A true central air-conditioning system uses ducts to distribute cooled air throughout the house. In a “split system,” the most common design, refrigerant circulates between an indoor coil and a matching—meaning from the same brand—outdoor condenser with compressor (see illustration, below). The refrigerant cools the air, dehumidifying it in the process; a blower circulates air through ducts throughout the house. A thermostat maintains the temperature at the setting you select. A variation is the “heat pump,” a type of system that functions as heater and air conditioner.
A packaged system is a single unit combining all the components described in the split system. Since the unit is a package, it must be placed outside the building and indoor air is “ducted” from the building to the packaged system and back through an air distribution system. These units typically have SEER rating from 10 to 18. If heating is required, an alternate method of heating the interior of the building must be used, usually in the form of electric or gas heating.
Seasonal checks. Once a year have a licensed professional change all filters, clean and flush the coils, drain the pan and drainage system, and vacuum the blower compartments. The contractor should also check to make sure that the system is properly charged with refrigerant, that there are no leaks, and that all mechanical components are working properly.
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SEER is related to the coefficient of performance (COP) commonly used in thermodynamics and also to the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER). The EER is the efficiency rating for the equipment at a particular pair of external and internal temperatures, while SEER is calculated over a whole range of external temperatures (i.e., the temperature distribution for the geographical location of the SEER test). SEER is unusual in that it is composed of an Imperial unit divided by an SI unit. The COP is a ratio with the same metric units of energy (joules) in both the numerator and denominator. They cancel out, leaving a dimensionless quantity. Formulas for the approximate conversion between SEER and EER or COP are available.
The re-processing and upgrading of refrigerant by filtering, drying, distillation and sometimes chemical treatment of the recovered refrigerant. The re-processed substance will require laboratory analysis to verify that it meets a specific quality standard, normally that of new refrigerant. This normally involves processing “off-site” at a re-processing or a refrigerant manufacturing facility.
A contactor is a $25 mechanical relay that uses low-voltage power from the thermostat to switch 220-volt high-amperage current to the compressor and condenser fan. AC contactors can wear out and are at the top of the list of common air conditioning service failures. Even if your contactor is working, it pays to replace it every five years or so. Unscrew the old contactor before removing the wires. Then move the wires to the new unit (photo 6).
Evaporative coolers tend to feel as if they are not working during times of high humidity, when there is not much dry air with which the coolers can work to make the air as cool as possible for dwelling occupants. Unlike other types of air conditioners, evaporative coolers rely on the outside air to be channeled through cooler pads that cool the air before it reaches the inside of a house through its air duct system; this cooled outside air must be allowed to push the warmer air within the house out through an exhaust opening such as an open door or window. These coolers cost less and are mechanically simple to understand and maintain.
You've probably noticed many appliances boasting an Energy Star Certification. What this means is that manufacturer voluntarily built the product to help reduce greenhouse gases and meet non-regulatory guidelines offered by the Environmental Protection Agency. To earn an Energy Star rating, a product or system must be tested by a third party that has been recognized by the EPA for meeting their testing qualifications.
HVAC is an important part of residential structures such as single family homes, apartment buildings, hotels and senior living facilities, medium to large industrial and office buildings such as skyscrapers and hospitals, on ships and submarines, and in marine environments, where safe and healthy building conditions are regulated with respect to temperature and humidity, using fresh air from outdoors.