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.

How Much Does Air Conditioning Installation Cost in Pittsburgh?

A common question that we get at Top Notch is ‘How much will it cost to install an air conditioning system in my home?’ Well, every home is different and therefore every air conditioning installation price is unique. Make sure you take a look at our last blog post that goes over ‘Professional AC Installation Criteria’. That way you will know what Top Notch Heating and Cooling takes into consideration when outfitting your home with the ideal equipment (and know when another company might not have all the information necessary to make an informed AC decision for your home as well).

Top Notch installs everything from Central Air Conditioning Systems, to Ductless Split Air Conditioning Systems, and Window Units. We do maintenance on all different makes and models of HVAC equipment, but stand by the following brands when it comes to new installations: Goodman and Airtemp; Sea Breeze, Fujitsu, and Daikin for mini split systems, as well as Crown, Utica, HTP for boilers.

Goodman Air Conditioning and Heating Pittsburgh

Goodman: The Goodman brand has been building air conditioning equipment since 1982. Given their decades of experience in the heating and cooling business, customers can be assured that Goodman brand air conditioning systems meet the highest industry standards and are installed by some of the best and most experienced professionals in the industry. Goodman offers a 10-year Parts Limited Warranty coverage on all functional parts, and a Lifetime Compressor Limited Warranty on the compressor in our air conditioning products, as well as similar warrantees are their heating products too.

AirTemp Air Conditioning Pittsburgh

AirTemp: Airtemp air conditioning systems are designed, assembled and repeatedly and thoroughly tested in North America. AirTemp only uses reliable components and proven technology, and builds quality into their products during every step of the manufacturing process. They have a 10-Year All-Parts Limited Warranty and also stand by a 1-Year Replacement Pledge (in case of compressor, or the heart of the system, failure).

 

Top Notch relies on a combination of things for our Top Notch Service. We have a strong team of skilled, experienced professionals that install and maintain our top of the line products, which are backed by strong warranties. This winning combination and our fare prices make Top Notch a reliable source for your HVAC needs.

At Top Notch, we steer clear of partnerships with dealers such as Lennox, Carrier, Bryant, and Trane…. Partnering with dealers makes HVAC companies inflate customer prices and promote their products, which may not be the best for the specific needs of the customer at hand. By staying independent, Top Notch is able to choose the nest, and most correct product for the job at hand, and charge customers the proper fee, without having to increase it to pay off the partnership of a distributor.

In general, Air Conditioning Installation Cost with Top Notch starts at $2800. Depending on size, efficiency, and the number of bells and whistles required for the job, the price goes up from there. When you are looking for a company to install HVAC systems in your home, call around to different companies and get pricing and ask them what criteria they use to decide what option is best for your home, and which brand product they will use. And make sure you start with us, here at Top Notch.

 

Professional Air Conditioning Installation Criteria in Pittsburgh

goodman HVAC units
A frequent question we get at Top Notch Heating and Cooling is, “How much does it cost to get a new air conditioning system installed in my home?” This is a hard question to answer, given that every home is unique, which in turn makes every air conditioning installation different. Air Conditioning Installation is a big purchase and decision and is therefore heavily considered. Most people looking to install a new air conditioning system will buy a good quality system that lasts longer, uses less energy, and therefore pans out over the course of the years they plan to spend in their home.

The first question you have to answer is: ‘What’s the best type of Air Conditioner for My Home?

Your home is unique. From its components, to its size, location, your style of living, your preferences, heat loss, and so on. Your air conditioning system will be specific to you. Below we will try our best to break down how we assess which AC system is best for your home, dependant on your situation. Below lists how we, as HVAC professionals, arrive at the expert advice we give to the unique homeowners that we serve in and around the Pittsburgh area.

Measuring Home Size (BTUs)
The size of your home is a major factor in determining the best air conditioning system. AC units are measured in British thermal units, (BTUs). They are measured by the amount of heat they remove in a home in one hour. The bigger your house, the more cooling power it will need. Get too large of a system, and it will cycle on and off which created a loud sound and also wastes energy. Get too small a system, and your AC will run all the time and inefficiently cool your home.

