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Is your noisy air conditioner about to break down?
The cool air provided by your air conditioning system gives you welcome relief from the heat, but the noise coming from your air conditioner is quite another story. A noisy air conditioner that’s always been loud might not necessarily have a problem. However, if you’re hearing an unusual air conditioner noise like banging, buzzing, whistling, screeching or rattling, it can be a symptom of a system that’s struggling and headed for a breakdown.
The same is true for one that’s running constantly and running louder than usual.
Common causes of air conditioner noise are related to:
damaged ducts or poor duct design
bearings and belts
Let’s take a look at the reasons behind the specific air conditioner noise you may be noticing, and what can be done to quiet your noisy air conditioner down.
Your air conditioner noise and what it means
When your air conditioner is making noise, listening to the specific sound you’re hearing can provide a clue about what’s wrong with the equipment. Keep reading to learn the common causes of noises you might hear coming from your air conditioner.
Having that information can help you decide if you need to call in the pros immediately, or if you might be able to wait until your next maintenance appointment. You might even be able to handle it yourself.
Whining and whistling noise
Is your air conditioner plagued by whistling and whining noises? These annoying sounds could signal airflow problems. Here are some of the ventilation issues causing your noisy air conditioner:
Incompatible ducts and HVAC equipment. If your HVAC unit parts have been replaced piecemeal over the years, you can end up with parts that don’t work well together. For example, the ductwork might be too small for the air blowing through the system, which could result in a whistling sound coming from your air conditioner vents.
Damaged ducts. It’s not unusual for ductwork to develop cracks and leaks over the years. Air can escape through these openings and produce a whistling sound.
Clogged filters. Air filters, which are designed to catch dust and other particles and contaminants, will become full at some point. When the filters reach capacity, airflow can be blocked, which will cause air conditioner noise. Changing or cleaning the filter is a job you can do yourself.
Rattling sounds typically come from loose air conditioner parts. Parts of the system that are subjected to a lot of movement, such as motors, can come loose. Ducts can also come loose.
Your noisy air conditioner could be the result of one or more of the screws in your AC panels shaking loose. In that case, a screwdriver is all it might take to silence the rattling.
Your air conditioner unit itself might not be properly secured to its concrete footing if a mounting screw has come loose. Though weekend warriors may be tempted to try and stabilize your noisy air conditioner by yourself, it’s smarter to call in a trained HVAC professional to avoid the dangers of contact with hazardous chemicals and high voltage electricity.
If you’re hearing high-pitched noises coming from your air conditioner, have an HVAC professional look at your system’s compressor and fan motors. These types of air conditioner noise often are the result of unlubricated bearings or slipped or damaged blower belts.
Loud buzzing noise
Most of the time, a buzzing sound comes from an electrical problem. If you are hearing a clicking sound, it could mean your systems relays or contractors are failing. Definitely call in a professional to fix this type of air conditioner noise problem.
In order for an air conditioner’s fan to run properly, it must be regularly maintained and kept clean. A rattling or humming fan likely needs a good cleaning. A worn-out part in the fan, problems within the fan motor, or bent or shifted blades could also cause this air conditioner noise.
If you are hearing a hissing noise coming from your air conditioning unit, it could be caused by a refrigerant leak. If that’s the case, you may also notice that your system is running more often and not cooling as well. It’s time to call in an HVAC professional and have your refrigerant charge, coils and lines checked for possible leaks.
TIP: Refrigerant leaks are often caused by neglected maintenance. Coils that are not regularly cleaned get corroded, resulting in small holes and cracks where refrigerant leaks out. You can prevent this problem by getting a preventative maintenance plan with a reputable HVAC company.
Constant running noise
A problem with your AC coils may be responsible for your noisy air conditioner. Bent coil fins can produce a humming sound. If the coil fins become clogged with dirt and grime, your system works less efficiently, and ends up running constantly as it struggles to reach set temperature. If not attended to, this problem will cause a breakdown.
Just because you’re hearing the noise inside the building, be sure to examining your outside condenser unit. It is not unusual for twigs and other debris to get stuck in the condenser unit’s fan. Make sure the area is swept clean of dirt and debris.
Have you been plagued by too much air conditioner noise since your system was installed, with the unit constantly turning on and off? If so, the system may be too large for your space. Or, it may not be outfitted with high quality noise reduction technology.
Stop the noise with routine preventative maintenance
Ready for some peace and quiet along with better comfort conditions? It’s time to schedule an inspection and maintenance visit from an expert HVAC company. Your air conditioner noise is more than just an annoyance. It could be costing you money in terms of operational inefficiency. And it could lead to an inconvenient and expensive system breakdown in the hottest part of the summer.
Plus, you can prevent many air conditioner problems in the future (including noise issues) with regular preventative maintenance.
Should you repair or replace your noisy air conditioner?
In the worst case, you might face with a costly repair estimate to fix your noise problem. Now you have another problem: how to decide if your air conditioner is worth fixing or if you’re better off replacing it?
There are many factors to consider before making a repair or replace decision, including the age and condition of the system, its repair history, and the extent of the current damage. Also, if it uses R22 refrigerant (Freon), which is being phased out soon, that should also impact your decision.
When you need a qualified and reliable company to handle HVAC maintenance for your NYC business, it can be tricky to pick the right one. The one that can get to you fast in an emergency. The one that will show up when they promise. The one with skilled technicians who will fix things right the first time.
When you’re interviewing potential HVAC maintenance companies in NYC, here are 10 questions to ask. The answers will help you weed out the companies who are likely to disappoint you, and identify the star performers.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Arista is the largest HVAC service company in NYC, and we hope you choose us! But even if you don’t, getting these answers will steer you toward a quality HVAC service provider.
