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Buying a Home? Consider an Air Conditioner Inspection

Air Conditioner Inspection

If you're buying a home you'll have a lot of items on your home inspection checklist. Among the most important is the air conditioner. Here are a few simple things you can check yourself to ensure that the air conditioner is working properly and has been regularly maintained.

Check the Condenser Unit Outside the Home

The outside section of the air conditioner, called the condenser, should be clean and unobstructed. The unit draws air in from the sides to dissipate heat so ensure that there are no trees, shrubs or other objects near the unit that could be obstructing the flow of air and reducing efficiency. The fins and condensing coils of the air conditioner should be clean, without excessive dirt or debris that could also reduce performance.

The air conditioner should be sitting on a clean level surface, preferably a stone or cement slab. The unit may also be suspended from the side of the house. In either case ensure that the unit is level and that the refrigerant lines are not stressed.

Inside the Home

If the AC is not running, turn the thermostat down about five degrees cooler than the indoor temperature. Once the AC is on check outside again to ensure the fan at the condenser unit is turning. The unit should make a steady sound when operating. If it makes rumbling, rattling or other strange sounds or surges, a cooling technician should inspect the unit further.

Check that the air filter is clean and the right size for the unit. A dirty filter reduces air flow, which reduces efficiency and increases the likelihood of problems.

After the air conditioner has been running for at least 15 minutes, check the temperature of the conditioned air coming out of the register closest to the evaporator cooling inside the home. Blowing air will feel cool on your skin, so use a thermometer to accurately measure the temperature and ensure it's cold.

In addition to removing heat from the home, an air conditioner also removes moisture from the air. This is the job of the evaporator coil. A drain pan sits below the evaporator coil and empties condensation (water) into a drain line. Ensure that the line is unobstructed and the pan is draining completely.

While the above items cover the basics of a central air conditioner inspection, there's no substitute for a thorough, professional cooling system inspection performed by a trained technician. So the next time you're moving into a new home, give us a call. You'll rest easy knowing your air conditioner is operating reliably and efficiently.

6 Times When You Should Call a Plumber

Some plumbing problems are easy to spot – a dripping faucet, an overflowing toilet, while others can be more subtle. Here are some signs to look for that could indicate a serious plumbing, sewer or drain problem.

When to Call a Plumber
  1. Water is draining slowly out all sinks, tubs, toilets, dishwasher etc. This usually indicates a blockage in the main line rather than a localized blockage. A plumber should inspect the main line for blockage.
  2. You hear water running but nothing is on. While a running toilet is a fairly common plumbing noise, if you hear dripping or running water and you can't determine the source, call a plumber to have the cause identified and to ensure there isn't a damaging water leak.
  3. You see signs of a leak. If you see mildew or mold, dark surfaces or puddles of water it could be a sign of a water leak behind the wall.
  4. Your water bill has unexpectedly jumped. This could indicate a hidden water leak. Check your water meter to see that amount of water used.
  5. Your Toilet is gurgling or bubbling after flushing. This could be a sign of a backed up sewer line. A video inspection can find the cause of sewer line stoppages.
  6. Water pressure has dropped. If the water pressure has only dropped for a single source, such as a faucet or shower head. Try cleaning the aerator with vinegar to remove mineral deposits. Ensure that all supply valves are completely open. If the water pressure has dropped throughout the entire home, have a plumber inspect the plumbing.
Have plumbing problems? Call Gibson's Heating & Plumbing. We can help.

The Importance of Getting the Right Size Air Conditioner For Your Home

Air Conditioner Sizing

One of the most important factors in how effectively well a central air conditioner will cool a house is how well it is matched to the size of the home. It's not the physical size of the condensor unit, but rather the air conditioner’s ability to produce cooled air as measured in BTU (British Thermal Unit) per hour and in tons.

In air conditioning, too few BTUs is never enough while too many will lead to less comfort. When a new air conditioner is installed your HVAC technician will carefully consider the air volume in the home to calculate how many BTUs the system will need to provide in order to maintain the right balance of comfort and efficiency.

If the AC unit is undersized, it will have to run continuously, or cycle on and off repeatedly on hot days to keep the house cool, increasing your electric bill and shortening the lifespan of the unit. On the other hand, if the unit is too large it will not run long enough to remove moisture from the air. The result will be cool, clammy air that feels like a chilly fog.

A correctly sized central air conditioner will run through the required amount of cycles to keep your house comfortable, but will not run so much that it looses its efficiency.

Central air conditioners come in many different sizes to fit a wide range of applications. An experienced HVAC technician will be able to properly size the unit to cool your home with the most comfort and efficiency. They will also take in to account other factors, such as climate, the height of the ceilings and the level of insulation.

If your air conditioner is running too long or not cooling effectively, it may not be properly sized. Give Gibson's Heating and Plumbing a call. We can help determine if the system is sized properly to perform at its best.

Will a More Expensive Furnace Filter Keep the Air Cleaner In Your Home?

Furnace Filters and Indoor Air Quality

As the late spring season arrives and trees and plants are in full bloom, filling the air with pollen, many allergy sufferers retreat indoors with the AC turned on and windows closed. Changing your air filter monthly is important, but does it really help to keep the air in your home free of pollen and other allergens?

Changing the HVAC filter once a month is a good practice, but does buying a more expensive filter advertised to trap smaller particles really make a difference in how clean the air is in your home? It's important to remember that the main purpose of HVAC filters is to keep the equipment free of dirt that can damage the unit and cause it to wear out prematurely, or lower its performance. While the filter may do a good job of removing many of the larger particles from the air, removing pollen and other allergens are not what HVAC filters are design to do.

To effectively remove allergens from the air we recommend a whole home air cleaner. Depending on the design, these systems can not only remove the finest pollen, mold and bacteria particles from the air, but can even kill biological contaminants live viruses and remove harmful chemical vapors.

Have questions about improving the air quality in your home? Call Gibson's Heating and Plumbing, we can help with all your indoor air quality needs.
Many times a central air conditioner will provide clues that it is not working properly. By paying attention to the symptoms of a malfunction and repairing the small things right away, you can avoid an unexpected and costly breakdown in the future.

1. The AC is Making Strange Noises

If you hear knocking, pinging or other unusual sounds, don't ignore them. They may indicate that there are loose or worn parts that are about to fail.

2. Your Utility Bill Is Unexpectedly High

Air conditioners generally become less efficient as they get older, making annual maintenance all the more important. As the system runs more to keep the temperature the same, your utility bill will also increase.

3. All Or Some Areas of the Home Are Not Comfortable, Even If You Lower the Thermostat

If the system is not able to keep up with demand, it may be low on refrigerant, have a blocked, frozen or leaking evaporation coils.

4. The Air Is Cold, But Too Humid

Humid air can be a sign of leaking air ducts, an AC unit that is not properly sized for the home, a frozen condenser coil or another malfunction. Your HVAC technician can diagnose the cause and recommend solutions.

If you experience any of these problems Gibson's can help. Call for an AC system checkup and we will find any potential problems and recommend solutions.
Running a central air conditioner during the hot, humid summer months can take a big chunk our of the average household's energy bill. If you're noticing that energy use rises even more than normal while running your air conditioner, there are several steps you can take to lower your home cooling cost.

Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips

1. Fix Air Leaks - A minor air leak in one window may seem like no big deal, but many leaks around doors and windows can add up, causing your air conditioner to work harder. Use weather stripping or caulk around doors and windows to seal air leaks around the entire house.

2. Program Your Thermostat - Your thermostat is the brains of you cooling system. Be sure to program the temperature around your household schedule by turning the temperature up when your away from home. Learning, or Smart thermostats can help you save energy automatically by learning your household routine and automatically adjusting the temperature accordingly.

3. Perform Regular Maintenance - A sudden increase in your utility bill could be a sign that your air conditioner is in need of service. If you have skipped annual maintenance and your energy bill has suddenly increased, have an AC technician inspect the unit to make sure there are no problems.

4. Replace Old Equipment - If your air conditioner is more than 10-12 years old, it's time
start planning for a replacement. While a new air conditioner is a major investment, the good news is a newer unit is likely to cost significantly less to operate every month.

5. Replace Dirty Air Filters - One of the most common reasons an air conditioner will begin to run less efficiently is a dirty air filter. Replacing the filter monthly is one of the most important maintenance tasks you can perform.
thermostat

Central air conditioners are one of the most energy intensive appliances in the home. Using a programmable thermostat to automatically control the cooling schedule can avoid energy waste, increase comfort and save you money. So what about when you're going to be away from home on vacation for more than a few days? Should you turn the AC completely off, or just turn the temperature up so it runs less often?

