Defrost Mode On A Heat Pump

Defrost Mode On A Heat Pump

What Happens in Defrost Mode on a Heat Pump?

 

There’s something mystical when it comes to the heat pump system.  We know it runs like a normal air conditioner in the cooling season, but when we get into heating season, some extra components come into play and we get confused or lose track of the sequence of operation for a heat pump.

So let’s go over some basics, that even I have to review from time to time because heat pumps are not my strongest suit.  I have a video called Basic Heat Pump Operation that you might want to refer to if you need an even more stripped-down version of heat pump operation.  This one’s going to focus on the defrost function and what we should be checking to diagnose a heat pump that’s not working or might be frozen over in heating mode on a cold day.

So let’s quickly review some things we learned in the last video.  In cooling mode, the heat pump works just like an air conditioner.  The refrigerant cycles through the system and basically makes the indoor evaporator coil, a cold coil, and the outdoor unit’s coil the hot coil.  We remove the heat from inside the house at the outdoor unit and pull it out to the outdoor coil to be released into the atmosphere.

In heating mode, a reversing valve reverses the flow of refrigerant to make the indoor coil the hot coil and the outdoor coil the cold coil.  So, we’re trying to extract heat from the outside and bring it inside, which can be done down to a certain outdoor temperature.  After that, there is very little heat in the air to extract, so heat strips will kick in to supplement that effort.  

A regular occurrence with a heat pump in the heating season is for the outdoor unit to go through a defrost cycle.  You can imagine that cold outdoor coil interacting with the cold outdoor temperatures can cause some freezing.  Anytime that outdoor coil gets below 40° or so, the outdoor coil being the cold coil develops frost on it.  It can’t keep operating this way, or that frost will develop into a straight-up ice block!

So, we want to melt this frost by essentially switching back into cooling mode.  Because remember, in cooling mode, the outdoor coil becomes the hot coil.

You’ll notice when you wire in the low voltage on a heat pump, you’re not just wiring in two wires like on a normal AC condenser.  Single stage heat pumps need five wires running outside to them.  Red for “24 volts”, Blue for “Common” which can be labeled B or C on defrost boards, Orange for the “Reversing Valve” or the O terminal,  Yellow for “1st stage compressor” or the Y terminal, and something like a black or brown for the X2 terminal or “Emergency Heat.”  

Notice I didn’t say “Y for cooling” because the same Y terminal is energized whether we’re in cooling or heating mode.  We’re essentially energizing the compressor and fan on the outdoor unit.  Whether we want to be in cooling or heating is up to the “O” terminal being energized or not.

Heat Pump Wiring

Remember, these wires can be any color coming from the indoor air handler to the outdoor heat pump.  All wires are copper inside.  So, for the Y terminal at the heat pump defrost board, if a wire with purple sheathing leaves the Y terminal at the indoor air handler, then the other end of that purple wire should be tied into the Y terminal at the heat pump.  It doesn’t matter what color that wire is.

The reason we have so many wires coming to the outdoor unit is to relay signals given from the heat pump to the air handler when it goes into defrost.

The defrost board is the quarterback for this whole play too.  For the defrost cycle to begin, two things have to happen.  A sensor attached to the outdoor refrigerant coil (the copper coil)(or aluminum) has to get down to 26° F, and a second requirement is that the defrost board has to agree that the compressor has run the required amount of time.  On the equipment I usually work on, it’s either 45 or 90 minutes.  

When those two requirements have been met, a contact on the defrost board closes, completing a circuit to read 24 volts at X2 so the heat strips at the air handler will come on.   Inside at the air handler, the fan still blows, which means there is cold air coming out of the ducts.  But the air handler’s heat strips come on to neutralize the cold air.  

That same circuit closing causes the O terminal to have 24 volts which reverses the flow of refrigerant to cooling mode.  You’ll hear when that happens too because the reversing valve makes a pretty noticeable whooshing sound when the change in directions happens.  We explain more about the reversing valve in another video.

The third thing that happens when that circuit completes is a set of contacts open to stop the outdoor fan motor.   This is to help warm the coils up faster.  Because if we were drawing cold air across the outdoor coils when we were trying to warm them up, it would be counterproductive.

You would think the reversing valve would energize to go into heating mode, but on 90% of the systems out there, not having 24 volts to the reversing valve causes the system to default to heating mode.  In most parts of the country, having heat is more important than having cool air, so the reversing valve on a heat pump defaults to heating mode.  Here in California during the summer, we would strongly debate that.

So what have we done here?  What voltages should we be reading at their respective terminals as the board triggers the defrost cycle?

  • 24 volts can be read between C and R on the defrost board.
  • 24 volts can be read between C and O.
  • 24 volts can be read between C and Y.
  • 24 volts can be read between C and X2 or whatever the emergency heat terminals happen to be labeled on your equipment.
  • Also, the high voltage wires (usually labeled D1 and D2) on the defrost board leading to the outdoor fan motor, will only be sending 120 to the motor instead of 240.  So, one of those terminals will have 120 to ground and the other will have 0 volts to ground.

What needs to happen for the demand defrost cycle to complete?  When the liquid temperature leaving the outdoor coil reaches about 50 degrees, the defrost termination relay on the defrost board opens.  If the temperature doesn’t rise to that point after 10 minutes, an override switch will open, and de-energize the relay which will terminate the cycle.

One last time the reversing valve makes a big whooshing sound and switches the flow of refrigerant back to heating mode, the outdoor fan turns on, the heat strips inside turn off, and the indoor coil becomes the hot coil again.

When defrost has completed and the system has gone back into heating mode, here are the voltages you’ll read back at those same terminals from earlier.

  • 24 volts can be read between C and R on the defrost board.
  • 0 volts can be read between C and O.
  • 24 volts can be read between C and Y.
  • 0 volts can be read between C and X2 or whatever the emergency heat terminals happen to be labeled on your equipment.
  • Also, the high voltage wires on the defrost board leading to the outdoor fan motor, will be reading 120 to ground on each terminal. 

If you find that the outdoor heat pump is turning into a giant ice ball, there are a few things to check before condemning the defrost board.  After the system has been turned off a while and the ice has melted, let’s make sure the coils are clean.  Restricted airflow across the indoor coil or the outdoor coil can cause the ice build-up.

 

If the coils are clean, we need to check the refrigerant levels.  If those are good, then something’s going wrong with the defrost operation.  It could be the refrigerant line or ambient sensors, the actual board itself, or the reversing valve that is malfunctioning. 

Most of the time the temperature sensors are permanently attached to the defrost board, so if they’re not reading correctly, the whole board would have to be replaced.  Installation guides have tables that show the resistance the sensors should be reading at certain temperatures.  Using your meter and some super thin leads will help you determine the readings.

Remember, the defrost board sends 24 volts to the reversing valve at the O terminal.  Is that 24 volts reaching the solenoid on the reversing valve?  No? Then check the wire connections.  If they’re good. Then the defrost board itself is likely bad.  

Yes, you do have 24 volts?  Then something is going wrong with that solenoid and or the valve itself.  But the defrost board is doing its job.

Just like with control boards on a furnace, if the board is giving the proper voltage to the motor and the motor isn’t working, it’s not the board.  If the board isn’t giving the proper voltage, then it’s the board or something else upstream of it.

See!  Defrost boards aren’t that hard, huh?

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

Greg

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

Starting My Own HVAC Business: Part 2 – Work-Life Balance

starting your own business - work-life balance

Remembering the importance of work-life balance and keeping your family close to you as you start up your new business

Many of us who have started our own business did it from scratch.  We had no customers and no leads.  We seemed to be so focused on getting that first customer it appeared to be the only thing on our minds.  But don’t forget who is cheering you on.  Your family is right there, filled with anticipation for you.  Then you get that first customer!  And the machine begins to roll.  Today we’re going to talk about the importance of work-life balance and keeping your family close to you instead of pushing them away as you start up your new business.

Getting Established

I started my company in 2015.  I did so many things on my own at first; it seemed a little overwhelming.  I was answering the phones, scheduling appointments, making the repairs, prepping all the installs, loading the trailer, doing all the installs, making deliveries, purchasing supplies, and purchasing office equipment.  It also required paying bills, finding insurance agents, buying a service truck, building out that service truck, stocking that service truck, getting decals on that service truck, buying tools, creating relationships with vendors, figuring out what service parts I was going to be using for my customers, and figuring out what brand of equipment I was going to start installing in people’s homes.  It also involved accumulating a maintenance club membership base one-by-one, marketing my company, going to business networking groups, and attending HVAC conventions. 

I then created a website and business accounts on Google, Yelp, and every single search engine so I could be found online.  I also created a Facebook page for my business and began uploading photos and messages to interact with my customers. 

On top of everything else, I created a YouTube channel to start showing off my company to service techs and potential customers.  This required that I shoot the videos, load the videos to my computer, edit and produce the videos, and upload the videos to YouTube.  I had to learn how to optimize those videos so people would even see them, create thumbnails for those videos to make them stand out, and respond to incoming messages from technicians and customers alike.

Whew!  Still want to be a contractor?  I know I left some stuff out, too.

Work-Life Balance for Your Family

Let’s suppose you still have the desire to start up your own business after hearing all that.  It takes a lot of time to do all that stuff.  Your family will be gung-ho about all the time and effort you’re putting into your new business, but after a while, they’re going to start feeling left out. 

New business owners (heck, any business owner) can be found guilty of dividing their daily obligations into separate categories to fulfill all of these obligations and just get through another day.

