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HVAC FAQs | Maintenance, Repair, and Replacement

by Daniel Estevao on September 8, 2015

At Pacific Air Systems, we want you to understand how your heating and air conditioning system works. Although you could always call one of our technicians to conduct a comprehensive diagnosis of your HVAC system, we’re sharing some of the most frequently asked questions (HVAC FAQs) that homeowners have about their system.

Heating & Air Conditioning HVAC FAQs

If any of your HVAC questions are not answered here, feel free to contact us through Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and we will answer your question in our next blog post!

Q: How long can I expect a new HVAC system to last?

A: There are many factors that should be considered when determining the lifespan of your system. The key factors include proper installation, proper maintenance, make and model, number of repairs, and frequency of use.

Most systems have a lifetime of 10 to 20 years, but this number drastically changes depending on if you have scheduled recommended annual HVAC tune-ups. The best way to remember annual heating & cooling tune-ups is to join a HVAC Maintenance Plan.

The general lifespan of a system that hasn’t been maintained throughout the years is only about 7-10 years. If you have had regular maintenance from a professional, however, that number jumps up to 25 years for a furnace and 22 years for an air conditioner.

Q: Should I repair or replace my HVAC system?

A: Like with any piece of machinery, over time, problems will develop and repairs will be needed. When you are faced with expensive repairs and high energy bills, you have two choices: repair or replace. You may want to consider replacement options if you are facing expensive HVAC repairs, skyrocketing energy bills, excessive operation, or hot and cold spots. If your HVAC system is struggling to keep your home comfortable and is over 8 years old,  Call Pacific Air Systems and for a free evaluation of your current system and options to move forward.

With the development of new, energy-efficient technologies, purchasing a new HVAC system could make a lot of sense financially. Of course, you’ll want to properly maintain your new system afterwards.

Use this Energy Calculator from acdoctor.com to get an estimate on the potential energy savings of switching to a higher efficiency HVAC system.

Q: How can I lower my HVAC costs?

A: Here are some tips and tricks that will help lower your utility bill and increase your comfort:

  • Upgrade your HVAC system. You may benefit greatly from a new heating and/or air conditioning system if your current one is old, in need of repair, or inefficient. Schedule a FREE in-home consultation with one of our professional HVAC technicians to see how much you could save with a new energy-efficient HVAC system. We will walk you through the financial details so you can feel confident in whatever decision you choose.
  • Use your programmable thermostat wisely. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, you may want to purchase one if you frequently change the temperature throughout the day, are away from your home for long periods of time, or would like to control your home’s temperature remotely. Just remember to use it if you have it! We recommend setting your thermostat to 68 degrees during the winter months while at home and lower while away or asleep. The same strategy applies in the summer – set your thermostat to 78 degrees while at home and raise it while asleep or away. According to the EPA, “by turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for 8 hours, you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill — a savings of as much as 1% for each degree if the setback period is eight hours long.”
  • Install and use ceiling fans. Did you know that your ceiling fan has a summer and winter setting? It’s the little black switch near the base of the fan. Make sure that your ceiling fan is running in a counter-clockwise direction in the summer, with air flowing down. In the winter, flip the little black switch and reverse the direction of your fans. The blades will turn in a clockwise direction, creating an updraft that helps push the warmer air near the ceiling toward the ground.
  • Schedule HVAC maintenance once in the fall, once in spring. Tuning up your HVAC system before each heating and cooling season will pretty much ensure problem-free operation throughout the year. Remembering this important home maintenance task will save you lots of money on utility bills and repair/replacement costs.  Ask about Pacific Air System’s HVAC Maintenance Plan!
  • Don’t block vents and registers. Go around your home and check behind furniture, drapes, and rugs for any blocked HVAC vents and registers. Although you may have heard that you can save money and energy by blocking or closing off vents in unused rooms, this is not a good idea. Basically, your HVAC system heats and cools at the same rate no matter how many vents or registers are opened/closed. By closing off a vent, you are simply increasing the pressure inside of your duct system, which could lead to air leaks and other inefficiencies. You may get the airflow you want, but it will end up costing you more, not less. Read this blog for a more technical explanation on why you shouldn’t close HVAC vents in unused rooms. Basically, keep all of your air vents open for the most efficient air distribution.
  • Check and replace/clean your air filters. In some newer systems, there is a safety shut-off mechanism that prevents your system from turning on if there isn’t enough airflow due to a clogged air filter. It is important to check your air filter every 30 days to make sure it is clean for both efficiency and indoor air quality reasons. A dirty air filter will not only cause problems for your HVAC system but for your allergies and other respiratory issues. Set calendar and phone reminders so you never forget this task again.
  • Check insulation levels in your attic, basement, crawlspaces, floors, and other areas in your home. Although insulation and air sealing is extremely important for reducing the load on your HVAC system, there is the possibility of going overboard. Just as you don’t want a house that has huge holes in it, you don’t want tupperware-tight home either. Whenever you complete a big insulation project always have a professional inspect your home for proper ventilation. Insulation and moisture control and ventilation go hand-in-hand.
Home Insulation HVAC Tips

