My AC Is Getting Old… Is It About to Run Out of Refrigerant?

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningThe question above has a number of answers, because it touches on a number of different topics when it comes to how air conditioners operate and how best to handle an air conditioner that’s been around for a couple of blistering summers out here in the Southern California deserts. There are three topics to address:

  • How old an AC need to be before it’s considered “too old.”
  • How refrigerant works.
  • Air conditioning system replacement.

Let’s take them one at a time to give you a full answer to the question in the title. If you want further assistance from specialists in air conditioning in Palm Desert, CA, you only have to give us a call.

Air Conditioning System Age

Okay, so you think your air conditioner is getting old. How many years has it been in service? The standard central air conditioner can last between 10 to 15 years. The best way to know how long your air conditioner should last is to check the warranty. If the AC is past its warranty date, it’s probably getting “too old.” If the system is costing much more to run than it used to, or if it needs more than $500 in repairs each year to keep it running, it’s also gotten too old.

The Refrigerant in Your AC

Your air conditioner should never under normal circumstances be in danger of running out of refrigerant, because refrigerant isn’t something that is used up as the system runs. No matter how much you run your air conditioner—and you’ll run it often here in the desert—it won’t take away from refrigerant. This is because refrigerant is a heat transference fluid that shifts from liquid to gaseous form to move heat from the indoors to the outdoors, and it never dissipates in this process. As long as the system doesn’t suffer malfunctions, it will retain the same amount, or charge, of refrigerant for its service life.

But… refrigerant lines can corrode and allow refrigerant to leak out of the system. An AC doesn’t have to be old to suffer from this problem, although an older unit is at a higher risk. Regular maintenance will catch if the AC is losing refrigerant so technicians can repair the air conditioning system by sealing the leaks and restoring the proper refrigerant charge.

Air Conditioning Replacement

If you’re at the point where you are worried that your air conditioning system is too old, then it’s probably the right time to have the AC replaced. And if it’s old and suffering from trouble with leaking refrigerant … it’s almost definitely time for an air conditioning replacement. Each year you continue running an over-the-hill AC, you’re at a higher risk of the system suffering a catastrophic breakdown during one of the hottest days of the year. Plus, the air conditioner will run up excessive repair costs and waste money on inefficient performance.

If you want a professional opinion about AC replacement or repairs, get in touch with us and we’ll help you toward the best solution.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning serves the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities. For exceptional customer service, please give our office a call

Making the Switch to Ductless Air Conditioning

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningSpring is an excellent season to have a new air conditioning system installed for your home. If your current AC is more than 15 years old, it’s time to arrange for an air conditioning replacement in La Quinta, CA or the surrounding areas. It’s easy to have our professionals replace your current cooling system with a similar type—although the new system will probably have superior energy efficiency and more features. Fifteen years is a long time when it comes to advancing technology, and you’ll enjoy all-around better air conditioning with a new system.

However, you can also choose to have a different type of air conditioning system installed, such as a heat pump or a ductless mini split. We’re going to look at ductless air conditioning a bit closer today to see when it makes sense to switch from standard ducts to ductless.

What Ductless Air Conditioning Can Offer You

You may have already seen a ductless mini split system in operation: an air handler mounted up on a wall in a business or a home that sends cooled air directly into the space. These air handlers attach through power and refrigerant lines to an outdoor unit, and the outdoor unit can power up to four different air handlers placed around a residential or commercial space.

Using multiple air handlers rather than a single one that attaches to ducts removes the needs for ducts entirely, and can provide a number of benefits, such as improved energy efficiency. Ductwork is prone to developing leaks, which can result in a loss of up to 30% of the conditioned air inside it. A ductless system eliminates this waste possibility entirely, and further helps reduce bills because mini air handlers use much smaller motors than a single large air handler straining to send air through long lengths of ducts. Ductless mini splits also allow for zone control cooling, since each air handler can be manipulated independently of the others.

