Categories Heating & Cooling Systems, hvac efficiency, HVAC replacement, hvac system, hvac westminster md, quality hvac, Uncategorized

Time To Change Your HVAC?

5 Signs Telling You It’s Time

It’s old 

If you’ve clicked on this article, you might be experiencing an issue with the way your HVAC system performs. The first question your HVAC technician will ask during your service call is: How old is your HVAC system?

HVAC systems tend to have a lifespan of between 10-20 years. Systems that have been serviced regularly run longest and most efficiently. However, bear in mind that as a system ages, reduced efficiency and repairs become factors in your decisions moving forward. If your system is older than 10 years and you’re facing many medium-to-large repairs, HVAC replacement might be a better option.

It’s Inefficient 

You might notice your HVAC system’s inefficiency in the running costs, but you can also tell if your HVAC is not working properly by the following:

  • The amount of time the system is running or the fan is blowing 
  • If your system seems to struggle to keep the temperature consistent 
  • Evidence of  increased dust piles
  • A noticeable higher than comfortable humidity level 

While these issues might point to a specific HVAC issue, they can also impact the overall efficiency of your unit’s operation. Depending on the age or severity of the issue, you may find it’s time to replace your HVAC.

Cost to Run: Repairs & Monthly Bills 

Costly repairs or high monthly bills are two big reasons to consider HVAC replacement. Here’s a general rule for making the decision to repair vs. replace:  Replace your HVAC system if the repair costs are more than half of a new system. 

Monthly bills should also stay consistent year to year (while accounting for things like fuel cost increases and inflation). For example, if this summer you notice a substantial increase in your bills compared to last summer, this may indicate that something is going on with your HVAC system. 

To stop habitual repairs and costly monthly bills, replacement might be the way to go.

It’s the Wrong Size 

If your system can’t keep the whole house at a consistent temperature, can’t keep different rooms at the set temperature, or achieves a temperature so quickly that it shuts down mid-cycle, it might be the wrong size unit for your home. 

That’s right! HVAC systems are not one-size-fits-all and having the wrong size unit can lead to inefficient operations. To remedy this situation, you may want to consult an HVAC professional about getting your HVAC system replaced so that it’s the right size for your home. 

There are Odd Noises & Smells in Your House

Grinding, hissing, or clunking noises are not good sounds to hear while enjoying time in your home, especially if they are coming from your HVAC system. Loose or broken parts within  your unit can be to blame, especially with older HVAC systems. 

Burning, sour, or foul smells–also not good to be experiencing in your house–may be coming from your HVAC system if something is wrong. Mold, melting pieces, a fire, or a dead animal in the vents could all be the culprit. 

If you have an older HVAC system or it’s going to take a major repair to fix the sounds or smells coming from your HVAC system, a new HVAC system might be in order. 

Call Us

No matter what issue you’re experiencing, we can figure out the best course of action. At Exxel Mechanical Service, our team is ready to serve you. Call or email us today at (443) 821-1040 or bob@exxelmechanical.com. It would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.

Categories hvac efficiency, HVAC maintenance, hvac maryland, hvac system, hvac westminster md, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac, Uncategorized

Is your HVAC to blame for your sniffles?

HVAC Allergies

If you’re prone to allergies, you might have mixed reactions about the coming of spring. The warm weather and pretty flowers are nice, but if you’re sneezing and coughing and not feeling well because of your allergies, they can be tough to enjoy. Going inside your home should be an escape from outside air contaminants, providing relief, right? 

A properly working HVAC system can help to rid the indoor air of the contaminants, providing that escape allergy-sufferers seek. By filtering and circulating the air, HVAC system rids dust from the home by catching it and keeps it from piling up by moving the air around. So, as long as the HVAC is properly working, you can rule out your HVAC system as the cause of your allergies. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re sneezing every time the air turns on, you may want to consider that your HVAC system isn’t working properly.

If your allergies are worse when you’re inside than when you’re outside during the spring (or anytime, for that matter), then consider what kind of indoor air pollutants are gathering in your house and how you can help your HVAC system do its job. 

