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.

Don’t Miss Our Videos on This and Related Topics: 

  

What You Need to Know About Humidifiers

what you need to know about humidifiers

What You Need To Know About Humidifiers

Whole house humidifiers provide a solution to the problems caused by dry air, such as increased cases of nose bleeds as well as static electricity. The humidifier adds moisture to all the air that is circulating through your air conditioning system. This article discusses some humidifier facts that you need to know in order to benefit from this HVAC system accessory.

What a Humidifier Water Panel Is

A humidifier water panel is the medium through which water or moisture is dispersed as air is passed through the humidifier before that air is pumped to the rooms being conditioned. The water distribution tray sits right above the water panel inside the humidifier. The humidifier is usually connected to its own water line in order to save the homeowner from having to refill a container manually as the existing water supply is depleted during the demanding humidification season.

Does The Humidifier Water Panel Need to Be Changed?

It is necessary to replace the humidifier water panel at least once each year. This is because the tiny openings on this panel get clogged over time due to the effects of hard water and contaminants in the air circulating through the humidifier. Humidifier manufacturers actually recommend that the humidifier water panel be changed as part of the annual maintenance of the appliance. Ask a technician from a Sacramento air conditioning company for help in determining the best change interval for the water panel in your humidifier.

When Is The Best Time to Change the Water Panel?

It is usually advisable for you to change the humidifier water panel as your air conditioning system is serviced in the fall. This timing is appropriate because it gets the humidifier ready to work in winter when the air is dry.

However, it may be necessary for you to change that water panel more than once during one season if you discover that your home has hard water. The hard water quickens the rate at which the water panel gets clogged. Secondly, you may need to make a second change of the humidifier water panel if you use the humidifier more frequently (daily, for example). That heavy use wears out the panel quickly.

How to Change the Humidifier Water Panel

Most homeowners can easily replace the humidifier water panel without calling an expert from Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar for help. First, find the humidifier’s cover and open it. Locate the water panel and slide it out of its location. Slide the new water panel in and replace the cover of the humidifier. Your humidifier will now be ready to start doing what it does best.

Do you still have issues of dry air in your home even if you installed a humidifier? Contact Fox Family Heating and Air. We shall send an experienced technician who will inspect your humidifier and fix any issue that may have prevented it from working as expected. The technician will also give you all the humidifier facts that you need to know in order to get the best performance from that whole house humidifier.

When Should a Technician Recommend a Leak Search on my HVAC System?

how does an hvac unit work

Every spring and early summer we get what’s called the “first wave” of worried homeowners and rental tenants who realize there is something wrong with their AC system. Sometimes it’s a mechanical part like a capacitor or a motor, but other times it’s a refrigerant issue. This week we’re going to talk about refrigerant leaks, what the laws are and moral obligations you and your technician may have when it comes to refilling your HVAC system with refrigerant year after year.

As a technician who goes to hundreds of homes every summer in the hot Sacramento valley, I go out on these calls all time. Sometimes customers will call into the office and tell us another company told them they have to get a new system because they’re not allowed to fix older systems anymore. Other excuses I hear is, they don’t make R-22 anymore so there is no refrigerant to add back into their system. Unsuspecting homeowners will believe these technicians and fall for their unethical tactics. Other homeowners will call Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar where we will offer a free second opinion to come out and verify a leak that supposedly exists and give them proper solutions to remedy the leaky system.
Let’s talk about the obligations we as decent human beings have to this great planet we live on. The government regulates and monitors our usage and consumption of refrigerant in this country. In other parts of the world, not so much! It’s crazy to think of the irresponsibility technicians in other parts of the world have when it comes to just pouring pounds and pounds of damaging refrigerant to earth’s ozone layer. You see, the refrigerant in our older systems now is R-22, a mix of chemicals that contains chlorine which degrades the ozone layer quickly if it were to get out into the open. The systems in our homes hold anywhere from 3 to 20 lbs. of refrigerant. Just two lbs. of refrigerant leaking into the atmosphere causes as much environmental damage as a van driving 10,000 miles down the road. The damaging result is global warming and accelerated environmental weather extremes.

