Frequently Asked Questions About Your Heating & Cooling Systems

Why is it so important to have your furnace checked and maintained prior to the heating season?

The SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) measures the efficiency of your air conditioner or air-source heat pump. The SEER is the cooling output over a particular season divided by the total energy used in that same period. The higher the SEER, the greater the efficiency level of that cooling system.

How Does Trane Make Its Products More Reliable?

At Trane, we don’t just build our products. We own patents on them. And we don’t just test our products. We put them to the extreme, because if it can’t make it through our torturous testing, you’ll never see it in your home.

BUILT BY TRANE

Every Trane product is designed down to every detail and rigorously tested for reliability and durability. While other manufacturers build their products from the same “pool” of parts available to anyone, we make it a point to be uniquely better, innovative and always looking to the future. To do that, we have to design, build, test, and rebuild some of our own parts. We know they work because we push them well beyond the industry standards, making sure they match the reliability people expect when they own a Trane. From the durable Climatuff® compressor to the exclusive Spine Fin™ coil to the revolutionary Hyperion™ air handler—and a number of other patented innovations—when you own a Trane, you’re getting more than reliable comfort and you’re getting it year after year.

TESTED TO EXTREMES

At the SEET lab in Tyler, Texas—which stands for Systems Extreme Environmental Test—Trane products are put through 16 weeks of bone-chilling cold and blistering heat, in repeating two-week sessions. Some units endure over 2,600 hours of continuous testing, including a full week of salt spray to monitor corrosion resistance. Our technicians have tried to break our Climatuff® compressor over 900 ways, which has produced a saying at Trane, if a product doesn’t make it through our test lab it doesn’t get made. By putting our heating and cooling units through 5 years’ worth of wear and tear in the matter of a few months, we reinforce our philosophy of making products you can rely on for years and years. It’s hard to stop a Trane isn’t just a tagline…it’s been proven.

BACKED BY EXPERTS

Every manufacturer will say that their products are the best, but when industry experts give a tip of the hat to your work, that’s backing it up with proof. Popular Mechanics dubbed the Trane ComfortLink™ II control as one of The Year’s Most Transformative Products, awarding it their 2010 Breakthrough Award. A Harvard-led, independent research project evaluated the air cleaning performance of several in-duct and portable devices, and found conclusively that Trane CleanEffects™ is the world’s most effective whole-house air filtration system. So, while we’re known for reliable heating and air conditioning, we also seem to be setting the industry standard in smart home and clean air technology, because your home comfort deserves constant innovation.

My heat pump thermostat reads "AUX HEAT"; the other "EM HEAT". What's the difference?

Aux (auxiliary) Heat. The balance point (when it can no longer efficiently transfer heat from the outside air) of an air source heat pump, is usually about 35 degrees. The thermostat senses this and automatically turns on the electric heat strips to provide the additional heat needed. It signals this by turning on the “AUX” heat light.

Em (emergency) Heat. You can also manually turn the electric heat strips on if needed (defective equipment; cold house). Manually turning on the electric heat strips is signaled by the “EM” heat light and will turn the “outdoor” heat pump off.

We hope this brief explanation has been of some assistance. Obviously, not all possible conditions are covered.

Remember:

The company You Choose To Install and Service Your System Will Determine The Degree of Comfort and Satisfaction You Enjoy.

These “Common HVAC Problems” are provided FREE and as a consequence Climatemakers does not assume any liability resulting from any information we provide. In all cases where there is any possibility of injury, consequential damage, direct damage to your equipment or when recommended by the equipment manufacturer, your system should be repaired, inspected or maintained by a qualified technician.

 

What's the difference between the "ON" and "AUTO" fan buttons on my thermostat?

In the “Auto” (automatic) position, the blower in the heating mode cycles (goes off and on) because it is controlled by the room temperature. In the “On” position the blower runs continuously 24/7.

Two additional advantages occur from “ON” position operation.

If you have indoor air quality products, you get a continuous flow of clean air.

Continuous Air Circulation (CAC) prevents the air from stratifying (warm air rising; cooler air falling) that occurs doing the “Off” cycle of a blower that is set to “AUTO”.

One disadvantage can occur from “ON” position operation in older homes due to higher infiltration between the outside and indoor air; it can create a higher humidity level within the home.

Remember:

The company You Choose To Install and Service Your System Will Determine The Degree of Comfort and Satisfaction You Enjoy.

These “Common HVAC Problems” are provided FREE and as a consequence Climatemakers does not assume any liability resulting from any information we provide. In all cases where there is any possibility of injury, consequential damage, direct damage to your equipment or when recommended by the equipment manufacturer, your system should be repaired, inspected or maintained by a qualified technician.

