How does a Fox Family HVAC tune-up compare?

Do I really need an air conditioner tune-up and what do I get for my money?

Even though it has been pretty mild and even rainy these last few days, I can’t help but think about all of my future customers who will be calling me frantically asking how soon we can get out to their house to fix their AC system. 

Our customers in Rancho Cordova and the surrounding Sacramento area who have already had their AC maintenance from Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar have peace of mind going into the Summer months.  AC maintenance customers receive an incredible 60 point AC tune up every Spring on their system.  That means we check and clean a lot more parts than the other companies.  I have heard of 12 point inspections, 20 point inspections, and even 30 point inspections.  I have never heard of a company that does a 60 point tune-up on your system.  What’s better, our company can show what it was we checked.  Sometimes companies say they are checking this and cleaning that, but leave you thinking, “What did they DO?”  To the left is a picture of our AC Maintenance form we use in every home.  It’s probably a little small to read, but you can see how many items we are checking on the visit.

We also rate your components on a Good, Medium, Bad or Green, Yellow, Red system.  If the items on your form are red or yellow, we’d like to talk to you about how we can make your system perform better for you and your family. Another great thing about our AC maintenance is no matter which Fox Family technician performs the tune-up for your system, everything gets checked in the same order.  At some other companies, there is not a structured way of doing the tune-up.  The boss just says, “go out and make sure it’s up and running.”  This is why $39 AC Tune-ups are not a good value for you.  The technician performing that tune-up is going to move quickly through your system to get to the next job.  Don’t you want someone to take their time on your home AC system and deliberately check each and every component, so you’ll know exactly what is and what is not working well on your AC system?   Every AC maintenance should take about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.  You’ll know we have a structured way of going through your system to make sure it ready for the upcoming summer months! 

We start off at your thermostat, checking to make sure they are mounted securely to the wall and that your batteries are in good condition.  We also want to make sure you are comfortable with how to use the thermostat.  Is it programmed to your specific needs?  Next, we check the air filters for size, fit and cleanliness.  As we move on through your AC maintenance, we are checking for items regarding your home comfort level, such as your insulation levels in the attic.  The current standard for insulation in California is R-38.  Most older homes we go into have less than half of that.  This may be one reason why your utility bills are too high in the summer and winter months.  If you could build a bigger barrier between your hot attic in the summertime and your nice cool living room down below, your energy bill would plummet.  Some people tell me they cannot get the house to go down below 80 degrees in the summertime.  Then I look up in their attic and see an insulation value equal to pretty much zero!  No wonder your bills are high and the AC still won’t cool you down.  Radiant heat is bullying its way into your house without your permission.  Put a stop to it!  Let Fox Family Heating and Air blow an adequate level of insulation into your attic and put some money back into your pocket. 

After checking your ductwork and insulation levels, we move on to the air handler and evaporator portion which pushes the air through your duct system and cools the air at the same time.  You may already know that your AC system has an outdoor unit because you hear it cranking up a few thousand times every summer.  But did you know the other half of your AC system is at the air handler?  You see, you have a hot coil on the outside, getting rid of the heat in your home, and a cold coil in the attic or garage, wherever your particular air handler happens to be.  The air handler has a blower wheel and a motor to push the room temperature air across the cold coils to give you air conditioning in your home! 

We assess and evaluate the following at the air conditioner:

  • Manufacture date
  • Door safety switch
  • Temperature difference of the air coming in and going out of your system
  • Blower capacitor rating and actual value
  • Balanced blower wheel for efficiency
  • Blower assembly cleanliness for longevity of life and efficiency
  • Primary drain lines get purged with nitrogen for proper operation
  • Condensate safety switch to ensure that your sheetrock below the AC in the attic never becomes damaged in the case of a leaking evaporator coil.
  • Condensate lines to make sure they are properly sloped and drain to the outside with only the help of gravity
  • Condensate lines to make sure there are no leaking joints or connections
  • The condition of your necessary secondary drain pan.  Some homes don’t even have one of these.  I feel bad for them if the primary pan ever failed.  Water, water and more water on their nice sheet rock in the living room, nooooo!
  • The condition of your evaporator coil to make sure it is converting your air to be as cool as possible by the time it reaches your room
  • Refrigerant leaks around all the joints around the system
  • The expansion valve sensing bulb for proper mounting per manufacturer specified installation practices.  This will improve the efficiency of your system once mounted properly.
  • We determine if there is already a UV air purification system in your duct system already.  If not, we will always recommend that to you, because we know everyone will breathe easier in the home with a working UV air purification system.

Once we are through checking the air handler and all of its’ parts, we go to the air conditioner outside.  We determine the condition of every item on that unit, so you’ll know what kind of shape it is in.  We assess and evaluate the following at your Air Conditioner:

  • Manufacture date
  • The current outdoor temperature
  • The type of refrigerant is used in your system.
  • Type of wiring used to supply the high voltage to your system.
  • The service disconnect to make sure it is safe and meets city code specifications
  • We tighten the lugs on the high voltage terminals at the disconnect and contactor within the AC unit.
  • We check the maximum fuse rated for your specific unit and determine whether the right fuses are still in the service disconnect from when it was installed, or has someone put different ones in there.
  • Inspect for signs of leaking refrigerant around the AC
  • Ensure the copper suction line going into the outdoor AC unit has sufficient insulation on it to keep in line with specified rules from the city code inspector.  This affects the efficiency of the system if not properly insulated.
  • Measure the amps draws on your condenser fan motor while it’s running to determine if it’s running okay, or do we see this motor going out soon. 
  • Measure the voltages coming into the contactor as well as going out.
  • Record the amp draws of the compressor to determine if it’s running okay.
  • Measure the microfarad levels of the compressor capacitor and the condenser fan capacitor.
  • Check for the presence of a 5-2-1 compressor start assist on the AC unit.  If not present, we’ll suggest one to you because we know that it will likely extend the life of your compressor.  The manufacturers don’t usually put one on the system because it is a conflict of interest for them.  They know that your system will last longer with one on your system.  That’s why they don’t add one in the first place.
  • Tighten all electrical connections within the AC unit to prevent any high voltage arcing from terminal to terminal. 
  • Lubricate all moving parts that aren’t sealed for longer life.
  • Wash and wipe down your unit to make sure it is clean and serviceable.  There’s nothing like an AC that you rub up against and then get dirty from all the oxidation rubs off on you.
  • If you have an excessive build-up of leaves and stick in the bottom of your unit, we’ll get those out as well for you.
  • We also verify that the unit can breathe properly by making sure the bushes and shrubs are cut back from the unit at least one foot.

