Frequently Asked Questions
What should I look for in a home comfort system?

The four biggest factors in your home's comfort are:

Temperature: To most people, temperature is both the beginning and the end of any discussion involving comfort. Simple temperature management is only the beginning. In fact, when the world's first modern air conditioner was being developed, one of the comfort dilemmas he was trying to solve was humidity control. But, to achieve superior indoor comfort, you've got to start with the basics -- heating or cooling -- as the foundation for your system.

Cleanliness/Freshness of Air: Dusty, dirty homes at any temperature can cause feelings of discomfort to many people, especially allergy sufferers. And, the air in today's tightly-sealed, well-insulated and energy-efficient homes can become stale as the same indoor air is circulated and re-circulated. The fact is, with dust, pollen, pet dander, mold, skin flakes, chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, Radon gas and more, the air inside your home can be even more polluted than the air outside. Air Solutions can alleviate these problems and therefore add another level of comfort.

Humidity: Humidity is a funny thing. In the winter, dry air can cause static electricity, itchy skin, damage to home furnishings and more. Adding humidity is a good thing because it makes the air feel warmer and more comfortable while minimizing damage to furnishings. In the summer, it is preferable to remove humidity so indoor air feels cooler and less sticky. Air Solutions' answer? Improved comfort through humidity control.

System Control: Some of the common comfort complaints from homeowners include: inconsistent temperatures from one room to the next, up and down temperature swings, constantly adjusting the thermostat, and more. System controls of varying degrees of sophistication can help with these issues, offering straight temperature control, programmability that allows setting a "comfort schedule," temperature and humidity control combined, and dividing the home into zones which can be controlled separately. Air Solutions provides this kind of control.
What kind of system is right for me?

The system that is right for you will depend on a number of factors: your budget, your comfort expectations, physical factors such as what type of system currently exists in your home, the unique features of your home and more. Below, you can explore the available system options and some of the key factors that affect your choice.

Types of systems: For the basics of heating or cooling temperature control, you typically will have four system options. Below is a list of those options followed by the approximate percentage of U.S. homes using that particular system.

• Gas Furnace/Air Conditioner (60% of homes)
• Heat pump (25% of homes)
• Small Packaged System (5% of homes)
• Boiler

Key Accessories: Additional comfort comes from having clean, fresh air as well as proper humidity levels inside. These products will fine-tune your system to help improve your overall comfort and the efficiency of your indoor comfort system.

• Air Cleaners
• Ventilators
• Humidifier

System Control: Most people are familiar with the basic thermostat. But, system control is more than picking a temperature and walking away. It includes being able to program a comfort schedule for different times of day, setting humidity levels, and even setting different temperatures for different areas of the home. Here's how:

• Humidifiers
• Thermidistat™ Control
• Zoning System
Key factors that affect your choice

Some of your home comfort decisions will be made for you based on some of the physical considerations involved, including:

Your home: Everybody's home is different. Some are big, some are small. Older homes are not as tightly sealed as new ones, which mean efficiency is reduced. The number and size of windows, what direction the home is facing, number of mature trees in the yard and many more factors can affect your comfort, and may play a part in deciding what type of system is best for you. Your local heating and cooling contractor should have the expertise to assess any unusual circumstances surrounding the specific needs of your home.

Your existing system: If you are replacing an existing system, there are physical and financial reasons to stay with the same type of system. For example, if you currently have a boiler, it will be very expensive and physically challenging to install the ductwork you need for a forced-air furnace or heat pump.

If you want a new type of system because you were dissatisfied with your comfort, remember that a new system will bring newer comfort technology and energy efficiency. Also, your comfort problem could be related to other issues, such as improper ductwork, system balance, cleanliness or freshness of air, humidity control and system control.

Your geographical region: Although there are exceptions to every rule, geography can play a role in what type of system will work best in your home. Here's the general idea:

Colder regions - Furnace or boiler/air conditioner combo
Warmer regions - Heat pump or air conditioner w/ supplemental heat
Regions with land or space issues - Small packaged rooftop systems
Energy sources available

Some systems simply won't work if the proper energy source isn't available or too expensive to consider. The three most likely energy sources for your comfort system are electricity, gas or oil.

