Saddleback Plumbing Heating & Air Blog: Archive for the ‘Services’ Category

Anaheim Air Conditioning Q/A: What is a Matched HVAC System?

Monday, June 25th, 2012

It has been about 200 years since the arrival of interchangeable parts during the Industrial Revolution. Today, we laud being able to take a malfunctioning part from a car, computer or vacuum cleaner, replace it with a newly minted part from any number of manufacturers, then keep right on plugging along.

Although this is a blessing in most arenas, when it comes to your Anaheim HVAC system, it is not necessarily a good practice. Heating and cooling systems work best when they are matched – but what does that mean? And why does it matter?

Why Matched Parts Matter in HVAC Systems

When referring to HVAC systems, a matched system is one in which various components are designed to work together. For example, an air conditioner and furnace made by the same manufacturer can be matched, as can a furnace and a heat pump.

Typically, the matching is done in such a way that the “outdoor” components, such as air conditioners and heat pumps are designed to work best with their “indoor” partners, like air handlers and furnaces. There are also matched systems in which every component is matched to every other.

Efficiency Boosts

While this may seem to make maintenance and repairs a pain, the practice provides a big boost to the efficiency of the system. Because the components were designed and manufactured by the same team to work in harmony, the system performs optimally. Although you can often replace one component of a matched system with one from another manufacturer and have it work fine, the system can lose efficiency, often to a significant and noticeable extent.

For these reasons, it is best to make use of matched HVAC system in your Anaheim home whenever possible. This means choosing a new matched system to install, replacing broken parts with ones that match the rest of the system and even replacing older systems with newer ones to properly match, when necessary.

It may seem like a hassle at first, but it saves money in the long run by adding increased efficiency over unmatched systems. For more information about HVAC installation and replacement, give Saddleback Plumbing a call!

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What Can You Do Yourself if Your Central AC Unit Does Not Work? When Should You Call a Lake Forest AC Professional?

Monday, June 18th, 2012

If your Lake Forest air conditioning system suddenly stops working or is not keeping your house as cool as you think it should, the chances are good that you will have to call in a professional to make the necessary repairs and get you back on track. However, there are a few things you can do on your own before you make that call to ensure that this really is something you cannot take care of on your own.

While it may seem obvious, the first thing you should check is the thermostat to make sure that it is set to a temperature that will trigger the air conditioning to come on. If your thermostat for some reason is set too high, then the air conditioner will not receive the signal to start cooling the house. This is an easy fix, of course, and you will be back up and running in no time.

If the thermostat is indeed set where it should be, the next thing to check is the air filter. Most people with central air conditioning know that they should change the filter once every month or so, but this seldom actually happens.

If it has been a while since your air filter was changed, there is a good chance that it is clogged and therefore blocking air from circulating from the air conditioner through the rest of the house. This is an easy enough fix, as all you need to do is replace the current air filter and your system should be able to pick up right where it left of. However, if the blocked air filter has also caused ice to form behind it, you may have to wait for a couple of hours until the ice has a chance to thaw.

Next, you will want to check and make sure that the air conditioning system is actually getting power. Look to see if any of the breakers are tripped or if there may have been a current interruption for any other reason that is within your power to fix. If this is the case, though, it is a good idea to turn the air conditioning system off before you attempt to restore the power.

If none of these measures are able to get your air conditioning system up and running again, you should not hesitate to call a Lake Forest air conditioning professional. Many air conditioning repairs are quite basic, but they still need to be performed by a licensed professional. Contact Saddleback Plumbing today if your air conditioner needs service!

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Air Conditioning Tips: Causes of AC Short Cycling

Monday, June 11th, 2012

A common problem with Orange County air conditioners is short cycling.  Short cycling is when an air conditioning unit will have either short run times or short off times.  This type of quick movement back and forth between being on and off–or rather starting and stopping rapidly–can be detrimental to the overall life of an AC unit, and is also not energy efficient.

There are quite a few air conditioning repairs that can be made to solve this short cycling problem.  Below are the main causes for air conditioning short cycling, which can be checked, diagnosed, and fixed quite easily.

  • AC Refrigerant Leak:  There could be a refrigerant leak somewhere within the AC unit.  A temporary fix might be to add refrigerant and recharge the air conditioning unit, but long-term, an HVAC specialist will need to be contacted in order to find and fix the leak properly, ensuring excess money is not paid to continually add an unnecessary amount of refrigerant.
  • AC Coil Icing: This means that the evaporator coil or cooling coil has become encrusted with ice or frost and is causing the unit to malfunction by turning on and off in short bursts.  Turning off the unit completely and letting the ice melt, then checking and replacing dirty filters can oftentimes fix this problem.
  • AC is Oversized:  The amount of power needed (or the BTUs needed) to cool a space is directly proportional to the size of the space or room which is being cooled.
    • If AC short cycling has been a constant problem since day one of an AC system installation, it is entirely possible that the A/C unit is too large for the space which it is cooling.  This could mean contacting an HVAC technician to have the unit analyzed and a new, smaller unit put in.
    • If A/C short cycling is a relatively new problem, some possible causes could be: closing or opening doors which previously were not closed or opened frequently, or the addition of partitions within rooms which effectively makes the room size smaller.  This could mean simply adjusting the thermostat, or the blower fan to a lower speed to compensate for the change, or opening interior doors to increase the size of the space which is being cooled by the AC unit.
    • AC Control Board Problem:  While less likely, the problem could be in a control board or control switch which has been damaged, thus causing erratic and rapid starting and stopping cycles.  In this case an HVAC technician would need to be contacted in order to replace the broken control switch.
    • AC Compressor Damage or Start-Up Issues:  Some AC systems have hard-starting compressors which take time to re-pressurize properly after shutting down.  If the AC system is being turned on or off manually on a frequent basis, the compressor might have a hard time restarting because the high pressure which had built up on the previous on-cycle had not had a chance to come down to normal levels again.  An easy way to diagnose this problem is if after leaving the AC unit shut off for thirty minutes, the unit works properly after being turned on again.  To help this compressor issue, an HVAC service technician can add a starter capacitor to the AC unit.

These and other AC short cycling causes can be checked, diagnosed, and fixed quite easily by calling Saddleback Plumbing.

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Plumbing Tip: How to Fix Leaky Tub Faucets in Showers

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Do tub faucet leaks sound like a familiar issue in your Orange County home? You turn on your shower, flip the switch to go from tub faucet to shower head and the tub faucet continues to leak. Not only is it rather irritating, but it draws from the water pressure in the shower head. Let’s take a look at why this happens and how to quickly fix it.

Why the Leak?

There is a valve in your tub’s faucet that diverts water from the tub to the shower head when the switch or lever is pulled to turn on your shower. Because the valve is not a perfect seal, the tub faucet will drip a small amount during a shower. However, if a large amount of water is coming out of the tub faucet and very little is coming from your shower head, it is likely a problem with that valve.

In some cases, the only way to know the root of this bathroom plumbing repair is to take apart the assembly and check all of the valve parts individually for damage. The specifics of the repair process will depend largely on the type of shower and diverter valve you have.

Fixing the Problem

To fix this problem, you can either replace part of or the entire shower diverter valve. Start by removing the faucet and pulling the screw that holds the shower diverter valve in place. Once the screw is removed, take out the rubber washer and replace it. Many times, this is enough to fix the problem.

If it is not, however, you may need to replace the entire shower diverter valve. There are some situations that make it hard to reach the shower diverter valve, such as when you have a shower handle instead of a faucet knob. If this is the case, you may need special tools or professional assistance in removing the knob to access the valve.

If you find that this does not fix the problem or that you are uncomfortable attempting this repair, contact Saddleback Plumbing who is experienced in removing and replacing shower diverter valves.

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Taxes and Energy Savings for Anaheim Homes

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Having energy efficient heating and air conditioning appliances in Anaheim isn’t just good for the environment; it is good for your budget too! Not only do you save money by lowering your energy bills each month but you are also able to get some tax credits. While some of these credits have changed since 2010, there are still plenty of ways that you can save money by improving the energy efficiency of your home.  Taxes are confusing, but this is one tax credit that is easy to understand without your accountant. We found this great guide on that explains exactly what air conditioning installations can earn you tax credits.

The federal government offers two different tax credits for energy-saving home improvements. The rules for one credit changed for the worse since last year. The other credit remains as generous as ever. Here’s what you need to know if you want to claim these credits this year.

1. Modest Credit for Garden Variety Energy-Saving Improvements

The first credit equals 10 percent of certain qualified home improvement expenditures plus 100 percent of certain other expenditures–subject to a rather stingy overall credit cap of $500. And you must reduce that already-skimpy cap by credits claimed in earlier years.

While the $500 cap is uninspiring, the good news is the credit covers a broad range of energy-saving expenditures for your principal U.S. residence, and there are no income limits. However improvements made to vacation homes and foreign residences are not eligible.

You may remember that the 2010 version of this credit was much more generous. It equaled 30 percent of qualified expenditures — subject to a $1,500 cap. The current version with the $500 cap is scheduled to expire at year end. Because it is doubtful that the credit will be extended, you may need to take action this year to benefit.

