Category: Electrical

Help! My AC Is DOA – Troubleshooting Tips

Summer is tough on air conditioners here in the Cincinnati area. If you’re living with an older AC, it’s likely that you may run into trouble. But before you pick up that phone to call for repairs, try these AC troubleshooting tips from the team at Herrmann Services. It just may save you a service call!

AC Troubleshooting Tips

When your air conditioner isn’t working, it’s usually one of two issues. Either it won’t turn on at all, or it’s running, but not blowing cool air.

Try these tips before you call a professional. 

The AC Is On, but the Air Isn’t Cool

Dirty Air Filter – Believe it or not, this can be caused by a dirty air filter. Check your filter to see how dirty it is and replace it if necessary. (Remember, it is important to change your filter once a month to ensure proper airflow and cooling.)

Ice Accumulation – Ice in the outdoor unit can also cause your AC to run sluggishly. If you see ice you should turn off the AC, turn the fan to the on position, and allow it to thaw for a couple of hours. Turn it back on. If it ices up again, you may need to call for professional help.

Clogged Condensate Drain – If you are still having trouble, check the condensate drain tube. Algae tends to build up in this tube, clogging it, and causing your AC to fail.

AC Won’t Turn On

If your AC is not kicking on, it could be a simple fix. Check these things:

Tripped Breaker – check your electrical panel to make sure that the breaker connected to your AC hasn’t been tripped. If it has, reset it. If it trips again, you may need a professional to come take a look at why your AC is drawing so much power.

Power Switch – look to see if the power switch on the side of your furnace is turned on. (Yes, there’s a power switch on the side of your furnace.) Sometimes it gets accidentally bumped.

Thermostat – check your thermostat to make sure that it isn’t set to the heat or off position. Also check to make sure that the batteries in your thermostat are not dead. (You’d be surprised how many service calls we answer and the problem is one of these two things. It happens.)

Check Your Condenser Unit (The Box Outside)

Don’t forget your air conditioner has another piece – the outside condenser unit. Look for these three problems:

A safety precaution first – The condenser is a 240-volt box, so turn off the power to it at the electrical panel before working on it. Also turn off the disconnect box located outside, near your unit. (It will either be a lever, fuses, or a circuit breaker to shut off the condenser.) Allow about 30 minutes for the electrical charge that’s stored in the condenser’s capacitor to dissipate. Okay, now it’s safe to check the unit. We recommend letting one of our qualified technicians look over these items. 

Clear Debris – Make sure the unit is clean and clear of debris. Clear away dirt, leaves, etc. that could be restricting airflow. 

Check the Fan – Make sure it is clear of debris and able to spin freely.

Check for Broken Coolant Lines – Check the coolant lines (pipes that connect the condenser unit outside to the evaporator on the inside unit). They can get bumped around being outside.

Turn the unit back on. First, turn the thermostat in your home to OFF. Then turn on the power at both the disconnect box and at the main panel. Last, switch the thermostat to COOL. Give it some time and see if you feel cool air blowing from the ducts. You can also check your outdoor unit. The air blowing out of the top should be warmer than the surrounding air.

How to Know When It’s Smarter to Replace Than Repair 

If your AC is old and unreliable, you’re probably considering replacement. But how do you know when it makes more sense to replace than spending money to repair it? First, look for these four warning signs that the time is near:

  • Your unit is 10-12 years old
  • You’ve paid for three or more repairs over the last two years
  • Your energy bills seem excessive
  • You are experiencing uneven cooling or certain rooms feel uncomfortable. (Sometimes hot spots can be due to poor ductwork. We can inspect your ducts and make adjustments if that is the case.)

These are all clues that it is getting close to the time to replace your unit. Luckily, there’s a formula you can use to help you decide. We call it the $5,000 rule.

The $5,000 Rule

Multiply the age of your AC unit by the repair cost, and if that exceeds $5,000, then replace the unit. If it’s less, go ahead and repair it.

Here is an example, if your unit is 10 years old and the repair will cost $450, multiply 10 x 450 to equal $4,500. It is less than $5,000, so it’s okay to have it repaired.

