Water Softener Troubleshooting Guide: 2020

June 11th, 2020

For some Birmingham, Alabama, area homeowners, water softeners are a must because of hard water levels! Whether you already have one installed or plan to add one to your plumbing system, there are multiple water softener troubleshooting tips that help homeowners solve common issues on their own, without unnecessary calls to a plumber. 

Douglas Cooling & Heating helps you save time and money with our water softener troubleshooting guide. Our plumbers explain how to correct common minor system issues to get your water softener running again quickly. When professional repair is needed, give the trusted plumbers at Douglas Cooling & Heating a call!

Here are some common issues you might experience with you water softener and what to do:

Salt Tank Is Filled with Water

This system issue commonly stems from malfunctioning components or the need to adjust controls.

  • A broken water entry valve fails to stop water from filling the salt tank, which may lead to the tank flooding. Simply replace the lid to correct this problem.
  • If the float valve within the compartment is set higher than needed, the system may not be capable of releasing the water volume, which leads to buildup. The float valve should be adjusted to a lower setting to prevent water accumulation in the salt tank.

Salt Scale Within the System

While water softeners protect plumbing against mineral scale, they are prone to salt scale. Salt scale primarily affects the water softener’s tank and its lines. When the scale forms a salt bridge, scale can impede the water softening process. If your water softener fails to utilize salt, and the salt levels in the brine tank remain consistent, that’s a sign of a salt bridge.

Water softener troubleshooting for salt scale issues includes these steps:

  • Look for salt bridges within the system that prevent water flow through the brine tanks or hinders regeneration cycles. 
  • Break up the accumulated salt scale and clean it out of the unit. Also clean away salt scale that has developed around the tank’s edge.

Brown Water in Your Home

Brown water from your home’s taps can be caused by numerous issues, but the home’s water softener could be one of them. Bacterial buildup in the water softener can cause tap water’s brownish color.

Water softener troubleshooting steps to eliminate brown tap water include:

  • Sterilizing the tank using hydrogen peroxide or chlorine. Add two cups of sterilizing agent to the brine tank and allow two to three regeneration cycles to run.
  • Flushing plumbing lines.

If water softener sterilization doesn’t eliminate the brown watercolor, you need a plumber to inspect for other issues.

Resin Bead Problems

If there are floating particles in the softened water, the system’s resin beads may not be functioning correctly. Without proper functioning, the system requires more frequent salt replenishment or the beads can be replaced.

Floating particles in soft water are an indicator of resin bead malfunction. The beads need to be cleaned or replaced to correct the issue.

System Not Softening

If your water softener fails to soften your home’s water, a few issues could be to blame.

  • Salt buildup within the brine tank can prevent water softening, requiring removal.
  • If the water softener’s bypass switch is shut off, water does not pass through the system and will not be softened. Check bypass settings.

Water Has a Salty Flavor

Salty-tasting water in the home indicates issues with the water softener. Water softener troubleshooting inspects the drain hose:

  • Inspect the drain hose for clogs,  and remove clogs if found.
  • If there is no clog in the drain hose, reduce the volume of salt used in the system to impact water flavor.

Water Softener Help from Douglas Cooling & Heating

If you can’t solve your water softener issues, we encourage you to call the plumbers at Douglas Cooling & Heating for water softener diagnostics and repair. We get to the bottom of the system’s issues and implement water softener repairs to restore proper function for your family’s benefit.

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Does My Home Need a Whole House Media Air Cleaner?

June 11th, 2020

If you’re considering buying a media air cleaner to improve the indoor air quality in your Birmingham, Alabama, home, you have options. There are several makes and models of whole house and portable models available on the market.

Some homeowners struggle selecting the right fit for their needs – is a whole home model really the better option, or will a portable unit or standard furnace filter do just fine? The indoor air quality pros at Douglas Cooling & Heating discuss the pros and cons of whole house media air cleaners to help you compare this wider-coverage option against the alternatives.

What Is a Media Air Cleaner?

