Q. How often should my furnace be cleaned and inspected?
A. Manufacturers recommend annual maintenance by a service professional.
Q. How long should my old furnace and air conditioner last?
A. Typically a furnace or air conditioner will last 15-20 years. Sometimes it pays to replace the old system sooner because of the higher efficiency (and lower gas and electric bills) provided by newer equipment.
Q. My gas and electric bills are high. Will a new furnace and air conditioner lower my bills?
A. YES! A new 16 SEER air conditioner can usually cut the electricity used by the old air conditioner in half. Even a 13 SEER air conditioner (this is the minimum efficiency the federal government allows to be sold) will cut the electricity used by approximately 40%. A new 90% furnace can usually cut the gas used by the old furnace by as much as 30%, and a new 80% (minimum allowed by the federal government) will use approximately 20% less.
Q. What is SEER?
A. This stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. Like the rating of cars in mpg (miles per gallon), the higher the SEER, the lower the electrical consumption.
Q. Shouldn’t I install the highest SEER air conditioner available?
A. In our climate, 13 SEER is considered “standard” efficiency (this is the minimum efficiency the federal government allows to be sold) and 16 SEER is “high” efficiency. The initial investment is higher for a 16 SEER than a 13 SEER, but the electricity savings will usually pay for the difference in 5-7 years. The higher SEER equipment doesn’t remove humidity as well as older, lower SEER equipment, so it is important that the new air conditioner be sized properly so it runs long enough to remove humidity (so you don’t have a cool, but “sticky” home).
Q. What is a heat pump? Is it better than an air conditioner?
A. In the summer, a heat pump is just like an air conditioner. In the winter, a heat pump operates in reverse and heats the indoors. Heat pumps need auxiliary heat (electric resistance heat or gas furnace) to help them when it is really cold or when the thermostat is moved more than 2 degrees at a time. The initial investment for a heat pump is higher than for an air conditioner; they have higher maintenance costs; and the ductwork must be exactly “right” for proper operation. One common complaint of a heat pump is that the air coming out of the registers is not hot enough (compared to a gas furnace). With all of their drawbacks, heat pumps will reduce the winter heating bills. If you have a gas furnace, the savings usually isn’t enough to justify a heat pump, however if you have electric heating, the savings is dramatic and you will probably want to stay with a heat pump.
Q. Should I replace my furnace and air conditioner at the same time, or can they be installed separately?
A. Either way. If they are installed at the same time, the coil cabinet (part of the air conditioner that sits on top of the furnace) will match the furnace in color and style. Also it may be more convenient to replace them at the same time, but they will operate okay whether they are installed at the same time or not.
Q. It’s winter and I need a new furnace and air conditioner. Should I wait until spring to buy a new air conditioner?
A. If you think you are going to install an air conditioner in a few months you probably want to have it installed with the furnace. Generally the cost will be lower to have an air conditioner installed in the winter. Also, the warranty doesn’t begin until we “start up” the unit in the Spring.
Q. It’s summer and I need a new air conditioner. Should I install a new furnace too?
A. Not necessarily, however the blower in the furnace moves the air for air conditioning as well as heating. Usually the new furnaces have stronger blowers and can move more air which can help cool your entire house better. If your furnace is getting old, you should have the heat exchanger checked for “cracks”. If it is “cracked” you should have the furnace or heat exchanger replaced before winter anyway.
Q. What is a “cracked” furnace? How serious is this?
A. The part that transfers heat from the gas flame to the air in the house is called a “heat exchanger”. If the heat exchanger has a crack or rust hole in it, the fumes (especially carbon monoxide) enter the air that comes out of the registers. This is why a “cracked” furnace can be so dangerous. A small crack may not be dangerous yet, but will get bigger and even small amounts of carbon monoxide can be dangerous to some people. Heat exchangers can be replaced, however if they are out of warranty, it is usually not much more to install a new higher efficiency furnace.
Q. Won’t my carbon monoxide detector tell me when I need a new furnace?
A. Every home should have a carbon monoxide detector, but the fact that it is not going off doesn’t mean everything is safe. Even small amounts of carbon monoxide have an accumulative effect and detectors have a minimum threshold before they sound their alarm. If your alarm does go off, call us and have a serviceman check your furnace immediately.
