What Causes Hot and Cold Spots?

December 12th, 2014

Uneven heating has been the bane of homeowners since the advent of heating systems. Hot and cold spots are uncomfortable, often difficult to get rid of, and seem to show up out of nowhere for no reason at all. Though hot and cold spots may seem infuriatingly intractable, there are a few things you can do to address them. First, it helps to understand where they come from.


Hot and cold spots have a few different causes that often factor into their creation. The first of these is simple forced air system operation. As it turns out, forced air systems are not normally all that efficient at regulating temperature evenly. In the case of heating, the heater will be hampered by warm air’s natural tendency to rise.

When a forced air system pumps heat into a room, the warm air will rise to the ceiling. This prevents the room from heating up quickly, at least in the areas that people are actually going to occupy. As the air cools, it sinks to the floor of the room. The result is a striation of both hot and cold spots in the same room, making it very uncomfortable for the room’s occupants.

Another common cause of hot and cold spots is the combination of thermostat placement and poor insulation. No home can be perfectly insulated, of course. As soon as your system turns off, the home will begin to equalize with the outside world from the outside in. If you have poor insulation, this will happen much faster. That, combined with thermostat placement, can result in wide temperature swings.

Essentially, the thermostat turns your heating system off once it senses the correct temperature. The problem is that the thermostat can only monitor the temperature in the room it is installed in. This is often in an interior area of the house, to keep the climate as consistent as possible. So, the outer rooms will cool off much faster and remain cold until the room with the thermostat begins to cool off.

If you are experiencing hot and cold spots, call Cal-West Air Conditioning to schedule service with our heating professionals in San Diego.

Why Sizing Your Heater Is Important

December 5th, 2014

A lot of homeowners are quite surprised by the sheer scope of options when they first begin shopping for heating systems. There are tons of different heating methods, energy efficient ratings, and fuel types that need to be considered when picking a system that’s right for you. One thing that a lot of homeowners, and even some professionals, don’t consider before installing a system is making sure that it is properly sized for the home. A lot of people fall into the “bigger is better” trap when choosing a heating system, and that can lead to some serious issues. Let’s take a look at why properly sizing your heater is important.


If you’ve ever noticed your heating system turning on and off rapidly throughout the day, that’s called short-cycling. It is caused by the heater control circuit shutting the heater down to prevent damage from overheating. When the control circuit registers internal temperatures above the set safety standards, it shuts the heater down. Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the problem that is causing the overheating in the first place. After the heater has cooled a bit, it starts up again, exceeds the safety limit again, and the process keeps repeating. This constant start-stop cycling vastly increases wear and tear on the system, makes it work harder than it is designed to work, and lessens the heating efficiency of the unit.

While this issue can be caused by legitimate overheating, it also happens to oversized heaters. The increased heat output from the larger heater triggers the same response from the control circuit, which has no way of knowing that the heater is not actually overheating.

Poor Heating Ability

On the opposite end of the spectrum, installing a system that is too small for your home results in a whole other set of problems. Heaters that are too small are often incapable of heating your home to the correct temperature. They simply lack the heat output to warm a space that large. This causing the heater to run for much longer than it should, as it constantly tries to reach the target temperature. This is just as bad for the system as short-cycling, and will cause the system to breakdown more often and die prematurely.

If you’re not sure what size heater you need, call Cal-West Air Conditioning. We offer heating installation services throughout San Diego.

Why Hire a Professional to Help with Heating Installation?

December 2nd, 2014

It may seem as though heating installation is a job that anyone can complete with a little studying and hard work. Simply hook up the parts, make a few adjustments, and turn on the thermostat, right? Actually, heating installation does not involve the same type of process as installing just any appliance. When you set up a television, for example, there’s not much risk involved (unless you should accidentally drop it). With heating installation, there’s far more at risk.

First, if your heater is not properly installed, you may not get the heating capacity you need. Any type of heating system, from furnaces to heat pumps and even boilers, must be of a certain size according to the number of people in a home, the amount of windows you have, any insulation in the home, and many other factors as well. If it is not properly sized, it will take too long to heat the home, or it will heat it up too quickly. When a heater is too small, it will have to run for much longer, taking up your energy bills and wearing down parts. A system that is too small will frequently start and stop, which could also take its toll on the motor.

Furthermore, you want to choose a technician who knows the proper procedures for reasons of safety. With a furnace, you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or gas leaks. A trained technician will fully inspect the system after installation to ensure not only proper operation but also the most secure system possible.

A heating professional can also offer you additional features during installation, such as zone control or a new thermostat. If you get zone control for your home during installation, you can adjust the temperature in different areas of the home separately, to keep everyone more comfortable wherever they are in the house. A new programmable thermostat may be more accurate than your older one and can save you a lot of money through the years.

Contact the friendly professionals at Cal-West Air Conditioning to find out about our heating services in San Diego. Give us a call today!

Will Thanksgiving Turkey Really Make You Sleepy?

November 26th, 2014

We’ve all heard it before: you feel so sleepy after a Thanksgiving meal because of the main event: the turkey. For years, people have credited extraordinary levels of tryptophan in turkey as the reason we all feel the need to nap after the annual feast. But contrary to this popular mythology, tryptophan is probably not he largest responsible party for your post-meal exhaustion.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means it’s something that our bodies need but do not produce naturally. Your body uses tryptophan to help make vitamin B3 and serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that sends chemicals to the brain to aid in sleep. But in order to get this essential amino acid, we have to eat foods that contain it.

Turkey has somewhat high levels of tryptophan, but so do many other foods, including eggs, peanuts, chocolate, nuts, bananas, and most other meats and dairy products. In fact, ounce-for-ounce cheddar cheese contains a greater amount of tryptophan than turkey. In order for tryptophan to make you feel sleepy, you would have to consume it in excessive amounts, and serotonin is usually only produced by tryptophan on an empty stomach.

The truth is, overeating is largely responsible for the “food coma” many people describe post-Thanksgiving. It takes a lot of energy for your body to process a large meal, and the average Thanksgiving plate contains about twice as many calories as is recommended for daily consumption. If anything, high levels of fat in the turkey cause sleepiness, as they require a lot of energy for your body to digest. Lots of carbohydrates, alcohol, and probably a bit of stress may also be some of the reasons it feels so satisfying to lay down on the couch after the meal and finally get a little bit of shut-eye.

If you feel the need to indulge in a heaping dose of tryptophan this year, go ahead! Turkey also contains healthy proteins and may even provide a boost for your immune system. Here at Cal-West Air Conditioning, we hope your Thanksgiving is full of joy and contentment this year. Happy feasting!

What Is a Flame Sensor and Why Is It Important?

November 14th, 2014

Combustion systems have a number of safety devices on them to ensure that the unit is operating properly. Every safety mechanism is important, but it is particularly important that the combustion in the system is monitored. One of the safety mechanisms that helps monitor the combustion is the flame sensor. Flame sensors are an important component when it comes to heating If you are experiencing any issues with your heat, call the people you can trust: Cal-West Air Conditioning.

How Does a Flame Sensor Work?

Similar to thermocouples, flame sensors are comprised of two strips of differing metal. The strips are soldered together at one end and when the encasing is heated, an electrical volt is produced; the hotter the flame, the higher the voltage. This voltage lets the main control system know that a flame is present and viable.

What Does the Flame Sensor Do?

The flame sensor is part of the safety circuit in your system. It indicates to the furnace whether or not a flame is present. If a flame isn’t present, or isn’t strong enough, the flame sensor sends a signal to the central control system of your furnace. The control system manages the opening and closing of the main gas valve. If the flame in the last burner hasn’t ignited, or isn’t burning strongly enough, the central control system will close the main gas valve as a safety precaution.

Why Are Flame Sensors Important?

Flame sensors are necessary because they prevent the burner from being flooded with excess gas that could potentially explode.

Can a Flame Sensor Break?

The most common problem seen with a flame sensor is that it can become dirty. When it becomes dirty, its ability to read the flame is inhibited and can result in faulty readings that turn off the gas in the system. A second problem seen with flame sensors is positioning. Sometimes the sensor can shift, which affects its ability to properly read the flame.

Combustion heating systems are safe because of the many mechanisms with which they are equipped. If you are experiencing an issue with the safety mechanisms on your heating system, call Cal-West Air Conditioning today to schedule heating service in San Diego.

Common Causes of Heating Problems

November 7th, 2014

No one enjoys firing up their heating system for the first time of the season only to find their heater isn’t working. This doesn’t mean you should diagnose your heating system yourself; leave that to the experts. Rather, there are some common causes of heating repairs to be aware of should a problem develop with your system. If you are experiencing a heating problem in San Diego, call for a trained and certified technician from Cal-West Air Conditioning and schedule an appointment for repair.

