assorted Lennox units

We get lots of questions regarding HVAC maintenance.  This is a good thing!  It means people care about their HVAC investment.  Since we're entering air conditioner season, let's focus on questions relating to air conditioner maintenance:

  • What is air conditioner maintenance?  Preventative maintenance is completed on the a/c to ensure that it is running properly and as efficiently as possible.  The air conditioner is cleaned and there are many components that are checked.  If a reading is off or out of range, the homeowner will be made aware.  Keeping the air conditioner clean also ensures proper air flow.
  • Can I turn my air conditioner on before maintenance has been completed?  Yes!  The air conditioner can certainly run before maintenance is done.  Keep in mind that maintenance keeps it running as efficiently as possible.  
  • What months do you schedule maintenance?  We generally start scheduling maintenance mid-April, depending on the weather, and continue to schedule throughout the summer.  It's more important that maintenance is done each year rather than it being done a specific week or month.
  • Can the service be completed if it's raining?  We will reschedule your maintenance appointment if it's raining or below 60-65 degrees outside.  Although the techs do have raincoats, we don't want some of the tools and gauges out in the rain.  We also don't want your a/c exposed to the moisture.  The new R-410 refrigerant attracts moisture 10 times more than the old R-22 refrigerant.  We don't like to take chances, so we'll always reschedule if it's raining.  In addition to being dry outside, it also needs to be at least 60-65 degrees outside.  If it's colder than that, the temperature drop and readings could be inaccurate.  Accuracy is key, so we will reschedule if it's too chilly outside.
  • How will I know what the technician does during the service?  The technician will complete an invoice detailing everything that was completed during the maintenance service.  He will also let you know how everything looked and answer any questions you have about your system.
  • How much does an annual maintenance plan cost?  Our plan is $150 per year.  That includes the maintenance service on the a/c in the spring or summer and the maintenance service on the furnace in the fall/winter.  Other benefits included with the plan are:  No service call if a return visit is needed within 30 days, $10 off service call, 15% off repairs, 15% off indoor air quality (humidifiers, filters, thermostats, UV lights, etc) and no overtime rates if service is needed in an evening, weekend or holiday.
  • Does maintenance guarantee that my air conditioner will not break down?  Air conditioners are machines and can break down at any time.  That being said, there are issues that can be found during maintenance and either repaired at that time or at least brought to the homeowner's attention.  For example, the technician may see that a motor reading is in range, but on the high end.  While it doesn't necessarily need replaced at that time, the homeowner can be made aware that the motor is on it's way out.  It could last another week or it could last another 6 months.  In any case, the homeowner is now aware.
  • Will you change my filter while you're here doing maintenance?  Absolutely!  If you already have filters, we will gladly change it for you.  If you don't have filters, we can provide you with the price to bring one with us.  We also have an online filter program in which we can provide you with a code to order your filters online and have them delivered to your door.  Shipping is free and you'll always have your filters on hand.
  • What if I have two HVAC systems at my house?  We can put each system on the annual maintenance plan.  We'll schedule a longer period of time to be at your house to complete maintenance on both air conditioners (and same in the fall/winter for the furnaces).  The second system would be $10 off ($150/$140 for two plans).
  • Do I need to be home when you do the air conditioner maintenance?  Preferably, yes.  We will need access to the thermostat and furnace area so will need inside the house.  If you have a lockbox or garage code, we can enter that way but always prefer having someone home so the technician can answer any questions while he's there.

Hopefully, we answered some of your questions about air conditioner maintenance!  If not, feel free to contact us as we're happy to discuss.

woman cleaning counters

We've had one of the coldest winters on record here in Indianapolis so it seems everyone has spring fever!  With the arrival of spring comes a whole checklist of home maintenance items just waiting to be done.  Here's a list of items that you can do around your home

to tidy up and get ready for summer:

  • Schedule air conditioner maintenance (you knew this would be #1 on our list, right?)
  • Change the filter
  • Install new batteries in thermostat
  • Install new batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Test and dust all detectors
  • Check fire extinguishers
  • Inspect bathroom, kitchen, door and window caulk; re-caulk as needed
  • Clean and seal deck if needed
  • Inspect exterior paint and touch up as needed
  • Inspect siding/masonry for damage
  • Repair/replace damaged window screens
  • Inspect roof for damage
  • Inspect outdoor play equipment
  • Inspect attic for leaks
  • Inspect attic insulation
  • Clean gutters
  • Prune spring and summer- flowering shrubs after they bloom
  • Schedule yearly septic tank inspection
  • Schedule irrigation inspection
  • Inspect foundation for drainage problems
  • Inspect crawl space/basement for moisture issues

Preventive maintenance goes a long way.  Monitoring items such as these can prevent big problems in the future! Enjoy spring!

