Operation

  • Air Conditioner Sounds

    Air Conditioner sounds

    You may have heard that silence is golden! However, something is comforting about the soft hum of an air conditioner in the warm summer months. But, if you have recently upgraded your air conditioner and are enjoying the benefits of quieter HVAC system operation, you may notice some new sounds that weren’t so obvious before — especially the sound of your neighbor’s air conditioner!

    Even a whisper can seem loud when you are in a library! If your new energy efficient air conditioning system operates at a sound level that is lower than your previous heating and cooling system, you may be more aware of surrounding sounds! The noise of your old unit may have covered up the sounds from your neighbors HVAC system making it seem like the neighbor’s unit got louder!

     

    The Various Sounds of Indoor Comfort

     

    When an air conditioning system turns ON, it creates sound. If the thermostat or control system detects that your home needs to cool down, a single-stage air conditioning system will turn on at full power. A single-stage system moves the conditioned air at one consistent speed. When the thermostat or control system reaches the set temperature, the whole system shuts down as quickly as it started.

    A two-stage air conditioning system is designed to operate lower and higher speed options, minimizing the effect of full ON  or  OFF cycling compared to single speed units. Two-speed and variable speed systems do tend to run longer because they were engineered to maintain consistent indoor comfort at the lower speed. This may also reduce the ON/OFF noise when compared to a single stage unit because it cycles less often.

    A variable speed unit can adjust output levels at various speeds depending on the thermostat or control system settings. These systems tend to run for more extended periods but at a lower capacity to maintain indoor comfort.

     

    Listen Up!

     

    An air conditioner’s sporadic  ON/OFF cycle may catch your attention when you are outside. But, if an air conditioner’s soft hum amplifies into something else, you may want to take notice.

    Air conditioning components are designed and engineered to contribute to the efficient transfer of heat and movement of cool, conditioned air. As a result, there are lots of sound-producing moving parts! Yet, when a component’s intended function is compromised, an air conditioner’s hum may turn into a buzzing roar, clatter or squeal.  If you discover a significant change in sounds, it may be a signal to contact a licensed professional HVAC dealer for an inspection.

    In an air conditioner, a rattling sound may indicate that the fan blade may need an adjustment or be cleaned of debris. Changes in the particular sound coming from an air conditioner may indicate:

    • Loose parts, bearings or motor components
    • Dirt or debris is interfering with proper operation
    • A specific part is out of balance
    • Bearings need lubrication
    • Piping to the inside is rubbing against an object
    • Coils need to be cleaned
    • Air filter needs to be changed
    • An issue with the compressor

     

    Get into a Maintenance Rhythm

     

    Communicating new sounds to a licensed professional HVAC contractor may help them determine a probable cause and a potential fix. Regular maintenance may ward off some noise-inducing malfunctions, potentially reducing the cooling emergencies and helping extend the life of your system. While each contractor has their own air conditioning maintenance process, professional maintenance services may include the inspection of sound producing elements, as well as:

    • Check for adequate air flow
    • Inspect refrigerant lines
    • Clear drain lines and pans
    • Inspect exterior fan and lubricate moving parts
    • Check and tighten any loose electrical connections
    • Inspect system controls
    • Replace parts that are showing wear and tear

     

    What’s that Sound?

     

    An air condition system is intentionally sized and installed to move a specific amount of air. When unusual sounds come from the room vents, it may indicate a pressure imbalance between the air drawn into the system and cooled, conditioned air flowing into the indoor spaces.

    If the air filter or supply vents are blocked, there is an issue with the intake ductwork, or if too many registers are closed off, the pressure and the speed of the air may change, possibly increasing the sound level.  If unusual noises are coming from the vents where the conditioned air is blown into a room, ductwork should be inspected by a licensed professional HVAC dealer. Debris in the ductwork or loose or ill-fitting ducts may echo sounds through the vents into living spaces.

    A professional or licensed HVAC dealer should inspect the air conditioning system to determine if proper air flow is being compromised.  

     Amana brand Indoor Comfort
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  • Air Filters and MERV Ratings

    Air Filters and MERV

    When was the last time you changed the air filter in your heating and cooling system? You may have noticed that, over time, it becomes coated with “stuff.”  Your air filters may reveal a dirty little secret - the air you breathe may not be as fresh as you think!

     

    Dirt, Dust and Indoor Particulates

     

    Air filters are an essential part of the heating and cooling system intake ducting. Its designed to capture “particulates” before they get to your heating and cooling system. According to the EPA1, a basic air filter with a low Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (commonly known as MERV) may capture some of your home’s airborne particulates including, but not limited to:

    • Dust
    • Pollen
    • Animal dander 
    • Larger particles that contain dust mite and cockroach allergens

    Air filters are intended to minimize the debris landing on fan motors and heating or cooling coils. Routinely replacing the air filter as directed by the manufacturer’s guidelines can protect your HVAC equipment and may help your HVAC system from losing efficiency over time. A clogged air filter can increase your air conditioner's energy consumption by up to 15%.2

     

    What is a MERV Rating?

     

    MERV  is short for ‘Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value’, and is number value that distinguishes the filtration ability of air filters installed in your HVAC system.3 The MERV numbering system may range from 1 to 20.  The higher the MERV number, the fewer particles and airborne contaminants that the filter should allow to pass to your HVAC equipment.

    Residential furnaces and air conditioners commonly use 1 to 4 MERV rated filters. The EPA says that basic mechanical air filters may not remove all particulates from the air.4 However, these filters may stop some of the larger particles from passing through to the HVAC equipment.

    If the MERV rating if higher, there is a better chance of trapping “bacteria, some spores, a significant fraction of cat and dog allergens, and a small portion of dust mite allergens.”5 The EPA suggests that filters with a higher MERV rating between 7 and 13 can be as nearly as effective as true HEPA filters. 