Types of indoor air contaminants 

The most common types of indoor contaminants are dust mites, pet dander, combustion from cooking, and mold. Dust mites are distant relatives of ticks and spiders– tiny bugs whose waste and carcasses are found pretty much in every American home. That’s right– they don’t bite and generally leave us alone, but for the unlucky few affected by dust, it’s usually dead dust mites and their waste that are affecting those who are allergic . 

Pet dander is another allergen that is pretty disgusting to think about. Those who are bothered by allergies including pet dander are not typically allergic to their actual pet, but rather dried saliva, urine, and skin flakes that their pets spread about the house with scratching and shaking.

Combustion of any kind of material leads to emissions into the air. This includes smoking cigarettes and wood-burning fireplaces, but most commonly comes from cooking with oil or using gas stoves.

Another common allergen or pollutant in the house is mold, which grows in humid or damp areas or where water collects. Mold releases spores into the air which in turn grows more mold, causing allergy symptoms when these spores settle into dust piles. 

Pollen can also find its way indoors and collect in dust piles and circulating in the indoor air. Without a quality HVAC system or one that filters the air, the typical symptoms from pollen-induced allergies can result.

Less common household air pollutants 

Although less common, carbon monoxide, radon, disease-carrying animals and their waste, and bacterial infections and viruses can result in airborne contaminants with serious side effects. Normally you would determine the presence of one of these pollutants quite quickly, but it is possible for low levels of contaminants like these to contribute to allergy-like symptoms and other more serious symptoms. 

Sick or allergies?

It can be difficult to tell what’s going on when you have allergy symptoms, because of the multiple symptoms you may experience. If you’re really experiencing an allergic reaction to allergens in the air inside your home, you’ll typically have cold symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itchy or watery eyes, or an itchy throat. But it’s also possible to have headaches, a low-grade fever, or skin reactions like eczema. 

While you shouldn’t take our word for it— we’re HVAC doctors, not people doctors— it’s definitely worth following up if you have any of these persisting symptoms. If it is a reaction to some type of indoor air contaminant, your symptoms could worsen to the point of having trouble breathing or developing into something more serious than allergies. 

How to combat indoor air contamination 

  • Cleaning your HVAC system 

Inspecting and cleaning your HVAC system is a good first step to make sure it’s not part of the problem. 

Cleaning or replacing your air filters and cleaning the vents are the primary steps to making sure your HVAC system can do its job. Clogged air filters will strain the overall system. Dust in and around the vents only creates more clogging and blows around dusty air. 

You also might consider having your HVAC system professionally cleaned or at the very least inspected during a tune up. During a springtime tune up, an HVAC professional can check the parts you might not be able to access, cleaning inside the unit itself or the ductwork. 

  • Cleaning carpets and other fabrics

Vacuuming carpets and even couches and mattresses, washing any washable fabrics like stuffed animals and blankets, and keeping the home as dust-free as possible are the best ways to help your HVAC system to do its job.

  • Ventilation & air purifiers

The EPA recommends regular “natural ventilation” through open doors and windows. While you might think that keeping the pollen and other outdoor air pollutants out is the best option, fresh air is helpful for flushing out any pollutants that might have gathered indoors. 

Another great option for especially sensitive or allergy-prone people is an air purifier with a good filter. Air purifiers help HVAC systems do their job by removing allergens. The air circulated by the system is then more likely to be free of allergy-causing contaminants.

Replacing your HVAC system 

If your HVAC system is old and not effectively circulating or filtering the air in your home, if the ductwork is leaky or poorly constructed, or if an old thermostat is hindering your HVAC’s performance, it may be time to consider repairing or replacing your HVAC or affected units. Without good humidity control and air flow, allergens listed in this article can collect and air quality can suffer. 

Call us
Having a quality HVAC system that is working at peak capacity is one of the best ways to improve indoor air quality. At Exxel Mechanical Services, our priority is safety and comfort for you and your family, delivered through our expertise and attention to detail. Call or email us today at (443) 821-1040 or bob@exxelmechanical.com. It would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.

