Duct Cleaning



Your home’s air ducts directly affect the quality of your indoor air, so it’s good to know exactly how they work—and how you should take care of them.

Duct cleaning generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing.

If not properly installed, maintained, and operated, these components may become contaminated with particles of dust, pollen or other debris.

Even worse, if moisture is present, the potential for microbiological growth (e.g., mold) is increased and spores from such growth may be released into the home’s living space. Some of these contaminants may cause allergic reactions or other symptoms in people if they are exposed to them.

If you decide to have your heating and cooling system cleaned, make sure you hire a qualified service provider agrees to clean all components of the system. Failure to clean even one component can result in the re-contamination of the entire system. Typically, a service provider will use specialized tools to dislodge dirt and other debris in ducts, then vacuum them out with a high-powered vacuum cleaner.

Find Energy Savings in Your Home



Learn the Do’s and Don’ts of Saving Energy

  • Don’t let the furnace or air conditioner salesperson sell you a unit that’s much bigger than you need.
  • Do have the air ducts checked for leakage when installing a new heating and cooling system.
  • Don’t think that “since heat rises, we only need to insulate the attic.” The floors over a basement or crawlspace, walls and windows also matter.
  • Do use ceiling and portable fans to improve comfort in the cooling season. They use very little electricity and efficiently circulate air in the house. To make the house feel cooler by doing this, you can raise the thermostat setting for your air conditioner to 85F, and still maintain the same comfort as the lower setting.

Electricity Consumption – Discover the biggest users of your home’s electricity

Air Conditioning

If your home has central air conditioning, the air conditioner will most likely be the biggest user of your electricity. While it’s used only a few months a year, the annual cost of air conditioning can be much higher than the annual cost of your refrigerator, which is typically the next largest user.

In hot climates, the annual cost of air conditioning can exceed a thousand dollars. To get a rough idea of what your air conditioning costs are, do the following:

  1. Get your electric bill for a summer month when you use air conditioning.
  2. Get your electric bill in a spring month when you aren’t using air conditioning.
  3. Subtract the spring month bill from the summer month bill—this will give you your monthly cost.
  4. Multiply your monthly cost by the number of months you use your air conditioner. The answer will be your approximate annual cost for air conditioning.

Learn the Factors That Influence Your Energy Bills

Many factors can cause differences in energy bills, so comparing your bill to someone else’s is like comparing apples to oranges.

For example, the ages of your major appliances—especially refrigerators and air conditioners—can make a dramatic difference in your bill.

In addition, if your house leaks air like a sieve while your neighbor’s house was just weatherized and insulated, you will have much higher heating and cooling bills.

Other factors that can result in significant differences in bills are the number and kinds of lighting fixtures, thermostat settings for heating and cooling, the number of loads of laundry, old refrigerators out in the garage, and hobbies which result in electricity use.

Have an older home? Find out whether you should insulate or replace your furnace

Here’s how to decide whether you should insulate or replace your furnace. First, take a look at the situation in your house. Factors that will influence your decision are the age and efficiency of your furnace, and the amount of insulation currently present in the house.

Insulation is More Cost-Effective

In general, it is more cost-effective to upgrade insulation than it is to upgrade your furnace.

Older Furnaces are Worth Replacing

However, if your furnace is old and you are planning on replacing it, you might want to upgrade the furnace.

The average lifetime for a furnace is between 15 and 20 years. The efficiency of furnaces has increased over the years, so the older a furnace is, the more likely it will be inefficient.

The average efficiency of new furnaces has increased from 63% in 1972 to 98% in 2012.

Older furnaces, and furnaces which are used a lot are more cost-effective to replace than newer or infrequently used furnaces.

Insulating and Replacing the Furnace is Also Smart

Also, if you insulate your house at the time of furnace replacement, you might be able to buy a smaller capacity furnace and save money on the price. The same holds true for A/C and other heating and cooling equipment.

Do You Need Duct Cleaning?



 

Every home is different, so it is typically hard to generalize whether a home needs duct cleaning or not. However, there are ways to determine if duct cleaning would be beneficial for you and your family.

You May Not Need Duct Cleaning if:

  • No one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses
  • After a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth)

It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.

You May Need Duct Cleaning if:

  • Family members experience unusual or unexplained symptoms or illnesses that you think might be related to your home environment; you should discuss the situation with your doctor.
  • There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system.

