Advantages of Central Air Conditioning Over Room Units

A room air conditioner, which most commonly fits into a window, is called a “room” unit because it really isn’t capable of cooling much more than that. It typically plugs into a standard electrical outlet and doesn’t require special wiring or professional services. A room air conditioner cools hot air pulled in from the outside and blows it into the room with a fan. If you purchase a unit that is too small for the room you want to cool, it will run continuously while increasing your utility bill without making you feel much cooler. However, if the space is too small for the size of the room air conditioning unit, it will cool but inefficiently, with a build-up of humidity. As you can see, getting the right size of unit for your room is critical to your comfort and cost.

Conversely, a central air conditioner actually cools the air outside, bringing it into each room of your house at once, through a ductwork system that returns the air for cooling again. This usually works with a forced-air furnace and its related ducting. Central air units are practically maintenance-free once they are installed. They are quiet, effective and energy efficient, so, ultimately, they can save you money. Programmable thermostats can also help to save costs on utility cooling bills. 

A few hundred dollars will get you a room air conditioner but installing a central air system will cost you thousands. Of course, the type of air conditioning you should choose would depend on your individual situation. If you already own your own home with an existing forced-air furnace and ductwork, now may just be the best time for you to call your local HVAC professional to have a new central air unit installed.

Why Can’t My Air Conditioner Keep Up?

Summer is almost here and soon temperatures will be really heating up.  If this summer is anything like last summer, many parts of the country will be seeing record highs.  These high temperatures will be keeping your air conditioner working hard to keep you and your family cool and comfortable this summer.

It’s not unusual for an air conditioner to be working extra hard in hot weather like this, but if your air conditioner is working overtime and your home is still not comfortable, it may be time to call your heating and air conditioning company to have the system checked out.

Before you make the call, it pays to check your air filter first. A dirty furnace filter can significantly reduce your central air conditioner’s efficiency and you can save the cost of a service call if a dirty air filter is the cause of the problem.  If you find a dirty air filter clogged with dust, pet hair, and other debris, install a new air filter and see if it helps.  If your system is still struggling, then it’s time for the experts in air conditioning repair.

Your HVAC technician will service the system including adjusting the refrigerant levels and making sure the system is working properly.  If the system is working as designed, you may need to have your duct system sealed and inspected.  It is estimated that leaky air ducts can reduce your HVAC system’s efficiency by up to 20%.  Sealing leaky air ducts can make a big difference, especially if your duct system is routed through non-conditioned space like an attic, basement, or crawlspace.

Cleaning the Evaporator Coil

Most residential central air conditioning systems are “split systems” that have the compressor and condenser coil housed in an outdoor unit which is connected to an evaporator coil inside the home by the coolant lines.  Most heat pumps have a similar set up.

A heat pump or central air conditioning system should be professionally serviced in the spring and fall by an experienced HVAC technician.  Most homeowners don’t have the tools and equipment necessary to perform a full service on a central air conditioning system.  Accordingly, most homeowners should call a professional for air conditioning service and repair.

However, between service calls a homeowner can help keep the system operating efficiently by regularly changing the air filter and by keeping the condenser and evaporator coils clean.  The evaporator coil is located in the ductwork (called the plenum chamber) above the furnace.  If you have a heat pump, the evaporator coil is located in the air handler downstream of the air filter.

If you religiously change your furnace filter (or air filter) and never use anything other than a pleated filter, your evaporator coil will stay clean and free of dust, lint, and other debris.  Unfortunately, most homeowners are a little lax in their furnace filter habits and the evaporator needs to be cleaned occasionally.

In some units, the evaporator cannot be accessed by a homeowner.  In others, you can reach the evaporator through an access panel on the front of the unit.  If your evaporator is easily accessible, clean it carefully with a brush or a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment.  Remember to turn the power to the unit off before starting and be very careful not to bend any of the soft aluminum fins.

Once your evaporator coil is clean, you can avoid future cleanings by using a high quality pleated air filter and changing it regularly.  Your HVAC technician can help select the right air filter for your system.

Causes of Air Conditioner Icing

Air conditioner icing is a problem often encountered on central air conditioning systems.  Ice that forms on the coils inside the air handler (the unit inside your home) is an indication of a problem with your air conditioning system that needs to be addressed.  Since these coils are hidden inside the air handler, most homeowners are not aware of the ice formation.

Instead, the homeowner will notice that their air conditioning system is not cooling as well as it used to.  A symptom that points to ice formation is a system that seems to operate properly at first, but cooling air output becomes progressively worse the longer the system is operated.

What is happening is that the longer the system runs, the more ice that forms on the coils and the greater the blockage of the air flow.  If the system doesn’t run much during the night, the ice may melt and the next day, the system will seem to operate normally at first, but lose efficiency throughout the day.

Lack of sufficient air flow and improper refrigerant levels are two basic things that can cause ice to form on the coils.  A dirty or clogged air filter or blocked return vents can cause this problem.  If your air filter is clean and there are no obstructions in front of the air return vents, then it’s time to call an experienced HVAC technician.  You could have a leak causing low refrigerant, a blockage, a malfunctioning expansion valve, or some other problem.  A good HVAC technician with experience in residential HVAC service and repair will be able to identify and repair the problem and get your system running at peak efficiency.