Air Conditioning Service, Repair, and Installation in PA, including Wexford, New Kensington & Bradfordwoods.

Understanding Air Conditioning

Energy-Efficient Air Conditioning

Air Conditioning Installed in Pennsylvania

Are you considering buying a new air conditioner? Or, are you dissatisfied with the operation of your current air conditioner? Are you unsure whether to fix or replace it? Are you concerned about high summer utility bills? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this publication can help. With it, you can learn about various types of air conditioning systems and how to maintain your air conditioner, hire professional air conditioning services, select a new air conditioner, and ensure that your new air conditioner is properly installed.

Proper sizing, selection, installation, maintenance, and correct use are keys to cost-effective operation and lower overall costs and additional home energy savings in Pennsylvania.

A Technical Explanation of How a System Works

Air conditioners employ the same operating principles and basic components as your home refrigerator. An air conditioner cools your home with a cold indoor coil called the evaporator. The condenser, a hot outdoor coil, releases the collected heat outside. The evaporator and condenser coils are serpentine tubing surrounded by aluminum fins. This tubing is usually made of copper. A pump, called the compressor, moves a heat transfer fluid (or refrigerant) between the evaporator and the condenser. The pump forces the refrigerant through the circuit of tubing and fins in the coils. The liquid refrigerant evaporates in the indoor evaporator coil, pulling heat out of indoor air and thereby cooling the home. The hot refrigerant gas is pumped outdoors into the condenser where it reverts back to a liquid giving up its heat to the air-flowing over the condenser's metal tubing and fins.

Types of Air Conditioners

The basic types of air conditioners are room air conditioners, split-system central air conditioners, and packaged central air conditioners.

Room Air Conditioners

Room air conditioners cool rooms rather than the entire home. If they provide cooling only where they're needed, room air conditioners are less expensive to operate than central units, even though their efficiency is generally lower than that of central air conditioners.

Smaller room air conditioners (i.e., those drawing less than 7.5 amps of electricity) can be plugged into any 15- or 20-amp, 115-volt household circuit that is not shared with any other major appliances. Larger room air conditioners (i.e., those drawing more than 7.5 amps) need their own dedicated 115-volt circuit. The largest models require a dedicated 230-volt circuit.

Central Air Conditioners

Central air conditioners circulate cool air through a system of supply and return ducts. Supply ducts and registers (i.e., openings in the walls, floors, or ceilings covered by grills) carry cooled air from the air conditioner to the home. This cooled air becomes warmer as it circulates through the home; then it flows back to the central air conditioner through return ducts and registers. A central air conditioner is either a split-system unit or a packaged unit.

In a split-system central air conditioner, an outdoor metal cabinet contains the condenser and compressor, and an indoor cabinet contains the evaporator. In many split-system air conditioners, this indoor cabinet also contains a furnace or the indoor part of a heat pump. The air conditioner's evaporator coil is installed in the cabinet or main supply duct of this furnace or heat pump. If your home already has a furnace but no air conditioner, a split-system is the most economical central air conditioner to install.

In a packaged central air conditioner, the evaporator, condenser, and compressor are all located in one cabinet, which usually is placed on a roof or on a concrete slab next to the house's foundation. This type of air conditioner also is used in small commercial buildings. Air supply and return ducts come from indoors through the home's exterior wall or roof to connect with the packaged air conditioner, which is usually located outdoors. Packaged air conditioners often include electric heating coils or a natural gas furnace. This combination of air conditioner and central heater eliminates the need for a separate furnace indoors.

Evaporative Coolers

An evaporative cooler (also called a "swamp cooler") is a completely different type of air conditioner that works well in hot, dry climates.

These units cool outdoor air by evaporation and blow it inside the building, causing a cooling effect much like the process when evaporating perspiration cools your body on a hot (but not overly humid) day. When operating an evaporative cooler, windows are opened part way to allow warm indoor air to escape as it is replaced by cooled air.

Evaporative coolers cost about one-half as much to install as central air conditioners and use about one-quarter as much energy. However, they require more frequent maintenance than refrigerated air conditioners and they're suitable only for areas with low humidity.

Buying a New Air Conditioner for Your Home

Today's best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid 1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.

Sizing your Air Conditioners

Air conditioners are rated by the number of British Thermal Units (Btu) of heat they can remove per hour. Another common rating term for air conditioning size is the "ton," which is 12,000 Btu per hour.

How Big should your Air Conditioner Be?

The size of an air conditioner depends on:

  1. how large your home is and how many windows it has;
  2. how much shade is on your home's windows, walls, and roof;
  3. how much insulation is in your home's ceiling and walls;
  4. how much air leaks into your home from the outside; and
  5. how much heat the occupants and appliances in your home generate.

