Frequently Asked Questions
When Should I Schedule a Maintenance Check-Up?
Maintain your equipment to prevent future problems and unwanted costs. Keep your cooling and heating system at peak performance by having a contractor do annual pre-season check-ups. Contractors get busy once summer and winter come, so it's best to check the cooling system in the spring and the heating system in the fall. To remember, you might plan the check-ups around March and September.
What Should a Heating and Cooling Check-up Include?
- Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
- Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
- Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increases the amount of electricity you use.
- Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.
- Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.
- Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system's ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
- Check your central air conditioner's refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
- Clean and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system's efficiency by up to 15 percent.
- Check all gas (or oil) connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.
Inspect, clean, or change air filters once a month in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump. Your contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.
What is SEERs (Season Energy Efficiency Rating)
SEER is a mathematically determined ratio of the total cooling capacity during normal periods of operation (not to exceed 12 months) divided by the total electric energy input during the same time period.
When do I know it's time to replace my system?
When the system starts giving you more problems than seem cost-effective to fix, particularly when major components such as the compressor start making unusual noises or otherwise indicating need for a service call. When faced with major repairs, we can help you make the right choice. Replacing a compressor is somewhat less expensive than replacing the entire unit, but new units may give you greater efficiency and lower operating costs in the long run.
My present heating and cooling system does not keep us comfortable. Should I have a larger system installed?
In most cases no. Usually the problem is due to poor system design or installation. More likely you will need duct work modifications, a manual J heat load calculation, or possibly an energy audit to find the problem areas and correct them.
What is the average life of a central air conditioning system?
It can vary, depending on how much the system is used and how regularly it is checked or serviced. Generally, the average life of cooling units built in the 1970s and 1980s is about 15 years, but individual units may vary and last much longer, depending on use and how well they are maintained. Heat pumps have about the same life span-- an ARI survey showed average heat pump life to be about 14 years when recommended maintenance procedures were followed. Newer units are expected to last even longer.
Can homeowners repair their own air conditioners?
In most cases, definitely not. Cooling systems today are more complicated to service and usually require expert attention in order to comply with federal regulations, such as the Clean Air Act which prohibits releasing refrigerants into the atmosphere. An EPA-certified air conditioning contractor or service technician should be called at the first sign of trouble.
What is the best type of system to meet all indoor comfort needs?
The best system depends on many variables, including family size, house location and design, and utility cost and availability. The optimum indoor comfort system might include high efficiency central air conditioning and heating, a high-efficiency air cleaner, and a central humidifier.
How often should I change the air filter in my system?
Check it at least every month during peak use, and replace it when it looks dirty enough to significantly impair the air flow through it. Some filters, such as media filters or electronic air cleaners, are washable; others are disposable and must be replaced.