Q & A

Guy Berge from Berge HVACR – who opened a new location at 103 Lacey Road in Whiting last spring - has answers to questions from your neighbors.  Berge HVACR is a family-owned business, has been operating in Whiting for over 20 years and is renowned for its customer dedication.

What is the point of signing a Service Agreement?

Regular preventative maintenance is critical to your system to maintain efficiency, mechanical reliability, and safety.  Most people have very little interest in their air conditioning systems until something goes wrong, which can lead to costly repairs or replacements.  Our specialists will evaluate your HVAC system, ensure it is meeting our strict efficiency standards, and safeguard against any health-impacting concerns - such as mold or poor air quality - before they adversely affect you.   Also having a contract enables you to get immediate support, rather than having to queue up when the weather really heats up.  To celebrate our move to a new location we are currently offering a $9.95 1-year new customer A/C maintenance special (for the 1st 100 customers) in which our technicians will check your system, change your filter, open your vents, assure proper refrigerant levels, and get your summer off to a comfortable start.  At that price you really have no excuse, act today by calling 732-350-4666 or visiting us at www.bergehvacr.com

I’m not a technical person and always worry about hiring contractors. All I want is a fair price for an air conditioning system, how can I avoid some of the horror stories I have heard about?

You are not alone, I feel the same way when I have to repair my truck, update the software on my computer, or hire a professional to do any work in which I’m not an expert.  Hopefully the following quick tips on choosing a HVACR contractor will provide some help in making the choice easier:

  1. Always ask for the Master HVAC License number.

  2. Request Referrals.

  3. Check that the Contractor is fully insured.

  4. Require a thorough home evaluation, don’t accept estimates from contractors without a full inspection of your system!

  5. The Contractor must conduct a Load Calculation (Manual J), otherwise they are just guessing at what your needs are.

  6. Ensure that Permits are filed and the Inspection is conducted – we have been hearing of contractors charging for permits but not filing them – which is illegal.

  7. Get Competitive bids – a price out of line might mean a mistake has been made in your home evaluation, inferior material is being offered, or an incomplete job is being proposed.  Sadly, we are often hired after someone chose a slightly lower bid from a competitor, but in the end they pay far more because the solution was not going to work.  Please visit our website at www.bergehvacr.com to see what we have had to fix and be careful!

I replaced my central air about 5 years ago, but still have my original ductwork from 1979.  Could that be the reason my air isn’t cold enough?  Is it unhealthy to use old ductwork?

Possibly.  You should have a technician do a thorough review of your system each year to ensure that you aren’t wasting energy (and money) due to poor ductwork, inadequate insulation, blocked vents, etc.  Replacing your central air while ignoring ductwork issues can significantly impact the coldness of your air, but using new systems with ductwork incapable of handling the extra power will often lead to major problems.  Technically non-metal ductwork should last 10-15 years, so I’d be very interested in looking at how your system is performing.  Fiber duct breaks down over time which can result in small fiberglass particles entering your airstream, and then your lungs, which you definitely don’t want.  If your ductwork is over 15 years old please call us at 732-350-4666 to have one of our certified technicians come over today, we don’t want you breathing air through those ducts without checking them.

Even if your ductwork isn’t that old, it is critical to have it checked periodically because there can be areas that are not connected or insulated properly, leading to inconsistent cooling throughout your home.  When properly installed your metal ducts should be wrapped with R8 insulation per the township’s code.  Some companies save money by not insulating the ductwork properly or using inferior insulation that doesn’t meet code – at Berge HVACR we treat you like family.  We don’t rest until you can.

My air filters indicate they should be changed every 30 days, but this seems like it is too often.  Is there any real risk of changing them once or twice a year? 

Unfortunately the percentage of people who change their filters on a regular basis is extremely low.  I understand - some people just forget, others don’t know where their filters are and are nervous about touching the equipment, and many people feel that they can save money by doing it less frequently.  The problem is that old filters end up allowing dust to flow directly into your A/C unit, damaging your system and reducing its life expectancy, leading to earlier replacement.  As we all know, a central air system is a large investment and the longer you can keep your system running effectively the better off you are.  We are lucky to live in Whiting, which is beautiful, peaceful….and hot!  Most of us need air to get through the summer.

If you feel you won’t stay on top of your filter changes at least get a service contract with us, we will change them (we can even bring you a year’s supply), and try to help you get the maximum life out of your system.  Plus you will be breathing in healthier air, and you can’t put a price tag on that!

My air conditioner uses Freon, I’ve heard that the refrigerant will no longer be available next year.  Is this true?  If so, what options do I have?

Yes, the former industry-standard R22 refrigerant (also known as “Freon”) is being phased out due to its harmful effects on the ozone layer.  As per the US Environmental Protection Agency, R22 refrigerant will become illegal in the United States on January 1, 2020; this means it can no longer be manufactured or imported into the US. 

After R22 becomes illegal, it will become much more difficult (and expensive) to get it, so repairing older R22 systems will become very expensive when the repair requires adding refrigerant to the system (except for some electrical issues, many types of emergency repairs do require some recharging of refrigerant.)

You and other owners of R22 air conditioners will have several choices:

  • Do nothing until your system needs an expensive repair - if you are already experiencing problems with your system, doing nothing is not really a viable option, since going without air conditioning is likely unacceptable to you.  For the time being, you can still get R22 and fix a broken system, but the escalating cost of the refrigerant as availability decreases will probably mean a very expensive repair (we have already seen a significant cost increase this year.)  And these repairs will only get more expensive the closer we get to the cutoff date of January 1, 2020.  Is it worthwhile to invest so much into a system in poor condition that must be replaced soon?  Sadly that’s the decision you’ll be facing. For most of us the cost of a system replacement is challenging enough when you know it’s coming, but having to do so with no warning is much worse.  No homeowner deserves an issue like this to take them by surprise while having to endure surviving without air conditioning at the wrong time.
     

You probably already realize that replacing an AC system in the summer will take longer than doing it during the off-season – not because we don’t want to help – but simply because demand is far greater and all our available resources are busy on other jobs. Consider that as we near the date of January 1, 2020 when R22 becomes illegal, the demand for R22 system replacements is going to skyrocket. If your system finally breaks down this summer (or later), your business or your family might face a considerable wait for a new air conditioning system.

  • Retrofit (or convert) your old R22 equipment to use an existing refrigerant. To be clear, retrofitting is not technically feasible for every system; you’ll need an inspection of your equipment by an expert to determine if it might be an option for you.  And if you have a system with refrigerant leaks to begin with, a trustworthy expert would not recommend spending the money to retrofit.

  • Replace your system proactively – this is probably the option that you are hoping to put off, but it may actually save you money in the end, especially if done in the offseason.
     

We realize this is a difficult situation for those facing it and want to be as transparent as possible, please contact us to help you develop a strategy that works for your budget while still getting ahead of the R22 phase out.

Should I cover my Air Condenser during the winter months?

This is an often debated question and there are pros and cons to covering the unit.  The main advantage to using a cover is the weather in Whiting can be really brutal in the winter, with snow, heavy winds, and sand causing damage which may reduce the life of your unit.  Although the unit is technically made to withstand the rain and snow, it is not built to keep out leaves, seeds, or nuts.  On the other hand, sometimes water gets trapped under your cover and without the proper air flow it can lead to mold and mildew growth on your evaporator coils.  Personally I would suggest that you use a cover, but make sure you clean the unit thoroughly in the spring, whether you do it yourself or have one of our technicians professionally take care of it.  If you don’t currently have a cover, but would like one, we have them in stock.  We all know your central air conditioning system is a significant investment, let us help ensure it lasts as long as possible!  Don’t worry we’ll use this space to remind you what you need to do next March to prepare your system!

They are finally rolling out gas to my neighborhood, does it make sense to convert to gas?  Roughly how long will it take me to save enough on my electric bill to offset the cost of converting?

Does the state of New Jersey and/or NJNG still offer rebates on gas conversions?  What financing options are available?

I’m going to address these questions together, as we have been getting these a lot lately and it is clear people aren’t fully aware of the savings and all the great offers available to you regarding gas conversions.

Clearly if you're using electricity, fuel oil or propane for your home, you can save significant money and energy when you switch to clean, affordable natural gas.  Another advantage is you can rest comfortably knowing that there will always be a steady supply of gas, which is sourced in North America, and extreme weather is less likely to impact underground reserves.  Finally it is more efficient than other heaters and is the cleanest burning fossil fuel.

Converting to natural gas now will allow you to take advantage of great rebates currently available from NJNG and New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program (NJCEP).  NJNG is offering a $600 rebate or up to $14,000 financing at 0% APR for five years through NJNG's On-Bill Repayment Program.   Plus, you'll also qualify for a $1200 rebate from NJCEP.  This offer is available for current NJNG customers as well as new customers.

Some Crestwood residents worry about the length of time it will take to recoup the initial cost of the gas conversion, but the fact is you will break even quicker than you realize.  Although each home is unique (draftiness, size, etc.), based on a 1200 square foot home you will – on average – be able to save enough on your bills to  offset your investment over the following period:

  • Converting from Propane ~ 18 months

  • Converting from Oil ~ 3 years

  • Converting from Electric ~ 3 years

 

So, in essence, you will be saving long before the financing period ends. 

The cost of converting to natural gas depends on a variety of factors but will include at least some of the following:

  • Gas line extension from the street to your house (if required)

  • Gas line installation within your house (if required)

  • Upgrade of service connection (if required)

  • Permit requirements

  • Natural gas furnace & boiler

Our technicians will be happy to walk you through the numbers to ensure that this is the right move for you, so please contact us at 732-350-4666 today.

