Comfy Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. is a licensed HVAC company serving San Ramon, CA and throughout East Bay and the Tri Valley Area. We offer a wide range of products and major brands of air conditioning and heating systems, and our loyal customers know that they can always trust us to provide them with honest and reliable service.
One of the best options for cooling and heating homes in our area is with a ductless system.
Instead of operating through a network of ducts connected to an indoor handler and evaporator unit, ductless systems break up the indoor unit and blower fans—air handlers—to distribute the system in modular units throughout the home, with each air handler mounted up high on the rooms they’re intended for.
We could go on forever about why going ductless is a good idea for most homes. But it’s also important for us to be honest and note, they can have unique repair needs. Now, we can’t go on without saying these repair issues are a lot more likely if the system wasn’t installed correctly to begin with, or if it is improperly maintained. Regardless, whether you’re thinking of installing a ductless system for the first time or you’ve already had a ductless system in place for a while, it’s important for you to know of these possible issues. Read on!
Water Leaks behind the Air Handlers
Each of the wall-mounted air handlers of the ductless system has a series of connections routed through a hole behind it—this includes a power line, refrigerant line, and a condensate line. The condensate line is responsible for removing water moisture from the cooling process so it doesn’t enter your home, instead.
These lines can leak. If this occurs, water will begin developing between the back of the air handler and the wall, and then what eventually happens is the wall material weakens, causing the air handler to rip away and fall off. This damages the wall, of course, and then probably damages the air handler, too. If you do notice any signs of water damage surrounding an air handler, be sure to call for repairs right away.
Broken Air Handlers
This can actually be considered somewhat of a benefit when it comes to ductless systems. If a single air handler stops working due to a failed motor or some other problem, the rest of the air handlers throughout the house will still continue to run. The only part of a home that loses cooling or heating is the one with the broken air handlers.
So, if one of your units stops working you should definitely call for prompt repairs. But in the meantime, you can hang out in another room that has a functioning air handler.
Leaking Refrigerant Lines
Okay, so this last problem isn’t that unique to ductless systems, as any refrigerant-based HVAC system can experience refrigerant loss. It’s first important for us to mention here that refrigerant loss is never normal—it means you have a leak, and that leak needs to be located and repaired ASAP, before it causes detrimental problems to the system.
The problem with a refrigerant leak in a ductless system is that it can be even more hazardous, especially if it happens right behind one of your wall-mounted air handlers. It would expose you and your family to potentially dangerous fumes. If you suspect you have a refrigerant leak (signs include a loss of cooling power and a hissing or bubbling sound) please be sure to call our team right away.
Summer is officially here! While it’s been unseasonably cool in recent months—save a real quick heat wave a couple of weeks ago—we will soon enough be using our air conditioners on a daily basis.
So, is yours up to the job of keeping you cool all summer long? If you’re doubtful, then now is the time to consider if you’d benefit from an air conditioner upgrade, rather than waiting for it to break down completely in the middle of summer (and therefore needing to suddenly replace it in the middle of a baking hot day).
We don’t want you to be without your air conditioner any longer than you need to be during the hottest time of the year. Read on for some signs that it is probably time to replace your AC, and give us a call to schedule installation.
Sign #1: Your System Is Old
Do you have preventive maintenance done on your cooling system each year? With regular maintenance, your air conditioner will run more efficiently and effectively throughout its lifespan, ensuring it makes it through that lifespan.
After all, an air conditioner with annual maintenance can last about 10–15 years. What this means is that if your system is more than 15 years old, it’s probably time to at least consider replacement. After 15 years, cooling systems begin to accumulate chronic problems that will have you calling for frequent, potentially costly repairs … which brings us to our next sign.
Sign #2: Your System Needs Frequent Repairs
Needing an air conditioner repair every once in a while is not a big deal. Every few years you’ll probably need something in your air conditioner fixed, even if you have routine maintenance done annually. However, if you find yourself calling for air conditioner repairs multiple times a year, it’s time to talk to a pro about your replacement options.
This level of frequency in breakdowns and problems is usually due to the system finally succumbing to years of wear and tear. The various components inside of it will begin to fail in groups, causing the frequency and cost of repairs, as we mentioned above, to increase substantially.
Continuing to repair a system that needs replacement is a frustrating task. Better to replace it now, and progress into summer with a new system you know you can rely on!
