A Comprehensive Guide to Air Handlers

An air handler is an essential component of many HVAC systems in Chicago. From its name, this system basically handles air and can be a great addition to your home, especially if you're looking for energy efficiency and effective air circulation.

What Is an Air Handler?

An air handler, also known as a fan coil unit, is a device that conditions and circulates air as part of a heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. It resembles a rectangular metal cabinet; you might confuse it with a furnace because they have the same shape, size, and look.

Components of an Air Handler

A typical air handler has an intake with a filter, blower fan, drain pan, humidifier or evaporator coil, condensate pump (for a gas furnace), and insulated cabinet. Other types include heating and cooling coils and variable-speed blowers.

You can power air handlers with electricity, natural gas, or a combination of both. The type you choose for your home should depend on the readily available fuel source in your area.

How Does an Air Handler Work?

An air handler works in tandem with other components of your HVAC system to circulate air throughout the house. It pulls in the ambient air through an intake, like a return duct or grille, and runs it over a filter before sending it to the evaporator coil.

The evaporator coil contains a substance known as a refrigerant. This substance is what cools or warms the air. If the thermostat requests warm air, the system will pump the refrigerant from the outside condenser into the refrigerant as a high-temperature, high-pressure gas. This will travel through the evaporator coil and disperse heat to the air that's supposed to warm the room. The blower fan will then take the air and send it through the ducts to your rooms.

If you want cold air, the air handler unit will suck in the same ambient air, filter it, and then take the refrigerant from the condenser as a cold, low-pressure gas. It will then pass this through the evaporator coil, absorbing heat as it cools down before sending it to your rooms via the blower fan.

If there is heating equipment built into the handler, such as a furnace, heat exchanger, or electric-resistance elements, it will heat the air instead of cooling it. And if you have an air conditioning system with a separate condenser, the air handler's only job would be to help circulate the conditioned air.

Types of Air Handlers

The three main types of air handlers are packaged units, split systems, and fan coil units. Packaged units are all-in-one units that include both heating and cooling components. They are ideal for smaller spaces but may not be as efficient as other types since they don't provide zone control options.

Split systems contain two parts: an outdoor component (a condenser) and an indoor component (an evaporator coil) installed inside the home to deliver conditioned air through ducts to rooms needing heating or cooling. This type is great for zoned areas because you can choose different temperatures for each room.

Fan coil units are the most energy-efficient type of air handler and contain heating coils, cooling coils, or both. They are typically installed below windows in homes that already have an existing ductwork system. This type is best if you want precise temperature control throughout your home.

These types can be further divided based on blower motor speed - that is, single, dual, and variable-stage air handlers.

Single-stage air handlers have only one speed setting, so they will run at full capacity all the time. They are the least energy efficient of all three types, but they can be good for a home with low cooling and heating demands.

Dual-stage air handlers have two speed settings, which you can use to adjust the airflow capacity as needed. This type is more efficient than single-stage air handlers since it allows for better temperature regulation.

Variable-speed air handlers are the most popular and offer maximum comfort and efficiency by automatically adjusting their speeds to match heating or cooling needs. They also help reduce humidity levels inside your home, resulting in healthier indoor air quality (IAQ).

Pros of Air Handlers

Overall, an air handler provides a cost-effective, efficient way to make your home more comfortable, healthy, and safe. It helps stabilize temperatures between rooms, so you don't feel drastic differences when moving from one space to another. An air handler also adds humidity to dry indoor air, which improves the overall comfort level inside your home during those cold winter months. And since it's powered by electricity, natural gas, or propane, you don't have to rely on burning fossil fuels for your heating and cooling needs.

Moreover, air handlers can significantly improve indoor air quality and help remove airborne particles and allergens from the air, making it healthier for occupants. They are also relatively easy to install and will last over 25 years, with good maintenance.

Cons of Air Handlers

Air handlers are not cheap to install—they can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to thousands depending on the type and size that you need. Additionally, since these units contain multiple components, they require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance. You will need to call a qualified HVAC technician once or twice every year or two to inspect, clean, and service the air handler - that is, if you are doing everything right to help it run efficiently.

A regular air conditioning system can just do everything that an air handler does. So, if you have a well-functioning heat pump or a normal HVAC system, it would be a redundant unit, racking up high energy and maintenance costs.

Do You Need an Air Handler?