You know the stories. You’ve seen it on TV. Al Gore told you this crazy weather is because of an accumulation of damaging practices we have as humans to this giant world. Refrigerant loss from our home HVAC systems don’t even have a definite requirement yet as to when we HAVE to perform a repair on the leak. The government right now, just says if the system holds over 50 lbs of refrigerant, then we have to fix the leak. Not only do we have to fix the leak on those systems but we have to come back and verify that leak is taken care of bi-annually until the EPA requirements for follow-up are satisfied. We as technicians are now responsible for logging any refrigerant coming in and out of any given system, not just commercial and industrial machines, but residential too.

how does an hvac unit work
When I get out on these calls with low refrigerant suspected, I will attach my gauges to the air conditioner outside and fire it up. The system will start but doesn’t sound normal. A light clanking noise quickly repeating itself in its own rhythm. After a few minutes of running, the gauges show me there is indeed very little refrigerant left in the system.

What does this mean? The HVAC system is separated into three lines for your refrigerant to stay in. The evaporator coil at your furnace, the condenser coil on the outside unit, and the copper line set that runs between the two coils. When the system was installed, these three sections were brazed together by the technician out at your house.

During the call, and at the very least, a technician should volunteer to visually go around and check all the brazed points in your lines. There are at least two points at the evaporator coil and two at the outdoor condenser coil that the installing technicians brazed together to complete your HVAC system’s refrigerant lines. The technician should be looking for oil around these connections. Why? Because the refrigerant in the system carries oil with it to lubricate the components inside the system, like the compressor. This means if the furnace and evaporator coil are up in the attic, the technician needs to get their ladder out and go up there to do this visual check. While they are up there, they should check the P-trap for oil in the condensate lines. A good technician knows that the majority of leaks happen at the evaporator coil or the condenser coil and very rarely at the line set that runs in between the two. If the evaporator coil is leaking badly enough, oil will drop down into the evaporator coil drain pan that the water usually goes down into. It then starts its way down the condensate drain line until the oil fills up in the P-trap. These are very easy checks the technician should include on the original diagnosis charge.

If they don’t see anything there and are sure they have checked all the easier points of access to the refrigerant lines at the evaporator coil, the tech should check the outdoor coil looking inside the top off the unit and all around it looking for darker stains of oil. Also, are the schrader cores where the gauges attach too loose or not sitting correctly within the service valve? If the tech is satisfied the leaks are not there, then he/she should start an investigation of sorts.

“Is there a history of leaking with this system?” is a question the technician should ask. The homeowner has some obligation to tell the truth here. If the owner deceives the tech, then we’re really not getting anywhere are we? I can say there have been very few owners that I didn’t believe when they told me, “No, never any leaks before,” or “Well we just moved in here two months ago.” At this point RIGHT HERE a technician should offer a strategy to the homeowner to help determine if it’s a leak and if so what will we do to try to find the hole and repair the system so it doesn’t leak anymore.
Our technicians at Fox Family ask if there is a history of leaking for this HVAC system because it helps us establish a base point for the rate in which this system is leaking. We want to know if there has been refrigerant added to this system before, and if so, when?

The main reason why I wrote this blog. If this is the first time the system has been “topped-off” to get you cooling again, then we should get you cooling and use this as a starting point to determine if this system is leaking and if so, how much and how often?

If the refrigerant was admittedly, “topped-off” last year, then I think it is a good time to introduce the idea of looking for the leak. This is mentioned whole heartedly in the best interest of the planet and its survival. We want to avoid being unethical here now that we know the system is being topped off every so often to maintain it’s cool air. R-22 has chlorine and R410 still has massive global warming potential. We need to stop that from getting out to the ozone! If we can find the leak then we can get the system back to factory specs.

When I want to introduce the leak search, I tell my customer, let’s get you back cooling today so your family is comfortable. The we should go ahead and start the leak search process which includes us going to the different parts of the AC system with our electronic sniffer looking for the leak. The majority of the time I can find the leak with this method. That cost $X amount and is good for the first hour of searching for the leak. If we can’t find the leak after the first hour, we bump it up a level to $X amount. This level of leak search includes us adding a fluorescent dye to the system so we can let it circulate in the system for a couple of weeks (while you are still staying cool). Then we come back out and look for the dye. If there is indeed a hole somewhere in that copper or aluminum line, the oil and the dye inside the lines will spew out of the hole and splash onto anything around it like the aluminum fins on the coil or the condensate drain pan and into the P-trap. We’ll take the dye kit which comes with some yellow glasses and a UV flashlight. When we shine the light onto the dye which has come out of the leak and we have our yellow glasses on we can plainly see the leak is coming from there. We shouldn’t stop looking though! Just because there is one leak doesn’t mean there aren’t two or more holes.