When Ductless Air Conditioning Is a Good Idea

But if your home already has an extensive set of ducts, going with a ductless cooling system can be redundant. It’s often easier to stick with a ducted system and make use of the existing ventilation network. But there are times when ductless is a better option:

  • If you are thinking about doing extensive restoration to your home, going ductless means you can freely renovate without consideration of the ductwork in place. The ducts can be easily removed.
  • For add-on rooms, ductless mini splits are a great option. You can provide cooling to the new rooms without making extensive changes to the rest of the HVAC system.
  • For a household with allergy and asthma problems, ductless is an excellent way to reduce the amount of particles blown around the air. Ducts are a significant source of dust and debris build-up.
  • You are planning to build a new house. Ductless is often the best way to go when starting from scratch.

To have all your questions answered about air conditioning replacement in general and ductless mini splits specifically, you only have to speak to one of our knowledgeable staff members.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning provides air conditioning services to the Inland Empire and Desert Communities. For exceptional customer service, please give our office a call.

Some Late Summer Air Conditioning Tips

August is officially “Late Summer,” even though the season doesn’t official stop until the end of September and the heat in Southern California will continue for a bit after that. But as far as an air conditioner is concerned, it’s late in the season if it’s already built up quite a bit of wear and tear from a few months of steady work. In our desert climate, any home AC puts in a tremendous amount of labor starting in May, so by August the system might either face trouble with malfunctions or start to run inefficiently and raise electrical costs.

We have a few tips for helping your air conditioner during the dog days of summer. When you need the assistance of professionals for repairs or other air conditioning services in Cathedral City, CA, we are here 24 hours a day.

Keep up with air filter changes

Don’t get complacent about changing the air filter in your HVAC system on a regular basis simply because it’s the end of the summer. The air filter needs to be changed every 1 to 3 months (the stronger the filter, the less frequently it needs to be changed), and if you haven’t changed the filter yet this summer, it almost certainly needs to be done now. A clean filter means keeping bills under control and helping to prevent extra strain on motors that can lead to breakdowns and tripped circuit breakers.

Clean up the area around the exterior cabinet

Have you taken a look at the outside cabinet of the AC recently? If there are branches and leaves gathering around it, they can restrict the proper heat release from the unit, which will cause its efficiency to drop. Rocks and pebbles also create the potential for damage to components if they get inside the cabinet. Keep the area around the cabinet clear for at least a foot, and you may also want to wash down to the cabinet exterior.

Check on the thermostat

Proper thermostat control is a key part of controlling your air conditioning bills. (We recommend aiming for a setting of 78°F.) If the thermostat isn’t working properly, however, then it doesn’t matter how it’s set: the AC will operate at the wrong times and waste power. Make sure the thermostat has fresh batteries and check on the programming to see if the air conditioner is responding properly to it. If it isn’t, you may either need to repair/replace the thermostat or have the air conditioning system repaired. (It’s often difficult to tell when the thermostat or the AC is the source of a problem, so let HVAC technicians do the diagnosis.)

Never delay with repairs

Remember that the longer you wait to arrange to repair your AC when a problem crops up, the more expensive the eventual repair will be. You’ll also put the system at a higher risk of a major failure—usually when you need the air conditioner the most.

If you think your cooling costs are too high, we’ve also written up some tips for helping to lower them. Keep in mind that even though it’s late in the summer, you should never put off arranging for a complete air conditioning replacement if that’s the best way forward. After all, sudden heat waves can strike almost any time in the California deserts.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning offers air conditioning services throughout the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities.

When It’s Time to Replace Your AC Rather Than Keep Repairing It

Living in the deserts of Southern California requires having the most reliable and efficient air conditioning system possible to cool down your home. A poorly-working AC will not only struggle to keep you comfortable, it will also run up enormous bills. The moment you notice that your residential air conditioner is having trouble during spring and summer weather, call professionals to repair it…

…or possibly replace it. At a certain point, this is the better option. No air conditioner lasts forever, and eventually you’ll need to schedule a new system installation. Below are some tips to tell when “replace” beats out “repair.”

The air conditioner is more than 15 years old

Most ACs today can operate for 10 to 15 years before age catches up to them and they wear down to the point where they are more likely to fail. You don’t want to have your air conditioner permanently break down on you during the sweltering heat of the summer, so if you have a system that’s over 15 years in service, it’s safer to have it replaced in spring on your own schedule—rather than arranging a replacement in the summer on an emergency schedule.

