Ace Air, Inc. Blog: Posts Tagged ‘Le Grand’

HVAC Tips: Components of an Air Conditioner

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

As a Merced citizen, do you ever wonder how that amazing machine that keeps you cool all summer actually works? How exactly does an air conditioner use electricity to create cool air and dehumidify your home? It’s actually an ingenious bit of technology developed over a century ago using four major components and a thermostat.

How these parts are implemented may change depending on the type of air conditioner you have and how much space it’s tasked with cooling, but the following components are standard in all AC units:

  • Evaporator – There are two sides to an air conditioner – the warm side and the cool side. The Evaporator is on the cool side and is paired with a fan that blows air over the coils. The air then chills and blows into your home to keep you cool.
  • Condenser – The condenser is the device responsible with transferring heat within the air conditioner. An air conditioner doesn’t actually make anything cool – it just removes heat from one environment and places it into another. By removing heat from one set of coils and transferring it to another, it creates the cooling effect that the evaporator then uses to cool your home
  • Expansion Valve – The expansion valve is responsible for regulating how much refrigerant passes into the evaporator coils. This refrigerant immediately expands when it reaches the evaporator coil due to the pressure drop.
  • Compressor – Once the refrigerant has depressurized and turned back into a gas, it is passed to the compressor which is then tasked with converting it back into a liquid and passing it into the warm part of your air conditioner.

And of course, this entire mechanism is monitored and regulated by a thermostat which tells the air conditioner when to turn on and what level of cooling is needed by your home. The system can also be setup in one of a couple different ways. Self-contained units, like window units, house the entire mechanism in a single box, while a central air conditioner separates the two units – the hot side with the compressor and condenser are placed outside the house.

Because there are so many parts and they work in harmony to create the cool environment you want, your air conditioner needs to be carefully maintained. Regular maintenance is a must for every component, so call Ace Air Conditioning if you ever need it serviced.

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Electric Furnace Maintenance Tips

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Electric heat is clean in Merced – but homeowners pay for that cleanliness with high utility bills. Depending on the area of the country, electric bills can rival those of gas, oil, or propane. So it is only natural to assume that an efficiently running electric furnace is a must for homeowners who are looking to keep their energy costs down.

Electric furnaces are fairly simple machines. They use heating elements to warm the air, which is then distributed through the ventilation system via a fan or blower. The heating element is made up of a metal wire that is heated by normal electrical current. The element is used to warm or heat something, much like the function of an oven or toaster. Their operation is fairly simple – either they work or they don’t.

When a heating element fails it is usually because it is broken, bend, or misshapen. When that happens, it is time to replace it. You can do some preventive heating maintenance with a visual inspection of your heating elements. If your inspection does not reveal any problems, you can test the element for continuity. You should know how to use an ohmmeter to test it or ask a professional heating and cooling technician to check the elements for you.

Speaking of visual inspection, you can do a quick check for any frayed or damaged wires, which can be a source for wasted electricity, too. Another way to ensure that your electric furnace is running efficiently is to replace or clean your furnace filters on a regular basis. A clogged filter can make a furnace work harder and lead to premature mechanical failure.

And obviously, if the furnace is not working it is best to check for any blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers in the main electrical panel box. If you find one, make sure you replace it with another of the correct amperage.

Lastly, check to make sure the blower motor is operating correctly. You can have perfectly working elements but if the blower can’t push the warm air through your ventilation system, then all of the steps to ensure the electricity is working are for naught. You can usually hear a noisy motor or smell one that isn’t working improperly. Check it on a regular basis and check the fan belt for any damage or slippage, too.

As you have read, an electric furnace is a very simple machine with simple working parts. Maintaining it is just as simple, so call Ace Air Conditioning with any questions.

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What Happens if My Heat Pump Loses Power?

Friday, February 10th, 2012

One of the advantages of heat pumps in Le Grand is that they operate on electricity, so you don’t need to worry about having maintaining a supply of fuel to keep yours running. Where a furnace or boiler might call for you to purchase supplies of oil or natural gas, and a wood stove means keeping potentially messy firewood around, a heat pump runs cleanly on electricity.

Heat pumps are good at using electricity, too. They are often able to produce heat energy that can be as much as three times the electricity they draw to produce it. This means not just convenience, but also a big savings, just by virtue of using electrical power.

The risk there, of course, is that if and when the power goes out, so does the heat pump. That means when a big winter storm drops a tree on the local power line, things can get cold inside mighty quickly. For these situations, you should have a backup heating solution on hand to keep everyone comfortable in the short term. And, as a responsible homeowner, you likely already have this taken care of.

But what happens when the power comes back on? Can you just fire your heat pump right back up without missing a beat?

The short answer is “no.” You should not do that, for at least two reasons. First of all, after any power outage, you should always take care to turn on appliances gradually over a period of time rather than all at once in order to avoid a spike in demand at the power company, which can blow a grid. That’s just a general tip.

Specific to heat pumps, though, there is a unique concern. If the heat pump loses power for more than 30 minutes, the refrigerant can get too cold to flow properly, so turning it right back on can cause the whole thing to conk right out. Instead, do the following:

  1. Make sure the heat pump is off. You can do this during the power outage.
  2. Once power comes back on, turn the heat pump to the “Emergency Heat” setting. This will allow the compressor to warm up slowly and get the refrigerant warm enough to start flow freely again.
  3. Wait. The time you need to wait varies depending on the size and manufacturer of your heat pump, so refer to the manual. In general, you should wait at least 6 hours.

After this process, your heat pump should be ready to resume normal operation without issue.  If you have any questions about this topic please call Ace Air Air Conditioning and Heating.

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Heating Installation Guide: EnergyStar Rated Heat Pumps

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Everyone in Merced is almost certainly familiar with EnergyStar ratings. They are those little stars you see on a lot of common household appliances, consumer electronics and other products. EnergyStar is a government program run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy to identify and clearly label products that meet strict efficiency guidelines. Products that carry the EnergyStar logo have been shown to be among the most highly efficient out there.

This labeling is important and arguably becoming more so every day. Merced hmeowners want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the appliances in their homes are running efficiently, helping the environment and saving them money.

But have you ever wondered how a product gets to wear that EnergyStar logo? What are the guidelines it has to meet or exceed in order to be approved?

The short answer is that it varies across product lines, as you might expect. An air conditioner is very different from a personal computer. For heat pumps, though, there are some pretty simple and consistent specifications to meet.

Heat pump ratings are based on two numbers—one for cooling and one for heating. Cooling efficiency is rated on a scale called the seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER. This number simply describes in a nutshell how efficiently a unit can cool the area it’s installed in. Most heat pumps these days have a SEER of at least 10, and the most efficient ones carry a SEER of around 18. To meet EnergyStar requirements, a heat pump must carry a SEER of at least 14.

The second number involved in rating the efficiency of a heat pump is the heating season performance factor, or HSPF. This number describes the heating efficiency of a heat pump by dividing its estimated heating capacity by the amount of electricity it draws. Most new heat pumps have an HSPF of at least 8, which is what is required for EnergyStar approval.

A third rating criterion for heat pumps is the energy efficiency ratio, or EER. This is like SEER, except that it is an instantaneous measurement rather than one over a whole heating season. This rating is less commonly considered by consumers, but it is part of the EnergyStar criteria, so it’s worth mentioning. EnergyStar requires heat pumps to have an EER of at least 11.

Only when a unit meets or exceeds all three of these specifications is it eligible for EnergyStar approval. Keep in mind that the requirements vary for split systems versus single package systems, and that they may change over time. Consult with a professional during the purchase process to be sure the unit you want is EnergyStar approved.

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How Much Ventilation Do I Need for My Cressey House?

Friday, January 13th, 2012

By now you’ve probably heard how important it is to have good ventilation in your Cressey home. Especially if your home was built in the 1980s or early 1990s when ventilation issues were prevalent, you may not have enough clean air moving through your home. But, how much ventilation do you need? What is enough and if you don’t have it, how do you ensure your home is retrofitted properly?

How Much Ventilation?

Most recommendations for ventilation come from the Home Ventilation Institute, which provides a series of standards of measurement for builders and contractors retrofitting homes for better ventilation. Here are some of their recommendations and how they might apply for your home:

  • Bathroom – Small bathrooms (less than 100 sq. ft) need 1 CFM per square foot of bathroom. The number goes up for each fixture if you have a large bathroom.
  • Kitchens – Your kitchen range needs at least 100 CFM if against the wall and upwards of 150 CFM if on an island.
  • Ventilators – If you have an HRV for your home, you should have at least 100 CFM for 2,000 square feet and another 50 for every 1,000 square feet of home size being ventilated.
  • Home Ventilators – The actual volume of CFM for ventilators depends on the type of ventilator being used. For example, a whole house ventilator needs upwards of 6,000 CFM for a 2,000 square foot home. Attic ventilators need 1,400 or more.

So, what does this mean for your Cressey home? It means in general that you need a lot of ventilation and that the best way to get it is through mechanical ventilation techniques combined with your air handler and ductwork.

Especially if you recently added insulation and weather proofing to your home but have not yet updated your ventilation, you might have a major air quality problem, so have a Cressey professional measure your home’s air flow as soon as possible.

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