Q and A (Question and Answer):Q&A

Question: What brand should I buy?

Answer:

I recently lost both units due to the recent storm.  We were going to replace both units but this now has placed an urgency especially with the recent record temperatures.  I have been reviewing many brand names such as Carrier, Lennox, Rheem, Ducane and Goodman.  All starting to look the same and I know they are not.  In your professional opinion, is there a brand which stands out?

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A/C Recommendation

Question:

I have a large “cabin” in west central Wisconsin.
It is a 28 x 40 gambrel barn style building with an open design and a vaulted ceiling (25 ft from floor to ceiling).  1/2 of the lower level contains two bedrooms and a bathroom.  There is a loft above this area and the remainder of the lower level is open to the ceiling
For the majority of the time, cooling the cabin is not an issue as the trees provide a great deal of shade and I have a whole house dehumidifier that keeps humidity down, however when outdoor temperatures get to around 90 deg, it does get up to about 78 deg. on the lower level and approximately 82 in the loft.

I am looking for a reasonably low cost option to lower the temperature a few degrees.  I have looked on-line at both window units and portable units.  I am considering a 15,000 btu window unit to cool the lower level and then use fans to circulate air into the loft.  I am also considering a portable unit to place in the loft and then letting the cooler air settle down to the lower level.  I am not sure I want to install a window unit in the loft as the window is approximatel 20 feet above the ground and I am not sure what the logistics of a large window unit that high off the ground would be.  I am just looking for some input as to which might be the better option and if 15,000 btu is sufficient for what I am trying to do.  Any input you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

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Electric Bill

Question:

I want to buy a portable A/C unit maybe around 10,000 BTU that uses 115 line.  however, I am worried about the cost of electricity.  currently, the area is being cooled by large and small fans. I suspect that since the portable A/C will have a bigger power unit I will have a higher electric bill.  I am not sure if this is true since the small and large fans also uses a 115 line but may have a smaller power source?

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Maintenance for HVAC Equipment

Question:

We purchased our brand new home in 2006. Over the course of the last six years, I have asked various people (propane delivery people, installer of heating/cooling system, etc.) about what type of maintenance is needed for the heating and/or cooling system. I have been told that the only maintenance needed is to replace the filters in the furnace. However, the maintenance booklet that came with the furnace said that “regular preventive maintenance” should be performed, but it never specified what should be done. Please tell us what kind of maintenance is necessary for our propane heating and cooling system! I don’t want to ask a heating and cooling company because I don’t trust that they will tell me anything but that I should pay for maintenance! Thanks.

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HVAC Condensation Problem

Question:

Have a Bryant heat pump system.  We are located in SC so is plenty humid and would expect substantial condensation.  This unit has the evaporator coil mounted at an angle across the air flow plenum and has a condensate channel along the side.  The drains seem to be working properly for condensation that hits the channel, but there is dripping from the interior of the coil.  This falls to the base of the unit and has been deep enough to overflow into the external collection pan and activate the sensors and shut down the system, about 4″ of water.  Water was manually removed, but is again building up and would like to get this corrected, but don’t have a clue as to cause.  Any ideas?

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Repair or Replace?

Question:

I love my 17 year old Carrier 3 ton hvac heat pump system. runs great until now, compressor is bad. Should I replace a carrier compressor, if all else is ok, or should I buy a new 3 ton goodman seer13, which is all I can afford. I hear carrier is great and goodman is bad.

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Selecting a Good Air Conditioner

Question:

Hi I have a newer Rheem furnace, but an old air conditioner that needs to be replaced. I have checked Angie’s List and will be calling 3 authorized dealers for estimates, but I just want some basic info so I know what’s what. I’ve tried online research and am more confused by it. So, the outside unit is the compressor, right? The compressor attaches inside to the furnace unit to circulate the air? Will they just replace the AC compressor and the hoses or whatever that connect to the furnace? Thank you for your time.

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Heat Load Calculations

Question:

I recently had a repair done on my home and as part of the “feedback” given to me by the repairman (and my volunteering that we are building a new home), he mentioned the “baggy standard”.  He wasn’t sure if that was the correct terminology (and a quick Web search yields nothing related) but it has to do with what a builder must commit to in terms of providing a suitable HVAC solution.  He mentioned “on a 90-degree day, they only have to provide 78 degree cooling).  This lead me to a larger inquiry, hence this one, about what is this standard he knows about and what it specifies.  I want to make sure that, for the square footage we have in the new home, we have a suitable unit to handle it.  The home will be around 3800 SF when completed (3 levels including 90% finished basement).

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Comparing Trane and Other Brands

Question:

First, thank you very much for your time.

I live in a single family home (1900 sq ft), ranch style home. I recently moved in and have to replace the duct work since it is wet. I’m in a flood zone and the current system is a package unit with duct work in the crawl space. Due to the age of the current system and that I’m in a flood zone, I am purchasing a new unit and moving the duct work into the attic. Here are my main questions regarding my new system:

– Which manufacturer provides the best quality?  Most estimates have been for a Trane split system unit, but I’ve also gotten estimates for Amana and Goodman and have heard good things about Ruud.

-I see that you’re a Trane dealer. I’ve gotten 2 different quotes on Trane XR15 and XR13. I went onto Trane’s website and their ‘best unit for your home app’ recommends XL20i and XL 15i.
-What’s the difference between these heat pumps? What’s the normal price difference? And, which unit is the most cost effective?

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Furnace Repair

Question:

I have a Conquest 90 furnace. When the thermostat is set to turn on the heat the furnace does not respond. However when I turn the thermostat to initiate the air conditioning, it functions. I changed out the batteries in the thermostat. I have electrical power at the control panel of the furnace and the green ok light is lit and I have no blinking code lights, but there is no flame light on. What do I do to get the furnace to turn on the heat?

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Cold Air Returns

Question:

We are renovating a 4,500 sf house in Southern California. It is 2 stories and was built in the 30’s. I have a 2 questions pertaining to the returns:

We are using zoning to split the first floor into two zones. The contractor wants to place just one large return by the foyer to service both zones and insists that the air will find its way back. The foyer is in the middle of one of the zones and will have a supply that is not zoned. The other zone has doors and can be separated from the foyer if closed.
Is one return ok?

Also, the second floor bedrooms have existing return ducting in the walls with registers down low (about a foot off the ground). The contractor wants to cancel these and rely on a central return in the hallway. The main reason he gives is that it’s better to have no return in a room than a return that is low since heat rises and because the central return is close to all three room.
Is it correct to to cancel existing dedicated returns in each room since they are low?

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Furnace exhaust fan

Question:

Help…our furnace exhaust fan will not shut off.  The furnace and the blower will shut down but the exhaust fan continues to run.  We have replaced the thermostat already.  We started our central air conditioner which is not very old and guess what the air conditioner shut off but the exhaust fan continued to run.  I thought this would only be an issue with the furnace. Do you have any ideas?  I’m thinking Fan Limit Switch.

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Odor from packaged heating/cooling system

Question:

I bought a new York gas pack in April of 2011.  The first warm and cold season went smoothly.  When the a/c came on for the 2nd warm season a terrible odor emitted from the vents.  The house smelled of very bad stinky feet/poop.  I called the a/c installer out and he cleaned the coils, pans, etc. but found no problem (all clean).  The next day I decided to try the heat and the same foul smell.  Now what’s interesting is that just a week ago I had the heat on due to a cold spell and there was NO ODOR coming from the vents.  Anyway, I called them again.  They checked the vents/ductwork and all was good and secure.  They are at a loss and so am I.  They suggested I have the ductwork cleaned.  I don’t think it’s the ductwork because the smell came on rather quickly. I don’t know where to turn for an answer to fixing/finding the problem.  I have a brand new unit that’s less than a year old and I can’t run it due to the odor.  Sure hope you can help?

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Condensation Drain Failure

Question:

Mine is a two-part question about 2-story residential indoor, upstairs, upflow AC coils: 1) whether I diagnosed a clogged condensation drain pipe correctly, and 2) what’s the industry standard for drain pipe install indoor over used space.

Background: Our two-zone up & downstairs central air systems are a relatively new (2005) and pricey ($10,000) Lennox Signature Series, installed by well-known, established, competent local company.

Crisis: Water leak from upstairs indoor AC/furnace/air handler coming through kitchen ceiling, damaging drywall, paint, etc.

What I see: The upstairs AC/furnace & blower cabinet is in a hall closet near center of house, above the kitchen downstairs. An upflow AC coils unit sits atop the furnace cabinet. It is leaking water through the guts of the furnace, down onto the blower unit, soaking the air filter below, and pooling inside the air return plenum where it finally leaks through the kitchen ceiling.

Diagnosis: Only possible water source is condensation inside coils unit. Both the main and auxiliary drain pipes must be obstructed, flooding the drain pan, overflowing through the unit.

The mystery: The primary & secondary drain system appears to be installed not per product manual, and perhaps not to industry standards.

What should be there: The specific product specs & install manual I found online shows the adjacent drains, main drain on the right and overflow on left.  It says to install the main drain pipe, with a cleanout and trap, with pipe slope 1″:10′ etc. It says that if you cannot install pipe on the secondary overflow drain pan, to install a low-voltage switch kit to shut down the compressor. But it says if the unit is installed ABOVE FINISHED SPACE, a secondary overflow drain pipe MUST be installed.

What’s there: A main drain PVC pipe is glued in place with no trap, no access, and no removable fittings to check or clean the drain. I’d have to hacksaw if off & repipe it.  The secondary overflow drain is plugged with a cap, leaving no provision for draining at all.

Questions:  So … did I diagnose the problem correctly?  What’s the industry standard for condensation drains indoors over finished space?  And based on their own Lennox install manuals, do I have grounds to seek some remedy from the company?

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Question about Carrier Heat Pump

Question:

Service tech found 5 amp fuse bad also installed hard start super boost kit #tt6. He also installed a Honeywell Pro3000 tstat.

After all this very little heat blows out of vent, mostly cold air. I would like to know what the cost would be for the above parts. I was charged $175 for booster kit and $215 for Honeywell tstat, totaling $485 incl. diagnostic fee of $95.00…I feel I was taken since checking cost of Honeywell part being approx. $50 .

Waiting for a reply before I pay the bill.

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Outdoor heat pump not coming on for A/C

Question:

When we turn on our a/c, the inside blower comes on, but the outdoor heat pump does not. I have checked the breakers (flipped off and on) and the disconnect near the unit. I removed the cover on the outdoor unit, and I have 120+/- on the high voltage wires on the contactor. The capacitors don’t show any sign of bulging or leaking, but I don’t have a way to test them. My multimeter doesn’t have a capacitance setting.

I pulled the thermostat and when everything is switched off, I have 24 volts on the (R) terminal, using (C) as common. When I turn the system to cool, I have power on (R), reversing valve (O), and blower unit (G). I don’t have power to the (Y) terminal, which is supposed to be the heat/cool. (I think)

On the outdoor unit, I have no voltage on the (Y) terminal on the circuit board. The contactor is pulled in, but there is no humming or sign that anything is happening. Is this a bad contactor, or something to do with the low voltage wiring on the contactor? I’ve checked all of the wiring and connections and everything seems to be ok with no physical damage.

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Mold/Mildew in Furnace and Duct work

Question:

I called one of those discount air duct cleaning companies to clean my furnace, vents and returns and dryer vents.  Two technicians came out.  Technician #1 said I had mold in the furnace and vents and pointed out a spore-like coating on the coils and vents and mildew on the outside of the motor.  The spores were light/grayish in color.  My townhouse is 25 years old, and I’ve only had my vents cleaned once before of the 17 years I’ve lived here.  I try to change filters ever 2-3 months with the 90-day filters.  I may have been scammed as I wasn’t prepared see such “crud” inside the duct work and I may have paid far more than I should have.  The technician turned off power to the furnace, searched for the source of the mold, took the motor outside and cleaned it as well as inside the furnace thoroughly with some organic products, plus cleaned the coils (which was very dirty) while technician #2 cleaned the duct work and the dryer outside vent.  He told me to leave the thermostat fan on two hours to complete process.  I left the house to buy a new filter and didn’t return until 2 1/2 hours later. Total charge was $1,125.00, broken into 3 separate payments.  Also, company included a warranty for one visit per year for 4 years.  My question is this price reasonable for this type of service?   If not, what price is considered reasonable for mold treatment in a two-level townhouse with 8 vents and 2 returns?

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