Troubleshooting Your HVAC System

How to Keep Your Water Heater from Exploding

Posted by on 8:28 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on How to Keep Your Water Heater from Exploding

Water heater explosions seem like the stuff of news segments and second-hand tales. However, they do happen and they usually happen due to poor maintenance. Here are a few things you should know to prevent your water heater from becoming a ticking time bomb. What Could Cause an Explosion? The most common cause of catastrophic water heater explosions involves excess water pressure. As your water heater produces hot water for your everyday usage, pressure builds up inside the water heater tank. Under normal operation, the temperature/pressure (T&P) relief valve activates when pressures exceed 150 pounds per square inch gauge or temperatures exceed 210 degrees Fahrenheit. Without the relief valve in action, pressures can continue to build up within the tank until the structure catastrophically weakens, resulting in an explosion. The relief valve may fail due to old age, lack of proper maintenance or tampering by an unqualified or untrained person. Another common cause involves gas leaks near or within the water heater. An errant spark caused by the water heater’s ignition device or pilot light could potentially set off an explosion. Internal corrosion can also create an electrical short through the water heater, creating another source of ignition that could result in an explosion. Catastrophic water heater failures can also occur if the unit itself is improperly installed. Warning Signs to Look Out for Water heaters rarely fail without warning, so it’s a good idea to learn what to look for in a water heater that’s on the verge of catastrophic failure: Rumbling, banging or knocking sounds, usually caused by sediment formation within the tank Moisture near the water heater tank, which could suggest a tank leak Rusty water caused by internal rust or corrosion Rusted or leaking relief valve Scalding hot water. This can occur when temperatures exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit Strong smell of natural gas near the water heater Constant warnings from your carbon monoxide detector If you see any of the signs from your water heater, you’ll want to take action to resolve these issues as soon as possible. How to Defuse an Explosive Situation To avoid creating thousands of dollars in damage to your home due to a water heater explosion, it’s best to prevent such a situation from happening in the first place. Here are a few tips you can use to insure your water heater operates in the safest manner possible: Have an experienced technician inspect the water heater on a yearly basis. Part of the inspection should include a cursory test of the relief valve. Have the T&P relief valve replaced every 3 years. This will prevent malfunctions caused by old age as well as rust and corrosion. Keep your water heater deposit-free. Calcium, lime and other minerals can build up within the water heater, causing a variety of problems that could create an explosion risk. Steer clear of excess temperatures. The temperature set point on your water heater should not exceed 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember, 212 degrees is the boiling point of water and boiling water inside of a water heater is never a good thing. Always monitor the gas lines near your water heater for signs of leaks. If you suspect a gas leak, exit your home immediately and contact the gas company as soon as you are safely outside....

read more

Hot Water Lovers: 3 Ways To Reduce Energy Costs With Plumbing Repairs

Posted by on 10:17 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Hot Water Lovers: 3 Ways To Reduce Energy Costs With Plumbing Repairs

Having access to hot water is a great thing. If you love hot water, then you understand the great feeling that comes when taking a shower and finally reaching that optimal temperature. Accessing hot water in your home can use up a lot of energy, resulting in larger electric bills, wasted water, and a negative impact on the environment. Luckily, you can reduce all of these impacts and still have access to the hot water you seek by hiring a plumber, such as Laroc Refrigeration-Metal Division, for some upgrades and repairs. Adding one or more of the following upgrades can improve the speed that you access hot water and reduce the energy costs and use at the same time. Drain-Water Heat Recovery When accessing hot water in your home, it’s important to think about how much water goes down the drains and how much is actually used for a specific purpose. When hot water is going down the drain, there is a lot of extra heat that can be captured and used for future water options in the home. Cycling this heat can be done through a process known as drain-water heat recovery. A heat recovery system can be installed on drain pipes connected to kitchen sinks, showers, or even washers. It features a small coiled pipe section that wraps around the drain pipe. Cold water is fed through this pipe that leads to a small holding tank. When hot water goes through the drainage pipe, the pipe will naturally heat up and heat the small coiled pipe at the same time. This allows the cold water to get heated and create a cycle of hot water. All of the water that goes through the coiled pipe section is new water, the only thing being cycled is excess heat. When taking long showers, the drain-water heat recovery process can help reduce the energy it takes to supply you with constant hot water. This same process also works well with dishes or multiple cycles of a washer. For example, when a washer fills with hot water, the heat recovery process can provide additional hot water for a rinse cycle and help reduce the energy costs. A plumber can help you install the system upgrade to various drainage areas of your home. Point of Use Water Heaters Sometimes hot water is needed for less than ten seconds. Whether it’s used to fill up a pan for cooking, to wash your hands, or to just do a few dishes, there is no need to go through the complete water heating process for these quick tasks. Instead of firing up the water heater, filling a tank, and wasting valuable energy, you can have quick access to hot water through a point of use water heater. These types of water heaters are small and efficient electric heaters that can be installed right at a specific water source. For example, you can add a point of use water heater at your kitchen sink. This allows you to access hot water in a matter of seconds as fresh water flows through electric heating coils. These systems can also be installed in shower areas to supply you with quicker heat to help start your shower and reduce water waste. Hybrid Water Heaters Reduce energy costs and get fast...

