9 Terms You May Hear From Your A/C Contractor

In Arizona, where you rely heavily on your air conditioner, it can be helpful to know some of the commonly used terms associated with it. That way, if the time comes for a repair or a replacement, you’ll better understand what the contractor is talking about when assessing your system. You’ll be a more informed customer, leading to a better experience overall.

To help, here are nine terms you may hear from your A/C contractor.

1.      BTU

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a measurement of heat energy. One BTU is the equivalent of the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water by one-degree Fahrenheit. Air conditioning unit sizes are noted in terms of BTU. The higher the BTU rating, the greater the cooling capacity of the system.

It’s important that your system has a BTU rating that’s compatible with your home. A system with a BTU rating that’s too low may be unable to cool your home effectively because it’s undersized. If you’re not sure if your home’s air conditioning system has the right BTU rating, the experts at Chas Roberts can help. As part of our air conditioning replacement services, we can examine your system and offer a free in-home estimate if a replacement is necessary.

2.      Electronic air cleaners

Sometimes referred to as ionizers, or electronic air purifiers, these cleaners remove dust particles and pollen from the air inside your home. They are especially helpful for people who have asthma, allergies, or other respiratory conditions. As air passes through your air conditioning system, the electronic air cleaner traps both large and small particles using electrically charged filters to keep them from circulating throughout your home.

3.      CFM

CFM, or Cubic Feet Per Minute, is a measurement of airflow volume. It is determined by how many cubic feet of air passes through a specific point in one minute. CPM is key in finding an A/C system that is the right size for your home. A larger home will need a system with a higher CFM, while the opposite is true for a smaller home.

A basic rule of thumb when it comes to CFM is to have one CFM per square foot of living space. A 1,600 square foot home would require a system with a capacity of 1,600 CFM.

4.      Energy Star

Energy Star is a government-backed program that focuses on energy efficiency. An Energy Star certification label tells consumers that they’re buying something that’s as energy efficient as possible. In the case of air conditioning systems, looking for Energy Star certified equipment can save you a considerable amount on your energy bills. It requires a qualified A/C contractor to install Energy Star-certified equipment in your home, as well as understand the parameters of the program.

5.      Programmable thermostat

As opposed to manual thermostats, which only allow you to set one temperature at a time, programmable thermostats allow you to control the temperature in your home at different times of the day. With this type of thermostat, you can save time and money by adjusting the temperature for times when you are home and when you are not.

Programmable thermostats can even be scheduled to change the temperature for certain days. For example, if you’re home more on the weekends, you can set your thermostat to always stay at a low and comfortable temperature on Saturdays and Sundays. If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, ask your technician about installing one during your next maintenance call.

6.      Refrigerant

This is the chemical inside air conditioning systems that produces a cooling effect by expanding or vaporizing. Newer residential systems use R-410A, a chlorine-free refrigerant that meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s newer and more stringent environmental guidelines. However, other refrigerants, such as ammonia (R717), carbon dioxide (R744), and hydrocarbons including isobutene (R600a) and propane (R290), can be found in older systems. Your A/C contractor will be able to tell you what type of refrigerant your system uses.

Many times, the amount of refrigerant in a system doesn’t match the manufacturer’s specifications. This can keep the system from functioning properly. Refrigerant can also leak, leading to issues with temperature. Simply adding more refrigerant is not a solution—instead, a technician must fix the leak and test the repair before ensuring that the system has the correct amount of refrigerant.

7.      SEER

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. A SEER rating is a maximum efficiency rating, similar to the miles per gallon of your car. Every air conditioning system has a SEER rating, usually ranging from 13 to 17, and a maximum of 25. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the system is.

A system with a higher SEER rating can result in lower energy costs. However, it’s not necessary to look for the highest SEER rating when shopping for a new air conditioning system. The size and age of your home, where you live, and other factors all contribute to finding the system that’s right for you.

8.      Split system

The majority of modern central air conditioning systems are a split system. Split systems have four recognizable components:

  • an outdoor metal cabinet that houses the condenser and compressor
  • an indoor cabinet that holds the evaporator coil
  • an air handler that sends cool air through the duct system
  • a thermostat, programmable or manual, that controls indoor temperature

The indoor and outdoor components of a split system are connected by refrigerant tubing. A split system does not require extensive ductwork, which makes these systems more energy efficient than the other alternative, known as packaged systems. This is because ductwork is a major source of energy use. Split systems also tend to be quieter, and longer lasting.

9.      Evaporator and condenser coils

Evaporator and condenser coils have different functions, but they work together to allow the system to complete the heat exchange process that enables refrigerated cooling. If you’re having problems with your system, it’s likely that your contractor will inspect one or both of these components.

Evaporator Coils

An evaporator coil is one of the main parts of an air conditioner. These coils can be prone to corrosion, making it important for them to be inspected twice a year as a part of a comprehensive maintenance exam. Evaporator coils hold the chilled refrigerant once it’s been moved through the compressor. When hot air passes through the system, this refrigerant evaporates as it absorbs the heat.

Condenser coils

The function of a condenser coil is the inverse of an evaporator coil—instead of absorbing heat from the indoor air, a condenser coil releases heat into the outdoors away from your home. Condenser coils need to be cleaned regularly to function properly. A dirty condenser coil can lead to insufficient cooling and a shortened lifespan.

Next Steps

Can’t keep these terms straight? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. The experts at Chas Roberts can help with all of your HVAC needs. Contact us today and let us help make the world of air conditioning a little less confusing.