The warm weather seems to be finally sticking around here in Portland, OR. The sunshine is starting to be more frequent then the rain. That means warmer temperatures. Time to start cranking down the indoor temperature and get that air conditioner running. This time of year, we here at Comfort Solutions start getting a lot of calls on air conditioners freezing up.
If you have done your annual maintenance on your air conditioner then chances are you won’t have an issue this summer. After all, it is about the only way to minimize the chances of having something seriously go wrong with your equipment. For the rest of us, we just pray that it makes it thru the summer. Problem is that it if something is going to go wrong, it usually happens at the hottest part of the year.
Before you make that first call to your HVAC contractor, turn off your air conditioner, and turn on the fan. For a service technician to diagnose the issue, the system needs to be defrosted. It usually only takes a day, sometimes two, depending on the size of the unit, how much ice has accumulated and how much sun hits it in order to help it defrost faster.
Restricted Air Flow
If your air conditioner is frozen, check your air filter. If the filter is dirty, it will restrict the air flow. This means that there is no air flowing thru your air conditioner to prevent the condensate on the coil from freezing.
You may be able to save yourself a little bit of money by defrosting the unit. Just turn off the unit, and turn on the fan. Check and if needed, replace the air filter. Once it has defrosted, start your air conditioner back up. If it starts cooling then the dirty air filter may be your culprit.
Even if you are one that gets annual maintenance on their heating and cooling equipment, you may want to set a reminder to check your filter every three months. Your heating and cooling will thank you for it.
If defrosting the air conditioner, and changing the filter does not help, then you may have a refrigerant leak. Leaks can happen for a variety of reasons. If your air conditioner is an r-22, then you may need to consider replacing it over repairing it. R-22 refrigerant is higher in cost because of being phased out, so prepare yourself for a high repair bill.
R-410 units are a little easier to repair. This because the cost of replacing the refrigerant isn’t as high. It may be more cost effective to purchase a new unit if your current one is old.
It is always best to check with your local HVAC contractor to get a cost of repair vs a quote for new equipment to help you decide.
You pull out your filter from your furnace because you know its time for a filter change. As you are looking for the size of the filter, you notice it says Merv 8. Not sure what it means, you head to the local hardware store or for some us, we call our local heating and cooling company to see about getting a filter replacement. They ask you about the size and Merv rating you are needing?
You may or may not know that filters come in different Merv Ratings. Depending on your need, your Merv rating may be different the the standard.
The Merv Rating
Below is the Merv rating for filters.
- Merv 1 thru 4 – Residential, minimum light commercial, minimum protection.
- Merv 5 thru 8 – Industrial workplaces commercial, residential pain booth, finishing.
- Merv 9 thru 12 – Superior, residential, industrial workplaces, commercial buildings.
- Merv 13 thru 16 – Smoke removal, general surgery hospital and health care, commercial buildings.
- Merv 17 thru 20 – Hospital surgery suite, and clean rooms.
Keep in mind that depending on the filter you need, will depend on what the filter is made of. Filters comes in disposable, washable, cartridges, and pleated filters.
You can contact your local HVAC company to get the size and Merv rating you are needing as well as the cost. You may also want to check on signing up for annual maintenance plans, as these usually include discounts, filter replacements at time of maintenance, as well as other benefits to make extending the life of you heating and cooling equipment a little easier.
There are many HVAC companies in Portland, OR. You want to choose and HVAC company that is there for you, not your wallet. Any time you are looking for a heating and cooling company to bring comfort to your home, whether it is Comfort Solutions or another company, you may want to check out these tips to ensure that you are getting what you pay for.
What To Look For:
Ask Friends and Family – Referrals are great! Many companies offer some type of payment program for referrals.
Trust Your Gut – The company you pick will most likely be the one that you will have a long term relationship with. There employees will be coming into your home for routine maintenance and repairs.
Do Your Homework – Do they have a CCB number? Are they NATE certified? Are they a member for the Better Business Bureau? Do they have a long standing reputation? There is no point on going with a company that may not be in business very long. If they go out of business then their warranty for labor and possibly parts will be invalid.
Check Out the Reviews – Every company will have some bad reviews. No one, not even a company can please everyone. What you can do is look at the picture as a whole. Do they respond to their feedback? Do the positive reviews outweigh the few bad apples?
