How To Repair an Air Conditioner Low Voltage Wire

installation repair on a central air conditioner

Protecting the Low Voltage Wires to the AC

That brown-sheathed, low voltage wire from the air handler to the AC unit outside tells the contractor when to engage. This allows the high voltage to pass from one side of the contractor to the other, flowing on to the compressor and condenser fan motor.  Without this low 24 volt communication, the AC won’t start.  So, shouldn’t we protect that wire as much as possible from potential damage and UV rays?  Isn’t it in the electrical code that we have to use some sort of perspective conduit with wiring outside the house?  That’s what we’re going to talk about today on Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar.

Ratings

I’ve never heard of any low voltage wire used in residential heating and air conditioning that is rated for outdoors, including wet or damp conditions.  So why, when I service equipment and go on HVAC inspections around the Sacramento area, do I find dried up, brittle sections of thermostat wire simply taped to the suction line from the wall to the AC?

I spent hours researching this online. I’m having the hardest time finding the citation in the National or California Electrical Code that describes when to protect the low voltage wire in outdoor conditions, such as an air conditioner installation.  So, if you ARE aware of the part of the book that talks about this topic, please let me know in the comments section down below.  As always, I admit, I don’t know all the answers, but I’d really like to know if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

What the Code Says

Article 725 of the National Electrical Code talks about this type of control wiring.  And I can’t find one part in there that says Class 2 wire (like the 24 volt thermostat wire we use in residential HVAC) must be protected by or enclosed in conduit.

On one hand, the stat wire is not rated for outdoor use, let alone in wet or damp conditions which leaves it exposed to damaging elements.  Possible hazards are endless — landscapers who use weed eaters, a dog’s incessant need to chew up things in the yard, the ultraviolet rays coming from the sun, the arid nature of summer and winter all dry up just about anything that stays outside long enough — the list is long.

On the other hand, installing stat wire inside the liquid-tight conduit really doesn’t make it a dry environment either.  And according to what I’ve found (and not found) in my research, a dry environment isn’t even needed for class 2 wiring anyway.

Protecting the Wire

But ever since my first HVAC installation, I was required by my foremen to protect the stat wire with ½” seal-tight conduit, so I’ve always taught my techs to do the same.  It undeniably protects the wire better than just strapping it to the suction line without seal-tight and leaving it exposed to the elements.  It’s also in the best interest of the customer to ensure the stat wire lasts as long as the AC itself.

If the stat wire dries up and becomes dry and brittle, it takes almost nothing, like a bump by the lawn mower, to expose the bare wire within the sheathing and result in the wrong wires touching each other. This shorts out the low voltage system, rendering it inoperable.  This requires the homeowner to call a service technician to come out to troubleshoot and fix the issue.

But it’s not in the code books.  So, when I see newly built residential neighborhoods with exposed stat wire at the AC, I cringe, but I have to remind myself it’s not actually required.

The Tightest Provision Gets Enforced

If it’s not required, why do so many inspectors write up correction letters to us for doing retrofit changeouts, and not protecting the stat wire with some sort of conduit?  The answer may be, “that’s the way they want it.”  Remember, local jurisdictions can tighten the rules as they deem necessary.  And the tightest provision of any code is the one that gets enforced.

If you really wanted to push the issue, you could ask the code inspector (nicely) where you could find the source of their local rules; one that lists their requirements which are more restrictive than the National Electric Code.

I get that there ARE several sections in the code book that say wiring must be protected from potential damage, but it never mentions it specifically when it comes to Class 2 control wiring.

An Upgrade

With that said, let’s take a look at what it would take to upgrade your customer’s low voltage wiring to a more protected state.  It doesn’t require too much work.  The cost of the parts is minimal compared to the protection you’ll provide to the stat wire in the future.

Take the old dried up stat wire off the existing suction line insulation.  Cutting it back to about six inches from the wall will allow you to splice on new wiring to run through the conduit.  Once it’s been wire nutted and taped for protection, leave a little bit of the colored wires there.  If a future technician has to troubleshoot it, they can search back to your splice and easily see the wires that are connected.  This will give them the option of using that third wire as an alternate.

Shove the wire nuts into the penetration of the wall where it comes out and slip the new wire through the conduit.  Fasten the conduit to the unit.  Then strap it to the rest of the lineset and high voltage conduit going to the AC.  This makes for neat and clean workmanship of your repair, which IS required by the electrical code.

Looking Ahead

The next time you see exposed thermostat wire coming from the wall to the AC, think about what’s right for your customer.  If you’re a homeowner, it shouldn’t be too expensive to have your local HVAC company do this work on your system.

And, as always, whether dealing with high or low voltage electricity, there are inherent dangers and mechanical failures that can happen when dealing with them.  So, let’s leave it to the professionals.

Once again, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so leave a comment down below.

Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll see you on the next blog topic!

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

How to Repair An Air Conditioner

How to Handle a Refrigerant Leak in My Home

how to handle a refrigerant leak at my home

If your HVAC technician tells you your A/C has a refrigerant leak, I want to tell you how we handle that here at Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning.

The Environmental Protection Agency has updated the requirements related to ozone-depleting and global warming substances like R-22 and R-410, a refrigerant that’s very likely in the HVAC system at your house.

So, how do we handle a refrigerant leak at your home?  After some recent schooling online and some back and forth, I found that we can’t REQUIRE you to fix the leak in residential applications that have less than 50 lbs. of refrigerant or less.  This likely describes your system.  We’re not and you’re not required to find or fix your leaking HVAC system.  This means that if you wanted to gas it up and repeatedly let that refrigerant leak out, you’re apparently not forbidden to do that.

Fox Family’s Position

We at Fox Family have strong feelings about continuing to allow the release of harsh chemicals that contribute to the degradation of our planet, namely the ozone layer, as well as other contributors to global warming.  We also want future generations of plants, animals, and humans to have a chance to enjoy their lives, breathe clean air, and thrive!

Here’s what happens when your system leaks.  Large amounts of CFC’s, HFC’s and HCFC’s (which is what refrigerant is) are spewing into the atmosphere every day.  Industrial and commercial buildings are the main culprit, but far more homes than commercial buildings exist.  Regardless, leaking refrigerants mix with wind currents, air pressure and updrafts, bringing those chemicals into the lower atmosphere.  No matter what people say about chlorine being heavier than air, it’s been proven several times over that these chemicals are amply mixed with our lower and upper atmosphere where they linger.

