What Size HVAC Do I Need? 6 Factors to Consider

HVAC heating and air conditioning unitsWhen you’re getting ready to purchase a new HVAC system, what’s the first thing you need to consider? The size of the system!

If your HVAC system is too small, it’ll work harder and longer to heat and cool your home. These systems often can’t perform well enough to get your home to the ideal temperature.

But if your system is too large, (like this one!) it will heat and cool your home, but will constantly turn on and off because it takes so much less effort to do so. The starting of an HVAC system is the most hardware-intensive part of the process. It takes more energy and places more strain on the system to start it than it does to run for hours on end. This, in turn, requires more repairs and more maintenance.

So What Size HVAC Do I Need?

One of the problems with determining the size of your HVAC system is that it has so many factors involved – in, out and around your home. This makes it difficult to properly determine the size you’ll need. Here are six factors you (or your HVAC installer) should consider:

  • Previous Systems – If you had an HVAC system installed previously, then you’re more likely to get an accurate system. If you think your previous system was perfect, then you know what you need. If you thought it was too small or too large, then that can be adjusted accordingly and you can move on to the other factors.
  • Insulation – The most important factor is your home’s insulation. We’ll talk more about this later, but if your home lets air in and out through the walls, windows and doors, you’ll need a slightly larger system. If you have an airtight home, the system will just need to be large enough to cool or heat your home to the desired temperature.
  • Home Building Material – The building material also determines the insulation of your home. Brick homes only provide a little insulation, whereas vinyl homes provide much more.
  • Room Heights – How tall are your rooms? Some rooms are taller than others, but on average, they’re probably about eight feet tall. The HVAC installer has to take into consideration the height of the rooms individually. A bunch of small, insulated rooms with closed doors is easier to maintain than a large open room.
  • Overall Size of Building (square footage) – Your building’s square footage takes most size factors and puts them into one.
  • Climate Inside the Home – What’s inside the room, along with humidity levels and the climate where you live, also affect the size of your system. For instance, a room with a lot of electronics running is going to be hotter than an empty room. And electronics will need to be cooled more significantly in the summertime. But in the winter, it may require less energy to heat as it has its own natural heating source.

If you want to know more about what Cottam can do for the comfort of your home, give us a call! (800) 734-8367 or visit us online at http://www.cottamhvac.com!

3 Things that happen when you DON’T maintain your HVAC system

You’ve probably heard it a lot. “Your HVAC system and your car have a lot of similarities”. Why do people so often make this comparison? Well because your car and your HVAC system have one very big thing in common, they both NEED proper maintenance! Think about it, you’d never drive your car 100,000 miles without getting it inspected and having your oil change. Same goes for your Air Conditioner and Furnace. Think about those hot summer days and brutally cold winter nights. Your system is getting quite a workout! By properly maintaining your system, you are actively protecting your home and family’s investment. So what happens when you DON’T maintain that investment?

  1. You are practically ensuring premature equipment failure. We hear it a lot from customers “But getting maintenance done on a system that’s working properly is expensive and what’s the point?”. If you let your system run day after day and season after season without having it looked at, the only warning you will have if something is wrong is minutes or hours before the system shuts down and you are stuck without any working heat or air. A good system can last anywhere from 10-15 years and without proper maintenance, you could significantly cut down on it’s life which ends up being more expensive for you and your family.
  2. Your system isn’t running at it’s highest efficiency. The short answer, it’s costing you more money. When one of our technicians comes to your home, they run through our 16 point inspection plan to make sure every nook and cranny of your system is performing at peak efficiency. That leads to your system heating up or cooling down your home in less time which means less expense!
  3. Breakdowns WILL happen. Much like premature equipment failure, breakdowns can be expensive! Not only can they be expensive and inconvenient, but the worst time to have a system breakdown is when you need it most, in the dead of winter. Most companies will guarantee that with regular and proper maintenance from a trusted contractor, you will NOT see a breakdown all season. We often receive calls from people who are upset that their system is failing them and when we ask when the last time they have their furnace looked at we get the same response, “Um, never?”. Bottom line? Maintenance prevents breakdowns!

