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About: Oliver Neely

Recent Posts by Oliver Neely

Why is My Furnace Pilot Light Yellow?

A healthy functioning furnace should burn with a blue flame and a yellow tip. As a general rule around 90% of the flame should be a dark blue color, with only the top yellow or orange.  If your pilot light is more yellow than blue then there’s a problem.

In older furnaces the pilot light serves to ignite gas for the main burner; it burns constantly and steady to maintain heat to your home or business.

A pilot light requires the correct amount of gas and air to remain steady.  Too much or gas and not enough air and you may end up with a yellow or orange flame.  This basically means that the flame is starved of sufficient oxygen.  A deep blue color is the natural color of a flame that has sufficient oxygen to keep it burning.

What’s the cause of a yellow flame?

The most common cause is a clogged air intake valve which leads into the pilot light.  A yellow flame can also be caused by damage and a faulty installation.

When the flame is yellow, it means that there is incomplete combustion of the gas which can lead to harmful carbon monoxide being released.  The flame may go out completely due to insufficient conditions to stay ignited.

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless gas, which makes it particularly dangerous.  The main symptoms of exposure include headaches, breathlessness, dizziness, nausea and even collapse.

If you think you have carbon monoxide poisoning call a doctor right away.

What to do about a yellow flame?

If the yellow flame is persistent,  or the pilot light keeps going out turn off the gas supply and call a heating professional.

 

Is it time to replace your furnace?

Furnaces with standing pilot lights were common up until the mid 90s when electric ignition started to replace them.  If you still have one of the old style furnaces it is likely to be nearing the end of its lifespan (typically 15-20 years).

If you would like help switching to a newer, more energy efficient model call Superior Comfort for a reliable replacement and installation in Ansonia, Shelton, Seymour, Woodbridge and the surrounding area.

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The Difference between a Boiler and Furnace

If you’re looking at choosing a new heating system, it’s important to know your options. Equally if you need a service or repair, it’s good to know what you’re dealing with.

You might assume, sure it’s easy I have a furnace… Most people who heat their home with oil will call their system a furnace, when in actual fact they have a boiler; the two are actually quite different.

A furnace heats air which is circulated through the home’s duct system. This is also referred to as a forced air system. The fuel source for a furnace can be gas, electricity or oil.

A boiler heats water which is then circulated through pipework and radiators or baseboard. A boiler also uses gas, electricity or oil to power it.

In short, a furnace heats air, a boiler heats water.

 

Comfort

Both systems are capable of providing reliable heating for your home, however variances in air flow can create drafts or cold spots with a furnace; boilers tend to be more consistent.

In some cases a furnace can increase humidity in the home and cause the air to be dry in the winter; in this case a humidifier may be needed. But a furnace makes it easier to cool your home, since the ductwork can be used for air conditioning. If you have a boiler and no ductwork you need to have two separate systems.

Another consideration is for people who have allergies. A furnace can blow allergens/contaminates throughout the house. However, the filters are designed to restrict this; allergen filters can help to reduce the chances of allergies flaring up. To maintain good air quality, ducts need to be regularly cleaned and filters need to be regularly changed.

 

Installation

It is generally considered that boilers are more expensive than furnaces to purchase and install, this is especially true if your home already has ductwork. In some instances, a furnace can be installed within a few hours, compared to a boiler which can take a full day, or more to install.

 

Maintenance

Both a furnace and boiler are capable of lasting between 15-20 years, but it is the maintenance in between that sets them apart.

A boiler has few mechanical parts and does not need much maintaining, beyond a yearly inspection. In contrast a furnace runs a motor and blower fan which pushes the warm air throughout your home. There are also the filters and ductwork which need regular cleaning every few months.
Boilers and furnaces come with their own list of pros and cons. A boiler for instance can also power hot water for showering, something that cannot be achieved with a furnace.

 

Ultimately you need to decide which is right for you and your situation.

 

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Summer HVAC Mistakes That are Costing you Money

Summer is here!  But before you head over to your thermostat to set your air conditioning to a comfortable level, consider these common mistakes that often end up costing you money.

 

 

1. Setting the thermostat really low to cool the room faster

Unfortunately this doesn’t work, even if you have a high-efficiency variable-speed system.  Setting the thermostat low does not cool your home any faster, and in only serves to make your system work harder.  In rare cases this can also cause your indoor coil to freeze.

 

2. Turning off air conditioning when you’re away from home

Unless you’re going on a summer vacation there’s no sense in turning off your air conditioning each time you head out.  Even if you go away for a day or two, just set the temperature a little higher.   If you’re turning the AC on and off, it has to work harder to get back to the right temperature.

Use a programmable thermostat to help to keep your air conditioner costs lower when you leave the house.  Without causing it to overwork.

 

3. Not replacing air filters often enough

Filters play a vital role in the efficiency of your air conditioning.  When they’re not replaced often enough, they can place a strain on your unit, costing you more money.   A dirty filter can also lead to ice forming on your coils, short-cycling, reduced lifespan and more issues.

Most manufacturers recommend you replace your filter every 30-60 days.  But how often you need to change also depends on your circumstances.  If you live on your home, have no pets or allergies, 6-12 months may be sufficient, otherwise.

  • 90 Days for an average (no pet) home
  • 60 Days for a home with a dog/cat
  • 20-40 Days for a home with multiple pets/allergies

 

4. Cooling an unoccupied room with ceiling fans

Ceiling fans are designed to cool people, not rooms.  In fact they have no affect on room temperature at all, so if you’re using it to keep a room cool, you’re just waiting money.

 

5. Using the ceiling fan so the AC doesn’t work as hard

Again, the ceiling fan does not cool the room, so the AC still has to use the same amount of energy to get the room to a comfortable temperature.

 

6.  Closing vents to increase efficiency  

Closing vents, in unused rooms for instance, doesn’t improve efficiency, it reduces it.  When the vents are closed, the blower is pushing air, but it can’t get through.  This pressure builds up in the duct-work and actually makes the system work harder.

Use dampers to direct airflow away from an unused room to where it is most needed.

 

7. Assuming your AC Is ready for summer

Air conditioning units need regular maintenance to operate at their best, and prevent breakdowns.  After a long period without use, never assume that it’s ready to just switch on and get going.  It could have low refrigerant levels, a dirty filter or dust and debris that could be wearing it down and costing you more money.  These are things that can be addressed with an annual tuneup, and with your own checks every month or so.

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Air Conditioning FAQs

Got questions about buying or using an air conditioner? Confused by a problem the unit is throwing up?  We have many of your questions answered right here.  If you’re still confused, and need help in the southern CT area, don’t hesitate to get in contact.

 

Do I need to have my air conditioner serviced every year?

No you don’t need to, but it is recommended.  A yearly service will help to maintain your warranty, keep your energy bills down and ensure your continued comfort.

 

What does it mean if my evaporator coils freeze?

Don’t panic! This is not uncommon and there are a number of possible causes:

  • Dirty air filter or evaporator coil
  • Low refrigerant
  • Closed off supply vents

 

What happens if I don’t maintain my air conditioner?

Air conditioning units don’t run forever without maintenance.  Some of the issues you may experience are:

  • Dirty coils – Which can restrict airflow and even harbor mold
  • Dirty blower – A blower that builds up enough dirt can stop working altogether
  • Dirty filter – The filter keeps the air in your property clean from harmful particles such as pollen, dander and allergens.  When it gets too dirty it stops doing its job and the particles circulate through your home, ready t be breathed in by you and your family
  • Leaking – This could happen if the drain or hose becomes blocked with dirt, the condenser pump stops working, or the seals on the unit loosen

 

What size air conditioner should I get?

This depends on the size of your home and your personal needs.  Too small and it could take a while to cool your home, too large and you may end up with an overworking expense, that can even grow mold and have a reduced lifespan.  If you are not sure speak to an air conditioning professional.

 

What do the air conditioner ratings mean?

 

ERR (Energy Efficiency Ratio) 

This is tested in laboratory conditions and measures cooling output divided by energy usage at peak load.

A higher number is more energy efficient.

 

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) 

This measures cooling efficiency calculated over a seasonal average (and not in lab conditions).  The ratings run from 9-24.  In the US each state has a minimum requirement for the sale of air conditioners, usually 13 or 14.  To calculate how much you could save with a new unit, use this handy tool from SEER Energy Savings.

