Each Thursday, Jeff Vitt (Vice President of Vitt Heating and Cooling) joins us to discuss recent industry happenings throughout the HVAC industry in St Louis. If you have a question for Jeff, feel free to submit your question through the Vitt Heating and Cooling Facebook Page for a chance to have it answered. When submitting a question, make sure to include your name and city you live in to have included with the question.
Thermostat Thursday- 11.23.17 “Holiday Furnace Concerns”
What is your biggest concern when diagnosing the problem of a furnace that is not working properly?
The first and most important concern is whether the furnace is safe to operate. Melted wiring on an electric furnace can lead to fires. On a gas furnace, the condition of the heat exchanger would be a major concern. The constant contraction of the part over time can cause it to crack. This can lead to carbon monoxide to be released into the air throughout the house.
I have noticed some rust forming on the metal piping from my furnace and water heater. How much should I be concerned?
Yes that can be a concern. Largely because it can be a sign of condensation forming within the venting system. I would recommend having it inspected for some underlying issues that could lead to larger issues down the road.
When are you going to start doing Vlogs instead of Blogs?
Not sure on that.
What is the best deli in St Louis?
My favorite deli in St Louis is probably Macklind Ave Deli. If we went top 3, it would probably be:
- Macklind Ave Deli
- LeGrand’s Deli
- Mom’s Deli
What do you want for Christmas this year?
My two front teeth….
Thermostat Thursday- 11.23.17 “Special Thanksgiving Edition”
Thanksgiving dinners smell great. However I don’t want the smells to linger throughout the week. Do you have any recommendations?
An air purifier such as the air scrubber plus would help eliminate unwanted odors in your home. This can help prevent the smell of turkey for the next week or two.
Will Vitt be offering any Black Friday deals?
Unfortunately not this year. I do not think anyone will be waking up at 4am on Black Friday to wait in line outside our office to purchase a new air system.
Do you prefer the white meat or dark meat?
I’ll have to lean towards white meat. It’s more lean.
What’s a giblet?
It is part of a turkey. That is all I could tell you. Not my expertise.
When we are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, is there any recommendations on helping regulate the temperature? For example, our kitchen is usually a hundred degrees and the rest of our home is sixty.
You heard it first from the HVAC professionals at Vitt Heating and Cooling. Open the windows.
Thermostat Thursday- 11.16.17 “Furnace Repair Diagnostics”
I have noticed my furnace keeps shutting off and cycling continuously. What could be causing this issue?
It could be one of the following:
- Dirty air filter
- Dirty Sensor
- Blocked Evaporator Coil
- Dirty Blower Wheel
- Clogged Venting
- Faulty Ductwork
The truth is, there is no definite way to tell unless we had one of our professional service techs open up your furnace and run a diagnostic check on it.
My thermostat just went completely blank and my heating does not work. Could this be an electrical issue?
This may sound simplistic, but it sounds like it could be due to power-loss in the thermostat. It could be the batteries having gone bad in the thermostat. It could also be a circuit breaker trip.
Laclede / Spire just shut off my gas service for not holding an ample amount of pressure. Is there really a safety issue in my home? Is there a way to get my gas service turned back on and have it fixed at a later time?
Yes, it more than likely is a safety issue. There is probably a leak within the fuel runs which could potentially lead to a much larger issue such as explosions or things of that nature. You will not be able to turn your gas service back on until the problem is fixed. Spire will lock it.
I heard about rebates and incentives for having your entire system replaced at the same time. If I just need my furnace replaced, does it make sense for me to replace my entire system? How much longer do I have to take advantage of these rebates?
The rebates are typically seasonal. They are usually switched out every Spring and Fall. Those are generally the rebates from the manufacturer. The rebates from Laclede Gas, Spire and Ameren are valid year round. Depending on the age of your air system, it may be worth while to replace your entire system if you can take advantage of a good incentive. The rule of thumb is usually any air system over fifteen years of age would make sense. Back to the rebates. The current incentives run up to December 31st of this year.
If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?
I think I’m going to have to go with an elephant. They live a long life.
Thermostat Thursday- 11.9.17 “Quality HVAC”
I am told that the American Standard brand is actually owned by Trane. What is the difference between an American Standard furnace and a Trane furnace?
