According to the U.S Department of Energy, more than 75% of homes in the U.S have installed air conditioners. These systems consume more than 6% of the total energy produced in the U.S, and homeowners spend over $29 billion paying up energy bills annually. Surprisingly, most homeowners don’t understand how heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) work. They don’t know the magic behind these systems’ ability to make indoor temperatures at home and office spaces bearable.
Air conditioners have many components that play a crucial role in improving indoor comfort and air quality. Understanding the basics can help homeowners prevent future problems. Below are the frequently asked questions about heating and cooling systems.
What HVAC Size is Best for Home or Office?
Installing a heating, ventilation, and cooling system is a significant investment, and homeowners should ensure that they purchase the perfect size. The primary purpose of heating and cooling systems is to warm or cool down indoor environments. However, you shouldn’t install a unit that doesn’t match your home’s square footage.
A perfectly sized unit assures utmost comfort, energy efficiency, and performance. While consulting an HVAC professional about the right size is prudent, it is important to understand some basics. First, air conditioners are rated according to their energy efficiency and cooling capacity.
- The cooling capacity – air conditioners have a BTU or BTUH rating, which measures cooling capacity. BTU (British Thermal Unit) is the energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by only by one-degree Fahrenheit.
- Energy-efficiency – HVAC energy efficiency is measured using the SEER rating.
Apart from the square footage of your home, other variables that affect your air conditioner size include:
- Climate – Areas with warm climates require very functional air conditioners. Units with a high SEER rating are a good choice.
- Windows – Single-pane windows highly contribute to energy loss. This makes them less energy-efficient than double or triple-pane windows.
- The exterior of the building – Be it your home or office, the material type and color of the building’s exterior affect heat absorption and reflection. Light colors reflect sunlight, bricks absorb and retain heat, while vinyl siding provides excellent insulation.
- Insulation – Your home’s insulation impacts how your home keeps heat out during summer and cold air during winter.
Installing an extra-large unit doesn’t necessarily mean better temperature regulation. An oversized unit will warm or cool quickly, resulting in frequent cycles, uneven temperatures, and high energy bills. On the other hand, a small-sized unit will struggle to attain the required temperatures. This strains the system, causes wear and tear, and shortens its lifespan.
How Often Should HVAC Units Be Serviced?
Servicing air conditioners regularly is crucial for improved efficiency and durability. Unfortunately, there is some wiggle room regarding how often the HVAC unit should be serviced. Nonetheless, manufacturers recommend servicing heating and cooling systems at least twice every year. The first servicing should be done in fall, and the other in spring.
In fall, HVAC maintenance experts focus on the furnace and heater. This prepares the unit for the forthcoming cold season. During spring, as the weather warms, HVAC technicians tune up the conditioner for high temperatures and humidity. However, you should get in touch with your HVAC contractor if you notice signs of damage. Service professionals often focus on the following HVAC components:
- Lubricate the moving parts to ensure smooth operation
- Clean various parts, such as the filter, to optimize their function
- Gauge airflow and electricity to avoid serious problems
- Various parts, including the blower, condenser, and the ductwork, are inspected
- The refrigerant level is checked
- The condensate drain is also checked. This component often clogs during spring and fall because of minimal use of the AC, potentially leading to mold growth
Generally, the primary goal of HVAC servicing is ensuring that the system functions efficiently and optimally.
How Often Should Air Filters Be Cleaned or Replaced?
Air filters are a crucial HVAC component that protects the system from damage, ensures smooth functioning, and cleans indoor airflow. Unfortunately, due to its hidden nature, most homeowners forget to clean or replace their air filters timely. Air conditioners with clogged air filters often work harder or strain.
Furnace filters with accumulated dust or dirt often have limited airflow, causing overexertion of the unit. This significantly reduces the unit’s efficiency, increases utility bills, and damages other components, such as the freezing coils.
That said, the frequency of replacing the HVAC air filter depends on several factors. They include;
- The type of filter – Low-cost fiberglass air filters should be replaced after 30 days. Pleated expensive filters can be used for up to 6 months. If your HVAC system uses washable or electrostatic filters, they can simply be washed, air-dried, and re-installed monthly. Washable filters are eco-friendly and can be reused for 5 to 10 years.
- Who is in your house – The replacement frequency also depends on the occupants of the house. If someone suffers from asthma or allergy in your house, filters should be replaced frequently. Similarly, it should also be replaced frequently (at least every two months) if there are shedding pets in the house.
How to Tell if the Air Conditioner is Broken?
You should hire AC professionals to repair your unit if:
- It blows hot air – A unit that generates hot air indicates the possibility of a broken compressor or leaking refrigerant. While both issues can be fixed, you should address them before they worsen.
- Unusual sounds – Most heating and cooling systems run smoothly. While the motor produces some noise, it shouldn’t be grating, squealing, grinding, or loud noises.
- Odd odors – Unusual smell is another sign of problems in your unit. Musty smells indicate mold or mildew growth, while a pungent smell is a sign of burned insulation.
- High humidity levels – Air conditioners should regulate indoor humidity and air quality. However, if water starts pooling around your windows or you sense a sticky feeling indoors, chances are your conditioner isn’t functioning optimally.
There is a lot to learn about heating and cooling systems. The key to ensuring that your HVAC unit performs optimally is hiring professional installation companies and frequent maintenance. Doing this eliminates the possible occurrence of common HVAC problems.