Central heating and air has one very specific job: Adjust the temperature of your home to a more comfortable level. Unfortunately, HVAC systems do this by moving and regulating airflow throughout a home. If any portion of that system develops a strong smell you’ll find that same smell filling every room in your house very shortly. Just as some smells aren’t as bad as others, some problems that cause smells aren’t as terrible as others. In fact, you can identify some HVAC problems by the smells they cause so you can identify who you need to contact for help. [Read more…]
Most people have heard of tankless water heaters before, but might not know too much about how they work. Homeowners need to be aware of the trade offs that result from choosing this kind of system. Of course, it really depends on your personal use case. Here are some of the pros and cons of tankless water heaters.
The main difference between a tankless water heater and a tanked water heater is the fact that a tanked water heater is constantly heating as much as 80 gallons of water. The system will cycle on and off during the day to maintain the water at the temperature that you’ve set. Even overnight when you’re asleep, it’s going to be working to keep that water hot and ready to use.
A tankless water heater doesn’t have a large storage tank. Instead, it senses when you’ve called for hot water and the burners are then turned on. The downside is that the tankless water heater has a slightly longer delay to get hot water out of the faucet. Since you don’t have hot water sitting in a tank waiting to be used, you’ll have to wait until the system delivers hot water.
Although tankless water heaters have a higher BTU burner than tanked water heaters, they don’t run as often. There are some fuel savings that come along with the reduced running time. These savings aren’t the whole picture, however. There are other important factors to consider that may sway your decision one way or the other.
One of the pros of a tankless water heater is the fact that you’ll never run out of hot water. That being said, if several appliances are all calling for hot water at the same time, the flow of hot water will be reduced. This is necessary so the system can continue to send hot water to every appliance. You may be in a situation where someone is doing laundry, another person is washing dishes, and two bathroom showers are being used at the same time. You’ll end up seeing reduced water flow in that case.
We size tankless water heaters based on the number of people and the number of bathrooms in the home. If there’s one or more garden tubs, that can be a deciding factor as well. In terms of cost savings on your utility bill, it’s interesting how things turn out. You would probably take a faster shower if running out of hot water was on the back of your mind. Because you never have to worry about using all the hot water, the potential savings from increased efficiency might end up cancelling out.
If you’ve ever seen a water heater tank rupture, you know how disastrous it can be. All of a sudden, 50 gallons of water are dumped onto the floor. Water continues to gush as the tank tries to refill itself. It can end up becoming a huge mess. That kind of situation is much less likely with a tankless water heater. If you have a vacation home or weekend home, you won’t have to worry about draining the water heater or turning it on and off. (Remember, the tankless water heater will not run unless there’s a call for hot water.)
Of course, just like any other mechanical appliance, tankless water heaters require regular maintenance. The burners need to be cleaned regularly. Additionally, hard/acidic water could result in buildup of calcium or magnesium in the water pipes in the water heater. In that case, it must be flushed on a regular basis.
Give us a call or contact us online if you’d like to know if a tankless water heater is right for your home.
Whether you’re in a brand new house or enjoying your home’s jubilee year, there are probably a few minor repairs or electrical issues needing attention. Some problems will need a professional, while others can be addressed by anyone with a screwdriver and some attention to detail. Even electrical work has a few home-wiring quick fixes that are safe and simple to follow. Quick fixes like this can not only save you on costly repairs, but they’ll also help you to identify any further problems that do require professional assistance. [Read more…]
If you don’t want to be without your air conditioner during the hot summer months, there are a few steps you can take. Let’s talk about some of the warning signs that something’s wrong, what you can do to keep your system working properly, and what to do to make sure you’re not stuck in the heat if things do go wrong.
If your system is no longer able to keep up with properly cooling your home, that could be a sign that it’s reaching the end of its useful life. It could certainly also be an indication that there’s a problem that needs addressing. (For example, maybe it’s low on refrigerant). You’ll tend to see a reduction in performance and output of the system along with increased operating costs.
