Checklist: HVAC Winter Weather Prep

Winter is very much upon us!  Ideally, before you turned your system over to heat, you performed a quick HVAC winter weather prep.  If not, it isn’t too late to assess the performance of your HVAC system, as we still have plenty of cold days ahead.

There are some basic maintenance tasks you can perform on your own to check the readiness of your
system. Most newer heating systems require little maintenance, so a quick winter weather prep can greatly extend the life of your HVAC equipment.

1.  Power down & do a sound check

Turn off all power to the unit before performing any maintenance and wait for the blower to stop. Next, run a sound check by turning your unit back on and checking for unusual sounds, like banging or rattling.

2.  Look for signs of moisture

Check for moisture on windows, or rust or dirt accumulations on the vent pipe. This can indicate improper operation.

3.  Replace filtersChange filters at least four times per year

Replace air filters at least four times a year, or once each season.  If you haven’t changed them this winter, do it now. Dirty filters can cause your system to work harder, resulting in lower efficiency.

4.  Assess the room temperature

Check your thermostat’s temperature while the unit is on to ensure rooms are reaching their full comfort potential.

If, during your basic checklist rundown you discover any unusual noises, excess moisture or other signs
your unit is not functioning properly, contact your HVAC technician.

In addition to your DIY maintenance, regular inspections by a qualified HVAC technician are vital.  Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical at 1.800.461.3010 for full details. We provide 24/7 service so that your family doesn’t have to endure the cold if  your HVAC system stops working suddenly. We can also clean your heat exchanger, check the wire connections on your thermostat to make sure they’re connected properly, and ensure that your igniter switch is functioning. Let us provide peace of mind that your HVAC system is running properly so you can enjoy a comfortable and warm home with family and friends!

Prepare Your Home for Snow and Ice: Winter Safety Tips

Falling snow is a beautiful part of winter, but it can also pose potential dangers for homeowners. It’s important to prepare your home for snow and ice so you can stay safe and prevent extra work down the road. To ensure no problems show up and to keep your family safe, these projects should be done throughout the coldest months.

Prevent Water Damage

  • Ventilate the attic and insulate the attic floor to stop warm air in the house from melting snow and ice on the roof.
  • Wrap exposed pipes with insulation sleeves.
  • Caulk cracks and holes in the home’s outer walls and foundation. Holes left by cable installation can also leave pipes exposed.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors so warm air can circulate around pipes.
  • Trickle water from any faucet connected to pipes that run through unprotected spaces.
  • Locate the home’s main water valve, usually found in the basement or outside near the curb. Turn water off quickly if a pipe does burst.
  • If you are traveling and leave the house unoccupied for an extended period, shut off the water and have a professional drain the system. Turn the heat down, but don’t turn it off.

Buy a carbon-monoxide detector.It is important to have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home

  • Install carbon-monoxide detectors on all floors of your home to prevent one of the biggest winter dangers, carbon-monoxide poisoning. This can happen when ventilation of furnaces, generators, charcoal-burning or propane-burning devices, or wood-burning stoves are not properly ventilated.

Buy a generator

  • Use a generator to keep your heat and power running. This includes your sump pump, and your fire and burglar alarms.
  • Consider installing an automatic standby generator, which immediately turns on after a power outage. You may qualify for a discount on your homeowners insurance, too.

Prepare for a Flood

  • When snow and ice begin to melt, be aware of flooding for localized trouble spots around your house. Water can buildup can seep into your foundation and flood the basement.
  • If you have a sump pump, check to ensure it’s working properly in advance.

Ensure Proper Ventilation

  • Clean exhaust fans and filters in the bathrooms and kitchens because we spend more time indoors.
  • Dust and airborne particles can cause indoor air quality issues in the absence of adequate ventilation. They can even become a fire hazard.
  • Monitor other filters in your home, including cleaning out the dryer’s filter and replacing the furnace filter.

Prepare Your Pipes for the Cold

  • Prevent water issues by insulating water pipes exposed to freezing temperatures. Pipes that border an exterior wall have the greatest freezing potential, so they should be insulated with a towel or other piece of cloth.
  • In extreme cold weather, open water lines slightly to allow water to drip slowly into an indoor sink.

Prevent Icy Gutters

  • Clean gutters before the snow falls to help prevent water and ice buildup that could eventually find its way into your home.
  • After the colder weather arrives, look for clogged gutters by checking for large icicles hanging from them and/or an accumulation of ice on the roof.

