• cracked heat exchanger

    Why Does a Firebox Crack?

    ...Ordinary wear and tear, overheating, abuse, chemical reactions, rusting out over time, condensation leaks, poor manufacturing techniques, inferior quality materials and improper or poor installation.

    Cracks in Heat Exchanger

  • Fire from Furnace

    Is a Cracked Firebox Dangerous?

    ...yes, but the main dangerous is burning down your home, not carbon monoxide poisoning.....

    New Furnace

  • Cracked Heat Exchanger

    Can I Stop my Heat Exchanger from Cracking?

    ...yes, you can stop it from cracking, but you cannot undo damages that have already occurred and....

    Duct Cleaning

  • Rusted Firebox - Rusted Heat Exchanger

    Which Furnace is the Safest?

    ...Furnace safety with older furnaces is a paramount concern, but furnace safety with new furnaces is mostly dependent upon the manner in which they are used and the manner....

    How much does a furnace cost?

  • Evaporator Coil Cleaning

    Is Duct Cleaning really only a Dog and Pony Show?

    ...It can be if you are doing your due diligence. Duct cleaning can be very beneficial or it can be a waste of your money. You must........

    Furnace ducting

  • Hot Upstairs - Cold Downstairs

    My Upstairs is Always hot and my Downstairs is Cold. Why?

    ...There are a variety of reasons for this phenomenon. Some of these reasons we can change to your benefit and some others we can......

    How much does a new heater cost?

  • Furnace cost

    How Much Should a New Furnace Cost?

    ...The installation of a new furnace includes all the supplies to install it, a permit from the city to inspect it and these item vary from city to city. Probably the most impact on the price is going to be .........

    Floor Furnace and Wall Furnace

  • Rebates Save Money

    Does My New Furnace and Air Conditioner qualify for Rebates?

    ...If you have to ask that question then chances are good that the new furnace and air conditioning system you have had installed does not qualify. Here is why........

    High Efficency Rebate

  • Professional Service

    What should Happen when My Furnace is Repaired?

    ...Most service technicians are barely qualified to change an air filter, much less rebuild your furnace. We train and retrain our employees, but most do no training at all. You should expect......

    Control Air Humidity

  • heating thermostat

    What Thermostat is Best?

    ...This is a subjective question. I prefer to install the simpler style electronic thermostats. A set back (has a clock) thermostat is required by law and they do save you money, but many are down right difficult to program. I recommend using the.......


  • Air Ducts installed wrong

    What is Wrong with Ducting?

    ...More than 90% of all households are suffering from undersized and wrong sized ducting. More than 35% of every wasted utility heating and cooling dollar is wasted because of the ducting. The reason why is....

    Duct replacement

Heat Exchanger Crack, is it Dangerous?

Yes, of course, a crack in your heat exchanger is dangerous, but just how dangerous and what are the dangers?

I have seen many thousands of cracked heat exchangers in my career and have many pictures of them to prove it. Most of these cracks did not cause the occupants of the homes to become ill or die from carbon monoxide poisoning, but some it did.

Cracked heat exchanger

I have had numerous customers complain about shortness of breath and flu like symptoms when they are home, but do not seem to have them away from the home…a sure sign of carbon monoxide poisoning. I found a crack in a firebox in a furnace for a man in Orange County. That man went to hospital 3 nights in a row for what he thought was a heart attack that turned out to be carbon monoxide poisoning. His heart was beating uncontrollably. He said he suffered permanent heart damage.

99 out 100 times no CO2 poisoning, but what if you or your family is part of that 1%, but CO2 poisoning isn’t the main problem with cracks in the heat exchanger. Most of the time the air from the blower compartment pushed into the burner chamber and this causes the number one problem.

Flame Rollout.

Cracks in the firebox causes flame roll out

If the flames in the burner compartment get pressurized from behind as the crack grows (they all grow) they can be pushed out in the open area of the furnace where the gas valve is and the electrical controls are. This can start a fire that can burn down the home. I see this type of flame roll out nearly every week during the busy heating season. Cracks in the heat exchanger are a major source of this problem.