If the leak is in the fins of the evaporator or condenser coil, we can’t get in there to fix the leak without compromising the standards of the manufacturer. It’s possible yes but, the possibility of the repair causing a restriction or other repair if the brazing compound didn’t settle properly on the under side of the repair spot. Also, the copper or aluminum is a lot thinner on the coils than the copper line set that runs in between. This means when the leak is in the evaporator or condenser coil, and it’s not on a u-bend or other easily accessible spot, we’ll recommend you getting another coil from the manufacturer. We’ll get it ordered and replaced for you in no time.

No matter where the leak is, the money you have paid for the leak search will go toward the cost of repair. Some of these repairs can be upwards of $2000 to replace parts, so it’s nice to know we can find the leak, and then put that money towards the cost of repair.

Our clients always appreciate knowing exactly what to expect during the leak search process. Simply explaining the repair in common terms that aren’t too “techie” for the customer are also appreciated. A leak search is not always needed just because you went out to a house for the first time and it has a leak. There is proper way of establishing knowledge and data about this particular unit. Starting at that first time out there and getting the customer cool is the most important thing. Next year if we have to add refrigerant again, then we should establish a plan for finding the leak. It’s our moral obligation as techs and as homeowners to find the leak and repair it. If there is a history of leaking refrigerant from your system, it’s on you as homeowners to let us know. I realize it’s going to cost some money to make the repair, but once it’s fixed, you won’t have to keep paying for refrigerant that just keeps getting more and more expensive every year.

Thanks for checking out this blog on leak search recommendations. If you are a homeowner and are concerned that what the other technician said doesn’t match I’m saying here, you might want to call a trusted HVAC company that will set you straight and actually give you options other than “You need to replace your system!”

How long can I wait to have my HVAC System Repaired?

broken air conditioner

[mk_page_section full_width=”true” top_shape_color=”#ffffff” top_shape_bg_color=”#ed4622″ bottom_shape_color=”#ffffff” sidebar=”sidebar-1″][vc_column][mk_padding_divider][mk_fancy_title size=”32″ font_family=”none” align=”center”]How long can I wait to have my HVAC System repaired?[/mk_fancy_title][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1523302896334{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Today on the VLOG (Video Blog) I talk about what happens when you quick fix or band-aid repairs on your HVAC system? If your system is operational but you know it needs a repair but you just don’t want to spend the cash, what can you do?

something else to consider, if your furnace or home air conditioner is more than 8-10 years old, and you are not having regular maintenance performed on it once or twice a year, you could be in for multiple repairs in the years to come. I share the details of what is under warranty and what is not.

We appreciate you tuning in and welcome your LIKES, COMMENTs or SHARES![/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/2ekJXQDKvTs” autoplay=”true”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][mk_padding_divider][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section bg_color=”#ed4622″ full_width=”true” has_top_shape_divider=”true” top_shape_color=”#ffffff” top_shape_bg_color=”#ed4622″ bottom_shape_color=”#ffffff” sidebar=”sidebar-1″][vc_column width=”2/3″][mk_padding_divider][mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h3″ color=”#ed4622″ size=”36″ force_font_size=”true” size_tablet=”20″ size_phone=”15″ line_height=”90″ font_weight=”bold” txt_transform=”capitalize” margin_bottom=”0″ font_family=”Lato” font_type=”google” align=”right” drop_shadow=”true”]Need Service? Call Now: 916-877-1577[/mk_fancy_title][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][mk_padding_divider][mk_button dimension=”flat” size=”large” align=”center” margin_right=”0″ bg_color=”#0066cc” btn_hover_txt_color=”#ed4622″]BOOK NOW[/mk_button][/vc_column][/mk_page_section]

FAQs about Replacing HVAC Systems

hvac replacement faq sacramento

How long should it take to decide which system or Contractor I want?

If it’s an emergency you may decide still to think about it. Some people even go as far as nursing it with one of these mobile floor AC units. But when it’s 100 plus degrees outside and 92 inside, anything helps right? Absolutely! Seriously though you will need to pony up at some point for the sake of your health and comfort, and your family’s health and comfort. Contractors in California are required to give you a “3-day Right to Cancel.” It’s a little paragraph on the contract you sign acknowledging this right. Then the equipment can start to be installed on the fourth day after you sign the contract. You can waive that “Right to Cancel” if it’s an emergency and the system needs to be replaced right away for something like an elderly person or infant’s health. Whatever it is, the State says in order to waive the right to cancel, it has to be for an urgent reason. Can you imagine coming home from the hospital with your newborn and your compressor blew on your 20-year-old AC?

