FAQs – Home Heating and Air Conditioning Information

Many people use their HVAC systems daily, but not everyone fully understands how these systems work. Here are some of the most common air conditioning questions homeowners ask. By perusing this handy air conditioner FAQ page, you can get the information you need.

What size air conditioner is best for my home?

When it comes to choosing a new air conditioner, the most powerful unit available isn’t necessarily the best choice for your home. If the air conditioner is too large, it will rapidly lower the air temperature, but it won’t effectively lower the humidity. There are several variables that are used to determine the correct size, and your contractor will do a load calculation before making a recommendation. Your contractor will look at the size of your home and make allowances for several factors, including the number of occupants, the amount of shade your home receives, and the location of the unit. After determining the required cooling capacity, your contractor will recommend the correct size for your home.

What do all of the different ratings mean?

There are many different ratings used to compare products in the HVAC industry, and all of the products are rated according to their level of efficiency. Here are some of the most common ratings.

SEER – The seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER, is calculated by dividing the total cooling capacity of the air conditioner by the amount of energy used by the unit while it operates. The most efficient air conditioners have the highest SEER ratings.

HSPF – The heating seasonal performance factor is used to rate heat pumps. The HSPF rating is calculated by dividing the heat pump’s heating capacity by the amount of electricity the unit uses when it operates. Heat pumps with higher HSPF ratings are the most efficient.

MERV – The minimal efficiency reporting value, or MERV, is used to rate the efficiency of air filters. Air filters with higher MERV ratings trap the most airborne particles.

AFUE – The annual fuel utilization efficiency, or AFUE, ratio measures the efficiency of furnaces. The AFUE ratio is listed as a percentage and measures the amount of heat produced by a furnace for every dollar of fuel that the furnace uses. By law, every furnace must have an AFUE ratio of 78 percent or higher.

How can I tell if my furnace, air conditioner or HVAC system is still under warranty?

Most warranties depend largely on the manufacturer. When registered within the first 90 days after they were purchased, Carrier HVAC products usually come with a 10-year warranty. If a new product has not been registered, the warranty is usually effective for five years. To determine the exact age of your unit, you will need to locate the manufacturer’s label, which is normally found on the outside of the main component. If you have the original paperwork, the warranty information should be included. You can also contact your local contractor or visit the manufacturer’s website for further assistance.

Do I need to replace both the outdoor unit and indoor unit at the same time?

Technically, it’s possible to replace the outdoor unit without replacing any other part of your HVAC system. However, it is more efficient and cost effective to replace the entire system at the same time. Both the indoor and outdoor components are designed to work together, and combining an older unit with a newer unit could cause your system to work harder, resulting in higher utility bills. When you replace the entire system, you’ll save money on installation fees, and you may also qualify for additional rebates or tax credits. With an energy-efficient system in place, you’ll be able to enjoy lower utility bills.

What are the main differences between a central air conditioning system, a heat pump and a ductless system?

Central air conditioning is the most common type of air conditioning system in the United States and typically includes an indoor unit, an outdoor unit, and ductwork to distribute the conditioned air. A furnace is part of the complete HVAC system.

Heat pumps are more energy efficient than central systems and are popular in warmer climates. A heat pump cools your home in the summer and uses ambient outdoor air to help heat your home during the cooler months. If you live in a colder area, you can still use a heat pump, but you may need an additional heat source during periods of extreme cold.

Ductless systems originated in Asia and are rapidly gaining popularity across the United States. Because no ductwork is necessary, these systems can be installed nearly everywhere and are ideal for retrofits, room additions and rooms that need additional climate control.

How long does a typical air conditioning unit last?

A new air conditioning system can last 10 years or more, but there are several things you can do to maximize its performance and extend its life. Keeping your unit well maintained will keep it running smoothly and prevent untimely breakdowns. You should schedule a tune-up every spring to ensure that any problems are corrected before warmer weather begins. If you own a heat pump, you may also want to schedule a maintenance call in the fall. It’s also important to change your air filters regularly and to make sure that your outdoor unit is free from long grass, weeds or debris. However, because newer air conditioning units are incredibly energy efficient and will help to lower your utility bills, you may want to consider installing a new air conditioner if your existing unit is more than 10 years old.

How can a ventilation system help improve my indoor air quality?

In addition to moving cooled air through your home, your air conditioning system also recirculates dust, debris and other harmful pollutants. In fact, the air inside your home may be unhealthier than the air outside. Poor indoor air quality can lead to increased allergies, asthma and other respiratory problems. The best way to bring clean, fresh air into your home is to install a mechanical ventilator. A mechanical ventilator adds a controlled amount of fresh air into your home and allows an equal amount of stale air to escape. This process greatly improves the overall quality of the air inside your home and helps you to enjoy a healthier indoor environment.

What is the ideal setting for my thermostat?

