Low SEER HVAC Units Still Available

As of January 1 of this year, all air conditioning unit manufacturers are required to discontinue manufacturing a/c units with SEER ratings below 14. The minimum SEER rating available is now 14. This means that surplus inventory might be available for installed costs less than what the same size unit with a higher SEER rating would cost. If you are considering the replacement of your HVAC unit, be sure to ask your dealer if units with SEER ratings below 14 might be available. Be sure to also get several bids with different unit brands so that you can get the best price for your job. For those not familiar with SEER ratings, SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This number is a measure of the efficiency of a cooling unit during the cooling season; the higher the number, the higher the efficiency. Currently, a/c units are commonly available in SEER ranges from 14 to 16.

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Air Conditioning in the Winter?

Whoever heard of air conditioning in the winter?  It’s cold outside and you need warm air, not cold to be comfortable, right? That certainly sounds reasonable.  After all, most people are using their furnaces at this time of  the year.  You might not be aware of it but, it is possible to create enough heat enough within an enclosure so as to require cooling instead of heating.  Most homes lose heat at a faster rate than can be replaced by supplemental sources (ovens, televisions, dryers, etc). As a result, some type of heating system has to be implemented in order to keep cold weather at bay.  However, in some office buildings, for example, the number of people and machines can easily produce enough heat to require space cooling in order to keep people comfortable.   Consider for example a 40 watt flourescent light bulb.  For each watt of power, the bulb produces 3.41 BTU/hr or 136.4 BTU/hr/bulb.  Most light fixtures are equipped with four bulbs. So, each fixture produces 545.6 BTU/hr. Imagine an office space equipped with 100 light fixtures. The total heat produced by all of  these fixtures is now at 54, 560 BTU/hr.  In terms of cooling, 1 ton of cooling is equal to 12,000 BTU/hr. The lights will require a cooling capacity of 4.5 tons. This doesn’t sound like  much but, when you start adding in other loads like people and computers, the heat output can be significant.

Buyer Beware!

Recently, we were called to investigate damage to a residential air conditioning unit. The allegation was that the unit was destroyed by fire.  Upon examining the unit, no evidence of fire was found.  That is, there was no evidence that any wiring or controls were burned and the compressor and condenser were both undamaged (as far as fire was concerned). However, during the examination of the unit, the compressor was found to have blown a terminal and caused its destruction. Most HVAC technicians will recognize this scenario. The possibility of lightning causing the damage was also explored and eliminated because there was no lightning in the area at the time of the compressor failure.  Instead of replacing the compressor, the homeowner had the entire unit replaced with a unit of greater capacity.  In doing so, the homeowner assumed that the insurance company would pay for the new installation which amounted to more than $8000.00.  Without a covered loss, the insurance company denied the homeowner’s claim leaving the homeowner to  absorb the entire cost of the new installation.   The lesson to be learned here is that you do not want to commit to a major purchase unless you can handle the expenditure if your insurer denies your claim. In this case, the cost to replace the compressor and recharge the unit would have been in the neighborhood of $1200.00 to $1500.00, which is significant lower than the new unit.

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