Hot Upstairs – Freezing Downstairs – and Annoyed?

So were they...until they called us!

Here’s something you may not know: the ideal temperature deviation from your home’s thermostat to other areas throughout is three degrees.

That’s not what the eight-member Cannon Family in Roselle was experiencing! They found us through IMS, a trade publication and had us over to discuss comfort issues with their home’s HVAC delivery. We found that the uniform temperature they hoped to achieve in warm months (for example, opting for 78 degrees throughout) measured closer to 90 degrees in second floor bedrooms and 66 in the newly added basement sleeping rooms. That led to sheet covered but still sweating sleepers upstairs with multi blanketed, freezing family down under.

After testing the ductwork to see what air temperatures the system was delivering, we looked at other challenges the home’s air conditioning was facing (i.e. windows, insulation, etc.). That information, along with a measured floor plan was fed into a computer model to perform a load calculation. Because the results show the exact amount of air needed to turn uncomfortable rooms into livable, this analysis was essential for developing a proper battle plan. The solution was presented and these problems were corrected:

(1) Ductwork which was not only undersized, but installed on exterior, uninsulated walls.

We were able to add a large supplemental trunk line up through aligning closets and walls into the attic – sealing all joints and connections up there as well insulating with a greater than recommended duct wrap. (We used R-8).  From that location, we were able to break off the line and add supplies, sized by the computer model, into each bedroom. As the supplies were ceiling mounted and seamlessly integrated, there would be no need to patch or repaint.

(2) Bring on even more air.

In a second upper bedroom we added a large supplemental return duct which we branched from an adjacent room.  This allowed more air to be brought into the furnace.  In 90% of these cases we see there is a high static attributed to the return side.  Reducing this static pressure enables your equipment, including the ductwork, to work at its best.  Kind of like reducing blood pressure – or stress.

(3) Comforting those in the basement bedrooms.

We installed the proper adjustable dampers to help reduce the cold airflow in those rooms.

And the end result?  Rooms which were now within two degrees of the thermostat setting.  Follow up conversation with our customer was positive!  They were pleased with the process: from John’s recommendations and detailed reports, to quick scheduling, to our friendly, polite crew who communicated well and was able to finish the job earlier than anticipated, to our retesting showing that the system was now up to speed.  Although Mrs. Cannon says she feels the best referrals are word of mouth – and she’ll be happy to pass our name along - she was preparing to review us online before we beat her to it with our quality assurance phone call.  The homeowners mentioned they recently had some driveway work done, and said their experience with Corcoran Heating and Air Conditioning was “night and day” when compared to the other contractor.

We’re glad to hear it – and pledge to Keep Up the Good Work. - If you are ready to get this same level of performance and engineering for you home and want to learn more click the link below!

Reducing “stress” on your HVAC equipment this spring.

With spring finally starting to approach it is a wonder just how hot it may get this summer. Will we have a overly hot summer, or more milder temps? Hard to say, but after this last winter my money is on the long hot summer.

With April being a month dedicated to stress awareness I thought what better way than to look at something you may not expect would suffer from stress. Your indoor comfort is directly affected by the stress your HVAC equipment and ductwork will be up against this spring and summer. To help reduce the stress on not only your equipment but on your sanity and pocket book here are some steps to take.

Change or clean your filter.

One of the simplest and cheapest ways to help directly reduce the stress your equipment will be facing. These long cold winters keep our houses closed up and furnaces running constantly. Spring cleaning is the perfect time to get your filters checked, changed, or cleaned.

Beware of overly price filters that promise high capture rates without doing your research. If you have a 1” filter we recommend the fiberglass disposable and addressing allergy concerns with RGF lights. For 5” filters you should stick with Honeywell or Air Bare filters. And for most electronic models they require a thorough cleaning every 1-3 months depending on your space. Some of the newer models require cleaning and replaceable filters that need to be changed regularly.

Uncover your units

OK, first off it is rare that we would ever tell you to cover your units. Certain locations and commercial locations, but typically outdoor units are built to be outdoors. The problem with covering them is that they make a great home for a local family of mice or rodents. Rodents who like to snack on the insulation of wiring inside the condensing units.