1. How long have you been performing HVAC maintenance in NYC?
The last thing you want in an HVAC company is one that will be out of business before your contract ends. The companies that have been doing HVAC maintenance in NYC for years (decades even) are more likely to be stable businesses that will be around to provide great service for the long term. Plus, they have experience with all types of building environments and know the city codes inside and out.
Arista’s answer: We’ve been providing HVAC maintenance throughout the NYC metro area since 1949.
2. How many HVAC trucks do you have? In my neighborhood?
Bigger is not always better, but when it comes to HVAC maintenance in NYC, it really helps. New York City is a big, crowded place, and it can take a long time to get from one place to another. When you choose a service provider with a large fleet of trucks and technicians, they always have someone nearby and can get to you quicker.
Arista’s answer: Our fleet is over 100 trucks and still growing, so chances are very good we have someone in your NYC neighborhood right now.
3. What is your response time in an emergency?
For a business, every minute you go without heat or air conditioning is costing you money. So response time is important. (However, remember to take into account the next question to get a better feel for when your problem will be solved, which is even more important.)
Arista’s answer: Our goal is to provide emergency service within four hours of receiving a call. For calls received prior to 12:00 p.m. (Mon-Fri), Arista will typically respond within the same day. For calls received in the afternoon, we will respond the same day if possible, but more likely the following day.
4. How fast can you get parts?
If your HVAC maintenance technician shows up in 30 minutes, but it takes 10 days to get the parts needed for your repair, that quick response time doesn’t help you much. Look for a service provider with a large parts inventory and relationships with many parts suppliers in the city. Quick access to parts means less downtime for you.
Arista’s answer: Our trucks carry a large inventory of parts, so our techs almost always have what they need at hand. We also work with numerous supply houses in the NYC metro area, so we have quick access to 55,000+ parts at any given time. We even have dedicated drivers who can pick up a part so your technician can keep working.
5. What tasks are included in your commercial HVAC maintenance plan?
This is important: all HVAC maintenance plans are not the same! Make sure you check out the contracts to see exactly what’s included and what’s not. If one company’s price is drastically lower than the others, it’s likely because they’re cutting corners on the work.
Arista’s answer: Our HVAC maintenance agreement spells out exactly what you get, which is comprehensive maintenance work that keeps your equipment in peak condition and operating efficiently and effectively. Read this article to learn about comparing contracts (and see an actual copy of Arista’s HVAC maintenance agreement).
6. Will I always get the same technician?
It’s super helpful when you have someone working on your HVAC equipment who knows you, your business, and the equipment’s history. However, that can backfire when that person leaves the company or is away on vacation when you need help. Instead, look for a team of technicians assigned to your account. That way, there’s always someone in the know available to take care of your needs.
Arista’s answer: When you choose Arista, you’ll get a dedicated account manager and a team of HVAC maintenance technicians assigned to your location.
7. What type of training do your technicians receive?
In New York, HVAC technicians don’t need a license from the state. That makes it tough for a customer to be sure they really know what they’re doing. So, ask about how service techs are trained.
Here’s what you don’t want to hear: “they went to trade school.” That level of training is the bare minimum for getting started with highly technical HVAC work. Ideally, you want technicians who went through a 5 year apprenticeship program with on-the-job and classroom training. And, you want to hear that all technicians must complete ongoing training to keep up with the latest equipment and advances in the field.
Arista’s answer: Arista has designed a continuing education/training program which specifically addresses each particular technicians opportunities for growth. Plus, our techs are MSCA-STAR certified, which means they must complete 1200 hours of training, pass a rigorous exam, pass background checks, and agree to abide by a code of conduct.
8. Do you have a process for checking a technician’s work?
You may wonder how on-the-job training works: is your technician still learning? Who is making sure their work is done correctly? Proper supervision is essential, and you’ll want to know how companies verify what their techs are doing.
Arista’s answer: Apprentice technicians always work alongside a fully qualified journeyman. Plus, Arista has a team of field supervisors who oversee the work of our technicians. They follow up with customers, perform training, and do spot checks to verify the quality of our maintenance and repair work.
9. How do you report on the work completed at each service call?
As a busy business owner or facilities manager, you don’t have time to supervise every HVAC maintenance visit, especially if you have multiple locations. Will the service provider leave illegible, handwritten work orders on somebody’s desk? Or will you receive work reports you can read and understand?
Arista’s answer: We not only email you a comprehensive report after each service call with everything clearly spelled out, we provide a VIDEO that shows you exactly what the technician did.
10. Can you provide references that are similar to my business?
This is another overlooked way to vet a service provider. It’s very helpful to talk to someone like you about their experience. For example, if you have a chain of stores, you want to talk to someone who also manages multiple locations. If you have a restaurant, your HVAC needs are very different from an office-based business, so be sure to talk to references who can address your specific questions.
Arista’s answer: Arista serves over 3,000 businesses/properties in the NYC metro area, so it’s easy for us to provide a relevant reference who can share the details you want to know.
The air filter’s job is to keep dust and debris out of your HVAC equipment. You’d be amazed how much builds up on there in a very short time. Just think about the air quality in Manhattan and the dust your cleaning staff picks up every day. Imagine how much grime would accumulate if you didn’t clean for a month. That’s how much debris is clogging your air filter, and much more if you haven’t remembered to change the AC filter in a while.
Here’s why air conditioner filter replacement is so important. When your AC filter gets clogged, dust and dirt start getting into the air conditioner itself, causing wear and tear on the parts. You probably know what that means: the more wear and tear on the parts, the sooner they wear out and you’re dealing with a breakdown. The clogged filter also prevents enough air from flowing through the system to keep it working properly.
