1.Your Air Conditioning Installation Will Determine A Lot – So Choose Your Contractors Carefully.
If you are in a position where you get to choose how the installation is done, you’re fortunate. Obviously, many homeowners are buying homes that already have an HVAC system in place – or at least ductwork – and there is a certain amount of “making it work” involved.
However, if you are involved in the selection and planning of a new Clearwater AC installation, there are a few questions you should ask the installing companies before any sale is concluded.
What capacity system do I need? Make sure that you insist on having an experienced technician perform a load calculation to determine precisely what your home needs.
Do I need new ductwork? Obviously, if ductwork exists in your home, you hope that you’ll be able to use it, as new ducts can be expensive to install. However, if the ducts weren’t well laid out, or if they are leaking or uninsulated, you’ll save a lot of money in the long run by correcting that at stage one.
Is the system I’m choosing the most efficient for my home? You should ask about SEER ratings and projected utility costs.
On top of doing your due diligence, you should be researching the company you’re going to be working with, as well as checking their references, insurance, and licenses.
If anyone gives you even the slightest trouble about seeing paperwork or tries to pressure you into moving forward before you understand all the information, hire someone else.
Like us, perhaps?
2. Choose – or upgrade to – an advanced, programmable thermostat.
Don’t think of a programmable thermostat as bells and whistles. While the highest-tier models are indeed full of impressive features that will please the tech-savvy among you, that isn’t the relevant factor. What is relevant is what they bring to the table in terms of performance and optimization.
Alright, I’m listening. What makes modern thermostats so special?
Mostly, I think you should consider the value of wi-fi connectivity. For years, the big selling point of programmable thermostats has been that you can set specific times for your central air conditioner or heat pump to turn on and off.
However, that doesn’t work for many of us – our schedules can be slightly unpredictable, and you don’t want to reprogram the thermostat over and over again.
Wi-fi capable thermostats eliminate that issue entirely – you can simply log in on your phone or other device and turn the system on and off at will. They also typically include analytical data that makes it very easy for you to optimize your system’s efficiency.
They are also more than capable of the usual array of abilities: zoning, time-based programming, automatic humidity and temperature adjustments, and so on.
Modern thermostats equal big savings.
3. You wouldn’t believe how much money a ceiling fan will save you.
I always enjoy the expression on a customer’s face when I tell them that ceiling fans can knock $30 (or more) off of their monthly energy bills. It’s true, though – a ceiling fan costs a penny an hour, give or take.
But it allows you to set your thermostat four or five degrees higher while still enjoying the same level of comfort.
Think of ceiling fans as the dedicated Robin to your HVAC system’s Batman. They’re sidekicks – and they make the whole thing work better and last longer.
4. Make sure your vents are kept free of obstruction.
Restricted airflow is a really common issue for AC systems.
You can restrict airflow without intending to by covering vents with furniture or placing large items in the path that the air wants to flow. While that isn’t going to immediately damage anything, it will, over time, make your system work too hard and affect the comfort level of any room in your house with obstructed vents.
You should avoid not only furniture obstructions, but also dust and particulates gathering in the grills, especially on your returns. It’s simple enough to take care of, and it gives your HVAC system the optimizations that it needs to last longer.
5. Change or wash your filters often.
Don’t neglect your filters.
I will say it again:
Don’t. Neglect. Your. Filters.
Dirty air filters cause all kinds of havoc in your central air conditioner or heat pump. Prices for filters can vary, depending on whether you choose HEPA filters, washable filters, pleated filters, or flat fiberglass filters, but one thing will never change: those filters need to cleaned or washed as directed.
Typically, it’s monthly, or every three weeks if you’ve got pets or an old dusty house.
What happens if you don’t change your filters? You might be asking this. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty similar to what happens if you keep driving your car and don’t get an oil change. Here are just a few of the problems you can run into:
- Higher bills due to inefficient performance and restricted airflow.
- Higher concentrations of allergens and particulates in your home.
- Overheating or outright failure of the fan motor.
- Unpleasant odors within the home.
- Short cycling, which will damage the compressor. (Note: the compressor is the single most expensive component of an HVAC system)
- Frozen evaporator coils, as cold air cannot escape the vents and concentrates within the air handler.
6. Choose a filter with a lower resistance to air flow.
There are four basic types of air filters for HVAC equipment: flat fiberglass filters, pleated media filters, HEPA filters, and washable filters. They each have strengths and weaknesses.
The HEPA filter is very popular, because it is known to remove the most particulates from the air. It’s a bit more expensive than it’s competitors, but most homeowners assume that HEPA filters are better in every way.
They’re not better – at least not in every way.
In one very particular way, HEPA filters are less effective than other types. Because they are thicker and more effective at trapping filters, they are higher resistance – by which I mean that air flows through them a little slower. It’s the difference between a knit cotton blanket and a down comforter.
