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Thermal Imaging to Solve HVAC Problems

Working Smarter: Thermal Imaging Solves HVAC Problems Faster

Thermal imaging is a remarkable tool for HVAC troubleshooting. It's like being a superhero. With a small infrared thermography device we can see through walls, pipes, and mechanical systems to detect hot spots and cold spots. Sometimes known as FLIR cameras (FLIR is the largest manufacturer of thermal tools), thermal imaging helps HVAC professionals diagnose problem sources and fix them faster.

How Does Thermal Imaging Work?

An infrared thermal device like a FLIR camera identifies heat patterns of an object's surface. They do this by rendering heat (infrared radiation) as light. The camera's display renders different heat patterns in different colors, allowing users to easier determine hot and cool spots on a wall, a condenser unit, or a duct, for example.

Possible Applications of Thermal Imaging

For heating and cooling professionals, thermal imaging is helpful for finding problem areas quickly. Often a customer will complain of hot or cold spots, or inefficient heating or cooling, and that's all we have to diagnose the problem. It could be something with airflow, a blockage, a leak in the system, or something unrelated to the HVAC unit altogether. It can be time consuming to inspect each element individually.

It's easier, faster, and cheaper to use a FLIR camera to scan potential problem spots first. For example, using this imaging on ducts and vents could reveal spot leaks at joints. It could also help an HVAC company determine that the HVAC inefficiency is from insulation loss.

Using a thermal camera on the condenser unit is also helpful. You can easily see if a coil is plugged and know exactly where on the coil the blockage is occurring. 

HVAC professionals can even use the imaging tool to locate mold formation, troubleshoot airflow problems, and better predict mechanical failure. In the end, thermal imaging helps HVAC company's solve problems faster and save customers money.

Cooper Mechanical Services Can Help

Cooper Mechanical Services has been serving the residential and commercial HVAC, electrical, and refrigeration needs of the Myrtle Beach area since 1989. The Cooper team uses the latest technology to better serve our clients. With FLIR camera technology we can diagnose HVAC inefficiencies more easily. A leaky duct could be costing you up to 30 or 40% more in energy costs. A quick scan can find the exact location of the leak and get you on the way toward repair.

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Winter Heating: Your Most Common HVAC Issues Answered

Welcome to our winter heating blog post round up. Below you'll find information about the most common questions and issues related to wintertime and cold weather HVAC use. 

Saving Money During Inconsistent Weather

Air-conditioning during the day, heating at night. It's been another unseasonably warm December in Myrtle Beach so far, with temperatures swinging from cold to warm rapidly. A few things the Cooper team recommends during yo-yo weather in South Carolina: using a programmable thermostat, taking advantage of "free, natural heating," and shutting vents to unused rooms/spaces to save money and improve efficiency. Read on for more information.

Managing Hot and Cold Spots

A common complaint from customers during winter season is that some rooms become too warm while others are too cold. This is especially problematic in bedrooms sharing a single thermostat or heating zone. The first thing to do is determine the cause of heating inconsistencies whether it's poor insulation, blocked ducts, or the need for a bigger HVAC unit. Read on to learn the common causes of hot and cold spots and how to fix them.

Finding and Fixing Air Leaks

You might be trying to heat the outdoors and not realize it. That tiny gap between an exterior door and the floor could be causing you a lot of money. Drafty doors and windows are easy to find and easy to fix. And fixing them improves heating and cooling ability and can save a lot on energy costs. In this blog post, we show you how to systematically find leaks and how to fix them.

Winter Weather and Heating Means Dry Skin

Colder temperatures do not hold moisture as well, so winter is a noticeably drier season. Cracked lips, bloody noses, and dry hands are common problems associated with dry indoor air. Adding a portable or permanent humidifier can improve health as well as protect hardwoods in your house. Don't suffer with dry air all winter long; read on to learn more.

Don't Forget to Change Air Filters

It's an obvious one, but just regularly changing your air filters can improve your HVAC efficiency and extend the life of your unit. One secret others don't want you to know is that the more expensive filters are necessarily better for your home or business. In fact, the Cooper professionals recommend regular replacement of the inexpensive fiberglass filters for most customers. To learn more about our recommendations, check out our post on everything air filters.

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How to Choose the Right Thermostat for You
Old thermostat in Myrtle Beach SC

There are a variety of thermostats on the market, and it can be difficult and overwhelming to choose which is right for your home or business.

Choosing the Right Thermostat

If you are purchasing a new HVAC system, you can weigh some of the pros and cons of each thermostat type to find which is best for your needs and budget. 

If you are updating or upgrading an older heating system, it’s important to find out which thermostat type is compatible with the existing system components. In this case, we recommend speaking with a Cooper Mechanical Services specialist to pick out components that best work for you.

Selecting the right thermostat first starts with identifying your budget and the features that are important to you. Regardless of the thermostat type, all work with electric, gas, and oil furnaces, and using them wisely can lead to big cost savings on monthly utility bills. 

Types of Thermostats

In short, thermostats fall into three general categories:

 Manual Thermostats
 Programmable Thermostats
 Smart Thermostats

Manual Thermostats are the cheapest on the market. The manual thermostat is probably what you remember from your childhood or an older home. They are inexpensive, and the basic controls usually consist of a simple dial or up and down buttons to manually adjust thermostat temperature.

Pros: cheap, easy-to-use, work well if you are around to manually adjust the settings
Cons: Without programming, you may be wasting money heating your home while you are away

Programmable Thermostats offer some key cost-saving benefits over manual thermostats. These options may cost a little more, but programmable settings allow for automatic thermostat adjustment based on your needs. For example, users could program a setting to lower the thermostat setting while out of the house during working hours and to raise the setting one hour before returning home. 

Pros: programmable settings can save up to 33% on heating costs, allow multiple settings, digital displays, manual setting override
Cons: slightly more expensive, increased set-up and learning curve time

Smart Thermostats offer the most features and also the biggest long-term cost savings because of their efficiency. Smart thermostats are wi-fi or bluetooth-enabled, allowing users to control thermostat functions from a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Pros: remote use, increased customization, energy savings, analytics
Cons: most expensive, involves more advanced set-up and learning curve

From Selection to Installation

Cooper Mechanical Services has been providing exceptional HVAC service to the Myrtle Beach area since 1989. Whether you are looking for a new heating and air-conditioning system, or looking to repair and upgrade an existing system, our team is here to help. 

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How to Get Your HVAC Ready for Winter

Winter is approaching, although with some days in the 70s around Myrtle Beach, you may not notice it. There are signs, though. The Grand Strand has seen some yo-yoing temps and even a first frost. In homes and businesses, HVAC units likely switched from AC to heat in a single day. But colder weather will arrive soon, and now is the perfect time to make sure your heat works effectively and efficiently. Here are some tips to get your heating unit ready for the winter season.

Sign Up for Clean & Service Contract

A Clean & Service agreement with Cooper Mechanical Services includes a full inspection of your heat pump, furnace, or heating system. Our service agreements cover full chemical cleaning, inspection and tests, and can be scheduled bi-annually before winter and summer. Scheduled service is the best way to get your heating and air conditioning system ready for the cold and hot seasons in South Carolina.

Replace Air Filters

Air intake and vent filters in your home serve two purposes. First, they keep dust and debris from entering your vents and HVAC unit. They also filter particulates from filtered air exiting vents. This is good for air quality and your health. A clean air filter heated air flow, allowing filtered air to pass easily, reducing the strain on your HVAC system. For most homeowners, Cooper Mechanical Services recommends the inexpensive fiberglass filters, as long as they are changed regularly.

Inspect Heating Vents

It’s a basic problem with a simple solution, but sometimes it is the obvious stuff we overlook. Walk around your home or office to check airflow from each vents. Make sure vents are fully opened and not blocked by furniture or other obstructions. Restricted airflow from block vents reduces heating effectiveness.

Conduct a Sensory Test

Simply put, turn on your heat, wait for it to kick on, and then look, listen, smell and feel. Observe your outdoor unit and listen for odd noises or anything out of the ordinary. Walk through your home and feel vents to make sure air is flowing. Take note of any unusual smells. A simply sensory test may alert you to a potential problem area early, which could save you money and headache should a breakdown occur in the heart of winter. 

Call Cooper

Cooper Mechanical Services provides 24/7 emergency service for heating, heat pump, and furnace repair. Our professional technicians are on call to make sure you are comfortable in all seasons, all year long. Check out our video overview to learn more about our Clean & Service agreements and how to keep your HVAC running efficiently.

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Giving Thanks for What Matters Most

Happy Thanksgiving HVAC Cooper Mechanical Services

This week, millions around our country will pause, take stock of their lives, share messages of gratitude, and enjoy time with family and friends. There are many traditions, some cultural and others familial, but in the end the holiday is one that celebrates our blessings, good fortunes, and relationships. In the chaos of our lives, it’s a helpful reminder to pause and acknowledge that which matters most.

As you go around the table, you’ll likely mention the intangibles: good health, family, and moments of celebration and joy. Comfort and safety are among the things for which many thankful.

At Cooper Mechanical Services, we’re thankful that our work helps keep families warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and safe year round. We are thankful for the many amazing residential and commercial customers we’ve gotten to know across the Grand Strand.

It is our sincere wish that you have a very Happy Thanksgiving with friends and loved ones this season.

A Note on Emergency Service: While many businesses close for the holiday, Cooper Mechanical Services recognizes that heating, cooling, or electrical issues won’t pause for the holidays. Our emergency service team is available 24/7 to keep the lights on, the turkey cooking, and the football on TV.

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Prepare for Cooler Temperatures and Heating Needs

Temperatures have dropped noticeably in Myrtle Beach as we move from October to November. Average lows are in the 40s this time of year, and colder weather is on the way. That means it's time to prepare your HVAC system and home or business for winter and increased heating use. Here's how to prepare so you won't be caught in a cold house this season:

Schedule a Clean & Service with Cooper Mechanical Services

Of course we're going to mention this as number one, but it's because it can save you some of the frustration and expense of an HVAC problem later, when heat is really needed. A clean and service visit will cover a full inspection of your heating equipment, a chemical cleaning, and a full system test. 

Most importantly, we'll make sure your heat pump is in operable condition and, if they exist, identify possible issues affecting performance early. This can extend the life of your heating unit and save you a considerable amount of money in the long-term.

Check and Set Your Thermostat for Comfort and Savings

Given Myrtle Beach's hot summer and early fall, you've likely checked your thermostat and adjusted it as needed. If you haven't testing your heat settings before cold weather arrives is a good idea. Make sure digital displays work properly and that the readings of indoor temperatures look and feel accurate. 

Additionally, if your thermostat allows for programmable settings, you can also set your thermostat to adjust heating settings automatically. Adjusting your thermostat by 7-10 degrees so you use less heat during the hours you are out of the house can save you upwards of 10% on your utility bills. Consider setting your thermostat at 68 or 70 degrees when home and awake, and lower when gone or asleep. 

Address the Little Things that Can Add Up or Create Big Problems Later

There are many small things you can do to prepare your home or office for colder temperatures and increased heating.
  • Clear debris around HVAC unit or heat pump
  • Prune large trees, especially if power lines are near
  • Check windows and doors for small air leaks and repair with weather stripping or caulk
  • Change air filters and check all vents for adequate air flow

Cooper Mechanical Services is Always Available

The holiday season is quickly approaching, so as you prepare for upcoming festivities, don't neglect your heating system. Contact Cooper Mechanical Services to schedule a Clean & Service visit, or contact our emergency number for 24/7 emergency repair.

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5 Lighting Changes Hotels Can Make to Save Big

energy efficient hotel lighting in Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach hotels and motels are looking to save where they can. In terms of low-cost hotel upgrades to save money, improving lighting efficiency is up near the top for "bang for your buck." Unlike upgrades that require expensive infrastructure changes, updating and upgrading lighting solutions is an easy and affordable way to save energy and money. According to EnergyStar.gov, depending on a hotel or motel's current lighting and electricity needs, converting to "smart" lighting can save up to 50% in energy usage. That's a lot of money! Here's how to do it:

Energy Efficient Bulbs and Lighting Choices

This one seems like a no-brainer. If your hotel isn't currently using LED bulbs, then you should. While many upgraded when incandescent bulbs ceased to be produced, some hotels out there may be using the less-energy efficient CFL, or compact florescent lightbulb. LED, or light emitting diode, uses 75% less energy and lasts 25 times longer than the old-fashioned incandescent. A standard CFL, on the other hand, only uses 25-35% less energy than the incandescent. Even though LEDs are more expensive, they will last a lot longer, and save a lot more energy and money in the long run. LED is definitely the way to go right now.

Occupancy Sensors

Why spend money lighting a space when no one is in it? Before sensors, hotel guests were likely to leave in room lighting on all day. Motion sensors in hotel spaces detect movement and the lights turn on. When movement is not detected, the lights go off. This is not only useful in guest rooms, but also is conference areas, lobby restrooms, and other large spaces that use lots of energy for lighting. Sensors can compliment low-light or emergency lighting so spaces are safe but also energy efficient.

Scheduled Lighting and Lighting Timers

Timed or scheduled lighting can be a smart way to cut energy costs. Scheduling lighting only for when it is needed is easily done with today's smart timers. There are plenty of products at all price points for controlling indoor and outdoor lighting. One of the biggest savers is using timers in bathrooms where occupancy times are sporadic and lighting costs can be high. This ensures that expensive bathroom lighting is not accidentally left on when not in use. Small changes like these add up quickly when you have hundreds of rooms. 

