HVAC Frequently Asked Questions
Understanding HVAC systems can be confusing. Browse through our most frequently asked questions here at Vogel Heating & Cooling regarding air conditioners, furnaces, and indoor air quality. Should you still have questions or concerns, contact us at (314) 351-2533.
- Why is my two story home always hot on the 2nd floor in the summer?
Your Two Story Home and Comfort
Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratings (SEER) is an industry standard form of comparing an air conditioner's ability to convert electrical energy into cooling for your home. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the equipment is. Furthermore, SEER is an industry standard, and it can be compared between competitors. Due to new government regulations, the minimum SEER rated condenser allowed to be produced for consumption in residential applications in the USA is 13 SEER. This was revised up from 10 SEER and has had great reaching effects in the industry. Carrier Corporation has taken the lead in air conditioner design to meet the new government requirements and wiped the slate clean by redesigning their entire air conditioner line in 2006. Once again, this allowed Carrier to lead the industry in several ways.
To achieve greater efficiency, all manufacturers, including Carrier, have had to increase the size of their air conditioning units. Concerned about taking up too much space in your yard, Carrier Corporation has utilized and patented all new 7mm rifled micro tubing in their Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps. This smaller tubing results in equipment with greater or equal efficiency and simultaneously smaller equipment than the competition, leaving more of your yard to you. Carrier has the most complete line of residential air conditioner and heat pump units with air cooled units ranging from the Comfort 13 SEER through the Performance 17 SEER unit through to the Infinity 21 SEER unit currently the highest rating in the market.
- My home has an addition. Why is it never the same temperature as the rest of my home?
An Addition on Your Home Giving You Comfort Trouble?
An addition built onto an existing home that will not maintain the temperature is not unusual. Often times the existing HVAC system of the home is not upgraded for the additional load of the addition even though the existing system is still taxed with this new load. Sometimes the existing HVAC system has enough capacity to absorb this additional load, sometimes not. In any case, a correct solution requires verifying the load of the existing home and the new addition to ensure the existing HVAC system has enough capacity. In cases where it has adequate capacity, running an additional heat run, correcting a return air issue, increasing an existing trunk duct, run out, or duct booster fan can be solutions worth considering. In cases where there is not enough capacity in the existing system, increasing the capacity of the existing system can be a worthwhile consideration if the existing equipment is old enough or out dated enough to merit replacement. Other short load solutions can include a separate system or something as simple as a supplemental through the wall unit to close the load gap. We would love an opportunity to help resolve this issue for you.
- Why won't my AC or furnace cool or heat my home the way I want it to?
If your existing system cannot keep up with the needs of your home, the first question to ask is: Has it ever kept up in the past during the same conditions? If the answer is yes, the solution could range from something as simple as cleaning your furnace or air conditioner or adjusting the refrigerant charge. Of course there could be a more serious issue, but if you are not interested in considering replacing the system, now is the time to schedule a service call and have a skilled technician take a look at your system because it is in need of some sort of repair.
- My registers produce excessive air and noise that disturbs me. Why is that?
If your existing registers produce excessive air noise, the issue can be related to the design of your duct system. The duct could be under sized, not have an adequate number of runs, or your system may be too large for your home. Don’t forget, that every system is different, and it is not unusual to hear some air noise when a system is running. Many clients who come from homes with radiant heat find any noise created by their Home Comfort System objectionable. Carrier is on the same page and has a complete line of variable speed furnaces which keeps air flow down to the minimum required, coming very close to the quiet offered by a radiant heat system.
Since the question of noise is so subjective, the question sometimes becomes, "what is normal?" Please call for a FREE home comfort consultation if you would like a professional opinion. Unfortunately, there is not a typical cause to this problem because there are too many variables to consider. Fortunately, if you do indeed have a loud system, our Home Comfort Specialist will have solutions to offer to quiet down your home.
- My family experiences more colds during the winter than I would like. What causes this?
Don't forget the importance of the basics to the spread of cold and flu germs.
Hand washing is critical, and along with good hygiene practices, keeping your home and linens clean and sanitized is the first most important step to a healthy home.
Along with these steps there are other factors affecting the health of your home. Sometimes a family that experiences more colds than normal can be a result of them being a part of a higher risk group, such as having a family member who works at a doctor’s office. Sometimes, it could just be a run of bad luck that has exposed them to these risk factors. Every time, a properly designed Indoor Air Quality system can have a positive influence on the recovery and resistance to these factors.
In most family’s lives, a majority of the winter months in St. Louis are spent indoors. Most homes Home Comfort systems do not include any means of introducing fresh air into the home, which means the indoor air is typically the same air through out the home for the entire winter! This is a frightening consideration especially in newer homes because new homes are typically built to much more air tight standards than older homes. This means a cold or flu bug in the house has a nice warm place to hold up for the winter and continue to spread.
The single factor having the most influence on the common cold, however, is the humidity level in your home. In the winter, the air in St. Louis is quite dry. Unless you add humidity to your home, the relative small humidity in your home will no doubt drop into the 15% range or less. This very dry air dries up your nasal passages, especially while you sleep, and makes you and your family more susceptible to the common cold. Ever notice how much better your sinuses feel after a warm shower? Humidity at work my friend!
