How does a central air conditioner work?

A central air conditioner helps keep your home cool and reduces humidity levels by transferring heat from the inside of a building to the outside. The compressor inside an air conditioning unit pumps refrigerant (freon) through a closed system of piping to an outside coil to gather heat and moisture from indoors. A fan blows outside air over the hot coil, transferring heat from the refrigerant to the outdoor air. Because the heat is removed from the indoor air, the indoor area is cooled.

How does a heat pump work?

A heat pump is like the air conditioner described above except it also provides heat in the winter. In the warmer months, the heat pump collects heat from the house and expels it outside. In the cooler months, the heat pump extracts heat from outside air and circulates it inside the house. The heat pump operates best when the outdoor temperature is above 32º Fahrenheit. Below that, emergency heat may be needed. A heat pump takes 30 to 60 percent less energy to supply the same heat when compared to an electric furnace with a resistance heating element.

How does a gas furnace work?

A gas furnace keeps your home warm in the winter and is an important part of your air conditioning system in the summer. In a furnace, gas is combusted in a burner. The heat produced from that reaction passes through a heat exchanger where it is transferred to the air distribution system. The duct system carries and disperses the conditioned air and the flue or vent pipe releases the byproducts, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, outside the home.

What is a SEER?

Air conditioning equipment is rated by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, or SEER. The higher the SEER, the less energy you will use to cool your home which results in lower electric bills. Often the electric savings are enough to offset the cost of the new equipment within a few years.

Are there any rules or laws regarding SEER ratings?

Yes. To increase the energy efficiency of residential air conditioners, the Department of Energy has issued new standards that went into effect January 23, 2006. Air conditioners manufactured after January 23 must meet a higher minimum standard, achieving a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio of 13 or higher. The standards, however, do not require you to change your existing heating and cooling unit, nor does it mean that replacement parts and services will no longer be available. Equipment with a rating less than 13 SEER manufactured before this date may still be sold and installed (until manufacturer's stock is depleted).

What is the average life of an air conditioning system?

It can vary, the average life of a unit is 15 years, but individual units may vary and last much longer, depending on the amount of usage and how well it is maintained. According to an ARI survey, heat pumps have about the same life span when recommended maintenance procedures were followed. Newer units are expected to last even longer.

How do I know when it's time to replace my system?

When your system is old or in need of frequent, major or costly repairs, you may want to consider replacing it. While replacing a compressor is less expensive than replacing the entire unit, a new unit may give you greater efficiency and lower your utility bill in the long run. Today's systems can be up to 60% more efficient than systems manufactured just 10 years ago.

Should I replace the indoor and the outdoor units at the same time? What if I only want to replace one or the other?

Air conditioning and heating units are designed to operate as a matched system. The efficiency rating is based on the entire system and if you install a new, higher SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) condensing unit with an older indoor unit you will not achieve efficiency. By replacing the entire system, your system will be more efficient and reliable. Another consideration to be made is the refrigerant in your current system. R-22 refrigerant, the type used in most heat pumps and air conditioners today is being phased out and replaced by R-410a, a new, more environmentally friendly refrigerant. If you replace only your outdoor unit, you will have to install one that operates with R-22. When your indoor unit needs to be replaced, you’ll have the same problem. Even if R-22 equipment is still available at that time you’ll have an outdated system that will cost you significantly more to maintain than a new R-410a system.

How do I know what size unit our house needs?
Many factors are considered before recommending what size unit to install in your home, factors like the size of the home; the type of home - on grade, off grade, manufactured, on pilings; age of the home; climate; the number and type of windows installed; amount of insulation in the home; and even the number of people living in the house.

How often should I change the air filter in my system?

Typically, filters should be replaced or cleaned at least once per month so as not to restrict the air flow through it. Some filters, such as media filters or electronic air cleaners, are washable; others are disposable and must be replaced.

What effect does sunlight have on my cooling system?

In summer, direct sunlight increases the load on your cooling system. Use of window shades and awnings will reduce the amount of direct sunlight and lower the cooling load. In winter, direct sunlight reduces the load on your heating system. Open window shades and awnings to increase direct sunlight and lower the heating load.

Can shrubs or flowers be planted around an outdoor unit?

Yes. However, we recommend that plants be at least 18 inches away from the unit. This allows for plenty of room for air circulation in and out of the unit. Without this room for air circulation, the unit could overheat, resulting in a premature need for service.

Basic rules to follow for keeping cool at minimum cost: