Parts of an AC Unit and What They Do

Air conditioner (AC) units monitor and regulate air temperature inside your home, but have you ever wondered how? Although an AC is a comprehensive system of components, it’s not too complex. We’ll break down the major components for you.

Evaporator Coils

Evaporator coils are used to deliver cool air into your home during hot summer months. The process by which air is cooled by the evaporator coils is as follows:

  • Air from inside your home is forced over the evaporator coils
  • Since heat flows naturally from hot to cold, the heat from the air inside your home is absorbed by the refrigerant inside the coils
  • The refrigerant changes state from liquid to vapor or gas
  • Cooler air is forced back into your home

The efficiency of the evaporator coil relies on how much refrigerant is available. Too little refrigerant results in operation failure. When too much refrigerant is available, it results in a parched evaporator and causes more liquid to transfer into the compressor.

Compressors

In order for heat to transfer back to the outdoors, the temperature of the refrigerant must be higher than the outdoor temperature. The main purpose of the compressor is to pressurize the refrigerant gas or vapor, thereby bringing it back to its liquid form. In order to disperse heat from the system, the air outside your home then cools the refrigerant.

The compressor runs on a motor and is therefore susceptible to mechanical problems if not properly maintained. It can stutter, overheat, and eventually burn out. If there are unusual sounds coming from the compressor, or if the AC isn’t keeping your home as cool as you’re used to, it could be because of a failed compressor.

Condenser Coils

A condenser coil is the opposite of an evaporator coil, as it contains hot liquid for heat transfer. Located outside of your home, it receives the high pressure, high temperature refrigerant from the compressor.

The refrigerant inside the condenser coil releases heat energy with the aid of the condenser fan, which blows air over the coils. As the heat energy leaves the refrigerant, the cooler liquid then flows to the expansion valve.

Since the condenser coil is located outside of your home, it’s important to keep it clear of falling leaves, branches or other debris. Ignoring regular maintenance could result in poor AC performance or electrical failure.

Expansion Valves

Located between the condenser coil and evaporator coil, the expansion valve removes the pressure from the condensed liquid refrigerant. As the pressure is removed, the temperature is decreased and the refrigerant changes from a liquid to a vapor form.

Keeping your expansion valve in good working order will ensure that your system stays efficient. A faulty expansion valve can result in your AC blowing warm air or frost, or it may keep your compressor working too hard.

Refrigerant

Refrigerant is a special fluid that changes states from liquid to vapor at convenient temperatures for the AC cycle. As it moves through the AC’s cooling tubes and copper coils, it absorbs heat from the inside of your home and transfers the heat energy outside.

One of the most common problems that can happen in the AC system is leaking refrigerant. Signs that refrigerant is leaking include:

  • Water puddles form around the compressor, evaporator coils, or condenser coils
  • Lower than usual airflow from the vents
  • The air inside your home feels warmer
  • It takes longer to cool down the house

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to call a certified AC technician. At Briggs HVAC, we can fix small problems caused by leaking refrigerant in order to save your AC system from much bigger problems down the road.

Putting it All Together

The return vents inside your home force hot air into the AC system. As the hot air flows over the evaporator coils, the cold refrigerant absorbs the heat energy from the air.

After moving through the evaporator coil, the refrigerant discharges to the compressor. By pressurizing the refrigerant, the vapor inside the compressor is heated up even further. The hot vapor then flows through the condenser coils to facilitate heat transfer to the outdoors.

The refrigerant then cycles back over the expansion valve, depressurizing and cooling down. The AC system then performs the same heat absorption process over and over again.

Briggs HVAC: The Heating and Cooling Company

For professional residential HVAC sales and repair, contact us today. We service, maintain and install heating and cooling systems to keep your home comfortable all year long.

Prepare for Winter with a Fall Maintenance Check

When the warm days of summer give way to the crisper weather of fall, it’s a sign you should be getting ready for winter. Winter proofing your home keeps things running smoothly reduces energy waste and keeps your family toasty warm even on the coldest days. Here are our helpful tips to help prepare for winter with a fall maintenance check.

Air Leak Check 

Over the years, your home starts to show its age. This often means it can develop many sneaky ways for warm air to escape. Some of the most common places for air leaks are your windows and doors, as well as your attic. With the first signs of fall, perform an air leak check to look for spots that might interfere with your home’s heating:

  • Look at each of your windows for potential air leaks particularly around the frames and sill. These areas can be caulked inside and out with the proper seal for interior and exterior use.
  • Open and close your windows and see if they look like they could use some new weather stripping to help improve the seal. You will notice issues in any areas that pull away from the frame when the window opens and closes. A good test is to slide a dollar bill or piece of paper into the window and shut it. If you can pull it out, time for new weather stripping.
  • Do the same tests and inspection for any exterior doors. You can caulk gaps and add weather stripping to improve the seal.
  • If you have vines on your home overlapping siding, look for gaps. Pull the vines away and seal the gaps to prevent moisture and cold air from entering the walls.
  • Check your attic for signs of gaps along the roofline as well as dampness. Seal any obvious gaps using the appropriate caulking.

Look for Mold

Mold is a very dangerous, unhealthy intruder in your home. Because your home tends to remain closed up for the winter months, you really want to avoid sealing yourself in with mold. Look for mold in common areas where moisture occurs such as your bathrooms, sinks and windows. Use a strong mold spray to remove it and prevent further mold from growing.

Roof and Gutters

Make sure your gutters are debris free to ensure melting snow and ice have somewhere to go. Clogged gutters can lead to serious issues including giant icicles that can cause harm to your home not to mention put your family at risk for falling ice. As well, ice that builds up in the gutters can cause ice dams, which are very risky for causing roof damage and ultimately leaks. You’ll also be better prepared for thaws that occur in the spring to avoid water damage.  

It’s always a good idea to have a roof inspection. If you are comfortable on a ladder and with heights, you can do a once over of your roof to look for issues such as damaged or missing shingles. Otherwise, you can call in a roofing expert to look for areas in need of repair.

Furnace Maintenance Call 

The last thing you need is a furnace breakdown in the frigid winter. Set up a maintenance call with your HVAC specialist so they can do a complete check to make sure it is in top shape. You can do some preliminary checks by turning on your furnace to make sure it works, and that the thermostat allows you to turn the heat up and down. You can also do a quick clean up around your heater like vacuuming up dust. This is also a good time to change your filters to allow your furnace to run more efficiently. Your HVAC pro will handle the rest making sure all parts are in working order and letting you know if repairs or a replacement are required. Remember, if you want to reduce your energy bills, you need to make sure your heater is humming!

Inspect Duct Work

Your ductwork can also experience leaks that can lead to energy challenges. Wherever you have exposed ducts look for signs of issues such as loose screws, missing or loose duct tape and ducts that appear to be disconnected. Check your duct returns and supply ducts for debris and give them a quick vacuum to keep them free of obstructions.

Water Heater Check

If you want to improve energy efficiency, you can also add a water heater blanket and foam pipe insulator to help you save on water heating.

These fall maintenance tips will get your home winter ready so you and your family will avoid issues when winter makes its first appearance.

If you would like more information on fall maintenance for your HVAC system, contact our team of experts today. 

4 Tips For Taking Care Of Your Heater Before You Need It This Winter

With the passing of Labor Day and the school-age children going back to classes, this is the first sign that summer is over. Days will get shorter and, more importantly, temperatures will drop, especially at night.

Now is the time when homeowners will use their HVAC systems to keep warm, using the heater and furnace for comfort. But your HVAC system hasn’t been in use for a few months, so there are a few important things you should do to ensure you’re ready for another cold winter.

1 – Change The Filter

This is especially important if your HVAC system is integrated with your air conditioner. Even if your furnace hasn’t been running all summer, your AC has been pushing air through the furnace to flow through your air ducts. This means that the filter currently inside has been hard at work, screening out particles and contaminants from outside.

It’s always a good policy to maintain a seasonal routine when it comes to replacing air filters. At a minimum, you should put in a new air filter every three months, or with the change of season. Taking longer than this result in blockage to the filter that forces your HVAC system to stay on longer, and leads to a rise in your monthly bills. If you want to be sure of your filter efficiency, you can also change filters every month, but three months is adequate for most homes.

2 – Get The Ducts Inspected & Cleaned

There’s often a misconception that when things don’t have moving parts, that means that they take care of themselves, and don’t require much maintenance. In the case of your air ducts, however, that’s not necessarily the case.

In the same way the shingles of your roof are exposed to the elements; your air ducts have air constantly moved through them during the year. This can mean that blockages may occur in some locations that can have an impact on your heating for the winter. In some cases, wear and tear or even issues in the basement—if ducts are exposed—could mean damage that results in leakage. If you want to make sure your ducts are still airtight and efficiently transferring air throughout your home, call the professionals and have them checked and cleaned.

3 – Check Your Vents

The vents or “heat registers” are they are also called, are an important part of your comfort at home. Now that you’re making the switch back to heating, it’s a good time to take a walking inspection of your home and look at all the vents in the different rooms. Are they still clear? Has anything accumulated inside or on them?

 

One common problem that happens without people noticing is the blockage of these vents because of furniture. Moving a recliner or sofa, for example, may inadvertently block a vent, preventing the air from getting through. In bedrooms, it’s not unusual for people to sacrifice proper ventilation to get a shelf or desk just where they want it, but this will have an impact on bills now that free flow of air has been interfered with.

4 – Get Your Furnace Checked

Finally, it’s always a good maintenance and preventative measure to have the experts come in and look over your HVAC system. A gas furnace, for example, needs to be occasionally checked to make sure that gas delivery is still in order, and that no parts are out of place that could lead to the formation of carbon monoxide during the heating process, which can be dangerous to all residents of a home.

When you have experts come in, they have the tools and the experience to ensure that a thorough inspection takes place. They can make minor adjusts to the HVAC system to ensure small problems are eliminated. With proper testing, once everything is done, they make sure you’re good to go for the winter, rather than turning the heat the day it gets really cold and finding out that your furnace isn’t up to the task after all.

If you want to make sure that your heater is ready for another winter of comfort, contact us today. We have the people, tools, talent, and experience to make sure that your transition to the winter months is a smooth and warm one with no problems. Let us inspect and maintain your heater to get you ready for the next season.

Fall HVAC Maintenance Tips to Follow & Why

The summer months are all about trying to beat the heat and leaning heavily on the air conditioner in your home to keep things comfortable. If you have a traditional, centralized HVAC system, this means your chilled air is running through the ducts and into every room in your home.

However, this same series of ducts and vents is going to continue to be used in autumn and winter as temperatures drop and you switch back to your furnace to stay warm and toasty. Once the seasons change, you should think about conducting fall HVAC maintenance.

Your Filter Needs Changing

For central HVAC systems, a filter change is part of tried-and-true HVAC maintenance. The filter in your furnace works continuously, as long as your air conditioner is on. It screens out harmful particulates that can affect your air quality. However, as a physical screen, it can fill up eventually. When that happens, it can actively block airflow, causing your HVAC system to work harder and longer than it needs to. And that means you pay higher bills.

The recommended interval to change filters is every 90 days or three months. In other words, when you see that the season is changing, it’s time to put in a new filter.

Clean Your Vents

The air vent or “register” that you find on the floor of every room is the exit point where warm or cool air is pumped, helping to adjust the room temperature to the desired level. These vents receive dirt, dust, and other particles from two directions. They get dirty because of dirt in the rooms themselves, such as fur from pets or lint from fabrics. But they also trap any dirt coming from the ventilation duct network.

So, if you haven’t taken a close look at these registers in some time, now is your opportunity. Proper heating and cooling is about unobstructed airflow. Take some time to clean out those registers.

Check for Leaks & Drafts

Over the course of the summer, there may have been accidents in and around the house. Or, the weather may have blown through with an intense storm that took off shingles and damaged windows. Time and weather may have weakened some parts of your home’s structure, such as sealant around pipes and window frames. Rodents and other animals may have damaged the exterior or interior of your home, such as insulation barriers.

When your house’s seals and insulation are compromised, your air treatment system isn’t as effective. For instance, in the winter, warm air will start to escape areas of your house, and cold air can also enter. Don’t ignore even the smallest hole or other structural weakness. Leaving them open and exposed also paves the way for rodents and other pests to get into your home. If you don’t want your home to be a refuge for pests in the winter or to raise your heating bills, plug those holes up.

Get an Energy Audit

If you want to see how many ways you can reduce your energy bills, consider getting an experienced professional to conduct an energy audit. An energy audit is a specialized type of inspection. It’s where the energy auditor looks over your home and evaluates just how energy-efficient and well-insulated your home is.

A proper audit can track down leaks, tell you where you are losing money, and tell you what you can do to improve your energy efficiency. Improvements may include getting new insulation or upgrading your HVAC if it is very old. Regardless of the results, it’s up to you to decide if and how you want to follow the auditor’s advice.

Get an Expert Inspection & Maintenance

If you want to keep your home secure and your HVAC system running optimally, let the pros handle HVAC maintenance. This way, you have professionals examining your furnace and getting it ready for another season. They will also conduct important maintenance such as cleaning out the air ducts, which is difficult to do on your own.

If you’d like to have the peace of mind that comes from professional inspections and HVAC maintenance, contact us today. We’re ready to get your HVAC system back up to speed.

Noises that Your Heater Makes & What They Mean

Its definitely winter now as you can probably tell by the snow covering our area and the heaters in our house have been humming along for a couple months now with a couple to go. As with all things we are around often, when something doesn’t sound the same, it can be alarming. Just like our spouse with a hoarse voice or our car with a new noise, our heating systems can begin to make noises that we’re not accustomed to hearing and may raise concerns. We’ll cover some of the most popular noises that your heating system will make in it’s lifetime.

Sidenote: If your heating system is making noises that aren’t typical to it, call a professional. The issues we describe can lead to damage to the unit, your home, and possibly your family. Poor maintenance can result in failure of the unit or possibly fires. We recommend pre-season maintenance to prevent these issues.

The dreaded scraping noise that your heater makes

Is your heater making a scraping noise? That metal on metal noise that keeps you up at night is almost always the blower inside of your heater. Here are the reasons for this metal on metal noise in your home:

  • Loose Blower Wheel Nut
  • Broken Blower Wheel
  • Blower Wheel Mount is Hitting Casing

At any rate, it’s best for a professional to diagnose and repair this issue. Properly mounted Blower Wheels not only reduce sounds coming from the unit, but improve efficiency of the unit.

Squeaaaaaaaaling in the middle of the night from your heater

This one typically makes you pick up the phone right away. It sounds like a rubbery noise that makes your eye twitch when you hear it. This issue is usually the belt that runs the blower fan. It fails due to a lack of maintenance and causes the awful squealing that you’re hearing right now. The simple fix of replacing the belt will take care of this issue in a hurry and you’ll be back to harmony in no time.

Is your furnace popping?

If you’re hearing a popping or banging noise, consider giving us a call. This is the worst noise that your unit can make and is often a cause of your burners being too dirty to light, causing a buildup of gas before it can fully light that results in a pop or bang. It’s not a fun noise to hear and should be dealt with immediately.

If you have a boiler, it typically means the same thing as it does on a furnace, except, instead of a dirty burner it is scaling on the burner.

Prevent Heater Noises

Heater noises are preventable! Simple pre-season maintenance will help you keep peace of mind as you go into the winter season and endure it until Spring comes back around. We recommend hiring a professional to come in and do the typical winter prep pre-season work required to keep a heating unit running strong so that you’re not without heat or worse, dealing with house fires.

It’s not too late to get maintenance on your unit, take a look at our HVAC Maintenance Plan & Contact Us Today.

Get Ready, Winter is NEAR!

As the days are getting shorter and shorter, we’re beginning to see temperatures dropping. This means Winter is on its way! There is no better time than right now to ensure your heating equipment is up to par for this year’s fridged North Virginia temperatures.

Here is what you can do to ensure you’re ready for the cold:

  1. Replace your filter. It’s best to get started with a fresh filter as you go into the cold months.
  2. Turn on your heat, it should fire up in just a few moments and begin putting that sweet, warm air into your home. It may smell a little funny at first as it gets warmed up.
  3. Listen to the unit. Is it louder than normal? Acting funny? Call an expert, prevent major issues by acting sooner than later.
  4. After about 15-20 minutes, use a standard thermometer to test the air temperature. If it and the thermostat don’t match, it may be time to replace the thermostat.
  5. Call the pro. Every Spring & Fall is a great time to be on a maintenance plan to ensure your units are taken care of for the season ahead. Learn more about Brigg’s Maintenance Plan here.

Other things to consider in preparation for Winter

Air can find it’s way in or out of virtually anywhere. Inefficient homes can cost you money and comfort. These few items can quickly help your home run more efficiently and be more comfortable for your family year round.

  1. When it’s cold outside, turn on the heat in your home. The air temperature difference will help you detect leaks.
  2. Walk around your home, place your hand near doorways, windows, vents, pet doors, and attic spaces.
  3. If you feel a cold air pocket or breeze coming through, you have a leak.
  4. Mark the leaks with tape or post-it notes to come back and repair.
  5. Do the appropriate repair for each of the air leaks.

Air leaks in the home are a leading factor to heat loss during the winter and cause the heating units to work harder to keep the space at temperature.

When you’re ready to switch on the heat this year, call Brigg’s to come out and service your heating unit. We look forward to helping you stay comfortable this year!

Stay Warm!

Is your Heating System Ready? Fall 2018 is here!

As the temperature starts to come down and the leaves start to change, one thing we all have to be ready for is firing up the heating system for the first time this season.

With that time quickly approaching, Briggs wants to make sure that you’re ready for it by checking your Heating system before you need it.

How to Test Your Heating System Before it gets cold

Testing your heating unit to make sure that it is working properly is a simple, but important task. Follow these steps to make sure that your heating system is working:

  • Turn on your thermostat and put it to heat.
  • Raise the temperature to at least 10 degrees above the current room temperature.
  • Listen for your heating unit to fire up, it should only take a moment.
  • Use a standard thermometer to test the temperature of the room after 15 minutes. Place this thermometer by your thermostat and check that the temperatures are reading the same. If they are not, you may need to replace your thermostat.

If the equipment does not start up, you can press the reset button on the burner’s relay, but make sure to only press it once. If the system still does not start up, you may need to call an HVAC professional to check your heating system.

Heating System Maintenance Checklist

Once you have tested your system to make sure that it runs, you should also complete some basic maintenance tasks to avoid any breakdowns and ensure that your system will run efficiently. Here’s a short checklist to help you make sure you are ready for winter:

  • Check your windows and doors for leaks and cracks. Though they may be harder to notice in the summer, these areas let more cold air in, causing your heating system to work harder than it needs to in order to keep your home warm.
  • Clean or replace air filters. Dirty and clogged air filters can also decrease the efficiency of your HVAC system. These should be checked and replaced regularly to keep your system running smoothly.
  • Turn off the power to your furnace, and clean the heater’s fan blades if you are able to access them. Also, check to see if the fan’s motor and blower shafts need lubrication. Keeping your system cleaned and oiled helps prolong the life of the unit.

Checking your heating system before it’s cold outside is about more than just comfort. A properly maintained HVAC system will run more efficiently and help you keep your energy costs down when you are running your heater often. Checking the system before you use it regularly also helps you to eliminate any potential hazards from a broken or malfunctioning heating system.

If you need help getting your heating system ready for the cold weather, call us today. An experienced HVAC technician can test your HVAC system and make sure you are ready for the coldest time of the year.