Watch this quick video to learn what happens when you don’t change the AC filter:
What Happens When You Dont Change Your AC Filter - YouTube
It’s helpful to know when to change your air conditioner filter. According to ENERGY STAR, you should check and change the AC filter every month during peak season. That’s probably more often than you want to call your trusty HVAC service guy. We love to see you, of course, but this is a job that you can probably handle on your own if you choose to do so. It’s helpful if you know how to change the AC filter yourself.
How to change an AC filter
Follow these easy steps to change the AC unit filter and keep your system running reliably.
How to change the AC filter: LOCATE THE FILTER
AC air filter replacement is a quick and easy task. Before you can do it, though, you need to know where the AC filter is located. That can be the tricky part, because there are several places it could be.
In some systems, the filters are located in the return air duct. This is the one that pulls air from your space back into the air conditioner’s air handler system. If you have a large system with multiple air handlers and return ducts, finding the filters can be a challenge.
If both your heating and air conditioning systems share the same ducts, it’s also possible that the air filter for both systems is located in or near the blower system for the furnace. If so, it’s usually in the front of the furnace near the bottom. You may be able to see and access the filter without opening anything, or you might have to open a metal panel (marked FILTER) on the front or the top of the blower. The panel may be attached with hooks or screws.
Your best bet is to ask your HVAC service tech. Just let him know that you want to learn how to change the AC filter, and he’ll be able to show you where the filter is located, how to remove the old one and insert the new one, and how to get the right filters for your system.
How to change the AC filter: USE THE RIGHT REPLACEMENT FILTER
The other potentially tricky part is making sure you use the right filters. The filter size is usually printed on the side of the filter. When in doubt, the easiest solution is to ask your HVAC tech to get you a supply of the right filters, or show you the size information on the filter so you can order them yourself.
Also, keep in mind that you might want filters that do more than just keep dust out of your air conditioner. If you want to improve air quality in your space by removing pollen, mold and other harmful contaminants, you need to invest in HEPA filters with a MERV rating of 10 or higher.
1. TURN OFF THE POWER. This is important for two reasons. First, there’s your safety. Don’t risk touching live voltage! The second reason is the safety of your equipment. If the unit is still running while you’re removing the clogged filter, dust and debris can get sucked into the unit. It’s important that you switch off power at the unit itself, and also at the circuit breaker.
2. Remove the old filter. Simply slide it out of the slot that holds it in place.
3. Check the condition. Once you’ve taken out the AC filter, check the condition. Does it look clogged with dirt and dust? If you hold it up to the light, you probably can’t see much light coming through. This filter needs to be replaced or cleaned, depending on the type of filter you are using. Even if it’s been in use less than the time recommended by the manufacturer, replace it anyway. Many factors can impact how fast your filters get clogged. If you’re in New York City, the smog alone can shorten the life of an air filter.
4. Clean the filter or grab a new one. Are you using disposable filters or reusable ones? A disposable filter typically has a cardboard frame and a paper or fiber mesh surface. A permanent, reusable filter is made of a more sturdy material with a metal frame and a special coating to make it washable. If you’re cleaning a reusable one, check the manufacturer’s instructions for washing. You’ll probably just need to rinse with water and let dry completely. Or in some cases, you can just vacuum away the dust.
5. Insert the new or cleaned filter. Now you just need to put it back in the right way. An arrow on the filter’s frame shows you the direction that air should flow through the filter, which is always away from the return air duct and toward the air handler mechanism. When you insert the filter back in the housing, make sure that arrow points away from the return and toward the air handler.
See, wasn’t that easy? Now that you know how to change an AC filter, set a reminder for yourself so you remember to do it every month. And, don’t forget about your furnace if its filters are separate from your air conditioner: Fall Furnace Maintenance: How to Change Your Air Filter.
Step up your HVAC maintenance
If, by any chance you don’t have a regular HVAC service tech to ask about how to change an AC filter, it’s likely that you’ve been neglecting other important maintenance tasks besides changing AC filters. Regular maintenance keeps your equipment in top working condition so the parts last longer and work more efficiently. That means the system uses less electricity, needs fewer costly repairs, and has an extended life span.
The best way to get the most from your HVAC equipment is to get a preventative maintenance agreement. It’s a relatively small investment that pays off in lower operating costs and more reliable comfort. Plus, you can get an agreement that’s customized to your specific needs, your equipment, and your budget. If you’re in the NYC metro area, let’s talk.
We understand why people sometimes question the value of HVAC maintenance. When you’re paying for a service that prevents problems, like HVAC maintenance, you may wonder what would happen if you skipped it. After all, the equipment is tucked away somewhere out of sight, doing its thing to keep your space comfortable. Somebody comes in twice a year or more to maintain it, and you may not notice a difference. So what are you getting for your money?
Part of the reason people wonder is they don’t get the opportunity to see the state of their HVAC equipment before and after the service visit. So they have no idea what the technician did and how regular service keeps the system running smoothly and prevents problems.
So, today we’re going to share some evidence, in the form of before-and-after photos, that will help you understand the value of HVAC maintenance.
HVAC maintenance before-and-after photos
Every HVAC maintenance task helps to keep your system in optimal condition and working as efficiently as possible. For certain tasks, you can readily see the results. And when you see the difference, it’s easy to understand why doing that task keeps your system working well and prevents expensive repair issues.
So, let’s take a look at a few examples.
Air conditioner coil cleaning
BEFORE COIL CLEANING:
AFTER COIL CLEANING:
What are air conditioner coils and what do they do? There are two types of coils that are vital to the operation of your air conditioning system: evaporator and condenser coils. Without getting too technical, the coils’ job is to transfer heat. The evaporator coil absorbs heat from your space, and the condenser coil releases it outside.
Problems caused by dirty coils. When your coils looks like the BEFORE photo, they can’t effectively transfer heat. This condition is not unusual; in fact many neglected condenser coils look like this. Condensers are usually located outside and collect debris from smog, vehicle exhaust, and other outdoor pollutants. It builds up fast and does quite a bit of damage. With just 1/100th of an inch of dirt and grime on your air conditioner’s condenser coil, your system’s efficiency will decline by 5 percent.
When coils lose efficiency, the system must run longer and work harder to cool your space, causing wear and tear on the parts and running up your electric bill. Over time, grime on the coils causes corrosion, leading to cracks and holes that leak refrigerant. Your system loses cooling power and eventually doesn’t cool at all. Dirty evaporator coils can freeze up and cause water damage in your space. In the worst case, you could end up with compressor failure, which is a very expensive repair, and could mean you need to replace the entire unit.
Learn more about the benefits of coil cleaning as part of regular HVAC maintenance:
What does the HVAC filter do? Air filters keep dust and debris out of your heating and air conditioning equipment. Imagine what your home or business would look like if you didn’t clean for a month. That’s equivalent to what accumulates in your HVAC filters in a given month.
Problems caused by clogged HVAC filters. When HVAC filters get clogged, dust and debris can get into the system and build up on the parts. It jams up moving parts such as blower motors and fans. The system draws more power to overcome the obstacle, straining the parts and increasing your energy costs. It accumulates in ductwork, which means more dust and contaminants (like mold spores) end up blowing around your space. Dust-clogged filters impede the airflow within your air conditioner, and you get inconsistent heating or cooling, low airflow from your vents, or your AC blowing warm air.
That’s why HVAC filters need to be cleaned or replaced frequently. In fact, depending on your usage you might need to do that yourself in between HVAC maintenance appointments. Read this for more information: Why and How to Change an AC Filter.
Cleaning condensate pumps & pans
DRAIN PAN BEFORE CLEANING:
DRAIN PAN AFTER CLEANING:
CONDENSATE PUMP BEFORE CLEANING:
CONDENSATE PUMP AFTER CLEANING:
Drain lines, condensate pumps and drain pans serve an important purpose for air conditioners – removing the water that’s collected in the process of removing humidity and heat from the air.
Grimy, clogged drain lines, pumps & pans lead to water leaks that can damage ceilings, walls, floors, furnishings and decor. When condensate water can’t harmlessly drain away because lines are plugged, drains are blocked, or a dirty pump stops working, you can end up with a very expensive problem on your hands. Besides a hefty air conditioner repair bill, you could face property damage from water leaks. You might not discover a slow water leak right away, especially if your air conditioner is still working. By the time you see the wet spot on the ceiling or wall, the damage is already done.
Cleaning out your condensate lines, pans, and pumps as part of regular HVAC maintenance is inexpensive compared to the cost of cleaning up a water leak.
All HVAC maintenance is not the same
Unfortunately for consumers, there are no standards for which tasks are included in preventative HVAC maintenance service. Some contractors simply change the filters, take a quick look at the equipment and leave it at that. Well, it’s no wonder when those customers end up with frequent repair issues.
As you’ve already seen, there are many more tasks that must be done to keep air conditioning and heating equipment in good condition and operating reliably.
To be sure you’re getting your money’s worth with a complete HVAC maintenance service, check out these related articles:
If you watch TV news reports and the occasional YouTube video (don’t we all?), it’s easy to get the impression that many HVAC companies are out to rip you off. Have you seen those exposés that catch dishonest and just plain incompetent service providers with hidden cameras?
As the owner of a business, you can be a prime target for these disreputable people. You’re probably not an HVAC expert, you count on HVAC for your business to operate and make money, and you’re so busy that you don’t have time to question anything they do or tell you. And business owners tend to put up with far more sub-par service than they should, just to avoid the hassle of making a change. Sound familiar?
The truth is, there are many commercial HVAC companies that you can count on to do things right. The question is, how can you tell which providers are qualified and reliable? It’s not as difficult as you may imagine to get reliable HVAC for your business. You just need to know where to look and the right questions to ask.
How to find better commercial HVAC companies
You’re probably tempted to go straight for Google. Wait! Before you hit the internet, take these steps first.
1. Keep an eye out for trucks in your neighborhood.
Do you see the same ones again and again? The companies that do a lot of work in your area know the buildings well and are very likely doing good work since so many people are using them.
BONUS: the company that always has a truck around the corner can get to you faster in an emergency.
2. Ask your neighbors for a recommendation.
This is especially useful if your neighbors’ businesses similar to yours, or if they are located in a similar space.
3. Ok, now ask the internet.
Now you can go ahead and Google, but don’t stop there. Once you identify a few candidates with a Google search (or Duck Duck Go or whatever search engine you like), the next step is to peruse their web sites before you make calls.
Do they seem to have experience with businesses like yours? Can they offer all the services you need? For example, if you own a food service business, it would be smart to call an HVAC company that also does refrigeration service.
The right way to evaluate commercial HVAC companies
Once you have found a few commercial HVAC companies in your area (and you should always evaluate at least two or three) you need to know what to ask and what to look for so you can weed out unqualified or dishonest providers.
As a business owner, you understand how crucial it is to have adequate liability insurance as well as workers compensation to cover your employees. But do you realize that you are putting yourself and your business at risk if you hire a vendor without the same financial protection? What if their technician inadvertently causes damage to your property or injury to your employee or customer? Never hire any HVAC company (or any service provider for that matter) without adequate insurance.
Proof of technical competence
This is a big issue in New York, where HVAC technicians are not required to hold a license from the state. In that case, you need to dig deeper for evidence of their technical expertise.
The best proof you can get is certification by a reputable industry association, such as the Mechanical Service Contractors of America (MSCA), which requires years of education, field training and passing a rigorous exam. Also ask about EPA 608 certification which is required for technicians handling refrigerants.
Building code knowledge and willingness to handle permits
When a provider of HVAC for small business tells you they don’t take out permits, that should be a red flag. They may be trying to pass off sub-par work by going around the legal requirements. They may not understand the requirements, or they just don’t want to take the time to handle it. As a small business owner, dealing with the building department is the last thing you have time to do! Look for a company that takes care of the whole job.
Look for a one-year work guarantee on any install, repair, or service, which protects you from sub-par work and misdiagnosed HVAC issues.
Especially when you’re installing a new HVAC system for your business, you may not be thinking about the maintenance that will be required in the years to come. But you should be! Maintenance is a necessity for a commercial HVAC system because it prevents many breakdowns that can disrupt your business. And it makes your equipment run more efficiently to keep your energy bills down.
Some commercial HVAC companies only want to deal with the big-money jobs of selling equipment and installing it, but don’t want to deal with performing maintenance. You are much better off with a company that services and maintains what they sell and install.
What does it tell you when a company’s bids and contracts are written in vague terms or legalese that makes it impossible to understand what’s covered and what isn’t? It probably means they don’t want you to understand. Look for a company that clearly spells out in writing the service they intend to provide and the cost.
Air conditioner power consumption: how much are you using?
As anyone who has seen their electric bill skyrocket in the summer will know, your air conditioner power consumption can be a big, unpredictable cost. To try and understand your costs, you can start with your AC unit’s power rating (check the label on the condensing unit), which will tell you how much power it uses under perfect conditions. In real life, conditions are rarely as consistent as that.
There are many factors that affect how efficient your AC is and how much power it uses, including age and condition of the unit, the layout of your space, design of the air ducts, how air-tight the space is, and of course the weather. That’s why calculating your expenses is never an exact science.
However, if you want to get a general idea of how much power you’re using, there are online tools that can help you calculate air conditioner electricity cost. Here’s one you can try.
If your goal it to reduce your air conditioner power consumption, that’s actually easier than measuring it! Here are 8 strategies.
8 ways to reduce your air conditioner electricity cost
1. Turn it up one degree
Could you tell the difference between a room set at 71 degrees and a room set at 72 degrees? Neither could most people. So if you’re trying to reduce energy use, try setting your thermostat just one degree above where it would normally be. It will help your AC run less frequently and use less power.
This practice will get you in the habit of being conscious of what your thermostat is set to. Air conditioner power consumption increases a lot for every degree above the temperature outside, so these small changes will add up in the long run.
Make sure everyone in your workplace knows about your energy efficiency goals. Start by having a meeting to explain the steps you’ll be taking and how everyone can contribute. You won’t be able to reduce air conditioner power consumption if you’re the only one working towards it. Outline any changes (such as a standard office temperature) or simple steps everyone can participate in.
2. Use a smart thermostat and program a schedule
To use your air conditioning efficiently, you need to make sure it’s running only when needed, and the temperature is set appropriately at all times.
Luckily, you don’t have to keep track of that yourself. With an automated or smart thermostat, it can be easy to reduce your air conditioner power consumption. Use a thermostat with a programmable schedule to set your AC to not cool when no one is in the space. Some thermostats can learn your schedule over time and program themselves. Smart thermostats even come with an app that lets you control the temperature remotely in case you forgot to set it. Many of these thermostats are designed with energy savings in mind, so they can help you get more details about your energy usage.
3. Keep ducts clean and airflow clear
Your AC will use less power if it’s not struggling against dirty vents and blocked airflow. Keeping the vents and ducts clean will help your air conditioner run more efficiently. Make sure your furniture and room layout does not block the vents as well.
If you could see what AC technicians see when they come to service a neglected air conditioner, you’d understand why regular maintenance is so important. Cleaning the components, fixing electrical connections, and replacing worn parts make your system run more efficiently and use less electricity. In fact, studies show that air conditioning maintenance helps your unit to maintain up to 95% of its original efficiency.
You might not think that a blocked air conditioner filter might cause your air conditioner power consumption to spike. But a clogged filter is like a clogged sink, something might be getting through, but it’ll work much more smoothly if it’s clear. Filters can become blocked up with dust, and if they’re full past the limit, dust will gather on fans and motors and slow your system down, causing it to run longer and use more power.
Your AC technician will change your filters as needed during regular maintenance visits. However, depending on your system usage you might need to change them more frequently.
You won’t be getting the most out of your energy-efficient air conditioning if you let all that cool air get away. Insulating can also be a helpful step towards reducing air conditioner power consumption if you can’t yet replace your air conditioning unit. Your AC won’t have to work as hard to get the same temperature if you are diligent about sealing up leaky spots in your house. HVAC components such as pipes, ducts, and outlets can be some of the highest – priority spots for extra insulation.
7. Retrofit your AC unit
Did you know you can upgrade parts on an old AC unit to make it more energy efficient? Retrofitting can be a good option if you aren’t ready to upgrade to a newer model. There are many ways you can reduce your air conditioner power consumption without getting rid of your current AC, including adding more ventilation, condenser fan controls, or replacing the compressor.
Retrofitting may be a good option for you if your system is used a lot, uses a lot of power, and has been regularly maintained (so it’s still in good condition). Retrofitting is a good compromise to get you some of the benefits of a newer system without investing a large sum in a total replacement.
8. Upgrade to an energy efficient air conditioner
If you are in the market to replace your AC unit, don’t just automatically get the same type of system you had before. Even though a new one will be more energy efficient, you may be able to reduce your air conditioner power consumption further with a different type of equipment.
For example, many types of homes and businesses can get better comfort conditions and better energy efficiency with a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system. Most AC systems run at full power all the time. A VRF system adjusts to run at the capacity needed for the current conditions. Plus, it can be set up to individually control different zones in your space, and even re-use residual heat from the cooling process to provide heat in other areas. This smart design means the system uses less energy.
