How To Keep Your Furnace Running It’s Best

When purchasing a furnace, you should get what you pay for.

How Often Should You Be Having Your HVAC System Serviced?

When the weather is simply too much to bear and we need some relief, we turn to our air conditioning and heating systems.

How The Holidays Can Affect Your Plumbing

You might be surprised to learn that the busiest time of the year for New Jersey plumbers is the holiday season.

What not to do as a new home owner

Becoming a new home owner is a very exciting time. There are plenty of new tasks to take on after obtaining the keys. However, there are some things a new home owner should NOT do after moving in.
1. Not being familiar with the new home
There are parts of a new home that the new owner should be aware of. The main water valve and circuit box are two crucial components of a home. Locating these two items is very important as a home owner. In case of an emergency such as a burst pipe, there may be no time for scrambling to find the circuit box or water valve. In addition, it is good practice to label it, so it is clear which fuses belong to each room.
2. Not paying attention to the foundation
The foundation is arguably the most important aspect of a home. Something as simple as the slope of soil around the foundation can be indicative of big problems. If the soil does not slope six inches over ten feet, water from snow and rain can seep into the foundation causing cracks and leaks. This kind of repair starts at several thousands of dollars and can be devastating for home owners.
3. Cutting down trees
Cutting down a tree can seem like a small task anyone can do. Home owners should always hire a professional for this service. Even smaller trees can be awkward and are hard to control once they are fall and can crash into a home or garage/shed. Fixing a repair from a tree taking out the roof is much more costly than hiring for professional removal.
4. Drilling into walls carelessly
Much like removing a tree, hanging décor or shelves can seem like an easy job. However, one must be very cautious when putting holes in the wall. Behind the walls, there could be electrical wires and cables, duct work and plumbing pipes that could be damaged by a drill. To prevent costly errors, use a stud finder to help avoid wires and ducts. Even if a stud indicates clear to drill, only drill about 1.25 inches in to avoid hitting anything important.
5. Not insulating
Not only is a house uncomfortable when it is too hot or too cold, it is also very costly to the home owner. Check the attic for insulation depth to know if a home needs to be insulated. Home owners should know where the entrance to the attic is, and how deep the insulation is. If insulation is not 10-14 inches deep, new insulation should be put down. Also, ensure the hatch to access the attic has insulation covering it as well to ensure minimal air leakage.
6. Not cleaning gutters
Cleaning gutters is a chore many people hate. It can be a pain to get on a ladder and clean filthy debris from above. However, neglecting this task can mean serious water damage to the roof and the home in general. Clogged gutters can interfere with proper water flow from the property. Clean gutters will ensure water flows away from the house and not into it.

Don’t Let Furnace Water Leaks Ruin Your Holiday

Isn’t it just the last thing you need during the crazy rush right before the holidays? Your maintenance guy tells you there’s a puddle of water under your furnace. Oh, great… there goes your dream of a profitable December and starting off the New Year with a trip to the tropics. Will you have to shell out thousands for a new furnace instead?
Don’t cancel your plans just yet! There are a number of reasons that can lead to your furnace leaking water, and most of them don’t mean an untimely death for your heating system.
Start by identifying what type of heating equipment you have, and check out these possible causes for water leaks.

1. High-efficiency furnace

If you have a newer high efficiency furnace (with an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE rating of 90 percent or more), these systems extract heat from the exhaust which produces condensation. Normally, the condensation is drained through a tube to a pan or floor drain. If there is a clog or a break in the drain line, or if the floor drain is clogged with debris, you could end up with a puddle under your furnace.
Check the drain first and clear it if necessary. If the drain line appears compromised, this is an easy fix for an HVAC service technician.

2. Furnace with a humidifier

Do you have a furnace with a humidifier attached? If so, the humidifier could have a leak, or it could be clogged and overflowing into your furnace. If you catch this early, it may not be a major expense to clean out or even replace the humidifier. But if the leak goes on for a while, it can cause major damage to your furnace. Call an HVAC expert as soon as possible to inspect your system.

