New Year’s Traditions Explained

2014 is almost upon us, and with the coming of the New Year, we thought we’d take a brief look at some of the more popular traditions associated with this holiday. It’s been around for at least 4,000 years: as long as we’ve figured out how long it takes for the seasons to come and go. Here’s a quick discussion about some of our more modern traditions and where they started:

  • Auld Lang Syne. The famous song began in Scotland, where it was published by Robert Burns in 1796.  He claims he initially heard it sung by an elderly resident of his hometown, which suggests it has traditional folk origins even before that. It became even more popular when big band leader, Guy Lombardo, started playing it every New Year’s Eve, starting in 1929 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.
  • The Dropping of the Ball in Times Square. The tradition of dropping the ball in Times Square started in 1907. It was made out of iron and wood with light bulbs located on the surface, and the ball originally “dropped” over the offices of the New York Times at One Times Square. Dick Clark famously broadcast the event every year from 1972, until his death in 2012.
  • The Rose Parade. The Tournament of Roses Parade has been held in Pasadena every year since 1890; taking advantage of California’s warm weather to present a parade of floats, bands and horses. A football game was eventually added to the festivities in 1902, when Michigan dominated Stanford’s team by a score of 49-0
  • Baby New Year. The use of a baby to signify the New Year dates back to Ancient Greece, where it symbolized the rebirth of Dionysus (the god of wine and parties). Early Christians initially resisted the pagan elements of the story, but soon came to adopt it since it matched the traditional Christmas symbol of baby Jesus in the manger. Today, people of all faiths and traditions refer to the New Year as a baby, representing new beginnings.

Whatever traditions you choose to celebrate, we here at Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning wish you the very safest and happiest of New Years. May 2014 bring you nothing but the best!

Late Season Air Conditioning Upgrades

In the California deserts, our hot season stretches far into the fall, so keeping an air conditioner in good shape is important. But perhaps you’re looking to get a bit more from your system: better quality cooling, more cost-efficient performance. Here are a few upgrades to consider installing for the late season. The Yucaipa air conditioning technicians at Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning are available to perform the installations you need for an improved AC.

Programmable thermostat: One of the best investments you can make in an air conditioner is to install a programmable thermostat. If you don’t have one, you could be spending additional money on your electric bills while not getting the highest quality cooling. Programmable thermostats give you precise control over the temperature that the sliders on manual thermostats won’t allow. They also take care of reducing cooling when your home is empty, and increasing it before you return each day.

Wi-Fi-Enabled and Wireless Thermostats: This is the next step up from a programmable thermostat. Take advantage of modern wireless technology to control your air conditioner remotely—from any spot where you have smart phone coverage or a computer with Internet access. You don’t have to worry about accidentally leaving the AC on when you go to work. If you’re running late getting home, you can stop the air conditioner from switching on hours before you return.

Ductless mini splits: What if you decide the best upgrade is to upgrade the whole system? If you inherited an older AC with your home, this may be the best option. One replacement system to consider is a ductless mini split. These ACs operate with interior and exterior units just like central air conditioners, but in place of ducts, they use mounted blowers in different rooms. Ductless mini splits can remove the hassles of having ducts and also permit temperature control over individual parts of your home.

If you are in the market to upgrade your air conditioner, Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning can provide you with the know-how and skill to help. We handle the upgrades listed above, as well as all types of repairs. Our friendly technicians will perform proper installation so your upgraded air conditioning in Yucaipa does exactly what you want it to do.

Longer Days Ahead: Why Winter Solstice Is a Reason to Celebrate

Holiday greetings from all of us at Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning!

December is a time of celebrations across the globe, despite the cold weather that affects much of the countries in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, the cold weather is one of the reasons that it is so important for people to embrace celebrations of light, color, food, and warm drinks—what better way to cheer up during a time of short days and low temperatures?

There is another reason to feel joy at the end of December, regardless of your religion or culture: an astronomical event called winter solstice.

Four astronomical markers divide the seasons on planet Earth: two solstices and two equinoxes. Equinox (a combination of the Latin words for “equal” and for “night”) is the point in Earth’s orbit when its axis is parallel to the Sun. Solstice (from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand still”) is the point in orbit where the Earth’s axial tilt points toward the Sun. During the equinoxes, which occur at the start of spring (vernal equinox) and fall (autumnal equinox), the periods of day and night are the same length. During the solstices, which occur at the start of summer (June solstice) and winter (winter solstice), either day or night is at its longest period. June solstice is the longest day of the year; winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year.

