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Understanding Adjustable-Speed Air Conditioner Fans

When your air conditioner turns on to keep your Plainfield home cool, another critical component works right alongside it: the blower fan. The blower fan in your air conditioner works to move air through the air conditioner and on through the vents. While most blower fans run at a consistent speed, you may wonder if it's possible to adjust the fan's speed to increase the comfort of your home. The best answer is: it depends. To learn the details of when, how, and why to adjust your system's blower fan, keep reading this article from the pros at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing.

More Info on Blower Fans

By itself, your home's air conditioner can't move air. All an air conditioner does is remove heat and humidity from your home's indoor air. You need a blower fan to get the air where it's needed. A blower fan has two main tasks. Its first task is to draw in warm, humid air from inside your home. It pulls this air in through return vents. Depending on the size of your home, you may have one or more return vents. In a multi-story home, there will be at least one return vent on every level. After the blower fan draws in the unconditioned air, it sends it through the evaporator coil in the air conditioner. The blower fan gives the air enough momentum to continue moving through the supply ducts and out through the vents in each room. The blower fan is truly the heart of your HVAC system.

Using the Blower Fan

Many people overlook the fact that they can use their blower fan without using their air conditioner or furnace. By setting your system to run constantly and turning the heating and cooling functions off, your blower fan will circulate air throughout your home. This is one instance when being able to control the speed of the fan is especially helpful. Air circulation is good to help keep your home comfortable on mild days when it's not hot enough to run the air conditioner. It's also helpful if you need to bring in fresh air from the outside. Some people also use the blower fan as a white noise machine when trying to go to sleep. To perform these functions well, TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing recommends dialing in your blower fan's speed.

Why Adjust the Speed?

Most of the time, you'll likely use your blower fan in conjunction with your air conditioner or furnace. Even with these conditioning functions in effect, proper speed calibration of your blower fan is critical. One good reason to adjust your fan speed is to reduce your energy usage. If you slow your fan down, it will consume less energy and experience less wear and tear, meaning you'll save on long-term costs. Another reason to slow down your fan is to help reduce the volume of your system. If your utility closet is adjacent to a common area, reducing your fan's speed can help make it easier to hear other people talking. The most common reason that you might want to increase your fan's speed is to increase its conditioned air output. This will allow your home to reach the desired temperature more quickly.

Adjusting the Belt

For many blower fans, adjusting the speed is as simple as loosening a single screw. On pulley-driven systems, this screw helps hold the pulley in place. By loosening it, you can adjust the pulley by turning it clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on whether you want the fan to turn faster or slower. However, just because the process seems simple doesn't mean it's easy. Each blower fan is different depending on its age, size, and intended use. Therefore, loosening the setscrew that holds the pulley in place could release other parts that could be difficult to put back together without proper training. That's why we recommend asking your HVAC technician about adjusting your blower fan's speed when the technician is at your home for regular system maintenance. This ensures you get the fan speed you desire without accidentally causing expensive damage to your system.

Variable Speed Fans

Understanding that you don't always need a fan's full capacity, HVAC manufacturers offer variable-speed blower fans to add an extra level of efficiency and comfort to your home. These great units can automatically sense the required cooling capacity of your home and slow down or speed up to accommodate these changing needs. Some units also allow you to manually adjust the speed using a switch on your thermostat. Although these units cost more upfront, they can save you money in the long run because they're only ever running as fast as the conditions in your home require. This means they don't use unnecessary electricity or wear out prematurely. Plus, being able to ramp up the fan speed on especially hot days means that you'll never have to suffer in a warm house.

Maintaining Your Blower Fan

The pros at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing are happy to maintain your air conditioner's fan for you during regular maintenance visits. However, if you want to perform some extra maintenance between visits, here are a few things you can do. First, make sure that you regularly replace your system's air filter. While this isn't maintaining the fan directly, a clean filter can help prevent dust from finding its way into your HVAC system. As dust passes through, it will often adhere to the fan blades, decreasing the efficiency of the fan in the process. If you notice that the fan blades are unusually dusty, you can clean them using a damp cloth. Just make sure that the power to the system is turned off so that the fan doesn't start rotating unexpectedly.

