PickHVAC Tips: Installing the right size central air conditioner is extremely important. Have a load calculation done to ensure proper sizing. ACs that are too big aren’t as energy-efficient as they should be, and they cycle on and off too much. This creates over-cooling and temperature imbalance. Units that are too small run constantly in very hot weather and can’t keep your home cool. When an air conditioner is properly sized, it runs at optimal efficiency and indoor comfort.
Important Tip: Don’t just pay attention to the high-end of the price range! – which is what I know you are all looking at, but also look at the low range. If a contractor is cheaper than this, ask “why?” Usually it is because they don’t have liability insurance, workman’s compensation insurance, are unlicensed, all of the above, or worst yet, they don’t use HVAC technicians. You are spending a lot of money. Make sure that they are licensed (In California, check here at CSLB License Checker) and insured.
Unfortunately, manufacturers and contractors don’t publish this information…it’s a secret. Why? Who knows…but we have access to a full contractor pricing database of 1,000’s of different units in our online HVAC installation cost calculator, so let’s choose one for our example calculation. We’ll go with Carrier equipment, since our readers always bother us about them (despite us telling them that they are overpriced):
A Full Installation is the most common type of HVAC installation for a reputable contractor. The ductwork adds two days of labor and about $2,000 to $3,000 to the price, but realize that this is a very important part of your HVAC system. Although it might sound like a good idea to reduce HVAC installation cost and get a quick change-out, realize that there is dirt and debris collecting in your ducts, and the ducts themselves develop holes and full breaks over the lifetime of your unit, all of which may be hidden from sight by insulation. Remember, many contractors will push a quick change-out on you because it is easy and good money for them – you need to be involved and ask questions.
Monday the following week, no phone calls, or follow up. I call to get an update and am told that they cannot install my system because they don't have time. I ask what does that mean, one year? One week? Until the end of summer they say. What does that mean I ask? They say at the end of September. I say thank you for wasting 1 month of my time.
Since the 1980s, manufacturers of HVAC equipment have been making an effort to make the systems they manufacture more efficient. This was originally driven by rising energy costs, and has more recently been driven by increased awareness of environmental issues. Additionally, improvements to the HVAC system efficiency can also help increase occupant health and productivity. In the US, the EPA has imposed tighter restrictions over the years. There are several methods for making HVAC systems more efficient.
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.
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.
If you are using existing ducting, it will have to be inspected. Proper ducting loses around 2% to 5% of your energy. Old, leaking ducts can lose 50% or more. A contractor will need to have the ducts inspected and replace any parts ahead of time. If you are changing the size of your HVAC system because of significant changes to your home, you might need to replace the ductwork regardless.
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:
If your compressor doesn’t have an overload button and you hear it humming or buzzing, poke a screwdriver or stick down through the top grille and try to spin the fan blades clockwise. If doing this gives the fan enough of a boost to get it going, the unit has a faulty capacitor that must be replaced. See How to Test and Replace an AC Run Capacitor, above.