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.
Engineers have pointed out some areas where efficiency of the existing hardware could be improved. For example, the fan blades used to move the air are usually stamped from sheet metal, an economical method of manufacture, but as a result they are not aerodynamically efficient. A well-designed blade could reduce electrical power required to move the air by a third.
Some of these components can be repaired or replaced by the homeowner, such as filters, fuses, and clogged up drain lines. Coils, compressors and the other components are best left to a professional. In some cases, you may have a system that is so old that parts are no longer available or else they aren't up to code. In this case you will have to consider replacing the entire system.
Installation: Replacement is quite easy, especially when an old refrigerant line set can be used. If the set is worn, it’s much better to pay the extra $400-$600 to replace it rather than risking it leaking later. When your AC loses refrigerant, you lose your cool air and the compressor is at risk of failing. A new installation means installing a coil in your furnace or air handler, running the line set between it and the coil in the condensing unit and adding refrigerant, if needed. Most ACs come pre-charged for 20-30 feet of line. If the line set is longer, a small amount of refrigerant is added.
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Knowing what you should be paying for your HVAC equipment and installation is essential to getting a fair deal. Most HVAC prices aren’t advertised. Contractor strategy is to get a salesperson into your home to sell you on a package of equipment, accessories and installation. This makes comparing systems difficult, and some sales pressure might be applied.
Pro HVAC company Southern Comfort Mechanical says on its blog, “If there’s mold growth inside the handler due to excess moisture, algae in the condenser drain line or a dirty evaporator coil, it can negatively impact your AC unit’s efficiency. The filters inside may also build up excess dirt and become clogged, which will also make your AC [or heat pump] waste energy trying to sustain the cool climate inside your home.” These issues are easy to solve. They don’t require replacing the air handler.