Here are more details on the $500 credit.

Claiming the Credit for Improvement Costs

For the following home improvements, the maximum credit equals 10 percent of qualified 2011 expenditures up to the $500 limit (reduced by any credit claimed in earlier years).

Exterior windows including skylights and storm windows, subject to a $200 credit cap.

Exterior doors including storm doors.


Metal and asphalt roofs with heat-reduction components.

For these items, you cannot count costs for site preparation, assembly, or installation.

Claiming the Credit for Equipment Costs

For the following items, the maximum credit equals 100 percent of qualified 2011 expenditures up to the $500 limit (reduced by any credit claimed in earlier years).

High-efficiency central air conditioners; electric heat pumps, electric heat pump water heaters; water heaters that run on natural gas, propane or oil; and biomass fuel stoves used for heating or hot water. The cap for these items is $300.

Furnaces and hot water boilers that run on natural gas, propane, or oil–subject to a cap of $150.

Advanced main air circulating fans used in natural gas, propane, and oil furnaces–subject to a cap of $50.

For these items, costs for site preparation, assembly, and installation are eligible for the credit.

Manufacturer’s Certification Is Required

You must obtain a manufacturer’s certification that the product in question qualifies for the $500 credit. The certification may be on the product packaging, or you may be able to print it out from the manufacturer’s website. In any case, keep the certification with your tax records. You won’t need to attach the certification to your Form 1040, but Form 5695 (Residential Energy Credits) will be included with your return.

2. Bigger Credit for More Expensive Energy-Saving Equipment

The second credit equals 30 percent of qualified expenditures to buy and install more-exotic (and expensive) energy-saving equipment for your home.

Because the expenditures for these items can be big, the credit amounts can be big too. And there are no income limits. Even billionaires can take advantage.

This second credit is available through 2016, so there is no big hurry. If your 2011 credit is so large that you cannot use it all up on this year’s return, you can carry the excess forward to 2012 and beyond.

Qualified Expenditures

The credit equals 30 percent of qualified expenditures including costs for site preparation, assembly, installation, piping, and wiring for the following gear.

Solar water heating equipment for your U.S. residence (including a vacation home).

Solar electricity generating equipment for your U.S. residence (including a vacation home).

Wind energy equipment for your U.S. residence (including a vacation home).

Geothermal heat pump equipment for your U.S. residence (including a vacation home).

Fuel cell electricity generating equipment for your U.S. principal residence. Vacation homes don’t count here. For this part of the credit, the maximum annual credit amount is limited to $500 for each .5 kilowatt hour of fuel cell capacity that you add during that year.

Special Rules

You cannot claim the credit for equipment used to heat a swimming pool or hot tub, and special rules apply to expenditures for residential co-op and condominium buildings.

You Must Get a Manufacturer’s Certification

Again, you are required to obtain a manufacturer’s certification stating that the equipment in question qualifies for the credit. You don’t need to attach it to your Form 1040, but keep it with your tax records. A completed Form 5695 will be included with your return.

Finally, keep proof of exactly much you spend — including any extra amounts for site preparation, assembly, installation, piping, or wiring.

Check for Additional Cash Inducements

You might also be eligible for state and local income tax benefits, subsidized state and local financing deals, and utility company rebates. These additional inducements can amount to hundreds of dollars or more.

For more information about how HVAC upgrades can save you money in the long run please call Saddleback Plumbing.

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How Indoor Air Quality is Affected by Crawl Spaces in Laguna Beach

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Indoor air quality problems in Laguna Beach come in many forms. The most common is a specific irritant like dander or pollen getting in through poorly sealed windows or a lack of ventilation keeping stale air inside during the winter. However, for those with crawlspaces beneath their home, the risk of potentially dangerous indoor pollutants rises sharply.

Radon in Your Crawlspace

Radon is a gas emitted from the natural decay of uranium found in almost all soil. Any home can sit atop radon emitting soil – the real question is whether that gas can make its way into your living space. Unfortunately, poorly sealed crawlspaces are a frequent problem, either due to previous owners using the space for storage or to it being poorly sealed during construction.

If your home shows high levels of radon, the crawlspace is likely the first space that will be inspected by your contractor. Because radon gas can lead to diseases like lung cancer (in as many as 21,000 people each year), the risk is not worth ignoring.

Mold and Mildew

Another major problem faced by homeowners with crawlspaces is the presence of moisture in the crawlspace. Moisture is a direct contributor to the growth of mold and mildew which can quickly spread into your home. Proper sealing is highly recommended if natural moisture builds up in the crawlspace or if a lingering mold problem simply won’t go away.

