Frequently Asked Questions

What is the typical service life of HVAC equipment?

Quality systems typically have a lifetime of 10 to 20 years. As your equipment gets older, its efficiency can dramatically decrease. You may notice that it gets noisier and needs servicing more often. When a unit begins to show its age, you can overhaul the system or replace it. Since heating and cooling technologies improve over time, a new system designed with newer, more energy-efficient equipment makes sense, especially if the system has been operating for 10 years or longer. ACME Plumbing & Heating can estimate the cost of a new system as well as a payback schedule that will show you how newer technology will pay you back in lower energy usage.

Can I save on costs by just replacing the outdoor unit on an older system?

Replacing only the outdoor unit will lower the efficiency of the unit. You may lose up to 15% of the unit’s efficiency, or worse, your system may fail sooner than normal and most manufacturers’ warranties will be voided. Always replace the indoor cooling coil with the outdoor unit.

Will a larger system perform better?

Air conditioners control the comfort level in your home by cooling the air and by removing humidity. While an oversized air conditioner will cool your home faster, it will use more energy and will not remove humidity adequately. A unit that is too big for your home will have short run cycles, which use more energy and causes a lot of wear and tear. An air conditioner operates more efficiently during long run cycles. The same applies to heating systems. An oversized furnace will warm the house quicker, but it uses more fuel and causes greater temperature swings in the home.

Why is a system with matched components beneficial?

A matched system is important for a variety of reasons. When all your components are properly sized to your home, you can control exactly how much heating or cooling you need. Also, a properly matched system enables every component to perform as designed, meaning proper cycle times are maintained, humidity is controlled, and system sound is minimized. Another reason matched systems are important is efficiency. A matched system outlined by a dealer who has completed a load calculation for your home provides just the right amount of heating and cooling you need so you get the most value for your utility dollar.

How frequently should I change my air filter?

Dirty air filters reduce the amount of air flowing through a system and make the furnace work harder to maintain the temperature, so the filter should be changed regularly. How often you change the filter depends on the type of filter you use, if you have pets, and the size of your equipment.

Should I switch to a high efficiency air filter?

Proper air filtration is as important to the health of your family as it is to the health of your heating and cooling system. Without proper filtration, dust and dirt can build up on your system, which will negatively impact operation and efficiency. A high-efficiency filter will remove more dust, dirt, pollen, mold, and other particles from the air. Those who suffer from allergies or other respiratory problems will greatly benefit from a high efficiency filter. Whatever type of filter you have – make sure you change it regularly.

Do I need to have my furnace and air conditioner serviced every year?

A system properly maintained will lower energy and repair costs, prevent breakdowns and extend the life of your equipment. Neglecting needed maintenance leads to a steady decline in air conditioning performance and an increase in energy use.

How can I reduce allergens and improve the air quality in my home?

A high efficiency air cleaner, will remove up to 99% of the pollen and spores that enter your home, as well as household dust, dirt, smoke, and other air pollutants. The addition of a whole house humidifier will relieve the dry indoor air problems including itchy skin, scratchy throats, static electricity, and damage to your furnishings and woodwork. Since humid air feels warmer than dry air, you do not have to set the thermostat as high to achieve the comfort you want, which results in energy savings.

What is duct cleaning?

Duct cleaning involves the cleaning of the various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing.

What do SEER, AFUE, and HSPF ratings mean?

SEER, AFUE and HSPF are all measures of energy efficiency. Air conditioners may look similar, but their Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) can vary widely. Higher SEER numbers save more money spent on electricity. A 13 SEER air conditioner, the EPA “current minimum standard”, uses 23% less energy than a 10 SEER unit (EPA standard up until Jan. 2006). Depending on your average usage, higher SEER air conditioners can significantly reduce your electric bill. Heat pumps have SEER ratings like air conditioners and Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings for measuring heating efficiency. Higher HSPF ratings mean greater energy savings. The HSPF scale range is 7.5 to 9.0. Today’s new high-efficiency furnaces can save up to 50% in operating costs over a ten-year-old furnace. Many 1990 and earlier model furnaces have Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) ratings of 65% or less. The minimum AFUE rated furnace that can be sold in the United States today is 80%.

Why should I buy Energy Star labeled equipment?

Heating and cooling account for as much as half of a home’s energy use and the typical household energy bill is about $1,900 annually. The EPA provides important recommendations for energy-efficient equipment, including proper sizing, quality installation and maintenance, and other home improvement considerations to help you get the most out of the heating and cooling products you purchase, save energy, and save as much as 20% annually on your total energy costs. ENERGY STAR qualified products prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

What is a Heat Pump?

Heat pumps are a great solution for your home comfort system because they work to provide both heating and cooling. Heat pumps have SEER ratings like air conditioners and Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) ratings for measuring heating efficiency. Higher SEER and HSPF ratings mean greater energy savings. A heat pump is a very efficient alternative to electric heat. It works the same as an air conditioner in the summer, but it runs in reverse in the winter to heat your home. The system will be matched with a backup heating source, most often electric heat for those extremely cold days of winter.

At what temperature should I set my thermostat?

Normal cooling settings are 75 degrees – 80 degrees, while normal heating settings are 68 degrees- 72 degrees. You should always set your thermostat to the highest possible comfortable setting in the summer, and the lowest comfortable setting in the winter. Setting your thermostat in this way will maximize your energy savings. On average, every 1 degree of temperature change is equal to about 10% energy savings.