One other note: be careful when choosing a company to do your gas conversion, as we have recently seen some incomplete work that has been done locally.  The following items are important steps in gas conversions, but some of our competitors don’t complete them:

  • Heat Loss/Heat Gain Calculation – required to ensure that the system chosen is the right fit for your home.

  • Check old Duct Work - using old, broken-down ductwork is not only inefficient, it can be dangerous (when you replace your system but keep fiber duct it may blow into your airstream!)

  • Use R8 Flex Insulation Wrap - this is the industry standard, but some companies will cut their own costs by using inferior products - we never do.

  • Permits – make sure they are submitted and completed, as you will be unable to sell your home without showing the work passed inspection.

  • Equipment registration - allows customer to receive the full warranty on equipment (if not done within 60 days the warranty is cut in half.)

  • Gas Pipe Drawings – to ensure the correct piping is used.

 

We all want to be smart shoppers, but when it comes to something this critical you really need to go with a company you can trust will do a thorough job, and not just pursue the lowest possible price.  Cutting corners can obviously reduce the price, but an incomplete job will always cost you far more in the future.  Always check references, Berge HVACR is recommended by your local Clubhouse and we’ve proudly helped with the heating and air conditioning needs of several of our local churches.  This is our community, rest assured we will always stand behind our work.

I’ve been told that my heating system should be serviced every year, but I’ve never had it done, what would you recommend?  What do the technicians actually do when “servicing” a heating system?

Unfortunately the way life works, your furnace will probably have a problem at the worst possible time, so an annual inspection – ideally right before heating season - can ensure that this won’t happen and may prevent expensive emergency repairs.  Tune-ups allow a technician to identify issues that often lead to breakdowns, saving money and giving you peace of mind. 

Furnace servicing must be done by a qualified technician and should include the cleaning of your burners, checking your heat exchanger for any cracks or damage, and changing your standard air filter.  We also check and service the blower, oil bearings in the motor, check the limit switches, and test the system operation.

Here are some important reasons to schedule the servicing for your furnace:

  • Extend the Life of your Furnace/Boiler – as I’m sure you’re aware, this equipment can be costly, so it makes sense to invest a little in preventative maintenance. Having a trained technician address small problems on an annual basis often helps people avoid major repairs when they need heat. 

  • Preventing Carbon Monoxide Leaks – According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), an annual inspection of your gas furnace helps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.  Carbon monoxide gas leaks are caused by a damaged or cracked heat exchanger or improper venting, and can lead to death.  Since the gas is colorless and odorless it is very difficult to detect, making it important to install carbon monoxide detectors outside of each bedroom to protect and alert family members.  

  • Clean the Rust and Dirt from Burners – to keep your furnace operating efficiently, you need to avoid rust and dirt buildups.

  • Clean Air Filters - During your annual furnace inspection, the technician should replace or clean your furnace’s air filters. A clean furnace filter catches dust and debris before it has a chance to circulate through your house, while dirty filters will reduce air flow and affect your indoor air quality. Please bear in mind, this isn’t the only time your furnace’s air filter should be replaced or cleaned during the winter, you should really try to check your furnace filter every month.

  • Replace Parts that are Wearing Out – like all equipment, the parts in your furnace will wear out eventually and not necessarily at the same time.  Having your system checked periodically is a great way to avoid having it suddenly stop working.

  • Increased Efficiency – over time dust particles will get in your system which will strain the parts of your furnace and force it to work longer and harder to heat your home, which reduces efficiency.  When you get your furnace serviced the technician will clean and lubricate all the parts and ensure maximum efficiency, resulting in lower heating bills.

  • Keep Your Warranty Valid - Many manufacturers require a furnace owner to show that regular maintenance was performed by a HVAC specialist in order to keep their warranty valid.  If you haven’t been getting an inspection on your furnace every year and something goes wrong, the manufacturer can ask to see your maintenance records.  If you don’t have any, your warranty could be invalid, meaning you have to pay for repairs yourself even within the warranty period.

 

Through December 15th, we are offering a special senior rate of $79.95 to service heating systems (furnaces/boilers) in Crestwood Village, this is a savings of $20!

Whether your furnace is old or new, there are numerous reasons to have it inspected and serviced annually by a qualified technician.  It will not only save you money in the long term, but it keeps your furnace working hard for many years while protecting the most important things in life - your family and home.

I’m looking at replacing my central air this winter and have gotten a couple bids, I don’t mind paying a “fair” price, I just don’t want to overpay.  Although I’d like to simply choose the lowest bid, I have friends who are warning me against doing that.  Can you offer any guidance?