It takes a lot of discipline to perform these AC maintenance procedures so precisely on hundreds of units every Spring in the Rancho Cordova and Sacramento area.  At Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning, we feel we are bringing you a great value for your money.  We perform a 60 point tune-up on your system.  This will help you feel more comfortable going into the summer months knowing we have thoroughly gone through your system from head to toe measuring, identifying, determining, and calculating your AC system’s performance. 

We know it’s a lot of information!  But a 30 point inspection for the same price just isn’t going to identify the real details of your system. 

Let us tell you what is going on with your system.  Good and bad!  If we suggest a part to you and you feel like this is not the right time for you and your family, no problem!  We would never want to make you feel uncomfortable.  As long as you are informed, we feel like we’ve done our job.  If you decide to move forward with any suggested repairs, we have the necessary parts on our trucks and can get you up and running to your manufacturer’s specs in a jiffy.  The AC maintenance is critical to the longevity of our system.  We hope you aren’t a victim of an inconvenient breakdown this summer.  Give us a call, and let us come out to show you in person what a real AC maintenance is supposed to look like.

Greg Fox is the owner of Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar, Inc.  He has been in the HVAC industry since 2010, and the customer service industry for over twenty years.

Expect Great Things at Your Fox Family Air Conditioning Tune-Up

Expect Great Things at Your Fox Family Air Conditioning Tune-Up

What Is an Air Conditioner Tune-Up, Anyway?

An air conditioning tune-up is what responsible homeowners do to maintain their home’s HVAC system.   It’s a thorough cleaning and testing of the air conditioning system, to ensure that it’ll work when you need it this summer.  We operate with the understanding that a clean system will run longer than a dirty system.  To read more about keeping your system running during the summer, check out our blog post on this topic.

Not every HVAC company in town will perform an Air conditioning tune-up.  I would say it’s because they feel they’re not very good money generators for them.  I get it, wiping down air conditioners and testing parts aren’t very exciting for some.  But I don’t think they understand the opportunity they have to create a relationship with someone and their HVAC system.

I like to develop relationships with my customers by taking care of their AC system every spring.  If we can perform an air conditioning tune-up every spring, for years and years, I know my customers will, at the very least, allow us to provide a quote for a new system when the time comes.  At the same time, our customers get to work with Sacramento’s most honest air conditioning company.  Our technicians will only bring up parts or repairs that will make the system return to factory standards, help it last longer, and make it safer for their families.

What Happens at My Air Conditoning Tune-Up?

When we are on the way, our technician will call you and let you know.  We are proud to park on the street in our bright white vans with the Fox Family logo on them.  After you open the door and allow us to come in, we usually start at the air filter and thermostat.

I like to ask if there are any areas of the house that need any attention.  Do any rooms not get the right amount of air?  Does it cool the house down to your satisfaction in the middle of summer?  Questions like this can establish how you like your system to run.  Because not every homeowner is the same, right?

Once I know what’s going on in your mind as a homeowner, we will turn on the AC system, together, at the thermostat, listen for the air to come on, and walk outside to make sure everything out there is at least running.  Now we all know the system was running when we arrived!

From here, you’ll be able to sit back and do whatever you need to do while the tech goes out and runs through a list specifically designed for your type of air conditioning system.

Step One of Your Air Conditioning Tune-Up

We usually start out at the air handler in the attic or closet.  As a responsible business owner, if the furnace is in the attic, I need my techs to get in and out quickly.  It’s hard to ask a tech to spend time cleaning a furnace in a hot attic.  The furnace gets physically cleaned during the furnace tune-up, rather than during an AC tune-up, but there are some really important things to check here, so we try to get in and get out effectively and safely.

The most important thing we’re testing is the temperature difference between your supply and return air ducts.  If it’s not where it needs to be, we have a series of checks we will do to get it right.  A quick look at the evaporator coil can make a huge difference in the comfort of your home this summer.  If it’s dirty or clogged it will make your system underperform.

As part of the AC tune-up, we also need to make sure your blower and the flywheel is clean and ready to run a lot in the coming summer months.  The tech will pour water down the drain lines to make sure the condensate drains properly.

We always offer the option of a condensate safety switch to protect your home from potential damage.  The secondary drain pan under the evaporator coil in the attic is a potential source of problems as well, so we make sure it’s ready for any emergencies.

Additionally, we’ll make sure the metering device for your refrigeration system is mounted properly while checking for any obvious refrigerant leaks in the copper tubing.  We’ll also check for proper insulation levels in your attic because it creates such an effective barrier between the hot air in the attic and the cool air you’re trying to keep in your house.  It pays to have a thick layer of insulation up there!

Step Two of the Air Conditioning Tune-Up

Once we’re done in the attic — and I really only want my techs up there maybe fifteen minutes on warmer days — we’ll head to the outdoor unit where the majority of the AC tune-up is done.  Here, we test the components inside the panel, focusing on things like your refrigerant levels to ensure your system isn’t running too long, unnecessarily.  The high and low voltage electrical running the AC needs to maintain a certain sizing, workmanship, and integrity.

