Where has the service gone?

5 02 2013

Growing up, I can remember my parents arguing about my mom’s favorite place to eat.  It wasn’t the food that attracted her it was the price.  While my dad didn’t mind the food, he did mind the service, or lack there of.  My mom would argue, if we were going to go out to eat then we needed to go there, and my dad would say that he didn’t care how much we saved it wasn’t worth the aggravation to him.  As we age, we become painfully aware that we are a lot like our parents.  While I did inherit some of my mom’s thrifty traits, I also inherited my dad’s sense of value in service.  That is why I wonder, where has service gone?

Just take a look around and observe.  You don’t hear people talking about the value of service anymore.  Which is sad, because I believe that we may have become a society who has forgotten about service.  Where value is only measured in dollars.  Gone by the way side are manners and appreciation.  And you can just forget about ethics.  Everything is driven by the all mighty dollar.  How much can we save and how much can we get.  Well, I can tell you that service and doing what is right hasn’t been lost by Brady Flanary HVAC.

We will always view ourselves as a service company first that does heating and air conditioning second.  Every decision we make, every employee we hire, and every interaction with our customers is measured by their satisfaction and their comfort in their home.  Not by how much money is made or how much we can save by doing things differently.  Just take a look at the way we operate.

We don’t pay commissions to our employees.  Most heating and air conditioning companies think we are crazy.  They say, if you don’t pay commission then your people are not driven to make money for the company.  To them I say, you haven’t hired the right people.  Doing the right thing and taking care of the customers shouldn’t be driven by money, it should be driven by a person’s inherent trait that values doing the right thing.  Only when you have employees who think this way can you truly say you are a “service” company.  The investment our customers make in their heating and air conditioning systems shouldn’t be driven by how much money our technicians can make, but rather by what the right solution is for the customer.

So, rest assured, that if you are like me, and you know the value of good service, you can find it at Brady Flanary HVAC.  As long as we are in business, you will receive the best service possible.  If our industry ever comes to the point to where the level and quality of service is no longer important, then we would rather shut our doors and go do something else.  It is that important to us.

Is a Heat Pump Right for My Home?

16 01 2013

Everyone is looking to save money these days.  With the ever rising cost of home heating oil, people are looking for other alternatives.  Every winter we get calls from homeowners wanting to remove their oil furnace and replace it with a heat pump.  Undoubtedly, they have spoken to a friend who has a heat pump and says that they should get one.  But, heat pumps are not the right solution for every home.

Every home has its’ own heating and cooling characteristics.  The construction quality, insulation values, window types, ductwork design, and even the orientation to the sun affects how much heat and how much cooling a house requires.  If your home is an older home with little or no insulation then chances are that a heat pump will not heat your home efficiently.  While a heat pump can continue to produce heat at even 0 degrees outside, it can’t produce enough to make up for how much heat the house is losing.  So, the house will begin to get colder because it is losing heat faster than the heat pump can replace it.  To help, a heat pump has back-up electrical heating elements to aid the heat pump; however, these heating elements take a lot of electricity to run.  In some cases, you could spend more on electricity than you did on oil.  This of course, would defeat the purposes of installing the heat pump which was to save money.

The only way to know if a heat pump is the right solution for your home is to have a load calculation done by a professional heating and cooling contractor.  At Brady Flanary HVAC, this service is included with our free system replacement estimates.  Not only will we be able to tell you what the correct solution is for your home, we can make suggestions as well as show you the actual impact for energy improvements to your home.

So, if you are thinking about installing a new heat pump in your home, give us a call.  It’s free!


Tax Incentives Extended for 2012 and 2013!

7 01 2013

When the “fiscal cliff bill” passed on January 1, 2013 it extended the energy tax credits.  The extension is retroactive for 2012.  Meaning all qualifying home improvements done in 2012 will qualify for a tax credit now.  The extension is set to last through 2013.

