Heating and Air News

Why You Should Replace Your Air Conditioner & Furnace Simultaneously

Your HVAC system, which means your heating and cooling systems, are the heart of your home. They are the reason you can sleep well at night when it’s blistering hot out or you can read comfortably on your couch when it’s cold outside. These system are designed to work for years, but after a while, like all things used on a regular basis, they must be replaced. Yet, advice varies on whether or not you should replace your air conditioner and furnace at the same time.

Replacing Simultaneously:

Consider how quickly technology develops. A decade ago cellphones were still about the size of small bricks and now you can comfortably slide one in your back pocket (or lose it in your purse!). Imagine how far energy efficient technology has come since the day your furnace was installed twelve years ago. Considering homeownership is one of the biggest investments of anyone’s life, it’s safe to say there’s a whole industry around making that the most sensible choice for you.

Heating and cooling systems have similar lifespans and often operate together. Your ventilation system is what moves air, both warm and cold, through your house. If you replace your air conditioning unit but the other aspects of your system are outdated you may not be using your conditioner to maximum efficiency.

Also, if you only replace one piece of equipment and continue to repair the other one, the amount you spend on repairs and in utility bills on less efficient equipment may easily be outweighed by buying an entirely new, modern air conditioning and heating system. By the time you do replace that second piece, it may be more efficient than your now-older equipment ensuring you still don’t operate at 100% capacity.

Consider the amount of time that goes into replacing one piece of equipment. You need to consult a specialist, select a unit, review warranty and service agreements, schedule an install date and take off that day from work, and setup repair and servicing for your outdated equipment. Whereas, doing a system overhaul means you can take care of everything in one fell swoop, and sometimes get a better deal in the process!

Replacing Separately:

It would be unfair of us to ignore factors associated with replacing separately, but these truly are conditional. If neither of your equipment is more than a few years old and you are having serious problems with one piece, that piece may be defective. You should consult your installer and the manufacturer regarding how to replace the equipment as soon as possible. If you only need to conduct minor repairs or replace parts well known to break down early, you only need to deal with one piece at a time. However, if you are replacing an 8 year old air conditioning unit and haven’t considered replacing your 10 year old furnace, we strongly encourage you to consult a specialist about overhauling your system.

By replacing both units at the same time you save money on energy bills, minimize work done at your home, and can open up opportunities to increase efficiency at large. If you are replacing your equipment you should have your ducts inspected as well. (30% efficiency is lost through heat and cool transfer in leaking ducts.) One system overhaul could have your home operating hassle free for ten years or more!

When To Replace an HVAC System

An HVAC system can help your home maintain a cozy, comfortable temperature no matter what the seasons throw at you. HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems are the underbelly of your house, the duct systems, filters, furnace and cooling unit that your make your house a comfy home.

There are simple ways to tell when components of your HVAC system to need to be replaced.

Heating Components: Furnace & Boiler

Many homes are heated using furnaces or boilers, the former merely distributes heat through the home while the latter can also double as a water heater. Both systems have what are called ‘heat exchangers’ which are the core of their heating functions. If you see that exchangers are damaged in any way you should look into replacing your systems as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you spot any other sort of structural damage have your systems checked out immediately to see if you need them replaced. Furnaces are particularly vulnerable to rust damage if they are near sources of moisture, especially if they are tied to your central air conditioning system. One tell-tale sign of excessive damage is a strange smell, which indicates carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous gas. Boilers on the other hand indicate extreme damage by leaking water.

Air Conditioning

The air conditioning aspect of your HVAC system is harder to gauge. Unlike furnaces or boilers, ACs require far more repairs due to the fact that it’s core system is often outside. Since they are exposed to the elements, and will likely suck things such as dirt and leaves into its system, they require more repairs. You should have someone conduct regular maintenance on the unit. However, if there is severe structural damage, it makes an excessive amount of noise or you need to have it repaired more than once a season you should look into replacing the unit.

Ducts & Vents

Upon inspections ducts are fairly easy to tell if they need to be replaced, you can see breaks, rust, or feel leaks, but that means you need to notice a problem to begin with. The most noticeable sign that your ducts and ventilation system aren’t working to capacity is a lack of uniform heating or air conditioning through your house. If you have zoned temperature control set two rooms to be identical and heat them for the same amount of time, try two to three hours, and check their status. If there is serious difference there may be issues with your ventilation system.

