Common HVAC Questions
Heating and Cooling
What is a heat pump?
A heat pump is an all-in-one AC and heating system that works all year to keep you comfortable. During warmer months, a heat pump works like a normal air conditioner. It transfers heat from inside the home outside, just like an AC. In cold weather, however, the process is reversed — the pump collects heat from outside and transfers it inside to keep you warm. This works even when it’s really cold outside, but when there’s not enough heat in the outdoor air to meet the demand, an electric heater is used to supplement the heat pump. Heat pumps are highly efficient, producing up to three times more heat than the energy they use. They can be used in conjunction with a heating system or on their own.
What is an air handler?
Think of an air handler like the air distributor of your HVAC system. It contains the blower, which moves air throughout your home, and it generally located inside near your indoor AC unit. Air handlers work with both the cooling and heating components of your system, and at first glance, they look like a heater. However, they’re actually the indoor part of an AC or heat pump system.
What is SEER?
The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) is used to measure how much energy — and money — an AC unit uses over the course of a year. The United States Department of Energy (DOE) requires new air conditioning units to meet a minimum of 13 or 14 SEER, depending on where you live. However, you’ll find options that go up to 25 SEER by using advanced efficiency technology. SEER ratings are a great way for homeowners to compare the efficiency of HVAC units.
What’s the difference between R-22 and R-410A refrigerant?
Refrigerant is what makes air conditioning possible. Refrigerant runs through the coils of an AC and pulls hot air from inside to be deposited outside. For many years, the most common refrigerant used in AC systems was R-22, but it was harmful to the Ozone layer. Because of these environmental concerns, R-22 is being phased out. Newer air conditioners use R-410A, which is chlorine-free, and therefore, more Ozone-friendly. If your AC system still uses R-22 it’s time to have it replaced.
What is two-stage heating and cooling?
Air conditioners or heat pumps with two-stage cooling have a compressor with two levels of operation: high for hot summer days and low for mild days. Since the low setting is perfectly able to meet cooling demands 80% of the time, two-stage units run for longer periods and produce more even temperatures. The same goes for two-stage heaters. These longer cooling cycles are also quieter, more efficient and provide enhanced humidity control. Compared to single-stage units, two-stage systems can remove twice as much moisture from the air. This helps prevent mold and other pollutant problems.
Should I cover my AC or heat pump during the winter?
Covering the unit isn’t necessary, especially if you use a heat pump that runs year-round. In fact, covering an entire unit can actually trap moisture. If you’re concerned about leaves and other debris getting inside the unit housing, you can purchase a short cover to help keep them out.
Why should I zone my house?
Zoning systems are designed to meet the unique needs of your home. For those caught up in family thermostat wars or tired of conditioning an area of the home they don’t use, zoning is the ideal solution. They allow you to divide your home into separate areas, giving you the comfort and control you’ve always wanted. You may choose a zoning system for the following reasons:
- Comfort: Zoning meets specific temperature demands in one area without affecting others.
- Efficiency: A zoning system can save you hundreds on your energy bills each year.
- Control: Zoning divides the home into different areas, giving you more choices and control than ever before.
- Quiet Performance: When used with variable-speed or two-stage systems, zoning allows your heating and cooling equipment to deliver peak performance and efficiency by running on a lower setting continuously. This means less noise as well.
What is the difference between ARI and AHRI?
In 2007, the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), changed its name to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Insitute (AHRI).
The trade association represents more than 350 manufacturers of air conditioning, heating and commercial refrigeration equipment and is home to the HVAC industry’s three performance certification programs for commercial refrigeration equipment and components and indoor comfort:
- ARI Performance
- GAMA Efficiency Rating
The AHRI is viewed as a resource for industry shipment data, education and workforce information and research. It also develops industry-recognized performance standards for industry equipment. We use only AHRI-certified manufacturers at Absolute Comfort Air.
Learn more about the AHRI through the AHRI certification directory on their website.
Is there really a difference between HVAC equipment sound levels?
Most heating and cooling systems today are quieter than those produced in the past. But there is still a significant variance in sound ratings among these products. Insulated compressor compartments, discharge mufflers and patented fan designs are used to soften the sound of a hard-working, high-efficiency compressor. Top-panel orifices, compressor wrappers and indoor blowers are all designed to further promote smooth, quiet airflow.
How can I control energy costs?
The best way to lower energy costs if you have an older HVAC system is to replace it with one that is highly efficient. Heating and cooling can be as much as 44% of your utility bill, so investing in a better system can cut these costs in the long term. When looking for a new HVAC system, consider the SEER ratings — the higher the rating, the more efficient the system is. You can also control energy costs with:
- Maintenance: Regular maintenance in the form of two tune-ups each year will keep your HVAC system running at the highest efficiency possible year-round. Changing your filter every few months will also prevent dust and debris from entering the system and causing problems.
- Programmable Thermostats: Programmable thermostats, including smart thermostats, can reduce your heating costs by 35% and cooling costs by 25% by tailoring your heating and cooling needs to your schedule.
- Zoning: Zoning allows you to condition the air only in the rooms you want to, with different temperatures in different rooms. This means everyone can be comfortable and less energy will be spent where it’s not needed.
Indoor Air Quality
What is indoor air quality?
Indoor air quality, or IAQ, is a relatively new topic in environmental safety. A lot of attention has been placed on outdoor pollution, but understanding the quality of the air inside our homes is now growing in popularity. Indoor air quality is determined by humidity levels, ventilation and the number of pollutants in the air. Pollutant levels can be up to 100 times higher indoors than outdoors because there’s less air circulation. Since we spend the vast majority of our time indoors, having clean indoor air is incredibly important.
Is air pollution only outdoors?
No. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that pollutant concentrations can be up to 100 times higher indoors, meaning air pollution isn’t just a problem outdoors.
Items inside the home that release gas are the primary cause of indoor air problems. However, allergens such as pet dander and pollen are also contributors to poor indoor air quality. Common indoor air pollutants include:
- Mold and bacteria
- Outdoor pollution
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) like cleaning products
- Secondhand smoke
- Pet dander and hair
- Gas appliances
- Vehicle fumes
- Paints and solvents
- Air fresheners
At Absolute Comfort Air, we recommend the REME Halo LED in-duct air purification system, which removes 99.9% of allergens and other pollutants from your home’s air.
What are the benefits of clean air?
Clean indoor air can help with allergies, asthma and other respiratory health problems. Removing airborne irritants such as dust and pollen can relieve asthma and allergy symptoms. Even those who have never suffered from allergies or asthma can benefit from clean air, though. This is because long-term exposure to indoor air pollutants can lead to respiratory problems in the future. Keeping dust and other particles from circulating in your home and gathering on drapes and furniture prevents this exposure.
How can I improve my indoor air quality?
There are two main strategies for outsmarting indoor air pollution:
- Eliminate: The first step toward better indoor air is identifying the sources of air pollutants and removing as many as possible from your home. Cleaning often and vacuuming at least once a week, especially if you have shedding pets, is the best way to decrease the amount of dust and dirt in your home. It also helps to wash bed linens and stuffed toys regularly. Limiting your use of household products like spray disinfectants is best if you’re sensitive to fumes.
- Ventilate: Today’s homes are well-insulated and sealed to conserve energy, but this also means airborne pollutants have no way to escape. Filters and filtration systems help remove indoor air pollutants by keeping the indoor air fresh and removing many particles.
- Clean: While eliminating and ventilating are great steps towards improving indoor air quality, the best way to do so is by investing in a whole-home air purification system such as the REME Halo.
Are all air filters the same?
No, not all filters are the same. There are actually several differences to consider when choosing a filtration system:
- Efficiency: The efficiency of the air filter should be a top consideration and is based on the size of the particles captured by an air filter. The higher the efficiency, the more effective the filter is. High-efficiency filters clean the air and improve airflow. Look for the filter’s MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) number, which rates filters based on their performance. Residential filters typically have a MERV range of one to eight, while higher ratings range from 10 to 16 to indicate more efficient filters. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) systems use hospital-grade filtration technology, rated at 17 or higher. Communicate with your HVAC contractor to see what the maximum MERV rating your system can handle is.
- Cost: Cost is another major factor, in terms of both the initial purchase price and maintenance/upgrade expenses. Purchasing a high-efficiency filter can save you money over time. While inexpensive filters are cheaper, they may not provide adequate filtration and must be replaced more frequently.
- Type: There are several types of filters, including standard, pleated, washable, electrostatic and HEPA, increasing in efficiency respectfully. Each type has its own pros and cons, so you’ll need to decide which works best for you.
What are the benefits of installing a whole-house humidifier?
The central heating process can leave your home’s air unnaturally dry during colder months, which already tend to be dryer. Whole-home humidifiers keep your air at the ideal humidity level, which improves respiratory health and helps your skin retain moisture. The biggest difference between whole-home and portable humidifiers is that they improve the humidity in every room of your home without having to be moved around.
What is involved in humidifier installation and maintenance?
Humidifier installation is simple, especially if you’re replacing your furnace. Even if this isn’t the case, the installation is still fast and easy because whole-home humidifiers are designed to be installed in your ductwork.
As for maintenance, regular cleaning and draining of the humidifier reservoir are strongly recommended to prevent bacteria growth. It is also important to properly maintain your humidifier to avoid potential bacterial growth.
How much water does a humidifier use?
A humidifier can use 1.5 to 12 gallons per day when the heater is running, but it mainly depends on the model. Humidifiers are highly beneficial because they can raise the humidity to your desired level without using enough water for it to make a difference in your water bill.
Why should I choose a whole-home dehumidifier for my home?
High humidity in your home’s air will make you feel uncomfortable no matter how cold the AC is. Lowering your thermostat to cope with humidity isn’t a good solution, as it will make your energy bills spike and make you cold rather than comfortable. Whole-home dehumidifiers are installed in your HVAC system and work to lower the humidity of your home’s air from the source, not in an individual room. Not to mention, you won’t have to deal with emptying a whole-home dehumidifier or moving it from room to room, where it will take up valuable living space.
What can be done about detecting carbon monoxide in the home?
The best way to detect carbon monoxide is to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. Similar to a smoke alarm, this device monitors the air for carbon monoxide and sounds an alarm if it’s detected. Ideally, there should be a carbon monoxide detector in every living area of your home.