Here are important points to understand about mold detection in heating and cooling systems:

  • Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
  • Although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that resembles it.
  • If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy, it can’t be effectively cleaned. Remove and replace it.
  • If the conditions causing the mold are not corrected, it will recur.
  • Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects)
  • Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

Note: EPA has published Indoor Air Quality: An Introduction for Health Professionals that can be obtained free of charge by contacting IAQ INFO at the number listed in this guide. You may obtain another free EPA booklet from IAQ INFO entitled The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality for guidance on identifying possible indoor air quality problems and ways to prevent or fix them.

We Offer Professional Duct Cleaning

If you think duct cleaning might be a good idea for your home, but you are not sure, talk to a Gilmore professional. We’ll help make sure you get the thorough service that you need.

Important News for Homeowners with Furnaces Manufactured Before 2001



 

More than 49 brands of furnaces produced prior to 2001 may possess potentially defective parts. Thousands of these furnaces may still be in homes today. Should these furnaces components fail, they present some possible risk to homeowners.

Potentially defective furnace parts were distributed to the public.

Consolidated Industries, one of the largest manufactures of HVAC equipment, built these furnace components. They supplied these components to leading HVAC companies in the industry who used them to manufacture residential furnaces.

Multiple reports of problems have surfaced.

In California, the furnaces contain NOx rods that could cause the burners to overheat and ignite a fire. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received 50 reports of fires associated with 140,000 furnaces.

Later, these furnaces were found to have potentially defective burners, heat exchangers, and/or expansion joints. Should one of these critical parts fail, they pose a serious risk of fire and/or carbon monoxide.

Legal action has been taken against Consolidated Industries.

In 2002, due to the defective NOx rods, Consolidated Industries settled a class action lawsuit with California homeowners: Salah v. Consolidated Industries, Inc., Santa Clara County Superior Court, for the State of California, Case No. CV738376.

In 2009, due to the defective burners, heat exchangers, and/or expansion joints, Consolidated Industries bankruptcy estate settled a nationwide private class action lawsuite: Stefanyshyn v. Consolidated Industries, Inc., Tippecanoe County Superior Court, for the State of Indiana, Case No. 79D 01-9712-CT-59.

Get your furnace evaluated now to prevent potential hazards.

We want you to stay safe in your home. So make sure you contact a Gilmore professional to get your furnace inspected as soon as possible. We can easily identify Consolidated Industries furnaces and parts, and recommend a solution that will work more safely and efficiently for you.

Furnace Care



As summer turns to fall, inevitably the day comes where it’s time to switch your thermostat from ‘cool’ to ‘heat,’ and bring your furnace to life. But how well your furnace performs depends on how well it’s maintained, because even a new furnace loses efficiency after just one year.

The combustion chamber is a common source of lost efficiency.

Lost efficiency begins in the combustion chamber. Soot buildup can corrode chamber walls; cleaning it out boosts performance. Before replacing the cover, it’s important to inspect for holes and corrosion.

Damage to the heat exchanger can affect performance and safety.

The heat exchanger should be carefully inspected by a professional, because a cracked exchanger can potentially increase carbon monoxide levels, which can pose a danger to a home’s occupants. That’s why testing combustion ensures not just performance, but safety as well. Gases are measured in the exhaust flue, checking for proper fuel and air balance.

Burners and ignitors should be checked carefully.

The burner may need adjustment. The burner flame’s color and shape at the ignitor are the best indication of complete and stable combustion.

In gas furnaces, ignitor tubes are typically vacuumed clean as part of an annual checkup. Your system’s exhaust flue pipe also needs careful inspection for holes that could allow carbon monoxide leaks. While smaller holes can be patched, a corroded flue pipe should be replaced.

Finally, there are some steps homeowners can take to help their systems breathe easier.

Check and replace air filters regularly. Be sure to use the right size. Pleated ones work best. You should also annually remove and clean registers, and vacuum floor ducts. Lost efficiency means increased energy bills. That’s why annual maintenance helps keep your home warm and your system efficient.

Freon (R-22) Ban and How It Affects Your Air Conditioner



Until a few years ago, many air conditioners sold in the United States used the refrigerant chlorodifluoromethane, usually referred to “R-22.” R-22 is one of a number of gases marketed under the brand name Freon, and has been commonly used as a coolant in air conditioners, heat pumps, and other appliances.

R-22 is an extremely effective coolant, which made it popular among HVAC manufacturers for many years. However, it was discovered that its causes damage to the ozone layer, and that it is also a powerful greenhouse gas. This is why, in 1987, the United States agreed to an international accord that would call for the reduction of HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon) production, beginning in 2004. R-22 is one of the products affected by this agreement.

