Why Is My Garbage Disposal Humming But Not Running?

So your garbage disposal just hums when you turn it on but doesn’t actually work?

Well, the good news is that the humming noise you hear means you can rule out any electrical supply or wiring problems. You see, a humming garbage disposal means electrical power is getting to the disposer but something (usually a foreign object or food) is preventing the blades from rotating.

So, if you have a garbage disposal that’s just humming, you most likely either have a:

  • Jammed disposal
  • Bad disposal motor

We’ll show you how to determine which problem you have and what to do next.

Need a professional’s help? Just contact us and we’ll send one out right away.

Step 1: Check for a jam from the sink drain hole

What you’ll need:

  • Flashlight
  • Pliers or tongs
  • Long wooden spoon

1. Cut off all power to the garbage disposal. Flip the switch to the OFF position but also unplug the disposal under the sink to be safe.

2. Shine a flashlight down the drain hole to look for any foreign objects.

3. Use the pliers or tongs to remove any objects in the drain hole.

4. Once everything is cleared out, use a long wooden spoon to rotate the disposal blades. If the blades rotate freely, the disposal should work correctly now. But if the blades don’t rotate, don’t force it. Just continue on to Step 2 below.

Step 2: Check for a jam from the bottom of the disposal

What you’ll need:

  • Allen wrench

1. Cut off all power to the garbage disposal (same as in Step 1).

2. Find the allen wrench socket underneath the garbage disposal.


The allen wrench socket is located on the bottom of the garbage disposal unit.

3. Insert the allen wrench and wiggle it back and forth to loosen up any debris that might be blocking the blades.

4. Once the blades move freely via the allen wrench movement, test the garbage disposal. If you’ve cleared all debris and there is no jam but the blades still don’t rotate, you likely have a bad motor that needs to be replaced.

Step 3: Contact a professional

If you’ve tried the steps above but your garbage disposal still isn’t working correctly, you most likely have a faulty disposal motor. And if the motor is at fault, this rarely is worth the cost to repair so we suggest having a professional completely replace the unit. The cost to replace a garbage disposal is anywhere from $80 to $720.

A professional will confirm that the motor is at fault and can provide an exact quote for a garbage disposal replacement.

Need help from a Minnesota plumber?

If you’re having trouble with a humming garbage disposal, we can help.

Just contact us and we’ll send over a professional plumber right away.

Related reading:

Should I Choose a Tankless Water Heater for My Minnesota Home?

If you have an all-electric home, then NO, a tankless water heater wouldn’t be a good option.

BUT, if you have natural gas, a tankless water heater is a good option if:

  • You’re primarily concerned with having endless amounts of hot water
  • You need the extra storage space that a tankless water heater allows

In this article, we’ll explain why Minnesota homeowners should stay away from electric tankless water heaters. We’ll also share the pros and cons of gas tankless water heaters.

But first, let’s take a quick look at how tankless water heaters work in general...

Want to chat with a professional about the best water heater option for your home? Just contact us.

How tankless water heaters work

To help explain why you’re better off with either a traditional tank water heater or a natural gas tankless water heater, let’s start with a quick overview of how tankless water heaters work:


Diagram of how an electric tankless water heater works.
Source

Tankless water heaters, also called “on-demand” water heaters, heat water only as it’s needed (as opposed to tank water heaters which store water that’s constantly heated).

You see, as soon as you turn on a hot water tap, incoming cold water from your home’s main water line travels through a pipe to the water heater. Once the water reaches the water heater, it’s heated by either a gas burner or electric element, then delivered straight to your faucet.

Electric tankless water heaters: NOT a good idea in MN

In Minnesota, the operational cost of an electric tankless water heater is very high.

Why? Well, Minnesota’s ground water temperature is naturally pretty cold (35° to 40° F). So, heating your home’s incoming cold water quickly and to your desired temperature (usually a temperature rise of 85°) requires a lot of electrical power.

And the worst part is that tankless water heaters have a much higher upfront cost than tank water heaters. Which means your high monthly bills will prevent you from ever recouping the initial cost of an electric tankless water heater. In other words, an electric tankless water heater won’t ever save you any money in the long term

The bottom line: If you have electricity as your main source, stick with a traditional tank water heater.

But if you currently heat your water with natural gas, a gas tankless water heater may be a suitable option for your family. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of a gas tankless water heater...

Pros and cons of tankless gas water heaters

Read our article about tankless vs. traditional water heaters for a more in-depth comparison between the 2 types of water heaters.

The bottom line: A tankless gas water heater is a good option for your home if:

  • You don’t have a lot of space
  • You want endless hot water
  • You aren’t necessarily concerned with long term savings

How to choose the right tankless gas water heater for your home
Think the tankless route is right for you? Follow these steps to find the right size unit for your home:



1. Calculate how much water you’ll need at one time. Look at the chart above to see how many gallons per minute (GPM) of hot water your appliances generally require. Then, add them up to calculate a total flow rate (GPM) for your household.

For example, let’s say you typically use your dishwasher and shower at the same time. Your total household flow rate would be up to 4.5 GPM.

2. Find the temperature of your home’s incoming water. For Minnesota homes, the temperature is usually between 35°– 40° F. If you live outside Minnesota, use this U.S. water temperature map to find the temperature in your region.

Once you have the incoming water temperature, you’ll want to calculate the required temperature rise. This is the difference between your incoming water temperature and the temperature you want your water heater to provide (most water heaters heat water to 120° F).

For homes in Minnesota, the required temperature rise is around 80° F (120-40=80).

3. Contact a professional to purchase a water heater. Now that you have your household flow rate and required temperature rise, you’re ready to find the right unit for your home. Look for the flow rate and required temperature rise on water heater product pages, labels or marketing materials. Then, just make sure the numbers match up before you make a purchase.

Example: If you know you need 4.5 GPM and you have an incoming temperature of 40°, a unit that only provides 2.5 GPM won’t cover your hot water needs. When your tankless water heater’s flow rate is too small, your water heater can’t heat the water as fast as you need it, which means you’ll likely be stuck with lukewarm water during times of high hot water demand.

Need help finding the right water heater size for you? No problem—just give us a call and we’ll help you figure it all out.

Need a water heater installer in Minnesota?

Contact On Time Service Pros

We offer FREE estimates for all types of water heater installations.

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How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Furnace in Minnesota?

When homeowners ask us how much a new furnace costs in Minnesota, this is what we tell them: 

The cost to install a new furnace in Minnesota usually ranges from $2,500 to $5,500+.

Wondering why there’s such a wide price range?

Well, the cost depends on these 4 factors:

  1. Energy efficiency (AFUE)
  2. Comfort features you add
  3. System size
  4. The furnace installer you hire

Since the cost depends on all these factors, it’s always best to contact a local Minnesota furnace installer to get an accurate furnace estimate.

Curious about those cost factors we just mentioned? Let’s explore them in more detail.

Cost factor #1: Energy efficiency (AFUE)

The more energy efficient your furnace, the lower your monthly energy bills.

Of course, higher efficiency furnaces also cost more to buy and install.

How to interpret furnace efficiency ratings
Just like a car’s efficiency is measured in MPG (miles per gallon), a furnace’s energy efficiency is measured in AFUE, which is represented as a percentage anywhere from 80% to 98+%. You can find a furnace’s efficiency rating on the EnergyGuide label.

So what exactly does that percentage stand for? Well, it basically measures how much energy from the furnace’s fuel is actually converted into heat. 

An example of how this works: A furnace with an AFUE of 90% means that, for every dollar you spend on heating, 90 cents actually heats your home and 10 cents is wasted due to inefficiencies. 

And furnace efficiency ratings can be split into 2 categories— high efficiency vs. mid efficiency:

  • 80%–84% AFUE is mid-efficiency (conventional furnace)
  • 90%–98+% AFUE is high-efficiency (condensing furnace)

What’s the difference between a condensing furnace and a conventional furnace?
Traditional furnaces have just one heat exchanger, which is the part of your furnace that heats the air. But condensing furnaces have 2 heat exchangers, which basically allows them to “wring out” more heat from combustion gasses that would otherwise be vented outdoors and wasted (like it is with conventional furnaces). 

So a condensing furnace wastes less heat which will significantly cut down your energy bills given Minnesota’s frigid weather, but they do cost more to buy and install.

So, is a condensing furnace worth the extra cost upfront?
Well, you want to see if the monthly energy savings you’ll get with a condensing furnace will eventually pay back the extra cost of the unit.

To calculate those cost savings, you’ll want to follow these 2 steps:

  1. Contact a furnace contractor and get 2 furnace estimates, one for conventional and one for condensing.
  2. Use this energy savings calculator to compare the energy savings of each furnace to the cost quoted you by the furnace contractor.

We’ve written an article that compares the cost savings of a 95% AFUE furnace with an 80% AFUE furnace

Cost factor #2: Comfort features you add 

Your furnace’s cost and level of comfort it provides is affected by these 2 furnace features:

  1. The blower type, which circulates air in your home
  2. The burner type, which controls the flow of fuel

Higher quality blowers and burners provide more even heating throughout your home, eliminating cold spots and improving the furnace’s efficiency. But, of course, they are also more expensive.

Blower types, from worst to best:

  • Single-speed: Provides air only at full blast or not at all.
  • Multi-speed: Provides air at low, medium or high speeds, depending on what you need. It’s just like having different gears on a car.
  • Variable-speed: Can incrementally adjust how much air it blows based on your heating needs.

Burner types, from worst to best:

  • Single-stage burner: Provides heat only at full blast or not at all. Just like a car that can only work at 60 MPH or at a dead stop.
  • Two-stage (or dual-stage) burner: Can run at a high or low setting. The additional low setting allows the furnace to keep the heat from dropping too low beyond your thermostat setting while not having to run at full blast.
  • Modulating burner: Adjusts burner to precisely meet your heating needs, keeping your home’s temperature constant.

If you’re a visual person, watch this video that explains blower types and burner types

Cost factor #3: System Size (BTUs)

Here’s the bottom line: Bigger furnace = more expensive furnace.

And when we talk about furnace “size” we’re not talking about the physical size of the furnace, just the amount of heat it can put out at one time. Furnace size is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), which is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.

Most residential furnaces range anywhere from 40,000 to 200,00 BTUs, but most are between 80,000 and 100,000 BTUs. You can usually find how many BTUs a furnace has by looking at the manufacturer label.

The size furnace you need depends on various home factors like…

  • Square footage of your home
  • Number of windows
  • The climate
  • Your furnace’s efficiency

How to find the furnace size you need
Contact a furnace installer to have them perform a Manual J Heat Load Calculation. Think of this calculation like measuring your foot to find the right shoe size—but with way more numbers involved.

For more information about furnace size, read our article, “How Big of a Furnace Do You Need for Your Minnesota Home?

And speaking of installers...

Cost factor #4: The furnace installer you hire

A high-quality installer typically costs more, increasing the overall cost of what you’ll pay for a new furnace. But, hiring a good installer will pay for itself in the long run because you won’t have as many breakdowns or repairs.

How to find a high-quality furnace installer
We wrote a whole blog article about this very topic (“How to Find the Best Furnace Installer in Minnesota”). We’ll share some key points from the article:

  1. Collect a large pool of furnace contractors. You can find them searching the Internet, using the ACCA’s contractor search or by asking for recommendations from friends and family.
  2. Narrow your list down to the top 3 contractors. Check online reviews and visit their website to choose which contractors look the best.
  3. Get an estimate from your top 3 contractors. Ask them how they charge (by the hour, or fixed rate), what guarantees they offer, what current promotions they have, etc.
  4. Compare, check references and select the winner. Then, schedule an appointment to have them replace your furnace.

Need a quality furnace installer in Minnesota?

Contact On Time Service Pros for a free furnace estimate.

We serve the Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, Stillwater, the Twin Cities and more with quality HVAC service.

Related articles

How to Change the Filter in Your MicroPower Guard Air Cleaner

Have a MicroPower Guard air cleaner and need to change the filter? We can help.

We’ve provided step-by-step instructions on how to change your electronic air cleaner’s filter. We’ll also cover common FAQ’s about the MicroPower system.

Need a replacement media pad or want a professional to change the filter for you? Just contact us.

 

 

 

Step 1: Turn the HVAC system off at the thermostat

Before you do anything, make sure the thermostat isn’t calling for heat or cooling.

Note: If you have a touch screen thermostat, select the “OFF” mode.

Step 2: Turn the HVAC system and the MicroPower Air Cleaner off at the unit

To turn your HVAC unit off: 
You’ll most likely find the power switch near the furnace (usually located in a basement or attic). Once you’ve located the furnace, look for a switch (it will look just like a light switch) on the right or left side of the unit. Make sure the switch is in the OFF position.

To turn your MicroPower Air Cleaner off:
Turning off the HVAC system should also automatically turn off the air cleaner.

To double check that the air cleaner is off, look for the thin metal housing holding your air filter. There should be a small LED bulb sitting on top of the housing. If the air cleaner is off, the LED light bulb on top of the box should NOT be shining. 

Step 3: Disconnect power cord and remove the old filter

Once the red LED light is off, you can pull out the black power cord that’s plugged directly into the air cleaner system.

Once the power cord is disconnected, remove the MicroPower Guard filter from its housing.

Step 4: Open the filter casing to remove the media

Once you’ve completely removed the filter from the housing, you can open the metal casing that’s holding the “media pad” (that yellow pad that traps and fuses the dirt/contaminants).

To open the metal casing, pop open the tabs. The casing should then fold open like a book, exposing the old media pad. Remove the old media and throw it away.

Note: You should never wash and reuse a MicroPower Guard media pad.

Step 5: Replace the old media pad with a new, clean one

Once you’ve tossed the old media pad, position the new pad inside the metal casing.

Note: you may need to wipe a damp cloth across the screen casing before adding the new media. This will remove any dust or dirt buildup on the screen.

How to position the new media pad:
Your replacement media pad should have two layers: a carbon layer and a non-carbon layer. (The carbon side is identified by its black strips, while the non-carbon side will be bare.) 

When inserting the new media pad, make sure the bare non-carbon layer is tucked underneath the metal probe (or the “electrode”) that hangs from the top of the metal casing. The carbon side should rest on top of the electrode. Make sure there’s a solid connection between the carbon strips and the electrode.

Once the new media pad is positioned correctly, close the metal casing and position the tabs to securely shut the metal casing.

Step 6: Reinsert the filter and resume power to the HVAC system

Slide the filter back into its metal housing, reconnect the power cord and flip the power switch to the HVAC system back to the ON position. You should now see the red LED light shine from the filter housing. 

From there, all you’ll need to do is turn the heating/cooling back on at the thermostat and you’re set!

Other FAQ’s about the MicroPower Guard Air Cleaner

How often do I need to change the MicroPower filter?

Typically, you should check and change your MicroPower filter every 3 months.

Can I use other media pads for my MicroPower Air Cleaner?

No! While there are many other aftermarket media pads that can be found online, you should only use the official MicroPower Guard replacement media pads.

Using knock-off media pad brands can cause damage to the air cleaner. Also, if a non-official MicroPower Guard media is used, your Lifetime Warranty with MicroPower Guard will be void.

Where can I get official MicroPower Guard media pads?

You can find the official MicroPower Guard filters from certain local HVAC contractors. If you live in the Minnesota and Western Wisconsin area, contact us and we can provide replacement media pads or just replace the filter for you.

Have more MicroPower Air Cleaner questions? Ask a Minnesota tech

Need us to replace your air cleaner filter? Or just have a questions about your MicroPower Guard system?

Just contact us. We’re happy to help.

Related reading:

What Size Generator Do I Need for My Minnesota Home?

generator sizing tips for MN homesThe size generator your home needs completely depends on how many electrical appliances you want powered during a blackout.

For example, if you only want the essentials (refrigerator and a few lights), you’re looking at a generator that’s roughly sized at 6.5 kW. But if you want to power your entire home throughout a blackout, you might be looking at a 28 kW generator.

Need help determining which size you’ll need? Don’t worry, we’ll provide step-by-step instructions on how to calculate the generator size that will fit your needs.

Need a professional’s opinion? Just contact us and we’ll send over an electrician to determine your home’s specific power needs.

Step 1: Understand how generators are sized

Generators are typically sized in kilowatts (kW), which is a measurement of how much electrical power the generator provides. The higher the kilowatts, the more power the generator provides.

Here’s why it’s crucial to get the right size generator for your home:

  • A generator that doesn’t provide enough electricity can cause a voltage drop and potentially harm your appliances. Or it will stop supplying power completely, leaving you and your family in the dark (literally).
  • A generator that provides more power than you need means you’ll pay more than you should for the unit itself and for the operational costs.

Step 2: Determine the appliances you want powered during a blackout

This all comes down to personal preference. Some homeowners prefer only the bare essentials during a power outage (to cut down on energy bills) while some want all their home’s electronics powered.

We’ve included a comprehensive list of common electrical appliances in the household to help you start thinking about your specific power needs:

  • Refrigerator
  • Freezer
  • Microwave
  • Coffee Maker
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Dishwasher
  • Electric range
  • Sump pump
  • Central Air Conditioner
  • Furnace fan
  • Chargers
  • Light bulbs
  • Water heater
  • Washer/Dryer
  • Televisions
  • Radio
  • Laptop
  • Desktop computer
  • Printer
  • LCD monitor
  • Ceiling fans
  • Garage door opener
  • Outdoor electric grills

Example: 

Bob is a homeowner who doesn’t necessarily want all of his home’s electronics powered during an outage but he definitely wants his family to be comfortable and entertained. 

So here’s Bob’s list of electronics:

  • Refrigerator
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Central Air conditioner
  • Dishwasher
  • All the lights in the house (12)
  • Sump pump
  • Water heater
  • Television
  • Laptop
  • Ceiling fans (x2)

Step 3: Add up the wattage of all appliances 

Before you start, beware: most large appliances with motors have what’s called a “surge” wattage. This is the wattage that’s required at initial startup. The surge wattage is usually anywhere from 2 to 3 times higher than the “rated” watts which is the ongoing wattage required for the appliance.

When determining the cumulative wattage of your appliances, always use the higher “surge” wattage of larger appliances (instead of only adding in the “rated” wattage). This will ensure that your generator has enough power for large appliances to start up.

To help, we’ve listed the typical surge and rated wattage for common household electronics:

The wattages listed below follows the formula: surge watts/rated watts.

  • Refrigerator: 1500/700
  • Freezer: 1500/700
  • Microwave: 1000/1000
  • Coffee Maker: 1750/1750
  • Kitchen Appliances: 1200/1200
  • Dishwasher: 1400/700
  • Electric range: 2100/2100
  • Sump pump: 1300/800
  • Central Air Conditioner: 2200/1200
  • Furnace fan: 2350/875
  • Chargers: 12/12
  • Light bulbs (x4): 60/60
  • Electric water heater: 4000/4000
  • Clothes washer: 2300/1150
  • Clothes electric dryer: 5750/1800
  • Televisions: 300/300
  • Radio: 200/200
  • Laptop: 65/65
  • Desktop computer: 800/800
  • Laser printer: 950/950
  • LCD monitor: 25/25
  • Ceiling fans: 1200/800
  • Garage door opener: 1200/750
  • Outdoor electric grills: 1650/1650

Example: 

Bob needs to find the cumulative wattage needed to power all his listed appliances during an outage. Here’s his list plus the surge watts/rated watts for each appliance:

  • Refrigerator: 1500/700
  • Kitchen appliances: 1200/1200
  • Central Air conditioner: 2200/1200
  • Dishwasher: 1400/700
  • All the lights in the house (12): 180/180
  • Sump pump: 1300/800
  • Water heater: 4000/400
  • Television: 300/300
  • Laptop: 65/65
  • Ceiling fans (x2): 2400/1600

Bob’s cumulative watts: 10,245/7,145 

Step 4: Convert your cumulative watts to kilowatts

Once you have the total amount of watts calculated, you’ll want to convert that number to kilowatts.

To convert watts to kilowatts, simply divide the cumulative surge watts by 1000.

The resulting number is the size generator you need.

Example:

Bob’s cumulative surge watts: 10,245

10,245 ÷ 1,000= 10.245 kw

So we can determine that Bob would need a 10.25 kW generator to power his home during an outage.

Need an electrician to determine the size generator you need?

If you’re still not sure what size generator you need for your Minnesota home, just contact us.

We’ll send over an electrician to walk you through the process and make sure your generator fits your power needs.

Related reading:

Why Won’t My Air Handler Turn Off?

To troubleshoot an air handler that’s running non-stop, follow these steps:

  1. Determine it’s JUST the air handler that’s running constantly
  2. Make sure your thermostat is set to AUTO not ON
  3. Check if your thermostat is bad
  4. Contact a professional for help

Let’s go into more detail about each of these steps…

Don’t have time to troubleshoot? Contact us and we’ll send someone over to your home right away to fix the problem.

Step #1: Determine it’s JUST the air handler running constantly

First, we should make sure your indoor air handler is the only part that’s running non-stop and that your outdoor compressor isn’t also running.

So, before anything else, head outside to where your outdoor unit is located. Do you hear (or see) the outdoor unit running as well?

If so, try the troubleshooting instructions in our article, “Why Is My Air Conditioner Running All Day?” A Minnesota Tech Answers,” or give us a call and we’ll fix it.

But if your outdoor unit isn’t running, it’s just the indoor unit that runs non-stop, read on...

Step #2: Make sure your thermostat is set to AUTO not ON


Make sure your thermostat is set to AUTO, not ON

Check your thermostat and make sure the fan is set to AUTO, not ON.

Here’s why: When your thermostat is set to ON, your AC’s blower (located in the air handler) will run non-stop. But when you set your thermostat to AUTO, the blower will only run as needed, so it should shut off when your home reaches your desired temperature.

Wait until your home reaches your desired temperature, then check to see if the air handler shuts off. Do you still hear the blower fan run? Then you may have another problem...

Step #3: Check for a bad thermostat

Like any piece of mechanical equipment, thermostats can and do go bad over time. Sometimes a malfunctioning thermostat won’t relay the proper electrical signal to shut off your AC’s air handler.

A thermostat can go bad for various reasons but the two most common issues are:

  1. Faulty wiring
  2. Dead batteries

Here’s what to do: Try changing the thermostat batteries. Did that help? If not, or if your thermostat is unresponsive, contact a professional to replace or fix your faulty thermostat.

Is your thermostat fine? Then you may have another issue where you’ll need a professional’s help...

Step #4: Contact a professional for help

If you’ve tried the previous troubleshooting steps and nothing seems to be working, it’s time to contact an HVAC technician for help.

What’s the likely culprit? A bad fan relay

Your AC’s fan is controlled by an electrical component called a fan relay, which essentially turns your fan off or on. The fan relay is found in the air handler, near the blower. 

Occasionally these relays get stuck unexpectedly or suddenly go bad, which causes the fan to run constantly. Since troubleshooting a fan relay requires electrical expertise, you’ll need a professional to repair or replace your fan relay.

Need help from a Minnesota tech? 

Contact On Time Service Pros to schedule an HVAC repair. We’ll fix whatever is causing your air handler to run constantly, and make sure your system is in good shape.

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Why Is My Air Conditioner Leaking Inside My House?

So you’ve noticed a suspicious puddle of water in your home and you’ve traced it back to your indoor AC unit.

What’s the issue and how do you stop the leaking?

Well, if your AC is leaking water inside your home, the top 3 causes are:

  • A clogged condensate drain
  • A cracked drain pan
  • A frozen evaporator coil (that’s now thawing out)

Now the next steps: determining which issue is causing your AC leak and how to fix it. (Don’t worry, we’ll show you how to do just that…)

But first, let’s answer the obvious question: Why is my AC producing water in the first place?

Live in MN or western Wisconsin and need a professional to fix the leak ASAP? Just contact us and we’ll send one right over.

How your AC produces water

Your air conditioner doesn’t just cool the air inside your home, it also dehumidifies the air. And this dehumidification process produces moisture.

Here’s how that dehumidification process works:

Warm, humid air is pulled into your indoor air handler and passes over very cold evaporator coils. Those coils absorb both the heat and moisture from the air like a sponge. When warm air hits the cold coils, condensation forms, rolls off the coils and eventually drains outside.

But sometimes, problems in that dehumidification process cause your AC to leak water inside your home. Let’s take a look at those problems...

A clogged condensate drain

As your AC dehumidifies warm air from inside your home, it produces moisture. That moisture is supposed to drip off your evaporator coils and drain outdoors via a condensate drain.

But over time, the condensate drain (usually a white PVC pipe) can get clogged with dirt, debris or algae. And when that happens, water will quickly back up and leak in your home.

Your condensate drain line is a white PVC pipe attached to your indoor AC unit.

What to do:

1. Follow the steps below if you have a clogged condensate drain line:

Find your condensate drain line outside your home. Look for a white PVC pipe near your outdoor AC unit.

What your condensate drain line looks like.

2. Connect a wet/dry vacuum to the end of the condensate drain and try to make the connection as airtight as possible (try using duct tape or a towel to wrap around the connection).

3. Turn on the wet/dry vac and run it for at least 10 seconds and then check the vacuum for any gunk that may have been pulled out. Repeat this process until the drain is clear.

Note: If you don’t have a wet/dry vacuum, you can attach a garden hose around the end of the drain and make the connection airtight. Turn on the hose and let the water rush upward into the drain and break up any clogs. Repeat this step until the water runs clear.

A cracked drain pan

Your AC drain pan is designed to catch all the condensation that drips off your evaporator coils. Eventually that water drains into the condensate drain. But if the drain pan is cracked or old, the water it’s supposed to contain will leak onto the floor.

What to do:

Replace the old drain pan with a new one. You may need to consult an HVAC professional to make sure that you replace the old pan with one that fits your unit.

A frozen evaporator coil

If not enough warm air passes over the cold evaporator coils inside your AC air handler, those coils will drop to super low temperatures. And as condensation forms on the coils, instead of draining away, it will freeze on the coils. Over time, the entire evaporator coil can freeze over.

But when the air conditioner isn’t running (i.e. on a cool night) the ice on the coils has time to thaw out and can cause water leakage in your home.

Related: Why Is My Air Conditioner Frozen Inside?

Some issues that can cause low airflow over the evaporator coil include:

  • A clogged air filter
  • Closing vents (even in unused rooms)
  • A refrigerant leak

What to do:

If you notice ice on your refrigerant lines or evaporator coil, turn off your AC immediately to stop the situation from getting any worse. Then have a professional inspect and repair your system.

Need help from a Minnesota tech?

If you’re still not sure what’s causing your AC to leak water inside your home, just contact us.

We can inspect your system and fix the problem in no time.

Related reading:

Why Is My Ceiling Fan Rotating in the Wrong Direction?

First off, the “correct” way a fan should rotate depends on the season:

  • In the summer, your fan should rotate counter-clockwise and blow air downward. Air that blows directly on us removes moisture from the skin, which cools us off.
  • In the winter, your fan should rotate in a clockwise motion and suck air upwards. This helps distribute the warm air that naturally rises.

Note: The direction your fan should spin really depends on the fan blade design. To ensure that your fan is spinning in the correct direction, stand underneath it. In the summer, you should feel a breeze when standing underneath. In the winter, you shouldn’t feel any breeze.

If you think your fan is rotating in the wrong direction, it’s likely just been left in the wrong setting from the season before.

Don’t worry, though, we’ll show you how to manually reverse the direction of your ceiling fan.

Need a professional to change the direction of your fan? Just contact us. We’ll send a tech over.

How to change the direction of your ceiling fan

If your ceiling fan isn’t remote-operated...

  1. Turn the fan off.
  2. Use a ladder or step stool and inspect the body of the fan (motor housing).
  3. Look for any switch on the body of the fan.
  4. Flip the switch in the opposite direction.
  5. Turn on the fan to check that the fan blades are rotating in the opposite direction.

If your ceiling fan is remote-operated…

  1. Turn off your fan.
  2. Wait until the fan has stopped completely.
  3. Press the reverse button. On some models, you may have to hold the reverse button down for 3 seconds.
  4. Turn the fan back on to check that the fan blades are rotating in the opposite direction.

Issues you might come across

  1. You can’t tell if your fan is rotating in the “correct” direction or not.
    To make sure the fan is now operating in the correct direction, first check to see if you can feel a breeze.
    In the summer, you should feel a breeze as the fan pushes air downward. In the winter, you shouldn't feel a breeze.
     
  2. You don’t see a switch on the fan or a “reverse” option on the remote.
    If this is your issue, check the owner’s manual for the location of the reverse switch. Every fan is designed differently and the switch/reverse may be in a different location than described above.

    If the owner’s manual doesn’t specify that there’s a reverse switch, your fan may not be capable of reversing. If this is the case, you’ll want to either replace your ceiling fan with one that can reverse or have a professional adjust the fan blade pitch.
     
  3. You pushed the switch or reverse button and now the fan won’t run.
    If you tried to reverse the direction of the blades before the fan completely stopped running, you might run into this problem.

    Reversing the direction of the blades while the motor is still running can damage the fan motor capacitor. Unfortunately, you’ll need an electrician to repair or replace the capacitor (or possibly replace the fan itself).
     
  4. Your fan is now rotating in the correct direction but you don’t feel a breeze.
    Let’s say it’s summer and you’ve successfully reversed the direction of the fan blades so that it should be pushing air down. However, you don’t feel a breeze.

    The reason you don’t feel a breeze is most likely because of one of these problems:
  • The fan’s in the wrong place
  • The fan is too small for the room
  • The fan blades aren’t pitched steep enough

    ​The best way to determine which is your issue is to have a professional inspect the fan and offer solutions for better airflow.

Need help from a Minnesota electrician?

If you need help reversing the direction of your fan or replacing the fan you have, just contact us.

We can send over an expert who will make sure you fan blades are rotating in the proper direction.

Related reading:

What’s the Best Indoor Humidity Levels for My Minnesota Home?

In the summer? 40% to 50% humidity.

In the winter? Well, here’s where it gets tricky. You see, in order to prevent condensation and nasty water damage in the winter, you actually need slightly lower humidity levels.

According to the University of Minnesota Laboratories, when the outdoor temperature is:

  • 20° F to 40° F indoor humidity levels shouldn’t exceed 40%
  • 10° F to 20° F indoor humidity levels shouldn’t exceed 35%
  • 0° F to 10° F indoor humidity levels shouldn’t exceed 30%
  • -10° F to 0° F indoor humidity levels shouldn’t exceed 25%
  • -20° F to -10° F indoor humidity levels shouldn’t exceed 20%

*Note: these numbers assume an indoor temperature of 70 degrees.

So how do you actually measure and control the level of humidity in your home? We’ll show you how to do all of that. But first, let’s look at why watching indoor humidity is so important in the first place.

“What happens if my humidity levels are too high or too low?”

If your indoor humidity levels are too high, you could experience:

  • Mold and mildew growth
  • Dust mites
  • Wood rot (or warped wood furniture)
  • High electric bills

But if your indoor humidity levels are too low, you could see the following problems:

  • Dry skin
  • Irritated sinuses and throat
  • Itchy eyes
  • Static electricity
  • Bent and cracked wood furniture

Do you see some of these problems in your home and think you have indoor humidity problems? Let’s look at how you can measure and control your indoor humidity.

“How can I measure my home’s humidity levels?”

If you think you have some humidity problems, it helps to first get an idea of whether you have too much or too little humidity.

You can measure your home’s humidity levels by installing a hygrometer. This device provides an accurate reading of your home’s humidity levels. From there, you can determine whether you have too high or too low humidity in your home.

“My humidity levels are too high, now what?”

High humidity levels is a common problem for Minnesota homeowners in the summer.

To combat high humidity in your home, try the following tips:

  • Make sure your thermostat fan setting is set to AUTO (not ON)
  • Seal your air ducts to prevent your AC system from pulling in humid, unconditioned air from the attic or basement
  • Make sure your AC isn’t oversized
  • Install a whole-home dehumidifier

“My humidity levels are too low, now what?”

If you’re struggling with dry indoor air, try these easy tips;

  • Use a humidifier
  • Boil water on the stove
  • Get houseplants (plants like Boston Ferns or Chinese Evergreens add water vapor to the air but also help purify the air)
  • Leave the bathroom door open while showering

Need help from a Minnesota tech?

If you’re struggling to control the humidity levels in your home, we can help.

Just contact us and we’ll send over a professional who can inspect your home and offer professional solutions that will keep your home’s humidity levels in check.

Related reading:

How Often Should I Change the Filter in My Minnesota Home?

The answer? Whenever it gets dirty.

OK, we know what you’re thinking: “Yeah, but how often should I be checking for a dirty filter?”  

Typically, you should check it once a month. But the real answer is it depends.

You see, how quickly your air filter gets dirty depends on the:

  • Weather
  • Filter’s MERV rating
  • Your home’s overall indoor air quality
  • Your thermostat settings

To give you a better idea of how often you’ll need to replace your air filter, we’ll explore each of the factors above and how they affect your filter performance.

Factor #1: The weather

How it affects your filter: The hotter the weather, the more often you’ll need to change your air filter.

You see, the longer the AC runs, the more air it pulls in through your air filter. And more air passing through your filter means more trapped air contaminants, causing the filter to clog up faster.

For example, let’s say it’s July and you’re running your AC all day to keep your home comfortable. You’ll need to check and change your filter more regularly than, say, in September when you won’t be running the AC half as much.

Factor #2: The MERV rating of your filter

How it affects your filter: The higher the MERV of your filter, the more often you’ll have to replace your filter.

The MERV of your filter determines how many particles it can trap. The higher the MERV of your filter the more particles it can trap, which means the cleaner your air will be but the faster your filter will clog up.

For example, the basic air filter used by most homeowners is the fiberglass air filter. These disposable fiberglass air filters are usually rated anywhere from 1 to 4 on the MERV scale and only catch larger contaminants such as dust mites, pollen and carpet fibers. Typically, these low MERV filters should be checked once every 3 months (depending on a few other factors) and changed once they look like the filter to the right below.

Note: If you’re not sure what MERV rating your current filter has, just check the side of the filter for a MERV rating label.

Fiberglass filters are usually anywhere from 1 to 4 MERV and typically need to be changed every 3 months.

On the other hand, a filter with a higher MERV of 13 may need to be replaced once a month. That’s because a filter with a MERV of 13 can catch a lot of contaminants (all the contaminants listed above for a MERV 1-4 filter plus finer contaminants such as tobacco smoke, bacteria, mold spores, etc.)

Note: The thickness of your filter also correlates to how long it will last before clogging up. A thicker filter has more surface area to catch more contaminants. So a filter with a MERV 13 that’s 1 inch thick will clog up faster than a filter with a MERV of 13 that’s 3 inches thick.

Factor #3: The overall indoor air quality

How it affects your filter: The more air pollutants you have in your home, the faster your filter will clog up.

The quality of your home’s indoor air determines the amount of contaminants floating around in your home. And the more contaminants there are, the faster your filter gets dirty and needs to be replaced.

According the the Environmental Protection Agency, some factors that can increase the amount of air contaminants in your home include:

  • Recent construction/renovations to the home
  • Use of pesticides in or around the home
  • Poor ventilation in the home
  • Smoking inside the house
  • Presence of indoor pets
  • Humidity levels that are too high or too low
  • Level of air pollution and construction around the home
  • Number of people occupying the home (the more people, the more contaminants)

For advice on how to cut down on indoor air contaminants, check out the EPA’s article, “Improving Indoor Air Quality”.

Factor #4: Your thermostat settings

How it affects your filter: Setting your thermostat fan to ON instead of AUTO will cause your filter to clog up faster.

Your thermostat provides two settings for your AC fan:

  1. ON
  2. AUTO

Setting the fan to ON means that the fan runs continuously, even when the AC isn’t on a cooling cycle. Setting the fan to AUTO means the fan runs only when the AC is on a cooling cycle.

So if you set to fan to ON and it runs continuously throughout the day, your filter is constantly trapping contaminants as air passes through the AC system. And that means it will get dirty and need to be replaced faster than a filter that only traps contaminants during cooling cycles.

Setting your fan to ON can also increase energy bills and humidity levels in your home. To learn more, check out our blog, “Should You Set Your Thermostat Fan Setting to ON or AUTO?”

Need advice from a MN tech?

If you need help controlling indoor air pollutants or aren’t sure what type of filter you should be using, we can help.

Just contact us. We’ll send over a professional who can give you helpful advice when it comes to your AC’s air filters.

Related reading:

What Is “Hard” Water and What Does It Mean for My Minnesota Home?

“Hard” water is basically water that has a high amount of minerals (mostly calcium and magnesium) dissolved into it.

And even though hard water isn’t dangerous to our health, it can cause a number of household problems. 

