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Author: Vaughan Comfort

Preparing your HVAC Unit for Winter Part 1

Winter is fast approaching, and that means it’s time to prepare your home for the stresses of cold weather, snow, and ice. In all the work of securing your house, it can be difficult to properly maintain your HVAC system. Luckily, we’re here to provide the necessary steps to protect your HVAC throughout this stressful season.
Remember, before you conduct any inspections or maintenance, turn off all power to the unit.
Clean or Replace the Air Filter
The first and easiest step is your air filter. A dirty or outdated air filter will cause your furnace to work harder than it needs to, driving up your expenses and putting stress on your system. You usually can find the filter on the return vent near your HVAC unit. Regardless of your unit type, it will usually be located within the ductwork nearest to your HVAC unit. Conduct your first replacement at the beginning of the cold months and do so at the first of every month for the remainder of the winter. While conducting your first replacement, check the vent for debris or obstruction.
Check Your Devices
Before it gets really cold, turn your furnace on and off at least three times. You need to make sure that the system is completely functional before it’s needed, since the off-season can unexpectedly wear down the furnace. You should also check all related ventilation, since wildlife and falling leaves can quickly block vents. Make sure that there’s no material within three feet of the furnace before activating it.
Next, inspect your thermostat. Ensure that it has fully charged batteries, and that it is properly functioning across every temperature point. To reduce energy costs during the winter, you’ll need to be able to turn down your heat whenever you’re out of the home. If your thermostat isn’t properly responsive, it can drive up your energy bill. If your energy consumption has been high in past winters, a programmable thermostat might be a helpful way to schedule your HVAC usage.
Troubleshooting
If your thermostat isn’t functioning properly, the issue might be with the electronics or faulty wiring. If you’re unable to resolve these issues on your own, consider calling a professional.
If your HVAC system involves an exterior heat pump, you should check it thoroughly prior to snowfall. Look for blockages, cracks, or a fan not functioning at a proper speed, which would indicate that the motor has worn out. If your pump is unable to defrost itself properly, accumulated snow and ice will rapidly break the device down.
If your furnace uses a pilot lite, you need to make sure that it’s properly activating. First, locate the burner chamber door at the bottom of the furnace. Open the door and look for a small metal tube. You should ideally see a small blue flame when the furnace is functioning properly. The light should be burning brightly—if the flame is weak or barely visible, you should call a professional immediately.
If your furnace is turning off immediately after activating, it means that your flame sensor is either dirty or damaged. You can clean the sensor yourself, but if you’re not confident doing so or the sensor appears to be damaged, you should contact a professional.
Finally, test if your HVAC unit is distributing air effectively throughout the home. If your vents have a low airflow, it could mean that excessive usage during the summer has worn out your belt. If you’re only noticing lower airflow in one or more of your vents, it would indicate that there is probably a blockage in your vents.
If you’ve noticed any of these issues, or you need assistance evaluating your home, our team of professionals have the experience to inspect your unit and provide the perfect solutions tailored to your needs. Contact us today to begin protecting your home for winter.


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Should I Repair or Replace My Water Heater? Part 2

