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What to know about refrigerant in your central air conditioning system

Shrugging shoulders

“How often should I be adding refrigerant to my A/C?” is a question we get a lot here at Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling…and the answer is a simple one:


You shouldn’t have to add refrigerant to a central air conditioner because it doesn’t use up the refrigerant. The only reason you would ever need to recharge (that is, add refrigerant to) your A/C is if you have a leak. Once the leak is fixed, the problem should be solved.

Yet every year we hear about customers whose old HVAC techs have told them that “these things happen to aging systems” as they recharge the A/C summer after summer. If that is happening to you, you need better service technicians.

You can find those better service technicians right here at Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling!

What should happen when I call for an A/C refrigerant change?

If you have warm air coming from your vents and suspect that your A/C may need a recharge, your air conditioning service technician should do these things in this order:

  1. Assess your system from top to bottom. This means:
  2. Looking at your air filter and thermostat;

    • Inspecting the indoor unit; and
    • Taking the cover off your outdoor unit to look for problems.

    Note that it does NOT mean that he immediately checks your refrigerant levels! This is because other problems (a dirty air filter, frozen evaporator coils, etc.) could be affecting the reading of the refrigerant charge. Once these problems identified, the technician will know if their leak readings are accurate or not.

  3. If refrigerant is low, they should tell you why and give you options for next steps. Rather than simply recharging your system, your technician should tell you the reason why your system is leaking in the first place, then give you options to fix it. Here are two things that they may suggest:

Recharge your A/C without fixing the leak. This is only recommended if you intend to replace the unit within the next year, or possibly if this is a slow, first-time leak (if you go this route, we recommend having the tech put in a UV dye with the new refrigerant so they can find a leak the next time it happens).

Find and fix the leak. The cost to repair the refrigerant leak will depend on where in your system it is located; a tech will use electronic equipment, UV dye, or a bubbling agent to find the source of the problem. Once they find it, they will drain your system, fix the link, recharge your A/C, and test it.

Do I need to replace my A/C?

Your service technician may recommend this. At Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling, we will give you an honest assessment of your central air conditioning and, if you decide to replace it, we’ll give you a FREE estimate.

Here are some reasons why replacing your central A/C would make the most sense.

Costs. If the cost of A/C repairs is more than half of what replacement would be, it would be a wiser investment to replace.

Age. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average life expectancy for a central air conditioning system is 12 to 14 years. That life expectancy can be dramatically reduced if it has not been properly maintained (a Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling service plan can help with that!).

The age of your central A/C also plays a role when it comes to the refrigerant. A/Cs stopped using the refrigerant R-22 (also known as Freon) in 2010. As of 2020, R-22 can no longer be produced in the U.S. or imported here. What R-22 is left here is becoming more and more expensive as the supply dwindles.

If your air conditioning system was installed prior to 2010, it’s time to start planning replacement as R-22 costs continue to soar, meaning you could spend hundreds of dollars just to replace the leaked R-22 on top of labor and other repair costs.

Could a whole-house Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling system be right for your home or business? Contact us today to learn more!

Get comfort and energy efficiency with a Mitsubishi ductless system from Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling!

Ductless mini-split system

Ductless mini-split systems have long been used as an energy-efficient and versatile air conditioning solution for situations where supplemental heating and cooling are needed – a home addition, for example. But can a ductless system handle the rigors of heating or cooling a whole house?

The answer is YES!

Outfitted with high-efficiency components and advanced features, today’s Mitsubishi ductless mini-split installation by Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling can meet the whole-house heating and cooling demands of even the most efficiency-minded homes and projects.

How do ductless mini-splits work?

When you have a ductless mini-split heating and cooling system, you don’t need separate heating and air conditioning equipment because ductless equipment does both!
You can go from heating to cooling with the push of a button.

The outdoor compressor unit and indoor air handler, called the evaporator, are both parts of the ductless heating and cooling system. The two components are connected to each other through tubing that has power lines as well as communications and condensate drain lines running through it.

Cooling: The compressor lives up to its name by squeezing the refrigerant vapor so it can move along and enter the condenser. Once there, heat from within the gas is moved into the air outside, which returns the substance back to a liquid state. The liquid is directed to an expansion valve and experiences a drastic drop in pressure. Subsequently, the refrigerant passes through another coil known as the evaporator. Here, air from indoors is drawn over coils containing low-pressure coolants that are great at heat absorption. This results in a cooling effect on this same indoor air. This newly cooled air leaves through supply registers.

Heating: Reversing the closed-loop heat ductless system in winter enables houses to draw heat from the outside air rather than trying to extract it from within.