Some of those “hard water problems” include:

  • Scale buildup in pipes and water appliances (water heater damage)
  • Film and spotting on dishes
  • Stiff clothes after laundering

We’ll explain each of those “hard water problems” and show you what you can do to prevent them. But first, let’s take a closer look at how hard water is formed.

How do minerals get into the water in the first place?

Well, as rain falls, it travels along the ground or rocks, absorbing minerals along the way. So, usually, the type of terrain that a certain area has determines how “hard” or “soft” the water will be.

And because the terrain under Minnesota is saturated with limestone, the water is particularly hard in this area. Note: Limestone is made primarily of calcium carbonate.

In fact, the water in Minnesota has 15 to 25 grains of hardness per gallon of water (GPG is a measurement of water hardness). Compared to the national average of 5 to 9 GPG, our water is considered “very hard”.


A map of water hardness throughout the U.S. In this graphic, water hardness is measured by milligrams of hardness per liter of water.
Source

What does “very hard water” mean for my Minnesota home?

Hard water isn’t a health concern but it can make life a little tougher. For example, hard water can cause the following problems:

Scale buildup in pipes and water appliances

As hard water travels, some of the minerals leave the water and cling to the surfaces of your pipes and water appliances. And over time, those minerals build up, creating a thick scale that:

  • Reduces the flow of water
  • Encourages bacteria growth
  • Reduces the efficiency of water heaters
  • Damages and reduces the lifespan of water appliances (especially water heaters)

Film on glasses and dishes

Just like limescale can cling to the insides of your pipes, it can also cling to the surfaces of your dishes. This layer of film makes glass dishes look dull, grimy and dirty.

Over time, that film will be harder and harder to remove from your dishes, forcing you to use more dishwasher detergent to clean your glasses. In fact, one study found that homeowners with hard water used 50% more dishwasher detergent than homeowners with soft water.

Stiff clothes after doing laundry

The extra minerals in our hard water react with laundry detergent soaps to form a “curd”. That soapy curd clings to your clothes making them look dirty, feel stiff and appear discolored.

And just like dishwasher detergents, many homeowners find themselves using twice as much laundry detergent to get clothes softer and cleaner.

The solution? Whole-home water softening

If you’re tired of dealing with hard water problems, the simple solution is to soften your water. A whole-home water softener remove minerals in your water before the water enters your home or travels through your pipes and appliances.

Installing a whole-home water softener means:

  • Cleaner, sparkling glass dishes 
  • Less soap scum left behind on shower curtains and bathtubs
  • Money saved on dishwasher detergent and laundry detergent
  • Extended life of water appliances, including your water heater
  • Better tasting water

Want to learn more about whole-home water softening? Ask a Minnesota tech

If you want to know more about how you can benefit from a whole-home water softener, just contact us.

Related reading:

What Size Electrical Panel Do I Need for My MN Home?

Thinking about getting an electrical panel with a higher amperage?
 
Homeowners often ask us for advice about upgrading their electrical panels, and this is what we tell them: Most Minnesota homes are OK with a 100 amp minimum electrical panel.
 
So in most cases, you shouldn’t need to upgrade your electrical panel.
 
However, there are 3 reasons why you should upgrade your home’s electrical panel:

  1. You’re already drawing too much power
  2. You’re adding amenities to your home
  3. Your home is 40 to 60+ years old

In this article, we’ll go into more detail about why you’re probably OK with a 100 amp panel, as well as the 3 reasons why you should upgrade your electrical panel.
 
But FIRST, let’s start with a quick refresher on electrical panels in case you’re new to the topic. If you already know the basics, go ahead and skip to the next section.

A quick refresher on electrical panels


An electrical panel (also called a breaker panel).

All of your home appliances rely on electricity for power. Your electrical panel is the component that controls and distributes power to your appliances.
 
Electrical panel power capacity is measured in amps, and the minimum requirement for electrical panels is 100 amps. Residential electrical panels come in 100, 125, 150 and 200 amp sizes. You can find the amp size of your panel near the main breaker ON/OFF switch.
 
Now, it may appear that a 200-amp electrical panel is better than a 100-amp panel, but that’s not the case. It just means that the 200-amp panel is bigger (think of it like a large Coke vs. a small Coke—they both contain the same substance, they’re just different sizes).
 
The size electrical panel your home needs depends on the appliances you use.
 
Now we’ll explain why your Minnesota home should be OK with a 100 amp electrical panel...

Why you’re generally OK with a 100 amp electrical panel

Most Minnesota homes come with the same basic electrical appliances (dishwasher, garbage disposal, microwaves, etc.). Each of these appliances has an electrical capacity or load, which is expressed as volt-ampere (VA).
 
The VA rating of each appliance is added to determine the minimum size your electrical panel needs to be. In our experience performing these calculations, most Minnesota homes need a 100 amp electrical panel.  
 
Of course, that depends on the specifics of your home. Many Minnesota homes use a gas-fueled appliances like a furnace, water heater and oven, which reduces the amount of electrical power your home needs. But if those appliances are electric, you likely already have a bigger electrical panel to support them.
 
To get a rough estimate of the minimum size electrical panel your home needs, use this online load calculator. But remember: this is just a rough estimate. A professional electrician will need to perform a more complex load calculation to accurately determine what size panel you need for your home.

3 reasons you should upgrade your home’s electrical panel

Reason #1: You’re already drawing too much power

If your home’s appliances are already requiring too much power, then you’ll need to upgrade your electrical panel.
 
How do I know if I’m drawing too much power? You’ll know if you see signs like…

  • Your circuit breakers trips frequently
  • Your lights dim when you turn on other appliances
  • You have to use extension cords or adapters to create additional outlets for your home

If you notice any of those signs, contact a certified electrician to perform a load calculation for your home. A professional load calculation will determine what size electrical panel your home needs. 

Reason #2: You’re adding amenities to your home

If you’re adding amenities or bigger appliances—like a bigger air conditioner or a spa— to your home, you may need to upgrade your electrical panel.
 
Before you add any big appliances or amenities to your home, contact an electrician to make sure you’ll have enough power for them.

Reason #3: Your home is 40–60+ years old

Some older homes come with pre-WWII electrical panels, which were only designed with 30, 50 or 60 amps for the entire home. If you have an electrical panel with screw-in type fuses, you likely have an older panel and you’ll need to upgrade to at least a 100 amp panel.
 
Additionally, electrical panels generally last 25 to 40 years, so if yours is 40+ years, it could be time to replace it. If your electrical panel is in poor condition, or if it only has a few circuits, these are signs it’s time to replace it.
 
Contact a licensed electrician to replace your electrical panel if it’s too old.

Still have questions? Or need a professional to install your new electrical panel?

Contact On Time Services Pros. We’d be happy to answer any of your questions or schedule an appointment for one of our electricians to install a new electrical panel.

We’ve been serving the Twin Cities area since 1945.

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Should I Turn My Central Air Conditioning Off at Night?

We get this question a lot from Minnesota homeowners looking to save some $$$—especially once summer hits. 
 
Here’s our answer: Sure, you can turn off your central AC unit to save money while you’re asleep. The only problem is, you’re less likely to sleep comfortably and wake up feeling refreshed.
 
Why’s that, you ask?
 
Scientists have found that our bodies sleep best when room temperature is between 60–67 degrees. If it’s hotter or colder than that range in your bedroom, it’s actually preventing you from having a good night’s sleep.
 
In this article, we’ll go more into the science behind temperature and sleep. We’ll also share a solution that will save you money on your energy bills AND keep you comfortable.
 
Let’s start with why it’s important to have the right temperature for sleep...

Why the right temperature is essential for sleep

Studies have shown that sleep is most likely to occur when our core body temperature decreases.
 
When we fall asleep, our body’s temperature naturally decreases as part of its sleep-wake rhythm. So when you intentionally lower your core body temperature, you signal to your body that it’s time to sleep.
 
One way to send that signal to your body is to lower your bedroom’s temperature to 60–67 degrees. If you go much higher or lower than that range, you’ll affect the quality of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
 
During the REM sleep stage, often called the “deep sleep stage,” you have higher brain metabolism and you often dream. Scientists say REM sleep is important to our overall health because it exercises important neural connections that improve our well-being and mental health.
 
Now you may be wondering: “So what’s the big deal if I don’t get a full night’s sleep? I can still function the next day just fine.”
 
Well, regularly not getting enough sleep can cause short term problems like:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of focus
  • Depression

 
And in the long term, frequent sleep deprivation can lead to serious problems like:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure


So your body needs a good night’s sleep. 

Luckily, there’s a solution that allows you to save money AND sleep comfortably: installing a programmable thermostat.

Solution: Install a programmable thermostat 

A programmable thermostat allows you to cool your home based on your schedule, which means you can save money when you’re not at home.
 
Let’s say you work 8 hours away from home. You can program your thermostat to be at a toasty 80 degrees while you’re away, but when 5:00 pm rolls around, the smart thermostat can automatically adjust to 72 degrees. 
 
Then, when it’s time for bed, you can program the thermostat to be 66 degrees so you can sleep comfortably—and you can afford to do it because you saved all that money during the day.
 
And the best part about programmable thermostats is that you only have to set up your preferences once; you don’t have to constantly remember to adjust temperatures at different times during your day.

Interested in a programmable thermostat?

Contact On Time Service Pros for a programmable thermostat installation. We’ll find a smart thermostat that works with your existing cooling system so you can start saving money right away.

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2-Ton Air Conditioner vs 3-Ton Air Conditioner: What’s the Difference?

The “tonnage” of an air conditioner refers to its size. So, at the most basic level, the difference between a 2-ton AC and a 3-ton AC is the “size” of the units.

But we know that doesn’t give you much context so let’s look a little closer.

The 3 big differences between a 2-ton AC and a 3-ton AC include:

  1. How much cooling it can provide in an hour
  2. The upfront cost of the unit
  3. The monthly energy costs

We’ll take an in-depth look at each of these differences to help you understand which AC size works best for your home.

Difference #1: Level of cooling

Air conditioners are sized according to how many BTUs (British Thermal Unit—a unit of heat) they can remove from your home in an hour. So the larger the “ton” the more cooling an AC can provide.

As a general rule of thumb, the larger your home, the larger AC you’ll need. Let’s look at the difference in cooling ability between a 2-ton vs 3-ton air conditioner:

  • 2-ton AC removes 24,000 BTUs/hr and provides adequate cooling for a 900-1,200 square foot house*
  • 3-ton AC removes 36,000 BTUs/hr and provides adequate cooling for a 1,500-1,800 square foot house*

*Note: Keep in mind that matching the tonnage of an AC to the square footage of a house is a very imprecise calculation. To get an accurate idea of the size AC your home needs, you’ll need to have a professional perform what’s called a “Manual J” calculation.

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t have a choice when it comes to picking the size AC your home needs. Once you have a professional calculate the exact BTU capacity you need from an AC unit, we highly suggest sticking to the AC tonnage that provides that amount of cooling.

In other words, don’t go up or down an AC size.

Bottom line: Hire a contractor to decide what tonnage your AC unit should be.

Difference #2: Upfront cost of the unit

The larger the tonnage of an AC, the higher the upfront cost.

Typically, a 3-ton AC can cost up to $500 more than a 2-ton AC. However, the size of your air conditioner plays a relatively small part in the overall cost of your unit.

Other factors that affect the upfront cost of the unit include:

  • SEER rating
  • Brand of the unit
  • Contractor you choose to install the unit
  • Ductwork installations/modifications

For more information on how much these factors affect cost, check out our blog, “How Much Does a New Central Air Conditioner Cost in Minneapolis?”

Difference #3: The monthly energy costs

The larger the tonnage of your AC unit, the more you can expect to pay in monthly energy costs.

In fact, when you take into consideration electricity rates and average summer temperatures in Minneapolis, you can expect to pay roughly 20% to 25% more in monthly energy costs if you have a 3-ton AC vs a 2-ton AC unit.

Another factor that plays a large role in monthly cooling bills is the SEER rating of your AC unit. Basically, the higher the SEER of your AC unit, the more energy efficient it is and the lower your monthly cooling costs.

To get a better idea of how SEER affects your monthly cooling bills, read our blog, “13 SEER vs 16 SEER: Estimating Air Conditioner Efficiencies for Minneapolis Homes”.

Need advice from a Minneapolis tech?

If you’re not sure whether you need a 2-ton or a 3-ton AC for your Minneapolis home, just contact us.

We’ll send out an experienced tech to inspect your home and let you know the unit that will satisfy your cooling needs.

Related reading:

13 SEER vs 16 SEER: Estimating Air Conditioner Efficiencies For Minneapolis Homes

As you may already know, a higher SEER means a more energy efficient air conditioner. And you may also know the higher the SEER, the higher the A/C’s price tag.

But now you’re wondering: Is a higher SEER unit worth the higher upfront cost?

We get this question a lot. Since 13 SEER is the federal minimum efficiency requirement for new air conditioners, many homeowners wonder if they should go with the minimum requirement or with a higher SEER unit.

We’ll show you if it’s worth it by comparing 13 SEER and 16 SEER A/Cs as an example.

Compared to a 13 SEER system, the 16 SEER system could save you about $570 over 15 years (the typical lifespan of an A/C). However, those savings are just a rough estimate. How much you REALLY save depends other factors like: 

  • The correct size air conditioner you need
  • The number of stages your A/C has
  • “Matching” your indoor and outdoor units
  • The quality of your home’s ductwork

We’ll quickly discuss those factors later in the article. But just as a rough estimate, we’ll show you how to see if those 15-year savings make up for the expensive install cost of a higher SEER unit...

How to compare SEER efficiencies

To find out if a higher SEER A/C is worth the higher investment up front, follow these 3 easy steps:

Step #1: Find out the price of each SEER unit

For this step, you’ll need to contact a certified air conditioning expert for an accurate cost for each SEER A/C. There are so many factors to take into account that it’s impossible to give you an accurate cost here.

When you’re getting price estimates, make sure both A/Cs have equivalent features (like # of stages) and are the same size (same # of tons). This means you’re comparing apples to apples.

You’ll also want to account for rebates. For example, a 16 SEER air conditioner in Minneapolis qualifies for a $450 rebate with Xcel Energy, so you can also subtract this from the purchase cost.

Step #2: Subtract the difference in price

Once you get a quote on the install cost of two separate SEER units, subtract the prices from each other to find the difference in cost.

Equation example: 16 SEER total cost - 13 SEER total cost = Difference in price

Step #3: Subtract the difference from the lifetime savings

Then, take the difference of the two SEER units and subtract it from the 15-year savings. Your A/C contractor can provide you with these savings, or you can calculate it yourself (skip to the end of the article to learn how).

Equation example: 

Difference in upfront price - Lifetime energy efficiency savings = Actual difference in price between the two different SEERs

If the actual difference in price is less than or equal to 0, it’s worth getting the higher SEER unit because of the energy savings and rebates will make up the cost difference.

Consult a professional as you choose a SEER

Of course, the SEER rating alone won’t tell you exactly what A/C you need for your home. Like we mentioned earlier, there are still many other factors to consider like…

  • The correct size air conditioner you need (measured in tons, which a professional can help you calculate)
  • The number of stages your A/C has (i.e., single, double or variable speed)
  • “Matching” your system (making sure your indoor and outdoor units are compatible)
  • The quality of your home’s ductwork (i.e., no leaks)

You need a professional to take into account these different home factors. An air conditioning technician will perform a series of calculations to help you determine what size and type of air conditioner best fits your needs.

Want a trustworthy A/C expert’s advice?

Contact On Time Service Pros for an air conditioner install estimate. We’ll take into account all of the factors that affect SEER to give you an accurate A/C recommendation that matches your home and budget.

How to calculate SEER 15-year lifetime savings

If you’re curious how to calculate the 15-year lifetime savings for a particular A/C system, we’ve included some of the math here.

First, using the following equation, we need to calculate a SEER unit’s annual cost of operation:

(Btu/Hr / SEER) x (Cooling load hours / 1000 watts) x $/kwh = Annual Cost of Operation

Let’s go into each part of this equation:

  • (Btu/Hr / SEER): “Btu/Hr” is easy to find—you just multiply the A/C's tonnage by 12,000. So, let’s say you have a 3-ton air conditioner. Simply multiply 3 x 12,000 to get 36,000 Btu/Hr. Then, divide that by the SEER of the unit you’re comparing (36,000 / 13 = 2,769).
  • (Cooling load hours / 1000 watts): In Minneapolis, the average cooling load hours are about 662 per year. You need to divide this by 1000 watts to calculate kwh (kilowatt-hours). So for Minneapolis, this part of the equation looks like: (662 / 1000 = .63)
  • $/kwh: The average residential electricity rate in Minneapolis is about 11 cents per kwh. This is expressed as .11 in the equation.

Here’s how the equation breaks down for 13 and 16 SEER units:

13 SEER

(36,000 / 13) x (662 / 1000) x .11 = $202 (annual cost of operation)

16 SEER

(36,000 / 16) x (662 / 1000) x .11 = $164 (annual cost of operation)
 
Note: For these comparisons, we’re assuming they’re all the same size air conditioners (3 tons, or 36,000 Btu/Hr) and that they have the same features.

Next, let’s see how they compare with each other over time: 

13 SEER vs. 16 SEER at a glance:

Savings per year: $38 ($202 annual cost of operation (13 SEER) - $164 annual cost of operation (16 SEER) = $38) 
5-year savings: $190 (38 x 5 = $190)
10-year savings: $380 (38 x 10 = $380)
15-year savings: $570 (38 x 15 = $570)

Want a professional to crunch the numbers for you?

Contact On Time Service Pros for an air conditioner install estimate. We’ll help you compare A/Cs with different SEERs so you can maximize your savings.

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Why Is My Air Conditioner Frozen Inside?

If you’ve felt reduced airflow in your home, heard your A/C run continuously or seen a large amount of drainage around your indoor unit, these are signs your air conditioner is frozen inside.

And if that’s the case, turn off your A/C to prevent any further damage to your equipment.

Now you may be wondering, “Why is my A/C freezing up, even when it’s a hot day outside?”

We get asked that question a lot. There 2 common problems that cause your A/C to freeze:

  1. Airflow issues
  2. Refrigerant leaks

Later in this article, we’ll discuss these 2 major freezing problems. But first, let’s go into more detail about how an air conditioner freezes in the first place...

Need help right away? Call (651)-254-8117 or schedule an appointment for one of our certified A/C technicians to visit your home.

How does an A/C freeze in the first place?

You know the purpose of an A/C unit: to make your home’s living spaces cooler. But an air conditioner technically doesn’t “create” cool air, like in the way a furnace produces heat. Instead, it cools by removing heat from your home’s air.

If something’s not working right in this heat removal process, that is what’s causing your A/C to freeze up.

In a nutshell, here’s how the heat removal process works: Your air conditioner pulls in your home’s hot air and then cools it in the evaporator coil (see image above) using a fluid called refrigerant. Refrigerant absorbs heat from the passing air and carries it outside, leaving your home feeling nice and cool.

Now, if something isn’t working correctly in your system, the refrigerant can get too cold, causing ice to build up on the evaporator coil, which is what “freezes” your system.

Contrary to how it sounds, a frozen A/C doesn’t mean you’ll have a cooler home. In fact, the opposite is true: Your home will feel warm, and your A/C will waste energy because it’s running longer. Longer run times lead to system breakdowns and high energy bills, so you’ll want to fix whatever’s causing your A/C to freeze ASAP.

Let’s go into some specific causes of a frozen A/C unit...

What causes your air conditioner to freeze

Cause #1: Airflow problems

Airflow is the amount of air flowing over the evaporator coil. When there’s not enough airflow, the refrigerant in your evaporator coil will drop below freezing (32°F) because there’s not enough warm air entering the system for the cold refrigerant to absorb. 

Then, when humid air comes into contact with the coil, moisture condenses (like water beads outside a cold glass on a hot day) and then freezes. Over time, insufficient airflow creates ice buildup on the evaporator coil and limits your system’s ability to properly cool your home.

These are the most likely culprits of airflow problems:

  • You have a dirty air filter
  • Your evaporator coil is dirty
  • Your return air ducts are too small
  • Your air ducts are blocked
  • Your registers are closed or blocked
  • Your blower fan isn’t working properly

Solutions

  • DIY fixes: Check your air filter, and change it if it’s dirty. In the heat of the summer, consider changing your filter once every month. Also, make sure ALL of your vents (even in rooms your don’t use) are open and that nothing is obstructing them. 
  • Call a professional: If the DIY fixes don’t work, it’s time to contact a professional cooling expert. They’ll take a look at your return air ducts for sizing and blockages. Than can also inspect your blower for malfunctioning parts and your evaporator coil for dirt. 

Cause #2: Refrigerant leaks

In a normal system, the refrigerant will be right around the freezing temperature of water (32°F). As the indoor air moves over the evaporator coil, the moisture in the air condenses on the coils, and then gently drips into the condensate drain.

But if you have insufficient refrigerant (usually caused by leaks), the pressure drops, which lowers the temperature of the refrigerant even further. The colder refrigerant makes the condensation that forms on the coils freeze. When the ice melts, you’ll notice more drainage around your indoor unit or furnace.

Other signs you might have a leak include…

  • Low airflow coming out of your air registers
  • Your home takes a long time to cool off
  • Warm air is coming from your registers
  • You hear a hissing or bubbling sound near your A/C
  • Higher electric bills

Solution

Call a professional: Only a certified technician has the tools and the expertise to check and fix refrigerant leaks. In addition to making your A/C freeze, refrigerant leaks can cause compressor failure and reduce your air conditioner’s efficiency—so you’ll want to get it fixed soon.

Need a pro to fix your frozen A/C?

On Time Service Pros can get your air conditioner back into tip-top shape. Contact us to schedule an appointment today

We’ve been serving Minnesota families since 1945.

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Circuit Breaker Sizing for Your Home’s Generator

Did you recently buy a generator for your home but now you’re wondering what size circuit breaker you need for it?

Here’s what you need to know: The circuit breaker for your generator should be sized according to the generator’s output (in amps). We’ll show you exactly how to calculate this output below.

First, though, let’s take a look at why your generator needs a circuit breaker in the first place.

Note: Some generators come with overload protection installed within the device itself and may not require circuit breakers. To determine whether your circuit breaker has built-in protection, contact the manufacturer or look up the generator model online.

Want to skip the calculations and have a professional install the correctly sized breaker? Just contact us and we’ll do all the work for you.

Why does my generator need a circuit breaker?

A generator without a circuit breaker will live a shorter life and can even start an electrical fire.

Here’s why: When appliances draw more power than your generator’s designed to provide, it forces an unsafe amount of electricity to course through your home’s wiring. And over time, those wires will overheat and cause a fire.

But circuit breakers prevent that from happening by providing “overload protection” for your generator. A circuit breaker carefully monitors the amount of electricity that flows between your generator and the appliances it feeds. If the level of electricity ever exceeds a safe amount, your circuit breaker will disconnect the load in a matter of seconds.

Now that you know why you need overload protection, let’s take a look at how to determine the right size circuit breaker for your generator.

5 steps to calculating the right circuit breaker size for your home generator

Step 1: Locate the power specifications label on your generator.

Source

Step 2: On that label, look for the rated current, labeled as “AMP”.

An example of a typical generator’s data label.

Source

Step 3: On that same label, find the power factor, labeled as “PF” or “PWR Fact”).

Source

The power factor is the small portion of power that is produced by the generator that doesn’t reach or get “used” by the connected appliances.

This number will always be a number between 0 and 1 (for example PF= .8).

Step 4: Divide your rated current (Amps) by the power factor (PF) to determine your true current value.

Example: If your generator has a rated current of 50 amps with a power factor of 0.8, here’s how you’d calculate your true current value:

50 ÷ 0.8 = 62.5 true current value (in amps)

Step 5: Get a circuit breaker that’s sized between 100% and 125% of the true current value.

Example: If your true current value is 62.5, your generator will use a 70 amp breaker.

Need help sizing your generator’s circuit breaker?

If you have generator questions, we have answers.

Just contact us. We can install your home generator and make sure that you have the right-sized circuit breakers installed as well.

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3 Reasons Why You Should Buy a Standby Generator

Standby generators are increasingly common in Twin Cities homes, but they’re also expensive.

A whole-home standby generator runs anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000+, depending on how much wattage it produces. The higher the wattage, the higher the price tag.

So, is it worth the huge investment?

Here are 3 reasons why you should consider buying a standby generator:

  1. You live in an area with severe weather
  2. You need to support medical equipment
  3. Your work requires you to stay connected at all times

Let’s go into more detail about each of these reasons, and what other options are available to you.


Reason #1: You live in an area with severe weather

If the power often goes out where you live because of bad weather, you may consider a standby generator.

Here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, we occasionally have some serious weather—like blizzards, floods, tornadoes and derechos—that cause power outages. A standby generator provides power through fuel lines, which keep essential appliances like your home’s heating/cooling system and refrigerators running even in the most severe weather.

Buying a standby generator is a lot like buying insurance; You hope to not have to use it very much, but it gives you great peace of mind knowing you and your family will be protected during an emergency.


Reason #2: You need to support medical equipment

If you have loved ones who require powered medical equipment, you’ll want to consider a standby generator.

Some power outages can last for days. If it would be difficult to travel to a hotel or hospital where you live, a standby generator is a reliable solution to keep family members who depend on medical equipment safe.

Another benefit of a standby generator is that it doesn’t need any activation during a power outage. It has an electronic switch that automatically turns the system on, keeping appliances running smoothly. So if you’re out of town, and you have a family member at home who uses medical equipment, you don’t have to worry about them getting power during an outage.


Reason #3: Your work requires you to stay connected at all times

Do you work from home? Or does your job require you to be connected at all times?

If so, any time without power harms your business and productivity. With a standby generator, you can work through a power outage and still keep in contact with customers.


Different backup generator options

If that price tag of $2,000–$15,000+ is looking a little steep to power your whole house, here are 2 other options to consider:

  • Point-of-use generator: These smaller systems can power specific appliances in your home, like a kitchen or HVAC system. This saves money compared to a whole-home standby generator. You can use this online calculator to get an estimate of what kind of wattage you’d need to power the appliances you want.
  • Portable generators: You usually store these in a shed or garage and bring them out when there’s an emergency. The hassle with portable generators is that you have to manually connect them if there’s a power outage—they won’t automatically turn on like a standby generator.

Consult a professional

Electrical work is complex and very dangerous. So before you decide on a home generator, contact a certified electrician for advice.

The electrician you choose should be…

  • Licensed and certified for your chosen brand of equipment
  • Familiar with local codes and permits that determine how close the generator can sit to the house, the size of the fuel storage tank and sound ordinances
  • Insured, in case there’s an accident on the job

Want an honest expert’s opinion?

Contact On Time Service Pros for advice on all your home generator and electrical needs. One of our certified electricians will visit your home to give a personalized and accurate project estimate.

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Main Electrical Panel vs. Subpanel: The Difference and Why It Matters

Did you recently discover a second electrical panel in your home? Wondering how it’s different from your main electrical panel?

Well, that second electrical panel is a “subpanel”.

We’ll explain what a subpanel is, how it differs from your main panel and then explore some of the reasons you might want to consider installing a subpanel in your home.

Main vs. subpanels: How they work and how they differ

Every home with electricity has a main electrical panel. The main panel is connected directly to the incoming electricity from your utility company. It distributes that incoming power throughout your home via circuits.

A subpanel, on the other hand, is basically an extension of your main electrical panel. It’s not directly connected to the incoming utility power; instead it feeds off the power from your main panel (think of the subpanel as the “middleman” between the main panel and a branch of circuits in your home).

So here’s the hierarchical flow of electricity as it comes into your home:

Electric meter (power from utility ) > Main panel > Subpanel > Subpanel circuits.

But not every home has or needs a subpanel. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons a subpanel might be installed.

Reasons to install a subpanel in your home

Usually, a single main electrical panel provides enough breakers to feed and protect all of the appliances and circuits inside your home.

But there are times when a subpanel is needed, such as...

When you have circuits/appliances that are far away from the main panel

subpanels can cut down on time and construction (such as the holes that need to be cut into walls to hide/run wiring) when it comes to areas that are far from your main panel such as:

  • Greenhouses
  • Workshops
  • Sheds
  • Add-ons/renovations to home

For example, let’s say your main electrical panel is located in your garage, but you’ve just renovated your home and now need power fed to a room at the opposite end of the home. Instead of running multiple circuit wiring all the way to the new room, you can run a single set of feeder wires to a centrally located subpanel. From there, you’ll need much shorter circuit wiring to feed electricity to appliances.

An example of how long circuit wire runs require cutting holes in the wall.
Source

Having a subpanel that’s closer to the appliances it serves is also more convenient. If an appliance trips one of the breakers in your subpanel, you only have to walk to the nearby subpanel to reset the breaker instead of walking all the way back to the main electrical panel.

When you’ve run out of breaker slots in your main panel

Every main electrical panel has a limited amount of available breakers. If those breaker slots are filled up and you have new circuits or appliances that need power, you may want to consider installing a subpanel (assuming your home still has available power).

If your home has available electrical power but no expansion slots left (seen above), installing a subpanel is a great option.

Before installing a subpanel, you’ll need to determine:

  1. The amount of available power load you’ll need to power your additional circuits
  2. The amount of power your main service has left to offer

One thing to remember is that a sub panel doesn’t increase the amount of available power your home has. If you need an increase in electrical power, that’s an entirely separate problem that would require upgrading your main electrical panel.

Have more questions about main and subpanels?

Have other electrical panel questions that we didn’t answer here? Our Minnesota electricians can help.

Just contact us for all your electrical questions.

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Why Is My Furnace Overheating?

Does your furnace turn off and on frequently?

That’s called short cycling, and it’s happening because your furnace is overheating.

Besides being dangerous, an overheated furnace is also highly inefficient, costing you more in energy bills.

But what causes a furnace to overheat? It can be due to a combination of one of these 5 reasons:

  • Dirty air filters
  • Blocked vents
  • Filthy blower wheel
  • Clogged evaporator coil
  • A broken gas valve


Before we get into why these cause a furnace to overheat, let’s talk about what’s happening inside a furnace when it overheats:

What happens when a furnace overheats

A furnace, just like a car or other motorized machine, can overheat when its system parts are malfunctioning.

Luckily, your furnace has a built-in limit switch, which shuts off your furnace when it gets too hot. Since the limit switch turns off your furnace prematurely, the furnace will turn on and off frequently—which is called short cycling. Short cycling isn’t good for your furnace, and it will raise your monthly energy bill.

Overheating is usually caused by these 2 problems:

  • Too little airflow over the heat exchanger: This is the most common overheating problem, which is caused by reasons #1–4.  
  • Overly high gas pressure: This is usually due to a problem with your furnace gas valve (see reason #5). You should call an expert to help adjust or replace this.

Now let’s look at 5 specific reasons that cause those overheating problems and how you can fix them:

#1: Dirty air filters

Dirty air filters are the #1 cause of an overheated furnace—but they’re also the easiest to fix.

Dirty filters are dangerous because they block airflow to the heat exchanger, which causes it to overheat.

If your filter looks like the one on the right, you’ll want to change it ASAP.

To prevent overheating, simply check your air filters every month, and change them every 3 months (at the latest). It’s an easy fix that can save you a service call.

#2: Blocked vents

If you block or close more than 60% of your home’s vents, your furnace will start to overheat.

To prevent overheating, keep your vents open and clear of furniture.

When you close or block your indoor air vents, you increase pressure in the air ducts. This makes some furnace blowers slow down, which reduces airflow over the heat exchanger and causes your furnace to overheat.

#3: Filthy blower wheel

If your blower wheel is filthy, then it’s working extra hard to move air through your furnace. This causes overheating and severely reduces the efficiency of your furnace.

To know if there’s an issue with your blower, first listen for frequent starts and stops. Most motors have thermal overloads that will shut off power when it overheats. You’ll also know it’s too hot if you place your hand near (but DON’T touch!) the motor and feel heat. If that’s the case, or you see it looks dirty, contact an HVAC specialist to clean and repair it.

#4: Clogged evaporator

A dirty evaporator coil (the A-shape coil) can block airflow over the heat exchanger, causing it to overheat.

However, this problem only happens if the evaporator was installed in the wrong spot.

To explain what we mean, you first should know where the evaporator should be installed relative to your furnace.

Correct order of heating/cooling parts:

  1. Return duct
  2. Blower motor
  3. Furnace (heat exchanger)
  4. Evaporator coil
  5. Supply duct

As you can see, the evaporator coil should be installed AFTER the blower motor and heat exchanger. Unfortunately, some contractors install the evaporator coil like this:

Incorrect order of heating/cooling parts:

  1. Return duct
  2. Evaporator coil
  3. Blower motor
  4. Furnace (heat exchanger)
  5. Supply duct
 

Installing the evaporator boil BEFORE the blower and heat exchanger is usually a bad idea for  2 reasons:

  1. Blocked airflow— If the evaporator coil gets dirty, it will blocked airflow over the heat exchanger, causing it to overheat.
  2. Can cause rust the heat exchanger—When your evaporator cools air in the summer, that humid air is pushed from the blower to the heat exchanger. The cool, moist air can rust your heat exchanger and corrode other parts of your furnace.

A heating & cooling expert can help you know if your system was installed correctly, and if your evaporator is causing your furnace to overheat.

#5: A broken gas valve

 

If your furnace gas valve is supplying too much gas pressure to your burners, it could cause your system to overheat.

When too much gas flows into your furnace’s burner, the pilot flame enlarges, creating more heat. This extra heat then conducts through a thin layer of sheet metal to the heat exchanger. If there’s too much heat (caused by too much gas) reaching the heat exchanger, then your furnace will overheat.

The part of your gas valve most likely responsible for an overheating problem is the regulator. The regulator controls the gas pressure that reaches the burners in your furnace.

If you suspect a problem, you should contact a furnace contractor to inspect and repair your gas valve if you suspect this is the problem.

Need a professional to look at your furnace?

Contact On Time Service Pros to schedule a furnace repair today. We’ll make sure your furnace doesn’t overheat so you and your family can safely stay warm.

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How Big of a Furnace Do You Need for Your Minnesota Home?

“I want a warmer house, lower energy bill, and better working furnace. How do I get all of those things?” The perfect solution is to get a new furnace! A properly sized furnace should provide enough heat for your home, be more efficient for your bank account, and have a long lifespan.

So how do you get the ideal furnace size? Long story short, you need to contact a professional technician to find the appropriate size.

  • To help you understand why, we need to explain:
  • What furnace “size” means.
  • The negative effects of getting an oversized or undersized furnace.
  • The 5 major factors that affect the size you need.

What exactly is a furnace’s “size”?

You may have seen vague descriptions about furnace “size” on a manufacturer’s website, but what does it really mean?

Furnace size is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Unit) and measures the furnace’s thermal energy (heat) output. The more BTUs, the more heat it can deliver over a specific timeframe.

Now, here’s the important part: Bigger does not mean better.

Here’s why.

Why choosing the right furnace size is important

Choosing a furnace size is like a choosing a shoe size: If it’s too big or too small, you’ll have painful problems.

For example, an oversized furnace turns on and off frequently (short cycles) because it heats your home too quickly, causing the furnace to shut down, only to turn back on again once your home cools down.

Short cycling causes problems like:

  • More breakdowns/Shorter furnace lifespan
  • Cold spots in certain parts of your home
  • Increased energy bills

Conversely, an undersized furnace runs too much because it can’t supply enough heat to reach your desired temperature setting. Constantly running in this way causes problems like:

  • Decreased comfort
  • High energy bills
  • Overheated heat exchanger, which can cause the furnace to shut down

Now that you know that you can’t just pick a furnace size all willy nilly, let’s explain what goes into finding the furnace size you need.

Major factors that affect the furnace size you need

A HVAC contractor can easily determine the size you need through a Manual J calculation. This calculation will take into account multiple factors including (but not limited to):

  • The size of your home: The larger the home, the more heat you’d need to heat all the living spaces. So a bigger home needs a bigger furnace.
  • Geography: Minnesotans living in a harsh climate need a bigger furnace than Floridians.
  • The efficiency of the furnace: The more efficient the furnace, the smaller it can be.
  • Insulation: Under insulated homes lose more heat, meaning you’d need a larger furnace to compensate.
  • Home’s age: Older homes are leaky/drafty and are often under insulation. Meaning you need a larger furnace to compensate.  

Beware of contractors using a simple rule of thumb (size of your home) to guess your furnace size. These people just want your money—not what’s best for you.

Find the furnace size you need; contact a Minnesota tech

Here’s the best news of this article: You can find out the furnace size you need for free. Just contact a contractor for a free installation estimate.

If you live in Minnesota, we can provide that service for you ASAP!

Schedule a free installation estimate with On Time Service Pros.



 

4 Reasons Why Your Circuit Breaker Is Tripping, And How You Can Fix It

Did your power shut off abruptly? It’s probably a tripped circuit breaker.