Sign #3: Your Air Conditioner Costs More to Operate
As your cooling system ages, it will slowly start to lose its efficiency as the components in it wear out. At first, this efficiency loss won’t be noticeable. Eventually, however, it will start becoming so severe that the cooling system will be forced to operate for longer periods of time in order to compensate. This longer operating time will subsequently drive up the monthly costs of using your system.
If your air conditioner costs more to run than it did this time last year, or than it does in comparison to your neighbors, then it’s a sign it’s not running efficiently for some reason. If your air conditioner is old, the reason is probably that you need a new one.
As summer quickly approaches, we understand how much our customers want the best performance possible from their air conditioners.
Unfortunately, there are some common misconceptions associated with just how to do this. For instance, a lower number on your thermostat does not mean cooler air.
With our recent heat wave, we received many calls regarding air conditioners that aren’t cooling homes below 80°. Central air conditioners are designed to cool air by 15 to 20 degrees below the outside temperature. When you set a desired temperature on your thermostat, that thermostat signals the air conditioner to run its compressor until that temperature is met.
If it’s too hot outside, like it has been recently, then the compressor will continue to run, but it’s just not possible to reach the lowest setting on your thermostat. So if it’s 100° outside, it’s a lot more realistic to set the thermostat somewhere between 78°-80° instead of 70° or below—this is less stress on your air conditioner, which simply can’t reach 70°, and is still much more comfortable than the 100° day outside.
What Else You Can Do
We understand how uncomfortable it is in your home when it’s this hot out. Here are some things we encourage our customers to do to not only boost the efficiency of their air conditioner, but to feel cooler, too:
Use fans in the room you’re in along with your AC
Close all blinds and curtains in the home
Do not run heat producing appliances in the home—i.e. like your clothes washer, dishwasher, stove, etc.
Make sure no vents are blocked so nothing is obstructing airflow
Change your air filter if you haven’t in a couple of months
It’s not poor indoor air quality in and of itself that causes damage to your air conditioner, but rather what causes the poor indoor air quality to begin with: dirt, dust, allergens, and debris.
We know you do your best to keep dust and dirt out of your home—a clean home is a happy home! But one thing most homeowners don’t think about is the debris that exists within their air ducts and other interior components of their air conditioner.
Just because your air conditioner’s ductwork and other components are hidden from view doesn’t mean you don’t need to worry about its cleanliness or overall condition. Air conditioners are often one of the biggest investments people make in their homes, and something as simple as dirt and debris can cost them way more than they even realize.
Dirt and Dust in the Indoor Air Unit
The indoor parts of your air conditioner include a number of components such as the coil with refrigerant running through it, as well as an indoor blower fan that sucks in warm air from your living space. As that blower fan sucks in air, it also sucks in dust and debris.
Your air filter prevents most of it from getting in, but if this isn’t put in correctly or if it’s not changed often enough, debris can eventually make its way to the motor of the blower fan. Your HVAC technician will certainly check and clean this during your annual or biannual maintenance session, but you shouldn’t wait that long if you suspect your system is dirty.
More About the Air Filter
We mentioned your air filter—have you ever had an HVAC pro recommend you change this every 1–3 months? This is solid advice! It’s important for your health to have allergens and other debris filtered out. But this isn’t the main reason we recommend this—in fact that’s not even what the air filter is for.
A dirty air filter can prevent air from moving over the indoor coil of your air conditioner, meaning the system can’t work properly, can’t keep you comfortable, and will malfunction the longer the problem persists. Essentially, a clogged air filter prevents air from moving through the AC system as it should—which is a problem!
Dirt on the Outside Coil
The outdoor coil of your AC system is where heat is released from the refrigerant into the air around the unit. This is a key part of the process in bringing cool air into your home—by removing heat. So, if there is dirt caked up on the outside coil of the air conditioner, it can interfere with the entire cooling process. Heat will have problems dissipating into the air, which means the air conditioner can’t adequately cool your home.
Scheduling annual maintenance (or biannual, if you have a heat pump) with a professional HVAC technician will take care of all the above mentioned problems for you. But if it’s been a while since you’ve had professional maintenance done, or if you suspect something is amiss with the performance of your air conditioner, it’s never a bad idea to give us a call.
It may be fairly easy to understand why, but summer is the most likely season for air conditioners to develop problems. Sure, we may have a spring or fall heat wave that requires AC use for a week or two, but the time of the year that our cooling systems get the most use is definitely summer, and therefore it’s more likely for various parts to begin breaking down then.
It’s vital that you have your air conditioner checked out by a professional if you notice any signs of disrepair, and preventing these issues is possible with routine maintenance. If you haven’t scheduled your tune-up yet this year, now is the time!
In the meantime, it’s always a good idea to know what kind of noises indicate a problem with your air conditioner, and what subsequent repair needs you may be facing as a result.
If your cooling system is making a grinding sound during operations, it’s likely due to an issue with the air handler. The motor within the air handler contains a number of oiled bearings that help keep friction at a minimum during system operation.
These bearings eventually wear down over time, causing the friction on the air handler motor to slowly increase. Once the friction gets high enough, the air handler motor starts making what sounds like a grinding noise. If you do hear this sound, be sure to call for repairs as soon as possible. The bearings will need to be replaced before the air handler motor overheats and burns out.
No, there’s probably not a snake in your air conditioner. When we say hissing, we’re talking about a sound that resembles air being let out of a tire. This is most often caused by air bubbles in the refrigerant line… meaning you have a refrigerant leak.
The lower the refrigerant level (called its charge) is in the air conditioner, the lower the AC system’s output capacity will drop as a result. Eventually, when the refrigerant level gets too low, the air conditioner will be forced to shut down.
Be sure to call for repairs as soon as you notice this hissing sound, or if you notice fluid dripping from your system anywhere.
If your air conditioner is turning itself on and off every couple of minutes rather than the longer cycles you’re used to, this is called short-cycling. It can be caused by a few different things, such as electrical problems or compressor malfunctions. No matter what the cause is, however, the threat to your air conditioner is a concern.
Short-cycling cuts down on a system’s ability to cool your home, and accelerates the rate at which the AC wears down. Prolonged short-cycling will make your system more prone to breaking down, and will shorten its lifespan by a number of years. For this reason, it’s important that you call for repairs as soon as you notice your system short-cycling!
Any air conditioning system in the San Ramon area will get a tough workout during the summer. Fortunately, modern central air conditioning systems are durable and can take the heat while dishing out the cold.
But how much do you expect to pay for your AC to tackle the summer weather this year? The costs of keeping cool can be steep—although you may be paying more than you have to. There are many ways an air conditioning system can lose its energy efficiency and start raising utility bills. But there are also many ways to boost an air conditioner’s energy efficiency and cut down on costs. Below are a few tips for improving the energy efficiency of your AC this summer season.
Raise the thermostat by a few degrees
Don’t worry: we aren’t asking you to turn on the heat during hot weather. But you may be keeping the thermostat set lower than necessary. A lower thermostat setting doesn’t provide you with cooling any faster; it just keeps the compressor running longer. We recommend setting the temperature at 78°F during the day, and then raising it a further 8°F at night.
Clean and clear away the outdoor condenser cabinet area
The condenser cabinet is where the AC exhausts the heat it removes from indoors. It can’t do this effectively if the cabinet grill is dirty or trees and brush are obstructing it. You want to clear out the area by about a foot on all sides. Clean off the dirt and grime with a hose. (Don’t use a high-pressure nozzle and spray water directly into the grill, since you might damage the coils.)
Open the room vents and clean off the registers
Make a tour of the rooms to see if all the vents are fully open and none are blocked by furniture, rugs, curtains, or anything else. Use a vacuum hose to clean off dirt and lint from the register so the ventilation system can “breathe” easier.
Keep up with changing the air filter
The air filter in the HVAC cabinet is there to protect the air conditioner and blower fan from dust and other debris drawn in through the return air ducts. The filter will become congested after 1–3 months, and if it’s not removed, the blockage of airflow will force the air conditioner to work harder. Put in a fresh filter and remember to change it regularly throughout the season.
Schedule professional air conditioning maintenance
This is the essential step for great energy efficiency. Professional technicians will come to your house and give the AC a thorough inspection and tune-up. The technicians will catch any repair problems early, and the cleaning and adjustments will ensure the system works at its highest possible efficiency through the summer.
We don’t want you to forget the last step—it’s vital to have maintenance each year in spring—and we’ve made it easier for you with our Maintenance Membership Agreements. You’ll receive both cooling and heating maintenance during the year.
It’s easy to dismiss a recommendation given by an HVAC professional, especially for a service you don’t really need “right now.” Unless something is preventing you from using your air conditioner effectively—like a loss of cooling power—you could be really tempted to put off your air conditioning maintenance tune-up.
