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FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions asked by our customers

Purchasing a new HVAC system can be confusing. There are many manufacturers, contractors and options. The industry has terminology that is like a foreign language to most consumers. Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions. We hope you find it useful. If your question is not listed, just give us a call or drop us an email.

Bradley Mechanical

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My friends are advising me to get at least three prices on my new HVAC system. What should I expect?

A: Depending on what equipment the companies quote, expect a range separated between high and low of at least $3,000.00.

The variables are due to the equipment quoted and the quality of installation you will receive. Those are the only two variables.

Inexpensive equipment will heat and cool your home. What you give up with this decision is longevity, energy savings, enhanced comfort, and indoor air quality. Inexpensive, “builder grade” equipment normally fails in 3 to 10 years. The only way manufacturers can achieve the lower price is to reduce the costs associated with building the equipment. Examples of this include outsourcing the coils. The coils in both the indoor and outdoor unit are the Achilles heel of all systems. The copper or aluminum, depending on what the manufacturer uses, is only a sixteenth of an inch thick and under constant pressure from the refrigerant. Even a pinprick leak can cause an expensive failure shortly into your “great deal.” Manufacturers also cut back with cheaper materials in other components as well. It makes the price look great up front, but just wait until you have to make repairs.

The other factor influencing price is the quality of the actual installation. Do you know what the most important day of a heating and cooling system is? The day it is installed! If the equipment is not installed by trained and qualified professionals, it will fail when you can least afford it to go down. Are the installers NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certified? If not, it is most certain that their skills are very limited and antiquated. If you choose a physician or dentist and do not care about their training, then do not worry, just hire the low bidder and take your chances. Highly trained and qualified installers and technicians are the key to any equipment’s performance. There is a cost associated in employing them that does affect the price you pay.

That all makes sense to me, but the low bidder included a 10 year parts and labor warranty. Why should I care? They will replace all the cheap equipment if it does go down. Good point! Go for it if you are one of the lucky ones that always win thousands in Las Vegas.

Heating and cooling system failures occur 90 percent of the time on the hottest days of the summer and the coldest days of the winter. Most of the low bidders are very small, many times one-truck operations. Warranty work is not profitable, so they put you at the end of their list. We know because we make repairs for new customers who call us since they cannot get a response from their original installer. Those warranties do not seem like such a good deal when you’re sweating, freezing, or the installer is out of business.

Q: How do you determine what size equipment my home needs?

A: Properly trained HVAC contractors will perform a “load calculation” on your home. This calculation is governed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, Manual J, 8th Edition. It is the ONLY way to make sure that your new system is properly sized for your home. The calculation requires taking accurate measurements of your home and collecting data such as window sizes and types, insulation, roofing materials, floors, walls, and even the direction your home faces. If a contractor does not provide you with a written load calculation, he or she is just guessing when recommending equipment for your home.

Q: Bigger is better, right?

A: Not in the case of air conditioning equipment. If your load calculation indicates a 3-ton heating & cooling requirement and your contractor installs a 4-ton unit for example, you are headed toward high humidity during the summer and an increased probability of microbial growth and dust mites in your home. Since the equipment is bigger than what is required, it will come on when the thermostat makes a cooling call, run for a very short period of time to cool the space, and then shut off. It will never run long enough to properly dehumidify. The air in your home may be 68 degrees, but it will feel sticky since the humidity levels are now elevated. High humidity makes us more uncomfortable than high temperatures. Ask anyone who lives in Arizona. Mold and dust mites require moisture to flourish. Dehumidification removes the moisture they need to live.

Q: What is SEER, and what are my choices?

A: SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. It is a way of rating a systems energy usage and alleged efficiency. A federal law went into effect in January of 2006 that prohibits HVAC manufacturers from building units less than 13 SEER. Although the intentions of the new law are good, it does not mean that you will automatically save the energy you believe when you invest in your new or upgraded system. According to the EPA, a 20 percent duct leakage will result in a 50 percent reduction in SEER. Most duct systems have leakages of over 50 percent. As a result, the perceived energy savings go right out the ducts. Units range from 13 to 21 SEER and the prices are relative to the SEER rating. The higher the SEER, the higher the initial investment, but the faster you will recoup the investment in energy savings. Be sure to have your ducts inspected by a Certified Air Diagnostician prior to making an investment on higher SEER equipment that may not benefit you.

Q: What is the difference between the refrigerants R-22 and R410-A?

A:

  1. R-22 is being phased out by the Federal Government.
  2. R-22 will become much more expensive in the future.
  3. Manufacturers have known about the R-22 phase out for years. As a result, investments in newer, more efficient technology have to be routed to the 410-A equipment.
  4. R410-A is a colder refrigerant in the summer and hotter in the winter than R-22. This equates to better comfort and energy savings.
  5. R-22 has already doubled in price this year and will double again by years end.
  6. R410-A requires a higher level of training of installers. Best practices that have always been recommended by the refrigerant manufacturers are essential for the proper installation of R410-A equipment. Purging nitrogen throughout the system while brazing, keeping refrigerant lines sealed from outdoor humidity, making sure refrigerant lines do not come into contact with the structure, installing a sleeve where the refrigeration lines penetrate the foundation wall, and maintaining a downward slope to the outdoor unit to provide for a proper oil return to the compressor are just several examples. NATE certified installers and technicians are trained on these and other important, but often overlooked installation details that ensure that you get the full life out of your system.
  7. R410-A requires a much higher level of training, certification and tools for a proper installation. Most companies have not been able to meet these new requirements, so they try and steer you to R-22 equipment.
Q: Why do so many duct systems leak?

A: The main reason is poor design and installation practices. At Bradley Mechanical, an in-house Certified Air Diagnostician designs our duct systems. All of the joints in our installations are sealed with mastic, making them leak free. Many duct systems are poorly designed due to lack of education and training. Many are the result of cost cutting measures by the contractor or builder. The duct system is like the circulatory system of our bodies. Instead of blood, we are moving air. If the air can not move properly, the system will be very inefficient, costly and will not deliver the level of year round comfort that you are seeking.

Q: is there a difference between a heat pump and a straight air conditioner?

A: straight or traditional air conditioning simply removes heat from your home and only operates when thermostat is set to cool. Heat pumps have the ability to work in two directions. In the summer the refrigerant flow transfers heat from indoors to the outside and replaces it with cooler air. In winter, a reversing valve inside the unit switch reverses the flow of heat so that warmer air flows from outside to heat the interior of your home.

Q: how does a variable speed air handler work?

A: variable speed error handlers and forces have the ability to move the air at more than one speed. They operate on a fraction of the energy required by single speed units and operate with virtually no noise at all. By operating at high static pressures, air moves easily through the ducting and eliminates the problem some homeowners experience with rooms that are hard to keep heated or cooled. These units are connected to special thermostats that allow them to operate at a lower speed after the desired temperature is reached. This pulls excess humidity of the air in summer months and reduces the amount of energy needed to operate the unit. The end result is a more comfortable home and more money in your pocket due to lower energy bills.

Q: what does static pressure mean?

A: just as blood pressure in your body circulates blood, your HVAC system uses static pressure to circulate air through your home. If there’s a blockage in the ducting the static pressure increases just like a blood clot or high cholesterol can cause high blood pressure in people. When static pressure is too high or too low, your heating and air system cannot operate efficiently. Bradley Mechanical expert technicians can identify static air pressure problems and put corrective measures in place. This is an important precaution, poor static pressure can cause excessive energy costs and create conditions conducive to mold growth and dust mites

HVAC

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I just installed a high efficiency system and my bills didn’t drop.

A: Today’s high efficiency equipment is more sensitive to design than the old low efficiency units. Poor duct design, duct leakage, and improper installation are the biggest issues. Make sure a Manual J load calculation is performed and the ducts are tested for leakage.

Q: Why is my home so dusty or after installing my new high efficiency system, my dust got worse?

A: Duct leakage causes homes to be dusty, and the new more powerful air handlers can actually make it worse. Also, building pressures can cause dust. Closing doors in rooms with no returns can lead to depressurization of that room and cause dust issues. All homes have leaks and usually the attic floor is the worst, such as recessed can lights, pull down steps, scuttle holes, all of these leak air from the attic and bring in duct particles as they leak. Have your home tested for these issues. We can pinpoint them and solve them.

Q: Why is mold growing on my vents?

A: Mold can only grow if a food source and moisture source are present. The food is everywhere and cannot be controlled, but the moisture source can be controlled. There are lots of reasons why, but usually duct leakage, envelop leakage. Have your home tested for these problems. We see them all the time and know how to solve them.

Q: When do I run my indoor fan in the on position?

