- What do all those air conditioning, furnace and heat pump ratings mean?
- How does an air conditioner work?
- What is a heat pump?
- My heat pump is steaming and dripping water, is that normal?
- What is variable speed?
- What is two-stage heating?
- What is two-stage cooling?
- How do I choose the best company to install my system?
- How can I control energy costs?
- Why is my system freezing up?
- What causes indoor air pollution?
- What is indoor air quality and what are the benefits of clean air?
1. What do all those air conditioning, furnace and heat pump ratings mean?
SEER: (seasonal energy-efficiency ratio) is the measure of an air conditioning system’s efficiency over an entire cooling season. The higher the SEER rating, the less your system will cost to operate.
EER: (energy-efficiency ratio) is the measure of how efficiently the system will operate when the outdoor temperature is at a specific level (usually 95F). A higher EER means a higher efficiency.
AFUE: (annual fuel utilization efficiency) like your car’s miles-per-gallon rating, a higher AFUE rating means a higher efficiency unit. A furnace’s AFUE of 90% means 90% of the fuel is used to heat your home, while the other 10% is wasted in gases vented outside. Choose a higher AFUE to save more energy.
HSPF: (heating system performance factor) is the measure of a heat pump’s estimated seasonal heating output during the heating season. Heat pumps with higher HSPFs are more efficient than heat pumps with lower HSPF ratings.
BTU: (British thermal unit) is the unit of heat energy that’s necessary to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit. Example: a 10,000 Btu air conditioner can remove 10,000 Btus of heat per hour.
2. How does an air conditioner work?
An air conditioner seems as if it cools your home’s air, but it actually makes your home less warm by removing heat from the indoor air and transferring that heat to the outdoor air. Heat is extracted from the home by passing indoor air across a refrigerant coil in the indoor unit. Refrigerant lines then carry the heat to the outdoor unit, where it is released into the outside air. The cooling cycle continues until the indoor temperature reaches the thermostat setting.
3. What is a heat pump?
A heat pump is an all-in-one heating and air conditioning system that works year-round to keep you comfortable. During warmer months, a heat pump works as a normal air conditioner. It extracts heat from inside the home and transfers it to the outdoor air. In colder weather, however, the process reverses—the unit collects heat from the outdoor air and transferring it inside your home.
Even when the air outside feels extremely cold, the air still contains some heat. The heat pump pulls the heat from this cold outdoor air and sends it inside to warm your home. When there’s not enough heat in the outside air to meet the demand of the thermostat setting, an electric heater supplements the outdoor air to warm the home. Extremely efficient, this process produces two to three times more heat than the energy it uses.
Also, a heat pump can be an effective add-on option to use in conjunction with an existing gas furnace. With this dual-fuel option, the two systems share the heating load, but never function at the same time. Each system operates when it is most cost effective. The heat pump will be the primary heating and cooling system. However, when the temperature drops below the heat pump’s ability to operate as efficiently as the gas furnace, the gas furnace will take over until the temperature rises enough for the heat pump to operate more efficiently.
4. My heat pump is steaming and dripping water, is that normal?
During the heating cycle a heat pump removes heat from the outside air. Water will condense and run on the ground near the outdoor unit. At a certain temperature it will automatically defrost itself periodically. This will cause cool harmless steam to rise from the heat pump.
5. What is variable speed?
The term “variable speed” refers to the furnace’s indoor blower motor, which moves at different speeds to precisely control the flow of heated and cooled air throughout your home. Better airflow control has several benefits:
Electrical efficiency: Variable speed motors can actually save you money on your energy bills, as they consume less electricity than standard motors.
Cooling efficiency: Variable speed technology also means you will gain heating efficiency or AFUE.
Zoning: Variable speed motors are excellent for zoning, which allows you to customize your comfort in different areas of your home and control your energy bills.
Air quality: A variable speed motor can also help clean the air in your home. When the fan is in constant operation (indicated by the “Fan” setting on your thermostat), the motor will continue to slowly circulate air, allowing filters to capture more contaminants.
Humidity control: A variable speed motor combined with a Honeywell PRO 8000 programmable thermostat Home Comfort Control allows you to control the amount of humidity in your home for improved indoor air quality and comfort.
6. What is two-stage heating?
Two-stage heating means the furnace has two levels of heat output: high for cold winter days and low for milder days. Since the low setting is adequate to meet household-cooling demands 80% of the time, a two-stage unit runs for longer periods and provides more even heat distribution.
Longer, low-capacity operation has many advantages:
Consistent comfort: Two-stage heating eliminates the temperature swings associated with standard furnaces, regulating temperature to within as little as one degree of the thermostat setting.
Quiet operation: Two-stage furnaces start in the first stage, when the amount of heat required is lower, instead of reaching full capacity all at once. That means there’s no sudden “kick” or blast of air.
Improved air filtration: Low-speed operation allows your filters to capture more contaminants (because air is constantly passing through them), so you can breathe easier.
Efficient performance: Because the furnace operates mostly in its lower-capacity first stage, it burns less fuel than a standard furnace that always runs at full capacity and shuts off when the heating demand has been met.
7. What is two-stage cooling?
Two-stage cooling means the air conditioner or heat pump has a compressor with two levels of operation: high for hot summer days and low for milder days. Since the low setting is adequate to meet household-cooling demands 80% of the time, a two-stage unit runs for longer periods and produces more even temperatures.
Longer cooling cycles also translate to quieter, more efficient operation and enhanced humidity control. Compared to a single-stage unit, a two-stage air conditioner or heat pump can remove twice as much moisture from the air. This is important because when moisture levels are high, there’s a higher potential for mold and other pollutant problems.
8. How do I choose the best company to install my system?
Ask for referrals from your friends and neighbors. An established company that has been in business in your area for many years will have lots of happy customers. They should be licensed, insured and have design, installation and service departments. Being in business a lot of years isn’t always evidence of quality.
9. How can I control energy costs?
Heating and cooling your home can represent as much as 40% of your utility bill. When selecting a new system, pay close attention to the SEER rating of the air conditioner and AFUE of the furnace. The higher the SEER or AFUE, the higher the savings.
Beyond efficiency ratings, other factors to consider are:
Maintenance: You can ensure your system operates at peak performance by scheduling annual maintenance checks.
Zoning: A zoning system can drastically lower your heating and cooling costs. With zoning, you no longer have to pay to heat or cool areas of your home that are rarely used.
Programmable thermostats: According to the Department of Energy, a programmable thermostat can reduce your heating costs by up to 35% and cooling costs by up to 25%.
10. Why is my system freezing up?
There are several factors that can cause system freezing. Most need to be corrected by your heating & air conditioning contractor.
One thing you can do to prevent or correct this problem is to make sure the filter is clean or replaced. You can check to see if airflow is restricted.
Dirty filter: After replacing or cleaning the filter, you can speed up the thawing process by turning the system off and turning on the fan. If you have a heat pump system, you can try turning the system to heating mode until the ice has melted. After the ice has melted, switch the system settings back to normal.
Low refrigerant: In some cases, freezing is caused by a leak in the refrigerant lines. Weak solder joints, friction from piping rubbing or vibrating against an object, open valves or loose fittings are all factors that can cause leaks. When determining whether to have the system repaired or replaced, the age of the system and the nature and location of the leak are important considerations.
Dirty evaporator coil: Over time, the evaporator coil will become dirty. When this happens, you will begin to lose airflow, slowly enough that you probably would not realize it until it freezes up or cooling performance is compromised.
Defective blower motor or relay:A blower motor not running at the proper speed or not running at all is another factor that can cause freezing. Motor operation may be intermittent, starting at full speed and slowing down after it heats up. Or, a relay could cause it to start one time and not the next. In either case, you will need to contact our Service Department to correct the problem.
11. What causes indoor air pollution?
Many everyday household items contribute to poor indoor air quality. Compounds found in carpeting, furniture, upholstery and drapery fabric consistently emit gas or fumes. Other sources of pollutants can include, but are not limited to, cleaning agents, paints and personal care products.
Also, newer homes that are tightly sealed for energy efficiency tend to limit air circulation, which can contribute to a buildup of contaminants. Likewise, things like weather stripping and storm doors keep stale air in and fresh air out.
12. What is indoor air quality and the benefits of clean air?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), your exposure to air pollutants can be up to 100 times higher indoors than outdoors. The American Lung Association estimates that most people spend 90% of their time indoors, so clean indoor air is very important.
Allergies and asthma are two health problems that can be helped with clean indoor air. When airborne irritants are removed, allergy and asthma sufferers often find relief from their symptoms. Even healthy people who have never suffered from allergies can benefit from clean air. Dust, smoke and other particles float around in the air, causing your drapes and furniture to gather dust. By removing airborne dust particles, you reduce the amount of exposure your respiratory system has to them.