An air conditioner's efficiency, performance, durability, and initial cost depend on matching its size to the above factors.

Make sure you buy the correct size of air conditioner. Two groups—the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)—publish calculation procedures for sizing central air conditioners. Reputable air conditioning contractors will use one of these procedures, often performed with the aid of a computer, to size your new central air conditioner.

Be aware that a large air conditioner will not provide the best cooling. Buying an oversized air conditioner penalizes you in the following ways.

It costs more to buy a larger air conditioner than you need. The larger-than-necessary air conditioner cycles on and off more frequently, reducing its efficiency. Frequent cycling makes indoor temperatures fluctuate more and results in a less comfortable environment. Frequent cycling also inhibits moisture removal. In humid climates, removing moisture is essential for acceptable comfort. In addition, this cycling wears out the compressor and electrical parts more rapidly. A larger air conditioner uses more electricity and creates added demands on electrical generation and delivery systems.

Air Conditioner Efficiency

Each air conditioner has an energy-efficiency rating that lists how many Btu per hour are removed for each watt of power it draws. For room air conditioners, this efficiency rating is the Energy Efficiency Ratio, or EER. For central air conditioners, it is the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER. These ratings are posted on an Energy Guide Label, which must be conspicuously attached to all new air conditioners. Many air conditioner manufacturers are participants in the voluntary EnergyStar® labeling program (see Source List in this publication). EnergyStar®-labeled appliances mean that they have high EER and SEER ratings.

In general, new air conditioners with higher EERs or SEERs sport higher price tags. However, the higher initial cost of an energy-efficient model will be repaid to you several times during its life span. Your utility company may encourage the purchase of a more efficient air conditioner by rebating some or all of the price difference. Buy the most efficient air conditioner you can afford, especially if you use (or think you will use) an air conditioner frequently and/or if your electricity rates are high.

Sound Considerations

The Sound level of the out door section may be important to you do to the units location, or proximity to your neighbor's window. Most units today have sound ratings that are measured in decibel ratings.

What to Look for in Professional Service

When your air conditioner needs more than the regular maintenance described previously, hire a professional service technician. A well-trained technician will find and fix problems in your air conditioning system. However, not all service technicians are competent. Incompetent service technicians forsake proper diagnosis and perform only minimal stop-gap measures.

Insist that the Technician:

  1. check for correct amount of refrigerant;
  2. test for refrigerant leaks using a leak detector;
  3. capture any refrigerant that must be evacuated from the system, instead of illegally releasing it to the atmosphere;
  4. check for and seal duct leakage in any part of your system that runs in the attic, crawl, or garage
  5. measure air-flow through the evaporator coil;
  6. verify the correct electric control sequence and make sure that the heating system and cooling system cannot operate simultaneously;
  7. inspect electric terminals, clean and tighten connections, and apply a non-conductive coating if necessary;
  8. oil motors and check belts for tightness and wear;
  9. check the accuracy of the thermostat.

How to Choose a Contractor

Choosing a contractor may be the most important and difficult task in buying a new central air conditioning system. Ask prospective contractors for recent references. If you are replacing your central air conditioner, tell your contractor what you liked and did not like about the old system. If the system failed, ask the contractor to find out why. The best time to fix existing problems is when a new system is being installed.

When designing your new air conditioning system, the contractor you choose should:

  1. use a written calculation procedure or computer program to size the air conditioner;
  2. provide a written contract listing the main points of your installation that includes the results of the cooling load calculation;
  3. give you a written warranty on equipment and workmanship.

Avoid making your decision solely on the basis of price. The quality of the installation should be your highest priority, because quality will determine energy cost, comfort, and durability.

Looking for a price? Get a no cost, no obligation free estimate.

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Serving PA including the Greater Bradfordwoods area
Our Pennsylvania Service Area
Cities in Allegheny County, PA
Allison Park
Bairdford
Bakerstown
Bradfordwoods
Cheswick
Gibsonia
Glenshaw
Natrona Heights
Pittsburgh
Russellton
Sewickley
Tarentum
Warrendale
Wexford

Cities in Armstrong County, PA
Cadogan
Ford City
Ford Cliff
Freeport
Kittanning
Manorville
Worthington

Cities in Beaver County, PA
Baden
Beaver
Beaver Falls
Fombell
Freedom
New Brighton
Rochester

Cities in Butler County, PA
Butler
Cabot
Callery
Chicora
Connoquenessing
Cranberry Twp
East Butler
Evans City
Fenelton
Harmony
Karns City
Lyndora
Mars
Petrolia
Portersville
Prospect
Renfrew
Sarver
Saxonburg
Slippery Rock
Valencia
West Sunbury
Zelienople

Cities in Lawrence County, PA
Ellwood City
New Castle

Cities in Westmoreland County, PA
New Kensington

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