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TMI - Total Maintenance, Inc - Helpful Tips


FAQ's About Air Conditioning


How do I Save on Heating and Cooling Energy Cost?


  • Install a Programmable Thermostat
  • During the heating season, set the temperature at 68 degrees when you are at home and 55 degrees when not at home.
  • During the cooling season, set the temperature to 78 degrees when you are not at home and to your comfort level when you are home.
  • Turn off heat/air in unoccupied areas (close the register/vent cover dampers).
  • Enroll in your energy company’s budget plan (a monthly averaging plan that sets a constant monthly rate).
  • Install thermostats on interior walls away from heating or cooling vents and other sources of heat or drafts.
  • Have the heating/cooling system inspected, cleaned and tuned before each heating and cooling season. Get more information on our maintenance plans
  • Seal any drafts in the windows with approved shrink plastic kits.
  • Install an energy star rated furnace and central air. Most older furnaces and central airs are inefficient and do not meet current energy efficiency standards (Minimum 80% AFUE for furnaces and 13 Seer for central airs).
  • Clean the ductwork as recommended by your heating and cooling technician and change your filter regularly. Check your filter monthly no matter what. These can reduce the efficiency of your equipment because you do not have proper air circulation due to restriction in the ductwork and filter.

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Common Questions and Answers about Air Conditioners


Question: What is the average lifespan of a central air conditioner?
Answer: The average lifespan of a central air conditioning system is 10-15 years.


Question: What does the term "SEER rating" refer to?
Answer: The efficiency of central air conditioners is rated according to their Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER). The SEER rating is the BTU of cooling output during a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input in watt-hours during the same period. The higher the SEER rating of a unit, the more energy efficient it is. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less. The minimum SEER allowed today is 13. Installing a system with a high SEER rating will save you money and reduce your energy usage.


Question: Why is bigger not necessarily better?
Answer: If your air conditioner is not properly sized to fit your home, your comfort will suffer. A unit that is too large will fail to de-humidify the air. A unit that is too small will not be able to cool your home to the desired level. It is important to find the right system for your space. Our technicians can help you determine your perfect fit.


Question: Will my new air conditioner be noisy?
Answer: No. TMI offers residential heating and air conditioning units that are the quietest air conditioners on the market today.


Question: What happens to my old air conditioner?
Answer: The refrigerant in the old system will be reclaimed and the old air conditioner will be removed.


Question: Will my new air conditioner control the humidity in my home in the summer?
Answer: The only way to control humidity is to have a properly sized air conditioner, the comfort consultant from TMI will make sure the system is sized correctly to control both humidity and temperature.


Question: How often do I have to service my air conditioner?
Answer: We recommend you have your air conditioner serviced every year to ensure optimal energy efficiency and smooth operation and to prevent costly repairs that may come from running your unit when it has not been serviced properly.

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Why Choose a Heat Pump for Heating and Cooling?


You have probably heard of heat pumps. These combination heating and cooling systems can be a great solution for new homes and as replacement systems for existing central air conditioning units. Very popular in many areas of the country.

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What to Do if Your Air Conditioner Stops Working


Few things are as annoying during the hot summer months that an air conditioning system that stops working or isn't cooling your home properly. If that happens to you, you can check for some common problems that you can correct for yourself. If that doesn't restore your cooling, it's time to call TMI for professional help.

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Replace Your Window Air Conditioning with Central Air


If you're still using window air conditioning units in your Iowa or Illinois home, you're not getting all the comfort you deserve during the hot summer months. Adding central air conditioning to your heating system will give you cool, comfortable living, without all the noise and hassle of window units.

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FAQs About Furnace and Heating


What should I do if the pilot flame goes out?


