Air Conditioning Repair FAQ: Can I Just Scrape the Ice off the Coils?

April 18th, 2014

We use our air conditioners a lot during the summertime, when our temperatures are warm and a little cool air is a welcome relief. Unfortunately, most repairs come at a time when you need your air conditioner the most, and rather than waiting for a repairman, some homeowners might think of trying to fix the problem themselves. Take the matter of ice building up on the coils. “Can’t I just scrape the ice off the coils?” you ask (a pretty frequent air conditioning repair FAQ). In point of fact, you really shouldn’t it won’t solve the problem, and can actually make things much worse.

The problem with the ice lies in where it forms: the evaporator coils, which serve to cool the air. When ice forms, it serves to insulate the coils from the air it’s supposed to cool, making it harder for the air conditioner to do its job. It also indicates something is wrong with the refrigerant pressure in your system.

So why not just scrape the ice off? Because while the ice creates problems, it’s not the source of the issue. It forms when refrigerant levels are lower than they should be in your air conditioner, usually because of a leak. You can scrape the ice off, but it will just reform again until you seal the leak and recharge refrigerant levels. Even worse, your efforts to scrape the ice off could damage the coils, and turn a relatively inexpensive repair into an extremely costly one.

If you know you can’t just scrape the ice off the coils, the next step is to call in the experts at Boehmer Heating & Cooling. We have the answers to many air conditioning repair FAQs you may have, and always perform repairs with professionalism and pride. If you spot ice on your coils, give us a call. There’s no one better to handle air conditioning repair in Pittsburgh!

Are You Ready to Turn on Your AC for the Cooling Season?

April 11th, 2014

Although we haven’t hit a powerful warm spell in Pittsburgh yet, it won’t be long before the air conditioners in our homes start up their familiar hum and cool air blows from the vents for another summer season. Right now, when we still have cooler weather, you should ask yourself if you’re ready to turn on your AC for the upcoming season… or if you should take a few steps to make certain that it’s ready.

Boehmer Heating & Cooling is here to help you with your air conditioning preparations during the spring. You can call us to handle any necessary repairs, provide advice, or take care of the all-important air conditioning maintenance in Pittsburgh, PA that will give you the best assurance of quality cooling throughout the summer.

Here are some steps to take to ready your AC for cooling season

  • First, make sure you replace your current air filter. This filter stops dust and debris in the return vents from entering the air conditioner’s cabinet. If the filter becomes clogged (which it likely is if your heating system uses the same vents), it will choke off airflow into the AC and your AC will lose efficiency and effectiveness. A clogged filter could also allow damaging particles to get inside. Change the filter for a new one, and make sure you change it regularly for the rest of the summer.
  • Second, call a reputable HVAC company and arrange for a preventive maintenance visit. A skilled technician will come to your home and inspect your air conditioner, take care of the necessary cleaning, make adjustments, and test its operation so that you know the system is working at its best. You’ll have greater peace of mind knowing that your air conditioner has no major troubles brewing as it heads into summer.
  • Third, jump on any necessary repairs. The technician may discover that not all is right with your air conditioner and recommend repairs to take care of before you turn your AC on for the season. The technician can help you arrange for the repairs and schedule them. Never delay on having this work done, as neglect could threaten to develop into a worse problem or even a full breakdown.

Look to Boehmer Heating & Cooling for your AC needs

At Boehmer Heating & Cooling, we offer different tiers of maintenance programs to fit your needs. The Plus and Signature agreements provide you with a precision tune-up for your AC and a 15% discount on repairs, plus a reduced diagnostic charge. To find out more about the two plans, contact our specialists in air conditioning maintenance in Pittsburgh, PA today.

The Importance of Air Conditioning Maintenance

April 4th, 2014

All air conditioning systems develop problems slowly over time as they operate. Without the intervention of a professional HVAC contractor, those problems will continue to get worse and will eventually turn into costly repairs. However, there is something that homeowners can do to potentially prevent those issues from causing the need for repairs: regular AC maintenance services. We wanted to raise awareness of the benefits of getting regular maintenance for your AC so we put together this quick explanation. Give us a call if you’re ready to schedule service and one of our friendly techs will be able to answer any questions that you might have.