read more

Can’t Afford A Professional Air Conditioning Service? Follow These Three Steps To Get Your Unit Ready For Summer

Posted by on 7:17 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Can’t Afford A Professional Air Conditioning Service? Follow These Three Steps To Get Your Unit Ready For Summer

As the end of winter draws nearer, it is time to begin thinking about getting your air conditioning unit ready for summer. One of the best ways to do so is to have it professionally serviced in the springtime. Unfortunately though, if money is tight, this may be something that you simply can’t afford to do at this time. While there are some things a professional will do that you can’t do on your own, such as topping off the coolant, there are still many things you can do on your own to get your unit ready for summer. Here are three steps to follow in getting your air conditioning unit ready for summer on your own. Change the Filter It is recommended that the filter in your air conditioning or HVAC unit be replaced at least two times per year. Your unit pulls in air from outside. This air is filled with dust, dirt, pollutants and allergens. The air is pulled through a filter that helps catch all of these items so they don’t flow into your home. However, as the unit is used, the filter becomes full and needs to be replaced. If you fail to do so, your unit will be less able to pull in air, which means it will take longer to cool your home and your unit will work longer, and dirty air will be more likely to blow into your home. Filters are located in the air conditioner’s air-handler cabinet. The unit of this cabinet changes based on the manufacturer, but if you start opening doors on your unit, you will find it. Once you locate the cabinet, simply slide the air filter out and replace it with a new one. It is also recommended that you change the filters located in the return-air registers within your home at the same time.  Clean the Air Conditioner Condenser or Evaporator Coils The air conditioner condenser and evaporator coils work hand-in-hand, holding the refrigerant that is used to cool the air. As coolant travels through the coils, the coils become extremely cold. When warm air comes into contact with these cold coils, it begins to cool. Once cool, it is blown into your home. However, over time, dirt, dust and other residue can sit on top of these coils. This can limit just how cool they can get. Cleaning helps to remove the build-up from the coils so they can cool efficiently. Follow these steps to clean your air conditioner condenser and evaporator coils: Turn the air conditioner off and allow it to cool completely before touching it. Parts can get hot and will burn you if the unit is not left to cool. Remove any screws or fasteners holding the access panel in place. This panel may be located on the side, back or top of your unit. Be sure to read your owner’s manual to determine where yours is and what tools you will need to remove the fasteners. Once you have remove the fasteners, lift the access panel off the unit. Locate the condenser and evaporator coils. They are connected and you typically can’t differentiate where the condenser coil ends and the evaporator coil begins. They both look almost like an air filter made from metal screen-like material. They have the same peaks...

read more

How To Troubleshoot Fuel Supply Issues With Your Oil Boiler

Posted by on 6:21 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on How To Troubleshoot Fuel Supply Issues With Your Oil Boiler

