10 Fall Pro-Tips to Prepare Your Home for Winter in Denver, Colorado

10 Fall Pro-Tips To Prepare Your Home for Winter

Fall is a great time of year. The hot days of summer are winding down and the leaves are beginning to fall. Fall brings some of our favorite holidays but it is also the time to begin thinking about ensuring that our homes are ready for colder temperatures. Here are some top tips that will keep your home cozy when the winter winds start to blow.

1. Clean the gutters: This is important all year and particularly in the fall because of falling leaves which can clog drains and downspouts. Rain or melting snow, depending on where you live, can cause the leaves to clump together. When the gutters cannot drain the water has to go somewhere. Eventually it will end up running down the side of your home. This can cause the ground around the foundation to erode and moisture can seep inside. One solution many people are choosing to eliminate the need to clean gutters several times a year is the installation of leaf guards. They are made of a plastic mesh and they simply snap into the gutters to keep leaves from piling up and causing problems.

2. Have your HVAC system checked: Your heating and air conditioning system should be checked twice a year in the spring and fall. Preventative maintenance can save you expensive repair costs later. Filters should be changed on a regular basis. When they are dirty and dusty your system works harder to maintain the set temperature. Making certain that there are no leaks or loose joints around the ducts is essential to keep the warm air from escaping. A programmable thermostat can help as well. The temperature can be set a few degrees cooler when no one is home and programmed to come on and raise the temperature so it is warm and cozy when everyone gets home. This can result in a savings on your energy costs.

3. Turn the Water Heater Down: Most water heaters are set at 140 degrees when installed. Water heaters account for about 18% of your energy costs and setting them to 120 degrees can result in a big savings. It won't have to work as hard to maintain 120 degrees compared to 140 degrees which means it will last longer before it needs replaced. This can also help to reduce the risk of accidental burns for young children and the elderly.

4. Reverse the Direction of your Ceiling Fans: Most ceiling fans have a switch to reverse the direction of the blades. Instead of blowing down or counterclockwise set them to run on low clockwise during the winter. This will pull the cool air up and push the warm air that rises to the ceiling down to keep the room warm. This can help to reduce your heating costs as well.

5. Curtains and Blinds can Insulate: If you use heavy curtains or drapes that are insulated they can offer the added protection of stopping heat loss. The will reduce drafts that are often noticed around windows in the winter. Blinds can help as well. Both can be opened during the day to let sunlight in which helps to warm rooms. Lower them at dusk and the room will be warmer and it will help to save on heating costs.

6. Insulate Pipes: This is one of the most important things you can do to keep from paying thousands for repairs. There are various ways to do this including foam that is made especially for pipes. Insulating tape is another method. Don't forget inside pipes that are not in heated areas of the home such as the garage or a crawl space. Frozen pipes can burst and flood your home causing a lot of damage and costing a lot of money.

7. Drain Outdoor Hoses and Water Lines: Frozen garden hoses can cause an interior pipe to burst. The water that freezes in the hose will expand and this increases the pressure on the entire plumbing system. They need to be drained and disconnected. The faucets they are attached to should be drained as well. Faucet insulators can be installed to help protect them. Don't forget sprinkler lines. They should be blown out to prevent bursting and the need to replace them when summer arrives.

8. Check for Drafts: Under doors and around windows are the number one places you will feel cold air seep in when the weather turns chilly. In addition to making you feel cold, they can add to your heating costs. Caulking and weatherstripping can be used for cracks around windows and door frames to stop the cold air. Placing a rolled up towel in front of your door is one solution if you feel cold air coming from underneath. Since the door is used quite a bit, just tuck it firmly into place when you are in for the night.

9. Sweaters for Winter: A heavy sweater can actually make you feel 4 degrees warmer. Even a light sweater with long sleeves will result in added warmth of 2 degrees. Put on your sweater, turn the thermostat down a couple of degrees and you will still be cozy. A couple of throws on the sofa to snuggle under while watching television can help and save money on heating costs as well.

10. Heating System Upgrade: If your heating system is 10 years old or older you could be spending a lot more than you realize on heating. An old furnace can cost 50% more to keep your home warm than a new more energy-efficiency model. It will at least save you from 15% to 20% which is quite a bit when you consider how high heating costs can be in the winter. Additionally you reduce the risk of it breaking down in the middle of winter. If this happens your home is going to be at risk from the cold temperatures and since this is a busy time of year for repairmen you may have trouble finding someone to install a new one.

How to Easily Identify AC Refrigerant Leaks

An air conditioner refrigerant leak is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a system that is supposed to keep your house cool. Refrigerant is not consumed when you are running it during hot summer months. Instead, the refrigerant gets cycled back and forth as it removes heat from your house. The initial charge when the AC system is installed should last throughout the lifespan of the unit.

