Indoor Humidity LevelsEven before you begin to notice cooling issues, which we’ll get to in a moment, you may notice that your space also becomes a bit more humid when refrigerant begins to leak. This is because refrigerant not only pulls hot air from the space, but also moisture content at the same time. Particularly if you notice any condensation or dripping water in strange areas, this could be a sign.
Limited Cooling CapabilityParticularly during the hottest parts of the day, have you noticed that your air conditioner just can’t keep up? The thermostat says a lower number as the target, but the actual temperature stays high. Now, to be clear, this could be due to a refrigerant leak – or one of several other issues. But if you notice this problem along with any of our other signs in this blog, you’re on the right track to finding the cause.
Rising BillsEven if you don’t notice specific issues with your cooling or humidity, you might notice them on the next month’s utility bill. Systems that are compromised have to work harder and harder to cool, which raise your bill in a hurry.
Extended CyclesAnother physical sign you might notice is an air conditioner that runs in extremely long cycles. If your AC is running for a half-hour at a time without stopping, for instance, this is a clear sign that it’s running behind the thermostat and has an issue like a refrigerant leak.
Hissing or BubblingIf you want to test whether one of the issues we’ve listed above is due to a refrigerant leak, turn off your AC system temporarily and go outside to your outdoor condenser unit. Can you hear a bubbling or hissing sound? If so, the issue is almost certainly a refrigerant leak. One note: No hissing or bubbling doesn’t necessarily mean refrigerant isn’t the issue, but in cases where it is, it’s likely not severe – more significant leaks will almost always create this noise.
Ice on CoilsFinally, another clear sign that will help you narrow down refrigerant leaks versus other issues is the presence of ice on the evaporator coils of your outdoor unit. There’s no reason frosty ice crystals should be forming out there in the sun – unless they’re coming from leaking refrigerant, of course, at which time you should call our team. For more on telltale signs your AC has a refrigerant leak, or to learn about any of our HVAC services, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Humidity ControlOne of the simplest ways to limit or completely eliminate dust mites is to control the humidity in your home. Dust mites thrive in higher humidity environments, especially anything above 70 percent; however, they simply cannot survive when the humidity drops below 50 percent, and anything up to 55 percent will not encourage their growth. If you’re concerned about dust mites, head to your local home improvement store and buy a basic humidity detector – they’re very cheap. From here, test the various rooms in your home for their humidity. If rooms are too high, consider purchasing a dehumidifier or simply leaving windows open for a few days to even things out.
Clean, Clear DuctsOne of the top areas for harboring several allergen types, including dust mite excrement or skin? Dirty, unkept air ducts. Not only will cleaning these regularly help keep your system functioning at peak capacity throughout the year, it will also limit any allergen deposits and help you control air quality more effectively.
Vacuuming ConsiderationsIf you have carpet in your home, it should be vacuumed regularly for the sake of those with allergies. While doing so, if you’re one of the people in the home with allergies, we recommend wearing a mask and then leaving the room for a few minutes afterward.
FloorsWe mentioned carpet above – if you’re moving into a new home soon and have a choice in the matter, we recommend hardwood flooring instead. If your current home has major dust mite or other allergy issues, you could consider replacing carpet with a hard floor.
HVAC ProsOn top of everything we’ve discussed here, it’s important to speak with our heating and air professionals about the ways you can go about preventing dust mites and other allergens from becoming a problem. We’re happy to offer high-level expertise on the proper filters needed, air purifier options, humidity control and any other areas you need assistance with. For more on any of our air quality services, or to learn about our HVAC programs today, speak to the staff at Airtime Heating & Cooling.
Changing FiltersChanging filters in the HVAC system is vital for a couple reasons. For starters, it ensures that the air remains clean and healthy in the home. For another, clean filters prevent the buildup of dust and other debris – buildups that, over time, can wear down several major HVAC components while also raising your monthly heating or cooling bills. Changing furnace filters is extremely easy, and landlords with trusted tenants can usually rely on them to do this as necessary. Most filters require changing roughly once a month, while some others may last for multiple months. As a landlord, you should always have at least one backup filter on hand at your rental properties, and more than one if possible. If your tenants are not reliable, you can place a clause in the rental agreement that allows for you to come and change the filters regularly.
Replacing HVAC ComponentsFor some landlords, it can be tempting to let certain HVAC issues linger – you aren’t living in the space, after all, and many HVAC issues are relatively minor. This is a major risk, though, in large part because you could be risking the health of various components in the system. Replacing or repairing worn down components will increase your energy efficiency, plus make it last longer.
Vacant PropertiesAs a landlord, you may deal with periods of vacancy in between your tenants. These periods allow you to be a bit more relaxed with your HVAC system – you can turn the thermostat off during the summer if no one is living there, for instance, and you can lower it to between 50 and 55 degrees during winter. The only reason you must maintain this temperature during winter is to prevent frozen pipe issues. Just be sure to check in regularly during vacant periods to make sure there are no building issues, such as rising humidity or mold growth.
Checking InSpeaking of checking in, this is a great way to keep things functioning well during the day-to-day operations with a tenant in place as well. By “checking in,” we really just mean regularly communicating with your tenants – actually showing up to the property unannounced is almost always prohibited under standard rental agreements. But simply asking your tenants about any issues regarding the HVAC system or heating and cooling concerns can go a long way. For more on maintaining your property’s HVAC system as a landlord, or to learn about any of our heating or cooling services, speak to the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Initial Inspection Before BuyingFirst things first: Whether or not you’re planning to rent a home after buying it, a major part of your inspection process should involve the HVAC system and its various components. All home purchases should be made after a professional third-party inspection and appraisal, one where this objective party can let you know if there are any issues with the air conditioner, furnace, water heater, vents and several other related areas. If such issues are present, you have a couple options. The first will be to demand a price reduction, which you’ll often get. The second would be to require that the seller attend to the issues themselves before you pay their original asking price. In either case, don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of and discover HVAC issues after you’ve already signed the paperwork.
