KEEPING YOUR AIR CONDITIONER RUNNING PROPERLY

Written by United on . Posted in HVAC, Residential HVAC

WHAT KEEPS YOUR HVAC SYSTEM IN RUNNING ORDER

 When it comes to being comfortable in your own home —toasty warm or cool as a cucumber— you’re at the mercy of your HVAC system. You can do more to keep your HVAC system running smoothly than you think.

 One of the most important things just so happens to be the easiest one for customers to do. Change your air filter. Change it more often than you think is really necessary, especially if you have pets or someone in your family suffers from health problems or allergies. New air filters aren’t expensive and keeping them clean goes a long way toward keeping your HVAC system in running order.

 Your humidifier, air conditioner coil and 90% or higher efficiency furnaces all use the same drain hose to drain water away from the HVAC unit. Drain hoses must be kept clear or water can’t go down the floor drain. Without anywhere to drain, water runs down the furnace and can ruin the control board or blower motor and do carpet or structural damage.

 How to drain hoses become blocked? Dirty air filters. Dirty air filters have lots of extra dust to release and it makes it way through the filter, eventually ending up rinsing down the drain hose. All kinds of things can end up in your drain hose like algae, hard water deposits, little insects, spiders, bird feathers, squirrels’ acorn crumbs and wasp nests to name a few. Warranties don’t cover damage caused by lack of maintenance. Changing your air filters regularly helps keeps drain hoses clear too.

 Going to the extreme temperature-wise will do more harm than good. Keeping your home too cool in summer or too warm in winter could damage your HVAC system and void some manufacturers’ warranties. During summer don’t keep your air conditioner set below 65 degrees. Water can turn to ice on the coil rather than drain down the tube. When it does thaw, it can run down the interior and cause damage to other components.

 In winter, keep your furnace set to at least 62. When your furnace starts up, exhaust gas is moist. Under normal conditions the gas goes through the vent pipe. Anything 58 or below keeps the gas too cold and it’ll stay in the furnace instead of venting. That trapped moisture causes rust and creates the potential for a host of other HVAC problems.

 Any HVAC maintenance other than changing your air filter needs to be handled by a professional technician. HVAC work is a specialized field that takes training, experience and special instruments.

BUYING THE RIGHT HVAC SYSTEM

Written by United on . Posted in HVAC, Residential HVAC

KEY TIPS FOR ENSURING YOU BUY THE RIGHT HVAC SYSTEM

Trusted HVAC contractors worth their salt will tell that the installation of an HVAC system is more important than the brand you choose. On the AC side, most HVAC systems use the same compressor from one manufacturer. The compressor is the most critical part of an HVAC system. There was once a bigger differentiation between brands, but that’s not so much the case anymore.

 HVAC contractors can help you select the right HVAC system for your home. To do so, they’ll carefully review your existing duct work, drain pipes, future plans, budget and your home’s layout. It’s a lot to consider, but it’s key to installing an HVAC system that fits your needs.

 Let’s start with the duct work. HVAC contractors must verify the ducts are adequate to handle a new HVAC system. In some homes, the ducts were designed to handle the last generation of HVAC systems. But today’s systems have different requirements in order to perform at their peak.

 Next comes inspecting your drain pipes. HVAC contractors are looking for any blockages to ensure your new system has adequate drainage so that water doesn’t back up into the HVAC system and cause damage.

 Selecting the right HVAC system requires choosing a level of efficiency. Higher efficiency HVAC systems have a higher initial cost than lower efficiency versions, with the savings coming from lower utilities going forth. Consider how long you’ll live in your home. If you’re staying long enough to recoup any extra cost via energy savings, it’s worth it to invest in a higher efficiency. If not, spend less on the lower efficiency system. And if you’re planning to stay in your home for a long time, consider a geothermal system for the ultimate in energy cost savings.

 With HVAC system efficiency decided, choosing a size is the next step. The size of the HVAC system has to match the size of your home. Too small and the HVAC system can’t take manage the load of heating or cooling on extremely hot and cold days. Too large, and the system cools the home too quickly, shuts off, not running long enough to remove the humidity.

