What Types of AC Repair Can I Do Myself?

What Types of AC Repair Can I Do Myself?

Customers sometimes ask what types of AC repair they can do themselves. At Tri County Air, we generally discourage DIY air conditioning repair. It can risk causing more damage or injuring yourself. Not hiring an AC professional can also void the warranty and violate building codes. However, there are simple solutions to some problems; you can also troubleshoot an issue before calling an air conditioning repair technician.

While these tasks generally don’t fall under the category of AC repair, they can be safe and effective if your air conditioner isn’t working like it should:

Change The AC Filter

You don’t need a technician to check and change the air filter. However, a dirty filter can have a big impact on how the system works. It can reduce the amount of air going into the unit and limit how much air blows into rooms. Uneven cooling and preventable repairs are also possible.

Most air filters are located in the air handler near the evaporator coil. A clogged filter can usually be changed by sliding it out of its housing; then you can insert the new one. Install a new filter whenever the AC isn’t working as effectively. In general, we recommend changing it every one to three months.

Check the Thermostat Settings

If your home isn’t at the right temperature or is being heated instead of cooled, your AC may not need repair at all. The thermostat may be set incorrectly. Check the setting and change the temperature or fan speed if necessary, or switch it from heating to cooling mode. If the AC kicks in at the right temperature, there’s nothing else to do.

However, if the thermostat isn’t responding or doesn’t light up, change the battery (if it’s battery-operated) or call a professional to check the wiring and connections.

Check the Circuit Breaker

When an AC shuts off or won’t turn on, your first thought may be to call an HVAC contractor. But the problem may not be with the air conditioner. First, go to the main electrical panel and check the circuit breaker for the AC unit. A tripped breaker will be in the middle position. If this happens, there may be an overload, especially if other appliances or lights are plugged into the same circuit as the air conditioner. 

To address the issue, flip the breaker switch to the “Off” position. Then, wait a few seconds and flip it to the “On” position; it should stay in place. If not, the circuit is still overloaded or there could be a wiring problem that only a professional can resolve. However, if the AC now works as usual, there’s nothing else to do.

Clean the Outdoor Condenser Unit

A buildup of dust, dirt, leaves, twigs, or even shrubbery around the unit can affect how efficiently it releases heat outside. The system then can’t remove enough heat from your home. The same issue can also affect heating performance.

Fortunately, this problem is easy to fix. Use a broom, brush, or your hands to remove debris, leaves, or branches from the condenser. Also, make sure there’s no debris, obstructions, or clutter within two feet of it on each side. To clean the fan blades and condenser fins, you’ll have to open the unit; these parts can be cleaned using a garden hose on low pressure or with a soft-bristle brush.

Melt Any Ice That Forms

If the AC unit or coil ices up, turn the system off with just the fan running. The ice should melt rather quickly. You can also shut off the system altogether and let the ice melt on its own. However, if this is a recurring problem, call an AC repair professional to check for a refrigerant leak or other problem.

Open Room Vents

Closing vents in unused rooms won’t save energy. Instead, it can increase air pressure in the system, which can cause serious damage. The system may also short cycle; this forces it to use more energy. If you feel your AC could work better, check all room vents and open any that are closed. Also, move any objects or furniture blocking them.

Check the Ducts

By opening the registers, you can peek into your ductwork to see if it’s dirty. Ducts can be cleaned by wiping around the edges or using a vacuum hose. If your ductwork seems excessively dirty, schedule a professional duct cleaning. Be sure to check everywhere, including the attic, where a register may have been accidentally closed, or airflow may be blocked for some other reason. Call an HVAC company if ductwork or any of its components appear damaged.

Call Tri County Air

If these steps don’t get your AC unit to work, Tri County Air can help. Simple solutions often don’t require a professional. However, if you can’t resolve the issue and suspect something is wrong with your air conditioner, a specialist can address problems such as a broken fan motor, refrigerant leak, or faulty thermostat. Our licensed technicians can perform any type of AC repair. To request assistance in Charlotte, Manatee, or Sarasota Counties, call (941) 841-8573 today.

8 Reasons to Consider Heating Replacement Now

8 Reasons to Consider Heating Replacement Now

Homeowners are often reluctant to jump on heating replacement, but there are many reasons to consider it now. Replacing your furnace or heater sooner rather than later has numerous benefits. We’ll examine them below to help you make the most informed decision possible.

1. Ridiculously High Electric Bills

For most people, an increase in utility costs isn’t an obvious sign to replace a furnace. But as heating systems age, they become less efficient. A unit’s efficiency rating will go down, and some newer furnaces and other heating systems are designed to be over 98% efficient (compared to older ones that may range from 56% to 70% efficient). Your new heater can pay for itself over the life of the system just in the amount saved on utilities.

2. Your Furnace Is Short Cycling

If your furnace turns on and off more frequently, the reasons can range from a dirty filter to improper thermostat settings to an incorrectly sized unit. A failing component or control issue can also cause it to short cycle, or the heat exchanger may be overheating. Short cycling can indicate multiple problems are occurring. It decreases efficiency and can further strain the unit until it breaks down.

3. The Pilot Light Doesn’t Stay Blue

If your furnace has a pilot light, it should always be blue. It means the flame is receiving enough oxygen. When the flame turns yellow, it’s burning less hot, which can also signify that carbon monoxide is present.  Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless and can lead to flu-like symptoms and death. If an older heating system has a yellow flame, it could be a sign the heat exchanger is cracked, so strongly consider a heating replacement.

4. Your Heater Is Making Scary Noises

Heating systems should run fairly quietly. If you start to hear loud banging, squealing, or rattling noises, there’s likely a mechanical issue. A bad motor bearing, blower, or fan can cause a lot of damage. The noise can also mean the compressor is failing. Contact a professional to determine if the problem can be fixed or if your heater needs to be replaced.

5. You’ve Had Several Recent Heating Repairs

Requiring multiple repairs in a short time means you’ll probably need another one soon. As a system ages, it becomes more difficult and expensive to find replacement parts. You could spend as much on repairs as what a new unit costs. If your heater needs another part soon after the last one was replaced, assume it’s near the end of its life and replace it.

6. Your House Is Increasingly Drier and Dustier

A functional heating system keeps your home warm and controls moisture. Therefore, if it’s declining in performance, your home may become dry and uncomfortable. Dirty heater components and ducts can cause more dust to circulate in the air and settle on surfaces. This could be a sign the system is wearing out and can’t correctly distribute air.

7. You’re Always Adjusting the Thermostat

If rooms don’t get comfortable, regardless of how often you reset the thermostat, your furnace or heater may be to blame. It could be due to decreased performance or a problem with air distribution. Each room should be about the same temperature. If one room varies by several degrees from another and is too cold or too warm, consider heating replacement as the best option.

8. Your Heating System Is Old

If your heating system is well-maintained, it can last from 15 to as many as 25 years. Older systems are more likely to require major repairs or break down. Therefore, if you have an older furnace, start planning for a heating replacement. You can take the time to find the right type and correctly sized system rather than rush to find one in the dead of winter.

Schedule Heating Replacement with Tri County Air

Our licensed and trained heating specialists are professional, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. They’ll answer all your questions so you can make the best decision possible. At Tri County Air, we’re committed to helping you find an affordable heating solution. When it’s time for heating replacement in Florida, we’ll install a furnace, heat pump, or hybrid system that improves home comfort, safety, and efficiency. Call (941) 485-2222 or request your appointment online today.

The Best Time to Schedule IAQ Services

The Best Time to Schedule IAQ Services

Most people don’t know the best time to schedule indoor air quality (IAQ) services. That’s partly because IAQ testing isn’t recommended as regularly as  HVAC maintenance. However, IAQ services can make a big difference by addressing the causes of allergies and respiratory issues. They can detect pet dander, mold, chemicals, odor sources, or radon gas. They also include installing air purification and filtration systems (more on these later).

But the question we’ll answer now is, “When should you schedule an IAQ service?”

While there are no standards on indoor air quality testing and services, here are a few answers we think can help guide you:

If Your Allergies Are Getting Worse

Consider hiring an IAQ service if you’re constantly sneezing, coughing, or wheezing at home, the symptoms are getting worse, and they abate when you leave. Pets are often the source of allergies, as can be other animals you didn’t know about. Pet dander is an allergy trigger and can host allergy- and disease-causing bacteria. An IAQ test can determine if allergens are circulating and what their source may be.

During Building Construction or a Major Renovation

Any construction work in your home should be accompanied by indoor air quality testing. At the very least, it can give you peace of mind, especially if your home predates modern building codes. Some hazards include lead paint and asbestos. During a project, make sure construction areas are blocked off from living and working spaces and perform painting, carpet installation, floor re-surfacing, and other minor renovations when no one is home or during off-business hours.