HVAC systems are an extremely important component of your home. These systems circulate fresh air through your house while simultaneously filtering out all the bits you don’t want like pollen and dust. Additionally, HVAC systems maintain a consistent moisture level, not too moist which would cause mold, but not too dry, which could dry out your skin or degrade wood furniture quicker. They are the key to heating and cooling your home and ensuring you and your family are always breathing the fresh California air. You should have your HVAC system inspected every few years and make sure to perform routine maintenance. Replacing the system is much easier on your terms rather than in an emergency.

When Should You Have Your Air Ducts Checked?

When you buy an appliance you are given an owner’s manual. Vital knowledge includes its proper use, how to tell if something has gone wrong, and when it requires cleaning or maintenance. An air conditioning system, for example, requires a significant amount of attention to ensure it runs properly and efficiently. Sacramento HVAC specialists will help you determine a schedule of cleaning and maintenance on your entire system, including a check on your duct work.

Regular inspection is crucial for appliances such as the air conditioning system. An inspection will provide a wealth of information about the system, such as when it is best to have the ducts cleaned or the units cooled.

Regardless of this schedule, you should have your duct-work checked if there is any visible mold growth inside any component of the air conditioning system, especially on the ducts. It should also be checked by Sacramento HVAC specialists if you suspect that the duct is clogged with dust and particles. This can be determined by a visual inspection of the easily-accessible parts of the system or the filters.

When To Have Your Ducts Checked

  • You might also need to have your system inspected if you have reason to suspect it isn’t working properly. If, for example, you hear strange noise from the air duct, you should have the ducts professionally examined to determine the problem.
  • If your utility bill goes up an unreasonable amount that’s a sign that something isn’t work right.
  • Your home seems visibly dustier than it ever was in the past.
  • If members of your family become ill or their allergies act up very badly when indoors.

Generally speaking, it is best to schedule regular inspections to ensure things are working optimally in order to avoid these problems altogether. A thorough inspection is the only way a contractor can know what problems your ducts or air conditioning system might be hiding from you. Finding a qualified specialist can alleviate many of your worries and answer any questions you may have about maintenance. Before you hire a contractor, you should make sure they are qualified, licensed, certified and insured before accepting their services. What you learn from even one visit by a trained professional will be invaluable in determining what your system requires and how best to provide it.

The inspection will allow your Sacramento HVAC specialist to identify what problems, if any, exist in the ducts and the rest of the system. The course of action might be as simple as a cleaning, but make sure it is done properly otherwise more particles could be released into your house than ever before. If there is a greater problem than simple cleaning perhaps resealing or replacing is in order. It is possible that, on older ducts, cleaning and repairing aren’t enough to ensure appropriate air flow and cleanliness. In fact, replacing ductwork with modernized, efficient equipment can reduce your utility bills. There is nothing as important as breathing in fresh and clean air, and maintaining your ductwork is a small price to pay for that luxury.

Tune Up Your Air Conditioner For Peak Performance

Air conditioners are hardworking machines and without proper service and maintenance, their performance deteriorates. This loss of effectiveness results in both a decrease in functioning—leaving you warmer when you’d like to be cool—and an increased appetite for the energy you pay good money for. Fortunately, with just a quick tune up from Sacramento HVAC specialists, your air conditioner can be restored and stay in top condition for much longer.

How Do You Know Your Air Conditioner Needs A Tune Up?

Your air conditioner does not need to be broken before you request a tune up. In fact, just like you have your car’s oil changed and the tires rotated, regular tune-ups are one of the best ways to prevent serious problems that can cause the unit to break down. Scheduled maintenance and inspections are the best way to ensure your air conditioner is running smoothly.

There are, however, a few signs that indicate your air conditioner needs to be serviced immediately. The most common tell tale sign is when the unit starts making unfamiliar noises. Noise could mean a part is loose or something is caught in the system and being tossed around. If you notice strange sounds coming from your cooling system that you do not recognize, it is best to switch it off completely and call an HVAC specialists to inspect it.

Other indicators include leaking, small pools of water underneath the device, an unpleasant smell and unusually warm air when in use. It might also start cooling some parts of the room better than others. If one part of the room is cool and other areas are slightly warmer, you should consult a specialist quickly.

What Is A Tune Up?

A tune up is a professionally administered process where a specialist inspects, cleans and repairs an air conditioning system to restore normal function. The expert is likely to adjust the thermostat to help regulate the air temperature, fix the wiring, ensure that the fan is well-lubricated and inspect compressor amps.