 Look for sales and rebates on the HVAC system that meets your needs based on the above. United Heating, Cooling & Plumbing has sales throughout the year, as well as manufacturers’ and the occasional rebate or tax break from the government on certain efficiencies.

 Once your HVAC system is installed, consider investing in a 10-year warranty. It’s an affordable insurance policy on a new generation of HVAC systems. Today’s systems have more working parts and components. Maintaining higher efficiency equipment requires a higher level of knowledge than older systems so choose an HVAC contractor with experience with this new technology.

WHAT KEEPS YOUR HVAC SYSTEM IN RUNNING ORDER

Written by United on . Posted in HVAC, Residential HVAC

When it comes to being comfortable in your own home —toasty warm or cool as a cucumber— you’re at the mercy of your HVAC system. You can do more to keep your HVAC system running smoothly than you think.

 One of the most important things just so happens to be the easiest one for customers to do. Change your air filter. Change it more often than you think is really necessary, especially if you have pets or someone in your family suffers from health problems or allergies. New air filters aren’t expensive and keeping them clean goes a long way toward keeping your HVAC system in running order.

 Your humidifier, air conditioner coil and 90% or higher efficiency furnaces all use the same drain hose to drain water away from the HVAC unit. Drain hoses must be kept clear or water can’t go down the floor drain. Without anywhere to drain, water runs down the furnace and can ruin the control board or blower motor and do carpet or structural damage.

Dirty air filters have lots of extra dust to release and it makes it way through the filter, eventually ending up rinsing down the drain hose. All kinds of things can end up in your drain hose like algae, hard water deposits, little insects, spiders, bird feathers, squirrels’ acorn crumbs and wasp nests to name a few. Warranties don’t cover damage caused by lack of maintenance. Changing your air filters regularly helps keeps drain hoses clear too.

 Going to the extreme temperature-wise will do more harm than good. Keeping your home too cool in summer or too warm in winter could damage your HVAC system and void some manufacturers’ warranties. During summer don’t keep your air conditioner set below 65 degrees. Water can turn to ice on the coil rather than drain down the tube. When it does thaw, it can run down the interior and cause damage to other components.

 In winter, keep your furnace set to at least 62. When your furnace starts up, exhaust gas is moist. Under normal conditions the gas goes through the vent pipe. Anything 58 or below keeps the gas too cold and it’ll stay in the furnace instead of venting. That trapped moisture causes rust and creates the potential for a host of other HVAC problems.

 Any HVAC maintenance other than changing your air filter needs to be handled by a professional technician. HVAC work is a specialized field that takes training, experience and special instruments. United professionals are available in Overland Park, Olathe, Lenexa, Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs and all over the Kansas City area!

Changing Your Furnace Air Filter

Written by United on . Posted in HVAC, Residential HVAC

ITS EASY TO CHANGE YOUR FURNACE FILTERS THAN YOU  THINK!

If our residential heating technicians have seen it once, they’ve seen it a thousand times—dirty furnace filters or super thick filters not only increase furnace wear and tear, but also fail to keep dust and allergens from circulating through your home. Changing filters every three months is the rule. However in winter, filters may need changing more often since the furnace is running more for longer periods of time.

One-inch filters are the norm. But many people are using the thicker, pleated filters like the 3M ultra allergen version. Pleated filters offer the most health benefits. They also have limitations. They require changing more often because they get dirty quicker, causing your furnace to work harder to push air through. BUT…let us repeat that they have the most health benefits!

Another option for trapping dust and allergens is investing in a four-inch filter. Lennox offers a hospital grade four-inch filter that catches bacteria and viruses. They can be pricey, but worth the cost if you have certain health issues that are worsened by dust and allergens. Installing a four-inch filter requires our residential heating technicians to reconfigure your filter slot to accommodate the larger size and add a door to enclose the filter. It’s a pretty quick and simple process.

Want to learn more about four-inch furnace filters? Just contact us to schedule a visit.

