System Not Working
Need A Tune-Up
Maintenance Plus Program

Air Conditioners

Don't Lose Your CoolEveryone knows that an air conditioner is supposed to cool down whatever space it’s located in: your car, your house, the poolhouse, the “man-cave.”

Humidity

Think about it. You know how miserably humid it can get outside in the summer. That air gets into your home through infiltration (topic for another conversation) and through simple everyday things like opening the door. Add things you normally do inside your house to the humidity equation, like cooking, showering, and drying clothes, and you have most of the ingredients for a rain forest! Most folks don’t have a free-standing dehumidifier sitting in the kitchen or the livingroom, so how is all that moisture getting out? The air conditioner is how.

York Air ConditionerSize Matters

As we stated previously, one of the jobs of your air conditioner is to remove humidity, yet an air conditioner turns on and off based on temperature. If the unit is too large for the space it will cycle on and off too quickly to remove the humidity. Pretty soon you’re uncomfortable but you’re not sure why. Clothes and bedding don’t smell as fresh. Papers are starting to wrinkle up a little. Wood furniture is swelling and floors start to buckle. The shower never gets dry. Maybe even spots of mold start to form. These are all pretty good indicators that the humidity level is too high in your house and your air conditioner might be the reason why.

The other bad thing about an over-sized piece of equipment is that your power bills will be higher than they need to be.Your air conditioner consumes the most power during the time it’s physically turning on. It is much more efficient for it to run continuously than it is for it to turn on and off (this is part of the science behind high-efficiency equipment.) Plus all that turning on and off is harder on the motor causing premature wear and failure.

Of course getting a unit that’s too small isn’t the right answer either. If it’s too small, it runs forever at high speed and still can’t get your home cooled down to the thermostat setting or get all the humidity out. It’ll work really, really hard while it tries though. And all the while your electric meter is spinning like a top and your power bill climbs.

Need an EstimateNow you know why getting the right size equipment is a very important key to your comfort. The next question is: how do you know which unit is best for your home?

 

How to Compare Air Conditioners

The most important thing you need to look at is the color. JUST KIDDING! Color isn’t even on the list of the top 10 things you need to consider. The important things you need to compare when you are shopping for a new system are the following:

EFFICIENCY

Efficiency

 
Energy GuideEnergy Efficiency LabelEfficiency is primarily defined using two numbers: the SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, which is a performance measure of a air conditioner; and the HSPF, or Heating Season Performance Factor, which is just what it sounds like – a measure of the heating performance. Typical units range from 13 to 18 SEER and have an HSPF of 7 to 10.
 
What might come as a surprise to you is that in the Catawba Valley area the number of hours that we need to warm our homes is actually greater than the number of hours that we need our air conditioner. Here’s a way to look at it from the heat pump’s perspective: assume an indoor temperature of a comfortable 72 degrees. When it’s 92 outside, the heat pump has to remove 20 degrees of heat to make your home comfortable again. When it’s 35 outside, the heat pump has to move 37 degrees of heat inside to get to 72, or almost twice as many degrees. This is why the heating efficiency is technically more important than the air conditioner efficiency when comparing numbers in our area of the country.
 
Minimum requirements for efficiency are set by the Department of Energy. Don’t forget – something to take into consideration is that if you buy the least efficient equipment available, you are buying the worst efficiency you can purchase by law. Over time, your higher monthly energy costs could easily grow bigger than the upfront cost difference between the two units. Your HVAC technician should be able to show you the projected energy savings over the life of the unit.

SIZE

Size of the Unit

 
Most people aren’t aware of how important this really is, and it’s not just a cost factor. A unit that is too big will turn on and off more often and run for short periods of time because it can heat and cool a small space quickly. This constant cycling on and off is extremely hard on the motors and will cause them to wear out faster. It’s also expensive from a power consumption perspective – the actual act of a unit turning on consumes more power than just letting it run. The most efficient equipment takes advantage of this fact and keeps the fan motor running constantly but automatically adjusts the speed to compensate for whatever temperature is needed.
 
The other major problem with a unit that is too big is that because it doesn’t stay on very long, in the summer it can’t do it’s other job – remove humidity. This is the perfect recipe for mold, funny smells, and uncomfortable dampness inside your house.
 
No matter how many years of experience an HVAC contractor has, it is not possible to simply look at a home and know what size unit it needs. A qualified heat and air conditioning contractor will perform what’s called a “load calculation” for your house, or a survey of your home’s construction including things like the size, how many windows there are and what direction they face, how much insulation the home has, whether there’s a crawlspace, basement or attic, etc. This information is entered into special software that tells the contractor how big the system has to be to meet the heater and air conditioner needs, or load, of the house. This report is also referred to as a load calc or a Manual J and is required by the N.C. Building Code whenever a unit is replaced or for new construction.

CONTRACTOR

Qualifications of the Contractor

 
This is probably one of the most overlooked items and is probably more important than anything else you need to consider. You are about to replace one of the most expensive pieces of your house and it’s going to be with you for at least the next 10 years if it’s any good. ALL of the air inside your house will be passing through it. It will provide you with warmth and cooling every single day. It will cost you money to run every single day it’s on (a lot of money if it isn’t very efficient or it’s not installed properly.) And it has the ability to harm or even kill you or your family if there’s something wrong with it. With all of that on the line, doesn’t it seem logical that you should take at least a little time to check the qualifications and references of the company you are trusting with this installation?
 
According to the NC State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors, there are four places you should check when you have your list of possible contractors narrowed down to just a couple: the Better Business Bureau, your city or county building inspection department, the Consumer Protection Section of the Department of Justice, and the licensing board itself. For contact information for these agencies, click here.
 
Most people don’t have to replace or add a unit more than once or twice in their lives. Deciding which air conditioner to purchase is not a normal topic for discussion nor is it common knowledge. Take advantage of the tools and references that are available to help you with this decision. Your wallet, and maybe even your life, depend on you making an educated choice.

WARRANTY

Warranty

 
Most units come with a 2, 5 or 10- year parts warranty. Something breaks and you get the replacement part for free. Cool enough. However, what isn’t covered is labor. As a system ages, bigger parts can wear out and repairs become more complicated. It might be a $13 part or a small piece of wire that gives up the ghost. But it’s the three hours of technician time to find the problem and get at that little piece buried in the middle of the unit that’s going to cost you more than the part. Or the $1800 part that’s going to take 2 technicians half a day each to replace. This is what an Extended Warranty is designed to help you with. It will cover parts AND labor usually for up to 10 years. By the time it expires, efficiencies have improved enough that it makes sense to consider replacing the system again instead of making the costly repair.
 
If you decide to purchase an extended warranty, be aware that any of the major brands require that your unit be maintained at least annually by a qualified HVAC Contractor. Our Maintenance + Program was designed with this requirement in mind, so if you’re a member of our program – no worries. We’ve got ya covered.
 
So there’s your 10,000 foot view of heat pumps. If you have any questions, need anymore information or are thinking about replacing your old system, please CONTACT US.