Crawlspace Inspection

Inspection of your crawlspace starts with carefully analyzing the indoor air quality of your home to be sure nothing is currently causing problems. If high levels of radon or mold are detected, the crawlspace is usually the first place to check. If they are not, it is still good to inspect the space to check for both as they can quickly spread to the rest of the house.  Another preventative step you can take is installing air cleaners in your HVAC system to help reduce air pollutants.

An unsealed crawlspace is almost always an unnecessary danger that should be seen to as quickly as possible. If you are interested in keeping tabs on your home’s air quality, it starts at the foundation. Contact Saddleback Plumbing today and learn more about what they can do for you.

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Faucet Aerators Can Improve Your Bathroom Plumbing

Monday, May 14th, 2012

A tap aerator or faucet aerator is located on the tip of water faucets which are used indoors for kitchen and bathroom plumbing in Dana Point.  Their purpose is to spread the water stream into a number of smaller streams, in essence adding air to the water stream.  This saves the amount of water which comes out of the tap at one time while also reducing the amount of backsplash which occurs when the faucet is turned on.

Utilizing faucet aerators can be one of the most inexpensive plumbing installations that can save you money on water consumption and save energy.

There are two main types of faucet aerators, some which use metal or plastic screens to separate the water, and some which do not use screens. One advantage to those without screens is that they eliminate problematic clogging which occurs on screen aerators due to sediment buildup.  There are also aerators with off-valves and swivel aerators which allow users to direct flow to wherever the water spray is needed.

There are three main flow-types seen today. The needle method creates a circular pattern of small, single streams of water with no water-flow in the very center.  The aerated method created a tubular flow with air mixed into the water, creating a single stream of bubbly water.  The laminar method has no air mixed in which makes for a single stream of water with no bubbles.

Many aerators are designed as more economical low-flow aerators which optimize the water flow while still providing optimal water-flow performance.  In kitchens these low-flow options decrease flow from 2.2 gallons per minute to 1.5 gpm or 1.0 gpm, saving anywhere from 32% to 54% of water-usage.  On bathroom faucets the water-flow is decreased from 2.2 gpm to 1.0 gpm or even 0.5 gpm saving from 77% to 84% of water usage.  When engineered properly, low-flow or economic aerators can provide increased perceived water pressure while in actuality helping to save water.

When purchasing new faucet aerators, ensure that you find the proper type (male or female) and the proper size (regular or small).  There are dual-thread options for those who do not know whether a male or female aerator is necessary.  Also, look at the tap aerator’s price in conjunction with how much savings it can provide in water usage annually and see how little must be spent on each faucet in order to save hundreds of dollars.  When you need plumbers in Dana Point call Saddleback Plumbing

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Sump Pump Maintenance is Easy in the Spring

Monday, May 7th, 2012

For those of us with sump pumps in Orange County, their maintenance is one of the most important things to make a little time for on a regular basis.  If a sump pump is not working properly it could mean flooding of a home or office building that sits below the water table level, or that had a basement waterproofing system in place.  Flooding can mean excessive damage to not only the basement, but to any other lower floors, and even foundation damage which will all then need to be repaired or replaced completely.  With such simple precautionary steps as performing a few quick plumbing maintenance checks it is easy to keep that sump pump running properly without such damage.  A good time to go about sump pump maintenance is during early Springtime prior to the rainy season when the weather changes once again and other areas of the home or building are being checked as well.

  • For electric sump pumps: Ensure the sump pump is plugged into a working outlet, and that the cord is in good shape.  Due to the damp, the breakers on these outlets can trip more easily, which then shuts off the sump pump.  This is a simple fix as the breaker just needs to be reset.
  • For battery powered sump pumps: replace the battery as often as is recommended by the manufacturer.  On back-up battery powered pumps, replace the battery every two to three years.
  • Check that the sump pump is standing upright.  Since sump pumps vibrate they can fall to one side, which can jam vital parts, causing it not to activate properly.  While upright, all working parts should be free to move as necessary.
  • Pick up submersible pumps to clean the grate on the bottom.  Ensure that there are no small stones in the grate which could block the inlet or damage the pump.
  • Check that outlet pipes are tightly joined together, check that their outlet is at least twenty feet from the foundation of the home or building, and that when the sump pump is on it is actually removing water through the pipes.
  • Clean the vent hole in the discharge pipe, remove any debris which was stuck in it.

