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Air Conditioning FAQs
What is the average lifespan of a furnace or air conditioning system?
Provided you schedule regular furnace or air conditioner maintenance and tune ups, your air conditioner should last about 12 - 15 years, and your furnace should last between 15 - 20 years.
Need AC or furnace maintenance in Maryland? Call Michael Bonsby today!
Why is ice forming on my AC refrigerant pipe?
If your air conditioner coil is frozen there could be a number of factors at work. Usually the coil is frozen because your filters are dirty and are blocking airflow through your AC system. This would cause cool air to condense around the coil which would be frozen since the coil is so cold. If your filters are not dirty, you may have the wrong level of refrigerant or a clog in your refrigerant line.
Find out more about how to fix a frozen air conditioner!
Why is water dripping from my AC coil?
If condensate is dripping from your AC coil, this means that your air conditioner is either improperly charged with refrigerant or improperly insulated. Having the proper level of refrigerant in your AC is crucial to maintaining the health and efficiency of your unit. Not only that, but too much condensate that forms on your coil could eventually freeze, leading to even bigger problems. If you have water on your pipes, call Michael Bonsby Heating & Air Conditioning for an air conditioner tune up.
Why does my air conditioner make so much noise when it starts up?
All air conditioners make noise when they first start - the oil needs to get through the system and the compressor needs a few seconds to get to the right pressure. These noises should only last for a few seconds - if they last any longer than that you should call Michael Bonsby Heating & Air Conditioning for an air conditioner inspection!
What should I look for before I call for air conditioner maintenance?
If your air conditioner isn't running as smoothly as it usually does, there are a few things you can do before you call for service:
- Replace the filters
- Turn off the AC for a few hours, then turn it back on
Do I have to replace my AC coil when I replace my air conditioner?
You don't HAVE to, but you should. New air conditioning systems are designed to be paired with a coil of the same SEER. If they're not, your AC will most likely run at the lower efficiency. Also, older air conditioner coils may use R-22 (Freon) refrigerant, which is no longer the standard - newer air conditioner coils use the environmentally friendly R-410a which can't be easily transferred over.
What are some easy ways to reduce my heating and cooling bills?
No matter what, your energy bills are going to increase during the winter and summer - you've usually got your AC or heater cranked up all the way, after all. That said, there are a few things you can do to keep your costs from skyrocketing during the hot and cold seasons.
- Install a programmable thermostat - we've talked about the benefits of programmable thermostats before, and everything we said still holds true. Programmable thermostats are one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep your HVAC costs down all year round.
- Make sure all of your HVAC appliances are ENERGY STAR certified - the ENERGY STAR certification means that your appliances meet strict energy efficiency requirements (often using up to 40% less efficiency than previous models). This results in huge savings for you and huge wins for the environment.
What are some good reasons why I should replace my AC?
Sometimes the case for replacing an air conditioner is easy - sometimes it's not. If your air conditioner isn't in immediate danger of failure, there are a couple of things you should consider when thinking about air conditioner replacement:
- Energy costs - depending on how efficient your old air conditioner was, a new system could save you significantly
- Return on investment - as with the above, a new air conditioner could pay for itself in a matter of a few short years
- Your current AC is too noisy - you can spring for AC repairs to fix the noise, or you can replace the AC to stop it completely
- Your AC breaks down at inconvenient times - if your air conditioner seems to break down every time you run it hard (such as when it's really hot out), this could be a sign that it's not cut out to work properly whenever you need it.
What is the most important thing to look for when having a new AC installed?
There is no “best brand” of air conditioner - all are good. The key factor in determining how efficient your air conditioner will be is how well it is sized and installed.
Does my furnace have a pilot light? If so, what do I do when it goes out?
Most new furnaces actually do NOT have pilot lights - instead, they use a hot surface igniter to light the main furnace burners to start producing heat. However, if you have an older furnace and the pilot light goes out, it's not a big deal - relighting it is pretty easy. Just go down to your furnace, find the pilot light assembly (usually a gas valve with ON, OFF and PILOT settings) and shut off the valve for about three minutes. Next, switch the valve to pilot, hold a lit match or mini torch up to the pilot opening and push the RESET button on the pilot control panel. Keep the button pressed for as long as it takes to get a nice, blue flame from your pilot. Once you have this, switch the valve to ON.
If your pilot can't keep a flame, call Michael Bonsby! It may be clogged or malfunctioning.
I'm going on vacation. What temperature should I set my thermostat?
Before you leave to go on vacation, you definitely want to lower your thermostat - after all, why should you pay to warm an empty house? However, it's NOT a good idea to turn the furnace off completely. If you have pets you're leaving in the house, keep the temperature set around 65F - you don't want your little guys to be freezing while you're gone! If you don't have pets (or if they're coming with you), set your thermostat no lower than 55F. This temperature will ensure maximum energy savings while still being warm enough your pipes won't freeze.
My furnace isn't heating as well as it used to. What can I do?
The first thing you should do if your furnace isn't heating as well as it normally does is check your filters. If they're dirty and clogged, clean or replace them! This should improve your furnace operation instantly. If that doesn't take care of the problem, call Michael Bonsby - we'll take a look at your furnace and see if there's anything we can do.
Should I leave my pilot on over the summer?
Many people worry the pilot will create heat and waste gas over the summer. And while this is true to an extent, it's not as bad as you might think. Pilots use a very small amount of gas, and many times they can't be relit during the fall - spiders tend to find their way into unlit pilot assemblies, clogging up the burners with webs and dead bugs! Also, the heat produced by the pilot keeps humidity and moisture out of the furnace in the summer that can cause it to rust.
Will a programmable thermostat help me even if I have an old furnace?
Yes! Analog thermostats typically operate within a 3 - 4 degree range while newer programmable thermostats are extremely accurate, which can help you stay comfortable and save more energy.
What is indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the pollutants in your home's air and has nothing to do with the temperature, humidity and airflow. Good IAQ means your home has only harmless concentrations of unwanted gases or particles, if it has any at all. Poor IAQ occurs when you have enough irritating gases or particles to cause adverse health effects. Most of the time, poor IAQ is just annoying. However, at the extreme, poor IAQ can be harmful and, in rare cases, fatal!
When talking about IAQ, it's important to remember the concentration of contaminants is crucial. Potentially infectious, toxic, allergenic or irritating substances are always present in the air; however, most of the time they exist in quantities that are too low to affect your health.
Are IAQ and outdoor pollution related?
Yes - since no home is 100% sealed (though many are close), air within your home came from the outside at one point, carrying with it any pollutants that were present in the outdoor air. Most of the time, pollutants in outdoor air are present in lower concentrations, but are sometimes enough to affect people in your home. This is especially true of pollen and mold spores from the outdoors that can get inside and cause hay fever and allergies, as well as high smog levels that can negatively affect occupants inside a building.
How common are IAQ problems?
According to the EPA, approximately 96% of all homes and buildings have IAQ problems!
How serious are IAQ problems?
The vast majority of IAQ problems are relatively minor. At worst, most people may suffer from things like cold or flu-like symptoms. Serious and/or permanent health effects are much rarer. However, they do occur, as in the case of Legionnaire's disease outbreaks.
What types of pollutants are out there?
There are zillions of different types of contaminants in the air. Some are in the form of gases, including combustion products (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide), volatile organic compounds (formaldehyde, solvents, perfumes and fragrances, etc.) and semi-volatile organic compounds (pesticides). Other pollutants are in the form of particles, such as mold spores, pollen, viruses, bacteria, insect parts, animal dander, etc. as well as chemicals from furniture, fiberglass, gypsum powder, paper dust, lint and carpet fibers.
Heat Pump FAQs
How can I tell when I need to replace my heat pump?
In general, you want to replace your heat pump when it starts giving you more problems than it's worth. If your heat pump is approaching 10 years old, pay attention to things such as the compressor, reversing valve, accumulator or outdoor coil. If these go bad, you're probably better off having your system replaced. Even though it may seem like a large upfront investment, remember that using a brand new heat pump will be much more efficient than trying to squeeze a few more years out of your existing one.
My heat pump doesn't keep us comfortable. Should I replace it with a larger one?
In most cases, no. Your ductwork is already sized for the heat pump you have now - upsizing your heat pump would require you to upsize your ducts at the same time. If your heat pump works but it's not keeping your home comfortable, you may have undersized ducts, poor system design or improper installation. Taking care of this might require ductwork modifications, heat load calculations or an energy audit. Finally, you may simply not be used to the lower temperature outputs from heat pumps - they get your home to the same temperature as a furnace would, but the air they blow out of the vents is not as warm.
What is the average lifespan of a heat pump?
This really depends on how often it is serviced and how well it is maintained, but for the most part a heat pump should last about 14 years. New heat pumps are coming out every day, however, with even longer lifespans!
Can I repair my own heat pump?
While you can do most of the cleaning and maintenance of your heat pump yourself, it's generally not a good idea to try and repair anything major without proper training. Heat pumps are on a 240V circuit, meaning that severe electrocution is possible if you don't have a strong working knowledge of electricity. In addition, most modern heat pumps contain complex circuit boards and sensors and have to comply with tight regulations. In general, it's best to leave the major repairs to the experts!
How often should I change my heat pump's air filter?
Like your air conditioner and furnace, you should change the filter on your heat pump once a month during peak use, and once every three months outside of that.