Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Cleaning?

Winter is over and spring is in the air. Most folks start thinking and planning what is needed to do for spring cleaning. We get asked what can we do about our AC and does it need anything to help it get through a long hot and humid summer?

The answer is YES. You can do several simple things that will be a big help and a few things you need a licensed professional to perform for you.

First the simple things you can do:
  1. Be sure to clean or replace your return air filters every month. These filters are located in the ceiling or wall of your hallway usually. Sometimes they are located in the indoor unit.
  2. Clean the leaves, weeds, bushes, and any other debris from around the outdoor AC unit. It doesn't hurt to spray water on the coils to remove any dirt that may have accumulated there.
  3. If you own a wet/dry shop vacuum, find the one or two white (PVC) plastic pipes that are probably located by the outdoor unit and put the hose on the pipes to clear any clogs that may be in the pipes. This will allow the condensate to drain freely and not back up in your attic where it can cause massive water damage if not attended to.
  4. If you have dogs, it is a good idea to put up a wire fence several feet away from the unit to protect it from your dogs chewing on wires or spraying it. Dog urine will ruin the outdoor unit coils very quickly and can cause refrigerant leaks and loss of heat transfer
  5. Be sure your supply air registers are open in all your rooms to allow the cool air to circulate. Closing them can create pressure issues within your home and uneven temperatures.

A licensed professional is needed to check the refrigerant charge and adjust it if needed, inspect the wiring in both the indoor and outdoor units and service disconnect boxes, inspect the various components such as the compressor, contactor, the start and run capacitors, the amp draw of the compressor and fan motors, and your duct work for leakage and static pressure.

Our company can perform all these tasks during our precision tune-up and offer you energy saving tips to save you money.

Be sure to put us on your spring to do list and then enjoy a worry-free summer from costly and inconvenient AC breakdowns.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring Forward 2013-Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery

Every year, it's the same range of emotions — dismay at losing an hour of sleep on the weekend, then joy once you realize you'll be seeing daylight more and more often. Yes, daylight saving time (known more colloquially as daylight savings time) is almost upon us and after this rough winter, it will be both appreciated and anticipated.

Daylight Saving Time begins this weekend, and All Seasons Heating and Cooling urges everyone to change the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors when they spring forward.

The time change will take place at 2 a.m. Sunday, March 10, 2013.

Don't worry if the battery may have "a little juice left" in it.  Just remember that battery is powering a device that may save your life or the life of someone you love.  Batteries are cheap but lives are invaluable.  Use the old batteries in a portable radio or a remote control if you wish, but put a fresh one in your smoke detector in carbon monoxide detectors.

Ninety percent (90%) of fire deaths involving children occur in homes without a workng smoke detector.

About two-thirds of our nation's fire deaths happen in the victim's own home. The home is where we are at the greatest risk and where we must take the most precautions. Most deaths occur from inhaling smoke or poisonous gases, not from the flames.

Since 1987, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and Energizer batteries have joined forces to raise awareness about the issue that non-working smoke alarms are often responsible for home fire deaths and injuries.

Now, thanks to the participation of residents all across America and the dedication of more than 6,000 Fire Departments, home fire deaths continue to be on the decline. Millions of families nationwide are hearing the “Change Your Clock, Change Your Battery” message.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

That Price is Too Good To Be True?

Beware of Too Good To Be True Tune-up Prices

These days we all get in the mail, hear on the radio, and watch on TV commercials these ridiculously low priced ads for heating and cooling tune-ups.  Really, what can you expect for a $39, $49, or even $99 Tune-up?

It simply costs more than that in overhead just to send a well trained technician to your home.

Some companies can do it at a loss, and then make it up once they are in your home by charging you extra for each little thing that will need to be done.

When was the last time you bought anything of quality and value and paid next to nothing for it? It is a very rare occurrence if ever, correct?

Bottom line: A professional and thorough tune-up will cost more than $99.00. Be sure your tune-up is being performed by a N.A.T.E. (North American Technical Excellence) certified technician. The tune-up should include extensive inspection and cleaning of components, electrical and safety tests, refrigerant charge verification as to a correct charge, and a static air pressure test to verify the performance of your ductwork. If any issues are found after the cleaning and inspections; your/the technician will have solutions for you to consider.

Is the company advertising a tune-up and giving you an inspection.  Think about your car.  You pay each year to have an inspection.  At the inspection, the inspector examines your car and tells you of the problems that you have to pass inspection.  The inspector does not change your oil, put air in your tire, clean your car.  He inspects it.  If you get a tune-up on your car it can mean that the throttle body was cleaned and spark plugs changed and many other items.

Remember: There is a difference between an inspection and tune-up. 

Remember ask what that inexpensive tune-up includes and ask questions before hand if you are not sure if they are offering an inspection or tune-up.  To be a victim of the low price tune-up that gives you a less than superior inspection of your system with lots of expensive add on items to get the superior tune-up that you are accustomed to.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When Do I need a New Heating and Cooling System?

When Do I need a New Heating and Cooling System?  All Seasons Heating and Cooling hears this a lot in our business. Most customers are not sure when they should consider investing in a new heating and cooling system. This answer is not as hard at it appears.  Several factors play into making a good decision about when to replace your heating and cooling system.

Several “Rules of Thumb” that are helpful to determine if it is time for a new system:

1.  Your system is older than 10 years.—Why is this important to you?
  • The Manufacturer Warranty has expired which means you pay for the part and the labor now without any help from the contractor or the manufacturer.
  • Systems available today are more efficient than what was available when your current system was purchased.
  • Today’s systems are also geared toward providing more comfort than before.  There are now choices of heating and cooling equipment that can deliver more even temperatures throughout you house,  decrease humidity in cooling season which increases your comfort, modulating furnaces that deliver even temperatures to your space without over heating you, variable speed blower motors that can help eliminate drafts when the system start up while saving you money every month, and communicating thermostats that make our lives easier in that we can control and schedule our systems from our smart phones if we want to. Indoor air quality products that help us breathe cleaner and healthier air.

2.  If you have a repair that needs to be completed on your older system to keep it operating consider the “4K rule”. Take the cost of the repair(s) multiply it by the age of the equipment and if the number comes out to be more than 4000 (4K), you should seriously consider replacing the system versus if the number is under 4000 just making the repairing.

  • A simple example: The repair is $500.00 and the system is 10 years old, 
    • Math:  500.00  X   10  = 5,000 this is more than 4K You should consider replacing the system.

We all understand that in today’s economy, there are other factors to consider. Money, timing, and those unexpected needs take priority.  The last thing any homeowner wants to do is spend $6,000.00 and up on a new heating and cooling system. We all take for granted the comfort in our home and allow it to take a backseat to other needs and wants but when your system is not working it becomes an emergency.

3.  Ask yourself this; what am I paying for my utility bills? Is my electric bill high? If you have gas, how high is that bill? Would I like to lower these bills without having to turn down my thermostat? New high efficiency systems can definitely lower your operating costs.

If you keep on patching your old system and hope and pray to get another year out of it; you are most likely wasting money. Your older system is costing you money just to operate and even more money to maintain. The money you are spending to keep it going could easily be going toward a new system that will save you money.

A heating and cooling system, usually, consists of an outdoor unit, indoor unit, a thermostat, and your duct work. When any of these components fail, you have a problem. If you purchase brand new high efficiency equipment and do not have your duct work inspected, you are taking a serious risk. If your house was uncomfortable before you bought new equipment; it will still be uncomfortable afterwards with your new equipment if you have issues with your duct work.

Your air delivery system (duct work) is a key reason for uncomfortable rooms in your home, not your system. The wrong sized duct means not enough or too much air being delivered to a room. If your house has pretty even temperatures throughout; then your ducts are most likely sized correctly. You still want to have them inspected for tightness, condition, and support.

A new high efficiency system installed with good duct work by a professional company that takes their work seriously will give you years of trouble free equipment, lower operating costs, and enjoyed comfort you never thought was possible.

Yes there are systems out there that are 15 to 30 years old and still operating. This is not the norm and those folks are most likely paying far more than their share in operating costs.