Guide to Troubleshooting your Furnace Problem

Written by United on . Posted in HVAC, Residential HVAC

Next time your furnace acts up, there are a few easy things you can check beforehand to save you from a service call. Furnace repair isn’t always this simple, but you’ll breathe a sigh of relief if it’s something minor you can handle yourself. Anything beyond these furnace repair troubleshooting tips should be performed by a professional HVAC technician, not only for your safety, but also to avoid further damaging your furnace.

Check your furnace thermostat.

  • Are there any unusual messages on your display? Refer to your owner’s manual for addressing the message displayed. If you’ve lost your owner’s manual you can probably download one for free online. Just do an online search for your thermostat manufacturer and owner’s manual.
  • Is the room temperature above what the thermostat is set to? If so, the furnace won’t kick on until the room temp falls below that temperature.
  • Does it run on battery power? If so, change the batteries. Thermostat batteries should be changed once a year. Make sure there is power at the furnace. If air is blowing out of your registers then the furnace has power. If not, there are other ways to check for power or restore power.
  • Check the furnace switch. Most furnaces have power switches that are red or look like light switches on the side. Sometimes these switches are irresistible to kids and they flip them off. If your switch is off, it’s an easy fix. Simply turn it back on.
  • The breaker might be tripped. This can happen if the power goes out for a second, especially if the unit was just kicking on. Your furnace is has a dedicated circuit so you have to check the box because nothing else in your home will be without power.
  • Another way to check for power is to look through the sight glass for anything lit on the control panel. The sight glass is a small round hole you can peek through on your furnace. If you see a light, the furnace has power.
  • Check that your furnace filter is clean. Sometimes air filters get so dirty that air cannot flow through them and shuts down the furnace. If the filter is filthy, change it.
  • Look for signs of water on your floor. If you find wetness, call your furnace repair technician because it could mean any number of things like a blocked drain hose, etc.
  • Nothing working and you need heat immediately? Try turning the power switch on the side of the furnace (the light switch looking thing) off and then on again. If there isn’t a furnace switch, you can turn the circuit off then on at the breaker box. The furnace will try to restart itself three to five times. This is only a temporary fix. If you can hold out for your furnace repair technician, it’s best not to do this because it clears the fault or error code from the control board. The fault code helps your HVAC tech diagnose the issue. However, if turning the furnace power off then on doesn’t work, the error code will still be there.

Should these furnace repair troubleshooting tips fail, contact United Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. We’ll dispatched a technician right away.

Furnace Replacement or Repair

Written by United on . Posted in HVAC, Residential HVAC

SHOULD I REPLACE OR REPAIR MY FURNACE

Curious if you should replace your furnace or just repair your furnace? It’s a tough call for many homeowners facing a long winter in Kansas City. On one hand, you don’t want to replace furnaces when they could have many years of life left in them, but on the other hand you don’t want to risk a broken furnace in the middle of a harsh winter. So how do you know?

One big consideration is the age of the unit. Furnaces only have a number of on and off cycles in them. When the parts get some age to them, they tend to go out quicker and require far more maintenance to keep them running. Maintenance plans are designed to extend the life of furnaces, catching minor problems and minimizing wear and tear, but older furnaces may not be worth repairing. Older parts are also harder to come by, and harder to find equates to higher costs. After so many years, many vendors and dealers phase out certain parts or carry the bare minimum of inventory. Replacing a furnace is sometimes a necessity if your particular model is no longer manufactured, especially since furnace parts are brand specific. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to install a cheaper part from a competing or generic brand.

Another key consideration is efficiency. Older furnaces require a lot more gas to deliver the same amount of heat. The amount of gas needed multiplies if the furnace isn’t properly maintained. Recently, laws went into effect that require 80% efficiency ratings for all new furnaces. Some legislators want 90% efficiency ratings, so many are predicting that the higher efficiency will eventually replace 80% as the minimum. This new law has homeowners rethinking how much they’re willing to spend on utility costs. Replace your furnace or pay high utility bills? If you plan on living in your home for several years, you can recoup the cost of replacing a furnace via lower utility costs.

