Why Fall is the Best Time for HVAC Service and Replacement

Now that Fall is in full swing it is time to enjoy all the special activities that Boise has to offer. From corn mazes and pumpkin patches to taking in all of the holiday lights, there is no shortage of fun seasonal activities in the area. Though your HVAC system may be the last thing on your mind as the holidays approach, this is an important time of the year for HVAC because the weather is a bit more moderate that in tends to be in the summer and fall. By the end of this post, you’ll have a better idea of why fall is the best time for HVAC service and replacement.

Servicing Your HVAC System in the Fall

With an average high temperature of 37.8 degrees Fahrenheit and an average low of 24.7 degrees Fahrenheit, Boise winters can get downright freezing. There is no doubt that Boise homeowners put their heating system to work during the winter to keep their homes and families comfortable. That is why it is vital that area residents get a pre-winter tune-up now in order to make sure that their heaters or furnaces are in good working order for the cooler temperatures ahead.

With cooler temperatures already arriving here in Idaho, you may have started using your heater more often. If you notice any signs of trouble, it is important that you take the time to get your system serviced now before you have the heater on full blast through the cold winter season. Even if you are not noticing any signs of trouble, now is the best time to get your annual HVAC tune-up. This ensures that your system is clean, well-lubricated, and does not need any repairs. The preventative care you offer your HVAC system, the longer it will last and more efficiently it will run.

Why You Should Replace Your HVAC System in the Fall

If you are moving into a new home or you have been thinking about replacing or upgrading your current HVAC system, fall is the best time to do it! Not only do many heating and cooling system manufacturers offer rebates during the fall season, but homeowners can also enjoy more moderate temperatures when having their new system installed.

Fall also tends to be a slower season for HVAC companies because of the moderate temperatures. HVAC technicians experience far less emergency calls during this time, giving them more time to work with homeowners on finding the perfect home comfort system for their home. During the fall, homeowners can also benefit from more convenient appointment times as HVAC technicians are making less service calls.

If you like to stay up-to-date with your HVAC maintenance, you may benefit from our annual service agreement, which provides you with ongoing heating and cooling maintenance for less than the cost of your normal annual clean and check. For more information, contact us or visit our Maintenance Plan page.

Reasons Your AC System Is Freezing

No one wants a frozen air conditioner. They don’t offer the cool air that they should, and they also can become permanently damaged by extended time or repeated freezing. The key to locating the problem is to have a basic understanding of how the unit works.

Your air conditioner works through thermodynamics. Gas will decrease pressure and temperature as it expands. It also will increase in temperature as it’s compressed. This idea, known as the Joule-Thomson Effect, is the very basis for modern cooling units (including refrigerators).

The system expands refrigerant, which cools very rapidly. The air from your home blows across coils filled with this cold air. The refrigerant inside absorbs the heat and the cool air is transported through the ventilation system. That same refrigerant is pushed outside and compressed, where it can dump the extra heat from within your home. This process repeats itself as the air conditioning unit continues to run.

What Causes Air Conditioners to Freeze

Now that you’re a bit more familiar with how it works, you can figure out what is causing your unit to freeze. There are two potential reasons: something is forcing the coolant to expand too much and become too cold, or the air within your home isn’t properly transferring heat into the system. These problems can be caused by:

  • Insufficient airflow. This is the most common problem and also the easiest to fix. When the system cannot move enough air across the coils, the coils will simply continue to get colder until frozen. In most cases, changing the filter or removing obstructions is a simple but effective solution.
  • Low levels of refrigerant. When there’s a leak in your system (or if it was not properly filled), the coolant experiences less pressure and expands more. This results in lowered temperatures of the coil. Any moisture within your home will freeze upon contact and ice over the coil.
  • Air conditioners being run outside of their temperature range. Operating an AC unit at a temperature less than 62 degrees Fahrenheit is asking for trouble. The pressure within the system will drop and change the temperature of the refrigerant. Your machine will have to work harder and will experience freezes.
  • Mechanical failure. This issue is the least common but the most expensive. Physical damage or wear can cause your unit to malfunction. Kinked lines, burned-out fans, and imbalanced setups all may cause unwanted pressure changes or coolant loss and make the AC unit freeze.

Dealing With a Freeze

Turn off your air conditioner as soon as you notice that the unit is frozen. Prolonged use can cause permanent and costly damage to the unit. Next, check to see if your filter needs to be changed and if the coils are being restricted of air. These simple actions may fix your unit. If not, consult a professional to get it checked out and repaired. Moving parts and pressurized lines can make AC units dangerous to tinker with — especially for those without experience.