Oil boilers can seem temperamental at times, and this is one reason why it is important to work with a heating contractor who can complete general maintenance every year before the heating season begins. Even if maintenance is performed though, you may still run into some smaller problems throughout the winter that leave you without heat. Oil supply problems are often the culprit if your oil boiler suddenly will not run. If you are experiencing this issue, then keep reading to learn about the things you can do to swiftly correct the problem. Measure Oil In Your Tank Understanding The Tank Gauge Most home heating oil tanks are large enough to hold several hundred gallons of oil. A gauge will sit on top of the oil tank to tell you how much oil is contained inside. The gauge works with the assistance of a bobber that floats on top of the oil. As the fuel level drops, the bobber drops and pulls down on a metal pole that is attached to the gauge. As the bobber and the pole drop, the gauge also lowers. Unfortunately, the gauge relies on the movement of the metal pole that can stick in place. When this happens, the bobber is held up several inches or more above the oil level and this produces an inaccurate reading. Taking Your Measurements If you have not scheduled an oil delivery in some time and the weather has turned frigid enough to cause your boiler to run more often than normal, then it is possible that the oil gauge is stuck and you have run out of oil. To see if this is the case, twist off the plastic cover from the top of the tank gauge and use your finger to push the gauge down to unstick the bobber and pole. If the bobber does not move and you think that the gauge is not accurate, then you will need to measure the contents of the tank manually. You can do this by removing the cap on the tank and placing a yardstick straight down into it. Remove the stick and look at the wet spot on the bottom of it. Measure the spot and use this formula to calculate home many gallons of oil are left in the tank. As you figure out the number of gallons in the tank, you will also need to make sure that the oil level is above the height of the line opening or spigot on the side of the tank. Place the yardstick next to the spigot making sure it is parallel with the bottom of the tank. If the wet mark on the stick sits below the spigot, then the small amount of oil left in the tank cannot reach the opening. This means an oil delivery is needed. Use your calculation and the size of your tank to figure out how much oil you need to fill it. Clean The Filter Your oil boiler will have what is called an inline filter that removes dirt, rust, and gel from your oil before it enters the boiler. While this filter typically only needs to be replaced once a year during your maintenance check, the filter may need to be cleaned off on occasion. If you run out of oil occasionally or run your boiler immediately after the oil...

read more

Heat Pump Keeps Cycling Off And On? Repair It With These Tips

Posted by on 11:24 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Heat Pump Keeps Cycling Off And On? Repair It With These Tips

If your heat pump cycles off and on every few minutes, there may be a problem with the dual start capacitor. The capacitor gives the heat pump extra power when it first comes on, runs into electrical problems, or needs to push through extreme weather conditions, such as unexpected cold spells. Sometimes, the capacitor can develop rust and break down. If any of the issues occur, the heat pump no longer has the extra power boost it needs to stay operational. You can troubleshoot and fix the problem with the tips below. Access and Examine the Capacitor The first thing you must do is disconnect power to the heat pump at the unit’s pullout electrical box. The box connects directly behind the heat pump on the side of the home. Now, the next step in your repairs is to remove the paneling from the heat pump to access the capacitor. The paneling usually sits in the right or left corner in the back of the unit. It’s a good idea that you use a manual screwdriver to loosen up the screws instead of an electric screwdriver. You don’t want to accidentally strip the screws, or else you may need to replace the entire panel. Now, look for the capacitor. The capacitor has a round top covered with three prongs and looks similar to a large soda can. This type of capacitor uses four colorful wires to connect to the heat pump and powers the appliance’s motor and compressor. One of the things you want to do is examine the capacitor for rust to see if you need to replace it. A rusted capacitor can potentially create power fluctuations in your heat pump, which may be one of the reasons it cycles off and on regularly. The rust can penetrate the housing and spread to the internal parts and wires of the capacitor. Eventually, the rust travels to the main parts inside the heat pump, such as the compressor and motor. If the motor or compressor goes out, the heat pump won’t work at all. It’s a good idea that you replace the capacitor to prevent this major repair problem. Replace the Capacitor To replace the rusted capacitor, purchase a replacement dual start capacitor from your local HVAC store. You can obtain the right make and model of the part by copying down the product information listed on the capacitor’s housing. It’s not a good idea to remove the old capacitor from its holder, because you’ll need to use it as a guide during the replacement. Once you have the right part, follow the instructions below: Disconnect the colored wires from the capacitor one wire at a time, then connect it to the new capacitor.   Use a soft rag to wipe away any dirt or smudges you find on the new capacitor. These things can eventually clog up the connectors on the capacitor. Place the capacitor back in its holder, then turn back on the heat pump’s power.  Wait 15 minutes for the heat pump to reach the temperature set on your thermostat. If the heat pump reaches the right temperature and only cycles off and on when the thermostat rises above the temperature, you fixed the issue. If the heat pump continues to cycle off and on as...

