Air Conditioning Experts Blog : Archive for January, 2015

Should I Repair or Replace My Older Water Heater?

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

This question is one of the most common among homeowners, and not just for water heaters. Heaters, air conditioners, and virtually every other kind of home appliance eventually prompt this question. The logic behind it is pretty simple. Obviously you don’t want to replace your water heater every time it has a minor issue; that would be insanely wasteful. However, keeping a system alive long past its prime can end up costing you more money in the long run. It’s a question of timing and that timing is not always clear to those who are inexperienced with the inner workings of water heaters. Let’s examine some of the signs that indicate a need to replace your water heater, instead of just repairing it.

Rust in Your Water

Rust is never a good thing to find in your water, as it indicates some advanced corrosion somewhere in your water system. Most water heaters are equipped with parts called “sacrificial anode rods.” These long metal rods are actually designed to attract rust instead of letting it corrode the inside lining of your water heater tank. However, the anode rod will eventually corrode to the point where it can no longer prevent the inside of the tank from rusting. It is a fairly simple thing to replace the anode rod with a new one, and if the rust in your water stops after that then there is nothing to worry about. Persistent rust, even with a functioning anode rod, is a more serious problem. That means that the water heater tank is already corroded to the point where the anode rod cannot stop it. If the tank isn’t replaced, it can eventually rupture and cause severe water damage to the surrounding area.

No or Insufficient Heat

If your water heater is not supplying you with enough heat, it’s often due to a bad heating element. These can be replaced by a professional with little trouble. However, if your water heater continues to work poorly after replacing the heating element it’s a good sign that it’s time to replace the whole system. A water heater that can’t heat water is rather useless, after all.

If you aren’t sure whether you need to replace your water heater or not, call Air Conditioning Experts, Inc. We provide water heater replacement throughout Atlanta.

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Is the Air Filter in My HVAC System Enough to Clean the Air?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

One question our Air Conditioning Experts, Inc., technicians receive when working with customers on air purifiers for their Atlanta homes is: will this be enough to clean my air? The answer to this question depends in large part on what contaminants you are looking to remove from your air. Some people are just looking for better air quality while others have specific needs, such as removing common allergens. One of the best ways to assess how well an air filter or purifier will work is to review its MERV number, and we’ll explain more about this below.

What MERV Is and Means

MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value, and it is a standard established in the 1940s when scientists were working on The Manhattan Project. It was important to know that radioactive material was being filtered out for safety, so MERV and HEPA filters were born. MERV’s scale runs from 1 to 20; the higher the MERV number, the stronger the filtering ability. To give a general idea of what different ranges can do, here is a brief overview of MERV rating capabilities:

  • 1-4 – the standard air filter that comes with your HVAC system has this MERV number; this number is the lowest, so only large particles, usually over 10 microns, are typically caught in a filter with this MERV level. Bottom line: you’ll want to go higher for better indoor air quality and to help allergy sufferers.
  • 5-8 – this MERV level can improve indoor air quality pretty well, and capture some common allergens like pollen. But for allergy sufferers, it’s really better to go to the next level.
  • 9-12 – at this MERV level, some very fine particles can be captured, including allergens, certain spore types, and bigger virus and bacteria organisms.
  • 13+ – MERV ratings starting at 13 can seriously restrict air flow in your system as this level MERV and higher equal HEPA-grade. Should you want to install a filter with this level of MERV, you’ll need to first consult with an expert to make sure it doesn’t cut the air flow in your system.

Determining which type of filter will work best for those in your home can be challenging, so consult with the indoor air quality specialists you can trust: Air Conditioning Experts, Inc.

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Why Is the Outside Unit of My Dual Fuel Hybrid System Still Running?

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Furnaces have been around for many years, and are known to be reliable and safe central heating systems. However, furnaces haven’t always been known as the most efficient systems out there. Older furnaces had a standing pilot light that remained on at all times, consuming energy even when the heating cycle was complete. Today’s furnaces are far more efficient, with an electronic ignition system that allows for at least 80% annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE). However, this still may not be as efficient as a heat pump.

A heat pump is an air conditioning and heating system in one, which contains both an outdoor and an indoor unit much like a traditional air conditioning system. Heat pumps are efficient because they don’t use any energy to generate heat; they just shift heat from place to place. But on a very cold day, a heat pump may not have enough power to fully heat up a home. Dual fuel hybrid systems switch between the two units when temperatures drop too low, producing some of the most efficient heating possible.

Normally, when homeowners run their heating units, no outside unit runs. This is because a traditional air conditioner contains an outdoor unit and an indoor unit, while a furnace only has an indoor component connected to the ducts. But when you have a dual fuel hybrid system, you’ll probably notice the outdoor unit continues to run, even on a very cold night. This worries some homeowners, but if you know how a heat pump works, you know this is perfectly normal.

Heat pumps use refrigerant to move heat from the outside to the inside or vice versa when you switch it into heating mode. The outside unit, which contains the compressor, a large coil, and a fan, must continue to run in order to draw in outside air and absorb heat. The unit should be able to work effectively even in very cold weather. In fact, the gas furnace shouldn’t kick in until the temperature outside reaches the balance point the heat pump can meet, which is usually below freezing.

Air Conditioning Experts, Inc. can help you to learn more about your heater or provide professional repairs, maintenance, and installation for dual fuel hybrid systems in Norcross.

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Potential Problems with the Water Heater’s Dip Tube

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Have you noticed that the water coming from your hot water tap is tepid at best, and runs out quickly? There are a few reasons this can happen, and one of them is problems with the dip tube inside the storage tank of your water heater. You may not even be aware of a dip tube or what it does, so we’ll explain more about it below.

What Is a Dip Tube?

All water that enters your water heater storage tank is cold; it is heated at the bottom of the tank by combustion or electricity. To ensure that the new, cold water doesn’t mix with the stored warm water, a slender, long tube is attached directly to the cold water inlet. This tube is the dip tube, and it forces all new, cold water to the bottom of the tank so it can be heated and rise to the top of the tank for use in your home.

Potential Problems

There are several common problems that can develop with dip tubes that can affect the temperature of your water:

  • Cracks – when there are cracks in the dip tube, the cold water will escape and mix with the hot water stored in the tank.
  • Breakage – sometimes dip tubes break off, leaving a broken piece free inside the storage tank. This results in the incoming cold water mixing with the hot water, so your water will be tepid at best.
  • Disintegration – a defective dip tube may disintegrate inside the tank. This will affect your water temperature and you may also see pieces of white or gray plastic coming through faucets or trapped in faucet aerators.

Defective Dip Tubes, 1993-1997

The vast majority of dip tubes manufactured between 1993-1997 were made of a defective plastic that became brittle from the constant exposure to the hot water in the storage tank. So, if you have a water heater that was manufactured during this time period, you may have a defective dip tube to contend with. You can check the date of manufacture yourself by looking at the first 4 numbers of your water heater’s serial number; the first two numbers represent the month of manufacture and the last two numbers represent the year. If any of the last two numbers in this sequence are 93, 94, 95, 96 or 97, you may want to have a professional check your water heater’s dip tube.

If your water is tepid, or you are seeing pieces of what plastic coming from your faucets, call Air Conditioning Experts, Inc., and make an appointment for water heater repair in Atlanta.

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Safety Components in a Modern Gas Furnace

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

Today’s gas furnaces are safer than ever, with advanced features and settings that won’t allow for electrical danger, gas leaks, or fire hazards as long as the unit is properly installed and maintained by professional gas furnace service technicians. The technology used in furnaces has been around for a long time, but installation once came along with a lot of stress for homeowners looking to protect their homes and families. Of course, the design improved over time, and today’s models contain key safety components and devices so that you can have some peace of mind about your home comfort system.

One benefit of modern furnaces is that they do not have a standing pilot. This means that a pilot light does not need to stay on at all times; it only needs to be on for the length of time that the heating cycle must run to heat the entire space. This is an improvement for efficiency and because a pilot light that is left on at all times can increase the risk of danger. Three of the other innovations that make modern furnaces so safe are described below.

  1. Fan and Limit Switch: Sometimes, the fan switch and the limit switch in a furnace are separated while other times the two switches come packaged as one. In any case, the fan switch controls when the blower motor turns on and off, while the limit switch keeps the furnace from overheating. When the temperature in the plenum that connects the air handler to the ducts becomes too high, the gas valve is shut.
  2. Flame Detector: The flame sensor is a probe that simply detects whether or not there is a flame. When there is no flame present, gas can leak into the home, but the sensor instead sends a signal to the control board to activate a safety lockout that prevents gas from flowing.
  3. Air Pressure Switch: The air pressure switch ensures gas is venting properly via the draft inducer. The draft inducer is meant to assist combustion gases in safely venting away from the home, but if airflow becomes reduced for any reason, the air pressure switch shuts off the gas.

The heating professionals at Air Conditioning Experts, Inc. offer thorough gas furnace service in Duluth, GA for installation, repair, and maintenance, and can answer all of your questions about furnace safety. Give us a call!

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12 Grapes for 12 Months: An Unusual New Year’s Tradition

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Across the world, many cultures have specific traditions to celebrate the transition from the old year to the new. In the U.S. and Canada, we associate New Year’s with the ball in Times Square, kissing at the stroke of midnight, resolutions, and singing “Old Lang Syne.” But for many Spanish-speaking countries, one of the key traditions has to do with eating grapes as fast as possible.

The “twelve grapes” tradition comes from Spain, where it is called las doce uvas de la suerte (“The Twelve Lucky Grapes”). To ensure good luck for the next year, people eat one green grape for each of the upcoming twelve months. However, you cannot just eat the grapes during the first day of the new year any time you feel like it. You must eat the twelve grapes starting at the first stroke of midnight on Nochevieja (“Old Night,” New Year’s Eve) as one year changes to another. And you have to keep eating: with each toll of midnight, you must eat another grape, giving you about twelve seconds to consume all of them. If you can finish all dozen grapes—you can’t still be chewing on them!—before the last bell toll fades, you will have a luck-filled new year.

Where did this tradition come from? No one is certain, although it appears to be more than a century old. One story about the Twelve Lucky Grapes is that a large crop of grapes in 1909 in Alicante, Spain led to the growers seeking out a creative way to eliminate their surplus. But recent research through old newspapers shows that perhaps the tradition goes back almost thirty years earlier to the 1880s, where eating grapes was meant to mock the upper classes who were imitating the French tradition of dining on grapes and drinking champagne on New Year’s Eve.

It can be difficult to consume grapes this fast, and the lucky grapes of New Year’s Eve have seeds in them, making the job even trickier. (Seedless grapes are not common in Spain the way they are over here.) For people to manage eating all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight requires swallowing the seeds as well and only taking a single bite of each grape.

Oh, there is one more twist to the tradition: you have to be wearing red undergarments, and they have to be given to you as a gift. The origins of this part of the tradition are even more mysterious, and it’s anybody’s guess why this started.

Whether you go for the grape challenge or find another way to ring in New Year’s, all of us at Air Conditioning Experts hope you have a great start to the year and a fruitful 2015.

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