If you want to know more about what Cottam can do for the comfort of your home going into this winter season, give us a call! (800) 734-8367 or visit us online at http://www.cottamhvac.com!

Back to Cool: 10 Ways to Prep Your Home for Lower Temps

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You can shut your windows against the cold, but unless they’re properly sealed, they won’t keep it out. Weatherproofed windows offer more than just personal comfort—they’re a sure way to lower winter energy costs as well. To seal your windows, apply weatherstripping around the edges. For extra protection against the cold, consider coating the panes with insulating film to keep the cool air out and the warm air in.

Get Your Ducts in a Row

If you’re living with leaky ductwork, you might as well just put a hole through your wallet. Improperly sealed ducts can lead to the loss of as much as 30 percent of the heated air that passes through, which means that you may be paying for a whole lot more heat than you’re getting. Before you switch on the furnace this fall, take some time to identify any leaks in your ductwork. Call in a pro to test your system and make any necessary repairs. A little investment now can save you money and energy later.

Get Insulated

Everyone knows the secret to staying warm is bundling up. The same goes for your house: It needs adequate insulation to help it keep out cold air. Perform a basic check of your attic insulation to make sure you have enough. The amount of insulation your home needs will depend on the region in which you live and your home’s heating system. Consult a local expert, or refer to an online insulation map to help you determine whether or not to add more insulation to your home this fall.

Check the Fireplace

A crackling fire is a welcome sight when the temperature drops, but it’s best to kindle one only in a well-maintained fireplace. Before you light up this year, consider having the chimney professionally cleaned to remove built-up creosote and ash from the interior walls and venting portion of the chimney. As well, check the exterior of the chimney for cracks, and make repairs to the masonry using the appropriate materials. If necessary, add or replace the chimney cap to keep out branches, debris, or unwanted visitors of the four-legged or winged varieties.

Service the Furnace

A furnace will usually last between 15 and 20 years. If yours is getting up there in age, it may be wise to replace it now rather than risk a breakdown in the depths of winter. Look for an Energy Star-rated model that will run more efficiently, saving you money on utility bills in the process. Another bonus: You may qualify for up to $500 in tax credits if you upgrade to an energy-efficient unit, which could be a real boon come tax season.

Clear the Air

Perhaps the simplest and most budget-friendly thing you can do to prepare for cooler temps: Change your furnace filter. A dirty, clogged filter makes your system work harder to push air through, thereby overworking your system and driving up your bills. Change your air filters monthly to keep your furnace—and your wallet—happy.

Swap Your Fabrics

Cozy up to cooler temperatures by switching out your bedding and window treatments. Strip your bed of cool-weather linens, and break out the flannel sheets, wool blankets, and down comforters. Similarly, if your windows have been dressed with sun-loving sheers all summer long, consider switching to a thicker material that will do a better job of blocking the cold—think duck cloth, velvet, and other heavy textiles.

Prep Your Radiator

When not in use, a hot-water radiator will fill with air, and that can cause problems when you switch it on after months of inactivity. Before turning on your system for the season, bleed the lines of any air. To do so, switch on the heat and the radiator. Locate the vent at the top of the radiator, unscrew it, and let the hot steam escape. Once the trapped air is gone, water will begin to drip out of the radiator. Catch the water with a cup, and screw the vent cap back into place.

Drain Your Water Lines

Just as you need to bleed your radiator pipes of air, you need to bleed your backyard pipes of water. Autumn is the perfect time to drain a sprinkler system of standing water, which can burst pipes as it freezes and expands. Using either a manual or automatic drain valve or compressed air, remove the water from the pipes. When spring arrives, you’ll have no trouble getting things flowing again to keep your garden green all summer long.

Pack Up the Patio

Time to put outdoor furniture back indoors—for now. Wipe down plastic patio furniture, rub wicker with tung oil, and check metal chairs and tables for signs of rust. After the furniture is clean and dry, fold it up and place it in the garage, shed, or basement to overwinter. If you don’t have space to store patio furniture indoors, consider purchasing all-season covers made of vinyl or plastic that can provide a modest amount of protection from winter rain and sun.

