Did the Winter Weather Damage Your Air Conditioner?

March 30th, 2017

Spring AC Maintenance: Don’t Wait Until July to Find Out If Your AC Still Works!

Summer is coming. And even here in the Pacific Northwest, we get a couple of hot months each year, and usually a few weeks of miserable heat. After some extreme winter weather, you don’t want to wait until the hot days arrive to find out if your air conditioner still works.

We recommend testing out your AC in April or May during the first warm spell. Just turn it on and run it for an hour to see what happens.

Feel the air coming out the vents.
Go listen to the unit operate.
Look around the unit to see if there are any liquids coming out.

If everything seems to be working okay and you don’t hear any strange noises, then you might only need minimal maintenance work done. But if anything’s not quite right, or if the whole system isn’t working, you’ll be glad you caught it now before the first serious heat wave hits the area.

Tips for Spring AC Maintenance

The secret to avoiding big AC repair costs is consistent care and ongoing maintenance. And the simplest thing you can do is to clean or replace the filter regularly. A clogged filter reduces the efficiency of the unit, which means higher costs for you because it has to work harder to perform the same task.

Note: The filter is in the indoor AC unit, not the outdoor component. If you don’t know much about air conditioners, checking the filter is probably best left to an expert.

A good indicator that your filter may be clogged is if the fans work (air still comes out the vents), but it isn’t cold. This isn’t the only explanation of that, but it’s a good possible cause to check first.

Over time, with continual buildup, the motors will have to work too hard and will break down sooner than they should. And a broken motor isn’t something most people can fix themselves.Spring AC maintenance tips include cleaning debris from the unit, battery check, filter replacement

So follow this simple guide to Spring AC maintenance to avoid big repair costs:

  • Clean your filter
  • Change your filter if it’s dirty
  • Clean the unit of winter debris and any mold or filth that may have built up
  • Check the thermostat batteries – this is so often the problem! So simple to fix!

Another maintenance step is to lubricate certain moving parts. But again, knowing which parts need this and which ones do not requires more expertise than a typical homeowner has. If you’re not sure, you shouldn’t do this on your own.

And, depending on your physical abilities and willingness to get dirty, you might need to hire a professional to do some of these tasks. But doing this in the spring will ensure you make it through the summer heat wave with a working air conditioner.

What to Do If Your AC Doesn’t Start

If it doesn’t start, take action now so you can be sure you’ll have cool air in the hot weeks of summer.

Perform the maintenance tasks listed above or hire someone to come out and do them for you. Also, try re-setting your breaker switch. Wait for five minutes before turning it back on again. This will allow the system to reset.

If basic maintenance doesn’t fix the problem, then you probably have a more technically-specific flaw that requires more skill to fix.

What are possible problems causing your AC not to start?

  • Electrical problems – this is the most common cause. It could be a blown fuse or a breaker switch turned off. Could be the wiring in your thermostat
  • Broken compressor – the safety controls on most AC units won’t allow your system to start if the compressor is broken
  • Broken or clogged motors – again, the system can’t turn on without these crucial parts working right
  • Low coolant – could be leaking or just running low. If so, this is a major problem that needs immediate attention from a professional
  • Full condenser drain – if you know how to empty it, this is a good step to take. But again, this is a technically-proficient task that is best left to a professional

While most outdoor air conditioning units are built to withstand the weather, multiple periods of freezing and thawing, combined with lots of rain, debris, critters, and moisture, will have an effect over time.

So if your AC isn’t starting at all, you’ve tried resetting the breakers, and you’ve checked the thermostat batteries, then one of these culprits is likely the problem.

In that case, if you live in Snohomish county, Kirkland, Lynwood, Edmonds, Monroe, and the surrounding areas, schedule an appointment to have us come out and look at your AC. You can learn more about basic AC and furnace troubleshooting here.

Get on the schedule soon so you can be sure your AC will be fixed before summer – we fill up fast!

 

Schedule your AC repair appointment by contacting us

Why We Don’t Install or Service Ventless Fireplaces

January 9th, 2017

Risks of “Vent-free” Fireplaces not Worth the Benefits

Ventless fireplaces are simply too unsafe for us to work on and still stand by our commitment to your safety. While it’s true there are no documented deaths from ventless fireplaces, it’s also true that many people report headaches and other health problems that seem to be caused by them.

But if that’s all true, why are ventless fireplaces even allowed to be sold?

A Quick Guide to Vent-Free Fireplaces

Just like the name implies, ventless fireplaces have no vents. A typical fireplace has either a flue or a chimney. Why? Because fire is a combustion reaction, and it produces gases and other waste products that have to go somewhere. But with a chimney you also lose some of the desirable heat.

The theory behind ventless fireplaces is that if we can burn the fire clean enough and minimize the gases produced, we can reap the benefits of having more heat come in the home.

Also, they are less expensive and easier to install, and they can look nice as part of a room in places you don’t normally see a fireplace, such as the side of a wall.

Ventless fireplaces burn natural gas or propane, and they get their oxygen fuel from the air inside your house. They can be powered by electricity, or alcohol gels.

They typically come with carbon monoxide detectors that will automatically shut off the fire if the CO levels get too high.

And therein lies the main reason we don’t do ventless at B&C Comfort.

Are You Comfortable Trusting Your Life to a CO Detector?

We aren’t. With a ventless fireplace, you are knowingly producing deadly (and odorless) carbon monoxide and letting it into your home, as well as carbon dioxide, which is harmful too if you get too much of it in a closed room. At the same time, you’re using up the oxygen to burn the fire.

So, you’re reducing the oxygen you need to breathe, and you’re increasing the gases that can harm or even kill you.

Is that a comfortable way to live? Not to us.

Gas has to go somewhere. It doesn’t matter how clean the fire burns. It will produce carbon dioxide and water vapor – guaranteed. And if the combustion process becomes more inefficient, such as from a buildup of soot on the logs, then more deadly CO will also be produced. That’s basic science.

So if your CO detector fails, you are putting yourself at serious risk.

Some states and countries have even outlawed them because of these risks. And even businesses who continue to install ventless fireplaces agree that people with asthma or other respiratory illnesses shouldn’t use them.

If there were no risk at all, then their proponents wouldn’t agree even with these exceptions.

4 More Reasons to Remove a Ventless Fireplace If You Have One

  • They smell bad. Why? Because other waste products from combustion also get sent into your home.
  • They still require maintenance and cleaning. If soot builds up in your regular gas fireplace, you just lose some efficiency. That’s not good, and it’s why fireplace cleaning is one of our main services. But if soot builds up in a ventless fireplace, you’ll produce more carbon monoxide, and it will come into your home. That’s life-threatening. Cleaning now becomes about saving your life, rather than just keeping the fireplace working right.
  • Log placement is equally vital, for the same reasons as maintenance and cleaning. Again, this matters in regular gas fireplaces too. Click here for more information about gas fireplace log placement.
  • Ventless fireplaces also produce a lot of water vapor – another byproduct of combustion. Again, you can’t avoid this. It will happen, and it means your house will be more humid. Depending on where you live, some people want more moisture. But here in the northwest, more moisture usually means a greater risk of mold.

While ventless fireplaces certainly have some benefits – less cost, attractive appearance, easier to install, more heat – the risks they carry are simply too great.

We aren’t willing to risk the health and safety of our customers. For that reason, and all the others you’ve just read, we don’t install or service ventless fireplaces. And if you do get any health problems from a ventless fireplace, your cost savings have just gone up in smoke.

If you have a ventless fireplace and want it removed – contact us today and we’ll schedule an appointment.

For more about our award-winning fireplace repair and maintenance service, or to make an appointment:

Visit our fireplace services page

 

Did Your Fake Logs Fall Over?

September 14th, 2016

Read This Before Buying or Re-arranging Fake Logs In Your Gas Fireplace

Some Tasks are Do-it-yourself. Not This One.

The internet loves to give advice. When it comes to fake logs in your gas fireplace, you should ignore and run the opposite direction from most of it. Why? Three reasons:

1) Safety – it’s your life
2) Functionality – how long do you want your fireplace to last?
3) Compatibility – round pegs don’t fit in square holes

(Note: if this video is sideways – try viewing in Chrome, or update your Firefox to the latest version. Or just turn your head to the side 🙂 )

Fake gas fireplace logs are made of ceramic or a similar material. These absorb high amounts of heat without being damaged. Without them, most of the heat from the burning gas would just escape out the vent. By retaining more heat, the ceramic provides warmth and comfort for your home. They also look nice.

But sometimes the logs fall over or have other issues, and need to be replaced or put back in position.

Let’s take a closer look at the three reasons you should never arrange your own ceramic gas fireplace logs.

1. Fireplace Safety – avoid the silent killer

This is pretty serious stuff, and we can talk about it in common language or with science, but the conclusion is the same: Incorrect or improper log placement can lead to higher levels of carbon monoxide from your fireplace.

Carbon monoxide (CO) is known as the “silent killer.” This is the gas you’ve heard about that kills people just by putting them to sleep. It has no odor, so there’s no warning unless you have a CO detector.

CO deaths are more common in winter, when storms knock out the power. Someone figures they can heat their house by bringing their barbecue inside the home. Burning the coals or the gas produces excess CO. If too much fills the house, it puts everyone to sleep, and they never wake up. It’s a tragic and totally preventable situation.

What does this have to do with fake fireplace logs?

Logs are designed by the manufacturers of each fireplace brand. They give specific recommendations for how they should be arranged so they don’t interfere with the flow of gas. The right gas flow prevents what science calls incomplete combustion. With complete combustion, you produce carbon dioxide. But with incomplete, you get CO.

So if the gas flow is interfered with too much, you are potentially producing deadly amounts of carbon monoxide.

If you go in there and place the logs yourself, just purely based on how it looks, you are unlikely to place them how the manufacturer says they should be.

Too many websites out there tell you fake logs are only for “aesthetics” – for a visually pleasing fireplace since you aren’t using any wood.

Not true. They are also there to provide heat while improving safety. Place them incorrectly, and you risk unnecessary danger.

2. Fireplace Function – save money, make it last

Another consequence of incorrect log placement is the increase in sooting. Too much soot decreases the functionality of your fireplace and shortens the life span. It clogs the gas flow, reduces the heat output, and requires more frequent cleanings than should be necessary.

If you’re paying someone to clean your fireplace (and you should be), you’ll be paying them a lot more often if your aesthetically pleasing but wrong log placement makes your fireplace get covered with soot.

Why hire an expert cleaner? Because they know all the places to clean without damaging the components and will extend its useful life.

(If you live in the Snohomish County, Monroe, Lynnwood, Kirkland, Mountlake Terrace or surrounding areas and need a fireplace cleaning and maintenance, now’s a good time to make an appointment with B&C before the winter hits).

3. Fireplace Compatibility – any ol’ set of fake logs won’t do

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a science safety testing nonprofit. They test and certify all sorts of products for safety and functionality, including gas fireplaces.

Their testing standards and results are based upon specific arrangements of the fake logs. This is why the manufacturers have the recommended arrangements. It’s not just for how it looks. They consider that too. But the safety and compatibility standards are based on rigorous testing by UL that presumes the logs are arranged in a certain way.

If you rearrange them how you want, you are deviating from the tested and proven standards. Any problems you face after that will likely be blamed on you if you were to try the lawsuit thing, should anything go wrong with your fireplace.

The bottom line is – logs sets are designed by each brand to fit that specific fireplace a certain way. That’s why you can’t just go buy any ol’ set of fake logs and assume they will work in your fireplace.

But What If My Ceramic Logs Keep Falling Over?

That can happen. If so, you’re best option is to have a professional come out and arrange them back in the proper way. If it’s been a while since your last cleaning and maintenance, your fireplace repair technician will probably fix the logs at no extra charge if you do it all at once.

Again, if your logs fall over, you should not use your fireplace. And you should not try to place them back the way they were. Have a professional come out and make sure it gets done according to UL standards and brand recommendations.

Need some help with your gas fireplace logs?

Call B&C and tell us what’s wrong, or have us come out to take a look!