A tripped breaker is most likely caused by 1 of these 4 reasons:

  1. Overloaded circuit
  2. Short circuit
  3. Ground fault
  4. Wiring damage

In this article, we’ll cover each of these reasons and discuss how to fix a tripped breaker.

Let’s start with the reasons why your circuit breaker tripped:

Why your circuit breaker tripped

Reason #1: Overloaded circuit

The most common reason for a tripped breaker is an overloaded circuit. Circuit overloading means you’re running too much power at once on the same circuit. To prevent overheating the wires, your circuit breaker “trips,” or shuts off power to your electrical appliances for safety.

An overloaded circuit is common when there’s heavy demand on your home’s HVAC system, like air conditioners requiring lots of power in the summer.

Every circuit can only handle so much power at one time. This is called an electrical load. For example, a standard 20-amp breaker can support up to 2,400 watts on a single circuit. However, you should not load a circuit greater than 80 percent of its maximum capacity. So for a 20-amp breaker, you wouldn’t want to exceed 1,920 watts.

To see if your circuit breaker is tripping due to an overload, you’ll want to look at the total wattage of all the appliances connected to it. 

To calculate the total wattage, follow these 4 steps:


The amperage for this circuit is 15 amps. Image source: www.wikihow.com

1. Locate the amperage of your circuit breaker (see image above).


The wattage for this appliance is 1500W. Image source: www.energy.gov

2. Find the wattage rating printed on each device (see image above).
3. Add all of the wattage ratings. 
4. Divide the total wattage by 120, which will give you the total amps.

If you see that the wattage is above 80% of the circuit breaker amp load, you’ll know you’re running too much power on one circuit.

Don’t have the time to calculate wattage? Alternatively, you could just turn off and unplug electrical appliances and try plugging them in one by one into the circuit. This will let you know which appliances are requiring too much power and are causing the circuit to trip.

Reason #2: Short circuit

Short circuits are dangerous because they could cause an electrical fire, so you should contact a certified electrical technician to check this.

A short circuit is when a “hot” wire (black) touches another hot wire or touches a “neutral” wire (white). A large amount of electrical current flows when these 2 wires touch, generating more heat than the circuit can handle. To prevent any problems, your circuit breaker will shut off.

If you smell burning or see a brown/black discoloration near your outlets, it’s a good indication you have a short circuit.

Reason #3: Ground fault

A ground fault is caused when a “hot” wire touches a ground wire (copper wire) or a metal outlet box that’s connected to the ground wire.

During a ground fault, large amounts of electrical current are forced through the circuit breaker, which causes the circuit breaker to trip to prevent overheating. The symptoms of a ground fault are similar to a short circuit: if you notice something strange going on with your outlet, you’ll want to contact a professional electrician for help.

Reason #4: Wiring damage

Your electrical wires could be faulty, which would cause your circuit breaker to trip. Wire damage is caused by any number of factors, including general wear and tear, animals chewing on the wiring, brownouts, a lightening strike or accidentally disconnecting the wires.

Is your circuit breaker still tripping?

Contact OTSP for circuit breaker and electrical repairs. We’ll figure out why your circuit is tripping and fix it for you.

We’ve been helping Minnesota families since 1945.

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Why Does My Furnace Intake Pipe Keep Freezing?

If your furnace intake pipe freezes, it blocks fresh air from getting to your furnace. And when this happens, your furnace senses that it’s being starved of oxygen and automatically shuts down to prevent damage to the furnace components.

So what’s causing your furnace intake pipe to ice up repeatedly? 

Well, if your furnace intake pipe frequently freezes when the furnace runs, the pipe is most likely installed improperly. Some examples of bad installation include:

  • An intake pipe that is too close to the exhaust pipe
  • An intake pipe that is too close to the ground
  • Intake and exhaust pipes that are facing the same direction.
  • Intake and exhaust pipes that stick straight out of your home/roof

We’ll take a closer look at these improper intake pipe installations and offer you 2 ways to fix the problem. 

Not interested in the details and just want your furnace fixed ASAP? Contact us and we’ll send a professional over right away.

Check your intake pipe for these install mishaps

Problem 1: An intake pipe that is too close to the exhaust pipe. 

To properly heat your home, a condensing furnace relies on 2 CPVC venting pipes: 

  1. The “exhaust pipe”  that vents combustion products away from your home
  2. The “intake pipe” that draws in clean outside air for the combustion process 


Source

But for those vents to work properly, they should be positioned far enough from each other to prevent contamination. If they are too close to each other, combustion gases from the exhaust pipe can seep into the intake pipe. 

And when those warm combustion gases come into contact with your cold intake pipe, they condense and eventually freeze. Most manufacturers recommend keeping the two pipes at least 12 inches from each other.

Problem 2: An intake pipe that is too close to the ground. 

Intake pipes should be placed above the “snow grade” (the point at which the snow is expected to reach its highest point above ground level). A general rule of thumb for northern states is to place the intake pipe at least 3 feet above the ground. Anything lower will allow snow and ice to block your intake pipe.

Problem 3: Intake and exhaust pipes that are facing the same direction. 

Your furnace intake and exhaust vent pipes should be pointed in opposite directions to prevent cross contamination (that is, exhaust fumes being drawn into the intake pipe). If exhaust fumes are drawn into your intake pipe, that warm air will cool, condense and eventually freeze.

Problem 4: Intake and exhaust pipes that stick straight out of your home/roof. 

Both vent pipes should be installed with an elbow and the intake air pipe should have an elbow positioned downward. This prevents snow from falling into the vent and freezing up.


Example of proper furnace venting design.
Source

Note: If you don’t see these particular installation mistakes, have a professional inspect the system. The way your furnace venting pipes should be designed really depends on the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
 

2 solutions to prevent your intake pipe from freezing up

If your furnace intake pipe is constantly freezing up, it’s simply a matter of bad installation design. That being said there are 2 solutions:

1. Make changes to your current intake pipe design

Have a professional inspect your current furnace vent design. They can diagnose the design issue that’s causing your intake vent to freeze up. If the issue is minor, they can make changes to fix the problem (for example, they may be able to install a downward pointing elbow to your existing intake pipe).

2. Replace your venting pipes with a concentric vent kit

A concentric vent kit is an alternative venting pipe design that allows both the intake vent and the exhaust vent to fit inside one pipe housing. The kit allows for only one hole to be made in the roof or side of the house instead of two.


Source

Because the intake vent fits inside the exhaust piping, the concentric vent kit design prevents the intake vent from freezing or drawing in dangerous exhaust gases.


Source

Want to prevent an iced over intake vent? Ask a MN tech

Want to keep your intake pipe from freezing and shutting your furnace down? We can help.

Just contact us today and we’ll send over a professional to inspect and fix your vent piping design.

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Sewer Smell When My Furnace Comes On? A MN Tech Explains

So you’ve noticed a nasty, sewage stench throughout your home every time your furnace kicks on. And you’re desperate to get rid of it (we don’t blame you).

First, you’ll want to rule out a dead animal in your ductwork (a dead animal and sewage gases can produce similar smells).

If you’ve ruled that out, let’s move on to the most likely answer: If you get a sewer smell when your furnace starts, the problem is most likely that your furnace is pulling in sewer gases via return air duct leaks.

Unfortunately, this is both a plumbing problem and an HVAC problem. Don’t worry, though. We’ll explain both problems and what you need to do to get rid of that sewer smell altogether.

Sick of the stench and just want it gone ASAP? Just contact us and we’ll send over a professional immediately.

The HVAC problem: Return air duct leaks

Most homes use air ducts to cycle air to and from the furnace. Those ducts can be split into 2 sections:

  1. Return ducts that pull air into your furnace to be heated.
  2. Supply ducts that deliver warm air into your home.

Think about it this way: return ducts “suck” air in while supply ducts “blow” hot air out.

Properly designed return ductwork will suck in air from conditioned areas of your home. But leaks in those return ducts allow air to be sucked in from unconditioned areas of the home (attic, basement, crawl spaces, between walls, etc). 

And if there are escaped sewer gases wafting about in those unconditioned spaces, voila! Your furnace can now suck in those gases and spread it throughout your entire home (lucky you).

What to do: Have a professional seal your air ducts

If you have duct leaks, you’re likely dealing with higher-than-average utility bills. The good news is that sealing your duct leaks can save you 20% on heating and cooling bills.

In addition to saving you money, duct sealing also ensures your return ductwork can’t pull in nasty sewer gases anymore.

Sealing your ducts prevents other duct leakage problems, including:

  • An excessively dusty home
  • A higher chance of introducing mold spores into your home
  • Higher utility bills
  • Uneven temperatures, stuffy areas

But let’s go back to your particular problem: sewer gases being distributed throughout your home. Why are sewer gases wafting about in unconditioned spaces of your home in the first place? 

Well, that leads us to the plumbing part of your problem…

The plumbing problem: Escaping sewer gases

In normal operation, you should never smell sewer gases in your home. As soon as you flush your toilet, empty your garbage disposal or turn on your shower, that wastewater is directed out of your home via enclosed sewage piping.

But sometimes, problems in that piping system allow sewer smells to escape and invade your home. These problems include:

  • Dry P-traps
  • A clogged drain
  • Leak or cracks in piping
  • Backed up main sewer line
  • A loose toilet wax ring

So, how do you know which one is your issue? We’ll walk you through some DIY steps you can take before calling in the professionals.

What to do: Find and stop sewer gases from escaping

Before you call a plumber to inspect your pipes and find the escaping sewer gases, try these DIY fixes:

Check any drains near return ducts for dry P-traps

Step 1: Go to each water appliance that is located near a return duct in your home (such as a basement toilet or sink) and shine a flashlight down the drain. If you don’t see a few inches of water, you have a dry P-trap and can continue to Step 2 below. 

A P-trap is basically a thin layer of water designed to block any sewer gases from wafting back up the drain and into your home. But over time, that water can slowly evaporate (especially if the drain isn’t used often).

So, if you don’t see a layer of water in your drain, your P-trap is dry and allowing sewer gases to float back into that unconditioned space. And if there are leaks in nearby return vents, the gases will get sucked into your ductwork and eventually spread throughout your home.

Step 2: Pour several gallons of water down the drain until you can see a layer of water standing in the P-trap.

Step 3: If that drain rarely gets use, pour 4 ounces of mineral oil down the drain. This slows down evaporation.

Check for clogged drains near return ducts 

If a drain near a return duct clogs above the P-trap, the decomposing matter in the clog can create some serious sewer gases. And if there are leaks in the nearby ducts, those gases can get sucked in and blown into your home.

Check for slow or clogged drains. If you’re up or a DIY drain clearing solution, try these solutions.

Can’t clear the drain on your own? Or have you tried the above steps but still smell sewer gases when your furnace comes on? Have a plumber inspect your drains and water appliances. They’ll be able to locate the escaping gases and get rid of that sewer smell.

Live in Minnesota or Western Wisconsin and need a tech or plumber?

Whether you need a plumber or an HVAC tech to solve your sewer smell issues, we can help.

Just contact us and we’ll send over the professionals you need.

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When Should I Replace My Boiler?

You’re a smart homeowner. And you always try to replace your home’s appliances and systems before they die unexpectedly.

But when it comes to your boiler, it’s sometimes hard to judge when you should replace the unit versus just repair your current one.

Well, you’ll know you should replace your boiler when:

  • It’s over 15 years old
  • The cost to repair the unit nears the cost of a new boiler
  • Your heating bills are getting considerably higher as the boiler gets older

Let’s take a closer look at each of those reasons…

See the signs and need a quote on a new heating system? Just contact us, we’re happy to give you several options for boiler replacement.

If your boiler is over 15 years old…

...it’s nearing the end of the average lifespan for boilers.

According to ENERGY STAR, boilers typically last around 15 years. Anything over 15 years and you’re “living on borrowed time”. Which means, if your boiler is over 15 years old, you’re risking the chance of having your boiler die on you when you really need heat.

If the cost to repair your boiler nears the price of a new unit...

...you’re likely wasting your money on a dying system.

When repairs get more frequent or become extensive in nature, it’s a huge sign that your boiler is ready to be replaced. Think of it as continually repairing a dying car. There’s no use spending time and money on something that could die at any moment. You’re better off just paying the cost for a new system altogether.

So, when deciding between repairing and replacing take into account the entire repair history of the unit. If you’re frequently paying for repairs, remember that it’s just likely going to get worse.

If your heating bills are getting considerably higher…

...it means your boiler has lost (and will continue to lose) efficiency and needs increasingly more fuel/energy to heat your home.

Over time, all heating and cooling systems lose efficiency. Even the most well-maintained systems suffer from wear and tear, causing it to work harder to cool/heat your home. Boilers are no different.

Some issues that can cause a boiler to lose efficiency include:

  • Soot buildup on heat transfer surfaces
  • Dirty combustion burners
  • Leaks due to bad steam traps

Need a quote for boiler replacement in Minnesota?

Determined that you need to replace your boiler? Let us help you with the next step.

Just contact us today and we’ll offer an estimate for a new boiler. We’ll also give you professional advice on the best heating solution for your home.

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Why Does My GFCI Keep Tripping?

If your GFCI outlet is tripping repeatedly, the most likely issues include:

  • Moisture inside the receptacle
  • An appliance on the outlet’s circuit has a ground fault
  • The GFCI outlet is bad and needs to be replaced

Not sure which one is your issue? Don’t worry. We’ll walk you through some steps you can take to determine what the problem is and how to fix it.

Need a professional’s help? Just contact us, we’ll send over a licensed electrician to fix the problem quickly.

Step 1: Check your circuit breaker

First, check your electrical panel to make sure that the circuit breaker for that outlet hasn’t tripped. If the appliances on the circuit are drawing more power than the circuit is designed to handle, then you have an “overload” and your breaker will trip. 

If your circuit breaker trips, it’s a separate issue that doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong with your GFCI outlet.

Note: If your breaker isn’t tripped, skip to step 2. 

If you find that the breaker has tripped, unplug all appliances on the circuit. Then, push the breaker back to the ON position. 

If the breaker automatically flips back, have an electrician inspect the circuit for the issue.

If the breaker stays in the ON position but trips again after the appliances are plugged in, consider removing some of the appliances from that circuit. Remember that several outlets can live on one circuit so you’ll need to be aware of how many appliances are drawing power from the same circuit. If you’ve removed appliances but the circuit breaker keeps tripping, have a professional inspect the circuit for the problem.

Want to learn more about what makes breakers trip? Check out our blog, “Here’s Why Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping”.

Step 2: Determine why your GFCI is tripping

If you’ve determined that the circuit breaker hasn’t tripped and an overload isn’t your issue, then you’ll need to figure out what’s causing your GFCI to trip. 

  • Moisture inside the GFCI receptacle is most likely your problem if your GFCI outlet is located near water (outlets in bathroom/kitchen), if it rained recently (for outdoor outlets) or if the outlet is prone to getting wet. If there’s water inside the receptacle box the outlet will also most likely trip and then not reset even if there are no appliances plugged in.
  • An appliance with a ground fault is most likely your problem if your GFCI resets after you unplug all the appliances but then trips again once you plug those appliances back in. A ground fault simply means that some electricity flowing through the circuit has found an alternate route and is “leaking.”
  • You most likely have a bad GFCI outlet that needs to be repaired or replaced if the outlet won’t reset even when nothing is plugged in. This could also mean that there’s an electrical issue within another outlet that’s sharing the same circuit.

If you’ve identified the issue that’s causing your GFCI to trip, continue on to step 3 for instructions on what you can do to fix the problem.

Step 3: Fix the problem

If moisture inside the GFCI receptacle is your problem, follow these steps for some DIY repairs before calling a professional:

1. Try resetting the outlet.

2. If the outlet appears dry but doesn’t reset, there may be moisture inside the receptacle that’s tripping the outlet. Try using a hair dryer set on low to speed up the drying process.

3. If the outlet is located outdoors, make sure that you install a protective GFCI outlet covering that is weatherproof, waterproof and labeled “In-Use” like this one. This covering is required by the National Electric Code and will prevent moisture from getting inside the outlet again in the future.

If you think you have an appliance that has a ground fault, try these troubleshooting steps to locate and repair the bad appliance:

  1. Unplug all appliances that are drawing power from the same circuit as the tripped GFCI.
  2. Reset the outlet by pressing in the red RESET button.
  3. When the outlet resets properly, plug in each appliance one by one until the GFCI trips again. Make sure you turn on each appliance after it’s been plugged in.
  4. The last appliance that you plugged in and turned on before the GFCI tripped most likely has a ground fault. You can retest the specific appliance by unplugging all appliances on the circuit, resetting the GFCI outlet and plugging in the “bad” appliance by itself. If it trips the GFCI outlet, it’s definitely the culprit.
  5. Repair or replace the appliance that has a ground fault.

If you think your GFCI outlet is bad and needs to be replaced or if you think there’s an electrical issue with another outlet that’s on the same circuit as your tripped GFCI, you’ll need a professional to inspect and repair/replace your system

Need professional help with your tripping GFCI outlet?

If you have a GFCI outlet that won’t stop tripping, we’re here to help.

Just contact us and we’ll send over a licensed electrician to fix the problem.

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Cost to Repair a Furnace in Minnesota

Wondering how much it costs to fix a furnace?

Homeowners in Minnesota pay around $350 on average for a furnace repair. Most pay between $150 and $550, but the price can be as low as $75 or over $2,000 depending on the type of furnace problem and other factors.

In this article, we’ll explain:

  1. Furnace repair cost factors
  2. Common furnace repairs in Minnesota
  3. How you can prevent furnace problems

Let’s start with the factors that determine furnace repair cost.

Furnace repair cost factors

The cost of a furnace repair depends on these factors:

  • Service call charge: HVAC contractors charge a standard service call charge fee, which can range from $50 to $200 depending on the company. Sometimes a contractor will  waive the fee if they can fix the repair in the same visit.
  • Hourly repair rate vs. fixed rate:  Every contractor charges differently. Some contractors charge $75 to $150 per hour. Some charge a fixed rate, that is, based on what needs repairing, regardless of how long the repair takes
  • Warranties: Some furnace parts are covered under manufacturer's warranty. Also, though less likely, some labor cost could be covered by the HVAC contractor who installed your furnace. You’ll want to contact them to see if anything is covered under warranty.
  • Furnace age and condition: If your furnace is old, in a hard-to-reach space or in very poor condition, it is going to be more expensive to repair.
  • Replacement parts: Furnace parts cost range from inexpensive (less than $30) like a belt replacement to very expensive like a heat exchanger ($1,000 - $2,000).
  • Periods of high demand: During the first freeze or extended cold fronts, service rates can increase because of the high-demand. So if you suspect there’s a problem with your furnace, it’s best to get it taken care of before winter.

Common furnace repairs

Since we repair hundreds of furnaces a year, we’ve noticed these common furnace problems:

  • Bad limit switches: If you have a bad limit switch, your furnace’s blower will run constantly, which will shorten the lifespan of the blower. An HVAC technician can quickly fix this problem.
  • Faulty ignitions: If you have an electrical problem or a problem with the thermocouple, your furnace is not able to properly heat the home. It could also be potentially dangerous, so make sure to have your HVAC person check your ignition system during your annual furnace inspection.
  • Bad thermostat: A thermostat problem can make the temperatures in your home fluctuate. Try replacing the batteries in your thermostat, but if temperatures still fluctuate, contact a heating specialist.
  • Flame sensors not working: Flame sensors detect heat from the burners, telling the furnace to continue releasing fuel. If your flame sensors are faulty, your system will shut down or cause fuel to be burned in an unsafe way. That’s a potential hazard for your family, so you’ll want to replace the flame sensors as soon as possible. They cost anywhere from $80 to $250.
  • Cracked heat exchanger: A heat exchanger is very costly to fix or replace. It may be worth considering buying a new furnace if that is the case. Learn more about what to do if you think you have a heat exchanger problem

How to prevent some furnace problems

To prevent serious furnace problems, follow these 3 easy steps:

  1. Change your furnace filters often: We recommend changing your filters every month during the winter.
  2. Keep supply vents open (even in rooms your don’t use): Supply vents are the metal grates where heated air is delivered into your home. If you close too many of these vents, air pressure builds up in the duct system, causing the duct system leak more air, which runs up your energy bills. Extra pressure also causes the blower can slow down. And low airflow over the heat exchanger can cause it to crack.
  3. Schedule an annual inspection: During an annual inspection, an HVAC professional can catch furnace issues before they become serious problems. It’s also essential in to keep your furnace warranty valid.

Need a furnace repaired in Minnesota?

Contact On Time Service Pros for a free furnace install estimate.

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Why Is My Furnace Blower Not Turning On?

If you hear your furnace firing up but the blower never turns on, that’s not normal.

During normal operation, your furnace blower should turn on 1-2 minutes after your burners turn on.

So, what’s the problem? First, let’s rule out a clogged filter. So do this first: check for a dirty air filter and change it if needed

If that didn’t solve the problem, the issue is with one of these 2 components:

  • Your control board/fan switch
  • Your furnace blower 

Let’s take a look at both of these problems to determine whether you can solve the issue yourself or whether you’ll need help from a professional.

Live in the Hastings area and need your furnace blower fixed immediately? Just contact us and we’ll send out a tech right away.

First, turn your fan setting to “ON”

Go to your thermostat and check the fan mode. If it’s set to “AUTO”, switch it to “ON”.

The ON setting forces the fan to blow air constantly instead of just during a heating cycle. So, if you hear the blower motor start, the blower most likely isn’t at fault

Continue on to the next section titled “If your blower starts…” to see what else might be the problem.

Don’t hear the blower motor start? Then skip to the section “If your blower doesn’t start…”

Don’t forget to set your thermostat back to AUTO once you’re done with this step. Here’s an article explaining how keeping your fan set to ON actually wastes a lot of money.

If your blower starts after switching fan to “ON”...

...that means the blower motor is working properly but you most likely have a problem with your control board or fan switch.

To simplify things, here’s an example of the proper communication process that starts your blower motor:

  1. Control board
  2. Fan relay
  3. Fan switch activated
  4. Blower motor starts

But if that communication process breaks down at some point, it means the “START NOW” command never got to the blower motor.

What to do: Have a professional inspect these components to find the issue and repair or replace what’s needed. The good news is that these types of repairs are generally cheaper and easier to fix than replacing a faulty blower motor.

If your blower doesn’t start after switching fan to “ON”...

...that means some component within your blower motor is likely at fault.

3 components that could be faulty include the:

  • Capacitor
  • Belt
  • Blower motor itself

Unfortunately, you’ll need a professional to repair the above components but if you want to save the tech some time, here are some troubleshooting tips that will help you determine which of these components is at fault.

Troubleshooting the capacitor:

Your capacitor is the compact, cylindrical-shaped device that’s attached to the side of the blower motor. 

It acts like a battery and gives the motor the extra surge of energy it needs at start-up. Capacitors, just like batteries, get weak and lose their power over time. And when that happens your blower motor will have trouble turning on.

How to check for faulty capacitor:

  1. Turn the fan back to “ON”. This will trigger the fan switch to start the blower motor. 
  2. Listen for several minutes.
  3. If the capacitor is weak, you’ll hear a loud humming noise for several seconds. Eventually the motor will overheat and shut off until it cools down. After 30 to 60 seconds of cooling down, you’ll hear the loud humming again as the capacitor tries again to start the blower motor.

Troubleshooting the fan belt:

Older furnaces have blower motors that are controlled by a rubber belt. If that belt gets stretched or misaligned, though, the blower won’t turn even if the blower motor is on.

How to check for a faulty fan belt:

  1. Turn off power to furnace. You’ll want to shut off the circuit breaker at the electrical panel that feeds energy to the furnace.
  2. Remove furnace access panel (this may require unscrewing screws with a screwdriver).
  3. Check condition of the belt by visually inspecting it for tears, misalignment, and/or excess slack (there should only be ¾ inches of slack).

Troubleshooting the blower motor:

Sometimes, the reason your blower motor won’t turn on is because the blower motor is old and needs to be replaced. Over time, the motor can wear down from age or lack of lubrication.

How to check for a faulty blower motor:

Turn your fan setting to “ON” and check for a burning smell after several minutes. Note: a faulty blower motor won’t always be accompanied with a burning odor.

Need help from a MN tech?

If you’re still not getting air from your registers, we’re here to help.

Just schedule your appointment and we’ll send over a tech immediately to solve the problem.

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Light Dimmer Switch Feels Warm? Here’s Why

You go to turn off your light, but you notice the light dimmer feels warm to the touch. Should you be concerned?

Well, if you can leave your finger on the switch for more than a second, everything is probably OK. Most of the time it’s normal for your dimmer switch to feel warm

However, if you can’t leave your finger on the switch for more than a second because it’s too hot, it could mean there’s an electrical problem, and you should contact a certified electrician.

Let’s look at why your dimmer switch gets warm and what you can do if it feels too hot.

How your light dimmer creates heat

All dimmers have electronic components that regulate electricity in order to dim lights at different levels. These components create heat, which is usually released inside the dimmer switch’s metal mounting bracket. From there this heat transfers to the plastic cover plate, which is what makes the switch feel warm when you touch it.

In older dimmers, the electronic component that generates this heat is a variable resistor called a rheostat. Some of the energy needed to power the light is transformed into heat as it passes through the rheostat. For example, a 100 watt bulb at half brightness would waste about 20 watts as heat in a rheostat dimmer.

New dimmers typically generate less heat using an electronic component called a triac. A triac is a semiconductor that varies the amount of electricity that can pass through the switch, which turns on and off hundreds of times a second. Triacs also give off some heat, so it’s normal for a triac switch to feel a little warm.

For most new dimmers, 1% of the total energy used to provide light is dissipated in the dimmer as heat. In other words, a dimmer will dissipate 1 watt of internal power (heat) for every 100 watts of lighting it controls. Let’s say you have a dimmer that controls 600 watts of light. This means the dimmer would produce 6 watts of heat, which is equivalent to the amount of energy needed to power a small nightlight.

Most dimmers operate at 140° Fahrenheit or below. This temperature sounds high, but this heat usually isn’t noticeable if the dimmer is driving a single bulb or a load of 100 watts. However, when the load exceeds 300 watts, the switch will start to feel noticeably warm.

Why your light dimmer feels TOO warm

Every dimmer switch has a maximum wattage load it can handle, typically 600 watts for dimmers built for incandescent bulbs and 150 watts for those built for LEDs and CFLs. If your dimmer switch feels really warm or hot, it’s likely controlling too many watts.

To find out if your dimmer switch is overloaded, follow these steps:

  1. Find your dimmer switch’s maximum load by looking at the number underneath the switch’s plastic cover (see image). Be sure to shut off the power before attempting to remove or view the switch.
  2. Add the wattage of the lights controlled by your dimmer switch. This lets you see how close you are to the switch's maximum wattage load. For example, if you have one dimmer switch that controls 4 75-watt bulbs in your dining room, you’ll know that’s a total of 300 watts running on that single switch.

What to do if your light dimmer is too warm or hot

Let’s say you find there’s too much wattage on your dimmer switch. To reduce the warmth of your dimmer switch, here are 3 options:

  1. Upgrade your dimmer switch for more wattage. This is the easiest option available as there are dimmer switches that can handle 1000-1500 watts. Explore the different dimmer switch brands and styles to find the best fit for your home and lighting needs.
  2. Change your lights to LEDs or CFLs. These bulbs use less energy than standard incandescents, which means you can possibly have more bulbs on one switch. However, you’ll most likely have to upgrade an older incandescent dimmer to support these types of lights. 
    Incandescent dimmers control light by turning the power on and off very quickly, which makes it look like the light has dimmed. This doesn’t work with LEDs or CFLs because they are unable to withstand that pulsating power. For example, most LEDs or CFLs simply turn off when they get to about 30% brightness on an incandescent dimmer
  3. Split the lights to 2+ dimmer switches. This is the most complicated and expensive option and should only be handled by a licensed electrician.

Need some help with your dimmer switch?

If you are concerned that your dimmer switch is too warm or hot, contact On Time Service Pros. We’ve delivered quality service on time for over 70 years.

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“Why Is My Water Softener Not Using Any Salt?”

So your water softener isn’t using any salt. Has the brine tank formed a hard, crusty top? Sounds like you’ve got a salt bridge

A salt bridge happens when salt in the brine tank hardens into a crusty dome, creating an air pocket between the salt and the water in the brine tank. This gap prevents the salt from dissolving in the water. So that’s why the salt isn’t being used.

In this article, we’ll explain how to fix this problem and prevent it in the future.
How to fix salt bridging


Source

Step 1: Take the top off the brine tank
Step 2: Pour warm water over over the bridge until it loosens
Step 3: Break up the bridge further by poking it with a broomstick handle (don’t be too harsh or you’ll damage the brine tank)
Step 4: Manually regenerate the water softener’s resin beads.cRefer to your manual for how to do this. Some water softeners have a “rejuvenation” button at the control panel that you need to hold down.  

The above method is just a short-term solution. To keep the salt bridge from coming back, you need to know what causes it.

How to prevent salt bridges in a water softener 

To prevent salt bridges follow these brine tank maintenance tips:

Fill the brine tank to the right level

Don’t fill the tank full. It’s better to fill it half full and add salt more often, especially in humid areas. You see, when you have too much salt in a humid area, that causes the salt to get wet, dry and then harden. 

Alternatively, add a dehumidifier near your water softener if it’s located in a humid area like your basement. 

Use the right salt

Use nugget or pellet water softener salt. Don’t use rock salts since they have dirt and sediments that will stop the softener from working.

Clean the tank occasionally

You or a professional should clean the the brine tank every 2 to 3 years.  One way to do this is by scooping out any excess salt and then sucking up any brine with a wet dry-vac. 

Source for tips: Kenmore water softener “use and care” guide.

Still need water softener help?

If you live in Minnesota, On Time Service Pros can help. Contact us for water softener maintenance.

Cost to Replace a Furnace Heat Exchanger in Minnesota

Does this situation sound familiar?

A furnace technician came to your home to check your furnace and, at some point, declared, “Your heat exchanger is cracked and you need a new one.”

Then, you got the price to replace it—and your jaw dropped. “It’s HOW much?!” Of course, you want a second opinion.

Well, here you go: The typical cost to replace a heat exchanger ranges from $1,000 to $2,000. Yes, it is quite expensive.

This price goes up and down depending on a few things:

  • Your parts warranty— If it’s still valid, that’ll save you about $500 to $600.
  • The type of heat exchanger— More efficient furnaces have more expensive heat exchangers.
  • The technician you call—Some people charge at a flat rate. Some charge per hour. Everybody’s flat-rate and hourly price varies based on their experience and what they need to stay in business. Regardless, it takes 5-8 hours to replace a heat exchanger, which is why the labor cost is so high. 

So now your next question is probably, “Should I replace the heat exchanger or get a new furnace?”

Well, before we answer that, here’s the first question you should be asking, “Is my heat exchanger actually cracked?

How to tell if your heat exchanger is actually cracked

If your heat exchanger is cracked, your technician should be able to show you because serious heat exchanger cracks are easily visible.

According to the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), “Disassemble the furnace until you can visually inspect all heat exchanger exterior surfaces. Any crack or hole that is big enough to affect combustion will be easily visible to the naked eye.” (Emphasis ours.)

They continue by saying, “If there are any abnormal splits, cracks or holes, the heat exchanger must be replaced.”

So if your technician tried to show you cracks in the heat exchanger by using water or a smoking agent, that won’t tell you anything. 

Besides looking at the heat exchanger, the technician can also infer that the heat exchanger is cracked by:

  • Detecting high levels (100+ ppm/parts per million) of carbon monoxide in the flue pipe. Carbon monoxide could be leaking out of the crack from the combustion process.
  • Seeing soot buildup on internal parts due to improper combustion
  • Looking at the burner flames. Normally, burner flames are steady and blue. If they’re yellow/orange and dance around, then there may be a crack in the heat exchanger. 

OK, so let’s assume your heat exchanger is actually cracked. Should you replace it or consider getting a new furnace?

Replace the heat exchanger or install a new furnace?

The answer: It mainly depends on the age on your furnace. The closer it is to 18 years old (the average lifespan of a furnace) the more likely you should consider replacing the furnace.

Think about it this way: Plenty of other furnace parts are most likely going to die soon. These multiple repairs, alongside the cost of the heat exchanger, will quickly add up to the cost of a new furnace. So replacing the heat exchanger now may be throwing money at a lost cause, like replacing an engine in an old car.

But, let’s say your furnace is only 10 years old and your warranty is valid. In this case, replacing the heat exchanger is definitely an option. 

Need a second opinion on a heat exchanger or furnace?

Still not sure what you should do? Or just want a second price estimate? If you live in Minnesota, we can help. Contact On-Time Service Pros for help

How to Protect Your Furnace from Power Surges

When protecting your furnace against power surges, it is important to take a layered approach by combining whole-house and point-of-use surge protectors.

Let’s discuss both and their uses

Whole-house surge protection

Whole-house surge protection guards the wiring of all your electronics, from light fixtures to appliances, from harmful surges.

Most of these surge protectors can stop a 40,000-amp surge, which means you are protected against just about anything except a direct lightning strike. 

There are two different types of whole-house protectors:

Type 1 is installed between the power line in the street and your home’s electric meter. These protectors are a primary line of defense against external surges, but they will take more effort to install as you will need the assistance of your power company as well as necessary permits.

Type 2 is more commonly used, and it is installed directly in your breaker panel. It is often referred to as a branch panel because it filters the power from the service panel into the circuits of your house. 

The significant benefit of these panel protectors is that they ease external and internal surges such as those created when your air conditioner or furnace is switched on.

Just think about how many devices you have in your home. You can’t remember or be expected to attach surge protection to each and every item, so you need this blanket security.

In an ideal world, you would have the 3 primary types of surge protectors installed in your home for absolute protection, with the third being point-of-use surge protectors.

Point-of-use surge protectors

Installing a point-of-use surge protector is an excellent idea not only because it protects your furnace, but also because it adds another level of protection. And the more protection, the better.

The fact of the matter is that whole-house surge protectors cannot always contain the full force of a strong surge, so, in essence, whole-home surge protectors do their best to save you from the monstrous power surges and a point-of-use system to give you that extra line of defense.

These point-of-use protectors are especially important in the case that many of your electronics share the same circuit, so if you plug the vacuum into a circuit shared with your television, these other devices could still experience a power surge if they are not connected to a surge protector.

There are different types of point-of-use systems.

The most popular variety is the kind that you plug into any given electrical outlet. These devices are usually in the form of power strips where you can plug your various devices into it. 

The effectiveness of these protectors is based on the clamping voltage (how much of a surge has to hit them before they start absorbing the electricity to protect your devices). Look for a protector that can take 600 to 700 joules.

A second favorite type of point-of-use surge protector is in the form of an actual electrical outlet. They act in the same way as the power strip variety but are beneficial for use behind bookshelves or furniture when you have a lot of electronics and not a lot of room for the sometimes awkward strips.

You should, at a minimum, install a point-of-use surge protector.

Install your surge protection with a company you can trust

More important than simply having proper surge protection is ensuring that you are having it installed correctly. Because the only thing worse than not having protection is having it and still seeing your furnace fail when you need it the most.

At One Time Service Pros, we pride ourselves on our stellar service, especially when it comes to our electrical service team, which can install whole-home surge protectors for you. 

Schedule an appointment today to ensure that your furnace is left safe and sound.

Why Is There a Leak From the Base of My Toilet?

So, you’ve noticed a puddle of water at the base of your toilet. You’ve tried to clean it up but it reappears, like clockwork, every time you flush. 

The gross (and stinky) part is that any water seeping out of the bottom of the toilet is dirty, used water. And ignoring the problem just leads to rotten, damaged flooring. So, let’s fix this problem quickly, shall we?

If your toilet is leaking from the base, you most likely need to replace your wax ring seal.

We’ll show you where your toilet’s wax ring is, what it does and what you should do to stop the leak.

If you’d rather skip the details and get it fixed now, contact us today and we’ll send over a plumber as soon as possible.

Why your wax ring is causing your toilet to leak

Every toilet has a wax ring that helps create an airtight connection between the toilet and the floor.

The wax ring is a gasket that ensures water is 100% contained as it moves from the toilet into the drain pipe. It’s also helpful when it comes to sealing off gross sewer gases and smells.

For the most part, a wax ring should last the length of a toilet’s lifespan. But, in some cases, they may become damaged or worn out and need to be replaced.

You’ll need to replace a wax ring if:

  • You begin smelling sewer gases or “rotten egg” odors
  • You notice water leaking from the base of your toilet
  • You replace your toilet (or even just lift it from it’s position temporarily)

In your particular case, we know we need to replace the wax ring because the base of your toilet is leaking. We’ll show you how to replace the wax ring yourself below.

