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3 Quick Tips to Get Your Furnace Ready for Winter

For many people, fall is the best time of the year. The temperature reaches a pleasant cool, allowing you to open your windows and keep both the furnace and air conditioner off for multiple months.

Not only are the fall seasons good for your mental health, but they save a few bucks in your wallet too. Unfortunately, when November rolls around, the days begin to get shorter and the leaves curl up and fall. Winter is here and its time to turn on your furnace again.

It’s likely been over half a year since you’ve last run your furnace. After all that idle time, your furnace needs some attention before it’s ready to run at peak performance.

Here are three ways you can make sure your furnace is ready to fight off the winter cold.

Replace the Filter

Pound for pound, replacing your HVAC system’s air filter is the most efficient thing you could possibly do. In other words, there is nothing else you can do so quickly and cheaply that will have as big an impact as replacing your filter.

Replacing your filter is easy, and it’s probably the one HVAC maintenance task that you should perform without hiring a professional. The filter is almost always on the side of the furnace, and replacing it is a matter of pulling out the old filter and sliding the new one in. But the benefits are huge. You’ll:

  • Lower your energy consumption (by up to 30%)
  • Extend the lifespan of your HVAC system (dirty filters contribute to more HVAC failures than anything else according to Angie’s List)
  • Dramatically improve the cleanliness of the air in your house

Ideally, you should change the filter every month, but changing it every three months should be considered a minimum. And since your furnace will (hopefully) only be running a little bit in the early days of fall, that’s the perfect time to change it to make sure your furnace does a great job of heating your home all winter long.

Make sure the vents are open

Let’s make it clear: all the vents in your house should always be open, without exception.

There’s a running assumption that by closing vents in unused rooms of a house, your furnace won’t heat those rooms, and you’ll end up heating fewer square heat, lowering your heating bill. That assumption is only half right. Closing vents does keep those rooms from being heated, but it actually causes your furnace to use more energy, not less of it. Here’s what closing your vents does:

  • Causes the return vents to pull air into the furnace from the now-cold room, lowering the overall efficiency of the unit
  • Decreases the amount of air flowing through your entire home
  • Increases the likelihood of causing some sort of leak
  • Increases the likelihood of a blown compressor

All in all, closing your vents increases the amount you spend on heating. The same principles apply if your vents are blocked, say by furniture or rugs. So if your vents are closed or blocked, make sure to open them!

Instead of closing your vents, just close the doors of unused rooms. It’ll be better for both your furnace and your wallet.

Schedule Professional Maintenance

Furnaces have gone from around 40% efficient to around 98% efficient over the past century, which marks a significant decrease in the amount of money and energy wasted by artificial heating. But with that increased efficiency comes an increased numbers of electronic and mechanical parts. Furnaces have a lot more parts that can break now, which is the reason furnaces went from lasting 50+ years to 30 years at maximum.

And 30 years is an extremely generous estimate. It’s far more common for furnaces to last between 15-20 years with proper maintenance. Shirk maintenance and you’re looking at lifespans closer to 10 (or fewer!) years.

When you schedule HVAC maintenance, a trained technician will come and perform all the tips and cleanings that you can’t do on your own, like:

  • Cleaning the pilot light and heat exchange
  • Making sure there are no fuel line (or duct) leaks
  • Cleaning and tightening the parts of the furnace that are easily broken
  • and much, much more

Not only will maintenance increase your furnace’s lifespan, but it will also ensure your furnace consistently runs at peak efficiency.

You should schedule HVAC maintenance at least once a year. We also have maintenance plans that will automate the process.

Schedule Furnace Maintenance Today

Planning for maintenance is an important part of any home heating and cooling strategy. Without it, you might unknowingly void your manufacturer’s warranty. If you’re interested in a longer life for your furnace and cheaper heating bills, Contact Steve’s Heating for maintenance today.

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Why You Should Filter Your Air

Dirty air is a big problem. The World Health Organization estimates that over 6 million people die each year from the combined effects of household air pollution and ambient air pollution. Outdoor air pollution has been an issue for a long time, but people don’t tend to give as much thought to the quality of the air indoors. Indoor air is usually between 2-5 times dirtier than outdoor air, and that number is much higher if you use any sort of solid or liquid fuel to heat your home, like wood or oil. Indoor air is dirty because, for the most part, dust doesn’t have anywhere to go. In recent years, doors have become less drafty and windows have become less leaky. While this is great for electricity bills, all the dust particles that got carried outside by those drafts now remain inside the home. Even with constant washing and vacuuming (and we’re willing to wager that the average American doesn’t vacuum as often as they should), indoor air is still pretty dirty.