Recognizing Work-Life Balance Tensions

If you think your family has no business getting involved in what you do, because they don’t know the first thing about HVAC, think again. It’s going to be too hard to leave work at work and keep your family life completely separate, without it intervening somehow.  You’ll feel great if you win a job you’ve been working hard to get!  If you lose that same job, you’ll feel terrible.  All that time and energy you spent shucking and jiving just to be turned down for one reason or another.  One thing after another can leave you feeling happy or sad when you get home.  Either way, your wife is going to feel it, and your children are going to feel it if you don’t handle it right.   This will eventually add up to tensions at home that might become irreversible.

Eventually, husband and wife teams can start to look at each other differently.  The person you once thought was the most caring and understanding in the world has now become insensitive to your everyday problems.  Little does she understand why you have to work such long hours just to make ends meet.

Respecting Roles 

So how do you keep this work-life balance? I’m no magician, but communication is the key to everything.  Talk to your spouse about what’s going on.  Include them in the things that are important to you.  If your wife joins you on the team like mine did taking over the administrative side of things, you’re going to have to remember she doesn’t work for you. 

Regardless of whose company it is, if you screw up that relationship, then what were you doing this all for anyway?  Instead, respecting each other’s role in the company is key to making it work.  Indeed, someone has to be the president of the company, and the next person on that chain of command will have to be agreeable and do their part to make this work too.  If you, as the principle of the company, have a vision or idea of the way you want something done, then, sure, you’ll have to stand your ground.  But pick and choose your battles.  Give independence to those who are working with you. Don’t be a micromanager.  Oh my god, these are all the things you hated about working for someone else, and now you’re the one that’s a hard-ass employer. 

Working Independently

I’m clueless about the things Melissa does for the company.  I have a good idea, but if I had to take her job over today, I wouldn’t do a great job.  For the most part, it’s the same for Melissa.  If she had to step up and handle the operations, building codes, service, and installation, etc., she would struggle.  So we allow each other their freedom to work independently.  This keeps everyone happy at work and, most importantly, gives you a good head start at keeping things at home in order. 

No one gets in the way of my time with my family — and my sports.  I play ice hockey every week.  I ride indoors on my bike almost every day on Zwift.  Physical exercise helps me keep my sanity.  What keeps your mind clear?  Is it fishing? — playing a musical instrument? — reading books? — hanging out in the garage?  Great!  Whatever it is, though, don’t let it take time away from your one true love — that family of yours.

Remembering Who You Are

It’s essential to want to be great at running your new business.  But, keep in mind the right work-life balance will help you maintain your personal life and your professional life. You’re not just a business owner. That’s only part of who you are.  You had other things going on in your life before you started that business.  Just don’t forget they’re still there.

12 Reasons Why Being A Certified HVAC Technician Is A Good Career Choice

Hi, I’m Greg Fox from Fox Family Heating and Air in Sacramento, CA.  If you’re out there trying to find a career that is rewarding, challenging and pays well, I think HVAC is the right field for that.  Today I’m going to give you 12 good reasons why being a certified HVAC technician is a good career choice.  And I even have a bonus reason after that.

1. You Don’t Need a College Degree to Get Started

As a high schooler, I could tell I wasn’t going to college.  Unless I got a scholarship, my family didn’t really have enough money to send me to college.  I joined the Air Force right out of high school and when my term ended, I headed out for civilian life.  HVAC was a career I found easy to get into.  I started at the bottom while at my first job, but I quickly worked my way up amongst my peers.

2. Good Wages

When I started, I never realized that I could make enough money to support my family.  I started out very low in pay, but I didn’t have any experience either!  Within one year I had doubled my pay because my supervisors saw how hard of a worker I was and that I was pretty good at it.  With an HVAC career,you’ll find you can make a damn good living at something you’re proud of doing.

3. Independence

One of the greatest aspects of being an HVAC technician is the independence you have during your workday.  Whether you are an installation tech, a service tech, or a sales technician you’ll find yourself not having to be around a crowd at work. You get to go about your day and do or say pretty much what you want, how you want.  Sure, you have calls or installs that you have to go to, but you won’t have any supervisors looking down on you all the time like with some jobs.

4. It’s a career that will always be in demand — growing at about 15% as the baby boomers start retiring

As you’ve probably heard already, HVAC is a career that is never going to go away.  Robots and AI are far from being able to walk into a home, business or grocery store, walk around, troubleshoot the problem, get the repair part, braze copper lines together, enlarge returns, cut in supplies, install an HVAC system, and the list goes on.  The fact is, it takes real people with real skills to do our job.  And the field is only going to grow for the next several years, meaning there will be more and more jobs available for you to acquire.