The next factor affecting the Indoor Air Quality of your home is filtration. Most media style filters have no means of capturing germs and even fewer still can capture and kill those germs. Carrier has addressed both of these concerns with their new Infinity Air Purifier.
Similarly, during the summer months your indoor evaporator coil is a cool, moist place that is the perfect breeding ground for mold and fungus. This mold can affect the health of your family but is easily eliminated with the use of UV lights. Not only do the UV lights kill the mold and fungus, but through the same process, they keep your coil cleaner and more efficient.
Introducing freshly ventilated air into your home through your Home Comfort System is completely feasible, but the main concern when doing this becomes conditioning the warm or cold outside air brought into your system. Carrier's Energy Recovery Ventilator brings clean air into your home through a heat exchanger while exhausting unwanted air through the same system. During the process, the unit exchanges the heat from the air, warming or cooling (whichever your home needs) the incoming air to a point very near your indoor air, thus ventilating while not overtaxing your Home Comfort System.
- My house is dry and I get static shocked frequently. What can I do to fix this?
Static Super Charged Home
If it is common for you home to produce a lot of static electricity, this is a sign that the air in your home is dry. If you have a forced air heating system, you can simply add a humidifier to your home. The price will range between $400 to $800 installed.
- My house has excessive dust and I think I need a better filter system. What are my options?
Excessive dust in the home can be caused by something as simple as pets to a dusty hobby like wood working to having a very active home to wall to wall carpeting, which on its own creates a lot of dust. The solution can be different for each family depending on your existing system installation, your budget, and the individual health needs of your family. If you have forced air heating and cooling in your home, it is safe to say that in every case, the situation can be improved with improved filtration of the air spread through out your home by your central air system.
- My utility bills for gas or electric seem high compared to my neighbor. What can I do to help lower my bills?
Hate Wasting Money on Utility Charges?
You are wise to compare your utility bills with your neighbor. In many instances your neighbor’s home will be similar to yours, and a substantial difference can illustrate an opportunity to save substantial money on your utility bills. In some instances, this might be a great illustration of how lowering your thermostat in the winter a couple of degrees or raising your thermostat setting in the summer a couple of degrees can net big savings on your utility bills. It could also be an illustration of a difference in insulation in the home. In some cases, if your neighbor has upgraded their Home Comfort System, it could be a real life illustration of the savings you are missing with your old system.
When we built our first home, gas was not available in the new subdivision where we built, so all homes had to utilize electric for heat. Most of my neighbors' homes utilized simple electric heaters in their fan coil units to heat their homes. This style of system has a very cheap up front install cost but is more expensive to operate. Being in the industry, my father recommended that we install a 12 SEER Carrier heat pump. In 1990, this was a step up from the base option and all we could afford at the time. When I compared utility bills with my neighbors, the difference was breath taking. These homes were about 1200 sft, and in a cold January on average, my neighbors' electric bills ran in the $400 range. My electric bill was about $200 during the same month.
That’s not the end of the story, however, because my wife liked to keep our home very warm, so we kept our thermostat at a balmy 75 degrees. My neighbors, on the other hand, concerned about their utility bills kept their home in the upper 60’s and wore sweaters all winter. They spent double the money but had less comfort than us. I sure was glad Dad forced me to spend the extra money on the heat pump unit. Given the difference in utility bills, the additional money we spent on upgrading to the heat pump system was paid back to us through utility savings in approximately 3 years. A real life example of the possible savings we try to inform our customers are possible every day we come to work at Vogel, backed up by a simple comparison of utility bills.
Don’t forget the basics: moderate thermostat settings, good insulation in your attic and walls, and air tight windows and doors. Once you have addressed these important elements to conserving energy, regardless of the age of your existing Home Comfort System you could be missing out on substantial utility cost savings. For an interactive illustration of the potential savings available, click on this free third party utility cost comparator.
- My house is supposed to have a chimney liner because of a code. Is that true?
Before you read any further: If your home currently utilizes a metal flue in lieu of a masonry flue or a pvc flue to exhaust spent gas fumes from your furnace, you are not affected by this code issue, and the requirement of a flue liner does not affect you! If, however, your home utilizes a masonry chimney to exhaust furnace fumes and you want to know more about flue liner requirements, please read on…
Unless curiosity alone brought you to ask this question, it often comes to light when a home is sold and an inspection is performed for the buyer or when Laclede gas turns on a gas service. Home inspectors are trained to make sure no potential exists for condensation to form inside of an existing masonry chimney, and a flue liner is the typical method employed to ensure this does not happen. In almost all cases, a flue liner is mandated by code for the installation of a new 80% furnace where the installation intends to utilize the existing masonry flue. This is something we address on every new furnace installation, but we cannot speak for our competitors in the market - Sometimes, in an effort to undersell a project, this important step is skipped, resulting in flue deterioration or worse problems.
Fortunately, St. Louis City and County are aware of the issue and mandate the installation of a flue liner in these instances. In addition, Laclede Gas mandates all flue systems conform to a 7 times rule and now strictly enforce as a safety precaution to prevent flue deterioration and eventual carbon monoxide back ups into the home. Upon inspection or when switching on gas service, Laclede will inspect and tag all systems that do not conform to these important rules.
