Category Archives: Ask The Air Doctor

thermostat

Should I change the temperature of my thermostat when I am not at home?

The short answer is yes, but be careful. What many people don’t realize is that your HVAC system isn’t just raising or lowering the temperature of the air in your house, but it is also affecting the temperature of your insulation. If you just turn your air conditioner or heater off every time you leave the house, then you can actually see an increase in your energy bill.

How is this possible? Simply put, it takes hours for your HVAC unit to penetrate the walls of your house – that’s the whole point of insulation! If you allow the outside temperature to infiltrate your insulation all day, then your air conditioner or heater will have to spend additional energy cooling or heating it back to your desired temperature. This can sometimes cost you more than if you had just set it a few degrees higher or lower before you left the house.

Here are a few tips to save money on energy:

  • In the summer, set your thermostat 5 degrees higher than your ideal temperature when you leave the house.
  • Only turn your system completely off if you are planning to be gone longer than 24-hours.
  • Buy an air conditioner with a high SEER rating, but realize that SEER isn’t everything.

Or instead of dealing with the hassle, get more efficient equipment or a Smart Thermostat.

In most US homes, over 40% of a household’s electricity bill is a result of air conditioning and heating, and in Santa Clarita, California and other arid climates it can be over 50%.

The ideal daytime temperature comfort range for most Americans is between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  So setting your thermostat to the highest temperature in this range during the summer months is key to reducing energy costs.  Set your thermostat to 75 if you can handle it, or even higher if it is comfortable but don’t sacrifice your comfort.  At that point, why even bother having an air conditioner?

At night, the ideal temperature range for Americans drops to 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 87 degrees if you are my wife).  Don’t hesitate to lower your thermostat at night though, because your air conditioner actually works less at night than it does during the day due to lower outside temperatures and the fact that the sun is no longer hitting your house causing radiant heating.

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Why Is Water Leaking From My Central Air Conditioner?

No doubt with the mugginess hitting us this week, the Tampa Bay area is in the full swing of Summer. With these 90 degree temps and the humidity high, your air conditioning must be working overtime in those daytime hours to keep your home or office comfortable.

If you haven’t had a checkup this year, pay attention to minor leaking around or water stains on walls and ceilings inside your home near your central ac unit. It could be the tell tale signs of a serious problem developing, which can lead to damage to your ac or, depending on where your central unit inside your home is positioned, flooding, dry wall damage, mold or a collapsed ceiling.

If you’re starting to see problems form, there could be a number of reasons why water is leaking from you AC unit:

Clogged condensate drain line or rusted condensate drain pan

If the drain line gets clogged by dirt, insects, mold, or anything else, the water has nowhere to go but back into the home. (Some home’s have a secondary drain line but that may also be become clogged.)

Use wet-dry vacuum to suck out the obstruction from the outdoor PVC condensate pipe.

Also the root of the problem may be a dirty evaporator coil. The dirt will mix with the water and fall down into the pan, clogging the drain. Have a professional clean this coil annually as part of an annual AC maintenance visit.

Also, the drain pan may be rusted through and is falling onto the floor and causing  damage to your home. So you’ll need to replace that.

Note: Your air conditioner may have a secondary drain pan to catch the water. This pan has a float switch that turns off your air conditioner to prevent water damage.

Installation issues

If you have a newer air conditioner, the problem may be installation related. An improperly designed condensate trap will stop the condensate from draining. So all that water builds up in the drain pan and overflows into your home, causing water damage.

You’ll need a professional to examine the condensate trap to see if it has been designed properly and fix it if necessary.

Frozen evaporator coil

Open the blower door of your inside AC unit. Is the evaporator coil covered in ice? When that frozen evaporator coil melts there may be so much water that it flows over the drain pan and then onto the floor.

There are 2 common causes of a frozen evaporator coil:

  • Dirty air filter—A dirty air filter blocks airflow over the evaporator coil, causing the temperature to drop below freezing and ice up. Check the air filter and change it if it’s dirty.
  • Low refrigerant— Low refrigerant causes the evaporator coil to become much colder than normal, causing it to freeze up.

To defrost the evaporator coil, turn the air conditioner off. Then turn the blower from “auto” to “on.” The fan should melt the ice slowly enough for the drain pan to handle all the water.