A higher number is more energy efficient.

 

HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor)

This measures head pump efficiency.

A higher number is more energy efficient.

 

Can my A/C control humidity in my home?

Yes, air conditioners naturally reduce humidity as cooler air holds less of it.  The amount of humidity reduction can also depend on the unit’s setup, and can be controlled with the humidistat if you have one.

 

How can I reduce A/C running costs

  1. Upgrade to a newer and higher efficiency unit.
  2. Go for energy star systems.
  3. Install economizers which use cool outside air to reduce the amount of time the air conditioner is in operation.
  4. Keep your system maintained at least once per year.

 

Why is my air conditioner leaking?

This is not uncommon and there are several possible causes:

  • Clogged condensate line
  • Dirty/frozen evaporator coils
  • Dirty air filter
  • Low refrigerant level
  • A problem leftover from installation

 

Should I set my A/C to on or auto?

ON constantly circulates air to keep you comfortable.  Auto only blows when the a/c is putting out cool air.  Really it comes down to cost.  If you always have the A/C set to ON, you will have higher energy bills than setting it to auto.

 

Why is the air conditioning noisy?

Often this is caused by:

  • A dirty fan coil or condenser – leading to a vibration sound
  • A dirty coil – leading to draft noise
  • A loose mounting – leading to rattling

 

Why is the air conditioner smelly?

This is caused by bacterial growth in the fan coil unit.  In severe cases, a chemical treatment may be used to remove the smell, but generally a good clean will fix it.

 

I’m always hot what should I do?

Don’t assume you need a bigger unit.  If the one you have is sized appropriately for your home, consider a ductless split system; this allows you to control the temperature in specific rooms/areas of the home.

 

 

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4 Serious HVAC Problems You Should Know About

For most people, they rely on their HVAC systems each and every day, and when something goes wrong, they call someone in to fix it.  This is fine in most cases, you just might be faced with no heating or air conditioning for a little while.

There are however some occasions where HVAC problems cannot be left until the last minute.  Heating and cooling systems are made as safe as possible, but they are not 100% risk free.  Here are 4 serious HVAC problems you should know about, and never ignore:

 

1. Natural Gas – Rotten Egg Smell

 

If you heat your home with gas, a rotten egg smell can be a sign of a leak.   If you notice a smell that hangs around, with no known cause, don’t attempt to investigate it, call a professional if you are concerned.

 

2. Furnace – Dusty Smell That Doesn’t Go

 

Furnaces normally produce a dusty smell when they are first switched on, however if this odor persists it could be indicative or components burning out.  This can be very dangerous.  Call a professional ASAP.
 

3. Furnace exhaust – Poor Venting (due to snow, contaminants etc..)

 

If blocked or damaged fumes can flood back into the furnace it can put pressure on the system, potentially leading to fire/danger of explosion. Dangerous chemicals including carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide can seep into the home and linger.

It’s important to note that most systems will have a shutoff feature, so it should not get to such a problem, however if the vent is still blocked the furnace will not be able to operate.

This is most likely to happen due to heavy snowfall which blocks the vent, however it can also become blocked by birds and other animals.  Your furnace vent flue may either go out of your roof, or be pushed out the side of your home through a fan.   Be aware of where your vent is and if heavy snowfall occurs and blocks the event, attempt to remove it.

 

4. Air conditioner – Leaks

 

If leaks build up in your air conditioner you could have mold buildup, being breathed in by you and your family members, let alone the problems that may be going on with you’re a/c unit.

If coolant is allowed to leak into your home for some time, it can evaporate into a gas and lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea and in rare cases asphyxiation.

Leaks may be indicated by pools of fluid beneath your unit. However sometimes it is not possible to locate the source, you may only know that there’s a problem with you’re a/c unit not working as it should.  If you have a leak and continue to use your air conditioner it can keep putting undue stress on the system.  This can cause irreversible damage to the compressor, the longer the problem is left, the more damage that is done.

 

 

Article written by Superior Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning, HVAC contractors serving New Haven county, Connecticut in the USA.

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