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.


As fall and winter weather is coming to Indianapolis, now is the time to insure that your heating system is ready for winter weather.

Have you ever turned your thermostat to “heat” mode and nothing happens? How about coming home to a house that is ten degrees colder than it should be? At some point, most homeowners will find themselves in need of a furnace repair. LCS Heating and Cooling services all major furnace brands. LCS will handle all part warranties (if applicable) and will have you comfortable in your home in no time!

Are you looking for a way to save money on furnace repairs? Check out the Energy Savings Plan! This preventive maintenance plan will keep your furnace clean, tuned and running as efficiently as possible. Included in the Energy Savings Plan is a $10 discount on service calls and 10% discount on labor rates should you be faced with a repair need.

Is It Too Late for Air Conditioner Maintenance?

What a crazy summer it's been!  Mother Nature has given us a little bit of everything- cooler than average temperatures, rain, heat and humidity!  As we enter the last half of the summer, we are asked the question:  Is it too late to have preventative maintenance completed on my air conditioner?

The short answer is:  No!  It's definitely not too late.

Air conditioners run constantly so it's never too late to give them a good tune-up and cleaning.  Grass clippings, cottonwood, leaves and construction dust can all collect around and in the air conditioner.  If this happens, air will not flow through the air conditioner as it should.  This drops the efficiency of the air conditioner and causes pressures to change.

A tune-up not only checks the operation of different parts but also measures the temperatures and pressures too.  It may be seen that amp draws are a little off or pressures are a little low.  Finding these issues during a tune-up may very well prevent a service call and the inconvenience of being without air conditioning when it's hot out.  A repair may be made at the time of maintenance or the technician can inform you of a potential future repair.

Air conditioner maintenance also includes the drain clean out.  If debris gets into the drain, the drain may back up creating water to fill the drain pan.  Depending on the location of the furnace, you may find water around the furnace area or it will trip a switch causing the system to stop running so the water doesn't overflow.   Again, preventative maintenance can prevent this water problem.

As you can see, preventative maintenance is beneficial at any time that your system is running!

There are also a couple of things you can do on your own throughout the summer as well:

  • Keep grass, plants and weeds trimmed and away from the air conditioner.
  • Turn the air conditioner off at the thermostat and then use a hose to spray it out.
  • Check and change your filter regularly.

Keeping up on regular maintenance will keep your air conditioner running more efficiently than one that's not seen a tune-up in awhile!


Is It an Air Conditioner or Is It a Heat Pump?

We hear people say all the time that they don't know what to call the thing that cools their home.  Is it a condenser?  An air conditioner?  A heat pump?  A condenser is the term used to describe the outdoor unit that cools your home, which can be either an air conditioner or a heat pump.  The primary difference between an air conditioner and heat pump is that the air conditioner is used to cool a space while a heat pump can heat and cool a space.   There are definitely important factors to consider when looking into purchasing air conditioner or a heat pump.

A heat pump acts just like an air conditioner in the summer months.  The purpose is to cool your space and lower humidity levels.  During the winter months, a heat pump will also produce heat to warm your home or office.  Whether you have an air conditioner or heat pump, you'll also have either a gas or electric furnace to go with it.  A heat pump efficiently produces heat until the outdoor temperature drops to about 30 or 35 degrees.  In very cold weather, the heat pump will not be able to keep the desired temperature inside.  At that point, the furnace, located indoors, will turn on to help warm the home to the temperature set on the thermostat.  If you have an electric furnace, it will start to run with the heat pump.  If you have a gas furnace, the system will automatically switch from the heat pump to the gas furnace.

Which makes most sense for your home or office--an air conditioner or heat pump?  If you have an electric furnace, also called an air handler, it's highly recommended to pair that furnace with a heat pump.  It's quite expensive to run an electric furnace by itself.  Since a heat pump is much more efficient, your utility costs will be much lower if you have a heat pump to use in the winter.  The electric furnace will then act as your back-up heat.

