Advice From the Pros

Air Filters

All About Air Filters

Air Filters

The air filter in your home’s furnace, air conditioner or heat pump is an important but often overlooked component of the HVAC system. Though they may seem like nothing more than cardboard boxes full of fibers or pleated material, air filters actually affect several crucial areas of indoor comfort and HVAC equipment performance. The continued high performance of a system begins with the air filter.

An air filter is usually made of a spun fiberglass material or from pleated paper or cloth enclosed in a cardboard frame. Its basic function is to clean the air that circulates through your heating and cooling system. Filters trap and hold many types of particulates and contaminants that could affect your health and comfort, including dust and dirt, pollen, mold and mold spores, fibers, lint, metal, plaster or wood particles, hair, animal fur, bacteria, and microorganisms.

Filtration usually occurs when expended air is brought back into the HVAC equipment to be conditioned and distributed again. The air is forced through the filter, and the material removes particulates and other contaminants from the air.

Filter efficiency and performance is often indicated by the filters’ minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV rating. Standard MERV values range from 1 to 16, with the number serving as an indicator of how well the filter will remove material from the air. Higher MERV numbers indicate high levels of filtration.

For a residential setting, you will want to stick with a midrange MERV rating of 8-10. These filters provide good filtration and are commonly used in residential settings. They’re often made of pleated cloth or paper to provide more surfaces for capturing particles.

The higher-rated types of filters are highly effective (and cost more), but they’re also thick and dense and can interfere with airflow inside your home’s HVAC equipment. High-MERV filters can reduce your heating and cooling effectiveness and could damage your HVAC system by restricting airflow.

All of the air that heats or cools your home will eventually pass through the air filter in the HVAC system. For this reason, it’s extremely important that you keep clean filters in your heating or cooling equipment.

Dirty, clogged air filters are a primary source of HVAC system malfunctions. In the more extreme cases, dirty filters can damage heating and cooling equipment. Dirty air filters can reduce the airflow inside the HVAC system, which can cause air-handling fans to work harder and wear out quicker. Dirty air filters can’t remove particulates and contaminants effectively, which allows these materials back into your indoor air.

If you have a one-inch filter, it’s important to replace it every 30 days. A four-inch filter needs replacing once every 3-6 months. Electrostatic filters are replaced as needed.

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Leaking Refrigerant

What Does Leaking Refrigerant Mean for My Air Conditioner?

Leaking Refrigerant

If your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, either it was undercharged at installation or it leaks. If it leaks, simply adding refrigerant is not a solution.

One great way to think of it is that refrigerant is like air in your tire, not gas in your vehicle’s tank. If you find that you need to add refrigerant every year, then you have a leak that needs to be identified. We cannot always pinpoint and fix the leak, but we can usually find the component that the leak is in and replace that.

AC Refrigerant Leaks will eventually prevent your system from cooling your home. Refrigerant is also used to cool your compressor, so your air won’t feel as cold when it comes out. It will also cost money in terms of your cooling bill. Leaks increase the wear and tear on your system’s parts and freezing up causes blowers to work harder. If left undiagnosed for too long, it can also cause major component failure as well. Low refrigerant can cause premature  compressor failure. It is also one of the most common HVAC issues according to energy.gov. Refrigerant leaks can also be harmful to the environment.

The old standard for residential air conditioners, now being phased out by the U.S. In 2020, R-22 will no longer be produced or imported. After 2020, only recovered, recycled, or reclaimed supplies of R-22 will be available. The production (not use) of R-22 is being phased out. You are not required to stop using R-22 air conditioners nor to replace existing equipment. The phase-out period provides time to switch to ozone-friendly refrigerants when you normally would replace your air conditioner. In the future, R-22 supplies will be more limited and costs to service equipment with R-22 may rise. What this all means for you is that if your system uses the old refrigerant, acting quickly will save you money.

When the refrigerant levels circulating through the evaporator coils is insufficient, the coil swill not adequately absorb heat. This will result in the condensation on the coils to freeze. Sometimes the frozen condensation will begin to melt and drip onto your ceiling. Though ice on the evaporator coil might not seem alarming, it could lead to a system breakdown and could translate into an expensive repair such as a compressor replacement.

A trained technician should be able to identify a leak, repair it, or recommend a replacement solution to stop the refrigerant leak. Remember that the performance and efficiency of your air conditioner are greatest when the refrigerant charge exactly matches the manufacturer’s specifications. If you suspect you may have a leak, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Gentry Air Conditioning today! We can help make things right.

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Basic Terms to Know When Buying a New HVAC System

Researching common HVAC terms

Purchasing a new HVAC system can be overwhelming. It’s a big purchase that has a large impact on your family’s comfort. Making informed purchasing decisions and getting the best performance from your home’s system is easier when you know common HVAC terms.

Tonnage

A ton is the cooling capacity or size of an air conditioning system. One ton is equal to the amount of heat required (288,000 Btu) to melt one ton of ice in a 24-hour period. A one-ton air conditioner is rated at 12,000 Btu per hour (288,000/24). A two-ton unit would be rated at 24,000 Btu per hour. Typical residential central heating systems provide up to 5-tons of cooling. Commercial systems can range anywhere from small, three-ton rooftop units, to 1,500-ton chiller systems. Why a ton of ice? The term is left over from the days before mechanical cooling when ice was an essential part of refrigeration.

SEER

The efficiency of air conditioners is often rated by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) which is defined by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute as the cooling output during a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. The higher the SEER, the better the energy performance, and the more money you can save.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) 

Indoor air quality is the air quality within and around buildings and structures. IAQ is known to affect the health, comfort, and well-being of building occupants. Poor indoor air quality has been linked to sick building syndrome, reduced productivity, and impaired learning in schools. Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later. Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems. Inadequate ventilation can increase indoor pollutant levels by not bringing in enough outdoor air to dilute emissions from indoor sources and by not carrying indoor air pollutants out of the area. High temperatures and humidity levels can also increase concentrations of some pollutants. There are many products available that can improve IAQ, so be sure to let you HVAC professional know about any issues you are having.

Refrigerant

Refrigerant is the compound (working fluid) used in air conditioners, heat pumps, and refrigerators to transfer heat into or out of an interior space. This fluid boils at a very low temperature enabling it to exude and absorb heat. R-22 is the old standard for residential air conditioners, now being phased out. Most residential air-conditioning units contain the standard R-22 refrigerant. Jan 1 2020, R-22 will no longer be produced or imported. After 2020, only recovered, recycled, or reclaimed supplies of R-22 will be available. The production (not use) of R-22 is being phased out. You are not required to stop using R-22 air conditioners nor to replace existing equipment.

The phase-out period provides time to switch to ozone-friendly refrigerants when you normally would replace your air conditioner. In the future, R-22 supplies will be more limited and costs to service equipment with R-22 may rise.

A chlorine-free refrigerant that meets the U.S. EPA’s newest, most stringent environmental guidelines. R-410A was developed as an alternative to R-22, which will be phased out over the coming years in response to international environmental concerns. R-410A contains no chlorine, so it’s not damaging to the atmosphere’s ozone layer. As an added benefit, laboratory analyses and independent testing have shown that R410A allows higher heat transfer than R-22, resulting in more efficient operation. So, choosing an air conditioner with R-410A not only makes sense environmentally – it also makes sense from an economic standpoint.

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