How Do Cooling Towers Work in a Commercial HVAC System?

Commercial HVAC systems are designed for much higher use than residential HVAC systems, and as such must adopt slightly different qualities. In practice, however, the qualities are more a matter of sizing than technique. Commercial cooling towers are bigger, sturdier and built to handle higher loads than cooling towers in residential systems. In Redlands, CA heating installation services can provide more specific guidelines on cooling towers. But in general terms, how do cooling towers work in a commercial HVAC system?

Cooling towers work on the condenser coils, which can get very hot when the system goes through its cycle and cause problems with the air conditioning process. The tower moves cold water through the heated coils, and then into a heat exchanger, which pulls the heat out of the water and sends it back over the coils to continue the process. The results take pressure off the system and allow it to function at higher levels for longer than a unit could without the cooling tower.

It’s not hard to see how important this can be to a commercial HVAC system. Such systems need to work harder for longer, handling conditions in a much larger space for many more people.  Breakdowns are not an option in those situations, and cooling towers can help a great deal. They allow the HVAC system to continue to support a larger load which reducing the risk of repairs in the process. Cooling towers thus become much more desirable in commercial systems than in residential systems, since the need for them is much larger.

If you know how cooling towers work in a commercial HVAC system, and you think they may be a viable option for your place of business, then talk to the experts at Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning for help. Installing heating systems in Redlands, CA is one of our specialties, and we know how to install cooling towers with precision and care.  We also put the customer first, and work overtime to make sure that you are completely satisfied with the process. Pick up the phone and call us today to schedule an appointment.

Why Does the Pilot Light in My Heater Keeping Going Out?

If you use an older natural gas furnace to provide heat for your house, it probably has a standing pilot light to ignite the burners whenever the system turns on. When the furnace is working as it should, the pilot light will remain burning steadily throughout the season.

But a common problem that people with furnaces run into is a pilot light that keeps going out. An unlit pilot light means that the burners can’t come on and the furnace won’t work. (A device called a thermocouple is designed to recognize when the pilot light fails and then shut off the burner as a safety precaution.)

Our customers often call us because of a pilot light they can’t keep lit. Below are some of the reasons this might happen:

  • Faulty thermocouple – The thermocouple detects when the pilot light is on, and sends an electric current to the gas line to keep a valve open. When the pilot light goes out, the loss of current shuts the valve and stops gas flow. But if the thermocouple has a fault, it may think the pilot light is out when it isn’t and shut off the gas—which will in turn cause the pilot light to go out. Repair technicians will need to replace the thermocouple.
  • Dirty pilot tube – The pilot tube brings gas to the pilot light. If it becomes dirty, it will block the gas and there won’t be enough to keep the pilot light burning. Repair technician can inspect the tube and clean it if necessary.
  • Aging furnace – In general, when a pilot light won’t stay lit, it’s a sign that the furnace is getting too old. Pilot lights are outdated technology, and if your furnace is more than 20 years old, a failing pilot light is usually an indication that you should have a new furnace—one that uses an electronic ignition system—installed in its place. Furnaces that don’t use pilot lights consume less gas and will help you save energy.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning offers furnace repair service in Palm Springs, CA.

Are Gas Furnaces Dangerous?

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningNatural gas is a common energy source used in homes and businesses around the country. If your home has a connection to a natural gas line, you probably use gas to power your oven, stove, water heater, and furnace.

Natural gas systems have a tendency to make people nervous. They’re concerned about toxic gas leaks, such as carbon monoxide, and combustion hazards. Most of these fears are exaggerated, but we do recommend people take caution when it comes to any natural gas appliance. We’re trained professionals in handling heating repair in La Quinta, CA and the surrounding areas, so we know a great deal about the safety level of gas furnaces—and how to keep them safe.

Let’s take a closer look at the safety of your home’s gas furnace.

Gas furnaces are built with safety features

Current manufacturers of gas furnaces design them with safety as the #1 concern. A contemporary natural gas furnace has a number of built-in safety features that will shut off gas flow in case of potentially hazardous malfunctions. Furnaces also have limit switches that will shut off the system in case of overheating.

Carbon monoxide detectors provide early warnings

Any home that uses natural gas, regardless of the appliance, must have carbon monoxide (CO) detectors placed around the various rooms. Most smoke alarm systems are also CO detectors. CO is a tasteless, odorless gas, so having a special system in place to detect it should it escapes from your furnace is an essential safety measure.

