While you can hypothetically keep an HVAC system going as long as there are parts available for it, it may not always be cost effective to do so. The average age of units being replaced in our area is 10-12 years old. With some warranties being as short as 5 years, (see FAQ below), and with refrigerant changes, efficiency standard changes, and changes in technology, it is often worth considering the cost of repair vs. replacement for any system that is out of warranty that is in need of a major repair.
No, contrary to some misinformation we have seen being direct mailed to consumers, there is no mandate, no law, no government regulation, that obligates you to replace your system based solely on it using R-22. If your system is still working as normal, the choice of when to replace it is solely up to you.
Understand that any repair that is refrigerant based will be possibly much more expensive as R-22 has been phased out as of Jan 1, 2020. There are options for substitute refrigerant blends to help get more life from your R-22 system. As no manufacturer makes R-22 equipment anymore, any replacement system currently available would use R-410A, however, that too will be changing by 2025. Repairs that are non-refrigerant based in nature would cost along the same lines as R-410A systems.
For decades, the refrigerant of choice was R-22 (commonly called "Freon", a Dupont trade name), however, as it was found to be a contributor to ozone depletion, the decision to move to a more environmentally friendly refrigerant was made in the early 1990's. This new refrigerant, R-410A, became the new alterative refrigerant of choice, and until 2010, you could buy systems that used R-22, or R-410A. Starting January 1, 2010, all new systems were sold as R-410A systems. As we moved from 2010 to 2020, production of R-22 was decreased each year until January 1, 2020, when the production of new R-22 refrigerant has ceased. As production of R-22 has decreased and ultimately ceased, we have seen the price of R-22 increase substantially, and as allocations start to take effect on R-410A over the next 5-7 years, with a phase out scheduled for January 1st, 2030, we will see increases in the cost of R-410A as well. Just as R-22 was found to have had environmental impacts, so too has R-410A, and a new generation of more environmentally friendly refrigerants will be found in HVAC equipment as mandated by the federal government as of January 1, 2025. The current projection is that there will be either one of two refrigerants that will be used depending on what brand of equipment you have. There will be no new equipment produced after January 1st, 2025 using R-410A refrigerant. As we work our way through using up what R-22 is still in stock at our wholesale distributors, and the manufacturers are forced to reduce the amount of R-410A they can produce each year due to allocation, it is uncertain what the price of either of these refrigerants will be in the future.
The simple answer, for now, is yes, but in the form of new, blended refrigerants, such as MO-99, R-421A, and R-407C. There are a few key things to know about these alternatives though. First, R-22 is a pure refrigerant, meaning if there is a leak, it is only pressure that is lost, but the chemical makeup of the refrigerant remains the same. With these blends, however, they are literally blends of 3-5 refrigerants at various percentages that together make up a refrigerant that mimics the pressures and characteristics of R-22. With a leak present and a blend in the system, not only will you lose pressure, but also the chemical makeup of the blend will be altered, causing a loss of efficiency and system capacity. For this reason, blends should only be used on systems with no known leaks present. It is worth noting that due to government mandates, these blends too, will be going away as well.
Like a m.p.g. rating for an automobile, S.E.E.R. or the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, has been the standard for measuring the efficiency of an HVAC system. The method used (SEER) to test HVAC equipment has been consistent throughout the years but basically tested equipment sans ductwork. With no real ductwork airflow restriction, equipment would naturally rate at a higher efficiency rating (higher SEER) than what you would actually see in real life, thus a new testing method, SEER2 has been established. SEER2 rates the equipment with a higher "static" load, rather, it tests the equipment under a more realistic scenario of having ductwork connected to the system. While this method will yield more "field realistic" results, it will, by its nature, de-rate the efficiency of current equipment. This creates an issue going forward as January 1st of 2023, we saw the minimum SEER2 rating of 14.3 SEER2 for Heat Pumps take place for our region. Please see below for information on the efficiency changes taking place and how they may affect you. So, SEER and SEER2, while both are measurements of system efficiency, are quite different in that the testing procedures used to produce the ratings and will yield different results. As of January 1st, 2023 SEER is no longer the testing method used and as such, all equipment produced after that date will be rated SEER2.
Additive sealants have been around for quite a while, but no sealant can be guaranteed to be 100% effective. There are many factors that will affect the ability of the sealant to remedy a leak in the system. How large the leak is, how many leaks are present, and the location of the leak, will all determine the effectiveness of the sealant. Overall, sealants seem to have about a 50% chance of working. That said, we only sell sealant as a band-aid, and due to the fact that sealants can actually cause a compressor to work much harder, we really only recommend it as something to try if your system is nearing the end of its life and you are simply trying to buy some time before doing an inevitable system replacement.
