What size air conditioner do I need?
The cooling capacity of an air conditioner is measured in British Thermal Units (BTU), and the capacity you require depends mostly on size of the room you need to cool. If you buy an air conditioner that is too small for the room it will not cool adequately. If you buy one that is too large, it will cool the room before it dehumidifies and this can leave you feeling clammy. For larger areas, sometimes two smaller units are more efficient than one large unit. A qualified contractor will perform technical calculations based on your home’s dimensions, windows, exposure and other considerations to properly determine the most efficient sized unit for your home.
HVAC (pronounced either “H-V-A-C” or, occasionally, “H-Vak”) is an initialism/acronym that stands for “heating, ventilating, and air conditioning”. This is sometimes referred to as climate control. Refrigeration is sometimes added to the field’s abbreviation as HVAC-R or HVACR. The three HVAC functions, heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning, are closely interrelated. All seek to provide thermal comfort, acceptable indoor air quality, and reasonable installation, operation, and maintenance costs.
Air conditioners and heat pumps work by extracting heat from an area using a refrigeration cycle. An air conditioner is basically a refrigerator without the insulated box. It uses the evaporation of a refrigerant, (formerly referred to as “freon” but now called by terms such as “R-410a,” etc.) to provide cooling. Proper knowledge of the refrigeration cycle requires specialized training and certification, and is not included in standard gas/heating or plumbing training. Under-qualified or improper installation, or poor maintenance will shorten the lifespan of even the best equipment and may void your manufacturer’s warranty.
A heat pump is a great heating and cooling choice in our mild Pacific Northwest climate. The most popular type is an electric air-source heat pump. In the winter, a heat pump collects heat from outdoor air and pumps it inside to warm your home. In the summer, the process is reversed. The heat pump operates as an air conditioner, taking heat out of your house. Because it transfers heat rather than burning fuel to create heat, a heat pump uses significantly less energy to supply the same amount of heat as a traditional furnace. A secondary heat source, typically a furnace, serves as a backup for the fewer days when temperatures drop below 0°C. A properly sized heat pump, added to your existing furnace, allows you to heat your home using up to 50% less energy than heating with the furnace alone. Together, the heat pump and the furnace become a heating-cooling team for all seasons.
Compared to other means of heating, heat pumps are very efficient, but only as long as the outside temperatures stay above 0ºC. From this point and below, a supplemental heating system has to be used. Our Zuba-Central system is equipped with Mitsubishi Electric’s exclusive Hyper-Heat Inverter (H2i) technology, which gives you the same performance benefits all the way down to -30°C and below without having to resort to a back-up heating source! Zuba-Central provides unmatched cooling and heating capabilities, keeping your entire home cool and consistent in the blaze of summer, and toasty and comfortable during the coldest of winter days. The Zuba-Central heat pump system is superior to other traditional heating and cooling systems, and it outperforms competing heat pump systems as well. For example, with Zuba-Central’s H2i technology, you can count on quick start-up times. Plus, the unique defrost mechanism provides an extended period of continuous heating between the defrost time, and minimizes the defrost time required, proving yet again that Zuba-Central is one of the most efficient systems on the market. More differences.
For older homes undergoing multiple renovations, it may be worthwhile to check out the ecoENERGY retrofit grants available from the federal government. The Government of Canada provides grants to property owners who complete energy efficiency retrofits based on energy advisors’ recommendations. The grant amount is based on carrying out energy efficiency retrofits such as increasing your attic insulation or replacing your gas furnace with a qualified ENERGY STAR® model. Only homes that have undergone a residential energy efficiency assessment by an NRCan-licensed advisor will be eligible for grants. The application for the grant is be made by an NRCan authorized Energy Advisor on behalf of the owner. For more information on the ecoENERGY Retrofit program, check the Energy Savings Plan (BC) website, or contact one of the local Energy Advisors.
Yes! Check out our HVAC products page for Mitsubishi Electric’s “Mr. Slim” line of ductless split systems. These extremely quiet units mount to an outside wall (not a window) preferably linked to a centrally located room where there is good air-flow to surrounding areas, and provide cooling and also heating to that entire level of your home. This is definitely NOT your father’s noisy old window shaker!
Air-conditioning compressors are rated by their Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) numbers. SEER designates the efficiency you can expect from your air-conditioning system. Higher numbers mean better efficiency. Federal regulations now mandate better energy conservation. As of 2006, only air conditioners rated 13 SEER and higher are available. If you have an older A/C compressor that you typically run a lot during the summer and you own a large house, purchasing a higher SEER unit could make economic sense.
An air filter is designed to collect particulates from the air (i.e. dust and dirt). Contaminants such as mold, bacteria, VOC’s, viruses, chemicals and odors pass through a filter like sand passes through a tennis racket. Sanuvox air purifiers are designed to change the molecular structure of the contaminants through DNA Sterilization and Photo-Oxidation destroying both chemical and biological contaminants including odors.
