Time to Check That Furnace Before You Are Left Out in the Cold

Sad but true, summer is over. The kids are back in school (a good thing) but that warm weather is on its way out (a not so good thing). Summer seems to get shorter each year. Before you know it, we will be bundling up and heading out for football games, roasting a turkey, getting ready for the holidays…and running that furnace.

Now may be a great time to brush up on furnace trivia courtesy of your local Philadelphia HVAC professional. No, furnace trivia is not the newest board game but things to be watchful for to suggest that your furnace is about to break down. We tend to forget about our dear furnaces throughout the summer but it’s best to brush up early.

Your heating system will often offer warning signs before a complete and total breakdown, fortunately for us. There are some common symptoms that we can watch for in order to head off inconvenient breakdowns in the middle of cold weather season.

Banging Noise

Your first indication of a furnace issue can show itself when you first turn the system on. If you hear a loud banging when your furnace starts, it could indicate a few things. One may be that the burner may be malfunctioning. Because gas builds up until the burner, ignites it, which can result in a loud bang. Think of it as a small explosion. Do you want a small explosion happening in your home? We didn’t think so.

Metal air ducts can also expand and contract as cold or warm air passes through them. This can also result in booming noises. The extenuating culprit may be obstructions at the vents, air filter, or simply ducts that aren’t adequate for your system.

More Noises

Are you hearing a high-pitched whining noise? This could be indicative of a blower belt problem or shaft bearing needed lubrication. A metallic scraping noise? A malfunctioning blower wheel or broken motor mount. Either sound should mean a quick call to your Philadelphia furnace repair technician.

Cold Air When There Should be Warm Air

There may be several reasons that your furnace is generating cold air. The easiest thing to consider is your thermostat. Your thermostat should be set to “auto”, not “on”. This will ensure that only heated air is being generated when necessary instead of continuous, and possibly cold air being generated instead. Another issue may be with a clogged air filter. Your air filter may be restricting airflow and can potentially overheat your system. The system will stop heating air as a precaution.

Get a Head Start

If you are smart, you will get a head start on checking on your heating system, so you will be warm this winter while others are calling their Philadelphia HVAC repair companies for repairs. Call Affordable Fixes LLC to get a head start on your heating system before cold weather moves in.

How to Prepare Your Air Conditioning For Winter

Although it’s the end of summer, there are some last minute considerations before you tuck your cooling systems away for the year. Home maintenance never ends. The same goes for your heating and cooling systems. In order for you to ensure that your air conditioning system will work without problems come next summer, it’s important to prepare it for a long winter slumber.

The outdoor component of your AC system is subject to winter weather in the way of snow, ice, and oxidation. It is also subject to yard debris. A quick winterization can prevent damage and rust and ensure that your air conditioning system is kept from harmful weather and will operate smoothly and efficiently next summer.

Turn Off the Power

Your exterior power circuit for your AC system is located on the side of your home. Lift the cover and flip the switch to the “off” position, then close the lid. This is important to ensure that there is no risk of electrocution while you are maintaining your unit. It also ensures that your air conditioner doesn’t accidentally engage during an unseasonably warm day, possibly resulting in a nighttime freeze and subsequent damage.

Clean Your Unit

Using a broom, sweep away any leaves or yard debris that may be on or surrounding your unit. Use a hose to wash away any dirt or other debris. Allow the unit to dry. Making sure your unit is clean ensures that it won’t get clogged during the winter resulting in a breakdown when you turn it back on next summer. Inspect it for any cracks or rust that may become potential problems. Finding problems now cuts the risk for a breakdown in the middle of the summer. If you see any problems, call your Philadelphia AC repair technician.

Cover Your Unit

There are covers specifically made for your outdoor AC unit. You may also use any type of waterproof or vinyl covering in order to protect it during the upcoming winter. Make sure the covering is secured so it doesn’t blow away in the wind.

Provide Extra Insulation

The exposed pipes and wiring around your unit should be insulated, particularly those that go into the home. This insulation keeps pipes, fluid, and wires from freezing and cracking.

Check Periodically

Throughout the winter months, you will want to check your AC unit weekly in order to clear away any accumulated debris and to remove any water or ice that may have accumulated on top of the unit. This accumulated weight can be potentially damaging.

