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Why DIY Furnace Repairs Are A Bad Idea
Posted: December 14, 2017 by Andy
Whether you're ready for winter or not, the chilly season is here! This means that you need to make sure your furnace is good to go. If you already handle most of the work around your home, you might be thinking that you can skip your annual HVAC inspection and diagnose any issues yourself. That would be a bad idea - DIY heating system repairs are always a big mistake. Here are some critical reasons to leave the HVAC repairs to the professionals.
You could start a fire
One of the most important reasons - if not the most important reason - to call your local HVAC company instead of doing those furnace repairs yourself is that you could put your family in considerable danger and cause damage to your home. If there's a short circuit, a gas line leak, or an overheated unit, there's a good chance a fire could start. Even worse, your home could explode under certain conditions! You might be extremely handy around the house, but you're probably not going to know more than an experienced technician. Saving a small amount of money isn't worth the risk.
You could cause a carbon monoxide (CO) leak
In addition to a fire hazard, you could put yourself and your loved ones at serious risk due to carbon monoxide exposure. If you try to repair your furnace yourself, it's entirely possible that this dangerous gas could leak into your home. Carbon monoxide gas is colorless, odorless, and inhalation is often deadly. Trained HVAC professionals know how to prevent gas leaks like this and keep your family safe.
You could damage your furnace
While this is less dangerous than the risks we mentioned earlier, it's still important to note that doing heat repairs yourself will usually cost you more in the long run, because you can easily damage your unit and cause problems. Experts estimate that improper equipment installation can reduce your heating and cooling efficiency by 30% or more, which means higher monthly bills. Also, you might end up needing an entirely new furnace, which can cost you thousands of dollars. Unless you want the hassle and expense of dealing with ongoing problems, it's best to avoid this scenario.
You could void your warranty
If your HVAC system is still under warranty, you may pay little - or nothing at all - to have repairs performed by a professional technician. But, attempting to make repairs yourself definitely will negate your warranty agreement. In addition, you might incur legal consequences for DIYing. The EPA requires specific certification for anyone working with refrigerant, and you could find yourself in hot water - and in a cold home, if your furnace breaks down - if you do it yourself!
Don't gamble with your family's safety and comfort - it's best not to roll the dice by doing furnace repairs yourself. Instead, work with a trained, certified HVAC technician, and you'll ensure that the repairs are done properly the first time, saving you money - and frustration - in the coming years.
4 Things About HVAC That Every First-Time Homeowner Should Know
Posted: December 7, 2017 by Andy
Buying your first home is a massive learning experience. Owning and maintaining your home requires a whole other level of investment, and this is especially true regarding your HVAC system.
What is HVAC exactly? HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning, and your HVAC system can be responsible for up to 45% of your utility bill, even when everything is running smoothly. You can imagine, then, how much it can cost to let maintenance problems go unresolved. It's your job as the homeowner to recognize potential system problems and take the necessary steps to prevent them, and correct them when they happen. Here are some HVAC basics that every homeowner should be mindful of:
1. Know how your system operates
The essential components of an HVAC system include the compressor, the condenser, the evaporator coils that transfer refrigerant from one component to another, and its series of fans and ducts. Your system operates in a continuous loop of heating, cooling, and expansion and compression of the refrigerant. Your HVAC system is most likely a split design, which has a compressor/air intake unit outdoors connected to an indoor condenser/fan system via a condenser coil.
2. Some common trouble signs
The most common sign that your new home's HVAC system is in trouble is simple to detect: If you feel cold when you should be warm, and vice-versa - despite your system's best efforts to adjust the temperature - something is wrong. While realizing there's a problem is easy, certain symptoms can help you troubleshoot. For instance:
- • There is little or no airflow. Your system may be heating and cooling properly, but the treated air isn't making its way throughout your home. You may
have a clogged air filter, or your blower (or its wiring) might be damaged.
- • You have airflow, but you're feeling little or no change in temperature change. Your HVAC system may be lacking refrigerant. A leak might be the cause,
or it might simply be time for the compressor to be recharged.
- • You hear unusual noises. Strange sounds might indicate that there is mechanical damage to the motors, bearings, or other moving parts.
3. Do it yourself, or call a professional?
Some HVAC system problems are user-serviceable. For example, a simple air filter change may help an inefficient unit, while resetting a circuit breaker might restore power to a blower. On the other hand, issues involving mechanical repairs or refrigerant (which may be dangerously hot or cold and is highly toxic) are best left to a qualified, certified service technician.
4. Periodic maintenance is important
Conducting regular inspections of controls, moving parts, filters and connections can catch small problems in your HVAC unit before they become major (see also: potentially expensive). This is also critically important for protecting your home against fluid leaks, which are a common (and potentially disastrous) problem.
Now that you understand the basics of HVAC systems, you should be in a better position to keep your system going strong for many years to come. Just make sure you take the necessary preventative or corrective actions based on your newfound HVAC wisdom!
Warm Up Your Winter
Posted: November 30, 2017 by Andy
Because the winter season is about to pummel us with yet another round of frigid temperatures and piles of snow, heating bills are about to kick us all in the wallets again, and that usually hurts. Devote some thought to the following, and you'll likely soften the blow this winter!
Snuggling by the fire might not be the best choice
Not much is better in the winter than curling up next to the fireplace with a hot cup of tea and a warm pet on your lap. Many fireplaces burn wood, so they should warm up the room and give the furnace a rest, right?
Nope. Wood-burning fireplaces tend to make other areas of your home colder. Why? Since your thermostat is usually in the same main room as your fireplace, the warm air in that room fools the thermostat into thinking the rest of your house is warm as well, when it's not. Fireplaces are also the worst offenders when it comes to particle air pollution, so there's that to consider.
Fireplaces draw air from heated rooms to obtain oxygen to fuel combustion. As it turns out, burning wood is the least-efficient heating option available. Gas fireplaces - and even new ethanol models - are much better, but they still produce some pollution. Even chimney-less models will release combustion products back into your house along with heat. Wood burning stoves and fireplaces are still very popular, though, but they are far less efficient than electric heat. Also, the smoke and ash they produce are even worse than the particle pollution that your local power plant emits.
If you're still interested in curling up by the fire, consider placing space heaters (see below) in areas of your home that other members of your family are occupying while your fireplace is in use. Otherwise, to be energy-conscious, you might want to spend more time watching the Yule log on TV, instead of in your fireplace this winter.
Get rid of that antiquated thermostat
Many people believe that keeping the house a constant temperature is more energy-efficient than continually raising and lowering the heat. This isn't necessarily true.
In fact, it takes much less energy for your furnace to work hard for an hour to bring your home's temperature back up than it does to maintain a constant temperature all day long. To save energy by using less heat overall, try using a modern programmable thermostat instead of an old manual one. A new unit's advanced controls can automatically adjust the temperature based on preset programs for the time of day and what day of the week it is. Some units even allow you to control the temperature from an app on your smartphone! Once you've programmed your thermostat well, you'll never notice that the heat was turned down while you were gone.
These thermostats are very flexible and can be programmed in advance or as needed. They're great for those of us who habitually forget to adjust the heat when we leave the house, go to bed, or wake up.
Space heaters - not just for the garage and basement
Similar to task lighting - keeping only the lights on that you need - space heating reduces energy consumption by heating only the sections of a building or home you're occupying. For example, if you're not using your guest rooms, close the doors to these areas and put an energy-efficient space heater in the main bedroom. Closing off unused rooms reduces the volume of air circulating throughout your home, and that means your furnace will keep the rest of the house warmer, and with less work.
If you have only one central thermostat, you can use a space heater to keep the room you're using warm while turning down the main heat a few degrees - using less energy and saving you money. If you have zonal heating (that is, separate thermostats upstairs and downstairs), you can shut off the upstairs heat and still stay comfortable. A long as you're not roaming the house, space heating should keep you warmer than your furnace alone does.
Window treatments do more than just look good
You might think your windows look fine, and you might not care about being trendy. But, there's a compelling reason for making your windows fashionable. Curtains and shades serve an energy-savvy purpose and look great at the same time.
We all know that windows are an important factor when it comes to controlling light and drafts in and out of our homes, and it certainly helps to seal older, leaky windows with plastic or caulk to prevent heat transfer during the colder months. But, did you know that drapes, curtains, and shades can help with insulation too? It's true!
Thick, dark curtains are an effective way to trap heat before it escapes through the window glass, and in return, they transfer that trapped heat to any cold air entering your home via the window. Window treatments made specifically for this purpose are available virtually everywhere. So, if you need an excuse to spruce up your windows, look no further.
Don't forget about your ceiling fans
You might not ever touch your ceiling fans once the weather turns cold, but you really should. When the fan rotates in "winter mode, (that is, clockwise) the fan draws air up instead of pushing it down. This rotation mixes the warm and cold air in the room to keep an overall warmer temperature.
So get up there and flip that switch this year - and make sure to keep the fan on a low setting! You don't want to create an indoor hurricane at your holiday party, and faster fan speeds will make the room feel drafty.
