HVAC FAQs

FAQsHow often should I have my equipment serviced?
Heating and Air Conditioning equipment should be serviced at least once a year. The best scenario is to have the heating system checked in the Fall and the air conditioning checked in the Spring. Oil-fired equipment should definitely be cleaned and serviced annually.

Why should I have my equipment serviced?
Annual servicing includes cleaning the system, checking for any problems or potential problems and adjusting for Peak efficiency. The benefits include:

  • Increased dependability
  • Find potential problems and fix them quickly
  • Provide maximum efficiency which lowers energy costs
  • Prolongs the life-span of the equipment
  • Maintains safe and healthy operation  Can help to protect the environment
  • Drastically reduces the chance of a break-down which usually happens at night or on weekends when repair rates are higher.

When should I use my Emergency Heat?
The Emergency Heat switch on a Heat Pump thermostat confuses many people. The fact of the matter is that most people don't seem to understand exactly what Emergency Heat is and when they need to use it. Many people think that Heat Pumps don't work in cold weather and they are supposed to use the emergency heat whenever it gets really cold... Wrong!

What is Emergency Heat? Simply put, all Heat Pumps in northern climates [below 35 degrees] need a supplemental heating source. Usually it is in the form of electric resistance heating. This is an all-electric Heat Pump. It can be a gas, oil, or hot-water back-up system as well. The supplemental heat is also referred to as "second-stage" or "back-up" heating, "first-stage" being the Heat Pump only. The supplemental heat is also what is used as the Emergency Heat. Different systems have different ways of determining when the second-stage comes on to assist the heat pump but it is always done automatically. So the two stages will work together in the colder months and it is not necessary to switch your thermostat to Emergency Heat. Now we know what supplemental heat is and that it is also used for Emergency Heat.

So when do I actually use the Emergency Heat?
As the name implies, it is only used in emergency situations. It is used when there is something wrong with first-stage heating [the Heat Pump itself]. In other words, if you notice your house is cold and it isn't heating properly and you went outside and noticed that a tree fell and crushed your heat pump, that would be a goodFrozen Unit time to switch to Emergency Heat. Or if you look at the picture to the right; this Heat Pump turned into a block of ice due to a malfunction. At this point, it isn't capable of providing any heat. Simply turn the thermostat to Emergency Heat and call for service. This Heat pump is completely frozen solid. It actually got so bad it ruined the heat pump and had to be replaced. You should try to make it a habit of looking at the outdoor heat pump during the winter months. Check for signs of excessive ice or snow build-up on or around the heat pump. If this problem was caught sooner, it might have just needed a minor repair instead of an expensive replacement.

What happens when I switch to Emergency Heat?
When switching to Emergency Heat, the red indicator light will go on. And it will stay on until you stop using the Emergency Heat. This just lets you know you are in emergency mode. On a call for heat, no signal will be sent to the outdoor Heat Pump. Only the indoor unit and the back-up heat will run. On all-electric systems, this will provide enough heat to keep you going until the Heat Pump can be fixed. Gas/Oil/Hot-water system should provide plenty of heat.

What Size Heating and Air Conditioning System Do I Need?
We get asked this question all the time. And having the HVAC system properly sized is extremely important. A system that is too large will cool or heat your house quickly, but you may not feel comfortable. That's because it will satisfy the thermostat before it can adequately remove sufficient moisture from the air during the cooling mode, leaving you feeling sticky and humid. This could even lead to moisture and mold problems. And, the stress of short-cycling (too many starts and stops) will shorten the life of your equipment and increase your heating and cooling bills. On the other hand, a system that is too small just cannot get the job done, especially in extreme weather conditions. The air conditioner will run constantly in the summer and the furnace will do the same in winter. But a correctly sized system isn't just based on the size of the structure. Many factors go into determining the size of the system. Including type of house and walls, type and size of windows, insulation, basement and attic conditions, house orientation, and so on. A Salesman must visit the house and take detailed measurements and notes while conducting the survey. At S&J Jamrog, we use a computer-aided Heat load calculation to properly determine the correct system size needed for your home. We even do a room by room load calculation. This heat loss/heat gain analysis is the best indicator of the correct system size and provides the optimum results for efficiency and comfort.