If you’ve ever spent a hot summer in New York City in a home or business plagued with air conditioner problems, it’s certainly an experience you don’t want to repeat. Don’t leave your summer comfort to chance! Learn about the most common causes of air conditioner problems and the easy steps you can take to prevent repair issues.
Top 7 causes of air conditioner problems:
1. Low refrigerant. The refrigerant is the stuff that your air conditioner uses to remove the heat and humidity from the air in your home or business. If your system develops leaks in the refrigerant lines, you can end up with not enough refrigerant to effectively cool the air. Unfortunately, fixing this air conditioner problem correctly is not just a matter of replacing the refrigerant. An HVAC repair technician needs to find the leaks and repair the holes in the lines, which can sometimes be a time-consuming and expensive process, especially when there are multiple leaks.
2. Frozen evaporator coils. Your air conditioner’s evaporator coil is filled with refrigerant, and is responsible for absorbing the heat from the air like a sponge. It may sound counter-intuitive, but those coils need warm air circulating around them to work properly. When something goes wrong with the airflow and the evaporator coil gets too cold, a layer of ice can build up on the outside. When that happens, you’ll get warm air or none at all coming from your air conditioning supply registers.
3. Dirty condenser coils. Your unit’s condenser coils, part of the outdoor unit, gets rid of the heat removed from the air by expelling it outside the building. The condenser coil won’t work well when it gets covered with a layer of dirt and grime. This is a very common problem in NYC with all the soot and pollution in the air. When it happens, heat transfer is impeded, and your unit has to work harder to do its job, leading increased wear on the parts and even system failure.
4. Fan problems. There is a fan that blows indoor air over your unit’s evaporator coil to cool the air, and another that blows air over the outdoor unit’s condenser to expel the absorbed heat outside the building. If either of those fans isn’t working properly– due to a faulty motor, lack of lubrication, worn belts or too much dirt and debris– you end up with poor airflow and air conditioner problems. If you neglect the problem, it can lead to compressor failure, which is often a death sentence for your air conditioner.
5. Leaking ducts. The ductwork that runs through your walls and ceilings carries the cooled air from the air conditioner throughout your space. However, if there are holes or breaks in the ducts (which can be caused by rodents or careless workers), that expensive cooled air winds up inside your walls where it’s not doing anybody any good. And, of course, this scenario causes your air conditioner to work harder and drive up your energy bills.
6. Thermostat problems. Especially if you still have the old dial-type thermostats, they could be incorrectly calibrated, which means your air conditioner isn’t getting the right instructions from the control system. This problem is fairly easy to fix by replacing or recalibrating your thermostats. If you have new programmable thermostats, sometimes these are tricky to program and they may be set incorrectly. If you still have the manual, check the instructions to make sure your thermostat’s settings are correct.
7. Clogged drains. All the moisture that your air conditioner removes from the air has to go somewhere. It’s supposed to be removed from the space through a drain line, into a pan and finally down a drain. If the line or drain gets clogged or the pan gets full, the water can back up and damage your system. You can also wind up with water leaks that damage your walls, ceilings, and furnishings. If you don’t see it right away, you’ll eventually have mold growth.
1. Replace dirty air filters. Air flow problems that lead to coils freezing are often caused by clogged air filters.
2. Inspect ducts and repair any holes. If it seems like there’s not enough air coming from the registers, or your energy bills keep going up, have an HVAC expert take a look at the condition of your ducts.
3. Install a programmable thermostat and learn how to use it. Eliminate issues with older control systems by installing new thermostats, which are more precise and save energy. You can even get thermostats that can be controlled remotely using your smartphone or tablet.
4. Clear brush and debris from around the outdoor unit. When the condenser and outdoor fan unit get clogged with leaves, trash and dirt, the unit can’t expel heat as effectively.
5. Don’t neglect regular maintenance. Virtually all of the most common causes of air conditioner problems can be easily prevented with regular maintenance. Have an HVAC expert come in to inspect and tune up your system each spring before starting it up for the first time. It’s relatively inexpensive, and you’ll save yourself from having to make that emergency call when the AC stops working on the hottest day of the year.
Air conditioner maintenance contract tips
Did you know that you’ll get the best deal on air conditioner maintenance when you sign up for a yearly service contract?
All contracts are not created equal. Make sure you get one that’s designed for your needs and your equipment.
Keep shopping if you’re expected to sign a contract written in legalese that makes it impossible to understand what’s covered. Reputable service providers make sure you can understand what you’re signing.
Summer is just around the corner. Is your air conditioning system ready? Even if it was fine when you last used it, unexpected problems can happen when you start up your air conditioner for the first time this spring. That’s why an HVAC inspection is a must.
Here are just a few of the things that can happen when your cooling equipment sits unused all winter:
Indoor components collect dust and grime, and outdoor ones are exposed to the weather plus all kinds of outdoor air pollution.
Build up on the parts can lead to corrosion and even refrigerant leaks.
Excess moisture can cause mold and mildew to grow.
Electrical connections can become loose.
Pests can make holes or nests in your ducts.
Don’t wait until it happens to you on the first hot day of the year; get an HVAC inspection now to make sure everything is in good working order.
What exactly is an HVAC inspection?
An HVAC inspection involves testing the operation of your system and checking all its components.
The technician checks refrigerant levels, fan and compressor operation, electrical connections, and condition of all parts. The idea is to identify anything that’s not functioning as it should, and spot issues that could lead to a breakdown if not addressed.
An HVAC inspection is typically done as part of a preventative maintenance visit. An HVAC inspection might also be done to assess the condition of your equipment when you’re getting an estimate for a service agreement.