Consider the Rising Cost of Freon

If your repair involves adding Freon because of a leak, you have something else to consider. A leak means you will have to add more coolant every year and the price of Freon is rising each year. That’s because about 25 years ago, the EPA ordered the phasing out of Freon as part of an international treaty focused on protecting the ozone layer. After 2010, no air conditioners that run on Freon could be manufactured. Production of Freon has also been reduced in subsequent years. By 2020, production of Freon will end, so the price will only continue to rise. New systems run on a different kind of coolant which requires a completely different system, so unfortunately, the new coolant cannot replace Freon in an old system. 

Let Us Help with AC Repairs or Replacement

If your AC has several of the symptoms we listed, we will be happy to take a look and either repair or replace the unit so you and your family stay cool and comfortable. Herrmann Services is proud to install Airease air conditioners, so if your air conditioner is on its last leg we will be happy to provide a free estimate. 

Call us today at (513) 737-8423 or contact us online with any questions, repair needs, or just to get a free quote on a new system.

Top 20 Safety Tips for Holiday Decorating

Safety Tips For Holiday DecoratingThe holidays are filled with colorful lights, twinkling trees and even blow-up yard decorations. Almost all of these winter wonders require electricity. According to the ESFI (Electrical Safety Foundation International) 25% of holiday fires are caused by decorations. That’s about 860 home fires. Don’t let your home be one of them. The good folks at Herrmann Services want to make sure your season stays merry, not scary, so we’ve made a list and we’d like you to check it twice. Follow these easy safety tips to keep your home and loved ones safe.

Hanging Decorations and Strands of Lights

We know the holidays are a busy time and you may be tempted to cut corners when it comes to decorating your home, but don’t. Follow these rules and be safe:

  • Inspect Electrical Decorations for Damage
    Cracked or damaged sockets, loose or bare wires, and loose connections can cause a serious shock or start a fire.
  • Never Connect More Than Three Strands of Incandescent Lights
    More than three strands may not only blow a fuse, but can also cause a fire.

TIP: You may want to update your lights to LEDs. They produce considerably less heat and use less electricity too.

  • Watch Bulb Placement
    Make sure bulbs don’t touch supply cords, wires, cloth, paper, or any material that’s not part of the light string.
  • Use the Proper Clips for Hanging Decorations
    Staples and nails can damage electrical cords and cause shorts.
  • Look for Certification Labels
    Decorations not bearing a label from an independent testing laboratory have not been tested for safety and could be hazardous. Look for Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or Intertek (ETL).
  • Check for Indoor/Outdoor Rating
    If using outside, make sure the extension cord is labeled for outdoor use.
  • Watch for Overhead Power Lines Outdoors
    If you are using a ladder to put up decorations, or when you’re hanging lights or decorations on trees outside, power lines can be lethal. Know where they are before you start.
  • Turn Off or Unplug Decorations When Going to Bed or Leaving
    According to the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), half of home fire deaths occur between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

Outlet Safety

We know it can be difficult, but try not to plug too many holiday decorations into your outlets. Also, make sure your outlets are GFCI in the kitchen, bathrooms, and outside.  

  • Inspect Outlets before Using
    If the outlet shows any signs of damage, such as black lines where the plug enters or sparks when you plug something in, don’t use that outlet and have a professional electrician inspect it.
  • Do Not Overload Electrical Outlets
    Avoid plugging too many lights and decorations into an outlet. Overloaded circuits can overheat and start a fire. Read the package instructions, and never exceed the recommended wattage. Circuits that frequently trip can indicate too many items are connected to the circuit.
  • Use Battery-Operated Candles
    Candles start almost half of home decoration fires according to the NFPA. Battery operated candles have no wires to be plugged in or hazardous open flames.
  • Use GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) Outlets Outdoors
    GFCI outlets are designed to cut off electricity when it senses an imbalance between the outgoing and incoming current. It keeps people from being electrocuted. They are recommended for outlets near water including outdoors and in bathrooms and kitchens. You can tell if yours are GFCI outlets by looking for the reset button (usually red) on the outlet.

Extension Cord Safety Tips

About 3,300 residential fires originate in extension cords each year, killing 50 people and injuring about 270 others. In addition, 4,000 people a year are treated in emergency rooms for injuries associated with extension cords. Half of these injuries involve fractures, lacerations, contusions, or sprains as a result of people tripping over the cords. Follow these rules for using extension cords.

