Frequently Asked Questions About HVAC in Tacoma, WA
Q: How can I determine the proper size air conditioner / heater for my home?
A: Bigger Is Not Better. Oversized air conditioners run up your utility bill. An oversized unit short-cycles (runs for shorter periods of time than it should), and uses more electricity than a properly sized unit. Air conditioners operate more efficiently the longer they run continuously and should be sized so they don't turn on and off frequently on hot days. An oversized unit will leave your home cold and clammy, especially in humid climates.
Scenario #1: Each system serves no more than one story or level. This is a temperature imbalance problem that can be resolved by increasing the amount of cooling or heating to specific areas. This can be accomplished in different ways. Go to the warm room. If the air coming from the outlet feels like it has good velocity then the duct(s) are doing all they can but are too small. They need to be replaced with larger duct(s) or an additional duct installed for this area. Another cause, although less common, is that the duct is so long that the extreme attic temperature has caused the air to lose its coolness. Use better insulation on long ducts. The ducts may be large enough but poorly installed. Re-install correctly. * A common misconception is that a larger unit will help. This can make matters worse due to the shorter run times and longer intervals where no cooling occurs. Imagine filling 2 bathtubs, one is 10" away from the water heater the other 60" away. Now consider there is a device that shuts off water flow to both faucets after one minute. The tub near the water heater is steaming, the tub that is 60" away may have begun to get warm water just as the water is turned off. If new equipment is to be installed take care to assure proper sizing of the system.
Scenario #2: One system serves two or more stories or levels. This is a basic design flaw. This is usually the result of cost-cutting during construction. This system should have never been designed this way if comfort is important. A 2nd system should be installed. The current system capacity will then be too large for the smaller area it serves. Because it is ok for the outdoor unit to be up to about 30-40% smaller than the indoor equipment's rated capacity you may be able to install a smaller outdoor unit and reuse the furnace and maybe the indoor coil. Most furnaces have adjustable blower speeds allowing this option. A single system, such as Trane's XL19i dual compressor, variable airflow furnace coupled with a Zoning System may be the best solution available. The cost for this system is typically comparable to the cost of two 12 SEER systems that have mid-range quality, efficiency and quietness. You get the individual temperature control just as 2 systems offer but the similarities end there: > It's all-new equipment. There are no re-used components planning the next expense for you. > The highest efficiency system in the world (or lowest operating cost) with efficiencies ranging from 16.0 to 19.5. > Superior humidity control > Improved filtration due to the inherently fewer cycles of the XL19i > Since there are roughly half as many components, fewer breakdowns are expected and the XL19i has a 10-year warranty on all components. That's the longest standard warranty in the industry. > If you want improved filtration for asthma or allergies you need to purchase only one of Trane's specially designed filters. This saves hundreds of dollars now and in ongoing expenses when compared to 2 systems. * Care should be taken to assure proper sizing. A common misconception is that a larger unit will help. That can make matters worse due to the shorter run times and longer intervals where no cooling occurs. See Q2. a. ii. above.
Q: I want a reliable, energy efficient system but I'm not sure I can afford what I want. Can I make monthly payments?
A: Yes. With approved credit Wells Fargo has some of the best financing plans available in our industry. Get the fact sheet with all the details.
Q: Are there any rebates or other "deals" available?
A: Occasionally there are rebates or other incentives used to encourage sales during mild, non-peak seasons. If you allow your old, worn-out system to run until it breaks, it will. Usually during the busy, hot season. With advance planning, most new systems can be replaced in one day. Waiting for a failure may cause a rushed decision, a period of discomfort, and the wait for the "fastest contractor in town" to replace your system. See our Internet Specials for current incentives
Q: What brand air conditioner should I choose? Are they all pretty much the same?
A: No, not all are the same. There are a variety of low cost "clones" available but they often prove to be unable to handle the nation's summers. Trane Air Conditioners have required the fewest repairs during 16 of the last 18 years and did not fall below #2 or #3 during the other 2 years. Trane remains the only manufacturer to build their own compressors throughout their residential and light commercial products. In fact all Trane components are either made by or manufactured specifically for the Trane product they come in. Matched components and matched systems, the best way to assure everything works together as they should.
Q: Can I just replace my outdoor unit and nothing else? What does Matched System mean?