However, there are instances when a leak occurs, depriving the system of the vital fluid it needs to operate efficiently. When this occurs, a number of problems can accumulate and eventually causes your air conditioner to break down. Before you and your family get into a hot situation, let’s look at ways to identify refrigerant leaks.

Drops in Refrigerant Output

Your air conditioner cannot remove heat from your house when the refrigerant level is too low. Most leaks start small, so the rate of losing refrigerant from the system is slow. Over time, the output of your air conditioner begins a slow but steady, decline. If you notice a difference in the unit’s performance in keeping your house cool, you might have a leak.

Strange Noises Coming from Air Conditioner

Listen for any strange noises in the unit. This is one of the best ways to determine whether your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant or on the brink of breaking down. Air bubbles can form in the refrigerant line as coolant leaves your air conditioner unit. Some noises make a hissing sound; others sound like bubbling noises whenever the unit is running.

Identify Dirty Spots on Refrigerant Line

It is not unusual for refrigerant to attract dirt, so leaks in the line may appear dirty or oily. Examine the line to detect whether there is a leak. If there appears to be a problem, call a professional to thoroughly inspect the refrigerant line.

Apply the Bubble Method

One of the oldest ways to detect a leak is by using the bubble method. To do this, apply a soap solution to areas where you suspect a leak has occurred with a brush squeeze bottle or dauber. Typically, any escaping refrigerant produces bubbles at the leak points. The only way this method proves ineffective is if it is windy outdoors or a leak is very small.

Use a Corona-Suppression or Heated Diode Detector

Two basic types of electronic detectors can be used to identify AC refrigerant leaks.

The first is the corona-suppression detector. This technology is used to measure varying conductivity of how gases pass between two electrodes. An instrument is used to create a high-voltage spark from one point of the sensor to another point. This is done to establish a baseline between both points.

If there is a drop in the current between these two points, an insulating gas is present a higher concentration is identified when there is a tremendous current drop.

The other electronic method is using heated diode technology. This method involves using a ceramic element to heat the refrigerant to break up molecules. When this occurs, chlorine or fluorine ions are left positively charged, which attracts center collection wire that is negatively charged.

The ions flow to the center collection wire to create a small current. As refrigerant increases, so does the current level to set off an alarm. Generally, this method provides a more accurate detection than the corona-suppression method.

Add Fluorescent Dye to Refrigeration System

The fluorescent leak detection requires the addition of a fluorescent dye into the refrigeration system. This is done for the dye to mix with the lubricant to circulate throughout the air conditioner. If there is a leak, dye will come out with a bright yellow-green color to help you pinpoint where the leak is located. Typically, this also requires scanning the system with a blue light or UV lamp.

Generally, this method may require a contractor who will use an OEM-approved dye compatible with your system’s lubricant. Dyes that contain co-solvents should be avoided. These can have a negative effect on the lubrication makeup of the system’s oil. Destroying these qualities may cause the compressor to fail prematurely.

A blue light or UV lamp that has a high-intensity output is preferred when using the fluorescent leak detection method. Greater light intensity produces a brighter dye glow so you can easily find any leaks.

This detection method also works well as a preventive maintenance technique. Periodic checks of the system is best so small leaks are identified before losing substantial amounts of refrigerant from a larger leak.

Repairing the AC Refrigerant Leak

Repairing a refrigerant leak in your AC unit usually requires hiring a skilled technician. For the DIYers, repairing a refrigerant leak in the air conditioner unit can be inexpensive if all that’s needed is to tighten a fitting or replace a valve core. At the same time, it can be very pricey if it repairs involve replacing the evaporator coil or copper line set.

Whether you try to repair the leak or hire a technician, there are some common sites to watch for leakage. These include:

  • Copper tubing
  • Shipping valves
  • Filter canisters
  • Weld joints
  • Valve cores

As mentioned previously, technicians may use an electronic sniffer to identify AC refrigerant leaks. Bigger leaks typically require using soap bubbles or the black light method.

The black light method requires installing a liquid tracer into the system and let it circulate for a couple of weeks. During this period, the tracer will ooze out slowly from places where there is a leak.

It is common knowledge that refrigerants are very expensive. Time and effort spent to locate leaks, plus repairing AC equipment makes it imperative for preventive maintenance of systems. The best way to begin repairing to select a method that can quickly pinpoint leaks. This will not only keep loss of refrigerant at a minimum, but it will also help you avoid headaches and scorching heat.

