American design standards are legislated in the Uniform Mechanical Code or International Mechanical Code. In certain states, counties, or cities, either of these codes may be adopted and amended via various legislative processes. These codes are updated and published by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) or the International Code Council (ICC) respectively, on a 3-year code development cycle. Typically, local building permit departments are charged with enforcement of these standards on private and certain public properties.
Pro Tips: Before you buy one of the learning thermostats available, you should beware of their shortcomings. First, many require a c-wire to work properly. A common problem is that the old thermostat might not use a c-wire, and this makes it confusing when swapping wires to the new thermostat. Secondly, if you change your thermostat setting often, you might become frustrated with a nest thermostat or other learning thermostat. It will be constantly trying to learn patterns in your random setting changes, and will therefore change your home’s temperature when you don’t want it to. If you have a fairly consistent schedule or don’t mind overriding the unit either manually or via the app on your way home or when leaving, then you won’t experience this issue.
PickHVAC Tips: Oil burns dirty, so it is important to have your plenum and ducts checked to see if they should be cleaned when replacing an oil furnace. If you don’t clean the plenum and ducts when replacing the furnace, the new furnace might not run as efficiently and comfortably as possible due to restricted airflow. This can also reduce the oily smell sometimes associated with oil furnaces.
Before opening the electrical cover on the A/C unit, be sure to shut off all power to the compressor unit and the indoor furnace or air handler, and verify that it is off. Note that this may mean shutting off a circuit breaker that serves the furnace and air handler, and then, near the compressor, pulling out the disconnect block (or shutting off the 220-volt power) to the outdoor compressor.
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996.
The heat pump gained popularity in the 1950s in Japan and the United States. Heat pumps can extract heat from various sources, such as environmental air, exhaust air from a building, or from the ground. Heat pumps transfer heat from outside the structure into the air inside. Initially, heat pump HVAC systems were only used in moderate climates, but with improvements in low temperature operation and reduced loads due to more efficient homes, they are increasing in popularity in cooler climates.
Wiring up the thermostat is usually pretty straightforward if an old one is being replaced. If a thermostat is being put in where one had never been before, that could involve running new wiring. The placement of the thermostat is also important so that its sensors can get an accurate reading of the temperature. A thermostat that is blocked by a bookcase or other large furniture will not get a good reading and will not perform efficiently.
Humidifiers/Dehumidifiers: Humidifiers add needed moisture to the air in winter and very dry climates. Dehumidifiers remove dampness any time of the year. Central air conditioners dehumidify too, but in very humid climates, you might want to remove humidity without also cooling the air. You have a good range of options for both of these HVAC accessories. Whole-house humidifiers cost $350 to $800 installed, while dehumidifiers are $1,250 to $2,000 or slightly more.
The number of years an HVAC system lasts depend on the type and brand of components that make up your system. The lifespan of an air conditioner averages between 15 and 20 years. The life expectancy of a tankless water heater is approximately 20 years, while a storage water heater is closer to 10-15 years. Ducts may need replacing within 10-15 years. Your equipment will have a longer life if you have regular tuneups and maintenance to keep everything in good working order. If you’re having repair problems and your HVAC system is over 10 years old, it’s a good time to consider the costs and benefits of repairing vs. replacing. Energystar.gov provides the following tips to help you decide whether to repair or replace:
Ductwork pinging or popping. If you hear a pinging or popping sound coming from metal ductwork, this may be caused by thermal expansion or by air blowing past a loose flap of metal. Track along the duct runs, listening for the sound. If you find it, make a small dent in the sheet metal to provide a more rigid surface that’s less likely to move as it heats and cools.
Air conditioners can create a lot of water because they remove moisture from the air. To get rid of this, they have a [usually plastic] drain pipe that comes out of the side of the air handler. Over time, algae can block this pipe and, when it does, the AC won’t work. In fact, some condensate drains have a float switch that won’t let the AC run if water backs-up. Water can also puddle around the unit or flood the area. To deal with condensate problems, please see Air Conditioner Leaks Water, below.