Do I Really Need a New Air Conditioning System?

April 9th, 2014

Air conditioning in Rancho Bernardo is often mitigated by our cool coastal climate and comparatively mild summers.  In simpler terms, we don’t always need air conditioning out here. When problems arise with our systems, we may be tempted to simply ignore them, or push our units to go a little farther than we might otherwise. A new air conditioning system is a big expense, and it can be hard to tell when replacement is absolutely necessary. “Do I really need a new air conditioning system?” you ask. Here are a few tips to help answer that question.

Generally speaking, old systems need to go when the cost of maintaining them becomes prohibitive. If your existing unit suffers a major breakdown and/or the cost of repairing it feels like throwing good money after bad, then it’s probably time to install a new system.

That line can be much harder to determine in less severe circumstances, however. For example, what if your existing unit hasn’t suffered a catastrophic repair session, but seems to require numerous little repairs more and more frequently? At what point do you decide it’s too much? At what point do comparatively inexpensive sessions add up to a system on its way out? That’s typically a question for individual circumstances, and relies on gut instinct as much as hard facts.

One good indicator that an old air conditioner needs to be put out to pasture is a sudden increase in your monthly cooling costs. If you witness a spike in your bills despite the fact that you’re not using your air conditioner any more often than normal, you may want to see about getting it replaced. This is doubly true if you air conditioner is more than ten years old. An old unit may still be able to function efficiently, but when added to frequent repairs and higher costs, it usually puts some fairly clear writing on the wall.

If you decide you really need a new air conditioning system, call the Rancho Bernardo air conditioning experts at Cal-West Air Conditioning to help. We can give you strong advice based on your specific circumstances, then replace your cooling system with professionalism and pride. Contact us today to make an appointment!

Air Conditioner Repairs to Take Care of before the Summer

April 4th, 2014

In some senses, summer starts in Southern California long before June arrives. Spring gives us the first serious test of our air conditioners (and even then, they probably saw some work through the winter). During this time, you should pay attention to the AC in your home to see if it’s exhibiting signs that it needs repairs. Anything like strange noises, lukewarm air, odd smells from the vents, tripped circuit breakers, short-cycling, or ice along the coils will warn you that the cooling system could use some professional attention before the summer starts up.

For quality air conditioning repair in Escondido, CA, call Cal-West Air Conditioning. With many decades in this business, we’ve come to know very well the sort of problems that the overworked air conditioners of Southern California can face. Let us help you with repairs like these:

  • Thermostat recalibration and rewiring: Many issues that seem to originate inside the air conditioner cabinets actually come from the thermostat. Even a simple flaw—a temperature sensor miscalibration of a few degrees—can cause odd behavior from an air conditioner and result in inadequate comfort. Technicians are skilled at spotting when the thermostat is the culprit, and they recalibrate or rewire the unit to restore everything to normal.
  • Cleaning the coils: The two coils of an air conditioner—the indoor evaporator coil, the outdoor condensing coil—need to remain free of grime so they can effectively absorb and release heat. If your air conditioner starts to lose its cooling ability, dirty coils might be responsible. Also look for ice developing along the indoor coil, another sign of coils that require cleaning. (Icing might also mean a loss of refrigerant, another major repair issue.) Professionals will need to remove the coils to properly clean them.
  • Replacing burnt out motors: If you can hear the compressor working, but you either feel low airflow from the vents or no flow at all, it’s likely a motor in the air handler has burnt out because of dust contamination or lack of lubrication. At this point, the best option is for a technician to exchange the broken motor for a new one.

Don’t take the “do-it-yourself” route

Although opening up an air conditioner’s cabinet to try to figure out what’s wrong with it doesn’t pose the same serious health hazard that opening up a gas furnace’s cabinet does, you still shouldn’t try it. Any symptom in an air conditioner can come from multiple causes, and it takes the knowledge of an HVAC professional to correctly diagnose the cause and then fix it so it stays fixed. Save yourself time and hassle and call Cal-West Air Conditioning for your air conditioning repair in Escondido, CA. We have 24-hour emergency service available for your convenience.

Advantages of an A/C Maintenance Session Before Summer Starts

March 31st, 2014

The San Diego Area has one of the most pleasant, and envied, climates in the U.S. Although we can experience hot summers, our ocean location helps to cool us off and attract vacationers from every part of the globe. However, we can’t count on Pacific breezes to keep our homes cool, especially when we live farther inland in a city like Escondido; we need air conditioners ready to work for us throughout the summer.