Occurring on the 20th or the 21st of the month (this year it falls on the 21st), winter solstice marks the official beginning of winter, but also the point at which the days start to grow longer once more. The sun, which has dropped lower in the sky since the June solstice (June 20-21) and reaches its lowest point above the horizon on noon on winter solstice, once again begins to rise.

From the earliest human prehistory, people have recognized the winter solstice as an important event in their lives. When winter survival was difficult for early human societies, the sight of the sun beginning to rise in the sky once more was a symbol of hope and a reason to celebrate.

(All of the above applies to the Northern Hemisphere of Earth. The equinoxes and solstices flip in the Southern Hemisphere. For example, in Australia, Christmas is a summer holiday.)

However you commemorate and observe this time of year, we hope you and your family have a joyful and safe season!

My AC Is Getting Old… Is It About to Run Out of Refrigerant?

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningThe question above has a number of answers, because it touches on a number of different topics when it comes to how air conditioners operate and how best to handle an air conditioner that’s been around for a couple of blistering summers out here in the Southern California deserts. There are three topics to address:

  • How old an AC need to be before it’s considered “too old.”
  • How refrigerant works.
  • Air conditioning system replacement.

Let’s take them one at a time to give you a full answer to the question in the title. If you want further assistance from specialists in air conditioning in Palm Desert, CA, you only have to give us a call.

Air Conditioning System Age

Okay, so you think your air conditioner is getting old. How many years has it been in service? The standard central air conditioner can last between 10 to 15 years. The best way to know how long your air conditioner should last is to check the warranty. If the AC is past its warranty date, it’s probably getting “too old.” If the system is costing much more to run than it used to, or if it needs more than $500 in repairs each year to keep it running, it’s also gotten too old.

The Refrigerant in Your AC

Your air conditioner should never under normal circumstances be in danger of running out of refrigerant, because refrigerant isn’t something that is used up as the system runs. No matter how much you run your air conditioner—and you’ll run it often here in the desert—it won’t take away from refrigerant. This is because refrigerant is a heat transference fluid that shifts from liquid to gaseous form to move heat from the indoors to the outdoors, and it never dissipates in this process. As long as the system doesn’t suffer malfunctions, it will retain the same amount, or charge, of refrigerant for its service life.

But… refrigerant lines can corrode and allow refrigerant to leak out of the system. An AC doesn’t have to be old to suffer from this problem, although an older unit is at a higher risk. Regular maintenance will catch if the AC is losing refrigerant so technicians can repair the air conditioning system by sealing the leaks and restoring the proper refrigerant charge.

Air Conditioning Replacement

If you’re at the point where you are worried that your air conditioning system is too old, then it’s probably the right time to have the AC replaced. And if it’s old and suffering from trouble with leaking refrigerant … it’s almost definitely time for an air conditioning replacement. Each year you continue running an over-the-hill AC, you’re at a higher risk of the system suffering a catastrophic breakdown during one of the hottest days of the year. Plus, the air conditioner will run up excessive repair costs and waste money on inefficient performance.

If you want a professional opinion about AC replacement or repairs, get in touch with us and we’ll help you toward the best solution.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities. For exceptional customer service, please give our office a call

Why Consider a Heat Pump for Heating

Both your air conditioning and heating system no longer perform the way you’d like them to. You know it’s time for replacement, but you’re not sure if you want to go through the trouble of replacing both systems. This is the situation that leads many homeowners to decide to purchase a heat pump. A heat pump is a heating and air conditioning system all in one that works perfectly in the Yucaipa weather. In fact, heat pumps are one of the most efficient types of systems available on the market today. Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits of using a heat pump for heating.

Optimal Performance

Heat pumps generally work like air conditioners, with both an indoor and outdoor unit. Refrigerant cycles through both the inside and outside portion of the AC, absorbing heat from the air in your home as a fan blows over an indoor coil and refrigerant converts into a gas. Heat is dispersed from the refrigerant as it condenses at the outdoor coil. In the winter, this system works in reverse. Refrigerant flows in the opposite direction, absorbing any heat from the outdoor air and moving it into your home. This is the distinguishing feature of a heat pump. And while a heat pump may struggle in some harsher climates, it works just as well as any other forced-air heating system here in Yucaipa.

