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The R-22 Ban: Do I Need To Replace My AC?
Posted: Jan 16, 2020 by Andy
You might be aware that a new law banning the production of a conventional air conditioning refrigerant took effect on January 1st. Freon is no longer being produced, and it has already begun to be phased out of use completely. What does this mean for homeowners with units that rely on Freon refrigerant? Will your system need to be replaced?
We want to help clear the air about Freon and older AC systems. Here's what you need to know.
New regulations are in effect this year
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) works to decrease the use of chemicals harmful to the environment. In 1992, the agency decided that hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) - the chemicals which enable refrigerators and air conditioners to cool air - should be phased out. Studies have found that HCFCs affect global warming and ozone depletion. These chemical compounds are only a small part of the greenhouse gases affecting our environment, but according to the New York Times, "they trap thousands of times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide."
For many years, Freon - also known as R-22 and HCFC-22 - was the primary refrigerant used in heat pumps and residential air conditioning units. To help protect our planet's ozone layer, the EPA mandated the stoppage of Freon production by January 2020.
Fortunately, new air conditioning systems manufactured since 2010 no longer use Freon. Most modern units use a refrigerant called R410A, or Puron. Like Freon, this chemical is also an HFC, but has not been shown to harm the ozone and, since 2015, has become the residential AC standard.
The ban's impact on homeowners with older units
You shouldn't worry. Many affected homeowners have already switched to the more environmentally friendly refrigerants. HVAC professionals have been gradually phasing out Freon over the past decade. Any older AC system that has been replaced in that time was probably switched out for an R410A unit.
Freon is only an environmental hazard if it escapes into the atmosphere (leaks out) or is disposed of improperly. It's important to know that Freon-based HVAC units still functioning properly don't need to be replaced now. While it is true that starting in 2020, Freon won't be produced or imported; limited amounts are still available. Older systems can be recharged or serviced using existing stocks of R-22. Once these stocks are gone, however, technicians will need to source recycled Freon to keep an old cooling system running - and this will likely be an expensive proposition for a homeowner. In other words, a new R410A system will become a better financial decision, in addition to being better for the environment.
Retrofitting older air conditioners
The EPA doesn't require homeowners to buy new AC systems, and retrofitting your older system is a valid option. Unfortunately, you can't just switch to the new refrigerant. Many older air conditioners have compressors and other parts which will only work with specific chemicals. Fortunately, this doesn't mean that your AC system has to be replaced.
If the coils in your system are compatible with R410A refrigerant, our expert technicians can replace the outdoor condenser unit without needing to upgrade other AC system components in your home. This option can be expensive, but it'll keep your current AC system running. Switching to R410A may also make your existing unit more energy efficient. It's worth noting that routine service is essential for a retrofitted system to prevent leaks and any potentially harmful effects on the environment.
Replacing an older AC system
If your unit was produced before 2010, you should consider replacing it. After all, the average working life of an HVAC system is 15 years. Modern air conditioners are more energy-efficient and more environmentally friendly as well. Lower utility bills are a significant consideration when determining the best course of action. Many homeowners opt to replace older systems rather than retrofit because it ensures greater long-term energy savings.
Trust us for quality AC service!
Homeowners should only trust EPA-certified dealers who are familiar with new Clean Air Act regulations. Proper servicing, installation, and refrigerant replacement require specialized training to prevent leaks.
If you're unsure if your HVAC unit uses R-22 or R410A, or you'd like professional advice on the best solution for your older unit, call us today! We're always happy to help our valued customers gain peace-of-mind on issues like these. That's how neighbors should treat neighbors!™
8 New Year's Resolutions For Your Family's Comfort
Posted: Jan 2, 2020 by Andy
The start of the new year is the ideal time to consider a fresh approach to your home's heating and cooling system. Whether you're considering investing in a new HVAC system for your northeast Ohio home or you're looking to maximize the one you already have, now is an ideal time to start making plans. Whether you're thinking of a smart thermostat or upgrading your system, consider these eight New Year's resolutions for your home's HVAC system.