Well, we all want a great deal, but when the price is too good to be true it usually involves a trade-off.  Shopping around is always a smart move, but you shouldn’t consider a central air replacement as a “commodity” – because the systems and installations are not interchangeable – so instead of focusing exclusively on getting the cheapest deal you should aspire to get the best value deal.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that bids only reflect the initial purchase of the system and installation – there are long-terms costs which will only surface later – cheaper work usually results in higher long-term costs.  Let’s look at some reasons why the cheapest bid is often not the best choice:
 

  • A cheap system won't perform as well - as with most products, when you go for the cheapest item it won’t work as well as the mid- or high-end system.  There will be a clear difference in how well your home is heated or cooled, the more expensive units will perform more reliably and control the temperature evenly throughout your house.  Quite frankly any central air replacement is expensive, so why would you pay so much and then never get what you want or need?  

 

  • Repair costs will end up being higher on cheap systems – you will almost certainly have to make more repairs on cheap systems (because the manufacturer had to cut corners to drive the cost down in the first place.)  These are the long term costs associated with buying cheap systems which are not initially clear because only the initial costs are included in the bid.  Plus, we often find that the repairs on cheap systems tend to be critical component failures, while better built systems problems require more minor repairs. 

 

  • Cheap systems will invariably fail when you need them most – often a cheap system will operate fine initially, then when you require heavy usage it will breakdown and once it goes it will continue to break.  Is it really worth investing this much money and still have to worry about the threat or timing of breakdowns? 

 

  • Cheap systems have a shorter life expectancy – obviously this is part of the implied agreement that you make with a company when you sign up for a cheap product or service, even if you don’t realize it at the time.  This isn’t saying that you can’t get great quality without paying an excessive price, it just means the cheapest choice will normally need to be replaced sooner.

 

  • Cheap installations will result in poor efficiency, breakdowns, and reduced life expectancy – cutting costs on installations means cutting corners and that will likely lead to systems that don’t perform as expected.  For instance, some companies use flexes (called “spider systems”) instead of more efficient metal ductwork in order to save time and money, but the system will never be as effective as it should be.  Other companies won’t wrap or insulate the ductwork, meaning that the system will “sweat”, leading to water damage and loss of heating/cooling.

 

  • Cheap installations and systems will impact your monthly bills – companies that undercut other bids do so by skipping parts of the job, whether that is wrapping the system properly, not sealing the unit, or by giving you inferior material (sometimes lower level brands than you agreed upon, because most people don’t check.)  We were recently told of a local competitor that was undercutting prices by taking a part of the system (in this case the remote controls) that came from the manufacturer and selling them on eBay.  Believe me, it happens.  Stop by our shop and we can show you endless photos of installations by competitors that are basically illegal.  And sadly people are being charged top dollar for incomplete work, which will mean their system will not last long and will never perform as it should. 

 

  • Cheap installations look, well, cheap – to reduce costs some companies will save time by running gas pipes up the outside of your home and create an eyesore, which may not initially bother you (though it should) but may impact your ability to sell your house when prospective buyers see the kind of work that you have allowed on your home.  We have been called in many times to fix systems that were installed cheaply (some had flexes in the attic that weren’t even attached to vents), and in some of the cases the customer had chosen the lowest bid instead of ours.  Without exception the choice cost them far more than they ever expected or should have paid.  Your house is likely the single largest investment you will ever make, shouldn’t you treat it accordingly?  

 

  • Some non-local companies will undercut bids and use subcontractors – to reduce costs their emphasis is on speed and getting multiple jobs done in a short time frame, so the job is rarely done completely or thoroughly.  Then when problems invariably arise you won’t be able to get them on the phone, much less have someone show up to address your concerns.  These companies then move to another community and the cycle starts over again.  We’ve also heard horror stories about companies using subcontractors and failing to file warranties, so people end up without the warranty they should have been entitled to.

 

Here at Berge’s HVACR we believe that “you pay for what you get” and we strive to offer the best value – meaning the highest quality at a reasonable price - because we are certain that people will remember the quality long after they’ve forgotten the price.  We work diligently to keep our costs low so we can bid for jobs slightly below the midpoint of other bids – respecting your budget while still giving you first-class service.  Be wary of companies with very low bids, you will end up facing the real long term cost when you least expect it!

My brother suggested that I replace my Hot Water Heater because it is 15 years old (although it seems to be working fine), what are your thoughts?  Also, I’ve read that Hot Water Heaters should be drained annually, is this necessary?  I’ve never drained one, would it really extend the life?

Your hot water heater (HWH) is probably one of the appliances in your home that you most take for granted – until it breaks down and you are left without hot water – or even worse, with gallons of water on your floor.  A couple key points about hot water heaters:

  • They tend to last between 8 and 12 years (the days of appliances lasting 20 plus years are long gone!)

  • Hot water heaters should be completely flushed annually to clean out a layer of sediment and minerals, such as calcium and lime, which form at the bottom of the heater and impede performance.  The fact that you can see clean-looking water coming out of your tank or faucet does not necessarily mean you’re in the clear. To remove sediment, you must drain a water heater - not just for five minutes - but for as long as it takes to empty it out completely.  Leaving the sediment long term will corrode the parts on your heater and break the lining.

