Heating & Air Conditioning Repair Contractors | Dallas

Needing a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) service or repair contractor usually happens . . .

  1. when it’s scorching hot outside, aka the dog days of summer here in Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas
  2. when it’s cold outside, like it has been this winter
  3. when you’re under duress, aka when something breaks and needs service or repair, usually immediately
  4. when you’re least prepared, aka you you know you need service, repair, or to buy new equipment but from whom? Which contractor can you trust among the multitude of companies scattered throughout Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas?

So to help you ease into Spring and Summer, we’ve put together a series of posts addressing HVAC contractors, followed by a look at the equipment they could be repairing, retrofitting, or replacing in the coming months.

Finding an HVAC contractor

In most cases homeowners . . .

  • Go back to the contractor they’ve been using, if they have one, and start there. If they do this, they probably already trust the company and its service and repair technicians. Even so, it’s OK to read on.
  • Pull out the Yellow Pages (remember these?) and look under heating, air conditioning, HVAC contractors, but that’s so 1980s.
  • A more modern-day approach is to search the Web for heating, air conditioning, HVAC contractors, service and repair using search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! or sites like, yes, the YellowPages. More on this in a minute.
  • Call, email, or text neighbors, either individually or in a group; many neighborhoods have formal or loosely-knit homeowner’s associations, which usually have phone or email lists available for members.
  • Go to a home improvement center in Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas and talk with an HVAC guy.

Let’s Look at These Options

  • Using Your Existing Contractor. A great place to start but, depending on circumstances and needs, you will probably want a second or even third opinion, especially regarding product replacement, brand, installation, and cost. Having additional quotes and information on hand is critical.
  • The Yellow Pages (aka the Phone Book). Here homeowners look for companies near their homes and are influenced by those who purchase the largest display ad. However, Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas is such a large metropolitan area that contractors and locations blend together. A contract may say it’s local to, say, Grapevine but is actually based in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas. Do you want to deal with contractors nearby? With large or small companies? There are advantages and disadvantages to all the scenarios. Purchasing the largest display ad doesn’t mean it’s the right company for you.
  • Web Searches. Being the age of the Internet, most homeowners will “google” heating, air conditioning, HVAC, service, repair, contractors, or some equivalent, for an area they live in like Grapevine or Arlington, which is nearby. One may be in Plano and get results for Dallas. Or one is in Mansfield and gets companies listed in Fort Worth. The results are overwhelming because the Web reduces distance and everybody is “local.”
  • Web Searches and Noise. When homeowners search the phone book, the only additional commentary is the size of the ad. When searching the Web, so much more information is attached. The company probably has its own website and/or blog. There’s the Yellow Pages for the Web, Yelp “user” reviews, sites that aggregate (collect) local business info, “subject matter” blogs and other Web resources, social media, social networks like Facebook, HVAC professional associations, government sites, better business bureaus and, of course, neighboring service and repair companies that are actually competitors.
  • Web Searches and Online Recommendations. Accompanying all the options above, which isn’t even an exhaustive list, are online recommendations, reviews, comments, complaints, ratings, and social media posts. Some people use real names when writing a review. Other people are anonymous. Who do you trust? Less than ethical service and repair companies may write glowing reviews for themselves or post something snarky about a competitor. Information is probably presented through a blog with a slant to influence visitors. If it looks official, these guys must be good. It’s social and info quicksand.
  • Neighbors and Word of Mouth. One way to deal with noise and the quagmire of online recommendations, reviews, comments, complaints, ratings and all that jazz is to ask trusted neighbors who they use, if the companies have been prompt, easy to deal with, do quality work, are fair, and are trustworthy. This doesn’t always work, but you’d be surprised — it never hurts to ask around. Who knows the locals better: a neighbor or Google? If this is a dead end, you can try an online service like Angie’s list, whose entire business model is helping homeowners — who pay an annual membership fee — find reliable, vetted local services. You can also search the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for companies using city, state, or postal code.
  • Due Diligence. In the end, finding an HVAC service or repair contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas comes down to the individual homeowner and how he or she checks up on any information received, whether it comes from an existing company, a display ad in the phone book, a Web search, an online recommendation, or word of mouth. Chances are, it will be a combination of all these sources.

Next Up

We will examine contractors, what to consider when choosing one, and what they represent.

Air Conditioning Repair vs. Replacement | Dallas

As homeowners in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas schedule Spring heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) checkups and even do some of the basic maintenance themselves they may already know — nagging them in the backs of their minds — that it’s time.

Time to replace?

Or time for major repairs?

It’s one of the toughest questions homeowners face. The simple question of “Do I replace or repair?” is fraught with gray-area risk because, ultimately, who wants to plunk down thousands of dollars on an air conditioner and a heater?

Unless the equipment is 20 years old, most homeowners would prefer to repair the AC as long as possible.

But is repairing older equipment a good idea? If so, is there a point of no return, when spending money on repairs would be better spent on a new, more energy efficient system?

This post takes a look at repair vs. replacement and what Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas homeowners should consider for making an enlightened decision. Because each home is different, because of all the mechanical variables, there’s no perfect cutoff to determine repair or replace.

Understanding History

A great place to start wrestling with this question — before you even call to a contractor in Arlington Fort Worth, or Dallas — is to review the equipment’s history.

Ideally, you’ve got this information collected in a file for quick review. Chances are, though, that’s not happening, so collect what you can, including:

  • manufacturer, model number, and serial number
  • date the system was installed, or approximate, if you bought a home with existing HVAC equipment and don’t know the install date
  • manufacturer and contractor warranties, and whether these are still valid or expired
  • additional factory- or contractor-backed service or maintenance agreements, and whether these are still in effect or expired
  • receipts or notes of past service, maintenance, or repairs, if known
  • details about any breakdowns during peak use (if the equipment can’t handle demands of the hottest and coldest times of year, that’s an indicator trouble is brewing)
  • rooms with uneven temperatures (an indicator that something may be amiss)
  • noise (an indicator the system may be overexerting itself to keep up with demand)
  • random shut offs (an indicator there may be a problem)
  • trends in monthly utility bills, particularly if costs keep rising during peak months (something to watch)
  • trends in increased service or repair calls (another indicator equipment may be aging)

Time for Inspection

Put down the paper and go outside or climb into the attic for a visual inspection of the air conditioner and furnace. You can do these:

  • Inspect the air conditioner cabinetry. It should be intact, not damaged, and fastened tightly to minimize leakage into or out of the unit. It should not be clogged with leaves or overgrown with weeds that hamper air flow. If so, clean out the leaves, pull the weeds, and hose the unit down and you may see improved performance.
  • Inspect the furnace. Look for holes and rusting.
  • Inspect the coils of the air conditioner. Look for evidence of dirt, debris, or physical damage. Bent or damaged coils restrict air flow and reduce efficiency, increasing operating costs.

