Frequently Asked Questions
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Heating and Cooling
The federal government requires all air conditioning and heating equipment to be rated for efficiency. The higher the rating, the more efficient the model.
Gas furnaces are rated for AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). This defines the amount of heat used to warm your home from the burned fuel. A 90% furnace will use 90% of the available heat to heat your home. 10% of the heat is vented outdoors. Many older gas furnaces are only 60% efficient. The other 40% is vented outdoors. You can see that anew high-efficiency furnace will require much less fuel to heat your home.
For air conditioning, the rating is SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). This rating is based on general design criteria such as the compressor and outdoor coil. Seer ratings are for comparison purposes only, so that homeowners will know how they can compare different brands of products with similar efficiency ratings. The rating for the outdoor unit will reference a general efficiency range, such as 14 SEER. The actual efficiency rating for a specific system will depend on the combination of the outdoor unit and the indoor coil. A variable-speed indoor blower unit will increase the efficiency rating of the system, as well.
Heat pumps are rated by SEER for cooling efficiency and by HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) for heating efficiency. As with other ratings, the higher the HSPF, the less energy it will take to warm your home.
Humidity can be a problem in the Midwest. The best way to control excessive humidity is to have a system that runs longer at lower speeds. Variable speed air handling equipment runs at very low speeds, which keeps the air circulating against the cooling coil & removes much more moisture than conventional systems. At these low speeds, the variable speed motor uses much less electricity.
There are many factors that must be considered, including:
- Brand of equipment
- Efficiency of the equipment
- The size of your home
- Number of windows
- Year-round weather concerns
Our comfort consultants will do a thorough comfort needs analysis and load calculation specific to your home and family to determine the system that will best provide your year-round comfort
It is important that new or replacement equipment is not sized by “rule of thumb” or by duplicating the existing equipment capacity. The only accurate way to determine the correct capacity of heating and air conditioning equipment for your home is to have a load calculation performed on your home. There is a specific method available to do this calculation. This will give us the heat gain and heat loss design data for your home. These figures can then be used to select the appropriately sized air conditioning our heating system for your home, based on equipment-performance data.
Many factors determine the size (capacity) system your home requires. Some of these are:
- Square feet to be cooled and heated
- Number of windows
- Insulation factors
- Which direction your home faces
- Heat producing appliances, and
- The number of people who will be in the home
Oversized air conditioning systems will not remove adequate moisture from the indoor air due to short cycling. Oversized systems quickly cool the indoor air temperature, but they do not run long enough to remove the humidity. That leaves you feeling stuffy and uncomfortable. Control of your home’s climate is rarely achieved with oversized systems and electricity consumption is higher than with a properly sized system.
An oversized furnace is similar to an oversized air conditioning system. The furnace run time is short, creating uncomfortable air stratification and less air filtration. Also, the frequent cycling of the unit on and off an cause undue wear and tear on internal working components.
An undersized air conditioning system will not adequately cool your home on the hottest days and an undersized furnace will not adequately heat your house on the coldest days.
An A.B. May Comfort Consultant will perform a thorough comfort needs analysis and load calculation specific to your home and family. There is no cost for this service and no obligation.
The heat pump is an air conditioner that reverses the process of removing heat from the inside of the house in summer to absorbing the heat from outside air and moving it inside in winter. It is effective by itself down to temperatures around 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, either a gas furnace or an air handler with supplemental electric heat will kick in and help heat your home.
Heating and Air Conditioning equipment should be serviced at least once a year. The best scenario is to have the heating system checked in the Fall and the air conditioning checked in the Spring.
Annual servicing includes cleaning the system, checking for any problems or potential problems and adjusting for peak efficiency. The benefits include:
- Increased dependability
- Find potential problems and fix them quickly
- Provide maximum efficiency which lowers energy costs
- Prolongs the life-span of the equipment
- Maintains safe and healthy operation
- Can help to protect the environment
Drastically reduces the chance of a break-down which usually happens at night or on weekends when repair rates are higher.
How often you change your furnace filter will depend on the type of filter you use, and how you operate your furnace. Select the type of filter you use from the list below to find out what you should be doing?
Disposable Filters - Disposable filters should be changed every 6 to 8 weeks. A lot of people try cleaning these filters but they are not really meant to be cleaned and may actually become even less efficient. Disposable filters are not very efficient and provide only a basic amount of air cleaning. If you run your furnace fan continuously, cleaning should be performed every 3 to 4 weeks.
Washable Filters - Washable filters should be cleaned every 6 to 8 weeks for normal use. If you run your furnace fan continuously, wash filters every 3 to 4 weeks. When you wash your filter be sure to inspect it for wear and tear.
Hammock - Hammock filters are not meant to be washed and should be replaced every 8 to 10 weeks. When you purchase a replacement hammock filter it may be a little larger than the metal frame it’s attached to. Install the filter on the frame and then trim off the excess.
Electrostatic Air Cleaner - Electrostatic air cleaners must be cleaned monthly. To clean them first vacuum the nylon media and then rinse the filter with water. Be sure to rise the filter in the opposite direction from the air flow. Electrostatic air cleaners are very difficult to get very clean so as your filter gets older, clean it even more often. When cleaning inspect it for damage and wear and tear.
Electronic Air Cleaner (EAC) - The most important thing to remember about electronic air cleaners is to keep them clean. EACs are very efficient until the cells get dirty and then lose a lot of their efficiency. When cleaning the cells be careful not to break any of the thin wires that run along the outside of the cells. If one of these wires break, the cell current will be broken and will not work. Do not forget to clean the small prescreens as well.
Large Pleated Media Filter - This is the easiest filter to clean. All you have to do is replace the media cartridge semi-annually. Arrange to have your cartridge replaced at the same time as you have your annual heating and cooling maintenance performed.
It's a good idea to have a carbon monoxide detector. It's also important to have your furnace checked every year. A qualified service tech can check your heating system for a cracked heat exchanger, inadequate fresh air, or blocked chimney's and flues.
The average settings for this area are between 30 & 35% humidity. The colder it gets outside, the dryer the air. Too much humidity can cause condensation damage to your home. Adjust accordingly if you see condensation of water on inside windows.
It is not necessary to put a winter cover on your outside unit. Moisture can build up under the cover and lead to premature rusting. A/C units were made to sit outside. A coat of car wax put on in the fall will prevent paint from fading.
The average life expectancy of a furnace is approximately 15-20 years. Most heat exchangers are warrantied for 20 years or more. Proper maintenance can extend the life of most furnaces.
The heat exchanger is the main component of the furnace. It distributes warm air to the ducts and exhausts the combustibles (like carbon monoxide). Heat exchangers can develop cracks with age. If they exist, there is a risk of illness from the toxic fumes emitted.
The most important thing to look for when purchasing a new heating and cooling system, has nothing to do with the actual equipment and everything to do with the contractor you choose.
The best piece of equipment, if installed incorrectly, will not give you the comfort you deserve.
HVAC equipment, and cooling equipment in particular, requires that great skill and care be taken during the installation process. If just one braze or shoulder joint is not correct it could lead to leaks of refrigerant in to the atmosphere, and potential contamination in the refrigerant system. These items could be costly to repair, not to mention time consuming and an aggravation for you.
When you place the thermostat to the auto position, the fan will cycle on when the heat or cool mode comes on. When the fan is placed in the on position, the fan runs ontinuously. This is beneficial when an even temperature throughout the house is desired and it also reduces airborne dust and pollen.
The average life of an air conditioner/ heat pump should be from ten to fifteen years, depending on a variety of particulars such as, care, usage, and probably the most important, a correct installation at the beginning.
A new air conditioner can save you as much as 50%-60% of the energy consumed by your old unit. You as the home owner must make the final decision. The new units are designed to remove humidity as well as perform quietly and efficiently.
Tankless water heating systems are revolutionizing the way modern homes meet their water heating needs. These compact units can produce and supply endless streams of hot water to multiple outlets at once without any fluctuation in temperature.
Currently available models of tankless water heaters use either LP or natural gas.
Conventional water tanks heat and store hot water around the clock. Because of this you are heating and re-heating water, and constantly losing energy up your vent and through the walls of the tank. A tankless water heater only comes on when you start to use hot water, and immediately shuts off when you are done, so you are not wasting energy when you do not need hot water.
Tankless water heaters have much more effective heat exchanger and burner systems than conventional tanks. This allows you to utilize a much higher percentage of your energy dollar rather than wasting it up the vent stack of a conventional tank water heater.
In general most tankless units cost 2 to 2 ½ times as much as conventional tank type water heaters. However, the energy saved typically results in paybacks of a few years or less for a family of four. Tankless units cost more than tanks, but are a better value. They save money every day, provide a high level of performance and safety, and last twice as long as a normal tank type heater.