Right now is an excellent time to schedule your annual maintenance session for your air conditioner. (We do hope you have this ever year. If not, then now is the perfect time to start.) There are a number of reasons to have maintenance done before the summer heat hits. We’ll look at some of the more important ones. You can call Cal-West Air Conditioning whenever you need air conditioning service in Escondido, CA: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Benefits of spring maintenance for your air conditioner

  • Beat the rush: Spring is a more relaxed time for HVAC contractors; the weather usually does not put much stress on heaters or air conditioners. Their work schedules are more open, so it’s much easier for you to arrange a maintenance sessions that fits your schedule. Once summer starts, people who delayed on maintenance will either rush to have it done, or rush to have repairs done they could have avoided with early maintenance. Speaking of which…
  • Catch repair needs early: You don’t want to discover that you need to replace the compressor in your AC the moment you turn it on for the first asphalt-melting summer day. A maintenance technician coming in spring would notice if the compressor was straining or encountering problems and help you schedule a repair. (Sometimes, technicians can take care of repairs on the same day as maintenance.) For any repair issue in your air conditioning system, you want plenty of time before the big heat to have it fixed.
  • You won’t get caught by surprise: Spring still brings a few showers, a few cold days. It can also hurl the opposite at us, cranking up the thermometer to the 90s with little warning. If your AC isn’t running at its best, you don’t want to find out during these surprise heat waves and end up spending too much money to keep the faulty AC running. Maintenance keeps you ready at all times.

Enroll in a maintenance plan

You can do more than call an HVAC contractor to arrange for a session: you can enroll in a maintenance program that gives you benefits such as discounts and priority service. At Cal-West Air Conditioning, we have an excellent maintenance plan that delivers your air conditioner a precision tune-up each year (and one for your heating system as well during the fall). Call us today for air conditioning service in Escondido, CA.

Why Is a Cracked Heat Exchanger So Serious?

March 27th, 2014

Gas furnaces have developed an unfair reputation as dangerous home heating options. Although any system that uses natural gas for fuel can pose a danger because of carbon monoxide leaks, furnaces usually offer no greater danger than any other heating system you can have installed in your house—provided they receive regular maintenance and timely repairs to keep them in top shape.

An example of a danger that a gas furnace could present: cracks in a heat exchanger. We’ll address this specific problem, one which you can avoid with diligent maintenance and fix with professional repairs. For the heating repair service in San Diego that will keep your gas furnace safe, make an appointment with Cal-West Air Conditioning. We’ve served San Diego with superb heating and air conditioning service since 1989.

The cracked heat exchanger

The heat exchanger in a furnace looks like a metal clamshell. It does the job of transferring the heat from the combustion gas of the burner to the air of the blower without allowing toxic carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the air. The hot combustion gas enters the exchanger, raises the temperature of its metal walls, and the heat from this then transfers to the air.

However, each time the exchanger heats up, it expands. This places stress on the metal, and should the heat exchanger develop any corrosion, the expansion can cause cracking along the surface. Although the cracks may appear small, they will gape open each time the exchanger heats up. The result: leaking exhaust fumes that should only go up the furnace flue.

Carbon monoxide exhaust escaping the heat exchanger creates two possible dangers: 1) The gas can leave the cabinet and enter a home, leading to carbon monoxide poisoning. 2) The flammable carbon monoxide can ignite and cause an explosion.

Cracks in a heat exchanger need immediate attention from a repair technician, who can remove the old exchanger and put in a new one. If you have a gas furnace in your home, make sure you also have carbon monoxide detectors to pick up the first signs of leaking. Also listen for clicking noises from the furnace cabinet that occur right before the blower motor comes on, since this can indicate a cracked exchanger. Shut off the gas to the furnace and call for repairs right away. If you notice corrosion on the outside of your furnace, you should also summon repairs immediately.

Stay safe with maintenance and professional repairs

Enroll in a maintenance program for your gas furnace so that once a year a technician can give it a thorough inspection and locate safety issues to address. And make sure you have any repair needs taken care of ASAP.

When you need excellent heating repair in San Diego, CA to keep you and your family safe and warm, call Cal-West Air Conditioning.

