimes life tries to do the opposite. But don’t worry. Sensi temperature alerts and can give you back some peace of mind.

Why is it important to have a Wi-Fi thermostat with alerts?

  • You have family members that are sensitive to temperature fluctuations. (The elderly, young, sick and those with allergies are especially sensitive to extreme changes in temperature and humidity.)
  • You have pets or plants that depend on consistent conditions.
  • You have large amounts of food in refrigerators, deep-freezers or pantries that you don’t want to go bad.
  • You are a property manager, business owner or seller who needs to monitor conditions after hours or in vacant properties.
  • You have a vacation home or are going on vacation and don’t want to arrive to your destination or back home to discover potential damage.
  • You have valuable electronics, musical instruments, wood furniture or floors that could be damaged from high humidity levels.

To help detect critical conditions that could affect your family, your pets and your property, Sensi sends you an email so you can immediately take steps to fix the problem. Sometimes the cause for a temperature alert might be as simple as a door or window being left open. A customer once received a Loss of Cooling alert and discovered the cause was her son’s errant baseball breaking the window. A tripped power breaker, a blocked air vent, improper wiring or HVAC system issues could also trigger alerts. 

Sensi thermostat alerts

Humidity Alert

The High Humidity Alert is sent when the humidity level inside your home is greater than 78%.  The cause may be as simple as a door or window that has been left open. If that is not the cause, check to make sure your Sensi thermostat is set to cooling mode.

Loss of Heating or Cooling Alerts

These alerts are good early warning signs that your cooling or heating system is not working effectively to achieve your thermostat’s temperature setting. A Loss of Heating Alert indicates that your home’s temperature has dropped 5°F during a call for heating. The Loss of Cooling Alert is triggered when the temperature has risen 5°F during a call for cooling.

Low or High Home Temperature Alerts

These alert indicate that your home is not being cooled or heated. The Low Home Temperature Alert is triggered when your home temperature is less than 45°F/7°C. The High Home Temperature Alert indicates conditions have exceeded 99°F/37°C.

You don’t need to do anything to enable Sensi alerts. They happen automatically and will be be sent to the email registered to the account. If the condition that triggers an alert still exists after a week, a second message will be sent. While the High and Low temperatures, as well as Humidity alerts are not adjustable, the Loss of Heating or Loss of Cooling alerts are based on your Sensi temperature setting.

Sensi thermostat alerts help you to be aware of conditions in your home to minimize risk and maximize comfort. Because…life. 

Meet Omer: Sensi Mobile Engineer

mobile engineer

Get to know the brains behind the technology.

In our Sensi Team Blog Series, we’ve introduced you to some of our customer support agents. So you could get to know the people you’ll be speaking with should you ever need help with your Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat. You’ve met some people on the creative marketing team, the visionaries behind the messaging, imagery, colors, and personality that help to define the Sensi thermostat brand. And we’ve profiled several members of our development and engineering team, a large and crucial component in ensuring that you have the ultimate home comfort experience. They are the folks behind the scenes tweaking the technology, coding feature upgrades like Keypad Lockout, and working on Sensi thermostat integration into home automation devices, like Wink Smart Home Platform and Amazon Alexa. In this installment of the series you’ll meet Omer, a mobile engineer on the Sensi team.

mobile engineerMeet Omer, Sensi Mobile Engineer

Omer was born and raised in Turkey but has been living and working in the U.S. for eight years. He got into development work in high school and once in college, pursued studies in mobile development, specializing in Android. He came with some impressive credentials after cutting his teeth at a famous fruit company. You might know which one.

Omer is skilled in martial arts, including Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu. This avid gamer also loves to cook and enjoys working on some of his numerous inventive side projects. While Omer is one of our resident Android mobile development experts, he’s not content to rest on his laurels.

“I do eventually want to get cross-trained on iOS and I’m currently working on this.”

Describe a typical day at work.

“A typical day at work includes our daily stand up meeting. This is where everyone talks about their accomplishments and the progress we made the previous day. Then we make plans on what to do next, split into pairs and finish up all of the assigned tasks.”

What is your favorite thing about working on the Sensi Team?

“I really appreciate the flexible work environment and all of my fellow team members. I feel like the climate Emerson has cultivated encourages more creative thinking.”

What is your favorite feature on the Sensi thermostat?

“I love them all but I’m really excited about the features we are currently working on. We can’t talk about them just yet, but I can assure you it’s very exciting stuff!”

(We’re not going to press Omer for details about these future developments. Remember those martial artist skills?)

Summer Tips for Managing Indoor Humidity Levels

Indoor humidity levels

High indoor humidity levels can affect your comfort

Think we’re out of the “Dog Days of summer”? Think again. Farmers’ Almanac 2016 Summer Outlook predicts the peak of summer heat to occur between late August and early September. Not only are some U.S. regions already starting to experience the hottest temperatures of the year; they are feeling the effects of increased humidity.

“The hottest parts of the country, including Texas, the Southwest, and Florida have already experienced large increases in extreme heat days, including days over 90°F, 95°F, and 100°F, as well as rising levels of humidity that make hot days feel miserable and extremely hot days downright dangerous.” (Source: Weather.com)

Effects of High Indoor Humidity Levels

 

Soaring summer heat can put a damper on outdoor activities but excessive humidity can also creep into your home and affect your comfort, your health, and your property. When you lower your thermostat temperature because you are feeling overheated due to high indoor humidity levels, your utility bills can go through the roof. That’s because the damp, muggy feeling can cause you to feel warmer.

