5 Signs Your Air Conditioner Needs Service

5 Signs Your Air Conditioner Needs Service

Central Air Conditioner

When a central air conditioner is in need of repair it will often provide clues that it is not working properly. By paying attention to the symptoms of a malfunction AC and fixing the small things right away, you can avoid an unexpected and costly breakdown during the hottest days of summer. Here’s what to look and listen for.

1. The AC is Making Strange Noises

If you hear knocking, pinging or other unusual sounds, don’t ignore them. Unusual sounds can indicate that there are loose or worn parts that are about to fail.

2. Your Utility Bill Is Unexpectedly High

Air conditioners often become less efficient as they get older, making annual maintenance more important to keep the system operating at peak efficiency. If the system has to run more often to maintain the set temperature, you will notice an increase in your electric bill.

3. Areas Of the Home Are Not Comfortable, Even When the Thermostat Is Lowered

First, make sure that all the air registers are open and not obstructed by rugs or furniture. Uneven cooling can be a sign that the air delivery system is not sized correctly.

4. The Air Is Cold, But Too Humid

Humid air can be a sign of leaking air ducts, an AC unit that is not properly sized for the home, a frozen condenser coil or another malfunction. Your HVAC technician can diagnose the cause and recommend solutions.

5. The AC is Blowing Warm Air

If the system is blowing warm air, it may be low on refrigerant, have a blocked, frozen or leaking evaporation coils.

If you notice any of they symptoms above, call Hickey Plumbing, Air and Electrical. We can help track down the cause and help get your AC working at peak performance.

Replace Your Window AC With a Ductless Cooling System

Replace Your Window AC With a Ductless Cooling System

Ductless AC

If you’re thinking of replacing or upgrading a window air conditioner, you may want to consider a ductless, or mini-split system instead. While initial installation costs are higher, in most cases a ductless system will offer better  efficiency, convenience and versatility that will pay for itself in a short period of time.

Here are a few of the advantages ductless systems offer versus window AC units.

1. No window needed

A window air conditioner blocks the view outside and can be a security problem. Window AC units can also be unsightly both inside and outside the home. By comparison, ductless systems have compact, narrow enclosures that can be mounted up high near the ceiling or even under the floor where they won’t get in the way. You will forget they are even there.

2. Heating

In addition to cooling, many ductless mini-split systems provide efficient heating. This can eliminate the need for electric baseboard heat or space heaters.

3. Expansion Options

Mini-split systems can be connected together to cool and heat up to 8 rooms using a single outside heat exchanger.

4. Lower Noise

Because the AC condenser is located outside the house, mini-split systems are typically much quieter than window air conditioners. The blower fan inside the home is also very quiet.

5. Advanced Features

With some models you can monitor and adjust your ductless system using a remote control, or create programs and schedules from your smartphone.

If you’re considering replacing your window air conditioners with a ductless cooling system, call Hickey Plumbing, Air and Electrical. We can help answer all your home cooling and heating questions.

Why Are Rooms Too Cold Or Too Hot?

Why Are Rooms Too Cold Or Too Hot?

Solving uneven temperatures in the home

Thermostat

Inconsistent cooling is one of the most common reasons homeowners contact us for AC service. When some rooms in a house are too hot while others are too cold, it’s typically a sign that the home’s air delivery system is not working correctly. Simply closing or opening vents or adjusting the thermostat will usually not solve the problem. It will only waste energy and can shorten the lifespan of your air conditioner.

Here are a few things that you can do to address uneven cooling in your home.

Have Your Home’s Duct Work Inspected

When airflow to certain parts of the home is imbalanced, you’ll experience uneven cooling. Is your air conditioner running more often or longer than usual? An airflow imbalance can also cause your system to work overtime in order to compensate, which in turn can shorten your system’s lifespan and decrease its efficiency.

In order to create a balanced airflow Hickey Plumbing, Air and Electric can inspect your home’s duct work to look for leaks, undersized venting, and other air delivery problems. If the duct work is not properly sized, it’s important to replace with correctly sized ducts.

Identifying leaks and blockages is also important, as leaks are a major contributor to inefficiency and uneven temperatures. Once the underlying causes of the imbalance have been identified, the appropriate repairs or replacement will be made to get your system functioning normally again.