In the meantime, you should call a professional AC repairman to check your air conditioner to make sure it’s is working properly and ensure nothing was damaged.

There are a few major reasons why this happens, but primarily this can be prevented with regular maintenance. Before you get too deep into summer, let the Air Doctor make a house call to stop unnecessary and expensive damage to your home and your AC unit. Call us today, or use the handy form below to get in touch with the MD for your AC:

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Looking to Replace Your AC Unit? Variable Speed Is Right For Your Needs!

Variable Speed Air Units Save More & Make Your Home More Comfortable

We’re only weeks away from those muggy Summer temperatures creeping into the Tampa Bay area, which means you’ll no doubt be turning the thermostat down to make your home more comfortable. And there’s more heavy usage on the horizon.

If you remember last summer’s energy bills being high & your air handler is over 10 years old, it means that your AC unit is rapidly becoming inefficient and you’re probably going to have to replace it soon. The great news is that in the ten or more years since you’d last replaced your compressor, air handlers have becoming not only more efficient but they’re now making your me less comfortable and less humid, which is a big point to consider living in the greater Hillsborough and Pinellas county area.

The biggest progress is the are of  Variable Speed Units, which are the pinnacle of energy efficiency. So what’s the difference between a standard model and a variable speed air conditioning unit? Angie’s List describes the difference:

In a standard air conditioner, the air-handling component cycles on at full blast, delivering air into the home using 100 percent of its capacity. However, this much air isn’t always necessary, particularly when the cooling load of the home is lower.

Instead of cycling on and off repeatedly over the course of the day, a variable speed unit starts up at full speed in the morning to quickly restore the home to a comfortable level. Then, the unit reins in the speed, dropping down to a lower speed, but running nearly continuously throughout the day. The handler saves energy by operating at lower speeds, but energy savings also results from avoiding repeated stops and starts, a process that requires a large amount of electricity.

Next week we’ll talk about the real benefits of having a variable speed unit & what that means too your and your pocket book!

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The Importance Of Your SEER Rating

Even though it’s still a little chilly in the mornings & mild in the afternoons lately, we’re not too far off from the upwardly creeping thermostat & warmer temps that late spring in Tampa brings.

Since we’re experiencing colder and now milder temperatures, maybe you’ve been putting off dealing with your AC replacement until Spring or early Summer, in which case now is actually the time to start shopping and comparing AC units. At Air Doctor, we always preach energy efficiency & reliability when choosing which AC unit to purchase, but probably a more obvious gauge by which to compare replacement units is the SEER Rating.

To the unfamiliar, your SEER rating is your Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. To put it succinctly, it’s the measurement used to gauge how efficiently your AC equipment runs year round, but primarily in Florida, during the hot & colder months (when your ac equipment typically gets the most usage).

Efficiency is the key: the higher the SEER unit, the more efficient the unit, the more you save AND the less your waste. The government mandates that all AC equipment has a SEER rating of no less than 13 at bare minimum, but there’s real incentive both financially & environmentally to purchase ac units and equipment whose SEER rating is much higher.

In fact, over the lifetime of a typical unit whose SEER rating is 16, Florida homeowners can expect to save over $2000 in cost of operation and produce 30,000 pounds less green house gasses. The higher the SEER rating, the lower amount of green house gasses  produced & the higher the savings. That’s real incentive to make sure your next ac unit is efficient.

At Air Doctor, we always preach energy efficiency & reliability when choosing your next AC unit purchase, which is why we stand behind American Standard as our units of choice. If you’re shopping to replace, have Air Doctor make a house call to make the best diagnosis for your new AC unit today.

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Here Are the 5 Necessary Steps to Replacing Your Air Conditioner

image008You’ve been told that your air conditioner is beyond its useful life and needs to be replaced. A central heat and air conditioning system is one of the larger investments you will make in your home. If you get it right, you can look forward to years of trouble free service and a much lower electric bill.

If you get it wrong you will have many years of expensive frustration. What should you do?

Step 1 – Choose a dealer that is reputable and is offering reliable products. Services such as Angie’s List can help you find the better dealers in your area. This may involve interviewing several dealers to find the right one. Make sure they are licensed, offer a reliable product (check Consumer Reports for product ratings) and offer routine maintenance to keep the system operating efficiently in the years to come. Also, check with the Better Business Bureau in your area for a company with a rating of an “A+.”

