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HVAC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Air Conditioning FAQs

How long will my air conditioner last?

With proper AC maintenance, you can expect your air conditioner to last about 15 years. However, installing a new air conditioner can improve your home comfort AND save you money! Many of today’s highly efficient air conditioners can be up to 30 percent more efficient than systems that were installed just 10 years ago. By upgrading your aging system to a new high-efficiency AC, you can quickly lower your energy bills.

Read an extended version of this FAQ on our blog!

Will a new air conditioner lower my bills?

YES! Upgrading to an air conditioner with a higher SEER rating can greatly reduce your electricity consumption. In addition, there are also a number of rebates available when you upgrade to a more energy efficient air conditioner—saving you even more money.

Contact us today for a free estimate on a new, energy efficient air conditioner. Read an extended version of this FAQ on our blog!

What is SEER?

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. The size of an air conditioner is rated in BTU’s (British Thermal Units) or tons; however, the efficiency is rated in SEER. The higher the SEER rating on your air conditioner, the more efficiently it operates.

Contact us today for a free estimate on a new, high SEER air conditioner.

Is a heat pump better than an air conditioner?

Heat pumps both cool and heat your home—meaning there is no need to purchase, install, repair, and maintain two HVAC systems. In the summer, your heat pump transfers your indoor heat to the outdoors rather than converting energy into heat. Because they don’t convert energy into heat, a heat pump can save you money on your energy bills while still keeping your home comfortable. Additionally, heat pumps are more effective at dehumidifying than air conditioners.

How long will it take to replace my AC with GAC?

Each air conditioning installation is different, but we can complete most full system (both indoor and outdoor units) replacement in three to four hours. Our comfort consultant can give you an estimate of the time required when we come to your home for an initial quote.

Contact us today for a free estimate on a new, energy efficient air conditioner.

My home has a forced air furnace, but no air conditioner. Can I add central air?

Yes. In some instances, there may be some changes/additions made to your system in order to accommodate your new air conditioner. We will inspect the electrical supply, refrigerant lines, ductwork, etc. to ensure that your new air conditioner will operate at its peak efficiency. Any changes required will be detailed in your proposal prior to installation.

Contact us today for a free estimate on a new, energy efficient air conditioner.

How does GAC determine what size air conditioner to install?

Our comfort consultant will determine if there is a reason to believe your existing air conditioner is not properly sized for your home. Most often, the existing system capacity is correct. If, however, we are concerned that the existing system is not correct, we will measure your home and calculate the actual heating and cooling load on the home (calculation based on square footage, windows, walls, ceiling, floor plan, appliances, insulation, exterior factors, etc.). This will determine the recommended size of the equipment for your home.

We will also consider your duct configuration, any concerns with the operation of your current system, the number of home occupants, future enhancements to your home, and your lifestyle before determining the equipment needed to comfortably cool your home.

Contact us today for a free estimate on a new, energy efficient air conditioner.

Why is it important to have my air conditioning sized for my home?

It is essential that any HVAC system be properly sized for your individual home in order to make you comfortable and minimize operating costs. Properly sized air conditioners minimize operating costs, reduce humidity in your home during the summer, making you feel cooler, and reduce the temperature “swings” you may feel between rooms.

Contact us today for a free estimate on a new, energy efficient air conditioner.

Should I have a new programmable thermostat installed with my new air conditioner?

Programmable thermostats allow you to automatically raise/lower the temperature setting at specific times during the day. You can reduce your energy bills by allowing the temperature to increase/decrease when no one is home. Programmable thermostats allow the convenience of changing the temperature while you sleep – cooler once you’ve gone to bed and warmer prior to getting out of bed. There is also a function allowing you to set a vacation schedule for extended periods where you’re not home.

Learn more about the benefits of a programmable thermostat on our blog.

What is ductless air conditioning?

Ductless air conditioning—also known as ventless air conditioning—is exactly what its name suggests—air conditioning that doesn’t require ductwork. This makes them much easier to install than other cooling systems. Most ductless systems consist of an indoor unit that is mounted high on a wall, an outdoor unit, and a remote control.

