Winter and 6 of the Most Common Heating Problems
Winter is coming…and it has nothing to do with Jon Snow or a Game of Thrones episode! In fact, winter is officially here. It has a way of sneaking up on you, particularly if you are unprepared for it.
When cold weather sets in, you want to be able to rely on your furnace to keep your home and family warm. There are many reasons why your heating system may need repair. Mechanical household systems will break down periodically like any other and some are just a matter of age and daily wear and tear on the system. But there are some very common things that tend to break down with heating systems, some of which don’t need to happen with proper periodic system maintenance.
Lack of Maintenance
Your Philadelphia HVAC system is a huge investment and should be kept in proper working order, just like you keep your car maintained. Unfortunately, many homeowners neglect this maintenance and end up with unexpected breakdowns in the middle of winter. Don’t let this be you!
Clogged Air Filters
The simplest and most important thing you can do as a homeowner is changing your air filter. A clogged air filter will cut down on your system’s ability to do its job and can put unnecessary strain on the system leading to costly breakdowns. Manufacturers suggest that you change your air filters every three months but during the height of winter usage, you may want to do this more often.
Air Flow Problems
Other airflow problems can make your system work inefficiently and cause an eventual breakdown. Damaged ducts and large leaks can lead to a reduction in airflow that can cause wear and tear on the system.
There are hundreds of mechanical parts that are essential to the operation of your heating system. And like any other mechanism, these parts can wear and break down. Wear and tear on a mechanical system can cause problems with performance and cause inconvenient breakdowns. Fortunately, components can be easily replaced as part of a repair service call.
Ignition Control and Pilot Problems
Ignition problems can cause a system to malfunction and require a Philadelphia PA furnace repair call.
A thermostat that is malfunctioning can create comfort issues and can result in no heat getting to your home. This can be quickly diagnosed and repaired by your Philadelphia HVAC repair specialist.
The Best Way to Avert Furnace Breakdowns
The best way a homeowner can keep Philadelphia furnace repairs to a minimum is to have the system inspected and maintained annually before winter sets it. Scheduling an annual maintenance visit can save money and frustration and reduce costly breakdowns when you need your heating system the most.
At Affordable Fixes LLC, our Philadelphia HVAC repair technicians will conduct a complete inspection and cleaning of your heating and cooling system to ensure that it is working efficiently to the manufacturer’s specifications. Don’t get caught with a furnace breakdown in the middle of winter! Call us today to schedule your inspection before a costly breakdown happens to your system.
Can a Smart Thermostat Really Save You Money This Winter?
Heating and cooling your home accounts for approximately half of your energy costs. This means that the more efficiently you do this, the lower your energy costs will be. Enter the new generation of temperature control devices: the smart thermostat. But besides its gadget-worthiness, is a smart thermostat really worth it?
What They Do
A smart thermostat will allow you to change the thermostat settings in your home from an app on your smartphone, computer, or other voice-controlled device. This is a major convenience, especially if your schedule changes frequently and you would like to adjust temperature settings in your home when no one is there. If you’re feeling super lazy, you can even turn on the heat without leaving the sofa.
Another benefit of having a smart thermostat is that not only can you view your usage, but depending on your system, it may even eventually learn your habits and adjust your temperatures accordingly.
But Will it Save You Money?
Ask a Philadelphia HVAC repair technician and the answer you will get is YES. Smart thermostats can save from $131 to $145 a year, according to the Nest Thermostat. In fact, the Nest is so smart, it will encourage a homeowner to make smart choices with handy leaf badges and monthly reports.
Other Nifty Features
Most smart thermostats have features that help make your life easier. Some useful features include HVAC maintenance reminders and dirty filter detection capabilities. The ability to monitor usage can make you more aware of your family’s energy consumption and make you think twice about your family’s energy usage.
Some Important Considerations
When considering the pros and cons of a smart thermostat, there are a few things you need to weigh. Sometimes, a home with air conditioning and a furnace can require a more sophisticated thermostat and professional setup. If you are only planning on living where you are for a short period of time, the investment of a smart thermostat may not be worth it. As is the case with all thermostats, you will want to consider the placement of the unit since it will register the air temperature in that area and not necessarily in other parts of the home. So, placing it near a warm fire burning device or near the kitchen oven can affect its overall performance.