Media air cleaners use an advanced filter media to trap contaminants, removing them from circulation within the home. Whole home media air cleaners offer improved filtration of airborne contaminants versus a standard furnace filter. Compared to a 1-inch filter, they’re up to 40 times more efficient depending on the model. A whole home media air cleaner is installed to work directly with the home’s HVAC system, treating all air as it circulates for heating and cooling.

Pros and Cons of Whole Home Media Air Cleaners

As with any device, whole home media air cleaners have advantages and disadvantages.


  • Treats the home’s entire volume of circulating air, unlike a portable air purifier that is only capable of treating air within a limited area.
  • Media air cleaners that use a HEPA filter are up to 99 percent effective at trapping and removing microscopic contaminant particles, including mold spores, dust, pollen, pet dander and other common contaminants.
  • Whole home media air purifiers are lower maintenance than their portable counterpart or even a standard 1-inch furnace filter, requiring just a simple filter change or cleaning one to two times per year, depending on the model.
  • While portable air cleaners require electricity to operate unit fans in order to circulate air through, a whole home media air cleaner uses the HVAC system fan to cycle air through its filter media. Whole home models use no electricity and do not contribute extra noise from a dedicated unit fan.
  • Filters for use with a media air cleaner offer higher MERV ratings than that of the typical 1-inch standard filter. The media air cleaner’s filter is much thicker with far more space to collect contaminants than a 1-inch filter of the same MERV rating.


  • Some whole house media air cleaner models use reusable, washable filters instead of disposable filters. The need to wash the filter does increase the amount of maintenance the homeowner must perform.
  • Without its own dedicated fan, a whole house media air cleaner only works to filter out airborne contaminants while the HVAC system runs unless you turn on the system fan, which increases electricity costs.
  • Whole house media air cleaners aren’t appropriate for use with all residential HVAC equipment. The thickness of certain models restrict airflow through some furnaces and air handlers, which creates discomfort, excess energy consumption and more wear on the HVAC system.

Improve Indoor Air Quality with Douglas Cooling & Heating

Your home and household could experience great benefits through the installation of a whole house media air cleaner, especially if you have household members sensitive to certain allergens. Improve indoor air quality without the hassle when you choose the whole home solution versus the alternatives. Contact Douglas Cooling & Heating today to learn about the media air cleaners we offer and schedule a free estimate for installation.

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What’s the Deal with GFCI and AFCI Outlets?

June 8th, 2020

GFCI-Electrical-OutletWhen you think about the electrical system in your home it is likely that your mind goes to the wires in your walls or even the breaker box or electrical panel for the home. What you might not immediately think of is your outlets. Not many people do, to be honest!

Believe it or not, there is more than one type of outlet and it really does matter which one goes where in your house. Why? Because the difference can lead to electrical safety issues.

If you don’t already know about the different types of outlets that can be installed in your home, and what their roles are, allow us to give you some information. Your outlets can be important in keeping your appliances, and you, safe.

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All the Reasons to Consider a New AC!

May 25th, 2020

We understand that having to replace your air conditioner can seem a bit overwhelming: it’s pricy, it’s time-consuming, and how do you even begin to narrow down all of your cooling options? Well fortunately for you, hiring a team of qualified AC experts is one way to make the process much easier! Plus, there are just so many benefits of upgrading your system!

Below, we have listed just some of the many ways that investing in a new air conditioner will benefit you! All you have to do is keep reading to find out more. And remember, if you are in the market for a new AC, be sure to contact a team of professionals for AC replacement in Birmingham.

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What Are the Benefits of Ductless Mini Split Systems?

May 11th, 2020

Ductless heating and cooling systems are a smart choice for homes and businesses, although many people may not know about these useful HVAC units. They are similar to a window AC unit because each indoor air handler is designed to cool a single room or space.

Ductless air conditioners, however, are like a traditional air conditioner because they operate using an outside condenser unit. What separates ductless air conditioners from central air conditioning units is that no ductwork is necessary. Ductless heat pump systems are available in single-zone units – meaning they provide heat and AC to just one room – or multi-zone units, which provide cooling to several rooms. Each room is equipped with a wall-mounted indoor unit to provide air.

With no ductwork requirements, a ductless mini-split heat pump system is a flexible and affordable option for homes with no existing ducts, a garage or a new home addition. Douglas Cooling & Heating offers a selection of top-of-the-line Bryant ductless systems, which are an excellent choice for a variety of applications. To learn more about mini split heat pump systems, contact the NATE-certified HVAC technicians at Douglas Cooling & Heating today!

Benefits of a Ductless System

Below are the top reasons ductless air conditioners can benefit you!

Healthier Indoor Air Quality

Ductless heat pumps have their own filter housed inside the indoor unit. The air inside a single room goes through the filtration process without mixing air from other areas of your house. Without ductwork, extra contamination is eliminated. Central air conditioning systems circulate dirt, dust, pollen and other debris as it moves air throughout the ducts. You will experience healthier, cleaner indoor air with a ductless mini split.

No Need for Ductwork

The main benefit to this type of system is in the name: ductless HVAC systems don’t rely on ducts. Instead, they use outside condensing units and indoor air handlers. Refrigerant comes directly from the outdoor unit through an insulated refrigerant line.

Installation is easier and less expensive without the need to install and connect ducts.

No Major Renovations Necessary

Older homes, renovated additions or a converted sunroom or garage may not have ductwork available to connect to your current system. Adding ductwork to a house is a major renovation project, which can be overwhelming.

Zoned Heating and Cooling

Ductless air conditioners are designed to cool a specific room without construction. You can pair multiple indoor units with a single outdoor unit to create a multiple-zone mini split system. This allows you to operate each indoor unit independently from the others.

If you have a central heating and air system, closing vents in rarely used rooms increases your chances of pressure imbalances or microbial growth issues. Ductless HVAC systems put you in control of the temperature for each zone in your home without the risk of harm to your unit or your home’s air quality.

If you use a room only occasionally, just turn off the unit in that zone so you don’t waste money heating and cooling it.

Zero Energy Loss

Traditional air conditioning units deal with energy loss daily because of holes, gaps and cracks in the ductwork. The cool air escapes through these leaks, resulting in higher energy bills. A ductless mini split delivers fresh, cool air directly to you. You won’t experience energy loss.

An additional benefit to consider with a ductless system is you won’t need to schedule duct cleaning services. No ducts mean no leaks or airflow restrictions due to obstructions clogging your unit.

Duct leaks account for 30 percent of energy consumption when it comes to central air, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. When you eliminate the need for ducts, you end up with a more energy-efficient system because you don’t lose any air through ductwork.

The result is long-term savings for you and improved heating and cooling in your home.

Flexible and Versatile

Window air conditioners take up more space in a single room and eliminate the view from a window, which is not ideal if you only have one window in a room.

Ductless air conditioners are compact, so they need only a small area for installation. You can install the indoor unit on the wall, floor or ceiling so you can still enjoy the view from your windows. Plus, you avoid the sight of an ugly window unit hanging out of your home.

Double-Duty Performance

One of the most significant advantages of ductless air conditioners is they do more than just cool an independent area. They operate similar to a heat pump, meaning you can enjoy your ductless air conditioners year-round.

Many ductless air conditioners are capable of heating during the colder months by a simple flip of a switch. This comes in handy when areas of your home are hard to keep warm. You operate each indoor unit only when necessary, which keeps you warm without running your heating 24/7 and increasing your energy bill.

Contact Douglas Cooling & Heating for Ductless Installation

Eliminate hot spots and reduce heat loss by installing ductless air conditioners in your home. Douglas Cooling & Heating carries several options to choose, and our NATE-certified experts will explain the features of each.

We offer free estimates on new units and provide financing options for those working on a budget. Contact Douglas Cooling & Heating today to schedule your free estimate!

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What Does Heat Pump Maintenance Include?

May 11th, 2020

In regards to HVAC equipment, heat pump systems offer the best of both worlds – they heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer. That’s enough to make your traditional furnace or air conditioning system jealous!

Because heat pumps function year-round and don’t take seasons off like air conditioners and furnaces, heat pump maintenance is critical to protecting the performance, efficiency and service life of your unit. Follow these maintenance tips to keep your system running properly throughout the year.