When You Move Into a New House

Moving is a good time to schedule IAQ services. A new home can have many IAQ issues that you wouldn’t otherwise know about. Indoor air quality testing should be performed as part of a pre-purchase inspection. Therefore, you’ll know about and can take action to remedy issues like mold and other indoor allergens before moving in.

You Can’t Track Down the Source of a Strange Odor

Numerous types of odors can emerge in a home. A persistent, unusual odor can have a source that can be harmful if left untreated. For example, musty odors often point to mold (however, not all IAQ concerns can be smelled; some, including carbon monoxide, radon gas, and some molds, are odorless). However thorough testing can identify odor-producing organic materials, volatile organic compounds, chemicals, and issues with your HVAC system.

There Are Signs of an Air Quality Problem

Even if an IAQ problem isn’t evident, periodically walk through your home or building to identify potential issues using your senses. A lack of cleanliness may be a sign it’s time to hire an IAQ professional. Other reasons it may be time to schedule service include:

  • Carpeting is unclean, damp, or affected by persistent moisture or flooding.
  • Chemical products are being stored near ventilation equipment.
  • Air intakes and exhaust vents are too close together, or intakes are near sources of waste or vehicle exhaust.
  • Land around the building slopes toward it, causing water to pool near the foundation.
  • Walls, ceilings, or vents are discolored or have unusual spots or stains around them.

It’s Time to Make IAQ Improvements

There are many types of IAQ testing. Usually, performing all of them at once isn’t necessary or practical. A professional can evaluate your home to determine what IAQ services you need. They can recommend certain tests and the types of solutions to consider. Some of these include:

  • Whole-House Filtration Systems: These use a series of filters through which air is pulled to catch a wide range of pollutants and very small airborne particles. Tri-County Air installs high MERV-rated filters within air handlers to capture particles as small as 1 micron. We also install in-duct HEPA filters.
  • Humidifiers/Dehumidifiers: High humidity, or a lack thereof, can be an IAQ problem. Depending on your situation, a humidifier or dehumidifier can maintain recommended indoor humidity levels (30% to 50%) so the environment becomes unsuited for some pollutants.
  • UV Light Air Purifiers: A contractor can install UV light technology that damages bacteria, viruses, mold spores, and other organic materials on a molecular level. It can reduce odors, clean the air, and purify surfaces throughout your home.

Schedule IAQ Services With Tri County Air

Our team specializes in the latest high-efficiency air filtration and purification products. If you suspect a problem or have never installed such a system, Tri County Air can evaluate your needs, make recommendations, and provide long-term solutions. Call (941) 485-2222 to schedule IAQ services in your Charlotte, Manatee, or Sarasota County home.

Is Duct Replacement a Part of HVAC Installation?

Is Duct Replacement a Part of HVAC Installation?

Duct replacement doesn’t have to be a part of HVAC installation. Leaving your existing ducts in place is an option if they’re in good condition. If not, then inadequate ductwork can affect the performance and efficiency of your new system. This is not ideal since HVAC installation is an investment and damaged or faulty ducts can affect your comfort, safety, and indoor air quality.

We’ll now explore whether duct replacement should be a part of your next HVAC installation project.

New Ductwork Is Often Recommended

When planning to install a new heating and cooling system, a contractor will often suggest installing new ductwork. Having matching equipment can reduce the frequency of repairs and eliminate issues such as dust, allergies, and odors. Plus, ductwork that’s 10+ years older than your AC or heater may not match its operating requirements.

Signs Your Ducts and HVAC System Should Be Replaced Together

Before replacing your HVAC system, a contractor performs an in-home evaluation to determine whether your ductwork should also be replaced. It’s not always an easy decision to make. But here are some signs the investment in duct replacement may be worthwhile:

  • Improperly Sized Ductwork: Air ducts come in different sizes and the dimensions must match the requirements of your air conditioner. The unit won’t work effectively if your ductwork isn’t properly sized. It must be carefully designed to ensure the heating and cooling needs of your entire home are met.
  • Damaged Air Ducts: If there are dents, punctures, holes, cracks, and loose connections in your ductwork, conditioned air will escape into unconditioned spaces like the attic or crawl space. Your new system will work much harder to distribute air, but duct replacement can ensure it runs smoothly.
  • Poor Indoor Air Quality: Air quality issues can range from allergies and asthma symptoms to increased dust and musty odors caused by mold. If mold is present in ducts, spores, and toxins can spread throughout your home. Poor humidity control can contribute to the problem. Therefore, damaged, deteriorated, or corroded ductwork must be replaced.
  • Noisy Ducts: If you hear high-pitched sounds coming from your ductwork, an airflow issue may be the reason. Excess pressure can cause rattling sounds while whistling noises can indicate there’s a blockage in a duct or your ductwork has structural damage. These issues won’t go away without significant repairs or replacing your HVAC ductwork.
  • High Utility Bills: No matter how efficient your new HVAC unit is, aging or damaged ductwork will offset any efficiency improvements. Consider duct replacement if your energy bills have been surging. Trapped debris, damage, or poor insulation may be causing this. Only by replacing your HVAC system and ductwork together will you get your utility bills under control.
  • Uneven Heating or Cooling: More gaps and holes in your ductwork can lead to consistent temperatures. If some parts of your home are too hot and others too cold, the reason may be in your air ducts. When it can’t distribute air evenly, ductwork should be replaced during the HVAC installation process.
  • Insect and Rodent Infestations: Holes and spaces in ductwork provide room for small pests to get inside. Aside from leaving behind waste that can contain bacteria and other pathogens, pests can cause blockages and extensive structural damage to air ducts. Infested ducts should be replaced as soon as possible.

Is Duct Replacement Enough?

At Tri County Air, we help our customers save money over time. Replacing ductwork during HVAC installation can have long-term cost benefits. We also often recommend attic insulation improvements, as this is where much of the conditioned air can be lost.

An attic can be treated with spray foam insulation. It is a liquid that’s sprayed into a space and expands into a foam (open-cell foam seals cracks and spaces to prevent air leakage, while closed-cell foam is an effective air, vapor, and water barrier). Blown-in insulation protects against moisture, mold, pests, and fires, depending on the type. Consult with your HVAC contractor about the best options for your home.

A radiant barrier is another insulation option that can make your HVAC system and ductwork more efficient. It reflects sunlight and is often used with other insulating materials. Some radiant heat barrier coatings can be sprayed, making this process even easier.

Contact Tri County Air

Updating your entire HVAC system is the best solution for improving comfort, efficiency, and indoor air quality. Customers in Charlotte, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties rely on us for duct replacement services that include sizing, sealing, and insulating your air ducts. We’ll ensure you get the most out of your new HVAC unit. To schedule an inspection of your ductwork and ventilation system, request an appointment online or call (941) 485-2222.

10 Important DIY AC Maintenance Tips

10 Important DIY AC Maintenance Tips

There are many types of DIY AC maintenance. The following tips will keep your AC running at peak performance and are generally quite simple. We strongly recommend performing these tasks between professional air conditioning maintenance visits, as they can prevent repairs, increase efficiency, and help your air conditioner last longer.

1. Check/Clean/Replace the Air Filter

Check the filter at least once a month. Clean or change it if it’s clogged. An AC filter should be replaced every one to three months depending on the type, how frequently the system is used, and if your home is dusty or you have pets. Clean filters can improve system efficiency and indoor air quality.

Changing the filter requires sliding it out of its fitting and inserting a new one in its place. Reusable filters can be wiped with a cloth, vacuumed, or washed in water. Allow the filter to air dry before reinstalling it.

2. Make Sure Vents and Registers Are Dust-Free

Dust and dirt on vents and registers can be blown into rooms, sucked back into the system, and recirculated. To clean each vent or register, brush it from top to bottom and from left to right. You can also use a vacuum cleaner. If specific vents or areas tend to become dirty, check and clean them more often.

3. Adjust the Thermostat to Accommodate Your Needs

Thermostat adjustments aren’t often considered a form of AC maintenance. But setting the temperature higher when you’re not home reduces the load on your HVAC system. It also lowers your utility bill and can increase the unit’s lifespan. Some thermostats can even be preprogrammed based on your schedule, while smart thermostats can allow you to control them remotely or sense when you’re home or not.

4. Check for Duct Blockages or Air Leaks

Blockages in ductwork or leaky ducts can reduce the performance and efficiency of your AC system. They can also cause poor indoor air quality. Open vent covers and peek into ducts with a flashlight to find issues in areas near vents. If you can’t brush or vacuum out dirt or blockages, call for help. Also, inspect visible sections of ductwork to spot any damage. The sooner you have the issue fixed, the less impact it will have on the system.