An AC freeze-up is when the coil inside the system basically becomes a block of ice. The main reason this usually happens is because the system has become low on refrigerant. It’s a sealed system, but a small amount of refrigerant is lost every time the system is checked. Of course, it would take many years before enough refrigerant is lost from these checks to actually cause the system to freeze up. For this reason, it’s more likely that the problem lies elsewhere. It might be due to a leak that drained refrigerant out of the system.
Maintaining Proper Airflow
The most critical factor that contributes to proper operation and longevity of the system is good airflow. If the airflow in a system is reduced, it has to work harder. The homeowner can take care of this very easily: make sure the filter is changed on a regular basis. You should have spare filters on-hand that are made specifically for your system. Depending on the type of filter, it may need to be replaced as often as once a month or as rarely as once a quarter.
Not only does regular filter changing lead to adequate airflow, but it also prevents dirt from entering the system. Once dirt begins to accumulate, it becomes more difficult for the system to work efficiently. You can think of it like changing the oil in your car. We all know that oil changes need to be done regularly to keep a car’s engine working properly. The exact same thing applies to your air conditioner. It’s easy to underestimate how important this practice is to keeping the system functioning
Lifespan and Efficiency
If your system is approaching the end of its useful life, it might be time to make sure that it’s not going to break down when you need it most. The average lifespan for the cooling system is 10 to 12 years, and the furnace lasts around 12 to 15 years. That’s dramatically shorter than the lifespan of systems that were manufactured many years ago.
For those of us who are a bit older, we remember furnaces that were built like tanks. It took two or three people to bring it into the house. It weighed 800 pounds and the metal was 1/4” thick. That was great for longevity, but it wasn’t so great for fuel efficiency. Now that we’re in the days of mandated fuel efficiency, manufacturers are making the metals thinner. The manufacturing changes have resulted in superior heat transfer at the sacrifice of longevity.
Gas furnace efficiency is rated by percentage. If the rating is 90% efficiency, that means that 90% of the fuel cost is actually going into heating the home. Only 10% is going up the chimney. A heat pump will be rated similarly to an air conditioner, so it will have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio)
If your HVAC system isn’t working properly, we’ll usually be able to come to your home the same day. There are some exceptions, however. During the first excessive heat spell or unusually long hot stretch, most of the HVAC companies have full schedules to the point that they have a waiting list. That’s why it’s very important that you turn on your air conditioner right when it gets warm.
Once you have that first 75 degree day, turn on the system to make sure it can cool the home to temperature in a reasonable time. That’ll mean that it’s very likely it’s going to be able to face the hot season to come. If you wait until the first 95 degree day to turn the unit on, what will happen if it’s not working properly? It’s likely that you’re not going to be the only one who’s having that problem. You’ll be one of the many people on a long waiting list.
Remember, the most important step you can take as a homeowner is to have a system that’s operating efficiently for as long as possible. That means that you have to have it maintained regularly. Your best bet is our TotalCare Plan, where we come out to your home twice a year (spring and fall). We’ll do a complete tuneup to make sure everything is operating in spec as efficiently as possible. If something like a capacitor, contact, or igniter is starting to get out of spec, we’ll change those components out proactively while the repair is still inexpensive. If you’d wait until those parts were to fail, it would probably result in a very expensive situation.
Give us a call or contact us online today if you want to make sure that your HVAC will work reliably throughout the summer months.
Your heating and cooling bill typically comprises about 50 percent of your total energy costs for your home (energy.gov). While changing the air filter is one of the simplest things you can do to keep your air conditioner working, a regular maintenance routine with an air conditioning technician will keep your unit from malfunctioning during the hottest days of the summer.
Quick Tips for Solving Common Air Conditioning Problems
- Check and/or replace your air filters every month. Set calendar and phone reminders and always have backups available. Consider using HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters for better indoor air quality. Changing your air filters improves comfort, lowers energy costs, and extends the life of your unit.
- Have annual system maintenance service performed at least once a year, preferably before the start of each heating and cooling season.
