Heating & Cooling Service Category
While today’s central air conditioners offer superior efficiency and reliability, a few common AC issues are still often responsible when problems occur. The average central air conditioner installed today can be expected to provide reliable cooling performance for 12 to 15 years or more with routine annual maintenance. Despite this long service life, however, certain shortfalls may recur that require extra attention. Here are three common A/C issues you may encounter along the way and how they are typically resolved.
No system parameter is more critical than adequate airflow. Declining efficiency, sub-standard cooling and increased wear and tear result when airflow falls below specs. Common causes include:
- Dirty air filter. The filter should be changed monthly during the cooling season. It’s an easy DIY task that takes just a few minutes. Ask your HVAC contractor to show you how if you don’t know.
- Closed or obstructed vents. If individual supply or return vents are shut or inadvertently blocked by furniture or other obstructions, system airflow suffers. Check all vents to verify they’re fully open.
- Leaking ducts. Residential ductwork is often leaky, typically losing 20% or more of airflow due to deteriorated joints and other issues. Ducts should be inspected and pressure-tested to determine extent of leakage. Sealing options are available to restore normal airflow.
Insufficient refrigerant circulating in the coils impacts A/C efficiency, cooling effectiveness and humidity extraction. Low refrigerant almost always indicates a small leak. A qualified HVAC technician using leak detection technology can repair the problem, then restore proper refrigerant level.
Both under-sized and over-sized air conditioners deliver poor performance, waste energy and often have shorter expected service life. Before selecting a new A/C, make sure the system accommodates the home’s cooling load. Conducted by a qualified HVAC technician, “sizing” involves a standardized survey to identify the unique thermal requirements of a house. Industry-standard software crunches this data to determine the exact A/C BTU capacity required for optimum cooling and lowest operating costs.
For professional advice and service to resolve common AC issues, contact Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
A new AC installation is a step forward to greater energy efficiency, lower costs and—perhaps best of all—enhanced indoor comfort. The installation process is critical to getting all those benefits you deserve. If installation doesn’t meet standards, the system may not maintain consistent comfort, operating costs may be higher and excessive wear and tear may occur. To help ensure that a new system lives up to manufacturer’s specs as well as your own expectations, here are three things you can do to prepare for a new A/C installation.
- Make sure the unit is correctly sized. Every new installation should be preceded by a load calculation performed by a qualified HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) contractor. The process—known as “sizing”— consists of a room-by-room survey to quantify the unique thermal characteristics of the house. After this data is entered into industry-standard software called Manual J, the program calculates the BTU (British thermal unit) capacity required to cool the home more effectively and efficiently. This enables the contractor to match a new unit with the correct specs to do the job. It’s critical to get sizing right because both oversized and undersized HVAC units under-perform, cost more to operate, and often have shorter service life.
- Get the ductwork inspected. Connecting a new air conditioner to aging, leaky ductwork produces disappointing results. Residential ductwork typically leaks over 25% of the conditioned air it’s supposed to convey to all rooms throughout the house. This makes living spaces less comfortable and causes the A/C to run longer cycles, boosting operating costs. A qualified HVAC contractor can test the system for leakage and offer sealing options if required.
- Is there sufficient space? Installation of the outdoor component of a central A/C requires certain area to the rear or on one side of the house. Ensure shrubbery is cut away and any large objects relocated so the unit will have at least three feet of open area on all sides to ensure proper air circulation.
For more advice about the benefits of a professional AC installation, contact the experts at Apollo Heating, Cooling Electrical and Plumbing.
Saving money isn’t the only benefit of a furnace inspection, but it’s one you’ll appreciate every month when you pay your utility bills. Nationwide, the annual average cost to heat a home with a gas furnace is more than $1,200. Any effective measures you can take to reduce that substantial figure usually pay for themselves in energy savings alone. Of course, an annual furnace inspection also keeps your heating system performing up to manufacturer’s specs, reduces the incidence of repairs and ensures that all safety functions are fully operational.
Here are some ways an annual furnace inspection by a qualified HVAC service technician helps keep household heating affordable.
- Furnace air filter is checked and replaced. A dirty filter obstructs system airflow. Low airflow is a major cause of substandard furnace efficiency and higher heating costs.
- Burners are cleaned and checked for proper ignition and flame. Dirty or clogged burners cause incomplete combustion and waste gas.
- The vent system is inspected all the way to the roof to ensure free flow of exhaust gases. An obstructed vent is a major safety hazard and also affects furnace energy consumption.
- Combustion gases produced by the furnace are checked with an analyzer. This is an important diagnostic procedure to verify proper combustion and make sure the furnace is operating at optimum fuel efficiency. It’s also a critical safety measure to detect excessive amounts of dangerous carbon monoxide.
- Blower amperage is measured. The furnace blower makes a substantial contribution to monthly electrical costs. Excessive amperage draw indicates a worn, failing motor that may be wasting electricity.
- Heat exchanger is inspected. This is a vital safety check as the heat exchanger prevents dangerous combustion gases including carbon monoxide from entering the system airflow. Because the heat exchanger is the single most expensive component in your heating system, an annual inspection also provides important information about the expected service life of the furnace and when replacement may be necessary.
Enjoy optimum heating comfort at lowest cost this winter. Schedule a furnace inspection by the professionals at Apollo Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Plumbing.
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 Home 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 Home 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 Home 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 Home 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 Home 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.