I know it’s hotter than normal right now with temperatures in the upper 90’s, but my system doesn’t seem to be cooling our house down. Our thermostat is reading close to 80 degrees. Is this normal?
Believe it or not this is normal. According to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), a typical HVAC system in Raleigh/ Durham is designed to withstand an outside temperature of 92 degrees with a relative humidity of 50%. With these conditions, you can expect the interior of you home to be on average 75 degrees.
Anytime the outside conditions go above and beyond this temperature, you can expect the interior of you home to increase almost degree for degree. For example: on a 98 degree day the interior of your home can get as warm as 80-81 degrees. You may notice a more significant difference between your upstairs and downstairs. Because heat rises, the upstairs will often be a few degrees warmer than your downstairs, even during the summer months.
The air coming out of my vents just doesn’t seem as cool as it used to be, I’ve also noticed that the pipes running from my outdoor condenser are accumulating some ice, what’s wrong?
While it is impossible to accurately diagnose a system without a visual inspection, these symptoms are typically an indication that your system is low on refrigerant.
A system low on refrigerant can mean a few different things. The most common is that you have a leak. Your system has a closed refrigeration cycle meaning that the refrigerant will change in both temperature and form several times within the cycle however the amount of refrigerant will never increase and will never decrease. A leak, however, can spring at any point during this cycle. When you are low on refrigerant it is necessary to have a leak search to determine where the leak is located and to determine the repair.
If I have a refrigeration leak, can’t I just keep adding refrigerant to my system to avoid a pricey repair?
In some cases you can add refrigerant to your system to “buy you some time,” however; the location of the leak will deteriorate over time causing the hole to increase in size. Over time, your system will no longer be able to hold any refrigerant at all until the leak is repaired. A situation like this can happen in years, months, or even hours. It is impossible to know how quickly that hole will grow, and therefore how quickly you will need a more permanent repair. In addition, leaks can and often will cause damage to the compressor due to a lack of lubrication and risk of over-heating; both of which can be expensive repairs.
At my old house, I used to have a gas furnace, but when I moved to North Carolina I’ve noticed more heat pumps than gas furnaces. What’s the difference?
Being a heat pump owner you may have heard the term, heat pump for mild weather, gas furnace for cold weather. What this means is that a heat pump runs on electricity and is a more cost and power efficient form of heat. Because it runs on electricity it cannot withstand extremely cold temperatures as well as the gas furnace. The gas furnace, which can be a little more costly with the increasing gas prices, can keep your home warmer than the heat pump in much colder conditions.
Because North Carolina has a much milder climate than the New England states, the heat pump is much more common here. However, if you are concerned about having heat during the winter, dual-fuel may be a good alternative for you! Dual-fuel (two sources of heat) can give you the efficiency of a heat pump during mild weather with the strength of a gas furnace during extremely cold temperatures.
My system has stopped blowing air, and I have noticed that my thermostat is blank. Are there some simple repairs/ tests I can do at home before calling a professional?
When your thermostat is blank it is most likely losing power from one of a few different sources. Some thermostat models require batteries which can be changed by popping the faceplate off the thermostat. It is important to know that not all thermostat models have batteries, so do not force the faceplate off unless you are certain that your model does in fact carry batteries.
Another source of power would be your breakers and fuses. Or, if your system uses a condensate pump, the GFCI receptacle can be tripped; if so, reset it!
It is a good idea to carefully check your electrical panel before calling a professional, especially if your system is under warranty. Remember, breakers and fuses are considered maintenance related items and are therefore not covered under any warranty plan.
I just turned my heat on for the first time and I’ve noticed a faint burning smell. Should I be concerned?
When your system has been sitting idle for nearly a year, it is perfectly normal to notice odd odors when you first turn on your heat. Yes, this includes a burning smell. Be cautious though, if the smell is consistent and does not go away after running the heat for a few hours, you may want to call a professional to check out your system and make sure it is safe to operate.
I had a technician check my system and he said that I have a pin-size hole in my heat exchanger. Why is a hole so small so unsafe for my family?
If your heat exchanger has a small hole or even a crack, it can allow combustion products into the air stream which can cause some health issues. In some extreme cases, flames from the heat exchanger can roll out from the crack or hole. Carbon monoxide, an odorless and invisible gas, can also be a risk associated with a cracked heat exchanger which can be highly dangerous to infants and the elderly. If your heat exchanger has been diagnosed with a crack or a hole, for the overall health of your family, it is a good idea to turn off your furnace or gas pack as soon as possible and keep it turned off until a repair can be made.