You’ve made basic observational notes. Now it’s time for a professional look-see, so call your Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas contractor. A service or repair tech will perform a detailed inspection of the cooling and heating equipment, air flow, temperature rise and split, among other things. Be present during the inspection and review the findings with the tech.

The 10-year Mark

There’s no set-in-stone mark, but equipment generally shows wear and starts to lose efficiency around the 10-year mark, depending on several variables:

  • the quality of the manufacturer for the chosen system
  • how well the equipment was designed into the home; if it’s too large or too small a system, that may result in a shorter life expectancy
  • how well the equipment has been maintained and serviced.

A low-end model from a lesser-known manufacturer may not last as long as a low- to mid-line unit from a leading company. The low-end model may require earlier repair or even replacement.

Equipment less than 10 years old may also be under warranty, depending on the manufacturer or any extended warranties purchased. If so, this will lessen any expense for the homeowner.

If repairs are needed, parts should be easier to come by for equipment less than 10 years old, making repair a more viable option. Make sure, however, that parts “match” existing equipment (best if they come from the manufacturer), or performance may be impacted.

Something else to consider: If your equipment was manufactured around 2006, when much more stringent efficiency standards came into play (a minimum of 13 SEER is required, up from 10), upgrading from 13 to 14 or 15 SEER may not provide much energy savings, so repair may make more sense.

On the Cusp

This is the gray area: equipment that’s 10 to 12 years old, 12 to 14, makes for a more difficult decision, especially considering the quality of the manufacture and equipment and service and repair history.

If the equipment is at 10 years or just beyond and repair costs are approaching 50 percent of the value of the system, consider upgrading. Keep in mind that efficiency savings range between 20 and 40 percent, depending on the SEER of the new equipment.

Be careful not to continue replacing parts in this on-the-cusp gray area because, added up, you might be spending a fair amount money on repair that could be a significant portion of a new system.

One other thing to be aware of: Once equipment hits the 10-year mark, government incentives and tax breaks may be available for the purchase and installation of more energy efficient systems.

This is where the advice from a trusted, vastly experienced contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas is extremely important.

Equipment Beyond 14 Years

Replacement, rather than repair, seems to be a no-brainer here, but it’s not. If the equipment is from a leading manufacturer and well maintained into years 15 or 16, repair may be a better option, depending on need. Otherwise, replacement is probably in order.

  • If the equipment was manufactured before 1993, furnace efficiency was around 65 percent and air conditioner efficiency was 8 or 10 SEER. Replace. The energy efficiency savings will be enormous.
  • If the equipment was manufactured from the early 1990s to 2005, chances are it’s still 10 SEER. You probably should replace anything made in the 1990s to early 2000s. Again, the energy efficiency savings should be significant.
  • If you have an out-of-warranty compressor that has failed or a cracked heat exchanger, replace. You shouldn’t spend thousands of dollars repairing the core of an older system that includes lots of aging components that are likely to fail. Repairing is not a good investment.
  • If the equipment is beyond the three-quarters of life expectancy mark and repairs will cost more than a third of the replacement, you’ll most likely replace the system.

If you are considering repair to an older system, keep in mind:

  • It’s important to remember that the air conditioning and heating systems share some equipment and perform better when they are properly “matched.”
  • On site, or field, matching of new and old components can be done but has risks.
  • Refrigerant types have changed. As of Jan. 1, 2010, R-22 (better known as Freon) is no longer used in the manufacture of air conditioners and will be phased out by 2020 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to protect the ozone. Newer equipment utilizes R-410A refrigerant. R-22 supplies are being reduced each year and is more expensive to add to older equipment.

You may also consider repair if:

  • the home is near the end of its structural or economic life
  • the home “envelope” is poor and requires repair before you can justify installing higher efficiency equipment
  • cash or reasonable affordable financing is not available
  • you are planning to move in relatively near future
  • your contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas has vast experience repairing — not just installing — HVAC components; these mechanical wizards love repairing 20-year-old-and-above components.

Coming Up

We will be taking an extensive look at contractors — how to find them, what can they do for you, and what makes a good contractor — as well as the equipment — how do air conditioners work, what are your equipment options, and how to purchase.

Outdoor Air Conditioning Unit Maintenance| Arlington, TX

So far in our pre-Spring look at heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) for Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas homeowners we’ve looked at:

  • why you should schedule a Spring service checkup with a local contractor;
  • and what is done during a Spring service checkup.

In this post we’ll dig a little deeper into you doing the basic maintenance on the home’s air conditioner. This does not mean you shouldn’t schedule a checkup — that’s one of the best things you can do to extend the life of your equipment and give you peace of mind.

But life is what it is: You don’t get around to calling that contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas, or you just plain forgot. It’s easy to do.

At least now you’ll know how to do basic air conditioner cleaning. It pays off with summertime comfort and lower cooling bills, which can get substantial in the Texas heat.

Project Basics

Time required: This project can be completed in an afternoon

Difficulty: Easy.

Cost: your time is all.

Savings: $100 to $250, est.

Cleaning the Outdoor Unit

Step 1: Shut off the 240-volt power.

The appliance shutoff box is usually mounted on the wall near the air conditioning unit. Some shutoffs simply pull out, others have a handle to pull down or fuse to remove. You can also turn the power off at the home’s main circuit breaker, often located in a garage or utility room in the home.

You will want to clean the outdoor unit when the temperature is 60 degrees or more. Compressors don’t work properly when the temperature is below 60.

Step 2: Clean the fins

The fan inside the condenser coil sucks air through the fins and as a result pulls dirt and debris with it. Dust, leaves, and dead grass collects on the fins and blocks airflow, reducing efficiency. Grass clippings thrown by the lawn mower and “cotton” from cottonwood trees and dandelions are bad offenders.

If the fins are caked with dirt and debris, one option is to vacuum the fins with a soft-bristle brush attachment and a shop vac. The fins are delicate and bend easily. Be careful.

Clear away grass clippings, weeds, and over growth that block airflow through the coil. Ideally, you want a two-foot clearance around the air conditioner.

Step 2 (Alternate): Remove the grille and use the hose

Another, sometimes quicker option, is to simply “hose down” the unit, assuming there is a water spigot and hose nearby. Most service techs spray the hose from the inside out. Again, be careful not to use a force that bends the metal fins.

If you need to remove the top grille, unscrew it but be careful: The fan usually comes with it. Don’t stretch the electrical wires and stress the connections. If the fan does not lift out, avoid spraying it with water when you clean the fins.