5. Clean the Evaporator Coil

Remove the outer cover of the air handler to access the evaporator coil. Use a soft brush to remove any dust, dirt, or mineral deposits. Next, spray it with a no-rinse coil cleaner. You can also use a vacuum cleaner with a wand or hose attachment.

6. Clean the Drain Pipe

Check the drainage line for any blockages. If it’s clogged, you can use a vacuum cleaner to try and clear out the line. Or, attach a wet/dry vacuum to the end of the evaporator drain and seal it with a rag or duct tape. Remove the vacuum cleaner’s filter and let it run for two or three minutes. Also, check the drain pan; if it’s dirty, you can clean it with soap and warm water.

7. Shade the Outdoor Compressor

AC maintenance can start before you even use the system. Place the outdoor compressor on a shaded side of your house or under an awning. In the summer, direct sunlight can cause the compressor to heat up, increasing its load and potentially causing it to break down. It can also cause the refrigerant to evaporate more quickly, which can strain the unit.

8. Clean the Outdoor Unit

Outdoor AC units can get dirty pretty quickly. After turning off the power, open the fan cage with a screwdriver or wrench. Then remove the grill and check for debris inside the unit. You can remove dust and leaves by hand or with a vacuum cleaner. Use a hose to wash any areas you can’t reach. Then clean the area surrounding the unit and check it is level.

9. Clean/Straighten the Fins

The fins cover most of the outside unit. They’re easy to access once the fan cage is open. Clean exposed fins with a garden hose at low pressure. If any are bent, straighten them with a fin straightening tool or a dull household knife.

10. Run Ceiling Fans or Portable Fans

If you have ceiling or portable fans, run them from time to time. They help to reduce the apparent room temperature by increasing air circulation. You can turn back the thermostat a few degrees with no change in comfort. Limiting the demand on your HVAC system will help it run more smoothly.

Schedule AC Maintenance with Tri County Air

We provide professional air conditioning maintenance in Charlotte, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties. It includes a complete system inspection, in-depth diagnostics, a thorough and careful cleaning, and prompt repairs by our certified HVAC technicians. To schedule your next AC maintenance visit, request an appointment online or call (941) 485-2222 today.

Comfort and Joy 2023 Begins Soon

Comfort and Joy 2023 Begins Soon

Last year, Tri County Air launched a new Christmas-season initiative called Comfort and Joy. Though we set out to give away one new air conditioning and heating system to a family in need, our Owner Billy Swanson ultimately decided to give away new air conditioning and heating systems to three families instead saying “Hurricane Ian created so much devastation and we wanted to do as much as we could to help. For us, that meant giving away three A/C systems instead of one. The spirit of Comfort and Joy is to ‘do for one what you wish you could do for all’ and we were blessed to be able to do for three what we wish we could have done for everyone last year.”

The name Comfort and Joy came from the idea that we want to bring comfort to a family by providing them with a new air conditioning and heating system, but it also comes from our mission: “To comfort all in such a way that they are compelled to tell others about their experience, and it honors the Great Comforter, Jesus Christ.” We hope to bring comfort to one family with a new A/C and to also make it an experience that is filled with joy for everyone involved.

Last year, we came alongside the winning families in as many ways as possible, beyond simply installing new air conditioning systems. Our Comfort and Joy team brought breakfast, lunch, gifts, and more, truly creating an atmosphere of joy. As Marketing Director, Victoria May, recalls, “We built gingerbread houses with the kids, did yard work, and even fixed a washing machine. It was so much fun because the families were already overjoyed to be receiving a free A/C and they didn’t expect it to be more than that. They were so grateful, but we were the ones who were truly blessed.” It was a fun time to remember, and we hope to replicate that experience again for the family who wins this year. Take a look at the video below to watch the recap of last year’s Comfort and Joy.

If you or someone you know could use some “Comfort and Joy” this holiday season, please submit your nominations beginning September 29, 2023 and ending October 22, 2023. There are only a few qualifications: nominees must reside in and own their home; they must reside in the Tri County Air service area of Manatee, Sarasota, or Charlotte County in Florida; and they must be open to sharing their story publicly. Nominations will be analyzed by a committee October 23-30th and public voting on the 10 families chosen by committee members will take place from October 31 – November 9. The winning family will be announced on November 10th.