3. Combined heat and air conditioning heat pump system

If you have a combined heating and air conditioning system with a heat pump, the water leak could actually be coming from the air conditioning. These systems have a combined drain line which could be clogged. If you are still using the air conditioning occasionally, the coils could be frozen or the condensate pump may have failed. Even if you suspect the water is coming from the air conditioner, don’t neglect this issue because water leaks can ultimately cause damage to your building’s walls, ceilings and floors.
This may turn out to be a minor repair, but you need to call an HVAC service company with expertise in combined heating and air conditioning systems.

4. Newly-installed gas furnace

If you’ve just bought a new gas furnace and it’s already leaking, you’re probably pretty steamed. Chances are, you went with the lowest bid and got installers who are not the most experienced (or just trying to cut corners so they make money on the job).
There are several installation mistakes that can cause water leaks from a gas furnace. The flue pipe that exhausts the toxic gases from your building could be the wrong size, or there could be a leak in the joint between the furnace and the outside vent pipe. Also, the exhaust pipe may have been incorrectly installed; it needs to slope slightly downward toward the exterior so that water drains out of the building rather than back into the furnace.

5. Hot water boiler

If your heating system is a hot water boiler with baseboards or radiators, anytime you have a leak you should immediately close off the valve that feeds water to the system. If your slow drip is the precursor to a major leak, you’ll save yourself from a big mess by limiting the amount of water in the system until you can get an HVAC repair guy in there.
The problem is likely to be just a faulty valve. Especially if you’ve recently had a repair done, it’s possible that air was introduced into the system which increases the pressure on the valves. You’ll have to get the repair technician to come take another look. In the worst case, you may have a leak in your boiler, and there’s a chance it will need to be replaced. Call “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” toll free at

  • (888) 611-7191

What Does It Mean If My Furnace Won’t Turn On?

This isn’t a scenario you want to encounter on a chilly day: you don’t hear the familiar noise you expect from your furnace as it kicks in to combat the cold. Instead, it sits silent and no warm air comes from your vents. Obviously, something is wrong—but what?
There are a number of reasons that your furnace might refuse to turn on. Some you can resolve yourself quickly. Others will need the assistance of repair technicians to analyze and remedy. You’ll want this issue dealt with as soon as possible, so make sure you keep contact information handy for an experienced HVAC contractor like “Green Apple Mechanical NJ”.

Reasons Your Furnace May Not Turn On

Thermostat error/malfunction: One of the first things to do when your furnace won’t turn on is to see that the thermostat is set correctly. An error with a programmable or digital thermostat could mean the furnace doesn’t think the house is cold enough to require it to provide heat. The thermostat could also have faults so it is sensing the indoor temperature incorrectly. This latter problem will need professional repairs.
Tripped circuit breakers: This is an issue not only for electrical furnaces but also for many gas-powered furnaces that use an electric igniter. A power surge along the line could trip one of the circuit breakers without you realizing it. Check the electrical panel to see if you can restore the power.
Failed pilot light/ignition: The pilot light can go out on a gas or oil furnace, which means the burners will not be able to ignite. If you can’t relight the pilot light on your own, you will need an HVAC technician to examine the burner unit and discover if there is a gas flow problem or excessive dirt along the burner. For electric-powered furnaces, ignition failure will prevent any of the heating elements from activating.

Preventive maintenance

There is also the unfortunate reality that eventually a furnace will become too worn and suffer a complete shutdown. This may require installing a replacement system. However, you can help make sure your furnace lasts for many years with regular preventive maintenance; it only requires an annual visit from a technician to keep your furnace in its best running condition.
If you need heating repairs in the New Jersey area to get your furnace to turn back on, contact “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” . We offer furnace repair and maintenance services and know furnaces of all kinds from the inside out, so we can help make sure yours works down to its smallest component.

DIY HVAC Repair? Don’t Even Think About It

DIY HVAC repair is tempting

Have you always been handy? If you can fix your car and lots of things around your home, you may be tempted to take on the challenge of DIY HVAC repair. Or maybe you’re a business owner with a maintenance staff that handle cleaning and minor repairs around your premises. They should be able to tackle DIY HVAC repair, right?
Wrong! DIY HVAC repair is not only dangerous, but it can lead to some very expensive consequences. Read on to learn why DIY HVAC repair is a temptation you should not give in to.

Why DIY HVAC repair is a bad idea

There’s a reason why HVAC service technicians need to complete years of training and apprenticeships in order to become qualified (and ideally, certified) to maintain and repair your heating and air conditioning systems. They also must continue receiving ongoing training to keep up to date on new technology so they stay qualified.
Actually there are quite a few reasons to avoid DIY HVAC repair:

Working around high voltage electricity

You already know this: handling electricity can kill you! Your HVAC systems use high voltage electricity, so don’t try it unless you are a trained electrician or HVAC tech. The small amount of money you may save with DIY HVAC repair is just not worth the potential consequences of making a mistake.

Handling dangerous refrigerant chemicals

The refrigerants in your air conditioning system can be deadly if you don’t know how to handle them safely. Not only to the person handling them, but to everyone in the building. That’s why it’s critical (and it’s also the law) that only HVAC technicians with EPA 608 certification work on your air conditioning system.
EPA 608 certification is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for technicians who perform maintenance and repair services and disposal of refrigerants. If you’re attempting DIY HVAC repair without this training, you could face deadly consequences.

You don’t have the right tools

Especially when you may be dealing with a refrigerant leak (which is a common cause of air conditioning problems), there are specialty tools and gauges that are required to properly diagnose and find the leak. Purchasing all those tools for a DIY HVAC repair, especially if you’re not sure what the problem is, can cost you more than calling in a professional in the first place.

DIY HVAC repair is more complex than you think

Heating, air conditioning and ventilation are complex systems with many components that can cause problems. Not only are there many interrelated parts, but they look different and are located in different places depending on the type of system you have and even the brand you have. As a result, trying to make a DIY HVAC repair after watching a YouTube video is just a disaster waiting to happen.
Here’s something else to consider about having an experienced tech inspect your system. In addition to fixing the current problem the right way, he is also trained to spot failing parts and looming problems before they cause major breakdowns.

DIY HVAC repair can make things a lot worse

As we said, your HVAC equipment has many components, and quite a few of them can be damaged with incorrect handling. These include electrical components and coils. Coil fins, in particular, can be fragile and are easily damaged if you use the wrong methods or tools to clean them.
Or, you might accidentally install the wrong part and cause the compressor to fail. The compressor is the heart of the system and a very expensive part to replace. You might even find yourself having to shop for a new unit if you screw up a DIY HVAC repair.

A few safe DIY HVAC repair tasks

All that being said, as a homeowner or business owner, there are some DIY HVAC repair troubleshooting steps you can take before calling in a professional.
In addition, you can and should be doing these tasks to keep your HVAC systems running well and in good condition:
CHANGING THERMOSTAT BATTERIES. Whenever you change the batteries in your smoke detectors, do the same for your heating and air conditioning thermostats. It’s a simple and inexpensive preventative measure that eliminates problems down the road.
CHANGING YOUR FILTERS. Your heating and air conditioning systems have filters that are designed to keep dust and debris out of your equipment to prevent damage. If your air conditioning system is running 24/7, those filters can get clogged in a hurry, especially in New York City where air quality is poor. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations for how often to change your filters, but check them even more often since your conditions may require you to change them more frequently.
 
KEEPING AIR FLOW CLEAR. Clear any clutter from the areas around indoor equipment like furnaces and air handlers, and regularly remove debris like trash and leaves from around your outdoor air conditioning unit. Check registers and vents to make sure they are open and unobstructed.
INVESTING IN REGULAR PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE. Just like you change your oil to keep your car running smoothly, your HVAC systems need the same kind of regular care. Investing in a preventative maintenance agreement with an experienced HVAC service provider can prevent many of the problems that may tempt you to try DIY HVAC repair.

Heating Equipment: Repair or Replace?