Are those little cracks dangerous? Yes, it is time to upgrade your furnace.

Call 1.877.247.6426 and make your free evaluation appointment right now.

Cracked Rheem Heat Exchanger

Duct Cleaning is it Real or Just Made Up?

You receive a flyer offering to clean the air ducts at your home for only $99 - $139. The price sound great so you have them come out.

Bees in ducting

When they arrive the technician tries selling you item after item after item. They will try selling you an upgrade to clean the furnace (only licensed HVAC contractors should do this as it must be disassembled), they try to up sell bio-remediation chemicals to kill what is in the ducting, they add on filters, try to sell you carpet cleaning, drapery cleaning, mold and mildew remediation. If you say no to all this the duct cleaning will take 30 to 60 minutes.

You just got ripped off.

That lowball offer should have been a red flag to avoid that firm. Just like the carpet cleaning company that sends flyers out saying that any room can be cleaned for $19.99 they are lying. I actually called one of those carpet cleaning companies out. When they were done quoting me that $19.99 price ended adding up to $250.00 for a 3 bedroom home. Kick them to the curb. Do not let a duct cleaning companies play with your furnace. They often times break the furnace and take no responsibility for it. A reputable company, licensed for heating and air conditioning, will charge $400 to $1,000 to clean the ducts in a typical 2,000-square-foot house, says the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). A quality job should take two experienced technicians anywhere from 4 to 8 hours to complete and that cannot be done for $99 or $139 in Southern California.

Dirty Air Filter

There is no proof that duct cleaning has a positive health effect, but I can tell you from personal experience the things that we have removed from ducting and the furnace have a proof positive negative health impact.  We have removed:

  • Rats
  • Urine
  • Birds
  • Bees
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Feces
  • Dirt, Hair, Pollen

As part of your yearly furnace maintenance you should have your ducting inspected by your HVAC professional. With the facts in hand, you can make the right decision as to whether or not the duct cleaning will be beneficial or just another Dog & Pony Show.

Upstairs is Hot & the Downstairs is Cold

Physics is against you here. In two story homes the upstairs will naturally be warmer than the downstairs because hot air is lighter than cold air. The hot air rises and the cold air sinks.

So how do we solve this problem?

Dirty blower wheels reduce airflow

First you should make sure you have the proper insulation in your attic (yes, we do insulation as well) and then you start addressing the hot-cold problem. If the home was set up properly from the builder, or whomever installed the ducting, the ducting should have been sized properly for your home. Check to make sure that the ducting is not broken and you are heating and cooling the attic. Are all the vents open? I Googled this question and really could not believe some of the answers I found. Do not turn off your registers. You may temper them a little bit, but always leave them partially open. Your system was made for airflow that your ducting conveys. When you shut down some of the vents your heat exchanger temperature level goes up and it’s life expectancy goes down. Your efficiency also goes down, so isolating parts of the your home through turning off registers does little to nothing in saving you money and directing airflow.

Ductwork Replacement
Zoning helps tremendously and a variable speed furnace helps tremendously. Zone helps because it will redirect the airflow to where it’s needed and not heat or cool the rooms that don’t need it according to the temperature at the thermostat. You’ll want variable speed because those blower motors are made to run continuously and only chew up about 40 watts of electricity versus 600 or more with a regular motor. Continuous air movement from up to downstairs is really the only way to combat this problem and that can be achieved using today’s modern high end furnaces. It is what I put in my own two story home.

We can help. Give us a call at 1.877.247.6426

Attic Ducts

New Furnace Cost

Usually the first question I want to ask back is: Are you concerned about the price, or are you concerned about the cost? Price is what you pay one time, when you purchase the furnace and it varies considerably from brand to brand and company to company. Cost on the other hand is what you pay month in and month out for the entire life of the furnace. This involves repairs, utility charges and warranty breakdowns. This is greatly influenced by the skills and thoroughness of the installation crew as well as the efficiency of the equipment installed.

A good furnace is never cheap and a cheap furnace is never good. An old adage that is just as true today as it was when it was first said. When you are getting estimates for your new furnace, you should be getting estimates for the same type of installation such as:

  • Required permits
  • Same efficiency (80-95.5%)
  • Same thermostat
  • Same guarantees
  • Same brand
  • Same add on’s

Permits are the law and the city inspector works for you, the homeowner. If your contractor fails to mention that a permit is required, you should fire them and fire them quickly. The installation cannot legally occur until the permit has been purchased. If they are cutting corners on the permit process, they will be cutting corners on the installation. This is definitely to your disadvantage.

Make sure that you are getting the correct size furnace. If your furnace is 20 or more years old with a standing pilot, it is probably 60% efficient. If it is a 100,000 btu furnace you will be receiving about 60,000 btus of heat with the rest is wasted up the flue. If this is replaced with a new 90% efficient 100,000 btu furnace, you will now be heating your home with 90,000 btu’s. If your old heater was the correct size, then your new heater is 150% of the original size. It is oversized. This will cause problems with temperature fluctuations and high gas bills. Your comfort and wallet are going to suffer. The replacement heater should have been a 75k or 80k heater to more closely match the original size.

Most heater installations, properly installed, will cost you in excess of $3,000 in 2009 dollars from most companies. If you have a bid lower than this, and they are easy to get, beware. If the price sound too good to be true, you bet your bottom dollar that it isn’t true.

What Thermostat?

There are several thermostats on the market that are easy to program, are reliable and have a great warranty from the manufacture and absolutely none of them can be found at the local hardware store. The companies providing thermostats to the big box retailers provide a knock off of the thermostats that are provided to HVAC dealers. This is much in the way that those fake designer outlets operate that have been popping up all around the country. Yes, they look the same, but the features and ease of use isn’t the same.

Give us a call and we’ll give you a free in home evaluation and let you know what works best for you, plus you’ll have an entire year to get to know your thermostat before being stuck with it. Our one year think it over guarantee is cast in stone. You don’t want it, you get your money back. Isn’t that the way it should be?

Some of the Cities that we work in are: Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Dana Point, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, La Palma, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, Yorba Linda, Sunset Beach, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Carson, Cerritos, Commerce, Diamond Bar, Downey, Gardena, Hawaiian Gardens, Industry, La Habra Heights, Lakewood, La Mirada, Long Beach, Lynwood, Montebello, Norwalk, Palos Verdes, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Rancho Palos Verdes, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, South Gate, Whittier


Your making the right decision. You cannot possibly make a mistake having us help you. Call now and book your free evaluation.

What Are My Ducts Doing?

Long established as the single largest source of wasted utility bills your ducting is still the most often ignored part of your system.

Poor quality installation and poor quality materials is an industry wide plague. Materials used in the past 20 years are defective from the manufacturer and as a result the ducting is falling apart. For more see the page on ducting.

Heating and Air Conditioning

What to Expect During a Proper Repair.

You should expect professionalism and thoroughness. No smoking, no mess and the service technician should be able to explain everything to you as they do it. They should check the following:

  • Furnace heat exchanger for cracks with a camera
  • Check for clean filter and proper size return air chamber
  • Check for cracks around the base of the furnace
  • Check the ducting for holes, tears and asbestos
  • Check the flue for venting
  • Check the gas valve and connections for gas leaks with a leak detector
  • Check the amperage draw (amount of electricity) the motor uses
  • Check the temperature rise of the conditioned air
  • Check the calibration of the thermostat
  • Remove the blower wheel assembly and check for debris

Carrier cracked heat exchanger

Whatever the repair, this are the minimum amount of work that should be performed on each and every service call for your furnace. When you are using a “blow and go” service technician you are robbing yourself of the one time a year when your safety can be severely affected. Failure to properly perform a service call can lead to serious and costly problems.



...more people choose us as their heating and air conditioning partner because of our excellent service before and after the sale. Most repairs and installations come with a free guarantee up to 10 years parts and labor. Save money, call now 1.877.247.6426

Fixing a Furnace is more than changing a filter....