What is the Biggest Downside?
For most people, a smart thermostat has one important downside and that is the cost. While a regular manual thermostat will cost anywhere between $20 and $60, a smart thermostat can cost anywhere between $200 and $300. Some homeowners think that the cost savings would immediately justify the purchase whereas others may not. It is up to the individual.
Call an Expert
If you have questions about smart thermostat technology or are considering having a smart thermostat installed, call our Philadelphia HVAC experts at Affordable Fixes LLC.
Why You Should Consider a Central Humidifier this Winter
You are glad for the cooler air after a long, hot, humid summer. With the cold temperatures comes dryer air. So why would you consider bringing more humidity into your home in the winter?
Next to the reading on the thermometer, humidity is the next biggest factor in the comfort level of your home. Philadelphia HVAC contractors suggest that central humidifiers are a perfect way of controlling important humidity levels inside your home. These can help increase comfort levels but also have other important benefits.
Although ultra humid days can sap your energy in the summer, what you are going for is a balanced environment. During the winter, the cold freezes moisture out of the air and lowers the humidity of a living space substantially. Your furnace further contributes to lowering the humidity level inside your home. Having a central humidifier installed by a Philadelphia HVAC contractor has many benefits for homeowners during the winter months.
A central humidifier can increase the moisture level inside the home for a more balanced comfort level. Although high humidity in the summer makes the air feel much hotter than it is, the opposite is true for cold, dry air. Dryer air makes the air feel colder and has the effect of soaking moisture from the body. Having the benefit of higher moisture levels inside your home makes your home more comfortable as well as alleviating cold weather conditions such as chapped and dry lips and skin, dry eyes, and chronic nosebleeds.
Reduced Deterioration of Wood Items or Furnishings
Dry air can deteriorate wood interior finishes, furnishings, or any possessions you may own such as musical instruments. Having a central humidifier can help protect these items from splitting and warping.
Having a more humid environment has the effect of making you feel warmer. Consequently, you may not feel compelled to turn the thermostat up as often. Your humidified air will help save you money on your electric bills. According to the EPA, a central humidifier has the ability of saving you up to 4 percent on your energy bills. And controlling humidity may help your home qualify for the National Association of Home Builders’ Green-Built Certification Program.
A Healthier Environment
Dry air can not only cause skin irritations and dry up sinuses, but it also can make it easier to pass viruses and germs between people. Respiratory illnesses, colds, and flus spread more quickly in drier environments.
Central humidifiers are installed directly into your current heating and cooling system and work by bringing water vapor through the duct system with your heated air. There are even systems that are designed for homes that have radiant or baseboard heating. You can adjust your humidity levels the same way you control your thermostat in order to get a balanced amount of humidity in your home.
A central humidifier is a simple addition to most HVAC systems. Call the Philadelphia HVAC contractors at Affordable Fixes LLC to discuss the benefits of having a central humidifier installed in your home.
6 Hints for Staying Warm This Winter While Cutting Costs
With Halloween around the corner, here in Philadelphia, we are getting ready for that brisk fall air. And before we know it, winter will be here. Even though you may be getting the last few days use of your barbecue grill, winter is inevitable and so are those high heating costs. So how can you stay warm and still keep your heating bills reasonable? Try these 6 hints!
We’ve all heard about Spring cleaning but Fall cleaning can be equally important when it comes to heating efficiency. Make sure that all vents and returns around your home are free of obstructions and dust. Move any furniture that may be inhibiting airflow. Change your air filters to make sure air has easy access and circulation and is not clogged with dirt.
Turn Down the Thermostat
This may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, however, our first instinct when cold weather hits is to make our inside temperature warmer…and warmer. For a lot of us it is psychological. But even if it is a direct response to your need for warmth, consider this: the Department of Energy says that you can save approximately 10 percent of your energy costs each year by adjusting your thermostat down by 10 to 15 degrees for approximately 8 hours a day. While you are asleep is the perfect time to do this or while everyone is gone during the day at school or work. You won’t compromise your comfort and you will be able to reap some cost savings in the bargain.
How About a Smarter Approach?