Actually Trane and American Standard are both owned by a company called Ingersoll Rand, so it is not that American Standard is owned by Trane, they are both owned by the same parent company. Before the Ingersoll Rand acquisition, American Standard actually owned Trane. When you are comparing the American Standard furnace to a Trane furnace, they are almost identical pieces of equipment except for the badge on the front. That is the only difference. One says American Standard and the other says Trane. When you are looking at model numbers, the only difference is that when you are looking at an American Standard furnace, the first character of the model number will be an “A”, and on a Trane the first character on the model number will be a “T”. All the numbers that follow are exactly the same.
My heat pump is almost twelve years old and is not performing very well. I only have access to electric where I live. Would you recommend a heat pump replacement or an air handler installation?
You may need to replace both the heat pump and the air handler given the age of the system. An air handler that was produced twelve years ago could very well be set up to use the old r22 refrigerant. If you upgrade the heat pump to a newer, more efficient unit. It will be designed to use the new r410 air refrigerant. There is a good chance those two pieces of equipment will not be compatible with one another, which will require you to replace both instead of just one.
When I was looking on your website, I noticed that you really emphasize the important of quality ductwork. What are some symptoms of poorly installed ductwork that I can look for in my home’s central air system?
The duct system can greatly impact the furnace’s ability to move the amount of air that the furnace is designed to move. The main unit, which is the safety, is designed to prevent the furnace from overheating. Your furnace will typically cycle on that limit, which can lead to your gas bill skyrocketing. On the cooling side, you may notice your system struggling to cool certain rooms in your home. This will commonly happen with rooms located furthest away from your furnace or air handler. Bad ductwork can also cause your air conditioner to freeze up because you are not moving enough air.
What type of heating and cooling system do you have installed at your home?
This is going to sound horrible, but I actually have a Trane furnace currently at my house. In my defense, it was installed by the previous homeowner right before we moved in.
If you had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of your life, would you pick tacos or cheeseburgers and why?
Cheeseburgers. I would need to know where these tacos are coming from. I’m not sure what type of meat places like Taco Bell even use in their tacos. I think the Cheeseburger is probably the safer call.
Thermostat Thursday- 10.26.17 “Maintenance”
With the change in weather, I have had trouble with dry throats and dry noses in my home. On top of this, both myself and my children battle allergies. What do you recommend? Is this an indoor air quality issue or just something unavoidable with St Louis weather?
The best way to address dry throat and scratchy throat would be to add a humidifier to your system. This will prevent you and your family from breathing the dry air that is more than likely causing these symptoms. As for the allergies, you usually won’t experience anything too drastic in the Fall, but with leaves falling and what not, you could see some mold. The best way to combat that would be an installation of an air purification system or an air purifier. The Air Scrubber Plus would be a great product to combat mold. It is designed to kill the spores than can likely cause irritation and other allergy type symptoms.
Of all the HVAC brands currently on the market, why does Vitt Heating & Cooling prefer to install American Standard furnace and air conditioners?
In addition to being a certified American Standard installation contractor, we are also an American Standard service contractor. Over the years we have worked on just about every brand of hvac equipment there is on the market. Throughout almost every brand, you identify weaknesses when working on them over a long period of time. Having worked on other brands, we have found that American Standard is one of, if not the most reliable and durable products available to consumers in the St Louis area. We want to provide our customers with the very best equipment that is on the market. That is why Vitt chooses to install American Standard. Another note on this subject. This is not just our opinion. When you look at consumer reports, you will find a pretty significant trend of happy customers when it comes to American Standard HVAC products.
My water heater makes a weird cracking and popping noise when it turns on. I think it is around twelve years old. Is this normal? Is there any water heater maintenance that I can have done to make the sound stop?