Lifestyle
The unique build of your home and how you use it will greatly affect which Air Conditioning System fits you best. Answering questions such as: Is your basement finished? How well is your attic insulated? How do you currently heat your home? Do you want the capability to cool some rooms and not others? Etc.

Calculated Heat Loss
A multitude of factors determines how much heat-loss your home has; this information helps decide its’ air conditioning needs. Your geographic location, area of ceilings, floors, and walls exposed to outside temperatures, the number and quality of windows and doors, the perimeter length of Slab on grade floors, your homes volume, and internal heat gains (from warm bodies, lights, appliances, etc) are all factors that make up your calculated heat loss.

Additional Considerations
At Top Notch, we also factor in such things as; the materials that make up your home, when it was built, past duct infrastructure, and more. We also look for problem areas such as preexisting duct leaks and seal problems, as well as potential draft locations, cheap windows, etc.

Unit Load Calculations
An air conditioning contractor will do a load calculation to determine the proper air conditioning unit for your home. We use a variety of computations to properly analyze your home’s cooling characteristics. We do this both for the whole house, and/or room by room to help determine duct size and assess all needs of the home thoroughly.

Would you like to get your home assessed by a Top Notch Cooling and Heating Professional? Let us help you find the best cooling solution for your unique home and lifestyle. Serving homeowners in and around the Pittsburgh area including:
• Allegheny County
• Butler County
• Somerset County
• Armstrong County
• Fayette County
• Washington County
• Beaver County
• Greene County
• Westmoreland County

Give us a Call today at 412-381-0598 or send us an email on our contact page. We look forward to serving you and making your home nice and cool for the rest of summer!

Stay tuned for our next blog post that will answer the question: How Much Does Air Conditioning Installation Cost for an Average Pittsburgh Home?

Summer Savings Tips for Homeowners

Homeowner expenses

High Summer Temperatures outside often mean higher electricity bills to keep your homes cool inside. Below are some simple tips to help cut down on energy use and lower your electric bill at the same time. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to a Top Notch Technician if you want to chat with an expert directly about maintaining a more energy efficient home.

Air Conditioning

Make sure your Air Conditioning System is running at Top Notch this Summer by keeping your air filters updated, assessing air and water leaks, checking your compressors health, and fixing a noisy AC. Read our blog post, ‘How to Maintain and Troubleshoot your Air Conditioning System’ to learn how to check and maintain the items lists above. If you didn’t get your system inspected prior to the season starting and you’re running into issues now, not to worry, a Top Notch Technician can still inspect your system and make sure it’s running at full capacity for the second half on Summer, no problem!

should you turn off AC when not home?

 

Should you turn your AC off when your not home to save energy?

Yes. People often think it takes more energy to re-cool a room than to just keep the AC running at a higher temperature all day, but that is simply not true. Turning off your AC unit saves energy. Running it at a higher temperature all day, only turns things on and off at different rates, and doesn’t use so much less energy that it is more worth it to leave it on. When your asleep, or away for the weekend or at work for the day, turn off your AC. When you come home, turn it back on. Programmable thermostats are great for this purpose.

Use of Appliances

Oven – An easy way to keep your home cool and use less electricity in the Summer, is to use the oven and other heat generating appliances more sparingly. Cook dinners that don’t require use of the oven. (Here’s 100+ No Oven Recipes).

Washer/Dryer – Only do loads of laundry when they are full. Use drying racks instead of the dryer. Wash in cold water.

use ceiling fan with AC

Fans – Use your bathroom exhaust fan after showering to remove heat and humidity. Use ceiling fans when in rooms to circulate air better.

Lighting – Turn off and unplug lights/appliances when you aren’t using them. Buy energy efficient bulbs. Check out Consumer Reports ‘Choosing the Best Energy-Saving Lightbulbs’ to see how your bulbs compare, and what you should buy next time your bulbs burn out!

Save energy and money by following these energy saving tips! Both your wallet – and the environment, will thank you for your decreased use of energy! Here’s to a cool and comfortable Summer while using less energy! Share these tips with the homeowners you know, and help them save and decrease their energy usage too!