In Part 1, we discussed a few diagnostic signs that can help tell the average homeowner whether it’s time to repair or replace their water heater. If you’re seeing any of the issues described here, it may be time to call an HVAC professional to get some expert advice. Here are some more signs to watch out for:
Rust Collecting Around the Heater
If you’ve noticed the accumulation of rust anywhere near your water heater, you have a serious issue. If you notice rust on the exterior of the heater, the issue is easy to diagnose: your heater has aged to the point of leaking, and the rust is a sign of fissures.
Rust in in the hot water itself is trickier, as the cause can be anything from the heater, the pipes, or the faucet. Regardless, this poses a significant health risk for the residents of your home. If your water heater is within the 8-12 year window of age, it’s a strong sign that the rust is originating from the inside of your heater. Check the water inlet and pressure relief valve on the heater for signs of rust. You can also narrow it down by assessing when the rust is appearing. If rust is only in your water when it’s hot or has recently been heated, that points heavily to the heater. If you see it whenever used, that points to a pipe issue.
Noticing Strange Noises
A failing water heater will emanate noises from its tank with increasing volume. You want to listen for a low, heavy rumble that gets stronger as the device heats up.
If you’re hearing more of a popping, bubbling noise – like a percolating coffee maker – it means that there’s just sediment buildup in the tank that needs to be flushed out. A screech will also mean that there’s a plumbing issue or blockage preventing proper water flow.
Fixing Performance Issues
If you’re seeing issues with the energy efficiency or overall performance of your water heater, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re due for a replacement. If your water isn’t heating up as fast as you’ve come to expect or you’re seeing a spike in your power bill, the first step is a thorough inspection and upkeep.
Erratic or poor performance can be the result of electrical issues including a blown fuse or a tripped breaker. Check that your heater is receiving consistent, uninterrupted power before taking any major steps.
If you’re seeing temperature irregularities, check your pipes. They could be the result of issues with the insulation of the pipes themselves, especially if you’re noticing that issue in a specific area of the home. A faulty thermostat or pilot light can do the same thing.
A lot of issues can be resolved by flushing your water heater. The buildup of sediment at the bottom of the tank can cause issues with water quality, noise, energy inefficiency, and poor performance.
And if you’re seeing leakage on the pressure relief valve, don’t worry; that just means that the valve itself needs to be replaced.
At Vaughan, we have the expertise to conduct a full replacement of your water heater, or to conduct the maintenance that will extend its lifespan. For more information, contact us at 856-322-8005.


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Should I Repair or Replace My Water Heater? Pt. 1

Issues with your water heater are always alarming. It can often be hard for the average homeowner to diagnose the severity of the problem by sight alone, leading many to worry about the cost. Can you resolve this with some quick maintenance, or is that only prolonging the inevitable? Are you replacing prematurely, or is it time?
By identifying the key signs of what’s wrong with your water heater, you can narrow down the next steps you should take.
Check the Age of Your Heater
The first sign that your heater needs to be replaced is age. If your heater is older than eight years, it’s a strong possibility that age-related wear is the cause of your issue. If it’s older than 12, it’s a sure sign that your heater is ready for replacement. If you’re unsure of how old your heater is, just check the serial number. The first digit will be a letter corresponding to a month (G=7, 7=July), and the following two numbers indicate the last two digits of the year (08=2008).
If you’re noticing issues before the replacement date, it might be a sign that you can resolve these problems with maintenance. But if you’re in that 8-12 year window, it’s increasingly likely that repairs won’t have a substantial impact before you run into another issue.
Look for Leaks
If you’re noticing leaks, it could be a sign that the overall structural integrity of your water heater has been compromised. Fractures from repeated use will be small at first and can be almost undetectable. You should inspect the area around the device when it’s running; thermal expansion will cause the crack to open, allowing water to escape. If you’re finding leaks during other periods, it could be a sign that the issue is caused by a malfunctioning component or the pipes attached to the heater.
Check for Sediment Buildup
You might not see leaks around your heater, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. A telltale sign is sediment, or loose dirt and grime, building up at the bottom of the water heater. You’ll eventually see this accumulate into a thick layer, and it means that you’re in the early stages of a possible device failure.
In part 2, we’ll look at some more diagnostic signs that can help guide you on whether it’s time to call a repair professional or to start shopping for a new water heater. If you’d like expert advice on whether to repair or replace your water heater, contact us.


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Should I Pursue a Service Contract for My HVAC Appliances?

