Friday, 23 September 2016

Running an Air Conditioner during Thunder Storms

The humid and hot summer conditions can make you want to turn on the air conditioning. However, this season also creates conditions for thunderstorms. Keeping your air conditioner functional during a thunderstorm may cause damage, so it is always a good idea to turn it off when the weather gets bad.

Why should you turn off your A/C during a thunderstorm?

Lightning

Even though lightning strikes on a house are rare, they are certainly possible during a storm. The area where the utility lines connect to your house is an extremely vulnerable area for strikes and if lightning hits here, it may cause a power surge throughout the electrical system of the house. This surge can lead to serious damage to the air conditioner.

This damage can practically render the unit unusable. It can affect the control panel, leading to extensive repair or replacement of the whole unit. The unit’s controls to the cooling and heating system can be corrupted if a lightning strikes when the unit is on.

How can you protect your air conditioner?

Although experts recommend surge protectors, these appliances do not offer the amount of protection required against a surge that is caused due to lightning strike. Therefore, plugging your air conditioner into one will not have the advantages you expect. If you reside in an area known for high occurrence of strikes, you can secure your unit by fitting in a protection system. Use conductors, lightning rods, and ground rods to create an alternate path for lightning so that it does not travel through the electrical system of the house. These units are not 100% effective in preventing surges. Therefore, it is best to keep your A/C off when a thunderstorm pops up.

Can air conditioning be used in rain storms?

Using an air conditioner during rain storm is perfectly safe. Rain will never interrupt with the unit’s capability to function properly. In fact, utilizing your unit on rainy, warm days can keep the house more comfortable — the indoor evaporator coils remove moisture and reduce humidity levels, which helps in improving comfort levels inside the house. However, if the rain storms lead to flooding and you have water logging around your house and unit, you should turn off the system immediately and turn off power at the electrical panel of the house to prevent damage. Make sure you get your unit inspected by a HVAC expert before you start using it again after flooding.

If you are having issues with your air-conditioning after a thunderstorm, make sure you seek advice from a professional on how to get the problem fixed! 

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Tips for your HVAC when going on a vacation

Vacations evoke feelings of excitement and adventure. But it’s always important to be ready before you embark on your little journey. There are a lot of things that will require your attention before you leave, such as packing for the trip, intimating everyone about your unavailability, etc. With a huge to-do list in front of you, you may forget taking care of your HVAC system. Below are a few tips you must follow before you leave on vacation.

1. Raising the Thermostat level

When you’re not in town, you won’t need your HVAC system to keep the inside space at a cooler or warmer temperature. If you raise the temperature when out of town you can save a lot on repairs and energy bill in the future. It is best to set the thermostat between 80-85 F.

2. Surge Protection

You may face power outage at your house when you are out of town. In case there is a power surge when you are away, your HVAC could get damaged. By fitting in a surge protector you will ensure that your system does not get damaged because of an outage.

3. Maintenance of air filters

Remember, your HVAC system will still be functioning while you are out of town. Therefore, it is extremely important to make sure the air filter is as clean as possible before leaving. Clean filter can help in preventing malfunctions within your system when you are away.

4. Security

Most of us schedule timers to turn the lights off and on while away. We normally forget to take security measures for our HVAC system. Putting a sensor light or alarm on your HVAC system can offer a lot of protection. Moreover, you can also put a fence around your HVAC for more security.

5. Routine Care

Before leaving for the trip, it is always a good idea to call up an HVAC technician to perform a thorough examination of your system. The tech must check to make sure levels of refrigerant are precise, coils are clean, air filters are clean, all connections are secure, and the like.

These are just a few ways you can keep your HVAC system running efficiently while you are away on a vacation. Your vacation should be a time to relax and de-stress. By making sure you follow the tips mentioned above, you can rest assured your HVAC will remain in a good shape when you come back.  However, when choosing a contractor for HVAC maintenance, make sure you choose a professional who knows his work and can offer you the best possible service at the best possible rate.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

5 Houseplants for Improving the Air Quality in Your Home

We do everything we can to keep our homes clean- regular cleaning, repairs and upgrades to the HVAC system. However, apart from this, you can also consider seeking help from Mother Nature for helping you improve the quality of air inside your home. Here are five plants that can improve the air-quality of the house.

