Air conditioning systems come in a variety of styles and energy efficiency measured in SEER. Current regulations require at least a 13 SEER system with SEER ratings going as high as 21.
Some systems work as an add-on to a forced air furnace (central air) which relies upon existing heating duct for cool air distribution. Other systems are designed for use where air distribution by a duct is difficult (PTAC systems or unitary window units). As a result of these options, there is also a wide variation in cost for an air conditioning system. But you can find a solution to fit your budget.
1. Home Air Conditioning Systems and How They are Different
Today you have many different options. And that’s really a good thing. You now have choices available to you that cover a wide range of budget and physical construction considerations.
When considering an air conditioning system you will find there are options available including unitary, PTAC (packaged terminal air conditioner), window style, portable units, central air systems, split / ductless systems and so on.
Even though there are several styles and price points for air conditioning systems, they all use the same basic components of refrigerant, condenser, compressor, expansion valve and an evaporator coil
The most commonly used air conditioning and cooling systems in the home:
- Window Air Conditioner
- Portable Air Conditioner
- Split or Ductless Air Conditioner (technically called a packaged terminal air conditioner)
- Central Air Conditioning System
2. How an Air Conditioning System Works
One of the most amazing machines made is the air conditioner. I mean it takes heat from your house and dumps it outside. And does it using 5 bizarre things including:
- Expansion Valve
- Evaporator Coil
Refrigerant is amazing stuff as it changes its state from a gas vapor to a liquid as heat is collected from your house and rejected to the outside.
The Compressor is the pump that keeps things moving and the Condenser is where the refrigerant changes state for a vapor to a liquid. The Expansion Valve houses more physics and state changes and a hot high-pressure fluid on one side of the valve changes to a cool low-pressure mist on the other side of the valve because a gas cools as it expands. Lastly, the Evaporator Coil is where cool air is created as air is blown across the coil to cool your home.
3. Central Air Conditioning Unit and Heat Pump Maintenance
The air conditioner takes hot air and makes it cold. The heat pump does the same thing except it can also “run in reverse” and pump heat out of cold air. So cool!
These two devices share the same components of refrigerant, compressor, condenser, expansion valve and evaporator coil.
With their location outside, a good annual maintenance program should include:
- Cleaning the condensing coils of dirt, leaves and other debris;
- Checking the condensing coil fins for damage;
- Lubricating fan bearings; and
- Inspecting the fan for damage.
4. Window Air Conditioner Maintenance
Window air conditioners are a great solution for limited cooling applications, or when you want to add removable cooling to a home you don’t own, like a rental.
But to do an effective job at cooling they need to be sized properly and periodically maintained. A room that is 150 square feet to 250 square feet require an average of 6,000 BTU of cooling per hour, a 450 to 550 square foot room requires about 12,000 BTU then the ratio decreases above that point in terms of BTU required per square foot.
5. Window Air Conditioning Repair
Window-mounted air conditioners pack a lot of equipment in a small space. The same basic components as found in a central air system are found in these little units that set on your windowsill, it’s just that the condenser discharge is out the window instead of a remote ground mounted unit.
Problems more common to the window air conditioner::
- Water Drips From the Front Panel
- Air Conditioner Cycles On and Off Too Frequently
- Unit Will Not Turn On
- Unit Blows Fuses or Pops a Circuit Breaker