If you need help with your frozen AC unit, Ultimate Heating and Air is just a phone call away. Contact us today to get professional help with your AC issues.

 

Just Bought Your First Home? Do This Next

Getting to own your dream home is one of the most satisfying feelings you can ever have. These are the sweet fruits of the seeds you sowed. Seeds of saving and perseverance. Now that you can call yourself a homeowner, it’s important to establish and express your pride in your home and take care of it.

There are many critical areas that you should look at to turn your house into a cozy, friendly and hospitable home.

Tips for New Homeowners

Here are some of our tips for brand new homeowners:

Ensure Stability & Security
You have just moved into a brand new home that has very likely been owned by someone else. Who knows who had access to your home – a neighbor who watered the plants? A friend who did some pet-sitting? Change your locks, check your windows for locking functionality, and – if you’re so inclined – call to have your security system installed.

Garner Privacy
Along with the security that comes with windows and doors that operate as they should, you may want to consider your privacy by applying window treatments such as curtains or blinds as well as consider purchasing a privacy fence, hedges, or trellises to maintain your oasis.

Prioritize the Bedrooms
On the first night in your new home, you’re going to want to sleep, right? Make sure that you get the bed frames, mattresses, and bedding ready to go for the first night. Launder your sheets and pillowcases before you move so that when you relocate – whether down the street or across 5 states – you know you will have some traces of home in this big, empty house.

Run the Plumbing
When you bring yourself and your family into this new abode, you’re going to want to use the restroom, wash your hands – and other things in the house that need washed – as well as take a nice shower. Run all of your faucets – even the half bath or the basement spigot – and flush all of the toilets to check for issues, run out any lingering rust or hard water, and generally reawaken the home.

Get Wired
Soon, you’ll want your Netflix, your wi-fi, and any other electronic systems set up just how you had them at mom and dad’s, at your dorm or old apartment, or at the house you were renting with friends. Getting all of this set up may take time if you have to wait a week for the cable guy, but do what you can now and you’ll start feeling more comfortable.

Inspect Your HVAC System
One of the most important things to do if you haven’t before you move in, is to have the heating and cooling system in your new home inspected by an HVAC technician. You are able to test things like thermometer function, however you will require a professional to leak test ducts, determine refrigerant charge, and make sure your system is safe. Before this is done, it’s better not to run the system. Likely, you had the home inspected before purchase but having this done by someone specific to the field will ensure that nothing is skimmed over.

Contact us for an inspection on the heating & cooling system on your home. We look forward to meeting and working with you. Congratulations on the new place!

Starting Your Heat for the First Time? Look for These 5 Signs of Trouble

When colder temperatures are around the corner, it’s time to fire up your heating system. Most HVAC specialists recommend turning on your system a few weeks before the cold weather hits. This allows you a sufficient amount of time to have any potential issues fixed, so you and your family are not left in the cold. When you start up your system for the first time this season, you should be on the lookout for some common issues.

Signs of Heating System Trouble

While testing your heating system before winter, consider these signs of trouble:

1) Is your heating system turning on?
The first thing you should check is whether your heating equipment starts up. Turn up your thermostat, and listen to ensure the system begins heating. If your system fails to start up, the first thing you should check is the batteries in your thermostat. Most modern thermostats are battery powered. Batteries generally need to be replaced every six months.
2) Is there a distinctive smell when your system starts up?
After your system has sat unused for several months, it’s not uncommon to notice a slight smell when you start it up. This is usually the smell of burning dust that has collected on your equipment. You will need to give your unit a bit of time to clear the smell. It is best to open up windows and doors to get rid of the odor in your home. If the smell continues to persist for more than a couple hours, you will need to take a closer look. This is most often caused by a dirty air filter or ducts that require cleaning.
3) Check the reading on your carbon monoxide detector
If you do not have a carbon monoxide detector in your home, make sure you purchase one before firing up your heating system. A carbon monoxide detector is critical for saving you and your family from harmful gases that can cause sickness and even death. If your alarm goes off after starting your heating system, turn off the unit immediately. You will also want to air out your home by opening windows and doors. Do not turn on your heating system again until you have contacted an HVAC specialist to assess the issue and fix any problems.
4) Is your heating system making excessive noises?
Some noise is normal when your heating system is turned on. However, if it sounds like your equipment is struggling to run, you should first check the breaker. If your unit is receiving power, and still continues to emit excessive noises, it’s time to call a specialist to inspect your unit.
5) Are your exterior vents clear of any obstructions?
It’s not uncommon for debris and wildlife to collect in your intake and exhaust vents. If your vents have been damaged, this is often an indication that rodents or birds have gotten into your system. It is important to ensure these vents are clear to prevent any issues with your heating system.
It is recommended that you get regular maintenance and service checks on your heating system. This ensures your unit is free of any issues, and will perform without trouble to keep you and your family warm when the temperature drops. For more information about services we provide, be sure to give us a call. We’d be happy to assist you!

 

How Air Purifiers Work

It’s no secret that most people want the cleanest air possible. Americans spend an estimated $250 million each year on air purifying units for their homes. Asthma and allergy sufferers account for the bulk of sales, but everyone can benefit from breathing fewer contaminants and irritants.

Why We Need Them

Many people assume that modern houses and technologies mean cleaner environments. In many cases, this is true. The inside of your home is subject to a higher density of chemicals and other potentially harmful particles. Unfortunately, more energy efficient designs also mean that these substances are trapped within your home. Each time you use a cleaner or spray an aerosol, you’re leaving those particles in the air.

Aside from the chemicals you need to be careful of, other things can affect the quality of your air. Excess moisture allows mold spores to form and float within your space. Animal dander and cigarette smoke also drift through your home and clog up forced air filters or trap themselves within soft surfaces like curtains and carpet.

The Science Of Purification

For most residential units, filtering works just like making coffee: big particles are trapped behind and smooth air or liquid is passed through. Air is blown through sieves of varying sizes. The inner sections are the finest, and they gradually increase in size to the outer layers. This means that particles are trapped as they pass through. The biggest allergens and contaminants are caught first, and by the time the air is done, even the tiniest pieces are separated.

High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters come with a guarantee to trap 99.97 percent of pieces larger than 0.3 microns. To demonstrate just how small that is, the naked eye can’t detect anything smaller than 10 microns—which is also the smallest size that room air conditioner filters can trap.

Some setups also include UV light systems. The powerful UV kills bacteria, viruses, and even fungi as they pass through. It also prevents any unwanted growth from beginning on the filter itself, so you’ll enjoy maximum functionality and benefits.

A different type of unit, called an electrostatic precipitating cleaner, takes advantage of the power of electricity. Static attracts particles on the filters after drawing them inwards with a fan. The contaminants are then trapped on plates after they’ve been charged. Although this option means you don’t have to buy new filters, it releases ozone—which is a notably negative side effect. A better version is the electret filter, which works on the same principal but has interchangeable filters.

Ultimate Solutions

At Ultimate Heating and Air, we specialize in stellar service. If you have questions about what filter is right for your HVAC unit, give us a call. We’re also more than ready to provide the maintenance or repairs you need at prices you won’t believe.

Chinese Drywall Syndrome: What You Should Know

Chinese drywall is something you may or may not have heard of. If you’re in the Southeast United States, chances are you have probably heard of it. However, the problem isn’t limited to that one geographic area, however it is concentrated there due to the rebuilding efforts after being ravaged by hurricanes. Domestic supplies of drywall became scarce during the mid 2000’s and contractors, home builders and suppliers began to look elsewhere for drywall.

Signs and Symptoms of Chinese Drywall Syndrome

Not long after homeowners moved into their new homes built during the housing boom, or moved back into homes damaged by hurricanes, problems began to arise. One of the first things that people began to notice was a strong smell of rotten eggs, matches, or even like some natural geysers or hotsprings. If you’re guessing that was due to sulfur, you’re absolutely correct.

The drywall was letting off sulfurous compounds, including hydrogen sulfide, which was the source of the smell. It was also the source of some pretty severe damage to the home. Any exposed copper would quickly tarnish with a black, ash-like, corrosion, instead of the normal colored green or blue corrosion of copper.

If the corrosion was cleaned off the copper, it would quickly appear again. Within a short time after that some things within the home began to fail. Things like refrigerators, smoke alarms, appliances and HVAC systems were all affected. Some unfortunate people had the issue so bad that even after replacing the parts which failed in their HVAC systems, they would continue to fail repeatedly.

All of this was due to the sulfurous compounds. Being highly reactive with copper, they attacked it very quickly and caused problems in very short time. News of the issue quickly began to circulate and plans with how to deal with it were discussed. As of now, there is still no standard way of dealing with the problem but diagnosing it is fairly standard.

