Whether you’re starting your air conditioner for the first time this year, or a unit isn’t running properly and you need to service an air conditioner, following a few simple steps can save you time and money. While some service jobs should be left to a professional, there are several do-it-yourself fixes you can do to keep your air conditioner cooling all summer long.
Compressor -- Compressors are outdoor components in your system. The compressor is the pump that circulates the refrigerants through the air-conditioner. You can hear it when it's running so you'll know if it's working just by listening. If it starts getting louder, your compressor is about to fail. If it makes no sound when it should be on, it has already failed. Compressors fail for a number of reasons. Most often they fail due to strain from another failed part such as the fan motor. Electrical storms can also damage compressors. If the sound from the compressor gets louder or if you see a decrease in performance, you should have your compressor checked. A failed compressor will not heat or cool your house.
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.
At the state level the rebates are still substantial. For example, switching to a zoned system can get you a $100 rebate from various A/C companies, and state rebates are also included. In Pennsylvania a high-efficiency air conditioner alone can get you up to $300, and a high-efficiency complete HVAC system can see up to $1000. Maryland's incentives get up to $1,250, with a $100 rebate on a tune up of an existing system.
Some systems include an "economizer mode", which is sometimes called a "free-cooling mode". When economizing, the control system will open (fully or partially) the outside air damper and close (fully or partially) the return air damper. This will cause fresh, outside air to be supplied to the system. When the outside air is cooler than the demanded cool air, this will allow the demand to be met without using the mechanical supply of cooling (typically chilled water or a direct expansion "DX" unit), thus saving energy. The control system can compare the temperature of the outside air vs. return air, or it can compare the enthalpy of the air, as is frequently done in climates where humidity is more of an issue. In both cases, the outside air must be less energetic than the return air for the system to enter the economizer mode.
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.
Indoor Coil -- The indoor coil is a heat transfer device. It absorbs the heat from the inside of the house and passes it on to the refrigerant and is pumped outside. Dust that builds up on the coil can hamper its ability to absorb heat. High heat transference coils use very thin metal. Airborne chemicals can cause corrosion which leads to leaks. The constant vibration of the compressor can also cause solder joints to weaken and leak. An indoor coil may operate for weeks with a tiny leak, and you may not notice the loss in performance right away. As soon as a leak is made known, it should be replaced or repaired immediately.
Two weeks go by and no phone call from HVAC Service regarding install date, or any update at all. I call them to check in to see if they have put me on the schedule and when I can expect to have the AC installed. You can tell by the discussion I had with the lady on the phone that they completely forgot about me and have not scheduled anything. She says she needs to get in contact with the owner because she has no idea on the availability of the crane. I was told that she would call me back by the end of the day with an update. Surprise, surprise, no phone call.
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Whether or not central air adds value to your home depends on your location. You probably won't recoup the entire cost for the installation, as it is an expensive project that isn't as flashy as something like a new deck. But this invisible upgrade can help you sell your home if you live in a hot climate. And many buyers are willing to pay a bit more for a working AC.
Free cooling systems can have very high efficiencies, and are sometimes combined with seasonal thermal energy storage so that the cold of winter can be used for summer air conditioning. Common storage mediums are deep aquifers or a natural underground rock mass accessed via a cluster of small-diameter, heat-exchanger-equipped boreholes. Some systems with small storages are hybrids, using free cooling early in the cooling season, and later employing a heat pump to chill the circulation coming from the storage. The heat pump is added-in because the storage acts as a heat sink when the system is in cooling (as opposed to charging) mode, causing the temperature to gradually increase during the cooling season.
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To qualify for a tax credit from the federal government, you must save the manufacturer's certificate from your system. The IRS won't require the certificate at the time you file your federal tax forms, but they recommend keeping it with your records in case of an audit. It proves that you purchased a qualifying product. The government offers tax credits for:
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.