Eliminate Outdoor Electrical Problems

  • Prevent electrical problems by inspecting the outside of your home. Specifically, look for damaged or frayed wires vulnerable to harm from snow and ice.
  • Check for any bird nests near electrical fixtures. Nests can cause a fire.
  • Make sure any electronic decorations have tight-fitting connections: three-pronged outlets are optimal. These cords should be stored away from main walkways, and never beneath a carpet or rug, as this creates a fire hazard.

For professional help with your HVAC, plumbing, and electrical work, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning at 1.800.461.3010. This winter, we can help you prepare your home for snow and ice!

Protect Outdoor Faucets During Winter

Winterizing your outdoor faucet, also known as a hose bib or water spigot, is a simple, but important project. Done correctly, you can save your pipes from freezing and prevent the costly consequences that come with frozen pipes. A frozen outdoor faucet can cause serious water damage to your home and property. Luckily, it is easy to protect outdoor faucets during winter, if you follow these tips.

Why Do I Need to Protect my Outdoor Faucets?

Water expands as it freezes, so if water is inside your pipes when the temperature drops below freezing, the ice can grow too large and burst the pipe. The problem may not be immediately obvious, especially if the leak is inside the wall. A good indicator that there’s an issue is if there’s water spraying outside.

If you see water around the spigot or inside your house, call your plumber immediately! Extensive damage can result if you wait too long to fix.

Thankfully, avoiding a frozen outdoor faucet is easy and not expensive to do yourself. A few minutes now can save you time, money and inconvenience.

Avoid a Frozen Faucet During Winter with 4 Easy Steps:

1. Disconnect your hoses before winter

This step is important because a connected hose holds water even when the faucet is turned off. When the temperature drops, any water inside the hose freezes inside of the hose and pipe and can burst. We often see instances where the break happens in winter but people don’t notice until spring when they turn on the outdoor faucet. Depending on where the break is, you can get water spraying inside or outside your home when you turn the water on.Protect Outdoor Faucets from Freezing

2. Use an outdoor faucet cover

Disconnecting the hose is important, but doesn’t completely solve the problem – you also need a faucet cover. Covers are easy to install and will help protect your outdoor faucets during winter. Luckily, most hardware stores carry inexpensive covers that keep faucets protected from the winter elements. After you purchase and install, based on the manufacturer’s instructions, be sure to secure it tightly in place. This little step can save you a lot of frustration and potential water damage.

3. Install a frost-free faucet

If you have already experienced problems or are looking for a more permanent solution, you can talk to your plumber about replacing your faucet with a frost-free spigot. This is an outdoor faucet designed to operate in freezing temperatures. You will still disconnect the hose in the winter. The faucet can break if the hose is left connected because the water stays trapped in the faucet head and pipe. You won’t notice there’s a problem until spring when you turn on the faucet.

4. If you leave town, shut off the water

If you’re leaving town for a few days or more, turn the water off at the main shutoff. That way, if frozen pipes do crack, you’ll have far less damage. Don’t forget to shut off your automatic ice maker, so it doesn’t continue to make ice. Even if the ice bin is full, the ice will evaporate and the ice maker will try to make more.

A few preventative steps today to ensure your pipes are safe this winter can save you time, money and effort in the future. Call a trusted plumber at Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing, & Electric (800.461.3010) right away if you suspect that your faucet is broken or you need help winterizing it. We will help you decide what works best for you, your family and your home.

Fall Maintenance Checklist

The recent temperatures have it finally feeling like fall! The summer heat that lingered into September and October is officially gone. Now is a perfect time to complete these fall maintenance tasks:

  • Check your roof: Remove moss from sloped areas and clear any debris from gutters and downspouts. Additionally, look for signs of damage/wear and make repairs as soon as possible.
  • Check Windows: Check windows seals and replace weather stripping if necessary.
  • Gutters: clean leaves and debris from gutters and make sure the screen covering your HVAC fan is preventing leaves from falling inside.
  • Outdoor surfaces:  Blow or sweep leaves and acorns before things get wet and slippery. Wet leaves can get moldy and worsen seasonal allergies. Use an outdoor cleaning solution and power washer or hose to clean walkways, porches and steps that have accumulated algae over the summer.
  • Outdoor Vents: Attic vents, dryer vents and exhaust ducts should be clear (check inside and out).
  • Basement/Crawlspace: If you have a sump pump, make sure it is in good working condition, and check for wet spots or puddles in the crawlspace. Check for pest problems – this is a good time for preventative treatment for things like camel crickets, spiders, and mice.
  • HVAC: change air filters and have your HVAC system and ducts professionally inspected before the first big temperature drop of the season.