Unblock your vents

Thankfully it is time for spring cleaning which means decluttering and cleaning things out. We recommend by starting with things that have piled over supply and return vents. The easier the air can move through a system the less stress on the unit, and the overall happier with your equipment you will be. The necessary stress has many monetary issues as well. If you do want to close vents in rooms you do not use, check to see if there is a damper in the ductwork as opposed to just closing the grill. Switching the dampers in the majority of cases better diverts airflow at the source.

Once it gets a bit warmer, clean the coils

Taking a hose to your outdoor units at home or at work is a bring stress reliever for your equipment. The outdoor coils are vital for the transfer of heat from inside to outside. Which is what makes air conditioning a reality. These outdoor coils have many small groves air must travel through. Grooves perfectly sized to get packed with derbies, pollens, and vegetation. The more build up on the equipment the worse off the system will be.

Now these are all things you can do yourself, and we do recommend it. We also recommend that you get things looked at professionally once a year. During a professional inspection and efficiency adjustment we can ensure the equipment is on the right track for the upcoming season. As well as point out ways that you can improve on comfort and system performance. We are excited to show those savvy clients interested how to get the most out of their systems this summer.  Just give us a call!

Technical Corner: Why De-Humidify?

Many clients ask this question during the oft en rainy late spring and early summer. They want to know not only if they should be running de-humidifiers, but what are the risks if they do not and which systems and settings are the best. Good questions, so why not delve into the matter right now so that everyone can benefit from our suggestions?

Fact is: our area is wet. Most home-owners who have basements and crawlspaces have either experienced flooding, know some-one who has, or are worried about it. No, this article is not about flooding but mentioning it is an important reminder of how much water our homes and other buildings are up against. Where there is water, heat, and stagnant air – there is higher humidity. Structures with sump pumps, floor drains, flooding potential and hosts of other water sources such as washing machines and lower level bathrooms face high humidity levels and the potential of related issues.

Our recommendations: The easiest solution is to run a small portable plug in model in an area of multiple mechanical or water sources. Based on the model, you can set the desired humidity point and fan speed. may be a little greedy, but I have a lot of ground water, and am happy with the results thus far).  If the unit can be put in an area near a ground drain – all the better as most come with (garden) hose adaption options which can be run to it along the floor. If not, other units are available with water capture containers which stop the de-humidifier from running when the water reaches a certain level and will restart aft er being emptied. When shopping for one of these portables, know your basement’s square footage and look for a unit with adequate coverage. Also look for one which not only handles the basement square footage, but performs with low electrical usage.

For more extreme humidity issues there are whole house de-humidifier options. The same companies that bring you humidifiers will most likely have a full line of ductable de-humidifiers. These units interlock with your current air handling equipment and are ducted to condition specific areas of concern. We can get into more details on these if your situation requires.

O.K. How long should we run de-humidifiers and what if we don’t? The answers are easy: all rainy season, and all summer long. If not, that musty odor caused by high humidity hangs around, as does an ideal environment for mold to grow. It’s frightening to know that it only takes as little as forty-eight hours, some water, and a food source to cultivate breeding ground for a great crop of this not only pesky and odorous, but potentially health risky crop of troublesome mold.

If you have other questions we haven’t covered or concerns about your specific situation, feel free to give us a call. Or – ask our technician when he is out doing your annual maintenance.

Also make sure to Google your de-humidifier model number along with the word “recall” to ensure your model has not been recalled. There are a large number of portable units that have been recalled due to potential fire risks.

The Great Thermostat Debate

Question: “John, Now that you have installed this wonderful new system, where the heck do I set the thermostat?”

Now, I must preface my following answer with the fact that at the end of the day everyone is different. I can however explain how the system was designed in an effort to better understand where you might want to set your thermostat.

The number one question I get following an installation or duct modification is always, “where should I set this thing?”. My answer is always based on what the system was designed for and what we agreed was the most important problems we are overcoming with our changes.

When we sit down together and design the perfect system we start by understanding what is wrong with your existing set-up. We will list the pains you are currently facing which are typically uneven room temperatures, noise, indoor air quality, and how you live in your home. The most common solutions for those problems lie not only in the new equipment itself, but also in the duct modifications and thermostat settings.

If part of the solution involved investing in staged equipment with variable speed motors the best bet is to set the thermostat with the fan in the “ON” position. What this will accomplish is allowing the variable speed fan motor to ramp up and down as it is needed. This is similar to using your accelerator in your car. As your furnace idles it will move the air at a slow and even speed continually circulating the air. And as it needs heating and cooling it will ramp up accordingly. This setting will also ensure that you are continually filtering the air 24/7. This is a great feature for my clients with allergies.

Now you must be aware that this will incur added electrical costs, however the newer motor is not going to need as much energy to run as the older system. This means at the end of the day you are still ahead of the electrical company.

For my clients who purchased furnaces that are not variable speed or staged I recommend that these clients keep their fan set in the “AUTO” position. This simply means that the fan will only run when there is a call for heating and cooling, and the fan will not operate during idle times. The disadvantages of setting this fan in the “ON’ position are the fan making a drafty feeling when operating between heating and cooling. You could, however, set the fan to “ON” during really warm days to keep the air circulating throughout the house.

“Ok Ok, what about the temperature?”

The easiest way to answer this question is by telling you what design temperatures we use to ensure your comfort. Based on what climate you are in and what temperature you would like to achieve inside are both crucial factors in the design process.

Add that to new technologies and design software and I can ensure your home gets to the exact temperature that you want. Now don’t fool yourself and think that everyone takes this crucial step to ensuring your satisfaction. The truth is that this step is skipped by 97% of contractors! Using these technologies allows me to ensure clients like you get the temperatures you want and deserve.

With that being said, the typical design for this area is between 73-75 degrees at your thermostat in the extreme highs and lows that we face in this region. We have even designed a system for a long time customer who wanted 65 degrees in his master suite.

So now that you know how they are designed the rest is personal preferences. For example in my home my cooling is typically set to 75 degrees during the day in air conditioning mode, set back to 70 for bedtime. Heating wise I typically set it to 73 during the day and between 68-70 at night. Some days I am just a little colder thanks to working outside. I also leave my system set with the fan in the “ON” position. This feature is being used to continually clean my air since I have two dogs, and my wife has allergies. Well again this is what I do and each instance is unique. I am happy to discuss your particular case if you have questions.

The Top 10 Things Looking to HAUNT your HVAC Equipment

double a batteries# 10) Not replacing batteries:

This first one is kind of a lay-up. Let’s begin with it before we delve further into scary potential issues of HVAC equipment. Here I am referring to power to the thermostat. Most of them out there today are some form of digital and programmable styles which have illuminated screens displaying information such as mode, time and temperature. The display might be hooked up by “C” (common wire) directly to your furnace. Other thermostats require two AA batteries. If battery operated, some units signal when power is low, others do not. If you cannot remember the last time you have changed batteries, go ahead and do it now.

# 9) Power outages:

As we move through the seasons we are up against constant weather changes. In short time we are often transitioning from nasty thunderstorms to potential deep freezes. That can mean unwelcome power outages. During those events we needn’t worry if we are lucky enough to have “on demand” stand-by power from a backup generator. If not, there are a few things to keep in mind. Don’t use propane or gas powered space heaters indoors. Do not heat your house with your oven. If you do make a fire in your fireplace, ensure the flue is drafting properly. Go a step further and crack open a window ever so slightly near the fireplace to help with the drafting if yours does not have its own fresh air vent. After the return of primary power, if you’re still experiencing problems, check that no circuit breakers were tripped by the restoration surges which often occur.

HUmidity Gauge# 8) Humidity levels:

Low humidity levels during extreme weather are not only bad for your wood floors and furniture, but for your overall health as well. The dry air can cause irritated noses, sinuses, sore throats and those annoying static shocks. It is important to introduce humidity to our indoor environment as heating space sucks humidity right out of the air. Thanks to advancements in humidifiers there are solutions to virtually every individual situation. To add humidity to your environment, just ask us!

If you already have humidifier(s) here are a few quick tips. Make sure you have a new pad installed (with well or hard water, maybe twice per heating season) and that water feed lines and drains are clear. Start by setting your unit’s dial to 35%. You may have to adjust up or down as the winter rolls along. For example: if you start to see water build up on the bottom inside of your windows, turn the humidifier down a bit.

# 7) Poor indoor air quality issues:

Believe it or not, we are not far off from buttoning down the hatches – trying to keep out the bitter cold air. The fix to do so will haunt us when we’ve made our indoor environment five times more polluted than outside. Seriously. It is time to let that sink in so that you can do what is needed to combat this problem.

Let’s look at the “fix-it” basics. First and foremost, ensure you maintain clean filtration systems. Be sure you are not venting bath fans and clothes dryers INSIDE your space; especially into attics and crawl spaces as they are ideal environments for mold to grow and thrive. Last but not least, try to seal off holes and cracks into those spaces – such breaches not only allow energy loss, but enable the entry of water. As always, we are happy to help you decide the best filtration options for your environment. We hate mold!

# 6) Extreme Temperatures:

Sorry. But once again, I’m mentioning impending cold air. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, our area is in store for being smack dab in the middle of the Jet stream. Unfortunately, this means snow and frigid cold. Extended heating use and more demand on your HVAC equipment will be required. You’re really going to need to enter this heating season having your system checked out and serviced. The small, upfront investment will not only pay for itself, but can help you save money and prevent potential disasters. Those always seem to come at the most inopportune time.

# 5) Higher operational costs:

While not TRYING to keep harping on the negative, I do know that natural gas prices are NOT predicted to be on the decline. In fact, as we turn into heating season, natural gas prices will be on their way up. These higher costs are further exacerbated by equipment that is not operating in proper tune. That includes not burning gas efficiently, parts working harder than they need to, or airflow issues causing equipment problems. All of these things can be evaluated – and cost savings implemented – during your performance based evaluation. Questions? Just ask our technician.

Paul - Birds Nest 1# 4) Not inspecting flue pipes and chimneys:

You can’t assume your chimneys and flue pipes are inspected during routine maintenance as only 1% of HVAC contractors out there do this. Yes, the one percent figure is correct. The other 99% are willing to make sure your furnace works, but NOT that it is exhausting dangerous fumes from your home.

This exact scenario played out for us last year. We got a call that a homeowner’s furnace would not STAY on. Their furnace was maintained, but when this problem presented shortly afterwards, they were unable to get the contractor back for follow up service and decided to give us a try. After checking the usual causes for the interruption of heat, Paul found the system was not drafting properly. Because all of our technicians inspect the flue pipes, he found that the problem was a bird’s nest which had been built up there. (See the picture below of what Paul discovered during the course of his normal flue venting inspection). No one will know how long it was there – just be aware that birds LIKE nice, warm places to build their homes and unless someone is looking……..well…. the situation had the potential of GOING UNDETECTED. And if it had, it could have caused some very serious, even fatal, consequences for that home’s occupants.

# 3) Skipping a Combustion Optimization:

Unfortunately, this step will haunt you and be just as dangerous as #4. A combustion optimization test allows us to unleash the full potential of your equipment and complete system’s efficient performance. However, again, it is only performed by 1% of contractors in the industry. Why is that? Quite frankly, I assume because this test is not mandatory, requires competence, and a fairly expensive meter! At Corcoran Heating and Air Conditioning – one of the 1% – the safety of those who depend on us (and pay us for) maintaining and servicing their equipment comes first. Therefore, once we learned how important combustion optimization was, it became mandatory for us that all of our techs got certified to perform testing of it. It is our obligation to ensure we give you every advantage we can in keeping you safe and not wasting your money. We want you to have confidence in your equipment and its performance for as long as possible.

If you are using us for maintenance or have a service need this upcoming season, do not worry. We pledge to perform each and every crucial step on each and every visit. If you would like more information about this SPECIFIC test, or just want to watch it being performed, just ask!

# 2) Skipping a performance based system check-up:

Sorry, I am sorry to continue to harp on this point. Not. It’s simply too crucial to ignore. Our comprehensive annual visit ensures your equipment will operate safely, efficiently all winter long. There are too many steps and variables to list here. If you would like more information about specifics or wish to download a pdf version, check out

# 1) Neglecting to change or maintain your filtration system:

Ignoring this super simple step is the Number One reason for needing a service call, and the primary reason for shortening your equipment’s life. It is sad when something which costs little to attend to can cause so much in expense and frustration. Be sure to understand what type of filter you have to buy and how often to replace it.

Basic Filter Maintenance Guide:

  • 1” Fiberglass filters should be changed every 30-60 days depending on the number of pets and amount of hardwood you have in your home.
  • 5” Media and Spacegaurd filters should be replaced every 3-6 months, again depending on the same variables.
  • Electronic air cleaners should be cleaned every 1-3 months for best cell operation and overall system life.

Be sure to find out from the technician which of the above you have, and have him reiterate how often you need to maintain it.