Most homeowners want their HVAC system to last for as long as possible. Not surprisingly, regular maintenance on an HVAC system can help it to stay in good working condition. Take a look at just a few maintenance practices that can contribute to the long life of an HVAC system.
Changing the Air Filter
This is a simple maintenance practice that should be done about every 90 days. Over time dirt, dust and pet hair can clog an air filter in an HVAC system. This debris prevents an HVAC system from working at its most efficient. In addition, a clogged air filter isn’t able to capture any more dirt and debris. This affects the overall air quality in a home. Maintaining good air quality in a home is especially important for occupants with respiratory conditions such as asthma.
Clearing the Space around an Outdoor Unit
Sometimes weeds, vines, brush and other vegetation can grow too close to an outdoor air conditioner. This type of growth can interfere with the efficient operation of the unit. For instance, weeds and vines can push themselves against the coils of the air conditioner causing damage. It’s best if there is approximately two feet of space around an outdoor air conditioning unit.
Cleaning the Evaporator Coils
Often times, moisture accumulates on the evaporator coils of an HVAC system. This moisture creates an ideal environment for mold to grow. The presence of mold is unhealthy to the occupants of a household. In addition, this mold can damage the coils. The evaporator coils need to be examined and/or cleaned on a regular basis.
Checking Electrical Connections
Over time, the electrical connections within an HVAC system may become loose or damaged. A broken electrical connection can prevent an HVAC system from working properly. It’s best to check these connections to fix the problem before costly repairs become necessary.
The Benefits of Calling a Certified Technician
Finally, there are many reasons to call a certified HVAC technician for regular maintenance services. For one, a certified technician is trained to recognize potential problems in an HVAC system. This can help a homeowner to avoid expensive repair bills in the future. Also, a certified technician knows how to provide maintenance services in a safe way. He or she has the skills and equipment to make sure a system is operating at its highest level of efficiency. In addition, a certified technician can keep track of a maintenance schedule. Consequently, a homeowner doesn’t have to remember when it is time to check the air filter, evaporator coils, vents etc. The technician takes care of the maintenance work as well as the schedule!
There are many factors to consider when thinking about purchasing a new heating pump for heating and cooling the home. Because the system works by moving air from a warm area to a cool one like a refrigerator instead of generating the heat, the operating cost is approximately a quarter the cost of other heating and cooling systems. With the way the heat pump is built to operate in a highly efficient manner, it allows 4x the energy it uses. They’re an excellent choice for climates that don’t have sub-zero temperatures. A properly sized heating pump can trim electric usage by 30-40%. It’ll also dehumidify better than other types, resulting in less energy usage and cooler comfort during the summer. They do require larger duct work than other heating systems and should be sealed for efficient operation.
Sizing of a heat pump unit should start by figuring the required cooling capacity, and then figure the heating capacity of the selected heat pump. It’s rated by a standard outside temperature of 47 degrees because the unit is placed outdoors and exposed to different temperatures. The design and size must meet the temperature levels of the locality of the pump placement. Heat loss must be factored in the equation for sizing capacity because the unit must produce enough heat to make up for the loss through windows, walls, and ceilings to keep the home comfortable during the winter months. As the temperature gets colder, a supplemental heating element takes the heating capacity back to where it maintains sufficient heat output for warmth comfort.
Once the decision is made to purchase a heating pump heating and cooling system, the consumer should calculate the size necessary to heat and cool the home efficiently before contacting various companies for pricing. For example, a 2400 square foot home would need approximately a five ton system. A ton is equal to 12,000 BTU, and one ton is recommended for 500 square feet of heating. These are rough estimates only but proper sizing techniques are recommended. Knowing some basic facts will be an asset when talking to dealers.
To assist in determining the right size, the most recent version of the ACCA Manuals J and S should be used for the calculations of the unit. There are built-in safety factors to accommodate most needs. When the window dressing is unknown, they should be factored in place or the calculation will be overestimated. The temperatures of the area shouldn’t be altered because it would lead to over-sizing. Many companies estimate up when figuring the calculation capacity of the unit because they believe more is better. The recommended temperature for cooling is 70 degrees and 75 degrees for heating. Right-sizing of a heat pump provides a 10% bonus energy savings.
