- What Size Air Conditioner Do I Need?
- What Do SEER, MERV and Other Air Conditioner and Heating Ratings Mean?
- How Do I Know If the Warranty On My Furnace, Air Conditioner or HVAC System Is Still Valid?
- Should the Indoor and Outdoor Units Be Replaced at the Same Time?
- Which Type of System is Better: Ductless, Heat Pump or Central Air Conditioning?
- How Long Do Air Conditioning Units Last?
- How Can I Improve Air Quality and Circulation?
- What is the Best Thermostat Setting for My Air Conditioner?
- Why Does My Air Conditioner Turn On and Off?
- Why Does My Air Conditioner Leak Water?
- Why Does My Air Conditioner Keep Freezing Up?
- Do You Provide Freon Replacement?
- What are the Benefits of an Air Conditioning Tune-Up?
- What Does Duct Cleaning Do?
It is vital to purchase a properly sized air conditioner. If the unit is too big, it will constantly cycle on and off. This will cause it to use more energy, burn out more quickly, and not effectively deal with humidity in the home. On the other hand, an undersized unit will run constantly, but still never be able to cool the home to the desired temperature.
The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is determined according to its BTUs. BTU is short for British Thermal Unit and is a unit of energy. The energy needed to freeze a ton of ice in one hour is 12,000 BTUs. This is why air conditioners are sometimes rated by tons, with a one-ton air conditioner having 12,000 BTUs of cooling power. Here is a list of recommended air conditioner sizes by square footage:
- 100 to 300 square feet needs 5,000 to 7,000 BTUs
- 300 to 550 square feet needs 8,000 to 12,000 BTUs
- 550 to 1,000 square feet needs 14,000 to 18,000 BTUs
- 1,000 to 1,200 square feet needs 21,000 to 24,000 BTUs
- 1,500 to 2,000 square feet needs 30,000 BTUs
- 2,000 to 2,500 square feet needs 34,000 BTUs
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio and measures an air conditioner’s energy efficiency. The higher the SEER rating, the less energy the AC system uses to achieve the same results. Federal law requires a minimum rating of 13 on new units. A rating of 16 provides additional energy savings and prevents the release of 30,000 pounds of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as compared to a unit with a rating of 13. A rating of 23 is the highest.
MERV is the measure of an air filter’s effectiveness at filtering particles out of the air. The rating is on a scale of one to 16 based on the size of the particles captured. Experts suggest that beyond a range of seven to 13, there is little gain of effectiveness for a residential air conditioner.
Check the unit’s label to find out the date it was manufactured. The standard warranty is five years, but this varies. A call to the manufacturer will probably give a definite answer. They may be able to tell based on the manufacture date or may have the serial numbers for all units under warranty in their computer system.
Yes, the indoor and outdoor units should be replaced at the same time. The reason for this is that the two units are designed to work together. Even if a replacement unit works with the unit being replaced or by itself increases the overall efficiency, the two units will not work as effectively as two that were designed to work together.
Further, if one unit is so old that it needs to be replaced, it means the other half of the system is likely equally as old and also due to be replaced. Air conditioner technology has increased significantly over the last ten years and not replacing both units will lose out on some of those advances.
Ductless air conditioners are individual units designed to cool a single room. They consist of an indoor air handling unit and an outdoor compressor that are connected via a three inch hole in the wall. They are best used in houses without pre installed central air conditioning and offer greater control of the temperature within individual rooms.
Heat pumps are what most people think of when they hear central air conditioning. They send air throughout the building via ducts connected to a central air handling unit. They provide both cooling and heating for buildings in areas with mild winters, but are not equipped to efficiently handle sustained temperatures below freezing. These units are the least obtrusive and are common in most new construction.
Central air conditioners are similar to heat pumps and are installed primarily in cooler climates. They provide cooling only while heating is handled by a separate furnace. They cool more efficiently than heat pumps, so are the best option in cold climates that need a separate heating system.
Most air conditioning units have a general life-span of 10 to 15 years. With regular maintenance, they may very well last another five years. However, today’s air conditioners are up to 60% more energy efficient than models from eight to 10 years ago, so it may be more economical to replace the unit earlier.
Modern homes are designed to be airtight to maximize energy efficiency by keeping air conditioned air inside and uncomfortable outside air outside. This has had the side effect of allowing pollutants from the kitchen, cleaning products, and other sources to accumulate within the home. While it is on, an air conditioner helps to remove these pollutants, but there is insufficient circulation at other times and this is magnified during milder months when the unit is on only for very short periods of time.