Example:  If the air temperature is 75°F and the relative humidity is zero percent, then our body perceives the air temperature to feel more like 69°F.  Now if the air temperature is 75°F degrees and the relative humidity is 100 percent, then it will feel closer to 80°F.  (Source: HowStuffWorks.com)

Too much home humidity can also create a breeding ground for mold and bacteria that can decrease air quality, aggravating allergy or asthma symptoms. (Learn about  “Tips to Improve Indoor Air Quality”.) Excessive moisture in the air can also be the source of a myriad of problems with your home’s furnishings and even cause structural damage.

Here are some other issues caused by high indoor humidity levels:

  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Doors and windows stick
  • Dust mites
  • Wilted plants
  • Smelly plants
  • Peeling paint or wallpaper

So what is the best indoor humidity for your home and how can you manage it? Most experts say that the ideal house humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent, but definitely below 60 percent in the summer months.

Tips for Managing Home Humidity

 

One of the easiest ways to conserve energy while also retaining and maximizing home comfort levels is to use your Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat settings and schedules. Your Sensi mobile app also displays your indoor humidity levels and sends you a High Humidity alert when your home humidity is greater than 78% so you can take steps to manage using the above tips or by calling your local HVAC contractor to check on your equipment.

Stay comfortable and cool this summer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smart Home Upgrades to Sell

smart home upgrades

Grab prospective homebuyer attention with smart home upgrades

Smart home upgrades aren’t always top-of-mind to many sellers in today’s real estate market who are looking to invest in home improvement projects that pay off short-term with the best bang for the buck. A fresh coat of paint. New plants for curb appeal. Modern appliances. But the best home improvements for the money might not be these obvious ones. If you are looking to sell your house, you might want to consider adding smart home products. 

81% of people would be more likely to buy a home if smart technology was already installed. *

 

As smart home technology has become more mainstream, more buyers are not only used to living with these types of gadgets, they have come to expect it. And new smart home upgrades aren’t just appealing to younger buyers. Interest in home automation gadgets is across generations and income levels and has great potential to make your home more appealing to prospective buyers. Your house can be a smart house without breaking the bank and with little to no installation prowess.

One of the easiest smart home upgrades is to add a smart thermostat like Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat. Designed to work with the wires you already have, it is compatible with most heating and cooling systems. Easy to install and easily accessible and managed through the intuitive mobile app, it also works with smart home hubs like Wink and Amazon Echo.

Another easy project is to add smart lighting. This can be as simple as screwing in a new Wi-Fi-enabled bulb. Smart locks and smart smoke alarms can give the buyer the impression of heightened safety and security. All of these products can also help you to monitor a vacant home and give your real estate agent even more selling points.

In a recent study, nearly one-third of of 2015 homebuyer respondents plan on adding home automation gadgets to their new homes. But only 1 in 5 of those planning on selling in 2016 intend to add any smart home upgrades. **

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to differentiate your home in this competitive real estate market.

 

*Coldwell Banker and CNET Smart Home Survey (August 2015)

**2016 Houzz & Home Study

Vacation and Home Energy Saving Tips

vacation and home energy saving tips

Easy home energy saving tips to make your house more efficient

RV road trips. Beaches and sand. Theme parks and resorts.

Many families plan summer getaways to reconnect with family and friends, enjoy outdoor sights and activities, and take a break from the daily grind. What they don’t often plan for is arriving back home to a high energy bill. Some incorrectly assume if no one is home that the utility bills will automatically be lower due to lack of appliance use. Some simply forget to turn things off before they leave. It’s easy to overlook some of these tasks during the planning and excitement of embarking on a long overdue trip. To make it easy, we’ve compiled a list of vacation and home energy saving tips so you can check these off your to-do list and enjoy some well-deserved, worry-free family time.

7 Vacation and Home Energy Saving Tips

 

  1. Turn off all fans

Fans cool people, not rooms.

 

  1. Use a Wi-Fi thermostat

Set up a vacation schedule on your Sensi™ Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat or use the mobile app to adjust the house temperature when away and set it back on your way home so it is comfortable upon arrival.

 

  1. Lower water heater temperature

Turn down the water heater temperature, turn it off, or put it in vacation mode.

 

  1. Unplug appliances and power strips

Phantom power suckers are all around you, hiding in the smallest electric appliance, draining power so slowly you might not even notice them. These standby suckers can account for 10-20% of your electric bill. (Learn more about energy vampires.)

 

  1. Turn off the lights or automate home lighting

Set lighting to a timer or use smart lighting you can adjust from your phone to keep tempted burglars at bay.

 

  1. Set refrigerator temperature to 40°F

Clean your fridges of any food that might spoil in your absence. For food that is left, 40°F is the lowest recommended temperature to keep food safe from bacterial growth. (Read more on refrigeration and food safety.)

 

  1. Use heat-blocking shades or curtains

Curtain and tapestry fabric “seals” will help to keep the cold air in and the warm air out to keep your energy bill low.

 

Use these vacation energy savings tips as a handy checklist to lower home energy use so you have more money to put toward future family getaways.