 

Why You Should Hire Professionals for Air Conditioning Installation

Everyone likes to save money. Sometimes, that involves cutting corners. This tactic for saving works on many things. But sometimes cutting corners in an effort to save a few bucks just isn’t worth it in the end… Like when your daughter tried to cut her hair and ended up with a mullet, or when the dollar store trash bags made a mess in your kitchen. Somethings, like Air Conditioner Installation, should be left to the experts because in the end, spending those extra bucks will end up saving you money in the long run.How Does an Air Conditioning System Work?

 

A recent NIST study has gathered Air Conditioning systems operate inefficiently and waste significant energy due to a variety of installation errors. These set up errors range from improper refrigerant charge, incorrect airflow, oversized equipment to leaky ducts. These errors can raise your energy bill by as much as 30%. That is why professionals like the Top Notch team should install your Air Conditioning System, and get it set up right the first time. (Read the full NIST study to find out exactly how much energy can be wasted through insufficiently set up air conditioning equipment. )

Professional Air Conditioning Installation

A major strength of the team here at Top Notch Heating and Cooling, is the amount of experience we have in the industry. Top Notch has served over 20,000 customers and has been serving the Pittsburgh area for the last 20 years. With this experience, we are able to make educated decisions with homeowners about which system is best for them given the unique area, home, and owners. We find the air conditioning unit that fits all of your criteria best. Then we perform a heating and cooling load calculation, which helps us determine the correct unit size, which is important for the systems functionality, and the amount of energy it uses. Many factors about your home help us make this determination, such as: foundation type, type/ color of roof, insulation values in walls/floors/ ceilings, window type/location/quantity, size of home, and more.

Your air conditioning system is a major piece of equipment that you use regularly and for many years. Remember that somethings should be left to the professionals, and for good reason. Save yourself money in the long run by getting your system installed the right way, the first time.

If you live in or around the Pittsburgh area and need help with your heating or cooling systems, give us a call at 412.381.0598 or send us a message through the Top Notch Air website. We look forward to serving you and saving you money.

 

How to Maintain and Troubleshoot your Air Conditioning System

Air Conditiong Maintenance Allegheny County

Keep your Air Conditioning Systems running well with the tips and troubleshooting answers listed below. Maintaining your AC will keep your systems performing at Top Notch, help you save money by using less energy, and stop major problems from occurring by assessing the smaller ones. Protect your home investment and read on to learn about how and why to check your system, assess issues, and ultimately uphold the value of your air conditioning system. Read on for 5 tips to help you maintain and prevent problems with your air conditioning system.

  1. Update Air Filter. The top cause of HVAC system malfunction is dirty filters. Also, those dirty filters make it harder for air to pass through, which causes the system to use more energy in pushing the air through all of the debris. If that isn’t enough to make you change your filter, then think about it this way: Dirty filters mean dirty air ducts which means the house is dirty and full of allergens. Keep your filters clean to avoid more problems, and keep the air in your house clean.
  2. Assess Air Leaks. If your system used to work better and make the air cooler and it isn’t anymore, then one of the many reasons that can occur is from leakage. Make sure your window units are sealed properly, (Tip: follow Top Notch on Facebook for tips on how to find leaks and more useful info!) and if they are leaking air, try stuffing foam in between the device and window frame. For central air-conditioning, check for leaks around duct connections. For ductwork, you can use foil tape to seal tiny gaps, and duct mastic for larger leaks.
  3. Check Compressor Health. Put your central air compressor and condensor on the north or east side of your house to keep it out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Place it in a clear area, 24 inches away from anything else to keep it running at its best. Troubleshooting compressor problems: If your compressor starts and the fan does not, then the condensor fan motor could be the issue. If the fan starts, and the compressor does not, your refrigerant could be low or the compressor might be bad.
  4. Assess Water Leaks. If your Air Conditioner is leaking water, then it may be due to a clogged tube, or due to a problem with the condensation pump. If ice is blocking the tube, then clean or change your filters and/or check refrigerant levels. If your refrigerant is low, a Top Notch technician will gladly refill it for you. If it’s not due to a tube, make sure the condensation pump is plugged into a working outlet, and then pour water into its collector, and then see if the pump starts. If it doesn’t start or does but doesn’t empty the water, its stuck or broken.
  5. Fix Noisy AC. Most newer air handlers have direct-drive motors, but older units may be belt driven. Squealing sounds can occur from air conditioning systems reliant on belts. See our previous blog post, to make sure a repair on an older machine is the right move, or if you need to prepare for the Freon Phase Out which may prove your system obsolete in light of new government changes for refrigerants. If your direct-drive motor is making noises that sound like squealing or grinding, call Top Notch – the motors bearings are probably shot.

