How Long Should My Central Air Conditioner Last?

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

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

How Long Should my Air Conditioner Last?

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

Air Conditioners Then and Now

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

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

Periodic Repair and Maintenance

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

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

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

It’s Your Decision

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

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

Why I would be interested in changing my air conditioner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

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

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

The Importance of a Condensate Safety Switch

Sacramento Water Damage Protection for Your Ceiling

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

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

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

Checking the Pipe

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

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

24-Hour Protection

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

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

Peace of Mind

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

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

Protect Your Home

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

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

Check out my video on this topic.  https://youtu.be/OLmRKBqTVsk   It goes over the basics of the safety switch and shows me installing one at a house.

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

Thanks so much and see you next week!

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

Fox Family is at Sacramento Home and Garden Show

An Obvious Choice for Fox Family Heating, Air Conditioning and Solar

Hey everyone!  I wanted to reach out to you from the Sacramento Home and Garden Show this weekend, March 1-3, 2019.  We’ve talked about getting a booth in the past and finally decided to go ahead and participate this year.  As we look for more people to provide with our heating and air conditioning services, this show seems like a great opportunity and an obvious choice.  And just like every year, a lot of people are expected here all weekend.

Where We Belong

Fox Family continues to grow.  Our philosophy — treating people the way they want to be treated, rather than like just a number like some big HVAC companies do — is really paying off.  This year at the Home and Garden Show at Cal Expo we see ourselves settling in amongst the major home services companies that have been around for decades.

This is exactly where we belong!  Among some of the most well-known companies in the area are Armstrong Plumbing, Byers Leaf Guard, Yancey, Cal Spas, Cal-Vintage Roofing, Renewal by Anderson (Windows), and a half dozen HVAC companies, including ourselves.  There are some other superb companies represented as well. I think I like being among the elite.

The Ebb and Flow

It’s fun and easy to walk around the Cal Expo pavilion building.  There’s plenty of room in the aisles to peruse each and every vendor.  It’s a relaxed and bustling marketplace, with hundreds of products to shop and giveaways for your canvas bag.

Friday was Senior Day, with half off tickets for those who could come on a day when most people are at work.  Saturday and Sunday were the big days.  Folks filed in when the doors opened and headed straight to the booths.  And it really didn’t slow down all day, straight through until the doors closed at the end of the day.

Building Our Brand

The goal for exhibiting at a home show is to gain a following and name recognition in the community, a solid marketing plan for us.  Fox Family will continue to return to this show and present ourselves as the company we are.   When people think of heating or air conditioning, we know they will remember Fox Family. Gaining exposure to people who are looking for the best of the best in home improvement is always a positive!

Wrapping Up

Next week, we’ll return to providing more great HVAC and solar blog posts, but I wanted to tell you all how this new endeavor went!  Perhaps we’ll see you here next year.

You can check out the Sacramento Home and Garden Show at CalExpo at http://www.sachomeandgardenshow.com/.

What Happens on a Fox Family Air Conditioning Tune-Up?

What Is It?

An air conditioning tune-up is what responsible homeowners do to maintain their home’s HVAC system.   It’s a thorough cleaning and testing of the air conditioning system, to ensure that it’ll work when you need it to this summer.  We operate with the understanding that a clean system will run longer than a dirty system.

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

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

What Will Happen at My Tune-Up?

When we are on the way, our technician will call you and let you know.  We are proud to park on the street in our bright white vans with the Fox Family logo on it.  After you open the door and allow us to come in, we usually start at the air filter and thermostat.  I like to ask if there are any areas of the house that need any attention.  Do any rooms not get the right amount of air?  Does it cool the house down to your satisfaction in the middle of summer?  Questions like this can establish how you like your system to run.  Because not every homeowner is the same, right?

Once I know what’s going on in your mind as a homeowner, we will turn the AC system on, together, at the thermostat, listen for the air to come on, and walk outside to make sure everything out there is at least running.  Now we all know the system was running when we arrived!  From here, you’ll be able to sit back and do whatever you need to do while the tech goes out and runs through a list specifically designed for your type of air conditioning system.

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

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

We also need to make sure your blower and the flywheel is clean and ready to run a lot in the coming summer months.  The tech will pour water down the drain lines to make sure the condensate drains properly.  We always offer the option of a condensate safety switch to protect your home from potential damage.  The secondary drain pan under the evaporator coil in the attic is a potential source of problems as well, so we make sure it’s ready for any emergencies.

