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!


Annual Maintenance: Why Not Just Do It All at Once?

Next to keeping a clean filter installed in your HVAC system, annual maintenance is the most cost-effective way to ensure that your furnace and air conditioner are running as efficiently as possible.  Our Energy Savings Plan is a preventative maintenance plan in which the air conditioner is cleaned and tuned in the spring or summer and the same is done on the furnace in the fall or winter.  Maintenance is much more than just spraying out the air conditioner or vacuuming the inside of the furnace.  All of the components, wiring, motors and refrigerant levels are checked during the tune-up.  Hopefully, everything will be in proper ranges.  If there is an issue, we can bring it to your attention and discuss any options so you can determine how you'd like to handle it.

While maintenance will not guarantee that parts won't go bad on the furnace or air conditioner, problems may be found before they cause issues.  For example, a motor may have higher than usual readings or a part may be making a louder than normal noise.  Catching these things before they actually go out will not only save you a service call fee but will also keep you from being without air conditioning on a hot day!

We are occasionally asked:  Why do you come out twice a year?  Why not just do the furnace and air conditioner maintenance all at once?  While it's important that the maintenance is completed at some point each year, it's preferred to complete the cleaning and tune-up just before or during the season that it'll actually be used.  That also means that we'll be checking the filter for you twice a year and completing maintenance on other items such as humidifiers just before they'll be used as well.  By seeing a technician twice a year, we can ensure that all of your questions or concerns are answered about your system so that it's running as well as it can all year long.

For more information, additional benefits and pricing on our Energy Savings Plan, please click here.


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!


Why Is My Air Conditioner Low on Refrigerant Every Year?

There seems to be a belief among some homeowners that air conditioners have to be filled with refrigerant each year.  Homeowners begin to think it's normal to have an HVAC company come out to top off their refrigerant.  If this sounds familiar, read on!  It's time to solve this refrigerant mystery!

If you have to have refrigerant added to your air conditioner or heat pump each year, then you have a leak somewhere in your system.  Refrigerant is not supposed to leak out or evaporate away.  The leak could be in the line set, in the coil or in the condenser itself.  The amount of refrigerant that you lose will depend on the size of the leak.

What happens if you don't do anything about the leak?  Well, eventually the air conditioner will freeze up and quit working.  It may be hard to believe but your air conditioner could turn into a block of ice on a 90 degree day!  This is quite the inconvenience because the system has to be turned off so the ice can melt before a technician can even work on it.  It doesn't take long to get hot in the house when it's 90 degrees outside!  In addition, a system that runs without the correct amount of refrigerant is like a car that is driven low on oil.  Will it operate?  Yes, but it's highly likely that damage will occur from the system running year after year low on refrigerant.

While people may ask to just have refrigerant added, that's really not the best option.  The cost of R-22 refrigerant is rising dramatically.  This is because R-22 is being phased out and R410 is taking it's place.  So if you have an older HVAC system that uses R-22 refrigerant, it might cost you double or triple what it's cost in the past to just add refrigerant.  There's no warranty on refrigerant either so if you have it added and it leaks out a week later...you're just thrown away that money.

A leak search is going to make sense for a lot of people.  The goal is to do a leak test to find the leak and make that repair.  There are a couple different types of leak tests that can be completed.  The location of the leak will determine the cost of the repair.  It's not cheap...but then again neither is just adding refrigerant.

The only time it may not make sense to do a leak search and repair is if the air conditioner is very old (13-15+ years old). At that point, it may be time to compare the cost of a leak search and repair to the cost of replacing the unit.

Feel free to contact us at anytime if you have questions about your own system!


Air Conditioner Maintenance- Is It Worth It?

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is:  Is it worth it to have maintenance done on my furnace and air conditioner?

The answer is YES.  Here's why:

Either your furnace or air conditioner is running just about every day of the year.  Sure, we'll have a few days in the spring and fall in which it's pleasant enough to turn the HVAC system off and open the windows, but for the most part, the furnace or air conditioner is running.  Any piece of equipment that constantly runs is going to need cleaned and tuned up.  Think of your car, for example.  How well would it run if you never changed the oil, never rotated the tires or never had the 30,000, 50,000 or 75,000 mile tune-up?  Same holds true for your furnace and air conditioner.  While it may run without ever being cleaned or tuned, it will also have to work harder and it may not run as efficiently as it could.

