Advice From the Pros

Common Mistakes That People Make That Shorten the Life of Their AC unit

During a great portion of the year here in North Texas, the days are hot, the nights are humid, and the weather can be a little unpredictable to say the least. There’s only one thing that can combat the nasty heat, and that is why we are so grateful for air conditioning! But be careful, as there are many seemingly harmless actions and oversights that can actually end up shortening the life of your air conditioner. And when that dog-day weather is in full swing, a broken and run-down AC is something none of us can afford. After, read up on the air conditioning mistakes you can’t afford to make. As temperatures rise, you’re going to want to keep your air conditioning cool without blowing a gasket (literally!).

Forgetting to change the filter

Forgetting or neglecting to change the filter in your AC unit was the mistake most quoted by HVAC experts. All the gunk and junk that gets built up inside makes your capacitor have to work harder. The harder the AC works, the faster it will burn out. You should be changing your filter every one to three months per the manufacturer’s instructions and sometimes even more often if living with pets or a smoker. Not only will regularly changing the filter help your AC live longer, but it will also make the air that blows out cooler and stronger.

Hiding your HVAC system

We’ve all seen it before (possibly even in our own side- or backyard): an outdoor system hidden behind some trees and other shrubbery so it doesn’t look like such an eyesore. While this may seem like a good landscaping solution, it actually ends up becoming a major HVAC problem. Surrounding the AC system with plants or shrubs could block proper ventilation and clog the system, which results in more wear and tear. Always make sure there’s plenty of open space. There should be at least 24 inches of space around your outdoor unit in every direction. So don’t be overbearing: Give your unit some space so you can come off as cool (literally).

Over-usage

Raise your hand if you’ve ever left your air conditioning on even though you’ve left the house (my hand is raised…and I think yours may be, too). While this may seem smart as you’ll be coming back to a cool house, it can actually end up causing a strain on your unit. Most air conditioners have a programmable thermostat now and homeowners can utilize it to turn on the air conditioner just before they return home. Some newer models even have remote access and can be switched on via WiFi using the mobile phone. There is simply no reason to leave the air conditioner on while you are away now.

Placing appliances near the thermostat

The AC is meant to cool down the naturally occurring hot temperatures of the summer. But what happens when the system picks up on unnatural heat? As you may already be able to guess, the answer involves higher prices and lower productivity rates. Make sure that no lamps, TVs, or other heat-emitting appliances are too close to the thermostat. Your thermostat can register the rise in temperature and respond accordingly, leading to higher bills in the summer and a colder home in the winter.

Overdue servicing and maintenance

We may hate to admit it, but we can’t do everything on our own. This sentiment clearly applies to maintaining our air conditioning. It’s important to get an expert to service your system occasionally to make sure everything is in good working order. There are a few small electronic parts (such as a capacitor) on an AC system that may need to be replaced as they begin to weaken to extend the lifespan of your unit. But if those parts are allowed to completely fail, they can cause more damage to other, more expensive parts of the unit. Having an AC serviced by a licensed technician once every few years can help prevent that from happening. We suggest scheduling an inspection and routine maintenance every six months for the spring and fall seasons. Give us a call here at Gentry! We will be happy to help you out.

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Questions To Ask About Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality

It is that time of year again, when families and friends gather to celebrate year-end traditions and enjoy time at home together. Often, this also means cleaning: washing the curtains, wiping down the walls, cleaning out the garage and so much more, in anticipation of welcoming guests. Have you ever thought of cleaning the air in your home though?

Indoor air quality is essential if you want the healthiest environment for your loved ones.

Here are some must-ask questions about indoor air quality:

What is indoor air quality?

Indoor air quality is the description of how the indoor air affects how people live and work. According to OSHA “it can include temperature, humidity, lack of outside air (poor ventilation), mold from water damage, or exposure to other chemicals.”

What are some signs of an indoor air quality problem?

If your nose detects a musty or stale smell, that smell could be a symptom of a greater problem. If the air feels constantly stuffy that could indicate a lack of proper ventilation.

How does the indoor air quality affect the people and items in your home?

If a family member suffers from allergies or respiratory issues, poor indoor air quality will aggravate their symptoms. Indoor air quality also includes humidity levels which affect the comfort of those in your home. Too low or too high humidity levels can adversely affect wooden furniture or flooring. Overly humid air can also lead to mold issues, which affect both the items in your home and the air quality.

How can I clean up the air inside my home?

There are three major ways to improve the indoor air quality of your home or business. Get your ducts cleaned, install an air filtration system, and control your humidity level.

How does duct cleaning help?

Years’ worth of dust and allergens can be trapped within the duct work and then mixed in with the air blowing out into your living space. Cleaning out the ducts can keep the air clean while traveling through the duct work.

What is an air filtration system?

Air filtration systems get rid of polluted air and replace it with fresh, clean air. A whole house air filtration system is the most effective and efficient.

Trane is rolling out a new product for indoor air quality called Awair Omni that monitors indoor air quality and can be tied into your existing Trane HVAC system.

Awair Omni checks your home air’s temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, chemicals (TVOCs) which can be found everyday materials and cause skin and respiratory irritation, and fine dust (down to PM 2.5) which can trigger health problems like asthma and allergies. It even monitors ambient light levels to reduce eye strain, improving productivity and focus, and potentially reducing the incidence of migraines, and ambient noise to enhance your ability to concentrate.

Omni features real-time sensor readings, a touch-sensitive LED display, and customizable display settings. It is available, along with other great air filtration products, from your local HVAC professionals at Gentry.

Give us a call at Gentry today, and we can help you take control of your indoor air quality for a happier, healthier holiday season!