A pre-charged cooling system is charged with refrigerant and doesn’t require additional services for adding refrigerant. The cooling system is used to cool air that’s circulated throughout a home. The systems are usually installed by licensed professionals, such as HVAC technicians. The pre-charged units eliminate the need for removing the air from the system by creating a vacuum, brazing the metal parts together and then charging the system by adding refrigerant. The refrigerant is inside the units, which have no leaks. However, any connected parts could be a source for leaks and must also be sealed.
Air conditioner units have three very important components. The AC condenser, evaporator and compressor must function in unison because the refrigerant repeatedly changes from liquid into a gas and from gas into a liquid. Warm air transfers heat to the coils and causes the liquid refrigerant to change into a gas. The compressor is used to pressurize the gas, which forces the gas to change into a liquid. A pre-charged unit is sealed to prevent leaks and usually connected to the system with quick connect fittings.
The cooling system has metal tubing that also holds the refrigerant, which moves through the system. The tubing is sealed and usually quite fragile. Therefore, the HVAC technicians must carefully handle the units and ensure that the refrigerant is not accidentally released through a crack in the tubing. There are quick connect fittings installed on the metal tubing, which are used to connect to the pre-charged unit that supplies refrigerant to the entire system. The metal tubing may also be connected by brazing, which is similar to soldering. However, brazing requires a much higher temperature because the filler metal has a higher melting point than solder.
The HVAC technicians must have special licenses for handling refrigerant, which is consider to be a source of problems for the environment. There are refrigerant recovery machines that’re used to collect refrigerant from units. The refrigerant shouldn’t be released into the environment and should ONLY be handled by licensed professionals. Therefore, leaks should also ONLY be repaired by technicians who are licensed to handle refrigerant.
Benefits of the Pre-Charged Units
The pre-charged units offer the additional feature that the components will probably not need to be checked for leaks, which is another service that is eliminated. Leaks are serious problems with cooling systems because the refrigerant can leak from the quick connect fittings, from a crack in the tubing or from a component, such as from a condenser. The HVAC technicians usually charge a system with refrigerant and then quickly search for the source of a leak. Therefore, the pre-charged units can save time during an installation and help to eliminate inspections for leaks.
Central air conditioners come in two form factors: split systems or packaged units. These systems have significant differences and there are pros and cons associated with each.
These systems consist of two main parts: a metal cabinet that sits on a concrete slab outdoors and another cabinet that is installed inside the building, hence the term “split.” The indoor cabinet may be inside a closet, basement or in an attic and will often include a furnace. The indoor and outdoor parts of the split system are connected to each other via a refrigerant line.
The outdoor cabinet houses the compressor and condenser, while the indoor cabinet houses the evaporator.
Split systems have the potential to be far more efficient (as high as 25 SEER), though installation involves two units instead of one like with a packaged unit. Two units may be more difficult to install than one; it’s also important to note that unlike a packaged unit, a split system cannot be charged until it’s installed. Homeowners should also note that proper installation is crucial for optimal performance. If a split unit isn’t installed properly, this can severely reduce its lifespan.
The air conditioner’s main components like the evaporator and condenser are all in one cabinet, and are thus “packaged.” Most of the time, the cabinet is located somewhere outside the building, usually on the roof. In some cases, a packaged unit will include electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace.
Since packaged units are installed outdoors, installation is easier and they save on space in the building. Packaged systems may also work better once installed since they’re assembled in a controlled factory environment and come pre-charged with refrigerant; both factors can ensure optimal function once they are installed. However, their efficiency potential is much less than that of split systems (15 SEER at most). Another drawback comes from the fact that packaged units are placed in a harsh environment; the elements along with wild animals such as raccoons can cause problems. Animals can chew on wires or nest in the cabinet.
Price could be considered another factor. Packaged units are usually slightly more expensive than split systems but since the installation of split systems is more labor intensive, they both wind up costing roughly the same overall. A split system may be less expensive if the home is already equipped with a furnace and the property owner is replacing an older air conditioning unit.
When choosing between the two, the determining factor may be the building in which the system is to be installed. While larger and newer buildings may have room for the indoor part of a split system, a packaged unit may be the only option in a smaller or older one.