Archive for the ‘Air Conditioning System’ Category

For Health And Wealth, A Tune Up Is A Worthwhile Investment

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

( North Carolina, Pisgah Forest), March 20, 2013–Air, whether indoor or outdoor, contains pollutants such as dust, dirt, pollen, grease, mold, bacteria or moisture.  As the air moves through your cooling equipment the pollutants adhere to surfaces, greatly impacting your comfort system.  A priority of your Spring To Do List, should be cleaning or replacing your air filters.    However, it is also strongly recommended that you consider having your cooling system professionally tuned up.

According to a study conducted by Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E,) a dirty outside unit can increase your monthly electric bill as much as 30%. The unit’s cooling performance is also decreased because it limits the coils ability to transfer heat.  This causes your compressor to work harder, and that generates heat.  On the hottest days, the PG&E study revealed you can lose up to 30% of your cooling capacity as well—leaving you feeling clammy and uncomfortable.

This extra work that the compressor is doing can actually create conditions that reduce the life expectancy of your unit.  Running hot continually affects internal lubrication, leading to acid formation that will eventually compromise the compressor.  And that is a very expensive repair that can be avoided with a little maintenance.

Another significant benefit of maintenance on your cooling system is ensuring your indoor coil and fan are clean and refrigerant levels are optimal.  All three can restrict air flow, causing similar concerns as stated with dirty condenser coils.  Since your indoor coil is a perfect breeding ground for mold and bacteria, there’s a health impact too.

Studies by both a Vermont Utility and the California Energy Commission stated that incorrect or improper refrigerant levels were found in 66-75% of systems surveyed.  Refrigerant levels should not be adjusted unless the indoor/outdoor coils and the fan are clean.

Your savings from proper maintenance through lower utility costs, peak equipment efficiency, enhanced reliability, longer system life and improved indoor air quality will exceed the cost of a professional tune up in as little as two months according to a US Department of Energy Study.

When you do your part for yourself, society benefits too.  Summer air conditioning accounts for 60% of peak electricity load.  Power from peak generation typically costs a multiple of base load generation.  When more people keep their cooling equipment in good condition, peak power needs are slashed.  This benefits the environment as well as our wallets.

Comfort Central, Inc. provides Heating, Cooling, Indoor Environmental and Energy Services as well as installations and maintenance for the Western North Carolina Region.  To find out more, or to receive cited sources, please visit www.comfort-central.com.

# # #

It was a picture on an industry magazine that summed it up for me.

Friday, March 1st, 2013
IE3 Quality Contractors

IE3 Quality Contractors

Comfort Delivery Problem #4:  The Heating or Cooling Equipment was Installed Incorrectly sounds like a problem you should never experience right?

Well hopefully, as I discuss the Solutions to Comfort Delivery Problem #4 you will feel confident not only in your installation but your choice of contractor.

Usually Heating and Cooling Equipment are part of a system.  It has several components but the two big ones you would normally think about are the Indoor Unit (Furnace, Air Handler or Evaporator Coils) and the outdoor unit, the condenser (straight air conditioning or heat pump.)  Only equipment that were designed to work together should be installed.  This very well could mean you may be facing replacing both the indoor unit and the outdoor unit.  In our industry we have a name for it, it is called Manual S.  We rely upon engineering data from the manufacturer so that we can ensure the performance and longevity of the equipment we select for you.  There are several factors that can cause a system mismatch.  As part of a Solution for Comfort Delivery #4, we need to confirm compatibility with the various components of your comfort system.

Once that wonderfully matched system is installed, there are a couple of other things that go a long way to ensuring you do not experience Comfort Delivery Problem #4.  For air conditioners and heat pumps, we must go through a start up procedure.  It actually starts during installation, but I won’t bore you with those details but if you would like a more comprehensive list, do not hesitate to contact us at mailto:customercare@comfort-central.com or (828) 483-4040.  But the part of the start up procedure that should become part of your permanent record is the Quality Installation Start Up Sheet.  Now many of us contractors work in differing climates, regions, have differing regulations, so ours could very well look very different than one from Buffalo, New York.  Ask to see your completed start up sheet.

However, even with existing systems you should expect to see that the refrigerant charge was measured and adjusted if needed to ensure peak performance.  And sometimes, a note stating we need to come back when weather is more cooperative to ensure it is at peak levels.  Yes, it is very true, when the weather is mild or cold—because of the properties of refrigerant, we will need to return to make minor adjustments.

This is one reason why we include a Comfort Club Membership with every one of our installs—there are actually some great benefits to this approach.  First, you know we coming out as soon as the weather warms up and we will definitely make the adjustments as needed.  Second, it gives us the opportunity to not only talk about proper maintenance of your system, but to show you what to expect.  And third, we simply like to visit our equipment and watch them run, they are almost like children to us.

But, I got off topic.  Another solution included in addressing Comfort Delivery Problem #4, is testing for carbon monoxide and proper operation for all oil and gas appliances.  This is one that your life could depend upon, so do expect it each and every time you have your equipment inspected.

Third:  Fix all chimney venting problems.  I know that checking for carbon monoxide and testing proper operation of your combustion appliances seems to address this one.  There are some exterior forces that could affect chimney venting.  This could be wind forces upon the home, negative pressure in the house creating back drafts.  These should be identified and corrected.

Finally, do a final control check to be sure the equipment is operating at peak efficiency.

Hopefully, you feel comfortable discussing the Solutions to Comfort Delivery Problem#4:  The Heating or Cooling Equipment was Installed Incorrectly with any of your service providers.  If not, do not hesitate to give us a call, we here at Comfort Central are always happy to help.

My next blog (as I now have guest bloggers you may need to search for) I will discuss Comfort Delivery Problem #5:  The House has Large Hidden Air Leaks which Create Hot or Cold Rooms.  This is actually a fun one.  There have been many books written on the subject, but I will try to keep it simple and straight forward.

Is it a Prescription for the Cure?

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

We visit doctors because we trust that they will diagnose and prescribe the best treatment to keep us healthy and happy. We trust they will run the appropriate tests, and they will follow up to make sure we are responding to their prescribed treatment.

Unfortunately, studies conducted throughout the United States by Utility Companies indicate that is not happening within Heating and Air Conditioning Industry. Which leads us to Comfort Delivery Problem #4: The Heating or Cooling Equipment was Installed Incorrectly.

Here is what we know. Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Systems Need the Proper Amount of Refrigerant. The amount of refrigerant gas installed in an air conditioning or heat pump system is critical to proper operation.

Utility Company Studies have shown that approximately 75% of all installed air conditioning or heat pump systems have either too much or too little refrigerant installed.

This is important because improper refrigerant levels reduce the efficiency and capacity of the equipment and can lead to premature failures. It is imperative that a trained technician should always verify and adjust the refrigerant charge.

But there is also a safety component we need to be aware of. Improperly installed venting systems for gas or oil furnaces and water heaters can let poisonous exhaust gases into your home. Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that even low levels of exposure can impact your health.

But also of concern (remember our discussion about duct leakage, Comfort Delivery Problem #1: http://www.comfortandefficiency.com/2011/07/i-hate-getting-straw-that-is-broken.html?), negative pressures in homes from duct leaks and imbalanced duct system airflows can cause backdrafting and spillage of exhaust gases into your home. So it is imperative for the health and safety of your family that a measurement of chimney draft and carbon monoxide (CO) production should always be done on oil and gas appliances.

backdrafting

Just as a doctor needs to follow up to ensure his treatment plan is addressing our health issues, we need to do our due diligence. I will provide more information in our next blog and provide Solutions for Comfort Delivery Problem #4: Heat and Cooling Equipment Not Installed Properly.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, or would like your system checked and you are here in Western North Carolina, please give us a call (828) 483-4040, customercare@comfort-central.com, or check out our website at comfort-central.com.

 

And Why Did You Buy ‘That’ Car?

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

What do you look for when you shop for a car? I admit it…my first car, was not much to look at or provide much in the way of performance. But…I had keys to the kingdom, and I was happy. As I got older and my finances allowed me to shop more based on features and benefits. I found my purchases were usually practical for my circumstances at the time.

