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Ceiling fans offer an affordable way to keep your rooms cooler in the heat of summer, and you can also use them to keep your home warmer in the winter. The job of a ceiling fan is to help circulate air. What most people don’t realize is that fans have a few settings to not only adjust the speed of the rotation but also the spin direction. Here we explain how to make the most of your ceiling fans all year long.

Ceiling Fan Spin Directions

Most ceiling fans have two spin directions: 1. clockwise and 2. counterclockwise. Although it might seem what direction your ceiling fan spins makes no difference, it is an important feature you should know how to use. Both directions help move stagnant air in a room which in turn allows you to either create cooler air or force the hot air that rises downwards. You choose the direction that will keep your room comfortable. If you run it the wrong way, you will get the opposite effect.

Clockwise Spin

The clockwise spin is designed to create an updraft. As a result, this is the direction you want your fan to spin in the winter. Although the term clockwise sounds like the spin is going in the intended direction, in the case of ceiling fans, clockwise actually refers to a reverse rotation. When the fan spins clockwise, it draws cold air up and sends warm air down into your room. This allows you to conserve energy because the extra warm air allows you to set your furnace thermostat lower.

Counterclockwise Spin

Counterclockwise rotations are the norm for ceiling fans. When spinning in this direction, the blades are moving forward, creating a downdraft. This is the circulation you want on hot days, as it moves air downward creating a cooling breeze.

Do I Need Ceiling Fans with Air Conditioning?

Although you don’t “need” a ceiling fan if you have air conditioning, you can still benefit from ceiling fans according to the U.S. Department of Energy. When used with air conditioning, your ceiling fan can improve room temperature allowing you to set your thermostat up to four degrees higher. This can save an average of 17 cents per hour. If you don’t have air conditioning or want to reduce the costs of running your AC every day in the summer, an AC unit uses a whopping 3 kilowatts of electricity at 36 cents per hour, while a ceiling fan uses just 30 watts at about 1 cent per hour.

How to Choose the Right Ceiling Fan

This is important because room size impacts the effectiveness of your ceiling fan. The general rule is to use your room’s square footage to determine the fan size you need based on the following:

  • 29” fans cover up to 64 square feet
  • 42” fans cover up to 100 square feet
  • 52” fans cover up to 225 square feet

For rooms up to 400 square feet, you can choose either a 56” or 60” fan or install two 52” fans.

How to Improve Ceiling Fan Performance

Having the right size fan isn’t enough to ensure you get the best use of it. You also want to consider where you install your fan to improve performance. Here are a few tips to help you choose the best spot for your ceiling fans:

  • Center the ceiling fan in the room to get the best circulation
  • In L-shaped rooms, you will need a fan centered in each area
  • Your fan blades need at least 18” away from the walls
  • Fans should only be installed in rooms with a minimum ceiling height of 7’
  • You get better airflow if you can install the fan 8’ to 9’ from the floor
  • Choose Energy Star ceiling fan/light combinations as they are 60% more energy efficient
  • Keep the blades of your fan free of dust and grime as dirt can slow them down
  • Do not use a dimmer switch for your ceiling/fan light combinations

These tips will optimize your ceiling fan’s performance.

How to Clean a Ceiling Fan

As mentioned above, keeping your ceiling fan blades clean improves their effectiveness, but it is important to avoid putting pressure on the blades when cleaning. This can damage the blades or set them off balance. As well, never spray your blades directly with cleaning products as this can get into the mechanisms. Instead, lightly spritz a clean cloth or sponge, and then gently remove dirt. Always allow the blades to dry completely before turning the fan on.

If you would like more tips on improving energy efficiency in Novato, speak to the experts at Bragg Cooling, Heating & Plumbing today.

Air conditioning is a must-have during the hot summer season in Novato, but it works to maintain temperature year-round. If your air conditioning unit has stopped working, you may find yourself wondering whether you should have it repaired or put out the cash to buy a new one.

At Bragg Plumbing Heating & Cooling, we often receive questions about the repair or buy new comparison. The answer is dependent on a variety of factors and varies from person to person.

If your AC isn’t doing its job and you’re wondering what to do, here are some details to consider.

How Long Does an AC Last?

The average shelf life of a well-maintained AC unit is about 15-years maximum. This is good to know, and factor into your decision, because if your unit is 13-years old, it probably hasn’t got many years left in it. In this case, replacing the unit with a new one is the most sensible option. On the other hand, if your AC is within 5-years of its lifespan, it has plenty to go and can often be repaired affordably.

