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How Does Your Air Conditioner Work?

Almost everyone has an air conditioning system these days. However, most people that own an AC system have no idea how it functions. And, knowing a little bit about how air conditioners work can really help you know when to call in the Brothers Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric HVAC professionals for service, repair, or replacement work. So, let’s explore just how your home air conditioning system keeps you cool all summer.

The Air Conditioning Process

The air conditioning process is relatively simple. Basically, air conditioners pull the heat out of the air to help cool a space. They do this iin a two-cycle process. The two cycles of air conditioner functionality are:

  • Evaporation
  • Compresssion

The Evaporation Cycle in Modern Air Conditioning

The evaporation cycle in modern air conditioning systems is the cycle in which the actual cooling of the air takes place. To accomplish this, your air conditioner passes inside air through a coil filled with supercooled liquid refrigerant. The refrigerant pulls the heat from the air and then fans distribute the air through your ductwork (or directly into your space if you have a ductless split air conditioning system). After the air has been cooled, your air conditioning system sends the now gaseous refrigerant to the compression side of the system.

The Compression Cycle in Modern Air Conditioning

The compression cycle is the second main operation cycle in modern air conditioning systems. It works in almost the exact opposite way that the evaporation cycle does.

During this cycle, two things happen. The first thing that happens is that your system will pull outside air through what is known as the condensing coil. This coil contains the gaseous refrigerant from the evaporation cycle. When the outside air is pulled through the coil, the heat from the gaseous refrigerant is transferred to the air. This begins transforming the gaseous refrigerant back to its original liquid form.

However, the coil itself is not enough to fully compress the refrigerant. That is why modern air conditioning systems also use a device known as a compressor to finish the job of transforming the refrigerant back to a supercooled liquid. Then, once the compression cycle is complete, the refrigerant is transported back to the evaporator side of the machine to start the process all over again.

Air Conditioning Duct Leaks

Air conditioning duct leaks can cost you money by both increasing your energy bill and by forcing you to run your system longer to keep rooms at your desired temperature. But don’t worry! The experts here at Brothers Plumbing, Heating, Air & Electric are always here to help you solve your leaky air duct problems.

The Signs of Air Conditoining Duct Leaks

The hardest part of resolving a leaky ductwork problem is simply knowing when you have one. There are several signs that point towards leaking air ducts that include:

  • Sign 1 – Increased utility bills
  • Sign 2 – Hot or cold spots (hard to cool rooms)
  • Sign 3 – Visibly Damaged Ductwork

Sign 1 – Increased Utility Bills

The first sign of an air conditioning duct leak is definitely not the most obvious thing in the world. If you have noticed your utility bills increasing each month and you’re certain that you haven’t increased your use of energy-hungry appliances, then an air conditioning duct leak may be the culprit. When ducts leak, your HVAC system has to work harder to deliver the cold (or hot) air to the desired location. This increase in workload increases the amount of energy that your HVAC system consumes, which in turn increases your utility bills. If you have noticed spiking energy bills at your home or business, then give the HVAC professionals here at Brothers a call right away.

Sign 2 – Hot or Cold Spots

The second sign of leaking ductwork is hot/cold spots in your home or business. When you notice that certain rooms/locations in your building are significantly harder to keep cool, then leaky ductwork may be the problem. The ductwork delivers climate controlled air to the various supply vents in your building. If a section of that duct is leaking, then the supply air is not reaching its final destination and you will notice hot and cold spots when running your system. In addition to being a sign of leaking ductwork, hot and cold spots can also signify a poorly done air balance. Either way, if you have hot or cold spots in your building, then get in touch with the Brothers team of air conditioning experts as soon as you can.

Sign 3 – Visibly Damaged Ductwork

The third and most obvious sign of leaking ductwork is visibly damaged or collapsed ducting. If you have peaked your head into your attic or crawlspace lately and noticed collapsed or otherwise visibly damaged ductwork, then leaks are basically guaranteed. If you see damaged ductwork, then please contact the team of experts here at Brothers for service.

Pre-Season Air Conditioning Start-Up Hints and Tips

summer
Summer is almost here! And, even here Colorado, that means warmer temperatures and an increase in the usage demand of your home or business’ air conditioning system! If you haven’t used your AC in the last few months, then please follow these hints and tips before you start it up this Spring. Doing so can save you quite a few headaches (and potentially quite a few dollars as well)! And, if these hints and tips seem too technical to you, then please do not hesitate to contact the air conditioning experts here at Brothers Plumbing, Heating, and Electric!

Step 1: Always Check and Change Your Air Filters

One of the most important pre-season tips we can give you is to make sure that your air filters are changed/cleaned when necessary. These filters help keep the air you circulate through your home free of debris, and they also help make sure that your air conditioning system does not get clogged or ruined by stray dust and dander. To check/change your filters, just follow the following steps:

  • Find the Filter(s)
    Obviously you should find the filter(s) in your system before you can do anything else about them. Most of the time, air filters for air conditioning systems can be found at the return vent closest to your air handler.
  • Change Disposable Filters
    If your filter is of the disposable type, simply remove it and throw it away. But, before you toss the old filter, write down the dimensions found on the filter housing itself. These dimensions will help you find the exact match filter at your local hardware store. Also, pay attention to the arrows on your filters. These arrows are there to help you see which direction to place your new filter. The arrows always point in the direction of airflow through the system.
  • Clean Reusable Filters
    If your filter is of the reusable variety, then simply remove it and run it under clean water until the color of the discharged water is as clear as the water coming into the filter. Once the filter is clean and has dried for about 3 hours, simply put it back in your system and you’re done!

Step 2: Check Coils

There are two coils in every air conditioning system: the evaporative coil and the condensing coil. Each coil does a different job in the system.

The Evaporative Coil
The evaporative coil’s job is to turn low-pressure liquid refrigerant to a gaseous form by passing outside air over itself. This is the primary coil on the cooling side of your air conditioning system. These coils are almost always located right next to the air handler and should only be cleaned by a professional.

The Condensing Coil
This coil is always located outside. Its primary function is to take the gaseous refrigerant provided by the evaporative coil and to help transform it back into a low-pressure liquid. This works by forcing outside air over the coil to help cool the refrigerant. Then the compressor itself takes said refrigerant and finishes the job of transforming it back to a liquid before it starts the cycle all over again. To clean a condensing coil, simply turn the power off to the system and run hose water over the entire unit until it comes off clean.

Step 3: Check the Fan Blades and Belts

There are a couple of different fans on your home or business’ HVAC system. One fan moves air throughout your home and is located at the air handler. The other fan is the one we talked about in the coil cleaning step of the process (see above paragraph).

Each of these fans needs to be checked for balance and be cleaned. To clean the condenser fan, just run water over it while power is turned off to the unit. To clean the air handler fan, simply turn the power off to the unit and wipe the fan blades down with a damp towel or cloth.

Checking for balance is relatively simple. Just listen to the fan in operation. If it makes any strange noises or if it looks like it has a significant wobble, then the fan is out of balance. Never try to balance a fan yourself, always leave it to the professionals here at Brothers Plumbing, Heating, and Electric.

To check the fan belts (if your fans are belt driven, that is), just turn off power to the system and run your fingers along the inside of the belts. If there is any fraying or the belts feel a little too loose, then simply replace them with belts of the exact same size and width.

Step 4: Check Refrigerant Levels

This step should always be performed by an air conditioning service technician, and no one else. Never attempt to check refrigerant levels on your own. Checking levels requires specialized gauges and knowledge. It is also very dangerous for you and potentially for the environment.

When a professional HVAC service technician checks refrigerant levels, they attach special gauges to the refrigerant lines. If they find that the balance of gaseous and liquid refrigerant is too high or low, then they will add/subtract refrigerant as necessary.

REMEMBER: Never attempt to check or fix refrigerant levels on your own. Always leave it to a professional!

Step 5: Program Your Thermostat for Summer

After you have made sure that your air conditioning system is up to snuff, then it is time to finally program your thermostat for summer conditions. Here at Brothers Plumbing, Heating, and Electric, we recommend the following settings for your average Monday through Friday 9 AM to 5 PM work day and schedule:

Thermostat Schedule

Too Much To Handle? Call Brothers Plumbing, Heating, and Electric Instead

Does all this sound too technical and complicated for you? Don’t fret! We can help! Simply give us here at Brothers Plumbing, Heating, and Electric a call today and we’ll make sure that your pre-season air conditioning start-up goes as smoothly as humanly possible. So, don’t hesitate! Give us a call today!

Improve Your Water Heater’s Energy Efficiency and Save Money!

Improve your water heater's energy efficiency and save money featured blog image

Learn how to improve your water heater’s efficiency and perhaps even lower your utility bills.

There are a few ways to help prolong the life of your water heater and keep it in top working order. Following these six tips, each year may help you to have a longer tank life expectancy, lower energy bills and minimize damage as a result of water leakage.

1. Know where your water heater is located

Not only should you know where the water heater is, but you should also have clear access to it, as sometimes it’s tucked away in an attic or basement and the plumbing is not easy to reach.

2. Know what type of water heater you have

You should know whether your water heater is natural gas, electric or propane, or whether it’s a storage tank type or a tankless type water heater. Also, write down the model number and the serial number of your water heater or at least know where this information is on the tank as it has the age and gallon capacity coded into it.

3. Know how to turn off the water

It’s a good idea before you’re facing a water heater dilemma, to know how to shut off the water and the fuel or power supply to the water heater. This is important in the event of an emergency or if your water heater is leaking or you smell gas. There should be a gas valve or a disconnect switch within a few feet of the water heater. It’s also a good idea to know where your main gas shut-off valve is or which breaker is used for the water heater.

