Posts Tagged ‘air conditioning’

Sarasota Springs HVAC Guide: Why Routine Maintenance Improves IAQ

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Furnaces and air conditioners in Sarasota Springs are by far the most common way to circulate air throughout homes, offices and institutions, heating in the winter months and cooling in the summer.  Adjust the thermostat and controlled air is delivered almost immediately.

If a system is not regularly and properly maintained, however, that air can be dirty, dusty and full of odor, having passed through the heat exchanger, filters and ductwork that have accumulated a build-up of residue over time.  IAQ or interior air quality quickly deteriorates.

The Basics

HVAC systems heat or cool air at a central point. The air passes through filters to sift out dust and unwanted particles, then travels through a system of ductwork to be delivered to the space.  Return air ducts bring it back to the central point.

Along the way, the air accumulates the dust, germs and debris of the places it inhabits.  Over time, the filters become clogged and eventually contribute more contamination to the processed air than they can clean.  The enclosed and hard to reach ducts are also deposits of dust and decorated with spider webs that are quickly another form of filter that gives back more than it receives.

The Costs

Without routine maintenance, the system runs poorly and distributes more dirt into the living space than it is able to filter and clean, reducing the quality of life for the inhabitants, homeowners.  Poor air quality can lead to serious health issues.

Not only does the quality of the air decrease, the strain on the system lowers efficiency.  Having to work harder consumes more energy, creating an immediate and noticeable rise in utility bills.  The stress also reduces the lifetime of your Sarasota Springs HVAC system and requires more rapid replacements of parts or the entire furnace, a huge financial cost.

Regular Maintenance is the Easy Solution

To maintain high levels of quality air, it is essential to schedule regular replacements of filters and a clean-out of the ducts.  The filters are accessible as part of the furnace and air conditioners and easily swapped out by the home owner once or (better) twice a year.

Ductwork, however, is enclosed and often out of site, just as easily out of mind and certainly harder to reach.  Scheduling duct cleaning along with an inspection and routine maintenance of the entire system with a licensed company such as Baker & Sons Air Conditioning, Inc. ensures longevity and efficiency along with peace of mind.

Essential Components of a Gibsonton Home Comfort System

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Indoor comfort is defined by several factors: temperature, humidity, and air quality. If any one of the three is out of the “normal” range it can affect the quality of life in your Gibsonton home.

The ultimate goal of any heating & cooling contractor is to ensure that customers are comfortable – meaning that all three factors are addressed when servicing, replacing, or installing new equipment in a home. This equipment includes furnaces and air conditioners but also extends to electronic filters, ultraviolet (UV) lighting, etc.

Obviously, the essential component for most U.S. households is a furnace. Air conditioners may not be essential for all parts of the U.S., namely the northern states, but are still considered an integral part of any home comfort system. Add-ons like electronic filters are important for controlling the air quality.

Let’s look at the furnace first. There are several choices but most can be found in two different classifications: single-stage or variable speed two-stage. Your choice depends on the indoor square footage, your own comfort needs, and possibly the cost of energy units (gas or electric for example). Forced air is a common method of moving heated air to all parts of the home via an air handling unit and through a duct system. But gaining in popularity is radiant heat (electric), which does not utilize a duct system.

Air conditioners also come in a variety of sizes, including window/room air conditioners or central air conditioning, which is likely a “split” system including an outdoor unit and indoor coil. The size of the air conditioner is determined by square footage, which is part of a load calculation performed by qualified heating & cooling contractors while planning the equipment replacement or new installation. An oversized air conditioner may produce high humidity levels and an undersized unit may not provide enough cooling to all areas of the home. High humidity levels contribute to higher indoor temperatures in the summer, and can also lead to respiratory problems.

If someone in your home has allergies or is sensitive to certain pollutants in the air, it may be important to include extra filtration in your heating & cooling system, such as electronic filtration and UV lighting mounted in the buildings duct system, to kill germs and contaminants.

And speaking of an essential component, duct systems are keys to maximizing efficiency and comfort. Properly sized, insulated, and sealed, the duct system is a key to comfortable, healthy indoor air – and energy efficiency. It is also important to keep your duct system clean, too.

As always, it is best to consult with a qualified and licensed heating and cooling contractor who can offer the best solutions for your home comfort system.

What is Refrigerant Pressure and Why Does it Matter? A Question from Samoset

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Refrigerant is often called the “lifeblood” of the mechanical cooling devices, such as refrigerators and air conditioners, that you have in your Samoset home.  The main function of refrigerant is to transfer heat through a closed loop system. Various heating and cooling (HVAC) components require different operating pressures to move refrigerant and process the “refrigeration cycle.”

In a nutshell, the refrigeration cycle involves refrigerant, which changes from a liquid to a vapor and back to a liquid again by the addition of pressure and heat. In a refrigeration system, pressurized refrigerant passed through an expansion valve into an evaporator and pressure is reduced. The evaporator is a tube which passes by the area to be cooled. When the pressure drops, this liquid refrigerant changes into a vapor, which absorbs vaporized heat from the area around the evaporator. After the heat is absorbed by the refrigerant, it flows to a condenser, where it passes over coils, absorbs heat from the hot vapor, and condenses back into a liquid. The liquid is returned to the compressor and the cycle begins again.

Today’s refrigerants – especially those used in residential applications – are broken down into two different types, labeled R-22 and R-410A. R-22 is made up of a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemical, which has been found to be damaging to the Earth’s ozone layer. It has been replaced by R-410A, which is made up of a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) chemical and will eventually be phased out by the year 2020. One of the biggest differences between the two are their operating temperatures. HFCs operate at much higher refrigerant pressure.

This change between refrigerants has created some interesting dynamics and challenges for the HVAC trade. Gauges used to check pressure readings have all changed. And mechanical compressors do not operate with a variety of refrigerants, so the compressors and coils need to be swapped out, too. To give you an example, let’s say you are shopping for a new central air conditioner. Chances are, the new air conditioner will run on R-410A. Your old air conditioner ran on R-22. In order to “match” the compressor in the your new air conditioning unit to the existing indoor coil, you will need to replace the coil and the lines running from your outdoor condensing unit to your indoor air handling unit, which is mounted to your furnace.

You don’t have to understand the refrigeration cycle to know that today’s high-pressure HFC refrigerants require different test instrumentation and retrofitted or upgraded mechanical equipment. The change in operating pressure is a small price to pay for a safer and “green” environment.

Happy Halloween Weekend (and Scary Air Conditioner Noises)

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Everyone at Baker & Sons Air Conditioning wishes you a Happy Halloween Weekend! Have a great time as a ghost, a goblin, or anything in between! And to make your Halloween a little less spooky, here is an explanation of the scary noises that sometimes come from your air conditioner.

If you notice excess noise coming from your air conditioner, it might be a problem that can be fixed by your technician. Here are some common causes of excess noise from an air conditioner and what you can do to fix them.

  • Blower – The blower is a motor and fan blade assembly. If the blade touches the housing or if the motor needs a tune up, it might start to make excess noise. Loose screws, foreign objects, or a need for oiling or new parts will all cause noise problems but they are all easy fixes.
  • Ductwork – If the sounds you’re hearing are in the ductwork or vents, it may be due to expansion and contraction in your ventilation system. This is normal and while it may be obnoxious, it tends not to persist during the hottest months as temperature won’t fluctuate as much.
  • Bubbling Sounds – If you hear a gurgly or bubbly noise coming from your indoor unit, it may be due to a blockage in the condensate line. The easiest solution is to clean the condensate line and check for any clogs or blockages in the system.
  • Clicking Sounds – If you hear a clicking sound, it is likely from the relay or contactor in the system. If this is the case, have a professional check it right away. Electrical problems are not to be taken lightly where your air conditioner is concerned.
  • Foreign Objects – Sometimes, the condenser fan will make a lot of loud noise because foreign objects get stuck in there. Sticks, leaves, toys, food from small animals – it can all get stuck in the fans and make a tremendous amount of noise. Keep the area around your condenser unit clear of debris and check it often if you hear loud noises.