 

Obtaining R-22 for air conditioner servicing is extremely costly, and will soon become impossible.

Enforced reduction of the use of R-22 began in 2004, and in 2010 its use was banned in new HVAC systems. However, R-22 has continued to be produced since then in order to service existing air conditioners. Soon, this will no longer be the case.

In 2015, the next step in the R-22 phaseout plan was triggered, further reducing the permitted production and import of R-22. As a consequence, prices have quadrupled. This will only get worse, as the EPA’s final phasedown schedule for R-22 indicates that production and import of the coolant will be completely banned as of 2020.

For homeowners whose air conditioners and heat pumps use R-22, this raises the question, “What are my choices?” These options can be broken down as follows:

Hold off on HVAC replacement or upgrade for a few years.

You can simply wait for a few years. However, if your cooling system requires replacement of its R-22 supply in the meantime, it may cost you dearly. We currently charge more than $600 to fully recharge an air conditioner with R-22 (plus the cost of removing contaminants from the system), and full expect this cost to rise in the future. In a few years, it may cost thousands of dollars.

Upgrade your system to use a modern coolant.

The EPA has approved several new coolants, the most popular of which is R-410A, commonly marked under the brand name Puron. However, you can’t just pour R-410A into a cooling system that uses R-22. Some of the system’s parts will have to be replaced. In addition, while your system can be adapted to work with R-410A, you likely won’t see the same level of performance as before, resulting in higher energy bills.

Replace your HVAC system with a new EPA-friendly system.

The most advisable option is to simply replace your existing air conditioner or heat pump with a new system that is designed to use R-410A, or other permitted coolants. While this is the most costly option in the short term, the simple fact is that the other two options may well cost you more in the long run, and then you’ll have to replace your system anyways!

This is why Gilmore strongly advises that you replace your air conditioner or heat pump now. Replacing your system eliminates the risk of having to pay a fortune for R-22 replacement in a few years, or paying higher energy bills for the next several years due to reduced performance.

It really is the best time to replace your HVAC system, and as a bonus, you will immediately begin to enjoy savings on your energy bill! If you’d like to learn more about how replacing your air conditioner or heat pump can save you money, call the experts at Gilmore Heating & Air!

Save $250 Off of a New Air Conditioner!

Avoid future price hikes for replacing the R-22 in your old air conditioner by upgrading your system today! Click on the image below for an easy-to-print coupon entitling you to $250 off of a new A/C system from Gilmore Heating & Air, or click on this link for a PDF with a summary of the above information, and a copy of our coupon. But don’t wait too long, this offer expires at the end of 2016!

 

California Cities Have Chromium 6 Levels Above The State-Mandated Maximum



More than 20 years ago, a legal clerk by the name of Erin Brockovich was organizing medical records for a pro bono real estate case her employer was handling, when she started wondering why the medical records were there in the first place. Three years later, her curiosity culminated in a $333 million settlement with PG&E, to compensate the residents of Hinkley, California for exposing them to a toxic chemical: hexavalent chromium, better known as chromium 6.

Chromium 6 exposure in drinking water is known to cause cancer.

Chromium 6 is present in the environment both through natural process and artificial manufacturing. It is currently used in a number of industrial processes, such as the manufacture and finishing of stainless steel and chrome plating, and is also used as an anticorrosion agent in cooling towers (which was the source of the Hinkley contamination in the 1980s).

Chromium 6 is a carcinogen, which means that it causes cancer. Most incidental exposures of chromium 6 involve drinking water contaminated with the chemical. This form of exposure results in cancers of the mouth and intestine.  However, chromium 6 can also be inhaled, which can result in respiratory cancers, such as lung cancer. Despite these health effects, there is no federal legal limit for exposure to chromium 6, and California is the only state in the country with such a limitation.

While the story of Hinkley is now several decades old, chromium 6 exposure—recognized by the state of California to cause reproductive harm as well as cancer—is still a cause of concern.

A national study found that two local Central California cities have drinking water with chromium 6 levels above the legal limit.

In September of 2016, KQED reported that an analysis of more than 60,000 sources of tap water across the country showed that two Central California towns, Davis and Woodland, have levels of chromium in their drinking water that exceed the state limit of 10 parts per billion.

The state limit of 10 parts per billion is believed to result in an exposure level that will cause cancer in 500 out of every 1 million people who drink contaminated water every day over a period of 70 years. The tests showed that drinking water sampled at the University of California, Davis, had chromium 6 levels of 16.25 parts per billion, while Woodland had slightly higher levels, 16.79. These levels are more than 60% higher than the state mandated exposure level.

In addition, the study—conducted by watchdog organization Environmental Working Group—showed that two-thirds of American consumers have drinking water with contamination levels exceeding what state experts believe is the safe level of exposure.

While the projected health risks of chromium 6 exposure may seem minor or remote, the true health consequences of chromium 6 are unclear, especially in children, the elderly, and others who are particularly sensitive to environmental hazards.

So how can you protect your family from chromium 6 exposure?

A water filtration system can filter out harmful chromium 6, as well as other unwanted contaminants.

Don’t waste money and clutter up the environment by buying case after case of bottled water, or put your trust in cheap, consumer grade kitchen faucet filters. Besides, at best these measures only protect you from the water you drink—not the water you bathe in, brush your teeth with, or wash your clothes in.

A professional grade home water filtration system installed by the experts at Gilmore can protect your family from all in-home chromium 6 exposure. In addition, you will be protected from other potential contaminants, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and unknown hazardous chemicals.

We have decades of experience in choosing the right filtration system for the job, and properly installing it so that your system operates at peak performance. We believe that your family deserves to feel safe, especially in your own home, and we will do everything we can to provide you with the safe, healthy water that you deserve.

Why is My Heat Pump Blowing Cold Air?



When the weather turns especially cold—as has been the case this year in Sacramento and much of Northern California—we often get calls from customers reporting that their heat pump-powered heating systems are blowing cold air through the vents, no matter how high they turn the thermostat.

This is a common complaint, and in order to explain what’s going on, first we have to backtrack and explain what a heat pump is.

How a Heat Pump Works

Classic furnaces work by generating heat—usually by burning natural gas or powering an electric heating element—and then using that heat to warm air that is blown through a heat exchanger.

Heat pumps are a different beast altogether. Heating up air uses a lot of energy and is financially costly. Heat pumps don’t have this problem because they don’t use an energy source to produce heat. Instead, they’re essentially two-way air conditioners, capable of removing heat from a home and emitting it outdoors, or vice versa. This versatility is what has made them increasingly popular: they’re relatively simple, and eliminate the need to install separate heating and cooling systems.

Whereas traditional heaters rely on heat generation, heat pumps work by transferring heat. Their operation relies on a key truth about heat: It wants to be evenly distributed, and will move from areas of high warmth to areas of low warmth. This is why your home warms up in the summertime, while the winter weather seems to suck the heat right out of your home.

Heat pumps take this process and crank it into overdrive, extracting heat from cool and even cold air. Most homes use air-source heat pumps, which run outside air through a series of coils that extract heat energy. This energy is transferred to internal air that is passed through the heat pump and then blown back into the home. Meanwhile, the outside air is redirected back into the outside environment as a blast of icy cold air.

The neat trick with heat pumps is that in summer, this process is easily reversed, allowing the same mechanism to instead transfer heat out of your home, cooling it in the process.

Why a Heat Pump Will Blow Cold Air

Here’s the downside of a heat pump: The warmth of the air it produces is entirely dependent upon the outside temperature. Generally speaking, a heat pump will produce air that is about 55 degrees warmer than the outside air. This isn’t a problem when it’s 55 degrees outside—your system will expel air that’s a toasty warm 110 degrees or so.

But when the winter weather drops to 40 degrees, that means your system will blow air that is about 95 degrees. If it drops to 30 outside, your system will blow 85 degree air, which is much cooler than your skin temperature. As a result, the air will actually feel cool against your skin.

However, this air is almost certainly warmer than the desired temperature of your home (unless you like living in a sauna), and thus will successfully maintain that temperature. You just won’t be able to warm your feet on a toasty warm vent like you would in a home heated with a traditional furnace.

Heat Pump Problems

It is important to note that occasionally, heat pumps will go through a defrost cycle, during which the unit will blow air that is truly cold. But this will only go on for a couple minutes, and won’t affect the overall temperature of your home.

However, if your heat pump blows cold air for more than a couple minutes every hour or so, then your system isn’t working properly. Check to make sure that the air intake isn’t blocked, the ductwork is properly connected, and the filter is clear. If there are no obvious issues, then it’s probably time to give your local heating and air company a call.

Common issues that require professional intervention include:

  • Low refrigerant
  • Internal debris buildup
  • Valve failure
  • Stuck in air conditioning mode
  • Compressor not operating
  • Failure of the deicing unit

If your heat pump isn’t working properly or has failed altogether, give Gilmore a call. We’ll fix it right the first time, so you can rest easy knowing that you and your family will be living in comfort again in no time!