It’s counterintuitive, but the smaller the dust particle, the more dangerous it is. Big dust particles get stuck in the nose and throat and eventually get breathed out. Small particles escape these safeguards and end up going into your lungs, where they get absorbed into your blood. That’s bad for you whether the particle was toxic or not, and they sometimes are. What’s worse, a 2016 British study showed that air pollution is ubiquitously bad for everyone. Though unsurprising, that statistic only confirms what people had already suspected: they should be breathing cleaner air. The most effective way to achieve this is with an air filter. Steve’s Heating offers installation of Trane’s CleanEffects™ whole-home air filter. These are much more effective than standalone air filters or purifiers, which only clean the air directly around them. There’s an added bonus in that the Trane filter traps much, much smaller particles than HEPA filters, which are currently the gold standard for filtration. If that’s not enough to convince you, here are some other reasons you should consider purifying your air at home:

Reason 1: you live with a smoker

The first thing you should know about cigarettes and air purifiers is that they do a great job of dealing with the smell of cigarette smoke. The second thing you should know is that air purifiers don’t make cigarette smoke any less dangerous, even though they deal with smoke odor. That’s because the dangerous parts of cigarette smoke are all gaseous pollutants, which air purifiers can’t do anything about—air purifiers can only clean particles from the air, which account for the smell of cigarette smoke. So, keep in mind that air purifiers will make living with a smoker much more pleasant, but they won’t make it healthier. The only way to do that is to make them quit.

Reason 2: You have pets

If you have pets, it’s likely that they are the biggest contributor of dust in your home. Pets not only ensure that your house will be dirtier and require more cleaning, but their dust can also be dangerous to people with asthma, young children, or people with respiratory problems. Even if you don’t have any people in your household who are put in danger by excess dust, it’s still an irritant that can cause a runny nose and scratchy throat.

Reason 3: You have allergies

Excess dust affects people regardless of whether or not they have allergies, but it can be a nightmare for people who do. Dust allergies are most commonly triggered by near-microscopic creatures called dust mites. They are so small that they cannot be seen by the naked eye—just a third of a millimeter—and their waste and dead bodies often float around in the air until they get inhaled or settle into fabric. Many of the people who experience symptoms of allergies in dusty homes are actually allergic to dust mites. Luckily, dust mites are not so small that they can escape Trane’s air purifier, which can pick up particles as small as .3 microns. For scale, that’s .00003 mm.

Reason 4: You just like the idea of breathing healthier air

Maybe you don’t have allergies, a sick baby, or pets. Maybe you just like the idea of breathing cleaner air. And why shouldn’t you? Your home is the one place that is completely yours, so it should be as comfortable and healthy as it can be. Purifying your air will make you feel better and give you the peace of mind you need to be your best self.

By now, you probably know a thing or two about dirty air and why it’s a problem. If you decide you want to take the next step, give Steve’s Heating a call. We’ll even provide a free estimate for installing the filter.

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End-of-Summer HVAC Checklist

Fall is just around the corner. And since it’s America’s most popular season (according to a poll from YouGov), there’s a lot to look forward to. With temperatures in Kentucky averaging a 68º high and 42º low, fall is the perfect season to shut off your air conditioner, open the windows, and relax.

Indeed, fall is the time to give your air conditioner a break and settle into the cool weather before it’s time to reprogram your thermostat and dust off that thermostat. Because of that, the end of summer is also the perfect time to get both your air conditioner and furnace ready for the colder months ahead.

So for your convenience, we put together a handy checklist you can consult when figuring out what to do with your HVAC system at the end of summer.

Central Air Conditioner Checklist

  • Remove and clean the fan
  • Straighten the fins of the outdoor unit
  • Vacuum the fins
  • Spray the fins with a hose
  • Clean the evaporator coils
  • Replace the filter with a HEPA-certified one
  • Cover the top of the condenser unit with a tarp
    • But not the entire thing

The best way to get your air conditioner ready for its long rest ahead is to make sure it’s clean and covered before autumn hits. Most central A/C units are very similar, so you shouldn’t have any trouble taking them apart if it’s your first time. If you’re having trouble removing the fan or finding where the filter is, try a few YouTube searches of your unit’s model number. If that doesn’t work, you’re best off just calling a professional.

To straighten the fins, you can either use a dinner knife or a fin comb. You’re more likely to have a dinner knife lying around, but fin combs do the job much better.

When you cover your outdoor A/C unit, you should never cover it all the way, like you would cover a grill. You should only cover the top. If you cover it all the way, moisture will get trapped inside the unit which will quickly mold and rust. Instead, just cover the top. In fact, a wooden plank a little larger than the unit itself will work fine for this.

While this is an excellent list for getting your air conditioner ready for it’s long rest and subsequent revival, there are still a lot of things that only a professional should do, such as checking the coolant levels or diagnosing oil leaks.

Furnace Checklist

  • Make sure the condensation drain isn’t clogged
  • Make sure the exhaust outlets aren’t clogged
  • Check for leaks in your ductwork and seal with them metal tape
  • Clean your vents and air registers
  • Switch your damper if you have one
  • Oil your blower
  • Replace the filter

A furnace’s filter is usually located around the base of the unit itself. If you’re having trouble finding it, consult your owners manual (a copy is usually on the manufacturer’s website if you don’t have it handy). Most of these steps can be accomplished without any special knowhow. Many furnaces have a sliding panel at the front that opens up, but yours might not. Again, owner’s manuals and Google are your friend here.

Dampers are switches that switch the flow of air between the air conditioner and furnace. If you don’t have a separate set of ducts for your air conditioner and furnace, you almost definitely have dampers. The location of your dampers depends, but they usually look like a round knob on the side of one of your ducts.

The inside of a furnace is an especially fragile place. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to break an essential part of your furnace: the igniter. Some furnaces have a pilot light, a small flame that burns all year long, and others have an ignition key, a piece of metal that heats up to ignite the flame. The ignition key is fragile, and it’s easy to damage if you aren’t careful. If you break your ignition key, not only will your furnace not produce any heat, but it could fill your home with explosive natural gas. If you’re at all worried about this, it’s best to call in for maintenance.

Other Things to Do

  • Dust your fans
  • Switch your thermostat programming
  • Test your thermostat
  • Schedule maintenance

Once you shut off your central A/C unit for the season, it’s time to run your ceiling fans! Ceiling fans help to circulate air and help the room feel more comfortable. But if you haven’t used yours in awhile, they’re probably covered in dust. Grab a ladder and some wipes and dust it clean.

You should also pay attention to your thermostat. Switch your thermostat from cooling to heating mode, and make sure you test it. An easy way to do that is by turning the thermostat to a few degrees hotter than it currently reads. So if your house is currently 70ºs, you should crank the thermostat up to 72º and wait a few minutes. If all is well, you should hear the furnace turn on and begin heating the home. If you don’t hear anything, you should get your equipment looked at.

Call Steve’s Heating and Cooling for Thorough Maintenance All Year Long

When it comes to keeping your HVAC system running smoothly, there is a lot you can do to keep your home comfortable and your energy bills low. But there are many things, like cleaning your heating coils, that only a professional should do. Without an expert’s expertise, you’re liable to ruin your system—a costly mistake.

So if you’re serious about taking care of your HVAC system, schedule a visit from Steve’s Heating. Our team has years of HVAC experience and will get your maintenance done in half the time it’d take you to do yourself. Plus, our Comfort Club members get 10% off any repairs that are needed.

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Why DIY HVAC Repair is a Bad Idea

With the internet, it’s easier than ever for the DIY enthusiast to learn about the intricacies of the equipment that he uses every day. And most of the time, that’s a great thing. People should want to know how the things around them work. It’s exciting, and it helps you appreciate what you have more.

But HVAC systems should under no circumstances be worked on by anybody other than a licensed professional. Here’s why:

You’ll Probably Break Something

There’s a reason that most states legally require HVAC technicians to go through special training and certification programs: HVAC systems are complicated. Your air conditioner is a complex contraption of gears, chemicals, parts, and electricity. For the unit to work properly as a whole, each piece has to function correctly. If you don’t know how all the components work together, it’s easy to mess something up without realizing it.

And since the whole point of a DIY fix is to save money on some sort of repair, it seems counter-intuitive to us to pursue a DIY repair that’s more likely to fail than anything. And believe us: you’ll spend more to get a botched repair fixed than if you had just called a specialist in the first place.

It’s Dangerous

HVAC certifications aren’t just for show—they exist to protect the technicians and the people whose HVAC systems get worked on.

Air conditioners use various gasses as refrigerants, and furnaces typically burn either oil or natural gas. The coolants in air conditioners and natural gas in furnaces are both oxygen displacers, which means that in a small space, they’ll take the place of oxygen. This means if you get enough of either gas in your lungs, oxygen won’t be able to force it out, leading to loss of consciousness and even death. Not to mention, natural gas is explosive.

Even if you spring a link that doesn’t hurt you, it’ll still mean that your air conditioner won’t do any cooling, which, again, defeats the whole purpose of repairing it yourself in the first place.

Also, many air conditioners are high voltage. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since air conditioners are one of the highest-energy-using appliances there are. With this high voltage comes a very real risk of electrocution if you don’t know what you are doing. So leave it to the pros.

You’re Likely to Void the Warranty

If you aren’t concerned about your health, maybe this will sway you: by forgoing professional HVAC maintenance, you’re also forgoing your manufacturer’s warranty. If you have an owner’s manual for a Trane air conditioner or heating unit, you’ll notice this bit of text:

“The Products must be properly installed, operated, and maintained by a licensed HVAC service provider in accordance with the Product specifications or installation, operation, and maintenance instructions provided by Company with each Product. Failure to conform to such specifications and/or instructions shall void this limited warranty. Company may request written documentation showing the proper preventative maintenance.”

In other words, your HVAC unit’s warranty isn’t valid unless it was properly installed and maintained by a certified professional—and it’s on you to prove that.

A warranty is a company’s way of saying that they believe in their products. By offering a warranty, they’re telling you that their equipment is guaranteed to last a certain amount of time, and if it doesn’t, they’ll replace the part at no charge to you. But no HVAC unit can run for long without (proper) maintenance, just like your car couldn’t go 200,000 miles without an oil change. So hire an HVAC company for maintenance and spare your wallet the trouble.

By the way, Steve’s Heating has great warranties on both parts and labor.

Let Steve’s Heating & Cooling Handle Your Maintenance Needs

If it’s time that your furnace or air conditioner was maintained, get in touch with us. We’ve been serving Florence, KY for over 30 years and pride ourselves on making the community a better place.

If you’re a member of our comfort club, you’ll get a yearly or bi-annual tuneup and professional cleaning. Not to mention a 10% discount on all repairs and no overtime charges! If you’re interested in becoming a comfort club member, give us a call today at 859-795-2172.

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Why You Should Upgrade Your HVAC System Every 15 Years (Even if it Still Works)

When you think about your HVAC system, do you only think about how cool (or toasty) it keeps you when you need it? Or do you also think about its declining health, inevitable death, and the effect it has on the environment? The average HVAC system lasts anywhere between 10–30 years, and that depends on many things: the climate you live in, how cool you like it in the summers (68º and 72º are farther apart than you’d think), how well your system has been maintained, and so much more.

The standard is to replace your central air conditioner or furnace whenever one of them dies. And it’s no wonder: buying and installing a new furnace or air conditioner is extremely expensive.

But there’s another option: replace your whole system every 15 or so years. In today’s article, we’ll talk more about why that’s not as crazy of an idea as it sounds.

Note that we’re going to focus on air conditioners in this article, but the same information applies to furnaces. We are also only going to talk about central, ducted HVAC systems.

A Note on A/C Efficiency Over Time

Efficiency is probably the number-one factor you should consider when looking at air conditioners. High-efficiency air conditioners will do a great job of cooling while remaining affordable to run. Low-efficiency units, on the other hand, don’t make use of some of the energy that’s used to power them, effectively wasting it.

The efficiency of an A/C unit is measured by its SEER rating, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. To put it simply, SEER is a ratio of how much a unit cools over a year divided by how much energy it takes to power that cooling. The higher the SEER ratio, the more efficient the unit.

There are both federally and EPA-mandated SEER minimums. The federal minimums must be met by manufacturers. The EPA minimums are not required, but qualifying machinery receives an Energy Star certification, which marks it as roughly 25% more efficient than the current federal minimum.

According to Wikipedia, the federal SEER minimum in 1992 was 10. In 2016, the minimum rose to 13. It rose again to 14 in 2015. It is this gradual growth in minimum that’s the basis for our article today.

You’ll Save a Lot of Money

There is a considerable opportunity to save money by upgrading to an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating. If, in 2006 when the federal SEER minimum rose to 13, you upgraded your 10-SEER unit to a 13-SEER one, you would have saved a lot of money over the course of 15 years. That’s using data from Lexington, KY, where electricity costs $0.1028 kw/h on average, and where air conditioners only run about 1080 hours a year. The more you run your HVAC system, the more you save.