• Electricity: If you have no gas or oil service, you will need to go with an all-electric system, which means a heat pump or air conditioner. You may be able to have a gas line installed at your home, but that could be an additional cost. In some areas, electrical rates are so low that an all-electric system can still be the best option even if gas or oil are available.
• Gas: If natural gas is available, furnaces and boilers become options for you. You may still opt to have an all-electric system if that suits your home or your personal preference.
• Oil: If natural gas is available, furnaces and boilers become options for you. You may still opt to have an all-electric system if that suits your home or your personal preference.
How can I compare brands?

Most people understand the idea of comparing gas mileage or engine sizes when shopping for cars of different brands. But, how can you compare quality between different brands of heating and cooling equipment? And, what are the industry-standard measures that can help you make objective comparisons?

Here is some guidance in these areas:

• Quality
• Comfort
• Efficiency
• Sound Levels
Comparing Quality

Ever heard the term, "You get what you pay for?" Choosing products of higher quality can mean longer lasting performance and fewer headaches (and expenses) down the road. Unfortunately, comparing quality between heating and cooling systems is not always easy. Here are three guidelines we suggest:

- Select a brand name that you trust. As a general rule, the bigger, better known brands will have a better reputation for quality and reliability - that's how they got to be so well recognized. For example, Air Solutions products undergo a rigorous series of quality tests that begins during initial product development and continues with field-testing of hand-built prototypes. Many of Air Solutions' quality checks during production are performed on every product we make, not just random samples. And, final products are run-tested. Every product we make is then backed by warranty protection of key components as well as the entire product.

- Smaller companies and brand names you don't recognize may not perform these types of tests. It is in your best interest to do a little more homework about the company itself and its quality/reliability testing procedures as well as their warranty programs. All of these areas can give you clues about the quality of the products they manufacture.

- Solicit recommendations. Recommendations from friends, neighbors or trusted acquaintances can be helpful as well. Ask people you trust if they've had a new indoor comfort system installed. If they're happy with what they've purchased, it may be worth your time to take a look at the products yourself, check the quality of installation, and feel the comfort. When doing so, remember that every home is different, and what may work in your friend's home may not be the best solution for you.

Look for 3rd party endorsements. Product endorsements from independent ratings companies, government agencies, or consumer groups are generally good sources for reliable information. These entities have nothing to gain by praising a particular product, so you can typically trust the information and opinions they provide. Some third-party endorsements to look for may include:

• EPA's Energy Star
• EPA's Green Star
• Consumer Digest
Comparing Comfort

All systems are not alike. Newer technology has allowed manufacturers to offer high tech systems that do more than just blast hot or cold air through your ducts and out into your home. Many of today's systems offer the technology to reduce draftiness, eliminate the up and down temperatures you may have been experiencing and more. Here's how:

Two-speed Furnaces: By operating on low speed up to 90% of the time, two-speed furnaces run for longer periods of time than single-speed furnaces. That means fewer on/off cycles, fewer drafts (from the blower kicking on) and much smaller temperature swings -- only one or two degrees instead of the four-degree swings common with single-speed furnaces. Plus, better air circulation helps prevent air "stratification" warm air rising to the ceiling and cold air settling on the floor. In short, you get consistent, even heat throughout your home.

Variable-capacity Furnaces: Variable-capacity furnaces also offer "smart" motors than can monitor your home's comfort needs and automatically adjust the volume and speed of air to provide the greatest comfort and the most efficient heating or cooling. They provide the ultimate combination of comfort, efficiency and quiet performance.

Two-speed Air Conditioners and heat pumps: Two-speed units can run on low speed (using 50% of the energy) up to 80% of the time, so they offer the same benefits as multi-capacity furnaces fewer on/off cycles, fewer drafts and much smaller temperature swings. You also get better air circulation, for even, consistent cooling and/or heating throughout your home. Plus, if you purchase a multi-speed or variable-capacity furnace or fan coil with your unit, you will enhance both the comfort and the efficiency of your air conditioning or heat pump system even further.
Comparing Efficiency

Comparing energy efficiency of different brands of heating and cooling equipment is relatively easy. Although the rating systems are standardized, allowing you to make a fair comparison, there are three different rating systems used. Each rating is used for a specific type of product (in other words, all furnaces use the same system, heat pumps use a different system, and so on). They are:

AFUE (gas heating): The efficiency of a furnace is measured in a rating known as AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency). A lot like your car's miles per gallon rating, AFUE tells you how efficiently the furnace converts fuel (gas or oil) into heat. An AFUE of 80% means that 80% of the fuel is used to heat your home, while the other 20% basically goes up the chimney.