Q. Is it OK to install a different brand of furnace (or air conditioner) to work with my existing air conditioner (or furnace)?
A. Yes, this is fine, as long as the airflow and size is matched. In order to receive a rebate, a matched system may be required.
Q. My home has a forced air furnace but no air conditioner. Can I add central air?
A. Yes. Air conditioners require more air flow than furnaces and it may be necessary to add more ductwork. Also, local codes require that your ductwork be insulated in attics and crawl spaces, and your electrical service may need to be upgraded. Bay Area Plumbing & Heating can determine all of the costs required to add central air.
Q. I have a floor furnace now and want to add central air and heat. What will this cost?
A. This will depend on how involved it is to run ductwork, install the equipment, connect the flue (or install a new flue), connect the gas and electric, etc. Bay Area Plumbing & Heating will calculate the heating and cooling load on your home to determine the proper size of equipment, ductwork, flue, electrical, etc. Generally the investment will run between $7,000 – $9,500 for a complete furnace and air conditioner system.
Q. I think my ductwork has asbestos on it. How can I tell? What should I do about it?
A. Asbestos usually looks like a gray or white paper material that wraps around the ductwork and/or narrow strips around duct joints. It is safe as long as it is not disturbed. Often it is best to leave it undisturbed or seal the asbestos fibers. Sometimes it is best to remove all exposed asbestos, or at least the narrow strips that touch the furnace. As a homeowner, you can remove this yourself, however it can be dangerous and even contaminate the entire home. Bay Area Plumbing & Heating can handle any asbestos removal using an EPA approved company and can include this as part of the total investment for a new system.
Q. My friend works for a heating and air company and says he can install a new furnace (or air conditioner) for me for a lot less money. Is this a good idea?
A. Be sure he has a C-20 license, performed a load calculation, obtains all required permits and has adequate insurance. Keep in mind you will be dependent on him and his schedule for warranty repairs. If he meets the above requirements, has the needed experience, and you understand that repairs may not be timely, then you may save some money, but be sure you are not getting a “cheap” installation that will cost you more in the long run.
Q. How long does it take to install a new furnace or air conditioner?
A. Generally allow one day for replacing a furnace and one day for replacing an air conditioner. Occasionally an additional day is required, especially if you are having an air cleaner or humidifier installed.
Q. Does someone need to be home when the new system is installed?
A. Much of the time it is not possible for the homeowner to be home during the installation. Possibly a friend or relative can be home during the installation, or you can be there to let the installers in before you leave for work. Sometimes homeowners give us a key and our installers don’t even meet them until the installation is complete. You do need to be there upon completion in order to be briefed on the operation of the new system.
Q. How do you determine what size of furnace and air conditioner to install?
A. We will measure your home and calculate the actual heating and cooling load on the home (calculation based on window size and direction, walls, ceiling, floor, appliances, insulation, etc). This will determine the proper size of equipment that is needed. This will be compared to your current equipment and ductwork and will be adjusted based on your lifestyle, etc.
Q. I want a “big” air conditioner. Someone told me this is not good – what are the advantages and disadvantages?
A. An “oversized” air conditioner will cool your house quicker, but it will use more electricity and will not remove humidity adequately. If your ductwork is not big enough for the “oversized” air conditioner, the coil may freeze and then the air conditioner won’t work at all. Obviously the air conditioner must be big enough to cool the house, but too big is just as bad. We recommend the proper size to cool your home to 75 degrees when it is 100 degrees outside, then increase the size slightly, if needed, based on your temperature preferences.
Q. Will a larger furnace work better than a smaller furnace?
A. An “oversized” furnace will warm up the house quicker, but it will use more fuel and there will be greater temperature swings. A smaller furnace will maintain more even temperatures, use less fuel, but will take longer to raise the temperature. Bay Area Plumbing & Heating will calculate the proper furnace size to maintain 74 degrees inside when it is 32 degrees outside.
Q. How do I know if my ductwork is adequate?
A. The size of the air conditioner will determine the amount of airflow needed. We will measure the ductwork during the initial survey and determine if there is adequate ductwork, registers and grills.