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

Once we’re done in the attic — and I really only want my techs up there maybe fifteen minutes on warmer days — we’ll head to the outdoor unit where the majority of the AC tune-up is done.  Here, we test the components inside the panel, focusing on things like your refrigerant levels to ensure your system isn’t running too long, unnecessarily.  The high and low voltage electrical running the AC needs to maintain a certain sizing, workmanship, and integrity to it.  All in all, we check about 35 items on the outdoor unit and 20 items on the indoor unit.  If you happen to have a packaged unit that sits on the side of the house or even up on the rooftop, we still check all 55 items.

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

If your system is running well, we get right to work washing your AC.  Many air conditioning manufacturers are switching to materials like micro-channel which can’t be washed with soapy or chemical solutions, and we pay attention to things like that.  If you have a dog that runs around in your back yard, we try not to use soapy solutions that drain into the area around the AC, so your best friend doesn’t get sick.  We are so thorough cleaning the AC, it’s not uncommon to see a tech vacuuming out your AC to get rid of the sticks and other debris that can be a nuisance to a healthy air conditioner.

What’s the Benefit?

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

So, give Fox Family a call here in Sacramento County, the Foothills and the Mother Lode.  We would be honored to service your HVAC system in 2019!

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

Greg

Don’t miss our video on this topic:

How Much Will a New Central Air Conditioning System Cost in 2019?

In the spring of 2019, a lot of people will begin wondering, “how much does a new central air conditioning system cost?”

Every January a nice letter crosses my desk from the manufacturers of all the HVAC systems we use.  They let me know the cost of their equipment will be rising again in 2019.  The cost of systems has been rising by a few hundred dollars every year.  This is a reliable fact and there is no chance of those prices going down for obvious reasons.

When it comes to replacing your air conditioning system, people seem to be driven by one of three things:  low prices, good value, or top-of-the-line gear.  When it comes to the overall price range for a new air conditioning system you should factor in a few things.

It’s a lot like buying a new car.  Some people will get the most basic thing that will get them to work, or they’ll seek out the nicer but middle-of-the-road car they’re proud to own, and it’s very reliable.  Others will look for the latest and newest smart car on the market.  In much the same way, the price for a new central air conditioning system in 2019 will run anywhere from $7,000 to $25,000.  When you bought your new car, you probably got some upgrades.  The seat warmers and self-park feature were a must!  You can get a similar variety of upgrades when choosing your new air conditioning system too, and it doesn’t have to be anything overly lavish, either.

Efficiency Ratings

In 2019, your first consideration when purchasing a new HVAC system should be the efficiency rating.   Finding a company that will give you three or four options, not just one, for your new air conditioner, is important.  You’re limiting yourself if you don’t.

In 2019 you should be seeing options from 14 SEER all the way up to 25 SEER. This SEER rating is like miles per gallon on your car.  That’s a great way to think about it, actually.  The higher the SEER rating, the better and more efficient the equipment will be.  If you chose the 14 SEER or the 25 SEER, you can expect either system to last about 15-25 years.  “Anything after 20 years,” I tell people, “and you’re on borrowed time.”  And that’s fine too because 20 years from now, you’ll probably want that next generation of central air conditioning systems for your home.

A 14 SEER system is going to cost you anywhere between $5,000 and $16,000 in California, depending on where you live and which contractor you choose.  But a lot of that has to do with the type of installation you choose for your new central air conditioning system.  Some people are DIY’ers who thrive on the challenge of replacing their home appliances themselves.  Changing an HVAC system is hard work, but it can be done.

Upgrades

The most popular upgrades after choosing your efficiency are:

  • Dividing your home into two or more “zones”
  • Smart thermostats
  • Wireless thermostats
  • Contactor containment (SureSwitch contactors)
  • Compressor start assist kits
  • Condensate flood switches
  • Air quality products
  • Virtual assistants / smart speakers (Amazon’s Alexa)
  • Insulation blown into attics
  • Whole house fans
  • Surge protectors for furnaces or air conditioners
  • Thicker air filters
  • Ductless mini-splits
  • Compressor sound blankets
  • New higher insulated ductwork

If you ask most people why they get upgrades on their newly purchased vehicle, they’ll say it’s about getting what they want the first time, so they don’t have any regrets down the road.  There’s a lot to be said for that when the time comes to buy a new central air conditioning system.