It happens eventually in every home. On a particularly frigid morning, you wake up and crank the thermostat just like usual, but there’s no response: No comforting sound of the system firing up and no warmth rising from the air vents or radiators. Hopefully it’s a simple problem that’s a quick and inexpensive fix, like a tripped circuit breaker or a clogged filter. But occasionally the repair is so big and costly that it raises an age-old question that’s been asked about everything from station wagons to vacuum cleaners: Is it more cost effective to fix what you have or replace it? Here’s how to decide.
Think safety first
If the problem presents a safety hazard, replacement is a no-brainer. For example, if your furnace has a cracked heat exchanger—the metal wall between the burning fuel and the air it’s heating—poisonous carbon monoxide gas could work its way into the household air supply, something you don’t want to risk. Other problems, like faulty electronics and stuck valves, can be repaired, which means you’ll need to do a cost-benefit analysis.
Consider the typical lifespan
A 2013 study by the National Association of Home Builders and Bank of America found that furnaces for forced-air systems last an average of 15 to 20 years; boilers for hot-water radiators and baseboards last 13 to 21 years. So start by dating your system. Some technicians write the year the equipment was installed directly on the unit. Otherwise, when the machine is off and cool, look for a metal identification plate, usually on the inside of chamber door. Record the model and serial numbers from the plate, then call the manufacturer’s customer service number to get the date of manufacture.
Keep in mind that a 25- or even 30-year-old system isn’t necessarily ready for the scrap heap. The published lifespans are averages, which means half of all systems are spent by that time, and the other half are still working well. Use these numbers as ballpark guidelines only, suggests Gopal Ahluwalia, the NAHB study’s lead researcher.
Assess the costs of repairing versus replacing
To decide your system’s fate, you need more data: the cost of your repair or replacement options, which your service provider can give you. Depending on the size of your house and the brand of new equipment you choose, a new hot-air furnace typically costs $1,500 to $4,000, while a boiler for a hot-water system might run $4,000 to $8,000.
As a general guideline, consider replacement if the equipment is beyond three-quarters of its life expectancy and repairs will cost more than a third of replacement. It’s probably not worth spending $700 to repair a 15-year-old furnace you could replace for $2,000.
Consider your heating plant’s efficiency
In these days of high fuel costs and concerns over our carbon footprints, you should also consider your heating plant’s efficiency. Its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency number (AFUE) measures the percentage of the fuel that’s converted to heat rather than being lost up the chimney or through other inefficiencies.
“If your system is 20 years old, its AFUE is probably about 70%,” says experts. Today’s minimum AFUE is 80%, which means you’ll burn 10% less fuel—and therefore spend 10% less money on your heating bills. You can go as high a 95% AFUE with new equipment, dropping your bills a whopping 25%. That kind of efficiency raises your equipment costs to $3,500 to $6,000 for a furnace and $8,000 to $10,000 for a boiler, but will also earn you a tax credit of up to $300 from the federal government. And there are many incentives.

 


 

10 SIGNS YOUR FURNACE NEEDS REPAIR

As temperatures begin to drop in the evenings it is natural to be giving a lot of thought to how you heat your home. If you are like many homeowners, you have a furnace as part of a HVAC system, and you typically keep an eye on it and maintain it as best you can. How can you know if you should take care of a little furnace repair before the weather really turns cold? Besides the obvious sign of a furnace simply not working any longer, there are some warning signs that you can watch out for and hopefully use to catch a major problem before it gets out of control!

1 – Your furnace sounds like it’s possessed

While it’s true that no furnace is going to be whisper-quiet, it is also not normal for a furnace to be making all manner of strange noises. If you hear sounds that sound like something out of a horror film (groaning, banging, and whining noises) your furnace repairs might include replacing a loose belt, correcting an ignition problem, or replacing a component that is about to fail.

2 – Cranking up the thermostat isn’t cutting it anymore

When you’re cold, your natural response is to try to warm things up. Usually all you need to do if you have a furnace is go bump the heat up a few notches at the thermostat…but what if this isn’t working? Your thermostat may be faulty, or you may have leaking ducts, or a problem with your pilot light.

3 – Your electric bills have gone sky high

Higher than normal electricity bills often indicate inefficient performance, which can be caused by a variety of problems. It is best to have a qualified professional diagnose the issue rather than trying to do so yourself.

4 – Your pilot light is yellow

When you check on your furnace and notice that your pilot light is burning yellow, you may not think anything of it at first. The trouble is that a yellow flame indicates that the gas combination of your furnace is not in good condition. A blue flame is the ideal because it indicates an ideal balance of gases. Yellow can indicate problem gases such as Carbon Monoxide.

5 – Your furnace has trouble getting started and staying on

Furnace repairs that might be needed to correct this problem are replacing a thermostat, faulty wiring, repairing a pilot light, or fixing a fan motor

 6 – Your family isn’t doing so well in the air quality department

If your furnace needs repairs, you can often see a rise in the frequency that you and your family experience breathing-related troubles such as asthma, allergies, and other illnesses. A poorly-functioning system can be putting dust, mold, and other irritants into the air that circulates through your home.

7 – Chills everywhere and ice where it shouldn’t be

If constant drafts are the norm, it is likely that your furnace is not able to heat your entire house anymore. If ice is forming on your roof, it can be a sign that furnace repairs are needed because the heat from your home is leaking up through your attic as opposed to staying down in the living areas where it belongs.

8 – Condensation is common

Furnace repairs might not be needed if you are seeing condensation on the insides of your windows, but it is a sign that you should call in a professional to take a look at your system.

9 – Your furnace could give fossils a run for their money

The average life of a furnace is between 10 and 20 years, with most units lasting into the upper end of that range. If your furnace is beyond 15 years old, it is time to start planning to replace it sooner rather than later.

10 – You have repaired in within the last 2 years

If you have needed furnace repairs more than once in the past two years it may be time to consider replacing it. Furnaces are like cars in that they tend to break down more as they age. The average lifespan for a Furnace is approximately 12-15 years.

Troubleshooting Your Home Thermostat

Before assuming your furnace is broken, remember that you could have a malfunctioning thermostat. From heating and cooling systems that seem to have failed to those that overwork – heating or cooling more than the temperature settings dictate – a thermostat throwing fits can masquerade as an appliance problem.
Before calling out HVAC repair companies, try troubleshooting your thermostat first. In many instances, simply repairing the thermostat or replacing it with a new one will save on unnecessary service calls.

Thermostat Basics

How the thermostat senses the temperature and how it responds varies according to the type – electromechanical or electronic.
Electromechanical Thermostats:

  • Considered somewhat old-fashioned, electromechanical thermostats operate on basic mechanical principles. A bimetallic strip – a fancy name for what is nothing more than joined pieces of two different metals – rests, sometimes in a coil, under the thermostat cover. As the room temperature fluctuates, the coil expands or contracts, activating the contact. Think of a contact as a light switch – when flipped, an electrical circuit closes and the light – or the furnace or central air, in this case – operates. Without the contact, the electrical circuit is open and nothing happens.
  • Sometimes, the bimetallic switch is coupled with a mercury switch – a small glass tube or “ampoule” filled with mercury – that tilts as the coil expands or contracts. A liquid conductor of electricity, as the mercury moves from one side of the tube to the other it either closes or opens the contact.
  • If the thermostat controls both a heating and air unit, it has contacts on both sides. The mercury or bimetallic switch tilts in one direction for heat and the opposite for cooling. As the temperatures fluctuate, contact is made or broken and the circuit opened or closed on the given side, activating the corresponding equipment.

Electronic Thermostats:

  • Instead of mercury-filled tubes and strips of metal, electronic thermostats use heat-sensing receptors to monitor the room temperature and electrical circuits to respond to the digital data, turning on or off your heating and cooling equipment. Similar to a small computer, electronic thermostats will store data, allowing you to program settings. Wake up to a warm house, cool it while you sleep and set it to different temperatures on weekends to correspond to your needs. All it takes is a few pushes of the buttons.
  • Digital sensors and circuitry provide greater temperature accuracy. Bimetallic strips and mercury switches allow “deadband” – a temperature range between which it fails to activate or shut down the furnace or air. This means even if you set your thermostat to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the switch may not activate to turn equipment on or off until it’s much lower or higher.
  • Thermostats may wear out. Since electronic thermostats involve electronic equipment instead of purely mechanical components, these thermostats are more complex, meaning there are more things to wear out. Consult the manufacturer’s thermostat literature or contact a qualified technician for troubleshooting specific to the thermostat involved. Given the relatively low replacement cost, in many cases buying and installing a new thermostat may prove a more cost-effective option.

