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.
Outdoor Fan Motor -- The outdoor fan, also called the condenser fan, is exposed to external conditions. As such it is most prone to dust and debris and the extreme weather. In desert climates, the outdoor fan motor is subject to heat not only from normal operation but from the outside temperature as well. As it starts to fail, the fan may work fine in the cooler morning hours but stop by afternoon. This can shut down the entire system for hours. When they stop running completely, your air conditioner will no longer work. Running a faulty fan will lead to compressor failure, which is a very costly repair.
PickHVAC Tips: Installing the right size central air conditioner is extremely important. Have a load calculation done to ensure proper sizing. ACs that are too big aren’t as energy-efficient as they should be, and they cycle on and off too much. This creates over-cooling and temperature imbalance. Units that are too small run constantly in very hot weather and can’t keep your home cool. When an air conditioner is properly sized, it runs at optimal efficiency and indoor comfort.
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.
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.
If the AC doesn’t turn off, it may be time to clean the condensing unit. Dirty condenser coils won’t give off heat efficiently and will keep the unit running. Another possibility: The contacts on the outdoor run relay may have welded together—something that can happen over time because of frequent electrical arcing at the relay. Before checking the run relay, turn off the power to the furnace and the condensing unit. Next, disassemble the relay and pry apart the contacts. This should do the trick until you buy a replacement—which you should do soon.
If you believe that the AC's not working or you're getting little or no cold air, check these three things first. Make sure all the registers in the house are wide open. Then be sure the furnace filter is clean. Then go outside and clean off the condenser coils (Photo 2). If several registers were closed or the filter was clogged, the reduced airflow could have caused the evaporator coil to ice up and stop cooling your home. If you've changed the filter and opened all the registers and you're still not getting airflow at the registers, deice the A-coil. Move the thermostat mode switch from “Cooling” to “Off” and move the fan switch from “Auto” to “On.” Let the blower run for at least 30 minutes or until there's good airflow at the registers. Then turn the AC back on to test it. If it works for the next 12 hours, you've solved the problem.
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.
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.
An energy recovery ventilator: This component helps improve the air inside your home by swapping it out with fresh air from the outside. During the winter months when houses are closed up to keep out the cold, the air inside becomes a handy way for colds and flu to infect an entire family. By circulating outside air inside, the health of your family will have a better chance.
An important component of natural ventilation is air change rate or air changes per hour: the hourly rate of ventilation divided by the volume of the space. For example, six air changes per hour means an amount of new air, equal to the volume of the space, is added every ten minutes. For human comfort, a minimum of four air changes per hour is typical, though warehouses might have only two. Too high of an air change rate may be uncomfortable, akin to a wind tunnel which have thousands of changes per hour. The highest air change rates are for crowded spaces, bars, night clubs, commercial kitchens at around 30 to 50 air changes per hour.
AC air handler buzzing sounds. Do you hear a buzzing sound when you turn on the thermostat? The only thing that comes on in the house when you turn on the thermostat is the fan relay and fan in the air handler or furnace. Try switching the thermostat HEAT/COOL switch to OFF. Then switch the fan switch from AUTO to ON. The fan (only) should come on. If the air handler makes a buzzing sound, it probably has a bad fan relay or, more likely, blower fan.