As for the water shut-off, most shut-off valves are located above the water heater on the cold side piping. You also should locate your water shut-off valve coming into your home. If you need any special tools to turn any of the valves off or to open the breaker box, keep those nearby and in clear sight. This will make all the difference when you have water leaking all over or if you smell gas and time is of the essence.

4. Clear the area around your water heater

There are several reasons why it’s a good idea to give your water heater some space.

  • A gas-fired unit needs a good supply of oxygen to burn the gas. If a water heater is smothered and can’t get enough oxygen, it can affect the efficiency of the unit as well as cause damage to the burner chamber and other water heater parts. It can even cause carbon monoxide leaks.
  • If the unit starts to leak, you may not catch it as soon if the area is hidden from view. This has the potential to cause severe water damage and even waste energy as the water heater has to reheat the water more often.
  • Storing items too close to the water heater can be a fire hazard.

5. Drain or flush your water heater

It is always a good idea to have a Brother’s plumbing professional drain and flush your water heater at least once a year. If we notice a lot of sediment or debris, then a full flush is recommended.

Nobody thinks that a hot water tank could be a safety concern in their homes but we at Brothers Plumbing, Heating, & Electric know better. Our water heater repair service and water heater replacement service is your solution. We also recommend that once your water heater repair or water heater replacement is completed, your hot water should not exceed 125 degrees F. Exceeding this temperature poses a serious risk of burns, particularly to younger children.

Your water heater is a major energy consumer in your home. If your water heater is more than a few years old, you may consider replacing it with a new, energy-efficient model.

Sunday, March 10 2019 it’s time to “Spring Forward” one hour with Daylight Savings Time!

Spring Forward
Sunday, March 10 2019 it’s time to “Spring Forward” one hour with Daylight Savings Time!

Setting the clock forward means it’s time for a seasonal safety check! As you circle the house, setting clocks ahead, SAVE time for this short safety checklist. It’ll launch you into Spring from a safe home.

  • Change The Clocks, Change The Batteries, Change the Bulbs – Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors save lives … if they’re powered on by a fresh battery. Safety experts recommend replacing smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries twice a year and to replace the unit entirely every 7-10 years. Brothers stocks and recommends combo units for added safety. Also, Check the furnace thermostat and change the time setting. Chances are, you’ll have stepladders out to reach smoke detectors and clocks, so double up on safety (and energy savings) by checking light bulbs and light fixtures. Consider replacing conventional bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent or LED bulbs. The U.S. Environmental Protection estimates that replacing standard bulbs with energy-efficient ones saves over $30 in electricity costs over their lifetime.
  • Check Your Sump Pump(s) – Check to make sure your sump pump is working by making sure that you don’t have standing water in the pit that is above the height of the pump and that you have a battery backup in case the power goes out. Remember, Spring in Colorado is a very wet season so you want to make sure your home is protected.
  • Check Your Sump Pump(s) – Check to make sure your sump pump is working by making sure that you don’t have standing water in the pit that is above the height of the pump and that you have a battery backup in case the power goes out.
  • Replace or Clean Filters Around Your House – You should inspect the filters in your HVAC unit to make your systems are still running well, but also check the water filter in your fridge and HEPA filter in your vacuum. This is also a great time to get your HVAC system checked for safety. Brothers 33-point safety check toughly evaluates your system to make sure you are running efficiently and also to make sure your system will continue to run safely for your family.
  • Reverse Direction of Fan Blades – As the weather warms up, don’t forget to change the direction of your ceiling fan blades. In the winter, ceiling fans should rotate clockwise at low speed to pull cool air up. As you start to use your air conditioner, you should rotate the blade in a counterclockwise or “forward” direction to redistribute warm air which naturally rises to the top of the ceiling.
  • Outside Faucets – It is still too early to leave the hose connected to your outside faucets. Make sure you disconnect after each use. Check faucets and hose bibs to make sure water flows freely. If an outdoor faucet drips or if there is leakage inside your home the first time the hose is turned on, you may have had a frozen pipe that cracked and needs to be replaced. It is also still a little too early to get that sprinkler system going! If you see your lawn drying out now would be a great time for some relaxing hand watering.
  • Inspect Your Water Heater – Check to make sure you don’t see any obvious cracks or leaks and that there is no water on the floor or standing in the drip pan. If you do not see any signs of trouble, then you can shut it off or put it into vacation mode.
  • Outside Faucets – Check faucets and hose bibs to make sure water flows freely. If an outdoor faucet drips or if there is leakage inside your home the first time the hose is turned on, you may have had a frozen pipe that cracked and needs to be replaced.
  • Schedule your AC Safety Check – It is still too early for your check to be done, however, now is a perfect time to get it scheduled. Secure your appointment now and make sure your home is ready for the Colorado Summer.

For a full printable “Spring Forward Home Check List” Click: HERE

If needed, we can help you get your Day Light Savings Time “To Do List” …. done! Give us a call at 303.468.2294 or visit www.BrothersPlumbing.com to schedule today!