HVAC Frequently Asked Questions

HVAC Frequently Asked Questions

HVAC or Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning includes most heating and cooling services used by commercial and residential buildings. With goals including thermal management, humidity control, and indoor air quality, HVAC applications incorporate air purifiers, furnaces, ventilation, and air conditioners.

These are the most frequently asked HVAC questions, with a focus on air conditioning.

FAQs

What Does Energy Star Mean?

ENERGY STAR is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) program, designed to help consumers make more energy efficient buying decisions. The label signifies that the product meets energy-efficiency standards.

What is SEER?

SEER or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio measures the efficiency of air conditioning and heat-pump cooling. SEER measures cooling output by season, divided by total electric input during the same period. Higher SEER translates to higher efficiency. SEER typically ranges from 13-17.

What’s the Average Lifespan of an Air Conditioning System?

Most HVAC systems last for 10-15 years, although efficiency will decline over that period. If you live in a high-humidity area, your system’s life expectancy may be shorter. Periodic maintenance will extend the longevity of your air conditioner.

What Goes into Installing a New HVAC System?

If your home or business does not currently have a central air system, it will require a significant amount of installation. New systems include ductwork, insulation, refrigerant piping, electrical wiring, condensate piping, flue piping and terminations, chimney liners, slabs, filters, driers, and much more.

However, the exact installation will change depending on your system, whether you have a duct or ductless system, and what type of air conditioner you have.

Is My Air Conditioner Overloading My Electric System?

If you’ve installed a new HVAC system, have a very old one, or are otherwise noticing problems with your electric, you may be concerned. For example, is it normal for lights to blink when your air conditioner kicks on? Actually yes. Blinking lights commonly occur when large compressor loads start, which cause a temporary drop in voltage. This does not negatively affect anything in your home but may indicate that you have an older electric system or a large motor/compressor.

How are the sizing capacities of heating and cooling systems measured?

Heating and cooling systems are measured based on tonnage. A 1-ton air conditioner capacity translates to 12,000 BTU/H, with most residential systems ranging between 1 and 5 tons.

What size HVAC system should I have?

You may have heard that there is a rule of thumb for sizing an air conditioner for your home. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. 1 ton of air conditioning capacity can cool 300-800 square feet of home depending on factors such as insulation, windows, and room construction. You’ll need a professional evaluation to know what size HVAC system you should have.

Is a Larger Capacity System Better?

While many people assume that a larger system will heat or cool their home more quickly, this isn’t the case. A too-large system is less efficient because it will run in numerous short cycles, using more energy. Installing an air conditioning system that meets your home’s needs will create an optimal cycle to reduce total energy usage. Here, a smaller system is actually better in that it is more energy efficient.

Is My Air Conditioning Unit Big Enough?

It’s important to request a heat/load calculation to determine the proper size needed for your home before making a purchase. Your HVAC installer can perform this calculation, likely as a free service during installation.

How Do Air Conditioner Cycles Work?

Most air conditioners are sized to remove heat from a home as quickly as it comes in, when the outside temperature is 110°. Ideally, the system should be able to kick on at 110° and keep up with but not gain on reducing temperature, so that it does not turn off.

In most cases, the external temperature will be lower than 110° when you turn your air conditioner on, meaning that the air conditioner will run until the temperature reaches 18-20 degrees below that of outside, after which, it shuts off.

Is it Bad for an Air Conditioner to Run Constantly?

No. Startup periods utilize more electricity and offer less cooling. The longer your system runs, the more efficient it is.

Does Closing Registers or Doors Improve Efficiency?

Many people believe that closing the registers or ventilation or blocking off certain areas of the house will reduce the amount of energy used to cool the house. Unfortunately, it often has the opposite effect. Closing registers and doors disrupts airflow, causing the system to work harder to cool less space. In most cases, blocking off certain areas of your home also makes the system too large for that area of your home, causing it to cycle on and off more frequently.

What Temperature is Air Coming from an Air Conditioner?

Air conditioners decrease air temperature by an average of 15-20 degrees. This means that if the outside temperature is 80°, your average air output will be between 60°-62°. If your home is cooler, the air is very humid, or other factors affect the home, the actual air output can vary slightly by a few degrees up or down.

What Maintenance do Air Conditioners Need?

Most air conditioners require regular cleaning, which can be done by the homeowner/business owner. Here, you have to consider the location and placement of the air conditioner when determining maintenance. For example, it’s crucial to change filters regularly. Air conditioners typically recommend changing filters every 3 months, although this varies depending on the make and model. It’s also important to keep the immediate area clear of debris, clutter, plants, and other possible damage. This is especially important for ground-mounted units, which can be clogged or blocked by grass, debris, and even trash.

How Often Should Air Conditioners be Inspected?

It’s important to have a twice-yearly inspection of any HVAC units, typically once before summer and once before winter. This will likely include professional maintenance and may include cleaning, parts replacement, or repairs. This maintenance is intended to improve efficiency and prevent problems that could occur because of poor maintenance.

Should I Check Anything Before Calling Service for My Air Conditioner?

It’s always important to check that your air conditioner is plugged in, that breakers have not flipped, and that disconnects are turned on. You also want to check your thermostat especially if it is a battery-operated model.

Are Air Conditioners Environmentally Safe?

Many air conditioners use R-410A or Puron rather than Freon refrigerant. This is safer for the environment than the gas widely known as “Freon”.

Do Window or Split Duct Air Conditioners Offer Better Cooling?

Most home and small commercial systems use split duct cooling, which circulates compressed refrigerant in a “split” system. This system is known as “split” because one portion of the system is used to cool air and another portion of the system is used to re-cool and condense refrigerant, which is typically achieved through inside and outside components. Here, split systems use forced air to circulate air through ducts where cooler air is needed, keeping a constant stasis in air temperature throughout cooled rooms.

A window air conditioner typically works using a single air conditioning unit and no ducts, meaning that air is forced into the system, cooled, and then pushed into the room. Old, warmer air is forced back outside. This system is ideal for cooling a single room or a small home, but less efficient at circulating air and maintaining stasis.

Are Inverter or Standard Air Conditioners More Efficient?

Inverter Air Conditioning offers several differences over non-inverter air conditioning, primarily in that inverter technology allows the compressor to work at variable speed. In short, an inverter system can adjust to meet output needs, meaning that it will use less energy. However, inverter systems are standard for most installers because the only real advantage non-inverter air conditioners have is a reduced cost of hardware.

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