The AC needs frequent repairs

You shouldn’t need to call for air conditioning repairs more than once a year, nor should you pay more than $500 a year to keep it running. In either case, it’s a less expensive solution to replace the system and start enjoying trouble-free operation.

The air conditioner costs too much to run

During the last year or two of an AC’s lifespan, it will begin to lose it energy-efficient performance and drain more power than normal. You’ll see a rise in your bills. If repairs and maintenance can’t change this upward trend, it’s much more economical to have a new system with better energy efficiency put in.

Since 1980, Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning has offered great service in La Quinta, CA and throughout the Inland Empire and Desert Communities. Call us if you think it’s time to replace your air conditioning system.

Should I Replace an Air Conditioner That Uses R-22 Refrigerant?

You may have heard something about air conditioners that run on R-22 refrigerant, and realized that your home has one. What you probably heard was that R-22 is being phased out and it’s a good idea to have a new AC put in as a replacement before too long. These aren’t just rumors or hearsay: if you have an older air conditioner that uses R-22 refrigerant, we strongly urge you to arrange for an air conditioning replacement in Palm Springs, CA in the near future.

What Is R-22?

The earliest refrigerants used for air conditioners were toxic or flammable, but they were eventually replaced with safer chemical blends. R-22 (chlorodifluoromethane) was one of the most widespread, both for residential and commercial use. It became the most common type of refrigerant for both central air conditioners in homes and for window units. It replaced a number of known ozone-depleting blends such as CFC-11 and CFC-12.

Unfortunately, R-22 is still not ozone-depleting enough for the current standards, and it’s also a greenhouse gas with high global warming potential that’s more than 1800 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. For these reasons, global phaseout efforts started in the late 1990s to replace R-22 with an ozone-safe blend called R-410A, which also is a less powerful greenhouse gas.

The Phaseout in the U.S.

In accordance with the Montreal Protocol, the United States has started in earnest a complete phaseout of R-22 to be completed by 2020—right around the corner. The first three stages have already been reached:

  • 2004 – The U.S. reduces consumption of R-22 and all hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by 35%.
  • 2010 – All U.S. manufacturers of air conditioners no longer manufacture systems that use R22. (If your current system was installed after this, then it uses R-410A or another non-ozone-depleting blend.)
  • 2015 – The consumption of R-22 and other HCFCs reduced by 90%.
  • 2020 – Phaseout completed, with no further R-22 produced to service existing systems. Only refrigerant that has been recycled and reclaimed will be allowed to be used.

What This Means for Your AC

Air conditioning system do not “use up” refrigerant as they run, so if you have an R-22 system, you theoretically shouldn’t need to worry about having to add more refrigerant. But that theoretical part is important, because leaking refrigerant is a common problem. Right now R-22 is extremely costly to purchase because so little of it is being manufactured. And in a few years, it will be almost impossible to fix an R-22 air conditioner with a leak. We encourage you to start planning to replace your aging system—and it’s probably old enough that you’d want to replace it no matter what.

With fall coming up in a couple of months and a period of cooler weather (well, cooler for where we live), we’d recommend scheduling an air conditioning replacement service with us to install an AC that uses R-410A. There are many benefits to reap from a new system, such as increased energy efficiency and fewer worries about an AC breakdown. But knowing you’ll always be able to replace the refrigerant without worry in case of a leak is one of the best benefits.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning: We’re open 24 hours to serve the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities.

What Does COP Stand for in an Air Conditioning System?

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningWe often encourage our customers to consider the installation of a high efficiency air conditioning system in Palm Desert, CA and the surrounding areas. In the extreme hot weather we experience in the Southern California deserts, this type of AC can make a big difference in cooling bills. We’ve previously written about SEER and EER, which are important measures of the efficiency of an air conditioning system. However, there’s another energy efficiency rating to discuss, COP, which stands for Coefficient of Performance.

