Frequently Asked Questions

We answered some of your questions regarding cooling & heating systems repairs, installation, and more!

Air Conditioning

When Should I Replace My Old Air Conditioning System?

There are actually several situations in which you should consider replacing your current air conditioning system. For instance, if you have to call for repairs for your current system repeatedly, your system probably doesn’t have many good years left. And even if the repairs are relatively minor, they’re still costing you money every time you have someone come out.

Rather than continuing to dump money into a system that probably isn’t working all that efficiently to begin with, it makes much more sense to simply invest in a new system now. You’ll start saving right away on your energy bills and you won’t have to worry about whether or not your air conditioner is going to work on any given day.

You many even want to consider replacing an older air conditioning system that’s still working fine because newer models are so much more energy-efficient than even those installed 10 years ago. Since you’ll likely have to replace your AC in a few years anyway, you’re better of investing in a new system now so that you can start saving on your energy bills right away.

I’ve Been Hearing A Lot About Ductless Split And Mini–Split Air Conditioning Systems. What Are They?

Ductless split and mini split air conditioners are made up of two parts, much like a conventional air conditioning system. However, the outdoor compressor and indoor wall–mounted units are connected to each other only by a refrigerant line rather than the more traditional ductwork. That means that mini–split systems are much easier to install in places that don’t already have ductwork or where it wouldn’t be practical to try and fit ducts in.

The other main difference between ductless air conditioning units and other types of central air conditioning systems is that the indoor unit mounted on the wall or the ceiling in your room is where the actual cooling takes place. You can adjust the temperature in the room directly from there, giving you a much more refined control over your indoor conditions.

Is A Ductless Split Air Conditioning System Right For Me?

Quite possibly. Ductless splits are a good option for a lot of people, particularly those who don’t already have ducts in place in their home. You may also want to look into a mini–split system if you’ve recently added an addition onto your home and don’t want to have to pay to extend the ducts from the rest of your house into the addition.

How Long Will My New Air Conditioning System Last?

While the life expectancy of a new air conditioning system can vary a good deal from one brand and model to another, most new systems being installed these days can be expected to last from 10 to 15 years. However, this will still depend on how much you use your system and how well you keep it maintained over the years. In fact, some air conditioners that receive proper maintenance can even exceed their projected lifespan by several years.

Why Do I Need Annual AC Maintenance?

Just like most other large pieces of equipment, your air conditioning system requires a tune–up every now and then. This will help to keep it working at peak capacity and reduce the chances that you’ll lose any significant amount of energy efficiency over time.

The air conditioning professional who carries out your annual maintenance visit will also be able to check your system thoroughly for any defects or damages. They will also often be able to catch problems before they get out of hand and can greatly reduce the chances that you’ll need emergency repairs later on.

Heating

Is An Electric Furnace Better Than A Gas Furnace?

Electric furnaces and gas furnaces both have their pros and cons. One isn’t necessarily better than the other in general, although your particular situation might dictate choosing one over the other. But really you’ll have to decide which features you like better in order to select the type of furnace that’s best for you.

For instance, an electric furnace may be an attractive option because of its low maintenance costs. On average, electric furnaces need to be serviced about once every two years, while gas furnaces require yearly service to stay in top condition. Many people also prefer electric furnaces because they feel they’re safer, although today’s gas furnaces are quite safe to operate as well.

Gas furnaces are still the more popular choice, however, because they tend to be cheaper to install and have a higher energy efficiency rating. Electric furnaces do run silently, but the newer gas furnaces run almost as quietly, so there’s really not much difference there. However, electric furnaces do tend to last several years longer on average than a typical gas furnace, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.

How Do I Choose The Best Heating System For My House?

You will have to consider a lot of different factors when picking out the right heating system for your home. The size and dimensions of your house will figure into the equation, as well as what types of fuel sources are available to you, what type of system you had in place before and what the particular heating needs of your family are.

This is a lot to get a handle on and can get to be pretty overwhelming, particularly if you’ve never had to purchase a new heating system before. In this type of situation, it can be helpful to get some professional advice and guidance so that you can get a better idea of what your options really are. A heating specialist can assist you by walking you through the selection process.

What Is An AFUE Rating?

If you’ve been looking at various types of furnaces, you’ve probably noticed that they all have what’s referred to as an AFUE rating. This number is a reflection of the energy efficiency of the furnace, and will typically be between 80% and 98%. The higher the number, the more energy-efficient the furnace is.

