Heating and Air Conditioning Tips and Tricks
Welcome to the Air Care Heating and Air Conditioning Tips & Tricks Blog! Read our latest posts, or explore our archives for tips and ideas on how you can maximize your energy efficiency, extend the life of your HVAC system and make the air in your home as clean and comfortable as possible. You can also learn about current trends in climate control and emerging technologies in the heating and air conditioning industry.
In the average American household, the heating and cooling system accounts for nearly half of all energy consumption. But with the right know-how, homeowners can cut the cost of heating and cooling their home by as much as 50%. And since new HVAC systems and efficiency standards are emerging at an ever-increasing pace, it’s more important than ever before to stay on top of the latest opportunities to make cost-effective upgrades.
On the Tips & Tricks Blog, you’ll even find solutions for problems like reducing indoor allergens, odors, and dust. Small changes can indeed make a big difference when it comes to your HVAC system, thumb through our posts and you'll be surprised by how easy it is!
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Gas Furnace Buying Guide
The Heat is On
Are you considering replacing your furnace? There are several benefits to replacing your old furnace. New furnaces are more reliable, more efficient, and quieter. You will also experience a big boost in your homes comfort. But which furnace is right for you? Great question! Below we’ve listed a few items to consider before you decide on a furnace.
Gas and propane are the most common heating fuel so this report focuses on gas and propane furnaces.
How do most homeowners go about buying a new furnace? Most will call contractors and ask for estimates. We did too, well sort of. We obtained over 500 estimates from local residential heating and air conditioning contractors and took into account experiences from over 100 clients, this is what we found.
The furnace should meet the needs of your home and existing air conditioning system. A furnace that’s too small won’t keep your home warm during coldest days of the year. To avoid that possibility, we found most contractors oversize most furnaces.
The initial installation cost is only one of the many drawbacks of that strategy. A furnace that’s too big will cycle on and off more frequently. That places greater wear on its components, wastes energy, and reduces the life expectancy of the furnace.
Efficiency Also Matters
Gas and propane are currently the most common heating fuel sources. How efficiently a furnace converts gas into heating energy is reflected in its annual fuel-utilization-efficiency (AFUE) rating, which is measured as a percentage. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace. One other thing to consider is the environmental impact of your furnace. Higher efficiency furnaces emit fewer emissions, therefore, higher efficiency furnaces are more environmentally friendly.
Like most products, furnaces have become more efficient over the years. A gas furnace manufactured in the 70’s typically has an AFUE of about 60%. The lowest efficiency allowed by the EPA for new gas furnaces today is 80% percent, and some models can achieve over 98% efficiency.
Most and Least Reliable Furnaces
If you have to replace your furnace, you’ll be glad to hear that a new gas or propane furnaces can save you up to 40% in heating costs. They are also much more reliable.
Reliability is especially important because, according to consumer reports, when a furnace fails 77% of the time they need significant work.
Most homeowners will be surprised to learn that there are about 150 brands of furnaces, but only 6 manufactures in the US. All that to say that nearly all furnaces are the same in terms of reliability. What we found to be the clear differentiating factor is who installs the furnace. Finding a trustworthy HVAC contractor is what matters most.
It should come as no surprise then that in our survey of repair history, we found no statistically meaningful differences in percent of models ever repaired for the leading brands of furnaces.
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Visit our Choosing the Correct Heater page for additional information.
You just noticed you’re A/C is blowing warm air, now that’s a reason to sweat.
No need to panic. There are several reason why your air conditioner could be blowing warm air, and most repairs are fairly simple.
Before you decide to call a professional, try these four common causes for A/C failure, all of which you can fix yourself.
Thermostat set to HEAT instead of COOL.
Yes, this happens a lot! Check your thermostat setting and make sure you didn’t accidentally set it to “HEAT” instead of “COOL”. It happens more often than you’d think, especially with digital thermostats.
Fan is set to ON instead of AUTO
If the fan setting at thermostat is set to “ON” the fan will circulate the air in your home constantly, even when the A/C isn’t on. This is a useful feature that can help improve the quality of the air in your home and can also help reduce hotspots.
DIY fix: Make sure your thermostat is set to “COOL” and use the “AUTO” fan setting.
Indoor or Outdoor Coil is Clogged
Your home’s AC system is made up of 2 main components a condenser, which sits outside, and an evaporative coil, which is inside. These components work together to remove heat from your home. To perform this task successfully, they require unrestricted airflow.
A condenser that is impacted with dirt, leaves or debris can keep your AC working properly. A dirty indoor filter can create the same issue.
DIY fix: You can prevent this problem by using a broom or hose to clean your condenser. Also make sure to trim bushes, weeds and tall grass that could restrict airflow. It’s a good idea to change your indoor filter ever 2-3 months.
Loss of Power to Condenser
As we discussed earlier, your AC system is actually 2 parts that work together. If the outside unit loses power but the inside unit doesn’t, it is possible that you could experience warm air coming out of your air vents.
There are 2 places an outside AC unit can lose power:
At the circuit breaker. Check to see if the breaker for your outside unit got tripped.