  • Check your gas furnace filter. Is it clean and when did you change it last? 50% of service calls (and associated charges) can easily be avoided by properly maintaining your furnace filter.
  • Check to see if your energy star rated programmable thermostat has a battery back up. Are they dead and when did you last change them? Some thermostats have a battery back up even though they are wired to the electrical in the home. Some will have a warning sign that the batteries are going and some just stop working properly or all together. Check your owner's manual for details on how to change the batteries.
  • Make sure that the breaker/fuse (in the main electrical box) for the furnace and air conditioner are in the on position if it is a breaker or not in need of replacing if it is a fuse.
  • Check the troubleshooting guide for your particular model furnace, in the homeowner's manual. There are always good tips in there as well.
  • CALL A LICENSED HEATING, VENTILATION AND AIR CONDITIONING COMPANY to have an educated technician out to diagnose the issue.


ALWAYS REMEMBER that all furnaces and air conditioners can be dangerous, they are connected to electrical and/or gas and could result in injury. Never have someone un-educated and unlicensed attempt to repair these pieces of equipment.

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What if I do not have a standing pilot furnace?


Most new model gas furnaces do not have a continuously burning pilot flame (standing pilot), which wastes valuable energy and may cost you money. Your furnace may use an automatic, hot surface igniter to light the burners each time the thermostat starts your furnace. Follow these important safeguards if this applies to your system: Read and follow the operating instructions in the owner’s manual for your furnace or on the main furnace door. Never attempt to light the burners with a match or other source of flame. If a suspected malfunction occurs with your gas control system, such as the burners not lighting when they should, refer to the shutdown procedures in the owner’s manual or on the main furnace door. A qualified service technician should check your system to verify that it is working properly.

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Keep Your Furnace Room Clean and Save


While regular professional furnace check-ups and furnace cleaning are very important steps in keeping your furnace trouble-free and operating efficiently, there are chores you need to handle on your own, for the same reason. Keeping the area near your furnace clean and free of flammable materials is your responsibility. It will help prolong the life of your furnace and eliminate fire risks.

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Why High-Efficiency Furnaces Are A Must in the Midwest


The midwest is one of the coldest areas of the country. With fuel prices going up every year, a high-efficiency furnace is the best way to keep heating costs down, now and into the future. Replacing an older, inefficient furnace with an energy saving furnace stretches your budget and increases your home's value.

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Replace Octopus Gravity Furnace


Many older homes are still using antiquated gravity (Octopus) furnaces. These antiques operate at less than 50% efficiency, even if they've been converted to natural gas. They also lower property values and contain harmful asbestos. Replacing such an old system is a must as high fuel prices drive up the cost of home heating.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Gravity Furnaces


Question: What happens to my old gravity furnace?
Answer: First, a licensed abatement contractor seals off the entire work area. He removes asbestos or any hazardous materials. Then the old furnace and 100% of the existing ductwork are removed. The whole basement is cleaned professionally. The air quality is tested after the project is complete, per state regulation. Now your home is ready for a new, modern furnace and ductwork.


Question: Do you have to cut holes in my floors?
Answer: It is rare that a hole must be cut. However, our comfort advisor may recommend a floor register be added to a cold spot in your home. Our technicians will discuss decisions like these with you before taking action.


Question: Do I need to pull a permit?
Answer: TMI is licensed, bonded and insured, and provides mechanical permits on all of its installations. The work is inspected by city inspectors when the job is complete. This gives you confidence that the job was done correctly and safely.


Question: How long does a gravity change-out take?
Answer: The average installation takes no more than a week from start to finish.


Question: Can I install a high-efficiency furnace in my 80-100 year old home?
Answer: Yes. The older the home, the greater the urgency to upgrade your heating system.


Question: What does a typical job like this cost?
Answer: There are many variables that affect the cost of an installation: size of home, age of home, equipment selection, accessory items (air filter, humidifier), location of furnace, heat loss and heat gain of home, existing electrical service in home, and gas service to home. As you can see with so many issues, it is important to have a free in-house consultation with no obligation. TMI will let you know the cost and go over it in detail with you so you know before any work is started exactly what it is going to cost you.


Question: Do you offer financing?
Answer: Yes. In addition to accepting Visa and Master Card, we also offer financing assistance.