Although you should always take the AFUE rating into account when you’re purchasing a furnace, that doesn’t mean that you should necessarily go with the model that has the highest efficiency rating. Depending on your heating needs, an 80% AFUE furnace may be able to get the job done just fine without forcing you to incur the greater costs that come with the higher efficiency models.

How Long Do Heating Systems Last?

The amount of time you can expect your heating system to last will depend on what type of system it is. In general, though, it’s safe to say that a new heating system you purchase today will last you 10 to 15 years. Some types of systems, like electric furnaces, can be expected to last a bit longer, but that will largely depend on the type and model of your system. In any case, keeping up with regular maintenance is one way to extend the life of your home heating system.

Can You Service My Old Heating System Or Do I Have to Buy A New One From You?

We can perform maintenance and repair services on just about any type of heating system you have. No matter who put in your existing system or how old it is, we’ll be happy to take care of it for you.

Electrical

Why Do Our Homes Use Alternating Current (AC) Instead Of Direct Current (DC)?

The reason for the use of alternating current in modern homes has to do with the nature of power itself, and its relationship to voltage and current. Power is defined as the product of voltage and current, so lower voltage requires higher current in order to produce a given amount of power, which calls for a larger conductor.

That means using a larger cable for conducting the power, which is more expensive. A solution that allows for the use of a cable that is smaller in diameter is more cost–effective. That’s where the difference between AC and DC comes in. Simply put, AC can be converted more simply to a form that has high voltage and low current, therefore requiring less bulky wiring.

On the other hand, while transformers can readily convert AC to a more usable form, this is much more difficult with DC, hence this is why AC is the current of choice at home.

Can I Do My Own Electrical Work?

Electrical work is tricky and requires a good deal of training, and for good reason. It can be dangerous to work on wiring without the proper skills and training, which is why so much education is involved in becoming a professional electrician. Many people may be tempted to do their own electrical installation or repairs in order to save the expense of hiring an electrician, but this can be very unsafe. Even for minor repairs, if you are even the least bit unsure about how to address it, it’s best to call in a professional.

Safety is not the only reason to eschew doing your own electrical work. Every area has its own rules, regulations and codes. Only a trained electrician will know how to follow these exactly so that all parts your system will comply.

Do My Kitchen Outlets Need To Be Different Than Outlets In Other Rooms?

Generally speaking, all outlets within six feet of a sink or above the countertop in a kitchen should be protected, either by a GFCI outlet or GFCI circuit breaker. You have almost certainly seen GFCI outlets before. They are the outlets that have the “Test” and “Reset” buttons on them, common in kitchens and bathrooms. These outlets are designed to trip suddenly if there is a sudden difference in energy flow, in order to prevent short circuits, electrocution or electrical fires.

An alternative to multiple GFCI outlets is to have one GFCI circuit breaker attached to multiple outlets. The exceptions to the GFCI rule are refrigerators and freezers, which should not be left without power for obvious reasons, and lights, which would just be a nuisance if they got tripped off frequently. There are other specific requirements for safe wiring in the kitchen, so be sure to consult your electrical contractor when the time comes.

How Can I Spot Potential Electrical Hazards In My Home?

Among the most frequent and easily detected electrical hazards is an overloaded electrical system. The signs and symptoms of this are usually pretty clear, but you should be vigilant about watching for them. If your lights temporarily dim or shudder when an appliance (dishwasher, air conditioner, refrigerator, etc.) kicks on, if the light switches in your home are hot when you touch them, or if you find that your circuit breaker is tripping very frequently, call an electrician right away. An overloaded electrical system is very dangerous and can lead to injury or fire.

Indoor Air Quality

Do I Need A HEPA Filter?

High efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are extremely effective at removing many types of contaminants from your indoor air. In fact, they can reliably remove up to 99.97% of particles measuring 0.3 microns or more in diameter.

This covers many of the common indoor air contaminants you may have a problem with. Most people need to remove both large and small particles from their indoor air, and HEPA filters are certainly a great asset when you’re trying to accomplish this. While they are not the only type of mechanical filter on the market today, HEPA filters are certainly the most effective. If you’re going to invest in some type of mechanical filtration, a HEPA filter is really the only one you should go for.

What Are UV Germicidal Lights?

While things like HEPA filters and air ionizers can remove many types of particulate air contaminants, both large and small, they are not often particularly effective against germs like the bacteria and viruses that are routinely floating around your house. UV germicidal lights, on the other hand, can be extremely effective and efficient at killing those germs.

