Heating & air CONDITIONING FAQ
What is an HVAC system?
An HVAC system is a building’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system that maintains the inside environment, whether it’s a residential or commercial building.
How does an HVAC system work?
The function of the HVAC system is to maintain temperature and humidity inside a building. An HVAC unit consists of nine parts to do this from start to finish:
- The air return starts the process by bringing in air to suck through a filter.
- The filter acts as the lungs of a building for the air by cleaning out dirt, particles, and humidity from entering the building environment.
- Exhaust outlets remove the excess heat, gasses, particles, and unwanted materials from the air outside the building.
- Ducts channel the heated or cooled air throughout the building. If ducts aren’t properly insulated and sealed, you lose 20-30% of your home’s heating and cooling.
- The thermostat controls what your HVAC unit does. A programmable thermostat can help you save energy and money by maintaining the temperature and comfort level.
- The outdoor unit houses the blower, the coils, and the fan, which provides the airflow into the building. The blower brings in the warm air, and the fan pushes air through a compressor which cools the air with refrigerant (now R-410A, a chlorine-free cooling gas to liquid) as the air passes through the coils into the duct system.
How long do HVAC systems last?
If an HVAC system is regularly maintained with filters changed every 30 days, the outdoor unit cleared of debris, and the electrical system checked, an HVAC unit can last up to 15 years. However, with technological advances and environmental updates, the Energy Star Program, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, recommends HVACs be replaced every ten years.
How do I choose an HVAC technician?
There are so many HVAC companies, contractors, installers, and technicians out there. How do you choose just one?
Here are a few things to look for when hiring an HVAC professional to install and maintain your HVAC system.
You can start by reading customer reviews and testimonials on Facebook, Google, Yelp, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, and other review sites. Ask those who have reviewed your potential installer for a reference.
Once you’ve found an installer/technician/professional, find their license number and/or certification number. Check the Better Business Bureau website for information on this, as well as your state’s licensing bureau.
How much is a new HVAC system?
This depends on the size of your home, details inside your home, and other factors. The average cost in Lexington, KY. for a single-story 1,000-2,000 square foot home AC and heat pump the estimated cost is $3,248 that includes materials, installation, and labor only. The national average for a single-story 2,200 square foot home is $8,267.
What size unit do I need?
This can be a tricky question–how many square feet do you want to heat and cool? To get a general idea, you have to measure the area and convert that measurement to how many BTUs (British Thermal Unit) are needed. Take the total square footage and multiply it by 25 BTUs. For example, if you have a 1,000 square foot area in, you would need 25,000 BTU unit divided by 12,000 (how many BTUs it takes per hour to heat or cool an area). With this number, that amount of BTUs, a one-ton unit.
If you need a more exact calculation so you don’t overdo it, you can ask a professional to come and do a Manual J Residential Calculation. The ACCA, or Air Conditioning Contractors of America, created this calculation to include more details, such as sun exposure, windows, exterior doors, ceiling height, and other aspects of your home that can affect your heating and cooling systems not to mention your wallet.
What does ENERGY STAR mean?
ENERGY STAR is a program run jointly with the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy to test and promote more energy-efficient products, including HVAC equipment. ENERGY STAR-certified heating and cooling equipment goes through rigorous tests and checks to ensure optimal heating and cooling performance for the comfort of your home and saving energy. By saving energy, you save money on utility bills and protect our environment by helping prevent and reducing your carbon footprint and reducing greenhouse gases.
What does SEER stand for?
The acronym SEER appears on the yellow energy sticker on energy-efficient appliances when looking into a new HVAC system. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficient Ratio. This information tells you the average energy usage during high usage months. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the HVAC (or air conditioning unit) is.
What HVAC system qualifies for a tax credit?
If you purchase a new HVAC that meets Energy Star and SEER standards, talk to your tax professional and find out if you qualify for the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 25C tax credits that can range between $50 to $300 on qualified products.
Can you finance the HVAC system?
Because buying a new HVAC system can be a significant investment, looking into financing this purchase is an option. There are several ways to finance a new HVAC: home equity loans through a traditional lending institution, contractor financing, store credit card financing, a personal loan, and/or a 0% APR credit card. All of these financing options come with their own pitfalls, like penalties for paying off the loan early, skyrocketing interest after x amount of time, high-interest rates on low credit holders, just to name a few. Research your options and see what financial plan works best for you.
How often should I change my filter?