If you have a question about maintenance or troubleshooting your AC unit or system that is not listed above, reach out to the Top Notch Heating and Cooling Experts. We service areas in and area Pittsburgh, including but not limited to homes in Allegheny County, Washington County, and some of Beaver and Fayette counties.

Find out more about Top Notch on the Top Notch website.

Air Conditioning System Update: Plan Ahead for the Freon Phase Out

Air Conditioning regulation is in the process of making changes that you need to know about. Be aware of the updates you are going to have to make in the next few years and make the most cost effective decisions by understanding the changes and how they will effect you, your family, and your current air conditioning systems with help from Top Notch Heating and Cooling of Pittsburgh.

No more Freon in Air Conditioning Units

The Freon Phase Out:

In 2010, air conditioning manufacturers discontinued the production of equipment that utilize R-22 Refrigerant, also known as Freon.

Prior to 2010, Freon based Air Conditioning Systems were the popular AC Unit, used for decades in residential homes and for commercial businesses. However, in recent years we have learned that Freon is a fluorocarbon pollutant that removes the ozone layer, which as you know, acts as a protective layer against harmful ultraviolent rays from the sun. If you currently use equipment that recharges with Freon, you can continue to recharge your equipment up until 2020. Meaning that you will absolutely need to get new equipment that does not rely on Freon after January 1st, 2020, as it will not be available thereafter. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ruled to completely stop production of HCFC-22 by the year 2020.

So Why Upgrade before you absolutely have to in 2020?

  1. As Freon becomes more difficult to obtain, it will also become more expensive. In 2014, 51 million pounds of Freon were produced for consumption. In 2015, that numbered dropped to 22 million. By 2020, that number will drop to zero.
  2. You are hurting the ozone layer and quality of life for all of its inhabitants by using a fluorocarbon pollutant that has been classified as harmful to the environment.
  3. There is an alternate cooling unit, R-410A (brand name Puron), which is just as efficient as Freon at cooling and does not harm the environment like Freon. New air conditioning systems use Puron, which is currently about half the cost of Freon, which will become increasingly more expensive until its deletion in 2020.

Update your Air Conditioning Unit before 2020

See what KDKA has to say about the Freon to Puron Phase Over: ‘Switch To New Refrigerant Likely To Boost Cost For Consumers

Top Notch supports the Airtemp and Goodman brands for residential air conditioning systems. All Top Notch installed Air Conditioners utilize refrigerant R-410A, specialty warrantee options, and high performance and quality products that Top Notch stands by and that our customers can rely on. Learn more about Top Notch Cooling Services on our Cooling Page.

 

When, Why, and How You Should Get Your AC Inspected This Spring

Air Conditioning Inspection

Before using your air conditioner, you should make sure that air can flow through it freely and most efficiently. This preventative measure can improve the air quality within your home, and save you money in the long run.

So when exactly should you get your air-conditioning inspected? A tell tale sign its time to get your system inspected are the budding of plants and flowers which mark the start of Spring and the warmer months to come. Other times you may want to get your AC system inspected are from sensory clues that there may be an issue. Sometimes AC problems are visually noticeable. Here are some Ductwork problem you might be able to identify through sensory clues:

  1. Peeling duct tape and loosely fitting seams
  2. Dirt marks that signify escaping air
  3. Damaged ducts that look flat or torn
  4. Dents in the system itself
  5. Damage from plant growth on the outside of compressors
  6. Bent condenser unit fins that obstruct airflow
  7. Thermostat not working property or displaying incorrect information
  8. Warm air coming through the air vents when on a cool setting
  9. Different temperatures in different rooms
  10. Outdoor unit making strange noises

So why should you get your AC inspected? Because inspections more than pay for themselves in improved energy efficiency, which ultimately saves money through lower utility bills and making your AC unit last you a longer time. Inspection of your AC unit can lower your monthly energy bill by up to 15%! That’s huge! AC inspection can prevent your AC unit from breaking down as well by addressing small problems, before they become big, costly problems.

