Heating & Cooling Service Category
The end of the cooling season doesn’t mean the end of AC maintenance. Before you put your air conditioner to bed for winter, a few simple maintenance tips will help ensure that it’s ready to keep you comfortable when you wake it up again next spring. Seasonal start-up is often the time when system problems occur, often because basic end of season AC maintenance was neglected months ago when the system was shut down. Here are some things to take care of now:
- Power down the central air conditioner unit. This ensures that nobody turns the system on at the thermostat accidentally during the winter by selecting “Cool” instead of “Heat.”
- Remove the system air filter and replace it with a fresh one. Central A/C and heating systems share the same filter. Don’t start the winter heating season with a dirty air conditioning filter left over from the summer.
- Inspect the condensate drain pan. Situated under the indoor air handler, this wide flat pan collects condensation dripping off the evaporator coil while the air conditioner’s running. Make sure there is no standing water in the pan. Residual water left in the pan will spawn algae and mold growth over the winter. If you notice standing water, that usually means a clog somewhere in the condensate drain system. Contact a qualified HVAC service provider to restore drain function.
- Clear the outdoor unit. Make sure there are no fallen leaves or branches in the fan opening on top. Also, clear away weeds or other vegetation to leave two feet of open space on sides. Consider a commercially-available vented A/C cover that slips over the unit to protect it during the winter, available in sizes to fit your air conditioner.
- Check it during the winter. Don’t allow heavy amounts of snow or ice to accumulate on the unit. If it’s located in an spot where icicles falling from the eaves above may strike it, place a piece of plywood or other protection atop the unit.
Need professional advice or help for end of season AC maintenance? Contact Apollo Heating, Cooling , Electrical and Plumbing.
Is a ductless HVAC system a viable alternative for heating and cooling individual rooms in your home? Every day, ductless heating and cooling units are gaining market share in this country as more people decide that the answer is “Yes.”
The system consists of a compact, low-profile indoor air handler incorporating a coil and blower fan mounted on the wall or ceiling of the room. This unit connects via a narrow refrigerant conduit to a downsized outdoor heat pump behind or next to the house, about the size of a large suitcase. In winter, like any heat pump, the system extracts latent heat from outside air, concentrates it with a compressor, then conveys it indoors to the air handler where the coil and blower disperse heat into the room. In summer, the system reverses and cools the room by extracting indoor heat and conveying it outside to be released in outdoor air. A single outdoor heat pump unit can link to up to five ductless air handlers in separate rooms.
Ductless HVAC provides three advantages.
- In homes without ductwork for central heating and cooling—or where extending existing ductwork to additional rooms isn’t financially feasible—a ductless system permits low-cost, highly effective heating and cooling of individual rooms without relying on outmoded space heaters and clunky window air conditioners.
- Leaky, inefficient ductwork loses at least 25% of heating or cooling in most homes. Because a ductless system delivers heating and cooling without ducts, operation is more energy-efficient at lower cost. Ductless comfort control is also more accurate as each room has its own dedicated thermostat to individualize temperature to that space.
- Installation of ductless HVAC is far less intensive and disruptive than installing ducts and vents that require major construction. All that’s required are a three-inch hole in an exterior wall to route the refrigerant conduit outdoors, plus mounting the indoor air handler on a wall or ceiling. A two-person team can easily install a ductless system in a single room in one day.
Learn about still more advantages of a ductless HVAC system by contacting the pros at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
Extending the life of an HVAC system is doable. So, unfortunately, is shortening its expected service life. The combined average life expectancy of an air conditioner and furnace averages about 15 years. Typically, the furnace lasts longer than the A/C. However, that 15-year estimate is based on the assumption that both systems are professionally installed, receive regular maintenance and are operated according to manufacturer’s recommendations. If that doesn’t happen, all bets are off.
To increases the odds of extending the life of an HVAC system, avoid these mistakes:
- Unqualified installation. Every new furnace or air conditioner should be properly sized to the BTU requirements of the home before installation. This means an accurate load calculation must be performed by a professional HVAC contractor. Over-sized and under-sized units not only under-perform in heating and cooling and cost more to operate, they tend to wear out much sooner.
- Skipping annual check-ups. Your furnace or air conditioner manufacturer’s warranty probably requires yearly professional maintenance. That’s because it’s vital to maximize expected service life. Each unit should get seasonal preventive maintenance from a qualified HVAC technician at the outset of the heating and cooling seasons, respectively.
- Ignoring important upkeep. As the homeowner, you can contribute to longer service life by changing the system air filter monthly—an easy DIY procedure that’s also inexpensive when you buy replacement filters in multi-packs. A dirty, clogged filter reduces system airflow. Low airflow not only raises operating costs, it also over-stresses vital system components like the air conditioner compressor and furnace heat exchanger. Early failure of these very expensive parts may mean early replacement of the entire unit.
- Inefficient operation. Use of an outmoded manual thermostat often means the the furnace or air conditioner is cycled on and off much more frequently. This adds to system wear and tear, shortens expected service life and consumes more energy. A digital programmable thermostat automates temperature changes with fewer on/off cycles to maintain a more comfortable indoor environment at lower cost.
Ask the experts at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing for more advice about extending the life of an HVAC system.
Fall maintenance is an important part of the annual furnace start-up procedure. The best alternative is to schedule seasonal preventive maintenance with a qualified HVAC contractor. This ensures your heating system receives a standard set of checks and maintenance for safety, efficiency and performance. (In many cases, annual preventive maintenance is also required by the manufacturer’s warranty.) The trained eye of an HVAC technician can also spot any minor problems that might become major malfunctions later in the season, when the system’s under heaviest heating load.
In addition to professional maintenance, here are three critical maintenance functions to do yourself before you start the furnace for winter.
- Change the filter. The air filter in the system is probably left over from summer and likely clogged with dirt. A dirty filter restricts airflow through the system, which affects everything from energy efficiency to optimum heating performance and even safety—insufficient airflow can overheat and crack the furnace heat exchanger.
- Inspect the vent pipe. Verify that the furnace vent is intact from the unit all the way to roof. Look for any disconnected or loose segments everywhere the vent is routed, including through the attic. Also make sure the vent pipe hasn’t become obstructed—bird’s nests or falling leaves can block proper venting. An obstructed vent pipe can cause dangerous fumes including deadly carbon monoxide gas to flow into the living spaces of your home. If you find any loose segments or obstructions, don’t start the furnace. Call a qualified HVAC service provider.
- Make sure all heating vents are open and unobstructed. The duct system is balanced to provide optimum air volume to every room. Closing individual vents in certain rooms unbalances airflow throughout the entire ductwork. Rooms further away from the furnace may be excessively chilly while rooms closer to the furnace may become overly warm. Tweaking the thermostat to compensate only results in more energy consumption and wear and tear on the furnace.
For qualified fall maintenance to prepare your furnace for another winter, contact the HVAC professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling and Plumbing.
Does your furnace capacity have what it takes to keep you warm this winter? While indoor comfort in cold weather is dependent upon several factors including outdoor temperature, furnace capacity is the biggest key in determining whether your household will be warm and energy-efficient all winter long. The capacity of a furnace refers to the amount of heat it produces (measured in BTUs), varies by make and model, and, for optimal performance and efficiency, must be matched to the specific heating requirements of the house.
The capacity of a particular furnace is built into the unit. It can’t be increased or decreased. You’ll be living with that fixed heat output — whether it’s too little or too much — for as long as the unit is installed. That’s why it’s so important to get a heating load calculation by a qualified HVAC technician before installing a furnace in your home.
How Much Capacity Is Enough?
Fortunately, furnace capacity isn’t an x-factor. Furnace heating power is expressed by BTU output per hour. This figure is always included in the manufacturer’s specs and also shown on the unit’s ratings plate, usually permanently affixed to the inside of the furnace door.
The right capacity for your particular home can only be determined by a heating load calculation performed by a qualified HVAC contractor. Rough guesstimates or a “one-size-fits-all” approach to furnace capacity aren’t appropriate and lead to poor heating performance, diminished indoor comfort and substantially higher energy costs.
A professional heating load calculation includes a room-by-room survey of the home utilizing software that records input about characteristics including the amount and quality of insulation, number of windows, orientation to sun exposure, and structural air leakage. The software calculates the precise BTU per hour figure required to keep the house warm in typical winter conditions in your local climate. This figure can then be matched with a furnace that provides the necessary heating power — no more, no less.