They might also clean the condenser, drain and evaporator coil. After performing these tasks, it is crucial for the expert to conduct thorough checks for safety and performance. There’s more to a tune-up than just cleaning the filter.

Why Is A Tune Up Important?

Through use and time, air conditioners lose their ability to run smoothly. The more they struggle to function, the more energy they use up. Having your system tuned will therefore cut out additional energy costs.

Also, it’s important to note that when an air conditioner begins to show the previously-mentioned signs of damage, continuing to use it will only worsen the damage to the system. The best thing to do is to shut it down and have it tuned to save you the cost and hassle of buying a new system.

Another benefit of tuning is that it improves longevity. Conditioners that receive regular tune ups are likely to last twice as long. Regular cleaning can prevent substances from accumulating and clogging the air system, leading both to cleaner, fresher indoor air and protecting your system from damaging particulate accumulation.

Next time you suspect your air conditioner needs a looking over, call Sacramento HVAC specialists for a professional tune up. Whether you are installing your first cooling system or need an older one repaired,  a professional can help you give your air conditioner the care it needs to give you years of fresh, cool air.

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

Faulty heating and cooling systems can lead to a potentially fatal buildup of carbon monoxide (CO) in a home. Sacramento HVAC specialists can examine home energy systems to minimize your risk of CO poisoning. To reduce this risk, as well as preventing damage to the system or your home, planning a heating and cooling inspection is a sound investment.

The effect of carbon monoxide on the body, as well as detection of high concentrations, is not well understood by most of us. In order to understand the facts about CO and its effects, it is helpful to learn from authoritative sources, like the Florida Department of Health, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Such organizations, and their representatives, speak with a single voice about the inherent dangers of residential carbon monoxide hazards.

Home HVAC units, like all other consumer products and appliances, age and eventually wear out. No matter how wonderful your system is at the time of installation, it, like all things, will come to its natural end. Unfortunately, many homeowners do not pay close attention to the age of their heating and cooling units, and thus run the risk of allowing harmful gas to creep into their homes. Sacramento HVAC specialists are able to inspect all of your systems and determine how to best repair, replace, or maintain them.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 170 people die each year as a direct result of carbon monoxide in the indoor atmosphere. The CO in such cases was released by something other than the family automobile. Upwards of 1,000 persons are admitted to U.S. emergency rooms annually due to CO inhalation and poisoning. In the majority of these situations, the poisoning was easily preventable.

While there are several sources of CO in residential homes, HVAC systems account for a large percentage of the total. In 2007 alone, more than 15,000 persons suffered CO poisoning. Of that group, 39 fatalities resulted. CO poisoning is of major concern to at least a dozen U.S. governmental agencies who oversee the nation’s health. The Florida Department of Health has estimated that deaths from CO poisoning are in excess of 500 annually. The Florida DOH further asserts that several thousands of U.S. citizens seek emergency medical care for CO exposure every year.

Sacramento HVAC specialists can eliminate the fear of CO poisoning by closely examining the entire home heating and cooling system. Consumers can enjoy peace of mind, knowing that one of the largest, most powerful appliances in their home is running safely and efficiently. In addition, when HVAC systems are in top working condition, consumers save money and energy.

There is no reason to live in fear of carbon monoxide poisoning. Regular HVAC check-ups can determine any problems that might lead to a broken heating or cooling unit. A properly functioning HVAC system results in safe, comfortable, affordable indoor temperature control.

Sources:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Education-Centers/Carbon-Monoxide-Information-Center/Carbon-Monoxide-Questions-and-Answers-/

Florida Dept. of Health:

http://www.doh.state.fl.us/Environment/programs/Environmental-Public-Health-Tracking/HTML-pages/Data-Carbon-Monoxide.html/

Amer. Assoc. of Poison Control Centers:

http://www.aapcc.org/

Nat’l Environmental Public Health Tracking Network:

http://ephtracking.cdc.gov/showCarbonMonoxideLanding.action

HVAC Cleaning Process

There are many benefits to having an HVAC system in your home. However, you will not get to reap these benefits unless you keep your HVAC system clean. These systems don’t usually require a lot of maintenance, but they do get dirty over time. This dust and particulate matter can be circulated throughout your home, as well as making the system work less efficiently. Fortunately there are several easy ways to tell when your unit needs cleaning.