Price Isn’t Everything – The lowest price may not be the best choice. You want to make sure you are not getting something the company is just trying to unload. Make sure they are not excluding permits, or warranties. Some companies will cut pricing by cutting warranties. Always check the fine print.
The heating and cooling industry is not regulated so you need to make sure you pick a company that will take care of you and your family. When it comes to making one of the biggest purchases for your home, you want to make sure you get your money’s worth.
What Is It?
Here at Comfort Solutions Heating and Cooling, Inc we are getting a lot of questions asking what SEER means? The quotes that people are getting when looking to add an air conditioner or heat pump will usually list the SEER as well as other information to help people decide which unit is best for their home.
People don’t spend a lot of time explaining what it means. Usually, you get information on the benefits of each unit and rarely touch on what it is and how it can give you information on each air conditioner.
What does SEER stand for?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This means that the amount of cooling that is produced to cool the home during the cooling season(the BTU’s) is divided by the amount of electricity used. The higher the SEER rating the better the air conditioner’s efficiency.
If you are looking for a unit that has an Energy Star Label, then those unit will be at a 15 SEER or higher.
Even the basic models nowadays have a higher SEER then those from 15-20 years ago. You have to keep in mind that even those that have a high SEER, like a 21 SEER, will not always perform at that level. It just means that it can get up that high, but may in fact go lower.
A SEER rating isn’t the only determination of efficiency. You need to take into account the units quality and longevity, how often you plan to run it, the EER rating, what temperature you plan to keep your home at, as well as size of the unit. Your sales consultant can help you in determining which size if right for your home.
The SEER is only a part of what can help you decide which unit is right for you. Contact us for a free quote to help you decide which unit is best for your home.
When Did You Last Check Your Filter?
Dirty filters are a frequent source of issues when it comes to your heating and cooling system. Instead of calling an HVAC company first, you may be able to save yourself a little bit of money by checking out your filter.
In the summer, your air conditioner requires the use of your furnace in order to push the air into your home. This means that air is traveling thru your filter, which will cause it to get dirty. Not changing your filter will cause the evaporator coils to freeze up because the air flow is restricted. Not good when your trying to keep cool during these hot Portland, OR days.
In the winter, your heat exchangers will overheat and will shut down, so your house never warms up. The limit switch that is in place as a safeguard could eventually fail, and then your furnace won’t come on at all. With the winter we just had here in Portland, OR not having a properly working furnace can have serious consequences.
If you use a dirty air filter, then the blower fan must work harder to push air thru. This causes more energy use, which will affect your energy bill. Using a dirty filter will also spread any mold or bacteria growing on your filter throughout the house.
So make sure that in-between your annual maintenance’s, you are checking your filter every 2- 3 months, and replace as needed.
Window A/C to Central A/C Worth the Investment?
Do you have a window air conditioner? Ever wonder what it would be like if you had central air or even if its worth switching? Are you concerned they are costing more than putting in central air?
A Few Things to Remember About Window Air Conditioner Units
- They tend to sweat which mean they will introduce moisture into the room.
- Window units are hard to seal which means that some of that hot and humid air will come into the room, not to mention bugs. YUCK!
- They can get very loud with decibel levels being as high as 82 decibels.
- In order for you to get the most out of them you either need to buy a cover for them or take them down and put them up every year.
- They can get expensive to run.
- Perfect choice if your only needing to cool down 1 or 2 rooms.
Window units are cheaper in terms of the expense of buying one versus switching to central air conditioning, but you still have to maintain the unit in order to get the most out of it. They also have the added benefit of being something you can install yourself. The draw back comes when you are trying to cool down several rooms, which means you are running several units. This means you are not being very efficient with cooling and your electric bill will be going up pretty quickly.
Central air is great if you have duct work in place. Even switching up to a heat pump will help save on both your heating and cooling bill. Most air conditioners nowadays have a higher SEER then days gone by. SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is important because it tells a homeowner the relative amount of energy that is needed to provide a certain level of cooling.
A Few thing to Remember About Central Air
- You don’t need duct work in place to get cooling. Ductless heat pumps are another option to get cooling for a particular space.
- Central air can keep the whole house cool instead of just one room, which can also make it more cost effective in the long run.
- More aesthetically pleasing then having several window units all over your house.