Note: This can be a difficult DIY toilet repair. So, unless you are familiar with how your toilet works and have an extra hand, we suggest leaving this repair to a professional.

Want to take a stab at a DIY toilet wax ring replacement?

If you are certain that your wax ring needs to be replaced, follow the steps below.

What you’ll need:

  • Large bucket
  • Sponge
  • Wrench
  • Replacement wax ring (we suggest removing the old wax ring and taking it to any home improvement store to ensure that you get the correct size ring your toilet needs.)
  • A helpful buddy (or two)

Follow these steps:

1. Turn off the water supply to the toilet. You can do this by turning off the shut-off valve directly behind the toilet.

2. Flush the toilet to drain the water in the tank and the bowl.

3. Remove any leftover water in the tank or bowl using your sponge and bucket.

4. Remove the water supply line that connects to the bottom of your toilet tank. Place the bucket underneath this line BEFORE disconnecting to catch any extra water in the line or tank.

5. Use a wrench to loosen and remove the toilet bolts. Don’t lose track of these as you’ll need them after you’ve replaced the wax ring.

6. With the help of your buddy (or buddies), lift up and remove the toilet and set it to the side.

7. Remove the old wax seal and clean the flange and surrounding area.

8. Center the new wax seal perfectly over the opening.

9. Place the toilet carefully over the wax ring, reconnect the toilet to the floor with the bolts, reattach the water supply line and turn the shut-off valve back on.

10. Test everything by flushing the toilet and checking for any leaks or problems.

Other reasons a toilet (seems to) leak from the base

Not all leaky toilets point to a faulty wax ring seal. We often work on toilets that look like they are leaking from the base but the leak is actually happening somewhere else.

Other “leaky toilet” problems include:

  • A sweaty toilet tank
  • A cracked toilet bowl
  • Loose water supply line connections
  • A faulty shut-off valve

Need help from a Minnesota plumber?

If you’re not sure what’s causing your toilet to leak, just schedule your appointment with On Time Service Pros today.

We’ll send over an experienced plumber to fix the leak and get your toilet back to normal in no time!

Related reading:

Why Is My Furnace Blower Motor Squeaking/Squealing?

A persistent squeaking noise coming from your furnace’s blower motor while it’s running can get really annoying after just a few minutes.

So, what’s causing it? Well, that squealing noise usually indicates too much friction between moving parts.

Two main places to check if your furnace is squeaky include:

  • The blower motor bearings
  • The blower motor belt

Unless you know what you’re doing, we suggest leaving the repair to a professional. But, if you want to take the DIY route and have a pretty good grasp of how your furnace operates, read on. 

We’ll give you the information you need to fix these two components on your own.

Check the blower motor bearings

Bearings are the ring-shaped metal devices that slide over each side of the blower motor shaft. 

You see, when you turn your furnace fan on, that blower motor spins round and round. The bearings are there to “bear” the amount of friction and stress the motor shaft receives so that it can spin smoothly.

However, when those bearings wear out or lose their lubrication, you’ll hear a screeching noise as the metal components of the bearing and the motor shaft grind against each other.

Eventually, bad bearings that aren’t replaced can ruin the motor shaft. So act quickly if you hear that tell-tale squealing noise.

What to do

Visually inspect your motor bearings for damage. Aside from the squeaking noise, there’s no sure way to know if your bearings are bad without visually inspecting them. 

Because your furnace is hard-wired into your home’s electrical system, we suggest you leave this visual inspection to a professional

However, if you know what you are doing, you can follow these step-by-step instructions on replacing your motor blower bearings.

Check the blower motor belt

Most older furnace blower fans are belt-driven. As the belts wear down or become misaligned, they’ll start to squeak.

What to do

If you know that your furnace is an older model that is belt-driven, you can visually inspect the belt for issues.

To check for a worn out fan belt, follow these steps:
Step 1: Cut power to the furnace at the circuit breaker.
Step 2: Open the blower motor panel (you’ll need to use a screwdriver to remove the screws).
Step 3: Locate the belt and check for cracking, ripping or any separation on the belt.

If your belt is damaged, you can replace the blower motor belt on your own following these instructions.

Don’t want to deal with the hassle of replacing the belt yourself? Contact a professional to replace your blower belt

Note: We suggest providing your furnace make and model beforehand so the tech can bring the appropriate replacement parts (and save you the cost of an extra service call).

In need of a Minnesota HVAC tech?

If you’re still unsure what’s causing your furnace’s squeaking sounds, we’re here to help.

Just schedule your appointment with us today and we’ll send over a professional right away to fix the unit.


Related reading:

“Why Is My Outlet Not Working?” A MN Electrician Explains

If you find that an outlet in your house suddenly isn’t working, don’t panic just yet.

There are plenty of DIY options when it comes to troubleshooting and fixing a bum outlet.

Some possible reasons your outlet isn’t working include:

  • A tripped circuit breaker
  • A tripped GFCI outlet
  • Loose wiring

We’ll walk you through how to check for each issue and what you can do to fix the problem.

The circuit breaker tripped

Circuit breakers live in your main electrical panel and monitor the level of current traveling to your outlets and appliances. 

They’re designed to “trip” (or cut power) if the level of electrical current flowing through a circuit hits an unsafe level. This prevents wires from overheating and causing fires.

What to do:
If you think a tripped circuit breaker is your issue, follow these steps:

  1. Unplug all appliances from the outlet.
  2. Find your main electrical panel (usually located in the garage, basement or laundry room) and look for a tripped breaker. A tripped circuit breaker won’t be lined up with the rest of the breakers (see picture above). Note: Sometimes, a tripped breaker isn’t all the way flipped to the OFF position. To test for tripped breakers you can gently tap on each one. Tripped breakers will easily snap into the middle or OFF position.
  3. If none of the breakers are tripped, continue on to troubleshooting for a tripped GFCI outlet.
  4. If one of the breakers have tripped, push it back firmly to the ON position. You should hear a click. 
  5. Check to see if the breaker stays in place or automatically flips back to the off position.

If the breaker stays in place:

Go back and check your outlet for power. Chances are, your outlet will be working again. But if it continues to trip in the future, stop using the outlet and call an electrician.

Most likely, the outlet stopped working because it was overloaded (meaning too many appliances were pulling power from the same circuit). If it trips again in the future when other appliances are plugged in or running, an electrician can check and find a solution for an overloaded circuit.

If the breaker automatically flips back:

If the tripped breaker automatically flips back to the OFF position, you most likely have an electrical problem somewhere on that circuit (i.e. a ground fault or short circuit), to find and fix the problem contact an electrician. Note: Do not use the outlet until it’s been fixed.

Want to learn more about the likely problems with your circuit breaker? Check out our article, “Here’s Why Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping”.

A tripped GFCI outlet

If your outlet looks like the outlet below and has a reset and test button on it, your outlet is an GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) protected outlet and may not be working due to unsafe electrical conditions.

You see, a GFCI outlet is designed to monitor the electrical current flowing to any appliance plugged into it. If it senses that the electrical current is flowing through an unintended course (i.e. water or a person) it shuts off in the blink of an eye to protect you from electrical shock.

Usually, a GFCI outlet will trip due to 2 circumstances:

  • There’s an electrical malfunction in a device that’s plugged into the outlet
  • The GFCI outlet isn’t working properly

What to do:

  1. Unplug all devices from that outlet.
  2. Reset the GFCI outlet by pressing the “RESET” button. Power should be restored to the outlet now.
  3. Plug in appliances one by one and monitor any loss of power to the circuit. This way, you can determine if it is a specific device that is causing the outlet to trip.
  4. If the outlet trips regardless of what is plugged in, have an electrician inspect the outlet as this could mean the GFCI outlet needs to be replaced. Note: if the GFCI outlet needs to be replaced, avoid using the outlet until it’s replaced or fixed.

If you’ve completed the steps above but still don’t have power, read on to troubleshoot for faulty or old wiring.

Loose wires

Over time, wires in an outlet can become loose. And loose wires are prone to overheating and melting, creating bad connections that stop your outlet from delivering electrical power to your appliances.

One tell-tale sign that you have loose wires/bad connections is blackening around the outlet.

What to do: 
We suggest leaving this electrical inspection to a professional. They’ll pull the outlet out of the box and inspect the connections. They’ll determine if the outlet can be fixed or if it needs to be replaced.

Still dealing with a dead outlet? Ask a MN electrician

If you’ve checked for the 3 situations above but your outlet still isn’t working, we’re here to help.

Just schedule your appointment with us today. We’ll send out an experienced electrician who can find the problem and get your outlet working in no time.


Related Reading:

Why Is Only My Kitchen Sink Water Pressure So Low?

Your kitchen sink plays a huge role in your daily schedule, from brewing your morning coffee to helping prepare dinner.

So if you turn it on one day and get flimsy water pressure in return, fixing it probably isn’t something you want to put off until later.

If your kitchen sink water pressure suddenly lost pressure, it could be due to:

  • A clogged aerator
  • A clogged cartridge
  • Clogged hot/cold supply lines

Not sure where to start?

Just read on. We’ll walk you through how to check for each of these issues and also how to fix them.

How to check for a clogged aerator

Your aerator is a small circular device that attaches to the tip of your faucet head. The aerator’s job is to prevent splashing by incorporating air into the water stream.

An aerator separates your water stream into many tiny streams for a softer flow. But the grate-like design of the aerator means it’s easily clogged, whether by mineral deposits (from hard water) or by other debris.

If your aerator is clogged, it will dramatically reduce the water pressure of your kitchen sink.

Do this:
First, you’ll need:

  • Pliers
  • Old rag or towel
  • White vinegar
  • Old toothbrush

Next, follow these steps:

1. Wrap your faucet with an old rag or towel to protect the finish from getting scratched.

2. Use pliers to turn the aerator counter-clockwise until it separates from the faucet head. 
Note: Pay attention to the order of components that make up the aerator because you’ll need to assemble them together again at the end. Different aerators have different components but you can expect to see something like the picture below.

3. Check for white mineral deposits or debris clogging water flow. If you see clogs, soak all components in vinegar or CLR (a calcium, lime and rust remover) overnight. Afterwards, use an old toothbrush to remove the loosened sediment. Rinse all the pieces with warm water.

4. Reassemble the aerator and attach it back to the faucet head using pliers and a rag to protect the finish.

If your water pressure is still low after this, continue on to check your faucet’s cartridge...

A clogged cartridge

A faucet cartridge is the valve that turns your faucet off and on and, in the case of a single-handle faucet, controls the temperature of the water by mixing the hot/cold water supply.

Sometimes, though, hard water deposits or small sediment can clog this valve and reduce the water flow.

Do this:
Gather the following:

  • Allen wrench or screwdriver
  • Large plastic tupperware
  • Extra pair of hands 

Now, just follow the steps below:
1. Shut off the hot and cold water valves under the sink.
2. Turn on the hot and cold faucet handles to drain any water left in the pipes.
3. Remove the faucet handle to access the cartridge. How you remove the handle differs according to the model, but they are usually attached by screw at the top of the handle. You will probably need either an allen wrench or a screwdriver for this step. Note: you may need to remove a decorative cap or button on the handle first.
4. Once you can see the cartridge protective covering, use pliers to remove the bonnet

5. Remove the cartridge and rinse with water to remove any sediment.

6Place a large plastic tupperware over the cartridge opening and turn on your hot water valve under the sink slowly. The running water will flush out any sediment. But be careful to use the plastic tupperware to redirect the water into the sink and avoid a watery mess. Note: You’ll most likely need an extra pair of hands during this step.

7. Once you’ve flushed out the cartridge and cartridge opening, return cartridge to its place, and reassemble the cartridge covering/bonnet and faucet handle.

8. Turn the hot and cold water valves under the sink back on.

Still have low pressure? Most likely the clog is in your hot and cold supply lines. Let’s look at what can be done in this situation.

Clogged hot & cold supply lines

If you’ve tried the steps above but are still getting low water pressure from your sink, the problem is most likely clogged hot and cold supply lines.

These lines are connected to your hot and cold valves under the sink. They feed the hot/cold water directly to your faucet. So, if there is a clog or sediment buildup here, it will result in loss of water pressure.

Because removing sediment in these lines requires disassembling them, we suggest leaving this to a professional. A plumber will be able to inspect your lines and remove the clog safely and quickly to get your sink back to normal.

Need help from a MN plumber?

If you’re all out of DIY options and need a professional to restore your kitchen sink’s water pressure, we’re here to help.

If you live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, just schedule your appointment with MSP today.

We’ll diagnose the issue and fix it in no time.


Related reading:

Why Is There a Burning Smell Coming From My Heat Vents?

Have you recently noticed a burning smell coming from your heat vents? 

Assuming you’ve already ruled out a house fire, this smell could be normal. It just depends on whether it’s the beginning of heating season or not.

If you just turned on your furnace for the first time this winter, a burnt smell is normal. You see, for 5 months your furnace has been collecting dust. So when you start it up for the first time, you’ll smell that dust burning off inside the unit. 

But if the burning smell persists after the first 24 hours of turning on your furnace you may have a larger problem. Your furnace could be producing a burning smell because of the following issues:

  • A clogged air filter 
  • Problems with the oil burner
  • Electrical problems
  • Failed capacitor

We’ll go over each of these items and show you what you can do to determine which one is your issue. 

Problems that cause a burning smell from your heat vents

A clogged filter

The first thing you should do if you smell a burning smell coming through your air vents is to check your furnace’s filter.

If it looks like the filter on the right, you need to replace it immediately.

Why?

Well, when an air filter becomes clogged it stops working, which allows dirt and dust to enter the system. This dirt and dust will eventually make its way into the heat exchanger and burn up.

Once you’ve replaced the filter, turn on the heat and see if the burning smell disappears over time. If not, continue reading to see which of the following issues might be causing the smell…

An oil leak

Brand new furnaces are coated with oil to keep heat exchangers from overheating so if your furnace is new and there is a slight oil scent that accompanies the burnt smell, this is most likely normal.

But if your furnace is an oil-fired furnace and is not new, you most likely have a crack or misalignment in the oil burner. That would allow smoke from the unburned oil to enter the system and get blown into your home.

If you see soot around your heating vents and smell oil, this might be your issue. You’ll need to contact a professional to repair the oil burner.

Electrical problems

If the burning smell coming from your vents smells slightly electrical or plastic, you need to call a professional immediately. This is most likely coming from worn out or damaged wiring, which is extremely dangerous.

Problems with the electrical wiring of your furnace system can easily start an electrical fire, so don’t wait to get this fixed.

Failed capacitor

A capacitor is a small, cylindrical device that is attached to the furnace’s blower motor (the fan that pushes heated air through your home). It stores electrical power and acts like a battery to give the blower motor the extra kick of electrical “juice” it needs to get started.

But capacitors, like batteries, get weak and eventually will need to be replaced. When this happens, the blower motor will try to compensate for the extra power it’s missing at startup and will consume more electricity than it can handle. 

This can cause your blower motor to overheat and even create smoke. Once that smoke and burning smell gets circulated into the duct system, you’ll soon notice the smell coming through your heating vents.

You’ll know your capacitor needs to be replaced if it:

  • Oozes liquid
  • Has a “mushroomed” or swollen top

If you think you have a failed capacitor, we suggest having a professional replace it.

Need help from a MN tech?

If that burning smell coming from your vents won’t go away, you probably need a professional to inspect your furnace for issues.

If you live in the Minnesota or western Wisconsin area, schedule your appointment with a professional at On Time Service Pros.

As always, we promise to be on time...or it’s free!


Related Reading:

Why Do My Lights Flicker When My AC Comes On?

If you’re looking for an answer to this question, you’re probably wondering whether this is normal or problematic.

Well that depends. To answer this question, ask yourself these 2 questions:

  • Do your lights flicker only for a second when the AC starts but then the lights immediately go back to normal? If so, this is normal.
  • Do your lights turn on and off rapidly or dim substantially when the AC runs? If so, this is not normal.

So why are flickering lights normal?

Your lights should flicker some when the air conditioner comes on because your AC unit requires a lot of electricity at start up. So when it starts, it’s temporarily pulling electrical power from other circuits in your home.

We’ll go over some of the problems that can cause your lights to dim or turn on and off rapidly and what you should do to fix it. 

But first, let’s take a closer look at what’s happening under normal, safe circumstances.

What causes my lights to flicker some when the AC starts?

Your electrical company delivers a limited amount of power to your home. And, usually, your home has plenty of electrical power to go around.

But when larger, motor-driven appliances (like your air conditioner) start up, they need around 3 to 8 times more wattage. So they have to temporarily “borrow” electricity from other appliances that are currently in use.

This temporary borrowing explains why it’s normal to see your lightbulbs flicker when the AC comes on.

Now let’s look at a few situations where that interruption of power is not normal...

What does it mean if my lights turn on and off rapidly or dim when the AC starts?

You may have a more serious electrical problem if you notice:

  • Your lights dim when the air conditioner starts
  • Your lights turn on and off when the air conditioner starts (much slower than “flickering” pace)

These situations often happens because of one of these reasons: 

You have a damaged or weak capacitor.

Symptoms: Your lights dim (especially if they lose around 30% to 40% of their brightness).

What to do: Replace your capacitor. 

Your capacitor is basically a big battery that provides the extra burst of power your AC motor needs to kick on.

Over time, your capacitor loses juice and needs to be replaced. So, if your lights are losing a good amount of their energy and dimming when the motor kicks on instead of the normal flicker, it’s a sign that the capacitor is losing strength and isn’t providing enough power to kick start the motor. So, it pulls more energy than it should have to from the lightbulbs and other running appliances.

Your AC isn’t on its own dedicated circuit.

Symptoms: The lights turn on and off or just turn off completely. There may also be a buzzing/crackling sound when the AC comes on. The circuit breaker may also trip.

What to do: Have an electrician inspect your electrical wiring/circuits in your home and provide safer circuit options. All major appliances should be on their own dedicated circuit that provides the exact amount of wattage it needs to run. If it shares a circuit with other appliances, the amount of current the circuit draws will likely be more than the wiring is designed to handle. Eventually, this can cause the breaker to trip or worse, cause an electrical fire from overheated wires.

Related: Air Conditioner Keeps Tripping the Circuit Breaker? A Minnesota Tech Explains

You have damaged/loose wires. 

Symptoms: Lights turn on and off. Light bulb wiring may be ashy, charred, burnt, etc.

What to do: Have an electrician inspect your home’s wiring for damaged wires and repair/replace them. 

If your lights have an existing loose connection, it's probably already suffering from a voltage drop. And then, when the AC kicks on and borrows more power, it may totally lose power for a second or two. If the loose wire is close to the AC motor, the rapid turning off and on may also be due to vibrations from the motor.

Think you need a MN electrician?

If your lights do anything other than flicker briefly when your AC starts, you could have a more serious electrical problem on your hands.

Don’t wait to get it looked at.

Schedule your appointment with On Time Service Pros today to get this problem fixed as soon as possible.


Related Reading:

Toilet Running Periodically and Randomly? A Minnesota Plumber Explains

If your toilet runs on and off when not in use, you’re probably pretty annoyed and ready to figure out what’s wrong with your toilet. So what’s causing this?

A toilet that runs for a while and then stops most likely has a bad “flapper”, the rubber seal that stops water from flowing from your toilet tank to the bowl.

The #1 reason we see flappers in the MN area “go bad” is because of hard water, i.e. water that has high mineral content. Toilet flappers usually last several years but wear out much faster in hard water.

A worn out or damaged flapper will allow water from your tank to slowly and randomly leak into your bowl even if it’s not being used.

The solution? Replace the flapper. (Don’t worry, we’ll show you step-by-step how to do this.)

But before you roll up your sleeves and dive in, let’s take a closer look at how your toilet should work. (Trust us, this quick tutorial will make your DIY toilet fix much easier...and cleaner.)

How your toilet (should) work

When your toilet is flushed, several steps must happen in order for the bowl to empty and refill for the next use:

Step 1: When the handle is pulled, prompting the “flush”, it pulls up on a chain connected to the flapper.

Step 2: The flapper lifts and releases water into your toilet bowl

Step 3: When the tank is completely drained of water, the flapper closes and makes a tight seal.

Step 4: Water from your home’s water line enters the tank from a connected valve to ready the tank for the next use.

How your toilet is actually working (with a bad flapper)

If you have a bad flapper, it’s unable to form a tight seal.

When that happens, water from the tank will slowly leak out whether or not the toilet is flushed. The water draining from the tank to the bowl is the “running” noise that you hear. 

If enough water enters the bowl, the toilet may even flush on its own at random times.

So what causes a flapper to go bad? Over time the rubber flapper can accumulate sediment buildup, warp, break or harden.

If any of the above sound like your flapper, let’s get you on your way to the next step: replacing it.

How to replace the flapper

What you’ll need:

Step 1: Remove the top of your toilet tank (you won’t even need to cut off your water for this). Locate your old flapper and lift the chain to drain the tank of water. 

Note: this will prompt your fill valve to begin filling the tank with water but as long as the flapper is not in place, the water will not fill up and get in your way.

Step 2: Disconnect the old flapper chain from the flush lever. Then, remove the old flapper by pulling the sides off of the “ears” of the overflow tube or by using your pliers to pop them off. Throw away the old flapper.

Step 3: Connect your new flapper valve to the ears on the overflow tube. They should snap in place. Make sure the flapper positions naturally directly over the drain.

Step 4: Clip the new chain to the flush lever. Be careful here because the measurement of the chain needs to be precise. If it’s too long, the excess can get stuck under the flapper and prevent it from sealing properly. If it’s too short, it won’t allow the flapper to reposition over the drain properly.

Make sure that there is some slack in the chain (but not too much). 

Then, fiddle with the handle to make sure that the range of motion on the chain allows the flapper to open and close back down directly over the drain.

Use your needle-nose pliers to cut any excess chain length.

Need help from a Minnesota plumber?

Don’t feel like dealing with the hassle of replacing your own toilet flapper?

No worries.

Just schedule your appointment with On Time Service Pros, and we’ll send over a reliable MN plumber in no time.


Related reading:

“Why Is My Air Conditioner Running All Day?” A Minnesota Tech Answers

Good question.

Let’s start with the obvious: It’s summer and the temperatures are hotter than normal.

So it’s possible that your AC is struggling to remove the heat from your home as fast as it’s coming in. In which case, it’s normal that your AC runs longer on very hot days.

But if your air conditioner literally never stops running and it’s not even close to a comfortable temperature in your home, you probably have one of these problems:

  • Your HVAC system is “suffocating”
  • You are low on refrigerant
  • Your refrigerant coils are dirty
  • Your AC is too small
  • Your AC is too old

Unfortunately, most of these issues require help from a professional.

However, you can troubleshoot a continuously running AC yourself by checking for a dirty air filter or a dirty blower fan, both of which can “suffocate” your system.

How to troubleshoot (and fix) an HVAC system that is “suffocating”

Your air conditioning system relies on a steady “breathing” process.

It breathes in warm air from inside your home, cools it, then blows it back into your home.

So if somewhere along the lines, airflow is being restricted, your AC will take much longer to cool your home. And that can explain why it’s running non-stop.

Let’s look at some of the things that restrict the amount of air your system is getting and how to fix it.

Problem 1: A dirty/clogged air filter

Your air filter is designed to catch dust, dirt and other air contaminants that live in your home. So over time, those filters will get dirty and become less efficient at capturing particles.

A dirty air filter will also seriously restrict the amount of air that your system can breathe in.

Think of it this way: placing a thick, heavy blanket over your mouth and nose limits the amount of air you can breathe in, right?

As a result, you have to strain harder to get the amount of air your body needs.

The same goes for a clogged air filter. 

It puts more strain on your system making it work harder and produce less cool air, which might cause it to run non-stop and still not cool your house down.

What to do: Replace your air filter when it looks like the filter on the right.


Problem 2: A dirty blower fan

Your blower fan sits inside your air handler and helps to push cool air through your duct system and into your home.

A properly working blower fan will maximize the amount of cold air blowing through your system and into your home.

On the flip side, if that fan is dirty, airflow is severely restricted and will result in your air conditioner running non-stop and yet never fully cooling your house down.

What to do: First you’ll need to locate your blower fan. These are located inside your air handler (which is most often located in your attic).

Hint: Your blower fan is the hamster-wheel-looking device.

Look for a visible layer of dirt on that “hamster wheel”. 

If your blower fan is dirty, clean it using a toothbrush or paintbrush paired with a handheld vacuum.

Use the toothbrush or paintbrush to loosen up the dirt, dust and debris and be sure to vacuum everything up as you work.

Be careful, though, the blower fan will spin freely so pay attention to your fingers and hands to avoid getting cut or pinched.

When you need a professional to fix a “suffocating” system

Other reasons your AC system could be suffocating include:

  • Broken blower fan- Your blower fan is probably broken if you don’t hear the steady hum of your blower fan motor OR if that motor is now making louder, abnormal sounds. You’ll need a professional to remove and repair/replace your blower fan.
  • Leaky ductwork- Your ductwork might be leaking cool air into your attic if you notice more dust in your home or that some rooms are cooler or hotter than others. You should have a professional inspect and repair your ductwork.

Other reasons your AC is running non-stop (that require a professional)

You are low on refrigerant.
If you are low on refrigerant it means you have a leak somewhere in your refrigerant coils.

Low refrigerant makes it harder for your system to absorb the warmth and heat from your home, which slows the cooling process down considerably and could mean your AC runs non-stop without ever reaching the set temperature.

Signs of a refrigerant leak include:

You’ll need to have a professional inspect the system, find and repair the leak and then recharge your system.

Your refrigerant coils are dirty.
If your refrigerant coils are dirty and covered in a layer of dirt/dust/grime, it creates a barrier between the air and the cold refrigerant that absorbs heat from that air.

That barrier prevents your air from being cooled before it gets pushed back into your home. So if your AC system is pushing out warm air, it will never fully cool down your home (even if it runs 24/7).

Don’t attempt to remove/clean this layer yourself as it can damage the coil. Have a professional clean the coils.

Your AC is too small.
If you just got a new AC unit and it runs constantly, chances are your unit is simply too small for your home.

AC units are sized according to how much heat it can remove in a certain time so if it’s undersized, it will run constantly but never be able to keep up with the amount of heat that accumulates in your house.

Also, if you recently added onto your home, you may need to now move up an AC size. Make sure you have a professional perform a “load calculation” which will ensure your AC is sized correctly for your home.

Your AC is too old.
According to Energy.gov, if your air conditioner is over 15 years old, it may just not be able to keep up anymore.

Over time, wear and tear can make your system less efficient, which means it can run all day and still not keep you comfortable.

Get help from a Minnesota Tech

If your system is running continuously and is doing a poor job at keeping you comfortable, stop wasting your money.

Schedule an appointment with our professionals at On Time Service Pros to diagnose and fix the issue quickly.

Related Reading:

Why Does My Water Heater Keep Tripping the Reset Button?

So your water heater’s reset button is repeatedly tripping.

And after the 3rd trip to the closet or basement, you decide it’s time to figure out what the problem is.

Your water heater reset button, also called a “high limit safety thermostat”, is most likely tripping because the temperature of the water inside is too hot.

A continually tripping reset button can be caused by one of 7 things:

  • Your thermostats aren’t insulated
  • Hot water is “stacking” at the top of the tank
  • Faulty thermostats
  • A shorted element
  • Sediment build up
  • Loose wiring
  • A bad reset button

However, only the first two issues can be fixed without help from a professional plumber.

Let’s start by troubleshooting for the 2 issues that you can solve yourself.

Issue #1: Your water heater thermostats aren’t insulated

A water heater has two thermostats.

And each thermostat controls a heating element inside the tank. These elements are what actually heat the water. 

The thermostats sit against the outside of the tank and measure the temperature of the water. Once the temperature of the water hits the pre-set maximum temperature, it sends a signal to shut off the heating element.

But if your thermostats aren’t insulated, they can get confused by the cool temperature of the room and read the water temperature as cooler than it really is. 

If this happens, the heating element doesn’t shut off when it should and continuously heats the water to dangerously high temperatures until the reset button trips.

What to do: First, locate your hot water heater’s thermostats.

You’ll most likely need to unscrew the access cover with a phillips head screwdriver first.

Once the access cover is removed, check for a cover of thick, white insulation.

If there is no insulation, this is most likely what is causing your reset button to trip.

If you’re now faced with the task of insulating your thermostat, we suggest you go ahead and insulate the entire water heater.

Why?

According to the United States Department of Energy, insulating your water heater can reduce your heat losses by up to 45%, which saves you anywhere from 4 to 9% in heating costs each year.

The good news is that insulating your water heater can be done on your own and usually only costs about $30.

Up for this money-saving challenge? Here’s a step-by-step video on how to insulate your water heater.

Issue #2: The upper heating element is “stacking” hot water

“Stacking” is when the water at the top of the tank gets hotter and hotter.

This happens when small amounts of hot water are used repeatedly within a very short time frame.

Example: Your in-laws are in town, and it’s dinner time.

You have a small amount of dirty dishes and you hand wash them quickly before you start cooking.

Two minutes later, your father-in-law washes his hands in the bathroom.

A couple minutes later, your mother-in-law uses hot water to rinse off and peel some potatoes for dinner.

After each incident, hot water is drawn from your water heater. And each time water is drawn from the tank, your dip tube quickly delivers cold water to refill the tank.

As that cold water enters the tank, the lower thermostat senses the drop in temperature and turns on the heating element to heat the water. Eventually that hot water rises to the top (because heat rises, remember?).

If that process happens repeatedly within a short timeframe, the hot water at the top of the tank quickly reaches dangerous temperatures that will cause your reset button to trip.

What to do: In most cases, stacking can be prevented by watching your hot water usage habits.

Be aware when hot water is repeatedly being used in short bursts and schedule your hot water tasks accordingly.

Issues that require a professional plumber

If your 2 thermostats are already well insulated and stacking isn’t your problem, you’ll need a professional plumber to diagnose and fix your issue.

Warning: A hot water heater uses 240 volts of electricity. If you’re unfamiliar with how a water heater works, do NOT attempt to fix anything on your own. 

Other issues that could be causing your hot water heater reset button to trip include:

  • Faulty thermostats. If one of your 2 thermostats is weak or broken and needs to be replaced, it won’t shut off power to the heating element. That element will continue to heat the water until it surpasses the maximum temperature and trips the reset button.
  • Heating element is “shorted”. An element that is shortened is usually damaged and sends an electrical current up the tank. A shorted element will continue to heat the water until the reset button trips.
  • Sediment build up. It’s common for sediment to collect at the bottom of water heaters. If sediment builds on or covers the lower element, it can cause the water to overheat and trip the reset button. If your water heater is making popping sounds, this is a sign that sediment is building inside and you’ll want a plumber to flush your tank. You may also need to replace the lower element.
  • Loose wiring. A loose wire can trip the reset button by confusing it. The reset button may sense the additional heat produced by the loose wire and trip.
  • Bad reset button. If none of the above are problems, there’s a good chance that the reset button itself may be damaged and need to be replaced.

Need a Minnesota/western Wisconsin Plumber?

If you live in Minnesota or western Wisconsin, our plumbers can diagnose the issue and repair your water heater quickly. Schedule your appointment with us today.

We serve Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, Stillwater, the southern metro area and more with quality electrical service.


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Water Smell Like Rotten Eggs? A Minnesota Plumber Explains Why

If your water smells like “rotten eggs” or “sewer gas”, that means it contains hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a colorless, flammable, extremely hazardous gas. 

If you’ve noticed this stink gas especially when you run hot water, there’s a reason for that. 

Hydrogen sulfide does not dissolve in water, so when the water gets hot, the heat forces the hydrogen sulfide into the air, turning shower time into an unpleasant experience.

So, should you be worried about this gas in your water? 

Is hydrogen sulfide in my water harmful? 

The answer to that question depends on the concentration (parts per million or ppm) of hydrogen sulfide in your water, according to University of Georgia Extension (UGA).

For example:

  • 0.5 ppm (Low levels): The water smells musty or swampy. But nothing dangerous happens.
  • 1.0 ppm: The water smells like rotten eggs and the hydrogen sulfide is corrosive to iron, steel, copper, and brass. So it can ruin your pipework. It can also affect the taste of your drinks and cooked food.
  • 250+ ppm (extremely high levels): Makes you nauseous, causes stomach pain, has a laxative effect, dehydrate you and is harmful to the health of infants and young animals. 

If your water has high levels of hydrogen sulfide, you need it treated before drinking it. 

Want to know how much hydrogen sulfide is in your water? If you live in Minnesota or Western Wisconsin, contact us for a water quality test.

How did hydrogen sulfide get in my water anyway?

Hydrogen sulfide can make its way into your groundwater in a number of ways, including:

Cause 1: Sulphur-reducing bacteria

Hydrogen sulfide happens naturally in groundwater because of sulphur-reducing bacteria

Wait, what?

Let us explain.

Long story short: These bacteria chemically transform a naturally-occurring compound (sulfates) into a corrosive compound (hydrogen sulfide). It’s like a nasty magic trick. 

Getting a bit more technical: Sulfates are a combination of sulfur and oxygen. They exist naturally in minerals and rock formations. As water flows through rock and soil, some of the sulfates dissolve into your groundwater.

So, now enters the sulfur-reducing bacteria, which use the sulfur as an energy source, creating large quantities of hydrogen sulfide. 

A water test can determine if your water system contains these bacteria.

Cause 2: Corroded magnesium anode rod in water heater


Image source: UGA Extension

Every water heater has an anode rod that protects the water heater tank from rust. Essentially, the rod deteriorates in place in the tank.

However, if the rod is made of magnesium (which is common in electric water heaters), the rod can transform sulfates in the water to hydrogen sulfide. Just like bacteria does.

You’ll know this is the problem if you smell the rotten egg smell when running ONLY the hot water. 

Side note: Do you have an ion exchange water softener? If so, that’s making the problem worse. Softened water is more corrosive, increasing the rate at which the magnesium rod corrodes, creating more hydrogen sulfide. 

How to get rid of hydrogen sulfide in your water

Common solutions include:

Shock chlorination

“If the hydrogen sulfide gas is being produced by an active colony of sulfur-reducing bacteria,” says UGA,”this must be determined and eliminated by shock chlorination.” This solution is for those of you who have a well.

See information about shock chlorination procedures

Proper water filtration

The type of filter you need depends on the level of hydrogen sulfide: 

  • Up to about 0.3 ppm: Can be filtered out by a granular activated carbon filters. However, you need to replace these filter periodically.
  • Up to 10 ppm: You’ll need a point of entry filtration system containing manganese greensand.
  • Up to 250 ppm: You’ll need a reverse osmosis system or a whole-house ion exchange treatment (softens hard water and reduces iron and manganese)

Replace the water heater anode rod

If the smell only comes from hot water, the issue is in the tank. 

In which case, you need to replace the magnesium rod with one made of aluminum or zinc.

Need a Minnesota plumber’s help?

Wondering what to do now? Fear not. A plumber can help you out here by:

  • Determining if bacteria or the water heater is the issues
  • Replacing the anode rod as needed
  • Recommending and installing the proper water filter to keep your water clean and tasty

If you live in Minnesota or western Wisconsin, our plumbers can help. Just give us a ring.

We serve Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, Stillwater, the southern metro area and more with quality electrical service.

Air Conditioner Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping? A Minnesota Tech Explains

During the Minnesota’s hot, humid summers, you probably noticed that your air conditioner was blowing hot air or not working at all. 

Eventually you discovered that the AC’s circuit breaker tripped...and then it tripped again. Why?

Well, an air conditioner circuit breaker usually trips for one of 8 reasons:

  • Dirty filter
  • Dirty condenser coils
  • Bad/Faulty breaker
  • Old compressor
  • Grounded compressor
  • Low refrigerant
  • Loose wires
  • Shorted motor

Now, safety tip: DON’T keep resetting the breaker. Reset it only when you’ve found the root problem and fixed it. Otherwise the excess electric current could damage your air conditioner (circuit breakers don’t last forever, you know?).

Want this problem fixed ASAP and live in Minnesota? Contact On Time Service Pros for a professional AC repair.

Want to learn more about these problems? We’ll show you the ones you can solve versus problems a tech needs to solve.

Problems you can solve

Dirty filter


Dirt filter (right) next to a clean filter (left)

Your breaker might have tripped because the filter is too dirty.

Why would this trip the breaker? Well, a dirty filter restricts airflow to the blower, causing the AC fan motor to work harder to circulate air. Think of like like trying to breathe with a blanket over your head. 

This extra work can cause an electrical overload (that is, pulling more current than the circuit than handle) and trip the circuit breaker.

Solution: Change the air filter. You should check your filter at least once a month to see if it needs changing.

