The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Air Conditioners
To most people, how air conditioners work is a question of magic. They don’t know how HVAC systems make temperatures bearable in their homes and offices, but they’re mighty glad they do.
Okay, there is no magic involved. Air conditioners work by applying the principles of refrigeration. They remove heat from an area of the home to the outside, and a fan distributes the cold air created by this process through ducts throughout the house.
When air conditioners aren’t working properly, homeowners get curious about why they often take for granted these devices until they aren’t doing their job.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about these cooling units.
What size unit do I need?
There’s no simple answer for this one. A bunch of factors will go into what size cooling unit you’ll need. The type of house you own, its walls, amount of insulation, attic space, and more can go into deciding what size unit is best. Only a qualified HVAC technician can determine what size unit is best suited for your home. They’ll do an accurate calculation that takes into consideration these factors, even including the number of persons living in the house.
Why is this important? A system that is too large could bring about a home that’s too humid, meaning problems with moisture and mold. A system that’s too small will constantly run, driving up your energy bill.
What are the different types of air conditioners?
Again, your choice of an air conditioning system will depend on the size of your home and your express needs. For example, there are packaged central air conditioners that come with the evaporator, condenser, and compressor “packaged” in a single cabinet. They’re a great choice for homes with limited space.
If this option isn’t for you, there are also central A/C systems, the most familiar kind offered. They comprise an outdoor and indoor unit and transport cold air throughout your home via a network of ducts.
Another choice is the ductless or mini-split style, comparable to central air conditioners in that it comes with an outdoor and indoor unit, but unlike the latter, there is no requirement for ductwork to cool your home. Whatever your final choice, make sure to work with only a premier, experienced company like J&A South Park for its installation.
What is a zoning system?
Zoning systems split your air conditioning system’s ductwork into distinct segments, allowing you to implement temperature control in each segment, meaning more targeted and efficient air conditioning.
As an example, let’s say you have a room with an abundance of windows that gets hot in the summer, which might require extra air to cool down. At the same time, you may also have a seldom occupied guest room on the other end of the house. With a zoned system, you can direct more cold air to the many-windowed room and less air to the unoccupied room, permitting more efficient use of your air conditioning system and more comfortable home.
How can I assure my air conditioning unit will last as long as possible?
HVAC units are a considerable investment, so it’s reasonable that you’d want them to last as long as possible. The most helpful thing you can do to extend the life of your system is to have it consistently serviced by an HVAC professional. In addition, here are a few tips for some easy things you can do to escape pricey air conditioning repair.
- Prevent leaves and debris from accumulating around your outdoor air conditioning unit. This minimal action stops dirt from jamming up your system and maintains clear airflow paths.
- When positioning furniture and installing carpeting, be sure air grills and ductwork are not obstructed.
- Place blinds and shades on west and south-facing windows to shut out the summer heat.
- Install programmable thermostats to cut back running your air conditioning when it’s not needed.
Would installing a programmable thermostat really save me money?
Absolutely. Installing a programmable thermostat will save you money. Programmable thermostats are intended to auto adjust the temperature all through the day which can save you approximately 15 to 25 percent on cooling costs.
Important: When you get your thermostat installed, make sure it’s not placed in an area where the temperatures can clearly rise and fall.
What do air conditioning ratings mean?
If you’re thinking about installing a new air conditioning unit, you’ve most likely run across several rating acronyms on the sales literature.
If it’s all Greek to you, so here’s a quick explanation of the various ratings.
- EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) is a measurement of the cooling output of an air conditioner divided by its energy use, calculated under specific test conditions that represent peak load. A higher number means a more energy-efficient system.
- SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures the efficiency of cooling equipment, calculated based on a season average instead of at specific laboratory conditions. A higher SEER rating means the unit is more energy efficient. The current industry minimum for new air conditioners is 13, but state-of-the-art equipment can reach a SEER as high as 21. While the initial cost of the latter may be higher, the lower monthly operating costs will most likely save you money over the life of the system.
What is the average life span of an air conditioner?
As you might expect, the lifespan of an air conditioning system is affected by a number of factors, including its maintenance and usage.
However, most systems last from 10 to 20 years. Of course, as your unit starts to age, its level of efficiency can also diminish. Plus, your unit may get louder and need more repairs. When a unit starts showing its age, you can either keep repairing it or decide it needs to be replaced.