If the fan motor has lubrication ports, apply five drops of a special oil for electric motors, available at most home improvement centers or hardware stores in the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area. Don’t use penetrating or all-purpose oil.

Step 3: Look over the compressor and motor

The compressor and motor sit inside the coil. They are usually sealed and don’t require maintenance. During an annual spring or fall checkup, a service or repair tech will look these over in more detail so you won’t have to worry about them.

If you have an older compressor, it may be belt-driven by a separate motor. Lubricate the motor through its oil ports.

Always keep an eye out for dark drop marks on the bottom of the compressor case or the concrete pad. This indicates an oil leak, the compressor or tubes might be leaking coolant (refrigerant) as well. If you see a leak, call an Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas contractor and schedule a service call.

Do not tighten the joints to stop the leaks yourself. Over-tightening usually makes the problem worse. And a service or repair tech with the right equipment are the only ones who can recharge a system with coolant or “freon.”

Outside Startup Guidelines

Something to be aware of: Compressors are surprisingly fragile and you want to take precautions when restoring power.

  • If the 240-volt switch has been turned off for more than four hours, don’t start the outdoor unit immediately after cleaning.
  • Move the switch from Cool to Off at the thermostat inside the home.
  • Switch the power back on and let the outdoor unit sit for 24 hours, which allows a warming element to heat the compressor’s internal lubricant.
  • Switch the thermostat to cooling and set the temperature so the outdoor unit turns on. Check the unit.

A reminder: If you switch off an older air conditioner at the thermostat at any time, wait at least five minutes to turn it back on. Once off the compressor need time to “decompress.” If you restart it too soon you’ll stress the motor.

Many newer thermostats have auto time delays built into the circuitry to protect the compressor from this problem. If you have an older thermostat, consider upgrading.

Once the unit is on, listen for any odd noises that might indicate damage or excessive wear.

After 10 minutes, pull back the insulation on the pipe (or pipes if you use a heat pump). It should feel cool, about 60 degrees. The other pipe should feel warm, about skin temperature. If they do not feel right call a service or repair tech to check the refrigerant level.

Looking over the indoor unit

Homeowners usually don’t have easy access to the evaporator coil that’s inside the plenum or main duct near the furnace. If you can get to it vacuum the bottom side of its fins with a shop vac and soft brush attachment.

Otherwise, have the service or repair tech clean it once every few years. You want to keep the air that flows through it clean.

Blower compartments of newer furnaces are super tight so you don’t need to lubricate the blower. A service or repair tech can do it during a semi-annual checkup.

The evaporator coil in the plenum dehumidifies indoor air as it cools in the summer. The water that condenses on the coil flows out through a condensation pipe or tube. Check to make sure it isn’t clogged with sludge or algae at the drain port.

Upcoming

In future posts this Spring and Summer, we’ll examine how air conditioners work, what types of AC units are available, the age old question of repair vs. replacement, purchasing new equipment, finding the right contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas, warranties, and other topics of interest as the temperature rises.

Air Conditioning Maintenance | Fort Worth

Think of your home’s air conditioner as your car. Both are vitally important. One you take in for regular maintenance, the other you most likely ignore. Which is which?

Chances are you get that car in for an oil change every 3,000 to 7,000 miles, depending on the product you use. Chances are you think about the air conditioner only when it’s not cooling properly.

In this post we look at air conditioning maintenance for the Spring and early Summer for Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area homeowners.

Quick Fact

Studies by government agencies and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals have found that every year of an air conditioner’s usage it loses 5 percent of its efficiency. That means even a five-year-old AC unit could be down 25 percent efficiency-wise, costing you money.

Studies have also shown that with regular maintenance AC units will continue to work the way they should be, maintaining as much as 95 percent efficiency over its lifetime.

“Setting the Table”

Most central air conditioners have two basic parts:

  • an outdoor unit — the compressor and condenser — that sits on the side of or in back of the home.
  • an indoor unit — the evaporator — that’s located in a central duct near the furnace. (If you have a heat pump instead of a furnace, the indoor unit will be in the air handler.)

Basic Maintenance

Change the Air Filter

We’re a broken record about this: change the air filter, change the air filter, change the air filter. It’s one of the least expensive and most overlooked or forgotten maintenance items. A fresh air filter traps contaminants such as dander and pet hair and helps the system run more efficiently, prolonging its life.

Some air conditioner manufacturers recommend changing the filter monthly, others suggest every three months, some every six months, and others annually. If you don’t know much about your home’s air conditioner, ask the service or repair tech from an Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas HVAC contractor to review with you the system during a service checkup.

Now do this. Take a Sharpie and write the installation date of the filter on the filter itself or keep a notebook next to the air handler or furnace to log events and take notes. If you have a camera on your phone, take a picture of the filter and its dimensions so you have it handy when you’re at an Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas area home improvement center or hardware store.

Here’s another hint. Buy two filters (or four if you have a two-filter system). Use one (or two) now. Set the other(s) aside for future use. It’s always a good idea to have an extra filter on hand when you have forgotten to make the change after six months.

To finish up, the manufacturer’s recommendations for changing air filters are just that: recommendations. So much depends on your home’s environment: How big is it? How many people live inside? Are there dogs and cats? Does anybody smoke? Are there special medical circumstances like allergies?

Now, assume you are changing the air filter. How does it look? Often it’s easy to tell if a filter is clogged just by looking at it. But let’s assume you’ve changed the filter at exactly six months, which is what the manufacturer recommends. Is it super dirty? Can you really tell? Should you change it more frequently?

Set that air filter aside so when a tech from an Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas contractor comes to the home for a service checkup you can show him and ask for an assessment. Chances are that filter should be changed sooner.

Enough about air filters.

Check the Thermostat Settings

During a Spring checkup, the service tech should review the thermostat settings to make sure the system is cooling as programmed. If you notice any odd fluctuations or variances during a season, make note of it.

Electrical Review

The service tech will inspect the electrical connections and test the voltage on system components. This is something most do-it-yourselfers don’t want to mess with, unless they’re handy with electrical issues and have the proper equipment.

Broken, loose, or disconnected connections can mean the system is not operating properly, efficiently, or safely, and increases the likelihood of component failure.

Lubricate Moving Parts

Moving parts without the correct amount of lubrication increases friction and decreases the system’s overall efficiency. Without proper lubrication parts wear more quickly.

Depending on the system, this is something DIYers can do — as long as they use the proper lubricant. But why bother? It’s something that service and repair techs from Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas contractors do during seasonal checkups.

Inspect Condensate Drain

If the drain for condensation from the air conditioner, furnace, or heat pump becomes obstructed water damage can occur, there could be high humidity levels inside the home, and there’s always the possibility of mold and bacteria growth occurring.

