Hagerstown HVAC Tip: Different Types of Refrigerants

We have all heard the phrases like “save the planet” or “save the ozone layer.” Up until the 1960s there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to the disintegrating protective ozone layer around the Earth’s surface. Since then, ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) have been seen as the ozone-depleting culprit and new laws regulating the use of CFCs have had a direct impact on heating and cooling (HVAC) systems.

The “lifeblood” of any air conditioning and heat pump system is its refrigerants – a chemical used in the refrigeration cycle. For several decades, the “refrigerant of choice” in HVAC systems has beenHCFC-22, also known as R-22. The problem is, HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) are harmful to the ozone layer because they contain ozone-destroying chlorine.

Because of this, the use of R-22 is being slowly phased out from usage in HVAC systems. The Clean Air Act of 1970 has provisions in it to phase out HCFC refrigerants. As a result, chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce, and companies will no longer be able to import, R-22 for use in new air conditioning equipment (effective this year),  but they can continue production and import of R-22 until 2020 for use in servicing existing equipment. So, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing for many years to come.

But the “new kid on the block” replacing R-22 has been getting up a head of steam for several years now. Among the new alternative refrigerants recommended by the U.S. EPA is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, but, like R-22, contributes to global warming. R-410A is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®,SUVA410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®.

There are several other substitute refrigerants going by the names of R-407C, HFC-134A, and R-422C. A complete list can be found at www.epa.gov.

According to the U.S. EPA, homeowners with existing units using R-22 can continue to use R-22 since there is “no requirement to change or convert R-22 units for use with a non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerant.” And it is important to note that R-407C is allowed for retrofits but R-410A is not, due to its higher working pressures. Substitute refrigerants would not work well with existing components unless a retrofit was made or in the case of using R-410A, a complete system changeout.

One of the leading causes for air conditioner and heat pump failure are lower levels of refrigerant. If you are working on your own equipment, it is important to note that replacing refrigerants like R-22 and R-410A should only be done by certified HVAC professionals. You must show EPA certification to purchase these refrigerants.

If you are interested in “saving the planet” you might do well to give the boot to your HCFC-consuming appliance. To find out what type of refrigerant your Hagerstown AC uses or to schedule a replacement, give Larry & Sons Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning a call today!

Clear Spring Heating Guide: Troubleshooting Furnace Air Flow Problems

Whenever you notice furnace air flow problems in your Clear Spring home, you can usually do a little troubleshooting and solve the issue on your own. Most air flow problems can be fixed easily and quickly. Here are a few guidelines to get you started, but if you need help or notice other problems with your furnace, call a qualified Larry & Sons heating technician.

Furnace Filters:

Checking the furnace filter is the first step you should take when there are any issues with your furnace, but especially with air flow problems. If a filter is dirty enough, the furnace will not come on at all. Ultimately, a clogged or dirty filter restricts the air flow, and this is the source of air flow problems ninety percent of the time.

Supply Registars and Cold Air Returns:

Once you’ve replaced or cleaned the filter, check your cold air returns, which are the vents that draw in the cold air in forced air systems. When a cold air return is blocked  by furniture or other obstructions, they cannot draw in enough air to allow the furnace to put out an adequate amount of hot air. Make sure they are open if nothing is blocking them.

Next, check your supply registers, which are the vents that supply the warm air, and make sure they are open as well. Whenever your heat is on, all of your supply registers should be open. Closing some vents will not increase the air flow in other vents in the house. Closing off one or two in areas where heat is not always needed will not hurt your system; however, when you close too many supply registers, it can cause problems with the ductwork and eventually damage the furnace if the air pressure is not correct.

Clean Your Vents:

You should have a qualified HVAC technician professionally clean your ducts and vents at least once a year, which is another reason it’s important to schedule annual maintenance visits. A professional cleaning is typically part of the yearly heating system inspection. You can help by vacuuming your vents regularly, particularly during the months the heating system is not in use, or at least before you turn it on in the fall. Simply cleaning your vents can help air flow and extend the life of your entire heating system.

