When your air conditioner is running as it should, you hardly notice that it is there. You may notice the sound it makes when the cooling cycle starts, but the majority of the time it just fades into the background, leaving your home cool and comfortable. But the reality is that your air conditioner is a complex piece of machinery that requires a little love and affection now and then. But for some homeowners, the fact that their air conditioner fades into the background means they don’t give it much thought at all, which leads to questions whenever something isn’t as it should be.
No worries – here at Brown Heating and Cooling, we answer a lot of questions about finicky HVAC systems. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we hear from our clients. Do you already know the answers?
What does HVAC stand for?
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Think of an HVAC system as the lungs of your home, moving air in and out while maintaining a comfortable temperature.
How do I determine what size air conditioner I need?
When homeowners find that they need to purchase a new air conditioning system the tendency can be to assume “bigger is better.” That isn’t the case – an air conditioner that is the wrong size for your house will not cool the air efficiently, which means a bigger energy bill at the end of each month.
The best way to determine the right size air conditioner is to call in a pro, especially if you are installing central air or a ductless system. A trained technician will take into account the size of your home, along with the home layout and your typical daily usage of your current air conditioner, and offer a recommendation on which size will work best for your needs.
If you’re looking at window units, the manufacturer should have a recommended square footage along with the BTU for each unit. Purchase a unit meant for the size space you need to cool. A unit that is too large will cycle too often, using up a lot of extra electricity, while a too small unit will never adequately cool the room.
How do I know if my air conditioning is actually broken?
There are a few common scenarios we run into with clients who call in a panic over an air conditioner that just won’t run. If your air conditioner won’t come on at all, the very first thing you should confirm is that power is getting to the system. Check the fuse box if there is no power – this very well may be the problem.
If your air conditioner is not blowing cold air, check your filter. Filters should be checked on a monthly basis, but sometimes homeowners forget this important maintenance step for months at a time, leading to filters that are completely clogged. If the cool air can’t make it through the filter, it definitely won’t make it throughout your home.
These are the most common issues we run into that homeowners can easily troubleshoot. Check out this post on typical air conditioner problems for a list of other easy-to-check issues – if you make it through the list and still have a broken air conditioner, then it’s time to call in a technician.
What is the #1 thing I can do to prevent air conditioning problems?
Check your filter! We say it over and over again for a reason – it truly is a major cause of a lot of air conditioning problems. Not to mention that dirty filters mean dirty air…no one wants to constantly breath in all that dust and pollen!
What is the “right” temperature for my air conditioner?
There isn’t a single answer to this question – it really depends on what you consider comfortable and how much you are willing to spend on energy bills. On average, somewhere between 70-75° F works for keeping a home consistently cool.
What is more important for energy savings is consistency. For example, raising the temperature by more that 2-3° when you leave to go to work only to lower it drastically when you get home will not save you money. Your air conditioner will have to work hard to get the now warmer temperature back to where you want it, so keeping an even temperature is a better plan for having a consistently comfortable home.
Why do some parts of my home feel cold, while others are always warm?
There can be a few reasons for this. The warmer areas may be further away from the actual cooling unit of your air conditioner system, which means the air has to travel further and is getting warmer during that process. They could have more windows that are allowing more light (and heat) into the room, making it more difficult to cool. Or, it could be as simple as a vent not being open all the way!
If solutions like closing windows or opening vents do not solve the problem, a technician may be able to rebalance your system to encourage more air flow to the rooms that are too warm, or to add additional vents if needed. For larger issues, such as an air conditioner that is too small for your home, a tech can offer suggestions within a few price ranges to fix the issue.
Is my air conditioner too old?
The question shouldn’t be, “Is it too old?” The better question is, “Is it still working for you?” We have air conditioners that we routinely maintain that are over 40 years old and still in great condition. The owners are happy with them, they don’t break down all the time, and the energy bills aren’t high, so why replace something that works just fine?
An air conditioner that needs to be replaced is one that genuinely has major problems, consistently requires repair regardless of proper maintenance, and/or costs a lot to run during the summer months. Many companies cite 10-15 years as the time required between replacements, but we find that properly maintained systems can last much longer than that.
How do I know how energy efficient my air conditioner is?
Air conditioners now come with a SEER rating, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The ratio is determined by the number of BTUs for a unit (a measurement for the amount of cooling created by the air conditioner) divided by the amount of electricity it uses. Most older air conditioners have a SEER rating under 10, while current units are required by law to have at least a 13. Energy Star® appliances have a SEER rating of over 14.
Here is the hidden secret – the SEER rating only tells you the potential energy savings. If you opt for an air conditioner that isn’t the right size for your home, or you constantly raise and lower the temperature, the air conditioner will not work as it should, and the money saving aspect of having an energy efficient system will disappear. So high SEER products require proper operation to be as efficient as possible.
Is regular maintenance really that important?
Yes. There is a lot of debate out there about whether or not bi-annual checkups are actually necessary for your HVAC system, and we believe they are. It’s a great opportunity to catch small problems before they become big ones, as well as clearing up any potential issues before running your air conditioner or heater for the first time during a season.
Not to mention the added benefit of checking filters on a monthly basis. It’s a very important maintenance step!
If my air conditioner stops working, how long will it take to fix the problem?
Most air conditioner issues can be fixed the day-of-diagnosis. We do our very best to keep the most used parts on hand, so if our technicians don’t actually have the part with them, they can get it quickly. That said, some problems require special parts that have to be ordered from distributors. The good thing is, our distributors know that a broken air conditioner in Alabama is no joke, so they usually get required parts to us as quickly as possible. In these cases, it can take a few days for the part to ship, but once we have what we need we will correct the problems ASAP.