Unfortunately, rain doesn’t bring them down.  As those chemicals rise even further through updrafts and pressure differences in the air, high energy solar radiation breaks down those chemicals, releasing the damaging chlorine.  Those chlorine particles stay in the stratosphere for several years, where it eats away at the ozone layer.

Having a Conversation

But back to your refrigerant leak.  Some HVAC companies can and do continue to come out and refill your refrigerant for as long as you need it, because face it, you need to be comfortable.  I get it!  But at some point, a Fox Family technician is going to have a conversation with you about finding that leak and coming up with a plan to repair the leak or change out your system.  It’s the right thing to do.

So, do we “gas and go” year after year?  Two to three times at your house is perhaps our limit.  If you don’t want to fix it, your love for the planet may not be in line with ours.  HVAC companies make pretty good money by selling you refrigerant.  It’s easy labor for us, and not very time consuming either.  That’s why it’s called “gas and go.”

Refrigerant Leak Searching

But refrigerant is expensive.  If you’ve got to keep refilling your refrigerant, who knows how often, it can really add up quickly.  If we’ve been to your home before, then we have a baseline from which to draw our information.  But if it’s our first time out, it would be unfair to you for us to recommend you start a leak search immediately.

What if it’s just a loose Schrader core at the service valve where the technicians hook their gauges up?  I’ve seen this before.  The system was way low on charge, and when I took the cap off the service valve, it was slowly shooting liquid refrigerant into the air.  I tightened the core and the system hasn’t leaked out since, or at least they haven’t called me back yet.  But it’s a start.

Striking a Balance

As an HVAC company, we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.  If we say you need a leak search the first time out, people may think we’re being pushy sales-techs.  If we don’t and they leak out again, we might be criticized for not recommending a leak search at our earlier call.  These people will later want us to come back out and replace the leaked-out refrigerant for free.

Other times, we come upon an R-410 system made between 2008 and 2015 that’s leaking. It has copper coils which we know did NOT mix well during that time of production.  If it’s an Aspen or ADP coil, I know exactly where to go every time to find that leak: in the evaporator coil near the furnace.  If I pop the cover off and look low on the two slabs of the A-coil, I’ll always find oil staining the coils, or an oily feel to the bottom of the primary drain pan, under the evaporator coil.  Sometimes, with a quick look into the p-trap, I’ll see the oily water right there in the PVC.  An easy fix!

The Customer’s Role

But you know your system’s history better than us.  Our customers must help us out by letting us know if they’ve had another company come out and charge their system up.  If you have a big leak, we could refill your refrigerant today, and it will be gone by tomorrow.  Because they’re not liable for your system’s performance, most companies aren’t going to provide a complimentary refill just to get you up and going.  They know it’s just going to leak out again.

Some companies will put some sort of leak stopper fluid into the lines.  It’s a lot like that green slime they put in bicycle tires to find the leak and plug the hole from the inside.  Once again, about half of the HVAC guys out there will tell me I’m wrong, but I won’t put that stuff in your system, because it can clog up the metering device at your evaporator coil, and now I’m on the hook for your TXV not working right.

A lot of manufacturers will agree with me when I say nothing should be in your refrigerant lines besides virgin refrigerant.  At the most, we’ll insert some dye so we can come back later and identify where the leak is.  But that’s only after we come out and use an electronic sniffer and visually check the system for leaks.

Refrigerant Leak Searching: How It’s Done

Let’s say you’ve decided to find the leak so we can figure out what to do next.  Fox Family’s leak searches come in 3 stages:

Stage 1: Inspection

A stage 1 leak search includes an inspection of the condenser and evaporator coils as well as the line set that runs in between for leaks.  We will use vision, soap bubbles, and/or an electronic leak detection device.  This searching process can last for up to an hour.  What will this process cost?  If the necessary repair is easily accessible, the price of the repair and leak search will be covered for the price of the stage 1 leak search.  You’ll be liable for your refrigerant refill one last time.  But we always put the cost of the leak search towards the cost of your repair.

Stage 2: Using Refrigerant Dye

If we can’t find it that way, we go on to a stage 2 leak search.  This means adding refrigerant dye to the system and returning in about a month.  This allows the refrigerant to circulate through the system.  The dye will spray out of the leak along with the refrigerant and oil.  The small spot left behind provides a visual of the leak location.  The cost of this stage 2 leak search will also go towards the total cost of the leak repair.  We almost always find it in this case.

Let me respond to the people out there who say, “I thought only virgin refrigerant was supposed to be in the lines.”  It’s always good practice to recover any remaining refrigerant in the lineset, put on a new filter drier, and evacuate the system properly.  No matter how small or where the leak was, the system surely lost some of its vacuum during this leak.   In my opinion, just pumping the system down and releasing the charge isn’t really good practice.

Stage 3: Pressure Testing

If we still can’t find the leak, a stage 3 leak search is available.  It requires us to isolate the 3 portions of the refrigeration tubing from each other.  We separate the outdoor coil, the indoor coil, and the line set that runs in between.  Fox Family brazes on a valve stem to these pieces of equipment.  The technician then pressure tests each one individually in order to find which one is leaking.  This stage of leak search is very costly and is very rarely ever used.  It also takes a lot of time on the owner’s part as well as the technician. Because it requires that we leave the system isolated for days at a time, it can be uncomfortable for the homeowner in the middle of summer.

Summary

This summarizes how Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning handles a leak search.  Other companies will handle it in their own unique way.  I hope this sheds some light on the process used by Fox Family for our customers who’ve asked.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to leave them down below in the comments section.  This always sparks conversation, as methods for dealing with leaking systems vary quite a bit from contractor to contractor.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you next time!

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

how to handle a refrigerant leak

Fox Family Installs Ameristar Heating and Cooling Products

Ameristar

What’s the Best Brand for a New Air Conditioner?  An In-Depth Look at Ameristar

Sacramento Valley residents looking for a quality system to replace theirs with can turn to Ingersoll Rand who owns Trane and American Standard HVAC products.  Little known to most people is the other product they manufacture, Ameristar.