  • Inspect the Cord
    Look for cracks, loose connections at the ends, or damaged coverings and loose or bare wires. Throw away any cords that are in poor condition.
  • Check for Indoor/Outdoor Rating
    If using outside, make sure the extension cord is labeled for outdoor use.
  • Use GFCI-Protected Outlets
    Plug outdoor electrical decorations into GFCI-protected outlets to prevent shock.
  • Protect Cords from Damage
    To avoid shock or fire hazards, cords should never be smashed by furniture, forced into small spaces such as doors and windows where they can be pinched, placed under rugs, located near heat sources, or attached by nails or staples.
  • Watch Out for Water
    Keep outdoor connections above-ground and out of puddles.
  • Don’t Stretch Extension Cords over Walkways
    This can cause a tripping hazard. It’s best to run extension cords alongside walkways when possible.

Other Common Hazards

  • Space Heaters
    Space heaters result in far more fires than central furnaces. Never leave one unattended or around pets or children without supervision. Make sure it is not near carpets, rugs, drapery, bedding or anything else flammable.  
  • Carbon Monoxide
    This is one of the most preventable hazards. Install a CO detector in your home today. They are inexpensive and plug right into a wall outlet. It can save your life!

Always have a working fire extinguisher on hand, and know how to operate it. We hope these tips will keep you safe this holiday season. If you need any electrical help, just call us at Herrmann Services at (513) 737-8423 or contact us online.

4 Tips to Protect Your Home from Spring Thunderstorms

Protect Home From Spring ThunderstormsIt’s no secret that weather can be unpredictable in the spring. Storms tend to pop up without notice and can sometimes be severe, leaving you little time to prevent damage to your home. Fortunately, with a few tips and tricks, you can troubleshoot nearly every problem that comes your way. Here are four great tips to weather spring storms in Ohio from the team at Herrmann Services.

 

1. Protect Your Sump Pump

Some homes’ foundations are built below the water table line and their basements are prone to flooding. Sump pumps serve as an excellent defense to keep basements dry by pumping out excess water. Occasionally sump pumps fail during severe storms after becoming overwhelmed with the amount of water coming in. To protect your home, ensure that your system is up to the challenge by checking to following:

  • Be sure that you have a battery backup sump pump. During storms, your power can go out leaving your sump pump unable to operate. Your basement can flood if you don’t have an alternate power source to keep your pump operational.
  • Protect your system from clogs. Keeping your discharge lines clear and covered will help to protect them from clogging and backing up into your home.
  • Keep up with your inspections. Consult your owner’s manual to decide how often you should have your pump inspected and serviced. If you suspect any problems, have your system looked at right away. One quick way to test your sump pump is to take the lid off the sump pit and pour a five-gallon bucket of water into the pit. The motor should kick on and drain the water immediately. If it doesn’t, you may have to call for service.

2. Secure Outdoor Hazards

In the event of inclement weather, make sure to check outdoors for items that need to be secured or put away. Common items that could cause damage to your home during high winds include patio umbrellas, tables, chairs, yard decorations, grills, and stacked firewood.

3. Check Doors and Windows

It sounds like a no-brainer, but simply checking to make sure windows are closed and storm doors are latched will save you costly damage caused by water coming into your home or a loose storm door blowing in high winds.

4. Turn Off Your Air Conditioner

A power surge can cause significant damage to an air conditioning unit during a storm. Cutting power to your unit at the circuit breaker, or turning the unit off at your thermostat can prevent costly damage in the event of a lightning strike. Your home may get a little stuffy, but as soon as the storm is over, you can turn in back on.

With a quick plan in place, you can take precaution to protect your home and systems in the event of a spring thunderstorm. Call us today at (513) 737-8423 or contact us online for more information.

10 Home Safety Updates for Your Cincinnati Home

Electrical Home Safety Updates

We often try to protect our children from the world “out there,” but we have to remember that our own home can pose some dangers, too. Here are a few tips for keeping kids safe at home.