Energy Efficiency

A key reason homeowners choose a heat pump for heating is the energy efficiency. Heat pumps are certainly efficient for cooling as well, with extremely high SEERs (seasonal energy efficiency ratios). But few systems can beat the heating efficiency of a heat pump. This is because heat pumps move heat from one place to another, which require far less energy than heat production.

Longer Lifespan

Finally, a heat pump may actually have a longer lifespan than some other types of heating and cooling systems. While a standard air conditioner tends to have a lifespan of 10-15 years, a heat pump may last longer, especially with proper care and maintenance. Be sure to change the air filter every month (more or less, depending on usage), and schedule heat pump maintenance every year. During maintenance, a technician inspects, cleans, and adjusts components of your system which can help keep it running in top shape for years to come.

Call Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning to hear more about your options for heating in Yucaipa.

Some Additional Benefits of Regular Heating Maintenance

Last week we wrote about how important it is that you schedule maintenance for your heating system, especially with a potentially very rainy winter ahead of us. Maintenance will help ensure that your furnace or other residential heater continues to work throughout the season with minimal repairs needs and mablog/get-ready-for-godzilla-el-nino-with-furnace-maintenance/ximum energy efficiency.

There are other reasons to make sure that you arrange for an annual heating inspection and tune-up. Some you have may not have considered before.

  • Safety: This is a particularly important advantage when it comes to gas-powered furnaces. Although gas furnaces are not inherently “dangerous” (they are built with many safety features), the best way to make sure that your natural gas furnace remains safe each winter is to have an inspection that will locate any places where trouble might be starting.
  • Reminders: We know that it’s easy to forget about heating maintenance in a place that gets as warm as the Desert Communities. A good HVAC contractor will offer a program with reminders: we will call you each fall to remind you that it’s time to schedule that important heating maintenance.
  • Noise Reduction: As a heater ages, whether a heat pump or a furnace, it will start to make more and more noise. Eventually, it can become a serious source of noise pollution and a major distraction. Even a simple loose air handler will turn into a huge racket. Regular maintenance will help keep your heater running at its quietest for most of its service life.
  • Eliminate cold spots: Uneven heating is a common problem that occurs when heaters don’t receive maintenance—and often the first warning that something is going wrong with the system.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves Palm Desert, CA and the Inland Empire and Desert Communities with excellent heating system maintenance. We have more than 35 years of experience helping customer enjoy year-round comfort!

Why a Furnace Tune-Up in Fall Is Important

We’re deep into October, and although the weather is still warm, we can expect to start running into cooler evenings in the near future. Eventually, furnaces will start firing up to provide comfort during these nights and even some of the days. If you haven’t already arranged for a fall tune-up for your furnace, we strongly recommend that you have it done during the next few weeks.

Yes, Furnace Maintenance Is an Annual Service

We understand that when you live in a place as warm as the Southern California deserts that taking care of a home heating system may not seem like that much of a priority. Air conditioners are the comfort systems that people here tend to worry about. But even though a furnace doesn’t receive the same level of workout each year as an air conditioner, it still must have an annual fall maintenance tune-up and inspection.

  • Safety: This is the most important reason for a yearly furnace tune-up. The majority of furnaces are gas-powered (an inexpensive fuel compared to electricity) and can potentially turn hazardous if they are not looked after. A brief professional inspection each year does marvels when it comes to preserving a furnace’s safe operation. The peace of mind alone is worth the cost.
  • Efficiency: You don’t want to spend a huge chunk of money on the short period that your furnace must run during a Southern California winter. A regular furnace inspection will find where the heating system may be losing its energy efficiency and correct it so you won’t have to pay more than you need to.
  • Prevent repairs: Another expense you don’t want to incur with your furnace is for unnecessary repairs. Annual inspections prevent up to 85% of the repairs that a furnace may need—and that adds up to huge savings on repair jobs.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning provides heating maintenance in Moreno Valley, CA and throughout the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities. For exceptional customer service, please give our office a call.

Failed Capacitor: An AC Problem on Super Hot Days

Russell's Heating and Air Conditioning	Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningThe serious summer scorcher days are the baseline of what we expect here in the deserts of Southern California. Our air conditioners run steadily through most days, and sometimes into the nights. That amount of labor places immense strain on any air conditioning unit, which can lead to parts breaking down.

But the heat itself can have an effect on an air conditioner as well–aside from the amount of work the AC system does. One problem that our AC repair technicians encounter when the temperatures soar above 100°F is failed capacitors.

