Riverdale HVAC Question: What Does an Air Handler Do?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Your HVAC system is a complex system filled with vital components tasked with keeping you comfortable. One of the most important of those component is the air handler – the device responsible for circulating the heated or cooled air produced by your system through the vents in your home and into each of your rooms.

The air handler is a metal box, usually consisting of a blower and the heating or cooling elements. It might also include dampers and sound attenuators along with an air filtration and humidity control system. The simplest air handlers are designed only to transfer the heated or cooled air to the various parts of your home, while the most advanced devices are designed to perfectly condition and clean that air as it is circulated.

 Types of Air Handler

There are a few different types of air handler as well, depending on the size of the HVAC system and the nature of the heating and/or cooling used. Most homes, for example, use terminal units which consist of just an air filter, blower and coil. This very simple system is all you really need to heat and transmit air through your ductwork.

However, for larger systems, there are also makeup air units which use outdoor air instead of recirculated indoor air. There are also packaged and rooftop units which are designed to be placed outside. These devices are most commonly used for commercial applications when space is limited.

How the Air Handler Works

An air handler’s most basic component is a blower fan. This device is run by an AC electric motor and can be either single speed or variable speed depending on the size and scope of your air handler. The dampers on the fan will control the flow rate of the air going through the blower fan. Most residential blowers are part of the air conditioning or furnace system, while commercial systems often have multiple blowers to maintain steady airflow for a larger space.

Because an air handler passes all of the air that will go through your vents, it is the best place to install high quality MERV or HEPA filters to remove pathogens and contaminants. It is also a good place to install humidity control devices to either raise or lower humidity depending on the time of the year.

Your air handler is an incredibly important component in your home heating and cooling system. Without it, all that heated and cooled air you pay for each year wouldn’t reach you. So, make sure to keep your system in tip top condition.  If you suspect a problem with your air handler, give Cool Air Mechanical a call!

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Whitesburg Home Energy Audits

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Considering an upgrade to your Whitesburg home’s heating system? It’s usually a sound investment that generates savings both in heating costs and repair bills, plus it keeps your family happy and comfortable.

Before you take the plunge on new equipment, though, you may want to get a home energy audit. What you find may help you choose the right system.

A home energy audit is essentially an inspection by a professional of the materials used to insulate your home. This includes not just the insulation in the walls, but also the walls themselves, along with windows, doors and so on. The idea is to figure out how much heat is escaping your home to the outside, so an audit may also include looking at ducts, vents or anywhere else where air could flow through.

So what does an energy audit have to do with a heating upgrade?

Think about it like this. There are two ways to make your home warmer: increase heat gain (e.g., get a more efficient heating system) or decrease heat loss. If you are able to do the latter, you may find that the former is unnecessary.

For example, you may get an energy audit and discover that by installing new windows and resealing your doors, you can increase heating efficiency by 10%. This could have big implications for your decision to get a new heating system, as you may decide that you can save money by getting a smaller capacity furnace. Getting the right size furnace is very important; one that is too small will not be able to heat your home to the desired temperature and one that is too large will short-cycle, which leads to uneven heating and wears down your system quickly.

A home energy audit is the first step to getting a new heating system, and one that is sure to save you money. Give Cool Air Mechanical a call to set up an energy audit today!

 

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Grayson Heat Pump Maintenance Tips

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Just like any HVAC system, the heat pump in your Grayson home needs routine maintenance and yearly check-ups to operate as efficiently and safely as possible. You also don’t want your heat pump to wear down to the point of a major malfunction or breakdown, which can be costly to repair or may require a complete system replacement.

Here are some things that could go wrong and cost you a lot more in the end if you don’t keep up with the regular maintenance of your heat pump.

Damage to the Compressor

The compressor in a split-system heat pump works whether you are heating or cooling your Grayson home. In the winter, the compressor reverses the flow of the refrigerant to defrost the outdoor coils, and in the summer it supplies the refrigerant to cool the home, as well as cooling the outdoor coils. Proper airflow is vital to keeping the compressor running smoothly. Filters that are not changed regularly, dirty coils, and dirty fans can all restrict airflow, which will damage the compressor. Debris around the outside components should also be cleared to allow proper airflow.

Decreased Efficiency

When dirty or broken components restrict the airflow, this damages the compressor and decreases the heat pump’s efficiency levels.  Not only is it important to clean your heat pump regularly, but you should also have it checked by a certified heating technician once a year. This will also prevent safety hazards and other hidden issues with the heat pump.

Improper Refrigerant Levels

Most heat pumps are charged with refrigerant at the factory; however, if models that are charged when they are installed are not given the right amount of refrigerant this can also affect performance levels. Refrigerant leaks and other common problems can be prevented by scheduling an annual maintenance visit with one of our qualified technicians.

Don’t wait until the heat pump in your home stops working, call to schedule your yearly check-up.

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Question from Hiram: What is Refrigerant Pressure and Why Does it Matter?

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Refrigerant is often called the “lifeblood” of mechanical cooling devices like refrigerators, heat pumps, and air conditioners, all equipment you probably have in your Hiram home.  The main function of refrigerant is to transfer heat through a closed loop system. Various heating and cooling (HVAC) components require different operating pressures to move refrigerant and process the “refrigeration cycle.”

In a nutshell, the refrigeration cycle involves refrigerant, which changes from a liquid to a vapor and back to a liquid again by the addition of pressure and heat. In a refrigeration system, pressurized refrigerant passed through an expansion valve into an evaporator and pressure is reduced. The evaporator is a tube which passes by the area to be cooled. When the pressure drops, this liquid refrigerant changes into a vapor, which absorbs vaporized heat from the area around the evaporator. After the heat is absorbed by the refrigerant, it flows to a condenser, where it passes over coils, absorbs heat from the hot vapor, and condenses back into a liquid. The liquid is returned to the compressor and the cycle begins again.

Today’s refrigerants – especially those used in residential applications – are broken down into two different types, labeled R-22 and R-410A. R-22 is made up of a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemical, which has been found to be damaging to the Earth’s ozone layer. It has been replaced by R-410A, which is made up of a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) chemical and will eventually be phased out by the year 2020. One of the biggest differences between the two are their operating temperatures. HFCs operate at much higher refrigerant pressure.

You don’t have to understand the refrigeration cycle to know that today’s high-pressure HFC refrigerants require different test instrumentation and retrofitted or upgraded mechanical equipment. The change in operating pressure is a small price to pay for a safer cleaner environment.

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Centerville Gwin HVAC Repair Tip: How to Tell if Your Air Ducts Are Leaking

Monday, December 26th, 2011

There are lots of ways for your Centerville Gwin home to lose energy – through leaky door frames, cracks in window trim, loose or missing insulation, etc. A lot of your indoor heating and cooling winds up outdoors and drives up your utility bills.

One part of your home that is susceptible to leaks and energy loss is your ventilation system, typically metal or flexible ductwork. Older homes generally experience more duct leakage because seals and joints may have loosened over the years or may have not been properly connected when they were installed. There are some ways to check and see – or hear – if the air ducts in your home are leaking.

The most obvious way to check is by listening. Stand, sit, or kneel close to your ductwork. Listen for any hissing noises when the furnace, air conditioner, or blower motor is in operation. A hissing noise is usually an indication of a leak in a seal or joint. Since ductwork comes in a variety of lengths and contains a number of different connectors, there are likely many joints where pieces have been connected. Some joints are sealed with small sheet metal screws while other joints are sealed with duct tape or mastic. Whatever the connection is, the joints may have come loose over time from vibrations, settling of the home’s foundation, previous repairs, or by someone simply bumping into the ductwork.

Another way to check for a leaking air duct is by looking at insulation which may be wrapped around the ductwork. If an air duct is leaking it will leave dark stains on the insulation over time – giving an exact location of the leak.