Categories Uncategorized

10 Spring Cleaning Tips for HVAC Units

You’re smiling because the crocuses are starting to pop up; you’re scheduling a Saturday to clean up those soggy dead leaves; and you’re thinking you need a tanning bed and some lotion before you bust out those arms and legs. 

Spring is here! 

While you get your affairs in order for the warmer weather and tackling spring cleaning, don’t ignore adding “clean HVAC” or “HVAC replacement” to that list. Here are 10 tips for getting your HVAC ready for spring:

1. Clean the outside of the AC unit 

During the fall and winter months, debris like leaves and dirt can gather around the outside of the AC unit. Make sure that between 1-2 feet around the unit is cleared out, including trimming bushes or plants that may have grown too close to the unit. 

2. Clean the accessible parts inside the AC unit 

After ensuring the AC unit is shut off, clean the fins by vacuuming and wiping off any dirt from the fins of the AC fan, and lightly rinsing off the unit with a hose. You can also use this opportunity to check out as much of the unit as you can see, noting anything that looks damaged so that an HVAC professional can check it out during a routine tune up. 

3. Clean or replace the air filters

Here we go again about the air filters! But seriously, cleaning or replacing air filters is step #1 for making your system run more efficiently and providing cleaner air. Air filters should be cleaned or replaced at least yearly. 

4. Clean the air vents throughout the house

Dust can build up in the air vents throughout the winter, so cleaning them before you switch from heat to AC is a great way to make sure your HVAC unit isn’t working too hard and is circulating clean air. Remove the vents’ grills, vacuum the grills, wash the grills, and vacuum inside the wall vent as much as possible. 

5. Clean the AC coils 

Refrigerator coils can collect dust, making them less efficient. Take some time to carefully clean them off as spring comes around. You can search on the internet for instructions, or you can let your HVAC professional take care of this chore. 

6. Have the ducts cleaned

While this isn’t necessarily a yearly job (once every three to five years is sufficient), you might consider adding duct cleaning every spring to keep your HVAC system efficient and your air as clean as possible. If you live with someone with allergies or asthma, cleaning the ducts can be helpful for alleviating their symptoms. 

7. Dust the house

Dust, pet dander, and other allergens can all collect in the house. Additionally, spring brings its own allergens, the most significant being pollen. Pollen will try to sneak into your home, worsening allergies for those affected and clinging to the dust. Cleaning your home of dust where it has collected in corners, on ceiling fan fins, and in other hard-to-reach places is a good move to get ready for spring. 

8. Get rid of “things” 

Another part of your spring cleaning that’s also directly related to helping your HVAC system run well is getting rid of excess furniture or clutter. Extra stuff, especially clutter blocking vents, reduces air flow and spreads dust in the house. If possible, clear out the areas in front of or on top of air vents so that your HVAC system can run more efficiently. 

9. Seal windows & clean window treatments 

Vacuuming and re-sealing your windows is a spring cleaning task that will also help an HVAC system efficiency in time for warmer weather. Vacuuming and beating the dust out of window treatments will greatly reduce dust buildup in the house.

10. Have an HVAC professional clean & tune up all the rest

HVAC repairs or tune-ups are smart to schedule in the fall and in the spring. While you might do a great job of cleaning everything you have access to, there are some internal pieces and parts to your HVAC system you can’t reach. Having a professional come to clean your system will leave you satisfied knowing your system is running as smoothly as it should be, and it’s ready to cool your home as the warmer months approach. 

Call us 

Whether it’s HVAC repair, HVAC cleaning, or HVAC replacement, Exxel Mechanical Services is ready to help you get ready for spring! We serve a 30-mile radius of Winfield, Maryland in Westminster, Owings Mills, and Frederick, Maryland. Call us and see why our reputation precedes us! Call or email Exxel Mechanical Services today at (443) 821-1040 or bob@exxelmechanical.com. It would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.