    However, some residential HVAC systems may not have enough fan or motor capacity to accommodate higher efficiency filters. Therefore, talk with your technician about your HVAC manufacturer’s recommended filter type before upgrading to higher MERV filters. Installing true HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filters in an existing residential HVAC system typically requires professional modification of the system.

    If you are concerned about indoor pollutants and air quality, discuss possible solutions and products with your licensed or professional HVAC dealer.

    Make home comfortable with Amana

    1, 2 Guide to Indoor Air Cleaners in the Home. (2014, July). Retrieved from EPA: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-07/documents/aircleaners.pdf
    3 What Are MERV Ratings and How Do They Work? (n.d.). Retrieved from Air Purifier Guide: http://www.airpurifierguide.org/faq/merv-ratings
    4 Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). (n.d.). Retrieved from EPA: https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/residential-air-cleaners-second-edition-summary-available-information#summary
    5 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. (n.d.). Retrieved from Energy.gov: http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner

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  • What Impacts Air Conditioner Efficiency and Performance?

    Impacts on AC efficiency

    Have you ever noticed that an estimated miles-per-gallon (MPG) on a car has two estimates – a city MPG and a highway MPG. Why? It may be because a vehicle’s actual fuel economy can vary depending on driving conditions and operational factors. 

    The same goes for your air conditioner’s Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) stated on the system components. If the installation or usage varies from the standard testing conditions1, the performance and efficiency of an air conditioner may be impacted.

     

    The Split System Match Game

     

    Similar to an automobile’s standardized MPG testing, an air conditioner’s efficiency is tested within set laboratory conditions with properly matched system components. Manufacturers identify a unit’s SEER value through standardized testing and algorithms prescribed by the Department of Energy.2 The separate elements of your split cooling system must be compatible and in proper working condition to function at the certified SEER level in your home.

    According to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), “Improperly matched indoor and outdoor units can create undue stress on a cooling system, dramatically reducing efficiency.”3 AHRI suggests that mismatched systems are at least 30 percent less efficient than matched systems.”4

    The AHRI’s free Directory of Certified Product Performance provides public information regarding certified reference numbers, SEER ratings, and compatible equipment. A licensed professional HVAC contractor can provide you with a Certified Reference Number or a Certificate of Certified Product Performance to verify a matching system and its SEER rating. If you are considering replacing just the outdoor portion of your cooling system, often referred to as the condenser, be sure to discuss compatibility and efficiency rating with your HVAC contractor.

     

    Energy Costs and Efficiency Ratings

     

    Even if your HVAC components are compatible, a high-efficiency air conditioner is just one aspect to efficient operation. Standards dictate that higher SEER air conditioning units be more energy-efficient than lower SEER units. Yet, when your cooling system is not being maintained as recommended or simple home energy-efficient solutions are ignored, your energy bills may still be higher than you would like.

    To keep your central cooling system at peak performance, a licensed professional HVAC dealer should perform routine maintenance services. During an inspection, your dealer may identify any airflow problems, system leaks, coil issues or potential concerns that could impact your system from operating at peak performance. 

    Professional HVAC maintenance services may include the following actions to keep your cooling system at peak performance:

    • Checking for adequate air flow
    • Looking over outdoor condenser coil  and indoor evaporator coils
    • Checking outside and inside refrigerant lines and inspect for leaks
    • Inspecting indoor drain lines and pans
    • Checking external and internal electrical connections
    • Checking operation of indoor blower components
    • Lubricating internal and external motors, bearings and other moving parts
    • Inspecting Exterior Fan

     

    Homeowners should also keep in mind additional conditions that may impact energy costs. These factors can influence the ability of your cooling system to perform at its designed efficiency level. Some conditions include, but are not limited to:

    • Improper system installation
    • Thermostat or control system location or settings
    • Undersized or leaking ductwork
    • Inadequate level of insulation and non-insulated construction methods
    • Leaking or drafty windows and doors
    • Dirty or improperly installed air filters

     

    The Future of Energy Efficiency

     

    Innovative technology and the push for higher energy-efficiency has played a big role in the transformation, effectiveness, and popularity of higher efficiency cooling systems. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy changed from a national minimum SEER standard to regional standards. Currently, the minimum SEER values for air conditioners depends on location and ranges from 13 or 14 SEER.

    Yet, air conditioner manufacturers continue to pursue individual technologies that collectively may improve overall cooling system efficiency. Advancements, including refrigerant, variable-speed drives, advanced thermostats and control systems, and additional mechanics that simplify installation may continue to impact the energy costs associated with cool, indoor comfort.

    To discover current HVAC technologies available that may improve the energy efficiency of your home, discuss the various options and potential cost saving with your licensed professional HVAC dealer.

    AC Efficiency

    1 Environment Protection Agency. Vehicle and Fiel Emissions Testing. n.d. https://www.epa.gov/vehicle-and-fuel-emissions-testing. 18 April 2017.
    2 Department of Energy. Appliance and Equipment Standards Rulemakings and Notices. n.d. https://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/standards.aspx?productid=48&action=viewlive. 18 April 2017.
    3,4 AHRI. HVACR Replacement Guidance. 15 January 2013. http://www.ahrinet.org/Contractors-Specifiers/HVACR-Replacement-Guidance.aspx. 12 April 2017.

     
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  • Get the Facts: BUSTED Air Conditioner Myths!

    AC Facts

    1. MYTH: The bigger the air conditioner, the more comfortable I will feel in my home!

    BUSTED: Oversized air conditioners may create bursts of cold air, tricking thermostats or control systems into shutting off the system before the entire house reaches the desired temperature. This “cycling” may affect your indoor comfort level, influence your overall energy costs, and end up causing excess wear and tear on the unit.

    An air conditioner should be sized for your specific home by a professional HVAC technician. It is not unusual for an air conditioner to operate using long on and off cycles. In fact, this is preferred for energy-efficient performance and humidity removal. However, when a unit is not sized and installed correctly, it may cycle on and off quite frequently. This situation may not allow the unit to operate as efficiently as it was designed and indoor comfort is risked because the unit cannot remove enough humidity. While you may think that a bigger unit would seem to offer powerful cooling performance, a unit sized properly is the best option for long-term durability and comfort.

     

    2. MYTH: I should have the refrigerant ‘topped off’ every year.

    BUSTED: Refrigerant flows through a closed system. The refrigerant charge, which directly affects the performance and efficiency of your air conditioner, should exactly match the manufacturer's specification.1 Refrigerant should not be undercharged nor overcharged.

    Today, there are two basic types of refrigerant.

    • R-22 is currently being phased out of use. This chlorine-containing refrigerant was a very common refrigerant for many years.
    • R-410A is the refrigerant that is used in all new air conditioner units. It’s chlorine free and supports higher levels of heat transfer that help the energy efficiency level of the unit.

    You cannot mix one refrigerant into a unit that uses the other refrigerant. In fact, Ask your licensed professional HVAC dealer for help regarding the refrigerant in your central air conditioner.

     

    3. MYTH: If I set the thermostat or control system to an extremely cold temperature, the house will cool faster!

    BUSTED: Most HVAC systems’ airflow cools at a set temperature point. Once the system starts, it will reach the designated temperature sometime after that.2 Temperature settings on a thermostat or control system do not equate to the speed of cooling. 

     

    4. MYTH: I should turn off my air conditioner when I leave the house!

    BUSTED: Turning off your HVAC system when leaving the house may create problems that lead to additional expenses. It may not be the money-saving option you think. Your air conditioner plays a vital role in humidity management, a key component in minimizing indoor air quality issues. Additionally, if temperatures become extreme during your absence, it may take your system a long time to restore a comfortable temperature upon your return.

     

    5. MYTH: The location of my thermostat of control system isn’t important. 


    BUSTED: The location of your thermostat or control system can affect your HVAC system’s performance and efficiency. The device should be installed on an interior wall of your home with limited exposure to direct sunlight, drafts, doorway, skylights, and windows.3

     

    6. MYTH: I should close the vents in select rooms in my home to save money.

    BUSTED: A properly installed HVAC system is sized and balanced according to the specific amount of air that needs to circulate in your home. Closing vents may throw off the balance of your system and impact the air distribution, making the rest of the house uncomfortable.4

    Before closing vents, discuss concerns with your licensed or professional HVAC dealer.  Since each HVAC system set up is site-specific, a dealer should be able to help you decide whether certain vents can be closed to reduce the amount of space in your home that is being cooled.

     

    7. MYTH: Routine air conditioner maintenance does not affect its efficiency.

    BUSTED: To keep your central cooling system at peak performance, you should schedule routine maintenance for detailed check-ups. Licensed professional HVAC technicians are equipped to identify airflow problems, system leaks, coil issues or potential concerns that may impact efficiency. Routine maintenance may often prevent minor issues from turning into expensive major problems over time and possibly extend the life of your HVAC equipment.

     

    8. MYTH: Price should be the deciding factor when purchasing an air conditioner.

    BUSTED: There are many factors to consider when purchasing a new air conditioner. The base model may not always be the best choice based on your specific comfort needs and anticipated length of time you will be in your current home. Enhanced energy savings of high-efficiency equipment can result in real, tangible returns when compared to your old unit or today’s base-efficiency models. Labor costs can also vary depending on the complexity of the installation, the quality of your existing ductwork and any regulations that may influence how much a new, energy efficient fully installed cooling system will cost.

     

    9. MYTH: Purchasing an energy-efficient air conditioner will not save you in energy costs.

    BUSTED: High SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) air conditioners typically cost less to run than their lower SEER counterparts under the same conditions. However, multiple variables play into the energy costs associated with air conditioning use. Correct equipment sizing, sealed ducts, filter cleanliness and your home’s energy efficiency contributes to the overall expense of cooling your home.

    A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study says that if your high-efficiency equipment is not installed correctly, it may not be running as efficient as you think!5  “Without proper installation, air conditioning and heating equipment will perform significantly below rated energy-efficiency levels,” says Piotr Domanski, who leads NIST research on the performance of HVAC and refrigeration equipment.5

     

    10. MYTH: My house is clean, so I don’t need to change my air filters.

    BUSTED: According to the Department of Energy, replacing a clogged air filter with a clean one may help lower your air conditioner's energy consumption by up to 15%. Dirty filters block airflow and can reduce a system's efficiency and performance significantly. Depending on your HVAC manufacturer’s suggestions, a filter may need a replacement every 30-90 days.  Check your filter’s instructions for recommended replacement dates.  Also, depending on where you live and how often your air conditioner runs can affect how often you should replace your filters. Your HVAC contractor can provide the proper filter replacement schedule for your particular air conditioning unit.6



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    1 Department of Energy. Common Air Conditioner Problems. n.d. https://energy.gov/energysaver/common-air-conditioner-problems. 28 March 2017.
    2 ENERGY STAR. Proper Use Guidelines for Programmable Thermostats. n.d. https://www.energystar.gov/products/heating_cooling/programmable_thermostats/proper_use_guidelines. 27 March 2017.
    3 Thermostats. n.d. <https://energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats>.
    4 ENERGY STAR. Does it help to close vents in rooms not being used during the day? n.d. https://energystar.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/211439388-Does-it-help-to-close-vents-in-rooms-not-being-used-during-the-day-. 28 March 2017.
    5 Domanski, Piotr A, Hugh I. Henderson and W. Vance Payne. "Sensitivity Analysis of Installation Faults on Heat Pump Performance." October 2014. <http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/TechnicalNotes/NIST.TN.1848.pdf>.
    6 Energy Saver 101: Home Cooling. n.d. https://energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-cooling.