Routine furnace maintenance improves furnace safety even more

We can’t emphasize enough how vital it is to arrange for regular heating maintenance in the fall. This applies to alltypes of heating systems. With gas furnaces, the process takes on an additional importance. During maintenance, technicians check over the furnace to locate areas where safety issues might be developing, such as looking for cracked heat exchangers or leaks in the gas line. You can have repairs done before the cold weather arrives so the furnace works up to the highest standards of safety. Our regular maintenance program handles all the vital furnace safety checks.

Safety steps during the winter

You can take a few additional steps to help improve your furnace’s safety during the winter. Make sure the area around it is clear for about a foot, and don’t store anything flammable (such as paint thinner) near the cabinet. Change the furnace air filter every 1 to 3 months to prevent overheating. Keep all room vents free of obstructions.

Always arrange for prompt repairs when needed

You may noticed odd behavior from your furnace (strange noises, turning on and off rapidly) that don’t otherwise affect heating performance. You shouldn’t ignore these signs and put off having professionals check on them. Allowing a furnace to continue to run when it has a malfunction of any kind increases the risk of it turning unsafe. Plus, the faster you have the trouble fixed, the less costly the repair job is likely to be.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities.

Does My Heater Really Need Maintenance?

The question about whether a home heating system requires maintenance is one you encounter more often in warm climates, like Southern California, than in places used to arduous and lengthy winter seasons. Simply put, people in Southern California don’t think about their household heaters that often. If they switch on the heater during the occasional cold day and it seems to do the job adequately, fine. No need to worry about it any further than that, right?

Well, no need to worry about it… until it doesn’t turn on.

Yes, your heater absolutely requires regular maintenance. Any complex machine that does such important work will start to wear down and eventually need repairs, and you don’t want to realize this on the coldest day of the year. If more than a year has passed since you had your home’s heater inspected and given a tune-up, you should sign up for a maintenance program right away. Get your heater ready for the cold surprises that lay in wait. Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning offers excellent heating maintenance in Redlands, CA. Contact us today to get started.

Reasons your heater needs maintenance

Prevent expensive repairs: A maintenance technician will give your heater a thorough inspection to see that no part is wearing down or in danger of breaking. Small adjustments and minor replacements will keep away a large, more costly repair down the road.

Increase efficiency: If you leave your heater without regular care, its parts will start to wear down and it will need to work harder to supply you with warmth. This will show up as an increase on your energy bills. Proper maintenance will keep your heater working at its most energy efficient.

Longer service life: All the extra stress and numerous repairs will result in a heating system that will break down long before its manufacturer’s estimated lifespan. You can get the most years out of your heater with regular care.

We hope you see now that heating maintenance in Redlands, CA isn’t optional. You may not think about your heater during much of the year, but consider how much you appreciate it on those winter days when you have to turn it on. Avoid freezing surprises and steep bills—schedule heating maintenance today with Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning. And if your heater needs help right now before the start of the season, we have 24-hour emergency service to help you.

Now Is the Time to Schedule Your Annual Heating Maintenance

Southern California isn’t known for its blistering winters, and if you live in one of the Desert Communities, such as Palm Springs, you usually won’t have to worry about keeping your home warm during the day at any time of the year. But the desert nights can get quite cool, sometimes dropping into the low 40s, and to make sure that you and your family remain comfortable, you need to know that your heater is ready to go to work.

To prepare your home’s heating system for the cool nights, arrange maintenance for it during the fall. Right now is an excellent time to call up our HVAC team and schedule a maintenance visit. The process only takes about an hour, and once our professionals are finished, you will enjoy the following benefits:

  • A system that runs at high energy efficiency: One of the principle goals of heating maintenance is to make sure that the system doesn’t drain excess energy because of wear and tear. Our technicians will clean and adjust the unit so that it works its best and doesn’t cost you more to run than it should.
  • Reduced repair needs: Heating maintenance is sometimes called preventive maintenance because it helps prevent malfunctions in the future. You can expect to have few to no repair calls during the winter if you prepare your heater with professional maintenance.
  • Extended equipment life: To get the best return on your original investment in a heating system, you want it to last for as many years as possible. Maintenance will help your heater enjoy a long service life.
  • Peace of mind: Perhaps the best benefit of heating maintenance is that it will put your mind at ease that the heater will work when it is supposed to and that it won’t break down abruptly.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning offers heating maintenance in Palm Springs, CA. For exceptional customer service, give our offices a call.

