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We’ve collected some tips we’ve posted from our Facebook page and are sharing them for you here in one place. This has been some winter so far for us New Englanders. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen snow like this in the city Boston!
- Take care of those drafts. A good way to check for a draft is to use a candle, light piece of string or even an incense stick! On a windy day, hold these items up around windows, doors and other areas and if the smoke or string moves or the flame goes out, you’ve found a draft. Weather-stripping or caulk can go along way to sealing up those spaces. Also helpful are those draft snakes which sit on sills or at doorways to block cold incoming air.
- Most ceiling fans are built with a reverse setting and this is perfect for the winter. When you heat your home, the heat rises and reversing your fan blades to rotate clockwise allows you to draw that heat back down and help keep it from going through the roof or walls.
- Add some insulation this winter with rugs and curtains. Beyond being decorative, using area rugs in high traffic areas (especially if you have hardwood or tile floors) will keep your floors warmer and add some additional insulation. The same is true of curtains. Heavier materials can help . block drafts and even insulate over cold panes of glass!
- For supplemental heat, use a wood burning fireplace over a gas one. Wood-burning fireplaces or wood-burning stoves give off more heat than a gas fireplace and can burn scrap wood.
- Watch those exhaust fans! Kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans have their place, but running one fan for an hour can deplete your home of warm air. Leave them off or only run them for short periods of time.
Don’t forget, AccuAire Inc. can help with both your heating and cooling needs. After the winter comes the summer!
Confessions from an air conditioning repairman
Heat and humidity can make for some cranky customers. Take it from longtime air conditioning repairman Ken Nielsen, president of North Reading’s AccuAire.
Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
If [customers] call in the middle of winter, they ask you to come out and fix their heat, and they say thank you for coming out to fix their heat. In the summertime, they scream at you to come and fix the air conditioning and wonder why you can’t be there now.
Air conditioning is probably 75 percent of the business. A lot of people are putting in new systems, but just as many people are repairing old ones. Most of the stuff we do is central air. We don’t do window units. I personally do a lot of chiller work; that’s all big commercial stuff. I go all over New England doing startups and service. We’re at one of the utilities right now, putting in air conditioning for their server room, in Somerville.
We’ve had a few people try to fix ’em themselves before they call, but usually the office — Alice, my wife — will walk them through it, make sure they have changed their filters and checked their circuit breaker, and, believe it or not, make sure it’s actually on “cool.”
There’s all kinds of dumb stuff people can do. They put furniture over the grills, so the air can’t get out. They don’t change the filters. They don’t know they’re supposed to change the filters. I ask if they have changed the filter, and they go “Where’s the filter?” “How long have you lived there?” “Oh, five years.” “You’re supposed to change the filter every three months.”
Do the maintenance. Make sure everything is clear. I’ve walked up on a house and had bushes growing out of the unit, so I’ve had to do landscaping. But if it’s clean, it will run more efficiently, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to run.
THICK OF THINGS The average high temperature for Boston in August is 80 degrees.
(Interview has been edited and condensed.)
Well, it’s the dog-days-of-summer. Mid-August already. Where did the time go? We hope that you have enjoyed this beautiful summer weather along with us. Especially after that really rough winter last year.
As Autumn approaches, it’s a good time to think about heating season (yes, already!) so we thought we’d share some tips to help you prepare your home for the cooler days ahead.
If your heating system is 15 years-old or more, consider a new one. Things have become much more energy efficient in that time, so conserve resources and money by upgrading. If your system is new enough, it’s very important to remember to have it professionally serviced. You don’t want any surprises when it’s finally time to put the heat on. Also, heating systems produce carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion, so getting your system checked is a safety as well. Accuaire Inc. serves many different brands of residential and business heating systems.
- Is your thermostat efficient and in working order? Check that too.
- Clean around your ducts, registers and radiators. Dust and pet hair can inhibit airflow.
- Are you insulated? Do you need more?
- Are your windows well sealed? We’re sure you’ve still got them open now, but when the time comes, you want those tightly sealed to hold your heat in and and keep the cold air out.
We know you don’t want to be thinking about these things when you are probably getting ready to head to the beach, but plan ahead and you;ll be much better off later. Schedule those appointments and make your to-do list!
In the HVAC business, there is always a need! Here’s a photo of a recent job on a snowy day in Lowell MA. Let’s hope there is a nice Spring coming and a summer full of air conditioning!
Here’s a photo from a recent job in Boston MA where we installed radiant heating pipes. Do you ever wonder what it looks like under those nice, warm floors?
Heating season is coming soon and with it the time for Fall maintenance. Some home and building owners don’t believe they need to have their gas heating systems checked. They believe, “It’s not necessary to service gas, only oil burners need service.” Gas providers should take a lesson from the oil industry and get the word out about the necessity for preventative maintenance.
High efficiency gas furnaces and boilers need annual “tune ups”. For this high performance gear it’s not as simple as just changing the filter and which filter type we should use. Some homeowners will go to the box stores, buy their own filter, and install it themselves. This is a fact of life in the HVAC world. But are they buying the right filter for their system? Some filters on the market will “only stop a kitten” as they say, while others are too efficient for some systems. The resistance that some filters put on a system can be too much for some air handlers to overcome. This is also a problem when ductwork is either inadequate or too small. The wrong filter magnifies these ductwork issues. The furnace that whistles with a normal filter is going to be starved for air with a higher MERV filter. The box stores advertise that a MERV 8 filter is a “good” filter, a MERV 15 is the “best” filter. This is not necessarily true unless the system was designed for that level of resistance.
When we go to a home or up on a roof for our annual maintenance, we are not there just to change the filter. The first thing we should do, as professional technicians, is to do a visual inspection of the heating system and where it is located. How many times have you gone into a basement and are unable to locate the furnace because they finished the basement around it? The furnace has been put into a closet without any consideration for combustion air. This would not be a problem for a two pipe 90%+ furnace, but for the single pipe 80% furnace, it is definitely an issue. We should also look for water stains, cracks in the flue, and air leaks in the duct work. Back to our filter; is it installed properly, and is the access to the filter sealed and not open to the basement air?
Now that we have done our visual inspection of the exterior of the system, it’s time to take the cover off. Before we shut the switch off, we should be checking to see if there are any error codes. Should there be, you can address them during this visit. How many times have we heard, “It was working before you came”? At this point, you will want to check the ignitor with an OHM meter making sure not to touch it. If it’s questionable, recommend replacement. It’s better to address it now rather than having to return for a no heat call, again hearing, “It was working before.” The safeties on the furnace should be checked to make sure they work shutting off the furnace should there be a problem. The manifold pressure should also be checked. Unless you are the installer, you cannot be sure it’s ever been checked.
Next, we check the furnace, making sure it is not over firing or under firing. Make sure to check the hoses in the furnace. They do dry out and can leak water, which could lead to corrosion and electrical problems. We should then be checking the flue pipe for any water leaks, missing or broken hangers, as well as leaves or other debris in the intake or exhaust. Leaves can get in the intake and plug up the screen on the furnace, if there is one, or end up in the combustion chamber.
The condensate pump should be checked next for proper operation. If the system includes air conditioning which has run all summer, it could be full of slime. Flush it out and make sure the discharge is clear. Don’t forget the trap on the furnace as well. This could be full of debris and may also need to be cleared.
Okay, we’ve checked the furnace and its components. Now check the temperature rise through the furnace. Always check the manufacturer’s recommended Delta T. 50 degrees is a good average. Remember the finished basement, did they block or remove some of the ductwork or crush it because it was too low? All of this should be inspected.
By providing a complete maintenance/tune up, equipment will last longer, the customer will be happy, and who knows, more work may come as a result of your professional service.