When should you replace your system?

  • when it starts costing you money in repeated or expensive repairs
  • you have excessively high utility bills 
  • you demand more comfort 
  • you can afford to replace your system. 

Plan to replace your system before it starts to let you down.  If you plan to replace your system even though it is still operating and it is over ten years old; you will be ahead of most folks that just wait until it breaks.  Why not plan for its replacement when you can take your time with no pressure and have time to secure the funds needed without the panic and inconvenience?

Sinking money in an older system is not a good solution.  Explore your options by calling All Seasons Heating and Cooling to schedule a free quote for a new heating and cooling system (757-421-9790).

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fun Winter Activities

Have a fashion show!
Get everyone to dress up in the silliest clothes they can find, and then make a show out of it, complete with announcements, twirls, music, and poses. The winner is the family member who manages to stay in character the whole way through.

Build a fort!
Everyone loves a rainy day fort, so get some boxes, cushions, blankets and pillows together in the living room and see how big and comfortable a structure you can build! Bonus tip – the best forts contain entire mattresses and have signs on the door.

Spice up a board game!
Play a family favorite board game, but make it so that the loser has to do something useful, like dishes, or silly, like sing a song in front of everyone. You’ll be amazed how much more energy the kids will put into the game when there’s something, no matter how small, at stake!

Plan a bake-off!
Think up some great cakes, cupcakes, cookies or muffins, and get everyone together to bake them, preferably as messily as possible! Then you can all try each one, and decide whose idea came out the best. Really though, with cake, everyone’s the winner.

Have an indoor picnic!
Get a blanket, get some nice finger food, dress up in shorts, t-shirts and sunglasses and have a summer’s day picnic in the middle of the living room! The best part of this is no wasps, flies, or mosquitoes!

Go sledding if we have snow and you can find a safe hill. If we don’t get any snow, you can use card board boxes year round!

Ways to Improve the Performance of Your Heating and Cooling System

The old saying that “a chain is only as strong as the weakest link” holds true for your heating and cooling system in your home. If one component  gets neglected or lacks routine maintenance, it will affect the way your system works together. In order to keep your heating and cooling system running smoothly, there are several things you can do to improve your system’s efficiency, like regular service check-ups and monthly filter changes.

There are things you as a homeowner can do behind the scenes to ensure a properly suited environment for running your system.

This minor duct problem could add up on your electric bill.
  • Inspect Your Ductwork – Air is “delivered” through your house’s ductwork. It must be properly designed to work efficiently in your home. Check for areas in the ductwork that might allow for leaking such as obvious gaps or crushed  and kinked ducts. A contractor can seal any area that causes your air, cold or hot, to leak out. For maximum efficiency, install ductwork that is better insulated and fulfills the load requirement to get the correct amount of air to where you need it. Proper duct work equals less energy used and more comfort.
  • Upgrade Insulation – If your ductwork or your home is not properly insulated, you will lose a portion of your conditioned air. You should have  approximately 12 inches of insulation in your attic  in our area (Hampton Roads). Code is R-30 which is 9.5 inches. This is a great investment of your time and money as it pays for itself all year in energy savings and comfort. You can do it your self or have a professional company do it for you. New ducts now require a 2 inch duct wrap by code to help keep the air warmer or cooler on its way to your rooms.
  • Seal Your Attic and Crawl Space – Seal the holes the plumbers and electricians left behind. This helps keep bugs and unwanted drafts of nasty air out of your house. If you seal and insulate the attic access entry points, you will save money on your heating and cooling costs as these places are well known for leaking large amounts of air.  Just by weather stripping the opening and gluing insulation foam boards to the wood covers is a big help and easy to do. You can have these areas professionally encapsulated fro the greatest savings, but the costs are high.

For more energy saving tips, Google “Energy Saving Tips for Homeowners” and you will be led to many sites that can help.

Improvements in Home Heater Efficiency

In the past few years there has been a great deal of talk and significant tax credits given for the efficiency improvements in air conditioners.  Home heating technology saw similar improvements that didn't get quite as much attention.