- Keep your outdoor condensing unit (heat pump) free of lawn clippings, twigs, and other debris. You want to make sure that your outdoor A/C unit has proper airflow to work efficiently.
- Maintain a minimum 24-inch clearance around the unit and ensure easy access for your local HVAC technician.
- Bent condensing unit fins can be straightened out with a fin comb. You can use a flathead screwdriver or butter knife, however, we recommend investing in a professional fin comb. For best results, call Boulden Brothers to clean and maintain your outdoor heat pump for maximum efficiency.
Common Air Conditioning Problems and How to Fix Them
Problem #1: Water leaking into the floors, walls, or ceilings
- Your A/C unit should never be leaking water. Address the problem immediately. A/C units don’t just cool the air, they dehumidify it also, but where does all that condensate go? For most homes, the water goes outside through a pipe.
- The problem is almost always due to a clogged condensation drain. Inspect your drain line and make sure condensation can drain freely.
- This can be done by calling in a professional, or you can try to DIY it by hooking up a wet/dry vac to the outside end of the pipe.
- Read this how-to guide from energyvanguard.com to learn how to clear your A/C drain pipe:
Besides renting or purchasing a wet/dry vac, you will also need some plumbing fittings:
After getting an airtight seal and turn on the vacuum, you’ll probably end up with something like this:
Watch this video for a more thorough step-by-step guide for clearing your A/C condensate line:
Problem #2: Air conditioning unit short cycles (cycles on and off)
- Your air conditioning unit is meant to turn on and off in order to maintain a cool and comfortable home, however, sometimes systems go through unusually fast and frequent cycles due to a variety of causes.
- One of the most common causes is an improperly sized HVAC system. Unfortunately, over half of all new HVAC systems are improperly installed, mostly due to installing the wrong-sized unit.
- Another common culprit is iced-over evaporator coils. This will cause your unit to turn off shortly after it has turned on.
- You may be able to fix the problem yourself by replacing your dirty A/C filter. There are several reasons why an evaporator coil might freeze over, one of the biggest ones being a dirty or improperly installed air filter.
- Because it is hard to tell what exactly is causing your A/C evaporator coil to freeze, it’s best to turn your air conditioner unit off (to thaw the evaporator coil) and call in an expert to diagnose the issue.
- These common air conditioning problems require the skill of a professional. Call your local HVAC technician to inspect your HVAC system and do the necessary cleanings and/or repairs.
Problem #3: Air conditioner doesn’t make air cold enough
- Change your air filter.
- Clear and clean area around outdoor condensing unit for proper airflow.
- Consider creating shade for your outdoor heat pump. This will help you unit run more efficiently and lower your utility bills.
- Find and seal air leaks in your ductwork and around your home.
- Replace any aging or deteriorating insulation.
- Learn how to install refrigeration piping insulation here. This DIY project requires several tools and products that you may not have and careful application. For properly installed A/C insulation guaranteed, call Boulden Brothers.
Watch our very own Dan the Answer Man talk about Common Air Conditioning Problems:
More pro tips on combatting common air conditioning problems:
- Air Conditioning FAQ
- 7 Ways to Beat the Heat this Summer
- What You Don’t Know About Air Conditioning Efficiency
- Keep Your Home Cool Without Blasting the A/C
- How to Maintain Your Air Conditioner in the Summer
Your complete satisfaction with our heating and air conditioning services is 100% guaranteed. Our on-time guarantee is the best in the country, and backed by heating and air technicians that are trained, skilled and ready to exceed your expectations and needs.
Give us a call at (302) 368-3848 for any of your Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania home service needs — plumbing, electrical, HVAC, propane, and more!
Call us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.
Replacing your HVAC system is one of the more expensive projects that you’ll need to do for your home. Even though you’ll eventually have to replace your roof, windows, and water heater, your HVAC system needs attention more frequently. It usually lasts around 15 years on average. Once it comes time for you to look at a new HVAC system, Boulden Brothers are here to help. We’ll take the headache out of figuring out the best option for your home, and that all begins with determining the ideal efficiency and size of the system.