5. The Job Isn’t Very Repetitive

As an HVAC technician, your job isn’t very repetitive.  Sure, you’re out there repairing systems every day, or installing equipment regularly, but the application of where you’re doing it not only changes daily but from call to call.  You never know what you’re going to get into on the next call.  That’s too challenging for some people, and HVAC isn’t for everyone. But for some of us, we thrive on it.

6. Helping Others/Health/A Place to Serve

Nothing feels better than getting customers back up and running again.  Whether it’s at the end of the day on an install, or after a challenging service call.  Heck, you’ll probably feel like a genius when you find something as simple as a dirty filter that wasn’t allowing air through a system.  The best feeling we get as HVAC technicians is when we can get an older couple, a family with children, or someone with medical conditions that really need a comfortable home cooling again.  When a grocery store with a lot of food at risk of spoiling is saved by your expertise, you’re probably going to feel like Superman as you walk out the door with your tool bag and your head up high.

7. Mechanical Aspect

Our goal as HVAC technicians is to provide thermal comfort and good indoor air quality.  We work with thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat transfer.  A lot of people find this industry confusing because air isn’t something we can see.  We can feel it!  But trying to explain what we just did to get someone’s system back up and running can be a challenge.  Installing, servicing and maintaining equipment engineered for this is what HVAC technicians all around the world love to do.  It’s one of those trades that not everyone can just pick up in a day or two.  This makes our jobs more secure than some other blue-collar trades.

8. Multi-Talented/Jack-of-All-Trades

You can really become a jack-of-all-trades in the HVAC field.  This is especially true if you go into the installation side of the field.  As installers, we must be able to read blueprints from an engineer. Not only are we setting equipment, but we’re also involved in plumbing gas lines and condensate drainage, working with high and low voltage, constructing new platforms, cutting in supply registers in rooms, enlarging returns and even cutting holes through rooftops to place new units.  After replacing some of those units on the roof, we sometimes will also need to patch up the area around the curb to get it looking good again.  

We’ve already discussed the other areas you’ll be good at with thermodynamics, balancing airflow, heat transfer, refrigerant flow and how to make the air quality better in a home.  This is probably my favorite reason I became an HVAC technician because it really makes you a jack-of-all-trades.

9. The Challenges/Troubleshooting

If you’re really up for a challenging career, you’ll find HVAC a great career.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be good in this field.  But it does take a solid understanding of the fundamentals and a good deal of patience.  Just when you think you have the answer to a problem, something else comes up and then you must deal with that.  All the trades we just talked about — plumbing, electrical, carpentry, roofing, thermodynamics, and others — can all come into play when it comes to solving the myriad of troubleshooting issues we face in the HVAC field every day.

10. You Learn Sales

Some of us get the opportunity to sell to our customers.  We’ll pinpoint the problem and need to persuade the customer to spend money on the repair to get their system running again.  Other times the cost to get the system running again isn’t worth it to the owner, so you end up selling them a new system.  You also are out there trying to sell indoor air quality to homeowners so they can more fully enjoy their homes.  Many people don’t know the air in their homes is sometimes worse than the air outside. 

Selling can be a sensitive subject because some people think HVAC technicians and salespeople take selling a little too far.  Our industry has gotten a bad reputation compared to others because some companies only pay their technicians by how many parts they sell.  It’s a fine line because technicians can get greedy and not care about taking people’s money just to line their pockets, but at the same time, they do have to be able to put food on their tables and support themselves during the off-season.

11. Seasonal

Which brings me to my next reason HVAC is such a good job choice.  Most people don’t use their AC or heating all year.  This creates what we call shoulder seasons.  During these times, some companies don’t have any work for their techs.  Other companies have maintenance contracts that need to be fulfilled.  But, if you’re in the residential and commercial field, I’m sure you’ll feel the seasonal changes in your hours at work, which is why you’ll need to discipline yourself to save money when you’re busy during those slower times of the year.  The refrigeration side of the industry is usually a year-round job, but some people can’t stand some of the stuff you have to work on every day, like slimy bacteria, for example.

12. Take Home Van/ Save on Gas Money

Last but not least, some companies will let you take your work van home with you.  This saves a lot of time and money since you don’t have to drive to work to get your van, just to be at your first call which could turn out to be right by your house! Having your own van means being able to stock the truck your way, have certain tools and other knick-knacks set up just the way you like it.

BONUS!

I noticed in the first year of doing this trade I built quite a bit of muscle from all the carrying, lifting, squatting, crawling and other activity on the job.  It’s a physical line or work that can add some weight to your body, hopefully the right kind.  Some guys get bigger in the belly because they’re working harder and they go home and eat a lot more than they normally would.  I feel like my first year in install I added around 10 to 15 lbs. of muscle on my body which really filled out my shoulders, arms, chest, and legs nicely.

