You’d be hard pressed to find a homeowner in the Chicagoland area who doesn’t care how efficient their HVAC systems are. Given how much of our heating we use each year, it stands to reason that when the time comes to turn on our air conditioners, we want to do so as affordably as possible.
But what many individuals don’t think about, is the fact that the “V” part of HVAC plays a pivotal role in all of this. Your ventilation—your ductwork—connects your AC and forced-air heating systems to the outdoors, making the distribution of conditioned air possible. Your ducts are usually out of sight, hidden behind walls, beneath floors, or even in your attic or crawlspace. So, what happens if this ductwork was installed by an amateur, or it is aging to a point of degradation?
Be Aware of Possible Duct Damage
If your ductwork is riddled with leaks, poor connections, or even improper construction upon installation, you may experience issues that lead to poor air conditioning efficiency and repair needs. One of the most common installation mistakes that leads to damaged ductwork is improperly sized ductwork, which we’re going to expand on below.
What Happens When Your Ducts Aren’t Sized Correctly
First off, if your air ducts aren’t properly matched to your air conditioner (or your furnace or heat pump), you’ll likely notice it right away, since your air conditioner will be noisy due to the restriction or blockage of airflow. Unfortunately, though, too many homeowners chalk this up to, “that’s just the noise my HVAC system makes.” There is such thing as too noisy though, and that’s what we want you to consider here.
When your air ducts are too big for the space and the system for which they’re installed, it causes reduced airflow, resulting in uneven temperatures throughout your living space, as conditioned are won’t be able to reach all of your vents. Studies show that improper duct sizing and design can lead to as much as a 60% loss of cooling from your air conditioning (and your heating).
This is a strain on your energy usage of course. Subsequently, it’s a strain on your wallet, and bad news for your air conditioner. It’ll struggle to reach the desired temperature on your thermostat. As a result, your HVAC system will start aging rapidly and degrading faster than normal—leading to rapid repair needs for components such as motors, fan belts, and compressors. You could even find yourself facing premature HVAC system replacement, years before you would have to normally upgrade your system.
“Is This the Only Cause of Ductwork Damage?”
Nope! Poorly installed ductwork certainly is going to negatively impact your AC performance, but poor installation is not the only reason ducts accumulate damage. Your ducts may be damaged from rodents in your crawlspace or attic, repairs or construction done around the area of your ducts, and even intense summer temperatures in your attic if your ducts aren’t properly insulated.
Fortunately, if you do have a ductwork problem, our team is here to help. And don’t forget the power of annual maintenance (or biannual, if you have a heat pump) in helping our technicians spot problems before they become catastrophic HVAC emergencies.
The thermostat: a small object designed to look unobtrusive on the wall of a home, and easy to think of as a very minor part in the operation of your air conditioner.
The truth of the matter is though, the thermostat is essentially the brain of your air conditioner, where homeowners send instructions to the cooling system and the blower fan.
Many homeowners, and maybe you’re included in this, don’t realize that even the smallest thermostat malfunction can create a number of problems for an air conditioner—a drop in cooling, a spike in utility bills… even a completely broken down system.
Thermostat Issues Often Don’t Seem Like Thermostat Issues
One of the main reason we stress that you call on an HVAC pro whenever you have an AC system that isn’t working right, is because only a skilled technician will be able to get to the root of the problem, whether it really is your air conditioner, or a bad thermostat. After all, when something is wrong with the thermostat, it doesn’t always present itself as such.
An air conditioner that is short-cycling for instance, which is an example we’ll get to below, could be due to several different reasons, like a malfunctioning motor or a leak in your refrigerant line. It takes a skilled and trained pro to trace the symptom to the actual cause.
If you do suspect the thermostat is creating trouble for your air conditioner, please don’t open it up and try to fiddle with the wiring—instead call our team. In the meantime, read on to find out what “air conditioning problems” might actually be thermostat problems.