When talking warranties on HVAC systems, there are two elements to consider, the labor portion of the warranty, and the parts portion of the warranty. Any newly installed system will always have warranty coverage for the first year of labor from the installing contractor. This does not mean you have to use the installing contractor if you are unhappy with them, but other HVAC service companies will likely charge you for the labor portion of any service call, even within the first year of operation if they did not install the system. Another thing to know about the labor portion of warranties is that for an additional cost at the time of installation, many manufacturers offer extended labor warranties that can cover labor expenses on equipment breakdowns for years 2-10.
Any parts warranties are covered by the equipment manufacturer, however, the length of the parts warranty can vary based on weather or not the system was registered at the time of installation. It was mentioned above that some HVAC systems have warranties that are as short as 5 years. With pretty much all manufacturers, a simple online registration of the equipment is all that is needed to extended this coverage to 10 or even as much as 12 years depending on the manufacturer. At Rager, we register every system we install and furnish the registration paperwork to the homeowner for their records. This registration must take place within 60-90 days of installation, after that, it cannot be registered. Unfortunately, and we do see this a lot, the registration sometimes does not happen at the time of installation, especially if the system was installed at the time the home was built. The HVAC contractor fails to register the system for whatever reason, the builder assumes the HVAC contractor is registering the system so they are not concerned with it, and no one mentions it to the homeowner, so it does not happen. Therefore, it is important that you as a homeowner find out if your system was registered when it was installed as it can make a huge difference in the price of repairs down the road.
Another thing that is good to know is when the actual start up of the HVAC system took place. That date is when the warranty clock starts ticking. Without a start up date, or proper registration, any warranty will be based solely on the serial number stamped on the equipment. Since there was obviously some time between when your HVAC equipment was built and the serial number applied, to when it was transferred to a distribution center, then transferred to a local supply house, then transferred to an HVAC contractor, then set at your home, and ultimately started up, there could be several months between the manufacture date and when the warranty clock starts. At the end of the warranty, you could lose valuable months of coverage. A simple call to your builder or installing HVAC company should get you that startup date.
One last note on warranties. Many parts warranties, even if registered, are only valid beyond 5 years to the original owner. Some of these warranties are transferable, but you have a limited time after closing to file for the transfer and pay the transfer fee. Something to look into if purchasing a home from the original owner.
While you may find some HVAC systems advertised online, there are some important things you need to know, as cheaper now does not always mean cheaper in the long run. Pretty much all of your major manufacturers know based on the serial numbers on the equipment where, and when, it was sold. With online sales of equipment prohibited by the manufacturers, the only way they can really combat online sales is by voiding the warranty on equipment sold online. Now, if you've seen this equipment online offered with a warranty, the key is that it is not the factory warranty. Any warranty is offered and handled at the discretion of the online storefront. You would be responsible for all service diagnosis, failed parts removal, shipping said parts back to the online seller, waiting for them to determine if they will cover the failed part or not, waiting for them to ship the new warranty part, and finally paying for installation of the new repair parts. Due to the fact that no local supply house will warranty the parts for you, most reputable HVAC companies will not install systems that have been bought online, including us. Our stance is that if we can't stand behind the installation and be able to offer our best and fastest service, we would rather pass on such an installation. As such, Rager HVAC does not install systems purchased online or used equipment.
If you do choose to go down this road, you will want to be sure that your chosen installer has the proper experience, is licensed (both for the mechanical HVAC portion, as well as necessary electrical), obtains all required permits and inspections, meets all county code requirements, and has adequate insurance. If your installer meets these requirements, you may save some money up front. However, bear in mind that you will be dependent your online seller for any parts warranty coverage, and have to rely on your installer and their schedule for any warranty labor repairs. If your installer is more of an installer, but less of a technician, you may also need to be prepared for the possibility of paying a third party HVAC company to diagnose any issues. Just be sure you are not getting a “cheap” installation that will cost you more in the long run.
A very popular thing to do these days is to enclose an outdoor patio or lanai. Modern glass technology and building materials make this an attractive and economical way to gain increased square footage and get year 'round use from these areas. Once these areas are enclosed, however, conditioning them can prove to be a challenge.
One question we are asked quite often is, "Can I just put a couple of vents out there off of my main HVAC system?". While on the surface this may seem like the elementary solution, local codes specify a more controlled approach. Our building mechanical codes state that all areas served by the same system can have no greater than a three degree temperature difference from room to room. With most of these patios and lanais having a very large glass area, they will no doubt be warmer in the summer, and colder in the winter than the rest of the house. There are only two ways to make sure this room can be conditioned to meet code.