Q. Some rooms in our house don’t get enough heat (or cooling). Can this be fixed?
A. Sometimes running the blower continuously will solve this problem. Usually the new furnace will have better air flow which will help, and there is usually a way to install an additional register in the area to obtain more air flow. Another option is to add a zone system with an additional thermostat.
Q. Should I run the blower continuously, or use the “auto” position on the thermostat?
A. Try both ways. Running the blower all the time will use a little extra electricity; however the home is usually more comfortable, the temperature is more even throughout the home, and the air is cleaner because it is filtered more. The motors generally last longer because they are not starting and stopping. Some of the new furnaces have the ability to use a variable blower for continuous operation, these type of blowers use very little energy usually around 30 watts
Q. What brand of equipment is best?
A. There are several excellent brands available as well as several “cheaper” brands. Bay Area Plumbing & Heating could choose any brand to sell and install, however we have chosen American Standard, Trane, and Bryant because of their quality, reputation, availability of parts, support from our distributors, etc. Even more important than the equipment is the quality of the installation and the reputation of the dealer behind the installation.
Q. How do I pay for my new system?
A. For installation of new equipment, we may ask for a small deposit and the balance to be paid upon completion. You can also use consumer financing, which often does not require any payments for a few months. Ask us about available financing options if you are interested.
Q. Why should I consider a new high-efficiency filter?
A. High-efficiency filters remove more of the smaller particles from the air. This will help us breathe better and reduce sinus problems, headaches and colds. Many people miss fewer days from school and work and use less allergy medication. The air is filtered before entering the furnace and air conditioning A-coil which makes the equipment last longer and will reduce fuel consumption 10%-15% over the life of a new furnace and air conditioner. We have several different filters available and can show you the differences in efficiency and installation cost. Currently the California green code requires a MERV 6 filter be installed.
Q. Should I have a new programmable thermostat installed with my new system?
A. Programmable thermostats allow you to have the temperature raise and lower automatically at specific times each day. They will reduce your energy bills and increase your comfort (e.g., get up to a “warm” bathroom during the winter). If your family follows a fairly regular schedule, a programmable thermostat will pay for itself in a few months. The California energy code requires that a programmable thermostat be installed.
Q. What are Bay Area Plumbing & Heating HVAC’s installation rates?
A. All installation work (except minor duct changes) is performed at a pre-agreed upon price and you will receive a proposal showing the total investment and detailing the work to be done, model numbers of all equipment, warranties, etc.
Q. I heard a “cracked” furnace dangerous. How often should I have it checked?
A. If your furnace is over 5 years old, it should be inspected by a licensed serviceman every Fall before the heating season begins. The furnace should also be checked any other time it is not operating properly (e.g., The heat limit switch goes off).
Q. Why should I have my air conditioner checked in the Spring and my furnace checked in the Fall?
A. They should be checked, and cleaned, to be sure they are operating at their top efficiency, are operating properly and safely.
Q. Is there a charge for diagnosing what is wrong with my system?
A. Yes, this is part of the service call. If a new furnace or air conditioner is needed, the diagnostic portion of the service call is applied toward the purchase of a new system from us.
Q. My pilot light is out. What should I do?
A. Your utility company will light it. If it still will not light, call our office for a service appointment.
Q. My pilot light is on, but my furnace is not operating - what should I do?
A. First, check for power, check fuses and/or ON-OFF switch. Next, check the thermostat for proper setting. If none of these approaches work call Bay Area Plumbing & Heating.
Q. Why is my furnace blowing out cold air?
A. It could be a thermostat problem, something may be in the flue, the transformer or the "Main Board" could have a problem.
Q. How can I tell whether my furnace has a carbon monoxide leak?
A. Have your power company or Bay Area Plumbing & Heating come out to check for cracks in heat-exchanger.
Q. Why does my furnace not put out enough heat?
A. Improper combustion, restricted air flow, leaks in the duct work or improper design, could all play a role.
Q. Why is my furnace so noisy?
A. It could be a worn fan belt, bad bearings or bearings in need of lubrication.
Q. Why do the registers at the far end of my home have little or no air flow?
A. The duct work could be leaking or the trunk line could be the wrong size.
Q. My furnace has a funny smell, what could it be?
A. It could be dust, pet hair and/or burning pollutants can cause an unpleasant odor. More seriously, it could be a gas leak.
Q. My allergies seem to bother me a lot at home. What can I do?
A. At least, change your air filters. You might also consider having your air ducts cleaned. Much of the dust, mites and other debris that build up in the air ducts are circulated into the air of your home.
Q. Why do the registers at the far end of my home have little or no air flow?
A. The duct work could be leaking or the trunk line could be the wrong size.
Q. Why does my A/C smell the first day I turn it on in the spring?
A. During the winter the evaporator coil is inactive so some dirt accumulates on it. When the cooling is turned on for the first time and condensation starts to run down the coil, a musty smell will occur until the dust and dirt have been rinsed off through normal operation. To prevent this, the system probably needs a better filtering system or annual cleaning.
Q. Why is my house so dusty?
A. Your A/C system has a lot to do with this, because it is constantly circulating air through the house. If the filter for your A/C system is not properly installed, dirt and dust can be bypassing the filter. Also a very low efficiency filter will cause the dirt and dust to go right through the filter.
Q. How can I reduce my electric bill with out changing out my A/C system?
A. PG&E has an energy audit that will let you know various ways to reduce your electricity bill which includes adding insulation in the attic or walls, insulating the water heater, caulking around the doors or windows and using more efficient lighting. However you’re A/C system has the highest power usage of all appliances in your home so keeping the system serviced and clean will save the most on your electric bill.
Q. How do I run out of refrigerant?
A. You should never have to add refrigerant (freon) to your A/C system. The refrigerant runs through copper lines which are all soldered together. If the system does become low or run completely out, this means you have a leak in your system. A special leak detector is used to locate the leak. Usually the leak can be repaired by soldering it closed but sometimes it requires replacement of the part that has the leak.
Q. Why are different rooms warmer/cooler in my house?
A. This condition is usually caused by a poor ductwork design, ductwork that is in poor condition, or someone has added excessive heat producing appliances to a room. Also the A/C system could be in need of a tune up by a professional service technician.
Q. Why do my lights flicker when my system comes on?
A. The A/C unit pulls the most power during start up and this can cause the lights to flicker. It should only be for a split second, if the lights are dimming or you notice the condition is getting worse there may be an electrical problem with the unit. This needs to be checked; if not it could lead to expensive repairs.
Q. The air in my house is humid-why?
A. The A/C system controls the humidity in the house. If the A/C system has not been properly maintained or is in need of repair, the humidity in the home can be at an uncomfortable level. Also if the system is too big, it will cool the home down too quickly and turn off not allowing the unit to run long enough to remove the humidity.
Q. Why does my A/C unit ice over?
A. There are three reasons why the A/C unit will ice over. There is a restriction in the refrigerant line; the system is low on refrigerant and/or there is a lack of air across the evaporator coil. The lack of air across the evaporator coil is caused by a dirty filter, a filter that is too restrictive, a dirty coil, a dirty blower wheel, incorrect blower motor and/or wheel, the inside unit is not matched properly to the outside unit, ductwork is not sized properly, too many supply registers are closed, the return are inlet is too small or restricted, or the ductwork is restricted inside by a damper or ducting material that has come apart.
Q. Why doesn’t it seem like the temp on my thermostat is consistent?
A. Some thermostats can loose their calibration, which can cause a big swing in the temperature reading. The thermostat may be improperly located in the house. Also, if air from a supply outlet is blowing on the thermostat, this will cause temperature on the thermostat to drop quickly giving a false reading of the actual room temperature.
Q. What can cause tapping on my outside unit?
A. Something has fallen into the fan blade, the fan motor bearings are so loose causing the fan blade to come in contact with the fan shroud or the contactor is chattering which is a sign of a control voltage problem.
Q. Why does my A/C stem overflow?
A. The drain line or drain pain gets clogged up. This is caused by dirt that has accumulated on the evaporator coil and has washed down into the drain pain and drain line. Also if water is sitting in the pan or drain line and does not drain out completely, it can cause algae to grow causing the system to overflow. If the system pulls air through the evaporator coil the drain line must have a P. Trap installed in it; this prevents the blower from pulling air up through the drain line causing a negative pressure on the line, which will allow the condensation to drain.
Q. How do I know I have leak?
Q. What is a mod/con boiler?
Q. What if my boiler is making a knocking noise?
Q. What if my pump is making a grinding noise?