If you have a gas furnace, it's really personal preference.  If you are used to the heat produced by a gas furnace, you may not like the heat produced by a heat pump as it is a cooler heat.  If you are likely to use the gas furnace all winter, then it might make more sense to pair it with an air conditioner, which often has a lower upfront cost.  However, if utility costs are a priority, it might be a better option to have a heat pump installed.

There are lots of questions to ask when considering a new air conditioner or heat pump.  Feel free to contact us anytime!

 


My Air Conditioner Won't Work! How Much Will This Cost Me?

A customer recently said to me:  "I really hate spending money on my air conditioner."  I suggested he not replace his air conditioner and just go without.  He said:  "Indiana heat and no air conditioning?  No way!"  I think a lot of people probably feel this same way.  We'd all rather spend our money on fun stuff but sometimes there's just no way around an air conditioner repair.  So what can you expect if you need a repair? Of course, it depends on the problem and the repair needed but we can give you an idea of what to expect.

The service call charge covers the trip to your home (travel time, fuel, etc.), the diagnosis of the problem and the first 30 minutes of labor.  Our regular service call fee is $79.  If you have an annual maintenance plan with us, the service call is less.  If you need service on the weekend, in the evening or on a holiday and do not have an annual maintenance plan, that will cost more.  Either way, if you have a problem that can be fixed without parts and within that time period, this may be your only charge for the repair.

If the repair requires a part, we will give you pricing at that time.  If the part is covered under warranty, you may only have the service call fee plus a little bit of labor.  If the part is no longer covered by a warranty, we would give you pricing at that time.  The cost of the repair is dependent on the part that is bad.  A capacitor for example, costs much less than a motor.  If a repair is $300 or more, we would then waive the initial service call charge.

We are also asked if the air conditioner should be replaced instead of repaired.  Determining factors of this are the age of the system, if it's under warranty and the cost of the repair.  A $200 repair certainly doesn't warrant a new air conditioner!  However, if the air conditioner is older and the repair is costly, it might be worth weighing your options.  Many of parts work independently of each other so replacing one part on the unit doesn't necessarily prevent another part from going bad.

We are always happy to answer questions about repairs and repair costs.  Feel free to contact us anytime!


Air Conditioner Theft: It Can Happen To You!

You've probably seen or read at least one news clipping in the past six months about theft from homes and businesses.  I'm not talking about TVs or gaming systems but rather air conditioners, water heaters, copper guttering, etc.  You might think, "Why would someone steal an air conditioner?" or "My air conditioner would never get stolen because I live in a nice neighborhood."  Fact is: it can happen to anyone.  There are, however, a few things that can be done to deter someone from stealing your HVAC unit.

First of all, why would somone steal an air conditioner?  The answer is because people try to get money for the copper and scrap metal.  It really doesn't matter what city, town or neighborhood you live in, an air conditioner is vulnerable.  We get calls from homeowners, landlords and business owners who have experienced this.  Your insurance company may cover the loss but you'll still have a deductible to pay and the inconvenience of being without air conditioning!  While nothing will guarantee that this won't happen to you, there are some things you can do to deter someone from your home or business:

  • Have a motion light around the air conditioner.  While theft doesn't happen only at night, lighting is helpful.
  • Have a cage installed around the air conditioner.  Cages are typically bolted to a concrete pad or are concreted into the ground.  They are typically made of steel and come with padlocks.  Again, this is not theft-proof, but a thief may not target your home if they have to take the time to try to cut or damage the cage in order to get to the air conditioner.   
  • Look at having an alarm system installed on your air conditioner.  There are a couple of types of alarms.  One is similar to a car alarm.  If the air conditioner is tampered with, it will set the alarm off creating a loud noise.  While it doesn't notify the police, a thief isn't likely to stick around while an alarm is sounding!  Another type of alarm is one that can be wired into your security system.  If the alarm is wired into your home or office security system, it would set the security system off just like it would if someone were to enter your home.

It's unfortunate that this topic even has to be discussed.  However, being pro-active might save your air conditioner.


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!