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Serving Montgomery & Prince George's Counties, Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

FAQs

How Do I Know When to Replace My Old Air Conditioning System?

Air conditioners tend to give off some warning signs that they are nearing the end of their useful lives. Obviously, if your air conditioner stops cold one day, it may be time to invest in a new one, but short of that, there are some other signs and symptoms to watch out for.

Excessive noise is one symptom of an ailing air conditioner. They necessarily make some noise as part of operation, but if you have noticed more noise or a change in the sounds coming from your air conditioning system, something may be wrong. Inefficient or uneven cooling are other symptoms of a problem.

Now, these things do not necessarily mean that your air conditioning system automatically has to be replaced. It is possible that it just needs some repair. However, if you find yourself frequently calling for repairs and forking over more and more money to keep your old system running, it may be time to spring for a new system altogether.

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What Are My Options for a New Air Conditioning System?

When you are in the market for a new air conditioning system, you have several options. The simplest and most basic is a window unit, which is a good, inexpensive solution for cooling just a room or two. For the whole house, there is always the central air conditioning option, which requires more extensive installation but is extremely effective.

A third option that you may not have heard about but should be aware of is a ductless mini split system Although relatively new on the scene, these systems are growing in popularity, because like central air, they can cool many rooms or even a whole house at once, but they do not require any ductwork, which makes the installation much simpler.

Different solutions work better for different homes, so consult with a professional about your needs to determine what the best option is for you.

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Why Should I Have My New Air Conditioning System Professionally Installed?

Because a new air conditioner is such a big purchase, you want to be sure it’s installed by an experienced technician who really knows what they’re doing. Plus, having a professional install your AC is an investment in its future, ensuring it’s hooked up and operating as it should from day one.

An improperly installed AC system may not function properly, resulting in more repairs than would ordinarily be necessary. It may have to run too often, resulting in excess wear and tear. As a result, you may face higher repair bills, higher monthly utility bills and a shorter life span for your new system.

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How Long Can I Expect My New Air Conditioning System to Last?

This is a tricky question, because generally air conditioning systems are quite durable, but there are things that can have positive or negative impacts. A professionally installed, well–maintained air conditioning system that has been kept clean throughout its life should perform well for up to fifteen years or more.

By contrast, if you do not keep your system clean, do not change the filters and neglect to have the system maintained annually, you can expect to pay for a lot of repairs and then have to replace the whole thing much sooner. Air conditioners are a good lasting investment, as long as your protect them well.

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How Often Does My Heating System Need To Be Serviced?

It’s recommended that you schedule a maintenance service visit once a year with a licensed HVAC technician. This will prolong the life of your heating system and keep it running safely and efficiently throughout the cold season. A qualified heating technician will thoroughly clean and inspect all of your heater’s components and make any necessary repairs or adjustments. Not only does this ensure that your heater is performing at optimal levels, which helps to save on overall heating costs, but it also allows the technician to address any major problems or safety concerns.

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When Should I Replace My Heating System?

There are a few obvious signals that let you know when it’s time to upgrade your heating system. Frequent repairs, recent spikes in utility bills, and inconsistent temperatures in the home are a few warning signs that it’s time for a new heater. But if you’ve had the same heating system for twenty years or more, it would be a good idea to talk to an HVAC contractor about having it inspected to determine if it’s time for a heater replacement. Even if your old heater has worked without problems for years, a professional heating technician is trained to detect any indication that it needs to be replaced. If you are concerned about your heating costs, you should talk to a heating professional about other options.

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How Can I Tell If My Heating System Is Working Efficiently?

When you schedule your regular maintenance visit with a qualified heating technician, they will test your system to make sure it is running at optimal levels. But there are some ways you can determine whether or not your system is working efficiently on your own. Abnormally high heating bills are one of the indicators that your system is running at low efficiency levels, but keep in mind that how well your home is insulated and sealed also plays a role in heating costs.

You can also tell by how warm your house stays throughout the winter. If some rooms are colder than others, or if you find that you are turning up the thermostat more often, your heating system may not be running very efficiently. Changing your filters and vacuuming your vents can help, but if you continue to have problems, call an HVAC professional to inspect and test your heater.

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How Do I Know What Type of Heating System Is Right For Me?

Hiring an HVAC contractor for professional advice is the best approach when you are in the market for a new heating system. Different types of heaters work better in some homes than others. For instance, if you need both heat and air, you may want to consider installing a heat pump rather than a furnace. However, an electric or gas furnace may be a better option for your particular home.

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Why Do My Air Ducts Need to Be Cleaned?

Dust and other debris can settle in your air ducts just like it does in every other part of your home. While you certainly don’t have to clean out your air ducts as often as you clean your living room or kitchen, it’s a good idea to clear out all that matter.

Allowing dust and other contaminants to build up in your air ducts can impact the efficiency and effectiveness of your home heating and cooling system. In fact, cleaning out your air ducts can wind up saving you a substantial amount of money on your monthly heating and cooling bills because it will make it possible for your home comfort system to maintain a comfortable temperature in all areas of your home.

Periodic air duct cleaning can also greatly improve the quality of your indoor air by removing a significant source of indoor air contaminants. Mold, dust, pollen and plenty of other allergens can take refuge in your air ducts and then be spread around the house over and over again through the heating and cooling system. Getting these out of your air ducts will greatly reduce the number of allergens and irritants in your home.

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How Long Does Air Duct Cleaning Take?

The length of time it takes to clean out your air ducts will depend on a number of factors. The ducts in most average sized houses can be done in four to eight hours, but complicating factors like difficult to reach areas and a large amount of debris can certainly add time to the process.

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How Often Do My Air Ducts Need to Be Cleaned?

There’s no industry recognized standard for how often your air ducts need to be cleaned. But in all but the most extreme circumstances, there is no reason your ducts would need to be cleaned more than once a year. In fact, many people can easily go two years between cleanings, especially if they take other precautions to prevent debris from getting into the ducts to begin with. The best thing to do is to sit down with a reputable duct cleaning professional to come up with a timeline that is appropriate for your home.

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Can I Clean My Air Ducts on My Own?

There are certainly things you can do to try and keep buildup in your air ducts from getting out of control. Changing your air filters regularly and cleaning off the grates at the end of the air ducts are good steps to take in this regard. But because so much of your air duct system is difficult to reach, you will never be able to do a thorough job on your own.

Professional duct cleaners have specialized equipment that allows them to inspect and clean even the hardest to reach places in your air duct system. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a professional come in from time to time to complete a thorough cleaning in addition to whatever you are able to do on your own.

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Do I Need a Humidifier?

The answer to this question depends on a few things, but first you should know about the importance of properly humidified air.

Air that lacks sufficient moisture can be damaging to the skin, causing it to dry out, chap and crack. It also exacerbates respiratory symptoms, such as those accompanying asthma, allergies and the common cold. It may also be more contaminated, as filtration systems have a harder time cleaning out air that is very dry.

For those that are susceptible to respiratory problems, especially those living in dry climates, then yes, a humidifier is probably a good idea. Keep in mind, however, that there are drawbacks to having air that is too humid. Air that contains too much moisture does not circulate as readily and promotes mildew and mold growth, so it is best not to get a humidifier if you don’t need one.

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What Are UV Germicidal Lights?

Simply put, UV germicidal lights are a special kind of light that cleans indoor air by exposing it to ultraviolet radiation. The UV light does not damage the air and is safe for humans, but is deadly to biological contaminants that may be in the air. Bacteria, mold and viruses are eradicated by these lights, which are usually installed after your air cleaner within your HVAC system.

The result is air that is safer to breathe and less likely to carry microorganisms that can make you sick.

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I Already Have an Air Purification System. Why Do I Need UV Germicidal Lights?

Air purification systems are great for removing particulate matter, such as dust and pollen. They are also highly effective at reducing the amount of smoke, dander and other allergens in the air. They are a blessing for people who suffer from asthma and allergies.

What they cannot do, however, is remove microorganisms and other biological contaminants. The filters are simply not enough to catch things that small, but UV germicidal lights can which is why they make such a strong addition to your existing air filtration system, allowing you to keep the air in your home as clean as possible.

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How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?

The short answer is to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

The longer answer is that it varies depending on a number of factors, such as the type of filter, the type of ventilation system, the local outdoor air quality and how well your home circulates air. It also depends on the composition of the home, such as whether there are any smokers or pets in the household. These introduce contaminants, which shortens filter life.

Finally, it also depends on your needs and preferences. If you or a family member is prone to respiratory problems such as asthma or allergies, you will want to use a higher rated filter and change it more often. The first step, though, is always to check the manufacturer’s recommendations.

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Do I Need a Carbon Monoxide Detector?

In a word: YES!

Carbon monoxide is a toxic, potentially deadly, invisible, odorless gas that is caused by what is termed “incomplete combustion of organic materials.” Essentially, that means any time something is burned, some amount of carbon monoxide is released into the air.

Common household causes of elevated carbon monoxide levels include improperly sealed chimneys, poor home ventilation and secondhand smoke, among others. A carbon monoxide detector will warn you when gas levels have reached a potentially dangerous point, so that you can leave the area and seek help for the problem.

Many smoke detectors are combined with carbon monoxide detectors these days, so there is no real excuse not to have one.

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How Do I Avoid Freezing Pipes?

A frozen pipe is more than just a nuisance. It can lead to severe damage to your plumbing system and even your home, especially if a pipe bursts inside or underneath the concrete foundation of your home. To avoid frozen pipes, disconnect garden hoses and any other outside connections, then drain and turn off water that flows to those outside faucets. If you have pipes in your garage (where it likely isn’t heated), consider wrapping the pipes in insulation or a heating coil to keep them from getting too cold.

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How Do I Make My Drains Stop Smelling?

Smelly drains are a common problem in houses that are frequently empty or that have extra bathrooms of kitchens that are not in use. If you notice a musty or sewage–like smell coming from any of the drains in your home, the first step is to briefly run the faucet.

Every drain has a trap in it that holds a small amount of water. This water blocks sewer gasses from rising back into the house. However, if the fixture isn’t used for an extended period of time, the water in the trap evaporates which means there’s no barrier to keep out the smell. If this happens, run the tap for a few minutes to clear the drain and refill the trap. If you know you’ll be away from the property for some time, consider having the fixtures winterized or sealed up until you plan to use them again.

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Why Is My Water Bill Suddenly So High?

This is a very common concern and is an early warning sign of a leak somewhere in the plumbing, but they’re often in places that aren’t easy to see. They are small and frequently between walls, underneath floor boards or even beneath your home. By the time you feel a drip from your ceiling or see water on the floor, quite a bit of damage has probably already occurred.

If you see your water bill suddenly increase without explanation, call a professional to check your home for leaks. Most homes use a consistent amount of water each month, so increases are often signs that you may have a leak.

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There is a Build Up Around My Faucets – What do I Do?

Water may look clear, but it carries a number of other minerals and metals that are diluted in moving water, but stick to fixtures and pipes as they pass through. There are quite a few different minerals that might be in your water. White buildup is often a result of calcium and magnesium – resulting from hard water. Iron leaves behind a reddish tint and copper will leave a bluish green tint.

Almost none of these residues signal a problem with your water that will be detrimental to your health, but it is still a good idea to have someone inspect the lines. Hard water in particular can cause damage to your fixtures and pipes and result in early replacement needs.

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Why Have I Suddenly Lost Hot Water?

The most common reason you lose hot water is because of a blown heating element in the hot water tank. This can be fixed by a professional in just a few minutes, but if it doesn’t solve the problem, there are a number of other issues your technician will inspect for, such as a bad heat sensor, a fickle pilot light, or an old water heater that simply needs to be replaced. If you’re not sure why your water heater suddenly stopped working properly, call a professional to take a closer look.

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What are Tankless Water Heaters?

A tankless water heater is one that uses direct heating to only heat the water you need. They are slightly more expensive to install than tank water heaters, but unlike tank water heaters you can place them anywhere in your home. They are portable and are much more energy efficient, especially if you don’t use hot water at a consistent rate.

If you’re interested in a tankless hot water heater or want to know if one is right for you, the first thing to do is measure your average hot water use. You also need to take into account the number of places where hot water is needed and you should discuss potential pitfalls of tankless heating with a professional technician.

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How Often Should I Replace My Hot Water Heater?

A hot water heater needs to be replaced about once every 10 years, though some newer models can last as long as 15–20 years with proper maintenance. To get the most out of your system, annual maintenance is important.

During these annual service visits, basic cleaning and maintenance is done to replace worn out parts and check for any looming problems with your water heater that may require replacement in the near or immediate future.

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Do I Need Help with Installation?

A hot water heater is one of the simplest pieces of equipment you’ll have installed in your home, but it should be done by a professional for a number of reasons. First, you must understand and follow all local building codes, not only for installation, but for possible future inspections. If your hot water heater is gas or oil fueled, safety is of the utmost importance.

Second, you must have your old hot water heater disposed of. A professional has the resources to dispose of your hot water heater for much less money than it would cost you, and it’s less of a hassle as well. Professionals are also better equipped to deal with factors like proper insulation, secondary heating sources, and backup water supplies.

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How Hot Should My Water Be?

Hot water heating should be done according to your particular needs, but most people have their tanks set too high. The default setting on many hot water heaters is 140°F. This is about 20°F warmer than is necessary for household tasks like showering, washing dishes or cleaning clothes. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional help you turn your hot water temperature down to no more than 120°F.

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How Do I Know if There Is a Problem?

The most common sign that there’s a problem in your hot water heater is a lack of hot water. If you notice your hot water supply dropping sharply or if it doesn’t last nearly as long as it once did, it may be time for additional service.

You can perform some basic maintenance on your own as well. You should remove sediment from your hot water heater at least once per year by following the manufacturer’s instructions. This usually involves simply turning off the device and draining it through a tap provided at the base. If you have hard water, this should be done more frequently, sometimes as often as every six months.

However, if basic maintenance does not solve the problem, it’s time to call a professional to check your hot water heater for problems that may have developed since their last visit.

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Can I Use Alternative Energy Sources?

There are a number of alternative hot water heating sources these days. The most common is currently solar powered hot water, which uses simple panels on your roof to collect the energy from the sun to heat your water. Another popular method is to use the excess heat generated by a geothermal heat pump when cooling your house in the summer. Ask your plumber when they arrive about these alternative options and to find out if they can be incorporated into your particular system.

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