Hiring a Contractor? Do your homework!

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With people being more cautious about how they spend their money, when it comes to HVAC we are stumped when homeowners don’t do more homework when hiring a contractor! Your contractor is the KEY to properly working equipment and using a reputable company will save you $$ in the future!

Here are some key factors to consider when hiring an HVAC contractor:

Insist on a written contract. This should specify what will be done to complete the job, associated costs, and the payment schedule. Don’t sign a contract with a lot of open-ended amounts for products and materials (called “allowances” in contractor speak.) Once the work is underway, try to stick to the original terms of the contract, since changes are one sure way to blow your budget.

Check the references. Reputable contractors will be happy to provide names and contact information for satisfied customers. Then check the work to see how it’s holding up. Word-of-mouth references are the next best thing.

Pay by check. Write out the check to the contracting company rather than to an individual. A reasonable down payment is typically asked to be paid upon initial delivery of materials. Make final payments when the job is completed to your satisfaction. A reputable company will not threaten you or pressure you to sign documents if the job is not finished properly.

Don’t chase the low ball. The tight market has forced some contractors to lower their profit margins. But at a certain point, they’ll have to make up the difference in other ways, such as cutting corners during the installation. That is why you should get at least 3 estimates, to gauge the going rate for your project.

Review the paperwork. That includes up-to-date license and insurance policies. The contractor, not you, should get permits. If you have questions, just ask!

Go with a contractor you trust! Call the HVAC specialists at Cottam Heating & Air Conditioning today (718) 885-3328 or visit us online at www.cottamhvac.com

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5 HVAC Installation mistakes and how to avoid them!

Having a new home HVAC system installed represents a big investment, and everyone wants to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth. The way the system is installed can make a differences in how well it functions, how much you’ll save on energy bills, and how comfortable your house is.

Here are the 5 most common HVAC installation mistakes:

1. Installing the wrong sized system
Consequences: Higher utility bills, mold buildup in ductwork, inadequate heating and cooling

This is perhaps the most common installation mistake. Some people believe that buying a larger system is better, but that is not the case. A too-big HVAC system cycles on and off too frequently and is inefficient. A too-small system runs constantly and may or may not be able to keep the house at the correct temperature. The size of the system you buy should be calculated by a heating and cooling technician based on your home’s square footage, presence or absence of shade trees, and number and location of windows.

2. Installing undersized ductwork
Consequences: Decreased efficiency and an overworked compressor

Your system’s duct and register size should be based on a load calculation that takes into account your system size and the extent of the ductwork. Improperly-sized ductwork results in a compressor that works too hard and wears out sooner than it should.

3. Installing ducts in unconditioned spaces
Consequences: Higher than ideal energy load to the home, and higher heating and cooling bills

Placing ductwork in the attic is sometimes unavoidable, but if other options are available, you should use them. Your attic is the hottest part of your house in summer and the coldest part of your house in winter. Placing ductwork between floors is a better solution so that conditioned air travels through ducts that are at or near room temperature.

 

4. Improperly installing drains
Consequences: Increased possibility of drain failure with water leaking into walls and ceilings

 

When drains lines are installed without an emergency overflow pan, the risk of drain failure increases, with the possibility of water leaking through the walls and ceilings.

 

5. Routing flex ducts improperly
Consequences: Efficiency reductions of up to 40%, plus mold and fungal growth inside ducts

 

With low-pressure forced air HVAC installations, the air has to be moved efficiently (to keep utility costs low) and effectively (to keep temperature and humidity at their proper levels).

 

Do you have questions about home HVAC installation? Call the professionals at Cottam Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc at 1-800-734-8367. You can have your questions answered at any time! You can also visit us online at www.cottamhvac.com

10 Things to do with your AC system each year

Annual air conditioning maintenance can save you big on repair bills while keeping your home comfortable and cool. By spotting minor problems early — like a refrigerant leak — your HVAC technician can prevent low refrigerant levels from burning out your compressor and costing you the thousand dollars or so it would cost to replace.