Changing air filters are one of the most important things you can do to keep your home comfortable and maintain the life of your HVAC system. Think of the filters as the lungs of your home–if a filter is clean, clean air comes through. If that filter is dirty, all those particulates and dirt come through. Not only are you breathing that in, but it’s also making your HVAC work even harder, thus shortening the life of your HVAC. Change your filters every 30 days, and you will definitely breathe easier, and so will your HVAC.
How often should I get my HVAC system serviced?
As the seasons change, so does the way your HVAC runs. Have a professional check the unit BEFORE you move into heating and cooling seasons to make sure everything is working correctly. Before winter starts, check the furnace or heating element and ductwork. Before summer, get the outdoor unit checked, including refrigerant levels. These checks, plus monthly filter changes and cleaning debris from the outside unit and ducts, will keep your HVAC running in tip-top shape all year round.
How do I know if my ductless AC needs to be repaired?
- The outdoor unit isn’t running. This could mean a problem with the capacitor (the part responsible for starting the fan motor and keeping it running) or the fan motor itself.
- An indoor unit is leaking water. If water is dripping from one of your wall mounts or you see signs of water damage, it usually means your condensate drain line (the pipe/hose that removes condensation from your system) is clogged.
- Your indoor units are blowing warm air. If both your indoor and outdoor units are running, but the air coming from your indoor units is noticeably warm, you might have a refrigerant leak.
- You’re having issues with the remote control. If your remote has good batteries but still can’t control your system, it could be an electrical or power supply issue.
- Your units are making strange noises. An odd sound in your outdoor or indoor units is the biggest sign that you need a repair. A grinding/screeching noise likely means a problem with the fan. A hissing/bubbling sound usually means a refrigerant leak.
How can I fix my ductless mini-split AC?
Is your system running but blowing hot air?
- Check your operating mode. Make sure your remote is set to cooling mode and didn’t accidentally get set to heating mode. (It might sound obvious, but it happens.)
- Check the air filter. A dirty air filter can restrict airflow, which your ductless system needs to cool your home. If a filter in one of your indoor units is dirty, take it out and clean it with a dry cloth.
Is your system running but blowing hot air?
- Check your operation settings. Depending on your model, you might have your unit on a timer, which you can turn off with your remote.
- Change the remote batteries. On ductless units, your remote is your thermostat. If your remote doesn’t have power, it can’t tell your ductless AC when to turn on.
- Make sure your system has power. Make sure the circuit breaker on your unit didn’t trip. If it did, switch it back to “ON”. But if it keeps tripping, have a professional figure out what’s wrong.
If your ductless air conditioner still isn’t working right, it’s time to call a professional to figure out the problem.
Should I get a ductless mini-split AC?
- Are looking to easily add AC to your home. If your home doesn’t have ductwork, installing a ductless mini-split AC is the quickest and easiest way to add air conditioning to your home. We install most ductless ACs in 3–5 hours.
- Want better energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR estimates that central ACs lose 20–30% of their conditioner air to leaks in the ductwork. With ductless ACs, the air you’re paying for goes straight into your home, not into areas you don’t want to cool.
- Are remodeling or adding rooms to your old home. Don’t want to waste time and money adding ductwork to an addition? Ductless mini-splits can efficiently cool home additions, garages, remodels, attics and other converted living spaces.
- Want cleaner indoor air. With ductless mini-split systems, you’re not forcing air through dirty ducts (or pulling in dirty air from duct leaks). Plus, like central ACs, most ductless systems come with filters that purify your air of odors and allergens, allowing you to breathe easier.
How do ductless mini-split air conditioners work?
First off, you should know that ductless ACs, unlike central ACs, can have multiple indoor units (up to 8 per outdoor unit) depending on your home’s size. Each indoor unit has its own evaporator coil, filter and fan, which is how it can cool your home without ducts.
Here’s how a single indoor unit works with an outdoor unit:
- The indoor unit pulls in warm air from the room and runs it over the evaporator coil.
- The refrigerant (inside the evaporator coil) removes heat from the warm air and pushes cool, conditioned air back into your home.
- The refrigerant travels through a line to the condenser (in the outdoor unit), where it dumps the heat from your home’s air and then travels back to the indoor unit.
How do I know if my AC needs to be repaired?
- Isn’t turning on. This usually means a problem with the thermostat or a tripped circuit breaker. If you flip the breaker and it keeps tripping, don’t keep switching it back. You might overload your electrical panel.
- Is making odd sounds.Loud or banging sounds coming from your AC is the most obvious sign your AC needs a repair. If it’s a gurgling or hissing sound, you could have a refrigerant leak. A grinding or screeching noise most likely means a problem with the air handler.
- Poor airflow coming from your vents? If the air coming from your vents seems weaker than normal, you could have an issue with the blower motor or a fan belt.
- Ice on your outdoor unit usually means you either have airflow issues or a refrigerant leak.
- Turn on and off repeatedly. Your AC should run for long periods of time. If it’s turning on and off sporadically, that could mean airflow issues or a problem with the thermostat. It could also mean you have an oversized unit that’s short cycling. In that case, you’re usually better off replacing your unit.
- Is surrounded by water. Water pooling around your unit typically means you have a clog in your condensate line, which is the pipe that removes condensation from your central air conditioner.
What do I do if my AC is blowing hot air?
- Is your thermostat on “HEAT”? Make sure the switch is on “COOL”. It might sound obvious, but it could have accidentally gotten switched to “HEAT”.
- Have you changed your air filter? Your AC system needs good airflow to cool your home. If your indoor air filter hasn’t been replaced in the last 90 days, replace it with a new one. If your outdoor unit is covered with dirt or debris, gently clean it with a broom or garden hose.
- Is your outdoor unit getting power? If your outdoor unit isn’t getting any power, your AC will blow warm air when it runs. Check that the outdoor unit’s circuit breaker and emergency shut-off are switched to “ON”. If the circuit breaker keeps tripping, don’t keep switching it back. That means you have a bigger issue.
If your air conditioner is still blowing warm air, it’s time to call a professional to diagnose the problem.
How do I know if I need a new AC?
- Your HVAC system is more than 10 years old. Most air conditioners last 10–15 years. If yours is approaching “old age”, you’ll want to consider replacing it.
- Repairing it multiple times a year. Repair costs add up quickly. Here’s a little tip: If the cost of a repair multiplied by your AC’s age is more than the cost of a new unit, the repair probably isn’t worth it.
- Is your energy bill higher year over year? Air conditioners tend to lose efficiency as they get older. As the unit suffers wear and tear over the years, it must work harder (and use more energy) to cool your home.
- Expired warranty. If your warranty is no longer valid, the manufacturer won’t guarantee the parts on your AC. You’ll be stuck paying for all repairs out of pocket, which isn’t worth it compared to getting a new unit.
How do I know if I need a new furnace?
- It’s 15+ years old. Most furnaces only last 15–20 years. If yours is approaching that age, it’s time to start thinking about a new one.
- You’re seeing frequent repairs. If your furnace has needed a lot of repairs lately, that’s usually a sign that it’s on its way out. You’re usually better off investing in a new unit, rather than throwing money into multiple repairs.
- Your heating bills are getting higher. Furnaces naturally lose efficiency as they get older, which means they have to work harder (and use more energy) to heat your home.
- Your warranty has expired. This means the manufacturer will no longer guarantee (and cover the cost of) a part if it dies. You’d be stuck paying for an entire repair out of pocket, which might not be worth it in the long run.
How do I know if my furnace needs to be repaired?
- Won’t turn on. This could mean a problem with your thermostat or a tripped circuit breaker. If the breaker keeps tripping, don’t keep switching it back. You could overload your electrical panel.
- Has weak airflow. If you’re not getting strong airflow from your vents, the problem could be a fan belt or motor.
- Is making strange noises. A weird noise, like a bang or scraping noise, is a red flag that your furnace needs a repair.
- Turns on and off frequently. Your furnace should run slow and steady. If it’s turning on then quickly shutting off, it could be a number of reasons, including issues with airflow or the thermostat. It could also be an oversized unit that’s short cycling, in which case you’d need to replace your unit with a properly sized one.
- Is blowing cool air. If you’re not getting warm air, there could be something wrong with your thermocouple or pilot light.
- Water pooling around it. This most likely means the condensate line, which removes condensation from your furnace, is clogged (for condensing furnaces only).
What do I do if my furnace is blowing cold air?
- Is your thermostat on “COOL”? Make sure the switch is set to “HEAT”. (It might sound obvious, but this happens.)
- Is the air filter dirty? A clogged filter restricts airflow, which can cause a lot of problems for a furnace. If yours is dirty, replace it with a new one.
- Did the pilot light go out? If you have an older gas furnace, it probably uses a permanently lit pilot light to heat your home. If the light is out, simply relight it. If it keeps going out, there’s something wrong with your unit.
- Is the gas off? Your furnace can’t heat your home if it isn’t getting any gas. Make sure the gas valve lever is in the “ON” position (parallel to the gas supply pipe).
If your furnace still isn’t blowing warm air, it’s time to call a professional to figure out what’s wrong.