Thinking about building a high efficiency home? Or maybe you already have one, and have questions about it’s heating and cooling system. We found a great article from our friends over at ACCA Now that helps explain special HVAC considerations when choosing a system for high efficiency homes.
Behold, the home of the future! The home with special high-efficiency windows, doors, appliances, and lights. A space-age ventilation system that exhausts harmful pollutants and brings in healthy clean air for the family, pets, and plants; so they all flourish in this virile environment. The home’s space-age construction, nearly airtight and well insulated, ensures that it is effortless to heat and cool. The home’s integrated control system works seamlessly (and best of all, the whole house functions on a small steady stream of power produced on-site. Won’t it be great to live in the house of tomorrow?
This technological marvel is built every day, but some of these houses are as comfortable as a cave, and not a capsule. Why? HVAC contractors MUST follow good design practices, or their customers will suffer because of three big challenges.
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Before you sign a contract to have a home built by any type of contracting company, whether they be a huge company with fancy billboards or a local contractor who doesn’t market at all, be sure you know who exactly is going to take care of any heating and air conditioning warranty work after it has been installed. Many general contractors hire the cheapest company, sometimes from very far away. One reason they are the cheapest is because they know they won’t be back to provide any kind of back up warranty work.
Homeowners are often told by their general contractor, “they live too far away” to do warranty work. They weren’t too far away to put it in, but they are too far away to work on it? Sometimes the general contractor buys the equipment, but hires a subcontractor to provide install labor only. Who takes care of warranty then? Also, contractors often use a “builders model” that may not operate automatically between heating and cooling or have other limitations.
We receive calls all the time from people who are abandoned after the sale with no one to provide warranty work. Unless we are a dealer of that equipment, we cannot perform any warranty repair. It is your money, shouldn’t you be able to choose someone who you know will take care of your equipment? Here are some suggestions:
- Ask the general contractor, who exactly is installing the system including name, address, and contact phone number.
- Ask what brand is being installed. Go to that brand’s website and see if there are any dealers close by. Even then, if those dealers didn’t install the equipment they may choose not to take care of any warranty work for something they did not install.
- Ask the general contractor specifically how warranty repairs are handled.
- Ask to read the warranty on the equipment before you sign on with them. This should not be a problem. Whomever they use as a subcontractor, should not have a problem providing a copy of it. If the general contractor installs it, again, it should not be a problem to provide a copy of the warranty. Sometimes the warranty is listed on the brand’s website.
- Make sure you get a copy of the homeowners manual and warranty for your records.
- Don’t accept the common answer of “any contractor can take care of the warranty.” This is not a completely true statement.
- Maintain your equipment properly, else any warranty could be voided.
Hopefully this information might save you from potential problems when building a home. Fancy front doors are lovely, but, really, what system provides the most comfort for every minute you spend in your house? What system, when it breaks down, is more critical?
I recently received a call from a concerned elderly customer because she thought she understood a news outlet to say that everyone will need to replace their air conditioners after next year because refrigerant won’t be available. I also had a friend living in the Washington D.C. area express concern because her contractor told her that her air conditioner would only be repairable for another year because the refrigerant would not be available. Neither of these beliefs are true. I am concerned that misinformation and unscrupulous contractors will twist the true state of refrigerant supply, especially R-22.
“The Montreal Protocol, finalized in 1987, is a global agreement to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS). The stratospheric ozone layer filters out harmful ultraviolet radiation, which is associated with an increased prevalence of skin cancer and cataracts, reduced agricultural productivity, and disruption of marine ecosystems. The United States ratified the Montreal Protocol in 1988 and has joined four subsequent amendments. The United States has been a leader within the Protocol throughout its existence, and has taken strong domestic action to phase out the production and consumption of ODS such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons.”
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As part of the Montreal protocol, the manufacture and import of R-22 (among other substances), considered to be an ozone depleting substance, will no longer be permitted as of January 1, 2020. As anyone knows who has had to have their air conditioner or heat pump charged with R-22 recently, the cost has skyrocketed. Knowing the ban was coming, fewer manufacturers were creating it and because of limited supply, prices increased. However, from all of the information I could gather from ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) and our suppliers, R-22 has been stockpiled.
As well, we have to use refrigerant recovery machines to remove old R-22 (and other refrigerants) when needed. When we have enough full cans, we return these to a supplier, who then submits it for recycling. We keep separate cans for each type of recovered refrigerants. Some contractors mix their refrigerants in the same can. Recyclers don’t have the capacity to separate them, so, availability of recycled R-22 can be affected by the purity of what is turned in by the contractors.
There is also a “drop in” refrigerant that can replace R-22. We use M099 most frequently. Use of this refrigerant can reduce your cooling capacity between 3 and 5%. So, if your system struggles to keep up due to under-sizing, this reduction in capacity may make your unit run longer or it cannot provide the same comfort level for the space you are conditioning.