COTTAM HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING IS THE LEADING HEATING AND COOLING COMPANY IN CITY ISLAND, NEW YORK CITY AND WESTCHESTER.  IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT CRACKED HEAT EXCHANGER DETECTION OF IF YOU’D LIKE A HEATING SYSTEM OR INSTALLED IN YOUR HOME, CONTACT COTTAM!  GIVE US A CALL AT (718) 885-3328. YOU CAN ALSO CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER. WE SERVICE CITY ISLAND, MANHATTAN AND WESTCHESTER COUNTIES! 

5 Tips for Assessing an HVAC System When Buying a Home

One of the things that makes buying a house stressful is the nagging fear that something will break down soon after moving in. The range won’t heat up, the boiler will start leaking, or the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment will refuse to work, leaving a major hole in the household budget.

You can’t predict the future, but the following tips will give homebuyers an idea of what to expect from a house’s HVAC equipment. But remember, these tips should not be used in place of the findings of a licensed home inspector.

The stat sheet on the house you are interested in should list the types of HVAC equipment, as well as the fuel used to power them. If it does not, be sure to ask. Here are some tips for judging HVAC equipment in a potential home.

5 Tips for Assessing an HVAC System When Buying a Home

Visually inspect the equipment.

Furnaces, boilers and air conditioning units are usually hidden away in a basement or utility area. Does the equipment look like it is in good condition? Does it make odd noises? You probably won’t be able to make an accurate assessment of the system based only on how it looks, but you may notice something that concerns you. If you proceed to the next step of the home-buying process, you can discuss the issues with a home inspector. You can also hire an HVAC contractor to perform an inspection of the equipment.

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Ask about the system’s age.

HVAC equipment has a finite lifespan. Once the system is about 15 years old, it should be replaced. While many air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces, and boilers can work well longer than 15 years, especially if they are well maintained, energy regulations and advances in technology make newer equipment much more energy efficient — and therefore cost efficient — than older models. The Department of Energy estimates that a 12-year-old central air conditioner that is replaced with a new Energy Star model, which will be more energy efficient than standard models, can reduce your air conditioning bill by 30 percent.

Look for the energy label.

All heating and cooling equipment should have a yellow energy label. The label lists the energy efficiency of the unit and its operating costs relative to similar equipment. The table below provides a standard against which you can judge the equipment and the requirements for an Energy Star logo. Items that qualify are more energy efficient than typical equipment. Keep in mind that the table only lists minimum standards. You can find furnaces, air conditioners, and heat pumps that are much more energy efficient than the minimum ratings.

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Source: www.energystar.gov

Boilers and furnaces are rated by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which provides information on the amount of fuel that is converted to heat. The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) tells how efficient an air conditioner is in converting electricity into cooling. The heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) measures the heating efficiency of heat pumps.

When judging the efficiency of the HVAC equipment in a home, know that the rating on the label refers to a brand new unit. Unless the equipment was properly maintained, it probably is not as efficient as the label states.

Ask about past maintenance and repairs.

Heating and cooling equipment needs maintenance to operate properly. It does not hurt to ask about past maintenance, especially if you show interest in the house. Sometimes, HVAC technicians leave behind a dated job ticket when they service an air conditioner, boiler, furnace or heat pump. It may be attached to the unit or posted nearby and tells the next technician what has been done to the system. Job tickets are essentially a mini-maintenance record. Check them for frequent repairs, especially if they involve big-ticket items like blower motors or compressors. A few large repairs on an older system could mean trouble in the future.

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Notice the comfort level in different rooms.

Pay attention to how comfortable you are as you tour the house. There’s a problem if the house is hot and stuffy when the AC is cranking or if it feels drafty when the heat is on. If only certain rooms are uncomfortable, it could mean there is something wrong with the delivery system, such as leaking or uninsulated ducts.

Be sure to inspect the HVAC equipment as thoroughly as possible before you commit to purchasing a new home. Take the time to survey the equipment, and ask questions about its history. Taking simple steps can save you from discovering a big problem after you’ve moved in.

On or Auto? That is the Question. Here is Your Answer.

