Is It Time To Replace Your Air Conditioning Unit?

Is It Time To Replace Your Air Conditioning Unit?

If your AC isn’t working well, especially if it’s functioning worse than it did when you bought it, then there is a good chance that you’re wondering if it’s time for repairs. Well, there’s a good chance you may be asking yourself the wrong question. Depending on your air conditioning unit’s age and history, it may be time to replace it with a completely new system. Let’s talk about the top 5 most important things to consider when deciding whether to replace your air conditioning unit.

Your Home Feels Like A Sauna

If the sweltering heat of the sun is causing you to work up a sweat, then your air conditioning unit is likely on its last leg. A new unit should be able to keep your temperature steady regardless of how strongly the sun is shining. As a bonus, an air conditioning unit that works efficiently also won’t work as hard to cool your home, thus saving you money in the long run.

Electricity Bills Seem To Explode

When utility bills seem to rise whenever you turn on your AC, it is a good sign that it is time to replace it. Units that malfunction not only waste electricity, they often fail to cool your home properly. At this rate new unit should work at a fraction of the cost of your current, old model.

Your AC Is 10 Years Old Or Older

If your AC looks like it would be right at home in a museum, you’re likely better off finding a replacement. An air conditioning unit’s lifespan can be as long as 15 years but is often much shorter than that. It is more likely than not that by your unit’s tenth year of service, it will start needing constant, costly repairs. At that point, you are better off finding yourself a new Energy Star-rated unit that will last another 10+ years.

The Unit Is Facing Extensive Repairs

Whether your unit was damaged or has worn down from use, you may find that it will need complex repairs. Even once the unit has been fixed, it will likely either need constant future repairs or corrections. Either way, it is unlikely that it will run as well as it did before. To save yourself the hassle and cost of future repairs, buying a new air conditioning unit may save you time and money in the long run.

Costly Repairs Are Coming Your Way

When all is said and done, a new air conditioning unit can be the best choice for your finances. Rather than repair a failing unit over and over again as it fails repeatedly, you can purchase a new, efficient system. Doing so will help you enjoy a fresh current of cool air throughout your house.

Still Not Sure About What To Do With Your Air Conditioning Unit?

To receive an expert’s opinion on the state of your air conditioning unit, contact the knowledgeable team at Derek Sawyer’s Heating and Air conditioning. We will answer any of the questions you may have and can even help schedule an appointment so that one of our trained technicians can take a look at your unit.

Pregnancy and Your HVAC System’s Maintenance

Can your home’s HVAC system impact your pregnancy? If you’re expecting, take a look at what you need to know about residential home heating, cooling, and air ventilation.

HVAC Maintenance Increases Home Safety

You want to create a safe, nurturing environment for your baby — even before they’re born. This means you need to decrease indoor home risks. Poor indoor air quality, natural gas leaks, and carbon monoxide (CO) leaks are HVAC-related issues that can affect pregnant women and their babies.

Anything from dust to chemicals and leftover cigarette smoke can pollute your home’s indoor air. As you inhale the toxins, they may pass through your system to your baby. This can cause health issues that range from minor respiratory or eye irritations to major concerns.

Along with indoor air pollutants, you also need to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and natural gas exposure now and after your baby arrives. CO is an odorless, colorless gas that is toxic to you and your unborn baby. Unlike CO, natural gas (used in some types of heating appliances) has a strong smell. This combustible potential fire hazard is scented with a rotten egg or sulfur-like odor.

You may not have had a furnace or full system checkup in years, or you may just want to increase home safety during your pregnancy or in preparation for your baby’s arrival. In any case, a professional maintenance service will:

  • Include CO leak inspections. The March of Dimes organization recommends putting carbon monoxide (CO) alarms outside of all bedrooms. Along with alarms, a professional HVAC checkup can reduce this leak risk.
  • Include natural gas detection. If you have a natural gas leak, it’s likely you already know. The rotten egg smell is pungent and requires immediate attention. But if you don’t detect this smell, the HVAC technician can still inspect your system for a leak during routine maintenance services.
  • Provide repair recommendations. If your furnace has a natural gas or carbon monoxide leak, the HVAC technician will do more than just detect the problem. They can repair the wear or damage, giving you back a safe home heating system.
  • Clear the air. A dirty furnace filter and clogged air ducts can push dust and indoor pollutants around your home — especially if you clean with chemicals, use chemical air fresheners, or recently painted the nursery. An HVAC contractor can check and replace your furnace’s filter and clean the rest of your system.

Discuss pregnancy-related indoor air quality concerns with the HVAC technician before or during your maintenance appointment. The contractor may have suggestions for ways to better maintain your heater or tips to improve indoor air quality through an air purifier or a better quality system filter. The technician can also help you to create a maintenance schedule that works for your growing family’s needs.