Trane’s Unparalleled Reputation

Ameristar is one of the most affordable and reliable companies to buy from because of the products they are producing.  When I go out to people’s homes to provide a quote a new HVAC system, I always mention our main product line, Trane.  The reputation Trane has in this HVAC industry is unparalleled.  From their products being made in America to the testing of their equipment in laboratories, Ingersoll Rand and Trane offer the Ameristar line as their budget option for residential HVAC systems.

Ameristar furnaces are manufactured in New Jersey while their air conditioners and heat pumps are made in China.  Consider Trane’s XB80 furnace that was the staple of their furnace installation service for the last 15 years or so.  A simple design allowed technicians to access the control board and dismantle and reinstall the burner assembly for easy cleaning.  The design also allowed for easy access to the hot surface ignitor for testing and replacement as needed.  The blower assembly had a straightforward design to allow for easy removal, cleaning and replacement.

Trane XB80 Vulnerabilities

As a technician who has serviced probably every brand and variation of furnace that a technician can navigate through, I can honestly say that the Trane XB80 furnace has had very few issues with it.  I’d say I’ve worked on them the least of all the others simply because they don’t break down very often.

One of my main repairs on this system has been their control board in the blower compartment.  They had a Molex connection of around nine pins that would interact with the back of the board to tell which components to do what in a certain sequence. For instance, to tell the inducer motor to come on, then to tell the hot surface ignitor to engage, and so on.  The Molex connections would separate from the solder connections on the board and would begin to operate intermittently.  Now it’s just one of those things that most experienced techs can just walk up on and easily diagnose because they’ve seen it enough.

A Great Choice

Every brand out there has its vulnerabilities and this control board issue typically arose at about the 15 to 20-year mark in the life of the system.  I didn’t notice much else going wrong with this system.  Sure, the occasional pressure switch or capacitor would go bad.  But once again this Trane, and now the Ameristar model are both much more reliable and easier to service than the other models out there.  Ameristar really makes for a great choice when deciding on an entry-level design HVAC system for your home or rental.

Now that Trane has moved away from that design and ventured towards an even better product line offering, Ingersoll Rand has allowed Ameristar to basically take that same Trane XB80 design and apply it to their product.  This means you’re basically getting a Trane furnace when you buy an Ameristar furnace.  It literally just has a different name tag on the front of the furnace!

Ameristar’s Star Feature

Let’s talk about the China-made Ameristar air conditioner.  One thing I really like is their use of a scroll compressor.  These are just like the ones being used in high-efficiency condensers.  Its outstanding benefit is the reduced noise level compared to other systems that use cheaper products.  I’ve also noticed the swept fan blade of the Ameristar air conditioner which also contributes to lower noise levels.  Ameristar prides itself on its 74-decibel level operation.  Both of these items really contribute to that low noise level. The fan and the compressor are really the only things that make noise on the outdoor condenser.

Ameristar Quality and Design

You’ll also notice the compact design of the Ameristar AC compared to other modern high-efficiency units.  Some customers want a low-profile unit so it can stay out of sight.  This AC really does that well.  Also, the components inside the electrical panel of the Ameristar AC are quality.  They aren’t flimsy brand names that go out within a few years.  These are the same items I would choose when we come out to replace parts in your current AC system.  I’m really picky about what parts I use on your system for repairs.  If a part were to go out for as long as you own the system, and Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning is in business, we’ll replace that part, no questions asked.

The only negatives I hear from prospective buyers are the words “Made in China” on the side of the box.  With that, I don’t have a lot to say other than I really wish it was made in America, but it is what it is, and I still stand behind this product and the quality parts they are using that make this system run so well and so quietly.

The Ameristar Warranty

As far as warranties go, Ameristar has a 5-year base limited warranty and 10-year registered parts warranty assuming you register it within 60 days of installation.  In California, that means 10 years even without registering it.  Fortunately for us, that’s a great perk of living in Cali!  We don’t have to register our HVAC products to receive the extended warranties like this 10-year parts warranty.  The furnace also offers a 20-year warranty on its heat exchanger.  That means as long as you are the original owner of the AC or furnace, you won’t have to pay for parts for the first ten years of the system or 20 years on that heat exchanger.

What About Labor Costs?

You may still have to pay for labor on those warrantied items to your HVAC company.  You’ll have to work that out with your contractor.  I personally feel home warranty companies are not the way to go.  They rarely stand up for what they say they will.  Even if they do, the type of technician really varies when they send out the companies they use.  It’s usually not the company you would have chosen.  And it can take a long time to get some of those contracted HVAC companies to your home.  Buyer beware.

I hope this has helped you with your research on Ameristar products.  Ingersoll Rand is an established company that takes a lot of pride in their products.  Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning is also a company who takes a lot of pride in the products they install in your home.  If I didn’t believe this was a good product that is going to last a long time in your home without giving you problems, I wouldn’t install it for you.

Find the Right Contractor

No matter who installs your Ameristar HVAC system, please make sure they know how to measure and install the correct size system for your particular home.  That doesn’t mean changing it out with the same size your house currently has on it.  Pick the licensed contractor for your California home that will pull a city or county permit and has a good reputation online.  When you do, you’ll have better peace of mind.  Cheap prices don’t usually translate to quality installs.

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

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

best entry level hvac system

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 Air and Solar.

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.

Gross!

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.

Is a Bigger Air Conditioner Better?

Is Your Sacramento Valley Air Conditioner underperforming?

There are many reasons why your air conditioner may be underperforming.  Your system could be low on refrigerant, your evaporator coil could be clogged, the filter could be dirty, or the air ducts that lead to each room in your house could be damaged or crushed.  These problems can lead you to think your AC is undersized, and you should get a bigger air conditioner.  Today I want to tell you why getting a bigger AC may not be the best idea.

The Owner’s Hunch

Hi, I’m Greg Fox from Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning, and Solar.  As the Sacramento area grows outward, new neighborhoods have sprouted up very quickly.  After the haste, many folks I’ve talked to have complained that their air conditioner seems to be undersized.  And sometimes they are right!  Sometimes the HVAC contractor that installed that system didn’t consider that the house has 10-foot ceilings instead of the usual 8-foot ceilings.

Doing the Math

That isn’t the only thing we look at either.  In both older and newer homes, the square footage of the house is important.  The type of windows and doors, the orientation of the house, as well as the impact of any trees that might be covering the house are all also important.  And the insulation levels in the house is also important.  All of these factors are used to figure out the proper size for a home’s AC unit.

