FAQs – Home Air Conditioning Information
Since every home’s air conditioning needs are different, there is no one answer to this question. Your home’s needs depend on its square footage, layout, insulation, and load-generating appliances. Systems that are too large or too small run with reduced energy efficiency and are more prone to failure, so getting a system sized to meet your home’s needs is very important.
Every air conditioning installation visit should start with a full professional load calculation, which takes those factors into account to determine exactly how much cooling power your home needs. Although some contractors will size a replacement system based on the size of the previous system, we do not recommend doing so; the old calculation may have been incorrect, or the home’s circumstances may have changed since the previous system was sized. Getting a new load calculation with every air conditioning installation ensures that the system is sized properly for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
An air conditioner’s SEER (Energy Efficiency Rating) is a measure of the efficiency of its cooling cycle. A higher SEER means the unit uses less power to cool the home. Because they function as air conditioners during the cooling season, heat pumps also have SEER ratings. SEER ratings range from 13 to 21.
A heat pump’s HSPF (Heating System Performance Factor) measures the efficiency of its heating cycle. The higher the HSPF, the less energy the heat pump needs to keep your home warm.
Furnaces and boilers have AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) ratings, which measure the amount of fuel they convert into usable heat. This rating is expressed as a percentage; for instance, an AFUE of 90 means that the furnace converts 90 percent of the fuel it burns into usable heat. The remaining 10 percent is wasted heat in the exhaust.
The MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) of an air filter measures its effectiveness at removing particles from the air. MERV ratings range from 1-16, with higher ratings representing more efficient filters. A MERV 16 filter catches about 95 percent of particles between .3 and 10 microns in diameter.
The first step is to look for a date of manufacture on your machine’s label. If your unit was produced within the last five years, it may still be under warranty, but policies vary somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer. You should also have a warranty certificate included in the homeowner information packet that you received when the unit was installed. We can determine whether your unit is still under warranty during a routine service inspection.
Under most circumstances, yes, you should replace both units at once. There are two main reasons that this is the best course of action.
First, your home will benefit greatly from a matched system. All indoor and outdoor units are designed to work with specific other pieces of equipment to maximize energy efficiency and minimize the risk of failures. An indoor and outdoor unit that do not match will still be able to cool your home, but your energy costs may rise and you may need to invest in expensive repairs down the road.
Second, replacing your indoor unit allows you to benefit from the latest design advances in the HVAC industry. Manufacturers are constantly working to make more powerful and efficient systems; with a new outdoor and indoor unit, your home will make the most of that new technology. Newer equipment will be quieter and environmentally friendlier in addition to reducing energy costs.
Ultimately, the biggest thing to consider is the age of your current unit. If your system is very new and the indoor unit has no issues, it may be worthwhile to keep it. If it is more than a few years old, though, you will most likely get more use out of a replacement unit.
Because every home’s needs are unique, there is no single right answer to this question. Every type of cooling system has its advantages and disadvantages.
Central air conditioning is a simple, reliable cooling option for most homes. Modern air conditioners are powerful, efficient and relatively quiet, and they can cool your home down quickly no matter how hot the summer weather becomes. Air conditioners also tend to be fairly affordable to purchase and install, but they do take up a fair amount of space in your home.
Heat pumps are dual-use units that essentially work as reversible air conditioners. During the cooling season, they collect heat from inside the house and release it outside; during the heating season, they pull in heat from the outside air and release it into the home. Because they are two devices in one, heat pumps save space, and they run very efficiently in areas with mild climates. However, they tend to require more maintenance than single-use units because they run continuously.
Ductless air conditioners and heat pumps are quiet, compact devices that run without need for extensive ducts. They are very small and typically sit high up on a wall, making them very unobtrusive, and they run quite efficiently. Ductless machines do require specialized knowledge to install, but they usually need little maintenance once they are up and running. They are great choices for small homes, apartments and condominiums where space is at a premium or if ductwork space is not available. They are also a great choice for their energy efficiency.
Most air conditioners are designed to last about 10 years, but the specific life expectancy depends on the unit and its degree of use. In very hot areas, air conditioners need to be replaced more frequently because they work very hard throughout the cooling season than units that are used in mild areas and are used infrequently.
Some modern air conditioners are built with certain features intended to extend their useful lifespans. For instance, some outdoor units are equipped with protective coatings designed to withstand harsh weather or salty coastal air. Depending on the climate of your area, it may be wise to opt for a unit designed to withstand those conditions and last as long as possible.
In order to make the most of your air conditioning unit, you will need to keep it properly maintained. Routine home checks throughout the cooling season can catch many common issues, and maintenance steps such as cleaning or replacing the air filter will help your unit last longer. We also offer annual service agreements to help your unit keep cooling your home for as long as possible.
One of the best ways to improve your home’s air quality is to invest in dedicated ventilation. Ventilation devices work with your air conditioner by bringing in fresh air from outside the home and removing old, stale air from indoors, all without sacrificing heating or cooling power. If you suffer from asthma or allergies or just want to breathe a little easier, consider equipping your home with a ventilation system.
Because comfort is highly personal, there is no single best setting for your air conditioner, but the general rule is to set your thermostat as high as you are still comfortable. For most people, this is between 76 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember that your air conditioner’s power consumption increases by about seven percent for each degree of cooling, so setting the thermostat higher can make a big impact on your energy bills.
Manipulating your thermostat throughout the day can also help you save money on energy. If the house is going to be empty for a long stretch during the day, set it a few degrees higher before you leave and turn it back down when you get home. Most air conditioners can cool your home relatively quickly, so doing this doesn’t sacrifice much comfort. Also consider setting the thermostat higher before going to bed at night; your body can tolerate higher temperatures while asleep.
If you don’t want to manually adjust the thermostat several times during the day, consider investing in a programmable thermostat for your air conditioner. This temperature control system can be set to start cooling your house a few minutes before you get home in the evening, which means the air will be at your desired temperature by the time you walk in the door. Some systems also incorporate zoning technology, which means you can independently set the desired temperature in different portions of the house.
Your air conditioner should cycle off occasionally during normal operation, but frequent cycles may be a sign of a maintenance issue. One possible cause is low refrigerant. To confirm the cause, locate the refrigerant gauge and see whether the R-22 level is in the recommended range. Your air conditioner does not actually consume refrigerant during its normal cycle, so a low refrigerant level is almost always the result of a leak.
Another common cause of frequent cycling is a short or other electrical malfunction, which can cause the power supply to your air conditioner to be interrupted. Check the wires coming into your unit for any visible rust or corrosion to determine whether this is the issue. Like a refrigerant leak, an electrical problem calls for a certified technician to come to your home and carry out the repair.
In many cases, water leaks are just caused by improper installation. Window air conditioners should be tilted slightly toward the outside to allow condensation to drain normally out of the unit. If your air conditioner is not properly tilted, water will pool inside the unit and eventually leak inside your home. A simple physical adjustment should be enough to resolve this issue.
If your air conditioner is still leaking water despite being tilted back correctly, its drains may be clogged with dirt and debris. Because these components of your air conditioner are fairly delicate, they should be cleaned out by a professional service technician to avoid causing any damage to the unit.
For a central air conditioning system, be sure to check the drain pan and condensate pipe that drains outside of your home. Sometimes the condensate pipe becomes clogged and water will accumulate in the drain pan. If this happens, you can usually clear it with a shop vac. Pouring a little bleach down the line will keep it clear of mold or mildew build-up. It’s always a good idea to check the drain pain and condensate line periodically.
Sometimes, freezing is the result of a low outside temperature rather than an issue with the air conditioner itself. If your unit commonly freezes in the morning, the falling outside temperatures after sunset are likely the culprit. Try shutting off your air conditioner before going to bed at night and turning it back on in the morning. In many cases, this is enough to resolve the problem.
Freezing can also be caused by a dirty air filter. Dust and debris can clog the filter and prevent cool air from leaving the machine; this cold air thus builds up inside your unit, causing ice to form. If your air conditioner uses disposable filters, contact us to find a replacement that is properly sized to fit your machine. If your unit has a reusable filter, wash it in cold water and allow it to air-dry completely before putting it back in the air conditioner.
The most serious potential cause of freezing is a low refrigerant level, usually the result of a refrigerant leak. Check the refrigerant gauge to see whether the level has dropped below the recommended range. If this is the issue, call an HVAC company right away to schedule an appointment with a service professional.
In order to legally handle refrigerant chemicals, technicians need to be specially licensed. Fortunately, our NATE-certified technicians are fully qualified to work with refrigerant chemicals. We will come to your home promptly, recover your existing refrigerant for service purposes and replace it to keep your air conditioner running at maximum efficiency.
Air conditioners are fairly complex machines that depend on many interrelated components to function, which means they are occasionally vulnerable to failures and small efficiency issues. During an air conditioning tuneup, we thoroughly check each of your units for any emerging issues and perform the small repairs needed to correct them before they become big problems. We also clean and adjust any components as needed to remove blockages and maximize energy efficiency.
In addition to fixing problems, our technicians will inspect your machine and make the small calibration changes needed to help the air conditioner run as efficiently as possible. Thus, an air conditioning tuneup saves you money two ways. In the short term, you will see a difference on your utility bills, and in the long term, your units are less likely to need an expensive repair or replacement.
Before any tuneup or service visit, please be prepared to show us documentation of any previous work done on the unit. If you are having any problems with your air conditioner, let your technician know as soon as he arrives.
The ducts are an important component of your home’s heating and cooling system, as they carry air from your HVAC devices throughout the house. Thus, if the ducts become clogged with dust or debris, cleaning them out can significantly impact the efficiency of your HVAC system. Cleaning the ducts can also improve indoor air quality and reduce symptoms for residents with allergies or asthma. Finally, your ducts may have insect or rodent residue or could have accumulated some mold. If so, they should be cleaned right away.
We start every duct cleaning visit by opening up access ports to view our ductwork. Using specially designed brushes, we dislodge dust and debris without scratching or damaging the ducts themselves, then vacuum all of the dirt away with special vacuum technology. If necessary, we use chemical biocides to eliminate mold and bacteria from the ducts.
Once your ducts have been cleaned, you should notice a cleaner smell in your home’s air immediately, and the difference in energy efficiency should appear on your next utility bill. Better yet, once your ducts have been cleaned, they tend to stay clean for a long time. In general, your ducts can go for three to 10 years between cleanings, depending on conditions like the presence of pets or tobacco smoke, and general cleaning habits. Contact us for more information about the benefits of duct cleaning or for answers to any of your HVAC questions.