Categories hvac contractor, hvac license, hvac maryland

Who Licenses HVAC contractors in MD?

To work as a licensed HVAC contractor, different states have different requirements. In fact, several states do not even have state-wide licensing requirements. Others have multiple licensing requirements. In the case of Maryland, individuals are required to not only become a licensed journeyman but also a licensed HVAC contractor. In addition to the multiple levels of licenses, there are different ways to waive test-taking in Maryland. This process is discussed in the section below that covers the step-by-step process to become an HVAC licensed contractor in Maryland. 

Most of the HVAC-related licensing issues and questions are managed by Maryland’s Department of Labor, the Board of Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors (HVACR). This office also deals with contractors who work on any type of refrigeration. 

Maryland’s Board of Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVACR)

The Board of HVACR not only manages the issuing of licenses, but also serves as an overseer and regulator for all commercial and residential HVACR contractors. By law, the Board of HVACR in Maryland can also implement codes and standards for the way HVACR contractors conduct their work– whether it’s repairing or maintaining, installing a new system, or replacing an existing system for remodeling. When there is an issue with the work of an HVACR contractor, a person or business can contact the Board of HVACR as a matter of recourse, and the Board will hear complaints and potentially take action against that contractor. 

Per the Labor Department’s website, a list of management and disciplinary actions that the Board of HVACR in Maryland can enact include:

  • Issue HVACR contractor licenses and certificates of insurance 
  • Adopt applicable regulations such as codes and standards for HVACR contractors 
  • Hear complaints about HVACR contractors 
  • Conduct hearings against individuals and businesses who are HVACR contractors
  • Impose administrative sanctions such as suspending or revoking licenses, or imposing fines up to $5,000 per infringement by a contractor 

How to become a HVACR contractor in Maryland 

Contractors who work on HVAC systems in Maryland must be licensed with either a master license, master restricted license, limited license, or a journeyman license. To begin the licensing process, you must first have a journeyman license. 

The Labor Department instructs those who are seeking to pass the examination to become a licensed HVAC contractor to fill out an application with the testing service, PSI. PSI staff will review the application and notify the applicant as to which test they should apply based on their past HVAC experience. However, the general steps of holding any type of license to work on HVAC systems in Maryland are:

  1. Become a licensed apprentice 

Working as a licensed apprentice entails registering with the state and then receiving training by assisting a technician who is a licensed Master, Master Restricted or Limited HVACR contractor. It does not require passing an exam. The application to become an HVACR Licensed Apprentice can be found here.

  1. Become a journeyman 

Once licensed as an apprentice, the training continues for three years and 1,875 hours of training under a licensed HVACR contractor before moving to the next step: journeyman. At the conclusion of these training hours, the apprentice must pass the journeyman test with a score of at least 70%. The application for the journeyman test can be found on the PSI testing website

  1. Become a master, master restricted, or limited license holder

While similar in several ways, the various HVACR contractors’ licensing levels – master, master restricted, and limited – contain slight differences depending on the type of license one may be interested in obtaining. For a master license, one must have experience in all areas of HVACR services. For a master restricted license, one must have experience in providing HVACR services but not necessarily in all areas. For a limited license, less training time and less areas of specialty are required as compared to the requirements for a master and master restricted. The differences are listed below (in bold): 

To hold a master license: 

  • You must be a licensed journeyman who has been employed and working under an HVACR master for three years, during that time providing all areas of HVACR services. 
  • You must have worked at least 1,875 hours in the previous year before applying.
  • You must pass the master license test with a score of 70% or higher.

To hold a master restricted license: 

  • You must be a licensed journeyman who has been employed, working, and providing HVACR services under an HVACR master for three years.
  • You must have worked at least 1,875 hours in the previous year before applying.
  • You must pass the master restricted license test with a score of 70% or higher.

To hold a limited license: 

  • You must be a licensed journeyman who has been employed, working, and providing HVACR services under an HVACR master for two years.
  • You must have worked at least 1,000 hours in the previous year before applying.
  • You must pass the master restricted license test with a score of 70% or higher.