If air conditioning and heating equipment are located in an attic, be particularly on the look out for signs of a clogged drain — a water spot may appear on a first floor ceiling. If left unattended — as happened recently in an Arlington-area home — the ceiling can come crashing down from water that leaked from the condensate drain. A costly and messy repair ensued.

Check System Startup and Shutdown Controls

Service techs will check the startup and shutdown cycles, which are based on thermostat settings, to make sure the system is operating properly and not short-cycling. They will also check all operating pressures.

Clean Outside AC Unit

Clear any growth within two feet of the AC unit. Remove debris — grass, weeds, leaves. If there is a hose nearby, some techs will even “wash down” the coils for you.

If possible, shade the outdoor unit. Air in shaded space is typically five to six degrees cooler than surrounding air, which can be a big deal in an Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas summer. Proper shading can be up to 10 percent more efficient over a cooling season.

Cleaning Fan Blades

If needed, either you or the service tech should clean the fan blades and coils before the cooling season begins in earnest.

Always turn off the power before attempting anything other than superficial cleaning. This can be done at the breaker by the AC unit.

Remove the fan grill and fan blades. Gently brush off debris. Uncover the condenser coils and gently brush the dirt aside. Hose water from inside the unit, using plastic bags to protect the motor and other components. Check the base pan under the unit and remove any debris that has accumulated there as well.

If the condenser fan makes clicking or grating noises the blades may be striking an obstruction. If the blade is bent, do not straighten. Replace it. Otherwise, the blade may be unbalanced and could cause further damage.

Other Adjustments

  • The service tech will check and refill the refrigerant charge, if necessary. Not having the right amount of cooling refrigerant can lead to a damaged air compressor, which is a costly repair or replacement.
  • Clean and calibrate the blower system components for optimal airflow.
  • Adjust belts, if applicable.
  • If the unit outside needs lubrication, look for oil ports. These are usually plugged with rubber or metal caps. Use non-detergent lightweight SAE-20 oil and add no more than 10 drops per port.

Spring Air Conditioning Service

While not officially Spring yet, it’s time for homeowners in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas to begin thinking about the coming hot weather and what it means to their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment.

As always, we start here: scheduling the Spring checkup with an HVAC professional in Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas, or surrounding area. While many homeowners believe the Spring and Fall service checkups are an unnecessary expense, especially when their cooling are heating equipment are humming along just fine and dandy, it’s actually the best money they can spend on their homes annually.

But before we get to the benefits of Spring HVAC service checkups, let’s take a look at what’s ahead weather-wise.

The DFW Summer 2015 Forecast

Anybody who has lived in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas for any length of time, knows it’s easy to predict summer weather: It’s gonna be hot, hot, hot; the only thing that’s unknown is how many days are we going to hit more than 100 degrees and more than 110.

The record for 100-degree days in a calendar year was 71 in 2011, with 42 consecutive in 1980 (nearly matched in 2011). The average is 18 days a year.

For grins, this Spring we’re taking a look at The Old Farmer’s Almanac, that folklore-ish reference book that contains weather forecasts, tide tables, planting charts, and all sorts of other fun stuff from gardening to trend predictions. It has been published continuously since 1792, making it the oldest continuously-published periodical in North America.

As a reference point, The Old Farmer’s Almanac derives its forecasts from a secret formula devised by founder Robert B. Thomas, who believed that weather was influenced by sunspots, which are magnetic storms on the surface of the Sun. The prediction formula has since been updated and modernized.

The Almanac employs three scientific disciplines to make long-range predictions: solar science (the study of sunspots and other solar activity); climatology (the study of prevailing weather patterns); and meteorology (study of atmosphere). The Almanac predicts weather trends and events by comparing solar patterns and historical weather conditions with current solar activity.

Is The Almanac, which uses the 30-year statistical averages prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), any more accurate than weather.com, accuweather.com, or the local weatherman in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas?

Not necessarily so, but The Almanac holds its own with the others, hitting between 80 to 85 percent accuracy annually. Plus, The Almanac, with its rich history, it’s down-home tone, and folklore bent is just fun to read.

So — drumroll please — The Almanac predicts Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas will be, on average, warmer and rainier (a good thing for a drought-ridden area) in April and May. Summer will be hotter and drier than normal, despite a hurricane threat for the Gulf Coast in July. The hottest periods will be late June (not May or early June), early July (not late July, a surprise), and pretty much all of August (no surprise there). September and October are predicted to be cooler and rainier than normal (a bit of a surprise).

Benefits of the Spring HVAC Checkup

So you know the Summer of 2015 is going to be hot. Probably not as hot as the Summer of 2011, but hot nonetheless from late June through August with a slight (and welcomed) break at the end of July.

Plan accordingly. Get the Spring checkup out of the way for . . .

Peace of Mind

  • Know what shape your HVAC infrastructure is in before the heat and humidity arrive.
  • Know that all mechanical components of the cooling system — from the coils to the thermostat — have been properly reviewed and calibrated for the coming months by a service and repair tech who knows what to look for.
  • Service and repair techs can spot difficult-to-see potential problems such as corrosion in the ducts, inefficient cooling, worn parts, and other issues that often escape the home do-it-himselfer.
  • Know that by having the cooling system serviced prior to June you can budget for any potential repairs or replacement of expensive components or an entire system.
  • Know that, if the unit(s) are not inspected prior to Summer and failure occurs it will most likely be an emergency situation — resulting in much more expensive service calls (as much as double in some cases) and possible delays in getting repair parts or even new equipment.

Save Money, Wear & Tear

  • Here’s something to think about: According to some industry estimates, more than 50 percent of service and repair calls are due to no maintenance. The result is that homeowners actually spend more money on service and repair than they would have to had they spent that $50 to $80 twice a year for a Spring or Fall checkup.
  •  A little preventative, mostly affordable maintenance can extend the life of equipment, especially for HVAC systems that are in the 10 to 14 age range. Some estimates predict up to 30 percent longer life for equipment that has been properly maintained.
  • Small repairs are less expensive than major overhauls.
  • Know that properly inspected, serviced, and tuned air conditioning will save you money by reducing electricity, which continues to get more expensive, not less, from year to year.
  • If your HVAC system is older, its wear and tear is exponential, meaning that the likelihood of something failing greatly increases each year.

Up next: What Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas service and repair techs do during a Spring HVAC maintenance checkup.

How Your Home’s Heating System Works | Dallas/Fort Worth

It’s surprisingly simple how a heating system works in your Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas home.

In a previous post we established a baseline understanding of home heating systems, particularly how they are rated for energy efficiency, which is important for troubleshooting performance issues and knowing when to call a service or repair tech to discuss retrofitting or purchasing new equipment.

Now we examine how your home heating system works.

It’s surprisingly simple:

  • The heating system takes in cold air.
  • It cleans it with an air filter.
  • It heats it with a gas burner and a steel heat exchanger.
  • It distributes the warm air via a blower motor through the ductwork into the home.
  • Bingo. Once the heated air cools in various rooms, it returns to the furnace through return air vents and ductwork.

The next time a contractor from an Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas company sends out a service or repair tech for a winter (or spring) checkup, ask him to take you on a quick tour of the process.
Components

Draft Inducer Fan

Modern furnaces rely on a fan to create a draft up the chimney, rather than heat produced by a roaring flame from the burner.

Ignitor, Gas Valve

This creates a high-voltage spark or glows red hot to ignite the rush of gas to the burner. Its electromagnet is energized and opens to permit gas flow after it receives a signal, which happens after the thermostat and all other controls are energized.

Burner

There are no moving parts. Just the burner, with a row of tubes, that allow fuel and air to mix at the proper ratio so they can burn at the highest efficiency possible. That’s important for energy conservation and controlling costs.

Heat Exchanger

The principle is simple. Heat the metal plate with a gas flame and pass air over it. The heated air is then distributed to the house and the flue gas, or waste, goes out the chimney.

Furnace Blower

A fan creates pressure inside the furnace so the cool air is pulled in to be heated and the warm air produced is pushed into the ducts for distribution. Modern forced-air systems are far superior to old gravity heating.

Cold-Air Return

Once warm air cools, it returns through a series of ducts and the process begins again. If return air ducts are insufficient, the house can become slightly pressurized and heated or cooled air is driven out and energy is wasted.

Obviously, you will want an Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas contractor to send service or repair technicians to your home, ideally at the start of the winter, to inspect the components and performance of the heating system.

It’s best to keep tabs on the overall condition of the equipment, which is why heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) service and repair professionals and manufacturers recommend twice-a-year service checkups to start the winter and summer heating and cooling seasons.

Conventional Furnaces vs. High Efficiency

Now that you know the basic operation of a home heating system, it’s time to understand the differences between conventional and high-efficiency furnaces.

First older gas furnaces use a pilot light (images) as an ignition source. A regulator supplies a small flow of gas to keep a short flame burning so it would be ready to ignite the gas when it was time to heat the home.

More modern and efficient furnaces use a “glow stick” (images) made of silicone nitride as an ignition source. Electricity passes a current through the glow stick when the furnace calls for heat.
Standard Gas Furnaces

Standard gas furnaces rely on natural gas or propane as the energy source for generating heat. When the temperature in the home falls below the set point on the thermostat (68 degrees, for example), the electric pilot light (images) automatically ignites to begin the heating process.

The burner (images) utilizes the gas to generate heat within a combustion chamber (images) inside the furnace. This heat passes into a heat exchanger (images). When a fan (images) blows air onto the heat exchanger, it is heated and the warm air is blown through a series of ducts (images) into the home. Exhaust fumes from the combustion process exit through a gas flue or chimney (images).

High Efficiency Furnaces

High efficiency furnaces (images, diagrams) function the same but use a second combustion chamber, which captures exhaust gases and moisture before it exits into the flue.

The second chamber condenses the gaseous by-product to form a liquid, then extracts any remaining heat, which is then transferred into a second heat exchanger. That heat supplements the primary heat exchanger for additional warmth.

What little waste remaining is exhausted through a small flue or pipe, making the entire heating process much more energy efficient.

When considering retrofitting or replacing heating equipment, it’s well worth talking with a service or repair tech in the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area about the advantages and cost of a high efficiency system over standard furnaces.

Benefits

High-Efficiency furnaces will have significant impact on a home’s energy consumption. According to Energy Savers, homeowners who switch from an older furnace with a 56 percent AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating to a 90 percent rating can reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 1.5 tons per home.

As expected, higher-efficiency gas furnaces cost more than standard models, but they will be more economical over time, especially if you are upgrading from a low AFUE-rated product.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that homeowners can save $27 for each $100 they currently spend in fuel by updating from a 60 AFUE furnace to 95 percent AFUE.

According to Energy Star and the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners who buy a gas furnace with a 95 percent AFUE can receive up to $1,500 in federal tax credits, although this varies. Check with trusted service and repair techs in the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area, who, if they are good as they say they are, they should already be aware of incentives.

Here’s another way to look at standard vs. high efficiency: Even if your furnace is rated at 80 percent AFUE and it produces a monthly gas bill of $279, about $56 of that bill has fueled nothing. It’s wasted heat that has gone up the chimney and wasted money..

Next up: troubleshooting your heating system before calling that Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas contractor.

Troubleshooting Heating System Fort Worth — Part 2

Uneven heat. It may be the No. 1 complaint among homeowners in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas all winter.

Many people who have multi-level homes, including town homes, apartments, and brownstones, deal with uneven heat at one time or another. The furnace is running, appears to be in fine order, but one room or floor is warmer than the other. Often noticeably so.

The mystery of uneven heat generates more calls to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractors in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas than most other service and repair issues all winter.

This post examines uneven heat. Why it happens. And what can be done about it. Before calling a service or repair contractor, examine what’s going on.

Common Causes

Are vents blocked or closed off? If there is a specific room that doesn’t seem to stay warm, the first thing you’ll want to do is check that all of the air vents are open and clear of obstructions. Sometimes homeowners close vents in rooms that are not used much and forget to open them when it’s used more frequently.

Look to see if a heavy piece of furniture is blocking a vent. Homeowners re-arrange the furniture in rooms and a piece of furniture may be blocking a vent, so the room may not be receiving enough conditioned air to keep it warm. Move the furniture if you can, or perhaps move it off the wall a bit to increase air flow.

Is the furnace filter dirty? Blame everything that goes wrong with an HVAC system on dirty air filters! It’s true. This is perhaps the best place to start sleuthing, according to 100 percent of service and repair techs and three out of four dentists. If the filter is clogged, it will restrict the amount of air that circulates in the home and some rooms may receive more warm air than others. An easy fix: replace the air filter.

Is it extraordinarily cold around windows and doors? Rooms with doors and windows that open to the outside are harder to keep warm than interior rooms. Cold air can leak through unseen openings and lower a room’s temperature without the homeowner being aware of a problem. Prevent this by sealing doors and windows with caulk and weatherstripping.

Ductwork

Poorly distributed heat may not be an equipment problem but an issue with ductwork. Start with a visual inspection of the ducts. Perhaps a box in the attic fell on a section of duct. Or a critter made a mess of it.