Balancing Costs and Value

The age of your unit is something worth considering, but there are other variables that go into the repair vs. buy new debate. Air conditioning units can break in several ways. Knowing the exact cost for a repair is unlikely without a professional quote. On average, you can expect to pay somewhere between $75 to $500 depending on time and parts needed.

To buy a new AC, your costs are also varied. It depends on which unit you want to purchase, and the cost of installation, if you’re unable to install yourself. Generally, most homeowners will pay somewhere between $2,500 and $8,000 for a new unit in Novato.

This may immediately spark the urge to repair over buying, but repair costs accumulate if more than one repair is needed.

Warranties and Other Coverage

If your AC unit is newer, it may still be covered by some form of manufacturer or extended warranty. Check your purchasing paperwork to see if there is any time left on your warranty and whether the type of damage is covered.

For a manufacturer’s warranty, the average coverage period is 1-year from the time of purchase and installation. This covers manufacturing defects within the AC unit, but not physical damage caused inside the home.

Extended coverage through your AC sales specialist or heating and cooling team may provide longer and more in-depth coverage. You will have to go through the provider of the warranty to have repairs or unit replacement covered. This is a good thing to think about when you purchase, or if you purchase new to replace your current unit. Ask about warranty and extended warranty options to avoid paying out next time.

Ongoing Repair or Annual Inspection?

An older and broken AC unit is likely to need some ongoing TLC. On the other hand, a new AC unit shouldn’t need repairs for a while, and with regular inspections from your heating and cooling specialist, it may never need repairs, only maintenance.

At Bragg Plumbing Heating & Cooling, we recommend ongoing annual inspections and maintenance of your AC unit. This keeps everything running effectively and efficiently and means fewer future repairs for you.

Energy Costs on Old vs. New AC Units

Buying a new AC means getting rid of old technology and updating your energy efficiency. While the cost of a new AC unit is high, the value of ongoing reduced energy bills is attractive.

Similarly, fixing a broken AC unit could bring down the cost of energy in your home as well. If your AC has been struggling to work for a while, fixing any problems could bring it back to functioning at full capacity, which means less energy drain.

Which is Better, Repair or Replace?

So, knowing all we know about unit costs, lifespans, and repair prices, which is better? Should you repair an AC unit or replace it? As a rule, we’d need to see the unit to know for sure. In general, however, we usually find that it’s more affordable to replace an old broken AC unit than to try to fix it. For a new unit, which was only recently paid for, we recommend having it fixed.

Contact Bragg Plumbing Heating & Cooling for More Details

Interested in learning more about heating and cooling services in Novato? We invite you to contact us today or visit online for a full list of products and services.

Heating and cooling are important parts of your home, so it’s only logical to want to be careful when choosing an HVAC company in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties. At Bragg Plumbing Heating & Cooling, we want our clients to have the best, and that means keeping you informed of what makes an HVAC company great. Here we’ve compiled a few things to consider in your search for heating and cooling experts.

What do Locals Think?

Reading online reviews should be done with a grain of salt, but they’re still very telling. Modern consumers depend on local clients to leave reviews and ratings both to measure the quality of their work and to increase brand awareness and search engine optimization. As you read reviews look for comments on:
  • Quality of work
  • Professionalism
  • Customer service
  • Preparation
Reviews that call out an HVAC employee by name are ones to watch because it often means the customer has interacted directly with the repair technician. You can also reach out on local online forums or social media groups for homeowners in your area and see if anyone has had a positive experience with a particular HVAC brand.

Level of Experience

If your furnace is broken and the HVAC company, you’re looking at only focuses on modern electric heating and cooling systems, they may not be the team for the job. The level of experience is important when choosing a service provider. Not only because they may not have the skills to take on your job, but if they’re inexperienced they may do a poor job. This goes both ways. Older HVAC companies without updated service offerings may not know the latest in repair and maintenance standards. Experience with modern ventilation is a plus if you have a newer home and heating system.

Services Offered

This brings us to the actual services offered by the HVAC companies you’re considering. Ideally, you want to work with a company that provides full-service heating and cooling, so you don’t need to shop around for another HVAC rep later for a different job. Check out things like:
  • Vent cleaning
  • Air quality
  • Heating
  • Cooling
  • Refrigeration
  • Radiator repair
  • Filter change
If you don’t see a service listed, you can always call and inquire. HVAC services are constantly expanding to meet customer needs.

