Bud Matthews Services is the HVAC, plumbing and construction company of choice near Durham, NC. Bud Matthews Service is a single, reliable company that can handle your HVAC system, your plumbing system, your appliances and your construction needs, and we’ve been doing so for over 30 years.
Most of the parts of an air conditioning system are essential for it to run. But if one part of an air conditioner deserves to be called the essential piece, it’s the compressor. This component is what allows the air conditioner to carry out a cooling cycle—it places the chemical refrigerant in the AC under pressure, turning it into a hot gas that then travels through the two coils to release heat from one set and absorb heat from the other. If the compressor doesn’t work, an air conditioning system will only blow around room temperature air.
Because a compressor undergoes immense amounts of work each summer, it starts to degrade over time. Eventually, the compressor needs to be replaced (and it’s usually best to replace the rest of the AC along with it). But earlier, a compressor can be rescued with the appropriate air conditioning repair in Mebane, NC—such as adding a hard start kit.
The Hard-Starting Air Conditioner
Hard starting is a common repair problem in aging air conditioners. Because of wear and tear, the compressor will have a harder time turning on at the beginning of the cooling cycle. You may notice the air isn’t as cool as normal, and the outdoor cabinet will make grinding and clicking noises as the compressor struggles to come on. You don’t want to allow hard starting to continue, since it will speed up the demise of the compressor and will also drain more electrical power, forcing your utility bills to rise.
Installing a Hard Start Kit
Fortunately, an air conditioning repair technician can help with a hard-starting AC. You don’t need to junk the compressor just yet! The technician can equip the compressor with a hard start kit, which is a way to give the compressor the “jump start” it needs to go to work. You won’t have to worry about the slow turn-on speed—the capacitor in the hard start kit will push the compressor into action right away.
Hard Start Kits Aren’t Permanent Solutions
The installation of a hard start kit will probably keep your air conditioner running at its standard performance for a few more years. But having to have one installed in the first place is a sign that you have an aging cooling system and a replacement isn’t too far off in the future. Your technician can give you an estimate for how long you can expect to receive useful and cost-effective performance from the AC after the hard start kit is installed. That way you can start to make plans for the eventual replacement.
If your air conditioning system is more than 15 years old, the HVAC technician will probably tell you that installing a hard start kit isn’t worth it—it’s only a patch to keep an already dying AC scraping along for a bit longer. The technician can help determine whether keeping up with repairs or going for a new installation is the best for your immediate comfort and long-term savings.
Humidity. You don’t like it. We don’t like it. None of us like it—at least not during the summer! Humidity makes hot days feel worse, forces air conditioning systems to work longer and run up bigger bills, and allows mold and mildew to develop inside homes. High humidity can even damage surface, warp wood, and ruin precision musical instruments.
Yep, high indoor humidity is no fun—and we want to help you get rid of it in your house.
Why an Air Conditioning System May Not Be Enough
Turning up the air conditioner may seem like the first line of defense against high humidity. But although an air conditioner can help you feel cooler, it isn’t an actual dehumidifier. To overcome the extra heat humidity traps in your body (which can make the indoor temperature feel 8° to 10°F hotter than it is), you’ll need to run the AC longer and spend more money to power it. Plus, the humidity is still in the air, causing all those other humidity problems, like encouraging mold growth and wrecking that guitar your great-great uncle left you. (Or its equivalent.)
Air conditioners do have some dehumidifying properties, since the process of absorbing heat from the indoor air also draws moisture from the air. But, as we mentioned before, an AC is not built as a dehumidifier unless it has specific dehumidification controls. It can’t overcome a humid day in Durham.
The Whole-House Dehumidifier
How can we help you control high humidity if the AC alone won’t do it? We can equip your HVAC system with a whole-house dehumidifier. This device is integrated into the ventilation system so it can work in tandem with the AC. This is important, since a dehumidifier uses a similar process to an air conditioner to remove humidity. If the two are balanced, you can end up with air that’s too dry or a house that’s too cold.
