3 Reasons You Need AC Maintenance | TopNotch Heating & Air

THREE REASONS YOU NEED AC MAINTENANCE

Most of us can admit to having a little bit of a DIY (Do-It-Yourself) attitude. But when you need AC maintenance in Pittsburgh, doing it yourself may present more problems and necessitate more costly repairs in the end.

Annual air conditioner maintenance is important. For starters, the likelihood of your AC unit going on the fritz on a sweltering hot afternoon significantly decreases. Secondly, we all like extending the lifespan of any significant investment we make. A yearly Pittsburgh AC tuneup not only increases its seasonal dependability, but also it’s durability as well.

Here are a few more reasons you need to make sure you maintain your AC system every year.

If It’s Not Cooling Effectively, It Will Raise Your Electric Bill

Most people don’t notice their AC is no longer working until it completely shuts down. Then, when they look back, they realize there had been gradual warning signs for days, sometimes weeks, or even months. The first thing a sick air conditioner will do is lose its ability to cool as effectively and efficiently as it needs to. You’ll notice you’re still hot after coming in from the outdoors. You’ll notice certain rooms in your house don’t feel as cool as they should. Perhaps it may even feel like your AC is blowing hot air.

If you’re like most people, your response to this lost cooling will be to lower the thermostat a few degrees. You’ll convince yourself this will power up the cooling. For awhile, this approach may actually work. However, soon enough, it won’t help at all.

A common culprit of inadequate cooling is a dirty evaporator. If your air conditioner isn’t cooling at all, a dirty, blocked, or faulty condenser or inadequate refrigerant are the most likely sources.

A yearly inspection of the unit by a seasoned HVAC tech can identify the aforementioned issues before they even present problems. Saving you time, money, and securing your summer-long comfort indoors.

A Dirty Unmaintained AC Worsens Allergies

The longer an AC goes without maintenance, the dirtier it gets. This dirt is distributed throughout your house anytime the AC runs. It should then come as no surprise to learn this creates a nightmare scenario for allergy sufferers. Chronic Rhinitis becomes unbearable. Even asthma attacks can be triggered by allergens like dust, dust mites, or pet dander spread throughout the house via the AC and ductwork.

An AC Will Sometimes Cry Out for Help

While chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) like Freon are no longer used in air conditioners, the elimination of that environmental pollutant has made way for another type of pollutant. Noise pollution. New energy efficient air conditioner units can make quite a bit of noise. Sometimes this noise is nothing to worry about. What you’re hearing is a machine doing its job.

But every now and then some noises can be telltale signs that something potentially more serious is going on. Sounds like buzzing, clicking, or rattling could actually be warning signs. A squeal or screaming sound is another major signal of distress that’s often related to the refrigerant. These are again scenarios that are completely preventable with yearly air conditioner maintenance in Pittsburgh.

GET A PITTSBURGH AC INSPECTION & CLEANING FOR JUST $88

The Pittsburgh Pirates are playing ball. The Steelers are welcoming their new NFL draft class. Soon it will be time to Regatta and we’ll all be complaining about how miserably hot (and gray since it’s Pittsburgh) it is outside. Why not make sure your air conditioner is ready to handle the workload with our AC inspection, cleaning, and maintenance. Check out our “summer-promo” coupon and call us at 412-381-0598 to schedule your air conditioner inspection and cleaning.

3 Spring Cleaning Tips For Your Furnace | TopNotch Heating & Air

THREE SPRING CLEANING TIPS FOR YOUR FURNACE

Furnace maintenance is the last thing most people think about when the weather starts to warm up. After being burrowed inside all winter long, it’s understandable that people want to get out and enjoy springtime weather. If they’re tending to anything, it’s readying the yard for the summer, shopping for their dream grill, planning summer vacation, or figuring out what summer concerts they’d like to attend. If they’re calling an HVAC tech at all, it’s usually to inspect and clean their air conditioner.

But part of your annual spring cleaning could be getting your furnace in shape for next fall or winter.

Regardless of your furnace’s age, make, or model, any HVAC system in your home will feel the brunt of consistently running throughout a long winter. Think of it like putting miles and miles on a car. That car will better withstand the test of time and use if it’s serviced every 3,000 miles. Your furnace is no different and needs regular maintenance.

