1. GET IT RIGHT DURING THE INSTALLATION.
We are pretty fond of reminding our customers that the equipment you choose is only part of an air conditioning installation. It may not even be the most important part.
Because even the best equipment – the highest price tag, SEER rating, and best reviews – can perform poorly if it isn’t installed correctly. And even the most reliable equipment can fail if it is poorly installed or improperly maintained.
You may not be in a position to control the installation process and we understand that. This is only one of several techniques we’re going to talk about. Obviously, if you’ve purchased a home with a cooling system already in place, you may not opt for a complete replacement.
If you are fortunate enough to be deciding on a fresh install, you have the opportunity to ensure that no corners are cut and no shortcuts are taken. The most important element of that is choosing the right contractor, and we can help with that.
Once you’ve chosen a contractor, there are some things you should consider.
Sizing. The size and BTU rating of your HVAC system is a critical factor. If it’s oversized, your home will cool too quickly, and you’ll experience issues with short cycling and humidity. If it’s undersized, it will need to run constantly to maintain the desired temperature, and it is inevitable that you will see wear-and-tear issues far too early in the system’s life.
Ductwork. Your ductwork may be sufficient to the task, but you should have a professional check. The science of duct layouts has gotten better over the years, and you may have design and insulation flaws that could be corrected during the new AC installation.
Efficiency. An efficient system will last longer because it will not need to work as hard. Ask your contractors about SEER ratings (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) on your equipment to confirm that you’re getting precisely what you need.
Accessories and upgrades. When you are calculating an AC or heat pump price, it’s easy to look at the bottom line on the installation budget, but that’s a mistake. Because the equipment will be in your Spring Hill home for years, you should focus on looking ahead, adding features that will save you money on an ongoing basis. We will cover several of those in this article.
2. SHADE THE OUTDOOR UNIT.
While we’re on the subject of upgrades and accessories, let’s talk about potentially the simplest possible thing you can do: shade the condenser. The condenser has to sit outside of your home year-round and dissipate the heat collected from within the home. If you keep the housing itself well shaded, it can see up to a 10% improvement in function.
DO: Use an awning or fabricated shade.
DON’T: Put it in a shed, garage, or any other enclosed space.
DO: Position it during the installation to take advantage of tree cover or existing shade.
DON’T: Place it somewhere where it will be contending with dirt, debris, leaves or other plant growth.
3. CLEAN THE CONDENSER (OUTDOOR UNIT) HOUSING PERIODICALLY.
Because the condenser has to spend its entire life outside, it is vulnerable to the rigors of exposure. Dirt, mold, leaves, trash, weeds, pollen … anything that CAN build up inside the unit WILL do so. When that happens, the condenser loses efficiency, the system works harder, and the overall performance and integrity of your HVAC equipment is compromised.
Here’s the good news:
Cleaning your condenser is remarkably easy if you do it consistently. You can, quite literally, hose it down. Consider making it a part of your lawn or garden routine, and you’ll help prevent buildup inside the coils and fins that do the work of cooling your home.
4. OWNER MAINTENANCE TASKS
Without your vigilant eyes and ears, simple HVAC problems will go unattended to. That’s why we try to reinforce the idea that simple owner maintenance cannot be neglected. Other than the AC installation and scheduled maintenance, your Spring Hill system isn’t getting professional attention.
YOU are the first line of defense.
Here is what to look for:
- Issues with your thermostat, including incorrect temperature readouts, resets, or starts and stops in the cooling process.
- Dusty or moldy smells in your ducts.
- Burning smells that might indicate serious electrical issues.
- Unknown sounds, such as banging, screeching, clicking, or overly loud motor noises.
- Leaks in the water or refrigerant lines.
Paying attention to these very basic tasks will go a long way towards keeping your system healthy and efficient for the duration of its life.
5. PROFESSIONAL MAINTENANCE TASKS
Now we are going to discuss one of the most essential elements of HVAC system maintenance …
What a tune-up IS:
A tune-up for your AC serves the same basic role as an automotive tune-up – it’s a series of tasks performed by a professional annually or biannually to ensure that everything in your system is performing at peak capacity.
What your AC installation and maintenance contractors DO during a tune-up:
- Test the performance of the system.
- Check for leaks and clogs in all lines.
- Check refrigerant levels – if they are low, perform a leak repair and recharge.
- Clean the condenser unit – and straighten cooling fins if necessary.
- Inspect electrical wiring and fittings
- Inspect filters
Why you can’t skip a tune-up:
Small problems don’t go away. They are harbingers and creators of big problems. Even if you crank up your AC at the beginning of the season and all seems well, you could be missing a simple issue that a tune-up would have caught.
You should schedule tune ups in the spring right around the time that you’re getting ready for warmer weather.
6. CHANGE YOUR AIR FILTERS FREQUENTLY.
Air filters are another absolutely critical component of your system. They make sure that your ductwork and air handler aren’t blowing pollen, allergens, dust and mold all over your house. That’s important because indoor air quality is often quite poor – particularly in modern homes designed to keep drafts out.
But here’s something you might not know:
Failure to change your air filters could result in (and we aren’t exaggerating here) CATASTROPHIC FAILURE of your entire system.
While that sounds quite dramatic, it’s also accurate. Here are a few examples of issues that can arise from clogged, dirty air filters:
- Inefficient system performance
- Restricted airflow
- Damage to your air handler’s fan motor
- Damage to your compressor (the single most expensive part)
- Freezing of the evaporator coils due to poor airflow
- Unpleasant smells in the home
- Short cycling (frequently coming off and off)
How do you avoid all those nasty problems?
That’s easy. Follow step 6 – change your air filters, as directed by your service provider. If you do that, you ensure proper air circulation and filtration. Your HVAC system will thank you.
7. CHOOSE THE CORRECT AIR FILTERS FOR YOUR NEEDS.
Air filters are generally defined by the MERV rating. MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) is a number from 1-20 that generally represents how effective the filter is at trapping particulates.
You would THINK that higher ratings – like those enjoyed by popular HEPA filters – would automatically be the right choice, but that isn’t the case.
Here’s why better isn’t ACTUALLY better.
You only need a HEPA filter if you’ve got a medical need for one – really terrible allergies, pulmonary issues, and so on. Low to medium resistance filters with a MERV rating of 7-13 are nearly as effective at trapping particles as the highest rated ones, without the biggest drawback of denser filters.
Denser filters, such as HEPA filters, increase the air resistance, causing a large pressure drop. They are impractical in many instances, and they reduce your systems efficiency. This causes a corresponding increase in wear and tear – and raises your monthly utility bill.
For most applications, a lower resistance filter is appropriate, and it has the advantage of allowing optimal airflow.
8. PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTATS
You’ve probably already got at least a basic programmable thermostat, unless your HVAC system was installed quite some time ago. However, thermostats from even a few years ago may be lacking in the revolutionary features of today’s models.
Basic programmable thermostats allow you to program a schedule or set timers to control your heating and cooling times. That’s not always practical, especially for those of us who lack predictable schedules, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The current innovation?
Wi-fi capable thermostats allow you to set schedules as well, but they ALSO allow you to make changes to that schedule, or control your system, from any approved mobile device.
You could turn your AC on as you get into your car after work and have it cooled by the time you come home. The apps associated with these thermostats also typically allow you to view efficiency data and make changes to optimize performance.
9. CEILING FANS
Before central AC installations were possible for residential buildings, most homes depended solely on ceiling fans. That’s no longer the case, but ceiling fans can still play a very important role in cooling your home.
What ceiling fans add to the equation:
Optimizing the performance of your HVAC system will contribute to its long and practical life. Ceiling fans have an immediate and measurable impact on your AC or heat pump – cost of operation.
How it works:
Because a ceiling fan costs only about a cent an hour to operate, you can use them to assist in the circulation of cool air.
And, because a ceiling fan makes a room feel about 4-5 degrees cooler than it actually is, you can set your thermostat 4-5 degrees higher, saving money.
Overall, by installing a ceiling fan, you’re looking at a 5-8% reduction in operating costs. In practice, that typically falls somewhere around $30/month, so your fans will pay for themselves in less than one summer.
10. ULTRAVIOLET LIGHT AIR PURIFICATION
You can install a UV light in your ducts if you want to make absolutely sure that mold and bacteria can’t grow in the darkness of your ductwork. UV light is used for sterilization. They act as yet another line of defense against unwanted stuff in your air supply. In conjunction with the right filter, UV lights provide exceptional air quality, which contributes directly to your comfort.
They also make it less likely that your system will be contaminated, which lowers the incidence of issues related to buildup. All in all, they’re a sound investment, and they’ve gotten markedly less expensive over the last few years.
11. CLEAR YOUR INTAKE AND RETURN GRILLS
One relatively simple task that can help is just making sure that your vent grills are free of dust and debris and unobstructed. Anything you can do to improve airflow within your system is a big help. Run across those with a vacuum attachment when you’re going about your house cleaning. Or, if they get particularly dirty, turn off your breaker, unscrew them, give them a quick soak in dishwater, and wipe them down with a sponge.
You should make sure they’re completely dry before you reinstall them, just to avoid introducing unwanted moisture into your ducts, however.
Thanks for reading. We guarantee that if you follow these simple steps, your HVAC system will have a long and healthy life. If you have questions about AC installation or maintenance, feel free to call Spring Hill Air Conditioner.
Our expert staff members are at your service. Call us at 352-570-1008
11 Cost-Effective Ways To Make Your Central AC System Last Longer
Do you want your Spring Hill central air conditioner to last forever?
Of course you do. An HVAC system can cost thousands of dollars, and an air conditioning installation can add thousands on top of that. It’s the largest single investment you are likely to make for your home.
You can make your AC last for many years if you follow the techniques that we will lay out in this article. These tips aren’t guesswork either; they are the product of years of experience and shared knowledge by expert technicians. We are sharing them with you so you never again have to fear an AC or heat pump price tag.
If we’ve got your attention, let’s dive in.