When it’s HOT you’re making lots of water.

August 3rd, 2011

I apologize for skipping a month on my blog. With record heat you can imagine how busy I’ve been and tired. It’s still hot but not as humid. I have cleaned a lot of plugged condensate lines over the last few weeks including my own.

Furnace and condensateThe condensate line is that small white tube running from the coil on your furnace and possibly changing into a clear vinyl tube and then running into your floor drain or sink. Since most people have their furnace/cooling coil located where they do laundry it is not uncommon for the tube to become plugged with…….. you guessed it, lint. The lint gets wet and makes a big ball and eventually …… you get water all over the floor.vinyl-tube-to-floor-drain.jpg

Vinyl tube fittingIf you can pull the tube from the fitting or if you have vinyl with a vinyl fitting make sure you have another fitting as most will break. Have a bucket ready so it can catch the water.

With hard pipe you can snake the pipe pushing the offending ball of lint out of the pipe. If you don’t have one of those handy any type of small diameter pipe that is just smaller than your pipe opening will work.snake1.jpg

Vinyl tubeVinyl pipe you can see where the pipe is backed up. If you’re not a smoker you can probably blow a few times on the end of the tube and expel the plug. If that doesn’t work the same method I mentioned above will work or a wet vac can usually do the trick.

Your Cooling System and How It Works – Part One

June 10th, 2011

After that 102 record breaker heat wave your air conditioner got a work out. The good news was is was a dry heat wave vs. the usual humid weather making it a little easier to cool the air in your home. Some common issues for houses that don’t seem to cool are restricted air flow from the cooling coil in your furnace. More often than not the coil is too small for the physical opening of your furnace. 

 If this were the opening of the furnace at the top the indoor coil should fit the actual physical opening. There are times when the coil may be a little smaller but it should not reduce the opening by more than 20%.  If the coil is smaller the reduction in the “push” of the air increases meaning the unit works very hard to distribute the cooler air in your home. Longer run times equal bigger bills from the electric company. The square footage is your home might only need a 2 Ton Cooling system but the 2Ton Coil might be too small for your furnace. This can be avoided by using the same brand cooling system as your furnace. The coils are usually manufactured for the furnace size opening, Using a different brand may not fit properly so BEWARE those reduced pricing air conditioning deals. Replacing the coil with the correct size will pay for itself in one cooling season and you’ll be more comfortable.

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Another problem is a dirty coil. It’s very common for the heating and cooling systems to be in the same room as your washer/dryer. The lint from your dryer is sucked into the furnace and gets distributed through your furnace if you don’t change your filter frequently. Another common cause is pet hair and just plain old dust/dirt in your home. Yes, the picture below is a real picture. This is a coil that never got cleaned from a home where the filter boot return was at the bottom of the furnace (not recommended) that sucked air from the floor. The picture on the right is a clean coil. Check back later for part two.

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Cooling Season here we come!

May 11th, 2011

Only in Minnesota do we need to run the furnace and the air conditioning in a 24 hour period. You might have done this all ready but if you’re holding out here’s a quick checklist BEFORE you switch that button from heat to cool.

Remember, having your cooling unit serviced at a minimum of every other year insures a cooler summer with higher efficiency. A unit low on freon due to evaporation or leaking makes your unit run more frequently and for longer. Only a professional can check the freon level and gauge the pressure the freon is being delivered at. So, in the event you made the call and you’re waiting for the service guy go ahead and do these yourself.

  1. Clean your outdoor unit. This means removing your cover or cage and cleaning out the dead leaves, twigs and any pests that have taken residence. You can hose the unit down making sure you avoid over spraying the electrical connection.
  2. Make sure your disconnect is in tight and the breaker turned on.
  3. If you have a programmable thermostat check your summer settings or re-program.
  4. If you have an ERV or HRV turn the dial to summer mode and clean your unit and filters.
  5. If you have a whole-house humidifier turn it off. (If I did your install make sure you turn the damper handle from winter to summer.)

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What many mechanical contractors don’t want you to know.

May 4th, 2011

Is it worth putting in a better furnace filter? I fight the idea on a daily basis that a 4″ pleated filter is better than the standard $2 filter or that an electrostatic filter will catch more dust so you have to clean less. I discontinued selling anything other than the standard plain filter except for aresize.jpg lifetime washable filter. It’s true that I could make more money selling you a more expensive filter with the idea that you’ll improve your indoor air quality and such but it’s just NOT TRUE!