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  • What to Know about Carbon Monoxide

    AmanaLC_14_Know_Carbon_Monoxide_Nov_2017

    When cold weather arrives, thermostats or control systems are switched from cool to heat. But homeowners rarely consider the condition of their gas furnace, its exhaust system, and how it might affect their living space.

    The Importance of Venting

     

    In general, newly constructed homes may be more energy efficient than homes built as recently as the early 2000’s.1 Innovative insulation options and products, tightly sealed air gaps, and construction methods often create a more energy efficient home. However, tight homes highlight the importance of proper venting for your central gas heating system. 

    When fossil fuels are burned in a gas furnace, exhaust gases are produced. Exhaust gases must be vented away from indoor spaces so they dp not circulate in the living spaces of your home. One of these exhaust gases that should be vented away from your living space is carbon monoxide. 

    Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, practically odorless, and tasteless gas or liquid.2

    As homes become more air tight, the pathways for these gases to escape can become limited. To be sure the gas furnace components and exhaust system are working properly by having a licensed professional HVAC contractor routinely inspect the system.

     

    The Facts

    • Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning.3  
    • Carbon monoxide is responsible for more than 20,000 visits the emergency room, and more than 4,000 hospitalizations.3 
    • Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.3 

     

    Preventing Exhaust Buildup

    In a properly functioning and installed gas furnace, carbon monoxide gas is vented outside the home. 

    When fossil fuels are burned in your home, it is important that the exhaust gases be vented to a properly sized flue or venting system that eliminates them from indoor spaces. Gas furnaces are not the only source of carbon monoxide. “Carbon monoxide can be generated any time you burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces.”4 

    The Center for Disease Control offers the following HVAC-related tips to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in your home.

    1. Hire a professional or licensed technician. Any gas, oil, or coal burning appliances, including your heating system, water heater, or fireplace should be routinely inspected by a qualified technician.5
    2. Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.5
    3. Have your chimney inspected or cleaned every year. Blocked chimneys can cause carbon monoxide to build up inside your home.5
    4. Do not block, close or patch a vent pipe. Only a licensed professional technician should evaluate and determine appropriate venting. Be aware of heavy snowfall that may block venting on roof or side wall.5
    5. Be sure to install a Carbon Monoxide Detector and replace batteries often.  The CDC suggests replacing your carbon monoxide detector every five years.5

     

    Carbon Monoxide Detection

    Be sure to install a Carbon Monoxide Detector and replace batteries often.  The CDC suggests replacing your carbon monoxide detector every five years.5

    “Half of all unintentional CO poisoning deaths could be prevented with the use of CO alarms.”6

    A functioning carbon monoxide detector can be a life saver if the gas is reaching the interior living spaces. However, the detector should only be used as a backup to properly maintaining your fuel burning appliances. The EPA has the following suggestions regarding carbon monoxide detectors:

    • Detectors should be placed on a wall about 5 feet above the floor or on the ceiling.6 
    • Do not place the detector right next to or over a fireplace or flame-producing appliance.6 
    • Each floor needs a separate detector.6 
    • Place a detector near the sleeping area and make certain the alarm is loud enough to wake you up.6 
    • Regularly test and replace batteries.6 

     

    Reliable Amana brand indoor comfort

    1 Department of Energy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Top 4 Energy Department Inventions Saving You Energy & Money at Home: https://energy.gov/articles/top-4-energy-department-inventions-saving-you-energy-money-home
    2,4  What is Carbon Monoxide? (n.d.). Retrieved from EPA: https://iaq.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/212106787-What-is-Carbon-Monoxide-
    3,5 Carbon Monoxide. (n.d.). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/co/faqs.htm
    6 Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning. (n.d.). Retrieved from EPA: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/pcmp_english_100-f-09-001.pdf

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  • Three Tips to Lower the Cost of Indoor Comfort

    Tips to Lower Energy Bills

    Monthly utility bills remind us that our indoor comfort comes at a price.  

    If your heat pump, gas furnace or air conditioner is more than ten years old, your equipment may have a lower energy-efficiency rating of one that was built this year! As a result, your current heating and cooling equipment could be costing you more than you think!

    Let’s break it down…

    1. The Utility Bill

     

    On average, the cost of electricity continues to increase. In 2009, the average price of electricity for a home was approximately 11.51¢ per Kilowatt hour.1 As of 2017, that cost rose to 12.89¢ per Kilowatt hour!2 ENERGY STAR® says, “Understanding what goes into those monthly charges could put you in a better position to reduce them.”3 

    The Consumer Technology Association says that the typical homeowner owns an average of 24 home electronic products.4 If you have teenagers, there is a good chance that that number is much higher! As our collection of mobile devices and electronics increases, more energy dollars are funneled to supporting these products. 

    How can you compensate for these added home electronics on your utility bill, especially when the cost of electricity continues to rise?  The answer may be to take more control over the costs of the critical systems in your home - such as your central heating and cooling system! According to ENERGY STAR, up to 43% of a year’s total energy costs may come from maintaining a comfortable temperature inside your home.5  

    To determine the amount you spend on energy in your home at any given point in the day or night, you may want to examine some of the new interactive home automation platforms that intelligently monitor your home’s energy usage in real time. Some smart home energy meters offer a complete home energy breakdown profile detailing where and when energy is used, and how much it costs you in real-time. And let’s face it, using less energy at home may mean saving more money on your utility bills.