Leaks in your air ducts can cause areas like your crawlspace, attic, or garage to be abnormally cold or hot. If you are conditioning unused parts of your home inadvertently, it may be because your ductwork is leaking in those areas.

Finally, a not so easy way to check for leaking ducts is to compare utility bills. If there is a big spike in your heating or cooling costs, it may be because of temperature extremes – but it also may be because your ductwork is leaking. You may not be able to see a big difference in your bills unless there are large leaks or breaks in your ductwork, but keep an eye on your energy costs anyway.

Once you have located any leaks, there are some easy fixes. But you also may want to call your local qualified heating and cooling contractor to perform a whole house energy audit, using leak detection instrumentation to check for leaks.

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Dacula HVAC Tip: What to Check If Your Furnace Isn’t Lighting

Friday, December 16th, 2011

If your furnace isn’t lighting properly and your family is starting to suffer because of it, there are a number of possible problems you should check for before calling a Dacula heating contractor. Some of these issues can be fixed quickly by you while others may be signs of a serious problem that needs professional attention right away.

Checking the Pilot Light

If you have a gas furnace, the first step is to check the pilot light and ensure it is still working properly. If the pilot light is still on but goes out when you try to light the furnace or simply won’t stay on when you relight it, you may need to have the gas valve replaced. In some cases, it is as simple as the pilot light not being large enough and the gas blowing out the light.

This happens when gas enters the chamber and doesn’t ignite right away. When it does ignite, which happens after more gas enters the chamber, the extra force of the ignition will blow out the light. This is still a problem and should be inspected to ensure you don’t have any potential gas related issues.

Still Not Lighting

If you don’t have a pilot light or the unit still isn’t lighting, it may be an electrical issue. Electrical ignitions for gas furnaces should spark when the thermostat is turned on, so if it doesn’t you know that the switch or relay are bad.

If you smell gas or anything similar in the room where the furnace is located, you should immediately turn off the unit and call your gas company, followed by a technician. There could be a leak causing low pressure that results in your pilot light going out. Whatever the case, you need someone to look at it immediately.

Your furnace should always turn on when you flip the switch and if it does not, assume there is a problem. If you cannot find the problem yourself and easily fix it, you should call a Dacula professional. The risk inherent in an improperly working furnace (especially gas or oil) is too high to ignore.

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Hapeville Heating Contractor Tip: Signs of an Undersized Furnace

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

If you’re purchasing a new furnace for your Hapeville home, you want to avoid buying one that is undersized for your particular space. To do that, here are some common signs that the furnace isn’t powerful enough for the heating needs of your home. These signs might appear for an older furnace as well, especially as it ages and loses its ability to provide adequate heat for your home.

Maintaining Temperature

The most common (and in many cases only) sign that your furnace is undersized is that the device simply doesn’t maintain the temperature in your home properly. This means that when turned on to full and left for a few hours, your furnace doesn’t heat your home to the thermostat setting.

This can be due to an improper load calculation or a load calculation that wasn’t taken at all. The perfectly sized furnace will heat your home evenly on the coldest day your area is likely to have. So, undersizing should be pretty evident – if it doesn’t heat your home evenly and it’s not exceptionally cold outside, you might not have enough BTUs under the hood.

How to Fix the Problem

The problem is one that varies depending on the severity of the undersizing. Modern furnaces are often available with two stages, meaning they can operate at both a low BTU rating (often around 40K or so) and a higher BTU rating (70K or higher). This is the perfect solution for homeowners worried about undersizing because it ensures that your home always has enough heat in reserve should the weather get exceptionally cold.

For example, most furnaces are sized for extremely low temperatures, but if the temperature jumps up to 50 degrees F outside, your furnace is now oversized for that weather. A two stage furnace offers solutions for both common conditions and extreme conditions and will resolve most of the concern you have about undersizing and not having enough heat to offset outdoor temperatures.

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