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

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.

Do I Need Heating Maintenance—In the Desert? (Yes!)

To the rest of the world, Southern California is a vision of warmth. When you mention the desert areas of Southern California, places like Palm Desert, people can only imagine intense heat through most of the year, with maybe a touch cooling off to merely “very hot” during other parts of the year.

Why would a home need to have maintenance for its heating system in a place like the deserts of Southern California? There are a few reasons that, even in our hot climate, professional heating maintenance is an annual fall necessity.

Yes, it can get cool at night

During December, the days usually peak at a pleasant temperature in the high 60s or low 70s. This is ideal comfort weather for most people. However, going below 68°F is the point where people may start to feel cold … and the nights in December often get down into the mid-40s. You’ll definitely want some heat then. The annual temperature dips further in January before starting to rise again. Of course, there’s always a chance of a cold snap hitting and the temperature going into the 30s. You want to make sure you have a heating system that can handle such surprises.

Safety

No matter what part of the world you live in, if you have a central heating system for your home, it must have professional attention each fall to inspect its parts and clean it and tune it up to prevent it from developing safety issues. This is essential for gas-powered furnaces, which are the most common type of heating system in the country. Although gas furnaces aren’t inherently unsafe, they can develop major hazards if they’re neglected. Only a licensed professional is certified to work on a gas furnace.

Energy savings

A downside of not needing a heating system often in Southern California is that a heater tends to collect plenty of dust and dirt during long stretches of inaction. When the heating system actually needs to work, it will waste power because of this neglect. You don’t want to spend more to heat your home than necessary, and regular maintenance is the best way to see that your heating system—no matter its type—works at its most efficient whenever it has to do its job.

Equipment longevity

Replacing a worn-down heating system is expensive, and you want any heater in your house to last for as long as possible. A heating system can last on average from 10 to 20 years depending on the type: electric furnaces can endure the longest, while a heat pump will probably have a shorter lifespan. You can probably add on a few more years here in Southern California because of the reduction in stress. But without maintenance, a heater won’t make it to its estimated lifespan and will need to be replaced earlier.

We’re the Palm Desert, CA HVAC contractor to call on to schedule residential heating maintenance. Our maintenance program covers both air conditioning and heating. We’ll see that you have energy-saving performance, and safeperformance, from your heater during the short winter season. Contact us to hear more about our maintenance program.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning is open 24 hours a day to serve your AC and heating needs in the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities.

3 Common Fan Problems

Fans aren’t the biggest components in your air conditioner, but they are important to the operation of your air conditioning. There are two fans in your system: the condenser fan in the outside unit, and the blower/air handler in the inside unit. Each of these fans helps with air flow and the heat release/cooling process in your system. Problems with fans can be fairly minor, but when one malfunctions or stops working, the effects can be seen system-wide. It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact problem with a fan, so it’s important to call experts when needing repair, and Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning is here to help.

Common Fan Problems

There are a few fan issues our technicians see with relative frequency:

 Motor Issues

Each fan has a motor that operates the fan array (fan, belts, etc.). Motors can burn out, lose lubrication (especially the ball bearings), or experience damage. When the motor malfunctions, or breaks down, the fan may no longer turns as it needs to; this affects air flow and the refrigerant cycle. Some motors can be repaired, but there are times when a fan motor will need replacement.

Electrical Issues

There are a number of wires surrounding the fan and its components, including the motor. Wires can fray, corrode or disconnect, voltages can become uneven – there are a number of electrical problems that can ensue. When it comes to electrical problems with any part of your air conditioner, it’s best to hire a professional for repair as wiring can be complex.

Fan Blades

Fan blades can loosen and/or bend. While a fan can run with these issues, bent or loose fan blades can damage the parts surrounding them.

Fans aren’t the hardest components to repair, but because fan issues affect both air flow and the heat release/cooling process in your system, it’s important to have any problems repaired right away. You count on your air conditioning to keep you cool, but that won’t happen with a malfunctioning system. If you are experiencing fan problems or any other issues with your AC, schedule air conditioning repairs in Palm Desert with the people you can trust: Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning.