Dirty condenser coils


A dirty condenser unit. Most likely also has a dirty condenser coil.

Your breaker may have tripped because your outside unit’s coils are dirty, causing the AC to overheat and trip the breaker.

Why does a dirty outside unit cause the breaker to trip? To understand, you need to know how an air conditioner works.  (If you don’t really care, just jump down to the solution section. You won’t hurt our feelings).

Here’s the cliffsnotes version of how an AC works: 

Your AC creates cold air by absorbing heat in the air, then dumping it outside. 

This process requires 2 units:

  • Inside unit: Absorbs heat from the air using refrigerant (commonly called “Freon”- a refrigerant brand name) and sends that hot refrigerant outside to the...
  • Outside unit (pictured below): Dumps the heat outside via the fan and condenser coil, copper tubes that carry the refrigerant.


Damaged air conditioner showing condensing coil. Original image source: cspi2002 on YouTube

With us so far?

Now, if the outside unit’s coils get covered with dirt, it struggles to disperse heat, causing temperature and pressure to rise in the condenser coils and drawing more electrical current (amps). This overcurrent trips the breaker

Summary: dirty outside unit = temperature and pressure rise = too much electrical current = tripped breaker

Solution: Wash the outside unit. It should be cleaned annually regardless of how clean it looks since coils can have dirt packed in the fins where you cannot see. 

You can clean the outside unit by following these instructions

Gather these tools:

Follow these steps:

1. Find the electrical disconnect (a grey metal box) near your outside unit.


2. Open the electrical disconnect and find the switch that turns off the air conditioner. This may be a pull out switch or a circuit breaker type switch. Turn the switch to the “off” position.


3. Pull off any loose debris (leaves, limbs etc) on the outside unit.

4. Spray the outside unit with the coil cleaner.

5. Wait 10-15 minutes as the cleaner foams and bonds with the dirt on the coils. (If directions say differently, follows those instructions)

6. Rinse the coil cleaner off with the hose on a gentle setting.

IMPORTANT: You’ll want to choose a gentle sprayer setting because you don’t want to bend or damage any of the fins surrounding the condenser coil. These fins help direct airflow and damaging them will reduce your system’s efficiency. Basically, you’ll be throwing money away.

Now if the above are not the problem, then you need a technician’s help. Let’s briefly cover some problems they may have to solve.

Problems a technician needs to fix

Bad breaker

The breaker may be tripping because it’s old and has gone bad. 

Solution: The technician just needs to replace the breaker, a relatively inexpensive job.

Old compressor

The compressor is your AC’s heart, pumping refrigerant throughout the system. However, as the compressor ages, it struggles to start up and starts pulling more electricity than the circuit can handle. This overcurrent trips the breaker. 

Solution: A technician may be able to install a “hard start kit” that helps the compressor turn on with ease.

Grounded compressor

This is the worst case scenario. 

A grounded compressor means that one of the electrical windings inside the compressor has broken and hit the side of the compressor, causing a direct “short to ground”. That just means 
the electricity goes straight to the ground, pulling more electrical current than the circuit can handle, which causes the breaker to trip. 

In this scenario, a short to ground will ignite the compressor’s oil, causing a burnout. 

Solution: if this is the problem, you need a new compressor. And those cost a ton! Therefore, if your compressor is not covered by your warranty, you’re better off paying for a new unit.

Low refrigerant

When your AC is low on refrigerant, it struggles to keep your home cool. Meaning its run times can get insane, causing the AC to overheat, pull in too much electric current and trip the breaker.

Solution: Your technician needs to first examine the system for refrigerant leaks, which is the the main cause of low refrigerant. Once the tech finds the leak, they need to evacuate what refrigerant you have, fix the leak, and add in the appropriate amount of refrigerant.

BEWARE: If the tech says you’re low on refrigerant, but does not inform you of a refrigerant leak, they may be trying to scam you. Because they can just add refrigerant, let it leak out and then add more later. And refrigerant isn’t cheap (it can be $100+ per pound depending on the supply remaining).

Loose wires

As seasons change, wires in the breaker will expand and contract, working themselves loose. This can cause the breaker to trip.

Solution: The tech needs to find the loose wire and tighten it.

Shorted motor

If you circuit breaker has tripped, it could be due to a shorted electric motor.

Your AC has an outdoor fan motor and an indoor blower motor. If either of these runs hot for a prolonged period, the wiring insulation may break down leading to a short circuit.

A short circuit is where the electricity bypasses its normal path of flow.  In other words, it’s a “shortcut” for the electricity, allowing for more electricity to flow (current increases). The wires 
in the circuit will not be large enough to carry this extra current and can overheat, melt, and cause a fire. 

Of course, your breaker trips before that.

Solution: The tech needs to find the short and replace the motor.

Need an air conditioner repair in Minnesota?

If you’ve tried the DIY options and need a professional’s help, contact On Time Service Pros for a professional AC repair. If we’re not on time, you won’t pay a dime for your repair!

Our air conditioner technicians serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

Breaker Keeps Tripping: Can I Replace it With a Bigger Breaker?

No. You should never replace a tripping breaker with a larger one.

Why?

A tripping breaker is a red flag that you have an electrical problem on that circuit. But if you think replacing that breaker is the solution, you’re dead wrong. 

It only increases the risk of damage and/or an electrical fire.

In this article, we’ll explain why replacing the breaker is a serious no-no and what you should do instead. But first let’s take a look at how circuit breakers work.

How your circuit breaker works

Think of your breaker as a “bouncer”. A bouncer’s job is to carefully track the “flow” of people entering and exiting the building. Once the occupancy reaches its limit, he cuts off access to the building. 

Your breaker works the same way. A circuit breaker monitors the flow of current in a particular circuit. When the current hits an unsafe level, the breaker “trips” and immediately cuts off power to that circuit. 

But when your breaker trips, replacing it with a bigger amp breaker can actually cause a fire.

Why?

Let’s go back to the bouncer analogy. Imagine a new bouncer is hired and instructed to let in twice as many people as before. The building itself hasn’t changed but it’s now holding twice the amount of people it was designed to handle. Now the building is crowded, hot and breaking all kinds of safety codes.

This is exactly what happens when you switch to a bigger amp breaker. 

Yes, it may stop the breaker from tripping, but it’s also allowing more electric current than the wires were designed to handle. This can cause the wires to overheat and start a fire.

And the worst part? You still haven’t resolved the issue that caused the breaker to trip in the first place.

So what should I do if my breaker is tripping?

Instead of switching your tripped breaker for one with a bigger amp, try finding the reason your breaker tripped.

Need some background knowledge first? Check out our article, “Here’s Why Your Breaker Keeps Tripping”.

Ready to start troubleshooting? Below are some questions that will help.

Were you running several appliances when the breaker tripped?

If so, you most likely have an overloaded circuit. That means there are too many appliances on one circuit. 

The solution: The quick fix is to unplug or turn off some appliances before restarting the breaker. The long-term fix is to have an electrician set up new circuits for any appliances that should be on their own dedicated circuits.

Does the breaker trip every time you turn on a specific appliance?

If one appliance trips the breaker every time it’s used, there is probably a short on that circuit. This just means that electricity isn’t flowing in its proper “route”.

The solution: Short circuits can be dangerous. Call an electrician to find and repair the electrical short.

Does the breaker trip immediately after it’s reset?

First off, turn off all appliances. Then try to reset the breaker. Does the breaker immediately click back into the OFF position? If so, your breaker itself may be bad.

The solution: Replace the breaker with one that is the same size amp. We suggest calling an electrician since this involves working with high voltage.

Get a professional electrician’s help

If you’re still unsure why your breaker keeps tripping, we can help! Just contact us online to request a service. We’ll be on time or your repair is free!

Mister Sparky’s electricians serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

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The Best Smoke Detector Placement to Reduce False Alarms

Remember that time your smoke detector went off for no apparent reason? 

Remember how you went from panicked to annoyed in 3 seconds? 

These false alarms are a nuisance but fortunately you can stop them. 

The best way to prevent a false alarm is to know where you should and shouldn’t install a smoke detector. 

Need help with that? 

Read on to uncover the best places to install your smoke detectors. 

3 rules to prevent smoke detector false alarms

First of all, always place smoke detectors roughly 4-12 inches from the ceiling. Smoke rises so this is the safest and most logical place for all smoke alarms.

Beyond that though, follow these 3 rules:

  1. 10 feet from water
  2. 3 feet from vents
  3. 20 feet from heat

Easy enough, right? Now let’s take a closer look at what each rule means and why they’re important.

Rule 1: “10 feet from water”

Make sure your detector is at least 10 feet from areas that generally have high levels of humidity. 

These areas include:

  • Bathrooms
  • Laundry rooms
  • Kitchen sinks
  • Dishwashers

The reason: Humidity refers to the amount of water in the air. Areas with high humidity will introduce water particles into your detector. 

Water particles cause false alerts because ionization smoke detectors confuse them for smoke particles.

If your smoke detector was installed within 10 feet of a high humidity area, try:

  • Replacing the battery. A weak battery makes your detector even more sensitive to humidity so this may cut down on the amount of false alarms.
  • Switching to a photoelectric detector. These detectors use light sensors and are less likely to confuse water particles with smoke particles.
  • Contacting an electrician to move the smoke detector.

Rule 2: “3 feet from vents”


Keep smoke alarms away from return and supply vents like these.

Always place smoke alarms at least 3 feet from heating and air conditioning vents. 

The reason: Vents attract high amounts of dust as they draw air in from your home or push air out from the ductwork.

Remember how ionization smoke detectors confuse water particles with smoke particles? Well, they also have trouble differentiating between dust and smoke particles. And this causes false alarms as well.

Is your detector too close to a vent? Switch it out for a photoelectric smoke detector or have an electrician relocate the detector.

Rule 3: “20 feet from heat”

If you don’t want to trigger an alarm every time you cook a frozen pizza, make sure you place your alarm at least 20 feet away from heat sources.

Heat sources include:

  • Stoves
  • Fireplaces
  • Oil/gas furnaces
  • Ovens

The reason: Appliances that produce heat are also likely to produce smoke. So even if there isn’t a fire, you’re still going to set the detector off when smoke particles reach the unit.

Think your smoke detector is too close to a heat source? Turn on fans or open a window/door to direct smoke particles away from the detector. 

Otherwise, have an electrician reinstall your detector in an area more than 20 feet away from a heat source.

Placement not causing your false alarms?

If you were able to rule out placement no-nos as your issue, it may be a problem with the device itself or a low battery. 

If you want to know other situations that cause false alarms, check out our article, “Why Does My Smoke Detector Go Off For No Reason?”

Still have questions about your smoke detectors? Contact a professional at On Time Service Pros for help.

We serve Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, Stillwater, the southern metro area and more with quality electrical service.

Why is My Air Conditioner Making a Clicking Noise?

First off, a clicking noise coming from your air conditioner is not always a cause for concern. 

In fact, your AC should click when the unit turns on/off. This is the noise your thermostat makes as it communicates to your AC unit.

But if you hear repeated clicking this can be a sign of a larger issue. 

Before you call a professional, let’s take a closer look at some of the possible causes for the clicking noises.

My AC is clicking but won’t turn on

Most likely cause: There’s an electrical failure somewhere

If your AC won’t start and you hear clicking inside the house, there is most likely a breakdown in the chain of communication between your thermostat and your AC unit.

The repeated clicking you hear is the thermostat sending electrical signals to power your outdoor unit. But an electrical failure in the wiring, the compressor contactor or even in the thermostat itself can stop the signal and prevent your outdoor unit from starting.

What to do: The best option is to let a professional troubleshoot and identify the issue. They’ll be able to replace or repair the faulty component that is preventing your AC from activating.

I hear clicking while the AC is running

Cause #1: The fan blades are catching on debris

The air handler is usually located in your attic or basement and includes a fan that pushes cool air into your home.

If you hear a clicking sound inside your home that starts out slow once the AC starts then gets faster as the unit warms up, there is probably debris obstructing the fan blades.

What to do: You can attempt to inspect the fan and clear the obstruction yourself. But if your air handler is located in the attic and you are unfamiliar with the components of the system, we suggest hiring a professional who can safely remove the debris and clean the indoor unit.

Cause #2: Something is loose in outdoor unit 

Your outdoor unit (called the condensing unit) has many components that can become loose over time. If a part is loose, you’ll likely hear a clicking noise at your outdoor unit (this may be accompanied with a banging or clanking sound). 

Another possible explanation is that something (leaves, sticks, etc) is obstructing the fan blades inside the condensing unit.

What to do: Turn off the AC and inspect your outdoor unit for the source of the noise. If you are unsure what is causing the noise or if you aren’t sure how to repair it, have a professional inspect and repair the unit.

Need a professional to take a look at your AC?

Clicking noises can range from minor issues to expensive repairs. Your best bet is to have a professional examine your unit to correctly identify the issue and ensure the problem doesn’t reoccur in the future.

If you live in Hastings, MN or the surrounding areas and are concerned about the clicking noises coming from your air conditioner, schedule your appointment with One Hour Air today.

One Hour Air's air conditioning techs serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

Why is My Air Conditioner Blowing Hot Air?

To be honest, even a professional won’t know the answer to this question without an inspection and some troubleshooting.

We’ll go over some of the issues that require professional repair but first let’s make sure the issue isn’t an easy fix that you can handle yourself (and save some money).

AC not blowing cool air? Try our troubleshooting checklist

#1: Check your thermostat settings

What to check: Make sure your fan setting on the thermostat is set to “AUTO”.

Why?: If your fan is set to “ON” instead of “AUTO” it constantly runs regardless of whether the air conditioner is actually cooling the air. The warm air you feel is just the fan circulating lukewarm air when the AC is not running.

Related: Should You Set Your Thermostat’s Fan Setting to “ON” or “AUTO”

#2: Check your air filter

What to check: If your filter is covered in dirt (like the right filter in the picture), replace it right away. 

However, if it’s been a long time since you last replaced the filter and you notice a particularly heavy coat of dirt, there’s a good chance that this is the cause behind your AC blowing warm air.

In this case, you’ll need to hire a technician to inspect the unit and clean your evaporator coil.

Why?: A dirty air filter allows more contaminants to flow through your AC system. Dirt and dust eventually build on your evaporator coil (the coil that cools the air before it is pushed into your home). 

If the coil is caked with dirt it can’t do its job, meaning the air pushed through your vents will be warm instead of cool.

#3: Check the power supply to your outdoor unit

What to check for: When you turn the AC on, do you hear the outdoor unit running? 

If not, you’ll want to locate your breaker (the metal box near your outdoor unit). Flip your AC breaker to the “off” position then back “on” to reset it. 

Note: If your breaker immediately flips back to the “off” position when you try to reset it, do not flip it again! Leave it alone and call a technician immediately. 

Why?: Your air conditioning system has 2 parts: an indoor unit that blows the air through your home and an outdoor unit that cools the air. If your outdoor unit isn’t getting power, your indoor unit may continue to run, blowing your home’s air in circles without actually cooling it off.

If your outdoor unit isn’t getting power, one likely cause is a tripped breaker (sometimes due to a power surge, thunderstorm, etc). Learn more about why your circuit breaker keeps tripping.

#4: Check your outdoor unit for dirt/debris

What to check for: If you notice that your outdoor unit (also called the condenser) is covered in a layer of dirt, turn off your AC then hose it down. This won’t damage the system and will remove most of the dirt.

Also check for weeds, plants, etc. that may be “suffocating” your condenser. Make sure that there is a healthy amount of space (2 to 3 feet) between the condenser and all surrounding objects.

Why?: One of your condenser’s responsibilities is to dump the heat absorbed from inside your home into the outdoor air. 

But if the outside of your condenser is covered in dirt or if debris is blocking its airflow, it can’t release heat very well. That heat then travels through the system and gets pushed back into your home.

AC still blowing warm air?

If your AC is still blowing warm air, there’s probably a bigger underlying problem that needs to be fixed by an air conditioning technician. Some examples include:

  • A leak in your air ducts—Leaky ducts bring hot attic air into your home..
  • Problems with the compressor—Faulty compressors prevent heat from being pushed out of your home, meaning the same warm indoor air is cycled through your AC system instead of cool air.
  • Refrigerant leaks—Refrigerant is what actually cools the air, so if there is a leak, the air pushing through the vents will be warm.
  • Wiring issues—Wires deliver electric power to your AC unit, so if even one wire is frayed or damaged, it may be cutting off power to parts of your system that cool your air.

Let us help you cool off

If you’ve gone through the troubleshooting checklist and your AC is still blowing warm air, we can help (if you live in Hastings, MN or the surrounding area).

Schedule your AC repair with one of our timely, professional technicians. And don’t forget—if we’re late, (even by a minute) it’s free. Try us.

One Hour Air's air conditioning techs serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

Traditional vs. Tankless Water Heaters: Which One Is Best in Minnesota?

What’s the best type of water heater for homeowners in Minnesota: tankless or traditional (tank)? 

Well, there’s no simple answer. It depends on what’s most important to you. Both have their merits and both have downsides.

To help you decide, we’ve listed the most common reasons people choose one type over another, starting with the trusty traditional water heater.

(And if you need help deciding or have any questions contact us!)

Reasons to stick with a traditional water heater

A traditional water heater heats water in a large storage tank so that you have hot water ready and available when you need it. It’s in most homes in America. Choose a traditional tank water heater if…

You heat your water with electricity

If electric is your only option for heating your water, stick with a tank. Electric tankless water heaters just don’t work well in cold climates like Minnesota. They can’t keep up with the hot water needs of most homes, so de do not recommend them.

You want a water heater with the lowest lifetime cost

You’ve likely heard that tankless can save you money. And they can: on your monthly energy bills.

But they also cost much more to purchase and install. (Traditional water heaters are usually $700 to $2,300 while tankless are between $3,200 and $4,500.) And this difference is so much that a tankless water heater can’t recoup it over its lifetime, in most cases. 

In fact, one study showed that to pay for itself, a tankless water heater would have to last for 21-78 years! (And they only last 15-20 years).

Related: How Much Does a Tankless Water Heater Cost in Hastings, Minnesota?

Another way traditional water heaters save you money is that they need less maintenance. Tankless water heaters heat water so quickly that they have more issues with limescale buildup and need to be cleaned at least every few months. 

And tankless water heater maintenance is more complicated and costly than the maintenance traditional water heaters need.

You don’t usually run out of hot water

Paying more for the convenience of limitless hot water only really makes sense if you currently run out of hot water regularly. If not, stick with a traditional water heater because it’s more cost effective (see above).

Reasons you should choose a tankless water heater

Instead of heating water in a large reservoir, tankless water heaters only heat water when you need it. You should consider a tankless water heater if...

You need the space

A tankless water heater is smaller and more compact than a traditional water heater because it doesn’t have a large storage tank. So a tankless water heater can give you back some valuable storage space.


Size comparison between a typical traditional water heater and a tankless water heater. Photo source: A Better House (cropped)

And this is an even bigger issue because of new federal water heater regulations that went into effect last year. To comply, most new storage water heaters are now 2 to 8 inches taller and 2 to 6 inches wider than their predecessors.


Diagram showing growing size of tank water heaters. Source: Dave Croy/The World-Herald

You want to be green

Traditional water heaters are constantly heating your water so that it’s ready whenever you might need it. This results in what’s called standby heat loss. Basically, as the water is sitting in the tank, some heat escapes and the water heater has to re-heat it.

Tankless water heaters don’t have this problem because they heat water only when you need it. 


Part of an infographic from Noritz showing the difference between tankless and traditional water heater run times.

According to Energy.gov, this can result in an efficiency gain of 24% to 34% for families who use 41 gallons or less of hot water daily.

However, as discussed above, it’s unlikely that this energy savings is enough to overcome the increased cost of installing a tankless water heater.

You want endless hot water

One of the most-touted benefits of a tankless water heater is endless hot water. 

And tankless water heaters can indeed deliver an unending supply of hot water—so long as you get the right size for your home.

Get a new water heater installed

Whether you’ve decided on a tankless or regular water heater, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing can install it for you. Contact us to get started.

Benjamin Franklin's Plumbers serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

How Much Does a New Central Air Conditioner Cost in Minnesota?

A new central air conditioner in Minnesota can run anywhere from $3,000 to over $10,000.

Yes, that’s a large range. And that’s because there are a lot of factors that affect the final cost of a new air conditioner. 

We’ve outlined 6 of the biggest factors below.                                                                                 

Factor #1: The size of the AC unit

What it is: Air conditioners are sized by “tons” from 1 to 5 tons. The higher the AC size, the more heat it can remove from the house.

How it affects price: For the most part, the larger the air conditioner, the higher the price. The good news is that there is only a slight difference in price from sizes 1-ton to 3-tons. And most homes require either a 2-ton or 3-ton air conditioner.

Factor #2: Ductwork Installation/Modifications

What it is: Ducts are needed to circulate air throughout your home. If your house doesn’t currently have central air conditioning, ductwork will need to be installed. 

How it affects price: If you need to install ductwork for the first time or modify existing ducts, the labor and materials needed can double the price.

Factor #3: The type of central air conditioning

What it is: There are two types of central air conditioning: Split systems and packaged systems.

A split system means that the units of the air conditioner are split between one outdoor unit and one indoor unit. 

A packaged system houses all units within one “cabinet” and is usually located outdoors or in the attic.

How it affects price: When it comes to the price, it really depends on whether you already have an AC system installed in your home or not.

A split system will cost more to install than a packaged system if installed in a house that does not currently have an AC system. However, split systems are more cost-effective over time because they are more efficient than packaged systems. 

If your home already has an AC system and you are simply replacing it with the same type, this is much cheaper than reconfiguring the entire system to support a different type of air conditioner (that is, replacing a packaged system with a split system).

Note: If your home already has a furnace (as most Minnesota homes do) this will decrease the cost of your split system installation.

Factor #4: SEER 

What it is: SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) is the measurement of how efficiently your air conditioner cools your home. 

Home ACs have SEER ratings ranging from 13 to 25.

How it affects price: Just like a car’s value increases as its miles per gallon increases, the higher the SEER of an AC unit, the more expensive it is.        

Factor #5: Brand

What it is: The HVAC brand you choose determines the quality of your AC, the features it provides, your warranty, and the price of the unit. 

How it affects price: The general rule of thumb is that the bigger names (Trane, Carrier, and Lennox) are more expensive but usually offer advanced features and better warranties. For example, Trane is known for their high prices, but they offer 10-year warranties on their products.

Factor #6: Labor/Contracting company

What it is: This portion of the overall cost goes toward hiring a contractor to determine the type and size of the system you need and to deliver and install the AC system.

How it affects price: A quality and experienced contractor’s prices will be higher. But don’t let a higher price scare you away. Your AC unit is a huge part of your daily life and will provide comfort for years to come. But if it is installed poorly, it is can end up costing you more than the money you “saved” by choosing a cheaper contractor.

In fact, research shows that improperly installing an air conditioner can result in a 30% increase in energy usage, resulting in unnecessarily high energy bills.

Need an AC installation estimate for your home?

Now that you understand the factors that can affect the price of a new central air conditioner, you’re most likely wondering where you fall in the $3,000-$10,000 range.

If you live in Minnesota or Western Wisconsin, On Time Service Pros can help you determine how much your installation will cost. Schedule your free home inspection and estimate with us today.

Why Is My Ceiling Fan Wobbling?

That annoying wobble your ceiling fan makes can be difficult to troubleshoot because so many different problems can cause it.

For example, a wobbling ceiling fan can be caused by:

  • Being hung on an electrical box that’s not rated for ceiling fans
  • An electrical box not connected to ceiling rafter correctly
  • Ceiling fan not securely attached to the electrical box
  • Downrod not securely fastened to fan body
  • Fan blades not securely attached to mounting brackets
  • Fan blades out of balance 
  • Fan blades warped (cheap blades can warp when moisture gets into them)
  • The fan’s motor itself is unbalanced (this is very rare)

So how can you possibly fix it? Well, we’ll walk you through an easy tutorial that will help you correct 90% of the problems that cause a wobbly ceiling fan.

Step 1: Check the electrical box

Your ceiling fan should be attached to a metal or plastic fan-rated electrical box, which is connected securely to your ceiling rafters or joists. 

Unfortunately, many people in Minnesota add ceiling fans to their homes by attaching them to ceiling boxes that are not rated for fans. Over time, the weight and vibration of the ceiling fan works the box loose from the ceiling, leading to a wobble.

Eventually, if not corrected, the fan can come crashing down on you!

So first things first: make sure the fan is installed on the correct type of electrical box. 

How to tell if the box is rated for a ceiling fan
The easiest way is to look for something on the box that says it can support a ceiling fan.

But that can be difficult to locate. So the next best thing is to look at the electrical box’s “ears”. These are small plastic or metal tabs where the light fixture is attached. 

Non fan-rated boxes only have ears that can support lightweight fixtures, not heavy ceiling fans.

Fan-rated ceiling boxes have these ears so they can be used for small fixtures, but they also have threaded posts for ceiling fans that can support more weight.

If you find your box is not fan rated, you’ll need to replace it with one that is. 

Step 2: Tighten all the screws

Loose screws allow the fan to move (or wobble) while it’s running. 

  • Check for loose screws holding the:
  • Ceiling box to your rafters or joists
  • Mounting bracket to your ceiling box
  • Fan blade brackets to the motor housing
  • Fan blades in the blade brackets

Step 3: Look for warped fan blades

Cheaper fan blades can absorb moisture, which can cause them to warp over time. A warped blade throws off the fan’s balance as it cuts through the air, causing the fan to wobble.

To check for warped blades, measure the distance from the end of each blade to the ceiling. They should all be the same distance. 

Make sure you’re measuring the same side of each blade and at the same spot on the ceiling. A simple way to do this is to get a scrap piece of wood and mark where the first blade is. Then spin the fan so the next blade is in the same spot. Repeat for each blade.

If you find a warped blade, replace it.

Step 4: Balance the blades

The preceding steps will solve most wobbling ceiling fan problems. But sometimes ceiling fans need to be balanced because the weight of one blade is just different enough to throw of the balance of the whole fan.

Balancing the fan involves adding weight to the fan blade that is causing the fan to wobble. You can purchase a fan balancing kit or tape coins to the top of the blades.

Here are some good video tutorials on this process:

Fan still wobbling? Have another ceiling fan problem?

Contact the electricians at Mr. Sparky in Hastings. We can diagnose and fix any ceiling fan problem for you.

Mister Sparky’s electricians serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

How Much Does a Tankless Water Heater Cost in Hastings, Minnesota?

It’s impossible to give you the exact cost of a tankless water heater because it depends on so many factors.

But, on average, a tankless water heater installed in Hastings, MN is usually between $3,200 and $4,500.

For an exact price of what it’d cost you, contact us for an in-home quote

To help you better see all the factors, we’ve broken it down into the 2 main components that affect the cost of an installed tankless water heater: 

  • The cost of the water heater itself
  • The cost of the installation

And we’ll show you the factors that affect the price of each of these.

Cost factor #1: The water heater price

The price of the water heater itself usually makes up 60 to 70% of the total installed price.

Some of the factors that affect the price of the water heater include:

Energy efficiency

More efficient water heaters cost more.

A tankless water heater’s energy efficiency is measured by a number called the Energy Factor (or EF). EF is expressed as a decimal and the higher the number, the more efficient the water heater. 

For example, a tankless water heater with a .82 EF is more efficient than one with a .67 EF.

Learn more about EF on energy.gov.

Size

The more hot water you use, the bigger water heater you’ll need and the more expensive it will be.

But tankless water heaters aren’t measured in gallons like a traditional water heater. So how do you know what size you need? Well, a plumber will help you figure it out based on:

  • The flow rate, which is the quantity of water the water heater can heat. It’s measured in gallons-per-minute (or gpm).
  • The temperature rise, which is the number of degrees the water heater can raise incoming water. It will vary based on the flow rate.

Learn more about tankless water heater sizing at energy.gov.

Fuel source

In general, gas tankless water heaters cost more than electric tankless water heaters. However, we don’t really recommend electric tankless water heaters as they have trouble raising the temperature of our cold Minnesota water.

Brand

The brand of water heater you are installing will also affect the final price. As a general rule, well-known brands with good warranties will cost more than the store brands you can pick up at a big box store that have much shorter warranties.

Cost factor #2: The installation price

The other 30 to 40% of the price of an installed tankless water heater is usually the actual installation. The factors that affect the installation price include:

The plumber/plumbing company you hire

The more well-known plumbers will cost more and usually give you better labor warranties

Another thing to be aware of when selecting a company is how they price. There are 2 methods:

  • Hourly pricing
  • Upfront, fixed price

Why is how a company prices important? 
Well, if they charge hourly, then the price they gave you is actually just an estimate. If they run into problems they hadn’t thought about, or things end up taking longer than expected, your final price can be much higher than the original quote.

That’s why we only do fixed, upfront pricing so there are no surprises for you later.

Retrofitting 

Installing a tankless water heater in homes that previously had a tank water heater can be expensive because you often have to:

  • Run a new, larger gas line. Tankless water heater require more fuel to heat water on demand.
  • Add new, larger venting. Since the gas tankless water heater is consuming more gas, it also needs a larger vent.
  • Moving plumbing/pipes. Plumbing may need to be added/moved to accommodate the tankless water heater.

Want to know the price to install a tankless water heater in your home?

If you want an exact price on a new tankless water heater, you can contact us for an in-home quote. We’ll ask you some questions to determine the right size for your home and give you a few options.

Mister Sparky’s electricians serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

What’s the Best Smoke Detector to Buy?

When looking for smoke detectors, you have a few options to choose from, including:

  • Ionization smoke detectors
  • Photoelectric smoke detectors
  • Dual sensor detectors with photoelectric and ionization sensors
  • Dual sensor detectors with photoelectric and heat detectors
  • Heat detectors (not technically a smoke detector, but serves a similar purpose)

Of these options, the “best” depends on where you’re placing the detector. But let’s focus on bedrooms and the hallway outside of the bedrooms. 

The best smoke detector for these areas is the dual sensor smoke detector with photoelectric and heat sensors.

Why is that the best type of smoke detector? 

Two reasons:

  1. It quickly alarms you to both slow, smoldering fires and fast, flaming fires
  2. It minimizes false alarms by not confusing various particles (humidity, dust) with smoke.

Let us explain how this work by breaking down the two sensor technologies in this type of detector:

Photoelectric sensor: Detects smoldering fires

The International Association of Fire Fighters’ (IAFF) highly recommends photoelectric smoke detectors. 

Why?

Because their sensors can quickly detect large particles found in the billowing smoke of ‘smouldering fires’, which burn very slowly without flames (like a cigarette left on a couch or bed). 

Smoldering fires are deadly because they create smoke, carbon monoxide and other poisonous gasses WITHOUT creating noticeable flames. 

In other words, if a smoldering fire develops while you’re sleeping, you could die due to smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Of course, you also need to quickly detect those fast-flame fires, too. Which is why you need a...

Heat sensor: Detects fast-flame fires

Heat detector sensors quickly detect fast flame fires. These fires rapidly consume combustible materials—cooking oil, combustible liquids (gas), paper—and spread quickly,

While the smoke from these flames could be detected by a photoelectric-only smoke detector, it wouldn't do so as quickly as a heat detector. 

That’s why, for bedrooms, you should get a detector that has both photoelectric and heat sensor technology. You get the best of both worlds and are safer because of it.

Now, let’s talk about the redheaded stepchild of the bunch: ionization smoke detectors.

Ionization smoke detectors: Don’t buy!

Even though ionization smoke detectors are in 90%-95% of homes, they’re the most unreliable smoke detector technology.

For one, they don’t detect smoldering flames quickly. This mother lost 3 of her children because her ionization smoke detectors did not go off until it was too late. 

According to this study, for smoldering fires, ionization alarms respond an average of 15 to 50 minutes slower than photoelectric alarms.  And several other several studies indicate that they will outright fail to activate up to 20-25% of the time.

Also, ionization detectors cause too many false alarms.

According to this study
“...92% of homes with ionization smoke alarms experienced nuisance alarms compared with only 11% of homes with photoelectric smoke alarms, a ratio of more than 8 to 1. After six months, 19% of the installed ionization smoke alarms had been disconnected compared to only 4% of the installed photoelectric smoke alarms.”

This false alarm issue is also why you shouldn’t get dual sensor detectors with photoelectric and ionization sensors. 

Why pair a superior technology with an inferior one that will cause false alarms?

Need a smoke detector installed in Minnesota?

Even if you get the right smoke detector, it’s only as reliable the person who installs it.

If you need a professional electrician to install the best smoke detectors in your home, contact Mr. Sparky for help.

Mister Sparky’s electricians serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

“What Appliances Need Their Own Dedicated Circuit?”

Here’s the rule of thumb: A major appliance needs its own dedicated circuit if it has a motor. 

That being said, you’ll need a dedicated circuit for each of these major appliances:

  • Microwave
  • Water heater
  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Dishwasher/garbage disposal
  • Refrigerator
  • Freezer
  • Electric range
  • Furnace
  • Heat pump
  • Air conditioner (central and window)
  • Sump pump
  • Hot tub/Sauna/Jacuzzi 

OK, so now you know what needs a dedicated circuit. Now you need to answer this question: What amp rating does the dedicated circuit need to be?

Let us explain what that means and why it’s important.

Understanding circuit amp ratings

When you turn on an electric appliance it continuously “draws out” an amount of electric current through the wires. That amount is measured in amperes or “amps” for short.

Therefore, you need to install a circuit with an amp rating that can handle that appliance’s electric current.

If the circuit is too small, its wires will heat up due to an excess of current, causing the circuit breaker to “trip” to protect the wires from melting. 

If the circuit is too large...well, nothing particularly bad happens. Other than you’re paying more money than you need to for a dedicated circuit. 

Think of it like this: a circuit is like a home; it can be too small, but it can never be too big. 

Of course, what you’re looking for is a circuit size that is “just right” for the appliance.  

Choosing the correct circuit size for various appliances

The easiest way to find the correct circuit size is to ask an electrician. But you can get a general sense of the circuit size you need with these guidelines:  

15 to 20-amp circuit 

  • Microwave
  • Electric oven
  • Garbage disposal
  • Dishwasher
  • Washing machine
  • Trash compactor 
  • Space heater
  • Refrigerator
  • Room air conditioner
  • Gas furnace

30 or more-amp circuit

  • Central air conditioner
  • Electric furnace
  • Backup heating for heat pump
  • Electric water heaters 
  • Electric ranges 
  • Electric dryer

Need help and live in Minnesota? Let us know

Our electricians can find the right circuit size you need and install it for you. Request a circuit installation today

Mister Sparky’s electricians serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

The Surefire Sign You Need to Replace Your Tank Water Heater

Water Heater ReplacementThink your water heater is ready for a watery grave?

Well, there’s only one surefire way to know: You need to replace your water heater if the tank is leaking, which means it’s deteriorating.  

In the rest of this article, we want to:

  • Explain why a leaky tank is dangerous and potentially costly
  • Show you secondary signs that the water heater needs replacing
  • Give you tips on extending the life of your water heater

Why a water heater tank leak is dangerous

A plumber can repair any part of a water heater—except the tank itself. Once it spring a leaks, that means you need a new one. If left alone, the water heater will eventually burst.

And, trust us, you don’t want that. According to disastersafety.org, “Water heater failures cost an average of $4,444 per incident after the deductible was paid.”

Exception: You may think you have a leak in the tank because you see water around the water heater or in it’s pan. But that could be caused by something else, including:

  • Thermostat and Pressure (T&P) relief valve is opening — This safety valve opens to relieve your water heater of pressure. In this case, you need to lower the pressure in the tank. One way to do that is to keep the temperature around 120 to 125 degrees. Look for the adjustable temperature knob on your water heater.
  • Weakened seals — As the water heater gets older, seals about the T&P valve or the drain valve weaken and water starts leaking out. A plumber can fix this issue no problem. If the leak is coming from the T&P valve, you need to contact a plumber ASAP because your water heater is in danger of exploding. 

Water heater warning label
Source: Installation Instruction for Temperature and Pressure Valve

Secondary signs you need a new water heater

While a leaky tank means, “You MUST replace the water heater now!”, these next 2 signs mean, “You may want to keep an eye on your water heater and start shopping around for a new one.”

It’s 10 to 15 years old
That’s the average range of a tank water heater, but some live much longer—and shorter—than that. Expect your water heater to live shorter than 10 years if it wasn’t properly maintained (see how to do that below.)

It needs repairs frequently
Have you had the water heater repaired several times in the last few months—or even weeks?  Then that’s a telltale sign that you should consider looking for a new water heater. 

How to extend the life of your water heater

Flush the water heater annually— Over time, sediment (loose minerals) settles in the tank, forming a layer of insulation between the heating element and water, causing the burner to run longer to heat your water. This constant heating can weaken your steel tank and lead to a leak. 

