Do I Have to Replace my Ductwork When I Get a New Air Conditioner?

HVAC system ductwork

Ductwork problems don’t always require replacements. Your licensed HVAC contractor can perform tests to help determine the condition of your home’s system.

If your current HVAC system is getting old or isn’t working anymore, you’re likely getting estimates for a new system from local companies like Fox Family Heating and Air.  It’s wise to get a few quotes from different companies around town.  Just be careful.  My industry can be a little scandalous when it comes to salespeople telling you what needs to be done for your new system to work correctly.  For example, you may be told to replace your ductwork.

During a new AC installation call, I’ll often ask how the air distribution is around their house.  I’m asking if there are any hot or cold spots in the house.  Are there any bedrooms, offices, or living areas that they would like to get more air.  I would say about 80% of the people I ask say they’re just fine with the airflow they have.  All the rooms seem to be balanced, just fine.

Some people will say they have a problem room and would like it to get better comfort.  In an effort to rack up the price of your new HVAC system, salespeople may be focused on their own commission checks.  They will recommend you spend the extra $5000 to 10,000 to change your ductwork to solve the problem.  Is that really necessary?  I say no, not every time.  Here’s why.

HVAC Ductwork Repair

Ducts can be repaired individually.  You don’t have to replace every duct in your house to get better air to one or two rooms.  Those rooms can have more airflow delivered to those rooms by increasing the size of the duct leading to the room.  Another way to get more air to a room is to relocate the duct on the supply plenum to a spot that is more advantageous for getting air there.  Typically the end of the plenum.

You can fine-tune this process by cutting in manual dampers that can be adjusted to decrease the amount of air going to one side of the house so that it can be diverted elsewhere in your home.  I still recommend a professional do this.  Messing around with the ducts is similar to shutting down registers in your home in order to get more air to another side of the house.  This airflow disruption can cause high static pressure.  This can affect the more expensive mechanical parts of your air conditioning system.  The aerodynamics of the delivery system is essential to the longevity of the system.  That’s all I’m saying, so unless you know how to check static pressure in the ductwork, repairs like this should probably be left to the pros.

HVAC Ductwork Inspection

Your supply air ducts connect to your forced air unit.  The forced air unit is either in the closet, garage, attic, or in the package unit on the roof.  The air from that unit is sent into a big box called a supply plenum.  Attached to that supply plenum are several ducts that lead to each room of your house.  Here’s how to tell if those ducts are in good shape or not:

  • The ducts are strapped properly or lying on the floor of the attic.
  • Those ducts are straight, not bent or kinked, restricting airflow.
  • The duct’s vapor lining on the outside of the duct is not torn or melted.
  • Good to decent insulation, which maintains the temperature of the air as it heads towards the room that duct leads to.

There’s not a lot more you can ask from your ducts.  If they’re adequately strapped, meaning each duct is straight or has long sweeping bends (no kinks) that lead to where they need to go, and they have metal or vinyl straps that secure them in place, that’s a good sign.  Another thing that you’d like to see for your ductwork is that the vapor lining, which is yellow, pink, grey, black, or silver, is in good shape.

HVAC Ductwork Standards

Ductwork has an R-value to insulate your ducts to a set standard.  30 to 50 years ago, those standards were not as high as they are today.  So, ductwork has evolved in performance through the following stages:

  • The yellow and pink is actually insulation. They may or may not have a clear wrapping around them. This wrapping is the vapor lining.  If you have this setup, the ductwork may be original to the house, as it’s not too common to install them this way anymore.  You can expect this ductwork to be 30 to 50 years old.  It has an R-Value of two (R-2).  Not the best in the world, but I’ve seen people keep it because it works just fine, and I support them on that decision.
  • Grey ductwork typically has an R-Value of four (R-4). Once again, not the freshest ductwork we see out in the field, but if the ducts still meet those guidelines from above, people have chosen to keep that ductwork a little longer.
  • Black and silver ducts can have an R-Value of either R-6 or R-8. R-6 has been around for the last 25 years or so.  R-8 is the newest standard and has the thickest layer of insulation surrounding the inner lining.

HVAC Ductwork Lifespan

I tell people your ductwork’s life averages about 30 years.  Some people replace them every time they get a new system, but most of the people I sell equipment to, don’t.  That’s because it’s impractical to do so.  Yes, the higher R-value of the ductwork, the better performance you’ll have.  The ductwork will hold the hot or cold air it’s delivering inside it better.  That translates to cooler or warmer air to your rooms, depending on which season it is.  Your decision is whether you want to spend the extra money to change your ductwork out every time you change your HVAC system.  Hopefully, I have armed with some useful knowledge going into your next project.  Good luck!

5 Factors Affecting the Cost of Buying and Installing a Sacramento HVAC Unit

professionalism in the workplace

Many people who face replacing an HVAC unit in Sacramento want to know just how much that project will cost them before they commit to that system’s replacement. Often times air conditioner replacement is not planned, it’s more of a sudden purchase in the heat of summer. So, even if you don’t plan on replacing anytime soon, this blog is still a great read. This article discusses some of the factors of the cost of buying and installing a Sacramento HVAC unit.

The Size of Your Home

An AC unit should be selected based on its suitability. Bigger homes will require bigger AC units because those bigger homes will have more air that needs to be conditioned. The bigger air conditioning units usually cost more to buy and install. You should, therefore, expect to spend more on purchasing an AC unit if you have moved to a bigger home. If your home’s Air conditioner is more than a decade old, the current AC may be undersized for your home. Often times with replacement you need to have your contractor look at the overall design of the ductwork (as detailed below) and the size and location of the unit for maximum efficiency.

The HVAC Equipment Brand Preferred

The purchase price of your new air conditioning unit will also be affected by the brand you opt for. Think about this price in relation to what would happen if you were to buy a car. A Porsche is likely to be more expensive than a Toyota even though they’re both cars.