Dealing with Allergies with Indoor Air Quality Solutions

Allergies can be a problem around the year in a place like Southern California. Although there are many medical ways to treat mild to severe allergy problems, one of the best ways to meet the problem is to improve your home’s air quality. Because modern houses don’t allow much fresh air to circulate through them, it’s easy for many allergens to become trapped indoors and continue to move through the HVAC system and rooms.

But how do you boost your air quality, aside from throwing open the windows and doors and letting in the immense outdoor heat? It’s actually simple: you only have to get in contact with our IAQ experts. They’ll find the right service or installation to reduce the allergen count in your home. Below are some effective methods:

Duct Cleaning

Why not remove the huge reservoir of allergens that collect inside your ductwork? It only takes about a year for a layer of dust to develop inside the ducts of your house, and an average of 40 lbs. of dust circulates through the ductwork every year in a six-room home. A thorough duct cleaning job from our professionals will eliminate all these pollutants. Plus it will help the HVAC system perform at maximum energy efficiency.

Air Purifiers

Many allergens are small and will slip through the mesh of standard air filters. To deal with these minute particles, one of the best options is to install an electronic air purifier. An air purifier doesn’t trap pollutants with mesh, but instead uses ionization to cause pollutants to be drawn down to a pair of plates.

UV Lights

One major source of allergic reactions in a house is mold spores and other organic pollutants. The best way to target these unhealthy nuisances is to have UV germicidal lights installed. The UV radiation destroys organic cells without using any chemicals.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves Palm Desert, CA and all the Inland Empire and Desert Communities. Contact us today for options to improve your indoor air quality.

Is It Time for Regular Duct Cleaning?

Winter preparation tends to be a somewhat… mellow… affair here in the deserts of Southern California. Yes, we can expect a bit of rain, and some nights when it gets cool enough to turn on the heater for a stretch. Hey, we can even enjoy a nice fire in the fireplace! But it is nothing like Minnesota or many other parts of North America.

So, with less of the really hard work of winter preparation to take care of, there are some tasks that may not have occurred to you that are great to schedule at this time: professional duct cleaning is one of them.

Air Duct Cleaning Frequency

Cleaning the air ducts in a home has often gotten a bit of a bad rap because disreputable door-to-door offers that are really nothing more than at too-expensive fast vacuuming job. But duct cleaning from licensed professionals is another matter entirely: a complete deep cleaning that can give you a great performance from your HVAC system and even improve your air quality. It’s absolutely worth it to go to experienced HVAC professionals.

But how often? We recommend every three years—although your frequency may increase if there is a great amount of dust in your home. When you call on our team, they can help you arrange for a regular schedule of cleaning that works ideally for your house.

If you have never arranged for air duct cleaning in your house before—and this is a common occurrence since people rarely give much thoughts to the hidden ductwork—then you’re overdue for cleaning! We can almost guarantee it. Call us and we’ll see exactly what you need done.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning offers high quality air duct cleaning as well as other air duct services in Palm Desert, CA and elsewhere in the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities.

Common End-of-Summer Repairs

End-of-summer repairs are common, and you shouldn’t wait to make them. Problems with your AC rarely get better on their own, and they usually become worse over time. If it’s time for air conditioning repair in Palm Desert, call the people you can count on: Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning.

End-of-Summer Repairs

There are a lot of ways your air conditioner can malfunction, but there are a few problems we see a lot after a busy cooling season:

  • Refrigerant leaks – the refrigerant in your system helps facilitate the transfer of heat. Your air conditioner requires an exact amount of refrigerant in order to work properly. When there’s a leak, it causes an imbalance in the heat release/cooling process. Refrigerant leaks require immediate repair and can be hard to find, so it’s important to call a professional.
  • Compressor issues – the compressor is responsible for pressurizing the refrigerant in your system. There are several problems that can arise with compressors: issues with the motor, wiring issues and problems with the capacitors. The compressor is a complex component, and requires expert knowledge for proper repair.
  • Fan issues – there are two fans in your air conditioning system: the evaporator fan, also known as the blower, and the condenser fan. These fans help with air flow, and when problems arise with either one, system-wide issues can develop. Common fan issues are bent or loose fan blades, worn fan belts, electrical issues and motor issues.

