Although most new homes have ducts and vents already in place, many older homes have old convection heating systems or baseboard heaters without ductwork. In such cases, you will need to install ducts and vents to provide the air conditioning with a flow system. This would be the time to explore upgrading the existing heating system as well, as it will be much cheaper to do together.
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You might also want to check your home for thermal insulation if you live in extreme heat or freezing temperatures. Insulation keeps the heat and cool air in your home, which can lead to a lower electric bill. If the heated or cool air leaks out, your system turns on more often. There are various types of insulation that you can install in your home and a home energy auditor can point out the best places for it in your house.
Many homes have a forced-air HVAC system. Both the heating and the central air conditioning units share a ductwork system where they either push in or pull out warm or cooled air. There are also heating and cooling systems that don’t require ductwork — such as ductless mini-splits — but work on the same principles of heat exchange. The national average to hire an HVAC specialist is $2,920-$3,670, with costs varying depending on the work you need done and the equipment you are installing.
In the United States, HVAC engineers generally are members of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), EPA Universal CFC certified (for installation and service of CFC HVAC devices), or locally engineer certified such as a Special to Chief Boilers License issued by the state or, in some jurisdictions, the city. ASHRAE is an international technical society for all individuals and organizations interested in HVAC. The Society, organized into regions, chapters, and student branches, allows exchange of HVAC knowledge and experiences for the benefit of the field's practitioners and the public. ASHRAE provides many opportunities to participate in the development of new knowledge via, for example, research and its many technical committees. These committees typically meet twice per year at the ASHRAE Annual and Winter Meetings. A popular product show, the AHR Expo, is held in conjunction with each winter meeting. The Society has approximately 50,000 members and has headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
Concrete Blocks -- Concrete blocks are used in foundations and are often found in full basements. Insulating the spaces in the blocks is not the way to insulate them as the heat energy will travel along the concrete itself. The best way to insulate with concrete blocks is to use insulated concrete blocks, which have polystyrene incorporated into them.
Without proper ventilation, carbon monoxide can be lethal at concentrations of 1000 ppm (0.1%). However, at several hundred ppm, carbon monoxide exposure induces headaches, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. Carbon monoxide binds with hemoglobin in the blood, forming carboxyhemoglobin, reducing the blood's ability to transport oxygen. The primary health concerns associated with carbon monoxide exposure are its cardiovascular and neurobehavioral effects. Carbon monoxide can cause atherosclerosis (the hardening of arteries) and can also trigger heart attacks. Neurologically, carbon monoxide exposure reduces hand to eye coordination, vigilance, and continuous performance. It can also affect time discrimination.
An air conditioner's compressor contains a refrigerant. As it works, it sends this refrigerant through the system. As warm air blows across the coil that carries this refrigerant, the heat transfers to the refrigerant (cool always absorbs warm). A fan moves the cooled air through the ducting and out of vents that lead into the rooms of your house. The refrigerant returns to the compressor where the absorbed heat is moved outside. The refrigerant is then sent through the coil once again to continue the cycle.
Deciding if central air is worth the cost depends on your needs and local housing market. If you live in a hotter climate, it can definitely be worth the price. Not only can it keep your home at a comfortable temperature, but air conditioning can even save lives during extreme heat waves. But in a milder zone without severe temperatures, window units, fans or the breeze from an open window could be adequate.
An AC contactor is a $25 mechanical relay that uses low-voltage power from the thermostat to switch 220-volt high-amperage current to the compressor and condenser fan. AC contactors can wear out and are at the top of the list of common air conditioning service failures. Even if your AC contactor is working, it pays to replace it every five years or so. Unscrew the old AC contactor before removing the wires. Then move the wires to the new unit (Photo 6).
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.