Friday, 28 March 2014
An Update on the Refrigerant R-22
Tony Anderson, Partner, provides an update on the phasing out of the refrigerant R-22, and talks about 422D, its replacement.
Last October, Bill Richards posted R22 Refrigerant: Six Things You Should Know There is now some good news to report. R-22 has been the refrigerant of choice for heat pumps and air-conditioning systems for more than four decades. But it is bad for the environment because it contributes to ozone depletion and greenhouse gases. The government has mandated a steady decline in production of R-22 until 2020, when all production must cease. Though that may seem like a long time from now, the target for 2015 is to cut production by 90%, so manufacturers have started now. Because R-22 is less readily available, the price has skyrocketed.
Using 422D as a Replacement
As R-22 has been phased out, non-ozone-depleting alternative refrigerants, such as 422D, are being introduced. 422D is called a “drop in” replacement because the old R-22 can simply be removed, and the new refrigerant installed without having to change the oil in the compressor or anything else (in most cases). If you have a leak in your system now, it is best to repair the leak and recharge the system with 422D. Not only is it good for the ozone, but it will be a lot cheaper! Typically, 422D is $10-$15 per pound cheaper than R-22, and it could be more, depending on how scarce R-22 becomes. If you have a big unit that has 50 pounds of refrigerant in it, you’re going to save a lot of money by using it. If you have a smaller unit, you’ll still save, though it won’t be quite as much, but it will be good for the long haul. We’ve been using 422D for over a year now, and the performance has been great; we’ve had no problems with it at all.
Important Tip: If you use 422D, make sure there is label affixed to your unit that says this, in case another service technician comes back behind, to make sure they don’t put R-22 in a 422D unit.
Posted on 03/28/2014 12:00 PM by Eddie Hutton
Friday, 21 March 2014
How do I know something is wrong?
There are several indicators that a system needs attention. Using your own senses, here are some examples:
1. Sight: The appearance of your outdoor system is a good indicator of how well the unit is working. Heat pump units will ice up, but the unit should go into a defrost mode and the ice should go away... this is true for both summer and winter operation. If the ice doesn't go away, or if it has dirty coils, get it serviced promptly.
2. Sound: If you hear the unit come on and it makes a noise that you normally do not hear, pay special attention to it and if the noise continues call us. Also, if the outside unit sounds rough while it's running, that could be a sign it needs service.
3. Smell: Smells are a good indicator that something is going wrong. If you smell gas or a burning smell, turn the system off immediately. Call the gas company and/or emergency services. Get out of the building.
4. Feel/Comfort: One clue that your HVAC is not working properly is when it will not reach the heating or cooling set point on your thermostat. Also, if the blower is not producing the airflow that you are accustomed to, or if it is blowing cold air while in heat mode, or blowing warm air while in air conditioning mode, that means it needs servicing.
5. Other Anomalies: Here's a short list of other symptoms that typically signify something is wrong:
- Water leak near the indoor unit
- Unit won't come on
- Circuit breaker keeps tripping
- Pilot light (on an older gas unit) keeps going out
A wise basketball coach once said the best offense is a good defense. A fall and spring maintenance visit can help prevent many of these problems.
Posted on 03/21/2014 9:00 AM by Tony Anderson
Friday, 14 March 2014
What's Your SEER? Does It Matter?
SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. This is a rating given to air conditioners that measures their relative efficiency. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit is. To find the SEER of a particular air conditioning unit, the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute looks at the cooling output during a typical cooling season divided by the total electric energy input during the same period. This is measured as the ratio of cooling in British thermal units (BTUs) to the energy consumed in watt-hours.
Does it matter what the SEER rating is of your air conditioner? It does if you are cost-conscious! No one wants to see huge electric bills in the summer as the heat and humidity rises here in Tennessee. The SEER rating can help you compare the cost of operating two seemingly identical units (units having same BTU output). It lets you spend your money more wisely. It lets you invest in a unit that will actually save you money because it will cost less to operate.
Comparisons and Standards
One variation of the SEER is the EER, the Energy Efficiency Ratio. The EER is a more realistic measurement of energy efficiency in warmer climates due to the high demand and higher cost of peak hour electricity. It is measured as the ratio of output cooling (in BTUs) to input electrical power (in Watts) at a given operating point, usually 95°F and 50% humidity outside. SEER rating more accurately reflects overall system efficiency on a seasonal basis and EER reflects the system’s energy efficiency at one specific operating condition. Both ratings are useful when choosing products, but the same rating must be used for comparisons. As of January 2006, all residential air conditioners sold in the United States must have a SEER of at least 13, and ENERGY STAR qualified central air conditioners must have a SEER of at least 14. [Note: window units are exempt from this law and their SEERs are only around 10.] Today, it is rare to see systems rated below SEER 9 in the U.S., and if yours is, you should replace it with a new, higher efficiency unit.
Savings Can Be Substantial
Substantial energy savings can be obtained from more efficient systems. For example by upgrading from SEER 9 to SEER 13, the power consumption is reduced by 30% which can translate into energy savings up to $300 per year (depending on the cost of electricity). In 5 years, that comes to an extra $1500 in your pocket without lifting a finger! And, the longer the cooling season and the longer you keep your system, the more important the SEER rating is to your pocketbook! Here in Tennessee, the savings can easily be much more because of our long cooling season and high humidity. This is reflected by the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s elevated minimum standards for split system central air conditioners installed in the Southeastern Region of the U.S. which must be at least 14 SEER starting January 1, 2015.
Choosing a System
Today there are mini-split (ductless) air conditioner units available with SEER ratings in the 25 to 28 range, and geothermal (or ground-source) units may have SEER ratings up to 75. Even replacing your 10-year-old central air conditioning unit with a new one can save you 30-40% in electricity costs. And now that the old refrigerants are being phased out, there’s no better time to make a switch! When choosing a new system, be sure to compare their respective SEERs.
Posted on 03/14/2014 5:23 PM by Cheryl Austin