Summary

I hope this helps in your quest to find the right career for 2020!  HVAC is a field that isn’t going away.  People will always need to be comfortable in their homes and offices.  I have truly enjoyed my time as an HVAC technician.  Sure, I’ve found myself in some interesting positions I’d rather not be in at times.  But I think that happens with every job.  The pay is good, the job is interesting and different every day.  The challenges we face keep us at the top of our game.

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

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Relocating Your Thermostat Might Make Your Home More Comfortable

Relocating Your Thermostat

3 Reasons Why Relocating Your Thermostat To A New Spot Might Be a Good Idea

I’ve been to people’s homes where relocating their thermostat would provide them better comfort.  A thermostat located in a second-floor hallway might cause such extreme temperature differences in the bedrooms upstairs that one room is hotter than another room.   In single-story homes, that thermostat could be located on the other side of the house or stashed away behind a door or bookcase somewhere in the house, creating uneven temperatures.

Other times, a thermostat is located on the inside of an exterior wall of the house.  This could allow the radiant summer heat from the outside to confuse the thermostat into thinking it’s met the temperature you want it to be, but you’re sure it hasn’t.  Other places you probably don’t want to have a thermostat is near the kitchen, the garage door, or near a window.  Temperatures near these areas of the home might be a little different from other parts of the home you’re trying to keep at a certain level.

If you live in a single-story home, the majority of the time, you’ll find the best place to mount your thermostat is in the main hallway located about halfway between the bedrooms and the living room. You’ll probably notice the return air intake is located in the hallway too.  The thermostat and the return air found there is done that way on purpose.  Conditioned air from the living areas and the house’s sleeping areas are brought together to that area in the hallway and mixes.  The temperature of the house’s air in that precise area is a great place to be measured.

In two-story homes, you’ll find most families in my area of the country have a thermostat in the master bedroom. It’s because the air temperature in the hallway upstairs can be different from the temperature of the air in the bedrooms, especially if the occupants close their bedroom doors at night to sleep.

Smart thermostats like the Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell can figure out how long it takes to get your home to the temperature you desire.  But if your thermostat is in the wrong place, even those more expensive thermostats won’t read the house’s correct temperature.

Relocating your thermostat to the right spot can save you money and make everyone experience the same temperatures no matter where they are in the home.

See Also: Check out our blog post on how to avoid hot and cold spots in your home.

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

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Should I Hook Up My AC Manifold Gauges at Every Service Call?

Should You Hook Up Your Manifold Gauges Every Time?

Maintaining the Integrity of Your Sacramento Valley AC System

As a technician starting out in this field, I was told by the company trainer to hook up the hoses to my manifold gauges every time I’m out on an AC service call.  Much like a doctor who wears a stethoscope around his neck, hooking my gauges up meant we were the professionals; and when I bring the customer out to the AC to discuss recommendations or repairs, they would see I was the one with all the knowledge.  Was my trainer onto something, or was this just another effort to blow smoke up the customers rear and make him fall for that company’s high-pressure antics?

If this is your first time reading our blog, be sure to check out our library of blog topics on a wide variety of topics useful for both customers and technicians.

Manifold Gauges: How They Work

Every residential air conditioner has a service valve used by technicians to connect to and read the pressures of the system’s refrigerant. Those service valves have a Schrader core (That’s Schrader Core) that gets depressed when the technician’s manifold hoses attach to the service valve.  It’s just like a valve stem on your bicycle tire.

When the core gets pressed in, the refrigerant is allowed into the technician’s manifold so the pressure can be read on the gauges.  It takes an experienced technician to interpret those readings to accurately determine what’s going on with the refrigerant pressures in the system.  Simply put, we can see the temperature of the evaporator coil, the condenser coil, and can determine the superheat and subcooling levels for that system.

Getting an Accurate Manifold Gauge Assessment

But do technicians need to hook up every time they go out on preventative maintenance or a service call?  Does it mean we didn’t give a full and comprehensive diagnostic if we don’t?  No!  Most technicians will walk up to a system and assess how the system is running by doing a couple of things.  First, have you asked the customer how their system is running?  If not, that’s valuable information to get.  If the system has been running great according to the customer, there may not be any reason to hook up the gauges.

Steps for Technicians

Let’s say you’ve asked the customer how the system has been performing.  They report that the system’s been running fine.  They just wanted to call you out for a pre-season tune-up, like the ones we offer at Fox Family for just $75.  Have you checked the temperature split to see if the system is blowing nice cold air?  That would be more input that should sway a technician from hooking up their gauges.

I know it’s a little cliché but checking the temperature of the suction line can further indicate that you wouldn’t need to hook up your gauges to the AC system.  The liquid line should be a few degrees warmer than the outside temperature, too.  So, making some initial checks like this can make someone comfortable about not hooking up their gauges to the system.

