Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average life expectancy of HVAC equipment?
Most systems in Orange County have a lifespan of 15 to 18 years. This is due to the nice comfortable climate and the lower operating hours than neighboring climates. As your equipment gets older, efficiency and performance also declines. When a system is 10-12+ years old and in need of major repair, it is usually a good idea to consider replacement instead of investing in the old, inefficient system. New comfort systems are more energy-efficient and pay you back with lower energy bills. For your peace of mind, most new systems come with a 10-20 year warranty.
Can I just replace my older system’s outdoor unit to save money?
Typically, no. The indoor coil's refrigerant and efficiency rating must be matched to the outdoor unit. Freon R-22 has been replaced with the more efficient and environmentally-friendly Freon R-410A. In addition, the minimum SEER rating or efficiency that we can use today is 14 SEER (most older systems are 10 SEER and below). Therefore, you have to replace the indoor coil and outdoor unit at the same time to ensure the proper design and to protect your investment. Be wary of companies who suggest otherwise.
Will a larger system perform better?
No, and you never want to risk purchasing an A/C that is too big. Air conditioners control the comfort level in your home by cooling the air and removing humidity. An oversized air conditioner will cool your home faster, but it will use more energy and will not remove humidity adequately.
A unit that is too big for your home will have short run cycles. It may take only a short time to cool the air, but the unit shuts off before enough air blows across the indoor coil – the place where moisture condenses into water and drains from your system. Too much moisture left in the air can lead to mold and mildew problems.
Short-run cycles also mean your system starts and stops more often, which uses more energy and causes excessive wear and tear. An air conditioner operates most efficiently during long run cycles. This is one main reason variable speed is the most comfortable.
The same holds true with heating systems. An oversized furnace will warm the house quicker, but it uses more fuel and causes greater temperature swings in the home. Oversizing a furnace also causes the heat exchanger to overheat and fail pre-mature. This is very dangerous and can lead to carbon monoxide leaking into the home.
Why is a system with matched components so important?
A matched system is important for a variety of reasons. One is comfort. When components are properly sized to your home, you can control exactly how much heating or cooling you need.
Also, a properly sized matched system enables every component to perform as designed, meaning proper cycle times are maintained, humidity is controlled, and system sound is minimized.
Another reason matched systems are important is efficiency. Over 60% of homeowners purchase systems that are too large for their homes and consume far more energy than necessary without even knowing it. Instead, go for a matched system selected by a dealer who has completed a load calculation for your home. You’ll end up with just the right amount of heating and cooling you need to get the most value for your utility dollar.
How often should I change my air filter?
It depends on the type of filter you have and how much infiltration you have throughout your home and ductwork. Less expensive, disposable filters have to be replaced every 30 days. "Pleated" or "Poly" filters have to typically be replaced every 90 days. "Media filters" or CleanEffects filters usually have to be replaced every 6-12 months. We offer free advice on filters, so give us a call at any time to ask questions!
Why should I switch to a high-efficiency air filter?
Proper air filtration is just as important to the health of your heating and cooling system as it is to the health of your family. Without proper filtration, dust and dirt build-up on your system, affecting its operation, efficiency, and the speed of wear and tear. A high-efficiency filter will remove more dust, dirt, pollen, mold, and other particles from the air. If you suffer from allergies or other respiratory problems, you should strongly consider a high-efficiency filter. No matter what type of filter you have, make sure you change it regularly.
How can I reduce allergens and improve the air quality in my home?
There are lots of different indoor air quality (IAQ) options for your home. First, you should reduce unwanted air infiltration before installing a more efficient air filtration system. For example, if you clean your ductwork but never seal it, you are not stopping the problem at the source. Even after the duct is clean, the unsealed system will continue to bring unclean air into your duct system. It is more logical and efficient to seal the duct system first. Then you can consider additional IAQ options.
Should I have my furnace and air conditioner serviced every year?
Yes. Regular system maintenance will lower energy and repair costs, prevent breakdowns, and prolong the life of your equipment. Neglecting necessary maintenance ensures a steady decline in air conditioning performance, increased energy use, and rapid acceleration of wear and tear.
Your heating and cooling system is just like your car and requires regular maintenance. Our service agreement is priced at break-even cost, so all of our clients can afford to maintain their systems! It includes many additional services (over $600 in value) for free! Servicing your system makes it last longer, reducing your energy costs and increasing comfort.
How can I reduce my energy costs?