Short-Cycling: This is when the compressor of your air conditioner shuts off before completing its cooing cycle, only to turn back on again a short time later and repeat the process. If the thermostat’s temperature sensor is malfunctioning, it might start to shut down the air conditioner’s cooling cycle prematurely. Short-cycling puts too much stress on the compressor, raising electrical bills and shortening the system’s overall lifespan.
Uneven Cooling: If your thermostat is miscalibrated or has a fault connection, it can cause your air conditioner to fail when trying to run long enough to distribute cooling evenly throughout your home. You may notice hot spots as a result. This is also a symptom of damaged and leaky ductwork though, so if this is what you’re experiencing please be sure to give us a call!
Blower Fan Won’t Start, Or Won’t Stop: When the blower fan of your air conditioner runs constantly and never cycles down, or it won’t start up at all, it can mean a problem with one or more of the wires from your thermostat to your air conditioner.
These are just a few of the problems that a malfunctioning thermostat can cause. Whether you think the thermostat is to blame for your cooling problems or it’s something else, the best thing you can do is reach out to a pro.
Short-cycling is about as ominous a word as it seems, and unfortunately is a fairly common malfunction with an air conditioner—that is, if it wasn’t installed properly or you don’t have it regularly maintained.
To give you a brief definition, short-cycling is when the compressor of your air conditioner turns on and off in rapid succession—too quickly to do any good, and too quickly for your air conditioner to efficiently and effectively manage.
Read on to learn more about what this is and why it’s bad news for your cooling system overall.
Short-Cycling: The Basics
Your AC compressor plays a vital, if not the most important, role in the operation of your air conditioner. This is the part of your AC that changes the liquid refrigerant in the system into a hot, high-pressure gas that travels through the air conditioner, first absorbing heat from the indoors and then releasing that heat outdoors before starting the cooling process.
Your compressor does not run continuously while your air conditioner is turned on. The length of time it needs to stay on will depend on the temperature setting in the area it is cooling. Ideally, it should run in 15 minute intervals to complete a cooling cycle.
If the compressor is cycling on and off more frequently than that, this is referred to as short-cycling.
Why It’s a Problem
You might be wondering why this is such a big deal, if the cooling system is, well, still cooling your home. There are actually two issues with this:
If your compressor isn’t staying on long enough, the cooled air won’t have any time to reach all the rooms. Your home will have hot spots in it where it simply wasn’t able to get cool enough.
Short-cycling caused your compressor to work much harder than it should have to, leading to problems like higher electric bills, more frequent repair needs, and a shorter system lifespan overall.
Why Short-Cycling Happens
There are a few reasons short-cycling can occur in an air conditioner, ranging from minor to major:
The air filter is clogged. Make sure you’re changing your air filter every 1–3 months during the time when your air conditioner runs regularly.
The air conditioner is losing refrigerant. This is a significant problem, and it means you have a leak that must be repaired to restore your AC operation.
The thermostat is miscalibrated. If your thermostat is reading the wrong temperature, it may be prematurely signaling to the compressor to shut down.
Your air conditioner is too large for the space. If this is the cause of your system’s short-cycling, you will have noticed the problem right upon installation. Unfortunately, the only thing you can really do if this is the case is replace the air conditioner. Too small of a system is detrimental as well, but too large of a system is something you simply cannot overcome.
When you do need air conditioning repair or even replacement, you needn’t look any further than our team. Please let us know if you have any further questions about short-cycling.
How much do you know about your home’s indoor air quality? The most important thing for you to know is that it’s worse than the quality of your outdoor air—at least this is the case if you don’t have the right indoor air quality products or services in place.
Indoor air quality issues are often attributed to allergy symptoms—coughing, sneezing, wheezing, etc. Even the healthiest person can suffer. But it’s especially awful for those who already have seasonal allergies or asthma. The problem is that today’s homes are built very tightly to conserve energy—which is great for your HVAC systems—and as such dust, dirt, and other debris get trapped in the home and circulate continuously through your air. Another problem is that dust and debris gets trapped in your air ducts, too. So what can you do?