The first thing that will be done is a threshold inspection. Where both a smell and black corrosion on exposed copper is searched for. If those two are positive then further testing will ensue. Home inspectors will then examine the backside of the drywall for any manufacturing markings linking it to China, issue corrosion coupons, and send samples of the drywall cores to be further tested for the presence of the sulfurous compounds. They will then advice you on what to do from there if the results are positive.

Stay up to date on all the latest HVAC industry info by following the Ultimate Heating & Air blog.

What is District Heating?

Teleheating?

District heating, sometimes referred to as teleheating or heat networks, is a system of heating in which heat is generated at a centralized location and distributed to buildings and residences within range for residential, commercial and industrial requirements such as space heating, hot water heating, and industrial processes. While common in Europe and uncommon in the United States, district heating has been in use here for over 150 years in some cities, such as Lockport, New York. In fact, district heating is nothing new. The earliest-known system was built in the 14th century in Chaudes-Aigues Cantal, France.

With district heating, the way in which the heat is generated is often times green. While heat-only boiler stations utilizing fossil fuels are common, there are an increasing number of cogeneration plants, where heat and electricity is generated through the burning of biomass, solar, heat pump or nuclear generation. New research suggests that the combined heating and power plants with district heating are among the most efficient and environmentally friendly ways to generate heat and power, capable of over 100% efficiency in the right configuration. Many countries in Europe, and cities within the United States, are starting to build district heating systems that are capable of storing and transmitting enough green energy to supplement or even satisfy the needs of a power grid.

Distribution

The two main mediums in which heat is generated, stored and distributed are steam and water. While oil-based systems do exist they are increasingly uncommon due to prohibitive cost and environmental concerns. Whether via steam or water, for industrial, commercial or residential applications, the heat is distributed by means of insulated piping to the customers where the energy is transferred to the onsite water via a heat exchanger and can then be used for general hot water needs and in space heaters. The distribution piping is commonly located underground but overland piping does exist, too.

Your Heating Options

If you would like to discuss your heating options here in Boise, we at Ultimate Heating & Air would love to go over your options with you and help you to select the best system for your needs.

What You Need to Know About Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide, also called the “silent killer,” is a dangerous gas that has no smell, taste or visible form. Carbon monoxide leaks can occur anywhere where fuel is being burned, and carbon monoxide detectors alone don’t provide enough protection.

Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning begin by mimicking the flu and include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of muscle control
  • Weakness
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleepiness
  • Visual changes
  • Heart flutters
  • Confusion
  • Redness of skin
  • Slowed responses

When someone is exposed to carbon monoxide for an extended period of time, the person can suffer brain damage, loss of consciousness and death. If more than one occupant is suffering from the same symptoms, and if the symptoms subside whenever those affected leave the home or building, carbon monoxide may be to blame.

How to Keep Yourself and Others Safe from Carbon Monoxide

  • Seek fresh air right away and call 911, if you or someone else has experienced carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Schedule annual maintenance for any heating systems, including fireplaces, chimneys, furnaces, and other heat sources like non-electric hot water heaters.
  • Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms, and check them twice a year to ensure the batteries are still working.
  • Only operate portable generators outside and downwind of buildings. According to the Centers for Disease Control, generators should be at least 25 feet away from a house.
  • Don’t operate fuel-powered tools or equipment in the basement, garage or in any other enclosed space.
  • Don’t use an oven or gas range for warmth.
  • Don’t use a charcoal or gas barbeque grill indoors.
  • Make sure non-electric space heaters have been properly installed and vented, as well as regularly inspected and maintained.
  • Never run a vehicle inside a garage or other structure, even when the doors are open.
  • Know where a boat’s generator exhaust outlets and engine are located, and keep away from such areas when the boat is idling.

What Type of Carbon Monoxide Alarm to Purchase

While alarms shouldn’t be your only defense against carbon monoxide poisoning, they are still important to have installed. Choose an alarm that has a battery backup or is battery powered and is certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Mount your alarm according to the installation instructions from the manufacturer. Test the alarm frequently, twice a year at minimum, and replace any dead batteries. Read the owner’s manual in order to recognize the warning sounds, as well as for information about how to properly test the device.

Ultimate Heating and Air Conditioning can service your gas furnaces, fireplaces and other fuel-generating appliances with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Regular maintenance is imperative to preventing and detecting carbon monoxide leaks.