Speaking of thermostats, many Philadelphia HVAC contractors are suggesting having a smart thermostat installed to adjust temperatures conveniently from any smartphone. Although programmable thermostats are also convenient, smart thermostats allow you to adjust your temperature from anywhere at any time with a convenient app. This way, you aren’t locked into a schedule that you have preprogrammed.
Don’t Forget the Fan
No, your fan is not just for summer. If you have ceiling fans, you can adjust the blades to turn the opposite direction. This will allow warm air that tends to rise to the ceiling to circulate around the room where it is needed in the colder weather.
Take advantage of the sun’s natural heat on sunny days. Open up curtains and blinds on those windows facing the sun and take advantage of those natural heating rays. Always remember to close curtains and blinds afterward, however, as they provide added insulation from the cold.
Get a Tune Up
Your HVAC system should be tuned up periodically to make sure it is working at its optimum. During a tune-up, your Philadelphia HVAC repair technician will do a full inspection and cleaning of your system to ensure that it is working cleanly and efficiently for the upcoming season. Call Affordable Fixes today to ask how a thorough HVAC tune-up can help keep your system running smoothly while saving you money this winter.
Winter Is Coming! 5 Ways to Get Your Furnace Ready
Winter. It comes around far too soon for most of us. But being prepared for those cold months is simple if we take time to do some pre-season maintenance before the weather turns frigid. Philadelphia HVAC repair professionals agree that now is the perfect time to make sure that your furnace is ready so you won’t be caught mid-winter at the worst possible moment with a furnace repair. Taking a few maintenance precautions ensures that your furnace will keep you warm and toasty when you need it most. Here are 5 quick and easy steps to make sure your furnace is ready for that cold winter weather.
Turn the Heat On
Do a preliminary check to make sure your furnace is working properly. Switch your thermostat to the heat setting and set a temperature higher than that of the room. Listen to make sure that the heat clicks on. If you don’t hear the heater engage, you may need fresh batteries in your thermostat. If the heat still doesn’t turn on, call your Philadelphia furnace repair specialist to check your heating system.
Change Your Air Filters
You will want to make this a ritual every few months whenever your HVAC system is running. Cleaning or replacing your air filters is one of the simplest but most fundamental things you can do for your heating and cooling system. If your system includes a humidifier, it is also a good time to change your humidifier filter and set the humidistat.
Cover Your Air Conditioning Condenser
Cover your outside condenser with a loose cover and secure it with bungee cords. You can also purchase a special cover for your condenser. Either way, you want to protect the unit from debris and leaves falling in over the winter. Just make sure you are not trapping moisture inside the covering. This can freeze and cause damage to the condenser.
Check Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors
You should make sure that your carbon monoxide detector is functioning and is able to protect you from any carbon monoxide leaks. This is also a good time to inspect your chimney for any areas of concern as this is one place where carbon monoxide buildup can take place.
Get Your System Checked
Call a Philadelphia HVAC repair professional for a pre-season check-up Getting your heating system checked by a professional takes care of some important maintenance that all HVAC systems should have every year. Your technician will
- Clean the external area and check for debris buildup.
- Inspect for leaks.
- Change any filters
- Clean the burners — furnace burners can become coated with soot and debris and these can reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of the unit.
- Clear any vent lines
Having a professional annual maintenance done is an important way to ensure that your heating system will be working properly and efficiently when the cold weather arrives. Call our Philadelphia PA furnace repair professionals to ensure that you won’t suffer an inconvenient breakdown during those cold winter months.
Fall is The Perfect Time For Furnace Maintenance
We know you’d rather not think about it, but winter is right around the corner. And while the weather is still warm, it is the perfect time to maintain your heating system so you aren’t potentially caught dealing with a malfunctioning furnace in the dead of winter.
One of the best ways to ensure that your heating system is working at its peak is to schedule an annual furnace check-up. Like any mechanical system from your car to your HVAC system, the wear and tear of daily usage can create potential problems and malfunctions. Just like you take your car in for preventive maintenance, you should consider the same for your heating and cooling systems.
Before You Call a Professional
Before you call your Philadelphia HVAC contractor for an official tune-up, there are some things you can do as a homeowner. DIY troubleshooting can be half the battle.