Focusing on home or building performance is always the first step in analyzing how to make your home more energy-efficient. Traditional heating and air conditioning companies will tell you to replace your equipment. Insulation companies will tell you to add insulation. Window companies will tell you to replace your windows. However, the reality is that you have to analyze the home as a system to determine which step makes the most sense.
Using building science, SoCal Airflow Pros provides an unbiased, consultative-based approach that shows you the best way to reduce energy costs.
How do I cool my home more efficiently and effectively?
Here are several ways:
Upgrade to a high-efficiency air conditioner. Swapping your old, inefficient air conditioning system for a more efficient system can cut electricity bills by over 70%. Consult one of our professional technicians to be sure that your system is the right size for your home. You don’t want to over or under-cool your living space.
Schedule annual maintenance. Annual air conditioner maintenance from a licensed technician will ensure your system operates at peak efficiency and catches problems before they occur.
Don't block vents. Keep your supply and return air vents free from objects like blinds, carpets or furniture so that your air conditioner can operate efficiently and provide even air distribution.
How do I heat my home more efficiently and effectively?
Schedule annual maintenance. Annual furnace maintenance from one of our expert training and experienced technicians will ensure your system operates at peak efficiency and catches problems before they occur. Our technician can also provide you with a system evaluation and advice.
Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat helps you control your home's temperature when you are away or asleep. For every one degree you lower your thermostat for seven hours each day, you save one percent on your heating bill.
Don't block vents. Keep your supply and return air vents free from objects like blinds, carpets or furniture so that your furnace can operate efficiently and provide even air distribution.
What is a heat pump?
A heat pump is an air conditioner that also has the ability to heat your home by working in reverse. You can install a heat pump with a variety of indoor systems, including all-electric and dual fuel.
All-electric comfort systems use heat pumps to heat your home, in addition, to back up heat strips for really cold days in cold climates. A dual fuel comfort system also uses a heat pump to heat your home, but it uses a gas furnace for back up heat on really cold days. Some homes with solar choose duel fuel based off their energy gain for the month.
As with our air conditioners, SoCal Airflow Pros offers a range of heat pump options for every budget. Different options provide different comfort levels, efficiencies, and noise levels. Just like A/C replacement, it is important to look at your home as a system and perform the proper calculations to ensure you get the most value for your investment.
What are the advantages of equipment with variable speed fans?
Variable speed equipment or variable airflow is almost always the first step toward a more energy-efficient and comfortable system. Variable airflow systems also include dehumidification control.
Traditional systems only have a one-speed fan and only read temperature. In contrast, a variable speed system reads relative humidity in addition to temperature. The system runs more often at a lower speed, removing much more moisture than a typical system. Removing more moisture means you are more comfortable at higher temperatures. The system also does a much better job of filtering the air (because it runs more often), creating a more even comfort zone and operating much more quietly. Variable speed fans use as much as two thirds less energy.
What is a two-stage or variable speed compressor?
The Manual J for Orange County requires that a system have the ability to cool a house to 75° on a 94° day. It’s great to have full capacity during the hot summer days, but that usually means your system will be too large.
What’s the solution? A two-stage compressor! These compressors come in two different types. The first has one compressor with two internal stages. The first stage is typically 70% to 80% of the full capacity and the second stage is 100% capacity.
The second type of two-stage compressor actually includes two separate compressors in one outdoor unit. The smaller compressor is 50% of the system’s capacity and the second is 100%. The system will usually run in the lower stage for most days, only activating the larger capacity for really hot days. The two-stage compressor uses less energy (think: more energy savings) and is the best solution for removing humidity and ensuring quieter outdoor operation. This is the more outdated of the two-stage technology.
Finally, there are variable speed compressors, which can run at around 20% to 40% capacity depending on the make and model. These are incredibly efficient and come standard with most of our ductless split systems. When properly paired with the right indoor system, a variable speed system could have up to 700 speeds, and operate at a fraction of the energy and sound of a new single-stage system.
What is a two-stage, three-stage, or modulating gas valve?
Traditional furnaces have a one-stage gas valve that heats at full capacity 100% of the time. Most furnaces are oversized (due partly to contractors not pulling load calculations), so most homes typically do not need the full heating capacity.
A two-stage furnace works similarly to a two-stage air conditioner. It allows the unit to adjust the heating capacity based on the amount of heating that is needed. A three-stage furnace has three separate stages of heat and a modulating gas valve has even more stages depending on the indoor demand.
