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Archive for October, 2013

23
Oct

There are some heating and cooling problems that are easy to identify and fix. A tech is going to notice right away if there’s a coolant leak in your air conditioner, or if there’s a faulty pilot light. But sometimes, it takes a little out-of-the-box thinking to solve a problem. Recently, we were able to help a Montgomery County homeowner fix a problem that had been plaguing their family for more than three years.

The customer noticed persistent problems with their air conditioning system. It just wasn’t working right or getting their home cool enough. Over the years, they had five different companies to their house to look at the problem. None of the solutions they found worked. Even when they called us, it took us a few visits to narrow down the problem area. After all, the system seemed to work but refrigerant seemed to be escaping from somewhere.   After reviewing the equipment in detail we figured this leak had to be in the line.  It is very rare for a system to have a leak in the line but it happens.  There are refrigerant lines between the AC system and the coil that sits on the furnace.  These lines run through the walls of the home.

When we cut a small hole in the wall, we saw the problem: There was a nail which punctured the refrigerant line! Of course the air conditioner couldn’t work properly with two holes in the line. But how did it happen? It turns out that three years ago, the family had a contractor do some work on their home. While hanging trim, the contractor put a nail in the wrong place. The trim looked great, but the AC problems had persisted ever since.

This was an extremely difficult to find problem. It required time and special expertise to narrow the problem down to the internal system, rather than the air conditioner unit itself. And it required a willingness to think outside the box for new solutions to problems. Even we were surprised when we found the nail, but mostly, we were glad we could finally give the customer the comfort they’d been missing for years. It just goes to show how important it is to choose an experienced Maryland HVAC contractor for your home.

If other companies haven’t been able to solve your problem, maybe we can help. We’d love the chance to make you and your family feel more comfortable in your home.

Category : Air Conditioning | Blog
16
Oct

It doesn’t feel like fall in Montgomery County just yet, but believe it or not, winter is coming whether you’re ready or not. The last thing you want is to wake up in the morning when that cold snap finally comes and realize that your furnace has given up the ghost.

The single best way to reduce your chance of waking up to freezing temperatures is to have your heating tune-up now. Ideally, you should have these checks twice a year—once for your air conditioner, and once to make sure your furnace is up to snuff. During these checks, your technician takes a detailed look at what’s going on inside your HVAC system. Typically, this will include:

  • Checking the belts and tightening or replacing as needed
  • Examining all the moving parts to make sure they’re in good repair and well-lubricated
  • Check burners, ducts, flue and the other conduits of your heating system
  • Notice any oil or gas leaks
  • Replace worn parts as needed
  • Note any possible problems
  • Prepare your air conditioner for winter

It’s a thorough and exhaustive list. Now, you might think that you’ll be okay without your checkup this year. And you might be. But even if you’re feeling just fine, you probably go to the doctor once a year just to be sure. If your doctor can spot a cold before it becomes pneumonia or a sprain before it becomes a break, you can save yourself a lot of time, pain and trouble. The exact same thing is true with your HVAC system. Replacing a part is much easier (and less expensive!) than replacing an entire furnace because the motor burned itself out, but once it’s passed the point of no return, we might have to go for the more expensive option.

If you find yourself forgetting to schedule your appointment—hey, we all get busy—consider enrolling in our maintenance program. GAC Cooling & Heating (Gaithersburg Air Conditioning & Heating) offers an annual discount on your heating and air conditioner checks, plus reminder calls and priority service. So stop worrying and trying to remember and let us take care of it for you.

Personally, we’re hoping this balmy weather holds out as long as possible in Maryland, but we’re realistic enough to know that winter is coming. So don’t be caught by surprise—schedule your maintenance call today.

Category : Heating | Blog
9
Oct

If you’ve ever woken up on a frosty winter night to find yourself completely without heat, you know it’s not a pleasant experience. The best way to protect yourself against this situation is with regular maintenance checks, but if it slipped your mind this fall, here are a few warning signs that your furnace may be on its last legs. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact GAC Cooling & Heating (Gaithersburg Air Conditioning & Heating) right away. We may be able to fix a small problem before it becomes a big issue, or get you a new furnace before you’re left in the cold.