Most older furnaces have no warranty or an expired warranty as well. That puts homeowners on the hook for any repair costs when a breakdown occurs. Since older models can become unreliable (and usually on the coldest day of the year), you’ll need to plan for a service call. Not everyone has the luxury to wait at home or the flexibility to miss work for a service call. Plus, if the parts aren’t available or hard to find, you’ll be stuck in the cold or running space heaters until you can replace your furnace or get emergency repairs completed.

Some consideration should be given to safety also. Homes today are so well insulated that they’re virtually airtight. Older furnaces pull air from inside your home to heat and recirculate throughout. If your furnace is located in the basement (especially in an unfinished basement), it could circulate harmful fumes from any stored liquids or solvents. Furnaces like oxygen and newer, efficient furnaces don’t use your inside air. They pull it in from the outside, which is safer for tightly insulated homes. A pipe draws in outside air and then exhausts it back outside. This fact alone might make you consider a new furnace installation.

Have questions about just how much life your furnace has left? Need a new, efficient furnace installed before winter sets in? Give us a call anytime or call us at 816-761-5262 to schedule an appointment today. We’d be happy to field your questions and have a trained technician give you an in-home estimate for the service that’s right for you!

SMART TIPS FROM HVAC MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR EXPERTS TO KEEP YOUR ENERGY COSTS DOWN DURING KANSAS CITY’S COLD WINTER MONTHS

Written by United on . Posted in Residential HVAC

 With winter comes a lot of extra bills—holiday shopping, property taxes and more. The last thing we need is skyrocketing utility bills. As HVAC repair and service technicians living in Kansas City, we’ve picked up some pretty smart tips we use ourselves to keep energy costs down during winter. Here are a few of our best…

For winter humidity levels, remember more is less. The more humidity you have in your home, the warmer it feels. The warmer it feels, the less likely you are to turn up the thermostat. Higher humidity allows your body to register a warmer temperature at lower degrees. Think of summer. Even it’s 85 degrees, high humidity makes it feel like it’s 90 or more degrees. If you don’t have a whole house or portable (at the least) humidifier, consider investing in one. You’ll feel more comfortable, stay healthier and reduce your energy costs.

Turning your thermostat down one or two degrees is an oldie but goodie. It will save you more than a couple of bucks over the months. Better yet, you’ll never be able to tell a difference with that small of a change.

If you have a heat pump, the rules of lowering the thermostat at night and raising it during the day don’t apply to you. Keep your heat pump thermostat set at a consistent temperature so that energy usage remains steady. Otherwise, the heat pump works too hard to accommodate the temperature changes, increasing your utility bill.

Insulate! Seal! Caulk! All those little cracks allowing cold air in add up to the equivalent of a big gaping whole in the side of your house. If you’re not the do-it-yourself type, call us for a reference. As an HVAC heating and air conditioning company, we can recommend the best and most affordable winterizing companies.

Use your oven’s heat for more than a roast. After you’re done cooking in the oven, leave the door open so the heat can escape and help warm your home. That extra heat is already there. No sense in letting it go to waste. But do NOT use an oven or cook top as the main source of heat. This only applies to after you’ve cooked something and the oven is hot anyway.

Change the airflow in your dampers each season. Hot air rises. Cold air sinks. In the winter, adjust your dampers to reduce air to the upstairs and increase it downstairs. Warm air migrates up anyway. Reverse it in the summer so more cold air is sent to the upper floor. Cold air will sink to the lower level.

Ceiling fans aren’t just for summer. There is a switch that reverses the fan blade direction. In the winter, set it so that blades rotate counter clockwise. That will push the air up along the walls, circulating heat. In summer, blades should turn clockwise to blow air down. If you’re not sure which is which, simply stand under it. If you feel air blowing on you, then you know the blades should be turning the other way.

If your furnace has some age on it, maybe it’s time for a high-efficiency model. That’s the ultimate energy saver. Call United Heating, Cooling and Plumbing to see how much a new furnace could save you in the long run.