Two, three, and modulating-stage furnaces are more energy-efficient because they use less gas. They also provide a more even comfort zone and do not dry out your skin like a one-stage system. The comfort difference between single-stage and two-stage is the greatest benefit, followed closely by the decrease wear and tear.
At what temperature should I set my thermostat?
The answer to this question depends on you and your individual preferences. In Orange County, most people keep their thermostat between 74 and 78 degrees in the summer and between 68 and 72 degrees in the winter. The higher you keep your thermostat, the less energy consumption the system will use. If your goal is to keep your bills down, you should keep the thermostat closer to 78 in the summer and 68 in the winter. If your system is newer and installed properly, keep the thermostat at your comfort level.
Not everyone is comfortable at the same temperature. If your system includes dehumidification control, you can usually set it at a higher temperature because it removes more moisture than a traditional system, rendering much more comfort. In addition to the thermostat, the extent to which your home is "tight" or "leaky" will affect how much cooling or heating leaves your home instead of staying in the living space. “Tight” or “leaky” refers to air sealing and insulation.
My system doesn't work well in a couple of rooms, what do I do?
"Problem areas" can occur for many reasons, including but not limited to:
Improper duct design
Single-zone systems (only one thermostat)
It is normal to have small temperature variation throughout a home that does not have a properly designed and installed duct system. However, sometimes, problem areas occur due to infiltration in a room. We can schedule a consultation to figure out exactly what is happening in your problem rooms!
Is Freon®, as a refrigerant, being discontinued?
Yes. As of January 2010, the refrigerant R-22, known as Freon® to many consumers, is no longer allowed for use in new equipment. R-22 has been used as the standard refrigerant for many years, but we now know that it is harmful to the planet. All new air conditioners and heat pumps use R-410A, a more environmentally sound refrigerant.
That said, R-22 remains the most commonly used refrigerant in existing residential air conditioning equipment today. However, caps have been established to eliminate the production of R-22. In 2004, there was a 35% reduction; in 2010 there was a 65% reduction; in 2015, there was a 90% reduction; and finally, in 2020, there will be a 99.5 % reduction in the production of R-22. This means that the price of each pound of R-22 refrigerant could skyrocket!
Can carbon monoxide build up in my home?
Yes. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), carbon monoxide kills more than 200 Americans and sends nearly 5,000 more to emergency rooms each year. Where does it come from? When carbon-based fuels like natural gas, oil, kerosene, and wood burn, they produce gases. When fuel combustion or burning isn't complete, carbon monoxide enters the air.
The CPSC advises that carbon monoxide detectors are the only way to alert yourself to the presence of toxic gas in your home. If you wake in the night with a headache – and especially if another member of the family complains of a headache or is difficult to wake – get out of the house fast and seek medical attention. City code requires installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home. More importantly, have your furnace safety checked each year before the season starts.
We also recommend performing a combustion safety test on any gas appliance. During our combustion safety test, we test for CO before, during, and after the test. We also test to make sure appliances vent properly to the outside and that they are not back-drafting into the home.
What should I do if I smell gas?
Natural gas: You have this type of gas if you have a gas meter and pay a natural gas supplier or utility. A chemical odorant has been added to natural gas to give it a distinct smell. Learn to identify this odor. If you smell a little gas, check all areas of your house for strong odor. If the smell is only faint throughout all areas of your home, call your heating contractor to get it fixed within 24 hours. Keep the house well ventilated by opening windows.
If you smell a strong, persistent odor:
Exit your home immediately.
Do not light a match, start an engine, or do anything that may create a spark.
From a safe area, contact your gas company or call 911.
If possible, turn the gas off at the meter.
Stay away from your home until an authority has told you it is safe to return.
Propane (LP) gas: You have this type if your gas comes from an outdoor tank located close to your house. Propane is stored as a liquid under pressure in tanks and cylinders. In most residential applications, propane is used as a vapor. When liquid propane changes into a gas vapor, it expands in volume. This means that even a small leak of liquid propane can result in a much larger quantity of propane vapor, which can be especially dangerous in a confined space.
A chemical odorant has been added to propane to give it a distinct smell. Learn to identify this odor. Propane gas is heavier than air, so it will sink to the floor and spread. To check for the presence of propane, carefully smell all over a room, especially in low spots.
If you smell propane (LP) gas:
Exit your home immediately.
Propane gas can ignite easily. Do not light a match, start an engine, or do anything that may create a spark.
From a safe area, contact your propane supplier and call 911.
If possible, shut the propane gas supply off at the tank.
Stay away from your home until a propane gas expert or emergency service authority tells you it is safe to return.