What are the telltale signs that my air conditioning unit may need professional servicing?
Is the air conditioner suddenly making new or unfamiliar noises or producing a new smell? Maybe it isn’t blowing cold air into every room as it should be, or perhaps it’s even blowing hot air in its place. Have you detected a dramatic increase in your utility bills even with everyday use?
When your unit is exhibiting a few or all these warning signs, have it checked right away. J&A South Park can help you with this. Let our trained and experienced HVAC technicians thoroughly inspect your unit and perform the necessary repair work to keep the unit in sound working order.
What if my air conditioner just won’t turn on?
There are dozens of factors that could affect an air conditioner’s performance. Some issues can be avoided by following a few simple maintenance tips. Other concerns are more severe and should be dealt with by a licensed HVAC technician.
Check for the following if you’re air conditioner won’t turn on:
- Blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers.
- Your thermostat is set for cooling and to the correct temperature.
- A dirty air filter, which should be replaced if necessary.
- Blocked or closed registers and vents to ensure appropriate airflow.
- Obstructions around the outside condenser may be blocking airflow.
What causes my air conditioning system to ice up?
An air conditioning system that keeps icing up can be triggered by a variety of things. The initial step is to check your air filter. As often mentioned, a dirty filter will limit air moving across the evaporator coil and cause ice to form, placing a high amount of stress on the blower motor, compressor, and metals inside the unit.
If the condition is not addressed immediately, it can lead to motor or compressor failure and refrigerant leaks.
If the air filter is clean, call your HVAC technician at once to help prevent damage to the system.
Why is my HVAC system making noise?
It’s common for your heating and cooling equipment to make a bit of noise as it works. However, hearing strange or loud noises could signal a possible problem with your system. If you don’t fix it, there can be serious and expensive consequences later on.
Let’s face it, units that make too much racket also foster sound pollution. While noise might not necessarily impact energy efficiency, it can affect the comfort level in your home.
How often should I have maintenance performed on my air conditioner?
You should get maintenance done at least once a year – spring to early summer being the best time. This helps ensure the highest efficiency and allows your service technician to foresee any likely problems that might take place in the near future.
Okay, when should I replace my air conditioner?
Replacing your air conditioning system is an investment. Here are some things to consider.
- The unit’s age. The expected life of your air conditioner is somewhere between 10 and 20 years. So, if your unit is more than 10 years old, it could be time for a replacement.
- Rising energy bills. As air conditioners get older, they become less energy efficient. To see if your air conditioner is losing efficiency, compare your utility bills over the past few summers. If costs are climbing, it might be a signal that your unit is wearing out.
- Leaking refrigerant. Not only is refrigerant costly, but refrigerant leaks will cause the compressor to go out ultimately. The type of refrigerant that your unit needs may also cause you problems down the road.
- The cost of repair. Call your local HVAC company to get a free quote on repair costs. If it’s more than $3,000, it’s most likely more cost-effective to acquire and install a new unit.
When the time comes for replacement, J&A South Park technicians can walk you through the steps of comparing and choosing the best new system for your home and budget.
Can I just replace the outdoor unit with an older system to save money?
In most cases, the answer is no. There are a variety of explanations why you should replace both the outdoor and indoor units simultaneously. For starters, air conditioner outdoor units are manufactured to work with a matched indoor unit. When you mix and match units, it can decrease efficiency and performance.
Moreover, suppose you purchased your indoor and outdoor units simultaneously. In that case, your indoor unit will probably be near the end of its useful life at about the same time as the outdoor unit. By not replacing the indoor unit simultaneously, all you’re doing is delaying the inevitable and most likely paying higher energy bills.
Do I need to have my ductwork replaced?
Industry experts estimate that as many as 70 percent of all homes with central air have poorly installed ductwork. Ducts that are properly installed fail to cool (or heat, for that matter) your home efficiently, costing you money. Before you invest in a new system, make sure you call an HVAC expert to check your ductwork.
Can I get my window air conditioner serviced?
In most cases, it’s not practical to repair a window air conditioner. But before you replace it, mull over this option: a ductless mini-split system.
It allows you to cool a room without ductwork or one that is often too hot despite central air, but it’s more efficient, much quieter, and safer because you can lock your windows and run lines through a small three-inch hole in the wall.