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Fast Ways to Lower Your Energy Bill

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Try these quick and easy tips to start seeing energy and cost savings in the near future.

Make Your Landscape Work For You

Look outside the home to save money on costs inside the home. Radiant heat from the sun can be working directly against your air conditioner when your shades and blinds are raised. But if you plant a 6-8 foot deciduous tree near your home, it will start shading your windows as soon as the first year.

Depending on the type of tree and the height of your home, it could start shading your roof in as little as 5-10 years. That’s a quick return on investment, and creates a nice improvement to your landscaping.

Why deciduous? A deciduous tree blocks solar heat in the summer, but since it loses its leaves, will let sunlight and heat into the house during the winter months. Compare that to evergreens, which provide continuous shade, and won’t provide you with a benefit in the cooler months (1,2).

Make The Switch To LED

Have you switched to more energy efficient lighting? Making the switch to this modern option is one of the fastest ways to lowery our energy bill. For example, just by replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures with Energy Star bulbs, you can save $75 per year.

LED bulbs save you the most money. You’ll save at least 75% by switching to this model compared to the traditional incandescent bulbs of the past that are no longer on the market. Even compared with halogen incandescents, LEDs use 25-30% less energy and last up to 25 times longer. For a small investment now, you can enjoy the cost savings on your energy bill for years to come (3).

Fix Air Leaks

For just a few dollars and an hour or two of your time, you could save 10% or more annually on your energy bill. Air leaks can waste energy and money quickly, both in summer months by letting hot air inside, and in winter months with resulting chilly drafts. Patching these leaks is one of the quickest and best money-saving tasks you can accomplish.

Your goal is to caulk, seal and weather strip any cracks or large openings that lead outside the home. When purchasing your caulk, keep in mind that you will likely need about one cartridge to complete the seal on two windows or doors. These tubes of window and door caulk range between $2 and $10.

Don’t forget to pick up a caulking gun to squeeze out the product and ensure proper application. This job will be done in just an hour or two, but you will enjoy the results immediately (1, 4).

Consider Storm Windows

Replacing old windows in your home with new, energy-efficient windows will provide the best return on investment, but will be a costly initial investment. A great alternative for a less expensive option is to use storm windows. Storm windows can still help you save a significant amount: approximately 12-33% on HVAC costs. They work by reducing the air movement into and out of existing windows (5).

Take Advantage Of The Weather

Did the weather man predict a cool night? Take advantage of “natural ventilation”. This type of ventilation relies on the chimney effect to keep a home cool. It works best if your evening forecast includes a cool night and a bit of a breeze. All you need for this quick energy saver is a good memory, the use of your windows and a cool summer night.

Turn off your cooling system and open your windows while you sleep, allowing the fresh, cool air to transfer into your house and giving your AC unit a break. Just don’t forget to shut the windows and blinds when you wake in the morning to capture the cool air inside the house (1,6).

Schedule A Professional Energy Audit

Before you write this off as another unnecessary expense, consider this: The goal of an energy audit from Greater Comfort is to provide an overview of how your home uses energy and find ways that you can reduce consumption without incurring large additional costs.

In other words, we want to help your system work more efficiently so that you can save money. We will determine if your home or building needs upgrades or other specific actions to improve efficiency. You will be given a list with specific action steps and can select those which make the most sense to you.

Call Us To Schedule Your Energy Audit Today

Call the experts at Greater Comfort today to ensure you’re getting the most savings as quickly as possible: 859-491-4915.

Sources:

  1. https://twitter.com/energysaver
  2. https://energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-landscaping
  3. https://energy.gov/energysaver/lighting-choices-save-you-money
  4. https://energy.gov/energysaver/projects/savings-project-how-seal-air-leaks-caulk
  5. https://energy.gov/energysaver/storm-windows?utm_source=nrgsvr_fb&utm_medium=socialpost&utm_campaign=generalpost&utm_content=1
  6. https://energy.gov/energysaver/spring-and-summer-energy-saving-tips
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Buying a Home? Here’s What to Look for to Ensure Ultimate Comfort

HVAC in greater cincinnati greater comfort

We’ve talked about – both in the short-term, and the long-term – how to take care of your HVAC as you prepare your home to sell. But what about when you are on the opposite end, and you are looking to buy a home? What are the things to look for in a heating and cooling system when you’re considering buying a home?

