Ask your AC Technician

With Spring already here, you’re probably preparing to schedule your next AC tune-up. When the technician comes over to perform preventative maintenance, you should take this time to get answers to your most pressing questions. Here are a few concerns you might have.

How frequently should I change the AC filter?

The basic rule of thumb is to check the filter once a month and replace it after no longer than three months. If you have allergies, you may want to change the filter more frequently than this, especially if pets or smokers live in your home.

Which MERV rating is right for my AC unit?

The Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV rating, indicates how well the filter does its job. The higher the MERV rating, the smaller particles the filter can remove from the air. Follow these guidelines:

  • MERV 6 filters are sufficient if you have no pets and no allergy problems. The capture large debris and particles.
  • MERV 8 filters provide better air-filtering power, making them the best option for the average home. These filters capture dust mites’ debris and mold spores.
  • MERV 11 filters offer superior air filtration for exceptionally clean indoor air. Best option for pet owners or smokers.
  • MERV 13 filters are some of the highest efficiency versions you can install in a residential HVAC system. More efficient filters that can capture even the bacteria and virus carriers in the air.

How often should I service my air conditioner?

Most technicians recommend scheduling preventative maintenance once a year. Spring is the best time for a service call because it gets your cooling equipment tuned-up and ready for summer.

How do I troubleshoot problems with my AC unit?

Air conditioners are robust and designed to work even in less-than-ideal circumstances. However, if yours starts acting up, follow these troubleshooting tips before calling a cooling technician for help.

  • If the air conditioner won’t turn on, check the thermostat setting. Then, make sure the unit has power by checking that it’s plugged in and no circuit breakers have tripped. Replace the filter in case bad airflow is causing overheating and look for problems with the condensate drain line. If you can’t solve the problem, you may need to call a professional.
  • If the AC starts blowing hot air, this means the air handler is running, but the condenser isn’t. Make sure the outdoor unit has power and clear away any debris that could be blocking airflow to the condenser.
  • If strange noises or smells are coming from the AC, don’t ignore them. Shut off the unit immediately and call a professional for help diagnosing and repairing the problem.

Stock Up on Replacement Air Filters

If you go to change the AC filter at the recommended interval only to discover that you’re all out of replacement filters, take this time to restock your supply. Spring is a good time for that, so you have the replacement air filters you need for the next few months.

When should I replace my HVAC unit?

As you get ready to turn on your furnace, you may assume it’s best to rely on the equipment until it breaks down for good. However, there are plenty of signs you should replace your HVAC unit other than a total breakdown. If you time it right, an HVAC replacement could start paying you back from day one. Here’s how to know when to replace your HVAC unit.

Age & Fuel Utilization Efficiency

A well-maintained furnace can serve you for nearly two decades. However, furnaces manufactured before 2000 are typically rated 80 Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) or less, meaning that only 80 percent of the fuel that goes into the system is converted into usable heat for your home.

Today, furnaces can achieve near-total efficiency with ratings of 96 AFUE or higher. If you replace your 80 AFUE furnace with a 96 AFUE model, you can expect about 20 percent lower heating bills effective immediately. These energy savings help the furnace pay for itself over the coming years.

Increasing Utility Costs

In addition to being lower-efficiency to begin with, your aging furnace experiences a significant drop in performance as it nears 15 or 20 years old. If you compare utility bills from the past few years, you’re bound to notice an increase in recent years. The rising cost of natural gas may not be the only thing to blame.

Increasing heating bills are also undoubtedly caused by your aging failing to perform even close to its AFUE rating. This means you’re paying more to heat your home than necessary.

Safety Concerns

Gas furnaces and other fuel-burning appliances produce carbon monoxide as a byproduct of incomplete combustion. When operating normally, your furnace vents a deadly gas outside and disperses into the air. If your house has an outdated HVAC unit with questionable venting safety, an upgrade could improve your peace of mind and ensure your family’s safety.

Home Comfort Problems

Older HVAC systems have a harder time circulating air properly, which could cause some rooms to become too warm while others never get warm enough. Installing a new furnace with more advanced features – and modifying the ductwork if needed – will improve these comfort problems so you can stop adjusting the thermostat constantly.

High Repair Costs

More frequent and expensive repairs indicate that your equipment could be on its last leg. Instead of pouring more money into repairing an aging unit, take recurrent breakdowns as a warning sign and put your money toward a replacement HVAC unit.

Odd Smells or Noises

These problems could mean something is very wrong with your furnace. A repair might get the unit up and running again, but if the cost is too high, these issues could signal the beginning of the end for your furnace.

Can Filters Ease Asthma and Allergies?

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, over 25 million people in the United States suffer from asthma. When asthma attacks occur, the chest tightens and the sufferer has a shortness of breath or wheeze. It can happen unexpectedly, and may be triggered by specific things in your everyday environment, or even allergies.

Pollutants and allergens such as ragweed, mold, pet dander and cigarette smoke are common triggers of both asthma and allergies. Therefore, it is essential to clear the home of as many impurities in the air as possible. While there are many methods of doing this, most people already have a tool to help—their furnace. Discover how your heating and cooling system can relieve your asthma symptoms.