Garden mum

This is a comparatively inexpensive plant, and is known to be an air-purifying champion. The garden mum helps in getting rid of benzene, a diluent used commonly in oils, inks, paints, rubber and plastics. Benzene is also utilized for creating pharmaceuticals, detergents, and dyes.

Dracaena

This is an air purifying plant that is used for removing xylene, an ingredient found in several common household products like lacquers, paints, adhesives, thinners and rust preventers. Xylene is even present in permanent markers. But, in case you have pets, you can choose an alternative plant, as Dracaena can be toxic for dogs and cats.

Bamboo palm

Bamboo palm is a pet-friendly plant that can grow up to twelve feet and is great for filtering formaldehyde, a contaminant found in almost all indoor environments. If you live in a house that was built before 1970s, you will find foam insulation that comprises of formaldehyde in your crawl spaces, basement, or unfinished attic areas. Apart from this, Formaldehyde can also be found in pressed-wood products, particle board and household basics like waxed papers, grocery bags, paper towels and facial tissues.

Spider plant

Another plant that is very effective in getting rid of formaldehyde is the spider plant. They are also very easy to care for and are a great choice for those who do not own a green thumb. Spider plants are also useful in removing formaldehyde resins present in household cleaning supplies, floor covering, permanent-press clothes and carpet backing.

Peace Lily

These are extremely easy to grow and are the best house plants to get rid of trichloroethylene. This makes peace lily’s extremely beneficial for the house. Trichloroethylene is used commercially with a range of industrial uses, particularly in the dry-cleaning and metal degreasing industries. In addition, Trichloroethylene is utilized for paints, printing inks, lacquers, adhesives and varnishes.

Although most of these plants are very easy to take care of,  you have to ensure that you take into account the specific needs of the plant when placing it inside your house. When choosing the house plant, make sure you keep the plant's individual light, humidity, temperature, and water requirements in mind. This information can normally be found on the label of the plant. Buy a well-rounded fertilizer to keep your beautiful "air-purifiers" healthy, happy, and looking fresh.

The levels of pollution in the air make it impossible to eliminate exposure to pollutants completely. However, just a quick trip to the local nursery or garden center, combined with proper maintenance can ensure that the air quality within your house is fresh.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Troubleshooting Electronic Zoning Systems

Zoning is a great enhancement to a HVAC system. However, there can be some bugs in implementation if you are not vigilant during installation. Problems we face during service calls normally fall into two classes: 

  1. Something is intrinsically incorrect in the application or installation.
  2. There is a problem in the system’s operation or a component.
There are two main zoning system types: electronic and pneumatic. The difference lies in how the dampers are closed and opened. The blog discusses the best way of troubleshooting electronic zoning systems.

Start by checking the system first:

Start with checking how the system is performing during full airflow, with all blowers running and dampers open. This is also a good chance to verify that the dampers of the zoning system are not stuck.

After you have confirmed full airflow, observe the result after shutting down a zone. There has to be considerable increase in the air delivery in the rest of the zones. Also, there should be absolutely no more air transported to the zone that has been shut down. Repeat the same test for all of the zones.

Problems you may find:

System zone board

Most of the system zone boards come with an onboard diagnostic LED. Analyze it for potential trouble codes.

Board failure is not a common occurrence. Therefore, when it occurs it is very important that you find out the reason rather than simply swapping the board. For instance, a poor wiring work can be one of the biggest causes of board failures. Another reason behind board failure is inadequate power. Most experts advise that a separate 24V transformer be utilized to power the system. Has a separate transformer been used in this case? Was the transformer sized according to the size of the hardware connected?

Input sensors

These are utilized for measuring return and leaving air temperatures. In case a low or high temperature trip has taken place, did the input sensor reset? What system operation has to occur for causing the sensor to trip? Are you aware of the trip temperature points? Incorrect placement of sensors can also cause trouble. Is the air sensor located at a place where radiant furnace heat can instigate nuisance trips?