Here we breakdown a list of some of the top things to look for, and steps to take as you look for a new home.

1. Find out the system’s warranty and/or protection plan.

Many leading brands offer warranties on their systems. First, you want to check that the homeowners have done all they can do so that this warranty is still valid. Second, eventually you want to see the details and some sort of proof of that protection plan or warranty so you know what kind of potential costs or what type of system plan you’re inheriting.

2. Ask for the system history.

While this might not always be available, many homeowners will keep track of their system’s history – in part because they know they may one day sell their home. (That tells you it might be a good idea, as a current homeowner, to keep an organized account of all the ongoing maintenance you perform on your system, assuming you one day intend to sell your home.)

While maintenance doesn’t necessarily mean you will avoid emergencies or costly repairs, it does tell you that certain necessary maintenance has been performed on your system – and that’s great for peace of mind.

Many homeowners will be happy to share with you the regular maintenance they have performed on their home and/or any repairs done on the system. They keep track of that because they want to show you the system has as much as value as possible; for you, as the potential home buyer, it’s good to see more information that helps you better value the current state of the system.

3. Take note if there are carbon monoxide detectors in the home.

A lack of carbon monoxide detectors does not impact your purchase decision – but it is something to look for. Keep in mind if these aren’t present in the home, you’ll likely want to add them.

4. Don’t forget your home inspection.

It’s hard to believe you would forget it, but be sure not to! Once you’re serious about potentially purchasing a home, you’ll want to do a home inspection – not just to take a look at the heating and cooling system, but to look at many of the other potential issues within the home. These experts are trained to look for things that the current home owner may not want to disclose, or that the current home owner may simply not even be aware of.

While more and more people see this is a critical part of the home purchase process, you still hear stories of people who neglected to have an expert inspect a home before purchasing it. While it’s mandatory for many people getting a loan, be sure not to forget this part of your home buying process.

When a certified technician takes a look at your potential furnace, they are able to tell you the condition of it, and they can give a better idea if long-term maintenance really has properly and consistently occurred. No matter what an owner tells you, an expert is there to tell you what they believe will happen in the future in terms of necessary repairs or even replacement.

If your home owner inspector tells you that you’ll need to repair the system in the very near future, you’ll want to take that into consideration before purchasing the home – or in the eventual purchase price of the home, it should be reflected. Most homeowners recognize the value of a furnace – just like how most home buyers recognize the value as well.

If your home inspector tells you that expensive repairs or that replacement is needed, give us a call so that we can help you be more informed and know more about your options. Even if you don’t anticipate buying a new furnace in the near future, any time you can plan ahead it makes the entire process easier.

Ensure Ultimate Comfort in Your Next Home

There are quite a few factors that go into the purchase of new home – the size, the location and other critical components of the property are just a few of the factors we tend to focus on. Don’t forget the importance of finding out key details that relate to your heating and cooling system, which can keep your family safe and comfortable in your new home.

If you consider these 4 tips you’ll have greater peace of mind, and greater comfort, in your next home. Give the experts at Greater Comfort a call today at 859-491-4915 if you need help finding out the potential costs of a new system.

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2 Potential HVAC Issues & How Springtime Maintenance Solves Both

hvac maintenance in the spring newport kentucky

Did you know that right now is the best time of year to get your AC maintenance completed?

Before the heat really starts to hit us consistently, it’s a great idea to get your HVAC checked and maintained.

Many people incorrectly believe the best time is in the summer, but ideally, you get your tune-up now. We like to remind people just in case it’s not on the calendar.

Spring Time Tune-Up

You also don’t want to wait much longer because as our AC unit gets dirtier, it’s going to get much less efficient. If you’re already feeling as if you are having to adjust your thermostat more often than you’d like, this is an additional sign that temperatures in your home – and overall air comfort – is being affected by a system that is not running optimally.

