Although HVAC is executed in individual buildings or other enclosed spaces (like NORAD's underground headquarters), the equipment involved is in some cases an extension of a larger district heating (DH) or district cooling (DC) network, or a combined DHC network. In such cases, the operating and maintenance aspects are simplified and metering becomes necessary to bill for the energy that is consumed, and in some cases energy that is returned to the larger system. For example, at a given time one building may be utilizing chilled water for air conditioning and the warm water it returns may be used in another building for heating, or for the overall heating-portion of the DHC network (likely with energy added to boost the temperature).[4][5][6]
DIY: Most DIY installations go smoothly. The major brands have compatibility checkers to see which of their models will work with the wiring your old thermostat is using. Potential problems involve the need for a C-wire, or common wire, when the existing bundle doesn’t include one. There are solutions discussed in our Thermostat Buying Guide, linked to below.
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.
Window air conditioners cost less than central units, averaging $300. These systems generally suffice to keep a room cool on warm spring and summer days. They can bring added comfort for a reasonable price but are less powerful than a central air conditioner. If you have a bigger home with multiple rooms, you will probably need to have a larger system installed. Central air can cool several rooms at once, while window AC units usually only cover one or two rooms at a time.
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.
An air conditioning system, or a standalone air conditioner, provides cooling and humidity control for all or part of a building. Air conditioned buildings often have sealed windows, because open windows would work against the system intended to maintain constant indoor air conditions. Outside, fresh air is generally drawn into the system by a vent into the indoor heat exchanger section, creating positive air pressure. The percentage of return air made up of fresh air can usually be manipulated by adjusting the opening of this vent. Typical fresh air intake is about 10%.
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.
DIY: Most DIY installations go smoothly. The major brands have compatibility checkers to see which of their models will work with the wiring your old thermostat is using. Potential problems involve the need for a C-wire, or common wire, when the existing bundle doesn’t include one. There are solutions discussed in our Thermostat Buying Guide, linked to below.
So, naturally I respond with, “you don’t tell your doctor which medication to prescribe you, do you?” The point is, on the residential level, who you get to install your HVAC unit is far more important than which unit you choose.  Keep your options open and let your HVAC contractor make a few recommendations – that’s why you spent time finding a reputable contractor!
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.[23] In the US, the EPA has imposed tighter restrictions over the years. There are several methods for making HVAC systems more efficient.
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).
In addition to the information below, see these two articles for the general care and maintenance of your air conditioner: Preparing Your Air Conditioner for Summer and How to Replace Furnace & AC Filters. Most noteworthy, you should replace the filters at least twice a year, before the heating and cooling seasons. For information on furnace problems, please see Furnace Not Working.
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