Once your AC system is up and running, it could be a decade or more before you replace it. Since you will be living with it for a long time, you want to choose wisely.
If done correctly, a new air-conditioner will result in more comfort year-round, lower energy bills and better air quality — particularly because of recent improvements in cooling-equipment technology and installation procedures.
Here are basic points to remember during the process:
1. Pick a trusted contractor. Unless you have worked in the HVAC field, you cannot expect to completely understand all the details in air-conditioning; no homeowner can. This creates a situation where you might be taken advantage of, and you need to proceed carefully.
Do pick a contractor based on recommendations from friends or neighbors or a reputable referral network. Don’t choose one after talking to a telemarketer or because someone came to your door to make a solicitation. Be suspicious of mailings offering cut-rate prices.
Check on how long the contractor has been in business. Someone who has been around at least five years has a commitment to the job and can typically be counted on to return if you have problems.
HVAC contractors must register with the State of Pennsylviania.
Then check with the Better Business Bureau to see whether a contractor has been the subject of complaints. Finally, ask each contractor you interview for past customers’ names and call a few.
Ask references: Did the contractor do what was promised? Has he or she returned to fix problems that came up after installation? How do the customers like the air-conditioner they chose? What impact have they seen on their utility bills?
2. Take the contractor’s advice. Researching online or asking others who have purchased air-conditioners is always good. But be cautious about insisting on a specific brand or size of air-conditioner, especially when recommended by someone living in another state.
Once you choose an installer you trust, ask for suggestions. The contractor may know about options that suit your home better than what you had in mind. A good contractor also knows which manufacturers give the best warranty.
3. Buy an AC that fits your home. Make sure your contractor does research about your house, the microclimate you live in, and the condition and placement of your air ducts. That way, he or she can determine how much air-conditioning you need and whether you need to repair or realign ducts to improve your cooling efficiency.
Be very, very cautious. If a salesperson makes a proposal without visiting your attic to look at your furnace and air handler or without checking the AC in the yard or on the roof, he or she is not doing the necessary homework.
4. Bigger is not always better with air-conditioning. AC experts tell us that for years we have “over-tonned” houses by installing air-conditioners too large for the size of the house.
A quick explanation starts with a few definitions: The cooling power of air-conditioners is often described as “tons of refrigeration.” A ton of refrigeration is roughly equal to the cooling power of one ton (2,000 pounds) of ice melting in 24 hours. Residential central-AC systems are usually from 1 to 5 tons in capacity.
The industry used to recommend installing 1 ton of refrigeration for every 600 square feet of floor space in your home. But times have changed, and energy efficiency has improved. You can probably go with 20 percent less tonnage than before. You can go down about half a ton in your AC without even noticing it.
Be wary of contractors who recommend increasing tons because of warmer areas in your house. That cannot be solved by increasing the capacity of your air-conditioner.
An oversize AC stops and starts more often; that costs more kilowatt hours and could lead to mechanical breakdowns. Oversize air-conditioners do not run long enough to dehumidify the air. A smaller unit will run longer and perform more efficiently.
5. Change your entire HVAC system. If you replace just the outside AC unit with a condenser and compressor without replacing the furnace and air handler, you might not be happy with your comfort level or energy bills.
Those separate units are designed to work together and need to match in capacity and efficiency. Otherwise, you might not get the benefits of the SEER rating promised by the equipment you buy.
Your HVAC system along with your water heater makes up 60% of your home’s energy costs! It is important to make sure your AC system is properly charged with freon, otherwise your system could work twice as hard to cool your home and will lead to an early exit for your compressor. Most repairs on heating and cooling systems are performed on units that have not had an annual tune-up.
An annual spring start-up by a certified technician is a great way to make sure your system is working properly and won’t let you down on the hottest days. Units that are properly charged with freon cool better and save you money along with keeping you cool and comfortable.
Ask your Oehlert Bros. Technician about UV Lights that keep fungus and mold from growing in your AC system!
Steve Oehlert is the owner and President of
Oehlert Bros. Inc., Limerick, Pa
5 Tips to Fix or Troubleshoot Your AC Problem FAST!
When the heat is rising in your home and you have discovered your Air Conditioning system is not working, check these items first before calling for a repair.
Protect your system with an A/C Service Plan for smooth sailing though the summer. A pre-season tune-up as well as repair, parts & labor are included. Your A/C system will run more efficiently and the chance of a breakdown will be reduced.
Steve Oehlert, President
Oehlert Bros. Inc. Home Heating & Cooling
Making sure your tankless water heater is properly installed and maintained will optimize its energy efficiency, especially since water heaters are one of the many appliances we rely on every day. Whether gas or electric, they are generally very dependable and quiet. A tankless water heater can last for a decade or more, and save you money as long as proper annual maintenance is performed.
Proper installation of your tankless water heater depends on many factors, so it is important to have a qualified and licensed plumbing and heating contractor install your tankless water heater. Before selecting a contractor request estimates in writing, obtain references, check the company with your local Better Business Bureau, and make sure they have a proper permit.
Tankless water heaters are now designed to last 20- 30 years. This is done by owning a high quality water heater, and by preforming a little maintenance on it. Without maintaining your tankless water heater investment you might only get half that time.
Water qualities are different all over the country, and even good water has minerals in it that over time will build up on the interior walls of the tanks heating chambers. The industry standard recommendations are once per year turn the tankless water heater off, and flush out with white vinegar and water using a submersible water pump to remove the calcium deposit buildup. You can find submersible water pumps at most home improvement and hardware stores.
Summer means barbecues, family gatherings, evenings with friends on the patio, and a cool home to step inside to cool down. Did you know that using an evaporated cooling system will ensure your home is cooled effectively for a fraction of the cost of a refrigerated system? If you have not checked your air conditioning unit here’s how to get your air conditioner ready for summer.
Other steps to take in order to reduce your energy bill are to keep the windows closed in hot weather with the blinds tilted to block direct sunlight. Turn up your house thermostat as high as you comfortably can and open your windows at night to allow the cooler air to circulate in the house.
Buderus solar is one of the largest and most reputable manufacturers in the world. They have been manufacturing and designing solar water systems for over 25 years, and continue to invest in research and development to bring innovative, high quality, solar products to the market.
A Buderus solar thermal system for hot water consists of a solar collector, a pump station, and an indirect hot water storage tank. The solar collector, which is located on the roof, collects the sun’s energy and transfers the heat to the storage tank via the tanks internal heat exchanger. The storage tank in turn allows the hot water to be stored until it is used. The controller activates the system’s pump when there is enough solar energy to create hot water. Even on a cloudy day, light penetrates the cloud layer and heats up the solar collectors.
An existing Buderus wall hung or floor standing boiler can be combined into the solar system as a back-up for domestic hot water. The solar system can also complement the boiler for space heating by reducing the number of boiler starts, saving on costly fuel.
A typical Buderus residential solar hot water system using 2-4 collectors takes about 1-2 days to install depending on location and roof type. Larger commercial systems take longer because of the scale, equipment, and labor required. The typical life expectancy of a Buderus solar hot water system is 20-30 years. If the system is properly maintained, it can last over 30 years. Every 5 year, the heat transfer fluid should be checked and replaced. The pipe insulation and controller settings should also be checked as part of the annual system check-up.
A residential solar water heater will offset greenhouse gas emissions by about 1,600 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. That’s equal to the amount of CO2 released by an average vehicle every 1,700 miles!
You can get your home ready for the winter season by tackling easy and inexpensive projects that will save you money in heating bills in the long run. Here are a few simple winterizing suggestions to help you prepare your home and your wallet for the cold weather months.
Contact a local HVAC company to have your HVAC system serviced. Make sure they inspect the duct system for leaks, as this can cause warm air to leak outside instead of being distributed throughout your home.
Insulating your attic reduces unwanted heat loss out of your home during the winter months and air conditioning in the summer months. A quick way to determine if you need more insulation is by looking at the floor joists. If the joists stick up past the insulation levels, you probably need more. If the joists are hidden under the insulation, your attic is thoroughly insulated.
In addition to checking insulation, weather-strip and insulate your attic hatch or door. Seal up holes in the attic that lead down into the house such as open wall tops and ducts, and plumbing or electrical runs. Any hole that leads from the basement or a crawlspace to the attic is a big energy waster.
If you wish to close off your chimney, install glass doors or inserts to keep the heat from getting sucked out of the house. If you are going to use your fireplace, hire a chimney sweep to clean it out annually and inspect the damper for proper opening and closing to minimize the chances of heat escaping.
Using weather stripping around doors will prevent cold air from entering your home. As you check all of your exterior doors make sure the weather stripping is intact. If the weather stripping has deteriorated or is non-existent, install it on the sides and top of the door. The bottom of every exterior door should have a sweep running along the bottom.
Make sure all double hung windows are pulled up. Sometimes the top half may slip down unknowingly if the catches are not securely locked. If you have a basement, consider protecting its window wells by covering them with plastic shields.
When your central heating and cooling system is in its best condition, it provides a great mix of efficiency and comfort. On the other hand, if it is left without proper maintenance, that efficiency crashes and so does your wallet.
Most maintenance for central heating and cooling systems should be left to the professionals, but some general upkeep can be performed by homeowners of any skill level. Here’s a list of suggested maintenance for central heating and cooling systems to ensure you keep the cost of comfort at its lowest.
Air filters on central heating and cooling systems block dust, pollen, and other small particles from entering your home. Eventually, these air filters become clogged by these particles, causing a reduction in energy efficiency from 5 to 15 percent. Ignoring air filter maintenance is like throwing away the money you spent on a better unit. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that filters be replaced every one to two months during the season. Some central air conditioner filters are reusable while others are disposable. Before you replace your air filter, check to see which kind you have.
Central air conditioners feature drains used to remove condensation and humidity. These can become clogged over time. Unclogging the drains is simple. Just push a wire through the drain channels to knock out the gunk.
Other maintenance should only be done by professionals or homeowners with advanced knowledge. These include:
The evaporator and condenser coils collect dirt overtime, limiting air flow and the amount of heat removed by the air conditioner. These should be cleaned, at most, every year.
Fins on the evaporator and condenser bend over time, which blocks air flow. When this occurs, the fins should be straightened.
The blower may wear down over time and need an adjustment to boost air flow.
If your air conditioner has too much or too little refrigerant, an essential chemical component that creates cool air, your system will operate inefficiently.
A furnace relies on a filter to block out dust, mold, and other particles, which collects dirt over time, leading to falling energy efficiency. Your filter should be changed regularly, as much as once a month during seasons when it’s in constant use. A filter change takes just a few minutes.
If you have natural gas, check whether the pilot light is on and that it’s blue. If you’re trying to heat your home but getting nothing except cold air blowing in, a pilot light that’s gone out is the likely problem. If the pilot light is yellow or orange, there may be a mechanical issue with the system.
Other maintenance should only be done by professionals or homeowners with advanced knowledge. These include:
Belts inside your central heating dry out and become worn over time, this reduces efficiency. These should be adjusted and lubricated, at the most, annually.
Dirt will inevitably end up in your central heating, requiring a professional cleaning. Nearly all elements of the furnace must be wiped down and cleaned out. A dirty furnace can significantly reduce efficiency. Get a contractor to clean your furnace every few years.