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.

Making the Switch to Ductless Air Conditioning

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningSpring is an excellent season to have a new air conditioning system installed for your home. If your current AC is more than 15 years old, it’s time to arrange for an air conditioning replacement in La Quinta, CA or the surrounding areas. It’s easy to have our professionals replace your current cooling system with a similar type—although the new system will probably have superior energy efficiency and more features. Fifteen years is a long time when it comes to advancing technology, and you’ll enjoy all-around better air conditioning with a new system.

However, you can also choose to have a different type of air conditioning system installed, such as a heat pump or a ductless mini split. We’re going to look at ductless air conditioning a bit closer today to see when it makes sense to switch from standard ducts to ductless.

What Ductless Air Conditioning Can Offer You

You may have already seen a ductless mini split system in operation: an air handler mounted up on a wall in a business or a home that sends cooled air directly into the space. These air handlers attach through power and refrigerant lines to an outdoor unit, and the outdoor unit can power up to four different air handlers placed around a residential or commercial space.

Using multiple air handlers rather than a single one that attaches to ducts removes the needs for ducts entirely, and can provide a number of benefits, such as improved energy efficiency. Ductwork is prone to developing leaks, which can result in a loss of up to 30% of the conditioned air inside it. A ductless system eliminates this waste possibility entirely, and further helps reduce bills because mini air handlers use much smaller motors than a single large air handler straining to send air through long lengths of ducts. Ductless mini splits also allow for zone control cooling, since each air handler can be manipulated independently of the others.

When Ductless Air Conditioning Is a Good Idea

But if your home already has an extensive set of ducts, going with a ductless cooling system can be redundant. It’s often easier to stick with a ducted system and make use of the existing ventilation network. But there are times when ductless is a better option:

  • If you are thinking about doing extensive restoration to your home, going ductless means you can freely renovate without consideration of the ductwork in place. The ducts can be easily removed.
  • For add-on rooms, ductless mini splits are a great option. You can provide cooling to the new rooms without making extensive changes to the rest of the HVAC system.
  • For a household with allergy and asthma problems, ductless is an excellent way to reduce the amount of particles blown around the air. Ducts are a significant source of dust and debris build-up.
  • You are planning to build a new house. Ductless is often the best way to go when starting from scratch.

To have all your questions answered about air conditioning replacement in general and ductless mini splits specifically, you only have to speak to one of our knowledgeable staff members.

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

When It’s Time to Replace Your AC Rather Than Keep Repairing It

Living in the deserts of Southern California requires having the most reliable and efficient air conditioning system possible to cool down your home. A poorly-working AC will not only struggle to keep you comfortable, it will also run up enormous bills. The moment you notice that your residential air conditioner is having trouble during spring and summer weather, call professionals to repair it…

…or possibly replace it. At a certain point, this is the better option. No air conditioner lasts forever, and eventually you’ll need to schedule a new system installation. Below are some tips to tell when “replace” beats out “repair.”

The air conditioner is more than 15 years old

Most ACs today can operate for 10 to 15 years before age catches up to them and they wear down to the point where they are more likely to fail. You don’t want to have your air conditioner permanently break down on you during the sweltering heat of the summer, so if you have a system that’s over 15 years in service, it’s safer to have it replaced in spring on your own schedule—rather than arranging a replacement in the summer on an emergency schedule.

The AC needs frequent repairs

You shouldn’t need to call for air conditioning repairs more than once a year, nor should you pay more than $500 a year to keep it running. In either case, it’s a less expensive solution to replace the system and start enjoying trouble-free operation.

The air conditioner costs too much to run

During the last year or two of an AC’s lifespan, it will begin to lose it energy-efficient performance and drain more power than normal. You’ll see a rise in your bills. If repairs and maintenance can’t change this upward trend, it’s much more economical to have a new system with better energy efficiency put in.

Since 1980, Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning has offered great service in La Quinta, CA and throughout the Inland Empire and Desert Communities. Call us if you think it’s time to replace your air conditioning system.

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.

It’s Not Too Late to Schedule Air Conditioning Maintenance

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningWe’re deep into spring, and the official start of summer is only three weeks away. If you haven’t already arranged for your spring air conditioning maintenance with our HVAC professionals, you might think that it’s too late. Maybe you can skip this year and have maintenance done next spring? What’s the worst that can happen?

Here’s the Worst That Can Happen…

Your air conditioner will break down on the hottest day of the year. That’s not something you want to happen, especially when you consider what hot is down in the deserts of Southern California. Although you can always reach our technicians for repair service—we’re here 24 hours a day to help—this is a situation you want to avoid if at all possible. A broken AC can even be a life-threatening situation for a home with young children or elderly people.