Reach Out and See What They’re Like in Person

Reading about a company online will only get you so far in finding the right HVAC rep for you. If you want to know what a company is like, get them on the phone. At Bragg Plumbing Heating & Cooling, we love getting to know our clients. Being part of the same community here in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties. we understand how important it is to speak with home and business owners before we undertake a job. We recommend calling the HVAC company you’re considering and getting a feel for them on the phone. You can tell a lot about a company by the way they treat their customers. If you get good feelings from the chat, they might be a good fit for you in terms of customer service. Having somebody in your home for HVAC work, you’ll be more comfortable knowing the person behind the tools.

Price and Value

One thing many customers look at when selecting an HVAC provider is price. While it’s important not to be gouged by your heating and cooling provider, it’s worth noting that price doesn’t always denote value. Before you pick a company to help with your HVAC system, ask local companies to quote you on your job. Sometimes quotes fluctuate based on necessary parts and service hours, but in general, it should give you a good idea about the overall cost

Training and Certification

HVAC specialists have specialized diplomas or experience in their field as apprentices before becoming certified. If credentials aren’t listed on the company website, don’t feel shy about asking. It’s well within your right to know the certification of a company that will be working on your heating and cooling system. While looking into training, you should also make sure the HVAC repair team is bonded and insured. While your home insurance should cover any accidents on your property, it’s always good to know the people coming into your home have some sort of liability insurance as well.

Contact Bragg Plumbing Heating & Cooling to Learn More

As a leading heating and cooling company in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties. we love knowing we make a difference in the homes of our friends and neighbors. Interested in learning more about our local HVAC services? Give us a call today to learn more.

Condensation, or small droplets of water forming on your air ducts, may not seem like a big deal. What’s the harm of a little water? Unfortunately, over time, these little bits of water will build up and start to stain anything near it, including drywall, carpets, and ceilings.

Unsightly stains are just the beginning. When the water gets into your air conditioner or furnace it can cause damage. If there is enough water, and if the condensation is left unresolved for long enough, it can even cause structural damage to your home by wearing away wooden supports. Condensation can also cause mold and mildew growth, resulting in damage and foul odors throughout your home.

Plus, condensation can be a sign that there is some kind of problem with your HVAC system. So, why are you getting condensation and how do you stop it? There may be some climate causes, or they may be due to problems with your HVAC system. Here’s what you need to know if you have noticed condensation on your air ducts.

Environmental Causes

When there is a big difference between the temperature in the air and the temperature in the air ducts, condensation can naturally occur. This is more likely if your home has a lot of humidity. You can run a dehumidifier to reduce it, but this might be uncomfortable depending on what kind of humidity conditions you have. Otherwise, insulating your air ducts can get rid of the problem if it is just the result of a temperature difference.

Does Insulating Air Ducts Really Work?

Yes, insulating your air ducts will prevent condensation issues. What it does is protect the air inside the ducts from the temperatures outside of them. When they don’t touch, they won’t have the chance to generate condensation. If the whole system is insulated, then your condensation problems should be over.

Insulating your air ducts may not be the right way for you to get rid of condensation, depending on what’s wrong with your system. If your moisture problems are caused by an issue in the HVAC system, it is far better to get that issue repaired before you insulate the air ducts. That way, the underlying problem is addressed, and you won’t have to deal with the results if you’d left it unchanged. That might be an inefficient HVAC system, cold or warm spots in the house, increase utility bills, strain on your air conditioner, and much more.

HVAC Problems that Lead to Condensation

Sometimes there are more significant HVAC problems that lead to condensation issues. These include:

  • Broken fan: If the fan isn’t pumping conditioned air out through the vents, it is more likely that the air in the vents won’t be the same temperature as the air outside of the vents. This will cause condensation.
  • Clogs: Clogs in the vents will also prevent proper airflow which can increase the temperature differences that give rise to condensation problems.
  • Dirty filter: It may seem odd, but if you’ve left an HVAC filter for too long, then it is possible that it will become dirty and clogged, which can limit airflow through the system and create condensation.
  • Leaks: If there are leaks in your air ducts it may cause local condensation right there as the cold air leaks out into the hot environment.
  • Evaporator coil problems: On your air conditioner, evaporator coil problems, including just not being cleaned regularly, can cause condensation.
  • Refrigerant leaks: Also on your air conditioner, a refrigerant leak can also cause condensation issues.