A whole-house dehumidifier operates using refrigerant and an evaporator coil. The refrigerant evaporates and pulls moisture from the air, which is then collected and removed from the house. The air is cooled as this happens, but to prevent interference with the air conditioner, the dehumidifier reheats the air it dehumidifies. A control called a humidistat allows the homeowner to change humidity levels (it can be integrated into a new thermostat). The recommended indoor relative humidity level is 45%, which balances between too humid and too dry.
Watch Out for Dry Air
One of the reasons you always want to rely on Pittsboro, NC, HVAC professionals to install a whole-house dehumidifier is to make sure the system won’t dry out the air too much. If humidity goes below 30%, it will create a whole new set of problems, such as dried sinuses, itchy skin, cracked wood furnishing, and more.
You can trust our indoor air quality experts to help you beat the humid summers in your home. We also install humidifiers so you can keep the humidity balance during dry winter conditions.
Central air conditioning systems started to become common for residential buildings in the 1970s. But many homes in the Durham area still rely on window units to provide their summer cooling. We recommend you have these window units replaced, either with a standard central air conditioning system (if you have ductwork in the house for it) or a ductless mini split system (a flexible option that makes it easy to transition away from window units).
What’s Wrong With Window ACs?
Don’t get us wrong. Window air conditioners are a good choice for cooling—if you live in a small apartment! For a family house, however, they have too many drawbacks. Here are a few of the reasons we recommend you take out those old window-stuffers and install a new type of cooling system.
They don’t look good
An air conditioner taking up window space isn’t a good designer look for a room. Worse is what the ACs look like from the outside, where the large condenser and fan parts of the units protrude from the sides of the home. A house has much less curb appeal when its studded all over with window air conditioners.
They take up window space
Does your home feel dark and a bit dismal because air conditioners have hogged up numerous windows? Imagine getting all that window real estate back. That not only means more light, it also lets you open up the window to enjoy a fresh breeze, which is helpful for cooling down the house naturally.
They don’t cool a large volume of space
A window unit is limited in power and cannot effectively cool off large spaces. A window unit may be enough for smaller bedrooms, but if you want to keep the living room cool, you’ll have to put in multiple window ACs.
They’re not energy efficient
The SEER rating of most window air conditioners is around 13 or 14, which is lower than the standards of the ENERGY STAR program. By contrast, central air conditioners and ductless mini splits have much high efficiencies, with many that have SEER greater than 20. Replacing window units will start saving you money right away.
They make winter weather colder
Window air conditioners aren’t well-insulated, and they easily allow heat to escape from rooms during winter. You can prevent this by temporarily taking out the units during the winter and storing them—but that’s a real pain.
They make too much noise
A central air conditioning system/ductless mini split puts the compressor and the exhaust fan outdoors in a separate cabinet. Window units have both these noisy items attached right to your windows!
We’ll Help You Find a Better Cooling Solution
We’re the contractor to work with for great central air conditioning in Durham, NC. We always stress professionalism, and our technicians will arrive at your home in a clean company shirt and driving a clearly marked company vehicle. All our technicians are bonded and insured to protect you and your property. And, of course, they have the training and experience to ensure you get the best service every time.
If you’re active about preparing your home for the summer, you’ve probably already schedule air conditioning maintenance. That’s great—there are few preventive home service jobs that are more effective than an annual inspection and tune-up for an AC. However, you might not have considered services for your ducts to prepare for the summer. Ducts are easy to forget about, since you can’t see most of them because their hidden in the walls at attics. But professional duct sealing may be the most important Chapel Hill, NC, HVAC service you can have done before the summer weather arrives.
Leaky Ducts Cause Many Problems
Most homes use a network of metal, plastic, and ductboard ducts to carry air from the AC to the different rooms. These ducts are designed to be airtight so the air pressure inside won’t drop. Unfortunately, if the seal on the ducts is broken by leaks and gaps—even small ones—it can have larger consequences for comfort, energy savings, and AC longevity.
