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How to Use Your HVAC System to Fight Springtime Allergies

Spring can be a pretty miserable experience if you’re an allergy sufferer. Between the sneezing, sniffling, watery eyes, and scratchy throat, seasonal allergies triggered by pollen, grasses, and a host of other natural allergens can do a number on your physical well-being. Springtime allergens aren’t just limited to the great outdoors — indoor allergens like dust and pet dander can also trigger your allergies.

Your HVAC system can be a valuable ally in the fight against springtime allergies. In addition to regulating indoor temperatures, your heating and cooling equipment is also tasked with managing indoor air quality. Here’s how you can put your HVAC system to good use in fighting both indoor and outdoor allergens.

Upgrade to a High-Quality Air Filter

As your HVAC system draws air from inside your home, it’s also drawing allergens and other airborne pollutants. Your HVAC air filter serves as the first line of defense against these allergens. Unfortunately, most HVAC systems come equipped with fiberglass air filters that offer only rudimentary protection against dust and debris and little protection against smaller allergen particles.

Air filters made from pleated paper offer your HVAC system better protection against allergens. These filters trap a broad range of airborne particles that would pass through fiberglass filters. Upgrade to a pleated air filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) between 8 and 13, as these filters are most effective at reducing indoor allergens without adversely impacting HVAC performance.

Don’t forget to change your air filter at the proper intervals. You should change your air filter on a monthly basis to maintain the best possible indoor air quality for your home.

Run Your HVAC Fan for Circulation

Your HVAC system can only remove allergens from your home’s indoor air when the indoor blower fan is actively working. The blower fan plays an integral role in your HVAC system by pulling indoor air into the unit and pushing conditioned air out through the ductwork. More importantly, the blower fan also pulls air through the filter — giving your HVAC system an opportunity to remove dust, debris, and harmful allergens from indoor air.

You don’t have to use your heat or air conditioning just to benefit from HVAC fan circulation. All you have to do is toggle your HVAC system to “fan” mode on your thermostat. This setting essentially forces your blower fan to run constantly. The resulting air circulation can help remove harmful allergens from the indoor air, with slightly increased noise and energy use being the only noticeable drawbacks.

If you plan on upgrading your HVAC system in the near future, consider having a variable-speed blower fan motor installed. Variable-speed fans are capable of running at much lower speeds than a typical blower fan, allowing for quieter operation with less noise.

Keep Up With Preventative Maintenance

A well-maintained HVAC system is absolutely essential for keeping springtime allergies at bay. The only way to have a well-maintained HVAC system is to have it serviced on a regular basis. Regularly scheduled maintenance ensures that your HVAC system remains in peak condition throughout the year.

Preventative maintenance also gives your HVAC contractor a chance to spot and correct minor issues before they turn into major problems that require costly repairs. Most importantly, preventative maintenance also ensures that your HVAC system can effectively tackle both indoor and outdoor allergies, saving your senses plenty of grief throughout the spring and beyond.

Consider your HVAC system as a valuable secret weapon in the fight against springtime allergies. For more allergy prevention tips or to schedule HVAC services, contact our professional team at Reid’s AC & Heat today.

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How Does Cold Air Escape a Home?

As the weather warms up and springtime emerges, it’s time to start thinking about keeping your home cool. No matter how efficient your AC unit is, it can only be expected to handle an enclosed and insulated space.

As long as the air in your home has a different temperature than the air outside, it will attempt to equalize itself by escaping outside. One of the primary challenges of the HVAC industry is halting this transfer of heat and keeping your system running efficiently.

Checking Doors and Windows

Doors and windows are some of the weakest points of a building’s insulation. Thin panes of glass are perfect for letting in natural light, but a standard sheet offers relatively little resistance to heat transfer. Doors are a more obvious source of cold air loss as people enter and leave throughout the day, particularly if the doors have glass panes.