If you’re not concerned terribly by allergens, or your home has other solutions in place – such as the UV light system we will discuss in a moment – then you may opt for the lower-resistance filters to optimize airflow. Your system won’t need to work quite as hard, and it may just live longer because of that.
7. Install an ultraviolet light system in your ducts to destroy mold and bacteria.
UV lights have been used for years as a sterilization tool, and the application in your central air or heat pump is based on the same principle. This high-tech added feature used to be quite expensive, but it has gotten more and more affordable as it has become common, and now it’s a viable option for anyone looking to increase performance and lifespan for their heating or cooling equipment.
UV lights aren’t replacing your filters, by the way; they’re doing something different. Your filters are focused on dust and particulates while the UV light is focused very specifically on bacteria and mold.
That means that the quality of air inside your home is dramatically improved. A tangential benefit is that your overall system performance gets a slight boost, and your air conditioner can keep humming along for years to come.
8. Schedule regular maintenance appointments.
You change the oil in your car, right?
You aren’t surprised if the big copier at your work occasionally needs a repairman’s attention, or that roads need to be repaved a few times a decade. Maintenance is part of any complex project, and an Clearwater HVAC system, make no mistake, is a serious piece of equipment.
In this industry, we call it a tune-up. Just like the auto mechanics do. An HVAC tune-up consists of the following:
Ductwork inspection and cleaning.
Condenser cleanup and fin check.
Wiring and electrical inspection.
Complete visual inspection of all components to ensure full operation.
Don’t overlook maintenance. You should be scheduling annual – or even biannual – tune-ups. AC or heat pump prices for this service are very reasonable.
9. Keep the condenser clean and clear.
I mentioned above that a tune-up usually includes a cleaning of the coils, fins, and housing of your outdoor condenser unit.
Once or twice a year isn’t enough. Not if you want the very best for your HVAC gear. So make a habit of keeping your eye on things, and hosing the condenser off once or twice a month. It’s very easy for debris and trash to find their way into that chassis, and that can prevent the condenser unit from properly dissipating the heat it is removing from your home.
10. Don’t neglect basic owner maintenance.
I’ve now gone over some specific tasks, namely hosing off your condenser and changing your filters. Those tasks are part of an owner’s responsibilities if he or she wants fantastic performance from the time AC installation all the way to the inevitable end of the system’s life.
Your air conditioner really is built to last, and it shouldn’t take much to keep it happy. However, you are the person who sees and hears the equipment on a daily basis, so you’re the first one to notice problems. If you’re not paying attention, you might miss a small problem developing.
Here’s the thing about small problems, guys: they like to become big problems.
So what are some things you should be looking for?
- Unusual sounds coming from anywhere in your system.
- Odd smells coming from the ducts.
- Water or refrigerant leaks.
- A malfunctioning thermostat.
If any of these issues rear their ugly little heads, you should contact a professional and tackle the problem while it’s easily manageable.
11. Throw a little shade on the outdoor unit.
If the condenser is shaded, performance of the overall system can be improved by as much as 10%. That’s a very significant amount for such a simple thing. There are a few easy ways to add shade. You could have the condenser placed in existing shade provided by a tree or awning, or place the condenser beneath a shade fabricated for that purpose.
Do NOT obstruct your condenser, though.
I’ve had customers ask to have the condenser installed in a buffer space, such as an attic or basement. That would have the opposite of the intended effect, and would cause a pretty immediate failure. (Plus, equipment installations require a permit and the inspector would never allow an outdoor unit to be installed inside.)
A condenser has to be in the great outdoors, exchanging temperatures with the nearly infinite air supply of Planet Earth. If you place a condenser into a space with a finite air supply, it will be very quickly overworked.
So, in a word: shade.
If you have any other questions about making the most of your Clearwater air conditioning system, don’t hesitate to give us a call right now at 727-270-9125
11 Pro Tips to a Long & Healthy Life for Your Central Air Conditioner
Here’s something we can all agree on:
Central Air Conditioner systems aren’t cheap.
Now, that’s understandable, of course; they’re immense, complex, sophisticated machines that do a very big job. They’re modern marvels of luxury that allows us to defeat the summer heat – and control the temperature and humidity of our homes at the touch of a button.
They’re also built to last a very long time. That kind of engineering is bound to have a price tag.
But the expense means that you’ve got to take care of your HVAC system, because the last thing you want is a central air conditioner that’s costing you a fortune in repair bills or a Clearwater air conditioning installation that misjudges some critical factor and leaves you high and dry just a few years into what is meant to be a very long lifespan.
A central air or heat pump price tag can be daunting, but don’t worry. We’ve done a lot of learning over the years, and we’ve figured out these tried-and-true techniques to maximize efficiency and extend the effective life of your equipment.
Keep reading to get the details. We think they’re pretty cool.