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Get the Greatest Benefit from Your Programmable Thermostat


  • Install your thermostat away from heating or cooling registers, appliances,
    lighting, doorways, fireplaces, skylights and windows, and areas that receive
    direct sunlight or drafts. Interior walls are best.
  • Keep the thermostat set at energy-saving temperatures for long periods of time,
    such as during the day when no one is home and at bedtime.
  • Set the “hold” button at a constant energy-saving temperature when going
    away for the weekend or on vacation.
  • Resist the urge to override the pre-programmed settings. Every time you do, you
    use more energy and may end up paying more on your energy bill.
  • Use a programmable thermostat for each zone of your house if you have
    multiple heating and cooling zones. This will help you maximize comfort,
    convenience, and energy savings throughout the house.
  • Change your batteries each year if your programmable thermostat runs on
    batteries. Some units will indicate when batteries must be changed.
  • If you have a heat pump, you may require a special programmable thermostat to
    maximize your energy savings year-round. Talk to your retailer or contractor for
    details before selecting your thermostat.
  • If you have a manual thermostat, you can adjust the temperatures daily before
    you leave the house and when you go to sleep at night. Typically, adjusting
    temperatures 5 – 8 degrees (down in winter, up in summer) can help save
    energy if you are going to be away from home for several hours.

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What's the most common mistake people make in trying to save energy around the house?


  • Letting the furnace or air conditioner salesperson sell them a unit that's much bigger than they need.
  • Not getting the ducts checked for leakage when installing a new heating and cooling system.
  • Thinking that "since heat rises, we only need to insulate the attic." Floors over a basement or crawlspace, walls and windows also matter.
  • Not using ceiling and portable fans to improve comfort in the cooling season. They use very little electricity. Use them to circulate air in the house, to make the house feel cooler by doing this, the thermostat setting for your air conditioner can be raised to 85°F, and still maintain the same comfort as the lower setting.

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What's the single biggest user of electricity in my house?


If your house has central air conditioning, the air conditioner will probably be the biggest user by far. Although used only a few months of the year, the annual cost can be much greater than the annual cost of your refrigerator, which is typically the next largest user. In hot climates, the annual air conditioner cost can exceed a thousand dollars. You can get a very rough idea of what your air conditioner is costing you by subtracting the electric portion of your bill in a spring month when you aren't using your air conditioner from the electric portion of the bill in the summer when you do use it. This gives you the monthly cost. Multiply this by the number of months you use your air conditioner to arrive at your approximate annual cost.

Refrigerators are typically the largest users in houses without air conditioning or in climates where the air conditioners are used only a few days of the month during the cooling season. If your refrigerator is more than ten years old should consider replacing it. New efficiency standards went into effect in 1992, and older refrigerators are typically two to three times more expensive to run than a new unit. For more information go directly to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's list of most efficient refrigerator-freezers.

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Indoor Air Quality Concerns


All of us face a variety of risks to our health as we go about our day-to-day lives. Driving in cars, flying in planes, engaging in recreational activities, and being exposed to environmental pollutants all pose varying degrees of risk. Some risks are simply unavoidable. Some we choose to accept because to do otherwise would restrict our ability to lead our lives the way we want. And some are risks we might decide to avoid if we had the opportunity to make informed choices. Indoor air pollution is one risk that you can do something about.

In the last several years, a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities. Other research indicates that people spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. Thus, for many people, the risks to health may be greater due to exposure to air pollution indoors than outdoors.

In addition, people who may be exposed to indoor air pollutants for the longest periods of time are often those most susceptible to the effects of indoor air pollution. Such groups include the young, the elderly, and the chronically ill, especially those suffering from respiratory or cardiovascular disease.

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Air Cleaners


There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, ranging from relatively inexpensive table-top models to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others, including most table-top models, are much less so. Air cleaners are generally not designed to remove gaseous pollutants.