There are some repairs that can be prevented with regular maintenance.  While completing maintenance on the air conditioner, for example, the technician may see that the capacitor is swollen.  The capacitor could then be replaced at that time.  This would prevent a later service call charge as well as the inconvenience of being without air conditioning and having to be home for the repair to be made.  With a furnace, you might encounter a dirty flame sensor.  Flame sensors are cleaned as a part of maintenance which can prevent a furnace shut down which would have been prevented with regular maintenance.  Forgetting to change the filter is another common problem.  The furnace overheats or the air conditioner freezes up simply because the filter is dirty and restricts air flow.  Filters can be changed as a part of your maintenance plan or the technician can simply remind you that it's time to change the filter.

The furnace and air conditioner will certainly run better when annual maintenance is completed.  That's not to say that a repair won't ever be needed or that every repair can be prevented.  Customers with an annual maintenance plan receive additional benefits as well.  These include $10 off service call, 15% off repairs, 15% off indoor air quality products (such as thermostats, humidifiers, filters, UV lights, etc) and no overtime rates.  In addition, if a repair is needed within 30 days of either maintenance service, the service call would be waived.

HVAC is definitely an investment in your home.  Regular maintenance is the best way to protect that investment!


What Should I Look For in an HVAC Company?

Let's face it: replacing the HVAC system is usually the last thing someone wants to do!  Replacing a furnace and/or air conditioner is an investment in your home.  People often think about the brand of equipment, equipment efficiency and the budget, but what about the company that will install the new equipment?  Did you know that many brands of equipment are comparable in features, but how well it works is really dependent on how well it's installed?  What should you look for in an HVAC company?  Here are a few things to consider:

Most importantly, is the company insured and bonded?  In the off-chance that something should happen during the install, such as an injury or property damage, does the company carry liability insurance and a bond to cover the damages?  Another example, straight from John Moore Insurance Agency, is this: the installation of your new HVAC system takes two days so the company leaves material in your garage with the intent of installing it the following day.  If that material gets stolen or vandalized, would that be a claim on your personal insurance policy?  Not if you've hired a company that is insured and bonded!

Is the company licensed in Marion County?  If you live in Marion County, the City of Indianapolis requires a permit to replace/install a new furnace, air conditioner or heat pump.  Only licensed companies can pull permits.  The purpose of this is to ensure that your installation is done properly and to code.  What happens if a permit is not pulled?  If code enforcement sees work being done and there is not a permit, work will be ordered to stop, a permit will have to be pulled and a fine paid.

Do you know of anyone that's worked with the company?  I think it's safe to say that we always feel more comfortable working with a company that was referred by someone else.  If someone thinks highly enough of a business to recommend them, then they've had a good customer experience and it's likely that you will too.  If you don't know anyone that's personally worked with them, check out their website or see if they have any customer reviews online.  Then, follow your gut!

What is the policy on service and warranty?  After the company installs your new HVAC system, are they also able to maintain and service it?  Does the company offer 24 hour service?  Is it easy to get in touch with them?  Will the company handle equipment warranties?  Ask questions!

So many times, homeowners think only about the equipment to be installed and price.  While these are important factors, it's just as important to choose the right company.  Experience, proper licensing and insurance, and reliability make all the difference.

 


Use HVAC to Handle the Spring Temperatures!

If you can wear a winter coat and a pair of shorts in the same week...then you must live in Indiana!  Temperature swings are nothing new for Indiana residents.  While it may seem the only way to control the inside temperature is to turn the HVAC system on and off, there are actually some other solutions.  Here are a few tips to regulate the temperature inside your home this spring:

  • Use your programmable thermostat.  People often want to turn their HVAC system off when it warms up a bit.  Keep your HVAC system on and your normal program set.  During those warmer days, the system will not run if the temperature you have set on the thermostat is met.  However, by keeping your system turned on, it will automatically kick on when the temperature falls below the set point.  This will ensure that you maintain a comfortable temperature in your home.  In addition, it will reach the set temperature more efficiently than if the system is completely off.  When the system is completely off, the temperature may drop several degrees below set point.  It will have to run and run and run to reach the set temperature again.
  • Get a programmable thermostat with auto-changeover capability.  Auto-changeover means the HVAC system will automatically switch from the furnace to the air conditioner.  Last year on this date, March 19th, Indianapolis had record-setting temperatures.  The high was 82 degrees and the low was 64 degrees.  If your thermostat is set to 72 degrees, the furnace may have to run in the morning and evening to maintain that temperature, but the air conditioner may be needed in the afternoon.  With auto-changeover, the system will automatically switch from the furnace to the air conditioner and back to the furnace!
  • Keep the temperature set a little higher than normal.  Since humidity is down, 73 degrees in the spring is more comfortable than 73 degrees in the summer.