A: Matched systems are now required by the energy code and you cannot replace the outdoor unit only. A matched system is necessary for proper performance and to avoid premature failures. b. Matched Systems: * A matched system refers to a combination of components that were tested and approved by the manufacturer for use together. A matched system doesn't necessarily mean that a 3-ton outdoor condensing unit must have a 3-ton indoor evaporator coil. While this combination is usually acceptable, it may not be the best combination for you. Now we come to the third major air conditioning component, the furnace or blower unit. Proper total airflow is essential. Here are a list of tips that your contractor should use when determining what to recommend for your home. * An indoor evaporator coil, furnace or blower is rated in tons. This refers to the maximum size of outdoor unit that should be used. For example, a 3 or 3-ton outdoor unit may be approved for use with a 4-ton coil, often with improved capacity and efficiency. Trane also manufactures High Efficiency coils that provide the maximum performance available. Sometimes a larger sized, standard efficiency coil is approved that also gives improved efficiency. While the use of these larger, more efficient coils may be prohibited due to limited space it is usually a good purchase decision. * Above are examples of new, larger indoor coils. Never reverse this by installing a larger outdoor unit with a smaller indoor evaporator coil or blower. * New outdoor units with old indoor coils can rob your system's capacity and efficiency by 10 to 30%, preventing it from keeping you cool on the hottest days. In a recent test a Trane outdoor unit achieved 13.65 SEER with a new Trane High Efficiency Coil but only 10.50 SEER when using the old coil which was cleaned prior to testing. It makes good sense and good "cents" to change the indoor coil. * Never "wing it" by assuming a coil will work with a certain outdoor unit. Trane has tested and approved combinations that work as intended. (They have also tested combinations that don't work well, suffering from poor humidity removal, unreliable operation or shortened system life. For your protection, these combinations are not approved.) Reliability, Durability and Efficiency - the three most important attributes that customers look for when purchasing a new air conditioning system. The unfortunate thing is they probably won't get any of the three when dealers don't sell a matching indoor evaporator coil or air handler for the new outdoor unit. Always use an indoor coil and outdoor unit combination that has been tested and approved by the manufacturer.
Q: My unit makes so much noise it interferes with my sleeping and listening to TV. What can I do?
A: Old units and some cheaply built new units can be quite noisy. Here are some very effective solutions: * Noise from the indoor blower i. Be sure your new blower has sound deadening insulation. ii. On vertical indoor units, the return air opening into your home is often just 1ft to 2ft from the high-speed blower. Additional noise reduction can be obtained by attaching ductboard to a surface that the blower noise must reflect off of. Ductboard is a 1" thick fiberglass board used in field fabricated ductwork. iii. In a metal duct system, install a section of flexible duct made from Mylar in each noisy duct. iv. Use variable speed blowers v. Use multiple stages or levels of cooling (2 compressors or one 2-speed compressor) and 2 stages of heating. These systems run at low, quiet speeds over 80% of the time. In Trane's lineup these are: For natural gas heated homes: XL19i systems with the XV95 Variable Speed furnace for multi-stage cooling and heating. An XV95 Variable Speed furnace or XL95 furnace will provide 2 stage heating and may be used with any cooling system. For electrically heated homes: XL19i heat pump systems with the Variable Speed Air Handler for 2 stage cooling and 3 stage heating. For 1 stage cooling, 2 stage heating: use any Trane heat pump system. * Noise from the outdoor unit i. All new Trane outdoor units are likely to be much quieter than your older unit. The XL series outdoor units are extremely quiet. These are usually suitable for setting on the patio. ii. Trane's Scroll compressors are quieter than other types of compressors.
Q: I like it quite cool in my house but the cost is so high. If I buy an energy efficient unit can I save enough to allow me to be as cool as I like it?
A: Yes, with change to spare. Let's assume your 15-year-old, 4-ton system has an efficiency rating of 6 SEER and you set your thermostat at 78 degrees to save money during the summer months. If you replace that system with a Trane XL19i you can then set your thermostat to 75 degrees and still save nearly $600 per summer. The XL19i's variable speed furnace will typically save an additional $150-$200 per winter.
Q: How long should a new system last if it is installed correctly?
A: The ASHRAE Systems Handbook (the air conditioning "bible") says 15 years is average. While proper installation of any system may be the most important consideration there are several other factors: a. Poor installation techniques. This should to be the #1 priority. b. Mismatched equipment won't last as long as properly matched systems will. See Q10 above. c. Poor brand. Some brands are simply built to last longer d. Oversized units don't last as long as properly sized units. e. Improper maintenance Combine 2 or more of the above factors and service lives can be as low as 2 years. When the best brands are installed correctly you can expect them to perform reliably for 20-30 years. Quite a difference.
Q: When an indoor unit such as a furnace or coil is replaced can it really just happen to fit the ductwork that I already have?
A: When an indoor unit such as a furnace or coil is replaced can it really just happen to fit the ductwork that I already have? No. And since most air leaks occur at the connection to the equipment itself, insist that the connection be replaced with professionally built fittings. (Unless you like the thought of duct tape as your only protection)
Q: What's all the noise about new refrigerants about?