Leaking duct connections. Sections where ducts join can fail if they are not joined properly or the ductwork is super old. There are special tapes and joint materials that ensure a proper seal. If connections leak you’re losing heat and money.

Leaking return vents. Ductwork and vents should be sealed where they join. Return air can spill into the walls, the attic, or below the floor if there are loose connections. These are costly leaks.

Damaged or fallen insulation. Air traveling through an attic can rapidly lose temperature if ducts are uninsulated. All ducts installed in unheated areas should have secure insulation.

Damaged ductwork. Flexible ducting is used in attics and, because they are flexible, the ducts can be kinked or even collapse in sections, which chokes off airflow and reduces circulation.

If you have not had an HVAC inspection in a while and are experiencing uneven heat and/or air flow, chances are none of the above will make much sense. Call a contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas (or call several, the goal is to find one you trust) and schedule a service or repair call. Ask if the technician is familiar with the issues you are having.

If the service or repair tech finds it’s a larger air flow issue, you may want to schedule an evaluation of the air distribution system where an “auditor” — or someone trained in air balancing — will use a variety of diagnostic tests, including static pressure and blower door and duct blaster tests, to find the problem.

(Quick aside: This is a reason why it’s important to find an HVAC contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas you trust. It will have talented and experienced service and repair techs on staff, and you will not have to look for another company to handle special assessments.)

Zoning System

Sometimes the shape and orientation of the home plays a role in how heat is distributed. While architects and builders have good intentions, sometimes they make decisions that result in negative implications far down the road.

For example, where is your thermostat located? It’s typically on the first floor, preferably in a well-trafficked and accessible location. The thermostat’s job is to read all the temperatures — downstairs and upstairs. When it gets warm enough (or cool enough in the summer) the thermostat shuts off the unit and may not pay attention to what the temperature is upstairs. As a result, it’s not warm enough upstairs. Or it’s too hot there and not warm enough downstairs.

One solution to this problem is using a “zoned system,” which divides your home into at least two heating/cooling areas so that the furnace and air conditioner heat and cool the “zones” at different temperatures.

This usually requires installing electronically controlled dampers in the ductwork. These dampers are like valves opening and closing to control the air flow of heated and cooled air throughout the home. If you have only one thermostat, a second will be installed so that each zone is controlled by individually.

Installing a zoned system is not inexpensive (perhaps $3,000, depending on the home’s circumstances and needs and contractor selected). Discuss this option with the company you previously selected in the Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas area.

Ductless split

Another possibility is adding a ductless split. It’s essentially and air conditioner without the ductwork. These small room-based units pass cold air through small air handlers mounted on the wall. The homeowner controls the temperature independently in each room the air handler is installed.

Costs for ductless air conditioners start about $1,500 per unit. Definitely call your Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas contractor to see if this is even an option for you.

Wrong-size furnace

You may have no idea about the HVAC equipment in your home, town home, brownstone, or two-story apartment. Most people do not. Sometimes furnaces (or entire systems) can be improperly sized. If the furnace is too small (or aged and not performing as well as it once was) it might not be powerful enough to provide adequate heat to every room. If the furnace is too big its heating cycles may be too short, which restricts its ability to heat the entire home evenly.

A second heating and cooling system may be needed, which can cost about $7,000 depending on many variables.

Other Suggestions

Some service and repair techs recommend closing the register in the room with the thermostat.

Others recommend leaving the fan in the “on” position. It keeps the temperature a little more even because air is continuously circulating throughout the home. It’s mixing all the air between the upstairs and downstairs. This approach concerns some homeowners who think running the fan continuously is a huge power draw and will add significant cost to the monthly bill.

Troubleshooting Heaters | Fort Worth, TX

We’ve established a baseline understanding for home heating systems, how they work, and the basics of standard efficiency vs. high efficiency. Now let’s troubleshoot what can go wrong before calling a service or repair tech.

It used to be that problems with older furnaces often started with a troublesome pilot light. That you could fix yourself.

Modern gas furnaces are both more efficient and complicated from those of 10 or more years. Smart systems involve auto-test air inducers, electronic ignition sensors, pressure switches, and exhaust flow monitoring. These can require professional assessment, necessitating a call to an Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor.

In this post we look at common problems and furnace repairs you may need to make with a conventional furnace. At the end of the post we take a quick look at repairing high efficiency condensing furnaces.

Problem: Gas Furnace Produces No Heat

Possible Causes

  • Thermostat set too low and not calling for heat (check thermostat is in heat mode and has appropriate setting)
  • Thermostat not working (try moving settings up or down by several degrees, listen for unit to start working, check a register for air flow; clean thermostat contacts if it’s non-digital; make sure battery is not dead)
  • Circuit breaker or fuse controlling the furnace is tripped or blown (what to do)
  • Natural gas or propane control valve is closed (Do you know where this valve is located? If so, check to see if it is open or closed. If there is an issue, call a service or repair tech or maybe even your natural gas company for Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas.)
  • Pilot light is out (non-electronic ignition) (YouTube video)
  • Hot surface ignition problem, intermittent pilot ignition problem (you can troubleshoot and repair these yourself but you might prefer calling a service or repair tech)

Problem: Gas Furnace Does Not Produce Enough Heat

Possible Causes

  • Dirty furnace air filter (replace)
  • Gas burners may be dirty or need adjustment (you probably want to call a contractor in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas, while the service or repair tech is cleaning and making adjustments, observe the process, and ask questions — it might be something you can take care of it if happens again)
  • Obstructed air flow to combustion air chamber (ensure furnace has adequate combustion air — see comment above)

Problem: Gas Furnace Turns On and Off Too Quickly

Possible Causes

  • Dirty furnace air filter (replace filter, something you should be doing regularly)
  • Blower motor problem (oil blower motor lubrication ports, usually at the end of the shaft; check for proper belt tension, belt depresses about one inch at center; tighten belt; replace frayed belt) (You may prefer calling an HVAC contractor in the Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas area for blower motor issues.)
  • Thermostat problem — heat anticipator (what this is)

Problem: Blower Does Not Turn Off

Possible Causes

  • Thermostat set to continuous operation (inspect thermostat, change fan setting)
  • Faulty fan limit control switch on furnace (call service or repair tech and have replaced)

Problem: Gas Furnace is Noisy

Possible Causes

  • High-pitched “squealing” sound may be caused by slipping blower belt or motor or shaft bearings needing oil
  • Low-pitched “rumbling” may be caused by poorly adjusted pilot light if this problem occurs with the burners off
  • Low-pitched “rumbling” may be caused by dirty gas burners if this problem occurs with the burners on
  • For these you probably will call a service or repair tech in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas

Problem: Furnace Pilot is Out

Possible Causes

  • Pilot lights go out due to strong drafts, dirty orifice, or dirt in the gas tube (what to do if a gas furnace pilot light won’t stay lit)
  • The thermocouple may be faulty and is shutting off gas supply (what these look like) (repairing and replacing)

Problem: Electronic Ignition Furnace Issues

Possible Cause

Newer furnaces do not rely on a standing pilot to ignite gas burners. Electronic ignition occurs one of two ways — intermittent pilot or hot surface ignition.

