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Air Conditioners
Do all 12 SEER air conditioners perform the same?
  When comparing different brands of air conditioners, a 12 SEER 3 ton brand "A" will offer the same COOLING operating costs as a 12 SEER 3 ton brand "B". However, one brand may do a better job of removing moisture from the air. The better the moisture removal, the more comfortable you will be-even at a warmer temperature. An air conditioner that is over-sized (too large) will cool a home very quickly but, due to the shorter "run" time, it will not remove as much moisture. A slightly undersized air conditioner that must run more often will actually provide a more comfortable home, better humidity control, and at a lower operating cost.
How about a little data on SEER ratings. My unit is 15 years old and I have no idea what the actual efficiency is?

There are three main ways to determine the SEER of equipment: (1) find the model numbers of your present equipment and check them with a local contractor. (2) estimate the SEER based on the average SEER units produced approximately when your system was installed. (3) check the energy efficiency label on your outdoor unit if it was produced after 1989.

In the first method, contractors can then consult manufacturer data or the ARI directory which lists all models of equipment by manufacturers that certify their equipment.

In the second method, for air conditioners and heat pumps produced in 1981, the first year SEER criteria was used, the average ratings were 7.78 (A/C) and 7.51 (H/P) respectively. By 1987, SEERs reached 8.97 and 8.93 respectively.

By 1994, ratings increased to 10.61 for air conditioners and 10.94 for heat pumps.

Remember that The National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 set a federal standard of 10.0 SEER minimum for air conditioners and heat pumps made after January 1992. The fact that, two year later, the average was 10.61 shows that the best air conditioners available were only slightly better than 11 SEER in 1994.

In the third method, residential central air conditioners and heat pumps covered under Department of Energy test procedures and manufactured on and after June 7, 1988 , are required to have labels containing energy efficiency information.

How does a ductless system work?
  With a ductless system, simple copper tubing and electrical wiring to indoor units connects a separately installed outdoor unit. Refrigerant is pumped from the outdoor condenser coil and compressor through the tubing to the indoor unit or units. A fan then quietly distributes cool air drawn across the unit's evaporator coil.
How important is SEER?
  The least efficient unit available today is a 10 SEER system. This unit is probably 40%-50% more efficient than a 15 years old air conditioner. A 12 SEER unit uses 10% less electricity than a 10 SEER and a 14 SEER uses 20% less electricity than a 10 SEER. Usually the higher SEER (more expensive) systems are quieter and have a better warranty.
How is Ductless different than central air-conditioning?

The amount of cold air entering the room can he controlled by a thermostat or it can be regulated by an infra-red remote control, like a TV remote. One room or one area of a building can maintain a different temperature from another room or area in the same building.

In a central air-conditioning system, refrigerant is pumped from the outdoor condenser coil indoors to a single indoor coil from which cooled air is distributed to each room through a system of ducts. In many houses and businesses, the amount of cold air in one room cannot be regulated without changing the temperature of every room in the building.

How often should filters be cleaned or replaced?
  Filters should be replaced/cleaned once per month. Many "high efficiency" air filters have a longer useful life. Most of the electronic & electrostatic filters must be cleaned a minimum of once per month. Allowing a filter to become clogged with dirt will raise the operating costs of the system and can actually cause damage to the compressor.
I've heard a lot about new refrigerants. What are the facts?

Residential heat pumps and air conditioners contain a refrigerant called R-22 which is classified as an HCFC. This is an environmentally safe and efficient refrigerant that will be available as long as your new system will last. There are some rulings being made by the US Environmental Protection Agency which require changes be made to refrigerants but not until the year 2020. Manufacturers will be producing units using R-22 until the year 2010 and the refrigerant itself will be available until 2030.

Manufacturers are testing many new refrigerants (and have been doing so for over 10 years). There are currently two frontrunners as possible replacements for R-22. One is called R-134 and the other is R-410A. One manufacturer who markets equipment under three different names has chosen to offer R-410A refrigerant in some units and they have given this refrigerant a "name"-Puron. Several manufacturers offer "Puron" or R-410A systems at the present time.

Is a heat pump less efficient in the summer than a regular air conditioner?
  A 12 SEER heat pump and a 12 SEER air conditioner would cost the very same to operate during the cooling season. There is no difference during the cooling months.
Should I keep running my old system until it wears out or replace it sooner?
  Because newer equipment usually is more energy efficient than older central air conditioning or heat pump systems, you may actually save money by replacing your old system before it wears out. In some cases, the money you save in reduced utility costs might pay back your purchase price of a new system years earlier than you might think.
Should my home be humidified?
  That depends largely on your personal needs. Humidification is definitely helpful in many homes during a 6-8 week period during the coldest winter weather. In the coldest weather insufficient moisture in the air often is responsible for such assorted problems as stuffy noses, sore throats, more dust than usual, cracks and dried-out joints in wood furniture, and static electricity. A good humidifier can cost $350-$600.00. It will be used only during the winter months and you will need to "clean and start" the humidifier in the fall. When spring arrives, you must "drain, clean, and shut-down" the humidifier or it could become a breeding ground for mold during the summer.
What are the benefits of Ductless systems?

There are a number of benefits users get with a ductless system. These include easy installation, easy maintenance, quiet operation, heating, simple control, and attractive and efficient design.

An easy installation for your contractor means less mess, or disruption, for your home or downtime for your business. Ductless systems are easy to maintain. Many indoor units have washable filters and require only periodical cleaning. Outdoor units are designed for easy access for your contractor for those routine maintenance calls.

Both the indoor and outdoor units are designed for quiet operation. Indoor units are typically quiet enough for libraries, classrooms, boardrooms, and the most sensitive room in the house, the bedroom. Outdoor units are generally quiet enough to be installed under a window or near a patio so sleeping or the entertaining of guests is not disrupted. Indoor units blend well into interior spaces and you don't have to sacrifice a window as window type air conditioning units.

Ductless systems provide additional heating as well so you can live and work comfortably year-round. And ductless systems are easy to operate. Many provide system control features with a hand-head wireless controller or wall thermostat that puts you in direct control of your comfort.

What are the main components of a Ductless system?

A ductless split air conditioning system consists of four major components:

(1) The condensing unit, which contains the compressor, is located outside the building.

(2) Thin refrigerant lines, usually copper tubing, connects the outdoor unit to the indoor unit or units.

(3) The indoor unit or units, each with a fan, come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be wall or ceiling mounted.

(4) A hand-held wireless remote or wall monitor controls the entire system.

What is "HSPF?"
  The heating seasonal performance factor is similar to SEER, but it measures the efficiency of the heating portion of your heat pump. The minimum HSPF allowed for a residential heat pump is 6.8. A small difference in the HSPF number can represent both a savings on the amount of electricity and the temperature of the air delivered by the heat pump in the heating cycle.
What is "SEER?"
  The seasonal energy efficiency ratio is the amount of cooling that a heat pump (or air conditioner) delivers per dollar spent on electricity. In other words, a higher SEER unit uses less electricity. A 12 SEER unit uses the electricity of an old 6 SEER unit. After January 1, 1992, the minimum SEER allowed in our industry for residential equipment is 10. Currently Congress is considering raising the minimum efficiency to 12 SEER.
What is "zone control?"

Ductless Split Air-Conditioning Systems offer room-by-room or "zone" control, which minimizes over-cooling typical of central air-conditioning systems. Many school systems now use ductless systems to conserve energy during the summer when only staff members may be present. With the zone-control ability of the ductless system, only occupied rooms of the school are maintained at a comfort level, and cooling for the rest of the building is turned down or shut off. Churches use ductless systems for similar purposes, saving cooling of the sanctuary for worship days. Church sanctuaries can be zoned so the front can be just as comfortable as the back (choir robes, candles, windows, etc.).

Zone-control is used in businesses where special equipment, such as computers or telecommunications equipment, requires colder temperatures than the surrounding rooms. A ductless system equipped with optional controls can cool a room even when outdoor temperatures reach far below freezing.

Space demands on modern business make it necessary for some companies to install modular and special-purpose offices within existing spaces. Ductless systems are perfect for these uses. The condensing unit can be placed outside the office, and tubing and wiring can be run into the room. Inside wall or ceiling units can distribute the cooled air with precision.

Ductless systems are the perfect solution for spot cooling - for example, in large structures like retail stores and supermarkets, where areas can be either too hot or too cold.

Since no ductwork or air distribution system is needed with a ductless system, there are few places where these systems cannot be installed. Systems have been placed all over the world - in small and large offices, shops, motels and hotels, schools and universities, telephone equipment rooms, computer rooms, banks and currency exchanges, churches, hospitals and laboratories. Ductless systems have been installed for both primary and back-up cooling.

What is a "ton" of air conditioning?

One ton of air conditioning is 12,000 BTU. A BTU is short for British thermal unit and is the amount of heat that will raise or lower one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. It is important to note that actual capacity is not constant and will change based on outdoor or indoor temperature. The published rating of a unit is based upon capacity when the outdoor temperature is 95 degrees F. and the inside temperature is 80 degrees F.

Also, some manufacturers may call their unit a 3 ton system even though it only delivers 34,000 BTU. Another manufacturer may be offering 37,000 BTU's with their 3 ton unit.

What is the difference in a Manufacturer's Limited Warranty and an Extended parts and labor Warranty?
  A limited warranty covers specific parts (i.e. compressor, coil, electronics, etc.); therefore, it is limited by the language in the warranty. Extended warranties are generally purchased in addition to the equipment. Extended warranties cover all parts and may also include the labor for the service call. An extended warranty protects you for unexpected and unbudgeted service calls for the duration of the warranty. Be aware that no warranty includes maintenance, shipping costs, and related parts (parts not provided by the manufacturer). Most labor warranties do not include labor for diagnostics. Some manufactures may require proof that routine maintenance has been performed on the equipment. If a contractor offers a labor or long parts warranty, you should remember that it is only good as long as the dealer is in business.
What size system do I need for my home?
  There are many things which will determine the size (capacity) system your home requires. Some of these are: square feet to be cooled, local climate, humidity, number of windows, size of windows, type of windows, insulation factors, direction your home faces, heat producing appliances, and even the number of people who will be in the home. There are several different types of analysis that will help determine the proper unit.
When do I know it's time to replace my system?
  When the system starts giving you more problems than seem cost-effective to fix, particularly when major components such as the compressor start making unusual noises or otherwise indicating need for service. When faced with major repairs, consider that a new system will eliminate costly repairs and will save money on your monthly power bill because of the increased efficiency.