What COP Means

Coefficient of performance is used in a number of applications, but it’s usually applied to air conditioners and heat pumps. It’s a ratio of work or useful output to the amount of work or energy input. This sounds quite similar to SEER and EER, but there are a few differences. For one, COP can also be used to measure the output of heat from a system, which is why it’s useful for discussing heat pumps. SEER and EER, on the other hand, are applied only to cooling power, measuring how an air conditioner is able to move heat out of the house.

COP is equal to the heat delivered (which means in an air conditioner the heat delivered to the outside of a house) as measured by British Thermal Units (BTUs) per hour divided by the heat equivalent of the electric energy input. So an AC that generates 3.6kW of heat to the outside while using 1kW of energy has a COP of 3.6. The higher the COP, the more efficient the system.

Different from EER and SEER, which are focused on the cooling power of the system—in other words, how much heat is removed from the house—COP is focused on the heat produced on the outside. This is why COP is often more useful for determining the effectiveness of heat pumps, which can switch to moving heat inside. However, the rating shouldn’t be ignored on a standard air conditioning system. HVAC professionals can help you read the different efficiency ratings to find the right new system for you.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning: We’re open 24 hours offering exceptional customer service.

3 Signs That You Need a New Air Conditioner

The days are beginning to warm up, and before long we’ll be in the middle of the hottest time of the year. That means it’s time to start getting your air conditioner prepped for the added stress of keeping you cool all summer long. Part of those preparations, however, include evaluating whether your air conditioner can even make it through another summer. If not, you’ll need to have it replaced with a new one. How can you tell if you need a new air conditioner? Read on to find out.

Age

The easiest way to evaluate whether or not you need a new air conditioner is to look at the age of your current one. Most air conditioners are built to last around 15–20 years, with regular repairs and maintenance. If your air conditioner is that old, and has been experiencing problems, it is probably cheaper in the long run to just replace it than to keep it running. Even if the system is running fine at that age, the increase in efficiency that you would get from a new system would probably still be worth the switch.

Efficiency

Older systems are worn out, plain and simple. The wear and tear on their constituent parts makes them less efficient than they once were, causing them to have to stay on for longer to achieve the same temperature changes. This leads to higher electric bills, which is a good sign that you need a new air conditioner.

Repairs

That same wear and tear that decreases the system’s efficiency will eventually cause parts to fail. A healthy system should only need repairs every year or two. In an older system, however, the advanced wear and tear will start causing groups of parts to fail in rapid succession. If you have to have your air conditioner repaired every few months, it’s time to replace it.

If you need a new air conditioner, call Russell’s Heating and Air Conditioning. We install and service air conditioners throughout Yucaipa, CA.

Upgrades to Consider When Replacing Your Air Conditioner

When your old air conditioner gives up the ghost, you’re usually best off replacing it with a brand new one, rather than trying to cut corners by purchasing a used model. New air conditioners are more efficient than older ones and often offer numerous upgrades that can make your life more comfortable. Here in San Bernardino, air conditioning replacement is a serious matter: our triple-digit temperatures don’t leave any room for error when making your plans.

Here Are A Few Upgrades to Consider When Replacing Your Air Conditioner

A very easy and reliable upgrade is the addition of a new thermostat. If you’re using an older mercury-based system you should immediately upgrade it with a digital thermostat: they’re safer and more reliable while offering a number of extra features. Even if you have an older digital thermostats, new ones offer benefits you may have never considered before.  For example, modern thermostats offer remote activation, allowing you to turn it on and off automatically with an app on your phone. Many also offer “smart” programming, which allows them to adjust to your energy habits and help save you money.

Another option to think about is the addition of a zone control system to your ducts. This is the additional of valves and shutters at key points that divide your home into separate sections. Not only does it let you turn off the air in parts of the home you aren’t using – helping you save a great deal on energy bills – but it lets you tailor individual temperatures to individual rooms: increasing your family’s overall comfort levels.

For more upgrades to consider when replacing your air conditioner, or to set up an installation session with a trained professional, give Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning a call. We handle all kinds of systems for all kinds of houses and we have the know-how to make your new system a dream. Air conditioning replacement services in San Bernardino don’t come any more reliable. Contact us today to set up a consultation and let us show you what we can do!

Air Conditioner Efficiency: What Are EER and SEER?