The government mandated a minimum AFUE rating for furnaces installed in new homes is 78%. In contrast, many furnaces manufactured before 1992 had AFUE ratings as low as 60%, so nearly half the fuel was being wasted. Furnaces with AFUE ratings of 78% to 80% are considered "mid-efficiency"; those with ratings of 90% or higher are known as "high efficiency." The maximum furnace efficiency available is around 96.6%.

If you have an older furnace (with an AFUE of about 60%), you could save up to 40% on your heating bills by replacing it with a new high-efficient furnace. So the cost to replace your old, inefficient furnace is paid back through lower utility bills.

If you live in a cold climate, you could see a payback in a few short years. If you live in a moderate climate, it might make more sense to purchase a mid-efficiency furnace. Your dealer can use heating data from your area to help you determine about how long it would take you to recover the additional cost of a high-efficiency model in energy savings. (Of course, after the payback, you continue to save on your energy bills for the life of the system.)

SEER (cooling): Cooling efficiency for air conditioners and heat pumps is indicated by a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating, which tells you how efficiently a unit uses electricity. The higher the number, the greater the efficiency.

The typical SEER rating of units manufactured prior to 1992 is about 6.0.Now, the government mandated minimum is 10.0 SEER. High-efficiency units have a SEER of at least 12.0, the maximum available is about 17.

HSPF (heat pump heating): Heat pumps also have heating efficiency ratings, indicated as an HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor). In general, the higher the HSPF rating, the less electricity the unit will use to heat your home.

The government mandated minimum heating efficiency standards for new heat pumps is 6.8 HSPF. Most heat pumps manufactured before 1992 have HSPF ratings below 5.0. Today, an HSPF of 7.5 or higher is considered "high-efficiency"; the maximum available is 10.0.

Matching Your System for Optimum Efficiency: There's one other factor that affects the efficiency of your air conditioning or heat pump system: the indoor coil. Your heat pump or air conditioner is a "split system," which means that there is an outdoor unit, or condenser, and an indoor unit, or evaporator coil. If your condensing unit is not matched with the proper indoor coil, it may not give you the stated SEER and/or HSPF ratings and could even develop performance problems. It's kind of like putting two new tires on one side of your car and leaving the old, worn-out ones on the other side. You'd probably be disappointed with both the performance and the miles per gallon you get. When you're replacing an existing system, make sure you replace both units so your new condensing unit will give you optimal performance, efficiency and comfort.
Comparing Sound Levels

One factor of comfort most people don't consider is sound. How can you relax when you have a noisy system? This section provides tips on how to make sure you are getting the quietest system available.

Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps: An air conditioner or heat pump sitting next to your house can create a lot of noise both inside and outside your home. To compare sound levels of different brands, ask your dealer about the bel rating of units you are considering. Bels, similar to decibels, range from 0 to 13. Most air conditioners and heat pumps operate at 8 to 9 bels; some units ratings are as low as 6.8. That may not sound like a wide range, but consider this: 9 bels sounds 10 times louder than 8 bels. That means one 9-bel air conditioner is as loud as 10 units rated at 8 bels. So we think taking the time to compare bel ratings is pretty sound advice. Sound levels inside your home may also be reduced by matching your outdoor unit with a variable-capacity furnace or fan coil.
Environmental Issues

There's a hole in the ozone. Global warming is here. Most of us are aware of how our lifestyles can affect the environment. Air Solutions is aware of this also, and offers options for making your system more environmentally sound.
Can I troubleshoot before calling Air Solutions?

The answer is, "Yes." Here are some simple procedures you can perform before going to the expense of a service call:

• Check disconnected switches (indoor and outdoor if you have a split system). Make sure that circuit breakers are on or that fuses have not blown.
• Check for sufficient airflow. Make sure air filters are clean and that supply-air and return-air grilles are open and unobstructed.
• Check the settings on your thermostat. If you want cooling, make sure the temperature control selector is set below room temperature and the SYSTEM switch is on the COOL or AUTO position. If you want heat, make sure the temperature control selector is set above room temperature and the SYSTEM switch is at HEAT or AUTO. The FAN switch should be set at ON for continuous blower operation or AUTO if you want the blower to function only while the unit is operating. In addition to the routine maintenance you perform, your home comfort system should be inspected at least once a year by a properly trained service technician. Air Solutions will make sure your system operates safely and gives you the best performance at the lowest cost. You may also want to ask us about an economical service contract that covers seasonal inspections for a flat fee.
What routine maintenance do I need help with?