Checking Items During Your AC Tune-Up

All in all, we check about 35 items on the outdoor unit and 20 items on the indoor unit.  If you happen to have a packaged unit that sits on the side of the house or even on the rooftop, we still check all 55 items.

After we check the entire AC system, we’ll let you know if there are any parts that need to be replaced.  Our trucks are stocked with almost every part you need for your AC to get back up and running properly the same day.

If your system is running well, we get right to work washing your AC.  Many air conditioning manufacturers are switching to materials like micro-channel which can’t be washed with soapy or chemical solutions, and we pay attention to things like that.  If you have a dog that runs around in your back yard, we try not to use soapy solutions that drain into the area around the AC, so your best friend doesn’t get sick.

We are so thorough cleaning the AC, it’s not uncommon to see a tech vacuuming out your AC to get rid of the sticks and other debris that can be a nuisance to a healthy air conditioner.

What’s the Benefit of an AC Tune-Up?

When the air conditioning tune-up is complete, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your system is in tip-top shape.  Making sure a professional completes these steps every year will really pay off in the later years of your HVAC system’s life.  As a technician, my 20-year-old system is so clean, it runs like a champ.  It’s old and loud, but it keeps my house cool just fine!  Even on 105-degree days.  Why?  Because I take care of it.

If you’re curious and would like to learn more about how your air conditioner works, check out my blog post on this topic.

So, give Fox Family a call here in the greater Sacramento Valley area.  We would be honored to service your HVAC system in the year ahead!

Thanks for checking in on our blog.  See you next week!


Don’t miss our video on this topic:

Yes, It’s Air Conditioning Tune-Up Season in Sacramento

It's Air Conditioning Tune-Up Season in Sacramento

Fox Family Heating and Air Begins Air Conditioning Tune-up Season in Sacramento

The weather in Sacramento is usually pretty predictable, but this year in February no one needed assistance with their heating systems.  Afternoons are beginning to reach the mid-60’s, so February is actually a great time to start thinking about your AC  tune-up.

Fox Family Heating and Air offers an air conditioning tune-up unlike the others in town. We have a piece of paper that lists everything we will be checking on your AC tune-up visit.

We start out at the thermostat and make sure it displays properly, is mounted correctly, and that you understand how to use your thermostat and are comfortable using it. We’ll check the batteries while we are there too. Some thermostats don’t have batteries and are connected through the “C” terminal. Now we’ll turn your AC on and listen. Listening to the AC system run is like music to the ears of an HVAC technician.

Next, we move on to the filter and make sure it’s clean. If you have a washable type, we’ll wash it for you and let it dry as we continue on with the air conditioning tune-up.

On we go to the air handler or furnace wherever it is in your house. It’s usually either in the garage, a closet or in the attic. Some houses have packaged units that are on the rooftop of the home, or sometimes on the ground. Either way, I’m sure you’ve seen that thing so let’s go find it. While we are here in the attic we’ll check the surroundings and ensure all the ductwork looks connected, is strapped properly, is sealed at the plenums, and delivering air to each room as designed.

We also check insulation levels out in the attic because it’s your air conditioner’s best friend when it comes to saving energy. We are looking for R-38 levels of insulation since that is the code standard set by cities and counties in the area. If you are not even close to those levels, we’ll notify you when we come back down.

Here is a list of components we check on the air handler during the AC tune-up. We clean and check all of these items (except the blower assembly and the evaporator coil.  Additional charges apply on these two items just because a good amount of labor is involved in cleaning them).  This ensures your system can run as efficiently as possible. Clean = Good!

  • Door safety switch
  • Temperature difference between return and supply air
  • Blower capacitor rating
  • Blower wheel is balanced
  • Overall blower assembly cleanliness
  • Lubricating the bearings on some blower motors that still have oil ports
  • Condensate drain lines direct water away from the HVAC unit to protect the house
  • Condensate drain slope is proper
  • Is a condensate safety switch present
  • Secondary drain pan condition (Rusted?)
  • Condensate pump if applicable
  • Evaporator coil condition
  • UV air purification system bulb
  • Refrigerant leaks at the evaporator coil
  • TXV is mounted properly

Then we head to the outdoor unit where we wash the unit from any debris that might have plugged the condenser coils over the winter. At the condenser we check and clean all of the following components:

  • Outdoor temperature
  • Your refrigerant type
  • High voltage service disconnect for proper electrical code safety
  • Tighten the lugs in the electrical disconnect
  • Ensure proper wire size to the AC
  • Max fuse rating of the outdoor condenser
  • Min circuit ampacity
  • Fuses in the service disconnect mounted properly
  • Refrigerant leaks visible around the AC
  • Proper amount of suction line insulation on refrigerant lines
  • Condenser fan FLA
  • High voltage readings at the contactor
  • Low voltage readings at the contactor
  • Compressor start assist present?
  • Electrical connections tightened
  • Compressor run amps
  • Condenser coil condition
  • Compressor capacitor condition
  • Lubricate the fan motor if applicable
  • Is the outdoor unit level?
  • Wash / wiped down the outdoor unit
  • Leaves out of the bottom of the unit

We really enjoy the opportunity to come out and take care of your HVAC system! It has always been a passion for Greg Fox to keep his clients’ systems clean and operational for the upcoming season. We actually have a club membership where we come out and give you:

  • 2 pre-paid precision HVAC tune-ups per year
  • No dispatch fee EVER!
  • 15% off all parts and labor
  • Front of the line priority service

What’s the cost for an AC tune-up membership?

It’s kind of a no-brainer to let us come out and maintain your system for just $14.95 a month or $179.40 per year. We offer it at such a low price just because we want to develop relationships with our clients so when it does come time to change your system out, you’ll choose us to do the work. Talk to your technician and see how he can help you.

Check out our video related to this topic:

How Often Should I Change My Filter?