Orphan zones

While two-zone designs permit us to fragment system capacity, a third or fourth zone can lead to unintended consequences. For instance, you have a system where zone one takes 35% of the conditioned space, the second takes 40%, and the third zone is 25%. What’s the likelihood of a glitch in the system with merely twenty five percent of the system calling? In case the system obtains a call for operation from only the third zone, the enhanced noise level and air delivery can lead to complaints.

A zoning system helps multiple thermostats to turn off and on the same system; sequence cool, heat, and fan calls. Troubleshooting a zoned system requires knowledge of the logic of zoning. It is best to contact a skilled technician to service a troubled zoning system if you are not well versed with your HVAC. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

How to troubleshoot a gas furnace?

A gas furnace is a piece of equipment that takes in cold air, uses an air filter to clean it, heats it with the help of a gas burner and distributes the warm air through the ductwork. The heated air helps to increase room temperature during the cold winter days. Furnaces come with different efficiencies. However, once in a while these appliances may not work quite right and you may have to troubleshoot them. 

Let's look at the most common problems you may have to face with a conventional furnace.

Gas Furnace does not produce any heat:

Possible causes:

  1. Thermostat not working
  2. Propane or natural gas control valve is closed
  3. Circuit breaker or fuse that is controlling the gas furnace is tripped or blown
Best possible repairs:

  1. Check if the thermostat has the right temperature setting
  2. Try to move the dial setting down or up a few degrees
  3. Clean contacts in a non-digital thermostat
  4. If the circuit breaker has tripped, reset it
  5. Relight the standing pilot light
Blower is always running:  
   
Possible causes:

  1. Thermostat has been fixed to run fan continuously
  2. Defective control switch for fan limit
Best possible repairs:

  1. Change the fan setting on the thermostat
  2. Replace or reset furnace fan control switch
Gas furnace produces less heat

Possible causes:

  1. The air filter is dirty
  2. The gas burner is dirty or requires adjustment
  3. Air flow is blocked to the combustion air chamber
Best possible repairs:

  1. Clean or replace the dirty air filter
  2. Call a professional service provider to get the burners adjusted.
  3. Make sure the furnace has enough combustion air.
Noisy operation of gas furnace

Possible causes:

  1. A "squealing" sound caused by slipping motor or shaft bearings or blower belt that requires oiling
  2. Slight "rumble" when the burner is off may be caused due to wrongly adjusted pilot light.
  3. Slight "rumble" sound when the burner is on is caused by dirty gas burners.
Best possible repairs:

  1. Use a light weight oil to lubricate the blower motor lubrication ports located at the end of the shaft
  2. Check for correct belt tension. If it’s loose, make sure you tighten the belt.
  3. Adjust pilot light
  4. Replace frayed belt
  5. Call a technician to get the burners cleaned or adjusted.
Pilot light is out

Possible causes:

  1. Dirty orifice, a strong draft, or dirt inside the gas tube can lead to a pilot light going out.
  2. A faulty thermocouple may also shut off the supply of gas.
Best possible repairs:

  1. Ensure that your thermostat is on "Heat" mode.
  2. Find the pilot.
  3. In case you have a pilot that has a red Reset button, turn "Off," the gas valve to "Pilot."
  4. In case you have a pilot that has no red button, turn the dial from "Off" to "Pilot."
  5. Depress the knob or hold the button and light the pilot using a lighter.
  6. After the furnace burners ignite, regulate the thermostat to the preferred setting.
Sometimes your gas furnace may act out and may require repair. You can follow the tips mentioned above or call a technician to fix the problem. If the issue seems complicated, it is best to seek professional help.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Tips to help you work with a contractor

Working on your house and performing home repair can be extremely rewarding. However, there will be times when you may not have the inclination, time, or skill to do the repair.  This is when you should hire a contractor. This blog will help you decide when and how to choose a home maintenance or repair contractor.

