Air Conditioning Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does “HVAC” mean?
The acronym HVAC stands for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning. The term is used to describe the products that keep indoor environments comfortable as well as the contractors who install, repair, and service them. The primary purpose of HVAC systems are to provide thermal comfort and to maintain good air quality.
2. How often should air filters be replaced?
All of the conditioned air delivered to your home or business must first pass through the system’s air filter. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filters should be checked every month and changed as needed, especially during periods of heavy use. The EPA recommends changing filters at least every three months.
3. How often should air conditioners be serviced?
Just as your car benefits from regular tune-ups, preventative maintenance improves the efficiency and performance of your HVAC equipment as well. The EPA recommends have cooling systems serviced by a professional HVAC contractor at least once each year. Quality HVAC contractors offer maintenance plans that include inspections and tune-ups twice each year.
4. When should I replace my air conditioning system?
Experts recommend that consumers consider HVAC replacement for equipment over ten years old. Modern air conditioning systems are up to 50 percent more energy efficient than those manufactured just a decade ago. Cooling systems that require expensive repairs or that simply aren’t keeping you comfortable are also good candidates for replacement.
5. What do the terms “SEER” and “EER” mean?
The HVAC industry uses standard measurements to rate the energy efficiency of cooling products. The seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) compares the system’s cooling output over the entire cooling season against the energy that the system consumes. Since 2006, central air conditioning systems installed in the United States are required to have a SEER rating of at least 13. Energy Star qualified products must have at least a 14 SEER rating.
The energy efficiency ratio (EER) is similar to SEER ratings, but instead of comparing cooling output to energy consumption of a specific season, EER ratings reflect the system’s efficiency during peak operating usage. The EER rating must be at least 12 to qualify as an Energy Star product.
6. Why are air conditioners sized by the ton?
The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is measured by the amount of heat that the system can extract from the environment, as measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). The term “ton” refers not to weight, but to the amount of BTUs that it takes each hour to freeze one ton of water over a single 24-hour period, which is 12,000 BTUs. Generally, one ton of cooling capacity is required for every 1,000-square-foot area.
7. How does my cooling system move air through my home?
Air conditioning systems work by using refrigerant to extract heat from the air as a fan pulls household air over the unit’s evaporator coils. An air handler distributes the cooled air through ductwork to supply vents in conditioned spaces. Return grilles draw household air back through the air ducts to the evaporator where the air distribution cycle continues until the temperature set on the air conditioning system’s thermostat is reached.