Author: Glen Wojcik

Owner of Pioneer Valley Environmental, a Western Massachusetts based plumbing, heating, and HVAC service company.

How to Keep Your Central AC System Running Smoothly All Summer

Woman sitting comfortably on her couch indoors reading a book
image source: Unsplash

With plenty of sunshine and warm, muggy days right around the corner, you may be wondering if your central AC system is ready for summer. When your air conditioner is in excellent condition, you can look forward to a cool, comfortable interior, no matter how hot and humid it is outside.

Keeping your AC well-maintained can also help you save on energy costs, improve indoor air quality, and extend the life of your system. To make it easier to get ready for the summer, we’ve put together this helpful guide to pre-season central AC maintenance.

How do you maintain a central air unit?

Photo of a central air conditioning outdoor unit

image source: Pixabay

If you have central air, you’ll have an exterior unit, which houses the compressor, and an indoor unit, which is responsible for cooling the air and then blowing it throughout your home or business through your system’s ducts.

Both units should be cleaned and checked. While you can do some of the cleaning yourself, a professional HVAC technician can do a more thorough job while also inspecting and servicing all the different parts.

Here’s an overview of the steps involved:

  • Turn off the power to the unit before getting started, as working around your air conditioner while it’s on can be dangerous. Switch the exterior shut-off box near your outdoor unit off and shut off the power at the indoor breaker box.
  • Starting with the outdoor unit, remove the fan cage or grill from the top of the unit so you can remove leaves and other debris from inside with a vacuum or by hand.
  • Remove any outer covers to give the fins a deep clean inside and out with a garden hose. Don’t use a pressure washer or a high-pressure stream from your homes. You may also want to use a special fin cleaning spray.
  • An HVAC technician will also straighten the fins to ensure proper airflow and level the unit if the concrete pad underneath it has shifted.
  • The inside unit involves more detailed cleaning and specific products, so it’s a good idea to call on the pros if you aren’t sure what you’re doing. They will clean and inspect the evaporative coil and flush the drain. They’ll also replace your blow filter and ensure all the internal components are in good shape.

How often should a central air system be serviced?

Experts agree it’s a good idea to service your air conditioner at least once a year. You’ll also want to change the filter at least twice a year or more often if you notice dust accumulating on it. Replacing your filter regularly may reduce your AC’s energy consumption by 5 to 15 percent.

In spring, before the cooling season begins, is the best time for annual maintenance. You may also want to have your system looked at if you notice any of the following signs of wear and tear:

  • Higher than normal energy bills
  • Slow response when you change the temperature setting
  • The AC isn’t effectively keeping your home or business cool
  • A foul smell coming through the air vents or any leaks around the unit
  • Your air conditioner is making strange noises

What happens if you don’t service your air conditioner?

Over time, dust accumulating on the filters and within the system stops your system from working as it should. Essentially, your AC has to work harder to cool your air, which shortens the life of the system and increases your energy costs.

How long does a central air conditioner last?

The average life of a central AC system is 10 to 15 years. Keeping the unit clean and running smoothly with regular maintenance can extend its life.

What is included in AC maintenance?

In addition to routine cleaning, an HVAC specialist will inspect your entire system, including your thermostat, refrigerant, and system controls, lubricate moving parts, flush the condensate drain line, and tighten electrical wiring. Once everything is calibrated, tightened, repaired, and cleaned, you can have total confidence that your central air conditioner will work beautifully all summer long.

Contact Pioneer Valley Environmental today and make sure your AC is ready for summer.

Where can you find good plumbers online?

Finding a trustworthy plumber online can be difficult. With so many business listing websites showcasing ‘plumbers near me’, it can be tough to distinguish between the real licensed professional plumbers, and the fake ‘lead capture websites’ that are only interested in collecting your email and phone number.

To make finding a local professional plumber easier on you, here are 3 ways to check if that plumbing business is for real.

#1 Does that plumber have an up to date website?

Just because a business has a website, doesn’t make them a legitimate business. What is more likely is if that plumbing business has an up to date website with their business name, street address, and local phone number.

Many times a lead capture website will not have a local street address because they don’t have a real physical location anywhere nearby. What you will likely see is a list of cities and towns where they claim to have an office, with landing pages designed to rank in search for the keyword ‘plumber’ or ‘plumber + city’.

Screenshot of a lead capture website for plumbers

Here are 3 things to look for on a local plumber’s website:

  1. Check their street address, and verify it using Google Street View
    • Street view will show you if they really have a physical location
  2. Check for a local phone number, not an 800 number
    • A number with a local area code is more likely real than a generic 800 number
  3. Find real customer reviews, either good or bad
    • Good or bad, customer reviews can mean the business is real

#2 Does that plumber have a Google My Business listing?

Many business listing websites like Yelp and Google My Business require some level of verification before the listing is published. Now there is a lot of ‘crap on the map‘ so use this in conjunction with the other methods listed here.

The reason you want to see if they have a GMB listing is to find reviews, and check to see if they have updated their information. What you find on their GMB listing should correspond to what you find on their website.

Here are some things to look out for:

  • Reviews: Check for spelling errors and anything that looks cookie cutter
  • Website: Is the website link different than the business website?
  • Phone number: See if it matches their website phone number
Screenshot of Google My Business SPAM
Courtesy of

#3 Does that plumber have other real business listings?

Here at Pioneer Valley Environmental, we have worked hard to create listings on legitimate business websites in order to build trust with our audience. You can find on listings like:

And many more! That way you can verify our business, location, phone number, customer reviews, and other information against other trustworthy listings. Any fly-by-night plumber or lead generator won’t go to this much effort to win local customer trust.

Here are three more listing website to verify that plumber you found online with:

  • Better Business Bureau
    • BBB does a good job of reviewing their listings and verifying them
  • Yelp
    • Even though they are not as trusted as they once were, they still have a strong verification process
  • Apple Maps
    • You cannot get on Apple Maps without a real physical location

Screenshot of PVE on Apple Maps


If you’re located in Western Massachusetts, from New Salem, to West Brookfield, we’d love to help with any of your plumbing needs. We’re available 24/7 for emergencies.

Ware Massachusetts Water System

Ware, MA Hard Water Problems

Since 2015 residents of Ware, MA have made it clear they do not love dirty water. Ever since that 2015 Selectboard meeting where residents held up bottles of discolored water, their are still problems with Ware’s water.

In 2018 Ware officials announced a boil water order instructing residents to boil their water for at least one minute before use after E. Coli was found.

Officials said that a water sample collected from the cistern source tested positive for the bacteria and total coliform bacteria was found in previous cistern source samples collected days earlier.

Most recently in 2020, a presentation regarding the Water Filtration Plant on Barnes Street explained the high levels of iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) and what it will cost to address the issues.

An update was presented in October 2020 with more information on the cost and what future actions will be taken. Including submitting a new application to the USDA and considerations for grant and loan applications.

Would a water softening system fix this issue in your home? Maybe.

Improve water quality in your home

Instead of waiting for the Town of Ware to make improvements to the water supply, why not consider improving the water with a filtration and softening system for your home?

What is a water softener system?

A water softener is a type of water filtration system that removes impurities from water. Impurities like deposits of calcium (Ca) and magnesium (Mg) can be found in excess in hard water.

As hard water flows through the water softening system, the filters reduce and remove these impurities to deliver softened water to the rest of your home or business.

The result is reduced calcium deposits and other impurities making their way into your plumbing which can affect appliances like dishwashers, and heating systems like boilers and radiators.

Is Ware’s water hard?

Here are some of the signs and symptoms of hard water. If you live in Ware, MA, you can tell us if you experience any of these signs:

  • Does your water have a mineral taste?
    • Without using a Pur or Brita filter, does your water have a mineral taste? If so, your water is likely hard. 
  • Is there signs of residue?
    • You might see stains on dishes, utensils, and on bathroom appliances like your sink and bath tub.
  • Are you experiencing unusually dry skin and hair?
    • It is tough to tell during the winter months, but hard water will leave your skin really dry and your hair scaly.

If any of these signs are true, it is possible you have hard water and you should have your water tested.

A water softening system can help

Even though your home is located in Ware, each home may have different needs related to their plumbing.

In order to make sure a water softening system is right for your home, we can schedule a consult. Our technicians can take a look at your system, and find out where there may be issues with your plumbing or with the water supply.

Looking at your complete system is always the best approach to making sure the water coming in remains clean and safe for your family.

Contact us today for a quick consultation.

Logo for Grind2Energy a food scrap recycling program

Food scrap recycling system

Grind2Energy is a food scrap recycling system from InSinkErator.

State and local governments are setting aggressive waste diversion goals and implementing landfill waste diversion bans.

According to Emerson:

  • 28 tons of food waste is sent to landfills each year
  • Less than 5% of global food waste is recovered for recycling
  • Food waste accounts for 23% of all methane emissions in the U.S.

Graphic showing food scraps and food waste statistics
Courtesy of Emerson

Grind2Energy’s innovative organic waste system will enable your business to comply with these governmental regulations. You can decrease your contribution to landfills and help to generate clean, renewable energy. It also helps keep your facility cleaner and more efficient.

PVE is an authorized service agent of the Grind2Energy system. Watch the video below to learn more or contact us with any questions.

What can you do to help with food waste recycling?

Purchasing and installing Grind2Energy’s innovative food waste recycling system will decrease your food scraps contribution to local landfills and will help generate clean, renewable energy. It also helps keep your business clean and efficient.

Do you want to learn more about reducing your food scraps? Call us today!

Mass Save Options

Energy Rebates and Incentives

Mass Save® is an initiative sponsored by Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities and energy efficiency service providers. They offer a wide range of services including:



Did you know that heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes? The U.S. Department of Energy Saver shares tips and advice on ways you can reduce your heating and cooling costs, putting more money in your wallet.

Alternative Technology

There are many options when making additions to your home or business property. The rapidly changing technology and myriad of choices can be overwhelming to the consumer. PVE is knowledgeable of the latest technologies and can help you find the one that best fits your needs.

Did you know that heating and cooling accounts for more than half of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, making it the largest energy expense for most homes? The U.S. Department of Energy Saver shares tips and advice on ways you can reduce your heating and cooling costs, putting more money in your wallet.

A picture of a model home and a piggy bank in the background.

Increase heating and cooling efficiency

Older furnace and boiler systems had efficiencies in the range of 56% to 70%. Modern conventional heating systems can achieve efficiencies as high as 98.5%, converting nearly all the fuel to useful heat for your home. Energy efficiency upgrades and a new high-efficiency heating system can often cut your fuel bills and your furnace’s pollution output in half. Upgrading your furnace or boiler from 56% to 90% efficiency in an average cold-climate house will save 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year if you heat with gas, or 2.5 tons if you heat with oil (EnergyStar).

Today’s best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid 1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model (U.S. Dept of Energy).

Graph that shows heating delivered at 85% efficiency

Heating Efficiently

Did you know that nearly half of all heating and cooling equipment in U.S. homes never performs to its advertised capacity and efficiency due to incorrect installation? This means homeowners pay higher operating costs over the life of the equipment.

Chart showing cooling efficiency

Cooling Efficiently

Proper sizing and installation are essential in determining air conditioner efficiency. Improper unit location, incorrect coolant levels, and improper duct installation can greatly diminish efficiency. Too large a unit will not adequately remove humidity. Too small a unit will not be able to attain a comfortable temperature on the hottest days.

PVE’s knowledgeable technicians will carefully assess your heating and/or cooling needs. We will present you with options, answer questions and provide you with a written estimate to help you choose the proper equipment for your home. Our expert installation and dependable service will ensure long-lasting, efficient performance.

Picture of a hot water radiator under a window

How to care for steam and hot-water radiators.

It’s important to know that you should always speak to a professional before trying to repair or maintain any old radiators found in your home.

The reason for working with a pro is that you need to know if your home has steam or hot-water radiators.

How can identify Steam from Hot-Water Radiators?

Generally speaking, the way to tell if you have steam or hot-water radiators is to look at how many pipes are coming from your radiator. If you see only one pipe, then it likely a steam radiator. If you see two pipes, then you may have a steam or hot-water system in your home. The second pipe is generally used for the cool or condensed water so it returns back to the boiler.

Photo of a home's radiator with a cat sleeping on it.
Photo by he gong on Unsplash

Care of your Home’s Radiators

Hot-Water Radiators

Professional HVAC contractors understand how hot-water radiators use convection in order to distribute heat across your home. In hot-water heating systems, that don’t have circulating pumps, water flowed using gravity and convection where hot water rose, would transfer it’s heat into your room, then the cold water would fall and flow back to the water heater.

Maintaining these systems can get complicated as there are many variables to account for like:

  • Is a circulating pump being used?
  • How many floors are there in the building?
  • What is the water pressure from the street?
  • Is there a pressure valve on the system?
  • Are there orifices installed to create resistance?

When troubleshooting it’s important to know how to balance the system. So it’s incredibly important to not troubleshoot or modify your hot-water heating system without consulting a professional who will take into account all these variables

What can I do to maintain my hot-water radiators?

You can adjust the bleeder valve.

On a hot water radiator, if it is not heating the room properly, it’s possible air may be trapped inside. To address this do the following:

  • Turn down the thermostat to reduce water flow
  • Locate the bleeder valve on the radiator
  • Hold a cup or cloth under the bleeder valve to catch water
  • Open it with a bleeder key, long-nose pliers, or screwdriver
  • Water may spit or hiss as air may come out
  • Once water flows in a steady stream, tighten the valve

Steam Radiators

Steam radiators will have either one or two pipes. Steam radiators use gravity to return the condensed steam (condensate) back to the boiler. Unlike hot-water heating systems, steam systems use much lower pressure. A professional HVAC contractors understand that if there is too much pressure, the vents won’t open and release air. This leads to steam not being able to get in or condensate, being able to return.

How can I maintain my steam radiators?

You can release air by using the valve on the side of the steam radiator.

  • Locate the air vent on the side of the steam radiator
  • Ensure the air vent has an open air hole by sticking in a piece of wire or a small needle
  • Air vents that are painted over will clog the air vent and create problems

Provide better air flow.

  • Be careful to keep proper air flow around below, and behind the radiator
  • Move furniture and other objects out of the way
  • Use aluminum or reflective insulation placed behind the radiator to direct heat into the room


Water and steam based heating systems are great ways to heat your home in the winter. In order for them to remain efficient, they need to be maintained.

Reach out if you have any questions about how to maintain your heating system.