How can I reduce the costs associated with my commercial HVAC system?
Easing Energy Costs for Commercial HVAC Systems Operating commercial HVAC systems are a big business expense, accounting for 40 to 60 percent of a building's energy use. Here are ways to ease costs and get high-efficiency comfort with HVAC systems:

  • Do routine maintenance. Check motors, belts and steam traps; replace filters; and clean coils and boiler heat transfer surfaces.
  • Adjust the HVAC systems to match the hours when the building is in use. It may be possible to reduce heating temperatures by 10 to 15 degrees in unoccupied buildings overnight.
  • Consider an automated energy management system that will alter indoor air flow and temperature based on the outside climate and building use.
  • Conduct an energy audit. Study the use and traffic in your building. Identify the peak hours of heavy use and when the building is unoccupied.

Why should I replace my existing heating or air conditioning system?
You may wish to consider replacing your air conditioning or heating system if it is old, inefficient or in need of repair. Today's systems are as much as 60% more efficient than those systems manufactured as little as ten years ago. In addition, if not properly maintained, wear and tear on a system can reduce the actual or realized efficiency of the system. If you are concerned about utility bills or are faced with an expensive repair, you may want to consider replacing your system rather than enduring another costly season or paying to replace an expensive component. The utility cost savings of a new unit may provide an attractive return on your investment. If you plan on financing the purchase, the monthly savings on your utility bill should be considered when determining the actual monthly cost of replacing a system. The offsetting savings may permit you to purchase a more efficient system.

What are some preventative maintenance things I should be aware of?
With the proper attention, heating and cooling systems can keep you comfortable year-round. Heat pumps and oil-fired furnaces and boilers need a yearly professional tune-up. Gas-fired equipment, on the other hand, burns cleaner and can be serviced every other year. A close inspection will uncover leaks, soot, rust, rot, corroded electrical contacts and frayed wires. In furnace (forced-air) and boiler (hot-water) systems, the inspection should also cover the chimney, ductwork or pipes, dampers or valves, blower or pump, registers or radiators, the fuel line and the gas meter or oil tank — as well as every part of the furnace or boiler itself. Next, the system should be run through a full heating cycle to ensure that it has plenty of combustion air and chimney draft. Finally, cleaning the burner and heat exchanger to remove soot and other gunk will prevent such buildup from impeding smooth operation. For the burner, efficiency hinges on adjusting the flame to the right size and color, adjusting the flow of gas or changing the fuel filter in an oil-fired system. A check of the heat pump should include an inspection of the compressor, fan, indoor and outdoor coils and refrigerant lines. Indoor and outdoor coils should be cleaned, and the refrigerant pressure should be checked.

Blower
Tuning up the distribution side of a forced-air system starts with the blower. The axle should be lubricated, blades cleaned and lower motor checked to insure the unit isn't being overloaded. The fan belt should be adjusted so it deflects no more than an inch when pressed. Every accessible joint in the ductwork should be sealed with mastic or UL-approved duct tapes. Any ducts that run outside the heated space should be insulated. On a hot-water system, the expansion tank should be drained, the circulating pump cleaned and lubricated and air bled out of the radiators.

Thermostat
While thermostats rarely fail outright, they can degrade over time as mechanical parts stick or lose their calibration. Older units will send faulty signals if they've been knocked out of level or have dirty switches. To recalibrate an older unit, use a wrench to adjust the nut on the back of the mercury switch until it turns the system on and, using a room thermometer, set it to the correct temperature. Modern electronic thermostats, sealed at the factory to keep out dust and grime, rarely need adjusting. However, whether your thermostat is old or young, the hole where the thermostat wire comes through the wall needs to be caulked, or a draft could trick it into thinking the room is warmer or colder than it really is.

Humidifier
A neglected in-duct humidifier can breed mildew and bacteria, not to mention add too much moisture to a house. A common mistake with humidifiers is leaving them on after the heating season ends. Don't forget to pull the plug, shut the water valve and drain the unit. A unit with a water reservoir should be drained and cleaned with white vinegar, a mix of one part chlorine bleach to eight parts water or muriatic acid. Mist-type humidifiers also require regular cleaning to remove mineral deposits.

Filters
Most houses with forced-air furnaces have a standard furnace filter made from loosely woven spun-glass fibers designed to keep it and its ductwork clean. Unfortunately, they don't improve indoor air quality. That takes a media filter, which sits in between the main return duct and the blower cabinet. Made of a deeply pleated, paper-like material, media filters are at least seven times better than a standard filter at removing dust and other particles. An upgrade to a pleated media filter will cleanse the air of everything from insecticide dust to flu viruses. Compressed, media filters are usually no wider than six inches, but the pleated material can cover up to 75 square feet when stretched out. This increased area of filtration accounts for the filter's long life, which can exceed two years. The only drawback to a media filter is its tight weave, which can restrict a furnace's ability to blow air through the house. To insure a steady, strong airflow through the house, choose a filter that matches your blower's capacity.