Repairing a High Efficiency Condensing Furnace

The main difference between a standard furnace and a high efficiency condensing furnace is the heat exchanger technology used to extract heat from the combustion process. As a result, these have a few more troubleshooting considerations.

Problem: Weak Flame or Vent Obstruction

Check to see if the furnace combustion problem is caused by an obstructed air supply pipe by removing the burner compartment cover which will provide free air flow to the combustion chamber.

Check for obstructions in the air intake vent pipe such as leaves or nests. Clean out with a sink auger , a common plumber’s tool.

If this is too much for you, call a service or repair tech in Arlington, Fort Worth, or Dallas.

Weak Flame, Exhaust Gas Re-circulation

Direct vent two-pipe systems can have air intake and exhaust vents improperly installed outside the home, which causes “short circuiting.” The air intake and exhaust fans may be installed too closely and exhaust vent gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide) are drawn back into the combustion air intake vent. Since the fresh air combustion intake has been compromised with exhaust gases, air reaching the furnace does not have enough clean oxygen for proper combustion.

No Ignition — Clogged Condensate Drain

Additional reasons for no ignition is a clogged flue condensate line. It will often trip the furnace’s pressure switch. If the drain is clogged by debris, improper draining, or by frozen condensate, the pressure switch will not allow for normal operation. Ignition problems may be intermittent and can start and stop as the restricted air flow drains away over time but can reappear if the problem is not fixed.

No Ignition – Clogged Flue Vent

The pressure switch can be tripped by an obstructed exhaust flue gas vent pipe. A sagging or improperly sloped exhaust vent can collect condensate water and restrict air flow resulting in a tripped pressure switch.

Understanding Heating & Air Conditioning | Fort Worth, TX

We’re past the midway point of winter in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas, heading toward Spring, but that doesn’t mean the heating questions stop coming.

In fact, two keep popping up.

Why doesn’t my heater seem to be heating enough?

Why is it colder downstairs and warmer upstairs?

These are usually followed with, How does the heater work, anyway?

We’ll get to these answers over a few posts, but first let’s establish a baseline understanding of home heating systems so we know what we’re dealing with, especially when it comes time to troubleshoot before calling a service or repair tech.

The Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas Profile

Most U.S. homes are heated with either furnaces or boilers. In Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas, these are mostly powered by electricity or natural gas.

Texas leads the nation in total energy production, primarily crude oil and natural gas — the state provides nearly 30 percent of the nation’s natural gas reserves. Texas also produces more electricity than any other state, generating almost twice as much as the next state.

You’d think this production would lead to the lowest energy prices in the U.S., but that’s not always the case as residents of Arlington, Fort Worth, Dallas and Texas in general pay some of the higher rates, which directly impacts homeowner’s pocketbooks. The rising cost of energy is a reason why local heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractors and service and repair techs are constantly asked about upgrading older equipment with newer, higher-efficiency systems.

While Texas’ winter isn’t as extreme as, say the Northeast or upper Midwest, it can get surprisingly cold, more in week-long spurts than consistently weeks at a time.

(Quick aside: The maximum temperature in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas in 2014 was 104 degrees — not too bad, really, all things considered, it’s been worse — with the mean at 93 degrees. The coldest temperatures in 2014 ranged from 15 to 25 degrees.)

Oddly, some reports contend that because of the climate profile of Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas, more heating days are required than cooling. This may be because the north Texas climate features many spring and autumn days when home heating and cooling may not be necessary.

What all this means is that the demands places on heating and cooling systems in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas are significant and consistent from late spring, through the summer, and into the early fall, then from the start of winter into early spring.

Understanding Furnaces and Boilers

Back to heating systems.

Furnaces heat air and distribute it through the house using ducts.

Boilers heat water and provide either hot water or steam for heating. Steam is distributed via pipes to steam radiators and hot water can be distributed through baseboard radiators or radiant floor systems or can heat air via a coil.

We’ll get into how these operate in another post, followed by how to troubleshoot performance issues.

Efficiency Ratings

Let’s first understand efficiency ratings and how these define the performance of your heating system.

If you don’t know your current system’s efficiency rating, the text time a service or repair tech comes to the house for a twice-a-year checkup, ask. He might not even know. If so, get the make and model of your heating equipment and you (or the contractor) do some internet research and find out. Once you know, write it down, either on the furnace itself with a Sharpie or put it in a note on your phone.

The furnace may say, for example, Trane XT80, and the installation guide may say “high efficiency,” but what the heck does that mean? How does it impact the quality of heat in your home and your pocketbook to operate?

Central furnace and boiler efficiency is measured by annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE), which is required by the Federal Trade Commission. It’s a geeky way to measure of how efficient the appliance is at converting the energy in its fuel (electricity or natural gas) into heat over the course of a typical year.

It’s really quite simple: An AFUE of 90 percent means that 90 percent of the energy in the fuel becomes heat for the home and the other 10 percent is waste that escapes up the chimney or elsewhere.

AFUE does not include the heat losses of the duct system or piping, which can be as much as 35 percent depending on location (attic, garage, or other partially conditioned or unconditioned space). If you do not know if your overall system is efficient or not, have the service or repair tech inspect during the winter or summer checkup or schedule a whole-house energy assessment.

The minimum AFUE rating for non-condensing, fossil-fueled warm-air furnaces is currently 78 percent. For boilers the rating varies according to fuel used and the heating medium. A minimum AFUE rating is between 80 and 84 percent.

You can also identify and compare a system’s efficiency by not only its AFUE rating by by equipment features.

Old, low-efficiency systems:

  • natural draft creates a flow of combustion gases
  • continuous pilot light
  • heavy heat exchanger
  • 56 to 70 percent AFUE

Mid-efficiency heating systems:

  • exhaust fan controls the flow of combustion air and combustion gases more precisely
  • electronic ignition (no pilot light)
  • compact size and lighter weight
  • small diameter flue
  • 80 to 83 percent AFUE

Higher-efficiency heating systems:

  • condensing flue gases in a second heat exchanger for extra efficiency
  • sealed combustion
  • 90 to 98.5 percent AFUE

Now, with an understanding of the current heating system, you can consider retrofitting or replacing equipment, if needed, or plan for it for future upgrading.

Retrofitting

Furnaces and boilers can be retrofitted to increase their efficiency. This is where you should work closely with a trusted HVAC contractor and service or repair specialist to determine if your system is retrofittable, what the cost will be, and whether it’s worth doing — particularly if it’s older equipment.

Replacement

If your furnace or boiler is in the range of 56 to 70 percent AFUE, which is really old and inefficient, upgrade. Modern conventional heating systems will significantly cut fuel bills and your furnace’s pollution in half.

Let’s look at it in terms of money:

  • Upgrading from a 60 percent AFUE-rated system to 85 percent will save you $29.41 for every $100 spent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. If you bump up to a high-efficiency 90 percent AFUE system, you’d save $33.33.
  • Even if you have a 70 percent system now, which is bare minimum, you could save between $17.64 (85 percent AFUE) to $22.22 (90 percent AFUE).

Again, this is where you should work closely with a trusted HVAC contractor and service or repair specialists to determine replacement strategy. Can you just upgrade the heating system or do you need to replace the entire HVAC system?

Smart Home Gadgets

Most homeowners in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas — and probably 99.99 percent of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) service and repair specialists in the area — have never heard of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held annually in Las Vegas every January.

CES features a plethora of consumer products, new product announcements, and the next BIG thing. The past few years have highlighted tablets and netbook computers, connected TVs, Ultra HDTVs, driverless car technology, and all sorts of stuff that probably never made it to market. But that’s not the point.

The point is CES often predicts the next BIG thing. And, aside from wearable technology like fitness wristbands and watches, home automation is considered the next BIG thing, including smart thermostats and other HVAC products, lighting, and home security, more so than self-watering pots for houseplants and connected crock pots and coffee makers.

Because we have examined smart thermostats in recent months and their advantages or disadvantages for homeowners in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas, not to mention their impact on service and repair professionals, we’re going to take a look at CES and what’s coming in home automation.

And while many homeowners are skeptical of home automation at the moment, and service and repair techs are wary, smart, connected products like thermostats and home automation is coming. Just look at what Lowe’s is doing.

Lowe’s, the home improvement chain with 1,754 stores in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and a large presence in the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area, had a ginormous presence at CES, complete with mini homes erected in their booth area.

Why?

For starters, home automation crosses boundaries. It’s technology. But it’s technology that impacts the home; it’s just not in the home.

The early days of home automation was expensive, confusing to install, maintain, and troubleshoot, and was mostly for home tech geeks with money, patience, and know-how. But with the advent of the internet, home Wi-Fi networks, smartphones, and cheap (or free) apps, home automation is making its way up the innovation adoption curve from early adopters to the early majority.

And where will homeowners learn about these products? Possibly from HVAC contractors and service and repair specialists, but most likely from home improvement centers like Lowe’s and Home Depot and consumer electronics retailers like Best Buy.

“We see everything in the home being connected over time,” Anne Seymour, Lowe’s executive in charge of the Iris Smart Home Platform, told ZDNet recently. The Isis Smart Home products are on display and sold in stores throughout the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas areas.

“We want to make sure consumers connect devices in ways they want to,” she said. “As a home improvement retailer we’re offering the fullest breadth of connected devices as possible.”

The key for Lowe’s is educating the consumer, which actually impacts HVAC contractors and home service and repair techs. How?

When homeowners begin inquiring about smart thermostats, or need help installing one, who will they turn to? Their regular HVAC contractor or service or repair tech? That would be the smart thing to do as they know the intimate details of a home’s heating and cooling ecosystem. Or will they turn to the place that sells the smart devices, like Lowe’s?

So it’s valuable for homeowners, contractors, and service and repair specialists to begin to understand home automation and what’s coming, even if it’s messy, in early stages, and not all here yet.

Here are a few companies and products to get you thinking:

Nest Labs: We’ve discussed the Nest smart thermostat at length. Bought by Google last year, Nest is perhaps the most well-known smart product in terms of mindshare for homeowners and service and repair techs, even here in the Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas area. What’s interesting to note and watch is what Nest does next. Nest announced at CES 15 new partnerships that include, among others, lighting companies like Lutron, Insteon, and Philips Hue. Nest isn’t just going to focus on smart thermostats and HVAC equipment. It, and parent Google, want to take control of your home.

Honeywell, manufacturer of the Lyric smart thermostat, giant in the HVAC industry, and a direct competitor of Nest, is also expanding beyond smart thermostats and to introduce a home security infrastructure that includes “awareness” cameras and motion, smoke, and intruder alarms.

Footbot will monitor indoor air quality for particulates, gases such as Co2, as well as temperature and humidity.

Alarm.com took home CES’s Mark of Excellence Award for its geo-services technology, which allow its smart thermostat to automatically adjust based on whether or not the smartphone belonging to residents are within close proximity of the home. Alarm.com’s smart thermostat also communicates with sensors placed around the home, so the temperature level is not dictated by the room where the thermostat is installed (like Nest and others). This would be of particular interest to homeowners in Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas when that late-afternoon sun bombards one side of the house.

Big Ass Fans (yes, that’s the name) has ceiling fans that work together with a smart thermostat to help regulate temperature and comfort in the home. As and example of connecting beyond the obvious, one fan even connects with fitness bands and sleep monitors to provide comfort based on one’s actual body comfort, not just the room’s.

Pella, the window and door people and a big part of improving a home’s “energy envelope,” is debuting SmartSync sensors and a “connecting bridge” that controls and connects window and door sensors, garage door sensors, motorized blinds and shades — all of which can impact a home’s comfort and energy performance. While a big complaint of home automation products is that most of them are proprietary and don’t “talk easily” to other products by different manufacturers. Pella is using the Wink smart home control app, used by other leading brands like GE, Honeywell, Dropcam, Kwikset, Schlage, and Quirky.

Elgato showcased its upcoming Apple HomeKit-based products for monitoring your home from an iPhone or iPad. Eve products use Bluetooth Smart technology and sophisticated sensors to analyze the home. Access data on air quality, temperature, humidity, air pressure, and energy and water consumption from the Elgato Eve app.

Sentri adds a deeper level of management. Going beyond just home security, Sentri delivers a window into the home’s environmental state by tracking temperature, air quality, humidity, and light in the home.

Oort is introducing smart bulbs, switches, outlets, air quality sensors, small beacon tags, and an electrical socket with an energy meter.

Most of these products are not available for Arlington, Fort Worth, and Dallas to view in person. Some are not even available online yet.

But they’re coming. Might as well get familiar.