The size of the air conditioner is based on tonnage, and the size of the furnace is based on BTU output. There’s also a broad range of efficiency in our area for air conditioning. We use a rating unit called Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER for short. SEER is calculated by dividing the cooling output during a typical cooling season by the total energy input that the system uses during this same period. The higher the unit’s SEER rating, the more efficient it is. We’re federally mandated to have a minimum of 14 SEER, but we can even go as high as 25 SEER.
We try to walk you through the decision so you can choose something that meets your criteria for cost/energy savings. Keep in mind, the investment in the system does increase as the efficiency increases. The question is, is it a good long-term decision to choose a system based solely off of energy savings? Are you going to recoup the investment in a reasonable time period? If you’re looking for energy savings, you don’t want to assume that choosing a more efficient system will save a certain amount of money over the system’s lifespan.
There are also HVAC systems that have more than one stage. With two stages, the system can run at a high/low setting. A variable system that has several stages can ramp up or down depending on the heating/cooling needs of the home. That can certainly have a big impact on comfort. It’s important to note that the longer a system is able to run at a very low speed, the more consistent the temperature will be in the house.
When it comes to determining a properly sized unit for the home, we take all the guesswork out of the equation and make the decision for you. We’ll do a complete engineering analysis on the physical structure of the house. That includes the type of walls, the amount of insulation, ceilings, roof pitch, window dimensions, number of doors, and which cardinal direction the structure is facing. All of these factors will determine how much heat the house will absorb in the summer and how much heat will be lost in the wintertime. We’ll enter this data into a computer, which will accurately illustrate the heat loss or heat gain for the home.
Of course, there’s a bit of wiggle room depending on the type of system being installed. You might want a larger multistage or variable system, depending on the circumstances. However, we certainly never want to install less than what the home would need. The homeowner just isn’t equipped to make this decision, since it’s based upon so many factors. That’s why Boulden Brothers is here to make sure this important process is handled correctly.
If you were to have a heating/cooling contractor that just assumed that the old system was the correct size, it could lead to trouble. If the system isn’t ideally sized for the home, you’re not going to have optimal comfort and/or the lowest possible operating cost. The system would either end up short-cycling because it’s too large or it would work too hard because it’s too small. Neither of those cases are good for your home. Your comfort would suffer or you’d see additional cost and fuel/energy consumption.
Get the job done right when it comes to getting a new HVAC system. Give us a call today or contact us online so we can help you get started.
HVAC systems are one of the largest investments you can make in your home. There are a few simple things you can do to help you maximize the life of your home’s HVAC system and keep it working optimally. First and foremost, it’s extremely important to perform routine preventative maintenance at least once a year. When a qualified professional from Boulden Brothers looks at your system, we’ll address these important areas:
- Make sure the coils on the air conditioner are cleaned
- Make sure the proper refrigerant charge is in place
- Check that all electrical components are operating in the proper range
- Inspect components of the furnace
The last thing that a homeowner would want is for a relatively inexpensive component like a capacitor to fail, causing a much more expensive component to need replacement. A thorough inspection where we make sure that all electrical components are working properly will prevent potentially disastrous issues from occurring.
If your home’s HVAC system uses a traditional gas furnace, we’ll make sure that the heat exchanger doesn’t have any signs of cracking or failure. Any compromise of this part would allow carbon monoxide to enter the home. Even in small quantities, carbon monoxide is extremely hazardous to your health.
If your home uses a heat pump, it’s very important that we make a home visit twice a year. Since it’s basically just an air conditioner that operates in reverse during the wintertime, it’s running twice as long as someone that has a traditional gas furnace. Systems with a heat pump obviously don’t pose a carbon monoxide risk. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have any other appliances in your home that use gas (like a gas stove or gas fireplace log).
Of course, the inspections performed during preventative maintenance should only be done by a qualified professional. Newer refrigerants are contained at an extremely high pressure, so we have to take extensive safety precautions. In the meantime, there are some steps you can take as a homeowner.
