Three Ways Tax Credits Could Save You a Lot This Year

Tax Credits Homeowners Should Know About

Reducing the cost of owning or renting a home is an area of concern for almost everyone. Even if you can comfortable afford your home, you’d probably rather spend your hard-earned money on purchases you enjoy instead of on taxes. Fortunately for those who’d like a little bit of extra spending room, tax credits can help. Here are a few ways you might be able to save in the year to come.

Reducing the Cost of Energy Upgrades

If you’ve been thinking about transitioning to clean forms of energy, such as solar energy, this is the right time to learn about tax benefits. According to the Department of Energy, Federal tax credits for certain improvements may qualify for breaks amounting to as much as 30 percent of installation costs.

The 30 percent cut applies to a number of system classifications, including solar, small wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps. While renters can’t take advantage of the program, those who own principal residences and second homes can use their rebates for both kinds of property.

Note that each form of upgrade comes with unique eligibility requirements. For instance, your installation should adhere to local fire and electrical safety standards, and it may need to receive certification from a government-approved inspection entity.

Making Fuel Cells More Affordable

If you decide to break free of fossil fuels by installing hydrogen fuel cells, you could be eligible for a 30 percent credit. Unlike the other credit, however, this benefit is capped at $500 per 500W of power capacity. This rebate only applies to principal residences, so save your vacation home’s roof space for solar panels or a turbine to max out on your benefits.

Helping Renters Out

With so many tax breaks only applying to homeowners, you may be wondering how renters can save. Although these individuals and families are generally ineligible for credits, they might be able to save by getting their landlords on board.

The determining factor lies in whether the property owner is improving their own primary residence. For instance, if you rent the entirety of a townhouse, your landlord wouldn’t be able to receive the credit for most improvements because they don’t also reside there. On the other hand, those who sublet rooms or rent apartments whose owners live in the same building might be able to reduce their monthly cost of living by convincing their landlords to make energy-efficient renovations. The owner gets the tax break, and the renter enjoys lower power bills.

Of course, the tax code is complex. In most cases, it’s best to consult with an expert before making any changes, especially if you hope to gain special exemption or rebate eligibility. Learn how your renovation plans might qualify you for savings by visiting Advantage Heating and Cooling today.

Inventions That Could Save You Money on Home Heating and Cooling Costs

Trim Down Those Utility Bills

Virginia homeowners experience a range of temperatures throughout the year, from balmy summers to chilly winters. Fortunately, modern HVAC systems can keep us comfortable year-round. But if you’re not careful, the resulting utility bills may add up to a shocking amount that will make you sweat. Luckily, there are strategies to keep those utility bills from growing too large and unmanageable without sacrificing your comfort. Check out these great inventions from the Energy Department that can save you money and energy, as well as these other products you can install in your home to help you combat costs.

Heating and Cooling Products That Save You Money

Smart Thermostats: These digital thermostats are equipped with programmable controls that allow your system to operate at its optimal efficiency. This allows the homeowner to set the temperature at different levels for different times of the day even when nobody is home, and the digital thermostat is much more effective at keeping the temperature exactly where you want it.

Geothermal Systems: You’ll save money on your utility bills and protect the environment when you choose this product that utilizes a renewable, sustainable fuel source straight from the earth. This efficient system uses the stable temperatures that can be found underground to heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer. It can even be hooked up to your water heater for even bigger savings.

Home Automation: The Nexia Home Intelligence device allows you to control your heating and cooling settings from anywhere. You will no longer have to worry whether your pets are comfortable while you’re away on a business trip or if your children have turned the air conditioning down to zero on a hot day. It’s all up to you with a simple button on your remote control.

Help Getting Started
Here at Advantage Heating and Cooling, we can install these and other products to help you get your home on the path to more efficient heating and cooling. Just contact us today, and our highly trained HVAC specialists will be happy to help you choose the products that will work best in your home.

12 Compelling Advantages of Geothermal Heating and Cooling Systems

Greater Indoor Comfort at a Lower Monthly Price

Geothermal energy is the wave of the future. With a geothermal heat pump, you can enjoy greater indoor comfort in your Virginia or North Carolina home without the high energy costs associated with traditional heating and air conditioning systems. Geothermal HVAC uses heat stored in the earth as a source for heating and cooling your home. Not only does this reduce the use of limited fossil fuels, it also uses a sustainable energy source that costs nothing and will never run out.
How Do Geothermal Systems Work?

Using the stable temperatures just below ground, geothermal systems essentially circulate water through a loop system to warm your home in winter and cool your home in summer.

What Are The Benefits Of Geothermal Systems?

1. Amazing savings. With geothermal technology, you can cut your monthly utility bill by up to 70%. A home with 2,000 square feet can be heated and cooled for a dollar a day.

2. Cut hot water costs. Geothermal systems can supplement conventional water heating systems, reducing hot water costs by up to 30 percent annually.

3. High-efficiency heating and cooling. Geothermal systems can produce up to four units of energy from one unit of electricity. Traditional HVAC systems typically deliver less than one unit of energy from one unit of electricity.

4. Eco-friendly technology. Geothermal heating and cooling systems are considered the “greenest” heating and cooling systems on the market. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a geothermal HVAC system is the cleanest, safest and most cost-effective way to heat or cool a building.

5. Positive cash flow. Is the higher installation cost of a geothermal system worth the benefits? Besides raising the property value of your home, a geothermal system will pay for itself within three to five years. Convenient financing options include special financing and  monthly payments. You can also link your monthly geothermal system payment to your monthly mortgage payment. The amount you’ll save on monthly energy costs will be higher than your monthly payments. The result is a positive cash flow.

6. Low maintenance costs. Unlike traditional HVAC and water heating systems, geothermal heating and cooling systems are virtually maintenance-free. As long as you keep the filters clean and schedule a periodic system check, your geothermal system will essentially take care of itself.

7. Hot water for free.
Geothermal energy can heat your water more efficiently than conventional water heaters. The heat that’s removed from your home during the summer, for example, can be used to heat the water in your tank.

8. Longer system lifespan. Geothermal systems are installed indoors, so they are not victimized by the wear and tear of outdoor elements. These systems are durable, highly reliable and can last for over 20 years.

9. Extremely quiet operation. A typical geothermal system is so quiet you won’t even know it’s running.

10. Clean and safe heating. Geothermal systems do not use gas, oil or propane. That eliminates the danger of combustion, fumes, carbon monoxide and flames.

11. Greater indoor comfort. Geothermal HVAC systems provide even heating and cooling along with dehumidification during the summer.

12. Zoned heating and cooling. With a geothermal system, you can maintain different rooms at different temperatures without having to heat or cool the entire house. This can reduce energy usage even more.

Given the many advantages and benefits of geothermal heating and cooling systems, you may be surprised to learn that if you purchase a geothermal system, you can qualify for the Residential Energy-Efficient Property Tax Credit. This rebate consists of a 30 percent tax credit off an entire geothermal system with no cap. The credit will be available for systems installed before the end of 2016.

To learn more about whether geothermal is right for you, visit Advantage Heating and Cooling on our website today.

5 Benefits of a Home Automation System

A Home Intelligence System from Nexia provides a wealth of features that let you live life without anxiety.

Always Stay Connected
With the Nexia Home Intelligence System, you can connect up to 230 devices to automate tasks around the house. Hook up lights, security cameras, thermostats, motion sensors and more for a comprehensive setup that gives you control over your entire home. Every device can be accessed from any location using the Nexia app on your smartphone or tablet.

Save Money on Energy
Leaving lights on and keeping the thermostat at a set temperature while you’re at work all day not only wastes resources but also drives up your energy bills. With the constant connectivity offered by home automation, you can schedule the heating and cooling system to come on shortly before you arrive home and time the porch lights so that they’re illuminated exactly when you need them.

Enjoy Better Security
With an automated home system, you can create a security setup that includes:

• Motion sensors
• Door access alarms
• Remote locking
• Burglar alarms
• Fire alarms

Whenever one of these devices is activated, the system sends you an alert so that you can contact the proper authorities if necessary.

Monitor the Family
Since you can set the security system to let you know whenever someone enters the house, you can always be sure that the kids arrive home safely. If they’re out at night, you can set lights to come on for them when they’re scheduled to return. Connecting to the security cameras when you can’t be physically present gives you the ability to monitor what’s going on and make sure that the household is running smoothly.

Have a More Peaceful Vacation
Every feature of the Nexia Home Intelligence System is designed to ease your mind whenever you leave the house. When you’re gone for an extended period of time, you can set the system to let someone in at an appointed time rather than leaving a key. This level of control lets you relax no matter where you are.

