A little simple math can help determine the size system you need. A rule of thumb is 20 BTUs per square foot. So, a 500 square foot room would need 10,000 BTUs to cool or warm it efficiently. This assumes that you live in a temperate region and have adequate insulation with no energy loss. In the real world, all units have some degree of energy loss. This is reflected in an HVAC system's SEER rating for cooling and AFUE rating for heating.
PickHVAC Tips: Electricity resistance heat is the most expensive heating type. You don’t want one of these unless you’re heating less than 30 days per year. The upfront cost of an electric furnace is much lower than the cost of a gas furnace. However, operating costs are two to three times higher. If winters are cold where you live, you’ll waste your upfront cost savings in just a few years of high electric bills.
If the condenser coils are clogged, the compressor can overheat and shut down. You'll experience intermittent periods of minimal cooling, followed by no cooling. Even if you're “sure” the condenser coils are clean, clean them again. Turn off the power. Flip the air conditioning service and furnace circuit breakers in your main electrical panel to the “Off” position. Next, turn off the power switch right at the furnace or air handler. Then yank the disconnect block (Photo 1) and clean the condenser coils (Photo 2). If the air conditioning service still doesn't work properly after you've cleaned the condenser coils, installed a new filter and opened all the supply vents, proceed with the following repairs. Your AC won't work fully unless you do this.
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).
But Tim, doesn’t this mean that a less-than-honest air conditioning company can just charge what he wants and say that it’s a difficult job? No. You see, dishonest contractors, typically, aren’t the brightest people (I figure if you’re still reading this, you’re warming up to me so I’m taking off the training-wheels). They aren’t smart enough to take difficulty into account, and will probably get confused if you ask them about it. They will tell you things like, “that’s how much the unit costs,” or “California has a new law that magically adds $5,000 to the price.” Trust me, follow your gut, and you’ll be able to tell who the honest contractors are...or just use one of our ASM-approved contractors.
Deciding if central air is worth the cost depends on your needs and local housing market. If you live in a hotter climate, it can definitely be worth the price. Not only can it keep your home at a comfortable temperature, but air conditioning can even save lives during extreme heat waves. But in a milder zone without severe temperatures, window units, fans or the breeze from an open window could be adequate.
As you can see, if we know what the contractor is actually paying for specific equipment, we know what their labor rates are, and we know what they bid the project for, then we can also use some basic algebra (or just let the program do it for us because we’re lazy) to figure out how much of a profit they are making off of us (you) at different bid prices:
We bought 2 top of the line Lennox HAC for $29,000 less about $3,500 rebates, thinking they would at least last 10 years. Well, after 6 years, the system leaked. We are paying $1,700 to fix that leak. We thought at least it is still under warranty - yes BUT - the warranty covered $15 & the rest we were up for ,even though they advertise 10 year warranty. We are trying to sell & move out of high cost southern Calif & have looked at 20+ places in Arizona. Most of the houses we looked at were built from 1998 to 2005. We asked if the HAC was original & in most case it was - even though the highs were 115 to 120 & the lows 90F - versus where we live the highs run 85 to 95 & the lows are in the 60s. I asked the repairman WHY ours went out at 6 years. He replied that they just do not build them the same anymore. In Arizona, I did not see any Lennox - mostly Trane or Carrier. We had Fujistu in Australia which were fantastic - nothing went wrong in the 9 years we had them. Also, they had full induction motors not like the energy consuming 2 stage motors in Lennox. Maybe the Japanese built Fujusita still builds quality & the warranty is meaningful?
Central, "all-air" air-conditioning systems (or package systems) with a combined outdoor condenser/evaporator unit are often installed in North American residences, offices, and public buildings, but are difficult to retrofit (install in a building that was not designed to receive it) because of the bulky air ducts required. (Minisplit ductless systems are used in these situations.) Outside of North America, packaged systems are only used in limited applications involving large indoor space such as stadiums, theatres or exhibition halls.
All modern air conditioning systems, even small window package units, are equipped with internal air filters. These are generally of a lightweight gauze-like material, and must be replaced or washed as conditions warrant. For example, a building in a high dust environment, or a home with furry pets, will need to have the filters changed more often than buildings without these dirt loads. Failure to replace these filters as needed will contribute to a lower heat exchange rate, resulting in wasted energy, shortened equipment life, and higher energy bills; low air flow can result in iced-over evaporator coils, which can completely stop air flow. Additionally, very dirty or plugged filters can cause overheating during a heating cycle, and can result in damage to the system or even fire.
AC air handler squealing or grinding noises. Though most air handlers have direct-drive motors, some older units may be belt-driven. Squealing sounds from a belt-drive air handler generally occur when the belt that connects the motor to the blower slips. In most cases, the belt is improperly aligned or worn and needs replacement. Follow the instructions above under Air Conditioner Not Blowing Air and refer to your owner’s manual.