How often do you need to change the air filter

Today I am going to answer a question that comes up frequently on service calls I make. Usually, upon entering a house the first thing I ask is, “can you please show me where the furnace is…the air conditioner…the thermostat…and the air filter…?” Believe it or not, some people do not know where their air filter is. Sometimes this is because they just bought the house or just don’t know the filter is supposed to be changed. The single most important thing a homeowner can do to protect their heating and air conditioning system is to change or clean their filters when they are not perfectly white, or new anymore.

The most important thing you can do to protect your investment is to change your pleated filter every time it’s not perfectly white or anymore.  This usually is less than the recommendation of 90 days that it says on your filter, but rather about every month or two.

Air filters are usually located at the furnace in the garage or closet. If you don’t see your furnace in the garage or closet, chances are it’s located in the attic or under the house. In that case, the filter grille may be in the ceiling or low on the wall in the hallway. Either way, if you haven’t located your filter and are not aware of the components that make up your HVAC system, call Fox Family Heating and Air to come out to help you become familiar with it.  Your system is a major investment in your house or rental property and if left unmaintained, you may have some high repair bills in the near future.

So, a minute ago, you heard me say change or clean your filter every time it’s not perfectly white anymore. “But I have a 90-day filter!” you say. A lot of advice is out there on when is the right time to change the filter. Here in California and Sacramento Valley, the vast majority of homes have their filters located in the ceiling. As a homeowner, just looking up into the grille area where the filter is every week allows you the perfect chance to see what condition your filter is in. If it’s not as white as was when you first bought it, it’s time to change it. During the higher use seasons like winter and summer, this could be as often as once a month. Some houses can go for three months without getting their filter even slightly dirty. It’s just the nature of your house. Taller ceilings, cleaner houses, less dust being kicked up, hardwood floors vs. carpeted houses all influence the life of your filter.

I know it’s because I am an HVAC technician, but as I walk past my filter in the hallway, I’m always checking to see how clean it is.

You don’t want to be breathing that brown stuff on your filter right? Change that filter!

A clean filter is going to lead to better air to breathe for you and your family. You don’t want to be breathing that brown stuff that is stuck on your filter do you? Wash your permanent or lifetime washable filter or replace your fiberglass or paper filter often. Get the cheap filters too! I’m not interested in paying some big company ten or twenty bucks for one filter. We are just trying to stop the bigger particles of dust and debris from getting to our blower motor and evaporator coil so they don’t get clogged up and cause higher repair bills. I go to the local big-box store and buy a couple of three packs of filters for about $7.00 each. That’s $14.00 for all the filters I’m going to need for the year. If you have the filters on-hand and in the house or garage, you’re much more likely to change them out more frequently.

I recommend changing your filter every time it gets to the point where it’s not the same white color as when you bought it. This means during the busier seasons like winter and summer it’s going to be every month or two, and you may go four months without it getting dirty at all during the nicer seasons like spring and fall. So change your filters, save yourself some money by buying the cheaper filters, and have extras on hand for the entire year. This will save you repair costs down the road by not allowing the dust and dirt to get on your blower assembly and evaporator coil which can shut your system down.

Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning services the majority of the Sacramento Valley including Heating and Air Conditioning, HVAC or AC Service for Sacramento, Elk Grove, Roseville, Citrus Heights, Davis, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Rocklin, Antelope, Arden Arcade, Auburn, Cameron Park, Carmichael, Diamond Springs, El Dorado Hills, Elverta, Fair Oaks, Florin, Foothill Farms, Foresthill, Georgetown, Gold River, Granite Bay, La Riviera, North Highlands, Orangevale, Parkway, South Sacramento, Pollock Pines, Rancho Murieta, Rio Linda, Rosemont, Shingle Springs, Vineyard, Wilton, Penryn, Loomis, Newcastle, Auburn Lake Trails, Garden Valley, Coloma, Plymouth, Amador City, Sutter Creek, Ione, West Sacramento. Call or text 916-877-1577 for more information.

4 AC Add-ons That Will Make Your Life Easier When it Gets Hot This Summer

4 air conditioner add-ons

Beat the Heat This Summer with Modern AC Enhancements

When it gets hot this summer, there are a few things that could make your system last longer, be safer for your house or your family, and just be plain old convenient for your home.  With today’s technology, your HVAC system doesn’t have to be so, well, old fashioned.  Here are a few add-ons to bring some life to your air conditioning system.

Wi-Fi Thermostat

Homes everywhere are still equipped with old fashioned thermostats that you have to turn on and off manually.  For the last several years, Wi-Fi thermostats like the Honeywell 9000 are making it much more convenient to turn on the AC.  You buy the thermostat for a couple of hundred dollars, put it on the wall in place of your old one, download the app, and enjoy the ease of operating your AC from the comfort of your Lazy Boy chair in the living room.  You can read more about these devices here.  Heck, as long as you have connectivity, you can change the temperature of your home from Puerto Rico!  This is a state-of-the-art AC enhancement.

Honeywell Wifi Thermostat
compressor start kit


Compressor start kits are one of the air conditioning add-ons I believe in with all of my heart.  We add these devices to your outdoor AC unit.  It connects to the high voltage side of the power circuit, so make sure a licensed technician does this work for you.  The compressor in your outdoor unit pumps the refrigerant in your system to create cold air for your home.  Next to your car engine, it’s the most challenging motor to get started in your home.  I know a compressor start assist kit will not only ease the initial start-up of the motor thousands of times every summer but will add years of life to one of the most expensive appliances in your home.

Condensate Safety Switch

Some people have an HVAC system where the “cold coil” is in the attic.  A myriad of errors can occur when your AC is operating that can cause a back-up of water or a clog, which eventually could overflow and send water down onto the sheetrock below it.  That’s your ceiling!  If you’ve ever had to repair a small portion of your ceiling because of damage, you know how hard it is to match the texture and paint.  And if it’s not right, it can be a big eyesore for the homeowner.

