Should I Get the Biggest Air Conditioner Available?
As the old adage says, bigger isn't always better. In fact, an air conditioner that is too big for your home will constantly cycle on and off, which leads to uncomfortable temperature changes and wastes electricity. Of course, getting an air conditioner that is too small won't help you either; the unit will have to work very hard to keep your home cool, reducing its efficiency and its useful lifespan.
To know how much cooling power your home needs, ask your air conditioning contractor to performs a load calculation. By accounting for square footage, layout, insulation and other factors, a professional HVAC contractor can determine your home's cooling load and recommend an air conditioner that is properly sized to meet those cooling needs. Remember to get a new load calculation every time you install a new unit, as changing circumstances may have made the old calculation obsolete.
What Do Ratings Like SEER and MERV Mean?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measure of the cooling efficiency of an air conditioner. It is obtained by dividing the air conditioner's cooling capacity in British thermal units by its power usage in watts; the higher the SEER, the less power the unit needs to cool the home. Typical SEER values range from about 10 to 20; Energy Star rated air conditioners have SEER ratings of at least 14.
HSPF stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, which measures the energy efficiency of a heat pump's heating cycle. As with SEER, a higher HSPF indicates that the heat pump is more energy efficient during the heating season.
The efficiency of a boiler or furnace is its Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE), expressed as a percentage. The higher the AFUE, the more fuel the unit converts into usable heat. For instance, a 90 AFUE furnace converts 90 percent of the fuel it burns into heat for the home; the remaining 10 percent is dispersed heat in the exhaust.
An air filter's Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) describes the size of the particles it can filter from the air. The higher the MERV, the more particles a given filter can remove. MERV values generally range from 1 to 16.
What Does My HVAC System's Warranty Cover?
Warranties vary somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer and from product to product, of course, but the standard factory warranty usually covers parts, while the HVAC contractor who installed your unit covers labor. To find information specific to your warranty, look in the homeowner information packet that you should have received when your unit was installed. If you cannot find that packet, check the unit itself for a date of manufacture; machines built within the last five years are often still under warranty. Finally, our technicians can help you locate and understand your warranty information during a service visit.
Should I Replace Both Units Together?
As a rule, yes, the indoor unit and outdoor unit should be replaced at the same time. Some benefits of having both procedures done at once are:
- Matched System: Indoor and outdoor units are designed to work with specific other units. You may be able to get by with an unmatched system, but energy efficiency will suffer.
- Upgraded Technology: The HVAC industry is constantly working to improve air conditioner efficiency and performance. By replacing both units, you will be able to take full advantage of those improvements.
- New Warranty: If you replace both units at the same time, you can rest assured that the new warranty covers your entire cooling system. Otherwise, you could be stuck paying for future repairs out of pocket.
In general, if your indoor unit is more than a few years old, you should have it replaced when you replace your outdoor unit. Of course, your HVAC contractor will be able to offer more specific recommendations.
Should I Choose Central Air, Ductless or a Heat Pump?
Since every home has unique cooling needs and every homeowner has individual preferences, there is no one correct answer to this question. All of these machines have their advantages and disadvantages, so choosing the right one is a matter of understanding those upsides and downsides.
Central air conditioners are powerful machines that use forced air to quickly cool your home. They can dependably cool even the largest homes, but tend to be somewhat bulky and noisy when compared to other types of cooling equipment. Still, the HVAC industry is constantly finding new ways to streamline central air, and it tends to be an affordable and effective option for many homes.
Ductless air conditioners use new technology to cool your home without need for expensive ductwork. These units are compact, making them ideal for small homes and apartments, and their variable speed compressors improve comfort and efficiency by matching your home's cooling needs in real time. Ductless systems do require specialized knowledge to set up, but after installation, they tend to run very smoothly.
Heat pumps are dual-use units that effectively function as reversible air conditioners. During the cooling season, the heat pump collects heat from inside and releases it outside; during the heating season, the cycle runs backward as the unit collects heat from the outdoor air. Because they combine heating and cooling in one package, heat pumps are great choices for homes where space is at a premium. However, they tend to require a fair amount of maintenance to keep running throughout the year.
How Long Will My AC Unit Last?
For the most part, air conditioners are designed to last about 10 years. That lifespan tends to change somewhat depending on the unit's degree of use, however; in hot areas, air conditioners have to work very hard and endure a great deal of wear and tear as a result. Conversely, air conditioners tend to last a little longer in areas with mild climates.
To help your air conditioner last as long as possible, you will need to keep it properly maintained. Changing the air filter frequently will help, as will carrying out frequent checks for corrosion on the wires and other visible maintenance issues. The best way to make the most of your air conditioner is to invest in an annual service agreement; our technicians will come to your home and clear up any small issues before they can threaten your unit's future.
How Can a Ventilation System Improve Indoor Air Quality?
Improving indoor air quality is particularly essential for people who suffer from asthma or allergies, but it is important for anyone. One of the most effective ways to promote good air quality in your home is to invest in a dedicated ventilator, which removes old, stale air from inside and replaces it with clean, fresh air from the outdoors. Ventilators are designed to work in concert with your existing air conditioner or heat pump, so you will notice an immediate difference in air quality without sacrificing any cooling power.