  • Most manufacturers suggest that heaters be flushed once a year and warranties exclude failures due to sediment build-up.  In other words, not properly maintaining a hot water heater by flushing it annually could be grounds to void your warranty.

 

Regarding the question of when to replace your HWH, the following signs indicate it might be time:

  1. Age – as noted, your HWH should last roughly a decade, and you should be wary about extending the life too long beyond that.  If you are uncertain about the actual age of your heater you can check the serial number near the top of the unit.  You will need to consult the documentation (or google the brand) that came with your heater to understand how to identify which part of the code represents the year the heater was produced. 

  2. Rust Spots are visible on the HWH.

  3. Heater makes noises – usually cracking or popping sounds as water is heated.

  4. Water can be seen leaking from the heater.

  5. Water in house isn’t getting as hot as it used to.
     

So, what happens if you ignore your hot water heater and allow the sediment to build up?

  • Less hot water – when there is a layer of sediment at the bottom of your heater it makes it more difficult for the unit to heat your water.

  • Higher energy bills – as the unit needs to run longer to heat the water your bills will go up.

  • Bursting/Leaking of hot water heater – the unit is built with a special inner lining to prevent the tank from rusting, when it is forced to run constantly it can overheat and crack the protective lining.  Without the lining the tank tends to rust, which is the reason the unit will eventually leak or burst.

  • Water damage – it goes without saying that nobody wants to wake up or return home with water running all through their house. 

 

Much like changing your car’s oil, your water heater requires regular maintenance to reach top performance, extend its life, and avoid a real mess.Although the task isn’t terribly difficult, if you’re uncomfortable performing this type of maintenance on your water heater, make sure to call us at 732-350-4666 to schedule a professional flushing.At Berge HVACR we partner with a licensed plumber who will conduct a full inspection for rust, leaks and other problems, test the thermostat and valves, replace the anode rod to prevent corrosion (this should be done every 5 years) and completely flush the tank.

 

One final note: make sure that you have a drain pan under your hot water heater – although this will have little impact if your water heater bursts, it will make a big difference if your unit eventually begins to leak, giving you time to repair or replace it before a real disaster happens.Unfortunately we see this too often, please don’t ever let someone install your water heater without a drain pan!

I’ve always believed there must be a way to lower my monthly energy bills, can you offer any tips on how to save money on my utility costs?

We should all be looking for ways to cut energy costs (to save us money and help our environment!)  Here are a couple items worth trying:
 

  • Change your Air Filters on a regular schedule – this may seem like a minor thing, but you would be amazed how many people either forget or try to get more time out of their filters than they should.  Filters are not expensive, but repairs certainly are.  While you’re using your HVAC system, you’ll want to change your filter every 30 days.  If you have pets, and therefore a lot of dander and fur around the house, you may want to consider changing your filter even more regularly.

  • Make sure that all vents are clear of obstructions (furniture, etc.)

  • Consider upgrading your HVAC system to a higher efficiency unit – although it will require an initial investment, you’ll definitely save money long term.

  • Have your system serviced twice a year – at the start of the air conditioning season and when you transition to using heat.  When it comes to your car, you don’t want to wait until it’s broken down on the side of the road before you see the mechanic.  You should be going to the mechanic for periodic checkups and oil changes.  The same should go for your HVAC system.  It’s crucial to have regular maintenance on your system to ensure that it is working properly and to prevent any expensive problems before they happen.

  • Install ceiling fans for better air circulation.

  • Learn how to best utilize your thermostat

I’m looking into buying a new thermostat, I never figured out how to use the programmable unit that was in my house when I bought it (I wasn’t given the manual) – honestly I even struggled with changing the batteries – what are my options?  What do I need to know about them?

I’m not surprised when I hear people say they don’t know how to use their thermostats (or their TV remotes), but it is unfortunate because you can save significant money by taking advantage of the options.  We even get a number of calls each year from people who tear the unit off the wall when forced to replace the batteries.  Your thermostat is important and technically is the “brain” behind your HVAC system, so it behooves you to know a little bit about the unit.  As far as savings go, a recent study found that in most U.S. homes over 40% of a household’s electricity bill is a result of air conditioning and heating costs, so this is clearly an area to target for efficiencies and lowering expenses.
 

Here are the main types of thermostats:

  • Non-programmable – this is what most people probably think of when it comes to thermostats, you simply set a desired temperature that you want your system to reach regardless of date or time.

  • Programmable – with these you set a comfort schedule for the house.  For instance, if you consistently leave the house for extended periods of time the temperature will be lowered during the winter or increased in the summer.

  • Smart – growing in popularity, these thermostats are capable of learning the heating and cooling patterns in your home, as well as how long it takes your home to reach a desired temperature, and automates this process to maximize comfort and efficiency.  These units can also be adjusted remotely.
     