There are two critical points each year when it’s recommended you “tune-up” your furnace. Pre-fall/winter before there’s any need to turn your heat on and spring as you’re transitioning from furnace use to AC use. Most people service their furnace prior to winter use, which is fine, but many don’t do at all. Even if you’re not calling your HVAC tech for spring servicing, there are still some highly recommended DIY tips. These include:

Checking/Replacing Your Furnace Filter

A furnace filter should be replaced at least every 3 to 4 months if the furnace is running daily. More frequently if you have pets and anyone in the house allergic to dust or dander. To determine whether or not your filter needs to be replaced, check for the following:

  • Look for Visible Dirt or a Clog: If you notice visible dirt, debris, and dust, it’s time to change the filter. If debris and dust is minimal, and you won’t be running the unit for a few months, you can wait it out if need be. But why not just replace the filter in the spring? This way you’re starting fresh when it’s time to run your furnace again in the fall and you won’t have to worry about forgetting to change out the filter.
  • Check Filter Color:  Filters are usually white, cream-colored, or gray. If its color has changed or darkened, you should replace the filter.
  • Always Write Replacement Date: Whenever you’re replacing a filter, write the date you’ve installed a new one in permanent marker. This can be done on the exposed cardboard where the size dimensions are. This way you can make sure you’re replacing your filter every 3 to 4 months like you should be.

If you skip doing all of this in the spring, remember that even a minimally used filter should be replaced if it’s been more than 3 months since the furnace has run.

Pressure Wash Outside Condenser/Heat Pump

Spring is the perfect time of year to do this. You want to wait until the weather has warmed up and you’re sure you won’t need to use your furnace again until the fall. This can be a little tricky in Pittsburgh since the temperature here can fluctuate from 75 degrees to 35 degrees in March or April.

Pressure washing this component of your air conditioner will remove the debris, grime, and bits of gravel that tend to build up during a wet, cold, and slushy Pittsburgh winter. This will also remove or breakup accumulated dead leaves that sometimes get caught in the unit. This leaves you with an AC system that’s clean and running efficiently. Cleaning your system this way will also lessen the likelihood of serious more costly damage incurring as a result of neglect.

Don’t Hesitate to Call an HVAC Pro

Have your furnace serviced by an HVAC professional at least once a year. If you do this in the fall, you don’t necessarily have to do it again in the spring, but stick to a yearly schedule that doesn’t get confusing.

One advantage of doing this in the spring is you can rest easy knowing you can turn on your heat with the first chill of autumn. It’s not uncommon to turn on your heat during the first cold snap of October only to discover your furnace isn’t working. Spring furnace maintenance will ensure your system is ready to go come fall/winter. This way you and your family won’t be sitting around in October in multiple layers of clothing, draped in blankets, while you’re waiting for a furnace part to be ordered and installed.

For this same reason, spring is also the perfect time to replace an older furnace with a new unit. Most people need a few days or sometimes weeks to replace a furnace. Getting this out of the way in the spring means you won’t be without heat later in the year when you really need it.

CALL TOPNOTCH HEATING & AIR FOR PITTSBURGH AC & FURNACE INSPECTIONS & CLEANINGS

If you’re in Pittsburgh or one of its many suburbs, don’t hesitate to call TopNotch Heating & Air for annual AC and furnace inspections/cleanings. Coupons for these services can be found on our website and we can be reached at 412-381-0598.

Home Heating: Myth vs. Reality

The thought of winter heating bills is enough to send a shiver up your spine, in addition to the one caused by the chilly air! The good news is that there are many steps you can take to “winterize” your house and help keep your heating costs in check! However, even though your blood might not be circulating, myths about energy cost savings are.

Here are some of the popular ones, and why they are flat-out false:

Boost the thermostat to boost the heat.

Contrary to popular belief, your living space does not get warmer faster if you turn the heat way up. The thermostat does not crank out hotter air in this case the more you turn it up, it just runs for much longer than necessary. If you’re trying to get to that 68-degree sweet spot, turn the thermostat to 68 degrees, not 80! This way, your furnace is not wasting energy by running after the target temperature is reached. Then you won’t have to remember to re-adjust the thermostat and you won’t be paying extra!

Wood fireplaces are cheap and efficient!

Although we wish it were true, for nostalgia and satisfaction’s sake, this is another winterizing myth. As much fun as it is to sit around a fire and stay warm on a winter evening, traditional fireplaces aren’t very efficient at heating an entire living space. Most of the hot air is funneled up the chimney and into the frigid night. If you want to explore the wood-burning route, there are newer, more efficient freestanding stoves certified by the EPA that can save furnace use. Having cheap (or free!) source of firewood doesn’t hurt either.

Space heaters can save a lot of money.

The truth is that space heaters are far less efficient than traditional heating methods. They simply cannot adequately heat a space a well as a furnace or boiler. This is especially true if your furnace runs on gas or propane; electricity is more expensive than gas, which means costs can be amplified in the winter months.

There are instances where a space heater can save money, though. One of which includes using a space heater in smaller rooms and lowering the thermostat for the rest of the house. If you’re using them in larger spaces, then it’s more efficient to keep your thermostat at a normal temperature.

Winterizing my house is too expensive!

While upgrading the heat retaining ability of your home can certainly take a dent out of your wallet, not every winterizing step has to be detrimental to your finances.

For instance, insulating window wraps and rubber door sealers are cheap, effective ways to stop chilling drafts from blowing through your home. You or a friendly handyman can take a caulking gun to seal up any holes in your siding or roof. Heavy curtains over larger windows can keep cold air from reaching your toes, too! For more ideas and energy-saving tips, visit the EPA’s website. Be proactive in guarding your energy bill this winter and you’ll be pleased with the results!

“Help! My furnace smells!”

Most people think to call their local HVAC experts when their furnace stops working, starts making noises, or leaks water. How about unusual smells? That new, funny odor in your basement could be a sign that something is going wrong inside the mechanical workings of your furnace. Here are some fragrances to which you shouldn’t turn up your nose:

 

Sulfur, or Rotten Eggs

It’s one of those smells that you can pinpoint immediately, and usually as a red flag. Whether your eggs are actually rotting in the fridge or worse, it’s never followed by good news. Many gas companies add this smell to their gas intentionally so that homeowners notice immediately and call a technician. If you believe that this smell is coming from your HVAC system, shut off all gas appliances and open all the windows to help disperse the gass. Call a heating and cooling technician as fast as possible to notify them of a potential gas leak.

 

Moldy, or Damp

Air conditioning systems can collect moisture throughout the summer months, which can fester in your ducts and vents, producing mold buildup within your house. If you smell this musty scent when you turn on your heat or AC, call a Top Notch service technician to check for possible mold development. We’ll thoroughly check your duct system for mold and mildew and can eliminate any problem areas. Your lungs and nose will thank you when your household air is back to being fresh and clear.

 

Burning, or Smoldering

If you pick up a burning odor near your heating and air conditioning system, there’s a chance that something could be, well, burning. This should demand your immediate attention and action. If the smell seems to be coming from your furnace, it could be mean that something is overheating as a result of mechanical or structural problems. For example, the wiring may be faulty or the cooling mechanism is broken. Take cautionary steps to ensure safety:  shut off the unit immediately and contact a professional to evaluate the unit and provide an accurate report on what is going wrong.

Are you saving money this winter? Invest it in next year.

By all standards, last winter was very mild. The almanacs predicted colder temperatures this year, but so far it’s not too different from 2016. However, fuel prices are projected to be at historic lows this year, meaning your energy savings could be much higher than anticipated. If these projections hold true, many homeowners will experience big-time savings on their home heating bills. Depending on how much you have budgeted to cover your heating costs, a large chunk of that may still be available come spring. While you may be tempted to invest that money into a spring cleaning project or a summer vacation, consider investing in your home’s energy efficiency instead.

 

“Nothing gold can stay”

Next year is a big maybe, which means you can’t count on natural gas prices to remain this low long-term. Just like any other commodity, natural gas prices are volatile. Additionally, next winter has the opportunity to be drastically different from previous years, which means that there is no way to guarantee another year of savings.

With a presumed surplus of cash, a smart homeowner can begin taking steps to improve their home’s energy efficiency, which can translate to lower heating costs in the future, regardless of gas or electric prices. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • With your extra budget money, upgrade the insulation in your walls and crawl spaces, so that your hard-earned heated air can stay inside the house for you to enjoy. In terms of scale of investment, insulation is rather modest.
  • Upgrade to a programmable thermostat, one that lets you adjust the temperature at all times of the day with the push of a few buttons. For maximum savings, the EPA recommends lowering your thermostat at night and during the day when nobody may be active in the house. With a new thermostat, you have control over every degree and can cut costs up to 10% annually.
  • Install a heat pump. Heat pumps are a 100% gas and oil-free ventilation system that pulls heat from the cold air and cycles it through your home, without losing the heat that is already indoors.
  • Landscape your yard and plant trees. Yes, trees! Trees and shrubs can block those biting winds, while still allowing sunlight to reach your windows, and can even create small pockets of air to help with insulation.
  • Upgrade your furnace to a new, high-efficiency model. There may even be tax credits in it for you, making that dollar stretch even farther.
  • Hire an HVAC expert to perform an energy audit on your home to discover even more ways your can save.