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Frequently asked questions

Frequently Asked Questions about HVAC

What do rating numbers mean?The U.S. government requires an efficiency rating of all air conditioning and heating equipment. The rating reflects the percentage of energy used efficiently, with a high rating indicating high-efficiency.

What is a SEER? There are special names for the efficiency rating of various types of equipment. Air conditioning equipment is rated by the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating or SEER. The higher the SEER rating is, the more efficient the unit will be.

How can I be sure my unit is the right size? Clearly, an air conditioning unit that is too small will not keep your home sufficiently cool. What many don't realize is that an oversized system will cycle (turn off and on) more than necessary, wasting expensive energy and possibly putting undue strain on the compressor. Comfort Engineers can determine the most favorable size for your home and/or business.

What does AFUE stand for? There are special names for the efficiency ratings of various types of equipment. Gas furnaces are rated according to their Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE. The higher the AFUE rating is, the more efficient the unit will be.

Can shrubs or flowers be planted around an outdoor unit? Yes. However, we recommend that plants be no closer than 19 inches to the unit. This allows for plenty of room for air circulation in and out of the unit. Without this room for air circulation, the unit could overheat resulting in a premature need for service.

What is the difference between a split system and a package unit? A split system uses indoor and outdoor components to provide a complete home comfort system (see illustration to the right). A package unit or self-contained unit requires no external coils, air handlers or heating units.

How often should I clean my furnace or heat pump filter? Comfort Engineers recommends monthly changing or cleaning of the filter in any heating and cooling system. This applies to electronic air cleaners too. Insufficient filter changes usually result in poor system performance, poor comfort, higher bills, more frequent repairs and premature system failure.

Certain rooms in my house never get comfortable. How can I fix that? If some of your rooms are comfortable and others are not, what you have is a ductwork problem. In many cases, ductwork can be easily modified to accommodate dampers, deflectors and other means of balancing uneven air flow.

What is the best temperature settings for my thermostat? At the lowest (winter) or highest (summer) temperature at which your family is truly comfortable. There is no magic number. The highest purpose of a home comfort system is comfort. If you heat with a heat pump not equipped with a "smart" thermostat, or a programmable thermostat, you should find a comfortable temperature setting and leave it there. With any system, it is easiest to balance comfort and economy with the help of a programmable thermostat.

What is NATE? North American Technician Excellence, Inc. (NATE) is the leading certification program for technicians in the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC/R) industry and is the only test supported by the entire industry. NATE represents professionalism, proficiency, and pride - qualities which lead to trust. When you need HVAC help, call a contractor who employs NATE-certified technicians. They are among the very best.


Tips to Lower Heating/Air Conditioning Bills

Perform an energy audit. Many utility companies offer a free home energy audit to customers and it's well worth taking advantage of this free service.

Install Ceiling Fans. Keep the air circulating in your home and your air conditioner won't have to work as hard.

Install an Attic Fan. It will pull cool air into your home and help remove hot air trapped in attics.

Schedule Yearly HVAC Maintenance. Increase the efficiency of your HVAC system by having it inspected and cleaned at least once a year.

Change Your Filters Regularly. Keep your HVAC system running at peak efficiency by changing the filter every thirty days.

Upgrade to Energy Star Appliances. If your appliances are 10 years or older, consider replacing them with new, Energy Star models, which use considerably less energy.

Get a Programmable Thermostat. Then, set it to run less when you're at work or sleeping. A few degrees can shed 5-10% from your heating bill.

Pile on the Blankets. An extra blanket on your bed in the winter months is often all it takes to push back the thermostat another couple of degrees.

Install a Tankless Hot Water Heater. The next time you need to replace your hot water heater, consider going with a tankless heater (also known as an on-demand hot water heater). They can cut your hot water energy cost by half.

Close the Fireplace Damper. Ensure the damper is closed when not is use. Hot air rises and is sucked out the chimney.

Ensure Returns are Free of Obstruction. Heating systems which are "forced-air" send hot air through the house via vents on the floor and draw back air through returns. Make sure all vents and returns are not obstructed and air can flow smoothly.

Take Advantage of the Sun for Heating: On sunny days, open blinds and drapes to allow sunlight to heat your home.

For Heating, Tap Heat that's There. When showering, keep bathroom doors open to allow steam and heat to circulate. Open the oven door after baking. Try to avoid using ventilation fans which remove warm air to the outside.

Check and Replace Weather stripping on Doors and Windows. Air leaks around faulty weather stripping not only make your home drafty, but they increase the costs of heating and cooling your home.


HVAC Jargon

Home heating and cooling systems are much easier to operate than ever before. They work better and need fewer repairs. The innovations that bring more comfort and convenience make system operations more complicated. For the average consumer, HVAC systems can be a challenge to understand. When replacing an old HVAC system, or shopping for a new one, it makes sense to inform yourself about industry jargon.

Annualized Fuel Utilization Efficiency: Commonly referred to as AFUE, it is a measure of heating efficiency. More efficient furnaces have a higher AFUE.

Air Handler: It is usually a furnace or blower coil and is responsible for moving heated or cooled air through ductwork.

British Thermal Unit: A BTU is a unit of energy. Look for high BTUs on HVAC systems that have a greater heating capacity.

Central Air Conditioner: Air is handled and distributed from a central location to rooms throughout a home or building.

Compressor: This device is located on your outdoor air-conditioning unit. Its function is to compress and pump cooling refrigerant.

Ductwork: Air is distributed from the furnace or blower coil via ductwork throughout your home.

ENERGY STAR: A trademarked label for HVAC products that meet strict guidelines by the Environmental Protection Agency for efficiency and performance.

Heat Exchanger: It transfers heat to air that is distributed throughout the home.

Humidifier: This device sends moisture into heated air as it leaves the furnace.

Humidistat: Maintains humidity levels at adjusted levels.

MERV Rating: A rating for air filters. MERV stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. Filters with smaller holes have higher MERV values and better efficiency.


Helpful Websites

DIY Zoning Project: Much to learn about design and construction of HVAC systems.

LifeTips: HVAC tips and explanations about equipment.

HVAC Talk: Message board discussing all aspects of HVAC.

Wikipedia: HVAC entry

Energy Star: The EPA's web site discussing Energy Star initiatives, products and news.

ASHRAE: American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers with a great Education section.

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KelTech HVAC Contractors INC. 

  Boston 617-553-0155  Needham 781-449-8185