A common analogy is changing the oil in your car: between your regular oil changes, things are operating efficiently, and your car is able to perform as it should. But once you are overdue for an oil change, your car is forced to “work harder,” it is less efficient, and you run greater risk of problems occurring.
It’s not the first time that AC maintenance and tune-ups have been compared to car maintenance—and that’s because both are “easy” preventative measures you can take to avoid issues.

Here are 2 HVAC issues you can fix – or prevent from becoming a problem – with your spring cooling tune-up.

1. Dirty coils.

Condenser coils are key in making sure your unit performs as it should—and also performs as efficiently as it can. As you may know, your compressor pulls the refrigerant liquid through your tubing in the evaporator coil, and then this refrigerant material passes through the expansion valve in the unit. At this point in the process, that relieves pressure from your refrigerant, in the process cooling it.

You can think of it in simple terms as the hot air that exists in your home is removed from the home via your condenser coilers, which highlights just how integral they are to getting rid of the hot air in your home.

If the condenser coil is not clean, you can see why this would add stress to and/or disrupt the entire process. As more and more air is transferred, the fan will be working much harder of your unit is not as clean as it should be. Your A/C tune-up will make sure your coils are dirt-free and debris-free.

2. A miscalibrated thermostat.

You already know the value of a thermostat that’s working as it should: you have proper temperatures and you can fine-tine the comfort and specific temperature you’re looking for (and paying for!) throughout your entire home. A calibrated thermostat is one huge component supporting total comfort in your home!

But sometimes our thermostat can slowly show signs of miscalibration. Even being off by just a few degrees can waste a lot of money and can greatly impact the comfort we experience.

A somewhat easy-to-spot sign is when you have uneven temperatures in your home, although it’s not always obvious that it’s a thermostat issue.

While that might be more obvious than other signs, be sure not to ignore if your AC unit is running too short, or longer than it should be. Other signs that could mean you need to recalibrate your thermostat include your AC turning on and off at the wrong time, or short cycling.

In the end, you don’t get the comfort you’re after and you end up putting more stress on your HVAC system. Since your HVAC using more power when it’s turning on, any kind of cycling is hard on the unit, and is obviously less efficient than it could be.

When you have your system checked during your spring tune-up, we can make sure the thermostat is working as it should be, and we can recalibrate the system as needed. It’s just one more reason to make sure your getting in your regular maintenance.

Call the Experts at Greater Comfort Today

While there is no guarantee that ongoing maintenance will prevent all HVAC issues, it certainly extends the life of your system, keeps your family safe, helps your system work much more efficiently, and helps catch any issues you do encounter, as early as possible. Call us today to set up your spring tune-up – at a convenient time that works for you and your family.

We will be glad to answer any questions you have so that you can be sure to have ultimate comfort this spring and summer. Read more about our preventive maintenance program here.

We are also on-call 24/7 for emergency repairs if you ever need them. Give us a call today at 859-491-4915.

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The Basics: What to Know About Your Furnace

greater comfort heating and cooling

Any homeowner knows that you want your heating system to be working properly. In the winter months it can become a complete emergency if we have to go without heat due to a problem or breakdown with our furnace.

If you’ve been avoiding thinking about your furnace, or if you wish you knew more about the inner working of the heating component of your system, the time to learn more is now. Here we break down what you should know about your furnace.

How Your Heating System Works: Efficiency and Comfort in Your Home

Although every unique furnace model will vary, your HVAC system typically is made of 4 components: the indoor part of the system such as the furnace or air handler; the outdoor unit such as the air conditioner or heat pump; the thermostat; and the air quality component such as humidity control components or your air filtration.

Other factors to be aware of include:

  • Heating capacity: depending on your home’s unique needs, this refers to the overall capacity that your furnace has.
  • Ventilation: how your air is passed through the home and ventilated is
  • Exhaust: if it were to build-up without ever being cleaned, exhaust that is a byproduct of your furnace can pose a risk to your health and safety.
  • Electrical: not to be forgotten is the key that your electrical plays in keeping things running.

A single-stage furnace is one with one speed—meaning you have full heat (maximum speed) that provides you with warm air. In simple terms, your system will then “wait” for the air to cool down, which then triggers your furnace to turn on again. This is how conventional furnaces work to heat your home in the winter. You can see how this “off or on” furnace setup is not as efficient as furnaces that have adjustable and adaptable furnace capacity.

With a two stage furnace, you have greater control and consistency as you heat your home, versus an “off or on” setup. Having the ability to be more precise means you can control the heat output of your furnace on an ongoing basis, even as the temperature outside changes throughout the day.

With a variable speed furnace, the fan moves at various speeds in order to control the amount of heat that is dispersed throughout your home. An increase in airflow means you have a more comfortable home, including improved air quality.

In the end, single-stage furnaces will inevitably result in constant variation of temperature. Those homes with two stage or a variable speed furnace are more adaptable in real-time, and in most cases, they allow you to keep a more constant temperature in the home.

What Else Should I Know About My Furnace? 

As much as we try to keep things simple here, it is true that your heating system is a complex, complicated system—but also one of the most important parts of any home! Here is what else we can help you better understand:

Humidity in your home: you can benefit from a humidifier and dehumidifier in the home, as they help control your humidity level. Some systems are built into your system, but also we can help if you want to add a separate dehumidification or humidity system to your current setup.

The benefit of flexible solutions: conventional heat pumps would force heated air through ducts. Compare this to ductless systems, which work to deliver air directly into various zones of the home.

The reason ductless systems are popular today is because they can deliver this heat on a room-by-room basis. This is why you will hear people talking about the idea of zone-based heating—in this case, they are speaking of ductless systems. Many people choose this as an option for heating and cooling because of overall cost savings.

You have more, efficient options than ever: Ultimately, your HVAC deals with heating, cooling and ventilation. The US Department of Energy reports that modern heating systems can achieve efficiencies as high as 97 percent. That means higher efficiency, increased savings and greater comfort with a modern furnace that has the potential to covert nearly all that fuel to useful heat (1). In this post, we have covered the heating component. Stay tuned for more on what you should know about the rest of your system.

Call The Experts at Greater Comfort

Now that you know a bit more about your furnace, you are better equipped to make future decisions about your home’s air quality and heating/cooling. Give us a call today to learn more—especially if your furnace is not heating right, is louder than normal, only runs for a few minutes, or if the furnace blower is showing signs of not working consistently. Other signs you should give us a call can include excessive dust in the home or humidity-related issues.

If you’re doing research or considering new heating and cooling equipment, give us a call at 859-491-4915 to learn about your energy-efficient options that are best suited for your home.

Sources/References

  1. http://www.hgtv.com/remodel/mechanical-systems/types-of-hvac-systems
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October is Fire Prevention Month—A Reminder of Why Periodic HVAC Maintenance Is Crucial

HVAC Cincinnati

October is Fire Prevention Month, so it’s a good time to raise awareness and implement steps to protect our family.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that a home structure fire is reported every 87 seconds each year. Additionally, 3 out of 5 home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke detectors or without working smoke detectors.

Steps to take to be as prepared as possible include:

  • Home (or workplace) fire escape plan
  • Changing your smoke-alarm batteries
  • Awareness of any chemicals in the home
  • Awareness of main reasons for fires starting in the home

While our HVAC systems keep us comfortable when they are working in our favor, well not well maintained, they can be dangerous.

What Causes Fire Hazards in the Home?

As far as your AC system, electrical and mechanical failures are the foremost cause of AC-related home fires. When you get your regular tune-ups, we are able to make sure everything is working as it should.

Just think: sometimes in the summer, people keep their AC units running, and for longer. At times, that can mean conditioner drains overflow or have other issues.

First, we want to make sure that any heating coils are in the normal operating range—this is to avoid any resistance which can cause heat, and then a fire. We make sure the system is operating as it should; any squeaky sounds, strange noises, bumping or tapping is just one sign you could have issues with your system.

Maintaining your HVAC  system by a professional not only improves its efficiency, but it reduces the risk of fire. 