Evaluating Your Furnace Efficiency

Written by United on . Posted in Residential HVAC

SHOULD I CONSIDER BUYING A NEW FURNACE?

Unless your furnace goes completely ka-put, it can be difficult to determine just the right time to consider buying a new furnace. On one hand, you don’t want to spend money buying a new furnace when your existing furnace could last a few more years. However, you also don’t want to sink money into an old furnace that might leave you stranded in the frigid throws of a harsh Kansas City winter.

It’s a tough call for sure, which is why it’s so important to have a trusted Kansas City heating & cooling company you can rely on for honest, objective advice. Over the years, our experienced furnace technicians have helped homeowners make the right call when it comes time to decide between buying a new furnace or repairing an old one.

With winter coming, buying a new furnace is on the minds of many KC Metro homeowners. And you might be faced with making a decision sooner than later if you run across any of the following issues.

It’s definitely time to buy a new furnace if your technician finds something in the vent or heat exchanger that makes the furnace unsafe or completely unreliable. Often times, these problems can cause you to call for emergency furnace repair – and that’s both expensive and stressful.  That’s why we suggest routine furnace maintenance or service appointments.  Finding out ahead of time saves you money, headaches and peace of mind.

It could also be time to buy a new furnace if the cost of repairs is outweighing the cost of buying a new furnace. If your furnace is no longer under warranty, then you’re on the hook for the entire bill. Some furnace components are expensive to repair or replace, especially if they’re outdated or hard to find, which is why warranties are so important. Add up the money you’re spending on repairs, either at one time or spanning the next several winters. If the potential repairs outweigh the cost of replacement, it’s time to buy a new furnace.  Even if it’s close to even, the energy savings and overall efficiency might make a new furnace the right decision.

There have been significant advances in furnace efficiency in the past 5 or 6 years. Buying a new furnace to replace one that’s more than 20 years old can make a huge difference on your utility bills. The savings are especially noticeable during really cold or extended winters.

By the way, fall and winter aren’t the only seasons to buy a new furnace. Let’s say you’re replacing your air conditioner. If furnace has some age on it, consider replacing both units at the same time. It’ll give you a price break and an entirely new system that gives you peace of mind. Plus, combining an older combination (new AC, old furnace) can bring down efficiency. New systems work best together. Variable speed blowers can turn at slow rates to move air, but older furnaces aren’t designed to handle variable speed blowers.

In short, there’s a lot to consider before sinking a considerable amount of cash into your HVAC system.  Contact the professionals at United Heating, Cooling & Plumbing for a full maintenance checkup.  You just might be saving yourself (and your wallet) from hard times ahead!

DOING YOUR OWN FURNACE AND A/C MAINTENANCE CAN COST YOU

Written by United on . Posted in Residential HVAC

DO IT YOURSELF OR HAVE IT DONE?

There are those of us who know how to perform HVAC preventive maintenance. And then there is everyone else – those who understand the importance of maintaining furnaces and air conditioners and those whose involvement ends at the thermostat.

The most important element of any furnace and air conditioner maintenance plan is changing your air filter on a regular basis. Every three months at a minimum. Yes, it’s true. HVAC maintenance can be as simple as a filter change most of the time. Filters are cheap, especially compared to emergency service calls. Often, the source of serious furnace and AC problems can be traced back to a dirty filter.

A dirty filter restricts the flow of air through your air system. Without proper airflow, your furnace and air conditioner work harder, components get overheated and sensitive parts fail. Isn’t it ironic that the cheapest and easiest piece of your HVAC system to replace has the ability to bring the whole unit to a crashing halt? Seriously, simply keeping your filter clean can spare a lot of frustration and expense.

If that isn’t enough to convince you to change your filters, here’s another good reason: a dirty filter could void your warranty coverage if the failure is linked to restricted airflow. Remember that some components of your furnace and AC are rather expensive to replace. You don’t want to foot that bill when a new filter runs a couple of dollars.

Beyond changing your air filter, it’s best to leave the rest of preventive maintenance to your HVAC company. Unless you’re a qualified HVAC technician, it’s impossible to know how to do the required maintenance.