If you are ready for a renovation project, consider replacing your thin doors and windows with more economical insulated metal and glass. Newer doors, for example, typically feature a steel outer layer supported by dense foam insulation. For glass, especially on sliding doors or windows, extra panes and layers of insulating glaze will both slow down heat transfer.

Another area to check around doors and windows is their seal. A window’s seal is the material that holds glass within its frame and secures that frame to the wall. On a door, a seal prevents air from escaping while closed but still allows it to open. These seals may break down over time, so be sure to have them periodically inspected and replaced.

Blocking Sunlight

Remember that cold air doesn’t just leave a building; heat is also seeping in. One quick way to improve the insulation of your windows without replacing them is to install thick, reflective curtains and blinds. You don’t need to keep your windows covered all the time, but curtains will block and trap warm air between your room and the window when in use.

Repairing Leaky Ducts

To reach all of the rooms in your home, cold air must travel through a series of ducts. These ducts are designed to lose as little cold air as possible when the air is en route. But older ducts can deteriorate and fail just like any other part of your home. When leaks form, the air from your AC unit may not reach the far corners of your home, leaving certain rooms or the entire house warmer than it should be.

An HVAC technician can help you measure the temperature of air leaving your AC unit and then compare it to the air being distributed throughout the house. If discrepancies are noted, the faulty duct can be located and replaced, and your air circulation will hopefully return to normal.

Insulating Walls and Attics

In most cases, your attic is a likely culprit of letting cold air escape because hot air rises while cold air sinks, meaning attics tend to be too hot rather than too cold. Improving the insulation in your attic will, however, prevent an endless supply of warm air moving into your home to neutralize the cold air below. It may also save you quite a bit in heating bills next winter.

Sealing Basements and Crawlspaces

Cold air is much more likely to pool in low-lying areas, such as basements and crawl spaces, which is why basements, caves, and root cellars are consistently colder than the areas above them. If cold air can creep through your flooring, down stairs, or around the edges of interior doors, it may be cooling parts of your home that don’t see regular use.

Like with exterior doors and windows, sealing the cracks in your home is often the answer to the problem.

This summer, don’t let your home HVAC system shoulder the burden of cooling down the wider world. Keep your cold air indoors where it belongs, and enjoy your home without spending a small fortune on refrigerant and maintenance. Contact us at Reids AC & Heat to begin exploring your home’s heat efficiency and how you can invest in its improvement.

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2 Common Cooling Problems With Quick Fixes

Some air conditioning problems are expensive and time-consuming to fix. Fortunately, not every air conditioner problem indicates your system is falling apart. Below are two common cooling problems that can be quickly corrected.

1. Blocked or Restricted Air Flow

One of the most common reasons for an air conditioner that refuses to cool is blocked or restricted air flow. Air conditioners depend on the free flow of air to perform as designed.

As air enters the air conditioner via the return air vent, the air is pulled into the system via the blower and passes over the evaporator coil. The evaporator coil is where heat is transferred from the indoor air to the refrigerant. If air can’t reach the coil, the heat content inside your home never leaves. Instead, warm air will be blown out of supply ducts into all parts of your home.

There are several possible reasons for air flow restriction, but dirty components are the major problems at work. For example, if you never change your air conditioning filter, you can expect it to accumulate a thick layer of dust, dander, fur, pollen and millions of other fine particles. This blanket will prevent much of the air from ever reaching the evaporator coil.

Another location where dirt causes airflow problems is the evaporator coil itself. Though regular filter changes will help keep debris out of the system, traces will still find their way through and eventually cover the evaporator coil. This ever-growing layer on top of the evaporator coil will have the same effect as a dirty filter by preventing heat from leaving the passing air.

The good news is the cure for restrictions or outright clogs is fairly simple in most cases. First, homeowners should be diligent to replace air conditioning filters on a regular basis. Depending on the type of the filter media, which is the material that captures the passing particles, you may need to replace your filters as little as every three months or as often as once per month.