Air conditioners are getting more efficient fast, and if you make a significant upgrade, say, from a 10-SEER unit to the Trane XV18 Variable Speed unit that’s featured on our website (which has a SEER rating of 18), you would save around over half of the cost of the average A/C installation!

But if you went even further and upgraded to a 22-SEER unit like the SV20i TruComfort™ Variable Speed, you would save even more over 15 years.

There are also rebates available for installing energy-efficient HVAC systems, saving you even more money.

When you consider that new advances are constantly made in the HVAC world, it makes sense why you’d consider upgrading every 15 years. But that’s not the only reason.

You’ll Avoid Emergency Replacement

One of the best things you get from upgrading your HVAC system on a schedule is peace of mind. Though it’s possible your A/C unit will die after 10-15 years, with proper maintenance it will almost certainly make it to 15. After that, though, it will be at constant risk of failing, even with regular maintenance and upkeep. By not waiting until it breaks, you’ll get to replace it on your own time. You won’t have to pay a premium for emergency service, and you won’t have to sit in a sweltering house while you sort out the details. It’s much easier to arrange a stay at grandma’s when you can give a few days of notice.

You’ll Help the Environment

If you care at all about the environment, you should look into a high-SEER air conditioning unit. Not only does a good SEER rating save you money, it also cuts way back on your carbon footprint.

Put simply, the less electricity you use to cool your home, the less energy power plants have to generate to cool your home, and the less pollution is created.

Call Steve’s Heating for Your Next High-SEER Installation

If you’re in the market for a higher-SEER air conditioner, give Steve’s Heating a call. Our experts will work with you to find an HVAC system that’s perfect for your home and family.

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Electric Bill Savings Guide

Save on your electric bills by taking action with these 14 tips:

  1. Examine and clean your ventilation system or have an HVAC expert do it for you. The more dust that has collected in the vents, the more you’re going to pay to heat and cool your home or apartment. It takes longer to push air through clogged vents.
  2.  Invest in energy-efficient devices. A few examples include smaller devices that don’t use as much power, energy-saving light bulbs, and Energy Star certified appliances and machines.
  3.  Don’t use ceiling floodlights. Replace these with the energy-saving light bulbs.
  4.  Change your energy supplier to a fixed rate supplier. After finding out the rate that your provider offers, check competitors’ prices in the area. Take note that a provider can be different from a supplier.
  5.  Switch off and unplug everything when they’re not in use. Meaning, appliances and fixtures that are plugged in still use power even if they’re turned off.
  6.  Move big energy consuming devices away from direct sunlight and into the cold. For example, cooling devices (such as the air conditioner) need to be placed away from heating devices, and vice versa.
  7.  Keep the door to refrigerators, freezers, etc. closed when not using them.
  8.  Keep cooling and heating devices at least two inches away from the wall so air can circulate properly.
  9.  Increase the inside temperature of freezers and refrigerators.
  10.  Check the sealing gasket or have an expert do it for you. If damaged, it will need to be replaced. It’ll save on energy consumption in the long run.
  11.  Defrost the freezer if there’s ice along the edges.
  12.  Replace old appliances.
  13.  Dry clothes on a clothesline instead of a dryer.
  14.  Put your PC on energy-saving mode.

Some other tips include being smart about how much energy you’re using. If you’re comfortable with the current temperature, turn the heat or air conditioning off.

Steve’s Heating and Cooling is here for you! Give us a Call or Fill Out a Form today to setup an HVAC appointment.

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What to do with Your A/C when You’re On Vacation

Air conditioning is one of those inventions that are so wonderful we couldn’t imagine life without them. Before air conditioning, people did all sorts of wacky stuff to stay cool. In fact, air conditioning completely changed the way that houses and buildings were built! A/C tends to fall into the “out of sight, out of mind” category, but when vacation time hits, many people start to wonder what they should do with their air conditioners while they’re gone. Do you turn them all the way off? Do you just turn them down? This all depends on the kind of air conditioner you have, and your thermostat. We’ll cover everything so you know exactly what to do with your air conditioner while you’re vacationing.

Keep your A/C on during vacation

In short, no, you shouldn’t turn off your air conditioner when you’re on vacation. There are many reasons for this, and we will go over them all in this article. But for a quick summary, you should set your air conditioner either 6º above what you usually have it at, or no higher than 86º, or 80º if you have a pet. Let’s go over why that is:

Your air conditioner keeps your house dehumidified

When air conditioners were invented back in 1902, their purpose was to keep the humidity low at a New York paper plant. The cooling was just a side effect. The amount of water that air can hold is directly related to its temperature. The warmer the air, the more water it can suck up. In short, a hot house is a humid house, too.

Of course, humidity is uncomfortable, but that doesn’t matter while you’re away. But as awful as humidity is for us, it’s even worse for your house. Humidity causes your paint or wallpaper to peel; your window frames, floorboards, and door frames to warp; and in the worst cases it can cause mold, algae, and other nasties to start growing on your wall. Keeping your air conditioner on during vacation will prevent these things from happening.

However, your air conditioner uses a lot of energy to keep you cool

Everybody knows that it’s expensive to run their air conditioner, but few people know just how expensive. Of course, the actual price of your air conditioner depends on your specific unit, the size of your home, the cost of your energy, and your climate, but all across America, air conditioners are the biggest energy suckers of them all. Air conditioners can cost as much as $2 per hour to run! That’s a lot of money wasted if you’re on vacation.

Your air conditioner uses about 5% more energy for every degree cooler it makes your home. The opposite is true as well: for every degree you raise your air conditioner, it uses 5% less energy. So, it makes perfect sense why people would assume it’s best to just turn off their air conditioners while they’re gone. However, there are a few reasons why that isn’t the case:

Your fridge has to work harder

The hotter your house is, the harder your fridge has to work. While this does cause your energy bill to rise slightly, it isn’t likely to break the bank. The real kicker is that those weeks of extra-hard work will shear a good chunk off your fridge’s lifespan. Since a new fridge is a multi-thousand dollar purchase, you probably don’t want to rush it into the grave.

Your savings get lost in the extra cooling your air conditioner has to do when you get home

A lot of the energy you save by turning off the air conditioner during vacation will be eaten back up when your air conditioner has to bring the temperature all the way down to where you usually have it set.

Your air conditioner might not be running at peak efficiency

We’re not talking about SEER or Energy Star ratings here, we’re talking about the loss in efficiency that every air conditioner experiences the longer it goes without maintenance. We find that vacation is a time that gets people thinking about how exactly their air conditioners interact with their energy bills, and that it is one of the best times to talk about maintenance.

Regular maintenance is the single most important factor in a long life and continued efficiency for your air conditioner, but it’s something many people skip. Avoiding maintenance is never a good idea, because for every year your air conditioner isn’t maintained, it has to work harder to achieve the same level of cooling. This amounts to a 5% increase in its energy usage every year, and those costs add up.

Also, many air conditioner manufacturers specify that their warranties are only valid if regular maintenance has been performed on the unit by a trained professional. So, if your air conditioner breaks down within the warranty period but you haven’t had it serviced, you’re out of luck.

The HVAC Company for all your vacation needs

At Steve’s Heating and Cooling, we know how important your air conditioning is. We hope these tips gave you a better idea of how your air conditioner works and how best to take care of it. If you’re worried about how your air conditioner is performing, or if you want to get everything in tip-top shape before vacation, give us a call or request a free quote today.

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HVAC Maintenance Check List for Your Summer Tune-Up

We all want the perfect amount of heat during the winter and just the right amount of cool during the summer. And while this is perhaps most obvious during the months of subzero temperatures and scorching heat waves, home heating and air conditioning is usually the last thing on our mind when the weather is nice. But now isn’t just a time to crack the windows in your home and enjoy 70-degree weather. Now is also the best time for an HVAC inspection and maintenance.

If your heat pump or air conditioner malfunctions, you may have to go several days without it while you wait for a repair or – worse – several weeks without cool air if it needs to be replaced. You can prevent this from happening! Best of all, routine HVAC maintenance will also improve your system’s performance, extend its life, and reduce your energy bill. Talk about comfort on multiple levels!

Here are steps that you can take now so you can be comfortable this summer.

HVAC Maintenance Checklist

Homes with an HVAC system either have a heat pump or a conventional air conditioner. While each functions differently in the way they heat and cool your home, they typically benefit from the same, general maintenance. Moreover, both typically consist of two halves: an indoor unit and an accompanying outdoor unit. For your tune-up, we’ll start with your outside unit.

#1. Turn the Power Off

Before you begin working on your HVAC system, you need to turn the power off. Most outside units have a disconnector located only a few feet away. Most disconnectors consist of a handle that is covered by a lid or panel. Pulling on this handle will cut off power to the unit, but not the flow of electricity to the disconnector. In other words, the disconnector will remain “live.” It’s imperative that you cover the disconnector and ensure that none of its other areas are exposed before proceeding. For added safety, you can locate the breaker that controls your HVAC system and switch it off.