read more

How To Tell When It Is Time To Get Rid Of Your Old Central Air Unit

Posted by on 4:24 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on How To Tell When It Is Time To Get Rid Of Your Old Central Air Unit

Most people just keep their old, trusty air conditioner until it dies completely. But then their budget is out of sync for months while they scramble to pay for emergency services and a new unit. Often, it is a better financial choice to give up on your old air conditioner long before the fans spins for the last time. Here are the questions you should ask yourself to determine if you should buy a new air conditioner this year. How Old Is The Unit? The simplest part of this decision is to consider how old your current air conditioner is. You shouldn’t need to replace a central air conditioner before it is at least ten years old. Most air conditioners come with a warranty that lasts between 5 and 10 years, although, some are longer, and not everything will be covered. This can be a good place to start when deciding how long your particular air conditioner should last. A less expensive unit that came with just a one year warranty probably won’t last long past the ten year mark–if it even makes it that far. In contrast, there is little reason to replace a unit with a fifteen year warranty after ten. While there are other costs involved, the repair costs for an older unit is generally what causes people to purchase a new one. If you aren’t paying for repairs yet, then you probably don’t need to replace it. How Much Are You Spending on Maintenance? Now that you’ve figured out that your air conditioner is old enough for replacement, it is time to figure out if you would save any money by replacing it. Your HVAC tech will be a good resource when considering this situation, but you can get a reasonably good idea of the situation on your own if you don’t want to pay for a consultation. Your annual maintenance costs probably won’t change much. You will still need to have your new unit serviced every year, just like your old one. The cost of repairing your old unit is likely to go up dramatically as the old unit ages, especially if you get a refrigerant leak. The type of refrigerant used in old air conditioners is being phased out, so fewer and fewer manufacturers are selling it. While you can’t anticipate every problem, you can get a rundown of likely repairs over the next few years from your HVAC tech. Air conditioners lose efficiency over time. Not only will a new air conditioner be more efficient than the base rating of your old unit, but also it will be far more efficient than your current air conditioner in the old one’s current state. This will vary a bit based on the type and size of your unit, but there are online calculators to help you get some rough numbers. Are You Ready For Something New? Maybe you are doing some renovations and want to take the opportunity to upgrade your HVAC system as a whole. Zone-based and multistage systems can make a big impact on your monthly energy bill, particularly if your home is large. However, to install these types of systems, you usually need a different type of compressor than was available a decade ago. If your air conditioner is getting a...

read more

Three Tips For Protecting Your Air Conditioner During Winter

Posted by on 12:05 pm in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Three Tips For Protecting Your Air Conditioner During Winter

While central air conditioners are all-weather machines built to withstand the outdoor elements, taking time to prepare these units for seasonal changes can minimize the risk of damage from weather-related issues such as rusting. Here are three things you can do to winterize your air conditioner so it emerges from the cold season healthy and ready to work in the spring. Clean the Unit and the Area Around It Start winterizing your unit by cleaning the air conditioner as well as the area around it. This is particularly important if your unit is located near trees that have been shedding their leaves around it all fall season. In addition to sticking to the frame of the machine and causing rust damage, the leaves can sometimes get inside the air conditioner and cause clogs that prevent the machine from operating efficiently or cause it to break down altogether when it gets turned on in the spring. Typically, you can wash the air conditioner off by spraying it with a garden hose. Just be certain to do it on a day when it’s relatively dry and breezy so the unit can air out. Additionally, you’ll want to make of habit of keeping the area around the air conditioner clean to discourage small animals and pests from making their homes there. Cover the Top with a Piece of Hard Plastic or Wood It is not necessary to encase the entire air conditioning unit with a specially designed cover. In actuality, putting a cover on the machine is counterproductive because it can trap moisture inside the unit that can freeze and attract small animals looking for shelter, both of which can cause expensive and extensive damage to the air conditioner. For instance, a repair man found a snake living inside an a/c unit when he went to evaluate why the machine had stopped working. It may seem like a nice and interesting story to tell a friend, but an animal trapped inside an air conditioner can damage the fan or chew on wires and other components that may cause you to have to spend around $5,200 replacing the entire unit. While a full cover isn’t required, it is a good idea to cover the top of the machine with a piece of hard plastic or wood. This will protect the air conditioner from falling icicles and other debris that may dent or damage the unit. If the piece is long or wide enough, it may also protect the unit from getting completely buried under several feet of snow, which can impact the ability of air to flow through it freely and dry any moisture that may have found its way inside. Place a brick on top of the piece or tie it down with bungee cord to keep it from blowing away or being knocked off by inclement weather. Turn the Unit Off The last thing you should do to winterize your air conditioner is to turn it off. Whether you wrapped the entire machine in a cover or only placed a covering on the top, turning on the air conditioner with the cover on can damage the machine. To prevent yourself from accidentally turning on the a/c unit or to keep the machine from turning on automatically, cut the circuit breaker sending...