The team of electricians at Herrmann Services in Cincinnati sees many things in homes that aren’t safe. Usually the solution is pretty easy and affordable. Check this list to see if you have hidden hazards in your home:

1. Replace Electrical Outlets with GFCI Outlets

GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) are a safety feature that prevents electrical shocks by cutting off the power to that outlet immediately when it senses an imbalance in the flow of electricity. GFCIs are required by code on outdoor outlets, or any outlet near a source of water (kitchens, baths). Make sure to test GFCI outlets monthly.

Press the TEST button, then RESET button every month to assure proper operation. If the indicator light does not go out and come back on or if the GFCI cannot be reset, it must be replaced.

2. Replace Old Smoke Detectors

According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly two thirds of fire related deaths occur due to smoke detectors that either malfunctioned, were missing batteries, or were disconnected. Whether hard-wired or battery operated, after ten years, smoke alarms may malfunction and cause a serious health hazard.

Make a note of when you last replaced your smoke detector, whether that be writing the date in permanent marker on the inside of the detector, or storing the date in a file.

3. Replace Outdated Electrical Circuit Breaker Panels

Older electrical panels or breaker boxes are more likely to malfunction and put your home at risk. If your panel is more than 40 years old, we recommend replacing it. If it is more than 20 years old, you should have an electrician perform a safety inspection on it.

If your home has a Federal Pacific Electric panel or a Zinsco panel, we also recommend replacing those as they are known to be fire hazards.

4. Check Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors

More than 20,000 Americans visit the emergency room every year as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, and 400 of them die from it. Installing a detector in your home and ensuring the batteries are working can help prevent this type of tragedy. Test both smoke alarms and CO detectors once per month, and replace batteries as needed.

5. Replace Damaged Electric Cords

Cords that are regularly moved, twisted, or plugged and unplugged can start to wear over time. Check for damage and replace them immediately. Exposed wires can shock you or your children.

6. Don’t Use Extension Cords

An extension cord sends that electric current over a greater distance, giving more opportunities for cord damage and fire hazards. Not only that, but extension cords can pose a tripping hazard. You should not use extension cords as a substitute for sufficient electrical wiring.

7. Set Your Water Heater at a Safe Temperature

Scalding can be a big danger, especially with young children who don’t know it can be a danger. Setting your water heater thermostat below 120 degrees Fahrenheit will prevent scalding temperatures from reaching the faucet. Bath water should be about 100 degrees; always check it with your hand before letting the kids get in.

8. Don’t Use Space Heaters

Though there are many precautions you can take with space heaters, such as keeping them away from flammable materials and never leaving them on when you’re sleeping, children don’t always take such precautions. It’s just safer to avoid using them altogether.

9. Unplug Appliances When Not in Use

Appliances could be accidentally turned on when a child reaches for something else, or if they’re absentmindedly playing with the device. Keeping the items unplugged when you’re not using them helps avoid accidental burns. Keep a close eye on items that remain hot after you’ve turned them off, like curling irons, coffee pots, or stovetop burners.

10. Teach Your Kids About Electricity

Explaining the dangers of electric shock may help your children avoid experimenting with outlets. Placing plastic covers over the outlets can also deter little hands. With a few simple precautions, your home can become much safer for you and your children.

If you need any help with electrical issues or installations, don’t hesitate to contact us. We can even perform home safety inspections of your electrical outlets.

Call Herrmann Services for a safety inspection, electrical repair, or replacement at (513) 737-8423 or contact us online.

 

4 BIG Differences You’ll Notice with a Whole-House Humidifier

Keep Your Cincinnati Home Cozy This Winter!

It’s no secret that the air in our homes gets pretty dry during the cold winter months. Static shocks seem to lurk around every corner, our skin gets dry and itchy, and we’re more prone to things like sore throats and bloody noses! Besides our own dry air woes, our homes suffer from the lack of humidity too. Wood furniture can crack, paint can peel, expensive hardwood floors can shrink and show gaps, and books and art can become dry and brittle. Dry air is just uncomfortable — both for we humans and the things we live with!

What Can You Do About Dry Winter Air in Your Home?