Stop Mold Growth in Your Business HVAC System

Mold is the common named for a group of fungi that thrive in damp, warm and humid conditions. In an indoor environment, these fungi can grow at a rapid pace and produce health problems that range in seriousness from relatively minor to severe. Unfortunately, in commercial buildings, poorly maintained HVAC systems can easily act as a catalyst for mold growth. Here’s what you need to know to prevent mold growth in your business’ HVAC setup.

What Does Mold Do?

Mold reproduces by releasing tiny particles called spores into the air. In the sealed environment found in most commercial buildings, these spores can easily accumulate and start triggering health problems, especially in people with mold sensitivities. Common symptoms of exposure include nasal congestion, irritated eyes, coughing, wheezing and throat irritation. If you have a mold allergy, you can develop even more intense symptoms during an allergic reaction. Mold can also seriously compromise the normal lung function of individuals with chronic respiratory conditions.

How Does Mold Get Into Your HVAC System?

Mold thrives on moisture. Regrettably, the typical commercial HVAC system contains a number of sections and components where moisture can accumulate, especially in the form of water condensation. Particular areas of concern include the system’s ducting network, drain pans, blowers, air handlers, cooling coils and any equipment designed to humidify or dehumidify your building’s interior. Any cooling towers installed on your building can also act as mold breeding grounds. Mold contamination in many of these components can be hard to detect, and even harder to wipe out.

How Can You Stop Mold Growth?

The best cure for mold growth is prevention. The process truly begins with the design of your building and the installation of an HVAC system that minimizes the risks of excessive moisture accumulation. However, after installation, you must inspect your system regularly and keep it well-maintained at all times so mold can’t gain an initial foothold.

Once mold starts to grow (typically within 48 hours of its introduction into a suitable breeding environment), the only way to reliably stop its spread is a process called mold cleanup and remediation. Steps in this process include removing all damp filters and duct insulation material, using a disinfectant specifically designed for use in HVAC systems, applying a mold inhibitor (also specifically designed for HVAC use) and using a commercial-grade HEPA vacuum on all mold-exposed surfaces.

As a rule, only a professional with proper training can reliably perform the inspection and maintenance procedures needed to keep a commercial HVAC system mold-free. Similarly, only trained individuals can reliably carry out a commercial mold cleanup and remediation job while avoiding making mistakes that add to the problem. For more information on HVAC topics such as mold prevention, cleanup and remediation for your business, contact us and keep following the pages of this blog.

What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need for My Home?

Air conditioners only truly work when their size or cooling capacity is matched to the space they’re meant to cool. Failure to match your AC to your household needs can lead to problems such as premature damage in your HVAC system and uncomfortable indoor temperatures. Fortunately, you can work with your HVAC specialist to determine the right size of air conditioner for your home.

Understanding Air Conditioner Size

Air conditioners are categorized according to their size or tonnage. However, in the heating and cooling industry, tonnage doesn’t refer to weight. Instead the term refers to the peak cooling load an AC can handle per hour. The typical American home has a two-ton air conditioner capable of producing 24,000 BTUs (British thermal units, a common yardstick for heating/cooling performance) of cooling power every 60 minutes. However, some larger homes have a three-ton AC that can put out 36,000 BTUs every hour.

Things That Influence the Right AC Size

It’s not very easy to accurately calculate the right size of air conditioner for your home. That’s because multiple factors work together to determine your tonnage needs. In essentially all cases, the list of relevant things to consider includes the number of windows in your home, the location and physical condition of your home’s windows, your home’s square footage, your home’s layout, the height of your home’s ceilings and the airtightness of your home. Additional relevant considerations include the amount of sunlight reaching your home, the health of your home’s heating/cooling ducts and how much shade your home receives throughout the day.

Industry-Standard Calculations

HVAC specialists have an established standard for determining the size of air conditioner needed for a home or commercial property. This standard, called “Manual-J,” takes all the typical sizing considerations into account, as well as any unique factors that apply to your building. Sometimes, HVAC professionals make individual “Manual-J” calculations for each room in a house. However, they may also rely on somewhat less precise calculations that include the whole house all at once.

Getting a Professional’s Advice

Only a professional can reliably carry out the “Manual-J” calculations required to properly size your home air conditioner. These calculations will determine whether you need a standard two-ton AC or a larger or smaller unit. Once HVAC specialists know the efficiency rating (SEER rating) of the air conditioner you plan to buy, they can also add this information to the mix of relevant figures.

Make sure to follow this blog regularly in order to receive the most recent information on developments in home cooling and heating.