Why Dual Fuel?

What is a Dual Fuel System?
Before we can talk intelligently about a dual fuel system, we should first define what a dual fuel system is. Simply stated, a dual fuel system is the combination of a gas or oil furnace/boiler that has been combined with a heat pump.

And before we continue, let’s be sure we understand what a heat pump is as some people still have difficulty understanding just how a heat pump works. It is confusing at first. How can an air conditioner provide heat?

What is a Heat Pump?
The simplest definition of a heat pump that I know is that in the heating mode, a heat pump is a reverse air conditioner. In the summer, a heat pump is an air conditioner. It extracts heat from within your house and discharges it outside, thereby leaving the air within your home cooler. In the winter, by reversing the flow of refrigerant and its process, it extracts heat from outside of the house and brings it inside where it is discharged through ductwork.

In our area, the heat pump is sized based on your cooling load therefore it might not have enough capacity for the heating load. We compliment it with electric strip heat to meet the heating load/needs of your house.

Reverse Refrigeration
If you take 70 degree air and remove 10 degrees of heat from it, you now have 60 degree air. That’s what a heat pump does. Through reverse refrigeration, a heat pump can extract heat from the outside air by compressing it into the refrigerant via the compressor and it can do this more efficiently and cleaner than any other type of system. This system works until the outside temperature gets to about 32 degrees.

What is the Advantage of a Dual Fuel System?Heat Pump
While no other system operates more efficiently and cost effectively than a heat pump within certain temperature ranges, a heat pump’s capacity decreases when the outside temperature falls below 32 degrees. It typically has to use electric strip heat (also known as auxiliary heat) to provide the supplementary heat needed at those times.

By combining the efficiency of a heat pump during its peak operating efficiency with a high efficiency gas furnace, oil furnace or boiler for the times when it is less efficient, a Dual Fuel System provides the maximum efficiency, payback and comfort level of all fuels and systems available.

Because electric rates are regulated and constantly monitored by a State Regulating Authority, they are far more stable. This makes the heat pump even more attractive than normal.

Who is Installing Dual Fuel Heating Systems?
The first group are customers who already have furnaces and Heating Furnaceboilers in their homes and whose central air conditioners need replacing. When their air conditioner fails, some consumers are upgrading with a heat pump to work in conjunction with their existing furnace or boiler heating system. This gives them the advantage of a new air conditioner for better cooling comfort and a heat pump (they are the same unit), which can be used most efficiently on those days when the temperature is above 32 degrees.

The second and largest group of homeowners interested in dual fuel systems are those that already have a heat pump and decide to add a high efficiency gas furnace as the backup heat in lieu of using the heat pump’s electric strip heat when the temperatures drop.

How Do I Benefit?
If you have an oil or gas system, you can benefit by adding an electric system (heat pump). If you presently have an electric system (heat pump) you can still benefit by adding a natural gas furnace. Dual Fuel heating enables you to add a second heating system to your current system and gives you the appealing alternative to the roller coaster pricing of fuel oil and most gas heating systems because Dual Fuel rates are most likely to remain stable year round.

Why Must I Replace My Indoor Coil?
The Government Requirements
From January 23, 2006 onward, the U.S. Department of Energy required new cooling systems to have a minimum SEER rating of 13. Prior to this the minimum SEER rating was 10. A 13 SEER rating was a 30% increase in efficiency and required a major overhaul in the HVAC market.

Another Update
On January 1, 2015 the U.S. Department of Energy mandated all new cooling units in the Southeast have a minimum SEER rating of 14, this time an almost 10% increase in efficiency.

A New Condenser is Now Required for Most People
While the reduced national demand for energy is certainly a good thing, there is a challenge for people who have an existing condenser with a SEER of 10.

That’s because the outdoor unit (condenser) is half of a split-system. It is also the more expensive half. The air handler, refrigerant lines and evaporator coil, constitute the inside half of the system. Working in tandem, the outside and inside units must be matched in size and efficiency for best results (and to avoid damaging the new unit that may result in costly repairs).

Matching 5 Components to Meet SEER Requirements
In order to produce a SEER of 13, manufacturers have had to drastically redesign their systems. The new units are considerably larger in physical size and require strict adherence to connecting the condensing units to matching indoor coil units, using the correct size refrigeration tubing with the correct refrigerant charge, if the desired results are to be obtained.

A new air conditioner or heat pump should consist of 5 properly matched components:

  • Indoor evaporator coil and or fan coil
  • Outdoor condensing coil
  • Correct sized refrigerant tubing
  • Properly sized circuit protection
  • Properly sized electrical wiring

When properly assembled, they will produce a specific amount of cooling at a specific rated efficiency. Capacity and efficiency ratings are produced by the manufacturer under strict testing conditions. Any substitution of any of the components will produce a variation in either capacity or efficiency (or both).

Reasons an Indoor Coil Should Be Replaced at the Same Time
When an old outdoor condensing unit fails, it is very important that the indoor coil be matched and replaced at the same time for a number of reasons.

First and foremost:

State Code now requires all new and replacement of existing equipment be ARI matched to certify Government mandated efficiencies.
Impossibility of attaining capacity and efficiency ratings of the new condensing unit if the indoor coil is not changed.
Some other important reasons are:

New equipment operates with R410A a newer environmentally friendly refrigerant. Older indoor units are not built to withstand the higher pressures that R410A operates with.

It is very common to have compressor failure in a new unit after just one or two years when an old indoor coil is used.

The warranty does not protect you from compressor failure due to an old indoor coil. Manufacturers can require the indoor unit model and serial number. If not a matched system they will disallow and void the outdoor unit warranty.
At the very minimum, if maximum efficiency, reliability and safety are to be achieved, we highly recommend replacing the condensing unit and the indoor coil plus a very careful check of refrigerant lines, circuit protection and wire size.

Have a question? Want to learn more? Contact us and we will help you decide on what your next step should be for HVAC installation or repair.

What is that smell?

Electrical odors:

Are usually caused by parts overheating. Blower motors are a typical example. Bearings seize up; the motor overheats and insulation on the wires and windings start to melt, causing the odor. Loose electrical connections can also cause wires to overheat with the same results.

Unlikely as it seems; dirty filters can also cause the odor. If the air flow is restricted sufficiently, it can cause electric resistance heaters to overheat and even burn out.

Burning odors:

Similar to electrical odors only worse, especially when accompanied by smoke. Parts, wiring and even debris around the furnace can all contribute to this odor.

Gas odors:

This is the one that causes the most fear. People automatically think of gas explosions or carbon monoxide. Well, gas explosions are rare and carbon monoxide, for the most part, is odorless.

However, gas odors should not be taken lightly. Try to pin point the source. Most common is a pipe leak or from the furnace itself. If you can’t locate the leak, yet feel that the odor persists, call the Gas Company and if very strong, open the windows.

Oil odors:

Usually easy to find (and easy to correct) as it stems from a leak/drip or an improperly operating oil burner. A leak is easy to spot; just look for the oil at the tank, the burner or the oil lines, and tighten or replace the defective part if you feel capable. If there is no visible sign, then it probably is a burner problem.

This can be caused by too many things to list here; from blocked chimney to a plugged burner. Your best bet here is to call for service.

Damp and musty odor:

This is more common in the air conditioning mode. Attics, damp basements and/or crawl spaces, water damaged ductwork and/or equipment, combined with air leaks in ductwork are the most common source of damp, musty odors. But this odor problem is almost never due to a problem with your equipment.

Dirty Sock Syndrome:

Is caused by the growth of mold and bacteria on the indoor coil and the drain pan of the Heat Pump. All summer long, moist cooling coils can serve as an ideal breeding ground for mold. Water and organic debris sitting in the drain pan can also form a fertile garden of microorganisms. But why is it only with Heat Pumps?

When heating season starts, hot air furnaces have a heat exchanger which puts out enough heat to kill the microbes that thrived on the damp evaporator coil and drain pan. Heat Pumps on the other hand, put out much lower temperatures. Just warm enough to heat up the organic debris which releases the spores and toxins into the air and produces the so-called “Dirty sock smell”.

Having the coils, drain pan, and drain line cleaned regularly may help solve this problem.

Summary:

Remember to check for clean air filters. Check to see if the fan is working, for air leaks in damp places, for oil stains or unusual noises or strong gas odors. These all indicate problems and should not be ignored.

Hope this has been of some assistance, however they are just rough guidelines and not all possible conditions are covered.

Remember:

The company You Choose To Install and Service Your System Will Determine The Degree of Comfort and Satisfaction You Enjoy.

Excerpts of the preceding information has been compiled by Hannabery HVAC, which has graciously permitted us to include them on this web site as a service for all homeowners.

These “Common HVAC Problems” are provided FREE and as a consequence Climatemakers does not assume any liability resulting from any information we provide. In all cases where there is any possibility of injury, consequential damage, direct damage to your equipment or when recommended by the equipment manufacturer, your system should be repaired, inspected or maintained by a qualified technician.

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