Heat Exchanger fatigue

Why Does A Firebox (Heat Exchanger) Crack?

All metal fatigues with time. The metal heats up and expands and then cools off and contracts. This constant expansion and contraction, thousands of times a year, causes the metal to weaken and crack.Tthe hotter the furnace, the more expansion, the more expansion, the more likely that the metal will fatigue and crack.

There is absolutely no known method for finding cracks 100 percent of the time and that gave me pause. Are we endangering the public by not locating all the fire box cracks? I started searching for the most comprehensive method for finding defects in these heat exchangers.

The best way to locate cracks in fireboxes is to visually locate a crack. Modern furnaces account for 80 percent to 90 percent of all forced air furnaces and a thorough inspection of the heat exchanger is not time feasible and is quite difficult at best. So how can develop a method that will actually be used by service technicians?

Over the decades there have been many techniques including:

Smoke testing. A smoke generator is placed or blow into the heat exchanger, then the outside of the heat exchanger is visually accessed to watch for smoke passing through the crack. Who wants smoke in their home?

• Flame Testing. A salt solution is sprayed into the combustion chamber, a hole is drilled in the supply ducting, and a torch is held in the air blowing out of the hole to see if the flame changes color from the salt. I have never been a fan of using torches anywhere except as needed.

• Odor testing. Oil of wintergreen or some other strong smell (peppermint) is sprayed into the combustion chamber (with the blower operating), then determine a crack if the smell permeates the home. Too easily mistaken as a crack when the liquid gets on hands.

• Tracer gas testing. A traceable gas is injected into the heat exchanger (methane, natural gas, propane, Freon), and a gas leak detector is used to detect faint amounts escaping. Works, but you really cannot see where the crack is.

• Pressure testing. The openings in the heat exchanger are sealed, the blower energized, and a manometer (pressure gauge) is inserted inside the heat exchanger to see if a crack is allowing distribution air to blow into the heat exchanger. Time consuming, costly and doesn’t tell us where the leak is, only that there is a crack.

• Visual flame Testing. Watching the flame when the blower comes on and watching for the flame color and shape to change as the air moves through it. This is what the Gas Company uses and it is a terribly inaccurate method. Finds large cracks only.

Almost all of these tests are severely flawed and lack properly methodology:

• They assume that air leakage is one direction. Sometimes cracks lead to carbon monoxide entering the home and other times they lead to high pressure air from the blower entering the heat exchanger flames.

• They assume that the crack is open during the operation. Many time cracks do not open for long periods of time. Some are open when the furnace heat exchanger is cold or room temperature and other times only when the firebox is heated up.
• They all assume that the service technician has the time and inclination to spend an hour or more looking for a defect in the heat exchanger.

Modern methods have their problems too.

• Carbon Monoxide testing uses a CO2 Analyzer. Most cracks in heat exchangers do not vent carbon monoxide into the home so testing the air in the home for carbon monoxide does little to ensure a safe fire box. Testing the combustion as it goes up the vent involves drilling hole into the vent (a definite no-no) and testing to see if the combustion gases change when the furnace blower motor turns on. A change is a definite positive for a rupture firebox, but no change still doesn’t mean that the firebox is safe.

A company back east invented a method of testing for cracks that involves the best method, visual location, and helps to extend that vision using small inexpensive cameras (similar to medical cameras only at a fraction of the price). This involves removing the blower assembly and spraying down the heat exchanger with a special water solution and then checking the burner compartment for water. The water can then be followed directly to the crack for proof positive. This only takes about 15 to 20 minutes and is called Hydro-Scanning.

• Hydro-scanning taken to the next level. We use the hydro-scanning method, but have vastly improved it. We used a fluorescing dye developed by NASA (or at least funded by NASA) and mix this in the water. We then add a solution that enables the water to stick to the metal of the firebox. This is much like the automotive and aircraft engine parts testing method magna-fluxing. Quick-easy-cheap and proof positive if your firebox is safe or not. This method was actually invented right here at Empire and we are waiting for the patent rights at this time.