Spring 2013 is sure different from last year!  The warm-up can't be too far away, right?  Enjoy the spring months and stay comfortable!


Solar Energy and HVAC- Is It Worth Considering?

Did you know that HVAC systems can be powered by solar energy?  This isn't terribly new, but the way solar can power your HVAC has evolved over the last few years.  Is it something that could be an option for you?  Is it worth it?

Indiana is known for its drastic temperature swings and four seasons.  For this reason, many people assume that Indiana doesn't get enough sunshine to really take advantage of solar power.  While the energy savings in Indiana may not be as significant as the energy savings in Florida, it is still something to consider.

While an HVAC installation is an investment, the federal tax credit and utility rebates are still  in effect for high efficient equipment and solar energy.  Through December 31, 2016, the federal tax credit for solar systems is 30% of entire installation cost with no maximum allowance.  If there is an excess tax credit, that excess is generally carried over to the following tax year.

In addition, solar usage has come a long way in just a few years!  When solar first came on the market in the HVAC industry, it was basically a single solar panel that attached to the outdoor unit.  It's a little different today.  Since we are an independent Lennox dealer, I'm going to discuss this in terms of Lennox equipment.  Some models of high efficient Lennox equipment are "solar ready."  This means that the new equipment can be installed and the solar panels can either be installed at the same time, at a later date, or never!  Up to 15 panels can be installed for each air conditioner or heat pump.  You can even start with just one or two panels and add more at a later time.  The solar energy generated is first used to power the air conditioner or heat pump.  If the HVAC system is not running, that energy is then used to power other appliances, lighting and electronics.

A communication module also sends data to a website so you can monitor your system at any time!  Data that is accessible on the website include energy production, system performance and environmental benefits.

So, is it something to consider?  We'd say so!  It's worth learning about to see if a solar investment makes sense for you and your home or business.  Contact us anytime for more information or with questions!


Is HVAC a Do-It-Yourself Project?

There are many things around the home that can be done by a homeowner.  We've occasionally been asked about HVAC being a "do-it-yourself" project.  Some questions we've been asked include:

  1. If I provide the furnace/air conditioner/heat pump, will you install it?  If the equipment is used, then no, we will not install it.  Someone might get a furnace from their brother's house or take an air conditioner from their rental home to install on another home or purchase a piece of equipment from Craig's List.  While the used equipment may work just fine, there are some risks to consider.  Was the equipment properly removed?  Is the equipment sized correctly for your space?  Does the equipment work?  How old is it?  If an air conditioner is not removed correctly, parts can be damaged.  The new owner of the air conditioner wouldn't know this until the air conditioner is re-installed.  If it doesn't work, the homeowner will still be responsible to pay for the installation as used equipment does not have a warranty.  Typically, if the equipment provided is new, we will consider installing it.  However, since we (LCS Heating and Cooling) did not purchase the equipment, we will not warranty it. In addition, it would also be the homeowner's responsibility to talk to the manufacturer.  If a repair is needed three years later, the homeowner would again be responsible for the warranty.
  2. If I provide the part, will you make the repair?  We will consider making the repair, but again there is risk involved for the homeowner.  Are you absolutely sure you got the right part?  Did you diagnose the needed repair correctly?  Are you able to return the part if it's not correct ?  Is there a warranty on the part?  As in the example above, if for some reason the part doesn't work or is not the correct part, the homeowner would still be responsible for paying for the installation.  He would also be responsible for any warranty issues that arise.
  3. Should I make a repair or install a water heater/thermostat/humidifier myself?  This is completely up to the homeowner.  These are items that can be purchased at home improvement stores.  A couple of things to consider:  Home improvement stores carry base models of these items.  Contractors purchase these items at supply houses and have accessibility to higher end models and different brands.  Warranties vary as well.  Equipment provided by contractors often has a longer warranty period than what can be purchased at home improvement stores.  Also consider your comfort level and time needed to install one of these items.  The time it may take to install that whole house humidifier may be worth hiring an HVAC company.

When it comes to major repairs or improvements in the home, we are always going to recommend hiring a company to help with those.   Homeowners have peace of mind when equipment or even a part is provided and installed by a licensed and insured HVAC company.  Peace of mind comes from knowing that if something goes wrong, the HVAC company will take care of it.  The homeowner will not have to contact the manufacturer, try to process a warranty, wait to have a part shipped, etc.    HVAC is often an investment.  Our advice is to protect that investment by considering all the factors and risks before making a decision to do it yourself.