Are you ready to get started with your own Nexia Home Intelligence System?  Contact us at Advantage Heating and Cooling. Our technicians can help with the initial installation of your home automation system and ensure that everything gets up and running just the way you want. Start enjoying a safer, more efficient home with a Nexia system from Advantage.

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Ductless Systems

Advantages of switching to ductless heating and cooling

Traditional HVAC units force warm or cool air through a series of ducts to maintain the temperature of your home. Ductless units offer a different solution using an outdoor compressor and a series of small indoor “head” units mounted on the walls. Since these units are connected to the compressor via refrigerant lines rather than ducts, a ductless system may be a smarter choice for residential climate control.
Ductless Systems Create Separate “Zones”
Sometimes referred to as “mini-splits,” ductless systems allow you to set the temperature independently in each room or “zone” of your home. Every zone has its own thermostat so that you can heat and cool only the rooms that you’re using rather than wasting energy trying to keep the atmosphere of the entire house the same.

You’ll Enjoy Big Savings
This ability to adjust the level of hot or cold air to each separate part of your home can save you up to 30 percent on your heating and cooling bills, especially if you choose a ductless setup that’s Energy Star rated. In general, these systems use 20 to 50 percent less energy than traditional HVAC systems, leading to significant savings each year. Going ductless for your primary source of heating and cooling while keeping your regular system as a backup still lowers energy bills since the whole-house system only runs in extreme weather conditions.

Going Ductless Makes Home Improvements Easier
It’s easy to expand ductless HVAC coverage when adding on to or remodeling your home. If you’re putting in an addition, you can choose to use ductless heating and cooling instead of running new ducts from your existing system. Installation is simple and takes less time than a traditional HVAC, so you can start using the new area of your home sooner.

No Ducts Means Less Maintenance
Ducted systems require routine cleaning to preserve air quality in your home. This is a big job that requires the help of a professional. Going ductless saves you this expense since all you have to do to keep it clean is make sure that dirt doesn’t build up on the filters and coils. Along with an annual tune-up of the outdoor unit, this simple maintenance task can keep a ductless system running smoothing for 20 or more years.

If you’re ready to go ductless, give Advantage Heating and Cooling a call. We offer a wide range of options for mini-split systems to heat and cool one or more zones in your home. You can find more information about our products on our website, or give us a call to set up a service appointment for your Virginia home.

6 Summer Efficiency Tips for Lowering Cooling Bills

Save money and stay cool with these summertime energy-saving tips

It may be tempting to crank up the AC when summer temperatures turn your home into a furnace, but relying on the cooling system to keep you comfortable can drive energy bills through the ceiling. These energy-saving tips can help you stay cool without spending your life’s savings to run your cooling system.

Create Less Heat

One of the easiest ways to keep the house cool is to cut down on the amount of heat you generate. Switching to energy-efficient light bulbs can reduce heat output by 75 percent. Cooking outdoors or opting for light meals that don’t require the oven prevents the kitchen from overheating.

Cover the Windows

Blinds and light-blocking curtains block sunlight and make the indoor atmosphere more bearable. Keep curtains and blinds closed on bright days to reduce the need for additional cooling. If you’d rather have the sunshine without the heat, try UV-blocking window tints or films.

Turn Up the Thermostat

When you’re not around, keep the thermostat set to around 78 degrees. A programmable thermostat can reduce the temperature at a set time so that the house is cool when you arrive home.

Cool Down Naturally

On cooler days, open up windows and doors to let in a breeze. Install screens to keep bugs at bay and enjoy the natural cross-ventilation as it airs out the house.

Be a Fan of Fans

When you have the house opened up, prop some box fans in the windows to draw air through. Installing a whole-house fan in the attic provides an efficient way to draw cool air in through windows and push hot air out via ceiling vents. Use a ceiling fan for additional air circulation when you’re in a warm room.

Keep the AC in Shape

Regular maintenance of your home cooling system that includes tune-ups and filter changes ensures that the unit runs at maximum efficiency. Dirty and outdated units work harder, resulting in an unpleasant surprise when your electricity bill comes.

There will still be some days when the heat is so stifling that alternative cooling methods won’t do the job. Having an energy-efficient HVAC system lets you run the air conditioning without worrying about your cooling bills going sky high. Let Advantage Heating and Cooling set you up with the right system for your home. Visit our website to see the units we have to offer or call us to set up routine maintenance for your existing system. Advantage can help you enjoy a cool, comfortable home all summer long.