The first way is to run extra supply and return vents and ductwork to the enclosed room, but all of this duct must be connected to a zone system with the enclosed room on its own zone and having its own thermostat. This way, the zone can run the system as needed to maintain a temperature consistent with the rest of the home. This of course depends mostly on weather or not your current system has the additional capacity to even condition the extra square footage to begin with, which is usually not the case.
The second (and most popular and ultimately the best), way to condition a newly enclosed room such as this is with a separate mini split heat pump system. This gives you complete, independent control of the space with no efficiency lost to ductwork, and the best part is, if you leave for vacation, you can simply turn this extra system off while you are away. Additionally, if you have a breakdown with your main system, you will still have a working system that can provide you with some relief.
This is another question we get asked about. The simple answer is yes, however, we can not install a system to "condition" your sunroom, but we can install a system to "temper" it. It comes down to this. Conditioning your room is to install a system that will meet certain indoor temperature and humidity guidelines at certain outdoor design conditions. Tempering your room means to install a system for the purposes of helping to control humidity to some degree and to help prevent freezing. The results are much less specified. Your EZ Breeze product does a fairly decent job in keeping the elements out, but it does not meet the current energy codes as a true thermal barrier. That said, it is impossible for any system to do anything more than temper the space. There is no way to guarantee the results since the thermal environment is not completely controlled. We find that even tempering rooms with the EZ Breeze windows does make a very notable difference in the comfort you can achieve, and many customers have found satisfaction in having it done.
Dust. Its everywhere, but one thing we hear from customers is that it seems to be a much more noticeable issue here than in other places they have lived. There are a few reasons that may be the case. For one, we are living in what has been one of the fastest growing areas of the state for the last 15+ years. Even when building stopped in many areas of the country in the late 2000's, it only slowed here. Couple the constant building and construction, along with our very fine sandy soil, nearly annual controlled forestry burns, local paper mill processing plants, and almost constant coastal breezes, and you have a recipe for dusty conditions. While there are filtration products on the market that will help with this, there is no "silver bullet" that will eliminate all dust from your home. Please contact us if you have any questions, or would like to talk about your specific situation.
What you are likely experiencing is what's known as Dirty Sock Syndrome. If you do an internet search, you will find lots of mixed information on the subject and hundreds of advertisements for products that promise to eliminate it. There are various theories and schools of thought on the matter and how to treat it, but it is generally agreed that it is a bacteria that lives on the indoor evaporator coil. The general consensus is that it has nothing to do with the cleanliness of your home, or the brand of your equipment. We have yet to find a true "cure" for this condition. Having tried many different cleaners, we have had the best success with a product called Vindex, however, in about half the cases the smell does find its way back in a season or two. Cleaning of the indoor evaporator coil is always the first step in addressing the issue. If you are experiencing this condition and would like more information, please contact us, we would be happy to help.
Most people are familiar with your basic gas heat / central A/C heating and cooling system. In these systems, natural or propane gas is burned at the furnace to heat up the air using a heat exchanger. The outdoor unit is only used in cooling to circulate refrigerant to cool down the air via the evaporator coil. The furnace and the outdoor condenser are only used for parts of the year, thus the wear and tear overall is lessened on the system vs. a heat pump. In some areas of the country, this translates to a longer system life. In our area, corrosion from our proximity to the coast is still a concern in the lifespan of all systems.
With a heat pump system, the entire system is used year-round, every day and night, just like your refrigerator or hot water heater. A heat pump circulates refrigerant through the system which scavenges what heat is in the outside air in winter, providing heat indoors, while using the same method to scavenge, or remove, heat from inside the home to cool the home in summer.
Due to the fact that there is less heat in the outdoor air as the temperature outside drops, a heat pump will see a drop in its BTU output in heat, the colder it gets outside. For this reason, heat pumps have a second stage of electric auxiliary heat to assist when the temperature drops beyond the heat pumps ability to heat the house.
The key take away here is that a flame burns at a constant temperature, regardless of what the outdoor temperature is. Temperature outputs of 130-145 degrees are the norm with a gas furnace, providing a hotter and more even heat. A heat pump on the other hand may put out 100 degree air when the outdoor temperature is 50 degrees, but as that outdoor temperature drops, so will the output temperature at the vents. Even with the heat strips in play along with the heat pump, it is rare to see temperature outputs much higher than 120 degrees at the vents. For this reason, people who are used to the feel of gas heat will often report that a heat pump feels drafty to them or that there are more noticable cold spots on a house.
The simple answer is yes, provided you have a gas source. We have performed many gas conversions in neighborhoods that either did not have natural gas at the time the house was built, or where gas heat was not an option from the builder at the time of construction. In a gas conversion, the indoor air handler is removed, and a new gas furnace with a cased evaporator coil is installed in its place. Gas lines and venting is installed along with a new thermostat, and the existing outdoor unit can be re-used as either just an air conditioner for cooling only, or as a first stage Dual Fuel Hybrid system. We can also remove the existing outdoor unit at the time of the conversion and install a new A/C only condenser in its place.
A Dual Fuel System may perhaps be the best of both worlds. This type of system utilizes a heat pump for the first source, or "stage", of heating above 50 degrees outdoor temperature. This is when a heat pump's output and efficiency are at its best. An installed control will automatically switch to gas heat below 50 degrees utilizing gas heat for the second stage of heat when it is most effective as the outdoor temperature falls. With a normal heat pump system, when the outdoor temperature falls and the electric heating elements are brought into play, the efficiency of a heat pump is lost due to the electrical consumption of the heating elements, but this is where the gas heating becomes more efficient. In a dual fuel type of system there are no electric heating elements, so we are really using the most efficient means of heating at all times. This is referred to as a hybrid or dual fuel heating system as it uses both electricity and fossil fuels for heating.
Not to say an outdoor unit cannot be the source of actual "smoke", as anything can happen, but we get at least a few calls every winter in regards to "smoke" coming from the outdoor unit. What typically is the case is you are simply catching the system going through a defrost cycle. As a heat pump runs in heating mode, the outdoor coil can approach a temperature of 32 degrees. When this happens, particularly on a very cold evening or morning with a lot of moisture in the air, the coil may start to frost, triggering the unit to defrost or thaw the outdoor coil. This is done based on time and temperature and is completely normal. It will happen more often the colder it is outside. The "smoke" you see is actually steam that is created as the coil defrosts. The outdoor fan will stop turning while in defrost to help speed the process along. At the end of the defrost cycle, the fan will turn back on followed by a whoosh sound as the outdoor unit shifts from defrost back to heating mode. The culmination of the steam at the unit, the fan coming back on, and the associated whoosh sound could be taken as something major having just happened, along with a large plume of "smoke". Again, 99% of the time, it's not actual "smoke" from a fire or anything serious, but if you are unsure, better to be safe than sorry and have it checked out.
A variable speed air handler will increase your overall efficiency of your system in most cases, but do you need it? Need may be a strong word, but there are several advantages to having a variable speed blower motor aside from increased efficiency. With a traditional air handler with a single speed blower motor, the motor will either be 100% on or off. With a variable speed blower motor the air handler has the ability to ramp up to speed slowly, making for better humidity removal, more consistent and even room temperatures in your home, and much quieter operation. For increased comfort, a variable speed blower is the way to go.
It depends. There are so many other variables to saving on your heating and cooling costs than just what type of thermostat you have. The overall efficiency of your hvac equipment, the condition and location of your ductwork, and even simple things like keeping your filters changed regularly, all play into the savings picture. What temperature settings you are running on your thermostat will play a major role as well. The higher you keep the temperature set in the winter, and the cooler you run the settings in the summer will translate to using more energy. What a programmable thermostat will do is provide you with the convenience of changing your temperature at set times of the day automatically without you having to do it yourself.
Often when companies promote the sale of programmable thermostats, they are sold with the premise of saving you money, but a couple of key points are almost always left out that may make your savings minimal, or perhaps even non-existent.
The general premise is that with a programmable thermostat you can "set back" the temperature settings to be cooler in the heating mode when you are away, and warmer in the A/C mode when you are away, then to revert back to your more comfortable settings when you return. The time that your system is kept at these alternate temperatures will reduce run time and thus, save you energy
There is a major takeaway here that is important to understand, and it has everything to do with our area, and how heat pumps work. In our area, in cooling mode, we are combatting not only temperature, but to a great extent, humidity. Taking your thermostat to a higher setting during the day, and trying to then bring the temperature and humidity back to reasonable levels in the early evening during peak demand hours is extremely difficult, and may cause very extended run times to catch up, which may cost you more than to leave the thermostat at a constant temperature setting.
In winter, it is the heat strips that come into play that may make lowering and raising the thermostat settings a costly exercise over leaving the thermostat set at a constant temperature setting. When you raise the thermostat setting by two degrees, you will bring the heating elements on in conjunction with the heat pump, using more energy. These are two scenarios that are almost never talked about, but should be considered. It has been taught in HVAC trade schools for several years now that the best thing to do is to set your thermostat to your desired setting and leave it. In summery, the reality is that a programmable thermostat offers you convenience first and foremost, but savings is largely relative.
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