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Air Conditioning Tips and Advice

Air Conditioning Tips and Advice (84)

5 Factors To Consider When Deciding To Repair or Replace Your AC

How old is the Air Conditioner?

A central air conditioner will last 10 to 15 years. Older units are usually much less efficient and need more frequent repairs. Some older AC units will use Freon which is being phased out and is expensive.

What needs to be repaired?

Minor problems like clogged drain lines and ignitors are less expensive to repair than blower motors, condenser coils and compressors. It may be better to invest the money for expensive repairs in a new air conditioner.

Repair or replace air conditioner

How efficient is the unit?

Newer, high efficiency air conditioners can have up to 20 SEER (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasonal_energy_efficiency_ratio) efficiency ratings, reducing energy use and operating costs significantly. If the current unit is less than 13 SEER, you can expect significantly lower energy consumption and hundreds of dollars a year in savings from a newer unit.

Frequency of repairs

If major repairs have becoming more frequent in recent years, it may be best to invest the cost of repairs in a new unit.

Is the Current Air Conditioner the Right Size?

An over-sized unit will cycle more often, be prone to early failure and have poor humidity control. A new, professionally installed system using heat gain calculations will be matched to your home's unique requirements.

Choosing the Right MERV Rating For Your HVAC System



If you want to find out how effective your air filter is at removing contaminants from the air, check the filter's MERV rating. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. MERV is a standard that rates the effectiveness of air filters. A higher numeric rating means the filter will remove finer particulate matter from the air.

Filters are tested for for their ability to trap pollen, dust mites, mold spores, dust, pet dander, bacteria and tobacco smoke. Here are how effective the different MERV ratings are at removing various contaminants from the air.

1-4 : Filters out pollen and dust mites.

5-8 : Removes mold and dust.

9-12 : Traps lead dust and most bacteria

12+ : Filters out all bacteria and tobacco smoke

When choosing an air filter for your HVAC system it may seem like a good idea to buy the filter with the highest MERV rating, since you want to have the cleanest air possible, right? In most cases, you should use a filter in the 5-8 range. The reason is that filters with a high MERV rating will have the smallest pores for air to pass through. This can make it harder for the HVAC system to push air through the filter, reducing system performance. To avoid restricting the air flow, filters with a higher MERV rating should be changed more frequently (at least every three months) to prevent damage to the HVAC system.

Ultimately, if your home's air is dirty enough to require a higher MERV rating, or you're changing air filters more than once a month, you may be better served by having a whole home air filtration system. A furnace air filter is really just designed to keep your HVAC equipment clean to prevent wear and tear. A whole house air filtration system is designed to actually clean the air inside the home.

Have questions about air filters? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can help answer all your questions.

Air Conditioner Inspection Southwest FloridaIf you're buying a home in Southwest Florida you'll have a lot of items on your home inspection checklist, among the most important is the air conditioner. Here are a few simple things you can check yourself to ensure that the air conditioner is working properly and has been regularly maintained.

Check the Condenser Unit Outside the Home

The outside section of the air conditioner, called the condenser, should be clean and unobstructed. The unit draws air in from the sides to dissipate heat so ensure that there are no trees, shrubs or other objects near the unit that could be obstructing the flow of air and reducing efficiency. The fins and condensing coils of the air conditioner should be clean, without excessive dirt or debris that could also reduce performance.

The air conditioner should be sitting on a clean level surface, preferably a stone or cement slab. The unit may also be suspended from the side of the house. In either case ensure that the unit is level and that the refrigerant lines are not stressed.

Inside the Home

If the AC is not running, turn the thermostat down about five degrees cooler than the indoor temperature. Once the AC is on check outside again to ensure the fan at the condenser unit is turning. The unit should make a steady sound when operating. If it makes rumbling, rattling or other strange sounds or surges, a cooling technician should inspect the unit further.

Check that the air filter is clean and the right size for the unit. A dirty filter reduces air flow, which reduces efficiency and increases the likelihood of problems.

After the air conditioner has been running for at least 15 minutes, check the temperature of the conditioned air coming out of the register closest to the evaporator cooling inside the home.  Blowing air will feel cool on your skin, so use a thermometer to accurately measure the temperature and ensure it's cold.

In addition to removing heat from the home, an air conditioner also removes moisture from the air. This is the job of the evaporator coil.  A drain pan sits below the evaporator coil and empties condensation (water) into a drain line.  Ensure that the line is unobstructed and the pan is draining completely.

While the above items cover the basics of a central air conditioner inspection, there's no substitute for a thorough, professional cooling system inspection performed by a trained technician. So the next time you're moving into a new home, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. You'll rest easy knowing your air conditioner is operating reliably and efficiently.
On a central air conditioner, the evaporator coils are located inside of the home. When the air handler blows warm air over the coils, the refrigerant inside the coils absorbs the the heat, lowering the temperature of the air that is blown through the home's air ducts. In addition to cooling your home, an air conditioner also dehumidifies the air. During the process of dehumidification condensation builds up on and drips off of the evaporator coils. This condensation is normally collected in a pan and drained away. When the condensation on the evaporator coils freezes, it can prevent your home from cooling properly and could lead to system breakdowns. So what causes the evaporator coils to freeze? Here are few possible causes:

1. Airflow Problems. When there is not enough return air blowing over the evaporator coils, the coils won’t have enough heat to absorb and can start to freeze. Airflow can be limited by a clogged air filter, leaking air duct leaks, blocked air registers and other causes.

2. Dirty evaporator coils. A dirty, unmaintained air conditioner will gradually result in reduced efficiency and uneven cooling. As the coils become covered in dirt they can't absorb the heat from the air and the result is frozen coils.

3. Low Refrigerant Levels. When refrigerant levels are too low as a result of a leak, the coils will not be able to absorb heat from the air, which can cause them to freeze up.

Have frozen evaporator coils? First turn the air conditioner off to allow the coil to thaw and prevent damage to the system. Next, call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We can diagnose the cause and get your air conditioner up and running again quickly.
Even if your home looks clean and the air smells fresh, there can still be harmful pollutants lurking inside that can be harmful to your health. In fact, the EPA reports that the air inside can be 2 to 5 times as polluted as the air outside. The problem gets worse in newer homes that are well sealed and insulated. Because most of us spend more than 90 percent of our time indoors, it's important to understand the types of indoor pollution that exist in most homes and how to reduce their impact on your health.

Here are some of the most common sources of indoor pollution:

1. Dust Mites - Furniture, carpet and bedding provides an ideal environment for dust mites to thrive. Wash or vacuum carpets and wash bedding weekly in hot water. Change your furnace air filter at least once a month and have your ducts professional cleaned when needed.

2. Mold and Mildew - Damp bathrooms and basements can harbor mold and mildew that can reduce air quality. Ensure that there is good ventilation in bathrooms in the form of windows or vent fans. Aim to keep humidity levels in the home between 30-50%.

3. Carbon Monoxide - Gas appliances can emit odorless, deadly carbon monoxide. Install carbon monoxide detectors near every bedroom and test them regularly.

4. Smoke and Pet Dander – If there are pets or smoking in the home, consider limiting smoking to outside and installing a whole home air cleaner.

5. Radon - Radon a invisible, odorless form of radiation that can enter the home from the ground and increase the risk of certain types of cancer. Purchase a radon detection kit and follow the instructions for testing radon in your home. If problems are found, proper radon mitigation techniques should be performed to reduce exposure to safe levels.
A traditional thermostat works by detecting the temperature in the room and sending a signal through wires to the heating or cooling system to turn on when the temperature drops above or below the preset temperature.

A smart thermostat consists of a control panel that connects wirelessly to a home's HVAC system. To control the thermostat you can use the interface on the wall mounted unit, or an app for your smartphone or tablet. One advantage of a smart thermostat is you can monitor and control the thermostat from any location. Alerts can even be set up to notify you if the temperature drops to an unsafe level during the winter... providing additional peace of mind while you're away from home on vacation.

Another key benefit of smart thermostats is their ability to learn a household's routine and adjust the temperature to optimize comfort and reduce energy waste. When the thermostat senses that no one is home, the temperature is adjusted to maximized energy savings over comfort.

Have questions about connecting your home's heating and cooling system to the latest smart thermostat technology? Give us a call, we can help.
It's understandable that homeowners to want to save money by tackling maintenance projects around the home. However, there are some projects that are definitely not DIY, especially work that involves electrical systems and air conditioners.

Always contact a qualified, licensed electrician to perform any electrical work in your home, including the installation and servicing of air conditioning and heating equipment.

Consider These Facts and Statistics
  • According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 15% of consumer-product related electrocutions are related to contact with large appliances. These electrocutions occur most commonly while someone is attempting to service or repair the appliance.
  • In 2006, an estimated 33,500 injuries were reported to hospital emergency rooms as involving air conditioners, fans, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air purifiers, and heat pumps. The leading types of injuries were laceration (14,890), contusion or abrasion (6,110), and strain or sprain (4,430).
  • In 2006, air conditioning or related equipment was involved in an estimated 7,400 reported U.S. home structure fires, with associated losses of 270 civilian injuries and $200 million indirect property damage.
  • In 2003-2006, the 7,000 reported home structure fires per year involving air conditioning and related equipment included 2,400 per year involving central and room air conditioners specifically and 3,700 per year involving fans.
  • In 1995-2003 (excluding 1999, which was not reported), there were 11.5 electrocution deaths per year involving air conditioners and 4.3 electrocution deaths per year involving fans.
The next time you need help installing or maintaining your home's air conditioner, call the experts at ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning, we're here to help keep you safe and comfortable.
While annual professional AC maintenance by a certified air conditioning technician is important for keeping your home's central air conditioner working reliably and efficiently all year long in Southwest Florida's hot and humid climate, there are also a few simple maintenance tasks you can do yourself to ensure your system is kept in good operating condition between professional tune-ups.