In addition to the inspection, a preventative maintenance visit includes carefully cleaning the system (especially the coils and drain lines that can become clogged with debris), changing filters, and tightening electrical connections if needed.
If the HVAC inspection reveals any worn or damaged parts, those parts are replaced to prevent breakdowns. If replacement parts and labor are not included in the preventative maintenance service contract, there will be an extra charge for that. However, those minor fixes are typically inexpensive and far less than the cost of the repair you would need later if you wait for a breakdown to happen.
HVAC inspection & HVAC maintenance: benefits for your business
Why spend the money on an HVAC inspection and preventative maintenance? It’s more than an insurance policy protecting you against something that may or may not happen. There are real benefits that you will get from keeping your equipment in peak operating condition.
Minimizing repair expenses.
As we mentioned above, the cost of replacing failing parts is much less than the cost of the repair you’ll need later if you neglect your system.
For example, you could replace a worn wire now (a very small expense) or replace your compressor (very expensive!) if it gets fried by an electrical short caused by the bad wire.
Or, clean the coils now (minor expense), or wait for corrosion to cause cracks and holes that leak refrigerant. Then you’ll need to replace the coils (much more expensive).
Preventing HVAC problems that hurt your business.
If you own a retail business, restaurant, or service business, poor comfort conditions can drive away customers and hurt your bottom line.
That happens when:
Your AC isn’t cooling well enough, or failing to remove humidity.
You have temperature inconsistencies: some areas are too hot while others are too cold.
You have a breakdown and no AC during a heat wave!
Taking care of your system with an HVAC inspection and maintenance can help identify and fix problems before they interfere with business operations and profits.
Reducing your electric bill.
When you take care of your HVAC system with regular inspections and maintenance, your equipment consistently works at peak efficiency. That means it runs less to achieve better cooling conditions. And, when it runs less it uses less electricity. Especially for a business with a larger system that’s used 24/7 in the warm weather, the cost savings can really add up.
Making your equipment last longer.
Commercial air conditioning equipment is designed to last 15 to 20 years under ideal conditions. However, if you neglect inspections and maintenance, that life span will be much shorter. Because of all the harsh conditions your HVAC equipment is subjected to (like the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this article), it needs regular cleaning and adjustments to keep it working well. Otherwise, chances are high that it will fail long before its time.
How to get the best price for an HVAC inspection and maintenance
When you get a commercial HVAC service agreement, you’ll get a specific number of regular HVAC maintenance visits for a year (the number of visits depends on your equipment and usage). The contract should spell out exactly what will be done at each visit, what is included in the price, and what’s not included. And, it should be written in clear language that you can understand!
It is definitely not cool when your air conditioning system has a meltdown during a heat wave. This cooling season, take steps to prevent air conditioner breakdowns.
For example, your AC not cooling well might be because your AC coils are clogged and you need air conditioner cleaning. Let’s take a look at how air conditioning coil cleaning can help you system work better.
What are air conditioning coils and why is air conditioner cleaning important?
There are two types of coils that are vital to the operation of your air conditioning system: evaporator and condenser coils. If either are not turning in peak performance, it could be the reason for your AC not cooling your space. That’s a signal that your system needs an air conditioning coil cleaning. Let’s look at the function of the evaporator and the condenser coils.
The evaporator coil absorbs heat and humidity from your space, and is part of the air handler unit (indoor air conditioning unit). The condenser coil (located in the outdoor unit) releases the excess heat from your home or building to the outdoors. The condenser coil is particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of weather, dirt, soot and other outside pollutants. The chance of dirty coils increases if you live in the city and your outdoor unit is at street level.
Here’s a fact that reveals how important clean coils are to the effective operation of your system. If 1/100th of an inch of dirt and grime accumulates on your air conditioner’s condenser coil, your system’s efficiency will decline by 5-percent. When efficiency declines, there is less cooling power and a higher electric bill!
Warning: Dust is the enemy of your air conditioner
Every home and business is afflicted by the tiniest of intruders–often difficult to capture as they blow through room to room – dust bunnies. Isn’t it hard to believe this nuisance can cause the downfall of our air condition systems? According to the University of Missouri Healthcare, the average U.S. home accumulates 40 pounds of dust annually.
Dust is one of your air conditioning system’s most formidable enemies. In addition to accumulating on coils, dust can clog your ducts which decreases your system’s effectiveness and causes air quality problems.
Can dirty coils hurt your air conditioning system’s reliability?
You might be wondering how coils could be the culprit behind your AC not cooling. Furthermore, you might be asking yourself, can air conditioning coil cleaning really make my system cool again? Here’s a simplified look at how your air conditioning coils work:
Cold refrigerant travels through the evaporator coil.
Your system’s blower transports warm air from inside your home across the evaporator coil.
The refrigerant in the evaporator coil absorbs the heat from the air.
The treated cool air is blown through ducts to your living space.
Next, the refrigerant makes its way to the outdoor condenser coil.
The condenser coil removes the heat from the refrigerant.
The outdoor condenser unit blows air over the coils and the heat is released.
This chain of events doesn’t work as well when your coils are dirty and you need an air conditioning coil cleaning. Here’s why:
When your air conditioning coils are caked in dirt and grime, there is an added layer between the air that’s blown over the coils and the refrigerant inside the coils that absorbs and releases heat. This extra layer acts like an insulator and makes heat transfer less effective. Poor heat transfer diminishes the efficiency of your cooling cycles and makes your unit run longer, hotter, and with more pressure to produce an adequate cooling level.
Sometimes, sulfur in soot can cause corrosion of the condenser’s tubes. Corrosion causes cracks and holes in the coils and eventually refrigerant leaks. Without enough refrigerant, your air conditioner can’t cool effectively.
What else can happen if you neglect air conditioning coil cleaning?
