Serving Greater Lynchburg

Why Does My Air Conditioner Run So Often?

Why Does My Air Conditioner Run So Often?

Central Air Conditioner

If you’re noticing that your air conditioner is running much longer than usual, it’s important to consider all the factors that determine the length of a cooling cycle. The air temperature outside, the size and condition of air ducts, the amount of insulation, and the condition of the weather stripping around windows and doors are just a few of the factors that will determine the length of the cooling cycle.

How Long Should a Central Air Conditioner Run?

Outside Temperature
The cooling cycle will last until the temperature set at the thermostat is reached. It shuts off at that point and starts again when the house begins to warm up again. If it is just a few degrees warmer outside, it may run for a few minutes. If it is very hot and humid, with a 30 degree difference between the thermostat setting and outside temperature, it may need to run much longer to reach the desired temperature.

Air Ducts and Circulation
Because a central air conditioner performs best when cooling the entire house, it’s important to keep all vents and doors open in every room when possible. Closing off rooms will not save energy, it will only make the AC work harder. Keeping your AC properly maintained, including changing the filter regularly, will also ensure that it’s performing at peak efficiency.

AC Sizing
Air conditioners perform best when they are properly sized for the space they are cooling. The size of an air conditioner is measured in BTUs. One BTU is equal to the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. If your air conditioner has more BTUs than necessary, it will cycle more frequently. If it has too few BTUs, it will run much longer per cycle.

Assuming your central air conditioner is properly sized for your home, it should be able to cool and remove moisture from the air in 7- to 10-minute cycles. If not there could be a problem.

Have questions about your central air conditioner? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We’re here to help.

AC Not Keeping You Cool? Here Are A Few Things to Check

AC Not Keeping You Cool? Here Are A Few Things to Check

AC Not Cooling

With the hottest weather of the season upon us, you may be noticing that your home’s central air conditioner isn’t able to keep you cool enough during the steamy, dog days of summer. Before calling a Hickey Plumbing, Air and Electrical for help, there are a few things you can check first if your home is not staying cool enough.

1. Is the air filter dirty? It doesn’t take much dirt to reduce the airflow in a typical fiberglass or paper filter. Even if the filter looks relatively clean, if it’s more than a couple months old, replace it.

2. Is the airflow obstructed? Ensure that the supply registers AND returns are not blocked. Move furniture well away from vents to allow the air to flow. While It may seem like a good idea to close vents and doors in rooms that are unoccupied, it can actually make your AC work less efficiently as a result of having lower air volume than the system was designed to handle.

3. Reduce heat sources inside the home. Closing blinds on the south facing windows and skylights and cooking outside during the hottest days can make a significant difference in how much heat accumulates during the day. Also ensure that bathroom ventilation fans and range hoods are effectively removing humid air from the home.

4. Improve air circulation. While ceiling fans won’t lower the temperature of the air, they will move the cooler air down into the living space and provide some evaporative cooling to help make warmer rooms feel more comfortable.

5. The AC is maxed out. It’s important to understand that most central air conditioners are designed to deliver only a 20 degree temperature difference between outside and inside temperatures. If the temperature hits 100 degrees and the thermostat is set to 75, it’s going to be running almost constantly. In this case, turning down the thermostat is not going to cool the house down any further.

Need air conditioner service? Call Hickey Plumbing, Electrical & Air. We can help keep you home cool and comfortable all summer long.

Choosing a Ductless Cooling System

Choosing a Ductless Cooling System

 

Ductless Cooling

As technology and efficiency have improved over the years, ductless cooling and heating (also call mini-split systems) have increased in popularity. For homes without central heating and cooling or air ducts, and difficult to cool and heat rooms like attics, garages and additions, ductless systems can be a great option. When deciding which ductless system is right for your home, consider the following questions.

How Many Zones Do You Want to Cool?

One of the advantages of ductless mini-split systems is the ability to control each zone independently. Depending on the model, you can have from 1 to 8 separate zones. Maybe you will have only one zone, say a 3-season porch. Or, you may have a zone for every room in your home. Having multiple zones controlled independently not only improves comfort in each room, it can save you a lot of money in lower utility bills.

What Size Unit Will Need to Be Installed?

Choosing the right size unit for each room is critical to ensuring comfort and efficiency.
The power of air conditioners is measured in BTUs. The higher the BTUs, the larger the volume of air an air conditioner will be able to effectively cool. Some product specs will list the size of a room it is designed to cool. Or, you can also do the calculations yourself based on the products BTU rating.

Generally, the square footage of a room translates into the following number of BTUs needed:

  • 300 sq. ft. – 7,000 BTUs
  • 350 sq. ft. – 8,000 BTUs
  • 400 sq. ft. – 9,000 BTUs
  • 450 sq. ft. – 10,000 BTUs
  • 500 sq. ft. – 11,000 BTUs
  • 550 sq. ft. – 12,000 BTUs
  • 625 sq. ft. – 13,000 BTUs
  • 700 sq. ft. – 14,000 BTUs
  • 1,000 sq. ft. – 18,000 BTUs

Installation Location

One of the main advantages of ductless systems is the flexibility of installation locations. While a window air conditioner is stuck in the window, a ductless unit can be installed in the floor, the ceiling or on the wall. Wherever they are installed, most mini-split units are compact and unobtrusive.