About 20 years ago, the most common home furnaces were approximately 60% efficient.  This means for every 100 ccf of natural gas that was purchased, 60 ccf of gas was actually used to heat the home, while the remaining 40 ccf of gas was wasted out the exhaust pipe. 

In 1992, the minimum efficiency for a furnace was increased to 78%, which brings us to today’s most commonly installed furnace which operates at an efficiency level of about 80+%.

As you can imagine, since 1992 heating technology has continued to improve.  Today, homeowners have the option of investing in furnaces that can reach efficiency of 98%!  While there are a few more installation requirements with these super high efficiency furnaces, they are beginning to catch on and more and more of them are being installed every year.

Furnace Filter: So Easy to Change, So Easy to Forget!

When it comes to maintaining a furnace, one of the biggest mistakes a homeowner can make is neglecting the filter.

It’s easy to forget about the filter, as it is usually out of sight, in a wall or ceiling grille or in the unit itself. A dirty filter can decrease your furnace efficiency and waste energy dollars.  Put a note on your fridge and remember to check the filter every month and change it as needed. (Or sign up to by clicking here to receive a monthly email to remind you to check your filter)

It is easy to change your filter:
  • Pull the filter out and hold it up to the light. If you can’t see through it, or it looks dirty, replace it. Check the filter every month during the heating season.
  • If you need to replace your filter, pay attention to the minimum efficiency reporting value, and if your filter is rated one to four, consider one with a higher rating. (If you have a filter that needs to be cleaned instead of changed, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.)
  • Install the filter correctly. The arrow on the side of the filter should point toward the blower motor. (Toward the duct work if in a grille)
You may also have an air cleaner in your home. A HEPA filter in an air cleaner needs to be changed only every one to two years. If you have an electronic air cleaner, wash the collector plates periodically.

If you are not sure which filter to use, and all filters are not good for your system and can actually cause harm; you can perform a very simple procedure.
Step #1-Take out all return air filters (where the air goes in) in your system. They are located in the ceiling, walls, or in the indoor unit.
Step #2-Go to your thermostat and turn the system to off, BUT, turn the fan selector to “ON” from “AUTO” position. This will run only the inside fan.
Step #3-Go to a couple of supply air registers (where the air comes out). Now feel the strength of the air coming out of the vent. Step away approximately 5 or 6 feet from the register. Now feel the strength of the air flow. Remember this feeling.
Step #4-Install (put) in your new filter/s (you may have more than one in some cases for that system)
Step #5-Go back to the same registers as before. Now feel the air flow strength form the same distance as before (5 or 6 feet). If the air flow strength feels about the same; that/those filters will work fine for you. If the air flow feels significantly less; DO NOT use that filter. It creates to much resistance for your duct system and may cause harm.  You may have to purchase a less efficient filter with less resistance.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Folks!

Every year we are trying to improve something about ourselves or our business. We are on a mission this year to get the word out about HVAC system maintenance. This is nothing new, but seems to get forgotten in the big scheme of life. 

Maintenance is a “No-Brainer!” When you spend thousands of dollars on a heating and cooling system for your home that can last 15 years with routine professional maintenance, why not?

When you see it in writing, it just makes sense.  Most maintenance agreements cost less than $20.00 a month for two precision tune ups along with many added benefits which more than pay for themselves.

All manufacturers and licensed contractors recommend routine maintenance for several great reasons.

  1. You save money every month due to the increased efficiency of your clean system (extremely filter and coil can reduce your efficiency up to 50%)
  2. A clean system is a healthier system (dirty coils and ducts promote unhealthy air)
  3. Your equipment life may increase by being maintained correctly by professionals 
  4. You may have fewer major breakdowns because minor issues will be caught before they can become major ones
  5. Your home may become safer due to the routine inspections designed to catch any safety issues
  6. You will receive expert recommendations on energy saving tips and new products and services that keep you and your system up-to-date.

You will save money, become more comfortable, be safer, breathe cleaner air, and have a greater “peace-of-mind” when you maintain your heating and cooling system.

Call us today and get your peace-of-mind. All Seasons Heating and Cooling Service is your local maintenance experts.