  1. Strange noises. All furnaces make noises; that’s no surprise. But you’re probably fairly well attuned to the various thumps and whirs your HVAC system makes. If you notice an unusual new sound, like squeaks, squeals, pops or rattles, it might indicate that something has come loose or failed inside your furnace. If you notice the blower is running more frequently than it used to, that’s also a red flag.
  2. Strange smells. If you have a gas furnace and smell rotten eggs, call us immediately, as you may have a gas leak. If you notice a more electrical smell, almost like metal or burning iron, it may be a problem with your motor. Items may be rubbing together, not lubricating properly or something may have burned out all together.
  3. You aren’t comfortable. Is your home too hot or too cold, even though you’ve got the thermostat set properly? Is the system taking quite some time to warm up, or even blowing cold air? When service gets spotty, it’s eventually going to give out. Nip it in the bud before it does.
  4. Your furnace is old. Yes, there are some furnaces that can take a licking and keep on ticking, but in most cases, 15-20 years is the expected life expectancy of a furnace. If you know yours is getting up there in years, have it checked out just as a precaution. Our techs will be able to tell you if it looks like it can survive for a few more years or if you’d be better off replacing it. Of course, you also might want to replace it to take advantage of energy savings and valuable manufacturer and tax rebates.

If you have any concerns about your furnace, give us a call. We want to keep you feeling warm and comfortable, not living in fear that your furnace might give out at any second. If you’re a homeowner in Montgomery County or Frederick County, Maryland, we’d love to help.

Category : Heating | Blog
4
Oct

When you’re a homeowner in Maryland, you strive each day to make sure it is safe, clean, and comfortable. With winter just around the river bend corner, your heating system is probably one of your top priorities. You might be wondering if you should get it serviced before the cold really hits, whether it will last another year, or if you should bite the bullet and replace it, what you should replace it with, and more.
Obviously, a heating system is not a small investment. That’s why we’ve put together the ultimate Maryland home heating guide so you can make the most informed decision as possible when it comes to heating your home.

Choosing a Heating System

Most Maryland homeowners choose to heat their houses with a furnace or heat pump (click here if you’re confused on the difference between a heat pump and a furnace).
Furnaces

Types of Furnaces

There are several different types of furnaces you can choose from for your home. Which one you choose will usually depend on which type of fuel source is readily (and cheaply!) available in your area:

  • Natural gas furnaces – In most areas, it costs much less to heat your home with natural gas than with electric, oil, or propane. Natural gas furnaces produce less carbon dioxide, making natural gas furnace installation an environmentally-friendly option.
  • Propane furnaces – Propane furnaces offer fast heating at high temperatures and will heat your home even in the event of a power failure.
  • Oil furnaces – Depending on the cost of natural gas in your city, oil furnaces can be the least expensive way to heat your home in some areas.

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency

Of course there are other things to consider in addition to fuel source. If you’re interested in installing a fuel efficient furnace (which, I mean, why wouldn’t you be?), you’re going to want to look for one with a high Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. For example, Bryant gas furnaces operate between 80 percent and 97 percent AFUE.

Choosing the Right Size Furnace

Your furnace needs to be sized to accommodate your home’s unique heating needs. In order to do this, a professional needs to measure your home and calculate its heating and cooling load. This calculation is based on your home’s square footage, windows, walls, ceiling, floor plan, appliances, insulation, exterior, and more.). A professional will also consider your duct configuration, number of home occupants, and your lifestyle before recommending the ideal furnace size for your home.