Why AFUE Is Important

If you’ve taken the time to consider your options for a new heating installation in Redlands, CA to prepare for the winter, you’ve probably come across these letters: AFUE. You should know what they stand for and why it’s important to understand what they mean.

The initials AFUE stand for “annual fuel utilization efficiency.” AFUE describes how effectively a specific heating system uses the energy from fuel to provide heat. It’s important to understand this because it translates into how much you can expect to spend warming your home during the time the heater works for you. Although an AFUE rating isn’t the only criteria to use as a basis for purchasing a heating system, it is among the most important.

We’ll explain a bit more about how AFUE is measured. When you need professional help to navigate the options available today for residential heating, contact Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning, where we’ve served Redlands since 1980. We’ll help you select the best heater for your home and install it so it provides you many years of comfort.

An AFUE rating is measured as a percentage, which denotes how much fuel a heating system converts to heat. For example, if a heater has an AFUE rating of 90%, that means for every 100 units of fuel it consumes (for example, burning natural gas) it return 90 units of heat (measure in BTUs, British Thermal Units). As a benchmark, conventional wood has a 45%-55% AFUE rating. The Department of Energy requires that all furnaces sold in the U.S. must have a minimum AFUE rating of 78%. Some high-efficiency gas-powered furnaces can have ratings of 96%. Boilers score in the range of 85% to 95%, and are among the most efficient of all home heating systems.

When you’re trying to select a heater type and model for your house, you will have to weigh various factors against the AFUE ratings of your top choices. A furnace with an AFUE of 96% will offer large energy savings—but it will cost more upfront to install, and you may prefer the cleaner air heating from a boiler. If you don’t plan to use your heater often, perhaps a less expensive model with a lower AFUE rating will work better for you.

Also keep in mind that AFUE measures energy efficiency, not how well the heating system will warm your home. Just because a heater makes the best use of its energy source does not mean it will provide you with the level of warmth you want.

If this all sounds a bit overwhelming, try not to worry. If you have professionals helping with your Redlands, CA heating installation from the start, you will have every step of the process explained to you. The staff at Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning has many years of heating installation experience in Redlands, CA; we will help you narrow your choices to the ideal units. Contact us today to get started on the path toward superb home heating.

What’s Involved in Heating Maintenance

The time for heating in Redlands, CA is coming to an end as the last few chilly days shake themselves out and homeowners start preparing for the summer. That makes it the perfect time to schedule a routine maintenance session on your heater. It’s more of a tune-up than a repair session: designed to clean components and spot big problems while they’re still small for a later repair session. Ideally, you should schedule a session at least once a year to keep your furnace in the best shape it can be.

What’s involved in heating maintenance? A brief rundown of the various steps is included below:

  • The technician shuts down the furnace and turns off the gas flow at the source to ensure that he works in safety.
  • The technician cleans the combustion chamber and clears soot build-up on components like the burners. He’ll also check those components for signs of corrosion or damage.
  • The technician checks the flue pipe, gas lines and other connections for loose fittings or clogs in their length.
  • The technician will replace any filters and check the ignition system to make sure it ignites when it is supposed to.
  • The technician inspects the burner, the heat exchanger and other components for any damage or signs of problems.
  • The technician restores power to the system and allows it to run for 15-20 minutes, examining it for any problems all the while.
  • The technician closes up the system.

The results allow you to spot any problems and schedule a more focused repair session to deal with it. More importantly, it helps the furnace run more efficiently, reducing the costs of running your heater and leaving it ready to go when the temperatures start to drop next fall. Considering the amount of dust in our desert environment, what’s involved in heating maintenance can do wonders for protecting and extending the life of your furnace. For more information, or to schedule a maintenance session, give the experts at Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning a call. We handle all matters concerning heating in Redlands, and we won’t rest until you’re 100% satisfied!

Common Electric Furnace Repairs

Electric furnaces are a relatively new type of heating system, in comparison to more traditional combustion-based furnaces. They have a number of advantages over more traditional systems, as well. Electric furnaces are more reliable, versatile, and environmentally friendly than gas-powered systems. They are not without their flaws, however. Let’s take a look at some common electric furnace repairs.

Burned Out Heating Element

Electric furnaces heat by running an electric current through a large heating element in the bottom of the furnace. As this heating element heats up, it warms the air being blown over it by the air handler. There is no need for a heat exchanger, because there are no combustion byproducts to worry about. However, the extreme amount of strain that these elements are put under over a long period of time eventually cause them to burn out. This is similar to the way a lightbulb burns out, except much, much larger. When this happens, it can completely remove the furnace’s ability to heat.


Short-cycling is when your furnace keeps rapidly turning on and off throughout the day. It is caused by the furnace limit switch detecting dangerously high internal furnace temperatures during operation. When this happens, the switch shuts the furnace down as a safety measure. The problem is that this does not address the root of the overheating problem. When the system cools off and starts up again, it overheats again, and the whole process repeats indefinitely. Usually, the root cause of this kind of problem is poor airflow in the furnace.

Blown Out Motor

The blower motor is responsible for powering the fan that circulates warm air throughout the house. In order to keep the motor running smoothly, it is equipped with oil-lubricated bearings that reduce friction while it is running. If the bearings are not oiled every 1-2 years, however, they can dry up and actually increase the resistance to the motor. This will eventually cause the motor to burn itself out from overheating.

If your electric furnace is having problems, call Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning. We provide furnace repair services throughout Yucaipa.

Watch out for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Your Home

Last week we addressed an issue that can affect furnaces that still use a standing pilot light: the flame changing to a color other than blue, which often means the pilot light is burning something besides methane, which can lead to the release of toxic chemicals. Sometimes, it can also indicate that the furnace is leaking carbon monoxide, which is a serious danger. We want to look into this more specifically in this post, because if you use natural gas in your for any appliances, you must take precautions regarding carbon monoxide.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide (chemical symbol: CO) is a colorless, odorless, and highly toxic gas. It is a common byproduct of combusting natural gas, such as in your furnace or stove. According to the Center for Disease Control, CO poisoning creates symptoms that are often described as “flu-like”: dizziness, headaches, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, and nausea. And yes, excess CO poisoning is lethal. Hundreds of people die each year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and thousands more are hospitalized or visit the emergency room.

What can I do to prevent carbon monoxide worries in my home?

We want to give you this reassurance: a gas furnace in not inherently a significant danger in your house. However, to keep it that way, you need to see that it is serviced regularly each fall by a skilled technician. This will make sure that its safety features are working, and that it doesn’t have gas leaks or a cracked heat exchanger.

There are other ways to reduce the potential danger from CO in your home. Install special battery-powered CO detectors, and replace their batteries once a year. Make sure that any gas-burning equipment you buy has a seal of national approval. For example, see that your gas furnace has the ENERGY STAR label. Never attempt to make any repairs to a gas line or an appliance connected to one on your own, and always call for prompt repair service when you suspect something is amiss with your furnace.

Should you suspect CO in your home, such as when a detector alarm going off, leave the house immediately and call for professional assistance.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning can help keep your furnace running safely this winter in Redlands, CA. We serve the Inland Empire and Desert Communities.

Why Is There a Strange Smell Coming from My Heater?

You don’t have many opportunities to turn on your heating system in Southern California. When you do start to run the heater, you might be surprised at discovering odd and unpleasant odors coming from the vents. What’s this about… and is it something you need to worry about?

There’s no single cause for strange odors emanating from a heating system. Below are some of the possible reasons for these smells and what you should do about them.

Billowing and burning dust

A Southern California furnace doesn’t see much “action” during the year, and that often means that dust will build up on it over the months. When the furnace turns on, it will start to blow this dust around the house. The dust cold also collect over the heat exchanger, so when the furnace turns on and the exchanger heats up, the dust will burn off and create an acrid odor. You shouldn’t worry about this—unless the smell persists. Regular maintenance will keep the furnace clean.


If you notice a moldy odor from the vents, it may be from mold developing inside the furnace filter. This is one of the reasons that you need to regularly replace the air filter, and should always start the heating season with a fresh filter. It’s also possible that the problem isn’t coming from the heating system, but from gaps and breaks in the ductwork that are drawing in moldy air from closed-in sections of the house. This problem will require professionals duct sealing to correct.

Overheating motors and cracked heat exchangers

An electrical burning smells can point to motors in a furnace or heat pump that are overheating and heading toward burning out. There’s also the chance of a cracked heat exchanger in a gas furnace, which can be dangerous because of the leaking of carbon monoxide. Shut down your heater and call for repair technicians.

When you need repairs for your home heating system, call on Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning. We serve Beaumont, CA and throughout the Inland Empire and Desert Communities.