What is the SEER Rating?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, the higher the SEER ratings mean greater efficiency. The more cooling/heating a system puts out for each unit of energy it consumes, the higher rating it will receive.  The higher the efficiency rating of your system, the less energy it will consume – that means lower utility bills and less of an impact on the environment. SEER is the most common way to evaluate an air conditioner’s efficiency. An air conditioner’s SEER rating is the ratio of the cooling output of an HVAC unit over a typical cooling season (measured in btu’s), divided by the energy consumed in Watt-Hours. It is the average over a cooling season, and is calculated using a constant indoor temperature and varying outdoor temperatures ranging from the 60’s to over 10-degrees. SEER also uses average US household energy expenditures in its calculation. A unit’s SEER value is displayed on its Energy Guide Tag as a number ranging from around 8 to 30, although right now there are few air conditioning units more efficient than about 23-SEER. So for instance, an air conditioner with a value of 23-SEER will be far more efficient than a unit with a rating of 14-SEER.

Why should I have regular (preventative) maintenance? What can I do on my own for maintaining my HVAC system?
Regular HVAC preventative maintenance is the best way to ensure trouble-free operation and peak performance. Pre-season maintenance is also important. It can help to avoid a system failure in severe hot or cold weather when you need it most, and it can also keep your energy bill from getting out of control.

Things to Check: 
OUTDOOR UNIT(s)

  • Inspect unit for proper refrigerant level and adjust if necessary
  • Clean dirt, leaves and debris from inside cabinet
  • Inspect base pan for restricted drain openings – remove obstructions as necessary
  • Inspect coil and cabinet – clean as needed
  • Inspect fan motor and fan blades for wear and damage – on older models lubricate as needed
  • Inspect control box, associated controls/accessories, wiring and connections. Controls may include contactors, relays, circuit boards, capacitors, sump heat and other accessories. All control box and electrical parts should be checked for wear or damage.
  • Inspect compressor and associated tubing for damage

INDOOR UNIT(s)

  • Check combustion blower housing for lint and debris and clean as necessary
  • Inspect evaporator coil, drain pan and condensate drain lines. Clean as needed
  • Inspect for gas leaks in gas furnaces
  • Inspect burner assembly – clean and adjust as needed
  • Inspect ignition system and safety controls – clean and adjust as needed
  • Inspect heat exchanger or heating elements
  • Inspect flue system – check for proper attachment to the furnace, any dislocated sections, and for signs of corrosion. Replace if necessary.
  • Inspect control box, associated controls, wiring and connections
  • Clean or replace air filters
  • Inspect conditioned airflow system (ductwork) – check for leak

What is the average lifespan of an HVAC unit? / When should I replace/repair my HVAC system?
The average lifespan is roughly 10-12 years (give or take depending on the system). You should consider the age, efficiency, performance and frequency of system usage. An indoor weather system that is more than 10 years old is likely driving your energy costs up and should be replaced. For optimal care, a professional should inspect the HVAC system for efficiency and performance after 5 years. As your equipment gets older, its efficiency subsequently decreases and may need repairs more often. Preventative maintenance can prolong the life of the equipment. Systems operating in extreme weather conditions will need to be replaced more often than one that is not operating as often.

How can I change the filters/clean ducts in my home?
Duct cleaning generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers, heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing. Replace the filters as often as instructed, but regularly inspect them. Most filters need to be changed every month. Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency significantly. With normal airflow obstructed, air that bypasses the filter may carry dirt directly into the evaporator coil and impair the coil’s heat-absorbing capacity. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.

For more information, visit: https://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner

What should my HVAC contractor be inspecting?
When hiring a professional HVAC specialist, it is important to note what should be checked and tested in the evaluation of your system. Here are some general key items your contractor should be checking:

  • Check for correct amount of refrigerant
  • Test for refrigerant leaks using a leak detector
  • Capture any refrigerant that must be evacuated from the system, instead of illegally releasing it to the atmosphere
  • Check for and seal duct leakage in central systems
  • Measure airflow through the evaporator coil
  • Verify the correct electric control sequence and make sure that the heating system and cooling system cannot operate simultaneously
  • Inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections, and apply a non-conductive coating if necessary
  • Oil motors and check belts for tightness and wear
  • Check the accuracy of the thermostat

What is IAQ?
According to the EPA, poor indoor air quality (IAQ) is among the top five environmental risks for human health. Pollutants in your building’s air can cause dizziness and headaches, and can aggravate allergies and asthma. Regular cleaning, maintenance, vacuuming, and notifying your local HVAC contractor can go a long way toward improving the air you breathe inside your home.

 

 

For more information, see the HomeEnergyNC HVAC Guide