If you continue to experience air flow problems, call a certified Clear Spring heating technician at Larry & Sons. There could be a more serious issue, or if you have a newer furnace, your original ductwork could be the wrong size for that furnace model.

A Question from Emmitsburg: Is Trenchless Pipe Replacement Cost Effective?

One of the number one questions asked by Emmitsburg homeowners faced with pipe replacement is how cost effective each method is. In particular, they want to know whether trenchless technology with its smaller points of access and far less damage to the property, is as cost effective as just ripping up the lawn and tearing out the old pipe.

Cost effectiveness of trenchless technology depends largely on what the problem is and whether you need a full replacement or if the pipe just needs to be inspected and repaired. Here’s a quick look at what you’re likely to face in the event of a pipe problem:

  • Video Inspection – If the problem is still minor and the location of the leak is not yet apparent, video inspection makes it easier to find the issue instead of pulling out a huge length of pipe. When used properly, video inspection can greatly reduce the cost of a pipe repair job, especially if repairs end up not being necessary.
  • Pipe Relining – Pipe relining is generally less expensive than pipe replacement and uses the same access methods as other trenchless repair and replacement methods. It is a very cost effective alternative to full replacement and works especially well in short lengths of pipe. Because modern resin pipe liners are rated for 50+ years the differences are minimal.
  • Pipe Replacement – Pipe replacement itself is considered more cost effective than exhuming and replacing an entire length of pipe. With far less damage to your property and no need for heavy equipment to dig up the pipe, a skilled and experienced trenchless plumber is a great alternative to the costly old methods.

As you can see, different trenchless technologies are each designed to solve different problems but will generally offer a very cost effective alternative to the traditional methods long used to solve these kinds of problems. The smaller your problems, the more cost effective it is. At the same time, don’t forget how much better it is to have your yard intact, regardless of the cost differential.

When Should You Replace Instead of Repair Your Heating? A Guide from Walkersville

We all dread an expensive repair in Walkersville, whether it is a car that needs a new transmission, a leaky roof that needs new shingles, or electrical wiring that has been chewed up by a wild animal. We often try and put bandages on things that we know should be replaced but we just can’t afford to replace them.

The same can be said about your home’s heating system. When your heat goes out or your home just doesn’t seem to be heating up to the setting on your thermostat, your first inclination is to check and see if it is running. Some people will put their hand over a heating vent to check for hot air while others may go into the basement or mechanical room to listen to hear if the furnace is running. Maybe there is a blockage in the ventilation system or a blown circuit breaker, two relatively easy fixes.

If the furnace isn’t working after checking the obvious symptoms, your next move is to call for service. Any qualified heating professional would be able to diagnose your problem and offer suggested repairs. Something relatively minor like a bad circuit board or blown fan motor are not real expensive repairs and are the best option versus replacing the furnace. And you may keep experiencing the same problem and getting the same repair work done – anything to avoid an expensive replacement.

But at some point the vicious cycle will come to an end. Your repair bills will begin to inch their way past the cost of replacing the furnace. You can only bandage a problem so long before it becomes “unfixable.” You may not want to pay an expensive replacement bill but consider the alternatives.

First is the obvious – it costs too much to keep repairing the furnace. Secondly, you never know when the furnace may break down and its failure to operate could have dangerous effects on the people in your home, especially if someone is sick. Third, your furnace may not be able to keep up with the heating demand due to lifestyle changes, i.e. an addition put on the house, carpeting removed and wood floors exposed, a new window, door, or skylight added, etc. Your old furnace may not have been designed to keep up with these changes and the repairs are only delaying the inevitable.

Ask yourself if everyone in your home is comfortable during cold weather. If most answer no, it may be time to consider replacing that old furnace with a new, energy efficient model that uses today’s technology – and leaves a smaller carbon footprint – to keep up with the demand for heat, in any sized building or home. Your decision to replace your old heating system could be as simple as the need to use modern technology to solve your indoor comfort problems.