Some brands of air conditioning units are reputed to be more reliable than others are. Such dependable brands may be more expensive than the little-known brands. It may be wiser for you to talk to a (Sacramento) heating and air technician for advice about the best brands to consider so that you widen your options and find something within your budget.

Your Home’s Complexity

The complexity of your home will also impact the cost of installing that new air conditioning system. For example, a home in which spray-on insulation was used makes it tougher on the installers since they will have to cut through the insulations. Similarly, historical homes take more time since the home is fragile.

The Sacramento HVAC installer will visit your home and survey it before estimating how much the installation project is likely to cost.

The Extra Features Selected

The specific features that you want your new HVAC system to have can affect the total cost of the system. For instance, individuals who wish to have multiple zones will have to pay for more hardware (zone dampers and thermostats, for example) than another homeowner who doesn’t want to have air conditioning zones in the home.

However, you should not shy away from getting some of the extra features. If those features will increase the comfort level and result in lower long-term maintenance costs it is worth it. The higher upfront cost will be justified by the lower ongoing costs that you incur if you have the latest additional features on the market.

The Condition of the Ductwork

It would be wasteful to acquire an efficient AC unit and then link it to defective ductwork. In fact, many jurisdictions have mandatory inspections in case a new AC unit is being installed.

Any leaks and worn ductwork components will increase the installation cost. Since those issues will have to be attended to before the new air conditioning unit is commissioned for use in your home.

An air conditioning unit should be selected based on the location and home where that unit will be installed. Never undertake such a task on your own. Hire an air conditioning replacement professional like Fox Family Heating and Air and let us recommend the best unit for your needs.

20 Reasons Why You’ll Never Be a Good HVAC Technician

20 Reasons Why You’ll Never Be a Good HVAC Technician

A good HVAC technician must have the hands-on skills of a mechanic, electrician, pipefitter, welder, plumber, fabricator, duct mechanic, insulator, rigger, analyst, electronics technician, chemist, computer programmer, computer technician, millwright, and machinist.

I usually try to keep things positive and lighthearted on my channel, but I guess this week I was feeling feisty.

There are several reasons why you’ll never be a good technician, but there are many of you great technicians out there that know even more reasons why technicians never fully make it.  Let me know in the comments below what some of the other reasons are. And feel free to trash talk me back if I’m wrong on any of these!

  1. NATE has nothing to do with continual training:
    In my opinion, NATE certification is just a money grab. But, if you won’t continuously train yourself and try to learn more, you’ll never be a good HVAC technician.
  2. Inviting Personality:
    If you can’t hold your head up high and flash a little smile here and there. If people are afraid to talk to you or feel like something’s wrong with you while you’re making the repair or installing a system, you’ll never be looked at as a well-rounded technician.
  3. You won’t read the instructions:
    Someone who installs a system or replaces a control board without reading the instructions, creating a call-back for something they could have easily prevented, will never be considered a great technician. RTFM. Read The F&cking Manual isn’t just a newly created text term. It’s something they assumed you would do on your own before coming to them for answers.
  4. You leave your work area dirty after you leave:
    If you can’t wipe down your work area or pick up the little plastic pieces you stripped off the wiring, or wipe off the service valve area after the refrigerant has sprayed out a little, you’ll never be a good HVAC technician. If you can’t wipe down the attic access after coming down the ladder or have the common sense to put some white caulking around a return grille, that be a little gappy; you’re just another technician.
  5. Reliable:
    If you can’t get to work on time, you’ll never be fully respected by your peers. Anyone who says they’ll do something but flakes out on it all time will never become a good HVAC technician.
  6. Can’t read a blueprint:
    It’s something listed on most descriptions for an HVAC applicant, but so many people have never learned how to read and understand blueprints. Blueprints will never replace seeing something in plain view, but you’ll never be a great technician if you can’t read blueprints.
  7. Some technical aspects:
    If you can’t (or won’t) set the blower speed on a furnace or air handler based on the chart in the manual, you’ll never be a good HVAC technician.
    If you can’t (or you refuse to) check gas pressures on a furnace after an install or replacing a gas valve, you’ll never be a good HVAC technician.
  8. Can’t run a duct properly:
    If you can’t run a duct and pull it tight in a straight line with long smooth bends, or your ductwork sags, you never be a good install tech.
  9. Patience:
    HVAC techs who blow through calls to get to the end of their day quicker or make more commissions lack the patience they need to step back after a repair and look at what they’ve done. It’s like those cars who weave in and out of traffic to get their off-ramp 15 seconds faster—all the while putting others in the back of their mind because they need to be somewhere else.
  10. You borrow tools all the time:
    If you’re a new technician in the field, you should be buying at least one new tool for your arsenal every paycheck. It doesn’t even have to be new tools. E-bay and flea markets are great places to pick up new tools for yourself. On the other hand, if you’ve been a tech for a while and keep borrowing this or that tool from your partners on the job, you probably aren’t looked at as a good HVAC technician.
  11. Integrity:
    If you were raised to freely deceive people based on your needs. If you don’t care about lying to people so that you can pad your wallet, you might replace a lot of parts or sell a lot more systems. But you’ll never be a good tech in my eyes.
  12. You won’t embrace change:
    Some people don’t like new technology, or they’re afraid of screwing up trying to repair new technology. So, they avoid it. If you don’t understand or just won’t embrace the fact that technology is going to get more technical every few years exponentially, you may be a good technician now, but you’ll eventually be replaced by someone who does is ready to dive right in.
  13. You jump to conclusions:
    Some technicians can’t focus on the sequence of operation for the system. So, they just repair what usually needs to be fixed on the unit. A good technician can evaluate the system based on what’s supposed to happen, repair it, and make sure the system runs right after it’s going again.
  14. You talk too much:
    People who talk too much are annoying. It’s not good to be the person always running their mouth on the job, talking about how good it was at the last place they worked at, or bragging about this and that. Even those who always have to one-up another person’s story so they will look cooler will never get the respect of a good HVAC technician. If an employer is trying to show you how they want something done, take a little advice. Zip it and listen before opening your mouth. Learning a little social grace will go a long way towards being well-liked and considered a good technician.
  15. You don’t talk enough:
    There’s a fine line to walk when it comes to communicating. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If you never ask questions or don’t respond to people who talk to you, you’re not talking enough. In my opinion, text messaging is so easy. If someone texts you a question or some information regarding work. Responding with an “OK” or “No problem” will go a long way. But if you don’t talk enough, you’ll never be a good technician.
  16. You’re a parts changer:
    This goes hand in hand with other items on this list, but parts changers are not good technicians. Knowing the sequence of operations and how the system is supposed to work is key to becoming a technician who can identify and repair the problem in as few visits as possible. Every technician has identified the wrong repair needed at one time or another. Everyone makes mistakes. But consistently just throwing parts at a system and hoping it’ll work is not the sign of a good HVAC technician.
  17. You don’t have a sense of alignment or appearance:
    Can you look at a line and tell if it’s straight? Can you look at a box and tell if it’s parallel with a wall. Can you use a level? How about this – can you tell if a job looks “clean” rather than something that’s just thrown in? Little things like applying primer neatly and facing PVC piping away from the lettering. These things will set a good tech apart from a bad one. If you can’t grasp the concept of uniformity and common-sense installation practices like making your lines flow straight and your conduit flow smoothly, you’ll never be a good HVAC technician.
  18. You write like a 5-year-old, and you don’t know how to spell:
    If you can’t write your service notes on an invoice neatly or write up an estimate for your customer in legible print, it’s going to be hard to take you seriously. If you won’t proofread your typed-up invoices or estimates, it’s going to look bad. People are going to think you’re a sloppy tech.
  19. You don’t like being told how to do something somebody else’s way:
    You can’t come into a new workplace and expect to be able to do things the way you’ve always done it. If you wanted that, you should have stayed at your old job. That’s why companies like to hire brand new technicians sometimes, because they come in with an open mind, ready to learn. Those who don’t like to be told what to do will never be viewed as a good HVAC tech.
  20. Your service van looks dirty:
    Some might say a sparkling clean van, inside and out, probably isn’t used enough. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a van that is consistently thrashed inside and filthy on the outside indicates a sloppy technician who doesn’t care about his work. There’s always a middle ground for everything, though. HVAC techs work hard. Installers work even harder! But if you can’t take the time out of your day to keep your van looking decent, you’ll never be looked at as a competent HVAC technician.