Heating repair, Furnace repair, air conditining repair, duct cleaning

Rusted Heat Exchanger

How to Stop a Firebox from Cracking.

Here at The Empire Family of Service I would love to have a magic formula to stop cracking. You cannot stop a firebox or heat exchanger from rusting or aging, but you cannot prevent that crack from occurring for many years to come. The simplest and easiest way to prevent a crack from forming is to prevent the heat exchanger from overheating. This means regular filter changes, proper size ducting, leaving the registers open and never blocking the return air register.
The manufacturer of your furnace mandated in the maintenance instructions that you have your furnace maintained by a qualified professional at least once a year. This is done to maintain the safety and efficiency of the furnace and the manufacturer has protected themselves from abused furnaces by nullifying the warranty in the event that the furnace was not maintained as described in the safety operating instructions. Every manufacturer requires yearly maintenance for safety and when this simple yearly act is ignored for a number of years the results can be catastrophic.
Dirty filters restrict airflow across the heat exchanger causing it to prematurely crack. The added heat stresses the firebox and the results are a reduced life span. The lack of airflow across the firebox means an inefficient heating cycle, a lack of btu’s, uncomfortable homes and high utility bills. Yearly maintenance truly pays for itself.
Do not store chemical near or around the furnace. This means no bleaches or cleaners as these, combined with the natural gas flames of the burner compartment, can cause a corrosive atmosphere to occur and lead to premature furnace failure.

Heating repair, Furnace repair, air conditining repair, duct cleaning

Home FurnaceWhat Furnace is the Safest?

Generally speaking, every new furnace installed to code and the manufacturer’s instructions is going to be safe and every old furnace currently installed is going to be unsafe.

Why is the old furnace unsafe? This is because it is going to lack the safety changes that have been required by law over 20 years or so. That means that if you had a never before used 20 year old heater and you wanted to install it, that furnace would not be considered safe enough to even meet the minimum safety requirements of new furnaces. Nearly every old furnace will keep burning gas and spewing carbon monoxide if the vent is plugged and the gases are coming into the home. This cannot happen on a new furnace. Many old furnaces even lacked a safety shut off for the pilot. The pilot could become extinguished and the gas for the pilot would still be pumping into the furnace obliviously to the gas buildup. Can’t happen on a new furnace. Old motors burn up, gas valves stick in the on position and heat exchangers crack causing flame roll out and carbon monoxide poisoning. Old is dangerous when it comes to furnaces.

Not all furnaces are created equal. The higher btu input the hotter the gas is going to burn. The hotter the gas burns the hotter the metal heat exchanger gets and the more stress it has in most situations. I generally like to install lower btu heat chambered furnaces and feel they are safer. Furnaces come with multiple fireboxes and each firebox is rated in terms of btus. There are three main ratings; 33,000 btus, 25,000 btu’s and 20,000 btus. A two chambered furnace rated at 66,000 btu’s has two fireboxes rated at 33,000 each. That is hot. An 80,000 btu furnace uses four 20,000 btu fireboxes and that is much cooler. Which do think will last longer? We install the 20,000 btu’s models here at The Empire Family of Services.


Heating repair, Furnace repair, air conditining repair, duct cleaning

Federal rebate scams are happening nowQualifying for Rebates - Have you been swindled?

Make sure you have a guarantee on you invoice that your equipment will qualify for the rebates if your HVAC sales person said they will. Do not take their word for it. Make sure it is in writing. There are a number of companies, companies on the verge of going out of business, that are promising the world and not delivering it right now. At least one of these companies, which typically advertises via the newspaper and direct mail, is forging paperwork to attempt to qualify for the rebates. They are installing substandard equipment and writing down the serial numbers of equipment that does qualify. Beware and check your serial numbers and most of all, make sure that the city inspector inspects your equipment. Not having the system inspected can stop the sale of your home years in the future.

Heating repair, Furnace repair, air conditining repair, duct cleaning


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