Common Causes for Problems with Your Heating

Your System Has a Dirty Air Filter

It may seem like a dirty air filter shouldn’t cause that much trouble, but it does. The job of the air filter is to stop dust, dirt and debris from entering your system. When the filter becomes too clogged, it can’t trap these items, allowing them to build into a layer in your ductwork and on your components. A clogged air filter can also restrict air flow, which puts stress on your system.

You Didn’t Schedule Maintenance

It is strongly recommended that you schedule annual maintenance for your heating system. Why? An annual maintenance visit is the equivalent of a full tune-up for your system, and includes safety and performance testing. The technician will also do a thorough inspection of your system which helps the technician detect any existing or developing problems. Maintenance allows your system to run optimally, which means better energy efficiency and comfort for you and your home.

Your Thermostat Is Faulty

Thermostats are the instruments that cue your heating system to stop and start, and if yours is malfunctioning or failing, it can affect your home’s heating. Dirt and dust on the inside of a thermostat can affect how the instrumentation works, so it’s important to make sure the inside is clean. Wires inside a thermostat can corrode, fray or disconnect, which affects the operation of the thermostat. In some cases, a thermostat may need replacing.

Heating problems are a nuisance, but they don’t have to be a nightmare when you have the right assistance. If you are experiencing issues with your heating system, call Cal-West Air Conditioning for heating repair service in San Diego today.

What Is the Heat Exchanger In Your Furnace?

October 24th, 2014

Your furnace generates a great deal of heat for your home through the workings of several important components. One of these components is the heat exchanger. The heat exchanger allows the heated air from the furnace to enter your home, while exhausting the dangerous fumes that are created during the combustion process. Without the heat exchanger, toxic gases like carbon monoxide would enter directly into your living spaces. We’ll explain below how the heat exchanger in your furnace works. Remember that for all your heating needs in San Diego, Cal-West Air Conditioning has the trained technicians ready to help you 24/7, so call us for all your heating repair needs.

How the Heat Exchanger Works

The heat exchanger is a component made of medium-sized metal tubes that are open at both ends. When ignition occurs, the heat exchanger is heated from the inside via one of the openings; the other opening vents the toxic products (gases, soot) from the combustion process out the flue. Once the heat exchanger reaches the temperature necessary to heat your home, the furnace’s blower blows air between and over the heat exchanger to warm your home.

Cracked Heat Exchanger

Heat exchangers are constantly expanding and contracting due to the varying temperatures to which they are exposed. While they are made of very durable steel, it is not uncommon, particularly with aging systems, to have a heat exchanger crack. Cracked heat exchangers can be very dangerous, as the toxic fumes from inside a chamber can co-mingle with the air that is blown into your home, potentially exposing you and your family to gases like carbon monoxide. The best way to make sure that your heat exchanger is in good condition is to schedule annual maintenance. During a routine maintenance visit, your entire burner assembly is inspected, including the heat exchanger; if any issues are present, you’ll be notified so that you can schedule repair.

The heat exchanger in your system is one of the key components that helps keep you warm during the winter months. Don’t take the risk of running your heating system with a heat exchanger that may be faulty due to a lack of maintenance. Call Cal-West Air Conditioning today and make an appointment for heating service in San Diego with one of our specialists.

Common Furnace Repairs

October 17th, 2014

Furnaces are the most common kind of forced air system available, occupying the majority of homes in the U.S. With so many people using furnaces in their homes, a pattern starts to emerge regarding the maintenance issues that a lot of them face.

Below you’ll find some of the most common furnace repairs, and what you should do about them.

Dirty Air Filters

A dirty air filter is an extremely common and easy to replace issue with furnaces. It is recommended that you change your air filter at least once a month, but some people either don’t know or don’t think it’s that big of a deal. While not a big problem itself, a bad air filter can cause a whole host of problems in other areas of the furnace, some of which can be life threatening. Possibly the most dangerous side effect of a dirty air filter is a cracked heat exchanger, which can vent poisonous combustion gases into your home. So, if you haven’t changed your air filter in a while or don’t know how, call an HVAC professional right away.