Furnace FAQs

Is it okay to install a different brand of air conditioner and furnace?
Yes – most brands of HVAC equipment will work properly together provided the coils and blowers are the proper size. At worst, you’ll see a slight drop in efficiency or capacity.
How long will my furnace last?
With proper maintenance, you can expect your furnace to last 15-20 years.
When should I replace my furnace?
The following symptoms usually indicate that it’s time to replace your furnace:

  • Frequent pilot light outages
  • Delayed ignition
  • Yellow flame or wavering flame
  • Excessive soot or corrosion
  • Too much or too little heat
  • The smell of sulfur or burnt eggs

What do I need to do to maintain my furnace?
Your furnace will perform more efficiently and last longer if you keep it well maintained. This includes things like:

  • Inspecting filters once a month and changing them if they are dirty
  • Making sure the supply and return vents in your home are not obstructed by things like furniture, curtains, boxes, toys, etc.
  • Checking your chimney and venting systems once a year for secure fittings, leaks, corrosion, or damage
  • Keeping the area around your furnace clean and clutter free for at least three to four feet on all sides
  • Allowing adequate combustion air for your furnace, making sure it has enough space to breathe

Are there tax credits or rebates for a new furnace?
Furnaces with a 95 AFUE or higher can qualify for tax credits in 2013. Click here for more info.

Heat Pumps

We discuss the benefits of heat pump installation pretty regularly on our website, so we probably don’t need to go into too many details here. However, keep in mind when you’re choosing a new heating system that:

  • Heat pumps both heat and cool your home
  • Heat pumps are an energy efficient heating option
  • Heat pumps can help you lower your heating bills
  • Heat pumps allow you to use hybrid heating

Types of Heat Pumps

There are two main types of heat pumps you can install in your home:

  • Ground source heat pumps – Also known as geothermal heat pumps, these heat pumps are electrically powered and transfer ground source heat from the ground into your home during the winter (and operate in reverse during the summer).
  • Air source heat pumps – Rather than transferring heat from the ground, an air source heat pump transfers outdoor air heat indoors during the winter (and operates in reverse during the summer).

Heat Pump FAQs

Will a heat pump work well in cold climates?
Heat pump installation used to be mostly recommended to those that live in moderate climate areas—like Maryland. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat pumps do not generally perform well during extended periods of sub-freezing temperatures. But as heating technology improves, more and more manufacturers offer heat pumps that are suitable to those living in colder climates.
For colder climates, we recommend something along the lines of Bryant’s Extreme Heat Pump—which delivers twice the capacity in freezing temperatures.
Are there tax credits or rebates for a new heat pump?
Yep! The following heat pumps qualify for a $300 HVAC tax credits in 2013:

  • Split system electric heat pumps with 8.5 HSPF, 12.5 EER, and 15 SEER
  • Packaged electric heat pumps with 8.0 HSPF, 12.0 EER, and 14 SEER

Click here to learn which heat pumps qualify for Pepco rebates.
Is a heat pump better than an air conditioner?
Heat pumps both cool and heat your home—meaning there is no need to purchase, install, repair, and maintain two HVAC systems. In the summer, your heat pump transfers your indoor heat to the outdoors rather than converting energy into heat. Because they don’t convert energy into heat, a heat pump can save you money on your energy bills while still keeping your home comfortable. Additionally, heat pumps are more effective at dehumidifying than air conditioners.

Heating Accessories

Now that you’ve (hopefully) decided what type of heating system you want for your home, you can start to think about what other types of heating accessories you need to compliment your system and further increase its efficiency. Bonus points? You’ll also be increasing your home comfort.

Programmable Thermostats

While you don’t necessarily NEED a programmable thermostat, they do make it a lot easier to save energy and stay more comfortable. You can program the thermostat so that it raises and lowers the temperature automatically to meet your needs, i.e. lowering it when no one is home and raising it when everyone gets home. Programmable thermostats are particularly effective when your household is on a regular schedule and the program operates continuously.

Humidifiers

You love that your heating system keeps you warm, but you probably don’t love that it dries out your air. If you have a heat pump, you likely won’t experience dry air and will therefore not need to worry about a humidifier.

For furnaces, however, a whole house humidifier can be a great investment to improve your home comfort and also save you money. A home with higher humidity will feel warmer, allowing you to be more comfortable at lower temperatures.

Zoning System

A zoning system consists of control, automatic motorized dampers and temperature sensors working in conjunction with your heating system. The dampers are placed inside the supply ducts to control the airflow to specific areas of your home. The temperature sensors are located in the separate zones of your home. It’s similar to having a separate thermostat in each area communicating with your heating system—allowing each zone to be heated independently.

High Efficiency Air Filters

High efficiency air filters remove even the smallest pollutants from the air in your home—making them ideal for your heating system if anyone in your family suffers from respiratory problems or allergies. A highly efficient filter will also extend equipment life and reduce fuel consumption by 10-15 percent. Remember, it is vital that you clean or replace your air filter regularly.

Taking Care of Your Heating System

To extend the life of your furnace or heat pump, we recommend the following:

Choosing a Heating Contractor

Now that you’ve decided which system you want and any accessories you might need, we decided we’d help you with a final crucial step: choosing an HVAC contractor in Maryland to install your new heating system.

Until you find an HVAC company you are comfortable with and that you trust, we recommend getting at least three estimates from three different companies.

The company you choose is the most important decision you’ll make regarding your new heating system. Proper installation, the expertise of the consultants, reliability and convenience of their support, and your comfort level should be the major factors behind your final decision.

Of course, if you’re ready to choose GAC as your HVAC contractor in Maryland, we certainly won’t be upset! In addition to being NATE certified, a Bryant factory authorized dealer, and having won various awards and many customer testimonials, you’ll also benefit from the following when you choose GAC:

  • On-time service
  • 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed
  • Up-front pricing
  • Fully stocked trucks
  • And respect for your home

Call us today or fill out a form for a free heating replacement system estimate.

Category : Energy & Money Saving Tips | Heating | Blog
3
Oct

Even if you have the best, finest air filter in the world, you might not be doing all you can to keep your family safe from airborne irritants like dust mites, mold and bacteria. Most filters just trap those microscopic particles, but as air continues to pass through them, those particles can escape and make their way into your house. The only way to be sure the particles are gone for sure is to make them disappear all together.

Our favorite way to get rid of almost all airborne nasties is the Bryant Evolution® Perfect Air Purifier. Just like the name implies, it purifies and improves air quality even as it filters. Here’s how it works: As the air enters the purifier, it’s given a negative ionic charge. Think of this as turning the particles into little iron fillings. The filter itself draws those particles in until they stick to the filter like filings to a magnet. This method is ultra-effective, catching 95% of particles before they ever make their way into your living space. Pretty cool, huh? But it gets better.

Like we said, it’s not enough just to trap the particles. Once they’ve stuck to the filter, an electric charge is fired at each particle. Zap! The particle disappears, like a bug smashing into a bug zapper. The Bryant Evolution® Perfect Air Purifier gets rid of 99% of particles it traps. In the short-term, you might find yourself breathing more easily as more irritants are trapped in the filter. In the long-run, you might find that you and your family are staying healthier. This purifier can screen out common viruses and bacteria, including the common cold, the flu, SARS, measles and more.

The purification process is ongoing, and air is re-purified, not just filtered, every time it passes through. Depending on how often your HVAC system is scheduled to kick on, your air may be filtered as much as eight times an hour. Now that’s some clean air! The purifier can be fitted onto any ducted system without retrofitting.

Now, how do you know if you need a purifier like this? Here are some folks who often benefit from a new air purifier:

  • Children
  • Seniors
  • People with asthma
  • People with allergies
  • People prone to illness
  • Smokers

In short? If you’re worried about the air your family is breathing, you should consider an air purifier. At GAC Cooling & Heating (Gaithersburg Air Conditioning & Heating) we work with families in Montgomery County and Frederick County. Call us today to see if you’d benefit from cleaner air.

Category : Air Quality | Blog