The answer depends on what kind of heating and cooling system you have. If you have a traditional split system (with both a condenser and indoor components), then you need an air handler to circulate the conditioned air throughout your home. Additionally, if you live in a large house that has multiple zones and you need to control temperatures in each zone, then an air handler is definitely worth considering.

If you already have a furnace or a modern air conditioner system, then you don't need one since all of the components are already included in the unit. But heat pumps seem to work better when paired with an air handler. They reduce the strain of cooling or heating the home, hence improving efficiency and elongating the life span of the heat pump.

Rely on the Pros

If you need precise temperature control throughout your home, then an air handler is a great investment. It will provide comfort and improved indoor air quality for many years to come. However, before making any major decisions about installing an air handler in your home, call TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing for expert advice. Our technicians assess your existing system and provide honest and reliable recommendations. If you need one, we will help you choose the best type for your home and install it for you. Also, if you need any repairs and maintenance services on any of your HVAC systems, don't hesitate to contact us. We are a family-owned company that's been in operation for three generations. It's safe to say we have dealt with almost all types of HVAC problems and can help you with anything related to your systems. We also offer plumbing services.

Toilet Won't Stop Running? Here's What to Check For

Having a toilet that won't stop running can be quite annoying. Not only will you constantly hear the tank refilling, but your water bill will also be higher since a running toilet can waste a lot of water. Luckily, there are only a few issues that can cause a toilet to run constantly, so it may be something that you can diagnose and possibly fix on your own. With that in mind, here are the issues to look for if your toilet won't stop running and how each one can be fixed.

Worn-Out Toilet Flapper

The toilet flapper is the large rubber gasket located at the bottom of the toilet tank. It is connected to the flush lever by a chain. When you press the handle to flush a toilet, the lever raises and the chain lifts the flapper so that water quickly empties out of the tank and flushes the bowl.

The fact that the flapper constantly sits in water means that the rubber can slowly degrade over time to the point where the flapper no longer has a watertight seal. When this happens, a small amount of water will constantly leak out into the bowl and the tank will need to refill fairly often. While a leaky flapper may not seem like a big deal, it can result in more than 200 gallons of water being wasted each day.

If your flapper is worn out, you will need to replace it in order to stop the toilet from constantly running. Visually inspecting the flapper for damage can help you determine if it's leaking. However, the easiest way to know if your flapper is leaking is to use food coloring. All you need to do is put a couple of drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and lit it sit for around half an hour without using the toilet. If the coloring makes its way into the bowl, there is a good chance that your flapper needs to be replaced.

Flapper Chain Is Too Short

Before testing for a leaky flapper, it is always a good idea to check the flapper chain to make sure it isn't preventing the flapper from sealing tightly. If the chain is even a tiny bit too short, the flapper won't ever drop far enough back down to fully seal the tank. This issue is extremely easy to fix as all you need to do is detach the chain and then adjust it so that it is slightly longer. However, you need to make sure that the chain isn't too long, or else the flapper won't lift, and the toilet won't flush.

Misaligned Float

The toilet float works in conjunction with the fill valve to ensure that the tank refills to a certain level after each flush so that there is enough water for the next flush. Newer toilets typically have a cylindrical plastic float that moves up and down on the plastic fill tube or valve. If you have a much older toilet, it may instead have a rubber ball float. In either case, flushing the toilet instantly lowers the float. As the tank refills, the water slowly raises the float back up. Once the float returns to its original position, the fill valve closes and the toilet stops refilling.

If the float is set too low, the water level in the tank will always be too low, resulting in a weak flush. If the float is set too high, the water level in the tank will rise above the top of the overflow tube. This results in water constantly draining out of the tank through the overflow tube. The toilet will then continually run as the float will never rise high enough to trigger the fill valve to close.

Your toilet should have a mark on the back of the inside of the tank that shows the proper fill level, and this is usually about one inch below the top of the overflow tube. To check if the float needs to be aligned, you will want to take the lid off the tank and then flush the toilet. Once the tank refills, check to see if the water level is above the fill level mark. If the water level is above the fill mark, you will need to lower the float slightly. Adjusting the float is usually something you can do on your own, but the process for doing so can vary from toilet to toilet. As such, you may need to hire a plumber if you're unsure of what to do.