Pilot Light/Burner Issues

The pilot light is a continuously burning flame at the bottom of your furnace. This flame lights the burners, which keeps your furnace lit and consuming fuel. If your pilot light goes out, your furnace won’t have any way to turn on. Similarly, if your burner is dirty or broken your furnace will not light either. A burner can suffer a partial decrease in efficiency, leading to your furnace struggling to produce enough heat. A pilot light, by contrast, often simply blows out.

Gas Imbalance

An imbalance in the gas flow to your furnace can cause cold spots or sudden stops in your heating cycle. This is usually caused by the valve not being set properly, or occasionally a blockage in the gas line. You will definitely need a professional to fix this for you. Tampering with the gas line without expert knowledge is dangerous and not recommended.

If your furnace seems to be having problems, call Cal-West Air Conditioning. We conduct heating repairs all over San Diego.


How Do Dirty Components Affect My Heating System?

October 10th, 2014

It’s normal for your system to accumulate dirt and dust during operation. But if these particles are allowed to build-up, they can form a layer on your heating system’s components that may reduce performance quality and lead to heating repairs. Scheduling annual maintenance can help to greatly reduce the effects of dirt and dust on your components, but if you are in need of repair, make an appointment with a trained and certified Cal-West Air Conditioning technician today.

Effects of Dirty Components

Dirty components can have several negative effects on your system. First and foremost, dirty components affect the overall operation of your heating system. This is because a layer of dirt and dust can clog components, increase friction, and affect how sensors work. Here are some examples of how dirt and dust can affect specific components:

  • Heat exchanger – if a heat exchanger is covered in a layer of dirt and/or dust, the transfer of heat can be compromised. This can result in a decrease of warm air, and longer and more stressful operation of your system as your furnace struggles to reach the set temperature.
  • Clogged/dirty air filters – your heating system was made to operate with a specific, steady flow of air. A dirty air filter can seriously restrict the flow of air in your system, putting stress on the entire system. A heating system that operates for a long period of time under stressful conditions can prematurely age and experience more frequent breakdowns.
  • Ball bearings and other moving parts – there are a number of small components that are in constant motion during operation. These parts need to stay lubricated so that they can move freely. Dust and dirt in these components can reduce or even eliminate the effect of lubrication and cause friction to develop.

Maintenance Can Help Prevent These Problems

During a routine maintenance appointment, your system and its components are cleaned, lubricated and adjusted as needed. This keeps them clean and in good working order.

No matter what the issue may be, repairs should never wait. If you are experiencing problems with your heating system, call Cal-West Air Conditioning today and schedule heating repairs in San Diego with one of our experts.

Why It’s Important to Schedule Heating Maintenance

October 3rd, 2014

Our temperatures may be perfect right now, but cool weather is right around the corner. There’s nothing worse than having your heater fail you on that first chilly day, and one of the best ways to avoid this scenario is to schedule heating maintenance. Hiring a professional to perform maintenance offers you a number of benefits, and this time of year offers a perfect window of opportunity to schedule a maintenance appointment. If it’s been more than 12 months since your last maintenance appointment, call Cal-West Air Conditioning today.

Reasons to Schedule Maintenance

Here are a few reasons why it’s important to schedule heating maintenance:

  • Increase energy efficiency – a system that is worn and dirty can’t run at the efficiency level it was made to; as such, it will use more energy to achieve your set temperature. During maintenance, your system and its components are cleaned, adjusted and lubricated, which helps the system run optimally.
  • Prevent repairs – the technician performing the maintenance will thoroughly inspect your system; this allows the technician to detect any existing or developing problems with your system. Being able to get ahead of repairs before they can blossom into large and potentially costly ones is good for your system and your wallet.
  • Better comfort – a system that is struggling to work due to wear-and-tear will have a lot of trouble achieving the set temperature in your home. A system that has been properly maintained won’t. This can help improve your comfort.
  • Extend the life of your system – a system that works under stress for long periods of time ages prematurely. When your system is in good working order, as it can be after a maintenance appointment, your system doesn’t age prematurely and can last longer.
  • Safety – for those with heating systems that work via combustion, safety checks are part of the maintenance appointment. The technician will check for cracks in the equipment, and test for things like carbon monoxide.

Heating maintenance involves a lot more than most people realize, and it’s all for the benefit of you and your system. If you need to schedule fall heating maintenance in San Diego, call Cal-West Air Conditioning today!