This seasonal maintenance will extend the life of your AC system, fend off potential problems, and enable you to check for any issues before the next summer season begins. If you do find any irregularities, make sure to call the Philadelphia air conditioning repair professionals at Affordable Fixes LLC to address any issues before they turn into costly malfunctions.

Frozen Pipes Are No Joke

It’s difficult to think about winter just yet as the last remains of summer are so close, but the reality is that winter is inevitable. And with it comes some inherent problems when it comes to our household plumbing.

Unless you have experienced it or know someone who has, you may not appreciate that frozen pipes are not only inconvenient but can be extremely damaging to your home and your belongings. One of the most important things to consider when doing regular home maintenance is considering how your plumbing will stand up to winter weather.

Areas That Are More Vulnerable

In many cases, pipes are vulnerable to freezing when the homeowner is away and temperatures inside dip to below freezing. But this is not always the case. Pipes can freeze in certain areas of the home even if you are home and living comfortably inside. When it comes to frozen pipes, there are areas of the home that are most vulnerable.

Exterior walls — any pipes located along the exterior wall of a home will experience lower temperatures. If these pipes are not adequately insulated, they will have no protection against those winter temperatures and can be vulnerable to freezing.
Attics and basements — pipes that are located in attics and basements may be more vulnerable to freezing. Out of sight, out of mind, they say. But these areas of your home may be more susceptible to cold temperatures and require that added insulation.

Early Signs

One of the first signs that your pipes may be frozen is the lack of water coming through them. If water is not coming through your household faucets, it’s a sure sign that there may be a frozen obstruction. If you see frost on any of your pipes or you are experiencing strange smells coming from your drains or faucets, this can be another indication.

What to Do

If you suspect that a pipe may be frozen, it’s important to act immediately. If you know the location that is frozen, you can work to quickly thaw the area or call your Philadelphia plumber for an emergency call.

If you choose to thaw the pipe yourself, you should open both hot and cold handles of the faucet that the pipe feeds into. If the pipe is easily accessible, you can apply heat until you see that water is moving through the faucet. This can be done with a hair dryer, a heat lamp or space heater, hot towels, or electrical heating tape.

If the pipe isn’t accessible, but you know basically where the frozen area is located, you can place an infrared lamp at the location and turn up the heat in the home.

Prevention Techniques

To ensure that you aren’t a victim of a frozen pipe this winter, here are some recommendations from the American Red Cross:

Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply pipes inside.
Open cabinet doors to permit warm air closer circulation to pipes in the kitchen and bathrooms.
If the weather is excessively cold, let water slowly drip from any faucet that may be fed by outside pipes.
Keep the thermostat consistent both day and night. Lower nighttime temperatures can equal costly repairs.
If you leave your home for an extended period, keep the heat on in your home with the thermostat set no lower than 55°F.

Call a Professional

In the case where you have not been able to head off a plumbing emergency due to frozen pipes, call the emergency Philadelphia plumbers at Affordable Fixes LLC.

Summer Routine Checks for Your HVAC and Plumbing

Affordable Fixes, LLC is one of the most trustworthy and dependable air conditioning, heating, and plumbing contractors in the greater Philadelphia area.

How to Keep Your Indoor Air Clean and Pollutant-Free

If you’re like most homeowners, unless you have a family member who suffers from respiratory issues, you probably give little thought to your indoor air quality. Many of us feel strongly about the environment but give very little thought to the indoor environment we live in daily.

Indoor Pollution

According to the people at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there is a growing body of evidence that air inside our home and buildings are more polluted than the outdoor air. This is quite concerning for most of us, especially since we spend nearly 90 percent of our time indoors.

Bring Nature Inside

One way you can clean your indoor air is by bringing houseplants in. As they rely on carbon dioxide to live and expel oxygen, it is a perfect indoor filtering option.

Open Windows

During good weather, keep windows open as much as possible. Newer homes, in particular, get very little outdoor air circulation and tend to re-circulate air over and over. Keeping floors clean will also lessen particles that may end up being circulated in your indoor space.

Change Your Air Filter

By changing your air filters regularly, you reduce the particles that get caught and often clog your system. A clogged filter can actually do more harm than good by re-circulating allergens and particles back into your home.