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningWe’re in the middle of the time of the year when homeowners are often looking into replacing their air conditioning systems. Having a new air conditioning installation in Palm Desert, CA before the big heat of summer strikes is a good idea. If you have any suspicions that your current AC won’t make it through the coming season, make an appointment with our team to look over the air conditioner and offer you recommendations about whether to replace it or not… and what kind of system to replace it with.

The Question of Efficiency

When looking into the installation of a new air conditioning system, one of the key things to investigate is energy efficiency. Newer air conditioners have higher energy-efficiency ratings than ever before, and requirements of the U.S. Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR program have increased since 2015.

However, just because one AC model has a higher efficiency rating than another doesn’t automatically mean it will save you more money. It’s vital to have professionals assist you with locating a system that not only has the best efficiency for your needs, but also is the right size for your home’s cooling requirements.

With this in mind, let’s take a close look at the two efficiency ratings you find on air conditioners—EER and SEER—and what makes them different.

EER = Energy Efficiency Ratio

The energy efficiency ratio (EER) is the basic way of measuring how much electrical energy an air conditioner uses to provide cooling. The ratio is the amount of heat removed from the air (measured as BTUs, British Thermal Units) to the amount of electricity consumed (measured in watt-hours). The test to determine EER is done under a set of specific conditions: outdoor temperatures of 95°F, indoor temperatures of 80°F, and 50% relative humidity levels. The higher the resulting number, the less electricity the system uses to produce cooling. The current EER requirement for ENERGY STAR certification is 12.5 or greater for split systems.

SEER = Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio

If SEER and EER look like they are almost the same thing, it’s no accident. SEER is the same ratio of heat removed from the air to electricity consumed, and the higher SEER, the more efficient the system. So what difference does that “S” make? It’s the difference in how the measurements are made. SEER is determined over an entire season and a variety of conditions, rather than a single spot test under one set of conditions. Testing for SEER uses indoor and outdoor temperatures from as low as 65°F to as high as 105°F, with an equally wide range of relative humidity levels. This gives a sense of how efficiency an AC will perform over an entire summer season. The current SEER requirement for ENERGY STAR certification is 15 or greater for split systems.

Which Rating Is More Important?

They’re both important, although you’ll probably lean a bit more on SEER since it allows an easier calculation of what you might save over a whole season of cooling. As long as you have a professional HVAC technician to assist you with your new air conditioning installation, you shouldn’t have a difficult time finding the SEER/EER combination that will work best for your home and deliver genuine energy savings this summer and many summers to come.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning has served the Desert Communities and the Inland Empire since 1980.

Some Ideas if You Plan Air Conditioning Replacement This Fall

If you’re thinking about putting in a new air conditioning system for your home when the weather starts to cool down (October is an excellent month for it), it’s a good idea to start planning now. One of the big questions you’ll need to answer is what type of AC system you want as a replacement. This isn’t as simple a to answer as it once was, since there are more types of air conditioners than ever, as well as different options. Below we’ve put a guide for some model and extras to consider.

High Efficiency Air Conditioner

If you’d like to cut down on those high air conditioning bills during the long hot season in Southern California, look into installing a high-efficiency air conditioner. New technology, like multi-stage compressors and multi-stage fans, help air conditioners run at higher efficiency than ever before. Look at the SEER rating of new systems and aim to install a unit with a higher SEER than your old air conditioner.

Heat Pump

A heat pump is an air conditioning system that can reverse its operation to work also as a heater. Heat pumps make a lot of sense in the warm Southern California climate, since they operate best in heating mode under mild winter conditions. They also use less energy in heating mode than many other types of heaters, such as electric furnaces.

Ductless Air Conditioning

Are you also thinking about remodeling your house in the fall? Then a ductless system may be ideal for you. A ductless AC takes up less space than standard ducted air conditioners, and they offer other benefits as well, such as reduced energy consumption and improved air quality.

Zone Control

If you stick with a standard AC that uses ducts, we recommend that you have zone controls put in. these allow you to control which rooms receive cooling and which don’t, and that will help with cutting down on energy waste.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning is here for all your HVAC needs in Palm Desert, CA. Call our office for exceptional customer service!