Tip #1: Have an Air Cleaner Installed
There are two types of air cleaners—mechanical and electrostatic. The mechanical air cleaner is one of the most popular, using a physical media such as fiberglass to trap small particles in the air. They’re very effective at removing a wide variety of airborne contaminants.
The electrostatic model charges the particles in the air passing through it so those particles stick to a collector plate where they can be cleaned off later.
There are benefits to both types of air cleaners, and we’ll be happy to discuss your options with you.
Tip #2: Invest in Routine Duct Cleaning
Professional duct cleaning allows our technicians to remove all the contaminants from your ducts. These can include dust, dirt, and even bacteria such as mold spores. Getting rid of dirt buildup frees up space in the ventilation system so that your air conditioner (and heater, for that matter) can perform as efficiently and effectively as it is meant to.
“Is My Indoor Air Quality Really Even That Bad?”
Our staff is happy to come and assess where the indoor air quality opportunities are in your home. There are a few signs you can watch out for on your own that do, in fact, indicate you’re dealing with poor air quality, such as:
Bad Allergy Symptoms: Going back to the intro of this post, allergy symptoms can be exacerbated by poor indoor air quality. Do you find yourself or someone in your family suffering from sinus headaches, sneezing, watery eyes, or coughing? These are all indications of suffering indoor air quality.
Uneven Cooling: Have you noticed hot spots in your home as the weather warms? This could be because of ductwork damage—poor installation or wear and tear from age can result in ductwork breaches. But another possibility is that blockages have formed in your dirty ducts and are causing the airflow to be less powerful in those areas.
Lots of Dust in the Home: Do you find yourself dusting off all the surfaces of your home a couple times a week? It’s a frustrating problem, but one that you can do something about! You’ll still need to dust on occasion of course, but air cleaning and duct cleaning can both significantly improve your situation.
There are a number of options to go with when shopping for a new air conditioner. If you already have a central system in place and its aging, or you’re concerned it’s not working efficiently enough, then you may choose to go with an upgraded central system. But what if your ducts are also in bad shape? Should you replace those, too? Well, maybe—but what if we had another solution for you?
The Ductless Solution
As the name implies, a ductless system uses no ductwork to do its job. Instead of a split system with an outdoor unit and a single indoor unit, a ductless system is comprised of an outdoor unit and up to four individual air handlers.
Each of these air handlers are mounted high up on the wall in their intended rooms, and connected to the outdoor unit via a conduit containing the power line, refrigerant line, and condensate line. This allows for better efficiency, saves space in your home, and zone-control heating and cooling, complementing the preferences of every member of your household.
What Type of Home Is a Ductless System Suited For?
A ductless system isn’t the right answer for every home. For instance, if you live in a studio apartment, a portable system or even a traditional central air conditioner may be a more financially sound installation to invest in. Ductless systems are more expensive than traditional systems to install, after all (though they cost less to run from month to month in the right home).
If you have a multi-level home, or a house with many bedrooms, then a ductless system could be the perfect choice for you. This is because of the zoned heating and cooling we mentioned above. One room could be set for 74°F while another one could be set for 78°F or even turned off if the occupant prefers. This means you aren’t wasting energy to cool down an entire home to 74°F unnecessarily.
What to Know About Maintenance
As we said, ductless systems operate on heat pump technology—providing both heating and cooling to your home for year-round use. This means that they are getting twice the work in as your air conditioner or heater would. So they need twice the maintenance!
Maintenance is a service our professionals provide that allows us to thoroughly inspect your HVAC system. During this inspection, we clean the system inside-and-out to ensure its able to operate as efficiently as possible. We also check for any components that need replacement, and look for repair needs. If there are repair needs, we’ll alert you to them so you can get them on your schedule at your convenience.
The important thing to know about ductless systems when it comes to repairs and maintenance is that they do have unique needs. Because of their setup, with multiple air handlers, you could experience issues such as an air handler separating from the wall due to a condensation leak, or even a refrigerant leak. This is a lot less likely to happen if your system is professionally installed and maintained!
