While doing ac repair, ac maintenance or ac installations, customers often inquire about air quality products and if they are worth the money. In this blog I will review some of the new technologies available to consumers and average costs to get them installed in your home.
UV Bulbs - When UV technology first came out it was being sold more as an air purifier. On a simplistic approach UV-C light does two things; 1 - Kills organic materials, 2 - Breaks down porous non-organic material. UV-C kits are great at keeping the inside of the air handler clean including the coil therefore, that is what we sell them for. They are so good at keeping the coil clean that we recommend them to every customer. The reason they are not as efficient as an air purifier is due to the speed of the air moving through the air handler. A three ton system is rated to move 1200 CFM (cubic feet per minute). At that speed, a lot of organic material will pass through without being destroyed by the light. A typical UV kit installed over the coil should cost around $250 and the ballast should have a lifetime warranty.
Ionization - The way ionizers remove particulates from the air is by sending out lots of negatively charged ions. As they float through the air, they attach themselves to the particulates making them heavy. This causes them to fall to the ground or another surface. After installing an ionizer in a home there will be a sudden accumulation of dust around the house which needs to be cleaned up. The downside of ionizers is that the particulates are not captured until you vacuum up the dust caused by the ionization process. A whole house ionizer installed in your AC system can cost from $600 - $1900.
Media Filtration - Filtration has long been a great way to take particulates out of the air. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is to have a 4" media box installed in the return of your AC system. It is however very important to purchase a media box that is matched to you system so the static pressure remains within the recommended ranges of the manufacturer. High end media does a great job of removing particulate from the air and based on individual circumstances only need to be changed semi-annually or annually. A 4" Media box installed in your system can cost $450 - $750 and includes your first filter. Filters run from $70 - $150.
Air Scrubbers / Purifiers - These products are finally becoming affordable for residential customer and are excellent products for homes struggling with allergies. Based on commercial technologies used in hospitals for many years, they combine multiple technologies that actively eliminate bacteria, spores, allergens, viruses, odors & smoke in the air and on surfaces. They combine Photo-catalytic + Silver Ion Contaminant Oxidation, Ion / Plasma Generation & UV-C Light Technology. They install in the supply plenum and tie into the 24 volt system of the air handler. Some products have a plug-in option for an additional UV light to install over the coil. A typical scrubber / purifier installed in your system will run from $750 - $1250 and should have a lifetime warranty on the ballast.
In summary there are several technologies available to help improve your air quality. We always recommend installing a UV light over the coil and then either your choice of 4" Media, Air Scrubber / Purifiers or both.
Call us today to schedule a free home air quality inspection (727-329-6696)
A heat pump is a type of AC system that uses the cooling process in reverse to generate heat. When bidding residential systems, I often ask customers with straight cool systems if they would like to upgrade to a Heat Pump. This question is often followed by the customer asking me what the difference is between the systems. In this blog, I will go through the process of how a heat pump works along with the Pro's and Con's of upgrading to this type of system. Before we do that, I want to state that all split and package systems have electric heat kits in the air handler portion of the system. Essentially an electric heat kit is resistance heat like a toaster. In a straight cool system, the electric heat kit is the only source of heat.
Before we start talking about what a heat pump is, let's first review the basics of a straight cool system. A straight cool system pumps (a compressor is really just a pump) Freon through a high-pressure liquid line (smallest of the two copper lines) to the evaporator coil in the air handler. When the Freon hits the air handler, it expands and becomes a gas. The process of the Freon changing from liquid to gas in the evap coil is what makes it cold (it's science). When air blows across the evap coil, it picks up the cold and the freon absorbs the heat through the coil. Freon leaves the evap coil through the low-pressure gas line (bigger of the two copper lines which is insulated because it is still cold) and heads back to the condensing unit where it runs through the condenser coil. While running through the condenser coil, the Freon bleeds off the heat with the help of the condenser fan and then returns to a liquid state to be pumped back through the process again.
So now that we understand cooling basics, let's start reviewing how a heat pump works. In the most simplistic form, a heat pump runs the above process in reverse so that the evap coil in the air handler is providing heat and taking away cold. There are some mechanical and electronic components in a heat pump system that allow this process to work. The first is a mechanical reversing valve and when the thermostat is set to heat, its function is to reverse the direction of the flow of Freon. Next is an accumulator which is essentially an extra tank that holds Freon in its gas state. From an electronics standpoint, there is a defrost sensor and a defrost circuit board. While running in reverse to take the cold out of your house, there is risk of the compressor freezing over. The defrost sensor monitors that temperature and when triggered, tells the defrost board to activate. In this mode, it will turn off the fan on the outdoor unit, send the system back into cooling mode and turns on the back-up heat strip to keep the air inside tempered. Once the defrost sensor determines there is no danger of icing up, it sends the system back into heat pump mode.
Heat pumps work the best when the outdoor ambient temperature is around freezing or higher. They lose their effectiveness when the temperature gets too cold outside so they are very popular in southern states. Most installers will put a 5 kilowatt electric heat strip (one of the smallest) in the air handler of a heat pump system for times when it is really cold outside and the heat pump cannot keep up. You may notice your thermostat going into "auxiliary" or "2nd stage" heat. That is when the heat pump is running concurrently with the electric heat to keep up with the demand.
Pros and Cons
The entire creation of a heat pump system is targeted to one thing...energy savings you can see on your electric bill. A heat pump can save you 30% or more vs. the electric heat in a straight cool system. As far as cons, a heat pump system can cost $400 - $900 more than a straight cool system. The final con would be the potential failure of a reversing valve, defrost sensor or defrost board which are components only found in heat pump systems.
In summary, if you like it toasty in the winter while spiking your eggnog instead of your power bill, a heat pump may be right for you. Lastly, I want to call-out this entire blog was focused on heat pumps. While cooling your home, there is no difference between a heat pump and a straight cool system. A 15 SEER heat pump running in cooling mode provides the same energy savings as a 15 SEER straight cool system.
It is a tricky thing in Florida to announce that winter is coming. Some people, especially seasonal residents, will look at you funny. Even in central Florida we get nights that the temperature will drop below freezing. Okay, maybe that is a stretch but we do get a few nights each year you have to go out and cover your plants. No one wants to have to call for ac service or ac repair, so here are a few things you can do to prepare for the winter season.
Three Main Heating Systems for Central Florida
Straight Cool systems are simple and they have heat strips that are typically between 7.5kw - 15kw. While we call them a "heat strip," they are really no different than the heating element in a clothes dryer. Electricity resistance causes them to heat up and air blows past them, which makes the air hot. The downside? If you like it warm in the winter, heat strips hurt the wallet on your electric bill.
Heat Pumps are a bit more sophisticated, as they use the cooling system in reverse to generate heat. This process is pretty efficient until the outdoor ambient temperature drops down into the 30's. Because of that, we typically install a 5kw heat strip for emergency secondary heat. If the heat pump cannot meet the demand of the thermostat, the heat strip will kick on in short intervals to maintain the desired temperature. The downside? With additional circuit boards, a reversing valve, and a secondary tank, there is more that could go wrong with the system causing a call for an air conditioning repair technician. Heat pump repair can be costly. Especially if the reversing valve goes bad.
Lastly, even in Florida we still see a lot of Furnaces being used. Furnaces in Florida most commonly use gas to generate heat. The blower motor is built into the furnace cabinet and on top of the furnace will be a coil connected to a straight cool condenser which generates cold air in the warm months. They are normally very efficient to operate during the heating season. The downside? Making sure you can find a company with furnace repair experience like us, should you need one.
Things You Can Do to Prepare for Winter
It is always best to give us a call and schedule an ac maintenance visit. We will check coolant pressures, check and clean electrical connections, check amp draw on motors and compressor, check and adjust thermostat, inspect coils (when assessable), inspect condensate drain and make any preventative recommendations based on what we find. On straight cool and heat pump systems, the heat strip is located in the top of the air handler, so air is passing over it all year long. Before the first cold snap, we recommend that you open the windows, turn on your heat and set the target temperature at least 4 degrees over the room temperature. This will cause the heat strip to turn on and burn off any light dust that has built up since last winter. If you have a furnace, now is a great time to check the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector. If you don't have one and you're using gas, get one, as it could save your life. Check your filter(s) and change as needed. During the daytime, check your windows and doors for light coming through any gaps and replace their weather stripping. You can find weather stripping in all shapes and sizes at any local hardware store.
Winter is the time when many families come together to celebrate the achievements of the year and celebrate the holidays. We at Gulf Coast Heating & AC hope you don't have to call us but just in case, we are here to offer advice and service to keep your home comfortable for the winter season.