Broken Fill Valve

The fill valve itself can also break or leak, which means the water won't ever shut off. If the fill valve is broken, you will typically need to hire a plumber to replace it. Nonetheless, a broken fill valve is still something you can typically diagnose on your own.

Again, the fill valve is the plastic tube that the float moves up and down on. To check if the valve is leaking, take the lid off the tank, and then, flush the toilet, and look to see if any water is leaking out around the top or sides of the valve.

If you don't see any leaks, you will then want to lift the float by hand to see if the water stops running. Lifting the float should trigger the valve to close. If the water keeps running after lifting the float, it usually means that either the tube is cracked and leaking lower down underneath the water level where you can't see it or the valve itself is broken and won't close. If you do see any leaks or the water doesn't turn off after lifting the float, you'll need to have the fill valve replaced.

Cracked Overflow Tube

The overflow tube is the plastic tube located directly in the center of the tank, which serves two purposes. The first is to ensure that the tank can't overflow if the water continues running. The overflow tube is also what refills the bowl after flushing. If you look inside the tank, you'll also see a much smaller, soft plastic tube that leads from the fill valve and drains into the overflow tube. After flushing, a small amount of water drains from the fill valve directly into the overflow tube to refill the bowl.

Although rare, the overflow tube can sometimes crack or break. Should this happen, water will constantly leak through the tube and drain out into the tank. As a result, the toilet will need to run frequently to refill the bowl. Again, the solution to this issue to is to replace the overflow tube. However, this is a slightly more difficult job that you may want to leave to a plumber.

If your toilet is constantly running and you can't figure out why or get it to stop, the plumbers at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing are ready to help. We specialize in all types of plumbing services as well as heating and cooling repairs, maintenance and installation. Give us a call today if you need toilet repairs or any other plumbing or HVAC service in the Plainfield area.

9 Ways to Prevent Cracks in Your Drains

Do you know the common warning signs of a leaky drain? If not, you might be in trouble if left unchecked. By being proactive and taking preventive steps, you can save time and money when fixing damaged drains. Here are nine ways to prevent cracks in your drains.

1. Regularly Flush Out Drains

Drains are prone to the build-up of debris and grease, which can clog them up and cause cracks over time. To avoid this damage, you should flush out your drains regularly using a drain cleaner or a plunger. This will help remove any residue in your pipes, preventing them from becoming blocked and leading to cracks. To be safe, you should at least do this at least once a month to maintain the integrity of your pipes.

Another way to prevent clogs is to install a drain strainer. Strainers are mesh screens that fit into the top of your drains and catch debris from entering the pipes. This simple but effective tool will keep small objects, such as hair or food particles, from accumulating in your system, eliminating a possible source of cracks.

2. Check for Corrosion

Corrosion is one of the main causes of cracks in your drains. You should have your drainpipe's interior examined using a flashlight. If you notice any discoloration or flaking paint, corrosion has begun and could lead to breakage over time. To prevent further damage, you must replace the corroded section of the pipe.

Additionally, if there is water pooling around the base of your pipes when they are not in use, this could also signal the presence of corrosion. To resolve this issue, ensure that all fittings are properly tightened and sealed with caulk or another sealant.

Finally, check your water. If you notice that it's a slightly yellow, brown, or red color, this is rust in your water, so your pipes might be corroded. Even if the water is clear, pay attention to its smell. If you notice a metallic scent or taste, it's a good idea to call a plumber.

3. Use the Right Cleaning Solutions

Harsh chemicals can damage your drains, so using more natural cleaning solutions is best. For example, vinegar and baking soda are good at removing deposits inside your pipes without corroding them or causing cracks. You can also opt for commercial cleansers designed for drainpipes if you want a more powerful option. Always be sure to flush out the drain with clean water after cleaning it to remove any lingering residue.

Before you use any cleaners, consult a plumber from TR Miller Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing. We are well-versed in which cleaners will benefit specific kinds of pipes. The last thing you want is a chemical reaction that you weren't expecting to make the situation worse.

4. Regularly Check for Leaks

Leaking pipes can quickly lead to cracks, so check your plumbing system regularly. Look around the base of your drains and inspect any visible joints or connections for signs of water damage, such as damp spots or discoloration.

Another sign of a leaking pipe includes decreased water pressure. Another indication of a leak is an increase in your water bill; if your usage suddenly increases without any noticeable change in your habits, it's worth looking into. Lastly, you may hear a hissing sound coming from the pipe, another sure sign of a leak. If you notice anything unusual, it's best to call a professional plumber immediately to fix the problem before it becomes more serious.

5. Minimize Freeze-thaw Cycles

Drains are especially vulnerable to freezing temperatures, so preventing pipes from freezing in winter is important. Insulating your pipes is a great way to do this as the insulation will act as a barrier between the cold air and the warm water inside your drains. Pipe insulation can be made of foam, fiberglass, and a combination of foam, tape, and foil. You should also ensure that all exposed pipe connections are tightly sealed with caulk or waterproof material.

It's also helpful to run hot water in your drain regularly during colder weather as this will help keep them from becoming frozen. Additionally, if you experience consistently low temperatures in your area, consider installing an internal heating system for extra protection. Taking these precautions can help minimize the freeze-thaw cycles your drains go through, reducing their risk of becoming cracked.

6. Upgrade Your System

If you constantly deal with issues related to your drains, it may be time to consider upgrading your plumbing. Newer models are designed to withstand the elements better and offer a more efficient way of draining water. Replacing old sink lines or other plumbing fixtures can significantly reduce the chances of cracks developing in your drain pipes.

7. Avoid the DIY Route

When preventing cracks in your drains, it's best to avoid the DIY route. While you can tackle some minor tasks independently, dealing with more complex problems is usually best left to a professional plumber.

Attempting to fix plumbing issues without the proper training and experience can often lead to costly mistakes in the long run or even bodily harm. Issues like corrosion, frozen pipes, and leaks can be difficult to diagnose and repair without the proper knowledge and tools.

8. Invest in Quality Materials

Choose durable pipes from strong materials such as copper, PEX, or PVC for your plumbing system. These are designed to withstand the elements better and can protect your plumbing system from damage.

Additionally, choose fixtures that are designed for the climate you live in. For instance, if you live in an area with freezing temperatures, look for heavy-duty faucets and other plumbing components that can withstand freezing temperatures without cracking or breaking. Finally, use adequate amounts of sealant when installing new fixtures. This will help prevent leaks from forming and reduce the chances of damage over time.

9. Ensure Proper Installation

It all starts with proper installation. Even the best materials won't do you good if they're not fitted and connected correctly. Ensuring that qualified professionals install your plumbing system will help prevent future problems.

Working with an experienced plumber or contractor who knows how to install fixtures and pipes properly can make all the difference in avoiding cracks in your drains. It can save you from having to deal with costly repairs and headaches caused by incorrect installations. TR Miller, Heating, Cooling, and Plumbing has a team of experienced professionals that can provide proper installation services to ensure that your drains last for years to come.

Preventing cracks in your drains is an important part of maintaining the integrity of your plumbing system. Taking certain preventive measures, using quality materials, and calling a professional plumber when needed can help ensure your drainage system remains in good condition for years. By following these tips, you can keep your home's plumbing running smoothly and avoid costly repairs in the future.

At TR Miller, Heating, Cooling, and plumbing, we offer professional plumbing, and HVAC services, for the residents of Plainfield, IL and the surrounding areas. Call us now to learn more about our services or to schedule an appointment.

What is a Mini-Split System?

A mini-split unit is an efficient way for you to heat and cool your home in Plainfield, IL. At TR Miller Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing, we want to ensure that our customers have all the knowledge that they need when choosing one of these systems for the first time. Below, we will explore how a mini-split system works so that you can make the best decision for your home.

The Basics

A ductless mini-split has a heat pump that pumps the heat within your home outdoors in order to cool. It does the opposite to heat your home. Mini-splits are energy efficient because they don't actually create heat the way a furnace that burns gas does. The mini-split unit simply transports heat from point A to point B. The system works with a refrigerant cycle. This thermodynamic cycle relies on the expansion and compression of refrigerants to transport that heat.

A mini-split consists of three main components:

  • An outdoor unit
  • An indoor unit
  • Refrigeration lines

The outdoor unit is where the compressor is found. It is usually placed on a cement pad or raised up off the ground, and it can be placed in an inconspicuous location. The indoor unit is an air handler that mounts on the wall. It is small, sleek, and unnoticeable in most situations. It won't interfere with your home’s existing decor the way that many other heating and cooling options will.

