Winter Preparation: Tips on Optimizing Your Heating System

The colder the weather gets, the greater your indoor heating requirements become. An inefficient heating system can put a significant dent in your monthly utility budget. In this blog, heating and air conditioning repair service contractor Palo Alto shares tips on optimizing your heating system for winter.

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Palo Alto Plumbing

Keep Up With Scheduled Maintenance

One of the worst things that could happen in the winter is a heating system breakdown. We may not have below freezing temperatures in Palo Alto, but it can get very uncomfortable without heat. Depending on your heating system, it can take several days to complete repairs, especially if parts need to be ordered.

Take the preventive route by keeping up with scheduled heating maintenance. This enables your HVAC technician to spot minor problems and fix them before they develop into bigger ones. In addition to maintenance, have your air ducts professionally cleaned every three to five years.

Change the Air Filters

Air filters help maintain indoor air quality by trapping dust, pollen and other indoor air pollutants. They require replacement every few months, or as often as once a month if you happen to be located in a dusty area. Make it a point to inspect the air filters every month so if you’re not sure how often you should replace them. A dirty, clogged air filter can block airflow in the vents, which could place additional strain on your heating and cooling units that could result in high energy bills.

Don’t Shut Down Your Heating System

Instead of turning your heating system off when you leave the house, go ahead and leave it on, as this consumes less energy. The upcycling and downcycling stages use up more energy, which is why you should leave it on until it’s time to switch over to your air conditioner.

If you have a set daily routine, program your thermostat so the temperature drops by about 10 degrees or so when you leave the house, then goes back up again a few minutes before you return home. You can do the same at night, as lower temperatures are found to promote better sleep quality. You’ll probably sleep better overall anyway knowing you can save on your utility bills just by changing your daily heating habits!

Call Palo Alto for Your Heating and Air Conditioning Needs

Palo Alto is your leading provider of heating repair, maintenance and installation services. Give us a call at (650) 856-3400 or fill out our contact form. We serve customers in Palo Alto and nearby areas.

Top 4 Things to Know When Buying an Air Conditioner

Buying any appliance, especially an air conditioning unit, isn’t as simple as purchasing a pair of shoes or a dress. You don’t really get to know the unit until you’ve installed it, used it, and experienced its effects for a while.

What You Should Know Before You Replace Your A/C

Are you considering whether or not your air conditioner could stand to be replaced/? Maybe your A/c has quit working as efficiently, or you’re after a more energy efficient unit and and you think now might be a great time to get a replacement.  Or, maybe you’ve never thought twice about your A/C and have no idea what you should do.

Whatever your reason for considering upgrading your air conditioner, you’ll want to be prepared with the correct information before making a decision. Check out this handy post to ensure that you are making the right choice when it comes to A/C replacement.

Advice Before Replacing Your Air Conditioner

Advice Replace Air Conditioner

Still Have Questions? Call Us Today!

If you’re still unsure whether a new air conditioner is right for you, we can help. At Palo Alto Plumbing, Heating and Air, our goal is to save homeowners money with better energy efficiency, exclusive savings on services, as well as financing and rebates. We don’t want finances to stand in between you and your comfort at home! Call us today to get in touch with an A/C expert to learn more about the variety of options you have when it comes to upgrading your home’s cooling system: 650-856-3400.

How Important Is It To Get The Right Size Of Heating And Cooling Equipment?

When it comes to purchasing heating and cooling equipment for your home, you need to realize that size really does matter. Installing equipment with a capacity that matches the home’s size will decrease energy usage while improving comfort for you and your family.

Home builders these days are constructing more energy efficient homes. The installation of double-pane windows, weather-stripping, insulation and caulking reduce heat gain during the summer and heat loss during the winter. This allows homeowners to purchase and install smaller systems than they needed in the past without sacrificing comfort.

Anyone who thinks bigger is better when purchasing a heating and cooling system should think again. Purchasing something that is too big for the space is the most common HVAC sizing mistake consumers make. An oversize HVAC system will produce large temperature swings making it difficult to maintain comfort. It will not run long enough to remove all the moisture from the air, which makes it feel clammy. In addition to being uncomfortable, high humidity can promote mold growth, which is a health hazard.

Residential Load Calculation is the Manual J method of HVAC sizing created and recommended by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, or ACCA. Residential Duct Design is the Manual D method of HVAC sizing used when the system includes ducts.

Both manuals take into account a variety of factors that affect a home’s requirement for heating and cooling. These factors include the number of occupants, climate, house size, house shape, roof surface color, which way the house is oriented, air infiltration rates, the types of home appliances and lights giving off heat and ceiling, window and floor area.

An experienced estimator will calculate room volumes, estimate air leakage and check the R-value of the insulation. The process should include inspecting the condition of seals and insulation as well as duct distribution in a forced air system. The contractor should provide a written estimate for sizing the system, a contract and a written warranty on labor and equipment.

Purchasing the right size HVAC system is the best way to ensure your home is energy efficient and comfortable year round.

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Fans Or A/C – Which Is Better?