HVAC Maintenance Can Increase Your Comfort Level

Physical comfort isn’t always easy to achieve during pregnancy — especially the closer it gets to your due date. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can slightly raise your body temperature. This can cause general sweating or night sweats. If your HVAC system isn’t in top shape, the indoor air could add to your discomfort. To get the most out of your home’s heating and cooling capabilities, you can:

  • Schedule a tune-up. Regular maintenance won’t only improve your system’s safety. It can help it to work at peak performance. This allows you to easily adjust the temperature and keep your home as warm or as cool (depending on your pregnancy comfort level) as you want it.
  • Change the filter. Again, this service doesn’t only impact indoor air quality. A clogged filter forces your system to work harder and may limit its heating or cooling capacity. If you’re not sure where the filter is or how to replace it, ask the technician during a maintenance appointment.
  • Replace the thermostat. Your third-trimester body needs a major cool down. But what if the temperature doesn’t drop when you adjust the thermostat? Talk to the HVAC technician about this issue or schedule a replacement service with your regular maintenance.
  • Install a programmable thermostat. Instead of replacing your older thermostat with a manual model, choose a programmable or smart option. This allows you to adjust the temperature during specific times of the day, making it easier to combat night sweats.

If your HVAC system has serious wear and tear or significant damage, you may need to replace your heater, air conditioner, or both. While regular maintenance can improve efficiency and lead to increased indoor comfort, it won’t have a major impact if the system is past its prime or overly expensive to repair. Even though this is an added expense, the investment can keep you and the rest of your family comfortable for years to come.

Do you need to schedule HVAC system maintenance before your baby’s due date? Have you skipped this service for the past few years? Contact Derek Sawyers Smart Energy Heating & Air for more information.

6 Benefits of an Annual Furnace Cleaning

As each year passes by, you may find it easier and easier to take your home heating for granted. Unfortunately, many homeowners do not worry about their furnace until a major problem has occurred. One way to prevent furnace issues is with an annual cleaning.

HVAC technicians can provide a detailed cleaning of your furnace once a year. Each cleaning comes with many benefits and will ultimately save money in the long run. Learn about the benefits and why you should make an annual furnace cleaning part of your home maintenance routine.

1. Better Efficiency

One of the biggest benefits of annual cleaning is better efficiency for your furnace. When the furnace boiler and ducts are cleaned are, the furnace will run at better rates and not need to run as long to provide heat for a home.

A furnace with better efficiency can save you a lot of money in the long run. You do not have to pay extra amounts for oil and can heat your home for a lot less each year. The efficiency of every furnace is different, but in some cases, the savings from the furnace could completely offset the costs for cleaning. A special calculator can help figure out differences as well.

After your first cleaning, you can compare the money spent on oil for the year and compare the amounts to previous years to see the difference. When oil prices fluctuate, an even better comparison would be to see the number of gallons you burn through each year.

2. Cleaner Burns

When an HVAC tech cleans out your furnace, they will eliminate the dust, debris, and build-up inside the burners. The result will not only save money with better efficiency, but your furnace will have cleaner burns. The cleaner burns will improve the air quality in your home and help the environment.

An HVAC technician will inspect the furnace to check for any air leaks or carbon monoxide issues. Special tools can examine the areas and ensure all of the furnace elements are locked down and in place so air leaks do not occur.

3. Quiet Operations

One of the loudest pieces of equipment in your home is typically the furnace. You will often hear the rumble and loud sounds of the furnace starting up. If you feel like your furnace has become louder over the years, you are not just hearing things. As a furnace runs, screws become loose, panels dislodge, and vibrations increase.

Without proper maintenance, a furnace will vibrate more and become much louder than you intended. During a cleaning, a technician will help secure all elements of a furnace and replace screws where needed. Along with the furnace itself, the duct and pipe brackets are also secured to reduce noise.

Not only will the reduction of noise help your ears, but you can help prevent major problems that occur when a furnace vibrates or shakes too much.

4. Duct Obstructions

While we want heating ducts to provide clean elements, there may times with obstructions cause problems and impact the way heat flows through a home. Eliminate any major duct obstructions with a furnace cleaning. Dirt is one of the more common elements filling up ducts, but your home may have rodents stuck in the ducts as well.

Cleaning out the ducts will improve both the air quality and efficiency of a furnace. If you’ve noticed that some rooms of the home do not heat up as well as others, then a duct obstruction could be one of the main causes.

5. Oil Filter Replacements

One task done during every cleaning is a full oil filter replacement. Modern oil tanks are often filled with sludge and grime. If your tank gets low on oil, the sludge can seep into the lines and clog the filter. Once a filter is changed, oil can reach the furnace easier and provide a hotter and more powerful burn.

If excess sludge does appear, an HVAC tech may try to remove extra sludge in the oil tank if the build-up has grown too big. The filter will often act as the first sign and help prevent any problems.

6. Diagnosing Small Problems

A visual and physical inspection of your furnace is one of the key ways to eliminate any signs of small problems most people will miss. An HVAC tech may notice a fan is jammed or an element of the furnace is leaking. When these small problems are taken care of, you can prevent bigger problems down the line.

Prevention is key and you can keep a furnace lasting for many years with the proper maintenance and care.

For more information on furnace cleaning, contact us at Derek Sawyers Heating & Air Conditioning. We will help you schedule a cleaning and schedule future appointments to ensure you do not forget the annual care for your furnace. Shortly after a cleaning, you will notice major differences and help keep your furnace running for years into the future.

Zoned Heating Systems: Benefits & System Options

If you are like most homeowners, you want your heating system to keep your family comfortable while consuming as little energy as possible to help keep your home energy bills low. However, you may not achieve these goals with your current traditional forced-air heating system.

While traditional forced-air systems work well in many homes, some homeowners find that these heating systems heat their homes unevenly. In fact, traditional forced-air systems are known for making the second floor of many two-story homes much warmer than the first floors. Uneven heating of a home can lead to the need to open windows in warmer areas of the home to cool these areas off while wasting energy.

These systems can also be undesirable when a home is occupied by family members who have various temperature preferences and have trouble finding a thermostat temperature setting that makes everyone happy.

Thankfully, zoned heating systems can help solve both of these problems to help keep your family more comfortable while potentially lowering home heating bills. In fact, the average homeowner saves up to 30 percent on their home heating and cooling bills when switching from a traditional HVAC system to a zoned system.

Read on to learn more about two zoned heating system options and which option may be best for your home.

Zoned Forced-Air Heating System

If you enjoy every aspect of your traditional forced-air home heating system other than the lack of ability to control the temperature of each floor or room in your home precisely, then you should consider the installation of a zoned forced-air heating system.

The installation of a zoned forced-air heating system allows separation of your home into two or more climate zones each equipped with its own thermostats. While many homeowners choose to separate their homes into just two climate zones that each consist of one floor of the home, others choose to turn every room of the home into its own unique zone.

The thermostat added to each climate zone is connected to special dampers that are added to your existing home ductwork when installing your new heating system. When the temperature in the climate zone drops below the thermostat temperature setting, the thermostat sends a signal to the dampers that trigger them to open and allow heat to flow through the vents into the climate zone. Once the desired thermostat setting is reached, the dampers are then signaled to close.

When switching from a traditional forced-air heating system to a zoned system, your existing traditional furnace should ideally be replaced with a variable speed furnace. When a zoned system is created with a standard furnace, excessive wear and tear are placed on the furnace that can reduce its lifespan, and no additional energy efficiency is gained.

Multi-Zone Mini-Split HVAC System

Another zoned heating option is a multi-zone mini-split, or ductless, heating system.

Unlike a zoned forced-air HVAC system, a mini-split system does not heat your home with a furnace that sends warm air through heating ducts. Instead, this system is made up of an air condenser that is typically placed outdoors and several indoor heating units called air handlers. This air condenser collects heat energy already found in the air and then transfers it to the indoor air handlers through special refrigerant lines.

Since the air condenser collects heat energy from the air instead of creating heat, as a furnace does, this heating system type is extremely energy-efficient.

One mini-split condenser can send heat to up to nine Indoor air handlers to create up to nine climate zones in your home. These air handlers can be mounted on walls or floors, concealed within a room’s existing heating duct, or hidden in the ceiling of a room or climate zone.

To ensure your multi-zone mini-split system can heat your home properly without wasting energy, you must choose a system that has the right BTU capacity for your home. A higher BTU mini-split system can provide more heat than one with a lower BTU capacity. While a mini-split system with a BTU capacity too low for your home may not be able to provide the heat you need, one with a too-high BTU capacity may short cycle, which can reduce energy efficiency.

An HVAC expert can determine the mini-split heating system capacity that is right for your home to ensure your new multi-zone heating system heats your home properly without wasting energy.

This heating system is a great option if your home is not equipped with heating ducts or you desire a heating system that operates more quietly than a forced-air system.

If you find that your current home heating system often leaves one floor of your home warmer than another, or you have a family with various home temperature preferences, then consider replacing your current heating system with a zoned system. A zoned heating system can help keep your family more comfortable while increasing home energy efficiency. Contact the HVAC experts at Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning for all of your home heating needs today.

FAQs When Switching From Air Conditioning to Heating

Central California residents enjoy relatively comfortable temperatures for most of the year. However, as the calendar advances toward the final weeks of the year, nighttime temperatures can get fairly chilly. This change prompts many homeowners to switch their HVAC systems from cooling mode to heating mode.

As you make this transition in your own home, you should know what to expect, how to make the transition as easy as possible for your equipment, and what to do if the change from air conditioning to heating causes trouble. Check out the answers to these frequently asked questions on the topic.

How Do Your HVAC System’s Air Conditioning and Heating Processes Differ?

An HVAC system uses many of the same components both for heating and for cooling, with a thermostat regulating the air temperature and ducts distributing either warmed or cooled air throughout the rooms. However, most HVAC systems get their cooling power through electricity and their heat through natural gas.

When you set your HVAC system to air conditioning mode, an electrically powered compressor turns hot refrigerant gas into a cold liquid very quickly. As this cold liquid passes through coils, the air surrounding the coils becomes cool and dry. A fan then blows this cooled air through vents to lower your home’s interior temperature.

When you set your HVAC system to heating mode, you activate a gas-power furnace that receives air through the aid of an electric fan. The gas rises through a heat exchanger, which heats surrounding air. The heated air then circulates through your home’s ducts before returning for another pass through the system.

What’s That Funny Smell When You First Engage Your Heater?

If you have not engaged your heater for several months, you may smell a strong musty or burnt odor in the heated air. This odor commonly occurs as the heat exchanger and other components burn tiny bits of dust and other debris that have accumulated on their surfaces. It may smell alarming, but it does not indicate a problem.

That musty odor most likely comes from mold and mildew accumulation. These substances may accumulate if you let your home’s humidity levels get out of control, or if your condensate pan doesn’t drain properly. Like dust and debris, mold and mildew may burn away after you run your heater for a few minutes.

When Can Switching From Air Conditioning to Heating Cause Trouble?

An HVAC system can usually handle a transition from air conditioning to heating with no trouble. However, this does not mean that you should switch back and forth between the two modes as frequently as you like. If you ask your HVAC system to go from one mode to another too rapidly, it may shut down altogether.

HVAC systems require a few minutes’ rest between heating or cooling cycles for the pressure in their components to settle and normalize. If you try to reactivate your cooling mode or switch modes too quickly after a cycle has completed, the compressor may draw extra power to attempt to comply, breaking the circuit and shutting the unit down.

Why Might Your Heater Refuse to Work After a Long Dormant Period?

When you have a clear and present need to start up your heater for the first time in months, its failure to operate correctly may come as an unwelcome (and uncomfortable) surprise. This malfunction may stem from avoidable maintenance issues, or it may mean that one of the heating system components has reached the end of its life.

Dirt often plays a key role in heater malfunctions. If your heater has a blower motor, the heat exchanger can overheat and fail. A dirty flame sensor can prevent the furnace from igniting. And a filthy burner may not run at peak efficiency, while a clogged filter may keep air from circulating through the system.

Furnaces in HVAC systems depend on a device called a capacitor to ignite their gas. A weak or dying capacitor may have trouble starting your heater, if it can manage the feat at all. The wrong amount of gas (or refrigerant, in a heat pump system) may also lead to poor heater function.

Why Should You Schedule an HVAC Inspection Before Cooler Weather Arrives?

Proper maintenance can help you ready your HVAC system for an efficient, uneventful transition from air conditioning to heating. A skilled HVAC technician can inspect the entire system for dust, mold, incorrect fuel or refrigerant levels, a capacitor that needs replacing, and any other issues that might affect performance.

You can often tell whether you need HVAC maintenance services simply by checking for various potential trouble signs around the house. For instance, if your windows constantly host condensation or your home’s vent pipe looks rusty, you may have a mechanical problem that affects the system’s operation.

Derek Sawyers Smart Energy Heating & Air can help you nudge your HVAC system from air conditioning mode to heating mode as effectively as possible. Contact us today to schedule a seasonal inspection or schedule any needed repair services.

4 HVAC Duct Problems to Address

Home HVAC systems can only deliver the performance their owners expect when they have clean, intact, well-designed ductwork. If the ducts that run through your home cannot deliver warmed or cooled air efficiently, you may experience everything from chronic health problems to elevated electric bills.

You might not suspect that your air quality woes relate to a duct issue, if only because you rarely see or deal with these hidden sections of your HVAC system. Take a look at four potential problems that can plague your ducts and the measures you can take to alleviate them.

1. Dust
Even the most carefully maintained home will collect a certain amount of dust. In addition to the dust and debris tracked in from outdoors, humans and pets naturally shed hair and skin cells that settle onto surfaces, get kicked up into the air, and eventually get pulled into the HVAC system.

Fortunately, HVAC system vents accommodate air filters that trap much of this debris, removing it from general circulation and cleaning your air. Not so fortunately, these air filters have a finite capacity for collecting dust. When they become clogged, the dust settles in the ducts, where it accumulates over time.

Dust accumulation can also develop all of a sudden if your home undergoes construction or renovation. This kind of work can fill the air with particulate matter, including debris that can trigger allergies or other respiratory issues. This extra burden can overwhelm your air filters’ and ducts’ ability to filter and clean the air.
If your home seems unusually dusty no matter how often you clean it, check your air filters and replace them as needed. If the problem persists, you may need to have the ducts inspected and cleaned by professionals.

2. Mold
Mold represents a special kind of problem. Like dust, it can enter your home on shoes, clothing, pet fur, or other carried objects. Unlike dust, however, this living organism grows and thrives in moisture, an environmental condition amply provided by air conditioning components and processes. The presence of dust only nourishes it further.

Mold commonly grows in receptacles for standing water, such as the evaporator drain pan in your HVAC system. Normally, the drain pan collects condensation and then expels it via a drainage line. If this drainage system fails, mold spores from the drain pan may rise into the air and enter your ducts.

Mold spores can cause numerous health problems as they float through the air and into people’s respiratory systems. If you have a mold problem in your HVAC system, your family may experience allergic reactions, asthma attacks, or other ailments. Other signs of mold include discoloration around vents and a musty smell in the air.

While you can often remove mold around vents yourself, mold that has infiltrated your ducts or drain pan requires professional evaluation. Your HVAC technicians will either remove the mold themselves or recommend a mold remediation specialist. They can also repair drainage problems that create standing water in your system.

3. Air Leaks
HVAC ducts can direct air through your home in a precise manner because they function as a closed system. Installers seal individual sections of duct work to ensure that no air escapes on its journey through your home. If a hole, gap, or other air leak develops, the system can lose considerable efficiency.

Duct air leaks can occur for a variety of reasons. Rodents can damage ducts as they chew their way into walls, while corrosion can also allow holes to form. Most commonly, however, simple thermal expansion and contraction over several seasons of use can weaken the seals connecting duct sections and vent registers.

Symptoms of a leaky duct system include uneven heating or cooling and hard-to-manage humidity, indications that cooled or heated air has escaped into the walls instead of circulating through your rooms. An inexplicable rise in your energy bills may mean that your HVAC system must run harder to compensate for the leakage.

HVAC technicians can check every inch of your ductwork for leaks. They can then seal up the leaks with metallic mesh tape, restoring your HVAC system’s functionality and energy efficiency.

4. Design Flaws
Sometimes an HVAC system’s ductwork struggles with efficiency problems from its very first moment of operation. Even experienced contractors can make errors in the planning and construction phases that result in HVAC ducts that just can’t do their job adequately. If your HVAC system has never worked well, suspect this possibility.

Common mistakes in HVAC duct installation include installing too small a system from the home’s needs, running the ducts over too great a distance for efficient operation, and not installing enough return vents to permit good air circulation. Your HVAC expert can recognize these flaws and make any recommended modifications.

If you believe that a duct problem has limited your ability to enjoy your HVAC system, contact Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning. Our HVAC experts can evaluate your duct work and recommend the right course of action to improve your home air quality and energy efficiency.

4 Strategies for Enjoying a Safer, Healthier HVAC System

Residential HVAC systems can provide homeowners and their families with important health benefits as well as comfort. Efficient air circulation can reduce airborne irritants. Effective cooling systems and other components can help control moisture levels in the home while protecting residents against extreme temperatures.

Unfortunately, an HVAC system may fail to deliver these benefits if it develops mechanical or electrical problems, in some cases posing health and safety risks instead of mitigating them. Employ the following four strategies to ensure that your HVAC system provides a safer, healthier environment.

1. Find and Fix Standing Water Problems
HVAC systems dry the air as well as cool it. The evaporator coils contain cold, pressurized refrigerant that chills surrounding air rapidly. The temperature drop causes water vapor to condense, with the liquid water dropping out of the air and into a drip pan. A hose then drains this water to a tub or other receptacle.
Any malfunction in this part of the system can cause water to accumulate instead of draining normally. The standing water can harbor mold spores, which may then produce asthma attacks or allergic reactions when blown through the air ducts. Water can also spill onto electrical components, potentially creating short-circuits.

Standing water in your HVAC system can even present an injury risk. For instance, if an overhead service panel leaks water from a corroded or overfilled drip pan onto a slick floor, occupants could sustain slip-and-fall injuries.

Have your HVAC technician check any water spots or puddles that might stem from your HVAC system. You may need to have corroded parts replaced or unclog a blocked drain line. Make sure that none of the surrounding electrical or mechanical parts show signs of water damage.

2. Control Your Humidity
Standing water represents just one way a poorly functioning HVAC system might encourage mold growth. Mold can also develop throughout your home if your humidity levels remain abnormally high. Check for an evaporator, blower, or condenser failure that keeps the system from removing airborne moisture.