The effectiveness of an air cleaner depends on how well it collects pollutants from indoor air (expressed as a percentage efficiency rate) and how much air it draws through the cleaning or filtering element (expressed in cubic feet per minute). A very efficient collector with a low air-circulation rate will not be effective, nor will a cleaner with a high air-circulation rate but a less efficient collector. The long-term performance of any air cleaner depends on maintaining it according to the manufacturer's directions.

Another important factor in determining the effectiveness of an air cleaner is the strength of the pollutant source. Table-top air cleaners, in particular, may not remove satisfactory amounts of pollutants from strong nearby sources. People with a sensitivity to particular sources may find that air cleaners are helpful only in conjunction with concerted efforts to remove the source.

Over the past few years, there has been some publicity suggesting that houseplants have been shown to reduce levels of some chemicals in laboratory experiments. There is currently no evidence, however, that a reasonable number of houseplants remove significant quantities of pollutants in homes and offices. Indoor houseplants should not be over-watered because overly damp soil may promote the growth of microorganisms which can affect allergic individuals.

At present, EPA does not recommend using air cleaners to reduce levels of radon and its decay products. The effectiveness of these devices is uncertain because they only partially remove the radon decay products and do not diminish the amount of radon entering the home. EPA plans to do additional research on whether air cleaners are, or could become, a reliable means of reducing the health risk from radon. EPA's booklet, Residential Air-Cleaning Devices, provides further information on air-cleaning devices to reduce indoor air pollutants.

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What Causes Indoor Air Problems?


According to the EPA Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the home. High temperature and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants.

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Pollutant Sources


There are many sources of indoor air pollution in any home. These include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, and tobacco products; building materials and furnishings as diverse as deteriorated, asbestos-containing insulation, wet or damp carpet, and cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products; products for household cleaning and maintenance, personal care, or hobbies; central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices; and outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution.

The relative importance of any single source depends on how much of a given pollutant it emits and how hazardous those emissions are. In some cases, factors such as how old the source is and whether it is properly maintained are significant. For example, an improperly adjusted gas stove can emit significantly more carbon monoxide than one that is properly adjusted.

Some sources, such as building materials, furnishings, and household products like air fresheners, release pollutants more or less continuously. Other sources, related to activities carried out in the home, release pollutants intermittently. These include smoking, the use of unvented or malfunctioning stoves, furnaces, or space heaters, the use of solvents in cleaning and hobby activities, the use of paint strippers in redecorating activities, and the use of cleaning products and pesticides in housekeeping. High pollutant concentrations can remain in the air for long periods after some of these activities.

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Amount of Ventilation


If too little outdoor air enters a home, pollutants can accumulate to levels that can pose health and comfort problems. Unless they are built with special mechanical means of ventilation, homes that are designed and constructed to minimize the amount of outdoor air that can "leak" into and out of the home may have higher pollutant levels than other homes. However, because some weather conditions can drastically reduce the amount of outdoor air that enters a home, pollutants can build up even in homes that are normally considered "leaky.

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Plumbing FAQ's


Question: What makes my plumbing and drain pipes rattle?
Answer:This problem is usually caused by the water lines not being properly isolated. It can be easily fixed but only if your water lines are easily accesible. It means that either in one or many places your water lines come into contact with the wood of your floor joists. All you need to do is get plastic pipe hangers that go beetween your water lines and your joists. For help installing them please contact TMI.


Question: What causes my hot water to smell like rotten eggs? My cold water doesn't smell, what is the solution for this problem?
Answer: The most common cause of “smelly water” is a non-toxic sulfate reducing bacteria, scientifically termed Divibrio Sulfurcans. This bacteria often enters the water system through construction or a break in ground piping. The bacteria creates the energy it needs to survive by converting sulfate (SO4) to hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas you smell in the water. Hydrogen sulfide gas is distinctive because of its rotten egg-like stench. Its presence can severely affect the taste as well as the odor of the water.