The majority of you indoor air and the particles you see in the air are reduced or increased very little by your furnace. Your furnace draws air from the space it’s in and the air in your home. If you’re in a newer home, you’re bringing in fresh air from outside with your ERV or HRV. If you’re in an older home it’s probably bringing in passive fresh air through a fresh air in your mechanical room or, drawing it in the less desirable way, leaky doors and windows. The fact is you need to change your filter frequently. If you filter gets very dirty or full in a week then you need to change it weekly. If you check it monthly and it looks clean then you change it less.

 If you are highly allergic to dust, cleaning with hepa filters and minimizing carpets, drapes and such are the route to go for low cost measures or investing in UV filters. For more information about filters check out this study.

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Tankless Water Heaters vs. Regular Storage Tank Water Heaters

April 1st, 2011

Rheem Tankless Water Heaters15% of your home energy costs is heating your water. With energy costs increasing more and more, people are considering tank-less water heaters.

I have to be honest that until recently, I really didn’t see the benefit until I read this report put out by the Office of Energy Security. It is a lengthy report so I’ve just hit the highlights here. I hope this helps you in your decision process.

Below is a graph that illustrates the DOE rating (energy efficiency based on units at 64 gallons per day) of a tank-less and regular water heaters, cost per year and savings per year if you used a tank-less unit.

Savings in Energy Dollars

Some concerns from homeowners during this study that you may want to consider before purchasing a tankless water heater are:

  • Higher Installation Costs
  • Higher Maintenance Costs
  • You may have to upgrade the gas-line from your appliance to the meter.
  • Savings in natural gas may increase electrical use if you purchase a unit that has frost protection. (This can be avoided by installing the unit in a conditioned space).
  • Low flow response for hot water can be a drawback on many models so make sure you check the gallon per minute requirement before you purchase. The lower the number the better.
  • The first 30 seconds delivers cold – hot – cold water dubbed the ‘sandwich’ effect.

Some positive feedback regarding tank-less water heaters are

  • After the 30 second wait for hot water the tank-less delivers the most consistent even temperature throughout a shower. (Even with the 30 second wait for hot water the study showed that tank-less users did not use more water than the regular water heater users)
  • Homeowners like that the tank-less units require so little space.
  • Homeowners feel better that they are leaving behind a smaller carbon footprint.

This graph shows the savings in energy dollars based on GPD (gallons per day use) over a regular water heater in calculated simple payback with an install cost of $2500.

Savings and Payback

If after this report you’re not convinced, (I realize the payback seems high but you have to consider the green effect) purchasing a new Energy Star rated regular water heater and wrapping it with an R11 thermal blanket can save you 7% and will only take 4 years to realize your payback!

Turn down the temperature setting on your water heater by 5 to 25 degrees’ you have an additional yearly savings of $7 to $36 a year. (The numbers at the bottom represent you lowering the temperature by 5, 10, 15 etc):

Temp Set

Rheem tank-less water heaters is rated one of the best for lowest flow rate for firing which is ideal. For more information on these units visit our website.

http://www.mnhvac.com

Carbon Monoxide (CO) and you

March 17th, 2011

Carbon Monoxide  (CO) is a poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and otherwise completely not noticeable. When you breathe in CO it combines with your blood and then prevents your blood from absorbing oxygen.

CO is produced from burning fuels like gasoline, wood, natural gas and propane, tobacco and even paper. Anything in your home that has a flame or started with a flame produces carbon monoxide. The most common sources of CO exposure are cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust. If you have a tuck under garage or live on a busy road CO can build up in your home.

Another very common CO emission are any gas burning appliance that is improperly adjusted, poorly vented or poorly maintained. Let’s address each one.

Improperly adjusted appliances can create soot and corrosion. If you see a predominately orange and/or yellow flame that is an indication of a problem.

Poorly vented appliances cause soot and corrosion, blockage, cracks and holes. Most poorly installed venting creates excess moisture to drip back down to the burners creating those cracks and holes that emit CO. If flames actually roll out of the furnace door or around a pot on your stove top immediately turn off that appliance and request service.

Poorly maintained appliancesare what I see the most. Dust accumulation becomes a hard shell on igniters and burners that eventually prevent the proper firing of the appliance. If you have excessive moisture or frost on the inside of your windows; soot on your ceilings or walls, soot on the front of your fireplace or glass shield; soot on the inside door of your furnace are all a sign of poorly maintained appliances.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning are divided into 3 categories; Mild, Medium and Severe.