Many of these issues can be addressed with bi-annual maintenance, so if you haven’t scheduled your fall maintenance yet, you may want to consider doing it soon.

The official end to summer is the fall equinox at the end of September. While we are still enjoying summer temperatures, the weather will be changing soon. If you’ve been seeing signs of problems with your AC, don’t hesitate to call us for air conditioning repairs in Palm Desert. Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning can assist you with all your AC needs.

What Does COP Stand for in an Air Conditioning System?

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningWe often encourage our customers to consider the installation of a high efficiency air conditioning system in Palm Desert, CA and the surrounding areas. In the extreme hot weather we experience in the Southern California deserts, this type of AC can make a big difference in cooling bills. We’ve previously written about SEER and EER, which are important measures of the efficiency of an air conditioning system. However, there’s another energy efficiency rating to discuss, COP, which stands for Coefficient of Performance.

What COP Means

Coefficient of performance is used in a number of applications, but it’s usually applied to air conditioners and heat pumps. It’s a ratio of work or useful output to the amount of work or energy input. This sounds quite similar to SEER and EER, but there are a few differences. For one, COP can also be used to measure the output of heat from a system, which is why it’s useful for discussing heat pumps. SEER and EER, on the other hand, are applied only to cooling power, measuring how an air conditioner is able to move heat out of the house.

COP is equal to the heat delivered (which means in an air conditioner the heat delivered to the outside of a house) as measured by British Thermal Units (BTUs) per hour divided by the heat equivalent of the electric energy input. So an AC that generates 3.6kW of heat to the outside while using 1kW of energy has a COP of 3.6. The higher the COP, the more efficient the system.

Different from EER and SEER, which are focused on the cooling power of the system—in other words, how much heat is removed from the house—COP is focused on the heat produced on the outside. This is why COP is often more useful for determining the effectiveness of heat pumps, which can switch to moving heat inside. However, the rating shouldn’t be ignored on a standard air conditioning system. HVAC professionals can help you read the different efficiency ratings to find the right new system for you.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning: We’re open 24 hours offering exceptional customer service.

How a Poorly Located Thermostat Costs You Money and Comfort

There are many ways that an air conditioner or heater can start to malfunction and end up costing you more money to run that it should. But sometimes these problems aren’t malfunctions; they’re built right into the HVAC system itself from the beginning. Not all installations are equal, and a shoddy initial job can mean a heating and cooling system that won’t live up to its potential.

One common error with HVAC installation is thermostats that are poorly located. We’ll take a close look at the trouble this can cause.

Why is the thermostat’s location important?

A thermostat is both a control mechanism that allows people to change the settings for a heating and cooling system, and a temperature sensor. Today’s thermostats have more precise sensors in them than ever before, replacing older mercury sensors. But if a thermostat is in the wrong location, it will pick up incorrect readings that don’t match the average house temperature. These are known as “ghost” readings, and they will cause the HVAC system to come on and off at the wrong times. This means you’ll experience uncomfortable temperatures and end up paying more money because either the heater or AC will run longer than it should.

Places a thermostat shouldn’t be

There are three common location mistakes:

  • A thermostat placed where it receive direct exposure to the sunlight. The sun’s radiant energy will trick the thermostat into registering higher the temperature.
  • A thermostat near to windows or exterior doors. This will cause cold drafts to deceive the thermostat into reading temperatures that are lower.
  • A thermostat located too far from the center of the house. This will cause the thermostat to read temperatures that do not match the average for the home—either too warm or too cool.

Solving these problems requires calling professionals to either re-locate the thermostats or have new ones installed in better locations.

To arrange for thermostat services in Palm Desert, CA and the surrounding areas, call Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning.