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Air Conditioner Information

There are various air conditioning FAQs, or frequently asked questions, that air conditioner manufacturers, sales companies or dealers, and product distributors constantly receive from customers and potential buyers. Many consumers shopping for air conditioning units to fit apartment windows or to cool individual rooms or areas in houses may have questions relative to the cost range of different unit brands and models. Other shoppers may ask for an explanation of just how an air conditioner operates. In addition, some people may have questions pertaining to maintenance or special features of the latest modern air conditioners. Other buyers and potential purchasers of air conditioners may have specific questions about rating methods and scales for air conditioner capabilities, special unit features and overall unit cost-effectiveness. Some of the most common questions from consumers who are considering an air conditioner purchase include:

How does an air conditioner work?

An air conditioner is designed to facilitate the looping of a refrigerant chemical back and forth from the interior to the exterior of your home. Along its path, this chemical absorbs and gets rid of heat. On your home's exterior, the refrigerant cools down. When it enters your home again, this cycle of absorbing and expelling heat continues. These refrigerants are hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and two of these, R-22 and R-410A, are most often used in air conditioners for homes. They are especially effective refrigerants because they transition easily between a liquid and gas form. In its liquid state, the refrigerant absorbs heat, converting it to gas. As this refrigerant returns to its liquid state, it expels absorbed heat.

The air conditioner's system has four major parts--evaporator, compressor, condenser and expansion devices forming a pathway for air processing. Inside your house, air flows over the evaporator and the coil's refrigerant absorbs heat from the airflow. The refrigerant then changes from liquid state to a vapor. During this process, the home's interior air is cooled. As a vapor, the refrigerant enters the AC unit's compressor located outside the home once again.

In the compressor, the gas is pressurized, gradually assuming higher pressure and temperature levels. This gas then passes over the condenser and is returned to its former liquid form while the heat dissipates into the exterior air. The cooled liquid then is channeled back into the house where its flow into the evaporator is controlled by the expansion mechanism. Then, repeating the cycle, the liquid refrigerant becomes heated and is transformed into a lightly pressurized gas. Modern AC units also rid the air they cool of its humidity for greater interior home comfort.

What does it mean when my A/C freezes up?

Occasionally, you may see an air conditioner with its exterior cover coated or streaked with ice, even on very hot days. There are several problems that can be responsible for this frozen AC unit, such as:

Restricted airflow. - If airflow is reduced by dirty air filters or by ducts and blower motors that are damaged or blocked, moisture in the atmosphere can gather on the unit's coil. This leads to ice accumulation and inhibited air cooling.

Reduced refrigeration. - If the AC unit's refrigerant level becomes too low due to leakage, pressure will be decreased in the evaporator coil. This results in frozen moisture accumulation on the coil.

Lowered outdoor temperatures. - If temperatures should drop to points below 60 degrees F, freeze-ups can result.

If your air conditioner does freeze during use, turn it off until it defrosts completely. Then clean any dirty or clogged parts and clear any visible obstructions from its operating parts. If this problem persists, contact a reputable AC service and maintenance provider for assistance.

What size air conditioner do I need?

When an air conditioner is the correct size for the room it is cooling, it will efficiently remove humidity in the air while it cools. However, if the AC unit is too large for the room, it will cool the room's temperature rapidly without removing all the humidity. The room will be left with a damp, uncomfortable atmosphere.

To determine the size of air conditioner you need, measure the square footage of the room or area that needs cooling. If this area is an irregular shape, get the help of your air conditioning sales representative for figuring the square footage. The AC unit's cooling capability is calculated in BTUs (British thermal units) per hour. For a room measuring 150 to 250 sq. ft., you need an air conditioner with 6,000 BTUs per hour. If your room measures 550 to 700 sq. ft., you need an AC unit with 14,000 BTUs per hour, and if your interior space to be cooled equals 2,000 to 2,500 sq. ft., it requires an air conditioner with 34,000 BTUs per hour.

If your room to be cooled gets very little sunlight, you can reduce the AC unit's cooling capacity by approximately 10 percent, and if the room is excessively sunny, increase the cooling capacity by 10 percent. If you are installing an air conditioner in your kitchen, you should increase the level of cooling capability by 4,000 BTUs per hour..

What the SEER ratings mean?

SEER stands for "Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio." The SEER rating refers primarily to total system effectiveness per season, and EER indicates system energy effectiveness relative to cost according to a single operational element or condition. Since January, 2006, all home air conditioners bought in the US have been required to have a SEER of no less than 13. However, AC window units with SEERs of 10 are still acceptable. When you upgrade your air conditioner from a unit with a SEER of 9 to a unit having a SEER of 13, your air conditioner's power usage is decreased by 30%, saving you energy supply costs of as much as $300 annually. Required SEER levels for central air conditioning units and systems will be 14 in the Southeastern region of the US by 2015.

What is the difference between a heat pump and air conditioner?

Air conditioning units provide excellent home interior cooling, but, of course, have no heating capacity. Although heat pumps are usually much more expensive than air conditioners are, they are designed with the capability to both cool and heat the air in your home. For this reason, many people choose to install a heat pump since it controls room temperatures throughout all seasons of the year, creating cool air in spring and summer as well as heated air for the autumn and winter months.

Heat pumps can become problematic during cold weather, however. For instance, when temperatures are below 30 degrees F, some heat pumps lose their effectiveness. These pumps can often become useful once again when they are equipped with electric resistant strips, but this addition can result in much higher electrical power bills. People who also have home furnaces or stoves fueled with wood or coal often get the best results from use of heat pumps during cold weather.

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