A: If you have a whole house filtration system, it is good to run the fan all the time. This means the air cleaner will be continuously cleaning the air, but this is not a good idea in the summer. The new high efficiency coils can hold a gallon of water before they start draining, so when the A/C turns off, all the water on that coil can evaporate back into the house. This means all the humidity the A/C just removed is added right back into the house. This can also cause mold to grow on the vents. If you do not have an air cleaner, then there is no reason to ever run the fan in the on position unless you are having a party and there are a lot of people in the home.

Q: When should I open my crawl space vents?

A: This might be the most misunderstood issue in the world. Crawl space vents should have been eliminated the day that Air Conditioning was invented. But it took building science years to figure out why. Because of our climate with high humidity in summer, that humidity moves right through the crawl vents into the cool crawl space. When this happens, the humidity in the crawl goes as high as 100%. All it takes is 70% for mold to grow, and if mold grows in the crawl, it’s going to be in your home. A house is like a chimney, mostly every day everything is rising, it’s called stack effect. Some people are sick in there homes and don’t know why. And usually it’s coming from the crawl space. So, the answer is never open your vents, and even better have them sealed, and even better, have the crawl space encapsulated. The Department of Energy has reported that sealing your crawl space can save you 20% on energy bills, but be careful, there are a lot of companies that are not sealing correctly and are charging two to three times what it’s worth. So, call us, we have sealing crawls for years and doing it right.

Q: Why do I see frost on my outdoor heat pump in the winter and why does it smoke sometimes?

A: The outdoor coil runs about 20 degrees colder than the outdoor temperature, so frost can occur even in the high forties. However, thick frost or ice means there is something wrong. A heat pump will frost when the dew point is high and temperature is below 50 degrees, and then it should defrost itself. This is when we may see smoke coming from unit, which is really steam, and is normal.

Q: Why does my heat pump run non-stop?

A: Anytime the temperature is in the twenties or in the upper nineties, a heat pump should run non-stop, and a heat pump that runs non-stop will actually use less current then one that starts and stops 30 to 40 times a day. But if it’s not that hot or cold outside, and it’s still running non-stop, then there is a problem and you could call us to see why.

Q: How often should I change my filter?

A: You can buy 30-day filters and you can buy 90-day filters, but this means absolutely nothing. You change your filters when they are dirty. If after a month, your 30-day filter is clean, then don’t change it, wait until it gets dirty. And 90-day filters are a myth. The biggest issue with filters today is that they are too restrictive. Some of these expensive pleated filters are restrictive right out of the package. When you restrict air, you cause the system to run under stress, which in turn raises your power bill and shortens the life of the equipment. If you are trying to filter out small particles, an air cleaner is the way to go. It has pleated material, but 100 times the surface area. So it can clean the air without restricting it.

Q: How often should I have my equipment serviced?

A: All manufacturers recommend two times per year maintenance and this is what we do with our Energy Savings Agreements. We come out every 6 months and clean the equipment. The people who do this see their energy bills go down and their equipment last twice as long.

Plumbing

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why does my hot water run out faster then it should?

A: If you have an electric water heater, there may be a problem with the bottom element. It could be the thermostat or a bad element.

Q: Why do I hear gurgling in my kitchen sink sometimes?

A: You could have a main drain line stopped up, or if you have a septic tank, it may be time to have it pumped out.

Q: Why does my well water pressure fluctuate?

A: The extrol tank is probably bad and needs replacing.

Q: Why does my toilet fill every so often during the day?

A: The flapper needs to be replaced, or the fill valve may need adjusting.

Q: Why does my family experience flu like symptoms, frequent headaches, and feel tired all the time?

A: These are signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. You need to have a low level CO detector in the home. You can NOT buy these in the stores, they are sold only by CO certified professionals. They read out digitally to 0ppms and alarm at 7ppms.

Q: Why do some of my rooms heat and cool better than others?

A: Usually this comes from poor duct work. Duct systems which are all flex always have this problem, but it could be the thermal envelop. We recommend our Home and Duct Performance testing to pinpoint the problem. We offer 100% guaranteed satisfaction or it’s free.

Q: Why does my house shock me with static electricity, or why do my sinuses dry out and my lips chap, or why is the woodwork cracked and separated?

A: These are signs of low humidity. A humidifier can sometimes eliminate this problem, but duct leakage and thermal envelop leakage also cause low humidity. Let us test the home to find out exactly what’s causing this.

Q: Why do I wake up at night all sweaty and clammy feeling during the summer?

A: This is a sign of high humidity. At night when it cools off there is no heat load for the A/C to run, but there is still humidity infiltrating into the home. A whole dehumidification system will solve the problem, but I would test the home first to see exactly where the humidity is coming from.

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