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Robert B. Payne, Inc. has been installing and maintaining heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems in the Fredericksburg region since 1930. Those decades of experience make the company a wealth of knowledge when it comes to keeping your home comfortable during summer’s hottest days. Owner Robert B. P. Thompson is our July expert. Be sure to catch his interview with more tips for homeowners on our Facebook Live feed later this month.

RobertBPayne team

Q: Many of us have experienced one part of our house being colder or warmer than another. What are some possible ways to identify or solve what might be causing that problem?

First of all, you have to determine whether the mechanical side of the system is working the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes it’s as simple as the registers not being open because a homeowner had adjusted them in the winter and not readjusted in the summer to get full airflow. Or the thermostat could be in the wrong place to gauge the temperature in the house.

It’s also important to pay attention to where your returns are. Years ago, homes were built with a separate return in every room. These days, it’s more common to have a single return that several rooms feed into. When that is the case, it’s important to keep the doors open so that air can circulate properly. So, if you are closing your bedroom doors at night, that can have a big impact on the temperature of the rooms in your home.

But it can also be more complicated than that. It could be an undersized or pinched duct. Leaking ductwork is another potential cause. Getting the right airflow into the different rooms in a house is a mathematical exercise. You do a series of calculations to determine how much air is needed, and then we can actually measure the air with a meter to see how much air is being delivered and compare it based on what has been calculated. This is a complex process, but our years of experience have given us an expertise in troubleshooting these kinds of problems. We do always make sure the homeowner understands that fixes are not always simple or inexpensive. Sometimes a homeowner will have to make a judgment call over comfort versus money, but we try to walk them through the process and give them as much information as they can about how to best condition the air in their home.

Q: For homes with an addition or a finished attic, what are good solutions for cooling and heating these spaces?

Quite often for these kinds of spaces, a ductless mini-unit is the best solution. These are free-standing units that have their own thermostat and controls, and can be serviced on the maintenance program that covers the rest of your heating and air system. They eliminate many of the problems that can come with heating and cooling these kinds of spaces, like concealing or hiding ductwork and wiring for additional thermostat. We find that this is the best solution and we are getting rave reviews on how quiet, efficient, comfortable and happy they are with ductless systems. We also are installing ductless mini-splits in new homes, also eliminating the need for ductwork!

air conditioning unitQ: How big of a difference can regular maintenance make in the efficiency and effectiveness of an air conditioning system?

It’s really similar to owning a car — you get your oil changed every 5,000 miles or so, and when you get that regular maintenance, you don’t get as many emergency breakdowns. It’s the same thing with your air conditioning system. Whether it’s brand new or 20 years old, your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is a complex piece of machinery that represents a big investment in your home. It needs to be maintained by an expert who can make sure the coils are cleaned, the safeties are working, the refrigerant charge is correct. Everybody has breakdowns sometimes, but in general, our customers who are on regular maintenance programs are not the ones calling us in an emergency on the hottest day of summer with no air. Manufacturers are even starting to write maintenance requirements into their warranties, so this is not something to ignore.

Regular maintenance also makes the system run more efficiently. We will have people call us and say, “My electric bill was $450 this month.” Often the problems they are having are due to a lack of maintenance.

Q: How can homeowners get into a good maintenance routine?

When you sign up for an HVAC maintenance program with Robert B. Payne, Inc. an experienced, professional technician will come to your home to tune up your heating and cooling system and perform any basic maintenance your system may need. If any heating or air conditioning repair needs to be performed beyond the routine maintenance, our technicians will be able to complete those repairs. You can learn more by calling us at (540) 373-5876, or by visiting robertbpayne.com.

For our customers who are scheduled for regular tune-ups, we send out reminders so you’ll know when to give us a call to make sure everything’s working properly before the heat or cold hits.

Q: Are there things we should be doing at home to make sure our systems stay in good shape?

Homeowners should change their filters at least every 90 days, or according to the specifications of the filter they are using. I look at my own filters every month. The amount of dust in your home varies based on the activities going on. If you’ve had a lot of people or activity in your home, you’re probably going to need to change your filter sooner. It doesn’t hurt to at least look at it once a month. Make a mental note to do this every time you pay your electric bill. This is a habit that will make your system last longer and run more efficiently.

It’s also important to keep your outside unit clear of debris, grass clippings and other impediments. Air conditioning units have to be able to draw in air to cool your home, so it’s important to keep the space around and above them clear.

Q: Robert B. Payne, Inc. has been in business since 1930. Why is working with an experienced company important when we’re talking about heating and cooling our homes?

It is very important to me to make sure that the people who are coming into your home are trustworthy and are knowledgeable and respectful. We are a drug-free company and we random test and background check everybody from the president to the parts runners.

We are here to serve. It’s important to know that we are licensed, insured, our technicians are highly trained, and we keep them up-to-date with the latest technology, as our industry is changing rapidly. We are going to respect your home and respect you. Our customers are like our family.

Robert B. Payne, Inc. is the 1st Place Winner of the FredParents' Family Favorites in 2017, 2018, and now 2019. They are also the 1st Place Winner of the Fredericksburg Readers’ Choice Award with consecutive wins in 2016, 2017, 2018, & 2019, every year since the competition started. Along with numerous other industry awards, they have an A+ rating with the BBB and hundreds of 5 star reviews. They are Fredericksburg, Stafford and King George Counties foremost heating and cooling experts.

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