Ductless air conditioning is small and compact—allowing you to fit it in almost any space. In addition, it can be installed in areas like basements, sun rooms, enclosed porches, and other areas of your home that don’t get significant cooling and can’t benefit from a window unit.

At GAC Cooling & Heating, we are proud to be a distinguished Diamond Contractor of Mitsubishi Mr. Slim ductless systems.

Should I install the highest SEER air conditioner available?

In January of 2006, the minimum SEER required by the federal government increased from 10 to 13 SEER. The 13 SEER systems are now considered standard efficiency while newer systems may reach as high as 23 SEER. The initial investment may be more for a 23 SEER than a 13 SEER, but you reduce the operating costs required to run your system. As a result, your total investment (both purchase and operation) will end up being less with the higher efficient system over the course of its lifespan.

Can I install a different brand of air conditioner to work with my existing AC components?

Although it is generally recommended to match components, most brands of air conditioners will work with others as long as the coils and blowers are properly sized. You may, however, experience some loss of efficiency and capacity. It is highly recommended that the evaporator coil be replaced at the same time as the air conditioner (or heat pump) in order to maximize your system’s efficiency.

Some rooms in my house don’t get enough cooling. Can this be fixed?

In some cases, this may be a symptom of problems with your existing system. It may be related to an improperly sized air conditioner or issues within your ductwork. Be sure that the registers are not blocked by furniture or airflow is restricted. Running the fan continuously may also help to even the temperatures throughout you home.

Additional solutions include zoning systems and ductless AC units.

Should I run my air conditioner’s fan continuously, or use the ‘auto’ position on the thermostat?

There are benefits to both. Running the fan continuously will use a little extra electricity but helps to reduce hot spots in your home. It also makes sense if you have a high efficiency air cleaner because you are constantly filtering the air throughout your home. The continuous fan operation is generally used more often in the summer months because the circulation of room temperature air does not feel “drafty” as it does in the winter. Some of the new systems have the ability to use a slower blower speed for continuous operation, which allows you to run the fan throughout the year without really feeling the air at the registers.

How many bids should I get before I decide on a new air conditioner?

Until you find a company that you are comfortable with and trust, obtaining at least three different estimates is generally recommended. We strongly recommend that you do your homework on the companies you are considering. Check references, talk with friends and neighbors, research the company in local rating guides – the most valuable input you’ll receive are unbiased customer testimonies.

Ask for information about customers in your area that they have performed AC installations recently and take the time to look at the finished product before you commit. The company you choose is the most important decision you’ll make regarding your system. Proper installation, the expertise of the consultants, reliability and convenience of their support, and your comfort level should be the major factors behind your final decision.

How do I pay for my new air conditioner?

At GAC Cooling & Heating, we do not require any payment prior to the completion of the work we have promised. After your air conditioning installation is complete, we will test the system, ask you to visually inspect each piece of equipment, and explain any instructions to operate your new system. Only after you are comfortable and satisfied, will we ask for payment. Payments may be made by credit card (we accept VISA, MasterCard, and Discover), check or cash. We also offer financing through Bryant if you would prefer this method of payment.

Do I need a new high-efficiency air filter?

There are many benefits to high-efficiency air filters. These are designed to remove the smallest of pollutants from the air in your home to provide clean, fresh air. If anyone in your family suffers from respiratory problems or allergies, check out the air cleaners on our products page or simply ask one of our Comfort Consultant about them. A highly efficient filter will also extend equipment life and reduce fuel consumption by 10-15 percent. Remember, it is vital that you clean or replace your air filter regularly.

How often do I need to replace my air filter?

That all depends on what type of filter you are using in your system! Most disposable air filters you can purchase at home centers require monthly replacement. Some of the better quality disposable filters need to be replaced about every three months. Check your filter package for their recommendation.

When you purchase a high-efficiency air cleaner for your system, it only needs changed once a year. Give us a call and let us know what type of air cleaner you have, and we can let you know what the standard replacement should be. Lastly, remember that if you are a member of Peak Performance Maintenance Agreement program, we can handle your air cleaner replacements for you!

Why do I need air conditioner maintenance?

Your air conditioner should be inspected and cleaned regularly to ensure it is operating at optimum efficiency and to reduce potential problems down the road. Dirty coils and malfunctioning components can cause drastic increases in energy consumption. Regular air conditioning maintenance also helps to prevent expensive repairs and increases your system’s life.

What is a split system air conditioner?

To put it simply, a split system air conditioner is an air conditioner that has an outdoor unit and an indoor unit—or a hot unit and a cold unit. It’s different than a window system—which only has one unit.

In general, split system air conditioners consist of a compressor, condenser coil, evaporator coil, refrigerant, and fan. These parts work together to control temperature, humidity, moisture, and air circulation. In addition, split system air conditioners can help filter your air—improving your overall indoor air quality.

Heating FAQs

Should I set my thermostat to ON or AUTO?

On the thermostat, ON and AUTO refer to fan settings. Setting your thermostat to ON will cause the fan to run constantly, filtering the air and making temperatures more even throughout your home. Setting it to AUTO will cause the fan to only run when the thermostat needs to adjust the temperature, making your heating or cooling system run more efficiently.

My heat pump is in heating mode, but cool air is blowing out of the vents. Is this normal?

You’re probably used to a furnace, which pumps out air heated to 120 F or more to heat your home. Heat pumps, on the other hand, blow in air that’s heated to around 95 F – warm enough to heat your home, but lower than your body temperature and therefore cool to touch.

What’s the point of auxiliary heat?

If you have a heat pump, you probably have an auxiliary heat system to take over when the indoor temperature drops quickly, or drops too low – the auxiliary heat will “take the edge off,” raising the temperature inside your home to a level where your heat pump can take over (about 42 F).

Auxiliary heat is also used during the “defrost cycle,” which occurs during particularly cold, wet weather when the outdoor coil of your heat pump freezes up. The defrost cycle temporarily reverses your heat pump’s operation, moving warm air in your home outside to melt the frost on the coil. This should only last a few minutes, and the auxiliary heat will kick in here to keep your home warm.

Is it ok to install a different brand of air conditioner and furnace?

Yes – most brands of HVAC equipment will work properly together provided the coils and blowers are the proper size. At worst, you’ll see a slight drop in efficiency or capacity.

Some rooms in my home get too hot, while others never get hot enough. Can GAC help?

Yes! Airflow problems can be related to a number of issues, including a dirty filter, coil, and/or blower that restricts air movement through the air handler and prevents it from getting to the outer branches of the duct system. Every now and then, duct work will come loose and need to be reattached. Many times, duct design issues are to blame. In any case, the licensed professionals at GAC have the solution!

What should I do to maintain my furnace?

Your furnace or heat pump will perform more efficiently and last longer if you keep it well maintained. This includes things like:

  • Inspecting filters once a month and changing them if they are dirty
  • Making sure the supply and return vents in your home are not obstructed by things like furniture, curtains, boxes, toys, etc.
  • Checking your chimney and venting systems once a year for secure fittings, leaks, corrosion, or damage
  • Keeping the area around furnace clean and clutter free for at least three to four feet on all sides
  • Allowing adequate combustion air for your furnace, making sure it has enough space to breathe

When should I replace my furnace?

Furnaces tend to last around 15 – 20 years. After that, you may start to notice some indicators that tell you when to replace your system. These indicators include:

  • Frequent pilot light outages
  • Delayed ignition
  • Yellow flame or wavering flame
  • Excessive soot or corrosion
  • Too much or too little heat
  • The smell of sulfur or burnt eggs

How often should I have my air ducts cleaned?

For most people, air duct cleaning every year to three years should be enough. The time between your air duct cleanings can be affected by the type of air filter you’re using as well as how often you have maintenance on your system. The purchase of a good quality air cleaner will protect your heating and air conditioning equipment, duct system, and your home, while scheduled maintenance will extend the life of the equipment and increase its efficiency.

I use a propane furnace and it’s blowing cold air. What could be the problem?

Check your propane tank to make sure there is still gas in the tank. To do this, open the dome lid on top of the tank and look at the gauge, making sure it’s not on zero.

Do I need a programmable thermostat?

While you don’t necessarily NEED a programmable thermostat, they do make it a lot easier to save energy and stay more comfortable. You can program the thermostat so that it raises and lowers the temperature automatically to meet your needs, i.e. lowering it when no one is home and raising it when everyone gets home. Programmable thermostats are particularly effective when your household is on a regular schedule and the program operates continuously.

What is AFUE?

AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency and is a rating used to describe the efficiency of your heating system. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the system.

Is a heat pump better than a furnace?

There are several benefits to installing a heat pump as opposed to a furnace:

  • Heat pumps both heat and cool your home
  • Heat pumps are an energy efficient heating option
  • Heat pumps can help you lower your heating bills
  • Heat pumps allow you to use hybrid heating

It is also important to note that heat pumps do not perform as well during extended periods of sub-freezing temperatures—although as heating technology improves, this ceases to be a problem.

How do I choose the right size furnace?

Your furnace needs to be sized to accommodate your home’s unique heating needs. In order to do this, a professional needs to measure your home and calculate its heating and cooling load. This calculation is based on your home’s square footage, windows, walls, ceiling, floor plan, appliances, insulation, exterior, and more.). A professional will also consider your duct configuration, number of home occupants, and your lifestyle before recommending the ideal furnace size for your home.

Do I need a whole house humidifier?

If you have a heat pump, you likely won’t experience dry air and will therefore not need to worry about a humidifier.

For furnaces, however, a whole house humidifier can be a great investment to improve your home comfort and also save you money. A home with higher humidity will feel warmer, allowing you to be more comfortable at lower temperatures.

What is hybrid heating?

A hybrid heat system is a combination of both a gas furnace and a heat pump—allowing you to combine the strengths of both gas and electric heat sources. This provides the most energy-efficient method of heating your home comfortably. When the temperature outside changes, a hybrid heat system will automatically switch between the heat pump and the furnace—using the most cost-effective fuel source for the present conditions.

What is a geothermal heat pump?

Also called a ground source heat pump, a geothermal heat pump is electrically powered and transfers ground source heat from the ground into your home during the winter (and operates in reverse during the summer).

What is a zoning system?

A zoning system consists of a control, automatic motorized dampers and temperature sensors working in conjunction with your heating system. The dampers are placed inside the supply ducts to control the airflow to specific areas of your home. The temperature sensors are located in the separate zones of your home. It’s similar to having a separate thermostat in each area communicating with your heating system—allowing each zone to be heated independently.

Should I get a natural gas furnace or a propane furnace?

In most areas, it costs much less to heat your home with natural gas than with electric, oil, or propane. Natural gas furnaces produce less carbon dioxide, making natural gas furnace installation an environmentally friendly option.

On the other hand, propane furnaces offer fast heating at high temperatures and will heat your home even in the event of a power failure.

Why should I install a Bryant furnace?

When shopping for a Bryant furnace, you can choose between a gas furnace or oil furnace to suit your home’s unique heating needs. Bryant’s oil furnaces feature an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating of between 82 percent and 86 percent. Additionally, they’re equipped with continuous fan switches to allow the furnace fan to blow continuously—improving efficiency and maintaining more consistent temperatures. Bryant’s gas furnaces operate between 80 percent and 97 percent AFUE. They can be combined with Bryant heat pumps for even more efficient, hybrid heating.

Why should I install a Bryant heat pump?

In addition to the regular benefits of installing a heat pump, Bryant heat pumps in particular offer additional benefits, including:

  • Hybrid heating – You can combine Bryant heat pumps with Bryant gas furnaces for even more efficient hybrid heating.
  • High HSPF rating – HSPF, or Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, measures the heating efficiency of a heat pump. Bryant’s heat pumps operate between 9 and 13 HSPF.
  • ENERGY STAR certification – Many of Bryant’s heat pumps are ENERGY STAR certified—making them more environmentally friendly and energy efficient than non-certified models.
  • Environmentally friendly – Bryant’s heat pumps use an environmentally friendly refrigerant called Puron.
  • Quiet operation – Bryant’s heat pumps operate between 58 and 76 decibels (dB)—allowing you to control for the intensity of noise from your heat pump.

Why do geothermal heat pumps cost more than air source heat pumps?

The cost of a geothermal heat pump can be three to five times more than a typical air source heat pump system. This makes sense when you consider the installation process. To install a geothermal heat pump, you must drill into the ground to place the pumps’ loops—which carry the water and anti-freeze solution necessary to transfer the heat in the ground into your home.

Is geothermal heating worth the extra cost?

A geothermal heat pump can be 30 to 50 percent more efficient than a typical heat pump—dramatically decreasing your monthly electric bills. According to the Department of Energy, you may recoup your initial investment in as little as two years through lower utility bills.

In addition, because geothermal heat pumps are an environmentally friendly heating and cooling option for your home, the government offers incentives and tax breaks in Maryland for residents who choose to install them. It is estimated that federal and local incentives can cover between 30 to 60 percent of your geothermal unit.

What does COP mean?

A heat pump’s efficiency is rated according to its coefficient of performance (COP). The average geothermal heat pump has a COP of between 3 and 4.5.

Are geothermal heat pumps environmentally friendly?

Yes! According to an EPA study of energy efficiency, geothermal energy is the most environmentally friendly way to heat and cool your home. In addition, WaterFurnace, which is GAC’s preferred brand of geothermal heat pumps, uses R-410A in many of their products—which is a performance-enhancing refrigerant that doesn’t harm the ozone layer.

Why does my furnace smell musty?

If your home is filled with a musty, dry, or dusty smell when you turn your furnace on, you most likely have dust in your combustion chamber. Changing your filter can help! If the smell persists after this, call a professional HVAC company for further inspection.

Why does my furnace smell like gas?

When your gas furnace is not operating as efficiently as it should, excess and dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide can be produced. So when you smell gas, it’s usually best to call your gas company in case of a gas leak to avoid fire, explosion, or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Why does my furnace smell like rotten eggs?

Natural gas is actually odorless. A compound is added to it by utility companies to give off a smell so you can more easily detect a gas leak. If you smell rotten eggs or sulfur, this could be a sign that you have a natural gas leak. Shut off your gas supply line (if you know how to) and call your gas company.

If you have a propane furnace and you smell rotten eggs, it’s possible that you’re low on fuel.

Why does my furnace smell like burning?

Does your furnace smell like an overheated iron? It’s possible that one of your furnace’s electrical components has failed—especially if you don’t have your system regularly maintained. Call an HVAC company for an inspection.

Why should I look for an HVAC company with NATE certified technicians?

The best HVAC contractors use only NATE certified technicians. NATE—or North American Technician Excellence—is an advanced training certification available to those in the HVACR industry. In order to call themselves NATE certified, technicians have to retake the NATE exam every five years—this ensures that they stay up-to-date on the latest technological advancements in the HVAC industry.

At GAC Cooling & Heating, we’re proud to display the NATE certified logo on our website. In addition, we go above and beyond by requiring our technicians to go through factory classroom training and nationally accredited tests every year.

Why should I look for an HVAC factory authorized dealer?

Like all manufacturers, HVAC system manufacturers have strict guidelines that dealers must meet in order to be considered a “factory authorized dealer.” By choosing a factory authorized dealer, you can ensure that the HVAC company has met the manufacturer’s standards for skills, service, and satisfaction.

At GAC, we’re not only a Bryant Authorized Dealer—we’re the 2013 Bryant Dealer of the Year! We are the largest Bryant dealer in the nation and understand the Bryant equipment inside and out.

Energy Efficient FAQs

How does duct sealing work?

GAC is an authorized Aeroseal dealer. When we seal your ducts with Aeroseal, our process will help to seal cracks, joints, and holes in your air duct systems. This duct sealing system seals the leaks from the inside by using a UL tested and approved sealing material.

Read more about our duct sealing process.

Why does GAC use Aeroseal for duct sealing?

At GAC, we’ve come to trust Aeroseal when it comes to sealing our customers’ air ducts. We find it to be the most cost effective way to reduce duct leakage and to help them save money on their energy bills.

It comes with a 10 year warranty, and often customers see energy savings within 2-3 years that completely pay for the cost of the sealing. All in all, it’s a great solution for your wallet and for your overall comfort.

How can duct sealing save me money?

When you have leaky air ducts, it reduces the efficiency of your home’s HVAC systems. Duct sealing can therefore help save you money by increasing the efficiency of your system’s performance and therefore lowering your energy bills.

Bonus? Duct sealing can help improve your home’s indoor air quality, reduce the risk of backdrafting, and minimize your home’s environmental impact.

Read more about how duct sealing saves you money.

How much money can I save by installing an ENERGY STAR qualified HVAC system?

According to the Department of Energy, replacing your old HVAC system with ENERGY STAR qualified equipment can cut your annual energy bill by nearly $200.

What are the most energy efficient heating and cooling units?

The easiest way to make sure you’re installing an energy efficient system is find one that meets the specifications of the ENERGY STAR program. This program requires units to meet a specific Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) and Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating.

Read about our favorite green HVAC systems.

How can high efficiency air filters lower my energy bills?

High efficiency air filters remove even the smallest pollutants from the air in your home—making them ideal for your heating system if anyone in your family suffers from respiratory problems or allergies. A highly efficient filter will also extend equipment life and reduce fuel consumption by 10-15 percent. Remember, it is vital that you clean or replace your air filter regularly.

How can a programmable thermostat lower my energy bills?

There’s no need to maintain the same temperature setting all day while you’re at work, so why not reduce your energy costs when your home is empty? A programmable thermostat automatically adjusts the temperate of your home based on a pre-determined schedule. It reduces your energy usage when you aren’t at home, but brings the temperature back to comfortable levels so you aren’t left shivering while you wait for the house to warm up.

Are heat pumps energy efficient?

Heat pumps are an energy efficient option for regulating your home’s temperature. Heat pumps work by transferring heat rather than by converting energy into heat. In the winter, your heat pump will draw heat from the ground or air outside (depending on whether you have an air-source of ground-source heat pump) and transfer it to your home. In the summer, your heat pump will transfer your indoor heat to the outdoors.

How can a ductless split system lower my energy bills?

Ductless split systems are small, but operate at high rotation compressor speeds—allowing you to cool and heat your room quickly. This reduces the energy costs required to operate the system, and it can help you save money on your energy bills.
In addition, you don’t have to worry about any of your air escaping out of your leaky ducts!

At GAC, we install ductless split systems by Mitsubishi. Read more about the Mitsubishi Mr. Slim Ductless Split System.

What are some ways to reduce my heating bill in the winter?

In addition to scheduling your regular heating tune-up for your furnace or heat pump prior to the heating season, you can also:

  • Cover your windows and invest in some thermal curtains.
  • Insulate your attic and other places prone to air leaks.
  • Keep your damper closed when you’re not using your fireplace.
  • Read more ways to reduce your winter heating bills.
"Your technicians are always polite, professional and personable. The gentlemen who performed our new system installation were a true team, and a real pleasure to have around! "

We proudly serve the following locations in Maryland:

Montgomery County: Ashton, Barnesville, Beallsville, Bethesda, Boyds, Brinklow, Brookeville, Burtonsville, Cabin John, Chevy Chase, Clarksburg, Damascus, Derwood, Dickerson, Gaithersburg, Garrett Park, Germantown, Glen Echo, Kensington, Laytonsville, Montgomery Village, Olney, Takoma Park, Poolesville, Potomac, Rockville, Silver Spring, Spencerville, Urbana, Washington Grove

Howard County: Clarksville, Columbia, Cooksville, Dayton, Ellicott City, Fulton, Glenelg, Highland, Woodbine

Frederick County: Adamstown, Braddock Heights, Buckeystown, Frederick, Ijamsville, Middletown, Monrovia, Mt. Airy, New Market

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The information on this website is for informational purposes only; it is deemed accurate but not guaranteed. It does not constitute professional advice. All information is subject to change at any time without notice. Contact us for complete details.