FAQS – Questions About Air Conditioning
Q: How often should I change my filter?
A: Most disposable mesh or pleated filters require changing once per month. Some of the extended use 5” media filters such as the Perfect Fit, Space Guard and April Aire can go 6 to 12 months before changing.
Q: Why should I change my filter?
A: Clogged filters are the leading cause of equipment failures and poor system performance. Dirty filters can reduce the amount of air crossing the evaporator coil, this will diminish the air flow through the duct system requiring the fan motor to work harder and consume more energy. This can lead to burned out motors, higher electric bills and unwanted service calls. When a filter is clogged it will lead to an increase of static pressure (the amount of back pressure within the air handler) which will drive up the humidity level inside the air handler cabinet. High humidity can promote microbial growth (mold & mildew) in the air handler which can spread through the duct system.
Q: What is SEER?
A: SEER is an acronym for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This is a measurement of the energy efficiency of an air conditioner. SEER rating calculations take into consideration seasonal weather conditions and temperature fluctuations. Like Miles Per Gallon in vehicles, the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit will operate. Government regulations require at least 13.00 SEER for newly installed systems.
Q: What is HSPF?
A: HSPF is an acronym for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. HSPF is the measure of energy efficiency of a heat pump while operating in the heating mode. The higher the HSPF rating, the more energy efficient the system will operate during heating.
Q: What is EER?
A: EER is an acronym for Energy Efficiency Ratio. EER is the measurement for the energy efficiency of air conditioners and heat pumps. EER calculations are a direct correlation of BTUs produced and kW/h used. This formula does not account for temperature changes or other weather conditions. EER is always lower than SEER for the same equipment. Typically, EER = SEER x .0875 The higher the EER rating, the more energy efficient the unit is.
Q: What’s the difference between a heat pump and an air conditioner?
A: A heat pump differs from an air conditioner when the system is switched to the heating mode.
With a standard air conditioner, when heat is required the compressor (outside) will shut off and an electric heating element within the air handler will engage. Using the blower motor in the air handler, air is blown across the heating elements and warm air is delivered through the duct system.
A heat pump uses the compressed refrigerant to produce heat. This is accomplished by using a reversing valve in the refrigerant system to change the direction the refrigerant flows through the system, delivering hot refrigerant to the air handler instead of cold, as it would during cooling. A heat pump will still have an electric heating element within the air handler in the event of a refrigerant leak or to add supplemental heat during the defrost mode or during extreme weather conditions. Heat pumps use a fraction of the energy during the heating mode than a primary electric heat strip. Currently many utilities are offer rebates to offset the cost when switching from a straight cool air conditioner to a heat pump.
Q: The air produced from my heat pump doesn’t seem very hot.
A: Heat pumps will not produce air as hot as a furnace or electric heating element. Typically, a heat pump will achieve temperatures between 95-120 degrees. This may require the system to run longer to initially heat a cold house, but will use substantially less electricity and will maintain temperature quite well.
Q: How should I maintain my air conditioner to extend its operating life?
A: Have your system serviced at least once per year, though most manufactures suggest performing maintenance twice per year. During the maintenance service, ensure that both the evaporator (indoor) and the condenser (outdoor) coils are cleaned with an approved cleaning agent and that care is taken to straighten or align any bent coil fins. All electrical connections should be tightened and voltage and amperage draws should be notated. Checking refrigerant levels, clearing drain line and drain pans and testing the system in heating and cooling are also vital points of a preventative maintenance service call. Most HVAC contractors offer some sort of Preventative Maintenance Program. Ask for the particulars when purchasing a maintenance policy, as benefits greatly vary among contractors.
Q: What size system do I need to cool my house?
A: The correct method of determining the correct system size is to perform a Manual J load calculation. This measures the heat gain/heat loss of the building. Many factors are used to perform this calculation, such as, square footage, construction materials, insulation R values, window location, size and U value, roof covering material, building exposure, door sizes and other factors specific to the dwelling. This calculation is the ONLY accepted method to determine system capacity. Be leery of contractors who size systems based solely on square footage. A reputable contractor will perform this calculation at no additional cost.
Q: How is Bay Area Green?
A: Bay Area Heating & Cooling has been accepted and listed on www.energystar.org as an Energy Star Partner, a provider of ultra efficient Energy Star products, and certified by the Environmental Protection Agency for environmentally responsible refrigerant handling storage and disposal. Bay Area also participates in Progress Energy’s Save the Watts program and TECO’s energy conservation efforts.