For more information on how to prepare your home’s HVAC, electrical, and plumbing systems for cold weather, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning at 800.461.3010.

HVAC Maintenance Delivers Efficiency, Savings, and Safety

We’ve been on a weather roller-coaster with extreme temperature lows and highs this year. Swings in the seasons took us from a long, cold winter to record setting heat in the summer. This can take a toll on your home, especially your HVAC!

If you keep your HVAC in top-working condition, you will maintain a comfortable environment throughout the seasons. But, letting maintenance fall to the back burner could mean low-performing systems that result in costly repairs.

Let’s look further at what components make up an HVAC, steps you can take to avoid costly repairs, improve performance and ensure safety, and optimal maintenance schedules to extend the life of your system.

What is HVAC?

HVAC is an acronym for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. The systems are comprised of products like furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners and ventilators. The ductwork connected to these pieces of equipment is another component of HVAC, as well as thermostats and other controls. Maintaining these individual parts will keep the whole system working optimally. Regular professional and DIY maintenance will ensure these hardworking parts are at their best.

What is HVAC maintenance?

There are several aspects of a proper professional maintenance visit. HVAC maintenance is when you have a trusted HVAC technician come to your home to look at your system. The HVAC technician will inspect, clean, test, and make adjustments to your heating or cooling system to ensure it is working at optimal functionality, safety, and efficiency.

HVAC maintenance involves so much and varies based on the different heating and cooling systems, but some basic components include:Technician maintains HVAC unit

  • Checking thermostat settings
  • Tightening electrical connections
  • Calibrating comfort controls
  • Lubricating any moving parts
  • Clearing the drain line
  • Assessing unit efficiency and functionality

HVAC maintenance is more than the DIY maintenance you should be tending to regularly, like changing air filters. Professional maintenance includes the more electrical and mechanical aspects of your system. Of course, if you encounter problems while changing your filters or with your regular maintenance, you should call a specialist.

Why is maintenance essential?

Preventive maintenance helps ensure that your HVAC system runs close to peak performance. This can mean saving up to 30% on your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Regular cleaning and maintenance can prevent coils and ducts from gathering allergens, bacteria, and mold that flow through the duct work and contaminate indoor spaces. Allowing buildup to occur can trigger health problems like asthma attacks and headaches and can even bring on flu-like symptom

Proper maintenance can give your HVAC system a good 15 to 20 years of use. Without regular care, an HVAC system may only last half that time.

When should you schedule HVAC maintenance?

Your HVAC system needs professional maintenance the most right before it’s about to work the hardest. Ideally, you want to have the heating inspected in the fall and your cooling system inspected during the spring. This general schedule will prevent more serious issues like deadly carbon monoxide leaks or last-minute issues that leave you without a cooling option on hot summer days.

Routine HVAC maintenance schedule – what to expect and when

HVAC systems have many moving parts and components that rely on each other to make the whole system work. When something goes wrong, it can be very costly to repair. Good routine maintenance will help avoid big repairs and keep your system working properly, especially when you need it most.

Here’s what you can do at home to help keep your HVAC system running perfectly:

  • To prolong the life of your HVAC unit, make sure it stays clean. Eliminating environmental factors will ensure better system performance. Examining the machine and clearing it of debris such as grass, leaves, pollen, and dust will allow it to maintain optimal functionality.
  • Be sure to take a look at your refrigerant lines and inspect for damage, leaking, or other factors that may be damaging the functionality of the lines.
  • Keeping your filters changed is one of the easiest ways to ensure a solid running HVAC. Even the high quality filters need to be changed on a regular basis to keep your air conditioning system running smoothly. Regularly changed filters cut down on the system’s strain and can avoid the need for repairs.
  • Check the ground your unit sits on. Foundations and ground can shift, so it is good to perform an annual inspection on the ground that holds your AC unit. If the ground has shifted, it is best to call a professional to reinforce the foundation.
  • Some maintenance is as even more about safety than a well-running machine. Replace the batteries on your carbon monoxide detector. While they may not have completely died, the batteries should be replaced each and every year. Carbon monoxide can be highly dangerous, so it is better to be safe.