An eligible taxpayer (homeowner) may claim a tax credit for 10% of installed costs of a variety of qualified energy efficient improvements to their home including: HVAC, insulation, roof, windows and doors, or hot water equipment.  While the amount a homeowner may claim for all qualified improvements is capped at $500, the amount for each improvement is subject to individual caps.  For HVAC, the individual tax cap for heat pump or air conditioner is $300, for a furnace the cap is $150, and for an advanced circulating fan the cap is $50.  There are minimum efficiency requirements that must be met in order to qualify.  You can give us a call to find out if your system qualifies or if you are interested in taking advantage of this tax credit by replacing your old heating and cooling system.

There is a lifetime residential energy tax credit limit of $500, going back to January 1, 2005.  Meaning that if you have already taken a energy tax credit for $400 then you only have $100 left to take.  The IRS will soon release information instructing taxpayers on how to file a claim.  Assuming the requirements are similar to the past, you will need to file a Form 5695 when you submit your taxes.  Your tax preparer should be able to provide more information.

Why are some rooms hotter or colder than others?

20 12 2012

Having some rooms hotter or colder than others is a problem that can be found in almost every home.  There are many factors that could be the potential culprit, but the two most common are differing thermal criteria and/or improper system design.

Differing thermal criteria refers to actual construction qualities of a room.  In other words, the surface area of external walls, ceilings, and floors and the insulation values in each.  The size and type of windows and which way the windows face in relation to the sun.  Basically, it is any attribute of a room that can be a source of potential heat loss during winter or heat gain during summer.  If you have a room that has a significantly different thermal criteria than the rest of the house, then that room will need heating and cooling at different times than the rest of the house because it is gaining or losing heat at a different rate.  For instance, bonus rooms over a garage have a different thermal criteria because they have unconditioned space under them.  A sunroom will gain heat quicker during summer because of the amount of windows.  Now, if the thermostat for your system is located within the main body of the house and not in that room, then it will not know that the room needs heating or cooling because where it is located doesn’t need it.  This leads to uncomfortable temperatures in the room in question.  Solutions to fix these types of temperature issues range from installing zoning on your existing heating or cooling system or installing a new, typically much smaller, heating or cooling system just for that room (most common smaller system is a mini-split aka ductless heat pump).

Improper system design also leads to uncomfortable rooms.  This means that your heating or cooling system was not installed correctly to take care of the room.  Improper system design can range from under or oversized systems to the most common which is improperly sized or designed ductwork.  The best way to determine if it is a design aspect is to have a design consultant do a manual-j load calculation on your home (Brady Flanary does not charge for this service).  A design consultant can note the thermal criteria of every room and determine how much air flow every room needs and what size system is the best fit for your home.  Then compare that information to the actual design of what you have now.

So, if you have a problem room, take a look around.  If the culprit isn’t obvious, then give the experts a call.  Just know that there are always solutions to any heating or air conditioning problem.

Let your system Blow!

3 12 2012

Your heating and cooling system is all about air flow.  The systems efficiency, its lifespan, and your homes comfort are dependent on it.  Your heating and cooling system relies on air flow to effectively transfer heat either into your home during winter our out of your home during summer.  If you restrict the air flow then the system can not work correctly.  Here are some common mistakes that homeowners make:

1) Shutting off vents – Do not shut off vents.  Many homeowners will shut vents off to areas of the home that are not commonly used thinking that they are redirecting conditioned air to where it is needed.  In all actuality they are just restricting how much air the system can produce and putting the system under stress.  In addition, those areas that are now not conditioned become additional sources of heat loss and heat gain making the system work even harder to maintain temperature in the home.

2) Forgetting to change the air filter – This is by far the number one cause of system failure.  Every heating and cooling system has an air filter.  Most filters need to be changed every month.  Keeping your air filter clean will extend your system’s life and improve its efficiency.

3) Installing filters in the supply air vents – The only place a filter should be located is in the return air ductwork or on the return air side of the system.  The return side of a system is where the air leaves the home and flows towards the system.  Do not install filter material in the supply air vents (where the warm and cool air comes out).  Here again, these added restrictions make the system work harder.