One way to control the humidity levels in your home is with a whole-house humidifier, which can be set to keep humidity levels in the desirable range of 30-50% during the driest months of the year (or in dry, desert climates, too). Here are 4 BIG differences you’ll observe once you’ve had one retrofitted to your existing HVAC equipment …

Electrician Cincinnati | Plumber Cincinnati

1. You’ll feel warmer with a whole house humidifier. 

Low humidity tends to make us feel cooler, and we compensate by turning up the thermostat, which in turn, takes its toll on our wallets through higher utility bills. By raising the humidity in your home, you can lower the thermostat and still feel as comfortable as you did before.

2. You’ll feel more comfortable throughout your whole home.

Not only will you eliminate those nasty and surprising static electricity shocks, but your skin will stop feeling itchy, your hair will be more “cooperative”, and you’ll alleviate allergy symptoms and asthma.

3. Your furniture and hardwoods won’t dry out.

You’ll notice that your furniture and hardwood floors look better, and you’ll eliminate the worry of damaging them and other things like crown molding in your home.

4. You’ll be healthier with improved air quality.

Dry air can create ideal conditions for airborne illnesses like colds and flu, which are so common when we all tend to spend more time indoors due to the cold temperatures and poor driving conditions outside. Additionally, chapped lips and bloody noses will be less common with more humidity in the air.

Of course, you can always opt for portable, table-top humidifiers, but you’ll have to remember to refill them frequently and keep them clean so they don’t spread germs around! But a whole-house humidifier simply requires you to set your thermostat and forget about overly dry air all winter long! The only maintenance is changing the pad at the beginning of the winter season each year.

If you’re thinking about installing a whole-house humidifier in your Cincinnati-area home, give the pros at Herrmann Services a call at (513) 737-8423 or contact us online today!

No More Lame Excuses – It’s Time to Make the Switch to LED Lighting

Switch to LED Lighting in Your Home

So you’ve heard all about LED lighting. You know how energy efficient these bulbs are. You know that the lights are safer because they don’t create heat when they’re on. You know they last for years and years and won’t have to be replaced. So, why don’t you have them in every fixture in your home?

LED Lighting – Lame Excuses Demystified

At Herrmann Services, we like to keep our customers up to date on the latest and greatest in heating and cooling, plumbing, and electrical. On that note, we’d like to let you in on a little secret…it’s time to update your lighting to LED bulbs.

Wait, it’s actually long past time! So why exactly haven’t you done it yet? We have a few ideas. There are really only two reasons people haven’t updated and upgraded – cost and confusion. We’re here to help you eliminate this confusion and understand the costs of LED lighting.

Lame Excuse #1: LED Light Bulbs Cost More

So let’s cut to the chase. Do LED bulbs cost more than incandescent or CFL bulbs? Heck yes. But if you look at the years of lighting they provide versus those other bulbs, it’s well worth the investment. Plus, due to competition, the price has dropped significantly in recent years.

Eventually, the LED bulbs will pay off, and in the meantime, you’ll enjoy less heat production, longer bulb life, and a lot less bulb replacing!

Lame Excuse #2: Watt’s What?

With incandescent bulbs, though wattage isn’t an indication of brightness, it is a measurement of how much energy the bulb draws, so there is a well-known correlation between the watts drawn and the brightness.

With LEDs, you can’t use wattage to determine brightness. Instead, you have to look for lumens. To save you a lot of confusion, we included this comparison chart that we found in an article from C/Net (a consumer comparison website).

LED lights vs incandescent lights comparison

Lame Excuse #3: Confusion with Color

Incandescent bulbs provide a warm, yellowish light. LED bulbs can provide many different hues, namely warm white, soft white and bright white. LED color is measured by temperature in kelvins.

The lower the number, the yellower the light. If you want your LEDs to emulate the light from a traditional incandescent bulb, as many homeowners do, shop for a kelvin between 2,700 and 3,500K.

A Note of Caution

If you have switches that are dimmable, look closely when buying an LED to replace the bulb. Not all LEDs are dimmable. If you replace a dimmable incandescent with an LED, the fixture may hum, buzz, or crackle. Be sure to buy only LEDs that are labeled “dimmer compatible”.

Now that you know how affordable, safe, and similar to the look of incandescent bulbs LED bulbs are, get out there and replace your bulbs and start saving energy today!

