Your home’s HVAC system is designed to provide you with a high level of comfort no matter what the weather is like outside. Whether you’re troubleshooting issues with your current unit or are considering buying a new AC system, you likely have many questions. Our air conditioner FAQ is designed to help you find answers to the most common HVAC questions. You can use this FAQ as a guide during the shopping process, or as a helpful resource should you need to troubleshoot particular system issues.
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Q: What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need?
A: How to correctly size an air conditioner is one of the most frequently asked air conditioner questions. After all, a unit that is too large for your space will eat up electricity and leave you too chilly while a unit that is too small won’t cool a space efficiently and may leave you with beads of sweat on your forehead. First, calculate the total square footage of the area that you plan to cool. You may want to ask an HVAC contractor to help you with this calculation. You will then choose an AC unit based on its total BTUs (British Thermal Units). There are many charts and online utilities that help you determine how many BTUs are needed for the space that you need to cool.
Q: What Do SEER, MERV, and All Those Air Conditioner and Heater Ratings Mean?
A: If you’re shopping for a new HVAC unit, you’ve likely noticed that all units are labeled with efficiency ratings. Understanding these ratings will help you choose a unit that meets your heating or cooling needs while allowing you to control energy costs. The efficiency ratings that you are likely to see on HVAC units are as follows:
- SEER: The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating describes how much energy a heat pump uses to meet its cooling capacity. Units are rated on a scale from 8 to 23. The higher the rating, the higher the efficiency. New units must have a SEER of at least 13.
- MERV: The Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) rating describes how efficiently air filters remove particle pollutants from the air. The scale runs from one to 20 with higher ratings meaning better air filtration. Most filters designed for residential use have ratings between 7 and 12.
- AFUE: The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating describes what percentage of a boiler or furnace’s fuel is actually used to create heat. A unit with a rating of 60 AFUE uses 60 percent of its fuel to create heat but wastes 40 percent of its fuel. Look for AFUE ratings in the high 80s and 90s.
- HSPF: The Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF) rating describes how efficiently heat pumps use energy to reach their heating capacity. Most units have ratings between 5 and 12 with higher ratings meaning more efficiency.
- EER: The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) is calculated according to the same standards as the SEER rating but is used to describe the efficiency of different types of AC units, including portable air conditioners.
- Energy Star: The Energy Star system features numerical rankings from 0 to 100. The higher the ranking, the more efficient the appliance. Some Energy Star ratings also include information about the cost to run a given appliance for a year.
Q: How Do I Know If I Have an Existing Warranty on My Furnace, Air Conditioner, or HVAC System?
A: Check the paperwork that came with your HVAC system to determine if your unit is still under warranty. If you don’t have the paperwork or if you moved into a home with an existing unit, find the unit serial number and model number and call a qualified HVAC dealer. Your dealer should be able to look up warranty information on your behalf.
Q: When Replacing the Outdoor Unit, Should the Indoor Unit Also Be Replaced?
A: We see this question time and time again when answering HVAC questions. Although replacing your indoor and outdoor HVAC units at the same time may not be necessary, it is always advisable. You’ll realize the greatest efficiency if your indoor unit is paired with the outdoor unit for which it was designed. If replacing both units seems too cost intensive, talk to your HVAC dealer about manufacturer financing, rebates, and incentive programs.
Q: Which Type of System Is Better: Ductless, Heat Pump, or Central Air Conditioning?
A: Choosing the right HVAC system for your home or business requires careful evaluation of your personal needs. If your building already has ductwork, you might find a central unit a feasible option. If you’re looking for efficient options that don’t require ductwork, a heat pump or ductless system might be a better choice. Keep the following system descriptions in mind so that you can choose the best option given your needs, and contact us with any questions.
- Ductless systems are comprised of an outdoor unit connected to one or more indoor air handling units via a refrigerant line. These systems are an excellent option for homeowners who don’t want to have ductwork installed or who are looking for an efficient alternative to a central air system.
- Heat pumps can be used for both heating and cooling needs, making them one of the most versatile HVAC devices available on today’s market. Heat pumps are highly efficient and can be integrated with both ducted and ductless HVAC systems.
- Central air systems were the standard in new construction for many years. If ducts are properly installed and sealed, these systems can provide efficient, uniform cooling of a home or business.
Q: How Long Do Air Conditioning Units Last?
A: As with any precision mechanical system, the lifespan of your air conditioning unit will largely depend on how well you keep up with service and maintenance tasks. If you make sure to have regular service and maintenance completed, your unit should last between 12 and 15 years. Remember that the lifespan of a unit will also depend on how frequently it is in use and the climate in which you live.
Q: How Can I Improve Air Quality and Circulation in My Home?
A: Encouraging the circulation of clean, filtered air throughout your home is one of the best ways to improve indoor air quality. Try using an air purifier and humidifier or dehumidifier to tackle your specific needs. You can also use a ventilation system, which will encourage the flow of air throughout your home. Many ventilation systems are fitted with special air filters designed to remove harmful particles and pollutants from the air. Remember to look for a filter with a high MERV rating if you plan on using a ventilator to both clean air in your home and improve circulation.
Q: What Is the Best Thermostat Setting for My Air Conditioner?