Do you know what the difference the two settings (ON and AUTO) on your thermostat provides? These two settings refer to how your furnace or air conditioner’s fan will run. The fan is what helps drive air through the air ducts and into your living spaces.

It’s pretty obvious that “ON” means the fan is on 24/7/365, even when the air isn’t being heated or cooled…and “AUTO” means that the fan automatically comes ON or goes OFF when the air is being heated or cooled to a certain temperature (once your house reaches the temperature you’ve set on the thermostat, the fan stops running).

There are benefits to both positions for the thermostat: ON (or OFF) will let you save energy when you are away from home or use the system only when you want to. But, Choice Comfort Services actually recommends you set your thermostat to AUTO and here’s four reasons why:

  1. You will enjoy more comfort and less noise—If the fan is left ON, you’ll have to listen to it all of the time and you’ll probably never have a consistent temperature in your home.
  2. You won’t have to change your air filter as often—The fan left ON will continually pull in air through your return vents, right where your air filter is, so it’s going to get way more dusty over a shorter period of time. That means you will have to change your air filter more often.
  3. You’ll save on your utility bill—Running the fan in the ON position all of the time could add as much as $50 to your utility bill each month.
  4. Your system will need less maintenance or “early retirement”—Leaving the fan ON means your HVAC system is going to work harder, have more breakdowns or even worse, not last as long.

HVAC Tips for First-Time Homebuyers: 8 Things to Know About an HVAC System

Buying your first home is an exciting process. When you find the perfect home, you can’t wait to nest and make it your own. But with all the excitement, one important asset can often get overlooked: the HVAC system.

Your HVAC system is the mechanical heart of your home. It keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer—and it accounts for nearly half of all your energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. HVAC systems can be an large investment for your home, so determining the condition it’s in before you purchase a home can help you negotiate the price or be more prepared for future maintenance requirements.

Here are a few ways first-time homebuyers can learn more about the HVAC system in the home they want to purchase:

  1. Find out how old the HVAC system is.

Knowing the age of an HVAC system can help you budget for maintenance, repairs or even a replacement. Typically, HVAC systems last anywhere between 15 and 25 years. If the system in the home you want to purchase is 10-12 years old, you’ll likely encounter some repair costs in the near future.

  1. Find out what type of HVAC system it is—and if there are any add-ons.

There are several different types of HVAC systems, including furnaces, boilers, split heating/cooling and ductless. In addition, systems can be fueled by electricity, natural gas, oil or another type of fuel. Typically sellers will specify the type of HVAC system included in the home. Do a little research to understand how it’s fueled, as well as how much your utility bills will cost. Utility companies will usually provide historic averages of bills for any given house if you call for that information.

As for add-ons, these may include a zoning system, humidifier, dehumidifier, ventilation system, WiFi thermostat or air-purification system. All of these additions can be a big win for you since they enhance the comfort of your home.

  1. Find out the system’s energy rating.

The higher the efficiency rating, the less energy the system will use to heat and cool your home, costing you less money in energy bills. For air conditioners, you’ll want to look at the seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER rating, and the energy efficiency ratio (EER). For furnaces, look at the AFUE, which stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating.

  1. Check the warranty.

Make sure the warranty is transferrable and it hasn’t been voided out by improper maintenance. Get the model number and serial number, and contact the manufacturer for warranty information.

  1. Ask to see the report from the last maintenance inspection.

Proper maintenance is key to ensuring the functionality and longevity of an HVAC system. Take a look at the last inspection to learn if any maintenance issues were recently addressed or could become a problem later.

  1. Don’t forget about the ductwork.

Dirt, dust, debris, mold and mildew can all build up in your ductwork, which can cause poor air quality, damage to the ductwork, strain to your HVAC system and higher energy bills. Ask to see the last inspection report for ductwork, too.

  1. Get a copy of the home evaluation report.

Many certified home inspectors aren’t qualified to determine the condition of an HVAC system. Ask for a copy of the home evaluation report from the inspector and get a second opinion from your HVAC contractor.

  1. Do your own visual inspection.

Does it look like it’s running properly? Are the vents connected well? Is there any visible signs of leaks? You may not be an HVAC expert, but having a look and asking questions is a must.