Case in point: An HVAC technician carries a safety device that determines whether or not the furnace burner is lit. These tools take less than a second to determine ignition. Without these devices, homeowners could be pumping raw gas throughout the room or house before they realize it. Serious HVAC preventive maintenance can be dangerous. After all, HVAC involves intricate systems and attempting preventative maintenance yourself could damage components otherwise covered by warranty depending on your coverage.

Preventative maintenance is the best way to maintain your AC and furnace.  Leave it to the heating and cooling experts at United Heating, Cooling & Plumbing.

Winter Brings Air Quality Challenges

Written by United on . Posted in HVAC, Residential HVAC, Uncategorized

We don’t know about you, but wintertime makes us want to hibernate like bears, especially on these cold Kansas City days. The Farmer’s Almanac for 2015 indicates we’re in for a lot of indoor days ahead in January and February.

And when you’re spending a lot of time indoors staying toasty it could mean you’re breathing air that may be low quality. Living in a newer home exacerbates the problem because homes today are built so airtight. That’s good for energy efficiency, but not so good for your health. Living in an older home is actually a good thing when it comes to better indoor air quality. Those drafty windows and doors are supplying you with fresh air; it’s cold air, but it’s definitely not as polluted.

Sore, itchy eyes, a burning sensation in the nose and throat, headaches and even fatigue can be attributed to indoor air pollutants. For some, air pollutants create or worsen allergies, respiratory illnesses, heart disease, cancer and other serious long-term conditions. In a worse case scenario, carbon monoxide (an air pollutant) can cause death. View the video below for a better understanding:

Fortunately, there are several easy ways to improve your indoor air quality. The easiest of which is to open a window. Sounds crazy in the middle of winter, right? We’d be rich if we had a dollar every time we told our kids to hurry up and shut the door. Come to find out, they’re not just letting cold air in; they’re improving our health. We’re not talking sleep with your windows open. We’re talking just letting some fresh (albeit cold) air in on occasion. Opening a window makes more sense in warmer weather given you keep safety and security in mind. You don’t want a thief taking advantage of your need to improve your indoor air quality.

You know that dust piling up on your furniture? Well here’s a good reason to stop ignoring it. Dust is an indoor air pollutant. The dust you see on your furniture gets there because it’s heavy enough to fall out of the air. An air filter will never eliminate these particles, which is how it came into your view in the first place. Dust is heavy enough to fall on floors. That’s why you see in on furniture. The filter will never pick up these heavy “pollutants.” To get dusting or better yet, help avoid dust in first place by sealing cracks, especially around can lights in your ceiling.

If you’d do just about anything to get out of dusting, then consider installing a 4”-5” air filter. These enormously wide filters do an impressive job of catching dust. However, they require modifying your air filter space since they’re meant to house a 1” filter. We know for a fact that they work well because homes with these filters installed have clean blower motors, not dusty ones. Another bonus, cleaner motors work more efficiently.

Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) and Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV) make sense for some homeowners and businesses. What they do? They reduce indoor pollutants like cleaning chemicals, gas emitted from carpets, interior paint and spray foam sealant fumes, plus a lot of other sources.

 

They bring in fresh outside air and have a built in filter or works through a regular furnace. They’re like having the windows open, but air goes through a filter so you don’t have to worry about dust and pollen. They are required on tightly sealed and insulated homes, which would otherwise never benefit from fresh air without opening the windows. What they don’t do? Recover energy, heat spaces or save energy while heating air.

 

Poor indoor air quality can put people at risk for health problems. Indoor air pollutants range from chemicals and gases to living organisms such as mold and pests (yeah, gross). Luckily, you can improve your indoor air quality several ways from something as easy as opening a window to installing state-of-the-art HRV or ERV systems.

 

Still have questions?  Contact the professionals at United Heating, Cooling & Plumbing to understand how we can help you breathe a littler easier.  We’re more than just plumbers and HVAC technicians, think of us as healthcare professionals for your home!