An emergency shutoff switch. This is usually located on your home’s exterior wall, right by the outside AC unit. Check to see it’s in the “on” position.
DIY fix: Locate the breaker switch on your outside unit and flip the switch all the way OFF and then back ON.
Note: If your AC continues to trip your breaker, call a professional! This is a sign of a serious electrical problem in your air conditioner.
As temperatures begin to rise, or drop, most homeowners don’t hesitate to start running their HVAC system. They may take a quick look at their furnace or condenser to make sure their running, if everything checks out then they continue with their daily chores, and that’s the way it should be.
A few days later they might be surprised to find a puddle of water collecting around their furnace or on the ceiling of their home. They are left asking themselves, “Why is my furnace leaking water?”
This is a common question we hear from our customers, and there’s a few reasons why your furnace could be leaking water. Below, we’ve outlined what might be causing your furnace to leak, but it’s best to let a professional HVAC contractor diagnose the issue as it could lead to serious damage to your home or air conditioning system.
Reasons Why Your Furnace Is Leaking Water
Modern furnace models are more energy efficient than older units. As these newer heating systems pump cool exhaust away from your unit it may cause an increase in condensation collecting at the base of your furnace and is one reason why your furnace is “leaking” water. If you don’t have a high-efficiency furnace, you may have an incorrectly sized flue pipe, since standard efficiency furnaces do not produce condensatio
2. Clogged Condensation Drain
Your air conditioning system can condensate up to 3 gallons of water per hour as it runs. It is possible your condensation drain line is clogged, causing the condensation to back up and flood the furnace. Another possibility is that the condensation drain pan or drain line is cracked.
Your Pilot Light Is Out
If you notice your pilot light is off, relight it. What is a pilot light? A pilot light is a small gas flame, usually natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas, which serves as an ignition source for a gas burner. Often you can find instructions on how to do this right on the furnace. If they are not, you can always look at the manual that came with your furnace, or on the manufacturers website online.
Gas Valve Setting
If the pilot refuses to stay on, make sure gas is flowing into the furnace. Make sure the gas valve is set to the “ON” position. If the pilot switch is in the “ON” position but there isn’t gas coming out of the pilot tube, the tube may be clogged. Inspect the gas tube to ensure it is not obstructed.
If the pilot lights but will not stay lit, then you may have a problem with your thermocouple. This may mean your thermocouple needs to be adjusted or replaced. If you have never done this before, we recommend contacting a professional.
Inadequate Gas Supply
The gas supply running through your furnace might have been cut off. This will not allow your furnace to receive the gas needed to supply the warm air you need.
Much like you, your HVAC system needs to breathe in order to function properly. And just like you, if it can’t breathe in sufficiently, it suffers and eventually suffocates.
The key to maintaining air flow in your HVAC system is a clean filter. Unfortunately, HVAC filters are usually out of sight and out of mind, and it can be easy for homeowners to forget to replace their filter regularly. But they do so at their peril — the effects of neglected filters can range from annoying to disastrous.
Airflow to No-Go
The role of the HVAC air filter is to prevent particles from flowing through the system where they can accumulate and cause damage. We’re not just talking tiny specks of dust — pet hair, dirt, leaves and just about anything that’s tracked into your home can get trapped in the filter, and once it’s there, it stays there until the filter is replaced or cleaned.
Operating your unit without a filter is clearly not an option, but running it with a clogged filter isn’t much better.
Here are a few of the major consequences of operating your system when it can’t catch its breath:
Compromised Efficiency: You’re not saving any money by purchasing fewer replacement filters. When you run your system with a clogged filter, it has to work harder to reach its target temperature. And that extra work comes at an energy cost. A clean filter is vital to maximizing HVAC energy efficiency.
Short Cycling: When an air conditioning or furnace cycle stops before hitting its temperature goal, it’s an HVAC effect known as “short cycling”. A clogged air filter can trigger this by trapping stagnant air inside the system, which can trick the system into stopping the cycle early or force it to shut down to avoid overheating. This can put excessive wear on your system components, and often leads to unpredictable temperature and humidity swings inside your home.
Frozen Coils: During A/C season, dirty air filters can also trap cooled air inside your HVAC system, which can eventually lead to frost buildup on the condenser and evaporator coils. If the frost continues to build, it could cause the unit to seize up.
Poor Indoor Air Quality: While the air filters primarily protect your HVAC system, they also filter irritating particles out of the air you breathe. When a filter is clogged, this ability is severely hampered. This can result in dirty, unpleasant indoor air, which can be a particular concern for anyone with asthma, allergies or another respiratory condition.
HVAC filters vary in their designated lifespans, but most household filters are built to last one month or three months. Know which type you’re using, and make a serious effort to remember to replace them on time. Mark your calendar, set a reminder on your phone — whatever it takes. Excessive reminders are less of a hassle than prematurely replacing your HVAC system due to accelerated wear.
Not sure how to change your filter? HVAC system already in need of repairs? Whatever the problem may be, your local home comfort experts are ready to spring into action.