Here’s a look at some of the steps along the way: 

  • Ensuring the fan motor is not being overworked, including cleaning the interior AC coils and replacing the air filters regularly
  • Ensuring window air conditioner are not using extension cords
  • Lubricating belt drive pulleys or other equipment, when applicable
  • Expertly-cleaned coils or furnace burners, ensuring debris is removed

When it comes to ultimate fire safety, you’re also looking to do the following:

  • Ensure that ACs are plugged into their own outlet
  • Remove any improperly grounded receptacles (something electricians can assist with)
  • Keep any flammable materials far from any space heaters
  • Make sure any space heaters are only on firm and solid surfaces
  • Inspection of the attic and crawl spaces
  • Remove  loose fittings, leaking valves, faulty pilot lights, and/or any debris or improperly stored flammable materials near HVAC system and others places
  • Remove any overloaded circuit breakers, panel boxes, or fuse boxes
  • Inspection of the individual breaker connections

Ready for your HVAC maintenance? Give us a call today at 859-491-4915. 

References

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Myth Busters: Your Energy Bill in the Summer

cincinnati ohio AC repair newport KY

Many of us want to know whether it’s true: if you set your thermostat to a higher temperature in the summer months when you leave your home, does it save you money?

People on one end of the argument have said that if you turn the temperature up a few degrees when you don’t need the house as cool (or down when in the winter months), then you’ll negate any savings when you turn the temperature back down (or up in the winter).

Although that logic might sound possible, it’s not true.

The Truth About Using a Programmable Thermostat

Instead, setting your thermostat to a warmer temperature while you are away in the summer, then decreasing the setting again when you need cooling, does save you money.

Just how much money could be saved using this strategy? According to the Department of Energy, if you set your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees when you leave or go to sleep, it can save you 5 to 15 percent on your energy bill over a year. (See the article here.)

You can save hundreds of dollars a year by taking just a few minutes out of your day to set the thermostat.

Here’s another way of looking at it: if you set your thermostat to 76-78 degrees when you’re home, and off when you are not home, you will likely use 1-3 percent less energy per degree that the thermostat is set above 72. (Source: My Energy.)

While that estimated savings from setting your temperature back is greater for buildings or homes in milder climates, than for those in more severe climates, you can save money by taking advantage of your thermostats settings. For many of us, this is especially easy when you have a programmable thermostat (unless you have heat pumps—in certain cases) you can set and not worry about.

If you have heat pumps, electric resistance heating or steam heat, talk to us and we can help you implement a strategy that is the most cost-effective. If your digital thermostat is overly complicated, ask us for help to set up your system, which you can typically do on a daily and/or weekly programming schedule.

Here’s another scenario to consider: think about a normal temperature of a building or home to be around 68 degrees. When your house temperature drops below normal, it loses heat to the environment much more slowly than it does when the heat is at its normal temperature of 68. If you’re home is using less energy to heat, and then there is less heat lost to the environment, that means there is more savings for the homeowner!

Those savings are not negated when you turn the thermostat back up. With that said, avoid changing the thermostat to a colder setting than normal when you do return home and change the settings. You will not cool your home any faster, and this kind of action could result in greater energy expenses because you might excessively cool your home.

Set It & Save

If you are going on vacation, spend a lot of time away from the home, or you want to save a lot of money while you sleep, be sure to adjust your thermostat to take advantage of these cost savings.

Need help operating your thermostat for maximum energy savings? Let us know.

Sources

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Whole-Home Air Cleaners vs. Single-Room: Which is Right for Your Home?

cincinnati ac repair and air quality

You want a home that’s sealed so that you see the benefit of maximum energy efficiency, but at the same time, you want ventilation and the ability to properly filter out bacteria and air particles that can be damaging the health of your family.

You want a home that’s sealed so that you see the benefit of maximum energy efficiency, but at the same time, you want ventilation and the ability to properly filter out bacteria and air particles that can be damaging the health of your family.

Can you have both? The answer is yes, which is part of why home owners often ask us about two kinds of air cleaners: whole-home and single-room cleaners.

Single-Room vs. Whole-Home

Single-room air cleaners are what they sound like: cleaners that cover small areas within the home. In many cases single-room cleaners have a fan of some kind and an electronic component to charge the air to increase your filtration. Their benefits include the fact they are small and can be moved easily. Although they only cover a small range, they are effective in what they do for individual rooms.

One drawback to a single-room cleaner is that just because one room has air that is made more clean, doesn’t mean you are able to filter the air that exists in the rest of the house. While one or two rooms might have air that is healthier for your family in the short-term, the rest of the house can still have pollutants, dust mites, pet dander or other particles that can simply work back into the room you are working to clean.

The Benefits of Whole-Home Air Cleaners

Whole-home air cleaners, on the other hand, are integrated into your heating & air conditioning system. They utilize your furnace or your air handler to clean the air throughout the home. This means that not just one room is fully cleaned: you can know that the entire home air that has been filtered through the system.

Disposable filters, washable filters, electrostatic filters, and even UV lights are a few of the variety of options you have to remove impurities in the air utilizing your heating & cooling system.

The other benefits include:

  • The ability to remove or deactivate up to 99 percent of capture particles including most dust, allergens and particles in the air throughout the entire home
  • Protection for your entire HVAC thanks to reduced airborne particles
  • Higher efficiency: maximum airflow without sacrificing overall efficiency for your system
  • Help eliminate or relieve allergy symptoms or asthma due to pollutant’s within the home
  • Minimal maintenance or upkeep, especially compared to filters that are not modern

Did we also mention they operate quietly? Most whole-home air cleaning systems can be incorporated into any existing heating and cooling system (new build or retrofit) and you have lots of options to get started.

Ask us today so we can find a solution that best fits your needs, now and in the future!

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Why Ductless Heating & Cooling Systems are Rising In Popularity

ductless cincinnati ohio heating and cooling

Do you have a room in your home that seems to always be much hotter (or much cooler) than the rest of the rooms? Is it a room that isn’t often occupied, whether intentionally or unintentionally that way?

Maybe it’s a room that you also suspect is increasing your energy bill, even if it seems like a lost cause to try to evenly cool or heat the room to match the temperature of the rest of the house!

If you have one of these rooms in your house—whether it be a guest room or one you don’t even feel like you can fully utilize—it might be time to consider a ductless system.

What’s a ductless heating and cooling system?

Ductless systems are a great way to control the temperature of a single room, and they also allow you to reduce energy costs at the same time. A ductless cooling and heating system has an indoor unit that is mounted either on a wall or ceiling. It also has an outdoor unit that houses your condenser. Combined, the system is connected by a conduit—instead of any ductwork, and hence the name.

This means you are getting heating and cooling from one system, which is why you will hear that the systems are easier to install. That also plays a part into why they are more efficient than window ACs or space heaters, which people often turn to for those pesky single rooms that always are too hot or too cool. Another benefit is that they take up very little space being that they have no ductwork.

Besides better dealing with single-room solutions, what are the other conditions in which a ductless heating and cooling system might be a fit for your home?

1. You are looking for monthly savings.

Because ductless systems are very efficient, one of the major motivations for people is the monthly savings. Ask us more about your specific home and expected cost savings each month.

2. You are looking for cleaner and all around healthier air.

Not only do you get ideal comfort in all months of the year, but a ductless system means air purifying filters and works consistently to get rid of stale air, circulating fresh air in the process. Who wouldn’t want a multi-stage filtration that reduces dust, bacteria, pollen, allergens and more in the air?

3. You have electric heat currently.

Ready to replace your inefficient electric baseboard, wall and ceiling heat, electric furnace, or other space heaters? We thought so. We can also work with you to figure out what is best for you, which may mean supplementing your current setup.

4. You have had, or plan to have, a remodel or new addition to your home.

When you add to a building or your home, in many cases, adding to the existing ductwork or pipes in a home can be costly—or worse yet—it can be inefficient in the long-run. Ask us if a ductless system would be a more effective and less costly option for your add-on. If you are building a new home, there are even more possibilities.

It’s clear that ductless means even, year-round comfort in your home. Remember that one of the biggest reasons ductless cooling and heating systems have gotten so popular is due to how ductless systems take less power, meaning the efficiency is passed on to the homeowners as cost-savings.

If you are ready for quiet and even air in your home and want to talk more about ductless heating and cooling systems, as well as opportunities for tax credits and rebates if you install a ductless system, let us know today.

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