General Question and Answers

Q: What is this “SEER” business, anyway?
A: SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. Simply put, this is the accepted industry standard measurement for the efficiency of Air Conditioning and Heat Pump systems. The higher a system’s SEER ratio, the greater the comfort level the lower the operating cost. SEER ratios in today’s air to air heat pumps and air conditioners vary from a low of 10 to a high of as much as 20. Of course, as SEER goes up, system cost goes up too. American Heating and Cooling can help you decide on which SEER system is right for you.

Q: How often should I change or clean my furnace filter?
A: I recommend monthly changing or cleaning of the filter in any heating and cooling system. This applies to electronic air cleaners too. Insufficient filter changes usually result in poor system performance, poor comfort, higher bills, more frequent repairs, and premature system failure!

Q: Is Duct Cleaning Worth It?
A: The benefits of having your ducts cleaned cannot be measured in dollar savings. You should have your ducts cleaned for health reasons. The dark, conditioned space in your ducts is an ideal breeding ground f or spores, pollens, and other microbes that can cause symptoms from recurrent colds to hay fever to chronic allergies. Children, older people, and those with allergies are most apt to benefit from the healthier indoor air a good duct cleaning produces.

Q: There’s smoke coming from my outdoor heat pump unit! What’s wrong?
A: Don’t Worry! What you are probably seeing is steam, the normal result of your heat pump defrost cycle. Every 30 to 60 minutes in heating mode, a properly functioning heat pump blows some hot air over its outdoor coil to keep it free of frost and ice. This can sometimes produce a lot of steam! If you see ice on your heat pump coils outside, then is the time to call American heating and cooling for repairs!

Q: Is a service contract on my heating and cooling systems right for me?
A: The answer is, “It depends”! Modern home comfort system(s) are highly technical, and require trained, qualified professionals to maintain and repair them. As you know if you have ever needed major HVAC repairs, such expertise does not come cheaply. The most serious repairs can reach into the thousands of dollars. Some American heating and cooling customers are comfortable with that risk, but many are not. A service contract is insurance against unexpected HVAC repair bills. Also, it is easy to forget about arranging important annual maintenance appointments. With a service contract, your contractor reminds YOU, instead of vice versa.

Q: I heard I should keep the fan in my heating/cooling system running all the time. Can that be true?
A: For many houses, running the fan all the time makes sense. First of all, allowing a fan to run is relatively cheap. It costs about 5 to 20 dollars a month, according to Rocky Mountain Power. Many home s suffer from “stratification”, an air distribution problem caused by poor duct design. Such houses have certain areas that never seem to get comfortable. Running the fan helps the conditioned air get to those areas. The air feels fresher and less stagnant. Three level townhouses are particularly prone to stratification, and seem to benefit from running the fan. To run the fan all the time, simply flip the switch on your thermostat from “auto” to “on”. Of course, if your home does not suffer from the above problems, “auto” is the right setting for you.

Q: I am confused by my heat pump thermostat. What’s the difference between “AUX. HEAT” and “EM. HEAT”
A: Good question! A heat pump’s ability to transfer heat into the home is only effective down to an outdoor temperature of around 35É. Below that, electric resistance heat is used as a supplement. Your thermostat automatically senses when this extra heat is needed, and turns it on. Most thermostats will display a blue or green “AUX. HEAT” (auxiliary heat) light when the supplemental heat is on. If your heat pump is bro ken, or if you need to warm your house up quickly from a cold temperature, you may want to turn on the supplemental heat manually. When you do this, you are using the same resistance heat, but since you have switched it on, the thermostat will show a red (emergency heat) light instead.

Q: Certain rooms in my home seem to never get comfortable. Is there any way to fix that without ripping out walls?
A: If some of your rooms are comfortable and others are not, what you have is a ductwork problem. In many cases, ductwork can be easily modified to accommodate dampers, deflectors, and other means of balancing uneven air flow. Also, the Comfort Zone zoning system or furnaces with a variable speed fan blower can be used to produce correct air delivery to your home.

Q: My neighbor puts a cover over his outdoor air conditioning unit during the winter. Is this a good idea?
A: No. Even the best covers are not airtight. Moisture and humidity still get inside, but once under the cover, can’t evaporate well. The “greenhouse effect” caused underneath the cover compounds the problem. The warm moisture and vapor can infiltrate components inside the unit, and cause problems. You can temporarily cover the unit during the fall season to keep out plant and tree leafs, but removes it once the trees have shed their leaves.

Q: What is the best temperature setting for my thermostat?
A: The answer is, “at the lowest (winter) or the highest (summer) temperature at which your family is truly comfortable”. There is no “magic number”. The highest purpose of a home comfort system is comfort! The joy of saving money is radically undermined by the bitterness of a freezing or sweltering family. If you heat with a heat pump not equipped with a “smart” thermostat, you should find a comfortable temperature setting and leave it there. With any system, it is easiest to balance comfort and economy with the help of a programmable thermostat.