As the refrigerant is transformed into vapor under low pressure, an intense cooling effect occurs. In accordance with the law of thermodynamics, heat is perpetually attracted to cooler temperatures. As a result, the refrigerant absorbs the heat from its surroundings. After it extracts all the accessible heat from its surroundings, the compressor then forces the gas back into a hot liquid form. After being directed through the tubing to your indoor coils, the blower sends that heat into your home.

What are the advantages of a ductless mini-split system?

Traditional forced-air HVAC systems can work really well – but there are some flaws inherent in their design and components that make these systems prone to energy loss. For example:

Because a mini-split system uses no ducts, it avoids these problems altogether, delivering better performance and other benefits, including:

More expansion possibilities. A ductless system can be extended to areas outside the living spaces, such as a workshop, garage, guest house, pool house, gardening shed, over-the-garage apartment, she-sheds, and other accessory dwelling units. Mitsubishi ductless systems are available in up to four-ton capacity configurations with as many as eight indoor air handlers for each outside compressor/condenser unit; if more heating and cooling capacity is needed, a modular multi-split system with two or more compressor/condenser units can be installed.

Installation ease. Extending ductwork into a sunroom, home office, attic or basement can take weeks with a forced air system. With ductless, it’s a one- or two-day process.

Customizability. With multiple air handlers, you can mix and match the size of evaporator coils to precisely match the heating and cooling load in each zone of your home. This helps even more with energy efficiency to cut your heating and cooling costs.

Better air quality. No ductwork means no places for microorganisms like mold to grow, which means you’ll be breathing better air at home. Also, viruses, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), smoke, pet dander, and cooking odors won’t be able to circulate around your home.

Of course, the key to getting the most out of your ductless system (or any home comfort equipment) is to get your system sized, installed, and maintained by professionals. Our NATE-certified service technicians are Mitsubishi ductless pros, so you know whatever job you need, it will be done right. With our affordable service plans, your mini-splits will keep running at peak efficiency and also may help you save big on repair costs.

Could a whole-house Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling system be right for your home or business? Contact us today to learn more or to get a FREE, no-obligation estimate.

5 things to consider when preparing for your fuel delivery

heating oil delivery massachusetts It’s a busy time of the year for just about everyone. People are catching up with the responsibilities of daily life after the holidays. And for many MetroWest homeowners, that means filling their heating oil tanks.

Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling has heating oil delivery trucks out on the road virtually around the clock. We take our responsibility to our customers seriously. You can help us stay on schedule and deliver your oil quickly and safely by answering these five questions. You can think of this like your winter delivery checklist.

1. Can we find your house?

While the days have started getting longer, the sun still sets early this time of year. Plus, many homes’ street numbers become obscured by branches, snow and ice. This can make it difficult for our driver to find your home. Please ensure that your street number is visible and your exterior lights are on. It’s an incredible help.

2. Is it safe to park on your driveway?

To ensure we can safely navigate your driveway, it is essential that you shovel any snow. A nine- to 10-foot-wide path should be available for the driver. On inclines, we also need to be able to secure wheel chocks (the wedges that prevent vehicles from rolling backward), so please apply salt or sand for traction.

We also appreciate it when you mark the borders of your driveway in case snow has covered them.

3. Is there a clear path to your fill pipe?

If you have a fence around your property, please unlock your gate or have someone on hand to open it. It’s also a good idea to keep pets safely inside while the gate is open.

We’ll need to access your inlet valve. You can help us by clearing away snow, ice, foliage or debris so we can locate it quickly and complete their job in a jiffy!

4. How is your heating oil system doing right now?

While preparing to receive your fuel delivery, it’s an excellent opportunity to assess the condition of your heating oil tank and equipment. Look out for the following issues:

We are a full-service home comfort company. Our technician can inspect your tank, make repairs and recommend a replacement if necessary.

If you’ve put off having a boiler or furnace tune-up, our technicians can also handle that. Regular maintenance will improve your system’s performance, extend its life expectancy and keep you in compliance with your manufacturer’s warranty.

5. Are you on automatic delivery yet?

Are you still calling us for your heating oil? Doing so means you need to constantly check your tank levels and vastly increases the likelihood of running out unexpectedly. But we have a solution.

When you enroll in our no-fee automatic delivery, we handle the planning for you. Our computerized system calculates how much fuel you have based on customer history and the weather. Then we schedule a refill before you run low.

Interested in getting the most dependable heating oil delivery in the MetroWest region? Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling is here to help! Join our family of customers today.

air purifier installation massachusettsWith temperatures outside reaching arctic levels at this time of year, you’re probably spending much more time indoors. An alarming statistic from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reveals that air indoors is up to five times more polluted than outdoor air!

Your ducts and air vents can circulate bacteria, viruses, debris and other pollutants, negatively impacting your respiratory health, eyes, skin, and even the finishes in your home. Air filters can catch some of these impurities but not nearly all.

When our customers in Framingham, Dover, Newton, and other communities in Middlesex and Norfolk Counties ask us for indoor air quality (IAQ) solutions, we often recommend a whole-house air purifier.

How an air purifier works

Air purifiers are an excellent remedy for those battling indoor air toxins, allergens and debris. Unlike oil diffusers or humidifiers, which add particles to your air, air purifiers sanitize it!
The particular impurities that an air purifier removes depend on the product you select. Here’s a basic breakdown of how they work:

An IAQ specialist from Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling can help you identify an air purifier that meets your home’s specific needs.

Improving your indoor air quality with an air purifier

While not all air purifiers can catch every pollutant, this IAQ solution is generally pretty comprehensive. Here are some of the significant benefits of an air purifier.

1. Eliminating mold, bacteria, and allergens

All of these airborne toxins can wreak havoc on your respiratory system. This is especially true for infants, older adults, and anyone with asthma. When toxins circulate through your home, you’ll experience sneezing, coughing, and dry skin at a minimum — and prolonged illness at worst.

We recommend pairing your air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter for the best results.

2. Reducing the spread of viruses

Whole-house air purifiers can lower instances of the common cold, plus more significant illnesses. Additionally, the EPA suggests they can help reduce airborne transmission of COVID-19.

4. Promoting a cleaner home

An air purifier can lower the amount of dust, debris, and sundry microorganisms that cycle through your rooms and accumulate. It can also neutralize mold and bacteria that create unpleasant odors. All this means less housecleaning!

5. Better heating and cooling efficiency

All the airborne pollutants that flow through your ducts eventually find their way to your HVAC equipment. This can clog essential components in your furnace or air conditioner. In the end, you’ll need more energy to keep your home comfortable. A whole home air purifier is a great tool to improve your HVAC performance — plus extend its life.

Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling will help you breathe easier!

Our IAQ experts are ready to help you determine the best solution for air quality issues. This may be as simple as a new air filter, or it could mean getting an air purifier, installing a whole-house humidifier or upgrading your A/C equipment.

Whatever your indoor air quality concerns, we’re here to help. Contact us today to get started.

Standard tank sizes and what kinds of homes they serve

heating oil tanks massachusetts If you’ve lived in your house for ten years or less, there’s a decent chance that you have never had to replace your home’s heating oil tank. There’s a good reason for that: oil tanks can last for decades without issue.

But when your tank starts to fail, it isn’t a good idea not to delay replacing it. Heating oil leaks can lead to costly cleanups and environmental remediation. You can avoid this unpleasant surprise by being proactive and calling the pros at Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling.

How do you determine the right heating oil tank size?

From Canton to Sudbury and Brookline to Holliston, The Needham team provides dependable heating oil delivery. But as much as our customers love our friendly service, they don’t want to see us too often because their oil tank is too small.

When it’s time to arrange an oil tank replacement, we help our customers out by determining how much heating oil the household needs on hand at any given time. Here’s what we consider:

  1. How large is your home? Knowing how much space you need to heat informs how much oil you’ll use.
  2. Who lives in your home? If you have infants or older adults in your home (or plan to soon), you’ll need to keep indoor temperatures higher. Working from home also leads to elevated fuel usage.
  3. What are your winters like? It’s sometimes a good idea to have additional oil storage capacity in case inclement winter weather occurs and deliveries are delayed by snow and ice.

What are the standard heating oil tank sizes?

We sell, install and service top-of-the-line oil tanks from trusted manufacturers like Granby and Roth. Here are some standard sizes:

When should you call Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling?

Knowing if your old heating oil tank needs to be retired can sometimes be challenging. Most corrosion occurs inside the tank and can’t be easily observed. Still, there are a few telltale signs of a failing tank:

Our technicians can inspect your current tank and tell you if it’s time for a replacement. Then, we can handle a seamless installation and safe disposal of your old tank. You’ll be amazed by the state-of-the-art design and construction of today’s heating oil tanks. They’re double-walled and virtually leakproof!

Don’t wait until your current tank springs a leak. Get in touch with the friendly professionals at Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling, and we can provide you with a free estimate.

water heaters massachusetts Did you know that hot water generation comprises 20 percent of the energy usage in an average American home? That’s a significant investment of energy and money. A subpar water heater is more than a money-waster. It leads to lukewarm showers and long waits at a faucet that won’t warm up.

Let’s break down how water heaters work and how you can ensure you’re getting the most from your hot water system.

How water heaters operate

To begin, your water heater’s thermostat controls the water temperature inside its tank. Most of the time, this falls between 120 and 180 degrees. You can adjust the temperature of your water heater with a dial that’s generally near the bottom of the appliance.

Here’s the process your water heater uses to provide warm water:

  1. The dip tube brings cold water to your water heater’s tank.
  2. A burner turns on to heat this water to your preset temperature.
  3. Hot water naturally rises to the top of the tank.
  4. When a tap is opened in your home, the hot water at the top of your tank exits through the heat-out pipe.
  5. This process continues, with cold water entering at the bottom of the tank, rising as it gets hotter and exiting at the top.

There are other components in your water heater that ensure its health. One is the sacrificial anode rod. This magnesium or aluminum rod slows corrosion in your tank. There’s also a pressure relief valve to ensure that pressure in your tank stays at a safe level.

Getting robust hot water while spending less money

Often, homeowners don’t think about their hot water system until it stops working. Maybe their shower suddenly goes cold, or the tank on their unit starts leaking. Suddenly, they need an emergency water heater repair or replacement.

You can take simple steps to avoid losing hot water and save money on energy bills.

1. Flush your tank once a year

Flushing your water heater tank clears sediment that can corrode the inside of your unit and shorten its lifespan. It’s a simple process. You can contact Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling if you have questions.

2. Get regular service

Most people know they should get an annual tune-up for their heating systems. Water heaters benefit from regular maintenance too. Our technicians can check the health of your system and fix minor problems that could lower its efficiency or lead to breakdowns. Trust us: a tune-up pays for itself with reduced fuel use and avoided repairs.

3. Be proactive when it’s time for a new water heater.

The worst time to call us for a water heater installation is when your old unit has failed and you have no hot water. You’ll have to scramble for new equipment. You won’t be able to bathe. It’s a huge mess. Water heaters last around 10 years. If you plan ahead, you’ll have your choice of models and installation times.

Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling installs more water heaters than virtually anyone in Middlesex and Norfolk County. Contact us for a free estimate.

As part of our 150th anniversary milestone, we want to give our customers something big to celebrate.

If you enter our longest-term customers contest and share something about your experience with us, we’ll enter you in a drawing to receive a $150 account credit! We’ll reward five of our longest-term customers.

You can enter by going to and submitting an online form. We would love it if you share memories about your experiences with three generations of the Woodcocks!

Enter by December 31, 2022. We look forward to reading your stories. Make sure you follow us on Facebook and that we can reach you by email to let you know about other exciting events in the future.

The year is 1872. President Ulysses S. Grant wins re-election. Massachusetts native Susan B. Anthony gets arrested for trying to vote. A fire destroys nearly 1,000 buildings in Boston.

That same year, the seeds for Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling were planted when a small wood and coal company called Willett & Chadwick was founded. That company would be purchased in 1941 by my grandfather, Ralph Woodcock, who renamed the business Needham Oil Company. The rest is history.

You won’t be surprised when I tell you that very few companies have been around for 150 years. Our ability to take care of our customers through all these years has only been possible because of the efforts of our amazing employees. Besides having a wealth of experience, they are nice people you can trust, whether they are making a repair, installing new equipment, talking with you on the phone or filling up your heating oil tank.

Of course, we couldn’t have made it this far without another fantastic group of people: our family of customers.
To mark our 150th year in business, we’re holding a special promotion to thank our customers for their unwavering loyalty.

We thank you for your support and confidence in us, whether you have been with us for decades or just recently joined us. We look forward to taking care of you for years to come.

In early October, OPEC announced it would slash crude oil production by two million barrels a day. Within just three days, our suppliers increased the cost of heating oil by 70 cents per gallon!

This is not just impacting heating oil. Expect natural gas, electricity, gasoline and propane to move higher too. This is not simply about supply and demand. When prices move this far this fast, you can always see the impact of Wall Street firms that jump in to take advantage of the momentum to make a quick buck. It frustrates the heck out of us.

Of course, by the time you’re reading this, things may have turned around just as quickly. We saw prices spike in spring only to drop by over a dollar in summer. There are just too many variables to know where things will go from here.

There are many things we can’t control, but we will always prioritize our existing customers over new ones. We will go the extra mile to keep you safe and warm. And we will be there when you need us.

Q: Does it make sense to convert my home to a heat pump now?
A: There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this, because homes differ dramatically in terms of their size, lay out, and existing heating infrastructure. What’s more, while improvements in heat pump technology are promising, most of our customers still want to keep their existing natural gas or oil systems to do the harder work on cold winter days.

We’ve installed more heat pumps than just about anyone in our service area. If you call, we can help guide you through your options. We are also experts at securing the maximum rebates available from Mass Save, and we back our installations with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

Please call or contact us through our website today to request a FREE estimate.