In addition to a filter change, you will need to have the evaporator coil evaluated to determine if it needs cleaning. A professional can quickly access the evaporator coil and perform a cleaning without much fuss should the coil need washing. In most instances, evaporator coils should be cleaned at least once per year to keep them functioning at their optimum.

2. Motor Capacitor Failure

Another common cause for warm air production is motor capacitor failure. Air conditioners are fairly robust electrical devices, and they draw quite a bit of current as a result. Specifically, the heavy-duty motors that move the cooling fans and compressor need a lot of energy to get started.

To help give it a needed boost when starting, a capacitor, which is similar to a battery but charged with much more electricity, provides a sudden release of electrical current into the motors. This boost allows the motors to overcome friction and inertia and start the cooling process.

However, a motor capacitor can fail, especially in hot weather, due to the constant on/off cycles and heavy electrical loads. If the motor capacitor fails in your system, the cooling fan and compressor will be unable to perform their vital cooling functions. The interior blower will continue to operate as normal, however, and all will seem well inside except for the air’s uncomfortably warm temperature.

You can quickly tell if the motor capacitor has failed by listening to the outdoor unit. If you notice a buzzing or humming sound coming from the outdoor unit but it is otherwise non-operational, you can assume the motor capacitor has blown. A qualified heating and air conditioning technician will be able to confirm this is the problem by examining the capacitor.

Fortunately, a blown motor capacitor is not a major, costly repair event. In most cases, a technician can replace a capacitor quickly and restore air conditioning to your home within a few hours.

If your air conditioner isn’t cooling, be sure to contact Reid’s AC & Heat for help. We are ready to provide professional assistance and quickly restore your comfort.

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5 Strange Furnace Behaviors

Many homeowners don’t think of calling the HVAC company until they are left without heat. However, if you pay close attention to the way your furnace is acting, you can often pick up on strange behaviors that indicate an impending furnace failure before you are left shivering away in a cold house. Here’s a look at five strange furnace behaviors and what they might mean.

Making Grinding, Scraping Noises

The only heating noise you don’t need to worry about is pinging and mild clanging when the heat first kicks on. Usually, these noises are the metal ducts expanding and contracting. The more time there is between heating cycles, the more pronounced these noises will be.

When you should be alarmed is if your furnace starts making scraping or grinding sounds. Scraping might indicate that something is loose in the motor that propels your central air fan. Grinding may indicate a loose or missing ball bearing, which could lead to motor failure and a total loss of heat.

Tripping the Breaker

If your furnace trips the breaker once, just flip the breaker back in place. A surge or other one-time concurrence may have caused the breaker to trip. If the furnace keeps tripping the breaker, this repeated problem is cause for concern. The furnace could have a loose electrical connection within the furnace. This is easy for your HVAC contractor to fix but could present a fire hazard if left unaddressed.

Giving Off an Odd Chemical Odor

There are many possible explanations for a chemical odor in the home. Maybe a cleaning solution spilled in the basement, or perhaps your neighbor spilled something on the lawn. If you cannot find the source of the chemical odor, the smell might be coming from your vents — which is not a good sign.

A chemical odor resembling that of preservatives might indicate your furnace heat exchanger has a crack. Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas, can leak through that crack. Until you have your HVAC technician out to service your furnace, be vigilant about checking your carbon monoxide detector’s batteries. If the detector starts beeping, leave the house until the system has been inspected and repaired.

Giving Off the Odor of Rotten Eggs

The smell of rotten eggs coming from your heating vents is a sign of a gas leak. Breathing in natural gas is not at all healthy, and the gas that has accumulated in the home may explode or start a fire. If you notice this odor, make two phone calls: one to your fire department and one to your HVAC company.

The fire department can come turn the gas off and make sure the space is safe for your heating contractor to enter.

Turning on and off In Short Succession

Under normal circumstances, your furnace should only turn on and off a couple of times in an hour. When a furnace is repeatedly blowing air for a minute or two, turning off, and then blowing air for a short time again, this is known as short-cycling. Short-cycling can indicate a number of different furnace problems, including:

  • Faulty thermostat connection
  • Furnace that is too large for your home
  • Faulty electrical components within the furnace
  • Problems with the pressure switch in the fan motor

Some homeowners allow their furnaces to keep operating in a short-cycling pattern for a long time because the home still gets warm. However, this puts a lot of strain on the furnace and can cause more serious breakdowns in the future.

If your furnace is displaying any of these five strange behaviors, contact Reid’s AC & Heat. We offer service to the entire North Houston area and are happy to handle all of your HVAC needs.

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What You Need to Know About Storm Cleanup

Southeast Texas and the Greater Houston region, including Tomball, are still dealing with the effects from Hurricane Harvey, but eventually, the water will recede and it will be time to start cleaning up. Houston saw its share of heavy rain — over 50 inches in some cases — and flooded, impassable streets. The mayor of Houston also declared a local state of emergency.

Your first priority is to ensure everyone is safe and sheltered. Once the crisis eases up, though, your air conditioning system will need work because it is still summer in southeast Texas. Part of staying safe means also avoiding heat illness.

If your home sustained water damage or had water come up into the yard, it is possible that your air conditioning system might have been compromised. Remember, too, that the ground has been saturated, and that can also affect items like outdoor compressor units even if they weren’t surrounded by water.

If you’re unsure about the state of your home’s HVAC system, you’ll need to have it checked out.

The Outdoor Compressor Unit

The compressor units that are placed outside for central air conditioning systems are designed to withstand rain, but flooding is a different animal. Plus, if something fell on the compressor unit housing, like a tree branch, that could crack the housing and let water into the unit.

Humidity and flood water cause parts to corrode over time. Flooding and wind can also allow debris to settle inside the unit, creating a mess that prevents the unit from working properly.

Additionally, all the rain and all the water being soaked up from nearby floods and overflowing creeks and bayous is saturating the soil all over the region.

This saturation means that the soil can move more easily. It is possible that the platform on which your compressor unit is sitting could have shifted. It does call for more inspection to ensure nothing was damaged and for repairs to stabilize the platform.

Indoor Furnaces

Indoor furnaces need a professional inspection if water made it into your house. Many furnaces are on stands or small platforms, so you may have some breathing room if the water that got in was minimal. But if water was lapping at the bottom of the furnace itself, the furnace will also need inspection.

One thing to keep in mind is that, even if both the compressor and furnace check out as fine and remain completely usable, the extra moisture in the air could have long-term effects. Have your air and heating systems inspected a little more frequently in the next year or two to ensure corrosion hasn’t set in. There can often be a delay before corrosion becomes obvious.

Outdoor and Indoor Insulation

If your home was excessively exposed to the weather — a severe roof leak from the rains, flooding around the base of your home or severe flooding inside the house — the insulation associated with your air conditioning system will need to be replaced. That includes insulation around ducts and other parts of the system.

Indoor Components

Leaks and floods can create similar problems for interior AC parts as they do outdoors, but the damage can be more severe because indoor parts usually don’t have any moisture resistance.

The interior sections of the air conditioning system may need to be bleached. While this sounds simple, and you may hear of people doing it themselves, don’t try it yourself if you’ve never handled this situation before. You might miss spots or break additional components by mistake, and bleach fumes can be overpowering if your home is not well-ventilated.

Ductwork and Vents

The ducts in your home can harbor mold spores. While mold is a general problem in humid southeast Texas on a good day, it’s going to be more of a problem due to the wet conditions. Get the ducts cleaned out to ensure no mold spores are hiding in there.

Reid’s AC & Heat can help you with inspections and repairs. When you’re ready, set up an appointment to check things out.