What is a Ductless Mini-Split System?
Ductless mini-split systems are a new type of ductless heating and cooling. Ductless systems eliminate ducts to heat and cool individual rooms at a time. They offer more targeted temperature control, improved comfort, and greater energy efficiency.
How Do Ductless Mini-Split Systems Work?
Mini-splits are basically heat pumps that deliver electric heating and cooling using refrigerant to transfer heat from inside a building to outside, to offer efficient cooling in summer. In winter, a reversing valve operates the same system backward, heating your home in the winter by removing heat from outdoor air and depositing it inside.
As their name indicates, the main difference between mini-splits and heat pumps is that mini-split systems are ductless and therefore eliminate the need for ductwork. The indoor unit is an air handler that mounts directly to the wall or ceiling in the space you want to heat and cool. Electrical wiring, copper tubes, and a condensate drain line connect to an outdoor condensing unit through a small in-wall conduit. This exterior outdoor unit looks similar to a heat pump condenser or an air conditioner.
Multiple indoor units can be connected to one outdoor condenser, enabling you to heat and cool your full house with a single ductless system if desired. Indoor temperature zoning becomes practical and cost-effective, allowing you to choose when, where, and how much to heat and cool individual rooms.
Is a Ductless Mini-Split the Best Option for My Home?
Mini-splits are an excellent option for the majority of households. A ductless mini-split is often the best solution for homeowners wishing to retrofit a home that lacks existing ductwork to be heated and cooled efficiently. Additionally, you can turn off heat and air conditioning to unoccupied areas to save on your heating and cooling bills and direct extra heating or cooling to rooms that are hard to keep comfortable. Ductless systems are also great for heating and cooling residence additions such as sunrooms without the hassle of installing ductwork or using space heaters or window AC units.
What are the Advantages of a Mini-Split System?
More and more Scottsdale homeowners are installing ductless mini-splits, since they are highly effective systems. Here are some advantages to consider:
- Avoid the hidden issues of ductwork:By delivering heated and cooled air directly, air doesn’t traverse leaky air ducts on its way to all rooms. This can reduce your heating and cooling costs as much as 30 percent. Additionally, if your residence doesn’t already include ducts, you avoid the inconvenience, price, and loss of interior space associated with adding them.
- Select the best setting for every room:By configuring zoned heating and cooling from a ductless mini-split, you can keep your home office at a crisper temperature while maintaining a warm nursery for the baby—all while maximizing your energy efficiency.
- Avoid heating and cooling vacant areas:While shutting supply registers in a central HVAC system can damage or strain the system, independent air handlers in each room are designed to enable you to heat and cool specific spaces only when you need them.
How Much Should a Furnace Cost in Scottsdale?
The cost of a new furnace varies depending on many factors, like the lifestyle and habits of individuals in the home. Health ailments may require air filtration systems, which also factor into which furnace is best for you. Here are some breakdowns:
Ranch Home (a 1-story home under 2,000 square feet)
Upfront average cost of a heating and cooling system: $6,000 – $20,000
With financing: $40 – $250 per month
Common Suburban Home (a 1-3 story home between 2,000 and 3,500 square feet)
Upfront average cost of a heating and cooling system: $8,000 – $30,000
With financing: $100 – $500 per month
Luxury Home (a multistory home larger than 3,500 square feet)
Upfront average cost of a heating and cooling system: $15,000 – $80,000+
With financing: $250+ per month
How Can I Save Energy During the Summer?
As temps increase and summer sets in, your energy bills will increase. Here are our pro tips:
- Book Seasonal AC Maintenance. Giving your cooling system an annual tune-up before summer identifies issues, saves you the expense and hassle of a midsummer breakdown, helps your system operate more efficiently, and trims costs.
- Use Ceiling Fans to Cool Your Space. You can use less AC by using a ceiling fan to stay cool. Homeowners who use ceiling fans to stay cool can raise your thermostat settings by 2-5 degrees without any reductions in comfort.
- Keep Window Blinds Shut. Sunlight heats up interior spaces when it passes through windows. Keeping blinds closed and curtains drawn when you do not need a room to be sunny will cut your cooling costs substantially.
- Consider Getting a Rooftop Solar Installation. During the summertime, we all know that our city bakes under the bright desert sun. Your AC power demand is greatest during the middle of the day when the sun is at its brightest. However, Arizona is one of the top states for solar energy, and the output of a rooftop solar system will correlate nicely to your demand for air cooling. Why not make the sun work for you and power your air conditioner rather than fight the effects of Arizona’s summer desert sunshine?
- Turn to Your Thermostat. By setting your thermostat as high as comfortably possible when you are inside, your energy costs will be cheaper. By raising the temperature before leaving or switching it off temporarily when you are gone, you can avoid cooling an empty home. The differences between outside temperatures and indoor temperatures will be less significant and will require less cooling.
- Think About Getting a Smart Thermostat. Smart thermostats learn from your habits and adjust your home’s temperature when you are gone. This helps you save on your bills. Most smart thermostats also come with smartphone apps that you can use to adjust your home’s temp from anywhere.
Are AC Tune-Ups Worth It?
Getting regular AC maintenance is useful. Good service will keep your air conditioning system running at optimal performance while keeping energy consumption down. It can even help prolong its life span. Waiting to switch your air conditioner on until the first warm day of the summer can be dicey. If something breaks down and your AC unit needs to be serviced or replaced, you could be waiting for days to find a technician. That wait time can be extremely unbearable.
Should I Attempt to do an AC Tuneup by Myself?
In HVAC systems, there are some easy action items that keep your air conditioner equipment in prime order:
- Replace your air filter.Filthy filters obstruct airflow and reduce system efficiency. How often you should replace your filter depends on the type of filter you choose, but in general, the U.S. Department of Energy recommends each month or two. This is especially important if you own pets or suffer from allergies or asthma.
- Do lawn work by your exterior condenser.By ensuring that there is no grass, weeds or bushes close to your air conditioning equipment, you are optimizing your airflow out of the condenser. We recommend keeping 2–3 feet of open space on the 3 sides of the condenser that face away from your house. Clearing out any leaves or twigs that got inside your unit will help improve airflow as well.
What does a Professional HVAC Repair Service check during a routine inspection?
We will inspect your system to ensure that it is operating as it should:
- Testing and tightening electrical connections
- Lubricating moving component parts
- Cleaning the condensate drain line
- Aligning coil fins
- Cleaning and degriming the outside coil
- Inspecting and examining controls to ensure a proper system start, run, and shutdown
- Evaluating the operating system temperature parameters
- Ensuring the proper refrigeration charge
5 Reasons Why Your Air Conditioner May Not Feel Cool
- Your Thermostat is Set Incorrectly. Start by checking your fan setting. If the thermostat says that it is “on,” the fan will run even when the AC compressor is off. This is not a mechanical problem, although your energy costs will be higher if your fan runs constantly. By switching the setting to “auto,” the blower will only run when the compressor runs, and the air issuing from the vents will always blow cold.
- Your Filter Need to be Changed. Your HVAC air filter traps airborne particles that can damage your heating and cooling system. However, if it becomes too obstructed, it can reduce airflow by obstructing the inflow of warm supply air moving over the indoor evaporator coil. Whenever refrigerant moving through the coil gets too chilled, it freezes and stops the cooling cycle. Replacing your filter monthly, or as advised by the manufacturer, solves this problem.
- Your Refrigerant is Low. Refrigerant is vital for air conditioning to work. Refrigerant transitions from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid as it loops between the indoor evaporator coil and outdoor condensing unit. If there is not enough refrigerant in your system, your air conditioner will cool inefficiently. It will not generate enough cold air, and is another common cause of frozen evaporator coils. To diagnose and fix refrigerant problems, you will need help from an HVAC technician, like the ones from Scottsdale HVAC Repair Pros. Give us a call if you would like us to check your system for refrigerant issues.
- Your Condensing Unit Is Dirty and Needs to be Cleaned. The outdoor component of your AC unit is called a condenser. Basically, your condenser is a big heat sink that moves warm air from your residence outside. If the metal fins inside your condenser are covered with dirt, the condenser cannot operate as designed. Rinsing down your condenser unit to eliminate accumulated lawn debris and trimming back vegetation to ensure that the condenser is unobstructed will improve its functionality.
- Your Condenser Fan or Your Compressor has Failed. While you are inspecting your condenser, verify that the big fan on the top is turning. If the fan motor has died, the condensing unit cannot dissipate heat as it was designed. You will notice that your air conditioner will start circulating muggy air throughout your home. Listen to the sound of your compressor as it runs inside the condensing unit. Your compressor is the heart of your air conditioner. It is the device that cools the refrigerant so that it can collect more heat when the refrigerant circulates back into your residence. If your compressor fails, you will likely need to get a new system and plan for an air conditioning installation.
How Does a Heat Pump Heat and Cool Your Home?
Heat pumps are similar in appearance to air conditioners and run in the same way during high temperatures. Since they have a reversing valve, heat pumps can transfer heat in the opposite direction as well as add warmth to your home in the winter.
How Do Heat Pumps Run?
Heat pumps use a refrigeration system similar to an air conditioner. Most can operate similar to a ductless mini-split as they can heat and cool. Heat pumps contain an outdoor condensing coil and an indoor evaporator coil, and move refrigerant through these coils to transfer warmth. The outdoor unit contains a compressor enclosed by metal fins that move warmth by acting as a heat sink.
How Do Heat Pumps Cool in Summertime?
When your heat pump is cooling, the refrigerant starts in the evaporator coil, where it is chilled. Air from within the house is moved over the coil, and the cold refrigerant removes warmth from the air.
Water in the air condenses on the coil, where it drops into the condensate pan below and is drained out of the unit. The ensuing cool air blows through the ductwork and throughout your house.
Next, the refrigerant passes through a compressor on its way to the outdoor coil. The compressor concentrates the refrigerant and causes it to get hotter. As the refrigerant passes through the condensing coil, the exterior fan and metal fins release this heat outside.
The refrigerant heads back into your house, where it passes through an expansion valve that causes its temperature to drop greatly. From there, the process repeats. Once your heat pump is installed and maintained correctly, you will get energy-efficient cooling.
How Do Heat Pumps Warm in Wintertime?
In heating mode, the heat exchange cycle flows in the opposite direction, running the cooling process in reverse. Refrigerant extracts outdoor heat and disperses it indoors to warm the interior.
Heat pumps operating in heating mode are most effective when outdoor temperatures are above freezing. If it gets too frigid, a backup electric resistance heater should be available to keep your residence comfortable. In southern and central Arizona, heat pumps are often enough to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures during winter months.
Why Is My Air Conditioner Making A Noise?
Air conditioners are designed to run quietly in the background. Most likely, something is wrong with your unit. If you ignore the noises, you could be stuck dealing with significant and expensive problems as a result.
What are the 8 Common Air Conditioning Noises?
- Gurgling– Gurgling usually indicates a problem with your refrigerant line. If you are unsure where the noise is coming from, that is okay. Our trained and certified technicians can verify where this noise is occurring.
- Hissing– Hissing results from leaky refrigerant lines, a leaky internal valve, or a faulty compressor.
- Crackling– Crackling commonly results from by debris in the unit or by faulty or aging ductwork. Debris in the outdoor condenser unit will make noise outside your house. Old ductwork causes noise inside your house.
- Buzzing– Buzzing noises usually indicate an electrical problem or a loose electrical connection.
- Clicking– Clicking sounds indicate a loose mechanical part or a misaligned fan.
- Pulsating or Vibrating– Like clicking, pulsating or vibrating sounds can come from loose parts or misaligned fans.
- Loud Noises– Any noticeable noises from your external unit can indicate a problem with your compressor, fan, damper, or air handler.
- Humming– Noticeable humming noises can indicate fan motor issues or damaged relay switches.
Should I Keep Running my Air Conditioner When it Makes Strange Noises?
This question is difficult to answer without inspecting your system. You may be able to continue running your AC, but you do so at your own risk. To be safe, we recommend shutting your system off until one of our trained professionals can arrive and take a look.
When should I do something about the noise?
We know that AC repairs can be stressful and can be an unexpected expense. However, it is best to resolve AC issues right away. Additionally, professional help can lower your energy expenses and keep your cooling system running longer.
Upgrading from Conventional Tank Water Heaters to Tankless Water Heaters
If you are interested in using less energy, cutting your water heating costs, and running several showers daily, you should consider upgrading to a tankless water heater. Tankless water heating is not ideal for all homes, but is ideal for many Scottsdale homeowners.
What are the Differences Between Tank and Tankless Water Heaters?
Conventional tank water heaters utilize natural gas burners or electric heating convection coils to warm anywhere from 20 to 100 gallons of water in a reservoir. These water heaters run continuously to keep hot water ready for you whenever you might need it.
Tankless water heaters are also known as on-demand water heaters or instant water heaters. They function differently in that they create heated water simply when you need it. Tankless water heaters are equipped with a flow-sensing tool that detects when you open a hot water spout. Then, the heat source switches on, heating the inflowing water to the desired temperature. When you close the valve, the water heater shuts off and stays off until you want hot water again.
What are the Upfront vs. Ongoing Costs Between Tank and Tankless Water Heaters?
Tankless units usually cost almost twice as much as traditional storage tanks. However, tankless models have much longer lifespans and are often warrantied to run without major issues for 20 years or or more.
Tankless water heaters have double or triple the lifespan of tank water heaters. This means that when shown with long-term lower energy costs, the over-time bill is frequently more economical for tankless models, even though they have a more expensive up-front price.
What are the Installation Specifications of Tank and Tankless Water Heaters?
While both models require professional installation, installations are easier and less time consuming for conventional tank units. When switching to a tankless model, relocation or extension of existing plumbing is often necessary. In addition, gas-powered tankless water heaters require an additional exterior vent to be code compliant.
In homes that meet criteria for tankless water heater installation, homeowners get a streamlined, wall-mounted heater roughly the size of a small carry-on suitcase. You can now repurpose the space occupied by your old bulky water tank!
What are the Energy Needs of Tank and Tankless Water Heaters?
Water heating is usually every homeowner’s second-most expensive recurring energy cost. By eliminating the need to heat water at times when hot water is not required, tankless water heaters are conserving energy and are saving many Scottsdale homeowners 24% to 34% on water heating bills. In addition to being a win for homeowners, tankless water heaters are a win for Scottsdale’s environment. The less treated water your home uses, the more you could save.
How do you Prefer your Hot Water? High Flow Rate, or Sustained Hot Water?
If you want the flexibility to shower, do the laundry, and run the dishwasher simultaneously, you will need the high discharge rates that a tank water heater offers. However, if you want to have a hot shower each and every morning, even when you are last to the bathroom, you want the sustained hot water from a tankless water heater.
How Can a New Air Conditioner Installation Decrease Your Energy Costs?
Modern advanced air conditioners deliver fantastic energy-saving and cost-reducing possibilities. Upgrading to a modern, top-of-the-line, high-efficiency air conditioning system is now easier and more affordable than ever before.
In many cases, the solution to lowering your ongoing energy charges may be to get a new, high-efficiency air conditioner. While this has traditionally required a big upfront investment in the past, today’s rising energy costs and new high-tech options make buying a modern, high-efficiency air conditioner the more economical option. Up-to-date, high-efficiency air conditioning units can provide homeowners with sizeable lifetime energy savings. Here are some factors to consider when investigating the affordability of an air conditioning replacement.
Why is a Higher SEER Rating Worthwhile?
Each air conditioner comes with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating. This rating grades how efficiently it uses electricity for the amount of cooling it provides. You will want a high SEER rating, since that means that you are getting a more energy-efficient and eco-friendly air conditioner.
New air conditioning systems must achieve 14 SEER or greater to comply with Arizona energy regulations. In the 1990s and 2000s, the minimum requirement was 10 SEER, so if your air conditioning system is over 20 years old, you can save significantly just by doing a minimal system upgrade. While the best air conditioners for sale today come in at 25 SEER, upgrading an old 10 SEER system just to an affordable mid-grade 16 SEER air conditioner can save you 38% on your annual electricity costs!
Why is Calculating Your Air Conditioner’s Size So Critical?
Correct air conditioner sizing is also important if you want to lower your monthly cooling costs. Additionally, air conditioners that are too small or too big will not keep you comfortable.
How is Air Conditioner Sizing Measured?
Air conditioners are measured in “tons.” An oversized air conditioner will frequently short cycle and will fail to drain excess condensate properly. An undersized system will lag behind demand. Either way, your home will feel uncomfortable, your system will be overstressed, and your cooling bill will go up.
How Can an Increase your House’s Attic Insulation Help?
Only 12% of houses in Arizona have been found to have adequate attic insulation. Having modern attic insulation at the correct condition and depth will reduce your gas and electrical expenses and keep your house more comfortable regardless of outside temperature and weather. In addition to modernizing outdated attic insulation, we recommend stopping any air leaks in your home before getting an AC sizing calculation. Tighter, more insulated homes require smaller systems, lowering your starting investment and reducing your electric bills for years to come.
Why Should I Do Annual AC Maintenance?
- A Scheduled Meeting is Better than an Expensive Emergency Repair. This gives your technician a chance to discover trouble now and perform smaller air conditioning repairs before considerable problems arise.
- Your Energy Bills will be Lower. Well-maintained cooling systems operate silently, effortlessly, and efficiently. These systems expend less energy resources, release less pollution, and lower your energy and electricity costs. These reduced costs alone are often sufficient to justify the charges of preventive maintenance.
- Your Air Conditioner will Stick Around. In addition to the money you save from infrequent issues and lower power costs, annual air conditioner maintenance extends the lifespan of your cooling equipment. Any well-kept AC will outlast a neglected unit, even if the neglected unit is a premium, top-of-the-line system.
- Your Interior Space will be Cooler. All of our maintenance during regular service sessions helps your air conditioner cool your home effectively and consistently. You can look forward to improved airflow, barely noticeable “hot” and “cold” spots, excellent humidity control, and near-silent operation. Even when summer temperatures soar, these enhancements guarantee you a comfortable and pleasant home environment.
- Your Warranty Demands Yearly Maintenance. If your home comfort air conditioning system is still under warranty, look at your policy. Replacement parts are only covered if you can prove that you have your equipment serviced on a regular basis. Manufacturers and designers engineered your equipment with yearly or semiannual maintenance in mind; and they know that routine air conditioner maintenance prevents failures. Retain documentation of your servicing as evidence in case you need to submit a warranty claim.
- Reliable Establishments Endorse Routine Maintenance. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Energy, and ENERGY STAR® experts are here to have your back. They test rigorously and will not lead you amiss. Recognize that these established bodies all agree that yearly AC maintenance is vital for decreasing the risk of emergency repairs, boosting energy efficiency, and increasing equipment life span.
Why Do AC Systems Sometimes Leak Water?
- The Condensate Drain is Full. As warm air passes over the evaporator coil, water droplets form on the chilly metal exterior. This condensate liquid makes its way into the condensate pan and then goes down the condensate drain line. Sometimes, grease, mold, fungus, mineral deposits, dirt, or other accumulations can build up on the condensate pan and block this drain line. This obstructs proper drainage. To have your system properly cleaned out, you will need the help of our best specialists at Scottsdale HVAC Repair Pros to ensure that the work is done correctly and that all damage has been found and fixed.
- The Condensate Pump is Broken. Many air conditioners require a small condensate pump to ensure proper removal of accumulated water. Even if the drain is working correctly, a broken pump can cause water to build up and leak out of the condensate pan. Ensure the pump is receiving power, but if that is not an issue, it’s time to get the help of our best experts.
- The Evaporator Coil is Dirty or Damaged. Sometimes, we discover slow leaks and little drips instead of substantial puddle of water by your air conditioner. When this happens, the typical cause is that water is bouncing off the evaporator coil instead of traveling down the condensate line. This is a less common problem, but it happens when the coils are dirty or when insulation around the coils comes out of position and diverts condensate elsewhere. These issues are best prevented by annual air conditioning maintenance.
- The Evaporator Coil is Frozen. Sometimes, a film of frost grows on the indoor coils and drips onto the floor when the system is off and it begins to melt. If you see this, turn off your air conditioning system immediately because there is only one explanation—your evaporator coil is frozen.
To troubleshoot the cause of a frozen evaporator coil, check your filter to see if it is dirty. If it is dirty, then replace your filter and leave your system off for a couple hours to allow the frozen coil to thaw out. If your filter is fine or if the problem continues, then your refrigerant is likely leaking elsewhere in your system or something else is going wrong. In that case, you will need an expert HVAC technician to check the refrigerant charge and plug any leaks.
What Are Some Quick Fixes for a Frozen Air Conditioner?
Is the air blowing from your vents suddenly feeling warmer than usual? Start by checking the indoor component of your air conditioner.
You will find the indoor component of your cooling system housed inside your air handler. If water drips out, check for frost on the evaporator coil. If there is frost on the AC coil, then most likely, your system has frozen over. You will need to let it thaw it out again before it can cool your house. Here are the basics of how to do that:
- Switch the AC Off but Turn the Fan Blower On. Set the thermostat from “cool” to “off.” This stops chilled refrigerant from going to the outdoor compressor and prevents compressor damage, which is very expensive to repair. In most cases, it is more economical to replace on entire system than it is to repair a blown compressor. Then, switch the fan from “auto” to “on.” By turning the system fan on, you blow heated air over the frozen coils, causing them to defrost faster. Just be sure that the cooling mode is set to “off” so that the air conditioning system does not try to start a cooling cycle. Depending on how much frost accumulated, frozen coils can take under an hour or the better part of a day to thaw. Keep a close eye on the coils as they thaw, though. If the drain line is blocked, water will accumulate in the condensate pan and will spill out and possibly cause water damage as the coils thaw.
- Troubleshoot Possible Airflow Problems in Your System.
- What to Do If Airflow Is Not The Problem. Although slightly less common, air conditioners may freeze even if your system has optimal airflow. In these cases, you likely are having a refrigerant issue. Here are some common refrigerant problems:
- Low refrigerant: If your system has insufficient refrigerant. Depending on your system’s age, you may have Freon® or Puron®, which require environmental mitigations. You will need the services of a skilled HVAC specialist to fix a low refrigerant issue.
- Refrigerant Leak: AC systems are supposed to run refrigerant on a closed loop. If your system has insufficient refrigerant, then you have a refrigerant leak somewhere. You will need a certified technician to find and fix the leak and recharge your air conditioner to the proper system design level.
- Dirty Evaporator Coil: If there is dirt on the coil, air cannot reach it. You will need to have the coil professionally cleaned to prevent future freezes.
If these somewhat common problems do not feel like the trouble, then some other problem is causing your AC freeze. In this case, simply thawing the system will not solve your issue, and the evaporator coil will likely freeze again. You will need to diagnose, address, and fix the underlying problem.
What Causes Bad Airflow in an HVAC System?
Bad airflow can be caused by a variety of system obstructions. It commonly leads to frozen air conditioner coils. Here are some simple DIY troubleshooting steps:
- Check the filter.If your filter is dirty, airflow through it will be poor. Replace the filter monthly, or whenever you see visible dust accumulation.
- Open any closed supply vents. If any of your supply vents are closed, airflow through the system will be reduced. Vents should remain open all the time, and closed vents limits the amount of system airflow passing over the evaporator coil.
- Check your ductwork. If there are significant obstructions in your ductwork, airflow will be reduced.
- Check for obstructed return vents.If something gets caught in your system’s intake vents, that will reduce airflow throughout the whole system and will risk a freeze.
- Check your blower.An unreliable fan motor or an unbalanced fan can prevent airflow from moving over the evaporator coil as designed.
Why Should You Install HEPA Filters in Your HVAC System?
HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtration offers an effective method to freshen the air that you and your household breathe. It is the best standard for air filtration. HEPA filters are frequently installed in hospitals, since they filter out around 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns. This eliminates microscopic particles from the air such as mildew, mold spores, pet dander, and dust particles.
Due to their outstanding filtration capabilities, HEPA filters are thick. Due to their thickness, they can lower airflow passing through some common home cooling units. Before installing a HEPA filter to your HVAC system, verify that it can be installed without damaging the system. If you previously attempted to install a HEPA filter on your HVAC system, you probably noticed some problems getting adequate return air blowing out your vents. Most blower motors are not engineered to work with such a dense filter.
What Is a HEPA Filter and How Does It Work?
HEPA filters consist of spun fiberglass and were initially designed to safeguard scientists against radiation during the development of the atomic bomb during World War II. They have intricate spun mesh that traps most pollutants but allows air to pass through. Today, medical centers, science labs, commercial aircraft, workplaces, and even houses commonly use HEPA filtration.
What MERV Rating Can My System Use?
The MERV rating, or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is the standard by which filters are rated. The higher the HERV rating number, the more effective the filter is at catching small pollutants.
Here’s how standard household filters typically rank:
- Flat filters are MERV 5, and capture dust mites, some pollens, and other airborne particles.
- Pleated filters are MERV 8 and also filters out mold.
- Box filters are MERV 13 and can also trap fumes and smoke particles.
- Higher-rated premium filters range from MERV 14 to MERV 20 and are installed in commercial and medical settings.
What MERV Rating Do HEPA Filters Have?
HEPA filter typically rank from MERV 18 to MERV 20. Home HVAC systems are typically designed for a maximum rating of MERV 13, well underneath the minimums of HEPA filtration. However, with some re-engineering of your system, it is possible to install HEPA filtration. HEPA filters in residential settings are typically installed in a separate whole-home air filtration system secured within your existing ductwork.
HEPA filtration systems are designed to run alongside your HVAC system, and may include UV-C germicidal lights and activated carbon filters for disinfection of air passing through the system. These UV-C germicidal lights are capable of killing airborne pathogens, including the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, if installed correctly. An additional layer of activated carbon filters can get rid of the majority of pungent scents, such as cooking smells or tobacco smoke.
What Should You Look for in a Whole-Home HEPA Filter?
A HEPA filtration system delivers the highest effectiveness, with 99.97% efficiency for pollutants as miniscule as 0.3 microns. HEPA filtration systems sometimes have a multistep filtration process. They use a conventional prefilter to trap large particles, an activated carbon filter to block unpleasant odors, and a MERV 17 or higher filter for any remaining particles.
Air purification systems often come in a complete package, with a hospital-grade MERV 17 or higher HEPA filter, germicidal lights, prefilters, and carbon filters.
A media air cleaner is often only a small, portable air filtration machine that can have a small internal filter of varying grade, Sometimes, a media air cleaner will come with a prefilter or an activated carbon filter upgrade.
Some of these filters and systems are designed to work with specific equipment lines or brands, while others can be used with all brands.
What Should You Check for When Choosing an Air Filtration System?
If you are looking for ways to improve the indoor air quality of your home, you should look for the following:
- Delivers hospital-grade filtration (MERV 17 and up)
- Filters out airborne particles, aerosols, and scents
- Delivers filtration for your complete residence, and not just for a single room
- Does not create ozone
- Is compatible with smart thermostats
What Are the Different Types of AC Systems?
Central Air Conditioning is what most people call to mind when they envision whole-home air conditioning. Central air conditioning circulates air throughout your whole home by utilizing a system of ducts and registers. Central air conditioning is the best solution for you if:
- You want convenient and near-silent cooling
- Your home has existing ductwork in place
- You have an existing air handler
Air-Source Bidirectional Heat Pumps are similar to central air conditioners. Most heat pump models can also deliver heat in cold weather. Heat pumps will be best for you if:
- You want a nearly noiseless home comfort system.
- You desire energy-efficiency.
- Your home has existing ductwork in place.
- You can count on temperate winter weather.
- You want a single piece of equipment capable of providing heating and cooling in any season.
- Your do not want to utilize natural gas or propane gas.
Geothermal Heat Pumps offer heating and cooling from subterranean sources. If you drill down 100 feet below ground, ground temperature hovers at a relatively even temperature during the year. By using a geothermal heat pump, you can install an underground loop to use geothermal heating and cooling to get maximum efficiency. Geothermal heat pumps can be good for you if:
- Your home has existing ductwork in place.
- You want a single piece of equipment capable of providing heating and cooling in any season.
- You have enough land around your home for the right size and amount of underground loops.
Ductless Mini-Splits are a newer kind of heat pump. In a ductless mini-split design, an outdoor unit connects to an indoor blower unit attached to a wall or ceiling. Ductless mini-split systems eliminate any need for ductwork and keeps your windows secure. Ductless systems are best for you if:
- Your home does not come with ductwork, and retrofitting ductwork would be cost-prohibitive or damaging to your floor plan.
- You are looking for an energy-efficient method to heat and cool individual rooms.
- You want to implement temperature zoning in individual rooms in your home.
How Should I Deal With Aging Attic Insulation?
Proper attic insulation at the right depths in your attic not only keeps your house cool in summer and warm in winter, but can save you major money on your utility bills. If you suspect that your home is among the roughly 90% of homes within the United States that lacks adequate attic insulation, look into installing more! Good attic insulation evens out your home’s internal temperature. Depending on the situation, you can keep existing attic insulation and add more on top of that, or you can rip out old attic insulation and put in new.
When Can I Keep My Old Attic Insulation?
Unless your existing insulation has been water damaged, you can usually keep it and add more insulation on top. We offer referrals to other professionals who specialize in attic insulation. By doing so, your new attic insulation will meet existing building code standards and ensure the maximum benefits of increased energy efficiency.
You should always call on an expert to inspect your insulation before working with it. Some vermiculite insulations in common use before 1990 contain asbestos, which can result in cancer. To be safe, presume that the insulation does contain asbestos, and avoid touching or disturbing it until an asbestos removal professional can inspect and remove it.
How Much Attic Insulation Should You Have?
ENERGY STAR® recommends that attics have at minimum 14” of insulation for an R-value of 38. Attic insulation R-values measure the effectiveness of insulation at separating indoor and outdoor heat. Due to Arizona’s hot climate, insulation depth as deep as 18” or an R-value of 49 is recommended. The R-value may vary depending on the kind of insulation you have, its density, and how much insulation is added.
What is the Ideal Insulation for My Attic?
- Batt Attic Insulation comes in sheets that can be easily cut to fit your attic. It is made from fiberglass, mineral wool, or cotton. Fiberglass is the most popular material for price reasons, but it is also helpful because it is moisture-resistant. Mineral wool is a more expensive insulation, but delivers improved protection against fire damage, water damage, smoke, and noise. Made from recycled clothing, cotton insulation is an affordable, eco-friendly choice that offers additional thermal and noise-resistant performance improvements.
- Blown-In Attic Insulationis installed by the use of a specialized machine that blows in a blend of fiberglass, cellulose, mineral wool, or cotton. The blown-in mixture then hardens as insulation. The cellulose found in blown-in insulation is a great material for filling small areas around pipes, wiring, or framing, but it can take on moisture and flatten over time, reducing its thermal properties. In turn, blown-in insulation often requires reapplication every 10 years or so, depending on the amount of cellulose used.
- Spray Foam Attic Insulationis liquid insulation that converts to a hard foam on contact and delivers the best thermal barrier against air, vapor, and water. Spray foam attic insulation is ideal for filling cracks and other nearly inaccessible locations. It is very tough, forms into a great sound wall, and does not compact over time, minimizing the need to reapply new insulation over time.
Should You Get a New HVAC System for a Home Addition?
It depends on the size and scale of the addition. Typically, no upgrades are needed if you simply expanded or enlarged an existing room but added no new rooms. If you added new rooms, you may need to add on to the ductwork from your present forced-air system. Then, because you upsized your system’s ductwork, you may have to upsize your HVAC equipment to force more air through the bigger load. Alternatively, you can choose to install a separate system just for the remodeled area.
Why Should I Consider Installing a Ductless Mini-Split for My Addition?
A ductless mini-split system might be the best HVAC option for your addition if:
- Your existing system cannot be expanded to take on the extra area, and you are not prepared to replace it right away.
- The old and new spaces have varying heating and cooling needs.
- You are unable or unwilling to remodel your existing ductwork.
What Do Rising Utility Bills Mean For My HVAC System?
Rising utility bills can be a sign that you need to replace your HVAC system. System efficiency declines over time as components age, and the buildup of dirt and corrosion on the interior of the system create gradual losses in system efficiency. While the expected system efficiency declines are around 5-10% as systems age, declines above that margin indicate that something is likely going wrong with your HVAC system. If large-scale repairs become necessary, investing in a replacement system to maximize your home’s efficiency might be the better option.
What Do Unbalanced Temperatures Inside My Home Mean?
Oversized systems run on short cycles in which the temperature in the house changes too quickly and causes the system to shut off. A modern and correctly sized air conditioning system eliminates hot and cold areas inside your home by right-sizing temperature delivery needs.
Temperature imbalances can also result from poor quality ductwork. Since ductwork is often what distributes warm and cool air throughout the home, it is crucial to verify that air coming out of the ductwork is appropriate for the amount of air that must be moved.
How Long Should You Expect Your HVAC System to Last?
Unfortunately, there is not an exact answer since that depends on how well your system was installed and maintained. The average air conditioning system needs to be replaced every 15 years, but that average includes poorly maintained systems that fail in 6 years, and well-maintained systems that have lasted for 30 years.
When Is It Time to Replace My HVAC System?
- Your Power Bills Keep Rising. It is typical to spend more on utilities when trying to cool your home in the summer. However, your bill should not be significantly higher than it was in the same month last year.
- Temperatures Throughout Your Home Are Unbalanced. Oversized systems run on short cycles in which the temperature in the house changes too quickly and causes the system to shut off. A modern and correctly sized air conditioning system eliminates hot and cold areas inside your home by right-sizing temperature delivery needs. Temperature imbalances can also result from poor quality ductwork. Since ductwork is often what distributes warm and cool air throughout the home, it is crucial to verify that air coming out of the ductwork is appropriate for the amount of air that must be moved.
- Your HVAC System Constantly Runs.In summer, your air conditioning system might kick into overdrive to keep your home comfortable. However, an air conditioner that fails to run on a regular day should get prompt attention. Aging air conditioners have lost capacity from what they used to have. Systems may have grown dirty and may need cleaning, or the compressor is not performing as designed. Even if you are happy with your home’s indoor temperature, you will probably be concerned by the rising utility costs of an HVAC system that runs continuously. Replacing it will help make your home more energy-efficient.
- Your HVAC System Is Aging. It is not usually worth it to repair a system approaching the projected end of its service life, especially if it uses R22 refrigerant, which is being phased out by 2021. If you are repairing an obsolete system, you should look into a replacement system.
- Your Repair Bills Are Expensive. Keeping your HVAC system running smoothly will require occasional maintenance over time. Repairing or replacing capacitors and electrical switches are fairly basic repairs, but coil or compressor leaks require considerable repairs with hefty bills. If your repair estimates exceed your expectations, consider replacing your system. A new HVAC system will keep your house comfortable and will improve efficiency, regardless of the weather.