When a TopNotch team member comes out to your home to inspect your AC unit, we check your systems connections, refrigerant levels, operating temperatures, return and supply lines, operating pressures, as well as the motor, blower, drain line, and coils to make sure they are functioning properly. We also clean the filters, connection points, motor, and coils, too, with out current promotional offer listed below.

In the least, one thing that you can do yourself to help maintain the efficiency of your AC, is replace or clean its filters on a regular basis. Clogged, dirty filters block airflow and increase your air conditioners energy consumption. Dirty filters can also cause other, bigger issues, like bringing dirty into the evaporator coil, which lowers the coil’s heat-absorbing capacity and ultimately makes your AC less effective.

Here’s an interesting fact about AC Inspection:

Did you know that in the United Kingdom, you get fined if you fail to get your air-conditioning inspected at least once every 5 years?

TopNotch recommends that you get your air-conditioning inspected at least once a year, to keep your systems working at peak performance. In fact, at TopNotch, we have a special! Get your air-conditioning inspected and cleaned for only $58! Find out about more Top Notch specials on the Top Notch Promotion Page.

summer-promo

When Is It Time to Replace Air Conditioning Ducts

When Is It Time to Replace Air Conditioning Ducts?

It’s likely the largest appliance in your home. But aside from changing a filter every so often, adjusting the thermostat, and taking refuge in that cool house of yours on a hot humid summer’s day, most people don’t think very much about their air conditioning system. Until the moment it stops working.

Quite often, we’ll get a call from someone irritated that certain rooms of their home are hotter or colder than others. When we stop by their home, and conclude that nothing is wrong with the air conditioning unit itself, we’ll ask if their ductwork has ever been inspected or tested for leaks. More than a few homeowners have absolutely no idea.

Although it’s hidden throughout your home, it’s critical that your ductwork is in good condition. Leaky ducts can lead to air that is either too dry in winter months or too humid in the summertime.

Duct work that is in poor condition can also be a health hazard, particularly for anyone with allergies or asthma, since particles pulled from the attic will lead to the presence of excessive dust throughout your home.

If you’re wondering if now is the time to replace air conditioning ducts, please call TopNotch Heating and Cooling at 412-381-0598 or 724-693-0598 to have your ductwork’s condition inspected and tested.

Start Breathing Better By Improving Indoor Air Quality

Start Breathing Better By Improving Indoor Air Quality

We can’t see it, but it’s all around us. It’s a critical component to our day-to-day lives, yet it’s all too easy to never think of it or completely take it for granted. We’re talking about the air we breathe – both outside and indoors.

The air we breathe impacts both our health and overall quality of life. We feel better and healthier when we’re breathing in air that is pure and clean. Nobody gets any relief when they step outside for a breath of fresh air only to be smacked in the face by emissions from a passing truck, bus, or a nearby factory. Yuck.

Nobody knows this more than life-long Pittsburgh residents who still remember a time when today’s “Most Livable City” had the dubious distinction of being known as the “Smoky City.” And, if you’re new here, or too young to understand, all it takes is one look at an old black-and-white photo of a downtown Pittsburgh street so smoky that its street lights are on in the middle of daylight. Need further proof? Look at the still soot-stained old buildings in downtown Pittsburgh for further evidence.

But air quality isn’t something that only affects us when we step outside. It’s also something we have to consider when we’re at home or our workplace. Newer buildings today are airtight because they’re built to be energy efficient. This means fresh air outside can’t get in and bad air indoors stays inside. This is why it’s important to consider the quality of our indoor air, too. There are a number of air filters and cleaners available that significantly reduce pollutants and improve indoor air quality.

Limiting indoor pollutants is especially important if anyone in your home suffers from respiratory ailments, allergies, or similar illnesses that complicate breathing. Make sure any air conditioning or furnace unit has good filters. There are even UV lights that can be installed that purify indoor air, improving indoor air quality tremendously.

Call TopNotch Heating and Cooling at 412-381-0598 or 724-693-0598 if you’d like to hear about our solutions for improving indoor air quality.