Step 2 – Review options with the chosen dealer to make sure you are meeting the needs of your home. For example:

  • Do you want a heat pump or a straight cool system? Heat pumps are more economical to heat with bust cost, on average, $500 more. It really depends on how much heat you use.
  • What SEER do you want? The SEER is the efficiency of the system and is similar to the miles per gallon of gas in your car. The minimum available today is 13 SEER and next year will be raised to 14 SEER. An investment in a 15 to 20 SEER system result in significant operating cost savings.
  • Is high humidity a problem in your home? An investment in a variable speed air handler can result in more comfort through the reduction of humidity in the home.
  • Are you interested in monitoring or controlling your AC from your smart phone? Today’s thermostats offer this ability and can even offer home management such as cameras, locks and light controls.
  • Review available rebates. Many manufacturers and utility companies offer rebates. These are usually tied to higher efficiency systems and can significantly reduce the purchase price.

Step 3- Once you have a proposal in hand make sure you have the following documentation:

  • Manual J load study – This is a formal review of your home and what size air conditioner you need. It insures that your AC is not too big or too small. In the long run it saves you money and makes you more comfortable.
  • AHRI rating sheet – This proves that the system you are buying meets the efficiency (SEER_rating).

Step 4 – On the day of installation make sure that you have permit posted at your home. Failure to pull a permit can result in fines to the contractor and the homeowner. It also allows work that does not meet building codes.

Step 5 – Final Inspections and follow up documents. When the installation is finished an inspection will be done by your municipality to verify that all work meets building codes. You will need to be present for this inspection and once it is successfully completed the permit will be closed out.

You should also receive, from the installing dealer, a copy of manuals and warranty registrations. Systems that are not registered my not carry a full warranty from the manufacturer.

Following these steps will assure that your new air conditioner is installed properly and will save you money for years to come.

Air Doctor is a proven and trusted service provider in the East Lake area and has been replacing systems for more than 20 years. For more information or a free system replacement estimate, please call 727-821-1961.

5 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Efficiently And Reliably

By Jim Lucker, Owner, Air Docotor
By Jim Lucker, Owner, Air Docotor

While today’s central heat and air conditioning systems are more reliable than ever they still require a little maintenance and care to keep them at their best performance. Some things a home owner can do themselves while others are left for the professional.

  1. Keeping a clean filter on the intake of the air ducts of your AC is the most important maintenance item. This is often overlooked especially in rental units. Tenants usually have no motivation to take care of the system so it goes uncared for until it breaks. A filter should be clean to look at and when you hold it up to the light you should be able to see through it. Change your filter on a regular basis.
  2. Keep the area around the air handler (inside unit) clean and uncluttered. Most air handlers pull some air through the seams bypassing the filter. If chemicals are stored next to it they will be blown into the air stream and dust or dirt are present they can also be dissipated through the home. Keeping these areas clean is important.
  3. You should inspect the area around the condenser (outside unit) to make sure that it is clear. Shrubs should be cut back 1 foot from the unit to allow it sufficient air to operate. Landscape sprinklers should not spray on the unit as this can cause premature rusting. The white drain in this area should be unobstructed so it drains properly and run in such a way to drain the water away from the building.
  4. Drain lines should be cleaned each month and flushed with a solution of vinegar and water to eliminate algae build up. Usually a cap on the drain is installed so that the drain may be flushed. Should the drain plug up attaching a shop vacuum to the outside may clear it.
  5. Inspect the air ducts for evidence of bio growth or other dirt. Spring cleaning should include vacuuming the duct covers and wiping down with a light cleaner like Lysol to keep them shining.

A qualified service company should come in once before the cooling season and once before the heating season to do a thorough maintenance. This will include rinsing coils and checking electrical connections. Electric heaters and Refrigerant charges should also be checked.

Air Doctor offers these services as part of their annual maintenance program. They are a reputable Customer Care Dealer for American Standard servicing the Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater area for more than 20 years. They can be reached at 727-821-1961 in Pinellas or 813-891-9444 in Tampa.

Ask the Air Doctor: How Can You Keep Your Air Conditioner Running Efficiently?

By Jim Lucker, Owner, Air Docotor
By Jim Lucker, Owner, Air Docotor

While today’s central heat and air conditioning systems are more reliable than ever they still require a little maintenance and care to keep them at their best performance. Some things a home owner can do themselves while others are left for the professional.

  1. Keeping a clean filter on the intake of the air ducts of your AC is the most important maintenance item. This is often overlooked especially in rental units. Tenants usually have no motivation to take care of the system so it goes uncared for until it breaks. A filter should be clean to look at and when you hold it up to the light you should be able to see through it. Change your filter on a regular basis.
  2. Keep the area around the air handler (inside unit) clean and uncluttered. Most air handlers pull some air through the seams bypassing the filter. If chemicals are stored next to it they will be blown into the air stream and dust or dirt are present they can also be dissipated through the home. Keeping these areas clean is important.
  3. You should inspect the area around the condenser (outside unit) to make sure that it is clear. Shrubs should be cut back 1 foot from the unit to allow it sufficient air to operate. Landscape sprinklers should not spray on the unit as this can cause premature rusting. The white drain in this area should be unobstructed so it drains properly and run in such a way to drain the water away from the building.
  4. Drain lines should be cleaned each month and flushed with a solution of vinegar and water to eliminate algae build up. Usually a cap on the drain is installed so that the drain may be flushed. Should the drain plug up attaching a shop vacuum to the outside may clear it.
  5. Inspect the air ducts for evidence of bio growth or other dirt. Spring cleaning should include vacuuming the duct covers and wiping down with a light cleaner like Lysol to keep them shining.
Clearing Weed from Your AC Unit Can Help it Run More Efficiently
Clearing Weeds from Your AC Unit Can Help it Run More Efficiently & Save

A qualified service company should come in once before the cooling season and once before the heating season to do a thorough maintenance. This will include rinsing coils and checking electrical connections. Electric heaters and Refrigerant charges should also be checked.

Air Doctor offers these services as part of their annual maintenance program. They are a reputable Customer Care Dealer for American Standard servicing the Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater area for more than 20 years. They can be reached at 727-821-1961 in Pinellas or 813-891-9444 in Tampa.

Why Should I Replace My Furnace When I Replace My Air Conditioner?

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By Jim Lucker, Owner, Air Doctor

In homes that heat with a gas furnace many people mistakenly believe that it is acceptable to change only the condenser and coil, leaving the old furnace in place. In most cases this is not the best approach and this article outlines the reasons why.

First of all it is important to know that your air conditioner is made up of a condensing unit outside, a cased evaporator coil on top of the furnace and the furnace which provides the blower for the system. Every time that the AC turns on, the furnace also turns on to push the air through the system. This defies the common theory that the “I never use the furnace, so it is like new.” It has just as many hours as the AC system on it.

It is also important to understand that the condenser, coil and furnace are a matched set. They operate together to deliver ne component is maximum heating, cooling and efficiency. Changing one and not the other can lead to issues. If less breakdowns is the one of the goals of replacing your system leaving one old component in place will not achieve it.

image003One of the major innovations in air conditioning is improved efficiencies in the blower side of the system. Use of ECM motors have increased efficiencies and the addition of variable speed ECM motors to improve efficiencies and improve comfort through better control of humidity. Older furnaces do not contain these motors and therefore you do not enjoy the benefits.

One last reason to replace the furnace is that many gas companies offer significant rebates. For instance TECO Gas in Tampa, offers a $500 rebate when you replace the furnace. This is a strong incentive to the homeowner not to leave an old, inefficient and unreliable furnace in place.

Should you be in a tight budget situation there are coils and condensers that can be matched to old furnaces. It is important to check the heat exchanger in the furnace to make sure it is in good shape. A leaky heat exchanger can be deadly.

Following these steps will assure that your new air conditioner is installed properly and will save you money for years to come. You should also receive, from the installing dealer, a copy of manuals and warranty registrations. Systems that are not registered my not carry a full warranty from the manufacturer.

Air Doctor is a proven and trusted service provider in East Lake area and has been replacing systems for more than 20 years. For more information or a free system replacement estimate, please call 727-821-1961.