Thursday, 27 February 2014

Finding the right HVAC contractor

A heating, ventilating and air conditioning system is designed to suit our individual needs. However all of us take for granted the comfort provided by our central air conditioners, heat pumps or furnaces until something goes wrong and the unit needs to be serviced or replaced. When disaster strikes, you need a quality heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor who is knowledgeable, experienced and competent to do the job. Choosing the right HVAC contractor is almost like choosing a life partner because careful consideration is required.

It is very easy to fall victim to unskilled, even unethical contractors trying to make a quick buck from homeowners eager to restore their cooling systems. Hiring an unqualified contractor may result in the need for expensive and unwarranted repairs to fix problems created by them.

What you need is a quality contractor who knows not only to service your equipment but to design and install the right system for you in compliance with the regulatory and local codes of proper business and workers’ compensation insurance. He must be attentive to your problem, survey the area, reliable, fast, and courteous and most importantly must be abreast with the newest technology and developments, equipment and design procedures to ensure that you get not only an efficient system but one that suits your pocket. If you find one that cares for the environment too that’s a bonus you don’t want to miss. He must also recommend a planned preventative maintenance service to maximize the life of your equipment.

Before making calls in different directions, arm yourself with all the relevant information (brand and model number of the current unit, thermostat[s] and past service history. Knowing your home’s current situation gives homeowners a great place to start. Do remember to ask the contractor for references of customers. Better still ask around your family, friends and colleagues for firsthand experience or if they know someone that recently got some HVAC work done. Check if he comes with the required licenses, certifications and is partners with obligatory associations like NATE, North American Technician Excellence, it is the nation’s largest and most prestigious technical certification organization in the heating and cooling industry. Be sure to obtain bids from a few different companies and weigh what you are receiving with each price. Once you have narrowed it down to your top 3-5 choices, set up times for an in-home estimate. Post inspection and deliberation on the alternatives get a written estimate for the job. Don’t feel shy to ask about a guarantee. It must be written and should state clearly what is guaranteed, who is responsible for the guarantee and how long the guarantee is valid. Make final payments only when all work is completed to your satisfaction and pay by check never by cash. It's always a smart idea to purchase the most energy efficient HVAC system solution you can afford, so ask our contractor to run options by you. Leverage technology - review web sites like Yelp and Google but use caution. Check reviews but ascertain its credibility first. Most manufacturers will not allow poor contractors to be displayed on their web site, so that’s a good starting point. It is helpful to know if the company has a policy to show up on time or refund money.

Remember that not all HVAC contractors are created equal! So do not be afraid to be very diligent in asking questions because choosing the right HVAC contractor can mean the difference between an installation that goes smoothly and provides years of trouble-free comfort and one that winds up costing you thousands in wasted money and aggravation.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Do-It-Yourself HVAC - Should I do it?

Putting your feet up in a newly renovated attic space in the summer sounds like a super idea, but the room is like a sauna! What can possibly be done to make the top floor as cool as the first and not cause the utility bills to skyrocket? Well for starters, you can hand pick an efficient system and make sure that ducts are well sealed which is essential to keep every room of the house cool.

Understanding what an efficient HVAC system is and its potential is where the secret lies. HVAC is an acronym that stands for Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning. It is the most distorted term in construction and often HVAC is completely misunderstood by consumers and even by seasoned industry professionals. HVAC affects the health of the indoor environment and that of its occupants; the consumption of utilities and thus monthly operating costs, the temperature and humidity of building materials and furnishings. Armed with some good HVAC knowledge for beginners and some help from professionals you can avoid that "swimming with the sharks" type of experience.

So let’s hypothetically say you can go to a Home Depot type distributor of HVAC and procure all the components for a do-it-yourself system….then what? Now you’ve become the defacto mechanical contractor on the site and have to deal with the installation, commissioning and maintenance of the system. Spare yourself the hassle both physically and on the pocket and treat yourself to some serious help. Call a professional or a contractor to do what he does best.

However there are things that you can do as a do-it-yourself maintenance. These actions when done in a timely manner will help keep your home in top condition.
  • Be sure to periodically clean or replace the filters - it's probably time to clean or replace the dust and dirt catcher once in 90 days to prevent you from sneezing your way into winter mornings. A clean filter maximizes your furnace's efficiency and longevity-- and minimizes your energy bills.
  • Keep outdoor units clean – The outdoor unit of your air conditioner contains the compressor, used to generate cooler air in the warm months. Leaves, grass, and other debris are either sucked into the unit or blown in. The accumulated debris can significantly reduce the efficiency of your air conditioning unit and dramatically raise your utility bills.
  • Keeping it clean - A/C or heat pump condensate drains can become clogged, leading to condensate leaks, spillage, or even bacterial hazards in a building. Clogged air conditioner condensate drain lines can form another source of air conditioner or heat pump condensate leakage that can in turn lead to hidden water damage or in some locations an indoor mold, bacterial contamination, mildew, algae and other debris can collect in the condensate pan and drain line.
  • Clean evaporator and condenser coils - Evaporator coils are a place that mold grows best. In addition to constant dampness, the supply side of the coil is in contact with outside air and the dirt that isn’t caught by filters. So once or twice per year be sure to give it a good scrub.
  • Maintaining Your HVAC System - Routine maintenance can lower utility costs, reduce equipment-replacement costs, and keep tenants/occupants happy.
Things inevitably go wrong with heating and AC systems, and sooner or later, your system will probably require a repair. So don’t risk personal intervention, be proactive and follow preventive maintenance but when there is a problem be wise and call in the expert.