Your system’s HVAC components each carry a corresponding manufacturer’s limited warranty, however just as with automobiles and other large purchases, regular maintenance of the system is the responsibility of the homeowner, and is not covered by warranty. Manufacturers recommend having a professional contractor perform a pre-season check-up. Chill-Air offers pre-season system checks from $99.95 (up to 1 hr., Chilliwack area) to have your system inspected and tuned, which can save you money on costs and prevent premature breakdown. The cost is well worth it when you consider the cost of decreased efficiency, larger monthly utility bills and potential non-warranty repairs. Here are some of the services our technician will perform during a system check:
If your system freezes up: Set your system to “fan only” (not “cooling”) to allow it to fully defrost. It will continue to cool your home even while defrosting. Then double-check that your furnace filter is clean, and the drain hose is not clogged. If the filter is dirty or the drain plugged, clean them, then you will need to reset your breaker on and off once before re-trying your system. If the filters are clean and the drain line is not clogged, and the system then freezes up again after re-starting the cooling mode following the defrost, call for a technician.
Condensation from the inside unit located on top of your furnace can sometimes back up and drip down onto your furnace if your drain hose is allowed to become clogged, or becomes accidentally detached. Check to make sure it is clear and properly secure.
Firstly, you should check to make sure your system has enough air-flow by making sure the furnace filters have been changed and are clean, the drain hose is not clogged, the furnace fan has not been turned or set to “off”, the system switch is set on the appropriate COOL setting, the registers are clear, and the outside unit is clean and clear of debris, and has not frozen up. When the weather is abnormally hot outside, your heat pump or air conditioner may have trouble keeping up with the demand for cooling, due to the fact that systems are sized to operate optimally within the ‘normal‘climate range for our area. Over-sizing a system larger in order to account for infrequent extremely hot weather would be very un-economical and could short-cycle the equipment and shorten its lifespan. In short, if it’s 35°C outside, and your heat pump or air conditioning can only bring your house down to around 26°C or 27°C instead of your “preferred” setting of 21°C or 22°C, you still have air conditioning happening, and your home is still much more comfortable than it would be otherwise. It’s simply not possible to expect it to keep up as well at 35°C outside, as it would at 28°C. Most importantly, do not adjust your thermostat even lower in an effort to increase cooling, as this will likely cause freezing up and potential damage to the system. See tips below for setting your thermostat most efficiently.
Heat pumps do not produce the same warm-air “blast” at your registers as do furnaces. The air at the register feels cooler to the touch than you are used to with a furnace, but rest assured your home will be heated all the same. As well, while your heat pump is undergoing its normal periodic defrost mode, you may notice some slightly colder air in the ductwork for about 10 to 20 minutes.
When the weather is abnormally cold outside, your heat pump will not be able to completely keep up the inside temperature, and your furnace will be called upon to provide auxiliary heat. This is normal and your system is designed for this. Also, setting your thermostat too low at night will result in the furnace needing to boost your home back up to a normal temperature that the heat pump can maintain. See tips below for setting your thermostat most efficiently.
My heat pump seems to make a “clunking” noise sometimes. Is this normal?
When your heat pump is going into a defrost mode, as it does regularly, you may notice a “clunking” noise from the outdoor unit. This is a normal part of system operation and is due to the reversing valve reversing the flow. During the defrost the outdoor unit will steam and the condenser fan will not run for about 10 to 20 minutes, and you may notice some slightly colder air in the ductwork. Your heat pump may also seem somewhat noisier in general during colder weather spells. This too is normal, and is due to the fact that colder air is denser than warm air.
We have written an HVAC Welcome Letter outlining some simple principles that every homeowner should understand in order to keep their system operating efficiently for many years to come. As well there are some tips to avoid potential problems and eliminate un-necessary service call charges. HVAC systems are complicated networks of machinery that should be serviced by a certified professional. However, if your HVAC system seems to be malfunctioning, you can try a few of the basic steps listed below which may correct your problem, prior to calling a service professional. If all of the tips check out and your system still seems not to be operating properly, or if you are uncomfortable with performing any of them, feel free to schedule a service call. (All service calls are COD unless the issue is covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.)
If you are in doubt as to how to program your thermostat, you can detach it from the wall and bring it in to our shop for no-charge consultation and help with the settings.
Air conditioning systems should never be set below 21-22° (71°– 72°F). Settings lower than this will commonly result in the system freezing up, requiring a defrost cycle (see tips in our Welcome Letter) and if frozen long enough, expensive damage to the compressor could result. Heat pumps work best at a constant thermostat setting of between 20°C and 23°C (68° – 74°F) – year round. For heat pumps, the old “furnace mentality” of setting your system down dramatically during the night to save energy, and setting it higher again in the morning, is very ill-advised and actually decreases the efficiency of the system. Heat pumps are designed to be run consistently and constantly to maintain an even temperature. Remember, they are not burning expensive fossil fuels in doing so! Setting your thermostat dramatically lower at night will result in the furnace needing to kick in the next morning in order to bring the temperature back up to the point that the heat pump can maintain, and using expensive gas to do so eliminates some of your energy savings. For best results “Set it and Forget it!” For your reference, below are some links to the thermostat Owner’s Manuals. If you are in doubt as to how to program your thermostat, you can detach it from the wall and bring it in to our shop for no-charge consultation and help with the settings. (Right-click and select “Save As”)