Like when I lived in Maryland and commuted 50 miles each way 5 days a week, fuel economy and reliability topped my list. Or when I lived in Chicago, parking hard to come by, a compact won out. I still opted for budget model, mostly so I wouldn’t get upset about the scrapes and dents that showed up.

When I started to take road trips with my family, I actually did purchase a mini van—it was awesome…we even had the media center and the captain’s chairs were extremely comfortable for the long rides.

And eventually, I was able to purchase my “luxury” vehicle, in addition to my daily driver. Yeah, I admit it, I bought a Honda Shadow 750. I soon replaced it with my Harley Davidson Road King Custom.

Would you shop differently for that car, if every time you stepped on the gas pedal you had full throttle acceleration? Think about the implications. No more easing into parking spaces. Stop and Go traffic would be a white knuckle experience. The question of how many cup holders it has become less important hasn’t it?

So what does all this have to do with the Solution to Comfort Delivery Problem #3: The Wrong Sized Heating and Cooling Equipment was Installed?

Now days, in my heating and cooling world, we have many features bantered about that are available in some of the equipment options we may present you. These include Modulating Gas Valves, Variable Speed Motors, Variable Speed Compressors even. Technology is a great and wonderful thing. But the performance of these equipment choices are no substitute for proper sizing. In fact some of these systems, are so smart they will tell you they are failing and what is causing the failure.

Regardless of these new equipment features and benefits, they are all rated for their performance at “full acceleration.” So having the wrong sized equipment installed in your home is like having a car that goes full speed or is stopped.

See…had I simply opted to add Captain Chairs to my daily driver at the time (a Nissan Sentra) instead of investing in the minivan—well, it would have been silliness #1 and I am betting a lot more uncomfortable than the Nissan was as stock. None of the above mentioned features available in equipment today will forgive improperly sized equipment.

So what can you do about Comfort Delivery Problem #3: The Wrong Sized Heating and Cooling Equipment was installed?

First, we recommend you measure the whole house for air leakage. Utilizing a Blower Door, we can often uncover hidden air leaks causing you discomfort. A Blower Door is a tool that uses a large fan, temporarily installed in a doorway, to pressure test the whole house for air leaks. The air leakage rate is an important factor in determining the correct equipment size.

Second, the house’s insulation levels, windows, solar orientation and humidity control needs need to be carefully surveyed.

Third, with the above provided information, a thorough equipment sizing calculation is conducted. This ensures you will be provided the appropriately matched equipment for your house. Not based on features, benefits, or your neighbor’s home…but properly sized to provide the comfort you deserve.

What are the reasons why to buy “that” car? What ultimately motivated your final choice. For your comfort and safety, we just recommend you ask the professional to show you their homework. See, what good are features and benefits if they cannot be used as intended? Next blog, we will tackle Comfort Problem #4: The Heating or Cooling Equipment was Installed Incorrectly. Until then, please do not hesitate to contact us at customercare@comfort-central.com or call us at (828) 483-4040 with any questions. Again, our website also has some useful information: www.comfort-central.c om.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much of a Good Thing?

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

When I think of things that bring me comfort, I would have to say the answer would be no. I truly enjoy and get much comfort from my family, friends, my job. The list could go on. But then I think of those wonderful family dinners. You know like the Thanksgiving Feast, with all its comfort foods, and I can remember a time or two where I was not feeling too comfortable afterwards. But that discomfort is temporary and the memories for years later of being with my friends and family—not that discomfort—is what I think of.

Unfortunately, Comfort Delivery Problem #3 is not temporary. Well, it doesn’t last forever, but you will be forced to live with it daily for many years. You see, in the world of home or building comfort, Bigger is Usually Not Better. So lets kick off our discussion of Comfort Delivery Problem #3: The Wrong Sized Heating and Cooling Equipment was installed.