    2. Check HVAC Energy Efficiency Ratings

     

    Understanding the energy-efficiency rating of your current gas furnace, air conditioner or heat pump is key to controlling energy usage. The higher the energy-efficiency rating of your heating and cooling system, the more you may be able to save on your monthly energy bill compared to lower efficiency systems. 

    The good news is that the energy efficiency ratings of new HVAC equipment continue to increase. So, if your system is less efficient than the current minimum standard, you may be paying too much for indoor comfort!

    So what are the current standards?

    SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio): The number that represents the annual energy consumption and efficiency of the unit’s cooling ability in typical day-to-day use.  The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the unit operates. Currently, the minimum SEER rating for central air conditioners and heat pumps is 14 SEER in the South and Southwest regions of the U.S. and 13 SEER in the North.

    AFUE (The Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency): The number that indicates how well fuel is consumed to produce heat by a gas furnace. The higher the AFUE rate, the higher the efficiency level of your gas furnace.

    HSPF (Heating Season Performance Factor): The number that represents the total heat output of a heat pump, including the supplementary electric heat, as compared to the total electricity used during the same period. The higher the HSPF, the more efficient the heating performance of the heat pump. New units in the United States must have HSPF ratings from 7.0 to 9.4.

    High-efficiency systems are designed and engineered to operate more efficiently than their standard-efficiency counterparts. Some residential air conditioner and heat pumps models are now designed to reach 18 SEER, 9.5 HSPF performance, and natural gas furnaces are available with efficiency ratings up to 98%+ AFUE.

    The initial expense of a high-efficiency unit may be more cost more than a lower rated model. However, the lower monthly utility bill that may result from a new high-efficiency system often makes up for the initial price difference.6  This is especially true if you intend to use your new high-efficiency heating and cooling system for years to come.

    Not only may the additional energy-efficiency features help keep your monthly budget in check, but having a high-efficiency gas furnace, heat pump or air conditioner professionally installed may greatly improve your overall comfort level in your home. To learn about new technologies and available features that may help improve the energy efficiency of your home, talk to your licensed professional HVAC dealer.

    3. Shut the Front Door!

     

    Installing high-efficient heating and cooling equipment is only one way to save on monthly utility bills. If other key home energy-efficient solutions are overlooked, your bill may still be higher than you would like. And, that could make you and your indoor air uncomfortable.

    Every gap, doorway, window seam, air duct or hole in the wall has the potential to leak your home’s heated or cooled air. The Department of Energy says that the average home air leaks can equal that of a two-foot hole!7 That’s like leaving a window open for 24-hours a day. Be sure to check out the weather stripping and caulking of those small areas where your comfortable indoor air can potentially escape.

    There are numerous influencers can contribute to your cost of indoor comfort including,

    • Local climate
    • Thermostat or control system settings
    • Ductwork
    • HVAC installation
    • Heating and cooling system maintenance schedule
    • Construction methods and insulation values
    • Gaps in windows and doors

    To learn how your gas furnace, heat pump or air conditioner or HVAC system set up may be affecting your monthly utility bill, or want to learn ways to improve efficiency, talk to your licensed professional HVAC dealer today.

    Lower Utility bills with Amana

    1, 2 US Energy Information Administration, (2018, August). Electric Power Monthly. Retrieved November 21, 2018, from US Energy Information Administration: https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_5_3
    3,5 Energy Star. "Ask the Expert, Breaking Down the Typical Utility Bill." 16 February 2016. https://www.energystar.gov/products/ask-the-expert/breaking-down-the-typical-utility-bill. 13 December 2017.
    4 Consumer Technology Association. "Press Release." 11 May 2015. Consumer Technology Association. https://www.cta.tech/News/Press-Releases/2015/May/Owning-Innovation-CEA-Study-Shows-Major-Shifts-in.aspx. 13 December 2017.
    6 Furnace and Boilers. n.d. http://energy.gov/energysaver/furnaces-and-boilers.
    7  Energy Saver 101: Home Energy Audits. n.d. https://www.energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-energy-audits.

     
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  • What Does an Air Handler do?

    What is an Air Handler

    An air handler regulates the circulation of the heated or cooled indoor air to help reach the temperature that you have set on your thermostat or control system. Depending on the design of your home, an air handler may be a principal indoor component of your split heat pump system.

    When properly matched with your heat pump, the indoor air handler is designed to circulate conditioned air through your home’s ductwork efficiently.  Most often, air handlers are located in the attic, basement or a dedicated closet, and may closely resemble the shape of a gas furnace.

     

    Parts of an Air Handler

     

    Your air handler consists of an evaporator coil, blower motor, air filter and the electrical and electronic components required to deliver enhanced levels of indoor comfort.

    Coil:  The evaporator coil (indoor coil) is a crucial component of the refrigeration cycle. 

    • When you want cool air inside your home, the evaporator coil becomes cold through the refrigeration process and removes humidity as the indoor air passes over it. This makes the conditioned air feel cooler throughout your home.
    • When you want warm air inside your home, the evaporator coil becomes warm by the reversed refrigeration process and transfers heat to the air that passes over it. This makes the conditioned air feel warmer throughout your home.

    Blower Motor: The blower moves the cooled or heated air to the connected ductwork to circulate it into your indoor spaces. The blower motor may be a single speed, multi-speed or variable speed model.