Air Loss Through Leaks = Money Lost
When you turn on your AC, it draws on electrical power to run the compressor that allows for it to move heat out of your house and cool down the air. This is the air that’s then sent via blower into the ductwork. If this air escapes out duct leaks, it doesn’t end up reaching the rooms—which means that the electrical power you paid for has gone to waste.
How much of this cooled air can go to waste? A lot more than you may believe. Duct leaks can allow around 30% of the cooled air moving through the ducts to seep away, and that means paying 30% more to run the AC to make up the difference.
Air Leaks Reduce Comfort
Air pressure inside the ductwork plummets because of leaks, and this will have a large affect on how well your house is cooled. Weak airflow from the vents will result in rooms that won’t cool down no matter how much you run the AC. One of the first warning signs of leaky air ducts is hot spots around the house.
Damaged Ducts Shorten AC Lifespan
All the extra strain put on an air conditioning system as it tries to make up for the loss of cooled air and the decline in pressure means the AC’s components will wear down faster. This not only means additional repair needs, it also means the AC will age quicker and need to be replaced years ahead of time.
Duct Sealing Is a Service for Professionals
Think you need duct sealing? It’s a simple job—at least, it is if you call our ventilation experts! Amateurs cannot do the job properly, and DIY attempts using duct tape will fare just as badly. (Trust us, duct tape is good for everything except ducts.) We’ll come to your house, discover what’s wrong with your ducts, and have them repaired so your HVAC system is restored to peak condition once again, ready for many summers of efficient and effective work.
Bud Matthews Services is here for all your home service needs. Arrange for duct sealing or other ventilation work you need to prep for summer.
To create lower temperatures indoors, your air conditioner uses the circulation of refrigerant, a chemical compound that can easily change between liquid and gaseous forms. As the refrigerant evaporates in the indoor coil of the AC, it absorbs heat and makes the air cooler. Then the refrigerant condenses in the outdoor coil, which releases the heat to the outside. This process is called heat exchange, moving heating from one place to another.
Without refrigerant, an air conditioner cannot carry out heat exchange, and that means no cooling. But that’s not the worst part! Without the proper amount of refrigerant, the entire AC is in danger of failing—usually permanently.
Refrigerant Isn’t Used Up Naturally
No, you don’t have to worry about making sure to put more refrigerant in your AC. Under normal operation, an air conditioner doesn’t use up refrigerant. It changes from liquid to gas form and back without dissipating. The factory-set refrigerant amount (known as the AC’s charge) won’t change during the system’s service life—unless the air conditioner has leaks.
Signs the AC Is Leaking Refrigerant
When an air conditioner starts to lose refrigerant to leaks, it’s vital to have it repaired as soon as possible—leaks sealed up, the system recharged to factory levels. There are a few warning signs that you may have a leaky AC:
Ice on the indoor coils: People often make the mistake of believing that ice is a normal consequence of how an AC operates. It isn’t. If ice forms along the air conditioner coil, it means the refrigerant isn’t effectively absorbing enough heat to warm it past freezing. One possible reason it can’t do this is because there’s less refrigerant in the coil than there should be. (Please don’t try to scrape the ice off—this won’t solve the core problem.)
Hissing sounds: A high-pitched hissing sound often indicates a leak along one of the copper refrigerant lines. The hissing you’re hearing is the escape of the high-pressure refrigerant gas.
Uneven cooling: When you notice one (or more) of the rooms in the house aren’t getting as cool as they normally do, it’s a warning the AC is starting to lose its cooling power. This can indicate a loss of refrigerant. Don’t try to determine the reason for the problem, however: you should call for repairs no matter what.
Before you make a call for repairs, shut off the air conditioning system entirely. This reduces the chance of the compressor suffering from damage due to a drop in refrigerant charge. The compressor is the component in the most danger because of refrigerant leaks, since it will eventually overheat.