If you have any questions about heat pump maintenance, or would like to speak to a NATE-certified HVAC technician about installing a heat pump system in your home, contact the HVAC pros at Douglas Cooling & Heating. Douglas is Alabama’s most trusted heating, cooling and plumbing company. We are happy to answer all of your heat pump-related questions.

How Do Heat Pumps Work?

Before we discuss how to maintain a heat pump, let’s first talk a little about how a heat pump works. Heat pumps operate differently than a traditional air conditioner or heating system because they don’t actually create heat or cool air. Instead, they move heat around to achieve the heating and cooling process.

In the summer months, a heat pump extracts excess heat from your home, sending it outside (or underground in geothermal systems). During the winter, the heat pump draws heat from outdoor air, moving it indoors to heat your living areas.

Furnaces, on the other hand, create heat, through the combustion of fossil fuels or electrical resistance. Air conditioners and heat pumps operate in much the same way to cool a home, but an air conditioner cannot perform heating functions as a heat pump can.

Performing Heat Pump Maintenance

If your Alabama home is equipped with a heat pump, there are certain heat pump maintenance steps you should take throughout the year to safeguard the performance and efficiency of your equipment.

  • Change the air filter as needed. Check the filter manufacturer’s recommendation for frequency while considering special factors about your home that may increase the frequency for changes, such as pets or smoking in the home.
  • Keep exterior coils clean year-round. Cut off power to the unit and use a hose to clear away dirt.
  • Keep vegetation at least 24 inches back from your heat pump to allow for proper airflow.
  • Never store items around your exterior heat pump. This includes patio furniture, lawn tools and outdoor toys.
  • Remove snow and ice from your unit’s exterior in the winter. This prevents damage and allows air to flow freely to the unit.
  • Flush the unit’s condensate pan and drain to eliminate clogs that could cause mold growth and water damage to the surrounding areas.

Professional Heat Pump Maintenance

Furnaces and air conditioners each require maintenance once per year. Because they serve both functions, heat pumps should be maintenanced twice per year: once before heating season and once before cooling season. During professional maintenance, our technicians perform the following inspections to ensure your unit is ready to meet the demands of the coming season.

  • Inspecting components for damage.
  • Verifying proper airflow.
  • Measuring refrigerant charge and identifying leaks.
  • Inspecting electrical terminals, as well as cleaning and tightening of terminals, if needed.
  • Lubricating motors.
  • Inspecting belts.
  • Verifying controls and safety switches.
  • Verifying correct thermostat communication.

Heat Pump Maintenance Experts in Alabama – Douglas Cooling & Heating

Taking care of your heat pump is important in all Alabama homes. With the right care throughout the year, your system will provide reliable heating and cooling at costs much lower than air conditioners or furnaces. Douglas Cooling & Heating is here to help you with skilled heat pump maintenance performed by our NATE-certified technicians. Contact Douglas Cooling & Heating today to schedule heat pump maintenance services.

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All the Reasons to Sign Up for Our Maintenance Program!

May 11th, 2020

You probably see it all the time — contractors asking you to join their maintenance programs. Of course, your first inclination may be to turn the offer down, but we are here to tell you that joining a maintenance program, like ours, is the bees’ knees!

Maintenance programs offer homeowners tons of awesome benefits, designed with your comfort and budget in mind! In fact, there are plenty of reasons to sign up for our maintenance program, the Douglas Care Program, in particular! All you need to do is keep reading to find out more, and of course, remember to contact us for your HVAC system maintenance!

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It’s Maintenance Season! Schedule Your AC Tune-Up Today!

April 27th, 2020

Maintenance Season is certainly upon us, which means that if you haven’t already scheduled your services, now is the perfect time to do so! See, maintenance is incredibly important to the overall performance and efficiency of your air conditioning system, so trust us when we say that you definitely do not want to skip out.

In fact, there are plenty of reasons to schedule your maintenance services now, and below, we have outlined some of them for you. All you have to do is keep reading to find out more, and yes, remember to call us when you need air conditioning services in Birmingham. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

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Get Those Spring Allergies Under Control With Better Indoor Air Quality!