How do you know if your tank has sediment? Listen for a popping noise from the tank when it’s heating the water. But, beware, if your water heater has reached this stage the sediment may be solidified and can’t be flushed out.

Change the anode rod every 4 to 5 years— This rod sacrifices itself to protect your water heater tank from rust. Once the rod has deteriorated, you or a professional needs to replace it. 

 Flip up the T&P relief valve twice a year— Look for the T&P valve on the top or side of the water heater and test it twice a year, ensuring that it works properly to depressurize the tank.

Water heater diagram

Don’t want to mess with water heater maintenance? Sign up with a plumbing maintenance plan

Need water heater help in Minnesota?

We can help. We serve Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, Stillwater, the southern metro area and more with quality plumbing service.

Request water heater service.

Here’s Why Your Circuit Breaker Keeps Tripping

Circuit breaker box in a Minnesota homeOK, so you’re getting concerned. 

Your circuit breaker has flipped its switch one too many times and now you’re wondering if there’s a problem.

Most likely, there is. 

You see, a circuit breaker “trips” (flips the little switch) to stop the flow of electricity through a circuit to prevent the circuit’s wires from overheating and potentially causing a fire.

The circuit breaker, essentially, is a guardian angel for your home.

That being said, you don’t want to keep flipping the switch back to ON. At some point, the switch will stop tripping, leaving your family vulnerable to electrical fires. 

Instead, you need to find the cause of the tripping. 

Here are the usual suspects:

  • Overloaded circuit
  • Short circuit
  • Issue with the circuit breaker itself

We’ll explain what each of those problems in detail. 

Side note: Want to skip the details and just want it fixed? Contact an On Time Service Pros electrician for help. We’ll be there on time or your repair is free!

Overloaded circuit

An overloaded circuit is the most common cause of a circuit breaker tripping. An overloaded circuit is one that is taking in more amps (unit of electric current) than the circuit is rated for. 

For example, if you have a 20-amp breaker protecting a 20-amp circuit and 30 amps is flowing through that circuit, the breaker will trip (open the circuit) and stop the electric current.

Here’s a less techy example: Imagine you’re gleefully pouring yourself a cup of coffee. And, in your excitement, the coffee suddenly flows over the cup’s lip. You’d (hopefully) stop pouring because you recognize that you have “overloaded” the cup’s capacity. 

Your breaker is doing the same thing as you would to stop the flow of coffee. But substitute “coffee” for “electric current” and the “cup” for a “circuit”.

Make sense?

So what causes an electrical overload?

Typically, it’s caused by too many appliances running on one circuit. For example, your microwave may be sharing the same 15-amp circuit as your blender in your kitchen. So if you run them at the same time, it’ll trip the breaker.

In this case, you would want the microwave to have its own dedicated circuit, a circuit not shared by other appliances.

How will you know this is the problem? 

First answer this: What circuit was the breaker protecting? Second, think about what was happening when the breaker tripped. Were you running multiple heavy-duty appliances at the same time? If so, you may have found the problem.

Short circuit

If your breaker trips immediately after you reset it, you may have a short circuit somewhere in your home.

To explain short circuits, we need to explain circuits in more detail. 

In your home, electrical current flows in a “circuit” or loop. For example, when you plug in a lamp and turn in on, current flows in a loop from the outlet through the cord, into the bulb and back again. 

Electrical short circuit
Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hyMggzguwY

A short circuit happens when the electrical current takes a “shortcut” in that loop, passing by any resistors, which in this case is the light bulb. The shortcut is usually when two bare wires come in contact with each other.

Electrical short circuit
Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hyMggzguwY


When this shortcut is created, there’s very little resistance in the circuit, which increases the electrical current dramatically, heating up the wires and tripping the circuit breaker.

Just as an hypothetical, let’s say your air conditioner’s circuit breaker trips every time the air conditioner comes on. The cause could be that the AC’s blower motor has a short circuit. 

Issues with the circuit breaker itself

The issue may not be with anything on the circuit but rather with the circuit breaker itself.

Common issues with circuit breakers include:

  • Wires connected to the breaker are loose
  • The breaker is bad or old and needs replacing


Your next step: Call a Minnesota electrician

Your best bet to solve this problem is to call an electrician. They can determine if the problem is an overloaded circuit, a short circuit or a breaker issue and then fix it.

We can help you out if you’d like. Just contact us online to request a service. We’ll be on time, you’ll see, or your repair is free!


Mister Sparky’s electricians serve Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

Popping Sound Coming from Water Heater? Here’s Why (and How to Fix It)

Do you hear what sounds like popcorn popping whenever your water heater heats the water like the guy in this video?

The problem is sediment buildup on the bottom of your water heater tank. Don’t let this continue, or you’ll shorten the life of your water heater.

You need to flush your water heater (more on that later), but first let’s look at why this noise is happening in the first place and why it’s bad.

Why sediment causes the popping sound

Under the layer of sediment at the bottom of your tank is some trapped water. As the water is heated, it bubbles up through the sediment, creating a popping sound.

“But how’d sediment get in there?”

The tap water in Minnesota is hard—that is, it has many dissolved minerals in it. The minerals are safe to drink; your body actually needs some of these minerals.

But the minerals are bad news for your tank. They “un-dissolve” out of the water and settle at the bottom of the tank. Over time, this creates a layer of sediment on the bottom of the tank. Which creates some problems...

Why sediment buildup is bad

The layer of sediment on the bottom of your water heater tank creates several problems:

  • Makes the water heater less efficient. Your water heater’s burner is at the bottom. A layer of sediment blocks the heat, causing your water heater to work harder to heat your water.
  • Shrinks the water heater’s capacity. The layer of sediment can take up a good amount of space, leaving you with less hot water for your home.
  • Damages the water heater tank. Since it slows the transfer of heat to the water, it can cause the tank to overheat, which can damage the tank and lead to a leak.

How to fix it

Your water heater needs to be completely flushed to remove the sediment. Flushing involves emptying the water heater tank of water and flushing some clean water through it.

Manufacturers recommend this is done yearly to increase the life of your water heater.

You can have a professional take care of this maintenance for you or you can do it yourself (instructions are below.) 

How to flush your water heater

You first want to drain the water heater:

1. Turn off the water heater.

2. Turn off the cold water into the water heater.


Cold water inlet valve for water heater.

3. Connect a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater.


Drain valve on bottom of water heater tank.

 

4. Place the other end of the hose somewhere that the water can drain.

5. Open the drain valve. 

Dirty water should now be flowing out of the hose. It will be hot, so be careful. 

In some cases, sediment may actually block the drain, preventing you from draining the water heater. Or the drain valve may crack when you try to open it. If this happens, contact a professional plumber for help repairing your water heater.

Once the water heater is completely drained, it’s time to flush and refill it. Here’s how to do that:

  1. Turn on the cold water supply going into the water heater tank.
  2. Watch the water coming out of the hose. You’ll know you’re done when the water is clear.
  3. Close the drain valve.
  4. Disconnect the hose from the valve.
  5. Make sure the cold water supply is all the way on and wait about 10 minutes for the water to fill the tank.
  6. Turn on a water heater faucet to remove any air from the tank, then turn it off.
  7. Turn the water heater back on.

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing serves Hastings, MN and the surrounding cities, including Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater. Contact us for more information.

95% vs. 80% AFUE Furnace: How Much Money Can You Expect to Save?

If you’re looking to replace your furnace, you probably have one that’s 10+ years old and has an efficiency rating of 60% AFUE or worse.

Upgrading to an 80% AFUE furnace can save you about $726/year*. That’s $10,890 over its 15-year expected lifespan.

A 95% AFUE furnace can save you $1050/year* or $16,050 over 15 years.

*We got these numbers by using this calculator. The calculator is based on upgrading from a 60% AFUE furnace and uses average heating costs for Minnesota homeowners, as compiled by energy.gov.  

Of course, these are just estimates. Several other important factors will also affect your new furnace’s energy efficiency, including:
Getting the right size furnace
Quality of the installation
How much your air ducts leak

Let’s look at each of these in more detail to see how they can affect your new furnace’s energy efficiency savings.

Getting the right size furnace

Furnace “size” is the amount of heat it can put out at once, not the physical size of the furnace. 

And contrary to what most homeowners think, bigger isn’t always better. If you get a furnace that’s too large, it’ll turn on and off for short periods of time. This is called short cycling and will run up your energy bills.

So how do you get the right size furnace? A furnace installer should perform a Manual J Heat Load Calculation. Think of this calculation like measuring your foot to find the right shoe size—but with way more numbers involved.

Some furnace installers will skip this important step and use a rule of thumb. Don’t trust it! This is just one of the reasons getting a good installer is so important...

Quality of the furnace installation

A poorly installed furnace will not only be inefficient, but also won’t provide the level of comfort you expect. 

Think about painting your home. You could purchase the best, top of the line paint. But if it’s not applied correctly, it can peel just days later. It’s the same way with your furnace.

An installer that doesn’t know what they’re doing can destroy a high-end furnace’s energy efficiency. In fact, a furnace with a lower AFUE that’s installed correctly will be more energy efficient than a poorly installed but high-AFUE furnace.

So how do you find a good installer? Here’s our guide to finding one in Minnesota.

How much your air ducts leak

In a typical house, about 20% to 30% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks, holes, and poorly connected ducts, according to ENERGY STAR.

If your ducts are leaking that seriously, you should get them fixed first (or at the same time). Otherwise, you’ll just be more efficiently heating your attic or crawlspace.

Further reading:

Want a free estimate? Contact One Hour Heating today. We serve Hastings, MN and the surrounding cities, including Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater. 

Furnace vs. Boiler: What’s the Best Heating System in Hastings, Minnesota

Furnace or boiler? Which one should you install in your Hastings-area home?

Well, it really depends on what’s most important to you in a heating system. To help you decide, we’ll cover each of these important factors:

  • How well it provides heat
  • Energy efficiency
  • Replacement costs

But first, let’s look at how these 2 heating systems work so you can better understand what makes them different.

The difference between how furnaces and boilers work

A furnace is a forced-air heating system. It sucks in air from your home, heats it and then blows it back into your house via ducts and air vents.

A boiler heats water that is then sent to radiators or radiant floor systems in your home via pipes. At the radiator, the hot water gives off its heat and warms up the air in your home.

So now that you know how they’re functionally different, here are the factors to consider when making your decision.

How well it provides heat

Both a furnace and boiler will be able to heat your home to a comfortable temperature. However, there are a few differences.

Boiler

Many people prefer the heat that a boiler creates because:

  • There’s no draft. Unlike when a furnace turns on, there’s no noticeable draft while a boiler is heating your home.
  • Zoning is built in. You can control the comfort of each individual room at the radiator with a boiler. While you can zone your home with a furnace, it requires more work and doesn’t come built in.
  • Better indoor air quality. Furnaces can blow dirt and other pollutants through your home. Boilers don’t do that.
  • More even heating. Since boilers run more continuously, the heat has more time to spread out and warm your home. Furnaces are notorious for allowing hot and cold spots in homes (though this can be rectified with proper duct design and variable-speed blowers).

Furnace

A furnace does have one advantage in this department, though. Furnaces react more quickly to a change in thermostat setting. In other words, if you bump up your thermostat a few degrees, a furnace will make up the difference more quickly than a boiler.

Energy efficiency

Both furnace and boiler efficiency are rated using AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency). AFUE measures the amount of fuel that is actually turned into heat.

For example, an 80% AFUE natural gas furnace turns 80% of the natural gas it uses into heat. The remaining 20% goes up the flue in combustion gases. So the higher the number, the more efficient the furnace or boiler. 

Boiler

In general, though, boilers are more efficient than furnaces even when their AFUE is equal. This is because the pipes that carry the hot water from a boiler don’t lose much heat since they’re located inside conditioned spaces.

Furnace

Because air ducts are usually located in unconditioned spaces (like basements and attics), they tend to lose heat as air travels through them (not to mention that 20-30% of the air is lost altogether from holes and loose connections, according to ENERGY STAR.)

Of course, these duct problems can be minimized with proper duct design, sealing and insulation.

Replacement costs

So far it seems like the score is 2-0 in favor of boilers. So you might be wondering why most new houses have furnaces. Well, here’s the reason: replacement and installation costs.

Boiler

Installing a boiler is much more complex than installing a furnace. Installing a boiler can take days while installing a new furnace can be done in a 4-6 hours. As a result, replacing or installing a boiler in your home costs more: from $3,500 on the low end to over $10,000 for a high-efficiency unit.

Furnace

Furnaces can be installed much more quickly, assuming you already have the ductwork in place. A new furnace in Minnesota is usually in the $2,500-$5,500 range.

Related: How Much Does a Gas Furnace Cost in Minnesota? It Depends

So which should you buy?

If you’re looking at your decision from purely a price standpoint, a furnace may be your best option. The slight energy efficiency edge a boiler has won’t be enough to make up the high upfront cost of a boiler.

But if you really value the comfort and zoning a boiler can provide, a furnace may never completely satisfy you. So the investment may be worth it for your family.

Want to get a new furnace or boiler installed in your home right now? Get a free estimate from us.

One Hour Heating serves Hastings, MN and the surrounding cities, including Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater. 

“Why Does My Smoke Detector Go Off for No Reason?”

So there you are, minding your own business when—BEEP BEEP BEEP—your smoke detector goes off. 

Frantically, you look around and...no smoke. No fire. No explosions. Just annoyance and a heart that’s beating faster than an excited hamster on a cage wheel.

There are a few common reasons why a smoke detector goes off for no reason:

  • Dust or dirt is covering the cover or sensor chamber 
  • Humidity
  • Smoke detector placed near return vent
  • Smoke detector malfunction

Let’s explain these issues in more detail and how to fix them. 

Dust or dirt is in the sensor chamber 

Your smoke detector may be setting off the alarm because it’s mistaking dust or dirt for smoke that’s in the detectors sensor chamber. 

This issue happens often with ionization smoke detectors, which are prone to false alarms. 

According to this study

“...92% of homes with ionization smoke alarms experienced nuisance alarms compared with only 11% of homes with photoelectric smoke alarms, a ratio of more than 8 to 1. After six months, 19% of the installed ionization smoke alarms had been disconnected compared to only 4% of the installed photoelectric smoke alarms.”

How to fix: Open the smoke detector cover and gently vacuum the detector using the soft brush attachment or using a can of air to blow out dust.

Humidity

Did you just get done taking a hot shower? Humidity from the bathroom may have wafted over to a nearby smoke detector which can mistake humidity for smoke. Again, this happens often with an ionization smoke detector.

How to fix: Relocate the thermostat so it’s at least 10 feet away from the bathroom. Or replace it with a photoelectric detector. Doing both won’t hurt either.

Smoke detector placed near return vent

You know those big metal grates in your home that suck air in? That’s a return vent. Smoke detectors placed near these vents are more likely to go off because dusty air can be blown through the alarm-sensing chamber.

How to fix: Relocate the smoke detector so that it’s at least 3 feet away from the air vent.

Smoke detector malfunction

There may be something physically wrong with the smoke detector that’s causing it go go off. For example, a hard-wired smoke detector will go off if a hot wire connection is loose. Or your smoke detector may be just past its prime and need replacing.

How to fix: Have an electrician check your smoke detector for issues. If it’s 10+ years old you should go ahead and replace it.  

Need a Minnesota electrician?

Contact On-Time Service Pros for electrical repair service today. We’ll be on time, you’ll see, or the repair is free!

We serve Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, Stillwater, the southern metro area and more with quality electrical service.

How to Find the Best Furnace Installer in Minnesota

Choosing a competent furnace installer who knows that he/she’s doing is important.

An installer doesn’t just unpack a box and plug it in. No, they:

  • Find the right furnace size. A furnace that’s too small won’t heat your home. And one that’s too large will turn on and off frequently, ruining your comfort and increasing energy bills.
  • Help you select the right features for your home. Based on what’s most important for you, your installer will help you select features like blower speed (single-, two- or variable-speed)  and burner type (single-stage, two-stage or modulating).
  • Install and calibrate the equipment. Unlike most products, furnaces can’t just be installed and plugged in. They must be carefully assembled and calibrated to work safely and efficiently for years.
  • Stand behind their work. If something does go wrong, you want a company that will be there to come make it right.

That’s a lot of important work! So you need a furnace installer you can really trust. But how do you find a great one? Like this...

1. Collect a large pool of companies

Start by collecting the names of some potential furnace installers in your area. There are a number of ways you can do that...

Ask for recommendations from friends
You probably know someone who’s used a furnace repair and installation company. Ask around. You could even post on social media and ask for recommendations from your Facebook friends. 

Use the ACCA’s contractor search
That Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) is the professional organization for heating and air conditioning companies. They promote professionalism and help write the design standards. They also have a nifty contractor search that lets you find ACCA furnace installers in your area.

Search the internet
You could just google “furnace installer Hastings” (or your city name). This will get you a lot of results, but it may be difficult to judge who’s good and who isn’t.

Important note: Be wary of online services that take your information and tell you that they’ll put you in contact with multiple “trusted” furnace installers in your area. Most sell your information to anyone who will pay for it. And many of the best HVAC companies don’t participate in them.

2. Narrow your list down to the top 3(ish)

You should now have 5-7 furnace installation companies that you know serve your area. Now it’s time to do some preliminary research and eliminate a few to get your list down to 2-3.

Visit their website
Do they even have a website? Does the site look professional? Can you find clear information about their services, guarantees, and processes? Do they belong to the Better Business Bureau (BBB)? A well-designed website shows professionalism and that the company is in it for the long run, not just a quick buck.

Check online reviews
Definitely look at online reviews. But don’t put all your weight on them. Lots of positive reviews doesn’t necessarily mean the company is full of angels. Also, don’t rule out a company just because they have negative reviews. Read the actual reviews and see how/if the company responded. Did they try to make bad situations right or did they get defensive? 

Weigh your friend’s recommendations
Don’t forget about the companies your friends recommended. Those reviews should hold more weight than the reviews from anonymous and unknown people online.

3. Get an estimate from your top 3(ish)

Select a few (3 is a good number) of your top companies and call them to set up a free estimate. 

During the estimate, a good furnace installer will:

  • Ask you lots of questions. About your home, your comfort level, what’s most important to you in a furnace, etc.
  • Analyze your current home. They should be performing a heat load calculation. This requires lots of measuring and calculating.
  • Look at your duct system. Ducts are part of your heating system. A good furnace installer will also consider any duct repairs that need to be made.
  • Present options. After hearing from you and looking around your home, the installer will present you with different options.

Use this opportunity to ask the furnace installers questions, also. Here are a few that the Comfort Institute recommends, along with our explanation: 

  • How many years has your company been in business? You want someone who’s been around for awhile. It shows they’re more likely to be around in the future, should a problem arise.
  • Are you licensed in Minnesota to do heating and air conditioning work? Don’t hire a non-licensed HVAC company!
  • Do you carry both general liability and workers compensation insurance? If you hire a contractor without insurance, you may be liable for any accidents that happen on your property.
  • Are you a member of a national trade association? Which ones? Membership shows they’re a committed professional and not a fly-by-the-night company.
  • Do you have a permanent non-residence place of business? What is the street address? The best furnace installers have a physical location for their warehouse. Check out the address later in Google Maps to make sure it’s not a house.
  • Can you can provide names and phone numbers of satisfied customers in my city? These are references that you can check up on later.
  • Do your service technicians wear uniforms & ID badges? Shows professionalism.
  • Do you offer 24-hour emergency service? In case you need help in the middle of a frigid winter night.
  • Do you have a refund policy if I am not satisfied? What happens if you’re not satisfied? Good furnace installers have a process for this. 

4. Compare, check references and select the winner

Almost done! Though this can be the most difficult part. It’s now time to select a winner.

Check their references
Call the references they gave. Ask about things like the company’s professionalism, timeliness and follow up as well as how satisfied they are with the company. 

Grade ‘em
Now you need a way to compare each of the companies you talked to. This ACCA checklist (PDF) is a great way to do that. It has a list of each of the things a good furnace installer should have talked to you about as well as grading criteria. 

Select one and get that new furnace!
Pick the one that offers the best quality installation and product for your home at the best price. 

Get a free estimate and interview us

If you’d like a free in-home estimate from the area’s best furnace installer, contact us today. One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning serves Hastings, Minneapolis and the surrounding area. 

Further reading

Check out some of these other great resources on finding the best furnace installer:

Should You Set Your Thermostat’s Fan Setting to “ON” or “AUTO”?

Have you been keeping your thermostat fan set to “ON” for your air conditioning or heating? You may be costing yourself big bucks.

Let’s break down the difference between keeping your fan “ON” versus “AUTO.”

The thermostat fan setting: ON or AUTO?

Here’s what each setting means:

AUTO: This means your furnace or air conditioning fan will only run until the temperature you’ve set on the thermostat has been reached, and then it will stop.

ON: This means your furnace or air conditioning fan will run CONSTANTLY, even if the desired temperature has been reached.

Why you shouldn’t use the fan’s ON setting

1) Poor humidity 
If the fan is constantly running, the AC unit won’t be able to regulate and dehumidify your home as well as it could be. 

2) Higher risk of damage to the fan 
A constantly-running fan could shorten the motor’s life and cause it to break down. That means repair or replacement costs.

3) Higher electric bill
Because the fan will run constantly, your electric bill will be higher. 

The electric bill increase is negligible if you have a high-efficiency ECM blower, which is like a dimmer switch: it precisely ramps up or down depending on your comfort needs., But, still, most homeowner have PSC single-speed motor, which will was a lot of money if left running 24/7.

Regardless of the blower type, you’ll lose more air out of air duct leaks, which are more common than you think. According to Energy Vanguard, a study showed that most air ducts leak up to 12% of the air going into a heating or cooling unit and 10% of the air coming out.

When should I keep the thermostat fan ON instead of AUTO?

Despite all that, there are a few reasons why you may want to set the fan to ON at times.

1) While cleaning or vacuuming
When you clean the house, dust kicks up. If you set the thermostat fan to “ON” when you clean, the return ducts will suck up excess dust in the air and prevent it from settling back down.

2) Make cleaner air for allergy sufferers
If you or your family members have bad allergies from home pollutants, it may be worth it to run your fan and help clear the air. However, when you aren’t home, you should still set your thermostat fan back to AUTO.

If you have questions about or problems with your thermostat, furnace, air conditioning, air ducts, or anything else, contact On Time Service Pros

We serve Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, Stillwater, the Twin Cities and more with quality HVAC, plumbing and electrical service.

Water Backing Up Into Your Tub When Toilet is Flushed? Your Sewer Line May Be Clogged

So you flushed your toilet and noticed water backing up into your bathtub, huh? That’s gross. But it’s not as uncommon as you might think.

And the usual culprit: a clogged sewer line.

How a clogged sewer line can cause your toilet to backup into your tub

Take a look at this diagram of a (very simplified) branch of a home plumbing system. It shows a typical bathroom with a sink, toilet and bathtub or shower.

When there are no problems, a flushed toilet will go straight down the drain into the sewer.

But if you add partial clog to the sewer drain, the sudden flush of water can’t all make it down the drain. Instead, it backs up and flows out the bathtub drain. If the clog is especially bad, you might also see it come up the sink.


The water then slowly drains out of the tub through the small opening remaining in the pipe. 

What causes sewer line clogs

There’s a whole host of things that could be causing the sewer clog. Here are just a few:

  • Tree roots—Tree roots are great at finding water. So good, in fact, that they can get into your sewer line and block it.
  • Grease—Grease is liquid when you put it down the drain, but it can solidify in your pipes, collecting other waste as it passes by, creating a clog.
  • Feminine products—Flushing tampons down the drain is sure to cause problems. Don’t do it.
  • Toys—Have a little one? They might have flushed something down the toilet without you knowing. It’s been known to happen.

“But my sink works fine. It only happens when I flush the toilet!”

That’s common. Faucets and showers don’t send as much water down the drain, so a small restriction in the sewer line might not cause the water to backup elsewhere. 

A toilet, on the other hand, releases several gallons of water all at once. 

“But this problem just started!”

Sewer problems do tend to build up slowly over time. However, they can also occur suddenly, like in the case of a flushed toy. 

How to find and fix the sewer problem

The sewer line will need to be snaked and/or jetted to clear the blockage. Snakes work for harder blockages (toys and foreign objects) while jetting is best for soft blockages (like grease buildup). 

Get a professional plumber to take care of the problem, otherwise you could end up doing more harm than good. A professional plumber can also do a video inspection to make sure there are no other underlying problems (like tree roots).


Benjamin Franklin Plumbing serves Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas, including  Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount and Stillwater.

Why Is My Furnace Leaking Water?

Your furnace may be leaking water at the base because there’s an issue with the furnace’s condensate drain system, a common problem in high-efficiency furnaces.

It’s a small problem that can cause huge damage to your furnace if it’s not fixed. So get a local Minnesota technician to fix it ASAP.

That’s the basics of what you need to know. But if you want to become more informed, read on.  

We’ll explain:

  • How a furnace can create water 
  • What causes that water to leak out of the furnace
  • Other issues that can cause water to pool around the furnace

What causes a furnace to create water

High-efficiency furnaces (those with 90% AFUE or higher) create water when they run. That’s why they’re called “condensing furnaces” because they produce condensation.

But why do they do that? 

Well, high-efficiency furnaces have 2-3 heat exchangers instead of one. This allows the furnace to extract more heat from combustion gases, cooling them down and condensing into water (condensation).

Normally, your furnace drains the condensation out of your home through a condensate drain line

However, that water can end up on the floor because of these problems...

Causes of a condensate leak

A clogged drain line
A clog in the PVC drain line will cause the water to back up into your home. Many homes have secondary drain lines, but they can become clogged as well.

Breaks in the condensate line
No brainer here. If there’s a leak in the line, expect to see water on the floor.

Malfunctioning condensate pump
Some furnaces need a pump to force the condensation outside. If the pump busts, the water will build up and leak out the furnace. 

More reasons water may pool near your furnace

Humidifier problems
Do you have a whole-home humidifier? The water could be coming from the humidifier next to your furnace rather than the furnace itself. 

Incorrectly-sized exhaust vent
Standard furnaces exhaust gases out a metal exhaust pipe called a flue. When the flue is incorrectly sized, hot exhaust cools down and condenses in the pipe, draining back to the furnace and leaking out.

Have a professional diagnose and fix your leaking furnace

Like we said, you’ll need a technician to fix this problem. Contact On Time Service Pros for a furnace repair

We serve the Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, EaganWoodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, Stillwater, the Twin Cities and more with quality HVAC service.

“When Should I Replace My Furnace?” [FAQ]

A question we hear often from Minnesota homeowners is, “When should I replace my gas furnace?”

Well, deciding to replace a furnace is a bit like replacing a car: It’s not always clear cut and is often an accumulation of several factors.

With that in mind, you should consider replacing your furnace soon if...

Sign 1: Your furnace is 15-30 years old

Furnaces typically live about 15 to 30 years according to energy.gov

The lifespan range depends on how often you use your furnace and how well you’ve taken care of it. Professional maintenance, for example, can help extend the life of your furnace.

Sign 2: You need frequent repairs

Ever had an old car that just kept breaking down over and over and over again? And, at some point, you’re like, “It’s not worth repairing it anymore!”
 
Yeah, it’s like that with a furnace too.

Except furnaces should rarely break down (as long as it’s maintained properly, anyway). So if your furnace has had some pricy repair over the past 2 years, you should consider getting a new one soon. Otherwise you may get an overly expensive breakdown on a cold winter night and you’ll be in a rush to get a new furnace. 

And who wants to do that?

Sign 3: High heating bills despite the same energy usage 

Honestly? You can run a junker furnace into the ground. But doing so could cost you over the years due to sky-high heating bills. 

But how do you know if the savings of  buying a more efficient furnace are worth the upfront cost?

Here’s what you can do.

Step 1: See how much a new furnace could save you relative to its remaining lifespan of your current furnace.

Let’s say your furnace is 15 years old and could live another 15 years. Let’s also assume it has a 60% AFUE rating. 

Note: 60% AFUE just means, basically for every $1 you spend on heating, 60 cents actually heats your home and 40 cents is wasted due to inefficiencies.

How much would you save by upgrading to a 90% AFUE furnace? This savings calculator can give you an idea.



As you can see, over 15 years a Minnesotan would save over $14,500! Of course, the actual savings would vary depending on the size of your home and other factors. 

Step 2: Compare savings to the cost of a new furnace
To get the cost of a new furnace with installation, contact a Minnesota furnace installer for a free estimate.   

Problems a new furnace may NOT fix

Some people want a new furnace because they think it’ll solve allll their comfort problems. But it won’t. 

Some comfort problems are caused by non-furnace issues. For example:

  • Your home has humidity problems—Your home may be too dry because of leaky return air ducts. Or your home is leaky, bringing in cold dry air from outside.  
  • Rooms are unevenly heated—While an undersized furnace could be the problem, the issues could be leaky air ducts.
  • Furnace puts out excessive dust—That sounds like you either have dirty ductwork and need duct cleaning, or your have a duct leak in your attic and you need duct sealing. 

What you should do next

Now? You should contact 2-3 furnace contractors for free furnace estimates. This information will give you some numbers to work with. You can weigh the possible savings of a new furnace with the other factors (how old your furnace is, number of repairs lately.)

If you live in Hastings, MN or the surrounding areas, we can give you your first furnace installation estimate (yes, it’s free).

Schedule a furnace estimate


We serve Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, Stillwater, the Twin Cities and more with quality HVAC, plumbing and electrical service.

My Kitchen Sink Is Clogged. What Can I Do?

Clogged kitchen sink? Drat! Is there anything you can do before calling a plumber?

Indeed! 

There’s an easy method you can try right off the bat: plunging the sink.

How to clear a kitchen sink

Tools needed:

  • Plunger (one you’ve never in your toilet)
  • Clamps
  • Wet rag or a large pot/basket full of water

Step 1: Create a pressure lock

To unclog a kitchen drain, you have to create an an uninterrupted pressure lock between the plunger and the clog. In other words, you don’t want water to be pushed elsewhere when you use the plunger, or you won’t have enough leverage against the clog. 

To create the pressure lock, you’ll need to do two things:

If you have a dishwasher: Clamp down the drain hose at the disposer or drain line (the drain hose is a soft, flexible pipe).

If you have a second sink basin: Have a second person hold down a wet rag over the drain so you can focus on plunging. If you’re alone, use a heavy, water-filled pot instead of the rag.

Step 2: Fill up the sink 3-4 inches 

Fill up the sink to where it covers the plunger head. this super important because your plunger needs enough water to create pressure against the clog. 

Step 3: Plunge like mad

OK, not like mad. There’s actually a technique to it. Plunge rhythmically for 6 reps with increasing vigor. Pull up hard on the last rep to add extra pressure. Essentially, you’re giving the clog a good “heave ho!”

Keep doing this until the clog is removed. 

Step 4: Flush

Once the clog is cleared, turn on the faucet and flush out a cleared clog with plenty of hot water.

What if that didn’t work?

You can try a few other things like removing and cleaning the kitchen sink P-trap or using a drill-powered auger(called a plumber’s snake) to clear the line. But, if you’re not much of a DIY plumber and you want a quick solution, call a local plumber. 

If you live in Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, Eagan, Woodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, we can help.

Contact us to unclog your kitchen sink.

Are Annual Furnace Tune-ups Really Necessary?

No one wants to shell out dough if they don’t need to. 

So when homeowners hear furnace contractors talk about annual furnace tune-ups and maintenance, they ask, “If my furnace is working fine, do I really need a furnace ‘tune-up’ each year? What’s involved in a tune-up that I can’t do myself?”

Great questions. Let’s tackle both.

Are furnace tune-ups needed each year? 

Needed, no. Recommended, yes.

Think of it like changing oil in a car. Do you absolutely need to have the oil changed at every 3000 miles exactly? No, but it is recommended because running the car beyond those miles increases the chance of trouble.

What kind of trouble do you run into when you don’t get annual furnace maintenance? You’ll have:

1) Higher utility bills
Without maintenance, dust and other debris builds up on your furnace parts, causing it to work inefficiently.

For example, if the heat exchanger has a layer of dust, it won’t transfer heat well to your home’s air, causing the furnace to run longer to heat your home.  

Another example: If dust builds up in the blower fan, it struggles to circulate air, running up your electricity bill.

2) Greater chance for failure
Everything we listed above also contributes to a higher chance of furnace failures including:

  • Blower motor burnout
  • Cracked heat exchanger

3) Voided parts warranty
Many manufacturers require furnace maintenance, otherwise your parts warranty is void. After all, why would they pay to replace a part that wasn’t taken care of?

What’s involved in a furnace tune-up/maintenance visit?

Depends on who you ask. What’s provided in furnace maintenance varies from contractor to contractor.

But for an unbiased source for what SHOULD be included, check out ENERGY STAR’s maintenance checklist. Use it as a reference for what contractor should provide in their maintenance service.

As you can see, it’s a lot of work the average homeowner can’t (nor wouldn’t) want to tackle.

Here’s a list of what we provide for furnace maintenance to:

  • Ensure all parts are working properly (blower, burners, etc.)
  • Test the gas pressure 
  • Clean the burners
  • Inspect electrical components and connections
  • Voltage/amp/ohm check
  • Check heat exchanger for rust, cracks and corrosion
  • Test and inspect the carbon monoxide alarm 
  • Ensure that there’s proper airflow and temperature rise 
  • Check the thermostat to make sure it’s working properly

Furnace maintenance that YOU can do 

Do yourself a huge favor and inspect your furnace air filter once a month and change it if it’s dirty, like this:


If you don’t change it, then, “A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.” according to ENERGY STAR

Best time of year to get furnace maintenance

The best time of year to get furnace maintenance is fall. Once winter comes, contractors get busy and you may not get maintenance at a time that’s convenient for you.

Do you live in Minnesota and need furnace maintenance?

We’ve got you covered. Schedule a tune-up today.

We serve Hastings, Apple Valley, Burnsville, Cottage Grove, EaganWoodbury, Lakeville, Rosemount, the Twin Cities, and more with quality HVAC, plumbing and electrical service.

Why Did My Furnace Stop Working?

So, it looks like your furnace has kicked the bucket? Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. There are lots of reasons that your furnace may have stopped working, but that doesn’t mean it’s done for.

Don’t go dropping all your cash on a brand new furnace just yet. Here are a few things to check before making any decisions:

1) Check your thermostat

The first thing you should do is make sure your thermostat is set to “Heat” and not “Cool.” It may sound obvious, but newer, high-tech thermostats can be complicated. Check your instruction manual if needed.

Next, set the desired temperature to 5 degrees more than the current room temperature. The furnace needs this difference to know it should come on and start heating.

2) Make sure your furnace is getting power

Again, this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many of our On Time Service Pro techs get called and find out the furnace just wasn’t turned on. 

Check your shutoff switch and circuit breakers. All furnaces have a shutoff switch, either on the furnace or on the wall nearby. Make sure the switch is set to “on.” If it is, but the furnace still appears dead, check your circuit breaker.

3) Make sure the gas is on

Follow the gas line from the furnace to the meter. If you see a handle on the line that’s perpendicular, twist it so that it’s parallel. If your furnace pre-dates 1990, it may have a pilot light. If you notice that yours has gone out, read more about fixing pilot lights.

4) Check your filter

A clogged filter can cause the furnace’s heat exchanger—the part that heats the air—to overheat and shut off. 

Why?

Well, a dirty filter lowers airflow over heat exchanger, meaning it can’t take in enough air to keep it cool, so it overheats.

IMPORTANT: Always make sure your furnace is off when changing the filter. For extra precaution, we recommended that you set your circuit breaker to off.

Check your owner’s manual to see how to check and change your filter. If it appears clogged, replace it and try again.

Furnace still not working?

Okay, that’s frustrating. If you tried all those tips and your furnace is still not coming to life, then you should schedule an appointment with On Time Service Pros

The problem may be something more complicated, and we may be able to help you sort it out before you spend money on a new furnace. If you do end up needing a new furnace, we can help with that, too. We’ve been helping Minnesota residents for over 70 years. 

Best of all, we promise to show up on time, or the repair is free.

Schedule an appointment now or call us today at 651-254-8117.

Why Is My Furnace Blowing Cold Air/Not Heating?

Is your furnace giving you the cold shoulder by blowing cold air?

Dang, that’s no good. Especially during Minnesota’s Russian-esque cold seasons.

So why is it happening? 

Could be lots of things. But you can fix these 4 common issues before calling a professional for help.

Thermostat’s fan is set to ON

Does your furnace blow cold air only sometimes?