UV germicidal lights are usually used as part of a complete air quality improvement system. They’re typically placed just past the HEPA filter or other purification device so that they can catch the viruses and bacteria that pass through these other filtration systems. Once they are exposed to the UV radiation produced by the lights, these germs are quickly killed and cannot continue to circulate throughout your house.

How Do I Choose An Indoor Air Cleaner?

There are many factors to consider when you’re trying to select the right air cleaner for your home. One of the main things to keep in mind is that not all air cleaners are equally as good at removing certain types of particulate contaminants. For instance, some are better at catching larger particles, while others do a better job of trapping small particles and absorbing odors.

Of course, you’ll also have to take into account the size and dimensions of your home as you make your selection. You want to make sure that the air cleaner you choose is going to be able to handle the volume of air that will pass through it each day, but you don’t want to go needlessly overboard and spend more than is necessary for something that you didn’t really need.

You’ll also need to have some idea about how significant your indoor air quality problem is so that you’ll know the system you buy can handle that level of contamination. With all of these elements to take into account, it can be pretty tough to sort through all of your options on your own. Professional advice can definitely come in handy.

How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?

Each type of filter will probably come with its own recommendations in terms of a replacement timeline. However, it’s generally a good rule of thumb to change your filter at least once every 90 days. Some super high efficiency filters can go considerably longer without being changed, however, and if you have a very high contaminant load, you may need to change it more often than the manufacturer recommends.

Water Heaters

What Are Tankless Water Heaters?

A tankless water heater is one that uses direct heating to only heat the water you need. They are slightly more expensive to install than tank water heaters, but unlike tank water heaters you can place them anywhere in your home. They are portable and are much more energy-efficient, especially if you don’t use hot water at a consistent rate.

If you’re interested in a tankless hot water heater or want to know if one is right for you, the first thing to do is measure your average hot water use. You also need to take into account the number of places where hot water is needed and you should discuss potential pitfalls of tankless heating with a professional technician.

How Often Should I Replace My Hot Water Heater?

A hot water heater needs to be replaced about once every 10 years, though some newer models can last as long as 15–20 years with proper maintenance. To get the most out of your system, annual maintenance is important.

During these annual service visits, basic cleaning and maintenance is done to replace worn out parts and check for any looming problems with your water heater that may require replacement in the near or immediate future.

Do I Need Help With Installation?

A hot water heater is one of the simplest pieces of equipment you’ll have installed in your home, but it should be done by a professional for a number of reasons. First, you must understand and follow all local building codes, not only for installation, but for possible future inspections. If your hot water heater is gas or oil fueled, safety is of the utmost importance.

Second, you must have your old hot water heater disposed of. A professional has the resources to dispose of your hot water heater for much less money than it would cost you, and it’s less of a hassle as well. Professionals are also better equipped to deal with factors like proper insulation, secondary heating sources, and backup water supplies.

How Hot Should My Water Be?

Hot water heating should be done according to your particular needs, but most people have their tanks set too high. The default setting on many hot water heaters is 140°F. This is about 20°F warmer than is necessary for household tasks like showering, washing dishes or cleaning clothes. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions or have a professional help you turn your hot water temperature down to no more than 120°F.

How Do I Know if There Is A Problem?

The most common sign that there’s a problem in your hot water heater is a lack of hot water. If you notice your hot water supply dropping sharply or if it doesn’t last nearly as long as it once did, it may be time for additional service.

You can perform some basic maintenance on your own as well. You should remove sediment from your hot water heater at least once per year by following the manufacturer’s instructions. This usually involves simply turning off the device and draining it through a tap provided at the base. If you have hard water, this should be done more frequently, sometimes as often as every six months.

However, if basic maintenance does not solve the problem, it’s time to call a professional to check your hot water heater for problems that may have developed since their last visit.

Can I Use Alternative Energy Sources?

There are a number of alternative hot water heating sources these days. The most common is currently solar powered hot water, which uses simple panels on your roof to collect the energy from the sun to heat your water. Another popular method is to use the excess heat generated by a geothermal heat pump when cooling your house in the summer. Ask your plumber when they arrive about these alternative options and to find out if they can be incorporated into your particular system.

Get Expert Advice!

A Sullivan Heating & Cooling consultant can provide you a proper evaluation of your home’s heating and cooling needs. It is the best way to determine the ideal system for your home.

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