  • Air Filters Make the Difference
    The purpose of a filter in the HVAC unit is to maintain indoor air quality by capturing dust and other pollutants. Furnace filters are essential for asthma and allergies, because the filter captures the pollen, mold, pet dander and common airborne allergens—keeping it out of the air. Cleaner indoor air can make a big difference in how easy it is to breathe indoors for those with respiratory conditions. This is why it is important to change your air filters frequently.
  • What Filter Should You Use?
    Choosing an air filter to help prevent asthma symptoms requires research because each filter has a rating called a MERV. First, you want to use a filter that fits your system. Getting a precise measurement and MERV rating is important, so the filter can function efficiently. The higher the rating, the more efficient the filter is at capturing allergens and airborne pollutants. Consider a filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 13 for the best results.

As you can see, it is vital that you choose the right air filter and change them regularly. Not only will doing this keep the air that flows through your home cleaner and healthier for you and your family, but it may also reduce heating and cooling costs too.

HELP! It is hot and my AC stopped working…

If the hot weather arrived earlier than you expected, it is possible that your air conditioning unit might not be ready to go quite yet. In a desperate attempt to escape the heat, you may have powered on your AC anyway, only to notice that it is not working properly. AC units in need of service will not cool or filter air properly. Luckily, many AC unit issues are easily repaired by simple maintenance tasks, such as replacing the air filter, cleaning the lines or an annual checkup done by a professional.

Why does my AC smell?

Does the air coming out of your AC unit smell musty or moldy? If so, the air filter may be filled with dust, pollen and other debris. If the filter is not changed frequently, these contaminants cause mold to grow on the surface of the air filter. You can easily restore the air quality flowing through your home by replacing your dirty air filter with a brand new one. You should check your AC filter monthly to find the best replacement interval for your home.  

My AC is not blowing cold air

Are you not feeling cold air from your air conditioning? If you notice that your ducts are not producing the normal blast of cold air, you must find a fix fast to prevent damage to the unit. Your air conditioner operates best when the blower can constantly push cooled air through the ducts. Otherwise, the chilled air remains in the system, causing it to freeze and stop working. The most common causes of weak airflow are a clogged air filter or faulty fan switch. If a filter change does not instantly fix the problem, you may need additional diagnostic tests performed by a licensed HVAC professional.

I think my AC has a leak

Does your air conditioner unit constantly leak water while it is running? If so, the AC drain lines could be clogged. With regular AC use, dirt and debris fill up these lines, eventually causing a total blockage. When this happens, the water flows back through the lines and overflows the drain pan. Fixing this problem involves a thorough cleaning of the drain lines to remove the debris causing the blockage. You will also need to dry the drain pan to prevent mildew growth inside the AC unit.

Obtaining HVAC Services

As you start preparing your air conditioner for the summer, reflect on your repair abilities to determine if the services would be best handled by a professional. Although changing an AC filter is usually a fairly straightforward task, additional diagnostic tests can help you avoid overlooking problems before the heat of the summer arrives. Otherwise, you could end up waiting in the summer heat for your service professional to repair your AC unit.

Should I turn my AC Off when I go on vacation?

With the summer months on the way, vacation days are too. When you leave your home, it is easy to switch your AC unit off and lock the door behind you without a second glance. But, this may not be the best option for you as it is almost always better to run the AC while you are gone, rather than turn it off completely.

Dangers of Leaving the AC Off

One of the features of the air conditioner is that it continually removes moisture from the air. Therefore, with your AC unit switched off, your windows and other interior surfaces will start condensing and trapped moisture can quickly turn into mold and mildew growth.

Without the cooling system running, temperatures inside your home will match or exceed the high temps for each day. Constant high temperatures make building materials, such as doors and flooring, to expand and contract, causing them to warp.

Preparing Your AC for Your Absence

To avoid an unexpected system shutdown while you are gone, perform preventative maintenance tasks for your air conditioner before leaving. In general, you will need to change the filter, clear the drain lines and check the vent flaps to make sure it will work propperly. If you notice any problems with your system, you can always schedule an check up with your AC repair professional before you go.

While On Vacation, use these Settings

Right before you leave for vacation, set the thermostat to a temperature that is between 5 to 10 degrees higher than your normal setting. By turning up the temperature, you can save money on energy costs while continuing to reap the benefits of leaving your AC running. Professionals recommend 85 degrees as the best temperature because it resembles outdoor weather and your AC does not work as hard. That way your electricity bill won’t skyrocket.

If you want to come home to comfortable temperatures, consider digital thermostat. It allows you to control the temperature settings from a distance using your smartphone or computer.

Netting The Benefits

By properly preparing and setting your air conditioning unit before your vacation, you can avoid having to worry about your home while you are away. Upon returning from your trip, you will just be able sit back, relax and recuperate from your fun vacation without worry about the state of your home or AC unit.

How to know if my AC is Overworked?

Proper maintenance and settings are key elements to extend the life of your Air Conditioning unit and keep it working properly, especially during hot summer months. If you want to ensure that your air conditioner continues to blow cool air all through the summer, here are 6 smart ways to tell if your AC unit is overworked.

Your AC might be overworked if…

Improper Settings are on your thermostat

Your AC unit might work more efficiently by keeping the thermostat set at a steady temperature throughout the day. For the best efficiency, you should set the dial to a comfortable temperature that is not too cold. The Department of Energy suggests that using fans and setting the temperature at 78 degrees is the perfect method to save energy and money.

Wrong Unit Size

When you purchase a new air conditioner, it is necessary to match its size to the square footage of the area to avoid overworking the system. An improperly sized air conditioner will work too hard and too long as it attempts to cool the space. This will cause it to develop premature wear and damage that often leads to failure of internal parts.

Dirty/ Wrong Size Air Filter

As the AC filter clogs with dirt and debris, the system becomes less and less efficient, causing you to pay extra money for less cooling power. In addition, the air conditioner blower has to work even harder than normal to blow air through the filter, which can lead to internal damage.

For best results, change your filter every one to three months on average, but check it monthly during high pollen counts or excessive dust. In addition, the wrong air filter size can cause your AC unit to be overworked. Always check the make and model of the unit and purchase the correct filters size accordingly. If your old filter does not have labels with the size, grab some tape measure or ruler and see our page on “How to Measure Your Air Filter”.

Clogged Drain Lines

Over time, the drain lines in air conditioners get clogged with dust and debris. Once the drain lines are clogged, the air conditioner cannot adequately remove moisture from the air to cool it to optimal temperatures. As part of your seasonal cleaning, try to clear out the drain lines to keep your AC unit efficiently producing cool air. If you are unsure of the location of the drain line, consult a HVAC professional, they may be able to show the location of your drain line.

Uninsulated Ducts

If your AC ducts are not properly insulated, the cooled air may rise in temperature before it enters the room. Since wildlife like squirrels and raccoons can remove this material from the ducts, be sure to double check the insulation on a regular basis to avoid accidentally overworking the cooling system.

Closed Vent Flaps

The AC unit utilizes exterior vent flaps to release warm air and moisture left over from the cooling process. When the vent flaps are turned to the closed position, the warm air remains in the case and kicks the system into overdrive. When this happens, you may notice that the air coming out of the interior vents feels warmer than usual.

Reducing Stress On Your Air Conditioning Unit

By paying close attention to the areas listed above, you can make sure your AC unit produces adequate amounts of icy cool air without causing excessive damage to the internal parts. When you are preparing the AC for summer, for example, you can double check all of these problem areas to ensure your system is ready to go before powering it up full time. You will be rewarded with an AC system that maintains comfortable temperatures without fail.

Preventative care methods like a yearly check–up of your unit is more likely to detect any recurring problems.  AC units are very expensive and should last an average of 20 years, proper care throughout your ownership will keep your unit in the best shape possible.

Energy bill running high? There is one way to fix it…

Your office needs lighting, heating, cooling, refrigeration, water heating and office equipment to stay in business. All of these items consume energy, which drives up your utility bills.

If you’re hoping to specifically keep heating and cooling costs down, there’s one easy thing you can do: choose a mid-efficiency air filter and change it frequently. Your efforts can lower the energy consumption of your furnace and air conditioner by 5 to 15 percent, according to the US Department of Energy.

Choose the Right Air Filter

When choosing a type of air filter for your office building, consider the MERV rating, which indicates how effectively the filter removes increasingly smaller particles from the air:

  • The lowest efficiency filters are MERV 1-4. These one-inch-thick throwaway filters restrict airflow very little and keep energy costs down, but they only remove the largest airborne particles.
  • Pleated filters in the MERV 5-8 range remove dust, lint, pollen, dust mites, mold spores and fine powder from the air without substantially blocking airflow. These are great for residential air filtration, but they’re often not enough for businesses.
  • High-efficiency filters from MERV 9-16 are better suited for commercial applications. In addition to removing allergens and particle matter, many of these filters can trap bacteria and viruses to help sustain a healthier workplace environment.
  • The highest efficiency filters from MERV 17-20 are reserved for cleanrooms and electronics manufacturing facilities. They trap 99.97 percent of microscopic particles but must operate with a powerful air handler to push air through an incredibly tightly woven filter.

Change the Filter Frequently

Once you have a good filter in place, it’s easy to forget about it. However, you must change it once every 30 to 90 days (or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation) to prevent it from becoming clogged with dust, hair and other debris. When this happens, airflow is restricted and the furnace or air conditioner is forced to work harder, driving up your energy bills.

At the same time, as the filter becomes clogged, bits of debris make their way through the filter. Over time, this can cause the A/C evaporator coil to accumulate a layer of debris, which impairs cooling efficiency.

To solve both of these problems, check your filter monthly and change it when it appears dirty, waiting no longer than three months between changes.

Other Ways to Maximize Heating and Cooling Efficiency

To lower heating and cooling costs even more, follow these tips:

  • Seal air leaks in your ductwork to save upwards of 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
  • Keep air vents unblocked by desks and other pieces of furniture to ensure good circulation.
  • Hire a professional to conduct a routine heating and cooling inspection once a year.