If you look inside the unit and see dust or dirt on the ducts, you know it needs cleaning. A visual inspection is often enough, and in some cases you can tell by the smell if there is mold or mildew growth as a result of the unit working improperly. If the ducts are coated in dust and dirt, it prevents the system from doing its job correctly. Your unit is designed to help you breathe easier, but it won’t do much good if it’s not working properly. Therefore, another indicator is the discomfort experienced by someone with seasonal allergies; if they have reactions in your home, it might mean the air is contaminated. The ducts may even be infested with rodents or insects, or clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris, which can potentially cause serious damage to your unit.

The benefits of cleaning your system will become clear to you both immediately and over time. Regular cleaning leads to lower operational and maintenance costs overall, as well as big energy savings due to improved efficiency of your HVAC unit. The air inside your home is cleaner and healthier, and there is less noise and disruption. After a professional cleaning, your HVAC system can work to its fullest capacity; fighting dirty indoor air and helping keep maintain the highest air quality in your home.

Periodic cleaning of your HVAC system is important to the proper functioning of your unit, and you don’t have to take on the work yourself. You can find specialists who have the tools and experience to quickly and properly clean your HVAC unit. This relieves you of both the stress of taking on the work yourself and the worry of potentially damaging your expensive HVAC unit.

In case you’re wondering, here’s how the cleaning process works. Your system will be placed under continuous negative pressure with a vacuum, removing fine particles from the system and eliminating all of the loosened contaminants from your home. They use soft-bristled brushes to clean over the fiberglass duct board and around the rest of the unit, preventing any damage to your HVAC system.

For proper cleaning services, you can turn to Sacramento HVAC specialists. Depending on how regularly you use your system, you may need to hire these specialists every few months to once a year. A professional company uses high-efficiency equipment to clean your HVAC system and protect your home during cleaning. They take care to protect the duct work, following proper standards for air duct cleaning to ensure the job gets done properly the first time around.

How Often Should I Change My Air Filters?

Regular tune-ups up are an essential part of maintaining your HVAC system. Yet, between the times your service specialist comes to check out your system there are a few things you can do to keep your HVAC system running smoothly. The biggest is checking and replacing your air filters.

When you have your HVAC system installed or when your specialist comes to do a routine check-up ask them to show you where the air filters are and how to check them. They should be in a relatively easy to access location, although you may need a ladder and screwdriver to get to them.

The rule of thumb is to replace your filters every 30-60 days for the best air quality in your home. Of course, this rule changes based on your individual circumstances. If you are or someone in your home smokes indoors, you’ll need to replace the filters faster. But, if you use an air purifier or dehumidifiers they will filter the air as well and you won’t need to replace your HVAC air filters as frequently. The fine folks over atService Experts advise you to adjust for the following circumstances:

  • Vacation home or single occupant w/o pets or allergies: 6-12 months
  • “Average” suburban home w/o pets: every 90 days
  • Add a dog or cat: every 60 days
  • Add more than one pet or have allergies: 30-45 days

We’ll just add that if you have allergies, you should change the filters more often as well. Air filters will decrease the amount of allergens in your home to ensure when inside you are truly comfortable.

Keeping Track & Buying in Bulk

Depending on how often you need to change your filter, you can buy sets of them so you don’t have to run out every time you need to change your filters. Talk to you installer about where to purchase them and what size you’ll need, or if there’s any particular brand that is more efficient.

Remembering to change the filters before your air quality drastically degrades is the toughest part. Some tips on remembering to change the filters:

Change them when you pay your bills

Set an email or calendar reminder

If you have a regular appointment, like a doctor’s appointment every 90 days, get into the habit of changing your filters the day before

Change them when you change the oil in your car

Any way that helps you remember will improve the air quality in your home and extend the life of your HVAC system.

How Do Tankless Water Heaters Work?

Because of their many benefits, tankless water heaters have gotten significant attention over the past few years. Some of these benefits include safety, energy efficiency, and convenient sizing, as well providing a reliable source of hot water for your home. If you decided to make the switch, you’ll need the assistance of Sacramento HVAC specialists to make sure the system is installed perfectly. You might well be wondering just how these devices make all of those perks possible.

How Do Tankless Water Heaters Operate?

These units heat water without the use of the conventional storage tanks. This idea was inspired by an observation of how much heat is wasted by conventional heaters with storage tanks. Because hot water is provided on demand, tankless heaters waste less energy than would be radiated from pre-heated water stored waiting for you to use it. You only heat what you need.