    • Single-speed: Operates at one, fixed speed. These motors are cycled on and off, as required by a thermostat or control system.1
    • Multi-speed:  Designed to operate at multiple speeds, depending on the demand. The multi-speed blower motor may run at 100% to meet a high-demand thermostat or control system setting. A low-stage demand will reduce the speed of the blower motor. This low speed may maintain reduced humidity levels, provide sustained comfort and be more energy-efficient than when used in a single-stage system.
    • Variable-speed: Varies the fan speeds to precisely control the flow of heated or cooled air throughout your home based on your indoor comfort requirements.  A variable speed motor can help control indoor humidity levels and achieve a consistent temperature in your home. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “variable-speed motor running continuously at a half speed uses up to 25% of the power to move the same amount of air.”2 

    Plenum Connections: Ductwork is connected to your air handler by a plenum to:

    1. “supply” or deliver the conditioned heated or cooled air to your interior spaces 
    2. “return” the air to the air handler that needs to be heated or cooled

    Filter: Before air enters your ductwork, it passes through an air filter. The filter is intended to minimize the number of particulates circulated throughout your home, accumulate in the duct work, and land on the indoor components of your heat pump system.

    Optional Electric Heat Strips: Provides an auxiliary, electric heating option when conditions arise that require activation.

     

    The Cycle of Handling Air

    In coordination with your HVAC system’s ductwork, the air handler simultaneously creates a recurring cycle, delivering air out to your indoor spaces through supply vents and drawing air in through the return vents.  Even if your air handler is properly sized with your outdoor heat pump, a licensed professional HVAC dealer should ensure that the air supply and movement through the air handler are balanced. 

    According to the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), a mismatched heat pump and air handler may be at least 30% less energy-efficient than matched systems.3 Homeowners should keep this efficiency loss in mind when they are considering replacing only the outdoor unit portion of their split system.

    An inadequate amount of air flow in the supply vents, return vents or ductwork may reduce the HVAC system’s balance which can potentially cheat you out of your equipment’s efficiency and sacrifice your indoor comfort. This is one of the many reasons why proper installation by a licensed professional HVAC dealer matters to your HVAC equipment’s longevity, energy costs, and indoor comfort.

    Amana brand heating and cooling

    1, 2 Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Variable-speed, low-cost motor for residential HVAC systems. n.d. https://energy.gov/eere/amo/variable-speed-low-cost-motor-residential-hvac-systems. 1 May 2017.
    3 AHRI. HVACR Replacement Guidance. 15 January 2013. http://www.ahrinet.org/Contractors-Specifiers/HVACR-Replacement-Guidance.aspx. 12 April 2017.

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  • The Basic, Programmable, and Smart Thermostat

    Types of Thermostats

    Not too long ago, homeowners like you had to adjust their indoor temperature by opening windows or fueling fires. Luckily, indoor temperature control has evolved. Today, it is hard to imagine a modern home without a device to set the desired indoor temperature. 

    Below highlights the differences between the basic, programmable and smart thermostat or control system for your heating and cooling system.

     

    The Basic Thermostat

     

    The basic thermostat is designed to turn on the central heating and cooling system at one temperature and off at another. A basic thermostat may offer homeowners three essential switches that include:

    1. A HEAT and COOL switch
    2. An ON, OFF or AUTO fan switch
    3. A means to increase or decrease the temperature settings
       

    While these options provide critical heating and cooling system functionality, additional features may be required depending on your specific HVAC equipment. For example, a thermostat for a heat pump should include an option for auxiliary heat. The auxiliary heat switch activates the air handler’s (the most common inside component of a heat pump system) heat strips to turn on to supplement the output.

     

    The Programmable Thermostat

     

    The sophistication level of indoor temperature control was elevated with the introduction of the programmable thermostat. Although some early programmable thermostats could be challenging to program, newer models were designed to be more intuitive and easier to operate.

    With the programmable thermostat, homeowners can align their temperature preferences with their lifestyle and schedules. Preprogramming temperatures can create an indoor environment that makes occupants most comfortable and potentially save homeowners money in the process. A programmable thermostat or control system can save you as much as $180 every year in energy costs when properly programmed.1

    If you need assistance with determining setpoints times and temperatures, ENERGY STAR® suggests the following:2

    Energy Efficient Temperature Settings 

     

    The Smart Thermostat or Control System

     

    Intelligent heating and cooling devices are becoming more commonly accepted as homeowners continue to look to technology to connect their smartphones, lives, and homes. The smart thermostat or control system designs may vary, but these devices may:3

    • Provide the option of utilizing a smartphone or home automation device to control indoor temperature and humidity settings.
    • Learn your temperature preferences and establish a schedule that automatically adjusts to energy-saving temperatures based this learned behavior.
    • Know when you are on the way home based on the location of your smartphone and automatically adjust your home’s temperature to your liking.
    • Enter a low-power standby mode when inactive.

    In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the ENERGY STAR® specifications for smart thermostats. According to ENERGY STAR®, it was challenging to identify household thermostats that save energy because of the disparities of how an individual or family ultimately sets the temperature4 But Abi Daken, Program Manager for ENERGY STAR® HVAC products, said, “Anyone who cares about energy savings but is too busy to think about their heating and cooling use can be assured that these products have shown they help other busy families."5

    When integrated with popular voice-controlled home automated devices, homeowners now have the option of even more sophisticated indoor temperature control than with previous programmable thermostats. For example, both the Amazon Echo and Google Home integrate with the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort App to provide advanced inter-connectivity and voice control ability.

    Even without dedicated smart devices, homeowners may be able to control certain models of smart thermostats or control systems directly through their smartphone and/or tablet app. When a compatible smart thermostat or control system is installed, a coordinating app may be able to remotely monitor and manage home comfort, and possibly energy use anytime, anywhere. 

    In the near future, a thermostat or control system mounted on a home’s wall may not even be necessary. Advancements in technology may allow your heating and cooling system to communicate directly with your smart phone or app. The evolution of a home without a thermostat or control system may be just around the corner. 

    I want indoor comfort

    1 Thermostats. n.d. <https://energy.gov/energysaver/thermostats>.
    2 "A Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling." August 2009. Energy Star. <https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/publications/pubdocs/HeatingCoolingGuide%20FINAL_9-4-09.pdf>.
    3 ENERGY STAR®. Certified Products. 2017. https://www.energystar.gov/products/heating_cooling/smart_thermostats. 27 March 2017.
    4, 5 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. ENERGY STAR® Ends the Thermostat Wars by Introducing FIrst-Ever Smart Thermostat Specification. 1 March 2017. <https://www.energystar.gov/about/content/energy_star_ends_thermostat_wars_introducing_first_ever_smart_thermostat_specification>.

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  • Indoor Humidity and Dry Air: The Effects on Your Home's Comfort Level

    Indoor_Humidity_and_Comfort

    Goldilocks reminds us that too hot or too cold is not “just right.” This is especially true when it comes to indoor comfort. But there is more to that “just right” indoor feeling than the temperature set on your thermostat. Indoor humidity control is an essential part of creating your ideal comfort in your home.

    Indoor Humidity 

     

    Too high or too low humidity can certainly put a damper on indoor comfort. In fact, the idea of indoor humidity control sparked one of the first uses of air conditioning in the southern U.S.

    In the early 1900s, Stuart W. Cramer installed his first air conditioning system at his cotton mill in North Carolina to create the “ideal” humidity level for his textiles. However, conventional air conditioners (and heat pumps) are not meant to control indoor temperature and humidity independently.1 Dehumidification just happens to be an incidental by-product of the refrigeration cycle!

    The main job of an air conditioner is to cool your indoor air. However, an air conditioner’s process of cooling the indoor air also may help lower the indoor humidity level. When it comes to indoor humidity, the Department of Energy suggests that an air conditioner may make an indoor space more comfortable in hot, humid climates. But if the indoor humidity level is still too high, you may feel uncomfortably damp despite a cooler temperature in your home.2

    Your indoor comfort level is impacted by the relative humidity inside your home. Relative humidity is the percentage of water vapor in the air, compared to how much the air can hold without dropping out at a specific temperature.3

    The Indoor “Feel Likes” Temperature

     

    Your indoor “feels like” temperature has a lot to do with how much moisture, or water vapor, is in the air in your home. Too much water vapor in your indoor air may make your home feel humid, while too little moisture can make your home feel dry. 

    Humidity may impact your “feels like” temperature because it affects evaporation rates. When the air is saturated with water vapor, sweat may not evaporate from our skin as quickly as it would at a lower humidity level. This phenomenon may make us “feel” warmer than the actual temperature reading because evaporation is slowed.

    When the indoor humidity is low, it can allow the moisture on your skin to evaporate at a greater rate.4 If you want to stay cool during the warm months, this can be a good thing.  But if it’s already cool in your house, rapid evaporation can make you “feel” colder than the temperature on the thermostat. That’s because when moisture evaporates from our skin, it has a cooling effect. But if the indoor air is too dry, additional evaporation may leave our skin and other body parts that require moisture, feeling dry and parched.5 Proper humidity levels keep you, your furniture and your home from drying out.    

    A study shows that most people will feel cooler in a room at 75°F with a relative humidity level between 50% and 55% than in a 75°F room with a higher relative humidity level.6 

    HVAC Sizing Impacts Indoor Humidity

     

    When you need cool indoor air, you might think that over sized air conditioners (or heat pumps) would be great to have.  However, an over sized unit may create bursts of cold air, tricking your thermostat into shutting off the system before the entire house reaches the desired temperature. This rapid “cycling” may not remove as much moisture as a properly sized and matched unit. 

    A unit that is too large for your home may cool your indoor space quickly, but it could turn off before providing the incidental dehumidification that helps make you comfortable in your home. When an air conditioner is sized and installed properly by a professional HVAC technician, it will cycle on and off at various intervals to maintain the temperature setting on the thermostat and provide incidental humidity control. It is not unusual for an air conditioner to operate using long on and off cycles. In fact, this is preferred for energy-efficient performance and humidity removal. 

    Indoor Moisture Control

     

    Depending on the season and the geographical location of your home, your indoor spaces may be prone to high humidity levels. If your humidity is high and the indoor air quality becomes an issue in your home, a licensed professional HVAC dealer may suggest a separate solution. A whole-home dehumidifier may be what you need to reduce the relative humidity in your home to a comfortable level.

    A whole-home dehumidifier is designed to:

    • Reduce the cold, clammy feeling that comes from lowering the temperature on your thermostat in order to reduce the humidity level in your home7
    • Help create an environment where dust mites can’t easily survive (when the air is maintained below 50% relative humidity*)7
    • Helps protect your hardwood flooring from warping when set to maintain the relative humidity in the range recommended by the hardwood flooring manufacturer7

    But despite site-specific variables, every person has unique temperature and humidity level preferences to get that “just right” feeling. If you feel the moisture level is too high for your indoor spaces, your licensed or professional HVAC dealer can inspect your system and provide dehumidification solutions that can create that “just right” feeling in your home.

    Heating_Cooling_Limited_Warranty

    1 American Society of Heating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Top Ten Things About Air Conditioning. n.d. https://www.ashrae.org/resources--publications/free-resources/top-ten-things-about-air-conditioning#10. 4 May 2017.
    2 Department of Energy. Energy Saver - Dehumidifying Heat Pipes. n.d. https://energy.gov/energysaver/dehumidifying-heat-pipes. 2017 4 May.
    3 The University of Illinois Extension. Treehouse Weather Kids. n.d. https://extension.illinois.edu/treehouse/clouds.cfm?Slide=2. 4 2017 May.
    4, 6 Dougherty, Elizabeth. MIT School of Engineering. 10 May 2011. https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-do-we-sweat-more-in-high-humidity/. 2017 4 May.
    5 Energy Star. Common Home Problems and Solutions: Dry Air. n.d. https://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_solutions.hm_improvement_dryair. 2017 4 May.
    7 Clean Comfort Indoor Air Essentials. Dehumidifiers. n.d. http://www.cleancomfort.com/#humiditycontrol. 4 May 2017.

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  • Heat Pump FAQs: Homeowners' Top 10 Questions

    Top 10 Heat Pump Questions

    As heat pumps become more and more popular, homeowners seem to have a few FAQs about this 'year-round' indoor comfort equipment. If you have some questions, you are not alone! Get your answer to our "Homeowners' Top 10 Heat Pump Questions" list? 

    1. How can I tell if my home has a heat pump or an air conditioner?

    A heat pump and air conditioner can look nearly identical. However, there is a simple way to determine if you have a heat pump. 

    1. Turn the “heat” ON at your thermostat or control system. 
    2. Once you feel the heated air coming from your return vent, go outside to the metal cabinet. 
    3. If it is operating and you don’t pay a gas or propane bill – Congratulations! You most likely have a heat pump!

    2. When should I schedule heat pump maintenance? 

    Your heat pump was designed to provide both heating and cooling for home. That means you may depend on it all year long! As a result, it’s a good idea to schedule a cooling maintenance service in the spring and a heating checkup in the fall.

    Seasonal preventive maintenance on heat pump system may guard against unexpected failures and possibly maximize its lifespan.1 So, if you have determined that you have a heat pump (see #1), be sure to schedule  pre-season maintenance.

    3. Which is better, a heat pump or an air conditioner?

    Both the heat pump and air conditioner are designed to use the refrigeration cycle to cool your home. To determine if one provides better cooling performance over another, you have to be sure you compare identically sized equipment with the same cooling features and efficiency ratings.

    But if your home needs an electric heat source, a heat pump can keep you warm too. Your air conditioner is designed just to keep your home cool!

    4. Why isn’t the temperature in my home consistent?

    When a heat pump is installed, it should be specifically sized for your home according to a set of unique calculations. If your heat pump is the wrong size for your home, it may not operate as designed. Oversized units may create bursts of warm or cold air, tricking thermostats or control systems into shutting off the system before the entire house reaches the desired temperature. An undersized heat pump may not be able to generate the cooling capacity required for your space. If your heat pump is the wrong size for your home, it may not provide the indoor comfortable you expect.

    If your heat pump is not performing as you expect, contact your licensed professional HVAC dealer for an inspection to determine a solution for your heating or cooling concerns.

    5. How long will my heat pump last?

    There are many factors that contribute to a heat pump’s lifespan and overall performance — maintenance schedule, how often filters are changed and proper installation are just a few. Location and operational hours may also impact the longevity of a heat pump. For example, if you live in an area with long, cold winters, a heat pump will run more than in temperate climates. The same goes for warmer climates.

    If you are looking for some heat pump peace-of-mind , be sure your installation technician provides a limited warranty for their work  and is qualified, experienced and recommended by a trusted source.  Research the manufacturer’s available limited warranties, registration requirements and coverages for your specific heat pump. 

    6. Should I manually turn ON my thermostat’s emergency or auxiliary heat switch if the temperature falls below freezing?

    As long as you are comfortable in your home, you do not need to manually switch on your heat pump’s auxiliary or emergency heat switch on your thermostat or control system.  The auxiliary heat is designed to turn on automatically if the heat pump needs additional heating capacity to meet your set temperature.  If you find that you continually need additional warmth in your home, contact your local, licensed professional HVAC dealer for a consultation.

    7. Should I cover my heat pump during the winter to protect it?

    DO NOT cover your heat pump in the winter! A heat pump is designed to operate during the cold weather. To function properly, it needs to pull in the outdoor air through the side vents and exhaust through the top of the unit. Your heat pump may not operate as designed if you cover it during the winter it, potentially causing damage to the system.

    8. Is it normal for my heat pump to have frost on it?

    The outside  of your heat pump may develop a coating of frost or light ice when it’s cold outside. Don’t be alarmed! When this happens, the heat pump’s defrost control sensor automatically starts a defrost cycle. During this period the auxiliary heat strips are automatically activated to warm the indoor air.

    However, if you notice a heavy coating of ice, contact your licensed professional HVAC dealer as soon as possible. Heavy ice accumulation may indicate that your heat pump needs servicing.

    9. What’s the difference between SEER and HSPF on a heat pump?

    A heat pump’s energy efficiency is rated by SEER and HSPF numbers.  The SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) measures the efficiency of a heat pump in cooling mode.  HSPF (Heating Season Performance Factor) measures the efficiency of a heat pump in heating mode. The higher the SEER and HSPF number, the more efficient the unit is designed to be in heating and cooling mode.

    10. Why are some rooms colder or warmer than others?

    The answer may have something to do with #4! During installation, your HVAC dealer should have properly sized your new heat pump for your specific home.  If it’s not sized correctly, a heat pump may either shut off before the entire house reaches the desired temperature or not be able to generate the capacity required for your space.

    But if your heat pump is sized properly to your home, there may be an air duct issue. A poorly designed air duct system may results in poor airflow, leaving some rooms colder or warmer than others.  If your ducts aren’t sealed properly, or an air leak goes undetected, airflow may pass through your system unevenly. To properly determine the specific cause of a warm or cold room, contact your licensed professional HVAC dealer.

    Amana brand heat pumps

    1 Maintaining your Air Conditioner. n.d. <http://energy.gov/energysaver/maintaining-your-air-conditioner>.

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