If your humidity problem persists despite normal HVAC operation, ask your HVAC service provider whether you need a smaller system for your home. (Too large an air conditioner may shut on and off too frequently to dehumidify a home properly.) Your technician can also add a separate dehumidifier to your current system.

3. Bust That Dust
Dust, dander, and pollen can affect your respiratory health and comfort just as mold spores can. No matter how carefully you sweep and vacuum your home, new particles will migrate from pets and people onto surfaces. Your HVAC system can help control this problem, but only if it functions as it should.

Air filters placed at the ends of air conditioning ducts can block much of this material. These items feature a mesh or porous material that allows air to pass through while removing all particles of a certain size from the air.

Eventually, however, the filters become so clogged by dust and dander that they can barely move air at all. The resulting lack of air circulation means that dirty air no longer gets pulled into the ductwork for filtering, instead accumulating until you experience respiratory distress.

You can often avoid this health challenge simply by changing your air filters on a regular basis. If your current filters don’t seem to get the job done, ask your HVAC service technician to recommend more specialized products such as HEPA filters, which can filter out much smaller particles than ordinary filters.

Your airborne particulate problem may require more than a simple filter change. You may need to have your HVAC ducts thoroughly cleaned, or you may want to have an air purifier installed for more comprehensive air filtration.

4. Minimize Fire Hazards
Homeowners should always guard against any conditions or malfunctions that might cause a fire. In addition to obvious dangers posed by lightning strikes or combustion of flammable materials, HVAC system problems can also present fire hazards.

Your HVAC system depends on electricity to operate its moving parts and regulate its processes, from proper thermostat function to power for motors, fans, and belts. As smoothly as this arrangement normally operates, electrical systems can still present potential hazards, including the risk of fires, if they suffer damage.

HVAC electrical damage can occur in gradual or subtle ways. For example, pests such as rodents can chew their way through electrical wiring, stripping the wiring of its protective insulation. Wiring connections can even come loose for no obvious reason, posing a fire risk every time they receive electrical current.

Regular HVAC inspections can catch these problems in time to prevent disaster. However, if you smell burning plastic or smoke near your HVAC wiring, shut off the system and seek immediate professional assistance.

Furnaces and heat exchangers can also play a role in household fires. The heat radiated by these items can ignite nearby chemicals, paper products, or other debris. Keep the areas around these components clean and free of garbage and other flammable items.

A little awareness and some proactive strategies can help you keep your HVAC system (and your family) safe and healthy. Contact Derek Sawyer’s Smart Energy Heating & Air for evaluations and repairs.

Air Conditioning and Kids: 4 Considerations

Air conditioning can ensure the comfort and safety of every member of your household, including your children. But these benefits only come if you set up your HVAC and maintain it to meet your little ones’ needs properly.

Whether you already have children or you plan to grow your family in the near future, it pays to understand how air conditioning can help kids, how improper air conditioning management might do more harm than good, and what options you might want to pursue. Here are four considerations to keep in mind.

1. Climate Control for Babies

Preparations for bringing a new baby home should include more than just painting the nursery and selecting a crib. Infants have some special needs that call for fine control of their environment, including temperature and moisture levels. You may have to modify your air conditioning setup in accordance with these needs.

Newborn babies have more difficulty controlling their body temperature than older kids or adults. This adaptability challenge makes air conditioning a critical factor in supporting your baby’s health, safety, and wellness. Bear in mind, however, that a chilly room can prove just as unhealthy as a stiflingly hot one.

As a general rule, try to keep the air temperature in your baby’s room around 73 degrees to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Crack a window or door to help fresh air circulate, even if it impacts energy efficiency.

Babies also have delicate skin that can easily dry out under air conditioning. Moisturize your baby’s skin at regular intervals to counteract the drying effect of air conditioning. Consider adding a humidifier to the room for additional humidity control.

2. Pediatric Asthma and Allergy Moderation

Respiratory issues such as asthma and allergies commonly afflict children. Dust, dander, mold spores, and other airborne particles can contribute to symptoms such as wheezing, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, runny nose, and shortness of breath. Ideally, your HVAC system can ease such issues by filtering out these particles.

Unfortunately, an air conditioning system that has not received proper maintenance can actually add to children’s respiratory distress instead of relieving it. Dirty air ducts, moldy vents, and clogged air filters can push accumulated contaminants into the air or fail to filter existing airborne contaminants efficiently.

If your child shows signs of asthma or allergies around the house, have your air conditioning system inspected and, if necessary, thoroughly cleaned. Replace air filters as soon as they show signs of dirt. Ask your air conditioning technician to recommend a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter that can filter out all but the tiniest particles.

3. Indoor AC Components

The same ventilation network that can help or hurt respiratory issues in children can also invite injuries. Air vent registers (the shuttered or grilled panels that actually allow air to pass into individual points in a room) often have sharp metal edges or points on them, potentially cutting fingers or causing other damage.

While the registers placed high up on walls should pose no threat to children, babies or toddlers may hurt themselves on registers placed at or near floor level. If you have metal registers in these areas, have them replaced with child-safe plastic ones. Secure floor registers to prevent kids from removing them and leaving an uncovered hole.

Curious children also enjoy dropping toys or other objects into open spaces, including air conditioning registers. This habit can wreak havoc on mechanical parts, contribute to duct blockages, or force you to keep removing the registers and fishing out the dropped objects.

You can alleviate these issues by placing some sort of screen or mesh between the outer register and the passage leading to the ducts. For instance, your air conditioning technician might install an inline air filter compatible with your particular HVAC setup.

4. Outdoor AC Components

As you work on child-proofing your central air conditioning system, don’t forget about the outdoor components that play such a vital role in making the system work. The bulky condenser unit next to the wall contains a high-powered fan to control the flow of hot air. This fan poses a threat to the fingers of curious kids.

You might assume that placing a snugly fitted enclosure around your condenser would solve this problem. Unfortunately, this strategy may also limit airflow, reducing the condenser’s efficiency. An air conditioning specialist can advise you on what kind of fence or other protective barrier will serve both your kids and your air conditioner.

If you need to optimize your home’s air conditioning to give every member of your family a high quality of life and safe home, Derek Sawyer’s Smart Energy Heating & Air has the installation, repair, and maintenance skills to support that goal. Contact us today to learn more about your residential air conditioning options. We look forward to working with you.

4 Reasons Why Your Air Conditioner Smells

Air conditioners should make the air in your house more comfortable, but sometimes a malfunctioning air conditioner can make your home uncomfortable. This is especially true if your air conditioner is causing your home to become smelly. Odors in the air conditioner can have different causes, here are just a few.

Knowing what causes odors in the air conditioner and what you can do to stop those odors can help you take care of your air conditioner. Preventing odors can also improve your quality of life at home, as foul smells can ruin your day. Below are the many causes of odors in and around your air conditioner, and some suggestions for avoiding those problems.

1. Dirty Air Filter
The air filter is the part of your air conditioner that filters dirt and debris from the air as it circulates through your ducts. Air filters need to be replaced periodically or they can become clogged. A dirty air filter can harbor everything from dust to mold spores, depending on the quality of the air that’s circulating through the ducts.

The EPA recommends that homeowners replace their air filters at least every 3 months or more frequently, depending on how quickly the filter gets dirty. If your air conditioner smells when you run it, check the air filter first.

Air filters are generally found in the space between the return air duct and the blower. To replace the filter, remove it from the slot, and replace it with an identical filter. Most filters are disposable and can be thrown away; they’re not re-usable. If replacing your air filter doesn’t work, or if your air filter is clean, then you’ll need to explore other options.

2. Clogged Condensate Pan
Air conditioners collect moisture from the air. That moisture collects in a pan that drips outside the house, which is why you’ll see a puddle of water collect around your air conditioner. The condensate pan is a place where mold and algae grows. In fact, condensate pans need to be cleaned periodically, as do the drain lines.

If the drain lines are not cleaned and treated, they can become clogged with algae buildup, causing a smell in your house as well as a backup of water on your carpet or floor. A clogged condensate pan is a relatively easy fix for your HVAC professional, but the best way to avoid this problem is to get regular tune ups from your HVAC professional. During tune-ups, your contractor will flush the condensate pan to prevent more algae.

3. Blown Fuse
Another smell you might notice around the air conditioner is the smell of gunpowder or fireworks. This odor could be the result of a fuse blown in the air conditioner’s circuit board or fan blower. If a fuse is blown, you’ll be able to tell because the AC will probably not be working at all.

The gun powder smell will likely dissipate quickly. If you continue to smell a smoky or burning smell that grows stronger, this could be a sign of a fire. In that case, leave the house quickly and contact the fire department.

A blown fuse is a problem that points to an electrical problem, either in your home or in your air conditioner. You can catch this kind of problem by getting a regular tune up. Your air conditioner repair person can catch electrical problems in their early stages and recommend repairs before they become dire.

4. Gas Leak Distributed by Duct Work
The smell of rotten eggs is a smell that many people associate with gas leaks. Natural gas is odorless, but gas companies inject natural gas with mercaptan, a harmless gas that smells like sulfur. If the smell coming from your ducts smells like rotten eggs, this could be the result of a gas leak.

Air conditioners are not run on natural gas, so it’s unlikely that the smell is coming from your air conditioner. However, your gas-powered furnace is likely close to the return air duct and blower that distributes air throughout the house when your air conditioner is turned on. Which means that your air conditioner could easily be distributing a gas leak throughout your house.