read more

How Can You Child- (And Teen-) Proof Your Home’s Plumbing?

Posted by on 4:22 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on How Can You Child- (And Teen-) Proof Your Home’s Plumbing?

If you’re like many parents, your efforts at child-proofing may have primarily consisted of removing or restricting items your child has recently become able to access — placing corner guards on furniture after your child’s first bump or bruise, putting up baby gates after your child has scooted up the stairs while your back was turned, and installing childproof doorknobs after your child has escaped onto the front porch. However, there are several preventive measures you can put into place now that will help protect your plumbing until your child-rearing years are long behind you. Read on to learn more about the steps you should take to prevent your home’s plumbing from damage by a child who knows no better or a teen whose sense of cause and effect isn’t well established. What should you do to protect your plumbing from being damaged by toddlers and young children? One of the most important ways to protect both your child and your toilet pipes is by installing a simple toilet lock. Because toddlers tend to be top-heavy and are naturally curious about their surroundings, they’re particularly vulnerable to tipping into an open toilet and being unable to right themselves before drowning. Locking your toilet lids whenever they’re not in use will help you regain some peace of mind, as well as protect your toilet and pipes from damage caused by flushed objects. While your child is potty-training, you’ll want to emphasize proper toilet paper portioning — and if you have a septic tank rather than a sewer hookup, you may want to instruct your child to throw used toilet paper in the trash can instead of flushing it down the toilet. Doing this can help extend the time between septic tank cleanings, as well as minimize the number of clogged and overflowing toilets you’ll need to deal with during your child’s early years. What risks can the teen years pose to your plumbing? While teenagers have usually gained the wisdom not to experiment with flushing matchbox cars or building blocks down the toilet, the teen years can bring additional plumbing challenges. If you have a teen daughter who uses tampons, ensure that she knows to never flush used tampons or applicators down the toilet. While individual tampons aren’t likely to clog the toilet, they won’t decay in a septic tank and can require expensive processing at city wastewater facilities. In addition, tampon strings can catch and tangle around other objects to create a clog that can’t be dissolved by most commercial drain cleaners. If your teen daughter (or son) has long hair, you may also want to install a special filter in your tub or shower drain that will help catch this hair before it slips into your pipes and creates a slimy, bacteria-laden mess. While clogs that are composed primarily of hair can usually be tackled by a drain cleaning solution or wire drain snake, this process isn’t something you’ll want to tackle frequently when a simple prevention exists. Many adolescents entering puberty begin taking much longer showers, for a variety of reasons. While you want to ensure your teen is clean and fresh-smelling, a significant increase in your household’s water consumption could affect the lifespan of your septic tank if you don’t have it cleaned on a more frequent basis. To...

read more

A Balancing Act: Adjusting Airflow From Your AC

Posted by on 6:48 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Balancing Act: Adjusting Airflow From Your AC

