To most people, home comfort systems work like magic. They don’t know how HVAC systems make temperatures bearable in their homes and offices, but they’re awfully glad they do. When homeowners’ heating and AC systems aren’t working properly, they become curious about how these devices they often take for granted work. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about heating and cooling units:
What does HVAC stand for?
This is an easy one. Even I can answer this one! Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning
What do all of these different efficiency ratings mean?
There are three efficiency ratings you will generally see when considering a new comfort system for your home or office: SEER, HSPF and AFUE.
SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures air conditioning and heat pump cooling efficiency. Technically, SEER is calculated by the cooling output for a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same time frame. The simpler way to understand SEER: it’s like miles per gallon for your air conditioner. The higher the number, the less it costs to operate. The minimum SEER is 14.0, but there are systems with SEER ratings as high as 28.0.
HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) measures the heating side of a heat pump’s efficiency. Again, like SEER, it is miles per gallon for the heating side of your heat pump. The higher the HSPF, the more money you save.
AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) measures a gas furnace’s efficiency in converting fuel to energy. A furnace that has an 80 percent AFUE rating can turn 80 percent of the energy it consumes into heat. The other 20 percent is used during the heating process and basically lost up the flue. In layman’s terms, for every dollar you give to the gas company, you get 80 cents worth of heat and 20 cents is lost. If you have a 98 percent AFUE furnace, you get 98 cents worth of heat for each dollar you give to the gas company, only giving up two pennies up the flue.
Should I repair or replace my home comfort system?
Every repair-replace scenario is unique to the unit and the expectations of the homeowner. A professional, licensed HVAC technician can provide you with a customized estimate of repair cost as well as supply equipment-specific reasons to consider a replacement unit.
A few factors that may help you to determine if it’s time to replace your old heating or cooling system are: years in operation, costly and continuous repairs, increasing utility bills, compromised indoor comfort and estimated length of home ownership.
Why should I replace my R-22 outdoor unit with an R410A?
R-22 refrigerant (Freon) has been officially phased out and has been replaced with environmentally friendly, R410A refrigerant. Currently, replacement parts and refrigerant for old R-22 units are becoming harder to find and more expensive, so replacing your unit now can save you future headaches. Please note: due to the phase out, be prepared for a little “sticker shock” if your system needs R-22.
What’s the best way to extend the life of my unit?
Heating and cooling units are a big investment, so it’s understandable that you’d want them to last as long as possible. Reducing usage is always helpful, so turn the thermostat up or down, as needed to reduce use when you’re not at home. Change air filters regularly and have MAINTENANCE performed at least annually, if not semi-annually. Regular check-ups and service plans can help you ward off any potential trouble spots and keep your system running safely and efficiently.
Why does steam come out of my heat pump on cold days?
No worries! This means the heat pump is in the defrost cycle. The outdoor fan stops to increase the temperature and ease the ice melting while the heat pump switches to the air conditioning mode. Once the frost has melted, the system reverses to the heating mode on its own.
Do I need a carbon monoxide alarm if I have a gas furnace?
YES! When temperatures take a nosedive, a gas or oil furnace provides you with whole-home comfort. Like a gas stove or fireplace, these heating systems work by burning fuel. Your furnace is designed to exhaust byproducts generated during the process safely outside. If the equipment is damaged or the flue is clogged, toxic substances like carbon monoxide (CO) may backdraft into your home. To stay safe and healthy, every home with fuel-burning appliances NEEDS a reliable CO alarm.
These are just a few of the questions air conditioning and heating specialists answer every day. When you have questions about your heating and cooling system, the internet is a great source, but it pays to get help from your experienced HVAC professionals.