If you need any electrical help in your home, from installing a ceiling fan to replacing an old breaker box to rewiring your entire home, give Herrmann Services a call at (513) 737-8423 or contact us online.

Is Your Home Safe? Do This Room-by-Room Safety Sweep

Home Safety Tips Room by Room

At Herrmann Services, we care about our customers. While we know a lot about heating, cooling, plumbing and electrical services, we know many of our customers don’t. That’s why we thought this blog about home safety was worth sharing. Please read it and share it especially with anyone you know who has small children in their home.

Common Home Accidents

According to the CDC, each day over 300 children between the ages of 0-19 are treated in emergency rooms for burn-related injuries. These injuries are often caused by burns from hot liquids or steam, or from electrical items like curling irons or coffee pots. Electrical shock is also a common injury.

Tips for Protecting Children in Every Room of Your Home

Hidden dangers lurk in every room, so be sure to check all of the things on this list to make sure each room is safe.

Kitchen Safety Tips

Kitchen Safety Tips

  1. Prevent scalding by setting the water heater’s maximum heat at 120 F/49 C.
  2. Prevent electrical burns by keeping small appliances out of the reach of children, and away from the kitchen sink.
  3. Prevent scalding and burns by keeping the handles to pots and pans on the stove turned away from where little hands can reach them.

Bathroom Safety Tips

Bathroom Safety Tips

  1. Never leave a small child or baby unattended in the bathroom.
  2. Unplug hair dryers, curling irons, etc., when not in use, and keep away from the bathtub and sink.

Bedroom & Living Area Safety Tips

Living Room and Bedroom Safety Tips

  1. Make sure all cords from window blinds are out of the reach of children. These pose a strangulation hazard.
  2. Place outlet covers over all electrical outlets that are not in use.
  3. Make sure all electrical cords are undamaged, and replace them if they are.
  4. Avoid using extension cords.
  5. Avoid using space heaters.
  6. Keep curious babies away from outlets, cords, and electrical items, large and small, including televisions.

Overall Home Safety Tips

Home Safety

  1. Install a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector on every level of the home. Test it and change batteries regularly (at least twice a year). Learn more about protecting your family from carbon monoxide here.
  2. If you notice an unusual odor, flickering lights, or power surges, have the home’s electrical system checked.
  3. In case of fire, develop an escape plan, establish a meeting point, and communicate and practice the plan with all family members.
  4. Teach your children proper emergency contacts, as well as how and when to call 911.

We hope these safety tips help keep your home and family safe from injuries and fire. Feel free to print these off for any first-time parents you may know.

Please call Herrmann Services if you need any heating, cooling, plumbing, or electrical help. Call us at (513) 407-5177 or contact us online to request service.

Why You Should Switch to LED Lighting Systems Now

updating to LED lights herrmann electricWhile many people are still using incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, LED bulbs are on the rise, and for several reasons. Not only has the government made a push for consumers to use LED lights because they consume less energy, but LED lights also have many other benefits for home and business owners. Here are two ways you could see savings if you decide to make the switch.

See Immediate Energy Savings

Incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs use a lot of energy to keep your home well lit, especially when compared to LED bulbs. An LED bulb can create the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb for less than 10 watts of energy. That’s a 50-watt difference, which can drastically decrease your energy costs in the near future. Most LED bulbs are interchangeable with incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, but if you have a dimming lighting system in your home, you’ll need a local Cincinnati electrician to tweak it. Regular dimming systems are not made for LED bulbs and can burn them out much quicker than their normal lifespan.

You’ll Thank Yourself for Switching Later, Too

If you are a planner, you should make the switch to LED lighting systems immediately. You will thank yourself 5, 10, even 20 years down the road. That’s because you’ll save substantially more by making the switch to LED bulbs in your Cincinnati area home. Because LED bulbs use less energy to light your home, they also have a longer lifespan. You can theoretically install an LED bulb in your baby’s bedroom right now, and not have to replace it until he or she goes off to college. The U.S. Department of Energy predicts the switch to LED lighting over the next two decades could save the country as much as $250 billion in energy costs. Do you want to be one of the people who is included in those billions of saved dollars?

To install LED lighting capable fixtures in your home, call Herrmann Services today at 513-737-8423.