HVAC technicians can locate where the leaks are occurring and seal them. Afterwards, they’ll add in the amount of refrigerant is lost. Only a skilled professional can do this—an amateur may overcharge the air conditioner, which is just as hazardous to the compressor as being undercharged.
Let’s all say a big “Hello!” to the official first day of spring, which is this week!
For HVAC technicians like us, spring has an important meaning—it’s the season of air conditioning maintenance! This is when we encourage all our customers to arrange for a visit from one of our technicians to put their ACs through the gamut of inspections and tune-ups that will help them perform at peak condition during the coming hotter mid-year weather.
“Wait, is this really necessary every year?”
Yes, it is! We’re not trying to push customers into purchasing a service they don’t need. Not only does every professional HVAC contractor recommend annual spring maintenance for air conditioners, it is also recommended by the US Department of Energy. Annual maintenance is an investment in performance, energy savings, and longevity that quickly pays for itself.
A central air conditioning system is a complex piece of refrigeration equipment—you might think of it as a refrigerator that sends cooling out into ductwork. In order for an AC to work at its best, it needs routine tune-up services and inspections.
Each year, an air conditioner racks up a great deal of “mileage” on the hot days. This puts stress and strain on the moving components, such as the motors. Unless these parts are maintained, the air conditioner will not be able to do its job as well. The strain will also lead to parts starting to break down, and eventually the entire AC breaking down! You can avoid most repair issues (around 85% the AC might need during its service life) thanks to regular maintenance. Technicians will also catch repair problems early so you can schedule repairs before the weather turns hot.
A well-maintained air conditioner is an energy-efficient air conditioner. The accumulation of wear on an AC not only creates performance problems, it wastes power as the system attempts to work through the additional strain. An AC will lose 5% or more of its efficiency rating each year it doesn’t have maintenance, and you’ll end up paying more on your utility bills.
How long do you want your AC to last. “As long as possible” is probably your answer. If you keep up with regular maintenance, you can expect your air conditioner to last for around 15 years. Without maintenance, you may only have a system that lasts for 5 to 8 years. Having to replace an air conditioner many years too early is costly.
Oh, we need to mention the warranty…
The standard central air conditioner comes with a 10-year warranty from the manufacturer. If the air conditioner fails due to a factory fault in that time, the warranty will recover replacing the unit. However, most warranties require that the unit be annually maintained or else the warranty is voided. You don’t want to be stuck with a large replacement bill because you didn’t schedule regular maintenance!
The beginning of the spring is the time to make sure the sump pump in your house is ready to do its job in case of flooding. Spring rains, snowmelt, and more water saturated into the ground bring the danger of water seeping—or flooding—into your basement. The entire purpose of the sump pump is to get that water out of there as fast as possible. Just like a generator, a sump pump is a device you hope you never need to use—but you want to ensure it will work in case ever need to use it.
How Do I Maintain a Sump Pump?
Most of the maintenance work for a sump pump is a basic series of checks. You can find out this way if the pump needs to have repairs or if it’s time to have it replaced.
First, check the sump pit – The sump pit is the excavated point in the basement where excess water collects so the pump can remove it. You don’t want debris down in the sump pit that can jam up the pipe’s of the pump, so take out any stones or gravel or anything else in the pit.
Check the pump intake – Unplug the sump pump before doing this. The intake is the point on the pump where it draws in water. This will be in a different spot depending on whether the pump sits above the sump pit (a pedestal pump) or down in the sump pit (a submersible pump). Plug the pump back in when you’re done.
Test the pump – Take a bucket holding a few gallons of water and pour it slowly into the sump pit. It will either start to raise a float or reach a switch that will turn on the pump. If the pump activates, keep it running until it has drained out the sump pit and turns off. (Important: don’t allow the sump pump to run if there’s no water. This can cause it to overheat.