The main one is to make sure that weeds aren’t growing on, around, or into the unit itself. Also, make sure there’s no debris in the unit to ensure adequate airflow. It’s very common for leaves to accumulate if you’re in an area with one or more trees. Filters are another often neglected area that can really impact airflow in the system. It’s very important that filters are changed on a regular basis.
The best way to have a negative impact on your system is to leave the same dirty filter installed. Once the filter gets restricted to the point that it’s significantly decreased the airflow, the whole system has to work harder. The furnace tends to overheat because it’s not moving as much air as it should. The air conditioner’s compressor also has to work much harder to overcome the dirty filter. It can potentially damage many of the components and dramatically reduce the lifespan of the system.
Finally, you should make sure that you regularly check the air ducts to make sure air is flowing properly throughout the system. If any of the returns or supplies are obstructed, you’re reducing the intended airflow.
If you’d like to protect your home’s investments with maximum value, we recommend enrolling in our BAM Club TotalCare Plan. We’ll come to your home twice a year to do regular maintenance on your HVAC system. Every other year we’ll do a plumbing safety inspection and flush the water heater. On the third year, we’ll do an Electrical Panel Rejuvenation with Electrical Safety Inspection on your home’s electrical components.
To learn more about the BAM Club and how you can maximize your HVAC system’s lifespan, contact us online or give us a call today.
As the temperature rises during the onset of summer, many people are turning on their air conditioner for the first time in months. This is the time of year when HVAC companies get backed up from service calls. One of the best ways you can beat the rush is to turn on your system right as the temperature begins to warm up outside. If you wait until it’s already the hot time of year, it may take a week or longer before someone can come over and take a look at what’s wrong.
If there is something wrong with your system, there are a few warning signs that can help us to determine if it might be a good time to consider a full replacement. First of all, how reliable is the system? It’s very common for repair calls to become more frequent as it gets older. Repairs will also tend to get more expensive as the larger components start to fail. Overall, we’re going to look at whether or not it’s worth it to continue to invest in repairing the unit. There are times when it makes more sense to make the small repairs instead of doing a full replacement. There are other times when the repair amount is so significant that it doesn’t make sense to invest that much money in an old piece of equipment.
Another big indicator is the efficiency of the system. If you start to see that it’s getting too expensive to heat or cool your home, that’s a good sign that the system is aging and it may be a good time to replace it. There are also times when the air isn’t as cool as it used to be. If you’re noticing a slow decrease in the cooling capacity of the system, that’s usually caused by a refrigerant leak.
Since it’s supposed to be a sealed system, it’s acceptable to make a minor refrigerant adjustment every five to six years. If the refrigerant needs to be adjusted more often, that’s an indication that there’s a significant leak in the system. Before you know it, you’re going to end up with a block of ice in the basement as the system freezes over. Of course, our regular maintenance involves attaching a gauge that may deplete a tiny amount of refrigerant from the system. It definitely shouldn’t be enough to make a difference in the cooling ability.
Once it comes time to replace your air conditioning system, we’ll have to determine the appropriate size of the unit. The normal practice would be to replace the unit with a similar size if the old system worked correctly. There may be some difficulty if the system was oversized, since it would still heat/cool your home effectively. It may not have been as efficient as possible, and it also may not have dehumidified as well as it should have.
For that reason, we actually do a heat loss/gain analysis for every home to determine the exact size that would be ideal. To do this analysis we measure the size of the home, look at the windows, and make some approximations of the insulation levels in the walls/ceiling. We also determine the type of shingles that are on the roof. By using all of this information, we’re able to get a fairly close estimate to determine whether the unit’s size needs to be changed.
Unfortunately, the life expectancy for newer air conditioning systems has decreased significantly. As the government has mandated more efficient equipment, companies have made the metals that transfer heat thinner. The consequence is a more efficient unit with a shorter lifespan. We’re now finding that air conditioning systems have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years (that includes the heat pump). Furnaces have a 10 to 15 year lifespan. This is in stark contrast to older oil or gas furnaces that had a 30 year lifespan. On a positive note, the more efficient units will probably result in a noticeable reduction in your utility bill.
Regardless of whether it’s time for a repair or a replacement, just contact us online or give us a call today. Hopefully you’ll be able to beat the summertime rush.
Learn how to save you money and energy in both the short and long-term by being proactive with air conditioning maintenance. By following these 4 easy steps, you’ll be able to improve a/c performance, increase comfort, and save money on your utility bills… Promise!
How to Improve A/C Performance
1. Change Your Air Conditioner Filter
Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on when to change your air conditioner filter to keep it clean and running smoothly. If gone unchanged, the filter builds up excess dirt and grime, which reduces airflow, slows your unit down, and worsens indoor air quality. The harder it has to work, the shorter its lifespan is. How often you should change your filter depends on the type of filter you have, which is why you should follow the manufacture’s guidelines. However, checking your filter every 30 days a good routine to adopt.
Tips: Write the date of your filter change on the filter itself so you know exactly how long it has been since its last replacement. Set calendar and phone reminders on the first of the month to check your air filter. Pull out the filter and if no light can shine through it, it needs to be replaced.
Watch our Boulden Brothers Answer Man video to find out about the different types of a/c filters and which one is right for you:
2. Use Shade Strategically
Can shading your outdoor heat pump (air conditioner) help you save energy and improve a/c performance? Short answer, yes! Just be careful that you are not putting any unnecessary strain on your unit by restricting airflow. Barriers, bushes, and other plants should be trimmed and kept at least 24 inches away from the unit. If you have a dog, consider blocking your a/c unit with some kind of barrier since dog urine is highly acidic and will eat away your air conditioner.
Tips: When strategically planning out how to shade your a/c unit, the most important thing to remember is to allow your condensing unit enough room to breathe (24 inches all the way around). Don’t do what this homeowner did:
Although the unit has proper airflow now, in just a short time, those bushes will begin to encroach on the unit, causing big problems down the road.
Instead, you can try using a trellis, fence, and plants to both mask and shade your outdoor heat pump/air conditioner.
3. Keep Your Vents and Registers Open and Clear
It’s tempting to hide unattractive vents in your home, but your air conditioner has to work harder when the vents aren’t clear, resulting in higher electricity bills. You may have also heard the idea that if you close off vents in little-used rooms, you can save money on your heating and cooling bill. This is a false belief that is causing many homeowner’s HVAC systems to underperform.
Your HVAC system, including all the ductwork, had been specifically designed for your home. No matter how many vents and registers are open or closed, the same amount of warm or cold air will be pushed through your air ducts. By blocking or closing off vents, you are increasing the amount of pressure in your system, which can cause system breakdowns as well as force air leaks in your ductwork.
Tips: Keep all furniture, curtains, and any other other items away from the vents for better efficiency. Go around your home and make sure that all vents and registers are fully open.
4. Clean Your A/C Condenser
Over time, dirt, debris, twigs, lawn clippings, and other junk gets stuck around your a/c condenser. To improve a/c performance, you should clean your condenser unit twice a year at least. Make sure that before you do anything, turn off power to your unit at the breaker/fuse box. Next, remove any branches and other large objects. Then, hose down the outside of the unit.
Watch this video to learn how to clean your a/c condenser:
Tips: Instead of using a flathead screwdriver to smooth out your a/c condenser fins, we recommend purchasing a quality fin comb. The best way to clean and maintain your a/c condenser is to have it professionally cleaned. Boulden Brothers will use a safe cleaning solution made especially for HVAC equipment and straighten out all of your condenser fins in addition to giving your whole system an overall tune-up.
Professional Air Conditioning Maintenance
Call Boulden Brothers for a professional air conditioning tune-up where we will conduct a thorough cleaning and maintenance of your a/c condenser. Any potential problems will be detected and fixed. Choose Boulden Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning for all of your Wilmington & Dover area HVAC needs for superior customer service.
Watch this video for more A/C Performance Tips:
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