You Shouldn’t Be Heating Your Home With a Space Heater



Space heaters are a handy way of staying warm in areas where it isn’t possible to take advantage of central heating. However, many households try to use space heaters in their homes as an alternative to central heating. Their reasons for doing so may include:

  • Furnace isn’t working or is working poorly.
  • Trying to minimize gas bill.
  • Heating rooms that aren’t connected to central heating.
  • Home uses old-style wall furnace, and far-away rooms have to be warmed with a space heater.

Regardless of the motivation, space heaters simply aren’t a long-term solution for home heating needs.

Space heaters are extremely dangerous. The National Fire Protection Association estimates that between 2009 and 2013, heating equipment caused more than 56,000 home fires in the United States. Space heaters were the cause of 40% of these fires, and caused 5 out of 6 (84%) of the deaths resulting from all house fires caused by heating equipment.

Part of the problem is that we have become overly comfortable with space heaters. We see them in the workplace, at store checkout counters that are close to an open door, in cabins and tents, and so on. As a result, we place space heaters without much regard for what’s around them.

As a consequence, the leading factor in fatal home fires is too little space between heating equipment and flammable materials, such as mattresses, bedding, clothing, and furniture. Many of these accidents may have been the result of children or pets knocking over heaters or setting down flammable items nearby.

It’s very difficult to make a space heater “safe.” They’re easily tampered with by children, their size makes them difficult to secure, and they usually have scalding hot surfaces, or white-hot elements just inches behind a guard.

We can help. Call Gilmore for a home central heating solution, and get rid of your space heater.

49% of all home heating fires occur in December, January, and February. NOW is the time to do something about your unsafe space heater. We can install a central heating system in your home faster than anyone else, and we’ll do it right the first time.

Call Gilmore, and find out what makes us the best heating and air company around.

How Big of a Furnace Do I Need For My Home?



 

Part of the challenge of finding the right furnace for your home is that you need to find the right size furnace. A furnace that is too small will have to run more often, running up your heating bill and placing unnecessary wear on furnace parts. A furnace that is too large will cycle on and off more frequently, and will also prematurely wear out furnace parts.

So, choosing a furnace that is appropriately sized for your home is extremely important.

The most important considerations when sizing a furnace is the size of your home, and the weather in your area.

The heat output of furnaces, especially gas furnaces, is typically measured in BTUs (British thermal units). A good rule of thumb for home heating is that you need 25 to 35 BTUs per square foot in the moderate climates that are typical throughout much of California, while you may need up to 45 BTUs per square foot in colder climates, such as those found north of Lake Tahoe.

So if you live in Sacramento in a home that is 1,600 square feet, you will need (at bare minimum) a heater that provides 40,000 BTUs of heat, based on the calculation below.

25 BTU per square foot x 1,600 square feet = 40,000 BTU

However, there are a number of other factors that affect furnace sizing, such as:

  • Orientation of your home: Does your home receive a lot of daylight in the winter, or is it in shadow?
  • Layout of your home: Does your home have a few large rooms, or many small ones? How high are the ceilings?
  • Windows and doors: How many windows and doors does your home have? Windows tend to allow more heat to escape than walls do, and doors that aren’t properly sealed will allow cool air to leak inside.
  • Insulation: Older homes often have poor insulation, which means that a furnace will have to work harder to compensate for the amount of heat radiating outside.
  • Furnace efficiency: Furnaces aren’t just rated by BTU output, but by their efficiency as well. This efficiency rating—sometimes referred to as AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency)—is given as a percentage, and estimates how much of the heat generated by the furnace will actually be delivered into your home. A new 40,000 BTU furnace with an efficiency rating of 97% will produce roughly 38,800 BTUs of heat per hour, while an older 55,000 BTU furnace with an efficiency of 70% will produce 38,500 BTUs per hour.

As you can see, while it’s possible to make a rough estimate based on only weather and the size of your home, there are many other variables should be considered as well. That’s why it’s advisable to have a professional furnace installer take a look.

If you have questions about what furnace is right for your home, call the furnace experts at Gilmore. We’ll come out to your home, examine it and your existing heating system, and then sit down with you, answer your questions, and explain what the right heating solution is for your home. At Gilmore, our goal isn’t just to keep your home warm, but to give you peace of mind as well. So when in doubt, call Gilmore!