- My existing AC uses Freon and I heard it is going to be taken off the market. Is that true?
Freon is really just a generic phrase for refrigerant in your Home Comfort System. R-22 (refrigerant-22) is the typical refrigerant utilized in air conditioning systems in homes and most light commercial applications for the past 50 years. The problem with R-22 and similar refrigerants is that they are chlorine-based, and when released into the atmosphere, they destroy important elements of our atmosphere and contribute to global warming. This has been known for more than 20 years, and about 18 years ago, the federal government mandated that companies and individuals who service air conditioning systems capture all refrigerants removed from systems being serviced, while at the same time setting a mandate for the refrigeration industry to find alternatives to chlorine-based refrigerants.
As many times is the case, Carrier was the first in the industry to react and began to look into alternatives to R-22. In 1996, Carrier was the first manufacturer to develop indoor cooling products with an alternative refrigerant. The product Carrier developed is R-410a, a refrigerant proven to be safe to the environment, and through Carrier’s development, they were able to provide improved efficiency over R-22. Carrier’s brand name for this chlorine free compound is Puron.
It is no small thing that Carrier is a leader in the development of Puron. No change this significant is without complications, and through development, Carrier has evolved its Puron based systems into the most efficient and most reliable systems on the market. What about R-22? In 2010, the federal government mandated that all manufacturers of indoor cooling products cease the production of systems containing R-22 with the complete elimination of R-22 production at that same time. In the case of R-22, prices will climb substantially for the product when repairs are required, and it will still have the same negative effect on the environment.
- I am concerned about my family’s carbon foot print. What can I do to make a difference?
Your Family's Carbon Footprint
Households are responsible for about one-fifth of the total energy consumed in the United States by including all sources, residential, commercial and industrial. The majority (42%) of this energy is consumed by the heating and air conditioning system in your home.
A two degree adjustment to your thermostat (lower in the winter, higher in the summer) can result in a 4% decrease in the energy consumed by your HVAC system. Properly utilized programmable controls or Infinity™ controls can make a big difference here without having to sacrifice comfort.
The replacement of an old air conditioner with a new base model air conditioner can increase your air conditioner's efficiency by 30% or more.
Gas furnace replacement is not as dramatic, and replacement of an 80% furnace to a 90% furnace will decrease your gas energy use by about 11%. Nothing to scoff at but not as dramatic as the affect a more efficient air conditioner can have on your household energy consumption.
Don’t forget: Maintenance of your system, even if it is the most efficient on the market, is critical to maintain peak operating efficiency.
Also, regardless of the efficiency of your HVAC system, if your home is not properly insulated and draft protected, you are consuming more energy as you send your conditioned air literally right out the door in many cases. Any comprehensive home energy conservation includes efficient operation of your home appliances, as well as the conservation of consumed energy wherever possible.
In case you were curious, home lighting and electronics are the next item in line with regard to household energy consumption (they weigh in at 36% of household energy consumption). More efficient lights, not leaving the TV on, and turning off lights when a room is not in use can make a giant contribution to reducing your carbon footprint without any reduction in quality of life.
Are you still curious about the #1 item affecting your family’s carbon footprint? You will most likely not be surprised to hear that the #1 energy consumer for most families is the family car. We can’t help you with #1, but through Carrier, we can offer a Hybrid Heat alternative for your home. Carrier is acutely aware of the environmental issues facing our planet. Carrier’s Hybrid Heat system combines the best of electric and gas, and lower consumption of natural resources goes a long way toward cleaning up the environment.
- I don’t have the money to pay for a new system today. What are my finance options?
How Do I Pay for all This Comfort?
There is no question that since 2006 with the federally mandated increase of minimum SEER ratings on residential air conditioners to 13 SEER, the mandate to eliminate R-22 refrigerant from use in these systems, and recent developments in Indoor Air Quality and its effects on human health and comfort, prices for new Home Comfort Systems are higher than ever.
It is not uncommon for the replacement of a new top end Home Comfort System to approach $10,000, which is almost double that of the top systems available only 10 years ago. Frankly, technology has advanced so quickly in the last 10 years, there is no comparison between a top of line system 10 years ago and a top of the line system today. In terms of comfort, reliability and operating cost, the new systems are light years ahead of older systems, and we would welcome the opportunity to show you how and why.
Even with the case made to justify the cost of a new system, the consumer still has to answer the question: How can I afford to finance this new system? Being in the industry, we are acutely aware of the importance of this question, and constantly strive to provide real answers. In an effort to help the consumer answer this question, we have several financing options available with approved credit. Click here to learn more.
As a side note, it is not uncommon to invest $10,000 or more in a home entertainment system now days. If you can afford it, I would be the first to say go for it! I just love watching the latest hit movies in the comfort of my home. On the other hand, what could be more important than your family’s health and comfort while they are enjoying the latest movie or big game at home? With all of the options available today in Indoor Air Quality, home health options are more complete and compelling than ever.
Video Instruction Series