A: One of the most common air conditioner questions that HVAC professionals hear is can I use my thermostat to increase energy efficiency? The answer to this question is that you absolutely can. You’re likely to see the best results if you set your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter. You’ll be reasonably warm or cool inside your home, but you won’t be wasting energy to create an unnecessary amount of cooled or heated air. You can also use an advanced thermostat to create heating and cooling programs that will help you save energy while staying comfortable in your home. Look for thermostats that support zoned systems if you want to employ different temperature controls for different rooms in your house.
Q: Why Does My Air Conditioner Turn On and Off?
A: It is normal for your AC unit to cycle on and off while in use. However, cycling on and off too frequently can indicate that your AC unit is in need of service and/or repair. One of the first steps you can take is to turn off the unit and the breaker controlling the unit so that you can inspect the electrical cord. If the cord is in poor condition or if your electrical system is old, this may be affecting your AC unit. You should also check to see if the condenser coils and air filter are dirty or clogged. Remove all dirt and dust. If the unit still turns on and off frequently after you’ve taken these measures, you’ll need to call a professional technician to perform AC repairs. Make a repair appointment as quickly as possible to prevent costly repairs.
Q: Why Does My Air Conditioner Leak Water?
A: It’s completely normal for your AC unit to leak water. As the warm air passes over the refrigerant coils, beads of condensation are formed. The condensation trickles down the unit and runs off the coils as water. Your AC unit should be placed on a slight, downward tilt so that water flows away from your home. If water runoff is coming into your home, you’ll need to reposition the unit so that it tilts away from your house. If you use a window unit that leaks water, place absorbent material below the unit and be sure to wipe condensate off your walls frequently.
Q: Why Does My Air Conditioner Keep Freezing Up?
A: Air conditioner freeze-ups can be caused by a number of mechanical issues. Unless you can easily identify the reason that your unit is freezing up, it’s essential that you call a professional to conduct an inspection and complete all repairs. You should not run the unit while it is frozen as this can cause substantial damage that may require replacement or repair work.
Dirty fans and air filters can cause your AC unit to freeze. After you have shut down power to the unit at the breaker box, remove and clean the air filter and clean the fan. If necessary, replace the air filter. Once you’ve completed these tasks, try running your unit with only the fan on. If you have a combined heating-cooling unit, you can run a moderate heating program. If the unit continues to freeze up, call a professional HVAC technician for assistance.
Air conditioner freeze-ups can also be caused by dirty evaporator coils, broken blowers or defective blower motors, and low refrigerant levels. You will need to have an HVAC professional assist you with these issues. Remember that you should never attempt to handle refrigerants on your own as doing so can be dangerous.
Q: Do You Provide Freon Replacement?
A: During the late 1980s and early 1990s, new regulations were put in place that are aimed at eliminating Freon coolants from commercial and residential appliances. These coolants are being phased out because they are known to produce hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) that are known to be harmful to the environment. Whether or not your unit can be serviced with Freon depends on the date when it was originally built.
Regulations state that Freon must be phased out of appliances by 2020. This means that any AC unit built before 2020 can be serviced with Freon. However, many manufacturers are already moving away from this refrigerant. If you’re shopping for a new HVAC system, choose a unit that uses an alternative refrigerant. This will help to ensure that the refrigerant your unit uses is readily available and reasonably affordable. As the date for total Freon phase out approaches, this type of refrigerant is likely to become more expensive.
It’s important that you never attempt to handle Freon or your AC unit’s refrigerants on your own. These substances can be dangerous to humans, animals, and the environment when not handled properly. In some states, handling these substances without proper licensing is even illegal.
Q: What Are the Benefits of an Air Conditioning Tune Up?
A: Many homeowners wonder if it’s necessary to have air conditioner tune ups conducted on a regular basis. Remember that your AC unit is a complex system. Just like your car, it must be serviced on a regular basis to stay in good working condition and to provide the most efficient level of service possible. During an AC tune up, a qualified technician will complete basic maintenance tasks and will calibrate your unit so that it provides the most efficient level of service possible. An air conditioning tune up offers all of the following benefits:
- You’ll notice increased energy efficiency.
- Calibration of your unit helps to ensure that it meets manufacturer standards.
- Early detection of any potential mechanical issues ensures that they can be repaired before they lead to costly repairs.
- AC tune ups may help you meet maintenance requirements dictated by your manufacturer’s warranty.
- Tune ups can increase the longevity of your AC unit and provide an excellent way to protect the value of your investment.
Q: What Does Duct Cleaning Do?
A: If you use a central heating and cooling system, your home has ductwork. These ducts are responsible for carrying cooled or warmed air throughout your home. Unfortunately, pollutants such as dirt, dust, pollen, dander, mold, and mildew can build up in your ductwork over time. These pollutants decrease the efficiency of your HVAC system and can irritate individuals in your household who suffer from respiratory issues. Choosing a duct cleaning service is a good way to eliminate these problems while realizing small increases in your HVAC unit’s efficiency. Duct cleaning can do all of the following:
- Improve air quality by removing pollutants.
- Increase efficiency by ensuring that air can flow through ducts with little resistance.
- Boost overall air circulation.
- Discourage the buildup of pollutants, mold, and mildew.
It’s essential that a professional HVAC technician complete all duct cleaning tasks. If your technician discovers a rodent or pest infestation in your ductwork, you will need to call a professional exterminator before duct cleaning can be completed. If your ducts are prone to mold and mildew growth, it’s a good idea to have your technician spray a light coating material in the ducts to discourage the growth of these harmful substances.