For more on determining the proper furnace capacity for your home, contact the heating pros at Apollo Heating, Cooling Electrical, and Plumbing.
Fall is the season to think about furnace preventative maintenance. Don’t risk a major heating outage during the worst cold spell later this winter — that’s the time when a poorly maintained furnace is most likely to fail completely. Furnace preventative maintenance lowers operating costs due to improved energy efficiency, as well as delivering more effective heating performance. Because a gas-fired furnace involves a high-temperature open flame, flammable natural gas and dangerous exhaust byproducts like carbon monoxide, for safety reasons it’s best to leave most maintenance to a trained, qualified HVAC technician. Here’s what you can do and what to leave to the pros.
Adequate system airflow is critical to all heating functions, and a clean air filter is what keeps airflow rates up to specifications. Start the heating season with a fresh filter and keep changing it every month as the winter goes on. It’s an easy DIY task; ask your HVAC contractor to show you how if you don’t know.
Clear the Area
Vacuum dust and dirt from around the furnace cabinet. Move any items that may have been placed there over the summer a safe distance away from the unit.
Schedule a Fall Maintenance Check-up
Here’s where the professionals take over. A regular annual maintenance evaluation should be scheduled with your HVAC contractor at the outset of the heating season, ideally at the time of seasonal furnace startup. This allows a qualified professional technician to conduct a standard list of furnace preventative maintenance procedures to ensure optimal performance and efficiency throughout the season. Most importantly, the annual procedure includes critical safety checks to test for proper combustion and the presence of dangerous carbon monoxide emissions, as well as inspect the venting system. It also gives the technician an opportunity to detect any issues that could develop into a major malfunction later in the winter when the system is under maximum load.
To schedule furnace preventative maintenance this fall, contact the heating professionals at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
Closing air vents in unoccupied rooms to save money sounds like a no-brainer. The theory is that simply shutting vents in empty rooms during winter makes your furnace run less and thus reduces monthly heating costs. Like many theories that sound too good to be true, however, the scientific facts say otherwise. Closing air vents can actually reduce energy efficiency as well as disrupt the proper distribution of heating throughout the entire house. Here are a few reasons why:
The Facts About Closing Air Vents
- The furnace doesn’t know that some vents are closed. Your furnace keeps producing the same volume of hot air at the same temperature whether all vents in the house are wide open or some rooms are deprived of heat entirely. Until the thermostat setting is reached and the system cycles off, the furnace continues to consume the same amount of energy as long as it’s running.
- Closing vents unbalances the system. Your furnace and ductwork are designed to work together as a matched system. Furnace output is calculated to match the specific diameter and extent of the ductwork in order to ensure that every room — including those furthest from the furnace — receives an equal volume of circulating hot air. Closing air vents in certain rooms while leaving them open elsewhere upsets that critical balance. Rooms closest to the furnace may become overly hot while rooms further away will stay chronically chilly. Also, the increased pressure in parts of the system caused by closing vents may exacerbate heat loss through small duct leaks that are present in any system.
- Cold rooms in a warm house act like a heat sink. It’s a fact of physics: Heat is naturally drawn out of warm areas into colder zones. Keeping one or more rooms unheated inside an otherwise warm house tends to suck heat energy out of the heated areas and into the cold rooms through uninsulated interior walls. The furnace cycles on and off more frequently to compensate for the heat loss, actually raising energy costs and diminishing indoor comfort.
For proven energy-saving ideas, contact the heating experts at Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
While the sticker price tells you how much it will cost to purchase an air conditioner, A/C efficiency ratings give you a good idea of how much it will cost to actually operate it. Since the typical new central air conditioner today can be expected to last about 15 years, energy efficiency is critical information. The monthly bills you pay over that extended time span will be a direct reflection of how little — or how much — electricity the unit consumes to keep your home comfortable.
Fortunately, determining the most energy-efficient unit for the best price isn’t a guessing game. A/C efficiency ratings are required by the Department of Energy and are shown on the yellow EnergyGuide sticker on every new air conditioner. Look for the SEER rating to rank air conditioners by efficiency.
- SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It’s the primary efficiency rating for central air conditioners.
- SEER is a numeral that represents the quantity of BTUs of heat energy removed from your home per hour in ratio to the amount of electricity in kilowatt hours consumed at the same time.
- The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner will be and the lower your operating costs will generally be.
- Today, in northern regions like Cincinnati, the federally-mandated minimum SEER rating is 13. However, more advanced units (with a higher sticker price) are available with A/C efficiency ratings as high as the mid-20s.
Remember that A/C efficiency ratings are calculated based on tests in laboratory conditions. If you don’t live in a laboratory, other issues also impact the overall efficiency of any new air conditioner. These include the amount and quality of insulation in the house, condition of the ductwork and how airtight the structure is to prevent heat infiltration. Another factor is professional installation: A new air conditioner should always be installed by a qualified contractor in compliance with industry standards published by the Air Conditioner Contractors of America.
For more info about A/C efficiency ratings and how to select the most efficient unit for your home, contact Apollo Home Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing.
Is the person who comes to your home to perform HVAC installation, maintenance or repair a NATE certified technician? It’s important to ask before you schedule a service call with any HVAC contractor. Today’s cooling and heating systems incorporate complex technology that requires trained, certified field technicians. The published energy-efficiency and performance specifications of air conditioners and furnaces — as well as a unit’s expected service life — are all based on the assumption that installation, maintenance and repair are carried out by competent individuals with the proper level of training and expertise. To ensure the person who knocks on your door to do the job is qualified, make sure they’re a NATE certified technician.
Short for North American Technician Excellence, NATE is a non-profit program funded by the HVAC industry to certify the knowledge and skills of heating and cooling field technicians who make up the front line of the industry. NATE certification begins with a comprehensive core examination to verify the knowledge level and ability of candidates. This is followed by a second examination covering an area of specialization chosen by the technician. Following certification, a technician must also complete specified classroom hours over the ensuing years to stay current with advancing HVAC technology and remain eligible for re-certification.
Today, more than 32,000 technicians have earned NATE certification and are on the job across North America. For the homeowner, doing business with a contractor who hires NATE certified technicians provides assurance of the following benefits:
- Lower energy consumption and operating costs from professional installation and maintenance that meets manufacturer’s specifications.
- Optimum system performance to ensure proper heating, cooling and indoor air quality.
- A job that’s done right the first time without the need for callbacks.
- A trained, experienced professional at your service who is fully qualified to answer your questions and provide informed, helpful advice.
- Quick, efficient work utilizing techniques and technology that meet industry standards.
Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electric and Plumbing is proud to dispatch a NATE certified technician to handle your heating and cooling installation or service calls. Contact us for more information.
AFUE is an acronym that expresses the energy-efficiency of natural gas and oil-fired furnaces. Short for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, it’s the primary metric used to help consumers compare the efficiency of new furnaces in order to determine which provide the most savings in combination with the best heating performance. When shopping for a new furnace, you’ll find its AFUE rating prominently displayed on the Department Of Energy’s yellow EnergyGuide sticker affixed to every new unit.
Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency is simply a percentage that tells you how much of the fuel consumed by a furnace produces usable heat vs. the amount of heat lost in the combustion process. All gas and oil furnaces lose some heat — mainly in the form of hot gasses exhausted up the furnace vent pipe.
Standard vs. High Efficiency
The federal minimum Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency for a standard-efficiency gas furnace is 80. That means 80% of the heat generated actually warms your house while the balance — 20% — is lost in the combustion process. High-efficiency units known as “condensing furnaces” incorporate additional technology like a secondary heat exchanger to recover lost heat and offer ratings as high as 95 percent.
Is High Efficiency Always Better?
High-efficiency furnaces come with an initial purchase price substantially higher than a standard AFUE-80 model. While these units produce more heat with less fuel consumption, savings from lower operating costs may still take some years to compensate for the higher upfront price. Whether the extended payback period makes good financial sense or not depends largely on the length of your local heating season and how long you plan to live in the home.
What About Electric Furnaces?
Since electric furnaces have no combustion losses, all are rated with an AFUE of 99%. However, this nearly perfect efficiency doesn’t mean electric heating is more economical. Because of the substantially higher cost of electricity vs. natural gas in most regions of the country, electric heating is always more expensive.
For more about using AFUE to shop for your next heating system, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.