Most noises from your central air conditioning unit are explainable and can be fixed relatively easily. If you cannot find the source of the noise, however, and it is only getting worse, call a professional before the problem grows.

How to Calculate Duct Size for an AC System: A Guide from Sarasota

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Duct sizing is a complex process using one of three methodologies. The goal of duct sizing is to provide the perfect space through which heated and cooled air can travel around your Sarasota home. Ducts should provide ample air flow to keep you comfortable without overworking your HVAC system or costing you an arm and a leg on your energy bill.

Methods Used for Sizing

There are three methods used for most modern duct sizing. The first is the Velocity Method. The velocity method takes into account the speed at which air flows through the ducts based on their general size. A series of equations is used to determine this, including duct cross sectional area, air flow rate and air speed. A much more detailed breakdown is available on the EngineeringToolbox.com for those interested in the math behind the process.

In general though, the velocity method allows contractors to determine the appropriate size and layout of ducts based on their application (residential, commercial, industrial or high speed) and their position (main or branch ducts).

Contractors may also use the Constant Pressure Loss and Static Pressure Recovery methods to design ductwork for your HVAC system. The constant pressure loss method tends to result in more components but provides a more accurate reading of the actual pressure loss in the system based on the materials used and the layout of your ductwork.

Static pressure recovery focuses on ensuring the same pressure level is achieved at all vents and inlets for the system. It is probably the most complicated sizing method, however, so it is rarely used for residential installations.

Simplifying the Process

Were we to break down the process into its core components, this is what a contractor would do when sizing your duct work:

  • Determine CFM for Each Room – using the Manual J for load calculations, they would determine the CFM. This is based on the (Room Load/House Load) x Equipment CFM. The entire house must be measured and load calculations completed before this can be done.
  • Friction Loss Rate – Friction loss rate is the (Available Static Pressure x100 / Effective Length).
  • Duct Sizing – Finally, the contractor will use a chart or software to select ductwork based on the friction loss and CFM calculated in the first two steps.

The goal of all of this math is to ensure that the system installed is exactly as large as is necessary to distribute heated or cooled air to the entire house. Incorrect measurements result in improper delivery of that air and a system that doesn’t quite get the job done.

What is R410A? A Question From Lido Key

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

If you’ve recently started researching a new air conditioner for your Lido Key home, you may have run across “R410A” – a newer form of refrigerant increasingly being used in high end air conditioning equipment. What is R410A and why is it different from the existing refrigerant most air conditioners have?

Chemical Composition

R-410A is a composite of diflouromethane and pentafluoromethane. This mixture of R-32 and R-125 creates a new compound designed to be used in commercial and residential air conditioning devices. Sometimes referred to as Puron, Genetron and EcoFluor, R-410A is a more environmentally friendly approach to cooling than the existing coolant most air conditioners use – R-22.

To date, R-22 has been the refrigerant of choice for millions of devices. However, because R-22 will no longer be permitted in new devices starting in 2020, R-410A is growing in popularity rapidly and will soon become the standard refrigerant option in new devices.

Environmental Impact

Despite being very similar in chemical composition to other refrigerants like Freon and R-22, R-410A does not contribute to ozone depletion, a major step forward for air conditioning. However, it has as very similar global warming impact – producing nearly 1725% more damage than carbon dioxide. One of the factors that negates this high global warming risk is the fact that R-410A is being used in a more efficient manner than past refrigerants.

Choosing R-410A

You cannot simply replace the R-22 in your cooling system with R-410A. Because it requires higher pressure, the devices that run with R-410A must be built specifically for this refrigerant. As a result, many manufacturers are starting the transition to the new refrigerant now, in anticipation of the 2020 phase out date for R-22. If you are preparing to buy a new unit, keep this in mind. You can still buy R-22 devices, but they are not as environmentally friendly as this newer form of refrigerant.

Finding an Ozone Friendly Air Conditioner in Wimauma

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

We’ve heard about ozone depletion in Wimauma  for almost 20 years as a major problem caused by a variety of chemicals we use almost every day. Propellants in aerosols, certain cleaning materials and the refrigerant in your air conditioning system are all culprits in the depletion of the ozone layer. So when you purchase a new AC unit, you want to be sure you won’t continue to contribute to the problem.

What Causes Ozone Depletion?

The number one contributor to ozone depletion is chloroflourocarbons, the man-made chemicals used in air conditioners since Thomas Midgley, Jr. invented the compound in the 1920s. When these chemicals reach the stratosphere, the ultraviolet light from the sun breaks the compound down to its base components, including chlorine atoms which subsequently break down thousands of molecules of ozone before dissipating.

The earliest CFCs used in air conditioners were incredibly damaging to the ozone. But since legislation was passed to stop the damage and new technologies were developed, there are less damaging alternatives.

Specifically, the refrigerant R410-A is considered environmentally friendly in that it doesn’t cause ozone depletion. Some air conditioners still ship with the older refrigerant R-22, however, which has been linked to ozone depletion and will no longer be allowed in new products after 2020.

Which Products Can You Buy?

When searching for a new air conditioner, look for a system that uses only R410-A. On average, these systems tend to cost more money, but keep in mind that in less than 10 years, refrigerants for older R-22 models will become much more sparse while R410-A will be an industry standard.

Of course, while R410-A doesn’t cause ozone depletion, it isn’t necessarily 100% environmentally friendly. It is still an HCFC and it contributes in smaller ways to global warming. If you live in a low humidity environment, consider purchasing an evaporative cooler rather than an air conditioner. These systems don’t contain any coolant and can be powered by solar heated water. They are not as effective in high humidity environments, but for those in dry climates, they are less expensive and more friendly to the environment than conventional.

AC As a Safety Feature in the Home: A Suggestion From Bee Ridge

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Ask a hundred people in Bee Ridge what the primary role of air conditioning is and I’ll bet you they say “comfort”. We seek out AC to stay cool and beat the summer heat, but did you know your air conditioning is a lot more than just a convenience – it is a safety feature in the midst of heavy heat waves.

Heat Is More than Just Uncomfortable

We tend to think of heat as an uncomfortable inconvenience. In reality, it is quite dangerous. According to the Center for Disease Control, heat waves killed 8,015 people between 1979-2003, more than hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning, earthquakes and floods combined in that time period.

Why is heat illness so dangerous? It comes on quickly and it’s easy to ignore the warning signs, especially when you are already uncomfortable. While hydration is important, the real risk occurs after you’ve become dehydrated – when your body can no longer keep itself cool. This is known as heat stroke and can lead to a number of life threatening conditions, especially for the elderly, infants and those with chronic conditions.

That’s where air conditioning comes in. On the CDC’s extreme heat preparedness webpage, air conditioning is listed as the number one preventative factor against heat related illness. Simply put – if you have an air conditioner, there is a much smaller chance you will get sick from the heat. Dehydration happens less frequently when you’re in an air conditioned environment, meaning that your body can regulate temperature internally and you feel comfortable – not a bad deal for a simple installation.

Staying Cool Is a Medical Necessity

Heat is more than just a direct threat. It addles the mind and makes your reaction times slower. In effect, by allowing your body to overheat, you put yourself at risk. Simple tasks like climbing a ladder or taking out the trash could result in an injury because you don’t have the energy or the mental clarity to perform them as you would on a normal day.

So, air conditioning is about a lot more than just staying comfortable – it’s a health issue. Especially if you have small children or elderly adults in the house or if anyone in your family has a medical condition like obesity, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, an air conditioning system is an absolute must during heat waves.

Different Types of Refrigerants Used in HVAC: A Guide From Shell Key

Monday, August 29th, 2011

We have all heard phrases in Shell Key like “save the planet” or “save the ozone layer.” Up until the 1960s there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to the disintegrating protective ozone layer around the Earth’s surface. Since then, ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) have been seen as the ozone-depleting culprit and new laws regulating the use of CFCs have had a direct impact on heating and cooling (HVAC) systems.

The “lifeblood” of any air conditioning and heat pump system is its refrigerants – a chemical used in the refrigeration cycle. For several decades, the “refrigerant of choice” in HVAC systems has been HCFC-22, also known as R-22. The problem is, HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) are harmful to the ozone layer because they contain ozone-destroying chlorine.

Because of this, the use of R-22 is being slowly phased out from usage in HVAC systems. The Clean Air Act of 1970 has provisions in it to phase out HCFC refrigerants. As a result, chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce, and companies will no longer be able to import, R-22 for use in new air conditioning equipment (effective this year),  but they can continue production and import of R-22 until 2020 for use in servicing existing equipment. So, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing for many years to come.

But the “new kid on the block” replacing R-22 has been getting up a head of steam for several years now. Among the new alternative refrigerants recommended by the U.S. EPA is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, but, like R-22, contributes to global warming. R-410A is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®.

There are several other substitute refrigerants going by the names of R-407C, HFC-134A, and R-422C. A complete list can be found at www.epa.gov.

According to the U.S. EPA, homeowners with existing units using R-22 can continue to use R-22 since there is “no requirement to change or convert R-22 units for use with a non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerant.” And it is important to note that R-407C is allowed for retrofits but R-410A is not, due to its higher working pressures. Substitute refrigerants would not work well with existing components unless a retrofit was made or in the case of using R-410A, a complete system changeout.

One of the leading causes for air conditioner and heat pump failure are lower levels of refrigerant. If you are working on your own equipment, it is important to note that replacing refrigerants like R-22 and R-410A should only be done by certified HVAC professionals. You must show EPA certification to purchase these refrigerants.

If you are interested in “saving the planet” you might do well to give the boot to your HCFC-consuming appliance.

Your HVAC System’s Condensate Drain Line: Some Pointers From Desoto Lakes

Friday, August 26th, 2011

There are a lot of components involved in a properly working Desoto Lakes home HVAC system. One component that many people overlook is the drain line for the air conditioning system. Your air conditioning system has condenser coils that sweat the water drawn from the air in your home as it is cooled by your AC unit. These coils produce a significant volume of water, especially when it humidity is high, so a condensate drain pan is installed to capture the moisture and keep it from damaging your home.

A drain line from the drain pain out of your home is required to transfer all that extra water, but it can easily become clogged by debris in the area or simply from heavy condensation. If this happens, the drain line might need to be cleared or even replaced.

Inspecting your Condensate Drain Line

Full inspection of your drain line involves checking quite a few components, so I will point you to Inspectapedia for a thorough rundown of what you should look for (and some pictures to show you what you don’t want to see). But, in short, you want to look for evidence that your condensate drain is overflowing or that the liquid in your drain pan is backing up into the air handler.

You may also notice that there is no liquid coming out of the condenser – a sign that there may be a major problem in the system that needs immediate inspection. If this happens, make sure you check for blockages and if nothing is present, call a contractor.

Cleaning Your Drain Line

Each year, it is recommended that you clean your drain line to make sure it is clear and ready for the summer’s heavy cooling and high humidity. The simplest way to do this is to disconnect the drain line and attach a hose to blow the line clear. This can get a little messy, so make sure you dress for the occasion. Another option if you have a wet/dry vac is to attach the hose to the end of the drain line and suck free any moisture still in there. Most wet/dry systems have attachments for drain line clearing or you can order one.

If your drain line is not clearing properly, call a professional for a more thorough inspection. If you have regular maintenance done on your AC system each spring, this should be part of the process so make sure you write down any questions you have for when the contractor visits your home.