Can I Replace the Air Conditioner without the Furnace?

Heater Stops Working after a Storm


When it’s time to replace your air conditioner, many people ask ‘can I replace my AC without the furnace?’

Can I replace just my air conditioning unit? You can. However, there are rebates available in some areas that reward folks for changing out their AC unit. In those situations, those folks will be required to change out their furnace with their air conditioning system at the same time.


How You Get Heat


There are three main parts of your central air conditioning system, indoor and outdoor. In the heating season, you have a gas flame that typically that heats a metal box. Inside that same indoor unit is a blower motor that sends air across the hot metal box, which travels through the ductwork to warm air into your rooms. And that’s how you get heat.

Can I replace my furnace without replacing my air conditioner?

How You Get Air Conditioning

In the air conditioner season, that hot metal box is still there physically; it’s just not being heated up and no flame is on at all. Your AC units’ job is to draw the heat from inside your home and replace it with cool air. The A/C compressor starts up and runs the refrigerant through the outdoor AC condenser coil which connects to the evaporator coil near your HVAC system, inside the house. The outdoor unit is a hot coil, removing heat inside the house while the inside coil is a cold coil. The blower inside the furnace sends air past the cold evaporator coil, through the ductwork, and into the home. This is a short explanation of how your home stays cool in the summertime.

Replacing Just Your Outside AC Unit

Back to the question of replacing just your air conditioning units. Now that you know there are three individual units to your central air system — the furnace, the indoor unit evaporator coil, and the outdoor coils — you should know that any one of those components can be changed out, one at a time.

You may have a house where the AC unit is newer than the indoor furnace, especially if you live in parts of the country where your condensing unit works twice as hard as your heating. In this case, it would make the most sense to replace your AC, bypassing furnace replacement.

Can I Replace the Outdoor AC Without the Furnace?

There are some situations where you can even get away with just changing the outdoor unit for a fraction of the cost of a whole new system! It all depends on the type of refrigerant that your unit uses.

If you currently have a unit that has refrigerant R410a or a unit with R22, you can replace just the outside unit with a similar one. For R22 units, check out Coleman’s EVCON 407c units that come empty of refrigerant but are ready to be charged with 407c, which is an excellent replacement for R22. Technically, you could add R22 to it, but that refrigerant type is quite a bit more expensive and less environmentally friendly if a future leak occurred.

Likewise, R410a systems allow you to replace just the outdoor AC unit with an R410a outdoor unit.

R22 System Issues

If you’re having issues with your R22 system and you want to upgrade it to an R410a system, I’d highly recommend you change the indoor cold evaporator coil with the outdoor unit. Metering devices, capacity, and the copper itself will create more repairs in the future. We guarantee replacing your R22 system will save you money in the long term; the cost of this new system will pay for itself in cost-savings over time.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace An Outside AC Unit?

Many factors determine the cost of replacing air conditioners. The size of the unit, energy efficiency referred to as the SEER rating, the brand you choose, and the level of performance (single-stage or variable) will all factor into the cost of your unit. According to a recent review, the average cost of an outdoor unit in America is $4,575. However, it can certainly cost more than $7,500 to replace just the outside unit.

HVAC Rebates

Local municipalities and utility companies want you to have high-efficiency systems. Because of this, they may want you to replace all three components. They want to see a “matching” system that has a blower motor designed explicitly for the other parts of the system. Updated blower motors increase the efficiency of the entire system. You’ll see this with a higher SEER rating, which is what the rebates are trying to promote. They usually want the outdoor AC and the furnace manufacturer to be the same, while the cold evaporator coil has some flexibility there.

Yes, You Can!

I hope this has helped you understand that you absolutely can replace just your air conditioner without replacing your AC system. Keep rebates and efficiency in mind when making any decisions on replacing just the AC unit.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and we’ll see you on the blog next time.

Heating and Cooling SMUD Rebates – Sacramento County Home

SMUD Suspends Rebates

SMUD Rebates for Sacramento County in 2020

Back in September of 2019, SMUD, the electric company here in Sacramento County, announced the start of its new SMUD rebate structure for homeowners getting certain types of new HVAC systems.  They’re doing this as part of their effort to make improvements to their current HVAC program and consolidating it into a larger program called Advanced Home Solutions.  Stay tuned, because you’re about to get some great information about how much you can get back from SMUD rebates on your upcoming HVAC project!


Hi, I’m Greg Fox from Fox Family Heating and Air.  We’re located right here in Sacramento County.  I’m super excited to tell you about SMUD’s new rebate they’re giving to those of you who decide to go one of a couple of different ways with your upcoming HVAC project.

But first, let me fill you in on why SMUD is changing things up.

If you remember the summer of 2019, SMUD began their Time-of-Use rates which really elevated the cost to use our appliances in the 12 to 5 pm and 5 to 8 pm time frame.  Through research, they noticed everyone’s air conditioning systems were the main culprit of electricity usage during that time.

To SMUD, it costs them 2 to 3 times more to provide electricity during those summer peak hours versus non-peak hours.  As the demand and cost to produce power has increased, it’s become way more difficult to provide electricity to the end-user during peak hours.  So, they began their Time-of-Use campaign to deter folks from using electricity during those peak times.

In a discussion we had with SMUD representatives recently, it makes sense.  If people didn’t start using less electricity, SMUD would need to build more infrastructure to meet the demand.  And you and I both know those costs would be passed on to us.  We’re already blessed with some of the lowest rates in California, and I can see SMUD is just trying to keep it as low as possible for us.  They’re a not-for-profit company which helps in that aspect.

So why the new structure?

SMUD’s self-made mandate is to be net carbon neutral by 2040.  That means the way they deliver power to us won’t involve adding to the stock of greenhouse gases that affect our atmosphere, by 2040.  Their current mix is about 50% non-carbon emitting as of 2019.  This goes in line with the bill Governor Brown signed in 2018 which set the goal of phasing out all fossil fuels from California’s electricity sector by 2045.

The old SMUD rebate structure was all about efficiency ratings which used terminology like SEER and EER ratings.  14 SEER, being the lowest system available we could install in California had no rebate available.  For most HVAC companies, if you spent a little more you could get a 16 SEER system which gets you a $500 rebate.

If you upgraded even higher to the 18 SEER air conditioner, you could get a $650 rebate.  The reason they offered a little more for these was because of efficiency.  Most AC systems 17 SEER and higher offered 2-stage technology.  So, it would have like, a medium-high stage around 60 to 70% of its capacity and a 100% stage.  Anyone knows that if we use a speed that is 30% lower than a unit’s full capacity, it will save you money on your electric bill.

An even more efficient system, the 19 and 20 SEER, and even up to 25 SEER variable speed units have capacities that swing from 20 to 100% capacity depending on the demand during that time of day.  Those units also got a $650 dollar SMUD rebate under the old rebate structure.

Looking Forward

This is all in the past!  The new SMUD rebates are much better!

14 and 15 SEER systems (basically any system that is only a single-stage system) no longer have SMUD rebates for them.

Now, any 2-stage system, whether you have an all-electric heat pump or a gas/electric system is going to qualify you for a $1500 rebate.  So, what does this mean?  Let’s say your old system is a single-stage, or for that matter an old 2-stage system.  If you upgrade your new system to ANY 2-stage or variable speed system, you’ll receive the $1500 rebate in the mail 4 to 6 weeks after the job is installed.

One stipulation on the furnace for these 2-stage systems is they have to be installed with a 90% AFUE furnace.  So, in our homes we have two types of furnaces, either 80% or 90% AFUE furnaces.  An 80% furnace results in 20 cents of every dollar you spend floating out of the flue pipe that goes through your roof.  That means more gases escape to the atmosphere and contribute to global warming than, say, a 90% furnace.  Remember the goal of these SMUD rebates for our Sacramento utility company is to help reduce our carbon footprint.  More efficient furnaces will help get us there.

Package units on the roof or the side of the house are included in this as well.  If you replace your current system with a 2-stage package unit (with air conditioning,) you’d receive the $1,500 rebate as well.

A Higher Rebate

Now here’s an even higher rebate.  If you currently have a natural or propane gas-fed furnace, whether it’s an 80% or 90% furnace, with pretty much any air conditioner (and this includes package units, too) and you were to switch over to an all-electric 2-stage or variable speed heat pump, you’d be eligible to receive a $4000 rebate.

This rebate also applies to ductless or mini-split technology.  You may have seen these units that mount on a wall or the ceiling of your house or hotel rooms you’ve stayed in.  They even have these types of mini-splits that are ducted so you don’t have to see the units from your room.  They’re mounted in the attic very similar to unitary systems you’re used to already in your homes.  As long as the ductless system serves the “whole house,” you get the rebate as well.

Whole House?

What does the “whole house” mean?   It means the main living areas.  So, the living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms, dens, lofts, and other rooms like your man caves or ma’am caves (not in the garage.)  So, this list isn’t comprehensive, but you get the idea.  Areas of the home that are commonly lived or slept in.

Rooms that aren’t required are the bathrooms, laundry room, utility room, and other small rooms that people wouldn’t consider to be “their room.”

Any combination of wall mounts, floor mounts, ceiling cassettes, or ducted heads fits this category.  Even if you’re not serving the whole home, but maybe just adding one to supplement the central air system you have now, there’s a $200 rebate for each head you have installed, up to $800.

So, does this count if you currently have no central heating and air?  Maybe you have a couple of window units and a wall furnace that serves the house.  YES!  This is considered a “full cut-in” where we convert your home, so it has central heating or ductless technology like we just talked about.  In that case, it would be a $4000 rebate if you installed any 2-stage or variable speed HEAT PUMP system.

Dual Fuel Systems

The utility company is getting ready to implement another option to the rebate structure which will include dual-fuel systems.  It’s looking like the rebates for those systems with 2-stage or variable speed technology will be around $2500.  Dual fuel systems could be another discussion altogether, but I’ll just say this:  they use gas heat to provide the “emergency” heat your normal heat pump system would use, which uses up a considerable amount of power.  And it’s very common for that feature on your heat pump system to come on during the coldest days of the year.

In most cases, you pay your contractor the price of the job, and then receive your rebate from SMUD in 4 to 6 weeks after the job is installed.  Of course, your contractor IS going to have to pull a permit for this to qualify, so make sure you work with a legitimate HVAC company like Fox Family Heating and Air, right here in Sacramento County.  We pull permits on all of our installs.  Remember, any time you alter the electrical, plumbing, roofing, or structure of the house, a permit should be pulled.

All Electric Heat Pumps

SMUD says HVAC systems are the most expensive items to run in your home.  They’ve seen a 30% to 70% reduction in energy usage in homes with 2-stage or variable speed HVAC systems.

So, why should you consider going to an all-electric heat pump now?  It reduces our community’s carbon footprint, there’s the 30% to 70% reduction in electricity usage, and the near future is heading this direction anyway. By becoming an early adopter of this net carbon neutral campaign, customers can take advantage of these fantastic rebates that are available NOW, that most likely won’t be there when it becomes mandatory in new homes 20 years from now.

There are some costs associated with upgrading your HVAC system from a gas-electric system to an all-electric heat pump.  Most notably, the wiring to your outdoor unit will stay the same, but your wire to the indoor unit will likely need to be upgraded to a little bit bigger wire since it will be providing 240 volts instead of the 120 volts that’s already there.  The amp draw on heat pumps increases significantly in the wintertime, which is specifically related to the heat strips that are used during the coldest months of the year.


I really hope this explains everything you needed to know about the new SMUD rebate structure.  I like the way they’re thinking.  Reducing our carbon footprint is crucial for not only ours but generations to come.  If you have any questions about this or any topic regarding your heating or air conditioning system and you’re here in the Sacramento area feel free to contact us.

Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll see you next time.

Spring Season Means Sting Season

Spring Season Means Sting Season

Bad News - Spring Season Means Sting SeasonAs spring quickly approaches, those of us in the technical world must be prepared for what’s to come: Sting Season.  Local news channels have their eyes peeled and will be on the lookout for unsuspecting technicians who could get tripped up with tune-ups that uncover nothing more than a loose wire.  With such serious implications at stake, we must stay informed and vigilant to respond accordingly and keep ourselves safe from potential harm or damage.  In this blog post, we’ll discuss what measures should be taken during sting season to protect yourself while still performing the high-quality services your customers expect from you!

Examples of Sting Operations

Imagine being a technician heading out for a simple tune-up at a home.  You have no ill intentions.  You’re an HVAC tech who does right by people!  It’s a good thing that you have not only the training and expertise to evaluate a customer’s air conditioning system but you have collected all of the tools you need to do it.  You get paid to do a good job.  You work for a company with a good moral compass, and there’s no pressure on you to make extra sales to boost the company’s profits.

HVAC contactorNow imagine working for the opposite type of company.  You get paid for the parts you sell.  Or you get a bonus for any amount sold over $10,000 per week.  That type of company can fall prey to sting operations like the ones NBC’s Chris Hansen or our local NBC affiliates KCRA3 Rossen Reports do.  These investigators will contact a few HVAC companies and have their “best tech” come out and go over the system.  Once they give it a clean bill of health, the TV investigators have the homeowner call several HVAC companies to have them come out and perform an AC Tune Up.  Cameras will be set up to monitor what the tech is actually doing.  On the other side of those cameras, the “best tech,” the homeowner, and the investigator are watching to pick apart everything the unassuming technician is doing.

What Types of Traps are Set up for HVAC Sting Operations?

The investigator will have a “good” contractor set up the AC with a loose wire at the contactor.  Something like that won’t even allow the air conditioner to turn on.  But any experienced and good-hearted tech would see it and reconnect for no additional charge.  Then the tech would just finish the tune-up as normal.

Another bait investigators will use is a rusty capacitor.  Now, the “good” technician that initially evaluated the system has already seen that the capacitor shows minor rust on what looks like an old capacitor.  However, the test we perform to see if a capacitor is still good requires measuring the microfarad rating with our meter and comparing that result with what the manufacturer of the capacitor prescribes.  If the microfarads are within that specification, the capacitor is good.  Period.  An experienced, greedy technician can use their knowledge against unassuming customers to get the sale and pad their sweet commission from the boss.

What to do if Chris Hansen Shows Up at Your Service Call

One Chris Hansen episode I saw showed the technician going out to the air conditioner, not really checking anything, but more like eating up time, making it seems to the homeowner that he was.  Then the technician calls the customer out to the unit to discuss suggested repairs – a new fan motor and a capacitor.  Our “good techs” already noticed the fan had some rust, and the capacitor was good.  Yes, the system was old!  But it still met manufacturer specifications.  So, Chris comes around the corner and confronts the scandalous technician about his findings.  The tech immediately starts to head out the door, ashamed or embarrassed by his actions.

In the same episode, an honest technician came out and noticed a wire was disconnected from the contactor.  This was done by the investigative team.  The tech reconnected the wire, checked the rest of the system, and collected his tune-up fee.  Before heading out the door, the investigators confronted him and thanked him for the excellent service.

I feel very comfortable with my technicians and how they represent our company’s morals and ethics.  I’ve hand-picked them and strongly feel they are not greedy individuals.  In fact, those who come to Fox Family are usually the ones who are tired of that game.  If a part needs to be changed, recommend it by all means.  And I want my techs to stick to their guns when they feel something else could be done to optimize the system.  That way, after we leave, I don’t get a call from a customer asking why we didn’t check ____ after we replaced ____.  That’s not a fun conversation to have.

I think Chris Hansen or Jeff Rossen wants every tech to find that one thing and move on.  But in our industry, we feel like it’s our duty to mention other things that stand out – like oil around a motor’s bearings or a duct that looks like it may have been stepped on and crushed.  Would it be wrong to see oil leaking out of a motor’s sealed bearings cap and suggest, “Hey, we can change that out today while I’m here, or wait until it goes out and replace it then?” After all, the motor may run within factory specs, but oil leaking out of the bearings doesn’t meet that standard.  And that’s when I want my techs to mention it to customers.  I’d hate to hear them say, “Well, you never mentioned that oil was leaking out of my motor, and now it’s burned out on the 4th of July when I have my whole family over!”

Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

Are all HVAC Companies Scammers?

Unfortunately, some unscrupulous companies and technicians manipulate customers to make money.  The customer is often taken advantage of and sold repair parts they don’t even need.  While money drives all of us to do our job, by in large, our industry is full of people who are genuinely hard-working and trying to do the right thing.  As professionals, we face a difficult decision every day – often between what’s best for our business and what’s best for our customers.  We are constantly walking a fine line between providing great service, optimizing the customer’s system, and doing the right thing, while also making money, so it’s important always to remember why we got into this field – that it requires money.  Still, at its core, it should be about improving our customer’s quality of life.

In Conclusion

Springtime brings a buzz around the HVAC industry, with technicians gearing up for much-needed work and customers eagerly looking forward to the first comfortable days of warmth.  However, at the same time, technicians should remain aware that it is also “Sting Season.” This is where having integrity shines in the field – always working as if being recorded – ensuring detail to each job, and respecting customers.  In this way of doing business, trust builds between technician, company, and customer alike, which can be hard to find in a competitive HVAC landscape!

When You Should Consider Upgrading Your Sacramento Home HVAC System

how long should my AC last?

Many Sacramento homeowners often find it hard to decide whether they should keep repairing their existing HVAC system or replace it with a new one. This article discusses some of the things which can alert such homeowners that it may be time for some HVAC upgrades.

Frequent Sneezing or Coughing

The HVAC system plays an important role in ensuring that the members of your household breathe high-quality air. Frequent coughing or sneezing is an indicator that the system is failing in this role.

Upgrading to a better HVAC system may improve the indoor air quality in many ways. For example, a properly sized system is able to extract most of the particulates from indoor air.

Spiraling Energy Bills

Have you noticed that your energy bills are higher than they used to be? The HVAC system may be responsible for that increased energy consumption. This is particularly possible in case the system is aging and its components can no longer work as well as they once could.

Upgrading such an HVAC system will result in a reduction of your energy bills since the energy consumption of the new system will be lower. Energy Star or SEER rated systems are particularly energy-efficient.

Noisy HVAC Operation

You should also think about upgrading your HVAC system in case it has become unusually loud as it is working. Some systems may remain noisy even repairs have been conducted to fix any components which were defective.

The only way to restore calm and quiet conditions is by replacing the noisy HVAC system with a newer one which operates more quietly.

Extended Run Times

Be observant and find out whether your heating and air conditioning system in Sacramento cycles on and runs for a longer duration than it used to. Those extended run times should concern you because they indicate that your system is finding it harder to keep your home within the desired temperature range.

That extended operation increases the amount of energy that the HVAC system uses. The rate of wear also increases since the components will be working harder to condition the air in your home. Upgrade the system before it fails completely.

High Repair Costs

It may be time to upgrade your HVAC system if the frequency of having repairs done is increasing. High repair costs point to a system which is breaking down, one component at a time.

It is never a good idea to hang onto a system that needs HVAC upgrades because it will become there’s no guarantee that nothing else will fail and require more money. Upgrade to a better/newer system so that you avoid those high repair costs.

Uneven Temperatures

It can be inconveniencing to have some rooms of your Sacramento home warmer or colder than others are. A functional Sacramento ventilation, heating and air conditioning system should maintain uniform conditions across all the rooms of a home. Any difference detected could be a sign that the system can no longer meet your requirements. Upgrade to a better system so that you can enjoy uniform conditions in all parts of the house.


Age is an important factor to consider when contemplating whether or not your HVAC system should be upgraded. Each system comes with a manual which stipulates its expected service life, such as 15-years.

HVAC Upgrades

However, the way in which that system was maintained over its life can shorten or increase this useful life. It is generally advisable to upgrade the HVAC system if it is nearing the end of its expected useful life. This is because that end-of-life period tends to be characterized by the failure of the major system components, such as the compressor. Upgrading saves you from incurring those high repair costs for a system approaching the end of its life.

Each of the signs above may not on its own justify the decision to replace your HVAC system. However, a combination of those signs is a sure sign that you may be better off upgrading the system instead of sinking money into a system which is showing multiple signs of failure. Contact a Sacramento air conditioner replacement expert so that you can get help in selecting the best replacement system.

Why are my AC Registers Sweating?

Low Dew Point

During the summer of 2013, I got a service call about some supply AC registers sweating or forming condensation on them. It caught me off guard because the Sacramento Valley summertime conditions don’t usually allow for sweating ducts and registers. In this blog, let’s go over some facts, opinions, diagnoses, and solutions to sweating ducts and registers.

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A quick explanation of what causes sweat or condensation on ducts and registers:

It all comes down to the dew point of the air surrounding the surface forming condensation on it.


Air is a gas. And that air needs to be cooled to a certain point to achieve 100% humidity. At 100% humidity, air cannot hold more moisture in the gas form, so it becomes liquid…condensation. What is the temperature of the air in that room, supply duct, or the ceiling register that 100% humidity occurs? That’s the “dew point.”

Photo posted on Energy Vanguard
Photo posted on Energy Vanguard

The National Weather Service says, “The higher the dew point
rises, the greater the amount of moisture in the air. That directly affects how
comfortable it will feel”.

“Many times, relative humidity can be misleading. For example, a temperature of 30°F and a dew point of 30°F will give you a relative humidity of 100%. Still, a temperature of 80°F and a dew point of 60°F produces a relative humidity of 50%. It would feel much more “humid” on the 80-degree day with 50% relative humidity than on the 30-degree day with 100% relative humidity. That’s because of the higher dew point.”

We are more “comfortable” during the summer when the dew point is 55°F and less. At 55° to 65°F, the air in your house starts to feel “sticky” or “muggy.” And a dew point above 65°F becomes downright oppressive. The higher the dew point, the less comfortable the conditions are.

So now we can talk about your sweaty ducts and registers.

The house cools down when the air conditioning has been on for a while. But the duct that the air travels through gets cold too. The metal register that the air comes out of gets cold too. There’s even a metal box sometimes called a boot, c-box, b-box, or just a can, that connects the air duct to the metal register that the air comes out of in your room.

Water vapor loves cold metal and other surfaces because the dew point of the surrounding air allows condensation to develop on them. Like a cold glass of water does.

And the longer the air conditioner pushes cold air out of the ducts in an environment where the surrounding dew point is higher, the more sweat will form on the surface of it.

And just to add to the nuisance of condensation, water on those cold surfaces can start to grow mold and bacteria. It can also cause the paint on the metal registers to rust and chip. And if this is going on inside your ducts in the attic or basement, you may not even recognize it because you can see inside them without tearing into the duct or running a camera scope inside them.


A lot of contractors and their salespeople will suggest adding more insulation to the attic. Or, they’ll say getting new ducts with thicker insulation will solve the problem. But you could add several feet of insulation, but if the outer lining of the duct is cooler than the air around it and it reaches the dew point, condensation is still going to form on the duct. So, adding insulation isn’t always the solution.

Allison Bailes at Energy Vanguard wrote a great article that asked, “How do you tell which is the culprit? Is the dew point too high or the supply vent too cold? The special number here is 55° F.  Well, it’s special if you keep your house a 75° F for the indoor temperature and 50% relative humidity. Those conditions correspond to a dew point of 55° F, our special number.”

The higher the relative humidity surrounding your problem surface (the duct or the register), “the higher the dew point is at a given temperature. That means you’re more likely to get condensation because the supply vent doesn’t have to be as cold. For example, at a temperature of 75° F and relative humidity of 60%, the dew point will be 60° F.  A supply vent at a temperature of 60° F or below will sweat in that case.”

There’s a Dew Point Calculator website that lets you play around with temperatures and humidity levels to determine the dew point. Like in my house, it’s not unusual to keep my house at 70°. And because the humidity level in my Sacramento house is usually around the 40% area, my AC registers won’t start forming water until the temperature of the metal register goes below 44 degrees…the dew point.


The obvious solution to this is buying a ventilating dehumidifier. This helps even when the AC is not running! Whether the AC is operating or not, running a dehumidifier is great for when the AC cools the house fine but doesn’t reduce the humidity enough.

Photo courtesy of

Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs), Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs), and whole-house fans actually bring in humidity from the outdoors.

Running bathroom fans or laundry fans is a common thought to remove moisture from the room. Some people say these fans remove the humidity, while others say (like a whole house fan does) they bring in air from the outside, which carries humidity with it. 

Blower Fan speed – When your installer sets the blower speed on your fancy new system, they’re doing their job right. Not every installer does this. They take a temp split and call it good. But every air handler manual has specific blower settings for each ductwork and static pressure situation. 

If you have humidity issues in the house and the tech is waffling on setting the speed one dipswitch higher or lower to match the compressor speed and static pressure, always choose a little lower. While cooling the house faster, high airflow doesn’t allow the evaporator coil to collect enough condensation. A wet evaporator coil means better humidity removal.

Some other issues could be:

One duct laying on top of another can increase the potential for sweating, so separating the ducts will help. 

If you routinely keep it like a meat locker in your house, say 62°F, but the relative humidity inside your home is in the high 50s, you will start to have registers that form moisture on them because it’s very likely that your registers will get colder than 46°F which is the dew point at that time

Remember, air conditioning systems usually blow air out of your registers 18 to 22 degrees colder than the air going in. Of course, keeping the house at 62° can cause more issues than that. Evaporator coil freezing is very likely at that point too. And then you start to have mechanical problems that gets really expensive.

Manual Zr says supply air should not drop below 45 degrees for compressor reliability but also influences duct condensation. Besides setting your thermostat too low, other reasons for low supply air temperature are dirty filters, dirty coils, closed registers, kinks in the ductwork, restricted ducting with high static pressure, and improper airflow commissioning where the installer didn’t set the blower to the right speed.

Even the way the duct is attached to the boot/c-box can influence the air stream as it leaves the registers. A duct that heads straight into the boot will likely flow evenly through all the vanes of the registers. But a duct that kinks in sideways or doesn’t have an (insulated) hard 90-degree elbow to direct the air stream properly can cause eddies making that particular part of the boot colder than other edges of it. 

Negative pressures within these eddies can even pull warmer room air into the can, intensifying the potential of forming that condensation. That’s why this can happen in more humid rooms of the house like bathrooms and laundry rooms.

When you have registers or the cans they’re attached to, sweating, you have to start eliminating air leaks:

Tape and seal the c-boxes to the sheetrock (or wood flooring if the registers are on the ground.)  The ducts that take off from the plenum at the furnace should be sealed around the start collar. There’s duct sealant that is great for that.