Many homeowners are curious but unsure about whether to secure a service contract for their heating and air conditioning units. In this post, we will review what is generally included in service contracts and explore the benefits of purchasing a service contract for your HVAC appliances.
What Is a Service Contract?
A service contract constitutes an agreement between a homeowner and an HVAC company to provide the homeowner, in exchange for a monthly or yearly fee, with access to certain maintenance and diagnostic services at no cost.
Nicole Harms, writing for Angie’s List, provides a helpful overview of service contracts, noting that: “With the most basic contracts, the service includes a checkup and tune-up emphasizing your heating system at the start of the winter and air conditioning system before summer. You can also find contracts that include parts and service for problems found during those checkups, and some will even include emergency service.”
In addition to these periodic services, she continues, service contracts “sometimes also include priority treatment, which can save you time and discomfort when your heater fails in the freezing cold or your air conditioner blows out in the heat of summer The more services the contract includes, the more you will pay.”
Benefits of Investing in a HVAC Service Contract
The most important benefit to investing in an HVAC service contract is the peace of mind it brings. Most homeowners, even those who are DIY-minded, do not have the specialized knowledge and training necessary to perform seasonal HVAC maintenance, and without this maintenance, you are putting your system at risk for any number of malfunctions. Enlisting a professional to keep an eye on your system and address potential issues before they crop up leaves you feeling confident that your system is as well-cared for as possible.
The financial benefit of a service contract is also important to consider. Depending upon the rates of the company you contract with, one repair could easily outpace the cost of a contract for an entire year. As many service contracts cover parts and service, it is easy to see how they are a smart bet when weighed against the cost of just one HVAC repair.
Service contracts do more than ease your mind and save you money in the short-term, though. They are an investment in the long-term health of your HVAC system. If you would like to discuss whether a service contract might be right for you, contact us.


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Best Practices for HVAC Warranties

Previously, we explored how service contracts can be an invaluable investment to protect your HVAC appliances for years to come. Today, we’d like to dive into a related topic: HVAC appliance warranties. It is important that you follow guidelines to ensure that you do not mistakenly violate the terms and void your warranty. In this post, we will review three common actions that consumers must take to maintain their HVAC warranties.
Warranty Must #1: Register Your Product
Believe it or not, many homeowners forget to register their product in the first place. In the whirlwind of installation, it is easy to forget. But forgetting has major consequences: if your product is not registered, you simply do not have access to the terms of the warranty.
If you do not have occasion to exercise the warranty for a few years, you may have a difficult time locating documents which provide a proof of purchase. This could create a real headache for you and the product manufacturer. Do yourself a favor and register your product for its warranty as soon as you have it installed.
Warranty Must #2: Schedule Periodic Maintenance
Many manufacturers require homeowners to have basic maintenance performed on HVAC units a certain number of times per year in order to keep the warranty in good standing. The reason for this is simple: regular system check-ups help your systems run as smoothly as possible and prevent potential issues from cropping up.
Periodic maintenance should be performed by an HVAC professional. One great approach to ensuring your HVAC system receives the maintenance it needs is investing in a service contract.
In addition to scheduling periodic maintenance, it is important to file away evidence to demonstrate that it was completed.
Warranty Must #3: Choose Manufacturer-Specific Replacement Parts
Many HVAC warranties are void if the consumer opts for an off-brand replacement part. This can happen easily–when small HVAC repairs are being made, it may be tempting to purchase a less expensive aftermarket part which may seem to work fine. But if the part is not manufactured by the company issuing the warranty, you are putting your warranty at risk.
Though these three warranty musts go a long way toward protecting your HVAC warranty, they are only general terms that most companies include. It is important to read the fine print of your specific warranty, and to reach out to the manufacturer with any specific questions. If you would like to learn more about the warranties carried by the products we offer, contact us.