Most of the issues that lead to condensation on your air ducts may also make your home less comfortable, limiting the flow of conditioned air to some or all of your home. If these issues go unaddressed you may start to feel cold spots, and your HVAC system may run less efficiently, resulting in a higher electricity bill. It’s always wise to address condensation issues as soon as you can, so that you can avoid these additional problems and get a better functioning HVAC system altogether.

Are you ready to solve the problem of condensation on your air ducts before it starts to cause more problems? Reach out to us at Bragg Plumbing & Heating to get help with your condensation problems and stop them once and for all.

When Navato temperatures begin to rise in the summer, it can be impossible to find relief from the heat. Having air conditioning definitely helps, but the only problem is it can get expensive to run your AC nonstop. Here we offer tips to keep your home cool in the heat of summer, without having to depend completely on your AC.

Start from the Top Down

Your attic is exposed to the heat of the sun, especially if you don’t have any shade-providing trees in sight. As a result, it can get as much as 20 to 30 degrees hotter than the floors below. Unfortunately, as your attic continues to hold onto that hot air, it inevitably will begin to heat the whole house. You can use the following steps to reduce heat in your attic:

  • Install Roof Attic Fans: There are several options available including gable fans, roof-mounted fans and even smart attic fans that adapt their speed to accommodate heat levels.
  • Insulate Your Attic: Check your attic insulation and look for ways to prevent the hot air from entering the floors below. You might need to add insulation across the attic floor as well as the walls to keep your home cooler.

By keeping your attic cooler, you can keep the entire home more comfortable.

Keep Your Second Floor Cooler

Once you tackle the attic, you can improve your home comfort levels by making these changes to the second/upper floors of your home:

  • Use Fans: There are a few different fans you can add to the rooms on the upper floors. The first are box fans designed for the window. They can be placed outwards, so they remove the warm air from the room. Energy Star ceiling fans can be used to provide a constant downward breeze to maintain comfort when set on the counter-clockwise position. In bedrooms, use pedestal fans at the foot or beside your bed to force cooler air across the bed.
  • Use Summer Friendly Sheets: Sheets made of natural breathable materials like bamboo and cotton are ideal for summer sleeping. They offer a lighter feel and won’t hold in the heat like satin or polyester.
  • Reduce Activity: Keeping fit is important, but when you work out upstairs, you produce more heat. Instead, save the exercising for lower floors.
  • Cool Down the Room: An hour before bed, turn off electronics like the TV or laptops to reduce heat production.
  • Keep Yourself Cool: Sipping cold water and having an ice pack on your neck can help you feel more comfortable.
  • Take Cooler Showers: Consider taking cooler showers to cool down and also reduce heat and humidity produce from hot water.
  • Circulate Air: In the evenings, as the temperatures cool a bit if your windows can open from the top, slide them down and run your ceiling fans to bring in the cooler night air. Every morning, close the windows and shut the curtains to keep rooms cooler.

These tips will make it easier to sleep at night.

Main Floor Comfort

On the main floor use these cooling tips:

  • Keep Curtains Closed: As mentioned above, keeping blinds drawn and curtains closed helps keep the sun from heating up your rooms.
  • Opt for Barbecues: Instead of using the oven, depend on your barbecue when the heat rises. You can also choose foods you can cook on the stovetop or cool sandwiches and salads. Crockpots are also better than stovetop and oven cooking as they don’t produce too much heat.
  • Unplug Everything: Get into the habit of unplugging anything not in use from toasters to TVs and fans to lights. They continue to drain electricity which produces heat. Of course make sure you leave the fridge and freezer plugged in!
  • Use Bathroom Fans: Exhaust fans in the bathroom can help remove hot air from the space.
  • Plant Some Shady Trees or Shrubs: Green trees and shrubs help produce cooling shade, so rooms stay cooler.  
  • Install Awnings: If you have south-facing windows, consider installing awnings to provide more shade.
  • Use Cooler Lightbulbs: No heat lightbulbs such as compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) can help keep your home cooler.

Trying just a few of these tips will keep your living space more comfortable.

Cool Basement

Your basement is already the coolest place in the house since heat rises. Creating a welcoming basement space where people can congregate is an excellent way to keep everyone cool.