Variable Speed Fans and Zoning

New air conditioners use variable speed motors to provide more even heating and cooling by allowing for more precise control of the airflow throughout the home. Variable speed fans can also be helpful in situations when there are rooms in your home that are rarely used. This involves “zoning” the space to provide separate temperature settings for different areas of the home. In general, variable speed motors are the only systems that allow for zoning within the home. You’ll save money and improve comfort by controlling the temperature in each space individually.

Is Your Air Conditioning System Sized Correctly?

Just as you’re experiencing discomfort due to uneven temperatures, your system is constantly trying to compensate, resulting in higher utility bills. An improperly sized HVAC system can result in uneven heating and cooling and wasted energy. When a central heating and cooling system is installed a load calculation is made to determine the air volume in the home. This data is used to calculate the right size AC and furnace for your home.

If new additions have been added to the home, the HVAC system may no longer be sufficient to heat and cool the entire home. To determine whether your HVAC system is properly sized, contact Hickey Plumbing, Air and Electrical for an up-to-date load calculation.

What Causes a Central AC to Smell?

What Causes a Central AC to Smell?

AC Smells

Is your central air conditioner emitting a musty or sour odor? Here are a few possible causes and solutions to help track down the source and keep your home smelling fresh.

During the hot, humid days of summer your central air conditioner is working overtime to remove the humidity from the air to cool your home. The air conditioner uses a fan to blow warm air over coils that contain refrigerant; as the air is cooled, the result is condensation. As condensation forms on the coil it drips into a condensate pan so it can flow down the drain. This damp environment can be an ideal place for mold and mildew to grow – causing unhealthy air and unpleasant smells.

Change the Air Filter

A dirty air filter can limit the amount of air that cycles through the home, increasing humidity and dampness in the ventilation system, creating an ideal environment for mold to grow. Replace your air filter at least once a month, or at the interval recommended by the filter manufacturer.

Clean the Condensate Pan

The condensate pan is located inside the air handler right under the refrigerant coils. When dirt and debris collect in the pan the drain hole can become clogged, causing mold and mildew to grow.

If the drain is clogged, use a piece of wire or a paper clip to clean out the drain opening. If there are signs of mold or mildew, wipe the pan clean with a sponge and diluted chlorine bleach.

Call us

If you suspect your central air conditioner is causing strange smells in your home, call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We can inspect the system, perform maintenance and repairs if needed.

Choosing the Best Garbage Disposal

Choosing the Best Garbage Disposal

Choosing a garbage disposal

Time to replace your old under sink garbage disposal? Not all disposals work the same way so it’s important to choose the right model for your needs. There are a number of factors to consider, including durability, noise levels, price, and brand reputation. In this article we will focus on horsepower ratings.

1/3 Horsepower is the starting point for disposals, offering the lowest power and lowest cost. While they can seem like a bargain, we recommend avoiding low-power disposals. They will be more prone to jamming and are often made from lower quality components that wear out more quickly.

1/2 horsepower garbage disposals are the minimum rating recommended for a home disposal. They are widely available, affordable and compact enough to fit in tight spaces. If you don’t use a disposal that often and don’t mind the higher noise levels of a smaller disposal, a 1/2 horsepower unit may be a good option. Choose a disposal with stainless steel grinding components, as they will resist rusting and wear and tear longer, increasing the lifespan of the unit.

For many households, a 3/4 horsepower disposal will work best. They have plenty of power to handle those large holiday gatherings and can safely grind potato peels, celery and more without complaint. While they require more space under the sink than lower power units, they are typically quieter than smaller units.

Have a large family or do a lot of cooking and entertaining? Consider upgrading to a 1 horsepower disposal. They can handle just about anything you can throw at them. With a large grinding chamber and premium stainless steel components they make quick work of everything from chicken and fish bones to fruit rinds. 1 horsepower units are the top-of-the-line, but just make sure you have the space under your sink!

Whatever size unit you decide to purchase, it’s important to always run lots of water when grinding waste to ensure that residue does not build up inside the grinding chamber, which can reduce the effectiveness of the disposal and cause corrosion.

Have questions about selecting the right garbage disposal for your kitchen? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We can help you choose the right disposal for your needs.

Why Isn’t There Enough Hot Water?

Why Isn’t There Enough Hot Water?