Why don’t I think you should hook up your gauges so much?  Hooking up your gauges can do several things to actually harm the performance of the system over the long run.  Maybe not today, but the overall lifespan of the system can be affected.

Contamination

I feel that hooking up gauges from one system to the next contaminates the next system you hook up to.  Taking a little bit of refrigerant from one system, going to the other side of town and putting your gauges on that system has now introduced a trace of contaminants that system has never seen before.  Moisture and air from one system can easily be transferred to another system.

This is definitely true if your no loss fittings or ball valve fittings on your hoses retain the R22 freon in one system and then get hooked up to that one on the other side of town that is an R410a system.   A technician doing this will literally create a new mixture, a new refrigerant even.  Done enough times, it will throw off the system readings enough that not even the most experienced techs can get the true pressures inside that system.  Eventually, a future technician will recommend removing all the refrigerant and starting over with a new manufacturer’s charge of refrigerant.

Avoiding Burns

Another reason is to reduce the chances of exposing yourself to refrigerant burns.  In the unlikely event that you find a burr in the threading of the service valve and get it stuck it could create a situation where the refrigerant starts shooting out of the hoses.  Some techs will persist in trying to get the hose off and burn themselves.  The risk is small, but but tell that to the techs who have ended up with huge blisters on their hands trying to play hero and losing time off work.  Further impacting their paychecks and livelihood is a serious consideration.

Unintended Loosening

My last reason to think twice about hooking up gauges to every AC system is about the Schrader core.  It can be loosened, creating a tiny leak.  The Schrader core is threaded into the service valve.  And while you’re screwing the new core into the valve which way are you tightening it?  Righty tighty.  Lefty loosey.  Taking off your hoses in the normal counterclockwise direction mimics the same direction it takes to unscrew the Schrader core.

Case in Point

Several times this year I’ve gone out on a service call for no cooling.  The client reports that the system only blows room temperature air.  They’ve have been having maintenance done by a local company every spring and fall. Upon inspection, I saw there was no temp split from the registers.  And the suction line at the AC was warm to the touch.  I unscrewed the service valve cap to attach my hoses.  There, I saw some liquid refrigerant spewing out of where the valve core sits.  I think I’ve found the problem.

Put another way, I’ll quote a recent story in ACHR News:

“There is no reason to ever put gauges on an air conditioning or refrigeration system after the initial installation unless a problem with the mechanical refrigeration circuit is suspected.  Using a psychrometric chart, digital thermometer, digital humidity stick, and an accurate method to calculate airflow can replace having to apply your manifold gauges anytime.”

Increasing Equipment Life

Remember, these systems should contain only virgin refrigerant.  Spending less time putting on and taking off our refrigerant hoses saves more than time.  It increases equipment life, maintains performance, and reduces refrigerant emissions into the atmosphere.

Remember, I was told by the company trainer to hook up my manifold gauges on every AC service call.  He said it would make me look like the doctor who wears a stethoscope around his neck.  Customers supposedly expect to see those hoses hooked up, and if they weren’t, they might think something wasn’t right.  The trainer wasn’t worried about the integrity of the customer’s AC system.  And certainly not the integrity of his company’s high-pressure sales antics.

Your Turn

As always, I appreciate you all for reading our blog posts here at Fox Family in Sacramento.  I would love to hear your comments as technicians out in the field.  How does your company practice service and maintenance calls and hooking up your gauges every time you get called out?

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

11 Ways to Avoid Hot and Cold Spots in Your Home

Delivering the right amount of air to each room at the same time is key to being comfortable.  And not just in one or two rooms.  A properly set up HVAC system will comfort your whole home or business simultaneously.

Of course, the goal is to have the same even temperatures throughout each room so when you walk through your house, you don’t feel warmer in one room than another.  Today at Fox Family Heating and Air, we’re taking a look at 11 ways to avoid hot and cold spots in your Sacramento Valley home or business.

1. Is your system sized correctly?

First and foremost, is your system sized correctly?  This means the original installer of the system did a proper load calculation of your home.  If they didn’t, then it’s not pushing enough air to your rooms regardless of whether the rest of our checklist is perfect.

2. Return air and supply air unity

Having the right amount of return air to supply air unity means you’ll be delivering the same amount of air out of your system as you are bringing to the system.  You have a return air grille or stand where your filter goes.  That’s where the system draws its air in.  On the other side of that air handler, the system supplies your conditioned air.  Systems are designed to supply about 400 to 500 cfms of air per ton.  But if your system is breathing in enough air from the return, how is it going to supply enough air to keep your home evenly comforted?

3. Adding returns will mix hot and cold air

This brings me to the option of adding more returns to strategic rooms around your house.  That return air grille in the main hallway doesn’t have to be the only return in the home or office.  For example, master bedrooms in newer homes have a return air grille installed in them.  This mixes the air in the room so warm air in the summer gets removed from the room, while colder supply air is being delivered into the room.  You’ll really notice a difference by adding a return to these pesky rooms that are warmer or cooler than others, depending on the season.