Your thermostat fan setting may be switched to ON, meaning the blower runs 24/7, even when the furnace isn’t heating the air

How to fix it: Set the fan setting to AUTO. Now the blower will run only when the furnace heats the air. No more cold shoulder.

Furnace air filter is dirty

Your dirty air filter may be overheating the furnace, causing it to shut down.

How can the filter do all that?

Well, a dirty filter blocks airflow over the furnace’s heat exchanger (the part that heats the air). Without enough airflow, the heat exchanger overheats, tripping a high limit switch, which shuts down the furnace burners.

How to fix it: Turn off the furnace and change the furnace filter if it’s dirty,

Check the filter at the blower.

Pilot light is out

If you have an older furnace— one installed installed before 1990— you probably have a standing pilot flame which may have gone out. No pilot light means the burners won’t ignite.

Most of standing pilot furnaces can be re-lit with these steps: 

  1. Turn the power switch off. (The switch looks like a light switch and is usually found near the furnace wall or ceiling.) 
  2. Carefully remove the furnace door. 
  3. Do you see the pilot light? No? Drat. It’s out
  4. Locate the control valve. You should see a turnable knob with these options “Off”, “On” and “Pilot”
  5. If there’s no pilot flame, turn the knob to the “Off” position. 
  6. Wait five minutes. 
  7. Go get a match or BBQ lighter and keep it on hand. 
  8. After five minutes, turn the knob to “Pilot.” 
  9. Press the pilot button and hold it while you use a match or BBQ lighter to relight the pilot. You can locate the pilot by following the tubing from the control panel.
  10. Keep holding the pilot button for 1 minute. 
  11. Release the pilot button. The pilot flame should stay lit. If it goes out, start over.
  12. Once the flame stays lit, stand back at arm’s length and turn the control valve’s knob from “Pilot” to “On.”
  13. Flip the furnace power switch on. 
  14. The furnace burners should now light. 
  15. Carefully place the door back on the furnace.
  16. Celebrate, cause you should have heat again!

What to do if the pilot won’t light or stay lit

Sadly, we’ve done all we can to help you here. You’ll need to call a Minnesota furnace technician for further help

Condensate line is clogged or frozen

For those of you who have a high-efficiency furnace, the furnace’s condensate line may be clogged or frozen, which can cause the furnace to shut down. You’ll know this is the problem if you see water pooling around your furnace.

You see, when high-efficiency furnaces run, they create water (condensate), which is usually,  drained out a condensate line. But if the line gets blocked or frozen, water backs up into the furnace, causing an overflow kill switch to shut down the furnace to prevent water damage.

Condensate lines can become blocked due to:

  • Dust
  • Mold
  • Dirt
  • Ice (only if the line is long and runs through an unconditioned space)

To unclear most condensate clogs: Follow this tutorial on Energy Vanguard.

If the condensate line is frozen: Wrap the condensate line with heat tape and pipe insulation.

Need a furnace repair in Minnesota?

Why not give On Time Service Pros a call? We’ve been serving Minnesota for 70 years. That’s like 497 dog years.

We promise to show up on time, or you get $5 for every minute we’re late (up to $300).

Deal? Contact us online.

How To Use Your Ceiling Fans to Reduce Your Air Conditioning Bills

Home Ceiling FanIt’s not a secret: moving air feels much cooler to our bodies than stagnant air. You have probably experienced this phenomenon during a cold winter day. The piercing wind can make it feel much colder than the thermostat tells you.
 
You can use this fact to lower your air conditioning bills with your ceiling fans – here’s how.
 
Make Sure Your Ceiling Fan is Rotating the Right Direction
Do you know which way your fan should be spinning in the summer? Did you answer clockwise? You could be wrong... but you could also be right. The answer is really that it depends. 
 
Different fan manufacturers design and install their fan blades in different ways. Also, the issue can be confused by point of view. (Is it clockwise when looking up at it or if you were looking at it from above?) For simplicity, in most circumstances, your fan should be pushing air down.
 
But how do you know which way the air is blowing? Stand underneath the fan while it is on and see if you can feel a breeze. If not, flip the switch on the fan to rotate the blades the other direction and then repeat the test. 
 
Note: In larger rooms or in rooms with high ceilings, it may actually be better for the ceiling fan to be reversed. Test both directions and find the one that works for your room.
 
Turn Your Thermostat Up a Few Degrees
Moving air can actually make your body feel a few degrees cooler. Because ceiling fans use much less energy than air conditioners, you can take advantage of your fans by turning your thermostat up a few degrees and enjoying the reduced energy bills. 
 
ENERGY STAR estimates that for every degree you raise your thermostat, you can lower your air conditioning costs by about 3%.
 
Turn Off Your Ceiling Fan When You Leave the Room
Ceiling fans make you feel cooler, which can help you reduce your air conditioning bills, but they do not actually lower the temperature. Therefore, there is no reason to leave them running in unoccupied rooms.
 
To maximize your cooling cost savings, do not use extra energy by running fans in rooms that are not being used.
 
With these three tips, you can use your ceiling fans to reduce your air conditioning costs without having to sacrifice your comfort. Looking for more great tips like this one? Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter!
 
O’Connors One Hour and Benjamin Franklin is the premier plumbing, heating and air conditioning company in Hastings and the surrounding areas. Contact us online for more information on any of our services.

7 No-Cost and Low-Cost Ways You Can Reduce Your Air Conditioning Bills

Save Money On Air Conditioning BillsDuring our warm summers in Hastings, Minnesota, you will probably notice a spike in your energy bills as a result of using your air conditioner. While turning off your air conditioner completely would leave you uncomfortable in your own home, there are better ways you can reduce your air conditioning bills.
 
Here are the top seven ways you can minimize your energy costs this summer.
 
Close blinds
Heat is transferred from the sun into your home through your windows. During the day, you can reduce your air conditioning bills by closing your blinds, drapes and other window coverings.
 
Use fans
Moving air feels cooler to our bodies. By utilizing ceiling and room fans throughout your home, you can leave your thermostat at a warmer setting, remain comfortable and save money on air conditioning bills. Fans do not actually lower the temperature, though, so turn off fans in unoccupied rooms.
 
Replace your filter
The filter in your air conditioner should be replaced regularly. A dirty air filter restricts airflow to your air conditioner, causing it to strain and reducing its efficiency. This increased strain and reduced airflow can also shorten your air conditioner’s lifespan and increase repairs.
 
Open windows
Most of the hot summer days in Hastings are replaced by cooler evenings. You can reduce your air conditioning costs by opening your windows in the evening and letting in the cooler air. But remember to shut your windows again in the morning before your air conditioner turns on.
 
Raise your thermostat
For each degree you raise your thermostat you can save about 3% on your energy bills. You can save even more by also raising your thermostat whenever you are at work or away from home for eight hours or longer. A programmable thermostat can accomplish this automatically (and save you up to $180 a year).
 
Change your bulbs
If you still have old incandescent light bulbs, you can reduce your air conditioning costs by upgrading to more efficient CFLs or LEDs. Not only are these light bulbs more energy-efficient, but they also emit less heat. 
 
Reduce oven use
Using your oven introduces large amounts of heat into your home. To cool your home, your air conditioner must remove this heat. Only use your oven during the cooler morning and evening hours. This will decrease the strain on your air conditioner and reduce your cooling costs.
 
Use these seven low-cost and no-cost tips to reduce your Hastings area home’s air conditioning bills this summer.
 
O’Connor’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning serves the heating and air conditioning needs of Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding area. For more information, contact us online.

5 Big Advantages of Two-Stage Air Conditioners

Two-Stage Air ConditionerIf you are looking for a new cooling system for your Hastings area home, you have most likely come across two-stage air conditioners. But what are they, why are they more expensive and should you get one? 
 
In this blog, we will quickly discuss how two-stage air conditioners work and some of the benefits of they can provide.

What Is a Two-Stage Air Conditioner?

The typical air conditioner is a single-stage air conditioner. That means it is either on at 100% capacity or off. It is similar to having only one switch that either turns on or off every light in your home. That would be inconvenient and inefficient.
 
Two-stage air conditioners are designed with comfort and energy efficiency in mind. They have two speeds, one at 100% capacity and one at a lower capacity, to cool your home more efficiently. During the warm days, a two-stage air conditioner uses the lower setting and on extremely hot days it cools your home using the higher speed.

5 Benefits of Two-Stage Air Conditioners

Because of the unique features of two-stage air conditioners, they also have many unique benefits. Here are the five advantages of choosing a two-stage air conditioner over a single-stage.
  • More Even Cooling – Because a two-stage air conditioner will use the lower speed about 80% of the time, your home is cooled slower and for longer periods of time, maximizing circulation and minimizing hot spots. 
  • Energy Savings – Like your vehicle, the less your air conditioner has to start and stop, the more efficiently it operates. So even though your air conditioner will be running for longer periods of time, it will be using less energy (because it is at a lower speed.)
  • Reduced Humidity – Summers in the Hastings, Minnesota area can be made worse by the humidity. Air conditioners remove humidity as they run, so as your two-stage air conditioner runs longer, it will also be removing more humidity, increasing your home’s comfort and indoor air quality
  • Quieter Operation – As mentioned earlier, a two-stage air conditioner will likely be running at its lower setting for 80% of the time. That means your quiet new air conditioner will be almost silent most of the time.
  • Fewer Repairs – Single-stage air conditioners cycle on and off more frequently, which can cause wear and tear. Since two-stage air conditioners run longer without turning on and of as often, there is less wear on your air conditioner’s internal parts, which could mean fewer air conditioning repairs.
If you want more information on two-stage and single-stage air conditioners for your Hastings area home, contact One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning online today. 

What is a SEER Rating?

Air conditionerWhen looking for a new air conditioner or heat pump for your Hastings area home, you may be overwhelmed with the options available. On top of size, brand and type is something called a SEER rating. 
 
So what is SEER and what does it mean for your home? Glad you asked.
 
The Purpose of SEER
SEER was established as an industry standard to compare the energy efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. It stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and is similar to how MPG (miles per gallon) is used to rate a vehicle’s efficiency. In general, the higher the SEER rating of a particular heat pump or air conditioner, the more efficient it will be cooling your home.

How SEER is Calculated
The SEER rating of air conditioners and heat pumps is calculated by dividing the amount of cooling supplied during the cooling season (summer) by the amount of energy used to produce the cooling over the same period. Air conditioners and heat pumps are tested in a laboratory where external conditions can be managed to ensure each unit is tested under the same circumstances.
 
The Rating Scale
Currently all air conditioning systems manufactured since 2006 must be SEER 13 or higher. This replaced the previous federal minimum of SEER 10 and represents about a 30% increase in efficiency. There is currently cooling equipment with SEER 21 to SEER 23.
 
How SEER Translates to Savings
According to Energy Savers, if your air conditioner is 10-years old or older, you can save as much 20-40% on your air conditioning bills each year by upgrading to a newer, more efficient unit.  
 
Other Energy Efficiency Considerations
While the SEER rating is important, there are a number of things that can affect the energy efficiency of your new air conditioner or heat pump. Getting the right size unit, proper installation and a matching system will maximize your energy savings.
 
If you are looking for a new air conditioner or heat pump for your Hastings, MN area home and would like some expert guidance, schedule a free estimate with O’Connor’s One Hour Air Conditioning online today.

3 Hidden Dangers in Your Home’s Electrical System

Electrical panel in Hastings, MN homeDid you know home electrical problems account for an estimated 53,600 fires every year? According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, these fires cause more than 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.4 billion in property damage.
 
While an electric fire could happen in any home, older homes are more at risk. And over half of the homes in the United States were built prior to 1973 (before the invention of many of the electronics you use every day.)
 
Protect your family from fire and electrocution by making sure your Hastings area home’s electrical system is up to current standards. Here are three fire dangers that may be hidden in your home’s electrical system.

Knob and Tube Wiring 

This type of wiring was used from the 1800’s to the 1930’s in homes. Wires are run through ceramic tubes (or knobs) to prevent contact with wood framing. However, this type of wiring is now considered a fire hazard because it is not a grounded system. If your home has knob and tube wiring, it is highly recommended that you have your home re-wired.

Arc Faults

When any electricity is unintentionally released from home wiring or cords, it is known as an arc fault. Arc faults can be especially dangerous because the electricity released can cause the surrounding material to catch fire.
 
Common causes of arc faults:
  • Pinched wires – From a chair sitting on an extension cord or wires bent sharply
  • Overheated wires or cords – Too many lights or appliances connected to one circuit (your fuse box or circuit breaker should trip)
  • Improper electrical connections – Loose connections in an electrical light switch or outlet
  • Pierced wires – Nails and screws can sometimes pierce wiring hidden behind walls
  • Damaged wires or cords – Caused by rodents, age and heat

No Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters

Any electrical outlets that could come into contact with water should have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) installed. These outlets improve safety by constantly monitoring the flow of electricity in and out of the circuit. 
 
If the returning current differs even a small amount (like from coming in contact with water), the GFCI will shut of the electric current. This helps prevent deadly electric shocks and electrocution. 
 
For maximum safety install GFCIs in bathrooms, the kitchen, laundry room, outside and anywhere else an outlet could come in contact with water.
 
Most electrical home fires could have been prevented. Don’t be a statistic - contact a licensed electrician at O’Connor’s Mister Sparky and discover how you can improve your Hasting area home’s safety.

Save 40,000 Gallons of Water Annually with 3 Water-Saving Appliances

High Efficiency Front-Loading Washing MachineThe average American household uses about 146,000 gallons of water per year or 400 gallons a day. And most of that is used indoors. You can save water, save money and help the environment by making smart decisions on new appliances for your Hastings area home.

Toilet 

The toilets in your home may be the biggest water user in your home, accounting for almost 27% of your water usage. Older toilets use 3.5 to 7 gallons of water per flush! Upgrading them to the current standard of 1.6 gallons per flush could save you 4,000 gallons of water every year. 
 
In addition, many older toilets may be silently leaking, wasting 200 gallons of water per day. You can instantly save water by fixing these leaks or replacing the toilet.

Washing machine

The number two water user in your home is the washing machine. It is responsible for about 22% of your home’s water consumption. Washing machines manufactured before 1998 use as much as 54 gallons of water per load. Since most homes do about 300 loads of laundry per year, this is a lot of water.
 
New washing machines use 27 gallons or less per load with high efficiency washers using only 14 gallons, which means upgrading can save you 12,000 gallons a year!

Showerhead

16.8% of the water use of an average household goes toward showers. So it is plain to see that installing a low-flow showerhead can quickly save much water. Old showerheads use as much as 6 gallons of water per minute while newer low-flow models use as little as 2.5 gallons per minute. 
 
During a 10-minute shower, that is a 35-gallon savings. In a household of two, with only one shower per day, you could save over 24,000 gallons each year.
 
Not ready to invest in one of these new appliances? Check out another one of our blogs on everyday ways to reduce your water use
 
O’Connor’s Benjamin Franklin provides plumbing repair, service and installation to Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas. Contact us online for more information.
 
Statistics and water-savings resources: EPA WaterSense and ENERGY STAR

CFL vs. LED: Understanding You Home Lighting Options

CFL vs. LED vs. Incandescent Light Bulbs on White BackgroundIf you have been alive the last several years (and we are assuming you have been, since you are reading this), you have probably heard about the push to more energy efficient light bulbs, primarily CFLs. 
 
But there is also a newer kid on the lighting block: LED bulbs. So what are the differences and why should you care? Read on for answers to these questions and more.

LEDs Are The Most Efficient Home Lighting Option

Ever since Thomas Edison eradicated candles and popularized electric home lighting, the light bulb has remained mostly unchanged. That is, until somewhat recently.
 
The old incandescent bulbs were very inefficient, converting only 10% of the energy consumed into light (with the remaining 90% turned into heat). Enter the CFL and the LED.
  • CFLs use 3-4 times less energy than incandescent bulbs of the same brightness. 
  • LEDs can be 2-3 times more efficient than CFLs (up to 10 more efficient than incandescent bulbs).

But LEDs Are Also The Most Expensive Option

As a relatively new technology LED bulbs can be substantially more expensive than CFLs to purchase. In our recent searches, 60-watt equivalent (about 800 Lumens) CFLs were retailing for $4-7 per bulb (with discounts when purchased in multi-packs).
 
For comparison, an LED bulb with the same brightness is currently about $15-30, depending on the type. But before you make your final decision, keep reading.

So Which Is The Real Winner?

Well, it depends. There are pros and cons to both CFLs and LEDs and the right bulb may depend on the situation. Here is a list of considerations to make when purchasing efficient lighting for your Minnesota home.
  • LEDs are the most energy efficient.
  • CFLs cost less than LED’s.
  • LEDs can last much longer than CFLs (50,000 hour average vs. 8,000).
  • LEDs are dimmable, unlike most CFLs.
  • LEDs turn on immediately while CFLs can take some time to “warm up”.
  • CFLs are more susceptible to breaking from being turned on and off rapidly.
  • LEDs emit no heat and are cool to the touch (CFLs are warm).
  • CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, so broken bulbs must be handled with care.
  • LEDs are typically more durable than CFLs.
According to ENERGY STAR, if every home in America replaced just one incandescent bulb with an efficient CFL or LED, we could save $600 million dollars annually and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year (equivalent to removing 800,000 cars).
 
So do your part. Upgrade the most used lights in your Minnesota home to energy efficient CFL and LED bulbs. Have a lighting or electrical question? Ask our expert.
 
O’Connor’s Mister Sparky provides electrical services to Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas. The purpose of this blog is to inform and educate. Browse our other articles for more helpful information.

5 Signs It’s Time To Break Up With Your Aging Air Conditioner

Far too often we see Minnesota homeowners sticking with their air conditioner even when it’s obvious the relationship is hurting them.
 
From the outside, it can be easy to see the benefits of the breakup. But for the homeowner, the decision can be a difficult one.
 
If any of the following statements sound like your relationship with your current air conditioner, it may be time for a break up.
 
You are living in past memories more than the present.
Are you constantly thinking about how your air conditioner used to look, feel and run? This is a common coping mechanism for people in relationships that are not going the way they had hoped and is a sure sign it’s time to break up with your aging air conditioner.
 
You stay, expecting your air conditioner to change.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results. Aging air conditioners only know how to use inefficient amounts of energy and break down. If you continue with your current air conditioner hoping for a new or different outcome, you will only be left disappointed.
 
The same situation/issue recurs even though you have tried addressing it.
This is one of the most common signs that it’s time to end a hurting or harmful relationship. Have you paid to repair your air conditioner only to see the same or similar problems crop up again? If you stay with your aging air conditioner, you can expect more of the same.
 
Your aging air conditioner is causing you emotional/physical/verbal hurt.
Do you stay up late trying to figure out ways to reduce your air conditioning costs? Do you leave the thermostat at a high setting even though it means physical discomfort? Are you tired of the loud noises coming from your cooling system? Stop the hurt – end the relationship with your old air conditioner.
 
Your relationship brings you more pain than joy.
Remember when you used to look forward to summer and the warmth it brought? And now it only brings you unpleasant thoughts of high energy bills and repair costs. Regain your joy by breaking up with your aging air conditioner.
 
Stop expecting things to change. Make a commitment today to break up with your aging air conditioner and reap the financial, physical and emotional benefits of a new cooling system for your Minnesota home.
 
At O’Connor’s One Hour, we’ll not only help you break up with your current air conditioner, we’ll also match you with a new, compatible partner. Schedule a free in-home estimate online to get started today.

Purchasing a New Television? Consider Its Energy Efficiency

Flat screen television on white backgroundBefore you purchase that HD 3D LED TV, don’t forget to consider the energy consumption of your new screen. According to ENERGY STAR, some new TVs use as much energy as a new standard refrigerator (about 500 KWh/annually). By taking the following factors into consideration, you can make sure you new TV is not power-hungry.

LED vs. LCD vs. Plasma vs. CRT vs. Rear Projection

While the energy efficiency of the individual TVs in each of these categories can vary greatly, here are some general rules of thumb.

  • Rear Projection – You may be surprised to find that older rear projection HDTV’s are more energy efficient than the more popular LCD and plasma options available today. However, they are also hard to find because they are heavier and bulkier (less convenient.)
  • CRT – Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TVs are the oldest model of televisions available. If your television’s screen has a curve to it, it is a CRT TV. These models are among the most inefficient and are not usually sold in stores.
  • Plasma – Plasma televisions are known for being energy efficient. And while some manufacturers have made advances in energy efficiency, they still use as much as two to three times more energy than comparable LCD TVs.
  • LCD – Probably the most popular type of television available today is the LCD TV. They are not quite as efficient as rear projection, but the difference is often insignificant, especially when considering an ENERGY STAR rated LCD.
  • LED – LED TV’s are the same as LCD, except that they use an LED backlight instead of a fluorescent bulb for increased efficiency.

Screen Size

In most cases, the larger the screen size, the more energy the television will consume. According to energy tests by CNET, a new 52-inch LCD uses about twice as much energy as a 32-inch LCD. If you are significantly upgrading the size of your television, expect it to use more power.

The resolution of the screen may also affect the television’s energy efficiency on certain types of sets. For example, in plasma TVs each pixel is an individual light source. As the resolution (and number of pixels) increases, so does the energy required to power these light sources. The resolution of LCD and LED TVs, on the other hand, does not significantly affect energy consumption.

ENERGY STAR Ratings

In order to make your purchase of an energy efficient television easier, ENERGY STAR has developed the ENERGY STAR Label. On average, TVs with these labels are 40% more efficient and larger screens can be as much as 60% more efficient than standard sets. 

In addition, ENERGY STAR qualified televisions must use one kWh or less of energy when in standby mode. This is important because modern TV’s don’t turn off when you push the power button – they go into a standby or sleep mode.

Entertainment centers (TV, DVD player, cable boxes, surround sound and receivers) can cost the American household up to $200 annually. By purchasing an energy efficient television, you can save money and help the environment.

O’Connor’s Mister Sparky serves the electrical needs of Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas. Contact us online for more help reducing your electrical energy costs.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: 3 Disturbing Air Quality Facts

Woman Asking How Is The Air Quality in Your Home?Did you know your home may contain indoor air contaminants that can cause and irritate asthma, allergies and other respiratory conditions? 
 
And that’s not all. Here are three disturbing air quality facts every homeowner should be aware of.

Your indoor air could be 100 times worse than outdoor air.

According to a study done by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the indoor air quality of most homes is 2-3 times worse than the worst outdoor air. In addition, there were instances when a home’s air was 100 times worse!
 
The reason many homes have such poor indoor air quality and high air pollution is that in order to be more energy efficient homes have become more and more airtight. This means once air contaminants find their way into your home, they are there for the long-term, unless you do something about it. 

Sources of indoor air pollution are in every home.

The best way to control your home’s indoor air quality is to remove the source of the pollution. However, in many homes this is difficult because everyday household items release irritating airborne contaminants (and create offensive odors). 
 
The most common sources of indoor air pollution include:
  • Pets
  • Furniture
  • Carpet
  • Insulation
  • Stoves & Fireplaces
  • Tobacco Smoke
  • Cleaning Products
  • Glues
  • Pesticides
  • Aerosol Products
  • Excess Moisture

You spend about 90% of your time inside.

We have established that indoor air quality in most homes is 2-3 times worse than outdoor air and that the sources of the pollution are everywhere. But when you consider the amount of time you spend breathing in these contaminants, you really see the damage that can be done.
 
While the exact percentage of time you spend inside will vary based on your routine, you likely find yourself inside the majority of the time. Many studies have already linked poor outdoor air quality to allergies, asthma, lung cancer, and heart problems. But your home’s indoor air quality is even more important.
 
So what can you do? The EPA recommends cleaning, vacuuming and ventilating your home. There are also a number of air quality products that can improve your indoor air quality.
 
O’Connor’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning serves the air quality needs of Hastings and the surrounding areas.
 

4 Steps to A More Efficient and Dependable Air Conditioner

Woman Fanning Herself Because Her Minnesota Air Conditioner Broke DownAs you perform your annual spring cleaning, do not neglect the air conditioner that will keep you cool and comfortable in the coming summer. Our cooling experts have come up with four things that you must do before summer to prepare your air conditioner and prevent cooling problems in your Hastings area home.

Step 1 – Change your air filter

This is Air Conditioning Maintenance 101. If you flunk this course, you doom your air conditioner to a shorter, more expensive life. Air filters clean the air in your home of large particles that can damage your air conditioning equipment. When the filter becomes saturated with dirt, it can no longer perform that duty correctly. Also, dirty filters restrict airflow, causing the air conditioner to work harder than it needs to. Both of these things can shorten your unit’s lifespan, decrease its energy efficiency, and lead to costly repairs.

Step 2 – Clear any obstructions

Before summer arrives and your air conditioner begins working overtime, take a moment to go outside and make sure the area around your unit is clear. During the fall and winter in Hastings, Minnesota, debris can collect around your air conditioner and weeds, bushes and shrubs can encroach on your unit. These obstructions restrict airflow and choke your air conditioner’s energy efficiency. Give it some breathing room by clearing the area of all intruding debris and plants.

Step 3 – Check the drain line

As your air conditioner runs, it drains excess moisture out of your home through a drain line. If this drain line becomes clogged or blocked it can lead to a backup of water in your home. To make sure your drain line is okay for summer, run the air conditioner, locate the drain line, and ensure there is water exiting. There will not be a large amount of water, but if you do not see any, even after your air conditioner has run for awhile, your drain line may need to be cleared.

Step 4 – Get a professional air conditioner tune-up

In order to ensure all of your air conditioner’s components are functioning correctly and ready for summer, you should schedule an air conditioning tune-up. Just like an oil change for your vehicle, an air conditioning tune-up keeps your system running efficiently and helps prevent future costly repairs.
 
Maintenance is important to the proper and efficient functioning of anything; and your air conditioner is no exception. Use these four steps to prepare you air conditioner for the oncoming summer and enjoy increased efficiency and peace of mind.
 
O’Connor’s One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning serves the cooling, heating and air quality needs of Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding area. We provide quality, affordable solutions by friendly and knowledgeable technicians.
 

Save Green by Making Your House a Green Home

Energy Saving Light Bulb Shaped Like Dollar Sign on Green BackgroundAt O’Connor’s One Hour, Benjamin Franklin, and Mr. Sparky, we are committed to helping you. And one of our favorite things to do is help you save money. With that in mind, each of our departments has come up with several ways you can save money by making your Hastings area home greener.

Heating & Air Conditioning System

According to ENERGY STAR, in the average American home almost half of the electricity bill goes to heating and air conditioning. So, by making your home greener in regards to heating and cooling, you can save a lot of money. The top green tips from our heating and cooling technicians are:
  • Change your air filter – Dirty filters restrict airflow, reducing energy efficiency and causing your system to work harder than necessary. 
  • Get an A/C tune-up – The EPA, ENERGY STAR, the U.S. Department of Energy, and local utility companies all recommend annual air conditioner tune-ups to keep your system running efficiently.
  • Install a programmable thermostat – A programmable thermostat gives you year-round savings by reducing your energy consumption.
  • Go geothermal – Geothermal systems use up to 30% less energy than traditional heaters and air conditioners.

Plumbing Appliances

Water is one of the world’s most precious limited resources. You can do your part to conserve water by making intelligent daily choices, as outlined in a previous blog. This time, our plumbers look at ways you can reduce the energy consumption of your plumbing appliances.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water – Approximately 85% of the energy used to wash your clothes goes to heating the water. Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible and enjoy saving money by going green.
  • Insulate your water heater & pipes – Reduce the amount of standby heat loss by wrapping your water heater and exposed plumbing with insulation. 
  • Upgrade to a tankless water heater – Tankless water heaters are far more energy efficient than old traditional water heaters and they pay for themselves with energy savings.

Electrical System

By doing just a few things to make your Hastings area home greener, you can save hundreds of dollars each year. Our electricians have come up with several money-saving ways to go green.
  • Get rid of your incandescent lights –Upgrade your home’s old inefficient lighting to CFL’s or LED’s and save as much as $140 per the life of each bulb.
  • Turn off your computer – Many people leave their computer in stand-by mode instead of turning it off. This is a huge energy waster.
  • Unplug vampire appliances – Many home electronics continue to pull power even after they have been turned off. Stop the bleeding – unplug them. Your television is likely the biggest culprit.
  • Go solar – Although it requires a significant initial investment, harnessing the power of the sun offers the largest energy savings of all.
This list is far from comprehensive. If you’re looking for more ways you can improve the energy efficiency of your home and save money, contact us online today.
 
O’Connor’s One Hour, Benjamin Franklin, and Mr. Sparky serves the heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical needs of Hastings, Minnesota and the surrounding areas. 

What Is An ENERGY STAR Label?

ENERGY STAR labelFrom home appliances and light bulbs to whole-home air conditioners, you have likely seen the ENERGY STAR label on a product or home appliance while shopping. But do you know what this blue label means? Find out below.

What is ENERGY STAR?

ENERGY STAR is a U.S. government-backed program run in conjunction by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The program was started in 1992. The goal is to help reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses and other pollutants by making it easier for consumers to know which products are energy efficient and can save them money on energy bills.

What an ENERGY STAR label means

At its core, the ENERGY STAR label means the qualified product will help you save money on energy bills when compared to similar, non-ENERGY STAR products. In order for a product or appliance to receive the label, it must meet stringent energy-efficient and performance specifications, as established by the EPA. 
 
To be receive the ENERGY STAR label, a product must:
  • Contribute significant energy savings, nationwide
  • Deliver features and performance expected by consumers
  • Re-coup the additional purchase price through energy savings
  • Be tested to verify energy consumption and product performance

How ENERGY STAR helps you save

As utility rates continue to climb, energy efficient products become even more cost-effective. Since its inception in 1992, ENERGY STAR estimates that its labeled products have helped Americans save $230 billion on utility bills and prevented 1.7 billion metric tons of carbon pollution.
 
ENERGY STAR has become a trusted and helpful resource for reliable energy savings. There are now thousands of products across over 60 categories with the ENERGY STAR label.
 
You may find an ENERGY STAR label on:
  • Lights
  • Televisions
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Computers
  • Monitors/Displays
  • Washing Machines
  • Dishwashers
  • Refrigerators
  • Water Heaters
  • Heat Pumps & Air Conditioners
  • And Much More!
The next time you are in search of a new heating, cooling, plumbing or electrical product for your home, remember to look for the ENERGY STAR label – a symbol of energy efficiency and savings.
 
One Hour, Mr. Sparky and Benjamin Franklin provide the Hastings, Minnesota area with industry leading heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing services. Our trained, expert technicians and friendly service set us apart from the competition. Learn more.
 
Do you have a heating, cooling, plumbing or electrical need or problem? We can help – contact us online today or call 651-254-8117.

4 Outdoor Spring Cleaning Repairs to Complete Before Summer

Home Window Repair - CaulkingAlthough Minnesota, along with the rest of the country, had a mild winter, spring is upon us. The warmer weather is a great time to touch up a few things around your home and make critical repairs in preparation for the coming summer. Before the heat arrives, take the time to complete these four outdoor spring cleaning repairs.

Caulk around windows and doors

The cold weather can wreak havoc on the caulking and weather stripping around your doors and windows. Look for areas where it’s peeling or cracking. Scrape off the old and replace with new caulking. This will ensure your windows are tightly sealed, keeping water out of your home, and increasing your heating and cooling system’s efficiency. 
 
Note: Air leaks are a major cause of air conditioning system inefficiency. Other places to replace caulking include around plumbing that comes out of your home’s exterior and around exterior electrical fixtures and outlets. Also, if your home has any block or brick areas, check for and fix cracks and missing mortar.

Repair and clean your gutters

Spring is a great time to check the rain gutters on your home. Remove any debris that has settled into the gutters over the winter and make sure that the downspouts are not clogged. Also, clear the gutter channels on your roof of any obstructions. Look for leaks, cracks and holes and repair or replace the damaged sections of your rain gutter. To prevent water from damaging your foundation or flooding your basement, ensure that your downspouts are properly directing the drain water away from your home.

Touch up your home’s exterior 

The freeze and thaw cycle that occurs during the winter can damage your home’s paint and/or siding. Take a look around your home for areas of exposed or splitting wood and peeling paint. By taking the time to re-paint and waterproof these areas now, you can prevent further damage to the exterior of your home and protect it from the summer heat.

Prepare your landscaping

As the weather warms up, spring is the time to prepare your landscaping for the summer. Pull any weeds that sprouted up during the winter. Clean the yard of leaves and other debris. Spread fresh mulch around your shrubs and flowerbeds. Check your irrigation system and repair any leaks. Even small, slow leaks can waste hundreds of gallons of water per day. (See our other water saving tips).
 
By taking the time to perform these easy outdoor spring cleaning repairs, you will protect your home from more costly repairs down the road and improve the efficiency of your heating, cooling and plumbing systems
 
O’Connor’s One Hour can help you prepare for summer with an air conditioner tune-up. Schedule a service with us online or call 651-254-8117.

5 Solutions For Your Home’s Poor Indoor Air Quality

How Polluted is Your Home's Indoor Air Quality?Did you know the air inside your home could be as much as 100 times unhealthier than the worst outdoor air? Your home could be suffering from an unhealthy collection of dust mites, mold, mildew, bacteria, pollen and dust. In addition, the air in your home may be too dry, causing dry and irritable skin.
 
Poor indoor air quality can leads to or irritates asthma, allergy or other respiratory conditions. If you or someone in your home is suffering, here are five ways you can improve the health of your indoor air.

UV Germicidal Lamps

Your heating and cooling system’s components create natural condensation that can act as a breeding ground for harmful air pollutants. Left untreated, mold and mildew can form, releasing spores into your duct system and circulating into the air you breathe. UV lights kill bacteria, virus, fungi, mold and mildew, rendering these contaminants harmless and unable to reproduce. 

Duct Cleaning

Like everything else in your home, the ducts in your heating and cooling system accumulate dust and debris over the years. If not cleaned, the pollutants can be re-circulated into the air in your home whenever the fan turns on. By having your ducts cleaned, the registers, coils, condenser and ductwork will be thoroughly vacuumed and sanitized, leaving your air purer and fresher.

Filters

The air circulating through your heating and cooling system passes through a filter. These filters are designed not to clean your air, but to filter out large particles and protect your furnace, heater or air conditioner. To remove more of the harmful contaminants, you can your air filter. The higher the MERV number, the more efficient it is at removing small particles. 

Air Cleaners

Air cleaners take air filtration to the next level. Mounted in the ducts or as part of your heating and cooling system, whole-house air cleaners use advanced technology and high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to remove 99.97% of air particulates greater than 0.3 micron. These systems are similar to those used in hospitals, clean rooms and airplanes. 

Humidifiers

The process of conditioning the air in your home often dries it out. This leads to dry skin, sore throat, chapped lips and general discomfort. A humidifier adds a small amount of water vapor to the air in your home to maintain a comfortable level of humidity. 
 
Whole-house humidifiers are added to your existing heating and cooling system and can be easily maintained. As an added benefit a humidifier also reduces your heating bill in the winter because humid air feels warmer and more comfortable. 
 
Stop enduring poor indoor air quality and the health complications it creates. O’Connor’s One Hour replaces, services, maintains and installs a variety of indoor air quality products. 
 

Get Rid of That Odor In Your Home With an Air Cleaner

Indoor Air Cleaners Remove Harmful MoleculesYou have probably seen the commercials; they’re everywhere. Big name companies sell oils, candles, sprays, plug-ins and a host of other products marketed to “clean” the air in your home by getting rid of odors. But don’t be fooled by the advertising. These products don’t actually remove the odors or clean your air. Instead, they attempt to mask it by adding more powerful fragrances or so-called neutralizers to the air.
 
This method of “cleaning” the air is actually adding to the problem. Instead of removing the chemicals and pollutants causing the odor, they add more chemicals to your indoor air to cover up the problem. If your home suffers from odors caused by cigarette smoke, pets or chemical fumes, a whole-house air cleaner can help by actually removing the harmful pollutants from the air.

What is a whole house air cleaner?

Also known as an air purifier or air ionizer, air cleaners remove odors and clean the air throughout your entire home by removing the microscopic odor-causing particles as well as any bacteria or viruses that may be inside your home. Whole home air cleaners are typically installed by a trusted HVAC contractor and work with your overall HVAC system.

How does a whole-house air cleaner work?

Whole home air cleaners remove odor and illness-causing particulates from the air using ionization. Most particles floating in the air in you home are positively charged. The air purifier sends air over a charged electric coil, which creates negatively charged particles. 
 
When the negatively charged particles collide with the existing positively charged particles, the two particles join together creating an ionic bond. This continues until the bundle of particles becomes too large and heavy to remain in the air. The clumped particles then fall to the floor thus removing the odor-causing particles, bacteria and viruses from the air. This process continues as long as the air cleaner is running inside your home. 