Not enough hot water

Your water heater is one of the hardest working appliances in your home, second only to your heating and air conditioning system in total energy usage. If you have noticed that the water temperature is no longer hot enough, or you’re running out of hot water too soon, there are a few possible causes.

1. The Thermostat Is Set Too Low
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting a tank-based hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Check to see if the thermostat has been set lower than the recommended temperature. If there are young children or elderly residents in the home, we recommend never raising the temperature above 120 degrees. Setting the temperature any higher increases the risk of scalding.

2. The Water Heater Is Malfunctioning
Water heater problems often occur when these systems are not working correctly:

  • Thermal switch
  • Thermostat
  • Heating element

A licensed plumber can inspect the water heater and repair or replace the parts as needed.

3. The Dip Tube Is Broken
Cold water enters the water heater through a tube at the top of the tank. The tube directs the cold water to the bottom of the tank where the heating element is located. If the tube is broken, the cold water will remain at the top of the tank, where the hot water outlet is located, preventing the water from fully heating. Your plumber can inspect the dip tube to ensure it is working correctly.

4. Sediment Has Built Up at the Bottom of the Tank
Over time, minerals in the water can build up at the bottom of the water heater tank where the burner is located. This will cause a gradual reduction in heating efficiency and eventually lower water temperature. Flushing the tank annually, or on the schedule recommended by the water heater manufacturer, will prevent sediment build up and energy loss.

5. The Water Heater Is Located Too Far From Where Hot Water Is Needed.
If you have to run the tap for a long time before the water heats up, or the water never gets hot enough, the problem could be that hot water tank is too far from where it’s needed. During the winter in particular, pipes will cool the hot water before it reaches the tap where it’s needed. Insulating the pipes and the water heater tank can help reduce heat loss.

6. The Tank Is Undersized
A tank that is too small to supply your household with enough hot water will run continuously and never be able to meet the demand. Besides switching to a larger tank, consider upgrading to a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters heat water only when it’s needed to efficiently provide a virtually endless supply of hot water.

Not enough hot water? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We find the cause of the problem and recommend solutions to help keep the hot water flowing.

Plumbing Checklist for Spring

Plumbing Checklist For Spring

Plumbing Checklist

Spring is a good time to inspect your home’s plumbing to identify any problems that could lead to water damage, wasted energy, and unsafe conditions in your home. We have put together a list of plumbing systems to check inside and outside your home.

Kitchen

  • Check the faucet for drips
  • Check under the sink for signs of water leaks, including water stains or mold
  • Inspect the operation of the disposal. Does it sound louder than it should?
  • Do the kitchen drains empty quickly, or do they need cleaning?
  • Check behind the refrigerator for water that could indicate the ice maker is leaking

Bathrooms

  • Check for drips and leaks around toilets
  • Check for cracks in the toilet tank and bowl
  • To see if the toilet is leaking, add several drops of food coloring to the tank. Check the toilet bowl 30 minutes later. If the water has become colored, there is a leak.
  • Does the toilet run for longer than it should or does the handle need to be held down to empty completely?
  • Check drains by filling sinks, tubs and showers with water. Do they drain quickly?
  • Check faucets and shower heads for mineral build-up. Fixtures can be soaked in vinegar overnight to removed mineral deposits.
  • If plumbing fixtures are not used for long periods of time, exercise faucets and valves under sinks and toilets to prevent sticking.

Water Heater

  • Check the water heater thermostat. It should be set no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding.
  • Flush the water heater tank to remove sediment at the bottom of the tank that can reduce efficiency and lead to corrosion. Check your water heater manual for the proper procedure for draining and maintaining the unit.
  • If the water heater is over 12 years old, consider replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.
  • Ensure there are no flammable liquids stored near the water heater.

Miscellaneous

  • Is the water pressure consistent throughout the house?
  • Check washing machine hoses for bulges, cracks or other signs of wear. We recommend using braided stainless steel hoses.
  • Pour a bucket of water into floor drains to refill the trap and prevent sewer odors.
  • Check for signs of water leaks around ceilings, walls and under sinks
  • Ensure that plumbing vents outside the home are free of obstructions such as bird nests and debris.
  • Check that the sump pump is working properly by pouring a bucket of water in the pump pit. The pump should turn on and drain the water away.
  • Check outside faucets for leaks

If your plumbing inspection turns up any problems, Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical can help with all your plumbing repair and installation needs.

