In the good old days, interior cooling and heating were limited to a specific room or portion of a building with localized units. That worked out just fine, so long as the entire family didn’t mind camping out in the living room. Some could afford more than one unit. Most could not.
Luckily, the invention of HVAC units changed the game. The HVAC system is the single most important component in both residential and commercial construction. It contributes greatly to the indoor air quality, humidity levels and the comfort level of your indoor space. HVAC stands for centralized heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Units range from a compact unit placed in a window sill to a multisystem unit installed on a roof or basement.
HOW IT WORKS
On the cooling side, the unit draws warm interior air into the system through a series of air return ducts. The air is then moved over a series of refrigerated coils. As the air moves over the coils, the heat in the air is transferred to the refrigerant in the coils. A fan or blower sends the cooled air back to the interior of the building through a series of ducts.
The heating side typically relies on a furnace or heat pump to provide warm air through the same ventilation system.
To simplify, the system can make hot air cold and cold air hot.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
The HVAC system uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. On average, 44 percent of your utility bill goes toward heating and cooling.
For the past 30 years, manufacturers of HVAC equipment have made the system more efficient to help battle rising energy costs. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has also imposed tighter restrictions in recent years in an effort to help save the planet.
You can save yourself some money and increase your comfort by properly maintaining and upgrading your HVAC equipment.
PICKING THE RIGHT UNIT
The size of your HVAC unit varies based on the size of the space you’re trying to heat and cool. A unit that is too small for your space will constantly run and may never reach the desired temperature. A unit that’s too large for your needs will start and stop frequently. This short cycle causes unnecessary wear and tear on the unit and shortens its lifespan.
Figure out the square footage of space you need to heat and cool by measuring the room’s length and width. Multiply the numbers to get square footage, then consult with a professional to find the unit size you need.
WHEN TO REPLACE YOUR UNIT
The salt in our air isn’t kind to HVAC units. Has yours been around for a decade or longer? If so, you may want to consider replacing it. Most warranties last from five to 10 years. After that, the cost of repairs could soon be greater than the unit’s value.
Using your car as an example, is it really worth spending $4,000 on a transmission when the value of the 10-year-old vehicle is $5,000?
Fact is, older systems are not as efficient. You could save 50 percent or more in utility costs with a system upgrade. Over time, coils get dusty, the refrigerant level may fall and drain lines may get plugged. Maximize your unit’s durability with an occasional tune-up.
WORK WITH A PROFESSIONAL
At the very least, you should have your local dealer inspect your outside HVAC unit quarterly, before every new season. Make sure that ductwork inspection inside is also part of the deal. Unless the ductwork is clean, the best condenser outside will not be able to efficiently provide quality, healthy air inside.
And just a reminder: Outside condensers have to be free-breathing, which means shrubbery and plants can’t intrude within 3 feet of the unit. It also should be located on the leeward side of the home, not the prevailing windside where salt and sand in the air can accelerate the damage. When possible, consider installing it on the home’s roof.
WHO TO CALL
The phone book is full of HVAC companies. Weeding out the good ones from the bad can be a challenge. For a proven combination of quality products, professional installation and first-rate service, contact one of these local companies:
EAC HEATING & AIR
HOWELL-CHASE HEATING & AIR CONDITIONING
GOCHNAUER AIR CONDITIONING & HEATING