I suggest finding a contractor that not only offers you the new air conditioning system but many of these upgrades as well.  It’s not uncommon for a company to actually throw in the upgrades in their price.

An upgrade like a compressor start kit will add years of life to your system without you even knowing it.  This device cuts down the start-up time of a compressor, which increases the lifespan of your AC system by years! Wouldn’t you rather just have that on your system from the start rather than having a technician sell you that part later on down the road?  Of course, some upgrades are too costly to be “thrown in for free,” but little things like that add a lot of value to the cost of a new air conditioning system.

DIY

Some people thrive on the chance to replace their own appliances.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  Installing HVAC is not rocket science, but there are some licenses and certifications required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to safely handle the refrigerant that goes into a new HVAC system.  Some people will buy their system online for as low as $2,000 – $12,000.  Apparently, you can now buy systems and have them delivered to your door.  The purchaser installs the system according to the installation manual, and when it comes to the refrigerant lines, they’ll have a technician come in do the rest.   One word of warning:  manufacturers do not like to warranty their products when an unlicensed technician installs them.

Price-Only Shoppers – The Most Basic Systems

Some people who can’t or don’t want to install their own system will reach out to a contractor, or some guy on JohnsList where they’ll pay someone to install the system.  I know of HVAC contractors and other handymen in California who can get a basic 14 SEER system into your house for as low as $7,000, maybe even lower.  Have you ever heard that another company with more employees and a bigger shop will sell a similar system for $16,000?  In 2019 that can happen.

Value-Driven Customers Usually Pick in the Middle

When you have three or four options, the middle options will be where most buyers make their purchase.  They’re looking for something good for their home, but maybe not the absolute best on the market technology-wise.  These “middle options” were the top options years ago.  The technology has been perfected and mainstreamed into quality homes everywhere.  You will find these air conditioning systems in the price range of $10,000 to $20,000, depending on which contractor you choose.

Best of the Best

Elite customers are looking for the latest in technology and will tolerate the bumps in the road that can come with such technology.  They prefer systems that are whisper quiet and run at ultra-low amps, making their electric bills much lower!  The technology in 2019 that continues to make a splash is the inverter technology of compressors offered in new air conditioners.  Someday these will be mainstream, but for now, they come at the premium price of $15,000 to $25,000, depending on the contractor.

Depending on Your Contractor

Will they be there when it counts, down the road?  That’s a big question when it comes to the warranties on your new air conditioning system.  Those warranties won’t matter if they aren’t around to make it right for you.  These companies charge too little to keep a legitimate company going for long.

It’s a game we as contractors are always having to play to earn your business.  If we price too high you won’t take us seriously; if we price too low it only entices the price shoppers.  When you hear me say a 16 SEER system could be between $10,000 and $20,000, it’s best to find a contractor whose price lands in the middle of those two.  Your best value will land in this range.  That’s why it’s important to get different quotes when you get your new air conditioning system.  You’ll learn that the price for the same 16 SEER system will be somewhere between that 10 and 20-thousand-dollar mark.

Good luck with your upcoming purchase decision.  There are some really great products you can add to your system to enhance its value for many years.  Choose your contractor wisely; someone who is going to be there down the road; someone who has good reviews online.  It really is all about customer service.  HVAC companies should be trying to take care of you not only for the day of the install but after the install.  Maintenance and preventive cleanings are very important.

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

Which Inverter is the Best for my New Solar System?

What’s So Great About Microinverters?

Hello, solar enthusiasts! Have you been wondering which inverter is the best to use on your new solar project? If so then this article is for you!

What are Inverters?

You know, solar panels get all the glory, but it’s the inverters that do all the work in the solar energy system. Central string inverters that came with solar systems of the past — let’s say up until 2018 – managed the conversion of DC to AC voltage for the entire solar system. That meant if one panel went down because of shading or a mechanical issue, the entire system would stop producing.

Then microinverters were developed out of Fremont, California by a company called Enphase®. These people were working on the central string inverters for a big company until they decided to go out on their own.  They created an inverter that would convert the DC energy produced by the panel into usable AC voltage for your home. Nobody else is doing this, and the central string inverter companies were thrown for a big loop because these new inverters are also warrantied for 25 years instead of 10.

