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The AC contactor (relay) and start/run capacitor(s) (see illustration below) fail most often and are inexpensive. So it's a safe bet to buy and install those parts right away, especially if your air conditioning service unit is older than five years. The condenser fan motor can also fail, but it runs about $150 — hold off buying that unless you're sure that's the culprit.
An air conditioning system's SEER is especially important if you live in a climate that changes temperature dramatically. The SEER is determined by the cooling output during the winter divided by its electric input during the winter. The higher the rating, the more efficient it will be. In January of 2006, the U.S. put standards in place for cooling units which are still in effect today. They must have a minimum SEER of 13. So, if you live in a home with a system installed before the new standards went into effect, consider having it replaced. SEER 13 units increase home efficiency by 30 percent.
They are also often harder to install. A proper location on the roof must be selected that can support the weight of the unit. Then a platform must be built and a drain pipe for the unit must be run along the roof to avoid problems with mold and corrosion. A crane must be used to lift the unit onto the roof while a team guides it into place and hooks it up.
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:
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.
I call to follow up at the end of the next day and she said that she has not been able to get in touch with the owner. By this time, I am starting to get frustrated because I am starting to get the run around. I question her if I am even on the schedule or if they attempted to schedule a crane. She says they are extremely busy and that she does not know. So I say, basically I have waited over 2 weeks and you have not put me on the schedule and I am at the end of the install line. No answer. I tell her to talk to her boss and find out what is happening, and I will think about what direction I want to move in at this point.
HRV/ERV Ventilators: These whole-house ventilators exchange air. They are ideal for homes with what is called a “tight envelope,” homes where house wrap has been applied and airgaps in the attic, around windows, doors and outlets have been sealed. Air in these homes becomes stale and polluted, so exchanging the air is important to IAQ. Heat recovery ventilators (HRV) are designed for cold climates. Energy recovery ventilators (ERV) are best for warm climates. Your cost for an installed HRV or ERV will range from about $2,000 to more than $5,000 based on its capacity and features.
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.
SEER is useful for comparing one model to another much in the same way that a car's calculate MPG is useful. It's not an accurate prediction of exactly how efficient the system is, but it can tell you which one is more efficient. Also, since SEER is based on a "cooling season", what region you live in will determine how long or short your cooling season is.
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.
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.