4. Closing air registers will force hot and cold air elsewhere

Not one of my favorites, but some folks will start closing down their adjustable supply registers in various room that get too much air.  They’re hoping to force the air somewhere else in the house that isn’t getting enough air.  The only thing I don’t like about this is that those registers that you start shutting down can do a couple things.  One is really annoying and the other can actually shorten the lifespan of the system.  Closing down “strategic” registers in the home or office can make those registers start whizzing.  This makes it louder in that room because we are creating a restriction that speeds up the airflow as it leaves the supply register.

The other reason has to do with the static pressure of the system.  Much like blood flow in the body, we wouldn’t want to pinch a blood vessel in hopes to deliver more blood elsewhere right, this could cause big problems with the body.  The same goes for aerodynamics in your ductwork.

5. Change those filters to eliminate hot and cold spots

Changing your filters quarterly will not only help keep your system clean, but it will allow airflow into the system.  If the filter gets too dirty, you’re creating a restriction if the system can’t breathe in properly, it won’t be able to breathe out the appropriate amount of air.  It’s like breathing in through a straw and exhaling out of your open mouth.  Eventually you’re going to hyperventilate.  So, let’s keep those passages open so the HVAC system can eliminate hot and cold spots in your home or office.

6. Keep Heat at Bay with Window Coverings

The sun’s radiant energy can warm up a room quickly.  A room with sun-drenched walls or windows allow this heat into those rooms and will warm up more quickly.  Installing window coverings will keep this radiant heat at bay.  These come in the form of screens or tinting that can be attached to the outside of windows, or curtains and blinds affixed to the inside of the windows.  Either way you choose, you’re going to enjoy having a more comfortable room if you can reduce the chance of that heat coming in this way.

7. Electronics in Rooms will Increase Warmth

It’s so popular now to have gaming systems or high-tech computer systems in a room or office.  The heat these devices put out is enough to warm up a room, making it less comfortable than other rooms in your house.  Adding more supply air by using a larger duct will help to deliver more air to that room.  Just like I mentioned above, a better solution may be adding a return to this room as it will remove the warm air while cold air is being supplied to the room.  This will make your room more comfortable, faster.

8. Ceiling Fans will Mix Hot and Cold Air

Another way to mix the air in your room is to turn on that ceiling fan.  When it’s hot outside, have the fan blowing straight down towards the floor.  The warmer it is, the higher the fan speed should be.  Conversely, in the wintertime, turn the fan so it blows upwards.  Both ways will mix the air more effectively and make those rooms more evenly comforted.

9. Keep Hot and Cold Air Moving by Preventing Airflow Restrictions

Remove hot and cold air spots by taking a look at your ductwork.  It might be under the house or in the attic.  If you can see your ductwork, you will be able to determine if it’s delivering the air efficiently.  If the ductwork is sagging or kinked, it won’t deliver the air properly.  Each duct has a finite amount of air it can deliver appropriately.  Making sure it is installed correctly is a great way to keep your house evenly conditioned.

10. Prevent Hot and Cold Spots by Checking Insulation Levels

You can also control hot and cold spots by paying attention to insulation.  Attic insulations levels can greatly impact how quickly that hot or cold air infiltrates through the ceiling into your room.  Sometimes various service professionals will need to work up there.  In the process, they may matte down some of your insulation, making it less effective.  If there is not enough insulation over one room or the other, this will create hot or cold spots.  These reduce your comfort level in those rooms.  By blowing in some more insulation, you can make your whole house more comfortable to be in.

11. Properly Sized Ductwork Improves HVAC Efficiency

The size of your HVAC system as well as the right size duct system to deliver that air evenly are both crucial to your comfort.  This isn’t the easiest thing to figure for most DIY’ers.  An hvac professional can help you determine what size duct is needed for each room.  A system of supply and return ducts running every which way can be confusing.  Making the right decisions with your ductwork will make your HVAC system more efficient and comfortable for your home.  This will eliminate hot and cold spots in your home

Summary

Let Fox Family come out and take a look at what can be done to make your home more comfortable if you’re experiencing hot or cold spots.  Making your system as efficient and effective as possible will certainly add to your quality of life.

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

Don’t miss our videos on related topics:

How To Protect an Air Conditioner Low Voltage Wire

How to Repair An 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 those low voltages wires to the AC from potential damage and UV rays?  Doesn’t the electrical code    require some sort of 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 for Low Voltage Wire

I’ve never heard of any low voltage wire that’s rated for outdoors, including wet or damp conditions being used in residential heating and air conditioning.  When I service equipment and go on HVAC inspections around the Sacramento area, why do I find dried up, brittle sections of thermostat wire?  They’re 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 appropriate citation in the National or California Electrical Code.  The citation in question describes when to protect the low voltage wire in outdoor conditions, such as with an air conditioner installation.  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.  But I can’t find anything stating that Class 2 wire (as in the 24 volt thermostat wire used 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 list is long.