Benefits of Air Conditioning Maintenance

There are a few very important benefits to getting regular air conditioning maintenance for your Pittsburgh home. Here are a few of them.

  • Reduced repair – The small problems that your AC develops will eventually become full-blown repairs. But when you have an expert regularly inspecting, cleaning and repair your air conditioner they will be able to find those problems early and fix them before they cause any further damage.
  • Extended equipment life – We often get called to replace AC systems that were effectively destroyed by small problems slowly over time. By regularly fixing those problems you could be able to keep your air conditioning system working for longer.
  • Increased efficiency – It makes sense that it your AC has a lot of little things wrong with it that those will cause it to have to work harder to cool your home. By taking care of those problems regularly and making sure your system is clean, you could be able to return some of the efficiency to your AC system.
  • Increased comfort – Finally, when your air conditioning system is operating a peak efficiency it will likely be able to keep your home and your family more comfortable.

Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling to schedule your AC maintenance visit today!

Why Your Heat Pump Is Stuck in Cooling Mode

March 28th, 2014

Answer as fast as you can: What is the great advantage of having a heat pump?

Did you respond “It works as both a heater and an air conditioner?” You most likely did, since the reason most people opt to have a heat pump installed in their home is that is takes care of two installations at once and simplifies their lives.

So if the heat pump in your home loses one of its two modes and starts blowing out cold air when you want warm air, you need to have professionals come to your home and find out what needs repair.

There are a few reasons that a heat pump might become stuck in cooling mode (or heating mode, as is sometimes the case). Most of them will need repairs from trained technicians. Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling when you need heating repair in Pittsburgh, PA for your malfunctioning heat pump. We have live operators standing by 24/7 for emergency service.

Reasons a Heat Pump Won’t Switch Modes

The most common cause for a heat pump to remain fixed in cooling mode is a broken reversing valve. This component sits along the refrigerant line and is responsible for changing the direction that refrigerant moves through the pump. Essentially, the reversing valve is what makes a heat pump different from an air conditioner, and if it breaks down, it will leave you with an air conditioner. (As mentioned above, it could also leave you with it heater. It depends on how the manufacturer set the reversing valve’s “relaxed” state, the one where it doesn’t receive an electric charge.)

Fortunately, a broken reversing valve is a simple fix for a technician. He or she will swap out the old valve for a new one. New reversing valves are a basic part of most technician’s vans when attending to heat pump problems.

Another reason for a heat pump staying in one mode is a thermostat issue. A faulty wiring connection can cause thermostat to lose its connection to the system that signals for it to begin heating. This is a simple wiring fix for a technician, but don’t attempt to pull the unit off the wall and fiddle with the wires yourself; you will probably only cause the problem to get worse.

If the air that comes from the vents isn’t cold but instead feels room temperature, the trouble may be a loss of refrigerant. Check to see if icing has started over the outdoor coils, then call for repairs.

Heat pumps are among the more complex comfort devices available for homes today, and they require a precise balance of components to work properly. Do not trust any repairs to amateurs, and do not go the “do-it-yourself” route. Look to the Pittsburgh, PA heating repair professionals at Boehmer Heating & Cooling.

Top 3 Reasons to Install a Furnace

March 19th, 2014

Furnaces are one of the oldest of all ways to heat a home; only the fireplace pre-dates them, and the furnace arose from the same principles as a fireplace. However, furnaces have kept up technologically with other heating systems and remain the most popular way to provide warmth for houses to this day.

So even though you have a number of options for home heating, such as a boiler or a heat pump, a furnace may still be the best choice of all. We’ll look at some of the reasons you might want to install a furnace in Pittsburgh, PA for the next bout of freezing weather. Call Boehmer Heating & Cooling to talk to our heating specialists about scheduling a new installation for your home.