Besides performing maintenance on a sump pump annually, it is good to check it again after heavy rains to ensure that it is still removing water properly.  Also check it after longer dry spells by dumping a bucket or two of water near the machine to make sure it starts up automatically and that it drains efficiently.  While most new models have indicators which alert you when the pump is not working properly, it is still good to physically check the machine periodically to ensure it is running properly.  With proper sump pump maintenance your sump pump will give you great service for a long time.  Call Saddleback Plumbing to schedule your next simp pump maintenance vist.

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What to do When Air Conditioning Coils Freeze Over in Orange County

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Here are a few reasons air conditioners in Orange County can develop cooling coil icing problems; either the air filter has not been properly replaced, or there is a condensing coil leak.  It is best to check and test the easiest problem first and then move on from there.

It is important to perform the air conditioning maintenance of changing the filters as often as recommended by the manufacturer.  A common result of not replacing filters frequently enough is a buildup of dust and dirt on the filter, which causes reduced air flow throughout the air conditioning unit.  With reduced air flow, the evaporator coil or cooling coil within the air handler can become blocked by ice or frost build-up.  Having cooling coil icing can significantly reduce or completely stop the amount of cool air being produced by an air conditioning unit.

Easy steps to diagnose and resolve air conditioning cooling coil icing problems:

  • Visually inspect the air conditioning cooling coils to check whether reduced air flow has been caused by cooling coil icing.  If ice or frost is found on the coils, thus blocking air-flow, proceed with the next step.
  • Turn off the air conditioning system completely to allow ice to evaporate, the unit will have to remain off until all ice is completely melted and drained away from the unit
  • Unclog the condensate drain to ensure proper drainage of melting ice
  • Replace all dirty filters on the air conditioning unit
  • Once the a/c unit is de-iced and has fresh filters, it is safe to turn the system back on, to test whether the icy build-up happens again

If after completing these steps, when the air conditioning unit is turned back on the cooling coils do not ice-up, the unit runs normally and cool air runs smoothly through the system, congratulations!  That do-it-yourself attitude paid off; the problem has been fixed!

If after completing these steps, when the air conditioning unit is turned back on cooling coil icing happens again, this could mean one of two things.  Either too little of the refrigerant is being released into the cooling coil due to a clogged capillary tube or a stuck thermostatic expansion valve.  Or the refrigerant charge is too low due to a refrigerant leak.  A refrigerant leak can happen at any point in the refrigerant piping system which would then need to be soldered and resealed, or it can happen in the cooling coil or condensing coil which could mean the entire coil needs to be replaced.  Fixing of refrigerant leaks should be handled by a HVAC professional.  Contact Saddleback Plumbing so we can identify the air conditioner cooling coil icing problem and execute the proper solution.

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New Fixtures in Newport Beach: A Low Cost Way to Brighten a Kitchen or Bath

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Many older homes in Newport Beach still have the original faucets, toilets, shower heads, and other plumbing fixtures and are in desperate need of plumbing replacements. Like most contractor-grade components, those fixtures were  probably designed to be strictly practical, with very little styling or decorative flair.

Contractors aren’t architects or interior designers. They’re focused mainly on installing the infrastructure of the plumbing system – the water delivery and waste pipes. It’s not their job to pick out elegant or cutting edge fixtures. They also can’t predict the taste of a home’s future occupants, so it makes no sense to install distinctive fixtures that might be removed or, worse, contribute to a potential buyer’s negative impression of the home.

That means many homeowners spend years living with plumbing fixtures deliberately intended to be bland and unnoticeable. There’s nothing wrong with that, but consider how many times each day we use our bathroom and kitchen plumbing. How many times per week do we take a bath or use the shower? The simple pleasure of seeing and touching an attractive, well designed faucet is a little perk that can help brighten the day.

Higher end plumbing fixtures can be pricey, but factor in how long most fixtures last and you’re only paying a few pennies or less per day. Plumbing fixture design has become much more consumer-driven. Companies must compete by offering an expanding variety of styles.  The new passion for cooking has increased the demand for professional grade kitchen faucets that can stand up to hard use, have pullout sprayers, and accommodate large pans. New shower head designs provide a more comfortable, invigorating spray. Sink faucets with elegant finishes of bronze, brushed nickel, or brilliant brass can liven a bathroom. Ergonomically correct handles are easier to use and more inviting to touch.

There are also practical reasons for replacing fixtures. With improvements in materials technology the interior seals of faucets and other fixtures are more resistant to mineral build up and corrosion that can cause leaks. Metal finishes are more durable and resistant to dulling from soap or detergent.

Installing a new, attractive faucet won’t provide a total kitchen or bathroom makeover, but it will provide a spark that brightens the room and makes everyday living just a little more fun.  Call Saddleback Plumbing to get started today.

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