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

Protecting the Low Voltage AC Wire

Ever since my first HVAC installation, protecting the stat wire with ½” seal-tight conduit was a must.  My foreman insisted, 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, exposed to the elements.  Ensuring stat wire lasts as long as the AC is also in the best interest of the customer.

If the stat wire dries up and becomes dry and brittle, it takes almost nothing to expose the bare wire within the sheathing.  This can 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 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.

A Wiring Upgrade

Consider what it would take to better protect your customer’s low voltage wiring to the AC.  It doesn’t require too much work.  The cost of the parts is minimal compared to the future protection you’re providing to the stat wire.

Remove the old dried up stat wire from the suction line insulation.  Cutting it back to about six inches from the wall will allow you to splice on new wiring.  Once it’s run through the conduit, wire nutted and taped for protection, leave a bit of the colored wires there.  A future technician will thank you.  A quick search back to your splice will easily reveal the connected wires.  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.  Then 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 neat and clean workmanship of your repair 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.

As always, whether dealing with high or low voltage electricity, there are inherent dangers and mechanical failures that can happen.  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!

Fox Family Installs Ameristar Heating and Cooling Products

4 air conditioner add-ons

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.

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!

Starting My Own HVAC Business – Get Your Contractor’s License First

Doing Side Work Without a License

This series is set up to compliment my video series from 2016, “Starting My Own HVAC Company.”  I  thought I’d review some of the things I talked about before and give you my thoughts on them now that I’ve been doing it for a while.

Intro

When I was starting my HVAC business, I didn’t realize how much I would need to know.  I was just another technician who was tired of working for someone who didn’t have the same values and ideas I did.  Some people don’t think the journey should be too hard.  Get a truck, get your tools, get some customers, and go to work.

It was a liberating feeling for me, at first.  I quickly found out if I wanted to grow my business, I would have to learn more about the business side of HVAC.  I knew I was a good technician. But I started developing a great desire for more input, more knowledge of the business side.

Getting off the ground seems like the toughest part of the process, but I can honestly say now, that it’s not.

Reviewing the Series

This series is set up to compliment the 2016 video series, “Starting My Own HVAC Company.”  I  thought I’d review some of the things I talked about before and give you my thoughts on them now that I’ve been doing it for a while.  If you want to see that series before reading this post, you can find it here.

Get a Contractors License

The first thing we should talk about is, if you want to this right, you’re going to have to get your contractors license.

In California, if you want to do any HVAC, plumbing, electrical, handyman, and other types of work for someone and you plan on collecting more than $500, you need to get your contractors license first.  Why?  Let me give you a few reasons.

First, and most obvious, it’s the law, and you can get arrested and fined thousands of dollars for contracting without a license.  If you get caught contracting without a license, it’ll make it that much harder for you to go to the State and apply for one with that strike against you.

Lending Credibility

Second, having a license lends credibility to your name and builds trust.  When your future customers see you’re legitimate on the government website, it shows people you’ve gone through the process like everyone else, and you don’t cut corners. You can control your own business and its reputation when you’re doing things the right way.

Setting a Standard

Third, contracting legitimately keeps the quality of work you do at a certain standard.  For any work that alters the electrical, plumbing, gas lines, or structure of the building, a permit is needed.  To get that permit, a contractor’s license is needed.  And when you’re done with that work, a local city or county building inspector comes in and verifies your work to close out the permit.

You’ve heard me talk (and complain) about the system of inspectors and administrative personnel in the building departments.  Even though I feel the way I do about them, I realize the need for inspectors to confirm the work we’ve done.  It’s a system of checks and balances which provides a separate set of eyes to see the job we did and give the homeowner their seal of approval based on the local building codes.

Protecting Customers

Finally, being a part of a group of people in your field who has gone through the steps of becoming contractors creates a force that inhibits non-licensed people from scamming and taking advantage of homeowners and endangering their property with shoddy workmanship (which still happens anyway.)

Summary

I wanted to review these steps again, not to discourage anyone, but to enlighten those of you who are interested in starting up your own company.  Start by being legit.  I don’t condone the people out there doing side work while still working for someone else.  But that’s another topic.  If your state allows for high dollar HVAC work and there’s no insurance requirement or state bond obligation to protect the homeowner, should you burn their house down with sloppy, unvalidated workmanship, then more power to you.

Take the time to do it right from the start, no matter what state you’re in.

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

Don’t Miss our Video and the Series on This Topic:

  Starting My Own Business - Revisited 5 Years Later - Part 1: Contracting