The Luxury of Air Conditioning: Our Homeowner’s Guide to Cost, Types, Size & Common Repairs
Just 50 years ago, air conditioning was a luxury. Today, AC is a staple of the American lifestyle. This necessary luxury has transformed the way we live, work, and play in New Albany, IN. Now we can build bigger buildings, assemble in larger groups, develop modern medicine and free ourselves from the uncertainty of the weather. Even reading this article, on a website, hosted by a server in a climate-controlled server room wouldn’t be possible without the invention of air conditioning.
In today’s world, it is inconceivable to even consider staying in a sweltering hot room without air conditioning. Can you even imagine a New Albany, IN hotel that doesn’t offer air conditioning? The sheer thought is laughable. Would you stay in a movie theatre when the AC is out? They would be better off shutting down the business completely.
So how did this need for climate control begin? How can you best take care of your current air conditioner and what does the future of AC look like? We’re so glad you asked.
Who Invented Air Conditioning?
People have been trying to stay cool for centuries. Even the ancient Egyptians would hang wet mats from their doorways to add a cool breeze to the hot desert. Romans circulated water through indoor pipes to cool off their stuffy villas. But it wasn’t until 1902 that real, viable air conditioning was introduced to the modern world.
The Sackett-Wilhelms Lithographing and Publishing Company in Brooklyn, NY found that excessive humidity during the summer was ruining the color register they used for their printing press. They hired a young engineer named Willis Carrier to solve this problem and that’s exactly what he did.
Willis Carrier developed a system of chilled coils that maintained a constant and comfortable humidity of 55 percent inside the printing plant and the concept of air conditioning was born. As the use of air conditioning spread to more plants and mills, Carrier continued to invent more efficient units. Eventually, movie theatres caught on to this cooling trend and realized they could pack their theatres full of patrons by offering “cool comfort” on a hot summer day. People began flocking to the theatres and Carrier installed cooling units in 30 movie theatres across the country. This was the very beginning of the “summer blockbuster” trend.
By the 1950s, those who could afford it started installing air conditioning in their homes. By 2007, 86 percent of homes had AC according to the Carrier Corporation.
Parts Of An Air Conditioner
Today’s air conditioners are a far cry from the chilled coils of 1902, but the basic physics remain relatively the same.
- Refrigerant Filled Tubing: Refrigerant is what we use now to cool the air. Initially, engineers used ammonia, which we now know to be toxic. Today’s refrigerant is a safe and reliable liquid that absorbs heat from the indoor air, changes it from gas to liquid and removes it from the air before changing back to a gas and repeats the cycle.
- Compressor: The compressor pressurizes the refrigerant to heat it up and allow the heat to naturally flow towards it, which keeps everything running as it should.
- Condenser Coil: This part is located in the outdoor unit. It receives the high pressure, heat-filled refrigerant and moves it to the outdoor New Albany, IN summer air.
- Expansion Valve: The expansion valve removes pressure from the liquid refrigerant to allow expansion or change of state from a liquid to a vapor.
- Evaporator Coil: These copper tubes receive the de-pressurized refrigerant from the expansion valve and actually absorbs the heat from the home.
- Fan: The fan simply creates a current to keep the air moving throughout the system.
- Filter: A filter is used to catch dust, dirt, pollen, and other allergens from recirculating in the air, keeping our air cleaner than ever before.
How Does Air Conditioning Work?
All of the above components work together to make the air conditioner work all summer long without you hardly lifting a finger.
If you look around your New Albany, IN home, you’ll see return vents in each room. These suck in hot air from inside the room. The refrigerant inside your unit picks up this heat as air flows over the freezing cold evaporator coils and is absorbed by the refrigerant. Once the refrigerant has absorbed as much heat as possible, it then discharges it to the compressor. The compressor then adds pressure and heat and passes it on to the condenser coils. The big fan helps to push the air over the condenser coils to move the heat outside. The refrigerant then cycles back, and the process starts over and over again.
Different Types Of Air Conditioning
Window Air Conditioners: If you walk down the city street in New Albany, IN during the summer you may see white plastic boxes sticking out of windows. Those are window air conditioners. These are mounted in a window and push hot air out the back while blowing cold air through the front.