5 Ways Hiring an HVAC Professional Can Save You Money

A/C technician installing new heat pump & a/c unit, old unit worn out
A/C technician installing new heat pump & a/c unit, old unit worn out

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) projects may not seem all that difficult. However, many homeowners opt to hire a professional to ensure quality results on their HVAC system maintenance and upgrades.

Have you wandered the aisles of your local home improvement store trying to determine what you need for your home’s air conditioning or furnace? If you are unsure about what is wrong with your equipment, get a professional’s opinion or you could be spending money unnecessarily.

Even if you have considered replacing the system yourself, talk to some HVAC professionals before you go down the DIY road. HVAC professionals are the experts for all things HVAC. It is the job of the HVAC professional to know what to do and how to work with your HVAC system. Here are 5 ways hiring an HVAC professional save you money.

1. Before you make that first call to an HVAC professional, write down all of your questions and concerns. If you want to know if you should replace or upgrade your system, be sure to note your questions on the list. If you want to see if your system can handle central air conditioning, write it down so you remember to ask.

Having your questions written out allows you to take notes when discussing your potential HVAC project with the company. Some companies may not do what you need or want done. It is best to know before hiring a company that they can only do a portion of the needed work for your job. Having to hire an additional company can increase the overall cost of the job and prolong the completion of the project.

2. Select three HVAC installation companies in your area. Check their websites to make sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured (regulations and licenses vary by state). By making sure they are properly licensed, bonded, and insured, it protects you, the homeowner, from injuries or mistakes made by the contractor while on your property.

3. Ask for a written quote from each HVAC installation company you contact. This allows you to know exactly what costs for parts and labor will be before the job is started. When comparing the three price quotes, look at how much each is charging for parts and labor.

Is it a fixed price for the project or is it by the hour? Per project rates mean the clock is not being watched. Per hour rates mean a 2-hour job could turn into a 6-hour job, sometimes due to unethical business practices. When in doubt, call the company back and ask for a more detailed quote and explanation of their charges.

4. HVAC professionals work with HVAC and electrical systems daily. It is what they are trained to do. While DIY techniques may work for some areas of the home, let the experts repair and replace the HVAC in your home or business.

5. Hiring an HVAC professional and having a professional installation of your HVAC equipment usually gives you a warranty on the equipment along with labor, depending upon your contract. Be sure to ask the questions before agreeing to the installation or repair work.

HVAC repairs and installation are not without some cost. The cost comes from the equipment being installed, the labor to have it installed or repaired, and the warranty for the equipment and possibly labor to have it replaced.

If you are in the market for an HVAC equipment upgrade or you know yours will need repairs, make the calls today for repair or installation quotes. This allows you to save if needed and to add the costs to your household or business budget.

COTTAM HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING IS THE LEADING HEATING AND COOLING COMPANY IN CITY ISLAND, NEW YORK CITY AND WESTCHESTER.  IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT CRACKED HEAT EXCHANGER DETECTION OF IF YOU’D LIKE A HEATING SYSTEM OR INSTALLED IN YOUR HOME, CONTACT COTTAM!  GIVE US A CALL AT (718) 885-3328. YOU CAN ALSO CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER. WE SERVICE CITY ISLAND, MANHATTAN AND WESTCHESTER COUNTIES! 

Does cleaning your ducts mean a more efficient HVAC system?

Air duct cleaning isn’t often a service that HVAC companies offer to their clients but it doesn’t mean the two are unrelated. In fact, we often hear companies promise that your home gets cleaner air and better system efficiency. But is that true?

NADCA recommends that you get your ducts examined and cleaned every 3-5 years. A properly licensed and honest contractor will let you know when they come to your home if your home is actually in need of a cleaning. We have seen homes where children or adults have swept dust and debris into floor registers and later on that dirty air is circulated back into the home so we recommend at least having them examined from time to time.

Examining your ducts can also lead to solving potential problems with your HVAC system down the road. When dirt and debris get into your air ducts it does cause obstructions which restrict how much air gets circulated back into your living spaces. This can cause higher energy bills in homeowners futures.

If you experience any of the following symptoms in your home, we recommend you call air duct cleaners immediately.

– Mold: If your home smells musty or moldy, call your local trusted contractor to come out for an inspection. Mold develops when moisture is trapped and can be very damaging to your HVAC system.

– Insects or Rodents: If you have seen any evidence of rodent droppings or insect bodies it is time to have your ducts cleaned. Not only is it infecting the air you breathe but it could be an indicator of a much bigger problem.

Is duct cleaning worth it?

In order for your home to cool correctly and efficiently the air inside your ducts must circulate sufficiently. While there is no overwhelming evidence that it will help your system run more efficiently, having clean air inside your home is definitely worth considering. If you have any of the symptoms above or you notice that you see much more dust than usual, it doesn’t hurt to bring someone out to at least examine your current situation. Addressing any situations early can prevent you the homeowner from incurring big unexpected expenses down the road. You can help your overall home health by

  • Changing your filters on a regular basis
  • Schedule HVAC system tuneups every spring and fall
  • Make sure your thermostat is in perfect working order

The Causes for Odors in Your Ductwork: When to Call a Professional

Animal Odors

Although it may be a disgusting thought, bear in mind that many of the odors coming up through your registers will likely be animal related. These may be due to “animal smells” getting lodged in the filters, thereby sending the odor throughout the home through the ductwork. It could also be due to a mouse or rat that has died either in the ductwork itself or inside a building cavity. Thus, if replacing the filter doesn’t work, you may opt to call a professional who can locate the source of the stench and remove it.

Combustion Flue Gases

Combustion flue gases are dangerous and are loaded with carbon monoxide, so if you smell things that seem out of place – i.e. a “burning” scent, LP gas or oil, or anything else that you shouldn’t notice – it is crucial to contact someone right away, particularly if you do not have carbon monoxide detectors in your home. The release of flue gases into the ductwork can be caused by any number of things, but it is most commonly caused by a hole in the heat exchanger that allows the gases to seep into the ducts.

Mold Odors

Mold odors are also incredibly common in ductwork, but they can also be dangerous. Mold can have a severe impact on your overall health and cause persistent allergy symptoms, infections, and even permanent damage to your body. If you notice a mildew smell emanating from your vents, then it is best to contact a professional who can not only locate the source of the mold, but figure out how it got there in the first place. It is best to have it removed as soon as possible.

Septic or Sewer Odors

Another common odor that homeowners report, primarily in the winter season on days or nights when the furnace is used, is a sewer smell. There are a number of causes for this, but it might be that a sewer line has cracked or is leaking onto ductwork. Thus, when the furnace is running and air is coming from registers, it is bringing that rather strong sewer smell with it. It may also occur when the condensate drain is connected to the sewer without a trap. In this case, sewer gas may leak up through the condensate drain and into the furnace. A professional plumber can install a trap in the condensate line to alleviate this problem.

Remember that if you are smelling mold, flue gases (or the odor of combustion byproducts), or sewer odors in your home, it is important to have these issues addressed immediately as they present serious hazards to your health and perhaps even the risk of explosion in the case of methane (sewer) gas in high concentrations.

Strange and unpleasant odors in your ductwork can be frustrating or even embarrassing when you have friends and family in your home. If you’ve noticed some unusual smells emanating from your registers and you’d like to take care of them in time for the holidays, you’ve come to the right place. Though some of the odors might be considered benign and simply annoying, others have the potential to be dangerous. You may need to clean, repair, or replace parts of your ductwork to solve the problem.

COTTAM HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING IS THE LEADING HEATING AND COOLING COMPANY IN CITY ISLAND, NEW YORK CITY AND WESTCHESTER.  IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT CRACKED HEAT EXCHANGER DETECTION OF IF YOU’D LIKE A HEATING SYSTEM OR INSTALLED IN YOUR HOME, CONTACT COTTAM!  GIVE US A CALL AT (718) 885-3328. YOU CAN ALSO CHECK US OUT ON FACEBOOK OR TWITTER. WE SERVICE CITY ISLAND, MANHATTAN AND WESTCHESTER COUNTIES! 

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