Why Replace Your Furnace with an Alternate form of Heating

March 17th, 2014

Do you have an old gas furnace in your home, possibly one you inherited when you moved in, that seems to be closing in on its last days? If so, you might immediately think you should replace it with a new furnace. But that may not be the optimal choice, especially with so many alternate forms of home heating now available. Furnaces create an effective level of heat, but that’s not often a priority in a warm city like San Diego. There are other heaters that can deliver you sufficient heat but with benefits you won’t receive from a gas furnace.

Cal-West Air Conditioning can offer you heating installation in San Diego, CA of many different types of systems. Call us today to talk over what we can do to help you replace your hoary furnace with a heater that will keep you happy for many years.

A few alternative heating options

  • Electric furnaces: Because electricity costs more than natural gas, electric furnaces often get a bad reputation compared to gas furnaces. It’s true that an electric furnace is more expensive to run, but for a warm climate like San Diego, the actual increase in costs is minor because of the reduced amount of operation. Electric furnaces are common in Southern California because their lower installation cost and long lifespan usually offsets their operation costs. They also pose no threat of carbon monoxide leaking.
  • Heat pumps: These systems are immensely popular in Southern California because they combine a heater with an air conditioner, and they use very little power in heating mode—less than any type of furnace or boiler. Heat pumps can struggle with temperatures below freezing, so they never have trouble with San Diego, CA weather. And their air conditioning power is equal to that of a standalone AC of the same size.
  • Ductless mini splits: These are heat pumps with one important difference: they do not require ductwork to distribute air. Instead of using a single indoor unit hooked up the ventilation shafts, ductless systems have individual blower units (also called “terminal units”) installed in various rooms around the house, and they send cooled and heated air directly inside. Ductless systems work well for new construction, add-on rooms, or for a homeowner who wants to bypass the hassles and lowered air quality that come along with ductwork.

Professional installers will help you choose

Which replacement system will work best for you? It depends on your house and your budget plans. You’ll need to have skilled HVAC installers come to your home and perform a heat load calculation to find out the specific heating requirement of your home and talk with your about your options.

If you call on skilled technicians like those at Cal-West Air Conditioning, you’ll end up with the optimal new heating installation in San Diego, CA. Don’t guess when it comes to home comfort: call on the experts.

What Should I Look for in a New Heating System?

March 5th, 2014

If you have debated about installing a new heating system in your home, the change in the weather to the warmer season is one of the optimal periods of the year to schedule the work. Not only will you not have to worry about being stuck in the cold while the new heater is installed, but you will have an easy time finding a convenient appointment with a quality HVAC contractor.

If you do decide to go ahead with a new heating system installation in San Diego, CA, you’ll need some guidelines for what to look for in the replacement system. Our heating specialists at Cal-West Air Conditioning are ready to help you with selecting a system so you’ll end up with the heater that will do the best job for you. Call us today to set up an appointment.

Here are a few things to look for in a heating system:

  • AFUE, HSPF (and SEER): These sets of initials are specifications on heaters that inform you of how efficient the system is at converting energy to heat. AFUE is a percentage rating—the higher the percentage, the higher the efficiency—that appears on furnaces. Modern furnaces can range from 78%-98% AFUE. On heat pumps, heating efficiency is measured by HSPF, a whole number. Most heat pumps have HSPF of 9–10, with the higher number again meaning higher efficiency. SEER measures the cooling mode for a heat pump, so you should also take this into consideration if you are choosing a heat pump.
  • Fuel source: Depending on your home, you may have a narrower choice of heaters because of your available fuel supply. For homes without a natural gas line, you’ll need to focus on electric heaters or one that use heating fuel (propane, oil). If you have a natural gas line, you’ll have to decide what type of fuel will save you money while providing the heating level you want.
  • Longevity: Each heating system will have a manufacturer’s expected lifetime listed for it. These can range from 10–12 years to more than 20. A longer life expectancy is definitely desirable, but you will need to balance this out with other considerations, such as fuel efficiency, upfront cost, and the amount of maintenance and repairs the system may require.

The best choice for your new heating system is…

…Yet to Be Determined. There is no one-size-fits-all heating system; you need to know about your home’s heating needs and thing about your budget plans. To help you find the right system for you, talk to the specialists at Cal-West Air Conditioning. They can help you find the San Diego, CA heating that will meet all your needs.