Common Thermostat Problems

Most thermostat failures aren’t dramatic. Chances are, no shooting sparks, puffs of smoke or piercing alarms will signal you have a problem. It may be obvious, like the furnace refuses to come on or the display isn’t lit, or you may notice that the house is cooler than the temperature setting. All you know is something’s wrong and you want it fixed. Always start with the thermometer, troubleshooting according to the symptom. Many symptoms and causes overlap, and the general solutions narrow down to one of a handful of fixes.
Furnace or Central Air Doesn’t Start:

  • Check for power. A blown fuse, tripped circuit breaker or dead batteries will prevent the thermostat from turning on the appliance.
  • Is the thermostat excessively dirty? Buildup of dust, dirt, spiderwebs and nicotine, for example, can coat the inside of the thermostat, interfering with both electrical and mechanical components. It’s easy to overlook the inside of your thermostat during spring-cleaning, so a dirty thermostat is nothing uncommon. Simply use a soft, clean brush – an artist’s paintbrush works well – to brush the interior components gently. Move parts to ensure you reach every portion of the thermostat.  A can of compressed air, such as is used for electronics, also works well.
  • Are there loose wires or terminal screws inside the thermostat? Are the wires corroded? Never remove the thermostat cover without removing the batteries or cutting the power at the fuse or breaker box. Tighten screws and secure loose wires when necessary. Consult the manufacturer’s wiring schematics or have a qualified technician rewire the thermostat if needed.
  • Replace the thermostat if other troubleshooting methods fail. The most expensive programmable electronic thermostat costs around a couple hundred dollars, and inexpensive mechanical ones cost around $20. Worrying over a thermostat you can’t make work – or paying a professional more than a new one costs – just isn’t worth it.

 The Room Temperature Doesn’t Match the Thermostat Setting:

  • Is the inside of the thermostat clean? A dirty thermostat is an inaccurate thermostat.
  • Is the thermostat level? Hold a level underneath or above it and check. Careless installation or a forceful bump, knocking it off level, may alter the accuracy of the components.
  • Is the thermostat in a poorly chosen area of the home? Thermostats located in direct sunlight, in front of cold or drafty windows and doors, or isolated from the main living areas may not regulate the temperature correctly. Consider relocating the thermostat, if possible, or taking other measures to solve the problem. Consult a professional for further information.
  • The anticipator may not be set correctly. The anticipator is a little metal tab inside mechanical thermostats, mounted to a round dial with a printed scale. Pushing lightly on the anticipator, in either direction, may solve the issue. More complex adjustments require moving the anticipator to indicate the ampere setting needed for the furnace involved. Typically, this is specified in the owner’s manual or on the unit’s service panel. Consult a qualified technician for further assistance.

The Unit Turns On and Off Constantly or Won’t Turn Off:

  • Is the thermostat clean, inside and out? Buildup of any type may interfere with proper thermostat operation.
  • Does the anticipator need adjustment? Simply moving the anticipator arm one notch toward longer should cause a furnace to run longer during its cycle. Moving it away helps if the room temperature fails to reach the thermostat settings. Wait two or three hours after any adjustments to see if the problem is solved.
  • Is the thermostat completely level? Use a level to adjust it until correct.

Updating Your Thermostat

If all else fails, consider completely replacing your old thermostat with a new digital, electronic thermostat. With a wide range of features and price tags, there’s one to fit most any budget. Touch screen operation, digital displays, alarms to remind you when it’s time to change your HVAC filters and other options make these thermometers very convenient.
Better yet, electronic thermostats help you save money. With old thermostats, every adjustment requires your attention. Programmable electronic thermostats, in contrast, allow you to maintain settings, letting you heat or cool your home only when you need it. The Department of Energy estimates you can save about 10 percent on your heating and cooling bill merely by lowering your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees for eight hours a day during the heating season and raising it similarly during the cooling season. When you think about it, that’s enough savings to pay your utility bill for almost an entire month.
Installing an electronic thermostat is, however, more complicated than installing a mechanical one due to the programming needed. An improperly installed thermostat can, of course, cause significant problems. If you are uncertain about your ability to install or program your own, contact a specialist from “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” to do it for you.