Investing in home upgrades can be fun....or not so fun!  Many homeowners are excited to add a sunroom, remodel a bathroom, finish a basement, pick out new flooring or granite tops.  How about picking out a new furnace though? HVAC is something we need but it's not always fun to invest in because it can't be seen.  HVAC is all about comfort. As homeowners consider their HVAC upgrades, we are often asked out rebates, incentives, and tax credits.  Being a new year, the money available to homeowners is different than what it was last year.  To keep things simple, we've listed below what's available now:

Lennox Equipment Rebates- The Lennox spring promotion is on from March 24 - June 13, 2014.  Rebates ranging in price from $75 - $1,300 are available on high efficient equipment.  Rebates are based on the installation of a single unit (air conditioner, heat pump or furnace) versus the installation of a full system (furnace, air conditioner or heat pump and thermostat).  Rebates also vary based on the efficiency of the system.  Also available are rebates ranging from $50 - $300 for PureAir filtration, zoning and solar panels.

Utility Rebates- A few of the utility companies are carrying their rebate programs into 2014.

Vectren- $150 for a 92-94% efficient gas furnace.  $250 for a 95%+ efficient gas furnace.  $300 for a 90%+ efficient natural gas boiler.  $20 for a programmable thermostat.

Citizens Gas- $150 rebate for a 92-94% efficient gas furnace.  $250 for a 95%+ efficient gas furnace.  $300 for a 90%+ efficient natural gas boiler.  $20 for a programmable thermostat.

Duke Energy- $200 for a 14+ seer heat pump with ECM fan on indoor unit.  $200 for a 14+ seer air conditioner with ECM fan on indoor unit.  $200 for 10.5+ EER geothermal heat pump.

Vectren and Citizens Gas also offer rebates for duct sealing, attic insulation and wall insulation.  See their websites for insulation specifications.  IPL's residential rebate program ended in 2013.

Federal Tax Credit- The federal tax credit available for 2014 is a 30% tax credit on the installation of solar panels, wind energy and geothermal heat pumps.  This tax credit will remain in effect until December 31, 2016.

If you are considering an upgrade to high efficient equipment, now is a great time to do so.  Why not save some $$$ that you'd otherwise be spending?  There are always options when it comes to HVAC systems, energy efficiency and comfort.  Contact us anytime for a free quote!

Tips For Staying Warm in Record Breaking Cold!

It's not often that we experience negative degree weather in Indiana!  This weekend sure has been fun with all the snow and new temperature experiences!  Well, fun unless your furnace goes out!  Here are a few quick tips to make sure that you and your family are warm and cozy inside:

  • Change the filter:  In Indiana, furnaces are made to effectively run down to about 3 degrees outside.  In temperatures below that, you may see that your furnace falls behind a little.  To help the furnace out, make sure there is a clean filter inside.  If the furnace is running on a dirty filter, it will have an even harder time keeping up.
  • Don't change the temperature on the thermostat:  Leave your thermostat at one temperature.  For example, maybe you usually keep the temperature at 70 degrees during the day but 65 degrees at night.  In this weather, it's going to be hard for your furnace to make up that 5 degree difference.  Turn your thermostat to a temperature setting and leave it there.  If you have a programmable thermostat, put a "hold" on the desired temperature so it's not fluctuating.
  • Turn the thermostat to "Emergency Heat":  If you have a heat pump and electric furnace, you'll see "auxiliary" heat show on your thermostat.  This is because heat pumps are inefficient in extremely cold weather so the electric furnace also runs to supplement the heat pump.  With temperatures below zero, the heat pump is not helping at all, so turn the thermostat to "emergency" heat.  This will manually lock out the heat pump.  The electric furnace will run by itself to heat your home.  Just remember to turn the thermostat back to regular heat mode when outdoor temperatures warm up a bit.  You don't want the electric furnace running by itself all of the time because of the cost to run it.
  • Clear snow away from the heat pump:  Clear away any snow drifts from the heat pump.  The snow will restrict air flow and prevent the heat pump from operating properly.  It may also prevent the heat pump from going into defrost mode, meaning the heat pump could ice up.
  • If your furnace does quit, call right away: It will take no time at all for the temperature inside to drastically drop if your furnace happens to quit working.  Call for HVAC help right away!  There are a lot of homes without heat so it may be a few hours before a technician will be at your door anyway.  A delay in calling will only increase that wait time.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding your HVAC equipment!  Keep an eye on our Facebook page as well for other tips and posts.


