Frequently Asked Questions

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Air Conditioning

I recently noticed that there is mold on my vents. What is causing that? And how do I fix it?

Microbial growth on vents most often occurs when the temperature of the vent drops below the temperature of the surrounding air, causing condensation. This condition can be caused by:

Low evaporator air flow from poor duct design, high-resistance filters, dirty filters or lack of maintenance. If the airflow is reduced, the supply air is colder than per system design and metal vents can easily get below the dewpoint of the room air.

Excess indoor water vapor in the indoor air can also contribute to excessive condensation on vents. Be sure and run bath and kitchen exhaust fans intermittently, and try limiting use of the clothes dryer to the morning and evening hours to keep induced infiltration of water vapor to a minimum.

We recommend having the HVAC system professionally cleaned and performance-tested to be sure the correct quantity of air is in circulation by the fan and that the system is draining condensate properly.

What does SEER mean?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Simply put, it is a standardized measurement for the overall operating efficiency of an air conditioning system. The higher the system's SEER rating, the more efficient it is at converting energy into air cooling.

My outside A.C. unit which controls my upstairs stopped working and I checked outside to find ice on the bottom part of the unit. I hosed it down to melt the ice and waited a couple of hours. When I turned back on the outside unit fan kicked in but I am getting no action in the house fan or AC. Is there a reset switch?

There are 2 things that cause this: First, it freezes up for only two reasons. One is low on refrigerant and the other is usually your indoor blower is not working, which sounds like your issue. The blower motor itself could have failed or it could be a number of other problems causing your issue. The system needs to be diagnosed to be sure of the real problem. There is no reset, and I would recommend you have us come out today and don’t try to open the system and check yourself, as sometimes that can cause more issues. Also, turn off the system, as it will just freeze up again and could potentially harm your outdoor unit and compressor.

My AC unit, whether cooling or heating, clicks at the thermostat like it is starting cycle when the temperature is reached to start. However, the air handler blows and stops, blows and stops continuously. The outside unit (compressor) does not start.

A safety switch in the furnace typically is the cause of the air handler blowing and stopping like yours does. If something malfunctions during the ignition of the furnace, there is a safety that turns off the gas valve and turns the fan on to cool the heat exchanger down. It differs between manufacturers, but sometimes after the fan runs for a short while it cycles everything off, then tries the ignition sequence again. If it malfunctions again, it will repeat the cycle.


What does AFUE mean?

AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. Simply put, AFUE represents a thermal efficiency ratio between the amount of heat produced for the amount of fuel used by a piece of heating equipment such as a boiler, furnace or water heater. A higher AFUE percentage means higher efficiency.

We just had our limit switch replaced two days ago, and we have the heat set on 70 but there is cold air coming from the vents. Plus the fan runs constantly until I have to reset it. Our maintenance guy said everything should be fine and that he will be out again in the spring for our annual checkup.

The limit switch on your heating unit goes off if something gets too hot. Usually that means that there isn’t enough airflow through the system to push out the heat. First, I would suggest checking your filter to make sure it is clean and fits snugly. If that doesn’t solve the problem, call your contractor back to double-check that the correctly-sized limit was installed. If your contractor is not helpful, you need to consider getting a second opinion from a reputable HVAC contractor, like

My heating is not working in the downstairs but the upstairs is working fine. Do you know what’s wrong? The heating system or the thermostat?

It is normal for a two story home with one system that is not zoned to be warmer upstairs. If the downstairs is not heating at all there could be issues with the thermostat location, return air location and/or size, or capacity. I would suggest contacting an HVAC professional, such as your local team.

What is that burning smell when I turn on my electric heat for the first time each year?

In many warm weather markets, such as in Florida, homes may use electric heating strips to generate heat. During long periods in between uses, dust can collect on the heating surface. It is this dust burning off the heating strips that causes the smell. While this is a common occurrence, if you have any concerns, contact a professional, such as

Indoor Air Quality

Can a UV light be effective without the installation of a humidifier?