Examples of where to insulate. 1. In unfinished attic spaces, insulate between and over the floor joists to seal off living spaces below. If the air distribution is in the attic space, then consider insulating the rafters to move the distribution into the conditioned space. (1A) attic access door 2. In finished attic rooms with or without dormer, insulate (2A) between the studs of “knee” walls, (2B) between the studs and rafters of exterior walls and roof, (2C) and ceilings with cold spaces above. (2D) Extend insulation into joist space to reduce air flows. 3. All exterior walls, including (3A) walls between living spaces and unheated garages, shed roofs, or storage areas; (3B) foundation walls above ground level; (3C) foundation walls in heated basements, full wall either interior or exterior. 4. Floors above cold spaces, such as vented crawl spaces and unheated garages. Also insulate (4A) any portion of the floor in a room that is cantilevered beyond the exterior wall below; (4B) slab floors built directly on the ground; (4C) as an alternative to floor insulation, foundation walls of unvented crawl spaces. (4D) Extend insulation into joist space to reduce air flows. 5. Band joists. 6. Replacement or storm windows and caulk and seal around all windows and doors. Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

  • Clean the area around your indoor and outdoor HVAC units. Make sure that there is nothing around your indoor or outdoor unit, especially anything flammable. In order for your HVAC system to run efficiently, there needs to be plenty of air movement. Do not store anything around your indoor unit and periodically check your outdoor unit for leaves and other debris that could be restricting airflow. You can clean your outdoor unit with a simple garden hose. If purchasing a A/C coil cleaner, consult your manufacturer’s recommendations.

For more HVAC energy-saving tips, watch this video:

Q: How do I know which HVAC system is right for my home?

A: To properly size an HVAC system, you will need to have a professional conduct a full inspection of your home, including square footage, ductwork, insulation, and more. A bigger unit is not always better! New equipment often fails to live up to manufacturer claims due to improper installation.

Avoid this common homeowner pitfall by consulting this EnergyStar HVAC Qualifications page and calling Pacific Air Systems to perform this service for FREE. Call 253-292-3995 or visit our website to schedule your FREE no-obligation, in-home estimate today. In addition to checking the ductwork, insulation, and ventilation in your home, we also check: refrigerant piping, electrical connections, thermostat, condensate piping, flue piping, flue terminations, chimney liner, slabs, filter, driers, registers, grills, drain pans and evaporator coil.

Q: Can you provide me with a quote over the phone?

A: Unfortunately, we cannot provide quotes for HVAC services over the phone. Since each home and heating & cooling system is different, price varies considerably from job to job. In order to provide an accurate quote for you, one of our qualified technicians will need to conduct a thorough diagnosis of your problem.

Q: What does SEER, AFUE, and HSPF stand for?

A: These are terms that help contractors and customers understand the efficiency of their HVAC system.

SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) – the higher the SEER rating of your A/C, the more efficient it is.

AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) – the higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient your furnace. An 80% AFUE furnace means that 80% of the fuel your furnace consumes is being used to heat your home. The other 20% goes out the chimney.

HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) – used for heat pump systems (which both heat and cool your home). The higher the HSPF rating, the more efficient your heat pump is.

Q: What do I do if my furnace or air conditioner won’t turn on?

A: There are a couple of things you should check before calling in a professional HVAC technician:

  1. Check that your breaker hasn’t been flipped. Check power to your thermostat, air handler, and outdoor HVAC unit.
  2. Check your air filter and replace it if dirty.
  3. Check to see if your thermostat is on the right setting.
  4. Call us for 24-hour technical assistance at 253.292.3995.

Pacific Air Systems Heating & Cooling

Since 1984, we’ve proudly served homeowners throughout Federal Way, Graham, Spanaway, University Place, Steilacoom, Sumner, Lakewood, Puyallup, Tacoma and Gig Harbor.

Keep in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more useful tips and tricks for maintaining a safe and efficient home.