The typical HVAC system will circulate over 1,000 cubic feet of air each minute through its filter. Philadelphia HVAC repair professionals suggest you change your filter every 2 to 6 months depending on the number of occupants and whether you have pets.

Cut Down on Mold and Mildew

Humidity trapped inside your home can become a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and mildew. The EPA suggests that indoor humidity levels should be between 30 and 60 percent. By utilizing dehumidifiers and exhaust fans, you can manage the humidity levels inside your home to a healthy level and cut down on the possibility of mold taking up residence there.

Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

We hear each year about families who have succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning, often because of badly maintained or fitted heaters or clogged fireplaces. Because carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, your best line of defense is an installed carbon monoxide detector inside your home.

Keep Your Air Well Ventilated

Because we tend to re-circulate stale air during certain times of the year, it’s important to balance this with clean, fresh air. Many homeowners are choosing to install heat recovery ventilators in their homes.

These use a dedicated duct in order to remove stale air while circulating the same volume of fresh air indoors. There is a heat exchange core inside the controller that keeps incoming fresh air consistent with the temperature of the indoor air.

Ask your local Philadelphia HVAC contractor how a heat recovery ventilator can help your indoor air quality. The HVAC professionals at Affordable Fixes LLC would be happy to answer any indoor air quality questions you may have. Call us today.

Is A Zoned HVAC System Right For Your Family?

Summer is in full swing here and you are relying on your air conditioner to keep you cool on a daily basis. But you may be noticing that your air conditioning struggles to keep certain areas of your home cool. Particularly if you have a large or several story home, you may find that temperature regulation is spotty and uneven. Even if temperature regulation is not a problem, heating and cooling areas of your home that aren’t used often or only used at certain times of the day is a waste of hard earned money.

If you are considering a new system in the near future, Philadelphia HVAC contractors are suggesting that you may want to think about a zoned cooling system for your home.

Are You Sacrificing Your Comfort?

With a zoned HVAC system, you won’t have to sacrifice comfort for savings. Not only is a tired old system not working efficiently but replacing it with a zoned one will allow you to only heat and cool those areas you need.

Your Current System is a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

If you consider your current system, you can make a simple analogy. Would you turn on all the lights in your home with one switch, regardless of whether you were using that area or not? Of course not. It’s simply not an efficient way of lighting your home. Yet, this is exactly what you are doing with your heating and cooling.

Closing Vents is Not an Answer

Most homeowners don’t realize that simply closing vents will not provide the effect of regulating specific room temperatures. In fact, closing or blocking vents can even make your system work harder. Your system relies on that balanced airflow to work properly. Cutting off proper airflow to certain areas of the home by closing vents may cause your system to work inefficiently. So, you are left heating and cooling all areas of your home regardless of whether you are using that area.

Customized Temperature Control

If you also consider that members of your household are not all comfortable at the same temperature, it just makes sense to be able to maintain different temperatures for specific zones in order for your family to be comfortable.

How Does It Work?

A zoned system uses strategically places dampers within the ductwork of your heating and cooling system. Thermostats are set to control each zone to its own particular temperature. A zoned system will not need to work as hard to cool or heat the entire home and will be able to keep each area to its own specified temperature.

If you would like more information about zoned systems, call the Philadelphia HVAC contractors at Affordable Fixes LLC. We will explain how a zoned system may work beautifully for custom temperature regulation in your home and save you money on energy bills.

Save Energy While You Keep Your Cool This Summer

In the middle of summer, you may be feeling frustrated with regulating temperatures to keep you comfortable. Too hot. Too cold. You may find your thermostat getting a real workout and it is sure to show in your monthly energy bills. But our Philadelphia AC repair pros are here to offer some simple tips to allow you to be comfortable while still saving on those high electric bills this summer.

The Battle Between Outside and Inside Air

Your air conditioning is waging a constant battle with the outside air temperature. The larger the difference between the outdoor air and the desired inside air temperature, the harder it must work. And the harder your air conditioner works, the more you spend on energy. When considering the outdoor air temperature, you must make a decision what your temperature comfort level will be as close to possible as that outside temperature and set your thermostat accordingly.

So, what does that mean? If you are coming in from a hot outdoor temperature, you may immediately go for your thermostat and set it down to a temperature that is unreasonably cold. Your thinking is that it will cool your home down faster but it’s flawed thinking. Your air conditioning is limited in its capability to cool hot air down quickly and it is a matter of patience on your part. If it is hot outside, set your thermostat at your reasonably comfortable temperature. And wait.

Programmable and Smart Thermostats

If your thermostat is programmable, use this feature to ensure that your home cools down at a certain time of the day before you come home. In this way, you will not be cooling your home needlessly while no one is at home and coming home to a hot and uncomfortable house. New smart thermostats allow you to control temperature settings from your smartphone and change them in real time. This is a great advantage for a busy family that keeps inconsistent schedules.

Maintenance and Filter Replacement

Maintaining your system is key to keeping air moving efficiently and effectively. Make sure that any air filters are replaced regularly. A clogged and dirty air filter is by far the biggest reason that air conditioners struggle to circulate air and maintain proper temperatures during the summer and cause breakdowns to occur.

Add Some Fans

Ceiling or box fans offer added relief during the summer months. Although fans do nothing to regulate the temperature, the movement of circulated air makes the air feel cooler and less stagnant. In many cases, homeowners can keep their air conditioning set a few degrees higher just by incorporating a few fans in the home to move air around. And fans take far less energy than your air conditioning system.

If you find your air conditioning is still struggling to keep you cool this summer, call the Philadelphia air conditioning repair experts at Affordable Fixes LLC. There is no need to get hot under the collar with an experienced professional to the rescue.

How to Determine the Best Air Filter For Your HVAC System

You may not realize it but when it comes to your heating and cooling systems, the most important component is your simple air filter. The filter cleans incoming air before it is temperature controlled and distributed throughout the house. Because your filter is the first line of defense in protecting your Philadelphia HVAC system, filters should be changed once a month.

Two Important Functions

Your air filter has two important functions. One is to protect your system from dust or other particles that can cause wear and reduce efficiency. The second purpose is to keep any dust, allergens, pollutants, or even pet dander from being distributed inside your home. In this way, it not only helps your system condition the temperature of the air but also protects your interior air quality. There are filters that are designed to do one better than the other.

Air Filter Classifications

Air filters are classified by their type and their minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV rating. The MERV rating specifically deals with the filter’s ability to remove particles and pollutants from the air. The higher the rating, the better it performs in keeping air quality at its best.

Disposable Filters

Disposable filters are the most inexpensive filters. They utilize fine fiberglass or polyester mesh to remove particles that are coming in from the air. These will typically have the lowest MERV rating of between 1 and 4 and are specifically designed to protect your system.

Reusable Filters

Although these types offer about the same MERV rating as disposable filters, there is a cost savings associated with these because they can be cleaned and reused. Like the disposable filters, these filters are designed to primarily protect your system.

Pleated Filters

Pleated filters use fiberglass, polyester or some other synthetic folded into pleats. This serves to increase the surface area of the filter in order to remove more particulates. The MERV rating on these is between 5 and 13. These provide a bit more air quality filtering capability than typical disposable filters.

Electrostatic Filters

Electrostatic filters utilize an electric charge in order to attract airborne particles as they pass through. With this added feature, they have a higher MERV rating at about 15. But electrostatic filters are not compatible with all HVAC systems.

HEPA Filters

HEPA filters are the most effective for air quality. With a MERV rating of between 17 and 20, these filters have been shown to remove over 99 percent of air contaminants. But these are typically too restrictive for normal home HVAC use. They are much more expensive and require a far greater amount of air pressure in order to force air through.

Which is the Best One for You?

For the typical homeowner, an air filter with a MERV rating of 8 to 10 should be sufficient for a home system. Although more high-efficiency filters remove larger quantities of airborne particles, the typical household HVAC system is not compatible and may be taxed when using these. The best way to determine which filter is best for your system is to check your owner’s manual or consult with a Philadelphia HVAC repair technician.

Is a Smart Thermostat a Smart Choice For You?

Smart technology is all the rage. And smart thermostats are one of the ways that smart technology has made its way into our homes. Could your family benefit from a smart thermostat? Let’s take a look.