Here is a list of tasks you can safely perform yourself on the outdoor section of the air conditioner:
  1. Shut-Off Power to the AC Unit - First, and most importantly, always turn off power to the AC unit before performing any cleaning or maintenance tasks. There are electrical and moving parts that can easily injure you, so always use caution. On the outside of the home near the condenser/compressor, there should be an exterior shut-off box. Also turn off power to the unit at the breaker box.
  2. Clean the AC Unit - Remove the fan cage on top of the condensor/compressor. You will need either a screwdriver or wrench to remove the fasteners. Next, lift the fan grill off the top of the unit and set it aside. Using a wet/dry vacuum or gloved hands, clean away leaves and debris from the interior of the unit.
  3. Clean The Fins - Using a garden hose – NOT a pressure washer – gently spray through the fins from the inside out to blast away any built up dirt or debris from between them. If the water from the hose is not able to remove dirt that has built up, there are commercial sprays available at most home stores that can safely loosen the dirt so it can be sprayed off. Never use unapproved detergents or solvents to clean the air conditioner.
  4. Straighten The Fins - bent fins can restrict airflow and reduce efficiency. One way to straighten fins is with a butter knife. Fin straightening tools are also available. Be careful not to damage the tubing that is embedded within the fins.
  5. Clear the Area Around the Air Conditioner – Cut away tree branches and shrubs in all directions within two feet the unit. Rake away debris and leaves. If the unit will be unused for a period of time, cover the top of the unit to protect it from falling debris. Enclosing the entire condensor unit in a plastic cover can reduce ventilation and cause corrosion, and is not recommended.
Have questions about air conditioner maintenance? Give us a call, we are here to help.
During the summer months, does the upper level of your home feel hot and stuffy while the lower levels are freezing cold? In multi-level homes it's not uncommon for there to be an 8-10 degree difference between the lowest level and the highest level in the home during the summer months. Here are some steps you can take to even out the temperatures.

First, it's important to leave all of the air ducts open throughout the house. Central heating and cooling systems are designed to work with the air volume of every room. Closing air ducts can reduce the performance of the system and waste energy.

Leaky Ductwork
Even minor leaks from poorly aligned or uninsulated ducts can dramatically reduce airflow, making it difficult for conditioned air to reach the outer reaches of the home. An HVAC professional can help find and seal leaks with with special pressurizing equipment.

Check Insulation Levels
Improving attic insulation can mitigate air leaks and can reduce the effect of environmental factors on the temperature inside of the home. The US Department of Energy has some great tips for installing insulation here.

Consider a Zoning System
A zoning system allows you to control the temperature on multiple levels of the home independently using thermostats installed on each floor. The thermostats are rigged to control panels that adjust dampers installed inside your ductwork.

In addition to balancing the temperature on different floors, a zoned system will allow you to heat or cool individual rooms on demand, or close off unused rooms entirely.

Have questions about maintaining even temperatures throughout your home? Give ABC a call, we can help.
If you're considering replacing your old central air conditioner, there are a few important things to consider when it comes to selecting a new AC unit for your home.

1. Reliability - An air conditioner is a major investment that you will depend on for years to come. Do your research and go with a proven brand and you'll reduce the chances of having problems down the road.

2. Efficiency - By choosing an EnergyStar® rated system you can save you up to 30% on your annual cooling bill.

3. Variable Speed Operation - One of the features that has improved heating and cooling efficiency and comfort in the past decade is variable speed operation. By more precisely controlling the speed of the fans, the system runs quieter and provides more advanced control.

4. Professional Installation - The most important day in the life of your air conditioner is the day it's installed. Proper sizing and correct installation is critical. Choose a heating and cooling company with experience and one that stands behind their work, now and down the road.

5. Indoor Air Quality - To reduce indoor pollution consider attaching a whole house air cleaner to your furnace or air handler. You can have peace of mind knowing your new system is capturing small contaminants that can cause health problems.

Have questions about choosing a new air conditioner? Call ABC Southwest Plumbing and Air Conditioning. We're here to help.
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