If the sump pump doesn’t activate or it isn’t draining the water, the best step is to call for a plumber to examine it. There may be trouble with the motor or blockage in the discharge pipe.
Do the same tests for the backup pump – If you have a backup sump pump, don’t neglect it. If you live in an area that frequently has problems with flooding, we strongly recommend having a backup pump installed. Backup pumps are battery-powered so you’re protected in case of a power outage, which often accompanies the storms that cause flooding.
Schedule Sump Pump Services ASAP
Should you have any doubts about your sump pump’s operation, call our plumbers to schedule service to fix or replace it. It’s much better to have a working sump pump you can rely on than to find yourself with Durham, NC emergency plumbing needs that are threatening your home. Water damage is expensive to remediate, so invest in sump pump services—they’re a real bargain.
The new modern work space encourages the “open office” layout. Instead of hallways and doors leading to shut-in smaller spaces, offices now are wide open—a more natural feeling that also permits the office to “breathe.” It’s also a layout that’s more conducive to teams working together and feeling connected to the other people in the company.
But these open office spaces are much trickier for commercial HVAC systems. Providing and even spread of heating and cooling in larger areas, often with high ceilings, is a challenge that requires professional and experienced commercial HVAC technicians to handle. (You never want anyone except an HVAC professional with a commercial background to work on any part of your building’s HVAC system.) There’s another challenge as well, which is how easily noise travels through an open work space—and the HVAC system is often a prime noisemaker.
We have some ideas on how you can reduce noise pollution from a commercial HVAC system in a work space:
Install a quieter system
How old is the current HVAC system in the building? If the work space is in an older building and was later converted to an open design, it may be equipped with an out-of-date heating and cooling system that generates too much noise. Newer designs emphasize quieter operation thanks to new advances in compressors and systems that use variable speed design—which means they don’t run at maximum power all the time they’re on. Ask commercial HVAC installers about options for a quieter HVAC system.
Put in more sound absorbing material
Those high ceilings aren’t helpful when it comes to sounds inside an office. A lot of echoes, a lot of soundwaves bouncing off them. Offices don’t often have carpet, either, and this contributes. You don’t have to have full carpet put in, put putting down some smaller carpets not only helps absorb the sound, but it looks nice as well. Wall coverings are great for this as well.
Put in sound boots
This is something you can discuss with an HVAC installer. A sound boot is attached to parts of the ductwork to lower sound coming through from vibrations. A professional commercial technician can easily outfit your ductwork with the right acoustical sound boots.
Have air handlers and vents redone
Here’s another service you can have your HVAC expert take care of. Much of the noise in the space may be coming from the poor location of the air handlers and the vents. If your office converted to the open space from a different design, you almost certainly need to have updating done so the vents and air handlers are in the right places. This not only lowers noise levels, it improves performance.
Although we’re a top plumbing and HVAC contractor for homes in the area, we also offer to commercial heating and plumbing in Durham, NC. No matter if you’re looking for quieter environment or you have a need for basic repairs for your commercial heater, you can trust to us.
If you’re asking this question, you’re probably a bit confused. After all, furnaces don’t use water to run, do they? A boiler uses water, but a furnace heats up air with either gas burners or electric heating elements, and then sends the air into the ducts.
And yet, there is it: water leaking out of the furnace cabinet onto the floor. What’s happening? And does it mean you need heating repair in Chapel Hill, NC for your HVAC system?
We’ll take a closer look into this apparently odd, but actually common, heating problem.
High Efficiency Furnace Condensation
Although a furnace doesn’t use water to run, special high efficiency furnace produces condensation during combustion. This is because a high-efficiency furnace collects vapor in the heat exchanger from the cooled-off combustion gas rather than venting the gases out a flue. This vapor moves to a second heat exchanger, were it’s condensed to release further heat. It’s this second combustion chamber that allows high-efficiency furnaces can produce more heat energy from their fuel. The furnace then vents the vapor out of the system.