Common issues encountered with thermostats:

  • No display on unit – this usually indicates a dead battery or a tripped breaker.  However, if you’re certain the power is flowing, the problem could be caused by dirt buildup, loose wiring or loose screws.

  • Temperature isn’t reaching the desired setting – this could be the result of low refrigerant or the improper calibration of the unit.

  • Thermostat is running constantly – could be due to the heat anticipator not working properly, or that there is a buildup of dirt somewhere.  You should also make sure that the thermostat is set to “auto” which means that the fan automatically works ONLY when the air is being heated or cooled.  So once your home reaches the temperature set on the thermostat, the fan stops. “On” means the fan is on 24/7, even when the air isn't being heated or cooled.

 

The ideal temperature for comfort:

  • Summer – the ideal daytime temperature comfort-range for most Americans is between 70 and 75 degrees, but obviously each person has their own preference.  At night the ideal temperature range drops to 65 to 72 degrees, but don’t hesitate to lower your thermostat at night because your air conditioner actually works less at night than during the day, due to lower outside temperatures and the fact that the sun is no longer hitting your house.  Please note that every degree in temperature that you raise your thermostat in the summer corresponds to roughly a 1% change in your electricity bill.

  • Winter – in the winter you should set your thermostat to the lowest level you can comfortably stand, or set it even lower and throw on a sweater.  The ideal temperature range for your thermostat in the winter is from 64 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit, but most people like it around 68 degrees.
     

Here are a couple more pointers regarding your thermostat:

  • You should only turn your thermostat completely off in the summer if you are planning to be away for longer than 24 hours.  Most people don’t consider that their HVAC system isn’t just raising or lowering the temperature of the air in their home, but it is also affecting the temperature of your insulation.  If you allow the outside temperature and humidity to infiltrate the insulation all day, then your air conditioner or heater will have to spend additional energy cooling or heating it back to your desired temperature.  This can sometimes cost you more than if you had just set it a few degrees higher or lower before you left the house.  You should really try to avoid making major changes in your thermostat setting on a regular basis.

  • Your house will not cool faster if you set the thermostat to the lowest possible setting, but it will cost you more to cool the house.

  • Thermostats are just like any other electronic item in your home: they can break, malfunction, or simply need to be upgraded.  Most homeowners upgrade their thermostat when they want to save money on their electric bills, or when the unit starts to malfunction, which is easily noted by temperature swings in your home.

  • Your thermostat won’t work properly if your HVAC system hasn’t been maintained.  Poor ductwork, low refrigerant levels, dirty filters, etc. will make it impossible for your thermostat to reach the desired temperature level.

I replaced my central air last year, is it worthwhile to get an air conditioning service contract?  Do you believe I might experience problems for the first couple of years even with a new system?  What is included in the contract?

We touched upon this topic a few months ago, but it would probably be useful to provide a more detailed explanation as to the value of an air conditioning service/maintenance contract, since we currently offer one. 

Regular preventative maintenance on your system is absolutely critical to maintaining efficiency, reliability, and longevity.  Most people spend very little time thinking about their air conditioning systems until something goes wrong, after which they are facing costly repairs and/or replacements.  When you sign up for an annual service contract (our standard contract for seniors costs only $64.20 per year) you are entitled to a Spring start-up and Fall shut-down, plus you will receive priority service if something goes wrong with your air conditioning during the dangerous summer months (although we honestly want to take care of everybody’s needs immediately, we have to prioritize our customers or “clients” first.)  The contract includes parts and labor, so if you have any issue with your capacitor, schrader valves, contactor, fuses, or relays – which are common problems – we will do the repair for free.  You will also receive discounts on all other repairs should you require them during the season.

Spring start-up includes the following:

  • Check Freon/refrigerant levels – if needed we will add up to 2 lbs. to your system as part of your contract (depending on your type of refrigerant, this alone would save you between $80 and $320!)  

  • Inspect duct work for wear and tear or exposed metal (which can lead to sweating and eventually water damage to your ceiling.  Poor ductwork will also lead to reduced system efficiency and higher energy bills.)

  • Replacement of air filter - this should be done monthly during the season while your unit is in use.

  • Inspect the drain pan, air handler, condenser, and evaporator coils.

  • Inspect the electrical connection.

  • Check the thermostat.

 

Some other key points to consider when deciding if a maintenance contract is right for you:

 

  • Even brand new systems need to be maintained.  If you don’t regularly change your air filter or check your drains for clogs, your expensive system will not last nearly as long as it should.  We had a service call the other day where a new customer reported that water was leaking through her ceiling, even though her system was only two years old.  While investigating the situation we saw the air filter was filthy and had allowed dust and contaminants to enter her system, making it to her air handler, and then clogging up the drain.  The water couldn’t pass through the drain during the season, then froze this winter and cracked her drain, eventually thawing out with the recent warm spell and leading to water damage in her ceiling.  If she had just invested a small amount in a service contract this problem would have been detected and corrected before her home was damaged.