Safety should be your highest priority. If you have concerns at any point during this process, contact an HVAC technician to handle your heat pump or A/C maintenance for you.

Maintaining the Outdoor Unit

#2. Inspect the Unit Panels

Extreme weather is harsh on outside units. As you would expect, outdoor units are enclosed in panels that protect their electrical components from the elements. Check every side of the unit to ensure that panels are intact. If panels are missing or misaligned, possibly due to a storm, you could reattach or realign the panel if it’s a simple fix. However, if electrical components are exposed, you should contact an HVAC technician to fix it for you. If so, avoid starting your system again until the unit is fully enclosed.

#3. Clear Away Debris

Winter may have left dirt and debris in the exterior condenser or compressor of your unit. In this case, you can use a heavy-duty degreaser, a hand vacuum, and good old fashioned effort to clean away leaves and other waste caught in the unit. In most cases, you will also need a screwdriver or wrench to reach the interior.

Take this opportunity to cut back any vegetation within 2 feet around your unit. While shrubs are other plants are not direct obstructions, they can still affect the airflow around your unit.

#4. Repair or Replace Pipe Insulation

Check the conduit pipe that runs between your outside unit and its inside counterpart. When this pipe is properly insulated, it will maximize your energy efficiency and consequently save you money. Otherwise, you could be making your HVAC system work harder to do less and be paying more as a result. If your insulation is thin or disintegrated, you can repair or replace it with a layer of fiberglass, foam rubber, or polyethylene foam.

#5. Clean or Replace Air Filters

Like insulation, a clean air filter provides significant benefits for relatively minor work. Depending on HVAC system, your unit will either have filters that can be cleaned or filters that are disposable and will need to be replaced. Either way, make sure to clean or replace your filters every one to three months, unless instructed otherwise by your manufacturer.

Maintaining the Indoor Unit

Now is the time to move inside to work on your blower or furnace. Like before, safety is your highest priority. You’ll want to make sure that the power to the unit is cut off before moving forward.

#6. Clean the Evaporator Coil

Locate and open the door to your unit’s evaporator coil, removing any screws or bolts as necessary. With a soft brush, remove any dust that is present and then spray the coil with a commercial coil cleaner. Next, clean out the drain pan with a mixture of soap, hot water, and a little bit of bleach. Then, pour a mixture of half a cup of bleach with a half a cup of water down the drain. When you’re done, replace and seal the door.

#7. Check the Drainage Line

Algae and mold can build up within your drainage line causing it to either flow slowly or stop flowing altogether. In order to address this, locate your drainage hose, which is usually a one-inch PVC pipe, and follow it to the end where it trains. In some cases, the line will drain outside near your other unit; however, most will end at a utility sink or floor drain in your basement. Once you’ve located the end of the drain line, attach a vacuum hose to the opening. Finally, run the vacuum for a few minutes to clear away any potential mold or algae buildup inside.

#8. Change the Air Filters

Just like your outside unit, your blower or furnace requires air filters that need to be replaced on a regular basis. This means that you should follow the same steps as you did before while still paying special attention to the type of filter you use and your manufacturer’s guidelines.

#9. Test the Unit

Finally, it’s time to start up your system to check to see if it cools your home adequately. Does everything run smoothly? Does the temperature in your home reach the degree you want it to? Does the temperature in your home change in a reasonable amount of time?

Remember, if you encountered any kind of damage that gave you a reason for concern, you’ll want to skip this step and contact an HVAC technician instead. Moreover, if you’re not fully satisfied with the quality of air in your home, turn to a professional.

Receive Professional HVAC Maintenance

While these steps will help keep your heat pump or air conditioner in good shape, keep in mind that there are some maintenance items that only a professionally trained HVAC technician can handle. These advanced procedures, together with the items listed above, will ensure that your units are in top form and fully prepare for the summer ahead. Moreover, there may be instances where you lack the tools to do some of the aforementioned steps yourself. In either case, it’s a good idea to call an HVCA professional to make sure your system is blowing cool air – and not just blowing air – when it’s sweltering outside.

At Steve’s Heating & Cooling, our goal is to provide residents of Northern Kentucky and the surrounding tri-state with ideal home comfort. We provide emergency HVAC repair maintenance as well as free estimates for system repairs and replacements. Our certified technicians are available 24/7, 365 days a year and just a phone call or e-mail away! Call us at (859) 795-2172 or e-mail us and rest assured that you’re in good hands.