3 reasons to consider furnace installation

  1. Heating effectiveness: Pittsburgh winters can be tough. You want a heater that can bring you sufficient warmth to keep the cold back. Furnaces, in particular gas-powered furnaces, are among the most effective heating systems when it comes to the basic job of heating. They outperform heat pumps, which can struggle with extreme low temperatures, and are often a good choice for older homes that have insulation problems.
  2. Flexibility: When it comes to matching heating systems with homes, furnaces have the most flexible options. Regardless of your heating requirements, there is almost always a furnace that can take care of it. They come in many different sizes, efficiencies, and fuel types. With electric, gas, propane, and oil options available, you can find the furnace that fits your budget and home comfort needs.
  3. Fuel efficiency: Gas furnaces are the most popular furnace model, and they are among the most fuel-efficient heating systems available. Modern high-efficiency gas furnaces can score AFUE ratings of 95% and above, which means only 5% of the heat is wasted. This will help reduce your heating bills while still giving you the same superior heating performance.

You’ll only get the most from your furnace with professional installation

If you think a furnace is your optimal choice for heating your home, call up professional installers to help you choose a unit and size it to fit your home. Without the work of skilled installers, you could end up with a furnace that’s wrong for your home and works incorrectly, possibly even dangerously.

Boehmer Heating & Cooling will make sure you end up with the right unit for you. Our trained technicians will deliver a fast and effective installation that will leave you with many years of trouble-free warmth. Call us today for Pittsburgh, PA furnace services.

At What Point Should I Be Concerned About Rust on My Boiler?

March 12th, 2014

Rust is a natural chemical reaction that occurs between metal and water in the presence of oxygen: it’s something we expect to happen whenever iron-based metal is exposed to water. However, the boiler in your home that keeps you warm during chilly Pennsylvania winters does not usually rust, even though water is a basic part of its operation.

The reason you don’t often see rust or corrosion on your boiler is that manufacturers design them to work as air-tight as possible. There is little oxygen available to allow for the oxidation that leads to rust. As long as your boiler receives regular, annual maintenance and proper repairs, it shouldn’t show signs of rust until near the end of its lifetime. If you have a professional service like Boehmer Heating & Cooling taking care of the needs for your boiler in Pittsburgh, PA, you can expect a long and rust-free performance life.

But is a bit of rust necessarily a need for repairs? At what point should you be concerned about the appearance of corrosion on your boiler?

The answer: Any rust on a boiler is a negative sign and a reason to call for repairs.

If rust develops on a relatively young boiler, it could point to a number of serious issues. Sediment and dirt might be infiltrating the tank through breaks in underground pipes. The expansion valve on top of the tank could have broken and permitted oxygen into the tank. The pH balance of the water is too acidic. Any of these problems needs to be addressed, not only to stop the development of corrosion, but to prevent other issues in the system.

The most damaging consequence of rust along a boiler is that it weakens metal and will lead to leaks. If it spreads across the tank, it could lead to the tank bursting. Rust developing along the connections will cause them to start leaking extensively. Rust is also a natural insulator, and this will upset the temperature balance inside the tank, leading to overheating and an increase in pressure.

If too much rust develops along your boiler’s tank, your only option is usually to have the tank replaced. If caught earlier enough on the heat exchangers and other replaceable parts, technicians can usually stop it. But you have to move fast: the moment you find rust on your boiler, call up a dependable repair service to look into the problem and find a solution.

Since 1933, Boehmer Heating & Cooling has provided people in Pittsburgh, PA with boiler installation, maintenance, and repair that has kept them warm. You can trust us to help you with any trouble you encounter with your boiler.

Common Boiler Problems

February 27th, 2014

Listing “boiler problems” takes a more work than listing “furnace problems” or “heat pump problems.” That’s because boilers experience fewer repair needs and malfunctions than other home comfort system because they do not use as many mechanical parts that can break or wear down. Boilers have remarkable longevity because of this, and with basic maintenance performed once a year by a professional, your boiler should give you at least two decades of excellent heating.