April 13th, 2020

woman-blowing-noseACHOO!!! Spring is definitely in the air, which means that there are plenty of allergens to go around! Of course, you don’t want to spend the entire spring season sneezing, wheezing, and coughing, so what do you do?

Poor indoor air quality can definitely worsen allergy symptoms, as indoor air contaminants like pollen and pet dander can easily make their way into your ventilation system. Therefore, investing in the right indoor air quality systems and services is a great way to combat common indoor allergens, relieving you of those pesky symptoms.

Below, we have listed some of our favorite ways to boost your indoor air quality and alleviate allergy symptoms. All you have to do is keep reading to find out more, and of course, remember to call us when you’re ready to invest in an air filtration system in Birmingham.

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How Can You Tell If an Evaporator Coil Is Bad?

April 10th, 2020

The air conditioner’s evaporator coil is a component vital to the cooling process. When they malfunction, achieving indoor comfort becomes quite difficult.

Douglas Cooling & Heating explains the function of the evaporator coil, signs of bad evaporator coil components and what is needed to keep the evaporator coil in top shape. If you are in need of air conditioning repairs due to a failing evaporator coil or other cooling system issues, give us a call for quick, reliable repair service!

The Evaporator Coil’s Job

A cooling system’s evaporator coil is critical to the heat transfer process that provides comfortable indoor temperatures when the weather is warm. Housed indoors near the unit’s air handler, this coiled piping carries cold, liquid refrigerant that converts to a low-pressure gas within.

As the home’s air passes over, the evaporator coil extracts heat from the air in order to lower air temperature. This process also causes moisture to condense, which helps to dehumidify the home’s indoor air supply. From there, the refrigerant travels from the evaporator coil to the outdoor unit, and the cooled air is blown back into the home through the duct system. 

Signs of Damaged Evaporator Coil Components

As you can see, the evaporator coil has a very important role in the cooling process. Occasionally, homeowners may experience malfunctions which inhibit proper performance and cause indoor comfort issues, requiring the help of a HVAC technician for air conditioning repairs. Signs of damaged evaporator coil components, include:

  • Air coming from the vents is warm
  • Air conditioner starts and stops frequently but doesn’t properly cool your home
  • Air conditioner does not turn on
  • Refrigerant leak near the indoor cooling system components
  • Unusual noises from the cooling system, such as banging or hissing

Common Evaporator Coil Repairs

Evaporator coils suffer from a few common issues. If you notice any trouble signs, one of these system issues could be to blame:

  • Dirty air filter
  • Dirty evaporator coil
  • Evaporator coil leak
  • Frozen evaporator coil

An annual cooling system tune up and coil cleaning service helps your evaporator coil stay in good shape and avoid performance issues related to dirty air filters and coils. Homeowners also need to perform regular filter changes to ensure the system has enough airflow for the evaporator coil to work properly. Problems like frozen or leaking coils require the help of a professional to correct.

When to Replace Your Evaporator Coil

When you experience the signs of bad evaporator coil components and a leak is to blame, Birmingham homeowners are faced with a decision: repair or replace? While some other cooling system issues require simple repairs to fix, an evaporator coil leak isn’t so straightforward.

As time goes on, the inner lining of the coil wears down due to erosion, which weakens its metal. The outer lining also experiences corrosion in some cases, also causing damage. These issues make the coil more susceptible to refrigerant leaks.

Whenever refrigerant leaks occur within the evaporator coil, replacement is generally the preferred option versus repairs. The cost to replace the damaged component with a new evaporator coil is oftentimes less expensive than the repairs necessary to fix a leak plus the price of recharging the system with refrigerant.

Call Douglas Cooling & Heating for Air Conditioner Repair Today!

Whether you have signs of bad evaporator coils or any other air conditioning system issue, Birmingham area homeowners place their trust into Douglas Cooling & Heating to combat the problem. Our skilled HVAC technicians perform diagnostics to uncover air conditioner malfunctions, as well as the tested repairs required to correct the problem. For air conditioning repairs in and around Birmingham, give Douglas Cooling & Heating a call!

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