Other Ways To Improve Comfort

Adjusting the speed of your air conditioner's fan can do a lot to increase air movement throughout your home. However, if you're noticing inadequate airflow in some rooms in your home, a faulty fan may not be the culprit. Instead, you may be dealing with clogged ducts. Dust-clogged ducts can be a huge problem because they reduce airflow, meaning that your system has to run longer to change your home's temperature. An even bigger problem is that clogged ducts can cause the blower to exert too much air pressure on the sensitive components of your air conditioner, leading to a system failure. To ensure efficient HVAC performance, make sure that your ducts are clean.

Taking Care of Your Home's HVAC System

At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our goal is to help our customers get the most out of their HVAC systems. That's why we're proud to offer maintenance, repair, and installation services for air conditioners and furnaces. We also install water heaters, clean drains, detect and repair leaks, and much more. Since our founding, we have worked hard to maintain a high standard of excellence. This quest is reflected in our five-star customer reviews. Contact us today to learn more about maintaining and adjusting your HVAC system.

How to Flush Sediment Out of Your Water Heater Tank

Did you know that part of maintaining a water heater requires flushing its tank? If not, you may be wondering what’s involved in the process. Discover the steps of how to flush your water heater’s tank in a safe way. Also, find out some of the benefits of this maintenance task.

Materials Needed to Flush Your Water Heater Tank

You probably already have many of the materials necessary to flush your water heater. These materials include:

  • A bucket
  • A rubber hose
  • Work gloves

Step One: Turn Off the Power

The first step in the process of flushing your water heater is one of the most important. If your water heater operates on gas, turn its gauge to the pilot setting. If you have an electric water heater, shut off the electrical power to it. You do this by shutting off the appropriate circuit breaker in your breaker box. Shutting off the power to your water heater is a necessary safety precaution for this project.

Step Two: Turn on a Hot Water Faucet in Your Home

Turn on the hot water faucet in your bathroom sink. Turning on the hot water helps to remove the air bubbles from your water heater tank. This simple step can help it to fully drain. After a minute or so, turn the faucet off.

Step Three: Shut Off the Cold-Water Valve

The cold-water valve on a water heater is usually located at the top of the unit. It may have a label or even a blue handle designating it as the cold-water supply. Turn the valve to the off position.

Step Four: Secure a Hose to the Water Heater

The next step is to locate the spigot on your water heater and attach your hose to it. This spigot looks like one you’d find attached to an exterior wall of a home. You can use a traditional garden hose or invest in a shorter rubber hose, so you don’t have so much slack to deal with. Next, put the end of a hose in a bucket so your water can drain into it.

If your water heater sits on a shelf several feet above the floor, gravity is going to help the water drain out. Alternatively, if your water heater sits on the floor in a basement or elsewhere, it may not be so quick to drain. Some water heaters require a pump to drain them.

Once you attach the hose, several drips of water may come out of the spigot right away. So, it’s best to have the end of the hose inside your bucket before attaching the other end to the spigot.

Step Five: Begin Draining the Water Heater’s Tank

After attaching your hose to the spigot, turn the lever above it to open the valve. Make sure the bucket is secure on the floor, so it doesn’t fall over as the water goes into it.

Look at the water coming out. Is it mostly clear? If so, that’s a good sign. It means there’s not much sediment lingering in your water heater’s tank. However, if you see dark water with lots of sediment, your water heater may be having issues. If this is the case, it’s best to get the condition of your water heater evaluated by a qualified plumber. After draining all of the water out of your water heater tank, shut off the valve.

Step Six: Flush Out the System

Now, it’s time to flush the system with cold water. Reach up to turn on the cold-water valve. Cold water will move through the system loosening the remaining sediment. This part of the process is effective at loosening sediment on the bottom of the tank.

Take five minutes or so to flush your water heater tank with cold water. Then, turn off the cold-water valve and open the valve attached to your hose. Of course, check to see if the end of your hose is still in the bucket.