HVAC Repair or Replace: 5 Considerations

Heating and Air Conditioning is one of those necessary evils.  It's much more fun to spend money on a new TV rather than a new furnace!  At some point though, you may be faced with the ultimate HVAC decision:  Repair or Replace?  Here are a few things to consider when you are faced with this decision:

  • What is the age of your current system?  Most equipment comes with a 10 year manufacturer warranty on parts.  The average life expectancy of a furnace and air conditioner is 12-15 years.  That's not to say that it won't last longer than that...it's just an average.  If the part is under warranty, it's most often going to make more sense to have the repair done.  If the part is not under warranty, then you may want to factor in the age of the equipment with the repair cost.  For example, if you have a $200 repair on a 15 year old furnace, it may certainly make more sense to take your chances and make the repair.  Now, on the flip side of that example, say your furnace is 15 years old and you're looking at a $500 repair.  You could have that repair done and not have another problem for a few years.  You could also make that repair and a few months later, have another part go out.  Before you know it, you have $800 into a 15 year old furnace.  Since there is a risk of other parts failing on older equipment, it may be worth considering replacement.
  • Energy Efficiency:  Your HVAC system uses a considerable amount of energy as compared with other appliances in your home.  If you have an older system, it's very likely that new equipment will be more efficient, resulting in lower utility bills.  Let's use the example of a $500 repair on the a 15 year old furnace.  If you're considering replacement, factor in the savings if you go from an 80% efficient furnace to a 95% efficient furnace.  Think about it in this way:  For every $100 that you spend to heat your home with an 80% furnace, $80 is heating your home and $20 is going out the flue.  For every $100 that you spend to heat your home with a 95% furnace, $95 is being used to heat your home and only $5 is being lost.  Air conditioners and heat pumps also vary in efficiency.  This is definitely something to think about when considering repair versus replacement.
  • Financial Incentives:  Are there financial incentives to upgrade to a new, more efficient HVAC system?  Currently, there is a federal tax credit and various utility rebates available for the installation of high efficient furnaces, air conditioners and heat pumps.  The qualifications and dates do change so it's important to see what, if any, are available.
  • Length of Time in Home:  How long are you planning to live in your home?  If you are planning to stay in your home for awhile, you might have different factors to consider than if you are planning to sell in the near future.   If you are thinking about selling, definitely compare costs.  A repair might be the way to go simply because you don't want to spend money in a home that you are selling.  However, replacing the HVAC equipment might be a good investment because it will make the house more appealing to potential buyers.  If you are planning to stay for a while and are looking at a costly repair, it might make more sense to upgrade and get a new 10 year parts warranty.
  • Comfort:  HVAC equipment and technology have come a long way over the past several years!  Furnaces are now available with variable speed motors which are not only more efficient but also produce a more even and comfortable heat in the winter and coolness in the summer.  Programmable and/or WiFi thermostats are designed to reduce temperature swings, provide the ultimate control over your system and save on energy usage when you are not home.  Finally, there's the noise.  Maybe your HVAC equipment is loud because something is out of balance.  That could very well be an easy repair!  If not, consider replacing it with equipment that is quieter.  There are some systems that are so quiet, you cannot hear them run!

Repairing or replacing your furnace and/or air conditioner can be quite an investment.  Think about what's important to you when making the decision!


It's Time for a Whole House Humidifier!

Have you noticed that your skin feels a little dry and itchy?  Are you getting shocked by everything you touch in your house?  Are your plants looking a little wilted?  Are you waking up in the middle of the night with a nose bleed?  Do you notice cracks in your hardwood floors?  If you said "yes" to any of the above, then you are a victim of harsh winter air! There has to a solution to these problems, right?

We like to think there is a solution for everything!  One of our technicians was in a house yesterday in which there were cans of water on every register.  That's one way to get humidity in the house!  I'm sure you're also familiar with portable humidifiers.  Keep a portable humidifier filled with water and you will certainly be able to add humidity to that one room. However, the best solution is a whole house humidifier.

What is a whole house humidifier?  A whole-house humidifier is installed on the ductwork next to your furnace.  The humidifier distributes moisture throughout the entire house.  A sensor is located either in the humidistat control or on the thermostat.  When the humidity level in the house drops below the set level (usually 30-40%), the humidifier will run.

How do I care for a whole house humidifier?  The best thing about a whole house humidifier is that it requires very little maintenance!  While a portable humidifier has to constantly be filled with water, the whole- house humidifier operates on its own.  Annual maintenance is recommended to clean it, check the wiring, check/tighten the valves, clean the drain and change the pad.  If you have hard water, it might be a good idea to clean the drain and change the pad twice a year.