Use your oven's heat for more than cooking
You're probably doing a lot of cooking and baking this year (or maybe only heating the occasional pizza), and you can use excess heat from your oven to warm up your kitchen by leaving the oven door cracked open after you're finished. Not only will your kitchen be nice and toasty, but your entire home will smell fantastic (as long as you didn't burn the food)!
Furnace Efficiency Ratings Explained
Posted: November 16, 2017 by Andy
When you purchase a new furnace system, efficiency ratings absolutely should influence your decision to a great extent. A system's efficiency rating helps to determine how much it will cost to heat your home. The higher the rating, the greater amount of heat is generated for the amount of energy used.
Also, you should consider the costs of the fuel used. Electric furnaces are very efficient, but the cost of electricity doesn't make them the best heating choice.
How efficiency is measured
Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating (AFUE) tells you how much heat the furnace produces, compared to how much energy is used to generate the heat. If a furnace is rated at 85% AFUE, 15% of the energy used is lost, and 85% actually becomes heat.
This rating doesn't include a figure for potential heat loss through ductwork, though. You might not know that ducts running through attic areas can lose up to 35% of a system's heating efficiency. A unit's rating can't account for this loss because ductwork varies in homes.
Many older units don't have ratings
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires furnace manufacturers to include AFUE ratings on all new units. Unfortunately, older models may not have a rating, or the big yellow EnergyGuide tag may have been removed. Fortunately, you can get a rough estimate of the efficiency rating for your furnace.
You can identify low-efficiency furnaces by the presence of a continuous pilot light. This style of furnace requires the pilot light to be relit if it goes out. These systems are also often gravity-based: They rely on drafts (heat rises) to distribute warmth. These units tend to be between 50% to 70% efficient. An older furnace might have an aftermarket blower installed, but it'll still be identifiable by the octopus-style ductwork.
Mid-range models have a fan that controls the airflow. These models utilize an electronic ignition, so there's no need to relight a pilot light. Efficiency for these systems ranges between 80% and 83%. High-efficiency units use two heat exchangers. Condensing units remove water from the exhaust gas and then send the gas through the second exchanger for greater efficiency. The combustion units are sealed. You can expect 90% to 98.5% efficiency.
Should you replace your furnace?
The older your furnace is, the sooner we recommend that you replace it. It might have been state-of-the-art in 1985, but it's now 32 years old - and its efficiency rating can't come close to matching today's efficient models. Consider other factors as well as its age: Was it maintained well? Have you been having any problems with it, such as uneven heating or unusual noises? Has your heating bill increased significantly? These indicate that it's probably time for a new unit.
You'll also want to weigh the short-term versus the long-term. While you can purchase a less-efficient model, you won't see maximum energy savings. High-efficiency systems are more expensive in your initial purchase, but you'll save a significant amount in fuel costs over the unit's lifespan. Our expert HVAC professionals can help you choose the best system for your needs!
How to Avoid Winter Furnace Hazards
Posted: November 9, 2017 by Andy
The temperatures are dropping fast, and winter will be here in just a few short weeks. When it arrives, most homeowners crank up the heat to stay comfortable inside their homes. However, if your furnace isn't maintained properly, you could be putting your loved ones at risk. It's important to be smart about proper furnace maintenance, as well as understanding the potential hazards, so you'll operate your furnace the safest way possible!
Beware of broken or faulty furnace parts
Furnace hazards often are a result of faulty or malfunctioning parts. These could be manufacturer defects in the furnace or older furnaces that sometimes have parts that wear out or break over time, which can pose a safety risk. Also, if you don't follow directions on how to operate your furnace properly, you could potentially cause an accident to happen.
Have your furnace professionally inspected regularly
You should always make a point to inspect your furnace to make sure there isn't something obvious wrong with it, but it's even more important to have a certified HVAC specialist come out regularly and look at the unit, especially before the start of winter. That way, you're certain that any potential issues are identified and corrected before they become potentially dangerous.
Always address issues in a timely manner
If something breaks in your furnace - even a small part - have it repaired right away. The longer you leave repairs sit undone, the greater chance that a potentially hazardous issue will arise. Also, don't attempt to fix anything by yourself. Rely on trained professionals to take care of any furnace repairs to avoid personal injury or damage to your furnace or home.
Safe heating is important during the winter, and understanding how your furnace works and taking the time to ensure that it's working at its maximum efficiency is key. Contact us today for a furnace tune-up or repair, so you're ready to tackle the cold winter air with warmth inside your home!
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