Is there still a lot of sediment in the water coming out of your tank? If so, you may need to repeat the process of flushing and draining the tank.

Detach the Hose and Turn On the Water Heater

After you finish draining your water heater tank for the last time, close the valve. Then, unhook the hose attached to the spigot. After turning on the cold-water valve, run the bathroom faucet again. Finally, turn on the gas or electrical power to your water heater. Watch your drain valve for a few minutes to ensure there are no drips.

Why Is It Necessary to Flush a Water Heater?

Seeing all of that sediment coming out of your tank is an illustration of the importance of flushing your water heater. When you start to accumulate layers of sediment in your tank, this debris prevents your water heater from working efficiently. Over time, layers of sediment can damage the structure of your water heater requiring you to replace it.

Some of the ways you can benefit from regularly flushing your water heater include:

  • Prolongs its life
  • Heats water more quickly
  • Reduces noise of the appliance

How Often Does It Need Flushing?

Generally, a water heater tank should be flushed once a year, but some water heater tanks need flushing more often than others. One way to determine how often to flush your water heater tank is to observe the amount of sediment coming out. If you have a lot of sediment appearing every time you flush the system, then you may need to flush it more often than once per year. Calling in a qualified plumber to evaluate your water heater is another way to determine how often it should be flushed.

Is It Necessary to Flush a Tankless Water Heater?

Yes. Though by definition, a tankless water heater has no tank, the system does need flushing.

Flushing a tankless water heater is a little more complicated than flushing a tank water heater. Specifically, you need to use a pump as part of the process. If you don’t feel confident about flushing your own water heater, it’s a good idea to call in the professionals.

Providing expert water heater maintenance is something we’ve been doing at TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Plainfield since 2008. Our plumbers have experience tending to both tank and tankless water heaters. We use the latest equipment to flush your water heater tank in a safe and efficient way. We dispose of the messy water and handle every step in the process, so you don’t have to!

Our family-owned company provides water heater repair and replacement along with toilet repairs, drain cleaning, and sewer line repair. We offer heating and cooling repairs and installation work as well. Contact TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Plainfield to schedule an appointment today!

Ways to Increase the Water Pressure in Your Home

Having your home's water pressure be too low can be a frustrating experience. In many cases, the pressure will suddenly drop for a few hours or even a few days before suddenly returning to normal. When this happens, the issue is typically caused by a problem with the city's water supply and nothing you really need to worry about. However, if your water pressure is constantly low, the problem is likely caused by some issue with your home's plumbing. The good news is that there are a number of steps that can potentially help to make your low water pressure problems a thing of the past.

Testing Your Home's Water Pressure

Ideally, your home's water pressure should be somewhere between 40 and 60 psi (pounds per square inch), and this is something you can easily check on your own. Many homes have a pressure-reducing valve located at the main shut-off that controls the water to the entire building. This valve should have a pressure gauge that shows you exactly how many psi your system has. However, there is no guarantee that the gauge is accurate, especially if it is fairly old. For this reason, you may want to purchase a pressure gauge and test it yourself.

The pressure gauge will screw directly onto a garden hose. After connecting the gauge, turn the water on as high as it will go and then check to see how high the pressure is. If it is below 40 psi, then it's time to figure out what is causing the pressure to be so low. If it is above 40 psi and you still occasionally have issues with low water pressure, it may be that your flow rate is too low and you're trying to use too much water at one time.

Use Your Water Meter to Make Sure Your Plumbing Isn't Leaking

While a small leak generally won't have much of an impact on water pressure, a major leak definitely will. If your water pressure issues started fairly recently, it may be that a plumbing leak is the cause. You can easily check this by monitoring your water meter. After making sure that no water is running inside or outside, inspect the water meter to see if the meter is still going up. If so, then it is time to contact a plumber to find and repair the leak.

Many water meters also have a leak indicator. This is usually a small triangle or disc that spins whenever water is flowing. If the disc is spinning when the water is off, this indicates that there is a leak.