For more information on summer home comfort in Navato, speak to the experts at Bragg Plumbing Heating & Cooling today.

It might not seem like something as basic as turning off a water heater would be difficult. Many homeowners find themselves scratching their heads when trying to figure out what valves to turn! And because it varies based on whether your system is gas or electric, it can take a few extra steps to make sure everything is shut down completely. Here are easy instructions to turn off both gas and electric water heaters to make sure you do it properly.

When You Should Turn Off Your Water Heater

The only time you need to turn off your water heater is when you have a leak. This can happen for many reasons from age and rust to a malfunction with the valve. As soon as you realize your water heater is leaking, you should turn off the water supply until someone can come and have a look to determine what is causing the leak. They will make repairs or suggest a replacement if the tank can’t be repaired. Some people think they need to turn off their water heater before they go away, but it is not necessary.

First, when you turn your water heater off completely you will return home to find you have no hot water. Second, you can also add wear and tear to your water heater from the effort required to shut down, turn back on and then heat an entire tank of water. It makes more sense to either lower the temperature to about 50 degrees F or to set your water heater to VAC for “Vacation Mode”. Most new models provide this handy setting.

For Gas Water Heaters

  1. Find Your Water Heater

If you aren’t sure where your water heater is located, they are usually in the basement, a utility closet, or sometimes in the garage or attic.

  1. Find the Temperature Dial

For gas water heaters, you’ll need to look for the temperature dial which is usually at the front on the bottom. Turn the dial off.

  1. Find the Plumbing Line

The plumbing line is either at the top or bottom of your water heater. Once you turn the valve off, you have successfully cut off the water supply.

  1. Draining the Heater

If your intent is to drain the heater, you’ll need a hose hook up to the boiler drain. You can then put the hose outside to let the water drain into your yard, or you can use a bucket. However, a bucket might not be big enough depending on how much water is in your tank.

  1. Locate the Gas Supply Valve

The valve tends to be on the right side of the water heater. To shut off the gas you either have a lever or a knob. If it is a lever turn it perpendicular. For knobs turn it clockwise.

  1. Locate the Relief Valve

The final step is to look for the relief valve near the top of the heater. Once you turn it off it allows air to enter the tank.

For Electric Water Heaters

  1. Find Your Water Heater

Your electric heater will be located in the same areas as gas water heaters.

  1. Find Your Breaker Box

For electric water heaters, you’ll need to find your breaker box. In most cases, the box is located either in the garage or on the exterior of your house. From there you need to find the breaker line providing power to your water heater and turn it off.

  1. Find the Plumbing Line

The plumbing line is either at the top or bottom of your electric water heater. Once you turn the valve off you cut off the water supply.

  1. Draining the Heater

As with gas water heaters, if you need to drain the heater, you can attach a garden hose to the boiler drain. Either put the house outside to let the water drain into your yard or use a bucket. However, watch the water level on the bucket to as it might not be big enough depending on how much water is in your tank.

  1. Locate the Relief Valve

The final step is to look for the relief valve near the top of the electric water heater. Turn it off to allow air to enter the tank.

If you are having issues with your water heater or can’t figure out how to turn it off, speak to your Novato plumber expert at Bragg Plumbing Heating & Cooling today.

A ductless air conditioning system uses individual units to deliver cool air to your rooms instead of ducts. Also known as mini-split systems, they consist of indoor units, a single outdoor unit, and some form of remote control. Here we look at how they work and when they are recommended.

How is a Ductless Air Conditioner Different?

As the name implies, the ductless air conditioner cools air without using ducts. Because of this, they tend to be more energy-efficient and effective at maintaining consistent, comfortable temperatures. The air does not have time to warm while traveling through the ducts and instead is delivered directly to each room. The system is easier to install without the need for knocking out ceilings and walls. The outdoor unit provides cool air for up to four indoor units and is connected to the indoor units with a small 3” hole. It is the ideal solution for many situations including homes with low ceilings, for additions, or for rooms that tend to be warmer than the rest of the home.

Three Components

As already mentioned, the ductless AC unit consists of three main components:

  1. The Indoor Units: The cool air is delivered to individual units located in each room. These units have their own controls allowing you to reach the ideal comfort level for each room.
  2. The Outdoor Unit: Your indoor units are all connected to a single outdoor unit to generate the cool air in your rooms.
  3. The Remote Control: The remote controls the temperature of each room.

The three components are easy to install and take up very little space.

How Does a Ductless Air Conditioner Work?

In a ductless system, the heat and air go through a cycle to heat and cool your home. Using a heat pump, the cycle transfers heat from evaporation and condensation, using a refrigerant substance that moves through the system with a compressor pump. There are two heat exchanger coils: One used to condense the refrigerant and the second to evaporate it. The air is cooled because the refrigerant absorbs heat around it as it goes through the evaporation process and during the condensing process the previously absorbed heat is released.

As a result, you can maintain the ideal temperature whether it is to heat or cool your home. In other words, the heat pump used in a ductless system cools the air by reversing refrigerant flow between the indoor and outdoor units. While it might seem odd that a “heat” pump is used to cool your home, it is the way the heat pump cycles hot air and turns it into cool air that makes it so effective and efficient.

Why Choose a Ductless AC?

The ductless system is ideal for homes with:

  • Additions
  • Low ceilings or low ceilinged rooms
  • Areas where ducts cannot be accommodated
  • Rooms such as garages
  • Rooms that are used less frequently
  • Repurposed rooms without traditional heating and cooling supplies

They offer an easy option when undergoing renovations, or for areas where you wish to have temperature control separate to the rest of the home.

How are the Indoor Units Mounted?

Indoor units are very flexible offering many options for installation including:

  • Ceiling suspension
  • Mounted flush for drop ceilings
  • Wall-mount
  • Freestanding floor units

All models have a reasonably narrow profile, making them easy to fit in any space.

Why Choose a Ductless AC System?

There are many advantages to ductless AC systems including:

  • Size and flexibility
  • Allows you to “zone” your cooling for each room
  • Minimally invasive installation requiring just a 3” hole in the wall
  • Energy efficiency due to minimized loss of cool air commonly lost through ducts
  • Allows for individual room control that lets you shut off units in rooms not being used, and make adjustments based on factors like sun exposure for further energy and comfort improvements

While the systems tend to cost more upfront compared to traditional AC systems, the benefits can be seen over the life of the system through improved energy efficiency.

Compatible with Traditional Systems

One last point is that a ductless air conditioning system can be added to your home even if you have a traditional system in place. It is the ideal solution for easy installation for all kinds of scenarios, including renovations for awkward spaces such as workrooms, sheds and garages, as well as providing more efficient heating and cooling for rooms that have difficulty maintaining comfortable temperatures.

If you would like to learn more about ductless air conditioning services in Novato, get in touch with the team at Bragg Plumbing Heating & Cooling today.

Do you feel the chill of winter creeping into your home? Is cozying up to the fire or wrapping yourself up in a blanket the only way to keep warm? If so, your gas furnace might need some TLC.

Keeping your gas furnace working at peak performance requires preventative cleaning and maintenance. This is the best way to get the longest life and reliability out of your home heating system.

So how do you clean a gas furnace?

If you want to keep your system running efficiently, you can use these gas furnace cleaning tips.  

Step #1: Gather up your tools

To do the job, you’ll need some essential tools including:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Ratchet & socket set
  • Vacuum preferable a shop vac, but can be any vacuum with an upholstery brush attachment
  • Small, stiff-bristled brush
  • New furnace filter
  • Emery cloth
  • Drinking straw
  • Lightweight machine oil

Get them all together so you don’t have to keep stopping your work to find the right tools.

Step #2: Turn off the furnace power and gas

This is important to reduce the risk of shocks or gas leaks. First, turn off the furnace power source found in your circuit breaker box. Next, switch the furnace’s electrical power to off. Then, shut off the gas valve with a ¼ turn.

Step #3: Clean the surfaces

Start with the exterior surfaces, wiping them down with a clean damp rag. Next, remove the furnace access door, which usually comes off if you lift it up and out. If you have a burner cover, you’ll have to loosen the screws to remove it. Use a vacuum to clear away dust from the burners and furnace base. Try to get every surface, including the compartment behind the blower door. Just lift it and reach in with the vacuum nozzle. If you notice any soot, or dark dust build-up, stop the job, and give your local gas furnace expert a call. This means there’s something wrong with combustion.

Step #4: Remove and clean the blower

You’ll probably have to unscrew the control panel as it most likely is blocking the blower. Use a socket and ratchet to remove the bolts holding the blower in place. Take the blower out carefully and avoid touching the wiring and counterweights on the fan blades. Gently use the vacuum to remove dust, and if necessary, use a small brush to wipe off anything that the vacuum doesn’t remove. Although you can do this yourself, a professional will make sure that the cleaning removes all the dirt or else the system can be thrown off balance.

Step #5: Clean the pilot or hot surface igniter

Use the straw to gently blow dust off the pilot light to make sure your readings are accurate. If your furnace is a newer model, it might have a hot surface igniter instead. If so, don’t touch it. You can still use the straw to blow off dust.

Step #6: Clean the flame sensor

The flame sensor is in a bracket. Pull it out and use your emery cloth to clean it to help ensure your furnace lights properly. Slide it back into place.

Step #6: Inspect the drive belt

Look for signs of cracking or fraying on the drive belt. If it seems damaged, you can purchase a new one and replace it. When you make a replacement it should be tensioned to deflect ½-3/4-inch.

Step #7: Lightly lubricate

Remove the oil caps and clean them and then use no more than 2 to 3 drops of lubricating oil on the two blower motor and shaft bearings.

Step #8: Replace the air filter

Remove the oil furnace filter and replace it. This should actually be done every three months. Always choose a filter based on manufacturer recommendations or else you might strain the blower motor.

Step #9: Activate the burners

Once complete you can turn everything back on. To activate the burners turn up your thermostat and then make sure the burner flames are even and blue. If the flames are yellow, you have dirty burners. This is a problem and needs a professional maintenance person to come in and clean and adjust them.

Step #10: Adjust the dampers

Last but not least, if you have a heating and cooling system, you have to adjust the dampers for seasonal settings.

Find Long-Term Solutions

If this seems like a lot of work, it might make more sense to schedule a gas furnace maintenance call. This is where we come in. As your Novato gas furnace experts, the team at Novato can provide gas furnace maintenance, repairs, and replacement so you stay toasty warm all winter long! Give us a call today!

Wouldn't it be great if winter was all about snowflakes and sledding and sipping hot chocolate? Sure it would but it's not. It's also about scraping ice off your windshields, 4:30 PM sunsets, and freezing cold temps. And for some of you, it might also be about making big decisions about a significant expense: repairing or replacing a furnace.

Your furnace is among the most essential features of your household during the winter. So, what happens when your furnace needs a tune-up? Is it worth it to repair it? Or do you just bite the $2,000+ bullet and replace the unit altogether?

We want you to stay warm this winter, so here are eight questions to ask yourself when deciding to replace or repair your furnace.

Question 1: How old is my furnace?

One of the most significant factors in deciding to repair or replace is how old your furnace is. On average, you can expect a furnace to last 15-20 years. Many factors contribute to your furnace's lifespan: good maintenance, quality of repairs, usage, original efficiency. But if it's less than 15 years old, you're probably better off repairing it.

Question 2: When was my last repair?

Furnaces start needing more frequent repairs in the last two years of their lives. If you've called in the pros more than a couple times over the previous two years, it might be worth it to replace your unit.

Question 3: How long did my last repair take?

You can't underestimate the value of your time. Did it take weeks to get your replacement parts the last time you needed a repair? If so, this means your unit is becoming outdated. This makes replacement a better choice.

Question 4: What do my heating bills look like?

You expect your winter heating bills to be high, but not this high. If you notice a significant difference between this year's and last year's heating bills, it might be time for a replacement. As it ages, your furnace loses efficiency so the older your furnace is, the more money it takes to heat your home. Weigh the costs of a full replacement against how much more you're paying on your monthly heating bills.

Question 5: Am I still comfortable?

Loss of efficiency also means your furnace isn't as great at distributing all that warm air around your home. This leads to uneven heating and worse indoor air quality. If you're experiencing any of these things, it might be time to replace your furnace:

  • Colder indoor temperatures
  • Constant cycling to keep up with your heating needs
  • Hot and cold spots
  • Drier or stuffier air
  • More dust accumulation
  • Static shocks
  • Drooping plants
  • Cracking furniture
  • Musical instruments not staying in tune

Question 6: Am I hearing strange noises?

When you're turning on your furnace for the first time this season, you might hear some rattling or other sounds as your furnace gets back into working condition. But ongoing sounds like banging, popping, rattling, and squealing are indications of a problem. It could be something easy to repair. Or it could mean your furnace is working way too hard to heat your home. Calling in Novato HVAC tech can help you decide your next steps.

Question 7: Am I moving soon?

Furnaces are long-term investments. If you're moving homes within the next year or so, it's essential to factor in your furnace. You might need to replace the furnace to meet inspection standards or to make your home more marketable.

Question 8: Are there any other funky things happening in my house?

All furnaces come with a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. But the older your furnace, the more likely this deadly problem becomes. Here are some warning signs that carbon monoxide is leaking into your home:

  • Yellow or flickering flame inside your furnace
  • Streaks of soot around the unit
  • Absence of upward draft in your chimney
  • Moisture on walls, windows, or other cold surfaces
  • Rusting on flue pipes or appliances jacks
  • Water leaking from the base of the chimney, a vent, or flue pipe
  • Rust on an outside vent pipe
  • Sudden onset of nausea, disorientation, headaches, drowsiness, or other flu-like symptoms

If the last one is true, get outside immediately and call for emergency assistance. Then contact us to discuss your replacement options.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line often comes down to weighing age against cost. Here's our general recommendation: If your current furnace is less than 15 years old and if fixing it would cost less than half the price of a replacement unit then repair it. But every situation is unique, and we'd be happy to offer a custom recommendation.

As your Novato HVAC professionals, we can handle all your furnace needs. Give us a call today!

We have to confess something: That is a blog post title we could have never anticipated. But COVID-19 has certainly turned the world upside down, hasn't it? We realize this is temporary: the stay-home orders, the daily press conferences, the teleconferencing and social distancing. Eventually, the virus will be under control and we won't have to second-guess if we really need to run to the store. But the financial and social effects will linger for well for who knows how long. If you're like us, it's the uncertainty that's most troubling. How much longer will this new normal last? Still, one of the weirdest parts of all of this is how much actually hasn't changed. Our family still expects breakfast. Our neighbors dogs are still annoying. And we still have some of the day-to-day stuff of homeownership to deal with like our HVAC system. Given that we're supposed to be avoiding any unnecessary social contact for the next several weeks, we want you to be prepared if your HVAC system starts misbehaving and you need someone to help right away.

Questions to Consider When Hiring a Novato HVAC Contractor During the Coronavirus Pandemic

If you find yourself needing a Novato HVAC contractor during COVID-19, ask these four questions before you decide whom to hire.

#1 What specific ways are they preventing the spread of COVID-19?

Every HVAC contractor should be able to give you specifics about how they've stepped up their sanitation efforts. When you call around, don't be shy about asking for all the nitty gritty details, including questions like:

  • Are your technicians healthy? How do you know?
  • In the past two weeks, has anyone on your team tested positive for COVID-19 or been in close contact with anyone who has?
  • What measures are you taking to keep your equipment and supplies clean?
  • Are your technicians expected to wear gloves, eye protection, and/or masks?
  • When your technician arrives at my home, what exactly will they do to keep my family safe?
  • Is it OK for me to ask the technician to wash their hands before and after touching anything in my home?
  • Can I pay you without having to use your technician's mobile device?

#2 Is the HVAC shop licensed?

Many homeowners have reduced income as a result of COVID-19, which means they're looking for ways to save money. If that's you, please don't try to cut costs by hiring an unlicensed HVAC contractor. The truth is, unlicensed home services companies rarely do a job right the first time. If you hire one and they botch it, you'll have to bring them back out or you'll have to hire someone else to fix their work. Either way, you'll be wasting time and/or money and you're increasing your risk of being exposed to coronavirus.

#3 Are they reputable?

The best way to determine if an HVAC contractor does good, honest work is to check their reviews on Facebook and Google. If they had poor reviews (or no reviews) before COVID-19, it's not likely that they'll take care of you in the middle of a global pandemic. If, on the other hand, you see evidence that they've treated customers well in the past, it's reasonable to assume they'll continue to do so now.

#4 Are they good neighbors?

If you can find an HVAC company that's given back to our community whether it's us or someone else please reward them by hiring them. Like you, many home services companies have been hard-hit by this pandemic, but we're nevertheless still committed to serving our company the best we can.

We'll treat you like a family member.

We're all crossing our fingers that your major home systems behave until the coronavirus threat passes. But if you need a Novato HVAC contractor in the meantime please know we're ready to serve you. Our team is healthy, we're staying on top of the CDC recommendations, and we'll get the job done right the first time. We're wishing you and your family well in this tough season!

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