The application for each of these tests can be found on the PSI testing website

Waiving test requirement, insurance requirement, reciprocal licensing

Additional details to be aware of include how to waive certain testing requirements, insurance requirements of all licensed contractors, and reciprocal licensing between nearby states.

While the Labor Department mentions briefly that it may be possible to waive test requirements for those who have been working as apprentices or journeymen, one would have to discuss their unique situation and experience with a representative at their office. Depending on the amount of experience you have or if you have completed a state-approved apprenticeship program, you may qualify for a testing exemption.

Equally important, HVAC contractors should know that there are also insurance requirements for any licensed contractor. If an HVAC contractor does not have insurance or fails to renew their insurance policy, it is illegal for them to enter into any contracts to provide HVAC services. The Board of HVACR in Maryland offers a list of important licensing requirements that can be found here

Finally, the Board of HVACR in Maryland currently engages in reciprocal licensing with Delaware and Virginia, and allows those who hold licenses in other states to apply for reciprocal licensing as well. A list of requirements for reciprocal licensing can be found here.

Exxel Mechanical: well-versed on the rules and regulations 

As premier HVAC service providers in Maryland, we here at Exxel Mechanical are knowledgeable and stay current on all license requirements in order to be HVAC contractors in good standing. If you have questions about becoming an HVAC contractor, are interested in joining our team, or are in need of the HVAC services that we provide, feel free to reach out. We are here to answer your call! Call us at (443) 821-1040.

Categories hvac efficiency, hvac westminster md, Indoor Air Quality, quality hvac

How indoor air quality affects hvac efficiency

When you think about bad air quality, you might think about factories billowing smog, or fires causing clouds of smoke in the air. While pollution and outdoor air quality is a health consideration, indoor air quality– the air circulating in sealed homes and buildings– is also extremely important and often overlooked, as most people spend the most of their days inside. 

Cleaning the air: the importance of HVAC systems

As Covid-19 spread, many of us have turned our attention to improving ventilation knowing that the air we breathe in sealed environments can truly impact our health. When it comes to indoor air quality, the biggest offenders that we concern ourselves with are humidity, dust, carbon monoxide, and radon. Other culprits we might not think of immediately (from this list from the EPA) include: smoke from cigarettes, cooking emissions, or dust from remodeling. And as the pandemic showed us, viral contaminants are also factors in air quality. 

HVAC systems are vitally important when it comes to reducing these air quality contaminants. They filter, condition, and circulate the air. But what happens to HVAC systems when there is an excess of contaminants in the air?

Poor air quality and the impact on HVAC systems

While we rely on HVAC systems to clean the indoor air, we should also be aware that an overabundance of contaminants will make HVAC systems work harder. For example, excess humidity increases the workload on an AC unit, forcing the unit to work harder and longer to achieve low humidity to make your home comfortable. Another example is cigarette and other smoke, which causes air filters to get clogged. Clogged filters make it difficult for air to flow, making the unit work overtime.

When it comes to indoor air quality, we expect our HVAC system to be doing the work. Understanding the ways you can improve air quality in your home or office will help your HVAC system do its job, become more energy efficient, and have an extended life. 

Contact us!

If you have children or older adults in the home, someone with asthma or other immunocompromised health issues, or if you simply notice the air quality in your home or workplace seems off, it’s worthwhile to have a professional check it out. 

Whether adding a dehumidifier or air purifier, having your air filters or ductwork cleaned or replaced, or servicing or replacing your entire HVAC system to remedy a poorly functioning system that is cycling bad air, our professionals can provide insight on the issue you are facing. Even a simple fix can make a substantial improvement to your air quality. 
Indoor air quality is important! Exxel Mechanical serves a 30-mile radius of Winfield, Maryland, serving Westminster, Owings Mills, and Frederick. Our reputation in this area precedes us, as we pride ourselves on placing our customer as our highest priority. Call us today at (443) 821-1040, and it would be our pleasure to see how we can help you.