Heating and Cooling a New Addition

Heating and Cooling Options For New Additions

Ductless Heating and Cooling

When adding a new space to your home one of the most important decisions is  how you are going to heat and cool the room. In some cases your existing central heating and cooling system may not be large enough to handle the added air volume. Or, adding air ducts to extend the reach of the existing duct work may not be practical because of the structure of the house or distance from the air handler.

Even if the furnace and AC are upgraded to a larger system and the duct system is extended, there can be problems maintaining consistent temperatures throughout the entire home. Here are some solutions to these problems

Mini-Split HVAC Systems

One option for heating a new addition is to install a split heating and cooling system, also known as a ductless heat pump. A heat pump not only heats in the winter, it also provides cooling in the summer.

Because split systems work independently from the home’s primary HVAC system – in most cases having its own thermostat – it eliminates the air balancing problems that can occur when expanding an existing HVAC system.

Have questions about heating and cooling a new addition to your home? Give Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical a call. Our home comfort specialists can help solve all your heating and cooling challenges.

The Advantages of Ductless Heating and Air Conditioning

The Advantages of Ductless Heating and Air Conditioning

Ductless Mini-Split Advantages

Even if your home has central heating and cooling, a ductless mini-split system could be a good option for supplementary air conditioning and heating. New additions, three-season porches, basements and other spaces not connected to central heating and cooling systems are a good fit for ductless heating and cooling systems.

How Does a Ductless Mini-Split System Work?

A mini-split system has two main parts: a small air handler inside a room, often installed on a wall near the ceiling, and a condenser unit that is installed outside the home. Conduit lines connect the outside components to all of the  air handlers inside the home.

When used for cooling, ductless systems often provide greater efficiency and improved cooling performance when compared to other ductless alternatives such as window AC units. A mini-split system can also heat a room using the same air handler.

Here are just a few of the advantages that mini-split systems offer over traditional central heating and window AC units.

  1. Mini-split systems are a cost-effective option for heating and cooling older homes or buildings without central heating and cooling.
  2. Ductless systems can be used to solve challenging heating and cooling situations where the air handler of the central heating and AC are located too far from from the space you need to heat and cool, such as a new addition or 4-season porch.
  3. Ductless heating and cooling systems are ideal where you need to precisely control the temperature of a room for a specific purpose, such as greenhouses, animal enclosures or cold storage.
  4. They provide cost-effective and efficient heating and cooling for large outbuildings like workshops and detached garages.

If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of ductless mini-split systems, give Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical a call to schedule an in-home assessment. We are proud to install the Daikin Split Systems.

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

How Does a Heat Pump Work?

How does a heat pump work?

With the increasing popularity of efficient heat pumps in some areas of the U.S., many homeowners are asking if a heat pump is a good option for heating and cooling their Lynchburg area home. Here is an overview of how home heat pumps differ from traditional central heating and cooling systems.

The main difference between a furnace and a heat pump is that a heat pump can be reversed to both heat and cool a home. Heat pumps consist of two parts: an indoor unit called an air handler and an outdoor unit that is similar to a central air conditioner – called a heat pump. A compressor circulates refrigerant to absorb and release heat as it travels between the indoor and outdoor components of the system.

Depending on the season, a heat pump exchanges the cool air with warm air, or the other way around. Even air that’s seems cold can retain heat energy. When the temperature is cold outside the heat pump works by extracting the heat and transferring it to an air handler inside the home where it can be distributed through the home’s air ducts. When it’s hot outside, the process is reversed to function basically like a central air conditioner, exchanging/removing the warm air inside the home, lowering the temperature.

Is a Heat Pump a Good Option for the Lynchburg area?

When considering whether to upgrade your central heating and cooling system to a heat pump it’s important to understand that, unlike a gas furnace which generates heat by burning fuel, a heat pump can only exchange heat, and cannot deliver the high degree of warm air that is required in colder climates. Luckily, the climate in Lynchburg and the Central Virginia area is mild enough to make heat pumps a reliable and efficient option for heating and cooling most homes.

Have questions about heat pumps? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We’re happy to answer all your home heating and cooling questions.