So, how does the system work?

There are two types of instant on-demand water heaters — gas and electric:

  • When you turn on the faucet or whatever thing you need hot water for the electric heater receives cold water, a heating element is switched on that will bring it to the required temperature, and the water is pumped through. An electric tankless unit uses a flow switch that is turned on when water starts flowing.
  • Gas systems systems use propane or natural gas as heat exchangers. When a gas unit senses water flowing in the pipes, gas flows through to the burners. These burners light up and heat up the water flowing past.

How do you save your monthly water bill using this system?

If you know how traditional water heaters operate, you must have observed that the water in the storage system has to heat up before it is released. And most storage tanks are quite large so this takes a lot of voltage and time. On the other hand, a tankless unit allows you to enjoy continuous flow of hot water which is heated by less than 60% of the energy used in conventional systems. Best of all, the heater comes with a control board that allows you to set the precise temperature you’d like your water to be.

Pros of a Tankless Water Heater

  • You’ll never again have to wait for the tank to fill with hot water, or run out mid-shower, because the water is heated on-demand.
  • Since these units don’t require room for a tank, they’re ideal space-savers for smaller homes.
  • Their energy efficiency means you save both money on your energy bill and wasted resources from heating water before it’s needed.
  • In certain states, making energy efficient choices such as a tankless water heater entitle you to tax rebates or credits.

The Cons

Nothing is perfect, and as much benefit as these units provide, they also come with a few drawbacks:

  • The systems are initially more costly to acquire and install than conventional units.
  • Your water might take a bit longer to reach the ideal temperature than you’re used to.

Despite the few negative aspects, tankless water heaters are a great way to heat your water more efficiently. If you’re interested in installing one, you can consult with Sacramento HVAC specialists to help select, install, and maintain the ideal tankless water heater for your home. They can also provide valuable advice on other ways to reduce your home’s energy consumption.

Heat Pump Water Heaters: Using Heat Your Already Have

Conventional water heaters have units that create heat to warm the water in the tank. Whereas, heat pump water heaters use heat you already have to warm the water in your home. These water heaters are far more efficient at conserving and using electricity than your conventional water heater. In fact, heat pump water heatersgenerate about twice as much hot waterfrom the same amount of electricity as conventional water heaters.

How They Work:

The common metaphor is that they are a refrigerator in reverse. Where refrigerators pulls out warm air and try to cool the space inside, heat pump water heaters bring in heat you already have in your HVAC system to heat water. Just as its easier to tailor a pair of pants than to make some from scratch, moving heat is much, much easier than generating it. So why not work with what you have?

Our friends atGreen Building Advisor can explain the technical terms pretty well:

“[A] heat-pump water heater uses electricity to move heat from one place to another–in this case, from the surrounding air where the unit is located into the water.This is done by circulating a special “refrigerant” fluid that can be alternately evaporated into a gas and condensed into a liquid by changing its pressure.

Surrounding air is drawn into the heat pump where the heat in that air vaporizes refrigerant in the “evaporator,” releasing cooler air into the room. The refrigerant vapor is then pumped through a “compressor” where it condenses back into liquid form and releases its stored heat into the water.”

In other words, the system sucks heat from a warm room and uses it to heat water. The downside? The heat pump system needs to be near a heat source to actually help you save energy and money. Yet, if you have a furnace that radiates heat or you use a wood stove to heat your home, a heat pump water heater can use some of that extra energy to warm up your water rather than using electricity or other expensive sources like conventional water heaters.

Meanwhile, if you live in a comfortable climate like we do here in Sacramento, heat pump water heaters are great partial air-conditioning units, because they suck in warm air as well as moisture!

The downside is that you need a sufficient amount of heat in the environment to warm the water. Placement of the system here is key, and whether or you can store them outdoors or indoors will vary on your model. California is an ideal climate for outdoor storage, meaning you can harness the free energy from the sun to warm a containment cell that will create warm air for the unit to use. Kind of like walking into a hot shed in the summer. Otherwise, an HVAC specialist will be able to advise you on how and if a heat pump water heater can work for you.

When upgrading your water heating system, or looking for additional alternatives to reduce your utility bill, it’s important to weigh all your options. Heat pump water heaters can be a great option to California residents and we encourage you to contact us if you have any questions.