 

  • Be wary of companies that offer a service contract where they just show up, change an air filter, and leave – at Berge HVACR we are a family business and are proud of what we do -  we plan to be here a long time, and have thrived for over 20 years primarily on word of mouth.  When we hire technicians who have experience working for our competitors we often have to completely re-train them, as they have been taught to cut corners on material and time.  Expect better from your heating and air conditioning providers! 

 

  • A service contract is essentially insuring you and your system against preventable breakdowns, much like taking your car to a mechanic to have the oil and fluids checked regularly.  The other option is to gamble that nothing will ever go wrong with your system, but the truth of the matter is that if your system does go it will likely be when you need it most – while the summer heat is taxing it.  Then you may be facing multiple days without any air conditioning followed by a large repair bill. 

 

  • Even if you are fortunate and don’t experience any A/C issues this season, your system may be operating at a reduced level of efficiency, which will lead to higher-than-necessary energy bills and uneven cooling throughout your home.
     

We ran a promotion last year and people seemed to appreciate it, so we will offer it once again: $9.95 for a 1-year A/C maintenance special (for the 1st 100 new customers) - whereby our technicians will check your air conditioning system, change your filter, open your vents, assure proper refrigerant levels, and get your summer off to a comfortable start.  At that price you really have no excuse, act today by calling 732-350-4666 or visiting us at www.bergehvacr.com

Spring is almost here, please don’t be caught unprepared!

Recently we had a customer come into our shop to sign up for a 2020 Air Conditioning service contract and they enquired about the Whiting Business Association or “WBA” flyer on the wall (we are advertising an upcoming “meet and greet” event on April 18th  - see below).  I figured it would be worthwhile to use a slightly different approach this month and share some information about the WBA, highlighting the benefits to the community - for both residents and the local merchants - of shopping locally.

The WBA is a non-profit group of local businesses that partner with residents and volunteers in the community to serve the citizens of Whiting and create a more enjoyable environment to live in.  In order to have a strong, healthy community we need to ensure that the residents have their needs met, whether that means access to fresh food, critical services, or charitable donations.  In return, we depend on the residents to support the merchants located in the community, because once local businesses disappear they don’t come back.  Sadly, with the growth of “big box retailers” the number of local food markets, hardware stores, and appliance retailers has been declining for years.  Why does this matter?  Well here are a few reasons why shopping locally makes sense for each of us:
 

  • It improves our local economy – when you buy locally a significant amount of the money stays in our community.  According to the U.S. Small Business Association, for every $100 spent at local businesses roughly $68 stays in the community (unlike purchases at large retailers where $60 is taken out of the community.)  I have nothing against an occasional meal at McDonalds or buying a candle at a discount chain, but those profits leave our community and end up in a billionaire’s pocket.  Money spent on local merchants goes into feeding our kids, covering our mortgages, and paying local taxes to keep our community vibrant.

  • Local businesses use other local businesses such as banks, printers, service providers, and farms, this increases the tax base for the community, in turn keeping taxes down for each resident.  Large chains tend to get their supplies from their own headquarters, which usually cut deals with other large corporations (often in low-cost areas like China.)

  • Local businesses donate money to the communities they operate within.  The WBA holds periodic events (Christmas tree lighting, Car show, Wine tasting, etc.) and the proceeds go to the local food bank here in Whiting, which serves the sick, hungry, and needy.  The pantry also provides pet food for people having animals in need.

  • Residents get to know their neighbors behind the product or service, the way things used to work in the “old days,” before impersonal large retailers blanketed the U.S.

  • Enhanced customer service – large companies don’t personally know who they are selling to and are much less concerned with an individual customer’s needs, they tend to provide one product that we are forced to accept.  Think of what the cable companies have done to us.  Do you really want to have to call another 1-800 number to locate someone (likely in another country) to help you when your air conditioner breaks down or a pipe bursts in your home?

  • Personalized services – you will receive a better level of service and build strong relationships with merchants, as local companies will be there when you need them, and will know the equipment in your home.

  • Creates local jobs, which results in more spending in the community.

  • Keeps the community unique – faceless national chain stores create homogenous communities which eliminate any unique elements, whereas local businesses enrich the community and give it an identity.

  • When local businesses are gone, choice is eliminated and prices are driven up due to the reliance on one large provider (again, consider what has happened with the cable companies and utilities, if there was more competition and choice these companies would need to work harder to hold on to our business.)
     

So, in addition to patronizing local businesses to meet your needs when possible, what else can you do? 
 

Funny you ask, because the WBA has a scheduled “Meet & Greet” on Saturday, April 18th from 3PM-5PM at Crestwood Village 2 in the Harmony Hall (470 Route 530).  Please come join us for complimentary food, music, and a flat-screen TV giveaway.  Get to know some of the loyal, local companies that proudly serve you every day as we mobilize the WBA!  Plus, Karen and I will be there, so please stop by to ask a question, discuss our new 18-month interest free financing option, or just say hello!

Can you provide details about the life expectancy of various heating and air conditioning equipment?  When should I start thinking about replacing my thermostat, A/C, etc?

Great question, especially since new equipment – like everything else today – isn’t built to last, the way things used to last.  As I’ve mentioned many times in this Q&A, the longevity of your HVAC system is largely dependent on how you maintain it over its lifetime.  If you have the recommended preventative maintenance on your HVAC system and service it regularly throughout its lifetime (we currently offer an A/C contract for $64.20) you should be able to enjoy 15-20 years of service.  Unfortunately many people learn the hard way that ignoring your equipment will cut its life significantly.  

Here is some guidance on average lifespans:

  • A/C Units (Condenser/Air Handler) – average of 11-13 years, can be much longer

  • Furnaces – usually 18-20 years

  • Heat Pumps – roughly 11-13 years

  • Thermostats – average of 15 years (although modern thermostats will most certainly decrease the average lifespan)

  • Tankless Hot Water Heaters – roughly 20 years

  • Electric or Gas Hot Water Heaters – average of 10 years
     

A final point: the way the unit is installed is also critical, as poor installation will have a significant impact on the lifespan of your equipment.  Often the lowest price you get quoted reflects cutting corners on the installation, because the impact is not visible until a couple years down the road, when the system life can be cut in half.  As always be careful out there, try to avoid making decisions solely based on lowest price – it is imperative that you get multiple quotes and confirm they are for comparable, complete work.

My air conditioning system is 19 years old and really needs to be replaced, but I just don’t have the $6500 on hand to invest in a new system right now.  Do you offer any financing deals?

We are partnering with Synchrony bank and they currently have some great offers on financing!  Current promotions include the following:
 

  • 0% financing through 18 months

  • 5.99% financing through 3 years

  • 9.99% financing through 11 years
     

Most of us only have a limited amount of money available at any given time, so financing some or all of the cost makes a lot of sense – especially when you can utilize the interest-free option.  We will be happy to assist you with the Synchrony application process or answer any questions you might have.

Just for your information, Synchrony is a premier consumer financial services company delivering customized financing programs across many key industries including retail, health, auto, travel and home, along with consumer banking products, and has more than $149 billion in sales financed and 76 million active accounts.  We chose to partner with Synchrony for the following reasons:
 

  • Simple application and funding process

  • Quick and instant credit decisions

  • Funding generally within 24 to 48 hours of completion

  • Unsecured revolving credit line

  • Open credit line for repeat purchases

  • Customer access to special financing promotions
     

The main takeaway here is that the current rates are so reasonable, especially the interest free 18 month offer, that it behooves you to act now if your central air isn’t working properly or is well past it’s life expectancy.

I purchased an air conditioning system from you in 2017 (and have gotten your annual service contract ever since), are there any additional things that I should do to make sure my system lasts as long as possible?   

Let me start by saying thank you, we appreciate your business!  Having a maintenance contract is a smart choice, because even the most reliable air conditioning system – installed expertly – can let you down if you don’t do regular maintenance.  Plus, one of the most significant differences between a top of the line, expensive system (Carrier, etc.) and the standard level (Luxaire, RUUD, etc.) is that the more moderately priced equipment requires maintenance and proper installation to last.  A mid-priced system that is poorly installed can lose 50% of its anticipated lifespan and studies show 80% of repairs are due to poor installation, not bad equipment.  This is the reason it is very important that you hire qualified technicians to do the installation, not just choose whoever gives you the lowest price!  In any case, here are the tasks that should be done (some jobs should be done by expert technicians, other tasks can be done by you):
 

  • Cleanliness matters – the outside Condenser must be at least 2 feet away from your hedges or plants and air filters and grills should be cleaned each month when in use.  Every year a professional should clear debris and dirt from the condenser coil, as well as check for blockages in the drain pan.

  • Ducts should be checked – an estimated 40% of energy can leak out of ducts when they aren’t sealed or insulated properly.  This results in higher energy costs in the summer and the winter, so it is important that you don’t ignore your ductwork.
     

Annual Maintenance – as you have been doing, it is critical that a professional changes all your filters, checks the refrigerant level and ensures there are no leaks, inspects the drain pan, air handler, condenser, and evaporator coils, and checks the thermostat.  Our standard annual maintenance contract is a very reasonable $64.20 for seniors, when you consider how much it costs to replace this equipment (and/or repair water damage to your ceiling from cracked drain pans, etc.) it really is difficult to understand why some people wait until it is too late.

732-350-4666
BERGE HVACR

GUY E. BERGE - Master HVACR
Lic. #19HC00277700

Fully Insured & Bonded

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