Winter has been over for a while. We’re now finally starting to get to enjoy the warmer weather and tune-up our air conditioners to prep them for higher temps. As such, you might not be thinking very much about your furnace. But, should you?
Well, if it struggled at all to do its job this past winter, yes. And if you’ve needed to call for repairs in order to keep it running? Also yes. What about if it’s older than a decade?
You probably see where this is going…
“But I Don’t Need to Replace It NOW, Right?”
We understand this line of thinking. If the furnace served you “just fine” this season, you may think you can wait until next year, or at the very least call for repairs. After all, a repair is much cheaper than replacing an entire furnace, right?
Well, yeah, sure… but the cumulative price of furnace repairs over time can quickly add up to much higher costs overall. Also, if your furnace isn’t performing as efficiently as it should, you’re paying too much to operate it, too. Balancing these costs with the cost of a new furnace is certainly worth your consideration. We’d like to offer our expertise here and say that there are some instances where we really do recommend furnace replacement over repairs, such as when:
Your Furnace’s Safety Is in Question
An aging, gas-powered heater will do much more than just run up repair bills. It can develop safety hazards, too. Natural gas heaters are designed to operate as safely as possible, of course. However, the corrosion that can set in after 10-15 years or so of service creates an increased risk of cracks in the heat exchanger. This allows carbon monoxide to escape.
A new furnace ensures you a reliable system, and a safe system, giving you a peace of mind that a simple repair cannot.
Repairs Are Too Pricey
We get it—this is a bit subjective. Very generally speaking, if your furnace racks up more than $500 in a year in repair bills in order to keep it functioning, you’re probably paying way too much. And if a technician recommends a furnace repair that’s more than half the price of getting a new furnace, that’s definitely too much!
There comes a point where further repairs are essentially just throwing your money away, when you could instead be saving money with a new, higher efficiency furnace system.
“What’s the Best Choice for Me?”
It probably sounds like we’re suggesting that you replace any furnace that’s “old.” But we understand that every home and every heating system is different. The best thing you can do is give a pro a call to discuss your options, so you can make an informed choice. Our team is happy to talk to you about our furnace repair or replacement needs. Please don’t hesitate to ask.
Temperatures are slowly but surely rising, and soon enough you’re going to need your air conditioner to function as efficiently and effectively as it is designed to. So if your air conditioner is struggling at all, now is the time to tackle repair needs.
But what about preventing repair needs before they crop up? This would be the most ideal situation, right? We’ve shared some tips below on how you can do just that.
Have Your System Inspected
If you haven’t scheduled your air conditioning maintenance session yet this spring, now is the perfect time to do so. We recommend that this service be done before you need your system the most, after all. During maintenance, our technicians thoroughly check over your air conditioner, cleaning it and making adjustments, in addition to any recommendations for repair needs. Taking care of problems now means you’re less likely to have emergency repair needs later.
For instance, one of the most detrimental repair needs we could find is a refrigerant leak. When your air conditioner loses this valuable chemical blend, it cannot cool as it is meant to. But it will try to meet the temperature on your thermostat anyway—meaning it’s just going to keep running and running. A refrigerant leak must be located and repaired at the source so it doesn’t turn into a much bigger AC performance problem.
Change Your Air Filter
Many homeowners believe that the air filter within their HVAC system is there to protect indoor air quality. It’s actually there to protect the HVAC system itself from dirt, dust, and other debris that can infiltrate it and harm its performance.
When the filter gets too clogged, it restricts airflow, which causes your AC system to have to work too hard, leading to increased wear and tear among other AC problems. Your air filter should be changed at least every three months during heavy periods of use, and once a month if you have significant contaminants in your home, like pet dander or cigarette smoke.
Know When to Upgrade
The older your air conditioner gets, the more it accumulates wear and tear. Eventually it will get to the point that repairs will only last so long before another major repair is needed. This doesn’t always make the best financial sense.