The Capacitor vs. The Heat

Capacitors are electrical components that send electrical voltage to the motors. Start capacitors get motors running, and run capacitors keep them running.

Capacitors are sensitive to high temperatures: if exposed to too much heat, a capacitor will start to lose its ability to hold an electrical charge (in other words, its capacity to hold a charge), and this leads to capacitor failure. If a start capacitor fails, a motor will not be able to start up. If a run capacitor fails, a motor will only run for brief time before shutting off.

Capacitors give off signs they’re failing. A clicking sound from an air conditioner when it starts up often indicates a dying capacitor. A hard-starting air conditioner, where the system struggles each time it starts ups, is also an indication of possible capacitor problems. (There are other causes for hard-starting, so always have technicians look into it.)

If a capacitor fails, it will need to be replaced. This is a job for professionals only: if an amateur puts in the wrong type of capacitor, it can cause serious damage to the motor.

If you need air conditioning repair in La Quinta, CA or elsewhere in the Inland Empire and Desert Communities, you can reach us 24 hours a day!

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning offer fast AC repairs. For exceptional customer service, please give our office a call.

Furnace Guide: 3 Components You Should Know

Furnaces are one of the most commonly-used heating systems, and while they are durable, it is likely that at some point your furnace will require repair. Heating systems are complex, and working with a system that uses fossil fuels requires expertise and training. Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning has offered comprehensive heating services in Yucaipa since 1980, so if you experience problems with your furnace, call us right away.

3 Main Components

Here are 3 main components of a gas furnace:

Igniter

The igniter is responsible for lighting the gas so that combustion occurs. There are two types of igniters:

  • Intermittent pilot – a small pilot gas line opens when the thermostat cues the ignition process, and an electronic spark lights the pilot.
  • Hot surface – a hot surface igniter is a small probe that heats via electric current. Once the surface of the probe reaches the right temperature, the gas flowing from the burner is ignited.

Out of the two igniters, hot surface igniters are used more commonly, but both types help reduce the energy usage of standing pilot lights.

Burner

The burner is a metal component where the air and fuel source mix, and are ignited by the igniter. The size of the burner will depend on the size of your furnace. The burner has short metal tubes through which the gas flows, and the when the gas streams are lit, they heat the heat exchanger.

Blower Fan

The blower fan is responsible for blowing the warmed air from the heat exchanger into your ductwork so that it can be distributed to your living spaces. On an upflow furnace, the blower fan is located in the bottom of the unit, and on a downflow furnace, it is located in the top part of the unit.

It is good to understand how the main components of your furnace work, but heating repairs should be left to the experts. The trained and certified technicians at Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning are available around the clock, so call us today.

Will Thanksgiving Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

We’ve all heard it before: you feel so sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal because of the main event: the turkey. For years, people have credited extraordinary levels of tryptophan in turkey as the reason we all feel the need to nap after the annual feast. But contrary to this popular mythology, tryptophan is probably not he largest responsible party for your post-meal exhaustion.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means it’s something that our bodies need but do not produce naturally. Your body uses tryptophan to help make vitamin B3 and serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that sends chemicals to the brain to aid in sleep. But in order to get this essential amino acid, we have to eat foods that contain it.

Turkey has somewhat high levels of tryptophan, but so do many other foods, including eggs, peanuts, chocolate, nuts, bananas, and most other meats and dairy products. In fact, ounce-for-ounce cheddar cheese contains a greater amount of tryptophan than turkey. In order for tryptophan to make you feel sleepy, you would have to consume it in excessive amounts, and serotonin is usually only produced by tryptophan on an empty stomach.

The truth is, overeating is largely responsible for the “food coma” many people describe post-Thanksgiving. It takes a lot of energy for your body to process a large meal, and the average Thanksgiving plate contains about twice as many calories as is recommended for daily consumption. If anything, high levels of fat in the turkey cause sleepiness, as they require a lot of energy for your body to digest. Lots of carbohydrates, alcohol, and probably a bit of stress may also be some of the reasons it feels so satisfying to lay down on the couch after the meal and finally get a little bit of shut-eye.

If you feel the need to indulge in a heaping dose of tryptophan this year, go ahead! Turkey also contains healthy proteins and may even provide a boost for your immune system. Here at Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning, we hope your Thanksgiving is full of joy and contentment this year. Happy feasting!