Air Conditioning 101: A Beginners Guide to Cooling in Levittown

Air Conditioning 101: A Beginners Guide to Cooling in Levittown

  • Air Conditioning
air conditioning

Air conditioning is just blowing cold air into your home, right? Actually, no. Cooling the air in your home is accomplished through a relatively complicated process that involves refrigerant fluid that shuttles heat back and forth between an outside compressor as it transforms from a liquid to a gas and back again. It takes quite a bit of electricity to perform this modern magic show of moving heat from a cooler place and back to a warmer place.

Types of Air Conditioning Systems

There are several different technology options involved with the process of cooling your home: central air conditioners and heat pumps, evaporative coolers, room air conditioners and ductless mini-split air conditioners. 

  • Central air conditioners and heat pumps are the most common form of systems, and unlike some of the other options they are often used to heat entire homes. They generally consist of a large compressor that is external to the home and drives the process and indoor refrigerant coils that distribute cool air throughout the home via ducts. Heat pumps work similarly, except they are also able to distribute warm air in the cooler winter months. Ducts throughout the home are utilized for distribution of both warm and cool air in concert with a fan system. 
  • Room air conditioners are mounted either on the walls, ceiling or through a window. These systems work in a similar fashion to central air conditioners, but compressors are located outside the home and the systems are generally built to control the temperature in a single room. These units are less expensive to purchase, but are potentially less efficient and have a higher daily running cost overall. 
  • Evaporative coolers, also known as swamp coolers, can be a practical alternative in certain parts of the country but are much less common than central air or room air conditioners. These unique systems operate by pulling fresh air through an evaporative system that involves moist pads and a whole-house circulation mechanism. While swamp coolers are only efficient in the drier areas of the country, they are very efficient and cost-effective to run and can reduce the temperature of your home by up to 30 degrees. The cost of purchase and installation is also lower as these systems are relatively simplistic. Evaporative coolers work most effectively in dry climates because the system works by putting moisture back into the air — something that isn’t as efficient in a wet climate. 
  • Ductless mini-split air conditioners are more popular outside the U.S., but are gaining prominence with homeowners who are updating a portion of their home or reworking an older addition that doesn’t have ductwork in place. They are similar to room air conditioners in that they are a zoned system, but the functionality is more similar to a conventional central air conditioning unit. When you’re using a ductless system, you also avoid the energy loss that is associated with a traditional system with ducts. You can also maintain overall cleaner air due to the lack of cracks and crevices in the ducts for dust, mold and other contaminants to hide.
  • New technology options include the Night Breeze, which integrates a whole-house fan, indirect water heater and air conditioner in one unit as well as Thermal Energy Storage where energy is stored overnight in ice — ideal for climates where energy costs are high during peak usage times. 

Warning Signs

Other than the obvious (it’s getting hot in here!) signs, there are multiple ways to determine that your system either needs maintenance or replacement. However, if you’re not as experienced with home maintenance and air conditioners, you may wonder if the problem is in your head or if it truly exists. Since air conditioners are used most heavily during the summer months, it’s important to get a tune-up before the heat of summer really kicks in. Qualified and licensed professionals perform a full system inspection to catch some standard problems that can occur. A check up generally includes:

  • Performance test of the full system
  • Visual review of all air conditioner components
  • Tests to determine the state of the refrigerant charge and overall system control testing
  • The use of an approved leak detector to perform a leak test
  • If slow leaks are suspected, your professional may perform a dye detection test

How can you tell that your system is not functioning as it should? Here’s a few things to look out for:

  • Air is not flowing as easily as it should be. If you’re seeing poor air flow through your vents, it’s probably time to call a professional. 
  • Zone issues — where part of your home is comfortable and another part is too hot or cool — are a good sign that there may be something wrong with your thermostat.
  • Excess moisture where it doesn’t belong can also be an indicator that it’s time to call a professional. 
  • Foul odors coming from your air conditioning unit are never a good sign. Mold can grow in wet, dark spaces and an air conditioning unit certainly fits those parameters.
  • Squeaking or squealing sounds coming from your air conditioning unit may indicate that a belt has slipped. This generally requires professional assistance to resolve.
  • Of course, if you find that your home is heating up unexpectedly, or the air conditioner is cycling (turning on and off quickly), you should have your unit checked out. 

With careful use and a solid maintenance schedule, nearly all types of air conditioning units will last upwards of 15 to 20 years. Your system should receive maintenance at least once a year in the spring, before it’s heavily used in the summer heat. This ensures that you’re catching any small problems such as leaks quickly and before they have a large impact on the functioning of your system. The cost of not performing regular maintenance could be decreased system efficiency or even having a system that freezes up or sustains serious damage from broken items such as motor bearings.

Have any questions about your cooling system? Call McHale’s Today!

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12 Frequently Asked Questions on Electrical Systems by New Homeowners

12 Frequently Asked Questions on Electrical Systems by New Homeowners

  • Electrical

When you are in the market to buy a new house, so many questions can arise. Even when you do your best to understand how a home operates, there are all kinds of issues that can lurk under the surface. It’s important to ask the right questions about your new home or potential new home during the process. One of the most vital parts of a home is the electrical system. Make sure that you ask the right questions to understand if it’s up to code, how it works, and frequent solutions to problems. Here are some common questions asked about electricity and the answers that will lead you to understand this aspect of a home’s inner workings.