From what I understand, between the stockpiling, the availability of recycled R-22, and the use of “drop-in” refrigerants, there should be enough supply to fulfill future need until all R-22 units will have lived their longest possible life and been replaced or abandoned.
There are many instances when it is more prudent to replace an R-22 unit than to keep repairing it. For example unfixable leaks mean you have to charge the unit more often, or you want a newer more efficient unit with a long term warranty, your compressor or other expensive components have failed, and so on. However, it is not true that they won’t be able to be repaired because R-22 is not available or is illegal nor is it true that you will be required to replace your air conditioner.
I would like to add R410a, used in the manufacturing of current systems, will also be phased out in the future as it has been determined to be an ozone depleting substance as well. California currently has mandates in place for its phase out. Europe also has moved away from R410a. The national implementation of replacement refrigerant for R410a and the timeline for such is still on going, but the new refrigerants will likely include mildly flammable or flammable products.
As the industry begins to introduce new refrigerants it will be more important than ever to ensure consumers are hiring professional contractors who will follow industry guidelines for the safe handling of these refrigerants. Those changes are a few years away, but it’s important for contractors to start learning about these products and educating their staff about what this means for this industry.
You notice the house is feeling cool and you turn up the thermostat. When you hold your hand over the registers, no air flow! Now what? Here are a few things you can check on your own before calling for service, depending on the type of heat you have.
- Do you have power? Check breakers, fuses, and switches at the thermostat.
- Does your digital thermostat have a blank screen? Check to see if it needs new batteries.
- Is your filter dirty? If you say, “What filter?” You better give us a call! Seriously, an extremely dirty filter can cause your furnace to overheat due to lack of air flow and cause safeties to engage, which won’t allow your furnace to operate. As well, if your system uses a flimsy 1″ fiberglass filter and it gets clogged, the blower can actually suck in the filter and make a horrible racket or destroy your blower motor.
- Do you have fuel oil or propane? Yes, we get a few calls a year where tanks were empty. Even with natural gas, if temperatures are sustained in the single digits for very long, gas supply has dwindled whereby the gas flow diminished and safeties kicked in to shut down the furnace so be sure there aren’t problems in your neighborhood with the natural gas supply.
- Are your flues blocked for any reason? We have found flues blocked with ice, snow, heavy spider webs, wasps nests , and even toys and rocks (those grandkids!). If the flue gases can’t be vented, safeties will operate to shut off your furnace.
- For oil furnaces, could your oil filter or nozzle be clogged, or possibly could you have air in the line? Often, when oil is delivered, any sediment in the tank is agitated and can be drawn into the oil line and then clog the nozzle and filter or, when the last bit of oil was used, air was drawn into the line and it now needs bled.
- Is your outdoor heat pump making an odd noise or steaming? If steaming, it could just be in defrost cycle and you have simply not previously witnessed it. It can look like it is ready to take off like a rocket! But, that is normal if it discontinues after several minutes. If making an odd noise, ice could be building up on the fan blades if freezing rain is falling or you have a gutter dripping onto your unit and the water is then freezing on the blades. Simply pour a bucket or two of warm (not boiling) water over the fan blade area to free them of ice. Hopefully they haven’t cracked and you will be then be noise free but don’t forget to fix the gutter!
Maybe these suggestions will save you money in the future and get you up and running quickly; however, if you can’t safely perform these minor repairs or they don’t get you fixed, please don’t hesitate to call.
I just wanted to share our experience with a home warranty company so that you, the home owner, might look deeply into the fine print before purchasing one, or, if you buy a new house, understand what a home warranty might or might not cover.
First, some home warranty companies say you have to pay the first so many dollars. In this example, it was $75. Then the next $300 of approved repairs are covered. However, some items which were not covered are very common. For instance, this company would not pay for refrigerant to charge a system nor the cost to find and repair the leak. On an older R-22 system, this can be quite costly. They also would not pay for anything termed “maintenance” such as finding a dirty filter which wouldn’t let air flow and may have caused the indoor coil to clog. They also would not pay for anything that was deficient in the original installation such as not enough, improperly installed, or collapsed ductwork.
When a unit is unable to be repaired, sometimes the warranty company will just refund the cost of the warranty and the homeowner is still left with the total financial responsibility of the installation of the new equipment. At other times, they have an unprofessional crew come in whom you have never heard of nor will hear of again. Are they insured, drug tested, back ground checked, licensed?
Please read the fine print before purchasing a home warranty. If you bought a home with one, don’t assume all your break downs are covered no matter the problem Read and understand it. We have decided not to work with any home warranty companies at this time because we are often the one who gets to explain exactly what the policy says and the property owner is upset with us because we have to abide by the warranty companies’ policies. Often people think, “I have a home warranty. I am covered.” Not necessarily.
If you have had a good experience with a home warranty company, great! Just be sure you know what you own or what you are buying.
From a recent article on NPR:
While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor’s degree is softening, even as the price — and the average debt into which it plunges students — keeps going up.