When a ventilation system is installed, the air is circulated continuously and the pollutants are constantly expelled and fresh air is brought in. When combined with an air conditioner, only a low volume unit is needed and when placed properly, the increase in energy usage is minimal.
The magic number most cited by utility companies as the ideal temperature is 78 degrees. This is because experts recommend setting the temperature to the highest temperature that is still comfortable to the occupants of the house. As a general rule, each degree the thermostat is lowered results in a seven percent increase in energy usage and a proportionally higher electric bill. Setting the temperature to 75 instead of 78 could result in a 21% utility bill increase or could even be more if the utility company charges higher rates as energy usage increases.
In order to save money while away from home or at night, it is also recommended to increase the temperature by five to 10 degrees before leaving or going to sleep. This will allow a comfortable temperature to be quickly restored later while also resulting in a significant energy savings.
An air conditioner that constantly turns on and off wastes energy, may not cool properly, does not remove humidity from the home, and may result in the unit burning out faster. The most common cause is the installation of a unit that was too big for the home in which it was installed. If the unit was previously working fine and this occurs over a longer period of time rather than a single mild day where significant cooling was not required, the AC needs maintenance.
One possible cause is an electrical fault causing the unit to constantly cycle on and off. Another is leaking refrigerant. A third is a clogged air filter causing the coils to freeze shortly after the unit turns on and then defrost when it turns off in a repeating cycle. Luckily, these are usually minor AC repairs.
Water is a byproduct of the operation of an air conditioner. They are designed to remove moisture from inside air and some of this moisture is drawn into the heating coil to help keep it from overheating. The remaining water collects in a drain and is designed to flow out through a pipe. This may be more pronounced during heavy operation, but is normal. Other water may form where cold surfaces cause condensation and is again normal.
Water in other areas may be a sign maintenance is needed. A steady stream in an unexpected place could indicate a blocked or damaged drainpipe. If the unit does not remain sealed properly, it could be exposed to additional hot air and cause unusually high levels of condensation. Similarly, operation in colder than normal temperatures can slow the evaporation of normally produced water and allow it to pool.
There are several possible unrelated causes for an air conditioner freezing up.
Cold outside temperatures can lead to a lower internal temperature for the unit and result in the coils freezing. This is most common when there is an extreme difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures.
Poor airflow can also result in an AC freezing. Normally, the warm air being pumped out of the house passes over the cooling coils and keeps their temperature from dropping too low. If this airflow is obstructed, the air that condenses on the cooling coils will freeze before it evaporates.
Perhaps counter intuitively, a low refrigerant level can also cause freezing. Air conditioners are designed so that Freon levels remain constant. If the refrigerant falls to low or begins leaking, the unit will overcompensate for the loss and cause the cooling coils to become too cold.
Freon is the common name for a refrigerant formally known as R-22. Although it may not legally be used in new air conditioning units as of January 2010, existing units can still be serviced with Freon. There are strict protocols for ensuring that no Freon is released into the environment, so this service should only be performed by a qualified AC repair technician. Improper handling during a do it yourself repair could result in a violation of the Clean Air Act. The production of Freon will be outlawed beginning in 2020 so conversion to an alternative refrigerant should be considered for air conditioners expected to last that long.
One of the biggest benefits of an air conditioning tune-up is spotting potential problems early and avoiding more expensive repairs later. A failing part that could cause other parts of the system to burn out or even create a fire hazard can be quickly replaced. Plus, if the problem is spotted during the tune-up, it will be fixed before the air conditioner suddenly breaks during peak air conditioning season and avoid expensive emergency repairs or days without air conditioning.
A tune-up can also reduce utility bills. A clean air conditioner without debris restricting airflow runs much more efficiently. Ensuring that refrigerant levels are optimal also ensures optimal performance. This also increases comfort levels. An overtaxed air conditioner will not be able to cool a home fully on the warmest days and could possibly even freeze up and shut down completely.
Duct cleaning consists of the cleaning of the air ducts leading to vents throughout the house as well as the entire air conditioning unit. Its main goal is to eliminate mold, dirt, pests, or other debris that can accumulate over time. Cleaning is only recommended on an as needed basis because of the time it takes, cost, and risk of damage to the system. Possible damage could include disturbance to critical AC system components or puncturing the air ducts while cleaning hard-to-reach areas. Because of this, the job is best left to professionals.
When duct cleaning is done, it can significantly increase air quality as the home’s entire air supply is no longer passing over any pollutants that may have been present in the ducts. It also increases the system’s energy efficiency because dirt in the system reduces air flow and forces it to work harder.