If there are clogs in the condensation tubing, or breaks in the tubing, it can lead to the condensation escaping onto the floor. You’ll want this repaired as soon as possible. Another possibility is a faulty second heat exchanger. Damage to the heat exchanger is usually serious enough to warrant having the furnace replaced.
Poor Venting in a Mid-Efficiency Furnace
A mid-efficiency furnace (lower than 90% AFUE) shouldn’t develop condensation because the vapor from the heat exchanger is vented out directly through a metal flue pipe. (High-efficiency furnaces use PVC pipes for flues.) However, this flue pipe must be correctly sized, or else the vapor will start to cool down in the pipe and create condensation that then leaks down out of the furnace. Poor venting is a major problem that needs to be addressed right away. (If you always arrange for furnace installation with licensed professionals, you shouldn’t run into this issue.)
The Air Conditioner Is at Fault
The standard HVAC configuration in homes is a combination of a furnace and air conditioner in a single cabinet, where they share the same blower fan. The air conditioner is housed over the furnace. If the air conditioner has a clogged condensate drain, water from the condensate pan will start to overflow and spill out into the cabinet. It may look like the furnace is leaking, but it’s actually the air conditioner.
This is still something that needs professional repair ASAP. Water dripping onto the furnace can create corrosion, and corrosion puts the furnace in danger of cracks along the heat exchanger, a potentially hazardous condition. You also want this fixed so the AC can work correctly.
Remember, no matter what is causing water leaks from the HVAC cabinet, water damage is expensive to remediate and can create mold and mildew growth. You never want any leaks from your HVAC system! Let our expert technicians track down the source of the leak and have it fixed or help you arrange for a system replacement if the damage is bad enough.
This isn’t a topic you want to think about often, but what happens if your house experiences a massive plumbing leak that threatens water damage and flooding? You may have seen this happen in movies, usually for comedy, but it’s a real issue and not funny at all when it happens to you. The damage to personal possessions can be devastating, and remediating water damage is difficult and costly.
Fixing major plumbing leaks is one of the most important jobs our plumbers in Pittsboro, NC do, and they’re ready 24/7 to help out. But they can’t be there instantly, so to prevent as much damage as possible, you must know where the main shut-off valve to your house is. When you close this valve, you stop water flow to all parts of your house. If you don’t know where this shut-off valve is … we’re here to help you learn!
The Location of the Shut-Off Valve
Unfortunately, the shut-off valve isn’t in the same place on every home. Most of the time, the valve is located near the house’s water meter. But where is the water meter?
In our climate, the water meter can be located either outside the house, attached to its side, or underground. Do a lap around the house to see if you notice a meter. It may be behind a lid or up on a post. If you don’t see it, hunt around to find a small hatch on the ground, something like a manhole cover. It should be marked with “water.” Lift the lid, and you’ll see the water meter below.
Still can’t find the water meter? Call the local utility company that handles your water (i.e. the folks who send you the bill) and they can help you. Your friendly neighborhood plumbers (i.e. us) can also show you where it is.
Okay, you’ve found the water meter. Now where’s the shut-off valve?
The valve will be located on the incoming side—the section of the pipe going into the water meter from the municipal supply. The valves don’t all look the same (that’d be too easy), so look for something that looks like a garden hose faucet, or a metal flange. Some cannot be turned by hand and require a special wrench called a water key. Sometimes the water key hangs near the valve. If it isn’t there, purchase one from a hardware store as soon as you can.
The Automatic Shut-Off Valve
Now you know where to go when you’ve got plumbing leak problems. But we want to recommend an even better solution: installing an automatic shut-off valve. This is a device we can attach to your water main that will automatically close the water flow to the house when it detects flooding or a sudden drop in pressure. It not only stops the water flow faster than you can, it can stop water flow when you aren’t home. It helps immensely with your peace of mind!