My system doesn’t work well in a couple of rooms, what do I do?

This can occur for many reasons; uneven solar heat load through windows, an undersized system, improperly balanced or clogged system or a single system serving a two-story home with no zoning control. Each situation is different, usually requiring an onsite analysis with problem specific recommendations.

Is Freon, as a refrigerant, being discontinued?

An important change just around the corner is the phase-out of R-22. As of January 2010 the refrigerant R-22 (what consumers call Freon®) will not be allowed to be used in the manufacturing of new equipment. R-22 has been used as the “standard” refrigerant for many years but has been found to be harmful to our planet by our government. All new air conditioners and heat pumps will be required to use “environmentally sound” refrigerant, such as Puron® (commonly known as R-410A). R-22 is the most commonly used refrigerant in residential homes today. However, per the Montreal Protocol, caps have been established to eliminate the production of R-22. In 2004, there was a 35% reduction; in 2010 there will be a 65% reduction; in 2015 a 90% reduction; and finally in 2020 a 99.5 % reduction in the production of R-22. This means that during the time of these reductions with high demand, the price of each pound of refrigerant could potentially skyrocket. If you are considering replacing your existing air conditioning equipment, most higher efficiency products have already made the switch to R-410A, the more “environmentally sound” refrigerant.

Can carbon monoxide build up in my home?

Yes. Each year, carbon monoxide kills more than 200 Americans and sends nearly 5,000 more to emergency rooms for treatment, reports the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Where does it come from? When carbon-based fuels such as gas, oil, kerosene or wood burn, they produce gases. When fuel combustion or burning isn’t complete, carbon monoxide enters the air. The CPSC advises that carbon monoxide detectors are the only way to alert yourself to the presence of toxic gas in your home. If you wake in the night with a headache — and especially if another member of the family complains of a headache or is difficult to arouse — get out of the house fast and seek medical help. We recommend carbon monoxide detectors be installed in your home!

There is a bad odor coming from my garbage disposal. Does this mean it is not working properly?

Foul odors do not necessarily indicate a problem. They can occur from a buildup of food debris in the disposal unit. Odor can be eliminated by placing ice cubes and lemon or orange peels in the disposer and run it for 30 seconds. Baking soda can also help to address odors.

What can cause a bad odor coming from an infrequently used drain?

Plumbing systems are designed to keep odors from entering the house by means of a trap inside the fixtures. These traps contain water to seal out foul odors. If the water seal evaporates, the odors can occur. Simply pouring a bucket of water in each trap, sink, shower and floor drain should alleviate the problem.

Will turning off the outside faucets in the fall before the freezing weather arrives prevent pipes leading to outside faucets from freezing and breakage?

Turning off the water is not enough. You must also disconnect the garden hose connected to the faucet to allow the water in the pipe to drain out. This will allow the piping to withstand the cold weather.

When mineral deposits build up on fixtures is there anything I can do other than replace them?

Replacement may not be necessary. Often deposits can be removed from fixtures. One method is to take a plastic bag filled with a cup of vinegar in it and securing it over the fixture with a twist tie, and leaving it in place overnight. In the morning, remove the bag and use an old toothbrush to gently scrub off the deposits. If fixtures are easily removed they can also be directly soaked in the vinegar overnight.

What might cause a rumbling sound coming from the water heater?

Rumbling sounds coming from a water heater are an indication that sediment has built up on the bottom of the water heater. What you are hearing is water that is trapped in the sediment and is boiling. This is an indication that the water heater is not operating efficiently. Sediment will not allow the heat to transfer to the water in the tank, which sends the heat up the flue.

Many newer models of water heaters have a new feature that prohibits the buildup of sediment in the tank. If your heater is an older model, it may be cost effective to replace the water heater if the buildup is severe.

What is the recommendation for toilet replacement to be sure that it flushes properly?

When the federal government mandated that new toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, manufacturers had to develop a toilet that would achieve this but that would also function effectively. Some of the early models did not do this properly, so manufacturers have since developed new ways of flushing toilets. One is with the use of a pressurized toilet tank. These look like regular toilets, but with a pressure tank inside. When flushed, it works like a commercial toilet. A large surge of water enters the bowl and clears the bowl of any waste. These toilets work well, but are not as quiet as a conventional model. ACME Plumbing & Heating can assist you with selecting the right model to suit your needs.

What can cause a sudden change in the amount of hot water available in a home?

One possible problem is a broken dip tube. This is a tube that forces incoming water to the bottom of the tank so that hot water will be drawn off of the top. When the dip tube breaks, cold water entering the tank mixes with the hot water and cools it down. This can occur in both gas and electric models. If your water heater is electric, the lower element that heats the water may not be operating properly, resulting in only the upper half of the tank will heat up. The cause of this problem could be a bad element or a thermostat malfunction. This type of problem should be evaluated by a qualified technician.

What, besides leaking faucets, could contribute to a high water bill?

A leaking toilet could be the problem. First, check the water level to make sure that water is not overflowing the tank into the overflow pipe. If water is running into the overflow, adjust the fill valve to stop the flow approximately one inch below the top of the overflow tube or to the water level mark stamped on the side of the tank. Another test is to put a few drops of food coloring into the tank to test the flush valve mechanism. If the water in the bowl changes color within 15 minutes, this is an indication that water is leaking into the toilet bowl and that the ball or flapper needs to be replaced.