Check Your Air Filter
In order to ensure that your furnace is efficiently circulating, the easiest fix is your air filter. Such a small thing, but one of the most important aspects of your heating system is that small filter. A clogged air filter will result in restricted air flow, decreased efficiency, and higher energy bills. Take your filter out and hold it to the light. If you don’t see any light coming through the filter, it needs immediate replacement.
Check Your Thermostat
Another easy homeowner troubleshooting area is the thermostat. Set it to “heat” and make sure the temperature setting is above the current temperature inside your home. Feel the air to make sure that it eventually begins to come out warm. If your thermostat is not operating, it may be time for a simple battery change.
Open Your Household Vents
No, it doesn’t save money by closing off vents in rooms that are seldom used. That is a fallacy. In fact, closing vents can result in higher energy costs and can potentially cause damage by decreasing needed circulation. Closing off vents can increase pressure in the furnace leading to inefficiency and breakdowns.
What a Furnace Maintenance Visit Includes
When you are ready for your furnace tune-up, your Philadelphia HVAC repair technician will conduct a full inspection of your system. This will include:
- A visual inspection to check all working parts of the system
- Lubrication to ensure that friction is reduced between operating parts.
- Pilot light and gas pressure evaluation in order to make sure they are working to specification
- Filter replacement
- Written assessment. A quality professional will always offer an analysis and recommendations in order for you to understand the current condition of your systems.
Your furnace is a big investment. Regular maintenance ensures that it is working correctly and efficiently and will prolong its lifespan. Before winter rolls around, call the Philadelphia HVAC repair professionals at Affordable Fixes LLC to ensure that your furnace is ready for that cold weather.
Is A Zoned HVAC System Right For Your Family?
Summer is in full swing here and you are relying on your air conditioner to keep you cool on a daily basis. But you may be noticing that your air conditioning struggles to keep certain areas of your home cool. Particularly if you have a large or several story home, you may find that temperature regulation is spotty and uneven. Even if temperature regulation is not a problem, heating and cooling areas of your home that aren’t used often or only used at certain times of the day is a waste of hard earned money.
If you are considering a new system in the near future, Philadelphia HVAC contractors are suggesting that you may want to think about a zoned cooling system for your home.
Are You Sacrificing Your Comfort?
With a zoned HVAC system, you won’t have to sacrifice comfort for savings. Not only is a tired old system not working efficiently but replacing it with a zoned one will allow you to only heat and cool those areas you need.
Your Current System is a One-Size-Fits-All Approach
If you consider your current system, you can make a simple analogy. Would you turn on all the lights in your home with one switch, regardless of whether you were using that area or not? Of course not. It’s simply not an efficient way of lighting your home. Yet, this is exactly what you are doing with your heating and cooling.
Closing Vents is Not an Answer
Most homeowners don’t realize that simply closing vents will not provide the effect of regulating specific room temperatures. In fact, closing or blocking vents can even make your system work harder. Your system relies on that balanced airflow to work properly. Cutting off proper airflow to certain areas of the home by closing vents may cause your system to work inefficiently. So, you are left heating and cooling all areas of your home regardless of whether you are using that area.
Customized Temperature Control
If you also consider that members of your household are not all comfortable at the same temperature, it just makes sense to be able to maintain different temperatures for specific zones in order for your family to be comfortable.
How Does It Work?
A zoned system uses strategically places dampers within the ductwork of your heating and cooling system. Thermostats are set to control each zone to its own particular temperature. A zoned system will not need to work as hard to cool or heat the entire home and will be able to keep each area to its own specified temperature.
If you would like more information about zoned systems, call the Philadelphia HVAC contractors at Affordable Fixes LLC. We will explain how a zoned system may work beautifully for custom temperature regulation in your home and save you money on energy bills.
How to Determine the Best Air Filter For Your HVAC System
You may not realize it but when it comes to your heating and cooling systems, the most important component is your simple air filter. The filter cleans incoming air before it is temperature controlled and distributed throughout the house. Because your filter is the first line of defense in protecting your Philadelphia HVAC system, filters should be changed once a month.
Two Important Functions
Your air filter has two important functions. One is to protect your system from dust or other particles that can cause wear and reduce efficiency. The second purpose is to keep any dust, allergens, pollutants, or even pet dander from being distributed inside your home. In this way, it not only helps your system condition the temperature of the air but also protects your interior air quality. There are filters that are designed to do one better than the other.
Air Filter Classifications
Air filters are classified by their type and their minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV rating. The MERV rating specifically deals with the filter’s ability to remove particles and pollutants from the air. The higher the rating, the better it performs in keeping air quality at its best.
Disposable filters are the most inexpensive filters. They utilize fine fiberglass or polyester mesh to remove particles that are coming in from the air. These will typically have the lowest MERV rating of between 1 and 4 and are specifically designed to protect your system.
Although these types offer about the same MERV rating as disposable filters, there is a cost savings associated with these because they can be cleaned and reused. Like the disposable filters, these filters are designed to primarily protect your system.
Pleated filters use fiberglass, polyester or some other synthetic folded into pleats. This serves to increase the surface area of the filter in order to remove more particulates. The MERV rating on these is between 5 and 13. These provide a bit more air quality filtering capability than typical disposable filters.
Electrostatic filters utilize an electric charge in order to attract airborne particles as they pass through. With this added feature, they have a higher MERV rating at about 15. But electrostatic filters are not compatible with all HVAC systems.
HEPA filters are the most effective for air quality. With a MERV rating of between 17 and 20, these filters have been shown to remove over 99 percent of air contaminants. But these are typically too restrictive for normal home HVAC use. They are much more expensive and require a far greater amount of air pressure in order to force air through.
Which is the Best One for You?
For the typical homeowner, an air filter with a MERV rating of 8 to 10 should be sufficient for a home system. Although more high-efficiency filters remove larger quantities of airborne particles, the typical household HVAC system is not compatible and may be taxed when using these. The best way to determine which filter is best for your system is to check your owner’s manual or consult with a Philadelphia HVAC repair technician.
What You Should Look For in an HVAC Maintenance Service Contract
Here at Affordable Fixes LLC, we think preventative maintenance contracts are the smartest thing homeowners can do to make sure their HVAC system is inspected and cleaned regularly. But there are some things to look for when signing that service contract on the dotted line.
Your System Requires Maintenance
HVAC systems require routine maintenance. When this routine maintenance is performed, it can ensure that the system is operating properly at all times and can save money that would be spent on HVAC repairs in Philadelphia after the fact. A clean and inspected system requires much fewer repair calls and operates more efficiently saving money on utility bills. So, what should you know before signing a repair contract?
Know What You Are Paying For
Like anything else, you want to know exactly what you’re getting for your money. When you’re purchasing a service contract for an important household system, you want to understand exactly what your Philadelphia, PA HVAC system is being covered for. Service contracts can sometimes be tricky to interpret. Here are some things you should watch out for.
If you’re being handed a one-page contract with a lot of legalese in 6-point font, this should be a red flag. So, should a too-good-to-be-true price.
What You DO Want
Your service contract should be spelled out concisely and the terms and conditions specified in simple language.
- What equipment is covered? Each item should be specified, especially if the service contract is covering more than one system.
- There should be a list of all tasks that will be performed.
- Your contract should set out how often your maintenance will be done.
- Do you get a written report after each inspection?
- What parts and labor are included? What items, specifically, are not included?
- If repairs are made outside the contract agreement, how will you be charged?
- If repairs are necessary, how will that work? Will they do the repair while they are there, or will another service call be necessary?
- Will you get a written estimate to approve?
- Will they remind you that your maintenance is due, or do you have to remember to schedule an appointment?
- Does your contract automatically renew upon expiration?
- What payment options do you have?
Call the Professionals
At Affordable Fixes LLC, we offer three levels of service contracts for you to choose from, each specifically designed for your needs. With each level, Philadelphia HVAC repair technicians conduct a full 14-point check to make sure your system is working at peak performance. We do this twice a year, once in the winter and once in the summer. With each package, we set out the terms and conditions and you will know exactly what to expect each time we come to do an inspection.
For over 30 years, Affordable Fixes LLC has been the Philadelphia HVAC contractors to trust. Let us service your system and add you to our family of satisfied customers.