5 Common Causes of Air Conditioning Repairs in Denver 2016

5 Most Common Air Conditioning Problems For Denver Homeowners

The summer time is no time for a home's air conditioning unit to stop working. It may happen and when it does, it will be important for a certified air conditioning technician to identify the problem and fix it. An air conditioning system can be complicated. A number of different things can go wrong with it. There are at least five common problems that may cause a person's air conditioning system to fail and require repairing

Refrigerant Leak Problems

When an air conditioning unit is low on refrigerant, there could be two main reasons for it. The unit may have been undercharged with refrigerant when it was installed. The other option is that the air conditioning unit leaks. A few years ago, a study was done to determine the true cause of refrigerant leaks in air conditioning units. It showed that leaks often occur in units up to 7 years old. The leaks often occur in the unit's copper tubing wall. The study determined that some newer air conditioning units were able to be more energy efficient. This was often achieved by using thinner copper in the evaporator coils. Heat will move quicker through thinner copper. This type of efficiency in the tubing can also be a cause of leaks. It is also common to find low levels of formaldehyde as a pollutant in most homes. This formaldehyde can change into something on the a/c coil known as Formic acid. This is very mild, but during a period of several years, it could create pinholes in an air conditioning unit's copper tubing. This is known as formicary corrosion

Electrical Problems

Some of the most common air conditioning problems involve the unit's electronics. It's possible for an air conditioning unit to have a failing capacitor. This is a small cylindrical electronic component. It sends electricity to the unit's motors so they can run. A capacitor will begin to show signs of wear when too much voltage is affecting the unit. The capacitors will need to be replaced. This is evident by a clicking sound coming from the unit's cabinet. Circuit breakers frequently tripping is another problem. If home's circuit breakers trip when an air conditioning unit turns on, the system needs too much power. There could be a problem with the wiring within the unit's motors. Relays are components that transmit power to a unit's motors. When a relay is stuck in the open position, there is a problem. This could keep the motor from turning on. If the relay is stuck in the shut position, the motor will not turn off.

Sensor Problems

Homes with room air conditioners have a thermostat sensor. This is usually located behind the unit's control panel. It will measure the temperature of air coming into the unit's evaporator coils. As air goes past the unit's sensor, its temperature is identified. The sensor then contrasts this to the thermostat's desired temperature. If the temperature needs to be warmer or cooler, the sensor will activate the unit's compressor. This will make it cool until a home's temperature matches the temperature set on the unit's thermostat. Should the unit's sensor get out of position, the unit could constantly cycle. In other cases, it will begin to operate erratically. The sensor needs to be located near the coils but not touching them. When the sensor touches the coils, an air conditioning unit can begin to act erratically. This can be corrected by eliminating any unusual angles of a sensor toward or away from the unit's coils. If this is done, and the unit still does not work correctly, there may be other problems with the air conditioning unit. A trained technician will be able to further evaluate the unit and recommend any necessary repairs.

Inadequate Maintenance Problems

When the filters and coils in an air conditioning unit become dirty, the air conditioner will not operate properly. It is important for an air conditioning unit to have a clean filter installed every month. Some filter types can be cleaned, and others must be replaced. When filters are not regularly changed, the efficiency of an air conditioning unit is significantly compromised. This is especially important during the months a unit is used the most. It is essential to know the filter's minimum efficiency reporting value and only to use filters specifically designed for the unit. When this isn't done, it can permit dirt to be carried directly into the unit's evaporator coils and decrease its ability to absorb heat. As an air conditioner is utilized, it's evaporator coil and condenser coil will collect dirt. Even with regular changing of the air filter, these coils will retain dirt. Outdoor condenser coils will have significant levels of dirt from being in an outside environment. This is especially true if there are trees and plants nearby. An air conditioning unit's coils need to be checked and cleaned at least once a year or more depending on the unit's location.

Turning Off Problems

If an air conditioning unit goes off and on without warning, it could be the result of air flow within the unit being restricted. In some cases, a dirty air filter is the problem. In some units, this is a result of too much moisture being captured. This can cause the unit's water tank to fill up. There is often a light on the unit that indicates when its water tank is filled. A unit repeatedly turning off can happen on days that are extremely hot. The high temperatures can cause a problem with the air moving through the unit. In some cases, the problem could be a thermostat too close to windows or air vents. A thermostat in the wrong location can cause a unit to react to the wrong inside temperature. In some cases, a broken thermostat may be at fault.

If this is a constant problem after an air condition unit is installed, the system may be too large for the structure where it was installed. When this is done, it will decrease the amount of time to cool off an indoor environment but will increase energy bills, cause uneven cooling and other problems.