Air Conditioning and Heating–Frequently Asked Questions
Over the years, we have heard many heater and air conditioner questions from our friends, neighbors and customers. We hope our furnace and air conditioner FAQ will help you understand a little more about the equipment that keeps your family comfortable all year long.
How big or small an air conditioner do I need?
Before every installation visit, we insist on performing a full load calculation to accurately assess how much cooling power your home needs. Since an old calculation could be inaccurate or obsolete, we always assess your home’s current situation and determine the exact cooling load in requires. Using this information, we can select an air conditioner that is properly sized to cool your home at maximum energy efficiency.
What do the air filter ratings mean?
Your air conditioner’s and heat pump’s seasonal energy efficiency rating, or SEER, measures the efficiency with which it converts electric power into cooling capacity. The higher your air conditioner’s SEER, the less electricity it needs to cool your home.
The heating seasonal performance factor (HSPF) measures a heat pump’s heating cycle in the same way SEER measures the cooling cycle. The higher the HSPF, the less power your heat pump needs to keep your home warm during the heating season.
A furnace’s efficiency is given in terms of annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE. Expressed as a percentage, the AFUE is the portion of oil or gas that your furnace converts into usable heat. For instance, an AFUE 85 furnace converts 85 percent of fuel into heat for your home; the remaining 15 percent is lost in the exhaust.
The minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) measures the effectiveness of an air filter in terms of its ability to remove particles that are between .3 and 10 microns across. MERV values range from one to 16; the higher the MERV, the more particles the filter removes from the air.
Note that in many cases, a system’s actual rating in your home will differ from the nominal rating published by the manufacturer. The effective HFUE of a heat pump, for instance, depends on your home’s layout and insulation in addition to the heat pump itself.
How can I tell whether my existing system is still under warranty?
Check the documentation that you received when your unit was installed. The homeowner information packet should include information on the warranty. If you don’t have that information, look for a date of manufacture on the unit’s label; if your unit was made less than five years ago, there’s a good chance it is still under warranty. Finally, our technicians can find out whether your equipment is still under warranty during a service check.
I need to replace my outdoor unit. Should I replace the indoor unit as well?
As a rule, you should replace both units together unless your system is very new. Of course, if you have had both units for many years, odds are good that the indoor unit needs to be replaced anyway. Even if your indoor unit is only three to five years old, though, the benefits of replacement likely outweigh the cost.
By replacing both units together, you will be able to get matched indoor and outdoor units that are designed to work together. Having a matched system improved operating efficiency and reduces wear and tear on both units; while you may be able to get away with an unmatched pair, you will spend more money in the long run on utility costs and repairs. Furthermore, upgrading both units will allow you to take full advantage of the latest technology. The industry is constantly working to improve energy efficiency, and taking that step to replace both the indoor and outdoor units will improve your system’s efficiency more than just replacing one or the other.
Should I choose a heat pump, a ductless system or central air?
Heat pumps are popular options in smaller homes because they combine two technologies in one compact unit. During the cooling season, a heat pump functions just like an ordinary split-level air conditioner, collecting heat from inside the home and releasing it outside. During the heating season, this cycle reverses as the heat pump collects heat from the outdoor air and pumps it inside the home. Heat pumps are very efficient devices, especially in areas with fairly mild climates. However, they tend to require a great deal of maintenance because they keep running all year long.
As the name implies, ductless air conditioners and heat pumps are designed to work without extensive duct systems. These units are small and can be installed high on a wall, making them ideal for condominiums and apartments with limited space. Ductless systems can be somewhat expensive to set up, but once they are in place, they tend to run very efficiently with little need for maintenance.
How can I improve air quality in my home?
Where should I set my thermostat?
Remember, the higher you set your thermostat, the less power your air conditioner uses to cool your home. The rule of thumb, then, is to set the thermostat as high as you can stand; for most people, this is somewhere between 76 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider investing in a ceiling fan to make the air feel cooler on your skin; this can allow you to tolerate even higher indoor temperatures.
For many people, the best thermostat setting changes throughout the day. You can tolerate higher temperatures while you sleep, so consider turning the thermostat up by a few degrees at bedtime and turning it back down in the morning. Likewise, you may want to turn the thermostat up during the day if the house is empty for long stretches of time. Consider investing in a programmable thermostat to take the work out of these constant adjustments or even buying a zoned system to get room-by-room control over your cooling equipment.
Why is my air conditioner constantly cycling on and off?
Why does ice form on my air conditioner?
A second common cause of ice formation is a low outdoor temperature. If you allow your air conditioner to run while the outside air is cool, ice may form inside; this commonly happens overnight, when the temperature drops after sunset. If your air conditioner ices up early in the day, try shutting it off in the evening and turning it back on when you wake up in the morning. In many cases, this will resolve the issue with no need to adjust the air conditioning unit itself.
The most serious issue that can lead to freezing up is a refrigerant leak. Although your air conditioner uses refrigerant to transfer heat out of your house, it does not actually consume that refrigerant at any point. If the refrigerant level drops due to a leak, the internal mechanics of your air conditioner are thrown out of balance, and freezing can result. Check the refrigerant gauge to confirm that this is the issue; if the refrigerant level is below the recommended range, you will need a professional technician to come and repair the leak.
Why should I get my air conditioner tuned up?
In today’s budget-conscious world, having your air conditioning equipment serviced may seem like an unnecessary expense. In fact, neglecting to properly maintain your air conditioner is the truly unnecessary expense. An air conditioner that is not maintained well will not run as efficiently as one that has frequent tune-ups; moreover, a poorly maintained air conditioner is prone to failure. Thus, if you do not have your air conditioner serviced, you risk having to pay for expensive repairs down the road.
During a typical service visit, our technicians will carefully inspect your air conditioner and identify any small issues that could turn into major problems if left alone. Instead of waiting for a larger repair in the future, we’ll fix those little problems right away, saving you money in the process. Our technicians will also make small calibration adjustments that will help your air conditioner run at maximum efficiency.
We offer annual service agreements to make tuning your air conditioner up on a yearly basis as easy as possible. Of course, you should also maintain your air conditioner between service visits by changing the air filter monthly and checking the wiring and refrigerant gauge for any signs of an issue.