But although there are fewer “boiler problems” to list, they do exist. Here are some troubles with boilers that will require you call for heating repair in Pittsburgh, PA. You can reach Boehmer Heating & Cooling 24 hours a day when you need emergency work to restore your malfunctioning boiler.

Boiler problems that require repairs

  • Frozen pipes: In a city that can get as cold as Pittsburgh, pipes freezing can become a major problem—and the pipes attached to your boiler are as susceptible as those attached to your regular plumbing. Frozen pipes will often burst, and you’ll need professionals to replace the afflicted sections. The repair technicians can also help you insulate your pipes to avoid freezing problems in the future.
  • Leaking: Any system that circulates water can suffer from leaking. Aging pipes, poor soldering, corrosion, high water pressure… all can lead to your boiler springing leaks. You need professionals to seal the leaks before it reduces your boiler’s heating ability, and also to find out what caused the leaks in the first place.
  • Sediment build-up in the tank: Over time, the water tank of a boiler can begin to collect sediment that will settle along the bottom of the tank. This sediment can contribute to rust and a dangerous increase in water pressure. Technicians can flush the tank to eliminate the build-up.
  • Limescale: If the water inside the boiler’s system is hard (i.e. it contains too much calcium and magnesium), the high temperature will cause a phenomenon called limescale to develop inside the tank as it heats the hard water. Limescale is in insulator, and this will unbalance the temperature in the tank, leading to high water pressure.
  • Cold water mixing in the tank: A broken mixing valve can cause cold water to enter the top of the tank and begin mixing with the hot water, causing a drop in water temperature throughout your home. If you notice rumbling from the tank, this is probably the reason.

Call for professional repairs

Boehmer Heating & Cooling can take care of the heating repair in Pittsburgh, PA you need to restore your boiler if any of the above happens. Don’t try repairs yourself… you may only cause further damage. Put your trust in our NATE-certified technicians.

Common Zone Control Heating Problems

February 24th, 2014

Either as an upgrade to an existing system or as part of a new installation, a zone control system makes a lot of sense. They divide your home into different sections, allowing you to raise or lower the temperature of each one separately. So one family member can turn up the heat in the bedroom to stay warm while another can turn it down while working over a hot stove in the kitchen. Zone controls help cut down on monthly heating bills since you can simply turn down the heat in areas of the home you aren’t using. What kind of issues might those be? It depends. Here’s a brief list of common zone control heating problems.

  • Stuck dampers. With any zone control system, you might have problems with the dampers or valves. If they won’t close (or stay stuck) then the zone they control can’t be heated or cooled the way you need it to. A technician can usually get into the duct system and fix the stuck damper with a minimum of effort.
  • Control panel. The control panel is what regulates the dampers in the zone control system, and because it is electrically powered, most of the problems with it stem from there. If it isn’t working, it may have a faulty component or there may be a problem with the electrical flow coming into it. In some cases, the component can be repair. In orders, the whole panel needs to be replaced.
  • Thermostats. The thermostats for each of your zones can have the same problems as a thermostat that controls the temperature in your whole house.  They can misread the temperature, fail to activate when they should or fail to turn off the system when the desired temperature has been achieved. A trained technician can repair or replace them as appropriate.

For help with common zone control heating problems, Boehmer Heating & Cooling is here to help. We handle all kinds of Pittsburgh heating repair services, and we can address the issues plaguing your zone control system with speed and efficiency. Call us today to make an appointment!

3 Causes of Boiler Leaks

February 17th, 2014

Boilers have a number of advantages that keep them competitive as heating options. Perhaps the most attractive one is longevity. Boilers have few mechanical parts, which means they are less prone to wear and tear due to age. With regular maintenance, they can last over two decades and require few repairs during that time.

It’s rare for any system to last that long without any repairs, however, and boilers do have a particular issue that sometimes needs professionals to fix: leaks. There are a few different reasons for leaks to occur, but no matter how they happen, they need immediate attention before the whole heating system is compromised or a house sustains water damage. Boehmer Heating & Cooling has worked on boilers since 1933; place your trust in us when it comes to your boiler in Pittsburgh, PA.

Three common reasons for boiler leaks:

1. High water pressure

Boilers are designed with an expansion tank to maintain water pressure inside the main tank as the temperature rises. But if a malfunction occurs that allows the pressure to increase or the water to overheat, it will start to cause leaks to spring up in multiple connections and valves throughout the boiler system. A professional will need to seal the leaks and discover the reason for the pressure spike.

2. Corrosion

Wherever water and metal meet, there is possibility of corrosion occurring. Although modern boilers are designed to resist corrosion, it can still occur because of oxygen infiltration into the tank. Corrosion weakens metal, and will soon cause leaking to begin. Corrosion must be removed as soon as possible before it spreads too far and requires a full tank replacement.

3. Improper installation

We cannot emphasize this enough: you must rely on professionals to install a boiler system. If your boiler received poor installation, it will lead to multiple troubles, but leaking is the most common. Untrained installers usually perform poor soldering jobs on the connections, and these will soon start to develop leaks. Although sometimes repairs from experts can fix initial installation glitches, often the whole boiler will need to be replaced.

If you detect leaks anywhere on your boiler, call for service right away. If you notice a decrease in heating power or hear a rumbling in the tank (often a sign of overheating), you should also call for repairs. Take good care of your boiler and it will reward you with many years of effective warming that will outstrip any other heating system.

Boehmer Heating & Cooling is available for 24-hour emergency service. We also offer maintenance plans to keep your boiler in Pittsburgh, PA in good shape all year.

Who Wrote the First Valentine’s Day Poem?

February 14th, 2014

The celebration of Valentine’s Day is often seen as a modern institution, even if the roots of the holiday go back to Late Antiquity and the figures of St. Valentine of Rome and St. Valentine of Terni. It’s difficult to separate our view of February 14th from the more recent phenomenon of greeting cards, comical cupids, and specialty treats from candy companies.

However, not only are some of these traditions older than we might think (mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards were an enormous success in early 19th-century England), but the earliest Valentine’s Day love poem comes from none other than the first great English author, Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote in the second half of the 14th-century.

Chaucer’s most famous work is The Canterbury Tales, an enormous collection of linked stories in poetry and prose. But his 700-line poem “Parlement of Foules” has the special distinction of being the first surviving record of a connection between Valentine’s Day and romantic love. Chaucer probably composed the poem in 1381–82. At the time, he was a member of the court of King Richard II, holding an important bureaucratic position in London. The date suggests that Chaucer wrote “Parelment of Foules” to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of the English king to Princess Anne of Bohemia.

The poem follows the dream of the narrator, where he walks through Venus’s temple and discovers a meeting of birds where they all choose their mates. This is where the mention of St. Valentine’s Day appears (English modernized):

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,

When every bird cometh there to choose his mate.                                                                  

The poem also contains a familiar Valentine’s image, Cupid with his arrows:

Under a tree, beside a well, I saw

Cupid our lord his arrows forge and file;                                                             

And at his feet his bow already lay.

When Chaucer mentions St. Valentine’s Day, is he referring specifically to February 14th? Late winter isn’t a time when birds in England would mate. However, the date for the start of spring—when some birds would have started nesting in England—was on February 23rd in the calendars of the time, certainly close enough for Chaucer to take poetic license and nudge it a bit to match with Valentine’s Day.

Love birds remain a popular symbol of Valentine’s Day even now, and for this we can thank Chaucer. In fact, he may very well have invented the link between love and Valentine’s Day, although we will probably never know for certain.

Whoever started these traditions, all of us here at Boehmer Heating & Cooling Company hope you have a wonderful February 14th!