Check Your Main Water Shut-Off Valve

If you have determined that a leak isn't causing your water pressure issues, you should then check to make sure that your main water shut-off valve is fully open. If you had any plumbing work done recently or had to shut off your water for any reason, it may be that the valve didn't get fully reopened. If the valve is partially closed, it limits the amount of water flowing into your plumbing system and will cause the pressure to be much lower.

Your main water shut-off is most likely located inside your house. Most commonly it is somewhere near the front of the house where the main water line enters the building. It may also be located inside an underground box near the front of your foundation, but this isn't all that common in Illinois and other colder climates due to the potential of freezing.

After locating the shut-off valve, check to make sure that it is fully open. Most newer plumbing systems use a ball valve, which is a straight handle that can turn 45 degrees. When fully open, the handle should be parallel to the pipe. If the valve is perpendicular to the pipe or at an angle, then it is not fully open.

If your plumbing system is older, it may use a gate valve instead. This type of valve has a round handle just like most hose spigots. To open a gate valve, turn the handle in a clockwise direction as far as you can.

Adjust the Pressure-Reducer Valve

If your home has a pressure-reducer valve, it could be that it is broken or malfunctioning. If the pressure valve isn't working correctly, it can result in either a major increase or decrease in water pressure. In either case, the valve will need to be replaced to overcome the pressure issue.

It may also be that the valve is working properly, but the pressure is simply set too low and needs to be raised. Adjusting the pressure-reducer valve only takes a few seconds, but it really isn't something you should do on your own. For starters, there is no way for you to know whether the valve is working properly. As well, you could seriously damage your plumbing system if you accidentally adjust the valve so that the pressure is too high. For this reason, it is always best to have a plumber inspect and adjust the valve for you just to be safe.

Contact Your Water Provider

Most municipal water providers will come and test your water pressure for free. This can be useful as it allows you to determine whether the water pressure coming into your home is sufficient. If not, then the issue lies with the main water line that brings the water into your home and not your plumbing system.

The city has shut-off valves that control the water from the municipal water main into each property. If this valve is even partially closed, it will decrease the flow rate and water pressure just as if your home's main shut-off valve isn’t fully open. This is a much more common problem than you might think. Unfortunately, this is not something you can check or adjust on your own as only the city has the proper key.

If All Else Fails, Install a Pressure Booster Pump

If all of the above steps have failed to solve your water pressure issue, the final option is to install a pressure booster pump. These electric pumps can drastically increase the pressure and flow rate as the water comes into your home. Most pumps use small blades known as impellers. As water comes into the pump, the electric motor spins the impellers, which increases the water pressure.

Booster pumps are a great option for increasing water pressure, but they are generally a last resort. If your water pressure issues are caused by clogged or obstructed plumbing or other issues, it is always best to fix the underlying cause instead.

Award-Winning Plumbing Services in Plainfield

At TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our team of licensed plumbers have the knowledge and experience to help you quickly overcome your water pressure issues. We can inspect your plumbing system to determine why your water pressure is low and then identify how best to fix the issue. Our team specializes in a full range of plumbing services including leak detection and repairs, repiping, booster pump installation and more. If you're experiencing a problem with low water pressure, give us a call today to make it a thing of the past.

Is Power Washing Your AC Unit Safe to Do?

Power washing your home might be something that can benefit it as part of your annual maintenance and home improvement efforts. Based on your home's exterior and the general climate in which you live, power washing can restore the vibrant curb appeal your home once had so it's once more inviting to those who pass by or visit. At the least, it's more attractive for you to look at when you come home. It might be tempting to include your AC unit in the power washing so it stays clean, too. However, that is actually not a safe thing to do.

Why Does Your AC System Need to Be Clean?

In most areas of the country, the coils of an air conditioning system should probably get cleaned every season. Spring has dust and pollen, and fall can mean leaves dying and dropping. Any of these can impact the airflow that needs to move freely through the coils of your unit. Any system clogged with debris or dirt isn't going to work as well. When your unit is overworked, it's going to be more susceptible to breakdowns. A blocked AC also results in more power usage, and it will actually work less effectively at the same time it's running up your utility bills. Wanting to clean your coils is a natural impulse so you can save energy and prevent damage. However, power washing isn't the way to go. Whether you are power washing your home or having a professional do it, don't do it to your AC unit. The high power is just too intense for your unit coils.

