Q: How do I know what size HVAC system I need?
A heat loss (winter) and gain (summer) analysis, commonly known as a “Manual J”, is the mathematical method for determining the BTU’s needed for a specific home in a specific climate. It is what engineers and professional contractors do on a daily basis to ensure comfort, safety, and efficiency.
Square footage and cubic footage are important, but insulation values, window quality, and air leakage rates are also a big part of the equation. The act of finishing a basement and insulating the walls can reduce the heat loss by 20% but have no significant affect on the air conditioning BTU’s.
Following the loss/gain calculation, there is more math to be done, as the BTU’s required to heat and cool require a specific amount or airflow to disperse the energy effectively. The ductwork is just as important as the heating & cooling equipment and should always be evaluated by a professional contractor prior to making an investment.
Q: How much does it cost to replace a furnace and/or air conditioner?
The range can be anywhere from $6000 to $18,000 depending on a variety of factors. Fortunately, we all realize that we get what we pay for. A reputable contractor will have a relationship with a reputable financing company- most families pay for their 15 years systems over 24- 36 months without interest.
Factors like whether the property is owner occupied or leased, what kind of energy savings folks are looking for, whether or not they are staying there for more than 5 years, and even the need for higher air quality can all factor in to the total investment.
Keep in mind that the actual cost for the installation is going to be the same if you pick a $1500 unit or a $3000 unit, so consider your budget (including future energy savings) carefully and get the best unit you can afford. Installation of any unit requires several hundred dollars in related materials, highly skilled professionals, licenses/ taxes/ and insurances, vehicles, an office/shop facility, and the support of a trained staff. Companies that do not have these systems in place struggle to back their work when something fails under warranty.
Q: What should I check before I call an HVAC company?
When your heating or cooling fail there may be something simple wrong. If you are comfortable checking a few things yourself, put on some working clothes, get something to kneel on, and grab your flashlight. The first thing to check is your air filter. Be sure it’s been changed recently & is free from dirt & debris. You can also check the thermostat & ensure there is power coming from the unit. Lastly, check the outside intake, a pvc pipe coming out of the house for venting. Ensure this is free of snow, ice, debris & any obstructions so air can flow properly from your hvac unit. Beyond that, it’s best to call a professional contractor to make sure your hvac equipment is operating properly & safely.
Q: How often should I replace my filter?
Air filters get dirtier faster the more they are used, a good rule of thumb is to inspect them once a month, even vacuuming off larger debris to make the filter last longer. Filters may need to be changed more often during extreme weather, and a clean filter is always a good idea going into the real heat of summer or the icy grip of winter. After all, keeping up on the air filter is the easiest way to prolong the life of your system and keep energy bills down.
Typically, 1” filters need to be replaced every month, regardless of what the packaging seems to say. Beware of the small words “up to” before the “3 months”. Spending more than $3 on a 1” thick filter usually means too much airflow restriction and trouble waiting to happen.
5” to 9” air filters typically last 6 months, and dramatically lessen the resistance to airflow. Owners like these because they never break down and are only in need of changing every 6 months once you have a brand-new air purifier installed.
Electronic Air Purifiers are a must for those with allergies and asthma. They provide an extremely high clean air delivery rate and lessen the environmental impact by keeping large paper filters out of landfills. They do require a monthly pre-filter cleaning, and a deep cleaning every 6 months.
Regardless of filter type, a “filter replacement” at each 6-month mark should be done with the power off, the blower compartment door removed, with a good light and vacuum on hand. This is the best time to inspect the inside of the furnace and also the return air duct (through the filter rack) for larger debris and even deceased critters. If you ever lose a family pet, remember to look in this same area, they often find their way into the ductwork.
Q: How often should I get my HVAC system serviced?
HVAC system service should be performed at the changing of the season from heating to cooling, and cooling to heating. Generally, two times per year will allow for faulty parts to be found prior to breaking. Air quality issues such as dust mites, dust, counter surface bacteria and fungus growth can be a great thing to discuss with your hvac technician. During regular maintenance it’s important to use this as an opportunity to discuss concerns and heating, cooling & air quality options & solutions. In the long run, preventive maintenance still provides the lowest cost of ownership over the life of a system.
Q: How are my furnace and AC connected?
Traditional HVAC systems are connected by ductwork, a coil, gas & refrigerant lines. The coil allows both cool & warm air to pass through your hvac system. Once the compressor starts to run it pushes refrigerant through the condenser fan & mixes with outdoor air which sends the air to the evaporator coil, then moves through the duct work at which point cold air is felt. It’s important that all 3 pieces of equipment are properly maintain & working to optimum capacity to ensure controlled temperature & maximum comfort as week as efficiency are achieved.
Q: How do I choose an HVAC contractor?
Doing your own research is the best thing you can do when trying to choose the right HVAC Contractor for you. Read customer Google Reviews, read about the company online. Check out the company’s website to see what services they perform & what equipment they service & install. Call the company directly & simply ask them why you should choose them. A reputable HVAC Company will be honest, upfront & transparent & should be able to answer all your questions & address your concerns over the phone. Be sure to confirm that they are certified, licensed, bonded & insured. Also make sure all the technicians wear uniforms, are drug screened, undergo background checks, & undergo continuous training. Researching all these things will ensure you are choosing the right HVAC contractor for you & your homes needs.