Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

To better serve you, we have compiled some of the most frequently asked questions.  If you have a question that is not answered here please give us a call or send us an email.  Here's a link to our contact page.

General Heating and Cooling Questions

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How often should I change the filter on my system?

That really depends on what kind of filter you have, how much dirt gets into your home, and how often the fan runs.  For those with our Honeywell F100 filter system, that is every 6 months to 12 months.  For those with a standard 1" fiberglass or pleated filter, it should be every 30-60 days.  Electronic air cleaners or Clean Effects should have their pre-filters vacuumed monthly or bi-monthly, and collection part cleaned every other time the pre-filter is done.

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How often should I have my system serviced?

We recommend once or twice a year.  Twice is better and usually offers the chance to check out the system in both heating and cooling cycles each year.

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What time of year is best to have my system serviced?

It is best to service air conditioners in the spring or summer, when the outdoor temperature is above 75º.  Furnaces can be checked out any time of year, but it is best when it is cool and they can be operated an extended time without making the house uncomfortable.

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How much does it cost to have my system serviced?

The cost depends on what kind of system you have, and after-hours and trip fees may apply.  Contact us to get a quote over the phone for planned maintenance.

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How much does it cost to repair my system?

That is a question that can only be answered after your system is analyzed by one of our qualified technicians.  The standard trip charge and hourly rate will apply, and the technician should be able to give an estimate to repair after examining the system.

Air Source Heat Pump Specific Questions

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I have a heat pump. Is it normal for it to run all the time in the winter?

Yes.  A typical heat pump in an all-electric home should be running whenever the home needs heat.  When it is properly functioning, it is normal to run nearly all the time when the outdoor temperature is below freezing.

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When should I turn my heat pump off and have the emergency heat on?

It should never be necessary to manually turn on the emergency or auxiliary heat to be comfortable, unless there is a problem with the outdoor unit or controls.  If so, please call for service.

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I've heard that heat pumps don't put out much heat when it is below freezing out. Shouldn't I just turn it off?

No.  While it is true that the heat capacity of an air source heat pump is less when it is colder outside, it is still more economical to use it first as the source of heat.  Your thermostat should be able to turn on back up or auxiliary heat when it determines that the system is not maintaining your desired temperature.  Certain systems may automatically turn off the heat pump and switch to gas heat based on outdoor temperature.

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What is a dual-fuel or hybrid system?

This is a system that has an electric heat pump paired with an oil, propane, or natural gas furnace.  The system should use the heat pump to maintain temperature when the temperature is mild out (usually above 32º), and switches over to the back-up heat source automatically as needed.  One advantage of this type of system is that it lowers the amount of electricity needed to run the system, making it usable on most electric services.   When the heat pump is doing the heating, it is also more economical to operate than the fuel furnace, and switches over when it can no longer maintain temperature.  Many homeowners also enjoy the more even heat that a heat pump can deliver through its longer run cycles.  A heat pump generally puts out about 92º air when it is operating. .  Many home owners prefer the hotter (100º + air) of the gas furnace when it is really cold out, and a dual-fuel system delivers the best of both systems.

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I've noticed what looks like smoke or steam coming from my heat pump in the winter. Is that normal?

Yes.  The heat pump is most likely defrosting itself.  It is normal for a heat pump to go through a defrost cycle after extended run time on a cold day, and more so when there is freezing fog present.  The steam is actually from the ice melting off the inside of the outdoor coils, and should last for about 5 minutes before it goes back to normal operation.  It is also normal to notice water running off the outdoor unit when this is happening and the unit will sound different as well. 

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Is it normal for my heat pump to look like a ball of ice in the winter?

No.  You should call for service if the outdoor unit is iced up.  Surface frost and ice around the bottom of the unit is OK, but there shouldn't be slabs of ice on the coil to the point of blocking air flow through the outdoor unit.  This is frequently the sign of a more serious problem, such as a low refrigerant charge, a controls issue, or lack of air flow at the indoor unit. 

Air Conditioning and Heat Pump Cooling Questions

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I have water leaking around the furnace area in my house. What causes that?

A frozen indoor coil may cause water to drain where it shouldn't.  That is usually caused by a lack of air flow at the indoor unit or a low refrigerant charge.  Changing the system filter or cleaning the indoor coil may help the issue.  There may also be a plugged drain or inoperable condensate drain or pump that is a problem.  It is usually best to call for service to ensure that all the causes are found and fixed.

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Should I cover my air conditioner in the winter?

Not usually.  The equipment is made to be outside, and it really isn't necessary to cover the air conditioner.  The air conditioner should never be operated with a cover or other obstruction blocking air flow.

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I want to build a fence, deck, or other structure around the air conditioner. How close can I build it and not harm the equipment?

Generally, 3 feet of service clearance is needed around 3 sides, and at least 12" of clearance against the house.  Overhead covers should be at least 5' above the unit, and not obstruct free air flow around the unit.  Trane has very specific guidelines for fencing and decorative covers that can be installed closer.  Call us for an application guide if you really want to fence in the outdoor unit.  This attention is necessary because the outdoor unit has to get air flow to function properly.

System Replacement Questions

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What is the most efficient way to heat and cool my house?

A ground source heat pump will be the most economical conventional way to heat and cool a house, followed by a high efficient air source system, high efficient natural gas and air conditioner, basic gas furnace or boiler, electric furnace, oil furnace, then finally propane.  Wood and pellets are variable in cost for each home owner, but generally fall somewhere more than the high efficient gas furnace in real cost to the homeowner.

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What is the best time of year to purchase a new system for my home?

Many factors can have a part in this decision.  Many system replacements can be done with minimal interruption to your comfort, so weather may not play a big role.  Usually we can be most responsive from January through the end of March.  Early summer through the fall are usually the busiest.

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