Mild Exposure is a slight headache, vomiting, blurred vision, fatigue, nausea or flu-like symptoms; all of which are cured by going outside and breathing fresh air.

Medium Exposure is persistent drowsiness that doesn’t feel right, severe headache, confusion and rapid heart rate. Get outside and call 911 for immediate medical attention.

Severe Exposure escalates to convulsions, unconsciousness, cardiac/respiratory failure and death.

If you suspect you have CO in  your home ventilate the area by opening windows. If you have an attached garage open the door. Shut off all your fuel-burning appliances. If your are feeling any symptoms get your family and pets out of the house and seek medical attention. If you use natural gas or propane contact them through their emergency number and have them check all your gas burning appliances. If you’re burning other fuels contact a professional technician who will have the proper tools to detect where the leak is coming from.

Prevention is the best medicine. Here is a simple list to keep you safe.

Contact C&C HVAC, Inc to inspect all your fuel burning appliances annually.

Do not leave your vehicle running in the garage! Even if you leave the garage door open outside air colliding with exhaust air will vent in, not out.

Do not operate fuel-burning appliances in small, tightly sealed areas.

Do not use your charcoal grill in your home or your garage. Do not store in your garage until you are certain the briquettes are completely dead.

Make sure all chimneys are clear of debris. This includes your pvc and class b flues. Birds, mice, squirrels etc. are attracted to the warm air emanating from these openings. They will build nests resulting in blocked emissions and the only place they can go in back into your house.

Make sure all appliances are burning a predominately blue flame.

Do not vent your dryer into your house. This is just crazy! Even if your dryer is electric the amount of debris that ends up in your furnace causes breakdowns.

If your furnace breaks down please don’t heat your house with your oven, range top or dryer. This could be a lot more unpleasant than being cold for a few hours.

Make sure all fresh air inlets are clear and not blocked. That grey flexible tubing running in your mechanical room should not have a towel stuffed in it. Fresh air is vital to the operation of your furnace and water heater.

Look for signs that your house is not getting enough fresh air by too much moisture or frost on windows, soot on the walls or ceilings etc.

Last but not least, purchase enough CO detectors. If you have a spouse who spends more time sleeping on the couch or recliner than put a CO detector in that room. Don’t forget it’s the law!

Information paraphrased from the following resource. MDH. Please click on MDH for more information regarding CO.

Programmable Thermostats – The Ongoing Debate

March 9th, 2011

Programmable Thermostats – The Ongoing Debate.

We’ve heard it often – get a programmable thermostat and for every degree down you’ll save 1% on your fuel bill. Technology is great – if you use it. If you have a programmable thermostat you need to go beyond the days and temperatures to take full advantage of any savings. It’s also a battle of comfort. There are days when 67 degrees just feel downright cold when its 15 below outside and other days you feel it’s too warm. We’ve all been there. Using multiple times for temperatures will keep you comfortable when you’re home and the cooler temperatures while you’re away or sleeping.

Here are a few tips to help you out.

1.       Make sure your thermostat is located out of the sun, far enough away from a heat source; i.e. a lamp, and located on the level of your house you spend most of your time.

2.       Keep your house coolest during the hours you are sleeping in winter and warmer in the summer. If you go to bed at 10pm you should schedule your thermostat to a cooler temperature at 10:30pm or 11:00, after you’ve fallen asleep.

3.       If you wake at 6am set your thermostat to warmer at 5:30am so when you step out the shower you’re not freezing. Set the thermostat to lower the temperature again while you’re at work and to warm up by the time you arrive home.

4.       On the weekends set a time and temperature that fits your lifestyle. If you sleep in and go to bed a little later give yourself that schedule and leave the temperature at your comfort level during your waking time. Adjusting the temperature using the HOLD button on most models only holds that temperature for a period of a few hours.

5.       Understand that temperature is variable to what your activity level is. When you’re sitting and watching TV after the sun goes down will feel colder than when the sun was streaming through your picture window.

6.       Not all programmable thermostats are alike. C&C HVAC carries a variety of stats to fit your lifestyle.

If you’re interested in reading a recent study regarding energy savings using programmable thermostats please click on the link below.

Link to article http://www.docstoc.com/docs/19842263/Programmable-Thermostats-as-Means-of-Generating-Energy-Savings