Is an All-in-One System Really All-in-One?

When and why to choose a packaged heating and cooling system

Residential and commercial HVAC systems come in two main types: packaged and split. Packaged systems, sometimes known as “all-in-one,” have some advantages over split, especially if you’re in need of a quick, convenient upgrade for your home or business.

“All-in-One” Packaged HVAC Explained

Packaged systems combine all the necessary heating and cooling equipment in one cabinet that’s usually installed outside on a concrete slab or, as in the case of many businesses, on the roof. Some units provide both hot and cold air while others focus on one or the other. Packaged heat pump systems, for example, put the pump, compressor, coils and blower motor together rather than splitting them between an indoor and outdoor unit. Packaged AC is constructed in a similar manner.

Benefits of Choosing Packaged

In many cases, an all-in-one packaged system is the most practical choice. Packaged systems come out of the factory ready to install and therefore require less of an investment than split units. Both installation and maintenance are simple since all of the components of the unit are in a single location.

The compact nature of packaged HVAC systems makes them ideal for small homes or businesses where space is at a premium. When installed on the roof, the cabinet is less prone to harm from ground-level hazards such as vandalism or being damaged by wildlife.

When Split is the Way to Go

It’s not always best to choose an all-in-one heating and cooling system. While they are more convenient for many locations, extremes of temperature can have an effect on efficiency. Since the entire unit is placed outdoors, it has to overcome the natural heat of summer and chill of winter to create a comfortable indoor atmosphere. Snow, sleet and other unpleasant weather conditions can also make servicing an outdoor unit difficult in the event of an emergency.

Homes and businesses that need different temperatures for different rooms require a split system to make it happen. This means that split systems may better serve apartment complexes, homes with in-law apartments and commercial buildings with dedicated spaces for meetings, offices and inventory storage.

Whether you need a packaged or split heating and cooling system for your home or business, Advantage Heating and Cooling has you covered. Visit our website to get an idea of the types of systems we have to offer, then call one of our convenient Virginia locations to set up an appointment with our knowledgeable staff. With a new HVAC from Advantage Heating and Cooling, you’ll enjoy comfortable indoor temperatures and reliable operation for years to come.

How Smart Are Smart Thermostats, Actually?

heating cooling virginia beach virginiaIf you’ve been mulling over whether to trade your home’s thermostat for a newer model, now is the perfect time to upgrade. Packed to the brim with state-of-the-art features, the latest smart thermostats are designed to be powerful, convenient, and exceedingly efficient. While the best models can be a bit on the pricey side, they offer a much greater long-term value than older temperature controls. With a more efficient cooling and heating system, you can expect to reduce both your monthly energy bills and your overall environmental footprint – all without sacrificing a smidge of comfort.

When shopping for you first smart thermostat, you’ll find a large selection of options. Here’s the breakdown of some of the best features to look for in your new investment:

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi capability is a given in smart thermostats, but it’s not just about maintaining a steady Internet connection. Smart thermostats use Wi-Fi to perform a variety of practical functions, including keeping exact schedules, pulling the latest weather and humidity alerts off the web, and automatically downloading manufacturer upgrades.

Self-Regulation

Not all homeowners like to control home temperatures to a degree. If you’d rather set it and forget it, a smart thermostat with a built-in self-regulation system is your best bet. While most can be switched back to manual mode, self-regulated smart thermostats are designed to go it alone. Left on automatic, they use a complex algorithm and web data to create an efficient temperature control program that adjusts to your schedule.

Cross-Platform Integration

Synched via intuitive software and digital apps, state-of-the-art smart thermostats can be used across all of your platforms, from computers to mobile phones and tablets. That means you can communicate with your thermostat remotely, changing temperature when you aren’t home, receiving regular energy reports in your inbox and setting heating and cooling schedules on the go.

Voice Control

In addition to responding remotely, many of today’s smart thermostat models use sophisticated voice control software to decode your verbal commands, so when you’re back home, you can regulate temperature from the comfort of your couch.

Other popular features found in smart thermostats range from adaptive sensors that register your comings and goings to eco-friendly energy analysis to fan controls. Since changes in humidity can affect your comfort level, health, and energy consumption, many are also equipped with advanced humidity controls.

While the new features are impressive in their own right, the real power of smart thermostats is in the whole package. When used to their full capacity, they can take your home’s efficiency level to its maximum.