One important factor to consider is humidity. If the forecast includes a chance that the temperature and humidity are going to reach tropical levels, mold and mildew could be a concern if the windows are closed. Remember, an air conditioner doesn't just cool the air, it removes moisture. Turning the thermostat up 10 degrees will enable the AC to turn on every occasionally and keep humidity levels in check.

Have a smart thermostat? Some include an app that will let you monitor temperature and humidity while you're away. If the temperature and humidity get too high, you can simply turn on the AC when your away.

If excess humidity is not a concern and you plan to turn off the air conditioner while you're away, it's a good idea to close the drapes or blinds on all windows that receive direct sunlight during the day.
If your home's water pressure doesn't seem strong enough there are a number of possible causes. First, if the water pressure is only low in a few places, such as a shower head or faucet, it could be that the shower head or faucet aerator are clogged with mineral deposits. Soaking the fixture in vinegar overnight will dissolve the buildup and get the water flowing.

Low Water Pressure

If low water pressure is a problem with all plumbing fixtures, inside and outside the home, consider the age of the home. If the home was build in the 1960 or 1970s it may have galvanized steel pipes. The galvanization was designed to prevent corrosion of the steel pipes. However, when the galvanization wears away, rust can build up over time. The result is reduced water pressure. To fix the problem, the pipes will need to be replaced. If the house was built in the 1980s or later, there is likely another issue with the plumbing. Check that the main water shut-off valve is fully open.

Perform a Water Pressure Test

Water pressure can be tested using a pressure gauge on an outside water spigot. Water pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), and normal water pressure is typically between 30 and 80 PSI. If the reading is less than 40 psi, the city may be delivering water at a low pressure. If the city can't boost the pressure, consider installing a water pressure booster system.

Have questions about water pressure in your home? Call Gibson's Heating & Plumbing. We can help with all your plumbing needs.
As the warmer spring weather arrives in the Sarasota area and your air conditioner runs more ofter you may be wondering how many more years your central air conditioner will last. The short answer is approximately 10-15 years. But the long answer is more complicated, because it depends on many factors. Some of these factors include the quality of the furnace itself – lower costs models will likely need replacement before a more expensive, higher end model does. A lower cost air conditioner in a hot climate may be ready for replacement in as little as 6-8 years.

The good news is that many of the factors that determine how long a central air conditioner will last are under your control. The most important thing you can do is have your air conditioner professionally maintained every year. This will not only make the unit last longer, it will help it operate more efficiently saving you money on your utility bill and unexpected repairs.

Because most air conditioner parts can be replaced as they wear out, it's usually a good idea to repair parts as wear out. With new air conditioners operating at much higher efficiency than units made just a decade ago, replacing the unit may be more cost effective in the long run when compared to the repair cost of keeping a 10-15 year old unit running.

Have questions about your air conditioner? Give Gibson's a call, we're here to help.
Choosing a water treatment system
1. Is the Water Treatment For Drinking and Cooking, or the Whole House?

If a water test has revealed a high level of contaminants in the water, such as bacteria, or you're experiencing iron staining, a whole house water treatment system is a better choice. If the water test shows no significant problems, but you're not happy with the taste of the water from the tap, installing a water filter under the kitchen sink may solve the problem.

2. Does All Your Water Come From a Private Well?
Studies have shown that more than a third of U.S. homes with private wells have E. coli and other potentially harmful bacteria. For homes with wells, we recommend a reverse osmosis or UV whole house water treatment system.

Even for homes with city water, contamination is still a risk. due to contamination and ruptured pipes. Over 600 boil water alerts are issued every day by city water districts in the U.S.

3. How Much Water Does Your Household Use?
How much water will flow through the home during peak usage? Knowing the number of bathrooms in a home is often a quick and simple way to determine the size needed of specific water treatment systems.

4. How many people are in the household?
Generally, knowing the number of people live in your home will help to estimate the total water usage, and therefore what size water filtration system would be best suited for your home.

5. What's in the Water?
If you get your water from the city you can request an annual water quality report.  The EPA requires all community water systems to deliver an annual water quality report, called a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). If you have a well, you can order an independent water analysis. Once you know what's in your water, you can make an informed decision about which water treatment option is best for your home.
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