Central Air Conditioning: This is pretty common in most single family homes in New Albany, IN. It uses all the components we described above in the most effective form of air conditioning controlled by a central thermostat.
Portable Air Conditioners: Similar to a window system, a portable AC cools one small room if you don’t have another cooling option.
Through the Wall Air Conditioners: This is a self-contained unit like a window or portable AC, but it is permanently mounted and cannot be removed. It is installed in an exterior wall and should be done by a professional.
Ductless Split Air Conditioners: This is the cooling system to use if you want different “zones” within your home, or if your home doesn’t have existing duct work. However, they are typically more expensive to install than a central AC system.
Package Terminal Air Conditioners: This is a commercial air conditioning unit that is often used in hotels, hospitals, apartments, and assisted living facilities. However, you can install them in a home, and they may be a good option if you’ve added a room to your New Albany, IN home or if you have one room that is particularly warmer than the rest of the house and you need extra cooling.
Evaporative Coolers: These are most commonly known as “swamp coolers” and they aren’t as common as they used to be. They use only air and water to cool the room, without using any refrigerant. They are best in hot, dry climates because they will add humidity to the air rather than take it away. In New Albany, we have too much humidity to make evaporative coolers effective.
Geothermal Cool Systems: This is relatively new technology that uses ground temperature to heat and cool your home. It is the most energy efficient method of air conditioning, but also the most expensive to install in New Albany, IN.
Heat Pumps: A heat pump can both heat and cool your house, depending on the season. It works best in mild climates and is an energy efficient option. Sometimes a heat pump can be used in conjunction with a central air system.
How Long Does An Air Conditioner Last?
Air conditioning is a significant investment in your home, so you want to be sure you take care of it. Typically, an air conditioner in New Albany, IN lasts between 12-15 years. Of course, this can vary between locations, and can be extended with proper maintenance and repairs.
Signs Of Air Conditioning Repair
Warm Air: An air conditioner is supposed to provide cool air, never warm. If you notice that your AC unit is running, and yet the temperature is still rising, it’s time to call in a professional for an air conditioner repair in New Albany, IN. This could be due to the refrigerant, temperature sensors, thermostat, drainage, and/or dirty filters.
Low Airflow: You’re getting weak airflow, this is usually a sign that the unit is not working efficiently or that you have a blockage in the ductwork, a clogged filter, or a broken motor. An air conditioner repair technician can help you identify the issue, remove any blockages, and give your AC a boost or zoning your systems to increase efficiency. Working with a qualified technician in New Albany, IN is the best way to ensure you’re getting the best airflow where you need it most.
Frequent Cycles: Your air conditioner goes through relatively routine cooling cycles throughout the day. However, when you notice your unit turning on and off frequently and consistently throughout the day, it’s time for an air conditioner repair and checkup. This may be a simple problem with a thermostat battery or could signal that it’s time for a new system. The only way to be sure is to have your unit thoroughly inspected.
High Humidity: Part of the job of an air conditioner is to remove the humidity inside the home. If you are still feeling sticky and humid in the living room, that’s a problem. An air conditioner repair technician in New Albany, IN can diagnose humidity issues relatively quickly and determine whether you need a quick recalibration or an additional whole-house dehumidifier to support your ac unit.
Water Leaks or Pooling Water: Your air conditioner uses refrigerant to cool your home. Some level of condensation is completely normal, but no liquid should accumulate or leak out of the unit. Any time you see pooled water or an active leak around the unit, it’s a sign that something isn’t right. You need an air conditioner repair as soon as possible. Don’t wait to call as sometimes leaks can cause serious damage to your home and you may need to get your home insurance involved.
Bad Odors: If you smell unpleasant odors from any part of your HVAC system, you’ll want to deal with the issue before it becomes seriously stinky. Generally, this doesn’t require an air conditioning repair. Usually it just means the unit needs a professional cleaning and tune-up of the AC unit itself. Other times, it might be something in the duct work, which can be cleared out with a thorough duct cleaning.
Weird Noises: Most air conditioners make a little bit of noise as they start up and shut down. This should sound like a low hum, and nothing more. Anything that is loud, sudden or unusual could be a sign of a big problem that likely won’t go away on its own, so it’s time to call for a New Albany, IN professional air conditioning repair.
When To Replace Your Air Conditioner
Over 10 Years Old: If your unit is getting older and reaching its 10th birthday, it might be time to consider a replacement. A well-maintained unit in New Albany, IN may last up to 15 years, but after the 10 year mark it usually makes more sense to replace than pay for an air conditioner repair.
High Repair Costs: Any time the repair bill is extensive, it’s worth looking at replacing the unit completely. If the cost of an air conditioner repairs close to (or more than) 50 percent of the cost of a new system, it may be worthwhile to consider a replacement.
Frequent Repairs: No one wants to deal with an unreliable system on an ongoing basis. If you’re having to call in for an air conditioning repair every season (or multiple times per year), it might be time for an upgrade to a more reliable system.
Weird Sounds or Smells: This is often a sure sign that it’s time for a new unit. Sounds are often due to internal parts that are damaged, and odors may be caused by an internal failure that is better off to be replaced rather than attempt a repair.
Uses R-22 refrigerant: This type of Freon is being phased out by the government and is no longer sustainable. If your unit uses R-22 Freon, it will need to be replaced.
Higher Energy Bills: No one wants to pay more for less. If your energy bills are rising month after month, it’s a good indicator that your system is overworked and under-delivering. This is usually a sign that it’s time for an AC replacement.
No Longer Properly Cools Your Home: Sometimes an older unit is simply too tired, or a small unit can’t keep up with demand. In either case, if your air conditioner is not properly cooling your New Albany, IN home to keep your family comfortable, it might be time for a replacement.
What Size Air Conditioner Does My Home Need?
When it’s time to purchase a new unit, it can be tricky to determine what size to purchase for your home. A unit too big can cause drastic temperature variations from room to room and a unit too small will not be able to properly cool your New Albany, IN home. It is based on several factors:
1. BTUs: The best way to calculate the number of BTUs, or British Thermal Unit, is to use the Manual Calculation. A professional HVAC technician will look at the following things to get an accurate measurement.
- Square footage
- Climate zone
- Quality & amount of insulation
Typically, warmer climates need 18-30 BTUs per square foot (this includes New Albany, IN) and cooler climates need 12-20 BTUs per square foot.
2. Age of Home: If you have an older home, it may take more power to keep it cool in the hot New Albany, IN summer
3. Number of exterior walls and windows: This can affect the energy it takes to heat or cool a home.
4. Insulation: Sometimes this goes hand in hand with the age of the home, but insulation plays a huge role in keeping your home climate controlled.
5. Existing ventilation and ductwork: The existing infrastructure of your home may determine what size of unit it can handle.
How Much Does it Cost To Replace A Central Air Conditioning Unit?
A new air conditioner can cost anywhere from $3,000 – $7,000. Larger or more complicated projects can range up to $10,000. The price is based on several factors including the unit’s quality, performance, efficiency, and size.
Quality: Just like any purchase, you get what you pay for. There are some appliance manufacturers that simply make better quality products while others are geared to be budget friendly. You have to find the balance that fits with your need and your budget.
Performance: Appliance performance is rated using the SEER rating system. SEER stands for “Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating”. This score determines how well the unit performs. A SEER rating of 13-15 is the lowest ranked. Generally, this means they are running at full power almost all day. They will likely be louder and less energy efficient. A SEER rating of 20-24 are the best performing, quieter, more efficient, and best at creating a balanced temperature in your home.
Efficiency: Efficiency in an appliance is measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). The BTU rating you need is determined by the area you live in. In New Albany, IN we live in Zone 4, which means you want a moderate unit with 18-22 BTU/sq.
Size: Selecting the right size ac unit is directly correlated to the square footage of your home and the climate you live in.
How To Increase the Efficiency Of Your Cooling System
While the efficiency of your air conditioning is primarily dictated by the system itself, there are some things you can do to help get the maximum efficiency from your cooling system.
- Seal windows & doors: One of the biggest ways we waste energy is through windows and doors that are drafty. Seal these up and make sure to keep them closed during the summer.
- Proper thermostat placement: Make sure your thermostat is placed in an area that does not receive direct sunlight, this can fool the thermostat into thinking it’s warmer than it is and affect the efficiency of your AC.
- Proper temperature settings: Increase your thermostat by 5-8 degrees warmer than you’d like – this can help save a ton of money and energy and still maintain a comfortable temperature during the summer months.
- Reduce the amount of added heat: If possible, cook outside, or use non-heat methods. Summer in New Albany, IN is a great time for grilling or enjoying salads for dinner. Avoid running the oven all day long or using heat-generating appliances.
- Use fans & curtains: There is still something to be said for creating natural shade and moving the cool air around your home. These steps can take a load off your cooling system while keeping you comfortable.
- Plant trees: The more shade you have on your property, the less your unit has to work to keep you cool.
- Clean around your outdoor unit: Keeping this free and clear from leaves, branches, and debris allows it to work properly, which can increase efficiency.
- Vacuum indoor vents & keep them unblocked: Sometimes your air conditioner has to work twice as hard just to get through the dirt caked on the vents. Keep these clean and let the air flow freely.
Air Conditioning FAQs
What are the functions of AC filters?
- The job of the air filter is to clean the air that circulated through your home. A high quality filter will trap and hold many types of particles including dust, dirt, pollen, mold, fibers, metals, hair, fur, and even bacteria.
What temperature should I set my AC to?
- The temperature you choose will show up on your monthly bill, so this is an important decision. On average, it costs about a dollar an hour to heat a room that is 50 square feet. That’s $24 per day. We recommend finding a sweet spot where the temperature feels comfortable but doesn’t cost too much to maintain. Start at 78 degrees and if that’s too warm, lower by one degree each day until you hit a comfortable temperature.
What happens if you set your AC too low?
- Most AC units are happiest when they are no lower than 68 degrees. Much lower than this, and you risk freezing the outside unit. When this happens, you have ice or frost form on the coils, and it can damage your compressor. When this happens, your AC will not function properly, and may even be permanently damaged.
What does the SEER rating on my AC mean?
- This score determines how well the unit performs. A SEER rating of 13-15 is the lowest ranked, 20-24 is the highest.
How often should I schedule air conditioner maintenance?
- We recommend servicing your air conditioner at least once a year to keep your warranty intact and increase efficiency and performance.
What is the difference between R-22 And R-410A Refrigerants?
- R-22 is the old version of Freon that is now being phased out. R-410A is the new, chlorine-free version that is ozone-friendly and the standard refrigerant today.
How do I clean my air conditioner?
- The best thing you can do to keep your unit clean is to ensure the outside unit is free from debris and your filters are regularly changed on the indoor unit. A yearly maintenance visit by a licensed HVAC contractor will provide a professional cleaning and inspection.
You Can Trust Us To Keep You Cool
For most of us, air conditioning is an assumed benefit, an expected result, and a necessary luxury. We don’t appreciate it until it’s unavailable, and to live without it permanently is unfathomable.
As you can see, we know a thing or two about air conditioning. We make it our business to understand where it comes from, how to install it, when to repair it, and why it works the way it does. We educate ourselves on both the ancient and modern technology of air conditioning so we can provide the very best products and services to our customers.
If you’re in need of air conditioning repair, replacement, or have questions about how your system works – give us a call. We service New Albany, IN and the surrounding area to keep you and your family comfortable all summer long.
At Allegiance Heating and Air Conditioning we strive to provide the highest quality and reliable service for our residential and commercial customers. We want to deliver the best value to our customers and maintain long lasting relationships by always exceeding their expectations. Our pledge is to maintain the highest level of honesty and integrity with our customers, vendors and clients. Based in Greenville, IN, we’re proud to serve Floyds Knobs, New Albany, Clarksville, Jeffersonville, Sellersburg, Georgetown, and Corydon as well as Louisville, KY areas.