What's the difference between having a humidistat and a thermostat to control humidity?  Whole house humidifiers come with a manual humidistat.  The sensor is located in the humidistat.  The humidistat is manually set to control the humidity level in the house.  Some thermostats also come equipped with a humidity sensor.  In this case, the thermostat would replace the humidistat.  The advantage to this would be in accuracy of humidity levels.  A digital thermostat is always going to be more accurate than a manual humidistat.

Are some humidifiers more efficient than others?  Humidifiers are measured by how many gallons of water are used each day.  Most humidifiers will use either 12 gallons per day or 18 gallons per day.  Steam humidifiers are the most efficient, however, it is very strongly recommended that very high quality water be used with steam humidifiers.  Calcium and lime will build up much faster in a steam humidifier due to the extremely hot temperatures that the water runs at.

Please don't hesitate to contact us with any other questions you might have about whole house humidifiers!  There's no doubt that once you have a whole house humidifier, you'll wonder how you ever lived without one!


Furnace FAQ

Heating season is just beginning but the questions about furnaces are rolling in!  We thought it might be helpful to post and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about heating season and equipment.  Here we go!

1. Is it safe to turn my furnace on before maintenance has been completed?  The answer is YES!  A good cleaning and tune-up on the furance is needed to keep it running as efficiently as possible.  However, it's not necessary to have this service done before the furnace is turned on for the first time each year.  It's just important that it's done once a year.  We actually recommend turning the furnace on before it gets too cold outside.  That way, if there is a problem with the furnace and you are without heat, you can get it taken care of before it's really cold.

2. There was an odor when I turned my furnace on the first time.  Is this normal?  Dust will collect and settle in the furnace during the summer months when it is not being used.  When the furnace is fired off the first time, the dust will burn off the heat exchanger.  Some people describe it as a burning smell.  This is normal and will go away after the furnace has cycled a few times.  If an odor continues though, it's best to get it checked out.

3. How often do I need to change my filter?  Is it the same filter that I changed for the air conditioner?  An HVAC system consists of a furnace (either gas or electric) and either an air conditioner or heat pump.  Each system has a filter that needs to be changed regularly.  It's the same filter whether you are using the furnace or air conditioner.  If you have a 1" filter, it's recommended to check the filter once a month and change as needed (usually once a month or once every other month).  If you have a media filter- 4" or 5"- it is recommended to check the filter every 3 months and change as needed.  Changing the filter is very important!!  A dirty filter can restrict air flow enough to make the furnace or air conditioner stop working.

4. I have a heat pump and a furnace.  Do I need to turn the heat pump off and furnace on?  All you need to do is turn your thermostat to Heat.  Your heat pump will turn on in heating mode.  Your heat pump will heat the house until it reaches a certain temperature outside.  This is called a set point and is already set on your heat pump.  For example, if your set point is 32 degrees, than once the outdoor temperature gets that cold, your furnace will automatically turn on.  If you have a gas furnace, your system will automatically switch from using the heat pump to using the gas furnace.  If you have an electric furnace, the furnace will kick on at the same time to help the heat pump maintain the indoor temperature.  This is all done automatically so there's nothing you need to do to make this happen!

5. There seems to be something wrong with my furnace.  What do I do?  There are a couple of things that you can do on your own.  Check your filter.  If the filter is dirty, change the filter, then turn the furnace off and back on.  Also, check the batteries in your thermostat (if applicable).  If the thermostat screen has gone blank, it could just be batteries.  If you still have a problem, then give us a call and we'll be happy to set up an appointment.

If you still have a question about your furnace, please don't hesitate to ask!  We want you to stay warm and comfortable in your home.


HVAC Filters: Adding Simplicity and Convenience!

We talk about filters a lot.  We send out filter reminders.  We randomly ask if you've checked your filter.  One might say we are obsessed with filters!  There's a good reason though:!  Regularly checking and changing your filter is the easiest and most cost effective way to ensure that your system operates properly.  Here's an email we received from a customer this week:

"Hi Renee!  You guys installed our new furnace and air conditioner last year.  We just turned the air conditioner on for the first time and it's not working :(  I'm not sure what it could be since it's new.  Can you come over to take a look at it?"

So we get to their house that day and diagnosed the problem:  A dirty filter!  The filter was so dirty that it actually tripped the safety device causing the air conditioner to not run.  Once a clean filter was inserted, the system was fine.  The next email said:

"Hi Renee!  How embarrassing :)  Thanks for coming over so quickly!"

If a dirty filter is the culprit, you could very well spend $79 on a service call that could be fixed with a $5 filter.  We have an online filter program that makes checking and changing your filter simple and convenient.  There are two parts to the program:

Filter Reminder- You can elect to receive an email reminder to change your filter.  The type and size of filter that you have will determine the frequency of your reminders.  For example, if you have a pleated 1" filter, you would receive an email reminder every other month.  If you have a media filter, you might receive an email reminder every six months.  If you check your filter and find that it doesn't need changed yet, there is a snooze feature allows you to reset the reminder for a later date.

Filter Purchase- Rather than driving to the store and hoping the filter you need is in stock, you can order your filters online!  We will provide you with a code that is specifically for your filter.  You'll go to the website www.filterfetch.com and enter your code.  A picture and description of your filter will display.  Filters are sold in a case which is a year's supply.  So for example, if you purchase a 1" pleated filter, the case is likely six filters.  If you have a media filter, the case is likely 2 filters.  Once you enter your code, simply click Buy Now!  Pricing is competitive with home improvement stores and shipping is free.  Filters are delivered to your door in just a few days.

Another great benefit to this program is ensuring that you have the filter that is made for your filter cabinet.  Filters that are purchased at home improvement stores will work but they are often not the exact fit that is needed for optimum filtration.

It's that simple!  Participation in the program is completely free.  Feel free to contact us for more information or to obtain a code for your filter!


Is a New Lineset Necessary When Replacing an Air Conditioner?

We provided a quote for a new air conditioner recently and the customer asked this:  "All I want is a new air conditioner.  What is a lineset and why did you quote that?"

That's a great question!  First, the lineset is what carries the refrigerant from the coil in the air conditioner to the coil in the furnace.  Now, why would we quote a new lineset with the new air conditioner?

You may have heard that there are two types of refrigerant.  If you have an older air conditioner, it likely uses R-22 refrigerant.  New air conditioners use R-410 refrigerant.  R-22 is being phased out by the EPA because there is chlorine in it which contributes to ozone depletion if it leaks out of the system.  Eventually, all air conditioners and heat pumps will use R-410 refrigerant.  R-410 is an ozone friendly refrigerant.

These two types of refrigerant contain different oils and do not mix well.  R-22 contains mineral oil which doesn't mix well with POE oil, which is in R410.  Therefore, running R410 refrigerant through a lineset that once carried R22 refrigerant will eventually be detrimental to the system.  It will ultimately shorten the life span of the compressor.    Ideally, the best option is to run a new lineset so there's no chance of the two different oils mixing.  If a new lineset is not an option for whatever reason, a flush can also be done.  This is a chemical used to flush out the R-22 that ran through the lineset.  It is effective, however, it's not likely that 100% of the oil will be flushed out.  Therefore, we recommend a new, clean lineset when possible.

During the quoting process, the technician will look at the placement of the current lineset to determine if a new lineset can be run.  There may be some measures that have to be taken, such as a new bulkhead, to install a new lineset.  In the end, this is still important to consider the lineset to ensure that your new system is running top-notch for years to come.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the two types of refrigerant, the phasing out of R-22 or linesets!


Indoor Air Quality- Reducing Allergens In Your Home

Spring has sprung!  The birds are singing, the grass is green and the pollen count is high!  There's not much that can be done to control the outdoors but what about the air inside your home?  Is it possible to improve the air quality in your home to control allergens?  You bet!  We have a few suggestions and tips:

  • Regularly change your filter.  A good filter reduces allergens such as dust mites and pet dander.  Filters may be fiberglass or pleated and range in size from 1" to 5".  Filters also have a rating system called Merv Rating which determines the effectiveness of a filter.  The smallest particles are captured with filters with a high Merv rating.  A Merv 16, for example, will allow fewer particles to pass through than a Merv 10.  It may be worthwhile to look into a media cabinet or a better filtration system for your home to reduce allergens.
  • Close the windows and turn on the air conditioner.  The air conditioner naturally dehumidifies the house, creating a cool, dry air.  Allergens such as mold and dust mites tend to thrive in warm, humid spaces so running the air conditioner can help to keep allergens under control.
  • Control the humidity in the house.  If humidity levels are still high , it might be time to consider a dehumidifier.  Dehumidifiers pull excess humidity out of the air, creating a cool and dry environment.
  • Consider a UV Light.  UV Lights are effective in controlling airborne allergens, mold, mildew, viruses and bacteria.  UV air cleaners break down these allergens and dramatically improve indoor air quality.

Indoor air quality is an important topic!  There are many things that can be done to reduce the allergens and improve air quality.  Feel free to contact us for recommendations in your home!