We urge you to reconsider, though. Just like maintenance for the car you drive, routine air conditioning maintenance is essential for the performance of your cooling system, in addition to repair prevention. And as your trusted resource for professional maintenance services, we have a responsibility to share the benefits and necessity of routine cooling system tune-ups with you.
What Maintenance Does
If you’ve never scheduled maintenance for your air conditioner before, it’s likely you don’t know much about it. Maintenance, or air conditioning tune-ups, is when our technicians come and thoroughly clean the interior components of your HVAC system (whether it’s your AC or your heater). This ensures that the system is able to perform as efficiently as possible.
Additionally, we inspect the system and check for any components that need adjusting, repair, or even replacement. Ultimately, tune-ups serve to improve the longevity and operational performance for your cooling system, and we can’t understate its importance.
When You Should Schedule Maintenance
Generally speaking, we recommend that you have your air conditioning tune-up done right before you need your system the most. So, early spring (now) is typically the best time. In our area, this really is the best time since we know May is a toss-up weather-wise. We could see the cooler temps of spring for a while, or we might soar right into our summer temps.
That said, the time of year you have your tune-ups done is less important than how often you have your tune-ups done. Maintenance tune-ups should be completed once a year, at least. If you have a year-round heat pump system, then this service is required every six months.
Maintenance Helps to Improve Comfort and Safety
Now, onto the benefits. One of the main reasons we so strongly recommend keeping up on your annual air conditioning tune-ups is for the benefit of your comfort and the comfort of your family, in addition to the functionality of the system itself. Over the years, your air conditioner will start performing less and less efficiently and effectively. Components start to deteriorate due to natural wear and tear, just like they would in your vehicle if you skipped car maintenance.
Tune-ups also keep you safe! Air conditioners, of course, are not inherently dangerous. However, they do have components that can be harmful, particularly if you try to do air conditioning repairs on your own. For example, refrigerant is the chemical that makes the cooling process possible. And if your system is leaking refrigerant, it will be harmful to your air conditioner but also to anyone who comes into contact with it. You’re far less likely to have this problem if you keep up on your system tune-ups.
Temperatures are finally warming up a bit in our area, which means it’s just about time to shut our heaters down for the season, schedule an AC tune-up, and start enjoying the comfort an effective cooling system can deliver. But wait, before we talk about shutting our heaters down—how did yours perform this past winter? Did it show any signs of struggle? Were you told it needed repairs, but have yet to take care of them?
Even if your heater is operating “okay,” ignoring any sign of a heating system problem can cause it to turn into a much bigger issue, leaving you with a broken down heater next year when you need it the most. Depending on what caused your heating issue, you may even find yourself with air conditioning problems this spring and summer, by neglecting a repair need for your heater. Keep reading to learn some of the indications of heating system problems.
You’ve Noticed Drafts or Uneven Temperatures
Maybe you’ve noticed that your home isn’t heating up as fast as it used to, or you find cold spots in certain areas of your home. If so, it could be that your heating system is declining in performance. However, it may be something else, like a miscalibrated thermostat or damaged ductwork. These latter issues will impact your air conditioner, too, so you want to handle them right away.
Your Heater Is Making Weird Noises
No matter how minor or mild the sound might seem, if your heater is making a noise you’ve never heard, then you have a right to be concerned. A few particular noises to have an ear out for include mechanical clanging or banging, hissing or clicking, or even just general noisy operation.
Your Energy Bills Spiked from Last Year
It’s natural to watch your energy bills rise as winter approaches, and fall again during the transition of spring. However, what you shouldn’t see is a sudden spike or dramatic increase in your heating costs. Especially if it’s a significant increase over what you paid last year, or over what your neighbors are paying.
Your System Is Short-Cycling
This is when your heater turns on and off rapidly, never completing a full heating cycle. This increases the wear and tear on the system. It is worth mentioning here that if you have a relatively newer heater and have always experienced this problem, then your system is too big for the space it’s installed in. We’re happy to talk to you about your options, if this is the case.
We seem to be trending toward warmer temperatures now, but as you likely are very aware, we can always be surprised with a cold spell. If that happens, you want a fully functional heater on your side. If that doesn’t happen and we truly are done with our heaters for the season, letting a broken heater sit in wait for six months can be just as detrimental as continuing to try to use it with repair needs.
Spring may officially be here, but we’ll still experience cooler temps for a while. Therefore, it’s no secret you want to have a functional furnace that operates efficiently.
We have some news—if your ductwork is damaged, there’s no way this is possible! If you have breached ductwork, you could be losing as much as 30% of the conditioned air you are paying for. This also means your furnace must work harder to reach the temperature set on the thermostat. The furnace won’t operate efficiently and will cost more to run.
But how do you know if your ducts are damaged? After all, they’re all hidden out of sight—behind walls, beneath floors, or in your attic or crawlspace.
Do You Need Duct Repair?
If you suspect your HVAC system isn’t working efficiently, have the ducts and the system checked. You also may suspect something is up if you notice a loss of heating power, loss of airflow, or hear loud rattling coming from your vents.
If your ducts are affected by leaks, poor connections, or poor initial installation, you may experience problems leading to poor furnace efficiency and a decline in comfort.
The Problem with Improperly Sized Ducts
Not many homeowners think about this, but improperly sized ductwork is one of the biggest problems for HVAC systems, if that ductwork wasn’t installed properly in the first place. It will create problems from the start by way of restriction of blockage of airflow. You may not even notice at first unless it’s making significant noise that you know is not normal.
If air ducts are too big for the HVAC system they’re connected to, it reduces airflow, resulting in uneven temperatures throughout the home, since conditioned air won’t be reaching all of the vents. This is a strain on both your furnace and your wallet. Your HVAC system will struggle to reach the desired temperature you set on the thermostat, and as a result these systems will start degrading and aging rapidly. This means you’ll soon find yourself facing significant furnace repairs such as motor failure, prematurely worn fan belts, and compressor damage—or even a broken down heating system.
Protection from the Elements
There’s an issue that can affect any aging ductwork, no matter how well or how poorly it was installed, and that issue is ductwork in a hot attic with inadequate protection from the heat of the sun. If pinhole leaks start to occur as a result, both your furnace and AC will suffer.
If your ductwork does have pinholes or any other type of damage, you’ll want to get them professionally sealed (and no, duct tape is not the proper solution—it’s actually poorly named). Adequate insulation is also important. Not only is this true right now when we want to keep the heat in, but it’s true later on as well—well-placed and cared for insulation will help keep heat out in the summer, and protect HVAC systems from inclement conditions.
It may almost be the official start of spring, but temperatures are still cool for now, and probably will be throughout the start of May. Hopefully, your heating system served you well and you’ve had minimal problems with it—this will typically be the case if you had your system professionally tuned-up before the start of the season.
But what if you have an aging heater? One that is just about ready for replacement? Well, if you’re also going to need a new air conditioner soon, we’d like to suggest the installation of a heat pump system, which is a two-in-one heating and cooling system that will give you year-round comfort. Is it right for your home, though?
First, What Exactly Is a Heat Pump?
You can think of a heat pump essentially as your standard central air conditioning system, with a couple of exceptions. Similar to an air conditioner, a heat pump is comprised of two units—one is installed inside and one outside. In heating mode, the outside unit evaporates refrigerant in order to absorb thermal energy from the air surrounding your property. The refrigerant gas is then condensed back into liquid in the indoor unit to release the collected heat into the home.
Unlike an air conditioner, though, a heat pump has the ability to change the direction of the refrigerant flow. This gives the heat pump its ability to act as either a heater or an air conditioner, which is the main reason most people have one installed.
What Are the Benefits?
The main benefit of being able to depend on a single HVAC system for home comfort throughout the entire year is that it saves you both space and money. This isn’t the only reason that homeowners have heat pumps installed, however! They tend to also be more energy efficient than the majority of heating systems—this is because they don’t combust fuel to generate heat. Rather, they move heat.
This means you aren’t spending extra money every month on something like a higher gas bill. It’s estimated that just within a few years of heat pump installation, your system will usually pay for itself by how much it saves you on utility bills.
There is also a big convenience factor here—when you’re using a more traditional two-system configuration, you need to spend twice as much money keeping both of those systems in good condition. You can’t just install a system and forget about it. If you’re using a heat pump, you only need to worry about keeping that one system in good condition.
Of course, this does mean that you should be scheduling maintenance twice a year, whereas for a traditional central AC or furnace, you’d be getting maintenance done once a year for each system. But overall, since you’re dealing with less components, you shouldn’t have to deal with as many costly repair needs that you might have to with a more traditional system.