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DIY Furnace Repairs (And, When to Hire an HVAC Pro Instead)

 


Some simple DIY furnace repairs can get your heater running right and save the cost of a service call. But some repairs always require a pro because there are dangers to avoid when working with this complex, and essential, component of your home’s comfort and safety.

Home heaters are quite reliable, especially when properly maintained, but sometimes they do need repair. Let’s go through some do-it-yourself furnace fixes, such as checking the thermostat, resetting the circuit breaker, and cleaning or replacing air filters.

Then we’ll discuss when it’s time to call a heater professional, and why that call can actually save you some money – and protect you from some potentially catastrophic circumstances from DIY furnace work done incorrectly.
Let’s start with some of the common problems a homeowner might encounter.

The Furnace Won’t Turn On
This is obviously a big one, and if it’s cold-weather season, it doesn’t take long to realize that there’s a problem. The best first step is to start with some easy troubleshooting.

Check the thermostat: Make sure the thermostat is set to “heat” and not to “cool” and that the temperature setting is several degrees warmer than the room temperature. If your thermostat is battery-operated, make sure that the batteries aren’t dying and therefore causing a malfunction. Most thermostats have a cover that pulls off without using any tools, allowing you to brush or blow out accumulated dust that can interfere with the thermostat’s operation.

Reset the circuit breaker: If the heater won’t turn on, it’s possible that a circuit breaker or fuse was tripped or blown. Locate the breaker panel in your home and find the circuit that controls the furnace. Even if it is fueled by natural gas, as most are, some of the furnace’s components, including the ignitor and blower fan, require electricity. Flip the breaker from the “on” position to the “off” position and then back to “on” and keep it there. This resets the breaker and could solve your problem. In some cases, you might need to replace a fuse.

The Furnace is not Producing Enough Heat
If the heater is turning on, but it’s not producing enough heat to match the temperature setting, there could be several reasons. And once again, some easy DIY furnace troubleshooting might solve the problem.

Replace the Furnace Filter
Dirty furnace filters are a common cause of heater problems because dust and dirt restrict airflow. That debris can cause soot buildup in the heat exchanger and reduce efficiency. If the furnace air filter gets clogged with dust and dirt, the heat exchanger will overheat and shut off before your home warms up to the desired temperature. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that regularly cleaning or changing the filters improves indoor air quality.

When to Replace Your Furnace Air Filter: The general rule is that filters should be replaced every 90 days, but the amount of use is different in each home and filters vary in thickness and quality, so some can last more than 90 days while others lose their effectiveness before three months. Check your furnace filter, which is usually easily accessible, and it give it the good old-fashioned eye test. Hold it up to a light to see how much dust and dirt is on it and compare it to an unused one. If it’s covered in dust and dirt, replace it. Dirty filters make a heater work harder and lead to higher energy costs.

Check the Air Vents in Each Room
If a room is staying chilly while others warm up, check the supply air vent (that’s the vent that supplies the conditioned air into the room). It’s possible that something could be blocking the openings and limiting the air flow. It’s also important to remember that all the vents in the home should remain open, even in a room that you are not using, because closing a vent can increase pressure in the duct system and cause more air leakage.

The Furnace is Noisy as it Operates
Modern heaters do not – or should not – make much noise as they operate. In a quiet home, you might notice some sound when it’s starting up, but if it’s a booming sound, it could mean there is a problem with delayed ignition, which can damage the heat exchanger. An HVAC technician can assess the problem and fix it.

As the furnace continues its heating, there should be very little sound. Noises such as whistling, rattling, banging and grinding can be signs of a serious problem that could lead to a system breakdown. These are beyond the scope of safe DIY furnace repair and require a licensed professional.

The Dangers of DIY Furnace Repairs
While homeowners with a do-it-yourself spirit might feel emboldened, there can be danger involved. Unlike when some DIY projects don’t work out, failed DIY furnace repairs can damage expensive equipment and put your family’s safety at risk.
Whether you have a gas or an electric heater, it has a heating element at its core. And in order to warm your entire house, it needs to create some very high temperatures. Crossed wires in an electric heater can cause the system to overheat. An electrical short in a gas furnace adds the risk of sparking an explosion, should any gas leaks develop. If you have a gas furnace and smell gas in your home, go outside immediately and contact the gas company.

The risk of fire or explosion with any kind of DIY furnace repair should be enough to convince anyone to consult an HVAC professional if they are not absolutely certain about what they are doing.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas, making it impossible to detect without a carbon monoxide detector. It’s also deadly, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that each year unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning results in more than 400 Americans dying and more than 20,000 needing a trip to an emergency room.

Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning fuel to create heat, and cracks in a heat exchanger – even very small ones – can leak carbon monoxide into a home. A well-meaning but untrained person working on a heater might not notice any problems. An HVAC professional can spot them and has the furnace parts to make the repairs.

Furnaces can have a lifespan of 20 years, and they often include significant manufacturer warranties as well as warranties provided by the installer. Those warranties can be voided by DIY repairs because most HVAC manufacturers require all repairs to be performed by a licensed professional.

If you have any concerns about your furnace’s operation or have any doubts about what the problem may be or how to handle it, contact a professional. Certified HVAC technicians have diagnostic tools of which most homeowners are completely unaware.
In addition to assessing problems, a licensed HVAC technician can provide scheduled maintenance and perform furnace service such as checking the combustion chamber for cracks, testing for carbon monoxide, removing dirt and corrosion from the heater, lubricating, and adjusting the blower and sealing connections between the heater and ducts.

An HVAC technician also can provide an expert eye for any potential issues with a heater, and in many cases, less expensive, “wear and tear” issues can be addressed before they lead to a serious, more expensive system breakdown. If furnace replacement is necessary, the professional can offer guidance on furnace cost and provide expert furnace installation.

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