But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor’s that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled. This affects those students and also poses a real threat to the economy.
Seventy-percent of construction companies nationwide are having trouble finding qualified workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America; in Washington, the proportion is 80 percent.
There are already more trade jobs like carpentry, electrical, plumbing, sheet-metal work and pipe-fitting than Washingtonians to fill them, the state auditor reports. Many pay more than the state’s average annual wage of $54,000.
Read the full article on npr.org.
This time of year can be challenging for your heating system so here are some tips to keep it running and prevent an emergency service call.
- If you have a high efficiency gas furnace, make sure your plastic flues are free of ice and snow. If they get blocked, your furnaces safety controls will prevent it from running.
- In the case of a heat pump, freezing rain or a drippy gutter can overcome your outdoor unit with ice. If ice builds up on your heat pump condenser fan, it can be out of balance and cause the blades to crack. Should you experience this, just pour warm (not boiling) water over the fan area to melt the ice.
- Some digital thermostats take batteries, so if you have a blank screen check to see if your batteries need changed.
- If you have an oil furnace, and moisture has entered your fuel oil system, and the temperature drops far enough, that moisture will freeze and block the flow of oil. Be sure your fill cap is in place and tight and that your gauge glass isn’t cracked. Those are the two most common places water enters a system. As well, you are better off to keep your tank full in the summer so that the tank doesn’t condensate, which causes rust, which flakes off and can also block your fuel line, filter, and/or nozzle. When you have oil delivered it often stirs up sediment and can clog the oil line filter and nozzle so have extra on hand.
- Ensure all inside drains are not blocked by mold. This can cause water to run into your furnace or your safety may engage to shut down your system . Flush with a bleach/water solution.
- Check your air filters. Keeping them changed or cleaned goes a long way toward preventing overload of components.
- Power fluctuations often occur during extreme weather so check fuses and breakers to make sure they haven’t blown or been tripped.
- If you have the old type standing pilot furnace, make sure to have an extra thermocouple on hand.
- Since oil and gas has hit the area, many people have free or reduced priced gas from wells on their property. These well supplied systems can also freeze, so check to be sure that hasn’t happened before assuming you have a furnace problem.
- Have a secondary source of heat available whether that be an electric heater, kerosene heater, or vented or unvented natural or propane gas heater. Follow manufacturer safety instructions for their use. They won’t heat your entire house but may prevent water lines from freezing.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful in resolving or preventing simple issues and thereby save you money.
Did you know your home heating and air conditioning system operates approximately 3,300 hours per year?
To put this run time in perspective, a car driven for the same 3,300 hours at 65 miles per hour would travel over 214,000 miles! Would you travel that far without having routine maintenance to assure the efficiency, safety, and reliability of the vehicle?
Is your home or business air conditioning system tuned up and ready for the coming season?
Make a comfortable decision. Call Rumer-Loudin, with offices in St. Clairsville and Barnesville, to schedule a central air conditioner check up.
You can view our maintenance checklist and see what is done during your checkup.
A maintenance agreement is available for two checks per year, one for the heating season and one for the cooling, or we can just check your air conditioner.
Remember the old adage, and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Have you been nursing your old air conditioner along? Maybe adding refrigerant every year or two because you have a refrigerant leak? You may want to finally replace it and here’s why.
In 1987 the US signed the Montreal Protocol, which calls for the phase out of R-22 refrigerant by the year 2020. If your air conditioner was installed in 2010 or earlier, this is probably the type of refrigerant in your system. As the year 2020 approaches, the price of R-22 refrigerant will sky rocket. Already it has more than doubled over the last year.
There is something called a drop-in refrigerant to replace R-22; however, it can reduce your cooling capacity about 3 to 5%.
Newer systems use a much less expensive refrigerant called 410A. As well, new systems usually have at least a 10 year parts and warranty and are more efficient.
Rumer-Loudin offers financing applied for via our website. For a free estimate on a new cooling system, call the Barnesville (740-425-3134) or St. Clairsville (740-695-2487) office, or contact us using our website.
Rumer-Loudin, Inc., is excited to announce that we will be expanding our customer’s choices with the addition of Napoleon Heating and Cooling products.
Headquartered in Barrie, Ontario, Napoleon has been named one of Canada’s Best Manged Companies and has operations in both Barrie, Ontario and Crittenden, Kentucky. Despite being a multi-national company, Napoleon is not a huge conglomerate who is out of touch with their customers and dealers; their founder, Wolfgang Schroeter, is still very much involved within the company, which now employs the second generation of the family.
Napoleon provides excellent warranties for their product, however their track records show that these are not often needed. They have innovative patents across all of their product divisions, which include a line of wood / hybrid line and some models so attractive you could put them in your kitchen.
If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with us by calling at our St. Clairsville office (740-695-2487), our Barnesville office (740-425-3134), or by contacting us here on our website.