If you suspect that your home has gas leak, leave the house immediately. Take your pets with you. Leave your doors sitting wide open. When you’re outside the house, call for emergency help or call the emergency number for your utility company.

You can avoid many of the problems described above by getting regular tune ups from an HVAC professional. Have your HVAC system tuned up at least once annually to keep the components in your air conditioner in good condition. To find out more about how you can prevent unpleasant smells from affecting your air conditioner, contact the professionals at Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning.

Summertime AC Issues? The Do’s and Don’ts of What to Do Next

Did your central AC system suddenly stop cooling your home? If your air conditioner breaks down in the middle of a summertime heat wave, take a look at the do’s and don’ts of AC repair.

Do Call an HVAC Professional

If you don’t have extensive expertise in air conditioner repair, you need to call an HVAC professional as soon as your system stops working. Whether your AC unit blows warm air through the vents, won’t turn on, takes too long to cool your home, or has another issue, hire a licensed HVAC contractor to:

  • Inspect your system. What is the culprit behind your AC’s issues? If you can’t answer this question, you need to contact a qualified contractor to inspect your air conditioner. The technician will assess the coil, condenser, refrigerant line, and other parts of the system.
  • Diagnose the problem. After the inspection, the technician will diagnose the issue. While you may not understand the technical jargon, the AC contractor can break down the basics as they explain what’s wrong with your home’s cooling system.
  • Provide you with an estimate. How much will the repairs or replacement cost? A qualified contractor should provide you with a written estimate. The estimate should include the per hour rate or job cost, materials cost, and any applicable fees.
  • Complete the repair or installation. After you agree to the estimate, the technician will complete the necessary repairs or install a replacement (if a repair isn’t possible).

The sooner you call the HVAC contractor, the better. A long wait between when you notice the initial problem and when you finally contact the contractor could result in additional issues.

Don’t Wait to Call the HVAC Professional

What types of issues can a delayed service cause? Even though the summer swelter may suddenly end, you swap out AC use for fans, or you put off a service call for another reason, failure to schedule a prompt appointment could result in:

  • Discomfort. Your AC system provides a valuable service — it keeps your home cool. If you wait days or weeks after your AC system fails, you’ll need to sweat your way through the hottest days of the summer.
  • Damage. A system that blows warm air, makes loud noises, has odd odors, or doesn’t work correctly requires a repair. Failure to promptly repair the system could result in major damage or excessive wear and tear.
  • Excess energy usage. A damaged or worn AC system may use more energy to cool your home. The result is an increase in electricity bills or related operating costs.
  • Invalidation of a warranty. Does your warranty have time frame restrictions? If the warranty requires you to schedule professionally done repairs within a specific time period or only extends to a specific month and year, you may need to pay out of pocket for repairs.

Along with these issues, the HVAC contractor might not have high availability for mid-summer appointments — especially during the peak heat of the season.

Do Keep Cool While You Wait

Even though you may have called the contractor the moment your AC system turned itself off or started blowing hot air, the HVAC service provider possibly won’t have an immediate appointment. Again, peak heat season is often a tricky time to schedule AC services. Between overworked systems, excessive wear and tear, and new installations, you may have to wait hours or days.

While you wait, avoid heat-related discomfort or illnesses and:

  • Use fans. Provided your home has electricity, plug in fans. Only use fans in rooms you will use. This reduces overall energy usage and may lower your temporary fan-related cooling costs.
  • Close window treatments. Reduce the effects of the sun on your home. Close blinds or curtains during the day to reduce sun-related home heat gain.
  • Open windows. Let the breeze in. Open windows that aren’t in direct sun. Always use screens to keep insects or other pests out.
  • Don’t cook indoors. The oven-baked meal you plan to make can heat your home. If possible, make cold meals or cook outdoors on a grill.
  • Hydrate well. After you take steps to cool your home, cool yourself with a chilly glass of water. Hydration is crucial on a hot summer day.

If your home won’t cool effectively or you feel uncomfortable, leave and go to a friend’s or family member’s house.

Don’t Attempt a DIY Repair

Should you fix your home’s AC issue yourself? If the service technician can’t schedule an immediate appointment or you think you’ll save money with a do-it-yourself repair, consider:

  • Your experience level. An online DIY tutorial doesn’t provide the same degree of training a qualified professional has. If you’re an HVAC novice, leave this job to a professional.
  • Your warranty. A manufacturer’s warranty may only cover repairs made by authorized service professionals.
  • Your safety. Failure to properly repair an HVAC unit put your or your family’s safety at risk.

Not only does the HVAC contractor have experience in air conditioning repairs, but the technician can also help you to decide if your system requires replacement.

Do you need an HVAC service call? Contact Derek Sawyer’s Heating & Air Conditioning for more information.

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