Think about how you take care of your car. Sure, most people can handle the little stuff - checking and topping off fluids, keeping tires inflated to the correct pressure, changing the wiper blades. But, to keep your car operating at its best, you need an occasional tune-up from a trained professional.

Your heating and cooling system is no different. To get the most performance and longest life from your system, it's a good idea to have a professional perform routine checks in the spring and in the fall.
Spring maintenance

In the spring, Air Solutions will typically check a heat pump or air conditioner for all or some of the following:

• Operating pressures • Refrigerant charge • Filter condition • Compressor
• Fan motor • Capacitors • Belts
• Crankcase heaters • Coils cleaning
• Lubrication of moving parts
Fall maintenance

In the fall, you can expect Air Solutions to check your furnace in the following areas:

• Burner and pilot assemblies  Cracks in the heat exchanger • Check the pilot thermocouple
• Examine the filter and check vent piping • Test the electronic ignition
• Test the fan • Test the limit switch • Burner adjustments
• Measure manifold gas pressure • Measure temperature rise
• Carbon monoxide test • Set the heat anticipator
• Check and adjust belt tension
• Examine the draft diverter
• Lubricate the fan motor
What maintenance can I do myself?

With the proper maintenance and care, your equipment will operate economically and dependably. There are a few simple, routine maintenance operations you can do to help ensure the best performance and comfort from your system.

Safety First

Before you perform any kind of maintenance, consider these important safety precautions.

• Disconnect all electrical power to the unit before removing access panels to perform maintenance. Please note that there may be more than one power connection switch.
• Take special care to prevent cuts from sharp edges in the construction of your equipment, it’s best to be very careful when you handle parts or reach into units.

Check the air filter in your furnace or fan coil every 3 to 4 weeks. A dirty filter will cause excessive strain on your furnace, air conditioner or heat pump. Replace your filter when necessary, or clean it if you have the reusable type. If you have a reusable filter, make sure it’s completely dry before you re-install it. The prefilter and collection cells of an electronic air cleaner should be cleaned at least two or three times per year.

Clean dust off of your indoor coil. With a vacuum cleaner and soft-brush attachment, you can remove any dust from the top and underside of the coil. Make sure you only do this when the coil is dry. If you can’t get the coil clean this way, call Air Solutions for service.

Keep your outdoor condensing unit free of debris. If you keep grass clippings, leaves, shrubbery and debris away from your outdoor unit, it should only require minimal care to operate properly. Check the base pan, which is located under the unit, occasionally and remove debris, to help the unit drain correctly.

If the outdoor coil becomes dirty, use a brush or a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to clean the surface. To clean dirt that is deep in the coil, contact Air Solutions.

Take special care of outdoor condensing units in ocean environments. If your unit is located near a sea coast, you can help preserve its optimal condition with a little extra care. Ocean mist and sea breezes carry salt, which is corrosive to most metals. Although most new units are made out of galvanized metal and are protected by top-grade paint, you can add life to your unit by washing all exposed surfaces and the coil approximately every three months. Ask Air Solutions about the appropriate interval in your area.

Make sure your outdoor unit stays in a level position. If the support for your split-system outdoor unit shifts or settles and the unit is no longer level, re-level it promptly to make sure moisture drains properly out of the unit. If you notice that water or ice collects beneath the unit, arrange for it to be drained away from the equipment.

Inspect your furnace’s combustion area and vent system before each heating season. If you find dirt, soot or rust, your system may not operate properly or at its peak efficiency. Call Air Solutions and do not operate your furnace until it is professionally inspected and/or repaired.

Have oil-fired boilers inspected annually. Call Air Solutions before each heating season to replace your oil filter cartridge and conduct a thorough inspection of the unit’s operation.

Clean your humidifier at the beginning of every heating season. Review your owner’s manual for the proper procedure to clean the external and internal components of your unit. The evaporator pad should also be replaced before each heating season. If the water in your area is hard or has high mineral content, you may need to clean or service your humidifier more frequently.

Clean the core and air filters on a ventilator at least every three months. You can vacuum the core of an energy recovery ventilator as long as it is dry and the outdoor temperature is between 60 F (16 C) and 75 F (24 C). Heat recovery ventilator cores can be soaked for three hours in a solution of warm water and mild soap and then rinsed. Ventilator air filters are washable: just use a vacuum to remove the heaviest accumulation of dust and then wash them in lukewarm water. Replace them after they are completely dry.

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