How Well Do You Know Your Air Conditioner?
Most homes located within our service footprint of Delaware, Southeastern Pennsylvania, South New Jersey, and Northeastern Maryland have air conditioning. For some, air conditioning may be a luxury, but for many including the elderly and those with breathing issues, it is a necessity.
Given the expense of the HVAC equipment and the energy consumed to run it, Horizon Services wants our customers to be well informed about their home-based air conditioning systems. With that, our experts sift through years of technical training and experience to bring you the 8 most important things you should know about your home’s current air conditioning system.
How Does Your Home Air Conditioner Work?
The main job of your home air conditioner is to essentially to remove humidity and to move the heat from inside your home to the outside. This results in a more comfortable environment for you, your family, and your home. In order to do so, air conditioners blow cool air into your home by pulling the heat out of that air. The air is then cooled by blowing it over a set of cold pipes called an evaporator coil. The evaporator coil is filled with a special liquid called refrigerant, which changes from a liquid to a gas as it absorbs heat from the air.
The refrigerant is pumped outside the house through copper piping to another coil where it gives up its heat and changes back into a liquid. This outside coil is called the condenser because the refrigerant is condensing from a gas back to a liquid, (just like moisture on a cold window). A pump, called a compressor, is used to move the refrigerant between the two coils and to change the pressure of the refrigerant so that all the refrigerant evaporates or condenses in the appropriate coils.
What Does A “Ton Of Refrigeration” Mean?
A ton of refrigeration refers to the cooling capacity of an air conditioner or refrigerator equal to 12,000 BTU (British Thermal Units) per hour 200 BTU per minute and denotes the amount of heat required to melt one ton of ice in 24 hours. It’s more important, however, to keep in perspective that a window air conditioner is usually less than one ton. Most residential air conditioning units range in capacity from about 1 to 5 tons of refrigeration or 3.5 KW ~ 17.5 KW, or 12,000 BTU/hour ~ 60,000 BTU/hour.
So, What Can Go Wrong?
Air conditioners are complex mechanical systems that depend on a wide variety of conditions in order to work correctly. Each individual air conditioning unit should be sized appropriately to meet a certain “load”(the amount of heat that is either lost or gained through the exterior walls, windows, roof, doors, people and appliances) on a house-by-house basis. With that, the specific air conditioner in your home should be specifically designed with a certain amount of refrigerant as well as air flow across the coils. When any of these things changes, the system will have problems.
- If you produce more heat indoors either from having too many appliances turned on at once or because there are more people in the house, the air conditioning may not be able to keep up with the load. (More heat being added or lost than the design normally will allow for)
- If the refrigerant charge on the system experiences a leak, it lowers the capacity of the system. This will lead to less cooling and system will not be able to keep up when the load gets high.
- If airflow across the outdoor (condenser) coil is reduced, the ability to reject heat outdoors is reduced and the again the capacity of the system may go down, especially at higher outdoor temperatures.
Why Should You Change Your Filters?
Air conditioning equipment is designed to operate with a specific quantity of air passing over its indoor coil surface. When air filters are not replaced, they clog and become coated with dirt. Similarly, the indoor coils and blower wheel get coated with dirt. This dirt reduces the amount of air flowing in the unit below the design limit and as a result the unit struggles to keep up and can wear out sooner than its life expectancy. Cleaning or changing the furnace filter regularly will not only improve the air inside your home, but it will also help you save money.
There are many different kinds of air filters available. The key to choosing the right filter is to decide which best suits your needs and your particular system. Each type of furnace filter has a different efficiency rating, different strengths and weaknesses, and different features that make them desirable for certain customers.
Why Should You Perform Routine Maintenance?
There is a lot riding on your home’s HVAC system. From the operating and energy costs, to emergency repairs, it pays to keep your HVAC system operating at peak efficiency. In fact, a regular maintenance program can pay for itself, if not save you money.
At Horizon Services, our goal is to improve your comfort while reducing your energy costs. The benefits of a yearly maintenance plan include:
- Lowers Energy Costs
- Extends The Life Of Your System
- System Will Run 25% More Efficiently
- Restores Your System To Factory Condition
- Priority Service For Plumbing, Heating And Air Conditioning Calls (routine or emergency)
- A 15% discount On All Repairs
Do Ducts Really Matter?
Another reason why your HVAC system may appear not to be producing enough cold air is because of a duct leak. Duct leakage can sap from 20% to 40% of the energy out of even a well-operating air conditioner, especially if the ducts pass outside the cooled space such as garages, attics, and crawlspaces. For this reason, it is best if the ducts outside surface were insulated.
In doing so, you might be able to get an extra half ton of air conditioner capacity for free, if you seal your leaky ducts. If the ducts are accessible, handy consumers can seal their own; however, we highly recommend contacting a professional to seal the ducts to ensure they are done correctly.
Why You Should Lighten The Load On Your A/C?
By reducing the overall size of the job that the air conditioner has to it will ultimately work better. You can do this by improving the home or reducing the internally generated loads that your air conditioner must deal with.
Improving the home includes things such increasing insulation levels or shading windows or reducing air leakage, as mentioned. Such improvements will reduce energy spent on heating and cooling, but may require substantial time or investment. Reducing internal loads can be easier. Shut off unneeded electrical appliances, lights and equipment. Shift appliance use such as washers and dryers to cooler times during the day.
Additionally, in the summer cool air collects near the floor, while hot air rises to the ceiling. The blades of a ceiling fan push air down, which forces the cool air near the floor to move outward and stir the air at the edges of the room. This circulation and movement of air can help a room feel up to four degrees cooler. You get a more comfortable temperature inside your home because a fan will help balance the cooling in each room where one is in use. If you have central air conditioning in your home, using a ceiling fan lets you set the thermostat several degrees higher without sacrificing comfort, meaning that you will save money on your energy bills while remaining comfortable.
Does Ventilation Matter?
The previous points have focused on cooling, but the original definition of air conditioning contains more than that; an ideal air conditioner system should heat, cool, clean, ventilate, humidify and dehumidify as needed to provide health and comfort. In fact the second most important objective of the original definition is to provide ventilation. Whether or not the piece of equipment we call an air conditioner provides it, ventilation is needed.
Without adequate ventilation, contaminants generated indoors can lead to significant health and comfort problems. Horizon Services recommends that there be at least enough ventilation to exchange the air inside house once every four hours, depending on house design.
Contact Horizon Services
While all HVAC equipment should be checked by a professional once a year, and an HVAC professional should always be called in to deal with major issues or repairs, you can extend the life of your HVAC system by taking just a few minutes each month to perform a few simple inspection and cleaning duties.
And, if you are ready to install or replace a heater or air conditioner our friendly and experienced team of Comfort Specialists know heating and air conditioning systems inside and out. They’ll take the time to study your home, understand your heating and cooling requirements, show you all of your options and assist you with finding the quality home comfort system that best meets your family’s needs and budget.
Related Information from Horizon Services…
- Save Money and Extend Equipment Life With Yearly Maintenance
- Help! My Air Conditioner is Frozen!
- Ways to Help Prevent Frozen Air Conditioners
- Save Energy by Unplugging Household Devices and Appliances
- Prevent Freeze Ups With an Air Conditioning Precision Tune-Up!
- Learn About Our Air Conditioning Services!