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Air Conditioning (31)

Buying a Home? Consider an Air Conditioner Inspection

Air Conditioner Inspection

If you're buying a home you'll have a lot of items on your home inspection checklist. Among the most important is the air conditioner. Here are a few simple things you can check yourself to ensure that the air conditioner is working properly and has been regularly maintained.

Check the Condenser Unit Outside the Home

The outside section of the air conditioner, called the condenser, should be clean and unobstructed. The unit draws air in from the sides to dissipate heat so ensure that there are no trees, shrubs or other objects near the unit that could be obstructing the flow of air and reducing efficiency. The fins and condensing coils of the air conditioner should be clean, without excessive dirt or debris that could also reduce performance.

The air conditioner should be sitting on a clean level surface, preferably a stone or cement slab. The unit may also be suspended from the side of the house. In either case ensure that the unit is level and that the refrigerant lines are not stressed.

Inside the Home

If the AC is not running, turn the thermostat down about five degrees cooler than the indoor temperature. Once the AC is on check outside again to ensure the fan at the condenser unit is turning. The unit should make a steady sound when operating. If it makes rumbling, rattling or other strange sounds or surges, a cooling technician should inspect the unit further.

Check that the air filter is clean and the right size for the unit. A dirty filter reduces air flow, which reduces efficiency and increases the likelihood of problems.

After the air conditioner has been running for at least 15 minutes, check the temperature of the conditioned air coming out of the register closest to the evaporator cooling inside the home. Blowing air will feel cool on your skin, so use a thermometer to accurately measure the temperature and ensure it's cold.

In addition to removing heat from the home, an air conditioner also removes moisture from the air. This is the job of the evaporator coil. A drain pan sits below the evaporator coil and empties condensation (water) into a drain line. Ensure that the line is unobstructed and the pan is draining completely.

While the above items cover the basics of a central air conditioner inspection, there's no substitute for a thorough, professional cooling system inspection performed by a trained technician. So the next time you're moving into a new home, give us a call. You'll rest easy knowing your air conditioner is operating reliably and efficiently.

The Importance of Getting the Right Size Air Conditioner For Your Home

Air Conditioner Sizing

One of the most important factors in how effectively well a central air conditioner will cool a house is how well it is matched to the size of the home. It's not the physical size of the condensor unit, but rather the air conditioner’s ability to produce cooled air as measured in BTU (British Thermal Unit) per hour and in tons.

In air conditioning, too few BTUs is never enough while too many will lead to less comfort. When a new air conditioner is installed your HVAC technician will carefully consider the air volume in the home to calculate how many BTUs the system will need to provide in order to maintain the right balance of comfort and efficiency.

If the AC unit is undersized, it will have to run continuously, or cycle on and off repeatedly on hot days to keep the house cool, increasing your electric bill and shortening the lifespan of the unit. On the other hand, if the unit is too large it will not run long enough to remove moisture from the air. The result will be cool, clammy air that feels like a chilly fog.

A correctly sized central air conditioner will run through the required amount of cycles to keep your house comfortable, but will not run so much that it looses its efficiency.

Central air conditioners come in many different sizes to fit a wide range of applications. An experienced HVAC technician will be able to properly size the unit to cool your home with the most comfort and efficiency. They will also take in to account other factors, such as climate, the height of the ceilings and the level of insulation.

If your air conditioner is running too long or not cooling effectively, it may not be properly sized. Give Gibson's Heating and Plumbing a call. We can help determine if the system is sized properly to perform at its best.
Many times a central air conditioner will provide clues that it is not working properly. By paying attention to the symptoms of a malfunction and repairing the small things right away, you can avoid an unexpected and costly breakdown in the future.

1. The AC is Making Strange Noises

If you hear knocking, pinging or other unusual sounds, don't ignore them. They may indicate that there are loose or worn parts that are about to fail.

2. Your Utility Bill Is Unexpectedly High

Air conditioners generally become less efficient as they get older, making annual maintenance all the more important. As the system runs more to keep the temperature the same, your utility bill will also increase.

3. All Or Some Areas of the Home Are Not Comfortable, Even If You Lower the Thermostat

If the system is not able to keep up with demand, it may be low on refrigerant, have a blocked, frozen or leaking evaporation coils.

4. The Air Is Cold, But Too Humid

Humid air can be a sign of leaking air ducts, an AC unit that is not properly sized for the home, a frozen condenser coil or another malfunction. Your HVAC technician can diagnose the cause and recommend solutions.

If you experience any of these problems Gibson's can help. Call for an AC system checkup and we will find any potential problems and recommend solutions.
Running a central air conditioner during the hot, humid summer months can take a big chunk our of the average household's energy bill. If you're noticing that energy use rises even more than normal while running your air conditioner, there are several steps you can take to lower your home cooling cost.

Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips

1. Fix Air Leaks - A minor air leak in one window may seem like no big deal, but many leaks around doors and windows can add up, causing your air conditioner to work harder. Use weather stripping or caulk around doors and windows to seal air leaks around the entire house.

2. Program Your Thermostat - Your thermostat is the brains of you cooling system. Be sure to program the temperature around your household schedule by turning the temperature up when your away from home. Learning, or Smart thermostats can help you save energy automatically by learning your household routine and automatically adjusting the temperature accordingly.

3. Perform Regular Maintenance - A sudden increase in your utility bill could be a sign that your air conditioner is in need of service. If you have skipped annual maintenance and your energy bill has suddenly increased, have an AC technician inspect the unit to make sure there are no problems.

4. Replace Old Equipment - If your air conditioner is more than 10-12 years old, it's time
start planning for a replacement. While a new air conditioner is a major investment, the good news is a newer unit is likely to cost significantly less to operate every month.

5. Replace Dirty Air Filters - One of the most common reasons an air conditioner will begin to run less efficiently is a dirty air filter. Replacing the filter monthly is one of the most important maintenance tasks you can perform.
thermostat

Central air conditioners are one of the most energy intensive appliances in the home. Using a programmable thermostat to automatically control the cooling schedule can avoid energy waste, increase comfort and save you money. So what about when you're going to be away from home on vacation for more than a few days? Should you turn the AC completely off, or just turn the temperature up so it runs less often?

One important factor to consider is humidity. If the forecast includes a chance that the temperature and humidity are going to reach tropical levels, mold and mildew could be a concern if the windows are closed. Remember, an air conditioner doesn't just cool the air, it removes moisture. Turning the thermostat up 10 degrees will enable the AC to turn on every occasionally and keep humidity levels in check.

Have a smart thermostat? Some include an app that will let you monitor temperature and humidity while you're away. If the temperature and humidity get too high, you can simply turn on the AC when your away.

If excess humidity is not a concern and you plan to turn off the air conditioner while you're away, it's a good idea to close the drapes or blinds on all windows that receive direct sunlight during the day.
As the warmer spring weather arrives in the Sarasota area and your air conditioner runs more ofter you may be wondering how many more years your central air conditioner will last. The short answer is approximately 10-15 years. But the long answer is more complicated, because it depends on many factors. Some of these factors include the quality of the furnace itself – lower costs models will likely need replacement before a more expensive, higher end model does. A lower cost air conditioner in a hot climate may be ready for replacement in as little as 6-8 years.

The good news is that many of the factors that determine how long a central air conditioner will last are under your control. The most important thing you can do is have your air conditioner professionally maintained every year. This will not only make the unit last longer, it will help it operate more efficiently saving you money on your utility bill and unexpected repairs.

Because most air conditioner parts can be replaced as they wear out, it's usually a good idea to repair parts as wear out. With new air conditioners operating at much higher efficiency than units made just a decade ago, replacing the unit may be more cost effective in the long run when compared to the repair cost of keeping a 10-15 year old unit running.

Have questions about your air conditioner? Give Gibson's a call, we're here to help.
Buying a new central air conditioner is a big investment.  If your old air conditioner is nearing the end of it's lifespan, and repairing your old unit is no longer an option, it's time to purchase a new air conditioner. Here are some things to consider.

Choosing the Best Air Conditioner

1. EFFICIENCY - Depending on the age of your old air conditioner, installing a new, energy efficient system could pay for itself over time. By looking at the Energy Star Label on new air conditioners you can find out how efficient the unit is, as indicated by a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating). The SEER rating tells you how efficiently a unit uses electricity: the higher the number, the greater the efficiency.

The typical SEER rating of units manufactured prior to 1992 is about 6.0. In 1992, the government established a minimum cooling efficiency standard for units installed in new homes at 10.0 SEER. High efficiency units have a rating of at least 12.0 SEER.

2. MULTIPLE SPEED OPERATION - Multi-speed units can run on low-speed (using about 50 percent of the energy) 80 percent of the time. Consequently, they use fewer on/off cycles and produce fewer drafts and small temperature swings.

3. AIR QUALITY - If indoor air quality is a concern, you can effectively reduce indoor pollution by installing a whole house air cleaner to the AC units air handler. You'll breathe easier knowing that your new system is capturing the contaminants that can cause health problems.

4. BRAND REPUTATION - You want an air conditioner that will last as long as possible, and operate quietly and reliably. Going with a well-regarded brand will give you piece of mind that your cooling system will last.

Have questions about choosing the best air conditioner for your home? Call Gibson's Heating and Plumbing. We can help you choose the right central air conditioner for your needs.
As summer winds down and our central air conditioners are turned off for the season, there are a few maintenance tasks that you can perform to keep your air conditioner in good condition during the winter months, while also having it ready to go the first hot day of spring.
  1. Shut-Off Power to the AC Unit - First, and most importantly, always turn off power to the AC unit before performing any cleaning or maintenance tasks on your air conditioner. There are electrical and moving parts that can easily injure you, so always use caution. On the outside of the home near the condenser/compressor, there should be an exterior shut-off box. Also turn off power to the unit at the breaker box.
  2. Clean the AC Unit - Remove the fan cage on top of the condensor/compressor. You will need either a screwdriver or wrench to remove the fasteners. Next, lift the fan grill off the top of the unit and set it aside. Using a wet/dry vacuum or gloved hands, clean away leaves and debris from the interior of the unit.
  3. Clean The Fins - Using a garden hose – NOT a pressure washer – gently spray through the fins from the inside out to blast away any built up dirt or debris from between them. If the water from the hose is not able to remove dirt that has built up, there are commercial sprays available at most home stores that can safely loosen the dirt so it can be sprayed off. Never use unapproved detergents or solvents to clean the air conditioner.
  4. Straighten The Fins - bent fins can restrict airflow and reduce efficiency. One way to straighten fins is with a butter knife. Fin straightening tools are also available. Be careful not to damage the tubing that is embedded within the fins.
  5. Clear the Area Around the Air Conditioner – Cut away tree branches and shrubs in all directions within two feet the unit. Rake away debris and leaves. If the unit will be unused for a period of time, cover the top of the unit to protect it from falling debris. Enclosing the entire condensor unit in a plastic cover can reduce ventilation and cause corrosion, and is not recommended.
Have questions about maintaining your central air conditioner? Give Gibson's Heating and Plumbing a call, we are here to help.
Ecobee Smart ThermostatA traditional thermostat works by detecting the temperature in the room and sending a signal through wires to the heating or cooling system to turn on when the temperature drops above or below the preset temperature.

A smart thermostat consists of a control panel that connects wirelessly to a home's HVAC system. To control the thermostat you can use the interface on the wall mounted unit, or an app for your smartphone or tablet. One advantage of a smart thermostat is you can monitor and control the thermostat from any location. Alerts can even be set up to notify you if the temperature drops to an unsafe level during the winter... providing additional peace of mind while you're away from home on vacation.

Another key benefit of smart thermostats is their ability to learn a household's routine and adjust the temperature to optimize comfort and reduce energy waste. When the thermostat senses that no one is home, the temperature is adjusted to maximized energy savings over comfort.

Have questions about connecting your home's heating and cooling system to the latest smart thermostat technology? Give us a call, we can help.
During the summer months, does the upper level of your home feel hot and stuffy while the lower levels are freezing cold? In multi-level homes it's not uncommon for there to be an 8-10 degree difference between the lowest level and the highest level in the home during the summer months. Here are some steps you can take to even out the temperatures.

First, it's important to leave all of the air ducts open throughout the house. Central heating and cooling systems are designed to work with the air volume of every room. Closing air ducts can reduce the performance of the system and waste energy.

Leaky Ductwork
Even minor leaks from poorly aligned or uninsulated ducts can dramatically reduce airflow, making it difficult for conditioned air to reach the outer reaches of the home. An HVAC professional can help find and seal leaks with with special pressurizing equipment.

Check Insulation Levels
Improving attic insulation can mitigate air leaks and can reduce the effect of environmental factors on the temperature inside of the home. The US Department of Energy has some great tips for installing insulation here.

Consider a Zoning System
A zoning system allows you to control the temperature on multiple levels of the home independently using thermostats installed on each floor. The thermostats are rigged to control panels that adjust dampers installed inside your ductwork.

In addition to balancing the temperature on different floors, a zoned system will allow you to heat or cool individual rooms on demand, or close off unused rooms entirely.

Have questions about maintaining even temperatures throughout your home? Give Gibson's Heating and Plumbing a call, we can help.


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