Heating and Cooling Equipment is only a portion of a well designed, well installed, well serviced comfort system. Hopefully the discussion about Comfort Delivery Problems #1 and #2 helped to expand how you look at your system. But some things you may not be aware of:

  • Many heating and cooling systems are installed without first determining the proper size unit needed for the house.
  • Some contractors use simple rules of thumb to size replacement equipment, or worse, they always recommend getting something a little bigger—just in case!
  • Some contractors may choose to install a larger system because you report your current system isn’t providing you with proper comfort.
  • Sometimes they choose to install the same size equipment that was already in the home, without taking into consideration changes to home since its original construction (and assuming the original installation contractor did their homework back when.)
  • Equipment sizing should be based on an evaluation of the home’s insulation levels, air leakage rate, windows, solar orientation and humidity control needs.

FACT: Oversized equipment causes problems

  • Oversized air conditioners and heat pumps do not run long enough to remove moisture from the air. Result: Your home feels damp and muggy.
  • A June 1998 Consumer Reports Magazine article cautions about being sold an oversized unit: While an oversized air conditioner may cool a space more rapidly…oversized machines might not reduce humidity very well.
  • Oversized units also tend to cycle on and off more frequently. This results in:
    • Large temperature swings
    • More wear on the equipment

Are you comfortable? This is simple. Proper sizing is the bottom line.

Unlike that family feast, if your system isn’t sized properly, there is a good chance it will not work properly for the life of the equipment. If you aren’t comfortable, you will think about it each and every time it runs. In cases where an existing system isn’t providing proper comfort, simply installing a bigger system without diagnosing the cause of the problem will often make matters worse. Fixing the cause of the comfort problem (poor insulation, duct leaks, restricted air flow or excessive house air leaks) is almost always a better solution than installing a bigger heating or cooling system. What’s better—these are a fix it once, little or no maintenance items, unlike that oversized equipment that will experience more frequent break downs (increasing your cost of ownership in both repairs and higher utility bills.)

Now…. I am starting to feel uncomfortable. In our next blog, I will address the Solution to Comfort Delivery Problem #3. Stay tuned. Please do not hesitate to contact us at (828) 483-4040, or via our website. We also have some articles on our website at www.comfort-central.com that can help.

Patient: “But Doctor, it only hurts when I do this…”

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Doctor:  “Then don’t do that.”

Unfortunately, we do have to open our utility bills…OUCH! And I am afraid there is no magic pill on the market to miraculously cure Comfort Delivery Problem #2: The Duct System is Restricting Air Flow. But we do have a prescription, guaranteed to cure the disease and alleviate some of the pain of opening your utility bill each month.

But just like a doctor we do need to run some tests to best prescribe your treatment plan. Afterall, “prescription without diagnosis is malpractice.”

First we will measure your lung capacity. Just kidding. We will measure total system airflow. There are several tools in our tool bag we utilize to do this. One you may be familiar with—the Magnahelic and Flow Hood. The other is the Duct Blaster mentioned in earlier blog.

We will also measure your system’s “blood pressure”—or its static pressure. At this time we will also visually inspect your duct system for restrictions.

So what is the Solution to Comfort Delivery Problem #2?

  • Remove the duct restrictions.
  • If the return ductwork is too small, increase it’s size to a properly sized return.
  • If there are too many bends and changes, redesign or add turning vanes to help the air move more efficiently through the ductwork. Every time there is a bend or change in direction of ductwork, the “Length” of the ductwork increases greatly. A great example would be a snorkel. It is about 5/8” in diameter, approximately 2 feet long. It works great allowing you to breathe underwater. But what if it were 100 feet long? Would you think it would work so well then? Remember the Smoothie and the Crazy Straw?
  • If ducts have been collapsed, replace them.
  • Install a new filtration system designed for your house and duct system. Believe it or not, our choice of filters can impact your system greatly. (Yes, your filters are extremely important to your comfort and health, as well as your equipment’s. We will visit this in a later blog.)
  • Inspect and replace registers and grilles that are installed in wrong application—or is not rated for your system’s air flow. (We will visit Register and Grille Choices in a later blog.)