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Finding the Right HVAC System for Your Home

Whether you’re installing a new HVAC system into your home or updating an older system, you want to tailor your heating and cooling solution to the layout of your home and the requirements of its residents. Fortunately, HVAC systems offer a variety of options and configurations.
HVAC systems come with a huge range of customizable fixtures and configurations, but can ultimately be broken down into four major categories. Before you select the HVAC unit for you, you should consider the important personal and climate factors around your home.
Important Factors for Selecting an HVAC System
The most important element in choosing your HVAC unit is climate. If you live in a humid area like Florida or Louisiana, you want to make sure that your HVAC unit has a two-stage compressor, a variable-speed air handle, and other dehumidification accessories. If you live in a hotter, dryer climate, you need to focus on robust options for cooling and temperature control. The lowest-cost option on the market will not always give you the performance you need if you live in less mild climates like these.
The next factor in choosing an HVAC unit is the contents of your home, particularly the heat-producing appliances and number of people. People produce small amounts of heat themselves of course, but more people also affect how often kitchen appliances are used and hot showers are run.
Everything from a dishwasher to a child generates heat and impacts energy usage. If you pick a system tailored to your building but not what is in it, you may end up with more heat than you need and a bill that’s higher than it needs to be.
Two Stage Compressor
Two Stage Compressors are the most popular HVAC unit. They are also known as split systems, as their layout is divided between the condenser and compressor in an outdoor unit, and an indoor unit containing the evaporator coil and blower.
These are the cheapest, most efficient system if you have an existing furnace or heating apparatus, as the internal unit can be easily connected to most heating systems.
Hybrid Heating and Cooling System
Hybrid heating and cooling systems combine an electrically powered heat pump with a furnace. These systems essentially pull air from the outside into your home, with the benefit of being particularly energy efficient and ecologically friendly. These systems are also considered to be very comfortable, as the pump delivers a constant stream of warm or cool air, rather than bursts.
However, these systems become inefficient in temperatures below 40 degrees, as they become reliant on the furnace component. These systems are ideal for a warmer or more consistent climate.
Ductless Mini-Split Heat Pump
Ductless mini-split heat pumps, also known as duct-free HVAC systems, are ideal for non-traditional building layouts that can’t support a duct system. They can also be used in conjunction with a traditional HVAC system, addressing spots the HVAC system may not be able to reach.
Ductless mini-split heat pump units are installed directly into the zones of the home they need to heat or cool and are connected to an external pump system which can support up to four units. These systems are compact and lean and use an average of 60% less energy than traditional systems. However, they are limited to smaller spaces or homes with minimal climate control requirements.
Packaged Heating & Air Conditioning System
A packaged system condenses the entire heating and air apparatus to a single unit connecting the exterior and the interior. These are consolidated, space efficient systems that are easily configured and managed. However, packaged systems do have a considerable installation requirement, as they must be affixed to the ductwork of your home through the exterior.
Additional Configurations
Within these categories, there are more than 30 configurations of HVAC systems including furnaces, hydronic heating, central cooling, heat pumps, and other accessories to specifically tailor temperature and climate. With effort and expertise, you can create the perfect system for any home.
We’re here to provide that expertise, and our team of professionals have the experience to evaluate your home and provide the perfect solutions tailored to every factor. Contact us today to find the HVAC system for your home.


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How to Measure the Efficiency of Your HVAC System

An efficient HVAC system is crucial to ensuring the comfort of your home while maintaining energy efficiency. In fact, a report by the Department of Energy has found that HVAC energy efficiency can reduce your overall energy usage by as much as 35%. But maintaining proper energy efficiency can be difficult, as compromising issues can crop up from several different places.
Here are some steps to determine the efficiency of your current HVAC system, identify detrimental factors, and improve overall performance.
HVAC System Efficiency Assessment
Your first step in assessing HVAC energy efficiency is to check the temperatures in every room of your house. You’re looking for even temperature readings across the entire home; if there are any areas where the temperature is significantly warmer or cooler, that would indicate that air is not flowing properly throughout the entire system.
Next, you should check the age of your HVAC unit. HVAC units should be replaced roughly every ten years, and if the unit was already installed when you purchased the home then there’s a chance that it could be very outdated.
Finally, you should check the vents themselves to determine the temperature of air flowing in and out of your system. You can do this accurately by holding a basic thermometer up to each vent for about five minutes. The air exiting your vents should optimally be 14 to 20 degrees cooler than the air going in. If you’re seeing a consistent variance from this temperature, it would indicate that your HVAC system is not operating efficiently.
Improving HVAC System Efficiency Performance
In improving your system’s performance, you want to start simple and monitor your HVAC system as you increase your efforts. The first step is to thoroughly clean your outside unit. Sometimes something as simple as poor sanitation can have a considerable impact on the energy efficiency of your home.
You should make sure that you’re changing out your air filters every three months. If you’re on a regular changing schedule and still seeing energy issues, it might indicate that conditions in your home like pets or excessive dust are causing the filters to wear out early. If this is the case, you should try increasing the changeout rate.
HVAC System Efficiency Troubleshooting
If you’re still seeing issues, your next step is to check your air ducts or schedule a professional inspection. Cracks, holes, and damage in your ducts can greatly compromise the functionality of your HVAC, along with warping from high temperatures. You can repair small holes and cracks with duct tape, but larger issues will require professional assistance. You’ll also want to have your ducts thoroughly cleaned, as dust and debris buildup can hamper performance in addition to causing health and sanitation issues.
If you’re still seeing performance and energy issues after this, it could indicate that your HVAC system is outdated or was not installed properly. At this point, you should reach out to a seasoned professional to evaluate the system, identify the root issue, and determine the most effective solution to improve the energy efficiency of your HVAC system.
At Vaughan, we have the expertise to provide the ideal targeted performance solutions and major overhauls for your HVAC system. For more information, contact us at 856 322 8005.


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Why Doesn’t Setting My AC Lower Cool My House Off Faster??

Temperatures are steadily rising into the 90s these days, and it can be tempting to crank the desired temperature on your AC thermostat lower and lower in hopes of achieving the cool comfort we are all craving. But trust us: it simply won’t work. Read on for the scoop on why your AC has to work harder on hot days, and why plummeting the temperature on your thermostat won’t do anything to cool things off any faster.

Hot Weather Burdens Your Central AC

It should come as no surprise that as temperatures rise, it becomes more difficult for your central AC to effectively cool your home. Very hot air transfers into your indoor environment faster and in more ways than the central AC can compensate for. There are three main avenues for heat to transfer into your home and burden your system: conduction, radiation, and convection.
As the US Department of Energy explains, “Conduction is heat traveling through a solid material. On hot days, heat is conducted into your home through the roof, walls, and windows. Radiation is heat traveling in the form of visible and non-visible light. Sunlight is an obvious source of heat for homes. In addition, low-wavelength, non-visible infrared radiation can carry heat directly from warm objects to cooler objects.”
“Older windows will allow infrared radiation coming from warm objects outside to radiate into your home… Convection is another means for the heat from your walls and ceiling to reach you. Hot air naturally rises, carrying heat away from your walls and causing it to circulate throughout your home.” With all of these avenues for heat to infiltrate your home, your system can quickly be taxed.

Why Cranking the AC Won’t Work

As tempting as it is, setting your thermostat to 69 when your system is already having trouble keeping up will not cool your home faster. The reason is simple: a central AC system is a machine, and like any other, it can only cycle on at set intervals, and can only work so fast. Chances are your thermostat is already set to a desired temperature which falls below the temperature in your home on a very hot day. Give your unit the opportunity to catch up and preserve its lifespan and efficiency by keeping your thermostat set at a more easily attainable temperature on these very hot days of late summer. We suggest setting your thermostat somewhere between 74-79 degrees.


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Home Energy Assessments: What to Expect

Over the last few months, we have seen an uptick in the number of homeowners inquiring about home energy assessments. This is great news, as a home energy assessment is an excellent way to identify ways your home can be more energy efficient. Today, we’d like to walk you through what a home energy assessment is, and what to expect if you decide to schedule one.

