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Frequently Asked Questions

Central Air Conditioner Frequently Asked Questions

What's the best air conditioner brand?

We are often asked what is the best air conditioning brand on the market, so we've wriiten a few blog posts answering this question. Check out our most recent post here and be sure to click on the links to other articles in the series. 

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My air conditioner runs constantly and doesn’t shut off, what’s wrong with it?

There are quite a few issues that could cause an air conditioner to run all the time. If the refrigerant charge were low it would cause an ac unit to run constantly trying to reach the thermostat temperature setting. Another possibility is that the unit is undersized for the space. It’s best to call a licensed professional to diagnose the problem.

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Some of the rooms in my house are hotter than other rooms, how can I fix it?

While this may be a problem with the air ducts or the air conditioner itself, it may be something else entirely. Many times hot rooms are caused by insufficient attic or wall insulation in that area of the home. If you live in a warmer climate like Phoenix, installing solar sunscreens or some room-darkening drapes can sometimes solve this problem. You should consider having a professional conduct a home energy audit to pinpoint the exact problem.

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I see ice forming on my unit and/or the copper pipes that connect to it, is that a problem?

Yes, there is something wrong if you ever see ice on your air conditioner. Usually this is an indication your unit has a refrigerant leak, but there are also a few other problems that can cause this symptom. You should shut off your unit and call a professional air conditioning contractor right away.

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I had a high efficiency air conditioner installed but I still have high utility bills, was it installed wrong?

In order to get all of the benefits of a high efficiency central air conditioning system, more than just “the box” needs to be installed properly. Proper application and installation is more important than the machine itself. You should have your contractor review the installation and make sure everything is installed per manufacturer specifications. You may also benefit from having a whole home energy audit done on your home.

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Which brand air conditioner is the most reliable?

For the most part, all of the major air conditioning manufacturers are building high quality products nowadays. Many buy their components from the same places. A better word for “manufacturers” today would be “assemblers” as most are simply assembling a machine full of parts manufactured by someone else. If you want to make sure your AC and heating unit gives you long, reliable service; make sure you choose the right contractor to install it.

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Central Heating Frequently Asked Questions

My heater doesn’t work on really cold mornings but works fine during the rest of the day, what’s the problem?

You probably have what’s known as a heat pump. Heat pumps basically reverse the air conditioning cycle in the winter and are a great choice in milder heating climates. Most likely your heat pump is in defrost mode when this happens and is operating normally. A professional can install “back-up” heat in your unit so your unit still provides heat while in defrost.

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I noticed there is a vent near my gas furnace that goes to my attic or outside, can I block this vent?

NO! Your gas furnace needs to have an outside source of combustion air in order to operate. Blocking this airway is very dangerous. DON’T DO IT!

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Is it cheaper to run space heaters in the rooms I’m using rather than running my whole central heating system?

Although it would seem those tiny space heaters would be less expensive to operate than your central heating system, in most cases they are not. Space heaters draw a tremendous amount of energy. Unless your heating system is very old, it’s the most economic way to heat your home.

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Fireplace Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to clean the soot build-up glass on my fireplace?

Most people are surprised to learn that one of the best ways to clean soot off the glass doors of your fireplace is with ash! Crumple up some newspaper and dip it in the gray ash in your fireplace. Then use the newspaper like you would a scouring pad in a small circular motion with a little pressure. It’s a tedious and messy job, but it usually does the trick.

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Do I need to have any maintenance done on my gas fireplace?

Every fireplace manufacturer says you should have your fireplace checked and cleaned every year before you turn it on. Your fireplace is a combustion appliance like a furnace and while a beautiful addition to any home, can be very dangerous without the proper care. There is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and fires with any gas appliance…always have it serviced by a licensed and trained professional.

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I think there is an animal in my chimney, should I call an exterminator or a heating contractor?

This depends on the type of chimney you have, but you may need to call both. DO NOT try to smoke the animal out. If your chimney is blocked with a nest or something else, dangerous gasses can’t escape and can be lethal. Start by calling your heating contractor and seek his or her advice on what to do next.

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Energy Efficiency Frequently Asked Questions

What is a home energy audit and is it a good idea to buy one?

A home energy audit or assessment will determine how much energy your home uses and determine what improvements will make your home more energy efficient. When deficiencies are corrected, you can save significant money and in many cases improve your comfort and air quality. As to, should you buy one…that depends on whether you’d like to dine out more or would prefer the executives at your power company should eat out more with your money!

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Should I shut off my air conditioner completely when I go out or set the temperature up higher?

Setting your temperature up a few degrees higher is actually more cost effective than completely shutting off your unit. When you shut off your air conditioner completely, everything in your home heats up making your air conditioner work harder to bring it all back to a comfortable temperature level. Consider installing a Wi-Fi thermostat that you can adjust from your smart phone or tablet when you leave or are coming home. Wi-Fi thermostats also make a great “remote control” when you’re sitting on your couch!

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What is a SEER rating?

SEER – Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio is a rating given to central air conditioners so consumers can determine how efficiently it operates. A higher SEER rating doesn’t mean the unit cools better, it just means that it cools more efficiently than the same size unit with a lower rating. In laymen terms, the SEER rating of an air conditioner is the equivalent to MPG (Miles Per Gallon) of a car…the higher the number, the more miles you get out of the same dollar spent.

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Glossary

Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE)

AFUE is the measure of the annual efficiency of a residential gas furnace.

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Annualized Return

The return an investment provides over a period of time, expressed as a time-weighted annual percentage. This is the equivalent annual interest rate you would get if you put the same amount of money spent on the energy upgrade into a savings account.

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Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that in the past was commonly used in a variety of building construction materials. When disturbed, microscopic fibers become airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs, where they can cause serious health problems.

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British Thermal Unit (Btu)

The amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.

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Carbon Monoxide (CO)

A colorless, odorless poisonous gas produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon and carbon compounds such as fossil fuels (i.e. coal, petroleum) and their products (e.g. liquefied petroleum gas, gasoline), and biomass.

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Combustion Appliance Zone (CAZ)

A contiguous air volume within a building that contains a combustion appliance such as furnaces, boilers, and water heaters. The zone may include a mechanical closet, basement, or other areas of a house or building.

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Compact Fluorescent Light bulb (CFL)

A smaller version of standard fluorescent lamps that can directly replace standard incandescent lights. These highly efficient lights consist of a gas filled tube, and a magnetic or electronic ballast.

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Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM)

A measurement of airflow that indicates how many cubic feet of air pass by a stationary point in one minute.

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Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER)

The annual measure of the energy efficiency of an air conditioner: cooling capacity in BTU/HOUR divided by the watts consumed at a specific temperature.

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Energy Factor (EF)

The measure of efficiency for a variety of appliances.

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Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF)

The measure of the seasonal efficiency of a heat pump in the heating mode. It takes into account the variations in temperature that can occur within a season and is the average number of Btu of heat delivered for every watt-hour of electricity used.

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Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) / Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)

A machine that captures heat or energy from the exhaust air of a building and transfers it to the supply/fresh air entering the building to preheat the air and increase overall heating efficiency while providing consistent fresh air.

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Light Emitting Diode (LED) Lighting

One of the most efficient forms of man-made lighting on the market today. LEDs have several advantages over incandescent lighting including; lower energy consumption, longer life, and smaller size.

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Natural Air Changes per Hour (NACH)

The number of times in one hour the entire volume of air inside the building leaks to the outside naturally.

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Payback Period

The amount of time required before the savings resulting from your system equal the system cost.

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R-Value

A measure of the capacity of a material to resist heat transfer. Higher R-Value equals insulating properties.

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Savings to Investment Ratio (SIR)

A ratio used to determine whether a project that aims to save money in the future is worth doing. The ratio compares the investment that is put in now with the amount of savings from the project.

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