What you’re probably most concerned about is your comfort. When your air conditioner coils are dirty, your air conditioner won’t do a good job of keeping you comfortable.
When coils are covered in dirt, heat gets trapped inside the condenser coil. The evaporator coil will have difficulty absorbing the heat. The end result is your system will work longer and harder to cool your space. The system will struggle to reach the set temperature and remove humidity from the air. You will notice a drop in air quality and sticky air in your home. Remember, too much humidity can promote the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria.
Some other problems that can occur if you do not have regular air conditioning coil cleaning:
Impeded airflow throughout the system
Decreased refrigerant levels
Ice forming on evaporator coils
Higher utility bills
How to tell when it’s time for air conditioning coil cleaning
As a rule of thumb, HVAC experts recommend air conditioner cleaning at least once or twice annually. If you have a HVAC maintenance plan, the air conditioning coil cleaning should be included in your service contract. However, you might need to schedule coil cleaning more often. Let’s take a look at the reasons you might have to step up your air conditioning coil cleaning appointments:
Location. Location. Location. If your outside unit is located near the street, it will be exposed to vehicle exhaust. If it’s located near a restaurant or a manufacturing business, kitchen or industrial exhaust could be making your system dirty faster. At ground level, it will more likely be the victim of blowing debris, dirt and foliage. Also, pay attention to temporary circumstances that could produce more dust and dirt such as nearby construction.
It’s not as young as it used to be. Sometimes older equipment shows its age by the formation of corrosion on the coils. Corrosion is a magnet for more dirt and debris. Additionally, it’s smart to check older equipment more frequently to guard against refrigerant leaks.
It has no downtime. If your air conditioning is running 24/7, dirt and debris will collect on the coils more rapidly, so you may want to schedule an air conditioner cleaning more than twice annually.
Reap benefits through timely air conditioning coil cleaning
Did you know that the number one cause for the failure of an air conditioning system is a lack of preventative maintenance? If dirty coils can be the primary reason for a poorly performing system, doesn’t it make sense to schedule air conditioning coil cleaning on a regular basis? To get the most out of your system, have an HVAC professional routinely conduct an air conditioning coil cleaning. What’s at stake if you neglect regular air conditioning coil cleaning?
Clean coils will extend the life of your system because there is less wear and tear on the parts.
Your system will have fewer breakdowns with regular air conditioning coil cleaning, because your system will not have to work as hard to achieve the comfort levels you want.
Clean coils will help your wallet because energy bills will be lower. With clean coils, the system runs less which uses less electricity.
Regular air conditioning coil cleaning is a simple and inexpensive way to bolster reliability, save on repairs, maintain consistent comfort, and save on energy bills.
When your air conditioner was installed, chances are the installer mentioned the fact that your system needs maintenance at least every year (possibly more, depending on your usage). Or maybe they didn’t mention it, but you know that a regular AC tune up & maintenance visit keeps your system in good condition and prevents breakdowns.
There’s another reason not to put off regular AC maintenance. Keeping your equipment operating at peak efficiency also ensures that you get the energy savings you were promised when you purchased a new system with a better SEER rating.
So, if you’ve had your AC system for a year or more, it’s time to schedule your maintenance and AC tune up visit. But who should you call? Your AC installer might be your best option. However, it’s also possible that your installer could be a very poor choice to do your regular maintenance, even if they did a fine job on the install.
Keep reading to find out how to choose the right service provider for your AC maintenance.
Does your AC installer have the skills to do repairs and maintenance?
Here’s what’s important to know: not every air conditioning or HVAC company is qualified to maintain and service equipment. The fact is, air conditioning installation requires a different skill set and knowledge than repairing and caring for it.
For example, installers need to know how to:
Do carpentry work, especially when fitting equipment into tight spaces
Do plumbing to install pipes and drain lines
Weld and work with sheet metal for ductwork
Having skilled installers can make all the difference in how your air conditioning system performs. However, being an expert installer isn’t enough to be an expert on maintaining and fixing modern air conditioning equipment. Service technicians need to know much more, such as how to:
Diagnose and fix electrical problems
Work with complex electronics
Understand the refrigerant cycle and safely handle refrigerant chemicals
Gaining the level of skill needed to do repair and maintenance work takes years of training and daily field experience. Does your AC installer have that level of expertise?
When to find a new provider for your AC tune up
There are plenty of AC companies that specialize in installation and only do ongoing service business as an obligation to do warranty service on equipment they install. It’s also possible that your AC system might have been installed by a mechanical contractor hired by a builder.
If your installer is one of these, it’s smart to choose someone else for your AC tune up and ongoing service. These types of companies are not service experts, and often are not qualified to do maintenance or repairs.
If you rely on them for service, chances are you’ll be disappointed. Long waits for a response, followed by long waits for parts, and then problems that take multiple visits to correct are not uncommon.
When to stick with your installer for an AC tune up
Does your AC company have both a skilled installation team and a highly trained service team? In that case, it’s much more likely that you’ll get quality service from them.
First of all, they already know your system. Because they installed it, they understand exactly how it was done and why. That information can be helpful when performing a maintenance visit and AC tune up later. Plus, a qualified service team has the training and expertise to spot impending problems during a maintenance visit and correctly diagnose any repair issues.
Companies that do both installations and regular service want to keep you as a regular customer for the long term. That means they stand behind their work, both on the installation and service side. And, they tend to consider service when they do the installation, adding helpful features like access doors that cut down on the time needed to perform service (which also saves you money).
When you sign up with a service agreement with a quality service company, you’ll get the benefit their experience: a reliable system that performs well and lasts a long time.
There are many companies out there vying for your air conditioning service business, and choosing the right one it vital for your comfort and your wallet. Here are some related articles that can help you decide: