During the summer months, most of the time our thoughts aren’t always on our air conditioning. We tend to think more about BBQ and vacation time. Generally we don’t think much about our cooling systems until repairs are needed or a breakdown occurs. Here’s some interesting facts about air conditioning that we all should know.
1. Air Conditioning History – For many years, humans have been developing ways to avoid being hot and stuffy. Ancient Egyptians used to cool their indoor air by hanging wet mats on their doorways. Romans figured out how to run fresh water through their indoor pipes to cool their homes. Despite these, and other, contributions, the invention of the first modern air conditioner in 1902 is credited by most to Willis Carrier, an American engineer.
2. The Anatomy of A/C – Understanding how an air conditioner works can be very helpful. This will help all other information to make sense, and will give you an enormous appreciation for the professionals whose job it is to keep you’re A/C in working order.
- Inside your A/C, there is a set of pipes filled with refrigerant, which (just as it sounds) refrigerates – or cools – the air around it. The set of pipes is also called an evaporator coil.
- Hot air from outside is pumped into your air conditioner by a blower (or fan), running the air over the cooling coils, and blowing it into your home.
- The refrigerant in the evaporator coil changes from a liquid into a gas while absorbing heat from the air.
- At the same time, the hot air inside your home is being pushed outside with another fan.
- The refrigerant is pumped outside the house to another coil (called a condenser), releasing its heat and changing back (condensing) into a liquid.
- The refrigerant is moved back and forth within the air conditioner by a pump called a compressor, which regulates the rate of movement so that the refrigeration and condensation happens within the right coil.
- Your A/C also has a motor, which runs the compressor.
3. The Right Thermostat Temperature – As a general rule, your air conditioner can keep indoor temperatures about 20 degrees cooler than outdoors. This means that on a 100-degree day, your A/C may struggle to cool your home below 80 degrees. Setting the thermostat any lower than that will strain your unit unnecessarily, and will probably result in it constantly running in a noble attempt to reach the cooler temperature. If you have a central unit, you can purchase a thermostat with a timer that can be programmed to adjust to higher temperatures when you’re gone, and cooler temperature when you’re home. It’s not a good idea to turn your unit off completely unless you’re going on vacation.
4. Always Change Your Filters – If you have a central or window unit, you need to change your filters about once a month during the cooling season. In-home filters have a minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which is a number between 1 and 12. A higher MERV ranking means greater filtration, and it is generally recommended that you use filters of a 6 or higher. The longer you keep a filter, the more particles it catches. So if you wait too long to change it, then the filter itself becomes a pollutant because it can no longer hold the new dirt being blown around. Homes located around construction or dirt roads tend to need filter changes more frequently, as well as those with pets.
5. Clean the Condensor Coil – Before you get started with the cleaning, be sure to turn the condenser off. This can be done by pulling out a fuse block connecting the unit to your home, or moving the switch to the “off” position. Be sure that the temperature is at least 60 degrees outside so that you can test the air conditioner to be sure that it works. Clean the fins by first using a soft brush attachment on your vacuum. Be careful, as the fins can bend easily if you’re too rough. If you discover that they are bent, try using a butter knife from your kitchen to push them back into shape. After vacuuming, use a hose to rinse the remainder of the debris.
6. Check Coolant Levels – The amount of refrigerant in your A/C unit is called its “charge.” If there’s a leak and the refrigerant charge goes down, you will have problems. A leak will lower your unit’s ability to work properly, and your home won’t get the cooling it needs. Because of global warming, finding the right cooling gases to use in residential and commercial properties has been a pretty big deal.
- HCFC-22: This gas was banned in new equipment in 2010 by the EPA. It is only available for older model A/C units.
- R-410A: This is one alternative to HCFC-22, and is being used in the United States. Although it has a high global warming effect, it causes no ozone depletion.
- R-32: This gas is being evaluated by the EPA, and is known for being mildly flammable. Its global warming effect is moderate, and it causes no ozone depletion.
- Hydrocarbons: These are being used in commercial refrigeration, but not yet in homes, unless systems have been redesigned. The global warming effect is low and there is no ozone depletion.
Have a professional HVAC technician check your coolant levels if you suspect you have an issue.
7. Pay Attention to Efficiency Ratings –
Along the lines of effectiveness, efficiency matters as well. If you have a central A/C unit, check the seasonal energy-efficiency ratio, or the SEER. In a window unit, it is called the energy-efficiency ratio (EER). Your SEER should be at least a 13, and your EER should be no lower than 8. The higher the number, the less costly and more efficient the unit. Also, purchase a unit that is a good match for your climate. If you live in a humid area, find an A/C that also dehumidifies. If you live in a dry climate, find one that will operate optimally in hot, dry temperatures.
8. Annual Air Conditioning Service – Just like our body’s and cars, your cooling system should have annual check ups.
Be sure your professional looks at the following:
- Inspecting and cleaning coils,
- Replacing fan belts if needed,
- Checking refrigerant charge and pressures,
- Cleaning or replacing filters if you’re unable to do it,
- Lubricating motors and bearings,
- Cleaning and checking blowers and fans,
- Inspecting controls and safeties, and
- Checking temperature controls.
9. Pick the Right A/C Unit for your Home –
The size of your air conditioner should be proportionate to the size of the space you want to cool off. If your A/C is too big, it may cool the space quickly, but it won’t effectively dehumidify the area. Energy Star offers a chart that will help you decide how much cooling capacity, measured in British thermal units (BTU), you will need per hour. This cooling capacity is also called “tons” – One ton of cooling equals 12,000 BTU/hour. Another thing to consider is the perks that come along with your purchase. When negotiating prices, pay attention to whether or not the price includes a service plan, discounts on repairs, or a labor warranty. Purchasing is only he first step… maintenance soon follows.
10. Choose the Right HVAC Professional – Your contractor should be certified by an organization like the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). Your air and heating contractor should also have a solid reputation within their community and with the BBB. Our qualified technicians will make sure you understand what’s going on, and they will patiently answer your questions to assure you that your A/C is in good hands.
If you suspect there might be something wrong with your cooling system or if it’s been a while sine it’s last service check up, it’s time to call Norris Air. Schedule service today 480-832-3330 or visit https://norrisairinc.com/contact.