Read these 8 HVAC Overview Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about HVAC tips and hundreds of other topics.
When selecting a new central air conditioner, you want a system that cools well but doesn't make a lot of noise. Look for an AC with an outdoor sound rating of under 7.6 bels. Remember, the lower the sound rating, the quieter the unit. New air-conditioner designs offer quiet operation and promote their low sound ratings, so it's easy to compare when shopping.
Ratings for air conditioners also are published by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), based in Arlington, Virginia.
Home heating and cooling systems are much easier to operate than ever before. They work better and need fewer repairs. The innovations that bring more comfort and convenience make system operations more complicated. For the average consumer, HVAC systems are a challenge to understand. When replacing an old HVAC system, or shopping for a new one, it makes sense to inform yourself about industry jargon. It will give you some basic knowledge and help you find the best system for your home.
* Annualized Fuel Utilization Efficiency. Commonly referred to as AFUE, it is a measure of heating efficiency. More efficient furnaces have a higher AFUE.
* Air Handler. It usually is a furnace or blower coil, and is responsible for moving heated or cooled air through ductwork.
* British Thermal Unit. A BTU is a unit of heat energy. Look for high BTUs on HVAC systems that have a greater heating capacity.
* Central air conditioner. Air is handled and distributed from a central location to rooms throughout a home or building.
* Compressor. This device is located in your outdoor air-conditioning unit. Its function
is to compress and pump cooling refrigerant.
* Ductwork. Air is distributed from the furnace or blower coil via ductwork through your home.
* ENERGY STAR. A trademarked label for HVAC products that meet strict guidelines by the Environmental Protection Agency for efficiency and performance.
* Heat Exchanger. It transfers heat to air that is distributed throughout the home.
* Humidifier. This device sends moisture into heated air as it leaves the furnace.
* Humidistat. Maintains humidity levels at adjusted levels.
* MERV Rating. Not the former TV talk show host, but a rating for air filters. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. Filters with smaller holes have higher MERV values and better efficiency.
Spare yourself the expense of hiring a professional to clean the outside air conditioning coil of your HVAC unit. But you may want to call a professional to clean the inside coil.
Before you clean the outside coil, turn off the power. The switch should be next to the outdoor unit. Use a hose to clean the unit of dirt and debris. Do not use a power washer.
Cleaning the indoor coil is more challenging. Turn off the power switch near the furnace or at the main breaker panel. After removing the cover plate from the coil, vacuum the coil using a soft brush on your vacuum cleaner. Take care not to damage coil fins or move the coil. Empty the drain pan under the coil. Clear the opening to the condensation drain line. Replace the cover and restore the power.
Some contractors use a foaming coil cleaner for the outside condenser, and a non-foaming cleaner for the inside coil. The cleaners can generally be found at some hardware stores or plumbing suppliers.
Springtime is when homeowners throw open doors and windows and give homes a thorough cleaning. It also is a good time to check air-conditioning and heating equipment. Heavy winter use of your system just ended. Summer, another peak season, is just around the corner. Here are some tips:
* Clean and replace furnace and air-conditioning filters. This should be a chore you do monthly. Many people don't.
* Clear your air conditioner's drainage hole, located beneath the evaporator fins. Use a wire to poke through the hole and clear it.
* Open the housing on your dehumidifier. Vacuum the surface, and let it dry completely.
* Clean bathroom fans. Take the cover off, wash it in soapy water and clean dirt off the fan blades.
* Caulk around windows and doors annually. This keeps out heat and humidity in the summer and cold drafts in the winter.
The sophisticated technology of home HVAC systems allows them to do so much more than their counterparts from decades past. Look for these features in quality HVAC models:
* Quiet operation.
* Whole-home dehumidifiers.
* Consistent and continual airflow.
* Energy savings that beat standard HVAC models.
* Nonpolluting refrigerants that don't harm the environment.
It may be cheaper to shut off your air conditioner at night, if your house has good ventilation and the outdoor temperature cools down. Switch the AC back on during the day. Make sure you close all windows and doors to the outside. It may take some time to bring the indoor temperature to the setting you want, especially on hot mornings. Another way to save money is to keep the air conditioner on but set the thermostat at higher temperature, say 80 degrees.
Everyone is familiar with a financial audit to determine a company's economic stability and recommend areas for improvement. Energy audits review a company's HVAC system and make recommendations for better efficiency and energy savings. Look for an en energy audit to provide specific recommendations for:
* Saving energy on heating and cooling;
* Improving operations and maintenance;
* Upgrading systems;
* Using alternative refrigerants and fuels.
An energy audit can save money, help you compare your energy costs with others, and provide information to support improvements.