If you have central air, you may have noticed that some rooms remain hotter than others when you are running the air conditioning. There are many factors, such as the number and location of windows in the room or the presence of a frequently used outside door, that can affect how well your AC cools a room. Tweaking the airflow in your duct work to compensate for these factors will keep you and your family more comfortable and help to even out the temperature in your home. Open all the registers or wall grills in your home. Typically, each room contains one or more grills that can be adjusted via a knob or dial. These are convenient for closing off the airflow to a room for a short period, but should not be relied on as your main means of controlling the airflow in your home. The dials on grills are easily reset when kids play with them or they are bumped while vacuuming or performing other household duties. Locate the balancing dampers in your duct work. These should be located near the furnace at the beginning of each branch of the duct work. A lever or knob controls the damper inside the duct work. When the lever is positioned across the duct work, it indicates the damper is closed. When the lever is positioned so it runs along the length of the pipe, the damper is fully open. Open all the balancing dampers. This allows air to flow freely from your unit to the various parts of the house. You may need to adjust the dampers to allow more or less air to flow through that line later, but for now, you want air to flow evenly through all the duct work to all areas of your home. Observe the temperature in all areas of the house for the next two or three days. This will give you a good starting point for adjusting the airflow to manage the temperature in each room. Note areas of the home that do not cool properly. Identify the dampers for the branches of duct work that lead to areas of your home that are currently the coolest when the AC is running. Partially close these dampers. This will block some of the air flowing to the rooms that are cooled the most and allow a greater portion of cool air to flow to the areas of your home that need more cooling. Observe the temperature and comfort of your home for a day or two, noting areas that continue to feel too warm (or too cool) for your comfort. Readjust the balancing dampers to direct more or less cool air to specific parts of your home. Mark the settings on the duct work and label them as summer settings. This will allow you to reset your dampers to match your cooling needs after the heating season passes. Follow the same procedure for adjusting the dampers for proper airflow during the heating season. Remember, when it comes to adjusting for warm air, you will need to partially close the duct work to the warmest areas of you home to force warm air to the cooler areas. Most central air or HVAC systems have balancing dampers. If your system does not have balancing dampers,...

read more

Change Is Good, Especially In Your HVAC System

Posted by on 3:59 am in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Change Is Good, Especially In Your HVAC System

If you have not updated your HVAC system in the last few years, you may be surprised at some of the technology that is now on the market. Manufacturers have responded to homeowners’ demands for systems that will meet the homeowner’s heating and cooling needs, as well as be more energy efficient. Some of these features allow your system to meet your needs without you having to do anything. If you are in the market for an HVAC system anytime in the near future, here are two pieces of the newer technology you will want to look for. Scroll Compressors  The majority of the energy your HVAC unit requires is used to power your compressor. As a means to lighten this load, several manufacturers have redesigned their units to use scroll compressors. These compressors have been shown to use as much as 30 percent less electricity than their piston driven cousins. Scroll compressors, which are also called spiral compressors, scroll vacuum pumps, and scroll pumps, are unlike the traditional piston driven compressors that have been used in the past. Although they are still used to compress air or refrigerant, the manner in which they do so is much more energy efficient. A scroll compressor has two scrolls. One is fixed and attached to the compressor body, while the other orbits, or spirals, around the fixed scroll. The orbiting scroll creates gas pockets, as well as assists these pockets in moving from the outer portion of the scroll to the inner portion of the scroll. As the gas pockets move, they become smaller, and the temperature and pressure increases until the gas is discharged.  Because there are less moving parts than the piston driven compressors, they require less maintenance, are more reliable, and do not make as much noise. This will save you more money when it comes to repairs. Variable speed fan motors Have you ever wished your system would blow a little harder when you are trying to cool off your home, but blow slower when your temperature is comfortable? You can have this with variable speed fan motors. They will automatically adjust to deliver to you the airflow you need based on your comfort. By having variable speeds, there will be a more even delivery of air, which will result in more even comfortable temperatures throughout your home. Do not confuse a variable speed fan motor with a multi-speed fan. These are not the same. A multi-speed fan comes with several speeds available, but you, or your HVAC installer will choose which speed your blower is hardwired at, and it will remain there permanently, or until this setting is professionally changed.  A variable speed fan will automatically change speeds, or modes, based on the amount of air that is moving through your system ducts and vents. Most variable speed fans are designed with a type of intelligent design that allows them to sense the specific needs of the rooms in your home. When variable speed fans are combined with the right thermostats, not only will they control the level of heat in your home, but they can also control the level of humidity.  The benefits of a variable speed fan motors include: Continual air filtering Temperature stability Year round comfort Energy efficiency Before you upgrade, or install...

read more