How long should my old air conditioner or furnace last?

The average life of an air conditioner is approximately 12 years, while indoor furnaces typically last a little longer. The actual life of your unit is impossible to predict, though studies show that equipment that is installed properly and maintained regularly will last longer. Maintenance is a must to maximize efficiency and extend equipment life.

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I want to reduce my electric and gas bills. What should I do?

There are 2 steps in significantly reducing your utility bills. The first step is to reduce the amount of heating and cooling that is required to keep your home comfortable. Adding insulation is a great way to reduce the amount of heating and cooling required. Another very important, but often overlooked, energy waster is your duct system (read more here). The second step is to increase the efficiency of your existing equipment. Depending on your existing equipment you could reduce the cooling portion of your utility bill by 50%. If your gas furnace was manufactured before 1990, it is a major energy waster as well. To cover all your bases, call Oren Atchley Company to schedule a Comfort and Energy Audit.

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How are air conditioners rated?

Air conditioners are rated based on capacity (how much heat will it remove from your home) and efficiency (how much energy will it use). The capacity of residential air conditioners is rated in tonnage, and most are typically rated at 1.5 tons up to 5 tons. 1 ton = 12,000 btu’s of heat removal capacity. Efficiency of air conditioners is rated by SEER, which stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The higher the SEER, the more efficient the air conditioner is.

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Should I buy the highest efficiency air conditioner available?

This answer might surprise you, but many times we would tell you no. The minimum efficiency air conditioner available today is 13 SEER, which is a 30% increase over what was available just a few years ago! The highest efficiency units are very nice, and come with a lot of bells and whistles, but they also come with a much higher price tag. Because of this, it can be very difficult to see a pay back when choosing a top of the line unit over a 13 SEER unit. If your budget is limited, our recommendation is that you spend less on the actual heating and cooling equipment making sure you have enough left in the budget for a complete Aeroseal duct sealing and any other duct modifications that may be necessary. We believe a 13 SEER system on a duct system that has been Aerosealed will outperform a 21 SEER system on a leaky duct system every day of the week. That said, if you can afford both Aeroseal and a 21 SEER system, this combination can provide you with unmatched comfort and efficiency.

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My house is (fill in the blank) square feet. What size air conditioner do I need?

Unfortunately finding the right size air conditioner is much more complex than simply applying a rule of thumb to the square footage of your home. Factors such as ceiling heights, size and types of windows and doors, insulation thickness and type, the direction your home faces, and many others will play a role in determining the appropriate size heating and cooling system for your home. At a minimum, a heating and cooling load calculation needs to be performed. However, even a load calculation includes some assumptions that are, at best, educated guesses. House and duct leakage are two of these rather large guesses.To really fine tune a load calculation, a Negative Pressure Test is in order. Instead of guessing what size air conditioner you need, doesn’t it make sense to spend a little extra time doing the legwork required to calculate the right size?

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Should I consider a heat pump?

Yes! I have a heat pump and love it. My gas bills are low, my electric bills are reasonable, and my comfort is outstanding. In our area, with current utility rates, a heat pump can save you several hundred dollars each year. I’ll throw in one disclaimer. If you have a duct system that is located in a concrete slab, you do not want a heat pump – they simply don’t have the capacity to overcome the duct loss that occurs when the ductwork is sitting in a cold concrete slab in the winter. A tight duct system is also very important to the effectiveness and comfort level provided by a heat pump.

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I need a price on a new unit. Do I have to be home to have an estimate performed?

Yes. There is a lot that goes into finding the right solution to your home comfort. We need to be able to ask you questions, and you need to be able to ask us questions. The most efficient and effective way to do this is in person. We’ll do our best not to take up too much of your time, but this decision is too important and the investment is too great to leave up to chance.

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I know a guy that says he can install a new furnace or air conditioner for me “on the side” and save me a lot of money? Should I do it?

While I’m sure you will save some money doing it this way, know that there are some drawbacks and it could be flat out risky. Most people that are doing work on the side do not have a license, nor do they have insurance. Installing equipment requires dealing with electricity and gas, two things that can cause great harm to you and your home. If something goes wrong because of a mistake made on the installation, and the installer doesn’t have insurance, who is going to pay for the damages? Another drawback is service after the sale. If your installer is working for someone else during the day, your ability to get timely warranty service may be very limited. Are these risks worth saving some money up front?

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How often should I change my filter?

It depends on the kind of filter you are using. A cheap fiberglass filter that you buy from a big-box retail store should be changed monthly. The next step up would be a 1” thick pleated polyester filter. These can probably go 2 – 3 months between changes. Our most popular filter that we install at the time your equipment is replaced is a 5” thick pleated filter that can be cleaned 6 months after installation, and replaced 6 months later.

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I suffer from seasonal allergies. Will a better filter help me?

While you may see a slight improvement by upgrading your furnace filter, don’t expect a miracle cure from any filter, no matter how good the brochure or commercial looks. The primary purpose of a furnace filter is to keep the furnace and evaporator coil clean. Additionally, the only air that it can clean is that air that makes it to your duct system - much of the dust and other allergens never make it into your duct system, instead settling on your furniture and flooring. Instead of spending hundreds and even thousands of dollars on a fancy filter, we recommend keeping the dust and allergens out in the first place by sealing your ductwork and sealing your living areas from the attic and crawlspaces .

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Should I have a duct cleaning performed?

While there are certainly cases where a duct cleaning is advisable, we typically recommend looking at all the options before rushing out and scheduling it. Most people think they need a duct cleaning because they have a dust problem in the home. Unfortunately we have heard many stories of homeowners who had a duct cleaning done to reduce the dust, only to find that the dust got worse after the duct cleaning was performed. The real question to ask is not how do I get the dust out of the ductwork, it’s how did the dust get in the ductwork to begin with. The best way to keep the dust out of the ductwork, and thus out of your house, is to make sure the duct system is leak-free. A leaky duct system provides an open pathway for dust and other allergens to travel from your attic or crawlspace into your living area. The most common praise from Aeroseal customers is that the amount of the dust in the home has been reduced significantly.

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My indoor coil is frozen. What could be the reason for this?

There are 2 common causes to a frozen indoor coil. The first is a lack of airflow across the coil. This could be due to a dirty filter, an undersized duct system, a dirty evaporator coil, or even a furnace blower that is set to the wrong speed. The first thing you should do is check to see if your filter needs to be cleaned or changed. If the filter appears to be excessively dirty, turn your system off and wait for the indoor coil to thaw. Once it is completely thawed (it may take several hours), install a new filter and turn the system back on. If it freezes up again, it’s time to have an Oren Atchley Company technician come take a look. The second common cause is that your unit is low on refrigerant. There is no way for you to diagnose this on your own. If the filter looks ok or you have already followed the steps above, call Oren Atchley Company for a technician to come to your home and diagnose the problem.

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How much will it cost to add refrigerant to my air conditioner?

We do charge a Service Charge to send a technician to your home and diagnose the problem. The Service Charge varies throughout the year, so you’ll need to call to find out what the current Service Charge is. For refrigerant, we charge by the pound. Our technicians carry refrigerant scales and weigh the drum of refrigerant before and after they add the refrigerant to your system. They then multiply the number of pounds used, by the current price of refrigerant. The price of refrigerant also varies because our cost varies (though the general trend is that our cost is quickly rising for R-22, and gradually falling for the new environmentally friendly R-410a).

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How much refrigerant do you think you’ll have to add to my air conditioner?

This is impossible to answer. It could be as little as half a pound or as much as 15 pounds, though the average is somewhere around 3 to 5 pounds. The larger the air conditioner capacity, the more refrigerant it will hold. The larger the leak in your system, the faster the refrigerant will disappear.

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I have to add refrigerant to my air conditioner every year. Is this normal?

While it may be normal for some, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to add refrigerant to my system every year. The refrigerant loop is supposed to be a closed loop system, meaning nothing gets in and nothing gets out. Refrigerant leaks cost you money when you have to add refrigerant each year, and they increase your utility bills because your system will not run as efficiently when the refrigerant charge is inaccurate. Additionally, refrigerant leaks are harmful to the environment. Our recommendation is that you have a system leak search performed, and have the leaks repaired.

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Does it have to be cold outside to have a heating tune-up?

No. Every procedure performed on a heating tune-up can be done year round. The only drawback is that we do have to turn the furnace on for somewhere between 5 and 15 minutes, so if it’s 100 degrees outside, the inside of your home could get toasty pretty quick.

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Does it have to be hot outside to have a cooling tune-up done?

This one isn’t as simple. We can do every procedure on a cooling tune-up with the exception of checking the refrigerant charge. To accurately charge the refrigerant, it needs to be 80+ degrees outside and close to normal room temperature inside. If you’ve never had to add refrigerant to your system, you should go ahead and have the tune-up done in early spring to beat the rush.

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I need a service call. Can you give me an exact time when the technician will arrive?

I wish we could, but this is much more difficult than you would think. We have service calls that last only 15 minutes (ex. The customer didn’t realize the thermostat was turned off), and we have others that last several hours. In most cases, we don’t know how long the a call will last, so we don’t know what time to tell you to expect us at your house. We know that your time is valuable, and we’ve found the best way to keep you from waiting around for us is to simply give us your mobile phone number. We can typically give you 15 – 30 minutes notice, allowing you the time to get home from wherever you might be.

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Does someone have to be home to have a service technician come out?

Yes. We may have to access the indoor equipment, the thermostat or even get in your attic. Our technicians feel much more comfortable having you there to answer any questions that they might have, and it also makes it easier to explain what problems we find.

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Do I have to pay for the service call or tune-up at the time of the visit?

Yes. Unless you have made previous arrangements with the office, our technicians are required to collect at the time of the visit. This cuts down on the costs for both of us, as we can save the time, materials, and postage necessary to collect at a later date. We do accept checks, all major forms of credit cards, as well as cash (though you’ll have to have exact change as our technicians do not carry change with them).

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