- Depending on which type you get, it may help to dehumidify your home. (see a HVAC specialist to see which is the best for your home).
- Today’s model are most energy efficient.
If you are just not sure which is the best for your home, give Comfort Solutions Heating & Cooling a call. The consult is free and it may just help you determine what is best for you and your home.
Spring is here in beautiful Portland, OR!
Well, as good as its going to get for now. We seem to be continuing to experience cool temperatures and LOTS of rain. Even with that, many of us have already started on spring cleaning. After all, it’s Oregon, and a little rain does not bother us Oregonian’s. So while your cleaning out your closet to get rid of that t-shirt collection that someone in the house thinks is a great homage to every concert they have been to since they were 16, or that treadmill that has just been collecting dust in your garage since the last new year (2016), make sure your air conditioner/heat pump maintenance is on your to do list.
You pay all this money for comfort, so it is always best to be proactive and make sure its in top working order. Not to mention, the air conditioner/heat pump always seems to go out at the hottest time of the year. Which of course is when it’s nearly impossible to find any heating & cooling company that can come out within the same week, let alone the same month. If you do not catch any issue early enough, it could end up costing you. Possibly, a new unit if it goes unchecked, and that isn’t cheap.
For most of us, it’s probably been a year or more since we had our cooling looked at. In that time, a years’ worth of dirt and debris will have clogged the coil fins. (Coil fins are those aluminum fin like things that are on the evaporator and condenser coils.) They bend easily, which then blocks air flow thru the coil. This means that not enough cool air is coming into the house. Good news is they can be put back with a fin comb.
A leak could have also developed over that time. If you have even the smallest leak, you will have lost refrigerant, which will directly affect how much cooling you will have. As the coolant continues to leak you will eventually lose all coolant and that can get to be an expensive repair. Just as an FYI, if you have an older unit that uses R-22, its time to start budgeting for a new unit. Even if your unit is working just fine, R-22 is being phased out. This means that the cost of using R-22 will continue to rise. Check out this link for more information. New systems now use R-410, which is much better for the environment and your repair bill for replacing refrigerant will be a lot less.
What you should expect from an air conditioner/heat pump maintenance?
Make sure to have your air conditioner/heat pump serviced when it is at least 60 degrees out. This will ensure that the system is working correctly and not just working with the cold air outside.
The technician should do at minimum the following:
- Cleaning dirt, leaves and other debris from the condensing coils
- Check the state of your refrigerant
- Ensure your fan is working properly
- Test safety controls
- Test thermostat operation
- Test & inspect drain pan safety switches
- Inspect electrical disconnect box
- Check equipment grounding
- Inspect and test contactors and relays
- Inspect electrical connections and wires.
- Inspect all stand alone capacitors
- Measure and record AMP draw to blower motor
- Inspect fan belt
- Inspect and clean condensate drain and traps
- Inspect coil fins
- Inspect refrigerant lines
- Check for oil leaks
- Inspect indoor coil
They should pretty much check the entire unit, inside and out. A good service technician will go over their findings with you and be able to show you anything that is concerning.
What You Can Do
Make sure you are changing your air filter regularly. A plugged air filter will restrict the air flow and cause your system to work harder than it should. This can result in your system developing issues sooner. If you are in need of a filter, contact Comfort Solutions (Mention this blog, and get 10% off the filter purchase). They can replace the filter while out for your air conditioner/heat pump maintenance.
To keep your air conditioner protected thru the wet and snow months, you can purchase an air conditioning cover. The best covers are ones that are made specifically for your unit so you know you’re getting the best fit. Contact Comfort Solutions Heating and Cooling and we can get a customized air conditioner cover ordered for you and shipped directly to your home. (If you mention this blog, you can save 10% on that too!)
You just need to remember to take it off the unit before you are going to start using it. Bad things will happen if you forget your cover is on, and you start running your air conditioner. After all, it needs air to run and a cover would prevent that from happening. Also, you will still want to check your unit after any storms, first to make sure it didn’t fly off (it happens on occasion), and second, because debris can still work its way in.
You can also clean off your unit by using simple green. Clean it well, and hose it off. This will help keep the dirt and debris out. Just make sure to turn off the unit first.
Lastly, call a heating and cooling company. If something is wrong and a maintenance doesn’t fix it, then their service technician should be able to pinpoint the issue and offer a solution to fix it.