Whole-house vs. portable air cleaners

Whole-home air cleaners are installed as part of your HVAC system. The air cleaner works with your heating and cooling system so the cleansed air is distributed throughout your home more effectively. Portable air cleaners are much less efficient because they can only clean one room at a time. Whole home air cleaners do a much better job of cleaning the air, and are much easier to maintain. 
 
If you are struggling with stubborn airborne odors in your home or you’re looking for effective ways to reduce the transmission of illness-causing bacteria and viruses, consider a whole home air cleaner. O’Connor’s One Hour carries the industry’s leading line of whole home air cleaners and other indoor air quality products. 
 
Contact us today for help improving your home’s indoor air quality.

19 Everyday Water-Saving Tips

Water Saving TipsWater is one of our most precious and limited resources; a resource so precious should not be wasted. Our expert plumbers put together a list of 19 ways you can do your part to help conserve water by reducing your daily usage.

Indoor Water-Saving Tips

1. Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.
 
2. Avoid rinsing dishes before placing them into the dishwasher.
 
3. When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one sink with washing water and the other with rinsing water. 
 
4. Throw food peelings, trimmings and scraps into the garbage or your compost pile instead of down your disposal.
 
5. Use pans that allow you to prepare, cook and store the food in the same container. (Fewer dishes to clean!)
 
6. For food safety and water efficiency, don’t thaw frozen foods with running water; defrost them in the refrigerator overnight or in the microwave.
 
7. Make sure all household faucets have water-saving aerators installed.
 
8. Shorten your shower by a few minutes a day and save over 150 gallons a month.
 
9. Find and fix any plumbing leaks in your home. 
 
10. Upgrade to an inexpensive water-efficient showerhead and save up to 750 gallons a month.
 
11. Don’t use your toilet as a flushable wastebasket. Save on water and prevent clogs.
 
12. If you have a toilet manufactured before 1994, consider replacing with a new water-saving low-flush model. You could cut the amount of water used by your toilet in half.

Outdoor Water-Saving Tips

13. Water plants slowly and deeply but more infrequently.
 
14. Water your lawn in the early morning hours to lessen evaporation.
 
15. Look for and fix leaks at faucets, sprinklers and hoses.
 
16. Adjust your watering schedule after a rain. Consider installing a rain sensor that will automatically turn off your irrigation system when it’s raining. 
 
17. Use a broom to clean your driveway, sidewalk and patio instead of a hose.
 
18. Put your irrigation system on a timer so you don’t forget to turn the water off.
 
19. Adjust your sprinklers to make sure they are watering your lawn and not the curb, sidewalk or gravel.
 
By using these daily water-saving tips, you can help conserve one of our most precious resources as well as save money on your utility bill. 
 
O’Connor’s Benjamin Franklin is Minnesota’s premier plumber. Contact us online today for your plumbing repair, maintenance or installation needs.

Is Your Thermostat Broken? Solutions to 3 Common Thermostat Problems

Your thermostat is the brain of your heating and cooling system. It tells your unit when to turn on, for how long and when to shut off. Newer, programmable thermostats go a step further by allowing you to control your comfort system based on the time and day. 
 
So, when your thermostat isn’t working correctly, it’s obvious. It either won’t turn on at all or shuts off before you feel comfortable. Here are the three most common reasons we’ve found for your thermostat problems.

Bad Positioning

By far, the biggest problem with thermostats is improper placement. It sounds minor, but where you place your thermostat in your home plays a large role in the comfort level of your home and your system’s efficiency. If a thermostat is placed too close to a vent or in direct sunlight, it will give inaccurate readings or cause your heating and cooling system to work harder than it needs to.
 
Where to place your thermostat:
  • Out of direct sunlight – If the thermostat is getting a lot of direct sun, it will register a higher temperature than the rest of your home. That means during the day your heater won’t turn on in the winter, and your air conditioner will work overtime in the summer.
  • Away from vents – Thermostats that are placed too closely to vents often shut off your comfort system prematurely. For example, a thermostat may turn on your cooling system, but the vent quickly cools the area around the thermostat, causing it to turn off the air conditioner before the rest of the home is cooled.
  • Near the center of your home – Ideally, your thermostat should be reading the median (average) temperature of your home. This ensures more even heating and cooling throughout your home. Hallways just outside bedrooms are usually good places. Keep it away from kitchens and any appliances that give off heat.

Accumulation of Dirt or Dust

Over time, dust and dirt accumulate on the inside of your thermostat. This can lead to inaccurate temperature readings that cause your cooling and heating system to function incorrectly. To fix this common thermostat problem, remove the housing and use a soft brush to gently clean the moving parts.

Old, Inaccurate Model

It may be that your thermostat problem is simply a result of an older thermostat that could benefit from being replaced. Older mercury-based thermostats are less accurate than today’s digital, electronic thermostats. Modern programmable thermostats regulate your temperature within one or two degrees of accuracy and help you save money by only running your system when you are home and awake.
 
If you are still having problems with your thermostat or heating and cooling system, contact the professionals at O’Connor’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning.

5 Tips For Maintaining Your Traditional Water Heater

You rely on your water heater to provide hot water every day. And let’s face it; we all tend to take our water heater for granted. When you turn on your shower, you just expect hot water to be there. 
 
Only when hot water is unavailable do we take the time to think about our water heaters. But by performing key maintenance tasks, you will not avoid costly repairs, but also ensure your water heater continues to run well for years to come. 

1. Lower the temperature setting on your water heater. 

If your water heater was installed with the default setting of 130 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you may want to change it. Most professional plumbers recommend a temperature setting of about 115-120 degrees. By lowering this setting, you will reduce the chances of your water heater overheating and save up to 5% on your energy bills. 

2. Inspect the temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P valve). 

The T&P valve is the safety valve on your water heater. It protects your traditional water heater from exploding due to excess pressure. You can inspect the valve in three easy steps.
  • Lift up on the T&P lever partway and allow it to snap back into place. 
  • The result should be a gurgling noise as the valve sends some water to the drain.
  • If the T&P valve did nothing, contact a professional for a replacement valve.

3. Perform a mini-flush on your water heater. 

Sediment builds up in your water heater tank from regular use. Sediment corrodes your tank and decreases your water heater’s efficiency. By flushing your water heater, you can avoid these problems. 
 
Here’s a quick how-to guide for flushing your water heater.
  • If you have an electric water heater, shut off the power for safety reasons.
  • Place a bucket under the drain valve or connect a hose that runs to a safe place outside.
  • Carefully open your water heater’s drain valve by turning it counter-clockwise. 
  • WARNING: water will be scalding hot. Be extremely careful to avoid burns.
  • After you have emptied 1 to 2 gallons, shut the valve off by turning it clockwise.
  • Remember to turn the power back on if you previously turned it off.
WARNING: If your water heater has not been regularly maintained, the drain valve may be corroded and unable to operate properly. If you are unsure of the condition of your water heater or uncomfortable performing this procedure, you should contact a professional plumber.

4. Wrap your water heater tank in an insulating blanket. 

Reduce energy consumption and decrease the amount of standby heat loss by wrapping your water heater’s tank in an insulating blanket. This can also extend the life of your water heater by lowering the amount of time it is running due to heat loss.

5. Get an annual professional water heater inspection/tune-up. 

Your water heater needs regular maintenance from certified, trained professionals. They will inspect parts of your water heater that you do not safely have access to. 
 
For example, a professional plumber will: 
  • Inspect/Clean Burner assembly
  • Inspect/Repair Exhaust Flue (gas & oil models only)
  • Check for leaks/corrosion
  • Recommend replacement of anode rod on older models
A professional plumber will also be able to tell you when or if it is time to consider upgrading to a new water heater. It may make be cheaper in the long term to purchase a newer, more efficient tankless water heater than to continually pay high maintenance and energy costs on an old water heater. 
 
Schedule water heater maintenance with On Time Service Pros or contact us online for more information.

Is a Zoned Heating/Cooling System Right For Your Home?

Do you have rooms in your home that are too hot or too cold no matter what you do? Installing a zoned heating or cooling system may be the solution to eliminating those frustrating hot and cold spots.
 
What is Zoning?
Zoning refers to breaking up your home into different heating or cooling zones. For example, say your upstairs’ rooms are always much warmer than the downstairs rooms (not uncommon because heat rises), you can install one thermostat upstairs and one downstairs and individually control each zone.
 
How Does it Work?
You don’t have just one switch that controls every light in your house. In the same way, a zoned heating and cooling system has more than one thermostat so you can control the temperature of each zone separately.
 
Lets use our earlier example and say we installed a cooling and heating zone system with two thermostats – one upstairs and another downstairs – and you set both to the same temperature. Your system will kick on and cool the entire house until one of the zones reaches its desired temperature. Once that happens, it will shut off the airflow to that zone using dampers in the ducts, and direct its full attention to the other zone. This results in less energy usage and more even temperature distribution.
 
Should You Get a Zoned System?
There can be many causes of uneven temperatures in a home. However, hot and cold spots can exist even in the most well sealed systems. If your home has one or more of the following, you may benefit from zoning your cooling or heating system.
  • More than one level – Because heat rises, if you only have one central thermostat, your highest levels will be warmer and your lower levels cooler. 
  • Vaulted ceilings – If one or more rooms have vaulted ceilings and other rooms don’t, you may experience differing temperatures from uneven airflow.
  • Rooms with large glass areas – Glass doors and windows are often the primary culprits that allow your temperature-controlled air to escape. Even high-efficiency windows may not be enough to prevent hot or cold spots.
  • Family members comfortable at different temperatures – Sometimes one family member needs a much warmer or cooler temperature than the others enjoy. Installing a zone in that family member’s room allows them to have individual control of their preferred temperature without affecting the rest of the house.
  • Ranch-style homes with wings extending off main living area – In homes that extend out from the center, often the long journey of the air through the ducts causes loss of heating in the winter and loss of cooling in the summer. This leaves the center of the home at your desired temperature and the wings either warmer (in the summer) or cooler (in the winter).
Some of today’s most desired home features, such as vaulted ceilings, large windows and multiple levels, make it difficult for your heating and cooling systems to keep each area at a comfortable temperature. By zoning your heating or cooling system, you can eliminate hot and cold spots in your home while conserving energy.
 
Contact us today to find out how One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning can increase your comfort and save you money with a customized zoning system.

Upgrading to a New Unit? Don’t Ignore Your Ductwork!

If you have recently upgraded to a new energy efficient heating or cooling system, or you’re considering doing so in the near future, don’t automatically assume new equipment will be the answer to your skyrocketing energy bills. 
 
Too many homeowners overlook one of the most important factors in the efficiency of your overall HVAC system: the ductwork. Your air ducts are the responsible for delivering the heated or cooled air those units work so hard to create. Unfortunately, many homes do not have the proper ductwork, or ductwork that is performing to it’s fullest potential. 
 
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 75% of homeowners are losing hundreds of dollars every year due to leaks and insulation flaws with their ductwork. 
 
Benefits of Effective Ductwork
 
Comfort – Fixing leaks and sealing cracks, as well as insulating your ductwork can result in noticeably improved comfort. These cracks and leaks often lead to rooms being too hot or too cold and make regulating a comfortable temperature difficult. 
 
Energy & Cost Savings – Effective ductwork will work for your new energy efficient heating and cooling systems. Leaks and poor insulation, however, will make that new “efficient” unit work harder than necessary to keep you comfortable. This translates into a great deal of money lost in energy costs. 
 
Safety – Ductwork that is properly sealed will keep dangerous vapors out of your home. Leaky ducts can allow contaminants like household cleaning agents, vehicle and small machine exhaust, carbon monoxide and more to be released back into your home instead of being exhausted safely outside. 
 
Health – Sealed ducts keep the dust, pollen, pet dander and mold that is floating around from entering your duct system. For allergy and asthma sufferers living in your home, this is great as it helps to alleviate triggers that can make them miserable. 
 
Don’t let your ductwork keep you from enjoying the energy savings you deserve. Sealed and insulated ductwork is good for your pocketbook and the environment! 
 
At One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, we care about helping you keep comfortable while saving you money. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you get the most from your ductwork. 

What’s Better: a Heat Pump or Furnace?

Both heat pumps and furnaces do a great job of heating indoor space, but many homeowners wonder if one method of heating is better than the other. When it comes to choosing between a heat pump and furnace, determining which unit is “better” can depend on several factors. We’ll look at two of the most important, and more popular, aspects homeowners should consider when choosing between a heat pump and furnace: climate and cost. 
 
Climate
Unlike furnaces, which require fuel to produce heat, heat pumps do not actually generate heat; instead they move heat from one place to another. In the case of air source heat pumps, the most common type, warm air is extracted from outside and transferred indoors in the winter. In the summer months this process is reversed to cool indoor space. In climates like ours here in Minnesota, where the temperature can dip below 40 degrees for extended periods of time, heat pumps are generally not a great choice for providing efficient and continuous comfort. However, some newer models and geothermal solutions are available. For homeowners who do elect to install a heat pump, a backup source of heat can be used. Usually a furnace will serve this purpose, helping to maintain a more steady temperature when the air outside is dramatically cooler for extended periods of time. 
 
Cost 
Soaring energy costs coupled with a challenging economy often give pause to homeowners looking for a new heating system. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if you heat with electricity, a heat pump can reduce the amount of electricity consumed for heating by as much as 30% -40%.  Since heat pumps do not require fuel to produce heat, they are often the more economical choice by offering greater energy savings. Again however, for persons living in areas where the seasonal temperature differences are more dramatic, a high efficiency furnace will offer greater savings to operate over time.   
 
When it comes to the upfront cost of purchasing a heat pump or furnace, the prices will vary depending on the size and efficiency rating of the unit. Federal and local tax incentives are available to offset the purchase cost of some units provided they meet current energy standards. 
 
For homeowners considering a new heating system, its best to consult with a professional. The technicians at One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning have the experience and knowledge to help you select the home heating system that is best suited for your home comfort needs and budget. 
 
Are you in the market for a new heating system? Are you curious about whether you should choose a furnace or heat pump for your home? One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning is your home heating expert. Contact us online today to learn more!

5 Steps to Improving Your Furnace Efficiency

Furnace Maintenance to Improve EfficiencyAs we get deeper into winter, the cold weather means an increased use of your furnace. If turning on your furnace makes you cringe in anticipation of high energy bills, use these five steps to help you save money and increase your furnace efficiency.

1. Check/replace your furnace filter
Your furnace filter removes airborne particles that can be harmful to your furnace. If it has been awhile since you last replaced your furnace filter, there may be a buildup of dirt, dust and other pollutants restricting the airflow to your furnace and causing it to work harder than necessary, which decreases its efficiency.

2. Install a programmable thermostat
Heating your home to the same temperature when you are away as when you are at home is wasteful. Manually turning the thermostat down a few degrees when you leave the house for extended periods of time can be a hassle. It saves you money, but you come home to a cold house and have to wait for it to heat up. A programmable thermostat automatically adjusts the temperature in your home based on the day and time, to keep you warm and save you money.

3. Get your annual furnace tune-up
Annual furnace tune-ups are extremely important. Just like regular oil changes for your vehicle, annual tune-ups keep your furnace running efficiently while extending the life of your system. Without regular tune-ups your furnace can experience a shortened lifespan as well as costly and preventable breakdowns.

4. Look into a zoned heating system
Sometimes, even when everything else is done correctly, your furnace’s efficiency is lacking. Zoning your heating and cooling systems allows for different zones in your home to be heated or cooled to different temperatures. This saves you money and increases your furnace’s efficiency by heating your home to more even temperatures and eliminating frustrating hot and cold spots.

5. Seal your air ducts
Old, worn or improperly sealed ducts can result in up to 20% of your heated air escaping on its way from your furnace into your home. By taking the time to have your ductwork professionally sealed, less of your heated air will be wasted. Also, your heating system will be more efficient because it does not have to work as hard to heat your home. This, in turn, saves you money by reducing your energy bills.

Still experiencing inefficient heating? 
Your unit may be sized improperly or, if your furnace is over ten years old, it may be time for a new one. The energy savings on a newer, more efficient furnace is quite significant and it can pay for itself quickly.

Contact On Time Service Pros for more information on improving your furnace’s efficiency, or schedule a furnace tune-up online and save 10%.

What’s Different About One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning?

With so many heating and air conditioning contractors to choose from, many customers want to know what sets us apart from our competition. At One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, we are committed to your satisfaction. When our competitors promise your satisfactory work and a decent price and often fall short, we strive to meet your expectations with fast, friendly and reliable service all for a price you can afford. 
 

Why Choose One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning

We’ll always be on time.
At One Hour Heating and Air we respect your time and we believe you should get what you pay for. That’s why when you call us, you can always expect on time service, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. As the saying goes,  “Always on time...or you don’t pay a dime.” ® 
 
Our technicians are the best in the industry.
Every person behind the One Hour Heating and Air conditioning badge is an expert in his or her field. We are proud of our people. Every technician has met or exceeded the strictest of standards in the industry meaning we send only the most experienced and skilled technicians to your home. 
 
We respect you and your property.
When a One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning technician arrives at your home, you can be confident your home will be left in better condition than when we arrived. We always wear shoe covers, use drop cloths and take every step to protect your property from damage while work is being done. We also run regular extensive background, drug and alcohol checks on each of our employees, so you know you are always working with a reliable and competent member of our team. 
 
Your satisfaction is always guaranteed – no matter what.
At One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, we build a relationship on trust.  When you choose us for your heating or air conditioning repair needs, you can count on a job done right. What’s more, if your repair or installation fails in the same heating or cooling season, we fix the problem at no cost to you.  
 
Our pricing is straightforward – no gimmicks, no surprises.
Many of our competitors make outrageous offers that sometimes seem too good to be true. Most often they are, with hidden costs and additional repairs beyond what was initially quoted. Before your One Hour technician ever begins any work in your home, we make sure you know and understand all of your options and how much each will cost. The price you are quoted is guaranteed not to change, and we won’t begin the job until you have given the OK to do so. 
 
With so many choices when it comes to heating and air conditioning repair, why not choose a company you can trust? Contact your local One Hour specialists for a free estimate or schedule a repair online today!   

Why Do I Need a Maintenance Agreement For My HVAC, Plumbing or Electrical Systems?

Like your vehicle, your heating and cooling, plumbing and electrical systems require regular maintenance to continue running correctly. If routine maintenance and tune-ups are ignored, you could find yourself looking at major repair or replacement costs down the road. A comprehensive maintenance agreement helps you prevent these costly repairs and gives you additional discounts on services and replacements.

Manufacturers’ warranties are great but…
Many people believe they do not need a maintenance agreement because their furnace, air conditioner or water heater is still covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.  A warranty is great to have in case of a manufacturing defect, however these warranties typically only cover the parts, not the labor. 

Your manufacturer’s warranty may be voided by:
  • Improper installation
  • Not being serviced by a professional
  • Lack of upkeep

In addition, warranties from the manufacturer usually require that a trained specialist diagnose the problem. If the HVAC, plumbing or electrical specialist determines that the problem with the part was due to one of the items listed above, the warranty will not cover the replacement.

How does a maintenance agreement work?
The bottom line is manufacturers’ warranties are limited. This is where it becomes important to have a maintenance agreement that helps cover labor as well. Since manufacturers’ warranties typically require a certified HVAC technician or plumber services your unit, a maintenance agreement compliments a warranty.

With a maintenance agreement, your heater, air conditioner, water heater and electrical system receives the important regular tune-ups required to keep your manufacturer’s warranty valid. Your tune-ups are included and you enjoy priority, lifetime guaranteed service.

Benefits of Maintenance Agreements:
  • Reduces risk of costly breakdowns
  • Increase efficiency & reduce energy bills
  • Quality, guaranteed priority service
  • Ensures safe operation of your equipment
  • Discounted service & repair costs
  • Priority scheduling – you jump to the front of the line

One Hour Heating and Air, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing and Mister Sparky offer maintenance agreements to keep your home’s HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems running properly.

Contact us online or call (651) 829-6218 to sign up for a heating & cooling, plumbing or electrical maintenance agreement.

Are Your Air Ducts Leaking?

In the average home about 20% of the air that moves through your ducts is lost due to leaks, holes and poor connections. Improperly sealed ductwork will cost you money and result in energy loss.

Signs your ducts are wasting money
Over time, the seals in your duct system become worn. Ducts are constantly submitted to the harsh weather conditions in your attic. You may want to have your ducts sealed if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • High utility bills – especially in the peak of summer and winter
  • Rooms that are difficult to heat or cool
  • Stuffy rooms that never feel comfortable
  • A dusty house – even a few days after being cleaned

Many homeowners blame their heating or cooling unit when experiencing these issues. However, leaking or improperly sealed air ducts are often the culprits. If you have access to your ducts, look for tangled or kinked flexible ductwork or dirty insulation around the air ducts, these are telltale signs of air leaks. You may need to contact a professional to accurately identify the problem area(s).

Benefits of sealing your air ducts
Many homeowners invest heavily in energy efficient cooling or heating units but neglect their air ducts. Properly sealing your air ducts will result in several benefits for you and your home.

  • Lower energy bills – when your air ducts are sealed, you will be losing less air through your ducts. This means more of that air will be going into your home and heating or cooling your rooms.
  • More comfortable rooms – Uncomfortable rooms that are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter are often caused by leaking air ducts. Stopping any leaks in your air ducts will increase the comfort level of your home.
  • Improved indoor air quality – The EPA estimates that indoor air quality can be up to 100 times worse than outdoor air. Leaking air ducts can contribute to poor indoor air quality by letting pollutants in through your ducts. 

Don’t forget to insulate
Your temperature-controlled air escapes your HVAC system through more than holes, gaps and poor connections in ductwork. Air ducts that are not insulated also create insufficient heating or cooling systems by allowing heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter. 

Older homes may still have metal air ducts that are not insulated. You can easily and inexpensively increase the efficiency of your home by insulating these air ducts.

Stop letting your valuable air escape from your HVAC system through your ducts. Contact On Time Service Pros to get your air ducts sealed and start saving on your monthly energy bills.

7 Important Questions for your Plumber

Plumbing Company RepairSelecting a trusted and reliable plumbing company can seem like a daunting task when considering all the options out there. A plumber will spend time in your home, so it is important to find one that handles themselves professionally. Here are seven questions you should ask when interviewing your next plumber. 
 
1. Are you licensed? 
This should be one of the very first questions you ask any contractor you hire. To be licensed with the county, region or state, the plumber must pass government testing and annual recertification that ensures they are up to date on the latest building codes. A license doesn’t guarantee perfection, but it is a sign of professionalism.
 
2. Are you insured? 
Make sure the company that you hire has the proper insurance. Otherwise, if something were to happen to damage your property or your neighbors’, you may be held responsible. The insurance will protect you from paying unexpected costs.
 
3. How is your price calculated?
Many companies offer flat-rate pricing on a per job basis while others give you a cost of parts and an hourly rate. Make sure you know exactly what you are expected to pay, but also remember that the cheapest plumber is not always the best. Factor in emergency and regular rates as well.
 
4. Will I receive a written estimate?
A written estimate helps you further understand the pricing structure of the job. It eliminates the possibility of being surprised by a huge unexpected bill at the end. If you are getting estimates from multiple companies, a written estimate can also help you compare the prices more accurately.
 
5. What are your references or credentials?
Before spending money on and committing to your plumber, you want to make sure you will be satisfied with the results. Ask for two to three references you can contact personally to back up the company’s reputation. You can also check online review sites and the Better Business Bureau.
 
6. Do you have 24/7 emergency services?
Will the plumbing company be available in the middle of the night when your plumbing is overflowing? It is important to know that if there is an emergency plumbing problem, you will have someone to contact. Find out the emergency rates ahead of time and save yourself some stress in the future.
 
7. Do you offer a guarantee?
Many reputable plumbing companies guarantee their work. This is different than warranties that come with installed products. A satisfaction guarantee from a plumbing company guarantees their service technicians’ work. A guarantee is only as good as the company that backs it, so remember to look for a plumber with a guarantee that satisfactorily answers the other six questions as well.
 
By using these seven questions, you can make sure you get a trusted and reliable plumber.
 
Contact us for more information or schedule an estimate with Benjamin Franklin’s On Time Service for your next plumbing project.

How To Improve Your Home’s Indoor Air Quality With a UV Lamp

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental health risks. The air inside your home can be two to six times worse than the air outside. UV germicidal lamps improve your indoor air quality while reducing asthma and allergy problems. 

Indoor Air Quality
Today’s homes have been built to hold air inside and minimize air leaks. This tight construction saves you money on energy bills by avoiding heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. However, it also keeps dust, mold, pollen, animal dander and other pollutants inside your home. 

The simplest way to combat poor indoor air quality is to open your windows and air out your home, but the weather does not always permit this method. That’s where an ultraviolet (UV) lamp can help improve your indoor air quality by eliminating harmful pollutants.

Types of Indoor Air Pollutants
The pollutants in your home come from a variety of sources including pets and plants. Also the natural condensation created in your cooling and heating system can be a great place for mold and mildew to grow. Almost all homes have more than a healthy concentration of one or more of the following.

  • Mold, mildew or fungus
  • Bacteria, virus
  • Pet dander
  • Dust mites
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Pollen
  • Dust, soil, ash
Healthy Habits
There are several things you can do around your house to help improve the indoor air quality your family breathes. These steps will reduce the number of pollutants in your home and help family members that struggle with asthma and allergies.

Clean. Modern vacuums have filters that trap many of the common pollutants. Carpets, upholstery and curtains are a common place for those pollutants to settle. Frequently vacuuming and cleaning your home greatly reduces the number of air borne contaminants circulating through the air you breathe. Regularly changing your air filter is also important.

Ventilate. If the weather allows and the air in your area is not experiencing high pollution, it may be a good idea to air out your home by opening all the windows for a day. This may not be a good idea for those that are allergic to pollen and other allergens that are more common outdoors.

Sterilize. Even when doing everything else correctly, you probably still have indoor air quality problems. According to the American College of Allergists 50% of illnesses are caused or aggravated by mold, mildew, bacteria and fungi. A UV germicidal lamp is designed to kill those pollutants.

By combining regular cleaning habits with a whole-home UV air sterilizer like a biocide chamber, you can protect yourself and your family from the air pollutants that can cause or aggravate allergies and asthma. 

Schedule a free Indoor Air Quality Assessment with On Time Service Pros today for specific information on how you can improve the indoor air quality of your home.

Common Furnace Problems: Answering Your Frequently Asked Questions

Furnace ServicemanWinter is already making its presence felt. And each winter we receive numerous questions and calls about furnace problems. So we compiled a list of the three most common furnace complaints and their most common culprits.
 
Q. Why is my furnace blowing only cold air and/or why isn’t my furnace providing enough heat? 
 
A. Gas and electric furnaces heat air that is then circulated through your home by ducts. If your furnace turns on and air comes out of your vents, but the air is either not heated or not heated enough, there could be several possible problems.
  • Air filter is dirty – A dirty furnace filter prevents proper airflow to your furnace and makes it more difficult for your furnace to heat your house. Your filter should be changed every one to three months, depending on the kind you have.
  • Air ducts are leaking – Cracks and weathered seals in your ductwork as well as insufficient insulation can allow your heated air to escape through your ductwork. If this is your problem, have the ducts sealed or insulated by a professional.
  • Uneven airflow – If some rooms in your home are heated while others remain cold, the problem is likely not with your furnace at all. Instead, your ducts may be designed improperly or you may have the wrong size system for you home. Contact a professional for more information.
Q. Why won’t my furnace turn on?
 
A. There are several factors that play into diagnosing this furnace problem, such as the age of your unit and whether it has been regularly maintained. We have compiled a list of the most common reasons for a furnace that does not turn on.
  • Faulty thermostat – Verify the thermostat is switched to “heat”, the temperature is set correctly and the fan is set to “auto”. If you are still experiencing problems, you may need to replace the batteries or get a new thermostat. 
  • Tripped or blown circuit – Your furnace is likely on its own circuit, so if it is tripped or blown, you may not notice until you try to turn your furnace on. Check your circuit breaker.
  • Malfunctioning pilot light – A pilot light can go out for a number of reasons. If you are unsure of why your pilot light has gone out, please contact a professional that can help diagnose and repair the problem.
Q. My furnace seems to circulate heated air, but runs frequently for short intervals. Why?
 
A. Typically, a furnace will turn on when the temperature in your home goes below what is set on your thermostat and continue to heat until it is a few degrees warmer. This allows the heater to be more efficient. If your furnace is instead running only for a very short time and then cycling on again quickly, there could be one or more of the following problems.
  • Thermostat is malfunctioning – Your thermostat may be not relaying the temperature to your furnace accurately. Replace the batteries to see if this solves the problem. If not, you may need to replace the thermostat.
  • Heat vent is too close to thermostat – If your thermostat is located near or directly under a heating vent, it may be the culprit. When the furnace kicks on, it quickly heats the air near the thermostat. But then when it shuts off, the warm air flows to colder rooms, causing the furnace to turn on again.
  • Your home is leaking air – Uneven heating in your home or major heat loss will cause your furnace to come on again quickly. The heated air quickly dissipates and flows to colder rooms or outside through air leaks. 
  • Furnace is overheating – Your furnace may be overheating from lack of ventilation. Change your filter and make sure all ducts and the exhaust vent are clear of debris. There could be more serious issues causing your furnace to overheat as well, so contact a professional if the problem persists.
The best way to avoid these furnace problems is regularly maintain your unit. Your furnace is a high-tech machine that, much like your car, requires regular maintenance to continue to run efficiently. 
 
On Time Service Pros specializes in diagnosing and repairing your furnace problems. If you are still looking for an answer to your question, ask our experts. Or you can schedule a furnace tune-up or repair online.

9 Tips for Safe Installation of Your Holiday Lights

The holiday season is drawing ever nearer and soon the streets will be lined with festively lit houses. Whether you’re vying for the best display in town or setting up a few modest strands of holiday lights inside, we want you to be safe. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of nine important tips to maintaining a beautiful and safe holiday light display.
 
1. Check strands for broken plugs, frayed insulation and bare wires.
While trying to make sense of the tangled mess of last year’s holiday lights, use the opportunity to inspect each strand. Worn strings of lights start fires – throw them out!
 
2. If stringing lights outdoors, make sure they are rated for outdoors.
Never use indoor rated lights outside. The wires and insulation are not made to hold up in outside weather conditions. Likewise, it is a good idea to use indoor lights indoors because outdoor rated lights sometimes run hotter.
 
3. Don’t string too many strands together. 
Check the labeling on the lights and make sure you aren’t placing too many strands of holiday lights in a row. If you are following the manufacturer’s suggestions but still tripping your circuit breaker, you may have wiring or circuitry problems – contact an electrician.
 
4. Use a surge protector with GFCI protection.
A surge protector with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) will help prevent the risk of electric shock that can result when a the wires come in contact with water.
 
5. Replace broken bulbs.
Bulbs can break while being taken down, taken out of storage or being installed. Reduce your chance of fire by replacing broken bulbs immediately. When replacing bulbs, unplug the strand and make sure the replacement bulb is the same wattage as the original.
 
6. Handle, install and maintain holiday electrical displays only in dry weather.
It should go without saying, but water and electricity don’t mix. Water conducts electricity; stay safe and only handle your outdoor holiday lights when the weather permits.
 
7. Maintain a 10-foot distance from overhead power lines.
Before setting up your ladder or reaching overhead, make sure you are at least 10 feet from any power lines. Don’t install lights in trees that are touching or within 10 feet of power lines, either.
 
8. Don’t run holiday lights around sharp corners or under rugs.
Sharp corners can kink the wires. Strands underneath rugs can overheat or become worn. Both situations can cause fire. Also, keep lights away from walkways, where people are likely to trip on them.
 
9. Turn off holiday lights when away and before going to bed.
Don’t leave your electrical holiday light display unattended while you are away from home or sleeping. Installing timers for your lights can avoid the chance of leaving the lights on by mistake.
 
This holiday season keep your holiday light display safe by following these safety tips and all manufacturers’ guidelines.
 
Contact Mister Sparky for all of your electrical needs and questions. Or, for additional safety tips, ask our experts

3 Heating & Cooling Terms Every Homeowner Should Know

Whether you are looking to purchase a new heating or cooling system or just trying to keep your current system running efficiently, you may have come across some confusing terms. To help clear up the confusion, we have compiled a list of three important HVAC terms every homeowner should know.
 
AFUE – Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency – This is a term you are likely to run into when shopping for a new furnace or boiler. The reason is that AFUE is the industry standard for measuring the fuel efficiency of boilers and furnaces. 
 
Rating Scale: The AFUE is a percentage of the fuel it takes to run the heater over the heat that it creates. For example, a heater with an 80% AFUE uses 80% of the fuel it burns to create heat. The other 20% is wasted energy. All furnaces have some wasted energy and a high-efficiency furnace currently has an AFUE of 90-98%.
 
SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio – SEER rates the efficiency of heat pumps and central air conditioners. SEER is helpful when comparing different heat pumps and air conditioners because it is calculated by dividing the entire output during the cooling season by the total electrical energy used during that same period. 
 
Rating Scale: A higher SEER means better efficiency. All new air conditioners and heat pumps must have a SEER of at least 13 and there are some as high as 23. 
 
MERV – Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value – If you are regularly changing the air filter in your air conditioner or furnace, like you should be, you have seen the MERV number on your air filter. The higher the MERV number, the better the filter will be at removing smaller particles from the air. 
 
Rating Scale: For residential applications, MERV 1-12 are the most common. For the best filtration in your home, MERV 8-11 are recommended as anything higher may restrict airflow too much and place an unneeded strain on your HVAC system.
 
For each of these terms, the higher the number the better the efficiency and the more money you will save on your monthly energy bills. While the products with higher AFUE and SEER are more efficient systems with a higher initial cost, the difference is made up for in the long run from reduced energy costs. Likewise, a filter with a higher MERV may be more expensive, but it will prevent costly repairs down the road.
 
Want more information? Schedule a consultation with On Time Service Pros and we will help you select and install the furnace, boiler, air conditioner or filter for your needs. 

Is Your Home Energy Efficient?

As our beautiful fall weather offers a temporary reprieve from scorching energy costs, energy efficiency may be at the back of your mind. But cold temperatures are around the corner, which means your energy costs will be ramping up again soon. By taking a closer look at these four areas of your home, you can reduce your energy consumption this winter.
 
Air Leaks
Don’t let your heated air escape! By checking for and eliminating drafts and air leaks in your home you may be able to save up to 30% a year on your energy bills. Check for gaps around wires and vents or cracks in the stucco or siding on the outside of your house and on the inside check for openings along the baseboards, at the juncture where the walls meet the ceiling and around windows and doors. Remember to concentrate on fixing the largest leaks first.
 
Places to look for air leaks:
  • Windows and doors
  • Cable TV and phone lines
  • Dryer vents
  • Electrical outlets
  • Baseboards
  • Window frames
  • Mail chutes
  • Vents and Fans
  • Between chimney and siding
  • Exterior corners
To make detecting leaks even easier, purchase an incense stick and slowly bring it along and next to the areas listed above. When you pass over a leak, you should see the smoke from the incense stick begin to move.
 
Insulation
Insufficient insulation is another common cause of heat and energy loss in homes. The amount of insulation builders put in new homes has increased over the years in an effort to help efficiency. This means the older your home, the more likely you could benefit from additional insulation. In most circumstances, at least 10-15 inches of insulation is recommended in the attic.
 
Things to check in the attic:
  • Vapor barrier
  • Attic vents are not blocked
  • Openings for chimney and ductwork are sealed
  • Adequate insulation
Heating/Cooling Unit
You should have a professional inspect your heating and cooling equipment at least twice annually. You can sign up for a maintenance plan and save money on your tune-ups. Have your heater inspected each fall and your cooling equipment in the spring. This will keep your unit working efficiently during its lifespan. 
 
Change or check your air filters at least once a month. A dirty air filter can cause a strain on your heating and cooling equipment. For optimum efficiency you may want to also consider getting your air ducts resealed or replacing your current heating system for a more efficient one.
 
Lighting
The lighting in your home accounts for roughly 10% of your monthly electric bill. Take a look around your house and check the wattage of the bulbs you use. Could you replace a higher-wattage bulb with a lower one? Have you taken advantage of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s)? CFL’s not only consume less energy, they also have a longer lifespan than ordinary light bulbs.
 
Using a Professional
Still looking for ways to improve your energy efficiency? A professional energy auditor has equipment and expertise to help you find ways to save that you may have missed. In addition to the things above, they will do a room-by-room analysis and look at your past energy bills to help determine where your home is the most inefficient. 
 
Schedule an energy audit with On Time Service Pros online or by calling 651-829-6218 or contact us for more information on how you can save on energy costs.

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