What is a Smart Thermostat?

A thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature in your home. Many homes already have programmable thermostats that allow you to set your thermostat to allow that temperature to adjust for given times of the day or days of the week. Smart thermostats are now one of the leading smart home applications today and Philadelphia AC repair technicians are installing more of them than ever before. So, what can a smart thermostat offer that your basic programmable thermostat can’t?

What is the Difference?

Basically, a smart thermostat connects to your WiFi and can be controlled by your smartphone app. But not only can you control your home’s thermostat anywhere and at any time, but some smart thermostats learn your patterns and behaviors. It can also let you see your home’s energy consumption and can even adjust things like the humidity in your home. Some models even have Alexa service built into the unit. Having your thermostat order groceries takes the “smart” even one step further.

Real Time Information

Most smart thermostats enable you to see how long it will take to make the temperature change you’ve requested and allows you to understand how effective your system really is. It will also discourage those family members who may always adjust the thermostat excessively whenever they are feeling particularly hot or cold. The ease of controlling your temperature remotely is very convenient when on vacation and need to adjust the temperature for your return.

For the average consumer, smart thermostats can offer:

  • Energy savings
  • Peace of mind
  • Convenience

Energy Savings

Having a smart thermostat can save energy. Recent tests show that smart thermostats can realize a savings of about $50 annually or more.

Peace of Mind

With your ability to monitor the energy usage in your home, you will have an idea of what is going on at all times. This can be a great tool for parents and frequent travelers.

Convenience

The ability to control your home’s temperature at any time from your smartphone enables you to come home to comfort no matter when that is.

Installation

Some thermostats are designed for the DIY enthusiast including all the necessary tools and access to installation videos, but research indicates that those who try to install a smart thermostat themselves usually end up calling a Philadelphia HVAC contractor.

If you are interested in having a smart thermostat installed, call the experts at Affordable Fixes LLC to ensure that it is done right. Old or new technology, we are the choice of most Philadelphia homeowners when it come to their HVAC.

Is Your House Leaking Air?

Summer is nearly here and that means long, hot, humid days in the Philadelphia area. And when you run your air conditioning system, you want to be sure that your cool air stays inside your home and the hot air stays outside. What you may not be aware of is the hundreds of little ways your home may be sabotaging that endeavor and wasting hard earned cash on energy leaks.

A Leaking Home is Losing Energy Dollars

Your heating and cooling costs account for more than 50 percent of your household energy costs. Don’t allow small areas of air intrusion and leakage to put a larger dent in your wallet than necessary. Check your home for areas that may be leaking air — and your money!

Small Cracks and Holes

Philadelphia HVAC contractors know that small cracks and holes can account for nearly 25 percent of energy loss. Before the dog days of summer are upon us, make sure your home is sealed and insulated. Your local HVAC technician can conduct an evaluation to help you detect areas that may be allowing your home to leak air. Or you can do a simple DIY check.

DIY Ways to Check for Leaks

Checking for leaks can be as simple as using an incense stick around openings. Seal your home by closing all doors and windows and close all the vents in your home. Make sure you turn on all exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms. Pressurizing your home this way will help you detect air leaks easier.

Then pass a burning incense stick around all the openings in your home. Not only can air leak in from obvious places such as doors and windows but also outlets, skylights, and fireplaces. The smoke from the incense stick will show where you may have leakages.

Check Your Seals

When it comes to windows and doors, air can leak around improperly sealed areas, particularly if the windows or doors in your home are older. Usually, these are simple fixes with a little caulk. Check all weather stripping around your doors and make sure the doors fit securely and hinges are tight. If there are areas where you can see daylight around the doors or windows, make sure to seal these areas.

Insulate Your Attic

One of the ways that homes typically leak air is through the attic. One of the best ways to insulate your home is to make sure your attic is properly insulated. This will save you loads on energy bills, primarily in the winter when your heated air is leaking outside.

Call a Professional

When you are looking for a professional HVAC contractor in Philadelphia, call the experts at Affordable Fixes, LLC. For over 30 years, we have provided trustworthy and dependable heating, cooling, and plumbing services to our clients in the greater Philadelphia area. Call us today if you need air conditioning or heating services you can trust.