Maintenance Is Always Beneficial, No Matter When It’s Done

There really is no such thing as “too late” when it comes to AC maintenance. It’s “better late than never”… and it’s not even too late! The worst of the summer weather arrives in July, so you have time to schedule a visit from one of our technicians. During maintenance, the technician will give the air conditioner a thorough inspection to find places that might require repairs, and also handle tune-up tasks such as cleaning coils, recalibrating the thermostat, lubricating motors, and tightening electrical connections. If your air conditioner is approaching the end of its lifecycle, your technician will be able to give you a warning about it and help you to arrange for a system replacement before the major heat arrives.

To arrange for your air conditioning maintenance in La Quinta, CA, contact us today. Our maintenance program will have you set up for annual inspections and tune-ups for both your AC and heating system.

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

How Do Zone Control Systems Work?

Have you ever noticed how pets always know the good spots in the house, depending on the time of day? We have all encountered hot and cold spots throughout our homes, but what if you could eliminate these uneven spots of cooling, and be able to achieve the comfort you want throughout your home? This is what a zone control system can do for your air conditioning.

How Does a Zone Control System Work?

With a zone control system, mechanized dampers are installed into supply vents, and each damper is electronically connected to its own thermostat, which can be controlled and programmed. You establish the zones you need, and each zone is given its own thermostat. Zones can be individual rooms, floors, hallways of your home – however you want to set it up.

Who Is a Fit for a Zone Control System?

Anyone who wants better control over their indoor comfort is a great candidate for a zone control system, but a zone control system is also good for the following:

  • Homes that have varying heating and cooling temperatures throughout the day
  • Homes with multiple levels
  • Homes with many rooms/individual spaces
  • Finished living spaces in attics or basements
  • Homes with several hallways or wings
  • Homes with specialized architecture (floor-to-ceiling windows, loft space, vaulted ceilings)

What Are the Benefits of a Zone Control System?

The first, and previously mentioned one, is customized comfort. But there are more worth considering:

  • Better energy efficiency – a zone control system allows you to cool only the spaces you want to cool. Have an area of your home that’s unused or unoccupied? With a zone control system, you can determine how much or how little cooling a space will get.
  • Less wear-and-tear on your air conditioner – when your air conditioner isn’t cooling your entire home consistently, but rather cools only necessary areas of your home, it will run less. This helps reduce the level of wear-and-tear on your system.
  • Less noise from your AC – less cooling can mean your air conditioner will cycle at a lower speed, which is quieter.

Get in the Zone with Your Air Conditioner

A zone control system can give you the control you want over your cooling with energy efficiency that can save you money. Since 1980, Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning has been helping air conditioning customers with repairs, installations and energy efficiency. Call Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning today and schedule a consultation with a La Quinta air conditioning expert to learn more about a zone control system today.

Why Is There a Burning Smell When My Furnace Comes On?

If you have either a gas or electric furnace in your home, you’ll get sporadic use out of it over the winter season. Temperatures can get cool during the evenings, even here in the deserts of California, and it’s probably around November when you’ll find yourself switching on the furnace to provide occasional warmth. (We recommend having maintenance for it, no matter how often you use it, at this time of year. Sign up for our maintenance program to get started.)

Something you may notice when your furnace starts running for the first time during the season is a burning smell coming from the vents. This might seem alarming, but it’s actually a common occurrence. In most cases, there’s nothing to worry about.

The source of the acrid odor is dust

The reason for the acrid smell is that either the heat exchanger (in a gas furnace) or the electric heating elements (in an electric furnace) is burning off a layer of dust. Furnaces go for long stretches here in Southern California without use, and that gives the unit time to gather a thin layer of dust across the heating elements or heat exchanger. There’s nothing detrimental about this, although maintenance will wipe off excess dust that may cause harm to other components like the blower motor. The hot exchanger/heating elements burn away the layer and create a distinct acrid smell. It should only last for a short time. You may also notice dust smells from the vents, which is the blower motor sending out any dust that collected in the vents during period between when you stopped using the air conditioning.

If the odor persists, you may have problems with a motor. Should you need furnace repair service for your furnace in La Quinta, CA or elsewhere, simply give us a call.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities. Open 24 hours!

Heating and AC Trouble? It May Be Time to Replace the Ducts

Faulty ductwork can account for up to 30% of your home’s total air loss, plus serious problems with indoor air quality. However, sometimes the faults in the ductwork are too great and/or numerous to consider duct sealing or repair; in these cases, duct replacement may be necessary for your La Quinta home.

Signs You Need Replacement

Here are some signs that can indicate that it is best to replace your ductwork:

Poor Installation

Ductwork should be designed so that there are as few turns in the system as possible; the route from your HVAC system should also be as straight as possible to allow for the highest capacity of air to blow. The ductwork should also be the correct size for your HVAC unit so that the air pressure inside allows for system balance. If your ductwork is kinked (has lots of turns), is too narrow or too wide, or is simply designed poorly, replacement will most likely be needed to remedy the problems.