Home Energy Assessment Basics

A home energy assessment is an inspection performed by a certified HVAC consultant that will help you determine how well the systems in your home are performing, how energy efficient your home is, and what strategies you can implement to keep your energy bill low.
The duration of a home energy assessment will vary depending upon the provider. Here at Vaughan, our home energy assessments take about an hour and a half, and consist of two important phases. The first phase requires an examination of your entire home in order to evaluate all of your systems. You should be prepared to provide access to the basement, attic, crawl spaces, and all rooms in your home. You can expect your energy consultant to focus on any number of the following during the first phase of their inspection:

  • Air infiltration rates
  • Insulation quality, quantity, and location
  • Hot-water system efficiency
  • Heating system efficiency
  • Cooling system/central air conditioning efficiency
  • Carbon monoxide levels
  • Moisture infiltration

After a thorough inspection of your home and attention to these criteria, your home energy assessor should walk you through all of their findings and work with you to develop a comprehensive plan to address your home energy needs. This portion of the home energy assessment should be accompanied by cost and energy savings estimates to help you gain a full picture of which, if any, home energy investments you may want to consider making. Then, your inspector can help you to plan for these investments and make selections that are appropriate for your home and your budget.

Rebates and State Programs

In addition to helpful estimates, your home energy assessment consultant should also provide in-depth information regarding what rebates or state programs your state offers to offset costs or assist with the financing of energy improvements to your home.
If you are interested in discussing a no-cost home energy assessment, contact us to ask questions or to schedule your assessment today.


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Tips for Purchasing a New Central AC System

If your AC has reached the end of its usable life, generally somewhere between 10-15 years, the task of purchasing a new one can feel daunting. We hope this advice will help you make the best decision for your needs and your budget!

Prioritize HVAC Specialists

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of enlisting a trusted HVAC specialist to help you with the task of choosing a new AC system. Take time to talk with friends and relatives for recommendations, visit resources such as the Better Business Bureau to find trusted local providers, and meet with a few potential companies before selecting an HVAC-certified and licensed contractor to do the job right.

Be Realistic, Not Idealistic

Often, clients assume that the larger the unit, the better it will cool their home. But it just doesn’t work that way. Your contractor will need to carefully measure the rooms in your home in order to determine the right sized unit for your cooling needs, so do not rush to choose the largest unit in hopes that it will be the best path to a cool and comfortable indoor environment.
Another common assumption that we’d like to challenge is that you should choose a unit with the highest SEER rating, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, possible. As you may have guessed, the SEER rating measures how energy efficient a unit is.
While energy efficiency is important, do not be tempted to choose a unit with a SEER rating that is way higher than necessary for the climate and conditions of your area. As Tom Howard writing for Angie’s List explains, “While the federally regulated minimum SEER rating for an air conditioner is 13 or 14 depending on where you live, the ranking goes as high as 25. However, determining the right SEER for your new A/C unit isn’t as straightforward as choosing a specific number. You also have to consider the climate of your home to determine the impact of swapping out your system to one of a different SEER rating.” Talk with your trusted HVAC professional about which SEER rating is best for your home.

Take Advantage of Tax Credits and Rebates

The federal government and many states provide tax credits and rebates for homeowners to offset the cost of replacing HVAC systems. Do your research, and take advantage of programs for which you are eligible. While your HVAC professional may be familiar with such programs, you can also consult this resource from the U.S. Department of Energy.
We hope you have found this post helpful. If you would like more guidance, we are here to provide it.


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NJ LIC. NO.13VH01727600
Robert W. Vaughan,
Master HVACR Contractor Lic. # 5842
Thomas J. Weaver,
Master Plumber Lic # 9521

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VAUGHAN COMFORT SERVICES
212 Barrett Avenue
Magnolia, NJ 08049
856-627-0303
© 2021 Vaughan Comfort Services