4) Letting shrubs or debris build up around the outdoor unit – if you are talking about a heat pump or an air conditioning unit then air flow is just as important outside as it is inside.  Just like the indoor portion of your system, the outdoor portion needs proper air flow through it as well.  Make sure to keep all shrubs and debris away from your outdoor unit.  Also make sure not to build fences or walls too close to your outdoor unit.  And finally, it is a good idea to wash your outdoor unit with a hose.  Do not use high pressure water.  A simple garden hose will do.  The object is to rinse off the coil of the outdoor unit.

The easiest way to understand the importance of proper air flow is to think of your furnace or air conditioning system as your heart and your ductwork and vents as your veins.  If your veins clog then you will have a heart attack.  Same principle with your heating and cooling system, if you block air flow then the system will be under stress and eventually will give out.

The Three Key Components to Replacing Your Heating and Cooling System

28 11 2012

If you are looking to replace your heating and cooling system, then there are three major factors that you need to keep in mind.  These factors will not only guarantee your comfort, they will also improve the longevity and efficiency of your new system.  These factors are the actual system itself, the systems fit on the home, and the quality of the installation.

The system itself is pretty straight forward.  All equipment has an efficiency rating making the efficiency of the equipment easy to compare.  Just make sure to stick to the facts.  Efficiency ratings should be backed by an AHRI certificate verifying the rating.  However, efficiency isn’t the same as quality.  Here again stick to the facts.  A true heating and cooling professional should be able to share with you how a system works and what engineering aspects of that system make it a better system.  Again, if they can’t tell you what makes it a better system then chances are it isn’t.

The systems fit to the home is one of the more complex and more difficult to understand factors.  In order for a contractor to know what fits the home, they must first understand the heating and cooling requirements of your home.  This is done with a manual-j load calculation.  This load calculation involves entering the exact information about your home into a computer program.  The contractor will need to know the size and type of windows on your home and which way the windows face in relationship to the sun.  They will need to know the insulation values in your walls, ceilings and floors.  They will need to know how many people live in your home and what heat-producing appliances are in your home.  They will also need to know the size and type of doors that are on the home.  Basically, they need to measure and look at just about every aspect of your home.  Then factoring in where you live, the computer program will tell them exactly how much heat your home requires on the coldest days of winter and how much cooling your home requires on the hottest days of summer.  This information will help the contractor choose the appropriate size and type of system for your home.  Matching the new system as close to possible to the heating and cooling requirements for your home ensures the system cycles correctly thus providing maximum efficiency and comfort.  Any contractor who does not do this calculation should be dismissed accordingly!

The last important factor is the quality of the installation.  The number one energy robbing problem with heating and cooling systems is lack of proper installation.  Even the best system can be rendered useless if not installed correctly.   Choosing the proper company to install the system is critical.  This will take a little research on your part.  First of all, any heating and air conditioning contractor should be able to provide references.  And I am not talking about 2 or 3, I am talking about 100.  Anyone can come up with 3 people who like them.  In addition, that company should have a clean Better Business Bureau rating.  They should have NATE certified technicians (NATE certification is highest and toughest to obtain certification in the heating and cooling industry).  All heating and air conditioning contractors are required to have their work inspected when installing a new system.  But, just because they are getting their work inspected doesn’t mean it is done right.  Typically the inspection department isn’t looking for design issues or properly configured equipment, they are only looking for safety hazards.  So, getting a job inspected doesn’t guarantee is done right.

Your heating and cooling system is the hardest working appliance in your home and it accounts for nearly 70% of all your energy costs.  Take the time to make the right decision.  Learn about the equipment and choose the better equipment.  Make sure you understand what your home needs and how the proposed system meets those needs.  Lastly, make sure to use a contractor who has the experience and expertise to install the system correctly.  Take the time to do these things and you can’t go wrong!

Take a Trip Before You Replace your Heating or Cooling System?