Change your filter regularly
Arguably the most important HVAC-related New Year's resolution you can make is also one of the easiest to keep. Mark your calendar, and you won't forget to change your filter. During the winter or summer, when you use your HVAC system the most, change your filter once a month. When the weather is milder in the spring and fall, replace it every three months.
Setting a filter-replacement schedule might seem minor, but this has a significant and positive impact on your HVAC system year-round. Air filters prevent dirt, dust, and other airborne particles from entering your system, keeping it clean and avoiding breakdowns.
A clean air filter also does more than that. It improves indoor air quality by removing harmful particles from your home's air and increases your system's operating efficiency by promoting freer airflow. Your air filter does these tasks best when you replace it regularly.
Schedule interval maintenance
Another smart way to ensure that your system continues to run smoothly is to schedule routine preventive maintenance. We recommend annual HVAC maintenance for each primary component of your system. You should schedule a tune-up for your furnace in the fall and another for your air conditioner in the spring. It's a good idea to have a service completed before you turn on your system for the season. This way, our expert HVAC system technicians will catch any performance issues before your family's comfort is compromised.
During a preventive maintenance check-up, our technicians complete a thorough list of tasks, from testing safety controls to lubricating moving parts and checking fluid levels. We'll also discover minor problems before they become major repairs or, worse, cause a complete breakdown. With our cost-effective maintenance agreement, you'll also get a discount on parts and labor.
Upgrade to a smart thermostat
If your heating and cooling system are a decade old or more, there's a good chance you're still relying on a manual thermostat or even an ancient mercury unit. While a manual model allows you to adjust the temperature and switch from heating to cooling easily, they lack the energy-saving features that smart thermostats have.
Upgrading to a smart thermostat doesn't cost much and offers several valuable benefits that our expert technicians can demonstrate for you. For starters, you can program your heating and cooling schedule, which means your HVAC system will run only when necessary. When your family is away from home or asleep, a smart thermostat will adjust the temperature 8 to 10, which will save you up to $200 per year in utility costs. In other words, your new smart thermostat will pay for itself in its first year of service. How cool is that?
But, smart thermostats don't stop there. Since they're integrated into your home's Wi-Fi network, you can access them from anywhere in the world and adjust your home's temperature and indoor air quality settings, wherever you are. Some units will also detect when you're on your way home and make your home comfortable for when you arrive. Many can also track your energy usage to help you identify ways to make your household more environmentally friendly - and that'll save you money, too!
Enhance your air quality
Maintaining a high level of indoor air quality is essential for your family's health and the efficient operation of your HVAC system. Adopting healthy habits, such as a regular cleaning schedule and placing green plants throughout your home, will dramatically improve your home's air quality. If your air quality is less than ideal or if you want to simplify the process, we highly recommend adding air quality components to your HVAC system. They're more reasonable than you might think.
We offer a wide array of air quality items to meet your every need. To remove high levels of pollen, pet dander, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your air, try an air purifier. Some purifiers can even capture and eliminate viruses. To control humidity year-round, add a whole-house humidifier or dehumidifier. They'll boost your family's health and enhance the performance of your system during the winter and summer alike.
If you've already taken steps to insulate your attic and foundation to seal air leaks, you're one step ahead of most homeowners. Tightening up your home's insulation envelope translates to considerable savings on your family's energy consumption, but you might notice that this also limits your home's airflow.
Fortunately, we have a simple solution for keeping your home's air fresh and clean. Air Scrubber Plus works with your home's HVAC system to freshen your air in a constant cycle. You'll never have to worry about breathing yesterday's air again. This also improves your HVAC system's energy efficiency and has a minimal impact on your energy bill.
Add a zoning system
Many Ohio homeowners struggle to keep the temperature comfortable throughout their home. If your home has two levels or more, or family members have strong temperature-related preferences, you know that keeping everyone comfy is a tall order.
If this sounds familiar, consider adding a zoning system to your home. Our experts will install dampers in your system's ductwork and connect them to a series of sensors. You can then program different temperatures for each zone, ensuring that your family room, kitchen, and bedrooms will always be just right. We'll teach you the smart thermostat options that give you the best control over your new zoning system.
Upgrade your heating and cooling system
If your home's system is approaching the end of its service lifespan (10-15 years for air conditioners and 15-20 years for furnaces), it's time to start thinking about an upgrade. A new HVAC system is a considerable investment, but it offers a host of benefits for your home and family.
When you begin the search for a new HVAC system, ask our expert team about Energy Star-certified options. These systems offer superior efficiency, and you'll enjoy a low utility bill every month.
Our team will also explain the latest HVAC tech innovations, such as a variable-speed blower. Available in heating and cooling systems alike, these blowers operate at a low level most of the time and run at a higher level only when needed. This results in improved energy efficiency and better comfort for your family. It's a win-win.
Plan ahead for success
If you've made a New Year's resolution before, you know that creating and sticking to a plan is key to its success. Likewise, regarding your HVAC system, planning ahead is beneficial.
Schedule preventive maintenance before the heating or cooling season. This lowers the chance that your HVAC system will have a major breakdown during the hottest summer or coldest winter months. Similarly, investing in a new furnace or air conditioner during the off-season can mean better prices, a more convenient installation time, and extra time to consider the best options for your family.
This year, resolve to stay one step ahead of any HVAC system issues, and you'll benefit in budget, comfort, and peace of mind. Of course, if the unexpected happens and you need emergency repairs, our experienced, licensed HVAC technicians are always just a phone call away.
Whether you want to schedule preventive maintenance or you need help choosing a new HVAC system, our team is at your service. Call us today at 877-247-7661.
Using Your Programmable Thermostat Well
Posted: Dec 19, 2019 by Andy
With all the options available on your programmable thermostat, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Of course, the sheer amount of settings defeats the purpose of a programmable thermostat - it's designed to be a "set and forget" device, making your life easier.
The few minutes it takes to read this article should clear up any confusion you have about correctly setting your thermostat, and you can always call our friendly experts. We're always happy to help!
"Set and forget" means setting one temperature on your thermostat and just leaving it there. You don't worry about it or change it for a long time to come.
Continually adjusting the temperature setting in an attempt to save money on energy actually doesn't save anything. Studies have proven that behavior isn't effective at all, but changing the temperature in different situations actually will save you money, especially in the always-changing northeast Ohio weather.
In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10% a year on your energy bills by turning down your thermostat 7° to 10° for eight hours each day.
With a programmable thermostat, "set and forget" takes on a new meaning. You can set your thermostat once to suit your preference and then forget about it until the season changes.
Get comfortable with your thermostat
Depending on the programmable thermostat you have, it will have different options. However, most programmables feature the same four time options: wake, sleep, leave, and return.
Be sure to enter realistic times that accurately reflect your family's schedule when programming your thermostat. You want to get the biggest benefit.
Here are some things to know before programming your schedule:
Use quality, name-brand batteries and change them each year. Cheaper batteries don't last as long, and their voltage output will fluctuate as they start to lose their charge. You want your thermostat to work when you need it most.
Feel free to override your set schedule temporarily and adjust the temperature when needed. It will automatically cancel and resume its regular programming. However, don't select Hold/Permanent/Vacation (this may vary on your thermostat) unless you're actually going on vacation.
Avoid setting the temperature way up or down with the goal of heating or cooling your home more quickly. Your HVAC system doesn't work any faster that way. You'll only work it much harder, costing you more money and potentially causing a breakdown. Your system will heat or cool your home just as fast by setting your thermostat at reasonable temperatures.
Here's how to use your programmable thermostat (and get the most out of it):
1. Read the manual that came with your thermostat. You don't have to memorize it word-for-word, but you should become familiar with your unit's basic operation and troubleshooting.
2. Choose Heat or Cool mode to suit the season and the weather outside.
3. Set the desired temperature for weekdays by selecting the weekday program. Simple, right? Start with Monday (for 7-day models) or Weekday (for 5-2 models) and select the time and temperature for the days you're scheduling. Continue setting the remaining weekdays in the same manner.
For example, you might want your furnace to heat your home to 72° at 7:00 am, so when you awaken at 7:30 am, your home is warm for you. Then, when you turn in at 11:00 pm, you might want to set your heat to 65° at 11:30 pm, so you're saving energy - and money - while you sleep. The same procedure applies for cooling - simply reverse it - warmer when you're away or sleeping and cooler when you're home and awake.
4. You can set the weekend temperatures in the same manner. But, since folks tend to be home more on the weekends, you might only want to set the thermostat for your wake-up and bed times. You can always use a temporary override if you decide to leave the house during the day.
Your programmable thermostat really is designed for you to "set it and forget it." Spending a few minutes getting familiar with it will make your home considerably more comfortable and will also allow you to save quite a bit of money at the same time. Call us or request service online if it's time for a new thermostat or if you need help programming yours. We're here to help. That's how neighbors should treat neighbors!™
I Need A Quieter Furnace!
Posted: Dec 5, 2019 by Andy
Based on the location, features, and size of your heating and cooling system, the noise it produces can adversely affect your quality of life at home. Of course, you want your house to be comfortable - but peaceful and quiet too. Your HVAC system shouldn't drown out your activities, or keep you awake at night. If you're researching a new unit for your home, here's how to select a nice, quiet HVAC system that's right for you.
Understand the system's decibel rating
The information sheet on each HVAC system displays its decibel (dB) rating that indicates its intensity of sound. The lower the system's decibel rating, the quieter it is.
As you're researching and comparing units, pay particular attention to the decibel ratings of different brands and models. Most people perceive a sound to be roughly twice as loud as another when the sounds are about 10 dB apart. Here's a quick guide to provide a frame of reference:
• 50 dB is equal to a quiet conversation at home.
• 60 dB is like a conversation in a public place.
• 70 dB is considered to be annoyingly loud, like the noise from a vacuum cleaner.
• 80 dB is like the ruckus created by running a garbage disposal.
Understanding these examples, most homeowners prefer a quiet HVAC system that produces sound below 60 dB. The quietest systems range from 50 to 60 dB.
Look for sound-reducing features
Why is an HVAC system so noisy in the first place, anyway? Your heating and cooling system is a sophisticated set of machines with many moving parts that produce sound from the vibrations when it's running. These noises, typically from the starting and stopping of the fan, are the main culprit of HVAC noise pollution.
When the weather outside is extreme, your unit will be the loudest, since it's working overtime to keep your home comfortable. Other sounds are created by outdoor elements, like leaves or twigs falling into your air conditioner's condenser unit.
While you're keeping an eye out for a system with a low decibel rating, you should also look for these features, which also help to minimize the sound it produces:
• Variable-speed fans
• Noise-reducing fan blades
• Compressor insulation mounts
• An insulated base pan
Preventative maintenance helps
As with any appliance, routine maintenance is essential for maintaining efficiency and lengthening lifespan. Have your HVAC unit checked regularly by a professional to prevent potential problems caused by worn parts, loose bolts and screws, refrigerant leaks, and accumulated debris.
Select the right-sized system for your home
The size and capacity of your HVAC unit play an important role in noise production. If you choose a system that's not large enough to adequately heat and cool your home, its decibel number won't likely matter, as it'll be running and making noise constantly. We recommend meeting with one of our expert Comfort Consultants to best address your home's needs. Aside from the square footage of your home, we'll also consider factors like the height of your ceilings, as well as what type of insulation your home has.
Be aware that a bigger unit may not solve a noise problem. While a high-capacity unit will cool your home quickly, it'll also shut off before completing its entire cooling cycle. As a result, your HVAC unit will have to click back on again and repeat the same process. This constant on-off cycle uses extra energy and can increase your electric bill, in addition to the wear and tear it causes.
It's important to research quiet HVAC systems to find the best option for you. Understanding what makes a unit noisy - and the features that can minimize those sounds - empowers you to make a great choice for your home... and your sanity!
Know The Signs Of A Cracked Heat Exchanger
Posted: Nov 21, 2019 by Andy
Your furnace's heat exchanger is the set of looped tubes or coils inside your furnace that the airflow passes through. Simply put, your heat exchanger is the part in your furnace that actually heats your home's air. A cracked heat exchanger is bad news for you, your family, and your home if you don't act quickly.
A cracked heat exchanger allows carbon and oxygen to be burned, which releases nitrous oxide (N2O), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is a dangerous neurotoxin and contributes to hundreds of deaths and thousands of hospital visits each year.
If you think your heat exchanger is cracked, play it safe and call us immediately for an inspection.
Here are the warning signs to be alert for:
When your heat exchanger isn't working correctly, it may give off a pungent chemical scent. This might be the first sign you notice, but the smell may be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as nausea and headaches. Harmful chemicals are likely entering your house if you are suffering any of these symptoms. Seek immediate help.
Water in and around your furnace
While a water leak may indicate a condensation problem, another common leak cause is a cracked heat exchanger. In either case, our expert technicians can correct the problem to prevent any further damage to your home and your HVAC system.
Soot accumulates due to burning carbon. If you find sooty residue inside your furnace, something isn't working as it should. Aside from a damaged heat exchanger, this could mean your burners need adjustment. Either fault can lead to a carbon monoxide inhalation hazard, so this is a significant concern, regardless of the cause.
Wear and tear on your furnace
If your furnace is showing its age externally, it's almost certainly worse internally, and your heat exchanger may already be cracked. Your furnace may be getting too old to function correctly and may need to be replaced. Many times, repeatedly repairing an old unit is far less cost-effective than replacing it.
If any of the signs above are accompanied by you or a family member becoming ill, you should be extremely cautious. Unexplained fatigue, headaches, confusion, eye and nose irritation, fever, or nausea are all symptomatic of carbon monoxide poisoning. If you or a loved one are suffering from any of these ailments, see a doctor immediately, and call us out to search your home for the culprit, to be on the safe side.
What precautionary steps should I take?
Step 1: If you believe your heat exchanger is damaged, you should immediately turn off your furnace. Even if your system seems to be running fine, it's not worth risking your health, or worse, your life.
Step 2: Contact us! Our expert technicians will run a combustion gas analysis, which will provide a definitive answer as to whether or not your heat exchanger has an issue.
If we find that your heat exchanger is broken, it needs to be replaced right away. A heat exchanger cannot be repaired, and replacing one can be pretty expensive, up to $1200. If your furnace is a dozen years old or more, you're likely better off replacing your system entirely. There are two compelling reasons for this:
1) A furnace's performance declines as it ages and is likely to break down again soon. Who wants to repeatedly spring for furnace repairs?
2) The cost of a new, modern, energy-efficient furnace is more than a new heat exchanger, but a new unit will recover its initial cost quickly - and it'll keep your family more comfortable and safe too.
We have decades of experience helping homeowners through this potentially dangerous issue. If you think you have a cracked heat exchanger, call us immediately - don't risk your family's well-being by waiting!
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... and all points in-between!
We expertly service many furnace and air conditioning types, accessories and brands:
Central Air Systems - Electric Heaters - Gas Furnaces - Heat Pump Systems - Mobile Home Furnaces - Mobile Home Air Conditioners - Propane Furnaces
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... and many more!