1. What is a GFCI outlet?

 A GFCI outlet is a “Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter.” That doesn’t mean much to someone not familiar with electrical work. For a new homeowner, it’s an outlet that will protect you from electrical shocks because it has a safety in place that shuts off the electrical current if it encounters something it’s not supposed to, such as water or a person’s finger. It can also help to prevent outlet fires. Keep in mind GFCI’s are usually required by law in most places to be installed near water sources in kitchens and bathrooms and anywhere else that water may be present, such as basements or garages.

2. What do I do if an appliance is plugged into a GFCI and stops working, but the circuit breaker is not tripped?

There is a reset button on the outlet that allows you to restart it. All you have to do is unplug your appliance and hit the button. Then plug your appliance back in. It should work after that if nothing is wrong with the circuits.  

3. What is a short circuit?

This can occur in your electrical wiring when there is a low current connection between your fuse box and the device you want to power on. For example, if there is something wrong with the wires that are connecting everything, they might “short” out. The coating on the wire could be worn away, or broken from the breaker to the outlet. Even small animals in the rodent family sometimes chew through electrical wires in your walls. This is usually a problem that needs to be looked at by an electrician because sparks or fire can occur. 

4. Why would the motion sensor light installed outside continuously stay on throughout the night, or constantly turn on and off?

 For the first part of the question with a motion sensor light staying on, it might just be that your sensor is dirty, so it’s triggering it to stay on. That has nothing to do with electricity, but for the second part of the question it might be an electrical issue. The bulb might not be resting securely in the fitting. Try to replace the bulb and see if that solves the issue.

5. Why would a dimmer/light switch plate be warm/hot to the touch?

 If nothing is plugged into the outlet or there aren’t too many items stressing the electrical supply, it’s perfectly normal for it to be a tad warm. The lights tend to do that in a house. In general if it’s too hot to touch, that’s a serious problem. Damaged wires can cause excessive heat on regular switch plates.

For dimmer switches they have a maximum load measured in watts that they are allowed to safely handle. When they are overloaded you should add up the wattage of lighting units and reduce the load or upgrade the dimmer switch.

6. Why are some of the light switches in my house not connected to anything? When they’re flipped on and off, nothing happens. 

 When you move to a new place it can be hard to figure out which switch plate goes to what outlet. To test an outlet, plug something in that makes noise, such as a radio, then turn on the switch to see if it powers up the outlet. When you encounter a mystery light switch with no matching outlet that does anything, you can remove the outlet plate to see if there are any wires inside even connected to it. If there aren’t problems with the wiring being in the right place, you’ll need to trace the circuit, which you’ll probably want an electrician to do.  

7. Why can’t I turn a tripped circuit breaker in my electrical panel back on?

 If you trip a circuit breaker in your new home, give it a few minutes before you try to go down to the fuse box and let it cool down. Then if you press the switch in the circuit breaker and it still doesn’t come on, something could be overloading it. It’s usually a big appliance, like a washer/dryer, refrigerator, other large item, or too many running at the same time. It might be a broken appliance causing it. If not, the circuit breaker might be faulty or broken, needing replacement.

 8. What is an AFCI breaker?

 An AFCI or “Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter” is a specific type of breaker that helps to prevent electrical fires. It achieves this by sensing hazardous electrical arcs. Most arcs are normal and don’t malfunction unless a problem occurs, so having these types of breakers in place can make your new home much safer. 

9. What is a whole house surge protector?

 A whole house surge protector is a good idea since it tames dangerous power surges that can short out your appliances, or computers. Having one in place is ideally suited to areas that experience intense thunderstorms, where lightning might strike utility poles or lines near your home. Often without it these power surges can fry even GFCI plugs in your home.

10. What is the most energy efficient lighting for my house?

The most energy efficient lighting for your new home, according to is light bulbs that hold the “ENERGY STAR” rating on the box. That includes CFL, halogen incandescent, and LED light bulbs. You might pay a little more upfront for these bulbs, but in the long run you’ll save on energy costs.

11. What is the difference between low voltage fixtures and standard fixtures? 

Low voltage fixtures in your home are the ones that sit in the background. That includes chandelier lights, recessed lighting, desk lights, and task lighting. Outside it might be landscape lighting that comes on at night with a timer. Standard fixtures are your larger lamps, main kitchen lights, and bathroom lights. Brighter light that requires a higher wattage is usually considered standard.  

12. Why does my cabinet-mounted microwave occasionally trip my circuit breaker? 

Your microwave might trip your circuit breaker if you have too many appliances on at the same time on the same circuit. The solution here is to not run so many things at once, or move other appliances to different locations in the kitchen that don’t work on the same fuse. Or you can have a GFCI switch for the microwave outlet, which will hopefully trip the outlet and not the entire fuse to the kitchen.

Have any questions about your electrical system? Call McHale’s Today!

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