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Adding an Air Conditioner to Your Home

Adding an Air Conditioner to Your Home

by Mark Bower and Robert Hardy

Click here for Air Conditioner and Heat Pump Parts

Nothing beats the comfort of a central air conditioner in your home. Central air conditioners (also called split-system air conditioners) work with your furnace to blow cool air throughout the home. Achieving the same results using window air conditioner would require using 2-3 units.

We wrote this article to help you understand some of the processes involved in adding an air conditioner to your home. If you decide to add air conditioning, it should only be installed by a licensed competent technician. This article will give you the basic understanding of what to ask when talking to your technician.

Typical a/c components

Understanding Split System Air Conditioners

As mentioned above, the split-system air conditioner works with your furnace to distribute the cool air. It's referred to as a split-system because the condenser unit sits outside of the home, and the a-coil sits inside the home in the furnace. When running, the compressor, located inside the condenser, pumps freon to and from the home. This, along with the aid of the a-coil, removes heat from the home. During the process the a-coil becomes very cold. The furnace's blower then distrubutes the coolness from the a-coil throughout the home.

A-Coil When choosing an air conditioner, choosing one that's the same brand as your furnace may help simplify the installation process. Then you'll need to know how big of an a/c to get. The size of an a/c is measured in 'tons.' Talk to your technician about which size is best for your home. 2-4 tons is the range for most homes. If you get too small of an a/c, it'll run all the time. If you get too large of an a/c, it may not run long enough; therefore, leaving excess humidity in the home.

If you want an a/c that runs efficiently, then you need one with the most 'seers'. Today most air conditioners are 12 seer. Older ones tend to be 10 seer or less. However, our government has now mandated that all air conditioners sold will have a minimum seer of 13. Like anything, the more efficient the air conditioner, the more it will cost to buy.

Then you need to take a look at your furnace. Is your furnace a/c ready, or do you may need to get it ready?

AC Control Box If you've determined that your furnace is not a/c ready, then to get it ready you may to do the following:

1) Add an a/c control box. The control box allows you to operate the air conditioner from your 2-wire or 4-wire thermostat. The control box also allows the furnace blower to run without the heat kicking on. Control boxes may be different for electric and gas furnaces.

Also note that many installers would rather use a 2-wire control box if you already have a 2-wire heat-only thermostat. Your a/c can be operated from this same heat-only thermostat by flipping the 'heat/cool' switch to 'cool.' The 'heat/cool' switch will be located on the a/c control box. Adding a 4-wire thermostat with a 4-wire a/c control box would involve running a new wire to the thermostat on the wall. If the thermostat is several rooms away, this could be a very challenging time-consuming task.

2) Check the blower motor. In some furnaces you may also need a different blower motor. Normally a 2-3 speed blower motor is required. Cold air is heavier than warm air, so to move it requires a blower motor with a higher speed.

3) Have room for the a-coil. Another requirement is that you have room inside your furnace cabinet for an a-coil. In some furnaces, the a-coil sits on the bottom. In others, it sits on the top above the blower. If you don't have room in your cabinet, then you will need to get an add-on cabinet. Once the a-coil is installed and running, it will condense water which will have to be drained away from the furnace through a tube.

Condenser Unit 4) Check power requirements. The condenser of the split unit will sit outside of the home. It should sit on a level surface, preferably a poured cement pad. Most condensers require 220V of power to run. Have an electrician check to see if your home's electrical service box has the ability to power an air conditioner. If so, a separate electrical box will need to be installed outside near the condensor unit.

If you are not sure of your furnace's requirements to become a/c ready, e-mail us the model number of your furnace and we can help you. We also have available most all parts needed to make your furnace a/c ready.

Other Air Conditioning Options

If you don't have a furnace but have ductwork in your home, then an air handler may be an option worth looking at. Basically, an air handler is a furnace with no heater. An air handler is a box that contains a blower and an a-coil. The condenser still sits outside. Then to really confuse the issue, if you have an air handler and want heat, many companies now make kits which will add heat to an air handler. So how does this differ from a furnace -- beats me!

Self Contained A/C Unit Another popular option is a self-contained air conditioner. With this option, the whole air conditioner sits outside next to the home. Flexible insulated ductwork runs from the unit to your home. One of the air ducts will bring cool air into the home, the other will be a return air duct. Some of these units also contain heat. Most of these systems require 220V of power, so be sure your service panel can handle that.

Finally, you could choose a heat pump. Heat pumps can both cool and heat your home. They do add some efficiency in they way they gather and disperse heat from the surrounding air.

Air Conditioning Repair Advice

Below are some repair tips when repairing or maintaining your existing a/c unit.

A) When replacing a compressor, you should also replace the start-up parts by purchasing a new start kit. A start kit may consist of a start capacitor, a run capacitor and a start relay. WARNING: A Charged capacitor can KILL. Before working with any capacitor, be sure to short the terminals across the top.

B) When replacing a fan or blower motor, also replace the run capacitor unless that particular motor does not require one. WARNING: a charged capacitor can KILL. Before working with any capacitor, be sure to short the terminals across the top.

C) Be sure you have a delay timer added to your condenser. This will prevent the compressor from not starting for 5 minutes after it has shut off. This allows the pressures to equalize and the compressor to completely stop running before it can re-start. Starting it too soon is a good way to burn-up a compressor. The delay timer is connected between the thermostat wire and contactor.

D) Keep both the a-coil and condenser coil clean. Click here for info on that.

Click here for Air Conditioner and Heat Pump Parts




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