The Ultimate Guide to Air Conditioning
Table of Contents
Beat the Summer Heat
We all want to feel comfortable in our own homes but on those lazy, hazy days of summer, the heat can make us feel downright miserable. And it’s not just the heat or humidity that bothers many of us, it’s the itchy or watery eyes, the sneezing and wheezing, and other allergy triggers. The answer to cleaner, more breathable air is a central Air Conditioning Unit.
So as someone buying an air conditioner for the very first time, what do you need to know? And where should you go to buy it? Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place.
1. Choosing the Right Air Conditioner
There are a number of Air Conditioning options but it’s important you choose the right one for you, your family and your lifestyle.
Window Air Conditioner
A window unit can be removed and taken with you if you relocate (great for renters) and the cost is relatively affordable. However, these units are low efficiency, provide inconsistent performance, are noisy and take up an entire window.
Portable Air Conditioner
A portable Air Conditioner unit may be moved from room to room (often with difficulty), can be noisy, inefficient and take up valuable floor space. You also need to keep an eye on condensation that can create moisture on floors.
Ducted Air Conditioner
A ducted Air Conditioning unit (also known as “central air conditioning”) is a permanent solution offering a controlled environment and improved air quality for your entire home. Up-front installation costs are higher, but a ducted Air Conditioner is more efficient and whisper quiet. Advanpro’s helpful guide to Air Conditioner buying can be viewed here.
2. How Central Air Conditioning Works
Whether you’re at home full-time or working remotely from a home office, it can feel like you’re inside an oven. It can be hard to focus when you’re sweltering because when the air is hot, your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. Don’t sweat it. You can ramp up your comfort and physical/ mental wellbeing with energy-efficient central Air Conditioning.
Air Conditioning or “A/C” circulates cool air throughout your home from a condenser unit installed outside on an insulated pad or a wall-mounted bracket. It uses the same network of ducts and vents as your furnace.
Simply set the thermostat and the A/C unit maintains pre-selected temperature conditions in your home for maximum comfort. This is done by drawing the warm air in your home back through your furnace, removing the heat and recirculating the cooled air back through the house.
3. Choosing the Right A/C Unit
So, you’ve decided it’s time for a central A/C unit. How do you choose one that will provide efficient cooling throughout your entire home? Here are a few factors to consider.
There are different sizes of air conditioners. The optimum size will be determined by the dimensions and configuration of your home. Air conditioners are sized according to “tons”. They don’t weigh a ton. It is simply a term of measurement. One ton of cooling can remove 12,000 BTU of hot air/hour – or cool approximately 700 sq ft in a modern home (above grade). So, if your home is 2,100 sq ft, you would likely require a 3-ton unit. When getting a quote, the comfort advisor can recommend the ideal size of A/C for your home when providing a quote in your home.
The up-front purchase with installation can start around $4,000 and be as much as $8,500. The average operating cost for utilities can be as little as $150 a year. It’s a small price for cool comfort.
Most A/C units will be covered by a limited warranty. Some installers give customers the option of extra protection. For example, Advanpro offers an outstanding 10-year parts and labour warranty on all A/C installations, with 24-hour emergency repair service, so you can breathe easier.
If you have an existing Air Conditioning unit that’s more than 10 years old, you may want to consider upgrading to a newer, more efficient unit that could save you up to 30% on your cooling bill. New A/C’s run on R410a refrigerant while older units may have R22, a very expensive refrigerant that is being phased out. Plus, the older a unit gets, it may be prone to costly repairs.
Where To Buy
You may be at a loss as to the best place to buy an A/C, or wonder what you should know before making your purchase. Luckily, we have the information you need.
- Warehouse, Big Box and Hardware Chains
Look through any warehouse store and you’ll find a decent choice of A/C’s. Sellers of A/C units have a reputation to protect so they are careful to use only reputable installers. The retailer will handle scheduling, appointments and warranty issues and be your contact through the installation process.
- Brand Certified A/C Installers
In recent years, we’ve become acutely aware of the importance of supporting local businesses. This hard-working independent workforce will handle all aspects of quoting, scheduling and installation.
- Full-Service Providers
Companies like Advanpro can provide services that include air conditioner maintenance, duct and furnace cleaning as well as furnace and plumbing services. Most full-service providers employ several installation teams who can provide timely service even during the busy peak season. It’s also worthwhile considering having your ducts cleaned to ensure your new A/C unit doesn’t blow allergens and dust into your home. A convenient maintenance program can keep your unit running trouble-free for years to come.
- Independent Owner/Operators
These small businesses usually consist of an owner/operator with a limited staff. In busier times the demand on limited staff can have a serious impact on the schedule.
4. Finding the Right Installation Company
We want you to have the best information to make the most informed decision on the right company to install your central Air Conditioning. To help you decide, here are five helpful hints on how to find a premier A/C installer in Calgary:
- Quotes: Get 2 or 3 quotes and arrange to have installers visit your home to provide a more accurate price. A home visit may determine unforeseen issues that could affect an estimate. Advanpro also offers a contactless quote where you can answer a few questions about your home. Within 24 hours, we’ll provide you with a binding, price-guaranteed quote for three A/C models that match your needs.
- Research: Research reputable brands such as Lennox and Trane, who are the market leaders. Those ‘bargain’ brands may have an appealing initial cost, but you may be sacrificing quality and durability. If you receive a low quote that looks too good to be true, it probably is.
- Timing: Ask about the company’s installation schedule so you’re not getting hot under the collar as temperatures climb. In the middle of a heatwave, A/C units are in high demand.
- Financing: A typical outlay will be $4,000 to $8,500 so you may wish to consider a financing option. When getting quotes ask if the company offers a payment plan and compare rates they may offer. Some full-service installers (including Advanpro) offer NO payments and NO interest for 6 months followed by an amortized loan over 10 – 15 years.
If you have the funds to pay off your air conditioner sooner, some installers (like Advanpro) offer 0% financing for 12, 24, or 36 months. Financing can allow you to upgrade to a higher quality unit (or one with additional options and features) with affordable monthly payments.
- Reviews: Check customer reviews before deciding on an installer (including big box stores). It’s a good idea to scroll through rating services such as Google Reviews or HomeStars.
Calculating energy usage is a mathematical equation based on the capacity of the A/C unit, SEER ratings (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio/Rating), cost of electricity per kilowatt hour and the number of cooling degree days per year. Based on this calculation, you can expect to pay from $150 – $200 in energy costs annually (for an average home).
It’s worth remembering that Energy Star qualified A/C’s use up to 20% less energy, and that’s money in your pocket.
The installation process includes work done inside and outside your home. Inside, the installer will attach an evaporator coil to your furnace that absorbs the heat from the air in your home. Outside, a compressor will be installed. It can either sit on a concrete pad or on a bracket that is mounted on your home. Lines from the compressor will pass through the outside wall of your home.
The comfort advisor will explain the entire installation process so you can decide what’s right for your situation when on-site to complete the A/C quote. He or she will also review how to maintain and operate your new system.
Advanpro’s professional technicians ensure every step is performed to our high standards and a full clean-up is done on completion. Remember, we’re always available to answer questions or address any concerns you may have.
- Slim compressor units are specifically designed for condos, townhomes, in-fills and side-by-sides where limited space is available.
- Depending on your needs, you can choose a single-stage or a two-stage air conditioner. A single-stage is either 100% on or 100% off, while a two-stage model allows for a lower setting for steady, more energy-efficient cooling (ideal for milder summer days).
- TXV is a thermostatic expansion valve and opting for TX Valves in larger homes with zoned areas can maximize performance while saving energy and money.
- An evaporator coil is attached above your furnace. You can choose to go with an un-cased coil or a cased coil. A cased coil mates with your furnace for a neater appearance, and guarantees maximum airflow.
- Advanpro provides a useful Air Conditioner Buying Guide that you may find helpful when considering different installation options.
5. Maintaining Your Air Conditioner
Regular checkups and maintenance are essential to protecting your investment — and far less costly than repairing or replacing a poorly-maintained air conditioner. With regular service, a good quality air conditioner should perform problem-free for more than 10 years.
Here are several things you can do to keep your air conditioner running smoothly and reduce the likelihood of a breakdown — do these every Spring before you start using A/C and regularly during the Summer when it’s in use every day:
Change your furnace filter regularly
Check your furnace filter every 3 months to ensure it is clean and unobstructed and replace it when needed to ensure your air conditioner can run at maximum efficiency.
Your air conditioner distributes cool air through your furnace ducts, which draws air through the furnace filter. If the filter is dirty, the air conditioner has to work harder to cool your home. This causes unnecessary electricity use and excess strain on the air conditioner. Filters with a lower microparticle performance rating (as opposed to a thicker, premium filter) allow more airflow and are also easier on your furnace blower motor.
Check condensate drains for blockages regularly and keep them clear
When your A/C is running the cooling coil attached to your furnace produces condensation, which is removed through a floor drain. If the drain pipes are kinked, dented, or the drain is blocked, condensation can build up and cause damage to your furnace or A/C. Check these every time you check your furnace filter, and regularly when your A/C is running in the Summer.
Outside your home: regularly check around the A/C unit to ensure it’s free of leaves and debris
Regularly check around the A/C unit outside of your home and remove any leaves or other debris that have collected around it or in the shroud or coil. Never stick your fingers or any objects inside the A/C unit — remove debris by spraying it with a garden hose.
Watch for problems and performance issues
If you experience any of the following issues, call us to schedule an A/C service call so our professional technicians can diagnose the issue:
- unusual noises while the A/C unit is running
- uneven cooling throughout your home
- not maintaining your set indoor temperature
- A/C unit is running constantly
- sudden rise in electricity use
Schedule regular A/C tune ups
A regular A/C tune up keeps your air conditioner functioning at maximum efficiency. Some manufacturers require a professional inspection and tune up every two years for warranty validity.
An air conditioning tune up by Advanpro includes the following checks and adjustments:
- Inspect evaporator coil
- Inspect condenser coil
- Clean condenser coil
- Check super heat & sub cool refrigerant temperature
- Check amp draw of A/C compressor
- Check amp draw of A/C condenser fan
- Check contactor for wear
- Check temperature drop across evaporator coil
- Adjust evaporator fan speed as needed for property temperature drop
- Level A/C condenser as needed
- Check and clear A/C condenser of air flow obstructions
Spring is the ideal time to schedule a tune up to ensure your A/C unit is ready for Summer. We also offer ongoing maintenance plans that allow you to spread out payments for regular A/C service.
If you have issues with your A/C, there are some basic things you can check yourself:
- Ensure thermostat is set to “cool” or “auto”
- Check thermostat batteries
- Check that a circuit hasn’t been flipped in your electrical panel
- Check that the filter is clean
If it is not one of these issues, we do recommend you obtain a full diagnosis and repair by a certified technician (see below).
When to Call Us
Unsure when you should call a professional for A/C problems? To lengthen the lifespan of your A/C unit we suggest our technicians are contacted to diagnose the following problems:
- A/C unit doesn’t turn on (and you’ve tried the checklist)
- A/C unit circulating warm air from vents
- Ice is forming on or around the A/C coil
- A/C unit turns on and off repeatedly
- A/C unit is running constantly
- A/C unit is making noise or strange noises
- A/C unit is leaking fluid
- Sudden rise in electricity costs
- Low vent airflow
- Thermostat is faulty
How Much do A/C Repairs Cost?
On average the cost of A/C repairs will range between $250 and $2,000+, so regular maintenance is key. The most expensive part of any A/C unit is the condenser compressor. Before any work is done, be sure to get the technician to provide a quote for your approval.
Replacement of Aging A/C’s
If your A/C is has been in use for many years, it might be time to upgrade to a more efficient unit that can save energy and money. If your A/C has unknown leaks and is over 10 years old, a replacement A/C could be your best option. Older models use R22 refrigerant, which is expensive and may not be available for much longer. These are important facts you must weigh when considering repair or replacement.
How to Detect Leaks
Someday your A/C unit may develop a leak. If and when this occurs, you could lose expensive refrigerant and may even cause damage to your compressor. There are simple and cost-effective ways to tell if your unit has sprung a leak.
Dye Kits are ultraviolet dyes that are injected into the system and will cause any leaks to fluoresce. Leaks are clearly visible by using a black light. While a dye kit can help detect a tiny leak, some may contain chemicals that could void the warranty of your A/C unit.
If the dye kit reveals a small leak, products are available that will find the leak and plug it. Leak Stop Kits contain a chemical liquid in a canister or syringe that is injected into the refrigerant. Even though these can be a quick fix, you will still require sophisticated equipment and gauges plus the system will need to be recharged with refrigerant.
And as always, if you are in any doubt, call a professional.
Calgary trusts Advanpro.
Advanpro has been serving Calgarians since 2007. We have earned a reputation for responsive, professional service and excellence in all that we do.
Today, we offer a full array of furnace maintenance, repair, and replacement services – as well as Calgary’s leading duct and vent cleaning service.