You should know that a mini-split system may have multiple indoor units. You could have several within one house, depending on the model that you purchase and your individual needs. This allows you to set each room’s temperature individually. During the winter, you can keep rooms like the guest bedroom cooler and then focus on keeping the main living areas where you spend the most time warmer. The refrigerant lines connect the inside units with the outdoor unit.

The Cooling Process

The compressed refrigerant is in a liquid form at low pressure. It will flow from the outdoor unit to your indoor unit by traveling through the refrigeration lines. When this liquid reaches the evaporator cooling coils found in the indoor air handler, it will expand and turn into a gas. This is an endothermic process that cools the coils.

The indoor air blower pulls your home’s warm air in and pushes it across these coils. The coils cool that air while removing the humidity from it. The now cool and dry air is blown into your home. You will feel this as the cold air blows out of the indoor air handler unit. The now high-pressure gaseous refrigerant then travels back to the outdoor unit through the refrigeration lines. That refrigerant is compressed in the outdoor unit and is turned back into a liquid. This exothermic process generates heat, and that’s why the outdoor unit will feel hot.

Now that the refrigerant has been turned back into a liquid, it will travel back inside to the indoor unit through the refrigerant lines. It will now repeat the entire cycle. This cycle repeats until the air inside your home reaches the desired temperature.

The Heating Process

You would typically think that you need a furnace to heat your home and an air conditioner to cool it, but the mini-split does both. It heats by reversing the cooling process. The mini-split has a switch called a reverse valve that changes the direction of the refrigerant’s flow. Instead of cooling your home, it now heats it.

When the mini-split is acting as an air conditioner, the refrigerant is expanded inside. This provides cool air for your home. It’s compressed outside, where it gets rid of the heat. Once the reverse valve is switched, the mini-split's heat pump gathers up all of the outdoor heat and carries it inside. This is possible because the compressor has the ability to work as an evaporator that expands the refrigerant gas.

The compressor expands the liquid refrigerant into a gaseous refrigerant. That refrigerant is now hot. That hot refrigerant is sent inside, where it goes through the indoor coils and warms them. Air is blown over the now hot coils and expells that warm air into the home. At this point, the hot gas is cooled and turned back into a liquid. This liquid travels through the refrigerant lines to the outdoor unit once more. A compressor will expand the liquid into a hot gaseous refrigerant, which completes the heat cycle. Just like when cooling your home, this cycle will repeat until the air inside of the house reaches your desired temperature.

How the Mini-Split Controls the Temperature in Your Home

Mini-splits have an internal thermostat that detects the temperature in a room and tells the system whether or not to start cycling. You won't have the traditional wall-mounted thermostat that you see with a furnace. Instead, you’ll have an LED remote that allows you to control the mini-split settings. You must be near the mini-split system in order for the remote to work.

Many homeowners decide to get a smart thermostat for their mini-split system. This allows you to set your home’s temperature from remote locations by using your mobile phone. You will be able to create a schedule for heating and cooling your rooms and track when it’s running.

A System That's Suitable for Many Applications

Mini-split systems are relatively easy to install, and they typically require nothing more than a small three-inch hole through the wall. This hole is used for the conduit that holds the refrigerant lines. A mini-split is an excellent way to heat and cool new construction, but it provides people that own older houses without ductwork an energy-efficient option for keeping their home comfortable. They’re also great for new additions where extending the ductwork isn't possible.

Rely on the Mini-Split Professionals

If you are considering a mini-split unit for your home, TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing is ready to assist you. We’ll answer all of the questions that you may still have about a mini-split. We can also provide you with a variety of other valuable services to enhance your home's comfort. We offer heating and air conditioning installation, repair, and maintenance, and we handle water heater services, gas line repairs, sump pump services along with a wide array of other plumbing services. Be sure to ask about our service membership and financing options.

Our company is proud to be a family-owned, third-generation business that has been serving Plainfield and the surrounding Chicago suburbs since 2008. Our certified technicians use the latest technology and ongoing training to provide you with excellent customer care and straightforward pricing. Our goal is to ensure you receive the fast and reliable services you need to keep your home comfortable all year long. Call TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today to learn more about all of your heating and air conditioning options.

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TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing

11917 S. Aero Dr.
Plainfield, IL 60585

1049 E Lincoln Hwy #2
New Lenox, IL 60451

425 Quadrangle Dr
Bolingbrook, IL 60440

Phone: 815-472-7110
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