Air Mechanical, Inc. Blog : Archive for December, 2011

Happy New Year’s Eve from Your Metro Minneapolis Heating and Cooling Contractor!

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Happy New Years! We hope you have a great time tonight welcoming in the New Year and saying goodbye to the old. Forty-five percent of people make New Year’s resolutions; ours is to serve our customers even better than we did last year! If one of your resolutions is to make your home more green, remember that improving your insulation, sealing up any air leaks, and upgrading your HVAC system can have a big impact on your energy usage. A makeover for your house is great way to start off the year; it will make your home more comfortable and more environmentally friendly!

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Heating Tip: How to Replace a Thermostat

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

There are a lot of common household tasks that Eden Prairie do-it-yourselfers can handle beyond changing light bulbs or replacing a fuse. One of those is changing out a thermostat. The reasons for replacing a thermostat can vary from making an upgrade to changing out a thermostat that is not working right – or at all. Whatever the reason, the task is pretty simple and require s very little time and very few tools.

Let’s set the stage.

The materials you will need are the replacement thermostat, wire connectors, electrical tape (optional), needle nose pliers, and a screwdriver.

Here are the steps:

  1. Turn off electrical power to the existing thermostat. You can do this by flipping a breaker switch or removing a fuse from your home’s electrical panel. This would be a good time to make a note of the circuit’s location, writing the circuit number on the panel door or using a sticker.
  2. Remove the cover from the existing unit. You should be able to locate the screws that hold it to the wall mounting plate. Remove the screws and pull the unit away from the wall and mounting plate. Be careful not to touch the electrical wires together on the thermostat.
  3. Disconnect the wiring. Carefully remove the electrical wiring from the unit and keep the wires apart. You might want to tape the bare ends and also ensure that the wires don’t fall back through the wall. If the wires are not color coded, mark each one and which terminal they were removed from. Remove the mounting plate.
  4. If you are using a new mounting plate, make sure it fits over the existing hole and then pull the wires through the opening of the plate. Make sure the mounting plate is secured to the wall with the proper screws.
  5. Now match the wires to the terminals on the new thermostat. The wires are usually color-coded but if not, make sure you attach the right wires to the corresponding numbered terminals on the next thermostat. A green wire, which operates the furnace fan blower, is connected to the “G” terminal. The white wire operates the heater and attaches to the “W” terminal. The yellow wire operates the air conditioner and connects to the “Y” terminal. Use a wire nut to secure the wires and keep them apart from other wires. Ignore any other wires coming out of the wall as they are not necessary and may have been added by the original builder for other purposes.
  6. Carefully move the wires back into the wall as you line up the new thermostat on the mounting bracket. Install the new bracket and secure the thermostat to the bracket.
  7. Turn your power back on and check your thermostat by setting the temperature high or low, to engage the furnace or air conditioner.

This simple procedure can be done in less than 10 minutes. But if you have any doubts and want greater peace of mind, call a professional heating and cooling contractor to perform the installation.

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Signs that You Have Hard Water in Apple Valley

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Hard water is fairly common, especially in certain regions of the country. It is called hard water because of the minerals in it, such as calcium, iron and lime. Depending on how “hard” the water is, it’s usually perfectly healthy, but can cause some other problems throughout your Apple Valley home.

Hard water can negatively affect the durability of household appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, as well as pipes and fixtures throughout the home. How do you know if you have hard water? Here are some common signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for:

  1. A white, scaly, filmy residue left behind on plumbing fixtures. In particular, you may notice these on showerheads, on stainless fixtures like the basin of your kitchen sink, on your silverware or in the coffee pot.
  2. Clothes that are not getting as clean as they should in the laundry. This is because hard water is less effective at washing away dirt. Likewise, you may notice soap scum residue in your tub or shower.
  3. Little or no lather from shampoo or soap while showering.
  4. A reddish tinge to hair over time. This is due to iron in the water that can temporarily change hair color in the shower.
  5. Water takes a long time to heat, or heating costs that are higher than usual. This is because hard water requires more heat than water with fewer minerals in it.
  6. A foul odor emanating from your water.

If you notice any of these signs, or a combination of them, you may have hard water. There are certain things you can do to control the effects of hard water, such as using a commercial mineral remover to dissolve deposits left on showerheads and other fixtures. Vinegar also works well.

However, the best thing to do is to treat hard water so that it does not damage your plumbing system. A licensed Apple Valley plumber can help you do this by adding water softener to your water supply, among other treatments. These are things that need to be done on an ongoing basis, but will help extend the life of your expensive appliances and plumbing system.

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Merry Christmas Eve from Your Metro Minneapolis Plumbing and HVAC Contractor!

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Everyone at Air Mechanical wishes you a very Merry Christmas! We hope you enjoy spending time with family and opening lots of presents. The holidays are all about appreciating what you have, and we are very thankful for all our customers. We hope that you get everything you want under the Christmas tree tomorrow!

To help make your Christmas a little sweeter, here is a recipe for Molasses Sugar Cookies:

“These are a wonderful chewy spice cookie. They are drop cookies that keep very well. I make them at the beginning of the holiday season and they keep all the way to New Year’s!”

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups shortening

2 cups white sugar

1/2 cup molasses

2 eggs

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Melt the shortening in a large pan on the stove, and cool.
  2. Add sugar, eggs, and molasses, beat well.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together and add to the pan. Mix well and chill 3 hours or overnight.
  4. Form into walnut-size balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 8-10 minutes.
  6. Store in an airtight container to keep from getting overly crisp. If they do lose their softness, an easy way to restore it is to place one slice of fresh bread in the container with the cookies for a couple of hours or overnight and they will be soft again!

For more details, visit allrecipes.com.

If you haven’t had your annual maintenance visit, we recommend you do so soon. Regular maintenance will keep your system running efficiently all winter long, which will help you save money on your utility bills! It will also give you early warning if there are any problems, and an early fix now can save you from a lot of trouble in the future!

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Plumber’s Guide: Compression vs. Cartridge Faucets

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

If you are like most people in Roseville, you probably do not think too much about what goes on inside your faucet when you turn it on and off. All you need is for the water to flow when you want it to and to stop when you do not. But when the time comes to replace or repair one of the faucets in your home, it is helpful to know a little bit about how the different types of faucets work and what the pros and cons of each can be.

The oldest and most common types of faucets are compression faucets. When one of these faucets is in the off position, a small washer inside creates a seal that keeps water from flowing through and into the tap. But when you turn the faucet on, the stem inside raises up, which takes the pressure off of the washer and breaks the seal. That allows the water to flow until you lower the stem back down again by turning the faucet off.

These faucets are generally easy to find and relatively cheap. They are also easy to install or repair on your own, and this is fortunate because they do tend to develop leaks periodically. That is primarily because the washer inside will wear out over time and need to be replaced. This is a rather straightforward and simple process, but if you do not want to have to deal with it, you may want to consider your other option.

The other main type of faucet on the market today is a cartridge faucet. Instead of washers, these types of faucets employ a cartridge which seals to the faucet base with several O-rings. These types of faucets can often be quite a bit more expensive, although you can certainly find some that are reasonably priced. They are also much less prone to developing leaks, and when they do they are quite easy to repair as well.

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Happy Hanukkah from Your Metro Minneapolis Plumbing and HVAC Contractor

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Everyone here wishes you a Happy Hanukkah!  Whether you have a Menorah or a Christmas tree in your house, the holidays are all about spending time with family.  We hope you have a great holiday and enjoy eight days of gift giving! One of the great Jewish traditions for this time of year is great food, so here is an excellent recipe for potato latkes:

Potato Latkes

“Shredded potatoes and grated onions are bound with flour, salt and eggs, then fried in oil to make delicious potato pancakes that are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.”

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups peeled and shredded potatoes

1 tablespoon grated onion

3 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup peanut oil for frying

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible.
  2. In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together.
  3. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels. Serve hot!

For more details, visit allrecipes.com.

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HVAC Guide: How to Fix a Faulty Furnace Blower

Monday, December 19th, 2011

The blower fan on your furnace is designed to distribute warm air through the ductwork in your Little Canada home evenly, ensuring you use all of the energy consumed by your furnace. If the blower doesn’t turn on when the furnace turns on or it continues to run when the furnace is off, it can cost you money and result in cold rooms. Here are some tips on how to fix a faulty furnace blower.

What is the Problem?

First, check to see what the problem is. If your furnace blower remains on all of the time, it may be a thermostat issue. Make sure the fan isn’t set to stay on continuously (a common setting for most air handlers). You should also check the limit control switch to make sure it is working properly. If this is broken, it needs to be replaced which is a relatively simple fix.

If the furnace blower isn’t turning on at all, you may have a belt problem. This can be fixed by you if you have the proper tools. To repair the belt problem, first turn off all electricity to the device. You’ll need to remove the old furnace blower belt, so release the tension in the pulleys before removing the belt.

Installing a new belt is not unlike doing so for your car. Make sure to check the blower or your user manual for proper tension when you install the new belt. Make sure you purchase the right size belt and set it to the right tension. If you cannot or you do not feel comfortable doing so, you should call a professional to inspect and repair the problem for you.

Getting the Blower Back Up and Running

Once your new belt is in place, test the system carefully, starting with the lowest setting (if there are variable settings). If it does not yet work or if something sounds strange, call a technician right away. You don’t want the motor to burn out or something else more substantial to go wrong with your furnace or air handler during the middle of the winter.

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Heating Contractor Guide: Where to Place a Thermostat for Accurate Heating

Friday, December 16th, 2011

It’s easy to forget that with your furnace in the basement churning away all day to keep your Lakeville home warm, but your thermostat is the single most important device in ensuring your home is heated to the temperature you want. If it stops working or it misreads the temperature inside your home, your furnace won’t know what temperature it actually is and will turn on and off at the wrong time.

Where Not to Place Your Thermostat

To avoid inaccurate readings, avoid placing your thermostat in the following locations:

  • Direct Sunlight – Direct sunlight will almost always increase the perceived temperature of the thermostat. Unless you live in a greenhouse, this will be very uncomfortable for everyone in your home.
  • Windows – Windows can result in direct sunlight and breezes. If the windows are not properly sealed, cold air can blow in and make it seem cooler in your home than it really is. In any of these cases, your thermostat will misread the indoor temperature.
  • Drafts – Drafts from improperly sealed doors, windows, or anything else in your home can negatively impact the thermostat.
  • Heat Vents – Don’t place your thermostat near a radiator or heat vent where it is likely to be warmer than anywhere else in the house.
  • Kitchens – Kitchens tend to be warmer than other rooms in the house, especially when in use. Avoid placing a thermostat here unless you have a zone control system and your kitchen is separate from other rooms.

A properly placed thermostat will ensure your home is heated or cooled to the temperature you desire regardless of outdoor conditions. If you’re unsure whether your thermostat is calibrated properly, check the temperature with a separate thermometer in a different location in the same room. If it is significantly warmer or cooler in one place than another, try to determine which is more indicative of the actual comfort level in your home. When properly located, your thermostat should never be an issue again.

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A Question from Inver Grove Heights: Why Does My Furnace’s Pilot Light Keep Going Off?

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

If you have an older furnace with a gas pilot light and it keeps going out, heating your Inver Grove Heights home can become a frustrating process. Not only are you forced to trudge downstairs to light it every time you need heat, but you’re probably starting to worry that there is something wrong – either with your furnace or with your gas supply. Here are some possible reasons for your pilot light shutting off and what you can do about them.

  • Thermocouple – The thermocouple is used to generate electricity from the gas being burned by the pilot light to power the sensor that keeps the pilot light running. So, if the thermocouple goes bad or gets blocked in some way, the sensor won’t work properly and your pilot light won’t remain lit. Even a small problem with the thermocouple can lead to the valve closing and the pilot light going out.
  • Gas Pressure – If the gas pressure going to your furnace is too low, due to a leak, pipe problem or another appliance, the pilot light may not have enough gas to stay lit. While it is possible that the problem is not related to gas pressure, anything that affects the flow of gas into your home should be inspected by a professional. If you smell gas, leave the house and call your gas company immediately.
  • Mercury Sensor – The sensor in your pilot light that maintains the flow of gas to keep it lit can go bad. Keep in mind that these sensors almost always used to contain mercury (and often still do), so you should be careful with them. It’s best to call a professional who can replace and dispose of it properly.
  • Dirty Burners – Excess dust, lint, rust or sulfur build up can result in blockage of the burner holes. When this happens, gas will flood into the chamber but not light right away. When it does finally light, it will create a small boom or banging sound that will often put out the pilot light. Not only is this inconvenient, it is very dangerous. Fortunately, it can be avoided with annual cleanings of your furnace.

The best way to keep your pilot light lit at all times is to have someone inspect it once a year. If something happens in between, you can usually rule out cleanliness issues and call in a heating contractor to check the thermocouple and sensor.

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What Size Furnace is Right for My Stillwater Home?

Monday, December 12th, 2011

When it comes to your Stillwater home’s heating equipment, the right size is very important. If your furnace is sized correctly, you will enjoy a high level of indoor comfort, which you should. However, an incorrectly sized furnace may result in many cold spots in your home, an overworked furnace, or higher utility bills.

An undersized furnace will turn off and on frequently, which is called short cycling. Short cycling can lead to moisture in the system, causing less efficiency and damage to equipment from accumulating moisture in the heating system. The constant cycling adds to wear and tear on equipment, too. An oversized furnace may not be able to keep up with the demand for heat during the coldest days. The furnace may be constantly running and unable to keep up – adding to higher utility costs. So size really does matter when it comes to selecting the right heating equipment for your home.

But a big furnace does not mean it is right-sized. Have you ever seen a “five-way” gravity furnace? It was manufactured in the mid-1900’s and took up a lot of room – as much as half of a basement – while being extremely inefficient. The key here is efficiency. A furnace that works right is sized to the space it is heating, which does not include attics, crawlspaces, or uninsulated rooms (porches, mud rooms, etc.).

A furnace must make efficient use of its Btu’s, which is abbreviated for British thermal unit. Btu is used to measure a furnace size. Furnaces are often rated by input Btu, which is the amount of energy consumed when running. The output Btu may be different based on the system. And output Btu is the best way to select a furnace, since this is the actual heating capacity.

When sizing a furnace, the first thing to do is to determine the inside space that will be heated. If you are looking to heat your home, you can measure the square footage of each room (multiply width by length). The rooms should include bathrooms and hallways but exclude attics and crawlspaces. Add up the totals and match up the Btu output to the total square footage. If you aren’t sure of your calculations, call a qualified heating and cooling contractor.

There are many factors that go into heating a home and today’s energy efficient furnaces give homeowners many more choices. Whatever furnace you choose to purchase, make sure you do your homework and hire a qualified professional HVAC contractor to determine the best size furnace for your home.

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