Do your research on HVAC systems

If it’s not really an emergency you can take your time and really file through the right type of equipment for you and which contractor you want to hire. Systems come in all ranges. From the lower grade systems to the notable and trustworthy HVAC systems. Do your research and know what you really want in a system. You’re only going to have to make this purchase once or twice in your lifetime, so it’s not something most people really think about on an average day. HVAC contractors do think about this every day, but don’t believe everything you hear from these guys because it can be smoke and mirrors. You want to know the equipment model number and maybe do some research on the equipment. You can literally type in the model number in the search bar and find great information. Search about Trane, American Standard, Ruud, Rheem, Lennox, Carrier, Goodman, York, DayNight, Bryant, Payne, etc. Every brand out there is going to say they have the best home comfort system in the world, but can they prove it. Consumer Reports Magazine still puts out ratings for each brand every year. Consistently, Trane and American Standard are the brands at the top of the list.

HVAC system costs

Equipment alone can range anywhere from $6500 to $20,000. Depending on who you buy from and which SEER rating and technology you are looking for. We offer four different levels of systems. Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. This translates to 14, 16, 18, and 20 SEER systems. Basically, for a little more money you’re getting a more efficient system. Think of it like MPG on a car. The more efficient they are on the gas mileage, the more desirable they are. The higher the SEER rating, the higher efficiency they have to operate it, translating to lower utility bills.

Thr technology is unbelievable right now. We are seeing equipment that can hold the temperature of your house within a ½ degree all day long no matter the temperature outside. With these high-end variable speed systems, with Wi-Fi technology for your cell phone accessibility and communicating thermostats with the furnace and AC is really just amazing right now!

Fox Family Heating and Air Systems

Most people see our four options for systems and pick something in the middle. They see 14, 16, 18, and 20 SEER systems and typically pick the 16 or 18 SEER systems. Very rarely, do I see people choosing the 14 SEER system.

If you have the opportunity and it’s not a major emergency, take your time with these kinds of purchases. Find the right contractor for you, with good warranties, good thermostats, and other safety features for the system. For instance, a condensate safety switch, a compressor start kit, and a compressor sound blanket. This is a value purchase you’re not going to want to skimp on. If you have any questions about your new HVAC system please feel free to call me, Greg Fox at Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar. I promise to give you a great value for your next HVAC project.

A Day in The Life of an HVAC Technician: Episode 4

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Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar wants to show you our

team and what it is they go through on a regular basis to be an HVAC company.

Check out our latest video to see a day in the life of an HVAC Technician.[/mk_fancy_title][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”2/3″][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1517597313580{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

In this episode, Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar takes on a house that wants to convert from an all-electric heating pump to a gas furnace. The tricky part is, it’s under the house and the furnace and coil won’t fit. Check out this episode to see how we get the job done.

Liking our Day in The Life HVAC Technician episodes? Check out the other episodes here.  Contact us for all of your Sacramento area repairs.[/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider][vc_video link=” https://youtu.be/fNZRoYdYG7I”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/6″][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/mk_page_section][mk_page_section bg_color=”#ed4622″ full_width=”true” has_top_shape_divider=”true” top_shape_color=”#ffffff” top_shape_bg_color=”#ed4622″ bottom_shape_color=”#ffffff” sidebar=”sidebar-1″][vc_column width=”2/3″][mk_padding_divider][mk_fancy_title tag_name=”h3″ color=”#ed4622″ size=”36″ force_font_size=”true” size_tablet=”20″ size_phone=”15″ line_height=”90″ font_weight=”bold” txt_transform=”capitalize” margin_bottom=”0″ font_family=”Lato” font_type=”google” align=”right” drop_shadow=”true”]Need Service? Call Now: 916-877-1577[/mk_fancy_title][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][mk_padding_divider][mk_button dimension=”flat” size=”large” align=”center” margin_right=”0″ bg_color=”#0066cc” btn_hover_txt_color=”#ed4622″]BOOK NOW[/mk_button][/vc_column][/mk_page_section]