Summer Heat

If your home’s air conditioner is undersized, you’ll know it because it will just run, and run, and run, even on 85- and 90-degree days.  That’s warm, but nothing compared to the average of 22 days per year of temperatures soaring to 100 degrees or more here in the Sacramento area.  Most air conditioners these days are designed to be efficient to 95 degrees or less.  Anything hotter than that, and EVERYONE’S air conditioner is going to run non-stop.

Going Bigger

This is typical for a lot of the homes around the Sacramento area.  But some people wonder if a bigger sized system is a good idea.  Here are some factors I would consider when considering the move to a bigger system:

Your air ducts are sized for the sized system you have now.  If you get a bigger system you can really affect the static pressure of the system.  Static pressure is like the blood pressure in your body.  If your heart was too big for your body, it could cause complications with your blood pressure, right?  Well it’s the same with the static pressure of your HVAC system.  The bigger air conditioner and its compressor won’t be able to operate under the same comfortable conditions as it would if it was properly sized.  This will lead to early system failures of your new HVAC system.

Comfort

A bigger system is also not going to feel as comfortable for your house.  Humidity isn’t as big a deal out here in California, but in other areas of the country it is.  Either way, the comfortability factor is compromised when you get a bigger system.

Imagine this.  When you turn on the AC in your car on a hot day, the air comes on full blast until you start to feel nice and cold in there.  Now, turn that AC back off, and its starts to feel muggy and strangely warm too quickly.  The car walls, seats, leather and other things in the car haven’t gotten cool yet.  That’s the same thing you’ll experience in a house with too big of a system.

The thermostat might satisfy at the temperature you’re asking for more quickly, but it kicks right back on quickly too.  This can really mess with the humidity levels in your home because the system hasn’t run long enough for it to do its job, which is to cool your house AND dehumidify the house at the same time.  Ideal humidity levels in our homes here are around 45-55%.  Anything more than that and it really starts to feel sticky in there.

Wear and Tear

Another reason to size it right is because now that your larger system is constantly turning on and off all day on these hotter days, the motors will wear out faster.  The most damaging time for a motor, especially your $2000 compressor, is when all that damaging heat and energy slam into that motor to get it running.  Yes, it levels off once its running but the starting and stopping is what really hurts those expensive motors.

The right sized system runs for longer times but cools your house more effectively by getting your walls, your furniture, the carpet and ceilings cool as well as the occupants in the house.  That’s why getting it right is so important.

Get it Right

If you’re an HVAC technician watching this video, don’t just go into the house and say, “Oh yeah you’ve got a 2.5-ton system in your house, so that’s what we’re going to go back with.”  You MIGHT BE going back with that same size system, but at least know for sure that’s what size your customer needs by doing a proper load calculation of the house and its surroundings.  An HVAC system is one of the most expensive things people buy for their homes.  It would be devastating to buy too small of a system or too large of a system.  You want to really get it just right!

Case in Point

I just went to a family’s house in the Natomas area.  Lots of newer homes have been built in this area.  This home had a 3.5-ton system on a house that I measured out at 2300 square feet.  This 3.5-ton system is too small for this house.  This was a house that had two thermostats, also known as a house with two zones, or a zoned house.  It uses one thermostat upstairs and one downstairs.

Zones

Zoned houses are designed to cool one floor at a time rather than the whole house.  Watch my video on “How to Cool a Two-Story House” for a better strategy on cooling this house, linked at the end of this blog post.  Basically though, I just set the schedule on their thermostat (which had never been set up before) to cool the downstairs living area during the day, and the upstairs sleeping areas starting around 7pm.

These folks were told by another company before mine to just set it to their desired temperature, which was 74 degrees, on both floors and press the HOLD button on the thermostat.  That’s why when I went into their home to give them an estimate for a new system, they were really focused on getting a bigger system; because that 3.5-ton system just could not keep up with that big house all day.  The temperature in the home was climbing throughout the hot days.

Each zone was only about 1300 square feet.  But they had 12-foot ceilings, 20-year-old vinyl, south facing windows, a south facing wall that is getting hammered by the sun all day, AND those walls are a part of the main living room downstairs and the master bedroom upstairs.  They can literally feel the heat radiating through their walls into those rooms. And they typically have some activity during the day upstairs, especially around the afternoon hours.

All this was taken into consideration as I advised them that the size of their system could be reduced by a half a ton, but considering everything about the house, the 3.5 ton would be just fine.

In Summary

Getting a larger AC than you need might sound appealing, but it’s torture on your new system.  It probably won’t last as long as it’s supposed to, and you’ll be buying a new system sooner than you should.

I hope this blog post has helped you understand the importance of not getting an oversized air conditioner for your home.  If you have any opinions on this topic, please feel free to comment below.  We really appreciate your input!

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

Don’t miss our videos on this and a a related topic:

 

 

Can I Still Use My A/C With a Bad Capacitor?

A Common Air Conditioner Problem in the Sacramento Valley

Every spring and summer, we get a lot of phone calls from customers saying their AC isn’t working.  A good portion of those calls are for a common repair.  Their capacitor has failed.  If your technician has told you that your capacitor has failed, it’s definitely one of those items you’re going to want to replace. And I’m going to tell you why in this post.

Fair Warning

I want to give a fair warning to everyone watching this.  If you’re reading this with the intention of changing your own capacitor, they carry a lot more voltage than the typical 240 volts that runs the air conditioner.  Capacitors can and will shock you even when the power is turned off.

Serious injury and death can occur, as high voltage doesn’t mix well with the human body.  So this blog post is not meant to teach anyone how to install or replace a capacitor.  There are other YouTube creators that will explain it for you.  I recommend having a real HVAC technician handle this repair as that person will know how to discharge the capacitor properly so no one gets injured.

What is a Capacitor?

A capacitor is a storage bucket of electrons that is constantly giving itself up for the motor it supports.  And, they don’t make them like they used to!  Capacitors made in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s were designed to last a long time.  As a technician, I still come across these late model air conditioners and I’m amazed their capacitors are still running just fine.

That’s unheard of these days.  Capacitors made today are typically designed to last five to ten years.  There are definitely some brands of capacitors that are made better than others, and it’s up to your HVAC technician to find those good brands and use them in the best interest of you, the customer.

Frustrations

I’ve seen caps that only lasted two years!  I know of certain brands of air conditioners that are installed brand new, and two or three years later, we are replacing the capacitor.  Then an HVAC company comes out and replaces theirs with a cheap or less proven brand, and it gives out in a short amount of time, with no warranty on the item.  So the customer has to buy another one.  That’s frustrating for the customer, but not for the HVAC company. They get to keep charging $200+ to keep your AC running every other year.

We use MARS brand capacitors, because they are made in America and I personally believe they last longer than the others.  There are several other brands to use out there, but we don’t switch it up and use those other brands just because we happen to be near an HVAC supply store that sells cheaper capacitors.

A Dead Giveaway

Most of the motors in your air conditioner can’t run without a good capacitor.  Like I said, they support these motors.  They help the motor start and run efficiently.  Some people have gone out to their air conditioner and noticed the fan wasn’t spinning on their AC like it should be.  So they get a stick or something to reach into the fan shroud and try to manually get the fan blade to start spinning.  And it works now!  This is a classic sign that the capacitor for that fan motor is bad, and a good example for you that demonstrates why these motors can’t start and run efficiently without a good capacitor.

And we can’t just put any old capacitor in there, because it needs to be the exact size recommended by the manufacturer.  If it isn’t, the motor might start, but will operate out of balance. It causes an uneven magnetic field around the motor, which can make the motor noisy, make it work harder (raising the cost to run it,) or just cause the motor to burn out altogether.

Other Complicating  Factors

There are differences in a typical dual run capacitor that normally comes in your AC and a start capacitor that can be added onto your system either by the manufacturer or at your house by a technician.  I’ll explain those in a different blog post and video when I make them at a later date.

But for the purposes of this blog, I wanted to answer a question recently posed by my best friend Matt.  It’s actually an excellent question to answer for other people out there.

If your capacitor has failed, please don’t try to run that part of the system.  It’ll only cause more damage to the system, which might force you to replace a bigger, pricier part, or your entire system.  So just be patient.  Hopefully your technician has one on their truck already.  They usually will.

Use Caution

Some of you folks out there changing these out on your own better be careful.  Capacitors carry a lot of power and will strike before you know it.  So, that’s just my last bit of warning for you DIY’ers if you try to navigate this repair on your own.

If you are buying these parts online because of price, they might be cheaper, but that’s nothing compared to getting injured or possibly ruining a more expensive part because you didn’t hook it up right.  If you’re paying the average price of $100 to $300 dollars for a capacitor from your technician, (depending on which part of the country you’re in,) it’s because you’re paying for that company to have the right one on their truck and install it right now for you.

Thanks for coming by and we’ll see you on the next post.

How Long Should My Central Air Conditioner Last?

Getting the Most Out of Your AC System in the Sacramento Valley

How long is your central air conditioner designed to last?  Have you ever heard of “programmed obsolescence” or “designed obsolescence?”  If you haven’t, it really plays a big factor in the way this question is answered.

How Long Should my Air Conditioner Last?

This is one of my favorite questions to answer. And it usually gets all the HVAC technicians and owners out there all stirred up.  The reason is that companies that are highly motivated by sales are going to tell you that your central air conditioner will not last as long as I’m going to tell you it will.

Air Conditioners Then and Now

I will tell you, they don’t make ‘em like they used to!  The original home air conditioning systems were built with quality parts and were extremely durable for up to 30 years.  But the industry quickly realized, just like car companies did back in the 1920s, that sales were stagnating.  It was like they were building them too well for those companies to sustain growth, and more importantly to them, become rich. Companies began making their products just a little bit less durable and instilling in the buyer the desire to own something “a little newer, a little better, a little more efficient,” and just a little sooner than necessary.

So, how long should your air conditioner last?  As with anything, the answer to that question depends heavily on how well your system has been maintained.  Rental properties are notorious for having tenants that just plain old refuse to change their air filter. So, of course, that system is a crapshoot.  Who knows, right?  It might last 10 years, it might last 20 years.

Periodic Repair and Maintenance

But if you have the system cleaned and maintained every now and then, there is no reason your system can’t last you 20 years.  True, parts will fail now and then, and everyone expects they’ll have to make certain repairs to their aging system, but if the parts are available, there’s no reason to have someone convince you to buy a new air conditioning system.

That’s just another example of planned obsolescence!  Someone putting in your head that you need a new system at 12 years is almost like being a bully.  They know more than you do about that air conditioning system, and it would be pretty easy for any “technician” in a white button-up shirt with an American flag on it to deceive you about your air conditioner.  The big companies around town are banking on it.

I live in a 21-year-old neighborhood built by, let’s call them a fictitious name like BK Homes.  The HVAC contractor who won the job to install all those units did so because it was the lowest bidder who could install them the fastest.  Those contractors aren’t putting in top of the line systems either.  They call them contractor grade HVAC systems.

It’s Your Decision

My system is 21 years old this year, and I’m going to try and make it last one more year.  A lot of us say that!  But when that system was 11 years old my compressor failed.  Well, for most people, that’s about a $2,000-$3,000 job to make that repair and refill the refrigerant.  So yes, major failures like this do happen.  Is it planned obsolescence?  Maybe. But it’s also a machine, and machines break sometimes.  I happened to know a guy (me) who could get a good deal on a compressor.  So I fixed it.  And the system has run great ever since.

The point I’m trying to get across is, it’s your decision how long you want to keep your system around.  If the parts are available, your system can be repaired.  Old systems blow cold air out of your registers the same temperature as the newer systems, but here’s where those words “planned obsolescence” come back around when the pushy sales guys start telling you you need a new air conditioner.  They’re just trying to persuade you that you need something a little newer, a little better, a little more “efficient,” and just a little sooner than necessary.

Why I would be interested in changing my air conditioner

I changed my compressor when it was 11 years old.  That was almost 10 years ago!  That air conditioner is a lot noisier now that it ever has been.  I’m kind of over it… every time it comes on and I’m out on my patio, it comes on loud and turns off loud.

If I had to complete additional major repairs like the compressor was, I would have gotten to the point that I was tired of putting money into the old system and would instead want to invest my money in a new system.