CCWI-181There are a couple of trains of thought here, but I agree with this one. Adding more insulation around the outside of the can with blown-in insulation may not fix the problem. You can still end up with the ideal temperatures for the can to get colder than the surrounding air because there’s no vapor barrier on top of the added insulation. However, if you were to use closed cell spray foam, you would have the insulation and the vapor barrier needed.

The reason behind this is, again, trying to keep the boot or register from getting colder than the dew point surrounding the metal.

Another way to prevent AC registers sweating or from condensation from forming on the registers and ducts is by insulating the inside of the can. This way, you’re keeping the metal of the can from getting too cold.

I’m hoping this helps with your question about why ducts and supply registers in the home form condensation on them. It all comes down to the dew point of the air surrounding the surface, forming the moisture.

References used:

National Weather Service quote

Allison Bailes

Air Duct Photo posted on Energy Vanguard
Air Duct Photo posted on Energy Vanguard
Dew Point Calculator

Heat Pumps vs Gas Furnace

Heat Pumps vs Gas Furnace

As an expert in the HVAC field, people ask me which is better:  heat pumps vs gas furnace?  

This is a question for the ages.  Predominantly, here in the Sacramento Valley, most people have gas furnaces.  This means they have a gas line plumbed from their meter on the side of the house that goes all the way up to the furnace in the attic, or closet or, or garage.  A smaller percentage of people in the Sacramento valley have all-electric heat pumps.  This just means electricity fuels all their heating needs.

So which is better? Let’s Explore Heat Pumps vs Gas Furnace

Well, if you put the two together and feel the heat coming out of the registers on an all-electric heat pump, and then feel the heat coming out of the registers of a gas-fueled furnace, you’ll feel the gas furnace has warmer air coming out of it.  This alone is the major reason people choose gas furnaces over electric heat pumps.  

Let’s assume the air in your house is 65 degrees.  The air coming into the system is 65 degrees.  A gas furnace will heat that air by about 30 to 60 degrees.  I find that temperature difference to be more in the area of 45 to 55 degrees most of the time.   This means you will have anywhere from 95 to 125-degree air coming out of your registers.  In the winter, gas furnaces feel very nice for this reason.  Your house will warm up quickly with warm air like that coming out.

An all-electric heat pump will typically take your 65-degree air and warm it up about 20 degrees.  This will warm up your house, but it will take longer.  A heat pump uses your outdoor condenser too, which is way more expensive to operate than a gas-fueled furnace.  You know how expensive it is to run your AC in the summer right?  Well, it will be equally as expensive, if not more, to run your heat pump in the winter.  You see, the heat pump alone can only heat your house until it’s about 45 degrees outdoor temperature.  When it gets colder than that, there is almost no heat in the outdoor air to convert into heat for your house, so the dreaded “heat strips” will turn on.  The heat strips will dramatically increase your 20-degree difference to 35 to 60 degrees but will take just as much electricity to run as it does the outdoor unit.  This means you will be using summer weather electricity to run the outdoor unit and equally as much electricity to operate those heat strips.  You will warm up, it’s just doubly expensive to operate the heat pump and your heat strips in the winter.

Here in Sacramento County gas furnace are much less expensive to operate.  

If you don’t have natural gas or propane run to your house, then you have no choice, you’ll have to get a heat pump.  But, if you do have gas to your house, I think it’s much wiser to switch to a gas-fueled furnace.  You’ll get warmer air out of it, which feels great in the cold December and January months.  

Feel free to call me anytime to discuss our questions on getting a heat pump or gas furnace for your next furnace replacement.  Our phone number is 916-877-1577 or you can email us.  

What Kind of Warranty Should I get with my HVAC Repair?

What seemed like a simple AC repair call turned complicated…

Has it ever happened to you? You paid an HVAC repairman to replace a capacitor for your blower motor. Then he told you the problem was fixed. You only paid $125 bucks for it! Now, two years later the capacitor has already failed, and your furnace is not blowing warm air again. No air is coming out! You call the repairman only to find out he won’t answer his phone or reply with any sense of urgency to your call for service.

HVAC Warranty

In the field of HVAC, the brand of parts used for the repair means so much these days. GE used to make a capacitor in the 70’s that still meets manufacturer specs to this day. Goodman has been a system that had been known to have capacitors that fail early. I mean, I’m okay with parts lasting ten to fifteen years, but come on, these capacitors that are failing within the first five years are just a lousy brand of parts and equipment to get. Trying to find the contractor to uphold some warranty on these replacement parts would help your pocketbook, right?

Company Warranties

Some companies will offer no warranty or one or two-year warranties on the parts they replace. That’s great, but even the worst capacitors are not failing within the first two years. The companies that are making these inferior parts are savings pennies. Fox Family Heating and Air Conditioning technicians use a trusted brand of capacitors from MARS. There are some other capacitor brands we will use, but if at all possible we are using the MARS brand of capacitors. Why? Because we offer a lifetime warranty on all of our replacement parts. For as long as you own the house, our part might fail on you, because things do happen, but we are going to replace it because we think we are giving you the best part on the market. I think if we are going to sell you a part, we should back it up.

This is the same for all parts we replace your system except for a few. Refrigerant, compressors, heat exchangers, and evaporator and condenser coils are not covered by the lifetime warranty. These are significant components of your system.

Fox Family Heating and Air Warranties 

The next time your system fails and you pay an HVAC company to come out and fix your system, ask them if they will stand behind their product like Fox Family Heating and Air does. Why they are skimping on the money to buy cheap capacitors for your house is hard to understand for me. It’s no way to earn an excellent reputation in Sacramento. When someone tells me they are going to repair my HVAC system, the part they use is just automatically going to be a durable, time-tested part that is going to last 5 to ten years at least! Fox Family is interested in creating long-lasting relationships with our clients. That is why we are offering a lifetime warranty on our parts. We think these are the best parts on the market, so we stand behind the products we install in your system because it means a lot to us when you call us for your HVAC needs.