Air Conditioning FAQ
- May 6, 2016
- Posted by: AtelAir
- Category: Air Conditioning
Most people these days want the cool relief that air conditioners provide during the hottest days of summer, but don’t know much about them. Here are some of the most common questions that our customers ask about air conditioners in general and about buying a new air conditioner as well.
How Long Do Air Conditioners Last?
Many people are shocked to learn that air conditioners don’t last forever. But like any machine, they do wear out. In general, you can expect an average AC to last about 20 years. Over our 66 year history we have found some that need to be replaced at 10 years and then some that are still running even up to 30 years.
A few points to remember: the older the unit, the less efficient it will be, and the more it will cost you in electricity. Also, a proper installation with proper sizing will provide you with the longest life for a working air conditioner (more on installation below).
Should I Repair or Replace my AC?
The answer often depends on how old it is. If your AC is about 15 years old, you should start planning to replace it anyway. The good news is that they are a lot more efficient these days, so replacing an old AC can mean a lot less money going to electricity every month. Considering that Ontario has the fastest rising electricity rates in North America, it can make a difference.
If your air conditioner is on its last legs, (e.g. a failed or noisy compressor, leaking coil, or other issues) it makes more financial sense to buy a new one. In the end it will depend on the cost of the repair VS the cost of replacement (minus the energy savings and any rebates you can get).
How Much Do Central Air Conditioners Cost to Buy?
They can be surprisingly affordable, and start at $41 per month including HST. Prices go up based on size or capacity of the unit as well as increased efficiency.
Should I Get the Biggest Possible Air Conditioner?
No. Unlike with car engines, bigger is not better. When it comes to ACs, think “right sizing” not “up sizing”.
An air conditioner that is too big will be constantly be cycling off and on. This means it doesn’t get a chance to lower the indoor humidity levels, resulting in a cold and clammy home. An oversized unit may not have enough airflow, which will lead to freezing of the indoor evaporator coil. It will also definitely use more energy, cost you more in electricity, and could also cause damage to the compressor.
When we install air conditioners, we do a full set of heat load calculations. We factor in:
- The size of the home
- Insulation level
- Sun exposure
- Number and size and quality of doors and windows
- Ceiling height
- Number of storeys
- Furnace air flow capacity
- The ducting that will deliver the cool air into your home.
Each one of these factors can make an impact on the cooling power you need.
Will My Air Conditioner Be Noisy?
Generally no – but it depends on the model and how sensitive your hearing is.
Newer ones are much quieter – it’s amazing how far the technology has come in the last 10 – 15 years. Depending on the make and model, you might not even hear it at all. If noise is a concern for you, (especially if it’s outside your bedroom) be sure to let your ATEL Air consultant know.
Is It Cheaper to Use Air Conditioners Part of the Day?
Not generally. For most people in Eastern Ontario, the issue is not always the heat, it’s the humidity. In fact, most people use their air conditioner as more of a dehumidifier than for its cooling power – although that can be pretty nice too!
It is definitely not cheaper to open the windows every night, wait till the home warms up the next day, and then turn on the AC. This is because it can take your air conditioner five to six hours to dehumidify an entire home.
If you’re in the habit of opening the windows at night when it’s cooler, check the forecast for the next day. If it will hot and humid it is best to turn on the unit first thing in the morning and let it “condition” the home in preparation for the afternoon’s heat and humidity.
As a general rule, “if it’s on leave it on, but if it’s off leave it off”. What this means is that you can save by leaving your air conditioner off for weeks at a time, and only using it during the real hot spells. Your ability to do this will depend, of course, on how much the heat bothers you, and how often you’re at home.
I Don’t Want to Look at the Air Conditioner – Can I Choose Where You Install It?
Generally yes. We usually install air conditioners at the back of the house, but it can depend a lot on where your neighbours are and especially where the furnace area is in your basement.
This is because the longer the pipes are between the outdoor unit and the indoor unit, the more copper pipe, insulation, and refrigerant you’ll need to buy. We try to keep the run between 25 and 50 feet.
Aren’t Air Conditioners Bad For the Environment?
Not really. Technology has really improved and both the refrigerant type and the energy use are much better now.
The most common refrigerant that was used up to the 1990s was called R-22, and it has been phased out and replaced in favour of R-410A.
In terms of energy use, modern air conditioners are up to 250% more energy efficient than a typical air conditioner from 20 years ago. In fact central air conditioners and especially ductless air conditioners are actually more efficient than window air conditioning units or portables.
If energy use is a concern for you, ask us about the options we can provide. The higher the efficiency rating the less electricity the air conditioner will use to keep you cool and comfortable.
How Important is it Who Installs My New Air Conditioner?
Very important – it is as important as choosing a good brand and model. Some technicians don’t understand the science of heating and cooling systems’ ductwork and airflow requirements. ATEL Air has been called in to redo improper installations done by cheaper companies.
Shopping for an AC definitely is not the same as buying a television. A proper installation should provide you with years of comfort and fewer breakdowns and premature replacements.
The Right Ductwork
Proper ductwork is critical for airflow, which is essential to get the cool air you pay for to all areas of your home. It’s especially important for 2-storey homes, because heat rises and most people really need the cooling at night so they can sleep. Most homes have the ductwork designed and installed based on the needs of the heating system.
What’s really needed is a different design for the cooling system. ATEL can provide solutions to keep your second floor bedroom just as cool as the living room.
The Right Support
It’s also important that the pad under the air conditioner is level. In older homes this is not usually a huge issue, but in newly constructed homes (up to 3 years old), the soil around the foundation may not have settled yet. If the homeowner agrees we often install ACs above the ground on the wall of the home, using wall brackets. This not only ensures the AC stays level, but keeps it out of the dirt and debris that gets blown around by lawn mowers and trimmers.
Our process starts with the heat load calculations mentioned above, and once we determine the BTUs (British thermal units) required to cool your home we will know the size of air conditioner you need. We also make sure your electrical panel can handle the load of the new AC. Then we make sure your ductwork and your furnace’s blower can provide proper airflow throughout your home.
How Important is Maintenance?
Maintenance will help your air conditioner work more efficiently, last longer, and work more reliably. We care about maintenance so much that we include the first year for free.
ATEL Does It Right
When it comes to air conditioner installations, it doesn’t come more tech-savvy than ATEL – or as friendly! If you’re interested in finding out more about how we do things and why we’re a great choice for your new air conditioner, you may want to look at our main air conditioning pages.