If it is twelve years old, that cracking is more than likely being caused by sediment that has accumulated at the bottom of your tank over time. Over time, sediment can settle and harden. The sediment actually acts as an insulator, so when the water heater is heating that sediment will expand which will lead to that cracking or crackling sound. A way to prevent sediment from accumulating would be to drain your water heater on an annual basis. That will help reduce any chance of sediment settling. Unfortunately, if you are at the twelve year mark for your water heater, you have probably passed the point where draining it will help due to the sediment having more than likely already formed. The damage has probably been done at that point. We have been finding a lot of these type of problems with water heaters purchased at big box stores. A lot of times manufacturers will take away a lot of the preventative components of a water heater in order to get the price tag low. The drain valve on some of the cheaper models can result in a more costly repair. By design, they are inferior water heaters, and will tend to leak. We experience a lot of call backs with this exact scenario which often lead to a valve replacement. Anytime you purchase a water heater from an HVAC company or plumbing contractor, you will almost always be receiving higher quality equipment. The valve on it will be a full port brass valve which will drain much more quickly and can prevent sediment accumulation.
My furnace is blowing cold air, I have not had any furnace maintenance done recently, and have not had an HVAC Company out to work on it. I am worried I might be in for a costly repair. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?
I would highly recommend having the furnace serviced for the season to determine what the cause is. We would need to have a better assessment before determining the furnace repair cost. Sometimes what starts as a small furnace repair can turn into a much larger furnace repair. This also has the potential to turn into a compound issue. Having a qualified HVAC technician come out to do a basic system analysis would be greatly beneficial.
What is your favorite cereal?
This is the toughest question. I would probably have to choose Honey Nut Cheerios.
Thermostat Thursday- 10.26.17 “Furnaces”
I live in downtown St Louis and my home still uses a boiler to heat our home. It was not working properly and thankfully you guys came out and fixed it after we had called three to four of your competitors only to be told they did not repair boilers. Why do a lot of HVAC repair companies near me choose not to offer boiler repair service?
A lot of HVAC companies in St Louis struggle to find qualified technicians that are comfortable with boiler repair. There are a lot of different components that you find in a boiler system that you don’t typically see in a forced air system. HVAC companies also understand that it can take more time to repair boilers on average. This can lead to HVAC companies not wanting to allocate a moderate portion of their labor force to a product that is only found in a small percentage of homes in the St Louis area. The weight of a boiler system can also be a challenge. When it comes to replacing a boiler system, it can require an extra installer due to the weight of the system. This can lead to the hard costs of the job becoming a little more expensive. Those are the main factors that come to mind on why HVAC repaircompanies in St Louis do not service boilers.
I currently have a gas furnace that is around eight years old. I have noticed my furnace has been cycling more frequently, not heating my home as well, and my gas bill is much higher when comparing to last year. Any recommendations?
Yes. Your furnace, just like your car, requires annual maintenance. There are components within it that must be cleaned to maintain proper operation. The furnace could be triggering a safety sensor which is causing it to shut down as a safety precaution. There could be a very wide spectrum of reasons to why this is occurring, and would require comprehensive diagnostics to find the direct source of the problem.
Our furnace is located in the storage room of our basement. The other day, I noticed a small pool of water around my furnace. At first, I was worried it was gas, but it only appears to be water. What could be causing this and is this a big deal? Am I looking at an expensive heating repair?
Depending on the style of furnace, the water could be coming directly from your furnace. If you have a humidifier, it could be coming from there as well. Regardless of where it is coming from, having water leak around your furnace can be a signal to problems or potentially lead to a bigger problem. I would recommend having that looked at as soon as possible.
I am trying to convince my Son to go to school to become an HVAC technician. Are HVAC technician jobs hard to come by? Do you see a lot of heating and cooling companies hiring new technicians?
It is funny this is a question because Vitt is currently in the process of adding a qualified HVAC technician. So if you know of someone, please have them apply. HVAC technicians are in great demand right now. We actually did a blog on the job outlook of HVAC technicians a couple of months back. There are some pretty glaring trends. We found they make more money on average than the rest of the home improvement category. HVAC technicians are also forecasting much higher projected wage growth than their counterparts in other home improvement categories.
Who is the best looking Vitt?
Hahaha. No comment. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Thermostat Thursday- 10.19.17 “Air Quality”
What is importance of a Fall Tune Up or preventative maintenance in general?
I would say the importance of a fall tune up or preventative maintenance is basically ensuring safety. Gas Furnaces have the potential, if unsafe, to omit carbon monoxide into the home. Carbon monoxide typically affects the elderly as well as younger children, so if you have a home where the people that are living in there are older or if they have a newborn baby, I would say that is probably the most critical aspect of that.
My neighbor just bit the bullet on a new tankless water heater installation. Are the energy savings worth it to have a tankless water heater installed if it is only me and my wife that live in the house?
I’d say a tankless water heater would NOT be beneficial if it is just two people residing in the home. Tankless water heaters are typically more expensive upfront. You typically have to run a dedicated gas line from your gas meter to the tankless water heater. You are having to relocate a lot of the supply lines for the water heater. In some cases you are having to bring in a higher pressure gas service to accommodate the tankless water heater. The other thing they don’t really mention is the requirement from the manufacturer to descale that tankless water heater twice a year to uphold the warranty on the heat exchanger. If you fail to do so and the heat exchanger fails, they actually require us to send the heat exchanger back, in which case they will test the reason for the failure. If it is due to negligence, they will deny the warranty.
You had a mentioned Gas tankless water heater. How about an electric tankless water heater?
The electric tankless water heaters are not as common. Usually you will have to have a pretty significant electrical service feeding into the home. They will require 120 amps of power, and a lot of homes only have a 100 amp service supplied to them. In some cases you will have a 200 amp service, but again it is a good portion of your electrical service that you are dedicating solely to water heating purposes.
As Indoor Air Quality becomes a growing concern, what is the most economical way to increase a home’s air quality without breaking the bank?
The most effective way to address the air quality in your home. This is a great question. In the changes of the seasons, especially Spring and Fall, you typically have more allergies. I would recommend an media style air cleaner. That would probably be the most effective way of doing so. You also have electronic style air cleaners, but they typically have a lot of maintenance that surrounds them. Sometimes they require maintenance that an average homeowner cannot perform, so your cost of ownership on an air cleaner like that is typically very high. Usually this results in the homeowners not maintaining them properly and they lose effectiveness. Another thing you can do in the Winter and Fall is install a humidifier. Increasing the humidity level in your home can help you breath easier in the Wintertime as well as prevent skin irritation, nose bleeds, and things of that nature.
How about UV Lights? I have been seeing a lot about the Air Scrubber Plus.
UV Lights, in some respect, have been perceived as kind of a ‘gimmick’ in the industry, and I think some of them are not all that they are cracked up to be. A matter of fact we never really supported UV lights until we were introduced to the Air Scrubber Plus. The Air Scrubber Plus is actually endorsed by NASA, so we believe there is actually some science behind some of the claims they make as opposed to some of the unsubstantiated claims we often see in other indoor air quality products. Also with the Air Scrubber Plus, it is not only addressing mold concerns but bacteria, influenza, and a variety of airborne viruses. It will actually kill them on contact while also keeping your system clean.
I want one more year out of my furnace. When do you suggest a furnace replacement over just servicing an existing furnace?
Anytime you have furnace approaching or exceeding it’s 20 year lifespan, you really are not doing yourself any justice by keeping or servicing that furnace. Safety concerns arise in a furnace at that point in it’s life. Parts gets worn out. If the repair is deemed a failure, the cost of the repair will more than likely not warrant the repair. That is when a replacement makes sense.
When do you start seeing cracks on a heat exchanger?
In some cases I have seen cracks on heat exchangers as early as a year after install. Typically that is not the case. Usually you will not see cracks in a heat exchanger until you start approaching that ten to fifteen year range.
At that point would you recommend a furnace replacement?
Yes. I would say if you are closer to that fifteen year mark with your furnace, a replacement would probably make sense. Largely because the cost of a heat exchanger replacement is sometimes half the cost of a furnace replacement. If fifteen to twenty years if the average life of a furnace, you are already approaching the end of the lifespan of that system. If it is the heat exchanger this year, next year it will probably be the blower motor or something more significant. Then basically you will find yourself in the situation within two to three years where you could have just replaced that system with something more efficient with a better warranty.
In the Vitt Fantasy Football League, why are you so bad?
Haha. I kind of got roped in to the fantasy football league. I usually do not direct my energy at things like that. Someone dropped out of the fantasy football league last minute, and I was called in ten minutes before the draft. I really didn’t have the opportunity to research before drafting my team like everyone.
What you are saying is that you are very knowledgeable about HVAC service, but when it comes to fantasy football, not so much?
Yes. That’s fair.