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HVAC Replacement

Why Replace a Furnace Sooner Rather Than Later?

When a family comes into a bit of extra money, they may decide to take a trip or buy a new car. They rarely jump right to, “Let’s replace the furnace.” However, there are several reasons why HVAC replacement may be a necessity, including:

  • Impending cold weather – many homes in sub-freezing climes depend on the furnace to keep pipes from freezing and bursting. Furnace replacement can lessen the possibility of much more expensive repairs.
  • Keeping utility bills under control – older furnaces tend to be less efficient.
  • Keeping HVAC operation safe – older or faulty units can pose a hazard to the family.

Warning Signs

Many families wait until their furnaces fail before taking action. However, a better strategy for reducing repair costs and keeping the HVAC system in tip-top shape is to watch for furnace warning signs.  These include:

  • The age of the furnace – units have an average life expectancy of 16 to 20 years. If your unit is long in the tooth, consider an inspection.
  • Rising gas or electric bills – aging units operate less efficiently than new or well-maintained units. This means that they run longer to heat the homes to the desired temperature. The high costs of utilities can quickly approach the replacement costs for a new unit.
  • Frequent repairs – like a car, a furnace will need more frequent repairs as time goes on. If the interval between repairs reaches the two year mark, replacement may be a good option.
  • The burner flame changes from a healthy blue to a sickly yellow – a yellow or flickering flame is an indication of poisonous carbon monoxide. Homeowners should take immediate action.
  • Furnace making strange noises – an older unit tends to make popping, rattling, banging, or squealing noises. Before you call the Ghost Hunters, let us inspect your unit.

Before these signs appear, consider setting up a program of annual inspections, in order to maintain your unit properly.

Let Us Take Care of You

Our experts at Steve’s Heating & Cooling are well-qualified to inspect, and if necessary, perform your HVAC replacement. Contact Us today for more information.

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Why You Should Be Proactive With Your HVAC System

It has been another hot summer in Cincinnati. The last thing you want is your air conditioning system dying out on you. Unfortunately, if you haven’t run your AC or HVAC unit since last winter, you stand a serious risk of it malfunctioning. And while we are always happy to come out and perform emergency maintenance on your unit, you would be much happier to avoid the problem in the first place! Here are just a few of the problems you can avoid by regularly maintaining your heating and cooling system throughout the year.

Inadequate Performance

First and foremost, your air conditioner exists to provide you with comfort. It should provide you with a cool, steady flow of air exactly when you want it and especially when you need it. Far too often, though, we fall into the mindset that air conditioning is a luxury, leading us to put off maintenance because the current quality of air is “good enough”. And while, at times, cool air is indeed a luxury, it’s never a benefit of owning an AC unit. You wouldn’t settle for a car that couldn’t provide transportation, so why would you settle for a cooling system with inadequate performance? An improper refrigerant charge, or the amount of refrigerant in the system, is one of the most common reasons why units fail to perform. While in some cases, too much refrigerant is to blame, the majority of problems are caused by a system having too little. This often occurs when the system has developed a leak. If this is the case, simply adding more refrigerant is not going to resolve the problem. Instead, a qualified AC or HVAC technician can identify the location of the leak, fix it, test the repair, and then charge the system with the correct amount of refrigerant. Doing so will ensure that your system has what its need to do its job.

Electric Control Failure

Compressor and fan controls wear out with use. Electrical wires also start to corrode over time. All of this, of course, means that an electrical malfunction is inevitable. This is why electrical connections and contacts need to be checked routinely by a professional. If serious damage has occurred, only a trained technician should handle the repairs.

Drainage Problems

An air conditioner’s drain line, or condensate line, helps remove condensation produced by an AC unit’s evaporator coil. Humidity can cause algae and mold to grow inside the drain and clog the system. When this happens, musty odors and water damage inside the home may occur. Cleaning is the condensate pan and drain line is a regular part of AC maintenance. In fact, the earlier a clog or blockage is treated, the less algae and mold you, your family, and—of course—your system has to deal with.

Receive AC or HVAC Maintenance from Steve’s Heating

All of this, of course, is why we recommend regular AC and HVAC maintenance. At Steve’s Heating and Cooling, we are proud to offer a professional HVAC maintenance plan. It’s not only a proactive way of maintaining the comfort in your home, but it will also help reduce allergens, dirt, and dust. Contact us at Steve’s Heating and Cooling to prevent problems, repair your units, or replace your systems altogether. Start enjoying cool air this summer with services your neighbors recommend!