A: a. Do I have to replace my unit? i. Wrong. There have been some commercials that seem to be designed to scare you into action. This is unfortunate. b. Will I have to replace my "Freon" with a new type? i. No. Here's a quote from Trane's Communication Bulletin: "units using R-22 will always be serviced with R-22. They should never need to be changed or retrofitted to a different refrigerant." c. My refrigerant won't be available soon. i. Wrong. Quoting Trane again: "New R-22 is expected to be available for the next 20 years. Recycled and reclaimed R-22 makes the fluid likely to be available past the life of all equipment installed until 2010. You can have confidence buying a system using R-22 even to the year 2010. It’s simply not an issue today." d. The cost of my old refrigerant will become extremely high in cost. i. No. R-22 is not likely to be subjected to major price increases like R12 because of its widespread availability and a lengthy phase out period. Consumers can also feel confident that R-22 will be available at a reasonable price beyond 2020. Many comparisons have been made between the phase out of R-12 (a CFC) and R-22 (an HCFC), but few similarities actually exist. The major price increase that occurred with R-12 was largely due to a high government excise tax that was placed on it in order to accelerate its phase out. It is highly improbable that this will occur with R-22. This R-22 refrigerant is at least 95% less damaging to the ozone layer than CFCs should it ever escape. And, there is a 20 + year phase out timeline firmly in place. Because R-22 will be readily available for many years to come, market conditions will not be influenced by the same volatility and forced acceleration campaign that surrounded the phase out of R-12. e. Should I select a system that uses R-410a? i. A major manufacturer says: Homeowners should select heating and air conditioning products based on efficiency, reliability, durability, and dealer recommendations - not on the refrigerants they use.
Q: Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?
A: Excerpts from EPA paper: “Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?” Deciding Whether or Not to Have Your Air Ducts Cleaned Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts or go down after cleaning. This is because much of the dirt that may accumulate inside air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space. It is important to keep in mind that dirty air ducts are only one of many possible sources of particles that are present in homes. Pollutants that enter the home both from outdoors and indoor activities such as cooking, cleaning, smoking, or just moving around can cause greater exposure to contaminants than dirty air ducts. EPA does not recommend that air ducts be cleaned except on an as-needed basis because of the continuing uncertainty about the benefits of duct cleaning under most circumstances. If a service provider or advertiser asserts that EPA recommends routine duct cleaning or makes claims about its health benefits, you should notify EPA by writing to the address listed at the end of this guidance... Some research also suggests that cleaning dirty cooling coils, fans and heat exchangers can improve the efficiency of heating and cooling systems. However, little evidence exists to indicate that simply cleaning the duct system will increase your system’s efficiency. If you think duct cleaning might be a good idea for your home, but you are not sure, talk to a professional. The company that services your heating and cooling system may be a good source of advice.
Q: Do I run any risk by accepting the lowest bid?
A: Yes. I suggest getting 3 bids. If one is more than 5 to 10% lower than the others, it’s likely you’re getting inferior equipment and workmanship or they just left something out. Ask questions! P.S. My favorite motto: THE LOWEST BIDDER It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money…that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because what you bought is incapable of doing what it was bought to do. The current law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot…it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run. And, if you do that, you won’t have enough to pay for something better.
Here are ten tips that you may consider to select the dealer that is right for you:
1. Check credentials. Before making your selection, call the Better Business Bureau to make sure the dealer is reputable. Also, find out if the dealer is a member of a local or national association such as the Air Conditioning Contractors Association of America.
2. Make sure the dealer is affiliated with a nationally known manufacturer. Dealers should be taking advantage of factory training offered by their manufacturer. As a result, when they make recommendations, you can be more assured that they've selected the right size system for your home, and that they've been trained in installation and service.
3. Ask for references. Former customers are an excellent source of information. Also, ask to see installation photos. A dealer that is proud of their work will be more than happy to show it to you.
4. Expect an on-site evaluation of your home. A good dealer will take a thorough look at your home, ask questions and evaluate your overall comfort needs before making a recommendation. Beware of a dealer that simply takes information over the phone. A good dealer will also look the part. While he's evaluating your home, you should be evaluating him. Not only should he dress professionally, but his truck and printed materials should look professional as well.
5. Check local licenses. Depending on where you live, dealers may have to comply with certain local or state regulations, so ask to see proof of these licenses as well as insurance forms for liability and workmen's compensation.
6. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Ask for details about the firm's experience and the expertise of its staff. This is particularly important if you're also adding or changing ductwork in this case, experience is definitely a factor in getting the job done correctly.
7. Get a written proposal. To make a fair comparison, make sure the proposals you receive are all based on the same efficiency and equipment. You'll also want to evaluate each dealer's personal business standards and policies. For example, will he remove old equipment? Will he relocate equipment if you want your new system installed in a different location? What are his clean up and care policies during installation? How will he handle emergency repair? These are just a few of the additional elements a good proposal will include.
8. Inquire about equipment and labor warranties. Limited warranties vary according to the manufacturer, so make sure you fully understand what you're getting. Also, don't forget to inquire about manufacturer's extended warranties at the time of purchase and other warranties provided by the dealer.
9. Ask about preventive maintenance service contracts. Many dealers offer service contracts that call for periodic maintenance of equipment, and if needed repairs. The fee for such contracts is usually well worth it in terms of obtaining optimum efficiency and performance for your system.
10. Finally insist on a written contract. Commit your agreement to writing and have the dealer sign it.