When a properly sized, designed renovations are installed (properly sealed and insulated of course.) Retest final system airflow, and test for proper airflow balance to each room in the house.

“So Laurie, We are only up to Comfort Delivery Problem #2—are you saying it may not be my equipment but my ductwork making me uncomfortable, increasing my utility bills, creating repairs to my heating and cooling systems?” Very much so. Please give us a call if you would like to know more. But remember we have Three More Common Comfort Delivery Problems to go.

The Keys to the Kingdom

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

When I got my first car, I literally held the keys to the world in my hands. The places I could travel, the people I could see. Well, let’s just say my mind wandered further than the money in my pockets allowed me to go.

So would it is surprise you so terribly much that your home heating and air conditioning system is a key part of the family home? It is the key to your Comfort, Money and Air Quality (described in earlier blog: My First Car) and contributes greatly to your peace of mind.

With my first car, I had to learn what to expect, learn about things that were costing me money that I didn’t even know about. Really, I am not ashamed to admit it. I recognize today how much further I could have traveled if I checked my tire pressure often; back then, I just held the keys to the kingdom and I wanted to go!

So I would like to kick off our 5 Most Common Problems preventing your heating and cooling system from delivering comfort discussion with defining what you should expect from your heating and cooling system:

 

  • Even Temperatures Throughout the House.
    That’s right, you should not have hot or cold rooms, nor hot and cold spots in a room.
  • Controlled Humidity Levels
    You should not have a damp feeling when the air conditioning is running, nor should you suffer feeling the air is too dry when the heat is running.
  • Reasonable Utility Bills
    You should not have big surprises in hot or cold weather
  • Good Indoor Air Quality
    Your heating and cooling system should contribute to better air quality. It’s important to understand your system needs proper filtration and sealed duct systems. Some houses may need added fresh outdoor air.

These points are not arbitrary, they are so tied to comfort, system longevity, utility savings and whole home health, that the North Carolina State Board of Examiners for Plumbing, Heating and Fire Sprinklers (our licensing board: nclicensing.org,) have been publishing these items on the front of their Consumer Newsletters for the past two years. Your comfort is that important.

When you buy a new car, you are often rewarded with knowing what to expect and are helped to maintain it for best economy. But like my first car (the clunker,) there was not much guidance or help there. We do offer comprehensive evaluations and tune-ups where we would be happy to discuss the above so you can better know what to expect and receive real guidance on your heating and cooling system, you can sign up here.

Please stay tuned for our next installment of our Series: Five Most Common Problems

My First Car

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

My first car. What a clunker. After realizing the lessons it taught me, I think it should be a LAW that your first car be very used, fail to start a few times, and overheat on occasion. Teaches character.

It did teach me to ‘take care of my stuff’. The feeling of breaking down, coupled with the embarrassment of course, is a feeling you DO NOT want to revisit. I can honestly say that I’d never heard or cared a whit about “preventive maintenance” until that experience.

Now, I do it and preach it. I’ll spare you the fire and brimstone version but I do have a couple points that can help you.

To me, the more expensive it is to replace, the more important it is to maintain. People always think of their home, or cars here, and that’s good. But I have “dividing line” on these items.

If it has an ‘operating cost’, like a car, it’s even more of a priority to maintain it. But if doesn’t, like say a roof (which is REAL expensive) then all you do is fix it quickly if it leaks. I mean, what else can you do?

You expect me to get to this part, but your home’s heating and air conditioning system has HUGE operating costs. For the next several weeks, I will be visiting The 5 MOST COMMON PROBLEMS that keep your heating and cooling system from delivering comfort. Among the “COMFORTS” we will visit will be:

  •  Your Family’s Comfort – Your Family’s Comfort Depends on the Proper Operation of your Heating and Cooling System
  • $$$ (MONEY) – The cost to operate and maintain your heating and cooling system over its lifetime is many times larger than the purchase price of the system.
  • Air Quality — Your heating and cooling system can play a vital role in maintaining good indoor air quality. It can affect your health as well as the health of your home.

As always, if you get curious or need answers while awaiting my further blogs, please visit here to contact us directly.