Benefits of Air Balancing

February 26th, 2014

Air balancing is essentially a series of tests that help adjust the air flow in your vents and ductwork. This can prevent the sort of uneven heating and cooling that plagues some households. (For instance, you may notice that your upstairs rooms are warmer on average than your downstairs rooms, even with the furnace or air conditioning running.) In Escondido, heating the home unevenly can be a particular burden because our mild, consistent weather makes the inconsistency stand our all the more. An air balancing session from a qualified professional can help rectify that situation. But what, specifically, are the benefits of air balancing in Escondido, CA? Read on for the answers.

The process of air balancing is very thorough, with multiple tests gauging such factors as temperature, humidity level and air pressure. Testing takes place at each vent. With an eye on spotting where the system is performing as it should, and what steps need to be taken to address any imbalances. The technician can then draw up a plan of attack and perform any upgrades or adjustments necessary to address the weak spots in the system.

The benefits of that start with general comfort levels in your home. You won’t need to open or close vents to help make the temperature feel more balanced, or shudder with discomfort as you enter a room that is demonstrably warmer or colder than the one you just left. Most importantly, air balancing services will improve the overall efficiency of your HVAC system, making sure you get the most out the system and keeping monthly energy bills to a minimum. Air balancing can also help if you’re in the market for a new HVAC system: understanding your current system’s shortcomings and looking for a new unit that will hopefully address them.

Keeping in mind the benefits of air balancing in Escondido, the next step is to call someone who can perform the operation effectively. Cal-West Air Conditioning Inc. has considerable experience with air balancing and knows how to do the job right. In Escondido, heating and cooling services depend on professionalism and care. Call us today and let us show you what we can do for you!

Signs of Repairs for Your Zone Control System

February 17th, 2014

Whether you had zone control installed for your house, or it was already part of the house when you moved in, it’s probably one of your favorite things about where you live. In a climate like we have in San Diego, with a long warm and hot season and very mild winters, it’s helpful and economical to have control over what part of your home receives cooling and heating: you rarely need to heat the whole house, and when the air conditioner is working, you want to find ways to cut back on how much use it gets.

Zone control systems rely on mechanics and electronics, so they are susceptible to malfunctions that will require repairs. Because these systems are installed within your ducts and connected to complex digital thermostats, you must rely on zone control experts to take care of any repairs. Cal-West Air Conditioning has years of experience with air conditioning and heating repair in San Diego, CA, and that includes installation and repair of zone control systems. If you notice these signs of repair needs, contact us right away—any time of the day or night:

  • Uneven heating or cooling: The most obvious sign of something amiss in a zone control system is when you notice particular rooms are colder or hotter than they should be.  Check the thermostats first to see that you have them correctly set for the temperatures you want. If the thermostats seem correct, it’s possible that one of the dampers in the ductwork is damaged, stuck in an open or closed position.
  • Loud mechanical noises from the vents: If you detect groaning, scraping, or grating noises coming from the vents when the zone control system is working, it probably indicates trouble with one of the dampers that is making it difficult for it to open and close.
  • Temperatures are unresponsive to thermostat control: Whether it’s a local thermostat or the main thermostat, if changing the settings is not resulting in the temperatures you want to individual rooms, then something is possibly wrong with the circuitry or the thermostats. The thermostat network with the zone panel is far more complex than in a standard non-zone system, so multiple electric errors may be at fault. Zone control specialists can identify what needs fixing.

We hope that you had professional installation for your zone control system: this will not only make it less likely to malfunction, but it will also make professional repairs easier. At the first sign of problems, call professionals to diagnose the issue and provide targeted repairs so you’ll have the advantages of your zone control returned to you. Look to Cal-West Air Conditioning for installation of zone control systems, as well as quality cooling and heating repair in San Diego, CA.

The Original Valentine’s Day Greeting Cards

February 14th, 2014

It’s hard to imagine Valentine’s Day without the traditional greeting cards, whether accompanying a gift of flowers and candy, or sent between children in a school room. For commercial greeting card companies, February 14th is as important to them as the December holidays, Easter, and Mother’s Day.

Valentine’s Day as a celebration of romantic love predates printed greeting cards by a few centuries. In fact, the reason that sending romantic greeting cards became popular was because of the most un-romantic thing you can imagine: a reduction in postage rates.

In 1765, Parliament authorized the creation of “Penny Posts” that used a uniform rate of one old penny per letter throughout Great Britain and Ireland. Printers took advantage of the ease with which people could send letters to each other on Valentine’s Day by crafting cards with love poems on them. Many of these verses were collected in 1797 in the book The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which was a resource for the lover with a romantic soul but not the most confident poetry style.

By the mid-19th-century, the Valentine’s Day greeting card was flourishing across England. Although people still followed a tradition of creating handmade Valentine’s Day cards from lace, ribbons, and flowers, commercially produced cards now overtook them. In 1835, the English post office mailed 60,000 valentines. As production expenses dropped, the English card manufacturers branched out creatively with humorous and sometimes vulgar cards… many of which we would find startlingly familiar in the 21st century. One of the common jokes on these cards was to design them to look like marriage certificates or court summons.

Across the Atlantic, the United States was slower to embrace the popular British custom. It wasn’t until 1847 that a U.S. printer mass-produced greeting cards for Valentine’s Day. Only two years later, American journalists noted how rapidly people in the country had embraced the tradition, turning into a fad that has never died down. The woman who printed the first U.S. Valentine’s Day card, Esther Howland, is today recognized by the Greeting Card Association with the annual “Esther Howland Award for a Greeting Card Visionary.”

The greeting card industry certainly has reason to thank Ms. Howland. Her idea of going into business printing romantic greeting cards, which came to her after she received a traditional English valentine when she was 19 years old, now sells 190 million cards in the U.S. every year. That number doesn’t include the smaller exchange cards used in elementary school classrooms, which would swell the number to 1 billion. (Who receives the most Valentine’s Day cards each year? Teachers!)

Whether you send out Valentine’s Day cards—handmade, store-bought, digital—or not, we at Cal-West Air Conditioning hope you have a happy February 14th.

Why Consider Heat Exchanger Replacement in San Diego

February 5th, 2014

One of the most important components in a gas furnace is the heat exchanger, which resembles a metal clamshell and is located above the burner unit. The heat exchanger is essential for safely moving the heat from the combustion gas to the air that will enter your home’s ventilation system, sending the carbon monoxide into the exhaust flue and not into your warmed air.

Trouble with a heat exchanger is a serious issue that can lead to carbon monoxide exposure and even the hazard of explosions… so heat exchanger replacement is necessary when something goes wrong. You need to call professionals to safely perform the replacement and restore your furnace to normal working condition. Cal-West Air Conditioning can handle these repairs, as well as any replacement heating installation in San Diego, CA that you require.

When you need to replace the heat exchanger

The main problem that can afflict a heat exchanger is cracking. Because the heat exchanger expands and contracts as it heat and cools, its metal undergoes a great deal of stress. If cracks develop along the exchanger, they will widen as the metal expands, allowing combustion gas to escape.

Heat exchanger cracks are usually due to corrosion developing along the metal surface. Although a furnace does not use water to create heat like a boiler, the reaction between metal and combustion gas can eventually cause the exchanger to rust—especially if the furnace is venting incorrectly. If you notice rust on the outside of your gas furnace, call for repairs right away, because it means it is more likely the heat exchangers are in danger of cracking.

Other warning signs of a cracked heat exchanger: a pilot light that changes color, a clicking sound from the furnace cabinet before the blower fan starts, and higher levels of carbon monoxide in your home. (Make sure you have CO detectors installed in your home if you use a gas furnace.)

However, the best way to know if a heat exchanger needs replacement is to have regular maintenance for your furnace. A technician will catch venting problems as well as corrosion and know when the exchanger needs to be replaced before it becomes cracked.

If you have a furnace that’s been in service for 20 years or more, a cracked heat exchanger is usually a sign that the whole furnace should be replaced. It’s not only an issue of safety, but also of efficiency and general performance. Ask your repair technician if replacement is a better way to go than continuing repairs.

Do not hesitate about the heat exchanger

If you suspect you need to replace the heat exchanger, don’t wait! Shut off the gas to the furnace and call for professional repairs. Cal-West Air Conditioning is ready 24 hours a day for whatever repairs you need, and we also take care of new heating installation in San Diego, CA.