But undeniably, the best thing about Enphase® is their inverters are double insulated for proper grounding and small enough to be placed at each individual panel. Because each panel has its own inverter, if one panel goes down because of shading or a mechanical issue, all your other panels will still continue producing clean energy for you.

New, But Are They Safe?

These microinverters are UL Listed, relating to voltage and frequency, synchronization, disturbances, faults, and reconnect time. This UL Listing ensures that your grid direct system meets IEEE 1547.1-2005 which specifies the type, production, and commissioning tests that must be performed on these microinverters. On our permits, we must show that these microinverters comply with the Rapid Shutdown requirements of NEC 2014, Section 690.12. This applies to PV conductors over 10 feet from the PV array and requires that the conductors power down to 30 volts and 240 volt-amperes within 10 seconds of rapid shutdown initiation. Enphase® products do it in less than six, making your house safer during power outages.

Revolutionary

To me it’s so interesting how one company can change the composition of an entire field the way Enphase® has done with solar. The old DC inverter companies are now trying to play catch up. The way they’re duplicating Enphase® technology is by creating “DC optimizers” at each panel, which act just like a microinverter in the way that allows the rest of your solar system to work even if one or two panels go down. You’ll still have a main inverter down on the side of the house, but you’ll also have DC optimizers at each panel, mimicking Enphase’s® technology. They had to!

My territory manager, who gets me my solar parts and equipment in Sacramento, tells me his top 3 grossing solar companies all use Enphase® microinverters. DC inverters are getting dropped quickly as outdated technology. Happens all the time.

Which Inverter Does Fox Family Install?

Fox Family installs Enphase® microinverters because they are the best technology for today’s quality driven customer. You can watch our latest video on this topic, here.  The price comes out the same on the jobs, too. The industry did a good job of pricing them similarly. We also use Quickmount® PV flashings and racking. I’ll leave a link to Enphase® and Quickmount® PV in the space below if you’d like to learn more. Both companies are engineered right here in California. They are produced in China, but there isn’t one inverter company manufacturing their own inverters here in the US, unfortunately.

What’s So Great About Microinverters?

Okay, just to geek out a little bit, I wanted to point out a couple of things I really like about Enphase® microinverters. Most importantly, since they are located right at each panel, the maximum power point (MPP) of each module is tracked and sent to your monitoring app on your phone. Enphase®’s is called Enlighten. I’ll have a video out soon about Enlighten and the cool features it has, like monitoring your production. Shading only affects those modules it’s shading rather than the whole system.

Solar panels can be installed at different angles and azimuth orientations, unlike central string inverters which require all the modules in each source circuit to be at the same tilt and orientation. We’re not running high voltage DC circuits through your attic or across your rooftop. We’re running AC voltage instead.

You know how your central string inverter is probably going to go out after 10 years? If one microinverter went down before the 25 year warranty had expired, the rest of the system would keep producing.  This would lower your down time, and lower your production time. ☹

Want to See Us In Action?

If you’d like to see Fox Family installing one of our recent projects, please visit our YouTube channel and see us in action installing solar.

Thanks so much for checking us out here at Fox Family. We want you to feel good about the products we use. We only choose the products we would use on our own houses. In fact, our house is getting solar done this week.  It will be nice to finally have my own solar system running!  You can read more about Fox Family solar installations here.

We’ll see you on the next blog!

Learn more about Enphase

Learn more about QMPV

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5 Simple Furnace Fixes You Can Perform

5 Simple Furnace Fixes You Can Perform

5 Simple Furnace Fixes A Sacramento HVAC Company Says You Can Perform 

You may not need to wait for a professional to perform each repair needed to get your furnace working again when it breaks down. Here are some simple repairs that you can perform on your own if you are handy with tools and have a basic understanding of how furnaces work. Call a Sacramento HVAC technician from Fox Heating and Air if you aren’t familiar with the components of your furnace so that you avoid exposing yourself to needless risks or damaging the furnace further.