Say you could buy some sheetrock insurance for a couple of hundred dollars…. would you do it?  Then getting a condensate safety switch is the perfect air conditioning add-on for you. It’s a low voltage device that continually monitors the condensate level of your emergency drain pan in the attic.  It will shut down the system preventing more water from accumulating and will alert you to call your HVAC professional.  Yes, your AC won’t operate during the error, but you also won’t face possibly thousands of dollars’ worth of water damage to take care of, either.

Air Purification as an AC Enhancement

Everyone wants to breathe in nice clean air in their home.  The filter you change out every couple of months is keeping the big particles of air from entering the mechanical part of your HVAC system.  But it’s not going to be able to get rid of tiny single-cell viruses, multi-cell bacteria, mold, and spores that develop in many homes all around town.  Getting an air purification device is the AC enhancement that addresses this.  There are different technologies to choose from, but once you narrow it down to the one you want, I know you will be breathing much cleaner air in your home every day.
iWave air purifier

Get Started with Your Air Conditioning Add-Ons

If you’d like to have a conversation with us about any of these items for your AC system, click on the Book Your Online Appointment button at the top of the page to set up an appointment at your convenience.  I talk about these AC enhancements because I use them for my own.  I know they will add years of life to your system, be safer for your house, and simply be more convenient for your home.  We hope to hear from you soon!  Take care.

Don’t miss our video related to this topic:

Five Things You Should Do to Prepare Your AC for Summer

Auburn CA heating

Keep your Air Conditioner in Good Shape for the Summer Ahead

Well, it’s inevitable.  Every year it’s just a matter of time before the first wave of heat hits the central valley of northern California.  I see a few waves of temperatures hit us at different levels of intensity, forcing customers to decide if they are going to stick it out a little while longer without repairing their AC or go ahead and call for a repair.   If you don’t have your AC regularly checked by Fox Family, here are some things you can do to prepare your AC and give it a good chance of performing well for you this summer.

Check the batteries in your thermostat

Double-A batteries are the most common ones you’ll find in your thermostat.  You can usually pull the front plastic cover off its base to see the batteries.  If you haven’t changed them in a year or two, go ahead and do that now.  If you see any green corrosion on the batteries, that would be another indicator that it’s time to change your batteries. 

Change your filters

You may have one or two filters around your house that need to be changed regularly.  Doing this allows your system to take in a big deep breath before breathing out to give you every bit of air it’s capable of giving.  Plus, if your filters aren’t perfectly white, it’s time to change them anyway.  Nobody wants to breathe in that brown stuff that gets caught in the filters.

Clean your AC coil

You may not know this, but your outdoor coil also acts as a filter of sorts.  The fins and coil on the side of the unit pull in air, also catching pollen and dust.  The fan on top discharges the air, removing the heat from your house.  Rinsing off these coils with a hose before summer hits is an excellent way to prepare your AC.  And for all those Tim Allen arr-arr-arr DIY’ers, please don’t use a pressure washer to complete this task.  Those fins are pretty rigid and won’t bend unless you apply a lot of pressure to them.  You can bend them pretty easily by pushing with your finger, so use less force than that.  Remember, we’re just trying to knock off the dust.

Cut back your shrubs

Part of letting your outdoor AC unit breathe means cutting your shrubs back at least 12 inches from the side of the unit.  If you can, do your service technician a big favor and remove them altogether.  Nobody wants to work with thorns from a rose bush poking into their shoulders, back, and face while working on your unit.  If you must have them, though, cutting your shrubs back allows the air to enter through the sides of your AC and discharged through the top, which removes the heat from your house. 

Temperature split

If you have some sort of temperature measuring device, like a meat thermometer, check the temperature difference between the air entering your system and the air coming out of your registers.  If you know where your filter is that you change out every couple of months, that is where you take your first reading.  The second reading you take is at one of the registers.  A bedroom is fine for this.  Subtract the second reading from the first one.  What you’re looking for is a difference between 18 and 24 degrees.  If you don’t see this range of numbers, it may be time to schedule a service call  from Fox Family Heating and Air.  Anything lower than 18 and you risk high electric bills from a system that is running too long.  Anything higher than 24 and you risk a system that could freeze up and stop blowing air altogether.  All the condensation that naturally occurs at the indoor unit can freeze up.  Then when the AC shuts off, the ice rapidly melts, causing water damage to the system or causing damage to your floors or ceiling.


You can do these five things to prepare your AC for the summer. They’re pretty simple checks you can do as a homeowner to give your AC system a good head start going into this summer.  2020 is going to be a hot one. 

If you do need AC repair in Sacramento, book your appointment here, at the top of the page, or give us a call. We’d be happy to have the chance to service your AC system.

Don’t miss our video related to this topic:

Top 5 Things You Can Do to Keep Your AC Running the Rest of the Summer

Keep Your AC Running the Rest of the Summer

Keep your AC in Good Shape for our “Second Summer” in Sacramento

Can you believe it still gets up to 100 degrees around Labor Day?  I guess we could say we typically have a bit of a “second summer.”  I think it safe to point out we will typically still be using our air conditioners for at least another month.  As we head into September, I’d like to point out a few things you can do to make sure your AC system keeps running the rest of the summer and through the end of another year.

  1. Get Any Remaining Repairs Done

If you had us out this year to diagnose a problem or got an AC tune-up, we may have repaired the immediate cause of the failure.  I’m sure we made some other recommendations for your system that will not only make your system last longer but make things more secure for your home.  These add-ons, like a condensate safety switch or a compressor start assist kit can really help out your AC and keep it running the rest of the summer.  Also, if there were any items that were running low, maybe now is a good time to get that fixed.  You really want a well-performing system heading into next summer.

  1. Don’t Cover the AC Too Soon

Some of our customers like to cover their AC for the fall and winter so no debris falls into the bottom or snags on the fan blade.  This is a great idea, but just make sure you’re not going to use your AC anymore this year before doing so.  You can cause an overheating compressor, which is the most expensive thing to replace on your system.