General Landlord ApproachWe’re often asked by our clients, particularly those attempting landlord services for the first time, how to approach this situation. Our broad recommendation: Proceed as if you expect nothing out of your tenants. Of course, many good tenants will be diligent about their HVAC responsibilities. They will change furnace and AC filters regularly if you provide replacement filters, for instance, and will keep an eye out for signs of HVAC issues and report back to you. Unfortunately, though, not all tenants are like this – many will neglect these responsibilities, even if they’re in the lease. You have to be prepared for the lowest common denominator here: Assume you have to do everything when it comes to HVAC care, and adjust accordingly if your tenants prove otherwise.
Standard MaintenanceGenerally speaking, the primary role of a landlord with regard to the HVAC system is checking in for standard maintenance. The landlord is in charge of bi-annual tune-ups, for instance, during which components can be inspected to ensure they’re functioning properly. This will not only keep you in compliance will all laws and regulations, but will also extend the life of several components and save you money in the long run. For more on how to operate as a landlord when it comes to HVAC care, or to learn about any of our heating or air conditioning services, speak to the pros at Airtime Heating & Cooling today.
Different Warranty TypesNot all warranties are created equal in the HVAC world, and not all are even termed in the same ways either. Here are some broad warranty types to consider:
- Guarantee: Generally provided by manufacturers, this is less a warranty and more a promise that covers previous equipment and manufacturing processes. Essentially, it guarantees that everything was made properly and will function as expected, with no additional charge to you as a customer. If this guarantee is not met, a free exchange is usually allowed.
- Manufacturer’s warranty: Unlike a guarantee, this is a specific legal document provided by the manufacturer that states a few specific things. For one, it identifies a period of time the warranty extends for. From here, it states that certain faulty parts or products will be covered during this period of time, with specifics on which kinds of damage are covered (some warranties will cover user error while others won’t, for instance).
- Labor warranty: In some cases, HVAC companies like ours will offer labor warranties that cover system installations and any resulting issues.
- Extended warranty: Sometimes available from either manufacturers or installers, an extended warranty provides additional protection, usually for an extra cost.
Areas to ConsiderAs we noted above, not all warranties are created equal when it comes to HVAC materials – they can differ between areas, components and even manufacturers. Our HVAC installation technicians are happy to answer any questions you have on warranties, which can often make the difference in which product you select and which you discard. Here are some areas to consider asking about:
- Sold home: If you happen to sell your home during the life of a warranty, what will happen to the warranty? Will it transfer to new owners?
- Invalidation: Are there any behaviors or events I need to avoid that might invalidate or void my warranty?
- Lifetime warranty: This is a term used by some manufacturers, but it can be misleading in some cases. Does “lifetime” refer to the person buying the part, the part itself, the home, or what? Ask for specifics here if this kind of warranty is being offered.
- Warranty access: If something does go wrong that’s covered by a warranty, how easy is it to utilize the warranty quickly and efficiently?
What the Smell MeansIn the vast majority of cases, a burning smell from the furnace is completely normal, and relates to the furnace “warming up” again after some period of inactivity. This inactivity might be as little as a few hours, or could be as long as weeks or months in other cases. It’s one of the single most common issues homeowners have relating to their furnaces. To get a bit more specific, the smell is generally caused by the accumulation of dirt and dust in and around the heat exchangers in your furnace, or the air ducts and registers air passes through. When the furnace is turned on, this dust burns off and releases the odor in question.
Times When It’s AppropriateThe most common time for experiencing this burning smell is at the beginning of the heating season in fall – when the furnace has been off for much of the last several months and has had time to accumulate dust and debris. However, this can also take place due to shorter periods of inactivity, especially if your furnace filters are not changed often enough and there’s lots of dust in your home.
How Long it LastsThe burning smell should not last long, especially if the furnace has only been off for a few hours – the smell should only last about this long as well, in this case. In situations where the furnace hasn’t been used in weeks or months, you can expect the odor to last for a day or two.
Irregular Burning Smells and What to DoIf you notice a continuous burning smell from the furnace that doesn’t go away even after a reasonable period of time, or if burning smells are taking place even without recent inactivity, you could have another issue. If changing your furnace filter doesn’t solve the problem, call our professionals for an inspection. For more on what a burning smell from your furnace means, or to learn about any of our heating and air services, speak to the pros at Air Time Heating & Cooling today.
Issues With Poorly Sized SystemsJust like with air conditioner units, you run into several specific risks when you purchase a furnace that’s either too large or too small. Oversized furnaces will provide too much heat in many cases, making rooms – especially those closest to the furnace itself – far too hot. They’ll also turn on and off too frequently, which will stress the entire HVAC system and result in additional service calls. On the flip side, furnaces that are too small will have to run far too often to keep up with your home’s heating needs. They’ll put a huge stress on your vents and ducts, upping your energy costs in a huge way just to provide the same amount of heat as a properly sized system.
Proper CalculationsIt’s generally possible to find basic charts or calculations on the websites of furnace manufacturers, and these can be a good guide when it comes to furnace size. However, you should know that HVAC technicians like ours are trained with much more detailed calculation methods here – for a system that truly fits your home, you should consult with us. We’ll take measurements and inspections in several important areas:
- Square footage of the home
- Cubic feet of indoor air space
- Integrity of home “envelope”
- Exposure to sunlight
- Ductwork efficiency
- Type, quality and amount of insulation
- R-value and U-value of windows, doors and other air passage elements