28 11 2012

Most people look at me funny when I suggest this, but it would be time well spent and provide you with a higher level of comfort about the company who is going to be working in your home.  So, you need to replace your heating or cooling system and you want to make sure the company who is going to do the work is professional.  You call some contractors to give you estimates for replacement and you decide to buy from the company who you were comfortable with and who gave you what you perceive as a fair deal.  Problem here is that heating and cooling contractors are smart enough to send out the smartest and nicest people they have to represent the company.  “Slick Willies” as I call them.  They are professional sellers not heating and cooling professionals.  They tend to tell you what you want to hear and not stick to the facts (see my earlier post of sticking to facts).  Now you have made your decision and the folks who actually show up to do the work just about make you sick.  Your uncomfortable with these people running around in your home.  So this is where the trip comes in.  Do a quick web search for heating and cooling supply companies in your area.  These are the supply companies that provide heating and cooling contractors with their parts and supplies.  When you find what looks like one of the larger supply companies, drive there and observe the caliber of folks who come in and out.  I guarantee it will be an eye-opening experience.  You could also ask to meet the folks who are coming out to do the work before hand or ask for bios with pictures before you make a decision.  Might be a little more fun though to take the trip.

Stick to the Facts when purchasing a New Heating or Cooling System

28 11 2012

Okay, your old furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner has finally gone out or maybe you where smart enough to plan ahead, either way it is time to replace.  So, you’ve done your research and learned as much as you can and it is perfectly clear as to what the best solution is, right?  Doubtful!  Unfortunately, purchasing a new system can be about as clear as mud.  So, I offer this little bit of advice.  Stick to the facts!  Learn the exacts of the equipment and the company putting it in.  If the company representative who comes to your home doesn’t provide you with facts to back up their solution, then you can dismiss them right away.  Furthermore, stay clear of what you read on the internet unless it comes from a factual source (i.e. BBB, Department of Energy, Energy Star, or Consumer Reports).  There are plenty of “backyard professionals” who post information on the internet and they don’t know much more than you.  They know only enough to pretend they know what they are talking about.


Why Use a Company Whose Owner Puts Thier Name On It

21 11 2012

This is a follow-up post to answer some questions I received concerning a comment I made a few days ago.  I commented that it was a good idea to use a heating and air conditioning company whose owner was proud enough of the service they provide to put their name on the company.  So, what does that mean.  Well in our industry new companies pop up every year.  In fact, just look at your phone books from one year to the next and you will see different ads from one year to the next.  People start new service companies and either they fail or they have such a bad reputation that they shut down and start back under a new name.  Someone who puts their own name out there and stakes the reputation of their company on their name can’t hide.  They get one shot to do it right.  A company owner who really wants to succeed and provide great service is also willing to stake their name on it.  Having worked in the heating and air conditioning service industry for decades, I have come to the conclusion that if their name is on it, then you are probably better off.  But, there are exceptions, so always do your research and check their Better Business Bureau ratings and ask for references (ask for 100 as anyone can provide 3 to 4).

By the way, I always encourage people to check the Better Business Bureau ratings for a company.  The Better Business Bureau is the only ratings service that actually verifies and concludes every complaint.  There is no other source of verified reviews for a company available on the internet.  Trust me, I have seen companies post fictious reviews about other companies on the internet.  And, you would think that a company could get those reviews removed, you would be wrong.  So, lesson is use the BBB and don’t believe everything you read on the internet.  More often than not, it is misleading.

Take Care of Your System

21 11 2012

The average homeowner has no idea how their heating and cooling system works nor how to take care of it.  The lack of proper maintenance is one of the most popular causes of system failure.  (Outside of just age, the other is incorrect installation)  Your heating and cooling system is the hardest working appliance in your home.  It works 24-7 to keep your home comfortable.  It consumes on average 60% to 70% of your energy usage.  It is the most expensive appliance to replace with an average replacement cost of $5000 to $8000 per system.  Given those statistics you can understand why taking care of it is so important.

The two most important things a homeowner can do is to change their air filter on a regular basis and have their system properly maintainance at least once a year (preferrable twice).  How often you change your air filter is dependent on what type of air filter you use.  Typically the 1″ disposable filters need to be changed every month.  When it comes to maintenance, make sure you have a professional company who does a thorough “preventive” maintenance on the system.  Many companies offer low-cost “seasonal” maintenances that are more designed to lure you in as a customer than take care of your system.  A true preventive maintenance takes a technician hours to perform.  The technician cleans and analyzes every component of the system.  They check each component for signs of wear and potential future failure.  Only a true preventive maintenance will protect your system and lengthen its lifespan.