For more information or to schedule professional maintenance, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning at 800.461.3010.  We look forward to helping you keep your home comfortable in every season!

 

Inconsistent Temperature in your Home

Have you ever noticed that there are certain areas of your house that always feel colder in the winter and warmer in the summer?  Rooms like this will sometimes be at the end of a hallway, or on a second or third floor. If the issue isn’t something like blocked air vents or returns,  it might be that you need to consider adding an additional HVAC unit or re-configuring ductwork to improve airflow.

Older homes can have ductwork that is torn or sagging from natural wear and tear, which can allow air to escape in the crawl space or attic. Older homes might also have HVAC units that can’t really handle the load of heating and cooling your space. Particularly, if you’ve added on to your home or increased the livable square footage, adding a second unit might be necessary.

Even if you live in a new home, your HVAC unit might not truly be adequate enough for your square footage. This can take years off of the life of your system.

Having to use secondary sources of heating and air, like a window unit or space heater, can significantly increase your electric bill, so here are some things to check:

  1. Make sure all vents are clear and not being blocked by furniture
  2. Make sure all return vents have clean filters
  3. Keep doors open – even rooms that you’re not using
  4. Close vents in rooms that seem too cold when using the air conditioning and too warm when running the heat

If you’re still having issues with air temperature consistency in your home, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electric at 800.461.3010 to have your HVAC system and ductwork inspected.

Protect Your Foundation and Plumbing with Gutter Maintenance

Gutters play an essential role in moving water away from your home and protecting its foundation. Having proper gutters for your home can prevent plumbing problems, particularly in the wet, cold winter months.

Most homes have standard 5-inch aluminum or vinyl gutters, but they aren’t created equal, and there are cases where they just don’t cut it. Soil erosion from excess rain run-off can cause foundation instability that can impact your plumbing and sewer system. As cooler temps arrive, pipes and joints contract and can become unstable. This is the case with both pipes bringing water to the home and outgoing sewer plumbing, which can be a major concern if not addressed. Rain water is a major cause of erosion around your home, so how do you prevent it?

The surface area and pitch of your roof is a big factor in how much water the gutters have to be able to handle during a heavy downpour. Most ranch style or tri-level homes have sprawling, large roofs and therefore have to move more water. 6-inch gutters are recommended for roof surface areas of over 3500 square feet or a steep roof that is more likely to catch blowing rain.Gutter Overflowing with Leaves

(For the math enthusiasts: you can determine the exact pitch of your roof and how it is factored in your surface area by using this equation ((rise/run)² + 2) and finding the square root.)

If you have trees near or hanging over your home, fall is the perfect time to prepare for winter rain and snow. Clogged gutters can be just as detrimental to your home’s foundation as having no gutters at all. Because plumbing pipes are not flexible they become brittle over time, and even a small amount of foundation soil erosion can cause pipes to freeze more easily. Mesh or screen guards can prevent clogging in the gutters…but they are prone to clogging themselves and require regular cleaning. If you live in a wooded area, leaf-free gutters might be a worthwhile investment. They have a flat top with channels that collect water, but let leaves and debris run off. They’re really very effective during steady moderate rain but may not be able to handle the volume of a heavy downpour.

If you’ve had erosion around the foundation of your home, contact Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electric at 800.461.3010 to have your plumbing inspected!

DIY Project Safety and Kids

Family DIY ProjectA growing family and tight budget can make DIY home improvements necessary, but there are extra safety precautions that have to be considered when renovating with children in the home.  Basic comfort and convenience aside, keeping dangerous tools, materials, and chemicals away from children requires extra planning and care.

Here are some tips to keep children safe during DIY home projects:

  • As a general rule, any time you are considering doing home improvements (with or without children in the home), compare your estimated cost in materials/time to what a professional would charge.
  • Break large scale projects into phases. Make sure that you identify specific areas of the house for your family that won’t be impacted, and don’t allow any project materials or tools in those areas. Make sure the “work-free” areas can function between phases of the project.
  • Don’t try to multi-task. Even small repairs require full attention and if you’re responsible for supervising a child at the same time, you could be putting everyone at risk. Work with family or other caregivers to designate work times when small children can be supervised.
  • Ask for help. Make sure you truly understand the scope of the project and how long it will take to complete. For example, one person painting a room that requires priming and two coats of paint could take two days or more. It’s possible that three people could do it in less than 24 hours.
  • Any DIY project that requires breaching the security of exterior doors or windows, cutting off access to water or electricity, or moving furniture should be carefully considered. In some cases, it’s best to have children stay with a family member if security or physical safety is an issue.
  • Determine a lockable space to secure tools and equipment when you take breaks or between project phases.
  • Be aware of fumes and dust travelling through air vents. If you can, isolate your work space with a door or hang heavy duty plastic in the doorway. As a precaution, cover air intake vents and open windows exterior doors.