A good rule of thumb, at least if your air conditioner is 10–15 years old, is if your next repair or set of repairs is going to cost half of what the air conditioner is worth, then it makes more sense to replace the system with a newer, higher efficiency, model. You’ll find yourself paying less from month-to-month to cool your home, and you won’t have to worry about any repair needs this spring or summer!
More AC Tips to Save You Money
Preventing repairs is great, but don’t you also want to know how to boost the efficiency of your air conditioner? Fortunately, there are many ways to do so!
Ensuring your thermostat is working properly, accurately reading the temperature in the room.
Upgrading your thermostat to a programmable model.
Having your ducts checked and sealed to ensure no air is escaping into unoccupied spaces.
Improving your home’s insulation to reduce heat gain.
Limiting use of heat-producing appliances during the hottest points of the day.
The recommendation to schedule annual tune-ups for your cooling system can be an easy one to dismiss. After all, nothing is severely wrong with your air conditioner, so does it really need service? It’s never suffered a loss of cooling power or any other detrimental effects—by all accounts it’s working “just fine.”
But what if “just fine” isn’t good enough? What if your air conditioner actually isn’t working as efficiently as it could, and as a result is costing you more money than you should have to spend each month? We recommend maintenance because it helps prevent problems. We would love for you to never run into an emergency AC repair need, but the only way to help guarantee that is by taking proper care of the system.
What Is Maintenance All About?
If you’ve never scheduled air conditioning maintenance before, or if you just don’t know very much about it, then this will be one of your first questions. Maintenance is a service that allows our highly trained technicians to come in and thoroughly clean the interior components of your AC system to make sure that it is able to perform as efficiently as it’s meant to.
Additionally, we comprehensively inspect your cooling system and check for any components that need adjustment, repair, or even replacement. Ultimately, maintenance serves to improve the longevity and performance of your air conditioner, and we really can’t understate the importance of this service.
When Should I Schedule Maintenance?
Generally speaking, we recommend you schedule an AC tune-up right before you need your system the most. This would typically be early spring—right about now. Of course, in our area we’re still dealing with cooler temperatures, but it’s far better to be prepared too early versus too late. And actually, the time of year you have maintenance done is less important than how frequently you have it done. Maintenance should be completed once a year, at least.
If you have a heat pump system cooling and heating your home, then you’ll want to schedule maintenance for this single system twice a year, considering it does twice the work of a conventional central HVAC system.
Improve Your Comfort and Safety with Thorough Maintenance
One of the primary reasons we recommend keeping on top of your annual AC maintenance appointments is for your comfort and the comfort of your family. Over the years, AC systems start operating less effectively and efficiently. Components start to wear down because of natural wear and tear, just like what would happen to your vehicle if you skipped auto maintenance.
Maintenance also keeps your family safe! Air conditioners, of course, are not inherently dangerous, but they do have components that can be harmful, especially if you try to repair or maintain your system yourself. Take the refrigerant for instance. This is a chemical that makes the cooling process possible, and if it leaks it could seriously injure someone. Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about this when you call on our pros for your AC maintenance needs.
It may still be plenty cold enough for now to use our heating systems on a regular basis, but soon enough the temperatures will rise and you’ll be ready to use your air conditioner again. As a result, you might be tempted to put off any furnace care you may need or suspect.
Of all the heating services you should never neglect, a late-season furnace repair is at the top of the list. Ignoring your heating system when it needs work done on it can have costly and inconvenient consequences—and may even threaten your safety.
Do You Need Heating Repairs?
Of course, to know you need to schedule heating repairs, you need to know that they’re even necessary. If you notice any of the following signs, then be sure to reach out to our professional HVAC technicians.
Your furnace is making groaning, banging, or whining sounds.
The heat isn’t coming through as powerfully as it should be, even though your thermostat is turned up.
Your energy bills have spiked from this time last year, despite comparable use.
Your gas-powered heater’s pilot light is burning yellow.
