5 Benefits of a Ductless Air Conditioner System
A ductless air conditioner is part of an air conditioning system that circulates cool air without ductwork. These systems are an affordable alternative to central heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC ) systems, which need a network of ducts to move air. Ductless air conditioners are generally considered to be more efficient and easier to maintain than window air conditioners.
If you live in an old house that has no ducts, or a newer house that does not use forced air heat (and does not need ducts), it can be a big expense to install a central air conditioning system. In this case ductless air conditioners would be the best solution.
Is It Time to Replace Your Furnace?
The smart time to examine and evaluate your furnace is before the unit fails, not when a problem arises and the mercury outside and even indoors is dipping down to sub-zero levels!
Start Here. So how do you know when furnace replacement is in order? Since your furnace was probably in place when you moved in, the first thing to do is find out the age of your unit. This may be as simple as looking at the original owner’s manual or calling the manufacturer with the unit’s model number, but with individual cases, some additional sleuthing may be required.
Average Lifespan. Today’s models operate reliably for 20 to 30 years. If your unit is more than 15 years old, it’s not a bad idea to begin considering furnace replacement options.
Energy Efficiency. According to the U.S. Energy Star program, a new Energy Star-qualified gas furnace is typically 15% more efficient than a conventional gas furnace, and an Energy Star-certified oil furnace is up to 4% more efficient than a baseline model. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a new Energy Star gas furnace will save an average of $94 in energy costs per year, while a new Energy Star oil furnace saves an average of $66.
Telltale Signs. Age aside, there are some obvious (and some more subtle) indications that it may be time for furnace replacement:
About Central Air Conditioners
Central Air Conditioners circulate cool air through a system of supply and return ducts. Supply ducts and registers (i.e., openings in the walls, floors, or ceilings covered by grills) carry cooled air from the air conditioner to the home. This cooled air becomes warmer as it circulates through the home; then it flows back to the central air conditioner through return ducts and registers.
Air conditioners help to dehumidify the incoming air, but in extremely humid climates or in cases where the air conditioner is oversized, it may not achieve a low humidity. Running a dehumidifier in your air conditioned home will increase your energy use, both for the dehumidifier itself and because the air conditioner will require more energy to cool your house.
Types of Central Air Conditioners
A central air conditioner is either a split-system unit or a packaged unit.
In a split-system central air conditioner, an outdoor metal cabinet contains the condenser and compressor, and an indoor cabinet contains the evaporator. In many split-system air conditioners, this indoor cabinet also contains a furnace or the indoor part of a heat pump. The air conditioner's evaporator coil is installed in the cabinet or main supply duct of this furnace or heat pump. If your home already has a furnace but no air conditioner, a split-system is the most economical central air conditioner to install.
In a packaged central air conditioner, the evaporator, condenser, and compressor are all located in one cabinet, which usually is placed on a roof or on a concrete slab next to the house's foundation. This type of air conditioner also is used in small commercial buildings. Air supply and return ducts come from indoors through the home's exterior wall or roof to connect with the packaged air conditioner, which is usually located outdoors. Packaged air conditioners often include electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace. This combination of air conditioner and central heater eliminates the need for a separate furnace indoors.
Choosing or Upgrading Your Central Air Conditioner
Central air conditioners are more efficient than room air conditioners. In addition, they are out of the way, quiet, and convenient to operate. To save energy and money, you should try to buy an energy-efficient air conditioner and reduce your central air conditioner's energy use. In an average air-conditioned home, air conditioning consumes more than 2,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, causing power plants to emit about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide and 31 pounds of sulfur dioxide.
If you are considering adding central air conditioning to your home, the deciding factor may be the need for ductwork.
If you have an older central air conditioner, you might choose to replace the outdoor compressor with a modern, high-efficiency unit. If you do so, consult a local heating and cooling contractor to assure that the new compressor is properly matched to the indoor unit. However, considering recent changes in refrigerants and air conditioning designs, it might be wiser to replace the entire system.
Today's best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid 1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.
Proper sizing and installation are key elements in determining air conditioner efficiency. Too large a unit will not adequately remove humidity. Too small a unit will not be able to attain a comfortable temperature on the hottest days. Improper unit location, lack of insulation, and improper duct installation can greatly diminish efficiency.
When buying an air conditioner, look for a model with a high efficiency. Central air conditioners are rated according to their seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). SEER indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide a specific cooling output. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less.
When purchasing a central air conditioner, look for the ENERGY STAR label.
Other features to look for when buying an air conditioner include:
- A thermal expansion valve and a high-temperature rating (EER) greater than 11.6, for high-efficiency operation when the weather is at its hottest
- A variable speed air handler for new ventilation systems
- A unit that operates quietly
- A fan-only switch, so you can use the unit for nighttime ventilation to substantially reduce air-conditioning costs
- A filter check light to remind you to check the filter after a predetermined number of operating hours
- An automatic-delay fan switch to turn off the fan a few minutes after the compressor turns off.
Installation and Location of Air Conditioners
If your air conditioner is installed correctly, or if major installation problems are found and fixed, it will perform efficiently for years with only minor routine maintenance. However, many air conditioners are not installed correctly. As an unfortunate result, modern energy-efficient air conditioners can perform almost as poorly as older inefficient models.
When installing a new central air conditioning system, be sure that your contractor:
- Allows adequate indoor space for the installation, maintenance, and repair of the new system, and installs an access door in the furnace or duct to provide a way to clean the evaporator coil
- Uses a duct-sizing methodology
- Ensures there are enough supply registers to deliver cool air and enough return air registers to carry warm house air back to the air conditioner
- Installs duct work within the conditioned space, not in the attic, wherever possible
- Seals all ducts with duct mastic and heavily insulates attic ducts
- Locates the condensing unit where its noise will not keep you or your neighbors awake at night, if possible
- Locates the condensing unit where no nearby objects will block airflow to it
- Verifies that the newly installed air conditioner has the exact refrigerant charge and airflow rate specified by the manufacturer
- Locates the thermostat away from heat sources, such as windows or supply registers.
If you are replacing an older or failed split system, be sure that the evaporator coil is replaced with a new one that exactly matches the condenser coil in the new condensing unit. (The air conditioner's efficiency will likely not improve if the existing evaporator coil is left in place; in fact, the old coil could cause the new compressor to fail prematurely.)
Tips for Repairing an Air Conditioner Leak
The drip, drip, drip of water from your Air Conditioner can be a reassuring site as you survey your gardens outside knowing that a cool oasis awaits inside. A large part of the air conditioner's job is to remove moisture from the air. The less humid the air, the cooler you will feel. The air conditioner is designed to do this through a series of coils and hoses. However, you do not want to have the dripping occur inside the home. Luckily, there are some common sense measures which can be applied to alleviate the problem.
Tip 1 Make Gravity Work for You
The air conditioner should be installed so that it leans slightly downward toward the outside, to encourage the water to flow outward. If this is not the case, you will need to shim up the bottom of the air conditioner on the inside of the house. This is why it is important for the outside of the framework be fully sealed to protect the framework from the winter elements which could compromise the shape of the frame.
Tip 2 - Check the Drain Hole
Make sure the drain hole is not blocked. If it is, unblock it. Do not drill any holes in the air conditioner, that could damage the unit.