Before starting major DIY projects, it’s best to consult an expert.  Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning at 800-461-3010 to ensure your safety before starting a project, especially one involving electrical or plumbing systems.

Old Houses – New Problems

Home renovation before and afterHome Improvement shows add an element of glamour to historic home renovations, and people who invest in them relish in the charm. In one hour-long TV show a cute bubbly couple can turn a moldy, abandoned shack into a bright, trend-forward bungalow. Fixing up a historic home can be very rewarding, but what’s hiding in the walls or even in plain sight, can be downright scary.

In homes built prior to 1977, and especially homes built in the mid 20th century, there is a good chance that there are deadly chemicals in those “good bones”.

Health Risks

Older homes were designed to stand the test of time, but some of the materials used become hazardous or even deadly as they break down over the years. Asbestos and lead were present in significant levels in homes built between 1930 and 1950. Code laws and building guidelines have evolved, but there are serious health risks involved with renovating homes that contain these materials.

This danger goes beyond lead paint and asbestos floor tiles. Homes built before 1977 can have asbestos in popcorn ceilings, exterior insulation, HVAC duct-work insulation, plumbing insulation, and even roof shingles. Luckily, when undisturbed and in a solid form, exposure can be prevented. However, a simple project like moving HVAC ducts, replacing insulation, or scraping a popcorn ceiling could create dust which poses immediate danger.

Lead was used to make paint, water pipes, old window blinds, radiators, and it can even be present in the soil around older homes due to leaching. Despite our knowledge of the danger of lead, it’s still out there. There are still school systems and municipalities replacing lead drinking water pipes to this day.  Serious health problems, particularly in babies and children, can be caused by the chipping of lead paint and exposure to the dust on lead pipes.

Despite the risks, there is value and satisfaction in taking something old and making it new again. If you are planning to take on a renovation of an older home, call Central Carolina Air Conditioning 800-461-3010 for an HVAC and electrical inspection.

Summer Home Maintenance List

Home ownership comes with many joys, but there are also a lot of responsibilities. Life can get hectic, so we’ve created a summer home maintenance list to help you knock out some chores. Maintaining your home will make it more enjoyable to live in and alleviate any problems that can arise if these chores are neglected over time. Knock out the maintenance list below, and you’ll be able to relax for a little – at least until the fall maintenance comes around!

Summer Home Maintenance List

1. Clean ceiling fans

Your fans may have been off during the previous seasons of colder weather and have likely accumulated some dust. Take the time to clean your fans, since you are surely wanting to use them now!

2. Create a summer watering schedule for your garden or plants

Different seasons require different watering guidelines for your plants. Create a watering schedule this summer to keep your plants healthy and strong.

3. Check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors

Most carbon monoxide and smoke detectors have a test button.  Check to make sure they are working and your family is safe!

4. Clean your grill 

Make sure your grill is ready for those perfect evenings where you and your family can enjoy a BBQ on the back deck!

 

5. Give your windows a good wash

Summer home maintenance means window cleaning

Add window cleaning to your summer home maintenance list.

It’s always good to add this to a seasonal home maintenance list.  Pets and children can especially leave their marks on our windows!

6. Enhance your yard – add some mulch

This will not only help keep the weeds down, but it will also help the ground retain more moisture during the summer heat.

7. Keep dirt out of your home – get a couple of doormats

With shoes coming in and out of your house constantly, your floors can easily get muddy and dirty. Consider getting a coarse mat to put at the exterior of your home so that everyone can rub the dirt off before entering. Then put a softer door mat inside your door to catch any remaining dirt.

8. Have your air conditioning inspected

Perhaps the most important item on your summer maintenance list is your air conditioning unit! It’s running the hardest during these summer months, so you’ll want to make sure that your unit isn’t working unnecessarily hard or inefficiently. Call Central Carolina Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical to come out and perform a tune-up and inspection on your AC unit!

Call to schedule your appointment today at 800-461-3010.