  • Check the Thermostat

A furnace that fails to work may have a simple fault in its thermostat. Start your DIY repair by confirming that the switch is set to heat rather than cool the home. Check the temperature setting and be certain that it is appropriate for the general conditions at that time of the year. For example, try setting the thermostat to a higher temperature than the ambient temperature and see if the furnace kicks in. Make sure that the day and time settings are accurate (the thermostat isn’t reading p.m. during morning hours, for example). Contact a Sacramento furnace repair technician in case you suspect that the thermostat has failed due to electrical issues.

  • Shutoff Breakers and Switches

Find the switch on or close to your furnace and confirm that it is turned on in case your furnace isn’t working. Fox Family Heating and Air technicians often respond to calls and find that someone accidentally turned the furnace off. Check the breaker too in the breaker panel. Get professional help from a Sacramento heating and air company in case the breaker keeps tripping each time you reset it.

  • Check the Filter

The heat exchanger of your furnace will shut off fast in case the filter is clogged and air can’t flow freely through it. Change the filter in case you hold it up and light doesn’t travel through its filter media/pleats. Ask a Sacramento furnace repair expert to demonstrate the correct way to install a new filter so that you start performing that basic task yourself. Remember that the filter change interval will depend on the type of filter and the conditions in your home. For instance, homes with pets may need to change the furnace filter more frequently than the change interval for homes with no pets.

  • Turn the Gas On

Someone in your home could have turned the gas valve off accidentally thereby stopping the furnace from working. Check the gas line from the furnace back to the gas meter. Locate the valve (handle) and turn it so that it is now parallel to the gas line. Check the pilot light in case you have an older furnace. That pilot light has to be lit in order for the furnace to generate heat.

  • Flush the Drain Lines

Greg Fox from Fox Family Heating and Air advises that homeowners should check the furnace drain lines frequently in order to confirm that they aren’t blocked. The furnace will shut down in case the flow of water through the drain lines is hindered by a clog or when the line is constricted by a heavy object. Biological matter can also grow in the lines and limit the flow of water. Flush such lines with a mixture of bleach and water so that any bacteria or other microorganisms can be flushed out.

It is important that you restrict your DIY repair efforts to the most basic fixes when your furnace develops a fault. Take all the necessary precautions, such as turning the power off, before you attempt any repair (if you must). The safest option is to find an affordable Sacramento furnace repair technician, such as those from Fox Family Heating and Air so that the professional can inspect the entire system before fixing any defects found. The money that you pay the technician will be much less than what you will spend in case you make a mistake and cause irreparable damage to the furnace unit.

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.

Benefits of HVAC Zoning

Have you heard about HVAC zoning?  Wondering if it would be worth it to retrofit your heating and cooling system with a zone control system? Read on and discover some of the key benefits which technicians at Fox Family Heating and Air attribute to zoning the HVAC system in your residential or commercial property.

Enhanced Comfort

The primary reason why HVAC systems are installed is to give building occupants comfort. HVAC zoning takes this comfort to a higher level. This is because every zone or section of the building can have its temperature controlled independently. For example, the rooms upstairs may be warmer than those on the ground floor. HVAC zoning allows the people upstairs to lower the thermostat settings without causing any inconveniences to those downstairs who don’t want that lower temperature.

Reduced Energy Consumption

HVAC zoning also reduces the amount of energy which is used to cool or heat the premises. These energy savings arise due to the adjustments made for each zone based on the needs of the occupants. For example, you can increase the heating to the bedrooms upstairs during the cold months while reducing the heating downstairs since no one will be in the living room or kitchen at night. You’ll get energy savings by not heating unoccupied rooms downstairs.

If all the lights in your home were controlled by one switch, you’d get similar results. Such a situation forces you to leave lights on in the unoccupied rooms, wasting energy. Zoning prevents such wastage. These energy savings can even offset the investment you made to your Sacramento heating and air conditioning company to install HVAC zoning in your premises.

Convenience

More convenience is another benefit of HVAC zoning.  You may need to walk downstairs in the middle of the night to adjust the settings of the thermostat. With heating, cooling and air conditioning controlled from a central location, buildings without HVAC zoning will come with such inconveniences.

Zoning brings convenience since the thermostats of the different zones will be located within those zones. Consequently, you will take a shorter walk to adjust the settings on the thermostat regulating the conditions in the affected room.

