If you are a facility manager or building owner, chances are you’ve had questions about your air conditioning system. You may hesitate to ask your service technician (whom you’re probably paying by the hour) in the middle of a repair visit. It can be frustrating to try and find straightforward answers when you’re not an expert, so we have put together a handy guide with answers to the most common questions we hear every day.
How often should I have my air conditioning serviced?
Depending on your system, it should be serviced a minimum of once a year, with periodic inspections up to 4 times a year. We suggest scheduling a consultation with a leading HVAC service company that has respected industry certifications such as MSCA Star. Based on the age, size and usage of your system, a quality service provider can tailor a service plan to meet your budget requirements and keep your system running reliably.
Why does my system seem to need more refrigerant each year?
An air conditioning system that needs recharging of refrigerant on a regular basis is leaking and needs repair. Leaking refrigerant not only causes your unit to lose cooling capacity and use more energy, it’s also very bad for the environment. Refrigerant gases released into the atmosphere are one of the worst culprits in depleting the ozone layer.
Be sure to choose a service provider that uses the latest technology to find refrigerant leaks, since the old methods are very time consuming and will cost you more money.
Can my air conditioning control humidity in my building?
You’re right to be concerned about the humidity in your building. Levels that are too high or too low are one of the leading causes of poor indoor air quality, and can result in mold growth, the spread of airborne illnesses, and even computer breakdowns.
When properly designed and controlled, your air conditioning system definitely should keep the air in your building at between 40 and 60 percent relative humidity. While there are a number of methods used to help your air conditioner remove humidity from the air, the most efficient methods involve using heat generated by the air conditioner itself to cause the unit to run long enough to remove more moisture from the air. If your building is too humid or too dry, your HVAC tech can check if your humidistat is properly set, or if your system requires maintenance.
How can I ensure that my air conditioning unit lasts as long as possible?
The best thing you can do to prolong the life of your system is to have it regularly serviced by a professional. In addition, here are a few tips for easy things you can do to avoid costly air conditioning repair:
- Keep leaves and debris from collecting around your outdoor air conditioning unit. This simple action prevents dirt from clogging up your system, and keeps airflow paths clear.
- When arranging furniture layouts and carpeting installations, make sure air grills and ductwork are not blocked.
- Use blinds and shades on west and south facing windows to keep out heat
- in the summer.
- Use programmable thermostats to reduce air conditioning usage when it’s not needed.
What do the air conditioner ratings mean?
If you’re considering installing a new air conditioning unit, you’ve probably run across many rating acronyms on the sales literature. If it’s all greek to you, here’s a quick explanation of the various ratings:
- EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) is a measurement of the cooling output of an air conditioner divided by its energy usage, calculated under specific test conditions that represent peak load. A higher number means a more energy efficient system.
- SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures the efficiency of cooling equipment, calculated based on a seasonal average instead of at specific laboratory conditions. A higher the SEER rating means the unit is more energy efficient.
- HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) measures the efficiency of the system’s heat pump. Again, a higher number means a more efficient unit.
How can I reduce energy costs?
Since as much as 50% of your building’s energy consumption is used by your HVAC system, it’s smart to look for ways to make your system use less energy. Here are a few tips:
- Upgrade to a newer high efficiency air conditioning unit. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), every dollar invested in energy efficiency can produce a double or triple return on investment. Upgrading to high efficiency equipment can pay for itself in a surprisingly short period of time.
- Choose ENERGY STAR labeled systems. According to the US Department of Energy, these systems can save you $3 to $4 per square foot over the life of the equipment. In addition, you also may be eligible for rebates from your utility company.
- Perform an energy audit to determine your usage needs, then install programmable thermostats to decrease usage when it’s not needed. For larger buildings, install zoning and Building Automation Systems to have more precise control over energy usage.
- Install economizers, which measure outside air to determine when it’s cool and dry enough to provide comfortable conditions inside. If it is, outside air is used instead of running the air conditioner, reducing energy usage.
- Have your system regularly cleaned and tuned up. Dirty systems with worn parts must work harder to produce the same results, and use more energy in the process.
The first warm days are just around the corner! To learn more about preventative maintenance and implementing a service agreement with a team of qualified professionals, download our free guide to HVAC Preventative Maintenance Contracts: How to Find The Right One for Your Infrastructure. Get ahead of the season and grab a copy of your free guide, today!