Thursday, 08 December 2022

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1831 Austin Drive
Troy, MI 48083
Oakland County, US

Phone:  1-248-669-4338
Fax: 1-248-669-3495

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Heating & Cooling Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When should I replace my furnace?

A: You have two choices - you can replace your furnace before it breaks down, or wait until after it breaks down. If you replace it before it breaks down, you can take time to shop for the best deal, and install it on your own timetable. If you wait until after it breaks down (probably on the coldest day in the winter) you are usually in an emergency situation and need to replace it immediately. You may not be able to get the best deal and may have to settle for the first furnace you can get. Therefore, you may want to consider replacing your old furnace before it breaks down.

The average 80% standard oil or gas furnace lasts 18 years. Most high efficiency 90%+ furnaces only last 12 years due to their longer run times and design characteristics. It makes sense to have your furnace checked by an HVAC professional every few years. This is especially true for older units. Once you get past the life expectancy of the unit, consider planning for a replacement unit.

These symptoms can indicate a furnace should be replaced:

  • Frequent pilot light outages
  • Delayed ignition
  • Yellow flame or wavering flame
  • Excessive soot or corrosion
  • Too much or too little heat
  • The smell of sulfur or burnt eggs

Q: What are some tips for maintaining the furnace?

A: Your forced-air heating system can perform more efficiently if you...

  • Inspect filters once a month and replace as needed during heating season
  • Inspect fan belts for cracks
  • Make sure vents and air return vents are clear of obstruction/debris
  • Check chimney and venting systems once a year for secure fittings, leaks, and no corrosion or damage
  • Keep area around furnace clean and clutter-free
  • Do not block the source of furnace combustion air by enclosing the furnace in a small closet or by making the room it is located in too air tight

Q: What is the most important thing to consider in replacing a furnace?

A: Proper sizing is the most important thing in replacing a furnace. Bigger isn't better. Smaller isn't cheaper. The best comfort and efficiency is through a properly sized furnace. If the furnace is too small it won't keep the house at the desired temperature when it is cold outside. If the furnace is too big it heats the house too quickly and then shuts off. This results in hot and cold swings in temperature in the house.

To properly determine the correct size for a furnace, the dealer should do a heat loss calculation. This is sometimes called a Manual J calculation. If the dealers will not do this calculation, you may want to consider a different dealer for your furnace.

Q: What energy efficiency rating do I look for in a furnace?

A: Furnaces prior to 1990 were 55% to 65% efficient. The standard furnaces today are 80% efficient. High efficiency furnaces can be up to 97% efficient. A high efficiency furnace will generally cost more, but will save about 15% of the heating bill as compared to a standard unit. Have your furnace dealer show you a comparison of the differences in purchase cost and operating cost before making a purchase decision. If your furnace is more than 15 years old, a new furnace will probably be more efficient and save money.

Q: What are some recent improvements in furnaces?

A: There have been a number of improvements in furnace technology:

  • Two stage or multi speed burners that provide more comfort and efficiency than single stage burners
  • Hot surface or spark ignition - eliminates pilot light
  • Electronic blower control reduces cold drafts at start up
  • Electronic thermostats are more accurate than mercury bulb thermostats
  • Direct drive motors for dependable air flow
  • Multi-speed direct drive motors work in conjunction with multi-stage burners to improve air distribution temperature
  • Zoned heating increases the comfort level and increases the energy efficiency of the house
  • Direct venting through low-temperature piping allows elimination of chimney

Q: When should I replace my air conditioner?

A: The same conditions hold true for an air conditioner as with the furnace. The main difference is that having no air conditioning is generally not a life-threatening situation as it is with heating. Therefore, you are not in an emergency situation to replace the air conditioner when it fails.

The average central air conditioner lasts 15 years while the average room air conditioner lasts 10 years. Once you pass the life expectancy of an air conditioner you may want to begin gathering information on which brands of equipment and which dealer you want to replace the air conditioner.

When replacing an air conditioner, make sure it is installed in a shady spot. This can save one to two percent of the energy bill. Avoid placing the air conditioner on the roof or in the attic whenever possible.

Q: What are some tips for maintaining my central air conditioner?

A: Regular maintenance by the homeowner and a dealer helps AC units operate efficiently year after year.

Homeowner Maintenance
  • Clean and replace filters as needed during cooling season
  • Clean air conditioner coils
  • Keep debris and leaves away from air conditioner unit
  • Use a hose to clear the aluminum fins from airborne debris

Dealer Maintenance

  • Have dealer make sure correct amount of refrigerant is in air conditioner; do not overcharge refrigerant when filling
  • Find and repair any leaks in system
  • Measure air flow through coil
  • Verify correct electronic control sequence
  • Inspect electrical terminals
  • Oil motor and check belts
  • Check accuracy of thermostat

Q: Is proper sizing important for an air conditioner?

A: Bigger isn't better. Smaller isn't cheaper. If an air conditioner is too small it won't keep a house cool enough on hot days. If the air conditioner is too big it will cool the house too quickly without removing the humidity. This will make the house clammy and uncomfortable. The best comfort and efficiency are by a properly sized air conditioner. We recommend that an air conditioner be specified to maintain 20 degrees cooling below outside temperature. Therefore, the house should be able to maintain 70 degrees when it is 90 degrees outside.

To properly size an air conditioner, a dealer should do a heat gain calculation. This is sometimes called a Manual J calculation. If a dealer does not do this calculation, you may want to consider a different dealer.

Q: What energy efficiency do I look for with an air conditioner?

A: Air conditioners have a SEER rating. This is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. In the 1970's most air conditioners had a 6 SEER rating. Today the standard SEER rating for most air conditioners is 10 SEER. An energy efficient air conditioner will have a 12 SEER or 13 SEER rating.

Have a dealer show you a comparison of the extra initial price for the energy efficient air conditioner vs. the energy savings for that air conditioner. Then you can make an intelligent decision on which air conditioner to purchase.

Q: What are the recent improvements with air conditioners?

A: Air conditioner refrigerant has recently switched from Freon to non-CFC refrigerants such as Puron. This coolant is more environmentally friendly as it has no chlorine. All air conditioners will be required to have non-CFC refrigerants in the very near future.

Q: What is the best way to run my air conditioner?

A: The most common mistake people make in running their air conditioners is to open their windows at night. Half the job of an air conditioner is to remove the humidity from the air. Relative humidity increases at night because the temperatures are generally cooler. The air conditioner works all day long to reduce the temperature AND remove the humidity. Opening the windows at night lets all the humidity back in the house and causes the air conditioner to have to work harder the next day to remove it. Therefore, you get less comfort and reduced or no savings.

Choose a strategy. One strategy is to leave the windows open all the time and don't run the air conditioner. The other strategy is to leave the windows closed all the time and run the air conditioner. The only bad strategy is to open and close the windows each day while you are running your air conditioner.

Q: What about ductwork?

A: Follow these tips:

  • Install ducts in conditioned space; try to avoid ductwork in the attic
  • If you install ductwork in an unconditioned space (like the attic) make sure the ductwork is insulated
  • Fix all leaks in any ductwork- seal with foil-faced tape
  • Remember, the only thing you can't use duct tape on is ductwork

Q: How do I select a dealer for my furnace or air conditioner?

A: Here are some questions to ask when selecting a dealer:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • How long have they been installing this product?
  • Are they licensed and trained?
  • Are they a member of ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) or other organizations?
  • Are they registered with the Better Business Bureau?
  • Do they provide a heat loss/heat gain calculation?
  • Do they design a system that maintains 70 degrees inside when it is minus 10 degrees outside/ or a 20 degree cooling variance?
  • Do they provide an estimate of the annual operating cost?
  • Do they provide 24-hour emergency service?
  • Do they provide the manufacturer's warranties?
  • Do they have financing options?
  • Do they provide a list of references?