The simplest treatment available is the shock-chlorination of the system. This is a surface treatment, and often requires repeated trials in heavily infected systems. The chlorination of a system requires that you follow each step explicitly to avoid an un-treated portion of the piping system from reinfecting another part. Longer lasting solutions include chlorination or aeration of the water supply.


Question: How do you get water in the toilet tank to stop over flowing?
Answer: The fill valve in the tank may have a leak in it. Also, if the fill valve has been replaced recently it is possible that it has been set too high. If the fill valve is old, it could do you no harm to replace it. Sometimes the shaft or wire that is used to set the level, corrodes off. By replacing it your problem should be fixed.


Question: Why does my water heater not work as well as it used to?
Answer: This is usually due to a sediment buildup in your tank. As water heaters grow older, they accumulate sediment and lime deposits. If these deposits are not removed periodically, the sediment will create a barrier between the burner and the water, greatly reducing the water heater's performance level. The result is an increase in the amount of fuel required to deliver hot water.


Question: Why would a water heater run out of hot water faster than normal?
Answer: If your water heater is running cold easily or frequently then several things could be happening. First check the shower head volume if shower's are too quick. A new shower head puts out about 2.5 gallons a minute. Some older heads put out 5 gallons a minute. Working with the shower head would double shower length in this case. In some cases, the dip tube on the cold water inlet has broken or worn. When this happens, it creates a short loop for the water, water at the bottom half of the tank will not be used, which makes half of your tank useless. Call TMI to get it fixed as soon as possible.

On electric water heaters, they commonly have two heating elements that work in turns. First the top element heats up the top of the tank, then power goes to the lower element. If the lower element is out, only the top of the tank gets heated. If the top element isn't working, there will be no hot water. Sometimes the Reset button needs to be pushed or reset. If this doesn't get the element working, use a continuity tester to determine if the element has shorted out. Replacement of the element may be needed.


Question: How do I know if I have a broken water line outside my house?
Answer: A broken water line out in the yard may include an excessively high water bill, puddles in your yard or the sound of running water when no faucets or appliances are using water.  TMI can pinpoint the problem without needless trial and error destruction of working pipes.  In many cases we can fix the problem right away and save you money.


Question: How can you replace sewer pipes without digging up my landscaping?
Answer: TMI is the ONLY company in the area to offer Trenchless Sewer Drain Line Replacement.  It used to be that a plumbing crew would have to spend days tearing up a yard from the house to the street to replace a sewer line.  Now, with our Video Camera technology we can easily location the problem and stop the leaks with a new pipe.  The best part is it is possible to do this with minimal digging and complete the project in only one day.

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24 Hour Emergency Service

      If you have a plumbing, heating or air conditioning emergency, know that when you call TMI you will talk to a live person who will locate the closest available technician to respond to your emergency quickly.

      Our technicians are cell phone dispatched and have their fully stocked service vehicles standing by to quickly respond to your needs 24/7.

(IA) 563.355.8686
(IL) 309.799.8018
Toll Free 800.383.2813

For more information Contact Us today.

Schedule your appointment today with TMI - Total Maintenance, Inc.

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Did You Know...

How to Find and Choose a Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning Contractor

Taking some time up front to learn more about air conditioning and heating will save you time, frustration, and money when you choose a local company to repair or replace your HVAC system. When buying a new air conditioning and heating system, the contractor you select will affect your satisfaction more than the brand of equipment you choose. Choosing a commercial plumbing, heating, or air conditioner contractor when you have ample time to do so gives the best results—much better than picking one out of the phone book to respond to a heating or cooling emergency.

Quick tips on choosing a contractor.

1. Qualified and Experienced technicians. TMI's technicians are experienced and qualified to perform the work necessary to make sure that your plumbing heating and air conditioning systems work like new. Our technicians continually take classes to keep up with the new techniques and systems that are on the market.

2. Easy to reach by telephone and 24 hour emergency services available. TMI is easy to reach by phone and we do have 24 hour emergency services available.

3. Rely on referrals and testimonials. Many of our new clients are referred to us by others and you can check out our testimonials to see what others are saying about our service.


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