Ultraviolet (UV) light is used in a in some conventional air conditioning systems to control the bacteria on the surface of the evaporator coil. The UV radiation is very effective at killing a wide range of pathogens with or without a humidifier. Be aware, however, that you should never look at the blue light. Your best option is to contact a professional HVAC contractor to assist you.


I saw there are some new water heater regulations. Do I have to do anything to my current water heater?

Since the new standards announced by the Department of Energy apply to new, residential water heaters, you likely won't be affected until you buy your next new water heater. Click here for full details on DOE's new energy conservation standards.

While you don't necessarily have to discard your old water heater immediately, if your water heater isn't meeting your needs or is 8 to 10 years old or older, it may be time to consider purchasing a new, more efficient tank or tankless water heater. To find out more about installing a new water heater, click here.

What is a home plumbing inspection and why would I need one if nothing's wrong?

Most people don't think about their plumbing until there's a problem. During a plumbing maintenance inspection, an experienced plumber will check all the major plumbing systems in the home, including, but not limited to, the water heater, water pressure, backflow, supply lines, drains, faucets & fixtures, toilets and even sump pumps or sewer ejectors. Annual inspections are important for identifying problems or potential problems before they turn into expensive or inconvenient headaches.

Foul smell (sewer) outside of house and close garden by front door. What sort of problem could it be?

There are several reasons a foul odor may be lingering outside your home. Here are a few things to check out. It could be a crack in a sewer line or maybe your septic tank is open. Another thing to look at is, do you have a yard based septic vent? This is a vital piece of plumbing equipment, because it is used to reduce the amount of pressure build-up in the drain system. Basically, it helps equalize the pressure in the lines.

My garbage disposal won't turn on. I ground up a mini salt spoon, got it out, and made sure there wasn't any of it left in the disposal. I tried to reset the red button on the bottom of the unit. I hear the motor and then it goes off. I tried to hold that red button for a length of time. I tried not holding it. Can you recommend a solution?

When the reset button on your sink garbage disposal unit does not correct the problem with a garbage disposal, often there is still something stuck in the garbage disposal. Sometimes you will find that the only way to fix the disposal is to take it apart. Most garbage disposals will come apart so that you can get to the blades and the rotating plate. If taking it apart and removing whatever is clogging it doesn't work, most likely you will need a new garbage disposal.

Sewer & Water Line

Can you tell me what a lateral problem is in regards to the sewer outside? Is that a serious and/or expensive problem?

Your lateral is your sewer pipe that runs from your home to the city connection or a septic tank. In order to determine the source of your problem, I recommend having your sewer lateral video inspected to see if you have any offset joints, inadequate grade or slope, or complete separations. These repairs can be costly, but you do have options as these repairs can be completed using the trenchless method (pipe bursting) or CIPP (cured in place pipe), aka pipe lining.

I’m not sure if this a problem but I’ve been noticing that when the dishwasher or washing machine or even when the shower is running, the toilets bubble and act like they are going to overflow when flushed, but they don’t. What could be the problem?

When you have this kind of reaction with your toilets when an appliance or shower is draining, there could be a partial obstruction in the drain or sewer in your house or apartment. There also could be a partial obstruction in the vent stack that is not keeping the vent from doing its job to maintain atmospheric pressure within the drain waste and vent system. My recommendations are to cable the lines and have the vent stack and building drain video inspected to ensure the integrity of the systems are up to code.

Attic Insulation

How much attic insulation will I need for a 2,000 square foot home?

Insulation is installed by either batts or preformed blankets, blown-in or a combination thereof. The actual recommended amount will vary based on your home's unique needs, but a general rule of thumb may be around R-38 to R-50. If you are adding to existing attic insulation, then the insulation R values add together to achieve the desired number. For example, if you currently have R-20 insulation in your attic, adding R-30 will result in a total value of R-50. For more specific information and for more ways to use your attic to save on heating and cooling bills, contact a reputable insulation company such as Efficient Attic Systems®.