  1. Change Your Filter One More Time

I know I say this a lot, but changing your filter is the single most important thing you can do as a homeowner to protect your system and extend the life of it.  I always recommend buying the cheapest filters, so you are more inclined to change them out more often.  Remember, if your filter is not perfectly white anymore, it’s time to change your filter.  That’s the air you’re breathing, and I know you wouldn’t purposely hold a dirty air mask to your face and breathe through it.  So, change those filters!

  1. To Keep Your AC Running, Keep the Coils Clean on the Outdoor Unit

Washing the coils on the outside unit is relatively straightforward, assuming the fins on the outdoor coils aren’t completely impacted or overgrown with pollen and dirt.  You should be able to simply use your garden hose to spray downward from the top of the fins towards the ground.  This rinses you fins off so they have more surface area to transfer heat.  You really just don’t want to use something like a power washer.  A little pressure is fine but if you start bending the fins, you’re going about it with a little too much strength.  Watch my video about “What happens on an AC Tune-up” to see me clean my old AC’s condenser coils.

  1. Make Sure Condensation is Dripping on the Side of the House

Last but not least, there is a 3/4 inch drain probably on the side of your house that drips water from it every summer when your AC is running.  This is a good thing, and even this late in the year you want to make sure it’s still draining properly.  If not, there might be a clog within the AC drainage system that needs to be taken care of.  High-pressure air or a vacuum cleaner on the pipe can free up the clog.  Whether you take care of it or you let Fox Family come out and take care of it, this is one thing you don’t want to neglect.  Water damage is no fun!

Take this advice as we deal with this late summer heat.  I’m sure you’re going to be using your AC a little more this year.  Its really important to take care of your AC, so it will take care of you when you need it.

If you haven’t already had your AC tune-up this year from Fox Family, let us come out and do a thorough check of your AC system and get it cleaned up so next year you don’t have any surprises sneak up on you.

Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll see you at the next blog post.

Don’t Miss Our Video on a Related Topic:

What Happens on a Fox AC Tune-Up?

What Happens if I Don’t Change the Air Filter for My Air Conditioner?

How often do you need to change the air filter

Do I Really Need to Change my HVAC Air Filter?

Most people know they need to change the air filter for their air conditioning system.  How often would say you need to change that air filter?  That’s what we are going to talk about this week on Fox Family Heating and Air.

The Air Filter Basics

Hi I’m Greg Fox, and we at Fox Family are so proud to be able to take care of your HVAC system.  Typically, the filters you buy at the store say to change them every 90 days.  There’s an arrow on those filters that points in the direction of the air flow.  It’s important when changing these out that you follow the instructions on the filter so they work effectively.

Most of us have the one-inch pleated filters that get changed at the return air filter grille in the ceiling or lower on the wall if your ductwork is under the house.  That’s not as common, though.  Others must replace their filter at the air handler itself.  That air handler will be either in your attic, in a closet somewhere, or in your garage.  If you have a newer home, the air filter is usually found in the attic.  Later model homes will have the furnace or air handler in the closet or garage.  You’ll know it if it’s in your closet because you can hear it pretty easily.

If you don’t know where your air filter is, because you just moved in to a new home or you’ve just never thought about what happens if you don’t change your air filter, give us a call here in the Sacramento Valley and we’ll be happy to come out and show you.

The Blower Motor Gets Dirty

The filter is there to keep your air handler and the rest of the system clean.  On most systems around Sacramento, the blower motor and its fan blades are the first thing that will appear dirty if you don’t change your air filter.  That doesn’t seem too important, but if your fan blades get even an 1/8” of dust build-up, your air conditioning system will decline in efficiency.  The motor must work much harder to spin the fan blades because it’s heavier.  This can make your blower either slow down or just quit working altogether.

I’ve seen some blower fan blades so impacted with dirt and other things,that the scoops that make up those fan blades were completely full.  There was nothing to scoop the air and throw it in to the house! Those scoops are only a ¼ to 3/8 inches deep.  So, you can see how a dirty blower wheel can really decrease the air conditioner’s performance.

The Evaporator Coil Can Become Clogged

When we come out to service calls that have a dirty blower assembly, it usually leads to inspecting the next part in your air handler that the dirty air comes into contact with:  the evaporator coil.  This is the cold coil that the blower sends air through to cool your home.  This is a big one, folks!

An evaporator coil is similar to a radiator grille in a car.  It has tubes that go back and forth left to right for about 20 to 30 turns.  Layered in with those tubes are some tightly woven aluminum fins which form a coil called the evaporator coil.  If your blower motor doesn’t get dirty from a never-changed air conditioner filter, this evaporator coil surely will.  There’s just no way for the bigger particles of dirt and hair to get through this coil.

It’s Trouble

The consequences of a dirty evaporator coil are very detrimental to your air conditioner’s proper operation.  Air is supposed to flow through this cold coil at a certain rate and flow, through the ducting system that delivers air to the registers in your room.  If this evaporator becomes laden with dirt it will slow the air down so much sometimes that this normally cold coil becomes a giant ice cube.

The warm air from the house is designed to become about 20 degrees colder when it passes through this evaporator coil.  Slowing down the air flow with a dirty coil can make that 20-degree effect become a 40-degree effect, which in turn reduces the air flow even more.  The coil will eventually begin to quickly freeze into an ice cube!  No more air will get through the system and into your rooms because it’s become a giant ice ball!

A Snowball Effect

Most people turn their system off at this point.  What happens next can damage your system even more!  The ice ball begins melting, and eventually will increasingly melt downwards onto the blower motor where we all know water and electric motors don’t mix.  This does happen frequently and can cause the motor to stop running altogether.


This is the air you’re breathing!  Would you like to know exactly what gets caught in these filters and then becomes part of the filters itself?  — dirt from the surrounding air, dander and fur from our pets, flakes of skin from our bodies, hair from our heads and bodies, mold, pollen, grass, and dust tracked into your home from people coming and going all day.

Your house has couches and beds that carry dust mites which leave their microscopic waste in the carpet, which eventually makes it into the filter for your air handler.  Smokers leave their fumes around, which stick very easily to the filter, and common household products like sprays and  cleaning solvents also get drawn into them.

Have you ever wondered why your filter sometimes gets black?  If you burn candles in the house, the smoke from the flame mixes in with the air.  If your air conditioner is on, it sucks that smoky air into the system.  That soot gets lodged into the filter as well, making it black.

We have a lot of wildfires here in California that cause the air to become so thick and harsh to breathe, some people start wearing face masks.  Even if your home’s windows and doors are all closed up, it seeps through the cracks in your home making its way to the filter.

What are some other things you think are getting stuck in these dirty air filters?  Are there local pollutants in your area that inevitably make it to the air filter?  Let us know in the comments section below.  I’ve seen candy wrappers, old air fresheners, cigarette butts, bottle caps and so many other things in there.  It’s absolutely gross!

The Lining of the Ducts and Supply Registers Get Dirty

If you just moved into a house and know that the last tenant there was a smoker, there’s a brown slime very likely lining the inside of the ducting system leading to your rooms.  You may even see brown gel on the registers in those rooms.  If it’s lining the ducts, it’s in your system, and you’re breathing that air as well. Dirty air filters allow small particles of air to pass on into the ducts as well.  I usually refer to it as moon dust, because its so fine.

Dust and Airborne Particulates Mean Poor Air Quality

I like to think of it this way.  If you were to put an air mask on that started out white, and after even just 3 months, it was gray or brown in color from all these things listed above, would you still wear that air mask?  No.  Why? Because that would be disgusting right?  I think it’s the same when we don’t change our air filters for our air conditioning systems.  Click here for a more in-depth look at the air quality in your home and how it can affect your health.

Change Your Filter!

If you buy filters at the store, they usually come white with pleats or ridges to help increase the surface area of the filter.  If that filter isn’t perfectly white, it’s time to change that filter.  This is why I don’t recommend buying the super expensive filters, because people get attached to them, and don’t want to spend that $20 again.  Just get the super cheap filters like I’ve been using at my house for years.  My system is still perfectly clean because I change them so often.

90 Days?

Filters say on the trim to change them out every 90 days.  That can be misleading because in the off season, when its mild outside, we don’t really use our system to heat or cool us.  It’s nice outside.  During these times of the year your filter isn’t getting dirty, so there’s really no need to change them.  But during the hot times of the year we might need to change them once every month or two.  That’s 30 to 60 days.

Here’s how I do it.  I see my return air filter grille every time I walk down the hallway in my house.  Naturally as an HVAC technician, I look up at my filter in the ceiling pretty much every time I pass through the hallway. If I see the filter is not as perfectly clean as it was when I bought it, it’s time to change my filter.

Set a Reminder on Your Phone

Renters of homes and condos are notorious for not changing the filter in their homes. It’s not their system, so they don’t know how or they don’t care about extending the life of the HVAC system because they don’t have to buy a new system if it fails.  So, homeowners and property managers, set yourself a reminder on your phone every 60 days or so to stop by your property and change those filters.  If your not doing it, the tenants don’t seem to be doing it either.

We work for a few property management companies, and the number one call we respond to isn’t a broken-down system, it’s just the filter is so heavily impacted the system can’t breathe right.  If the system can’t breathe in because it’s dirty, it can’t breathe out either.  So just keep that in mind.

Wrapping Up

I really hope this explains what happens if you don’t change your air filter on your air conditioning system.  The filter says every 90 days, but in the summer and winter it might be more often.  Just keep an eye on it and visually make sure it’s always clean.  If you don’t, all you’ll get is mayhem.  Repairs happen.  But, when it’s done out of response for not being maintained properly because of something as easy as changing your filter 4 times a year, that could’ve been avoided.

Leave me some comments down below and let’s start a conversation about this topic.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the next blog post.

The Importance of a Condensate Safety Switch

condensate safety switch

Water Damage Protection for Your Sacramento Home’s Ceiling

Too many times, we’ve gone out on a service call and found that the ceiling is flooding with water. Sheetrock is bulging from the ceilings, ductwork is saturated, or insulation is wet and pressed up against the sheetrock.  Left over time, it can start to create mold.  Water Damage Abatement teams are brought in to dry up the house in an effort to keep everyone healthy.  Floor coverings need to be replaced, and more.  All this can be prevented with the help of our little friend, the condensate safety switch.

Your air conditioner has a hot coil outside and a cold coil inside. The cold coil inside has a fan blowing room temperature air across those cold coils.  That causes condensation, which on normal occasions flows down the main condensate drain with the help of gravity, and out the side of the house where you normally see the pipe dripping with water in the summertime.  That’s normal!

If that primary drainpipe were to ever clog, or a family of mud wasps built a nest in that drain pipe.  Nothing even needs to happen for it to clog, the bacteria and gunk that builds up in ¾ inch PVC pipe is so disgusting, it will clog itself.

Checking the Pipe

What you don’t want to see is the secondary or emergency drain dripping with water.  Where is that one located?  Normally it terminates above a window around your house.  Check for it around your eaves and you’ll see it.  If you see water coming out of that pipe, call your favorite AC company and they’ll likely come out with compressed nitrogen and clean that line out for you.  It takes quite a bit of pressure to really clean that thing out, so let’s leave it to the pros.  People can really hurt themselves trying to mess with compressed gasses.

Back to the drain pan.  A condensate safety switch is mounted on the side of your condensate drain pan or directly to your secondary drain port on the evaporator coil.  There’s a float inside the switch that will rise if the water level of the pan fills up with a certain amount of water.  So, when that normally-open switch closes, the contacts energize at a low voltage and send a signal to the control board to shut down operations.

A Condensate Float Switch Provides 24-Hour Protection

The reason you should have one of these for your home is that it provides a 24-hour watchdog to make sure your overflow or emergency pan doesn’t fill up with water.  I know it’s supposed to be there for overflow, but you really don’t want this thing filling up with water.  Imagine that coil draining water down; trickle, trickle, trickle.

Do we want that happening outside the house draining to the grass, or do we want that drip, drip, dripping down on our sheetrock on the ceiling above our heads?  This happens way too often in Sacramento.  And don’t think you’re off the hook because your system is in the closet or garage.  If those system’s pan fills with water, then it will overflow and come down onto the control board down below as well as the blower motor.  That’s an easy 1000 dollars in repairs; and a furnace that might never quite work the same.

Peace of Mind

Other people have found this inexpensive item to be a real lifesaver.  I’ve been selling these safety switches since I first started HVAC in 2010.  People seem to like the peace of mind they get knowing there is something watching their condensate drainage in the attic, so it doesn’t come through the ceiling.  If mounted properly and inspected every year for proper operation, it will last for many years.  Hopefully, you never need to use it, right?

Some people don’t think these will fit their HVAC system.  I’m here to tell you, there is a condensate safety switch for every single evaporator coil out there.  Whether your system is in the attic, closet, or garage, the potential for the primary drainage to clog and back up is almost 100%.  It’s going to happen.  It’s really just a matter of when.

Protect Your Home with a Condensate Safety Switch

Folks who practice routine maintenance on their system have no idea what I’m talking about because they’ve never had a clog.  The valve is really just another smart thing you can add on to your HVAC system that didn’t already come with it.  Your HVAC technician will choose the right switch for your system, install it, and wire it to the furnace control board.  If you are not a licensed technician, you could really injure yourself or your property unknowingly by installing this safety switch improperly.

Don’t let this happen to you.  It’s expensive to repair your ceiling, let alone to match the texture on the ceiling at that particular spot.  It’s a real art form to be able to do that.  The switch installation is a small price to pay for sheetrock protection.

Check out my video on this topic below.  It goes over the basics of the safety switch and shows me installing one at a house.

I hope this answers your questions as to what a condensate safety switch is and how it can work for you and your home.  Fox Family offers a lifetime warranty on this inexpensive product.  If you’d like us to come out and take care of that for you, email us or give us a call at 916-877-1577.

Thanks so much and see you on next week’s topic!

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

When Should I Change My Air Filter at Home?


When Should I Change My Air Filter at Home?

It may be unwise for you to base only on the recommended air filter change intervals indicated by the manufacturer of that filter. This is because many other factors come into play to determine how often those filters should be changed. This article discusses some of those contributory factors which Sacramento heating and air conditioning companies, such as Fox Family Heating and Air, have in mind as they formulate a filter replacement schedule for Sacramento homeowners.

The Size of Your Home

Larger homes generally require the indoor air to be turned multiple times by the HVAC system before the desired temperature can be reached. The filters in those larger homes will clog up faster since they will have more air to clean up (removing contaminants). The filters in smaller homes generally do less work since there is less air to clean. The filter in a smaller home may require to be replaced at longer intervals than is the case for filters in a larger home. However, this can change based on the size of the filters installed. Your preferred air conditioning repair technician in Sacramento will advise you accordingly.

HVAC Usage Patterns

The air filters in a home whose HVAC system operates 24/7 may need to be replaced more frequently when compared to the filters in a summer home which stays locked up for most of the year. Greater HVAC system use exposes the filters to more contaminants. With greater use comes shorter replacement intervals, such as once each month as opposed to twice a year for the summer home.

Number of Home Occupants

Sacramento heating and air conditioning companies also consider the number of people in your home when recommending how often the air filters should be replaced. The more the occupants, the more dust and other contaminants will be stirred. Homes with three occupants will have a longer filter change interval than homes with ten occupants, for example. This is assuming that the two homes in question are of approximately the same size.

The Presence of Pets

People who have pets in their homes have to change the air filters more often than are the filters in homes without pets. This is because the pet dander can clog the filters quickly, thereby necessitating frequent filter replacements. It follows that the more pets you have, the sooner you will have to change the air filters in your home.

The Health Status of Home Occupants

Homes which have people that suffer from asthma or allergies require more frequent air filter changes when compared to homes whose occupants don’t suffer from these health challenges. Any delay to change the filters when they are dirty will expose the sensitive people to contaminants which can trigger flare ups in their condition. Air conditioner replacement professionals in Sacramento can advise you to switch to a different kind of filter in case the asthma or allergy attacks aren’t addressed by the filter replacements you have been using.

The Type of Filter Installed

It is a known fact that not all AC filters are of the same quality. For example, a manufacturer of one type of filter will recommend that you change out that filter every month while a manufacturer of another type of filter (whose quality is better) will recommend that you replace the filter after three or four months of use. So, it is necessary for you to keep the manufacturer-recommended change interval in mind when planning how often you should replace the air filters.

The Location of Your Home

The location of your home can make it necessary to change the air filters more frequently or less frequently. For instance, a home in a busy metropolitan center will be exposed to more contaminants (car exhaust fumes, for example). The air filters in such a home will need to be changed frequently to maintain acceptable indoor air quality. In contrast, a home located away from industrial or commercial locales may be exposed to less dust and other pollutants. Such a home will require less frequent air filter changes.

As you can see, the right air filter replacement schedule can only be developed once all the factors above are kept in mind. Work with a professional from Fox Family Heating and Air to develop an appropriate air filter replacement schedule for your home so that you don’t take too long or replace those filters too soon. You can also inspect the filters each month and notice when light no longer penetrates through the filter media. That will signal that you should change the filter since it will be dirty/clogged.