Turn the Lights Off When Daylight Is Available

In Myrtle Beach, we get plenty of hot, sunny days. If spaces can be lit naturally with sunlight, turn the lights off. While this option won't work for all spaces, it is something to consider if you are planning a larger remodel or structural upgrade. Windows, skylights, and light tubes can brighten spaces with natural light and reduce future energy expenses as well. You can also use sensors to transition to your hotel lighting when daylight fades. 

Work With Staff to Create Light and Energy Saving Practices

Chances are no one knows more about a hotel's energy waste than the people working there day in and day out. Encourage staff to conserve energy and turn off unused or unneeded lighting. Challenge your team to develop energy-saving practices, or incentivize conservation with a special recognition or award. Getting the entire team on board is crucial to saving on energy costs.

Cooper Mechanical Services Cares About Efficiency and Savings

Lighting upgrades is one of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways that hotels can save money. Cooper Mechanical Services offers energy audits to hotels looking to curb their energy costs. Our electrical team can handle projects of all sizes and budgets. Please contact us if you are looking to get the most bang for your buck with smart lighting solutions.

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Hotel Air Conditioner Comparison

Hotel AC PTAC Mini Split

Air conditioning is essential to guest comfort at any hotel or motel. In hot, humid Myrtle Beach, poor customer reviews about room AC can be damaging. Hotel owners and property managers must make sure that HVAC systems work properly at all times. If you are considering a major HVAC overhaul, replacement, or new installation, it's important to understand the two main system types. 

In short, hotels either employ PTAC, or Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners, or Mini-Split units. In the following post we will explain the defining features of each along with some of the pros and cons.

Hotel PTAC Units

Packaged Terminal AC, or PTAC, are the most common type of hotel air conditioner. PTAC units are self-contained HVAC system typically installed on the hotel window wall. These units can range from 7,000 to 17,000 BTUs, and usually use electricity to cool and heat a single room or living area. The condenser is built into the unit, essentially providing an all in one HVAC system in each room.

Pros: The biggest advantage with PTAC is cost. These units are less expensive to purchase and replace than any other commercial grade cooling system for hotels. Hotel managers may elect temperature limiting features to set minimum and maximum temperatures, and there are many energy efficiency system add-ons to tie into modern PTAC. 

Cons: You still need to cut a hole in the wall to install a PTAC system, so if you are a small motel, window units may be an easier option. The big disadvantage is that PTAC units are loud, and without some energy controls in place, they may use more power (and cost more money) than a traditional window unit.

Hotel Mini-Split Units

The mini-split system uses an outdoor HVAC condenser (usually on the roof or ground outside the building) with an in-room air-handler. The noisy compressor offers a quieter room experience, which some measure as up to 17 decibels quieter. Additionally split systems can deliver cooled and heated air in a number of ways: high wall-mounted units, ceiling cassette units, and even duct units. The mini-split system is also more energy efficient than PTAC systems, and similarly can be connected with other energy-saving system settings. 

Pros: Mini-splits are much quieter than PTACs and more energy efficient. Some find that the heating pumps through mini-splits are better. Additionally, split systems avoid a big, bulky unit taking up one side of the room. If heating is important, split systems are much more energy efficient in this than PTAC.

Cons: Split units are more expensive than PTAC systems as they require more installation with separate condensers mounted outside and handlers inside. 

Which Is Right For You? Call Cooper

Both PTAC and Split systems can do the job needed: provide guest comfort. Mini-split units may cost more, but the benefits in quietness and energy efficiency are factors that can please both guests and hotel owners in the long run. 

When you are ready to research and learn more about hotel or motel HVAC options, Cooper Mechanical Services is here for you. Our team has been serving hotels in Myrtle Beach since 1989, and we know that guest comfort, reliability, energy efficiency, and cost are all factors involved in this process. We strive to provide honest, dependable service to find the best HVAC solution for your needs.

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HVAC Needs for Hotel Indoor Pools

Myrtle Beach Hotel Indoor Pool

A hotel indoor pool can be a wonderful amenity to offer guests, especially in the Myrtle Beach off-season. Indoor pool design can be a challenge, but with a proper HVAC system and regular management, guests can enjoy the benefits of indoor swimming without the harsh smells and poor ventilation.

Poor HVAC at Indoor Pools Causes Problems

As a child, when we learned we would be staying in a hotel, our first inquiry was whether they had an indoor pool. Thinking back now, these environments were often visibly steamy and contained harsh chlorine smells. The increased humidity and resulting condensation created slippery green mildew in hard-to-reach corners. 

We can now see this as the effect of poor ventilation, water chemistry, and air stagnation. In order to offer hotel and motel guests a pleasurable and safe indoor pool experience, it's important that the HVAC is a separate system designed for this environment.

Exhaust Air and Exhaust System

Exhaust systems use fans to exit air from an indoor space. In the case of an indoor pool, the indoor air with high moisture and pool chemical particles will exit via an exhaust duct and fan system to the outdoors. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, or simply AHSRAE provides guidelines for maintaining safe and effective air quality in spaces with indoor pools. When exhaust air leaves the space, a negative pressure is created. This is why all exhaust air must be replaced with outdoor or "make-up" air. ASHRAE recommends that the indoor pool system exits about 10% more air than "make-up" air returning. 

Also, it's important that exhaust grills are appropriately placed to remove excess water vapor. High vapor areas around indoor spas or hot tubs should have exhaust grills located overhead to capture water vapor immediately. If a grill is not conveniently placed, water vapor will settle and increase humidity as well as mold and mildew problems.

An experienced HVAC contractor can improve exhaust capability by making sure the placement of your system is designed for efficiency.

Ventilation with Outdoor Air

Next, a ventilation system must replaced exhausted air with outdoor air. The outdoor air will dilute the concentration of airborne contaminants from the pool and improve air quality.

One thing to keep in mind with ventilation is that since indoor pools are designed to be all-season, the indoor air may need to be conditioned (heated in winter, cooled in summer). This can require a lot of extra energy, so heating and cooling loads should be calculated and determined.

Like we mentioned with exhaust, ventilation intakes should be located properly. Intakes should be away from areas with airborne contaminants. 

For proper air balance and to avoid pressure issues, it is always recommended that you use a certified contractor.

Cooper Can Help with Hotel Indoor Pools

Cooper Mechanical Services is an HVACR and electrical contractor will decades of experience working with Myrtle Beach hotels and motels. Our professional team can design HVAC systems for indoor pool and high-moisture areas to reduce humidity and improve air quality. 

The indoor pool should be a safe place for your guests to enjoy, and an amenity you can market. Call Cooper to improve the ventilation and air quality at your indoor pool.

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Hotel and Motel Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality for hotel

Indoor air quality in hotels and motels is a comfort and safety issue that is overlooked by property executives and managers. It's a largely invisible problem when it is small, and unless air quality issues are noticed by guests, there is little a hotel or motel can market. We all know that new furniture and decor is much more likely to entice a potential guest than a new ventilation or air cleaning system.

Hotel and motel indoor air quality (sometimes called IAQ) is especially important in Myrtle Beach. While hotels everywhere run the risk of using volatile organic compounds that could be in any hotel's cleaning products, coastal South Carolina's climate can produce some unique air quality challenges.

Myrtle Beach's Climate Can Affect Indoor Air Quality

High heat and humidity, coupled with strong oceanfront breezes, can affect a hotel or motel's indoor air quality. South Carolina's heat and humidity create a perfect breeding ground for molds and other bacterias that can live in vents and ductwork. They may also come from dirty coils, uncleaned drop pans, and other HVAC equipment that needs routine service and cleaning. These contaminants can find refuge in a building, especially when hotels are not properly pressurized and a negative indoor air pressure cause hot, sticky, salty air to be sucked into the building without filtration.

Contaminants affecting indoor air quality can create what some call "sick building syndrome," as the organic compounds can causes headaches, nausea, and other symptoms. The musty or moldy smells could be a signal of dangerous issues whose sources should be identified addressed immediately. An air cleaner or ventilation improvement can lower the concentration of pollutants and improve air quality.

Conduct Indoor Air Quality Tests with a Professional

Conducting an indoor air quality test with a professional service company is the only way to see how your hotel or motel measures up. One thing a test will look for is how well a ventilation system is working. These tests will measure the presence of carbon dioxide in the air and the ventilation rate. You steady stream of "new air" should be cycling in to replace carbon dioxide. 

If poor air quality is detected, inspecting the hotel or motel for the source is essential. Air quality issues could from anything--furniture, carpeting, cleaning supplies, ineffective vent fans or filters, a leaking refrigerator, and the list goes on.

Call Cooper, Your Myrtle Beach Air Quality Professionals

Identifying the air quality issue source will determine the solution needed. Cooper Mechanical Services is here to help you improve your building's indoor air quality. Our team uses the most reliable equipment to test air quality and ventilation, and having served the Myrtle Beach hospitality sector since 1989, we know the most common causes of poor air quality. The most important thing you can do is to be proactive in testing and addressing air quality concerns. A hotel's reputation depends upon the comfort and safety of its guests.

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