Prolonged Equipment Life

Your HVAC equipment is likely to experience less wear and tear if you installed a zoning system. This is because there will be few occasions when the system will be operating at full capacity. For example, the bedrooms may require less heating or cooling during the day.  This is when most activities in the home take place in the living room and the kitchen. Similarly, the living room and kitchen will require less heating or cooling at night while you sleep. This phased demand for heating or cooling allows the HVAC system to operate at less than full capacity during most hours of the day. You will, therefore, have a reduced need to pay for air conditioner repair (Sacramento).

As you can see, HVAC zoning will enhance the value you get from your heating or cooling system. However, those benefits can only come if the zoning system is installed correctly by an experienced professional, such as those at Fox Family Heating and Air.  Get a professional assessment of your requirements before choosing the best HVAC zoning system for your home.

Why Your Sacramento HVAC System May Be Having Airflow Problems

Have you noticed that some sections of a room in your home are cold while others are warm? Your HVAC system may be having airflow issues. Read on and learn some of the common reasons why such airflow problems develop. Use this information to adjust the factors which you can handle and call a Sacramento HVAC professional for help on those issues which are beyond your capacity to address.

Obstructed Outdoor Unit

Heating and air conditioning professionals usually select the most appropriate locations in which to install the indoor and outdoor units of air conditioners. However, some Sacramento homeowners may unknowingly impede the performance of the AC by placing obstructions close to the outdoor units.

For example, a homeowner may place a disused appliance close to the outdoor unit. This can prevent that unit from performing its role of cooling the air which is coming from inside the home. Airflow problems will then result.

This problem is easy to solve. Simply check the outdoor unit and remove anything which is within the recommended clearance in the vicinity of that unit.

Blocked Registers and Vents

Many airflow problems result from a blockage in a register or a vent. For example, you may place a piece of furniture in front of an AC register. That furniture will impede the flow of air within the air conditioner components in that room of your home.

Fix such problems by checking the rooms where airflow problems exist. Remove everything that may be in the way of a vent or a register.

Clogged Air Filters

Another common cause of airflow issues is a clogged filter. Air will be unable to flow freely through the filter and into the room if that filter is dirty. Regular replacement of filters (in accordance with the recommended change intervals provided by the manufacturer) can ensure that a clogged filter will not affect the flow of air within the HVAC system.

Leaky or Blocked Air Ducts

The ductwork may also have a defect which is compromising the airflow within your air conditioning system. For instance, dirt may have bypassed a clogged filter and accumulated within the ducts. Such dirt can constrict the ducts and affect the flow of air. Damaged ducts can also leak conditioned air and limit the flow of air to the places where it is needed.

It is advisable for you to ask an experienced Sacramento air conditioning technician to inspect the ductwork and conduct the necessary repairs or cleaning to fix the airflow problem.

Defective Fan Blower

Blower fans push air through the ducts and channel it to the different rooms in your home. Those fans can become sluggish once the motor powering them grows old or weakens. Such a defect can only be remedied by a technical person who will decide whether the fan simply needs to be cleaned or the motor needs to be changed.

Improperly Sized HVAC Units

Some airflow issues in homes can be traced to an improperly sized air conditioning unit. An oversized AC will cycle on and off too frequently. Those short run times deny the system an opportunity to extract all the moisture from the air circulating inside the home. Consequently, the air will feel clammy and you will no longer be comfortable in the home.

Contact an HVAC expert in Sacramento and let that person advise you on the appropriateness of the AC for the size of your home. This analysis is particularly important in case the system is older and may have been installed at a time when the preference for bigger units was prevalent.

Low Refrigerant Charge

A refrigerant leak can also cause airflow problems. The loss of refrigerant causes the HVAC system to be unable to work properly. Don’t try to fix refrigerant leaks on your own. Ask a professional to use the appropriate tools to identify the leaks and fix them before recharging the system with the right refrigerant.

Many of the airflow problems in the discussion above can be detected and corrected early before they cause bigger repair challenges if you have a habit of inviting a Sacramento heating and air conditioning professional to inspect and service your HVAC system. Address all issues quickly so that your comfort isn’t compromised.

Contact Fox Family Heating and Air if you feel like you are experiencing air flow issues in your home. If you HVAC system is showing signs that it is not performing properly, now is the best time to have it checked out to avoid an unnecessary break down as Sacramento summer heat approaches.[/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider][/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]