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Homeowners with older air conditioners may soon be facing a difficult choice: replace their cooling systems or continue to pursue increasingly costly and hard-to-find R22 refrigerant when their A/C unit needs a tune-up. Standards for types of refrigerants used in air conditioning system maintenance are changing, and this means that this most common and least expensive refrigerant will soon be phased out. When the phase-out is complete in 2020, R22 refrigerant will no longer be available.
R22 refrigerant, sometimes known as R22 Freon or HCFC-22 Freon, is an environmental danger because it contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. The U.S. government has placed restrictions on R22 and has issued the requirement that R22 refrigerant must be eliminated from use in cooling systems by the year 2020. At this point, R22 will no longer be manufactured and cannot be used as a refrigerant in new air conditioning systems. R22 is being replaced by R-410A, a safer material which is the current, compliant standard refrigerant in air conditioning equipment.
The refrigerant change means several things for homeowners with older A/C units:
- R22 refrigerant may still be used, but it will ONLY be available through after-market sales when it is recovered from old systems that have been salvaged.
- Prices for R22 refrigerant have been rising and are expected to continue to rise.
- The availability of R22 will be limited because it cannot be purchased new. If you need a recharge of R22 in the future, there is no guarantee that it will be available.
- A complete A/C system replacement may be the most cost-effective solution.
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As temperatures rise – so can the electric bill! There are some simple energy saving techniques that can help you lower electricity bills in the summertime. For best results, implement more than one method.
1. Cut down on energy leaks. This includes turning off lights and other electronics. When you leave a room, shut off the light behind you. Unplug electronics that aren’t being used, such as cell phone chargers, small appliances like toasters, or power strips that provide power for many appliances.
· Big-screen TVs, DVD players, digital photo frames, and other appliances use more energy than you realize.
· Unplugging an appliance is best because certain appliances use energy even if they are turned off.
· Consult with roommates or coworkers before unplugging a shared appliance.
2. Spend time outdoors. Spending a lot of time indoors will naturally lead to higher energy costs because you will be using lights, electronics, and air conditioning. Spending more time outdoors means you can turn off indoor electronics, and in the process, you will have fun going to the lake, the park, the movies, and so on. Turn off all electronics before leaving the house.
3. Close blinds, storm windows, or shades during the day. The sun can heat up a room very quickly. Keeping the sun from shining into windows will cut down on cooling costs, and many stores sell curtains specifically designed for this purpose.
4. Use fans instead of air conditioning. Circulation is important to using less air conditioning during the summer. Cool down the house early in the morning by placing a box fan in the window and opening up another window at the opposite end of the house, in addition to turning on ceiling fans. Box fans sit perfectly in most windows and help cool air come inside.
· Most central air conditioners will also have internal fans to help circulate the air in your house while reducing your need to use the air conditioner. Turn the fan on “auto.”
· Using fans at night will help a natural breeze cool down your house; this will only work if you live in an area that drops in temperature at night.
· Turn a fan directly towards yourself or guests if the temperature is very hot.
5. Use air conditioning efficiently. Set the thermostat to 78, and don't lower it. You can also turn the air conditioning off at night and in the early morning. If you want to invest in an energy efficient air conditioner, these are 10-15% more efficient.
· The smaller the difference between the outdoor and indoor temperatures, the smaller your bill.
· Do not place appliances that give off heat, such as lamps or TVs, near an air conditioner’s thermostat.
6. Use electricity during off-peak hours. If you plan to use electronics like a washer and dryer, air conditioning, and computers or televisions, try to do so during off-peak hours like early in the morning or late at night. Electrical companies charge less for energy consumed during off-peak hours.
· It is recommended you wait until after 6 pm to cook, do laundry, or wash dishes on days the temperature is over 90 degrees.
· Contact your local electrical company for more information on local peak hours.
7. Use energy efficient appliances. Microwaves, pressure cookers, or outdoor grills use less electricity than stoves and ovens. You can also use a clothesline instead of a dryer. When purchasing new products, look for energy efficient options.
8. Plant shady trees on the west and south sides of your house. This is a more permanent solution to cutting down summer energy costs, and it is only possible if you are a homeowner or if you get permission from your landlord. The shady trees will cut down on cooling costs for your home.
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R-22 phaseoutRead More
Although there may be hundreds of factors as to why your home’s central air conditioner may need to be looked at by a certified technician, there are a few reasons that are fairly common. Recognizing what they are may clarify what a technician is referring to when they discuss the routes for resolving the problem. Here are the top five problems that may cause your air conditioning system to break down.
1. Faulty wiring
Poor or uncertified A/C wiring is risky and a possible fire hazard. Bad wiring can prevent the system from getting power or can trip the circuit breaker.
2. Low refrigerant
Refrigerant is the chemical that cools the air within your air conditioning system. Reduced levels of refrigerant could imply a leak or problem with the refrigerant system. If your air conditioning system needs to be recharged with refrigerant, 90% of the time that suggests there is a leak. All refrigerant leaks should be located and repaired. To read about the phase out of R-22 refrigerant in the United States visit the U.S. EPA website.
3. Outside fan is not working
The outside fan is responsible for moving the heat from inside your home to the outside. If the fan on the outside unit doesn’t perform correctly, proper heat transfer cannot take place and the air conditioning compressor may overheat and trip the safety overload. Worse yet, it may cause internal damage to the compressor.
4. Outside unit not functional
This usually indicates a lack of power, contactor problems or even a faulty thermostat.
5. The coil is frozen
A frozen coil often indicates an issue with the airflow, such as restrictions caused by dirty air filters or obstructed return air ductwork. Frozen indoor coils could also be the result of low refrigerant.
Participating in a preventative maintenance program can help prevent some of these issues. Contact us today for more information on our maintenance program!
If your air conditioner seems to be losing its cooling ability, the problem may be as simple as frozen or clogged air conditioning coils. Other causes of reduced cooling include restricted air flow and low refrigerant. Even though you may not be experienced in AC service, you can fix all three of these probable causes in several easy steps.
Step 1 - Thaw Frozen Condenser Coils
Find your electrical breaker box and turn off the switch that controls power to your air conditioner, and allow the coils to thaw. Depending on the ambient air temperature around your condenser unit, it could take up to 24 hours for the coils to melt any ice that is plugging them.
Step 2 - Dry the Air Conditioner Coils
Once your condenser has had time to thaw completely, remove any pooled or standing water and use a towel to dry any remaining moisture that may remain on the machinery.
Step 3 - Turn the Air Conditioner's Fan On
After turning the breaker switch on again to restore electricity to your AC, find the thermostat that controls your unit. Set the thermostat control so that only the air conditioner's blower, or fan, is operating. The fan will help melt any ice or frost clogging the coils by circulating air through them.
Step 4 - Check Vent Filters
Vent filters, when clogged with dirt and dust, are likely to reduce air flow and conditioner's ability to cool your house. To maximize cooling efficiency, you will need to check your vent filters. If they are dirty or clogged, replace them with new ones. If you don't have extra filters on hand, you'll find them at most hardware or home improvement stores.
Step 5 - Add Coolant
Another condition that often reduces cooling efficiency is low coolant in your AC unit. The best way to check for low coolant, and add it when necessary, is to buy a coolant installation kit which you can usually find at a nearby home improvement store. Most of these kits will include directions for adding the coolant.
Step 6 - Test the Cooling Capacity
Once you have completed the rest of these steps, test your air conditioner's ability to cool. Turn the thermostat setting to "cool," wait a few minutes, and then test the air coming from the vents. If the air blowing through the vent is as cool as you would like it to be, you can rest assured your repairs were successful.
Your filter is dirty. A clogged filter restricts airflow through the unit decreasing its efficiency and reducing the ability to effectively cool the air. If you haven’t cleaned the filter in your room air conditioner recently, do it now. Filters on central AC units should be changed at least once a month, especially if your system is running constantly or you have pets.
Warm air is leaking in. Check the window seals around your unit to make sure hot air isn’t getting in or cold air seeping out. If so, reseal around your unit with pieces of weather stripping.
TV is too close to the AC. Avoid placing lamps or TV sets near the thermostat that controls your central air or near your window unit. The thermostat senses heat from these appliances, which can cause the air conditioner to run longer than necessary.
Registers are dirty or blocked. If you have a forced air heating and cooling system, regularly vacuum the registers to remove any dust buildup. Make sure that furniture and other objects are not blocking the airflow through your registers.
Thermostat is on the wrong setting. If you have a programmable thermostat, make sure you programmed it so your home is at a comfortable temperature when you’re there and a bit higher when you’re not. And keep in mind that for every degree you raise the temperature, you’ll save 3 percent on your air-conditioning costs.
Window units, of course, don’t offer the whole-house control of a central system. If you’re depending on one window unit to cool a large space you’ll have to experiment with the thermostat setting as the temperature will vary depending on where you are in the room.
It’s too sunny inside. If your room AC unit is in a sunny window, it’ll have to work harder to cool your space. Likewise, if the thermostat for your central system is in a sunny spot, it will register the wrong temperature. Your best bet is to keep your shades and curtains drawn all day during the heat of the summer.
Plants are crowding the compressor. The outdoor compressor for central air needs adequate airflow to work correctly, so make sure there’s at least 2 to 3 feet of space between the unit and any plants or structures. There should also be 5 feet of clearance between the top of the unit and any trees above.
You forgot an annual checkup. An inspection by an HVAC technician can catch any serious problems before they get worse and leave you hot and bothered at the peak of summer. A technician will check all the moving parts as well as the refrigerant and recharge the system if necessary.
Contact us today to sign up for our annual maintenance agreement to help keep your system performing at maximum efficiency!
If you are planning on renovating an older home, you may wonder where to begin.
Many homeowners are drawn to cosmetic updates first. But maintaining a comfortable, efficient home should also be top of your list. Again, depending on your budget, there are many heating and cooling options for older homes. A home built some time ago may not have a whole-house air conditioning system installed. There are several ways to approach this, and we can walk you through your options. You may also find that the heating systems for older homes are inefficient and need updating. For best results, consider new windows and insulation to prevent drafts and keep cold air out in the winter and warm air out in the summer in addition to a new HVAC unit.
If you've decided that you and your family want a little bit more space in your home, an addition might be just what you need.
The most efficient and convenient way to heat and cool your new addition is usually to include an HVAC expansion in the construction plan. By connecting the addition to your existing ductwork, it will be easier to control the temperature of the whole house. Remember to contact us to make sure that your HVAC system is rated to service the added square footage. If running ductwork to the addition isn't an option, you might also consider installing a ductless heating and cooling system for the new area of the house. These systems are relatively low profile and won't take up window space the way a window-unit air conditioner will.
We all know how humid the summer can be. And it's because of this humidity that your home could run into costly water damage.
If your home's condensate drain line becomes clogged with dirt, debris or a buildup of rust or algae – this can cause major damage.
How is that possible? We’ll explain:
What is a condensate drain line? A condensate drain line helps remove excess water that drips off of your air conditioner's inside unit.
Think of this - when you have a glass of water with ice in it, the humidity in the air surrounding the glass is cooled down. The cooled moisture in the air forms those little droplets on your glass. That's condensation.
The same thing happens with your air conditioner. When your air conditioner removes humid air from the living space through your return vents to be cooled, water droplets form on the evaporator coils.
That water needs to go somewhere. Enter - the condensate drain line. This drains the water to a floor drain, laundry tub, sump pump, condensate pump or a small 3/4 inch PVC piped directly outside your house.
Why does this matter? Imagine if that drain line was clogged: all that water formed by condensation has nowhere to go and backs up into your home.
This creates a variety of problems including:
- Water damage
- Creating a breeding ground for mold, mildew, virus and bacteria
- Causing a possible electrical issue if the water drips onto any electrical components
The source of the clogs is usually algae, which thrives and grows in dark, damp areas. Other sources can be dirt, dust, debris, or insulation fibers in the main indoor coil drain pan.
What are signs that my condensate drain line is clogged? Most homes have a secondary drain line that drips only when your main line is clogged. This drain line is higher and towards the roof line or attic. If you see this leaking, you'll know that the main drain line is clogged.
If this secondary line becomes clogged, and your air handler (the inside portion of your air conditioning unit containing the coil and fan) or indoor coil is located in your attic, you'll notice water leaking from your ceiling.
If this is the case, call an air conditioner professional to unclog the drain for you.
How to keep condensate drain line clogs from causing a problem: There are plenty of things you can do to keep clogs from causing water damage in your home:
Get annual air conditioner maintenance - A typical air conditioner tune-up includes checking your drain line so that there are no clogs and clearing the drain line as a precautionary measure.
Make sure drains lines are properly pitched (angled down) - water flows downhill, so you need to make sure the drain line is properly pitched. Also, ensure drain lines don't sag and be sure not to store items on top of drain lines in your attic.
Use a wet/dry vacuum - connect the hose to the drain line to suck out any algae or debris that has built up in the drain line.
Keep an eye on the secondary drain line - next time an air conditioner contractor is at your home, ask him or her where your secondary drain line is. If it's dripping water, you know you have a problem.
Install a safety switch - you can install a safety switch on your drain line that automatically shuts off your AC if the drain line is clogged. This helps you avoid expensive water damage.
Outside AC unit not running? Perhaps the fan inside the furnace unit is running, but doesn't blow cool air?
Here are a few of things you can try before calling for help!
Ensure that your thermostat is set to COOL and then set the temperature setting at least 5 degrees below the indoor temperature.
Check for a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker. If there was a power surge, your air conditioner might have blown a fuse or tripped a circuit breaker.
Look for this problem in two places:
Your main electrical panel -- On old homes this is a 'fuse box' while newer homes have a circuit panel. If it's a fuse box, look for a blown fuse (replace that thing!) On a circuit breaker, look for a tripped circuit and flip it to "off" and then back to "on".
At the shutoff box near the AC -- Some models of air conditioners have a fuse at the shutoff box. Try replacing this fuse.
NOTE: If one of these methods fixes the problem, but only temporarily--call an AC repair company. Your air conditioner may be pulling too much electricity, short-circuiting or overheating.
Check the emergency or shut-off switch. Most air conditioners have a shut-off switch near the outside unit. It's usually a metal box that's hanging on your house. If someone has recently worked on the AC, they may have left it in the "off" position on accident.
Check the inside unit's power switch. There's usually a switch in your attic, closet, or crawl space near your furnace that can shut off power to your furnace and indoor blower.
Because the switch looks like a light switch, people often accidentally flip it to "off". Setting it to "off" turns off the blower, causing the inside unit to freeze, which makes your entire AC system shut down. Make sure this power switch is in the "on" position.
Look for problems with your condensate drain line. When your air conditioner works, it creates condensation, which is drained out of your home via a drain line. If this drain line becomes clogged, it will trip a safety switch that shuts down your air conditioner. You can possibly unclog the drain line using a wet/dry vacuum to suck out the blockage.
Some homeowners have a condensate drain pump, which pumps the water out of the home. So if the pump breaks, the same safety switch can get tripped.
Try resetting the air conditioner. Some air conditioners have 'reset' switches near the outside unit. You can try pushing this button to see if it helps.
If your air conditioner doesn't have a reset button, try this:
1. Turn off your AC at the thermostat
2. Wait 5 minutes
3. Turn it back on again
NOTE: If this only solves the problem temporarily, there's a bigger issue. Contact an air conditioning professional.
Still having problems? After all of these steps, if the outside unit is still not turning on, give us a call at 405.243-1613 and we’ll be happy to come out and inspect it!
You can make your air conditioner work better by reducing the size of the job it has to do. You can do this by improving the building or reducing the internally generated loads that your air conditioner must deal with.
Improving the building “envelope” includes things such as increasing insulation levels or shading windows or reducing air leakage. Such improvements will reduce energy spent on heating and cooling, but may require substantial time or investment. When putting in a new roof or new windows, it is usually cost effective to use high-efficiency products. “Cool” roofing, for example, can save half a ton of cooling and a lot of energy over the year.
Reducing internal loads can be simpler. Shut off unneeded electrical appliances, lights and equipment. Shift appliance use (such as washers and dryers) to cooler times of the day. Use local exhaust fans to remove heat and humidity from kitchens and baths. Buying Energy Star or similarly efficiency appliances helps as well!
Sealing leaky ducts may be the biggest single thing you can do to improve efficiency, but replacing dirty filters, cleaning the coils and keeping the right charge and airflow will help as well.
Another thing to do is to make sure the outdoor (condenser) unit is not so hidden from sight that its airflow is blocked or that leaves or other matter are not clogging it.
If you are replacing the air conditioner, look to buy high efficiency equipment. The most generally known efficiency rating is Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER). SEER 13 is the minimum efficiency you should consider, but higher efficiencies are likely to be quite cost effective.
How does your AC filter work?Read More
The current phase out of refrigerant in residential and commercial properties leaves home and business owners with unanswered questions. How will this impact the cost of repairs to my HVAC system? Do I need to replace the entire unit? What are my options? The good news is, we’re here to give you some clarification!
The future of refrigerant. Approximately 25 years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandated the phase out of R-22 as the result of growing environmental concerns. Acting in accordance of The Clean Air Act, the phase out was enacted to protect the Earth’s ozone layer from the ozone-depleting compound (chlorine) found in R-22. Production of new air conditioning units charged with R-22 ended in 2010, and by 2020 the servicing of R-22-based systems will rely solely on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants.
Alternatives. As R-22 is gradually phased out, alternative refrigerants are being introduced. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer.
Service to current HVAC systems. If your air conditioner was manufactured before 2010, it probably utilizes R-22. The good news – existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22 as there is no EPA requirement for change or conversion of these units.
More than likely, your heating and cooling units will have sufficient R-22, unless a leak occurs. Since production is limited, costs to charge existing units leaking R-22 refrigerant have gone up and are expected to rise. The best thing you can do is properly maintain your unit to prevent leaks. You can do so by participating in routine tune-ups in the spring and fall. Routine maintenance is far less expensive than emergency repairs.
Retrofits and substitutions. Retrofit units, converted R-22 units utilizing a substitute refrigerant, are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use. Substitute refrigerants can work well in R-22 units with a few changes to system components. For example, simply replacing R-22 refrigerant with R-410A in a preexisting R-22 unit is not recommended due to its higher working pressure. However, a certified professional can replace R-22 condensers with R-410A condensers, as long as the system coil is also updated. This provides consistency in the refrigerant cycle, as one cannot be replaced without the other, and allows the retrofit to get you by for several more years. Note, the EPA warns of potential safety hazards related to the use of unapproved refrigerants in home air conditioning systems as they are not designed to handle flammable refrigerants.
Impact to the environment. Properly installed home comfort systems rarely develop major refrigerant leaks, and with proper servicing, a system using R-22, R-410A, or another refrigerant will reduce its impact on the environment.
New units. Another important thing a homeowner can do for the environment is to purchase a highly energy-efficient system. Today’s air conditioners use much less energy, provide cost savings in maintenance and electric costs, and offer a green alternative to R-22 units. Rebates and tax credits also help to offset the cost of new systems.
The best time to switch to a new system is before you’re hit by the high costs of repairing a refrigerant system. Take into account the age of your current unit (as a general rule, systems should be older than 10 years); look for the Energy Star® label to save up to 40 percent on utility bills; and consider the minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) specification.
We can help address any concerns you may have about the phase out, as well as help you maintain your HVAC system and assist you in making the right choice for your home or business. Give us a call at 405.243.161 today!
The job of your home air conditioner is to move heat from inside your home to the outside, thereby cooling you and your home. Air conditioners blow cool air into your home by pulling the heat out of that air. The air is cooled by blowing it over a set of cold pipes called an evaporator coil. This works just like the cooling that happens when water evaporates from your skin. The evaporator coil is filled with a special liquid called a refrigerant, which changes from a liquid to a gas as it absorbs heat from the air. The refrigerant is pumped outside the house to another coil where it gives up its heat and changes back into a liquid. This outside coil is called the condenser because the refrigerant is condensing from a gas back to a fluid just like moisture on a cold window. A pump, called a compressor, is used to move the refrigerant between the two coils and to change the pressure of the refrigerant so that all the refrigerant evaporates or condenses in the appropriate coils.
The energy to do all of this is used by the motor that runs the compressor. The entire system will normally give about three times the cooling energy that the compressor uses. This odd fact happens because the changing of refrigerant from a liquid to a gas and back again lets the system move much more energy than the compressor uses.