Ideally, your home should be cool in the summer and warm in the winter, but keeping your home too warm or too cold causes your utility bills to skyrocket. In the summer, your thermostat should be kept at 78 degrees when you are home and slightly higher when you are away. In the winter, the recommended setting is 68 degrees, and you can lower the setting when you are away from home or asleep. These settings will allow you to keep your home comfortable and still conserve energy. Installing a programmable thermostat is a good way to maintain a comfortable indoor environment.

Why does my air conditioner keep turning on and off?

Normally, your air conditioner turns on when the thermostat senses a rise in the temperature inside your home. When the thermostat senses that the desired temperature has been reached, the air conditioner turns off. When the weather is warm enough, it’s not unusual for your air conditioner to cycle up to three times in one hour. However, when the compressor is constantly turning on and off, or short cycling, the air conditioner isn’t working properly. There are several reasons why your air conditioner may be short cycling, including icy refrigerant coils, refrigerant leaks, an improperly sized unit or a faulty thermostat. Your air conditioning contractor will be able to inspect your unit and diagnose the exact problem.

Why is water leaking from my air conditioning unit?

During periods of warm, humid weather, you may notice some water dripping from the pipe near your outdoor unit. This water is from excess condensation and is nothing to be concerned about. However, if you notice water leaking from your indoor unit, you will need to take action. Water leaking from your indoor unit may be the result of a clog in the condensate pipe. If the pipe is clogged, it can’t drain properly, and water may begin to pool around the indoor unit. It’s also possible that the condensate drain pan is leaking or is improperly positioned. Your air conditioning contractor will be able to inspect your unit and determine the cause and location of the leak.

Why is my air conditioning unit freezing up?

There are several reasons why your air conditioner may be freezing up and not functioning properly. If your unit is running low on refrigerant, it won’t function correctly and may freeze up. Refrigerant doesn’t evaporate, so if the level is low, there is most likely a leak in your air conditioning unit. If your air filters are dirty, the air won’t be able to flow correctly, and this may also cause your air conditioner to stop running. You should change your air filters every month to avoid potential problems. It’s also possible that the evaporator coil is excessively dirty and needs to be cleaned. The best way to determine the exact cause of the problem is to have your air conditioning contractor inspect your HVAC system. After determining the reason why your unit is freezing up, the technician will be able to correct the problem.

How can I get my refrigerant replaced?

Older air conditioning units and heat pumps use R-22, or Freon, as the refrigerant. However, recent studies have found that R-22 is harmful to the environment, and the preferred refrigerant is now R-410A, which is commonly known as Puron. Newer units have already begun using Puron, but older units still use R-410A. For now, you can still have Freon added to your air conditioning unit, but it will eventually be phased out. Because Puron can’t be used on older units, the only way to upgrade to the new refrigerant is to have a completely new air conditioning unit installed.

How important is an air conditioning tune-up?

Regular maintenance can prolong the life of your air conditioning unit and prevent it from breaking down prematurely. To ensure that your unit is ready for warm weather, you should have your air conditioner tuned-up well before the cooling season begins. This way, you’ll be aware of any potential problems that may interfere with your unit’s performance. It’s best to have a tune-up performed annually, but if you have a heat pump, you may want to schedule another maintenance visit before the heating season begins. During the tune-up, the technician will

  • Thoroughly inspect all of your air conditioner’s components
  • Check the refrigerant level
  • Check the refrigerant’s charge
  • Clean the coils
  • Clean or replace your air filters

Why do I need to have my air ducts cleaned?

Air ducts transport conditioned air from your air conditioner to the rest of your home. Over the years, dust, bacteria, dirt and other pollutants may accumulate in the air ducts, and as the treated air moves through, it is exposed to these substances. As a result, the flow of air is impeded, and these pollutants are distributed throughout your home. Although the air filters may catch some of the debris, they may not be able to trap all of them. If you or your family members suffer from respiratory problems, or if you notice an excessive accumulation of dust and dirt around the vents, you may want to consider having your air ducts cleaned.

Serving Areas

We are proud to offer service to the following Chicago neighborhoods and surrounding areas, including:

City of Chicago
Albany Park, Chicago
Andersonville, Chicago
Austin, Chicago
Avondale, Chicago
Bucktown, Chicago
Edgewater, Chicago
Edison Park, Chicago
Forest Glen, Chicago
Gold Coast, Chicago
Humboldt Park, Chicago
Hyde Park, Chicago
Irving Park, Chicago
Jefferson Park, Chicago
Kenwood, Chicago

Lakeview, Chicago
Lincoln Park, Chicago
Lincoln Square, Chicago
Logan Square, Chicago
Mayfair, Chicago
North Centre, Chicago
North Mayfair, Chicago
North Park, Chicago
Norwood Park, Chicago
Old Irving, Chicago
Old Town, Chicago
Ravenswood, Chicago
Roscoe Village, Chicago
Sauganash, Chicago
South Loop, Chicago

Streeterville, Chicago
Uptown, Chicago
West Loop, Chicago
West Ridge, Chicago
West Town, Chicago
Wicker Park, Chicago
Wrigleyville, Chicago

Suburbs
Evanston
Lincolnwood
Niles
Oak Park
Park Ridge
Skokie