Some annual maintenance tasks are very easy, and some are a little more difficult. If you are concerned about any of the following items, the best decision is to call a professional and don’t risk getting injured or damaging your air conditioner.
Here are 10 annual air conditioner maintenance tasks you and your HVAC technician can do to keep your system running optimally.
1. Clean the coils. Make sure power is disconnected before doing this. Then, open the disconnect switch box and remove the power plug, turn off power with the shut-off handle, or remove the fuse plug. You should also turn off the breaker to the unit in the electrical service panel in your house. Wait a few moments before proceeding to allow stored electrical charge in the system’s capacitors to dissipate. Wet the coils with water from your garden hose, then spray commercial air conditioner coil cleaner (which costs less than $20 from an HVAC suppler) on the coils. Let it sit for 15 minutes or so and rinse thoroughly with the hose. Recommended: Professional
2. Check electrical controls. This is a job for a technician, and it won’t take more than a few minutes. Recommended: Professional
3. Make sure the condensing unit is not covered up. Your air conditioner needs to draw air in, but it can’t do this well if it is blocked. If you’ve stacked up lawn furniture, lawn clippings, leaves, or anything else around your outside unit, move them out of the way to improve air flow and help the unit run more efficiently. Homeowner DIY
4. Check that the concrete pad that the condenser rests on is level. You can do this with a regular carpenter’s level. Check front to back and side to side on top of the unit. If the pad has settled and is not level, you or your technician can lift the concrete pad with a lever and place rocks under it to bring it back to level. Your system operates most efficiently when it is level. Homeowner DIY
5. Check refrigerant levels. This is something that requires a gauge that HVAC technicians carry. While you could get your own meter, this is a maintenance task that a technician can do easily, usually for just the cost of a service call. If refrigerant levels are low, and there is a leak, it needs to be located and repaired right away to avoid burning out the compressor. Recommended: Professional
6. Oil fan motor if necessary. To do it yourself, make sure power is shut off to the system and remove the fan cage holding the fan motor in place. To get to the oil ports on the motor, turn the cage assembly upside down. The oil ports are located on top of the motor below the fan blade. Remove oil plugs and add 3 drops of multi-purpose 3-in-one oil. Next, spin the blade by hand so that the oil will disperse within the fan. Replace oil plugs and wipe up any excess oil. While you can use the instructions above…we still say… Recommended: Professional
7. Clean dirt from the system drain and cap it. Use a vacuum to clear the outside drain, and cap it with a cap you can get from any hardware store. Done yearly, this cuts down on backup in the drain that can cause mold growth and possible water damage.  Homeowner DIY
8. Calibrate the thermostat. Tape a standard thermometer to the wall next to your wall thermostat. Wait 30 minutes for it to adjust to the environment. Check it against the reading on the wall thermostat. If the readings differ, get your HVAC technician to clean the thermostat’s internal mechanism and repeat the process. If readings are still off, your technician can replace the thermostat. Homeowner DIY or Recommended: Professional
9. Give the condenser a checkup. This is a multi-step process your HVAC technician will do. It involves checking electrical resistance to determine if the motor is working properly. Sometimes you can get a few more years from your condenser by adding hard start capacitors that give the unit a boost to get it started. If this doesn’t help, you probably need to replace the condenser. Recommended: Professional
10. Change the air filter. This is something you should actually do more often – every 1 to 3 months. When filters get clogged up with dirt and dust, your air conditioning system has to work harder to draw air through the system, making it run inefficiently. All you have to do is use a screwdriver to open the grill over the filter, remove the filter, and replace it with a new one of the same size. Filters only cost a few dollars. Homeowner DIY

It is the perfect time to get your Air Conditioner some maintenance! Call Cottam Heating & Air Conditioning to schedule a checkup for your system. You can call 718-885-3328 or visit us online at www.cottamhvac.com