FAQs – Home Air Conditioning Information
Understanding the basic facts about your HVAC system can assist you in keeping it properly maintained and help you determine when you need to call for service. By browsing this convenient air conditioner FAQ page, you can get the answers to some of the most common air conditioner questions and gain a better understanding of how your HVAC system operates.
When you’re searching for a new air conditioner, you may be tempted to get the largest and most powerful model. However, for your air conditioner to function properly, it needs to fit your home’s size and be able to do a good job of conditioning the air. If your unit is too powerful, it will rapidly cool your home, but it won’t do a decent job of lowering the humidity. Finding the correct air conditioner for your home requires the help of a professional, and your contractor will have to perform a load calculation to determine the cooling capacity that your home requires. After looking at several factors, including your home’s square footage, its design and the number of people in your family, your contractor will be able to recommend the unit that will work best for your home.
The HVAC industry uses several different ratings to compare the efficiency levels of air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces and other products. Here are a few common ratings to be aware of.
- SEER – The seasonal energy efficiency ratio measures the energy efficiency of air conditioners. The SEER is calculated by dividing the amount of energy the unit uses into the air conditioner’s total cooling capacity. Units that have the highest SEER ratings are the most energy efficient.
- AFUE – The annual fuel utilization efficiency ratio is used to measure the fuel efficiency of furnaces. The AFUE ratio measures the total amount of heat a furnace produces for every dollar of fuel that it consumes. The ratio is always denoted by a percentage, and federal law requires that a furnace needs to have an AFUE rating of at least 78 percent.
- HSPF – The heating seasonal performance factor measures the energy efficiency of heat pumps. The HSPF is calculated by dividing the total heating capacity of the heat pump by the total amount of electricity it uses while running. High HSPF ratings are indicative of very efficient heat pumps.
- MERV – The minimal efficiency reporting value rates the efficiency of air filters that are used along with HVAC systems. A higher MERV rating means that the filter traps more airborne particles and is better for those who suffer from allergies and asthma.
The length of the warranty varies between different manufacturers. Generally, as long as they are registered within 90 days, products manufactured by Carrier are protected by a 10-year warranty. If you don’t register your new HVAC unit, the warranty is typically effective for five years. The most accurate way to determine your warranty status is to locate the original paperwork. If you can’t locate the warranty information, check the outside of the unit’s main component, and the age should be listed on the manufacturer’s label. If you need additional assistance, you may want to speak with your HVAC contractor. You can also check the manufacturer’s website for more information.
While it’s not absolutely necessary to replace both units at the same time, it is definitely recommended. In the long run, replacing your entire HVAC system will prove to be highly cost effective. The indoor and outdoor components are meant to operate together, and replacing only one component will cause your entire HVAC system to consume more energy. If your unit isn’t energy efficient, you may see an increase in your utility bills. Also, if the two components aren’t compatible, one or both components may malfunction. In addition, you can often obtain valuable refunds and rebates by having your entire HVAC system replaced.
- Central air conditioning – In the United States, central air conditioning is currently the most common type of cooling system used in homes and commercial buildings. A central air conditioning system generally consists of an outdoor component, an indoor unit and a network of air ducts. A furnace is used along with the air conditioner and completes the HVAC system.
- Ductless systems – Originally used in Asia, ductless systems are becoming more common throughout the United States and other countries. Designed to work without air ducts, these systems are very energy efficient and are often used for room additions, retrofits and rooms that can benefit from extra climate control. Both air conditioners and heat pumps are available in ductless models.
- Heat Pumps – Heat pumps are common in warmer areas and are considerably more energy efficient than central air conditioning systems. A heat pump is designed to function in two different modes and works to help heat and cool your home. In warm weather, the heat pump brings cool air into your home, and in the cooler months, it uses ambient air to heat your home. You can use a heat pump if you live in a colder climate, but you may have to use a furnace as an additional source of heat.
Generally, you can expect a new air conditioning unit to last at least 8-10 years. With regular maintenance, you can extend the life of your air conditioning system and keep it running smoothly. Your air filters should be changed monthly, and you should also contact your HVAC contractor for preventive maintenance. Regular tune-ups help to ensure that your system is functioning properly and may also help to prevent it from breaking down unexpectedly. For optimum performance, you should schedule a professional tune-up every year. If you have a heat pump, you should have your unit checked once in the spring and once in the fall. The HVAC industry is constantly changing, and the newer systems cost a lot less to operate. If your air conditioning unit is more than 10 years old, you may want to think about installing a new unit.
While it’s important to be comfortable inside your home, setting your thermostat too high or too low can cause your HVAC system to work harder, and it may also lead to high utility bills. In warm weather, you can set your thermostat to 78 degrees when you are home and still remain comfortably cool. If you are away from home during the day, you may want to set your thermostat slightly higher. During cooler weather, setting your thermostat to 68 degrees should keep your home comfortably warm. Before you go to sleep, you may even want to adjust your thermostat to a slightly lower setting. To help you conserve energy and maintain a comfortable indoor environment, you may want to consider installing a programmable thermostat.
Your air conditioner should turn on when your thermostat senses the temperature inside your home rising. After the temperature inside your home falls, the air conditioner should automatically turn off. If the weather is particularly warm, it’s not uncommon for your air conditioning system to cycle on and off several times in one hour. However, there may be a problem if the compressor is continuously turning on and off. This is known as short cycling and may indicate that your air conditioner isn’t functioning properly. Various problems can cause short cycling, including refrigerant leaks, coils that are too cold, a faulty thermostat and an air conditioner that is the wrong size for your home. Your HVAC contractor can determine the exact reason why your unit is short cycling.
When there is excessive humidity in the air, it’s not unusual to find water dripping from the pipe by the outdoor unit. In this case, the water is the result of condensation around your indoor unit and is perfectly normal. You do need to be concerned if you notice water pooling around your indoor unit. If the condensate pipe becomes clogged, water may not drain properly, and it will overflow around the indoor unit. A water leak can also result from an improperly positioned drain pan or a pan that has become damaged. Your HVAC contractor can locate the exact location and cause of the leak and can recommend the best way to correct the problem.
There are several things that can cause your air conditioning unit to freeze up and stop working. A low refrigerant level can cause your air conditioner to freeze up, but a low level of refrigerant almost always indicates a leak somewhere inside your air conditioning unit. Your air conditioner may also freeze up if your air filters are excessively dirty. Dirty air filters impede the air flow, and eventually, this may cause your air conditioner to break down. To avoid break downs, your air filters should be cleaned or replaced every month. Your unit’s performance can also be affected by a dirty evaporator coil. The evaporator coil can easily be cleaned during regular tune-ups. Your HVAC contractor will be able to discover the exact cause of the problem.
Until fairly recently, air conditioners and heat pumps used R-22 as the refrigerant. Commonly known as Freon, R-22 was found to be harmful to the environment and is no longer being used in newer units. Now, all new air conditioners use R-410A, or Puron. Puron is environmentally safe, but it can only be used with new air conditioners and heat pumps and can’t be added to older units. Freon is still available, but it is gradually being phased out. Although you can’t replace your current refrigerant, if your unit is older, you may want to consider installing a new air conditioner.
Having your air conditioner tuned up regularly can enhance its performance and prevent it from breaking down unexpectedly. During routine maintenance, your technician may be able to spot potential problems and correct them before serious damage occurs. Before the weather gets too warm, you should schedule a tune-up to ensure that your air conditioner is ready for the cooling season. If you own a heat pump, it’s a good idea to schedule another tune-up before the start of the heating season. During the tune-up you can expect the technician to:
- Check your unit’s refrigerant level and the refrigerant’s charge
- Perform a thorough inspection of all major components
- Clean or replace the air filters
- Inspect and clean the coils
If you’re concerned about the air quality inside your home, you may want to consider having your air ducts cleaned. The air ducts move conditioned air throughout your home, and it doesn’t take long for them to become filled with dust, bacteria and other harmful pollutants. As the air moves through the ducts, it carries these pollutants throughout your home. In time, the flow of air may even be affected. If you notice your allergy symptoms are worsening or an accumulation of dust around your air vents, it’s probably time to have your air ducts cleaned. Cleaning the ducts will get rid of the pollutants and allow you to enjoy cleaner air.
You should have maintenance done on your air conditioning system twice a year. This not only ensures maximum efficiency, it enables us to foresee any possible problems that may occur in the near future. Our service plans are specifically designed to keep your air conditioning system running at its peak efficiency year-round.
It is very important the filter be sized correctly to fit snuggly into the designated area. You do not want unfiltered air to run through your indoor coil. We sell disposable filters, media filters, and even custom filters to fit all your needs. Please remember it is important to use your judgment on replacing the filter, it is not always best to go the maximum length of time before replacing. If it looks dirty replace it!
If you are going to be away for any length of time it is okay to set your thermostat up a little higher. Generally 83-84 degrees is usually as high as you want to go before the a/c cooling side kicks on. The idea is you want the unit to still run and remove that sticky Florida humidity from your home. Each home is different so find your own safe temperature that maintains a good balance. Make sure you do not turn your system completely off, especially during the hotter months.