Fans may not be the most advanced piece of technology but they continue to be in use in our modern world. In fact, it is probably due to their simplicity that they still enjoy such immense popularity. They consist of a plastic or metal blade, a motor, a protective casing, and a few button controls. As long as electricity is applied to the motor, the attached blade will spin rapidly. This movement causes the air around the device flow quickly from the back to the front, thus increasing circulation. The blast of wind does not lower room temperature but it does promote evaporative cooling as sweat dries from skin.

Air conditioners, on the other hand, are more complicated machines that seem to keep on rising in sophistication. They are composed of a compressor, a condenser, condensing coils, evaporative coils, refrigerant, a thermostat, a control panel, air filters, tubing, and many other parts. Sometimes they come as a singular unit and at other times they are separated into interior and exterior units. They use heat transfer primarily through the refrigerant’s movement across the system to lower the temperature in a room or even an entire building. The air truly feels cold wherever you go in the confined space.

Although A/Cs offer superior comfort, their energy consumption leaves much to be desired. Assuming moderate use in a residential setting, people are likely to spend thousands of dollars per year in utility bills just to keep them running. This can be quite a burden for many who have other priorities to attend to. Fans, despite their limited cooling capabilities, consume a comparatively miniscule amount of energy. In fact, their contribution to the annual utility bills may not even reach a hundred dollars with extensive usage patterns.

In regions where heat never reaches an oppressive level, fans may well be enough to get people through the summer. However, there is a point at which no amount of air circulation will do. Having an air conditioner is still the best bet in most cases. Homeowners can have fans or A/C or both to get the comfort and the savings at the same time. The cooling effect of fans makes it possible to set the A/C temperature higher so that they consume less energy.

Call us for all of your heating and air conditioning needs.

Should I Replace Or Repair My Equipment?

It can be difficult to decide whether it is best for you to repair or replace your equipment. There are many factors you have to consider before you make your decision. Below is a guide that will help you decide whether it is best to repair or replace your equipment:

The Age

The age of your equipment is one of the things you will need to think about when you are asking yourself, “Should I replace or repair my equipment? If your unit was built prior to 1992, replacement is most likely the better option. While replacing the unit is more expensive than having it repaired, you can actually save money by getting it replaced.

Newer air conditioners and furnaces are more energy-efficient than the ones in the past. In fact, you may be able to save 20 percent on your electric bill if you get a new unit.

The Cost

The cost is something else you will need to consider when you are deciding whether it is best to repair or replace the unit. Experts recommend that you have your equipment replaced if it is older than three-fourths of its life expectancy, and the cost of repairing it is more than one-third of the cost of replacing it.

For example, the average air conditioner lasts 10 to 15 years. If your air conditioner is over 10 years old, and it will cost $1,000 to repair, you may want to have it replaced. Replacing your unit can not only help you save money, but it can also help keep you more comfortable in your home.

Deciding whether you should have your equipment repaired or replaced can be a difficult decision because each option has its pros and cons. The cost and the age of your equipment are two of the main factors you should consider when you are deciding whether to have your equipment repaired or replaced. It is also a good idea to have a qualified technician take a look at your equipment. Every situation is different, so it makes sense to call a professional. Call us for your home HVAC needs.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and How Can You Prevent It?

What Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning? Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that, when ingested in certain quantities, can result in illness and/or death. It’s extremely toxic and doubly dangerous because of its near-invisible nature, and is made from car and diesel engine exhaust, cooking fumes, charcoal, wood, and other combustible materials. When burned in enclosed spaces, the CO2 can build to toxic and even fatal levels. There are an average of 400 deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning each year.

Some symptoms of CO2 poisoning are headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, disorientation, and in high concentrations of the gas, unconsciousness. Many people can be suffering from the effects of the gas without knowing it until it’s too late. While anyone can be at risk for CO2 poisoning, those with upper respiratory problems, asthma, and heart disease are particularly susceptible. Infants and young children as well as seniors over 65 are much more vulnerable.
How can You Prevent It?
You can guard against toxic CO2 contamination with methods such as:1. Venting – make sure your ventilation system is clean and free of obstruction, so that gas doesn’t build in the home while you are cooking. Be sure to check your fireplace, ducts, chimneys, and pipes.
2. Have your heating/AC and water system inspected and checked annually.

3. Install a carbon monoxide detection alarm system in your home

4. Don’t burn coal, wood , or gas in any enclosed spaces without proper ventilation.

5. Do not use your oven or gas range/stovetop for indoor heating. This can also result in the very quick buildup of carbon monoxide gases, particularly in a camper or RV.

5. Never run the engine on any vehicle in an enclosed space, such as a garage with the door shut. Always open the door and allow air to circulate within the space and diffuse the CO2 effects. 6. Have a mechanic check your car exhaust system regularly. One tiny leak in your cooling or exhaust systems could result in toxic gas buildup in the cab of the vehicle. For more information about prevention and carbon monoxide safety, call us for all your HVAC and household needs. We’ll be happy to help you in any way we can.

Complying With Efficiency Standards Requires A Substantial Investment

Each year the U.S Department of Energy, also called the DOE, works with professionals in the HVAC industry to reduce the amount of energy and fuel wasted during the operation of HVAC equipment. This endeavor is one that benefits the environment, and homeowners benefit with deep savings on energy costs. The DOE has created HVAC Efficiency Standards to ensure that manufacturers of HVAC equipment comply by creating more energy efficient equipment.

An AFUE rating is the rating that determines how efficient a furnace is. Condensing furnaces are the only furnaces with an AFUE rating of 90. These furnaces are considered to be extremely efficient because this rating means a furnace only wastes 10 percent of the fuel required to operate it. The DOE has segmented northern states and has created a rule that enforces homeowners in states like New York to heat their homes with furnaces that have an AFUE rating of 90. This rule overrides the current minimum AFUE rating of 78 for combustion furnaces and was supposed to be enforced in the year 2013.

Though most homeowners jump on the opportunity to save money and to preserve the environment and natural resources, complying with this new HVAC Efficiency rating is a financial burden for homeowners. Many homes currently have combustion furnaces and the switch to a condensing furnace with an AFUE rating of 90 means making major modifications. A condensing furnace requires a different type of vent system, and many homes lack the appropriate architectural design and space to accommodate this new system. Making the necessary modifications means homeowners have to invest far more than just purchasing new equipment.

For some homeowners this money is just not in the budget, which will make it hard for them to comply with new efficiency standards. Due to the financial burden that many homeowners are unprepared to take on, experts in the HVAC industry have the new efficiency standard currently held up in court until a feasible plan can be established. Since the enforcement of this new rating is inevitable, many homeowners have decided to have their homes compliant before the rating is enforced. To discover the latest news on the raising of efficiency standards or to learn more about efficiency compliant furnaces contact a local HVAC contractor today.

Is Your HVAC System Protected From Power Surges?

A power surge is a brief spike in electricity voltage passing through the line. Household electronics may survive one power surge; however, hard-wired electronics are the first to suffer when a power surge occurs. Heat pumps, furnaces, boilers, and air conditioning units represent a major investment; therefore, just because they may withstand one power surge does not mean they can handle multiple others. All electrical appliances are designed to handle a specific voltage. Homeowners should therefore take reasonable steps to protect their HVAC systems from power surges.


Many different things can cause a power surge, and no home is immune to power surges. Some of the most common causes of power surges include:

• Electrical or lighting storms

• Faulty wiring

• Power outages

• Downed electric power lines

• Power plant maintenance operations

• Faulty electrical components


Power surges are random, and there is no way that one can evade or predict them. However, homeowners can take a few simple steps to protect their comfort systems from expensive damage. One is by securing the whole house at the point at which power is connected. Secondly, one can use a surge protector directly connected to the household appliance in use. Surge protectors work by grounding the additional voltage, thereby protecting the sensitive electronic devices. An HVAC surge protector will shut off the system to protect its electrical components.


Shutting the system down is what saves it from succumbing to the damaging effects of a power surge. Once the system shuts down, it is important to follow the right steps to restart it properly. Each heating and cooling system varies in terms of the booting procedure after a forced shut down. Some systems are easy to handle, but some might need someone with a bit of technological knowledge. The best way to handle a system reboot is to call an experienced and certified service technician for high quality HVAC maintenance.


In summary,as a homeowner you should understand that all homes are subject to spikes and surges; therefore, if you want to protect your home utilities, you need to invest in a good home power surge protection system. Your heating and cooling system is an investment worth protecting.

NATE Certification Provides An Additional Level Of Expertise

It’s not unusual for people to ask — what does NATE certified mean? After all, unless you are in the heating and cooling industry, chances are this is not something that you have come across. Fortunately, a simple explanation can help homeowners discover why NATE certification is important to the quality of HVAC service they receive.

What is NATE certification?

NATE certification is an important indicator of a HVAC technician’s commitment to ensuring the highest quality services possible. NATE certification requires that a service technician pass two separate tests. The first test is an examination of their understanding of basic tools, safety procedures, principles of electrical components, heat transfer and a variety of skills. In addition to requiring a passing grade of 70% on the core exam, NATE certification requires the technician to choose an area of concentration or specialization and pass an exam on this chosen field. This specialization can range from air conditioning or air distribution to commercial refrigeration or gas heating. With a concentration on a specific area of expertise, the HVAC technician is better able to provide expert services.

Why Choose NATE Certified Technicians?

Homeowners often wonder if it is important to choose NATE certified technicians. It can be hard to understand the benefits of this extra training and accreditation, especially since all heating and cooling technicians are required to be licensed before they can perform HVAC services. The difference between a licensed HVAC technician and a NATE certified technician is that one has made the decision to further their understanding of issues pertaining to the HVAC industry. NATE certified technicians are certainly required to be licensed and carry the appropriate insurance, but they have also taken their training and willingness to learn as much as possible about their chosen field to the highest level.

In addition to choosing a NATE certified technician for general repairs and service, it is important to consider how they can provide exceptional AC maintenance. It is recommended that all air conditioners be serviced at least once each year. This preventative maintenance inspection is the ideal time to make any necessary adjustments and ensure your cooling system will be able to handle another summer. Schedule your maintenance service today and take comfort in a more reliable and energy efficient air conditioner this summer.