Decide if you really need a contractor

Deciding to use a contractor is often personal. Here are a few things you need to evaluate before making the decision:

1. Your level of comfort with the project at hand;
2. Your budget;
3. Your time.

If the task is beyond a simple home repair and involves complicated technical installations such as adding a sink or adding electrical circuits then you must first check if you need a permit from a local building department. You will not need a permit for certain home repairs but may require permission for “new work” particularly for heating, electrical, plumbing and cooling. In certain cases, permits require that a skilled, licensed contractor does the work to protect the public’s safety, health, and welfare.

Choosing the right contractor

This may be the toughest task but it’s actually pretty straight.  A great tip is choosing contractors you may also need on an emergency basis before you need them.  This is because if you have an urgent repair and are trying to find a professional quickly (who is also fair and skilled) you will not have the time to go through a very lengthy screening/ selection process.  And the most unwise thing you can ever do is choose someone from the Yellow Pages.

One of the best ways of selecting a possible contractor is by getting references from family, friends, or even a trustworthy realtor.

Evaluating the estimate

Getting bids from a subcontractor or general contractor should be based on the scope of work. Evaluate the estimates on the basis of similar scope. Let’s divide bid evaluation into categories and address every single component individually.

Scope of Work

This will define what the professional is going to do for you. Make sure it covers everything you want. It must be able to spell out any prep work, clean up, and safeguarding surrounding areas, etc.

Evaluating the scope of work of different contractors is essential. For a HVAC expert, try negotiating a fixed price. We advise you to pre-select an expert for emergency tasks. However, expect to pay extra for emergency calls on such repairs.

Choosing the right contractor will help you keep your HVAC system in perfect condition. However, if you feel paying a professional will cost you too much then make sure you are well prepared to take up the task in hand. Either way, it is best to be prepared!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Troubleshooting a high efficiency furnace

A high efficiency furnace is a high technology machine that enables you to heat your house while consuming low energy. However, like any machine it can at times stop working, and when this happens it normally requires calling a ventilating and heating repair shop.

However, before calling an expert, there are a lot of things that you can check or repair on your own.

Thermostat:

The thermostat that controls your high efficiency furnace should be the first thing you check. You must check to see if the machine is operating properly. Some of the possible problems include:


  • Fuse blown or circuit breaker is tripped
  • Dirty thermostat components
  • Loose wires
  • Bad battery

Clogged filter:

A severely blocked furnace filter can create a lot of damage.  It can also cause the machine to overheat and frequently cycle the safety switch on and off. Check the filter which is either a paper media or a fiberglass furnace filter or a state of the art pleated paper media filter and make sure you replace it if necessary.

Once you have replaced the clogged furnace filter, turn off the furnace switch for a few minutes and then turn the switch back on. This will help in resetting the furnace electronics.

High limit switch:

A high temperature limit switch is basically a safety device that screens the temperature of the internal furnace and shuts down the gas valve if temperature limits exceed. As soon as the temperature decreases to the lower limit, the gas valves are turned back on turning on the burner.

It is possible for the high temperature limit switch to suffer damage if it is subjected to frequent tripping because of low air flow and overheating. You can use a multi-meter to test the switch.


  • Set the multi-meter to resistance.
  • Evaluate the wires travelling to every switch terminal.
  • In case the resistance is 0 Ohms then the switch can be regarded as good. On the other hand, if the resistance is infinite the switch needs change.
  • It is easy to replace the switch. All you have to do is unscrew the switch plate and change the replacement part.

Obstructed vent pipe:

Another problem that can stop the furnace from functioning properly is an obstructed or clogged flue vent pipe. An obstructed flue gas vent pipe can also make the pressure switch to trip.

Make sure the pipe is sloped properly and is free of obstructions.

Hot surface ignition:

In normal conditions the hot surface ignition will last for three to five years. However, it will have to be replaced eventually, quicker if the oils from your skin get on the element by improper handling.

The HSI achieves 1,800°F to 2,500°F of heat. Once the right temperature is attained, the gas valve opens, introducing gas to the burner which is then ignited by the HSI. Once the flame sensor senses a proper flame, the HSI shuts down.

Knowing your furnace will help you keep it in the best condition possible. However, it is important to get in touch with experts if you find it hard to correct the issues.