Why Is Pressure Washing an AC Unit a Bad Idea?

Power washers and pressure washers can do deep cleaning like nothing else. They can get gum and even graffiti off of pavement and concrete. They do this because of thousands of PSI, which is pounds per square inch, of water pressure. Even small battery-powered units can dish out some serious PSI. If you're looking to freshen up your driveway or sidewalk to your front door, that might be okay. If you're looking to clean your AC coils, you're hurting your home. Many AC units are made of soft materials, such as aluminum. Pressure washing will warp this metal out of shape and potentially ruin your system. You should even be careful when pressure washing a wood deck, although that's admittedly not our particular area of expertise. The fins of your AC unit can be easily damaged, especially if they're aluminum, or another soft metal, such as copper. You might even damage the tubing and hoses of your AC unit. Don't do it yourself. If you have someone else power or pressure wash your home, have them skip the AC unit.

A Costly Error

Your home has many different appliances you rely on for a comfortable living. Your AC unit is likely on of the most expensive ones of the bunch. Repairs can be very costly. A replacement is even worse. Damage from pressure washing is probably not going to be covered by a warranty or any insurance policy. Even if it might, why risk it? Having a technician clean your AC unit might cost you several hundred dollars. However, having repairs done to a unit damaged by power washing can cost much more. An entirely new AC system will cost you several thousand dollars.

How Can You Know When the AC Needs Cleaning?

Not sure when your system needs cleaning? It should be a part of your regular service calls, but there are other times that there can be specific indicators that something is wrong. If your power bill goes up without warning, then you might have a problem. When your condenser coils and evaporator are dirty, your AC unit might use more power. In fact, it can be as much as 30% higher than usual. If your AC is blowing warm air, that might mean heat is trapped in the system. Dirty coils can do that. It's almost like a traffic jam where cars can't get where they're going. If your AC is running longer than it used to, it might need the extra time and work to cool your home. That will start reducing the lifespan of the unit due to extra wear and tear. Know when to call in a technician. They have the tools and training to clean your AC system safely inside and out. They can also do preventative maintenance and diagnostics that keep your AC running efficiently and effectively for a long time.

How a Technician Will Clean Your AC Unit

The first thing a technician will do to clean your AC unit is to disconnect the power. This is a necessary safety feature to protect both the AC unit and their personal safety. If it were to come on or have live power during cleaning, serious bodily harm or equipment damage might happen. Your technician might talk to you about removing vegetation that is growing around the unit. Plants can restrict the airflow your AC relies on for utmost efficiency. However, vegetation might also help the system get dirty or even provide shelter for animals not helping matters. The technician will remove the top of the unit. They do this so they can get inside of it, and it might involve lifting some of the fan assembly. Once inside, they will clean off the fan blades and lubricate the motor at the proper points. If they do any water or foam cleaning, they will first cover the motor and electrical wires with plastic. They might spray the various AC coils before letting them soak. Once that is done, they'll spray the unit to flush out any debris or dirt. A proper inspection includes looking over the coil fins for bending or damage. A technician can use a fin comb to do repairs that restore appropriate airflow. Once done, the technician will remove any protective plastic they put into place, replace the cover, and then restore power to your AC. Once the system is running, you and your technician can both verify it is working properly. It won't likely take long for you to notice the difference in your AC system's performance following the right service call.

Key Takeaways

If you have an AC unit in Springfield, Illinois or surrounding communities, you need to keep it clean so that it can run better and last longer. Instead of power washing it, you should turn to our HVAC technicians who know how to properly clean your system inside and out safely and properly. Your AC unit can look great on the outside, work efficiently on the inside, and pump your home with fresh, clean air thanks to our industry experts. In addition to maintenance, our professionals handle AC repairs and installations. We also work on mini-split systems and provide a full range of heating services. Need help with your indoor air quality? We're the team for the job. Contact TR Miller Heating, Cooling & Plumbing today for more information!

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