Looking for more ways to save on energy costs? Visit Advantage Heating and Cooling online to learn how we can make your Virginia home more energy efficient.

Keep It Efficient: Essential End-of-Winter HVAC Maintenance Tasks

As warmer summer temperatures make their way across Virginia, many homeowners are preparing to shut down their heating systems for the season. While prepping for the oncoming summer, remember that it’s also essential to complete end-of-season maintenance tasks on your heating system. Doing so offers many benefits and helps to ensure that your heater will be ready to go once cooler temperatures start to hit again in the fall.

Why Complete End-of-Season Heating Maintenance?

End-of-season heating maintenance is hardly one of the most exciting tasks you can complete as a homeowner. However, tackling service tasks is important to the longevity and efficiency of your heating system. In fact, one of the chief benefits of preventive maintenance is that it helps you save money over time.

Remember that your home’s heating and cooling system, much like your personal vehicle, must be properly maintained in order to provide for a high level of service. You wouldn’t neglect oil changes for your car because you know that taking care of regular maintenance helps protect your engine and prevent breakdowns. The same is true of routine HVAC maintenance. Whether you complete tasks yourself or call in a professional, taking care of maintenance can spell big fiscal and efficiency savings.

Essential End-of-Season Maintenance Tasks

In order to determine the needs of your home’s heating system, you should sit down with the system’s owner’s manual and review service specifications. Note the items that you can complete yourself and those for which professional help will be needed. Most homeowners can complete a wide variety of service tasks on their own but will still need assistance with more challenging tasks.

While maintenance demands will vary depending on the type of heating system in your home, most homeowners should:

•    Inspect and tighten all of the system’s electrical connections
•    Check gas or oil connections and the unit’s gas pressure
•    Clean the burner or heating element when applicable
•    Clean and lubricate all moving parts of the heater, furnace or boiler
•    Check thermostat settings and system controls

It’s also important to check, clean or change heating and cooling systems air filters once a month while your HVAC system is in use. Doing so will help to maintain a high level of indoor air quality and will provide for more efficient operation of your HVAC system. It might be tempting to wait and replace air filters during yearly maintenance checks, but doing so can seriously undermine your home’s energy efficiency.

You know that taking care of end-of-season heating maintenance tasks in important, but you might not have the time or know-how needed to do so. The friendly, professional staff at Advantage Heating & Cooling is here to help you meet maintenance demands and extend the operating life of your HVAC system.

Would You Like That HVAC System Packaged or Split?

Choosing the best setup to heat and cool your home

Upgrading your HVAC offers you the choice between a packaged or split system. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed to decide which is best for your heating and cooling needs.

What is a Packaged System?

In a packaged HVAC, all of the system components are put together in one unit, usually a metal cabinet. This sits outdoors on a concrete slab or is installed on the roof. This type of unit provides both heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer without the need for a separate furnace or window units inside the house.

What is a Split System?

A split HVAC put the furnace, heat pump and condenser components inside an indoor unit separate from the condenser and compressor, which are installed outside your home. Like a packaged system, these are placed in metal cabinets with the outdoor cabinet installed on a concrete slab. The indoor cabinet may be located in the attic, a closet or the basement depending on where space is available.

Pros and Cons of Packaged vs. Split HVAC

Split systems cost more to install than packaged because there are more components and therefore more labor is involved. However, they tend to be much more efficient. System efficiency is measured using a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, number, which can be as high as 25 for split systems but hovers around 15 for packaged.

A split system offers freedom in configuration when installing so you can place the indoor unit where it will be safest and most convenient. This provides the opportunity for more targeted heating and cooling of rooms and more potential energy savings. However, poor installation can compromise both the efficiency and longevity of a split HVAC system.

Packaged systems are assembled in factories under controlled conditions so they arrive ready to operate in top condition. They cost less than split systems to install and are easier to maintain since all of the components are accessible in one outdoor unit. The small size of a packaged system makes it ideal for homes where space is a concern. Both systems are more compact and attractive than traditional separate heating and cooling units.

Once you’ve decided which type of HVAC system you want in your Virginia home, contact us at Advantage Heating & Cooling. We offer both standard and ductless systems to heat and cool every room to just the right temperature. Our technicians are fully equipped to install whatever system you prefer and offer a comprehensive selection of long-term maintenance services to ensure that your new installation continues to run smoothly for a long time.