If I was leaking refrigerant every year and we could find the leak, I would want to change my system.  Not only because of the hight cost of the refrigerant, but it’s just very bad for the ozone layer to be exposed to all that chlorine, and future generations will suffer because of it.

If the system was installed wrong in the first place, it’s tough to fix that without taking everything out and putting it back together the proper way.  This could be another reason to start all over with a new system.  As an installer myself, I know how people can suffer from a system that never worked right or was too small in the first place.  The most important day of a system’s life is the day it was installed.

Reasons companies that are motivated purely by sales will advise you to get a new system

Extremely salesy companies will tell you (and you see it written in blogs all over the internet too), that if your system is over 12 years old, you need a new system.  They’ll tell you it’s not worth repairing, or the parts aren’t available, literally lying straight to your face.

They say if you’ve had the system over a decade, it’s time to replace your system. This also doesn’t compute for me.  Why?

Some of my customers have told me another company told them R-22 freon wasn’t available anymore.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes, it’s on its way out, and super salesy technicians will say big words like “Montreal Protocol” which states we have to phase out of producing R-22 by 2020, but there are also alternative refrigerants we can use for a long time, at half the price!

R407c can be used to replace the R-22 in your system.  Your experienced technician will remove the existing R-22, and without getting all technical, replace it with the new R407c refrigerant.  There are plenty of other alternative and safe refrigerants to use out there.  Just don’t let them add the alternative stuff on top of your existing R-22.  That would not be acceptable as the refrigerant needs to be either-or.

Even after they stop making R-22 freon, there will still be recycled R-22 available for years.  It might be more expensive then than it is now, but it’s still an option that you get to decide on, and not a misleading technician.

The Bottom Line

You should know the real truth about how long your central air conditioning system should last.  You can get about 20 good years out of your system as long as it was installed correctly.  And that assumes your installer followed several detailed instructions from the manufacturer.

Anyone can put a few boxes together up in your attic for a really cheap price and call it good.  And you’ll believe them too.  It’s sad because these types of companies continue to give HVAC a bad name, while companies like Fox Family are trying to lift the HVAC industry by following instructions closely so your system will last a good 20 years.  Of course, that’s with proper maintenance.

Thank so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you at my next blog.

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

5 Reasons My Air Conditioner Needs Locking Safety Caps

Air Conditioning Safety Tips for the Sacramento Region

Today I’m going to give you the top 5 reasons your air conditioner should have locking safety caps on the access ports.  Welcome to Fox Family Heating Air and Solar!

Starting Out

When I started my career in HVAC in 2010, locking safety caps were already required by the International Mechanical Code. The International Mechanical Code is something all 50 states have adopted as their rule for the installation of air conditioning systems.  However, HVAC companies were slow to adopt this rule, most likely because it was just another expense to complete their services for you the homeowner.  So today, I wanted to give you 5 reasons you need locking safety caps on your air conditioner.

In 2009, the International Mechanical Code adopted the code 1011.10 which says “…refrigerant circuit access ports (which carries the refrigerant to and from your outdoor AC, and indoor cold coil) shall be fitted with locking type tamper-resistant caps or shall be otherwise secured to prevent unauthorized access.”

Later in the chapter it says in 1012.3 those same, “…refrigerant circuit access ports shall be protected in accordance with 1011.10 whenever refrigerant is added to or removed from an air conditioning system.”

Taking Care of Those You Love

Here are 5 more reasons why we as homeowners should follow this rule.  No single reason given here is more important than the other, so pay close attention to all of them.  They could affect someone you love.

1.  Prevent someone from deliberately inhaling the refrigerant to get high

It’s called huffing, and it seems to be some sort of game or addiction to obtain a certain feeling in the user’s body and mind.  Pay close attention here.  Did you know the refrigerant in your simple air conditioning system outside your house actually displaces oxygen?  It will literally take your breath away.  According to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) and the Alliance for Consumer Education’s (ACE) Inhalant Abuse Prevention, “huffing can cause someone to suffer cardiac arrest and die whenever they 1. inhale, the 1st or the 100th time.”  There are several videos online about this and it’s been happening for a while.

2.  Prevent drug users from stealing your refrigerant

With the cost of R-22 skyrocketing over the last few years because of supply and demand, the second reason we should be putting these locking caps on your air conditioners is to prevent drug users from stealing your refrigerant. Drug users can make a quick buck by stealing it and selling it to someone locally.  This enables them to continue their habits on your dime because now you’re going to have to pay top dollar to have the AC recharged.  At the current price of $100-$200 dollars a pound, that could get expensive real quick!

3. Refrigerant is Poisonous

Number three is simple. AC refrigerant is poisonous, and poison must be kept away from children.  Nobody thinks something bad can happen until it does.  Just doing your part to protect the lives of children can do a world of good.   These locking caps are tamper-resistant, so instead of being able to unscrew the normal caps off the access ports, these locking caps will just keep spinning and spinning until they lose interest in whatever they were trying to do.

4. Protecting the Environment

R-22 is an ozone-depleting substance which the EPA has deemed a controlled substance. The chlorine in R-22 that gets into the air is burning a hole right through the ozone layer.  We should all be trying to do our part in preventing anyone other than a licensed HVAC technician access to your refrigerant.  HVAC techs must add and recover refrigerant in a manner that minimizes refrigerant loss to the atmosphere.  The EPA even requires we carry a card proving we’re allowed to this.  Next time your “HVAC technician” or handyman comes to service your AC, perhaps you’ll want to ask to see their EPA 608 card.

5. Protecting You

The fifth reason to have these locking caps on your AC is to protect you! Protecting yourself from liability in this day and age is crucial.  Everyday business owners, HVAC company owners, and yes even regular homeowners could face negligence charges by not protecting society from the dangers of air conditioning refrigerant.

Okay, Let’s Do It!

I think this is one of those topics we should be proactive about.  As a homeowner, don’t wait until something happens on your property before you agree, “OK, let’s put those locking caps on the AC.”

HVAC company owners, you should know every time your technicians add or remove refrigerant, it’s your responsibility to replace those old twist-off caps with locking caps.  This doesn’t have to be another great selling opportunity.  They’re just locking caps.  Yes, they cost about $350 dollars for a pack of 50 of these caps, but this is just another opportunity for us to protect ourselves from liability.  Charging a reasonable price to cover your costs is really all we as HVAC owners should be doing here.

Doing Due Diligence

At Fox Family, we use NoVent locking caps.  They’re color-coded green for R-22 and red for R-410 refrigerant.  Each color has its own specific key, so I always carry the red and green keys with me in my tool bag.  There are also silver locking caps that are universal.  Either way, a special key is required to place them on, or remove them from the access ports on an air conditioner.

We usually buy these NoVent locking caps and keys at the HVAC supply stores around town.  And these stores try their best to restrict purchases of HVAC tools like these to not just anyone, but, in a pinch, I’ve found the caps are pretty easy for anyone to buy online.  So, even if someone was to be successful getting past your locking caps on your AC, you’ve done your due diligence by adhering to the International Mechanical Code.  In my judgment, you’d be protected because you were trying to do your part to protect others from gaining access to your AC’s refrigerant.

Cover All the Bases

You might say, “well my AC is a package unit up on the roof.”  These units are still required to have locking caps on them unless you have some sort of locked area enclosing the system to prevent anyone from tampering with the equipment.  People can still get on your roof and steal your AC unit if they really want to.

View my video on this very thing: https://youtu.be/9iqJ3QRHEYM.  Just a few months after we installed a brand-new system on a rooftop in Sacramento, the copper coils were stolen right out of the system.  Reports from neighbors said they saw a guy messing with something up there, and all the sudden they saw something white spraying from the unit.  That’s was the copper refrigerant lines that he simply cut and removed from the system.

If someone really wants your system, they can take it, but adding locking safety caps to your AC system WILL help to prevent access to the system.  And that’s really all you can do.

Summary

I hope this has helped explain what locking safety caps are and why you need them on your system.  Once again, let’s be proactive about this and not reactive.  Protect your friends and family and get these locking caps on your system as soon as possible.

Thanks so much for watching and we’ll see you on the next blog!

Don’t miss my video and related videos on this topic:

Courtesy KJRH-TV, Tulsa, Channel 2

What’s the Best Way to Cool My Two-Story House?

cool your house with Fox Family HVAC

Making the Most of Your Air Conditioner This Summer in Sacramento

As an HVAC technician, I have the comfort in my two-story home dialed in.  The upstairs is just as big as the downstairs for the most part.  But in the summer, the heat rises so dramatically to the second floor it seems I’ll never get the second floor to cool down by the time we go to bed.  Knowing how to control the summertime temperatures in your Sacramento area home can be a bit of a mystery for some.  That’s what we’re going to talk about today on Fox Family Heating Air and Solar!

Intro

As the typical 100° day begins, you have a nice cool attic and rooms throughout the house are at the nicest temperature they’ll be at all day.  If we could just keep our homes at this summer morning temperature, we’d literally be in paradise.

But by 9 am you can feel the warmth already pouring in through the sliding glass door.  If you don’t turn your AC on soon, it’s going to start warming up in the house.

Do you have one thermostat in your home or more than one?

If you only have one thermostat but your home has two levels, an upstairs and downstairs, then your AC system is intended to cool the whole house at one time.  It’s a “single-zone” air conditioning system.  If you have two thermostats, whoever installed your home’s HVAC system set it up to have “two zones”, upstairs… and downstairs.

If you have one thermostat that turns on the air conditioning system, you may notice the upstairs is still warmer than the downstairs, or vice versa, even when the system is supposed to be cooling.  Downstairs where the thermostat is it says 75 degrees and it feels like 75 degrees.  But upstairs you know it’s 80 degrees because the meat thermometer you got from your kitchen accurately reads 79 to 80 degrees upstairs.

Yes, change your filters, yes check the batteries in your thermostat, but we know that’s not the issue here.  The issue here is that downstairs gets more air than upstairs.  So how are we going to fix that?

A Weekend Project

Getting a thick blanket of insulation in the attic is critical to keeping your cool air in your home.  So, if your insulation levels are low, this is a low-cost weekend DIY project for that certain handyman in your home, or you can hire a contractor like us to come out and do it for you.

Whole House Fans

A whole house fan is a great idea for mornings and late evenings, but any time after 10 am, you’ll just be bringing in the hot outside air, so most people are going to resort to their AC system.  If you want to know what a whole house fan is and what it can do for you check out my video on installing a Quiet Cool whole house fan.

Any time after 10 am, most homes in Sacramento are starting to run their AC’s and will continue cycling that AC on and off throughout the day until about 11 pm or later.  If you only have one thermostat, chances are that one floor cools better than the other.  The reality is just that.  The people who installed the system ran all the pipes and ducts where they were supposed to go.  But they just didn’t quite finish the project when they walked away with unbalanced airflow issues in the house.  This is really common in new homes where teams of install crews are literally just slamming these systems in so they can do the next one tomorrow and move on.

Installing a Manual Damper

What we try to do in these cases is find the part of the house that is blowing more air upstairs or downstairs.  Then we’ll cut into the ductwork and install a manual damper.  A manual damper is round like the ducts in your house.  It runs in line with the duct and has a paddle on it that opens and closes allowing more or less air through it and on to the rest of your house.  If we can adjust this manual damper or in a few cases, a series of manual dampers, we can adjust the airflow accordingly in your home.  This is the way we can balance the airflow in your two-story home if you only have one thermostat.

You might ask “why don’t we just shut off the registers around the house until we achieve that?” You can… but it’s not recommended as a practice by HVAC professionals because the registers can start whizzing and making noises.  The pressure of the air trying to enter the room can cause the registers to start vibrating and rattling, which causes other issues.

A Fine Balance

The air conditioning system has a sort of blood pressure to it.  When we start shutting down registers around the house it affects the system’s static pressure.  If the air can’t get out of the system, expensive compressors start failing, motors start seizing up, and your HVAC system gets to a point where it doesn’t want to cool the home anymore.  There is a fine balance point we are trying to achieve here with this static pressure, so letting an AC tech balance your ductwork is recommended for the longevity of your system.

If you have two thermostats, you have a zoned system which will let you decide whether you want the downstairs AC on or the upstairs AC on.  Does this sound enticing to you?  If you don’t have this setup currently, it can be done on any AC system in the Sacramento region.  It usually takes a good amount of labor for people to take a system that only has one zone and make it have two zones, but it can be done.

A Typical Sacramento Household

The typical home we work on is one where someone is home most of the day, like a parent staying home with a child or for retirees typically home most of the day.  I tell people in these homes to focus on running the AC downstairs where they typically are throughout the day.  If you like it 75 degrees in your normal living areas, set it to 82 upstairs, in the area you’re not using.  Run the AC primarily throughout the day downstairs at whatever temperature you’d like, until about 6 or 7 pm.  Then, shut the thermostat off for downstairs and have the upstairs start cooling off so that by the time you get to bed, it’s cool enough upstairs to sleep for the whole family.

It’s already 75 degrees downstairs when it shuts off, so it’s not likely to warm up super-fast and make it uncomfortable for you.  Nobody needs the AC downstairs during this time so set the downstairs to be 82 degrees.  It won’t get there overnight, but at least the system doesn’t come on downstairs, so the AC can focus its efforts on cooling your two-story home down as quickly as possible.

Master of Your Castle

You can set it up however you want on your thermostat’s schedule.  If you need help with that, call Fox Family or text us and we’ll get out to you and set it up.  Having two thermostats makes sense when the home’s system isn’t big enough to cool the whole house at once.  Your home’s AC system with two thermostats is designed a little smaller.  This is because it’s designed to cool just one floor or one zone at a time.  For many people in the Sacramento region, they can save money and maximize efficiency by using smaller systems.  The smaller the system, the less you’ll pay for the electricity it takes to run the AC.  We can also save money and energy when we don’t try to cool the entire house at one time.

Use Your Thermostat Effectively

If you have a one-thermostat, two-story home that is 1500 sq ft or more, you might have uneven temperatures.  If upstairs and downstairs are at different temperatures, balancing the ductwork will correct the issue.  This means upstairs and down receive the appropriate amount of air to cool the house more evenly.  If your house has two thermostats and still have uneven temperatures, learn how to use your thermostats more effectively.  Learn to control the temperatures in your home.  Have the AC on downstairs during the day, while upstairs stays off or is set higher, such as 82 degrees.

Summary

I hope this has given you some good information on how to cool your two-story home more effectively.  If you need any advice or help with this, let me know in the comments down below.  I’d love to start a conversation about homes with two zones.  How do those homeowners strategize their airflow throughout the day?

Thanks so much for watching and we’ll see you on the next video.

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What Temperature Should I Set the Thermostat in My House?

Determining the Correct Temperature Setting for Summer in Sacramento

What temperatures should you keep it in your home during the summer?  That’s what we are going to be talking about on this blog post.

When moving to a new home or just using your central AC for the first time you may want to know the temperature you should keep it at in your home during the summer.  There are a few answers depending on who you ask.  So let’s talk about those differences now.

Energy Star

Energy Star is a voluntary program led by the EPA and Dept. of Energy that helps business and people figure out ways to save money on their electric bills.  Energy Star says you should keep it at 78 in your house.  They also say you should keep the temps at 84 degrees when you’re not at home.

Energy Star rated thermostats already have these predetermined temperatures set in them.  You’re able to adjust those temps whenever and however you choose as the owner of the thermostat.

SMUD and PG&E are our local utility providers.  SMUD follows the US Department of Energy when they suggest setting your thermostats at 78 degrees when you are home and setting it up to 10 degrees higher for those times when you are not at home.

What Could Go Wrong?

What I wouldn’t do is set the temperature all the way down to the lowest setting when you want the air conditioning on.  Several things can go wrong here, and it doesn’t get cooler any faster in the house when you do this.  What can happen is you forget to turn the thermostat back off when your done needing cool air.  This leads to sky-high electric bills and a home that sees extreme temperature changes throughout the day.

So what temperature should I keep it at?  It’s simple: whatever temperature you want it to be at.  Let’s say the temperature on your thermostat says it’s 78 degrees in your home. Are you comfortable?  If not try lowering the temperature one to two degrees and see if that makes a difference.  Still not satisfied?  Set the temperature down even more.  If you find yourself the most comfortable at 74 degrees, then so be it.  You’re the king of your castle and you can set to wherever you feel the most comfortable.

For example, I work in the HVAC industry.  In the summer, I spend long hot days fixing other people’s AC systems.  By the time I get home, all I want is a nice cool place to sit and relax.  I usually want it about 72 degrees in the home.  My co-workers sometimes want it down to 68 degrees!  Other folks who may work inside, in normal environments where temperatures aren’t soaring around 120 degrees are just fine with their home temps at or above 78 degrees.

How the different temps affect your electric bill

Be Aware

A person who keeps their AC at 78 degrees in his or her home will have their AC come on less than a person who desires it to be 68 degrees in their house.  Your AC is the most expensive thing to run in your house, and that’s a pretty big spread too between 68 and 78 inside the home.  Typically, a person who keeps their system at 74 degrees and then starts setting it at 78 degrees can expect to save about 25 to 35 dollars a month on their bill.  Over the length of the entire summer, that money adds up!

Saving Money

Consider buying a thermostat that sets back at predetermined times.  Energy Star says it can save you $180 a year by switching to a setback type thermostat.   This allows you to set your thermostat for times of the day when you are coming and going.  For instance, the Honeywell thermostats we use want to know what time you wake up, what time you go to work, what time you come home, and what time you go to bed.  These four major events in your family’s daily lives can determine what temperature it will be in the house.

At Fox Family, we can easily set a program for it for the weekdays and then set it for the weekends.  Folks who are in their homes for the majority of the day, or don’t have a schedule where they work during the week can set it up for just what time you wake up and what time you go to bed.  Really any combination is available as Honeywell lets you decide on your terms.

A Helping Hand

And if you have one of these programmable thermostats, and you don’t feel comfortable setting a program on the thermostat, call or text us and we’ll come out and show you how to do it.  It really doesn’t matter which brand of thermostat it is either.  We’re familiar with all different types of them, and we just want to make sure you’re comfy in your home.

Summary

I hope this answers your question as to what temperature to set your thermostat in the summer.  These sunny and hot Sacramento summers can really drive you bonkers with the fact that we need to cool ourselves and our homes down.  Set it to whatever you are comfortable at, and that’s the right temperature.  Just remember that as long as your AC is on, your electric usage goes up.  And somebody’s gotta pay for that.

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Thanks so much for watching and we’ll see you on the next video!

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