Mold/Mildew Growth

Mold and mildew can thrive inside ductwork because it is cool and dark, and if the ductwork is faulty, a good amount of moisture can get inside the ductwork, providing the food for the mold and mildew to grow. Mold and mildew growth on metal ductwork can be treated with sprays that can kill the biological growth, but permanently removing the spores from plastic ductwork is very hard, and might not be possible. As such, if you have a mold problem inside plastic ductwork, you’ll want to consider replacement to ensure that the problem won’t re-occur.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

Damaged and/or faulty ductwork doesn’t just allow air to escape; it also acts as an open door for contaminants, pollution, moisture and other things to enter directly into your home’s air flow. If you’ve been noticing strange smells, excessive dust and dirt and greater moisture in your home, you may want to consider replacing the problem areas in your ductwork.

The skilled experts at Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning have the training and expertise to replace and restore your ductwork, so if you need ductwork replacement in La Quinta.

Another Late Summer AC Tip: Clean the Outdoor Cabinet

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningEarlier this month, we did a full post of tips to help you with your air conditioning system during the end of summer. The end of August is a time when the blistering heat can, at last, overwhelm a cooling system that’s already labored for a few months in the California deserts. You can always rely on us for air conditioning repairs in La Quinta, CA or elsewhere in the Desert Communities and Inland Empire. But we’d also like to help you avoid problems in the first place: your comfort is our #1 priority!

We’d like to add another tip to the list from our post earlier in August, which is to give the outdoor cabinet a cleaning.

A Clean AC Is a Better AC

We mentioned previously how you should keep the area around the outdoor condenser cabinet of your air conditioner clear of debris and plants trimmed away from it. This prevents the system from suffering damage or blocking it from exhausting heat from indoors. But the cabinet may also have picked up dirt and grime over the summer, and we recommend you use a hose to gently clean off the cabinet at this time of year.

This is more than a cosmetic difference—although there’s nothing wrong with wanting to keep the outdoor cabinet looking clean and bright! It can make a performance difference. If there’s too much dirt and other grime over the grills of the cabinet, it will make it harder for the system to draw in air, move it across the condenser coil, and then expel the heat back outside with the air. This will lower energy efficiency. It can also allow dirt and other particles to infiltrated the cabinet and collect along the coil, making the system even less efficient. Use a hose on gentle pressure to wash off the cabinet and it will be in better shape.

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

Why Are Gas Furnaces So Common for Home Heating?

Today’s homes can have many different types of heating systems warming them: heat pumps, boilers, ductless mini splits, electric furnaces, and radiant in-floor heating. But the gas furnace is still the heating king, found in millions of home from the midnight sun regions of Alaska to the palm-dotted beaches of Florida—as well as here in the dry deserts of Southern California. What makes this type of residential heater so common?

There are benefits to all of the systems we listed above. Finding the one to meet a home’s comfort needs can be thorny, and this is why it’s necessary to have the assistance of HVAC professionals when it come to a new heating installation. The gas furnace, however, has a long list of benefits that often give it a leading edge. Here are some of them:

Energy savings

Natural gas is a less costly energy source than electricity or propane. A home using natural gas for heat rather than electricity will have much lower utility bills.

High efficiency

Few types of heaters are more efficient at delivering heat to a home than a natural gas furnace. It’s easier to have an even spread of heat around a house with a gas furnace doing the work. The lag time for electric furnaces is much longer; with a gas furnace, you won’t have to wait for the comfort you want.

Great heat output

Natural gas furnaces can put out higher amounts of heat than almost any other type of comfort system. This is why you’ll find gas furnaces in parts of the country that have the coldest winters. But this high heat output serves a purpose in our warmer climate: it can keep the draftiest house warm in the winter.


It’s easy to integrate gas furnaces into HVAC systems and pair them with air conditioners. There’s usually no need to change any connected appliances when a gas furnace is put in.


You might find this one a bit curious. Aren’t gas furnaces potentially hazardous? Yes—but safety standards are so strict today that there’s little danger. In fact, natural gas burns cleaner than other heating fuels and this means fewer harmful emissions. When furnaces receive routine annual maintenance, they are among the safest options for home heating.

We need to emphasize again that when it comes to options for home heating in La Quinta, CA and elsewhere in the desert area we serve, there isn’t a single system that works for every house and family. The benefits we listed above make gas furnaces sound like the best pick—and in many cases they are.

But even gas furnaces have some drawbacks. The main one is that they don’t work in homes without a gas connection! If you have an all-electric home, we recommend looking into comfort options like a heat pump, which is an efficient heater and air conditioner in one. Our technicians are glad to help narrow down the range of choices so you end up with the right heat system to match your comfort needs and budget.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning provides the Inland Empire and the Desert community with superb HVAC services.