Your furnace is struggling to stay on or turn on.
Your furnace keeps running without shutting off.
What’s Wrong with My Heater?
This is probably what you’re wondering if you were able to check off any of the above signs. The truth is that there are a variety of things that can be going on within your furnace to cause these symptoms. It might be something as simple as a thermostat issue, and not a problem with the heating system at all.
Even though a thermostat problem isn’t a complex need, it’s definitely not one you want to ignore. After all, you’ll need an effective and efficient thermostat to control your AC system on a daily basis pretty soon here!
Other possible heating repair needs can be caused by damaged ductwork, clogged air filters, or potentially even electrical faults within the heater’s mechanical system. Neglecting these issues can cause them to grow worse. It’s best to tackle heating system troubles as soon as they crop up. This way you can avoid larger, costlier heating emergencies later on down the road.
Can You Prevent Heater Repairs?
Not every heating repair can be avoided. After all, sometimes it happens simply due to wear and tear. You can certainly reduce the risk of heating problems though, by scheduling maintenance at least once a year for your furnace. During your maintenance appointment, our technicians will fully inspect and clean your furnace, making any necessary adjustments and recommendations for repairs we see necessary.
Maintenance helps ensure your furnace continues to operate as effectively and efficiently as it should, for as long as it should—and addressing any issues that come up is far more beneficial than waiting and risking a bigger emergency down the line.
We recommend that this service be scheduled in the fall each year, before you need your heating system the most. But it’s more important that you have maintenance done on a consistent basis, no matter what time of the year it may be.
We’re going to venture to guess that if you could find a way to increase your comfort within your home while lowering your heating bill simultaneously, you’ll take the chance to do so. The good news is that you absolutely can, and it doesn’t take much effort! There are ways to use your heating system more efficiently so you can maintain home comfort but not spend an arm and a leg on your heating efforts. Keep reading to learn more.
If you didn’t do so before the heating season began, it’s never too late to schedule heating maintenance (in the absence of a complete system breakdown, that is). Preventive heating maintenance is one of the best ways to make sure you are getting the most out of your heating system—in other words, that you’re getting the most “bang for your buck.” This will make your heating bills lower, your comfort greater, and even the air you breathe in your home healthier!
Heater tune-ups are not expensive—particularly when you compare them to the repair costs you’re avoiding just by having maintenance done. We even have a maintenance program here at Shavitz that includes priority service and discounts on repairs, installations, and more.
Have a Smart Thermostat Installed
What type of thermostat are you currently using to control your HVAC systems? If your answer is an outdated manual slider thermostat, or even a years-old digital thermostat without programming, then there is definitely room for improvement. A smart thermostat, also referred to as a Wi-Fi thermostat, has the ability to learn from your heating and cooling preferences to offer you convenience and savings.
A smart thermostat will pick up on your preferred temperatures and your peak times for heating and cooling. Over time, these thermostats can even highlight opportunities for you to save energy. A smart or Wi-Fi thermostat is a cost-effective way to heat your living space.
Have Your Air Ducts Sealed
No, this is not something you can accomplish on your own with a bit of store-bought duct tape. In fact, duct tape is not appropriately named, since it should never be used on HVAC air ducts. But when your ductwork is damaged and leaking conditioned air, you may be running your cooling or heating system longer to compensate without even realizing it.
As a result, your energy bills will rise and you’ll be wasting conditioned air as it will be expelled into unused areas of your home, like the attic or crawlspace.
Use Your Ceiling Fans!
Many homeowners don’t realize this little trick. Using your ceiling fans, in reverse, during the winter actually helps more evenly distribute the air coming from your forced air heater. As a result, you’ll feel warmer and you won’t have to set your thermostat as high. Therefore, it won’t run as long and use as much energy—saving you money. Your ceiling fans don’t use near as much energy as your HVAC systems do, either, so you don’t need to worry about that.
If you have any questions or concerns about your HVAC efficiency or steps you can take to improve it, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.