Additional Features

  • Remote control operation – Most ductless systems come with a wireless remote for controlling the unit. Some offer smartphone apps that let you monitor and control the system while you’re away from home.
  • Timers – Set individual rooms to turn on or off depending on when they will be occupied.
  • Reusable filters – Some models have washable filters which can save money compared to disposable filters.

Have questions about ductless cooling and heating for your home? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We can help answer all your questions.

Humidity and Indoor Air Quality

Humidity and Indoor Air Quality

Indoor Humidity

During the summer months, hot, humid air can keep your home’s central air conditioner working overtime to keep the air dry and comfortable. While your air conditioner is designed to remove heat and moisture from the air, in some cases humidity can remain high enough to cause indoor air quality problems.

If the indoor humidity is above 60 percent you may notice condensation on windows, and if the home stays humid long enough, you may notice a musty smell and mold growth in bathrooms, the basement and other areas of your home.

What Is a Healthy Indoor Humidity Level?

Many newer smart thermostats have the benefit of displaying the relative humidity (RH) in your home. You can also buy an inexpensive hygrometer to measure the humidity. A range of 30-50% is ideal for comfort and to prevent condensation and the growth of mold and mildew.

The Effects of High Humidity In the Home

Besides being just really uncomfortable, excessive humidity can cause mold growth that can lead to allergies and respiratory irritation.

High humidity can also damage your home by warping wood furniture, cupping wood floors and causing paint to peel and wall paper to deteriorate.

Controlling Humidity Levels In the Home

While your central AC will remove much of the humidity in the air, it’s important to avoid contributing to humidity levels. These sources of excess humidity can include: cooking, doing laundry, showering and other household tasks.

You can reduce humidity by ensuring that there is adequate ventilation in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry room. If humidity is a problem in these spaces, upgrading the ventilation system and adding exhaust fans can help to remove the humid air.

When the temperatures are lower outside, consider leaving windows and doors open to allow air to circulate.

If you’re concerned about excessive humidity and poor air quality in your home, call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. We offer advanced solutions for indoor air quality, including whole-home dehumidifiers and air filtration systems.

The Benefits Of Ceiling Fans In The Home

The Benefits Of Ceiling Fans In The Home

Ceiling Fan Bedroom

Ceiling fans can be a great addition to your home’s heating and cooling system. During the hot summer months ceiling fans create a cooling breeze by drawing the cool air from the lower areas of the home. By circulating warm air downward during the heating season they will keep larger rooms more comfortable and allow your furnace to work more efficiently to maintain a set temperature.

Installing a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans come in a variety of attractive designs to complement any decor. Some are equipped with a remote control and variable fan speed. We  recommend hiring a professional electrician to install your new ceiling fan. The most important reason is safety, but it’s also important that new fans be installed so the blades are balanced and rotate smoothly, quietly and efficiently.

Avoiding Ceiling Fan Problems

If your ceiling fans have stopped working, are shaking, or otherwise not operating correctly, it could be wasting electricity… or worse, it may represent an electrical hazard. In this case, it is typically best to have a professional electrician install a replacement.

Need professional ceiling fan installation? Call Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical. Our licensed electricians are experienced at installing ceiling fans and all other types of electrical appliances around the home.

How Long Does a Central Air Conditioner Last?

How Long Does a Central Air Conditioner Last?

Central Air Conditioner

With the dog days of summer right around the corner in the Lynchburg area your air conditioner will be working over time to keep your home cool and comfortable. If you have been experiencing poor performance from your central AC, or higher utility bills during the cooling season, you may be wondering how many more years your central AC will last.

The short answer is approximately 10-15 years. But the long answer is more complicated, because it depends on many factors. One important factor includes the quality of the AC itself – lower cost models are simply more likely to need replacement sooner than a more expensive, high-end AC unit. A lower cost air conditioner in a hot climate will typically by ready for replacement in as few as 6-8 years.

Professional AC Maintenance Is Key

The good news is that many of the factors that determine how long your central air conditioner will last are under your control. The most important thing you can do is have your air conditioner professionally maintained every single year. This will not only help the unit last longer, it will help it operate more efficiently, saving you money on your utility bill. With regular maintenance you can also expect to have fewer surprise repair bills.

Because most air conditioner parts can be repaired as they wear out, it’s often a good idea to replace parts as wear out. However, with new air conditioners operating at much higher efficiency than units made just a decade ago, replacing the unit may be more cost effective in the long run when compared to the repair costs of keeping a 10-15 year old unit running past its prime.

Have questions about your air conditioner? Give Hickey Plumbing, Air & Electrical a call, we’re here to help.

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.