FAQ

Here are a few answers to some of your most Frequently Asked Questions

Warning

Some of the procedures described below require working with high, and potentially deadly, voltages. If you are not a licensed electrician, or service technician, please do not open, or attempt to repair your own equipment. Open electrical panels, and operate circuit breakers at your own risk. We cannot be held responsible for damages or injury resulting from actions taken under the advice given on the following pages. This advice was not written by a licensed electrician, but a certified refrigeration technician.

My unit is steaming and the fan on top is not turning.

This is the first question on the list for good reason. Just in case I’m wrong, go outside while the unit is steaming. Does it smell like something burning? Does it smell like warm, wet, musty steam? If it smells like steam, the unit is in the defrost cycle. In the winter a Heat Pump condenses water on the outdoor coil, think of it as an air conditioner running in reverse, you know that an air conditioner makes water in the summer, so then a heat pump makes water on the outside in the winter. This water freezes at temperatures near 32 degrees, not that it has to be 32, most often they will freeze at temperatures in the 40’s or below. The defrost cycle is controlled by a defrost circuit board in modern units, which, when it senses that the coil has frozen to a given point it switches the unit into air conditioning, yep a/c, to bring hot refrigerant to the outdoor coil and melt the ice. Meanwhile it also brings on the heat strips to keep the air inside from being ICE cold.

My unit has ice all over it on the outside.

This question is directly related to the first question. The condition that causes the ice is explained above. If the ice is not going away, or has frozen beyond the coil guard around the unit, you may have a faulty defrost board, you may be low on freon, or you may need to change the filter.

My unit doesn’t come on and blow out any air.

Several problems can cause this including, blown fuses, bad system low voltage transformer or, bad thermostat.  One thing that you can check, is to see if your breakers in your electrical panel have tripped, in a typical Heat Pump system there should be at least two circuit breakers in the panel, they will be the larger 220 volt breakers that look like two of the smaller ones put together. You can turn both off and wait for a few seconds and turn them back on and see if the unit comes back on.  If the unit doesn’t come back on or the breaker trips again then you should call for a service technician. We have weekend and after hours service available 365 days a year.

My unit is blowing air, but the outdoor unit doesn’t seem to be running.

Again this question is related to the question above. There could be several problems including, bad thermostat, bad low voltage wiring or, bad start components in the outdoor unit. You could follow the directions in the question above to see if your circuit breakers may have tripped.

My unit is running, but the air is not warm/cold.

This question could be a continuation of the problem above.  You should check to see if your outdoor unit is running.  If it’s running and you’re not getting the conditioning that you think you should, then you could have one of several problems including, low freon or, problems in the refrigerant circuit. First thing to do is check your air filters and make sure they are clean.  If the filter is plugged up, change it and see if the problem goes away.  If not, you could have other problems and you should call a technician, we have weekend and after hours service available 365 days a year

My blower unit in the basement makes a humming noise all the time.

This is a fairly common question, and usually doesn’t require any attention. The air handling unit is equipped with a low voltage transformer to power things like, the thermostat, and controls in the indoor and outdoor units.  This transformer works just like the one outside on the electrical pole at your home, if you listen very closely outside at the pole you can hear the same humming noise there.  If the humming is obnoxiously loud, or the unit is not working, it could indicate a problem. Otherwise it’s a perfectly normal thing to hear.

My outdoor unit makes a humming noise when it’s not running.

This question is related to the question above, and is caused by a similar device in the outdoor unit. In a heat pump there is a reversing valve to change the unit from heating to cooling mode. As long as the thermostat switch is in the heat position, or cool position, there is a chance for this reversing valve to hum. Try turning the thermostat to the off position and see if it doesn’t go away.  You may hear a swishing noise when you do this, especially if the unit has just finished a cycle.

My unit is blowing air continually and won’t turn off.

This problem is usually caused by a little known, and under explained, switch on the thermostat.  On most thermostats there are usually two or more switches, not including the temperature set-point adjustment lever, one of which is a fan, ON, and Auto, switch.  When switched to the on position the fan will run continually until you switch it back to auto.  When switched to the auto position the unit fan will cycle on and off with the unit. You could use the on position to circulate a little air and open the windows in the spring or fall, or you could even use the fan continually, never turning it off, to filter the air better.  Most system blowers don’t use a lot of electricity, so it shouldn’t impact your electric bill noticeably.

My thermostat set-point and indoor temperature don’t match.

Most thermostats are not very accurate at judging the indoor temperature.  The temperature adjustment scale is calibrated by the manufacturer to be as accurate as possible.  But the actual temperature displayed may not match. I usually recommend the use of a digital thermometer, mounted as close to the thermostat as possible, to check the accuracy of the thermostat. If it has just become a nuisance to you, the thermostat can be changed for a new one. They range in cost from about $45 to $300 or more, depending on the features boasted by the thermostat. I should also mention that thermostats have a three to five degree differential, to keep the unit from cycling on and off too often.

My electric bill is VERY high this month compared to normal in the winter.

There could be many causes for this problem, not all of which can be attributed to the operation of your heating system. If you think you may be having a problem with your heating system the first thing to do is check your air filters, if they are dirty change them.  Check to see if your outside unit is running by turning your system on heat and setting the temperature for the highest setpoint available, go outside to see if it’s running. Don’t forget to set your temperature back to a normal setpoint. If the unit is not running, check the other questions listed here for more information. If it is running you could call out a service technician we are available for weekend and after hours service 365 days a year. You might also check your water heater, or your water pump.

My gas furnace is not working at all.

Most modern gas furnaces are not user serviceable, they have automatically lit burners, electronic circuit boards that control everything from fan operation to ignition.  That being said, there are only two things to check.  See if you have gas first of all, if you don’t know how this is done call your gas provider for instructions.  Second, turn off the electricity to the furnace and wait five minutes before turning it back on, this can usually also be done by turning the system switch off for five minutes.  See if it will work after the power has been restored, or the thermostat is turned back on. If not call a technician, we are available for weekend or after hours service 365 days a year.

My gas furnace has a blinking light. Is that normal?

The blinking light is used by your service technician to diagnose problems with the furnace. If it’s working don’t worry too much about it. If the blinking is getting on your nerves you can put a piece of tape over the little window it’s blinking in.

How often should I change my filter?

Good question. Not every house is the same, but the manufacturers of most units and filters alike recommend changing them one time per month, when you get your electric bill is a good time to do it.  If after one month you don’t see a lot of dust on the filter you may wait for another couple of weeks and change it then.  But please do change it then, you may have a filter that doesn’t show the dust well enough to discern the amount that is actually in the filter, especially if you are using a pleated filter.

How often should I have my unit serviced?

We offer annual maintenance agreements that include two services per year. Newer systems can usually looked at one time per year. If you have a gas furnace you should have it looked at once a year at minimum. Feel free to call and ask about our maintenance agreements.

What is a Heat Pump?

A Heat Pump is a reverse cycle Air Conditioner.  It uses heat in the outdoor air to evaporate refrigerant, or freon, to be used later to blow off heat. In a nut shell anyway.  I know, you’re thinking, “How can it get heat out of the air, it’s 25 degrees outside?!”  Well there is heat present in the air down to a temperature known as “Absolute Zero”.  A temperature that can’t be reached on the surface of the earth, but in the vacuum of outer space. The unit may work less efficiently, and run for longer periods before turning off.  But it is still heating. It also has electric resistance heaters for backup, you may notice a blue or green light on the thermostat that comes on occasionally to let you know that the unit is getting help from the resistance heaters.

What is a Packaged Heat Pump?

The same as above, but the components are built into one unit that sits outside. The outside unit houses both the condensing unit, or the outdoor unit, and the evaporating unit, or the unit that would be inside the basement or crawl space of your home.  Usually Packaged Heat Pump’s are used when the house is too low to the ground to get a unit under the floor, or when the consumer would rather not have any noise makers under their feet.  Packaged units used to be less efficient than split units, but modern advances have led to high efficiency Packaged units.

What is a Gas Furnace?

A Gas Furnace is a fuel burning unit, most often using propane or natural gas mixed with oxygen for combustion.  Most modern Gas Furnaces operate at 92% AFUE, in other words 92% of the fuel burned in the furnace is converted directly into heat.  This makes for easier venting of the combusted fuel because of lowered exhaust temperatures. Most of these furnaces can use PVC pipe for venting as opposed to using double, or triple walled metallic piping.  These furnaces also produce moisture as a by product of squeezing as much heat out of a thermal unit of fuel as possible. Many safety devices have been added to all new fuel burning units including, flame rollout protection, heat chamber overheating protection, and exhaust overheating sensors, just to name a few. It is still advisable to have your fuel burning furnace inspected and cleaned annually to ensure it’s continued safe, and efficient, use.  It’s also a good idea to use a Carbon Monoxide, or CO, detector in your home any time you are using an open flame within the structure of the house, this includes gas stoves, wood or gas burning fireplaces, gas hot water heaters, and other fuel burning appliances.

What is a Packaged Gas with Air Conditioning?

The Packaged Gas unit with Air Conditioning is a unit that uses fuel, such as propane or natural gas, as explained above, with an air conditioning system, combined into one unit that sits outside the house. The fuel burning systems used in the Packaged Gas unit are not as efficient as a stand alone 92% efficient Gas Furnace. You should read the previous answer above for more details, but the moisture condensed in the 92% efficient furnace would freeze at low outdoor temperatures, causing the furnace to malfunction. But in some cases there is no other alternative means of installation, or the consumer would rather not have a fuel burning unit in the home. Again, many advancements in fuel burning safety have made fuel burning furnaces a very safe means of heating your home.